Should You Buy What J.J. Watt’s Selling?

NFL

During a break in the action of this past season’s Texans vs. Bengals Monday Night Football showdown, the ESPN broadcast team opted to take a moment during the telecast to praise Houston DE J.J. Watt.

The admiration wasn’t for Watt’s on-the-field performance, however. Instead, the announcing duo of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden wanted to commend the perennial Pro-Bowl pass-rusher for what he was doing off the field, namely his well-publicized charitable work with children battling serious illnesses and wounded combat veterans.

Tirico finished the segment by praising Watt’s noble intentions, saying that he “visits hospitals and soldiers, and he does it without cameras. He’s not seeking attention.”

Immediately after Tirico finished speaking, an expansive collage of pictures of Watt with sick children and wounded soldiers appeared on the screen.

That one conflicting message and image is an excellent example of why there are now looming questions beginning to fester about just how genuine and sincere Watt truly is. 

The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year is a perfect case study concerning the difference between a celebrated athlete’s carefully crafted projected public image and the true intentions of both him and his team of handlers and beneficiaries.

There is a time in every star athlete’s career, especially in today’s culture where every player has multiple social media accounts and platforms to reach fans (i.e. potential consumers of sports apparel, soft drinks, fast food, etc.), when he becomes just as much of a brand as he does a player.

Watt has clearly reached that point in the process.

A significant signal of an athlete transforming into a brand that can be bought and sold is the introduction of an all-encompassing logo. Most of the big time global money-makers like LeBron, Jordan, Tiger, Lionel Messi, Usain Bolt and Tom Brady all have them.

J.J. introduced his official logo back in May.

A logo’s a simple symbol with a complex message. It’s something a player’s fans can identify with as well as a dog whistle to Corporate America that an athlete is ready to take his marketing strategy seriously and ascend into a new echelon of potential earnings.

If this offseason is any indication, it’s clear that Watt and his handlers have a sincere desire to be included in that special tier of marketable media darling athletes.

His “rehabilitation schedule” from an offseason surgery to fix a nagging groin injury that was conveniently used as an excuse for why his play suffered down the stretch of the 2015 season has been packed to say the least. It’s an event-filled agenda that’s included co-hosting the Country Music Awards, presenting an award at the ESPY’s, filming a commercial for H-E-B Meal Simple with new Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler and making an appearance on the Jimmy Fallon Show to play something called Egg Russian Roulette.

What Watt’s biggest offseason priority has truly been, though, is undoubtedly clear: The marketing of his first sneaker, produced by his official sponsor Reebok, called the JJ I Trainer.

For the low, low price of $99.98 plus shipping, you can own a pair of a shoes that, according to Watt himself is “the best training shoe to train in every single day.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=78&v=TqMoHbY0GpU

#HuntGreatness is the tag line and hashtag that Reebok’s marketing team has asked Watt to propagate, and he’s certainly obliged.

Though he’s been sidelined at the Texans preseason camp due to his rigorous schedule of offseason media and marketing appearances recent back surgery, Watt has been out and about, adorned in a shirt with the phrase Hunt Greatness, which you can buy at Reebok’s official shop for the low, low price of $25 plus shipping.

It’s now at this point in the transformation process from athlete into brand, when casual observers can begin to ask themselves, what’s this J.J. Watt fella really all about?

To begin to form an answer to that question, let’s start by looking at the backlash and criticism Watt has faced recently.

Let’s start with the true pioneer of sports talk radio, WFAN’s Mike Francesa.

https://vid.me/e/csmb?stats=1

“I’m so sick of hearing about Watt, it’s ridiculous. His team never wins anything.”

I remember going on lunch break and listening to this rant live. At the time, I was thinking Mike just pretty much perfectly summed up the ill-guided reverence that the fan base, the franchise and the city have specially reserved for the almighty J.J. Watt™.

“The idea is what, to get Watt a highlight they can show all week on Sportscenter?”

He does what he wants without consequences. He has become the power. Everything serves him, his ego and his brand. When looking at that specific situation: first down, in a playoff game, Alfred’s been running strong, short-yardage goal line, and you call a direct snap to a defensive lineman?

That right there goes to show where this whole Watt craze in Houston has gone.

Phony‘s been another word that’s been thrown around this offseason in regards to the social media updater/weight room lifer.

