Week Two Fantasy Football: Start or Sit

 Matchups are the most important factor when it comes to choosing who to start this week in fantasy football.  The only exceptions are the s...

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Which Quarterbacks will Breakout in the 2020 NFL Season?

Over the last couple seasons, there has been a trend of second year quarterbacks winning the Most Valuable Player award.  Both Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson were in their second season when they won the MVP award.  With the 2020 NFL season just around the corner, there are five promising quarterbacks going into their second season, and another four going into their third season.  The trend of young quarterbacks breaking out in years two and three should continue with so many different options, but which of these quarterbacks have the greatest odds to succeed?  

Starting with quarterbacks going into their third seasons, only one of them has accomplished much in their short careers so far.  Lamar Jackson has already won the Most Valuable Player award and has taken the Ravens to the playoffs twice.  Although he has yet to win a playoff game, he is proving doubters wrong by showing his ability to effectively throw the ball on top of being a great rushing quarterback.  He threw for 3127 yards and 36 touchdowns against six interceptions.  Jackson also rushed for another 1206 yards and seven more scores.  There's not much more he can do after breaking the quarterback rushing record until he improves even more as a passer.  Lamar Jackson has already broken out, but definitely has not hit his ceiling yet.

Josh Allen is up next.  Allen has already been solid thus far in his NFL career, but hasn't been anything special.  He can make plays with both his legs and his arm, but he has poor accuracy.  Allen took a step forward in his passing from 53% accuracy to 59%, but he's still dead last in the league.  He doesn't seem to have an extremely high ceiling as Buffalo uses a run heavy scheme, but he could still improve.  Josh Allen probably won't take that massive leap in 2020 and have a breakout season, but he could still progress as a passer.  He's already taken the Bills to the playoffs, the only way to go from there is to take them to a Super Bowl, or at least win a playoff game.  

Baker Mayfield is has been the best Browns quarterback of the last two decades.  It doesn't say much, but he has shown flashes here and there.  Cleveland has struggled to fully build around him, but the roster looks solid now with an improved offensive line and the addition of a top ten tight end.  The Browns did change coaches once again, and Kevin Stefanski loves to utilize the running game.  The offense won't be focused on Mayfield, but that doesn't mean he can't breakout.  This is a make or break year for Baker Mayfield, and the pieces are all there for him.  There is a pretty good chance Baker proves himself in 2020 and earns himself an extension in Cleveland.

The last starting quarterback from this draft class is Sam Darnold.  Darnold is a talented quarterback, but much like the Browns, the Jets have failed to build around him.  He has Jamison Crowder as his best receiver, a bottom ten offensive line, and Adam Gase ruining the first few years of his career.  New York did draft both a tackle and receiver for Darnold, they also signed multiple offensive linemen in free agency.  Sam Darnold has all the talent he needs to be a successful quarterback in the NFL, but the front office won't build around him.  The chance of Darnold breaking out in 2020 are low, but it's not at any fault of his own.  He's shown loads of potential and even had a winning record (when he started) in 2019 for the New York Jets.  

Leading the pack of the second year quarterbacks is the reigning offensive rookie of the year, Kyler Murray.  Murray had a fantastic rookie season throwing for over 3700 yards and 20 touchdowns, along with rushing for over 500 yards and four more scores.  Kyler has the best chances to breakout in 2020 as the talent is already there.  Kyler Murray has amazing accuracy and very underrated quickness.  The Cardinals also built around him this offseason.  Arizona made a blockbuster trade in which they acquired Deandre Hopkins, they transition tagged Kenyan Drake, signed Kelvin Beachum, and drafted tackle Josh Jones.  They also have a lot of young talent behind Hopkins with Christian Kirk, Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler, and Keesean Johnson.  Not to mention they still have Larry Fitzgerald.  Arizona has done a great job building around Kyler Murray in just two seasons, and he is arguably the most likely quarterback to have a true breakout season.

Drew Lock of the Broncos didn't see the field much in 2019, only starting the last five games of the season.  In those five games, he threw for just over 1000 yards and seven touchdowns against three interceptions.  Lock really didn't look great in those games, but it's such a small sample size to judge his play on.  2020 is virtually his first season, but it probably won't be as much of a breakout as people are expecting.  Denver has a solid offensive line on top of a few good weapons for Lock to grow with.  Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler are all very young and should allow Drew Lock to air the ball out.  If Lock struggles, they also signed Melvin Gordon to pair with star running back Philip Lindsay to take the pressure away from him.  Drew Lock will still have growing pains in 2020, but could turn things around later in the season.    

The other quarterback in New York, Daniel Jones, is in a good position to have a breakout season.  In 2019, Jones threw for just over 3000 yards and 24 touchdowns in just 12 starts.  He looked solid in nearly every part of his game, but he had a massive fumbling problem, dropping the ball a miserable 18 times.  If Jones can drop that number significantly, he should look to have a solid 2020 season.  He has three good receiver around him in Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton.  They also have superstar running back Saquon Barkley, and solid tight end Evan Engram.  The offensive line is below average, but Jones can navigate a collapsing pocket pretty well.  The Giants defense is also well below average which means they may have to throw the ball more to stay in games and lead comebacks.  Daniel Jones has some pretty good pieces around him, but the offensive line may slow him down slightly.  He should see a big jump in production and efficiency in 2020.

