The Jacksonville Jaguars now have the dubious distinction of having two consecutive top-5 overall picks injured early in the offseason program. Last year, Dante Fowler, Jr. tore his ACL in the first rookie minicamp practice. Now Jalen Ramsey has suffered a “small” meniscus tear.
Last week I wrote how half of teams will suffer a significant injury program. With Ramsey for the Jaguars, Shaq Lawson (shoulder) with Bills and Jumal Rolle (Achilles) of the Ravens, that makes three of the potential 16 teams already.
The size of Ramsey’s meniscus tear is not the biggest factor for a quick return. The type of tear and location (peripheral vs inner rim) determines the type of arthroscopic surgery needed: menisectomy (trimming) versus meniscus repair (sewing). A typical return from menisectomy is 4-6 weeks. A meniscus repair would mean 4-6 months out.
Statistically, there is over a 90% chance that Ramsey’s tear will not be amenable to repair, thus dictating the trimming surgery with quicker recovery. Interestingly, a previous poll of NFL players showed they would overwhelmingly choose the menisectomy (earlier return) over a repair (less long term arthritis, longer recovery) even if their tear was a candidate for repair.
Myles Jack’s knee situation with the osteochondral lesion is much different. He was another top-5 talent that fell to the Jaguars early in round 2 due to reports of needing future microfracture surgery. Jacksonville fans are understandably worried, but the two situations bear little resemblance medically.
Concern for Ramsey’s knee in Jacksonville is high as it came to light that he had a microfracture surgery as a Sophomore in high school. A report surfaced that Jaguars may contradict that he ever had that procedure. Even if Ramsey did have microfracture surgery, at age of 15, the results are much better.
I was not aware of Ramsey’s microfracture history, but I assure you the Jaguars medical staff knew the facts. For almost two decades I was in the same Combine medical room as Jacksonville and have worked with their current head athletic trainer. Yes, draftees conveniently “fib or forget” about their injury history, but team doctors know this and factor that in. Even without the operative report of the high school surgery, with portal scars on his knee, likely a MRI was obtained that would show any previous microfracture surgery. With Fowler and now Ramsey, the consecutive year injuries appear to be bad luck, not something missed by the Jaguars medical staff.
The Jacksonville GM, now knows his team doctor very well given the three knee issues of Fowler, Jack and Ramsey. If all three work out, the Jaguars could have a formidable defense and make the biggest improvement of any team in 2016. If the three knee issues do not perform well, the GM could be looking for another job.
MMMD 1: Shaq Lawson needs shoulder surgery after all
Before the draft, I indicated that the team that drafted Lawson would either do surgery immediately or hope to get through the first season with a shoulder harness and then have surgery in the offseason. Despite the player’s previous denials of any need for surgery, a labral repair surgery was performed this week. Unfortunately, the procedure means Lawson will start the year on PUP and undoubtedly miss Week 1. If rehab is smooth, Lawson could return 4-6 months after surgery, which means he could miss half of his rookie campaign.
This is not to say the Buffalo made a bad draft pick. There is no doubt the Bills medical staff was aware of the issue and the Lawson first-round selection was a calculated risk. The good news is that once healed, there should be no long-term issues.
Lawson played three years with a shoulder brace. It is not unusual that as a player steps up to a higher level of competition, injuries they could play with before, now get unmasked. Reports say Lawson re-injured the shoulder doing a bag drill. Even though it was likely that he was not wearing brace when the shoulder re-dislocated, the Bills are making the right decision to get their prized rookie fixed now.
MMMD 2: Wide receiver fracture
The Jones 5th metatarsal fracture should be renamed the WR fracture. Sammy Watkins joined a long list of recent WRs to have a screw placed in his foot. Julian Edelman, Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and DeVante Parker all had a second screw in the same foot. Others to undergo surgery for Jones fracture include Hakeeem Nicks, Michael Crabtree, Marvin Jones, Demaryius Thomas and Quinton Patton.
Other positions get the injury too: 49ers RB Carlos Hyde and teammate S Jimmy Ward among others. However, fifth metatarsal fractures are more common in wide receivers than any other position group due to the hard cuts they have to make. No one knows who Sir Robert Jones, the namesake for the Jones fracture is anymore. I propose we just call this injury a “wide receiver” fracture.
