NFL Free Agents: Spinning the wheel of fortune

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

With the franchise tag deadline and free agency looming, it’s time for the @Full10Yards top 10 free agents list (five on each side of the ball) and some thoughts on where they might land ahead of the 2020 season. Thanks to Instagram, we know the 41-year-old Drew Brees is returning to the Superdome for at least another year with the Saints. So while he’s technically still a free agent, he isn’t on this list. So who is? Let’s spin the wheel…


TOP OFFENSIVE FREE AGENTS


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Image Credit: Paul Sancya/AP

1. Dak Prescott (QB) – Dallas Cowboys


He began his time at Dallas by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and most recently, he led one of the league’s top offenses, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns in his best campaign yet.

But the cheap deal has run out and someone has to pay the dude. Will it be the Cowboys? It seems they’ll have to go north of $30 million a year, which begs the question “Is he actually worth that?” That’s quite a pay-out but the Cowboys seem to want to build around him. Being the franchise poster-boy for the next few years comes at a price.

Safe bet: Dallas. To quote Jerry Jones, “He’s our quarterback of the future” so it looks increasingly likely that the Cowboys will retain Prescott. He’ll want to cash in on his potential and Jones will make him a happy camper.

Long shot: Dallas. Nope, it’s still the Cowboys. Al three of the team’s most valuable players have expiring contracts (that’s Amari Cooper and Byron Jones too) and it’ll be hard to keep all three. With contract talks back up and running again, Dak seems to be the one who’s going nowhere.


Image credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

2. Amari Cooper (WR) – Dallas Cowboys


Oh boy, do the ‘Boys have free agency headaches. The former Raider filled Dez Bryant’s cleats well but well enough to get top dollar? He’s not perfect but he’s the best receiver available and by that score, he won’t come cheap. If Dallas don’t think he’s worth $20 million a year, or think that paying Prescott, Cooper and corner Byron Jones will break the bank, he might walk.

Safe bet: Dallas. Theoretically, Jerry Jones could pay Dak and tag Cooper, keeping another star in the Lone Star State and giving Coach Mike McCarthy quite the toolkit in his first season.

Long shot: Washington. The Redskins have the cap space to pull the trigger. Imagine if their divisional rivals snaffled Cooper to go alongside rising stars Terry McLaurin and Dwayne Haskins.


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Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel

3. Ryan Tannehill (QB) – Tennessee Titans

I doubt any player boosted his reputation more in 2019 than Tannehill. His sensational second-half of the season, leading Tennessee well into the playoffs, suggests he may have more to offer than the waning old men, Brady and Rivers.

He resurrected his own career and the Titans’ season, and will probably get a tag of some sort. He obviously benefitted from Derrick Henry’s success, but he seemed pretty mobile in the pocket and kept making the throws asked of him.

Safe bet: Tennessee. The Titans shouldn’t overpay a guy who had three good months and who might not hit the same dizzy heights again but the franchise tag buys them a year’s grace.

Long shot: New England. Neither GM Jon Robinson nor HC Mike Vrabel seem that upbeat about him and the Brady-to-Nashville whispers just won’t go away. With a straight swap, could the reincarnated Tannehill continue his renaissance under Bill Belichick?

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Image Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

4. Derrick Henry (RB) – Tennessee Titans


Henry was the top rusher in the league last year, with 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. Going for over 180 yards in both his postseason games, there’s no hint of him easing up or slowing down.

Despite helping the Titans ride their late-season wave of glory, Henry is a running back. And these days, they don’t keep getting paid, especially if they’re a non-factor in the receiving game (Henry had just 28 targets all year). Like Dallas, the Titans have two big contracts to sort out. They could pay Tannehill first and then see what they can offer Henry, or vice versa.

Safe bet: Tennessee. He’s among the top RBs, on a resurgent team with a decent O-line, and in a system that clearly works for all concerned. Why leave Nashville?

Long shot: Houston. With Carlos Hyde unlikely to stay, adding a tank like Henry to the backfield could help the Texans take the next step in 2020.


Image Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

5. AJ Green (WR) – Cincinnati Bengals


Valuing AJ Green is a toughie. He was an elite wideout when we last saw him but thanks to toe and ankle injuries, that was 18 months ago. Despite being 31 and without any tape from last season, Green should still have some juice in the tank. We just don’t know how much.

Green wants to stay if the price is right. If healthy, Green would be the ideal pro to help Joe Burrow ease into the NFL, having had 1,000-yard seasons in six of his eight years in the NFL. Cincy didn’t trade him during the season so it’s hard to see him going now.

Safe bet: Cincinnati. Just a few weeks ago, Green said he wanted to be a Bengal his whole career. The most likely scenario is that he stays for a prove-you’ve-still-got-it year.