Gardner Minshew will have a tough time in Jacksonville in the 2020 NFL season.  He showed tons of promise in the 2019 season, but the rest of the team really didn't look up to par.  On the offensive side of the ball, DJ Chark and Leonard Fournette both had great seasons, but the offensive line and really any other weapon did not perform.  The defense performed poorly as well, which allowed Minshew to throw even more.  His pocket awareness is phenomenal, his throw on the run is great, and he's got solid accuracy.  If the Jaguars can build around him with good weapons and at least an average offensive line, Minshew could become a good quarterback in the NFL.  The chances he breaks out in 2020 are pretty low as they didn't do much for the offense, but the defense should be slightly improved.  As long as Jacksonville sticks with Minshew and doesn't draft a quarterback in the 2021 draft, he will be a good quarterback in a couple seasons.

The last second year quarterback is Dwayne Haskins on the unnamed Washington team.  Haskins has been thrown into a bad situation with little talent around him.  The offensive line is average at best, there are no receivers outside of Terry McLaurin and arguably Steven Sims, the tight ends are nonexistent, and the running backs are inconsistent.  On top of all of the recent drama in Washington, Haskins also has to learn under a new coach, although Ron Rivera is an upgrade over Jay Gruden.  In seven starts in 2019, Haskins threw for nearly 1400 yards and seven touchdowns against seven interceptions.  He didn't look great, but it wasn't expected with the lack of talent.  Haskins showed some flashes last season, but ultimately struggled in the Washington offense.  He has a very small chance to breakout, but could slowly develop into a quality starting quarterback in a few seasons as long as Washington can successfully build around him.

There are tons of young and talented quarterbacks currently in the NFL.  Not every player will succeed in the league though, meaning not every quarterback on this list will breakout.  The most likely ones to take that step forward next season have to be either Kyler Murray, Drew Lock, or Baker Mayfield.  Not only are these quarterbacks arguably the most talented, they also have the best supporting casts and continuity with successful coaches.  Kyler Murray seems to be in the best position to take the next step, and he is also the most favored.  He has an incredible receiving corps, an improved offensive line, and up and coming running back in Kenyan Drake.  The 2020 NFL season will determine how the future of some of these quarterbacks plays out.     

Saturday, July 25, 2020

This Dark Horse Candidate could win the MVP in 2020

The NFL's Most Valuable Player award has become a quarterback dominated award with the last non-quarterback winning it in 2012 when Adrian Peterson had the best season of his career.  Before quarterbacks dictated this award, running backs were always in the mix as well.  Players like LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander, and Marshall Faulk have all won the MVP award at the running position.  In today's game, it would require an incredible season for a running back to win the award now.  In 2019, Christian McCaffrey became just the third running back in NFL history to have 1000 rushing yards and receiving yards in one season, and quarterback Lamar Jackson walked away with the 2019 MVP.  There are a few non-quarterbacks who have the ability win the award, but this dark horse candidate may be overlooked entering the 2020 season.

The Tennessee Titans had one of the most prolific rushing attacks in the NFL in 2019, totaling over 2200 yards across the whole team.  The rushing leader, Derrick Henry, finished with 1540 of those 2200 yards, averaging an impressive 5.1 yards per carry.  Henry had an average at best offensive line and made the absolute most of it.  Standing at 6'3" and weighing nearly 250 pounds, Derrick Henry is nearly impossible to take down on the first and even second attempt.  2019 was by far his most dominant season yet as Henry walked away with the rushing title.  After such an impressive season from Henry, how could he improve enough to win the MVP in 2020?

In the first six games of the season, Derrick Henry averaged just 70 yards per game.  After starting out with a disappointing 2-4 record, the Titans made the switch to newly acquired quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry took off.  From week seven on, Henry averaged 125 yards per game and completely carried the team on his back.  In this past offseason, both Tannehill and Henry signed new four year extensions.  These extensions will allow Derrick Henry to continue his reign of dominance.  

Although the Titans lost tackle Jack Conklin to the Cleveland Browns in the offseason, they drafted rookie Isaiah Wilson from Georgia.  Although they may have reached a little for this pick, the Titans had very few holes on their team and they had to replace Conklin.  

After a record breaking season from Christian McCaffrey, we saw another quarterback in Lamar Jackson win the MVP award.  So what does Derrick Henry have to do in order to pull the award away from the quarterback position?  Henry isn't much of a pass catching back, only reeling in 18 receptions for 206 yards, so he'll have to do it on the ground.  If Derrick Henry can either break or come very close to the single reason rushing record of 2105 yards, currently held by Eric Dickerson, that may be enough to win the award.  Breaking the rushing touchdown record of 28 in a season, held by LaDainian Tomlinson, would also earn him the award.  

There are many sleepers and dark horse candidates for the Most Valuable Player award, but Derrick Henry is being completely over looked.  The NFL loves storylines so the award will likely go to a player who breaks out in the 2020 season, whether it be a Kyler Murray or Drew Lock, or go to another outstanding quarterback like Patrick Mahomes.  The odds of Derrick Henry winning MVP are currently +5000, making him one of the most slept on realistic options to win the award in the up coming season.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Arizona Cardinals are the Real Deal

The Arizona Cardinals have been receiving a lot of attention this offseason after some stellar acquisitions from trades, free agency, and the draft.  They robbed the Houston Texans of Deandre Hopkins, got some much needed defensive line help in Jordan Phillips, added another pass rusher with Devon Kennard, and got two massive steals in the draft in Isaiah Simmons and Josh Jones.  Many experts and analysts in the sports community are saying that Arizona has won the offseason and is one of the most exciting teams to watch.  The sports community is split on the Cardinals however.  Fans seem to be on one of two sides of this trend.  Either the Cardinals will exceed expectations and be a playoff contender, or they are the 2019 Cleveland Browns who had tons of hype but failed to live up to it.  Don't be fooled by anyone discrediting this team.  The hype is real, and there are many reasons why.