MMMD 3: Another reason for Laremy Tunsil draft tumble?
A report surfaced that Tunsil’s draft day fall may not have been exclusively related to the gas mask video. A “pre-arthritic” ankle may have contributed to the slide. Don’t forget that Tunsil had an ankle fracture/dislocation in the bowl game at the end of his junior season, but returned to play well. This injury could indeed lead to future arthritis but that typically takes decades.
College teammate Laquon Treadwell had a similar injury and was a fellow first-round pick. Then again, Darren Sproles had a similar injury and surgery early in his NFL career and is beginning his 10th season since that ankle injury.
MMMD 4: Cardinals with confidence in Tyrann Mathieu
Teams are usually hesitant about a defensive back coming off an ACL tear (see Darrelle Revis and the Jets 2012). Arizona has no such fears and is rumored to be extending the contract of the “honey badger”.
It typically takes longer for a DB to be fully effective after ACL surgery due to the demands to react to the offensive players moves. However, Mathieu already showed he could recover from a potentially career threatening ACL/LCL injury in 2013. This ACL recovery is easy compared to the last one.
MMMD 5: James Harrison’s suspicions about NFL drug test unfounded
The often-fined Steelers linebacker wondered why he wasn’t allowed to film his recent drug test. This was not a case of Harrison being singled out but it is against league policy for anyone to record the testing procedures.
Recording a test would make it easier to study the process and circumvent future testing. In a recent Olympics cheating scandal, Russia was accused of substituting clean urine samples in look-a-like bottles. Filming what the bottles look like might help in this counterfeiting process.
The NFL is often accused of acting suspiciously (see Deflategate), but this does not seem to be the case here.
MMMD 6: Crazy stories
We have gotten numb to off field stories from Aaron Hernandez to Johnny Manziel. Add two more unbelievable stories that involve two players I know, respect and wish the best for. Erik Kramer survived a suicide attempt where he shot himself in the head. Reche Caldwell landed in jail after casually ordering drugs over the internet.
There are many positive stories about former players, we just don’t hear about them as often. This weekend was the Marshall Faulk Celebrity Championship that has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity. What is unique is that Faulk primarily raises money not for his own charity, but for the Junior Seau Foundation. After the 2012 death, the NFL MVP of 2000 voluntarily stepped up to take the lead to continue to raise money in Junior’s absence. Faulk just wants to pay Seau back for his encouragement when the young running back starred at San Diego State.
I would rather hear more about these great charitable acts from players than hear more crazy stories about former players.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc Scorecard
The 2016 record was 5-0 even though injury predictions/assessments are sparse this time of year.
Prior to the draft, I indicated Shaq Lawson would need shoulder surgery, which he denied even after the draft. With his recent labral repair, that increases this seasons total to 6-0.
With most NFL draft’s it’s usually the first round picks who receive much of the attention and attract most of the spotlight. Yet over the years when you go back and review successful draft classes it’s typically the “sleepers” or day three selections that make a good class turn into a great class.
With that in mind we reviewed each NFL teams draft class, per division, and attempted to point out who potentially could turn out to be that groups “sleeper”
Buffalo Bills – Jonathan Williams, RB Arkansas 5th rd. 18th pick (#156 overall)
Although running back was not a need position for the Bills heading into the draft they received tremendous value with the selection of Williams in the fifth round.
In Williams the Bills are getting a runner who possesses good size with some wiggle to him and someone that demonstrates the ability to make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage as well as in the open field. Williams has good vision and balance with quick feet that allow him to avoid some of the trash at or near the line of scrimmage. Although he does not have game breaking speed Williams can hit a gap and rumble 15 to 20 yards before a defender catches him.
Williams missed the 2015 season due to a foot injury he suffered in August that required surgery. In 2014, while splitting carries with fellow Razorback Alex Collins, Williams rushed for almost 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With the Bills he will be expected to supply depth at running back behind LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, while also helping to strengthen the league leading ground game that Buffalo featured last season. With McCoy and Williams missing a combined nine games in 2015, the Bills looked to add some insurance to better equip themselves for potential injuries.