Stugotz of ESPN’s Dan Le Batard Show fired that verbal bullet when Watt posted a snapchat video of himself at the gym during Kobe Bryant’s last game, saying “Kobe Bryant got to where he is by working his butt off. By showing up early, staying late, Workouts like tonight are inspired by Mamba. I want to get like Mamba not watch him.”

“Get over yourself, man. Seriously. Why do you have to make their night – Kobe’s night and Steph (Curry’s) night – about J.J. Watt? And, I don’t believe you for one second that you were there lifting weights and working out rather than watching the basketball. I don’t believe him for one second. That’s what bothers me about him. He’s a phony and he’s a fraud. So, you can take a picture of yourself working out and post it on Instagram, and then tell everyone that you’re not watching Kobe and Steph? You can do that, but my bet is that he posted that while watching Kobe and Steph.”

Some folks choose to train in the quiet of their own self. Some folks choose to constantly broadcast how hard they’re working “to be great” and turn it into a marketing hashtag. 

To each their own I guess.

Watt’s one of the figures who fits into the latter category because, well, social media’s available to him, and he and his team of PR handlers utilizes the medium to the fullest.

If that includes selling exorbitantly priced shoes to the greater Houston area, or shilling for whatever company needs him to make a commercial — It’s his prerogative, right?

Ultimately, only J.J. Watt knows the truth and only he knows why the guy in a Hunt Greatness t-shirt with noble intentions who doesn’t want attention has a cameraman following him around at training camp to capture those special moments.

The “aw shucks guys, I’m just a simple boy from Wisconsin, what am I gonna do with all this money” routine probably doesn’t fly anymore. But no worries,  J.J.’s got this system all figured out.

Exploit, accumulate and become the brand.

Some Thoughts About Tyrann Mathieu’s Contract Extension

NFL, Uncategorized

 

Ever the skeptic of newfound media darlings, I didn’t buy into Tyrann Mathieu’s Honey Badger hype during his big breakout season at LSU in 2011. I respected the tenacity and his play style, sure, but from what I watched that year, it seemed like a lot of “right place, right time, ball bouncing into his lap” moments. The whole showboat pass incomplete motion look-at-me routine after every deflection or tackle wore thin quick as well.

His less than impactful showing in an embarrassing blowout loss to Alabama in the national championship game gave that perception some vindication. So that summer, I wrote an article for Bleacher Report where I said exactly what I felt at the time, Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks was the SEC’s best corner, not Mathieu.

Tyrann didn’t seem to appreciate that opinion.

The next day, Mathieu went on one of his more infamous Twitter rants/tirades/meltdowns, which the man who “never bites his tongue” of course completely deleted afterwards.

It was captured by SBNation here.

These were the thoughts on the mind of Mathieu that day.

I AM THE BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL! bottom line as humble as i can say it! Stop comparing me, i am a diffrent breed!

IMMA SHOCK THE WORLD AGAIN THIS YEAR! WRITE IT DOWN, I SAID IT TODAY JULY 13, 2012!

& IM second to no one i play football it doesn’t matter what position i line up at i truly Ball HARD! ask them other players can they do it


how about all you sports writers label me overrated till you label me the greatest!is that a deal? Cool!


i never bite my tongue,….. its called freedom of speech


y’all better get y’all mind right, i will truly be legend before you write your next article on me!


but then again these writers ain’t down for you!!


YEAH IM SHORT (5’9) 186! gave up 4 catches in the NATIONAL championship GAME! anything else to lag on Haters?????? i’ll wait

It was big talk from the undersized DB. I mean, god forbid somebody wrote an honest opinion article that wasn’t just another ball washing piece about how he was reinventing defense or whatever it was most in the media were regurgitating at the time.

I’ll hand it to him, though, he sure shut me up. He went out in 2012 and had a truly legendary seaso…oh wait, that’s not right at all. Instead, he decided to get high on synthetic marijuana, get arrested, and get booted from the team. Then all of his fanboys in the media instantly turned on him and completely shunned him.

That’s the point where Mathieu could have joined the ranks of so many other college football stars who burned out just as fast as they shined and faded into obscurity before ever even making it to the big time.

But he didn’t.

He worked his ass off to right his wrongs, mature and make the most of what in its infancy looked to be the makings of a potentially promising football career.

