Dr. David Chao
Latest NFL News

Lesson number one in medical school is history is the most important part of a physical examination. Before touching the patient a detailed history is required. History for a traumatic injury is a description of the mechanism. What better description is there than actual video of the injury? Every day, I have at least one patient that shows me how they were hurt by showing me team, cellphone or GoPro video.

This is the basis of my video injury analysis which was honed with 17 years of Monday morning visits to the video department to reverse engineer injuries I saw and examined from the day before.

When I ran onto the field to tend to a player, my assistant physicians were trained to watch the video board for replays to see the mechanism of injury. Late in my career, sideline injury video was introduced for concussion but found to be more helpful for other injuries as it is difficult to judge head injuries by video.

The English Premiere League has now introduced video to the field. Liverpool medical staff now have the injured player on the pitch in front of them, yet still rely on video. This further validates my use of video to assess injuries. ipaddr

Of course, I would be more accurate examining a player than just looking at video. Although I am flattered by some who say I never miss, that is hardly the case. During the 2015 season, I publicly documented 94.3% accuracy. Ten times my video assessment was not accurate, but it was correct on 165 occasions. Some injuries had inadequate visual evidence and I could not opine at all.

When Jaylon Smith injured his knee on New Year’s Day, I tweeted my immediate worry about nerve injury. Later, video Smith posted of himself walking confirmed the peroneal nerve injury despite the player’s denials. In the offseason there is limited video so I rely on other methods of deduction. A recent photo had Smith still with an ankle foot orthosis (AFO), indicating his nerve is still not functional. ClfYaxdWYAAJWRM

I am not diagnosing players on twitter. If I had any role in treatment or access to X-rays or MRIs, I would not be able to comment due to HIPAA privacy laws. I deal in insider knowledge, not insider information. I know the vast majority of medical personnel in the NFL but I never contact them for information, nor would they violate player’s privacy and tell me.

When I am treating or have treated a player, I skip commenting specifically. For example, I did not comment on Drew Brees’ shoulder issue last year. On occasions when a team physician colleague discusses an injury with me, I no longer voice a public opinion. I also examined some players in preparation for the Combine and of course I did not comment on their collegiate injuries since I had the insider information. When I do speak about a player that I have treated, I have permission from the athlete or limit my discussion to publicly available knowledge.

There is no substitute for an examination, but there is growing use of video on the field to help with diagnosis. The use of video in injury assessments is here to stay.

MMMD 1: “Wide receiver” fracture revisited

With all the prominent pass catchers who have suffered a Jones fifth metatarsal fracture, I proposed to rename the injury. Bears WR Marquess Wilson re-broke his foot and was announced to likely start on PUP.

A second surgery is needed up to 20% of the time as has happened to Dez Bryant and Julian Edelman recently. Bryant has been recently cleared as his second procedure was in January. Edelman’s timeline is tight as his second screw insertion was reported in May. Sammy Watkins had April first-time surgery and may not be ready until the first game.

Remember, this fracture happens due to a “watershed area” in the bone where there is limited blood supply. This fact also makes healing more tricky.

MMMD 2: ACL mental hurdle

Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction presents physical and mental hurdles. I wrote about this in my MMMD extra: ACL surgery series weekly during the 2014 offseason as I chronicled what the recovery for Von Miller and Rob Gronkowski might be like.

Joe Flacco’s admits his biggest remaining hurdle is mental. Until a player gets hit on the knee and momentarily thinks he re-tore the ACL, but gets up to realize his knee is ok, he will always have doubt.

Despite many early returns to sport, the mental hurdle to feel the knee is 100% as well as the biology of ACL graft incorporation makes the second year back the better year. The scary thought is that Todd Gurley should be even better this season.

MMMD 3: Doctors held to higher standard than lawyers

Johnny Manziel’s attorney mistakenly texted an AP reporter violating attorney/client privilege. If a medical professional breached doctor/patient confidentiality, there would be stiff potential penalties. Even if the medical information was leaked accidentally and inadvertently, there are HIPAA penalties up to 50k per single occurrence. Although just as damaging to Manziel, there are no such fines for a legal transgression of this type like there would be for medical leaks of information. In both cases the aggrieved party can take their own legal action, but only medical has built-in penalties.

MMMD 4: Offseason program over, injuries still coming

Players and coaches are essentially off for a month before training camp begins. The medical work continues as well as the injury announcements. This year just under half of teams lost a significant player to injury this offseason. Add Saints CB Kyle Wilson to the list who has been placed on Injured Reserve with a shoulder labral injury.

