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.

Full10Takeaways – Week 6

By Shaun Blundell and Lawrence Vos

Week 6 is in the books, here’s 10 takeaways as we hit the cruise control into the main belly of the season.

Super Bowl Aspirations Drifting Down The River(s)


Image Credit – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Several teams have disappointed to start off the 2019 campaign, but if you are looking for an overwhelming underachiever look at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Many casual fans dark horse Super Bowl pick preseason the Chargers are unraveling and are only being kept in faint contention by the Chiefs having their own hiccups. This one got ugly early as Phillip Rivers turned the ball over twice early as the Steelers jumped into a 14 point lead that the Chargers would never recover from.

Rivers is becoming a bit of a turnover machine and he will need to correct a lot of wrongs if the Chargers are to make a playoff run. Melvin Gordon’s return has so far netted an average of 33.5 rushing yards per game, not exactly screaming “Pay Me!”.



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Nothing Phoneyniner Here


Image Credit – Nhat V. Meyer / Bay Area News Group

Robert Saleh, take a bow my friend.

The 49ers defence bottled up the once thought unstoppable LA Rams offence to move to 5-0 on the year. The 49ers were a perfect 0-9 allowing 3rd down conversions and a perfect 0-4 allowing 4th down conversions limiting the Rams offence to just 165 total yards. Offensively another heavy dose of the run game was backed up by an efficient if not spectacular game from Jimmy G. George Kittle was of course the main target hauling in 8 grabs for 108 yards, not bad for a guy who was questionable to play.

Huge game in the division which now sees the 49ers in a convincing position.


Stop Having A Digg At The Vikings Passing Game


Image Credit – Elizabeth Flores / Star Tribune

Make no mistake about it, this is still Dalvin Cook’s team, but for this week at least he took a back seat to the passing game.

The Vikings lead by an all of a sudden explosive Kirk Cousins saw his 2 favourite targets combine for 13 receptions and both find the end zone. Stefon Diggs was the main man this week as he compiled a season best 7/167 and 3 touchdown effort as the passing game that went missing for a few weeks continued its resurgence against a banged up Philly defence.

There were whispers of trades a week or 2 ago for the Vikings top pair on the outside, I’d label that as “fake news”.


Winston or Mariota? How About Neither


Image Credit – John Walton / Getty Images

5 years after the debate of who the Buccaneers would take with the number 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft there is a new question about those 2 “top” quarterbacks. Which 1 is worse?

Jameis had a horror show in London, fumbling the ball away, getting sacked 7 times and throwing 5 picks. Just when you think he has turned a corner, he throws in a game like this just to remind you of how inconsistent he is. Mariota was benched as the Titans were shutout by the Broncos and replaced by Ryan Tannehill. The Titans offence has been anemic outside of their week 1 win over the Browns and this change has been a long time coming.

Jameis probably wins you more games but also costs you more games, either way look for both franchises to address the position next Spring.


Murray momentum mounts 


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Image Credit: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

With four weeks gone the Arizona Cardinals were winless and looking in trouble. After six weeks the same team is hotting up after a two-game win streak.

Yes the opponents have been the Bungles and the porous Falcons defense, but you can’t do any more than win against the teams on your schedule. Behind rookie quarterback Kyle Murray and rookie HC Kliff Kingsbury the Cardinals are starting to turn a few heads.

Their next four games are a real split of two winnable (Giants and Buccaneers) and two very tough matchups (Saints and 49ers). Murray completed just under 73% of his passes in the Week 6 win against the Falcons, and he has only thrown one pick in the last three games. His vision is on the rise as he has only been sacked once in the last two games, after taking twenty in his first four outings. In addition Kingsbury is allowing Murray to use his small but speedy legs, and this has resulted in 125 yards rushing in the two victories, more than his ground output in the first four combined.

If the Cardinals can get a winning record it will be a major achievement in the inaugural season for Kyler and Kliff. If they somehow scrape a Wild-Card berth it will be a minor miracle.

The Cardinals defense is the team’s Achilles heel, but when you have the talent of Murray and the ageless Larry ‘see you in Canton’ Fitzgerald catching the ball you never know.

Watch this space. 


McLovin McLaurin


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Image Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have a history of drafting wide receivers early in the draft who end up flaming out.

The latest example being Josh Doctson, picked 22nd in the 2016 draft. Doctson was jettisoned from D.C. during the offseason after racking up a disappointing 81 catches for 1,100 yards in 33 games. He is now on I/R with the Vikings.

In the 2019 Draft the Redskins waited until the third round to grab Doctson’s potential replacement, Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin. Six weeks in and McLaurin has 23 catches, 408 yards and a stellar five touchdowns, including two in the ‘Skins first win of the season against the Miami Dolphins. six weeks in and McLaurin leads all rookie WR in catches, yards and touchdowns, all this inclusive of not even suiting up in Week 4.

The last great Redskins player to wear the number 17 shirt was Super Bowl winning quarterback Doug Williams, now the Senior Vice President of Player Personnel. It’s a big set of shoes to fill, but at his current pace McLaurin is going to have a 1,000 yard rookie season and will be in the running for offensive rookie of the year honours.

Wins might be hard to come by for the 2019 Redskins, but sometimes you have to face adversity to see who is still standing. For Terry McLaurin he is not standing, he is streaking down the sidelines catching pigskins.

Redskins rookie QB Dwayne Haskins was McLaurin’s signal-caller in college, so if you think the results are good with Case ‘fill-in’ Keenum then 2020 could be a real blast. 


Jets win sealed without a kiss


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Image Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

Over this side of the pond we call it glandular fever, but over in the land of the free and the home of the brave they call it mononucleosis or ‘mono’ for short. More affectionately known as a teenage kissing infection, ‘mono’ was the reason the New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had missed three games between Week 2 and 6.

After being declared fit for last Sunday’s game in Dallas there was not a high degree of expectation, so when the Jets travelled east on Sunday night with a victory it was headline worthy. 338 yards passing from Darnold was his second best output in his two seasons, and his 92 yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson was the longest by any QB this season.

