NFL DRAFT PREVIEW

A.J. Hoffman: 3 players I like, 3 I don't in the NFL Draft

A.J. Hoffman: 3 players I like, 3 I don't in the NFL Draft
Lamar Jackson is not a player to take in the first round. Andy Lyons

The NFL Draft starts tonight, and by now you have probably seen 100 different mock drafts and maybe even more people telling you who is overrated and who is underrated. Obviously, where a player gets drafted can impact how good or bad he can be, but I thought I would profile a few players that I like blindly and a few players that I don’t. I tried to limit the “players I like” to players that I have heard others question. For instance, I didn’t pick Saquon Barkley or Bradley Chubb, because basically EVERYONE likes those guys. Without further ado…

PLAYERS I LIKE

Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

Calvin Ridley isn’t usually the type of wide receiver I rave about. He is barely 6’0” tall and is well under 200 lbs., but there is more to him than meets the eye. He is one of the sharpest route runners I have ever seen, and that combined with his deep speed and burst off the line gives him great separation, and size starts to matter less the more separation a receiver can get on the route. Alabama has put some pretty good receivers in the league (Amari Cooper and Julio Jones) but for some reason I keep hearing Ridley’s name falling late  in the 1st round, and I think he is a top-10 caliber player. 

Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

I have not seen his name at the top of the cornerback rankings, but Isaiah Oliver has all the physical tools I am looking for in a cornerback. At 6’0”, 200 lbs. with a 33.5 arms, he is going to be hard to put a football over. He does a good job in early jams to force receivers to alter routes, and shows the kind of raw talent that could end up being way better than scouts currently project him. Oliver also has seen pretty good competition in college, going up against Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Luke Falk in the Pac-12. I think he would be a good fit in Seattle, Atlanta or a similar cover-3 type defense. 

Jamarco Jones-OT-Ohio State

Jamarco Jones is almost assuredly not going on day 1, and I don’t have a problem with that, but I think he should go early day 2 considering he plays a position that is always in such high demand. Most of the questions about Jones seem to stem from him playing in Urban Meyer’s offense, but I don’t see much not to like about him. He is 6’5, 312 lbs and his game footage shows him being a solid pass blocker and a really outstanding run blocker down the field. He has excellent feet and doesn’t get cheated against speed rushers. He may be the only tackle prospect that won’t be taken in the first round that I see as a potential day 1 starter at the next level. Teams like Houston, Denver and Indianapolis should all be taking a look at this guy. 

PLAYERS I DON’T LIKE

Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

Let me start off by saying I am not someone who thinks that Lamar Jackson should be moving positions or he can’t play quarterback in the NFL. I actually look at him as a high upside player who could be a special talent if he gets some fundamentals down. That said, I am not looking to use a first round draft pick on a guy who has serious footwork and accuracy issues. Those two things are much more important to me than athletic ability, which he has in droves. Another turn-off for me is his build, which reminds me a lot of Robert Griffin III’s. If Jackson had Cam Newton’s size, I would be less concerned about having a run-first quarterback. If a team can afford to use their first round pick on a long-term project with a seemingly high injury risk, so be it, but I don’t know many teams that are run that way. 

Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

This might not be fair, because if someone is looking for a slot receiver, Kirk could make some sense. I just don’t believe many teams look at slot receiver as a top priority where they are willing to use a first or second round pick on someone who seems limited to being just that. He also has some issues with his hands, and too often lets balls get into his chest. He doesn’t have ideal size for me at 5’10” and could conceivably struggle with press coverage at the NFL level. He isn’t without upside, as he has big-play ability, he is a solid return man and by all accounts is a very high-character guy. That just isn’t enough for me to consider him a top option at wide receiver. 

Mark Andrews-TE-Oklahoma

This is mostly my way of saying that there isn’t really an every down tight end in this draft (save maybe 25 year old Hayden Hurst), and Andrews seems to be the most highly touted of the bunch. He has good size at 6’5” 255, and is actually a pretty decent route runner given that size. His hands are a major problem. He drops a lot of balls, and some of it is probably a concentration issue, but it is an issue regardless. He was a decent blocker in college, but can’t be counted on as a primary blocker in the NFL. He also seems to quit on plays that he isn’t involved in, which might be my biggest pet peeve in a tight end. 

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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