While fans are always anxious for rookie players to have big years, coaches, on the other hand, look for players in their second year to begin make big contributions. In their second year, players are feeling comfortable in the system and have the confidence to play at a high level. That said, here are some second year players who should begin to become regular contributors for their teams in 2015.
Eric Ebron – TE – Detroit Lions
When the Lions selected Ebron with the 10th overall selection of the 2014 Draft, a lot was expected. Because of his size and athleticism, he was going to be the guy who took pressure off Calvin Johnson. Instead it was free agent acquisition Golden Tate who came up big with 99 receptions.
With a year under his belt in the system and knowing what is expected of him, I feel Ebron can be one of the top move tight ends in the NFL. His physical traits are rare, and there is no reason why he can’t become a focal point of the Detroit offense. Last year, he finished with only 25 receptions. He needs to more than double that total this year.
Caraun Reid – DT – Detroit Lions
The Lions lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairly during free agency. While it was expected they would take an interior defensive lineman early in the draft, it wasn’t until the fourth round that they actually pulled the trigger on a player at that position when they chose Gabe Wright from Auburn.
Yes, they signed former Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata to play inside, but last year’s fifth round pick Caraun Reid needs to come on and I think he will. Reid was a dominant player at the Ivy League level, but it’s a big jump from the FCS Ivy League to the NFL. Reid got just spot duty in 2014. He has excellent overall athleticism, and I feel he can be the young guy who breaks out for the Lions this year.
Davante Adams – WR – Green Bay Packers
Adams flashed as a rookie and was starting to really come on towards the end of the 2014 season. Still, he finished the season with only 38 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
Adams came from a fairly simple spread offense in college, and like many receivers, it takes some time to adjust to an NFL offense. He has the size, speed, and overall athleticism to eventually become a dominant receiver in the NFL. I look for that to start to happen this year. If he comes on as expected, he helps give Green Bay a receiving corps that is as good as any in the NFL.
Scott Crichton – DE – Minnesota Vikings
Crichton did not play much as a rookie. He finished the season with only two total tackles. In college, Scott was a high-motor playmaker who flashed dominating ability. Based purely on what I saw him do while at Oregon State, I feel Crichton can become an important part of the Vikings’ defense in 2015. He has the physical tools, he just needs to remain healthy and play to his talent level. While he may not be a starter, he can play an important role in the defensive line rotation.
Kyle Fuller – DC – Chicago Bears
Fuller earned a starting role while in training camp and began the season very strong. He had three interceptions in the first three games and made a number of other big plays. He then suffered a hand injury and like the rest of the Chicago defense, disappeared.
From a traits viewpoint, Fuller has ideal corner size, speed and athleticism. He also has long arms, can tackle and has excellent ball skills. Playing in a new 3-4 scheme, Fuller needs to revert back to his early season form. If that happens, he will be one of the better corners in the NFC North.
Ego Ferguson – DT – Chicago Bears
As a rookie, Ferguson was a role player for the Bears and actually played fairly well in limited opportunities. This year, playing in a new scheme, a lot more is expected of him, and I feel he will come up big.
In the Bears’ new scheme, Ferguson will most likely be playing both as a nose and a 5-technique. He has the length, strength, and overall power to be a very good NFL defensive lineman. New defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme fits Ferguson’s traits very well. While I don’t expect Ferguson to be a starter, I feel he will play 50% of the defensive snaps playing in a rotation and put up some good numbers. He will be a presence in the Bears’ defense as both a run defender and inside pass rusher.
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NAME: Jerry Kramer
TEAMS: 1958-68 Green Bay Packers
UNIFORM NUMBER: 64
• Excellent quickness and agility
• Run blocking is exceptional
• Can pull effectively and seal the blocks
• Can get off-balance on pass blocking
• Occasionally pushed back on a bull rush
• Has a habit of not playing snap-to-whistle on pass plays
Kramer is excellent at run blocking, but not as good on pass blocking. Whether he is run blocking or pass blocking, he shows good hand placement. He missed many games in 1961 and 1964 due to injury. Also kicked field goals and extra points for the team in 1962-63 and 1968. He led the league in field goal percentage in 1962. Run Blocking: When pulling, he is quick to get into position and gains proper leverage against the defender. While staying on the line to run block, he shows excellent explosion into the defender and can turn the defender away from the runner. Pass Blocking: He can get pushed a little far into the backfield and lose his balance. He also has a habit of not playing snap-to-whistle. If a defender gets by him, he gives up on the play. He can also get high and flat-footed on pass blocking, which leads to his balance issues. When he sheds a blocker, he is good (not great) at picking up a new blocker. He also has trouble deciding who to block and sometimes makes the wrong decision. However, he is excellent when he is pulling to pass block on the screen. His skill and instincts are on par with his run blocking.
