Five teams with more questions than answers after the 2020 NFL Draft

If you believe the main commentators, most of the 32 NFL teams had a decent draft. There were a lot of A grades bandied about, with the Ravens, Cardinals, Cowboys, Vikings and even the Bengals getting praise for their hauls. But which teams raised a few eyebrows, had us wondering what they were thinking or just messed with our minds? Here are five teams that were more conundrum than consensus.


1. What are the Packers trying to tell Aaron Rodgers?

As we approached the draft, the general feeling was that the Packers needed more offensive weapons for Aaron Rodgers to throw to. And, with one of the deepest receiver classes in a long time, it was easy to predict that they’d pick one or two to keep Davante Adams company. But rather than finding Rodgers offensive tools to elevate his game, Green Bay opted for his heir apparent, Utah State QB Jordan Love, instead. I would not have wanted to be the pet cat in the Rodgers household on Thursday evening. 

Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Getting all kinds of heat for this pick (our very own Kieran gave it an ‘F’) asx well as the draft as a whole (‘D’ and ‘loser’ grades were not uncommon), you have to question why they traded up to #26 to pick a high-risk guy with 17 interceptions last year. OK, Rodgers is 36 and on the back nine of his playing career (to mix my sporting metaphors), but there’s still plenty of life in the old dog yet – he’s still contracted for another four years.

They made matters worse by failing to pick a single WR – criminal, given the number of pass-catching options available in the 2020 class. Instead, they opted for a power running back (AJ Dillon) and then reached for a TE (Josiah Deguara).

With roster needs at receiver and offensive tackle, as well as linebacker and defensive line, it seems odd that they wouldn’t want to push on from reaching last season’s NFC championship game. But it seems the Pack have a longer-term vision and may be planning for the post-Rodgers era rather than building around him with a Tee Higgins or a Michael Pittman Jr. They could still have win-now aspirations and may just have wanted a decent backup in case the old boy gets crocked, but you can’t help but feel that Green Bay wasted their picks this time around… and upset their franchise QB to boot.

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2. Did the Patriots make a dog’s dinner of the draft?

Bill Belichick doesn’t do templates; he does things his own way, ploughs his own furrow as it were. Being the coaching guru he is, what often seems like an odd pick to the rest of us usually works out OK. But even for him, this year’s draft seemed a little off-script. Maybe we should take more stock from the video feed from Belichick HQ that suggested Bill’s dog Nike was in charge of making the picks.

With Tom Brady, Danny Shelton, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and the once-retired Gronk all leaving town this spring, conventional wisdom would be to fill some of those holes with the Patriots’ 12 picks. But somewhat unconventionally (at least for everyone else bar Belichick), there was a bit of horse-trading, they moved back out of the first round and made their first pick at #37 instead of #23. Small-school safety Kyle Dugger – at least we’ve all heard of Lenior-Rhyne now – was followed by defensive linemen Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings: decent enough picks, but defence was never the issue here.

We were left with a few questions after New England’s business was done. We all expected tight ends to be on the shopping list but were Devin Asiasi (#91) and Dalton Keene (#101) the right selections at the time? Given their limitations last year, they also needed help out wide so, just like the Packers, why didn’t the Pats pick up at least one receiver, especially from this deeper-than-deep class?

They also didn’t take a QB, so we have to assume they trust former fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham to pick up the reins in TB12’s wake. They could have a Gardner Minshew on their hands or he could be more of a Ryan Finley – eek. Apparently, not going after Jalen Hurts, Jacob Eason or Jake Fromm to reduce the risk “wasn’t by design, it just didn’t work out that way”… not words you usually hear Belichick utter. (Then again, he may yet trade for Cam Newton or Andy Dalton and all this conjecture would be pointless.)

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Not only did they ignore the quarterback prospects, they did so in favour of a kicker no one had heard of in Justin Rohrwasser. Without one on their roster, a kicker was always a need but was he the best value at #159, especially with Tyler Bass and Rodrigo Blankenship – arguably the two top options – still available? Apparently, his familiarity with playing and training in bad weather was a key selling point but even so, it still seemed a bit odd that the first kicker off the board was ranked about 12th in his position.


3. Did the Eagles get Hurts in case Wentz gets hurt?

I don’t recall any mock drafts pairing the Eagles with Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts, but that’s who they used their second-round pick on. Philly have already coughed up a cool $137 million on extending Wentz’s contract so they obviously see him as their QB1 for a fair while yet. So is investing the #53 pick in his understudy a wise move?

Jason Getz

Their first pick, WR Jalen Reagor from TCU, gives Wentz a new target to throw to, and they got more speed later in the draft, as well as through a trade for the 49ers’ Marquise Goodwin. But opting to bring in a new backup at quarterback, rather than address corner, safety and linebacker, or give their current QB more playmakers to aim at, was an unexpected move.

GM Howie Roseman obviously believes in his current play-caller but also stated that he wants to make Philadelphia “a quarterback factory”. They do like a strong second choice, be it Nick Foles, Chase Daniels or Josh McCown, and it’s saved the day of late, especially with Wentz twice suffering season-ending injuries. But unless they use the athletic QB in a Taysom Hill-like way, as a Swiss Army knife on special teams, Hurts’ only hope of seeing the field in the short term will be if Wentz fails to suit up for some reason over the next three or four years. That may not happen for some time, if at all, so not waiting till Day 3, when Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason came off the board, seems like a reach with their second pick.


