The Eagles were the first ever 1-seed to be underdogs in the divisional round. After the betting line with the Patriots opened, they should now be the first team to be the underdogs in all 3 of their postseason games.
https://preview.redd.it/b1v30yvtkn651.png?width=900&format=png&auto=webp&s=04f75a5416546b59550b162abe5940c65f12ce5d I started this exercise of choosing second- and third-year players in the NFL I expect to take the next step in their development, based on being in a better situation due schematic changes, the respective team not re-signing certain veterans and allowing their young guys to play a bigger role or just my evaluation of them coming out of college. Once again, my criteria was – they were not allowed to have a Pro Bowl so far, reached a major statistical milestone (1000 yard season, double-digit sacks, etc.) or are just looked at generally as one of the better players at their position already. I didn’t include guys that made my list already last year (Kemoko Turay, Justin Reid, etc.) or haven’t seen the field at all yet (Jonah Williams, Hakeem Butler, etc.). Across my two articles on these breakout players, you will only find one top ten pick, since I believe those are obvious choices anyway, if those guys just haven’t been healthy or whatever it may be. In this version, we are looking at eight more defensive players ready to break out in 2020 after talking about offense last week already: https://preview.redd.it/uiunf81mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=6446a7cc2e40ba090abe9cc9e047103831cef1e1
When I did these write-ups, I actually realized later on that Odenigbo was originally drafted in 2017 in the seventh round by the Vikings, but he only made the practice squad that year and was later claimed and waived by the Cardinals and Browns respectively. So since he finally made an active roster in 2018 and that’s when he finally saw the field, I thought he still qualifies. With all those guys Minnesota has had on the D-line in recent years, it was a challenge for Odenigbo to get their coaches to believe in him, having only played in one game for Arizona before last season. However, he was on the field more and more towards the end of this past year and with little investment in the draft into the front, the Vikings are betting on him to continue to develop, similar to what happened with Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter. Odenigbo recorded seven sacks and tackles for loss respectively, while adding another 18 pressures to the mix. He also forced a fumble and returned another one for a long touchdown against the Chargers, while he was actually called down on another scoop-and-score, where he originally got the trifecta (strip sack, fumble recovery and return TD). That is much more impressive putting it into context, as he played just a third of the defensive snaps. Now with Everson Griffen off the roster (unless he somehow decides to re-sign with the Vikes, Odenigbo is almost a shoe-in for that second defensive end spot in the starting lineup. Number 95 was mostly used in passing situations, especially early on, as three quarters of the snaps he played came on pass-rushing downs, and Mike Zimmer used his inside-out flexibility on different sub-packages. Odenigbo was asked to line up anywhere from pretty much 2i in sort of a track stance pointed inside to a wide nine alignment. His favorite (and best) move at this point is the dip and rip, but he also flashes a nice up-and-under combined with a high swim move. However, he also has a lot of power behind those pads, as he set up one of his teammates as the initial slanter versus Detroit and just flattened a guy I talked about in my offensive edition of this breakdown last week already in Frank Ragnow. In addition to that, I think the Vikings DE already shows good timing and execution on twists, freeing himself up by using teammates appropriately. As he seems to be transitioning to a starting role, the biggest question now is – How much improvement can he show as a run-defender? He displays very good pursuit coming unblocked from the backside, but at the point of attack he has some issues holding his ground at times, due to not always playing half the man and getting drawn in and allowing cutback lanes. In the pass game, Odenigbo needs to work on being more successful on secondary maneuvers and not give away opportunities if that initial rush stalls. https://preview.redd.it/pq74mx0mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=8182390c28e3747fbb0ed0e9ea04426d25cfaf2f
Leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, Bradley Chubb was considered the clear-cut number one edge rusher coming out of N.C. State and after him most people said there was a huge drop-off. The Saints however shocked everybody by trading up to the 14th overall pick – not for a quarterback, but rather an outside linebacker from UTSA. While there isn’t a lot of buzz around Davenport entering year three of his pro career, I can promise that New Orleans did not spend their 2018 and ’19 first-round picks on a player they didn’t believe in. I was very surprised at the time of selection, because I thought they were looking for a more immediate-impact type of player with Drew Brees arriving in his 40s and the team coming off a 13-3 record, but there was never any question about the talent this kid presented. Davenport has missed three games in each of his first two years in the league and “only” put up 10.5 sacks, but he went from 28 QB pressures as a rookie to 50 last season. He might have been even better against the run, helping the Saints finish as the fourth-best rush defense at 91.3 yards allowed per game. So this is kind of a case for the improvement he has already made and I think the coaches in New Orleans already looked at 2019 as his breakout season, but among more casual fans, I believe Davenport will move his name into more of the conversation as one of the better young edge rushers this year. I personally had the young phenom as my 13th overall prospect coming out of San Antonio. When you put on his tape in college, that combination of explosiveness, power and closing burst really stood out. He already flashed the ability to string his hand together to dominate as a pass-rusher, but he needed to do it more consistently, and he showed the shock in his hands to own the point of attack, if he played with better extension. Those to me were certainly coachable areas and with the situation he was in, I thought he could produce in year two or three. Well, we have arrived at his third season and I believe he is ready to roll. I don’t think there’s much to critique as a run-defender about Davenport. He may still be a tick late recognizing some schemes, but when he extends those arms and drops the anchor, you won’t see much movement and he just owns tight-ends. In the pass game, I do believe he needs to broaden his repertoire a little and rush under a little more control, but he has clearly shown signs of becoming a difference-maker in that area as well. He has burst to win around the edge if he times his swipes up correctly, but also the immense power to bull-rush big offensive tackles back right into the quarterback’s lap. If he just learns to convert speed to power a little better and works on finishing that under-and-under he flashes with a follow-through chop, he could be scary. With third-round pick Zack Baun probably rushing outside on sub-packages, it will enable the Saints to move this guy and Cam Jordan more inside and create mismatches that way. https://preview.redd.it/lfbciv0mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=da4072897c2bdf3e5d48946f7a1ddc2c24292f42
Simmons was the 19th overall pick for Tennessee last year. In his debut game he had three pressures on eleven pass-rushing snaps. The rest of the season wasn’t as promising, but considering I didn’t expect him to suit up at all in 2019 after tearing his ACL in pre-draft workouts, the fact he did collect valuable on-field experience, playing less than 40 percent of the defensive snaps just once from that point on, only helps him more. Purely based off his tape, I had Simmons as my IDL3, behind only Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver (both top five prospects for me) and ahead of the two Clemson standouts (Christian Wilkins and Dexter Williams). I even said without the injury he would have been at least around the top ten when I put out my big board a few days ahead of last year’s draft. In limited playing time as a rookie, he recorded 32 tackles, four of them for loss and two sacks. Simmons was an immovable object at Mississippi State and looked to be the same among grown men. I went back and watched the Raiders game in week 14, who have some maulers in the run game and you saw guys almost bounce off the rookie as if he was a brick wall. More importantly, they doubled him on pretty much every single snap he was on the field, probably because of what they had already seen on tape. This guy has some shock in his hands, the ability to look through the blocker on zone-runs and then get back to the gap behind him as the running back decides to cut up into it. He didn’t look as mobile working his way down the line laterally as I thought he did in college and he will have to do a better job working across the face of some blockers, rather than allowing them to wall him off at times. You see him just be a split-second late of actually stopping the ball-carrier rather than allowing him to stumble forward or barely miss altogether. If he gets back to his collegiate form, he can be an elite run-stopper. Having him out there will allow the Titans to run primarily sub-packages with Harold Landry and now Vic Beasley on the edges. The area he still needs to prove himself at is getting after the quarterback. Simmons is very straight-forward as a pass-rusher and didn’t show a lot of finesse to win in that area, getting stuck with stalemates for the most part if he couldn’t drive his guy backwards initially. He flashed a few quick wins on reps with the arm-over, but he has to get off the ball with more of a plan. I believe his ability to shoot upfield, the unbelievable power and just that disruptive style of play will show up big time in his first year at full strength. https://preview.redd.it/7paequ0mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=2c2f4c31d5e75928dfdc684c30a956b575544062
This young man was my fourth overall prospect in last year’s draft behind only Quinnen Williams, Nick Bosa and Josh Allen (the edge rusher). Oliver was an uber-talented, explosive athlete coming out Houston, who I think is still learning the game to some degree. He came in as a freshman with the Cougars and immediately dominated, recording 22 tackles for loss and being named First Team All-American – an honor he would repeat his two other years there as well. While it was obviously a transition from the AAC, where he was just so superior to everybody else physically, compared to lining up against professionals every single week, I thought he started flashing more and more as his rookie season progressed. And while Jordan Phillips just put up double-digit sacks for Buffalo and got a big deal from the Cardinals in the process, I thought Oliver was already the Bills’ best interior pass rusher in December. Overall he recorded five sacks and TFLs each to go with 31 pressures on 374 pass-rushing snaps. That ratio may not be up there with some of the league’s best, but he definitely showed sparks on winning in that area and he finished up playing 53.7 percent of the snaps on defense overall, as part of a deep rotation. Coming out of Houston a year ago, it was clear Oliver needed some time to adjust to the NFL, after he was playing at the nose mostly in college and not having to stay true to his run fits all the time. While there are still moments where his pad-level gets too high and I feel like he is a tick late recognizing the run scheme, at 287 pounds his anchor is excellent and he has the ability to chase down plays laterally. In the pass game his natural power and quickness present problems for the opposition. What really stands out as well is he flexibility he possesses, as can be knocked from the side and somehow regain his balance to keep going and even if he ends up outside his pass-rush lane, he just continues to work. Something Oliver does really well already, which will give him a couple of “easy” sacks in 2020 is set up his loops to the outside on a twist, staying tight and aiming at the outside shoulder of the guard before pivoting outside suddenly. As a rookie, he had his issues going up against the better-schooled guards in the league, especially trying to beat the Steelers’ Ramon Foster and David DeCastro, who landed their hands inside his chest early and Oliver couldn’t gain an advantage. If he can work on being a little more pro-active and rushes the passer with more of a plan overall, I think he could be a Pro Bowler in year two. https://preview.redd.it/z1xft71mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=58865bb25882e11cf324d4541eb9fd75ea088307
