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KABOOM! MAGAZINE.COM 2016 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: QUARTERBACKS & RUNNING BACKS

KABOOM! MAGAZINE.COM 2016 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW: QUARTERBACKS & RUNNING BACKS

The top college football players will get their 1st taste of NFL stardom when their NFL journeys begin at the 2016 NFL Draft. Some of Saturday’s favorite heroes are already being compared to NFL stars like A.J Green, Josh Norman, J.J. Watt, Derek Carr, and Patrick Peterson. Kaboom! Magazine.com will give you an inside look focusing on the top 5 players from every position explaining why each player will thrive or fail in the NFL. It’s the most anticipated events of 2016 NFL season; some players will be able to handle the pressure and live up to expectations, while others will fold like a house of cards. The 2016 NFL Draft…where all their NFL dreams begin! Today, we focus on the best quarterbacks and running backs in this year draft, along with a few sleepers that will keep your favorite GM in office for a very long time.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Quarterbacks:
Some experts are saying this year corp of signal-callers are the next Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr, and Russell Wilson. Last Year, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went 1 & 2 and instantly because franchise QBs in Tampa and Tennessee. This year, we have 2 more quarterbacks who are headlined as franchise-worthy, but there’s also other late round QBs who can sneak up on you and lead your favorite team to a super bowl title.

1. Jared Goff, Cal:
Jared Goff is one of the smartest quarterback prospects to enter the NFL in the past five seasons. In Cal’s Bear Raid offense, he was tasked with reading defenses pre-snap and making line calls and audibles out of plays if those defenses gave him a different read than what was expected. Goff was also asked to read defenses post-snap, with his receivers often breaking off their routes based on the coverages they saw. He doesn’t get rattled when there is pressure in his face or around his feet and excels at keeping his vision down the field instead of on the defenders around him. Goff is as close to NFL-ready as a college quarterback can be in the age of spread offenses. He has a high football IQ, started three seasons for the Bears and has all the athletic tools needed to succeed at the position.

2. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State:
A division II quarterback from North Dakota could go No. 1 overall? Sounds like a Disney movie, but we can assure you Carson Wentz is very real. A two-year starter for North Dakota State, Carson Wentz checks every box in terms of size, arm strength, intangibles and athleticism. He’s built like a franchise quarterback, throws like a franchise quarterback and can move like a franchise quarterback. A proven winner on the field, the Bison lost just three games with Wentz under center over the last two seasons and won the FCS national title for the fifth straight year. Accuracy can be tough to judge against lower-level competition, but Wentz was asked to make NFL throws and consistently did so on time and on target. He likes to go straight to his first target but sometimes doesn’t progress in his read. That’s a fixable issue, but it’s one that’s harder to project success with.

3. Paxton Lynch, Memphis:
A three-year starter at Memphis, Paxton Lynch is a big, strong quarterback prospect with impressive dual-threat skills. Lynch showed marked improvement in each of his three years, earning first-team All-AAC honors in his final season. On designed runs from the pistol or shotgun, he’s fast and strong as a ball-carrier. Lynch’s arm strength and mechanics are promising. He has enough zip to push the ball down the field, but this can be a spotty trait of his because of some inconsistencies in how he loads his legs to throw the ball. Lynch’s inconsistent footwork as a passer is the first thing that needs to be addressed by NFL coaches. So much of what the Tigers did was a tunnel screen or one-read route, so Lynch had his hand held in terms of decision-making. The transition from Memphis to the NFL is a big one, and combined with his accuracy and footwork issues, it makes him a second-round prospect.

4. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State:
Christian Hackenberg is one of the most polarizing players in the 2016 NFL draft class. The positives are great. Hackenberg has an NFL body and is a classic, prototypical dropback passer. He doesn’t scare easily in the pocket and will hang in traffic to make throws down the field. Hackenberg excels in football IQ, toughness and leadership and is a top-tier quarterback in those areas. Mechanically, poor protection up front doomed Hackenberg. He started throwing off-balance and even changed his release point over the last two seasons as he tried to hurry the ball out of his hand. Based on potential and what he showed early in his career, Hackenberg is someone teams could develop into a starter.

5. Connor Cook, Michigan State:
Connor Cook was the Offensive MVP of the Rose Bowl in 2014 and the Big Ten quarterback of the year in 2015. He’s accomplished—a winner—with 9,194 yards passing and 71 touchdowns to just 22 interceptions. He ran a pro-style offense while at East Lasing. He’s one of the few quarterbacks in the class with real experience taking snaps under center and executed five- and seven-step drops at Michigan State. On the mental side, Cook was asked to make some reads and audibles at the line of scrimmage, but it wasn’t always a strength of his game. When defenses made Cook progress to his second and third reads, he got frazzled and would go to checkdown mode. Cook will need to be coached to fix the timing of his stride in the pocket.

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Late Round Sleepers:
Find out which quarterback will be the next Tom Brady.

Cody Klesser, USC:
A 22-year-old from Bakersfield, California, Cody Kessler started three years at USC and threw for 10,339 yards. An accurate quarterback in a pro-style offense, Kessler holds the Trojans record for career completion percentage (67.5) and has torched opponents on underneath routes. He’s a smart, conservative passer who never threw more than seven interceptions in a season. USC receivers scored seven touchdowns on deep throws over 40 yards thanks to his ability to lead them into daylight over the top. Kessler was a chain-mover at USC and took what defenses gave him. The “system quarterback” label will be applied to him by NFL teams.