Having Greg Roman as the offensive coordinator, and with his preference to build the offense around a powerful rushing attack, selecting Williams was not only good value, but it could turn out to be one of the better selections made during the 2016 draft in the years that follow.
Miami Dolphins – Jakeem Grant, WR 6th rd. 11th pick (#186 overall)
Former Texas Tech receiver/speed demon Jakeem Grant is a player who is small in stature (5’6” 165 lbs.) but has a big presence on the field, as he plays the game without fear and was one of the most electrifying players in college football last year. Grant led the Big-12 conference with 90 receptions last season to go along with 1,268 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. While on kick-offs Grant average 26.1 yards a return with two touchdowns.
Grant’s calling card is his speed and quickness, patterning his game after Darren Sproles and Tavon Austin, which is why he was disappointed to not receive a scouting combine invite as he had planned on breaking Chris Johnson’s record forty time (4.24). At the Texas Tech Pro Day various hand times had Grant posting forty-times anywhere from 4.10 to 4.38. For the record grant believes he is closer to a time of 4.10 than a 4.38
Grant is also not lacking in confidence as he told the media, at the recent Dolphins rookie camp, that he plans on lining up at wide receiver in the NFL, and does not see himself as just a specialist.
Whether he makes an impact on Miami’s offense is yet to be determined, but Grant will most likely have a positive effect on the Dolphins special teams unit. Not only is Grant dangerous with the ball in his hands on kick-off returns (had four KO return touchdowns in college) but his presence will also allow the coaches to remove receiver Jarvis Landry off punt return duty which will give him less exposure to big hits and make him less susceptible to injuries suffered while playing special teams.
New England Patriots – Malcolm Mitchell, WR 4th rd. 14th pick (#112 overall)
The Patriots undeniably knocked it out of the park with the selection of Malcolm Mitchell in the fourth round. Look for Mitchell too quickly garner Tom Brady’s confidence and give him a receiver on the outside who he can rely on to make plays for him.
Mitchell’s ability to go up and make a play on the ball in traffic is something Brady hasn’t really had at the receiver position. Although he is just six feet tall, Mitchell has long arms (33 inches) and big hands (10 ½) coupled with a 36 inch vertical, and that allows him to win those 50/50 balls downfield. Mitchell’s speed along with his route running, and run after the catch toughness will allow the Patriots to utilize him in a number of different ways within multiple sets. Mitchell’s character both on and off the field along with the toughness he will bring to the receivers group is sure to make him a fan favorite as well.
Concerns over Mitchell’s size and durability, as he has missed a number games with both minor and major injuries (torn right meniscus and ACL), allowed him to drop to New England in the fourth round.
Bill Belichick and the New England coaches will absolutely love the character, toughness, and versatility (started three games at cornerback in 2012) that Mitchell will bring to the team. If he manages to stay healthy there is no doubt in my mind that he will develop into a nice offensive weapon for the Patriots.
New York Jets – Charone Peake, WR 7th rd. 20th pick (#241 overall)
On paper Charone Peake’s size speed ratio would lead you to believe that he would have been drafted much higher than the 241st overall selection, but to the delight of the Jets Peake was available for them to select in the seventh round.
What may have contributed to Peake’s fall was that for the better part of his years at Clemson it seemed like he was always either playing behind a future NFL receiver or hurt. With players like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, and Martavis Bryant all ahead of Peake on the depth chart seeing some meaningful snaps was not easy. Add to it the fact that two games into the 2013 season he tore his left ACL, then in the Summer of 2014 he tore the meniscus in the same knee. The two injuries caused Peake to miss a total of 18 games in two seasons.
As previously mentioned, Peake has a great combination of size, length, and speed. He possesses terrific arm length, giving the quarterback a big target to throw to. Peake does a nice job of eating up a corners cushion with his long strides, before turning on the jets and simply running right by them with pure speed. He displays good concentration downfield hauling in a long pass over his shoulders, and looking the ball it into his hands. On film Peake does a good job of adjusting to back shoulder throws and catching the ball cleanly with his hands.
With the Jets often liking to utilize three and four receiver sets on offense Peake will be given every opportunity to play and contribute as a rookie. As long as Peake can stay healthy he has the talent and skill level to continue the recent string of former Clemson Tigers turned big-play NFL wide receivers.
Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp.
Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56
‘Tis the season for rookie and team minicamps. The intent is to indoctrinate rookies, provide a primer on new terminology and get an early talent evaluation. However, teams have an underlying more important goal.
Everyone’s main objective is to finish minicamps injury free. In my 17 years as a NFL team physician, it seemed that every other year my team suffered a significant season altering injury to one of our main contributors. Lead pass rusher Melvin Ingram tore his ACL in the 2013 Chargers mini-camp. Last season, Jaguars #3 overall pick Dante Fowler Jr. ruptured his ACL on the first day of minicamp and missed his entire rookie season. The Broncos suffered the same fate last year with tight end Jeff Heuerman.
Clubs have a focus on trying to stay healthy. After last year’s loss, Jacksonville has made it a bigger priority to stay injury free and have changed their rookie minicamp.
Statistically, over 50% of teams will have a season-ending injury during offseason activities. Last week, Ravens cornerback Jumal Rolle tore his Achilles tendon and will miss 2016.
The most common offseason injuries are muscles strains including the hamstring, groin, quad and calf, which usually recover in plenty of time. ACL and Achilles tears are the feared ones that will lead to a loss of the upcoming season. These injuries are commonly high-speed non-contact injuries. Thus, even with limited contact practices, the new CBA has not resulted in lower numbers of these injuries. Achilles have become the new ACL with increased numbers and both are dreaded season-enders.
The main priority has become staying healthy while accomplishing offseason goals.
MMMD 1: Julian Edelman with a second foot surgery
Early reports called the procedure minor and that he would be back for training camp. Edelman had revision surgery where a screw was reinserted into the same left fifth metatarsal bone. Also called a Jones fracture, this is a problem fracture due to its poor blood supply. Returning to play early increases the chance of needing a second procedure, which often is accompanied by bone graft.
Needing a second surgery for a Jones fracture is not unusual and does not indicate mismanagement by the surgeon or Patriots medical staff. When hurrying back to play, this happens up to 20% of the time. Recent examples of needing redo surgery include Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and the NBA’s Kevin Durant.
Healing after revision surgery typically takes 3-4 months. It is possible that Edelman will be ready for the start of training camp but is it more likely he begins on PUP and targets a return before the first real game. If the Patriots are unlucky, it is possible they could play early season meaningful games without Tom Brady and their #1 wide receiver.
MMMD 2: Dez Bryant recovery from second Jones fracture surgery
The Cowboys wide receiver returned six weeks from his initial fifth metatarsal screw placement but never really excelled, posting a maximum of five catches in a game and totaling three touchdowns in 2015. After revision surgery, he is reported to be recovering well and on target to participate in some of OTAs and the June minicamp.
The key here is Bryant had his 2nd foot surgery in January and “isn’t fully cleared yet”. If Julian Edelman follows this timetable, his May surgery will have him back in October. The take home message is to be careful with fifth metatarsal fractures.
MMMD 3: Melvin Gordon microfracture surgery
When the word “microfracture” is used, many jump to the conclusion that a player is doomed. I agree with Chargers GM Tom Telesco. Not all microfracture surgery is the same and the key is the size and location of the lost articular cartilage.
I have not treated Gordon and do not know the circumstances of his surgery, but given the optimistic return guideline of 4-6 months and the reports of his workout progress, the running back should be on course for a much better 2016 than rookie year. The team knows the details of the January surgery, yet they did not draft a running back or add one in free agency. That likely speaks loudly to the Chargers’ confidence in their starting running back’s rebound for a strong year.
MMMD 4: BFR and Le’Veon Bell
The question is will BFR be enough to get Bell back for next season. The Steelers have set no timeline. In general, MCL/PCL surgery is harder to recover from than an isolated ACL tear. Simply put, recovering from two torn ligaments is harder than returning from one. There is no guarantee that Bell will be 100% or even ready to play Week 1, but if he is, BFR will share in the credit for his return.
MMMD 5: Ricardo Lockette didn’t have a choice
Big news of the week was the Seahawks WR/ST retiring from football. Congrats to Lockette on his decision to walk away healthy.
