Packers vs Vikings: Full Week 16 Betting Preview

2020 NFC Playoff Picture Predictions

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of people give their predictions for the 2020 NFL playoff picture. However, a lot of the rankings that I have seen lack thorough explanations and mostly revolve around public hype. Subsequently, along with my ranking I will include an explanation and my projected wins for each team to determine I think each team will beat their projected wins. 2 weeks ago, I released my predictions for the 2020 AFC Playoff Picture. Now, having knowledge of the 2020 NFL Draft and some more offseason moves, I am going to be breaking down my 2020 NFC Playoff Picture in this blog. Because I believe the NFC is going to be much more competitive in terms of fighting for playoff spots, I will also be mentioning a few “in the hunt” teams, who I think might just slip their way into a playoff spot.
NFC Playoff Picture:
  1. New Orleans Saints
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. Minnesota Vikings
  5. Seattle Seahawks
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  7. Green Bay Packers
In the Hunt:
  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Los Angeles Rams
  3. Chicago Bears
  4. Arizona Cardinals
  5. New Orleans Saints - The tough thing about the NFC is that you have 10 teams projected from 8.5 wins to 10.5 wins, so there is a lot more uncertainty as opposed to the AFC. Sitting at the top projected 10.5 wins is the Saints and the 49ers. A lot of people think that this season maybe the 49ers will fall back to Earth. There’s been a lot of talk about Tampa Bay taking the division this year, but I think the Saints being one of the most consistently better teams in the NFC aren’t ready to hand over the division just yet. The team went 13-3 despite missing QB Drew Brees for 5 full games, but unfortunately got beat on a first-round bye and paid the price with another heart-breaking playoff loss to the Vikings. Not much to say about the Saint’s 2020 Draft, as they only had 3 picks, and I wasn’t necessarily impressed or disappointed by their selections. Overall, I expect the Brees/Thomas duo to remain the best in the league. Furthermore, I expect the Saints to have a top 5 Saints offensive line and I expect their defense to finish in the 10-12 range just like last year. So, while I love what I’m seeing from the Buccaneers, I’m going to wait before suggesting that the 7-9 team can jump ahead of the 13-3 team. Because there’s no real reason to see a huge drop off in their performance, I’m going to project the Saints to secure a 11-5 record (thus, beating their projected 10.5 wins), which I think will be good enough to secure the first-round bye spot.
  6. San Francisco 49ers - There’s been a lot of talk about seeing a drop off in the 49ers performance and having the Seattle Seahawks take over the division. While this is certainly possible, I’m not going to deem it the most likely scenario. This will arguably be the most competitive division, as I don’t think anyone would be shocked to see any team in the NFC West slip into the playoffs. But the thing that stands out to me with the San Francisco 49ers is their defense. I expect this defense to remain in the top 2 or 3 next year and I have the defense of the Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals all easily outside my top 10. So while it is true that the Seahawks have a better QB in Russell Wilson and a better RB in Chris Carson, I believe the 49ers remain the more well-rounded team. The 49ers and the Saints will go head-to-head this year. Last year's matchup was a shootout with the 49ers winning 48-46. I expect the Saints to retaliate and secure the win with home-field advantage in the upcoming season. Due to their tough division, I’m going to go ahead and say that the 49ers finish 10-6. I think this will be good enough to win the division once again, but not good enough to beat their projected 10.5 wins.
  7. Dallas Cowboys - I think for many people, it’s pretty clear that this division is up for either the Cowboys or Eagles to grab. Both fanbases swear that this will be their year as always and both teams are projected to win 9.5 wins. The reason I chose the Cowboys is because their offense is much better overall. This is an offense that averaged a league-high 431.5 yards/game as compared to the Eagles 360.8 yards/game. The Eagles secured the division last year ending the regular season with 4 straight wins, but it wasn’t pretty. I expect the Eagles to have maybe a slightly better defense and offensive line, but the 2 teams are very similar in both categories. I’m certainly not a fan of the Cowboys, but they played much better than an 8-8 team last year. Under new head coach Mike McCarthy, I expect the Cowboys to finally live up to their potential this year. They had a significantly better NFL Draft than the Eagles, getting absolute steals in WR CeeDee Lamb (at pick #17) and CB Trevon Diggs (at pick #51), and getting good value on just about every other pick. The Cowboys have a better RB in Ezekiel Elliot and more offensive weapons for Dak Prescott. Although they will face some tough matchups, I’m expecting at least 10 wins out of this team, thus beating their projected 9.5 wins.
  8. Minnesota Vikings - I am certainly aware of the fact that the vast majority of people expect the Green Bay Packers to win this division. With the betting odds set at +150 for the Packers to win the division and +160 to the Vikings respectively, it’s going to be closer than a lot of people think. The Vikings had the most draft picks in the league, and I cannot complain about any of them. Justin Jefferson will make up for the absence of Stefon Diggs. They got a strong CB in Jeff Gladney and great value in OT Ezra Cleveland at the 58th pick. Of course, I cannot say the same for the Green Bay Packers. I don’t think any team in this division will secure more than 10 wins; the Packers and Vikings have very similar schedules and they are brutal. I’m giving the Vikings a slight edge just because I think they have a better defense and more offensive weapons. I’m going to predict that the Vikings finish with either 9-7 or 10-6, so I think taking over 9 wins is likely to result in a win or a push.
  9. Seattle Seahawks - Okay, so I’ve already explained why I’m not sold on the Seahawks winning the division. Ranking each of these teams’ success in the NFL 2020 Draft, it would have to be the Cardinals, the 49ers, the Rams, then the Seahawks. For the Seahawks, I didn’t love their use of a first round pick on LB Jordyn Brooks. While I understand the idea of trying to give Russell Wilson some passing options in drafting 2 tight ends and a wide-receiver, I don’t think enough emphasis was placed on building their defense and offensive lines. However, I do love their 2020 schedule. I expect at least 3 divisional wins, and perhaps 4 out of 5 wins in some very favorable matchups against the Falcons, the Dolphins, the Giants, the Redskins, the Jets. Even their remaining 5 games against the Patriots, Bills, Eagles, Cowboys, and Vikings are all winnable games, so I expect 2-3 wins here. Overall, I still expect a below average defense and offensive line in the 2020 season, but if there’s any quarterback who can persevere under these circumstances, it’s gotta be Russell Wilson. I think the projected wins of 9.5 is set pretty accurately, as I expect the Seahawks to finish the season with 9 or 10 wins.
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - With the addition of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, there is more hype around this team than any other. While I am not usually one to buy into all the hype, I cannot deny the impressive talent on this team. They improved their offensive line (especially with OT Tristan Wirfs), they are projected to be a top 10 defense, and overall, they did very well in the 2020 NFL Draft. I think RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn will fit into the offense nicely, and I think the Buccaneers are making out to be a very well-rounded team. Last year, the Bucs pass defense was pretty bad, so the coaching staff would give Jameis Winston the green light to make some dangerous plays, which led to a lot of touchdowns and passing yards but also a lot of interceptions. Tom Brady, despite taking a lot of criticism, was actually pretty successful in long-passing plays, completing an impressive 41.7% of deep ball throws. Tom Brady is also very cautious, often throwing the ball away as opposed to taking a sack or making a dangerous throw. Comparing Jameis Winston and Tom Brady is like comparing apples to oranges, but I think Brady makes for a more consistent and well-rounded team. The Bucs played much better than a 7-9 team last year; they lost a lot of close one-possession games. And now they’ve upgraded their team in just about every category. I think they can pick up 4 division wins, and they do have some favorable matchups outside their division in the Giants, the Raiders, the Lions, the Chargers, the Broncos, and the Bears. The betting line for regular season wins is set at 9.5 (with the o9.5 set at -160 and u9.5 at +130). While I do not think they will take over the division just yet, I am expecting 9 or 10 wins from Tampa Bay, so I think the line is set pretty accurately so I’m going to suggest a no-play on this one.
  11. Green Bay Packers - It would’ve been really cool to see this team finally draft a solid WR in the first round, but instead they decided to trade up for QB Jordan Love when there is a very good chance they could have gotten him without trading up. They needed to build their defense and they needed to give Aaron Rodgers a solid target receiver besides Davante Adams, but instead he got an apprentice. And let us be honest, the Packers 13-3 record was a bit deceiving last year. We’re talking about a team that had frighteningly close matchups against the Redskins and Lions (both times), and then lost to the Chargers 11-26. I think we are likely to see tension between Aaron Rodgers and coach Matt LaFleur, and I don’t like the direction in which I see them heading. The season win total for the Green Bay Packers is set at 9.5, and I’m thinking they will fall just short and finish the season 9-7.
The Hunt: Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals
I genuinely hate to leave these teams out, especially the Rams and the Bears, because I think these teams are underrated. Due to the tough competition in the NFC, I think teams will need to get at least 9 wins to secure a wildcard spot. If there’s any division where 3 teams will make the playoffs, it has to be the NFC West.
Cardinals - Between the Cardinals (projected 7.5 wins) and the Rams (projected 8.5 wins), I love the improvements the Cardinals are making to their team but I just don’t think they’re there yet, mainly because of their defense.
Rams - A lot of people think the Rams are going to get only 5-7 wins next year, but I think it’s an over exaggeration from last year. The issue is they are no longer a top 5 defense and Jared Goff is under constant pressure under the Ram’s poor offensive line. But I still think there’s a lot of talent on this team. My best guess is that they finish with an even record, but I wouldn’t doubt it that they go 9-7 and secure a wildcard spot.
Eagles - I’ve heard the argument so many times; with Carson Wentz battling injury and a not-so-good receiving corps, they still managed to win the division. So, it only makes sense that with a healthy Carson Wentz and the addition of WR Jalen Reagor that they’ll win the division again, right? Eeehhh…...this is purely speculation to me. The Eagles were lucky to make the playoffs last year after losing to teams like the Falcons, the Lions, and the Dolphins. On the Eagles depth chart, Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffrey, and Miles Sanders all appear questionable so who knows what to expect. I think the Eagles have a great offensive line, a pretty good defense, and if they manage to stay healthy there’s a good chance they can secure 9+ wins and make playoffs. But for me, I don’t think they had a great offseason, nor did they do good in the NFL 2020 Draft. So there’s just too many question marks to place them over any of the 7 teams listed as of now.
Bears - Despite acquiring QB Nick Foles, there’s a good chance Trubisky will remain the starting quarterback. The Bears still have a solid defense but with only having draft picks in Rounds 2, 5, and 7, there wasn’t too much room to significantly improve their O-line. I’m not too high on the NFC North this year but I think the Bears get an especially bad rep. If they can figure it out offensively and pull out 9 wins, they would likely secure a wildcard spot and perhaps even take the division. 2020 NFC Playoff Predictions
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2020 NFL Draft Review - Analysis and Career Predictions for Each Team's Draft Class - AFC East

If you missed the first three installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series, you can read the NFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.
Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.
Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level. I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.
Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.
Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.
As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.
So here is the first installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:
5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.
Next up, the AFC East.

New York Jets

The Jets came into the draft with well-defined needs at tackle, wide receiver, and as usual, edge rusher. They moved around a bit and still filled those needs with the No. 12, No. 24, and No. 53 ranked players on my board. This Jets draft class will undoubtedly be defined by two of the riskiest boom-or-bust prospects in the entire draft. Their first and second-round picks arguably have the highest ceilings at their respective positions but are both extremely raw.
Mekhi Becton (4) was my top-ranked tackle in a good tackle class. His film shows inconsistent technique, somehow getting driven back into his quarterbacks' lap by bull rushes. Becton's size-to-athleticism ratio is folklore at this point, and he has the physical traits of the best tackle in the NFL. One of my notes: "you have to teach him everything." Jets offensive line coach Frank Pollack has his work cut out for him, but Becton will be a dream to coach if he's willing to put in the work. Joe Douglas' strength is supposed to be offensive line, so in some ways, his reputation is at stake with this pick. Scouting draft prospects is not just about the film - NFL teams do a ton of research on projecting work habits, character, and intangibles. My main concern with Becton is keeping his weight in check. I want to believe in Douglas here.
Trading back to 59 and still getting my No. 24 overall player in Denzel Mims (4) was one of the best moves in the entire draft. Mims' fall was one of the few things that actually surprised me, and it's interesting that even the team that ultimately picked him passed on him in the mid-second. I couldn't find any character or medical flags with Mims so why did a prospect who was super productive and aced the draft process fall so far? After watching his film, I just don't have an answer. He's sloppy and raw, but scouting is about traits, and he has the traits of a WR1. They teach the wide receiver position a little different at Baylor - round most cuts, find grass rather than run precise routes - so teams may have been spooked by Corey Coleman and the like.
Mims is going to have to be coachable, but his ceiling is undeniable. His mix of strength, physicality, and ball skills pops off the screen, with frequent high-points and flashes of tremendous hands. There are very few reps that display 4.38 speed, but it's not like he's slow on film either. A huge part of route-running at the pro level is subtle hand fighting and push-offs. To me his mid-route handwork was advanced, and his traits to use his hands to gain separation make him a potential contested-catch warrior. The one trait that wasn't elite was his lack of suddenness, but his 6.66 3-cone suggests he has well above-average change of direction. Someone please explain to me why Denzel Mims lasted until pick 59.
Ashtyn Davis (3) in the third was a curious pick and probably raised some eyebrows after months of Jamal Adams rumors. However, the draft isn't just about filling needs for the upcoming season, it's about building for the future, and it's clear the Jets are preparing for Marcus Maye to walk in free agency next offseason. A case can definitely be made that Davis was the best player available at pick 68. His film showed excellent speed, instincts, and the ability to play center field in single-high looks. He's a smart player with good tackling technique and showed nice pass-breakups and interceptions on film. His film wasn't flawless, as he took some bad angles in the Washington game, giving up a 4th-and-1 touchdown to their running back. I project Davis as a Jim Leonhard-ish starter down the road next to Adams.
The Jets used their final day-two pick on a pass-rusher I wasn't high on in Jabari Zuniga (2). I also would have liked for them to add another receiver at some point. For the most part, however, they nailed this draft, mostly because Mims fell so far. Passing on CeeDee Lamb was probably a mistake, but if Becton and Mims live up to their ceilings, watch out. In three years it will be clear if Lamb/Josh Jones should have been the move instead of Becton/Mims.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins played the smokescreen game beautifully. The Chargers basically admitted they wanted Tua, and while there's no proof they had him ranked higher than Justin Herbert, common sense says they were fine with both but preferred Tua. After all the smoke about Herbert, a tackle, and trade-ups, the Dolphins stood pat at No. 5 and got their franchise quarterback.
Tua Tagovailoa (4) is a fascinating study in draft value as it relates to risk. Every doctor or agent that came out declaring his injuries as non-stories had an agenda. There is no doubt that his durability is a huge question mark after suffering a myriad of ailments, including a very serious hip injury, over his short career. His injury history is horrifying, and if I was a general manager I would have been terrified to take him and terrified to pass on him. The main reason for concern isn't just about his history, it's about his tendencies on film to hold onto the ball too long or try to make plays that just aren't worth it.
Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray are amazing at not taking unnecessary hits. They know how to contort their bodies, slide, step out of bounds, and just wisely give up when they need to. Tua does not have this sixth sense. The situation reminds me of RGIII coming out. Amazing prospect, but major concerns about his ability to stay on the field.
As a football player on the actual field, Tua is special. His best trait is his ball placement, as he mastered the RPO-heavy attack at Alabama, routinely throwing dots to his star-studded receiving corps. He is athletic and creative outside the structure of the offense, making plays with his eyes downfield. He also has excellent mechanics which points to coachability. There are some on-field question marks - a terrible pick on the goal line against Tennessee and some missed throws against New Mexico State. However, his 69.3 career completion percentage and 87/11 touchdown-to-interception ratio are for real. I don't feel confident predicting his NFL career due to injury concerns as it relates to playing style. If he's healthy, he'll be a star.
Austin Jackson (2) was a bad pick. He's young with some upside, but there were much better players on the board at 18. If any team can afford to take on a project it's Miami right now, but I would have preferred Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones. I saw Jackson get beat by a spin move and generally struggle to place his hands. He has the size and physical ability, but I wanted to see more consistency. His kickset is natural but he turns his shoulders too much against speed rushers. I expect him to get victimized early and often. I don't think he's quick enough.
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My final note on Noah Igbinoghene (2): strong and long, get him in zone. Igbinoghene got beat twice by J'Marr Chase, but also laid the wood on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He's physical enough, ran a 4.48, and returned a kick for a touchdown against Arkansas. His biggest weakness is that he doesn't get his head around down the field. He'll be much better playing facing the quarterback in zone coverage than in man. I would have taken one of the safeties over him at 30.
Quick thoughts on their other picks: Robert Hunt (2) could start at guard but isn't powerful enough to be more than average. Raekwon Davis (3) was highly underrated for stupid reasons like stat production. He's a starting run-stuffer right away and has all the traits you want. I thought New England would take him. Brandon Jones (1) didn't strike me as a pro. He was a big-time recruit and has some speed, but got beat too much. I liked Solomon Kindley (2), but his body just might not work, and I noted Curtis Weaver (1) as "one-dimensional, only speed rush" so I'm not hugely surprised by his fall. He can bend and run the arc, but he has no moves in terms of handwork. Too jag-ish versus Colorado State for me.
I expect people to warn us about sleeping on the Dolphins, but the reality is they traded a great young safety and great young left tackle that would have been building blocks for Brian Flores. I expect most of this draft class to underwhelm, but what matters most is Tua's health. If he can stay healthy, he'll be a franchise quarterback that will keep the Dolphins contending in the AFC East for years to come. What Flores did with that Miami roster last year was extremely impressive.

