The Thursday Show Prep

Every year, it's the same story when it comes to the NFL Draft. 

There is always one group of players who receive the lion's share of the attention. One set of skill players who - be it hype or actual factual-based logic - appear to be the cream of the crop at that certain position.

As we approach this weekend's divisional round in the NFL playoffs for the 8 remaining teams still in the hunt for the Vince Lombardi trophy, a number of teams perhaps not so fortunate are going to be exploring their options.

One of those options may be at the quarterback position, in which a number of big names have come to the surface. 

Josh Allen, Wyoming
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Sam Darnold, USC
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
JT Barrett, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

I list these names, not in order of preference nor by any means of suggestion or recommendation, but as a courtesy to those seeing the photos above and wanting to know which guy is which.

Because this has been hyped as one of the deepest quarterback classes in recent memory.

I'm no Mel Kiper, Jr., I'm not a Todd McShay wannabe. Both of those guys clearly have a knack for this sort of thing. So if you want to just shrug your shoulders and dismiss anything I have to say as purely illogical or nonsensical, go right ahead.

But I'll say this much, for those of you continuing to read on.

I've done my work in studying those quarterbacks named above. I've watched enough football games and seen enough footage of highly touted quarterbacks. And I've come to this conclusion.

As well-publicized as this current crop of signal callers has become, I genuinely think this a very mediocre bunch. 

Allen and Rosen both appear to have cannons for arms, but both come with timing and release issues.

Darnold appears to still have issues with the deep ball.

Jackson and Barrett are fine once they're out of the pocket, but they lack the game-time speed necessary to be effective at the next level. And at some point, they're going to have to throw the ball and neither of them have shown me that they'll have much success at that in the NFL.

Mayfield, the current holder of the Heisman Trophy, has an immense heart and passion for the game. What he possesses in drive will have to make up for some glaring issues as far as pocket awareness and ability to read defensive packages.

Rudolph could be one of the interesting ones. He has an excellent awareness of defensive alignments before the snap, but his ability to improvise is shaky, and while his numbers suggest he won't make too many mistakes getting rid of the football, he'll need to ramp up his awareness issues as well as his ability to scramble when protections break down around him.

I don't like being the negative one in the room.... Well, alright, that's a lie. I kind of enjoy being the negative one here. But I'm just not sold on any of these guys being the game-changers they're being touted as becoming. 

With that said, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the first pick in the NFL Draft.

My condolences to both the team and their expected savior.

Sunday AFC Divisional Preview

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh - LINE: Steelers -7
The narrative all week has been about the poor game Ben Roethlisberger had against this Jaguars defense when these teams met in early October. 

Roethlisberger tossed 5 picks in that game. The Jaguars kept the game close early and pulled clear in the second half. 

What the Steelers did wrong in that game was let Roethlisberger throw a total of 55 passes. 

And it makes sense, the Steelers weren't able to make a lot of room for LeVeon Bell in the running game, and so Roethlisberger took to the air. Over and over again.

Since that debacle, Roethlisberger has had only one game where he threw the ball that many times. That was in a 39-38 shootout win over a playoff-hopeful Baltimore Ravens taking on an emotional Pittsbugh team just a week after losing lineback Ryan Shazier to a season-ending injury.

In fact, only three times since that loss at home to Jacksonville has Roethlisberger even attempted more than 40 passes.

The fact is, Roethlisberger seems to be more adept now with his receiving corps, and with or without Antonio Brown this weekend, I expect Roethlisberger will be more diligent and will hopefully learn to lean on Bell and their offensive line some more.

I'm not expecting this game to be a blowout. The Steelers just don't blow out teams and Jacksonville, for whatever we might all think about quarterback Blake Bortles, is a good football team. I've been saying that all year. This team making it this far is not at all a surprise.

Key stat to consider: Counting last week's ugly playoff win over the Bills, Bortles is 7-0 this season when he has to throw the ball 30 or fewer times. If the Jags defense can keep this game close, and if the running game can assist in keeping the chains moving, it puts less stress on Bortles and could go a long way in keeping this game interesting.


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