Sidelines: The NFL draft and a blockbuster deal

Sidelines: The NFL draft and a blockbuster deal

Matthew Barrett

By Matt Barrett ‘17 and Brian O’Neill ‘16

Collaborative Writers

The NFL combine two weeks ago allowed many college athletes to become one step closer to living their dream. At the combine, the best college football players are invited to showcase their talents. If you were the Tampa Buccaneers, whom would you draft with the number one overall pick?

M.B: The Bucs would be making a big mistake passing on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. Tampa Bay is in desperate need of a franchise quarterback and Mike Glennon just isn’t that guy. What puts Mariota above all other quarterbacks is his quickness and downfield vision.

The Buccaneers were tied for third last season in sacks allowed with 52. Because their offensive line is below par, they’re going to need a quarterback that is able to escape the pocket to make a throw or run for the first down. Mariota assured everyone of his speed at the NFL combine, running a 4.52 second 40-yard dash, first among quarterbacks.

Besides Mariota’s speed, his next greatest asset is that he doesn’t cause turnovers. At Oregon, Mariota was able to leave with a 7.91 touchdown to interception ratio for his career, besting his competitor Jameis Winston by 4.60. The level of competition in the NFL is significantly higher than in the PAC 12 (Mariota’s conference)—quarterbacks throw way more interceptions professionally compared to in college. Just look at Cam Newton, the number one overall pick in the 2011 draft – his ratio plummeted from 4.29 in college to 1.52 in the NFL.

I’m not saying that the Hawaiian native will lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl next year, but his skill set compliments the team better than anyone else in this years draft class. Watch for the duo of Mariota and Mike Evans to be talked about for years to come.

B.O: For this one, I’m going to have to go with Jameis Winston. I’m picking this guy for one reason and one reason only—he’s got the intangible fighting leadership qualities that will bring the Bucs out of the hole they dug themselves into this past season.

Winston provided more than just Heisman Trophy statistics in his time at Florida State. He gave the team a motivating force, someone to rally around, someone who, even in the midst of his own occasional failures, never gave into the negativity that some players do when things don’t go their way. Things will almost certainly not go Winston’s way at first if he goes to Tampa, but if he can keep that fighting attitude for a season or two and rally the players around him, we might just see the Buccaneers resurge and find their way back to playoffs.

Building a team around Winston is the way to go. I think another big first round option, Marcus Mariota, would be best suited to end up in Philadelphia. Chip Kelly’s offense would perfectly suit the former Oregon Duck, as both Kelly and Mariota like to run lightening quick offensive drives to keep the defense gassed all game. 

On Tuesday the Eagles and Bills reportedly agreed on the first blockbuster trade of this year’s NFL offseason. The Bills will ship Kiko Alonso to Philadelphia for standout LeSean McCoy. Are the Eagles coming out on top or not?

M.B: On Tuesday, the Eagles and Bills created the biggest buzz of the offseason so far. McCoy, who has been the league leader in rushing yards over the past five seasons, will now be answering to Rex Ryan. In addition to McCoy being traded, the Eagles released veteran linebacker Trent Cole, linebacker Brandon Graham and cornerback Cary Williams.

The main reason that these moves were made was probably to free up cap space for Philadelphia, who owed McCoy $9.75 million in 2015. The team will look to use this money in a number of ways. The Eagles would like to re-sign wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who becomes a free agent this offseason. GM Howie Roseman will also look to sign a big name free agent, especially a player to strengthen the team’s secondary, which ranked 31st in passing yards allowed per game with 264.9. Notable free agents are Bryon Maxwell of the Seattle Seahawks and Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots.

Despite what the Eagles potentially could gain out of this deal, they are losing too much. McCoy accounted for at least 20 percent of the team’s offense for the last two seasons. And with Nick Foles coming off of an injury and Mark Sanchez a loose cannon, a stable running back is what the Eagles need to succeed. Two free agents that might seem like a good fit are Saints tailback Mark Ingram and Bills running back CJ Spiller. However, both are injury prone, much like what the Eagles received on the end of their blockbuster deal.

In return for McCoy, the Eagles got linebacker Kiki Alonso, who was in the running for defensive rookie of the year in 2013, but had to sit out this past season with a torn ACL. Alonso also injured his knee in the spring of 2010 at Oregon. It’s safe to say that Alonso probably will not make it fully back to what he was as a rookie. And with the loss of Trent Cole, the Eagles are losing more than they gained with this deal.

B.O: Losing a guy like LeSean McCoy, most would say you’re not winning anything. McCoy is simply one of the best running backs of his decade, and has rightfully earned the nickname “Shady” as a guy who seems to just ghost his way past even the best tacklers in the NFL. Let’s pump the breaks for a second, though, before we overlook the benefits that are coming in the opposite direction.

McCoy is leaving and making way for Kiko Alonso, a fantastic linebacker that Chip Kelly might just see as an answer to the Eagle’s atrocious rank of 28th in yards allowed per game in the NFL this past season. Alonso racked up 87 solo tackles and 72 assisted tackles as well as 4 interceptions in his two years thus far in the NFL. Although averaging 4.2 yards per carry and running for over 1,300 yards, McCoy fumbled four times, losing three and contributed to an atrocious 35 turnovers on the season for the Eagles. Perhaps Kelly is looking to move away from any and all contributing factors to this messy possession of the ball, and make it clear that he’s looking to build a strong team that will force turnovers the other way.

I’ll be interested to see what this Eagle’s offense looks like without arguably the flashiest running back in the league today, but I’ll be equally interested to see if Alonso can sturdy up that shaky defense and make this bold trade worthwhile for Philadelphia.