Monday, April 29, 2019

Don't Sleep On The Buckeyes In The Later Rounds Of The NFL Draft

By Johnny Ginter on April 26, 2019 at 10:20 am @johnny11w

As Dwayne Haskins and Nick Bosa locked in their first round credentials last night, it's possible that much of the Buckeye fan world went to bed afterwards, heads nestled on their pillows, and sighed "Boy, that was fun. Can't wait until next year!" as they sweetly drifted off to sleep.
And if that was you, know this: you are a naive child and a traitor to the cause. How dare you, sir or madam? How dare you!
The NFL Draft used to be a glorious smörgåsbord of block scheduling sports entertainment. You'd wake up on a Saturday, spend approximately 14 hours watching rounds 1-4, and then pass out and watch the rest the next day. It was perfectly made for our culture of binge-watching and, coupled with some beloved annual traditions (like booing Roger Goodell or getting increasingly annoyed with Chris Berman), the incarnation of the draft that I grew up watching made for the best experience possible.
I'm not going to say that it should revert back to the good ol' days, but what I will note in this space is that segmenting the NFL Draft and isolating the first round, while a smart idea in terms of viewership and advertising dollars, also has the effect of diminishing the importance of everything that comes after, particularly for Ohio State fans.

This is a trend that has been accelerating in the past decade or so, thanks to the likes of guys like Ryan Shazier, Ezekiel Elliott, and of course, Vernon Gholston.
Last night, Nick Bosa and Dwayne Haskins got their well-earned moment of glory, and while I don't want to take away from that, I also want to point out that in recent years Ohio State players from the mid to late rounds have also made significant impacts on the NFL. While the league and ESPN wants you to get swept up in the excitement of the first round and then let that inertia just kind of carry you through the next few days, as a Buckeye fan you still have a ton to root for. Even if as, say, a Bengals fan you may not. Anyway.
In the past 15 years or so, Ohio State players from the mid to late rounds of the draft have gone on to have some pretty impressive careers. Here are a few examples of why you shouldn't sleep on them:


Several Ohio State players have been drafted in the 4th round in recent years have gone on to have notable stints in the NFL. Safety Will Allen was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2004 and played 11 productive seasons with the Buccaneers, Steelers, and Cowboys. Brian Hartline ended up having a pretty decent career himself after being drafted by the Dolphins in 2009, which, in addition to netting him a couple of 1000 yard receiving seasons also set him up nicely for the job he currently holds. And of course John Simon, 4th round selection of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 draft, just won a Super Bowl with the Patriots


Corey Linsley is an awesome dude who had an excellent Ohio State career, but was not particularly highly rated going into the draft. But after being drafted by the Packers in 2014, an injury thrust him into the starting center role, and it's one that Green Bay liked him so much in that they gave him 25 million dollars to keep doing it for at least another three seasons.


Nate Ebner is fairly well-known for his special teams exploits, lavish praise from Belichick, and occasional forays into rugby, but it really should be emphasized that Ebner was a walk-on junior when he first started playing for Ohio State. Despite the love and respect he earned from his teammates and coaches, he was a relative unknown to most Buckeye fans before being drafted by the Patriots in 2012. And now the guy has three Super Bowl rings.


Kurt Coleman was the 244th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. There were only 11 players behind him. He's played eight years in the league, recorded 21 interceptions, and started in a Super Bowl. Not too damn bad.
It's unfortunate how the NFL Draft is now formatted for television ends up sequestering college talent. Admirable backups, consistent starters, and unsung Division-III superstars are worthy of sharing airtime with players that'll make tens of millions of dollars on their first contract. That the NFL and ESPN seem to have more faith in individual players rather than the totality of the sport itself isn't surprising, but what that means is that it falls to us as fans of a very successful team with a ton of NFL-ready talent to support and broadcast our interest in the guys who end up in the later rounds.
I know that as an Ohio State fan, I'll be just as excited for Terry McLaurin's name to be called as Nick Bosa's, and I imagine that most Buckeyes feel the same way.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

After 12 standout seasons, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda might be 'just getting better and better' physically

Ravens guard Marshal Yanda has appeared in at least 13 games 10 times during his 12 seasons in the NFL. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