In the win against the Cowboys the Jets at one point had an 18-point lead, but despite an impressive Dallas second-half comeback, this was a statement victory at Met Life Stadium. Leveon Bell scored his first TD in a Jets uniform, but had another ho-hum game, leaving the contest to be won or lost by Darnold. This was a weird game statistically as Dallas did not commit a turnover, and were far more efficient on third-down.

Sometimes the stats are not the story, and on Sunday this was about the Jets franchise QB returning to a team that had looked like it had thrown it’s hat in the ring for a chance at the number one pick in the 2020 draft.

With Darnold back the Jets are not a playoff ready team, but they are capable of 4-5 wins by the end of the season, something their AFC East division rivals the Dolphins can only dream of. 


Watson outshines Sherlock Ma’Holmes’ 


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Image Credit: Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

Ok ok the headline is a stretch but it does not take a fictional detective to deduce that Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson is playing an an MVP type level after six weeks of NFL football.

Watson managed to out-duel his dynamic counterpart Patrick Mahomes last Sunday, with 280 yards in the air, and two huge touchdowns on the ground, including the game winner with just over six minutes left in the final quarter. Watson, like Kyler Murray, has avoided being sacked for two consecutive games, something he simply couldn’t avoid in 2018 when he was sacked a punishing 62 times in the regular season.

Watson now has 17 total touchdowns in six games, along with four wins and a division lead. The Texans were supported by a very solid performance from RB Carlos Hyde, part of a rushing attack that finished with just under 200 yards on the ground. Texans WR Will Fuller came back to earth after his stratospheric Week 5 performance. The Chiefs again were let down by their running game, a unit that simply has not been the same since dispensing of Kareem Hunt’s services last season. Hunt himself is nearing a comeback from a half-season suspension at his new team the Browns.

Talking of comebacks, Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill came back with a big fantasy splash in Sunday, with 5 catches, 80 yards and two touchdowns. It may only be Week 6 but this came could determine who ends up with the number two seed in the AFC when the regular season concludes. 


Lazard the 6ft 5inch lizard pounces 


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Image Credit: Benny Sieu / USA Today Sports

In a game dominated by field-goals, a grand total of eight converted, including the 23 yard winner from the Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby with no time left on the clock, it was a lesser known WR who delivered the true highlight of Green Bay’s late late win against the Detroit Lions.

Allen Lazard’s first catch of the season, and only second catch of his career, was an absolute jaw-dropper. Aaron Rodgers threw a rainbow to the left side of the end-zone into a window smaller than that seen in a smurf’s double-glazed box room. On the receiving end was the lesser-spotted Allen Lazard who made a highlight grab to bring the Packers within three points of the leading Lions.

Lazard, undrafted in 2018, spent time on the Jaguars and Packers practice squad in the past two seasons. The former Iowa State Cyclones WR, Lazard holds a number of his college team’s receiving records, including catches, yards and consecutive games with a catch (48). Scoring your first NFL touchdown in front of a worldwide MNF audience is the dream debut score for anyone, and catching it from Aaron Rodgers is a big bonus. They both play second fiddle to helping your team move to 5-1. Lazard’s four catches, his first four of the 2019 season all took place in the fourth quarter. It helps when you have such a huge frame and wingspan, and when your superstar teammate Davante Adams is injured.

This performance will no doubt have the waiver wire buzzing, but even if Lazard doesn’t score again this season, his debut touchdown is one he can show his grandchildren in 40 years time through a holographic “lazar” chip projection device embedded in his ear-lobe.


London Calling


Image Credit – Ant Upton / Associated Press

Great to see so many NFL network personalities over to support the 2nd London game this year.

The Gameday Morning crew took the call, and although its not to everyone’s taste it adds a great deal of humour and personality to the proceedings in my eyes. The Around The NFL heroes also made their return to these shores as the boys helped out on Sky Sports coverage throughout the broadcast. Live shows and podcasts were also on the agenda throughout the week as the investment in the UK goes from strength to strength.

We should remind ourselves not take this stuff for granted, and be thankful we have so much content to get our teeth into. 


Full10Takeaways

By Tim Monk, Shaun Blundell and Lawrence Vos

Week 1 is in the books and there are a good % of you lovely people out there that had a nice takeaway whilst watching the game or Redzone.

Talking of takeaways, this 2nd new weekly edition NFL article features our takeaways from the week’s games. So look out for more puns, play on words but more importantly some insight in to the real storylines from the NFL action.

Kellen Moore, Kellen Moore-did he get very far?

IMAGE CREDIT: Matthew Emmons /USA TODAY

The Kellen Moore era is here and boy, the sky is the limit.

Multiple pre snap motions, guys wide open, PASSING ON 1ST DOWN! Things not synonymous with the Cowboys certainly since I have been a fan looked liked pure poetry in motion on Sunday.

In fact, I am so excited that I created a song to the tune of “Tell Me More” in Grease (have I gone viral yet?).

Dak Prescott threw lasers all afternoon, culminating in Dak becoming the first Dallas QB to have a perfect QB Rating. He also become the 3rd Dallas QB alongside Meredith and Romo to have multiple 400yd passing games.

Multiple players getting open helped Dak and the Cowboys score touchdowns on 5 straight drives, something not seen in these parts for years if not decades if not ever. 7 different players caught passes from #4 and that included 4 passing Touchdowns to 4 different players including Witten, who loves the endzone vs Big Blue.

Yes, it was the Giants but the way they were dispatched of that was the impressive part. Elliott dipped his toes in before being rested late on and even when plays didn’t go as planned, there was an air of expectancy on the following play that they drive would just continue on and that the Giants could do nothing about it.

Cowboys next travel to the nation’s capital to face a feisty Redskins. Confidence is high and Kellen Moore seems to be unlocking new rooms in the Cowboy’s playbook mansion.

Is it the first time as a Cowboys fan that I don’t need to worry about a sucker punch of a performance?


Melvin Gor-done?

