AFC South Offseason Grades

Houston Texans (F)

What is going on? The last 2 seasons have not been great for fans of the Texans as well as Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt. Watson and Watt are trying to drag this team to success whilst Bill O’Brien is trying to drag it back to where it’s been since it was founded in 1999 … mediocrity. Trading one of the best WRs in the game for a 2nd round pick, a running back who’s best days are behind him (David Johnson) and is the same as a RB already on the roster (Duke Johnson) and moving a fourth round pick forward a year is ridiculous. Hopkins carried the Texans offense since he was drafted. He finally had a good QB in Watson and O’Brien trades him for peanuts. The Texans used future draft picks on getting Laremy Tunsil, the defence is aging and only the Chiefs and Ravens look to be top tier teams in the AFC every year. The Texans must be in win now mode so pay Hopkins, you have 2-3 years to win until those draft picks that were traded hurt you because no young talent emerges. But O’Brien seems to be half in win now, and half win for the future, that indecisiveness just leaves a team between 7 and 9 wins, that’s where the Texans will be. At least they still have Watson … for now. They also lost DJ Reader from the middle of that defence so expect running games to be powerful against them. Randall Cobb was bought in, but there is already Fuller, Stills and Coutee. The Texans needed a NO.1 receiver, not another NO.2 or NO.3. They got Cooks for that role, but they have to pay him quite a bit of money. Sadly, Cooks has a concussion history and I can’t see him playing past 2-3 seasons. I hope I’m wrong and at least that’s within the “win now” time zone. However, what does he add that Hopkins doesn’t?

The draft was good but doesn’t in any way make up for the trades and free agency. Blacklock was a nice pickup and can replace Reader, but it will take a season or two to get up to speed. Greenard gets to learn from JJ Watt so his potential can be reached. Coulter is a good 5th round pick with a high ceiling but will need a few seasons before contending for a starting role.

Indianapolis Colts (A)

Chris Ballard is a genius. Himself, John Lynch and Bill Belichick are in their own league compared with other GMs in the NFL. Losing Eric Ebron isn’t a massive loss with Jack Doyle still on the roster and Trey Burton is a great NO.2. Xavier Rhodes on a one-year $3 million deal is brilliant. He can lead a relatively inexperienced defensive back group in Indy. This helps them on the backend, whilst Darius Leonard and their effective first round pick (later) terrorize QBs and stop the run. Then there is the big one. A one year $25 million for QB Phillip Rivers. Rivers needed a change of scenery after a disappointing year for the Chargers. It seem his career has been filled with the Chargers letting him down (first it was Eli Manning, of course, for making Rivers a Charger). Now the Colts can get the old Phillip Rivers, the gunslinger who throws to his own team and can play at hall of fame level. The Colts have now been moved into the 3rd position in the AFC and I fully expect them to pressure the Chiefs and Ravens.

The draft just continued this great free agency. Their 1st round pick was traded for Deforest Buckner. He is worth the 13th overall pick and will help stop the run game. I can’t wait to see Derrick henry run inside against the Colts. Then they took Michael Pittman Jr with the 34th selection. A possession receiver with great ball skills, won’t drop anything. His weaknesses are in his ability to separate; luckily, the Colts have a guy called TY Hilton and he’s pretty good at getting separation. Hilton can train Pittman and the young receivers already there, Parris Campbell and Zach Pascal. Jonathan Taylor will be electric. With Mack and Hines already in the backfield, it seems as if one of those runners’ time in Indy is coming to an end, but Taylor is an upgrade. Julius Blackmon will use his skills from playing corner to become a top safety. Taking Jacob Eason is a great pick. He can learn from Rivers and potentially take over. Otherwise he can be flipped for picks later down the road. Undrafted free agent kicker Rodrigo Blankenship will be kicking come the season opener. Chris Ballard is turning these Colts into a Superbowl team despite last years retirement of Andrew Luck.

Jacksonville Jaguars (B-)

Trevor Lawrence may well be destined for the Jags. Free agency does show that there is still some chance of a good regular season. Joe Schobert is a great tackler who will control the middle of the field, but $53 million over 5 years seems a big commitment for a plyer who thrives being a second guy, rather than the star of the defence. However, the contract has an out after 2 years with only $7.2 million dead cap. He can help get this young (getting younger) team to commit to a level they can play at (that 2017-2018 year). Tyler Eifert is a great low risk high reward pickup on a 2-year $9.5 million deal. There are holes at DB but the Jags relied on the draft to fix that hole. However, for a team in disarray who will probably lose their top pass rusher, after losing Calais Campbell, if they wanted to be competitive for the playoffs, they needed a better free agency.

In the draft the Jags took CJ Henderson 8th overall. A top corner, Henderson can have a chance of replacing Ramsey, however, tackling is clearly an issue but he will surely be willing to turn that around or he won’t cut it in the NFL, he gets the benefit of the doubt because his coverage skills are so extraordinary. K’Lavion Chaisson was one of my favourite players in the draft. A great leader (wore 18 at LSU). A great pick at 20 who can help replace the expected loss of Ngakoue. Laviska Shenault will provide some juice to a WR but he is injury prone. Josiah Scott out of Michigan State could be a steal in the 4th round but other than that the draft was underwhelming.

Tennessee Titans (B+)

Whilst the Titans did retain Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, their draft was just replacing losses in free agency, this may put them back a year or two. They lost Jack Conklin, one of the better right tackles in the league who helped create holes for Derrick Henry all season long. He was a great signing for the Cleveland Browns. Vic Beasley on a one-year deal can only help improve a pass rush. It was a shame that they let Jurrell Casey leave via trade, especially for so little (a seventh-round pick). They had issues with their cap so just to retain Henry and Tannehill was a success, however, will Tannehill continue in this newfound form?

The draft was used to correct losses. First, they selected Isaiah Wilson. A massive right tackle from Georgia to replace Conklin. A mauler at 350 lbs, Derrick Henry will love him. However, he is not quick in a division with JJ Watt and rookie K’Lavon Chaisson who will likely both be able to beat Wilson around the edge. Fulton was a great pick for a scheme full of zonal coverage, mainly cover 2. This allows him to sit and wait and use his explosiveness to get INT’s instead of using explosiveness to make up for recovering when getting separated in man in college. He’ll essentially be replacing Logan Ryan. Evans was my favourite pick by the Titans. The perfect complement to Henry, Evans can change the temp of the game and instantly fill the void of Dion Lewis. Cole McDonald has a chance to compete for the backup spot now Marcus Mariota is in Las Vegas with the Raiders. The Titans are still the same team from last year and as such they will probably have the same result, a playoff push that falls just short.

NFC Record Projection Post Schedule Announcement

A small detour from the offseason grades due to the release of the schedule. There are talks that week’s 3 and 4 can be moved to the end of the season in the event of disruption continued. The record in brackets are an assessment of what a team would do with an “average” schedule – how good a team is. The record without brackets are the prediction now the schedule has been released after going through the schedule and predicting every single game of the upcoming season.


Dallas Cowboys 10-6 (10-6)

A balanced schedule for the Cowboys, unlikely to win more than 2 games in a row and the same for losses. Late in the season (Week 16), facing the Eagles at home, potentially for the division is helpful and can force the division to a tiebreaker after they split the series with the Eagles. Having the away game against the Vikings will come after a bye. That could be enough to get an extra win on the board.

New York Giants 1-15 (5-11)

The Giants are unlucky. They get their win at home to the Redskins week 6. They get tougher teams at home, which leads to home losses (49ers week 3 and Bucs week 8) and easier teams away which leads to away losses (Bears week 1 and Bengals week 12). Not a great start for first year coach Joe Judge but he should (and will) be given time.