4. Just how many tight ends does Chicago need?

Having passed their first-rounder to the Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack deal, the Chicago Bears didn’t have many picks and only joined the draft at pick #43. Many were expecting them to use their two second-round selections to fill gaps at corner and safety. However reasonable the choice of Utah CB Jaylon Jennings was at #50, many of us were surprised that at #43, Chicago plumped for Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet with their first pick.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get me wrong: seen in a vacuum, he’s a great pick – Kmet was very much a top TE choice and will give Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles a viable red zone target. However, the Bears had added Jimmy Graham to an already-crowded tight end room during free agency, so the selection of Kmet only muddies the waters further. Unbelievably, his arrival means the Bears now have ten (yes, 10!) of ‘em – maybe someone’s getting TE and TEN confused?


5. Houston, do we have a problem?

One of the lasting images of this year’s remote draft will be Texans Head Coach – and now General Manager – Bill O’Brien losing his cool and storming off when a potential trade with Detroit fell through at the last minute. Not the personification of poise and professionalism maybe, but that frustration only mirrors how Houston fans must feel about O’Brien.

The fact that he has traded away two big stars, Jadeveon Clowney and DeAndre Hopkins, without getting a first-round pick for either are black marks against his record. The friction between him and Hopkins, and the arrival of a sub-par David Johnson in his stead, were part of the most puzzling free agency move this off-season. They also gave up a fourth-round pick in that deal, as well as a second-rounder in exchange for the LA Rams’ Brandin Cooks and a first-round spot (plus two top picks in 2021) when acquiring former Miami left tackle Laremy Tunsil. That may yet prove to be as high a price as the $66 million extension they’ve just forked out.

Those shenanigans left them with just five selections this weekend. Having seen DJ Reader leave for Cincinnati in free agency, at least DT Ross Blacklock was a sensible choice with their only selection in the first two rounds. Linebacker Jonathan Grennard in Round 3 was probably a reach, and neither CB John Reid nor WR Isiah Coulter seem to be immediate impact players, given the Texans’ depth at both positions.

Rather than roster-building, O’Brien seems to be slowly doing the opposite, leaving Houston fans increasingly frustrated with his unpredictable choices.

Season in Review – New England Patriots

By Andy Goddard (@godsy1985)

The next instalment of our season review articles takes a look at last years world champions, the New England Patriots. Is a 12-4 regular season record really the end of the dynasty?


Entering the season


Going into the 2019 season, the Patriots were once again one of the favourites to lift the Lombardi Trophy in Miami but there were also a lot of question marks against the team. The major concern appeared to be at the wide receiver position, which was very thin, but did still include the reigning Super Bowl MVP in Julian Edelman and the troubled yet talented, Josh Gordon. The other obvious concern was the loss of Rob Gronkowski. ‘Gronk’ had announced his retirement in March 2019 leaving the Pats with an ageing Ben Watson and two unproven players in Ryan Izzo and, the recently acquired, Matt LaCosse.

Preparations for the new season took another hit on 26th August 2019 when it was announced that centre David Andrews had been diagnosed with pulmonary embolism which would eventually result in him being placed on season ending injury reserve (IR) at the end of August 2019. The Patriots 1st round draft pick, N’Keal Harry, also then found himself on IR in September due to an ankle injury.

Before a play had even been called, the Patriots were struggling on offense but the defence had held the high scoring LA Rams to just three points in Super Bowl 53 so there was still optimism that with Brady and Belichick, another trip to the big game was possible.

The AFC East has been looked upon as a little bit of a joke for quite a while now. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins were both in transition periods and the only challenge for New England looked to be the Buffalo Bills. However, heading into the 2019 season, the Patriots were still expected to win the AFC East and head into the playoffs once more.


During the season


The Patriots started the season with what was regarded as a very weak schedule. The Pats opened the season 8-0 and there was talk from some people in the media that this team could go undefeated. Blow out wins against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets (twice) and the Washington Redskins did not tell the whole story as the second half of their schedule would show.

On September 7th, the Patriots signed Antonio Brown to a one year contract. Suddenly a weak wide receiver unit was now looking very promising with Brown, Gordon and Edelman all lining up alongside Tom Brady. Unfortunately, this lasted just one game (at Miami) before Brown was eventually cut on 20th September due to an ongoing court case and further allegations made against the wide receiver.

David Santiago/AP

Regardless of the Antonio Brown issue, the Patriots were winning, and winning comprehensively. Their defence’s play was historically dominant and was the catalyst for the 8-0 record. Scoring touchdowns on defence and special teams at an astonishing rate covered over the cracks on offense. The Patriots ‘ran over’ teams on their way to winning Super Bowl 53, but this team had to rely more and more on Tom Brady as the running game was non-existent. This may seem strange, having to rely on arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game but Brady was 42 when the season began and (finally) showing signs of his age. To make matters worse, his wide receivers were also struggling. They couldn’t get open, and on the occasions they did, the number of dropped catches was very alarming. The once reliable Julian Edelman, lead the league in dropped catches (9) and Brady no longer had his big tight end, ‘Gronk’. In October, Josh Gordon found himself on IR before being before released and claimed by the Seattle Seahawks. Although Mohamed Sanu was traded to the Patriots on 22nd October, he also struggled and finished the season with just 207 yards.

A week 9 trip to Baltimore brought the Patriots first defeat of the season and although they won the next two games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys it was once again the defence that were the main cause, holding the Eagles and Cowboys to 10 and 9 points respectively.

Notoriously, the Patriots thrive in December and begin to play their best football. The 2019 season was the complete opposite of this as they fell to consecutive defeats against the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. New England’s offense had looked a little better against the Chiefs but one really bad piece of officiating took points off the board when N’Keal Harry was wrongly adjudge to have stepped out when he had scored a touchdown. They would eventually lose 16-23.