IMAGE CREDIT: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson could be off of Melvin Gordon’s Christmas card list this year.

Gordon, 26, is currently away from the team due to contract demands and is probably writing his list to Santa as we speak. Especially when he would have been sitting at home watching the game vs Colts where his backfield teammates WENT. OFF.

Austin Ekeler – 18 touches, 3 Total TDs, 16yards per reception, 4.8yards per carry including the game sealing TD in OT.

Justin Jackson – Averaged 9.5 (!) yards per carry.

That’s a set of numbers for Ekeler that will win you fantasy games. For Jackson, he is proving that he belongs on the big stage and is ready to go as a quality handcuff. The Chargers are hanging about in this win-now window and 2019 may be the last time the playoff portal remains open. Melvin might end up getting traded at this rate.

This was the nightmare scenario that played out for Gordon if he had any slither of a chance of getting any more moolah not just in LA but anywhere. Yes, the Chargers were taken to overtime by the Colts, but the fact is even with Melvin Gordon being in the lineup, not a lot would have played out different.

Gordon is slated to return in “6-8 weeks” according to Mike Garafalo/Ian Rapoport when he needs to report in order to accrue a season. Judging by this, he won’t be more than someone in the rotation in this backfield if things keep playing out how they did in week 1.

To use a phrase from Jerry Jones: “Melvin Who?”


Vikings mean business

IMAGE CREDIT: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The only thing that could stop the Vikings making a deep run this season is health.

Dalvin was cooking, the defence was mean. The Vikings pretty much snuffed out anything the Falcons had to offer. Falcons did not score until their final 2 drives and had everything from blocked punts to interceptions.

The Vikings will be very tough to beat, especially at home this season and a special mention to Kirk Cousins and his play vs the Falcons; Despite only attempting 10 passes (yes 10, do not refresh your box scores), he still had to stand tall in the pocket and make plays whilst his opposite signal caller couldn’t replicate and looked jitterey behind his new revamped offensive line that abandoned the run very early on.

Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball, they did. The Falcons knew they wanted to run the ball, they still couldn’t stop it. Cook had 2 TDs and averaged 5.3yards per carry on 21 touches (Alexander Mattison also showed well) and the result was never in doubt from when the first points were on the board. Matt Ryan is now 0-4 vs Minnesota in the Mike Zimmer era, Devonta Freeman was stifled and frustrated in his return, this was all one way traffic. There is a slight chance that Atlanta are not as good as they look on paper but all the same, this could eventually turn out to be a tiebreaker come week 17 and the way the Vikings handled business says to me they are ready for a deep playoff run.

On a side note, Garrett Bradberry had a baptism of fire in this game, not grading well according to PFF for both pass block and run blocking standpoint.


Steeling a living

IMAGE CREDIT: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Despite being handed one of the toughest draws on opening night, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked awful. The Patriots dominated in all facets of the game and Big Ben and co just weren’t given an inch. Aside from the fact that the false start penalty on the Steelers where everyone moved apart from the centre, there was nothing to make you smile as a terrible towel waver.

Josh Gordon made big plays, Julian Edelman was once again uncoverable and sexy Rex had a cut as beautiful as my latest trip to the barbers. Imagine if Antonio Brown was on the field…

It was a performance which epitomises the Patriots; Prepared, confident and executed to perfection. Everything the Steelers didn’t look capable of being.

On the Steelers’ side, yikes. This is only the 2nd time the Steelers have lost by 30+ since Big Ben was drafted and the lowest score posted by the Steelers since week 3 2016. Donte Moncrief had more drops than the Fantasy Footballers podcast mustering 3 receptions for 7 yards on 10 TARGETS!

On a recent podcast topic about head coaches on the hot seat, Mike Tomlin was earmarked as someone that could be under a lot of pressure with poor performances this season as there is no longer a hiding place with the divas out the door. I think his seat is just getting that little bit warmer…


BAKE AND WAKE

Image Credit – Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

It was everything it was meant to be…until it wasn’t. Baker came out firing as the Browns marched there opening possession down the field for the touchdown, the first season opening drive touchdown since 1995. Unfortunately for the hyped up team of the off season, the Titans had not read the script.

Aided in no small part by 18 Browns penalties for 182 yards the Tennessee defence swarmed the Browns much maligned O-line with Cameron Wake looking like a younger version of himself and the ball hawking secondary picking off Mayfield on 3 separate occasions.

The game was close at one point 15-13 with momentum feeling as though it was shifting towards Cleveland but a 75 yard screen pass to Derrick Henry stretched the Titans back out to a 2 score lead and they never looked back, racking up 21 points in the 4th quarter. 

For the Titans its business as usual. Under the radar, limited expectations but a sneakily good team. The defence looks better than last year with an improved pass rush and IF Mariota can play this way week to week they have a nicely balanced team. As for the Browns? Someone pass me that drawing board!


With The 1st Pick Of The XFL Draft……

Image credit – Allie Goulding – Tampa Bay Times

Even the supposed quarterback whisperer cannot save Jameis Winston. The former number one pick has flashed potential for 4 years but has ultimately provided frustration behind center. Much hope was pinned on the out of retirement Bruce Arians to be the man with the magic answer, so far, not so good.

The interception shy 49ers fresh of just 2 picks during the entire previous campaign surely provided a nice opportunity for Winston and the Bucs offense to get a nice confidence booster under their belts. Well an opening day stat line of 20/36 with 3 INT feels very much like the same old Jameis.

With a pair of picks being returned to the end zone for pick 6’s the Bucs offense wasted auch improved effort from the defensive side of the ball. Vernon Hargreaves returned a pick six of his own for the Todd Bowles led unit that appeared more aggressive despite being dealt a poor hand from the offense.

Jimmy G was efficient (outside of the pick 6) if not spectacular but importantly, he didn’t lose the game for his team. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay fans however, this is an accusation that we can once again aim at your quarterback. Maybe the only way he can be saved is getting his name called by the Tampa Bay Vipers.