I remember sitting with a friend of mine at Bleacher Report’s 2013 NFL draft party, watching night two of the draft unfold. I was surprised, even given his previous transgressions that Round 2 came and went without Tyrann’s name being called. My friend and I bantered for a bit about how neat it would be if Arizona picked him and had Patrick Peterson be his mentor.

Then pick 69 came, and the Cardinals made it happen.

Since that night, Mathieu has shown his gratitude for the franchise’s faith in him by doing what he does best: laying it all out on the field with reckless abandon and dedicating every inch of his being towards being the best player he can be.

Instead of hiding from them, he’s embraced the humbling events of his past, let them mold him and fuel his fury,  and chosen to go down the path of redemption. He’s sacrificed his body — he’s torn up ligaments in both of his knees in the past three years— and given his all to a team that was willing to shepard him in a desperate time of need.

Now, the Cardinals have decided to compensate him handsomely for his efforts by signing him to a five-year, $62.5-million deal.

When talking about teams signing homegrown stars to big long-term deals, there’s always that question of how much is it a reward for past accomplishments, and how much is it a true investment and expectation for the future?

In Mathieu’s case, it’s clear that the franchise sees the 24-year-old corner/safety hybrid as a key cornerstone of the franchise and an important defensive leader of the future.

Admittedly, I still think he’s a bit of a braggart, and a bit overly sensitive towards criticism sometimes. But looking at it from the perspective I do now, instead of the one I did when I wrote that Banks>Mathieu article, I get it.

He wears that chip on his shoulder and he wears it proudly. As much as he’s wanted to shake that image, Mathieu’s still the Honey Badger at heart. His world is one where fear doesn’t exist, and that’s what makes him such a dynamic must-watch playmaker.

You want to write a book about athletes who overcome adversity and find a way to make something of themselves, this is the guy. The cliff notes version is wild enough: father’s in jail for murder, raised by relatives, slighted by recruiting services and big-name programs for being too small, yet still breaks out and becomes a national star in college football’s premier powerhouse conference, then gets involved with drugs, gets kicked off the team, gets a shot to redeem himself and finally becomes a highly paid star in the NFL.

Looking back at that season at LSU, I guess I was wrong about that whole “right place, right time” thing. When you put in the work to put yourself in an advantageous spot, you deserve to receive the reward for your efforts and that’s exactly what Tyrann’s done.

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Mock Draft, Senior Bowl Edition

2016 NFL Draft, College Football, NFL, NFL Draft

The majority of the top prospects in the 2016 NFL draft may be underclassmen. However, this year’s draft class features more than its fair share of seniors who will factor into the first-round equation as well.

Some of those first-round hopefuls such as North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz, Alabama LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama DE Jarran Reed, and Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence chose to attend this week’s Senior Bowl festivities down in Mobile, Alabama, hoping to impress scouts and boost their draft stock.

Now that the underclassmen declaration deadline date has passed, and the order of the 2016 draft is just one game away from being finalized, you can sense the gathering wave of speculation on the horizon, as the mock draft silly season is almost ready to kick into full swing.

The Senior Bowl marks the true beginning of the offseason evaluation phase of the process. The next big stop will be the NFL combine, and then it’s onto the pro day/individual workout circuit.

The road to the 2016 NFL draft is sure to feature some interesting twists and turns. For now, here’s a look at the updated projections for all 63 picks in the first two rounds.

Carson Wentz Has Spotlight Shining On Him at the Senior Bowl

2016 NFL Draft, College Football, NFL, NFL Draft

When evaluating whether a college quarterback has what it takes to ultimately develop into a successful franchise-caliber player in the NFL, the list of boxes that have to be checked off on the player’s scouting report is quite a lengthy one.

Physical measurables such as size, arm strength, accuracy and athleticism are givens. So are mental intangibles such as Football IQ, pocket awareness, work ethic, locker-room leadership ability, a winning pedigree and overall toughness are all key facets of the overall evaluation.

It’s rare that a quarterback prospect receives a check mark in every box.

North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz is one of the special few who does.

Not only does the 6’5’’, 235-pound Wentz have the desired size, athleticism and arm talent that you look for in a top-tier quarterback prospect; he also possesses the critical mental intangibles to become a successful starter and face of the franchise-type of leader at the next level.