The reality is that the injury and subsequent surgery caused him to lose significant rotation in his neck motion. A spine fusion from C1-C4 leaves him with well under 50% of his ability to turn his head to the right and left. It would be unprecedented to return to football from a three-level fusion.
Lockette made the right choice to retire, but the medical reality is that he didn’t really have a choice.
MMMD 6: Kudos to NFL player engagement
I personally know of dozens of players who have taken advantage of programs. From broadcast boot camp, finance workshops to coaching or scouting internships, there are many programs aimed at giving former players direction. I am not saying the NFL is perfect in all aspects related to former players but I see an honest effort to help players with life after football careers.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
In the offseason, I have not updated the running 2016 scorecard each week as activity is sparse. I will still keep tabs this season and see if it is possible to continue the slight improvement from 92.6% in 2014 to the 94.3% in 2015.
In early March, the Byron Maxwell and Kiko Alonso trade to the Dolphins was rumored to be off due to Maxwell’s physical, which noted sternoclavicular (SC) joint problems. I tweeted at the time it was likely the deal would still go through and it did. Despite worry about Tony Romo’s offseason surgery to decrease the chance of recurrent clavicle fracture, I correctly indicated that the Dallas QB would be fine and indeed he is already cleared and throwing 100%. Prior to Jaylon Smith’s Combine medical evaluation, he was universally thought to be a top pick. Seeing video posted by the player, I concluded nerve issues and indicated that unfortunately he would fall out of the first-round. I even got lucky and predicted the Cowboys would draft him. Myles Jack is able to play football today, but an OCD lesion would drop him out of being a top 10 pick.
Adding these four correct assessments to the 1-0 2016 record leaves us with a 5-0 start for this coming season.
It has been over one week since the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft took place.
Draft classes have been graded, and the way too early versions of 2017 mock drafts have been posted.
The next step in the offseason are rookie minicamps, which are already underway for some teams.
With the first round picks seeing the field for the first time, who are they expected to replace on their respective rosters?
This article just looks at rookies in the NFC. The article on AFC teams can be found here.
Arizona Cardinals: DT Robert Nkemdiche
A player with immense talent, Nkemdiche fell to the Cardinals due to off-the-field issues. After playing defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense at Ole Miss, he moves to 3-4 defensive end in Arizona. Calais Campbell is star at one defensive end spot, so Nkemdiche is replacing veteran Frostee Rucker at the other spot. Rucker, 32, has started 20 games over the past two seasons for Arizona and is a free agent at the end of the season. Nkemdiche and Campbell gives the Cardinals a strong defensive line unit.
Atlanta Falcons: S Keanu Neal
Safety was one of the positions that the Falcons absolutely had to upgrade to get better on defense. Both safety spots are important in a Cover 3 scheme, Incumbent strong safety William Moore was released in February and still hasn’t signed anywhere. Neal comes in and replaces him. Head coach Dan Quinn likely saw some Kam Chancellor, a player Quinn worked with in Seattle, in Neal. Neal is known as a big hitter who speeds down from his safety position to take out opposing players.
Carolina Panthers: DT Vernon Butler
Butler is an interesting selection because he doesn’t necessarily replace a starter on the Panthers roster. Starting defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei are quality players who are free agents after the 2016 and 2017 seasons, respectively. However, Carolina is reported to want to sign both to long-term extensions. This makes Butler the third defensive tackle, a role that belonged to Dwan Edwards last year. He was released in March. Butler will still see the field as a rookie, but it will be as rotational player.
Chicago Bears: OLB Leonard Floyd
Trading up to pass the New York Giants, the Bears selected Floyd, an athletic pass rusher. His best fit early is as a situational pass rusher. This will allow him to develop other pass rush moves and improve his game against the run. Chicago will be able to do this because the players Floyd is replacing are still on the roster. Willie Young is a free agent at the end of the 2016 season, and Lamarr Houston, who isn’t a great fit in a 3-4 defense, can be cut for significant cap savings at any time.
Dallas Cowboys: RB Ezekiel Elliott
In the overall scheme of things, Elliott is replacing DeMarco Murray, who left Dallas for Philadelphia in free agency over a year ago. With Elliott, the Cowboys are trying to recreate their strong run game that they had with Murray in 2014. In terms of the roster right now, Elliott takes over for Darren McFadden. McFadden started 10 games last season and gained 1,089 yards behind the Cowboys’ excellent offensive line. With Dallas’ offensive line, there might not be a better spot for a running back to land.