Let's begin with the offense.  Kyler Murray is coming off an impressive rookie campaign where he earned the offensive rookie of the year award.  He threw for over 3700 yards and 20 touchdowns on a 64.4% completion percentage.  On top of Murray's passing ability, he also rushed for almost 550 yards and four scores.  Kyler Murray added a much needed spark to this offense that Josh Rosen never had.  He isn't the only reason this offense was so explosive.  Half way through the season, the Cardinals traded for the Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake.  In just eight games, he rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns.  With an improved offensive line that was healthy almost all of 2019, both the passing and rushing game should progress.  

One of the biggest problems Arizona had last season was their red zone efficiency.  According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals had the 26th best red zone offense, scoring on just 15.7% of their trips inside the 20.  This problem will be fixed by the addition of Deandre Hopkins, a tall, jump ball, contested catch master.  Hopkins is the perfect red zone threat that the Cardinals were lacking all of last season.  Not to mention Christian Kirk got a good share of the red zone targets as well, he just couldn't turn those targets into points.  Having Kenyan Drake for an entire season in 2020 should take some pressure off Murray to throw so much in the red zone as well.  

The offensive line struggled a bit last season, but got exponentially better as the year went on.  The Cardinals allowed 50 sacks in 2019, but nearly half of them game within in the first few weeks of the season.  Kyler Murray has even come out and said most of those were on him not knowing how to scramble properly and letting the offensive line know where he was going to be.  As the season went on, Murray became a better and safer scrambler and the offensive line looked way better.  The unit looked solid for run blocking as both Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds averaged over five yards per carry.  In this offseason, they added much needed depth in Josh Jones and recently signed Kelvin Beachum.  The Arizona offense will be difficult to stop next season as long as everyone stays healthy.

The defense was by far the biggest problem with this team.  The Cardinals finished with only 40 sacks and a -1 turnover ratio.  They also allowed 38 touchdowns, 16 of which came from the tight end position.  The defensive line couldn't stop a run as they allowed nearly 125 rushing yards per game.  The pass defense wasn't much better as they allowed just over 280 yards per game.  Arizona had holes all over this defense, but some of these offseason acquisitions may be enough to fix their major problems. 

Lets first address their pass rush.  Chandler Jones was the only viable pass rusher they had in 2019 as he finished with 19 sacks.  The next highest was Terrell Suggs and 5.5 sacks, and he wasn't even there for most of the season.  In this offseason, the Cardinals added defensive tackle Jordan Phillips who is coming off his best season yet with 9.5 sacks.  Interior pass rush is hard to find in today's NFL and Phillips appears to be a solid option to create that much needed pressure.  The Cardinals also added Devon Kennard who finished 2019 with seven sacks.  Throw in their ability to have Budda Baker, Patrick Peterson, Byron Murphy, Isaiah Simmons, Jordan Hicks, or De'Vondre Campbell blitz as well, the pass rush should be scary next season.  All of these additions should take some attention away from Chandler Jones and possibly allow him to have an even better season.

Stopping the run is another thing this defense was well below average at, allowing over 120 yards per game to opposing running backs.  Much like the increased pass rush, a lot of those pieces should help stop the run, especially Jordan Phillips.  The Cardinals have been lacking such a big body in the middle of their line next to Corey Peters and Rodney Gunter, neither of which are stars at their respective positions.  Isaiah Simmons is the next biggest addition to help stop the run as that is one of the many things he excelled at in college.

Pass coverage is the last piece of the defense the Cardinals need to improve upon.  Their secondary didn't look half bad once Patrick Peterson got back in stride after his six game suspension to begin the year.  Byron Murphy was thrown into the number one corner position as a rookie where he was guaranteed to struggle.  The safety duo of Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson is also very underrated.  The main problem when stopping the pass was with the linebackers.  Every single tight end had a field day against Arizona.  As stated earlier, they let up 16 touchdowns to the tight end position alone.  The signing of De'Vondre Campbell may fix that problem by itself as he's proven himself to be solid at covering tight ends.  Him and Isaiah Simmons will both be thrown into that mix, on top of Jordan Hicks already being there.  If the Cardinals can limit yards and scores given to opposing tight ends even to 75% of what it was last season, their defense will look miles better.

On paper, the Arizona Cardinals appear to have a much better roster than they did in 2019, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  That's what was said about the Cleveland Browns after the 2018 season as well.  The biggest difference in these two teams is the continuity Arizona has in their coaching staff.  The Browns moved on from their head coach between 2018 and 2019, on top of changing their offensive and defensive coordinators regularly.  There are new systems, schemes, and playbooks that each coach and coordinator brings to the team year in and year out making it much more difficult to have young players develop properly.  The Cardinals kept Kliff Kingsbury as their second year head coach, as well as keeping both offensive and defensive coordinators.  Continuity is the one thing Cleveland lacked last season which is why they failed to live up to expectations.  The Cardinals have all the pieces in place and are quietly building a powerful team.  They will be a game plan nightmare in the 2020 NFL season.  Watch out for the future Arizona Cardinals.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Players Entering "Prove it" Seasons in 2020

Many players don't make it past their first couple years in the National Football League, but the ones that do, aren't guaranteed to stay in the league past their rookie contracts.  If players don't explode in their first two seasons, like Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, they enter "prove it" seasons.  If a player in a "prove it" season doesn't have a great year, they could be off their team or even out of the league very soon after.  These are some of the players entering very important seasons in their young careers.