A four-year starter at Wisconsin, Edwards recorded 366 tackles over the course of his career and made several impact plays for the Badgers. Unfortunately he could not participate in any on-field drills at the 2019 NFL combine due to a banged up ankle and if you can trust his pro day results, his athleticism is still below-average. Labelled as a classic college linebacker with limitations to translate his game to the next level, Edwards ultimately went undrafted and signed with the Eagles. As a rookie, he mostly made an impact on special teams, with nine combined tackles on punt and kickoff coverage. He only played 11 percent of the defensive snaps, but when he was on the field, he earned close to an elite grade by Pro Football Focus and got involved on another 21 tackles. When you divide those 122 snaps by the amount of tackles he recorded, that actually gives him the highest tackle rate of any player at the position with at least 100 snaps played. In his first year under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, he was mainly utilized on early downs to stop the run, as he was on the field for 89 run downs compared to only 33 pass plays. That is somewhat understandable, since you just have to love his oldschool mind-set in the frame of a well-built, strong guy. Edwards aggressively shoots downhill on inside runs and drops the shoulder on lead-blockers trying to move him out of there, actually stonewalling some of those guys and creating traffic jams that way. At the same time, he shows enough patience with combo-blocks in front of him to not just give away free cutback lanes by overrunning plays, keeping bouncy feet as he deciphers what he sees in the backfield. He offers a sturdy base to absorb the contact by offensive linemen climbing up to him and keeps them at extension, while also showing the mobility to mirror pullers and beat them to the spot. Then he really brings some thump at initial contact on tackles to stop the forward momentum and missed only one attempt on the year (on special teams). It is kind of funny how Edwards was labelled a pure run-stopper because of some athletic limitations, when he actually intercepted ten passes and broke up another 15, while adding eight sacks throughout his career at Wisconsin. He may never be a candidate to shadow more dynamic backs or tight-ends one-on-one, but his feel in zone and ability to get involved as a blitzer should keep him on the field for third downs more. Edwards is also quick to recognize play-action and turn his head for potential crossers behind him before swiveling back towards the quarterback. I believe Edwards will be an excellent replacement for Zach Brown at MIKE, who left in free agency. There are some questions about linebacker trio with Duke Riley and Nathan Gerry, Jatavis Brown or Davion Taylor, but Edwards should be a fixture in the middle on first and second down at least. https://preview.redd.it/lgoeh60mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=38e707ed0ad52312a4c01fc5f2f16153b2c83245
Murphy was my number one corner heading into the 2019 draft ahead of guys like Greedy Williams and DeAndre Baker and he was the first pick in round two. While he started all 16 games for Arizona and missed less than 30 snaps the entire season, I think barely anybody really knows about or watched this guy play for the Cardinals as rookie. There were definitely some learning experiences early on and if you look at the total yards and touchdowns allowed, it’s not a beautiful sight and 78 total tackles for any corner aren’t a great sign either. However, a lot of that had to do with the 105 targets coming his way (fourth-most by any player in the league) due to lining up on the opposite side of Patrick Peterson and the fact he was part of the 31st-ranked pass defense. I thought he improved every single week and he actually put up better marks in coverage than his running mate Peterson, despite being targeted at a much higher rate – 7.7 compared to 9.3 yards allowed per target. Murphy also intercepted one pass and broke up another ten. What I loved about Murphy coming out of Washington last year was his innate feel in zone coverage with an outstanding ability to click-and-close and be a play-maker. He can flip his hips with ease and has that gliding speed to stay on top of routes, rarely allowing opponents to detach from him late. In the run game, Murphy does not shy away from getting involved as a tackler, arriving low and up-ending bigger ball-carriers routinely. You see him fill the D-gap or squeeze plays from the outside on several occasions. He also won’t allow bigger receivers to bully him as blockers, keeping them away from his frame and leveraging the ball accordingly. The rookie mostly played in the slot versus 11 personnel once Patrick Peterson returned in week seven last season and he was utilized as a blitzer off the edge a few times, where he chased running backs down from behind or got into the face of the opposing quarterback. He was heavily exhausted when he was moved in the slot and had to follow receivers back-and-forth across the formation on motions at times. The one thing Murphy really struggled with as a rookie was playing with his back towards the quarterback on slot fades and such as, where receivers could use subtle push-offs and win with their frame, as he almost purely face-guarded them and didn’t even try to snap his head around. The Cardinals have added a super-rangy player is Isaiah Simmons and beef up front to stop the run on early downs, in order to set up third-and-long situations. Allowing the now second-year player to focus more on his coverage and now with veteran Robert Alford being brought in as another outside corner, I see Murphy taking the next step in his developing. By the way, re-watching those Cardinals tapes – Budda Baker is just a freaking baller. https://preview.redd.it/znok171mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=18e3a805075eebfb64e6cea9726c1ceaaa2bd921
At the start of last year’s draft process, Ya-Sin wasn’t a huge name since he had only played one year at the FBS level for Temple. However, after he and now-49ers receiver Deebo Samuel went back and forth at the Senior Bowl, I started falling love with this guy and so did the scouting community. As a rookie with the Colts, wearing number 34 as the spot he was selected at, he started 13 of 15 games and played at least 93 percent of the snaps in ten of them. Ya-Sin was targeted on 15.2 percent of pass plays and he had some struggles, but he also improved a lot from the first to the second half of his debut campaign. There was one really rough showing versus one of the NFL’s young star receivers in Courtland Sutton, when he was penalized five times and was responsible for 75 receiving yards. However, the rest of the season he was called for defensive holding three times and for pass interference just once (40 total yards). That’s not too bad for a rookie who likes to get into the face of receivers and whose play-style out of college could be described as “grabby”. Over the final eight weeks, Ya-Sin held opposing QBs to a passer rating of just 75.8 and didn’t allow any touchdowns (after being responsible for two up to that point), while coming up with his first career pick. Ya-Sin can be described is a very sticky, quick-footed corner. As a rookie, he primarily played outside and faced some tough matchups, while even being asked to travel with some of the game’s elite, such as Michael Thomas. While I’m not saying that always went great, his competitiveness is off the charts and I think he has all the tools to develop into an excellent cover-corner. Ya-Sin was rarely just caught out of position. It was more about struggling to find the ball down the field and panicking a little when he did overcommit initially. The more experience he had, the more comfortable he felt turning his head and making a play on the ball. I still love his competitiveness, rapid feet at the line, ability to read the hips of the receiver and use his length to get his hands on the ball. He had a few textbook reps, staying in phase with the receiver from press alignmenz on hitch or curl routes and knocking the pass down coming out of the break. I thought playing in year one, he was also a pretty good edge-setter in the run game and he didn’t just wait for the ball-carrier to cut back inside to stay clean. You saw him fight off blocks and try to cut down the guy with the ball. Now with Pierre Desir gone in free agency, I expect Ya-Sin to step into the spotlight as Indy’s true CB1. The Colts also brought in veteran Xavier Rhoades, who I thought looked broken down last season, but will help this kid grow mentally as well. https://preview.redd.it/7m1nru0mug651.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=a0dea575bc086e12e446f31656bfcbab75acacb0
My top-rated safety from a year ago, I thought Adderley was a perfect match with Derwin James on the Chargers, because he has that range for a true deep middle safety to allow Derwin to roam and play more around the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately he had hamstring issues before even being drafted, which forced him to miss mandatory minicamp and most of training camp. He only appeared in one preseason game and then played 10 defensive snaps across four regular season games, making two pretty meaningless tackles, before the Chargers placed him on injured reserve. So with that little experience, Adderley barely meets my criteria, but he was active for four games and I want to grab the opportunity to talk about one of my favorites in last year’s draft. Coming out of Delaware, he filled the alley in the run game with the mind-set of a linebacker, while also showing the ability to cover ground to bail out his team-mates on the back-end. When the ball is completed in front of him, he punishes receivers and when it gets into his hand, he shows off his background as a kick returner, where we had one of the sickest plays I have ever seen, running an opponent over, staring him down and proceeding to go the end-zone. Outside of some questions about the level of competition in the FCS and how much different he moved different than anybody else, I loved everything about his game. The one time we did actually see him play with pros – week four of the preseason – Adderley made one interception and deflected another three passes, while one of them should have been another pick, with a receiver knocking the ball out of his hands late, and he got both hands on another ball down the seams to deny a touchdown. You could see him show up outside the numbers against go-routes and cut in front of deep in-breaking routes, which led to the one INT he actually made. In addition to that, you saw him try to go underneath offensive linemen and be willing to take on some contact on screen plays, instead of staying back and avoiding collisions, getting involved late on scrums or jumping on the back of a receiver trying to catch the ball at the sideline. Now with Chris Harris added to the mix, Casey Hayward on the opposite side and Desmond King in the slot, with the guys they have up front to get after the passer, plus Derwin possibly being sent as a blitzer with his stupid closing burst, Adderley has the ability to gamble and make plays. Plus he gives them somebody who plays with an attitude, which I really appreciated going back to my evaluations coming out of college. Before he can become an impact player, he first needs to beat out Rayshawn Jenkins, but I’d be shocked if he wasn’t on the field for the majority of snaps.