MMMD 5: Cautionary tale for stem cells

All stem cell treatment is not the same. Most stem cell treatments are illegal in the United States due to safety concerns. Unregulated stem cell treatments can have disastrous consequences including developing tumors in your body.

Only one’s own un-manipulated stem cells are legal in the US. Any other form is either not truly stem cells or is being performed illegally. There are some legitimate cutting edge clinics outside the US, but many more are dangerous shams than the real deal.

MMMD 6: Be true to yourself

One of the lucky things from my almost two decades in the NFL is to have met many great people and worked for many great coaches. What I learned is that one needs to be true to one’s self to be successful. I worked under hard line leaders and nice guy players’ coaches. Both styles work if you are real, as players will see thru any false pretenses.

Mike Riley was a genuinely nice guy and the players loved him for it. Riley recently made news when he met up with a rape victim who harbored hatred for the coach and instead became a “friend and ally” by genuinely caring.

Riley is just a really good human being. Being genuine and true to yourself is the key. Hip hip hooray! (Those who have played for Riley will know what I am referring to.)

MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard

When Calvin Johnson posted gruesome pictures of finger surgery, speculation arose of his potentially coming out of retirement. I wrote last week that having the procedure meant the absolute end of Megatron’s football career. Contrary to the thoughts, that type of finger surgery is only done when a player retires due to the long recovery. Johnson indeed has now emphatically confirmed that he is not coming back.

The previous 2016 record of 8-0 now increases to 9-0. I will continue to publicly keep track of right and wrong analysis this entire season.

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Dr. David Chao
Latest NFL News

There have been a series of female firsts in the NFL this past year. First a woman was named an official, then the first training camp coach, followed by full-time coach. Now a woman is head team physician for the first time.

Sarah Thomas was named the first female official last season and she performed well. Jen Welter was hired by the Cardinals as the first female coach when Bruce Arians appointed her to coach inside linebackers during the preseason. The Bills then made history by hiring Kathryn Smith as the first female full-time coach as Rex Ryan made her a special teams quality control coach.

Now the Redskins have hired Dr. Robin West as the NFL’s first female head team physician. She certainly deserves the position as I know her as a top quality orthopedist from her time as an assistant team physician for the Steelers.

It comes as no surprise that women can do any of these NFL jobs. Amy Trask was the CEO of the Raiders for 16 years.  The Ravens have had Dr. Leigh Ann Curl as their lead orthopedist for over a decade. I know both to be well respected across the league circles.

To me, the hiring of Dr. West is really a non-story, as women have held prominent places in medicine forever. The bigger sign of changing times in the NFL is not that a female was named to be a head team physician but that there was a news conference to make the announcement.

Back when I was named head team physician, there wasn’t even an announcement despite being the youngest ever and younger than some players. Recently, it became common for teams to issue a press release to announce physician staff changes. A press conference is unprecedented and a sign of things to come with the increasing roles of team physicians. In my 17 years in the NFL, I am glad I never had to hold a press conference.

Times are a changing in many ways for the NFL. Congrats to all the female trailblazers.

MMMD 1: #1 priority of minicamp

I wrote a month ago how the main priority was to get out of the offseason healthy. Typically, 50% of teams lose a significant player by end of minicamp.

The Chargers ended minicamp practice early and even skipped the final day after and injury scare to Danny Woodhead. An ankle injury to the third down specialist in 2014 sent the previously playoff bound Bolts into a tailspin. Fortunately, injury was avoided, but the team also ended practice early.

This follows the trend where the Jaguars changed their practice regimen this year after losing their first-round pick Dante Fowler, Jr. to an ACL tear last offseason. Expect the offseason safety trend to continue next year.

MMMD 2: New “Injury” described

After almost two decades as a NFL team physician, I thought I had seen every injury imaginable. This week, I learned about a new “injury”.

The Bills held Karlos Williams out of minicamp practice because he was overweight. The Buffalo RB self-described it as an “injury of pregnancy” where he gained sympathetic weight with his expectant fiancée.

Just when I thought I had seen it all…

MMMD 3: Every club has a team dentist

The Redskins announced Josh Doctson missed practice to get a tooth pulled.  It is common to have dental issues and players get quick access.

Players get top medical care and that includes dentistry. Every team has a team dentist that will take part in physicals with a dental check station. Also players don’t wait weeks to get in to see the dentist. The appointments are usually streamlined by a call from the team athletic trainer and often planned to not miss practice time.