Scouts and personnel evaluators have loved what they’ve seen from the passer over the last two seasons, as he’s led the Bison to back-to-back FCS national championships. The only uncertainty that makes Wentz’s projection to the pros a bit trickier than the average top quarterback prospect is the level of competition he faced at the collegiate level.

North Dakota State is the most dominant and most talked-about FCS program in the country. That doesn’t change the fact that the Missouri Valley Conference is still the Missouri Valley Conference. 

Shaking the stigma that comes along with being a “small-school quarterback” isn’t easy.

Luckily for Wentz, he’ll finally get the opportunity to show that he belongs in the same conversation as the other top senior prospects in the 2016 NFL draft when he takes part in the annual Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama this week.

Though it serves as an important audition for every player in attendance, it feels like Wentz has a little something extra riding on his performance.

The only other senior quarterback with first-round aspirations: Michigan State’s Connor Cook, chose not to attend the festivities. That means that the spotlight will be shining squarely on Wentz as he looks to make a memorable impression on scouts.

Heading into the offseason, the strong-armed signal-caller generated plenty of buzz and momentum within the scouting community. It’s time for Wentz to turn that intrigue into excitement by producing a big showing at down in Mobile.

 

NFL Scouts Seem Concerned About Robert Nkemdiche’s Spirituality

2016 NFL Draft, NFL, NFL Draft

“Robert Nkemdiche is destined to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.”

Three years ago, that was the sentiment that many football scouting services shared in regards to Nkemdiche. At the time, he was the undisputed consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the 2013 recruiting class as well as the most talked-about high school football player in America.

The coveted 6’5’’, 260-pound 5-star defensive end from Grayson High School in Loganville, Georgia possessed the type of rare freakish physical gifts that cause hysteria in the football recruiting world. That’s why many initially projected the heralded blue-chip recruit to become a sure-fire star and a future top NFL prospect once he reached the collegiate level.

Nkemdiche’s three-year career at Ole Miss didn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations, though. It was more a series of flashes of that immense potential instead of the steady dose of domination that many had originally envisioned.

Solid, yet unspectacular is how you could sum up his stint in Oxford. Unfortunately, it’s the bizarre and abrupt ending to his tenure as a Rebel that’s opened the door for a whole bunch of new questions that scouts and evaluators will now be asking.

Back in December, Nkemdiche made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he fell out of a window of the Grand Hyatt Atlanta Hotel, and was subsequently arrested and charged with marijuana possession.

Since the incident, there have been numerous reports indicating that there are growing concerns in the NFL scouting community about Nkemdiche’s personality, which could have a dramatic effect on his overall draft stock.

CBS Sports’ Rob Rang said that, “On its own, the fall might be just a bizarre accident. Frankly though, there were scouts worried about Nkemdiche’s commitment prior to the incident, which earned him a citation from Atlanta police for marijuana possession.”

In his story for the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal, Bob McGinn quoted an anonymous scout who said this about Nkemdiche, “He’s really a different kid. He may scare some people. He’s strange strange.”

CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler talked to two different scouts about him, and each expressed concern, one calling him a “Wild Card” and the other saying that “He’ll need a strong locker room and position coach.”

Two of the five scouts that NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah talked to called Nkemdiche the most polarizing player in college football. One said, “Nkemdiche is very talented, but he’s also very troubled. There will be some interesting discussions.” While the other echoed that sentiment saying, “He’s very talented but there are a lot of issues off the field.”

Though none of the scouts have come out and directly said it, it’s pretty clear that one of the main worries they have about Nkemdiche revolves around the Zen energy that he said that he found this past season.

He talked about it in an interview with the Associated Press. It’s a conversation that produced some rather interesting quotes.

“I have a different role on this team — a different DNA. I feel like this is the moment where I’m the one that needs to step up and make my energy felt.”

“This team is stuck in the moment. Because the moment’s real beautiful.”

The freakishly athletic Nkemdiche has always had a spiritual side that’s slowly developed since he was a teenager. The 21-year-old — who came to Ole Miss from Loganville, Georgia, as the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country — said his time spent in “front of the lens” has helped him realize there’s more to life than fame.

“I hate to ever say I’m there. You’re there but you’re never there. It’s a paradox.”

When it comes to evaluating a top NFL draft prospect, scouts will go to the greatest lengths imaginable to find out every last detail about a player. That includes monitoring a player’s public social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook.