No Winners In Overtime

Image credit – Marcio Jose Sanchez – AP

Let it be known, I hate the NFL overtime rules! 2 games on opening Sunday went to the extra period with Colts/Chargers and Lions/Cardinals both level at the end of regulation. The extra periods gave us 1 winner and 1 tie but the whole set up of it drives me nuts.

Firstly make no mistake about it, things have improved. Once upon a short time ago we would have crowned 2 winners on Sunday evening. The Cardinals kicked a field goal to take the overtime lead which back in 2009 would have clinched the ball game. At least 10 years on the Lions had a chance to respond and they did just that this weekend with a Matt Prater field goal.

The Colts however were not so fortunate. A brilliant Jacoby Brissett game tying drive in the 4th quarter had the Colts with all of the momentum. That momentum was wiped away by the flip of a coin, had the coin landed the other way I’m convinced the Colts would be sitting at 1-0. It went the way of the Chargers who marched the field and scored the game winner on Austin Ekelers 3rd score of the game.

I get the argument that the defence has to step up and keep the opposition out of the end zone but surely it’s time that both teams get the opportunity to possess the ball in overtime, even if a touchdown is scored. My opinion would have been the same had the Colts won the coin flip, as Philip Rivers would have seen his team up by 8 following his last possession, to losing the game without seeing the field again. Surely it can’t be right? Maybe in another 10 years we might get there!


Number 1 pick number 1 shirt

IMAGE CREDIT: Mark J Rebilas

The biggest curiosity in the entire NFL this season, Kyler Murray the overall number one pick by the Arizona Cardinals made his long-awaited debut against the Lions. Murray looked out of place, frustrated and out of rhythm for three quarters. What made Murray the top pick was his fourth quarter heroics, going 15 of 19 for 154 yards and two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Unfortunately, the comeback was not enough as the rare result was a tie. Murray has proved he can succeed in the NFL with 300 yards passing on his debut. You can be safe to start him in fantasy now, as Murray will be having to perform fourth quarter and overtime heroics for the next 15 weeks.

Da Pack D gelling early

IMAGE CREDIT: Stacy Revere / Getty Images

With a big reliance on a series of fresh faces on the Green Bay Packers defense, this was a situation that was unpredictable, but with Week 1 in the books it was the most impressive defensive unit performance of the week. We know Mitch Trubisky is a rollercoaster of a QB, but on the Thursday opener he looked like a lost rookie, and not a third-year pro. The Packers defense was spectacular, forcing 21 incompletions, with corner Jaire Alexander looking great and Adrian Amos the free-agent safety sharking around the field. Aaron Rodgers managed just enough output to defeat an aggressive Bears defense, but without the touchdown the Packers would have walked away with the W with just two field-goals. You have been warned Mike Pettine’s Packers defense is going to surprise people.

One for the road….

Rusty Tackling

Whats new?

New year, same tackling standards.

Austin Ekeler, Vernon Davis (hurdle alert!) amongst others including their fantasy owners benefitted from poor tackling which helped contribute to their touchdown plays this weekend.

It wasn’t the first time and definitely won’t be the last, but this modern day NFL defensive players place far too much emphasis on punching the ball loose instead of try to bring their offensive player down that it costs the defence more yards and conceding more points. Yes, rules are far more favouring to the offence in terms of how you neutralise a player (sounds sadistic, doesn’t it?) in the open field but the fundamentals of tackling are being a lost art of the game. I can appreciate that creating plays and causing turnovers give you more chance to win the game, but you could also argue it may help you lose it.

Part of it maybe that offensive players are harder to tackle (guys are getting bigger, faster, stronger. Evolution and all that) but the amount of broken tackles seen in week 1 isn’t a good thing for defences, even if it is good for highlight reels and Fantasy Football.

Player Pro Files – Jameis Winston

Written by Andy Moore ( @AJMoore21 )

Going into last season, the end appeared to be approaching for Jameis Winston in Tampa. Suspended for three games, with growing concerns about his decision making, the former Heisman Trophy winner had a lot to prove.

What had started out with so much promise (a Pro-Bowl call up and Offensive Rookie of the Year honours in 2015) was beginning to bottom out fast. Despite the work of the Buccaneers Front Office to surround him with receiving threats, Winston found it all too easy to put the ball in the hands of the opposite defensive backs (44 times in his first three seasons).

These accuracy woes clearly left a scar on former Head Coach, Dirk Koetter, who recently remarked that he had taken Matt Ryan’s accuracy for granted during his first spell as the Falcons Offensive Coach.

It’s fair to say that this concern had a vocal section of the Buccs fan base calling for change.

Well, change has come on the west coast of Florida, Koetter and his staff were shown the door and everyone’s favourite All or Nothing star, Bruce Arians, was brought in to steer the ship. So where does that leave Jameis going into the final year of his rookie deal?

The Coach

It’s clear that Winston was a huge draw for Arians, one of the very first things he said on taking this job was, ‘The whole thing is going to be built around him (Winston).’ Adding, ‘I think he can win it all, he has the intelligence, the toughness… to lead a team.’ High praise to heap on a QB before a single team training session together.

The pedigree Arians brings is undoubted, under his stewardship Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethilsberger have all gone to pro-bowls, with the latter winning two super bowls in the progress. A former quarterback himself, Arians prides himself on building meaningful relationships with and bringing the best out of his signal callers, so much so that he’s literally written a book on it.

If ever we needed an example of his work we need look no further that Carson Palmer in Arizona. Prior to 2013, Palmer had largely failed to live up his status as the first overall pick, he had bounced from Cincinnati to Oakland and finally arrived in Arizona, ten years into his career, the same summer as Arians. The improvement in his game was immediately apparent, Palmer enjoyed his then best season as a pro, passing for 4274 yards and leading the Cardinals to a 10-6 record. The best was still to come, a 13-3 record in 2015 took Arizona tantalisingly close to a Super Bowl and Palmer himself to the Pro-Bowl for the first time in 9 years with 4671 yards and 35 TDs.