1. Baker Mayfield
The Browns have been a horrible franchise since they came back in 1999, starting 30 different quarterbacks between then and the 2020 season.  They appear to have found some level of stability with quarterback Baker Mayfield.  In his 30 career starts, Mayfield has thrown for over 7500 yards, 49 touchdowns, and 35 interceptions on a 61.5% completion percentage.  Baker showed out in his rookie season in 2018 breaking the rookie quarterback passing touchdown record in only 14 starts.  In the 2019 offseason, the Browns traded for superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and the hype in Cleveland grew loud and large.  Baker couldn't carry over the success from his rookie season and struggled in year two.  The Browns only won six games, but it wasn't all on Mayfield.  Freddie Kitchens was a horrible coach, the offensive line struggled to protect Baker, and defense was average at best.  

In this past offseason, the Browns added tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills which should improve the pass protection significantly.  They also added breakout tight end Austin Hooper from Atlanta.  Arguably the best move they made was firing Kitchens and signing new head coach Kevin Stefanski from Minnesota.  Now in a loaded offense consisting of Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Austin Hooper, Kareem Hunt, and Nick Chubb, on top of an improved offensive line, the pressure falls on Baker Mayfield.  He has arguably the best surrounding cast in the league and a better head coach than he did in his first two seasons.  If Mayfield can't show out in year three, the quarterback carousel in Cleveland may continue in 2021.

2.  Juju Smith-Schuster 
The Steelers offense struggled mightily in 2019 after losing their long time starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Pittsburg used a mix of Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges, neither of which proved to be anything special.  This really impacted Smith-Schuster's season.  Although he only played 12 games in 2019, he only had 552 yards and three touchdowns.  Both of these are significantly lower numbers than his past two seasons.  Juju was beginning to look like a star receiver in his second season, playing the number two behind Antonio Brown.  In 2018, he put up an insane 1426 yards to go along with seven touchdowns.  Even in his rookie season, where he only started seven games (played in 14), he put up over 900 yards and seven touchdowns.  

Juju Smith Schuster has yet to prove he can be a true number one, but 2019 was a rough season for the entire offense.  With Ben Roethlisberger coming back, Juju has his first real chance at being the wide receiver one in this offense.  The Steelers excel at drafting wide receivers with some major names like Antonio Brown, Santonio Holmes, Emmanuel Sanders, Plaxico Burress, and Mike Wallace.  They also have Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and rookie receiver Chase Claypool.  If Juju can't put up wide receiver one numbers, it may be time to move on from him.  If Pittsburg decides to resign Smith-Schuster, it could be as a second option in that offense if any other receiver breaks out.  Juju Smith Schuster's rookie contract is up after the 2020 season, so this is a very important year for his career.

3. John Ross
The Bengals have a very underrated receiving group in the NFL consisting of AJ Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tee Higgins, Alex Erickson, and Auden Tate.  With such a crowded room, the weakest links may be let go or not resigned when their contract expires.  Ross was drafted with the ninth pick in the 2017 draft and has been pretty close to a bust in his young career.  So far, he's only played 24 of 48 possible games since being drafted due to injuries.  When he has played, his numbers are disappointing for a top ten pick.  Ross has 716 yards over three seasons to go along with ten touchdowns.  Outside of his speed, John Ross hasn't shown much more on the field and could very easily get lost in this crowded receiving room.

The quarterback play hasn't been the best in his career, but Andy Dalton isn't the worst quarterback a receiver a could ask for.  Ross hasn't been able to stay on the field in his career and with the NFL quickly becoming a game built on speed, the Bengals may look for a new speedster soon.    

4. Mike Hughes
The Minnesota Vikings lost a lot of talent in the secondary in the 2020 offseason including their top three corners: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander.  This leaves Mike Hughs and rookie Jeff Gladney as the starting cornerbacks.  Mike Hughes hasn't seen a ton of playing time, he hasn't been starting quality yet.  In 2019, he played in thirteen games and was targeted 67 times.  Of those 67 targets, he allowed 39 receptions, 451 yards, and three touchdowns.  Hughes has big shoes to fill after the loss of those three corners, especially former all pro Xavier Rhodes.  Mike Hughes needs to stick to receivers better as he allowed an average of 1.55 yards of separation.  If he can do that, his play should take a big step forward.  If he doesn't improve, the Vikings may be looking for a new starting corner that they may already have in Jeff Gladney.  Luckily for the Hughes, Minnesota has arguably the best safety duo in the NFL to help cover up any mistakes he may make.

5. Jadeveon Clowney
As of July 15th, 2020, Clowney is still a free agent.  He has a very high asking price of around $20 million, but doesn't have the sack production that teams are looking for.  That's not to say he doesn't deserve that money as he can take double teams and allow his teammates to get sacks instead.  Clowney will be a force on any defensive line and will immediately make that team better.  When Clowny signs, he has a lot to prove though.  He has never been a sack machine, but he needs to produce a little more than he did last season, only getting three sacks.  Clowney has also never had a ten sack season.  If Clowney signs a one year deal, this season will make or break his next contract.  He's proven to be an effective pass rusher with hurries and pressures, even taking double teams regularly, but teams look for sack production.  Clowney needs to have his best season yet in 2020 or he may not get the contract he wants for 2021.