By Jonas Shaffer- Contact Reporter
The Baltimore Sun

April 20, 2019, 7:45 am

At 34, Ravens guard Marshal Yanda is old for an NFL player. Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden retired when he was 33. Ravens special teams coordinator-in-waiting Chris Horton is just a few months younger than Yanda. No other Ravens lineman was born in the 1980s.
And yet Yanda was honored as second-team All-Pro last season. He was named a Pro Bowl starter. Before Yanda, who turns 35 in September, agreed to a contract extension through 2020 last week, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said the team hoped its longtime right guard would "continue to play for us for years."
Ravens head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders doesn’t doubt that he could.
“It’s his work ethic as much as anything,” Saunders said Tuesday, the second day of the team’s offseason workout program. “That guy comes to work. He takes care of himself. He understands it as a vet, and he never lets himself get out of shape.”
Yanda missed most of the 2017 season with a fractured left ankle and toiled through the subsequent offseason after shoulder surgery, but he nonetheless started all 16 games last season. In his 12 seasons, he has appeared in at least 13 games 10 times.
Yanda’s Pro Football Focus rating has slipped each of the past five years, but he still graded out as the third-best guard in the NFL in 2018. Saunders said that, physically, Yanda could be only getting stronger.
“When we talk about building a base, and it just increases year after year, Marshal has, I don’t know, 13, 12 [years], whatever it is, of those under his belt already,” Saunders said. “So as long as he avoids that freak happenstance, he’s just getting better and better. I think guys [in their] early to mid-30s are just reaching their peak, as long as they didn’t have that freak injury where something happens to the joint.
“I tell the guys all the time, if you were in the mob and I owed you money, and you said, ‘I’m going to break your femur or blow out your knee, take your pick,’ I’d say, ‘Break my bone. Break my femur’ — because bones heal. Joints are never the same.”
Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said he was “very happy” he’d get to play at least another year with Yanda, who was not among the players who spoke Tuesday at the team facility. All five starters return on a line that helped make the Lamar Jackson-led rushing attack one of the NFL’s best, and PFF had the Ravens as the league’s third-most efficient pass-blocking team in 2018.
“We definitely want to be the best offensive line in the world,” Brown said. “I think our vision up front is to be great, and it’s going to take work, it’s going to take time. Fortunately, the urgency is there, but we still do have some time to continuously get better. Once we get out on the field, training camp starts, we get Marshal back and all those things, we’ll hit the ground running. I’m pretty confident in it.”

Monday, April 22, 2019

COON GOLD; USA Greco With A BIG Day So Far At 2019 Pan Ams

Posted on April 18, 2019

The United States Greco-Roman Seniors had two main objectives entering the 2019 Pan American Championships this week — 1) qualify the five remaining Olympic weights necessary for the Pan Am Games; and 2) get back to the top of the Team standings

Following the first session on Day 1, all you can really say is, Things are looking good.


The most important part about Hancock’s run thus far at the 2019 Pan American Championships is not that it delivered three victories. It’s that Hancock is now demonstrating that he can blow the doors off of quality opponents consistently. In his second match this morning, Hancock handily defeated Kevin Mejia Castillo (HON) via tech fall in the first period. Important to note, because when Hancock was just starting out, Castillo played the role of teacher to Hancock’s apprentice. That is no longer the case — Hancock decisioned Castillo at the 2017 Pan Ams before running through him earlier today.

2018 World silver Adam Coon (130 kg, Cliff Keen, world no. 2) had two matches during Thursday’s morning session, and both opponents received an intimate yet harsh brand of education as to why the American heavyweight is going to be so difficult to stop. Coon flattened Diego Alemendras Rodriguez (CHI) to begin; and then ran over Angel Pacheco Romero (CUB) to punch his ticket to the finals. 2016 Olympian Robby Smith (NYAC/Chicago RTC) qualified 130 kilograms for the US last year by earning silver, but Coon’s team points are certainly more than welcome.

The finals/medal rounds of the 2019 Pan Am Championships begin at 5:00pm in Buenos Aires and can be viewed live in the US on Trackwrestling (subscription required).


April 18th-19th — Buenos Aires, Argentina


130 KG

Adam Coon (Cliff Keen)
WON Diego Alemendras Rodriguez (CHI) via fall
WON Angel Pacheco Romero (CUB) via fall
vs. Luciano Del Rio (ARG)

COON: GOLD! USA Closes Out Pan Ams Day 1 With Six Medals

Posted on April 18, 2019

Three champs, six total medals, and two weights qualified equal a successful day’s work for Team USA Greco-Roman.

Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP), RaVaughn Perkins (72 kg, NYAC), and Adam Coon (130 kg, Cliff Keen, world no. 2) led the way with gold medals for an American squad that is on the cusp of running away with the team race following only one day of action at the 2019 Pan Am Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The final round began at 5:00pm local time (4:00pm ET) and was broadcast live in the US on Trackwrestling.

Nowry required all of :34 to lock down his tournament victory. Facing Marcelo Torres (ARG), the 2018 US National champ zeroed in for a quick takedown right out of the gate. Back on the feet, and Nowry got behind again for two more, and then rolled Torres for the startling 8-0 tech win. The gold is Nowry’s second from the Pan Am Championships (2013).