All this gives the inkling that Arians knows what he is doing. Indeed, he’s already put on record that he thinks Jameis simply needs to slightly adjust some of the mechanics and we’ll see a big difference in his play.

Coach and player already have a good relationship as well, in Middle School Winston attended QB camps run by Arians and his son, with the coach inspiring the ambitious youngster to set himself the goal of reaching a Super Bowl.

Perhaps most importantly, the offense that Arians runs just seems like a natural fit for Winston. Based on aggression and risk taking, the go to play in Arians’ arsenal is the downfield shot, something that the Buccs sometimes seemed nervous to call under Koetter’s stewardship. This clearly plays to Jameis’ strengths, with his arm power and ability to escape pressure in the pocket amongst the best in the league.

It’s exciting to see a coach so enthused by his own player, and it feels like the chemistry is already bubbling between Winston and Arians, if they can improve the consistency of play then surely the sky is the limit… which brings us to:

The Player

Jameis himself must know this is a make or break season. Come in red hot and ready to play and he scores himself a smoking contract extension and a year-round ticket to Disney, just up the road. However, throw a few ill placed picks in the first couple of games and the pressure to dump him at the end of the year will only ramp up.

That being said, it’s easily arguable that Winston developed significantly at the end of the 2018 campaign. After coming in for a rather dismal performance to replace interim starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, in game four at Chicago, Winston gave a blistering 395 yard, 4 TD performance in Atlanta in week five. But it’s the last six games of the season we should really look at, in those games he only threw three interceptions, with two of those on do or die Hail Mary shots. It was a noticeable improvement, and the Bucs were unlucky to go down in a few of those games by close margins.

If Arians can tweak the issues he saw in his QB’s mechanics then the evidence suggests we could be about to see some fireworks in the NFC South.

Of course, it’s vitally important that there are no more off the field incidents as well. The suspension Winston served last year came after allegations were made that he groped an uber driver on a night out, all the more worrying after sexual assault claims followed him from FSU. Although not charged in either incident, these are both clear red flags on his record and it’s easy to see how one more incident will see the end of Tampa’s relationship with their QB1.

The work effort of any NFL player is of course vital, even more so in recent years, with every Instagram story, Twitter post or interview scrutinised with a fine-tooth comb for a speck of juicy gossip. And it appears Winston is a strong example to his teammates in that regard, with his new Head Coach praising him for being ‘first in, last out’ in recent weeks. If he keeps that attitude up it’ll clearly inspire those around him.

The Supporting Cast

On any given Sunday last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could line up with any of Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, OJ Howard and Cameron Brate as receiving options. It’s not hard to see why people were excited about the power of that offense.

Now, a year later they’ve lost Jackson and Humphries, with Godwin really stepping into the WR2 position just as Jameis started to perform at the end of the 2018 campaign. Adding only Scott Miller in the 6th round of this year’s draft might seem like a risk, but Tampa never seem to struggle when uncovering young receiving talent.

Alongside the WRs and TEs, Winston has another potential gem in Ronald Jones to work with. It’d be easy to write Jones off already after he barely made it onto the field in 2018, but all the noise coming out of OTAs so far suggest that he’s set for a much bigger role in the offense this year. That could help Winston no end, with Koetter choosing to abandon the run game all to often last year, exposing Winston to deeper defensive sets and with them more opportunities to throw a pick.

Arians has also emphasised improvement on the other side of the ball, with former Jets Head Coach, Todd Bowles brought into to improve one of the NFL’s most haphazard defences. The recent addition of Ndamukong Suh and a stack of defensive talent, including Devin White, in the draft will undoubtedly make Bowles’ job easier. This will also help Winston, who all too often throughout his Tampa career has been forced to get involved in a shootout due to other teams racking up the score.

I’m all too aware that the above is a very positive take on Winston’s surroundings as he enters his contract year, but I think the Buccaneers staff realise that their own success is heavily intertwined with his. That’s why one of the criteria they looked for in candidates was a willingness to take Winston forward, and why General Manager, Jason Licht, chose to make the last gasp decision to rid the organisation of Koetter before Jameis entered this all important season.

If, and it’s a big if with all the talent in the NFC South, all the stars align, I’m going to stick my head out and say Jameis Winston finishes the year in the top three NFL QBs for passing yardage and TDs thrown, and he takes the Buccs to at least a 10-6 record for the first time since 2010.

Where Do They Go From Here; Buccaneers

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 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Don’t forget to check out the NFC North podcast where we talked to Murf from 5yardrush and Tom from Head On A Swivel podcasts and got their thoughts on the team!

How Did Last Season Go?

Last season had more ups and downs than the Big Dipper at Blackpool. Jameis Winston started the season with a 3 game ban due to being Uber silly (see what I did there?) so Ryan Fitzmagic lived once again. They stunned the Saints in week 1 and the Eagles in Week 2 and arguably could’ve been 3-0 with their late surge vs the Steelers not quite getting them over the line. After that it was like riding a horse at a fairground at the QB position with Winston and Fitzpatrick chopping and changing on a nearly weekly basis which starting in GW4 when getting blown out of the water by the Chicago Bears.

After beating Cleveland in OT and having a 3-3 record, the Bucs went 2-8 the rest of the way.

The Bucs finished with the most passing yards in the NFL (3rd in total yards) but also the worst defence in terms of points given up. Tampa Bay games last year were not boring.

At the skills positions, Mike Evans surpassed 1500 receiving yards, breaking some Tampa Bay and NFL records along the way. Career high in Yards, Yards per rec, yards per game, catch % saw Evans go to his 2nd Pro Bowl.

The backfield was the total opposite in terms of production with 2nd round pick Ronald Jones struggling to even get on the field.

Housekeeping

The Buccaneers have the number 5 pick in the 1st round of the 2019 draft along with picks 39 (round 2), 70 (3), 107(4), 145(5) and 215(7).

The Bucs are not wealthy in terms of salary cap at this precise moment being bottom of the pile with a smidge over $2m cap space.

Outgoings

Dirk Koetter has left after a puzzling season at the HC position.

