Week two NFL Sunday matchup analysis

The teams that I think will win in each matchup are listed in italics in their matchup titles.

Raiders at Steelers

  • The Raiders defense will dominate the Steelers as Maxx Crosby and Quinton Jefferson will prove too difficult for the bad Steelers o-line to stop. The Raiders linebacker group of Littleton and Perryman, with a sprinkling of Kwiatkowski (24%) will also aid in preventing Ben from getting the ball away via blitz, or stopping his trademark short-area passing. KJ Wright had 54% of snaps in Week 1, who is a clear downgrade on the others, but hopefully for the Raiders sake they limit him to a similar snap count, else he might give up some plays against Ebron in coverage and in stopping Najee Harris against the run. The others should do a fine job in that facet however. Trayvon Mullen and Casey Heyward are reliable enough to stop the Steelers receivers. A concern might be that the Raiders safety group is bad, but Ben cannot pass down the field to where that will be a big concern.
  • Najee Harris is already a top-level running back, but I predict the Raiders front seven will overwhelm the bad Steelers line. Kalen Ballage is on the Steelers roster and might provide a big boost, but he didn’t appear in Week 1 so the Steelers might opt for Benny Snell to spell Harris instead (if they do at all). The Steelers pass the ball a lot anyway, so worrying about the run isn’t worthwhile.
  • Kolton Miller will negate any blindside pressure on Derek Carr. TJ Watt will likely get consistent pressure against Alex Leatherwood. The rest of the Raiders o-line aren’t outstanding but can still win their matchups against the Steelers front. Carr can get passes off quickly to short options like Waller and Renfrow anyway. Waller, Ingold and Kenyan Drake might be able to help on Watt effectively.
  • The only player to worry about in the Steelers linebacker and secondary group is Minkah Fitzpatrick. If he plays deep safety as he has previously, big plays might be hard to come by. The Raiders receivers include a solid Henry Ruggs and Zay Jones and a bad Bryan Edwards. I think they’ll still be able to get open against that Steelers secondary, I just wouldn’t expect many big plays.
  • Marcus Allen is good enough to affect the result of the game if he gets snaps, but the Steelers seem to opt with Schobert and Bush over him, and don’t run a third off-ball linebacker.
  • The Raiders will have a good running game as Kenyan Drake will take most of the injured Josh Jacobs’ snaps.
  • The Raiders have one of the best special team units in the league, with kicker Daniel Carlson reliable from 45 and Trent Sieg being the best long snapper. AJ Cole is an ok punter but watch out for good pressure against him, as he needs to improve the quickness of his punt.
  • The Steelers have a good kicker in Boswell, terrible punter in Pressley Harvin who gives me the jitters with his slowness in releasing his punt, and a quality long snapper in Christian Kuntz.

Bengals at Bears

  • The Bengals can have an elite passing attack with the above-average Burrow passing to Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Drew Sample, a solid CJ Uzomah with Jamarr Chase an ok option but not as good as Auden Tate (12% snaps Week 1). Will he have enough time to get passes off against the Bears coverage? Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Bilal Nichols, Robert Quinn and Kyhiris Tonga will give Burrow only around 2.2 seconds to get passes off. The fact Bears coach Nagy opts for Angelo Blackson over those aforementioned elite DTs on occasion is not enough to limit the concern for the Bengals pass protection, as not one of the lineman (except for Isaiah Prince possibly replacing Jonah Williams or Riley Reiff through injury) can provide much blocking prowess. The Bears back seven is so inadequate, however, that the Bears will be vulnerable against big plays, just as they were against the Rams. Kindle Vildor is their best DB, but even if he takes away one Bengals receiver, there are others to pick up the slack. Overall, I think the Bengals passing offense will still have a slight edge over the Bears defense.
  • The Bengals will have basically no running game against that Bears front. Samaje Perine played some snaps in Week 1 so he might be able to pick up 3 or 4 yards on occasion. Again, the Bears will be vulnerable to big plays, but I think that front is too good to allow that to happen. The Bears have a clear edge over the Bengals in this facet.
  • The Bears offense is likely to throw more picks than TDs, particularly if Dalton starts and plays a lot. Allen Robinson is the only quality receiver and might even be negated if Eli Apple, a solid corner, is matched on him. The quality safety duo of Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell are likely to negate big plays. Jesper Horsted is a great tight end, but even if he is active, I think he’ll be buried on the depth chart. Allen Robinson plays around half of his snaps in the slot, but Mike Hilton should take him out of the game. The Bengals will get good edge pressure as the Bears tackles are bad. James Daniels is elite and Cody Whitehair is good, but a combination of DJ Reader, Larry Ogunjobi and BJ Hill, particularly against Sam Mustipher at center, will give Dalton/ Fields only around 1.5 seconds to throw, and Dalton cannot evade the rush nor feel pressure, leading to turnovers.
  • David Montgomery and Damien Williams are not good enough to beat what will be an above average run defence. They might break one or two 10+ yard runs due to Logan Wilson being bad and Daniels and Whitehair being effective, but Montgomery in particular is a fumble risk. The Bengals run support from their DBs and solid LBs like Germaine Pratt and Akeem Davis Gaither will help make running ineffective though.
  • The Bears have an elite kicker in Cairo Santos, but it is unlikely he’ll ever get into field goal range to make that relevant. Pat O’Donnell is a good punter, and he will give the Bengals some tough field position. This will probably be enough to negate any pass-advantage the Bengals have over the Bears defence.
  • Bengals punter Kevin Huber will be good enough to get the Bengals out of trouble and pin the Bears back on occasion. Clark Harris is a bad long snapper. Evan McPherson is solid, but not remarkable. Brandon Wilson and Darius Phillips are meh returners, but Tyler Boyd might be impactful if he does have some return reps (based off of the Bengals’ unofficial depth chart).
  • Ultimately, the Bears superiority in the specialist game will not be enough to negate the Bears liability for turnovers. Khalil Herbert and Nsimba Webster are meh returners.
  • Will Fields starting over Dalton swing the outcome? He is likely to be sacked a lot as his pocket presence and ability to quicky diagnose a defence is lacking. The biggest threat is if he spams quick passes to Allen Robinson when he’s matched on Chidobe Awuzie, but Mike Hilton is dominant in the slot so he might help in preventing that. Fields will make some plays with his legs and might be good for a few first downs by that alone. He might also hit his receivers on some broken plays on the edge.
  • Overall, the Bears with Dalton will be overwhelmed and lose the game based on turnovers and giving up big plays to the Bengals receiving corps. If Fields plays, he might get them down the field enough to hit some long field goals, a big play or two with his legs or throwing outside the pocket, and perhaps a rushing TD in the red zone. I don’t think that will be enough to stop Burrow hitting his receivers downfield though. 

Texans at Browns

Browns will win off the top of my head, but they’re paying only 1.14 for the win, so is not worth betting on due to risk of loss of multi.

OR!

Whitney Mercilus will dominate Jedrick Wills and/or Chris Hubbard (depending on whether Wills is out due to injury), Ross Blacklock with destroy the weak Browns interior, Charles Omenihu and Jacob Martin will also terrorise the edges, Zach Cunningham and Kamu Grugier-Hill will stop the good running of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, AAAND *breather* Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper could still kick that terrible secondary’s butts. But Odell is out and Stefanski is stupid enough to play Peoples-Jones and Schwartz instead of Rashard Higgins, and the Texans’ talented LBs could take Hooper away.

I might have to pump the brakes on the Texans front-seven hype due to personnel choices. They play Christian Kirksey over Grugier-Hill and they play Maliek Collins over Ross Blacklock (36% snaps). Martin had 45% of snaps and Mercilus 65%. Still, I think that the Texans can reliably get to Mayfield and affect his throws downfield.

Can the Texans stop the Browns’ run? I think the front-seven matchups are favourable, so can Nick Chubb and Kareem Hut pick up the slack? The two shared the same amount of snaps in Week 1, yet Chubb ran 15 times and Hunt 6 times. I think the Texans can definitely stop Chubb, and Hunt might not run enough to give them problems. Stopping Hunt in the receiving game will be big, and perhaps Cunningham is up to the task. All-in-all, I think the Browns offense has a slight edge over the Texans defense, as Hooper will probably run wild if Kirskey plays a lot in Wk2 and Jarvis Landry is the best WR in the NFL.

Can the Texans pass against the Browns? The o-line is horrific, with Justin Britt, Max Scharping and Marcus Cannon ineffective. Tyrod ain’t it, while the only quality receiver in Amendola played in just 20% of snaps week 1. The RB group is insane but, of course, Culley went with the mediocre Mark Ingram on 40% of snaps compared to Philip Lindsay and David Johnson at 20% each. The Texans are going to be murdered by Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Malik McDowell and the solid corps of linebackers in the front seven while Troy Hill shuts down the slot and Denzel Ward, MJ Stewart and John Johnson do a solid job in the secondary. The Texans special teams unit will dad-dick the Browns’, but it’ll be for naught due to the Texans’ personnel choices. Such a bummer.

Rams at Colts

  • The Rams will pass all over the Colts. DeForest Buckner will get some occasional inside pressure, but Stafford will be good enough to negate that. Thakkarius Keyes, who didn’t play Week 1, will not be enough to stop a Stafford-Kupp combo, which combined with Desean Jackson (27% snaps) and the solid Robert Woods and Van Jefferson will result in many big plays due to the Colts terrible secondary.
  • The Rams will likely struggle to run the ball, with no quality running backs, o-lineman or tight ends to help them.
  • The Colts have recently been great at running the ball and should continue to be as all but right guard Mark Glowinski are atleast above-average offensive lineman, with Ryan Kelly the best center in the game. Braden Smith is out though, and he’s likely to be replaced by Matt Pryor (bad) or Julie’n Davenport, if Eric Fisher starts over him at left tackle. Either option will be a downgrade and work against the Colts. Jonathan Taylor is not as good as Nyheim Hines and Marlon Mack (based on his 2019 college tape), but will still be a problem in short yardage situations. Can the Rams run defense stand up to them? They have an elite DT corps in Aaron Donald, Greg Gaines, Sebastien Joseph-Day and potentially Bobby Brown if he plays. Ashawn Robinson is meh but didn’t play in Week 1. Leonard Floyd and Justin Hollins on the edge are just ok, while one of their backups in Terrell Lewis was pretty good out of college and might make a slight impact in limited opportunities. The Rams will be ok on the second level, with Jalen Ramsey and David Long above-average corners.
  • Will the Colts’ rushing attack be enough to make up for their bad receiving corps? Jack Doyle is great and will expose the Rams linebackers. Will Wentz have enough time to throw against that Colts o-line? Quenton Nelson is overrated and Glowinski is bad, so Wentz will have around 2.6 seconds to throw IMO. Will that be enough time for Wentz to find the open man and/or scramble for a trademark lazer-beam throw on the run? With David Long healthy, I don’t think so.
  • Both teams punters and kickers aren’t good, while Luke Rhodes at long snapper is a liability in protection. Zaire Franklin will make plays for the Colts, while Isaiah Rodgers isn’t a game-changer as a returner. Cooper Kupp would be elite for the Rams if he does return kicks, but Tutu Atwell and Jake Funk would not be.
  • I will conclude that the Colts’ effective running game and ability to give Wentz time to scramble will not be enough to overcome the Rams’ deep passing attack and interior defensive pressure.

Bills at Dolphins

  • Tua has improved enough to where he isn’t a massive turnover liability. A huge question mark is his offensive line – if Austin Jackson starts over Greg Little or Liam Eichenberg, the offense will struggle to get passes away. Coach Flores has stated Jackson is the designated starting tackle when he’s healthy, but didn’t play him in Week 1 after activating him from the Covid list. Michael Deiter is the only above-average lineman w/out Eichenebrg or Little in the lineup. For now, let’s assume that Jackson is starting.
  • The Dolphins’ receiving corps is amongst the best in the league with Waddle, Albert Wilson and Devante Parker great. If Jakeem Grant gets snaps there is no drop-off either. They will likely abuse the Bills’ woeful cornerback group, with Micah Hyde’s brilliance likely not enough to negate that. Even if Jackson plays at tackle, the Bills don’t have enough front-seven ability to affect Tua getting the ball to those receivers. Flores is smart enough to have played Durham Smythe more than Mike Gesicki in Week 1, as he provides a nice short-area option passing-wise too. I suspect that Efe Obada, AJ Epenesa and Greg Rousseu will be the only possible pass rush threats for the Bills and none played over 50% of team snaps in Week 1.
  • Will the Bills’ offense be enough to overcome their disadvantage defensively? Josh Allen is still mediocre, with Stefon Diggs the only big-time threat at receiver. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones and Nik Needham are good cornerbacks, with Jason McCourty and a solid Eric Rowe providing some help. As a result Diggs might be able to make atleast one big play on the game, but will otherwise be suffocated, unless the o-line can give Allen time to stand like a statue like he does until a receiver gets open..
  • Zach Sieler (37% snaps Week 1) and Christian Wilkins (56% snaps week one) are amongst the best young DTs in the NFL. Flores went with Adam Butler (64% snaps) over them moreso last week, but the latter two still made a big impact. The Dolphins edge rushers in Emmanuel Ogbah (64%), Brennan Scarlett (35%), Jaelen Phillips (29%) are solid, while Sam Eguavon (48%) is a big difference maker, often rushing from the off-ball linebacker spot. Jerome Baker is also a good pass covering LB and will likely cover any gaps the Phins DT’s give up against the run.
  • Can the Bills o-line stop that front? Mitch Morse and Daryl Williams are above average at center and right tackle, while Cody Ford is elite at right guard. Jon Feliciano is below average while Dion Dawkins is meh. I think the Bills’ edge protection will be fine, but they’ll give up some pressure inside, particularly if Wilkins and/or Sieler line up over the Bills left side, like they did at times against New England. The Bills’ running backs will be a liability in pass protection, even if Zach Moss plays after being in Coach McDermott’s doghouse. This lack of quality running back (I didn’t see much improvement between Moss’s solid college play and his NFL rookie season) will also mean the Bills will have basically no running game.
  • Can the Dolphins run the ball? Guards Solomon Kindley and Robert Hunt weren’t good in college IMO but Michael Deiter is very good. Jesse Davis is ok at right tackle. The situation will improve if Eichenberg and/or Little play, but again, watch this space. Myles Gaskin is a quality running back, so him being spelled by Malcolm Brown creates a solid running game, particularly against that weak Bills front.
  • Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders gives the Dolphins the clear edge on special teams as he’s a top-five kicker in the league. The Ferguson brothers at long snapper for their respective teams are solid. The Bills punter Haack is merely ok, while the Phins’ Palardy sucks. The Phins Jakeem Grant is a great return man.
  • So, will that Allen-Diggs connection be enough to win the Bills the game? Despite the Bills above-average o-line, their deficiencies at receiver, running back and defensively will be too much against a pretty well-rounded Dolphins team. 

Pats at Jets

  • The Pats are almost certain to start Isaiah Wynn, David Andrews and Shaq Mason. Trent Brown, the best o-lineman in the league IMO, is out. If Yodny Cajuste, who is also questionable, starts instead of him or plays instead of incumbent left guard Mike Onwenu, they will be fine. If Justin Herron plays at right tackle, though, there will be a disadvantage on that side.
  • The Jets defensive front is super talented, but its effectiveness is decided by who plays. In Week 1 vs the Panthers,  the d-line rotation included these guys:

I see no reason for this to change. If Nate Shepherd gets around 70% of snaps, then the Jets will likely dominate the Pats o-line, despite its strength. It looks like the primary d-line is Franklin-Myers (elite), Quinnen Williams (good), Bryce Huff (good), Shaq Lawson (ok) and Sheldon Rankins (ok), with Shepherd (HOF) and Tim Ward (meh) providing spells for those players. If Franklin-Myers is lined up opposite the right tackle like he usually was in Week 1 he’ll be a BIG problem for Herron. Otherwise (unless Shep plays more!), even Mike Onwenu’s mediocrity will not impact the Pats’ pass protection much.

  • So, If Mac Jones is protected, can he beat the Jets DBs? With Lamarcus Joyner on IR, most definitely. Jonnu Smith is the only below-average receiver in the rotation IMO, with Jakobi Myers and Kendrick Bourne (44% snaps in Wk 1) elite. Throw in James White and Damien Harris, with only CJ Mosley and Marcus Maye providing any solid resistance, and the Jets will struggle to stop the Pats’ run and pass.
  • The Jets o-line and QB situation is still terrible. Morgan Moses is a good tackle but his effort will likely not be enough to stop Matt Judon, Davon Godchaux, an increased workrate for Josh Uche with van Noy out and the occasional Don’t’a Hightower rush. Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore and Deatrich Wise are all meh and got between 45 and 55% of snaps each, but their mediocrity will likely be overshadowed by the quality of the previous group of guys I mentioned.
  • If Wilson has little time to throw and can’t sense pressure well, will he be able to get passes out to his receivers quickly enough, and can they get YAC? Of the guys who played week 1, Corey Davis is good, but Berrios and Elijah Moore are meh IMO. Saleh isn’t smart enough to play Denzel Mims apparently. The tight ends and running backs suck too. Keelan Cole is a top-10 receiver in the whole league IMO, but even if he plays, which isn’t a sure thing due to his knee injury, I don’t think it’ll be enough to make the Jets offense function. In the Pats’ secondary, JC Jackson, Kyle Dugger and Jalen Mills all suck yet were given most of their team’s of snaps week 1, so that is a concern. Devin McCourty (100% snaps) and Jonathon Jones (48%) are good, as is Joejuan Williams (24%), but the secondary might still be porous due to those bums I mentioned. Hightower is solid in coverage, but Jawuan Bentley is lacking there.
  • It’s safe to say the Jets will have zero running attack, unless Josh Adams plays, which is unlikely as they relegated him to their practice squad recently, which indicates what they think of him. Will the passing attack make up for that? Let’s say that Keelan Cole is starting (which ain’t even a guarantee considering the other WRs on the depth chart). I think that the only way for the Jets to score TDs is through broken coverage (which Devin McCourty is probably good enough to negate) or quick screen passes, which probably won’t break big even with Cole in, as the o-line and everyone outside of Corey Davis won’t win the blocking matchups. So, the Pats secondary might be shaky due to their personnel choices, but I think the d-line pressure against that weak Jets o-line, as well as the solid play of McCourty, Jones and Hightower in coverage, will be enough to negate quick passes to Corey Davis, as well as any magic Keelan Cole creates.
  • The Pats specialists include the quality Joe Cardona at long snapper, a solid Nick Folk at kicker and the blocked-punt liability in Jake Bailey. The Jets have an elite long snapper in Thomas Hennessy and an elite punter in Thomas Morstead, who has replaced the injured Braden Mann. Therefore, the Pats will likely have tough field position for a lot of the game, while the Jets will have pretty good field position. The Jets kicker Ammendolla sucks, so even if Wilson and co can somehow get into field goal range, I wouldn’t count on points being converted. The Pats’ Gunner Oscdswei is a solid returner, as is the Jets’ Berrios. The Pats Brandon Bolden is mediocre, so no game changers there, UNLESS Cole plays.
  • As in Week 1, Keelan Cole watch is a cause of anxiety for this game. So let’s imagine Cole plays, and lo and behold he plays most WR snaps and field most/all returns. Is he, as well as the punting team superiority, enough for the Jets to overcome their non-existant running attack, bad QB and o-line play, and horrible secondary? Also, if Herron starts at right tackle, will that be impactful enough for Franklin-Myers and Bryce Huff to win the game for the Jets? I don’t think so. The Pats have too much talent despite their shortcomings, and the Jets o-line and secondary are too weak to stop what the Pats will want to do.

