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NFL – Buffalo Bills’ 2016 Day Two Draft Picks

29 Apr

The Buffalo Bills made a move on Friday night to improve their position in the second round of the NFL draft, trading 4th round choices this year and next to swap second round picks with the Chicago Bears. The trade moved them up from # 49 to # 41, and they proceeded to pick another likely starter for their defensive unit, inside linebacker Reggie Ragland from national champion Alabama. Ragland was widely perceived to be a first round talent, but like a few of his Crimson Tide teammates, he slid into the draft’s second day.  In Ragland’s case, a report surfaced that he had a medical issue with an enlarged aorta, which scared some teams off. He will bring a physical presence to the Bills’ defense, and should help the team stop the run as a sideline to sideline ‘backer who thrives on contact with opposing ballcarriers. Ragland finds himself in a similar position as first round pick Shaq Lawson, with a position waiting for him due to a free agent departure. With veteran Nigel Bradham leaving to rejoin Jim Schwartz in Philadelphia, there’s an inside linebacker spot open for the ‘Bama thumper to slide into in 2016.

 

January 1, 2015: Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reggie Ragland (19) during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Alabama Crimson Tide in their College Football Playoff Semifinal played in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA.

 Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)

In the third round, Buffalo selected a player that a lot of “mock drafts” had going to them in the second round – Ohio State defensive tackle Adolphus Washington. One of the analysts on the NFL Network’s coverage of the draft was the big lineman’s college coach, Urban Meyer, who described his player as “a defensive tackle body with defensive end skills”, meaning he has a rare combination of power and speed that will allow Bills’ coach Rex Ryan to use him anywhere along the line in his defensive line rotation. With the subtractions of Mario Williams and Stefan Charles from the roster going into 2016, the additions of Washington and top pick Shaq Lawson allow Ryan and his brother Rob to infuse some new blood into that rotation, with added versatility from those players.

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Adolphus Washington (92) gets past Western Michigan Broncos offensive lineman Taylor Moton (72) and Western Michigan Broncos offensive lineman Chukwuma Okorafor (77) in the 1st quarter of their game at Ohio Stadium on September 26, 2015. (Dispatch photo by Kyle Robertson)

Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

29 Apr

Tonawanda_Kardex

Logo of an old professional football team, the Tonawanda Kardex, who are credited with a single season existence in the National Football League, even though they played only one game in that season, 1921. The league was known as the American Professional Football Association that year, but eventually that league morphed into the NFL. Not much is known about this team, but they lost their only completed contest, 45-0, to the Rochester Jeffersons. The club also had a game earlier that year against the Syracuse Pros, a non-APFA team, but that game was cut short after 17 minutes of play due to inclement weather.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

29 Apr

63stancraftfatshenry

1963 Stancraft playing card, the 5 of clubs, featuring former Canton Bulldog tackle Wilbur “Fats” Henry. The Stancraft playing card set, popular today among collectors, featured then current players and all time Hall of Famers from the NFL’s early years. Henry played eight years in the pre-NFL American Professional Football Association for the Bulldogs, New York Giants and Pottsville Maroons, and later also coached both Canton and Pottsville as well as his alma mater, Washington & Jefferson College. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with it’s inaugural class in 1963.

 

NFL – Buffalo Bills’ 2016 First Round Draft Choice

29 Apr

In past years, Rayonsports.com has waited until after the NFL draft is complete to post a summary of the Buffalo Bills’ picks, but this year, we’ll publish on each day of the draft, looking at the team’s choices that day. We begin tonight with the club’s opening round pick, Clemson defensive end/linebacker/edge rusher Shaq Lawson. Bills’ coach Rex Ryan has a definite Clemson connection, as his son Seth plays for the Tigers. With veteran Mario Williams released and on to Miami, Lawson fills an immediate need for the team in its’ front seven. According to most scouting reports, Lawson is comfortable playing in space or with his hand in the ground, which means he will be willing and able to do what Mario was apparently unwilling to do last season. There is a possibility that Lawson has a shoulder injury that may require surgery, but Ryan and general manager Doug Whaley must be comfortable with the fact that Lawson will be available to play when the 2016 season begins. Lawson, in fact, was supposed to not play at all in a bowl game due to an injury while at Clemson, but wound up not only playing but recording two sacks in the game.  That’s the kind of toughness the Bills need to re-instill in their defense next year.