Philadelphia Eagles 10-6 (10-6)

The Eagles need to recover from last years injuries and take advantage of an early schedule as the last third is tough. From week 11 onwards, they face the Browns (A), Seahawks, Packers (A), Saints, Cardinals (A) and Cowboys (A). The only respite is the week 17 home game against Washington. That week 16 game against the Cowboys (in Dallas) is going to be decisive in the playoff chase/seeding.

Washington Redskins 4-12 (6-10)

With the best D-line in football, the Redskins will be aiming to suffocate teams. This may push them to a surprise win week 4 against the Ravens who could be coming off an emotional win against the Chiefs the week before. The Redskins can then take advantage of a lax midseason schedule in the Giants, Lions and Bengals (NO.1 vs NO.2 pick). After that, the schedule toughens up with the 49ers and Seahawks week’s 14 and 15.


Chicago Bears 4-12 (5-11)

A big regression for the Bears. Their QB situation is dire, Trubisky is not the answer and Foles is seemingly only good in the playoffs. Their WRs have promise with Miller and Ridley but a WR is only as good as his QB (unless you’re De’Andre Hopkins). Their defence will be great again but will not put up enough points against divisional opponents (Packers, Lions and Vikings) and NFC South opponents (Bucs, Saints, Falcons and Panthers). Nagy will be out or on the hotseat unless one of the QBs takes a giant step forward. At least they have 10TEs.

Detroit Lions 2-14 (4-12)

A good draft for Detroit, but it will take more players to build a great team. The run game is going to be awesome but playing the Packers, Cardinals and Saints (Weeks 2-4) will need to put up more points. However, the Packers could get run over by the power line of the Lions with Swift and Johnson (underrated) running behind it. Ending on two home games may seem a blessing, but the opposition are the Bucs and then the Vikings, long year for Detroit but in terms of personnel, a move in the right direction.

Green Bay Packers 9-7 (8-8)

The QB reality show will be tested with a trip to Minnesota week 1. Both matchups with the Vikings could decide the division. After a bye in week 5, a run of Bucs (A), Texans (A), Vikings and 49ers (A) will dent the record but an ease in last portion or the season allows the Packers to return above 500.

Minnesota Vikings 10-6 (10-6)

If Cousins can win the big games, then the Vikings can become proper competition in the playoffs. A difficult start to the season includes Colts (A) week 2 and Seahawks (A) week 5. But after getting a few wins, they can improve their record after their bye with the Lions, Bears and Jaguars coming up quickly. However, week 16 they must travel to New Orleans were the Saints will want revenge for last year’s playoffs.


Atlanta Falcons 4-12 (6-10)

The Falcons are another team that will suffer from being the weakest in a strong division. They can’t rival the Saints or Bucs and the Panthers are stronger than some consider. A finish of Bucs, Chiefs (A) and Bucs (A) will not help their record. This may be the year that Dan Quinn is shown the door, sadly it will be more down to a strong division than a reflection of the Falcons themselves.

Carolina Panthers 6-10 (8-8)

The Panthers could see themselves at 4-2 after 6 games due to opponents of Raiders, Chargers (A), Falcons (A) and Bears in the first 6 weeks. However, the Saints (A), Chiefs (A), Bucs and Vikings (A) over the next 6 games will hurt the schedule. A late bye week can refuel them for the final 4 games of the season and perhaps a push for that new 7th seed.

New Orleans Saints 13-3 (12-4)

Opening week 1 against the Bucs will be must-watch TV. Due to them being the hosts, I believe Brees gets one over Brady to start the season and the Saints end up the last unbeaten team until week 9 (8th game) they travel to Tampa Bay and Brady gets his revenge. From there, the Saints face stiff competition 49ers week 10 and Chiefs week 15 and the Saints will need to win them and other big games to rival the Bucs in the division.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-2 (12-4)

The Bucs can take advantage of a lower finish in the standings last year and pull ahead of the Saints. They may lose week 1 but then can win until travelling to Minnesota week 14 following their bye. Due to the easier schedule, the Bucs can take the division and potentially the NO.1 seed in the NFC. This schedule seems to be a little present to Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.


Arizona Cardinals 12-4 (9-7)

A great schedule for the Cardinals (due to last years 5-10-1 record) which shows the 49ers and Seahawks providing them with a loss (Weeks 1, 7 and 11). The Cardinals can gain a win from the 49ers when hosting them week 16. A weak out-of-division schedule includes the Tom Brady-less AFC East and top-heavy NFC East. After a terrific offseason, everything is falling in place for a great year for the Cardinals.

Los Angeles Rams 3-13 (7-9)

This record is mainly because of a possible 0-6 record in division. After putting all eggs into the 2018-19 season and coming up short by a game, they now are an average team in a brilliant division. Games against the Giants, Redskins, Bears, Dolphins and Jets are possible wins, but the Rams are now paying for their previous roster moves. Cam Aikers may provide a spark to outdo the predicted record.

San Francisco 49ers 13-3 (11-5)

The 49ers are still a good team, I do not trust Garoppolo but the talent around him (the talent of GM John Lynch mainly) will help return the 49ers to the playoffs. They may lose week 8 when travelling to the Seahawks and week 10 against the Saints. But after being rejuvenated from the bye week, they rush their way to wins till the Cardinals topple them week 16. The division then comes down to the week 17 game, just like last year, against the Seahawks.

Seattle Seahawks 13-3 (12-4)

Russell Wilson proves he is a top QB yet again this season. A nice opening 4 games to the season Falcons (A), Patriots, Cowboys, Dolphins (A) help the Seahawks have a fast start. Following that, a 3-game stretch of Vikings, Cardinals (A), 49ers may cause issues but a bye in the middle will help them navigate through. Week 17 could decide the division, hopefully the refs won’t screw them in the 4th quarter again.

AFC Record Projection Post Schedule Announcement

A small detour from the offseason grades due to the release of the schedule. There are talks that week’s 3 and 4 can be moved to the end of the season in the event of disruption continued. The record in brackets are an assessment of what a team would do with an “average” schedule – how good a team is. The record without brackets are the prediction now the schedule has been released after going through the schedule and predicting every single game of the upcoming season.


Buffalo Bills 8-8 (10-6)

The Bills, like the rest of the AFC East, have a tough schedule. The few weeks that will really strain the Bills are 9-10 and 13-16. Here they face the Seahawks and Cardinals before embarking on a 4-game test of 49ers, Steelers, Broncos and Patriots with only Pittsburgh played at home in Orchard Park.

Miami Dolphins 3-13 (5-11)

The AFC East is the only division where all 4 teams are under win totals before seeing the schedule. This might help Miami in the long run as they move further up the draft board (Ja’Marr Chase, a second-year gift for Tua?). Not even Fitzpatrick can save the Dolphins this year, but the future is very bright.

New England Patriots 8-8 (9-7)

Regression for the Patriots but not to the extent some expect. At the week 12 point, 3-8 is a possible outlook. After the everyone calls Brady the system and dams Belichick as an average coach, the schedule lightens. They do face a 3-game road trip at that point but it starts with both LA teams so the effect isn’t as bad as it could be. The Pats and Bills will rely on strength of schedule to get into the playoffs as they split the series with the home team winning both meetings.

New York Jets 5-11 (8-8)

The Jets had a great draft and free agency but it will take at least another year (especially under the current circumstances which will decrease training times through the summer) to really come together as a unit. This mixed with a tough schedule which includes being matched against both “West” divisions which are the best in the league. Plus ending against the Browns and then in Foxborough means they’ll have to rack up wins early.


Baltimore Ravens 13-3 (12-4)

Baltimore’s first big test is week 3, hosting the Chiefs on Monday night. That can be a big win for the Ravens but they will have to be careful when visiting the best D-Line in football the next week against Washington. I have the Ravens as the 2 seed in the AFC but they can get that one seed with consistency and Jackson continuing his MVP calibre play. At least the end of the season is kind with the Jaguars, Giants and finally the Bengals.