6. Todd Gurley
The Rams decided to move on from Todd Gurley following the 2019 season.  He rushed for a disappointing 857 yards on 3.8 yards per carry, but still managed to get 13 touchdowns.  The decline in play from 2017 and 2018 is in part due to the arthritis in his knee, but also due to he atrocious offensive line the Rams had in 2019.  Gurley signed with the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason in hopes to revive his career there.  

Atlanta's offensive line also struggled in the 2019, but wasn't as bad as it was in Los Angeles.  The Falcons also have some young pieces who should continue to improve into the 2020 season.  Gurley has shown he can be a great running back and an excellent receiver when need be.  Matt Ryan and Dan Quinn have also utilized Devonta Freeman as a three down back, giving him the volume needed to succeed in the past.  Gurley's signed a year deal with hope to prove himself and earn a large contract in the future.  If his arthritis continues to get worse, Todd Gurley could be out of the NFL by 2021.  

7. Cam Newton
This is a pretty obvious player.  Cam Newton hasn't been healthy in a few years, but has had a significant amount of time off to get back to full health.  He recently signed with the New England Patriots after Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay.  The last time Newton was fully healthy, he was the NFL MVP and was playing in the Super Bowl.  If Cam Newton is as healthy as he and his team say, he could take this lack luster Patriots offense to the next level and potentially win the AFC East.  Cam is currently guaranteed $550,000 for the 2020 season, less than most kickers.  He is also only 31 years old, so if he shows out in New England, he could very easily earn an extension or a multi-year contract with another team.  This move either completely revived or ended his career. 

8. Sam Darnold
The Adam Gase led Jets have been a massive disappointment, not that there were high expectations for them to begin with.  The defense looks alright, but the offense is well below average.  The biggest contributor to that is once again the offensive line.  Darnold has not been a perfect quarterback either, but no one would be with a bottom ten offensive line unless their name is Russell Wilson.  Darnold has not performed as well as a first round pick should, but he hasn't gotten much help from the coaching staff or even the front office.  

So far in this offseason, New York has added multiple offensive linemen including George Fant and rookie Mekhi Becton.  They also added two new weapons for Darnold in Breshad Perrimen and and rookie receiver Denzel Mims.  Not to mention tight end Chris Herndon IV should be healthy after missing most of the 2019 season.  These are not top tier moves, but the Jets had limited options at the positions they needed.  If Darnold doesn't show any improvement with this slightly better team, New York may be looking to move on.  This doesn't mean his career is over though.  Darnold is actually younger than rookie quarterback Joe Burrow and could very easily succeed in a new system as he has time to learn and sit behind a veteran if need be.  

9. Corey Davis
The Titans spent the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft on wide receiver Corey Davis.  In 2019, he was very easily outplayed and outshined by rookie wide receiver AJ Brown.  Davis hasn't been horrible, but he has not lived up to what a fifth overall pick should be.  In three seasons, he's put up over 1800 yards and just six touchdowns.  These numbers would be solid if he was the third or fourth option on a team, but as a starter it's very disheartening.

Davis would be worth keeping around as he's a solid run blocker in a run heavy offense, but he would need to sign a very cheap extension.  AJ Brown is the clear number one receiver and tight end Jonnu Smith is slowly beginning to look like the number two option.  Corey Davis has not lived up to expectations and may find himself in free agency following the 2020 season.  Much like Darnold, his career may not be over if he's resigned.  Davis could be a great number three in another run heavy offense.  

10. Justin Simmons
The Broncos safety had a breakout season in 2019 with four interceptions and 15 passes defended.  Simmons has always been a solid safety, but he really took a step forward this season in coverage and had his second consecutive season with at least 90 tackles.  The talent is definitely there, but this is a make or break season as he is playing on the franchise tag in 2020.  If Simmons can't continue to improve like he has in his last two seasons, Denver may not resign him.  

Justin Simmons is only 26 years old so his career may not be over if he is not resigned.  Even if he doesn't progress in 2020, he has shown the talent is there and most teams would be willing to take a shot on him.  The only thing this season would hurt for Simmons is how much money his next contract will be.  It's hard to believe that Justin Simmons wouldn't be extended or at least signed by another team.  

Honorable Mentions:
Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills)
Marcus Davenport (New Orleans Saints)
Breshad Perriman (New York Jets)
Jarrad Davis (Detroit Lions)
Lamarcus Joyner (Las Vegas Raiders)


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Should the Buffalo Bills move on from Josh Allen?

Josh Allen was drafted by the Buffalo Bills after they traded up for him in 2018.  Allen was a very raw prospect coming out of Wyoming and relied heavily on his legs and cannon of an arm.  He is a project of quarterback that still needs a significant amount of improvement to be considered a true franchise guy.  Entering his third season now, can Josh Allen make the much needed leap or will the Buffalo Bills need to move on from him?