shaqlawson

Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

29 Apr

LARams4650

Logo of the Los Angeles Rams football team, used from 1946, when the franchise moved west from Cleveland, until 1950. The L.A. team was a star-studded unit that included many Hall of Famers during their initial term in the California city before relocating to St. Louis in 1994. The Rams are the only NFL franchise to win championships in three different cities – Cleveland, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

29 Apr

49leafkenwashington

1949 Leaf football card of former Los Angeles Ram back Kenny Washington, who broke the NFL’s modern era color barrier when he signed with the Rams in 1946, a year earlier than Jackie Robinson began his major league baseball career. He played three seasons for the Rams, and after retiring became a Los Angeles police officer.

 

Reviewing The Buffalo Sabres’ 2015-2016 Season

16 Apr

Expectations for the Buffalo Sabres entering the 2015/16 season were certainly higher than the previous two bottom-dwelling years, but maybe those expectations were a little too high, as the club missed the NHL playoffs again. However, this season did show marked improvement. It took awhile for the team to come together, but they were much better, and their young players improved immensely, in the second half of the season. Here is a review of the recently completed Sabres’ season, with an eye toward what they need to accomplish in the off-season to continue improving:

 

Front Office/Coaching

General manager Tim Murray completely remade both the coaching staff and the roster, hiring Dan Bylsma, a Stanley Cup winning coach in Pittsburgh, as the new coach, replacing the popular Ted Nolan. Bylsma didn’t work any wonders, but the team looked more organized under his leadership and definitely improved over the course of the season. Draft day was hectic for Murray, and he parlayed his treasure chest of top picks into a future superstar, Jack Eichel, with the second overall pick, and a couple of trades that yielded young but experienced players. His deal with Colorado to bring in Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn was a steal, although later dealing McGinn away was disappointing. O’Reilly is a brilliant young leader who should eventually become team captain. The other trade, for goaltender Robin Lehner, gets an “incomplete” grade, as injuries kept the big goalie from playing enough to prove his worth.

Forwards

Eichel, O’Reilly and 2014 top draft pick Sam Reinhart head a roster of forwards that appears to be headed for big things next year. That trio, along with another Murray trade acquisition, Evander Kane, gave the Sabres a quartet of 20 goal scorers who figure to only get better. It was almost a totally lost season for Tyler Ennis, due to concussion issues, but if he can regain his past form the club will have another scoring threat. After slow starts, two younger veterans, Marcus Foligno and Johann Larson, improved their all-around games and started to contribute offensively. The same could be said for two of the team’s older veteran leaders, Matt Moulson and captain Brian Gionta. Zemgus Girgensons was a workhorse under previous coach Ted Nolan, but his play dropped off in 2015/16 and he’ll need to rebound next season. It’s hard to imagine the Sabres re-signing veteran David Legwand, who’ll be a free agent, especially with young up-and-comers like Hudson Fasching and Justin Bailey competing for roster spots next year.  One player who is the type of player every team needs, and the Sabres should keep around, is Nicolas DesLauriers.

jack-eichel-buffalo-sabres

Jack Eichel

Defensemen

The Sabres have three solid young defensemen to build around heading into the future in Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian and Jake McCabe. Another youngster, Mark Pysyk, is a probably a tier below that top three talent-wise but should be a regular competitor in 2016/17. Among the three veteran D-men on the roster, Josh Gorges, being an alternate captain, is most likely a lock to stick around next year, while the other two, Cody Franson and Carlo Colaiacovo, are stopgap players who likely will be replaced next year. In Franson’s absence at the end of the year due to injury, rookie Casey Nelson stepped in and did an admirable job, staking a solid claim to a regular spot on defense next year.