When jumping down the rabbit hole that is Nkemdiche’s official Twitter profile you begin to get a feel for why scouts—especially those of the old-school variety—would publicly tag him with the “strange strange” “different kid” and “wild card” labels.

Here’s a sampling of his more interesting tweets.

Some of it is Jaden Smith-esque. Some of it seems like it’s best suited for the “I’m 14 And This Is Deep” subreddit. Some of it sounds like a message you’d read on the little paper at the end of a Yogi tea bag. Mostly, though, it’s just some typical juvenile thoughts from a young college guy, who may or may not have been under the influence of a mind-altering substance, making an attempt to sound profound.

It’s innocent enough. Mental exploration, conscious expansion and finding your spiritual side isn’t a crime and it’s not something a young person should be downgraded for. Still, let’s remember who’s “looking through the lens” at Nkemdiche, analyzing his character and personality and reading those tweets.

It’s NFL scouts and coaches. 

So-called “free spirits” are not exactly welcomed with open arms to an NFL locker room. Coaches want good soldiers that don’t ask questions and who simply go out and execute the game-plan that’s laid forth for them.  

Could you imagine a defensive coordinator telling Nkemdiche to penetrate the B-Gap, and he responds by saying something such as “How can I enter the gap, if I’m already in the void?”

It’s perfectly fine that Nkemdiche has discovered a different energy and a new level of spirituality that brings him some inner peace. But since he’s chosen to be so open about it, he’s now opened the door for NFL scouts and coaches to question whether that type of personality fits in their locker room.

Though the postseason evaluation process has just gotten underway, Nkemdiche has already been labeled as the most polarizing prospect in this year’s class. His potential draft stock fluctuation should be one of the more fascinating storylines to watch unfold in the lead up to the 2016 NFL draft.

DeForest Buckner Tops Latest 2016 NFL Draft Big Board

2016 NFL Draft, NFL Draft

The 2016 NFL draft class features its fair share of supremely talented elite prospects. However, among that special blue-chip group of big names are plenty of questions that need to be answered.

When scanning the list of top players available in the 2016 class, it won’t take long before you find some sort of red flag that jumps out.

Ohio State DE Joey Bosa and Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil—two tremendously talented juniors who have long been projected to be top-10 picks in this year’s draft—will both have to answer questions from scouts and personnel evaluators about the behavior that led to them being suspended this past season.

Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche—another widely projected top-10 pick—also has behavioral concerns stemming from an incident back in December when he fell out of the window of his hotel room and was subsequently cited with marijuana possession.

There are also substantial injury concerns surrounding two of the top defensive prospects in the class: UCLA LB Myles Jack, who tore his meniscus back in September, and Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith, who tore his ACL and LCL in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State.

One player who scouts don’t have to be concerned about, however, is the top senior prospect in the 2016 class: Oregon DE DeForest Buckner.

Buckner is coming off a dominant final campaign in Eugene. The 6’7”, 300-pound disruptive defensive force stated a strong case for why he deserves consideration to be the top overall pick in the 2016 draft, as he totaled 10.5 sacks and 83 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss. It was a performance that earned him numerous honors and accolades, including Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-American honors.

It looks like Buckner, who has all the physical qualities to develop into an elite difference-making defender at the pro level, is as good of a candidate as any to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Nevertheless, he’s going to face some stiff competition from worthy challengers such as Bosa, Tunsil, Nkemdiche and others in the coming months.

With draft weekend still over three months away, there’s still a lot that needs to be sorted out, and there plenty more key stops on the road such as the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine and numerous important pro days before that destination is reached.

At the very least, now that the deadline for eligible underclassmen to declare has passed, we can at least begin to put the pieces in place and begin analyzing, evaluating the value and projecting the pro potential of the many intriguing prospects in this year’s class.

Here’s a look at the updated big board and prospect power rankings for the 2016 NFL draft.

No Playoff, No Payoff for Jets in First Year of Bowles Era

NFL

I once asked a friend of mine, who’s been the quintessential “Diehard Jets Fan” since his departure from from the womb, to describe to me and summarize what the essence of existing as a Jets fan is really like.

For context, the conversation, which occurred through a series of text messages, took place shortly after the team’s loss to the Steelers in the 2011 AFC Conference Championship. His spirits were understandably shaken and his outlook was skewed definitively downward.