Cincinnati Bengals 3-13 (3-13)

Burrow opens at home against the weak Chargers, but he will face a tough defence featuring Joey Bosa, Derwin James and 1st round pick Kenneth Murray. His first win can come at home against the Jaguars in week 4. The issue for the bengals is they have a young QB in a division full of great defences. The NO.1 overall pick is getting thrown straight into the deep end.

Cleveland Browns 12-4 (10-6)

With a tough opening game in Baltimore, the Brown can gain confidence with the Bengals and Redskins the next weeks followed by a winnable game in Dallas. A nice midseason bye (week 9) and playing both New York teams in the last 3 weeks contribute to a season the fans of Cleveland have long deserved, and this team it’s a football team in the NFL, not a madden team like the last few years.

Pittsburgh Steelers 7-9 (7-9)

The Steelers have a slightly worse record than last year despite getting Big Ben back due to the Browns improving and being matched with a surprisingly strong AFC South (if you remove the Jaguars). The Steelers are one of the most unknown teams, Big Ben is an unknown quantity when returning, the defence is going to be great, but can it stop Jackson or the Browns, or can it stop the AFC South of Rivers, Watson and Derrick Henry? Steelers are a complete wild card.

AFC South

Houston Texans 9-7 (9-7)

The Texans aren’t as good this year and will not be as good for a while. However, they still have Deshawn Watson and JJ Watt (for at least a few games … hopefully). After a tough start, including the Chiefs in the season opener followed by the Ravens, Steelers and Vikings, they can steal a game from the Titans and improve through the latter part of the season due to a lighter schedule from the mid-point.

Indianapolis Colts 13-3 (11-5)

Over the first 7 games of the season (8 weeks), the Colts will only have tough tests against the Vikings and Browns. This allows Phillip Rivers to settle in, Rivers will improve massively in Indy as a change of scenery is exactly what he needed. If the division comes down to the wire, a week 17 matchup against the Jags is favourable as the Texans and Titans can take each other out.

Jacksonville Jaguars 1-15 (2-14)

The ultimate rebuild will start (again) in Jacksonville. Their sole win could be week 6 hosting the Lions. Other winnable games include week 3 and 4 (Dolphins and Bengals respectively) and week 8 against the Chargers. Overwise, it’s a very long year down in Duvall.

Tennessee Titans 11-5 (9-7)

The Titans will have a slowish start to the season and might enter the final quarter of the season at 7-5. However, teams will start wearing out and Derrick Henry will only get stronger, especially facing 4 teams that are week or can’t stop the run well in the Jags, Lions, Packers and Texans. The Titans can make another late run and be that team in the playoffs that nobody wants to play – just like last season.


Denver Broncos 11-5 (10-6)

I’m well and truly supporting the Broncos to outdo expectations this year. That front seven with the draft they had to give Drew Lock weapons (and protection) will propel them into the playoffs. The Broncos are helped by being better than the Chargers and Raiders, giving them 4 in division wins. Plus, they can steal a win in Mile High off the Chiefs week 7. However, they are still second best behind the Chiefs.

Kansas City Chiefs 14-2 (13-3)

The best team in the AFC may be the best in the NFL. After losing to the Ravens (week 3) and Broncos (week 7) away from home, the Chiefs win all other games, including close games against the Bucs (week 12) and Saints (week 15). However, they could easily swing the other way which may cost the Chiefs the top seed in the AFC as the Ravens may have the tie breaker.

Las Vegas Raiders 5-11 (5-11)

The Raiders have an issue of being in a division with Broncos and Chiefs and having to face the NFC South, a top division. They can get a few wins against AFC East opponents, Jets (Week 13) and Dolphins (Week 16) as well as both Charger games. The Raiders won’t be easy opponents but will often come up short in the big games.

Los Angeles Chargers 3-11 (5-11)

A team that sits at the bottom of its division, they will be waiting for Herbert to grow into a franchise QB. Tyrod Taylor is a good QB but the schedule is harsh. After meeting (and probably winning) opening week against the Bengals, they face the Chiefs, Panthers, Bucs and Saints in weeks 2-5. This sets the tone for the season which ends against the Broncos and then the Chiefs. A tough year for the Chargers.

AFC North Offseason Grades

Baltimore Ravens (B-)

This grade was an average of their free agency (D) and their draft (A). To be fair, they couldn’t do much in free agency as they are going to have to pay Lamar Jackson and most probably Orlando Brown Jr and Mark Andrews. This led to losing Michael Pierce to the Vikings. This leaves a hole in the middle of the defence. They somewhat solved it through getting Calais Campbell from the Jaguars. A veteran who still has a lot left in the tank will help pressure opposing QBs along with the franchise tagged Matt Judon. Any other signings were depth pieces such as Dereck Wolfe from the Broncos or depth resigns within the team such as Anthony Levine.

Due to the lack of action in free agency, the Ravens had to have a good draft to keep at the top of the AFC with the Chiefs and did they ever! Patrick Queen will help sure up the LB core, they lost Onwuasor and Josh Byrne. They then collected JK Dobbins in the 2nd, a powerful runner who will relieve some pressure off Ingram and will take over from him once his contract ends. Justin Madubuike will try to help replace Pierce and collecting Duvernay will add more youth to a WR group already consisting of “Hollywood” Brown and Myles Boykin. Therefore, one can leave if the Ravens are still up against the cap in a few years. Phillips and Bedson can fight to replace Marshall Yanda at guard and James Proche is an under-the-radar receiver from SMU who can immediately play in the slot for the Ravens. A great draft that has the future in mind whilst creating depth to push the Ravens to a Superbowl rather than just the playoffs. Now they just need Jackson to continue being Jackson.

Cincinnati Bengals (B+)

The Bengals lost Andrew Billings in free agency but immediately upgraded at the position with the signing of DJ Reader who will line up alongside Atkins, Lawson, Hubbard and Dunlap (as well as rookie Khalid Kareem). Each bring a different skillset along the D-line. Power from Atkins and Reader with speed from Hubbard and Lawson on the outside. I can see Dunlap getting traded or cut with low dead cap amount, but his experience could help him stay on the roster to help the young guns in Lawson, Hubbard and Kareem. Waynes was a nice pick up at nickel from the Vikings, but he won’t set the world on fire. Vonn Bell was the best pick up of the free agency, a cheap 3-year deal ($18 million). An underrated box safety will allow Jessie Bates to focus on interception rather than tackles. However, they didn’t upgrade their biggest weakness, O-Line. That could hurt their new franchise QB. This is furthered by the future at the WR position. Green will probably leave after this year and Ross is essentially a bust (they didn’t pick up his 5th year option either). This leaves Tyler Boyd and 33rd overall pick Tee Higgins. This means that over the next free agency periods, the Bengals will need to address interior O-Line and WR.

However, they now have their franchise QB in Joe Burrow. Ever since the Florida game, I had Burrow as the number 2 QB and with his playoff performance and Tua’s latest injury, I had Burrow as NO.1. Therefore, I love this pick and the Bengals have a QB for the next 15 years. Tee Higgins will be crucial for Burrows future; he has a year before he needs to be a reliable target for Burrow. Logan Wilson, their third-round pick, is a tackling machine. He’ll be starting in very little time. The rest of their draft was a little average, they didn’t pick up a falling big name, but they got a starting LB, a potential NO.1 WR and their franchise QB. If Burrow hits, the rest of this draft is a bonus.