New England Patriots

My next project is an even more comprehensive updated study on the value of draft picks, which will eventually lead to an evaluation of teams' drafting. My guess is that it will reveal what I have always thought: Bill Belichick is not a great drafter and is probably below average. He is the best coach in history and does a phenomenal job of developing a winning culture, but a lot of his draft picks have underwhelmed or busted. Part of that is due to a small draft board and focus on players that fit their organization specifically. I did not like this Patriots draft class. They took a division-two safety, situational edge rusher, the fifth-best player on Alabama's defense, two tight ends, and a probably racist kicker.
Kyle Dugger (3) clearly didn't belong in D-II. He plays fast, can run and hit, and did some flat-out dominant things on film. His breaks on the ball were at a different speed, he knocked down tight ends, and had some pick-sixes that made him look like Deion Sanders. Obviously, it's all about how he'll react to a jump in level of competition. Dugger's great Senior Bowl week was definitely a huge factor in his ultimate draft slot. He's not fundamentally there yet, but being mentored by Devin McCourty and coached by Belichick gives him a real chance to develop into a pro bowl player.
I did not see it with Josh Uche (1). The Iowa offensive line had no problem with him, and the only sack I saw in the games I watched was on a free rush. Michigan didn't even rush him in big spots. He's thin with no plan. His only translatable trait is a great first step, which is not that difficult to mitigate if he has nothing else. I actually like Anfernee Jennings (2) better. He's stiff and can't bend, but he's stout at the point of attack and can be a solid stand-up run defender right now.
I thought the Patriots should have taken a shot with one of the quarterbacks, and they drafted two tight ends in a terrible tight end class. It will be fascinating to see how Belichick fares without Brady, but it wouldn't shock me to see them focus on player development and position themselves for a quarterback in next year's draft. Their roster just isn't that talented right now.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills traded their first-round pick for Stefon Diggs, adding a much-needed weapon for Josh Allen. They ended up getting huge values, landing the No. 16 player on my board a 54, the No. 54 player on my board at 86, and the No. 65 player on my board at 207! Teams that draft close to the consensus internet rankings usually end up with better drafts than teams that don't.
A.J.Epenesa (3) has a high floor and terrific film but I wasn't shocked to see him fall to 54. His poor 3-cone time is extremely disturbing, and teams were clearly spooked by his lack of athleticism. However, "traits" doesn't always pertain to purely physical attributes, as his football traits are tremendous. Epenesa looks much twitchier on film than his testing numbers suggest, and his strength is unquestioned. He walked back the Michigan left tackle, displaying his obvious plus power. He has a good get-off and his physicality plays in the league. He can knife in on inside moves and uses his length to make plays. Probably more of a left end than right end, he's a solid pro edge in the mold of a bigger Patrick Kerney.
Zack Moss (3) made the Utah offense go. He has the potential to be a true 1A running back for the Bills, but his long injury history clouds his future. Moss' film is fantastic. He has terrific burst, change-of-direction, and always falls forward. His technique is poor but he gets it done in pass protection and as a receiver. As a pure runner, he's right up there with Jonathan Taylor, and only lacks that home-run long speed. He's twitchy, patient, and shows quick jump cuts that play in the league. His lack of production against Texas and Washington did concern me. I still expect him to unseat Devin Singletary and emerge as a fantasy stalwart assuming he can stay healthy.
I prefer Isaiah Hodgins (3) to Gabriel Davis (2) but I love doubling up on wide receiver in this loaded class. Hodgins having success would be somewhat of an outlier. He has the size and tremendous hands, but a lot of his film probably doesn't translate . He was a double-move beast, but his 4.61 shows. I'll take a stab with great hands. Davis played inches off the boundary as an outside receiver at UCF, so he'll need to adjust to real alignments and actual routes at the next level. He was incredibly productive but doesn't have the speed or technique of anything more than an average pro. He was schemed for one-on-one matchups against spatially-confused corners.
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With a solid head coach and talented roster, the Bills will enter 2020 as the favorites in the AFC East. Josh Allen's accuracy remains a concern, and with more weapons there will be no excuses. He needs a big year. The defense has building block pieces at all three levels and the solid additions of Epenesa and Moss should support the foundation.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more divisions in the coming days.
AFC East Full Article with gifs: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-afc-east/736202
NFC East: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-east/735919
AFC North: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-afc-north/735564?src=cat_feat_9954
NFC North: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-north/734932
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2020 NFL Draft Review - Analysis and Career Predictions for Each Team's Draft Class - NFC West

We roll on with a division-by-division rundown of the 2020 NFL Draft with arguably the best division in football, the NFC West. Catch up on the other installments of this 2020 NFL Draft review series with the AFC South, NFC South, AFC East, NFC East, AFC North, and NFC North.
Every year after the draft, I write a way-too-long review of each team’s draft. The purpose of this draft review is to give predictions for the careers of each team’s drafted players. I’ve watched film of each player I’m commenting on. Draft grades are overly optimistic and unrealistic. Unlike the majority of post-draft coverage out there, I will pick busts. Keep in mind that 23.4% of all first-round picks bust.
Let me preface this by saying: predicting the career of an NFL draft pick is a ridiculous exercise. There is so much unknown that goes into whether a player succeeds or fails at the next level. I can make educated guesses based on team situation, supporting cast, and research about the prospect’s character and work ethic, but there’s a reason teams make so many mistakes every year. You simply don’t know for sure how a player will react to being a pro. Injuries are also a huge factor in the fate of a player and impossible to predict accurately. Nevertheless, this is a fun exercise and gives us a chance to review how each team approached the draft.

Overview

Before we start, here are some of my general thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft.
Quickly on the broadcast - they did a great job given the circumstances. The production quality was great and they did more actual analysis than usual. My main gripe with draft coverage every year is that they don’t show incredible highlights (they somehow didn’t show the Aaron Dobson catch in 2013). This year, they showed more footage of actual football and I appreciated that. The only two negatives for me were the constant tragic stories and Booger McFarland.
Oh, and if any poor soul bet on Justin Jefferson Under 21.5 draft position, ESPN should apologize to you. They showed him on the phone celebrating right before cutting to Goodell announcing the 21st pick - Jalen Reagor to the Eagles. Jefferson was of course on the phone with the Vikings, who took him at 22. Brutal beat.
As for the draft, remember this tweet about mock drafts being “wronger” than ever? Funny, this was probably the chalkiest first-round ever in the internet age. Nothing was truly shocking to me, including the Packers trading up for Jordan Love (more on that here). I had Damon Arnette in the first round in my first mock draft this draft season. I wrote an article lauding Jordyn Brooks as an undervalued commodity. Noah Ibinoghene going in the first was surprising, I suppose. But there was no Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 or Tyson Alualu at No. 10. It speaks to how the media and internet scouts might be catching up to, or God forbid actually influencing the teams.
So here is the next installment of my annual draft review. Each player will receive their career prediction in parentheses following their name. For example: Joe Burrow (5). Here's how the picks break down:
5 – All-Pro: Starter who has performed at an elite level at his position.
4 – Above-Average: Starter who has been among the best at his position.
3 – Solid: Starter or valuable back-up with significant positive production.
2 – Replacement Level: Below-average starter or back-up who made minor contributions.
1 – Bust: Player who didn’t amount to anything positive.
Next up, the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals dealt their second-round pick for one of the best receivers in football in DeAndre Hopkins. When you add that acquisition into their draft haul, it’s one of the most impressive in the entire NFL.
At No. 8, the Cardinals went best player available with Isaiah Simmons (4) from Clemson. There were some rumors that Simmons would fall a bit on draft day due to teams not knowing what to do with him. Simmons is a quality football player, but not knowing what position room to put him in is somewhat of an issue. He’s not big enough to bang in the box every down and he’s not as fluid in coverage as the best free safeties. He made a lot of plays blitzing from depth and taking advantage of his absurd size-athleticism mix at the college level.
Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables is an extraordinary defensive mind and played him all over the field at every position except defensive tackle. In Arizona I expect Simmons to line up mostly at the second level, doing most of his damage in coverage against tight ends and blitzing. Fitting him in might not be so easy after adding De'Vondre Campbell and Jordan Hicks as off-ball linebackers. I’ll let Vance Joseph figure it out. Simmons can fly and make plays so it will be hard to screw it up.
With a need at tackle, the Cardinals chose to take advantage of the depth at the position and wait until the third round to grab Josh Jones (4) of Houston. Jones was the 19th overall player on my board, so I obviously view this pick as a massive steal. Jones didn’t square off against many marquee pass-rushers, so his film was hard to evaluate in terms of translating to the next level. He won the vast majority of his matchups, showing sound technique, but few crazy displays of domination. He surely graded out well and moves well enough for me to endorse him as a quality starting left tackle in Arizona. People make a big deal about quarterbacks and wide receivers transitioning from spread offenses, but it’s also a whole new game for offensive linemen. With Kliff Kingsbury’s scheme taking a lot from the college game, Jones will be coached similar techniques to what he was taught at Houston. Great pick.
A year after making the wise decision to jettison Josh Rosen and draft Kyler Murray, the Cardinals put together a solid draft. They are talented enough to compete with the heavyweights in the NFC West, but maybe a year away from a playoff appearance.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams essentially used their first-round pick on Jalen Ramsey, who probably would have gone 3rd overall in this draft class. Dealing a first for a veteran with a huge contract is always risky, especially with a highly (and possibly over) paid quarterback. They came into the draft needing help on defense. I don’t think they got much.
When I originally sat down and watched Cam Akers, I became disgusted with the Florida State offense. To say it was a mess is an understatement. Akers made mistakes as well, which made me sour on him quite a bit. I originally ranked Akers 9th in my running back rankings and was met with a fury. I had to go back and watch. You were all right. I had fallen in the same trap I warn draftniks about all the time - valuing college performance too much, and traits too little.
If Cam Akers (4) has any work ethic at all, he’s going to have Pro Bowl seasons with Sean McVay. His traits are actually good enough that he can be an All-Pro if things break right. Akers’ fundamentals and technique were subpar at Florida State. My coaching side also didn’t like his lack of ball security. However, it’s difficult to blame him with how poorly coached everyone else looked.
Athletic and fast with decent hands, Akers has acceleration and creativity traits that translate to the NFL. He can break tackles and hit home runs. He’ll overtake Darrell Henderson right away as the Rams’ 1A back. I am glad I went for a second look. He is going to be a fantasy stud in the Rams zone running scheme.
📷
Van Jefferson (2) has the pedigree and route-running skills to be a quality NFL receiver. When asked to run routes with real breakpoints, he showed the body control and agility that can work in the NFL. However, the constant issue in his film is the lack of separation down the field. When schemed into shallow crosses and screens, Jefferson was productive, showing good hands. The top-end speed wasn’t there, and he doesn’t project as much of a run-after-catch threat. There is little evidence on film that he can get off press, but he has the demeanor that could work. I expect him to become a just-a-guy possession receiver.
Terrell Lewis (2) has traits that play in the league, but he is going to need time to develop. The scariest thing about Lewis is his injury history. On the field, he shows dynamic athleticism and ideal twitch. However, he doesn't execute his gap assignments particularly well and will struggle to defend the run in the NFL. As a rotational edge rusher, it could work, but a lot of his sacks came on inside stunts. Lewis is a developmental project who needs to stay healthy and get stronger to make any positive impact.
Straight from my Terrell Burgess (3) notes: “quick and good.” Burgess projects as a slot corner or sub-package safety. He has hip fluidity, good feet, and covered tight ends well at Utah. I don’t expect him to be a plus in run defense. That Utah secondary was crazy.
The Rams paid Jared Goff and now have to live with the consequences. The 49ers have the most talent, Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere, and the Cardinals are young with a franchise quarterback. The NFC West is probably the best division in football, and if Jared Goff doesn’t play better, the former hottest coach in the NFL will be looking at back-to-back seasons with no playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers

The defending NFC Champions traded away DeForest Buckner for the 13th-overall pick, giving them two first-rounders. They ended up trading down just one spot to No. 14 and actually using their original first to move up to No. 25. Overall they made just five picks, but with John Lynch’s body of work, fans have reason to be excited.
Out goes Buckner, and in comes his replacement in Javon Kinlaw (4). Kinlaw was my No. 1 interior defensive lineman and 17th-ranked player on my board. He’s big and athletic with an inconsistent get-off. When he times up and correctly leverages his explosion off the ball, he’s very good. He can penetrate gaps, fight versus doubles, and bench press blockers off him. He showed a powerful bull rush against the Alabama right guard. The most underrated aspect of Kinlaw’s game is his ability to get his paws on passes. He can also block field goals. The 49ers' defensive line will continue to be a force.
Trading up for Brandon Aiyuk (3) was extremely interesting considering the depth of this wide receiver class. John Lynch admitted they considered CeeDee Lamb at No. 13, but also would have been fine taking Aiyuk there. Get your guy, I guess. I do like Aiyuk, so I won’t bash the move at all. Aiyuk reminds me of Dez Bryant. He’s a competitive player with strong hands and good footwork in terms of breakpoints.
My final note: he’s a stud, just needs to clean up some technique. Unfortunately, I do not believe he will unlock his full potential as the third receiving option in a run-heavy attack. He takes a while to get going, is a little clumsy, and showed some very sloppy release work at the line. A related observation: the special teams coordinator at Arizona State was excellent.
The 49ers had a ten-point lead in the second half of the Super Bowl and return most of their starters. Yes, they lost Joe Staley, but they gained Trent Williams. Yes, they lost DeForest Buckner, but they gained Javon Kinlaw. John Lynch is doing a fantastic job.

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks general manager John Schneider had an all-time great draft class in 2012 but hasn’t hit on a single first-round pick since. He has been below-average at drafting during that time, as Seahawks fans have seen a once-loaded roster deteriorate into essentially a one-man team. Just as bad, Pete Carroll continues to ignore math and put too much emphasis on running the football (ironic). Defensively, his tendency to play three linebackers on the field together too much has also hurt them. So of course with their first-round pick, they took an off-ball linebacker.
I wrote this article about “my guys” before the draft. Jordyn Brooks (4) was the first guy I featured. I believe he can be an impact pro, and he actually reminds me of Bobby Wagner a bit. However, it is tough to defend a Super Bowl contender taking an off-ball linebacker, likely pointing to keeping three linebackers on the field for too many snaps yet again. I do believe in the player though.
Brooks plays fast, can key and diagnose, and has tremendous power on contact. When he meets a back in the hole, he drives him back. They liked to blitz him at Texas Tech, taking advantage of uncommon movement skills and acceleration. Against Oklahoma, he struggled a bit, primarily used to spy Jalen Hurts. However, the fact his coaching staff gave him that assignment is telling. I predict he’ll be an excellent pro. If they’re going to play three linebackers, at least one of them will be fast enough to keep up with Kyler Murray.
In the second round, the Seahawks traded up for Darrell Taylor (2) of Tennessee. When I began writing the “my guys” article, Taylor was supposed to be the second player I featured. I watched his film again simply looking for a highlight to make a gif of and became so unimpressed with Taylor that I decided to write about someone else. It was mainly Taylor’s film against Alabama that turned me off. The flip-flopping puts me in a ridiculous spot. I went back a third time and kind of liked him more again.
Taylor can bend and his profile fits the Seahawks LEO position perfectly. He showed inconsistent handwork but generally was powerful on the edge with enough speed to keep tackles honest. He showed an ability to finish plays and force turnovers, something a lot of edge prospects struggle to do. There was an odd delay getting off the ball on almost every snap against BYU, but he showed a quick get-off in other games. Only one thing is for sure - he’s better than L.J. Collier.
In the third, the Seahawks took my 92nd-ranked player in LSU guard Damien Lewis (2). Lewis will likely fit right in with Seattle’s underachieving offensive line. He’s good on double teams and has good enough feet to mirror but that’s about it. His functional strength and anchor is below average, getting knocked down by a blitzer and walked back by just one of Derrick Brown’s arms. Anything powerful gets him off-balance. There were better players on the board.
📷
The Seahawks pride themselves in trading down and making picks against the consensus. It has not worked out at all in recent years. It would be a shame if their mishandling of drafts continues throughout Russell Wilson’s career.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the final division, the AFC West, in the coming days.
NFC West Article with gifs: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-west/737289
AFC South: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-afc-south/736898
NFC South: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-south/736460
AFC East: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-afc-east/736202
NFC East: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-east/735919
AFC North: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-afc-north/735564?src=cat_feat_9954
NFC North: https://www.rotoballer.com/2020-nfl-draft-review-and-team-grades-nfc-north/734932
submitted by gpngc to NFL_Draft [link] [comments]

