From Bath to the Bayou

Alex Jenkins
DE Alex Jenkins joined the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad this summer

The New Orleans Saints have been in the country all week preparing for their game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Sunday’s encounter is the second of four NFL games to be played in London this year and while most of them will be getting acclimatised to their new surroundings, for one man it’s nice to be home.

24 year old Alex Jenkins has given up the home comforts of Somerset to pursue his dream of playing American Football in the NFL.

The Saints signed him up in the summer as part of the league’s International Pathway Programme. Rules mean that he can’t play for the first team, so we won’t see him in action at Wembley this weekend, but he’s back here practicing with his team mates.

“He was tall and athletic, and he walked into the gym and asked ‘if I want to get into American football how do I get better?’”

So how’s Bayou compared to Bath?

“It’s good,” said Jenkins. “It’s a lot different from Bath, it’s not as historical but it’s a nice place.”

“I don’t really get a lot of time to go out (because of football) but it’s nice.”

The fact Alex Jenkins has made it to an NFL team, which so few American youngsters achieve, comes as no surprise to his first head coach, Chris Powles from the Bristol Aztecs.

“Every offseason we run taster sessions for people who have never played the game before,” recalls Coach Powles.

“Alex came to one of those back in 2012.”

“He was tall and athletic, and he walked into the gym and asked ‘if I want to get into American football how do I get better?’”

From that moment all Alex wanted to do was reach a standard that would get him a scholarship at a university in the States and, ultimately, land a career in the NFL.

Alex achieved his college goal in 2013 and moved to the States to start his education at the University of Incarnate Word, a private school in San Antonio, Texas.

“He’s fit in very well, he’s got good size, I think he understands the game and now he’s got a chance to play it at our level so he’s been a great addition for our team.”

As a teenager he had dreamed of becoming a footballer, but at 6ft 6” he grew too big. Jenkins, whose cousin is the Celtic winger Scott Sinclair, therefore he set himself a new goal within the gridiron.

“He was always a hardworking boy,” his former science teacher at St Gregory’s School in Bath remembers.

“He was a real inspiration when he was at our school.”

“He was our deputy head boy, so he had leadership roles and ideas and opinions that he was never scared to share with his peers and his teachers.”

It certainly appears that whatever Alex Jenkins does he leaves an impression on people. The New Orleans Saints head coach, and Super Bowl winner, Sean Payton enthused about him this week, “He’s been outstanding.”

“His team mates respect him,” added Payton.

“He’s fit in very well, he’s got good size, I think he understands the game and now he’s got a chance to play it at our level so he’s been a great addition for our team.”

That high praise comes as no surprise to his coach at the Bristol Aztecs, “just based on the very first conversation (I had with him), and his physical stature, he’s got the measurements, he’s big enough and strong enough,” said Chris Powles.

“He’s one of the very handful of guys who have played in domestic European leagues and then go on to play NCAA (college) division one level football and then to go on and play with the pros.”

“I don’t know of anyone who’s done that and gone to the NFL,” added Coach Powles.

He might be going from strength-to-strength with one of the NFL’s most famous teams, but Alex still finds time to give back to the community in Bath and Bristol.

“I just think that sort of stuff is really important,” said Alex.

“It’s something I said when I was a kid, I would love if someone had done that for us.”

“Now that I’m in a position to do something like that I use every opportunity to help these kids and inspire them to let them know that you can do more than you think.”

“That’s why I make a point to see these guys in Bristol and St Gregory’s.”

The New Orleans Saints vs Miami Dolphins is live and exclusive on BBC Two this Sunday at 1:45pm. Kick-off is at 2:30pm.

2017 NFL betting

Neil Channing
Neil Channing, from Betting Emporium, has your 2017 NFL betting tips

The 2017 NFL season is finally underway and who would have predicted that result last night?!?

The NFL is one of the most-unpredictable leagues in the world, so how do you bet on it?

In our latest podcast (Episode 39), we spoke to the NFL betting expert from, Neil Channing.

Neil told us who the favourites are to lift the Lombardi this year, and should you fancy a flutter this year, he also has advice for betting on games.