Cleveland Browns (A)

Change is happening in Cleveland; competence has been bought into this long-suffering organization. Karl Joseph didn’t fit in Oakland (now Las Vegas) but he showed promise early in his career. A one-year prove it deal worth $2.5 million is a smart move to potentially salvage Joseph’s career who’s lack of coverage skills can be made up for by Delpit, the 2nd round rookie. Adrian Clayborn (also on a one-year deal) will help with depth on the D-Line and potentially start in place of Garrett depending on anymore suspension fallout. Their big signings were Austin Hooper, one on the best young tight ends in the NFL and forms a devastating 2 TE set with David Njoku (who will probably proceed to free agency in 2 seasons). This will help Mayfield settle in the pocket, something he rarely did last year. Add this was added to by signing Jack Conklin at right tackle. This shores up a very weak O-line and will also create more room for Nick Chubb to run. Every signing will help the team or is a low risk, high reward signing. They improved defence and offense. Very good free agency for Andrew Berry and Kevin Stefanski.

Then there was the draft. Instead of taking controversial QBs or exciting (but relatively unimportant skill positions) they took a high floor and ceiling, unexciting pick with the OT from Alabama, Jedrick Wills. The best OT in the draft will move to left tackle and create a safe pocket with free agent addition Conklin for Mayfield. They then got physical freak Grant Delpit at free safety. Great in coverage, he was a projected top 5 pick before the season, but his pursuit angles when tackling let him down (might have been down to injury though). Jordan Elliot will be a ready replacement for Ogunjobi if the DT goes to free agency soon. Same is said for Harrison Bryant potential replacing Njoku at TE. Nick Harris adds good depth at centre, but the best value pick was in the sixth with Donovan Peoples-Jones (DPJ). Held back by QB play at Michigan, DPJ gets to learn from OBJ and Landry and can break out at NFL level. The Browns improved their Offense and defence and went for picks that will help, rather than be flashy. This franchise is finally on track to get back to the Jim Brown days. The people of Cleveland deserve it.

Pittsburgh Steelers (C-)

It seems that the Steelers are going to be relying on Big Ben staying healthy and that same defence returning from last year (54 sacks and 20 INTs!). They lost Javon Hargrave who accounted for 4 of those sacks and helped mainly in the run defence. Past Hargrave, they only really lost depth and were able to bring in replacements. Their only big(ish) signing was Eric Ebron. An inconsistent tight end for the Lions and Colts, Tomlin could help make him a true star. However, I don’t have confidence on Ebron becoming a consistent threat, but a 2-year $12 million contract isn’t a bad idea for the Steelers.

The draft was a disappointment but the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick saves the grade for the Steelers. With him as the equivalent 1st round pick, the rest of the draft seemed underwhelming. Chase Claypool is another WR for the Steelers to turn into a star but there were other needs that should have been addressed first with a corner and/or an interior lineman to pair with Cameron Heyward. McFarland Jr was a nice pickup to push and perhaps replace James Connor. Antoine Brooks Jr a nice pickup, a physical safety who will support (and hopefully replace) Edmunds at strong safety. However, their draft didn’t have a pick that really looked like a steal. The Steelers are on borrowed time with Big Ben, their defence may well be amazing, returning to the Steel Curtain days but they can’t do it all themselves. The Steelers had an underwhelming offseason, Tomlin will need another personel best year of coaching.

AFC East Offseason Grades

Buffalo Bills (B-)

The Bills used free agency as a period to acquire depth to their squad. After pushing the Patriots last year, they now look to fully take over the Tom Brady-less AFC East and are the best positioned to do so. They resigned their starting O-lineman that were leaving, allowing all 5 to return this year. This will help Josh Allen as the continuity will help him turn into a franchise QB. They added experience to the defence with Mario Addison and the reliable AJ Klein, but they did not sign a splash. Daryl Williams on a one-year deal was a good signing as he hasn’t been the same since his knee injury but if he returns to form; the Bills can resign him and he’ll hold the right tackle spot (or guard) for years to come. However, no signing will help raise the ceiling of the team, just raise the flaw.

However, they used their first-round pick on Stephon Diggs. This was a splash and finally gives Josh Allen an outside threat of which he can release his huge arm. Diggs can open the downfield pass game and will demand a covering safety. This can allow more room for Beasley to work out the slot and open the run game for impressive second year back Devin Singletary and rookie Zach Moss. Epenesa will be able to learn from Hughes and Addison on the D-Line this year but that was the only big add to the defence. The drafted their Josh Allen insurance in Jake Fromm (and stopped other QB needy teams from acquiring him) and finally drafted a receiver over 6ft 2in (Isaiah Hodgins 6ft 4in) to give height for Allen. The Bills are resting on Diggs making a large impact and whilst the defence did not need to be improved much, it still lacks a star in the front seven and only Tre-Davious White striking fear into opposing offenses. Even though they didn’t take full advantage of the off-season, they have one of the best coaching setups in the league, a playoff spot is waiting, and the Bills lead the charge behind the Chiefs, Ravens and Titans.

Miami Dolphins (B+)

Defence, defence, defence. This seems to be how the Dolphins went through free agency. They took some Patriots with Elandon Roberts and the monster contract (for his years of production) given to Kyle Van Noy (4yrs, $51million) but if there is a team outside of New England to keep him at this top level, it’s Miami as the former Patriots defensive coordinator, Brian Flores, is running the ship in Florida. Flores is the best decision that Dolphins have made since Dan Marino and will build this team all the way up. They picked up undervalued running back Jordan Howard to be their lead back, but their main acquisitions were in the secondary. Signing Byron Jones to be the highest paid CB ($82million 5yrs) to pair with Xavion Howard to create a lock down secondary. Jones is Flores’ Gilmore and with the signing of Ogbah to improve the pass rush, there will be many INTs down in Miami.

Whilst the Dolphins free agency was impressive, their draft was not as much for what it could have been (albeit still good). Tua will be a beast if he stays healthy but his availability will be in question, but the Dolphins didn’t want to miss … again (Dree Brees). Austin Jackson will take time to develop, he doesn’t have to start right away (probably will) and Robert Hunt adds depth with upside at interior O-Line. Igbinoghene will instantly place at nickel corner. These picks may seem good but there was value on the board. Josh Jones would have been available in the second which would have allowed for the Dolphins to get a great pass rusher (K’Lavon Chaisson) at 18, or line-backer (Kenneth Murray or Patrick Queen) to pair with Van Noy or even get a WR. They still do not have a true WR1 in the system and with a deep class, I would have liked to have seen a WR taken (Aiyuk, Hamler or Mims) or a safety such as McKinney, but they did get Brandon Jones in the 3rd who has been talked up by people I trust. A very good offseason for the Dolphins which propels them out of the basement, but I feel it could have been so much more, at least they have next year and Brian Flores.

New England Patriots (D)

It should really be an F due to the losses, but they made a few good moves which deserve recognition and the losses were mostly out of their control (hence the raise to a D). Brady has gone and it is the end of an era, but Belichick is still the coach (and GM) and so there is still hope in New England. They also lost on defence with Van Noy and Collins leaving for richer pastures. However, they retained the McCourty twins and Mathew Slater who will all keep motivation going for the Patriots. The loss of Dorsett will not be much of an issue and the pickup of the speedy Damien Byrd might even be an upgrade. Adrian Phillips was a gem of a free agent signing and will replace Duron Harmon. Beau Allen may beef up the interior of the D-Line but overall (just like usual), there was no big splash from New England in a year that probably needed one.

Most people were critical of New England not getting a QB, but why would they? Stidham lit up preseason and has reportedly improved more. They were not going to get Burrow or Tua so they would have got a 2nd to 3rd tier QB. But they already have one in Stidham who has had a year in the offense, a rookie might not get more than a month. Therefore, Stidham was always going to be the best non-veteran QB for the Pats, and why would they get a veteran with another strong QB class next year? To add to this, the only teams that might need a QB will be the Jags, Steelers and maybe Colts. Therefore, even if Lawrence isn’t available, Fields or another ascending QB (like Burrow this year) will be or maybe Stidham is the next Brady? Instead, they were able to acquire draft capital. They got Kyle Dugger who learns from the most experienced safety due in the league (Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung), and Josh Uche, a raw pass rusher with so much untapped talent who fits Belichick’s versatile defence. They also got a pair of TEs of which Dalton Keene is reported to have very little fear on the field (a bit like Edelman) so that pick has upside. However, the rest of the draft was a bit underwhelming as they searched for a potential Joe Thuney replacement (I doubt he’ll get resigned). A kicker in the 5th made this a proper Bill Belichick draft The Pats won’t compete for a Superbowl for the first time in 20 years, but if they find a QB, Belichick is creating a roster which will compete for one again.

