2017 AFC East division preview

2017 AFC East division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. The Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season this week. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further ado, here is the 2017 AFC East division preview.

4: New York Jets

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: JULIO CORTEZ/AP)

Last season: 5-11

Strength of schedule: 8

Is it worth it to do a preview on the Jets? Let’s just stick a fork in them right now and put them on the clock. New York had an underwhelming season last year and seemed to completely blow up the roster and start a rebuild. There is little to look forward to this season so Jet fans start watching college football and look for your next quarterback.

Josh McCown will be under center for an offense who will have two really solid running backs, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. This duo combined to lead the Jets to 112.6 rush yards per game. That was the only true positive from the offense as they ranked 30th in points. This season they won’t have Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall and their starting receivers will be Jalin Marshall and Robby Anderson. There won’t be much of a passing attack, making the Jets one dimensional and predictable.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets have plenty of talent to be a good unit. The issue is that the offense is going to hurt them by keeping them on the field often. Up front, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson will be a handful for any offensive line. The two combined for 126 tackles and 11.5 sacks.

The play of the defensive line should make life easy for the linebackers. With a good defensive front, linebackers Daren Lee, Demario Davis and Jordan Jenkins should be free to fly around and make plays.

Cornerback play will be suspect with Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne but the secondary will be led by a fantastic safety duo. Marcus Maye and rookie Jamal Adams, the fantastic duo, have turned heads in both practices and in the preseason. These two will be feared and are the future of the New York Jets’ defense.

The entire defense should be very improved and part of the reason is the only way to go is up from a defense that gave up 25.6 points per game. They also ranked 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Todd Bowles is known for his defense but left it in Arizona.

With a rebuild going on in New York, the Jets will be difficult to watch. The defense will be talented but an offense with no playmakers and no big play ability will bring the team down. It doesn’t help that they have the eighth toughest schedule. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, are now on the clock.

Prediction: 1-15 (0-6), miss the playoffs

win: Jax

3: Miami Dolphins

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Last season: 10-6

Strength of schedule: 6

Miami lost their quarterback for the season so they went to the broadcast booth and pulled out Jay Cutler. Cutler is no franchise savior. He wasn’t even in shape because according to him, quarterbacks don’t need to be in great cardiovascular shape. With that being said, his best season came under Adam Gase so this move is intriguing. In that season, Cutler had 3,659 yards 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a career high 92.3 quarterback rating.

The Dolphins offensive line is one of the worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus. In the past, bad offensive lines have brought out the worst in Cutler. Aside from the offensive line, Cutler will have some really solid weapons around him. At running back, Jay Ajaya is poised to have another big season. Ajaya rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Dolphins on the ground.

The receiving corp is one of the most talented in the league. Jarvis Landry is the headliner with 288 receptions, 3,051 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Alongside the stud Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills create mismatches while teams focus on the running game and Landry. Parker and Stills combined for 98 receptions, 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns. These weapons should make life easy for Cutler but he has had many weapons in the past and still found ways to mess up.

Cutler used to have Matt Forte in the backfield. He also has had receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall but still had rough seasons. Cutler may make some great throws over the course of the season but when push comes to shove he will also do something boneheaded and cost his team dearly.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins are going to struggle. Last season they gave up 23.8 points per game, ranking 18th. The defensive line couldn’t stop the run, giving up 140.4 yards per game nor could they get pressure on the quarterback accumulating just 33 sacks. Cameron Wake is 35 years old and has lost a step over the past few seasons.

With an at best average defensive line, the linebacking corps and defensive backs will struggle to succeed. This defense was ranked at the bottom of the league last season and are in a worse position this season. As Jay Cutler begins to turn the ball over, the defense will be in bad situations making the numbers worse. Miami is in for a rough season.

Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs

losses: TB, @LAC, NO, Ten, @ATL, Oak, @Car, @NE, Den, NE, @Buf, @KC

2: Buffalo Bills

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit:http://www.buffalobills.com)

Last season: 7-9

Strength of schedule: 5

Buffalo is under a new regime and fans are hoping this group of coaches will finally end the playoff drought which has lasted since 1999. Sean McDermott was hired to improve the defense and get the Bills back to the promised land.

