Cincinnati Bengals Draft Class expectations

By Liam Lodge (@Liam66NFL)

Some NFL teams have more picks than others heading into a draft.  As the event progresses, a team can gain or lose its draft capital through trade deals.  The formula for the Cincinnati Bengals this year was simple – seven selections, one placed at the beginning of each of the seven rounds.

The Bengals war room stuck at every one of their picks during the three days; made no deals and put together a very good draft class to take into the 2020 season.  Here is what Cincinnati fans should expect from the players that make up this year’s draft class.


Round 1 (#1) – Joe Burrow (QB), LSU


With the first overall pick, the Bengals made Joe Burrow their new signal-caller.  A year ago, Burrow would have owned a mid-round grade at best from most observers, but an incredible National Championship winning season full of record-breaking numbers during his final year with LSU, propelled Burrow up to being the consensus QB1 in the draft. 

Joe Burrow drafted by Cincinnati Bengals with No. 1 pick in NFL draft
Chris Graythen /Getty

He excels in the leadership and mental aspects of the game, with an ability to read defenses quickly and react to pressure. Give Burrow time and he shows great poise and pocket movement to use just a step or two to extend a play.  He is an accurate thrower and I really like the way he leads receivers when completing a pass.  

It certainly does feel like time for a quarterback change in Cincinnati and Burrow arrives with the experience of winning plenty of big games as the head of one of the most potent offenses in college football history.  

If he continues the sort of growth seen during last season, the Bengals have a strong new leader capable of bringing success.


Round 2 (#33) – Tee Higgins (WR), Clemson


Pairing Burrow with the man who was the number one receiver at Clemson for the last couple of years is a very nice way to build the passing game in your offense. 

Higgins’ draft stock dipped during the process owing to questions about his athleticism, which actually is not that bad, and the Bengals took advantage to select him at the top of the second round.  The production that Higgins put up at Clemson was impressive, he works best lined up on the outside and likes to use his frame against close coverage – give him the chance to challenge a defense physically and he will be effective. 

The next A.J. Green? Experts compared Tee Higgins to Bengals star
Ken Ruinard / The Greenville News

This is a great landing spot for Higgins, as he will have the opportunity to be paired with Cincinnati’s all-pro wideout A.J. Green, which should help his development. 

The Bengals will enjoy having a new big WR on the team, who can potentially take over from Green as “the guy” in the future.


Round 3 (#65) – Logan Wilson (LB), Wyoming


I loved seeing Logan Wilson go at the start of round three.  One of my favourite linebackers in the entire draft, he will be a good addition to a Bengals defense in need of some help in the middle of the field. 

Player Profile: Logan Wilson, Linebacker, Wyoming – | Have an ...
Charlie Neibergall / AP

I was happy to see his high level of play over the last few seasons backed up with a great workout at the NFL combine.  Wilson is solid as an outside linebacker – a smart player who reads and reacts to what the offense shows in front of him and gets to the ball at speed. 

There are some good highlights showing that when asked to drop into coverage, his athletic ability gets him up into passing lanes like a defensive back to break up a play or get an interception. 

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Wilson suits the classic linebacker leader role with the versatility to be tried inside the defensive formation, and if he can get to grips with pro schemes quickly, the Bengals have a guy who will see a lot of playing time during his rookie year.


Round 4 (#107) – Akeem Davis-Gaither (LB), Appalachian State


Why draft one linebacker with huge potential, when you can draft two!  Cincinnati followed the Wilson pick by selecting the up-tempo Davis-Gaither to kick off the last day. 

2020 NFL draft: Akeem Davis-Gaither scouting report
Brian Blanco /AP

He is a slim, athletic linebacker who is not going to win with strength, instead was able to make a lot of plays using great burst and body control.  Appalachian State liked to use Davis-Gaither on the outside, close to the line of scrimmage where he could blitz at speed and also disrupt the run game.  His skill-set compliments Wilson’s very well and I can see them working at each end of the LB core. 

Davis-Gaither would have been further up big boards (including mine) if he played more coverage and bulked up – the lack of weight aids his acceleration, but he will need to add more size to be effective in the NFL. 