Niners at Eagles

  • An ok Jimmy G at QB, HOF talent Mike McLinghchey at RT, a solid Trent Williams and Laken Tomlinson at LT and LG, mediocre Alex Mack and Daniel Brunskill besides them, no good running backs, Kittle and Deebo the only good receivers. They’ll be against an Eagles front of Hargrave (56% snaps) and bums (Cox, Graham, Sweat, Kerrigan, Barnett, Milton Williams, Hasson Ridgeway). Hargrave will reliably get pressure inside, but no real pass rush threat otherwise.
  • Eagles DBs of Anthony Harris, Steven Nelson and K’Von Wallace will be impactful, Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox less so.
  • The Eagles will therefore be able to negate the Niners run and give Garoppolo some trouble from the interior. Will the quality DBs on the Eagles roster be able to stop Jimmy G getting the ball to Kittle and Samuel and having them get first downs and potentially big plays? They’ll do ok. The edge probably goes to the Niners offense here due to the good edge protection and Kittle and Samuels.
  • The Eagles have Mailata, Kelce, Brooks and Johnson as good-to-elite o-lineman, with Seumalo ineffective. They should match up well against the pass rush – Arik Armstead is good with 67% of Wk 1 snaps, Kevin Givens is really good with 47% snaps in Week 1, but Bosa, Kentavius Street, DJ Jones, Dee Ford and Samson Ebukam are mediocre. Arden Key is incredible but played just 42% of snaps. Even if Key plays that or more snaps in Wk2, that Eagles o-line with Hurts under center is good enough to negate any pressure.
  • Hurts will throw to Goedert, Zach Ertz, Devonta Smith, Jaelen Raegor and Quez Watkins, against a defense that has a good Fred Warner in the intermediate levels, with limited help from Al Shaiir, Deo Lenior and K’Wuan Williams. Jimmie Ward is ok and Jaquiski Tartt is good, while the DROY-level talent in Talanoa Hufanga came in for around 20% of snaps in Week 1. A great player in Dontae Johnson is likely to replace Jason Verrett at corner as Verrett tore his ACL, with the good Ambry Thomas possibly playing some as well. Even if the best Niners DBs play, the Niners will have a hard time stopping the Eagles’ ridiculous tight end duo, and solid receiving corps.
  • Quez Watkins is a meh returner, but Jaelen Raegor is quality. Ambry Thomas returned kicks for the Niners in Week 1 and is pretty good. Arryn Siposs is a good punter, but Rick Lovato is an iffy long snapper. Mitch Wishnowsky is a great punter, but Taybor Pepper is a dreadful long snapper, so there’s a risk of mistakes there. Gould and Elliott as kickers are quite dependable from atleast 35 yards. Overall, both special teams units are pretty evenly matched.
  • With the talent on the Eagles’ o-line, the Niners will be unlikely to stop the run even if Warner is a good ‘backer. Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell are the Eagles RBs – Sanders is ok, while Gainwell (35% snap count) is a fumble risk with little ability to help in pass pro nor get open quickly.
  • I think the Eagles will probably smash the Niners due to their offensive firepower and improved secondary. Alex Singleton is medicore at LB but TJ Edwards is solid, while Shaun Bradley (12% snaps Wk1) and Genard Avery (31%) will provide big boost if injected into the game.

Saints at Panthers

  • James protected by Armstead, Peat, TBA, Ruiz and Ramcyzk. To solve the center issue, either Throckmorton (a blocking liability) will play at RG and Ruiz at center, or the solid Austin Reiter will start at center. They’ll be against Brian Burns, Hasson Reddick, Derrick Brown, Daquan Jones, Morgan Fox, Gross-Matos (30% snaps), with the threat of Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter rushing from the LB position. Jameis will likely face some interior pressure from Derrick Brown even if Reiter plays, but not much on the edge.
  • Jameis will pass to a mediocre group outside of Kamara out of the backfield and Deonte Harris (44% of snaps). LilJordan Humphrey and Taysom Hill could be impactful but had less than 35% of snaps each. Garrett Griffin is an above average tight end, but played in just 27% of snaps, with the mediocre Adam Trautman taking the majority if snaps there. They’ll have to beat a contender for the worst secondary in the league. Kamara should be able to run all over the Panthers, particularly on outside runs where the tackles can make a bigger impact, but his backup Tony Jones is mediocre and will likely get swarmed by a solid d-line. Overall, the Saints should be able to move the ball ok, but the lack of receiving weapons could cause Jameis to hold the ball too long and make bad decisions. I expect around two touchdowns for Jameis, with a pick, while Kamara will likely pick up a rushing TD.
  • The Panthers have an elite o-line and will negate even Cam Jordan due to Taylor Moton’s ability. They’ll be able to block all Saints front seven guys in passing and rushing, including the good Demario Davis, and especially the mediocre Kwon Alexander and Kaden Elliss. Desmond Turant and Malcolm Jenkins might not be impactful anymore, and Paulson Adebo might not be able to overcome the severe shortcomings of Marcus Williams and CJ Gardner-Johnson. Marshon Lattimore is questionable to play, and as the best cornerback in the game, his presence could decide the outcome of this matchup. ANOTHER player to watch is Payton Turner – if he plays, he’s likely to line up opposite Cam Erving, which is a huge mismatch.
  • Sam Darnold will have the good-to-great combo of DJ Moore and Robby Anderson to throw to with little coverage resistance. Christian McCaffrey is a solid running back who’ll put up some big numbers running behind that o-line, while making around 60 yards receiving. His other receivers (apart from the good Brandon Zylstra at 19% snaps), tight ends and running backs will likely not be factors.
  • Aldrick Rosas is a god-tier kicker, Blake Gillikan Is a great punter and Zach Wood at long snapper sucks. The Panthers have a great long snapper in JJ Jansen, a good punter in Joseph Charlton and a beyond-fathomably bad kicker in Zane Gonzalez. Deonte Harris is a big threat on returns.
  • I think this will be a very close game. A lot depends on if Marshon Lattimore plays and whether Payton Turner gets a lot of snaps. If that happens, the Saints have the edge. However, Turner is listed well down the depth chart, with Carl Granderson likely to take Marcus Davenport and Tanoh Kpassagnon’s snaps (if the latter is injured). This is speculative, but that doubt is not enough to convince me of the Saints’ victory. Jeff Heath is another game-changing threat if he gets snaps, but that might be unlikely behind entrenched encumbents in Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins at safety. I actually think I’ll steer clear of betting on this game, as the injury report will dictate the outcome, so I don’t want to bet on something I can’t foresee.

Broncos at Jaguars

Can the Jags stop the Broncos studs on the d-line in Shelby Harris and Von Miller? Yet again, Brandon Linder’s quality play will not be enough to stop Lawrence get sacked around 6 times by my estimation. The Broncos will also be good enough to stop the great play of James Robinson due to guys like Josey Jewell and Justin Simmons on the second level. Kyle Fuller is the Broncos only good CB IMO but then again, Shenault is the only good WR for the Jags. O’Shaughnessy is solid at tight end for JAX but won’t be enough to prevent the Jags getting beaten up in the trenches and the Broncos capitilising on Lawrence’s lack of pocket presence or good decision making.

K’lavon Chaisson is the Jags best player defensively. They’re probably going to give up 40 points. Brandon McManus is still in ace, Sam Martin is bad at punter, and Bobonmoyer is ok at long snapper, while Josh Lambo is a top-10 kicker leaguewide, but none of that will matter, as the Broncos will smash the dreadful Jags, particularly offensively.

Vikings at Cardinals

Kyler Murray has developed into one of the best QBs in football, and throws to two top 10 receivers in Deandre Hopkins and Rondale Moore (29% in Week 1 of snaps wtf?), while AJ Green and Christian Kirk are good also. The o-line is ok. The RBs are great. They’ll be against a Vikings D that is limited due to Anthony Barr’s injury absence, while the highly impactful Sheldon Richardson and Stephen Weatherly played in less than 35% of their team’s snaps in Week 1. The Cards will likely drop atleast 40 points on that Vikings defense.

For the Vikings offense, Rashod Hill is a great left tackle, but that Cards front will still have their way. Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cooks, and Tyler Conklins solid play won’t be enough to overcome the studs that the Cards have. The Cards will have difficult field position due to the best punter in the league Jordan Berry and will likely miss some kicks due to Matt Prater being old AF, but it won’t matter due to the Cardinals quality talent at most positions.

Falcons at Bucs

Tom Brady ain’t good anymore, but will it matter? He’ll be protected by a great o-line that will probably limit even Grady Jarrett. Dante Fowler will likely do well against Donovon Smith. Deion Jones will fly around and probably prevent some Gronk short receptions. Tuoti-Mariner played in just 35% of Wk 1 snaps so probably isn’t a big threat therefore. Antonio Brown will probably run amok against a bad Falcons secondary. Too-much-wine Arians is STILL supportive of Ronald Jones as RB1 despite being benched after an early fumble in Week 1. Fournette and Gio Bernard are much better than RoJo. Assume that RoJo plays around 40% of snaps – the Bucs will still be able to run the ball ok due to that o-line and Gronk. Their pass game won’t be great due to the continued overrated presence of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Can the Bucs D pick up the slack?

Old-ass Matt Ryan will be protected by Jake Matthews (good), Kaleb McGrary (mediocre), Jalen Mayfield (bad), Chris Lindstrom (bad) and Matt Hennessy (good). Hayden Hurst can help out in pass pro, playing in 60% of wk 1 snaps alongside Pitts who had a similar rate. The RBs won’t help Ryan much, against a front that includes Shaq Barrett, Ndamukong Suh and Nunez-Roches (33% snaps). The good LB duo of David and White could be a threat rushing and will stop short throws (which will be important against Hurst), and will clean up what will likely be a non-existant Falcons running game. Calvin Ridley is the big threat. The Bucs secondary is still mediocre, although Jamel Dean might provide some resistance.

On Special teams, Koo is a great kicker but Succop is god-tier. Both teams have good long snappers and iffy punters (RIP the elite Sterling Hofrichter).

This will be a closer game than the odds suggest (Bucs paying just 1.13 for the Win). Should I take the Falcons +11.5 handicap? Since I’m avoiding betting on three games this NFL Sunday, I shall in order to increase the potential winnings in my multi.

Cowboys at Chargers

Dak, one of the worst QB’s in the league, is protected by Tyron Smith (a mediocre tackle at this point), Connor Williams (All-Pro level guard), Biadasz (good), Zach Martin (good), and reportedly Terrence Steele (bad). That edge protection will be a huge problem, particularly because Dak is horrendous at feeling pressure. Joey Bosa is solid on the edge and should win consistently against Steele, while Uchenna Nwosu could tally atleast three sacks if he has a similar snap count to Week 1 (51%).

Dak has Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin to pass to at tight end, quality receivers in Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson (who’ll presumably replace the injured Michael Gallup), and SheeTee Lamb. He’ll predominantly have Zeke in the backfield, which is awesome for pass protection against blitzers and as a hot read pass option.  

The offense will face problems against Derwin James on the fringes and in the box, Nasir Adderley (if he plays, the mediocre Alohi Gilman would likely replace him) deep and Kyzir White in the short to intermediate. The ‘Boys o-line should handle Linval Joseph, and manhandle Jerry Tillery, Kenneth Murray and Kyler Fackrell. The Chargers will struggle to stop the pass attack with bad cornerback play.

Zeke would likely run the ball well against the Chargers, but with just 11 carries in Week 1, Dallas might try to use its huge investment in Dak in the pass game moreso again. I think that Dak will ultimately have some trouble getting passes off with Steele protecting his right side, and big plays will be hard to come by with the Chargers’ (healthy) safety group. If Zeke does get some runs, he’ll probably be successful as Nwosu had just 50% of snaps Wk 1 and Derwin can only do so much in run support. Overall, I think Dak will throw around 2 TDs but give up three or four turnovers, while Zeke will rush for a TD.

The Chargers O will face edge pressure whenever Dorance Armstrong is in the game, which will be a lot due to Demarcus Lawrence’s injury and Randy Gregory’s Covid. Tarell Basham, the other backup d-end, is unlikely to be a factor. That o-line is ill-equipped to deal with Armstrong – Bryan Bulaga is now in IR at right tackle, but his likely replacement Storm Norton is actually a slight upgrade in my opinion.

On the second level, McCarthy is dumb enough to play Micah Parsons and Keanu Neal at LB over vander Esch (22%) and Jaylon Smith (25%). Therefore, the Cowboys will be completely hopeless against the pass with their league-bottom secondary. Herbert has some solid o-line play in front of him and has the still-elite Jared Cook to pass to quickly, as well as good receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams (Jalen Guyton is mediocre). The quality Donald Parham even got 51% of snaps as TE2 in Week 1. Austin Ekeler (58%) and Larry Rountree (27%) are solid out of the backfield and should have no problems running against that weak Dallas front seven due to the ‘Boys personnel choices.

The special team units are equally bad, apart from the Cowboys great long snapper in Jacob McQuaide.

The Cowboys have some elite talent but fail to use it. Chargers by atleast two touchdowns.

Titans at Seahawks

The decent QB in Ryan Tannehill will be protected by an outstanding o-line, bar Quessenberry on the right side. He’ll pass to an outstanding receiver in Julio Jones, but has mediocre options in AJ Brown, Chester Rodgers, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim. Running back Derrick Henry is solid in pass protection and the receiving game.

They’ll match up against a front that has no great weapons outside of Darrell Taylor, who played in just 35% of Wk 1 snaps.  Bobby Wagner is a good linebacker but the o-line should handle him, as well as Jamal Adams in run support. DJ Reed is a good corner, but Tannehill will have a long time to throw, and the other Seahawks DBs are bad. So Tanny should have around 4TDs with Henry providing 2TDs via the run.

Russell Wilson is outstanding, but he STILL has little protection, as Duane Brown and Brandon Shell at the tackle spots are merely ok while those inside of them are straight liabilities. He does have the All-Pro level tight end in Gerald Everett (72% of snaps) and the quality Will Dissly to pass quickly too though. Freddie Swain is the only quality receiver and was WR3 with 43% of snaps in Week 1, but his workload may increase with D’Wayne Eskridge out. Chris Carson is still a beast, and the quality Alex Collins could get some reps as RB2, but will they be able to run against the Titans?

Jeffery Simmons is a top-15 DT in the league and will likely crush any rush attempts, as well as make Russ run for his life. The great Bud Dupree is questionable to play, but his possible replacement in Derick Roberson has Pro-Bowl talent. Coach Vrabel could opt for and Ola Adeniyi on the edge however, who is one of the worst players I graded from the 2018 draft class. The much improved Harold Landry will harass from the edges, likely giving Russ less than two seconds to pass before he has to run. Can he beat the Titans secondary outside of the pocket? He’ll likely get around three first downs with his legs as the Titans’ back-seven sucks.

The Seahawks have a great specialist team, as Jason Myers is reliable from around 40 yards, and Michael Dickson will give the Titans tough field goal position all game long. Deejay Dallas isn’t a good returner, but he will likely split reps with Freddie Swain, who could break a couple of returns open if he has adequate blocking. The Titans have brought in Randy Bullock at kicker, who is no improvement over the woeful Michael Badgley. Brett Kern is past it and could be a liability, while their long snapper Morgan Cox is mediocre. Chester Rodgers had all reps in returning, but if Cam Batson gets some reps, he’s a huge play potentiality.

I think the Titans will do enough to stop the run and harass Russ – no receivers outside of Swain and Everett can really hurt them. Russ might still throw for two TDs due to his ability, and they’ll get maybe three FGs due to their special team prowess, but the Titans O will do enough to take the game.

Chiefs at Ravens

Patty Mahomes is good, and he’ll have good blindside protection with Orlando Brown Jr, but will face pressure from the likes of Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams on the interior. If he is flushed, Kelce and Tyreek Hill will still be huge threats. DeShon Elliott, Anthony Averett and Marlon Humphrey will likely prevent big plays, but Chuck Clark, Chris Westry, Brandon Stephens and Tavon Young provide little resistance. Malik Harrison is solid and Patrick Queen is meh at the backer spots – they are likely to give up around six first downs to Kelce. The Ravens like to play Tyus Bowser and Chuck Clark at the backer spots at times – neither will provide an improvement. There is little talent for Mahomes outside of Kelce and Hill however and the run game might have negative yards due to the Chiefs having the worst RB situation in the league. Mahomes will probably still throw 2TDs, but perhaps have a couple of turnovers too.

The possibility of Campbell being out due to injury is a fraught one for the Ravens, if they replace him with Madubuike or Justin Ellis instead of the stud Broderick Washington. All three of those guys had around 20% of snaps each in Week 1 – there’s no clear indicator of who is Campbell’s direct backup. It is thus more likely that all three of those guys get increased reps. If Washington gets the nod, there will be no concern, but otherwise, Mahomes will have much longer to throw in the pocket, which is hazardous. It might be a difference between 2 seconds and 3.3 seconds to throw. Ultimately this shouldn’t be a swing factor as Campbell could still play and Washington is just as likely to play as his replacement – but it could still be a deciding factor.

