In the wake of Liverpool winning their first Premier League since it’s conception and 30 years, 58 days since their last league title, sporting droughts have been a hot topic as of late.
Whether you are looking to forget Liverpool’s title or a fan looking for some optimism in what seems like the dark age of your favourite franchise, we’ll take a look at the longest droughts which are set to be broken in the upcoming season.
The Cleveland Browns
19 Year Playoff Drought
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way, the Cleveland Browns.
As is reminiscent with the aforementioned Liverpool side, the Browns found themselves turn from a historic franchise winning a combined 4 NFL championships under the likes of legendary Jim Brown and co, to frequently finding themselves as the butt of the joke for verging on the past two decades.
As every NFL fan knows all too well, the drought of the Browns has been characterised not only by its length, but the extraordinary and spectacular failings of the team.
Whether that be the winless season or last season in which the Browns were hyped up by many to be Superbowl contenders, only to put themselves out of playoff contention by winning only 2 games in the first half of the season.
Whilst the Ohio based organisation does have a reasonably difficult schedule, being in a tough division and having to play at Dallas and Tennessee, now seems as good a time as any to make their first playoff appearance since the 2002 AFC Wildcard game.
The Dallas Cowboys
26 Year Championship Drought
Replacing the Browns as the most hyped up team heading into the new season, the Cowboys’ fans look to be rewarded for their wait with an NFL championship come February.
Although there are still question marks over the contract dispute between the organisation and their franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, everything else appears to be in order for America’s team to reclaim their perch. Much to the relief of Dallas fans worldwide, Jason Garrett has left the helm after a decade in the role of Head Coach. Garrett was replaced in the offseason by Mike McCarthy who coincidentally won his only Superbowl ring with the Green Bay Packers the same season that Garrett took over the role as Head Coach of Dallas.
Aside from coaching, although this was often the focal point of Dallas’ fans frustrations over recent years, the initial eye test is that the organisation has drafted well securing Ceedee Lamb as the heir apparent to Michael Irvin to join an already stellar offense.
Although I’m still sceptical about the Cowboys chances to win it all, primarily because of the hype and lingering taste of the failure to meet expectations in the past, the aspirations are certainly still there from many.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
14 Year Playoff Drought
Likewise, the Bucs have been an exciting and intriguing prospect for many fans heading into the 2020 season. The Buccaneers previous season was as much reminiscent of a roller coaster as any regular season can be.
From defensive highs like franchise record and league leading sacks from Shaq Barrett’s 19.5 sacks to the lows ranking 29th in overall defense. And of course, the offense. The rollercoaster effect was usually the cause of former first overall pick Jameis Winston who threw for over 5,000 yards and over 30 touchdowns, a feat many Hall of Fame QBs failed to achieve, but also threw 30 interceptions and set the record for 7 interceptions returned for touchdowns.
However, there were signs of life under new head coach Bruce Arians and with the high profile additions of former Patriots duo Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, the Bucs look set to make their first playoff appearance since 2007.
Whilst some of the more optimistic fans have pointed to experienced, serial winners in Brady, Gronk and Arians as evidence of a possible title, whether that be divisional or a Superbowl ring, playoffs are certainly within reaching distance.
26 Year Divisional Title Drought
On the face of it, the New England Patriots’ stranglehold on the AFC East appears to be over. Although the Patriots are still making attempts to hold their title as the top dogs in the division, with the addition of Quarterback Cam Newton to a 1 year deal, the Bills are looking to claim their first divisional title since 1995.
The Bills ended the 1995 regular season with a record of 10 wins and 6 losses, a record they will be looking to match at the very least in the upcoming season. The team’s defense ranked 3rd overall in 2019, and whilst the 2019 pro bowler and interception leader Tre’Davious White grabs the spotlight, the Bills have consistent quality throughout their defense.
Where the team has looked to improve the most this offseason is the other side of the ball, by adding wide receiver Stefon Diggs this past offseason in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings which cost them their 2020 1st round pick among some other deal sweeteners.
The signs of the Patriots dynasty finally meeting its death, whilst historically have been greatly exaggerated, seem as comprehensive as they will ever be. Now, the position is there for the Bills to take the mantle as the top team in the AFC East for the first time in 25 years.
For me, the only question that remains is whether Josh Allen will continue improving and making the necessary leap required heading into his third season to make the Bills the new beast from the East.
It’s probably not that surprising that British athletes carving out a solid career in the NFL have been few and far between. Obviously, there have been a few: London-born running back Jay Ajayi played for the Dolphins before winning Super Bowl LII with the Eagles, while Osi Umenyiora, now a pundit on The NFL Show, is another Londoner with a ring, thanks to the Giants’ surprise win over the Patriots a decade earlier. Before him, Hertfordshire’s finest, Mick Luckhurst, played his entire career as a kicker with the Falcons before becoming the face of Channel 4’s NFL coverage in the Eighties.
But what about now? Who are the guys born or bred on this side of the pond that we should be rooting for in 2020? Here’s the low-down…
THE EIGHT-YEAR PRO
Jack Crawford – Defensive Tackle, Tennessee Titans
You gotta love Jack. Raised in Kilburn, the early claim for this 6’5”, 20-stone bald guy (due to alopecia) was being at school with Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe. He then moved to the States as a teenager with dreams of becoming an NBA star but due to international transfer rules, that didn’t pan out. Undaunted, he took up football in high school and after four years at Penn State, was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Not a bad plan B…
Crawford featured as a backup in his rookie season and appeared in 15 games the following year before being waived. He then enjoyed three-year spells with the Cowboys (you may have seen him at Wembley against the Jaguars in 2015) and the Falcons. Arguably not a starting-calibre lineman, Crawford, who has played at both defensive end and defensive tackle, has registered 136 tackles and 16 sacks to date.
A couple of months ago, Crawford signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans. It’s hard to say how it’ll pan out for Jack as he enters his ninth year in the league, but he’s certainly able to fill in should Mike Vrabel need him to. With Austin Johnson signing with the Giants and five-time Pro-Bowler Jurrell Casey packing himself off to Denver during the off-season, there may even be a decent chance we might see him as a starting DT in 2020…
THE WORK IN PROGRESS
Jermaine Eluemunor – Offensive Guard, New England Patriots
Now 25, Eluemunor was born in Chalk Farm, London, to a Nigerian/English family and grew up in Camden. He played rugby and cricket as a youngster – preferring the former – but got into football because of the other football, and in particular, his beloved Arsenal (check out @TheMainShow_ on Twitter).