For this reason, he will likely start on special teams, but his relentless playing style means he could turn into a real fan favourite in 2-3 years.


Round 5 (#147) – Khalid Kareem (DE), Notre Dame


Kareem is a nice addition to the Bengals’ defensive end depth chart, and the fifth round seems good value too.  The defender out of Notre Dame wins his battles in the trenches with strength above anything else; he appears difficult to move around once he is engaged. 

Bengals Select Khalid Kareem: Instant Grade and Analysis
Joe Robbins / Getty

Kareem currently projects as a better run defender, as trying to go all-power off the edge when pass rushing at the next level will result in him being nullified by the top offensive linemen he faces.  Kareem needs to add more variety to his technique when fighting through contact, if he is able to do so soon, he will see playing time in his rookie season. 

For now, he will be a backup in Cincinnati.


Round 6 (#180) – Hakeem Adeniji (OT), Kansas


Having found Joe Burrow a new target in receiver Tee Higgins, Cincinnati decided to begin adding extra protection for their new QB in the form of Adeniji in round six. 

Brian Bahr / Getty

The offensive line was a weak point for the Bengals last season and Adeniji will have the chance to compete for a place at the offensive tackle position.  There was talk pre-draft that teams may try him at guard too, so the coaches will like that versatility. 

He does look undersized to play OT, and his strength as a blocker lies in his movement, which showed up during his athletic combine, rather than power and technique. 

Adeniji needs to develop in those areas in order to be a regular NFL starter.

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Round 7 (#215) – Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue


To end their 2020 draft, the Bengals went back to building at the linebacker positions. Bailey feels like great value in the seventh, although he did fall due to injury concerns. 

2020 NFL Draft: Markus Bailey is ready to hit the ground running
Joe Robbins / Getty

When healthy, he was a playmaker at Purdue with strong tackling skills and the ability to finish very well.  He worked best against the run, so projects as a middle linebacker in the NFL that can attack plays in front of him. 

Bailey will begin life in the pros on special teams but has enough upside to work his way into the defensive lineup.  After the selections of Wilson and Davis-Gaither, picking up Bailey here mean the Bengals have a whole new set of high ceiling linebackers to play with. 

I like the possibility of seeing all three of them playing together in Cincinnati across the defense.


From top to bottom this looks like a strong draft for Cincinnati Bengals fans to get excited about.  The team addressed needs and appeared to find good value players throughout the rounds.  Burrow will be the highlight of the class – every NFL team is under pressure to find a franchise quarterback to build their future around and the Bengals may well now have that box ticked.  With the qualities these players bring, over the next few seasons this could be seen as the draft that the Bengals faithful look back on as the start of some progression for the team.

F10Y Retro – The 1981 49ers – The season that launched a dynasty

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro and @NFLFANINENGLAND)

Sometimes legacies begin with a big bang, sometimes however they start without even a fizzle. 

Back in the Spring of 1977 Eddie De Bartolo Sr bought a present for his 31 year old son of the same name. It wasn’t a car or even a house, it was an NFL franchise – the San Francisco 49ers team in fact. 

From 1977 to 1979 the 49ers won just 9 of 46 games as they went through four different head coaches, finally settling on former Stanford College coach Bill Walsh. 

James Lofton in Canton – Picture credit: Raiders.com

Walsh was given the opportunity with the 49ers in part for his outstanding job nurturing offensive talent at Stanford including future 10-year pro RB Darrin Nelson and future Hall of Famer WR James Lofton, who caught two TD passes for the Cardinals in their 1977 Sun Bowl victory over LSU. 

The 1977 49ers started their season 0-5 and finished 5-9 with QB Jim Plunkett, a 1976 trade acquisition from the New England Patriots. Plunkett would go on to be released by the Niners in the 1978 preseason, before being picked up as a backup by the Oakland Raiders. Plunkett would go on to win not one but two Super Bowl rings as the Raiders starter in the early 1980s. 

San Francisco 49ers Jim Plunkett (16) right, and O. J. Simpson (32) Photo credit: AP

After jettisoning Plunkett, San Francisco made the bold move to sign the 70s biggest named running back, none other than O.J. Simpson, a West Coast native. The Simpson move was a disaster as he only scored one rushing TD in 1978 and he had his career low YPC of 3.7. The team set a then record of 63 turnovers in a season, not surprisingly a record that still stands today. 