In order for the Bills to have a good season, and make the playoffs, they must ride LeSean McCoy there. Buffalo led the NFL in rushing yards last season at 164.4 yards per game. Their fantastic ground game led the Bills to the 10th best scoring offense, averaging 24.9 points per game. The rushing attack will still be one of the leagues best behind a top 10 offensive line.

The big improvement the Bills will see this season will be in the passing game. Buffalo averaged a dreadful 189.8 passing yards last season. They drafted Zay Jones and traded for Jordan Matthews to give Tyrod Taylor more reliable weapons. Sammy Watkins was shipped out because of his inability to stay healthy. Jones and Matthews will be a solid duo barring any injuries.

As mentioned, McDermott was hired to fix a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game and a rush defense that gave up 133.1 yards per game. The defensive line is very talented and will improve the rush defense under the tutelage of McDermott. His defenses have had a reputation for doing so while in Carolina. In his last four seasons as defensive coordinator, McDermotts’ defenses ranked second, 16th, fourth and sixth in rush defense.

Buffalo will be an improved football team and will fight for a wild card spot but the tough schedule will make it difficult. The Bills may not end the drought this season but are heading in the right direction.

Prediction: 8-8 (4-2), wildcard candidate

losses: @Car, Den, @Cin, TB, @KC, NE, Ind, @NE

1: New England Patriots

2017 AFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.usatoday.com)

Last season: 14-2

Strength of schedule: 12

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the best quarterback and head coach duo of all-time. Both are the G.O.A.T’s and as long as these two are around, the Patriots will be in contention. New England has won eight straight division titles and 14 of the last 17. Blah blah blah, we know all this already and we know that the Patriots are going to be damn good this season. This preview is a typical preview of the Patriots.

The Patriots’ offseason was the rich just getting richer. New England acquired Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Stephon Gillmore. Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis will also be returning from their injuries. Brady will have plenty of weapons to have another legendary season.

There is nothing to worry about with the offense and as long as father time doesn’t sack Tom Brady, the Patriots will have one of the best offenses in the NFL.

What will really make the Patriots great again is their defense. Last season New England ranked first in points allowed at 15.6 per game. The front four of Lawerence Guy, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown and Trey Flowers aren’t superstars but will do their job sufficiently enough that the rest of the defense will be able to make plays.

The Patriots’ secondary is going to be close to unstoppable. It may even be the best secondary in the NFL. Stephon Gillmore and Malcolm Butler are going to lock down both sides of the field. Safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will patrol the middle of the field against the run and the pass. It is scary that Belichick will have this much talent to work with.

The Patriots are a world class organization that knows how to win. Until they show signs of falling off the map, they are the prohibitive favorites to not only win the division but the conference as well.

Prediction: 14-2 (6-0), division champion

losses: ATL, @Oak

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Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

We continue our fantasy football bold predictions. This time we breakdown the AFC East. And don’t worry, it’s not all about the Patriots.

Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor Is Not a QB2

Tyrod Taylor enters as the 18th fantasy quarterback.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Tyrod Taylor (Photo by: espn.com)

Taylor surprised a lot of people coming back to Buffalo this season. More surprising is that Buffalo traded away their top receiver Sammy Watkins and acquired Jordan Matthews in a separate deal.

Taylor finished 2016 as the No. 18 fantasy quarterback. However, he did score at least 20 fantasy points in standard leagues in seven of 15 starts. He also had at least 17 fantasy points in three other games, so he only really struggled for five games on the year. But that’s 2016.

In 2017, his two receivers are Matthews and Zay Jones. Not the best tandem let alone they are new to Buffalo.

So far this preseason Taylor has struggled in the new offense. He had a two-interception outing in Buffalo’s preseason loss to the Eagles on Thursday.

A report from Joe Buscaglia of ABC 7 Buffalo stated that there was concern about who will start at quarterback in week 1. Head coach Sean McDermott said they will go with Taylor as the starter. That alone causes concern on how ready Taylor is.

He has success without Watkins but he’s relying on a rookie and a new receiver to the offense to act as his main targets. It’s risky to even draft Taylor. I also predict that Taylor will not finish the season as the starter.