Draft Day 1st Round 2020 NFL Mock Draft

This is my first mock draft that I've ever shared, so I'd like to hear feedback on it. I tried to make this as realistic as possible, instead of picks that I think should happen.
Joe Burrow - QB - LSU | I don't think I need to explain this pick.
Chase Young - DE - Ohio State | It seems as if the Redskins are unlikely to trade the 2nd overall pick. This is an obvious pick.
Tua Tagovailoa - QB - Alabama | Rumors are going around that Miami is trading up to the 3rd overall pick to take a tackle. I think that's nonsense, they trade up to 3 and get their QB.
Jedrick Wills - T - Alabama | Giants head coach Joe Judge, a former Alabama assistant, gets some whispers from Nick Saban that lead to this pick. The Giants invest in protection and blocking for their 2nd and 6th overall selections in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
Derrick Brown - DT - Auburn | The Lions' coaching staff has taken a liking to Derrick Brown. He had a chance to be a top-five pick in the 2019 NFL Draft before he returned to school. The Lions trade back two spots and still get their guy.
Andrew Thomas - T - Georgia | A lot of mocks have the Chargers going QB in the first. The Chargers have loved Andrew Thomas throughout the fall and winter and seeing as they don't get Tua, they go with Andrew Thomas, who I think is currently the best tackle in this draft class.
Jeff Okudah - CB - Ohio State | Jeff Okudah falls to 7, and the Panthers happily take him. The Panthers fill a need and get the best player at that position. When asked which wide receiver he most wants to face when he gets to the NFL, Jeff Okudah said Michael Thomas. Looks like he'll get that opportunity twice a year.
C.J. Henderson - CB - Florida | The Falcons jump 8 spots and get their guy at corner. In a division where you're playing: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Curtis Samuel twice a year, corner is really important. This also fills a hole that the releasing of Desmond Trufant has created.
Jerry Jeudy - WR - Alabama | A top 2 receiver in one of the most loaded WR classes of all time. Their preferred corners in Okudah and Henderson are gone, and they don't pass up on Jeudy.
CeeDee Lamb - WR - Oklahoma | It's highly unlikely that Philadelphia will actually be picking at 21. I think that they trade up and get their guy at WR. The Eagles desperately need talent at WR, and CeeDee Lamb is the perfect fit.
Mekhi Becton - T - Louisville | The Jets are most likely going tackle in the first round, and they're able still able to get one of the top linemen even outside of the first 10 picks.
"I just like how grimy you guys are," Becton said about New York. "Just love the New York griminess."
While Becton would be protection for Darnold, he would also be someone Le'Veon Bell can run behind.
"Open the hole and run behind me," Becton said. "I can get you to score a touchdown, pretty much. Just run behind me, you're gonna score."
Isaiah Simmons - LB - Clemson | Isaiah Simmons is the answer to all of the Raider's problems at LB. The linebackers struggled in coverage no matter who it was against, the Raiders had no one to match up with opposing tight ends. Perfect for the modern NFL, Simmons can cover tight ends, run sideline-to-sideline with running backs, blanket slot guys and make plays in the middle of the field as a safety, and he can get to the QB.
Henry Ruggs III - WR - Alabama | The 49ers lost Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints. Ruggs fits their need at WR and is the perfect compliment to Deebo Samuel. Imagine what Ruggs can do in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
Tristan Wirfs - T - Iowa | I've had the Buccaneers trading back for Josh Jones for the longest time. Here, I have Wirfs slipping to 14 and the Buccaneers happily take him and invest in protection for Tom Brady.
Justin Jefferson - WR - LSU | The Broncos need a WR badly. I had them trading up to 8 to take Jeudy, but here they stay at 15 and take Justin Jefferson. The Broncos already have their outside target in Courtland Sutton, Justin Jefferson would fit right in in the slot, a position that transitions quick in the NFL.
Kenneth Murray - LB - Oklahoma | A top 15 player in this class who goes just outside of the top 15. The Cardinals fill a need and get a stud linebacker who has all the makings to be a star in the NFL.
K'Lavon Chaisson - DE - LSU | Chaisson has elite potential and is one of the most athletic pass rushers in the draft. The Cowboys made a bet in Aldon Smith and are hoping to see Gregory once again. But Smith is 30-years-old and Gregory has yet to play a full season. If Chaisson is there, the Cowboys should pull the trigger and add a top defensive end talent to their defense.
Josh Jones - T - Houston | The Dolphins invest in protection for their new QB. Jones excelled at for Houston and earned second-team all-conference in 2019 despite starting only nine games due to a knee injury.
Javon Kinlaw - DT - South Carolina | Javon Kinlaw falls all the way to 19 and the Jaguars take him, an easy pick for Jacksonville.
Justin Herbert - QB - Oregon | Herbert falls to 20. This pick provides tremendous value to the Jaguars who are searching for a long term answer at QB.
Ezra Cleveland - T - Boise State | The rumors have run rampant of the Browns' interest in the tackle from Boise State. The Browns are in desperate need of a left tackle. The Browns secure the tackle they want and gain picks in the draft.
A.J. Epenesa - DE - Iowa | Epenesa tested poorly at the combine and and his draft stock has fallen. I still think he will go in the first round. Epenesa will fill the hole left by Everson Griffen who left Minnesota and is testing the market. The Vikings also lost Stephen Weatherly, so depth at DE is crucial.
Jordan Love - QB - Utah State | Rumors were that the Patriots would use a "premium pick" on a QB, here it is.
Jeff Gladney - CB - TCU | A lot of mocks have the Saints going LB, but here they get Jeff Gladney. The Saints lost Eli Apple in free agency, thinning their depth. A player like Jeff Gladney would solidify the Saints slot coverage, and give them additional options outside behind Lattimore and Jenkins with the potential to start.
Denzel Mims - WR - Baylor | Mims looks to be an outside option that will provide Minnesota with a deep threat to replace Diggs.
Cameron Dantzler - CB - Mississippi State | The Lions need a corner. They pick up Cameron Dantzler. One of the most productive corners in the SEC over the last two years. Dantzler went up against the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy and held those guys in check. He allowed a 13.0 passer rating in his career on 3rd down.
Patrick Queen - LB - LSU | Last year, the Packers missed out on Devin Bush, who went to Pittsburgh two picks before Green Bay. They don't let that happen this time, and trade up for their guy. Green Bay hasn’t had a legitimate playmaker at inside linebacker in many years, they could change that with a player like Queen. The Packers lost Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson in free agency. Christian Kirksey was signed, but a second starter still needs to be found.
Terrell Lewis - LB - Alabama | Terrell Lewis himself said that he wants to play for the Ravens. The Ravens desperately need more depth as Tyus Bowser and Jaylon Ferguson have yet to become consistent options there. This pick makes too much sense.
Marlon Davidson - DT/DE - Auburn | The Titans need talent and depth at DT and DE. Marlon Davidson is a perfect fit for his versatility. Tennessee lost a big part of their defensive line this offseason by trading Jurrell Casey to the Denver Broncos, but have yet to fill that void.
Yetur Gross-Matos - DE - Penn State | The Seahawks are in need of an edge rusher. They're unable to bring back Jadeveon Clowney, and their two starting edge rushers are on the older side.
Kristian Fulton - CB - LSU | The Broncos use their plethora of picks to trade back into the first round and take Kristian Fulton. They lost Chris Harris Jr to the Chargers. They brought in A.J. Bouye, but more help is needed at corner.
Julian Okwara - DE - Notre Dame | The Chiefs could be in the market for a good young defensive lineman in the draft. Chris Jones was franchise tagged but whether they will then keep him, or trade him appears to still be up in the air. The Chiefs are very familiar with Okwara because defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo coached his brother Romeo when he was with the New York Giants. Okwara is great at getting after the quarterback and did so against some top tier talent. Mekhi Becton, Isaiah Wilson, and Andrew Thomas all suffered the wrath of Okwara.
submitted by rimjob_rabbi to NFL_Draft [link] [comments]

Don't be misled by stuff like this

Today, SBNation published this article, titled “Matt LaFleur’s Packers offense sure looks a lot like Mike McCarthy’s, at least early on” - https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2019/9/19/20871984/matt-lafleur-packers-offense-aaron-rodgers-mike-mccarthy
In it, the author argues that through two weeks, the Packers’ offense looks the same as it did under Mike McCarthy. Not only is this patently wrong if you watch the film (as a fan, I can tell you I don’t remember the Packers running multiple RPOs in a game, or committing to the run the way Matt LaFleur is), but it poorly attributes several supporting arguments the author used.
Normally, I ignore stuff like this. It’s easy to. But I’m bored, and it was annoying enough that I wanted to break it down:
For starters, “complexity” does not determine how good your offense is. Let’s look at this paragraph, bit by bit:
The good news is these lineups are confusing defenses and creating gaps. They’re just not especially complex, which is why Green Bay has had trouble stringing these kinds of plays together over the course of a full game. If linebackers and safeties don’t wind up covering the wrong guy, the opportunity isn’t there, forcing Rodgers into checkdown situations. Both the Bears and Vikings caught wise to this, limiting the Packers’ big plays and holding them to only three second half points through two games.
If your lineups are confusing defenses and creating gaps in their zones, then they’re plenty complex enough. But LaFleur’s system is, as Zach Kruse puts it, actually about creating the “illusion of complexity.” LaFleur’s system is designed to take simple concepts and confuse defenses with them, primarily through the (extremely common) approach of showing defenses similar looks throughout the game.
Look at the first drive against Minnesota in Week 2 as an example. Twice, Green Bay showed a split backfield with both Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. The first play went to Aaron Jones on the left, and the second time it went to Jamaal Williams in a screen pass to the right, and Vikings defenders didn’t have an answer for it. Throughout the game, it was evident that LaFleur’s plays have simple reads that are designed for the quarterback to get the ball out of his hands efficiently, all while disguising plays through repetitive looks.
This actually makes this paragraph look silly:
The issue is that this doesn’t leave Green Bay looking all that different than it did under former coach Mike McCarthy. Rodgers may be reading a new playlist off his wristband in the huddle, but his execution on the field shares a whole bunch of similarities with his past decade in green and gold. That was a scheme Rodgers grew more and more frustrated with as time went on and ultimately pushed the Packers out of the playoffs and McCarthy out of Wisconsin.
This is patently false, as Mike McCarthy’s system was renowned for its complexity. At its best, it involved receivers reading the defense’s coverage, and getting to predetermined spots on the field as the play broke down, in addition to the quarterback buying time by getting outside the pocket. It involved a lot more thinking on the part of the receivers and the quarterback. At its worst, that system confused young receivers and involved the quarterback being unable to trust those young receivers with these complex plays. Hence the need for a system that involves “scheming receivers open,” taking the burden off the players more so they can go out and execute plays more efficiently (see: Goff, Jared).
I would argue there are few similarities between these two systems, but I’m definitely not smart enough to say that either way with any conviction, and I’m willing to bet neither is the author.
Rodgers is throwing the ball less in 2019 than 2018, which is understandable given the fact his team has led for basically seven of its eight quarters of football so far.
This is sort of tangential, but Matt LaFleur’s playcalling stresses balance more than Mike McCarthy’s ever did. In 2018, the Packers passed the ball 61% of the time on first down, whereas LaFleur’s Titans passed it just 41% of the time. On 2nd and 10, McCarthy passed the ball 70% of the time, and LaFleur passed it just 49%. Matt LaFleur has a habit of using more play action than Mike McCarthy does, and likes to set those plays up with a commitment to the running game. It’s not just about the Packers being in the lead these two games; this is fundamental to LaFleur’s offense.
Despite the added pressure that’s driven his sack rate from 7.6 percent to 9.9, Rodgers is still able to use his athleticism to buy time; his 3.1 seconds per pass average is the second-highest mark in the league. But he’s not using that time to allow plays to develop downfield. Per Sports Information Systems, his average throw only covers 7.6 yards through the air, down from 8.1 in 2018 and roughly in line with the 7.8 figure he averaged over the last four years of the McCarthy era.
And while he came to Wisconsin as someone who can embrace the air raid-ish qualities that have taken over the NFL, he also came in with a reputation for leaving his quarterbacks vulnerable; in his lone season calling plays in Nashville, Titans quarterbacks were sacked on nearly 10 percent of their dropbacks.
I think average air yards versus time to throw is actually a reasonable way to analyze an offensive performance. The average depth of targets in the passing game can tell you a lot about how frequently a QB throws down the field and stretches the defense, and looking at Football Outsiders Deep Ball Project, I think it’s fascinating to see that Rodgers threw it 70 times with 21-plus air yards, while Marcus Mariota threw it just 28, but Rodgers’ accuracy was 47.1% on those throws versus Mariota’s 53.6%. I love an Aaron Rodgers hail mary as much as anyone else, but as Packers fans, we know the short game and utilization of the short middle of the field has been sorely missing from Green Bay’s passing game for years. I see this as a welcome change, providing it becomes more efficient over the season.
As such, I anticipate the sack rate for Rodgers will decrease as the team acclimates to this offense, but pinning the Titans’ sacks solely on LaFleur in 2018 is misleading. Per Football Outsiders, the Titans’ offensive line ranked 29th in the league in pass protection. But that only tells part of the story as it pertains to the passing game.
In 2018, Marcus Mariota had the third-highest expected completion percentage, 68.1%, while also being tied for 21st in average time to throw (2.68 seconds). It’s reasonable to think that getting the ball out quicker and having a high expected completion rate lends itself to an offensive system that helps the quarterback succeed. In fact, being “decisive” is exactly what LaFleur wanted out of Mariota: https://www.paulkuharsky.com/news/matt-lafleur-s-message-to-titans-marcus-mariota-indecisive-equals-ineffective
All in all, it’s reasonable to say the offense is succumbing to a slow start. Were it not for a failed 4th-and-1, an underthrow to Aaron Jones on a wheel route, or a fumble by Geronimo Allison, it’s also reasonable to say the Packers could have put up more points than 21 against the Vikings. Football is a game of nuance and a game of inches, and personally, I think that also means that a quarterback wearing a playcalling wristband for the first time in several years deserves a little credit for doing enough to win games while clearly learning a new system on the fly. I simply think this author’s assessment of the offense is off.
TL;DR: Bad article is bad, LaFleur’s offense is very different than McCarthy’s, Go Pack Go.
submitted by indiemike to GreenBayPackers [link] [comments]

Building and improving on existing D/ST projections

Hello and welcome back!

When I started projecting D/ST points in 2012, things were a little different. I did most of my work by hand, to-and-from (and during) work, and the exercise was more to explore what could be done rather than anything too serious. I only ranked the options and did no projections. The thread got 11 comments – and only half of them were my own.

In the six seasons since, I’ve made some big changes. Most importantly, they’ve all been good: I went back to school and graduated in mathematics. I found a job in data analysis. I’m getting married! And perhaps most relevantly to everybody here, the 2018 NFL season will be the first in a long time where I won’t be projecting D/ST scoring. So, this will be my attempt to unload everything I know so that somebody else (or many someones else) can pick up where I left off, improve the methodology, and continue to share their results with the fantasy community.

Let’s start with the basics:

D/ST scoring is composed of three main parts:

  1. Points allowed
  2. Sacks
  3. Interceptions

That’s it. Kind of. There are two remaining components but we will get to them in a moment. For now, let’s go through each of the three.

POINTS ALLOWED

This is the easiest and least important component, but it’s one where my methodology still made some very naïve assumptions for simplicity’s sake. First, where you do you find accurate scoring projections? My answer has always been Vegas (well, really, the answer is large offshore sportsbooks, but “Vegas” sounds sexier).

https://imgur.com/a/8eUvzQl

The screenshot here is from Pinnacle, widely accepted as the sharpest NFL sportsbook. When figuring out scoring expectations, you can either use team totals directly or derive them from the full-game lines. We’ll be doing the latter with the assumption that a full-game line has a larger max wager, less vigorish, and a sharper line – but they’re almost always going to match up anyway to prevent arbitrage, so use whichever is easier.

In this example for Thursday night, the Eagles are favored at home by 2.5 points, and the game total is set at 45. The means the Eagles can expect 23.75 points ((45+2.5)/2) and the Falcons can expect 21.25 points ((45-2.5)/2). A quick check assures us that the results are correct, since 23.75 + 21.25 = 45 and the Eagles expect 2.5 more points than the Falcons. Easy.

While these numbers are great for setting baseline expectations, things start to get really tricky in a hurry. We need to know not just how many points to expect, but we need to convert that single point into an actual scoring distribution. Here is where I made that first naïve assumption: while NFL scoring is very much NOT a normal distribution, I assumed that touchdowns and field goals could be tracked close enough to a Poisson distribution. This at least gets us toward scoring ranges that are good enough for what we need.