Kevin Hogan, Stanford:
Kevin Hogan started 46 games at Stanford in his four seasons at quarterback. During that time, he played in a pro-style offense, both under center and in a shotgun formation, and showed off his athleticism as a designed runner on various read-options and short-yardage keepers. Hogan’s mechanics are nothing to write home about, and won’t be discussed as positives, but he has an uncanny ability to get the job done despite having a cumbersome throwing motion. Stanford’s 36 wins during his run speak to this ability. Whether you like quarterback wins as a stat or not, Hogan is a winner. He’s a fiery competitor whom coaches and teammates love.

Kaboom! Magazine.com 2016 NFL Draft Class Career Predictions:
Most Passing Yards: Jared Goff
Most Passing TDs: Jared Goff
Biggest Bust: Cardale Jones
Biggest Steal: Cody Kessler
Most Pro Bowls: Jared Goff
Hall of Fame Player(s): None
Most Super Bowl Rings: Paxton Lynch
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Running Backs:

Last year draft class was one for the ages creating stars like Melvin Gordon, T. J Yeldon, and Todd Gurley. This year’s class will have some very big shoes to fill. Will they be up for the challenge?

1. Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State:
Ezekiel Elliott is a do-it-all specialist with elite NFL traits on every down. During his Ohio State career, Elliott rushed for 3,961 yards and added 43 touchdowns while posting back-to-back 1,800-yard seasons in his two years as a starter. With excellent start-stop quickness, Elliott can take the handoff and spot his opening before exploding into the offensive line. There should be some question over whether Elliott’s workload over the last two seasons has worn him down, but he’s never showed signs of slowing or having to deal with injuries.

2. Derrick Henry, Alabama:
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner, Derrick Henry was a true workhorse for Alabama during the stretch run to another national title. With his hulking size and surprising pull-away speed, Henry ranks as one of the most polarizing players in this year’s class. A 4.54-second 40-yard dash at 247 pounds is jaw-dropping. Henry had 28 runs of 15-plus yards on the year, showing his ability to beat defenders at the first and second level. He has the size to be a factor as a blocking back, but his output there has been inconsistent. Henry is a top-tier athlete who has been successful at every level of football, but for him to succeed in the NFL, he will have to break modern ideas of what a running back is.

3. Kenneth Dixon, Louisana Tech:
A highly productive Louisiana Tech runner, Kenneth Dixon posted three 1,000-yard rushing seasons and scored 87 combined touchdowns during his time with the Bulldogs. Dixon is a physical, aggressive runner who looks to finish plays. He’s elusive in the hole and can slide laterally to escape. His long speed may not be elite, but he has the burst to run away from defenders. He’s able to hit the turbo button and get to a second gear when needed.

4. Paul Perkins, UCLA:
Perkins doesn’t have track-star speed, but he’s an agile, quick-footed back with the skills to either spot the hole or move laterally to create on his own. He uses his leverage to pop defenders when they get in his face, but he wins with lateral quickness and loose hips. He’s not a huge blocker, but he’s capable of mirroring a rusher and will gladly step up to defend a blitz. Perkins’ 4.54 speed will draw some concerns, especially with inconsistent play speed. He has to learn to vary up his pace to have sustained success in the pros.

5. Josh Howard, Indiana:
With 2,800 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground in the last two seasons, Howard has been consistent as one of the nation’s best backs. Howard is an easy, natural runner with next-level instincts. He reads his keys in the blocking game and finds small inside lanes. He spots cutback lanes and will get small to slip through cracks in the line. Once he finds daylight, Howard has the burst to pick up plus yardage. Howard’s major concern is getting injured. He missed time with ankle and knee injuries during the 2015 season.

Late Round Sleepers:
Given the right chance, these ball-carriers can do some serious damage in the NFL.

Keenan Reynolds, Navy:
A four-year starter as an option quarterback at Navy, Keenan Reynolds was one of the most electric, productive players in college football. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons and totaled 4,559 career yards and 88 touchdowns. He’s not a true sprinter, but he has the juice to shake a would-be tackler and create chunk yards. With 32 career fumbles, Reynolds has to answer questions about ball security if he intends to play running back in the NFL.

Keith Marshall, Georgia:
Keith Marshall blew the doors off the NFL Scouting Combine with the best 40-yard dash of anyone in attendance. His 4.31 official time announced that Marshall, who is finally healthy, is ready to take on the NFL. Marshall was talented enough to play as a true freshman at Georgia, and what the coaches saw there was excellent speed, balance and natural instincts as a runner. Marshall is blessed with ideal bulk for the position at 219 pounds and has the strength to carry tacklers past first contact. He’s an explosive home run hitter once he gets past the first wave of defenders. If you want a true second-gear runner, Marshall is that guy. The team that rolls the dice on Marshall will be betting his knee holds up—and will base the selection largely on what he did in workouts and not what he’s done on the field since injury.

Tyler Ervin, San Jose State:
Tyler Ervin’s versatility makes him a dangerous threat in the right NFL offense. In the last four years, he’s played running back, slot receiver, return man, cornerback and gunner on punts. Ervin’s jack-of-all-trades skill set will endear him to pro scouts. With 4.41-second speed in the 40-yard dash, Ervin answered any questions about his ability to pull away from NFL defenses. Ervin has the explosive ability to pick up chunk yards in space and will run past defenders to destroy their angles. His change-of-direction skills are also impressive, as he can shift gears and cut back on defenders without losing his top-end speed. Ervin is an intriguing prospect whose value will depend greatly on the scheme he’s drafted into. Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs or New England Patriots make the most sense for him late in the draft.

Kaboom! Magazine.com 2015 NFL Draft Class Career Predictions:
Most Rushing Yards: Ezekiel Elliott
Most Rushing TDs: Ezekiel Elliott
Biggest Bust: Kenneth Dixon
Biggest Steal: Keith Marshall
Most Pro Bowls: Ezekiel Elliott
Hall of Fame Player(s): Ezekiel Elliott
Most Super Bowl Rings: Ezekiel Elliott

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