In his three years at Wyoming, Josh Allen passed for just over 5000 yards and rushed for over 750 yards.  Although the numbers aren't very impressive, Wyoming didn't have the greatest team built around Josh Allen and he was the sole reason they were winning any games.  He finished his college career with a poor 56.2% completion percentage to go along with a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio.  His accuracy hasn't improved much since he's entered the league either.  So far in his career, he's averaged a 56.3% completion percentage to go along with a 1.4:2 touchdown to interception ratio.  According to NBC Sports, the Bills were second in the league in dropped passes with 26 total, which definitely contributed to his low completion percentage.  Not only do drops effect his completion, but pressures and lack of protection contribute as well.  If the dropped passes and passes thrown under pressure are factored out, he still only has a 64.7% completion percentage according to playerprofiler.com.  This ranks 33rd in the NFL in 2019.  Josh Allen also led the league in throwing the most uncatchable passes with a revolting 27% according to Pro Football Focus.  Allen has a long way to go as a passer in this league.

Josh Allen also relies heavily on his legs to make plays.  In 2019, Allen had 109 carries for 510 rushing yards, just under 7.0 yards per carry.  He also led the league in quarterback rush touchdowns with nine.  Over the last two seasons, Josh Allen also has 22 fumbles, losing seven of them.  Allen has a great ability to make plays using his legs, but he isn't the safest while doing so.  There are many plays he should've slid or ran out of bounds instead of taking an unnecessary hit.  For example, when the Bills faced the Patriots in week four of the 2019 season, he took a hard hit from safety Jonathan Jones that knocked him out of the game.  Although the hit was illegal and the Patriots were penalized for it, these types of hits happen all the time, especially for quarterbacks that don't look to slide before contact.  The Bills ended up losing the game 16-10 as back up quarterback Matt Barkley couldn't get the job done.  

Yardage totals and passing stats in general aren't very important for Buffalo's success as they use a run heavy offense and rely on their defense to make plays as well.  Efficiency is important though, and Josh Allen is not as efficient as he needs to be to take the Bills past the wild card round at the moment.  With the addition of Stefon Diggs, Josh Allen has one of the best route runners in the NFL and the best receiver he's had yet in his career.  The Bills also drafted running back Zack Moss and two wide receivers in Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodges.  Zack Moss will take over the Frank Gore role while the two receivers should look to add much needed depth to a lack luster receiving group.  The Bills also have Dawson Knox at tight end who looked solid last season, but should take another step forward.  

With all these new pieces and returning talents, Allen is entering what should be a "prove it" year.  He did take the Bills to the playoffs in 2019, but lost against the Houston Texans in their first game after blowing a big first half lead.  He was also carried by a top five defense and great coaching throughout the 2019 season.  If Josh Allen can't improve as a passer, it may be time for the Buffalo Bills to begin looking for a new quarterback.  The Bills are projected to have another good season, so they may have too late of a draft pick to get one of the top prospects like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields.  They are in win now mode, so free agency is an option as well.  Jameis Winston is the best quarterback to hit free agency in 2021, assuming Dak Prescott gets a deal done with the Cowboys.  

The Buffalo Bills do not need a perfect quarterback.  They need someone who can run play action, scramble, and be accurate on intermediate and deep passes.  Allen does two of those three very well, but he is not an accurate quarterback.  With an improved offense and a top five defense, all the pressure falls on Josh Allen to progress as a passer.  If he can't hit a 70% adjusted completion percentage, it may be time for Buffalo to look for a new quarterback. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Can New England still make the Playoffs in 2020?

The New England Patriots are coming off a disappointing loss in the 2019 playoffs.  The Tennessee Titans held the Tom Brady led Patriots to just 13 points and beat them in the Wild Card round.  This is the first time the Patriots played in the Wild Card round since 2009, in a game that they also lost.  The Patriots have dominated the AFC East for the past 20 years, and were looking at a potentially disappointing 2020 season.  The Buffalo Bills are looking like a serious playoff threat, and the Patriots have lost a lot of significant players in this past offseason.  Their losses include Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton, and Duron Harmon, on top of other depth players.  New England was looking weak heading into the 2020 season, but things took a turn for the better at the end of June.

Mastermind coach Bill Belicheck signed Cam Newton to a contract with less guaranteed money than most kickers.  Although Newton has not been fully healthy in years, he's had a lot of time to recover from those injuries as he has not started a game since week two of the 2019 season.  If Cam Newton is healthy, this may be one of the biggest free agent steals in NFL history.  The last time Cam was healthy, he was an MVP and led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl.  Cam isn't the only move the Patriots made in the offseason.  They added a couple receivers for depth in Marquise Lee and Damiere Byrd and they added a couple safeties to replace Harmon in Adrian Phillips Cody Davis.  The team doesn't look entirely complete, but there don't appear to be any glaring holes outside of the tight end position, which they covered in the draft with Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.  New England also drafted two outside linebackers in an attempt to replace Kyle Van Noy with Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings.  The Patriots were beginning to look like they were going into a rebuild, but it appears as if they're only reloading.  Can this team make the playoffs though?

The AFC East is one of the weaker divisions in the NFL as they are brought down by the rebuilding Dolphins and struggling Jets.  The only real threat is the Buffalo Bills, which the Patriots have dominated over the past couple decades.  The Bills have only beat the Patriots four times since Bill Belicheck began coaching in New England.  He knows how to scheme against them and could very easily continue his head-to-head dominance.   