Nancy Lane/ BH

Heading into week 16, the Patriots needed to beat the Buffalo Bills to secure another AFC East title. A 24-17 win meant that not only did they win the AFC East but a victory in their final game, at home to the (4-11) Miami Dolphins, would secure the number 2 seed in the AFC and clinch a first round bye in the playoffs. In week 17, things appeared to be going to plan as Tom Brady drove his Patriots down the field late on to take a 24-20 lead but ‘Fitzmagic’ (Ryan Fitzpatrick) had other ideas as the Dolphins scored with seconds remaining to win the game 27-24. That defeat, coupled with a win by the Kansas City Chiefs, meant that the Patriots would finish as the third seed and have to play in the wild game for the first time in since 2009!

The Patriots hosted the Tennessee Titans in the wild card game. With the Titans leading 14-13 at the half, the Patriots would fail to score another point in the 2019 season as the Titans ran out 20-13 winners and advanced to the divisional round.


Offseason outlook


The big question going into the off season revolves around quarterback Tom Brady, who will be an unrestricted free agent. It’s crazy to think of Brady in another uniform but there is a real possibility this happens. It was well reported that Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick, wanted to keep Jimmy Garoppolo before he was eventually traded to San Francisco so we could see a new quarterback under centre for the Patriots. Of course, Brady could very well return for another season but one thing appears certain, Brady does not want to retire just yet.

Adam Hunger /AP

If Brady was to move on, do the Patriots go with back up Jarrett Stidham, draft their new man, or make a trade? I would be very surprised to see Brady sign with someone else and believe that Robert Kraft (New England Patriots Owner) will do everything in his power to keep his QB around and make him a Patriot for life.

In 2019, the defense looked solid against the pass with Stephon Gilmore being the stand out performer and winning Defensive MVP, but they need to improve against the run. This was highlighted in the wild card game against the Titans.

The Patriots also have a long list of players who will hit free agency. Some big name players including Devin McCourty, the impressive Kyle Van Noy, Matthew Slater, Jamie Collins, Joe Thuney and Danny Shelton will be available. Not all of these players will be Patriots next season. Kyle Van Noy and Joe Thuney will get paid big money by another team so will need replacing and the offense still needs improvement at the skill positions. The loss of Gronkowski was huge, not only in the passing game but he also excelled as a blocker. New England has $49 million in cap space and this will probably grow with contracts being restructured.

Heading into the 2020 season, the Patriots need at least 2 wide receivers, a tight end and maybe a quarterback! Added to those positions there is also a need at guard and the linebacker position if Thuney and Van Noy do not sign new deals. This could be the biggest offseason for the Patriots in a long time!


Summary


At the top of the article we asked, ‘is a 12-4 regular season record really the end of the dynasty?’ And for me, the answer is a resounding no! The Patriots actually improved on last seasons regular season record and although their season ended early, they still went 12-4! In fact, there are only a handful of teams that wouldn’t be very happy with that record. There is no arguing, It was a disappointing season but that just highlights the success that the Patriots have had over the past two decades. One teams failure would be seen as a huge success by many other teams in the league. Whilst Belichick is still the head coach, they will always have a chance.

If Tom Brady returns and Belichick can get the right people around him, they will be challenging again next season. The AFC East will be more competitive next year with the Buffalo Bills being the biggest challengers and the Miami Dolphins improving.

Much was made of Brady and the Patriots passing offense, but if you look at the stats, if wasn’t too bad. They finished the season 7th in passing yards per game (253.6 yards) and were also in the top 5 for total number of drops (23). To the dismay of many, I don’t see New England fading away just yet but improvement is needed.


Fun Fact: Heading into week 9 the Patriots were 8-0 but if their offense hadn’t scored a single point, they still would have been 4-2-2!

#NFL100 memories – 1/100

Sailing into Super Bowl Sunday – By Lawrence Vos – (@NFLFanInEngland)

I was 13 when I was transported into a magical world of razzmatazz and shoulder pads and helmets as it was the time I watched my first ever Super Bowl. I was not alone, my viewing friend was my gerbil ‘Bodkin’ who scratched and gnawed on a cardboard toilet roll tube as I witnessed the New York Giants take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXI in 1987. I had a tray with a bag of peanut M&Ms lined up around the edge, and a can of regular Pepsi. It was the start of a tradition I followed for 30 years before giving up chocolate and pop in 2017.

I don’t have more than a handful of memories from the game as I regretfully fell asleep at some point in the second quarter, recalling the game was on a knife-edge and woke up in the fourth with the Giants having a significant lead. Turns out it was one of only two Super Bowls I have watched and fallen asleep in, the other being Super Bowl XXIX another 49ers stampede, this time against the San Diego Chargers.


The few players I remember are Mark Bavaro the Giants tight-end and Phil McConkey the Giants wideout. I have memories of their eye black contrasting against their pink skin. I’m also convinced it was McConkey’s fourth quarter touchdown that woke me up. Turns out McConkey is an incredible story of his own.

He was a 27 year-old NFL rookie having served four years in the Navy. He got his shot with the Giants after Bill Belichick’s dad, Steve, an offensive coach and scout for the Midshipmen, recommended McConkey to his son who had recently been promoted to defensive coordinator at the Giants.


It turns out that even aged 13 Bill Belichick had an influence over my football memories. I remember the grandness of the National Anthem being sung (but had no recollection it was sung by Neil Diamond) and the balloons and the fact the sun was shining and the sky was blue.