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NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020
We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them. Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now. https://preview.redd.it/rs90lt6ckf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3ddfc8945862472b52b5ef8c69076acde904c44c
1. Arizona Cardinals
Why they can win the division: Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other. Why they could finish last again: Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league. Bottom line: I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020. https://preview.redd.it/anrr9erfkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=5655b4452baff2691a0e060e8d70918d58801a4c
2. Detroit Lions
Why they can win the division: Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough. Why they could finish last again: Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive. Bottom line: I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark. https://preview.redd.it/7ivo914ikf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=d029ddd274b78e78f5bc932d00086b8c697a466e
3. Miami Dolphins
Why they can win the division: When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game. Why they could finish last again: As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams. Bottom line: As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here. https://preview.redd.it/nme3explkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3998c6026125c1b9b48438e3fc9afaf9601b116e
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Why they can win the division: First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room. Why they could finish last again: I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy. Bottom line: In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division. https://preview.redd.it/rywropjokf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=ed77a7303af810b862abb2100c4f0b86841a2d38
5. Washington Redskins
Why they can win the division: These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game. Why they could finish last again: Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you. Bottom line: These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently. https://preview.redd.it/szpawv9rkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=62ca5fe882d8155d83eb3328e9bf1f1681a17384
6. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why they can win the division: I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November. Why they could finish last again: I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period. Bottom line: The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now. https://preview.redd.it/5myv276vkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=7fb25f47d0759e9b5a07876ea01787898c6cc817
7. Carolina Panthers
Why they can win the division: Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7. Why they could finish last again: Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season. Bottom line: The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center. https://preview.redd.it/y7agj2n2lf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=221af0a1f689d3b19d5e250fac0b58a35877edad
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Why they can win the division: We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates. Why they could finish last again: As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year. Bottom line: I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air. If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/ You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
Will the Philadelphia Eagles win OVER/UNDER 9.5 games? By University Stats Prof!
The Eagles have been a good model of consistency. Over the past 20 years, they have had just four losing seasons. It wasn’t always pretty, but Philly managed to secure the NFC East title with a 9-7 record last year. They closed out the regular season with a four-game winning streak to edge the Cowboys atop the division. Unfortunately, Carson Wentz exited the wildcard playoff game early and the team couldn’t overcome his absence in a 17-9 home loss to the Seahawks.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs) Carson Wentz needs to be applauded for his 2019 performance. He had to deal with numerous injuries to his receiving corps and yet, he led the team to a playoff spot and he finished with a career-high in passing yards with 4,039. He threw 27 TD passes versus 7 interceptions, while playing all 16 games for the first time since his rookie season in 2016. In the season finale, his top targets were Boston Scott, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins, Deontay Burnett and Greg Ward. Outside of Goedert, none is an established starter in the NFL. The Eagles still secured the NFC East title with a 34-17 road win in New York. Philadelphia selected Jalen Hurts late in the second round of this year’s draft. He transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma for his senior year since Tua Tagovailoa was projected to be the starter. Hurst was actually replacing Kyler Murray who had just been taken as the number one overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft by the Cards. Hurts did not disappoint in his lone season with the Sooners. He completed 237-of-340 passes (69.7%) with 3,851 passing yards, along with 32 TD passes and eight interceptions. He also rushed for 1,298 yards with 20 TDs on the ground! His weaknesses are an average accuracy, inconsistent decision-making and a tendency to take off as a runner too often (sometimes when a receiver was open). He is likely to be used as a gadget player by Doug Pederson this year. Nate Sudfeld will compete for the backup job. He missed the entire 2019 season due to a wrist injury he suffered during preseason. He was a sixth-round pick out of Indiana in the 2016 draft. He has attempted just 25 passes in the NFL in four years, so it’s hard to tell what to expect from him. 2.2 Running Backs (RBs) Miles Sanders’ rookie season was a resounding success. He led all rookies with 1,327 yards from scrimmage. He carried a heavier workload as the season went on. During the first eight games, he averaged 8.3 carries per game, as opposed to 14.1 over the last nine contests (including the playoff loss to the Seahawks). Jordan Howard’s injury at midseason contributed to the increased usage of Sanders in the backfield. With Howard gone to Miami, the sky’s the limit for second-round pick out of Penn State. Darren Sproles retired and Jay Ajayi was waived. That leaves the door wide open for third-year man Boston Scott. He flashed big time last year and unquestionably passed my eye test. The 5’6’’ back is very explosive. Scott made a name for himself in Week #17 as he had to step in for Sanders who sprained an ankle in the first quarter against the Giants. Scott went on to rack up 138 total yards and three touchdowns. 2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs) This unit was decimated by injuries last year. DeSean Jackson pretty much played just one game, while Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor missed six and five games, respectively. Despite playing under his age-32 campaign, Jackson showed he still has field-stretching abilities in his lone meeting last year. He was spectacular with 8 catches for 154 yards and a couple of scores. He hasn’t played a full 16-game season very often in his career though. Jeffery is another aging receiver coming off a significant injury. He underwent Lisfranc surgery, which requires a long rehab period. He’s questionable for the start of training camp. Since two outstanding seasons in 2013 and 2014 with the Bears, Jeffery has missed four games per year on average, while showing signs of slowing down on the field as well. His 11.4 yards-per-catch average last year was a career low. To be honest, I feel like Jeffery’s time in the league is coming to an end soon. Lisfranc injuries can be tricky for wide receivers, and full recovery is even more difficult for guys above 30 years of age. Nelson Agholor was a younger WR who could have provided adequate depth, but he signed with the Raiders. The former first-rounder has not lived up to expectations, but he was still a decent pass catcher, albeit his drops were a big issue last year. Maybe a change of scenery will help rejuvenate his career. Philly drafted Jalen Reagor with the #11 pick overall last April. He’s a smallish deep threat who is at his best on straight routes. He was good with contested catches, but will it still be the case in the NFL given his size? That’s a big question mark. Reagor opened a lot of eyes by scoring eight touchdowns as a freshman with TCU after being a high recruit out of high school. He followed up with a great 72-1061-9 receiving line as a sophomore. Reagor’s numbers dropped quite a bit as a junior (43-611-5), but you can attribute that to having a freshman QB at the helm. He’s an electrifying player who can take it to the house every time he touches the ball. The competition for the number three role is also likely to involve Greg Ward and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. These two guys have had completely different paths before making it to the NFL. Ward went undrafted before joining the AAF. He eventually was added to the Eagles’ practice squad, and later on promoted to the 53-man roster until a depleted receiving corps forced him onto the field. Meanwhile, Arcega-Whiteside had more of a “conventional” journey by being drafted in the second-round of the 2019 draft. Such resumes would suggest Arcega-Whiteside would be the superior wideout, but that’s not what we saw on the field. He only caught 10-of-22 targets for a disappointing 45% catch rate. He was rarely targeted down the stretch, despite the numerous injuries at the position. On the other hand, Ward filled in admirably late in the season. Over the final four meetings, including the playoff game, he caught 20-of-25 targets (an 80% catch rate). He clearly deserves a shot as a top reserve for the upcoming season. 2.4 Tight Ends (TEs) The Eagles have a nice duo at the tight end position with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Ertz is a true warrior. He hasn’t missed more than two games in each of his first seven season in the league. Last year, he played with two rib fractures one week after lacerating his kidney. Talk about a tough guy. His numbers are also staggering. His lowest figures in terms of receptions and receiving yards over the past five years are 74 and 816. That’s truly remarkable! Please note that he’ll be turning 30 years old during the season. Just like Ertz, Goedert is also a former second-rounder. However, he is four years younger. He caught 58 passes for 607 yards and 5 TDs, all career-highs. He was targeted 4 times per game on average before the team’s bye week versus an average of 7.9 for the remainder of the year. Granted, injuries to other targets probably boosted his numbers, but he still developed nice chemistry with Wentz. 2.5 Offensive Line (OL) The Eagles have a heck of an offensive line. You cannot blame Jason Kelce for anything over the past five years. He hasn’t missed any start, while consistently being one of the top centers in the league. As a matter of fact, he was rated as the #1 center in the NFL according to PFF grades last year. He’s now 32 years old. Left tackle Jason Peters has been just as good as Kelce. He was nominated to nine Pro Bowls in his career and he finished as the number 6 tackle in the league with his 83.4 PFF mark. Unfortunately, the team decided to let the 38-year old hit the free agency market. EDIT: he was re-signed three days ago (this article was written several weeks ago). He is projected to play guard instead of tackle. Peters will be replaced with 2019 first-round pick, Andre Dillard. Is he ready to take on the full-time job? It remains to be seen, but it will be difficult to fill Peters’ shoes. As for Lane Johnson, the right tackle finished as the 3rd-best tackle in the league based on the PFF grading system. He’s been very good throughout his seven-year career; the former #4 overall pick has not disappointed at all! Brandon Brooks also had a huge 2019 season! He ended the year as the top guard in the NFL with a jaw-dropping 92.9 PFF mark. Much like Lane Johnson, Brooks is another player above 30 years old who’s been reliable his entire career. Left guard Isaac Seumalo started all 16 games for the first time of his career. He’s the one that received the lowest grades on this OL, but finishing 17th out of 81 guards is nothing to be ashamed of! The former third-round pick from the 2016 draft is not as talented as his colleagues, but you could do worse than having him as one of your starters. The team lost good depth with the departure of Halapoulivaati Vaitai to Detroit. The 2019 season was clearly his best year; it would have been nice to retain him but he signed a huge contract with the Lions. 2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE When comparing the upcoming 2020 season with last year, there are some positives and some negatives. Let’s discuss the negative stuff first. I do expect a downgrade on the offensive line. They played at an extremely high level last year with four guys finishing among the 6 players at their respective position (based on PFF rankings). That’s unlikely to happen again, especially with three linemen aged 30 years or above. Also, second-year man Andre Dillard has good potential, but it will be difficult to match Jason Peters’ 2019 performance. I do expect a drop-off here. At quarterback and tight end, the situation remains stable. At the running back position, losing Jordan Howard to free agency won’t hurt too much with the emergence of electrifying Boston Scott. Also, Miles Sanders is expected to take a leap in his sophomore season. Finally, how could you not expect better production from the WR group? They were hit by the injury bug a lot last year. Agholor’s departure is a moderate blow; getting DeSean Jackson back is a bonus! Hopefully, speedy rookie Jalen Reagor can provide a spark to an offense that sorely missed game breakers last year. The Eagles offense scored the 12th-highest number of points last year. My final conclusion, based on the arguments above, is that I expect similar production in 2020. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Stable
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs) Fletcher Cox is an animal. Plain and simple. Despite posting his second-lowest sack output of his illustrious eight-year career, he still graded as the 4th-best interior defenders in the NFL based on PFF rankings. On average, he has recorded 6 sacks per year (he only got 3.5 last year) He has also been very durable; he’s missed just three games out 128. He still has good years to come at age 29. Tim Jernigan was a decent starter next to Cox, but he clearly wasn’t needed on the team anymore after the Eagles signed stud DT Javon Hargrave. The former Steeler showed steady improvement in each of his first four years in the NFL. His 83.4 PFF mark last year put him in the 8th spot out of 114 DLs. With Hargrave entering his prime years and Fletcher Cox being a perennial beast, good luck running the ball inside the tackles against the Eagles in 2020. After playing three years in Indy, Hassan Ridgeway had a below-average season in his first year with the Eagles. He’s more of a rotational player, whom you hope won’t be needed as a starter. 3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED) Brandon Graham is 32 years old, but he refuses to slow down. He led the team with 8.5 sacks last year, and he has averaged six sacks over an eight-year period! The guy also finds a way to stay on the field. Can you believe he has missed a single game in eight years! He’s been consistently good and remains a force, both against the run and rushing the passer. Derek Barnett is a former first-rounder coming off a career-high in sacks with 6.5. However, his 2019 PFF grade was the lowest of his three-year stint in the NFL and he finished as the number 83 edge defender out of 107 qualifiers. He’s an “okay” player. Vinny Curry played 38% of the snaps last year, but it does not appear like he will be back with the team. At the time of writing, he was still a free agent. He did pick up five sacks last year, but teams seem reluctant to sign him because he’ll be playing his age-32 campaign. He actually played pretty well when called upon. With Curry gone, the team must hope Josh Sweat will elevate his game. The 2018 fourth-round selection posted his first four sacks of his career last year, but his 62.5 overall PFF mark ranked him as the 76th-best edge defender out of 107 guys. 3.3 Linebackers (LBs) After playing four years in Buffalo and four years in Philly, Nigel Bradham was cut by the Eagles, mainly for cap reasons. He provided average play at the LB position; he was good in coverage, but he was a liability defending the run. The team also lost Kamu Grugier-Hill, who signed with the Dolphins. You could characterize him as a decent player, albeit far from being great. That leaves the team pretty thin at the position. Nathan Gerry is the lone 2019 starter that is still with the team. He ranked as the 34th-best linebacker out of 89 players. He does not offer much upside, though. It would be stunning to see him crack the top 25 someday. Can Duke Riley and/or T.J Edwards crack the starting lineup? Neither seem to be an up-and-coming star. Riley was acquired for peanuts prior to last year and he played 35 snaps. As for Edwards, he was an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin that did well in limited time last year. He proved to be stout against the run. 3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs) Philly’s back end has been revamped for the upcoming 2020 season. The Eagles signed one of the best slot corners in the league: Nickell Robey-Coleman. He has received consistently good grades from ProFootballFocus over the past four years. At 5’8’’ he is pretty small, but you couldn’t tell from the quality of his game. He’s a nice addition. Philly also acquired Darius “Big Play” Slay, who played the first seven years of his career with the Lions. He had a down year in 2019, but I’m not worried he can rebound in a new environment. He’s been covering opponent’s top receivers for a while in this league, and he’s done a good job at it. He has 19 career interceptions. Ronald Darby’s career has been plagued with injuries recently and he was let go during the offseason. His PFF grade took an enormous drop last year, all the way from a respectable 70.6 in 2018 down to an abysmal 44.8 last year. He signed a one-year deal with the Redskins. Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox are still on the team, but neither has proven to be an impactful contributor. Both graded as very below-average corners in 2019. 3.5 Safeties (S) Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod both played the entire 2019 season. They ranked as the 32nd- and 52nd-best out of a bunch of 87 safeties. The organization and Jenkins couldn’t agree on a deal, so the Eagles had to let him go after six very successful seasons. He picked off 11 passes during his six-year stint in Philly. He signed with the Saints, with which he spent the first five seasons of his career. Even though he wasn’t getting any younger, his present will be missed. McLeod’s 2019 PFF grade was the lowest he had obtained over the past five years, but he still did a decent job. Jalen Mills will be one piece of the puzzle in replacing Jenkins. But let’s face the reality: he has been pretty awful throughout his four-year career, except 2017 where he did better. Another option will be newly acquired Will Parks, who is coming over from Denver. However, he’s clearly not a long-term solution either. He’s pretty versatile, but he’s a below-average player. 2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE This unit was upgraded quite a bit during the offseason at two positions, but it also suffered a severe downgrade at a couple others. First, acquiring Javon Hargrave to team up with Fletcher Cox on the interior of the line was big! At CB, getting Darius Slay and Nickell Robey-Coleman will provide much needed help at a position that has caused headaches for years in Philly. Unfortunately, the defense lost its best safety when Malcolm Jenkins signed with the Saints. Also, even though none of them was a true difference maker, losing linebackers Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill creates a hole. Since the team acquired some big time players while losing good/average players, I envision a small improvement. In 2019, the Eagles finished in the middle of the pack in terms of points allowed per game (15th out of 32 teams). I envision Philly finishing around the #10-#13 spot this year. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small upgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Eagles are expected to win 9.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Eagles won more or less than 9.5 games.
Here are the results:
OVER 9.5 WINS
UNDER 9.5 WINS
Tip: Bet UNDER 9.5 wins Return On Investment (ROI): +13.7% Rank: 19th-highest ROI out of 32 teams Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -136 Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Eagles’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: +2 vs BAL, -10 vs CIN, -2.5 vs DAL, -4 vs LAR, 0 vs NO, -5 vs NYG, -2 vs SEA, -10.5 vs WAS.
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020. I invite you to take a look at my other 31 NFL team previews! Good information if you are involved in fantasy football and/or if you want to be up-to-date on player movement and teams' strengths and weaknesses (for betting purposes)! Cheers, Professor MJ
I’m a high school teacher who just bought a lap dance from a former student. Now I’m teaching her how to kill people.
“You’re holding that assault rifle like it’s a bass guitar,” I explained to Coco and Trixie. “Those things have a hell of a kick, so the ceiling will experience your full wrath when you lose control and it fires hard enough to knock you out of your heels.” I drew in a long, calming breath. “And have you even considered where you’re going to store the extra magazines?” “Why would we need to bring magazines to a gun fight?” Samantha asked from behind me. My heart sank. “I don’t know how to say this, ladies,” I explained as I look from Samantha, to Coco, to Trixie. “But if you attempt this, you’re going to die.” They didn’t move, but fear danced openly behind their eyes. “Or worse,” I pressed, realizing that I was gaining the upper hand. “What happens to the girls in your profession who betray their boss?” Subtle fear was replaced with open horror as Trixie lowered her weapon and walked back. “Fuck this, Coco. I’m done. Let’s just go where Ace takes us, maybe it won’t be so bad.” “No way,” Coco responded, her finger still on the trigger. “We killed Ace’s gun runner, remember? We’re all in.” Trixie squatted down and clutched two fistfuls of hair in stress, a quiet sob escaping her lips. My own pulse was thudding so hard that I didn’t notice Samantha sliding up behind me until I jumped at her touch. “Coco? I… I think we should listen. Mr. Namathal was always an okay guy.” I was hoping for more than “okay” from my potential savior, but the ones you teach are the ones who will break your heart. “And what have we got to lose that’s not already gone?” she pressed gently. After one more frozen moment, Coco lowered the AR-15 and swore in frustration. “Trudy is not going to like this,” she hissed through clenched teeth. I let out a long, heavy breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding as relief washed over my body. With the tension down, I was once again painfully aware of the agony in my penis, but I was going to have to live with that for now. “Okay,” I responded eagerly, rubbing my hands together. “How much time do we have?” A muffled cheer came from the other side of the door. “Looks like Trudy’s done with her show,” Samantha explained quietly. “If we’re going to do something, it has to be in the next couple of minutes. I was struck with sudden acute awareness that the coroner would discover my broken erection, which would make for such interesting reading on my pending autopsy report. “Great,” I responded weakly. “Let’s go over how to kill a man.” * It wasn’t a good plan. In fact, it was a shitty plan. But considering our limited time and resources, it was decidedly kind of okay. “So,” I asked, “still in shock, “it’s legal for you to do that on stage?” “Of course it’s not legal, Mr. Namathal, but neither is killing people, and that’s not stopping any of us tonight.” I swallowed. “Right. Um, so the two of you are going to – I mean right in front of everyone?” “That isn’t going to distract you, is it?” Coco asked, irritated. “Well – no, not at all, I’ll be focused. It’s, um, I – I just didn’t know that was physically possible for two people to do to themselves.” “We’re very bendy,” Samantha explained brightly. My breath had gotten shallow just thinking about what I was about to see them do, and the growing erection in my pants did nothing to alleviate the penile pain I’d been experiencing. “So you’ll be ready, Trudy?” I asked. “Because once things start moving, there is no going back. You can’t un-ring a bell, and you can’t un-fuck a bear.” She nodded, then loaded the chamber of her Desert Eagle. “This is going to be a hell of a surprise for a lot of people,” she answered ominously. To be honest, I was at least sixty percent sure that I was going to die. But what did I have to go back to? I’d spent most of my life waiting for the opportunity to be great, and when it suddenly landed in my lap, it was all I could do not to piss myself. But the great and lonely die alike, morticians have clean underwear, and I was fucking pissed at this Ace guy. “Okay, I’m going to walk into the main room and act like nothing’s strange – like I’m just some pathetic loser who paid for sex and has nowhere else to go.” Samantha nodded. “Don’t worry, you’ll convince them easily enough, Mr. N!” * I sat down nervously behind the group of men lining the stage. Nearly all of them had the same look: young, muscular, confident, and dumb. They started cheering and whistling as Samantha and Coco stepped out from behind a curtain. “And now in a very special appearance, Samantha Stardust and Hot Coco will perform the Louisiana Hot Syrup!” announced a voice on the loudspeaker. The first dollar bills flew on stage as each of them smiled into the spotlight. I was again struck by how beautiful Samantha looked precisely because she didn’t know how to hide it. “Keep your eye on the ball,” a voice next to me muttered under his breath. I turned around to see a man who must have been forty years older than the rest. His gray eyes bore into mine for just a second before flitting away. “Call me ‘Hex.’ Don’t waste time asking how I know what I know, because I’m only going to tell you what I see. I’m in a room surrounded by a dozen of Ace’s crew and one lonely man who must own that shitty Yugo in the parking lot. He’s employed but has nothing better to do on a Tuesday afternoon, which tells me he’s in education and bored for the summer. Don’t tell me if I’m getting close,” he snapped. My blood felt like liquid nitrogen. I didn’t move. “Ace doesn’t like appearing weak, so anyone who tries and fails to fuck him over had better find a way to kill themselves quick.” He sighed. “All I know is that I’m going to have a quick chat with the bouncer – who I’m betting you forgot about – on my way out of here. I wouldn’t be surprised if my conversation distracts him for a valuable five or ten seconds. Just saying.” Hex got up and walked away. Yes, I was in way, way over my head. Then I noticed what was happening on stage. Shit. This was, by far, the kinkiest thing I’d ever seen. I was disgusted with just how aroused it made me. And amazed by how distracted the crowd found itself. Every one of Ace’s men was entranced by what Samantha and Coco were doing on stage. Behind me, I could hear Hex walking out of the door. For better or for worse, it was game time. My shaking knees barely held me as I stood up. Then I nimbly pushed through the crowd. A crowd that was only focused on one part of the room. A crowd that was very distracted. A crowd that was not prepared for anything extremely dangerous to happen. I took a deep breath, then climbed on stage. Then I snatched Big Maurice right out of Samantha’s grip, struggling with both hands to heft the large dildo above my head. “What the FUCK, they were about to do use that!” bellowed one angry onlooker. Wordlessly, I dropped Big Maurice and grabbed both women’s arms. “GET HIM!” the man screamed as I forced both of them behind the curtain. The AR-15 was flying toward me as I burst through, and I caught it with both hands. Trixie then grabbed a second gun and thrust it into Coco’s waiting arms. “Remember,” I shot at Samantha as Trixie passed a third weapon to her, “hold it exactly like I told you and fire it exactly like I told you, because we have no room for error. She looked ready to faint. “I don’t know if I can do this, Mr. Namathal,” she whispered. “I don’t know if I can kill a man.” I lifted the barrel of the gun and aimed at the curtain. “Pass or fail, Samantha, and do it now, because we’ll be way too outnumbered if you don’t act.” A solitary tear fell down her cheek as the curtain burst open and I pulled the trigger. Next part BD Watch Listen
Will the Chicago Bears win OVER/UNDER 8.5 games? By University Stats Prof!
It was a roller-coaster ride for the Bears last year. They started with a 3-1 record before losing five of their next six meetings. They concluded the season by winning four of the last six games, but it wasn’t enough to qualify for the playoffs. After a NFC North title in 2018, Da Bears ended with a disappointing 8-8 record last season. The offense was often criticized (deservedly so), and changes needed to be made.
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs) Mitchell Trubisky has had an uncharacteristic journey in the NFL thus far. After being selected as the number two overall pick, he had a rookie season where he threw 7 TD passes versus 7 picks. He took a nice leap in his sophomore year with 24 TDs and 12 interceptions, while leading the team to its first division title since 2010. QBs showing such a nice growth from year 1 to year 2 rarely crash down the following season, but that pretty much describes Trubisky’s third year in the league. He graded as the 30th-best QB in the NFL out of 37 qualifiers based on PFF rankings. This situation was inexplicable. It’s not like the team had lost many key pieces on offense. What happened to Trubisky? GM Ryan Pace has set up nicely a good QB battle in camp between Trubisky and newly acquired Nick Foles. What’s interesting is Foles himself has had ups-and-downs in his career. He was outstanding in 2013 by throwing 27 TDs versus just 2 interceptions! He also led the Eagles to a Super Bowl in the 2017 season, after Carson Wentz went down to an injury. Foles also performed well in 2018. However, he wasn’t so good in 2014, 2015 and more recently 2019. What type of quarterback will he be in the windy city? Who’s going to get the starting nod? My own guess is Foles win the job early on. He is already familiar with the head coach, the QB coach and the offensive coordinator. Learning the playbook won’t be as difficult as if these guys had never worked together in the past. Backup QB Chase Daniel left for a division rival: the Detroit Lions. Overall, adding Foles over Daniel is clearly an upgrade over 2019, while also keeping in mind the fact that Trubisky may return to his previous form (which is not impossible for a young guy like him). 2.2 Running Backs (RBs) What the heck happened to Tarik Cohen? I have always liked small and fast guys. For this reason, he had become one of my favorite guys to watch. Watching him last year (and the entire offense) was sad. His yards per rush average went from 4.5 to 3.3. His yards per catch average went from 10.2 to 5.8. He couldn’t get going all season long. In 2017 and 2018, Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen were a great version of the thunder-and-lightning combo. Despite losing Howard, the production wasn’t supposed to drop significantly because of the acquisition of David Montgomery through the draft. That’s not how things played out. The team went from 11th to 27th place in terms of rushing yards per game (from 2018 to 2019). Montgomery finished the year with a disappointing 3.7 yards per carry average. Both Montgomery and Cohen will be back in 2020. Perhaps they’ll do better this year, but I don’t expect a huge upgrade either. 2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs) Finally a guy that has produced consistent results in this offense: Allen Robinson! Catching 98 balls for 1,147 yards and 7 TDs despite such bad QB play was phenomenal! You can count on him to generate good numbers again, especially in a contract year. A former second-round pick, Anthony Miller caught 52 passes last season after catching 33 the year before. The only blemish was the number of TD receptions, which went from 7 to 2. Miller started the year slowly following an offseason injury that made him miss some time in camp. His role could be increased after the departure of Taylor Gabriel. The Bears pulled the plug on the Taylor Gabriel experiment. After showing some flashes with the Falcons, he never lived up to expectations in Chicago. Again, the production from this group may be steady in 2020. 2.4 Tight Ends (TEs) I’m sorry Bears fans, but one of the worst free agent acquisitions, in my humble opinion, was Jimmy Graham for two years and $16 million. The price paid versus the production doesn’t make sense at all. If you look at his numbers, you can see a clear decline. His first seven seasons were a success; his lowest mark according to PFF during that time span was 74.7. Then, he received a 66.0 grade in 2017. And then 59.6 in 2018, followed by 58.0 last year. To make matters worse, remember that the last two years were with the Packers, who happen to have a quarterback named Aaron Rodgers (have you heard of him?). Trey Burton was another huge disappointment last year. After catching 54 passes a couple of years ago, he only caught 14 in eight games. He was released and picked up by the Colts. The team drafted Cole Kmet in the second round in this year’s draft. He’s a classic tight end who can do a little bit of everything. He provides good run blocking, albeit sometimes a bit inconsistent. He doesn’t have that much experience as a pass catcher since he only started racking up decent stats last year, but he has a big catch radius. He will likely need time to develop into a solid starter. The Bears also have Adam Shaheen in their roster, a 2nd round pick from the 2017 draft. He has bust written all over him. As if they didn’t have enough tight ends, Chicago went on to sign Demetrius Harris, formerly of the Browns. He graded as the 66th-best tight end out of 66 qualifiers. Enough said. This group did very little last year. A bunch of six guys combined for 46 catches. Despite the questionable moves, I expect a small upgrade. Perhaps Graham can magically rejuvenate his career? 2.5 Offensive Line (OL) Four out of five starters are returning: Cody Whitehair, James Daniels, Charles Leno and Bobby Massie. Only Daniels graded as above-average; the others finished in the middle of the pack (or even lower). Kyle Long announced his retirement, while semi-starter Cornelius Lucas left for Washington. The new starter on the OL will be Germain Ifedi, who made at least 13 starts in each of his first four seasons in the league (all with the Seahawks). In summary, we have a not-so great starter being replace by a not-so great player. Therefore, we can expect similar results to 2019, which was average play. 2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE Inconsistency is a recurring theme for many players from this unit: Trubisky, Foles and Cohen. My final conclusion is a small upgrade over 2019, mainly because of the QB position. The chances are fairly good that either Foles provides a spark, or Trubisky regains his 2018 form. However, don’t expect a MVP-type of season for any one of them. The rest of the offense should expect similar output. Acquiring Jimmy Graham and Germain Ifedi is nothing to write home about, just as losing Taylor Gabriel isn’t a big loss either. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Small upgrade
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs) The interior defenders did a fairly good job. Roy Robertson-Harris, Nick Williams and Eddie Goldman all graded as above-average DLs in 2019. Only Bilal Nichols received poor grades, but he played less often. Nick Williams left for Detroit, but the Bears expect to get Akiem Hicks in 2020. He suited up for just five games last year. He’s been a dominating force for them the previous three years. His return on the field will make a big difference. So, despite Williams’ departure, this group should do better in 2020 than the year before, mainly because of Hicks’ return. 3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED) Khalil Mack’s sack production went down in 2019 with “only” 8.5. He had recorded 12.5, 10.5, 11 and 15 in its previous four campaigns. Still, Mack finished as the #14 edge defender out of 107 guys. He is constantly disrupting plays from opposing offenses. The Bears lost Leonard Floyd who went to the Rams, but they quick found a replacement with Robert Quinn, coming over from Dallas. Floyd is two years younger and averaged 4.6 sacks per season, while Quinn has gotten 8.9 sacks per year over his nine-year career. Quinn is a better pass rusher, while Floyd plays the run better. All in all, I expect similar results as 2019 from this unit. 3.3 Linebackers (LBs) One more guy who saw a dip in productivity was Roquan Smith. After receiving a 67.0 grade in his rookie season, he only got 52.4 last year. He played the run well, but his coverage and pass rushing weren’t nearly as good in 2019. I do believe the former #8 pick overall can come back very strong in 2020. Danny Trevathan missed six games because of an injury, but he played pretty well when he was on the field. I am not worried about him. Backups Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis both left in free agency. Both played very well while filling in for injured starters. Their losses take a blow to Chicago’s linebacker depth. 3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs) Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara were the clear starters in 2019. Despite finishing as PFF’s number 41 CB out of 112 qualifiers, Amukamara was released by the Bears for cap reasons. Still, the team needs to replace him. Can Buster Skrine or Kevin Toliver assume that #2 role? I’m not so sure about that… Chicago hopes to fill the void via the selection of Jaylon Johnson in the 2nd round last April. The number one concern about him is health; he has undergone through three shoulder surgeries over the years. Johnson’s speed and explosiveness are below average, but he makes up for it with great competitiveness and smart-play. 3.5 Safeties (S) We are rounding the defensive side of the ball with the safeties. Things were pretty simple in 2019, as both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Eddie Jackson played 99% of the defensive snaps. They ranked 19th and 46th out of 87 safeties, respectively, according to PFF. The problem is Clinton-Dix is gone to Dallas. Last year the Bears vacated the vacancy created at the safety position when Adrian Amos left for Green Bay by acquiring Clinton-Dix, but now that he’s also gone they have a glaring hole at the position. 2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE The Bears allowed the fourth-fewest points in the league last season. Can we expect a similary good 2020 season? I doubt it. First, the good news. Akiem Hicks is back from an injury that made him miss 11 games and the team acquired steady sack producer Robert Quinn from Dallas. The bad news? Losing DL Nick Williams, DE Leonard Floyd, LBs Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis, CB Prince Amukamara and S Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix. That’s a lot of bodies that need to be replaced. We’re talking about at least 4 new starters and some key depth. Overall, my guess is it takes a moderate blow to the Bears’ defense. Their front seven is likely to remain very good, but the secondaries worry me. I wouldn’t fall off my chair if the team went from 4th-best in points allowed to the 10th-12th range. Final call (2020 vs 2019): Moderate downgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the Chicago Bears are expected to win 8.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”? Here is the methodology I used in order to answer this vital question:
Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
Count the proportion of seasons where the Bears won more or less than 8.5 games.
Here are the results:
OVER 8.5 WINS
UNDER 8.5 WINS
Tip: Bet UNDER 8.5 wins
Return On Investment (ROI): +9.7%
Rank: 26th-highest ROI out of 32 teams
Minimum odds required to bet (i.e. ROI = 0%): -163
Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Bears’ 16 regular season games:
HOME: -5 vs DET, 0 vs GB, -3.5 vs HOU, -1.5 vs IND, 0 vs MIN, +2.5 vs NO, -5 vs NYG, -1 vs TB.
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020. TOMORROW: I'll talk about the team whose ROI is the 25th-highest in the league, the Green Bay Packers! I hope you found this article insightful, thanks for reading! Professor MJ
The Green Bay Packers surprised just about everyone (except James Jones) with their successful campaign under first year HC Matt LaFleur. Before the season, he hired former Jaguars OC Nathaniel Hackett to fill the same role in his offense, and he elected to keep DC Mike Pettine who served in that capacity the year before under former HC Mike McCarthy. The team ended the year 13-3 on the regular season, including a complete sweep of the division, plus a win against the Seahawks in the division round of the playoffs. Despite their success, there were many critics who considered them to be the worst 13-3 team in NFL history. The Packers were accused of "winning ugly" and not resembling a true contender. Those chickens would come home to roost in San Francisco as they were no match for the 49ers in the NFC championship game. The team gave a horribly flat performance on defense, plus an offense that had no answer to San Francisco's elite defensive front 7. Even though they didn't achieve their Cinderella story, the Packers would go into the offseason with much of the starting roster returning intact for a chance at a second run in 2020. The roster is mostly comprised of players 27 or younger, and only three starters needed to be replaced from the prior season. The team is banking on the growth and development of their young players to help propel the team to that next level. Their upcoming schedule will be much more challenging than 2019's on paper, but working on building more consistency on both sides of the ball will hopefully produce a better overall "team" than the one which overachieved a year ago.
2020 FREE AGENCY
Departures: This offseason saw the end of the road for two longtime Packers in Green Bay with RT Bryan Bulaga (EYE-WAH) and ILB Blake Martinez (aka pussyfucker69). They signed deals elsewhere after giving the team many years of consistent on field play. Replacing them will not come easy. Jimmy Graham, on the other hand, will not be greatly missed. His best games of the season came in the playoffs after two seasons of dropped passes, lazy routes, and non-existent blocking. (But at least he was better than Martellus Bennett.) The only other significant loss was Tramon Williams who played lights out as the nickel corner last year. At 36 years old, it is more likely the team will go with younger and cheaper alternatives to fill his role next season, but a return to the team isn't out of the question. The contracts signed by Martinez and Bulaga, along with OLB Kyler Fackrell, should mean the Packers are in line to be rewarded three compensatory choices in 2021 in the 4th, 5th, and 7th rounds respectively. Bulaga's compensation is capped at a 5th rounder due to being a 10 year veteran. * = former starter
Bryan Bulaga *
3 yr / $30 mil
Blake Martinez *
3 yr / $30 mil
Jimmy Graham *
2 yr / $16 mil
1 yr / $4.6 mil
1 yr / $2.4 mil
1 yr / $1.3 mil
1 y $825 K
1 yr / $800 K
1 yr / $750 K
Additions: The Packers used the $8 mil in cap savings they got back from releasing Jimmy Graham to add Christian Kirksey (ILB - Browns), Ricky Wagner (OT - Lions), and Devin Funchess (WR - Colts) once they were released from their former teams. Kirksey is an athletic ILB with 4.55 speed and playmaking ability, but he has missed substantial time due to injuries recently and only played in 9 games the last two years. Wagner has had one brilliant season with the Ravens in 2017 followed by two average ones with the Lions, but a starter is a starter. Funchess is a former 2nd round pick and still only 25, so hopefully he can finally reach the potential he has flashed now that he has Rodgers at the helm. They did not sign a TE to replace Graham because the team will be using returning players instead. The favored starter is 2019 3rd round pick Jace Sternberger, after he missed most of his rookie season due to injuries. He is accompanied along with the returning ageless veteran Marcedes "Big Dog" Lewis (who is now famously known as the only 1st round player Rodgers has thrown a TD pass to). By making these moves and essentially locking up their starters pre-draft, they allowed themselves some flexibility with their approach to how they would spend their picks. *= projected starter
Christian Kirksey *
2 yr / $13 mil
Ricky Wagner *
2 yr / $11 mil
1 yr / $2.5 mil
3 yr / $2.3 mil
1 yr / $850 K
Gerald Willis III
1 yr / $675 K
Jamal Davis II
1 yr / $675K
3 yr / $13 mil
1 yr / $2.3 mil
1 yr / $1 mil
1 yr / $750 K
2020 NFL DRAFT
1 (26) - JORDAN LOVE (QB - UTAH ST) \pick acquired from Houston thru Miami for #30 and #133 overall* The Packers shocked everyone by passing on a player who may have helped the team right away when they instead traded up for Utah St. QB Jordan Love. This has been an endless point of criticism and even ridicule since the draft ended. But this pick made a lot of sense at its core. I go into much greater detail in regards to this pick elsewhere, but here are the main points that led to this selection:
The team was unable to move up for a WR they were targeting and didn't want to reach for the next one down.
They had a very high grade on Love and expected him to be gone before the #20 pick - he was probably rated higher than any other player in the draft late in round 1.
In 2017, they considered drafting Deshone Kizer at #33 but ultimately chose CB Kevin King instead. Then in 2019, they had a lot of reported interest in Drew Lock – including an official team visit. However, the Broncos moved up ahead of the Packers in round 2 to take him, so we will never know how interested Green Bay truly was. But there is a clear pattern being established of open interest in top rated QB's.
In 2020, the Packers made Jordan Love and Jalen Hurts two of their official “visits” in the pre-draft process, once again showing a clear interest in an early round signal caller.
The Packers do not believe in passing on a high rated player if he is available, especially at QB which is the most important position in the game
"I think it's always kind of been in my DNA that anywhere in the draft, if you have an opportunity to take a quarterback you really think can play, you need to consider it."
-Brian Gutekunst, GM of the Packers Jordan Love is a 6'4 and 224 lb QB with large 10.5" hands and a rocket for an arm. He is a self-described playmaker, which is evident when you watch him on tape. At Utah St in 2018, Love put on a clinic, throwing for 3500 yards, 32 TD's, and only 6 INT's. This put him on the radar as a potential top 10 or even top 5 prospect heading into the 2019 season. Unfortunately, after a coaching change and losing 9 offensive starters, Love saw a major drop in his numbers (3200 yards, 20 TD's, and 17 INT's). Love started to develop some bad habits such as staring receivers down and forcing risky throws, which is what led to the spike in turnovers. However, it needs to be mentioned that Jordan Love put the team on his shoulders all season. He frequently had limited choices available but to either try and make a play or take the sack. Had he not been dealing with this adversity, he probably would have heard his name called much sooner and the Packers would not have had a shot at him in the late 1st round.
"He’s not a bad decision-maker. That was one of my biggest pet peeves in the draft process was people calling that kid a bad decision-maker. He’s not. He’s a kid that’s played with nobody around him and he was competitive and he was trying to win football games. Did he force throws? Absolutely. Did he have to force throws? Absolutely. You didn’t see bad decision-making on ’18 tape, when he threw 32 touchdowns and six picks. You never heard those numbers brought up the whole process. All you heard was 20 touchdowns, 17 picks. Like, nobody ever went back and talked about ’18….. He is the only QB I’ve ever scouted who will be throwing into bigger windows in the NFL than he threw into in college.”
-Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl director and former NFL scout Numbers aside, there are glimpses and flashes of his game that make you swear you are watching Aaron Rodgers himself. He flourishes when the play breaks down displaying the ability to throw off various platforms to keep the play alive. Love has that same gunslinger mentality that Patrick Mahomes had at TX Tech – no throw is impossible in their minds. And when I say that Jordan Love didn’t have any help, it isn’t just making an excuse. He was essentially the only threat Utah St. had on offense in 2019, so Love took it on his shoulders to will the team forward, similar to other top picks like Daniel Jones at Duke and Josh Allen at Wyoming. As far as his fit with the Packers, clearly they have to like his arm talent and his hand size, along with his experience playing in frigid environments - those are three important boxes that need to be checked if a QB wants to succeed at Lambeau Field. One could argue that of all the QB's in this draft, Love may have the most upside just due to his physical traits but is also the least ready to play. I don't think he could have landed in a better position than on a team built to win championships with a future Hall of Famer to learn from. 2 (62) - AJ DILLON (RB - BCU) According to Peter King, the Packers were trying to trade up in round 2 for one of two specific WR's. Once Chase Claypool was selected at #49, they stopped calling teams. We can take this to mean that at that point, the Packers felt all the impact players at WR in the draft were gone. The Packers were content to look for other ways they could improve the offense. The team did not want to simply draft a receiver just to say they took one. And that's where AJ Dillon comes in. Even with the breakout season of Aaron Jones in 2019, there is reason to suspect the Packers view AJ Dillon as the long term primary RB in this offense. Unlike Jones who is a quick and elusive 5’9 and 200 lb RB, Dillon is a north/south runner with surprisingly light feet for his 6'0 and 247 lb frame. He has proven he can withstand the workload of a RB1 posting three 1,000+ yard seasons in college. Similar to Jordan Love, he did it without much of a supporting cast. He led the FBS in the amount of stacked boxes he was facing by a wide margin (46% of the time). He also led the FBS in yards after contact (over 800) because teams knew he was getting the ball but it just didn't matter - he ran it hard just the same. Dillon is best known for his balance and being able to keep himself moving through first contact. He is knocked by evaluators by his lack of presence in the passing game, catching only 21 career passes, but not being asked to do it isn’t the same as not being able to do it. Dillon also has a tendency of not exhibiting the patience to let the play develop, which leads to him missing opportunities for cut back lanes on occasion. These two things are hardly fatal flaws, and he can improve with proper coaching. But why Dillon, and why Round 2? That seems to be what gets people scratching their heads the most. Well, the Packers love to draft athletes, and as far as RB prospects go Dillon is a rare player. He is bigger than Eddie Lacy and faster than Aaron Jones. Dillon posted the best SPARQ score (97%) among all RB's at the combine, and his speed score (117) was in the 97th percentile. Running 4.53 and jumping 41" should simply not be allowed from a RB who is also 247 lbs. I also believe the front office had Dillon rated extremely high on their board compared to other options at RB. Dillon and Jonathan Taylor (96% SPARQ) had to be the 1a and 1b of this class for the Packers. Gutekunst just can't help himself, he loves size and speed. The Packers will also be facing a lot of difficult decisions with their group of free agents in 2021, which includes #1 RB Aaron Jones and #2 RB Jamaal Williams. Drafting Dillon makes it so the team can choose to keep one of those two next year, while potentially grooming their long-term starter. Now LaFleur has his own Derrick Henry that will help him run the kind of offense he wants to execute. Short yardage and goalline situations will be a different story in 2020 compared to the struggles a year ago. Frankly, fewer positions are as NFL ready as RB's are, and few of them are as rare of an athletic prospect as Dillon. He is likely going to be a big part of the offense moving forward. Especially in December and January when it is freezing cold and actual football begins. 3 (94) - JOSIAH DEGUARA (TE/HB - CINCINNATI) The Packers missed on all the WR's that might have made a difference for them, but they were ready to find a pass catcher in an unconventional way. So at pick #94, with only two TE's selected at that point (Cole Kmet and Devin Asiasi), the Packers had their choice of player at the position. It is safe to say the Packers got their preferred one with Josiah Deguara. This pick was considered a reach by most analysts when it was made, but context is important. Matt LaFleur was the QB coach in Washington in 2010 under Mike Shanahan. That year Chris Cooley, a 6'2 and 250 lb TE/HB, had 77 catches on 126 targets for 849 yards. That position was currently vacant on the Packers depth chart, so it can't be underestimated how integral this role could be going forward as LaFleur continues to shape the team to fit his philosophy. Josiah Deguara is the perfect player to fill that Chris Cooley (or Kyle Juszczyk) role in this Shanahan-style offense. At only 6'2, Deguara played in-line TE 60% of the time in college because they tried to move him around to take advantage of his versatility. He played TE, HB, FB, and WR at Cincinnati, where he ended his career as the school record holder for catches at the position with 92 catches in 2 years. The former record holder was Travis Kelce, so he is in good company. It also just so happens that Mike Denbrock, the OC for Cincinnati, coached alongside Matt LaFleur at Notre Dame previously - I bet the two discussed together all the ways Deguara could be a factor within the Packers offense. The main thing that I keep reading about Deguara is how great his character is both on and off the field. The Packers believe strongly in finding players who "carry the G", and Deguara is just a high effort, hard-working, bring-your-lunch-pail-to-work kind of guy that everyone wants to root for. He will play on all the special teams units, learn to play in whatever role the offense asks him to, and he will always give 100% effort. It would be premature to say Josiah Deguara is an impact player as a late 3rd round pick, but he is a wild card who could potentially open this offense up and take it in several new and creative directions. P.S. LaFleur showed this play during one of his team meetings in 2019 as the prime example of what it means to never give up on a play (he starts at the top of the screen as a blocker, then chases the defender down to make the TD-saving tackle). https://twitter.com/ethanthomthom/status/1254590868507557890?s=19 Six months later, the Packers selected him with the #94 pick. It is clear looking back that Deguara was meant to wear green and gold. LaFleur was more excited about this pick in his post-draft interviews than any other player chosen that weekend. 4 (133) - to Miami *traded along with #30 overall to move up to #26 for Jordan Love 5 (175) - KAMAL MARTIN (LB - MINNESOTA) Kamal Martin is one of those LB's that would have been talked about more had he not been battling injuries and been able to compete in the pre-draft functions. Injuries cut his season short to just 8 games, but he still finished with 66 total tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FF, and 2 INT's - his knack of finding ways to always be around the ball had to stand out to Gutekunst. Jim Nagy, the director of the Senior Bowl, called Martin a top 3 senior LB and a steal for the Packers as a 5th round pick. He has prototypical size for a 3 down LB at 6'3 and 240 lbs along with 34" arms and an 81" wingspan. The Packers scouts estimated that he runs between 4.55 - 4.65 in the 40, but he wasn't able to participate in the drill while recovering from his knee injury. Martin is a former high school QB, and he uses that experience on the defensive side to help give him a unique perspective of the action in front of him. He lined up at both OLB and ILB at Minnesota and was a playmaker at both positions. And that position versatility is what attracted the Packers to him. He will need to get stronger and play with better pad level, but there is a lot going for Martin as a prospect. As the first defensive selection in the draft for the Packers, Martin will be given a chance to compete with other young players, such as Oren Burks, Ty Summers, and Curtis Bolton, for a chance to be the #2 ILB next to Christian Kirksey. Burks and Summers are two very athletic guys who have played mostly on special teams, and Bolton was a UDFA last year who made waves in preseason before getting hurt. This group is young, athletic, and horribly inexperienced, making it the most open of all the roster competitions on the team. Kamal Martin is the definition of a sleeper who could have landed in a fortuitous situation based on the uncertainty surrounding the LB group in Green Bay. He is a proven playmaker who finds ways to get to the ball, and those instincts could serve him well as he fights for a spot. Martin is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Blake Martinez to become an every down starter as a day 3 selection. 