GRADING SPECIFIC FACTORS
OVERALL ATHLETICISM (QAB): 7.8
STRENGTH AND EXPLOSION: 8.0
MENTAL ALERTNESS: 7.5
RUN BLOCKING: 8.0
PASS BLOCKING: 7.7
OVERALL GRADE 7.8
NUMBER OF GAMES REVIEWED: 27
GAME: December 26, 1960 – Philadelphia Eagles: 7.5
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer showed excellent quickness and agility throughout the game. However, he did have issues with balance. He showed good drive and leverage in run blocking. In pass protection, he did not always finish the block or make the block when in position to do so. He frequently dove at defenders.
GAME: December 30, 1962 – New York Giants: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: This was a radio broadcast with available video footage shown. As a result, not all plays were shown. In fact, very few plays were shown. Depending on the blocking scheme, Kramer either faced Dick Modzelewski (#77) or Sam Huff (#70). In the first quarter, Kramer recovered a Jim Taylor (#31) fumble. After the play, he left the game for a few plays. He returned, but left a few more times throughout the game. In the second quarter, Kramer gave up a sack to Modelewski. Later in the quarter, he made an excellent block on Modelewski on the Taylor touchdown run. Also in the second quarter, he picked up a rushing Jim Katcavage (#75) to protect Bart Starr.
GAME: October 27, 1963 – Baltimore Colts: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer had an excellent game against Jim Colvin (#75) of the Baltimore Colts. He showed excellent quickness and agility as a pulling guard. He was able to get good penetration on run blocking. He could also seal the block. Pass blocking was a little weaker as he occasionally got pushed back or lost his balance. In the first quarter, he blocked Colvin, then quickly shed him to block Jackie Burkett (#55). He also recovered an onside kick in the first quarter.
GAME: October 3, 1965 – Chicago Bears: 6.4
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Kramer hit the ground on a few occasions against Bob Kilcullen (#74). A lack of balance has been an issue for him. Also, competitiveness was lacking on a few occasions as he gave up on the play before the whistle. Kramer showed some waist bending. However, he did show good hand position throughout the game. He kept his knees bent and flexible ankles. He repeatedly turned his back toward the defender after initial contact. Not Kramer’s best game.
GAME: October 10, 1965 – San Francisco 49ers: 6.4
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Dan Grimm (#67) started. Kramer only played briefly toward the end of the first half. He did not play in the second half. Kramer showed good run blocking and pass blocking skills in the short time he was in the game. However, he also exhibited balance issues. He repeatedly fell to the ground after initial contact.
GAME: October 31, 1965 – Chicago Bears: 7.5
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Kramer had a rough start versus Bob Kilcullen (#74), but he improved as the game progressed. Toward the beginning of the game, Kilcullen beat Kramer to Kramer’s left, went around Kramer and straight to Bart Starr. As Kilcullen shed the block, Kramer stopped playing and watched Kilcullen run straight to Starr. A little later in the quarter, Kramer was pulling to the right. He failed to hit either defender in his path. However, as mentioned previously, he improved as the game progressed. He showed better run and pass blocking. Overall, he showed improved balance than in previous games. He also showed very good quickness, agility, explosion, foot placement and flexibility. Competitiveness was lacking in the beginning, but improved later in the game. In the first quarter, Kramer made a very good down block on Jim Taylor’s run.
GAME: November 21, 1965 – Minnesota Vikings: 8.3
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Exceptional game for Kramer. Few to no mistakes. He showed exceptional skill in all phases of his game. He was able to get good penetration on run blocking. He showed excellent pass blocking against Gary Larsen (#77). But, Kramer left the game in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Dan Grimm (#67).
GAME: December 19, 1965 – San Francisco 49ers: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: This was an NFL Play by Play Report film. Kramer struggled in the first offensive series against Charlie Krueger (#70). Krueger was able to get excellent penetration into the Packer backfield, including shedding Kramer’s block to get in on a sack of Starr. However, Kramer strengthened his skills after that series and put together an exceptional game. Few mistakes were made.