The Ravens have perhaps the best o-line in the league, with Ben Powers at left guard a solid player beside his elite counterparts. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is a good player who might be out due to injury, but this might be a good outcome – the elite tackle Villanueva is pegged to move to left tackle, and the solid Patrick Mekari will come in at right tackle. This means that the utterly dominant Frank Clark would face a better tackle than Stanley in his usual defensive alignment, and the drop off to Mekari isn’t significant enough to be a concern, and the other Chief edge rushers are non-factors. If Chris Jones lines up on the edges as he has recently, it’ll mean the insignificant interior defenders like Derrick Nnadi (32% snaps) and Tershawn Wharton will get snaps, which is a good outcome for the Ravens. Jarran Reed (68%) is a solid d-tackle but should be handled by Bozeman and the elite guard Zeitler. The Chiefs linebackers will likely be exposed, but Juan Thornhill and a likely-to-be-healthy Tyrann Mathieu might clean up some of their mess. Mike Hughes is an All-Pro level CB, but other DBs like Sorenson (100% snap count in Wk1, WTF!?), Charvarius Ward and L’Jarius Sneed blowing.

Lamar has shown some improvement in reading defenses over the offseason. He has a great Sammy Watkins on the outside, a meh Marquise Brown, and the ever-reliable Mark Andrews at tight end. The running game should be good, particularly if Latavius Murray and the recently-activated Devonta Freeman play more snaps with Trenton Cannon gone. Ty’Son Williams will probably still get snaps, and while he’s inferior to his aforementioned counterparts, he can still run for a 3-4 yard average behind that great o-line. Against a healthy Chiefs front, Lamar will still get sacked 4-5 times in this game IMO, but I think he’ll have enough time to find his weapons against what is likely to be a weak shallow defense, and he’ll be able to scramble easily against them as well, picking up 3-4 first downs.

Butker is a great kicker, but Justin Tucker is still levels above him. The Chiefs snapper Winchester is a top3 LS league-wide, while punter Tommy Townsend is just ok. The Ravens have an outstanding long snapper in Nick Moore and a still-elite punter in Sam Koch. Byron Pringle and Hardman are better returners than Duvernay, but aren’t game-breakers.

To summarise, Lamar is likely to throw a TD or two to Andrews, perhaps one to Watkins, while the Ravens RBs will get a TD, and Lamar will probably scamper for three or so first downs, with Tucker nailing any FG attempt from within 60. Mahomes will be harassed all game, and the Ravens have enough in their secondary to limit Kelce and Hill. Frank Clark could break the game open, but his health issues and the good play of Ronnie Stanley or Alejandro Villanueva will likely mitigate that.

Re-evaluating the 2018 NFL draft class

Here’s a list of my top rated players of the 2018 NFL draft class. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name are players that I need to see more recent footage of to fully evaluate them.

1.  QB Mason Rudolph
2.  LB Devante Downs
3.  RB Phillip Lindsay
4.  T Mike McGlinchey
5.  WR Daesean Hamilton
6.  TE Mark Andrews
7.  LB Marcus Allen
8.  WR Cameron Batson
9.  DT Nathan Shepherd
10. T Kolton Miller
11. S Deshon Elliott
12. K Jason Sanders
13. ED Dorance Armstrong
14. RB D’Ernest Johnson
15. LB Leighton vander Esch
16. C James Daniels
17. ED Arden Key
18. ED Joe Ostman*
19. P JK Scott
20. T Orlando Brown
21. WR Javon Wims
22. S Minkah Fitzpatrick
23. ED Trent Harris
24. WR Calvin Ridley
25. LB Zaire Franklin
26. DT Trenton Thompson*
27. DT Kendal Vickers
28. LS Trent Sieg
29. TE Kevin Rader*
30. CB Mike Hughes
31. TE Dallas Goedert
32. K Daniel Carlson
33. RB Gus Edwards
34. RB Ryan Nall
35. P Michael Dickson
36. DT Bilal Nichols
37. TE Deon Yelder
38. RB Nyheim Hines
39. G Will Hernandez
40. ED Austin Larkin
41. DT Zach Sieler
42. RB Josh Adams
43. ED Breeland Speaks
44. G Connor Williams
45. CB Keion Crossen
46. RB Kalen Ballage
47. P Hunter Niswander
48. WR Christian Blake
49. ED Uchenna Nwosu
50. CB Davontae Harris

Players that could be in the top 50 that I need to see more recent tape of include Luke Falk, Josh Rosen, Derwin James, Chad Thomas, Tarvarus McFadden, Deon Cain and Malik Jefferson.

Here’s my big board for the 2018 NFL draft prior to the draft occurring.

Underrated’s predictions for 2021 NFL free agency

I’m such a football nerd that I decided to rank every free agent in the 2021 NFL offseason, by how I think the rest of the league perceives them in value. I then tried to figure out which teams would offer them which amount of money, and which contracts the players would most likely choose.

Here’s a summary of the predicted haul for each team’s free agency period, from the league’s “top” 100 free agents (with the amount of cap space remaining after these contracts are made, listed in brackets):

Bears (-$10 mil): Alex Bars, Mitch Trubisky

Bengals (-1): Shaq Barrett, Troy Hill, Alejandro Villanueva, Carl Lawson

Bills (-3): Matt Milano, LeVeon Bell

Bucs (-6.5): Lavonte David, Allen Robinson, Suh, Fournette, JJ Watt, Gronk, John Johnson

Broncos (1): Leonard Williams, Phil Lindsay, Jameis, Marcus Williams

Browns (4): Ogunjobi, Olivier Vernon, Younghoe Koo,

Cards (-4): Kenyan Drake, Devondre Campbell, Pat Pete, Larry Fitz, Geno Atkins

Chargers (-3): Austin Reiter, Joe Thuney, Malcolm Brown (RB), Dalvin Tomlinson, Melvin Ingram

Chiefs (-23): Andrew Wylie

Colts (24): TY Hilton, Jacoby Brissett, Marlon Mack, Anthony Harris, Denzel Perryman, Emmanuel Moseley, Russell Okung, AJ Green, Xavier Rhodes

Cowboys (-9): Dak Prescott

Dolphins (10): Chris Carson, Corey Davis, Davon Godchaux

Eagles (-49)

Falcons (-31)

Giants (-7): Danny Amendola, Cam Fleming

Jags (36.5) : Chris Godwin, Malik Hooker, Keanu Neal, Darryl Williams, Shaquill Griffin, Vernon Butler

Jets (48): Marcus Maye, James Conner, Desmond King, Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins

Lions (-10.5): Kenny Golladay, Haason Reddick, Darryl Roberts

Niners (-9): Trent Williams, Jaquiski Tartt, Todd Gurley, Marvin Jones, Kyle Juicecheck

Packers: (-19)

Panthers (-2.5): Justin Simmons, Gerald Everett, JC Jackson, Mike Davis

Pats (11.5): David Andrews, Cam Newton, Shelby Harris, James White, Aldon Smith, Kelechi Osemele, Will Fuller, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Jacob Hollister.

Raiders (-2): Kenny Stills

Rams (-26)

Ravens (-4): Corey Linsley, Matt Judon, Matt Skura, Devonta Freeman, DJ Fluker

Saints (-63): Tyrod Taylor

Seahawks (-7.5): Aaron Jones, Garrett Bolles, Taco Charlton

Steelers (-8): Juju Smith-Schuster, Bud Dupree

Texans (-2): Mike Hilton

Titans (-9): William Jackson, Jonnu Smith, Jayon Brown, Trey Hendrickson

Vikings (-8)

Wash (27): Brandon Scherff, Ryan Kerrigan – I think Washington will be fairly conservative in free agency this offseason, as they might want to keep space available to land a big name quarterback if they’re not happy with an aging Alex Smith or the previously unheralded Taylor Heinicke. They also have extensions looming for Jonathon Allen and Da’Aron Payne.

As a disclaimer, I know next to nothing about how teams can circumnavigate the salary cap restrictions. Therefore, I have limited the spending ability of those teams in significant cap peril, like the Falcons and Packers.

I have presumed some cuts that teams will make to add cap space. Those are:

  • Cardinals – cut Robert Alford (save $7.5 mil, now have $21 mil in space)
  • Titans – cut Malcolm Butler (save $10.2 mil, have 7 mil in space)
  • Bills – cut Vernon Butler (save $6.8, now have 5 mil free)
  • Raiders – cut Tyrell Williams (save $10.6 mil), Marcus Mariota (save $11.3 mil, now $2.3 mil under cap)
  • Steelers – cut Ben Roethlisberger (save $19 mil, still $6 mil over cap)
  • Saints – cut Kwon Alexander (save $13 mil, still way over cap lol)

Here’s a list of the top 100 players, including: the teams that would offer them a significant contract; how much the teams would offer in years and potential money, including bonuses; and the team I think the player would choose, listed in bold:

  1. Dak – Cowboys franchise tag (one year, $37.7 million).
  2. Golladay – Lions extension (five years, $75 million)
  3. Lavonte David – Bucs extension (4,36)
  4. Linsley – Chargers (2,27), Ravens (3,31).
  5. Kenyan Drake – Cardinals extension (3, 25)
  6. Taylor Moton – Bengals (4,35), Cardinals (3,25), Panthers (4,37).
  7. Justin Simmons – Panthers (3,24), Broncos (4,28)
  8. Shaq Barrett – Bucs (5,78), Bengals (6,120) – talk about a Godfather offer. Can the Bucs afford to franchise tag Barrett? Idk, but they might be happy with their pass rush of JPP, the interior guys, and cheaper free agents (JJ Watt anybody?).
  9. Scherff – Washington extension (5,48)
  10. Gerald Everett – Panthers (2,17), Cards (2,14) – the tight end market could be deemed to be pretty weak, so an elite pass catcher and YAC threat in Everett might garner some huge money offers. The Panthers might offer Everett to bolster their QBs passing options.
  11. David Andrews – Patriots (4,36), Chargers (4,36), Ravens (3,33).
  12. Reiter – Chargers (2,16), Cardinals (2,12), Forty-Niners (3,18)
  13. Trent Will – Jags (4,36), Niners (3,26).
  14. Leo Williams – Broncos (3,27), Seahawks (2,16).
  15. TY Hilton – Colts (2,14), Ravens (1,8)
  16. Troy Hill – Jets (3,24), Bengals (4,26).
  17. Will-Jax – Titans (3,22), Bengals (2,13).
  18. Cam Newton – Pats (2,18), Broncos (1,13).
  19. Judon – Pats (3,42), Ravens (3,38).
  20. A-Rob – Bucs (2,19), Jags (2,14) – this decision would mean the Bucs choose A-Rob over the incumbent wideout Chris Godwin. I think they do so because A-Rob has more years of proven success, and Godwin disappeared a bit in the playoffs, with 2019 being a far better season for him statistically.
  21. Phil Lindsay – Jets (4,23), Dolphins (2,15), Broncos (3,24)
  22. Godwin – Jaguars (2,26), Seahawks (2,9).
  23. Malik Hooker – Jags (3,15), Colts (1,4), Panthers (2,9)
  24. Joe Thuney – Pats (3,15), Chargers (3,26), Seahawks (4,28).
  25. Devondre Campbell – Cards extension (3,25)
  26. Jacoby Brissett – Colts (1,7), Niners (1,2)
  27. Marcus Maye – Jets extension (4,28)
  28. Suh – Bucs extension (1,4)
  29. Chris Carson – Jets (3,15), Dolphins (2,14), Chargers (2,8),
  30. Pat Pete – Cards (2,14), Bills (1,5), Colts (1,8).
  31. Jameis – Colts (2,9), Broncos (1,9)
  32. James Conner – Chargers (2,14), Jets (2,25), Steelers (3,15)
  33. Ogunjobi – Browns (3,18), Pats (2,11)
  34. Malcolm Brown – Bills (2,8), Chargers (2,6)
  35. James White – Pats (2,10), Dolphins (2,8).
  36. Dalvin Tomlinson – Chargers (2,7), Giants (3,13)
  37. Ali Villanueva – Bengals (2,17), Colts (1,9), Seahawks (1,7)
  38. Shelby Harris – Broncos (2,8), Pats (2,14).
  39. Matt Milano – Bills (3,14), Broncos (2,8)
  40. Keanu Neal – Jags (3,18), Colts (3,14)
  41. Corey Davis – Dolphins (2,12), Wash (1,5)
  42. Olivier Vernon – Jets (3,21), Browns (4,35)
  43. Aldon Smith – Pats (1,4), Jets (1,1.5)
  44. Younghoe Koo – Jets (2,4), Browns (3,8),
  45. Osemele – Dolphins (1,5), Pats (2,9).
  46. Tartt – Niners extension (2,16)
  47. Aaron Jones – Pats (2,7), Seahawks (3,14)
  48. Daryl Williams – Jags (2,14), Texans (2,6)
  49. Larry Fitzgerald – Cards (1,2), Jets (1,5)
  50. Leveon – Bills (1,4), Pats (1,2)
  51. Juju – Jets (3,14), Texans (2,6), Steelers (5,45) – I think Juju’s stock will have plummeted after last season, in which he was part of a struggling passing offense in Pittsburgh, and he created controversy with his social media usage and dancing on team’s logos. I think the Steelers will offer him a long term deal nonetheless, as he’s still young and the team needs receiving talent.
  52. Mike Hilton – Texans (2,9), Panthers (2,10), Steelers (3,10) – I think the Texans would win this bidding war as they have a more proven defense than the Panthers, in spite of the organisation’s current dysfunction. Taking the Steelers offer could be financially limiting down the road, as that third year could be lucrative for Hilton, particularly if he proves he can cover outside, which the Texans might allow him to do.
  53. Amendola – Giants (1,4), Niners (1,2.5)
  54. Marcus Williams – Broncos (2,10), Colts (1,5).
  55. Todd Gurley – Niners (1,2), Panthers (1,3),
  56. Marlon Mack – Colts (2,7), Steelers (2,5)
  57. Des King – Jets (2,6), Titans (2,3)
  58. Jonnu Smith – Titans (1,3), Cards (1,1.2)
  59. Carl Lawson – Bengals (2,5), Chargers (2,4),
  60. Ryan Kerrigan – Wash (1,4), Jets (2,5)
  61. Will Fuller – Pats (1,5), Texans (2,8),
  62. Ant Harris – Colts (2,14), Vikings (3,9)
  63. Dupree – Steelers (2,5), Colts (3,14), Steelers (4,25)
  64. Andrew Wylie – Lions (2,2.4), Chiefs (2,2.1)
  65. JC Jackson – Pats (1,4), Jags (3,13), Panthers (2,11)
  66. Leonard Fournette – Bucs (2,5), Eagles (2,2.2)
  67. Marvin Jones – Pats (2,6), Niners (2,7)
  68. Tyrod Taylor – Chargers (1,4), Saints (3,13)
  69. Shaquill Griffin – Seahawks (2,9), Jaguars (4,24) – I think it will take a large offer to lure Griffin away from the comfort of his draftee team. This move will be part of the Jaguars’ effort to add young but experienced free agents.
  70. Davon Godchaux – Dolphins (2,6), Panthers (2,4).
  71. Jadeveon Clowney – Jets (2,8), Bucs (1,2.5).
  72. Juicecheck – Niners (2,7), Jets (2,5).
  73. Denzel Perryman – Colts (2,9), Bengals (1,2.5)
  74. Jayon Brown – Titans (2,6), Pats (1,2.5).
  75. Mike Davis – Panthers (3,12), Ravens (3,10).
  76. Garrett Bolles – Broncos (1,6), Colts (1,4), Seahawks (3,15) – Bolles seemed to turn his career around in Denver last season, as PFF and other media outlets suddenly love him, but I still think the stench of his below average play in the years prior will limit his free agency stock. I think the Seahawks will offer him a long-term deal still, as it’s not ideal for their franchise player in Russell Wilson complaining about his lack of pass protection.
  77. Melvin Ingram – Chargers (2,7), Bucs (1,1.5).
  78. Moseley – Niners (2,3.5), Colts (2,7).
  79. Cam Fleming – Giants (3,13), Colts (2,9).
  80. Kenny Stills – Texans (2,6), Raiders (1,5).
  81. Skura – Ravens (1,2.5), Jets (1,2)
  82. Haason Reddick – Cardinals (2,5), Lions (2,7)
  83. Alex Bars – Bears (2,4), Chargers (1,2)
  84. Sammy Watkins – Wash (2,6), Bears (1,2), Jets (4,28)
  85. Grugier Hill – Dolphins (2,7), Pats (3,11).
  86. JJ Watt – Pats (1,4), Bucs (1,2.5), Colts (2,10) – it’s ring chasing time for JJ.
  87. Devonta Freeman – Raiders (1,1.5), Ravens (2,3.5)
  88. Darryl Roberts – Lions (1,3), Broncos (1,2).
  89. Okung – Colts (1,5), Steelers (1,2.5).
  90. Jacob Hollister – Seahawks (2,4), Pats (2,7).
  91. Taco Charlton – Seahawks (1,2.5), Vikings (2).
  92. AJ Green – Colts (1,4), Bears (2,5), Wash (1,4)
  93. Geno Atkins (after presumed cut) – Cards (1,1.5), Lions (1,1)
  94. Gronk – Bucs (1,2), Colts (1,5) – I think Gronk’s bromance with Tom Brady will be too strong for him to leave for bigger money in Indy.
  95. Trubisky – Bears (1,2), Jags (1,1.5).
  96. Trey Hendrickson – Colts (2,2.5), Titans (1,3)
  97. DJ Fluker – Ravens (1,4), Wash (1,5)
  98. Vernon Butler (after presumed cut) – Jags (1,3.5) Bengals (1,2.5) – the Bills save over $6 million to their cap in the 2021 offseason by cutting Butler. I think they do so to re-sign Matt Milano, and they’re already loaded on the d-line, with Ed Oliver, Quinton Jefferson, Star Lotulelei and Harrison Phillips at defensive tackle.
  99. John Johnson – Wash (2,3.5), Bucs (1,2).
  100. Xavier Rhodes – Colts (1,4), Cowboys (1,5)

Some notable omissions from this top 100 list include:

  • Richard Sherman – it’s tough being a 33 year old and playing a position that is probably deemed to require the most athleticism.
  • Matt Feiler – I believe Feiler is an above average lineman in the league, but the Steelers moved him around so much on their offensive line that I think teams might perceive him as a tweener, rather than a quality tackle, which he deserves to be considered as.
  • Yannick Ngakoue – three teams in one season isn’t a great look.

Underrated’s 2020 NFL draft big board – James Smith-Williams and Ryan Agnew top the list

Another year, another list. I must have watched tape on at least 1000 prospects this year, and found some hidden gems. Who else has James Smith-Williams, Ryan Agnew and Kyle Horn as their top prospects? I’ve only listed players I believe to be worth at least $6 million per year. It’s been a big year for scouting for me so I haven’t gone into detail on some players, so you’ll have to forgive me.