Anybody working at this on their own should look at this as one of the first big improvements they can make.

SACKS

While points allowed make up a relatively minor component of D/ST scoring – consider, for example, a team that gives up a relatively average 21 points in a game might lead to a D/ST score of +0 or +1 depending on your scoring format – sacks are part of where the money is made. Sacks are important for three major reasons:

  1. They are each +1 point
  2. They are a turnover-rich event
  3. Because they are yardage-negative and result in a loss of a down, they correlate loosely with lower scores

Unfortunately, forecasting sacks can be a little difficult, because they are a function of multiple variables: The strength of the pass rush, the strength of the offensive line, the tendencies of the quarterback, the down and distance, the overall score… so here is where we can make another naïve assumption: average sacks per game by the DL and average sacks allowed per game by the OL can be virtual stand-ins for all of the variables named above.

Now of course, they’re not, and this is one more avenue for someone to improve on the methodology going forward. However, given how much variance is present in D/ST scoring just because of the rules themselves, I’m not sure how much better the projections can be by improving here. To get an expected sack total in each game, I took the average sacks per game by the defense, the average sacks per game allowed by the offense, and took a weighted average (giving the home team a slight boost, which may have been incorrect to do).

INTERCEPTIONS

While sacks are a function of the offense and defense together (along with some in-game details such as score, down, distance, etc.), I took the D/ST component for interceptions to be defined largely by the offense’s quarterback. Another assumption (perhaps less naïve this time): quarterbacks could be expected to converge toward their career interception rates. This worked great in most cases, but in some of the most important cases (rookie quarterbacks or career backup quarterbacks), it fell far short.

In these cases, I don’t have a good answer, and I tended to use my best judgmen in the cases where they came up. Sometimes, you can find an interceptions oveunder prop bet on a reputable gambling site and go from there. Sometimes you’ll just have to make something up and hope it’s close enough.

Finally, similarly to sacks, I used a weighted combination of the defenses interception rate with the quarterback’s interceptions per game, weighted heavily toward the quarterback.

MISSING PIECES

We’re done! Right? Wrong.

There are two major things missing: D/ST TDs and fumble recoveries.

I assumed that fumbles were entirely random, and that every team would expect to recover approximately half of the fumbles they have available, and that every team would fumble at approximately similar rates. I would love to be proven incorrect on this, but I have not yet seen compelling evidence to the contrary.

For D/ST TDs, I took a historical conversion rate for fumbles-into-TDs and interceptions-into-TDs and assumed that every team would convert that many of each into touchdowns. Here is another point of improvement to make in the methodology, and one that I have high hopes that someone in the community can make happen. An obvious blind spot to start with: I did not consider punt or kick return TDs at all, and I think there is probably some amount of variance that can be explained by simple variables that we have access to.

ASSUMING INDEPENDENT EVENTS…

OK, I have revealed quite a few naïve assumptions so far, and for the most part, I think most of them are reasonable, if not justifiable. There is one assumption that I’ve made however that is not, and it is probably the best place to gain an edge on mine (or other) existing models: To convert expected sacks, expected turnovers, and expected points into expected D/ST scores, I assumed independence with all events.

Yikes? Yikes.

The reason why should be obvious: It was way easier! But consider the two following scenarios:

  1. A team expecting 21 points allows 21 points with 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble recovery
  2. A team expecting 21 points allows 21 points with 0 sacks and 0 turnovers

If we assume independence of events, the simplified odds of each happening are:

p(21 points) * p(6 sacks) * p(2 interceptions) * p(1 fumble recovery)
p(21 points) * p(0 sacks) * p(0 turnovers)

In reality, these events are not independent, and so the calculations above would be wrong. Using extreme case reasoning to illustrate, a team who gets 25 sacks does not have the same scoring distribution for points allowed as a team who gets 0 sacks. Of all the spots to improve on the methodology I’ve presented so far, this is the one that I think has the most potential to boost the efficacy of the model.

I don’t think that’s an easy task, and it’s why I didn’t tackle it myself!

COMBINING THE COMPONENTS

I’ve alluded to most of this already, but to be explicit:

  1. Convert Vegas point totals into a distribution.
  2. Gather expected sacks, expected interceptions, and expected fumbles, then convert using a Poisson distribution on each (adding in a factor for D/ST TDs).
  3. Assume independence and calculate EV for each team.

2018-SPECIFIC TOPICS

I sent out a call on Twitter for questions to answer here since I won’t be getting to anything major in-season. Here is a full list of what was asked, and my answers:

“The one thing I’d like to get your opinion on is how high Football Outsiders is on the Browns and Packers DST. They have them ranked 5th and 6th. Is there something they know that nobody else does?”

The Browns have something going for them right now that they haven’t had in a long, long time: Tyrod Taylor does not make very many mistakes. He’s probably the best QB they’ve had in a decade or more, and he does not turn the ball over very much. It might seem counter-intuitive to start an answer about their defense by pointing out their offense, but with the way D/ST scoring works, a bad QB can be a huge liability for a D/ST.

That being said, I have no idea why they would be ranked in the top 6. Quite honestly, that seems ludicrous. They have some good pieces, but their season-long oveunder is just above 5.5 wins. That is… not good. For a D/ST to be a strong play, it has to be attached to a team that can expect to win, and the Browns just aren’t there yet. They’ve won 1 game in the past 32 tries. I would let somebody else sit on them, and quite frankly, they’ll just sit on the waiver wire in 99% of leagues.

The Packers are a much more interesting option. They can expect closer to 10 wins, and they are unlikely to be home underdogs in any of their games, let alone more than 1-2 of them. That is a great start. They aren’t the most talented defense, and they’ve already suffered injuries to starters, but they are good enough to be drafted in all MFL10-style leagues and some 12-team redrafts. I would not go much farther than that. I’d give them something like a top 14 or top 16 score if I had to guess today for the end of the year.

What's a quick-and-dirty way to rank streaming DSTs on your own (aka without your columns)?

Easy! Look for the following, in approximately the order given:

  1. Good defense favored at home against a bad offense
  2. Good defense favored on the road against a bad offense
  3. Good defense favored at home against a medium offense
  4. Medium defense favored at home against a bad offense
  5. Good defense favored on the road against a medium offense
  6. Medium defense favored on the road against a bad offense
  7. Bad defense favored at home against a bad offense
  8. Good defense as an underdog anywhere against a medium offense
  9. Good defense as an underdog anywhere against a good offense
  10. Bad defense favored at home against a medium offense

In all cases, you can usually assume backup QBs are somewhere between “bad” and “medium” and third-string QBs are “bad.”

Avoid teams on the road where possible, but especially avoid underdogs.

Look for teams in low-scoring environments where you can expect lots of sacks and turnovers. Full game totals under 40 are low. Totals between 40 and 44 are OK. Anything above 44 starts getting into territory where you need to tread carefully. And remember, a team that’s a heavy favorite can thrive in a higher full-game scoring environment because their own scoring is a larger share of the total.

Chase sacks and interceptions before chasing total point totals.

If you follow these rough guidelines, you really can’t go too wrong.

Will you provide your algorithms and data pipeline process?

I think most of this is covered above, but please reach out if anything is unclear. I gathered most data by hand (copy/paste into Excel tables) from ESPN.com and teamrankings.com. This is the first thing I would go back to revise if/when I take this project back up, since I have learned so much more about data collection between when I started this and today.

Q: is there anything we can apply or take away based on injuries or performance to the monthly stuff?

My blanket assumption was that injuries don’t matter, suspensions don’t matter, and that most NFL players are far closer to replacement-level than we’re able to quantify. This obviously has some important exceptions – peak J.J. Watt, peak Joey Bosa, peak Khalil Mack, most good/great quarterbacks, etc. – but these should be fairly evident as they come up. Further, we get some amount of grounding on our model from the Vegas lines that get published, so we can see how many points each player is worth.

The reason why we can assume these things is (in theory) because we are aggregating 11 players’ contributions on 60+ plays in a game, so the effect that any one player has is somewhat minimized, especially when it is a defensive player that may only play 30, 40, 50 snaps in a game.

More importantly, to account for each of these missing players would be a monumental effort, and when combined with the fact that I’m unsure that it would even be worth accounting for, I ignored the effect in a vast majority of cases.

Will we get a rank for week 1/first few weeks?

I like the Ravens, Saints, Packers, Lions, and Jaguars in some order. Beyond them (or mixed in at the back-end of that group) would be the Vikings, Patriots, Chargers, and Titans. The Rams probably belong in there too somewhat. Denver might be worth a look but they could also just be bad.

If you were hoping to bank on a D/ST not listed above, you should probably check your waiver wire and rethink where you’re at. Anything not on that list would have to have a very good season-long and week 2 expectation for me to sit through a bad week with them right now.

I'd be curious to hear how you discriminate between teams that are closely ranked in your mind. How do you sort out the better option between two teams in similar positions for any given week?

I always look at their next week to see if I can use either option for two consecutive weeks and save a waiver claim/FAAB. Sometimes you can find a gem that might cost you a quarter point of expectation in the current week, but they’ll be usable or good for 2-3 consecutive weeks. That’s almost always worth the tiebreaker in my opinion.

If not, I’ll side with a home team or the team maybe just flip a coin. If your model can’t determine which is better, there’s really no reason to stress over the decision, and you can more usefully spend your time elsewhere.

How do you do your assessment of good teams to target a DST against? I know you’ve got your algorithm but does it factor for changes in OL and skill positions?

Most of this should be covered above. You want backup QBs, bad offensive lines, bad quarterbacks, bad receivers, and teams playing on the road. Accounting for personnel changes in season is difficult, and I tried to stay away from it as much as possible. Sometimes we just don’t have data on some of these players, and we certainly don’t have much reliable data on them. I find it’s better to stay away from situations like that entirely. I could be wrong!

Q: Which defense that may go undrafted could finish top 12 ?

Tough one, because I don’t know what is going undrafted right now! Looking at ADP, the Steelers have an ADP around Def13, and I like their odds of beating that. Kind of a weak answer though, since they don’t have to overperform by much to get top 12. The Packers, Lions, and 49ers are probably each threats to do it, but I would bet against each individually.

Perhaps a sneaky answer is that most drafters could stream D/STs weekly and expect a top 8-12 D/ST score by playing matchups. By targeting a D/ST that projects strongly in Week 1, you give yourself the best chance to do both (land the undrafted D/ST that finishes top 12, and end up with a weekly D/ST average in the top 12).

Are there any defenses in particular you’d hold for weeks 13-16? (Fantasy playoffs) or is it too early to tell?

You got it right here: definitely too early to tell. The time to think about this is usually right around Week 10 or Week 11, when you can be assured that you’re looking at the playoffs and your own worst bye weeks are over. Plus, there’s almost no way to tell right now which ones will be worth holding and which won’t be.

And that should do it for 2018. For anybody who would like to start doing their own projections, I strongly recommend exploring the math behind what does/doesn’t work and what does/doesn’t matter. If you find yourself hitting a wall along the way, feel free to reach out, but I do request that you try to make some headway on your own first. :) Beyond that though, I am happy to help almost any way I can.

So with that: Fuck ICE, be generous, treat the people around you with the respect they deserve, and kick some ass in 2018.

Any questions?
submitted by quickonthedrawl to fantasyfootball [link] [comments]