MMMD 4: Maurkice Pouncey had seven surgeries

When the Steelers center was first injured, I knew he would need surgery and his season was in jeopardy. What I didn’t know is that Pouncey’s ankle would become infected and that he would require seven surgeries and a skin graft.

Infections are nasty and can happen with any surgery as in this case when the wound does not heal properly. This revelation explains why Mike Tomlin was mum about Pouncey’s potential return during last season and why the Steelers wasted their only IR/dfr designation on Pouncey,

MMMD 5: Concussion politics continue

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the significant politics of concussions. This week, competing concussion researchers were at it again.

Boston University was to present its highest public health award to the primary subject of the Concussion movie. Instead the award was rescinded and the former honoree claimed there was a “vendetta”.

I don’t know who is right or wrong (or if both are wrong) in this situation, but this is another example of unbecoming behavior for researchers and universities. Certainly it would have been interesting to see the university of one competing concussion research group honor a hated competitor. However, once the honor was set to be bestowed, I am not sure what forces come to play to make a university change its mind. I also don’t know why the researcher would claim a “vendetta” against him. Last time I checked, it was a privilege, not a right, to receive an award.

The bottom line is that in science, researchers collaborate and share information. This is true unless you are talking about concussion researchers and that needs to change. It is about finding a solution and not claiming credit or assigning blame.

MMMD 6: 10 person practice squad renewed

Practice squads are traditionally fixed at eight players. Two years ago the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a two-year experiment to expand to 10. That has expired but word comes that new rule has been extended. This certainly makes sense as the NFL no longer has a developmental league with NFL Europe’s demise.

MMMD 7: Dolphins bullying scandal fallout

Almost three years later, three of the four major figures in “bullygate” are still out of the NFL. The target, Jonathan Martin, has retired from the NFL. The two fired Miami staffers have not found jobs in the league. The main accused bully, Richie Incognito, missed 2014 but has been with the Bills since 2015.

Offensive line coach Jim Turner has not found another NFL job and is with Texas A&M. Head athletic trainer Kevin O’Neil was made a scapegoat and despite being called “the best I ever worked with” by Jimmy Johnson, could not land another job until now. Only this week, O’Neil has found a job as athletic trainer at Florida International University.

Congrats and I hope he can put the false accusations behind him as there is always more to the story.

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Danny Shimon
NFP Fresh Voices

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”

NFC North

Chicago Bears – Jordan Howard, RB Indiana 5th rd. 11th pick (#150 overall)

After not resigning veteran Matt Forte the Bears were looking to add both depth and talent to the running back position. By selecting Howard in the fifth round the Bears added a bruising north south downhill runner who will be a perfect complement to last year’s fourth round selection Jeremy Langford.

Howard, who played only one season for the Hoosiers after Alabama-Birmingham shutdown their football program, rushed for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games. Late in the season on consecutive weeks Howard rushed for 174 yards versus Iowa and followed that up with 238 yards against Michigan’s eighth ranked (nationally) defense the following week. The 238 yards were the second most an opponent has ever gained against a wolverine defense.

Howard is a big back who runs behinds his pads and who can deliver jarring hits on opposing defenders. Howard has good vision and balance. Easily running through arm tackles, and requiring multiple defenders to bring him down.

Look for Chicago to throw him in the mix at running back early on in the season complimenting Langford’s quickness and shiftiness with Howard’s power and physical style giving the Bears a capable one two punch.

With head coach John Fox’s affinity for big powerful runners it would also not surprise me if Howard ended up starting for the Bears next season.

Detroit Lions – Anthony Zettel, DT Penn State 6th rd. 27th pick (#202 overall)

Armed with three sixth-round picks the Lions used the second of those picks on Michigan native (West Branch) and former Penn State Nittany Lion Anthony Zettel. An All-Big Ten performer in 2015 Zettel finished his career at Penn State among the programs top-15 for career sacks and tackles for loss. In four seasons Zettel netted 38 tackles for loss and 20 sacks.

Zettel has good instincts and can quickly locate the football. He possesses good lateral agility and will chase down the line of scrimmage hustling on every snap. He is tough and physical, playing with high energy and a non-stop motor.

If Zettel was twenty-pounds heavier with longer arms he may have been a second-round pick. He is a better athlete than given credit for, and comes with high football character.

Detroit plans on using him to backup both the defensive end and defensive tackle positions as Zettel is quick and athletic enough to pressure off the edge. While strong and tough inside to compete at defensive tackle in sub-packages.