These are positional rankings. Some players are worth the same, but some may have a slight edge over the other by a few hundred thousand dollars a year, but for these rankings it doesn’t matter too much. * denotes a player who is more valuable at a different position but still holds value at the position they are categorised under. A player listed in brackets denotes a player who is returning to school. The number next to their names indicates their value in millions of dollars per year. 

Some players I’ve rated based on 2018 footage as I couldn’t be bothered finding recent footage on them. Them making the list indicates they’re worthy of being drafted anyway. Some players I’ve only watched limited recent tape on and have written “watch more” next to their name.

Sorry special teamers, but I would never draft you. Your value compared to your peers can never exceed a player who is above their peers in the starting 22, from what I’ve seen. I’m willing to be surprised, however. Hopefully I find the holy grail of long snappers one day.. Some players I have written using their first or last name only, as any draft pundit will know their name. Yes, I just wrote a sentence telling you this when I could’ve written their name out in full. That’s how lazy I am, at times. 

QB 

  1. Ryan Agnew 26 – throws to only where his receiver can get the ball. Will always keep his team in the game as he can execute long passes or audible at line to change a play according to the defensive front. Understands where safety helps is weakest and is an expert at lofting the ball so that his receiver can make the downfield catch, or come back to ball. Great throwing action, has a high release point and great rotation through torso. Has enough zip on passes to hit his receivers all over field. Holds ball with two hands and has great footwork, keeps eyes up-field but has a great internal clock, can scramble some and is solid enough to take hits. Great spatial awareness to know where pressure is coming from, as well as where lurking defenders are. I’d use him primarily as a pocket passer but he is nimble enough to be used on bootlegs on occasion. Can throw while running but not his greatest strength. Is really good at selling play action, has Aaron Rodgers level of confidence in hiding the ball and then being able to find open spaces with arms and legs as play develops. Is smart enough to know every route his receivers will run to release ball before his receiver is even open. 
  2. Khalil Tate 10 – has a huge arm, can fit the ball through tight windows and can hit receivers from almost anywhere. Is also a huge threat with his legs, and is big enough to take hits as a runner, so he can be a legit read-option quarterback. He had a lot of run pass option plays at Arizona which can translate to the NFL. 
  3. Hurts 10 – has great composure in the pocket and holds the ball firmly with two hands, so he isn’t a huge fumble risk (inside the pocket, he usually scrambles with one hand on ball, big no no!). He has a good enough arm to make throws outside the numbers, and keeps his eyes up to scan the field for possible weaknesses in coverage. He is a huge threat with his legs, and is able to take hits due to his sturdy frame and power. 
  4. James Morgan 10 – one of the best arms to enter the draft in years. Accuracy is sometimes affected with how hard he throws it but he usually throws it to where only his receiver can grab it. Activity as far as footwork in the pocket could improve and sometimes he throws just with his upper body, but his arm talent means he can make off-platform throws a la Patrick Mahomes. Can sense pressure and know where the safety help is weakest, so he’s a downfield throw threat, although he could improve his lower body mechanics to get more power behind the ball on those deep throws. 
  5. Ross Bowers 8 – he had a negative touchdown to interception ratio last season, but put up a quality yards per reception rate of 7.4. I like him as he has Drew Brees’ level of footwork in his drops, and holds the ball firmly with two hands. His pocket presence isn’t great, but he can step up in the pocket and deliver passes all over the field. He can find where safety help is weakest and deliver deep balls. You shouldn’t draw up running plays for him but he has sufficient burst to scramble for a few yards now and then. 
  6. Herbert 7 – he is a big play threat both with his legs and his arm. Hard to bring down. Can throw on run extremely well so getting him in space with bootlegs and drifts like the Chiefs like to do with Mahomes would be a good game plan for Herbert. 
  7. Burrow 7 – he did have an amazing support cast around him in winning the Heisman, with fellow potential draftees in Justin Jefferson and Thaddeus Moss as receivers as well as stud offensive tackle Saadiq Charles protecting his blindside, but Burrow can play. He reminds me of Daniel Jones with his size and scrambling ability, and has a quality throwing motion to make throws all over the field. I question his pocket presence at times, but he should be a solid quarterback for atleast nine or so years. 
  8. Anthony Gordon 6 – has a beautiful throwing motion and a quick release, and can move outside the pocket and throw on the run. 
  9. Justin McMillan 6 – has received basically no hype, but is graduating from Tulane with a top 50 yards per reception rate at FBS level last season, as well as 745 yards on the ground in 13 games. Has the arm strength to hit receivers over the middle, needs to have a more compact form to throw outside numbers. Is skinny but can outrun most front seven players. 

HB

  1. Anthony McFarland 16 – has the big play ability of Tyreek Hill, with the vision of the best running backs in the game today. Unprecedented agility and base to evade tacklers, great hands. 
  2. Michael Warren II 16 – not as explosive as McFarland but just as shifty and stouter in pass protection.
  3. Darius Anderson 13 – extremely hard running, can deliver blows both with the ball and in pass protection. Good burst and footwork to find holes in blocking scheme. Can run basic routes after assessing need for pass protection. Solid breakaway speed. You can basically rely on him gaining atleast three yards on the ground with his power and desire to keep upright. 
  4. Jonathon Taylor 10 – nimble, fast, tough, strong, savvy. 
  5. Deandre Swift 7 – one of the best dead leg jukes I’ve seen, doesn’t lose much momentum doing so. More of a make-you-miss back than a power back, has some nice footwork on routes but can lack urgency to get open. Has big play speed.
  6. Benjamin 7 – a power back who can find the tiniest of holes in the defense and make solid gains from them. Can make catches, effort to get open not great. Can pass protect some. 
  7. Zack Moss 6 – is stout in pass protection and at 220 plus pounds can pick up NFL blitzers. Isn’t overly explosive but is quite shifty. 
  8. Kennedy McCoy 6 – is good at finding space as a pass catcher and has high awareness for where defenders are around him to make them miss tackles. 
  9. (Isaiah Spiller 6)

TE

  1. Kyle Horn 24 – Horn might be eligible for a sixth year of college ball as he missed all of 2016 due to an ACL tear and redshirted his 2015 season. If he does leave for the NFL, you could be getting the next Gronk. Horn played for a bad UMass team (1-11 record last season), but Horn was a true bright spot. He only played in six games (missing one due to a missed curfew, alongside five other players) but averaged 13 yards per reception and had three touchdowns in those games. As a receiver he shows urgency in getting open against man and has solid enough hands to make catches in traffic, tucking the ball when he knows a defender is near and shielding his torso from big hits, which will improve his longevity and ability to shrug off tackles. He has wheels too, top speed isn’t awesome but has great short area quickness for a 6’5”, 245 pounder (as listed on ESPN.com). I think he stands to be able to gain more weight too, as he has a skinny torso. This doesn’t stop him from being a dominant and nasty run blocker, where he gets low and drives defenders back, whether they be defensive ends or defensive backs. He understands blocking angles well, knowing when to advance from one block to another, and can drive you into the dirt. On top of all of this, he has a good understanding of route concepts in getting behind linebackers and sitting in zones, as well as being shifty to make defenders bite on his head fakes in man coverage. He wants the ball, from what I saw, waving his arms when open in zones. 
  2. *Rashod Berry 12
  3. *Tee Higgins 11
  4. Albert O 9 – great downfield threat with his elite speed and can make catches in the end zone. Solid blocker, needs to improve balance to hold blocks but initial contact is usually good. Solid footwork to get open on short routes but could add some urgency to separate from defenders. 
  5. Stephen Sullivan 9
  6. Brycen Hopkins 8 – great burst off line of scrimmage, not many LBs will be able to keep up with him. Solid run blocker, really good pass blocker. 
  7. Jake Breeland 8 – really good blocker, keeps defenders engaged. Can find gaps in coverage as a receiver, solid upfield speed. 
  8. Dominick Wood-Anderson 7 – had a lot of reps blocking, in which he usually did a great job, driving the defender off the ball and legitimately creating big plays on the edge for his running backs. Not overly explosive in his routes but his top speed is pretty good. 
  9. Giovanni Ricci 7 – has really good burst to separate, shows solid leverage when blocking. Sound route runner. 
  10. Pinkney 6 (2018 tape) – built low to the ground so he’s a YAC threat as he’s hard to bring down. 
  11. Tua 6 – in my opinion, Tua’s greatest strength is his legs and ability to shrug off tacklers. He was aided immensely by a solid offensive line, and has had some of the best receiving groups ever, which has boosted his time-to-throw and big play ability. I am unsure about his pocket presence, ability to scan the field, and decision making. Since he is a great athlete, and he has a strong frame, I can see him being a pass catching tight end who can come inline and crack a few unsuspecting linebackers, but can mostly be used as a short yardage tight end with potential for yards after catch. 

FB

  1. Rashod Berry 18 (need to watch more tape) – missed most of last season due to “undisclosed injuries” (according to rotoworld.com), but from what I’ve seen, Berry can become one of the best fullbacks ever. Has been listed as a tight end but is so good at blocking I think he’s best as a fullback, very long arms, balance and drive make him very difficult to beat. Can get upfield to make more than one block, and understands blocking angles extremely well. A perfect example of Berry’s ability is here (he’s number 13), where he pushes the defender five yards off the ball into another defender, and he seamlessly changes the blocking assignment for the Fields touchdown. Shows some savvy, change-of-direction ability, and explosiveness in getting open, can make catches (high level basketball ability, as shown from his YouTube mixtapes, suggest his ball skills and athleticism). Strong legs, wicked stiff arm and quickness make him extremely difficult to bring down. 
  2. *James Smith-Williams 10
  3. AJ Dillon 7 – despite having the most rushing yards in Boston College’s history, I see Dillon as a fullback in the NFL. He has tremendous short area burst but I think he lacks the shiftiness or vision to be a primary ball carrier. He could put his 240 pound frame to use as a lead blocker, and he’s shown a solid base when blocking in space in the limited reps I’ve seen. He can leak out and make some catches too. 
  4. *Dominick Wood-Anderson 6
  5. Xavier McKinney 6 – McKinney is highly touted as a safety but I haven’t seen enough play recognition for him to be reliable there. He is a great athlete and has great form on tackles, so I think those skills could translate to playing fullback. He’d have to add weight (he’s played at 200 pounds at 6’1”) but I think he has the physicality to make it work, and he has the agility to get out of the backfield and make a few catches. 

WR

  1. Tee Higgins 17 – you cannot deny that a reason for Trevor Lawrence’s college football success has been that he can just wait for Higgins to get open, and even if he doesn’t, just throw it up and let the 6’4”, 220 pound former basketball standout (he received numerous offers from big time colleges to play basketball out of high school) go up and get it. Higgins combines elite measurables with impeccable savvy as far as getting open with his routes, including in the end zone, as well as making a catch and rotating to be able to survey the defense ahead of him to gain yards after the catch.  
  2. Collin Johnson 12 – 6’6” with great body control to make tough catches, can take hits too. Solid speed for a big man, isn’t awesome off line of scrimmage but can still scoot away from corners at times. Safe hands. 
  3. *Anthony McFarland 12
  4. Kendrick Rodgers 11 – big target, sound route runner, strong after the catch to break tackles, strong as a run blocker.
  5. Henry Ruggs 11 – despite short stature can get off line fo scrimmage well due to footwork and hand usage. Sub 4.3 speed means he’s a downfield threat but can also evade tacklers with good spatial awareness, and can be a quality gadget player with jet sweeps etc. Can find creases in defense on routes, including in end zone. Reliable hands. 
  6. Kai Locksley 10 – he played quarterback at UTEP, but had a similar amount of rushes to pass attempts last season, and gained a total of 535 yards on those runs in 11 games (all of which were UTEP losses!). At 6’4” and 210 pounds (according to ESPN), I wouldn’t be surprised if Locksley runs a sub 4.4 forty yard dash time, he is that quick. He shows nimble footwork and toughness to run between defenders, making me believe he could catch passes across the middle of the defense. Can juke very well for a man his size. 
  7. Tylan Wallace 9 – great contested catch receiver, has enough burst to separate from defenders vertically. Pretty refined first step off line of scrimmage. 
  8. Jaelen Raegor 9 – is very similar to 2019 draftee Deebo Samuel as a short but powerful runner with the ball with incredible burst and speed, meaning he can be a downfield threat as well as a great gadget player. Is pretty proficient with routes as well, can get off line of scrimmage and freeze defenders. Hands a little bit inconsistent at times. A big play target. 
  9. KJ Hill 9 – great hands. Very twitchy, will be tough to guard one on one, has enough downfield speed to make tough deep catches, but best at separating and coming back to ball. Sometimes has trouble identifying weaknesses in zone, and lacks urgency to turn and get to ball in air on short curls (as seen when K’Von Wallace nearly picked off Justin Fields when Fields was targeting Hill in the college playoffs). 
  10. Jeudy 8 – quality run blocker, great burst off line of scrimmage. Is sometimes one step too slow in his breaks which can interrupt timing of throws and allow defenders to recover. Physical and strong after the catch, has some breakaway speed and has a nice dead leg juke. Solid hands. 
  11. Laviska Shenault 7 – solid route runner who knows how to sit in zones, solid breakaway speed. 
  12. Keith Mixon 7 – great YAC target, serious breakaway speed and shiftiness. Solid enough hands and can catch through contact. 
  13. Denzel Mims 7 – great physical traits and solid hands. Needs to improve urgency in routes, especially when he’s not the number one target. Very strong in run blocking, overpowers smaller defenders. 
  14. (Damontie Coxie 6)

T

  1. Isaiah Wilson 12 – impossible to bull rush and nimble enough to keep up with most speed rushers. First step is scarily explosive, holds blocks well and plays nasty. 
  2. Saadiq Charles 11 – very nimble and disciplined. Strong enough to hold up against most defenders. Can block in space. Skills translate to guard as well.
  3. Prince Tega Wanogho 11 – massive edge protector who can move multiple people in run game. 
  4. Wirfs 10 – great first step and a real people mover. Will pancake a defender but then miss a block due to imbalance. Strong in pass pro one on one but could be more aware of multiple blitzers. Nimble enough to be a force on blocks upfield. 
  5. *Cordel Iwuagwu 10
  6. Liam Eichenberg 9 – adequate agility to deal with speed rushers, good hand placement and strength to deal with power rushers and inside moves. Not overly forceful in run game but can hold position. Good awareness to pick up blitzers. 
  7. Andrew Thomas 9 – prototypical size for an offensive tackle, can keep up with speed rushers a la Klaivon Chaisson. Long arms keep rushers away from him, can’t be bull rushes easily. Needs to show more awareness in picking up blitzers as he locks in to his target block too much, needs to keep eyes up and one arm ready to punch away multiple blitzers. Can be very unbalanced in run game. 
  8. Joshua Alabi 8 – played sparingly at Ohio State, initially recruited as a defensive line prospect. Played well enough to earn offensive player of the game for Ohio State against Nebraska in 2019, after he was pegged to possibly be a backup to Brandon Bowen. Alabi has good size for the tackle spot and can move his feet well.  
  9. McKivitz 7 – picks up twists and stunts well, adequate agility with long arms, initial contact is good on run blocks but could engage for longer. 
  10. Tarik Adams 7 (2018 footage) – out of Marshall University, Adams plays with solid balance and agility. Hand placement is good and has long arms to keep rushers away. 
  11. Mekhi Becton 7 – can only really be beaten in pass protection by multiple blitzers entering his blocking zone, as he can lock in on one block a bit too much at times. In run game, he could show more balance, but he can still move people with ease. I’d be comfortable running the ball off of him atleast eight times a game, to put his ability in perspective. The elite left tackles might garner 15 or so runs to their side, however. 
  12. *Jonah Jackson 7
  13. Blake Brandle 6 – graduating redshirt senior out of Oregon State. Good drive on run plays, needs to improve leverage. Keeps hips square to rushers in pass pro well. 

G

  1. Cordel Iwuagwu 17 – is so quick that sometimes it’s hard to find him on run plays. Can get to second level with ease and shows good understanding of how to make initial contact and move forward, creating lanes while changing blocking assignments. In pass pro, can get pushed backwards by a bull rush, but has long arms and good enough base not not allow rushers to get straight to quarterback. Is very nimble in pass pro and keeps arms up to ensure he can meet blitzers and stunts well. Plays hard, usually knows when to stop plugging a gap in pass pro and look for work, leading to delicious pancakes. 
  2. Marquell Harrell 14 – dominant at line of scrimmage, can push most defenders back, incredible anchor to stop any penetration. Can move in space too. Could improve motor and hold blocks as long as possible as plays break down.  
  3. *Saadiq Charles 9
  4. *Isaiah Wilson 8
  5. *Tyler Biadasz 8
  6. Jonah Jackson 8 – reminds me a bit of Rodger Saffold with how immovable he is, but can move a bit to make blocks in space. 
  7. Patrick Osterhage 8 (2018 footage) – made first-team all-decade at Wake Forest at right guard, so that’s how much they like him. 
  8. Hakeem Adeniji 7 – has played a lot of tackle but I think he’s best used inside, as he is very explosive off the ball and has the mass to be a force in the run game. 
  9. John Molchon 7 (2018 footage)
  10. Clay Cordasco 7 – redshirt senior out of Oregon State, can be a dominant run blocker and one-on-one pass blocker, but REALLLYY needs to improve ability to disengage from a block if a blitz is coming. He locks into blocks and does not keep head up or one hand out to disrupt multiple rushers. 
  11. *Simon Stepianak 7
  12. Drew Richmond 6
  13. Lemuix 6 – a big body who can’t really be bull rushed who shows enough anchor to move defenders off the ball a yard or so. Should not be asked to move too much in pass pro due to lack of elite quickness.
  14. *Becton 6
  15. *Hanson 6

C

  1. Tyler Biadasz 12 – supremely athletic, can move to second level with ease. Can also pancake guys in the trenches with great core strength. Sometimes a little unbalanced and ends up on the ground. Understands blocking angles to give space to his running back. Pass protection is good, keeps hands and eyes up to pick up rushers, can sometimes overcommit a little bit unnecessarily. Plays to whistle, not afraid to bury someone in the ground. Can become a top center in the league from day one. 
  2. *Saadiq Charles 10
  3. (Josh Myers 8 – Ohio State, 2019 junior).
  4. Trystan Colon-Castillo 7
  5. Jake Hanson 7
  6. Simon Stepeniak 7
  7. Matt Hennessy 6
  8. Sean Pollard 6
  9. *Hakeem Adeniji 6
  10. James O’Hagan 5 (2018 footage) – Buffalo Bulls center. 