New York Jets (A-)

Joe Douglas hit a home run in the draft and this success was proceeded by a decent free agency period. They bought in Connor McGovern to a 3 year $27 million deal ($18 million guaranteed) to hold down the centre position and George Fant to who will serve as at right tackle if it takes first round pick Mekhi Becton time to get up to speed. These upgrades were needed, whilst Darnold was only sacked 33 times last year, there was no holes for Le’Veon Bell to run through. With Robby Anderson gone, the Jets had to address wide receiver. They were able to replace Anderson’s speed with Breshad Perriman, a decent No.3 option in any offense. The Jests have helped Darnold out for his third year. They were also able to resign nickel corner Brian Poole and add a Colts starter last year (Pierre Desire) to the outside on a one-year deal. This secondary needed improvement so resigning the one working piece and improving elsewhere is a success.

However, it was the draft that the Jets crushed. Taking Becton in the first round was a surprise given the franchises history of misses. However, it seems a turn around is happening with recent picks Adams, Williams and Darnold looking to be hits. However, addressing O-line left the wide receiver as a need and Denzel Mims started to drop along with KJ Hamler. Hamler went to the Broncos two picks before the Jets so it seemed they would take Mims. Instead they traded back for a 4th round pick and the prospect of Mims seemed to disappear. But Mims kept dropping and now the Jets have a 6ft 3in speed demon to lead their WR group with Crowder in the slot and Perriman on the opposite side. When the season roles around the Jets have an intriguing offense, especially once drafting Perine as a change of pace from the Bell. They also improved on defence by adding Zuniga who will be Robin to Quinnen Williams’ Batman and Bryce Hall, who if healthy, will perform way above his round 5 draft grade. The Jets have improved mightily from last year, if Darnold continues to improve then a playoff spot is likely due to the AFC’s weak second tier of teams.

2020 Round 1 Grades

1.Bengals – Joe Burrow (QB-LSU) A+

The Bengals did the right thing. They rejected trade options from the Dolphins and have found their franchise QB.

2.Redskins – Chase Young (DE-Ohio State) A+

Another top pick. The Redskins got the best player in the draft and now have the best D-Line in the league. The Broncos won the Superbowl based solely on their defence, the Redskins will not reach those hights, but playoffs are possible.

3.Lions – Jeff Okudah (CB-Ohio State) A

The early part of the draft was full of good safe picks. A replacement for Darius Slay will help, but the defence can’t be solved by one player.

4.Giants – Andrew Thomas (OT-Georgia) B

The safest pick at tackle in the draft. He will be a solid starter for a long time, but he will not be as dominant on swings and pulls as Wirfs or Becton, or as technically sound as Wills. Still a good pick, and with this year’s circumstance, safe is probably the way to go.

5.Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa (QB-Alabama) C+

If healthy, Tua would be the top pick (at least top 3). However, I would not take a chance on an injury prone QB. Tua may be electric for a few games a season or for a few years but there is a feeling that his career will sadly be derailed by injury, I would not have taken the chance and waited for next year.

6.Chargers – Justin Herbert (QB-Oregon) C

Not a fan of Herbert, he is usually late on his throws leading to incompletions or hits on WRs which could have been avoided. I hope he proves this evaluation wrong.

7.Panthers – Derrick Brown (DT-Auburn) B+

Brown will be recking interior O-Lineman for years to come. A DT to collapse the pocket in a division with Drew Brees and Tom Brady is a good idea. However, I would have liked Isaiah Simmons better for the Panthers, hence a B+.

8.Cardinals – Isaiah Simmons (LB-Clemson) A

This front seven is going to be great. Chandler Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and now Simmons. This pick helps solidify a defence which needed to improve to help the offense.

9.Jaguars – CJ Henderson (CB-Florida) B

The second CB in the draft finds a home trying to replace Ramsey or Bouye. There is a lot of pressure on Henderson to come in and be a star instantly with the Jags losses, but with the Jags rebuilding, the organization probably does not mind if he does not become a star immediately.

10.Browns – Jedrick Wills (OT-Alabama) A-

A technically sound tackle who can play opposite Jack Conklin. He will be facing talented pass rushers in the AFC North (TJ Watt, Carl Lawson) and the Browns need him to keep Mayfield upright. I think he was the best option for them left on the board.

11.Jets – Mekhi Becton (OT-Louisville) B+

Le’Veon Bell and Sam Darnold will love this pick, very much like the Brown pick of Wills, he was probably the best option for them (better than taking a WR). The only issue is some worry with the health of his knees, but he should be a solid starter for years to come.

12.Raiders – Henry Ruggs III (WR-Alabama) B+

Again, another solid pick. People seemed surprised the Raiders took Ruggs, but the Raiders love taking speedy guys and Gruden has always loved an outside burner. This pick was meant to be, I just don’t think he is the best WR in the draft.

13.Buccaneers (from SF) – Triston Wirfs (OT-Iowa) A

A bit of a fall for Wirfs has him end up in Tampa, he will be protecting Brady, who needed help in the draft to keep upright on gameday. Wirfs is an athletic tackle who can swing out for screens and to help the outside run game. All help take pressure off of Brady and help the run game. Good pick.

14.49ers (from TB) – Javon Kinlaw (DT-South Carolina) B

Kinlaw is a direct replacement for Deforest Buckner who they used to acquire the 13th pick (now this pick). Quick hands will allow him to dominate O-Lineman, however, with Jerry Jeudy still on the board, will they regret taking Kinlaw here.

15.Broncos – Jerry Jeudy (WR-Alabama) A+

The second to last A+ grade of the first round, Jeudy was the best WR in the draft. A position of need for Broncos was WR, especially in the slot to complement Courtland Sutton on the outside. There was rumours they might trade up for a WR, instead they got the best one in the draft without trading.

    16.Falcons – AJ Terrell (CB-Clemson) C+

A good, long, lanky corner for the Falcons who needed all the help on defence they could get. Just have issue with the option of Chaisson or Murray here but if Terrell becomes a NO.1 corner then it was a good pick, but he isn’t the same level as Okudah or Henderson.

17.Cowboys – Ceedee Lamb (WR-Oklahoma) B+

I like Lamb a lot, and with Zeke, Cooper and Gallup already occupying the offense, the Cowboys will be a nightmare on offense, however, defence is where they seemed to need help. With Chaisson and Murray available, they maybe should have gone there.

18.Dolphins (from PIT) – Auston Jackson (OT-USC) B

Has a high upside, and the Dolphins need serious help on the O-Line, especially once Tua starts with his injury history. The issue is that Jackson did not play as well last year as people would have hoped. He did have a good reason (donating bone marrow to his sister) but it means he’s a project, projects never have a guaranteed success and the Dolphins could have taken a surer prospect later.

19.Raiders (from CHI) – Damon Arnette (CB-Ohio State) D+

Arnette was not seen as a first-round talent. Instead a day 2 guy. I cannot believe that the Raiders could not find a trade partner for this pick. Move back and get the guy a bit later and collect picks. Instead they reached for him, they better hope he turns out to be a quality corner.

20.Jaguars (from LAR) – K’lavon Chaisson (LB-LSU) A-

Good pick for the Jags. A very good pass rusher who the Cowboys somewhat unexpectedly passed on. He can bring versatility to the rebuilding Jags defence.