“It’s basically like you’re in this perpetual never-ending dream state where you’re standing there in a wide open field, staring at this large, imposing grassy hill-like hump in the distance. All your buddies are around you, and they’re all wearing jerseys of their favorite teams. You watch as they take turns triumphantly running over the hump, and you hear their cheers of celebration once they reach the other side, until eventually you’re left alone.

You start running towards the hump to join them on the other side but just before you get to the slope, you trip and break your legs.

So you’re left there, stuck, unable to move. All you can do is stare at the hump and listen to everyone else cheer on the other side and wonder what the promised land must be like.”

That conversation was truly an eye-opener for me. I probably haven’t viewed sports the same ever since.

As a writer and commentator covering the thing, I’ve always forced myself to be an impartial viewer and observer and take rooting interest out of the equation. So when someone so eloquently lays out the pain and suffering that’s caused by becoming so emotionally attached, involved and immersed in being a fan, it’s jarring.

Being a fan of a team that hasn’t won a championship since 1969, means being faced with agony, heartbreak, despair and a feeling of hopelessness on an annual basis.

There’s supposed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s supposed to be a payoff for all this investment. There’s supposed to be that one magnificent moment of complete and pure euphoria that makes it all worth it.

For Jets fans, it’s only running, tripping and then staring at the hump.

They were reminded of that yet again when their beloved group of what could have beens came up just a step short of a playoff berth by losing to the Bills 22-17 on Sunday.

It’s the franchise’s latest case of enduring the “so close, yet so far” sensation.

The first season of the newly appointed brain trust of head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan won’t be topped off with a postseason run. Fortunately, though, it’s still a campaign that most definitely must be deemed a successful step forward.

It was a year when the Jets found some much-needed stability at the quarterback position, developed one of the league’s most dynamic receiving duos comprised of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and played some overwhelmingly stout defensive football.

Unfortunately, it all came unraveled in Buffalo on a day when so much was on the line. The underwhelming final performance will be freshest in the minds of fans heading into a crucial offseason that will surely set the tone of the future direction of the franchise.

It was a dark day for the team as a whole, but no one had a darker cloud hanging over their head than the team’s brightest standout star: CB Darrelle Revis.

Watching Revis attempt to cover and keep pace with Bills WR Sammy Watkins was comparable to watching a nature documentary which focused on an aging, out-of-breath lion losing his pride as he fruitlessly chased around a young, spry zig-zagging zebra at the watering hole.

That happens eventually, though.

You can win a few friendly battles against Father Time, but he’ll always inevitably win the war. The physical gifts Mother Nature bestows upon a human body unfortunately come with an expiration date. Tendons and ligaments succumb to time, force and exertion. 

It still says 24 on Revis’ jersey but if there were numbers on his pants, they’d undoubtedly be 30 in bold digits. And that’s OK. Revis has done plenty for Gang Green. He’s a player who deserves tolerance in his twilight years.

The question is: Will those years be spent as being the humbled yet still hungry veteran defensive leader on a team that can contend for a title?

Judging from the many spurts of good we saw this year, it certainly seems possible.

Even though it floundered when the pressure was on, it’s a team that still showed plenty of signs of progress in a year that admittedly wasn’t greeted with high expectations at the onset anyways.

Back in August, if you had told the long-suffering Jets fan base that their team would win 10 games and be playing for a playoff spot in the final week of the season, they would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

If the installation of a new regime is considered the beginning of a new journey, then the 2015 season has to be considered a strong start to that ride.

The Day Odell Beckham Lost His Grip

NFL

Catches of the improbable variety have become a trademark calling card for New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Though he’s only in just the second season of his burgeoning NFL career, Beckham has already cemented his status as a must-see spectacle thanks in large part to the numerous incredible, acrobatic highlight-reel catches he’s added to his ever-expanding impressive pro résumé.

With each exciting embrace of the pigskin, however, comes raised expectations.

When you have a knack for making the unbelievable look routine, when you finally fail to convert a routine play it will therefore lead to disbelief.

Thus was the case on Sunday afternoon when the normally sticky-handed pass-catching phenom let a sure touchdown pass slip through his fingertips early on in the first quarter of a crucial clash with the undefeated Carolina Panthers.

It was a rough, yet forgivable miscue, especially given the situation (it occurred on the first drive of the game), and especially coming from a player who has built up so much goodwill among Giant fans based on his consistently spectacular play.