FS

  1. Terrell Burgess 15 – does not allow runners to get outside of him, but can disengage and make the stop once the defender does run inside. Does miss some tackles due to less than ideal technique. Outstanding range, doesn’t overcommit, slows down to make sure he makes sufficient contact on the ball carrier. Can be a good corner as well due to loose hips and speed. Can be a ballhawk if he makes sure he gets his head around in time. 
  2. *David Dowell 12
  3. Kamren Curl 10 – his positioning is usually immaculate, and he doesn’t over commit on run plays that could leave the field open for deep passes. He knows where to go most of the time, but he sometimes lacks the urgency to make the tackle – he can see it, but he can be a bit lazy. He is a refined tackler so I’m not sure he’ll miss many tackles. 
  4. *Vildor 8
  5. *Samuels 7
  6. Delpit 7 – very explosive, has true single high safety speed and can be a big hitter against ball carriers. Is a boom or bust tackler however – he often over commits to a certain angle, and puts his head in incorrect positions. He also overcommits to tracking receivers running to the flat when runs might be going between the tackles, limiting his impact on those plays. 
  7. Harrison Hand 6 – played a lot of corner, but might lack the twitchiness needed to change direction like corners require. He is disciplined in his stance, has long arms, and can sniff out run plays quite well however, so I think he’s best as a safety.
  8. Mykelti Williams 6 – not very highly touted but showed up in the tackle count for college football in 2019, as he was top five for safeties in the country. Plays hard and hits hard, sometimes with poor technique which could contribute to injuries, but is worth having as a threatening presence against the run and lurking for tipped balls. 
  9. *Simmons 6
  10. *Arnette 6

SS

  1. David Dowell 14 – awesome at diagnosing plays, very quick in short areas to find the ball against run and pass. Very good tackler, could add a little strength but usually wraps up and brings down runners well. Can shed blocks due to his twitch. Can keep up with most receivers in space and make plays on the ball. 
  2. *Terrell Burgess 12
  3. *James Smith-Williams 10
  4. *Kamren Curl 9
  5. Javin White 8 (need to watch more) – had 54 solo tackles, 3 picks and two forced fumbles in 12 games last season. Best as a safety to utilize his ability to get to the ball and make catches downfield. Shows some man coverage skills, can flip hips somewhat, so at 6’3” and 200 pounds can be used to mark up on tight ends (he shows ability to beat blocks with power) or receivers. The versatile chess piece that Isaiah Simmons is billed to be. 
  6. K’Von Wallace 7 – good in man coverage, not so good in zone as he doesn’t stay in low stance, isn’t overly quick in play recognition. Plays to the whistle and keeps his eyes up, meaning he could be an interception threat at the next level. Can run sideline to sideline. 
  7. Javonte Moffat 7
  8. Joey Banks 7 – not ideal tackling technique as he sometimes puts his head in prone positions, but a very strong hitter and sufficient burst to close on the ball. 
  9. Allijah Halliburton 6 – led FBS safeties in tackles. 
  10. *Samuels 6
  11. *Bradley 6

CB

  1. Kindle Vildor 14 – extremely agile so that he can keep up with most receivers in any direction. Great ball skills. Sound in protecting edge on run plays and can tackle well.
  2. *Terrell Burgess 11
  3. *Dowell 10
  4. Thakkarius Keyes 10 –  a bigger corner who has good arm length and strength to push receivers off their routes and can keep up with receivers downfield as well. Could improve smoothness in footwork and flipping hips but has sufficient burst to close on ball. Great ball skills and is unafraid to attempt picks in traffic. 
  5. Grayland Arnold 10 – very athletic, can change direction and keep glued to receivers well. Can contain edge on run plays. Usually keeps feet when tackling so could end up being forcing some fumbles from ripping ball out, needs to develop strength to really drive ball carriers back and blow up blockers though. 
  6. Stanford Samuels 9 – great, fast feet all over the field. Overshoots tackles some and doesn’t wrap up. Smart against run, usually doesn’t allow play to bounce outside. Long arms to interrupt receivers at line of scrimmage. 
  7. Essang Bassey 8 – plays with good awareness, effective in run support. Can stay with most receivers, could use hands more to direct receivers off their routes. Good athleticism means he can compete on jump balls with taller receivers. Tackles the ball so could be a forced fumble threat. Can recognise routes and jump the pattern at times, and has sufficient burst to get to where he wants to go. 
  8. Jeff Okudah 7 – generally does not wrap up tackles properly. Can be thrown off the receiver at the line of scrimmage due to overcommitment to receiver’s set up. Can be lackadaisical in not keeping tight on receivers the longer the plays develop. Other than that he’s a long, explosive athlete who can stay glued to receivers most of the time, so is worthy of a day one or two pick. 
  9. *Kamren Curl 7
  10. *James Smith-Williams 7
  11. Kristian Fulton 7
  12. Chandler Kryst 7 – showed up on my radar due to high pick count in his senior year at Coastal Carolina. Good burst to ball, solid downfield speed and ball skills. 
  13. Brandon Ezell 7 – out of San Jose State, good ball skills, a returner so good footwork and athleticism. Solid tackler. 
  14. AJ Terrell 7
  15. Ceedee Lamb 7 – he is considered by many as the top receiver in the draft, but I don’t see it – he has solid yards after the catch ability, but I think he lacks the route running savvy and explosiveness to get open consistently. He does have long arms? And is physical, however, so I think he can make an impact at corner. 
  16. Damon Arnette 6
  17. Keith Washington 6
  18. Javelein Guidry 6 – can stay with almost any receiver with 4.3 speed, is bulky enough to shed blocks and sift through traffic to make tackles. Footwork and hand position is less than ideal. 
  19. Isaiah Simmons 6 – is clearly a special athlete, but lacks play recognition, motor and size to take on blocks. I’d utilise his speed and wingspan at corner.

ILB

  1. *James Smith-Williams 18
  2. Shaun Bradley 12 – just like Kamren Curl, he has great play recognition but sometimes doesn’t have the motor to get to the ball. It’s almost as if he can’t be bothered. They might play up to competition at the next level, but you can’t rely on that. What Bradley can do is fly all over the field, yet have the strength and power to crush blockers and make run stops. He can legitimately play as a mike linebacker in a Tampa 2 defense and cover the deep middle of the field he’s that rangy. He could use a bit more leg drive in tackles as he misses some as he doesn’t wrap properly. Can be a savage pass rusher.  
  3. Justin Strnad 10 – extremely quick, so he’s good in coverage, but can also stack blocks and make tackles in traffic. True sideline to sideline speed but needs to wrap up tackles more, can’t just lead with shoulder all the time, particularly for his own longevity. 
  4. Shaq Quarterman 8 – this play is emblematic of Quarterman’s style – in the 2018 season he hit 2019 draftee Foster Moreau so hard that his mouthguard fell out. He can shed blocks well and is built low to the ground so he usually has good leverage. Can move about the field but might need to improve motor a bit, against aFlorida he stood and watched as a receiver broke multiple tackles and scored on a huge play when Quarterman could’ve gotten there to mop up. Solid change of direction ability in coverage and can sink hips to move around. 
  5. Willie Gay Jr 7
  6. *Jordan Mack 7
  7. Cole Kmet 7 – played as a tight end at Notre Dame and is considered by many to be the best tight end in the draft. He has great size, but it’s apparent to me that he hasn’t played that much football, based on his understanding of coverages and blocking ability – he also played baseball until his junior college season, which would’ve limited the amount of time he could dedicate to football. I would use him as an inside linebacker who can chase down receivers and blow up some blockers. 
  8. Khaleke Hudson 6
  9. Javahn Ferguson 6 (2018 tape)
  10. *Josh Uche 6
  11. *Burgess

3-4 Edge

  1. *James Smith-Williams 24
  2. *Cedric Wilcots 14
  3. Jordan Mack 11 – has played mostly off the ball but boy can he rush the passer. He is quick to the ball but doesn’t over-commit and run past the ball carrier, so he can close on many hurries for a potentially high sack count. He sniffs out runs very well, and can cover a bit, although my placing of him on the edge indicates he’s best closer to the line of scrimmage and only covering occasionally. 
  4. Chase Young 11 – I prefer him as an outside linebacker as he is so twitchy that he can cover in the short areas of the field. Is also potent as a rusher, gets off the ball almost as fast as Von Miller. Isn’t overly bendy, but has good power to drive blockers back and has a solid motor. 
  5. *Shaun Bradley 9
  6. *Rashod Berry 9 – yes, fullback Rashod Berry is so athletic that I think he can be a Pro-Bowl level edge defender. He had a few snaps there at Ohio State due to injuries, indicating he has the ability, and was recruits a potential edge defender there. Has long arms and bulk to swipe away and drive through blockers to get to the ball, has great play sense.
  7. AJ Epenesa 7 – a very unique prospect as he has the size to play as a defensive tackle and the athleticism to play in coverage. I haven’t listed him as a quality option at 4-3 DE, as he can’t be relied upon to contain an edge, as he commits too early to incorrect running lanes. As a result he’s best used to shrug off blockers and make tackles in one gap, cover in the short areas of the field, or just straight power rush. Any higher-level decision making is not in his tool bag, in my opinion. 
  8. *Darrell Taylor 7
  9. Josh Uche 7 – great motor, has some spin and swipe moves and dip to get to QB, can beat you with speed also. Won’t push a lineman over but can hold up in run game. Sometimes overcommits, leaving holes for QB or RB to run through. Has agility to cover in space when asked. 
  10. Ledarius Mack 7 – I’m surprised no-one has talked about him as Khalil Mack’s younger brother at Buffalo. Has his brother’s quickness, can dip inside on the pass rush, very active hands. Has strength to stand blockers up. Tackling form needs work, needs to wrap up more as sometimes ball carriers slip out of his tackles. Solid motor.  
  11. Gross Matos 7
  12. Divinity 7
  13. Bryce Huff 7 
  14. Trevis Gipson 6
  15. *Shaq Quarterman 6
  16. *Galaei 6
  17. Carter Coughlin 6
  18. Terrell Lewis 6

4-3 edge

  1.  James Smith-Williams 27 – can be a top defender in the league from day dot. Is a low-profile prospect due to a litany of injuries throughout his career, playing in just 29 games over the course of his five year career at NC State. Nonetheless, when healthy, he can be dominant. His healthiest year was in 2018 when he had 36 tackles, 9 TFLs and six sacks in just 11 games. The injury history is something you’d have to look into, but I think he has the work ethic to bounce back – he gained 70 pounds of muscle during his college career, and was studious enough to earn an internship and job guarantee from a high profile technology company……He tested similarly to legendary edge rushers like Whitney Mercilus and Ryan Kerrigan at the combine, as he was above the 90th percentile in the board jump and vertical jump for defensive lineman, as well as posting 28 reps on the bench. This kind of pedigree makes me think the injuries were just ill fortune, or understandable growing pains for carrying more weight. His talent is so overwhelming that I’d still take him with my top pick….He protects the edge with aplomb, doesn’t over-commit to rush, keeps blocker away with long arms and shed blockers to make tackles extremely well. Pass rush move is primarily a bull rush, but he can dip or pull at the right moments and when he knows where the QB is trying to get to with their feet. Will draw plenty of holds because he has good bend as well, which will surprise many linemen as he sets them up with power beforehand. Great get-off, speed to power is incredible. Can sink into coverage on occasion and keep hips low and hands up for potential picks or batted balls.
  2. Cedric Wilcots 16 – has a filthy spin move, which is a counter off of a filthy speed rush. Can use hands to bat away blockers’ arms too. Can beat run blockers with pure effort and solid base despite a slender frame for a 4 tech. Needs to put shoulders into tackles more but is usually strong enough to wrap up tackles anyway. 
  3. *Ross Blacklock 11
  4. *Chase Young 9
  5. Darrell Taylor 8
  6. (Jaquan Bailey 7)
  7. *Broderick Washington 7
  8. Tipa Galaei 7
  9. Javon Kinlaw 7 – incredible get off for a man at 300 pounds, can really swipe away blockers and move around them. I prefer him on the edge so that he’d just have to get after the quarterback and pull down rushes to the edge, as his wingspan will allow him to take up more space than normal for the position. Play recognition not great. 
  10. *Rashod Berry 7
  11. Khalid Kareem 6 – play recognition isn’t great, can overshoot to the outside on inside run plays a lot. Awesome traits, great get off and wingspan, shows promise on swipe moves inside and outside but needs to improve bend and motor in driving linemen back. 
  12. *Bryce Huff 6

DT

  1. Ross Blacklock 17 – can become one of the best defensive tackles in the league from day one. Built like Fletcher Cox, has great get off, instincts as to where the holes are to close up runs or where to penetrate on pass rush, can beat double teams with ease due to drive in legs, brute strength and efficient hand usage. Keeps head up and can utilise spin move to take down QB or runner. Needs to clean up discipline, was kicked out of his final? game for TCU for helmet to helmet contact on quarterback. 
  2. *James Smith-Williams 16
  3. Broderick Washington 11 – absorbed a lot of double teams at Texas Tech but still managed to shrug blockers off and find the ball. Crazy first step and top speed for a 300 pounder and good motor, needs to improve tackling form as he misses some at times. Main pass rush move is bull rush with an occasional swipe – he could improve leverage on those moves – but will still get a handful or so sacks a year just from motor and keeping eyes up. 
  4. Rashard Lawrence 8 – extremely stout against the run, can anchor against a double team to allow fellow defenders to clean up. Solid get off, needs to develop more pass rush moves but does have solid swipe, but doesn’t have that much burst to get upfield. 
  5. Demerick Gary 7 – was top 5 in tackles for seniors at the defensive tackle position last college season, and you can see why – he is up there with Kinlaw for how explosive he is off the ball, and has sufficient bulk to not let many blockers stop him from making forward progress. 
  6. Raekwon Davis 6 – plays with a great motor. Doesn’t overcommit to attacking a gap at expense of run play in another direction, but also struggles to keep his eyes up when engaging blockers, which limits his play recognition. Doesn’t really have pass rush moves but can drive linemen back a few yards, creating pressure that way. Is nimble enough to line up outside the tackles at times. Strong enough to disengage most blocks and has solid tackling form, with sufficient size to bring down most ball carriers. 
  7. Lorenzo Neal 6 – is stout in holding up blockers in the run game, using one hand to hold them off while keeping his eyes up to see where run plays are headed. He has a good motor, but his lack of burst means he sometimes can’t close on the runner. 
  8. *AJ Epenesa6
  9. *Kinlaw 6

K

  1. Cooper Rothe – it’s hard to find highlight footage of kickers on YouTube, but I like Rothe because he doesn’t stab at the ball – he has a consistent follow through that indicates good leg flexibility. This means he can drive his foot through the ball in any weather condition and suggest he has great range. 

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Underrated plays from the last few NFL seasons

I haven’t seen most of these plays in highlight videos on YouTube, so I thought I’d bring them to your attention. Some plays are underrated for reasons outside of a pure display of talent…

Plus some college highlights: 

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The 20 best players in the 2020 NFL draft, IMO

I’m listing these players according to their value as if they were NFL free agents. I also list their ideal position – note that “DE” means a 4-3 edge defender, while an “OLB” means a 3-4 edge defender.

I’ve scouted every big-name prospect so don’t think I’ve forgotten anyone!

JSW
James Smith-Williams of NC State drawing one of many holds in his football career. Pic courtesy of NC State Athletics.

1. DE James Smith-Williams ($27 million) – can be a top defender in the league from day dot. Is a low-profile prospect due to a litany of injuries throughout his career, playing in just 29 games over the course of his five year career at NC State. Nonetheless, when healthy, he can be dominant. His healthiest year was in 2018 when he had 36 tackles, 9 TFLs and six sacks in just 11 games. The injury history is something you’d have to look into, but I think he has the work ethic to bounce back – he gained 70 pounds of muscle during his college career, and was studious enough to earn an internship and job guarantee from a high profile technology company. 

He tested similarly to legendary edge rushers like Whitney Mercilus and Ryan Kerrigan at the combine, as he was above the 90th percentile in the board jump and vertical jump for defensive lineman (according to mockdraftable.com), as well as posting 28 reps on the bench. This kind of pedigree makes me think the injuries were just ill fortune, him playing with his hand in the dirt while being undersized in his earlier playing days, or struggling to adjust to his newfound mass. Regardless, his talent is so overwhelming that I’d still take him with one of my top picks.

He protects the edge with aplomb, doesn’t over-commit to rush, keeps blocker away with long arms and sheds blockers to make tackles extremely well. Pass rush move is primarily a bull rush, but he can dip or pull at the right moments and when he knows where the QB is trying to get to as the play breaks down. Will draw plenty of holds because he has good bend as well, which will surprise many linemen as he sets them up with power beforehand. Great get-off, speed to power is incredible. Can sink into coverage on occasion and keep hips low and hands up for potential picks or batted balls. 

2. QB Ryan Agnew ($26 million) – throws to only where his receiver can get the ball. Will always keep his team in the game as he can execute long passes or audible at line to change a play according to the defensive front. Understands where safety helps is weakest and is an expert at lofting the ball so that his receiver can make the downfield catch, or come back to ball. Great throwing action, high and with great bodily rotation. Has enough zip on passes to hit his receivers all over field. Holds ball with two hands and has great footwork, keeps eyes upfield but has a great internal clock, can scramble some and is solid enough to take hits. Great spatial awareness to know where pressure is coming from, as well as where lurking defenders are. I’d use him primarily as a pocket passer but he is nimble enough to be used on bootlegs on occasion. Can throw while running but this is not his greatest strength. Is really good at selling play action, has Aaron Rodgers level of confidence in hiding the ball and then being able to find open spaces with arms and/or legs as play develops. Is smart enough to know every route his receivers will run to release ball before his receiver is even open. 

3. FB Rashod Berry ($18 million) – missed most of last season due to “undisclosed injuries”, but from what I’ve seen, Berry can become one of the best fullbacks ever. Has been listed as a tight end but is so good at blocking I think he’s best as a fullback, very long arms, balance and drive make him very difficult to beat. Can get upfield to make more than one block, and understands blocking angles extremely well. A perfect example of Berry’s ability is here (https://youtu.be/Hv0SVoYzFyY?t=25) (he’s number 13), where he pushes the defender five yards off of the ball into another defender, and he seamlessly changes the blocking assignment for the Fields touchdown. Shows some savvy, change-of-direction ability, and explosiveness in getting open, can make catches (high level basketball ability, as shown from his YouTube mixtapes, suggest his ball skills and athleticism). Strong legs, wicked stiff arm and quickness make him extremely difficult to bring down.