Assuming Cam Newton is healthy, his mobility will help the offensive line look better than it did last season.  Cam has played with a good amount of below average receivers in his career, so the weapons New England has shouldn't be an issue.  The Patriots have solid receivers in N'Keal Harry, Julian Edelmen, Marquise Lee, Damiere Byrd, and Mohamed Sanu.  Cam Newton would also have the option of throwing to James White out of the backfield.  The supporting cast around Newton should be more than enough to take to the playoffs, especially in a weak AFC East.  

Not only should the offense look better this season, New England still has a great defense.  The secondary may be the best in the league with Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Devin McCourty,  Patrick Chung, and Jason McCourty.  The rest of the defense doesn't look amazing, but they have a lot of young potential.  Chase Winovich should take a huge leap in year two and rookies Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings were studs in college and could carry that talent into the NFL.  Not to mention Dont'a Hightower is still a quality starter.  

The New England Patriots have reloaded instead of undergoing the rebuild we all thought they would.  Now led by Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore, the new look Patriots are an exciting story to pay attention to.  The biggest threat to the Patriots is the Bills, which they have historically dominated.  As long as their key pieces stay healthy, the Patriots can never be counted out of playoff contention.  There is a very good chance they keep the Bills under control and win the division for themselves.   

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Expectations for Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals

The Cincinnati Bengals had very rough season, finishing the year at 2-14 and earning the first overall pick.  Under new head coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals had the 30th ranked offense and the 25th ranked defense.  A majority of the teams' offensive struggles came from the horrid offensive line and Taylor still figuring out how to be a head coach.  The Bengals also decided to bench Andy Dalton for rookie quarterback Ryan Finley for three starts which was possibly the worst mistake they made.  The Bengals defense is solid, but had a couple holes that needed to be filled.  The defensive line is solid with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, but could've been beefed up with another big body interior lineman.  The linebacking corps is young with Nick Vigil and and Preston Brown on the inside and Sam Hubbard and Germaine Pratt on the outside, all of which should see improvement in 2020.  The secondary is split as the Bengals have solid safeties in Jessie Bates III and Shawn Williams, but the cornerbacks were lacking a bit with two of their three starting corners (Denard and Kirkpatrick) missing at least half the season.  Now that the offseason is nearly over, what are the expectations for the Bengals entering the 2020 NFL season?

With the first overall pick in the draft, the Bengals drafted college superstar quarterback Joe Burrow from LSU.  Burrow had just completed the best college football season in history throwing for 5600 yards and 60 touchdowns while leading LSU to a national championship title.  Joe Burrow will clearly be the starter for week one and this move alone will be a serious improvement for this struggling offense.  Andy Dalton is not a bad quarterback, but he doesn't have the explosiveness like Joe Burrow has anymore, so it was time to move on from him.  One of Burrow's favorite weapons in college was the Viking's rookie receiver Justin Jefferson, and that role looks like it will be filled beautifully by Tyler Boyd.  That is assuming the role of Jamar Chase, who is still at LSU, can be filled by AJ Green if he can stay healthy.  Outside of those two receivers, Cincinnati has good depth at the position with guys like John Ross, Alex Erickson, Auden Tate, and now rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins.  Not to mention star running back Joe Mixon who is a solid receiver out of the backfield.  

Some other notable additions in Cincinnati include DJ Reader (DT), Trae Waynes and Mackenzie Alexander (CBs), Josh Bynes (LB), and Vonn Bell (S).  They really put an emphasis on the defense this offseason which will hopefully get their offense on the field more.  They will also get second year tackle Jonah Williams back from injury which should instantly make this offensive line better than it was last season.

The future in Cincinnati is finally starting to look bright, but what are the expectations for this coming season?  Rookie quarterbacks can take time to develop sometimes, but Joe Burrow is arguably one of the most complete quarterback prospects to ever be drafted.  He should be at least a top 20 quarterback and win offensive rookie of the year by a large margin.  If the defense steps up, this will give Burrow more time on the field, meaning 4000 yards is not out of question for this rookie.  He could also break Baker Myafield's rookie touchdown record of 27.  It's a lot to ask of Joe Burrow on an offense that struggled mightily last season, but he just may be that good.  The ceiling for this team is still relatively low, on top of them not having a very easy schedule.  Anywhere from four to six wins is realistic, seven being the absolute best.  They shouldn't be in the running for the first pick in the draft, but could potentially have a top five pick.  If Joe Burrow is the real deal and can play even half as well as he did his final year at LSU, the future of Cincinnati is as bright as ever.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Ranking Divisions by Quarterback

8. AFC East
It's hard to put this division in last after the Patriots signed Cam Newton, but the rest of this division still isn't that strong.  A healthy Cam could carry this division and move them up a spot or two, but we haven't seen him fully healthy in a few years.  Sam Darnold has struggled in New York, mainly because of the supporting cast, but still hasn't shown his ability to be a top quarterback in the NFL.  Although he had a decent season in 2019, Ryan Fitzpatrick's age is starting to show, but he did lead his team in rush yards.  This ranking doesn't change if Tua Tagovailoa starts because he's a rookie and hasn't proven anything.  Josh Allen is a solid quarterback, but has accuracy issues, especially on deep passes.  Allen is also a threat with his legs, but can rely too much on his mobility at times.