Detroit Lions: OT Taylor Decker
The Lions looked at offensive tackles all offseason in free agency, but were unable to land one. The team definitely needed a new right tackle and may be looking to replace left tackle Riley Reiff, who has one year left on his contract. Reiff has been serviceable in his career, but can be improved upon. One of the most interesting position battles to watch over the summer will left tackle in Detroit. Which player starts on the left side and which player starts on the right?
Green Bay Packers: DT Kenny Clark
The retirement of B.J. Raji left the Packers with a bigger need on the defensive line. He was a free agent, but the team was expecting to re-sign him. There was some thought that Letroy Guion would move over from defensive end to nose tackle, but Clark’s selection allows the Packers to simply plug Clark into the void left by Raji. Clark is a strong run defender with a good bull rush. He may start off as just a two-down player, but he has the potential to be more than that.
Los Angeles Rams: QB Jared Goff
Back in Los Angeles and desperate for a franchise quarterback, the Rams packaged a bunch of picks to Tennessee to trade up to No. 1 overall. The reward was Goff, who joins the franchise as the instant starter. The Rams’ quarterback position has been unsettled since Sam Bradford first tore his ACL in 2013. Nick Foles and Case Keenum both started games ineffectively last season. Both are still on the roster, but odds are Los Angeles tries to trade one of them by the start of the season.
Minnesota Vikings: WR Laquon Treadwell
Goal No. 1 for the Vikings for the 2016 draft had to be find a new target for Teddy Bridgewater to throw to. The starting unit of Mike Wallace and Stefon Diggs wasn’t putting fear into opposing defenses. Wallace, who never really fit in because Bridgewater doesn’t throw deep often, was released. Treadwell takes Wallace’s spot in the starting lineup, but they are completely different receivers. Wallace is a burner and Treadwell is a physical player who dropped in the draft due to a slow forty-yard dash time.
New Orleans Saints: DT Sheldon Rankins
One of the most important positions in a 4-3 defense is the three-technique defensive tackle (think Warren Sapp and Aaron Donald). This player is responsible for interior disruption. Last season, the Saints relied on 35-year-old Kevin Williams. He played well, but clearly was just a stop-gap solution. The Saints signed Nick Fairley, but he will only be around for one season. The job is clearly Rankins’ to lose.
New York Giants: CB Eli Apple
After missing out on rumored top targets Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd, the Giants took Apple. On the surface, this seems like a strange selection, as they already have Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at cornerback. However, Rodgers-Cromartie turned 30 in April and can be cut for significant cap savings after the season. Finally, teams need to have three good cornerbacks in today’s NFL. Apple will probably have to move inside to the slot at the beginning of his career.
Philadelphia Eagles: QB Carson Wentz
A decent argument could be made that Goff and Wentz are both replacing the same player: Bradford. Now in Philadelphia, Bradford started 14 games last season and re-signed for good money this offseason. However, that is only a two-year contract and the Eagles can easily get out of the deal after one season. He asked for a trade out of Philadelphia and started to hold out, but eventually returned to the team. Bradford is the quarterback for now, but Wentz is the future.
San Francisco 49ers: DE DeForest Buckner and G Joshua Garnett
The only team with two first round selections this year, the 49ers improved their trenches with the selections of Buckner and Garnett. The Buckner selection makes it two Oregon defensive ends in two straight first rounds. Buckner and Arik Armstead are the two starters now. Buckner takes over for Glenn Dorsey and Quinton Dial. The 49ers heavily rotated their defensive ends last season. Dorsey and Dial will be good backups now. Once Alex Boone left in free agency, guard became a big need on offense. Garnett, who San Francisco traded up to acquire, is Boone’s replacement. It is tough to lose an offensive lineman of Boone’s caliber, but the 49ers were proactive about finding a replacement. Garnett is a mauling run blocker.
Seattle Seahawks: OL Germain Ifedi
The entire offensive line in Seattle needs work, so it was no surprise that the team spent a first round pick on one. At Texas A&M, Ifedi played right tackle his last two seasons, but was a guard as a freshman. Seattle is expected to play Ifedi as a guard. Right now, he is penciled in as the starting right guard. Last season, that was J.R. Sweezy, who left for Tampa Bay in free agency. Seattle may reshuffle their offensive line again before the season starts, but right now Ifedi is replacing Sweezy.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Tampa Bay’s top two cornerbacks in 2015 were Alterraun Verner and Sterling Moore. Verner was in and out of the starting lineup, and Moore left for Buffalo in free agency. Brent Grimes was added on a two-year contract in free agency, but at 32-years-old, he is only a temporary solution. Hargreaves comes in as a clear starter. His ability to play both outside and inside will help the Buccaneers play their best three cornerbacks. If Verner is able to survive this season, don’t expect him to be on the roster in 2017.
Washington Redskins: WR Josh Doctson
At first glance, this selection may not make much sense. Some NFL fans definitely were asking why would Washington draft a wide receiver with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon already on the roster? Well, both Jackson and Garçon will be free agent after the 2016 season and will turn 30 by then. The selection of Doctson was done with an eye on the future. He may not be needed much as a rookie, but he will be in 2017. With that being said, he is too talented to keep off the field early.
Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13
The NFL has always valued youth, and with the current CBA it really seems like any player approaching 30 becomes expendable. Fueled by analytics, the youth movement has reached coaches and management across all sports leagues.
This week, the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes hired a 26 year-old analytics expert as their general manager. Examining the current roster, the new GM is younger than over half of his players.
In MLB, Theo Epstein was 28 when the Red Sox hired him. His success may have encouraged other owners and leagues to hire young Ivy League brainiacs. The Browns have gone that route with young Harvard educated executives Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta who then in turn hired 28 year-old fellow Crimson Andrew Berry for the top personnel job.
The NFL has long embraced the youth movement. Howie Roseman was 36 when he became the Eagles GM. The Bears Ryan Pace was 37. At 31, Lane Kiffin was the youngest NFL head coach. Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin were both only 34 years old when they each started their long Steelers tenures.
I am not against this youth movement. In fact, I was part of it. There is no official record keeping of age for medical personnel, but I was likely the youngest head NFL team physician ever. Being 32 when I first started as a team doc, the first 8 years I was younger than at least one active player on the roster. William Fuller was older and when he retired, we acquired Jim Harbaugh who was three months older. When Jim moved on, I thought my streak was over; however, Doug Flutie joined the roster and he was two years older.
There was nothing significant about being younger than a player except it made me feel more part of a peer group all trying to achieve the goal of a championship. I related and cared personally about the guys off the field, which made it easy to do the best thing possible for them to keep them healthy and on the field.
The last nine years of my 17-year NFL tenure, players were all considerably younger than me but many felt like my little brothers. This camaraderie made it easy to spend time on the road and enjoy going the extra mile to help out my teammates.
The youth movement eventually caught up to me too. When my GM and head coach became younger than me, it was a sign of how the times have changed. I will always feel lucky to have been in a position to have these special friendships that extended beyond the traditional doctor/patient relationships.
It meant a lot to me when players accepted me into the special fraternity made possible by age. My biggest compliment was when Philip Rivers called me a teammate saying I “wasn’t a doctor that also happened to be a team doctor. He was a Charger all the way. He’ll be missed.”
Time marches on. Many say the NFL stands for “not for long” and that has never been more truthful. The only seemingly constant is the owners.
MMMD 1: Unprecedented suspension reversal
The NFL has long enforced the policy that a player is responsible for what is found in his own body, no matter what. The league seems to have shown some compassion when Duane Brown proved his positive test was related to eating meat in Mexico.
Brown’s Texans teammate once claimed “over trained athlete” syndrome for his positive test, but Roger Goodell did not buy that excuse. The league has never accepted tainted supplement arguments either. In an unusual but positive step, the NFL overturned Brown’s suspension. As a result, warnings about eating too much meat in Mexico and China was issued to players by the league. My guess is this will be a one-time exception to the hardline policy of being responsible for what is in your body regardless of the circumstances.
MMMD 2: Will Jaylon Smith play?
Owner/GM Jerry Jones said Smith will not start the season on injured reserve (IR) for 2016. Some interpreted that as optimism for the knee and nerve recovery. In reality it is just wordplay as Smith undoubtedly will start the 2016 season on the non-football injury (NFI) list. NFI refers to any injury not happening in a NFL season, so collegiate injuries qualify.
The Cowboys were in a unique position to draft Smith as the GM is the owner and the trusted team physician (and Smith’s surgeon) has enough political capital with the team where his job will not depend on his being right about nerve recovery. The Patriots were reported to covet Smith late in the 2nd round but I would be surprised if that were the case. Certainly Bill Belichick doesn’t worry about answering to the owner; however, New England has a new team physician this season. I find it hard to believe that any new doctor would put his job on the line to clear a player with a nerve injury with unpredictable recovery.
Smith has a multi-ligament knee injury plus a nerve issue. Ifo Ekpre-Olamu was a projected early pick last year and fell to the seventh round after dislocating his knee. The Browns released him without playing a down and he is now with the Dolphins. Marcus Lattimore had two years of rehab with the 49ers but retired without ever being activated. Navarro Bowman had an ACL/MCL injury, missed an entire season and returned to play last year, but his knee is far from normal. Willis Magahee did return after his severe injury to have a productive career.
Not all of these severe knee injuries are similar. The point is a multi-ligament injury without nerve issues already is career threatening. Adding nerve recovery makes it even more daunting. Here is hoping Smith beats the odds to make it back. With some luck and lots of hard work, he could be a quality player, but it would be unprecedented to have 100% recovery and reach all of his pre-injury potential.
MMMD 3: Medical analytics
Much has been written about Myles Jack. Some argue he needlessly dropped. Other say his knee is a time bomb. I think he was drafted in the expected spot. Jack can play football today but the question is for how long.
The general manager makes the final decision but he relies on his team physician’s input. Many thought the Packers should have selected Jack with the 27th pick. An inside look at how draft decisions are made show why he wasn’t. Analytics may be new to the NFL, but medical analytics is exactly what team physicians have been doing at draft time for decades.
MMMD 4: Sports science seems to work for soccer
Coincidence or cause and effect? Leicester City has been transformed from bottom feeder to Premier League champions. They certainly aren’t the only European team that embraces sports science but they are among the leaders in integrating its use.
Chip Kelly, now with the 49ers, aggressively brought sports science to the Eagles with modest success. Other teams have adopted some new age medicine techniques. I don’t think just sports science is solely responsible for Leicester City’s championship, but it certainly was a factor as they were among the leaders is lowest injuries. The question now is how might this translate to football.
MMMD 5: Cold weather games cause more injuries?
In my 17 years in the NFL, I often noted that wet or snowy games made for poor footing and made for less traumatic injuries. Now a study comes out that claims cold weather leads to more concussions and ankle injuries.
Although I applaud the authors for their work, calling a warm weather game 70 degrees Fahrenheit and marking a cold weather game at 50 degrees Fahrenheit, may skew the data. 50 is probably the average temperature of an NFL game. The increased injuries seen might simply correlate with games played later in the season as the weather happens to be colder. Much more research needs to be done and this is a good start.
MMMD 6: BFR at NFL course
Last week the NFL had its bi-annual course with the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. I have been fortunate enough to be invited to lecture several times as team physicians present the latest breakthroughs to other sports medicine practitioners. Being asked to speak at this meeting is an honor and means the topic is being endorsed by NFL physicians.
The latest on blood flow restriction (BFR) was presented. This is another indication that this new rehab and workout technique is reaching the mainstream. KAATSU is the world-wide leader in BFR and I have meet with the inventor in Japan over five years ago. As I predicted, BFR is catching on as shown by its inclusion in the NFL course. Over half of pro teams now incorporate BFR techniques.
MMMD 7: Genetics matter
The QB lineage of the Mannings is well documented. Both Peyton and Eli have successfully followed in father Archie’s footsteps. There are plenty of other famous football families.
Three recent examples involve the city of San Diego. Third overall pick Joey Bosa’s dad played in the NFL. Fullback Derek Watt was drafted and will face brother J.J. Watt this season. Ian Seau was signed by the Rams and will always face comparisons to his Hall of Fame uncle Junior Seau.
I hope all of these legacy players can make their own names in the NFL.