Fantasy Football Nightmares for 2020 – Part 1

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

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.

CeeDee Lamb displays elite hands snatching his phone from woman ...
CeeDee Lamb showing elite handwork he’ll bring to the Cowboys

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?

Stock Report: Cowboys Michael Gallup On the Rise? - RotoExperts
Ron Jenkins / AP

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.

Rams select RB Cam Akers with 52nd pick in 2020 NFL Draft
Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10

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).

49ers trade Matt Breida, Marquise Goodwin to Miami, Philly
Nhat V. Meyer

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;

What are the Rams' options with Brandin Cooks moving forward?
Jonathan Bachman/Getty

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.

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10

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.


Tampa Bay…everything

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.

Patriots willing to pay Tom Brady $30M per year to keep QB - NFL.com
Damian Strohmeyer

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.

Mike Evans (left), Chris Godwin (right) 2019 production

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.

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10

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.

Fantasy Winners/Losers from NFL Draft

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

The 2020 NFL Draft was the only live sporting action in April and for those in the UK it came at a cost to a normal sleep pattern but hey, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon, right?

As teams have started to make post-draft moves to free up room on their rosters for draftees it has given us some clues toward how the forthcoming Fantasy season may play out.

Let’s take a look at those who have had been given a boost Fantasy-wise from the near-300 selections and those who might be slipping down your depth chart…


Trending Up


Dak Prescott

I bet the Cowboys couldn’t believe their luck when CeeDee Lamb was still available at 17. Was a wide receiver something the Cowboys needed to go after in the first round? Of course it wasn’t. They’ve got Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for goodness sake.

However, you look at this trio of wide outs and they are – assuming Lamb lives up the hype – in the upper echelons of a pass catching corps in the league.

This opens it up so nicely for Prescott who already put up the fourth most points in Fantasy last season with Jason Garrett as coach. Whilst Mike McCarthy may not be the saviour for Dallas I expect this Cowboys to be a side that is involved in a shootout every other week and Prescott sits right at the heart of that.

If you’re in a Dynasty league, this is to me is the situation where only a crazy offer should even tempt you into giving up Dak.


Drew Lock

Make no mistake; the Broncos are all in on Drew Lock.

Denver had the draft capital to trade up if they really wanted to and we all know what John Elway is like with QBs but here we are, foot to the floor in the Drew Lockmobile (patent pending) speeding into the 2020 season with some raw but wonderful talent.

The Broncos drafted two wide outs with their first two picks, added a center, a guard, a tight end and another wide out amongst other defensive selections.

The first of those receivers was Jerry Jeudy who, much like Lamb with the Cowboys, was something of a pleasant surprise to the Broncos when he fell was available at 15. You only had to look at the footage of Elway reclining at his home after the pick like a super-villain in a future James Bond film to know how pleased he was with this pick.

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10

This gives Drew Lock the following options: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Phillip Lindsay on a screen all playing behind an offensive line that has received some much needed bolstering in the offseason.

I’m not expecting Lock to catapult into a QB1 situation but if he can build on the promise of the limited amount we saw in 2019, he’s a viable QB2 and depending how deep your league is perhaps a QB1.


Austin Ekeler

After filling in for Melvin Gordon’s holdout-induced-absence so well and performing at a high level after MGIII’s return in the 2019 season it was likely Ekeler was going to be heading into the 2020 season on a high.

The Chargers drafted Justin Herbert and strengthened the offensive line in free agency (the Okung/Turner trade is still baffling me), which just makes me think Ekeler will be the key man for the Chargers this coming season.

Expect an increase in the number of touches as Herbert could be eased into the starting role at LA, assuming Tyrod Taylor doesn’t explode in pre-season that is…


Trending Down


Aaron Rodgers

Oof. That was a tough one for Camp Rodgers.

Hoping that your team will take a wide out from one of the deepest classes in years and instead having your replacement taken in the first round in Jordan Love and the second pick being used on a running back to complement Aaron Jones?

As many have written before me, this is the beginning of the end for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

In short, your team are moving to a more run-heavy offense, your only viable pass catchers is still Davante Adams and your replacement is in the building – albeit not literally – ala Rodgers’ being drafted to replace Favre all those years ago.

It may be worth your while picking up Adams as your WR1 but stay away from Rodgers as your QB1.


Damien Williams

Imagine you’re Damien Williams…

You beat out Shady McCoy for the starting running back job, turn in a fantastic Super Bowl performance and your team takes running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire with their first pick?! A penny for Williams’ thoughts…

This isn’t to say that Williams is depreciating in value compared to where we were in 2019 but pre-draft I think Williams would have been quite high up people’s draft boards as a late first round/early second round RB1 but yeesh, this really knocks him down my draft board.


DeShaun Watson

This is along the lines of Aaron Rodgers situation in Green Bay.

Your team trades away one of the best wide outs in the league in exchange for a running back that may not produce more than Duke Johnson and coming out of the draft the only wide out you’ve gone out and got was late in the fifth round?

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10

The Texans signed Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb but neither of those two produce like a fantasy WR1 whilst their options at receiver are Kenny Stills, Keke Coutee and Will Fuller. None of those receivers came close to a 1,000 yards last year and frankly I don’t trust them as a group to stay healthy or in consistent form to help Watson out enough.