Click below to listen to Neil’s tips:

The latest on Vince Young

vince-young-2017-4-1600x902Vince Young signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on March 11

There’s been a lot of attention around CFL team, Saskatchewan Roughriders the last few weeks.

Back in early March the Western Conference team announced the signing of the former 2 x NFL Pro-Bowler Vince Young.

Young joined his new team mates in Florida last month for their mini training camp.

The QB looked like a new man, having shed 20lbs in just six weeks.

He appears to have the desire to succeed in the CFL, but there are many hurdles for him between now and the Roughriders’ season opener on June 23.

Speaking on the 5thDownUK podcast, the Roughriders’ presenter, Rod Pedersen, said that Young doesn’t look like the best quarterback on Saskatchewan’s roster:


Key dates for your NFL diaries in the coming weeks

As we get into the thick of the NFL offseason, here is a reminder of some of the prominent dates on the upcoming calendar.

Last Wednesday (Feb 15) was the first day that teams were allowed to use the franchise tag on a specific player. Each club is only allotted one tag per year, which can be used as either an exclusive or non-exclusive tag. In layman’s terms, a franchise tag means that a team gets one-year control of the tagged player and will have to pay him among the elite at his position.

Below is a list of the remainder of important dates still to come this offseason.


February 28-March 6: Combine Timing and Testing, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.

March 1: Prior to 9pm (GMT), deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 7-9: During the period beginning at 12 noon, New York time, on March 7th and ending at 08:59:59 a.m. (GMT) on March 10th, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2016 player contracts at 9pm (GMT) on March 9. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 9pm (GMT) on March 9.

During the above two-day negotiating period, no direct contact is permitted between a prospective unrestricted free agent and any employee or representative of a club, other than the player’s current club.

March 9: The 2017 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 9pm (GMT).

The first day of the 2017 League Year will end at 4:59:59 a.m. (GMT) on March 10. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the League office during the period between 9pm (GMT) and 4:59:59 a.m. (GMT) on March 10.

March 9: Trading period for 2017 begins at 9pm (GMT) after expiration of all 2016 contracts.

March 26-29: Annual League Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona.

April 3: Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2016 regular season may begin offseason workout programs.

April 17: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs.

April 21: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign Offer Sheets.

April 26: Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents.


April 27-29: NFL Draft (Philadelphia). The NFL draft was last held in Philadelphia in 1961, and the first ever NFL draft was held in Philadelphia in 1936.

Your guide to the NFL Draft


We welcome Matthew Phillips from 40 Yards Scouting to our writing team.

40 Yards Scouting is Europe’s only scouting guide to the NFL Draft.

Matthew will be telling you everything you need to know about this year’s draft class in the weeks building up to the NFL Draft.

Here’s his introduction to what it’s all about:

While the inevitable curtain is drawn upon the 2016/17 NFL season, there are hundreds of young, amateur football talents across the US whose futures hang in the balance. Ahead of the 1st day of the NFL Draft on Thursday April 27th, these young men are now entering the final and most important chapter of their fledgling careers.

Football fans across the world would be forgiven for experiencing the familiar post-SuperBowl withdrawal symptoms, but there is more than enough intrigue and drama in store for the coming weeks and months. The firework smoke may be clearing in Houston, but identifying the next generation of talent to bring the the entertainment we all know and love on Sundays, is about to take on a greater intensity.

Events such as the East West Shrine, the Senior Bowl, and the NFLPA weeks, where NFL scouts are able to view, dissect, and evaluate draft-eligible talent on the practice field in one-on-one and team oriented drills, are now in the in the rear-view mirror. Most of the college leavers will now headed back to their team facilities, but a fortunate few will be investing their time (and accumulating significant debt) by attending specialist training centres such as IMG in Florida, Wellness of Georgia, and Tom Shaw in Orlando. Training centres like these are skilled in preparing athletes for the next hurdle in the road; the NFL Scouting Combine.

This week-long event, held within the confines of the Lucas Oil Stadium in the midwestern city of Indianapolis, is a 4-day interview for the 335 invitees. They will be prodded, poked, and tested in the minutest detail; all representing a significantly vital element in the NFL teams’ fact-finding before they can decide upon which talent get the ultimate investment.