GAME: December 26, 1965 – Baltimore Colts: 7.9
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer faced Fred Miller (#76) for most of the game. However, in the third quarter, Miller was replaced by Guy Reese (#75). Kramer Held his own in both run blocking and pass protection throughout the game. However, there were two occasions where Miller bull rushed Kramer and got the better of him. On one of those occasions, Miller easily tossed Kramer aside. Kramer was out of action for a few plays in the fourth quarter. He was replaced by Dan Grimm (#67). There was no noticeable drop-off in the quality of play when Grimm was in for Kramer. However, it was only for a few plays.
GAME: September 10, 1966 – Baltimore Colts: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent game by Kramer. He showed quickness, agility and balance. Good drive and leverage. In run blocking, he got excellent penetration into the defense. On pass blocking, he maintained his balance and was very effective. On screen passes, he got outside quickly and sealed the block effectively.
GAME: September 18, 1966 – Cleveland Browns: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Overall, an excellent game by Kramer. However, I need to grade him slightly lower based on a play late in the fourth quarter. Matched up against Walter Johnson (#71), Kramer held him off momentarily. But, Johnson was able to get around him. Once Johnson got around him, Kramer stopped playing for a few seconds. To his credit, though, when Bill Glass (#80) was running unabated to Starr, Kramer kicked it in gear and blocked Glass. You never want to see a player stop playing before the whistle blows. Excellent hook and seal blocks.
GAME: September 25, 1966 – Los Angeles Rams: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer’s run blocking was excellent in the game. His opponent was Merlin Olsen (#74). However, he did struggle at times in pass blocking. Olsen was able to get good penetration into the backfield and disrupt plays. Kramer did get help from center Ken Bowman (#57) and right tackle Forrest Gregg (#75) at times.
GAME: October 2, 1966 – Detroit Lions: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: Alex Karras (#71) had a good day pass rushing against Kramer. On a bull rush, Karras was able to push Kramer back or push him to the side. On run blocking, Kramer did well. There was an instance late in the third quarter where Jim Taylor (#31) ran through the B gap. Kramer had Karras turned toward Taylor. Karras easily shed the block and stopped Taylor for minimal to no gain. Kramer was also aided on a few occasions by center Bill Curry (#50) in blocking Karras. Also, Kramer regularly pulled away from Karras. In the fourth quarter, Kramer gave up a sack to Karras.
GAME: October 9, 1966 – San Francisco 49ers: 7.9
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer had a good game against Charlie Krueger (#70). There was one instance where Krueger easily pushed Kramer aside on a pass rush. Kramer lost his balance and was out of the play. Otherwise, Kramer put together a solid performance.
GAME: October 16, 1966 – Chicago Bears: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Bob Kilcullen (#74) and Dick Evey (#79) swapped DT positions throughout the game. The Bears also sprinkled in Frank Cornish (#73) at LDT in the fourth quarter. Kramer played well throughout the game. He especially had a great play against Cornish in the fourth quarter. On a pass rush, Kramer easily knocked Cornish to the ground and out of the play. However, in the first quarter, Kramer fell backwards to the ground out of his stance.
GAME: October 23, 1966 – Atlanta Falcons: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE Kramer had another excellent game. This time, against Karl Rubke (#74) of the Falcons. Very few mistakes. However, he did give up on a play in the first offensive series. The same series, he was tossed aside.
GAME: November 6, 1966 – Minnesota Vikings: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer had an excellent game. Very few mistakes. His primary responsibility was left defensive tackle Gary Larsen (#77). Kramer maintained excellent positioning and leverage in both the run and pass game. He was quick to pull and cover the sweep and screen pass. He lost his balance on a few occasions due to waistbending and not maintaining good leverage, but overall had a good base under him.
GAME: November 20, 1966 – Chicago Bears: 8.0
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer mainly lined up against Bob Kilcullen (#74), but the Bears also shifted Dick Evey (#79) and Frank Cornish (#73) into the left defensive tackle position. Overall, a very good game from Kramer. However, he did miss a few blocks on the power sweep. Also lost his balance a time or two. On pass blocking, Evey blew through the A gap and Kramer was slow to react.