Following him out the exit door is WR speedster DeSean Jackson who goes back home to Philly and one of the most reliable slot receivers in Adam Humphries snubbed New England for Tennessee.

On defence, Kwon Alexander has changed Tampa Bay for the Bay area and San Francisco and Vinny Curry didn’t work out.

Finally, Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be sprinkling his magic anymore as he goes to Miami.

Incomings

Bruce Arians replaces Dirk Koetter but not many other names of note to fill the holes.

Linebacker Shaquil Barrett, Safeties Kentrell Brice and Deone Bucannon along with unloved Cleveland and Baltimore cast-off WR Breshard Perriman.

Outlook for Next Year

Bruce Arians will ruffle the feathers in Tampa and raise the level of all the players there. It’ll be interesting to watch what happens with the backfield as Peyton Barber and the aforementioned Ronald Jones do not strike fears into anyone’s eyes. Furthermore, Arians would’ve been used to a 3 down back like David Johnson so I expect moves to be made (not for David Johnson however).

The success of Tampa will hinge on how much Arians can get out of QB Jameis Winston who is in the final year of his contract. They will not be afforded the time to transition over into the Arians offence judging by how competitive the division is going to be.

Prediction

The Bucs had my money for a playoff push last year, they wont have it again this season. I think it’ll be a push to say they’ll have a winning record but if Arians works his magic, Winston steps up and the defence is not too porous then who knows. They haven’t got the toughest of schedules outside of their division, with the NFC South being paired with the NFC West, AFC South and the Lions and Giants.

They’ll get to around 7-9 in my opinion.

Fantasy Football

Jameis Winston – double digit round pick – potential QB1 – *SLEEPER ALERT*

Peyton Barber – 7th Round – high RB3/ low RB2

Ronald Jones – undrafted / waiver wire fodder

Mike Evans – 2nd Round pick – WR1

Chris Godwin – 6th Round pick – WR2 ceiling – *BREAKOUT CANDIDATE*

OJ Howard –  8th Round pick – Mid-Low TE1

 

 

Podcast 61 – Week 12 Review

In this episode, we recap all of the week 12 games and discuss all the talking points.

We ask some pondering questions coming out of the games including which QB you would start a franchise with, which QB should the Ravens ride with to close the season and whether the Texans can take the #2 seed?!

Regular Tuesday segments Stinkers/Stonkers, Jason Garrett Corner, Thursday Night Football preview between New Orleans and Dallas and some week 13 fantasy waivers along with everyone’s favourite NFL Quiz – The Full10Questions.

2018 Fantasy Football Industry Mockstravaganza – 2.12

Welcome back inside the Full 10 Yards War Room.

The Full 10 Yards team were absolutely devastated with the pick of A.J. Green the pick before us by the Van Buren Boys, which can be found in detail here.

So we are obviously on the turn, so we get 2 picks in a row here. After picking Todd Gurley with our first pick, we are definitely going at least 1 WR out of these 2 picks.

Looking at the draft board, we were also disappointed Joe Mixon had come off the board at the 2.09 spot. 1 great value of the 2nd round in our opinion was Leonard Fournette at the 2.07 spot.

With the 12th pick of the 2nd round, the Full10Yards Podcast selects….Mike Evans.

Mike-Evans

So for our first pick of the two, we are going Mike Evans. Other Wide receivers left on the board are Doug Baldwin, Tyreek Hill, Adam Thielen, TY Hilton, Stefon Diggs. Rob Gronkowski has also been taken before our pick and would have been in consideration how much of a class above he is compared with all the other players in this area.

Mike Evans didn’t have a great season last year. In fact, it was his worst year since he came in to the league (this is now his 5th season). In 2017, Evans JUST got over the 1000 yards receiving in 2017 and had just the 5 TDs, but will be looking to bounce back in 2018. He was more boom and bust than you would like considering his early 2nd round ADP last season, having 6 Top 12 weekly finishes to add to 4 WR3 or better finishes. In Lehman’s terms, he finished worse than the 36th WR on 6 occasions.

He will have to do that without Jameis Winston in the first couple of games against some high scoring teams in the Saints and the Steelers. Ryan Fitzpatrick though, is a quarterback who funnels targets to a receiver so Mike Evans could still be in line for a decent workload despite no Winston.

The other factors to consider here are Chris Godwin, who has been getting glowing reviews in training camp and certainly looks like a guy that will muscle his way in to the WR2 reckoning at some point this year. The Buccaneers are still tied into a bit of a cap hit with Jackson so I would envisage that they phase him out over the course of the season and get Godwin involved. Jackson will still have the pace and offer boom or bust fantasy scoring and is a guy you wanna trade after maybe a few hot games if you have him.

We can’t talk about the Bucs without talking about both the Tight Ends. Cameron Brate got PAID this offseason, suggesting that he is favoured over OJ Howard for production this season with OJ Howard primarily taking blocking duties with the occasional big play. All in all there are a lot of mouths to feed here and we haven’t even mentioned the backfield so I am starting to wonder why we have selected him as we have’t looked at the positives!

Tampa Bay are in a division that is high scoring and also play a lot more high scoring teams outside of the division so there could be a sneaky amount of fantasy points (even if it’s garbage time stuff a la Blake Bortles) in this offence and the likelihood of shooutouts are a bit higher than the average team schedule. They were 18th in total points scored in 2017 and 9th in Total Yards. Let’s not forget Winston was on fire towards the end of the season. Furthermore, Winston was battling injuries at points last season too which hurt Mike Evans. There was also a stat from last season that Tampa only played 82 snaps whilst leading which is absolutely ridiculous and pehaps that made Tampa a bit predictable and Mike Evans became more easy to double cover knowing they were going to him.

Mike Evans is still a redzone monster and a target vacuum in this offence and I certainly expect a bounceback in 2018. With a better defence this year, Tampa shouldn’t be playing from behind too much or at least not as much as last season so I am hoping the coverage on Evans is less due to Tampa becoming less predictable.