4. WR Tee Higgins ($17.7 million) – you cannot deny that a reason for Trevor Lawrence’s college football success has been that he can just wait for Higgins to get open, and even if he doesn’t, just throw it up and let the 6’4”, 220 pound super-athlete go up and get it. Higgins combines elite measurables with impeccable savvy as far as getting open with his routes, including in the end zone where space is more cramped, as well as making a catch and rotating to be able to survey the defense ahead of him to gain yards after the catch with his long stride.

5. G Cordel Iwuagwu ($17.4 million) – is so quick that sometimes it’s hard to find him on run plays. Can get to second level with ease and shows good understanding of how to make initial contact and move forward, creating lanes while changing blocking assignments. In pass pro, can get pushed backwards somewhat by a bull rush, but has long arms and good enough base to delay the rush enough to give the QB time to make a good decision. Is very nimble in pass pro and keeps arms up to ensure he can meet blitzers and stunts well. Plays hard, usually knows when to stop plugging a gap in pass pro and look for work, leading to delicious pancakes.  

antmac
Maryland’s Anthony McFarland eluding a defender, as he has been known to do. Pic courtesy of Testudo Times.

6. RB Anthony McFarland ($16.8 million) – has the big play ability of Tyreek Hill, with the vision of the best running backs in the game today. Unprecedented agility and base to evade tacklers, great hands. 

7. DT Ross Blacklock ($16.5 million) – can become one of the best defensive tackles in the league from day one. Built like Fletcher Cox, has great get off, instincts as to where the holes are to close up runs or where to penetrate on pass rush, can beat double teams with ease due to drive in legs, brute strength and efficient hand usage. Keeps head up and can utilise spin move to take down QB or runner. Needs to clean up discipline, was kicked out of his final game for TCU for helmet to helmet contact on quarterback. 

8. FS Terrell Burgess ($15 million) – does not allow runners to get outside of him, but can disengage and make the stop once the defender does run inside. Does miss some tackles due to less than ideal technique. Outstanding range, doesn’t overcommit, slows down to make sure he makes sufficient contact on the ball carrier. Can be a good corner as well due to loose hips and speed. Can be a ballhawk if he makes sure he gets his head around in time. 

9. CB Kindle Vildor ($14.7 million) – extremely agile so that he can keep up with most receivers in any direction. Great ball skills. Sound in protecting edge on run plays and can tackle well. 

10. SS Dowell ($14.5 million) – awesome at diagnosing plays, very quick in short areas to find the ball against run and pass. Very good tackler, could add a little strength but usually wraps up and brings down runners well. Can shed blocks due to his twitch. Can keep up with most receivers in space and make plays on the ball. 

11. DE Cedric Wilcots ($14.4 million) – has a filthy spin move, which is a counter off of a filthy speed rush. Can use hands to bat away blockers’ arms too. Can beat run blockers with pure effort and solid base despite a slender frame for a 4 tech. Needs to put shoulders into tackles more but is usually strong enough to wrap up tackles anyway. 

12. T Isaiah Wilson ($12.8 million) – impossible to bull rush and nimble enough to keep up with most speed rushers. First step is scarily explosive, holds blocks well and plays nastily. 

13. C Tyler Biadasz ($12.4 million) – supremely athletic, can move to second level with ease. Can also pancake guys in the trenches with great core strength. Sometimes a little unbalanced and ends up on the ground. Understands blocking angles to give space to his running back. Pass protection is good, keeps hands and eyes up to pick up rushers, can sometimes overcommit a little bit unnecessarily. Plays to whistle, not afraid to bury someone in the ground. Can become a top center in the league from day one. 

14. WR Collin Johnson ($12.1 million) – 6’6” with great body control to make tough catches, can take hits too. Solid speed for a big man, isn’t awesome off line of scrimmage but can still scoot away from corners at times. Safe hands. 

shaunbradley
Temple’s Shaun Bradley carrying the ball, something he might have to get used to in the NFL as an elite coverage linebacker. Pic courtesy of The Trentonian.

15. ILB Shaun Bradley ($12 million) – he has great play recognition but sometimes doesn’t have the motor to get to the ball. It’s almost as if he can’t be bothered. He might play up to competition at the next level, but you can’t rely on that. What Bradley can do is fly all over the field when he deems it necessary, while having the strength and power to crush blockers and make run stops. He can legitimately play as a mike linebacker in a Tampa 2 defense and cover the deep middle of the field – he’s that rangy. He could use a bit more leg drive in tackles as he misses some as he doesn’t wrap properly. 

16. T Saadiq Charles ($11.8 million) – very nimble and disciplined. Strong enough to hold up against most defenders. Can block in space. Skills translate to guard as well.

17. OLB Chase Young ($11.7 million) – I prefer him as an outside linebacker as he is so twitchy that he can cover in the short areas of the field. Is also potent as a rusher, gets off the ball almost as fast as Von Miller. Isn’t overly bendy, but has good power to drive blockers back and has a solid motor. 

18. OLB Jordan Mack ($11.6 million) – has played mostly off the ball but boy can he rush the passer. He is quick to the ball but doesn’t over-commit and run past the ball carrier, so you won’t see him miss on many potential sacks. He sniffs out runs very well, and can cover a bit, although my placing of him on the edge indicates he’s best closer to the line of scrimmage and only covering occasionally. 

19. WR Kendrick Rodgers ($11.4 million) – big target, sound route runner, strong after the catch to break tackles, strong as a run blocker.

20. WR Henry Ruggs ($11.3 million) – despite short stature can get off line of scrimmage well due to footwork and hand usage. Sub 4.3 speed means he’s a downfield threat but can also evade tacklers with good spatial awareness, and can be a quality gadget player with jet sweeps etc. Can find creases in defense on routes, including in end zone. Reliable hands. 

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2020 NFL free agents who I think will return to team

This list is a prediction of which upcoming free agents in the 2020 class will return to their former teams, and for how much money and years on their new contracts. It’s a fun exercise to see if you have a good understanding of the marketplace. It doesn’t include players who are reported to be franchise tagged, such as Chris Jones of KC, Dak to Dallas, Ngakoue to Jax, and Justin Simmons to Denver. Players are ranked by how much money they could get to re-sign with their teams.

(This article corresponds with my article on which 2020 free agents I believe will move teams.)

  1. Clowney, 3, 69 – Frank Clark reset the edge defender market, and Clowney could eclipse that as the only truly threatening presence on the defensive line as far as pass rushing. He’s had a chequered past as far as holding out for Houston, which caused his trade to Seattle, so I’m not sure GM John Schneider and co will give him a four or five year deal.
  2. Barrett, 4, 64 – Barrett gets less money than Clowney as he was a bit of a one year wonder as far as production, but is worthy of keeping long term. 
  3. Armstead, 4, 60 – an underrated, versatile piece on the Niners defensive line. They only have $13 mil in cap space at the time of writing, so they’d have to cut a player like the ageing Niners legend Joe Staley (saving them $10.5 million) and/or underused receiver Marquise Goodwin (saving them $3.6 mil). They might cut either of those players and re-sign them anyway. 
  4. B.Jones, 4, 56 – the Cowboys have a cap space of $77 million at the start of free agency to franchise Dak Prescott for $33 million (as has been reported), keep receiver Amari Cooper for around $15 million a year (who they gave up a 2019 first round pick for, which became safety Jonathon Abram) as well as re-signing the stud cornerback Byron Jones. 
  5. Derrick Henry, 4, 56 – Henry was vital to Tennessee’s success last season and could get the same yearly salary as Ezekiel Elliott.
  6. Scherff, 5, 55 – he’s been a Washington lifer and has been uncomplaining there, unlike fellow Pro Bowl lineman Trent Williams, so I think they might reward him with a five year deal. Injury concerns might hinder his annual salary however. 
  7. Tannehill, 3, 54 – he balled out last season, and at age 32 with limited snaps over the last few years due to injury, could have at least three quality years left, which I think the Titans could reward him for. Because of said injury history, I’m not sure he’ll command top-caliber QB money like Russell Wilson or Jared Goff, as he’s less proven, but staying in Tennessee for around $18 million a year wouldn’t be so bad considering he was on the bench for half the season most recently. 
  8. A.Cooper, 4, 48 – as mentioned, Dallas gave up a first round pick to get Cooper, so I don’t think they’ll let him walk. He’s their best receiver because he gets open consistently, but some drops in key games last season as the Cowboys were fighting for a playoff spot might hinder his market. 
  9. Thuney, 4, 44 – this could represent a discount as Thuney is one of the top lineman in this free agency class, and most teams could use him. However, he’s been with New England for his whole career, and if they can sign Tom Brady for a reasonable amount, they should be able to re-sign him (with $40 million in cap space before free agency). They might also release 36 year old kicker Stephen Gostkowksi, which would save them $3.4 mil, as he had a rough 2019 campaign that involved five missed kicks,  being placed on IR and having hip surgery.
  10. Van Noy, 3, 42 – he’s been a pretty dominant player along the defensive front for the last few seasons, and I think the Pats will reward him for it. 
  11. Kendall Fuller, 4, 40 – was a key piece in the Chiefs revitalised defense, and they obviously think highly of him as they included him in the trade of Alex Smith two offseasons ago. 
  12. Eli Apple, 4, 40 – a talented young corner who played his way out of New York, but started for the Saints. Talented corners are tough to come by, so I think NOLA will lock him up long term. 
  13. Schobert, 3, 36 – he’s been a franchise stalwart and has made a Pro-Bowl. Individuals like that are worth keeping around. 
  14. Clinton-Dix, 3, 36 – played well replacing Adrian Amos in Chicago, and is still young enough (age 27) to deserve a longer term deal than he’s had the last couple of seasons. 
  15. H.Henry, 3, 36 – has been injury prone but has been one of the best tight ends in the league when healthy. Will be crucial to the Chargers keeping relevant in the post-Philip Rivers era. 
  16. A.Hooper, 3, 33 – has been a quality tight end for a Falcons team that was in the Super Bowl just a few seasons ago, and he’s still just 25 years old. 
  17. Judon, 3, 33 – the Ravens need edge defenders and keeping Judon will help them continue to be a pretty dominant defense. 
  18. Anthony Harris, 3, 33 – had a breakout season with previous starter Andrew Sendejo gone. He’ll get a decent payday but a small-ish track record of success might mean he doesn’t get top safety money or long term commitment beyond three years. 
  19. Leo-Will, 4, 32 – the Giants gave up a third and fifth round pick to get Williams from the Jets last midseasons, so letting him go would be a disaster. 
  20. Brady – 2 years, $30 million. He had a drop off in production last season, and while he didn’t have much consistency at receiver and offensive line, there’s no doubt he’ll continue to decline as far as arm talent and maneuverability in the pocket. Staying in New England for $30 million wouldn’t be so bad. The Pats gave Jimmy G to San Fran for a second rounder with the assumption Brady could play until age 45, so letting him go would be a lost cause.
  21. Mike Pierce, 3, 30. A great run stuffer for the Ravens. Phlly have set a precedent for loading up on the defensive line with some success, bringing in Malik Jackson when they already had Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Derek Barnettt, so the Ravens might do this also to help fellow d-tackle Brandon Williams.
    Pierce
    2020 free agent Michael Pierce, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens. Pic courtesy of pressboxonline.com.
  22. Devin McCourty, 2, 28 – a highly underrated piece of the Pats dominant run over the last decade. At age 32 he still has the speed to be a quality free safety, and will continue to be a veteran leader. 
  23. Bridgewater – 3, 27 – the Saints need a future at QB after Drew Brees and they might already have one in-house in Bridgewater, who they traded a third round pick for in 2018. He’s younger than Taysom Hill and is more proven as a starter. I think $9 million a year or so will be enough to keep Bridgewater in town – there might still be some concern about his injury history which could limit the market on him. 
  24. AJ Green, 2, 24 – a crucial part of presumed number one pick Joe Burrow’s time as a franchise QB will be having quality receivers, and AJ Green fits the bill. He’s held out for Cincy last season, but could be tempted back for a couple more years with Burrow under center. 
  25. Littleton, 3, 24 – the Rams have very little cap space but desperately need to keep Littleton, who has progressed from a key special teams contributor to being a quality young off-ball linebacker. 
  26. Chris Harris, 3, 24 – the Broncos still have a talented defense that Harris might not want to leave, particularly after they franchised Justin Simmons, acquired AJ Bouye, and are keeping Von Miller. Drew Lock might have shown enough promise to be good enough to get the Broncos back to the playoffs, so I think Harris might re-sign. 
  27. Jimmie Ward, 3, 24 – was a good player for the Niners in their Super Bowl season, showing great range and physicality from the safety spot. Keeping him would keep the locker room and personnel consistency intact, and they might find the cap space if they can make the aforementioned moves like trading Marquese Goodwin.
  28. Martinez, 3, 24 – has been a stable presence for the Packers as an off ball linebacker, could be entering prime at age 26. Without him, that linebacker group could look less than promising. 
  29. Kenyan Drake, 4, 24 – he balled out for Arizona after being traded there from Miami for a fifth round pick last midseason, and is young enough (26) to be worthy of a long term deal. They’re paying fellow running back David Johnson $13 million per year until the 2022 offseason, but with around $40 million in cap space, I don’t think that will be a major problem, and having two starting level running backs is a good idea with the league trending towards sharing the workload at a punishing position. 
  30. Brockers, 3, 21 – has been a good contributor on the defensive interior alongside Aaron Donald the last few seasons. If they re-sign Brockers, he and Greg Gaines can provide a nice defensive tackle rotation. 
  31. Robby Anderson, 3, 21 – the Jets are already paying Quincy Enunwa and Jamison Crowder nine million dollars per year each, but three receiver sets are in vogue so paying Anderson decent money might be a fine option anyway. Anderson has great deep ball ability which works well with Crowder and Enunwa’s shorter route YAC ability. 
  32. Conklin, 3, 21 – the Titans declined Conklin’s club option on his fifth year before last season, indicating that they might not prioritise having him once free agency hits, but he was a key part of the Titans great performances in the second half of last season. He’s one of the premier offensive lineman in the free agent class, so losing him would be a big loss for a team on the rise. 
  33. Everson Griffen, 2, 20 – he declined his player option on his contract with the Vikings to enter free agency, but he might re-sign with his team, as they’re still a solid team with strong defensive personnel and great skill position players on offense. 
  34. Bulaga, 2, 20 – has been an above average tackle when healthy. He’s 30 years old so a two year deal seems reasonable. 
  35. Winston, 2, 18 – very hit and miss – his 1:1 touchdown to interception ration last season suggests that. He played better towards the end of season which might have secured him a spot on the roster for a couple more years. 
  36. Tre Boston, 3, 18 – has played for four teams in four seasons, but played well enough for Carolina to deserve a long term deal. The Panthers are not opposed to committing long term to safeties who perform for them despite having some turmoil in their past – they gave Eric Reid $22 million over three years last offseason, one year removed from filing a grievance letter to the NFL for his inability to find a new contract, possibly due to his public protests against police brutality.  
  37. Brees – 1, $17 – he’s 41 years old so it’s unlikely he’d sign for longer, and this amount of money will ensure the Saints can improve in free agency. 
  38. Castonzo, 2, 16 – he’s been big part of Indy’s quality offensive line, so bringing him back for two years seems like a good idea. 
  39. J.Collins, 2, 12 – was basically let go by the Browns, and the Pats used him well, so signing him for a couple more years at a cheap rate might be a good move. 
  40. Jordan Howard, 2, 12 – was a consistent yard gainer for Philly, was given away for a sixth round pick by the Bears an offseason ago, so his market might still be low. 
  41. Jason Peters, 1, 10 – Peters is so good that he still contributes at age 38. Signing him for one more year gives Andre Dillard more time to grow and increases the bench depth. 
  42. Trevathan, 2, 10 – the Bears rarely rotate their starting linebackers out, so I think they prioritise bringing back a known quantity in Trevathan, as well as a younger Nick Kwiatkowski for more depth. 
  43. Nassib, 2, 10 – played well in a edge defender rotation for Tampa Bay, enough so to deserve a couple more years on his contract. 
  44. Ebron, 2, 10 – was a Pro-Bowl level tight end in 18-19, but had injuries last season and multiple ominous DNPs, which has undoubtedly led to Indy GM Chris Ballard say they’ll “probably move on” from him in free agency. Having said that, I see the market being low on him due to last season, and the Colts might realise that he’s too talented to let go so easily. He is a good enough receiver to play with fellow tight end Jack Doyle on occasion anyway. 
  45. Mike Daniels, 1, 7 – was strangely released by his long-time team the Packers last offseason and was picked up by the Lions. Defensive tackle will be a need for them with their release of Damon Harrison and Ashawn Robinson’s free agency. Daniels is good enough to deserve another short term contract at age 30. 
  46. Mariota, 2, 6 – disappointed as a starter last season, and his team had a dramatic turnaround when Tannehill started in his place. He was the second overall pick for Tennessee in 2015, so I think they’ll keep him around, as he knows the playbook and his teammates well. 

NFL free agents who could change teams this 2020 offseason

This list names players who I believe could move teams in free agency. It precludes some big names such as Tom Brady and Dak Prescott, so their emissions indicate that I think it’s likely they remain with their clubs. This list also gives some reasoning about why the new destination could be a nice fit for the player, gives precedence for contract value compared to previous contracts at the player’s position, as well as naming other teams who could be in the hunt for the player.

QB Philip Rivers – Colts (two years, $24 million).  

Indy could be the best fit football-wise, as a major reason they missed the playoffs last season was because of Andrew Luck’s retirement, so the Colts might value Rivers highly as they could see him as an upgrade over incumbent QB Jacoby Brissett. The Colts’ current offensive co-ordinator worked with Rivers in LAC, so he could fit right in, and the Colts might think of themselves as a win-now team with the amount of cheap talent they have along the offensive line.

The Colts have a whopping $86 mil in cap space. They’ll likely use some of it to re-sign players like Anthony Castonzo, Jabaal Sheard (even though I think he might leave for New England, read below!), Devin Funchess and even Eric Ebron (despite the team having a falling out after he placed himself on IR without consulting the team, and GM Chris Ballard has said “we’ll probably move on”), but that’s still plenty of space to use on Rivers.

I have listed the Jets as a possible destination as they have $50 mil in cap space and might consider making a playoff run that the 22 year old Sam Darnold might not promise them. While there has been a change in GMs since Maccagnan signed LeVeon Bell and CJ Mosley to big deals as marquee players in their primes, having a placeholder QB like RIvers might make sense to capitalise on the expenditure on marquee players. 