Miami Dolphins: Julius Thomas will have double digit touchdowns

Julius Thomas was traded from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Miami Dolphins this offseason. He currently ranks as the 18th tight end in fantasy.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Julius Thomas (Photo by: miamidolphins.com)

In a previous article, he is my tight end fantasy sleeper and I still believe that. His time in Jacksonville was dreadful but in Miami he rejoins Adam Gase from his playing days in Denver.

He only had nine total touchdowns with Jacksonville in two seasons. His big break in 2013, he had 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns. Even though his quarterback was some guy named Peyton Manning in Denver, Thomas excelled in Gase’s offense.

He was very efficent in the red zone. In 2013 from inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line. The year after, he was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine from the 20-yard line. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

Gase has had success helping his tight ends after Thomas. Even though he won’t have Ryan Tannehill, he will have Jay Cutler throwing the ball.

In 2015 when Gase coached Cutler in Chicago, tight end Zach Miller led the team with five touchdowns. With a better supporting cast, Thomas should be the top option in the red zone and should improve from the days in Jacksonville.

New England Patriots: Mike Gillislee becomes the next LeGarrette Blount

The Patriots signed Gillislee, a restricted free agent from the Buffalo Bills, after a season of 101 carries for 577 yards and eight touchdowns.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Mike Gillislee (Photo by: profootballweekly.com)

The Patriots are known to like their workhorse backs. Gillislee averaged more yards per carry (4.2) than LeGarrette Blount (3.3) against eight or more defenders in the box last season.

Gillislee now takes over as the starting back, a role that produced 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 from Blount. He produced nine total touchdowns as the backup to LeSean McCoy in Buffalo last year and being in the top offense in the NFL should only help him.

Now the Patriots do have a lot of running backs with Rex Burkhead, James White and Dion Lewis. New England backs can see a hefty market share in the offense. But that didn’t stop the starters for having good seasons.

Last year, Blount carried 62.03 percent of New England’s touches, good for the ninth-highest share in football. He saw a similar per-game rate in 2015 (he missed four games, but paced towards a 57 percent market share), and in 2012, Stevan Ridley ended the year with a 55.45 percent rushing attempt market share for the Pats. 

It’s not unreasonable to think Gillislee, who has a skillset that’s broader than Blount’s and has shown a ton of upside. He is currently the 24th running back in fantasy.

New York Jets: Bilal Powell will be a top-15 running back

Despite opening last season as the No. 2 running back for the Jets behind Matt Forte, Bilal Powell might have been the best running back in New York in 2016.

Fantasy football bold predictions: AFC East

Bilal Powell (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)

He finished as the No. 23 fantasy running back in standard leagues, which was just three spots behind Forte. He had 131 carries for 722 yards (5.51 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, and 58 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns.

Powell had career highs in rushing yards, yards per carry and receptions. He outperformed 31-year-old Forte, producing almost as many plays better than 15 yards (14) as Forte (16) despite 59 fewer touches. Powell had a higher average of yards per carry after contact and more missed tackles.

In his final seven games, Powell had at least 14 fantasy points in standard leagues in four of those outings. Powell becomes dual-threat running back this year as he will be a top target in the passing game with Quincy Enunwa out for the season.

Only David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and White garnered more targets in the passing game for running backs last season. The offense isn’t great, but Powell could get around 250 touches next season if he stays healthy.

He’s going to get his share of touches and he’s a solid No. 3 fantasy running back to target with a mid- to late-round pick, with his value higher in PPR.

 

Featured image from thesportsquotient.com.

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Cam Newton

NFL early season games to watch: Gut check games

As nice as it is to have NFL football back on our television sets, preseason games are often a tough watch. However, it is now more than fashionable to look ahead to the regular season.

Teams can change a lot over 16-plus weeks. Even so, early fall games frequently foreshadow the future. Here is a single game from each of the first four weeks of the season that will tell us a great deal about the teams involved.

Week 1: Bucs at Dolphins

Patriots/Chiefs, Seahawks/Packers and Giants/Cowboys will get all the opening week headlines. This battle of Florida teams is a solid undercard that should not be overlooked.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: zambio.com

The hype train has been rolling all offseason for Tampa Bay. With Jameis Winston only getting better, it is easy to see why. The charismatic signal caller has tossed 50 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

Also, new additions DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard should help free up top pass catcher Mike Evans. Toss in a young defense that had some really nice moments last year, and the end of a long playoff drought becomes realistic. Opening up against a playoff team from last season will serve as a nice measuring stick.