Right now I’d have it as a coin flip between taking Drew Lock ahead of DeShaun Watson in a Fantasy Draft and this is purely down to the decisions made in the front office rather than a criticism of Watson’s abilities.

Five teams that nailed the 2020 NFL Draft

By Sean Tyler @seantyleruk

From the record-breaking television ratings to the lack of technical issues, the NFL’s first virtual draft was an undoubted success (unless you’re a Green Bay fan). Like a bizarre episode of Through The Keyhole, we also saw inside the homes of the star players, and the makeshift war rooms of the general managers and coaches: Kliff Kingsbury’s huge villa, Dave Gettleman’s basement and Mike Vrabel’s total madhouse. As I alluded to earlier this week, some teams left us with more questions than answers but here’s a quick round-up on who ‘won’ the 2020 NFL draft.


BALTIMORE RAVENS


Most analysts concur that Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta and Head Coach John Harbaugh knocked this draft out of the ballpark, with A and A+ grades being handed out like candy. They made their 10 picks count with good value on both sides of the ball and didn’t seem to reach. Instead, they waited for the likes of LSU linebacker Patrick Queen (#28) to fall into their laps, as well as Ohio State running back JK Dobbins and speedster WR Devin Duvernay on Day 2.

Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Queen should make an impact in the heart of the defence with his sideline-to-sideline speed, especially after Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes left in free agency. Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike also had many a pundit purring, with the defensive tackle getting snaffled at pick #71 despite being widely predicted to go in the 30s.

Alongside Mark Ingram, Dobbins should give yet more oomph to their league-leading rushing offense, while linebacker Malik Harrison and guard Ben Bredeson add depth across the board. Baltimore also picked up a couple of late steals, with receiver James Proche, who logged almost 4,000 receiving yards and 39 receiving touchdowns over four seasons at SMU, and Iowa safety Geno Stone, rated by both Move the Sticks’ Daniel Jeremiah and PFF’s Mike Renner as the best value pick of the final round.

Baltimore were exceptional last season and didn’t have many needs. But even so, they improved even more over the weekend, staying neck and neck with the Chiefs as the team to beat in the AFC Conference.

In short: they smashed it.


DALLAS COWBOYS


When drafting, the big question that faces every team now and again is whether you go for the best player available or fill your biggest need. The Cowboys entered the 2020 draft with the league’s top offense and obvious needs in defence, yet opted to spend their first-round pick on Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. Bullseye.

Alonzo Adams/AP

Lounging around on his quarter-of-a-billion-dollar super-yacht, team owner/president Jerry Jones must have been laughing into his champagne cocktail when he picked Lamb at #17. Arguably the best receiver in this loaded class, there was no way he should have been the third off the board. With the ‘Boys having signed Amari Cooper to a $100 million extension, Lamb probably wasn’t on the radar but taking him was a no-brainer: Christmas came early in Texas. Preventing their receiver-needy rivals in Philadelphia from securing his run-after-catch abilities was just the icing on the cake.

Only then did Dallas move on to address their two main areas of need, cornerback and defensive tackle, and they did so with great value picks. Stefon’s lil’ brother Trevon Diggs, mocked by many to go (to Dallas, as it happens) on Day 1, landed in the second round to help fill the void left by CB Byron Jones. Oklahoma’s huge defensive lineman Neville Gallimore also came a day later than many expected. Steals? All three picks border on daylight robbery.

Rewriting the draft textbook, the Cowboys also picked up Utah edge rusher Bradlee Anae with pick #179 (90 picks later than predicted by Mel Kiper of EPSN). I saw a comparison with Maxx Crosby recently, which means he should be a viable replacement for the departed Robert Quinn. They also snatched up another corner in Reggie Robinson, adding depth in a weak spot, and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz, arguably this year’s top center. If he can stay healthy, he could step straight in for the retired Travis Frederick.

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10

After a disappointing campaign in which they didn’t seem to want to win the NFC East, despite the stuttering Eagles handing them chance after chance, Dallas are shaping up nicely to boss the division in 2020. Jones can now start to focus on getting Dak Prescott’s deal inked. With a mouth-watering trio of targets at his disposal – Lamb, Cooper and Michael Gallup – it’s time to keep the franchise QB (and his bank manager) happy.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS


Vikes GM Rick Spielman is probably still resting up after selecting a massive 15 players in the 2020 NFL Draft, the biggest haul since the seven-round format was introduced in 1994.

He did a great job addressing the team’s needs, particularly in the first three rounds. To replace wide receiver Stefon Diggs, he used the 22nd pick to take LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Jefferson can play out wide or in the slot, and should give Kirk Cousins a tasty option alongside Adam Thielen, if his 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns last year are anything to go by.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

They then moved down a few spots, giving #25 to the 49ers in return for the 31st and two later selections, but still found another would-be star in TCU corner Jeff Gladney. Minnesota then double-dipped to take Cameron Dantzler (#89) to boost a depleted cornerback room missing Xavier Rhodes, Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, while Ezra Cleveland should add useful depth at left tackle.

A total of 11 picks on Day 3 brought several more decent pick-ups, including James Lynch, a defensive tackle from Baylor, Oregon LB Troy Dye and defensive end Kenny Willekes.  

Boom. Job done.


CINCINNATI BENGALS


Who knows if any trade offers were received and rejected but with the first pick in the draft, the Bengals held fast to secure their quarterback of the future and their franchise poster boy.