EonKayoh's "What Would I Do" 2019 Mock Draft

D I S C L A I M E R
THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE A PREDICTIVE MOCK. I AM IN NO WAY TRYING TO PREDICT WHAT WILL HAPPEN LATER TODAY.
This mock is based purely on MY big board, how I value each position, and what I would do if I was the GM of each team as their pick came up. This is NOT meant to be "realistic" even if some picks might end up that way regardless.
Seriously, if you want a predictive mock, go to somebody who has insider knowledge because those guys know more about what's actually going to happen later today than any of us could possibly know.
That said, here is my big board, for those of you wondering where I come up with these wacky rankings. This is not based on anybody else's rankings, I do all of my own research and use analytics to arrive at my own conclusions. My shit is not going to look like everything else you see here, but there will still be a lot of familiar elements to it.
1. ARI selects Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
I'm personally not a believer in Josh Rosen, so I think Arizona's best move is to draft Murray here, while they have the chance, and trade Rosen for whatever they can get. I doubt any team would be willing to give up a 1st rd team for Rosen, but an early to mid 2nd round pick could still be worth taking given how little proof we have of Rosen even being worth that high of a pick as far as his NFL performance goes. Murray is my QB1 and checks basically every box that isn't "experience", which you'd rather see more of, but Murray's passing ability even going back to high school has always been excellent.
2. SF selects Josh Allen, SLB, Kentucky
I really don't think San Fran needs another IDL. They've got Buckner, they've got Armstead, they've got Solomon Thomas for passing downs. Dee Ford will be their LEO, on the weak side, but you can never have too many pass rushers, and Josh Allen is one of only 6 players in this class that I've got "elite" grades on. He's an excellent sam LB prospect and will be the perfect candidate to put his hand in the dirt and rush from the side opposite Ford in sub packages, which are the most common defensive personnel packages in the league by far.
3. NYJ selects Brian Burns, DE, Florida State
Burns is another of the 6 "elite" grades that I gave out this season, alongside Murray, Allen, and 3 more guys that are going top 12 in this mock. The Jets haven't had an elite edge rush presence since John Abraham left in 2006. This is also another team that doesn't need IDL help, similar to 49ers. Leonard Williams, Steve McLendon, Nathan Shepherd, Henry Anderson. This team is set on IDL talent for now. They're also doing pretty well for themselves from an off ball LB perspective, with Avery Williamson, C.J. Mosley, and Darron Lee all looking like major contributors in their own ways going forward. The DB room is talented, and while some offensive help would be nice, there aren' really any offensive players that I view as being worth the 3rd overall pick. Burns being an elite edge rush talent is just about all the explanation this pick really needed, but I figured I'd go out of my way to explain why I'm not going with a Quinnen Williams or an Ed Oliver here.
4. OAK selects Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Bosa isn't one of my 6 elite players in this class due to his injury history and below ideal career production marks, but he's still extremely likely to be a very good NFL pass rusher, and seems like the perfect compliment to Arden Key on the edge. Key is more of a pure speed rusher, Bosa is more of a technique/power guy, it's always nice to have varying skill sets on the edge to take advantage of OT matchups. Bosa helps with that
5. TB selects Devin White, LB, LSU
White is the fourth of my six elite players in this class, and while an argument can absolutely be made about Quinnen Williams here, from all the research I've done, IDL is literally the least valuable position on the defense, and off ball LBs can provide much more value, specifically in coverage. White is, based on everything that I look at, the surest thing in this class, period. More of a sure thing than Quinnen Williams, more of a sure thing than Kyler Murray, more of a sure thing than Josh Allen. White checks literally every single box that I care about prospects checking, and the only reason I'm not mocking him even higher is because I think edge rushers are just a tiny bit more valuable than off ball LBs.
6. NYG selects Montez Sweat, OLB, Miss State
The Giants have two picks in the first round, and way too many needs to fill to reach for a position of greater need. There's one top notch edge rush prospect left on my board, and he just so happens to be a tier 1 3-4 OLB prospect, which fits the Giants perfectly. I know there are major concerns about a heart condition, but the same thing came up for Maurice Hurst last year, he fell to the 5th round, and he still ended up being the best DT in the class. Even if you only have Sweat for 4-5 years, that's all a draft pick technically buys you, so this is worthwhile as far as I'm concerned. Sweat is an ideal bookend to Lorenzo Carter from last year's draft class, and the Giants suddenly have a much more vaunting pass rush.
7. JAX selects Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida
This is the first major surprise of this mock. CGJ is my CB1, and specifically I think he can be exceptional in a hybrid slot/FS role similar to what you see guys like Tyrann Mathieu and more recently Minkah Fitzpatrick fitting into in the NFL. I think this is an extremely valuable role, and with the Jags' front seven being as loaded as it is, shoring up the secondary is extremely important. Doesn't matter how elite your pass rush is if the QB is getting the ball out in under 2 seconds on almost every snap because you don't have a slot corner worth his weight in salt. CGJ fills that role, and can just kind of be a Queen cheesspiece that they can use in any coverage role they might need on any given snap.
8. DET selects Chris Lindstrom, RG, Boston College
I know Detroit wants to trade down, but if I was controlling every franchise, I would never want to trade up, which means Detroit doesn't really have a partner to trade down WITH. That said though, based on the research I've done, Chris Lindstrom is the surest thing OL prospect in this class. He checks all the boxes - the size, the athleticism, the age, everything you want in a plug and play stud on the OL, and the Lions are absolutely barren at RG. Lindstrom fills an immediate need, and I'm okay with drafting interior linemen towards the tail end of the top 10 as long as they're going to be stud pass blockers/rushers from the get go. I think Lindstrom fits that criteria.
9. BUF selects Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
Buffalo just lost Kyle Williams and have a perfect opportunity here to replace him with another Williams, Quinnen. I know this won't actually happen in the real draft, but again, IDL is not what I view as a high value position, so he fell further than most people think he should. He's also the 5th "elite" prospect on my board, but again, at a less valuable position.
10. DEN selects Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Losing Aqib Talib was a major blow to this defense, and while they still have a couple of very talented CBs in Chris Harris Jr. and Bryce Callahan. The issue I've got is that both of those guys are better slot corners than outside corners, but Greedy I see as more of a pure outside guy. He can play on the outside on one side with CHJ on the opposite side in base, with Callahan coming on the field in sub packages, and that means Isaac Yiadom doesn't NEED to be on the field in nickel if he continues to play as poorly as he did in 2018.
11. CIN selects Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
This seems like a perfect situation to me. No matter who goes in the top 10, I think the absolute best pick they can make here at 11 is Andre Dillard. He's the ultimate franchise tackle that can guarantee getting Bobby Hart off the damn field, potentially even taking over for Cordy Glenn if his 3 year regression continues into a 4th year. Andy Dalton is at his absolute best when he's got a wall in front of him, and while Clint Boling and John Miller have both played very well at points of their careers, and Billy Price is young enough and has enough upside to not give up on. That said though, the OT situation is bad, and Dillard brings instant stability to at least one of the two spots. I see Dillard as another Ryan Clady type tackle.
12. GB selects Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
The Packers are always going to have a strong OL, they never invest early in it, and their defense is loaded top to bottom with either flat out good players, or promising young players with upside. The only real hole on D I'd even consider filling here is off ball LB, but they run dime so much it'd be a wasted pick anyway. Between Adrian Amos, Josh Jones, Tramon Williams, and Ibraheim Campbell, safety isn't a need, they just went in on CB last year and I still believe in Kevin King, and their DL is loaded with either high upside young talent or high price FAs. So, what do you do? Add a weapon for Rodgers to play with. Oh, and it just so happens to be the 6th and final of my elite players. Noah Fant looks like another George Kittle, Travis Kelce type TE. He checks every single box that I care about, and while Hockenson out-produced him THIS YEAR, he's got two years of production under his belt, and much more impressive athleticism. Matchup problem.
13. MIA selects Jonah Williams, LG, Alabama
Miami's OL is kind of a mess, and Jonah Williams could be a solution to either of two positions of need: LG and RT. He has experience at RT, and while he'd almost definitely get an opportunity to win from that position at first, I believe his best fit position in the NFL is at guard. The Dolphins have a massive hole at LG where their only real option is a 5th round pick from 2 years ago, Isaac Asiata. Now I even liked Asiata as a prospect, but being real, a 5th round guy with zero regular season experience through 2 seasons isn't someone you want to be relying on. The beautiful thing though, is that if Asiata DOES end up being a genuinely good starting LG, Jonah can play RT and it solves two positions at once.
14. ATL selects Jawaan Taylor, RT, Florida
Ryan Schraeder completely fell apart in 2018 and got himself released. Ty Sambrailo is not a guy you want to be relying on to start, and frankly he's not even the type of dude you want to rely on as a backup. Taylor steps in and immediately becomes the starter at RT. Taylor should be a big time upgrade over 2018 Schraeder, and might even be an upgrade over peak Schraeder at some points. This OL needs to be fixed, and while there aren't any zone blocking guards that I'd consider taking at this spot, Taylor should be a great fit at tackle. He's got some penalty concerns but that should be something that can be coached out of him.
15. WAS selects Juan Thornhill, FS, Virginia
Another big surprise, I'm sure. Juan Thornhill is not a flawless prospect - he doesn't have elite hip flexion, and he's a bit on the older side - but the flaws that he does have, are flaws that aren't completely unheard of in elite NFL safeties throughout the years. That said, he is clear cut my S1 in this class, and showed in both 2017 and 2018 that he's capable of elite play in both coverage and against the run. He's new-ish to the position but has already shown elite upside and has insane athletic ability, and DJ Swearinger's absence has been FELT. Thornhill + Collins could be a top flight safety duo in the league for quite a while going forward.
16. CAR selects Cody Ford, LG, Oklahoma
This kind of seems like a perfect fit pick to me. Carolina's most glaring need is probably edge rusher, but with no edge rushers that I'd be willing to take at this pick on the board, the next biggest need is LG. Norv Turner runs a gap scheme, and Ford played primarily LG in a gap scheme in college. The fit just seems so natural, this pick is almost too good to not happen IRL in my eyes.
17. NYG selects Kaleb McGary, RT, Washington
I know plenty of people will hate this pick, but McGary could be a perfect bookend for Nate Solder, and truly completes the Great Wall of East Rutherford. Left to right we're talking Solder, Hernandez, Halapio, Zeitler, McGary. That is a massive, talented, athletic OL that can serve as an incredible foundation for Justin Herbert in 2020 and beyond.
18. MIN selects Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
I know there will be a lot of Vikings fans creaming their pants for this, but Oliver is my IDL2, I don't value IDL super highly, and he's far more Geno Atkins than Aaron Donald. Still a very impressive player, and a great pick for a team like Minnesota that already has either good/great or young/promising players at basically every important position but a glaring hole at a lower value position. Oliver is an incredible athlete and was unfortunately used very poorly at houston, but with Linval Joseph not getting moved from his 1 tech spot, Oliver finally has an opportunity to go hunt as a 3 tech on every down.
19. TEN selects Dalton Risner, RG, Kansas State
This isn't the same team as it as in 2017 when it seemed like the entire OL was great, if not elite. The shift from a zone scheme to a gap scheme under Vrabel and LaFleuSmith completely ruined the interior of this line, and it's time to rebuild it. Rodger Saffold was a decent first step, and Ben Jones is still pretty good, and should only get closer to the best version of himself as the guard talent around him improves, so here's to hoping fixing that RG spot is the cure to what ails the once great Tennessee OL.
20. PIT selects Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
If Bush falls to 20 in the real life draft, it may set a record for fastest pick made in draft history. Bush being available at 20 here to Pittsburgh is the miracle that the Steel City needed. Ryan Shazier's career ending injury was a tragedy that the Steelers' defense still hasn't managed to recover from, but Devin Bush with his 4.4 speed and his elite athleticism is the perfect antidote to what ails them. Bush isn't as good as Shazier - I'm not trying to say that - but from an athleticism standpoint, there's nothing Shazier could do that Bush can't. Bush is also just kind of a very good player, and there are plenty of people who think his tape is flat out better than Devin White's, so it's not like he's one of those "raw" workout warrior types, either.
21. SEA selects Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
This is my lock-it-in pick and I will not back off of it until it happens, or doesn't. Or Seattle trades down because of course Seattle trades down. Regardless, Joejuan is a perfect Richard Sherman replacement, and Seattle NEEDS to find a Richard Sherman replacement. Granted they need an Earl Thomas replacement even more now, but there isn't one of those in this class, and Joejuan is about as close as it gets to Sherman without cloning technology.
22. BAL selects N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Harry is my WR1 in this class and the Ravens have no greater need right now than they have at WR. Harry fills the role of a true #1 receiver, able to line up anywhere on the field, including in the slot, and come down with the ball. Lamar Jackson needs a security blanket, and between Harry and 2018 draft pick Mark Andrews, I think he can find one.
23. HOU selects Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
Another offensive weapon added to Deshaun Watson's already impressive arsenal. I don't have any offensive linemen that I would be willing to take at this spot, so we'll just make it so that Watson can get rid of the ball before the rush has a chance to reach him. Between Hopkins, Fuller, Coutee, Miller out of the backfield, and now Knox, the Texans have got to have one of the deadliest 11 personnel packages in the league.
24. OAK selects Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame
I think Julian Love is sort of this year's answer to Tre'Davious White just as far as guy who didn't run a blazing 40 and falls because of that but still put up relatively solid testing numbers - admittedly Love is much more athletic overall than White - and produced his ass off in college. Love is one of those rare guys who gets hyped up a bunch, then sees his stock fall during draft season, then plays in the NFL like the hype would have implied before the draft season stock drop. Extremely young, extremely athletic, extremely productive, there really isn't much not to like about Love, and he's a perfect compliment on the defensive left to Gareon Conley on the right. They actually have very similar athletic profiles, Love was just so much more proficient at actually DEFENDING passes in college.
25. PHI selects Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
Something that I always love to see in CBs is when they convert from WR early enough in their college career that they're still able to put up actual good production numbers as a CB. Richard Sherman did this, as did Sam Shields. Granted, Shields didn't produce like you wanna see, but I've always loved the idea of an early WR -> CB convert because of the advantage that experience at WR gives them. Layne is a great example of this, and while his speed isn't anything to write home about at 4.50, he is a totally freaky athlete outside of pure straightline speed. Oh, and fret not, because based on my research, 40 time is actually a better predictor of NFL success when you REMOVE the 10 split time from it. I call this new number "long speed", and Layne's 2.91 long speed puts him in the top third of all NFL CBs - 67th percentile - whereas the 4.50 40 time is closer to 57th or so percentile. The beautiful thing about that is that Layne's broad jump - a drill that is much more representative of a player's ability to accelerate from a stop than 10 split, despite what mainstream pundits would make you believe - is absolutely incredible. We're talking 98th percentile. Layne is a special athlete, a WR convert, and a legitimate starter at LCB, which hopefully keeps Jalen Mills off the field!
26. IND selects A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
I love this fit. Brown is a technician, a YAC monster, and incredibly intelligent. He was the alpha dog in a WR room that included DK Metcalf. He's a slot machine, and if he fails at WR - unlikely as I believe that to be - you can bet your ass he'd make for an incredible receiving RB. There is no perfect comp for Brown because the closest thing we've seen in the NFL to him - Ty Montgomery - always looked more like a RB than a receiver, and Brown is a WR through and through. Luck now has one of the best offensive supporting casts in the league, and frankly with surrounding talent like this, I feel like Luck would start churning out 50 TD seasons like Mahomes in 2018, only on an actual consistent basis. Break ALLLLLLLLL the passing records. And hopefully win some rings in the process.
27. OAK selects Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
I love the new look Raiders offense, but there's one thing missong...a slot receiver. Marquise Brown isn't your traditional shifty slot boi, but he DID absolutely THRIVE in the slot when he was put there at Oklahoma, and he has incredible field stretching speed. According to PFF, Brown had the 4th most yards per route run in this class, the 5th most deep yards, and the 20th most SLOT yards. You put him on the same team as his cuz, let him stretch the field for him, and hope that Derek Carr actually decides to pull the trigger on a deep ball this year, and you've got a formula for success. Brown isn't my WR3, but his fit here is so much better than Stanley Morgan Jr.'s in my eyes, he's just exactly what this Oakland offense is missing PLUS he gets to be on a team with cousin Tony. It's just, perfect.
28. LAC selects Amani Hooker, FS, Iowa
Hey Telesco, now that you drafted a moneybacker, can you make that one extra step and fucking FINALLY pick a god damned deep midfield free safety in the first round? PLEASE? I feel like I've been mocking FS prospects to the chargers for the better part of a decade now, and they just never fucking do it. But this is what I would do, and fuck you Telesco, this is my god damned pick. Hooker has elite instincts and ball skills, and playing in the deep midfield role he'll be able to basically just watch the QB and free style, similar to what Ed Reed did in his heyday. Hooker is the Earl Thomas of this defense, and while he isn't as freaky FAST as Earl, his instincts are up there, and he's still very fast in his own right, and plenty explosive enough be able to put that speed to good use. Y'all passed on the better Hooker in 2017, but this is a pretty damn solid consolation prize given it's also 21 picks later than that would have been.
29. SEA selects Maxx Crosby, DE, Eastern Michigan
Most people don't view Crosby as a 1st round talent but he's my EDGE5 and I think he's got as much upside as guys like Nick Bosa and Montez Sweat. He's also sort of a quintessential Seahawks pick, kind of brings me back to the Bruce Irvin pick, since most people didn't like the value of that either and it worked out relatively well for them. The difference to me though is that Crosby isn't just freaky athletic, he was also freaky productive at EMU, and is much younger than Irvin was in 2012 when Seattle took him. Believe it or not, Irvin was a 24 year old rookie - turned 25 in November of his rookie season - while Crosby will only be turning 22 in August of this year. Crosby is a guy who, unlike Irvin, can be just as good with his hand in the dirt as he is in a two point stance. I believe in Crosby's talent, and that's why I'm comfortable with taking him in the late 1st round.
30. GB selects J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
I'm sure some will be scratching their heads at this, but JJAW is my WR5 and I think he actually makes a ton of sense opposite Davante Adams. MVS is a great slot option, but St. Brown and Moore both struggled as rookies, and neither of them offers the type of advantage that JJAW does. JJAW is an elite contested catch receiver, who has been a consistent TD machine at Stanford, starting in his Sophomore year when he was on the receiving end of 5 of Stanford's 15 passing TDs. Then, as a Junior in 2017, he was on the receiving end of 9 of Stanford's 23 passing TDs. And finally, as a Senior in 2018, he was on the receiving end of 14 of Stanford's 29 passing TDs. His TD contribution started extremely high at 33.33% and just went up every year - 39.13% in 2017, and then 48.28% in 2018. He's the type of dude that Rodgers wants - someone he can put the ball near, and count on to come down with it.
31. LAR selects Porter Gustin, OLB, USC
Another surprise edge rusher sneaking into the first round, I understand why people aren't higher on Gustin, but I also don't think it's fair to knock Gustin for his injury concerns while DK Metcalf has actually missed a higher percentage of his college games than Gustin, and people are still perfectly fine with ranking Metcalf as a first round pick. Gustin has had bad injury luck these last two years, yes - it's not something anyone should try to deny. That said though, he seems healthier than ever now, and absolutely lit it up at his pro day, posting an elite 6.97 3 cone which plants him firmly in "tier 1 everything" territory based on my edge rusher analytics system. Gustin also produced like a stud at USC and has ideal NFL size, plus I can admit that I took the dive and watched some film, and the dude is absolutely legit. His burst isn't ELITE elite, but it's still very good, and oh my goodness that bend. This is the type of dude who's capable of making a difference, even in today's quick passing game NFL.
32. NE selects Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska
And finally, rounding out the first round, my WR3, and a guy who is everything the Patriots need and love in a WR. I know, I know, he's not white, I get it, ha ha, funny le white receiver to new england meme, should be hunter renfrow, whatever. I don't care about all that nonsense, SMJ is the exact type of receiver the Pats need. Reliable hands, consistent route runner, ELITE deep threat, and one number that stands out that I know Pats management will notice is that 6.78 3 cone. I know I'm gonna get people challenging me on the deep threat thing because muh 4.53 40 but SMJ had the 3rd most deep receptions and the 10th most deep receiving yards in this class per PFF. To me, SMJ is very similar in a lot of ways to Davante Adams, but I don't think he'll have the same struggles with catching passes early in his career that Adams dealt with. I do have Morgan ranked ahead of Marquise Brown and JJAW, but he didn't fit with any WR needy teams in that range in my eyes. He fits here. He's basically a Chris Hogan replacement, only surprise, it's actually an upgrade in just about every way!
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Weekly Predictor Challenge -- Week 6 -- Analysis, picks and odds