For Miami, the season hinges on the play of retiree-turned-knight in shining armor Jay Cutler who is back to play for his biggest supporter in head coach Adam Gase. If Cutler is healthy and motivated, he can still throw for over 3,500 yards like he did under the direction of Gase in Chicago.

However, if something is not right with the Cutler experiment, the Bucs are certainly good enough to exploit it and begin what will be a long year for the Dolphins.

Week 2: Cowboys at Broncos

Regardless of the outcome of Ezekiel Elliott’s appeal, the Cowboys are in for a dogfight with the Giants in the opener. However, the rubber will really meet the road here. As long as all members of the “No Fly Zone” are around, the only way to move the ball on a consistent basis against Denver is on the ground.

The Broncos got pushed around at the point of attack in 2016, finishing 28th against the run. If Dallas cannot run the ball here, they will likely struggle in a big way in Elliott’s absence. Conversely, going up against what is widely regarded as the best offensive line in football will be a fantastic gauge of improvement (if any) against the run for Denver.

Week 3: Seahawks at Titans:

Much like Tampa Bay, there’s lots of talk about Tennessee ending a lengthy playoff drought this year after exceeding expectations in 2016.

NFL early season games to watch

Photo: larrybrownsports.com

The Titans are a rarity in the modern NFL. They run the ball as much or more than they throw it. Games are rarely placed squarely on the shoulders of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota does a great job fulfilling his role and taking care of the football. He put up 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions last year.

No team has mastered the physical brand of football that the Titans are trying to build a powerhouse with better than Seattle over the last half decade. Barring key injuries, Seattle will be in the mix again this year.

However, if the Titans want to sit at the big kid table of the NFL, this is their chance to prove they belong.

Week 4: Panthers at Patriots:

With the exception of Josh Norman departing, many of the main cogs for the Panthers are the same as they were when Carolina reached the Super Bowl just two years ago. However, a similar cast of characters also posted a losing record last year.

The Patriots are the gold standard in the NFL. That will likely remain the case as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around. While talk of them going undefeated is ridiculous, they will certainly be the toughest team in the league to beat.

Make no mistake that Cam Newton and the Panthers still have the talent to play with any opponent in any location. Their performance against the reigning Super Bowl champions will speak volumes about whether their true identity is the team that reached the Super Bowl, or the team that fell off a cliff last year.

 

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John Fox

NFL preseason coaching heat check

NFL coaches on the hot seat is a topic that fans and media alike never seem to stop talking about. NFL preseason is a good time to take an inventory of coaches that could be in trouble if the upcoming season goes poorly.

The NFL never stops surprising us. Thus, the coaches mentioned here are by no means the only ones that might be relocating in 2018. These are just the situations that jump off the page immediately.

Dead men walking

John Fox

John Fox is a hugely underrated coach who has engineered massive turnarounds and deep playoffs runs everywhere he has been. Everywhere except Chicago, that is, as he is just 9-23 in two seasons with the Bears. These days, coaches rarely get more than three seasons to be awful in the same spot.

Unfortunately for Fox, the front office has given him his worst Bears roster yet. The already murky quarterback situation was only made messier by the surprise drafting of rookie Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick. Outside of running back Jordan Howard, there just is not much talent on this roster.

There are a lot of projects. Fox does not have time for projects. Despite going 3-13 last year, Chicago did not make much of an impact in free agency and only ended up with five draft picks.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: nydailynews

It is not entirely his fault, but this is not the recipe for the kind of turnaround Fox needs to keep his job. Right or wrong, the head coach is always the first to go.

Todd Bowles

Minus the established track record, Fox and Todd Bowles are in very similar spots. Bowles is 15-17 in two seasons with the Jets.

With a quarterback race that features Bryce Petty, Josh McCown and Christian Hackenberg and a receiving group in which no one has caught 60 career passes, a winless season is very realistic for the Jets. No coach survives that. Bowles will likely land on his feet as defensive coordinator somewhere in 2018.

