Predicting Landing Spots for 2020’s Top NFL Free Agents: Runningbacks

Here we are again analyzing this special free agency class. This time, I want to take a look at the running back position. We have an interesting mix of elite talent, with one name in specific that should have tons of interest from dozens of teams around the league.

So, these are only some of the numerous RB’s hitting free agency this off-season, but these names (to me) are the ones that have the most impact and could potentially shift the power of offenses around the NFL.

Melvin Gordon: After a lengthy, dramatic holdout last
season I can’t see Gordon staying with the Chargers. Gordon wants to be one of
the highest paid RBs in the league, and the Chargers have proven to the rest of
the league that they are reluctant to do so- especially after a stellar breakout
season for Austin Ekeler.

Miami feels like the most logical landing spot. They have the cap space to
make a big splash in free agency, and have a real lack of talent at the RB
position after trading Kenyan Drake this past season. Here, Gordon would get
paid as the top dog, be the center piece of the rebuilding Miami team, and
certainly make the team better as a whole- both parties win with this move.

Austin Ekeler: Well, I sort of gave it away already- but it makes sense for Ekeler to stay put in LA. With (my prediction of) Gordon leaving, why wouldn’t the Chargers bring back their top rusher from last season? Especially with the team lacking a starting QB as of right now, they need to prioritize keeping the rest of their core together- starting with Ekeler.

Derrick Henry: Here is another case where I don’t see a guy switching teams. Henry was the most dominant rusher in the entire league last season and was the focal point of the Titan’s offense. I expect the Titans to expend their franchise tag on Tannehill, so look for them to work on a long-term deal with Henry. If they let him walk, I’m not sure how they’ll make up for his production- especially after a surprising AFC playoff run.  Get it done Tennessee. 

Lamar Miller: After season ending knee surgery before the start of last season, the Texans were without Miller for the entire season after a productive reign as the lead back the past few season. However, after trading for Duke Johnson (who produced well in BOB’s offense) and has a similar play style as Miller, I don’t see him re-signing with the Texans for next season. 

Instead, I see Miller going to Buffalo. As a run-heavy offense in need of running-back (due to Gore becoming a free agent and the injury riddled season that rookie back Devin Singletary had last year), Miller fills in the production that Gore had in thta offense last season- and then some. Unlike Gore, Miller is a nice little weapon in the passing/screen game as well. He would be a nice fit to pair with Singletary, and can also handle a lead back role/production barring any injuries.

Matt Breida: Breida will be (in my eyes) a hot commodity on the free agency market. He was part of a three headed rushing attack in San Fran and was very productive, despite not being a clear-cut starter. After getting hot in the playoffs to help the Niners make the a Super Bowl appearance, many teams will seek the speedster’s assistance. 

I could see him ending up with a team like Washington or Cincinnati who has a direct need at those positions and can pay him a nice contract- but, I honestly think that Indianapolis could swoop in and make a case as a perfect fit. Indy has a similar offensive scheme, a dominant offensive line, and a nice young defensive core that gives them playoff potential. I think the combo of Marlon and Mack as a 1-2 punch would be lethal under Frank Reich’s run scheme.

Chris Thompson:  I honestly feel bad for Chris. He has been a super productive back on a super unproductive team. He is a big time dual threat guy who could add some spice to a contending roster. 

With that in mind, I say Thompson ends up on the Chiefs. During last season, KC scooped up LeSean Mccoy to add some backfield depth and it didn’t really work out as he didn’t get many touches come the end of the season/playoffs. So, why not bring in a dual-threat back who can be used as a gadget alongside Tyreek Hill in Andy Reid’s crafty offense. They could get the vet fo cheap and he could make the KC offense even more dangerous (imagine that). 

 

Coming soon; I plan on highlighting the best receivers (WRs and TEs) bound to hit the market. I also want to take a look at all the best defensive players available. (trying to squeeze everything in before free agency actually opens up.

Check out last week’s piece on the best free agent QBs!

Predicting Landing Spots for 2020’s Top NFL Free Agents: Quarterbacks

This year’s NFL free agency pool is one of the most interesting in recent years. Quarterback legends like Tom Brady and Phil Rivers are hitting the open market, talented but troubled pass rushers like Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley are available, and word just broke that star TE Austin Hooper is now going to test the market.

Naturally analysts and even fans try to place all these stars in different spots; creating rumor and sometimes false hopes. So, let’s take a look at some of the best free agents and figure out where they would be best suited to sign; starting with Quarterbacks.

Quarterbacks:

Tom Brady: My gut tells me that Brady is going to leave New England. After a dominant tenure as the Patriots QB, I think Tom wants to move on to 1. diffuse speculation that he is a system QB and 2. finally get the contract value that he feels he deserves. It makes sense, especially considering he came out and said he found it “embarrassing” that he isn’t the highest paid QB in the league. To me, this says ‘I want out’- but I could also see it as leverage to pressure the Patriots into paying him big money. Many teams have been said to be interested in Brady (despite his age and loss of arm strength with age),

With many teams said to be ‘highly interested’ in the 5 time super bowl champ, I think the Patriots will limit their bid based on the best interest of keeping the rest of their roster together. Meanwhile, some other teams will offer Brady as much as he wants- especially if they see themselves as a QB away from contending.

So, considering all these factors I believe Brady is going to end up in Chicago. Personally, I think the Bears have a super bowl caliber defense, while also holding an arsenal of offensive weapons, and a crafty offensive minded head coach in Nagy. The Bears struggled under Trubisky this year, who is clearly not at a level to start/succeed in the NFL just yet- making Brady the perfect bridge option until Mitch is ready. Brady could bring in a new level of vet experience and motivational competitiveness that could bring this team over the top to fight for the division and give them a good shot to make the super bowl. More important for the Bears, he could be there to groom Trubisky for the next couple of years and set the franchise up with a long term option at QB for the next decade when Brady finally hangs it up.

Phillip Rivers: If you ask me, Rivers isn’t playing at a level where he can start anymore. I personally think he would be most productive as a veteran backup to groom a young QB like Daniel Jones or Dwayne Haskins- but he will likely want to end up somewhere where would start and compete. If this is the case, I see Rivers going to the newly re-located Raiders.

With tension between Gruden and Carr, rumor has it that the Raiders will either look to trade or cut the young QB. Gruden is a QB whisperer who loves edginess, grit, and a competitive nature- and Rivers is exactly that. The move would make sense for both sides. The Raiders land a popular name at QB to build a fan base in Las Vegas, and Rivers gets another shot to play on a team that has a history of gritty culture and for a coach that wants to win now.

Last year the Raiders were shockingly better than expected, and Rivers could fill in to sell tickets and serve as a productive bridge QB that provides a much needed veteran presence for a relatively young team.

Jameis Winston: After leading the league in passing yards, but also throwing an alarming 30 interceptions- I really doubted that the Bucs would want to keep Winston and pay him like a starting caliber QB. However, from what I’ve read the plan is to keep Winston with a 2 year deal worth around the franchise tag level salary, with a team option for the 2nd year. This does make sense from their franchise’s perspective.

Head Coach Bruce Arians is an excellent offensive mind and has many receiving weapons at his disposal and some promising young RB prospects on roster, so if he believes he can help develop Jameis to limit his turnover rate- then a 2 year team option ‘prove it’ type of contract feels worth the risk- especially as they continue to build their very talented and young defense.

Teddy Bridgewater: If I were an NFL GM looking to acquire a QB talent through free agency- Teddy would be my first choice. Teddy filled in for Drew Brees when he hurt his hand this past season and went 5-0 as a starter throwing 9 TDs and just 2 interceptions. This opportunity was perfect for him on an expiring deal since he was finally able to prove that he has fully came back from his devastating knee injury that ended his tenure with the Vikings.

Now, with Brees coming back and Taysom Hill as the clear option as the next franchise player for New Orleans- Teddy needs to move on. To me, New England is the perfect fit. As I predicted above, it feels like Tom Brady is on his way out, and with a glaring need to fill the starting QB spot- Bridgewater has shown his ability to step in as a starter and win games. This is exactly what Bill Belichick would be looking for, plus Teddy would likely be a long term solution that would put New England back into the super bowl picture.

Ryan Tannehill/Dak Prescott: Not much to say here- I don’t see Tennessee or Dallas letting these guys hit free agency. Look for Tannehill to be Franchise tagged and Dak to eventually sign a long term extension.

By: Bryce Wadsworth

2020 NFL Combine: Top Positions to Watch

Bryce Wadsworth

So, after months of a fairly dormant Game Winning Turnover website, we are finally back to producing content. We apologize, but hey life happens.

Anyway, being the football guy that I am, I’m extremely excited for the NFL draft process- which really gets rolling fast with the NFL combine (from February 23rd – March 2nd) . The combine is a huge day for a lot of these NFL declared athletes- they can either tank or bolster their draft stock- and with this year in particular being a pretty competitive class of players, we can expect the combine to be a huge eye test for scouts to determine places on their draft board.

So, with so much at stake, I wanted to highlight the different position battles and who potentially has the most to gain or lose from this year’s combine workout.

Quarterbacks:

This year’s class is full of potential at the QB position. Usually, you have a standout guy who goes top 3, and a handful of others who are deserving of going later in the first round and beyond. However, this year is different.

In my own humble opinion, I could see 3 guys going in the top 3-5 depending on who trades up into those respective spots (which, from what I’ve read, is very likely to happen). The Bengals, Lions, Dolphins, Chargers, Panthers, Jaguars, Raiders, Colts and Buccaneers are all teams within the top 15 picks (with assets to move up) that are potential suitors to move up and take a young guy to take over the franchise- with Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and even Tua Tagovalloa as the prospects of most interest.

Now, with that being said I think Burrow is pretty much the clear cut, most talented of the 3 (he does have a personality issue in my opinion, but most teams will be willing to work with that), so I think there is no doubt that he either goes at 1 or 2. However, Tua and Herbert have a lot on the line at the combine to boost their stock.

Tua has the most to gain. Before sustaining a brutal hip injury that most called potentially “career ending”, many had Tua has the clear cut no. 2 QB in this class. His domination as the Alabama starter over the past few seasons combined with incredible arm talent and mobility made him a very established, experienced, and sought after player. However, the injury is concerning. Some think he could fall into the mid rounds, due to not wanting to take him in the first with such a career altering and dangerous injury- and that logic makes a whole lot of sense. You want your first round pick to make an immediate impact (as a rebuilding team, established contenders can afford to take a chance), so using your later picks seems to be the smartest option when taking a risk. With all that being said, Tua’s stock has significantly dipped since the injury, but he was medically cleared and it was reported that he will be participating in all the major QB combine workouts. So, if he struggles and looks rusty, his stock will stay low. BUT, if he comes out and puts on a show… teams will shift their attention back to Tua.

Herbert, on the other hand, has the most to lose. After a standout senior season at Oregon, Herbert has had a lot of attention on him. People like his frame, arm talent, mobility, and experience. Plus he had a stellar, MVP performance at the senior bowl. All of these things have added up to a large boost in his draft grade- now sitting as a top 3 QB prospect and projects to be selected in the top 5. However, there is still doubt among NFL scouts that he will translate into the pros- and many analysts say that without a convincing performance in his combine workout, Herbert could fall significantly. So, a lot is on the line for the Oregon product.

Aside from the top 3 guys, you also should keep an eye on Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, Jordan Love, and Kelly Bryant- I could see all 4 having opportunities to slide into early rounds with a good workout.

Wide Receivers:

This position group is extremely and particularly talented this year. I’ve looked at mock drafts from NFL, CBS, an Walter Football- and in each one there is between 5-6 receivers selected in the first round. Now, mock drafts obviously aren’t always going to be on the money, but this just shows off how talented this group is- how often are there this many receivers being looked at in the FIRST round? Not to mention that there are many other names that, personally, I like and would look at in the mid-later rounds.

Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III are seen as the 3 most standout guys with a pretty set-in-stone draft stock placement. All 3 are extremely explosive, run precise routes and possess excellent ball skills- priming them to be early- mid first round selections. A good combine performance is extremely likely and will only show scouts what they already knew. I don’t even see a poor performance placing them anywhere out of the 1st round. The film speaks for itself with these guys.

More names to look out for are Jaelon Reagor, Tee Higgins, KJ Hamler, and (my personal favorite) Justin Jefferson. All of these guys possess similiar explosive capabilities, but their ball skills range. Reagor had a huge dropoff this season in comparison to 2018 (30 less receptions and 400 less yards), Hamler has issues with completing catches/ball security, Higgins lacks blocking ability/physicality despite his large frame, so on and so forth. So, these prospects really need to rely on their combine workouts to improve their stock and compete for a higher selection.

The top 3 guys are a separate class of receivers are competing against one another for a higher selection, while the same guys for the next bunch. I love the talent in this group, and all of the guys I named need to show out to try and establish themselves even more in front of the NFL scouts.

Edge/Pass Rush:

Now, as the league is filling up with talented, young , mobile QBs (Watson, Mahomes, Jackson, Wentz) edge/rush players are becoming so much more valuable in order to attempt to stop these prolific athletes on opposing offenses. We saw the impact of players like Nick Bosa and Brian Burns as rookies in the NFL, and teams will look to add a dominant force on the outside of their defensive line.

Obviously, there is a lot of hype around Ohio State’s Chase Young. He is explosive, dominant, and extremely physical. He is an excellent, balanced edge setter and pass rusher, but he does have some downsides. He has an obvious tell in his stance as to what he is doing on a particular play. He also has issues with pad level- standing straight up on some pass rush attempts. So, even Young has some things to prove in the combine. He is likely a top 3 pick, but he does need to show off that he can be coachable and refine his skills as a prospect. This will be something more important at his pro-day, but still worth mentioning here. If he can show improvements to his stance and pad level at the combine, that is a great start.

As it stands in some mock drafts, A.J Epenesa and K’ Lavon Chaisson are seen as the next best edge players, but guys like Curtis Weaver and Josh Uche are gaining ground.

Look for Epenesa to try to show improvements with footwork, balance, and an ability to be creative with his pass rush moves. He is known to bull rush extremely well, but for NFL scouts to be impressed and interested you need to be versatile in your rush moves- especially with the size and strength of today’s NFL tackle.

Meanwhile, Chaisson needs to prove his ability to stay discipline. He tends to run wild and shoot up too far on plays- which is hard to show improvement on at the combine, but if he can show improvements with footwork and counter pass rushing moves he will be in good shape to stay ahead of the competition.

Conclusion:

Obviously, the other positions are important to look at to, but I found these 3 position groups to be the most exciting and loaded. The prospects in each group are looking to improve their stock and show off-season improvement for their first real professional workout.

A lot is at stake and I am more than excited to sit down and watch these guys compete within the week.

Competition and Success Favored Over Education:The Destruction of Youth Sports

I’ve written a piece similar to this one called “The Importance of Youth Sports: A Building Block for Success”, in which I describe how important youth athletics are to the growth of the our next generations. Here, I want to describe how conventional, fundamental youth leagues are being brought down by commercialism and a high value on competition, trophies, and winning.

A coach boasts a trophy over his team in excitement. Are we really teaching kids valuable lessons? Or are we promoting and pressuring children to win over everything else? Credit: Athletics in Action

Coaching youth football has been a special opportunity for me. I get the chance to not only work around and teach a sport that I am truly passionate about, but I also get to positively influence values and cooperative skills for a team full of kids.

I’ve coached youth football for four years now and I love it- however, I have noticed a decline in participation. When I played, in the same organization, practice fields and parking lots were filled. Now, there are empty spots in the grass, and plenty of spaces to park. What is happening?

            Now more than ever, children experience an immense pressure to perform from their parents. According to Christina Corbin’s 2019 Fox News Article, Experts Cite ‘bully parents’ in Decline in Youth Sports Participation Nationwide, she uses a direct quote from clinical Sports Psychologist Dr. Marshall Mintz to give insight on what parents are doing to their kids. Mintz states that he’s seen “young athletes who throw up on the way to games because of the pressure they’re experiencing”.

This sort of issue is very detrimental to a child’s success. It is very important for youth sports to serve as a fun way for children to learn essential life and team-building skills, which is not possible if they are forced to feel like they need to excel beyond unrealistic standards.

            Another threat to the foundation of youth sports has been the commercialism of the platform. Instead of simply providing local teams for kids to come play for (despite talent level or financial issues), there are now “elite” level organizations that are forcing traditional youth leagues into extinction.

Jack Urquhart’s 2015 piece for Universe Narratives (BYU University) highlights the extreme elitist groups and how they are ruining youth league sports. He points out that elite leagues were “created to give kids opportunities to play more games against better teams, and travel further to do so” which has lead to the industrialization of youth sports ( a now 17 million dollar industry according to Fox).

This not only corrupts league owners with the thought of profit, but it takes away from the old-school values of helping children learn and have fun doing so. By creating these groups and favoring them for the competition, society then is excluding those are aren’t seen as “talented enough” and also preventing those without the proper financing an opportunity to play. Why should we only value those with talent and money? What does that teach our youth? Do we really want them to feel as if they aren’t good enough to play because their parents can’t afford to put them in AAU basketball leagues?

This problem is only growing worse, as kids continue to feel discouraged when it comes to participating in sports. Jeremy Engle wrote an article in 2019 for the New York Times about the decline of youth athletics in America. He shows us a horrible truth- “children from age 6 to 12 who regularly participated in an organized team sport declined to 37 percent in 2017 from 45 percent in 2008”. He also states that”80 percent of youth athletes quit sports by age 15”, which just shows the accumulation effects of parent pressures and over competitive leagues.

Overall, we need to recognize the issue that is at hand- youth sports are dying. No, not as an industry, but the values that should be taught through this platform are definitely being impacted in a troubling way. Instead of learning key life skills, kids are being overworked and fed the thought that they need to achieve greatness.

Coaching, just as any leadership role, comes with responsibilities. At a youth level, winning should NOT be held above all. Instead, it should be more about learning ways to stay in shape, figuring out how to handle adversity while using teamwork to overcome it, and to even just have fun playing a game.

Things will only get worse as these children progress. We see Asia Mape state in her 2019 article for USA Today High School Sports that “1 in 5 teens suffer from clinical depression”, which could very well be correlated to the toll sports have taken on their young minds. If kids are faced with performance pressures at a young age, then it will surely carry over into the next level. Then on top of being scared that they won’t play well, they also have to handle the increased pressures to maintain their GPA in school, perform well in a work setting, and balance a social life.

 Sports should be a fun form of learning- not a source of extreme pressure to perform. If we continue to encourage competition and devalue the educational aspect, we will create a system in which youth sports will break down fundamentally. Help stop the issue and help make a difference. I have put my everything into giving back to my local youth football organization as a coach- and if you were an athlete or even just know enough to influence kids in a positive direction, then you can give back too.

Sources:

Corbin, Cristina. “Experts Cite ‘bully Parents’ in Decline in Youth Sports Participation Nationwide.” Fox News, 30 May 2019, https://www.foxnews.com/sports/experts-cite-bully-parents-in-decline-in-youth-sports-participation.

Engle, Jeremy. “Are Youth Sports Too Competitive?” The New York Times, 1 May 2019. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/learning/are-youth-sports-too-competitive.html.

“How the Pressure to Be Perfect Affects Kids, and What Parents Can Do about It.” USA TODAY High School Sports, 14 May 2019, https://usatodayhss.com/2019/how-the-pressure-to-be-perfect-affects-kids-and-what-parents-can-do-about-it.

The Decline of Youth Sports and the Efforts to Save Them « Universe Narratives. https://universe.byu.edu/narratives/decline-of-youth-sports/. Accessed 22 Sept. 2019.

Favoring Anti-Contact & Pro-Offensive Rules is Ruining Football

Source: Fox Sports

Football is a dangerous, physical sport- and it was made to be that way.

As a kid, I played before rules changed how the game was played. I was able to experience youth league kickoffs, physical games, and penalties were minimal. Now, everything is completely different. Kickoffs have been entirely removed from Pop Warner youth leagues. At certain levels, kids aren’t even allowed to go all the way down into a three point stance…when is enough, enough?

Recently Vontaze Burfict was suspended for the remainder of the NFL season in response to a hard hit he put on Colts tight end, Jack Doyle- which I hate to see. Yes the hard hit is tough, but that’s part of the game. These guys sacrifice their bodies for millions of dollars a year- they sign up for the job with the understanding that this is a possibility. With that being said, he should not have been suspended for an entire year. By doing this, they are taking away a man’s livelihood (currently on the Raiders with a 1 year/2M dollar deal) for hitting too hard. How is that logical?

It wasn’t that he was hitting too hard, but he was targeting Doyle’s head. He’s been fined for this before. He deserves it”.

I can hear most people saying something like that in response. Here’s the thing- how many of you have played, coached, or understand football to the fullest extent? If you understood the game, you would know that it is NOT as easy as it looks to control your movement and avoid hitting another player. From a defensive player’s standpoint, when you see the ball carrier or receiver, you have been taught to instinctively go attack. You run full speed and do what you can to make a tackle, force a turnover, or anything to help your team.

Let’s turn to Vontaze’s hit on Antonio Brown a few years ago (see video link below).

If you watch the play closely, you can see that he was simply trying to hit AB so he couldn’t come down with the ball in a CRITICAL game situation. He was coming across the field, at full speed, he saw the ball hit Brown’s hands and he reacted as if he caught the ball- which is totally legal. Burfict also lead with his SHOULDER PAD, not his helmet. So how is it his fault that AB got knocked down and his head got in the path of contact? How is either player supposed to control that? This is a pure football play and is a disgusting penalty call in the eyes of a true football enthusiast.

I also want to note that I am not just defending Burfict. I am defending all football plays in which there is high contact to the point to which there is a penalty call. In my opinion, it ruins the flow of a football game and is over protective of players in a sport that is supposed to be violent. It gives the offense an advantage or a second chance in situations that they wouldn’t get otherwise.

On another note, quarterback protective rules are flat out unnecessary. Quarterbacks are the highest paid players on the football field and they are just as liable for on the field injuries as every other player. Why are there so many rules to protect individual positions?

Any sort of contact to the head or below the knee is a penalty. Even if a pass rusher swats for the ball, misses, and hits the QB’s helmet by accident- that is a foul. Why? This sort of rule, again, puts an incentive on offense and discriminates against defense. If you ask me, this is just the NFL trying to make money off of high scoring games and not allowing teams to design defenses to play physical, dominant football- simply because the average fan wants to see high scoring games.

Let’s take a look at the Super Bowl last season. The Rams and Patriots, two defensive juggernauts, faced off in Atlanta and played the lowest scoring Super Bowl in NFL history.

Source: CNBC Sports

Ironically enough, the 16-3 final score resulted in the lowest view count for a Super Bowl in over a decade- bringing in only 97.5 million watchers. (down from 114.4 million in 2015).

There are so many rule changes in the NFL every season, and it is really starting to ruin the game of football for me. I don’t want to see flags every play for hitting guys “too hard”. Quarterbacks sign up to play football and should be able to get hit like everyone else. Defense should allowed to be physical. Football is not supposed to be “safe”. I am all for advanced protective equipment and helping players stay healthy- ESPECIALLY at youth, high school, and college levels. However, these anti-hitting/contact rules are getting out of hand. They are costing teams games, players money, and the fan’s viewing experience.

NFL Week 2 Review

By: Bryce Wadsworth & Jake Goldman

A little late for a look back at Week 2, but the idea came late and we wanted to get things out for you guys. So here ya go! Enjoy!

Buccaneers @ Carolina 20-14 Tampa Bay 

credit: Bob Donnan @ USATODAY
  1. An Improved Bucs Offense: It seems that Tampa Bay is making some strides offensively to utilize the many weapons they possess. This week we saw Jameis Winston NOT throw an interception. Chris Godwin stepped up with a 121 yard, 8 catch night, plus a touchdown. Peyton Barber even rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown. So even with minimal contributions from star players Mike Evans and OJ Howard, Bruce Arians found a way to get it done Thursday night.
  2. Cam Newton Looks BAD: Cam Newton, who is dealing with a sore ankle issue plus coming off of shoulder surgery this past offseason is not himself right now. I watched him constantly miss easy throws on the outside, every throw over 30 yards took his complete effort to launch, and he shows no desire to move around and make plays with his feet. This is nowhere near the 2015 MVP Cam we saw not so long ago. Cam should not be playing, in my own opinion. This team is not ready to contend right now, plus he clearly is struggling with physical health. Similar to Andrew Luck, how much can you expect to push Newton until he decides he’s done? Throwing 51 times on a recovering shoulder is probably not the best thing to do right now for Carolina. 

Cardinals @ Ravens- 17-23 Baltimore

credit: Steve Mitchell @ USA TODAY
  1. Kliff & Kyler: After a very disturbing preseason for Arizona fans that featured a struggling Kyler Murray, zero offensive line help, and a bad defense, Arizona and their first overall selection Kyler Murray have shown signs of things to come. However, they continue to play horrendous football until the 4th quarter. The first two weeks have featured drastic comebacks, but neither have resulted in a win. Arizona is 0-1-1 and if they want to show improvements, Kliff Kingsbury needs to adjust to the NFL game a bit and he needs to keep Kyler healthy.
  2. Lamar Jackson dominance: We’ve all seen the Lamar bandwagon fans jump ship ever since Lamar’s week one dominance over the Dolphins. He continued his dominance this week over Arizona with nearly 400 total yards and 2 touchdowns. He has shown tremendous improvements as a passer, and continues to use his athleticism to provide a run threat as well. Defensive coordinators be aware; Lamar Jackson may just be legit. 

Colts @ Titans-  19-17 Colts

credit: Thomas J. Russo @ USA TODAY Sports
  1. Vinatieri continues to struggle: Again, we saw the kicking legend shank extra points (badly) and put Indy in some tough spots with his poor performance. After essentially costing the Colts a week one victory with 2 missed extra points and a missed field goal, the Colts may have to weigh other options
  2. Brissett relies on ground game, but throws 3 TDs: With just 17 completed passes and 146 total passing yards (but 3 scores), it is safe to say Jacoby does NOT have to carry this football team the way Andrew Luck did the past 7 years. Jordan Wilkins only carried the ball 5 times but exploded for 82 yards- including a key burst in the 4th quarter that set up the go ahead TD pass to TY Hilton. Marlon Mack struggled a bit with 51 yards on 20 carries, but between him and Wilkins and a great defensive performance- Indy was able to pull out the W.
  3. Titans Offense slowed down tremendously: After dropping a 43 point bomb on a very stout Cleveland defense in week one, Tennessee seemed to stall a bit this week. Mariota had trouble getting the ball downfield, only connecting with receivers 19 times with 154 yards and a TD. The leading receiver was Delanie Walker with a mere 4 catches and 39 yards. The only bright spot was Derrick Henry who continued his bulldozing, dominant campaign against a Colts defense who has had trouble containing RBs so far this season. However, if Tennessee wants to make a playoff run, they need to find a way to get Mariota going.

49ers @ Bengals- 41-17 49ers

credit: Andy Lyons @ Getty Images
  1. Jimmy G!!!: Niners fans are FINALLY getting what they’ve wanted to see from their unproven, yet highly paid QB. He put up a dominant 296 yards and 3 TDs on just 17 completions, and looked extremely comfortable this week after a bit of a shaky week one against a very poor Tampa Bay team. Maybe this is a sign of things to come? 
  2. Dominant Niner RBs: After losing huge free agent addition, Tevin Coleman, for the season you would think that Kyle Shannahan would shy away from the run game right? Not even close. Between the three ball carriers who received carries, they totaled 238 yards and 2 TDs on 35 carries (combined 6.8 YPC). Breida, Mostert, and Jeff Wilson may just be the new three headed monster rushing attack that the league needs to worry about.
  3. Cincy Pass vs Run: So far, with new head coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals air game has looked much improved. Andy Dalton has put up impressive numbers through two games (729 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT), but he has been sacked 9 times already and has ZERO help from his run game. Star RB, Joe Mixon has been a complete dud this season. This weekend he rushed 11 times for 17 yards… Gio Bernard only added 6 yards on 6 carries. Big, big issue for Cincy going forward.  At the very least, John Ross finally is being integrated and heavily involved in the Bengals passing offense. After an explosive week one versus the Seahawks, Ross continued his big play flashes with 4 catches, 112 yards, which includes a 66 yard TD (in garbage time). Still, Ross has finally lived up to his record-holding combine speed and shown that he can be a legitimate deep threat in the NFL.

Chargers @ Lions- 10-13 Lions 

  1. Stafford Gets it Done: After blowing a lead to Arizona last week (resulting in a tie), Stafford came back this week and delivered against the Chargers with 245 yards and 2 TDs, including a 31 yarder to Kenny Golladay (who also had a huge day with 8 catches, 117 yards, and a score) to put Detroit on top in the 4th. In typical Matt Stafford fashion, there were some mistakes made (2 picks in a low scoring game), but hey, the Lions are still technically undefeated, so who cares?
  2. Phillip Rivers…: Yes, Matt Stafford did his part for the Lions in the 4th quarter, but Rivers also had a good shot to answer back. Phillip was pretty solid all game, throwing for almost 300 yards and a TD to Ekeler (who came up big again for LA), but could not finish the job. With about a minute left in the game, Rivers threw a BAD throw into double coverage where Darius Slay was able to intercept and seal the Detroit win. 
  3. Defense: The biggest thing that stood out to me was the defensive play on both sides. After LA had a huge game last week vs Indy with a dominant run game, Matt Patricia’s defense was able to hold Ekeler to just 66 yards on the ground and only allowed 10 points. On the other side, LA was stingy on defense as well. The Chargers were able to pick off Stafford twice, hold the explosive Kerryon Johnson to just 88 total yards, and the Lions’ offense was held to just 13 points. Defensively, for both teams, things are looking up.

Vikings @ Packers- 21-16 Packers

credit: Dylan Buell @ Getty Images
  1. Packers Defense is MUCH Improved: After keeping Chicago’s offense in check  and sacking Mitch Trubisky on a 4th down to seal a week one win, Green Bay’s new and improved offense did it’s thing again this week. Minnesota was held scoreless in the first and 4th quarters, preventing a hot start or early finish. Green Bay also racked up 2 picks, 1 sack, and also added 5 QB Hits- ultimately giving Kirk Cousins a real hard time Sunday. The thought of a dominant defense PLUS Aaron Rogers manning the offense is very scary if you aren’t a cheesehead…
  2. Dalvin Keeps Cookin: After putting up over 100 yards and 2 TDs week one, Dalvin came out and helped spark the Vikings’ comeback effort again this week. At the beginning of the 2nd quarter, Cook exploded for a 75 yard touchdown to put Minnesota on the scoreboard for the first time in that game. He then finished with 154 yards total, leading the Viking backfield. 
  3. How Long is Cousins’ Leash?: Man, Kirk Cousins has really struggled ever since signing with Minnesota last offseason (84 million guaranteed…yikes). The disappointment continued again Sunday where Kirk complete 14/32 passes for 230 yards, 1 TD, and 2 picks. Granted, he does need O-Line help, but he has the weapons to succeed (Cook, Thielen, Diggs, Rudolph), so how long do we give Kirk to continue this disaster of a campaign as the starter until he is replaced? This team is a contender; they have a great defense, great offensive weapons, but I really feel Kirk is weighing them down.

Patriots @ Dolphins- Patriots 43-0

credit: Matthew Healey @ UPI
  1. Dolphins have issues: So far this season the Dolphins have been outscored 102-10. On top of being absolutely embarrassed through only 2 weeks of play, the only players worth anything on the team want out and have requested trades… It has to be time for Rosen to be named the starter and for the Dolphins to go FULL rebuild mode now. This team may be one of the worst of all time. 
  2. Pats Dominating: Yes- the Patriots have an easy first 6 or 7 games, and should be dominating games. But the addition of Antonio Brown to an already loaded Patriot offense, plus the best defense New England has had in years… Things are looking scary.
  3.  Overall, not much to say about this game. New England got up and never looked back. Miami is barely functional as a franchise and there was almost no competition in this game. Not even worth the film or stat review. 

Bills @ Giants- 28-14 Bills

credit: Bill Kostroun @ Associated Press
  1. Eli Era needs to be over: Watching this game was tough honestly. Saquon is super talented, there are now some good offensive linemen on the team, and they possess (probably) the best young TE in the game in Evan Engram. However, Eli just doesn’t have it anymore. He has zero mobility, he struggles to get the ball out fast, and the arm is a nood compared to a few years ago. 20 yard throws should not require full effort. Eli’s time as a starter should probably end soon. This team has the pieces, but is not ready to contend- especially with Manning starting- so it has to be time to see what the Duke kid can do. 
  2. Josh Allen is Coming Along: On the other side of things, Josh Allen has looked great. He has shown that he can escape pressure and make great, accurate throws on the run.  He finished the day with 274 total yards and 2 total TDs. Watch out for Allen, he will continually climb the QB rankings as he matures and gets better as an NFL thrower.

Seahawks @ Steelers- 28-26 Seahawks

credit: Getty Images
  1. Big Ben/Conner Hurt: The team lost both James Conner and Roethlisberger Sunday. Conner seemed banged up, but okay. However, Ben may have elbow ligament damage which would likely put him out for the year- giving Mason Rudolph the starting job. As if the Steelers didn’t already look bad week one against the Patriots- losing two key starters doesn’t make Pittsburgh fans feel any better. 
  2. DK Metcalf & Russ Got Things Down: Meanwhile, Russell Wilson finally has an elite, physical wideout to chuck it up to in DK Metcalf. Wilson looked super impressive: completing 29/35 passes for an even 300 yards and 3 TDs. Metcalf hauled in 61 of those yards and a TD. The two already seem to have a nice chemistry and are always on the same page on some tough throws/catches. As Metcalf grows and matures, expect this duo to become absolutely lethal.

Saints @ Rams- 27-9 Rams 

credit: Sean Haffey @ Getty Images
  1. No Drew Brees, Big problems: Before leaving the game due to a hit to his throwing hand, specifically the thumb, on his third drive. Brees’ went 3/5 for 38 yards and an INT. Brees’ would make an attempt to return, but found himself unable to even grasp the football. Teddy Bridgewater came in to relieve him and the results were not confidence instilling for the Saints. 
  2. Rams Offense continues to be efficient: It was not an awe inspiring performance from the Rams. Plus, the momentum of the game completely tipped with the Brees injury in the first half. That did not stop the Rams from taking care of business. Todd Gurley showed signs of life, Jared Goff played mistake-free football and Cooper Kupp looked like a beast on a long catch in run in the second half. 
  3. Major implications in the NFC Playoff Race: The loss for the Saints wasn’t the biggest concern moving forward. Drew Brees’ will miss the next 5-7 weeks with a thumb ligament injury that required surgery. Now, the Saints turn to Teddy Bridgewater (and/or Taysom Hill??) to keep their season alive in what was supposed to be a revenge tour for the Saints. 

Chiefs @ Raiders- 28-10 Chiefs

credit: Thearon W. Henderson @ Getty Images
  1. Holy Mahomes: The 1st Quarter of this game saw the Chiefs struggle mightily putting them on upset alert early in Oakland as the Raiders jumped to a 10-0 lead. Then the 2nd Quarter happened. In that 2nd Quarter, the Chiefs scored 28 points and Mahomes threw for over 300 yards with 4 passing TDs. Yeah that Mahomes guy is freaking good. 
  2. Derek Carr Struggles: The Raiders wish they could’ve had this one back. They jumped on the Chiefs at home 10-0 then promptly the train flew off the rails. Early, Carr continued his hookup with Tyrell Williams and looked as if they might be able to lean on rookie Josh Jacobs to stun the Chiefs. Carr then struggled the entire rest of the way, and being down by 18 points the entire second half the Raiders had to abandon the efficient ground attack. Carr then proceeded to go for a putrid 23/38 for 198 yards and 2 INTs. 
  3. Chiefs are good even when hurting: Starting RB Damien Williams is banged up, Mahomes has an ankle sprain, Tyreek Hill is out and recently acquired LeSean McCoy has been running in mud. Yet here we are with another ridiculous Patrick Mahomes performance and the Chiefs cruise to (2-0). The Kid is simply amazing.

Bears @ Broncos-  16-14 Bears

credit: Robin Alam @ Getty Images
  1. The Bears have found their kicker: Before we talk about how boring and objectively bad both offenses were in this game. How about Eddy Pineiro? As we all know, the Bears season ended dramatically off the uprights, twice, in the playoffs. Now, their recently acquired kicker won them a game with a 53 yard FG as time expired. I would say that is an issue that was addressed beautifully.
  2. Snorefest: Both offenses looked awful. The Broncos let Joe Flacco throw 50 times in a close game against a great defense because why not? He ended 35/50 with 292 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. Pretty mediocre stats, but he did put them in position to win late until the defense failed to hold. Still safe to say Flacco hasn’t been reborn in the orange and navy. On the other hand, what is going on with Mitch Trubitsky? The Bears were smart in that they did not have their mediocre QB throw the ball 50 times but Mitch still found a way to look worse than Flacco. The run game did not look bad for the Bears. Rookie David Montgomery finally got going even finding the endzone. They ripped off a huge run by the swiss army knife Cordarelle Patterson. Yet, Mitch still had one of the worst days of any QB on Sunday. 27 attempts 16 completions for 120 yards is just plain awful.
  3. Bears found a way to win, like good teams do: It was not pretty, it was not against good competition, but it is the NFL and a win is a win. The Bears are eventually going to need to give Mitch a shot of adrenaline so that he looks at least 50% of what he looked like last year if they are going to compete for the NFC Championship. They are still in good shape though at (1-1). 

Cowboys @ Redskins- 31-21 Cowboys

credit: Scott Taesch @ Getty Images
  1. (Almost) Perfect Prescott: Again, Dak has been nearly perfect for Dallas this season. He completed 26/30 passes for 269 yards, 3 TDs and a lone interception. It really seems like Kellen Moore’s new offensive system has worked to Prescott’s strengths, opening up receivers in the middle of the field and creating easy throws for him to make. It also helps that Zeke ended up coming back and contributing, plus Dallas has a top O-Line and a group of gifted receivers. So far, Dallas is looking like the team to beat in the NFC East.
  2. Struggling Ground Game for WAS: With the absence of Derrius Guice (knee), Washington still struggled to find a steady ground game. Star Vet, Adrian Peterson made record books with his one TD sunday, but he only picked up 25 yards on 10 carries (2.5 YPC). If Washington wants to help out Case Keenum and the solid defense, finding a run flow would be super beneficial.
  3. Terry McLaurin: The young stud continues to shine, even with Case Keenum under center. This week he caught 5 balls for 62 yards and a TD. As an offense, this team has shown flashes of hope, and McLaurin has definitely been a huge part of that. However, maybe a big arm like Dwayne Haskins could help open things up for the Redskins? 

Jaguars @ Texans- 13-12 Texans

credit: Douglas DeFelice @ USA TODAY Sports
  1. King Jockstrap: Dr. Jock, Gardner Minshew, has been super impressive thus far. Against Houston, he racked up 213 yards and a TD on 23/33 completed passes against a physical Houston defense. He even showed off the legs with 6 carries for 56 yards. Although impressive, the Jags need to find Leo Fournette a rhythm and help Minshew out moving forward. If Fournette gets in a groove, maybe he finds a way to score on Doug Marrone’s ballsy 2 point attempt at the end of the game.
  2. Carlos Hyde: Houston may have found their replacement for downed RB Lamar Miller. After acquiring both Hyde and Duke Johnson before the season, the two backs split carries week one to fight for the lead role, and Hyde ended up on top (for now). Week 2 was an opportunity in which he thrived, taking 20 touches for a solid 90 yards against a very good Jaguars defense. If continued, this sort of production will open up the pass game for Deshaun Watson going forward. 

Philadelphia @ Atlanta- 24-20 Atlanta 

credit: Associated Press
  1. Eagles look Disabled: Before the game started, the Eagles announced TE Dallas Goedert inactive. That was not the end of injuries for the Eagles. Both starting WRs Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson left the game with lower body injuries early. Later in the game, Carson Wentz was forced out of the contest briefly in the concussion evaluation. The injuries piled up. While it was not an excuse for a bad night it must be noted. Overall, it was an unhealthy night for Philadelphia as they were playing an (0-1) Falcons team in their home opener.
  2. Both Offenses flash and sputter throughout: Both offenses started slowly and picked up some steam. Atlanta was able to find much more sustained success when Matt Ryan kept it clean but it was not a perfect night for Atlanta. Ryan was 27/43 with 320 yards 3 TDs and 3 INTs. While he was able to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers he made far too many mistakes and many uncatchable throws throughout. On the other hand, Atlanta’s dynamic duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley shined when the ball got there. Ridley caught a nice ball in tight coverage, Jones took a screen to the house to seal the game late. Atlanta looked explosive compared to the Eagles disabled offense. 
  3. NFC South opens and Eagles must lick their wounds: The Falcons won twice on Sunday, maybe even their 3rd win of the week if you count Cam Newton’s injury. Drew Brees is out, so is Newton. Now all of a sudden the crowded NFC South is wide open for Atlanta and Tampa Bay. On the flip side, the Eagles will have to get healthy, and quickly. 

Browns @ Jets: 23-3 Browns

credit: Getty Images
  1. Bowl Bound Browns?: After massive expectations of a super bowl run for Cleveland, have they lived up to the hype? Well after a blowout loss week one to the Titans, and looking not particularly great against a banged up Jets squad, my pre-season opinion holds true- the Browns are not that good. The coaching is suspect in my opinion, and the management has always had serious issues. Yes, I understand the talent on this team, but I just don’t think they’re ready to succeed to the level of a Super Bowl. Mayfield needs to be a better decision maker, the defense needs to mature, and I’m not sure Kitchens is the right guy for the head coaching job. 
  2. QB issues for NY: Darnold is out indefinitely with mono (unheard of at this level), replacement QB Trevor Siemian was knocked out of Monday Night with a bad leg injury, and now Luke Falk will take over. To say the least, the Jets are struggling, but now throw in a 3rd string guy at QB? A disaster waiting to happen- Adam Gase has to be frustrated.
  3. Lev Bell Hell: Lev did not look comfortable out there Monday Night. He constantly has nowhere to go with the ball, and has to improvise on his own to get any positive yardage. Bell had a combined 31 touches for just 129 yards, which is totally unlike him. Imagine 31 touches when he was on the Steelers… that stat line would probably be jaw dropping. Instead, Bell remains on the Jets with no O-Line and a 3rd string QB . You think he regrets his decision? (Probably)

Thursday Night Football Preview: Week 3 Jags vs Titans

By: Bryce Wadsworth

Tonight we have Tennessee (1-1) traveling to Jacksonville (0-2) for a tough divisional matchup. The game has big stakes, with both teams looking for their first divisional win of the season- which can go a long way when looking to make the playoffs. However, both teams have been shaky thus far this year, so there are a couple things that need to happen for both teams if they want to secure a W tonight.

Titans Offense: After a week one explosion against the Browns, the Titans offense halted last week against a young, Colts defense. Mariota struggled and was under pressure frequently. He barely got over the 150 yard mark and only had one TD. On the other hand Derrick Henry looked dominant, yet was not given the ball nearly as much as he should- even as the Titans held a late lead over Indy. So look for a heavy dose of Derrick Henry as Tennessee will look to play to their strengths against a solid Jags defense.

Jaguars Defense: The Jags defense really showed out last week, holding a lethal Houston offense to just 13 points. In reality, defense could have won Jacksonville the game, but a failed 2-point conversion at the end of regulation put them on the wrong side of the win column. Also, recent Jalen Ramsey trade rumors may be heating things up in the locker room, but for tonight, it is being said that, Ramsey will suit up and play- so we will see how it plays out.

Titans Defense: Tennessee’s defense has been fairly solid over the first two games. They held Cleveland in check, and successfully stalled a usually potent Colts offense in back to back weeks, but have only came out with one win so far. Tonight, the defense needs to stay hot in order to put the team in any sort of position to win the game.

Jaguars Offense: This offense has been really odd so far. After losing starter, Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew has come in and not been bad. He’s completed a surprising 77.6% of he passes, while adding 488 yards and 3 TDs. The odd part is their use of Leonard Fournette. With a revamped offense, and an RPO style offense to suit Foles, it was not crazy to expect that Leo would be more involved, but he has struggled (in my opinion). He has an underwhelming 4 yards per carry and is only averaging 14 touches a game. I really think the Jaguars need to balance out their offense in order to get things rolling.

Prediction: I would have to think Jacksonville takes one at home tonight. Expect a heavy defensive battle with a lot of smash-mouth, power running from both offenses. With that, Jacksonville has the better run weapons, and a far superior defense. So I have to say:

Jags win 17-13

Top Fantasy Football Pickups at Every Position (Week 3)

By: Bryce Wadsworth

QBs:

Mason Rudolph, PIT- With clear cut franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out for the season, Rudolph is now the guy. I love this guy. He was the quarterback of a top college passing offense in 2017, and has had a whole year to sit and learn the NFL game. You also need to consider that 1. James Conner is dealing with a knee issue and 2. Pittsburgh will be down in most games, so the new QB will get a lot of opportunities. After a fairly decent fill in this past Sunday, expect Rudolph to be an above average QB in fantasy.

Teddy Bridgewater, NO– Saints starter, Drew Brees, will miss a significant chunk of time, which means we get some more Teddy “Two Gloves” action. With deadly pass catching options like Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, expect the former 1st round pick to thrive in Sean Payton’s offense.

RBs:

Carlos Hyde, HOU- With no Lamar Miller and the release D’Onta Foreman, Houston desperately made acquisitions to fill up the running back room. They ended up getting Duke Johnson from CLE and then Hyde after he was released from Kansas City. The two started week one with split carries, but Hyde has emerged as the better fit in Bill O’Brien’s system. He doubled his carry count from week one to week two (10-20), so expect Hyde to start to really take over the starting role in Houston.

Frank Gore, BUF- This past weekend, young RB Devin Singletary left the game with a hamstring injury. Although there is no clear timeline on his return, keep in mind the impact/time a hamstring takes to heal. Even if he came back soon, he would be hindered due to the fact that hammy injuries typically linger throughout the season without the proper time to recover. With all that being said, Gore still showed some explosion with 19 carries, 68 yards and a TD sunday with Singletary out. Look for the vet to shine with his feature role.

Raheem Mostert, SF- No Tevin Coleman means more opportunities for both Breida and Mostert. Although Breida seems seems to take a lot of volume away from Mostert, if you are short at RB this is a quick fix until you could make a trade or one of your sleepers breaks out (Miles Sanders, I’m talking to you). Despite sharing the workload, Mostert still has averaged 5.6 YPC and has also shown his value as a pass catching threat with 68 total receiving yards thus far.

WRs:

Terry McLaurin, WAS- Most people probably don’t even know who this kid is, but trust me he is a fantasy star. Well at least so far. So far, he has had minimal talent around him and had Kase Keenum throwing him the rock. However, he has put up 10 ctaches with 187 yards plus 2 TDs in just 2 games. He’s also getting 8 targets a game on average. With Washington playing from behind constantly, and the potential of replacing Kase for Haskins, The “Scary Terry” of the NFL needs to be on your roster if you are thin at wideout.

D.K Metcalf, SEA- ANOTHER rookie WR??? Yup. We all know D.K from his viral/meme photo where he looks absolutely ripped. So far this season, he has been an awesome target for Russel Wilson to chuck it to. So far he has been targeted 13 times in 2 games. Even with only catching 7 of those targets- 1. We all know volume is important when evaluating WRs, and 2. He still has a team high 150 receiving yards with a 21 YPC average (plus 1 TD). If you don’t scoop up Metcalf this week, you’re making a huge mistake.

John Brown, BUF- Super easy pickup here. Josh Allen has been exceptional thus far and always seems to find Brown when he scrambles out of the pocket. In just 2 games, Brown has been targeted 18 times, while bringing in an astonishing 14 receptions. He also boasts 195 yards and a TD. He has been, without a doubt, Josh Allen’s favorite target, and should be on your roster if there’s an open spot.

TEs:

Mark Andrews, BAL- Most people were afraid to draft Mark Andrews because of the deep TE room in Baltimore, and for the fact that nobody knew Lamar would be THIS good (like wow he looks incredible so far). However, I took the chance on him in the 13th round of my 12 man PPR league and boy has it worked out. He has brought in 16 of 17 targets for 220 yards and 2 TDs. Hard to argue with those numbers and that much volume. Stop what you’re doing and GO GET MARK ANDREWS.

Greg Olsen- Greg used to be a top tier fantasy tight end, but with several lower body issues it has been hard to trust he would stay on the field. However, so far so good! Especially with Cam having issues throwing the ball and now with an apparent foot injury, he has relied heavily on Olsen as a big body to dump down to. Even if a new QB has to step in and replace Newton, Olsen should still remain productive. So far, he has put up 10 catches on 18 targets for 146 yards. He hasn’t gotten in the endzone yet, but give it time.

Next Man Up: Mason Rudolph

by: Bryce Wadsworth

Big news in the football world right now, “Big Ben” Roethlisberger underwent season ending right elbow surgery. This means that young buck 2nd string QB, Mason Rudolph will get a chance to showcase his skills.

Rudolph, a 3rd round pick in 2018, sat behind Josh Dobbs and Big Ben for his entire rookie season and has been vastly overlooked by NFL scouts and GMs. For those who don’t know the kid, he was a star at Oklahoma State; here is a quick collection of stats from Sports Reference.

  • 65% completion percentage
  • 4,904 passing yards
  • 37 TDs
  • 9 INTs

These stats from him senior year are quite impressive, especially with the competition in the Big12. However, the film is even more incredible. I’ll drop some clips from important games and my film evaluation from my 2017 scouting report below.

Now, this is not ALL of the game film I used to evaluate Mason, but these clips get my scouting report point across. With that being said, here was my 2017 evaluation:

The Good: 

– Rudolph has an outstanding deep ball. While I watched his film, he would hit his receivers on 40+ yard throws IN STRIDE several times a game. This kind of talent is unreal, rarely do quarterbacks have the ability to throw the deep ball that accurately. Deep Ball Comparison? Aaron Rodgers. Yup, I went there. 

– Although he is more of a pocket passer, Rudolph has very good footwork and mobility for his size. He doesn’t posses any type of superb speed or athleticism, but he consistently makes plays with his feet to either extend the pocket or escape from pressure. Even when he escapes pass-rushers, he has the ability to read downfield and make a good throw on the run. 

– Rudolph is also very accurate. In his film, you can see him consistently make tough throws on streaks, corners, comebacks, and deep out routes. Of course he makes bad throws here and there, but more often than not, he is very accurate with the football.

Bad: 

– Unfortunately, Rudolph is part of a 1 read system and he will need to develop the ability to go through a “pro style” progressions. This hurts his stock in a minimal way, but he still has the intangibles to be successful as long as he is able to develop this stage of his mental game. 

– Although he is very accurate, when he does happen to throw a bad pass, it is high. Next level players in the secondary are going to be able to pick off these types of overthrows. On top of this, he shows a lack of power in his throws. Way too many times, he lobs his passes. It was rare to see him throw a bullet pass, which is something he absolutely needs to develop. In the NFL corners, safeties, and even linebackers will be able to easily jump these lobs and intercept them. 

Overall, Mason Rudolph is a very intriguing prospect. He possesses all the intangibles to be a star, but he also has A LOT to develop if he wants to have that level of success.  In my personal ranking, I have Rudolph as the #2 draft prospect at QB. 

Keep in mind, I wrote that report in 2017. So he was in the same draft class as Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, and so on. I really liked Rudolph in the draft and I had a strong feeling that the former #5 pro-style recruit in high school would have the potential to become a star in the league and now he will get his chance with 14 games as an NFL starter.

All statistics retrieved from : https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/mason-rudolph-1.html

The Side of Sports Injuries You May Not Know

Photo by: Kevin C. Cox at Getty Images

By: Bryce Wadsworth

Twitter/Instagram: brycewads_15

Injuries are, and always have been a major factor in sports of all kinds. Obviously, they can be severely painful and have a massive impact on a team’s success throughout the season. However, the part that is not talked about nearly enough is the toll that an injury can have on an athlete’s mentally.

Andrew Luck was one of the most talented quarterbacks to come out of college since John Elway, and as a DIE HARD Colts fan I was absolutely thrilled when we selected him first overall in 2012. Also as a fan, I watched the man get beat up play after play, game after game, and year after year. In just 4 seasons as an NFL quarterback, Luck was sacked 156 times, or nearly 2.5 times a game. From all of those hits, Andrew suffered from the following injuries:

  • Torn cartilage in 2 ribs & a torn abdomen
  • Lacerated Kidney —> caused blood in his urine
  • Torn Labrum —> on his throwing shoulder
  • Calf/Ankle bone issues

None of those injuries sound fun right? What the average fan needs to understand is that injuries burn down your every-day will and determination to get back to normal. Every set back or every reoccurring issue tends to break you down more and more. Luck even had to sit out a year (2017) before returning last season, where he had a near MVP season.

However, when this bone issue in his ankle came up, the belief is that he didn’t want to keep putting his mind through the struggle of rehab/pushing his body and mind to the limit. Can you really blame him? Although he is incredibly talented and walked away from a lot of money, he made the right decision to retire from the game he loved.

See link below: Andrew Luck’s emotional press conference where he announces his retirement from football

https://www.colts.com/video/andrew-luck-announces-retirement
Andrew Luck fights back tears while answering questions about his decision to retire (image from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcook/2019/08/25/andrew-lucks-retirement-will-only-accelerate-youth-footballs-participation-decline/#77fcebe45ec2 )

While Andrew’s retirement had been THE talk of sports leading up to the start of the (long awaited) NFL season, he is certainly not the only one who suffered from the physical and mental trauma of a sports injury process, only a voice for those misunderstood.

During my senior year in high school, I suffered from a dislocated elbow with multiple torn ligaments in my arm playing football. I was bed-ridden from the pain and swelling throughout my entire lower arm. Doctors told me that I would be done for the season and I would have to go through months of rehab to get full mobility in my arm again. As you could imagine, I was not in a good mental place.

I could not sleep at all, I sat in bed and ate all day, and I didn’t want to leave the house. There was absolutely zero amounts of motivation in me to do anything but lay in bed all hours of the day. “It’s all over”, I would think to myself, “there’s no point in trying”. Eventually, I had to go back to school and back to football practice to support the team, which made things even worse. I felt like everything I did was meaningless. My trip back to the practice field made me take on the feeling of guilt, as if me being hurt was letting the team down. If we lost a game, I saw it as my fault. I didn’t even want to go to any of them. I didn’t want to show my face anywhere.

Then, I started rehab. At first, I was reluctant to go, but eventually my mom dragged me in and I dealt with it. My PT was very nice and patient, however the exercises and stretches I had to put my swollen, immobilized arm through were excruciating. My arm was stiff and unable to move, but every day the therapist would massage, twist, and bend my arm every which way to get me to (near) full mobility and strength again. I gained some confidence and actually ended up working to get ahead of schedule, giving me an opportunity to play for the last three games of my senior football season.

Naturally, I was excited and ended up having the best high school game of my career with 10 tackles and 2.5 TFLs (on senior night nonetheless). After that game though, I never felt the same. I started to overthink, I babied my hurt arm, I play scared, and I was in my head. I started to make mental errors with my reads at linebacker. I would miss calls, checks, and easy tackles. This is when I decided I was done. In the past, I had always played through pulled hamstrings, hip flexers, sprained shoulder joints, a sciatic nerve pain in my lower back, and I suffered many concussions throughout my time as a football player. This major injury was what put me over the edge mentally. Over just three seasons as part of the varsity program, I suffered various injuries that wore down my mental health and willpower. The injuries and playing scared to get hurt both took away the fun for me.

Now this was just MY experience. Imagine what a collegiate or professional athlete would go through? They invest completely in the sport they play, and suffer dozens of injuries (of varying severities) throughout their entire lives. There are likely thousands or even millions of people who suffer from post-injury depressive symptoms, but are afraid to embrace it.

The important issue is this: injuries are mentally challenging. They have the ability to ruin your experience and enjoyment of playing your sport. For me, injuries took me away from the playing field, but it has given me the opportunity to find other things that I enjoy in life. I am now studying media studies in college and giving back to my community by coaching youth football (where I’m able to pass down my experiences to young children who aspire to be athletes).

Now, players like Andrew Luck and even Rob Gronkowski have the ability to enjoy their lives after football. Gronk has even started his own business venture, pairing with Abacus Health Products , who will help him produce a line of CBD medical products to help athletes recover from their professional sports injuries. Gronkowski himself was reported to have admitted to having over 20 concussions during his career in the NFL. The awareness drawn to the mental health issue among athletes by retiring players like Luck and Gronk have been massive.

I believe it is beyond important for people, especially the quick-to-judge sports fans, to see an athlete’s perspective when thinking about this subject. Pain is physically damaging, but the long term affects on mental health are much more drastic. Awareness needs to be raised. Thank you Andrew and Rob for your bravery in speaking out for those who may have been afraid of being judged.

Rob Gronkowski happily announces his partnership with Abacus Health Products, launching his post-football career. (image from: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/02/rob-gronkowski-on-cbd-his-biggest-money-splurge-and-mark-cuban.html )

Sources:

Cook, Bob. “Andrew Luck’s Retirement Will Only Accelerate Youth Football’s Participation Decline.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Aug. 2019, http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcook/2019/08/25/andrew-lucks-retirement-will-only-accelerate-youth-footballs-participation-decline/#77fcebe45ec2.

Jr., Tom Huddleston. “Ex NFL Star Rob Gronkowski on CBD, His Biggest Money Splurge and Mark Cuban.” CNBC, CNBC, 2 Sept. 2019, http://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/02/rob-gronkowski-on-cbd-his-biggest-money-splurge-and-mark-cuban.html.

“Players.” Andrew Luck: Career Stats at NFL.com, 2019, http://www.nfl.com/player/andrewluck/2533031/careerstats.

Sullivan, Tyler. “Rob Gronkowski Announces next Chapter in Post-NFL Life, Addresses Potential Comeback.” CBSSports.com, 28 Aug. 2019, http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/rob-gronkowski-announces-next-chapter-in-post-nfl-life-addresses-potential-comeback/.