In 1979 the 49ers repeated their paltry 2-14 record as they had achieved the season before, but there were good signs, as the team set an NFL record as the only team to lost 12 games in a season where they had the lead. Somehow the incredible patience the 49ers owner Eddie De Bartolo Jr showed, by keeping head coach Bill Walsh with the team, was soon to be rewarded.  

1979 was also the year the 49ers took a QB in the 3rd round of the draft to back up their starter. After trading their 1st round pick to Buffalo for O.J. Simpson, a pick that turned out to be the #1 overall pick, they went with Cowboys 1977 10th round pick Steve DeBerg as their starter, and he ended up leading the league in attempts and completions. Like Plunkett, DeBerg would go on to complete a prolific NFL career, passing for over 34,000 yards, playing his last game aged 44 for the Atlanta Falcons. 

DeBerg (17) and Montana (16) in 1979 – Pic credit: Pinterst

The rookie QB drafted by Walsh in 1979 made one start as a rookie, in a Week 14 loss to the St Louis Cardinals. He would go on to wrestle the seating job away from DeBerg in the middle of his second season in 1980. The QBs name – Joseph Clifford Montana Jr. 

Montana started 7 games in 1980, winning only 2 games, but his cool play, and high completion rate was enough to convince Coach Walsh that he had a future star commanding his teams huddle. A 64.5% completion rate 40 years ago was quite remarkable. 

After improving to 6-10 in 1980 and beginning to play a new breed of short passing possession sustaining football opposing teams got a taste of the next decade but no-one was prepared for what was to happen just one season later. 

Picture credit: Newsmax.com

With Joe Montana installed as the starter from Week 1 the 1981 49ers looked to be reverting to type, losing two of their first three games, including defeats on the road to the Lions and the Falcons. The Niners then tore off a 7 game win streak to enter Week 11 at 8-2. 

A 15-12 Week 11 defeat to the Cleveland Browns, where the 49ers failed to score a touchdown, turned out to be their last defeat of the entire season. 

The 49ers, led by a fresh but impactful rookie secondary of Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright and Carlton Willamson, went on the rampage to finish off the regular season 13-3, forcing a season high 6 turnovers agains the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14.

In the divisional playoffs Montana and Co. beat a New York Giants team led by the lesser known QB Scott Brunner, in what turned out to be Brunner’s second and last post-season game of his career. 

A second home playoff game ensued, the NFC Championship against the Dallas Cowboys, made remarkable by the fact it was the the first time in franchise history they hosted two consecutive playoff contests.

The game itself is part of NFL folklore as it featured ‘The Catch’, a Joe Montana touchdown hookup to fellow 1979 draftee WR Dwight Clark to tie up the game in the final period. The Ray Wersching extra point making the ultimate difference in a 28-27 thriller. 

Two weeks later the 49ers met up for a second time with the Cincinnati Bengals, as both teams, playing in their inaugural NFL title game met in Super Bowl XVI in the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit. 

Personifying the West Coast ‘1,000 paper cuts’ offense Montana remained patient after leading the Niners to a first quarter 7-0 lead, capped by his 1 yard rushing score. In the second Montana found prolific pass catching full back Earl Mitchell for an 11 yard score. Two more Wersching field goals later and San Francisco had a commanding 20-0 half-time lead. 

The Bengals fought back to 20-14 behind Ken Anderson’s rushing score and 4 yard hookup to TE Dan Ross in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but the 49ers offensive machine went back to work and Wersching kicked his third and fourth field goals, before Anderson found Ross to bring the game within 5, but it was in vain, as the 49ers took the victory and began a dynasty that would dominate the 1980s. 

Picture caption: 49ers.com

Montana won the MVP, courtesy of his 157 passing yards, one rushing score and zero interceptions. Ken Anderson for the Bengals almost doubled Joe’s passing output and threw one more score, but he was picked off twice, once by rookie Eric Wright and once by 4th year safety Dwight Hicks. 