Long shot: Las Vegas. If contract talks break down or Green is tagged-and-traded, the Raiders could do with a skill position upgrade. They are sorted for slot receiver, running back and tight end but a true outside track star would be the missing piece.


TOP DEFENSIVE FREE AGENTS


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Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chris Jones (DT) – Kansas City Chiefs

If Jones hits the open market, he is primed to get paid. $18 million a year is the going rate for a wrecking ball of a defensive tackle who’s notched 24.5 sacks in the last two seasons. Jones is a rare beast who can dominate games… even alongside Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.

An explosive pass rusher and Pro-Bowler who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Aaron Donald and JJ Watt, Jones could expect top whack. But can the Chiefs (available cap space: $13.7 million) afford him, having given something in that ballpark to Frank Clark already? A monster extension to Mahomes will also be needed when the time comes.

Safe bet: Kansas City: The Chiefs should keep Jones but may need to tag him for at least another year.

Long shot: Indianapolis. Maybe KC apply the tag but trade him for draft compensation. The Colts could be up for such a move, as they have draft picks to play with and need some pass-rush help.


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Image Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

2. Shaquil Barrett (EDGE) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers


As mentioned in a recent season in review piece, Bruce Arians said of Barrett: “He ain’t going anywhere.” Given his league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2019, they can’t let him walk but there’s still a chance that Barrett is a one-hit wonder. His four seasons in Denver were decent enough but in that time, he only got 14 sacks. That muddies the water somewhat.

Safe bet: Tampa Bay. He’ll stay put, although it would be wise for the Bucs to use the franchise tag and check last year wasn’t a fluke. Then, he will seriously reap the rewards down the line if he continues on his current trajectory.

Long shot: Tampa Bay. He’s already talked of giving Tampa a “home-town discount” due to Florida’s income tax arrangements so that’s another tick in the “not going anywhere” column.


Image Credit: Chris Szagola/Associated Press

3. Jadeveon Clowney (EDGE) – Seattle Seahawks


Clowney is an enigma. His production doesn’t live up to the billing – he had just three sacks last year and is yet to hit double figures – and he’s had some niggly injuries. But he produces big, game-defining moments, and he’s got the time and potential to grow as a pass rusher.

For a change, I’m not predicting a franchise tag scenario here because the Seahawks agreed not to use it when they acquired him from Houston. And they got him for a song in the first place. So despite non-elite production, Clowney can expect to become one of the highest-paid defenders in the NFL. We’re talking something like $100 million over five years. Ouch.

Safe bet: Seattle. It’s no secret that Russell Wilson wants him to stay and Head Coach Pete Carroll won’t want to further weaken a defensive line that ranked 31st in pass rushing last year. We’ll see him at CenturyLink Field next season for sure.

Long shot: Houston: I know, I know, but bringing Clowney back might not be as dumb as it sounds. The Texans’ passing defence was porous and JJ Watt isn’t getting any younger, so a newer model could give their edge rushing a timely boost.


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Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

4. Yannick Ngakoue (Edge) – Jacksonville Jaguars


Think of him like those Velociraptors in the original Jurassic Park film, sneaking in – quickly and silently – hunting down quarterbacks and flaying them alive with their oversized talons… err, sorry, got a bit carried away there. It’s actually more like rushing the passer, getting sacks and forcing errors.

He’s clocked 37.5 sacks through his first four seasons but if he gets elite money now, he’s getting overpaid.

Safe bet: Jacksonville. He’s still young and even in an off-year like 2019, Ngakoue’s eight sacks and 50 total pressures last season – his lowest since he was a rookie – was quite a nice floor.

Long shot: Buffalo. The Jags are strapped and it’ll cost a cool $20 million to keep him. But the Bills have the dosh. They are also losing Lorenzo Alexander to retirement and Shaq Lawson is also hitting free agency, so could have a couple of major gaps to fill.


5. Justin Simmons (Safety) – Denver Broncos


Big, fast and springy, Simmons is a run-breaker and a ball hawk, with 94 tackles and four interceptions in 2019. Those stats made the 26-year-old Pro Football Focus’ top safety last season, signalling a massive step up this year. But the teams sniffing around will need to kick the tyres to make sure he’s not another one-year breakout player getting top dollar for one unrepresentative season.

Safe bet: Denver. Simmons has evolved from a third-round draft pick into an essential element of the Broncos D so I suspect keeping him in Mile High City is a priority for John Elway, even if it’s via the franchise tag for now.

Long shot: San Francisco. If the Niners can’t keep hold of Jimmie Ward, especially given his history with injuries, yer man Simmons could be a great fit in the Bay.


ALSO IN THE PICTURE


Tom Brady (QB), New England Patriots

I couldn’t not mention Brady, could I? Time is catching up with TB12 after 20 seasons but given his stature in the game, he will still turn heads, even though he’s on the wane – he was only the 11th-ranked quarterback in 2019. I doubt he’ll want to up-sticks and start again at the ripe old age of 43 so staying in New England for one last hurrah with Uncle Bill Belichick before he sails off into the sunset doesn’t seem unreasonable. But if you wanna gamble and put it all on red, the Las Vegas Raiders have a youthful core and the financial where-with-all to add weapons around him.

Philip Rivers (QB), Los Angeles Chargers

Although a relative spring chicken (a mere 38), Rivers’ arm isn’t what it was, what little mobility he had is long gone and he had 20 INTs last year. That said, he also threw for more than 4,600 yards and 23 touchdowns so all is not lost. Rivers won’t be back in LA so again, Indianapolis would make a lot of sense. Their offensive line works and Rivers would be reunited with former Chargers QB assistant Frank Reich. Thinking more out of the box, he’s just moved to his family to Florida. Tampa Bay anyone?

Jameis Winston (QB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis is your guy if you want a bucketload of throws, thousands of yards, loads of touchdowns and a million interceptions. He’s high risk, high stakes, high reward. The Buccaneers are considering living dangerously again by bringing back the all-and-nothing QB, using the franchise tag for damage limitation. Failing that, the Indianapolis Colts GM said the jury’s still out on Jacoby Brissett.

Brandon Scherff (G), Washington Redskins

Scherff is a run-blocking guard who might have broken into the top 10 if he’d stayed healthy. Despite taking to the field only 19 times in two years, he’s arguably the best interior lineman in this year’s free agent class. The three-time Pro Bowler and former first round pick should stay with the Redskins under new HC Ron Rivera but if he doesn’t, let’s pretend for a moment the Cincinnati Bengals actually engaged in free agency. Scherff would help a terrible O-line protect some young whippersnapper called Burrow.

Byron Jones (CB), Dallas Cowboys

Despite hip surgery last offseason, Jones backed up his breakout 2018 campaign with another top year. Versatile enough to also play safety, Jones will be the top corner on the market which, according to the laws of supply and demand, means he’ll get paid above and beyond his ability. Minnesota could improve at corner, with Xavier Rhodes’ form falling away and Trae Waynes heading for free agency, while the Philadelphia Eagles could help their injury-ravaged secondary by poaching from a divisional rival.

Season In Review – Atlanta Falcons

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

Next up in our series is the Atlanta Falcons. I could have scheduled this for the 28th March but you know, too far to wait.


Entering The Season


It’s a strange and difficult time to be a fan of the Dirty Birds, after that turnaround in The Big Game, they managed to get back to the playoffs the following year only to be defeated in the Divisional Round by the Eagles. They seemed primed to make a run at The Big Game once again in the 2018 season only to be utterly wrecked by injuries.

The goal for this season? Get healthy, stay healthy, knock the Saints off the top of the NFC South and make the most of a favourable schedule against the unreliable AFC South and the Bizarro World that is the NFC West.


During The Season


The season did not exactly get off to a positive start with a 28-12 spanking on the road in Minnesota, the Falcons not scoring any points until there were nine minutes of the game remaining. No big deal, a get right 24-20 victory over the Eagles despite blowing a two-score lead with a three game stretch against the AFC South coming up? Could establish a spot in the wildcard spots at this rate, right?

Wrong.

Dead wrong.

TheAthletic.com

At stages against the Colts and Titans the Falcons were down 20-3 and 24-7 respectively. To compound this issue, they were blown out 53-32 by the Texans in Week 5. The return to NRG Stadium only inflamed the bad memories.

By the time the Week 9 bye rolled around, another three-game divisional stretch – this time against the NFC West – came and went the same way as the AFC South trio. Ugly, ugly defeats. A missed field goal as time expired on the road at the Cardinals, a 27-point defeat against the Rams and a loss to Seattle meant that Atlanta’s season was over before Halloween. Nevermind a spooky season, this was downright horrifying from Dan Quinn’s team.

There were more than a few whispers that Arthur Blank was going to take action against Quinn before the season was out, what a staggering fall from grace just a couple of years removed from Super Bowl LI and here was the Head Coach, 1-7 and without any apparent idea of how to stop the bleeding (31.25 PPG given up through the first eight weeks!).

Atlantafalcons.com

Meanwhile, the offensive line was just a whole heap of garbage, first round pick (31st overall) Kaleb McGary had a terrible year and it showed in not only Atlanta’s season overall with 50 sacks allowed, the fifth most in the entire league, but also in the run game which struggled so badly that not one Atlanta running back posted a triple digit game all year. How can a bad defense stay off the field when the offense can’t do anything other than pass? An impossible situation.

Spare a thought at this point for Julio Jones and Matty Ice. Two elite players who did their best whilst everything else was going to hell around them. Even Calvin Ridley chipped in as a solid WR2 and Austin Hooper was a good redzone threat. That isn’t enough, however. The season was basically over by November. What to aim for in the second half? A perfect 2nd half seals a 9-7 record that might be enough for the playoffs but with such a loaded NFC that’s a tall order.

The last thing Atlanta needed coming off the bye week then was a trip to the Superdome to face the 7-1 Saints who were on the verge of running away with the division. This could be the game that finally forced Blank’s hand to show Quinn the door.

Atlanta 26-9 New Orleans. What. The. Heck?

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

A transformed Falcons D smothered a Saints team that had scored 30+ points in five out of their first eight games. The Falcons line broke through and sacked Drew Brees six times and held the Saints to a paltry three field goals. Even Brian Hill (who?!) got in on the action with 71 scrimmage yards and a score. Was this the turning point of the season? A chance to put something together for pride, for their HC who was on the brink not long after being on the brink of winning it all?

Well they went one better against the Panthers, blowing them out 29-3, keeping them scoreless for 47 minutes. They couldn’t go on a run could they? An all-time second half of the season to sneak into the 6 seed?

Nope.

Consecutive home losses to the Bucs and the Saints saw to that, although let’s take a moment to talk about the wild end to the Thanksgiving matchup against New Orleans where the Falcons recovered THREE onside kicks in a row (the first being brought back for a penalty) in a somewhat amusing end to a comfortable revenge win for New Orleans.

3-9 going into December. Season over, time to play spoiler? On the road? Against the dominant 49ers? You betcha.

Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group

A touchdown with two seconds remaining (Julio from Matty Ice, who else?) gave the Falcons a 23-22 lead which would swell to 29-22 on a fumble return on the kick-off. How about that for a feather in your cap, Dan Quinn?!

Atlanta finished the season 7-9, going 6-2 in the second half of the season to achieve a modicum of respectability but the season was doomed after the AFC South fiasco in September.


Offseason Outlook


So where next for Atlanta? They’ve got eight draft picks to play with and need to hope that they land on better selections than 2019’s picks. An edge-rusher is something they’re in desperate need of as they finished with just 28 sacks on the year, tied for second least. If Austin Hooper isn’t to return in free agency then Tight End becomes a priority, also.

Meanwhile that 50 sack year indicates that they need to either coax more out of the O-Line they have or make it just as big of a priority.

There isn’t much room in free agency to pick up pieces either, $7.5 million to play with and not many players who can be sacrificed to make room. Devonta Freeman has arguably been ineffectual for two straight years now but his 2020 cap hit of $9.5m is offset by the fact that there’s $6m in dead money going to him this coming year.

TheFalconsWire.UsaToday.com

A lot of money is tied up in Chris Lindstrom, Jake Matthews and Grady Jarrett this year in what will be important years going forward for them as Atlanta cannot afford to take the cap hit on these guys. It could be a tricky year ahead for the Falcons, despite having a great QB and WR1-2 punch.

Atlanta’s road schedule for 2020? Green Bay, Minnesota, Dallas, Kansas City, LA Chargers, Saints, Bucs and Panthers. Ouch. If they’re going to get out of the NFC South, it’s going to be on the back of being near-perfect at home and steal two/three wins on the road because that is an absolute stinker of a road schedule.

Full10Lookahead – Week 3

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y), Lawrence Vos (@NFLFanInEngland) and Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Get your binoculars out folks, it’s time to look ahead to week 3 in the NFL.

Up 2, No good?

Image Credit – Bobby Ellis / Getty Images

2 weeks in and we only 9 teams are left chasing the perfect 16-0 season.

There are some familiar names there with the Chiefs, Patriots, Rams and Cowboys all sitting pretty, but heading into week 3 there are 5 other teams who have yet to taste defeat. Looking ahead to the week 3 slate of games I predict that the Ravens perfect start ends against the aforementioned Chiefs and despite the Saints QB worries I see them handling the Seahawks who have won their 2 games by just a combined 3 points so far. The 49ers, Packers and Bills however, open their matchups with great chances to all move to 3-0.

You would have had pretty good odds on these teams all being undefeated after 3 weeks and maybe it’s just a reminder that sometimes you have to look past stats because I’m not confident that any of those teams are particularly good.


The $84 Million Mistake

Image Credit – Dylan Buell / Getty Images

What is up with Kirk Cousins?

After a week 1 performance where he threw for less than 100 yards on just 10 pass attempts, he was nothing short of woeful in week 2. After throwing 2 interceptions and fumbling twice against the Packers the pressure is on for a bounceback performance against the Raiders. Cousins has even admitted himself that if he continues to play so poorly he will not stay the starting quarterback for much longer. That seems unlikely though considering he is guaranteed $60 million over this year and next as the only way out of that contract is to find a trading partner.

Just checking the market for an overpaid below average quarterback…….yea, not that hot.

The Vikings need to continue to pound the rock and wish away the next 15 months until they can stop overpaying at the QB position.

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Primetime in Cleveland

Image Credit – Adam Hunger / AP

The Browns took care of business on MNF but it’s safe to say that the level of competition increases quite dramatically for SNF.

If you want an indicator of how bad the Browns have been in recent times, Sunday will mark their 1st appearance on Sunday Night Football for 11 years. The home opener against Tennessee saw the hyped up Browns completely fall flat ahead of high expectations and although expectations for Sunday are somewhat tempered in comparison they will not want to put on a show in the national spotlight. It’s a tough assignment against an impressive Rams team however, and Aaron Donald will be licking his lips at the prospect of taking on the Cleveland offensive line.

It could be a rough night for Baker Mayfield and company for the 2nd time in 3 weeks or could it be the offseason hype begins to be released on the biggest of regular season stages?


Game of Jones

Image Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Here we go, first NFL start for Quaterback Daniel Jones, the #6 overall pick out of Duke in the 2019 draft.

Much scrutiny over the offseason on the selection and now it’s time to see whether or not the pick was justified.

Can the Jones be a competent enough QB at this early stage?

He performed well in his pre-season action; on 34 passes he had416 yards at a 85.3% completion percentage, 2TDs and 0 INTs. That’s even with the wide receivers at his disposal.

The boy has some wheels and is actually and under the radar athlete, something which may help unlock a bit more production out of this offence that is leaning so heavily on Saquon Barkley, their 2nd overall pick in 2018. But we don’t need to talk about that.

This is probably the end of the road for Eli Manning, now being benched for the second time after the Geno Smith debacle in 2018. The 2 time Super Bowl winner, with a  current starting W/L record of 116-116, will probably not see the field unless there is an injury to Jones.



Saints or Sinners

Image Credit: David Grunfeld NOLA.com

Talking of QB changes, there will be one in New Orleans in week 3. Of course, not by choice. Drew Brees right thumb got Donald’d and will now miss the immediate future.

We mentioned in our takeaways about Teddy B’s offseason decision bearing fruits, but now it’s time to put up or shut up for the 2014 32nd overall QB out of Louisville.

Not an easy game to start with as the Saints travel to Century Link field to face the 12 and then the Saints have a home game to face the red hot Cowboys in Week 4.

Bridgewater needs to lean on Kamara and Thomas, as the saints have done in recent times and try and get out of the stretch without Brees at .500 in order to stay in contention.


Myles better than anyone else

Image Credit: John Kuntz Cleveland.com

The Cleveland Browns have been known to make some truly godawful first round draft picks, but this has changed over the past two seasons with some big names who are helping transform a franchise from a Sports Illustrated side note to a front cover pin-up.

Part of that turnaround is thanks to 2017 number one pick Myles Garrett, who to date has recorded 5 sacks in two 2019 games. If he keeps up this phenomenal pace he could reach a record-setting 25 sacks in a season. Garrett joined Redskins defender Ryan Kerrigan to pay tribute to the WWE legend Shaun ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ Michaels with his post sack pose. Garrett may be a wrestling fan, but the XFL can only dream they will attract a defensive superstar that performs at 10% of the rate of Garrett.

NFL legend Lawrence Taylor was a participant in a WrestleMania back in day, and who would put it past the chiselled torso of Garrett one day stepping inside the ring. 


Frank-ly I’m speechless

Image Credit: Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

There is a scene in Rocky IV when late on in the fight a deflated Ivan Drago turns to his trainers and says: ‘He’s not human, He’s like a piece of iron.” Quite an apt description of Buffalo Bills running-back Frank Gore, who at 36 is still churning out fantasy relevant performances.

His 19 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown (his first since the end of 2017) in week 2 against the Giants proved that Gore will actually out-live cockroaches if there was a nuclear holocaust tomorrow. 14,836 yards rushing from someone who was drafted with a reputation for being fragile is remarkable.

Gore is going to be a solid fantasy waiver wire pickup, as he is on a team that likes to run the ball, and has teams dedicating time using a spy to cover Josh Allen. Gore can realistically top 75 yards against the Bengals in week 3. The single most awe-inspiring stat we have to ponder though is, that with 434 more yards, this season he will pass Barry Sanders, just stop to think about that. 


Is overtime a crime? 

When you are in an era where a current NFL head coach is nicknamed ‘Riverboat’ then you know that teams are taking more risks than they used to.

Week 2 saw two games take more twists and turns than Jeremy Wade trying to reel in an arapaima. Two games in particular saw both head coaches gamble (in one case due to a penalty) and go for two point conversions to take the lead in games:

One worked (Flacco to Sanders) and one didn’t (Fournette running in quicksand) but in both cases an extra-point would have tied the game.

We know that the extra-point is no longer automatic, but it appears there is a trend to try and kill games off early without going for a fifth quarter. With speculation rife that the NFL move to an 18 game regular season the chips-in attitude will get even greater. Overtime is a great spectacle and can bring some truly memorable plays.

The trend by coaches to try and end a game in regulation in week 2 may come back to bite them. In the case of Jaguars head-coach Doug Marrone it could be a decision that costs him his job. 


What a lovely Spread!

There have only been 11 occasions in recent times where an NFL team is favoured by 20 or more points against the spread. Those teams are 2-9 in terms of covering. Beware if you are betting these games!

The Cowboys face the Dolphins at home, who were whooped by New England by 43points in week 2 and are now even more talent poor after the exit of their 2019 1st round pick, Minkah Fitzpatrick.

New England have another opportunity to whoop another division rival after beating the Dolphins as  the Jets come to town and are down to their 3rd string signal caller.

Regardless, you should be able to get through your survivor and last man standing picks this week comfortably with both Dallas and New England.



So there you have it folks, week 3 is on the horizon and you are all filled in on the latest stories making the headlines. If you enjoy these articles or if there is something you think we can improve on, we’d love to hear it so let us know via DM @full10yards on Twitter or using the contact form on the website.

Enjoy your week 3 NFL action!

5 Early Fantasy Sleepers

Written by Lawrence Vos – 27/5/2019

Early non-playing season sleepers

I feel for all the British railway historians and weekend landscape gardeners who will Google this article hoping to find glorious pictures of blocks of abandoned wood they can drool over.

A sleeper for this particular article is defined as a relatively unknown or non-famous NFL player (veteran or rookie) who is projected to far outweigh his previous production, and breakout by exceeding his expected statistics, based on traditionally being a mid-to-late draft pick.

Before we dive into the 2019 fantasy pool Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani like, wearing a pair of borrowed swimming trunks, let’s take a look at some of the outstanding 2018 sleepers who were highly unlikely to have been drafted in any fantasy leagues before the end of August last year, but ended up breaking out.

2018 actual sleeper breakouts

QB

Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers (2017 Practice Squad)


Mullens came in for C.J Beathard, who himself was subbing for injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Mullens ended up starting the entire second half of the season and recorded a respectable 2,277 yards through the air alongside 13 passing touchdowns. Nobody drafted Mullens to their fantasy team for week 1, but by the latter part of the 2018 season he was proving to be a half-decent waiver wire or late bye pickup. Mullens is not someone to draft or roster in 2019, but he gives the 49ers a low cost reliable backup, if he makes the 53-man roster.

RB

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (2017 3rd round pick)

Philip Lindsay, Denver Broncos (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Lindsay and Edwards were not drafted but both started for their teams. Edwards played 11 games, including 6 starts, helping to act as a battering ram taking handoffs from silky running quarterback and fellow rookie Lamar Jackson. Edwards ended up as the fifth leading rookie rusher. The person who finished three slots above him for rookie rushing was Philip Lindsay. The former Colorado player not only went over 1,000 yards (1,037) he became the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl. Not so much a sleeper, more like someone coming out of a coma to run a marathon. James Conner’s story to date is remarkable, having recovered from cancer in 2016, he was somewhat of an afterthought when drafted by the Steelers at pick #105 in 2017, as LeVeon Bell was wowing the planet with his unique ‘delay and dash’ running style. Nobody thought Bell would hold-out the entire 2018 season, but he did and Conner came in to register just under 1,500 all-purpose yards (973 rushing and 493 through the air). Conner started the 2019 Pro-Bowl over Lindsay. 

WR

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (2016 2nd round pick)

Ok this is a bit of an anomaly to the traditional sleeper criteria as Boyd was picked #55 in the 2016 NFL draft. What gives Boyd the title is his progress from 2017 (1 start and 22 catches) to 2018 (14 starts 76 catches). In 2018 Boyd recorded his first 1,000-yard season (1,028) and led the Bengals in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns (7 – tied with John Ross). Boyd benefitted from a major injury to All-Pro wide-out A.J. Green, but circumstance does not generate statistics, effort, consistency and trust from your quarterback does.