I know I had school in the morning and I was fine, I was buzzing having watched my first ever live NFL game on quite a bulky TV set that was surrounded by a wooden exterior. Back then where I lived we hadn’t even had Channel 4 that long, and even that was quite novel. Just imagine it, the internet didn’t exist, there was no such thing as fantasy football, no HD, no mobile phones. Just Phil Simms and his 88% completion rate.

One stat I never forgot all these years later.

AFC East Breakdown

By Andy Goddard (@godsy1985)

Last Season

New England Patriots  11-5

Miami Dolphins  7-9

Buffalo Bills  6-10

New York Jets  4-12

New England Patriots:

Draft selections: N’Keal Harry, WR (1.32), Joejuan Williams, CB (2.45), Chase Winovich, DE (3.77), Damien Harris, RB (3.87), Yodny Cajuste, T (3.101), Hjalte Froholdt, OL (4.118), Jarrett Stidham, QB (4.133), Byron Cowart, DT (5.159), Jake Bailey, P (5.163), Ken Webster, CB (7.252).

Offseason key additions: Michael Bennett, DE (Philadelphia Eagles), Mike Pennel, DL (New York Jets), Ben Watson, TE (New Orleans Saints), Jamie Collins, LB (Cleveland Browns), Demaryius Thomas, WR (Houston Texans).

Offseason key departures: Rob Gronkowski, TE (retired), Dwayne Allen, TE (Miami Dolphins), Adrian Clayborn, DE (Atlanta Falcons), Trent Brown, LT (Oakland Raiders), Trey Flowers, DE (Detroit Lions).

Super Bowl odds: 6/1

Analysis:

The New England Patriots, and coach Bill Belichick, have had their annual off-season shake up but this year it just feels …… different. Rob Gronkowski’s retirement has left the Patriots very bare at the tight end position, especially with Ben Watson being handed a 4 game suspension to start the season. On the defensive side, Trey Flowers has joined Matt Patricia in Detroit and Trent Brown got his big payday in Oakland. The addition of Michael Bennett (DE) from Philadelphia as well as resigning Jamie Collins (LB) has covered some of the losses. The strength of the defense is clearly in the secondary and the resigning of Jason McCourty along with the emergence of J.C. Jackson to play alongside Stephon Gilmore should help give the front seven time to pressure. The Patriots have signed a catalogue of wide receivers for training camp as well as drafting N’Keal Harry (WR) in the first round. If Josh Gordon does get reinstated, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady will have a much more dangerous receiving core. But let’s be honest, the AFC East, as a division, is still pretty awful beyond the Patriots!

Look out for:

The Patriots to start the season 2-2 and everyone to have a melt down! Brady is finished, the dynasty is over, the world is ending! Back in the real world; Sony Michel to lead the offense with a 1000+ yard season as the Pats become a run first team behind a very strong offensive line. New England should win the division at a canter but an early exit in the playoffs could end the chance at a fourth straight Super Bowl appearance but who would ever bet against Brady and Belichick?!

Miami Dolphins:

Draft selections: Christian Wilkins, DT (1.13), Michael Deiter, OL (3.78), Andrew Van Ginkel, LB (5.151), Isaiah Prince, T (6.202), Chandler Cox, RB (7.233), Myles Gaskin, RB (7.234).

Offseason key additions: Dwayne Allen, TE (New England Patriots), Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Josh Rosen, QB (Arizona Cardinals), Chris Reed, G (Jacksonville Jaguars), Eric Rowe, CB (New England Patriots).

Offseason key departures: Danny Amendola, WR (Detroit Lions), Brandon Bolden, RB (New England Patriots), Ryan Tannehill, QB (Tennessee Titans), Andre Branch, DE (Arizona Cardinals), Robert Quinn, DE (Dallas Cowboys).

Super Bowl odds: 500/1

Analysis:

The Dolphins have made big changes during the off-season. New head coach Brian Flores has moved over from divisional rivals New England and quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been traded to the Tennessee Titans. Miami made a very smart move bringing in Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick to battle it out for the starting QB job. ‘Fitzmagic’ (as he was known during a spell in Tampa) averaged 9.6 yards per attempt during the 2018 season. The highest mark recorded by PFF for a QB in 13 seasons! But he suffers massively from consistency issues. Kenyon Drake is a decent but not elite running back and losing Danny Amendola could prove to be a big mistake. Defensively, Miami ranked 29th in the 2018 season but Brian Flores is a defensive guy and has a young group to work with. The Dolphins do boast an elite corner back in Xavien Howard and have a solid linebacking group containing Kiko Alonso. They are a team in transition and should be picking quite early in next years draft.

Look out for:

Fitzpatrick to start the season as QB1 but Rosen to take over by week 8. The dolphins are building for the future and although Super Bowl 54 will be held at the Hard Rock Stadium (home of the Dolphins), do not expect to see the Dolphins competing in the big game. A fourth place finish in the AFC East beckons although they should pick up their obligatory win, at home, against the Patriots!

Buffalo Bills:

Draft selections: Ed Oliver, DT (1.09), Cody Ford, T (2.38), Devin Singletary, RB (3.74), Dawson Knox, TE (3.96), Vosean Joseph, LB (5.147), Jaquan Johnson, S (6.181), Darryl Johnson, DE (7.225), Tommy Sweeney, TE (7.228).

Offseason key additions: Cole Beasley, WR (Dallas Cowboys), Frank Gore, RB (Indianapolis Colts), LaAdrian Waddle, T (New England Patriots), John Brown, WR (Baltimore Ravens), Tyler Kroft, TE (Cincinnati Bengals).