GAME: November 27, 1966 – Minnesota Vikings: 7.8
BOTTOM LINE: Faced Gary Larsen (#77) at left defensive tackle. For the most part, Kramer had a very good game. Pass blocking was an issue on occasion, as he gave up on a play before the whistle and did a little waist-bending. Fortunately, it did not impact the game to any degree. Run blocking was excellent.
GAME: December 4, 1966 – San Francisco 49ers: 7.9
BOTTOM LINE: This film was more of a highlight reel and a play-by-play game film. As a result, not all plays were available. Of the plays I could see, Kramer did an excellent job against Charlie Krueger (#70). A few times, Kramer was knocked to the ground. However, the turf was very icy and players were easily losing their footing. I will not mark him down much for loss of balance at the iciest portions of the field. Kramer did miss a block on Krueger, who made a tackle for a loss.
GAME: December 10, 1966 – Baltimore Colts: 7.8
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer faced Fred Miller (#76) throughout the game. Miller was able to get a few plays against Kramer. On a passing play, he got around Kramer by tossing him aside. Kramer did not have a solid base and could not get leverage on him. Miller also was able to get penetration on Kramer when Kramer went low to block. Kramer missed hitting Miller squarely and Miller was able to get into the backfield and almost make a play. On a screen pass, Kramer went to block an outside defender, but missed the block.
GAME: December 18, 1966 – Los Angeles Rams: 7.7
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. For the most part, Kramer handled left defensive tackle Merlin Olsen (#74) well. However, there were a few issues in the game. When Kramer went low to block Olsen, Merlin was able to shed the block and make a play. An example of this was a handoff to Jim Grabowski (#33) in the second half. Kramer went low, Olsen pushed him aside and penetrated the backfield. Olsen hit Grabowski to force a fumble.
GAME: January 1, 1967 -Dallas Cowboys: 7.6
BOTTOM LINE: Not many plays were shown. In the third quarter, Larry Stevens (#77) went around Kramer and Stevens tripped over another player. Stevens had easily beaten Kramer and had a clear path to Starr until he tripped. The play resulted in a touchdown pass, but it was not a good play for Kramer.
GAME: October 22, 1967 – New York Giants: 8.1
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Kramer had an excellent game against left defensive tackle Jim Moran (#74). Both run blocking and pass blocking were excellent. On one occasion, he did not play snap-to-whistle, but he was competitive the remainder of the game. Kramer did exhibit waistbending on pass blocking on occasion.
GAME: November 5, 1967 – Baltimore Colts: 7.3
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Kramer did well on run blocking against Billy Ray Smith, Sr. (#74). However, he struggled against him in pass blocking. Smith was able to get deep penetration into the backfield, including getting in on a sack of Starr in the first half. The second half was more of the same. In the third quarter, Smith was able to get around Kramer for a sack of Starr. NOTE: The quality of the film is very poor.
GAME: December 9, 1967 – Los Angeles Rams: 7.4
BOTTOM LINE: This was a Game of the Week film. As a result, not all plays were shown. Kramer struggled in this game against Merlin Olsen (#74). In the first half, Kramer was called for holding as Olsen was pushing past him. Olsen regularly was able to get penetration into the backfield to disrupt plays. Kramer was also susceptible to getting knocked down.
GAME: December 15, 1968 – Chicago Bears: 8.2
BOTTOM LINE: Kramer only played a partial game against Frank Cornish (#73). In the fourth quarter, Kramer was replaced by Bill Lueck (#62). In the time that Kramer was in, he played well. No glaring issues were seen in his game.
HISTORIC REPORTS GRADING SCALE
Hall of Fame
9.0 – Rare
8.5 – Exceptional to Rare
8.0 – Exceptional
Hall of Very Good
7.5 – Very Good to Exceptional
7.0 – Very Good
6.5 – Good to Very Good
6.0 – Good
5.5 – Above Average to Good
5.0 – Above Average
4.5 – Average to Above Average
Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.
Matt Reaser is a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association and serves on multiple PFRA committees. He has written articles on football history and recently contributed towards a book on the 1966 Packers. He has researched high school, college and professional football. He is a former high school quarterback.
Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen
The draft and rookie mini-camps are over, does that mean that college scouts have nothing but free time until training camp? Not really. While they aren’t on the road, there is plenty of work to be done. The cycle for the 2016 NFL Draft has begun.
Spring Combine Meetings
Between now and the end of May, the clubs who are members of either BLESTO or National Scouting will have week-long meetings going over the prospects in the upcoming senior class. During these meetings, each of the combine area scouts gives a verbal assessment of each of the players in his area. His report will include some character information, plus the strong and weak points of each prospect.