What's up everyone.
Last week I went through all the predictor picks on a whim because I was bored at work and I actually had fun writing it all up, so I decided to make it a weekly thing to help out those who are having trouble picking, and for those not really in tune with what's going on in the NFL. At the very least, I work in sports media, so this is a nice excuse to better my own job, while helping out at the same time. I've also consistently gotten 20+ right each week, so I can most likely get you over that hump regularly.
Below, I'll post my pick (T/F), why I made that pick, and the current vegas odds if the question is "Who will win?" just in case you wanna go with Vegas every time.
If you have other questions, or want me to go in depth on something, let me know! The more input I get, the better this'll be throughout the season.
Take what you can from this, and hopefully you reach the top!
1) True -- Falcons by 11 -- Falcons are coming off of a bye and it's a home game against a weak opponent. They routinely score 25+ points and although they've only beaten one team by 11 points this season (the packers, go figure), they should be primed to win by two TDs against the dolphins as they haven't scored more than 17 points this season, and don't exactly look like they're going to beat that trend. Look for Cutler to throw a pick six at some point in this game as well. It's hard for NFL teams to win by this many in today's age, but this should happen. (Vegas odds) - Falcons -12
2) True - Ryan 250+ pass yds, 1 TD- Virtual lock. Ryan has done this in every game this season, minus one game, and routinely puts up these numbers. Unless Freeman controls the game and runs everywhere, or the defense gets some pick sixes, then Ryan should lock this answer up.
3) False - Vikings Win - Packers split the series with this team last season 1-1, but that was with Bradford, and the one game where the Vikings did win it was decided by a FG. This could go either way, but the strong odds are on Aaron Rodgers guiding this team to a win as he so often does, especially against a team starting a backup QB. (Vegas odds) - Packers -3
4) False - Murray with 100+ Rec and Rush Yards - He hasn't even come close to these numbers all season, and he won't come close this week either. Jerick McKinnon is the known RB commodity on this team, and takes away any chance Murray gets this unless Mckinnon sustains an injury in the game.
5) False - Saints win by 4 - The Saints have one of the worst defenses in the entire NFL, and the Lions are coming off a hard loss against the Panthers, so I see this as a "get right" game against the Saints. Even if the Saints win, I don't see this being decided by any more than a FG, let alone 4 points (which basically means a TD). (Vegas Odds) - NO -4
6) True - Michael Thomas 85+ Rec Yards - Virtual lock. He's the main weapon in the receiving core for the Saints, and they routinely use him in various ways to get him the ball. He has gone over 85 rec yards all season (minus one game against MIN). I see the Saints playing from behind, and Brees is more than capable to get the ball to him when they need it.
7) True - Patriots win by at least 10 against Jets - Beating teams in the NFL by two possessions is hard, as I said previously, but the Patriots are not other teams in the NFL. They mostly own the Jets, with nearly half of the games being decided by more than 10 points. The Patriots showed terribly against the Bucs last Thursday and they are ALWAYS known to come back the very next week and blow that team out of the water from anger. The Patriots are more than capable of accomplishing this. (Vegas Odds) - NE -9.5
8) False - McCown 2 Pass TDs - Call it my gut reaction, but McCown is terrible and the Patriots are gonna be pissed after showing so poorly against the Bucs last Thursday night. The Patriots pass D ranks dead last, and have given up 2+ pass TDs every game minus Winston last Thursday, so this could very well go in McCown's favor, but I say he doesn't get two.
9) False - Redskins win by 10 - Redskins will win no doubt, just not by ten. Again, it's hard to do this in the NFL today, and I see this being decided by one TD at the most. Every loss the 49ers have sustained this season have been by THREE points (minus the first game of the season), so even though their record doesn't show it, they're fighters till the end. (Vegas odds) - WAS -10.5
10) False - Chris Thompson 100+ rush and rec yds - He's only pulled this off twice this season so far, and they've come on huge pass plays where he broke it for 40+ yards. He's not even the starting RB, and even though I think he'll come close (prob in the 90 yds range total) he shouldn't eclipse 100 yds. If the swing passes and screens don't take off for him (something that's rare to happen all the time in the NFL) then he will be limited.
11) True - Ravens win by 7 - Trubisky is a rookie QB who just had his first start of the season last week. He played well, as I thought he would, against a great D, but that offense also had a QB problem so limited MIN's scoring potential, and he scored his lone TD on a gimmick play that can't be relied on week in and week out. This is another hard matchup for Trubisky and it's a home game for the Ravens, who are top 10 in pass defense as well as points scored against. (Vegas odds) - Bal -6
12) False - Mike wallace gets 75+ Rec yards - Wallace has a career of "feast or famine." He either gets big gainers and has a huge day, or he gets one catch for 6 yds. He's only had one "feast" day, and statistically speaking he will not follow that up with another feast day. He's currently 4th on his team in Recs.
13) True - Texans win by 10 - The Texans are on another level offensively with Watson as their QB this season. The rookie has scored TEN TDs in the last two weeks alone. THAT'S INSANE! They're playing the Browns now (who will bench their rookie QB and start they're backup), soooo not much more to say haha. (Vegas Odds) - Hou -10
14) True - Clowney gets 1+ sacks - This should happen. It's going to be a bit harder with JJ Watt now out for the season, so they can key in him and double team him, but Clowney is a generational talent, so he should find at least one sack against the Browns' backup QB.
15) False - Bucs win by 3 - the Cardinals need a win in a bad way, and I believe in desperation games, which this is true with the Cardinals. AP playing is yet to be seen, but if he does he's gonna play ANGRY, which is never good for opposing teams. He wants to show out and I believe he will. Also, Bucs have terrible luck with Kickers this season, and the new guy that replaced Folk isn't much better (career 80% kick rate, last played in '16 where he was cut by the Browns). Look for the Cardinals to win at home. (Vegas Odds) - Bucs -2
16) False - Chris Johnson 1+ TD - If you don't win at least 250 coins this week, I don't know what to tell you.
17) True - Jags win by 3 - I see this being one of those weird losses for the Rams that can be explained by one or two bad plays that didn't go their way. Jags have one of the best D's and they're playing at home, so even if Bortles doesn't show up (as usual), they have other options like Fournette. (Vegas odds) - Jax -2.5
18) True - Fournette has 125+ yards total - He's shown to be more than capable of handling both running and pass catching jobs, and typically gets more than 125+ total yards. I was burned last week when BOTH Hunt and Bell didn't reach their total yards by 10 yards or less, but this week I stick with it and say Fournette will reach this goal. He's the heart of that offense and even though the Rams are a good defensive team, I see him matching Elliot's numbers (139 total yards).
19) True - Chiefs win by 4 - If travis kelce doesn't play than this answer becomes less clear, but with all of their weapons there is no reason to believe they will ever lose until it finally happens. I'm betting on this team to win until they show me otherwise, because when healthy, they are unstoppable. (Vegas odds) - -4.5
20) False - Alex Smith gets 27 completions - We've seen a different Alex Smith this season then we have ever seen. He's the proto-typical "game manager." He doesn't throw much, hardly turns the ball over, and gets you outta the game mistake free for the most part, but doesn't wow you with his stat lines or abilities. This season is different, by far. He's completed 27 throws three times this season already, but I say he doesn't get it against the Steelers who's Pass D is #1 in the entire NFL. That's a hard stat for him to consistently pull off, so I say it doesn't happen.
21) True - Big Ben gets 250+ pass yards - He typically does this, even in a season where he hasn't played well at all. I think they play from behind, get Bell and Brown in the passing game, and he heats up. He's had three very lackluster games, but he can do this and I believe he will.
22) True - Raiders beat the Chargers - I think Carr comes back and lifts them to victory. If Carr doesn't make the start (everywhere has him starting, even the HC mentioned it), then go the other way, but with Carr they will win at home, even with a back injury. (Vegas odds) - OFF (due to Carr's injury status)
23) False - Mario gets 1+ sacks - Rivers is great at avoiding sacks, and gets the ball out quick. He's one of the best in the NFL at this, and Mario isn't exactly Mack, so I say Mario doesn't get this.
24) True - Rivers has 2 Pass TDs - This is easy for him, and even threw 3 against the Broncos, so this should happen, especially if Carr comes back and Rivers is playing from behind. This should be a virtual lock at being true.
25) True - Broncos win by 12 - Brandon Marshall AND Beckham are out for the year, the Giants have zero running game, they rank last in almost every conceivable stat line, and their #2 CB is suspended. There's nothing more to say. (Vegas odds) - Den -11.5
26) False - Giants/Broncos combine for 40 points - Giants have nothing going for them on offense, so this will be a one sided scoring affair. See above for all the Giants woes. This won't happen. (Vegas odds) - O/U 39.5
27) True - CJ Anderson 100+ rush/rec yds - This shouldn't be hard for him at all. This a typical outing for him even if Charles vultures some carries. The Giants rank almost dead last in Rush D, and will be playing from behind all game. This should be a lock minus any injuries.
28) False - Eli has 2 Pass TDs - Who? Who is catching passes for him now? He's without his top 3 WRs (shepard injury sidelines him this week most likely), so this WON'T HAPPEN. AT ALL.
29) False - Titans win - Mariota will be a game time decision, and because of that I see the Colts winning. Matt Cassel is just plain bad, and makes this team worse. Colts aren't very good either, but I take them to edge the win out on the road. (Vegas odds) - OFF
30) False - Colts/Titans combine for 42+ points - Not with these two offenses, I just don't see this happening. A similar matchup happened just last week with the Titans vs Miami, and they combined for 26 points. Vegas won't even touch this O/U haha
31) True - DeMarco Murray gets 1 TD - He's a shell of his former self. There is no denying it, and now a backup is starting to seriously eat into his stat line. For all his faults, I see this being True still because the titans absolutely need Murray to get in the redzone. They can't rely on Cassel, because it just won't happen that way. Here's to hoping Henry doesn't take the TD and kill us, but I see Murray making it this week.
32) True - Hilton gets 100+ yards - He is just like Wallace -- Feast or Famine. He has huge games, or nothing at all, so this is risky, but the Colts don't have much of a run game at all, so they need this guy to make plays (which he is more than capable of doing). I see him passing 100+ yards for the third time this season in this game.
That's all she wrote for this week! Good luck everyone, and let me know what you think (I will edit this after I post for errors).
-- EDIT AFTER 24 -- 10/24
Wow. What a week. A-Rod is done most likely for the season, Matt Ryan stalled in the second half and the Falcons lets Miami score 20 points unanswered, Steelers rebounded in KC, the Saints absolutely embarrassed the Lions, Patriots pass defense is really that bad (McCown finished with 2 TDs and 354 yds...), Adrian Peterson is back, Joe Flacco is not elite, the Texans are for real with Watson at the helm, and the Chargers finally won a game when decided by three points. The NFL is absolutely crazy and although this is going to be an off week for me I stand by my picks. It's a crazy game and I love following it!
Hope you guys had better luck than me. I'll update this again near the end for a final tally, and get back to it next week looking for a better outcome.
-- EDIT AFTER 28 -- 12/28
The Giants? THE GIANTS!? What a game, and at Mile High no less. The Giants offense accomplished things against the Broncos last night that haven't happened in YEARS to that defense (long 3rd down conversions, allowing points on opening drive, giving up that many rush yds and pass yds, etc...). Siemian looks every bit the way he did last season after showing a more elite side his first two games. The Broncos suffered plenty of injuries along the way in this contest, but they were beaten by a much lesser opponent regardless. It was almost tough to watch after a certain point. Thankfully, I still split the difference with my picks, and hopefully after the Titans game I can limp away with 16 correct picks lol what a crazy week in the NFL.
-- EDIT AFTER 32 -- 13/32
And that's all she wrote! Hell of a week and a lot to dissect this week back at work. I'll post my new predictor analysis/picks by late Wednesday or Thursday depending on how the work week goes.
Hope someone got luckier than me this week!
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[OC] [Serious] The NFC will be a bloodbath next year.

So obviously the NFC was nuts this year, and no one can predict FA, the draft, injuries in camp or to star players next year, but looking ahead to next season, the NFC could be brutal from top to bottom. I'll run through the divisions and then try to explain myself more at the end.
NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles
Super Bowl champs, no obvious dents in their roster. They could use some depth at a few positions, but they don't have any glaring weaknesses. The big question is when MVP candidate Carson Wentz will be back (and how well he will play). The Eagles could potentially recoup some of their missing Day 2 picks by dealing Big Dick Nick Foles, but they had better make sure Wentz would be ready for week 1. Everyone should expect Philly to contend next season.
New York Giants
Even as one of the "worst" teams in the conference, they aren't too far off. A brutal season, no way around that. But they obviously showed they have the talent to compete in 2016, but the wheels fell off the bus in 2017. I'm not sure how much of that lands on McAdoo, but I'm going to assume a lot of it. He completely lost the locker room, and Shurmur should be better in that regard (although a monkey with a play sheet ought to be an upgrade over McAdoo, assuming the monkey didn't grease his hair back).
I like the hire of GM Dave Gettleman, who should do a decent job of cleansing the roster. This draft marks a big fork for the franchise, as they could pivot to the future with a QB, or try to fill (much needed) holes at RB and OL. Be on the lookout for the Giants to make a run at Andrew Norwell. The Giants still have a ton of talent on this team, on both sides of the ball. In either direction the franchise goes, At a minimum, I'd expect the Giants to at least be much more competitive than last year.
Dallas Cowboys
Better get your tickets now for the Ezekiel Elliot revenge tour 2018. He will be well rested and pissed. There are differing opinions on whether Dak can carry the team, but having Zeke in the backfield ought to make it a bit easier on him. The Cowboys need options for Dak outside of Elliot though. Dez and (especially) Witten are not the players they once were. The team also needs better interior line play and could look for some secondary help in the draft.
Regardless, Sean Lee (if healthy) is a stud. Zeke is a stud. The O-Line is full of studs. Lest we forget, the Cowboys were good in 2016. Having everyone back and healthy should allow Dallas to push the Eagles in the NFC East and be firmly in the Wild Card hunt. If not, Jason Garrett will probably be looking for a new job.
Washington Redskins
Injuries, injuries, injuries. As a Chargers fan, welcome to the club.
Holy hell were the Redskins decimated by injuries last year. Injuries happen to everyone, but Cousins must've thought he was in a huddle with the JV squad at points.
Speaking of which, people have differing opinions of him around the league. I almost can't fault his play this year given that he lost a bunch of weapons during the offseason and then a bunch (and some linemen) during the season. I don't think the needle moves much with Smith at the helm. They almost have to healthier next year, but Smith might be due for some regression after last year. He won't have Hunt, Hill, and Kelce anymore. I think Smith is good enough to make the Redskins a tough out, but I don't see them competing with Dallas or Philly. They have some money and a decent draft spot to shore up their front 7, but I just picture them as a tough 8-8ish team next season.
NFC South
Carolina Panthers
Who knows with Carolina. In the past 6 years, they've alternated between being above .500 and below .500. Cam's season last year seemed to be a microcosm of Carolina as a whole. Cam was wildly inconsistent, sometimes flashing his MVP form and other times, not so much. McCaffrey is undoubtedly a weapon for them, but who else is? Greg Olsen has big play ability, but Carolina has been in search of true weapons at WR for a while now. They're also at risk of losing star OG Andrew Norwell.
I'm thinking shakeups on the coaching staff light a fire under some of the players (looking at you, Shula). If Luke can stay healthy, the defense should be fine, although they need a replacement for an aging legend in Peppers.
I expect Carolina to buck their roller coaster trend and be in the playoff hunt next year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Someday, the Bucs will put it together. They have the weapons on offense with Evans, Howard, D-Jax, and Winston. Doug Martin is gone, and Tampa needs to find an answer at RB. Winston has to step it up next year. The team fired Lovie Smith to keep Koetter to mentor Winston, but Winston has been slightly disappointing. But I don't think offense is necessarily the problem.
Their largest issue is pass rush. Tampa was dead last in sacks wiht only 22 on the entire year. They were one of only 3 NFC teams in the bottom 12 of the league (NYG and SF as well). If Indy doesn't get Chubb, it's possible he falls to them at No. 7, but outside of him, there just aren't that many solid pass rush prospects in this draft. If they can add pass rush and put the pieces together on offense, they will add to an already super dangerous NFC South.
Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta still has an extremely talented roster with few holes. The offense still has Matty Ice, along with outstanding 1-2 combos at WR (Jones-Sanu) and RB (Freeman-Coleman). This may be the last year of that RB duo, as Coleman could look to be No. 1 somewhere else. Extracting the talent from this offense falls on Sark...and who knows how that'll go. 2017 felt like we were all just waiting for the offense to pop, and yet it never really did. I expect a bounce back due to continuity.
I'd put my money on Poe leaving this offseason in search of long-term money, but Atlanta will still have a talented and quick defense. I trust Dan Quinn to keep the defense going strong. Atlanta has minor issues to figure out, but they too will be firmly in the playoff hunt.
New Orleans
Don't let Marcus Williams' whiff on the Minneapolis Miracle confuse you, he played great as a rookie, and was part of an outstanding rookie class. Brees ain't going nowhere, and neither are any of his weapons. Great OL play and the emergence of Michael Thomas and the RB duo of Ingram-Kamara have the Saints looking dangerous.
The Saints also aren't a pushover on defense anymore. They were 9th in sacks, 6th in FF, and 3rd in INTs. Getting Brees' contract sorted out and adding to last year's outstanding crop of young players are their only huge priorities. They'd like more out of the TE position, I'm sure, but this is a very good roster that will be in the Super Bowl mix next year.
NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Losing Rodgers for the bulk of the season was huge. Top to bottom, GB doesn't have an outstanding roster, but Rodgers is so fucking good that he masks a lot of that. They should have a healthy mix at RB, and Adams has emerged as a legit #1 WR (at least, imo). A healthier OL will do wonders for that offense. Jordy and Cobb are toss-ups, but having Rodgers back will restore some stock in them too.
The defense is interesting. They weren't really even middle of the pack, but having a sputtering offense puts a lot of pressure on a defense. They could look to pair another DB with Kevin King, or could find an heir apparent to Clay Matthews.
New GM Brian Gutekunst has some work to do with the roster...but c'mon guys. It's Aaron-fucking-Rodgers. Does anyone expect them to not be in the mix next year?
Chicago Bears
Da Bears will be one of the worst teams in the NFC next year. But they were this year and still showed some flashes. The Bears have more talent than people realize. Jordon Howard is a top 10 back in the NFL that has had to work with a combination of Hoyer, Glennon, Matt Barkley, Cutler, and a rookie Trubisky. Having any sort of passing game will open up the field for him. Staying at RB, Tarik Cohen is a spark plug that gives the Bears a much needed jolt. The OL isn't the absolute worst, but the WR corp is probably. Kevin White might actually be a ghost, so look for the Bears to add Trubisky some talent there.
On Trubisky...I don't know. I think he will be legit. And Fox wasn't doing him too many favors with play calling. But the weapons on offense were hot garbage and he still showed some flashes. Having more weapons and with Nagy whispering "RPO" in his ear, I think the 10Gawd will surprise some people.
Eddie Jackson and Leonard Floyd are legit ballers on that defense. Like the rest of the roster, there needs to be some more talent to fill out the rest, but if the Bears are the worst team in the NFC next season, that's a good sign for how strong the NFC is.
Detroit Lions
Stafford has proven that he can carry the offense with no running game, but Detroit has to find something at RB. Teams straight-up don't respect a rushing attack that hasn't produced a 100 yard rusher since Reggie Bush (!!) in 2013 (!!). Marvin Jones is a revelation, and Golden Tate pairs nicely with Stafford. If Eric Ebron can continue his strong finish to 2017, he could finally live up to his draft position and make the Lions' passing attack truly dangerous.
Much has been made about the Lions' pass rush, but they were respectable in that regard. They could certainly use a piece there, but they might also look to add a LB or DB. They were a top 3 defense in takeaways, and while that might regress, I don't think it will significantly so.
I think Patricia will light a fire under Detroit's asses and they'll be a strong contender for one of the wild card spots.
Minnesota Vikings
The O-Line took a huuuuge step forward, and could use some depth. Dalvin Cook will come back and add a spark to an offense that already features weapons in Diggs, Thielen, and Rudolph. Zimmer is a great coach, and that defense is...well we all know how fucking good the defense is,
This discussion starts and ends with the QB situation. I don't think I can remember such a weird QB situation in recent memory. Keenum was awesome all year, but is one year of great play enough to warrant a long term deal? Will he go elsewhere if someone does offer him one? And what about Teddy? He was making steps in his first two seasons and everyone expected him to make a step forward in year 3, but he damn near lost his leg instead. It's nothing short of a miracle that he saw game action this year, and I think we're all rooting for him in the future (right?). But if you're fresh off a NFC championship appearance and looking to capitalize on your window, can you bet the farm on a guy who has seen a handful of snaps in the last two years? And what about Cousins?
Who knows at this point. I'm interested to see what they do at QB, but regardless, we should all expect the Vikings to be in the hunt come December.
NFC West
Holy bloodbath, Batman! I'll admit I'm not super knowledgeable about the NFC West though.
San Fransisco 49ers
So uhhhhhhh Jimmy G and a shit load of cap space right? Right.
Props to GM John Lynch, who I was skeptical of when they hired him. Snagging Jimmy G (who I think, despite only 7 games, is a legit franchise QB) was amazing. The 49ers have a lot of holes on the roster, but they have a ton of cap space and a QB that everyone will want to play with. They'lll be a strong player for someone like Landry if he gets traded, and they'll look to add pieces on defense too. Expect them to continue their hot finish to 2017 (although maybe not that hot).
LA Rams
Goff took a major step forward with HC Sean McVay running this show. Gurley and Goff form an amazing battery in the backfield, and the Rams have some weapons at WR. They need to figure out what they're going to do with Sammy Watkins though. He's going to command a good amount of money for someone that was their #3ish WR. I don't think they ought to slap him with the franchise tag either. The line play was much better and Andrew Whitworth was a huge addition. I am curious though, how long his high level will sustain itself, given that he'll be 37 years old by next season's end.
On defense, Wade Phillips turned the unit into a top 5 team in terms of takeaways. Grabbing Marcus Peters in a trade with KC shored up a question mark at DB, and it will likely mean the team will likely move on from Trumaine Johnson. The line play was outstaning, led by Aaron Donald. They could use depth at LB, but this is another team without too many glaring needs.
Arizona Cardinals
This a team in flux, no doubt. Carson Palmer is gone, but his play had been tailing off for a while now. QB is a need that must be addressed, but they sit outside the top 10. With David Johnson returning (cannot understate what an addition that will be, just to have him back), and Fitz apparently willing to play until he's 85 to get a ring, look for the Cards to go for a veteran (Keenum, perhaps?). They have a weakness at the WR2-3 range, but that can be addressed in FA/draft. Depth along both lines is never a bad idea.
Chandler Jones is a sack artist, and Patrick Patterson is one of the best corners in the game. MLB Bucannon is solid, but the rest of the LB corps could use some work. If Baker can build on his rookie season and Mathieu can return to form, the secondary could be in good shape. New HC Steve Wilks likes to run zone, so the Cards might be looking to find some pieces that fit his style of play.
Seattle Seahawks
Oh how the turntables...
In what used to be a putrid NFC West, the Seahawks reigned supreme (although Jeff Fischer proved to be their kryptonite). Now the NFC West is looking like it'll be one of best in football, and the Seahawks are in the midst of an identity crisis The LOB is old and aching. Richard Sherman is coming back from an Achilles tear, which is absolutely brutal for any athlete. Earl Thomas voiced his desire to play elsewhere, and Kam Chancellor suffered a tough neck injury. The OL has always been a problem, and it doesn't seem to be getting that much better, even with the addition of Duane Brown.
Seattle cycled through RB's, and the hope is that Chris Carson can be their man. This team is Russell Wilson's now though, no doubt about that. I'm not sure Seattle can ground and pound teams like they used to. Will Seattle just try to out gun teams like the Houston-Seattle Week 8 game? The defense is still good, but I don't know Wilson and the defense will be enough to cover up growing holes on the roster. They'll still be a good team, and if healthy, in the playoff mix. But the NFC West is no longer a cake walk for Seattle.
WRAP UP
The NFC is going to be tough from top to bottom. The way I see it,
Playoff Mix: PHI, DAL, CAR, ATL, NO, MIN, GB, DET, and LA.
Right there is 9 already.
Maybes: WAS, SF, SEA, AZ, TB? NYG?
I feel like the only team I can definitively, 100% say won't be a playoff team is Chicago, and I still expect them to take a huge leap forward.
You never know how FA, the draft, and injuries will shake out, but every division in the NFC is going to be a bloodbath.
I hope you guys enjoyed! It's not anything ground-breaking, but I thought it would be a decent piece that would provide some offseason discussion. Feel free to tell me my ideas suck ass, and I'm sure I forgot about many, many things.
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Quick Thoughts on every Week 2 game