Offseason key departures: Charles Clay, TE (Arizona Cardinals), Chris Ivory, RB (Free Agent), John Miller, G (Cincinnati Bengals), Logan Thomas, TE (Detroit Lions).

Super Bowl odds: 100/1

Analysis:

The Bills are built around their defense and they strengthened it further by adding quality through the draft, but they have also improve the offense with some key additions as well. Ed Oliver is a play wrecking defensive tackle and on the opposite side of the ball, Cody Ford could be used at either right tackle or guard to improve a struggling O-line. The Bills pressured opposing quarterbacks on 37% of drop backs last season (6th in the NFL) and there is no reason to think that this stat won’t be similar in 2019. Buffalo worked their salary cap in 2018 to allow them to build for the future and they appear well placed to make steps this season. The addition of Cole Beasley from the Cowboys should give quarterback Josh Allen a prime receiver to keep the chains moving. At running back the Bills have plenty of options led by LeSean McCoy. McCoy averaged just 3.2 yard per carry in 2018 but the offensive line has been greatly improved. As with most teams, the offensive development with very much depend of the progress of Josh Allen.

Look out for:

The Buffalo bills to be around the .500 mark. If Josh Allen can make decent progress, then a record slightly better than this could be achievable with an outside shot at the playoffs. Their run of games from week 13-16 are brutal (@Dallas, vs Baltimore, @Pittsburgh, @New England) and should be a good indicator of how far this team has developed throughout the season. Look for the Bills to cause some upsets along the way but consistency could be their undoing.

New York Jets

Draft selections: Quinnen Williams, DT (1.03), Jachai Polite, DE (3.68), Chuma Edoga, OT (3.92), Trevon Wesco, TE (4.121), Blake Cashman, LB (5.157), Blessuan Austin, CB (6.196).

Offseason key additions: Le’Veon Bell, RB (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tom Crompton, G (Minnesota Vikings), Jamison Crowder, WR (Washington Redskins), C.J. Mosley, LB (Baltimore Ravens), Kelechi Osemele, G (Oakland Raiders), Trevor Siemian, QB (Minnesota Vikings)

Offseason key departures: James Carpenter, G (Atlanta Falcons), Isaiah Crowell, RB (Oakland Raiders), Spencer Long, G (Buffalo Bills), Mike Pennel, DT (New England Patriots), Buster Skrine, CB (Chicago Bears).

Super Bowl odds: 100/1

Analysis:

Adam Gase has moved into the role of head coach after spending three seasons at their divisional rivals, Miami Dolphins. The Jets have made massive improvements to their roster but it was desperately needed! Through the draft, the Jets used four of their six selections on defensive players, selecting Quinnen Williams with the third overall pick. Greg Williams has also joined as defensive co-ordinator and on paper, the front seven looks promising. However, cornerback is still a big cause for concern. Trumaine Johnson picked up a very lucrative contract and needs to start earning that money if the Jets defence are going to take big strides forward. Offensively the addition of Le’Veon Bell at running back is a big upgrade. The Jets offense ranked 29th in 2018 but with Sam Darnold entering his second year with an elite running back and an explosive receiver in Bobby Anderson, I’m expecting to see the Jets finish 2nd in the AFC East and the offense to be ranked much higher in 2019.

Look out for:

The Jets have the personnel on the roster to be a challenger in the AFC. They have a solid defense, playmakers on offense and are building a strong team for the future. However, it may be a season too early for ‘Gang Green’ and I am seriously worried about head coach, Adam Gase! Seriously, what head coach sniffs smelling salts on the sidelines before a preseason game! The Jets were one of my ‘worst to first’ candidates (shameless plug of my last article) and I truly believe they will be very close to a wild card spot in 2019!

2019 Season Prediction

New England Patriots 11-5

New York Jets 9-7

Buffalo Bills 8-8

Miami Dolphins 4-12

Super Bowl Surprises

A very special Super Bowl episode with a few surprises.
We have a very special guest who likes to “look at the numbers” and was an inspiration for this podcast.
We look at more numbers with Adam in our best bets section. We go head to head with the £100 before we round out with all of you lovely people and your Super Bowl Predictions.

Super Bowl Time!

Get your foam fingers out and shut off your alarm clock, it’s Super Bowl week!
Tim and Lee give you the low down to the big one in Atlanta.
How did New England and Los Angeles make it to the big one? And what will be the keys to the game? What makes Brady so great and can McVay wrestle the torch from Belichick where it’s the upstarter vs the master.
The Fantasy Fam from across the pond tackle our quiz, with a keen eye on a previous contestant’s score…Can they beat it? Can you beat it?
Don’t forget to submit your Super Bowl predictions to be on Friday’s show and enter our free competition to win an NFL jumper! Head over to our twitter @full10yards for all the info.

The End of the Tom Brady Era

Written by Kieran Patterson

Episode 1: Etling, Garoppolo and playing till you suck

April 16th, 2000; it’s the sixth round of the NFL Draft with the 199th pick the New England Patriots select, Tom Brady, Quarterback from Michigan. No one batted an eyelid. Worst combine ever seen by a quarterback a kid who looked like he’d never been to a weight room, never ran a 40 and looked like he was only an average passer. Despite his late game heroics at Michigan, Brady was not looked at as a true NFL prospect. Despite this on his first day of training camp, that’s when he was introduced to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Robert took a look at the young quarterback “You’re Tom right? Our sixth-round draft pick”, Tom looked at Kraft and uttered those now famous words “Yes Mr Kraft and I’m the best decision this organisation has ever made”.