The hard copy of these reports is also given to each member club as well as a school-by-school list of the senior prospects in each scout’s area. This list becomes the starting point for scouts at each school for their summer and fall evaluations. I say starting point because there are always going to be players at some schools who are not on the list. These could be players who, until this upcoming season, have never been starters and really haven’t shown scouts that they are a potential prospect.
The list also does not include underclassman who may be thinking about leaving school early and entering the draft. This is done by league mandate as the NFL does not want to encourage underclassmen in any way to enter the draft.
With game tape availability being the way it is now, it is so much easier for scouts to get a jump start on their fall work. Five or six years ago, a scout had to have hard copies of tape made and sent to them from the various club’s video departments in order to do tape study.
Now, with technology the way it is, as long as they have a tablet and an internet connection, they can watch as much tape as they want, just about anywhere. Once connected to the club’s master video computer, every game tape form the 2015 season and prior is there. It’s as simple as clicking on on the game.
When the college teams begin training camps in early August, most scouts already have a strong idea of how each prospect has played, and they also have a good idea as to what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Depending on philosophy, some clubs have some or all of their scouts working on the next year’s draft right after the Scouting Combine in February. Other clubs have the scouts working on the current class through the draft, and then they begin work on the next draft. It’s just a matter of philosophy on when they want to begin the scouting cycle.
No matter what the philosophy, the summer months are still downtime to an extent, and scouts can do their work from home rather than on the road. With tape availability the way it is, there is no reason a scout doesn’t have access to two full years (usually junior and senior) of tape when making his evaluations. That makes scouting so much easier today than it was when I was a road scout.
A scout no longer has to go to the school in order to watch video, he can do it at home, and when training camps open, all he needs to do is watch practice and talk to people who can gave him pertinent background information.
There is no reason a scout doesn’t have a good evaluation of all the top players in his area at the beginning of the college season. Once the season starts, then his evaluation is more on if the player shows improvement in his play or declines. Tape availability also gives the scout more time to do background and character evaluations. That said, there is no reason for mistakes to be made come draft day.
There are always going to be underclassmen entering the draft. By league rule, scouts cannot ask the colleges about an underclassmen unless the school offers up the information first. That does not mean the scout cannot begin doing tape evaluations of the top underclassmen at each school. As word leaks out that certain players will definitely be coming out, then the scout begins looking at tape of that player more earnestly. With league rules the way they are, club scouts cannot ask about an underclassmen entering the draft until after he is officially in the draft, and they won’t be until next January. He then has to play catchup as far as character evaluation, but the talent evaluation should already be thorough.
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When the Chiefs released veteran tight end Anthony Fasano over the offseason, it pained his younger position mate, Travis Kelce.
“When you see Fasano go, that’s a brother. That rips your heart out,” Kelce said. “It just lets you know that it is a business and everybody’s spot is vulnerable.”
It also meant that Kansas City had high expectations for Kelce to replace Fasano —who started 22 games for the Chiefs the last two years — and then some.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said the 25-year-old Kelce has the potential to be an elite player, and he’s at a crucial position in the K.C. offense.
Even with the free-agent signing of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs lack strong receiving options. And in their ball-control, short-passing offense — K.C. ranked 24th in the league in yards per attempt — the team often employed 3-TE-sets last season.
The Chiefs still have basketball player-turned-tight end Demetrius Harris and did draft James O’Shaughnessy in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but the onus will be on Kelce, who caught 67 passes for 862 yards and five touchdowns in 2014 during what basically was his rookie year.
A 2013 third-round pick, he played in just one game his rookie season because of a knee injury. He was placed on injured reserve in October of 2013 and underwent microfracture surgery, where holes are drilled in the knee to stimulate cartilage growth.
Kelce excitedly launched a comeback, returning to action last season when he burst on the scene with a 69-yard touchdown reception during the first preseason game, a 41-39 victory against the Bengals.
“I felt like I was in flames, just running around there with my head on fire,” Kelce told NFP. “It was a huge mile marker for me.”
Once the 6-6, 250-pounder passed that initial marker, he continued to flourish.
And now nearly two years removed from microfracture, he should see even better results this season. Patients who have undergone major knee surgeries typically report that it’s not until two years postoperatively that they begin feeling 100 percent.
“Without a doubt … the cartilage has got to regrow,” Kelce said. “I’m definitely feeling more and more comfortable.”
He’s also growing more accustomed to the offense that uses him in myriad roles, including in motion and chip blocking pass rushers.
“If you watch the film,” Kelce said, “you can see me everywhere on the field.”
Indeed he stands outs, exuberantly celebrating his touchdowns — and even first downs.
“He’s tremendously talented, loves to play the game,” Reid said. “He’s like a little kid out there.”
Kelce’s energy pumps up teammates during games and even mundane practices and meetings.
“When you’re having a bad day,” said Brandon Barden, a tight end on last year’s Chiefs practice squad, “just look at him, and he’ll kind of give you that little spark you need to get through.”
Kelce’s enthusiasm is best displayed during touchdown celebrations, including The Nae Nae, The Shmoney Dance, The Bow and Arrow and even one that honors WWE wrestler Ric Flair.
“I do have some fun when I do get in the end zone,” Kelce said. “That’s for sure.”
It’s a carryover from what he did growing up while “being a knucklehead in the backyard trying to get in the heads of the guys we were playing around with.”
“Everything that I come out here and show,” Kelce said, “is a product of who I am and where I’m from.”
He grew up in suburban Cleveland with his brother, Jason Kelce, who has started 46 games at center for the Eagles.
Reid drafted and coached Jason, who is two years older than Travis, when he was in Philadelphia. That bond likely factored into the Chiefs drafting Travis and knowing he could make an impact in the NFL.
“It might’ve helped out a little bit that they knew the kind of family that me and Jason came from,” Travis said. “We’re both hardworking guys and love what we do.”
Upon being selected by Kansas City, Travis picked his brother’s brain on Reid, and Jason emphasized the vigilance and attention to detail of Reid, a former offensive lineman at BYU and a tight ends coach for the Brett Favre-era Packers.
“He was going to hold you accountable. He wasn’t going to let anything slide,” Travis said his brother explained. “Every fundamental, even when you think he’s not watching, he’s watching every single second.”
Reid likely will be keeping a close eye on Kelce’s blocking, an area that he needs to improve to be on par with his stellar body control, route running and ability to gain yards after the catch.
As he continues to hone those skills, Kelce seems ready to use his breakout 2014 campaign as a springboard for 2015.
“Everybody is really excited about Travis,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said, “We all saw last year what he’s capable of.”
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Using the television to make injury diagnosis is far from foolproof, but I want to explain how it is no accident either. Besides my study of injury as an orthopedic surgeon, I spent 17 years analyzing NFL injury video. Every Monday morning after a game, I would visit the team video room with the head athletic trainer to review injury tape. This is after having tended to a player on the field, treated him in the training room, obtained x-rays/MRI and re-examined the following morning. With the specific diagnosis known, we could reverse engineer the mechanism of injury.
I feel tremendously lucky to have this unique perspective and that is what gives me an advantage over others trying to do the same thing. Even with this experience, it is only video analysis without hands on exam. I have doumented 11 “misses” in my 148 “calls” last season.
There is no question that there may be bias as I am self-grading my injury predictions. There is also no way I can be completely specific. For example, when last week I indicated Dante Fowler’s likely ACL tear, I also felt there may have been a MCL component as well. However, I count any confirmed ACL tear as correct regardless of the presence or absence of associated injury.
I am very careful to term what I share as “insider knowledge” but not “insider information”. Insider knowledge comes from my almost two decades as an NFL team physician. Insider information is knowing facts from actually treating a patient or from leaked sources. I don’t ever comment on a player that I am or have treated without their permission. I also never trade on my friendships with other team physicians or athletic trainers to obtain insight. In fact, on occasions where I am contacted by another medical professional to discuss a case, that also makes that info off limits.
I have offered to let people audit my numbers. In fact, my calls are all on my twitter timeline and this column. However, going back to analyze 148 cases would be quite tedious. This is why I will have a running record at the end of this column each week.
Currently, I am 1-0 after the Fowler ACL tear. There were no injury videos this week. I hope to have a quiet 2015 but whenever I give my analysis, I will grade and explain each week so it will be a live document as we go along.
Many have asked about other sports. I do have experience in the NBA, MLB and NHL, but it is not as extensive as my football credentials. When there is video of a traumatic injury, I have commented where I fell I have a good enough look. Recently, I indicated Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder and would need surgery. Also, Patrick Kane by video broke his clavicle and was even correct saying he would be back in 6-8 weeks (returned in seven) when official news indicated 10-12 weeks. I will leave these predictions of other sports out of my NFL scoring.
I am happy to have any additional comments. I always welcome addition video links for more angles. I certainly am not always aware of every injury. Keep sending injury video to me through twitter as many already do.
MMMD 1: No offseason for injuries
Last week we discussed the two rookie minicamp ACL tears. Despite teams’ best efforts to curtail injury, they inevitably continue to happened even in the offseason. In addition to the knee ligament tears of Dante Fowler and Jeff Heuerman, Ravens rookie cornerback Julian Wilson broke his leg and needed surgery.
Vikings starting defensive end Brian Robison suffered a pectoral injury during offseason workouts. No comments yet on specifics or projected absence. If a pec muscle injury is found, he should recover well in the coming weeks. If the pec tendon is torn, that means bad news with surgery to follow and missing significant time this season.
Even with the new CBA that limits practice and eliminates contact, injuries are still inevitable. It seemed during my time in the NFL, every other year we suffered a significant offseason injury to a potential starter.
MMMD 2: Jaguars make good on Dante Fowler contract
The number three overall pick will indeed get paid as expected even though he had not signed his contract when he tore his ACL. Last week, I indicated that Jacksonville would honor his slotted value and that has indeed happened.
Fowler signed a four-year deal with a guaranteed $23.5 million. If teams didn’t make good, no one would practice prior to a contract being signed.
MMMD 3: Shane Ray toe injury still in question
The Broncos top draft pick didn’t participate in minicamp due to great toe issues. I indicated he was a “RED light” medical issue with a turf toe variant. Reports were that he still may need surgery. Ray is slated to “be able to participate at least some” starting today. How his toe responds will determine if he still needs surgery.
I haven’t seen his medical chart but by public reports, he likely has a sesamoid issue. These two small bones are notoriously slow healers after turf toe type injuries. If this is the problem and it doesn’t heal, he may need to have his sesamoid bone excised, and that means minimum 3-4 months recovery.
For an edge rusher, the great toe is vital for explosive push off. For the Broncos, it is vital that they know his toe is healthy because if not, surgery needs to be done immediately to salvage the season.
MMMD 4:Tevin Coleman has sickle cell trait
Sickle cell trait is common in the NFL. Sickle cell anemia would preclude a NFL career. Fortunately, the now Falcons running back only has the trait. It should be a minimal factor in his NFL career. Players with sickle cell trait just need to be careful with hydration when in extreme heat or at altitude. Most NFL teams have at least one player on their current roster with sickle cell trait. The Atlanta medical staff will be aware of Coleman’s situation and it should not be an issue for his career.
MMMD 5: Physicals before rookie minicamps
Every NFL team conducts full physicals on rookies before minicamp. In fact this may be one of the most important parts of the weekend. Teams have already examined most draft picks, but most free agents have not been seen medically.
Usually the day before minicamp is spent on full physicals. It is not unheard of to fail a player if the team doesn’t want to take a chance on the injury. In the NFL, once you pass a physical, the team owns the ailment. For example, a knee with a chronic arthritic problems could be the responsibility of the club even if the player is released after one minicamp.
If a club is concerned about an injury, they may require the player sign an injury waiver. This releases the club from long-term responsibility for a pre-existing injury.
MMMD 6: Jameis Winston prohibited from playing baseball
Player contracts often have clauses restricting dangerous activities like skiing, motorcycle riding or skydiving. In the case of the first overall pick, baseball is excluded.
Throwing a baseball might cause injury to a quarterback’s shoulder or elbow, In this case, it is probably more about Winston devoting full time to football than it is about potential injury.
MMMD 7: Rugby crossover
Rugby crossover continues into football. The 49ers have been pleased with Rugby League star Jarryd Hayne. It turns out Cardinals and former BYU running back Paul Laskie is from New Zealand and was a rugger growing up. He never played football until college.
I have strong rugby roots and have been a long-time USA rugby team physician. I have to take this moment to congratulate the mens sevens team on a historic feat. For the first time ever, the USA squad won an IRB tournament defeating Australia in the Cup final in England this weekend.
The USA team is peaking at the right time. Rugby returns to the Olympics in Rio for 2016.
Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc
Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.