The “Underwear Olympics”, as it has been affectionately regarded in recent years, opens its doors on the 28th February, and runs throughout the week to its conclusion on the 6th March. While “on-stage measurements” and “scale tipping”, all performed in less-than-modest attire before a predominantly male clipboard-clutching audience, may seem ridiculous, it remains a vitally important ingredient in the overall decision. As each franchise evaluates and specifies their next steps, this data could just represent a confirmation exercise, whereas data on some athletes could force scouts and General Managers back to their film rooms to question the hundreds of hours they’ve invested in their evaluations, looking to find what they have missed or watch game tape on someone for the very first time.

Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson, is expected to be drafted high after his outstanding performance in the National Championship

Those blessed with an invitation to the capital of Indiana will be taken through diagnostic x-rays, medical exams, and psychological tests before they even get the opportunity to be put through a gamut of timed on-field examinations, stations and skill drills. Back at the 2013 combine, a previously underrated nose tackle out of Memphis called Dontari Poe put his name on the lips of the scouts with athleticism never before seen of a 350lb powerhouse; Poe ended up being taken high in the first round shortly after. Just two years ago, Byron Jones was a newly graduated free safety, and a mid-round prospect; he emerged from the combine having broken the standing broad jump world record (12’ 3”), and recording an impressively quick 4.43 second forty-yard dash. That impressive day vaulted Jones into the 1st round of the ensuing draft, where he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 27th pick.

A fundamental and highly valued opportunity to meet and interview prospects at the combine is a hugely important, and in some cases is the first opportunity for a franchise to look behind the curtain, and discover the human being behind the athlete. Inevitably, there will be prospects who will revolutionise their final grade by demonstrating leadership, maturity, drive, and commitment. As you would imagine, each of the thirty-two teams are looking to identify wholly different character traits to fit their distinct locker room identities. While some will shine as athletes, and others as people, there will also be some who disappoint or rule themselves out due to their character. As we currently stand, you cannot fail to be excited as to what the week long event will bring and the young men who will be thrust towards the pinnacle of their trade.

However, it is only a fraction of the college talent that gets accommodated in Indianapolis, so it is a variety of ‘regional’ combines that also provide data for the evaluation of players. These are held at designated NFL facilities across the country, from Houston in the South, to Minnesota in the North, and these come hot on the heels of the national televised event. These smaller events are not to be ignored – currently there are 76 former attendees of regional combines residing on NFL rosters.

Once the teams across the NFL begin to cement their draft boards, they will then fine-tune their process by inviting key players for private visits at their own team facilities. By rules set by the league, these can only last a single day, and commonly consist of both written tests, interviews and on-field workout & drills, with each franchise allotted a maximum of thirty. In addition to this though, teams can invite local college leavers from within their ‘contiguous suburbs’ to workout at their facilities; an avenue in which player evaluation does not count towards the thirty-visit limit. Many franchises will hold a local ‘Pro Day’, which represents another, well travelled, and successful route for talent to enter the league. Interestingly, this route also includes prospects who were born and raised locally, but who might not have attended an in-state seat of learning. In most cases, such visits come from college programs most local to the NFL team’s location.

On the other side of things, Colleges throughout the country will also be holding their very own, annual ‘Pro Days’. These events usually include on-field drills and player meetings, directed and run by the institutions themselves on school facilities. For quarterbacks, these events are not particularly important as they are so heavily scripted that they often fail to move the player out of his comfort zone, but for the remainder of positional groups, on-field workouts can be a key resource for scouts, and yet another valuable opportunity to meet and get to know the prospects. As much as anything, they are vitally important to the colleges themselves, representing an ‘open-day’ opportunity to celebrate their success, and to illustrate the end-product of their program; every draft prospect, irrespective of their draft grade, is vital in recruiting future stars from high schools into the process, and impressing parents alike.