Probably not the most compelling case for picking Mike Evans at the 2.12 but thought this was value considering he has top 5 upside at WR, you can see my next pick (3.01) here.

Joy Divisions – NFC East

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

NFC East:

A few intriguing storylines in the NFC East this year. Transition, injury and clarity and identity are the main themes. But which teams have which storyline?

TIM

Philadelphia Eagles

We start off with last years NFC Champs, the #1 seed in the NFC and (unfortunately for me), the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Even the most anti Eagles fan would be hard pressed to say that the Eagles were not the best team last year. I have no problem with it. I do have a problem however with the ominous look about the Eagles and the franchise for the next few years.

They have the coaching staff (despite the exits of OC Frank Reich and QB Coach John DeFilippo), they have the depth at most positions and they have the talent but more importantly, the mentality. I could only dream of the Dallas Cowboys coaches and players having the same determination and focus to do what Philadelphia do.  The differences are night and day.

Changes from last year are very little and the main issues surrounding the Eagles in 2018 are getting all the players back and healthy for week 1 and trying to adjust slightly to the new coaches at Quarterback and obviously the Offensive Co-ordinator.

Carson Wentz, Alshon Jeffrey, Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks to name but a few players that have all either had long term injuries or surgery last season of in the offseason so will be interesting to see how patched up the Eagles are come week 1.

Key Storyline: Can the Eagles go again or will their injuries cause them to start slow?

Dallas Cowboys

My ‘Boys. If you want a further look into my thoughts on the Cowboys season, I did a quick Q and A for GiveMeSport and can be found here.

Despite all the goings on last year with the Elliot court case, the injuries to Tyron Smith and Sean Lee on both sides of the ball, Dallas still managed to finish 9-7 and were 1 game away from the Playoffs.

The losses to the teams around them hurt them (Philadelphia, Atlanta, Green Bay, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle in the NFC along with crushing defeats to Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos from the AFC) including the 3 game losing stretch which effectively took it out of our hands.

The offseason saw a fair bit of change; around 50% of the 2017 targets walked out the door in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and were replaced by Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in Free Agency and Michael Gallup/Cedric Wilson in the draft. A lack of Tight End replacement (compounded by the “trolling” by Philadelphia in the draft by David Akers) I think has irked Dallas fans the most and given the fans a bad taste going in to the season.

The one thing wont change from season to season is the importance of injuries to our key players. Sean Lee needs to stay healthy on defence in order for them to compete there and certainly the depth on the offensive line is better and should be able to cope with an injury or two.

The season will hinge on Dak’s decision making and his accuracy and will be interesting to see if he learned from November last year. I like him as a late round QB and I like the value of the WRs Hurns and Gallup. Zeke is a monster and will likely get the most rush yards this season. 16-0 here we come…

Key Storyline: Which Cowboys do we get this season? 

Washington Redskins

The Redskins were absolutely decimated by injuries last season on both sides of the ball and unfortunately the trends seem to be continuing in to this season.

Jordan Reed is continuing to Jordan Reed (not quite Tyler Eifert stages yet) and it’s anyone guess as to how many games he plays. The big one though, is Derrius Guice. Guice tore his ACL and is gone for the season, leaving last years combination of Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson (who also has injury concerns) in the backfield and don’t forget about Kapri Bibbs. This immediately puts me off the Redskins and it’s possible their season is already a write-off.

Kirk Cousins has gone and is replaced by Alex Smith at Quarterback, Paul Richardson is the big money signing at Wide Receiver to join the ranks of Crowder and Doctson and who knows which one ends up as their main producer in both real life or fantasy.

The defence was bolstered in the draft with DaRon Payne joining Ziggy Hood and Jon Allen. Again, the key is health to help the defence better their performance last season (were the worse in terms of rush yards given up in 2017).

Key Storyline: Can the Redskins shake the injury curse of 2017?

New York Giants

New York on offence could be really scary this year. Unless you were on an expedition to the moon this year, you’ll know all about Saquon Barkley. He could finally solve the issues at the running back position for Big Blue, a void that they haven’t really filled since Tiki Barber.

To help matters, Nate Solder has been signed from the Patriots in Free Agency along with 2nd round draft pick Will Hernandez one of the steals of the whole draft. A much needed upgrade on a particularly poor offensive line in 2017 should help the offence in general and so should the returns of Odell Beckham Jr and Sterling Shepard (Brandon Marshall who doesnt return was also injured for the most part of last year).

Evan Engram took the Giants on his back last season after the injuries hit and because of that, it showed all his skills and is leading to his high draft price in fantasy this season. Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking he will replicate the numbers from last year. There are a lot of mouths to feed in New York and Engram, despite his great first season at Tight End (contrary to historic trends), will see a likely downtick in production. Not something you want from a round 5 draft pick.

Eli Manning is in the final year or 2 of his career and who can forget the abomination of Ben McAdoo’s coaching and his decision to break the Manning streak of 210 consecutive starts last year for Geno Smith in Week 13. He should benefit from an improved line and a running back so he could be a sneaky DFS play in some weeks, especially due to the comfort of Barkley in his pass catching.

New York could be anything this year. If the line stays intact and gels, they could be a playoff team. If not, they could be a top 10 pick in the 2019 draft.

Key Storyline: How good will this offence be in 2018?

Summary:

The East is generally a good watch and is a division that is prone to a last to first type of finishing from year to year. Could be again this year with the intrigue in New York and as always, the divisional games will be hard fought and may throw up a few surprises. If the Eagles are good to go, they’ll win the division again but Dallas certainly have something to prove, especially Zeke, and New York have the firepower to mount a challenge. I think the Guice injury has put to Washington’s hopes of a division title and possibly even a playoff spot. Fantasy wise, the Eagles should put up a lot of points but it’s not easy to pick out who will lead the way. Dallas is all about Zeke it seems and you are paying a early 1st round price for him obviously. New York could be an offence you want a piece of and I love Sterling Shepard this year. Washington’s WR are a shot in the dark and if you pick one, good luck to you.