Coon’s final wasn’t as short as Nowry’s, but it sure ended with a bang. Luciano Del Rio (ARG) received the first passive point and Coon managed to defend until making his way back standing. And then just like that, it was over. Coon clasped around Del Rio, shifted and pulled back, and then plowed forward. Del Rio was nearly flat even before the signal arrived. Coon’s first Pan Ams title sees him notch all three wins via fall — and if you include the 2018 Worlds, all seven of his recent international victories have been earned in the same manner.

As for Perkins, he had light but important work to do on Thursday, and the best part was that it was done with prior to the afternoon session. The popular Nebraska native stormed out to win his first bout via fall against Francisco Barrio (ARG, and who retired after losing in the bronze round) and then sealed his tournament up as a whole with a tech over Kenedy Moraes Pedrosa (BRA).


April 18th-19th — Buenos Aires, Argentina


130 KG

Adam Coon (Cliff Keen) — gold
WON Diego Alemendras Rodriguez (CHI) via fall
WON Angel Pacheco Romero (CUB) via fall
WON Luciano Del Rio (ARG) via fall

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Burkhead returns home a champion: Plano alum’s fundraiser tops $100K mark

2 hrs ago (April 18, 2019)

Just two months removed from a win in Super Bowl LIII with the New England Patriots, Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead, middle, returned to his hometown to host the third annual Team Jack Trifecta.

Not even a bout with Mother Nature could slow Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead and the Team Jack Foundation from its most successful Team Jack Trifecta yet.
From the start of the three-sport fundraiser’s morning 5K fun run outside Plano’s Clark Stadium to the last bid submitted for the event’s national online auction Sunday evening, and all the festivities in between, Team Jack raised approximately $105,000 toward pediatric brain cancer research – a $40,000 increase from last year and a number plenty gratifying for the New England Patriots running back fresh off the fundraiser’s third installment.
“Everyone had a great time … and it’s so great seeing so many people continue to come back and bring more people with them,” Burkhead said. “It’s awesome to be a part of this.”
Getting there required some improvisation after inclement weather drenched the start of the youth football camp, held mid-morning at Clark on April 6. Moments after Burkhead led a crowd of kids through the stadium tunnel and onto the field for warm-up stretches, heavy rainfall forced a momentary delay as campers were shuttled into the locker rooms and equipment was loaded into trucks to be transported across the street to PSA2.
During the downtime, kids were kept entertained by the camp’s cast of college and professional football veterans – including several with local ties, like Plano alum and current Los Angeles Ram Joseph Noteboom, Allen alum and current Jacksonville Jaguar Cedric Obguehi and Plano West alums Jackson Jeffcoat and Ameen Behbahani – before the camp resumed on the PSA2 basketball courts.
“Ameen had everyone going and playing different games. Trust me, they weren’t bored at all,” Burkhead said. “… We couldn’t have done it without the volunteers and coaches. Everybody pitched in and transported all the equipment over [to PSA2], and we had to do some things a little different, but it was still a lot of fun.”

Nearly 200 kids participated in the youth football camp during the Team Jack Trifecta.

While nearly 200 campers rotated through a variety of instructional stations, drilling all manner of football fundamentals, spectators scoured the facility to bid on items up for auction, as well as sample vendor stations and even take pictures with the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The NFL’s illustrious championship relic was on display at the Trifecta just over two months after Burkhead and the Patriots defeated the Rams, 13-3, in Super Bowl LIII – crowning the Plano alum an NFL champion for the first time in his six-year pro career.
“It’s something you dream about as a little kid and to get there and accomplish that with such a great team and a bunch of great guys, it really is a thrill,” Burkhead said.
Although Burkhead wound up contributing plenty to New England’s sixth title, getting there required overcoming an early-season neck injury that sidelined the former Wildcat for just over two months – the longest stretch of missed time during the running back’s career.
“It was just something that had to heal and it was definitely tough being out and not being around the guys,” Burkhead said. “I had never been out for that long, so you just have to stay focused and do what you can. The staff and trainers did a great job getting me back and in shape.”
Returning to a crowded backfield alongside standout rookie Sony Michel and versatile rusher James White, Burkhead was worked back into the fold as part of a running game that took on a greater workload throughout the postseason. The Patriots averaged 161.7 rushing yards per game during the playoffs – an average that was the NFL’s highest since 2012 and New England’s highest since 1976.
Burkhead was part of that three-headed monster, including scoring the final two touchdowns of the Patriots’ 37-31 road win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 20.
“That was great. It was such a big win and to do so in an environment like that, we knew it was going to be a tough game,” Burkhead said. “Just to know that you’re going to the Super Bowl after a win like that, especially in overtime, is the best feeling.”
Burkhead picked up where he left off in his second consecutive Super Bowl appearance, leading all players in yards per carry (6.1) and helping cement the Patriots’ victory late in the fourth quarter with one of the game’s signature plays – a 26-yard run that helped set up a Stephen Gostkowski field goal for a 10-point lead with 3:05 to play.