The one thing Brady never lacked was confidence, competitive fire and belief in himself. If you told someone that year that Tom Brady would become the greatest quarterback to ever play football they might think you’re crazy. Brady never had a doubt though. Ever.

Fast-forward to week 2 of the 2001 season, the Patriots are at home to the Jets and down by 7. With 5 minutes left Bledsoe takes the ball, runs out right towards the sideline. As he picks up the first down Mo Lewis makes one of the hardest tackles I’ve ever seen on a quarterback. A hit so hard it sheared a blood vessel in his back, nearly killing him. Brady stepped up and led the Patriots to a Super Bowl that season. Starting the Patriots dynasty that nearly every football fan outside of Boston hates today.

Recently though, there is one big question looming over Brady. How long does he have left? Having a 41-year-old on the field is unknown territory for any team in the NFL. So how do you deal with it? Especially given that Brady took 35+ sacks last season. Bill Belichick had a solution, let young talent Jimmy Garoppolo take the reins. Kraft wouldn’t allow it and made Belichick trade Garoppolo. Most Patriot fans wouldn’t even consider trading Brady though, would they? Well, I actually liked the idea. Given that Brady grew up a 49ers fan it would be nice to see him finish out his career in the red and gold he grew up in. But would a mid-season trade really be the way Brady want to leave New England? Given how many times he’s dazzled wearing that number 12 Patriots jersey, it only seems fitting he goes out like a hero.

Given that Brady has been quoted as saying he’s going to play till he sucks, it’s very likely that he doesn’t go out a hero. It’s a sad possibility he goes out either injured or playing the worst football of his life. It’s possible he starts throwing 3-4 picks and game and makes Brock Osweiler look accurate. It would be a sad way to go, but if he sticks to what he says it’s the most likely scenario.

What’s next for the Patriots after this though? Who takes over? If the response to that is Brian Hoyer I’m jumping off a cliff. Seriously though, 2 seasons ago the Patriots had Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett sat learning from Brady. Two young, talented and teachable quarterbacks ready to learn from the greatest. Both gone. Garoppolo off to San Francisco who until his injury looked like he could be changing their fortunes slightly, in return the Patriots got a second round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Not a great deal for the Patriots. Jacoby Brissett was then shipped off to their arch rivals, the Colts, for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Not a great deal for the Patriots again. It clearly isn’t Belichick’s idea to ship these quarterbacks out and maybe Kraft is placing a little too much trust in Brady staying at the top of his game to levels of winning Super Bowl MVPs, countless AFC East divisions and gunning for the most prestigious records in the game if not holding them already.

So it’s clear that the Patriots need to replace Brady and it’s clear that Hoyer won’t be filling that role… But before we look at who they can draft in the next couple of years, let’s take a look at a player many fans either don’t know exists, have forgotten or simply just over look. That’s Danny Etling.

While this former LSU starter currently sits on the practice squad, it should be noted that he is always traveling with the team and has a very active role during practices. The only real playtime he’s seen with the Patriots is during the week 4 pre-season game against the Giants. While he definitely showed that his passing game needs work he showed that on the ground he’s very competent. The highlight of this was when he snapped off an 86-yard touchdown run. Why am I mentioning this though? Why am I talking about a round 7 pick out of LSU? A college not known for its quarterbacks? Mainly because with pretty much any other team, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Because in New England, there are very few ‘star’ players in the traditional sense.

Besides Gronk and Brady, there aren’t any big personalities and stars that attract that media attention. Do your job and do it well. That’s the Patriot way. That’s how Brady became who he is today which is a 70,000+ passing yards (and let’s not forget 1,000 rush yards!) quarterback with 122 games with a passer rating of over 100+ in his career. He worked. He kept his head down. He did his job. That’s why he’s still there and has been for the best part of 2 decades. That’s why he’s beloved in New England. That’s why he’s the greatest of all time. Danny Etling is doing what is asked of him, he’s doing his job. He might not replace Brady. Maybe the Patriot’s decide to draft someone like Will Grier, Jake Fromm or Drew Lock. Maybe they do have a star, someone that doesn’t really fit with ‘the Patriot way’ of keeping your head down and improving every little aspect of your game.

Brady came to New England in a situation almost the same as Etling’s. A late round pick, low expectation, hard worker and with the tough job of potentially replacing a beloved star. Yes, Brady now is way more beloved and accomplished than Drew Bledsoe but the fact remains that Brady and Etling have essentially came into the same situation. This might just be me looking for parallels between the situations to fit my narrative. To make some whimsical opinion piece on how Danny Etling mirroring Tom Brady so closely is some strange form of fate or destiny at play. Or maybe, just maybe, the end of the Brady era could be the start of something special. It could mark the rising of a new star.

Now while Etling remains on the practice squad and Tom Brady still has time left on his contract we might not be seeing the start of the ‘Etling dynasty’ anytime soon, but given how Brady’s legacy came to be. How Belichick spotted his talent and no one else did, is it really that strange to think that Etling could ascend become such a great quarterback? Maybe. But that’s what I love about the NFL. Anything can happen.

To be continued…

Joy Divisions – AFC West

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

AFC West:

In the words of the Pet Shop Boys – “GO WEST!, life is peaceful there” I think it could be the complete opposite. When has it ever been peaceful in San Diego  Los Angeles?

Perhaps the most intriguing division in the AFC (though the South may have their say) and most people would argue a case for every team in the division actually winning it.