In a strike shortened 1982 season the 49ers went 3-6, but they more than made up for it by the end of the decade, winning a further three Vince Lombardi trophies, all with Joe Montana at QB. 

In an era where teams can transform their fortunes in a 12 month period it was the 49ers who showed that with patience, precision passing and some exquisite drafting anything is possible. 

Fast forward 40 seasons, from when Montana was drafted, and the 49ers are back for their seventh crack at a Super Bowl title. 

Can the 49ers strike gold and join the Steelers and Patriots on Sunday as the only teams to start their Super Bowl ring collection on a second hand? Can’t wait to find out. 

F10Y Retro – Coach Vault (#1) – Sam Wyche

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro & @NFLFANINENGLAND

With the very sad passing of former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Sam Wyche this month (January 2020) I thought it would be highly appropriate to conduct the first unlocking of the F10Y Retro Coach Vault by going back to the 1960s before travelling back to the future to a time when there were no iPhones and Tom Brady was an 11 year old 49ers fan. Enjoy…..

You may have heard of the AFL, which was the rival league to the NFL back in the 1960s, before it merged with its bigger and richer rival in 1970. A league you likely haven’t heard of is the Continental Football League (COFL), which lasted five seasons from 1965-69. 

A 1967 COFL programme

The COFL featured some incredibly exotic names including the Neptunes (Norfolk), the Vulcans (Akron) and the Charter Oaks (Hartford). The league also hosted the Wheeling Ironmen from West Virginia who in 1966 and 1967 were led by quarterback Sam Wyche, former Furmer Paladins College starter. 

In Wyche’s first season (1966) he was part of a 0-14 team, and in his second season (1967) headlining the Ironmen he could have legitimately faced the San Jose Apaches – led by a first time head coach by the name of Bill Walsh. More about him later.

One of Wyche’s colleagues in 1966, defensive lineman Bob Brown, went on to play in January the following year for the Green Bay Packers in the first ever Super Bowl, and even recorded a sack. 

A year before the COFL folded for good (1968) Wyche signed with the NFL’s rival league the AFL and for the expansion franchise Cincinnati Bengals. He played three games as an AFL rookie, winning one, and then in 1969 he made three more starts but failed to win a game. 

Picture credit: Pinterst.com

In 1970 Wyche was part of the AFL’s merger with the NFL, and bizarrely started exactly three games again, gaining his first NFL and only NFL win in a 31-21 Week 1 victory against the Oakland Raiders.

From 1971 to 1972 Wyche went on to play for the Washington Redskins, holding the snap for the extra point in a 7-14 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII. After brief stints in Detroit and St Louis Wyche left the NFL as a player in 1976 with a 2-7 starting record having thrown 12 career touchdowns. 

Wyche has always had a keen eye on coaching and as far back as 1967 he served as an assistant coach for the South Carolina Gamecocks whilst studying for his Masters Degree. 

Having spent three years out of the NFL in 1979 Wyche was hired by the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Bill Walsh, as an assistant coach and passing game coordinator. 

Wyche (far left) Walsh (left) and Joe Montana in 1979
Picture credit: 49erswebzone.com

This was the 1979 49ers that drafted QB Joe Montana in the 3rd round and WR Dwight Clark in the 10th round, had O.J. Simpson in the backfield and Tony Dungy playing in the secondary. Dungy went on to coach the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl win in 2007. 

The ’79 49ers went 2-14, improved to 6-10 in 1980 and then stunned the world by winning Super Bowl XVI, by beating the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21, taking a 20-0 half-time lead before holding back a furious Bengals comeback in the 4th quarter. 

Under the tutelage of Coach Wyche Joe Montana won his first championship ring going 14 of 22 for 157 yards, passing for a score and rushing for one too, without throwing an interception. 

In 1982 the 49ers were unable to even reach the playoffs and in a strike shortened season the finished a disappointing 3-6. 

Wyche took the opportunity in 1983 to gain experience as a first time head coach, and took up the offer to be the head man at Indiana University, where he only managed three wins in his only season in charge. 