Joe Burrow was the obvious choice, having just completed the best college football season by anyone, ever. He starts from the get-go as the incumbent QB, Andy Dalton, was finally released (while I was writing this article) after a lack of trade interest. If Burrow’s success at LSU is any guide, the 2019 Heisman winner could eventually end Cincy’s three-decade playoff win drought and have the Who Dey Nation eating out of his hands. I bet they’re already planning a statue outside Paul Brown Stadium.

Associated Press

After last season’s struggles, just picking the Ohio native makes Cincinnati a winner in this draft. Admittedly, he can’t reverse their fortunes alone, so it’s just as well de facto GM Duke Tobin and HC Zac Taylor kept their foot on the gas. Mirroring the 2011 draft when they picked AJ Green and Andy Dalton in the first two rounds, they paired Burrow with WR Tee Higgins with the first pick of Day 2. The 6’4” jump-ball specialist notched 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final season at Clemson, and has been compared to Green, his new teammate (and favourite player). Higgins may even replace the franchise-tagged wideout in time.

With the only slight gripe being a (misguided) belief that their O-line didn’t need help, three of their five remaining selections were used to beef up their underperforming linebacker corps. Cincinnati opened Round 3 with Logan Wilson, who excels in pass coverage, while Akeem Davis-Gaither is a one-man highlight reel who might see some special teams action early doors. The Bengals chose a third linebacker in Purdue’s Markus Bailey with their final pick. Touted to break the Top 100 before suffering a season-ending ACL injury last season, Bailey may yet prove to be a real find, if he can stay healthy.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS


Let’s face it. Before Cincinnati was even on the clock, Tampa had probably won the offseason, having replaced turnover merchant Jameis Winston with GOAT Tom Brady, and then enticed TE Rob Gronkowski out of retirement for one last hurrah alongside his ol’ pal. But the Buccs complemented their trade prowess with a strong draft, focusing on giving their new (but old) QB some much-needed O-line help and more offensive weapons.

In Round 1, Tampa traded up one place to #13, coughing up their 14th and 117th picks to the 49ers, to ensure Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, arguably the draft’s top tackle, was theirs. He wasn’t expected to drop that far after storming the Combine, so I bet the Buccaneers did some last-minute big-board shuffling.

Getty Images

In the third round, they turned to skill positions, collaring Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn (#76) to beef up their backfield before diving into the deep wide receiver class to come up with Tyler Johnson (#161). Johnson’s Minnesota teammate, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (#45), is a versatile ball hawk could yet turn out to be one of the best snares over the three days. For added spice, his dad was a Pro-Bowl defensive back who intercepted Brady in 2001 when playing for the Bills.

If Bruce Arians deploys the battle-weary Gronk sparingly, alongside his other tight ends OJ Howard and Cameron Brate, the Buccaneers could be a team to watch next season.


HONOURABLE MENTIONS


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS GM Chris Ballard filled a lot of needs, even without a first-round pick (traded for 49ers DT DeForest Buckner, which won’t do them any harm). Second-rounder Michael Pittman Jr. from USC could become a top receiver, while explosive RB Jonathan Taylor – averaging 2,000 yards a year over three years – is a hot prospect, despite some concern about the tread left on his tyres after his heavy workload in Wisconsin. A day later than many predicted, the 6’6” Washington quarterback Jacob Eason got picked up in Day 3. The big-armed gunslinger won’t play next year but, under HC Frank Reich, he’ll be groomed to take over from Philip Rivers in due course.


The MIAMI DOLPHINS had 14 darts – including three first-rounders – and most hit the target (though they did use one on a long snapper). Despite some pre-draft smoke and mirrors, GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores selected Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa first. Who knows if his injury woes are behind him but the Dolphins had to take the risk on the most naturally talented QB out there. His hip injury was bad luck but it made him available at #5, an equivalent slice of good fortune after Miami didn’t quite #TankForTua. Tua will line up behind a shiny new offensive line including another Round 1 pick, tackle Austin Jackson, and while cornerback Noah Igbinoghene was one of Day 1’s biggest reaches, they got better value in later rounds with DE Jason Strowbridge and edge rusher Curtis Weaver. Outside the draft bubble, acquiring Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson, Byron Jones and Matt Breida only increases the sense that Miami will be much, much better next year.

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY

Earlier this month, I suggested going best defensive player available for a few rounds might be a wise tactic for the CAROLINA PANTHERS. Well, whaddya know? Despite having a new offensively minded Head Coach in Matt Rhule, GM Marty Hurney used all seven of his picks on defence, including a big ol’ run stuffer in Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown (#7) and athletic Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos (#38). Later on, they traded up to the last pick in Round 2 to get safety Jeremy Chinn, while cornerback Troy Pride Jr. was also good value in the fourth. The moves they made in free agency – replacing Cam Newton with Teddy Bridgewater and adding Jets receiver Robbie Anderson – should also reinvigorate the team’s offence, making the Panthers a contender again.


I also liked the high-risk, high-reward approach of the ARIZONA CARDINALS. Picking at #8, GM Steve Keim somehow ignored the team’s needs at offensive tackle and went for Clemson linebacker/safety hybrid Isiah Simmons. It might have been a risk (especially having shipped out their second-round pick in the DeAndre Hopkins trade) but 63 picks later, the ace in the pack came up when they snaffled Houston left tackle Josh Jones. After standing out at the Senior Bowl, there was some Day 1 hype about him but he fell… and fell… and fell. Apparently, Kliff Kingsbury even called Jones’ college coaches to ask if there was something he ought to know about. Some steals feel like pick-pocketing but getting Jones in Round 3 was a ram-raid.