Similar deal: Ryan Fitzpatrick, 2 years and $11 mil at age 36, to either backup or start over whatever young QB the Phins picked up in the draft (which ended up being Josh Rosen). 

Other teams: Jets.

RB Melvin Gordon – Dolphins (three years, $24 million). 

The Phins have the cap space to outbid everyone else, with $89 mil in space if no roster changes are made (per OverTheCap). The market might not be overly strong for Gordon anyway, as he held out for four games last season and had 1.3 yards per rush less than his ‘18-’19 campaign, despite a similar number of carries. 

But this is a high upside play for the Dolphins, as Gordon will be just 27 once the season rolls around and was top 10 in both rushing yards and receiving yards for running backs per game for three straight years from 2016. The Chargers letting Gordon go would indicate they want to prioritise re-signing Austin Ekeler, who didn’t hold out for them, is younger (aged 24), and played well – he was second to Christian McCaffrey in receiving yards for Rbs with 60 yards per game, and threw in 4.2 yards per rush, which was top 30 among RBs as well. 

Similar deal: Mark Ingram, 3 years and $15 mil. 

Other teams: Steelers, Jaguars

RB Chris Thompson – Buffalo Bills (three years, $18 million). 

Wash are loaded at running back with Derrius Guice, Bryce Love and Adrian Peterson in the fold, so I think they would let Thompson walk if the Bills came in with an offer like this. The Bills have a young big play back in Devin Singletary who led the league in both 20+ yard rush rate and fumble rate for running backs last season, and Frank Gore and TJ Yeldon are free agents. They might like to add a proven pass catching back in Thompson to help mentor Singletary, and could even be used as a slot receiver, as the Bills could use Josh Allen in empty sets to spread the defense out and give him space to run. 

Similar deal: Latavius Murray, 4 years and $14 mil to help spell Alvin Kamara. 

Possible competing teams: most teams.

DE Dante Fowler – Giants (three years, $18 million). 

The Rams are cash strapped (just $14 million in cap space at time of writing) and might want to keep linebacker Cory Littleton over Fowler as the Rams pass rush is already solid with Aaron Donald, Samson Ebukam, Clay Matthews and potential young contributors in edge rusher Jachai Polite (if he can behave himself) and defensive tackle Greg Gaines. The Giants will hope to get Chase Young in the draft but the Redskins are ahead of them in draft order, and barring a big move, Young will be gone. Either way, Fowler is an upgrade over Lorenzo Carter and fellow free agent Markus Golden – the former of which can play off-ball in a 4-3 scheme if the need arises, the latter of whom can spot start anyway if they re-sign. 

Similar deal: Cameron Wake, 3 years and $23 million, after getting 6 sacks in 14 games the season prior, but with an expected decline at age 37. 

Other teams: Raiders, Phins, Jets.

CB AJ Bouye – Eagles (two years, $14 million). 

Every team could use Bouye, a Pro-Bowl caliber cornerback in his prime. But the Eagles might need him more than anyone, as they had to play eight different defensive backs due to injuries to starters Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas and Avante Maddox. 

The team finished middle of the pack statistically as far as receiving yards and TDs given up, but if the Eagles want to capitalise on their dominant but ageing offensive and defensive lines, they might want to use some of their $40 mil in cap space on a quality corner like Bouye.

This could be a high upside play for Bouye to join a team who won the championship in 2017, with not too much roster change, that managed to make the playoffs with a losing record, indicating a weak division. 

$7 mil a year for a former Pro-Bowler in his prime age-wise is a below market rate, and the Eagles would hope his talent can help them get back to the promised land. 

Similar deal: Darryl Roberts, re-signed with Jets for three years and $18 million, at age 28. 

Other teams: most teams.

CB Jimmy Smith – Giants (two years, $14 million).

Smith is 32 but can still produce – he played in 405 snaps on a Baltimore team that gave up the sixth fewest passing yards in the league last season. The Ravens already have corners rostered on in Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Tavon Young and Brandon Carr, so I think Smith might feel he can get more playing time somewhere else. He could head up the road and play for the Giants, who took Deandre Baker and Julian Love as defensive backs early in the draft last season, but could use extra depth and mentorship, particularly after they released veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins. 

Similar deal: Jason McCourty with the Pats, two years, $11 million at age 32. 

Other teams: Titans, Panthers

DT Derek Wolfe – Titans (three years, $12 million). 

I think Wolfe, having had a taste for a Super Bowl ring, will look to join a winning team, as Denver has an 18-30 record over the last three seasons. Tennessee already has a quality interior defensive rotation with Jurrell Casey, Jonathon Simmons and DaQuan Jones, but I think Wolfe will be ok with that, as he can make bank and take pass rushing snaps in the latter stages of his career. Denver might go into rebuilding stage and prefer bringing back younger defensive tackles Adam Gotsis and Shelby Harris. The Titans have not been shy to pay long-term deals to players past the age of 30, as they have gave 37 year old Cameron Wake a three year, $21 million deal last offseason. 

Similar deal: Mike Daniels, who got 1 year and $9 mil from the Lions. 

Other teams: Ravens, Falcons.

Adrian Phillips
Chargers safety Adrian Phillips in 2019. Photo courtesy of Joe C. Hong of Associated Press.

S Adrian Phillips – Dallas Cowboys (three years, $12 million). 

The Cowboys need safety help regardless of whether they bring Jeff Heath back. Phillips started for the Chargers when they had a top 10 defence in 2018 as far as yards allowed. The Chargers drafted Nasir Adderley in his position early on last season, and Kyzir White could take some of his snaps too, as will All-Pro Derwin James. Phillips is coming off a broken arm, but still notched 268 snaps last season, with 36 tackles and a TFL. Unfortunately for Phillips, the safety market is saturated with players like DJ Swearinger, Tre Boston, Karl Joseph and potentially Eric Berry, so he might not command the lucrative deal that Gipson got. 

Similar deal: Tashaun Gipson in 2019, 3 years and $22 mil after starting on AFC Divisional champion Jags. 

Other teams: most teams.

QB Taysom Hill – Miami Dolphins (two years, $10 million). 

Hill has made it known he thinks he can be a franchise QB, and while his lack of sample size in throwing the ball, as well as his age (30), will limit the market on him, the Dolphins are in the position to take a flier on him. They already have: Josh Rosen, the former 11th overall pick in 2018; 37 year old Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is owed another $8 million in the 2020-2021 season; and the Phins own three first round draft picks in the 2020 draft, which they could use on a QB. This means that Miami can lure Hill with the potential for a starting job with substantial money, while still having solid fall back options. I don’t think the Saints will outbid them as I think they’ll prioritise a younger and more proven QB in Teddy Bridgewater, and they’ll be committing a fair chunk of cap ro re-sign Drew Brees. I also think they might take a QB in the first few rounds of the draft to give Teddy some competition beyond Brees.

Similar deals: Teddy Bridgewater, 1 year, $7.5 mil by the Saints. Like Hill, Teddy was considered a bit of a wild card, having started in just 1 game since his knee injury in 2016. FYI: I think the Saints re-sign Teddy. 

Other teams: nil.

DE Ronald Blair – Miami Dolphins (two years, $10 million). 

At age just 27 and providing 200 snaps and 3 sacks for an elite defense, Blair is an up and coming edge defender who might look for a payday and snap count that the Niners cannot provide, as they have $13 mil in cap space and might look to re-sign a bigger (literally) contributor in Arik Armstead at Blair’s position. The Dolphins don’t have anyone (!!) rostered on as an edge defender, and while they have 14 picks in the draft to potentially take a quality young pass rusher like AJ Epenesa or Yetur Gross-Matos, they can still promise Blair more snaps than the Niners can, and with $88 million in cap space, they can give him more money. 

Similar deal: Romeo Okwara, 2 years and $6.8 mil from the Lions, after getting 7.5 sacks in 716 snaps as a 24 year old the season prior. 

Other teams: nil.

WR Paul Richardson – Eagles (two years, $10 million). 

Just Like Bouye, Richardson was cut from his former team and could find a home in Philly that sorely needs him. The Eagles had a good receiving corps on paper last season but were crippled by injuries. Richardson is a flier just like 2019 signee DeSean Jackson but is five years younger, and could be deemed more reliable than Eagles free agent Nelson Agholar, who had a drop rate per target of 5.8% last season compared to Richardson’s 4.8%. 

Similar deal: Randall Cobb at age 29, 1 year and $5 mil from the Cowboys. 

Other teams: nil.

RB Matt Breida – Chargers (two years, $10 million). 

With Tevin Coleman and Raheem Mostert rostered on and former feature back Jerick McKinnon probably returning from injury, Breida might be the man left out in San Fran if he wants to command a decent salary. Breida will provide a discount over Melvin Gordon for LAC and can replace his ability to run between the tackles somewhat, giving a nice change of pace to a good pass catching back in Austin Ekeler.

Similar deal: Tevin Coleman, 2 years and $10 mil from the Niners after being a rotational back for the Falcons. 

Other teams: Bucs. 

DT Marcell Dareus – Colts (two years, $10 million).

The Colts need help on the defensive interior, with just three defensive tackles rostered on currently, the most notable of which being Margus Hunt. The Colts are an attractive free agent destination, as they have an abundance of cap space and draft picks (including Washington’s second round pick from the Montez Sweat trade in the 2019 draft), and have a high ceiling due to their young roster, and stud receiver TY Hilton possibly being back to full health. 

Similar deal: Margus Hunt in 2019, 2 years, $9 mil at age 32. 

Other teams: Packers, Raiders.

S Karl Joseph – Cleveland Browns (two years, $10 million). 

The Raiders drafted strong safety Jonathan Abram in the first round last season, and plays in the same role Joseph is suited to. I think the Raiders might move on from Joseph, and the Browns will snap him up, as incumbent Morgan Burnett is 31 and missed eight games last season. The Browns have been disappointing but I think Joseph will enjoy playing for a talented defence, particularly with Myles Garrett returning from suspension.

Similar deal: HaHa Clinton-Dix,1 year, $3.5 mil deal with Chicago after being traded from Packers to Washington midseason. 

Possible competing teams: Phins, Bucs.

DT Dontari Poe (potential cut by Panthers, would save them $9.8 mil in 2020) – Cincinnati Bengals (via trade, could give up 6th round pick for him). 

The only other defensive tackles on this list who I believe are available in free agency are Derek Wolfe and Marcell Dareus, neither of whom would be likely to sign with the struggling Bengals. That might leave Cinci in a position where they want to add talent to their defensive tackle rotation, but can’t get a proven starter. That’s where a trade for Poe would come in. The Panthers would save $9.8 mil in trading or cutting Poe, and getting a 6th rounder as compensation would be a bonus. Andrew Billings is also an option for the Bengals to re-sign, but he hasn’t shown the level of production Poe has, and adding both could be a nice defensive interior rotation anyway. The Bengals have plenty of cap space even if they keep a marquee free agent of theirs in AJ Green, so I think they could stomach taking on Poe’s contract. 

Similar deal: Miami traded defensive lineman Robert Quinn, on a $10 million a year salary,  to Dallas for a 2020 sixth round pick. 

Possible competing teams: Colts.

WR Nelson Agholar – Los Angeles Rams (two years, eight million). 

I think Agholar might be sick of his ill-treatment from Philly fans over his production and look for a fresh start. The Rams continue to use three receiver stes most of the time and might look to gain insurance in case Brandin Cooks or Cooper Kupp go down, which has happened in the past. Agholar still has room to grow at age 26, and could command Moncrief type money having had a multiple 700 yards-plus seasons when fully healthy.

Similar deal: Donte Moncrief, 2 years, $9 mil at age 26 after a 48 catch, 668 yard season. 

Possible competing teams: Ravens.

OLB Vic Beasley – Ravens (two years, six million). 

The Falcons have come out and said they won’t re-sign Vic Beasley in free agency. I think the Ravens might snap him up, as he suits their scheme as a pass rushing outside linebacker. They need help at the position as they might lose Matt Judon in free agency, and Jaylon Ferguson (2.5 sacks on 500 snaps) seemingly didn’t contribute enough to replace Zadarius Smith last season. Beasley’s stock is low and he is considered by some to have underperformed after being the 8th overall pick and a declining sack count after his sophomore season, but he still managed 8 sacks last season, and is just 27 years old. 

Similar deal: Mario Edwards, 2 years, $5 mil with Saints at age 25.

Other teams: Miami

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Edge defender Anthony Chickillo in 2019. Photo courtesy of Charles LeClaire of USA TODAY sports.

OLB Anthony Chickillo – Colts (two years, six million). 

The Steelers have $6 million in cap space at the time of writing despite being a non-playoff team. They have defensive MVP candidate TJ Watt on one edge, and potentially Bud Dupree on the other, if they can re-sign or franchise tag him in free agency. Chickillo could be the odd man out, as the team would save $5 million by cutting him. If he becomes available, the Colts might like to add him – he has versatility in rushing the passer and covering, and they might lose Jabaal Sheard in free agency.

Similar deal: Markus Golden,1 year and $3.7 mil with the Giants. 

Other teams: Ravens

RB Corey Clement – New York Giants (two years, six million). 

The Eagles ran with Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott last season, as Clement was placed on IR in Week 2 with a shoulder injury, which should have healed by the time of writing. I think the Eagles would prefer to re-sign Howard, who provides a bell-cow style –  he had 2.4 yards after contact, 16th in the league last season, which contrasts nicely with Sander’s make-people-miss style. Clement is a championship contributor and might be an upgrade over Saquon Barkley’s backups in Wayne Gallman and Jon Hilliman last season. Clement provides a similar profile to Barkley anyway with his pass catching ability at his size (5’10”, 220 pounds, 25 targets for 192 yards in 2018, against 68 rushes and 259 yards the same season), which would make play calling easier if Barkley is out of the game. New York aint too far from Philly anyway! 

Similar deal: Mike Davis, 2 years and $6 mil to be a part of teh Seahawks running back rotation. 

Possible competing teams: Bucs, Jags.

DE Jabaal Sheard – Patriots (two years, six million). 

Sheard played two of his prime years in New England, and having earnt $41 million in his career, might look to return there to go ring chasing. The Pats have done ok after losing Trey Flowers in free agency in 2019, but could stand to add another edge rusher alongside John Simon and the versatile pieces of Kyle van Noy (who they will look to re-sign) and Dont’a Hightower. Sheard is 31 and might not garner many offers of a starting job, so a rotational role with New England could suffice. The Pats are closer to contending than the Colts with their already elite defence.  

Similar deal: Adrian Clayborn, 1 year, $2 mil at age 31, returning to his old team. 

Possible competing teams: most teams.

ILB Tahir Whitehead – Patriots (two years, six million)  

Whitehead is a cut candidate for Las Vegas, and he might suit what the Pats like in a linebacker – he’s over 240 pounds, which fits the size of other linebackers like Donta Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, who have versatility. Incumbent Elandon Roberts and off-ball linebacker has been used as a fullback, so adding WHitehead, who has had four consecutive 100+ tackle seasons, could be a wise move.

Similar deal: Zach Brown with the Eagles, one year, $3 million after being cut by Washington.

Other teams: Chiefs, Broncos.  

QB Case Keenum – Detroit Lions (one year, five million). 

I don’t think Keenum wants to play second fiddle to Dwayne Haskins, especially with Alex Smith potentially playing again in Washington. The Lions didn’t win a game after Matt Stafford got hurt, so they might look to give insurance in case that ahppens again, and Keenum has been a solid starter-caliber player since his remarkable playoff run with the Vikings in 2017. I don’t see any other team paying Keenum as much nor tempting him with a starting opportunity for less money. 

Similar deal: Blake Bortles in 2019, with 1 year and $1 mil from Rams, while getting paid $5.5 mil by Jags after being cut. 

Other teams: Packers, Bucs.

S DJ Swearinger – San Fran 49ers (two years, four million). 

The Niners have a solid safety rotation in Jimmy Ward and Jaquiski Tartt. Nonetheless the Niners could always use an elite talent in Swearinger. The knock against Swearinger is that he hates losing so much that he’s been booted off a couple of teams in the past for making critical comments about front office personnel. The Niners shouldn’t see a big drop-off from last year’s Super Bowl team, with key pieces like George Kittle and Jimmy G in their primes, so I think Swearinger will be attracted by that potential for playoff success. Ward can play slot corner and Tartt can play in the box as a sub linebacker on passing downs, so Swearinger might be able to see plenty of snaps anyway. 

Similar deal: Morgan Burnett, two years, $7.5 million. 

Other teams: Cowboys, Saints, Falcons, Bucs. 

DT Damon Harrison – Saints (two years, four million). 

The Saints have done well to add pieces here and there to address perceived weaknesses – Demario Davis and Kiko Alonso were good veteran pickups at linebacker, and Jared Cook was a quality tight end for them last season as well. Adding Harrison to help plug the middle while shiftier guys like David Onyemata (who they might re-sign as a quality young defensive tackle), Cam Jordan and possibly Marcus Davenport to get after the QB. Harrison ha sbeen an elite run stuffer in his prime, but age 31, a decline might be expected (which undoubtedly le=d to him being cut by the Lions, although his hefty salary would’ve contributed to that also). He still managed a 50 tackle, 3 TFL and 2 sack season last year, so I’d add him for cheap here to help in the defensive rotation. 

Similar deal: Steve McClendon, one year, $3 mil with Jets, got a one year, $3 million extension the season after.  

Other teams: most teams. 

ILB DeVondre Campbell – Saints (one year, three million). 

The Falcons have just $4 mil in cap space, and if they do manage to get more by restructuring contracts or releasing players, they might prioritise re-signing tight end Austin Hooper over Campbell. Campbell is 26 years old and provides versatility at the linebacker spot, where he can drop into coverage as well as rush the passer. The Saints have Demario Davis, Alex Anzalone and Kiki Alonso rostered on at linebacker, and they could re-sign Manti Te’o, but Campbell adds youth to that group. 

Similar deal: Deone Buchanon, 1 year and $2.5 mil with the Bucs, who is also know for his coverage abilities at linebacker. 

Other teams: Raiders, Jags. 

WR Taylor Gabriel – Cowboys (one year, three million). 

The Cowboys need some receiver help to take some attention off of Amari Cooper (who they’ll hope to re-sign), and Gabriel has the big play ability to stretch the defence and provide some gadget plays as well, which Mike McCarthy liked to do with prime Randall Cobb. He won’t cost too much due to his injury history (missed seven games last season, has had two reported concussions in NFL) but it’s a high upside play as he’s still just 29 and can be a big play target (he had 12.2 yards gained per reception, which was top 60 for receivers last season).