6a (192) - JON RUNYAN JR (G/T - MICHIGAN) *pick acquired from Raiders for WR Trevor Davis The Packers have had a very positive track record selecting OL on day 3 of the draft. They had three picks to spend in the 6th round, and considering they have veterans with expiring contracts coming up and nothing but UDFA's as depth, they felt it was an area of the team that could use an infusion of new competition. They have a good shot of one of the next three players becoming a starter down the road. With their first of three IOL choices in round 6, they selected Jon Runyan Jr who comes to the Packers with a great NFL pedigree (his father had a very long and successful career for the Oilers/Titans and Eagles). After being a backup OG for his first few seasons, Jr. made the switch to RT and then LT under the coaching of Ed Warriner who coached Packers center Corey Linsley at Ohio St. Jon Runyan would go on to start 25 games at LT for Michigan over the next 2 years, earning 1st team all-Big 10. While Runyan is a bit smaller than you would like out of an NFL tackle (6'4 and 306 lbs with 33" arms and a 79" wingspan), his agility and athletic ability were near the top of the draft class. He had the 3rd best 3-cone time at 7.57, and his 40 time of 5.08 was 9th best in the class. His 10 yard split of 1.79 met the threshold that you want for OL by 0.01 (good enough by NFL standards and that's all that matters). Due to his size, Runyan is more of a pass blocker than run blocker at this point in his career. He excels by using his quickness and athleticism to keep up with dangerous pass rushers but sometimes struggles with moving bigger guys back in the ground game. Runyan will compete at guard, which is what he was announced as during the draft, but his versatility makes him a potential swing tackle and utility guy in the early part of his career. Fortunately he comes from a zone blocking scheme at Michigan, which will help him adjust to the Packers version. A lot will depend on how well he transitions inside and how he makes the jump to the speed and complexity of the NFL. If he can make a similar leap like he made entering his junior season, the future looks very bright for him in the NFL. 6b (208) - JAKE HANSON (C - OREGON) *pick acquired from Titans for OLB Reggie Gilbert There is always something to be said when the Packers select a true center in the draft because they rarely do. Elgton Jenkins played 4 different positions at Miss St and JC Tretter played OT before the Packers moved him inside. The only true center Ted Thompson ever drafted was Corey Linsley - an athletically limited and undersized player but a consistent technician who played in a big time program at Ohio St. Now, Linsley at 28 years old is heading into 2020 as the 6th highest paid member of the team and 3rd highest paid center in the NFL. He is also entering the final year of his contract. Next year is going to be judgment day for many starters on the team, and decisions will need to be made to see who will be offered an extension including David Bakhtiari (LT), Kevin King (CB), Aaron Jones (RB), and Kenny Clark (DT). The Packers may not have the cap space to keep Linsley around beyond this season. The Packers also dislike handing out third contracts to their players who may be starting to head towards the back end of their careers. That means the search to find a successor is part of the plans, and that leads us to this next pick. Jake Hanson may not have had the flashiest combine (5.5 in the 40 at 6'4 and 303 lbs), but when it comes to centers, it is more about their technique and ability to make the right calls at the line. That being said, he did have 33 reps in the bench press which was #4 among all OL. Hanson comes to Green Bay as a 4 year starter who boasted 49 career starts. He was the anchor of one of the best lines in the country since he first won the job as a true freshman, and Oregon may not have been as successful without him in the middle making sure the assignments were correct. Hanson plays with an incredible motor, even if he lacks the desired size to compete against linemen one on one, but the Packers' zone system should be able to hide some of those deficiencies. He has strong hands and a sticky grip (which I'm sure will make our division rivals happy), and he works well with guards in double teams. He still needs some fine tuning with his snap placement as he can occasionally misfire out of the shotgun. But as a developmental 6th rounder, Hanson can continue working on those techniques while learning behind one of the best technicians in the game. Not to mention he can use this valuable time on the scout team practicing with Jordan Love. Should the time come when both players are ready to start, they would have already developed a rapport thanks to their time on the practice field together. 6c (209) - SIMON STEPANIAK (G - INDIANA) With the selection of Simon Stepaniak, the Packers believe they got a player who could have been selected as early as the 4th round had he not tragically torn his ACL last December. Stepaniak is the opposite of Runyan and Hanson - he is a tough-nosed mauler in the run game who likes to pick fights and look for people to punish. He played RG at Indiana, and it is likely with his 32" arms that he may be limited to play interior OL as a pro. His 37 reps (!!!) on the bench press in Indianapolis frequently showed up on tape where he routinely manhandled defenders in one-on-ones and would flatten other guys out on double teams. (The fact he could even do 37 reps while recovering from his surgery is astounding.) His main issues will be dealing with poor agility when matched up against quicker speed rushers, where relying on his upper body strength alone won't be enough. Despite his athletic shortcomings, Stepaniak allowed a pressure on only 3.3% of passing plays per PFF. With some fine tuning of his game, there is potential that Stepaniak could become the top OL of the three the Packers selected in round 6. Stepaniak resembles a guard in a power running scheme from 1993, who would rather be out hunting for defenders than settling back and waiting for them to come to him. In a way, this could be a pick for the future direction of the offense, especially after the Packers selected AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara earlier. This shows a subtle shift in the offense away from 5 WR shotgun formations and hinting more towards pounding the rock to punish the new mold of smallefaster defenses. It makes sense that they would take a gamble on Stepaniak late this year. Even though he may wind up on the PUP/IR list, the Packers liked his talent this late in day 3. 7a (236) - VERNON SCOTT (S - TCU) *pick acquired from Browns for OG Justin McCray and #244 Who the hell is Vernon Scott? He was only Dane Brugler's 61st ranked safety out of 62 in the 2020 draft, of course! But really, this is a name that most people just shrugged their shoulders to and probably overlooked. Let me now be the one to introduce you to him. Vernon Scott is a player that is all about two things: versatility and upside. At 6'2 and 206 lbs, he has the prototype size you are looking for in a modern defensive back. He wasn't invited to the combine, and his pro day was canceled hence why he was invisible to the draft community. His athletic testing will unfortunately remain a mystery, but the Packers estimated he ran a 4.40, which would be outstanding for a player at his size. Scott was a one year starter at TCU who lined up all over the secondary. He was primarily a key contributor on special teams for all 4 years before taking over as a starter this past season. While Texas WR Devin Duvernay made him look silly in 2019 (seriously, don't watch the tape), Vernon Scott really started to come on towards the end of the year. In the last three games of the season he had 4 total takeaways, a sack, and a TD. He had a particularly strong game against Oklahoma where he made 7 tackles, a fumble recovery, and a 98 yard INT for a TD. He would finish the year with 44 tackles (4th on the team) and 7 PBU's (ranked 3rd). Where did this sudden playmaking skill come from? Scott moved to the nickel corner role, and he was told to let loose. The Packers are clearly banking that his ability as a slot CB, while also having experience playing the other 4 positions in the secondary, will translate to the NFL and give him an edge to win a roster spot. Not often is a player drafted because of a 3 game stretch, but hey, it is the 7th round so why not? He joins a secondary that is led with Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos but was often exposed when other players such as Will Redmond had to see meaningful snaps. The team also allowed Ibraheim Campbell to walk this offseason who had been with the team for two years. Needless to say, the Packers liked the direction where Vernon Scott’s arrow was pointing, and the more competition in the secondary the better. 7b (242) - JONATHAN GARVIN (OLB - MIAMI) *pick acquired from Ravens for RB Ty Montgomery Jonathan "Spider" Garvin comes to Green Bay with a nice resume from his last two years at Miami. He is an impressive physical specimen at 6'4 and 263 lbs with 34" arms and an 80" wingspan. While his 4.82 probably didn't help him, when you watch the tape his explosiveness jumps off the screen - literally. His 36" vertical was #1 among edge rushers and DL at the combine. Garvin put up 60 tackles, 17 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and 5 pass breakups his sophomore season (not to mention a fumble returned for a TD) while playing across from Joe Jackson. That sort of production tends to get a player noticed, and so his junior season in 2019 was all about fighting for whatever he could get while dealing with the extra attention. Garvin would enjoy much of his time fighting off double- and triple-teams in 2019, which caused a dip in his overall numbers from the year prior. Garvin ended the season with just 37 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks, 4 hurries, and 2 FF. However, his pressure rate of 14.8% was still 5th best in the ACC according to PFF. The drop in production along with the 4.82 in the 40 is likely why he didn't hear his name called in the early part of day 3. Even so, at his size, length, and explosiveness, he could find a home as part of the rotation at OLB in Green Bay. Kyler Fackrell played over 400 snaps on defense as the #3 OLB last year while 1st round pick Rashan Gary played 245. Now that Fackrell left to join the Giants in free agency, Gary will presumably be in line to pick up the snaps left behind which still allows enough opportunities for Garvin to find a role as a situational pass rusher on defense if he can win the #4 spot. Garvin comes to Green Bay with very similar measurables as Za'darius Smith. He has the strength to hold up on the edge but also the explosiveness off the line to get up field to rush the passer. Garvin has a lot of tools to work with, and having both the Smith's as mentors could go a long way as far as how he learns to master them. The OLB depth has a lot of juice on the team for once, and Garvin makes this group even more exciting. 7 (244) - to Cleveland *traded along with OG Justin McCray for #236
OVERALL DRAFT EVALUATION
The Packers were in an interesting position heading into the draft, coming in as a 13-3 team without any major holes on the roster. All the starting spots were filled ahead of time, which already put this draft class at a disadvantage compared to other teams in the league. The rookies may not be relied upon to start or play much in 2020, barring an injury to someone ahead on the depth chart. It isn't too farfetched to think that the Packers could have selected 9 completely different players and would have received the same level of impact from this class year 1. That isn't to say some of the members of this class can't find a role as part of a rotation - I expect Dillon, Deguara, and Martin to all get involved - but there isn't a need to have any of these guys start right out of the gate. Which can be a good thing. It reminds me of the old school days where rookies yielded to veterans and had to bust their asses to earn playing time, rather than being handed a job as soon as they walked through the door. At the end of the day, regardless of what happens with any other player, this draft will ultimately be judged based on the success or failure of one single player: Jordan Love. The legacy (and possibly the future employment) of GM Brian Gutekunst is also now firmly tied to this selection. The coaching chops of Matt LaFleur will also be thoroughly put to the test to see how he develops. A lot is riding on getting this one right. But in the end, because Jordan Love plays the most important position in the game, if he becomes a successful starter, this whole draft is a win. For now all he needs to do is focus on being the best scout team QB the Packers have had the luxury to have on the team since Aaron Rodgers himself. Nothing will be easily given to Love. Proving to the organization that he is worthy of being the heir apparent to Aaron will greatly depend on how he prepares himself for what comes next.
We drafted him in the first round, we certainly think he has that kind of talent. But that’s not enough in the National Football League. You’ve got to work, you’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to become a good enough player. Again, we have one of the best to ever lace them up, and we’re shooting for championships as long as he’s here, and we expect him to be here for quite a while. -Brian Gutekunst
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