The Hoosiers starting QB in 1983 was Steve Bradley, who went on to be drafted by Wyche in 1986, and make just one NFL start (in 1987 for the Chicago Bears). Bradley’s backup in ’83 was Cam Cameron who went on to become the Hoosiers head coach (1997-2001) and then the Miami Dolphins head coach in 2007, going a disastrous 1-15. 

Having not found a home in college football Wyche was then given an opportunity to become an NFL head coach in 1984, by none other than the team that signed him as a player sixteen seasons before – the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Photo credit: Al Messerschmidt

Recruited in late December 1983 Wyche masterminded the drafting of QB Boomer Esiason in the second round of the 1984 NFL Draft. Esiason was the first quarterback selected in the ’84 Draft. 

Coach Wyche led the Bengals to a 29-34 record from 1984 to 1987, before taking the Bengals to their second Super Bowl appearance in the 1988 season, remaining the last time they have represented the AFC in the big game. 

The game, Super Bowl XXIII resulted in a second heartbreaking finals loss for the Bengals as Wyche’s former boss Bill Walsh and the San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana, produced a legendary fourth quarter drive, number 16 finding WR John Taylor in the end-zone for the winning score late in the final period.

Photo credit: Associated Press

Along with reaching the Super Bowl the 1988 Bengals are known as the pioneers, under Coach Wyche, of the no huddle or hurry-up offense as a default throughout games, and not just in the final two minutes of each half. (The no-huddle offense generally sees huddling taking place nearer to the line of scrimmage and looking as if a unit is going to snap the ball, meaning defenders are unable to substitute to match up against offensive formations.)

in 1989 the Bengals wen 8-8, before slightly improving in 1990 to 9-7 and a Wild cCard berth as Coach Wyche managed something no subsequent Bengals head coach has managed since, a playoff win. The Bengals beat the Houston Oilers 41-14 at home in the Wild Card before being knocked out a week later by the Raiders. 

29 seasons later Wyche remains the last Bengals head coach to win a playoff game as Cincinnati have lost their last 7 playoff games – all Wild Cards, including consecutive post-season defeats from 2011-2015. 

Wyche left the Bengals after a poor 3-13 1991 season, and was immediately snapped up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Four losing seasons (1992-1995) were an unfortunate way for Wyche to end his NFL coaching career.

Picture credit: Tim Defrisco/AllSport

Whilst Wyche was not in post to see the Buccaneers win their only Super Bowl (XXXVII) in 2003, he was the head coach responsible for drafting the three cornerstones to that success, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and now San Francisco 49ers General Manager John Lynch. 

Wyche, who passed away on January 2 2020, compiled a 84-107 regular season coaching record, and a winning 3-2 playoff record. He lost a Super Bowl as a backup QB, won one as a QB coach and lost a second as a head coach. 

A remarkable football career that started professionally with the Wheeling Ironmen of the COFL in 1966 and ended over half a century later in 2019 as an offensive coordinator for Pickens High School in South Carolina in 2019.

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We hope you enjoyed the first opening of the Full 10 Yards Coach Vault, and if you would like to suggest a coach to feature please hit me up on Twitter @F10YRetro .  

Rob’s Rankings Explained: Why A.J Green is currently WR27

Let me start by explaining a disclaimer for my rankings. When I sit down during the draft fallout period of the NFL off-season, I put all of my spare time into my stat projected rankings spreadsheet.

Once all of the players (357 this year) who I deem to be ‘fantasy relevant’, well, at least a contributor in one way or another, I meticulously siphon through data relevant to the player and team that they are on, as well as looking at other variables such as such as strength of schedule and in the case of A.J Green – injury history.

This is where the disclaimer comes in. My rankings will change throughout the off-season. As we head through OTA’s and into training camp, player vs player battles occur, and injury questions are answered. With that in mind, let me explain why you’ll see A.J Green is lower in my current rankings than other analysts’ predictions.

Injury Concerns

A gold star to any of you who might have guessed this was going to be my first point of interest. For the record, I don’t think Green will be missing of the starting team sheet come week 1 for Cincinnati when they travel to Seattle, hence the disclaimer – if he’s fit and ready to go in pre-season, he’ll likely rise up my rankings at least a few spots although I highly doubt he’ll be breaking into my top 10.

Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

As things stand, what do we know about A.J Green and what forced him to finish the 2018 season early? We know it was a toe injury which cut the season short, and despite you probably thinking the toe is not a big deal… think again. Turf toe is a nasty injury, especially for a wide receiver.

Effectively “turf toe” is a glorified way of saying a sprained toe. But when you use that toe every day for your job, like every time a player turns in his route or jumps for a reception, the toe is one of the first points of pressure. If it is not rested for a significant amount of time or surgically repaired, it will become a recurring injury, sometimes even years down the line.

This is seemingly what has happened to Green. He first had turf toe on his big toe in his right foot in October 2014, where he missed 4 total games that season. Fast forward to 2018, and after “multiple tears” within that toe, surgery was the only answer to try and get that toe back to 100%.

The latest report on A.J Green’s post surgery in May suggests that the healing process is going well and that he ‘should’ be back for training camp after being able to run a few routes during the OTA process.

The moment A.J Green is practicing in full and is showing full competency in his route running without being hindered will be the moment my stat projections will change for him and like I said before, i’m sure he’ll be higher in my estimations.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/AJ Mast

Cincinnati’s Offense

That being said, i’m still not a massive fan of the Bengals offense, and I question whether recent additions and breakout players will allow Green to just jump back in to his 9 target per game career average.

With the exciting talent of Joe Mixon opening a whole new run scheme dynamic along with exciting new rookies Rodney Anderson and Treyveon Williams, and the emergence of Tyler Boyd as a pass catcher will likely mean Green isn’t the only star on the team as has been the case since he entered the league in 2011. Don’t forget ‘sicknote’ Tyler Eifert is also back and is a severe threat for stealing red-zone targets if he can stay upright.

I’m also not sold on the return of Andy Dalton. The best word I can find to describe Dalton’s career to date is ‘meh’. He’s flashed at times, he’s completely stunk at times, and now at 32 years old and coming off a surgery of his own, is he going to be able to vastly improve and sustain a wider plethora of talent now? Unlikely. Heck, there was even talk of the Bengals cutting ties with Dalton this off-season as they would save a boat load of cap space if they did.

New Coaching Team

It’s a transformation period that the Bengals are currently going through. Out with the old, in with the new I believe the saying is. But how does that sit with Green? In a short interview in January, Green stated the new coach will provide a “spark that is needed” yet at the same time did concede it will be a big change for him as being coached by Marvin Lewis is “the only thing he knows”.

New head coach Zac Taylor was the former Quarterback’s coach for the L.A Rams and is unproven as a HC; so it is difficult to ascertain how he intends to use his weapons this season. He might well step in and realise the successful history and chemistry between Dalton and Green and look to use that as his foundation to build success, but it could also go the other way and be the start of wholesale changes within the franchise that would see both players eventually faded out.

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Callahan, the new Offensive Coordinator is also a debutante at the position, and was also a Quarterback coach last season, but for Derek Carr in Oakland – who, coincidentally, traded away and moved on from their star receiver, Amari Cooper.

In Summary

We’ll see where Green ends up in my training camp rankings in July – if he’s a full go at camp, he’ll no doubt move into my top 20. My opinion, however, is still not that high for him this season.

Let’s not forget that he and Dalton are now “the old guys”. Green is now 30 years old which is around about the time that Wide Receivers do start to decline, especially when coming off a surgery, and with other major injuries occurring in his career (torn hamstring in 2016) taken into consideration.

Green has accumulated just 2,736 receiving yards over the last 3 years with 18 touchdowns. That’s only 28 yards and 2 TD’s more than 31 year old Demaryius Thomas who has current ADP of WR88 and may not even make the final Patriots roster come September. Another declining wide-out in the same age range? Dez Bryant, who wasn’t exactly a sort after free agent before being claimed by the Saints last season and will likely not play again after sustaining a season, possibly career ending achilles injury.

For these reasons, it could be a season for Green where the Bengals and their “new look approach” look to move on to the future, and forget the past. I won’t be buying in to A.J Green being one of the first players on my fantasy teams this year – too much risk, that’s for sure.

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritballer