Season in Review – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

By Sean Tyler (@seantyleruk)

Time to take a look at Mr 30/30 himself and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Arguably one of the most exciting teams to watch (not always for the right reasons) in 2019 but what did Bruce Arians achieve this season and what has he got to do to try and obtain a winning record in 2020? More importantly, does it involve Jameis Winston?


ENTERING THE SEASON


Hoping to improve on 5-11 from the previous year, Tampa Bay spent the spring re-signing, extending and acquiring a whole host of players. These included offensive tackles Donovan Smith and Demar Dotson, and leading rusher Peyton Barber. WR Breshad Perriman was a decent pick-up in free agency, but linebacker Shaquil Barrett was arguably the best signing (by any team) in 2019.

Paul Sancya/AP

A couple of months later, former LA Rams defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh also joined the fray, and in the NFL Draft, the Bucs stayed D-heavy. Other than kicker Matt Gay and receiver Scotty Miller, every other pick was a defender. Headed by another linebacker (LSU’s Devin White) at No.5 overall, followed by corners Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean, NFL.com recently gave the rookie class an A+ grade.

Not surprisingly, the Bucs’ pre-season games were close, low-scoring affairs, with a two-point loss at Pittsburgh preceding wins over Miami (16-14), Cleveland (13-12) and Dallas (17-15). 


DURING THE SEASON


To the uninitiated, their eventual 7-9 record might appear to have been an unremarkable campaign for the Bucs. But in many ways, it was anything but; in fact, the record-book writers were kept pretty busy.

Providing a snapshot of what was to come, Jameis Winston featured heavily in the highlight reel of the opening day 31-17 loss to San Francisco, for all the wrong reasons (three interceptions, including two pick-sixes). The Bucs’ win at Carolina in Week 2 featured some solid last-ditch defending to keep Christian McCaffrey out of the end zone but then they blew an 18-point lead against the New York Giants, with rookie kicker Matt Gay missing what would have been a winning FG as the clock hit zero.

In Week 4, Suh, a former LA Ram, iced the 55-40 victory over the reigning NFC champions with a 37-yard fumble return. The win took the Bucs over the 50-point mark for the first time.

Bucs Report

Despite their early promise, the Buccaneers hit a wall and limped to 2-6 with a run of four defeats. In a lacklustre 31-24 loss to New Orleans, Teddy Bridgewater threw four TD passes, while the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson went one better a couple of weeks later. Worryingly, Tampa shipped almost 1,000 total yards in those two games alone.

In between, Tampa lost 37-26 in their Panthers rematch, with Winston (five interceptions – there’s a theme here, people) fumbling twice and getting sacked seven times in the second NFL game at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. After the bye week, our erstwhile quarterback hero (four turnovers) carried on where he left off in a 27-23 loss to the Titans.

Somehow, things picked up with a run of five wins in six, starting with Arians getting the better of his former team the Arizona Cardinals. After another loss to the Saints (Winston: four interceptions), the Bucs hit their stride, tormenting Matt Ryan, Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew in wins over Atlanta and Jacksonville. And in defeating the Colts 38-35, Winston (three turnovers) nabbed five total touchdowns and threw for 456 yards, surpassing his own single-season total with three games to spare. The win lifted the Bucs to 6-7, but it wasn’t enough to avoid elimination from postseason contention.

In setting yet another NFL benchmark – two consecutive games of 450+ yards passing – Winston threw for four TDs in a dominant 38-17 win over the Detroit Lions. Third-choice wideout Breshad Perriman – suddenly the target man after Chris Godwin and Mike Evans sustained hamstring injuries – set career bests down the stretch with 134 yards receiving (week 17 vs Atlanta) and three TDs (week 15 vs Lions), and finished the season with three 100-yard games.

Leon Halip / Getty Images

Disappointingly, having battled to back to 7-7 and the chance for a winning season, Tampa lost their last two against the playoff-bound Houston Texans and NFC South rivals the Atlanta Falcons, in which Devin White returned a fumble 91 yards to the house.

Looking back, the season was awash with new franchise records: most touchdowns (54), most points (458), fewest rushing yards allowed (1,181) and, to put the icing on the cake, Shaq Barrett smashed his one-year ‘prove-it’ deal out of the park with 19.5 sacks. The Bucs also led the NFL in run defence, allowing only one player (Seattle’s Chris Carson) – and only three entire teams – 100 yards rushing.

Even Jameis Winston himself set new highs: 5,109 passing yards, 33 touchdown passes, 626 passing attempts and 389 completions. But on the flip side, he also led the NFL with 30 interceptions. Amazingly, that wasn’t a franchise record (thanks to Vinny Testaverde back in the Eighties).

Reaching 7-9 in 2019 – with Head Coach Bruce Arians at the helm for the first time since being hauled out of retirement – the Buccaneers weren’t a million miles from the playoffs. That said, their eventual failure extended the NFL’s second-longest postseason drought to 12 years.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


At this time of year, which Bruce Arians has referred to as “monotonous”, there are no gaping holes to fill but Tampa Bay do have 19 unrestricted free agents, which muddies the waters somewhat. Even keeping the half-dozen regular starters like Suh, Dotson and Perriman will put a sizeable dent in their $92 million of available cap space (the third most in the NFL). While they’ll want to keep the bulk of their young defence in tact, the priorities remain two-fold: Shaq Barrett and Jameis Winston.

Back in December, Arians said that Barrett “ain’t going anywhere”. Alas, the Pro Bowl linebacker only signed for a year so if he’s staying, he’s gonna get paid. And if he’s not staying, he’s still gonna get paid. They could franchise tag him but if not, a DT like Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina) or Iowa’s edge rusher AJ Epenesa could be Round 1 draft targets.

As for quarterback, heaven only knows what they’ll do. At 67, Arians can’t wait forever for Winston to eradicate the errors. After their final game, he summed up the dilemma perfectly: “There’s so much good, and so much outright terrible.”

Octavio Jones / Tampa Bay Times

So do the highs outweigh the lows enough to pay Winston the $25m he could expect? It’s hard to tell.

They could move him on and get a bridge quarterback (a la Dalton or Bridgewater). They might keep him – possibly on a franchise tag – but still sign a new young thing to wait in the wings in case he goes turnover-crazy again. (And since his 30 TD/30 INT season ended, he’s had eye surgery so maybe we can expect something nearer 20/20 next year?) Or they could just let him compete against some of the game’s best QBs in a crowded free agent market, and sign a newbie. Whatever the case, Arians likes ‘em big and strong, so Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts or Jacob Eason from Washington could well be in the frame when they’re on the clock at the NFL Draft with pick #14.

So in summary, Buccaneers fans should be looking ahead to the coming year with a degree of optimism… as long as they can tie down a few of their best performers (#ShackleShaq) and solve The Great Winston Conundrum.

Oh, and there are some snazzy new uniforms in the pipeline…

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.

Season In Review – New Orleans Saints

By Dave Moore (@davieremixed)

This is the first team up in our new article series, “Season in Review”, is the New Orleans Saints.

We will go through EVERY team in the NFL and take a look back their season and what the future holds for each team.

The New Orleans Saints, the Bridesmaids of the NFC Championship game from the past few seasons and they were once again a front runner for the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2019. How did it all pan out? We break it down here:


entering the season


After New Orleans’ second crushing playoff defeat in as many years there were legitimate questions to be asked about whether this team could put it all together again to go one step further and play February football.

Even more concerning was the apparent fading of Drew Brees’ star as post-Thanksgiving 2018 he was poor. Was it a blip or the stunning drop-off we saw from Peyton Manning a few years prior?

The expectation for the Saints would’ve been to go one further and appear in their second ever Super Bowl but with the Falcons seemingly healthy again after an injury-struck 2018 and Christian McCaffery turning in an impressive rookie year it looked for all the world like it’d be a very, very competitive NFC South.

Image result for max unger
Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty

A huge factor heading into the new season was the retirement of Center, Max Unger, this was a player who was a figurehead of one of the most impressive offensive lines in the game, with the signing of free agent Nick Easton and the drafting of Erik McCoy in the 2nd Round of the 2019 Draft it seemed far from certain who #9 would be taking snaps from come Week 1.

The other major change for the Saints came in the skill positions as we said farewell to Mark Ingram II who left in free agency to join Baltimore but welcomed in Latavius Murray and Jared Cook from the Vikings and Raiders respectively. I think there was quite a shock when Ingram left and Saints fans weren’t exactly enamoured with Murray as his replacement given the chemistry between Alvin Kamara and Ingram had been a huge part of the near-perfect 2018 season. However, Ingram did have fumbling issues and perhaps it was Payton’s way of trying to freshen up the team.

Jared Cook was a definite upgrade at the Tight End position after Ben Watson left in the off-season and after a few swings and not-quite-misses-not-quite-hits at securing a solid WR2 behind Michael Thomas, it was definitely a sign that the Saints meant business. Especially given that they had never replaced Jimmy Graham since he was traded to Seattle.


During the season


There were so many stories around the Saints in the regular season it is hard to get your head around them all. How about Week 1, Monday Night Football at home to the Texans? The Saints kick a 47-yard field goal to go 27-21 up with 50 seconds to play. Vintage late drive from Drew Brees to seal the game? Not quite. Deshaun Watson uncorks a couple of bombs which result in Kenny Stills of all players taking the ball into the endzone just 13 seconds after the Saints had kicked that field goal! 28-27 and that’s a stunner for the Superdome. But wait…Here comes that vintage late drive…Sort of. The Saints work it to field goal range and Wil Lutz uncorks a bomb of his own to send a 58-yarder through the uprights as time expired. The Saints don’t do anything simply do they?

That would prove to be the case in Week 2 in what was already highlighted on the schedule as The Revenge Game. On the road in Los Angeles. After that non-call just eight months prior that ended the Saints season and allowed the Rams to go and roll over for the Patriots a fortnight later. Surely this is where New Orleans lay those ghosts to rest? Well…

Image result for new orleans saints cam jordan rams
Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty

This is where the Saints lose without scoring a touchdown. This is where Aaron Donald bursts through that much vaunted offensive line, gets to #9 who, whilst throwing a pass has his throwing thumb broken/ligaments torn/completely busted. Out goes Brees, in comes Teddy Bridgewater. The Saints lose 27-9 and despite there being a strip sack from Cam Jordan returned 87 yards for a touchdown being denied because the refs had blown the play dead there could be no real complaints from New Orleans. They were beaten. Revenge will have to wait for another season.

So you lose your star Quarterback for 6-8 weeks who, by the way, was not showing any issues that plagued him toward the end of the season. You’ve got six games before your bye week. You have to go on the road to Seattle, host Dallas and go to Chicago alongside some easier games against the Bucs, Jaguars and Cardinals. Hope for 4-2? Expect 2-4? Settle with 3-3?

Image result for teddy bridgewater saints
Image Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty

Nope. Somehow the Saints go 6-0 with Teddy BridgeH2O under center for the first five. They did it in different ways, too. They score 2 twice on D/ST in Seattle, kick 12 points to win 12-10 against Dallas (their first win since 1998 without reaching the endzone). BridgeH2O threw for 300+ against Tampa, they ran all over Chicago and the Defense held Jacksonville to a pair of field goals.

This was a stunner for the NFC as for so long the Saints had been the team that would have to score 30 just to keep themselves in the game as their D would regularly crumble. Now you’ve got them winning games without Drew Brees? Meanwhile in the NFC South, the worries of their divisional rivals putting up more of a fight this season proved to be something of an unfounded concern as they all flopped spectacularly. The South was the Saints’ to lose and even by the time the Bye arrived in Week 9, the Saints were 8-1 and eyeing another Bye Week in January.

So in true New Orleans fashion they get blown out by the Falcons in the Superdome 26-9. This proved to be little more than a flesh wound as they won their next three (all divisional) games no problem. The big one was hosting the 49ers in Week 14 to essentially decide who gets that first weekend of January off.

It was a classic. A 48-46 victory for the 49ers on a time-expiring field goal. Another heartbreaker in the Dome but this time there were no contentious final plays. It simply came down to which team had the ball last would win and it broke San Francisco’s way. George Kittle proved once again magnificent he is and Emmanuel Sanders stuck 157 yards and a score on the Saints.

George Kittle
Image Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

What was getting lost amidst all the MVP talk surrounding Lamar Jackson was that Michael Thomas was setting record after record and was arguably in with a shout for MVP. The man did nothing but catch balls all year round and by the time the 49ers had left New Orleans in Week 14, he was on pace to break the single-season record for catches (143, Marvin Harrison).

Indeed, two weeks later on the road against the Titans he caught a pass at the one-yard line for 144 and then followed it up with catch 145 for a touchdown. Michael Thomas was the star for the Saints this year.

New Orleans closed out the season with a 42-10 blowout win over the Panthers to finish 13-3 but as luck would have it, those losses would come back to haunt New Orleans as they finished outside of the top two seeds for the playoffs. An absolute stunner for a team with that record to be playing Wildcard Football but with the 49ers and the Packers both having better inter-conference records the Saints wound up looking at hosting Minnesota then going on the road to Green Bay and then in all likelihood to San Francisco if they wanted to be playing in Miami come February 2nd. It’d be possible, but very difficult.

Lo and behold, the Saints laid an egg against the Vikings as they lost 26-20 in overtime. A scarcely believable result but yet again New Orleans found a new way to blow it in January. They barely deserved to get the game to OT as the Vikings completely outplayed them from first to last. What is a real kicker for the Saints is that the next week the Vikings – much like the Rams in the Super Bowl – turn up the next game and just stink the place out against San Francisco.

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph held on to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to upend the New Orleans Saints, 26-20, in overtime.
Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are so many unanswered questions from the post-season. What would the Saints been like in Lambeau in January? Would we have seen another classic between New Orleans and San Francisco in the NFC Championship game? What would Kansas vs New Orleans looked like in Miami? We’ll never know.

The stars of the season – Thomas aside – came mainly from the other side of the ball, Cameron Jordan, Vonn Bell, rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and most of all, Demario Davis. The OLB played magnificently all season and was rightly named to his first ever Pro Bowl. After Brees went down in Week 2, Davis essentially became the leader of the team and after #9’s return they shared these pre-game leadership duties. A real testament to a player who has come on leaps and bounds since leaving the Jets in 2018.


offseason outlook


Going forward for the Saints, there are decisions to be made at Quarterback.

Sean Payton, Drew Brees, Saints
Image Credit: Clutchpoints.com

Theoretically they could wind up without Brees, Bridgewater and Go-Go-Gadget Taysom Hill on the roster as they’re all free agents (although the only way Brees leaves is if he retires). It is hard to see a world in which all three of these players are on the team come September but if Brees takes another team-friendly deal and Bridgewater fancies his chances of replacing him in 2021 – if not before – then it is possible.

The offensive line will need shoring up as Andrus Peat was a real weakness in the defeat against the Vikings after injuries took their toll up front on both sides of the ball. Look for New Orleans to perhaps draft a Guard.

Another major issue – as ever – is a WR2. Tre’Quan Smith hasn’t done enough. Ted Ginn Jr isn’t getting any younger and it is doubtful he’ll be brought back. Deonte Harris seems to be restricted to Special Teams for now. The Saints will pick at #24 in the first round. I suspect they may use it on a wide-out who can stretch the field because that is the one singular limitation of Michael Thomas is that he isn’t the player that’ll rip off 50+ yarders and it is important to note that he doesn’t need to be that player but New Orleans do need someone else to do that.

New Orleans has roughly $12.4 million in cap space and will likely need to make room for a Marshon Lattimore contract extension that he richly deserves. However, there is the question of Alvin Kamara. In 2018, Kamara was incredible for the Saints but was something of a flop this season by comparison, especially in the scoring column as he went over ten weeks without finding the endzone. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays going forward as he is still on his rookie contract and by all rights, hasn’t done enough in 2019 to demand Ezekiel Elliott money. He becomes a UFA in 2021 so it’s potentially a prove-it season for the running back. Definitely a key thing to watch going forward.

Cam Newton: The Ripple Effect

By Chris Todds (@ctdk1980)

Image result for cam newton
Image Credit: Jacob Kupferman / Getty Images

With Cam Newton currently recuperating from his various ailments, and Kyle Allen’s lustre swiftly wearing off during their last 2 losses, which has left the Panthers very much on the outside of the playoff race, big decisions will have to be made throughout the franchise over the next few months. Ownership, coaching staff and contract extensions could all be affected by Cam Newton’s situation with the Panthers, never mind the dominoes that could fall throughout the league.

David Tepper, the owner of the team, made his own statement when he spoke with a group of reporters last week, giving support to Newton that was lukewarm at best, saying ‘no decision had yet been made on his future’. It was certainly intriguing that Tepper rejected the opportunity to throw his support behind his franchise QB, and presumably Newton himself noted the lack of enthusiasm.

Lets take a look at the various people who have a stake in the former MVP’s future prospects.


Marty Hurney


During his 2nd stint as GM of the Panthers, Hurney gave Newton his initial extension in 2015. With that contract expiring after the 2020 season, Newton has work to do to persuade the Panthers organisation to give him another massive contract.

The Panthers’ have a large group of players currently scheduled to hit free agency this spring, including Shaq Thompson, Mario Addison, James Bradberry and Gerald McCoy, with only approximately $40m of cap space, plus they may have to deal with star Christian McCaffrey’s contract. Cam Newton’s release or trade would free up $19m of space, and leave only $2m of dead money on the cap.

While Cam’s contract for next year is a relative bargain of $21m, if their medical department has concerns over his future recovery and prospects, could they possibly decide to trade one of the most important players in franchise history?


Ron Rivera


Riverboat Ron has an expiring contract in 2020 meaning if David Tepper and GM Marty Hurney see him as being their coach for the future, he’d be likely to receive an extension during the upcoming offseason.

However, Tepper’s recent comments have shown the owner is not willing to settle for mediocre, Rivera’s record as a HC is 76-61-1 (0.554), and his Panthers have yet to record back to back winning seasons in his 9 seasons as HC.

If the top brass decide they need to reload at QB without Cam and rebuild the roster for the future, they may well look for a new coach to lead that process.


Christian McCaffrey


As possibly the best all-around back in the league there’s little doubt that electric playmaker Christian McCaffrey will remain a part of the Panthers for the foreseeable future. He has 1 year left on his deal, with a fifth year option too, but is eligible to receive a new contract for the first time during the upcoming offseason, and will undoubtedly be a priority for the Panthers’ hierarchy.

However, as previously mentioned, Carolina have a lot of decisions to make over their upcoming 2020 free agency class with limited cap space to work.

After Zeke Elliott’s holdout during this years camp will RUN-CMC follow his lead and insist on a new deal before reporting for work? It’s worth noting his agent is Joel Segal, who represented both Chris Johnson and Khalil Mack during their holdouts.


Kyle Allen


The Panthers’ replacement for Cam Newton is also a restricted free agent this spring, if Carolina decide to retain Newton he may look to use his performances this year to persuade teams that he could be a bridge QB at the least.

While his performances have tailed off badly over the last few weeks if he can finish the season strongly, he could have an opportunity to win a starting job in a training camp next summer.


2020 QB free agents


If Carolina do decide to cut ties with Newton, he would join a crop of veteran and possible bridge quarterbacks (possibly including a GOAT). While some of these will almost certainly end up re-signing with their current teams, at the moment signal callers of the calibre of Brees, Brady, Winston, Bridgewater, Mariota, Tannehill are scheduled to become free agents this spring.

Also, there could be movement in the trade market with Rosen, Dalton and Trubisky all facing some questions over their futures.

With half of the teams in the league looking for improvements at the position, almost certainly Carolina would have a robust trade market for the former NFL MVP.

Tampa Bay, Chicago, Denver, Tennessee, Miami, Oakland, Cincinatti, LA Chargers would all make some sense as trade partners.


2020 QB draft prospects


There is also the prospect of Carolina becoming a serious player in the QB stakes early in next years NFL draft, while they did spend a 3rd round pick on Will Grier this past year, he has yet to see the field in regular season action.

With Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason and the recently injured Tua Tagovailoa all potential 1st round picks, the Panthers will be doing their due diligence on the prospects entering the league.

While the question marks will remain, and are unlikely to disappear until Cam Newton returns to the field, the best option for all concerned would probably see Cam Newton play out his current deal in Charlotte, proving his fitness and durability prior to signing a new deal to play out his career in the area he has come synonymous with.

However, there’s a long way to go before we can have any certainty about anything with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. When we do get certainty, the ripple effect willhave huge ramifications.

Half-Term Report: AFC/NFC South

Today’s Half-Term report focuses on the AFC and NFC South.

Which teams are heading south in terms of short term outlook and which teams will we be watching in January?

Let’s find out.


AFC South

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Current Standings

  • Indianapolis Colts 5-2
  • Houston Texans 5-3
  • Tennessee Titans 4-4
  • Jacksonville Jaguars 4-4

*Indianapolis Colts*

Midseason Grade: B+

How has it gone so far?

Having your starting franchise quarterback retire on the eve of the season would knock many of a franchise for 6. Thankfully for the Colts, they had a very good back up plan in Jacoby Brissett. He has marshalled the troops to a 5-2 record and crucially a big win in the division against the Houston Texans. Another significant road win was earned at Arrowhead as the Colts took down the Chiefs. They are positioned nicely for any potential tie breaks that may come into play come the post season shake up.

Marlon Mack is on pace for over 1000 yards rushing as there has been a clear commitment to establish the running game. With that said, T.Y Hilton is also putting together a nice receiving campaign and has already found the endzone on 5 occasions. 

Rest of Season Outlook:

With games against the Steelers and Dolphins next on the slate you would have to fancy the Colts reaching a 7-2 mark ahead of a vital 3 game divisional game stretch. They then face 3 foes from the NFC South before closing out the campaign away at Jacksonville which could be a hugely important contest. 

Ranked as a top 10 defence, expect the Colts to continue to be involved in competitive games but get enough production offensively to come out on top more often than not, particularly if the ask is for Adam Vinateri to kick the game winning field goals, something he has done consistently better than anyone else ever has done.

Regular Season Record Prediction – 11-5 (Division Winners)


*Houston Texans*

Midseason Grade: B

How has it gone so far?

What a fun team to watch! The Texans always seem to be involved in a game packed with points or lead changes. DeShaun Watson is a special player who Texans fans can look forward to seeing playing for many a year, especially if he is protected. Thankfully the team took steps to address the protection issue by trading for Laremy Tunsil. Yes, the price was high but the pay off has been instant as the sack numbers have come down over the past month.

Carlos Hyde has been a nice addition in the backfield and DeAndre Hopkins is on pace to reach over 1200 yards receiving. The biggest surprise has been the production from tight end Darren Fells who along with Watson himself paces the team with 5 touchdowns.

Rest of Season Outlook:

Similar to the Colts, the Texans have a big stretch of key divisional games coming down the tracks. In an ultra competitive division it’s obvious to say how crucial these games will be. One of those games is this weeks matchup with the Jags in Wembley as they make the plane journey across the pound for the first time. A marquee matchup with the Patriots is also looming on the horizon which could have bearings on AFC playoff seedings all around. 

Expect more great value out of the Texans as we head towards the business end. The loss of JJ Watt is a massive blow and possible keeps them behind the Colts but still very likely to be playoff bound.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 10-6 (Wildcard spot)


*Tennessee Titans*

Midseason Grade: C+

How has it gone so far?

A huge opening day win had people talking about the Titans. 7 weeks on and rather unsurprisingly the Titans sit at a 500 record. A team so inconsistent they are impossible to get a read of.

The inconsistency has lead to a much overdue change at the quarterback position as former Dolphin, Ryan Tannehill has replaced the underwhelming Marcus Mariota. The Titans have responded with 2 wins in his 2 starts as he looks to stake his claim on the job for the long term.

AJ Brown has been a nice addition at the receiver position giving whomever plays quarterback a nice big target on the outside. Derrick Henry continues to churn out yardage and defensively Logan Ryan is having a nice campaign having forced 3 fumbles and compiled 3 interceptions so far on the year.

Rest of Season Outlook:

Almost impossible to predict what this team will do. One thing is for sure though, if nothing else, the next 8 weeks are a trial for Ryan Tannehill. The Titans only sit 1 game back on the divisional lead so they can not be written off by any stretch of the imagination but there can also be no amount of confidence placed in them either.

The only thing I can say with relative confidence is the Titans finish somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 8-8


*Jacksonville Jaguars*

Midseason Grade: B-

How has it gone so far?

The Jags celebrated the off-season moves to address the quarterback position. Nick Foles threw a beautiful touchdown pass in his opening game but got injured on that play. It might be the best thing that could have happened to the Jags.

Enter Gardner Minshew.

The unfancied rookie has been phenomenal, throwing for just shy of 2000 yards with 13 touchdowns to just 2 picks.

Leonard Fournette has put together a nice season on the ground and the locker room looks a far more harmonious place following the trade of Jalen Ramsey to the LA Rams. 29 sacks on the season also has the “Sacksonville” label ready to return.

Rest of Season Outlook:

The biggest question ahead of the Jags, is can Minshew hold onto the job when Nick Foles returns to fitness? The London game starts a sequence of 3 divisional games which as per all of these teams will be vital given the tight nature of the standings.

Outside of the remaining divisional games the schedule is favourable with the Bucs, Raiders, Chargers and Falcons on the slate a realistic playoff opportunity is in sight.

I feel they just miss out on a tie breaking scenario.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7

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NFC South

Image result for nfc south
By Chris Todd (@ctdk1980)

Current Standings:

  1. New Orleans Saints (7-1)
  2. Carolina Panthers (4-3)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (1-7)

*New Orleans Saints*

Midseason grade: A

How has it gone so far?

After franchise icon Drew Brees’ injury in week 2’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams, most hoped backup QB Teddy Bridgewater could keep them in playoff contention until Brees returned. Bridgewater managed that and more, winning all 5 of his games during the future Hall of Famer’s absence.

With Ryan Ramczyk and the rest of the O-line performing at a high level, running lanes have been there for both Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, with Saints averaging well over 4 yards per carry this year and only giving up 12 sacks on the year so far, while largely neutralising rushers of the calibre of Khalil Mack and JJ Watt.

The defence has also more than played their part with the 2nd ranked rush defence, Cameron Jordan playing to all-pro standard and Demario Davis leading the linebacker core.

Rest of season outlook:

This squad is set up for a deep run in the playoffs and will hope to bring a 2nd Lombardi trophy back to the Big Easy. A matchup with the unbeaten 49ers looms large on December 8th which could go a long way to deciding playoff positioning.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 13-3 (#1 Seed)


*Carolina Panthers*

Midseason grade: B-

How has it gone so far?

Carolina’s season has been a confusing one to say the least, franchise QB Cam Newton continued to struggle in the early part of the season, continuing a worrying trend from the latter part of 2018.

When he succumbed to lingering issues after week 2’s loss to the Bucs most thought the Panthers hopes relied on him returning form injury in short order, however up stepped second year undrafted QB Kyle Allen, winning 4 four consecutive games to drag the Panthers to the edge of the NFC playoff race before week 8’s sobering blowout loss to the 49ers.

Rest of season outlook:

While the odds would appear to be against the Panthers making a playoff run, any team with the talents of all-pro LB Luke Kuechly and the electric Christian McCaffrey can’t be entirely ruled out. It will no doubt hinge on when (or maybe even “if” at this point) Cam Newton returns and how much ring rust there is to shake off.

Regular Season Record Prediction: 9-7


*Tampa Bay Buccaneers*

Midseason grade: C-

How has it gone so far?

Tampa look like a franchise approaching a turning point. With QB Jameis Winston in a contract year and the same old issues of turnovers blighting the offence, it would appear there are poised to reset at the position after this year. However, there are other issues that need to be addressed before the Buccaneers can make a realistic run at the postseason. While Winston is certainly not without blame for his poor ball security and decision making, the offensive line is porous at best.

There are certainly pieces promising a better future, with Chris Godwin making his awaited step forward this year, to give a formidable 1-2 at receiver with Mike Evans. Shaq Barrett, Carl Nassib and Devin White have all impressed at times this season, but the secondary is a real weakness surely that must be addressed this offseason, with the 31st ranked pass defence this season.

A huge plus so far has been the top ranked run defence, shutting down the likes of Gurley, McCaffrey and Barkley. Certainly however, the Bucs have a lot of question marks going into the offseason, surely they must identify a QB to take the team forward but will HC Bruce Arians stick around to be a part of it?

Rest of season outlook:

Bruce Arians has a lot of deadwood potentially to clear out on the roster on the offence whilst the secondary always seems to be a quandry for the Buccaneers so i would expect the HC to use the rest of the season to assess players that he wants to use going forward and those that he wants to chuck out.

That includes 1 Mr Jameis Winston.

*Atlanta Falcons*

Midseason grade: E

How has it gone so far?

Arguably no team has been more disappointing than the 2019 Falcons, the defence has had a myriad of problems leaving HC Dan Quinn under huge pressure to salvage his job over the second half of the season.

While only 7 sacks in 8 games tells its own story of where things have gone wrong, things have hardly been much better at the other end of the field with the secondary giving up big plays on a regular basis. Keanu Neal’s season ending injury in week 3 meant one of the big leaders in the secondary was missing for almost the entire season for the second year running.

While the offence has got plenty yards from messrs Ryan, Freeman, Jones et al turnovers have plagued the offence, giving away 9 interceptions and 6 fumbles, ranking 28th in the league for turnovers allowed.

Rest of season outlook:

While spirited showings late in games seem to show the locker room is still working for Quinn, big questions hang over this franchise’s future direction. Don’t be surprised that if by the time you are reading this, he is out the exit door.

The season is already over to the dismay of the Falcons’ faithful and you have to wonder whether it’s time to blow most of this team up and try to start again because despite all the talent on both sides of the ball, something just isnt right here. Maybe all it’ll take is a coaching change…

Can Cam Still Be Carolina’s Superman?

Image Credit: Jeremy Brevard/USA Today

By Chris Todd (@ct1980)

While watching Cam Newton struggling over the past few years, it’s easy to forget just how spectacular and exhilarating his play has been since his rookie year in 2011. Winning rookie of the year honours, setting NFL rookie QB records for both passing and rushing, he lit up the NFL and seemed poised to become one of the faces of the NFL for the foreseeable future.

While details are murky over his latest injury and his timeline for recovery, it’s fair to wonder if we may have already seen the best from the man nicknamed ‘Superman’.  With Kyle Allen performing admirably in his stead through the last two weeks, it may be the Panthers’ top brass choose to ride with Allen rather than risk Newton’s recovery over the rest of the season.

With Newton’s contract up after the 2020 season, it was expected that Cam would sign a new deal to remain a Panther at some point during the season. While those contract talks are surely on hold during his injury lay off, could this also mean the end of his time in Charlotte.

Carolina also selected a QB relatively early in this years draft, taking Will Grier 100th overall with their 3rd round compensatory pick, this was the first QB drafted by the Panthers since selecting Cam at the top of the 2011 draft. Almost certainly, this was intended as a developmental pick rather than as a direct challenge to Newton’s status in the roster.

However, given they already had a young developmental arm in the building in Allen, was this move foreshadowing Newton’s injuries being worse than they were letting on? Newton was bothered by a shoulder injury throughout the second half of the 2018 season and underwent surgery in January of this year to deal with the problem. This surgery led to him missing the Panthers OTA’s although he was able to participate in their training camp. His throwing motion seems to have changed since the surgery, and he was put on a snap count through camp to manage his workload.

Image Credit: Theriotreport.com

With Kyle Allen’s impressive performance in relief, Newton’s shoulder problems and his uncertain recovery from his foot problems, and a top brass of owner and GM who were not insitu when Newton was drafted, could they decide a rebuild is needed? Would they even be willing to enter talks with Newton for a new deal given his injury problems of the last few years?

 As mentioned earlier, Newton’s contract expires after the 2020 season, although he could theoretically be released with only a $2mil dead money charge left on their cap. Much more likely if the Panthers decide to move on, is they will have many suitors eager to take their chances on the once-electrifying playmaker.

The best outcome for all parties would surely be Newton regaining fitness and form and remaining in Charlotte, he has grown synonymous with the Panthers, and has proven to be a hugely popular leader in the locker room. He has built roots in the area, and through his foundation has given a huge amount of time and money to philanthropic causes in the Carolinas. Hopefully, the effervescent, charismatic Superman can once again work his magic.

NFC South Breakdown

By Tim Monk – @Tim_MonkF10Y

Last Season

  • New Orleans 13-3
  • Atlanta 7-9
  • Carolina 7-9
  • Tampa Bay 5-11

New Orleans slayed all before them whilst the wagon wheels of the other teams either fell off (Carolina) or never got attached on properly (Atlanta, Tampa). But it’s not crazy to think that at least 2 teams come from this division for the playoffs. New Orleans are the favourites and rightly so, but this division is ripe for an interchangeable division winner if all teams put their best foot (or wagon) forward.

New Orleans:

Draft selectionsErik McCoy (#48), Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (#105), Saquan Hampton (#177), Alize Mack (231), Kaden Elliss (#244)

Offseason key additions: TE Jared Cook, RB Latavius Murray, DT Malcolm Brown, G Nick Easton

Offseason key departuresRB Mark Ingram, C Max Unger, DE Alex Okafor, TE Ben Watson

Super Bowl odds: 10/1

Analysis:

Couldn’t have gotten more heartbreaking last year for the Saints (didn’t we say that the year before? #MinnesotaMiracle).

The #1 seed from 2018 returns once more in the quest for ring #2 for Drew Brees. No doubt they will be front runners again for the NFC crown and rightly so.

Signal caller Brees had a record in completion % last year which star wideout Michael Thomas was the main beneficiary. Expect these two to produce similar numbers, especially with Thomas signing a $100m, $61m guaranteed deal a few weeks ago.

Latavius Murray brings his hammer looking to emulate Mark Ingram’s production from the past few years but expect him to be a bit more of a short yardage guy meaning that Kamara has a #1 RB ceiling in fantasy.

The shock retirement of Max Unger means that Brees will be touching the buttocks of draft pick Erik McCoy this season but I’m not sure that this will be to the detriment of a top offensive line.

Jared Cook has come over from the Raiders and feels like a bit of a trap for fantasy football but does have a high ceiling if being utilised.

Not much fresh blood through the draft, after trading up last year to get Marcus Davenport but another Super Bowl run is expected in Louisiana and maybe this time, there is no more heartbreak. The creeking of the Drew Brees Super Bowl opportunity window is getting louder though…

Look out for:

Drew Brees dropoff – the veteran and future hall of famer showed hints that the cliff edge may be nearing and there always seems to be rumours circling this could be his final hurrah no matter the result. The offence in place is perfectly suited to his abilities which are as explosive as they once were. He still has it between the ears and sometimes that’s enough for talented guys like Brees. It never did Tom Brady any harm though, did it?

Atlanta:

Draft selectionsChris Lindstrom (#12), Kaleb McGarry (#31), Kendall Sheffield (#111), John Cominsky (#135), Qadree Ollison (#152), Jordan Miller (#172), Marcus Green (#203)

Offseason key additions: G James Carpenter, DE Adrian Clayborn

Offseason key departuresDE/OLB Bruce Irvin, CB Justin Bethel, RB Tevin Coleman, K Matt Bryant

Super Bowl odds:  33/1

Analysis:

Not too much in the way of big disruption here for the Falcons both on the playing roster or in the coaching staff. Yes, Dirk Koetter comes over from Tampa Bay but he and Matt Ryan have already had slumber parties together so it’s not a transition to a new scheme, something which Matty Ice has struggled with previously.

Matt Ryan must be one of the top 5 most happiest players after the offseason; the amount of bodies and depth the Falcons went and acquired either in the draft (2 1st round draft picks on lineman) or Free Agency (James Carpenter) will put a massive smile on #2. It also put a massive smile on my face as a fantasy owner and also as I project him to be the #2 QB this year. Poetry.

Julio Jones has kept his toys in the pram pretty much considering others all around him in the NFL haven’t. he trusts that he will get a new contract and I bet he cant wait judging by what Michael Thomas just got. The 2018 leading yardage receiver will be up there once again in 2019, especially as 2nd year wideout Calvin Ridley show flashes last year and helped take a tiny bit of coverage away. Add the return of Devonta Freeman who missed last season with injury, this is a serious offence and it will do a lot of damage… even Austin Hooper has a ceiling of TE4 in fantasy (did I just say that?!?!). For those people that are a bit wary of Devonta Freeman, take solace in the fact that they let Tevin Coleman go. He wasn’t quite as mustard as they thought I guess.

On the other side of the ball, this defence was so decimated by injury last year, even the Redskins Offensive line raised their eyebrows at the list. They have the pieces in Grady Jarrett,Tak McKinley, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal and leading INT from 2018 Damontae Kazee. On paper, this is easily a playoff calibre team and after underwhelming last year, HC Dan Quinn must be in the hot seat. Especially after a bad year when they could have been the home team in the Super Bowl. A lot will depend on the new right side of the offensive line and how they acquit themselves but seems to be that they’ll get the bulk of returns from those investments after next year.

Look out for:

Devonta Freeman – After missing last year through injuries picked up in week 1 and then week 5, many have concerns. I am going to trust the Falcons’s actions though for my opinion after letting Coleman go to San Francisco. The 27 year old out of Florida State is in the 3rd year of his $41.25m contract which was a record high at the time. I think the Falcons will make him earn his money and that should translate to seeing him as a top 10 RB at the very least and return to the 2015/2016 form that saw him earn that contract.

Carolina:

Draft selectionsBrian Burns (#16), Greg Little (#37), Will Grier (#100), Christian Miller (#115), Jordan Scarlett (#154), Dennis Daley (#212), Terry Godwin (#237)

Offseason key additions: WR Chris Hogan, DE Bruce Irvin, C Matt Paradis

Offseason key departuresWR Devin Funchess, WR Damiere Byrd , CB Captain Munnerlyn, OL Matt Kalil, LB Thomas Davis

Super Bowl odds: 50/1

Analysis:

The Carolina Panthers’ season is there for all to see on All or Nothing. In a way it was an epitome of the show’s title.

First 8 games, they had it all; Wins, great performances and momentum. The hit from TJ Watt in the Pittsburgh game to the right shoulder of Cam Newton was when it all starting to go to nothing. A gutsy 2pt play by Ron Rivera came up bearing no fruits against the Lions away from home and it all started to unravel.

Cam barely practiced at all last season because of the shoulder injury and it’s been said that he could barely throw the ball further than 10 yards in some of those games.

Due to dip in performances on the defence, there were coaching changes and led to Rivera calling plays too. There wont be many teams that started 6-2 that then went on to not play January football.

They said goodbye to a few veterans in the offseason including Matt Kalil, Thomas Davis and Captain Munnerlyn so this team certainly will have a younger, quicker and fresher feel in 2019. That includes Brian Burns at linebacker who will immediately improve this defence. Greg Little was a nice pickup to for that offensive line along with Free Agent signing Matt Paradis from the Broncos.