Unfortunately, Beckham’s actions and behavior that followed that incompletion proved to be much more egregious than a simple dropped pass could ever be.

In what was truly one of the strangest storylines to unfold in an NFL game in recent history, onlookers watched as the young celebrated star athlete transformed from a fun eccentric, exciting playmaker into a violent, brash bully.

Beckham’s behavior—which included physical altercations with Panthers defenders, most notably his violent interactions with cornerbacks Josh Norman and Cortland Finnegan—was downright bizarre, and completely out of character.

It was a rage and a state of mania brought on by frustration that left officials, teammates, opposing defenders, fans in attendance and even announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman puzzled and concerned about the complete mental unraveling they were witnessing unfold in front of their collective eyes.

Instead of creating big plays in the passing game, it seemed Beckham had instead become enamored with engaging in physical confrontations, specifically with Norman, which included punches, cheap shots and helmet-to-helmet hits.

His conduct resulted in three separate personal foul penalties. Miraculously, though, it didn’t result in an ejection or even a benching from his supposed no-nonsense head coach Tom Coughlin.

That’s why Beckham was on the field during the Giants final drive, which allowed him the opportunity to make up for an uncharacteristically quiet catchless first half by reeling in a game-tying touchdown in what turned out to be a wild come-from-behind, yet ultimately all for naught comeback by the G-Men in a 38-35 loss.

Though the refs and the Big Blue coaching staff may have looked the other way and tolerated Beckham’s boorish behavior, his indefensibly dirty play was widely panned by pretty much everyone who watched it unfold.

Beckham’s behavior against the Panthers was absolutely inexcusable, and he certainly deserves the full onslaught of criticism that he’s about to face in the days to come for his repugnant antics.

In an era when the spotlight of social media is shining upon professional athletes, it can only take one bad day full of bad decisions to go from great to goat.

His reputation can be repaired and he can get his career trajectory back on track. Still, this was the type of showing that unfortunately left an imprint on the minds of many disappointed fans who wanted to believe Beckham was on his way to becoming that something special that broke the mold.

Once again, it goes to show how quickly the star of the highlights can become the lowlight.

2016 NFL Draft: Mock Draft, Volume 1

2016 NFL Draft, College Football, NFL Draft

With the college football regular season complete and the 14th Sunday of the NFL regular season now in the books, it’s a good time to put together the first mock draft for the 2016 NFL Draft and an updated edition of the prospect power rankings.

There’s still a month left for underclassmen to declare their eligibility for the 2016 draft, and a lot will change between now and draft weekend.

For now, here are the current projections for the first round of the draft.

2016 NFL Draft: Updated Mock Draft

1 – Tennessee Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
2 – Cleveland Browns: Joey Bosa, DE Ohio State
3 – San Diego Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State
4 – Baltimore Ravens: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
5 – San Francisco 49ers: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
6 – Dallas Cowboys: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
7 – Detroit Lions: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
8 – Miami Dolphins: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
9 – Jacksonville Jaguars: A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
10 – Chicago Bears: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
11 – St. Louis Rams: Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
12 – New Orleans Saints: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
13 – New York Giants: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
14 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
15 – Atlanta Falcons: Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
16 – Oakland Raiders: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
17 – Philadelphia Eagles: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
18 – Buffalo Bills: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
19 – Houston Texans: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
20 – Pittsburgh Steelers: Desmond King, CB, Iowa
21 – New York Jets: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
22 – Minnesota Vikings: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
23 – Kansas City Chiefs: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
24 – Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M
25 – Washington Redskins: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
26 – Indianapolis Colts: Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
27 – Green Bay Packers: Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
28 – Denver Broncos: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
29 – Cincinnati Bengals: Su’a Cravens, LB, USC
30 – Arizona Cardinals: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
31 – Carolina Panthers: Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor

Updated Prospect Power Rankings

*Asterisks denote underclassmen

The Top 5 Quarterbacks

1 – Jared Goff, Cal*

  1. Paxton Lynch, Memphis*
  2. Connor Cook, Michigan State
  3. Cardale Jones, Ohio State*
  4. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State*

 

The Top 5 Running Backs

1 – Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State*

  1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama*
  2. Devontae Booker, Utah
  3. Alex Collins, Arkansas*
  4. Kareem Hunt, Toledo*