21.Eagles – Jaleon Reagor (WR-TCU) C

With Justin Jefferson still on the board, the Eagles went for speed with Reagor. A small receiver who apparently “fits Wentz’ skill set better” according to the Eagles. Better hope he does as the Vikings moved swiftly in behind and Eagles fans will always compare Reagor to Jefferson.

22.Vikings (from BUF) – Justin Jefferson (WR-LSU) A

They needed a WR to replace Stephon Diggs and they did just that. Jefferson will fit right into the offense. Keeping the passing game strong will help Dalvin Cook run teams into submission. A great pick.

23.Chargers (from NE) – Kenneth Murray (LB-Oklahoma) A+

The last A+ pick of the draft. Murray will bring so much talent on the pitch and value off of it. A great player who now is on a defence with Derwin James and Joey Bosa. A great pick, it did take an early 2 and 3 to get him but it is probably worth it.

24.Saints – Cesar Ruiz (C/G-Michigan) B+

A smart pick from Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. He could bump Eric McCoy to guard or take up that post himself. Protecting Drew Brees in his last season (or two) is paramount for the Saints success.

25.49ers (from MIN) – Brandon Aiyuk (WR-Arizona State) B

Good wide receiver with a massive wingspan for his 6ft frame. I like the pick but moving up to grab a second tier WR when many are still left on the board (even going into day 2) seems a bit much. But another weapon for Jimmy G will always help.

26.Packers (from MIA) – Jordan Love (QB-Utah State) D

Get Rodgers some weapons outside of Davante Adams. Don’t pick an inconsistent QB which will create distractions (through no fault of his own, it’s the media) for the entire season. Rodgers does not want to answer questions all year about his successor … in 4 years time. They did this with Farve and Rodgers but that was a different time and Farve was much more into retirement talk. Not a good pick and it’s not Love’s fault.

27.Seahawks – Jordyn Brooks (LB-Texas Tech) C-

They reportedly trade to do their yearly trade down but could not find a partner this time. So, they did their yearly alternative of selecting a guy that was supposed to be a mid-second. The Seahawks need to rebuild their defence and Brooks may be the centrepiece, but I feel there were better options (Patrick Queen).

28.Ravens – Patrick Queen (LB-LSU) B+

Not many holes on the Ravens roster so a best player available pick who plays a position which isn’t a strength is as good as it can get for the Ravens. Good solid pick.

29.Titans – Isaiah Wilson (OT-Georgia) B-

The Titans needed a tackle with the loss of Conklin in free agency, so they went with Wilson. A big 6ft 7in frame will help him dominate edge rushers and open lanes for the bowling ball Derrick Henry. Other tackles (such as Josh Jones) were available. Hopefully, the Titans made the best choice.

30.Dolphins (from GB) – Noah Igbinoghene (CB-Auburn) B-

A good corner for the Dolphins to add to Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. This creates a monster secondary and if McKinney is still available at 39, I fully expect the Dolphins to pull the trigger and see Flores follow his former boss Belichick and build from the backend. However, would Gladney or Diggs have been a better option?

31.Vikings (from SF) – Jeff Gladney (CB-TCU) A-

I loved Gladney at corner. I had him as the 3rd ranked corner of this class. A smaller but tough corner from TCU who they can pair with Mike Hughes (if he improves) to create a good CB tandem. Gladney did have to recover from a torn ACL and LCL in 2015 so there is naturally a possible injury worry but he has gone without a serious injury since,

32.Chiefs – Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB-LSU) A The rich get richer in Kansas. I love Edwards-Helaire, RBs will need to continue to be duel threat and he is exactly that. He might not have top end speed but instead has quickness and burst. He dominated for LSU last year and he just adds another weapon for the Chiefs.

2020 Round 1 Mock

1: Bengals – Joe Burrow (QB-LSU)

The LSU product is the best QB in the draft and the Bengals are looking for a QB, not even they can mess this one up.

2: Redskins – Chase Young (DE-Ohio State)

The best player in the draft. Ron Rivera will be looking forward to a D-Line of Allen, Payne, Ioannidis and now Young. It will be the best in the league and if Haskins improves, a playoff spot could be waiting.

3: Lions – Jeff Okudah (CB-Ohio State)

Lions want to trade down but I think they will not be able to find a trade partner. Derrick Brown is the alternative but Patricia is from the Belichick tree. He’s just seen his former boss create a dominant defense building from the secondary forward. Therefore he follows in his footsteps and selects Okudah.

4: Giants – Tristen Wirfs (OT-Iowa)

The first tackle of the board. The Giants need to protect Daniel Jones so tackle will be the position. There are reports of them loving Wirfs and very little about Wills. Thomas and Becton are prospects that Gettleman can see as a reach. Therefore, they go with the super-athletic Wirfs and hope they can correct his current flaws such as his over-setting.

5: Dolphins – Justin Herbert (QB-Oregon)

I am not a fan of Herbert, I think he is late throwing the ball and too many big plays are 50/50 balls that won’t be won in the NFL as routinely. However, Albert Breer reported on the Rich Eisen Show that no GM is expecting the Dolphins to go with Tua. That leaves Herbert in the QB market and after years of needing a QB, they pull the trigger rather than waiting for their 2 later 1st round picks.

6: Chargers – Tua Tagovailoa (QB-Alabama)

The Chargers pounce, thank the Dolphins and take their chances with the injury prone QB. They sit him for the 2020/21 season behind Tyrod Taylor and allow him to get fully fit and unleash him the season after.

7: Panthers – Isaiah Simmons (LB/S-Clemson)

Matt Rhule gets this freakish athlete to use at his disposal. Simmons may well be the answer to the mobile QB issue plaguing defences. To add to this, he has the ability to cover NFL TEs, needed in a division which has just has Gronkowski join.

8: TRADE Falcons – CJ Henderson (CB-Florida)

Thomas Dimitroff continues his aggressive tactics and moves up with the Cardinals to get their corner now Okudah is off the board. This trade puts them ahead of the Jags who would have happily got Henderson, now the Jags look to trade.

9: TRADE 49ers – Henry Ruggs III (WR-Alabama)

The 49ers don’t move down, but instead up using their 2nd and 3rd rounder next year to jump up to get the receiver they wanted. The Jags are willing as Henderson is off the board. John Lynch saw first hand what speed can do to a defense after watching Tyreek Hill destroy the 49ers in the Superbowl.

10: Browns – Jedrick Wills (OT-Alabama)

The Browns need a tackle to post opposite Jack Conklin. They sit tight and allow Wills to fall to them A good, safe pick coached by the great Nick Saban at Alabama. Browns look forward to getting rewarded for safe picks rather than a high risk high reward like usual.

11: Jets – Mekhi Becton (OT-Louisville)

The Jets will be tempted by the WRs like Jerry Jeudy but in his first graft as GM, Joe Douglas has time and wants to build around Sam Darnold, first by keeping him uninjured and upright. A monster specimen in Becton makes a big splash in New York and will dominate edge rushers for many years to come, however, there is some worry about the health of his knees which could cause a draft day fall.

12: Raiders – Jerry Jeudy (WR-Alabama)

The best and most refined WR goes to the Raiders. The draft works out perfectly for them, not having to move to get Jeudy. The refined route runner who will be a day 1 starter, if Carr is still the QB for the Raiders next year, he will love this pick, AFC West corners won’t.

13: TRADE Jaguars – Derrick Brown (DT-Auburn)

The jags move back with the 49ers and pick up the person they would have at 9. Brown falls because of the needs of the teams around where he should go, he could go from anywhere from 3-13. This puts a chip on his shoulder for his career, only issue is that he will be playing for the Jags, a team more interested in tanking for Trevor and accumulating capital then winning, but in a few years, Brown will be a household name.