TE

Chris Herndon, New York Jets (2018 4th round pick)

Herndon was the sixth tight-end to be drafted last year and as of Week 1 he was the fourth-string behind a rag-tag bunch that included Eric Tomlinson, Neal Stirling and Jordan Leggett, names only their mother loves (or knows about). In a position that is notoriously punishing to first-year players Herndon ended up on the 2018 All-Rookie Team. His 39 catches led all rookie tight-ends and his 502 yards only trailed fellow rookie tight-end Mark Andrews of the Ravens (552). Achieving this with a rookie quarterback was pretty remarkable too, as Herndon ended up the second leading receiver on the team.

Five 2019 offensive sleeper candidates

So where does this lead us to in 2019? Who is sitting there like an about-to-be disturbed roof full of asbestos in a 1960s primary school, ready to join Baker Mayfield’s ‘dangerous club’, in experiencing an external transformation? Here are five offensive sleeper candidates:

QB

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (2019 2nd round pick)

The Broncos have struggled at quarterback since the retirement of Peyton Manning at the end of 2015. Four passers have started since then, namely Brock Osweiler (4), Paxton Lynch (4),Trevor Simien (24), and Case Keenum (16). None are considered a franchise quarterback, and to top it off John Elway moved for past-his-prime quarterback Joe Flacco in free-agency. Still searching for a future star the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. Many draft-nicks had Lock getting selected in the first round, but he fell, and Denver had to move up and trade with the Bengals to acquire his John Hancock. Lock is the current backup on the depth chart, but he could be on the field by Week 6 if Flacco fails to get the Broncos moving smoothly. Lock was a highly productive college quarterback at Missouri throwing for over 12,000 yards and 99 touchdowns in 46 starts. Nobody is drafting Flacco in fantasy, but you may want to consider taking a flier on Lock on your bench.

RB

Ronald Jones III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2018 2nd round pick)

To say Ronald Jones’s rookie season was a disaster would be a gross understatement. If his inept performance was caused by injury there would be a valid reason to relax, but Jones participated in 9 games. His one touchdown (in a 26-23 win against the Browns) was a lone highlight. Besides that his 44 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards were barely worth typing in this sentence. Currently listed as number two on the Tampa depth chart, behind Peyton Barber, Jones has the opportunity for a fresh start under new head coach Bruce Arians. The Buccs didn’t draft a running back this year, another good sign for Jones to have some genuine fantasy impact in 2019. He is durable, as indicated by a 591 carry college career at USC, including a 1,550 rushing performance in 2017. Jones can go from zero to hero and with a good start to his season he could end with 1,000 all-purpose yards.

RB

Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

The dictionary definition of an insurance policy, Brown is crouching in the weeds whilst the news of Todd Gurley’s knee ailments appears to be gaining growing concern by Rams coaches and fans alike. Brown has already been subject to a poaching bid earlier in the year by the Detroit Lions, with the Rams deciding he was too valuable to let go. Brown averaged a respectable 4.9 yards a carry in 2019. He missed the Rams playoff run to the Super Bowl having gone on injured reserve in December. Much like a cockroach after the apocalypse Brown has been on the Rams roster for four seasons now, and is one Gurley injury from one of the biggest opportunities of his career. Much like James Conner in Pittsburgh Brown is in a great positing to have immediate fantasy impact. You only need look at the production of C.J. Anderson as Gurley’s backup in 2018 to see how impactful a back in L.A. can be. Brown has fresh legs and knows the offense inside out. As a #2 he can get 400-500 rushing yards. As a starter he has the capability to go over 1,250 all-purpose yards in 2019.

WR
Demarcus Robinson, Kansas City Chiefs (2016 4th round draft pick)

Former Florida Gator wide-receiver Demarcus Robinson has been like a Velcro-covered ball that has been rolled around some freshly mowed grass, he has the potential to stick and hit the target but hasn’t quite managed to yet. The Chiefs have had Robinson on their roster for three seasons now, but he has only started 13 games (out of 48 he played in) and this has resulted in underwhelming statistical production (43 catches for exactly 500 yards and four scores). Where Robinson elevates his sleeper status over other wide-outs is not just potential, its opportunity. With Tyreek Hill (I shudder even typing his name) facing a major suspension and current #1 WR Sammy Watkins missing 18 games over the last four seasons, Robinson can easily triple or even quadruple his average production over the past two years. Yes the Chiefs drafted Mecole Hardman, but with few exceptions, rookie receivers struggle to have a huge impact. With the NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to him in 2019 its time for Robinson to step up to the NFL dance floor.