Green Bay Packers – Trevor Davis, WR, California 5th rd. 26th pick (#163 overall)

When the Packers lost wide receiver Jordy Nelson last season not only did they lose a starting wide out they also lost the element of speed, that Nelson possesses, which restricted a lot of what Green Bay likes to do on offense. Which is one of the reasons why General Manager Ted Thompson invested a fifth round pick on California receiver Trevor Davis.

At 6’1” 188 pounds Davis was one of the fastest timed receivers at the combine running a 4.42 forty-yard dash to go along with a 38.5 inch vertical, and a 6.60 seconds in the three-cone drill. Davis times were tops among the entire wide receiver group invited to the combine.

Davis, who transferred to California after playing two seasons for the University of Hawaii, has terrific straight-line speed to go along with his ability to track down the deep ball and reel it in with his big hands (10 inch). He is also a weapon on special teams averaging 32.6 and 21.4 the last two seasons respectively, with two touchdowns.

Although Davis is still not a polished receiver, he has already impressed Packer coaches with his ability on special teams. Look for Davis to initially make a name for himself on kick-off returns with the Packers, before rounding into form as a receiver and supplying Green Bay with another weapon who can threaten to take the top off a defense.

Minnesota Vikings – Kentrell Brothers, OLB Missouri 5th rd. 23th pick (#160 overall)

With Anthony Barr, Eric Kendrick’s, and a resigned Chad Greenway it would appear that the Vikings are set at linebacker for 2016. However, that didn’t stop Minnesota from drafting Missouri’s Kentrell Brothers in the fifth round.
Brothers is a tackling machine having led the NCAA and SEC conference in tackles with 152 in 2015. The first team All-SEC linebacker finished his collegiate career with seven straight games with ten or more tackles to finish with 357 in four seasons.

Brothers has terrific instincts for the position, and is able to make up for some of his physical shortcomings by simply knowing where to go and getting a jump on his opponents in getting there. He is a very good run defender able to quickly locate the ball while also capable of taking on blockers and being able to shed them in order to make the tackle.

Brothers is also a very good special team’s player as he blocked three kicks last season for the Tigers.

Although he played outside linebacker (Will) at Missouri Brothers projects better inside at middle linebacker in the NFL. Playing on the inside would help mask some of his coverage issues as he would be asked to cover less ground playing in the middle.

With 2016 likely being Chad Greenway’s final season with the Vikings, Brothers could take over the middle linebacker spot from Kendrick’s, pushing the 2015 second-round pick outside to the weak-side position helping to replace Greenway. In the meantime, expect to see Brothers make his presence felt on special teams, as a rookie next season, for Mike Zimmer’s team.

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Dr. David Chao
Latest NFL News

Baltimore 2015 first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman never played a down in his rookie season. History is likely to repeat itself as the Ravens wide receiver may miss his sophomore campaign as well. Perriman reportedly “partially” tore his ACL in offseason workouts on Thursday.

Medically, partial ACL tears are rare. The knee is either stable or it is not. The term “partial” is overused when it comes to describing ACL injury. The vast majority of time, a partial tear leads to the same ACL reconstruction surgery as a “complete” tear.

MRIs often properly call it a partial tear because typically the injury is not seen on all images but that doesn’t mean the ACL is not completely torn. Imagine if a rope frays and breaks, there are still normal looking portions of the rope but the rope no longer holds. In the same way, a MRI can show normal parts of an ACL, yet it is not in continuity. This is why I say a good orthopedic exam can be more accurate than imaging.

The other reason teams use the term “partial ACL” is to give hope until the diagnosis of full tear is confirmed by second opinion. This is the same reason why teams say “MRI pending” when the team typically knows before the MRI that the ACL is torn. The same optimism was applied last season when the team remained hopeful of a Perriman return after in-season PCL surgery and stem cells, where I was more realistic.

Perriman’s second opinion is coming today. I hope he beats the odds and it is found that his ACL is not completely torn. Apparently the wide receiver did finish practice after the non-contact injury before reporting with swelling the following day. This also favors an isolated tear without associated cartilage injury. His main chance is to hope the finding is a spurious MRI diagnosis and that his knee is stable. Unfortunately, I think that possibility is less than 5%, as in my 17 years as an NFL team physician I’ve never encountered a true partial ACL tear.

The likelihood is that Perriman will need formal ACL reconstruction which would mean missing his second straight season. Sometimes compensation plays a role but there is no direct indication that there is any relationship to his PCL injury on his other knee.