14: Buccaneers – Andrew Thomas (OT-Georgia)

The Bucs have got Tom Brady, they need to keep him upright at his grand old age (43 at start of season). Therefore, they take the safest pick on the tackle board. A refined player that rarely makes mistakes, a player that Brady will love, and Tampa should just be interested at keeping him happy.

15: Broncos – Ceedee Lamb (WR-Oklahoma)

The last of the top WRs goes to the Broncos to pair with Sutton. With Drew Lock showing potential, having two top targets are going to help him through, add to this that John Elway knows the value of WRs.

16: TRADE Cardinals – Javon Kinlaw (DT-South Carolina)

The Cardinals net a 1st next year from the Falcons and still fill a need with Kinlaw. A nasty bull-rush will complement Chandler Jones who recorded 19 sacks last year (2nd in the league). A good defence will help Kyler Murray settle in to the offense.

17: Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson (LB-LSU)

Chaisson said that he is not afraid of the pressure of wearing the star on his helmet so it seems he already has an idea of where he goes. The Cowboys need a rusher opposite Lawrence, as Taco Charlton didn’t work out, they get Chaisson to terrorise opposing QBs.

18: Dolphins – D’Andre Swift (RB-Georgia)

The super fast Swift (tried to avoid the “swift Swift”) has pace to sprint past the defence, he is the perfect complement to power runner Jordan Howard. After landing Herbert, they get a strong runner to keep the stress off the passing game for years to come.

19: Raiders – A.J Terrell (CB-Clemson)

This may seem a bit of a reach, but Mayock took Ferrell 4th overall last year out of Clemson which nobody expected. He also loves long, lanky corners and Terrell fits that description. Mayock looks past the championship game and looks and potential for a team still a year awasy from truly contending.

20: Jaguars – Jaylon Johnson (CB-Utah)

Another physical corner follows Terrell off the board as a shot at a replacement of Jalen Ramsey. The Jaguars take a chance with Johnson to mature into a corner (possible like Jaire Alexander of the Packers).

21: Eagles – Justin Jefferson (WR-LSU)

The Eagles fans would destroy their city (they’ve done it before) if the Eagles don’t pick a WR. They need one and they go for the best one available in Jefferson. Showed up big at the end of the season against the best teams. A pick that can hopefully return to bring the best out of Wentz.

22: Vikings – Tee Higgins (WR-Clemson)

With Diggs now in Buffalo, the Vikings use the very pick they acquired in that trade for his successor. A massive target, 6ft 4in, he adds a different threat to their current Adam Thielen and tight end Irv Smith Jr and the aging Kyle Rudolph.

23: Patriots – Kenneth Murray (LB-Oklahoma)

My favourite player in the draft, he has 3 adopted special-needs siblings and saved a women’s life when giving her CPR when just out walking down a street. This is a player who’s value to the team is just as much off the field as on it. He is a top quality LB in the first place, a need for the Patriots, and Belichick loves to pick up leaders and special people as well as players. Just look at the leadership of Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater.

24: Saints – Brandon Aiyuk (WR-Arizona State)

The deep WR class continues with Aiyuk, a massive wingspan for his size (80 inch but only 6ft). This is just another weapon for Brees with only one or two seasons left in his distinguished career. Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and now Aiyuk. Saints, Bucs games are going to be must watch TV with the 2 powerhouse offenses (if the Saints pick Aiyuk).

25: Vikings – Trevon Diggs (CB-Alabama)

The Vikings just traded his brother (Stephon Diggs) to the Bills but after getting Tee Higgins, they now turn their attention to defense. Diggs is talented and with his Brother being so successful (with the Vikings no less), the dig into the bloodline further so they can put a corner opposite Mike Hughes.

26: Dolphins – Xavier McKinney (S-Alabama)

With their 3rd 1st rounder, the Dolphins take another shot at safety after trading away Fitzpatrick last year to the Steelers. McKinney is strong and smart. I didn’t like his play against LSU when they played but one bad game can’t drop a prospect out of the first round when he is clearly a first round talent.

27: Seahawks – Ross Blacklock (DT-TCU)

The Seahawks will probably trade out knowing them, but the prospect of Blacklock may be too good to pass up. Short-area quickness, especially quick with his hands, Blacklock could be a massive disrupter in the centre of that D-Line for Seattle – who are looking for a new identity on defense now the Legion of Boom is clearly over.

28: Ravens – Cesar Ruiz (C/G-Michigan)

The Ravens don’t need much of anything right now. But getting an interior O-Line who can play centre of guard is always a bonus. He can help fill the void left by Marshall Yanda, big shows to fill but the Ravens should take a shot as they don’t have many holes anywhere else.

29: Titans – Austin Jackson (OT-USC)

Jackson will be an immediate replacement for Conklin. Whilst the Titans would prefer a tackle that’s less of a project, those prospects will have already have fund homes. Plus, his tape last year was good and it would have been better if he hadn’t donated his bone marrow to his sister just before the season starts. Another player who is an amazing person finds a home with a promising team.

30: Packers – Yetur Gross-Matos (DE-Penn State)

A project of a D-lineman, but if he develops along with Rashan Gary, the Packers will have a top tier pass-rush. The potential is too much to pass up and with Rodgers leading the offense, the defence should be fortified for a championship run.

31: TRADE Lions – Jordan Love (QB-Utah State)

The 49ers trade back to increase draft capital that they currently lack (especially if they trade up earlier on). Therefore the Lions see Love falling down the draft order and put him behind Stafford for a year or to before taking the reigns. In the meantime they can use other picks build for the future. It won’t be a big cost either to move up 4 places, back into the 1st round for a 5th year of contract on Love.

32: Chiefs – Johnathan Taylor (RB-Wisconsin) The Chiefs look to trade out but after Taylor falls, they see another weapon to add to this unbelievable offense. He joins a backfield with Damien Williams, and a receiving core of Hill, Kelce, Hardman and Watkins. All this offense led by Mahomes and the play designing genius of Andy Reid. The rich just get richer.

AJ Brown – Draft Steal

Every year I get a feeling about one or two players that will make it big-time. These are players that are identified through gut-instinct (and a bit of analysis) and it shows once they reach the NFL. Over the past few years, these have included Kerryon Johnson, Leighton Vander Esch and Jaire Alexandre. This year the two top-end talents that seemed steals were Devin Bush and AJ Brown. AJ Brown dropped in the draft due to an infactuation with DK Metcalf and and the speed of Holywood Brown. It was seen as Brown was average in every department, didn’t have the insane phyique of Metcalf and the field was opened up with Damarkus Lodge, Metcalf and Dawson Knox at Ole Miss. Brown was a “good” player that would make it in the NFL but he is actually so much more. He can play inside or outside, with 4.49 40 yard which quashed the theory of his lack of speed. He had 2 seasons with over 1000yds with his Junior (final) season reaching 1,320yds on 85rec and a second first-team all SEC pick.

The tape showed that this guy was a first round pick and better than Metcalf, N’Keal Harry and Hollywood Brown. This is why when pick 32 popped onto screen with the Pats needing a WR, I fully expected to hear the name AJ Brown. A smart WR that could play inside or outside, that had sneaky speed and was undervalued for his “lack” of something special. The Pats went for N’Keal Harry instead as an insurance policy (which turns out was needed) for Josh Gordon as an effective jump-ball specialist. Their loss would be another teams gain. that turned out to be the Titans (or New England South) with pick 51.

With Mariota and Tannehill at QB, I honestly though that Brown’s career was over before it started, but it wasn’t. The checkdown king of Tennesse lit it up on the opening Sunday with the brand new rookie out there. Brown caught 3rec (4 targets) for 100yds with a long of 51yds which displayed all that speed some doubted he had. Over the first 8 games Brown is averaging 43.5yds a game with Mariota, who was then benched for Tannehill, a guy who wasn’t even able to start for the Dolphins-the worst team in football (to be fair, it’s probably he was deemed to good, he might win games). The defenses of the NFL are respecting him. Knowing that Corey Davis hasn’t yet blossomed into the 1st round WR he is and Delanie Walker is declining (if only through injuries). His cushion is an average of 5.3yds, more than the deep threat of Taylor Gabriel. Where he really makes his mark is on the medium routes, displayed by his 10.8 air yds per target (Next Gen Stats) which is more than DeAndre Hopkins, Paul Richrdson and Cooper Kupp. Despite only getting an average of 2.3yds seperation (not a long time to get open with the Titans O-Line) he has a catch rate of 64.71% which is better than Alshon Jeffrey (63.8%) and Robert Woods (63.3%). To add to this he is getting an average of 6 YAC which is almost double his expected 3.3 YAC (Next Gen Stats). Overall, he is a WR who was undervalued on draft day. Got drafted to a team with no QB. Yet is producing averages (in a system where he is the NO.2 to NO.3 option) which are on par and better than some of the big names. He has deep threat speed, sure hands that are better than any other rookie WR and a YAC threat. Brown is the complete receiver. His skill is that he is good at everything rather than a specific. Currently he is being wasted on a Tennesse team that is without a competent QB.

However, the Titans have a strong RB core, complementary receivers to Brown (when he becomes the NO.1) and a stingy defense with a terrific coach in Mike Vrabel. They need a young TE (can get late in drafts, just like Dawson Knox), an interio of the O-Line and a QB. O-Line can be picked up in free agancy which just leaves the matter of a QB. Washington are a good trade partner at the top of the draft (pick 2 or 3) as they already have a QB in Haskins. As a result, the Titans should look to trade up. Personnely, I like Burrows this year (always cautious of Bama QBs) and Tennesse should trade up to get him, or try and find value in the mid rounds (like Russell Wilson). Brown is the future at WR for the Titans, they got a steal. Now they need a QB and they will be a true Superbowl contender, this time lets hope they aren’t 1 yard short.

The Future Of QB

Looking around the league, there seems to be a great division in age of the top QBs. They are either veterans in their late 30s (Brady, Brees and Rivers) or young and exciting. Only Russell Wilson seems to truly fill the void. This means that it is time to look ahead to our next Brady-Manning duel throughout the years. Currently, 3 QBs stand out: Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs) and Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans).

Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens)

This is the least proven of the 3. In his second year he is taking the league over and one of the favourites for MVP. The ultimate duel threat QB which has put defensive powerhouses in their place (most notably, the NO.1 defense in the rout of the New England Patriots). He may only rank 19 in passing yards (2258) but is 6th in yards/attempt (8.1). This shows incredible improvement over last year. He is using all weapons at his disposal, maily Willie Snead, the former New Orleans Saint who has been a repeated 3rd down target. Then there is Jackson’s use of Mark Andrews. Andrews is fast becoming a top tight end in the league. Against zone, he is always finding gaps of hitch or curl routes and is large enough to fend of defenders when running down the seam in man coverage. Jackson has used all these threats well, Coach Harbaugh (John) has completely rerworked this offense to suit and it has paid off with the team being Superbowl favourites.

The most impressive part of Jackson’s play is that he is a pocket passer most of the time. Jackson is always looking to pass first. Unlike Michael Vick, he has a pure understanding of all route-concepts and would rather have a 5 yard pass over a 5 yard run. This should help him survive in a league where QBs out of the pocket are going to get popped. Jackson, when he does run, is not a sitting duck however. He spun in and out of Bengal defenders like they were 7-year-olds and must have eluded at least 3 sure-fire sacks when playing the Patriots.

However, caution is always advised with only one great year on the resume. This team is first of all thriving on a strong rushing attack led by 29 year old Mark Ingram and Gus “The Bus” Edwards. Any running game can turn each year (see Patriots last year compared to this year) and even game to game depending of the defense’s strenghs. Jackson is a great passer but he will never have the touch of Brees, power of Farve or understanding of Brady. Therefore, it won’t be long until a defensive game plan is schemed and will slow him down. This is inevitable but what is the main question is will he improve past it or be stuck in neutral like Sean McVay’s Rams offense.

Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Cheifs)

The reigning MVP took the league by storm last year. No-look passes and left-handed throws filled up highlight boards. The only team that posed any issues for him were the Patriots but never more than a half (1st half twice and 2nd half week 14 this year). He was perhaps the closest in a long-run of challengers to the great Tom Brady and was a coin flip and 1 drive away from dethroning him. However, that did not happen. Instead, Mahomes has fire in him to get over that final hurdle this year and has even powered his way through a nasty ankle injury on his way to 3,266 yards and 21 TDs 3INTs in only 10 games. I loved Mahomes last year, but this year has been more impressive, even if it’s not MVP worthy.

In year 1 (excluding his rookie year sitting behind Alex Smith), teams have no tape on the guy, they don’t know how he’ll compete in the pros. Therefore he received coverages forcing him to pass in his early games. Then when defenses started to key in on him, Mahomes took advantage of personel groupings due to weapons of Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. This was exploited in the week 6 matchup against the Patriots when the Pats were able to hold him to 9 first hald points. Then Hill, Hunt and Kelce happerned. They started getting a few yards of seperation and after Mahomes connected a few times, built confidence and started frying the Patriots’ secondary. This year has been a different story.

Mahomes battled injury early this season. One injury is not enough to get classed as injury prone and therefore this should not be judged against him. Instead, it showed a QB that is willing to tough it out for the team despite obvious discomfort. Then, there was the injury to Tyreek Hill, the loss of Kareem Hunt and sub-par O-Line play. While the rest of the league has been drooling over Lamar Jackson (can’t blame them), meanwhile, Mahomes has been trying to reinviggor a Kansas City team that doesn’t seem to have that same energy as last year. The defense has only marginaly improved and the running game has turned to dust. This is why I find this season a more defining one for Mahomes because it gives me confidence that he will be able to continue at this level in future years. He can’t win MVP this year because an MVP can’t miss games and there’s the issue of Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Christian McCaffery and Michael Thomas but Mahomes has ceartainly shown he is a future star.

Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

Speaking of QB’s who push through pain barriers, teamates injuries and dismal O-Line play. Watson is the King of such categories. I truly believe that this is the guy who will become the best QB (along with Russell Wilson) for the next 10 years. Watson has a career rating 102.3 (above Jackson, 101, and behind Mahomes 109.3) and has achieved that rating playing behind perhaps the worst 3 years of O-Line play, a single franchise has seen since 2010. There is no doubt that coming out of Clemson, Watson was not the finished article. He kept the ball too long which made his O-Line look even worse and would every now and again throw a mind-boggling interception. He also relied too much on Deandre Hopkins but that was probably just the Texans game plan at that stage. Will Fuller was injured seemingly every other game and an O-Line filled with Giants level Erick Flowers. But then Watson improved. This is the year were he has finally come into the public eye. Watson has been one of the best young QBs in the game since he started and he has done it with less than other QBs. Then the Texans fired their GM and trade mayhem entered. The defense got worse on paper (actually almost as good without Clowney) a top 7 left tackle to protect his blind side. This means Watson is not on pace to be sacked the most times in the league this year (unlike last year). A rookie right tackle in Tytus Howard which could protect Watson for many years to come. A Will Fuller that isn’t always injured and suddenly, Watson looks to be leading a potential Superbowl team. Yes, the Texans just got blown out by Drew Lock and the Broncos but he battled to the end. Watson makes amaxing plays as well. Whether against New England in 2017 or after being kicked in the eye when playing the Raiders this year, Watson is a star and will continue to be like this for many years to come. If the defense improves and Tytus Howard comes on, this team could be Superbowl bound in the next 2 years.