TIM

Los Angeles Chargers:

Let’s start with the Chargers; If you listen to the podcast or read some posts, you’ll know I am a big fan of the Chargers this year to win it all. Injuries are coming thick and fast with Hunter Henry and Jason Verrett going down for the season already (sigh) but the Chargers were already a great defence when Verrett was injured last year. The loss of Henry hurts but there is enough in the pass catching room to spread it around.

Mike Williams needs to step up and should after missing most of his rookie season whilst Tyrell Williams has already shown he is reliable. Both WIlliams’ should be sought after in drafts as they are usually going undrafted and it would be silly not to have a piece of this offence. Keenan Allen isn’t a sure thing to stay healthy either (last season was his first where he played a full 16 game slate). Then there’s Antonio Gates…..

Melvin Gordon is a stud and expect Austin Ekeler to see an uptick in usage in the backfield. Anthony Lynn should be able to get more from this team that ended the season on a hot streak and should have been playing playoff football last year.

Whilst I wouldnt want to see anymore disruption to this team, I think there is something special happening there in Los Angeles (maybe it’s the Rams). Their “home” ground was a bit of a distraction last season and should be more accustomed to playing at the StubHub Centre this year and be able to deal with the lack of home fans there (quite a lot of home games are against teams that don’t travel well too in terms of fanbase).

Key Storyline:  Can the Chargers avoid more injuries which could lead to a derailed season and give Rivers a final push at a deep playoff run?

Denver Broncos: 

Looking forward to seeing how the Broncos start the season, they could be another darkhorse for going deep in the postseason.

Case Keenum will need to hit ground running but has a great compliment of weapons surrounding him. I feel Royce Freeman will beat out Devontae Booker at the running back position but it could be a bit of a committee after the exit of CJ Anderson.

This could be the last hurrah for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver, with draft picks Courtland Sutton and DeSean Hamilton a year or so away, they could seamlessly take over and will get some snaps this year.

Bradley Chubb, arguably the steal of the draft at pick 5 will be a monster on the other side of Von Miller and will make an immediate impact, but the back end of the defence will have to deal with the loss of Aqib Talib.

I feel as though a .500 season is about where the Broncos will aim for as a foundation and should be getting about 9 or 10 wins with the talent here.

Key Storyline:  Can Case Keenum replicate his form from last season?

Kansas City Chiefs:

Andy Reid made a big statement by trading Alex Smith to the Redskins and putting his faith into 2nd season QB Patrick Mahomes. The passing attack seemingly will be more of a vertical one (though Smith was the best deep passer of last season) which is also supported by the acquisition of Sammy Watkins from the Rams. Sammy really needs to put his stuff together otherwise his talent will go to waste.

Spencer Ware returns after missing the whole of last season and could be a sneaky value late in drafts if getting a bit of this backfield. Kareem Hunt, the leading rusher last year was only able to manage that feat due to Ware’s injury and a near 90% RB market share in terms of touches so it will be intriguing as to the allegiances and loyalties of Andy Reid between him and Ware.

The defence has lost Marcus Peters to the Rams and this could lead to some high scoring games at Arrowhead. The question is can Mahomes lead them to enough victories in his first full season as the signal caller.

Key Storyline: Has Andy Reid made the right call and can Patrick Mahomes lead this team or is it too premature for him?

Oakland Raiders:

Jon Gruden taking over from Jack Del (can of) Rio is one of the main off season stories and also his personnel changes have been somewhat eyebrow raising.

Jordy Nelson, Doug Martin and others are players that have come through the door in the offseason and it seems that this will either be a disaster, or a masterstroke. I will bet on the former if I had to choose and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out in Oakland. Their best offensive player has left for Baltimore in another strange deal and it seems as though they are intent on giving Amari Cooper full responsibility for their WR success this season. Considering his high drop rate and poor production last season, it is going to be high risk and high reward type stuff.

Gruden has said that he wants to run the ball and Marshawn Lynch performed well last year when many people doubted him. He could break down this season and Doug Martin was obviously brought in to help share the load, though he himself is prone to injury.

Regardless of what happens, it should be fun to watch…

Summary:

I think this is all set up for the Chargers this year. I am fully on the bandwagon and tip them to go all the way. The window for Rivers is closing but if it’s gonna be any year, this will be the one. Good value for all of the players in fantasy here in LA so make sure you get a piece.

If they fail, Denver could be a sneaky team at decent odds if Keenum is able to be anywhere near his abilities of last year at Minnesota. Their defence could have the old swagger back but they have enough on offence to win games in shootouts should their defence fail. The Denver players are fairly priced in drafts at the moment and could prove their worth come the end of the season.

Kansas City are the wildcard of the division and their range of outcomes is quite vast. If Mahomes slots in and plays well, they could be thereabouts come December though i feel their defence could let them down. Fantasy wise, Sammy Watkins is a value and must come up trumps soon. All the rest are overpriced and I wont take any part of Hill, Hunt, Kelce or Mahomes. Spencer Ware is a guy to watch in training camp.

Oakland possess a stay well clear sign for me and Gruden may have pulled a masterstroke in signing a 10 year (yes, 10 years potentially) contract for mega bucks ($100m) which could prove a costly investment and the source of laughter for years to come.

Dont be surprised if 2 teams come from this division for the playoffs.

Predictions:

  1. Los Angles Chargers,
  2. Denver Broncos,
  3. Kansas City Chiefs,
  4. Oakland Raiders

LEE

So after going over the best division in the conference last time out, today it’s the AFC West.

Let’s start with last season’s AFC West champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. A lot of people seem to be a lot lower on the Chiefs than last season which I think is slightly unfair. I do think they have lost a little bit of balance as their defense doesn’t look as good but I don’t think they’re going to be much worse.