Predictions:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys
  3. New York Giants
  4. Washington Redskins

LEE

NFC East today let’s start with the champion Eagles.

The Eagles are still in great shape, their team is still stacked in every area on both sides of the ball. They excel in the trenches on both sides of the ball; they have one of the strongest offensive lines in the league and they won the Superbowl partly because of their deep rotation along the defensive line.

Picture an defensive line of; Michael Bennett, Haloti Ngata, Chris Long and Josh Sweat… pretty strong right? That group is the second unit for the Eagles. That group would start for a few teams.

The offense is equally deep; the skill positions are all full of talent and diversity, and the offensive scheme suits QB, Carson Wentz down to the ground. All of this allows the Eagles to great mismatches all over the field, including with Wentz’s physicality and rushing ability. Although you question the wisdom of that since it cost Wentz the back end of his season.

Bottom line is that the Eagles are here to stay, I have them to take the division again and their Superbowl window in still wide open.

Fantasy wise the Eagles have a lot of good players but you have to think of how many touches they’re all going to take off each other. Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Carson Wentz are can’t miss players, if they fall to you, then go and get them. Outside of that you’ll find some nice role players for your roster.

After the Eagles the division is going to be a little bit of a battle between the other three teams. Personally at this moment in time, I don’t see a natural hierarchy in the East, so it’s going to be really interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Let’s talk about America’s team.

This Dallas team still feels a few players away from being a threat to the top dogs in the league.

In offense; they have Zeke and a fantastic offensive line, which could be really successful again if they go back to the 2016 formula when Elliott lead the league in rushing. The problem is replacing the target share of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. I don’t see where the production is going to come from; I’m not saying it won’t happen, I’m saying the answer is not obvious. Dalton Schultz is predominantly a blocking tight end so will need to show some growth and it’s going to make a sizable leap from Blake Jarwin too. At receiver, my money would be on Allen Hurns backed up by Michael Gallup but again that’s no sure bet.

However, this could suit Dak Prescott as he could be allowed to just be the point guard and distribute the ball to a number a pass catchers, rather than force feed the big names.

On defense the heart and soul is Sean Lee and it almost wholly depends on his health. Can DeMarcus Lawrence ensure he gets paid next year and show he’s not a one season wonder? Will the young secondary step up and grow into a top unit? At the moment the defense has more questions than answers and it makes me unsure of where to place the Cowboys at the minute.

Ok, so I’m not going to lie… upon reading the news about Derrius Guice and his torn ACL, I had to rewrite the next section on Washington. I feel like it’s a huge blow for the ‘Skins as I had Guice down as a strong rookie of the year candidate due to the strong offensive line and offensive scheme. As a sports fan, I hate injuries in general and as someone who loves the NFL draft and college football, I hate when injuries make us wait to see prospects that so many were excited about… so here goes, take 2.

I feel like the Redskins are built in a similar way to the Cowboys in the way that they have a dink and dunk QB, a top offensive line and a strong running game. As i said above, I thought Guice was about to go off but a back field of Chris Thompson ft. “fat” Rob Kelley & Samaje Perine should be serviceable. With Guice I’d have Washington above the Cowboys is because Alex Smith is a better version of Prescott, Jordan Reed is a great weapon when he’s on the field and with the running scheme that Jay Gruden runs, Derrius Guice would have been a rookie of the year candidate. Right now though I think it’s cigarette paper close since Ezekiel Elliott is probably the best player from either team and as we saw in 2016, he has broad enough shoulders to carry his team to a lot of wins.

On defense I feel the ‘Skins have built themselves a really nice rotation on the defensive line via the past couple of drafts. I like the Da’Ron Payne pick, even if everyone knows that they really wanted Vita Vea. It means that Payne links up again with his former Crimson Tide running mate, John Allen. Those two with Matt Ioannidis, with Ziggy Hood and Tim Settle as back ups form a good rotation up front.

Ryan Kerrigan and Josh Norman add some star quality to the linebacking and secondary levels too, something which other teams in the division lack, outside of Philadelphia.

Finally, the New York Giants.

I expect the Giants to be a pretty exciting team to watch this season, mainly because I think they look fantastic on paper on the offensive side of the ball but on defense it’s much less pretty.

When we look at the skill positions for the Giants, it’s an all star cast; Odell Beckham Jr., second overall pick Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard in the slot and Evan Engram at tight end. All very explosive, all great options for both you in your fantasy league and Eli Manning. The only issue comes with Eli Manning, his age and loss of arm strength. Does that hinder the Giants too much? As we saw last season, Big Blue fans don’t want him benched and the front office were never in the market for a QB early in the draft to replace him, so it doesn’t look like Eli is on his way out anytime soon.

Maybe the hire of Pat Shurmur had a little to do with what he did last year with Case Keenum, a QB who is not known for his arm strength but is known to be savvy and intelligent. One thing Eli Manning is, is intelligent.

If it all falls apart at quarterback again in New York, then the progress of Davis Webb and/or Kyle Lauletta could be accelerated because the Giants can’t waste time with what is a potentially very explosive offense.

Another quick note of the offense; I really like the pick of Will Hernandez in the second round since he should be able to help to open up holes for Barkley in the run game.

Flipping over to defense it’s less impressive. Don’t get me wrong, the Giants have some good players but so does every team.

Landon Collins will probably be the highlight as he continues to grow into one of the best safeties in the NFL.

The Giants are the toughest to predict here since it depends so much on Eli and the defense. If both fail then the Giants will be picking in the top 5 again, if Eli manages the games well and gives the explosive guys enough opportunities and the defense can keep pace, the Giants could be in the hunt for a postseason spot. I think it’ll be somewhere in between and I think there will be a few high scoring games involving Big Blue in 2018.

So that wraps it up and brings me to probably my most difficult prediction yet, I’m going to go for:

  1. Eagles
  2. Redskins
  3. Cowboys
  4. Giants

I’ll probably be completely wrong on this one as I expect the records of everyone besides Philly to have a pretty similar record.