Not likely, but not impossible

Mike Zimmer

Mike Zimmer is one of the most respected coaches in the game. He had the back story of assistant coach who paid his dues in the NFL for almost two decades before getting a shot to be a head coach.

However, the reality is that Zimmer is slowly becoming Rex Ryan without the brash and bold guarantees. The defense has always been elite during Zimmer’s time in Minnesota. It even carried them to a 6-0 start last year.

Much like Rex Ryan’s teams though, the offensive side of the ball just is not very good. They have never ranked inside the top 20 in total offense under Zimmer. Even in 2015 when Zimmer’s Vikings reached the playoffs, they were 31st in passing offense.

Rex Ryan has a 61-66 record with four playoff wins as an NFL head coach. He’s now a commentator for ESPN. Zimmer is 26-22 without a playoff win. If Zimmer does not figure out the offensive side of the ball this year, his record will creep closer to .500 and he could join Ryan at ESPN.

Adam Gase

Two weeks ago, Gase would not have been in any article like this. He did an outstanding job in leading the Dolphins to the playoffs last year in his first season.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: espn.com

However, bringing his favorite pupil Jay Cutler out of retirement to save the day after the injury to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is pretty bold. Yes, Cutler had his best statistical season when Gase was his offensive coordinator with the Bears in 2015, but that team still managed only six wins. Last year, Cutler only started five games due to injury and poor performance.

Cutler’s lack of passion for the game of football has always been painfully apparent. Despite a wealth of natural talent, he is only led a team the playoffs once and has losing record as a starter.

He will no doubt fill the stat sheet with touchdowns and interceptions in Miami. Even so, there is nothing to suggest that he will fare any better than original backup quarterback Matt Moore in terms of winning games.

Gaze really stuck his neck out for Cutler. It is only a one-year deal. Even so, if the experiment blows up in his face and muddies the future of the quarterback position in Miami, ownership having a quick hook would not be all that surprising.

Unique Situations:

In addition to the four coaches mentioned above, 2017 is also a big year for several coaches that have been with their current teams for many years. Marvin Lewis, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano have all experienced significant success in their current coaching stops. However, they all missed the playoffs last year.

Some of them are on a streak of unsuccessful seasons. They have all done great things for their respective franchises over the years and have immense respect of ownership. Thus, I cannot see any of them getting fired. If the upcoming season goes poorly though, a mutual parting of ways is certainly possible.

 

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Miami Dolphins fantasy football: Jay Cutler’s impact

On Aug. 6, quarterback Jay Cutler came out of retirement to sign with the Miami Dolphins. This signing indicates that Ryan Tannehill is likely out for the season and Cutler will take over as the starter. On paper this could be a good signing for the Dolphins, but how will Cutler fair to fantasy owners?

Adam Gase Reunion

Miami Dolphins fantasy football: Jay Cutlers impact

Jay Cutler and Adam Gase (Photo by: sportsmockery.com)

It’s hard to project players that go to new teams and new schemes but that’s not the case here. We have seen Cutler in this offense before. He and head coach Adam Gase reunite from the days of the Chicago Bears where Gase was the offensive coordinator in 2015.

While Chicago was at the bottom half of the league in both yards and points scored, Cutler had one his most productive seasons. In 15 games, Cutler completed 64.4 percent of his passes and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. He threw for 3,659 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Even though Chicago didn’t thrive, it is safe to say Cutler had a solid season at age 32 with Gase.

The numbers under Gase

Most of us want to wonder how, if anything, Gase’s offense has changed since becoming a head coach. Fantasypros.com gives us a look at the 14 games Cutler played in 2015, and compare it to how Gase has coordinated his offenses throughout the years.

Att/gm RB Tgt % WR Tgt % TE Tgt %
2015 (Cutler) 32.2 22.0% 57.0% 15.0%
2016 (Tannehill) 29.8 18.0% 67.0% 15.0%
2014 (Manning) 37.9 16.0% 67.0% 16.0%
2013 (Manning) 42.2 17.0% 62.0% 20.0%

Besides Peyton Manning’s breakout 2013 season, Cutler’s numbers are consistent to the other years that Gase has ran the offense. But Cutler had only 57 percent of passes targeted to wide receivers the lowest of the four seasons. However, to Cutler’s credit, these are the receivers he threw to that season.