 

The Top 5 Wide Receivers

1 – Michael Thomas, Ohio State*

  1. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss*
  2. Corey Coleman, Baylor*
  3. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh*
  4. Josh Doctson, TCU

 

 

The Top 5 Tight Ends

1 – Hunter Henry, Arkansas*

  1. Evan Engram, Ole Miss*
  2. OJ Howard, Alabama*
  3. Jordan Leggett, Clemson*
  4. Austin Hooper, Stanford*

 

The Top 5 Offensive Tackles

1 – Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss*

  1. Taylor Decker, Ohio State
  2. Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame*
  3. Jack Conklin, Michigan State*
  4. Spencer Drango, Baylor

 

The Top 5 Interior Offensive Linemen

1 – Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M*

  1. Vadal Alexander, LSU
  2. Joshua Garnett, Stanford
  3. Sebastian Tretola, Arkansas
  4. Jack Allen, Michigan State

 

 

The Top 5 Defensive Tackles

1 – Andrew Billings, Baylor*

  1. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama*
  2. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss*
  3. Maliek Collins, Nebraska*
  4. Kenny Clark, UCLA*

 

The Top 5 Defensive Ends

1 – Joey Bosa, Ohio State*

  1. DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  2. Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State*
  3. Shawn Oakman, Baylor
  4. Shaq Lawson, Clemson*

 

The Top 5 Linebackers

1 – Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame*

  1. Reggie Ragland, Alabama
  2. Myles Jack, UCLA*
  3. Su’a Cravens, USC*
  4. Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland*

 

 

The Top 10 Cornerbacks

1 – Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida*

  1. Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech*
  2. Mackensie Alexander, Clemson*
  3. Desmond King, Iowa*
  4. Cameron Sutton, Tennessee*

 

The Top 5 Safeties

1 – Jalen Ramsey, Florida State*

  1. Jayron Kearse, Clemson*
  2. Vonn Bell, Ohio State*
  3. Darian Thompson, Boise State
  4. Jeremy Cash, Duke

Thoughts on the Victor Cruz Self-Promotion Commotion

NFL, Uncategorized

It’s perfectly fine for Victor Cruz to promote himself as a football player/emerging fashion icon.

It’s also perfectly fine for Giants fans to be annoyed by Cruz for not fulfilling his obligations as a player while still openly flaunting his desire to build his “off-the field brand” in numerous interviews, commercials, social media posts and most notably his new Showtime documentary I Am Giant.

Last month, Haute Living—an upscale “luxury living” magazine—did an in-depth profile on the receiver entitled The All American Victor Cruz.

In the interview, which tends to focus much more on Cruz’s interests outside of football—namely fashion—than his interest in the sport itself, sentences such as these appeared.

“Cruz is a wide receiver in more ways than just football.”

 

Football is not the only venture that the New Jersey Millennial has on his very full plate.”

 

“Don’t be surprised if in five years you see my own brand out there,” he reveals. For this ambitious football star, salsa dancer and fashion icon, this seems par for the course.”

Being an athlete with diversified interests outside of the sport you play is great. But in Cruz’s case, his top obligation is to the organization that’s paying him millions and providing him with the initial platform from which all of those extra money-making opportunities stem from.

Unfortunately, injuries have prevented him from fulfilling his obligation to his team, yet they certainly haven’t stopped him from continuing to build his personal brand.

Fans wanted to see the undrafted free agent turned pro bowler back out on the field, creating exciting plays and helping a somewhat struggling 5-5 squad turn its season around. Instead, they were treated to a cologne pitchman declaring that he won’t be playing this season in an ill-timed video that came on the heels of a gut-wrenching loss to the Patriots.

Some responded to the news by showing support, some expressed frustration, while many wondered if it meant his days in a Giant uniform may be over.

It seems like Cruz’s welcome may be worn out in New York. You know what isn’t worn out, though?

The soles of the hundreds of pairs of shoes he has in his Sneaker Closet, which includes his very own NKE AIR TRAINER CRUZ “HAYSTACK” which will be available to purchase on Nov. 20 for only $150.

You can’t begrudge Cruz for creating a life for himself away from the field. But it’s easy to see why some Giant fans have been rubbed the wrong way by his constant self-promotion, especially since it’s come during a period when he’s collected millions for being simply a spectator, just like them.