Zach+Bogosian+Buffalo+SabresZach Bogosian

Goaltenders

Lehner is one of GM Murray’s prize acquisitions and the type of big, intense goalie he likes, but overall he was overshadowed by free agent-to-be Chad Johnson this season. Lehner battled injuries, and in his absence Johnson proved his worth as a starting NHL netminder, posting a winning record for a losing, non-playoff team and gaining the total confidence of his teammates. It will be hard for Murray to let him walk away in the off-season. Linus Ullmark also played pretty well in limited opportunities, while newly signed Jason Kasdorf was shaky in his lone late-season start. He will definitely need more seasoning in the minors before he’s ready for the NHL.

chad-johnson-buffalo-sabres-590x900Chad Johnson

 
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Classic Team Logo of The Day

16 Apr

blues6784

Logo of a team that plays in the National Hockey League, the St. Louis Blues. This logo was used from the team’s inaugural year in 1967 until 1984, and a variation of it has been in use to this day. The Blues were part of the six team expansion in ’67 when the league added to their “original six” franchises by adding six more clubs who became known as the “additional six”. They were the most successful of the six new franchises early on, reaching the Stanley Cup finals in their first 3 years under coach Scotty Bowman.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

16 Apr

70toppsberenson

1970 Topps hockey card of former NHL star Red Berenson, who played for 17 years in the league for 4 different teams. He played his first 5 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, helping them win a Stanley Cup title in 1965. His greatest success came with the expansion St. Louis Blues, as he led them to 3 consecutive Stanley Cup final appearances and once scored 6 goals in a single game. After his playing days ended, he went into coaching, with the Blues for 3 years before moving on to coach at the University of Michigan,  his alma mater, where he is currently in his 32nd year.

 

NFL – Mock Draft 2016 Round One

28 Mar

The NFL’s annual college draft has become a national event, and predicting the choices of each team in the league, the analysts’ and experts’ “mock drafts”, has become a cottage industry.  Rayonsports.com will join the fun this year for the first time. Even though the possibility of trades exists, our picks will be chosen considering only each team remaining in their current spot. NOTE: Since this original post was made, the top 2 picks were indeed traded. Here is our mock draft for the first round of April’s draft:

  1. Tennessee Titans – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. The Titans would like to improve their secondary and will reportedly consider trading down, within the top ten picks, to get that player. However, we figure that move could be risky, and that the team will stay put and pick Tunsil to add another piece to their O-line to protect their franchise QB, Marcus Mariota.
  2. Cleveland Browns – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State. The Browns just signed Robert Griffin III so drafting a signal caller might seem like a bad idea, but this franchise needs to finally hit a home run on a franchise QB, and Wentz looks like the real deal.
  3. San Diego Chargers – Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State. The Chargers need secondary help in a big way. They were already weak there, and then lost safety Eric Weddle in free agency. Ramsey is a versatile playmaker who can slide in at either safety or cornerback, just the type of player San Diego needs.
  4. Dallas Cowboys – Joey Bosa, LB, Ohio State. Many experts see Jerry Jones picking a future QB here, but our opinion is that he’s committed to Tony Romo, and will use the choice to shore up the team’s defense. Bosa is considered a “safe” pick by some analysts, and a possible underachiever in the NFL by others.
  5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA. The Jags dove in big in free agency for defensive help. They signed Malik Jackson away from Denver to help the D-line, and Tashaun Gipson from the Browns for the secondary, so it makes sense that they’d use this pick to help the linebacking corps. Jack’s stock has risen recently among the experts.
  6. Baltimore Ravens – Vernon Hargreaves III, DB, Florida. The Ravens may have other needs, but the feeling here is they will grab Hargreaves if he drops this far to put a future lockdown corner in their secondary.
  7. San Francisco 49ers – Jared Goff, QB, California. This pick seems likely with Chip Kelly now coaching the Niners. Also, if the pick is made, look for a draft day trade that ships Colin Kaepernick out of the Bay City.
  8. Philadelphia Eagles – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss. New coach Doug Pederson needs to add some explosive weapons to his offense, and Treadwell is the best of a weak receiver class in this draft, possibly the only one who deserves to be a top ten pick.
  9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Shaq Lawson, LB, Clemson. Although new head coach Dirk Koetter has an offensive background, we see the Bucs drafting Lawson to team with playmaking veteran Lavonte David on their linebacking corps.
  10. New York Giants – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame. The Giants needed defensive help, and addressed that by spending big on defense in free agency. The guess here is that if Stanley, who some scouts feel is better than Tunsil, falls this far they’ll snatch him up in a heartbeat.
  11. Chicago Bears – Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State. The Bears let Matt Forte walk in free agency and they have other young backs, but the Buckeye stud is a prize they won’t be able to resist.
  12. New Orleans Saints – DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon. The Saints need to strengthen their defensive line, and recently signed free agent Nick Fairley to help do that. They’ll be happy to add Buckner, who’s been projected in some mock drafts to go much higher, if he falls into their lap here.
  13. Miami Dolphins – Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State. Miami went into the off-season with a lot of holes to fill, and spent some serious cash in free agency to do just that. The Fish still need to address their offensive line, and Conklin is a safe pick here. He should be a solid pro.
  14.  Oakland Raiders – Eli Apple, DB, Ohio State. The Raiders are an up and coming team, so we see defensive-minded head coach Jack Del Rio lobbying to get a good, young cornerback with this pick. Apple may be a little bit of a reach here, but the Raiders will grab him.
  15. Los Angeles Rams – Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor. The Rams need a quarterback, and there’s a strong possibility they will trade up or down to get one, since there isn’t one left that warrants being chosen with this high of a pick. Since we’re not projecting trades, our pick will be a dynamic weapon to pair in the future with a QB they grab later in this draft.
  16. Detroit Lions – Josh Doctson, WR, TCU. This big, steady receiver has been rising in the mock drafts since he had a great combine, and is a perfect pick to help offset the loss of Calvin Johnson, who recently retired.
  17. Atlanta Falcons – Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama. Improving the defense is a priority for coach Dan Quinn, and with Ragland available, there won’t be any hesitation in the Falcons’ draft room to pick him.
  18. Indianapolis Colts – Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State. The Colts’ defense is a weakness, and the few good players they have on that side of the ball are aging. Adding a young playmaking ‘backer like Lee will be a good addition.
  19. Buffalo Bills – A’Shawn Robinson, DE, Alabama. This pick will have coach Rex Ryan smiling, as he begins to resurrect a disappointing defense in Buffalo. Robinson, projected to go much higher than this, should slide right into the starting position vacated by the departure of Mario Williams.
  20. New York Jets – Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State. Salary cap concerns may force the Jets to unload D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and Decker would be ideal to groom to eventually take over the left tackle spot.
  21. Washington Redskins – Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson. A wise pick for a team that needs to shore up a porous pass defense. Alexander is a big, physical corner who isn’t much of a ballhawk but is good in shutting down top receivers.
  22. Houston Texans – Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama. Houston addressed many of their needs in free agency, but still needs help along the O-line. Kelly could step into the starting lineup immediately, and has the versatility to play multiple positions up front.
  23. Minnesota Vikings – William Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. Vikings have a need for a dynamic pass catcher, and Fuller is the best one available at this spot.
  24. Cincinnati Bengals – Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss – the Bengals already have a pretty solid defensive front, but adding Nkemdiche will strengthen that unit even more. Cinci has shown in the past that they won’t shy away from a player with off-field baggage, so this pick makes sense.
  25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Shilique Calhoun, LB, Michigan State. The well-respected captain of the Spartans’ defense should fit right in with the long, historic line of standout linebackers produced by the Steelers.
  26. Seattle Seahawks – Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State. With the best tackles already off the board, the Hawks go with the best interior lineman available in the draft to help strengthen their weakened offensive line.
  27. Green Bay Packers – Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama. The sudden retirement of BJ Raji necessitates this choice, but this is certainly no reach for a “need” pick. Reed is rated much higher on most draft boards and will help the Packer defense immensely.
  28. Kansas City Chiefs – Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. Many see him being picked much higher than this, so Andy Reid and the Chiefs will be thrilled to add this big, disruptive force to their interior defensive line.
  29. Arizona Cardinals – Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor. A good fit for the Cardinals’ defensive line, Billings is a good choice here as the run on defensive linemen continues at the bottom of the first round.
  30. Carolina Panthers – Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson. The Panthers lost only one game in 2015 so there aren’t many weaknesses on this team, but they do have a need to add playmakers on the D-line, and this is a deep draft for that position.
  31. Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. For the second time in their history, the Broncos face a season after winning the Super Bowl where they don’t have their starting quarterback returning. Lynch may not be the immediate starter, but the team will need to move quickly to address the position for the future.
 
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