Similar deal: Randall Cobb, 1 year, $5 million with Cowboys as a 29 year old. 

Other teams: most teams.

T Demar Dotson – Kansas City (one year, three million). 

Dotson has been an above average right tackle for many years, but at age 34 he might struggle to command a large contract or starting role. Having played for the Bucs for 10 years and never making the playoffs, backing up Eric Fisher (who has missed eight games over the last season) and Mitchell Schwartz for the championship winning Chiefs might be an attractive option. 

Similar deal: Jared Veldheer, 1 year and $3.5 mil at age 32. 

Other options: most teams. 

ILB Sean Lee – CHiefs (one year, three million). 

Fellow free-agent and incumbent Chief Darron Lee didn’t play much after being acquired from the Jets last offseason (160 snaps), so they might look to upgrade at the linebacker spot, and provide extra depth behind the likes of Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens. They might be able to add Sean Lee for a cheap price, as Lee has played his entire career in Dallas, but has had a winning percentage of around .500 during that time. The Chiefs are more proven contenders so they could be a more attractive option. Lee could sign a similar deal with the Chiefs Super Bowl rival, the Niners. 

Similar deal: Zach Brown (age 29), 1 year and $1.4 mil to provide depth to the Eagles, after being cut by the Redskins midseason. 

Other teams: most teams.

RB LeSean McCoy – Tampa Bay Bucs (one year, three million). 

McCoy barely played for KC, who seemingly want to prioritise the younger backs in Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson. The Bucs need running back help, and getting a legendary back in McCoy might help early round pick Ronald Jones in his development. 

Similar deal: Frank Gore in 2019, 1 year, $2 mil deal with bills at age 36. 

Other teams: Cowboys, Dolphins, Jets, 

CB Prince Amukumara – Niners (one year, three million). 

The Niners will love some DB depth, as starter Akhello Withrspoon missed eight games last season. Amukumara has been a key cog on some talented defences, such as the 2018 Bears, but was released by the Bears, as he’s aged 30 and saved the cash-strapped Bears $9 million in cap space. If the Niners or Chiefs can add bick time veterans like Amukumara, Dotson and/or Sean Lee, that is proof in itself that winning attracts!

Similar deal: Morris Claiborne,1 year, $2 million with Chiefs. 

Other teams: most teams.

S Eric Berry – Seahawks (one year, two million). 

Remember this guy? He was an All-Pro but has been injury riddled. The Seahawks like Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald, but Berry could provide insurance for them and potentially be a game-breaker if he is at full strength, at age just 31, Berry could have a similar career trajectory as legendary safety Earl Thomas, who still produced at age 30 last season with a similar pedigree (and leg injury!). The Seahawks gave Ezekiel Ansah a one year prove-it deal last offseason, and Sheldon Richardson one the year before that, so the front office is willing to give talented players whose stock is low another opportunity. 

Similar deal: Tre Boston, 1 year and $3 mil with Panthers.

Other teams: Cowboys, Lions, Colts.

TE Jordan Reed – Pats (one year, one million). 

Reed is a good player when available – he had a monster season in 2015-’16 with Washington when he had 952 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in 14 games. He’s had multiple concussions and leg injuries, but he’s still just 29 and wants to keep playing after being cut by Washington, partly due to financial reasons. The Pats need a tight end to help replace Rob Gronkowski and bringing in a high-upside player like Reed for cheap could be a wise move. 

Similar deal: Tyler Eifert, one year, $2.2 million guaranteed, with $3.8 mil in incentives after missing a lot of snaps due to injury.

Other teams: Titans, Saints. 

QB Brett Hundley – Kansas City Chiefs (one year, one million). 

Hundley brings a similar skillset to Pat Mahomes as far as extending plays with his legs – in the nine games he started in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers in 2017-18, Hundley rushed for 270 yards, or 7.5 yards per carry. If Mahomes goes down like he did for a few games last season, a similarly styled player as far as extending plays with his legs might be a better option that a pure pocket passer like incumbent (free agent) Matt Moore, but it might be wise to have three QBs on the roster anyway – look at the Jets QB situation last season! Darnold and Siemien went down, so Luke Falk was thrown into the fire. The Chiefs are obviously bigger contenders than Hundley’s former team in the Cardinals, so I think Hundley might move. 

Similar deal: Brett Hundley, 1 year, $1.8 mil with Cards as a projected backup behind Josh Rosen or a draftee. 

Possible competing teams: Cowboys.

WR Antonio Brown – Steelers (one year, $800k).  

The latest on AB is that the Steelers GM has publicly said he is not currently open to bringing Brown back on the team after a remarkable fall from grace, including recent sexual assault allegations. As the season winds on, I think some teams might be open to at least giving him a prove-it deal, and the Steelers are most familiar with him. He’s still just 31 and has been a relatively recent All-Pro. Steelers GM Kevin Colbert said “they have no business interest (with AB) at this time.” That doesn’t preclude them from bringing back their franchise stalwart from 2010 to 2018.

Similar deal: Josh Gordon, claimed off waiver in 2019 for $800k after failing multiple drug tests and barely playing for New England. 

Other teams: Packers, Niners, Panthers.

NFL players that need a position change

Taven Bryan and LJ Collier – center. Bryan was the first pick for the Jags in the 2018 draft, but he has struggled to make an impact at defensive tackle. He has been playing behind guys like Calais Campbell, Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones, but I think his production was as expected when I scouted him prior to the draft – 1 sack, 13 solo tackles, 4 TFLs and 6 QB hits is not enough production for a first round pick, in my opinion. He’s undeniably athletic for his size, but his hand usage and balance is not strong. As a result, I believe he could be better as an offensive linemen, preferably at center, where he can use his quickness to block smaller linebackers at the second level on run plays and simply get in front of defensive tackles, where he doesn’t have to be as efficient with hand usage as he does as a defensive tackle to get to the quarterback. Besides, he’d have help from his guards to either side. Collier is also an underperforming defensive linemen (just 2 tackles on almost 100 snaps) who could be better used on the offensive line – he’d have to get bigger than his currently listed 291 pounds, but his elite wingspan and solid bench press and broad jump indicate he could be a solid blocker “in a phone booth”, or in the trenches.

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Taven Bryan gets superior pad level. He has the power to drive defenders off the ball. Pic courtesy of Sam Greenwood of Getty Images, via Zimbio.

Lamar Jackson – cornerback. Yes, Lamar is having “an MVP caliber season”. But I still don’t buy it. He cannot hit tight windows beyond ten yards due to his throwing action. I am baffled by why teams don’t try what the Chargers did in the playoffs last year against the Ravens – load the box and have smaller personnel than normal (ie corners and safeties rather than linebackers and defensive linemen) to mitigate the threat of the run. Sub out any defensive linemen that can’t catch Jackson (bar maybe one traditional defensive tackle to stop Ingram etc) and you’ll force Jackson to scramble against equally athletic players or throw the ball deep, where he has struggled. Jackson is a ridiculous athlete however, so I think he could be a shut down corner – he’s big and physical enough to body up against receivers (6’2″ and 215 with 33″ wingspan compares to Mark Barron), and his change of direction is elite – we don’t have his combine scores, but he’s probably a sub 4.4 40 guy with a generational time on the 3 cone.

Sam Darnold – running back. He is a thicc boy (6’3″, 225 pounds) so he can take hits, and he shows nice balance when using his legs, which his 70th percentile 3 cone time for all NFL players tested indicates. He is struggling at quarterback – he has more turnovers than touchdowns in his first two years. I said before the 2018 draft that he lacked pocket presence, good decision making, arm talent outside the numbers, and ball security (he holds the ball with one hand in the pocket, Jon Gruden says no!!), so it’s time for a change.

Devin White and Jarrad Davis – fullback. White has experience on the offensive side of the ball as a former running back at LSU, but he could be an ever greater weapon as a blocker and downfield threat at fullback. He has elite speed and can deliver big hits, and he wouldn’t have to do much processing of defences at that spot, which he struggles with at linebacker and presumably at running back. He’d be a good short yardage option in the run game too. All of this applies to Davis as well.

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Devin White handling the ball at LSU. Pic courtesy of USA Today.

Josh Allen and Paxton Lynch – tight end. We all know Allen’s athletic prowess, so why not put him in a position where he can best use it? He has the requisite size to play the position and could be a great jump ball threat and YAC guy (who doesn’t want to see him hurdle multiple defenders?), and his high level experience as a QB would make him an intelligent route runner to sit in zones etc. The same applies to Lynch, who has above average arm length, hand size and explosiveness (36″ vert) for his height.

Tremaine Edmunds – defensive end. Edmunds already plays on the defensive side of the ball, but he is too slow to recognise running lanes and has poor technique in tackling, and bites on play action far too much. He is best used as an edge defender where the mental processing isn’t as complicated – rush the passer or stop the run, where he can use his ridiculous wingspan to fend off blockers.

edmunds tacklee
Tremaine Edmunds makes a tackle while playing for Virginia Tech. His athleticism and wingspan to get around blockers makes him best used on the edge of the defensive line. Pic courtesy of Brett Carlsen of Getty Images, via Washington Post.

Frank Ragnow – defensive tackle. Ragnow is extremely strong but lacks quickness – basically the antithesis of Taven Bryan. Using him at defensive tackle will buckle the offensive line.

Sony Michel – fullback. I like Michel’s physicality but he displays poor balance – how many times have we seen him burst through a hole formed by the mighty fine Pats offensive line only to see him tripped up? He is also a fumble risk. Putting him at fullback utilises his lust for contact.

Devin Bush – safety. I said it before the draft and I’ll say it again – Bush is too small to shed blockers on runs between the tackles. He can make plays in space and cover somewhat, so he’s best as a Landon Collins-esque safety who can play as a dime linebacker on occasion but is mostly used as a run supporter while being able to see the ball thrown in the air from the safety position, where he can get there considering his speed.

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Devin Bush lets his presence known as he gets the pick. Pic courtesy of  the Steelers.

Marcus Mariota – wide receiver. We all know he has jets. His hands might be a problem but you can use him as a YAC guy and as a shifty slot receiver who can run away from defences.

Jameis Winston – defensive end. He has the body type to be able to stand blockers up and make tackles, but he’s also shown solid footwork in the pocket which could translate to getting around pass protectors to make hits on the QB.

Jerry Tillery – offensive guard. He has great power but like Bryan, I thought he had poor balance at defensive tackle. At guard he can bully players and use his strength to push linemen away from the QB.

Corey Coleman – safety. According to mockdraftable he has comparable measurables to defensive backs Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward. With 4.3 speed and at almost 200 pounds (as measured at the 2016 combine) Coleman can use his athleticism and physicality to shut down parts of the field and hit ball carriers. He’d have solid ball skills having been a receiver as well.

cleveland-browns-corey-coleman-is-unable-to-make-a-catch-while-defended-by-pittsburgh-steelers-artie-burns-during-the-second-half-at-first-energy-stadium-in-cleveland-ohio-september-10-2017-photo-by-aaron-josefczykupi-TXKWN7
Corey Coleman attempts an outstretched grab. I imagine him making a ton of plays as a safety, Pic courtesy of Alamy.

Darron Lee – running back. At 6’1″ and 230 pounds with 4.47 speed at the combine, Lee could be a great power back. His lackluster bench press and 3 cone indicate what the tape says – Lee has trouble shedding blockers and changing direction in pass coverage at linebacker.

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Fixing the Cincinnati Bengals

It’s almost the end of the 2019-2020 NFL season and the Bengals are slated to be one of the worst teams in football. As a result I’d like to show you what I’d do if I was GM of the club.

Once the season ends and free agency opens, I’d prioritise offering free agents either training camp deals or longer term contracts, depending on their value. For instance, I would extend AJ Green for a couple more years, as he is still a Pro Bowl level player and is a franchise stalwart, so he would bring a strong presence to the locker room and provide a go-to option for the quarterbacks we choose by the end of training camp. I think seven million dollars a year, fully guaranteed, would be enough to bring him back.

I would also re-sign Clayton Fejedelem for a couple more years, as he’s been a bright spot in a below average secondary, as well as Darqueze Dennard at corner for another year. I’d also give Tyler Eifert at tight end another year to try to stay healthy, giving him one year and $3 million.

As far as I can tell (having watched Bengals games and using PFF’s evaluations) I believe the Bengals have the following players to keep in their core, as well as they guys I’d re-signed: Jessie Bates at safety, William Jackson at corner, Carl Lawson on the edge, Geno Atkins on the interior, Cordy Glenn as an offensive tackle, Billy Price at center, Tyler Boyd and Alex Erickson at receiver, CJ Uzomah at tight end, Andy Dalton and Ryan Finley at quarterback, and Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard at running back. Every other player on the roster by my estimation is not a huge difference maker. This gives an idea of who to invest in in free agency.

The only player who is still contracted beyond this season that I didn’t mention that has a burdensome contract is Dre Kirkpatrick. He is owed another $11 million in 2020-2021 but I believe he is not worth that. The cap hit for trading him is only $2 million, so I believe it’s worth trading him to free up more money in free agency and a roster spot.

Who might want him? The Philadelphia Eagles spring to mind as a team with a fairly weak secondary. Having scouted him in the 2018 draft, I believe Joe Ostman can be a potential Pro-Bowler as an edge defender or linebacker, so I’d target him in a trade. The Eagles might be so keen to get cornerback help that they’d even give up a 2020 draft pick to get Kirkpatrick, and Ostman might be expendable on the edge as they already have Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Josh Sweat there. So I’d trade Kirkpatrick to the Eagles for Ostman and a 2020 fifth round pick.

Every other Bengals player who I believe isn’t worth building around can be decided upon later. Besides, they might put tremendous work in during the offseason and turn up to training camp much improved. Potential trades and cuts can be made after training camp anyway. Making training camp as competitive as possible will only improve the team.

I’d now offer the following players training camp deals, as they are mostly unproven in the league, but based on their college tape, I believe they can be big-time NFL contributors, and can be signed to longer term deals if they make the team. They are: Taylor Cornelius, Luke Falk, Tanner Mangum and Jordan Ta’amu at quarterback; LJ Scott, Alex Collins and CJ Anderson at running back; Donald Parham and Keenen Brown at tight end; Winston Dimel at fullback; Johnnie Dixon and Simmie Cobbs at receiver; Cameron Fleming and Mitch Hyatt at offensive tackle; Garrett Brumfield, Terrone Prescod and Alex Bars at guard; Justin Falcinelli and Nick Linder at center; Kamari Cotton-Moya and Derrick Kindred at safety; Tarvarus McFadden, Derrick Baitty and EJ Gaines at cornerback; Malik Jefferson, Khalil Hodge, Jeff Allison and Deshaun Davis at linebacker; CeCe Jefferson, Wyatt Ray, Kony Ealy and Nick Perry at edge defender; and Trenton Thompson, Malik McDowell and Terry Beckner Jr at defensive tackle. Unfortunately I haven’t analysed enough kickers, punters or long snappers to determine who to sign to the team, but maybe the special teams coach can handle that :P.

That list is an exhaustive one but you can see my analysis of much of these players in my 2018 and 2019 draft boards.

As for players who are too highly valued league-wide to sign to just training camp deals, I’d sign: LeSean McCoy to one year and $3 mil per year; Tre Madden, the fullback, at two years and $2 mil per year; Antonio Brown at two years and $3 mil per year; Jack Conklin at offensive tackle for 2 years and $5 mil per year; Zach Banner for one year and $3 mil per year; Eric Berry at safety for one year and $3 mil for the year; and Mike Daniels (or Marcell Dareus, or Gerald McCoy) for one year and $3 mil for the year. I’m confident all of those guys would make the team as strong veterans, so investing that amount of money is worth it.

Now for the draft. My two favourite players in the draft, as I talk about here, are Tee Higgins and Ross Blacklock. To secure Higgins, I would want to trade the likely first overall pick we’d get no further back than 6th – so let’s assume we trade back to 6th and get a mid first, mid second and mid fourth back for that pick. Take Higgins 6th, and take Blacklock in the middle of the first.

With the remaining picks, including the Eagles pick from the Ostman trade, I’d take: Lorenzo Burns at corner; David Dowell at safety; Isaiah Wilson at offensive tackle (if he declares); linebacker Shaq Quarterman; center Jake Hanson; Jaquan Bailey at defensive end; and Terrell Burgess at safety. Obviously those players might not declare for the draft or be unavailable when I’m selecting, or I might scout better players between now and the draft, but at this stage I think those guys are the best players at positions of need that can be obtained based on their draft stock. I also don’t expect the offensive tackle Colton McKivitz to be drafted based on big boards around the internet, so I’d sign him and a bunch of others to training camp deals as undrafted free agents.

Anything can happen in training camp – players can underperform relative to expectation, injuries can occur, or players can showcase so much improvement and ability that they beat out more highly touted players. But as the training camp roster currently stands, and considering we can only take 53 players into the season, I’d expect the following players at each position to make the team:

QB: Cornelius, Falk, Finley

HB: Scott, McCoy, Mixon, Bernard, Rodney Anderson

TE: Donald Parham, CJ Uzomah, Tre Madden, Keenen Brown

WR: Antonio Brown, Higgins, Green, Boyd, Tate

T: Wilson, Glenn, Conklin

G: Prescod, Brumfield, McKivitz

C: Price, Hanson, Linder

FS: Berry, Burgess, Fejedelem

SS: Dowell, Bates

CB: McFadden, Burns, Jackson, Baitty, Dennard

ILB: Jefferson, Hodge, Ostman, Quarterman, Hubbard

Edge: Ealy, Lawson, Dunlap, Bailey

DT: Blacklock, Atkins, Trent Thompson, Mike Daniels

K: Bullock, a second kicker/punter in case of injury.

P: someone

LS: someone

Of the players that miss out, I believe Andy Dalton, Drew Sample, Jonah Williams, Michael Jordan and John Ross have trade value. Since the Bucs might need a QB, I’d trade Dalton and Sample to the Bucs for OJ Howard and a 2021 3rd round pick, and trade Jordan, Williams and Ross to the Seahawks for a 2021 third round pick, as they’re in need of offensive linemen. Everyone else, including John Miller and Bobby Hart’s hefty contracts, as well as Keenen Brown to make room for Howard, would be cut. Sorry guys!

The guys that made the team without contracts for the season could then be extended for up to four years depending on their value. Since the team started with $63 million in cap space during free agency and trade Kirkpatrick and Dalton’s $30 mil or so in contracts, we would still be well under the cap after doing so.

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