Player Games Targets
Alshon Jeffery 9 94
Marquess Wilson 11 51
Eddie Royal 9 50
Josh Bellamy 16 34
Marc Mariani 16 33
Cameron Meredith 11 16
Deonte Thompson 7 3

For starters he didn’t have Alshon Jeffrey for the nearly half the season as he missed seven games. The No. 1 and No. 2 receivers that season were Josh Bellamy and Marc Mariani for seven games. Cutler did not have Brandon Marshall as he was traded to the New York Jets that year.

You can’t criticize Cutler. In fact, he should be given an award for the miracle season he had throwing for 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. I see Cutler targeting the wide receivers in 2017 more like Tannehill last season.

Dolphins Pass Catchers

Miami Dolphins fantasy football: Jay Cutlers impact

Kenny Stills, Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker (Photo by: miamiherald.com)

It’s easy to say Cutler has better weapons than he did in Chicago. He has a good trio of receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills that can be argued as one of the better trios in the NFL. They also have tight end Julius Thomas who has been in the Gase offense in Denver from 2013 to 2014.

The one problem with Thomas is he needs to stay on the field, something he hasn’t done throughout the entirety of his career. Pass catchers will get more targets because Jay Ajayi isn’t known as a pass catcher like Matt Forte was in Chicago.

If we want to project how Cutler will fair in games, he should be throwing over 30 times a game and should be well over 500 passes for the season. I expect the wide receiver targets to double from what they have been in past Gase offenses. The targets to running backs and tight ends should be consistent with years past.

Which receivers will succeed

For starters, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills should be moving up draft boards. The difference between Cutler and Tannehill is that Cutler has one of the stronger arms in the league.

Parker has been labeled to have a great bounce back season. He struggled last year but Gase has praised him this year for his dedication to this offense. Fortunately for him, Cutler tends to favor the big body wide receivers and has the arm to get the ball downfield to them. Parker and Stills could each have 100 targets this year.

As for Jarvis Landry, he could see less targets because Cutler didn’t really take shots in the short, middle area of the field with Gase in Chicago, but personnel likely played a role in that. Eddie Royal was his slot receiver in Chicago. He has Landry this year and he won’t be ignored as he is the top target.

If anything, Landry is still a candidate for over 1,000 yards. Entering a contract year, it’s not exactly the best situation for Landry, though coach Adam Gase is known for feeding his playmakers. Landry is still a WR2 but Cutler at quarterback hurts his draft stock just a little bit.

Final verdict

It’s safe to say that Cutler has had his highs and is lows. Who hasn’t in Chicago lately? He does have a track record of getting hurt and also being unreliable as a fantasy passer for several years. But there is some potential for Cutler in this offense with better weapons surrounding him. He’s worth a look in a two-quarterback league and also as a backup in deeper leagues.

 

Featured image from dailydolphin.blog.palmbeachpost.com.

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Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

It’s been a rough training camp for the Miami Dolphins. Jay Ajayi has a concussion and now Ryan Tannehill has gone down and might be done for the season with a knee injury. The worst part of his injury is that it was the same knee he injured in week 14 and he wasn’t touched on the play where he was rolling out. There was no structural damage, however, reports Thursday night indicated Tannehill could need season-ending knee surgery.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Matt Moore (Photo by: heavy.com)

On Friday, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Matt Moore “is our quarterback” for the time being in a press conference. The Dolphins just signed former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler yesterday, meaning he’s likely the best bet to be Miami’s starter in week one.

Cutler worked with Gase in Chicago in 2015 and had his best career year with Gase in that season.

Now everyone is going to start to panic not just because of Tannehill but about the weapons in Miami as well. The Dolphins have three prominent receivers in Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills along with tight end Julius Thomas.

Now the big reason for this is to not panic. Landry and Parker shouldn’t lose any value with Tannehill gone. And Stills might benefit even without a familiar quarterback to catch passes from.