PRO-TIP: CTRL+F the players you care about

Accountability Section

I think it’s important to look back at the previous week and see what I got right and what I got wrong, so you guys know you’re not reading advice from a complete sham. Here are the major things I was able to gather:
What I got wrong:
• Adrian Peterson: He unexpectedly bombed when the Titans were able to stop him by stacking the box. Perhaps it was because Shaun Hill is not a threatening passer. Peterson has dealt with stacked boxes before so it is a bit concerning long term. Either way, I was WAY off, predicting RB1 numbers for the veteran RB.
• Todd Gurley: Another case of talented back meets stacked box. Gurley and AP are in similar situations; they’re very talented, with bad quarterbacks who defenses do not respect. I also predicted RB1 numbers for Gurley and that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
• The Panthers Offense: I overestimated the Denver defense and underestimated Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin. I won’t make that mistake again; Kelvin looks like he’s back in a big way. I was right about Olsen as a solid TE1 and Jonathan Stewart as a poor start, however.
• Danny Woodhead: I said he would fair very poorly against the Kansas City Chiefs, as he has done in the past, but Woodhead scorched them, getting 20+ carries and large passing volume for one of the highest RB scores of the week. I was very, very wrong and I won’t be underestimating Woodhead again. With Allen done for the season, he’s a large part of this offense going forward.
• Tyrod Taylor: I said he had a safe floor, yeesh, so much for that. The Ravens shut him down and it’s now quite obvious that he is not a good fantasy start with Watkins not at 100%.
What I got right:
• Jordan Matthews: I predicted him as a high upside WR2/3 against the Browns. I like him even more now after seeing that volume.
• Barnidge and Walker: I predicted target share reductions for Gary Barnidge and Delanie Walker as a result of their morphing offenses and I was correct, although I still recommended them as starts. I didn’t think their target shares would decrease THAT much!
• Charles Sims: He didn’t hit his ceiling, but Sims did show off that very valuable flex floor I talked about in my first write up. He even caught a touchdown and put his low-end RB2 numbers! Not too shabby, Sims.
• Jameis Winston: I said he’d put up QB1 numbers this week, which I don’t think was a particularly popular opinion going into the matchup. He certainly did that. I love the Buccaneers offense going forward, even going into their tough pre-bye schedule.
• Isaiah Crowell: One of my most controversial picks of the weeks, I said Crowell would put up Flex to RB2 type numbers, and by God, he did it! Crowell finished as the RB16 on the week in PPR.
Now there was obviously a lot more that I got wrong, and a lot more that I got right, but those felt notable to me. There are always going to be hits and misses in fantasy analysis and I’ll always try to explain my reasoning. I hope nobody got too badly burned by any of my advice last week, and I especially hope it was helpful to some of you. With that being said, let’s get into the week’s matchups:

Jets @ Bills

Ryan Fitzpatrick should continue to be a serviceable QB2 in this matchup against a team that made the shambling corpse of Mike Wallace look good last week. I like Brandon Marshall to rebound well from his disappointing week 1 showing and put up the low end WR1 numbers we were expecting. Eric DeckerAKA “Mr. Consistency” is as always a great WR2 play, and he should perform better than last week – he was targeted 7 times but only hauled in 2 catches. Quincy Enunwa made a great case for himself, tying Brandon Marshall for a team-high 8 targets – he is an intriguing waiver add and flex play.
• One major fact we learned from week 1 is that the split between Matt Forte and Bilal Powell was probably overblown. Forte operated as a workhorse, and is an RB1 for the foreseeable future on workload alone. Powell’s status diminishes to very low-end flex/handcuff status.
• I was going to write that we shouldn’t overreact to Week 1’s very bad no good Tyrod Taylor performance. However, with news that Sammy Watkins is dealing with serious pain in his foot, this whole offense takes a downgrade. Without Watkins’ playmaking ability, Taylor will be no more than a low end QB2. If he’s your every week starter in a 1QB league, it’s time to look to the waiver wire. Sammy Watkins was a good rebound candidate after a disappointing week 1, but with this news I would downgrade him to a boom or bust WR3. Start safer options if you can until he’s proved himself. I wouldn’t want to start Robert Woods or Charles Clay under most circumstances - as second and third passing options on a run-first offense, their good weeks will be difficult to predict and few and far between.
LeSean McCoy was the lone solid fantasy start for the Bills, and he should continue to be a solid start as the workhorse on a run-first team. There is, however, legitimate concern that defenses stack the box on him without Watkins as a downfield threat, and this could seriously hurt McCoy’s efficiency. If Watkins does play, however, his mere presence should improve things for McCoy. McCoy will be more of an RB2 against a stout Jets run defense either way. Mike Gillislee is his handcuff.

Cowboys @ Redskins

Dak Prescott was not asked to do many fantasy-productive things on Sunday, rushing only twice and throwing mostly checkdowns. This prevented him from throwing interceptions as intended, but also kept him from scoring any touchdowns. It’s obvious the Cowboys want to play to their strengths and be a run-first team with first round pick Ezekiel Elliott who received 20 attempts and can be fired up as an RB1 against a weak Redskins run defense. This development is concerning for Dez Bryant who received only 5 targets. It’s not time to panic yet, but Bryant’s skill set does not mesh with what the Cowboys want to do right now. Jason Witten performed well as he usually does against Giants – he is a low end TE1. Cole Beasly got a whopping 12 targets and with Prescott throwing so many checkdowns, there is potential for it to keep up. Beasly is a potential season-long flex play if things keep going to plan for the Cowboys.
Kirk Cousins didn’t look good Monday night, throwing poorly for no touchdowns and two interceptions. It’s not a good sign for those who drafted Cousins late as a bargain QB1, but the good news is QB is so deep you should be able to find a good replacement! Cousins is no more than a QB2 going forward. DeSean Jackson drew 10 targets and made good use of them, going for over 100 yards. He’ll have a tougher time this week against the Cowboys who are hard on the passing game, and is a boom or bust WR3. Jamison Crowder interestingly received just as many targets as Jackson, but wasn’t able to do nearly as much with them – he is a WR4/deep league flex. Pierre Garcon was also involved in the passing game but will only be a desperation flex in this tougher matchup. Jordan Reed was targeted a team high 11 times and is the best TE in football with Rob Gronkowski out – he’s your every week TE1 as long as he’s healthy. Matt Jones looked dreadful, receiving only 7 carries which he turned in 24 scoreless yards – the Redskins basically abandoned the run game. It makes Chris Thompson a much more intriguing option, particularly in PPR leagues – he was more involved when the Redskins needed to play catchup. Jones is a flex play against a weak Cowboys run defense, as is Chris Thompson in PPR formats.

Chiefs @ Texans

Alex Smith is a rock solid QB2 because of his rushing floor who will occasionally turn in great performances like last week. Jeremy Maclin turned in a solid week 1 for owners despite a tougher matchup, he is the quintessential high-end WR2. The other top option in Kansas City’s passing game, Travis Kelce, is an every-week TE1 on volume. Chris Conley receiving 7 targets (as many as Kelce and Maclin) is surprising – he’s not worth an add yet but keep an eye out, he is a talented deep threat.
Spencer Ware is so crazy good. He showed off his impressive receiving abilities and was totally gameflow-proof. Without Charles he’s an every week RB1. Even when Jamaal Charles returns, Ware has earned a significant chunk of the carries. Charles and Ware will likely become RB2s in this split, but I’d favor the younger RB without health issues. When Charles does return Charcandrick West will likely be fully put in the backup role.
• The Texan’s offense looks as good as advertised against the Bear’s lowly defense, but they will all face a tougher matchup against Kansas City. Brock Osweiler will be a mid to low end QB2 in week 2. DeAndre Hopkins is an every week WR1 with his talent. Hopkins owners shouldn’t worry about Will Fuller receiving more targets, it will happen from time to time but Fuller is a boom or bust WR3. Not to say Fuller doesn’t have value, he has GREAT value, and should be the number one waiver claim if he’s available. Osweiler clearly loves to throw to him. Lamar Miller operated as a clear workhorse, toting the ball 28 times against the Bears, and as a result of this rare workload he should be considered an RB1 even in the tougher matchup.

Bengals @ Steelers

• With only one threatening weapon, Andy Dalton is a mid to high end QB2 in most matchups. That one threatening weapon, AJ Green, is the guy you really want. Showing that the offseason speculation about his ridiculous workload was justified, AJ Green caught 12 of 13 targets whilst on a visit to Revis Island. He’s a WR1 in any matchup, and may wind up THE WR1 if things keep up. Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd are picking up the leftovers in the passing game, and LaFell looked like the most efficient of the two. LaFell would be a low end flex, and Boyd is safely droppable.
Jeremy Hill will be a threat to score a goal line TD any given week, and as such he is a high end flex/RB3, but his efficiency and matchup against the Steelers leave much to be desired. Giovani Bernard was surprisingly less involved in the Bengals offensive plan against the Jets than expected. The Steelers are a better matchup for him than Hill, but I would qualify him as a flex play.
• The Big Three, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and DeAngelo Williams (for now) showed how good they are against the Redskins Monday night. Each of them are in the first tier of their respective positions this week against Cincinnati. Eli Rogers made a case for himself as the Steelers’ WR2 and is worth a pickup in deeper leagues just in case, but with Markus Wheaton coming back, and Sammie Coates still vying for his chance, it’s getting a bit muddy for my tastes. Jesse James looks like a decent TE1, getting enough targets, and with plenty of chances in the red zone thanks to the Steelers’ explosive offense. If you need a TE1 replacement, grab him up.

49ers @ Panthers

Blaine Gabbert gets the Panthers this week, and it’s gonna be a disaster. The one fantasy positive on this team in PPR formats, Jeremy Kerley should rack up checkdown targets and make a case for himself as a strong PPR flex – he is one of my top waiver adds this week. Chip Kelly uses the slot receiver heavily. Torrey Smith looks done – he does not play to Gabbert’s talents. Carlos Hyde had a great week against the horrible, awful, no good Rams, but rarely will the 49ers ever be up by multiple scores again this season. That will certainly not be the case against the Panthers. Game flow will render Hyde an RB3, and bring Shaun Draughn in for more passing downs, though I wouldn’t flex him until we see how the targets shake out this week – it could all go to Kerley. Vance MCdonald was able to catch a touchdown, but was otherwise pretty uninvolved. I think his role may increase in future weeks and the touchdown means he’s viable as a streamer.
Cam Newton draws the easiest matchup on paper against the 49ers. He should be a huge part of both this game getting out of hand, as well as running out the clock once the 49ers fate is sealed. He is, as ever, a QB1. Kelvin Benjamin showed last week that he’s still a WR1, and if he can do it against the Broncos he should have no trouble against the 49ers. Greg Olsen is an every week TE1 as a critical part of this offense. Jonathan Stewart gets a much better matchup than last week and can be trusted as an RB2 who will help run out the clock.