7. AFC South
Deshaun Watson is arguably a top seven quarterback in the NFL, but the rest of this division is definitely sub par.  Philip Rivers had a terrible season in 2019, in part to his terrible offensive line.  He may be able to turn it around in Indianapolis with a top three offensive line in the league.  Ryan Tannehill is solid, but nothing special.  The Titans offense relies heavily on the run game which opens up the play-action for Tannehill, which he excels at.  He fits the Tennessee system great, but isn't asked to make a ton of difficult throws.  Gardner Minshew had a promising rookie season, but hasn't show enough yet to be considered a good starting quarterback.  The Jaguars traded Nick Foles demonstrating their confidence in Minshew, but it may be another couple seasons before he becomes a top tier quarterback.

6. NFC East
This division is heavily carried by Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, two arguably top ten quarterbacks in the NFL.  This division is also weighed down by Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins.  Daniel Jones was a rookie in 2019 and showed lots of flashes, but had a severe fumbling problem leading the NFL with 18.  If he can even cut that number in half, he should look to make a big jump in year two.  Haskins had a rough rookie season in Washington, but it wasn't all his fault.  The offense is lacking at all positions in Washington with a below average offensive line, virtually no tight ends, and one good receiver in Terry McLaurin.  If both Haskins and Jones can take second year leaps like a lot of quarterbacks do, this division could be in the running for first place.

5. AFC West
Patrick Mahomes is the primary reason this division is not any lower.  A former MVP and reigning Super Bowl MVP and he's only been in the league for three seasons.  Mahomes is the future of the NFL and has shown Hall of Fame level talent already in his young career.  Derek Carr is a safe quarterback, but isn't anything special.  He had one of the highest completion percentages in the NFL last season, but doesn't have that big play ability a lot of better quarterbacks have.  Drew Lock has only played five games in the NFL, but he looked solid in those games.  Of those five games, he had three games under 200 yards and one over 210 yards.  Lock could have that second year jump as well, but he has not played enough to have this division higher.  The Chargers have both Justin Herbert and Tyrod Taylor.  Herbert is a rookie and hasn't played a snap in the NFL, but he may not even start right away.  Taylor was a solid quarterback in Buffalo and even took them to the playoffs, but he's been a backup ever since.  His game relies a lot on his legs, but Tyrod has a good arm as well and can make most throws.

4. AFC North
Much like the AFC West, this division is carried by the reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson.  He is an amazing runner as he broke the rushing record for a quarterback, destroying Michael Vick's record.  Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Fame quarterback, but missed nearly all of the 2019 season due to an elbow injury.  If healthy, he is arguably a top ten quarterback in the league and could easily return to form in 2020.  Baker Mayfield had a great rookie year, breaking the touchdown record and leading the Browns to one of their best seasons in a while.  He's shown some flashes but struggled in 2019 because of awful play calling and lack of pass protection.  Joe Burrow is a rookie, but had the best college football season in history, winning the National Championship at LSU.  Burrow could easily make the Bengals much better than they were in 2019.

3.  NFC North
Aaron Rodgers had a slight down year in 2019, but continues to play at a high level.  He is no longer an elite quarterback, but still has the ability to lead his team to 12 wins and the NFC Championship game.  Kirk Cousins is in a run heavy offense, much like Tannehill, but Cousins has a much better arm.  He has an above average deep ball and can run a play-action like no one else.  Matthew Stafford is and has been severely underrated his entire career.  Without him, the Detroit Lions wouldn't have more than three wins in any season.  Stafford carries the Lions every year, but has struggled to stay healthy the last couple seasons.  The Bears have quarterback competition entering the 2020 season between Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles.  Trubisky does not look good and hasn't ever really looked good.  Nick Foles has had a unique journey in his career and has a Super Bowl MVP under his belt.  He will probably win the starting job and look to take the Bears back to the playoffs in a very competitive NFC North.

2.  NFC West
Russell Wilson is without a doubt the best quarterback in this division and debatably the best in the NFL, despite not having a single MVP vote.  Without Russ, the Seahawks would not have the success they've had, making the playoffs every year since 2012 except 2017.  Kyler Murray had a very promising rookie season, showing his ability to both run and throw the ball.  He has a cannon of an arm with insane accuracy and is ridiculously quick.  The offensive line struggled in 2019 and the weapons were average, but he should look to take a huge leap in 2020.  Jimmy Garappolo is another quarterback in a run heavy offense, but excels in this system.  He isn't asked to make difficult throws often, but can if he has to.  Jared Goff led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018, but hasn't been able to repeat that level of play since.  The offensive line took a big step back, Todd Gurley's arthritis impacted his play, and Brandin Cooks missed a lot of play time with a concussion.  Goff can return to form if the rest of his team is healthy.

1. NFC South
Every team in this division has a great starting quarterback.  Tampa Bay just acquired the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady, who still has some left in his tank and is on a mission to prove that he doesn't need Bill Belicheck to win.  He also has arguably his best supporting cast ever.  Drew Brees is getting old as well, but still has great accuracy and ball placement.  The arm strength is starting to dissipate, but with a receiver like Michael Thomas, he doesn't need it.  Matt Ryan had a down season and still finished as a near top ten quarterback.  He has a top receiving duo in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley and his offensive line should take a step forward in 2020.  Ryan can make every throw in the book and continues to lead one of the highest powered offenses in the NFL.  Teddy Bridgewater is the worst quarterback in this division, but he's still a great starter.  Bridgewater has struggled with injury early in his career, but he is still only 27 years old.  In a new system with underrated weapons in D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey, Bridgewater should succeed in this offense.  The defense will let up a lot of points though, so the Panther's record won't reflect Teddy Bridgewater's efforts.