Jarvis Landry

Start with Landry, whose average draft position (ADP) on Fantasy Pros is currently in Round 4 in all leagues. He has been ranked around 18-25 as a wide receiver and our own Cameron Palikuca ranked him as the 23rd receiver in his rankings.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Jarvis Landry (Photo by: dailydolphin.blog.palmbeachpost.com)

In four games with Moore last year including the playoff game against the Steelers, Landry had 26 catches for 315 yards and two touchdowns on 33 targets. If you project his final four games over 16 games he would’ve had Landry would have finished with 104 catches for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns on 132 targets. The touchdowns and yards would be a career highs. And catches and targets would be the second best of his career. For 2017, I don’t see Landry matching these stats.

The final three games of the season he had two double digit outings. In the season finale, Landry caught nine passes on 12 targets for 76 yards and a touchdown from Moore. Then in the playoffs, he had 14 targets into 11 receptions for 102 yards. Things seemed to click after those two games.

I don’t expect Landry to suffer with Moore under center. I also expect with Landry in a contract year to play at a high level.

Devante Parker

Many believe that Parker could have a breakout season. His ADP is Round 8 in PPR as the No. 37 receiver, and he’s going as the No. 42 receiver in Round 9 in standard leagues. He is the 37th receiver by Palikuca but many believe he will play better then where he will be drafted.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Ryan Tannehill and DeVante Parker (Photo by: thedeependmiami.com)

Parker was a receiver that struggled with Moore. In their four games together last season, Parker only had 14 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown on 22 targets. Going back to the projections, he would’ve had 56 catches, 808 yards and four touchdowns on 88 targets over a full season, which is basically what he did in 2016 (56 catches, 744 yards and four touchdowns on 87 targets).

I think Parker can do better then his 2016 numbers. He has potential and could be Moore’s favorite weapon and I especially see him as a presence in the red zone at 6-3. Two of his touchdowns came within the 10-yard line. He will also be a valuable deep-threat in favorable matchups as he had two touchdowns of 40-yards plus.

Kenny Stills and Julius Thomas

First with Kenny Stills, he thrived with Moore. Stills had 13 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns on 23 targets. He scored at least eight fantasy points in a standard league in every game.

Miami Dolphins fantasy football situation

Kenny Stills (Photo by: sun-sentinel.com)

The projections over 16 games would’ve been 52 catches for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns on 92 targets. That would be an improvement on his actual stats from 2016 when he had 42 catches for 726 yards and nine touchdowns on 81 targets.

The problem that comes with Stills is that he’s likely the third or fourth target especially if Parker improves and Thomas makes an impact. But the chemistry can’t be ignored between him and Moore. Stills is definitely worth a late-round flier given his ADP, which is Round 15 in PPR and Round 18 in standard leagues.

As for Thomas, I predicted he would be a sleeper to watch before the Tannehill injury. There’s nothing to go on for Thomas as this his first season in Miami but he has played with Gase before in Denver. With Gase as the offensive coordinator in Denver, Thomas had 24 touchdowns combined in 2013-14 and was a top 10 Fantasy tight end both years. He’s worth a late-round flier in all leagues now that he’s back with Gase.

Final verdict

From a non-fantasy view, the Dolphins should be okay. From a fantasy perspective, no one should panic picking Dolphins players. One player that could thrive is Ajayi. His role will increase some especially with the Tannehill situation. He could sneak into the first round in some leagues due to concerns with the quarterback.

But the Dolphins should be ok with Moore and the good thing for him is that he has familiar faces he played with last season as well as the same system. He will keep Landry, Parker and Stills playing at a high level for fantasy owners this year.

As of Sunday August 6, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has reported that Cutler has come out of retirement and agreed to a contract with the Miami Dolphins.

 

Featured image from nflspinzone.com.

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Colin Kaepernick

The Miami Dolphins’ quarterback quandary

With head coach Adam Gase acknowledging that knee surgery is an a option for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a playoff team from last year is left with major question marks as far as who will be taking snaps this year.

Several solutions are being rumored. The Dolphins are a pretty solid football team. Thus, they cannot afford to knock on the wrong door here. If they do, their season could be over before it really starts.

That said, let’s dissect Miami’s quarterback situation and dive into the team’s options.

The safe bet: Matt Moore

Matt Moore is the perfect backup quarterback. That is exactly what he has been for most of his career. He has started 28 out of 46 career games played and posted a 15-13 record as a starter. This includes leading the Dolphins to a pair of wins that locked down last year’s playoff spot in relief of an injured Tannehill. Not many quarterbacks last a decade in the NFL, backup or otherwise.