TE

Matt LaCosse, New England Patriots (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

Up there with Snow White, Rip Van Winkle and Dracula Matt LaCosse is a classic sleeper. Another winner through self-destruction around him by others, not just pure talent, LaCosse is in a pretty perfect place at a pretty perfect time. With perhaps the greatest tight-end in NFL history now retired in New England, and ageless-wonder Ben Watson recently suspended, all the 6ft 6inch man mountain has to do is beat Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the starting spot for Week 1. LaCosse had a mini breakout of his own with the Broncos in 2018, with 24 catches for 250 yards. Prior to that LaCosse generated no impact with the Giants (two-stints), spent six days as a New York Jets player, and was on injured reserve throughout 2016. His three catches prior to 2018 were barely worth a Wikipedia note. LaCosse is the sort or reclamation project that Bill Bellichick will love to get his evil claws right into. Staying on the field both as a starter and part of some two tight-end sets could see LaCosse generate over 50 catches for over 650 yards and 6-8 touchdowns. That would be a viable starting output from someone who will be only slightly rising up fantasy draft boards at the moment.

Where Do They Go From Here; Falcons

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the Atlanta Falcons.

Don’t forget to check out the NFC South podcast where we talked to Ben Rolfe and got his thoughts on them!

How Did Last Season Go?

With the Super Bowl in their own back yard in 2018, the owners and GM were hoping that Atlanta were in a prime position squad wise to make a deep run. But injuries on both sides of the ball ultimately cost them any chance of January football.

Decimated on defence and without star running back Devonta Freeman, the Falcons simply couldn’t cover the holes in order to make it to the postseason, despite the heroic efforts of the Matty Ice and the offence.

Talking of Matt Ryan, the Falcons QB once again ascended to the dizzy heights of his MVP year; 35 TDs to just 7 INTs, only 76 yards short of a 5000 yard passing season (and only 20 yards short from his MVP year) and just short of a 70% completion on 608 passing attempts.

Not bad for those that took him late in fantasy drafts last year when you include 3 rushing and 1 receiving touchdowns to boot.

However, he could not overcome the liability that the Falcons D were, as they ended up 25th in points allowed and ultimately proved too much for the 10th best scoring offence to overcome meaning they ended up with a 7-9 record.

Julio Jones had himself a season again, ended atop of the receiving yards mountain with a cool 1677 yards and 8TDs which saw Julio go to his 5th straight Pro Bowl. Calvin Ridley showed in flashes what he can do and will be a key piece for years to come. One player that wont be is the departing Tevin Coleman, who struggled to carry his and Devonta Freeman’s workload and has already walked out of the exit door.

Back to the season, their 5 game losing streak at being 4-4 after week 9 ultimately killed the Falcons and some may say that it was foolish to win their last 3 games in terms of their draft position.

Housekeeping

The Falcons have picks 14, 45 and 79 in the top 3 rounds and have a couple of compensatory picks in rounds 4 and 5 too.

Unfortunately at the time of the article, the Falcons have <$5m in cap, which is in the bottom 5.

Outgoings

As mentioned, Tevin Coleman exits Atlanta for pastures new in San Francisco. Steve Sarkisian also bites the bullet as OC.

Incomings

Grady Jarrett has had the franchise tag placed upon him so he will return at DT, which essentially limits the Falcons along with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’s big contracts. However, a few offensive guards have been brought in; James Carpenter (Jets) and Jamon Brown. Other depth pieces include the re-signing of Justin Hardy and the acquisition of Kenyon Barner.

At a coaching level, former Tampa Bay HC Dirk Koetter comes in to take the OC job. If things dont go to plan, you could say he is Koet candidate (boo-ya!).

Outlook for Next Year

Despite the poor season by last season, the outlook is good for the Falcons. The division will still be like a helter-skelter and it’ll depend on when they catch their divisional rivals. New Orleans will still be the favourites for the division but if Atlanta can get a bit luckier with the amount of injuries they have, this could easily be a dark horse for a Super Bowl run. You heard it here first. Devonta Freeman will need to prove his health too if the Falcons want to play football in January. Unfortunately it won’t take much for him to miss time with his concussion history and his knees being as stable as a house of cards in a hurricane.

Prediction

I think Atlanta make a playoff appearance in 2019 and will be a dangerous wildcard team. There are enough wins to come from the NFC West and AFC South (the NFC South opponents for this year) to combine with their other opponents to get to 10 wins.

Hot take – Atlanta are a top 5 offence and a top 10 defence in 2019.

Fantasy Football

Matt Ryan – later round QB (higher than last year however) – QB1

Devonta Freeman – 3rd/4th Round pick – RB1 potential *SLEEPER ALERT*

Julio Jones – back end 1st round/ early 2nd round pick- WR1

Calvin Ridley – 6th/7th Round pick – WR 3

Austin Hooper – late round pick / undrafted – Low TE1/TE2