Raven’s fans can keep hope that last season Kiko Alonso returned to play for the Eagles with a partial ACL tear; however, he was largely ineffective. It would be great news and a big surprise if Perriman’s second season was not unfortunately over now.

MMMD 1: Offseason injuries piling up

I previously indicated that approximately half of NFL teams will suffer a significant/season-ending injury before OTAs and minicamps are done. Add three ACL tears to the list of teams already suffering injury. Besides Perriman, Saints pass-rusher Hau’oli Kikaha (3rd time) and Patriots TE Michael Williams both tore ACLs. We are shy of 50% of teams losing players (and I hope it stays that way) but with another week and many minicamps to go, it seems inevitable that history will repeat itself.

MMMD 2: Jamaal Charles ready for minicamp?

Reports surfaced that the Chiefs running back might participate in minicamp. When Charles tore his ACL eight months ago, I wrote how I expected a good comeback for 2016 despite his age. As well as he is doing, I sincerely doubt that Charles will be a minicamp participant.

Things may be progressing smoothly, but there needs to be full medical clearance before participation in any practice. This is not to say Charles won’t be doing drills on the side.

Charles made a great comeback last time from ACL surgery to have a career high 1500 yards rushing but was overshadowed by Adrian Peterson’s 2000 yards. He will be back for 2016, just not yet.

MMMD 3: Megatron not coming back

Calvin Johnson posted gruesome pictures of his finger surgery. Some speculated that perhaps fixing his finger which may have interfered with his ability to catch passes signaled a potential comeback.

I think it indicates just the opposite and that Johnson will remain retired. In my experience, such extensive surgery and long recovery for a boutonniere finger correction is only done at the end of one’s career. To me, having the finger surgery ends any speculation about thoughts of returning to play.

MMMD 4: Jalen Ramsey video

Many Jaguars fans were overjoyed to see their top-five pick running after knee surgery. The video indicates good progress but he is still a long way from returning. Just look at how he limps when slowing down and one can see he is not ready to cut or change directions yet. Ramsey will be ready for training camp, but he is not there yet.

MMMD 5: Oakland safety incidents

In this health and safety era, one major reason for the Raiders needing a new place to play is injury concerns. Oakland is the only NFL city remaining that shares the field with a Major League Baseball club. Early season home games are played on a partial dirt field and this leads to additional injures.

This weekend on SiriusXM NFL radio, I heard first-time host Brian Costello tell a story about Antonio Cromartie breaking ribs and having to be carted in a circuitous route outside the stadium through heckling fans to get to medical attention. I can corroborate that dangerous situation as it happened to me as I cared for NFL players as well. The locker room is up two flights of stairs from the field and the x-ray room is up an additional three flights of stairs and down a long corridor. Not to mention the locker rooms are so small that there is inadequate treatment areas where it forces players to be taped, examined and treated in the hallways and shower areas.

MMMD 6: Real Football Network

I am pleased to announce that I am joining Real Football Network. The number one SiriusXMNFL duo of Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller leads the effort to provide insider video and audio for the serious football fanatic or fantasy player. I will provide similar in-depth medical analysis as I have here, but in video and audio form.

MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard

I wrote last week that Broncos knew about Aqib Talib’s injury immediately, even while details of the shooting were sketchy. Although the Broncos CB was lucky the bullet avoided major nerves and arteries, there is still muscle damage and he will indeed miss the rest of the offseason program.

Will count this group of assessments into one correct tally for 2016. This improves the previous 7-0 record to 8-0.

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Danny Shimon
NFP Fresh Voices

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”

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – Matt Judon, DE Grand Valley State 5th rd. 7th pick (#146 overall)

Having already drafted pass rushers in Kamalei Correa (2nd round) and Bronson Kaufusi (3rd round) did not deter the Ravens from taking another pass rusher in the form of Grand Valley State’s all-time leader in sacks (34) Matt Judon.

Judon led all of college football in sacks last season with 20, to go along with his 23.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles. In 2015 he was named the Division II Top Defensive Lineman of the Year, and the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Judon, who played defensive end at GVSU, will be transitioned to outside linebacker with the Ravens. Where they will use length and strength to help generate a pass rush off the edge. Judon has the size, athletic ability, and production on tape that the Ravens covet. Look for Judon to contribute on special teams next season, while also getting a look as a situational pass rusher.

Judon becomes the fifth player drafted from Grand Valley State, joining Brandon Carr (Cowboys), Dan Skuta (Jaguars), Charles Johnson (Vikings), and Tim Lelito (Saints) in the NFL.