Player Profile: Logan Wilson, Linebacker, Wyoming

Whilst we’re all currently bound to the constraints of our homes at the moment due to the outbreak of Covid-19, so what better way to wait for the apocalypse than watch tape of college players that’ll never play in the NFL?

That is not because these players aren’t good enough but because the world is going to succumb to our new viral overlords and mankind will cease to be, therefore no more NFL.

Today I’m going to bring you my thoughts on Wyoming linebacker, Logan Wilson.

This is a player whom I was recommended to watch by Logan Wilson fan, Simon Carroll (@NFLDraftSi on Twitter).

Before I get going I have to make a small disclaimer – I’m not a huge fan of this linebacker class this year, so with that, I wasn’t expecting a great deal from Wilson when I pressed play on the tap this morning. I did, however, put my prejudices aside and tried to watch and note-take with a clear mind, and be as candid as possible.

Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of tape available for Wilson – I was only able to find two games; New Mexico State from 2018 and San Diego State from this past season. Usually I like to watch at least 4 games of a player before making a solid judgement, so I can’t really be completely happy, or indeed complete in my judgement due to the small sample size.

However…

I was pleasantly surprised.

Photo credit: Montanasports.com

I’m not head-over-heels with Wilson by any stretch of the imagination, but in a linebacker class that I’m not a massive fan of, he probably stands out more than most and I actually would love to see more film on him to expand on what I’ve seen – Please hit me up @Wakefield90 on Twitter if you know of any other cuts of Wilson.

I’m going to break this report down into three segments, in a different way than I usually do due to the lack of tape; each of the two games and then off the field – this will be interviews I watched, his athletic testing numbers, stats and background information.

Let’s start at the end of that list with the off field stuff.

So what do I like about him when it comes to the number and off the field?

I really like the way Wilson talks in interviews, I feel like he considers his answers, he takes pause before answering the question at times and gets to the heart of what he’s saying and speaks in a measured and concise manner. I’ve seen interviews with him when he’s been asked about why he didn’t skip the bowl game this past year, why he chose Wyoming and what it was like to play for his home state university and each interview has impressed me with his maturity and his honesty. I feel like Wilson speaks with a good amount of gratitude and he realises what football has given him, but also what he has put into football and seems to know what he can get from it in return. From this, it’s easy to see why Wilson was a 3 year captain for the Cowboys.

Wilson came to Wyoming as a safety, having grown up in Casper Wyoming, around 150 miles north of the Cowboys’ campus in Laramie. He has spoken about the transformation his body has gone through in order to transition from safety to linebacker – Offering praise to the university, its facilities and the coaching staff at Wyoming. It just feels like he’s gone about things in the right way and has taken good advice from good people, and is now reaping the benefits. For reference Wilson said he arrived on campus as a 195lb safety, 5 years later he’s a 241lb linebacker.

When you are looking at late day 2, early day 3 players, this is the kind of attitude and the kind of guy you want on your football team – honest, hard-working and selfless. These are your grinders, your culture guys and the guys that back the back end of your roster better than other teams, and really elevate the overall level of your team.

Let’s talk numbers.

Stats and production get two big check marks here. Whilst I’m not an advocate of tackles as a high value stat without context, Wilson has been the model of consistency in his four years as a starting linebacker – the lowest number of total tackles that he registered in a season was 94, in his Freshman year. He racked up 111 in his Sophomore year, 99 as a Junior and finished off with 105 last season.

The tackles for loss numbers were consistent too, 7.5, 8, 10.5 and 8 in each year chronologically.

Wilson also affected the game in a number of ways, something I always like to see from defenders; he registered 10 interceptions throughout his college career and has a further 14 pass deflections – You can see that safety background in these numbers a mile away.

5 forced fumbles and 7 sacks in four years aren’t gaudy numbers but they add a little something on top of what is four years of very solid production. A multi-faceted, multi-dimensional prospect on the defensive side of the ball. Nice.

Let’s talk about athletic testing.

Wilson measured 6’2 and 241lbs in Indy, with 32 ⅜” arms and 9 ½” hands. All of which range from slightly above average to slightly below average for an NFL linebacker and that’s going to be the theme of this segment, average.

A quite nippy, 40 yards time of 4.63 second (74th percentile), was kind of cancelled out by a poor vertical jump of 32” (28th percentile) and aside from a nice performance in the broad 121” (76th percentile), every other event was just ok throughout the combine.

Which is all, well… fine. The lack of high end explosivity shows up on tape and is there for all to see, I’m not saying Wilson is a bad athlete – He’s not – He’s just not great either.

I don’t see this getting much better either unfortunately, the reason being, the one number I’m not least keen on of all, 24 – The age Wilson will turn in July. So we’re looking at one of the older rookies in the league, plus I also feel his frame is pretty maxed out considering he’s already packed on just over 45lbs since coming out of high school.

In summary, I like what I have heard and the production but not blown away by the athletic ability or age, but as I said, this is all fine for a mid round linebacker.

Anway, let’s talk football…

Game 1: New Mexico State, 2018

Wilson played mainly as a SAM or Mike linebacker in this game, which is where I feel he is most suited to playing at the next level. Wyoming trusted Wilson a lot in coverage throughout this game, which against New Mexico’s offense which on all but one play, lined up with either 4 or 5 wide receivers. Wilson’s flexibility and ability to guard running backs or tight ends when they flexed out wide was valuable – New Mexico ran a fair few times out of these spread formations, so Wyoming was able to keep another thumper out there instead of having 6 defensive backs and potentially getting eaten up in the run game.

This versatility is a great trait to have when you’re a back-up at the next level. As a mid round selection, you’re not a certainty to make the final 53 but being able perform a wider spectrum of duties definitely raises your odds of making it – for this reason, I definitely think that Wilson makes a final 53 man roster come the start of the season.

Throughout the game, I noted Wilson’s solid coverage ability in short zones and also his ability to keep his eyes on the backfield and where the ball was – His read and react skills were apparent in the game, as he was able to break off the man he was covering and head towards the action quickly once the ball was caught in another area of the field.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all great news against New Mexico. It was quite apparent that at this time, Wilson struggled to get off blocks and on a couple of occasions, he was completely eaten up by a block and gains were made in his vicinity.

Overall, a solid if not spectacular outing.

Game 2: San Diego State, 2019

In this game, I saw many of the same positives that I saw in the previous game – Wyoming trusted him in coverage, he barely ever came off the field and he was proficient when defending both the pass and the run.

There was even an occasion early when Wyoming was trying to sell an exotic blitz package which Wilson appeared to be a part of, but were actually sending just one lineback as a 5th rusher, along with a safety as a 6th – Wilson bailed deep and was actually asked to play deep middle of the field, with the other four defensive backs playing man coverage underneath him. I feel that this shows that Wilson is able to grasp complexities in the defensive scheme and also gained a lot of trust in his coverage ability from coaches. 

A more traditional positive aspect of his play was that I feel that I saw a good amount of evidence that Wilson is able to set the edge and contain against the run, without ball watching and ruining the integrity of the defense. Wilson is also able to stop the run and has really good form as a tackler on top of this.

When dropping into short zones, I noted Wilson’s eyes are in the backfield and when they aren’t, his head is on a swivel as he’s looking for receivers coming his way – This shows up in his excellent reading of the game, I no longer felt like he overpersued plays, something I did see once or twice in the first game I watched.

Physically, I feel like Wilson had developed from the first game too and no longer found it so difficult to get off blocks in the run game, he’s still not too great at playing through the trees but he doesn’t have the elite physical tools to do so, however he definitely seems to have the strength to break free from blocks nowadays.

One thing I would love to see from Wilson is the development of some kind of pass rush move or plan – This is part of his game I simply don’t see anything in, aside from a basic bull rush. Wyoming rushed him a couple of times in his outing but I just had a sense that he was there to make up the numbers.

It would really add another string to his bow if he was able to show some hand-fighting proficiency and perhaps put some pressure on the passer from time-to-time and become more of an all around player.

To Sum Up

To sum up, I see Logan Wilson as a nice mid-round linebacker prospect who will be a hard worker and certainly add to a team’s locker room, but also be able to make some contribution on the field too.

I feel like this type of linebacker is definitely in vogue at the moment when it comes to him being comfortable in coverage but also good at traditional linebacking duties such as coming downhill to stop a ball carrier or maintaining edge and gap discipline in the run game.

Due to his relatively average athleticism I’m not too sure how high the ceiling is for Wilson but due to the football IQ, versatility and experience, the floor is fairly high.

If Wilson can contribute in limited snaps on defense and also as a special teamer, I feel he could earn the trust and respect of coaches and his peers quite quickly leading to an increased role and a solid NFL career long term.

There we have it then, some words on a potential pick that rounds out a team’s overall draft and makes a GM look pretty smart – If you would like to see more words on mid to late round picks who you like or feel could make a difference – get in touch on Twitter and I’ll put something together.

Follow Lee on Twitter @Wakefied90

Follow Full 10 Yards CFB on Twitter @Full10YardsCFB

Main photo credit: The Denver Post

New Head Coaches: Time to Judge who’ll Rhule

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

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.


WASHINGTON REDSKINS


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.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

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.


DALLAS COWBOYS


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. 

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

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.

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10


CAROLINA PANTHERS


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…)

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

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.

Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

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.


CLEVELAND BROWNS


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.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

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…

Byron Jones: In or Out?

This encroaching off-season will be a very stressful one for the Dallas Cowboys. They have some big names looking for some big contracts and they’ll need them if they want a Super Bowl LV run. One of these names is cornerback, Byron Jones. But does the Cowboys No. 31 deserve to sit at the table with Jerry first? Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226) takes a look..


Why Byron Jones deserves his big money in (31)0 words.


Byron Jones from the second that he was seen at the combine, has consistently demonstrated his unique and impressive athletic ability. Able to set a world record standing long-jump of 12”3’ and recording a 4.36 in his 40-yard dash, Jones has never been needing for athletic confidence. When pairing this demonstration of prowess in the gym to the various measurable’s that Byron Jones is considered “perfect” for, like height and hand size, it’s not particularly shocking that he was drafted in the first round.

Image result for byron jones combine
Julio Cortez/AP

2019 for Jones, considering it being just his second season as a cornerback, was a highly impressive campaign for the UCONN alum. Despite missing the first game of his entire career in Week 17, Pro Football Focus ranked him the number one defensive free-agent prospect back in December. Jones faced just 64 targets on the year, which can be easily attributed to his impressive coverage ability, and allowed just 395 passing yards, a similar yards-per-target to DPOY winner Stephon Gilmore.  

During his time with the Cowboys as a cornerback, No. 31 has been asked to play a lot of press-bail coverage in cover 1 or cover 3. Not only has this made it hard to rack up the turnover numbers expected but playing cover 1 can lead to cornerback’s being on islands. Given this challenging scheme fit and the top receivers he has faced in his contract year like, Michael Thomas, Stefon Diggs and Kenny Golladay, Byron Jones can definitely consider 2019 a job well done.

The defensive situation outside of Texas could easily end up helping Byron Jones’ prospects of a long-term deal with the Cowboys. This years draft and free-agency period are both far deeper in top-quality safeties than high level cornerbacks and this should increase the urgency on the Cowboys side to get Jones signed up and bought in, rather than wait.


Why the Cowboys should move on from Jones in (31)0 words.


Byron Jones’ chance to stay on this Dallas Cowboy’s roster for the long-term has been severely hurt by his inability to come up with turnovers, recording just two interceptions in 79 games. This is many ways has become a microcosm for the ‘Boys defence who rank 26th in total turnover’s on the season and failed in big situations to come up with the ball. It is true to say that grading Jones shouldn’t come down to purely his takeaway potential, and that is correct, but it is definitely part of the bigger picture.

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

Jones has also struggled because of the changes that the Cowboys have seen on the defence since he entered the fold in 2015. Deciding whether he would be better suited to corner or safety took the team until 2018 to decide on, with Jones playing at free safety until then. This switching between where he played has meant that Jones only has two proper years of statistics to analyse when making the decision on his contract, and it doesn’t help that during those years Jones has gone from DC to DC, with Rod Marinelli, Chris Richard and now Mike Nolan. This lack of secure and consistent coaching may cause the current regime to doubt the numbers that the cheque book would require to hold onto Jones for a long time.

Although not his fault, Jones has also faced a continuously rotating and revolving backfield of team-mates to play alongside, which hasn’t lent itself to consistent play that the position requires. Barry Church, Brandon Carr, Morris Claibourne and Orlando Scandrick to name just a few. The great defences of NFL history often have uniformity at the core as they develop over seasons, and while I’m in no way suggesting the ‘Boys are that, Byron Jones case for a contract has not been helped by a lack of stability.  


To sign or not to sign; that is the question!


The obvious answer on how to deal with Byron Jones is to franchise tag him, and by pure chance with the turn of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Cowboys will have use of both the Franchise tag and the Transition tag for this season. This should help to alleviate some of the pressure on the Jones family with both Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott looking for new deals. Byron Jones has obvious raw talent, with refinement coming since he was committed to the position and this is only going to get better. With a new system and co-ordinator on the horizon again, I would implore Jerry to get the long-term deal done and trust in the process.

Get 10% off at NFL Europe Shop with code FULL10

Season in Review – Dallas Cowboys

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

In the 2nd installment of our new article series, today’s team for the season review is America’s Team. The Dallas Cowboys, constantly in the news as they always are (usually for scrutinising more than any plaudits) and this season was no different. Let’s break it down and see where it all went wrong.


Entering the season:


The Cowboys opted against handing Jason Garrett an extension prior to the start of the season to see if that brought upon an improvement to the divisional round loss to the Rams from the season prior. Dak Prescott’s contract was not extended despite ongoing talks, with the QB betting on himself to play his way into a huge deal come the end of the season.

With Washington and New York seemingly in disarray, the only competition was the Eagles. Kellen Moore was employed as the team’s offensive co-ordinator for his first year, hoping to install creativity and different looks for a team that had talent all over the offence. On the other side of the ball, a lot was expected on defence with Robert Quinn coming over from Miami to help aid the pass rush of DeMarcus Lawrence and the young, talented linebackers of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Van Der Esch were expected to take a step forward.


During the season:


The Cowboys slumped to a 8-8 season, Jason Garrett’s 5th such time he has had that record (even Jeff Fisher is jealous!) with no playoff football this time around, leading to his unceremonious exit saga. The team were 1st in total offence in terms of yardage including an almost 5000 yard passing season for Dak Prescott, only behind Jameis Winston. It’s fair to say that they were a team with the talent of a 12 win team, but a head coach of a 5 win team as Jason Garrett’s reluctance on 4th downs reared it’s ugly head again, only being aggressive when his job security was as fragile as a china doll.

Image result for dallas cowboys vs miami
Image Credit: Richard Rodriguez/Getty

They started the season hot out the gate with blowouts against New York Giants, Washington and Miami but got found out as soon as they played anyone with a winning record. Very disappointing losses against the Jets, the Bills and the Bears along with some low scoring performances against the Saints, Patriots and most devastatingly in week 16 vs the Eagles with the division on the line, essentially costing them division meant that there were more dips than highs on the season. Yes, this despite being the 6th highest point scorers, having the most yardage and 3rd most 1st downs on the season.

Despite being in control of their own destiny for the majority of the season and chances given to them by the rest of the teams in the division, the team flattered to deceive and did not deserve that playoff spot, even if the same could be said for the division winning Eagles.

Image result for dallas vs philadelphia week 16
Image Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Player wise, Michael Gallup has to go down as one of the best players performing on the season. The 2nd year wide receiver went for 1107 yards in the air with 6 TDs and that was with missing a few games with injury. On the other side Amari Cooper had season highs in yards (1189) and TDs (8) and put a case forward for a huge contract next season. Special mention to Travis Frederick who was able to come back from the horrible auto immune disease and pick up where he left off, whilst Zack Martin got yet another nod to the All-pro team.

On defence, DeMarcus Lawrence only managed to muster 5 sacks on the season, but his presence giving help to free agent signing Robert Quinn to conjure up 11.5 sacks.

Brett Maher was released during the season due to his shocking performance in the kicking game.


Offseason outlook:

Jason Garrett has been fired from the Cowboys and ex Packers HC Mike McCarthy is in after signing a new 5 year deal. Among the coaching staff reshuffle, Rod Marinelli and Jon Kitna a few of the names to also head for the exit door. McCarthy brings in Mike Nolan at defensive co-ordinator and Kellen Moore is to return to continue his decent start as an OC (partly the reason for the lengthy divorce of Jason Garrett). The Cowboys future success will depend on whether McCarthy has freshened his ethos and looked at why his offence became stale in Green Bay. Early signs are positive, however.

I would be very surprised if they don’t address the safety position in the draft with a day 1 or early day 2 pick. Long time Cowboy Jeff Heath is an unrestricted free agent so expect him to test the waters but it’s not a position the Cowboys have historically treated with any contempt. Maybe the new coaching setup will change that.

Other areas of priority are Nose tackle, and possibly a LB or CB depending on what they do with Byron Jones.

There will be some contracts to sort out, none more so than Dak Prescott, expect the Cowboys to announce a monster deal with him. The Cowboys must also decide on whether or not Amari Cooper is worth and extension and Byron Jones too. They will have upwards of $100m in salary cap space once players are cut, and have up to 29 potential free agents on the team. The Cowboys also have a franchise tag along with the transition tag available for 2 of those big names.


Summary:

After a thoroughly disappointing season which led to the exit of Jason Garrett, there are better times ahead for Cowboys fans;

New coach, new ideas and a roster full of talent and plenty of salary cap space. You can expect Dak to not be exercised on those tags and instead be signed to a huge deal over possibly a record breaking number of years (watch out Jon Gruden!). You should fully expect Cooper and Jones to get the combination of the franchise and transition tags.

It would be deemed a failure if McCarthy does not bring playoff football to Dallas next season. The team is young, talented and heading in a new direction, but is that direction heading towards another Lombardi trophy?

Image result for jason witten
Image Credit: Ron Chenoy

Fun fact: Jason Witten had his highest career catch rate (75.9%), at the age of 37. He is now just 23 yards away from totaling 13,000 receiving yards and is 19th all time in terms of receiving yardage for all players (2nd for TE). and remains 4th in the list of all time receptions with 1215. will he be back?

The NFL & Thanksgiving – A brief history

by Lawrence Vos (@F10YRetro @NFLFANINENGLAND) 

You will have noticed that however hard you try it’s impossible to avoid watching the Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. The day is seen as a North American event, where families get together and consume vast amounts of turkey, candied yam and cranberry sauce whilst fighting for the best spot in front of the tv to watch some gridiron. 

What you may not know is that these festivities would not have been possible without the intervention of none other than King Henry VIII. As part of the 1536 English Reformation, which saw the Church of England break away from traditional Catholic rule, Henry VIII drastically reduced the number of national English church holidays from 147 to 27. 

Some people, called Puritans, wanted to further purify the church by eliminating more holidays, including Christmas and Easter, and replace them with Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving. One of the earliest English ‘Days of Thanksgiving’ was in fact called in 1588 after victory over the Spanish Armada.

Image result for puritans
Image Credit: New York Post

By 1607 these Puritans, who were being persecuted for their beliefs, moved to a more free Holland, but just 13 years later, fearing their children were becoming too Dutch, decided to emigrate to America, after obtaining a land grant north of Virginia, to be called New England. 

399 years ago the famous Mayflower voyage of 1620 set off from Southampton in September, with 102 passengers, including  William Mullins from my home town of Dorking in Surrey, and it arrived at Cape Cod in November. 

The passengers, known as the Pilgrim Fathers, are described in history as a symbol of early European colonisation of what would become the USA. Just one year before, in 1619, a smaller group of Pilgrims who made it alive to Charles City County, declared they would forever celebrate the arrival as a day of thanksgiving. Two years later this day was celebrated by Pilgrims together with Native Americans, especially as it was a terrific harvest.  

Fast forward to 1863 and it was the 16th President Abraham Lincoln who declared Thanksgiving an official holiday, thanks in part to a 40 year campaign led by author Sarah Josepha Hale, the lady who penned ‘Mary had a little lamb’. Lincoln made it law that Thanksgiving was the last Thursday in November.

In 1939 President Franklin D.Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the second-last Thursday, and in 1941 he signed a joint resolution to change Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday. 
Playing American football on Thanksgiving goes back to the late 19th Century, with the likes of college teams Yale and Princeton playing a recorded game in 1876.

The first official NFL Thanksgiving Day games were played in 1920, with the majority of teams now dead and buried, including the Detroit Heralds, who lost 0-28 to the Dayton Triangles.

Image result for Lions Bears 1934 thanksgiving
Image Credit: Nathan Bierma

The tradition of the Detroit Lions playing Thanksgiving games began in 1934, a 16-19 loss to the Chicago Bears, the legendary Bears back Bronco Nagurski throwing the winning score to Bill Hewitt, one of the last NFL players to refuse to wear any form of headgear. 

Back in the 1930s NFL teams had autonomy on when they would play on a game week. Lions owner George A.Richards, who owned a local radio Station called WJR, negotiated a deal with NBC to carry the game live across the radio network nationally. The decision to move the game was huge success, both at the University of Detroit Stadium, with a then record crowd of 26,000 in attendance, and on the national airwaves. 


Image result for dallas cowboys first thanksgiving game
Image Credit: Dallas Morning News

The second traditional Thanksgiving Day team, the Dallas Cowboys, began their Turkey Thursday streak in 1966, just six seasons after joining the NFL as an expansion franchise. The Cowboys agreed with the NFL that they would only host a Thanksgiving game if they were guaranteed future games on the same day. This tradition only lasted nine years, as then commissioner Pete Rozelle swapped out the Cowboys for the St Louis Cardinals in 1975 and then in 1977. 

The Cardinals lost the two games by a combined 59 points so the Cowboys came rushing back to fill the slot, and from 1978 the Lions have hosted an early Thanksgiving game and the Cowboys have hosted a later Thanksgiving game.
Ever eager to make the NFL bigger and better this two-game tradition expanded to three in 2006, to include a juicy game, often a marquee divisional rivalry game. 
It doesn’t take a genius to work out the Lions have played the most Thanksgiving Day games (79), and also have the most wins (37) and losses (40). The Cowboys are inevitably second with 51 games, 31 wins and 19 losses. 


Image result for thanksgiving nfl 2019
Image Credit: NFL on Twitter

The 2019 Thanksgiving Day games feature the Mitch Trubisky and Khalil Mack led Chicago Bears travelling to the Motor City, the playoff bound Buffalo Bills flying to Dallas to play the Super Bowl 37 and 38 matchup, and the New Orleans Saints line up in Atlanta against a red-hot Falcons team (for two of the last three weeks!). The Saints are one of a small handful of NFL teams who are undefeated on Thanksgiving, and in case the game feels familiar it was the Falcons who hosted the Saints in the 2018 primetime Turkey twizzler.

It’s always a bonus to get extra NFL coverage, so make sure you leave work early on Thursday and grab a Turkey sub on the way home. It may start off with a bit of a burnt offering, but it should end with a sweet treat in the late game. Just such a shame that Fox decommissioned the rather handsome Galloping Gobbler award in 2016 (incidentally a joint win by the Cowboys Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott).


Image result for galloping gobbler 2018
Image Credit: Fox Sports

As a little bonus here are ten things you didn’t know about Thanksgiving NFL history:

  • The first NFL Thanksgiving Day game were played on November 25 1920. Six games were played, half the teams failed to score a single point, and one contest between the Columbus Panhandles and the Elyria Athletics ended in a 0-0 tie. 
  • The Chicago Bears hold the NFL record as the only team to have played in the first and to play in the next Thanksgiving Day contests. That’s a 99 year history as they first played in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys. 
  • Only one NFL team has never played a regular season NFL game on Thanksgiving Day. The snub belongs to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who joined the league as an expansion team in 1995.
  • Four current NFL teams, and ten defunct teams, are undefeated on Thanksgiving Day. The Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints are 2-0 and the Panthers and Texans are 1-0. 
  • The most points scored by a team on Thanksgiving Day was by the Miami Dolphins – 55 – in a crushing win over the St Louis Cardinals. on November 24 1977. Dolphins QB Bob Griese tossed 6 TDS on just 15 completions, with three scores caught by WR Nat Moore. 
  • The highest scoring professional Thanksgiving Day game was held in 1962, between two AFL teams, the Denver Broncos and the New York Titans (who became the Jets two years later). The final score was 46-45 and the winner was caught by the Titans WR Art ‘King Pin’ Powell. 
  • Thanksgiving Day 2012 was the date the infamous ‘butt fumble’ took place. The New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez, in fight or flight mode, ran directly into the rear end of one of his offensive linemen and coughed up the ball to the Patriots, who ended up scoring 49. 
  • In the 21st century every NFL team to have played a game has scored points. The last team to fail to score on Turkey Day was the 1999 Miami Dolphins, who lost 0-20 to the Dallas Cowboys.
  • Just five Thanksgiving Day games have gone into overtime, since the fifth quarter was introduced to regular season games in 1974. The most recent O/T contest, in 2011, was won by the Houston Texans 34-31 over the Detroit Lions. Matt Schaub led Houston on the winning drive. 
  • The triple-header Thanksgiving NFL format only began in 2006, with a non-Lions/Cowboys prime time evening matchup. The first of these juicy games was won by the Kansas City Chiefs 19-10 against the Denver Broncos. K.C. kicker Lawrence Tynes scored 13 points.

So there is a look back at one some history in the the NFL, we’ll start to be doing more here at the Full10Yards in our Retro branch which will launch in the new year. Head over to Twitter and follow @F10YRetro and @NFLFanInEngland for updates when it kicks off!