The story goes that in 2007, he was skipping through the channels looking for the Arsenal match when he stumbled on the NFL International Series game between the Giants and Dolphins at Wembley. His interest piqued, he started down a path that would lead him to play high school football in New Jersey before attending Texas A&M. He and his father briefly came back to England but Eluemunor was allowed to return Stateside, as long as he graduated and put everything into pursuing a career in football.
On the eve of the 2017 Draft, in which he was picked by the Ravens in the fifth round, Jermaine told The Independent“Wherever I get picked, I’m gonna work as hard as I’ve ever worked to make this happen and my dream come true. This is just the start.”
And that he did. Eluemunor made the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) All-Rookie Team in his first year, and played 27 regular-season games and one postseason contest in Baltimore before being traded to the Patriots. The 335-pound offensive lineman played 10 times in New England last year and has been retained for the 2020 campaign. Sitting behind left guard Joe Thuney in the depth charts, he isn’t a starter but provides depth in the middle of the line and we should see him get a decent number of snaps this season.
THE INTERNATIONAL PATHWAY PROSPECT
Efe Obada – Defensive End, Carolina Panthers
Obada had a tough start in life. Born in Nigeria before moving to the Netherlands, Obada and his sister got moved to London, where they slept rough and ended up in foster care. He fell into football when he saw how a college friend transformed himself playing for the London Warriors.
Looking for some cameraderie, Obada joined him and was taken under the wing of Aden Durde, who told his Dallas Cowboys contacts about Efe. Obada had only played five games for the Warriors when he was offered the chance to work out for Dallas, ahead of their Wembley game against the Jaguars. Despite his lack of experience, Efe was signed as an undrafted free agent a year later. It didn’t work out, nor did it with the Chiefs and Falcons, so his last hope was the NFL’s inaugural International Player Pathway Program, which placed him with the Panthers’ practice squad.
The following year, Obada become the first player from the program to make a 53-man roster, and played his first regular season game in Week 3 against the Bengals, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance. Last October, Obada posted a career-best 24 tackles and played in all 16 of Carolina’s games, including the Buccaneers game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Obada was named an honorary team captain for the 37-26 victory that day, a fitting tribute in front of a ‘home’ London crowd.
Having signed a one-year contract extension in January 2020, Obada is heading into his third season with the Panthers. He’s shown promise so far but has yet to start in any of his 26 appearances to date and hasn’t recorded any sacks. By his own admission, he hasn’t established himself yet and, with a new HC Matt Rhule – let alone 2020 NFL Draft pick Yetur Gross-Matos jumping the queue at DE – he has his work cut out this season. It could be the most important of Obada’s career; he’s set to enter free agency in 2021 so let’s hope he can do enough to earn a longer contract.
THE FIRST-YEAR SUCCESS STORY
Jamie Gillan – Punter, Cleveland Browns
Growing up in Inverness, Scotland, Jamie’s all-consuming passion for rugby took him to Merchiston Castle, a boarding school in Edinburgh with a reputation for fast-tracking players into the Scottish national squad. As a promising fly-half, he developed a talent for kicking – one that would eventually stand him in good stead.
When his RAF dad was posted to Maryland, the Gillan family, including a 16-year-old Jamie, moved too. He had never watched football and initially, had no intention of playing it, but he asked to join the high school team, purely to keep fit during the rugby off-season. With a few tweaks to his technique, Gillan soon became an accomplished kicker and offers began to trickle in.
“All my mates were telling me you could get scholarships for kicking a ball and I didn’t believe them at first,” he told the BBC sport website last year, “but I thought I’d give it a try after I saw the guy missing field goals.”
Well, the punt – if you’ll excuse the pun – was worth it. A year ago, the undrafted rookie was brought in by the Cleveland Browns as a back-up to Britton Colquitt. And whaddya know, after some impressive pre-season turnouts – including a 74-yard punt and some robust, rugby-style tackles on punt returners – he took the starting job from the 10-year veteran.
Known as “The Scottish Hammer” for his solid physique, the long-haired Scotsman soon got the fans and the pundits onside. Gillan was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September, and his debut campaign – 63 punts for 2913 yards, including a 71-yard season’s best – earned him a place on the PFWA All-Rookie team.
I have to hold my hand up to this one: before researching this article, I had no idea that Gano was born in Arbroath, Scotland. But his dad, a US Navy man, was stationed there when Graham was born.
Apparently, young Graham was a decent goalkeeper, and supported Bayern Munich and Scotland. Prior to attending high school in Florida, he was approached by a scout at the end of a summer tournament in which he’d excelled but he rejected the chance to move back to the UK… and join a little outfit called Manchester United.
Gano broke all sorts of Florida State records in his senior year, prompting a pick-up as an undrafted free agent in 2009 by the Ravens (they do like a Brit!). Alas, he was soon released and flirted with the inaugural United Football League, scoring the Las Vegas Locomotives’ championship-winning kick and leading the league in scoring and field goals.
Finally breaking into the NFL in 2009, Gano experienced an up-and-down three years at the Washington Redskins, where he earned a reputation for nailing game-winning field goals in overtime, yet had to compete for his job more than once.
Since 2012, Graham has been a Panther. In his time, he hit the upright in Super Bowl L in the loss to the Broncos, and was named to a Pro Bowl in 2017, having made 96.7% of his FG attempts that year. Having sealed yet another OT win, against the Giants, in early October 2018 with a career-best 63-yard kick, he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and missed the entire 2019 campaign, prompting the 32-year-old to have surgery.
Speaking to Panthers.com last August, he said “Whatever my future holds, I’m excited about it. I’m always going to keep a positive attitude, no matter what’s going on.” Gano’s a decent kicker – he only missed three FG attempts during 2017 and 2018 – so if he can battle back and compete for his old job again, there’s a chance he’ll be a rock-solid leg again in 2020.
THE PRACTICE SQUAD HOPEFUL
Christian Wade – Running Back, Buffalo Bills
Christian Wade is currently on the Buffalo Bills practice squad, with hopes of another year of development ahead of him, but he’s already had an impressive career in rugby.
The lad from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, played for Wasps since his school days and went on to score 82 tries for them, which puts him fourth on the Premiership’s all-time list. He also represented England at all levels (alas, only the one national appearance though), and was also called up to the British and Irish Lions squad.
Frustrated with the lack of England opportunities, he decided to switch codes, clubs and countries and try out as an NFL running back, despite having zero experience. He came through the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, and spent last season in upstate New York on the Bills’ practice squad. Almost immediately, he made headlines, with a 65-yard TD run with his first-ever touch in a preseason game against the Colts, and a 48-yard run with his first catch.
Despite his undoubted speed and athletic ability, Wade failed to make the active roster last year and is yet to appear in a regular-season game. But he’s undaunted, telling The Telegraph“It has been a success to come across, learn the game, participate in practice at full speed and to play in preseason. I just want to keep improving. I’m going to give it the same energy as I did this year and see where that gets me.”
THE 2020 ROOKIE
Julian Okwara –Defensive End, Detroit Lions
Okwara was born in London, when his mother was visiting family, but grew up near Lagos in Nigeria. He moved to North Carolina aged eight and eventually took up football, following his older brother Romeo through Ardrey Kell High School and Notre Dame on his way to the NFL. Romeo (also a defensive end) signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and was claimed off waivers by the Lions in 2018.
Julian was a standout at Notre Dame, making 19.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over his last two seasons. And now, he finally catches up with Romeo, having been selected by Detroit in the third round of the 2020 Draft. According to Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus, Okwara could prove to be the steal of this year’s class, after a broken leg toward the end of last season impacted his Combine and quelled any first-round chatter.
Helping to address one of the Lions’ biggest weaknesses last year, their pass rush (tied for second-last with just 28 sacks), Okwara – also considered an outside linebacker – may end up competing with Trey Flowers and Austin Bryant, as well as his big brother, for starting snaps.
Matt Patricia is getting a versatile player who can drop back into coverage or rush the passer. On signing with the Lions, he told Detroit Free Press reporters “They’re getting a pass rusher, great defensive end, someone who wreaks havoc in the backfield.” So look out for Okwara to come out from his brother’s shadow and make a name for himself in the NFC North next season.
THE FREE AGENT
Josh Mauro – Defensive End (No current team)
Mauro began his journey to the NFL in that hotbed of American football, St Albans, but started to play football at Stanford after he moved to the US.
The lad impressed the Steelers enough for them to sign him up as an undrafted free agent but he was released, kickstarting a tour of the league in subsequent seasons that took in the Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants (where he got caught up in some controversy over the use of a banned substance) and, finally, Los Angeles. With his one-year deal with the Raiders now at an end, the 6’6”, 290-pound run stuffer is currently looking for his next landing spot.
He’s made 30 starts in five seasons but now aged 28, the clock is ticking and I’m not sure we’ll see him take the field in the season ahead. Fingers crossed.
After missing almost the whole 2019 season due to injury Ben Roethlisberger is poised for a big comeback.
While I’m not a fan of this man, he’s undeniably a great player and given the problems the Steelers had with their quarterback situation last year, I’m sure most Steelers fans want to see him back. Even though Duck Hodges is undeniably one of the best personalities in the sport, his play isn’t quite up to scratch.
I’m a betting man so my money is on Big Ben winning the comeback player of the year with the weapons around him.
Todd Gurley – RB, Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons landed the former first round running back, giving him a one year deal worth $5.5 Million.
Now this is more of a risky pick given Gurley’s history with injuries, but provided he can stay healthy, Gurley will want to prove what a mistake the Rams made by dropping him the way they did.
The Atlanta Falcons have a ton of weapons going into this season, so look for Gurley to be a big part of this offence and, health permitting, make a big comeback.
Baker Mayfield – QB, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield was, to put it bluntly, a complete shambles last year. After a record-breaking rookie season Mayfield was poised to come in and bring the Browns their first winning season in years. He sadly flopped. You knew by midseason that hacks like Colin Cowherd were foaming at the mouth watching the Browns struggle to put it together come game time, despite their stacked roster.
The biggest reason for the Browns underperformance was having a first time head coach trying to manage a team full of talent and strong personalities. Oh, and instead of getting an extra piece for their offensive line, they just added OBJ and gave up a first round pick. Never change, Cleveland. Never change.
Mayfield has the talent to be a top tier quarterback in the league, and provided he gets the right attention in camp and stays away from filming so many endorsement deals, I see Mayfield being a serious contender for comeback player of the year in 2020.
Mathew Stafford – QB, Detroit Lions
Until his unfortunate injury last season, Matthew Stafford was looking like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He ranked 8th amongst quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus grading from week 1 to week 9; no small feat.
Now factor in all the weapons this offence has. TJ Hockenson, Kenny Golliday, Danny Amendola and now D’Andre Swift (Top receiving running back in the draft) among others.
If Stafford can start the season strong, and even string together some decent wins for the Lions, there’s no reason we can’t see Stafford take this award home for a second time. Honestly, Stafford has a good a chance as any.
J.J. Watt – DE, Houston Texans
It’s a shame that a man like J.J. Watt has been so unlucky with injuries. One of the best defensive players in the league and, before Aaron Donald came along, probably the best pass rusher, it’s fitting that the only person that can slow down J.J. Watt is J.J. Watt.
Provided he can stay healthy next year as the Texans push for another run at the playoffs, he’s going to be a force. It would be really great to see the former Walter Peyton man of the year award winner add a comeback player of the year award to his collection.
At 31, Watt’s days in the NFL may soon come to a close, so a return to form would be a fitting conclusion to a storied career. Watch for J.J. to leave it all on the field this year if he can stay healthy.
The 2020 NFL Draft has finished, the excitable young rookies have found their new homes and the ripple effects are in full force in the fantasy football world.
What are going to be the biggest headaches through the off-season and maybe throughout your 2020 league seasons? Here are some to just skim the surface and there are plenty more headaches out there that will make up part 2 of this series.
If you have any particular backfield or Wide Receiver room you want me to look at and guide you on, please let me know on Twitter (@Full10Yards).
Dallas Wide Receivers
CeeDee Lamb being drafted in the 1st round of this year’s draft was a jaw-dropper for everyone. He joins studs Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup in Dallas in what looks to be a case of too many mouths to feed. But is it?
The bad news is that there are very few offences ever that have supported 3 WRs in fantasy. The good news is that Dallas had the most yards on offence last year by some distance, almost amassing 7,000 of them, with 4,902 (71%) through the air.
To create a bit more wiggle room, Jason Witten (529), Randall Cobb (828) and a few other small contributors have vacated over 1,500 yards of receiving output so even if Amari Cooper (1189) and Michael Gallup (1107) sustain their high production or get near it, the left over could more than funnel its way to CeeDee Lamb to be able to break the milestone in his first season.
Even if you bring Dak Prescott’s high watermark in passing yards from last season down by 10%, there is still viability that these 3 WR could all achieve 1,000 yard receiving seasons, something we have not seen since the 2008 Arizona Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston) and has only been seen 5 times in the NFL since the merger.
So where’s the problem I hear you ask? Well unfortunately, there are going to be a multiple number of weeks where 1 WR comes to the fore and scores a TD or 2 and hits 100yds, 1 has a mediocre output (say 5 receptions for 76yards) and 1 which takes a backseat (1 catch, 12 yards). THIS is your nightmare! Not being able to predict where the targets are going week to week is what will keep you awake every day of the week.
With the amount of talent in each of those wide receivers, it could be a case of “flavour of the week” every week and for players that you are going to be spending early to mid round picks on, this is not ideal. Amari Cooper will likely be the defacto #1 (at least in 2020) due to his big offseason contract that was signed, making him a $100m receiver. But are you willing to spend a 2nd round redraft pick on him with the headaches that will come attached to it when you have the likes of Kenny Golladay, Cooper Kupp, the Tampa Bay WRs (which we’ll get to shortly) and Keenan Allen?
Michael Gallup, who had an under the radar stellar second year almost seems certain to fight it out with Lamb for the 2nd look. With Lamb being a shiny new toy, you’d expect him to go drafted ahead of Gallup so there could be value in taking Gallup in the mid to later rounds.
All of these guys will have safe floors and you’d expect them to all be low WR2/high WR3 come the end of the season. But on a week to week basis, there’ll likely be more ups and downs than the bigger dipper at Blackpool.
That being said, this definitely a WR core to invest in for your Bestball leagues.
LA Rams Running Backs
With the exit of Todd Gurley, the question before the draft was whether or not they saw fit to replace their former star RB… the answer was emphatic.
With their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft at number 52, the Rams selected Cam Akers out of Florida State. Will Cam Akers come in and take the bulk of the load? Probably. But the nightmare here is the decision to hold either or both of the handcuffs as it could possibly be burning holes in your benches, especially in shallower leagues.
Dynasty leagues with bigger benches, you can probably get away with holding Malcolm Brown, but what if Henderson makes a 2nd year leap? What if it turns into a hot hand approach or a nasty 3 headed monster in the backfield?
For the Akers’ truthers, they’ll point to his tape behind a poor O-line in college and still managing to achieve 5ypc along with the fact that McVay and the coaching staff already knew what they had in Henderson and Brown, yet still decided to use their first pick in the draft on him.
However, the poor offensive line play from the Rams recently supercedes all of these backfield quandaries. If you have poor offensive line play to the tune of being ranked 31st in 2019 by PFF, it doesn’t matter how good your running back is or the volume he gets, the ceiling is already capped.
Do you want to be wasting a 1st round rookie draft pick on a guy that could be in a 3 way time share. Akers should get goal-line work which gives you a bit of hope that he’ll perform adequately in fantasy, but why give yourself the headache?
Cleveland Tight Ends
Tight Ends aren’t the most exciting of positions at the best of times, but to take the 2019 TE6 and usually reliable fantasy option Austin Hooper and slotting him into the Browns means that we potentially have 2 to choose from.
David Njoku has not pulled up any trees since joining the league and was injured for the majority of last season. THe nightmare here is primarily for Austin Hooper owners. Tight Ends generally take a few years to acclimatise to the NFL before any production is seen. David Njoku is now looking to hit that sweet spot and break out entering his 4th year and has had his 5th year option exercised by the Browns. Clearly the Browns plan to do something with him. Kevin Stefanski, the new Browns HC even had this to say:
“I think there’s an obvious skill set there. It’s a big year for David, and a lot of that is gonna be up to him and the work that he puts in to this. We have big plans for him, but it’s about for him coming back in the building and working. And then ultimately seeing if we can utilize him in role that will take advantage of his skill set.”
Kevin Stefanski – at the NFL Combine.
These two are going to be far from the Gronk/Hernandez pairing from yesteryear so that leaves you with the headache of which one (if any) could post usable fantasy points at any given week.
You need to weigh up whether Stefanski’s words about Njoku or the actions of signing Austin Hooper to a 4 year, $44m dollar deal are worth following up on.
Miami Running Backs
Of all running back conundrums, the Miami one is certainly the one that most warrants pulling your hair out over.
They signed Jordan Howard in Free Agency to a deal and then went and traded for Matt Breida during the NFL draft for a 5th round pick.
Since 2016, Howard has the third-most rushing yards and seventh-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL. Howard’s consistent touchdown production makes him one of just five players to rush for at least six scores in each the past four seasons, yet he finds himself on his 3rd team in 5 years.
During his three-year career, Breida averages an even five-yards-per-pop and he’s scored 10 touchdowns and compiled 2,463 yards from scrimmage on just 448 touches (381 carries and 67 receptions).
In summary, Matt Breida seems to at most be the 1b here as a 5th round pick investment doesn’t say too much that he’ll come in an get the lions share. Most will be surprised that the Dolphins didn’t invest in this years draft directly for a running back, and that says to me they are more than happy to roll with Howard for the most part in what could be a a lightning and thunder approach. Jordan Howard getting early down work and Breida getting the pass catching duties (though both are sufficient at either) and a mixture at the goal line.
What this means to your fantasy teams is that they are at best, week to week flex plays. Trying to decipher who will be better in positive or negative gamescripts can help, but its not going to be that simple with these two newly acquired backs. Add in a sprinkle of Patrick Laird and my friends, you have a nightmare.
Houston Wide Receivers
Time to look at another muddling wide receiver core. This time we take a look at the Texans. We don’t need to reopen the DeAndre Hopkins wounds for Texans fans but as we are all too aware, he packed his bags for Arizona.
The replacements? Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks through Free Agency/Trades and Isaiah Coulter in the draft. Add these to Will Fuller and Kenny Stills and you have a mess bigger than the M25 at rush hour.
This wide receiving core may end up sorting itself out as most of these players have been dogged with injuries. Will Fuller would kill for working hamstrings and Brandin Cooks has had multiple major concussions that his alarm bells ring 24/7. But drafting these guys prior to season start or trading for them at any time will come with the compulsory crossing of fingers.
Let’s look at investments of the players brought in;
Brandin Cooks was traded to the Houston Texans for the 57th pick in the NFL draft, not quite the previous 1st rounders when traded to the Patriots and Rams but you have to say he could be the equivalent of Soccer’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink or Nicholas Anelka in terms of the amount of investment paid for a player. Considering the lack of draft capital the Texans had and currently have going forward, this is a big indication to me that DeShaun Watson and Brandin Cooks will be a constant sentence in 2020 (injuries aside).
Randall Cobb was given a 3 year $27m (almost $19m guaranteed) deal to move him just down the road from Dallas to Houston. Kudos to Randall’s agent on that one. I am reliably informed that the Houston Texan’s offence will suit Randall Cobb and could be a sneaky key contributor to this offence. So I’m all for it in the last round of PPR leagues, maybe a bit of bestball too. However, he himself has had injuries over his 10 year career in the NFL, so beware.
Talking of Bestball, that is where Will Fuller’s safest purchase can be found. He isn’t worth trying to figure out or rely on week to week and I don’t think he ever has. The former 1st round pick back in 2016 is an unrestricted free agent in 2021 and is currently in his exercised 5th year option. You have to wonder if BO’B let’s Fuller walk, especially with Houston’s lack of draft capital.
Kenny Stills isn’t going to trouble leagues unless it’s a deeper bench or unless the aformentioned teammates hit the treatment table.
Isaiah Coulter is highly thought of here at Full10Yards HQ and the 171st overall pick in the NFL Draft from this year is yet another piece of the cake that has too many ingredients in.
All in all, I would only consider Brandin Cooks if in the mid to late rounds of draft. There will be plenty that will have written him off. Randall Cobb as a late round dart in PPR redraft leagues and Will Fuller in the alter rounds of Bestball. If you pivot these players into formats other than those listed, welcome to nightmare heaven.
How things can look different after 12 months. This time last year, Bruce Arains was taking over at the helm, everyone was getting excited about an OJ Howard breakout and Jameis Winston was looking primed for a big season in a contract year.
Fast forward 365 days and we now have a new QB (Free Agency), new RB (draft) and a new TE (out of retirement) to add to the mix.
Tom Brady doesn’t strike many as a guy who can support 2x 1,000 wide receivers, mainly because he was devoid of any talent on the outside for so long in New England and became the dink and dunk master. Is that what Tampa Tom Brady looks like? TB12 will be 43 when the season (eventually) rolls around. Does he still have the arm? Possibly not. Does he still have the skill? Absolutely. Tom Brady will walk into Raymond James stadium and the player’s locker room and not know what to do with all the weapons at his disposal.
For fantasy, there is the potential headache of not knowing what the change at QB means for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Change generally means a dip in production in first year whilst you allow for the new player to acclimatise. Tom Brady will be no different, especially with the pandemic threatening to curtail the offseason workouts and building any chemistry.
Added to the mix of hungry hippos chomping at the bit for targets, we have 3 Tight Ends. We all know the history of Gronk and Brady and we all know the history of how much Brady loves tight ends. But was that as a consequence of a lack of outside talent? What will Tom Brady’s tendencies be in this new Bruce Arians offence – a typical vertical type offence. Does Brady still have the arm for it?
If the answer to that question is no, Mike Evans could be the guy that ends up disappointing those taking him with a 2nd round fantasy draft pick. Godwin’s versatility should see him be as safe as last year.
Another factor we must bear in mind is the decision making change at the quarterback decision. For all the intereceptions Jameis threw, he made up for it with the yardage and touchdowns afterwards whilst in comeback mode. You wont have that dynamic anymore in Tampa Bay, which will directly impact possessions and total yardage through the air. Couple that with the fact that the defence should be a bit better than it was last year (through talent but also probably having to spend less time on the field thus, being a bit fresher and not as worn down and ultimately should not concede as many points).
The nightmare was there for all to see last year with Godwin and Evans generally taking it turns to post big games with the other being taken out of the game, epitomised by only one game where both scored touchdowns.
The headache remains for 2020 and we no longer have gunslinger and interception thrower Jameis Winston to bail us out. Pass me the aspirin.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Not only do we have pass catching nightmares, we potentially also have rock carrying ones too.
Tampa Bay invested a 3rd round pick/#76 overall in Ke’Shawn Vaughn, running back out of Vanderbilt. He comes in to do battle with Ronald Jones, the much maligned 2nd round/38th overall pick in the 2018 draft.
So what’s the outcome?
One factor to key in on here is Tom Brady’s love of dump offs to the running back. This is one of the main reasons why James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk (the list goes on) are given more love in the fantasy world and are so undervalued in real life by fans.
In Tampa, considering the investments, this screams time share. Whilst Vaughn is more competent at the pass blocking which gives him a good opportunity to ciphen work away from Jones even from week 1 , Jones is still learning and is improving as his career and skill sets evolve. I think both with be flex worthy players during the season, but again may be one for bestballs rather than you redraft/dynasty leagues. Vaughn kind of fits the Arians/David Johnson mould of someone that can be a 3 down back but due to his exposure going to Tampa, everyone wants a piece and it’s not a piece I am looking to overpay for. He isn’t going to be peak David Johnson, before any starts to put those two dots together.
Still, there is one silver lining: at least we don’t have Peyton Barber to worry about – probably the only Barber that won’t be in demand after Covid19 is over.
What are your fantasy nightmares for 2020? Let us know through our social media @F10YFantasy and we’ll be happy to help solve them! Watch out for part 2 over the next few weeks.
It’s been a busy free agency for NFL teams over the last couple of weeks; but a much needed and welcome distraction to everything else that’s currently happening in the world.
But what do these moves mean for your fantasy teams in 2020? Over the next two articles, i’m going to break down the winners and the losers from all of the transactions that have taken place so far.
The Arizona Cardinals pulled of a move during the free agency that left everybody scratching their heads, wondering how they pulled off such a coup. That was, of course, the acquisition of superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.
Kyler Murray all of a sudden now has one of the most tantalising skill set offenses in the NFL. From Hopkins to legendary Hall of Fame receiver LarryFitzgerald returning for one last year, and the emerging star of Christian Kirk alongside 2nd year hopefuls Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. The Kliff Kingsbury ‘air raid’ offense really has got no excuses to be raking up the air miles on the field in 2020.
After a QB7 rookie campaign in fantasy last year, it’s hard to think Murray will be doing anything other than improving on that. Kenyan Drake made a good enough impression since his move from Miami that he’s earned another year on this offense too, yet another reliable, tried and trusted weapon for Kyler out of the backfield.
It’s exciting times for Cards fans and this ever-improving offense, fantasy fans should be sharing this excitement for Kyler Murray, there’s no such thing as too many weapons when it comes to fantasy QB’s
Staying in Dallas was one of the best places for Cooper to keep his fantasy value. He clearly loves it there in ‘Jerryworld’, and the feeling seems to be mutual between the fans and the other players.
In his 25 games for the Cowboys, Cooper has amassed 1,914 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns; that’s 77 yards per game and a touchdown every other game (0.56 TD’s per game). For context, that’s in the same vicinity as DeAndre Hopkins’ time in Houston (78 yards per game average with 0.49 TD’s per game) and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay (80 yards per game with 0.53 TD’s per game). Both of which will be within the top 2 wide receiver tiers for 2020.
Dez Bryant had many productive seasons as a WR1 in fantasy football from his time in Dallas with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott under centre. Now it is time for Amari to step up and continue being the reliable receiving option for the Cowboys and fantasy owners in turn for the next few years.
Indianapolis Colts’ Receivers
Indy is lacking in skill position depth, but those that are there have just received a significant bump up in fantasy value with the upgrade of quarterback to Philip Rivers. Jacoby Brissett was admirable, and was far from terrible, but he wasn’t the best at getting great receiving production out of anyone not named T.Y Hilton.
Rivers in an experienced veteran who finally has a competent offensive line ahead of him to give him enough protection to provide some actual time in the pocket rather than being constantly under pressure like he was for the Chargers, especially in recent years.
I expect Indy will add to their receiving corps through the upcoming draft; but for now, T.Y Hilton cements himself as a fringe WR1 for a likely cheap price of a 4th/5th round pick, and last year’s rookie Parris Campbell will likely be in the sleeper category for analysts as the season grows closer.
If Jack Doyle remains the only pass catching tight end in Indy too, expect his value to also rise in a treacherous tight end fantasy landscape as Rivers has always produced fantasy relevant TE’s with the likes of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry in the past.
One of my favourite sleepers already also due to the Rivers’ upgrade, is running back Nyheim Hines. The swiss army knife is Indy’s version of Austin Ekeler (see later in article for Ekeler’s 2019 production), who should see plenty of work in the passing game out of the backfield.
Cleveland Brown’s Skill Players
One of the main contributing factors for the Browns’ miserable 2019 campaign was the offensive line, or lack-of, being unable to give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket.
Jack Conklin (former Titans OT) is a massive upgrade for that line and you can only imagine Cleveland will be taking whichever stud tackle is left with the 10th pick of the 2020 draft.
These pieces may well prove to be the difference for this offense which will open up the fantasy value for all of the keys players. Nick Chubb had a great season in 2019 and was third in the NFL for rushing yards (1,494) and has 18 combined touchdowns since becoming a Brown in 2017 so we can expect that to continue. As we can with Jarvis Landry, as he once again will benefit from OBJ taking the premier defense away, like in 2019. OBJ’s production might rise once again if Mayfield is able to improve and between David Njoku and newly acquired Austin Hooper, the tight ends’ should have their week to week match-up based values too.
With all the running back moves this off-season, i don’t think any have won more so than Austin Ekeler has. Not only does he see Melvin Gordon move away (to the Denver Broncos) from the backfield and no significant replacement brought in, he finds himself in a passing offense that will be moving forward with someone new. Therefore, a bigger emphasis may be placed on the tried and trusted running game with Ekeler as the sole star.
The beauty of the situation is- even if the Chargers do bring in another running back, they probably aren’t going to be the same quality as Melvin Gordon where Ekeler was still productive enough to see him finish as the RB4 in PPR scoring (RB8 in non-PPR) last season.
The new QB in LA will likely be a rookie in from the first round, if not the veteran Tyrod Taylor who served as Rivers’ backup last season. Either way, Ekeler is going to be hyper-targeted out of the backfield and should be a top 10 PPR running back once again in 2020.
Following on from Rob Grimwood’s fantastic post on the winners yesterday I’ve been tasked, quite suitably, with the pessimism, the misery, the teams who did sweet FA, or in the case of the Texans. Worse.
Texans get their pants pulled down by the Cardinals.
In one of the weirder trades of recent times the Arizona Cardinals acquired one of the best three receivers in the game for essentially a bag of chips, and not a nice bag of chips, those “baked” one’s by walkers. It’s another moves by GM/Head coach/Supreme Leader Bill O’Brien which has stymied the masses. Oh, and they then went and signed Randall Cobb on a 3 year deal to try and placate the masses. Weird.
Additionally they took on the FULL CONTRACT for David Johnson, the full $10.2m contract, for a back who has struggled with injury and form since breaking onto the scene a few years ago. That’s a lot of cash for a running back especially when you’ve got one of the better pass catching backs in the league on your roster already in the shape of Duke Johnson. For the record, I like DJ and I hope he can get back to form, but it’s still a lot of cash to spend on an RB.
David Njoku has some competition, and apparently he welcomes it.
After being drafted at 29 in the 2017 draft there were high hopes for the super-athletic tight end in Cleveland, but a series of niggling injuries and being unable to get together a decent run of games has hit his stock and led his team to bring in Austin Hooper on a big money deal from the Falcons. Neither of them are really blocking TEs, so it’s direct competition, and in those cases the more expensive man usually get the bulk of it all.
Bengals fall even further behind in the North.
It’d be remiss of me to dampen the spirits of my team and their fans even more. After being quoted by reporters as “being active in free agency” they once again sat and watched as players who’d have improved their roster immediately were picked up for decent deals, the likes of Jack Conklin to the Browns on a 3 year, 42m deal. Nick Kwiatowski to the Raiders for 13m a year both positions of need for the Bengals, and both strengthen AFC teams.
The Ravens have also made moves over the last week which further strengthen them, bringing in Calais Campbell and Michael Brockers to add even more to their defensive line, then getting a pick back for Hayden Hurst. They’re taking full advantage of having a rookie QB on a cheap deal.
And the Steelers will be welcoming back the 400lb man at QB which might make them better at that position for next year.
Josh Allen is digging it, but I’m not too sure.
The Bills paid a whole hell of a lot to Stefon Diggs, a 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th for Diggs and a 7th round pick… It’s a lot more than I thought the Vikings would get for someone who so clearly wanted out and bitched and cried about it publicly.
The Vikings get a ton of picks and him off their payroll. Diggs gets to join a team with an inaccurate QB and probably get further frustrated further down the road. Pairing the best route runner in the league with the least accurate QB is an interesting one, hopefully for them it’s a little chicken and egg and it bring Allen up.
However, I do get the trade, there’s blood in the water with the Pats possibly losing Brady and their offensive issues on the whole. So while it’s a big payout it could work out well for them.
They gave Jimmy Graham HOW MUCH?!
Why on earth would anyone be money on Jimmy Graham? I wasn’t sure he’d get picked up at all, let alone on a 2 year, $16m deal. But Matt Nagy and the Bears seem determined to keep on paying up at tight end. One of the more perplexing moves done yesterday.
They’re also still without a functional quarterback and supposedly interested in Andy Dalton and Nick Foles. The Bengals apparently want a 3rd for Dalton, the Jags reportedly want to keep Foles (They take a big dead cap hit if he leaves so may as well keep him) Both are upgrades on Trubisky, but still. It’s not an enviable situation.
After disappointing campaigns, three NFC East teams –the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants –as well as the Panthers and Browns decided it was time for a new Head Coach. A fortnight after the regular season finished, four of the five had filled their hot seats, and the Browns have since found their man too. Now that the game of musical chairs has stopped, let’s take a look at who’s landed where and how they might fare.
Fired:Jay Gruden Hired:Ron Rivera
The switch: Washington got a two-month head-start on the rest, setting the HC conveyor belt in motion in October. After going 0-5, they decided enough was enough and fired Jay Gruden, who made the postseason just once in his five years in the capital.
A day after they closed out their 3-13 season with a 47-16 humbling by divisional rivals Dallas, long-time team president Bruce Allen was given the order of the boot, not long after he’d told the world the team’s culture was “damn good” (no laughing at the back, please). They swiftly followed that by agreeing to make Ron Rivera, let go by the Carolina Panthers, their new HC.
The pros: Rivera is experienced, respected and no stranger to success, having led the Panthers to three consecutive NFC South titles from 2013. His hot streak culminated in a 15-1 regular season in 2015 and an appearance at Super Bowl L against the Denver Broncos. Having evolved from ultra-cautious to more progressive and forward-thinking, ‘Riverboat Ron’ could be the man to ensure Dwayne Haskins delivers on his early promise. The ‘Skins also need to sharpen up on the defensive side, but Rivera has form here too: he had five top-10 defences in Carolina. Bringing in former Raiders coach Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator can only help.
The cons: While his overall record stands up to scrutiny, it’s been tough going of late. Rivera’s last two seasons in Charlotte were both injury-affected and both went south after promising starts. Without Cam Newton, last year’s 5-11 saw them prop up the NFC South and the year before, they also finished with a losing record (7-9). That said, everyone to a man was complementary when he left.
The outlook: A fresh start was just what the doctor ordered and for Rivera’s sake, let’s hope the toxic Washington set-up is history. With the power to bring the crowds back to FedEx Field and reset the culture within the building, he’s already having a positive effect. Apparently, left tackle Trent Williams – who sat out last year because he lost trust in the medical staff and then the front office – has vowed to return to the fold because of the new HC and the organisational restructure.
The verdict:The pick of the bunch. He’ll have his hands full but with Allen out of the picture, there’s a distinct chance ‘Riverboat Ron’ will turn this ship around and steer the Redskins towards calmer waters.
Fired: Jason Garrett Hired:Mike McCarthy
The switch: The Cowboys were the second team to make their move, eventually parting ways with Jason Garrett after nearly 10 years at the helm and an exit process that seemed to take just as long. Jerry Jones made it clear he wasn’t going to spend time bringing a college coach up to speed so they interviewed two experienced NFL guys: former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and long-time Bengals HC Marvin Lewis. Once Garrett was finally out the door, Dallas took less than 24 hours to announce McCarthy.
The pros: Of our five coaches, McCarthy has the best pedigree, having led the Packers to nine playoff appearances, six NFC North division titles and a Super Bowl win (ironically at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium) in his 13 seasons. Although his relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers deteriorated, it was effective for much of his tenure so McCarthy should be able to strike up a good rapport with Dak Prescott.
The cons: McCarthy was fired midway through Green Bay’s 2018 season and he didn’t work during 2019 so will having a year out of the game hinder him? He has allegedly spent the time studying the latest NFL trends but equally, he might have lost some momentum.
The outlook: McCarthy has also been developing a new playbook, which will hopefully compensate for Dallas’ failures over the last decade. McCarthy needs to hit the ground running and start securing the late-postseason appearances Garrett should’ve achieved with the talent at his disposal. His credibility and reputation are high, but so are the expectations on him to bring success pretty much straight away.
The verdict:The one with everything to prove. McCarthy is a fine choice but the control he might want or expect isn’t up for grabs. In Dallas, Jerry is King: he calls the shots and makes (and breaks) the rules. Where the lines are drawn will decide whether McCarthy leads Dallas back to the heights of old or if he’s just the next guy to be stifled by the Jones dynasty.
Fired:Ron Rivera Hired:Matt Rhule
The switch: In early December, when the wheels were falling off another Panthers’ season, Ron Rivera was released. Owner David Tepper announced that he would be targeting an offensive-minded replacement, and did exactly that in hiring Baylor coach Matt Rhule. As it happens, Rhule was supposed to meet with the Giants (where he spent a year as an assistant O-line coach) after his trip to Carolina but never made it, having been made an offer he couldn’t refuse and the Giants couldn’t match. (For the record, I wouldn’t turn down $60 million over seven years, if anyone’s offering…)
The pros: The size of his contract suggests Carolina are all in on their new man. Rhule is a leader and has a knack for turning struggling teams around in double-quick time. He took Baylor from 1-11 in 2017 to 11-3 just two years later and, before that, transformed Temple from a 2-11 outfit to a conference-winning one.
The cons: It’s important to remember that Rhule has no league experience at HC (a red flag to some). He will need to make the not-insignificant leap from college to the big league if he is to bring the franchise some stability and, eventually, success.
The outlook: Rhule won’t need to repeat the complete turnabouts he managed in his college programmes. He’ll have assets to work with – not least a solid defence and one of the league’s top stars in running back Christian McCaffrey – but there is also work to do, with linebacker Luke Kuechly retiring and tight end Greg Olsen joining the Seahawks. It will also be interesting to see whether he plumps for Cam Newton, Kyle Allen or someone else as his long-term QB. In the draft, he might grab a couple of guys with potential and the right character traits, and take the time to nurture them.
The verdict:The slow-burner. If Rhule can get on top of things in the pro world, the Panthers could be back in the mix again. However, I suspect, as we saw with some of last year’s rookie coaches, we shouldn’t expect results overnight. It took him a couple of years to get to grips with Temple and Baylor, and he’s been afforded ample time to set things up the right way so peg him for a successful rebuild from 2021 and beyond.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Fired:Pat Shurmur Hired:Joe Judge
The switch: Despite a strong finish by Saquon Barkley and a decent showing by young QB Daniel Jones, the Giants had a disappointing 2019 under Pat Shurmur. They could ill-afford to let another season slip by with such talent in their ranks so, after Shurmur’s two underwhelming seasons ended with a 9-23 record, the Giants were next to step up to the plate (to mix my sporting metaphors).
Just minutes after the Panthers announced Rhule, the Giants revealed Joe Judge as their man. Interestingly, New York ran the rule over Rhule too, and were given the opportunity to match Carolina’s massive offer. The Giants declined.
The pros: Judge was a special teams assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama for three seasons and then spent eight years with the Patriots as special teams and wide receivers coach. He won three Super Bowls in New England and has been plucked right off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Being a special teams guy, he’s used to having close contact with most players on the roster, which will stand him in good stead.
The cons: Compared to the likes of Rivera and McCarthy, Judge is a relative unknown. He also hasn’t held a head coaching role at any level, which to some might make him the weakest candidate on paper.
The outlook: Judge may be a rookie but the 38-year-old is a good communicator, has high standards and a blue-collar work ethic. Judge’s initial press conference suggested that New York have a good fit. He told the media to expect an intense, aggressive, old-school team that will reflect the community in which they play.
The verdict:The left-field choice. I don’t want to judge too early but he comes across as hard-nosed and disciplined. He can certainly talk the talk, so let’s see if he can walk the walk.
Fired:Freddie Kitchens Hired:Kevin Stefanski
The switch: Armed with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett to name but a few, the Browns were many people’s top tip for a playoff run or even a Super Bowl appearance in 2019. Even Sports Illustrated ran with “Bold prediction! Cleveland’s first division title in 30 years” on one cover. As it turned out, The Ill-Advised Freddie Kitchens Experiment was abandoned after a year, with a disappointing 6-10 season ending with a three-game losing streak. As they say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get Kitchens out” (or something) so they did, with GM John Dorsey also sent packing.
Cleveland interviewed a host of candidates – Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Ravens OC Greg Roman, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, 49ers DC Robert Saleh, Eagles DC Jim Schwartz, Uncle Tom Cobley and all – but in the end, they plumped for Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski.
The pros: Part of the furniture in Minneapolis since 2006, Stefanski is a schemer, an analytical thinker and someone who can maximise offensive talent. The Vikes had a 10-6 season and a Wild Card win over the Saints, and their attack was largely effective under Kirk Cousins.
The cons: Initial reactions to the hire were mixed at best, not least because he wasn’t McDaniels – seemingly the fans’ preferred choice – and because of Minnesota’s poor offensive performance in their playoff loss to the 49ers. He’s untested as an HC, and was second choice when Kitchens was ultimately hired 12 months ago, which makes him feel like a consolation prize.
The outlook: Only time will tell whether this was the right move, but Cleveland seriously need an experienced, attack-minded guy to take their offence by the scruff of the neck and sort it out. But hiring an unproven Head Coach won’t give the long-suffering fans in Cleveland much confidence that they’ve got one right for a change.
The verdict:The jury’s out. How many times have the Browns been primed to turn things around at last, only to fail? They haven’t kept an HC for more than four seasons over the last 20 years. Stefanski may succeed where others before him have fallen by the wayside but he isn’t a safe bet. It’s a coin-flip for me but at least he shouldn’t be any worse than Freddie…
Next stop in our whistlestop tour of the NFL 2019 season, today we head to the AFC North and breakdown the laughing stock of the NFL over the last few years, the Cleveland Browns.
entering the season
Has there ever been more hype around a team as there was regarding the Browns this past off season?
Buoyed by an encouraging end to the 2018/2019 campaign and the acquisition of a certain Odell Beckham Jr, big things were expected of Baker Mayfield in his second season behind center.
The trenches on both sides of the ball were a concern going in but the volume of quality skill players meant a first winning season of the decade was the absolute minimum expectation with playoff football being the realistic aim.
During the season
It unfortunately unravelled pretty quickly. The Titans trounced the Browns in week 1 at home was a sign of things to come.
Despite evening up their record at 2-2 with a huge road win against the Ravens no less, the inconsistencies on the team were obvious. Cue a 4 game losing streak and all of a sudden the Browns were in a hole.
Playoff hopes were reignited after wins over the Bills and Steelers but that November 14th game effectively ended the Browns season.
With the game wrapped up a mass brawl ensued on a meaningless garbage time play. It ended with Myles Garrett, who had been the Browns stand out defender on the year, swinging his helmet at Mason Rudolph. An indefinite suspension followed and with it, any realistic hopes that the browns retained of the playoffs vanished.
Further inconsistent play, riddled with baffling coaching decisions and play calling mean the Browns finish the decade as the only NFL team without a winning record.
It feels like it is said every off season, but make no mistake this is a huge one for the browns. A coaching change already in the books with Vikings OC Kevin Stefanski replacing Freddy Kitchens. Not quite the veteran presence to control the locker room and stamp out the indiscipline that is required but we’ll wait and see.
They still have unquestionable young talent throughout the roster in the likes of Nick Chubb (NFL rushing leader), Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and assuming no trades, they will bring back OBJ and Jarvis Landry again.
The bigger question is who is Baker Mayfield? The cocky and arrogant gunslinger who let his play do the talking in year 1, or the often sulking, off target and off timing thrower we saw in year 2.
The offensive and defensive line should be the priority in the off season. The tackle positions on the offensive line have been a liability all year and 2 quality starters are required there. On the defensive side, it is a case of adding quality depth to the 4 starters, assuming Myles Garrett is reinstated into the league. The browns are likely to move on from a few higher earners in Damarious Randall and Christian Kirksey so look for another aggressive off season from the front office.
Many of the reasons for optimism at the start of this campaign roll over into next year. The Browns have a young core to build around and with the right guidance and additions on the lines, should be primed for a nice bounce back campaign.
This is the Browns though, so please, don’t quote me on that!