At the beginning of April, NFL organisations will recall and bring together their vast network of area scouts from all corners of the country, and spend up to two weeks in the ‘war room’, headed by the General Manager and Director of Player Personnel. The goal is to arrive at a consensus draft board, and enact the myriad of draft day scenarios that may unfold during the draft itself and scheme accordingly, while marrying up their various grades. A well run and successful scouting operation will see the GM allow the area scouts to ‘present’ their favourite prospects, and in those best-run scouting networks and organisations, call upon on their first-hand experience to go ahead and select them from the middle rounds onwards. Where this takes place, there is no accident in witnessing the results play out, ensuring the continued, successful evolution of the franchise (identities of said teams will remain secret)!

For recently departed college football players, the mountain to climb has only just begun. However, this is the NFL and it is no longer seen as a six month league. Fascinated television audiences will be tuning in to the combine later this month, and the attention will intensify towards the three-day NFL Draft, where just 253 young athletes will hear their name announced in Philadelphia.

Don’t look away now, the 2017/18 NFL season is only just beginning. Take a breath and embrace the excitement that’s within touching distance….. which of these prospects will emerge in 2017?

For news and updates ahead of the NFL Draft head over to 

April 1st sees our 4th edition of Europe’s only scouting guide to the 2017 NFL Draft; every eligible draft prospect individually scouted. All proceeds go to our chosen charity, Muscular Dystrophy UK. For a look inside our books head to


Matthew Phillips

Founder & Lead Scout

40 Yards Scouting

Midseason Surprises

Who is Surprising Up?

arrowupEagles – When the Eagles traded away starting QB Sam Bradford, it looked like they were heading towards a transitional season to bed in rookie Carson Wentz. However, as they head towards the 2nd half of the season, they’re looking good for a post season slot, and have just thoroughly beaten the last remaining perfect team. That trade is not looking too shabby for the Eagles now!

arrowupBroncos – Amazingly there were a lot of people writing off the reigning champs at the start of the season. Many thought the handling of the Brock Osweiler situation in the summer would cost the Broncos a real chance at retaining their title, especially with the underwhelming battle for starting QB between Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian. However, you need to be brave to question John Elway these days (as one fan on Twitter recently found out), while Siemian looks to be an able replacement for Peyton Manning. The Broncos have continued where they left off.

arrowupCowboys – Another example of a team written off due to a QB situation. When Tony Romo shocked nobody with a serious injury in the pre-season, up stepped 3rd round draft pick Dak Prescott, an untested rookie who would surely stink the place up, right? Wrong – Prescott, aided by another rookie in Ezekiel Elliott, has blown the league away with some fearless play. The Cowboys sit atop a very competitive NFC East, and look to be powering their way to the post-season. Tony Rom-who?

arrowupFalcons – You have to go back to the days of Tony Gonzalez to find a decent Falcons team, yet there are a couple of guys who remain from that playoff-relevant roster – Matt Ryan & Julio Jones. Both have been on fire so far this season, aided by some well coached young talent. Dan Quinn, along with Kyle Shanahan, has made this side one of the most exciting offences in the league (an amazing turnaround from the weary final seasons under Mike Smith). Along with Ryan and Jones leading the league in passing and receiving, a fearsome ground game with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman has reignited this franchise.

Who is Surprising Down?

arrowdownJags – Everyone in the UK has been rooting for the Jags to finally turn the corner towards relevance. Ever since they took up their annual residency at Wembley, we’ve been witness to the slow rebuilding project under Gus Bradley and David Caldwell. The roster is littered with picks from around the top of the draft, but still the mediocrity continues. If Bradley and Coleman are to get this team back to competitiveness, it won’t be this season.

arrowdownBengals – For the first time in years, the Bengals might actually struggle to lose in the first game of the playoffs; they might struggle to make the playoffs entirely. The whole roster seems to be a bit banged up, but the bigger problem might be the annual decimation of their coaching staff. In recent years Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden and Hugh Jackman have all enhanced their CVs to get HC roles elsewhere, leading the Bengals to some sort of revolving door of coordinators. This season the Bengals are definitely missing the consistency on both sides of the ball that they’ve enjoyed in previous years.