They’re just going to be different; much more offensive and much more explosive. This is mainly down to the fact it’ll be Patrick Mahomes II under center as opposed to Alex Smith. This means more big plays and more excitement, which should be music to the ears of the likes of Tyreek Hill and new wideout, Sammy Watkins. It may also mean more turnovers due to the higher degree of difficulty and risk factor of of the throws Mahomes is going to be making. Another aspect of it is that even though he wasn’t completely redshirted as a rookie, this will essentially be the former Texas Tech star’s rookie year.

Another question mark is; Will Kareem Hunt suffer of sophomore slump and how will Spencer Ware taking away some of his carries affect the running game? Food for thought for fantasy as well as Andy Reid. The offense also lost Matt Nagy as OC, so how will the Chiefs cope with that?

However, even in the face of these questions the trump card is Andy Reid. Reid is one of the better regular season coaches in the history of the league and they still have a talented roster. Because of that, the Chiefs will still be in playoff contention, even if the defense isn’t as good and if it gets rocky for Mahomes in patches.

Next up, the Raiders…

I’m not really sure what to say here. The Raiders are either going to shock the world and be fantastic and the hire of Jon Gruden is going to look like a masterstroke or they’re going to be awful and look like a team trying to play football from a bygone era.

To give you an idea of why I say that; there have been rumours that Gruden has been using tape from the ‘70’s in meetings with Raiders players. Who does that?

There’s also the issue that Jon Gruden seems to be going about player recruitment like he’s trying to reassemble the team he won his fantasy league with in 2015 with the signings of Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin.

Then we come to the biggest issue, the Khalil Mack saga. Picture this, you’re Jon Gruden and you have one of the best pass rushers in the game and you don’t pay him, even worse, you’ve only been in contact with your star defensive player once since you were hired… you’re out of your mind, right? It’s getting really messy now Mack is missing time and there’s even some people talking about a trade.

Oakland have got some talent on their roster but there’s just too many questions and too many odd things surrounding the team for me to get too positive. They also need rebound seasons from the likes of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper! Waiting for me to get positive? Hmmm… let’s not talk about their draft. Good news? They’ll probably have a pretty high pick in the first round next year!

If I want to talk about a team that did draft well, then I can talk about the Denver Broncos. Annoyingly, as a Chargers fan, Denver had a really good draft and it will stand them in good stead for years to come. You can see the logic in a lot of their picks; Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton can replace Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in a year or two. Royce Freeman can nail down their starting running back spot. Bradley Chubb is the ideal running mate for Von Miller, a steal at 5th overall (if you can have a steal so high). Isaac Yiadom and Josey Jewell add good depth too.

The biggest negative for Denver in the off season was getting beat by Minnesota in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. Although it was quite funny to see the front office react like a young guy who just got rejected by a girl he really liked by essentially coming out and saying, “I didn’t fancy her anyway, mate”. They did settle on the slightly less attractive Case Keenum. Who everyone is sort of waiting to turn into a pumpkin again, which I find slightly unfair because he was excellent last year. Keenum is just a system guy who will be hoping that Denver have the right one to fit him and his style. Denver will also he hoping the same as one of Paxton Lynch or Chad Kelly will be backing him up… yikes.

Overall Denver are going to be better, not championship contenders but if they completely click, maybe a wildcard spot is within reach. Fantasy wise, no guys you’re targeting really early but you could do worse than Thomas, Sanders or Freeman for depth, or Hamilton and Sutton for a dynasty stash.

Finally, my team, the Los Angeles Chargers. Now, as any regular reader or listener knows, or if you follow me on Twitter, I’m pretty positive when it comes to the Chargers and you’ve probably heard all my hype so I’ll keep this brief.

I loved the Chargers draft. Derwin James was a steal in the first, then after that they filled out positions of need throughout the rest of the next two days. Much like the Broncos draft, you can see the logic behind every pick. All the buzz and highlights out of training camp this week on the rookies have been really positive too.

On offense the only big negative is Hunter Henry’s injury and the void it leaves for a playmaker at tight end. I feel like the Bolts will give an opportunity to younger players and role with more three and four wide receiver sets. The rest of the offence is pretty complete, watch out for further improvement from Melvin Gordon and potential breakout seasons from Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp.

The defense looks equally complete with top players littering the secondary and the league’s best pass rushing pair up front. The weakness could be the linebackers as there’s no real star but watch out for Kyzir White, who is making the transition from safety to linebacker coming into the pros. He’s a hard hitter and the Chargers will be looking for him to use his coverage skills to good effect over the middle.

Another big plus point for the Chargers is that they kept their entire coaching staff together through the off season hires. Both Co-ordinators and their most talented position coaches such as Ron Milus and Giff Smith, the defensive backs and defensive line coaches, who will surely be being looked at for DC jobs all over the league.

You could say I’m bias but I truly believe the Chargers are the best team in the West and will win the division and they have a chance to go deep in the playoffs. As I’ve said in previous articles, I feel like the road to the Superbowl goes through either Jacksonville or Foxborough in the AFC and those would be tough games for L.A. but by no means impossible.

Fantasy wise; Melvin Gordon is a first round player, ditto Keenan Allen. Rivers is a nice QB to have on your roster, he’ll have the odd down week but he will average a healthy amount of points per week. Deeper sleepers will be Mike Williams and potentially Tyrell Williams. A deeper dive could be Austin Ekeler for deeper leagues.

Prediction, won’t shock anyone but…

  1. Chargers
  2. Chiefs
  3. Broncos
  4. Raiders