The Vince Lombardi Trophy made an appearance at the Team Jack Trifecta.
Photo courtesy of Team Jack Foundation
“I was just following our fullback, James Develin. Good things happen more times than not when you do,” Burkhead said. “I was just doing that, saw an opening and hit it as fast as I could. I could see their cornerback, Marcus Peters, coming in from my left side and I knew he was going to try and strip the ball, so I just got two hands on it and protected it as much as I could.”
Burkhead wasn’t the only Planoite on the field that early-February night in Atlanta, as Noteboom suited up for the Rams in the final game of his rookie season. The two were in tandem supporting a charitable cause two months later at the Team Jack Trifecta, with Burkhead adding to the lore of his alma mater as Plano Senior’s first-ever Super Bowl champion.
“There’s so much tradition here at Plano and it’s such a great program, so to be able to bring this back to my hometown with this event is really cool,” Burkhead said.

Peter King on Coach Kirk Ferentz

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Marshal Yanda looks to put the finishing touches on a Canton-worthy career


X in the first half of an NFL football game in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda ended any doubts about his future when he agreed to a contract extension that will keep him with the Ravens through the end of the 2020 season. There were rumors that the standout offensive lineman was considering retirement, so this deal will likely see him finish his career having played for the Ravens throughout his time in the NFL. Coming off the lowest-graded regular season of his career in which he produced an overall grade of 77.5, he was still the fourth-highest graded player at his position.
It was the first season where we have seen him produce a PFF grade lower than 80.0, highlighting over a decade of excellence since he arrived in Baltimore as a third-round draft pick out of Iowa back in 2007. It is a career that has seen him play over 400 snaps in a single season at right tackle, left guard and, the position he has occupied for much of his career, right guard. Regardless of where Yanda has played, he has looked comfortable as an offensive lineman in the NFL from Day One.

Day One was at right tackle, operating as a bookend with Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden for the 10 games in which he was healthy enough to start. Even in the twilight of his career, Ogden was dominant, allowing just eight total pressures on 314 pass-blocking snaps. Giving an early glimpse into how special a player he could be, Yanda allowed only 20 total pressures on 517 pass-blocking snaps from the right side that same year. He was the seventh-highest graded offensive tackle in the NFL as a rookie, with his 85.9 overall grade coming out tops among all rookie offensive linemen, just ahead of future Hall of Famer, Joe Thomas. Yanda would move inside to right guard in 2008, but in 2010, he once again found himself at right tackle and produced an overall grade of 80.5 to rank 12th at the position. What’s interesting is that for a player who has built a Canton-worthy career at guard, Yanda proved himself to be one of the best tackles in the NFL in the two seasons where he has been asked to play there.
The Ravens saw that as good as he was at tackle, he was dominant inside at guard, and this was never more apparent than during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The highest-graded player in the NFL at the position both years and one of the very best players in the entire league, Yanda mauled anyone who got in his way in the run game. The 2015 season was particularly special, with his 93.8 overall grade ranking as the third-highest graded season for a guard since we began grading back in 2006, trailing only New England’s Logan Mankins in 2008 (94.2) and Philadelphia’s Evan Mathis in 2013 (94.9).
Most importantly, he’s still a good offensive lineman in today’s NFL and hits the 2019 season with his first healthy offseason in several years. Stellar in pass protection, Yanda hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 7 of the 2015 season. He’s played 1,767 pass blocking snaps since Week 8 of that season and not once has his quarterback been sacked due to Yanda being beaten. In fact, in that same stretch, he has allowed just four quarterback hits, and just 29 total pressures, working out at a pressure once every 60.9 pass-blocking snaps and a hit once every 441.8. His span of starts since he last allowed a sack sits at 41 games, and in those 41 games, he’s ended with a perfectly clean slate in pass protection 21 times.

The Ravens’ offseason moves so far have seen them get weaker at wide receiver, and stronger in the running game thanks to the addition of former New Orleans Saints star Mark Ingram. With only the draft remaining this offseason, the Ravens very much appear to be leaning into the fact that they will be a run-first team, very much going against the norm in the NFL right now. We know that passing has more value than running, but the Ravens are at least able to boost their rushing attack by having a big-play threat like Lamar Jackson at quarterback. If you take the Ravens’ rushing stats from when Jackson took over as the starting quarterback and extrapolate them over a full 16 game season, then this is a team that has the potential to rush for over 3,000 yards in 2019. If they do indeed hope to achieve that, having a reliable force on the right side of the line is a must and, as we reach the latter stages of Yanda’s career, we should appreciate his consistent dominance on the offensive line while we can. His career is worthy of a spot in Canton, Ohio, and keeping him around for the next two seasons is key to what the Ravens look to do on offense.

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