arrowdownPackers – It seems we’re 1 or 2 weeks away from Aaron Rodgers telling Packers fans and media to R-E-L-A-X. While they remain on the edge of playoff contention with a 4-2 record, again there are questions about Rodgers form (the fact that he sits behind the likes of Case Keenum and Ryan Tannehill in passing yards this season is no joke). Most of the Packers problems comes from having a stagnant running game, with both Eddie Lacy and James Starks missing through injury. Until an answer is found on the ground, it looks as though Rodgers will continue to push the ball into difficult situations for Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, both of whom have shown indifferent form and speed this season.

arrowdownPanthers – If people were talking down the prospects of the Broncos, the same people were talking about a potential dynasty in Carolina. It’s been the complete opposite, as the Panthers defence has crumbled with the loss of Josh Norman as a lynchpin in the secondary. Cam Newton may have got favourite target Kelvin Benjamin back, but he looks a shadow of himself compared to the MVP run of 2015. It’s not easy to go from worst to 1st, as the Panthers did over a couple of seasons following the selection of Newton in 2011, but the Panthers are proving that the fall from 1st to worst can be an awful lot quicker.

5th Down UK @ Wembley!

While Sundays AFC South divisional game between the Colts and the Jags wasn’t the best exhibition of clinical Quarterback play, it proved a fantastic opening to the 2016 International Series!!


The NFL had Wembley rocking once again, as a full house got behind their adopted Jags to help them to a narrow victory. Just like in last years fixture, the Jags had to weather a late comeback, but ultimately a 4th quarter Allen Hurns TD was enough to get that vital 1st win, making the flight home a little more comfortable for Blake Bortles and Gus Bradley.

“There’s a million decisions in every game. In hindsight, you look at it and you say I wish or I shoulda, coulda.”

Despite the predictable late rally, Andrew Luck had a day to forget, and the game turned on a 4th & 1 decision to toss the ball to Dwayne Allen rather than tucking and running himself.

Blake Bortles had a hot and cold afternoon in the October sun; in the 1st half he seemed to have problems getting the ball released, but with Allen Robinson in fine form, he did enough to get an early lead. In the second half he improved, and despite one bizarre play which he threw and caught himself, he was able to find the game winning play to Hurns, and keep the Jags alive in the AFC South.


The 5th Down’s own fearsome threesome we’re working hard on Sunday, and recorded a special show from the bowels of Wembley Stadium. KB, Dubs and Dave caught all the reaction from the Colts vs Jags game; grabbing interviews with Jalen Ramsey and Paul Posluszny, along with lots of UK fans. There’s also an exclusive tour from inside the Colts’ tunnel and a special interview with Team GB linebacker Niall Scott-Grant.

5thDown Podcast: International Series Preview

Everyone ready for Sunday??

This weeks pod is a special show dedicated to the first International Series game of 2016. KB & Dubs preview the Colts vs Jags game at Wembley with interviews from both camps. Denard Robinson & Dwayne Allen talk up their trips to London. There’s an exclusive interview with former England rugby union world cup-winning captain Martin Johnson and a look back at Week 14 in the CFL.

Week 3: Quarterback Watch

This week on the 5th Down UK podcast, we discussed the different fortunes of 2 starting quarterbacks on the East Coast who were out of contract in the summer –
Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Jets, and Kurt Cousins of the Redskins.


By the start of the pre-season, both were back under contract, albeit in differing circumstances – Cousins would be taking home $20million under the franchise tag, while Fitzpatrick’s hold out resulted in a lower-end 1 year contract worth $12million.

Through the opening 2 weeks of the season, their performances did not seem to respect those valuations – Fitz was driving his powerful offence to a dominant Week 2 victory over the Bills in Thursday Night Football (following a somewhat unfortunate 1pt defeat to the Bengals in Week 1), while Cousins was enduring a couple of error strewn home defeats against the Steelers and the Cowboys.

So then Week 3 happened….

In the Jets matchup away at the Chiefs, Fitzpatrick threw an unbelievable 6 interceptions for 0 touchdowns in a brutal 3-24 defeat.

On the flipside, Kurt Cousins went error free on his away-day, leading the Redskins to their first victory of the season, against a much fancied New York Giants.


Both teams are now 1-2, but in just one week things are now a lot more positive in Washington. And for 2 quarterbacks who went into this season on the hot seat, it seems you get what you pay for.