Ravens @ Browns

• The Browns defense looked pitiful last week, so we’re gonna want to start some Ravens this week. Joe Flacco goes from QB2 to low-end QB1 with the plus matchup. Steve Smith, though quiet last week, received the most targets (9) on the team, but was inefficient with them. Those targets should translate to production against the Browns, and I’d feel alright about starting him in the WR3/Flex positions in a boom or bust capacity. Mike Wallace also impressed on his 6 targets, showing more efficiency than Steve Smith, putting him in the flex range against the Browns. Kamar Aiken looked uninvolved last week and is safely droppable.
Justin Forsett and Terrance West formed a near even split last week and I would expect that to continue. Getting 10 and 12 carries respectively, I would consider them flexable against the Browns but their upsides are each capped by the other.
• Welp, unfortunately Robert Griffin III was injured Week 1, so Josh McCown will now be leading the charge for the Browns’ offense – and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s an especially nice boost for Gary Barnidge who thrived with McCheckdown in 2015, owners can feel more confident rolling him out as their TE1. Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman remain boom or bust WR3s; it will be interesting to see how the targets shake out with McCown under center.
Duke Johnson should also benefit from McCown’s checkdowns in PPR formats – he’s a Flex option against the Ravens.Isaiah Crowell performed fairly well against the Eagles, but I like his outlook slightly less this week against a tougher opponent. He is a touchdown dependent RB3.

Titans @ Lions

Marcus Mariota was serviceable for fantasy purposes against the tough Vikings D, so I like his odds against the defensively inferior Lions. The Lions also have a good offense that could drive the score up on the Titans, forcing Mariota to throw the ball. That’s good news for rookie Tajae Sharpe, who led the team in targets by a wide margin operating as their WR1. Sharpe is a solid WR3/Flex play this week. Delanie Walker did suffer the predicted volume reduction as a result of new additions Sharpe, Rishard Matthews and Andre Johnson. I would give him another chance as your TE1 in this plus matchup, but that is as far as I’d go with the Titans’ passing game.
DeMarco Murray is, for now, in command of this run-first offense backfield over Derrick Henry, which is very good news for Murray’s fantasy owners. He rushed 13 times to Henry’s 5, and was targeted in the passing game 7 times to Henry’s 2. Henry is a great handcuff, but flex value is a stretch right now. Murray, on the other hand, is an every week RB2 with a nice floor thanks to his involvement in the passing game.
Matt Stafford will continue to excel in this offensive scheme in this matchup. The Titans defense doesn’t scare me. I’m rolling out Marvin Jones and Golden Tate as upside WR3s, with preference to Jones who received deeper targets. The Titans defense is good at stopping the run, so I don’t feel good about Ameer Abdullah this week, but given his play last week I think he’s earned RB3/flex consideration. Same goes for Theo Riddick who is a solid flex in PPR. Eric Ebron looks quite involved in the offense and is a nice lower end TE1 play; with his size he should be used in the red zone.

Dolphins @ Patriots

• This should be quick because there are only three fantasy relevant Dolphins. Ryan Tannehill is a mid-to-low end QB2 with Jarvis Landry, a solid PPR WR2, his only dependable receiver. Arian Foster looked good against the Seahawks and I expect him to put up solid RB2 numbers for as long as he’s healthy – start him while you’ve got him.
Jimmy Garoppolo functioned well as a real life football player in Week 1 but will remain only a QB2 for fantasy purposes. Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan served as New England’s top two receivers in terms of offensive snaps played. Edelman is a WR2 until Brady returns, and Hogan is a prime bench stash or desperation flex play. Danny Amendola is either warming up from his injury or is less involved in the offense this season, I wouldn’t trust him. Rob Gronkowski will likely be out another week and yet Martellus Bennett primarily served as a blocker last week. Bennett will be difficult to trust as the Patriots are targeting their WRs for now with Brady out.
• The Patriots should dominate this game, so it figures to be a LeGarrette Blount type of game. I like him for RB2 numbers, with a pretty good shot at the end zone. James White should also be involved, albeit less so than in close games – he’s a flex play in PPR leagues.

Saints @ Giants

• This game has definite shootout appeal because it involves Drew Brees and the ever generous New Orleans defense. Brees is an obvious QB1 but what about his receivers? Well, once again, I would start (almost) everyone I can. Brandin Cooks is an obvious WR1. Willie Snead exploded last week in a very good way but I don’t think anyone is ready to anoint him a WR1 yet – a WR2 though, with upside? Absolutely. Mark Ingram is still an RB1 play against the Giants despite a lackluster performance Week 1 – it remains to be seen if Travaris Cadet’s targets in the passing game will stick or if they were merely a fluke consequence of Brees spreading the ball around. Coby Fleener had a disastrous and concerning week 1, but this is still a great matchup. As an owner myself, I’m treating this as a second and final chance for him to get things going in this prolific offense – start a safer option if possible, but don’t drop him yet. Michael Thomas is a flex play in this offense where anybody could explode – the 6 targets last week weren’t bad either.
• With three solid wide receiver options to throw the ball too Eli Manning is looking more and more like a true QB1 this season. Odell Beckham is an automatic WR1 start – the Cowboys just proved last week that they are offensive kryptonite with their clock killing playstyle, which slowed Beckham down. Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard received 4 targets apiece, which should increase in this shootout, and each caught a touchdown. Both are viable flex plays this week. I don’t see too much value in the tight end situation between Larry Donnell and Will Tye but I suppose you could take a shot on one if truly desperate in a deep league.
Rashad Jennings should be able to get more going this week against the Saints putrid defense. I like him as an RB2 in this contest. Shane Vereen will come into play when the Giants are down and is passable as a low end flex.

Buccaneers @ Cardinals

• The Buccaneers begin their nightmare schedule against the Cardinals at home. Jameis Winston becomes a high end QB2 against this very tough defense. Mike Evans will be covered heavily by Patrick Peterson which will impact his floor and ceiling – Evans is still a good WR2 play on the basis of volume and talent. Vincent Jackson was targeted just as much as Evans, but did not look nearly as good – he is not even a flex play in this tough matchup. Despite the TD, Austin Seferian-Jenkins is in a muddled timeshare with fellow TEs Brandon Myers and Cameron Brate. I would have a hard time trusting any Buccaneer TE.
Doug Martin received the heavy workload we were all hoping for and that should continue in week 2. Roll him out as a nice RB2 this week. Charles Sims showed off his tackle breaking ability and safe flex floor last week, and that will continue in this game. Start him safely as a flex with upside for more if the Buccaneers go down hard early and need to pass.
Carson Palmer proved me wrong in Week 1 and turned in a solid QB1 performance in Week 1, and I expect it to continue against an easier opponent in Week 2. With this array of weapons, it is hard to deny Palmer will be good most of the season. Larry Fitzgerald laughs in the face of time and dominated against the Patriots last week, he will be a low end WR1 this week. Michael Floyd was the next WR up for the Cardinals, and makes for a rock solid WR3 play. John Brown played significantly last snaps than Fitzgerald and Floyd, and is a low end flex play at best. David Johnson is a beautiful unicorn of an every-down back and you’ve gotta start him as an RB1 every week.

Seahawks @ Rams

• The Rams usually keep these divisional games interesting but Russell Wilson is a QB1 regardless. Doug Baldwin is in play as a WR2 as the most targeted player on the team by far. Tyler Lockett was the next most targeted player in the passing game, but his role is still uncertain – he’s a risky WR3. Jermaine Kearse was the third passing option for Seattle and not one that I’m interested in for fantasy purposes. Jimmy Graham can still not be trusted coming off of his patellar tendon injury. Thomas Rawls started the second half of week 1 and became more involved. Pete Carroll said after the game that Rawls’ workload is clear to be increased. This spells the likely end of the Awakening of Christine Michael barring an injury to Rawls. Rawls will be an RB2 against the Rams and Michael would be a risky flex.
• I have never seen a scene as gruesome as the one I witnessed on Monday night. Case Keenum looked clueless, and the offense looked uninterested in winning as the Rams went for punt after punt after INT after punt after INT after punt. Some people think Todd Gurley will bounce back – I’m legitimately concerned about his chances of doing so. Gameflow is going to be a huge hindrance on his performance, and defenses will stack the box on him if Keenum continues to be under center. I’m not so sure Jared Goff or Sean Mannion would improve things over Keenum either. It is truly worrying and I would only feel safe starting Gurley as my RB3 against a much tougher Seahawks defense. There is no way you can consider starting any Rams passing option for the foreseeable future. May God have mercy on their souls.

Jaguars @ Chargers

Blake Bortles draws a nice matchup against the Chargers who just got lit up by Alex Smith – he’s a QB1 this week. Allen Robinson, as always, is an elite WR1 start, and you can expect good things in this matchup (EDIT: as noted by space_is_fun Robinson may be covered by CB Jason Verrett, which should negatively impact his floor and ceiling, but I still like him to produce WR2 numbers with upside). In a potential shootout Allen Hurns will be a solid WR3/Flex as a threat to enter the end zone. Monitor his injury situation, but if he suits up you can feel good about starting Julius Thomas as your TE1. Although inefficient in Week 1, TJ Yeldon gets one of the worst defenses against the run and should put up good RB2 fantasy numbers once again this week as long as Chris Ivory is held out as expected.
Philip Rivers is just not playing at his ceiling without Keenan Allen and I can’t endorse him as more than a low-end QB1 without him. However, other members of this offense will see their roles increase. Antonio Gates sees his already considerable redzone upside increase a bit, so fire him up as a TE1 with as good a chance as anyone to score a TD. Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams will see the biggest boost out of the receiving corps. Benjamin is the early favorite for a production increase but I believe Williams is the one you want to own in the end; he has the size and athletic ability to become special if things work out. Danny Woodhead should see 2015 levels of production once more; he was involved heavily in Week 1 even when the Chargers were up. Woodhead is a boom or bust RB2, much like in 2015. Woodhead nearly doubled Melvin Gordon’s snap count in week 1, which is concerning for Gordon’s outlook. If Gordon is not the primary back when the Chargers have a lead (not the case Week 1) it will be hard to trust him outside of an RB3/flex capacity.

Falcons @ Raiders

• Another game with shootout potential, I like Matt Ryan’s chances at QB1 numbers in this game throwing to a nice array of weapons. Julio Jones is an every-week WR1. Mohamed Sanu if active, looks worthy of low-end WR2, definite WR3/Flex consideration with his impressive 8 targets. Jacob Tamme received the kind of volume (8 targets) that makes for decent TE streamers in good matchups like this one. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are in the throes of a full blown RBBC, and who does better in any given week is anyone’s guess at this point; Coleman has the hot hand right now. Both are excellent flexes and low floor RB2s.
Derek Carr will benefit from yet another high scoring game to put up QB1 numbers. Amari Cooper should, like Mike Evans a week ago, put up WR1 numbers against the Falcons. Michael Crabtree is an underrated bet to put up solid WR2 numbers, even if followed by Trufant he will get the volume to overcome it. Latavius Murray will be a lock for RB2 production with volume on his side. Jalen Richard was a fluke on only 3 carries. Clive Walford is a fringe TE streaming option.

Colts @ Broncos

Andrew Luck and the Colts get a rough matchup on the road against the Broncos, who should be able to exploit the Colts’ porous offensive line and rough Luck up. I’d prefer to stream decent QBs with better matchups over him this week. That’s bad news for TY Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett in the passing game, though they still hold plenty of value as a WR2, high end flex and low end flex respectively. Dwayne Allen is still a TE1, as the Broncos are surprisingly generous to the tight end position from a fantasy perspective. Frank Gore should get swallowed up by the Denver defense behind that bad o-line, he is a risky RB3.
Trevor Siemian isn’t anybody you’d ever want to start but he can support fantasy viable receivers. Demaryius Thomas is currently questionable to play coming off of a hip injury, and I’d feel very risky starting him this week unless better news comes out closer to game time; with the news I have now I’d say sit him for better options if you can. Thomas’ loss is Emmanuel Sanders gain however, and he should rack up a ton of targets against the Colts this week for solid WR2 numbers. Virgil Green looks like a favorite of Siemian’s and although he had a mediocre week, he got the requisite targets for a streaming tight end (5) and was also targeted in the end zone. You could do worse for your streamer or fill in. CJ Anderson will continue rolling to RB1 numbers this week against the Colts who couldn’t even contain Ameer Abdullah last week.

Packers @ Vikings

• The Vikings are a tough defense, so expect a middling performance for Aaron Rodgers – although a middling performance from Aaron Rodgers is still a QB1. To give you an idea, he has averaged 17.225 Yahoo standard fantasy points in his last four games against Minnesota. With the offense fully healthy once again, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb should be locks to produce WR2 numbers. Davante Adams received just two fewer targets than Jordy Nelson last week, and only one fewer than Cobb. He failed to haul in more than half of them but made a catch where it counted in the end zone. He may have taken a step forward since last year and should be on the flex radar if he can keep it up. Eddie Lacy should have no problem racking up solid RB2 numbers week in and week out with the offense running smoothly again. Jared Cook and Richard Rodgers have knocked one another out of fantasy relevancy barring an injury or a breakout; don’t start ‘em til they prove it.
Shaun Hill is out, Sam Bradford is in. Hopefully it won’t affect Stefon Diggs who was on fire last week with his 9 targets – I believe he is talented enough t o warrant WR3 consideration each and every week. Kyle Rudolph rose from the dead Week 1, finishing as a decent starting TE. If you’re desperate at the position you could do a lot worse if he keeps up his target share. Adrian Peterson had a miserable Week 1, but should bounce back to post at least low end RB2 numbers this week. His lack of involvement in the passing game is concerning, and time may be catching up with him. If that’s the case, there’s little fantasy owners have to hope for in terms of his efficiency improving – so let’s hope it was just a bad week because the defense didn’t respect Shaun Hill. I’ll be watching Jerick McKinnon to see if offseason hype about him holding standalone flex value on third down was legitimate or just smoke.

Eagles @ Bears

Carson Wentz looked pretty good against the Browns, and is worthy of streamer consideration against the Bears in Week 2. Zach Ertz will be out for some time with a rib injury, and that means Jordan Matthews will be locked into a heavy workload similar to the one he received in Week 1. Matthews is a high upside WR2 in this matchup – volume is king, and he’s talented. Ryan Mathews should have a slightly tougher time this week against the Bears as compared to the Browns; he's still an RB2 on volume however. Darren Sproles is a dual threat as a runner and pass catcher but he was relatively uninvolved last week in favor of Mathews, he’s a low end flex in my book. Nelson Agholor is too unproven with too small a target share for me to trust him in my lineup.
Jay Cutler is a mid to low end QB2 with only one viable weapon in the passing game. Alshon Jeffery should feast this week with Eagles’ top corner Leodis McKelvin likely out with a hamstring injury – he’s a solid low end WR1. Jeremy Langford operated as a true bellcow in week 1 and we should expect a good week of RB2 production since he’s going against the Eagles who allowed Isaiah Crowell to go for 5.17 YPC. Zach Miller and Kevin White struggled last week, which I don’t anticipate changing here; if anything it solidifies and justifies Alshon’s role as the one true playmaker in this offense.
Thanks for reading! As always feel free to leave your questions in the comments all week. I am a fantasy degenerate and am more than happy answering questions about it all the time.
If you enjoyed this consider checking out this thread about the Fantasy Collective, a fantasy team drafted and managed by the popular vote of redditors like yourself. We’re setting our lineup today so just pop in, vote for who you would start, and you’re done!
Best of luck to all in Week 2!
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The Green Bay Packers might lose star running back Aaron Jones to free agency after this season so they used a second-round pick on Boston College tailback AJ Dillon.Here are Dillon’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Packers’ over/under win total. The Vikings will have home field advantage and are favored by 3.5 points. They have gone 5-4-1 against the spread this season including 3-2 at home. The Packers have gone 4-5-1 against the spread including 1-3-1 at home. There is a storied rivalry between these teams who are both looking up at the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. If considering betting against the tight spread keep in mind that both teams have performed well ATS this season with Packers having a 9-5 record and the Vikings boasting a slightly lower 8-6 record. If betting ATS isn’t preferred, then the money line odds for the underdog Packers are listed at +185. Spread: Vikings by 3.5 Over/Under: 48 Money line: Packers +155.00; Vikings -185.19 Both teams entered the season expecting to contend for the division title. But at this point in the season, it looks like they are going to have their hands full just trying to secure a wild-card berth. The winner of Sunday’s rivalry game between the Vikings and Packers at Lambeau Field will have sole possession of first place in the NFC North Division. Unless of course they tie, which they did last year at Lambeau. Green Bay is a 3-point favorite on the NFL Odds at MyBookie. How to Bet Vikings vs Packers NFL Week 2 Odds Read More

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