OC Norv Turner worked wonders in introducing a shorter passing game last season and utilising the tools available to him in DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and of course Christian McCaffrey. He’ll have to be clever in the way he utilises #1 this season to avoid a repeat of injuries but Cam is THE difference maker for this team. They have a legitimate top 10 offensive line and an underrated defence so the Panthers in my view are a dark horse for a deep playoff run. Getting there may be harder than the actual playoffs themselves due to the quality in this division.

Look out for:

Resurgent Cam –  I for one, really enjoyed watching All or Nothing as we got an insight in to the enigma that is Cam Newton. It certainly showed his love and appetite for the game and that he wants to win above all else. He has always come back from adversity well and I expect no different here. There is a concern that his second surgery to that shoulder is 1 too many but has been looking good in practice and there have been no limitations. He is a steal in fantasy drafts and Norv Turner, the OC, knows how to get him to perform to his best. Cam was a top 5 fantasy QB prior to the Pittsburgh game on TNF.

Tampa Bay:

Draft selectionsDevin White (#5),

Offseason key additions: DT Ndamukong Suh, WR Breshard Perriman (yes, I went there)

Offseason key departuresWR Adam Humphries, WR DeSean Jackson, LB Kwon Alexander

Super Bowl odds: 100/1

Analysis:

Everybody’s favourite Bruce Arians comes in at Tampa Bay closely followed behind by new OC Byron Leftwich. These 2 are creative and explosive minds who will ensure that even if they lose, they’ll go gung ho about it. Luckily for them, they have the players to compliment that. Everyone has an opinion on how Jameis Winston will get on and it’ll be interesting to see if there is any transformation and any step forward in maturity and whether that translates in to his play on the field (and off to be fair). There are losses on both sides of the ball but on offence, expect Chris Godwin and OJ Howard to have stellar seasons as well as Mike Evans, who has had 5 straight 1000 yard seasons every year since he came in to the league as the trio look to hoover up the targets and touchdowns vacated by slot receiver Adam Humphries and speedster DeSean Jackson.

The leaky defence is still there, especially on the back end but losses of Kwon Alexander and Gerald McCoy certainly wont help. Ndamukong Suh will try and plug the gap as will Devin Bush and the 5 other defensive players draft by the Bucs in this year’s draft.

Expect the high yardage and high scoring games for the Bucs once again this year, meaning Winston and the WR could be returning great value this year. At running back, who knows? 2018 2nd round pick Ronald Jones struggled to get on the field and was even a healthy scratch some weeks as he AVERAGED 1.9ypc and looked like he had Jason Pierre Paul’s gloves on when catching the ball last year. The usual buzz has been released around his prospects this year but for someone who can’t beat out Peyton Barber is already destined for the XFL.

In an extremely tough division, it’s an absolute banker that these boys finish bottom of the pile, so go find a treasure chest full of money and go bet on it.

Look out for:

Jameis Winston – It’s put up or XFL for Jameis this year. Play well and he’ll be rewarded with a huge deal. Play poorly, and he could well wind up with Vince McMahon. Ok, maybe more a transition to a journeyman backup quarterback awaits but talking of which, the release of Ryan FItzpatrick is a sign of faith in the former #1 overall pick in 2014 and Bruce Arians apparently loves him and can fix him (though that’s what women say about a******e boyfriends).

Jameis is a polarising player here at Full10Yards; Rob loves him and i just cant have him personally. Does he have the talent? Possibly but we shouldn’t still be asking that question for a guy in his 5th year option. He has a 21-33 record and an 88-58 TD-INT ratio.

That being said, Byron Leftwich at OC coming over from the Cardinals could be the key that unlocks the box to Jameis. I’m just not betting my bottom dollar on it, and neither should you.

2019 Season Prediction

  • New Orleans 11-5
  • Atlanta 10-6
  • Carolina 9-7
  • Tampa Bay 6-10

Pick It Apart; Kaleb McGary

Pick it Apart!

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?

We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….

Pick: #31

Player: Kaleb McGary

Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons

Grade: B

Analysis:

Lee doesn’t like this pick, do you? One person that will like the pick is Matt Ryan.

The Falcons trade back in to the first round to pick up their 2nd offensive lineman of the round to go with Christian Lindstrom. Whilst O-Line wasn’t their biggest weakness last year, it certainly could be a strength going in to the 2019 season.

I’m quite surprised that they moved up to go and get the OT from Washington, especially with guys like Jawaan Taylor, Greg Little, Cody Ford and a whole host of offensive lineman still there plus added on top of that, the talent at Corner.

Let’s focus on McGary for a second;

He’s 6”7 (!), 317lbs, ran just a smidge over 5 seconds in the 40 yard dash and in general, his combine was good.

He was a conference defensive player of the year and first team all-conference at Tight End (wonder what his odds are to catch a TD in 2019) in high school. That carried over into College, with first team accolades coming at him left right and centre.

He has a strong character built up from all the personal adversity he has gone through; medical conditions and family issues among them.

He isn’t the most athletic, as determined by his combine and film so you could see him go from Tackle to Guard. He isn’t the quickest going laterally but could be a good run blocker going forward with the right coaching. Whilst he wont be an every down guy in year one, he has the potential to be, which is the reason why the grade is a B where you should be picking someone with a higher ceiling and safer floor at the back end of the first round. The Falcons must have seen something in him in order to trade back in to the first round giving up their 2nd and 3rd rounders, though.

Fantasy Football Impact:

McGary’s impact on fantasy is an indirect one. Opening up the holes for Devonta Freeman and *shudders* Ito Smith. He’ll also be tasked with keeping last year’s fantasy QB2 upright.