Cincinnati Bengals – Clayton Fejedelem, S Illinois 7th rd. 24th pick (#245 overall)

Having elected not to resign veteran safety Reggie Nelson this offseason conventional wisdom was that the Bengals were going to draft a safety in the 2016 draft. With Clayton Fejedelem they get a downhill in the box safety who was a tackling machine as a senior leading the Big Ten with 140 tackles.

Fejedelem started his collegiate career at the NAIA level playing for St. Xavier before transferring to Illinois, walking-on, and playing in 2014. Then he earned a scholarship in 2015, was named a starting safety and team captain for the Illini.

Fejedelem impressed scouts and coaches first at the East West Shrine game and then at his pro day where he weighed in at 204 pounds with just six percent body-fat, put up 20 reps at 225 on the bench press, and had a 40.5 vertical jump.

Fejedelem is a smart, confident player whose calling card is his tackling ability so expect to see him used more near the line of scrimmage as an extra defender in the box. Although Fejedelem struggles with man-to-man coverage he does a good job in zone coverage keeping the play in front of him then attacking and securing the tackle. Fejedelem is also a terrific special team’s player and should develop into a core player on the team’s unit.

As a rookie expect Fejedelem to provide depth at safety and see most of his action on special teams. However, don’t be surprised if the Bengals coaches fall in love with this kid’s competitiveness and football character and you start to see him getting meaningful snaps in Cincinnati’s defensive backfield.

Cleveland Browns – Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State 5th rd. 35th pick (#172 overall)

The Browns made it a point to address the wide receivers position in the 2016 NFL draft coming away with four receivers in total, with the final one being Rashard Higgins out of Colorado State.

Nicknamed “Hollywood” Higgins has put on a show ever since he stepped foot on Colorado State’s campus. The junior receiver was a three-year starter and leaves school as Colorado State’s all-time career leader in receptions (238), yards (3,643), and touchdowns (31)

Higgins was a 2014 consensus All-American after leading the nation with 1,750 receiving yards, and 17 touchdowns. He is a high-volume catcher who possesses sure hands and is able to set up defenders to create separation. Higgins runs clean routes with quick feet that allow him to plant and cut without needing to slow down. Higgins can extend away from his body and snatch the ball out of the air which gives the quarterback a little room for error on his accuracy.

Although he lacks game breaking speed Higgins is tough and physical which enables him to get leverage on defensive backs downfield allowing him to go up and get the ball hauling it in for a big gain.

Higgins carries a swagger about him that many of the top receivers have. He believes that if the ball is in the air it is his to go and get.

Having played on a Pro-Style system at Colorado State the transition to the NFL passing game should be smoother for Higgins than some of the other rookie receivers. With head coach Hue Jackson proclaiming that no jobs will be handed out and that every player has a chance to earn a starting position, it would not surprise me to see Higgins making some big plays for the Browns this season, and yes possibly even starting.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Travis Freeney, OLB Washington 6th rd. 45th pick (#220 overall)

The Steelers got tremendous value in the sixth round when surprisingly former Washington Huskie linebacker Travis Sweeney was still available.

Freeney is an athletically gifted fast linebacker who possesses good length and is still developing as a pass rusher. Athletically Freeney put on a show at the combine, posting the best forty times (4.50), vertical jump (40 inches), and broad jump (almost 11 feet) of any linebacker at the combine. All while reportedly dealing with a sports hernia.

Freeney can accelerate and close in fast and hard on his targets. The Huskies transitioned to a 3-4 scheme in 2015 and moved Freeney to a “Buck” position which is a hybrid linebacker/rush end, and with his 34-inch arms and speed off the edge Freeney posted a career high in tackles for loss (17.5) and sacks (8).

Freeney came to Washington originally as a safety before being moved to linebacker during his freshman season. Then this season with the defensive switch he was asked to move to the outside and get after the quarterback.

Concerns over his lack of size (226 pounds) and whether physically he can play on the outside are valid, as too are Freeney’s shoulders where he has had both his left and right labrums surgically repaired.

The Steelers though are not concerned with Freeney’s lack of size as they are looking for him to utilize that speed to run around making plays from sideline-to-sideline, and being a terror on special teams. Freeney stands to be the lightest Steeler outside linebacker since Greg Lloyd played for them back in the 90’s.

Danny Shimon is a graduate of Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. 

Follow Danny on Twitter @dshimon56

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