Miami Dolphins quarterback quandary

Photo miami.cbsloacal.com

The Dolphins are in a tricky spot though. Unless they figure out time travel and bring back Dan Marino, they are not taking the AFC East from New England. However, they are suited to finish ahead of fellow division rivals Buffalo and the Jets, even with Moore. The 32-year-old can take care of the football well enough to keep Miami competitive.

It is difficult for me to get past Miami’s 30-12 playoff loss to Pittsburgh last year. More looked overwhelmed, as did the rest of the team. Sticking with Moore in Tannehill’s absence could get this franchise back to where it was last year, but certainly no further.

The bad idea: Jay Cutler

It makes perfect sense for Jay Cutler’s name to be thrown around when it comes to Miami’s quarterback situation. However, that does not mean it is a good idea.

The recently retired gunslinger had his best season as a pro in 2015. That year, current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was his offensive coordinator in Chicago. Even so, Cutler’s career best 92.3 passer rating was not good enough for the Bears to post a winning record.

To put it mildly, there have always been questions about Cutler’s passion for football. Now that he has shifted his focus to broadcasting, it is debatable as to whether or not he would be able to flip the switch back into competitive athlete mode. Worse yet, I am not even sure he truly wants to. The Dolphins have reportedly had casual conversations with Cutler and his representatives. That is as far as this flirtation should go.

High risk, high reward: Colin Kaepernick

Miami Dolphins quarterback quandary

Photo: boston.cbslocal.com

With all the controversy surrounding him, the fact that Colin Kaepernick still has it in him to be a very dynamic dual threat NFL quarterback is getting lost in the shuffle.

In 11 starts for an atrocious 49ers team last year, Kaepernick tossed 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Imagine what he is still capable of with real talent around him. Real talent is something the Dolphins definitely have.

We all know that his political activism is why Kaepernick remains unsigned. However, if dogfighting and domestic violence do not disqualify you from being on an NFL roster, voicing your opinion should not either.

Could signing Kaepernick alienate parts of the locker room and fan base? Of course. However, there is a very simple remedy to that: Be a productive player and deliver this franchise its first playoff win since the 2000 season.

Of the options on the table for Miami, Kaepernick is the only one who has shown that he may be capable of doing that. That is good enough for me. The Dolphins need to suck it up and sign him.

 

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Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Fantasy football tight end sleeper: Julius Thomas

The 2017 season is approaching and tight end Julius Thomas begins a new chapter with the Miami Dolphins. His two seasons in Jacksonville were a bust, but being reunited with former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, he is my pick as the top tight end sleeper.

Adam Gase Connection

Gase became the offensive coordinator in Denver under head coach John Fox in 2013. 2013 was also the year Thomas became the starting tight end with Peyton Manning and company. Thomas broke onto the scene with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

He also excelled as one of Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone. From inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line.

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:nfl.com)

The following season, Thomas slipped a little but still had another good season. Although his numbers in receptions (43) and yards (489) dropped from the previous season, Thomas recorded 12 touchdowns for the second straight season. Thomas still finished seventh in fantasy under tight ends.

He was efficient in the red zone especially inside the 20-yard line. He was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Down production in Jacksonville

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

In 2015, Thomas got his big pay day as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What people forget is that Thomas wasn’t going to have the same amount of success he had in Denver. Not having Manning was a a big factor to some for Thomas’ decline.

In the 2015 season, he had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. He finished with 46 catches, 455 yards but only had five touchdowns. Catching touchdowns was part of the popularity with Thomas in fantasy. Most of the targets went to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Players like Robinson, Blake Bortles and Allen Hurns improved in fantasy and this hurt Thomas’ production as an elite fantasy player.

The following season, Thomas caught four touchdowns from weeks 1-11 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. His four scores in that span were tied for second among all tight ends.

Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, but injuries plagued seasons (missing 11 games in two seasons) and limited him to 21 games with nine touchdowns and 35 yards per game.

2017 Outlook

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas and Adam Gase (Photo by:oregonlive.com)

The move to Miami could be the best situation for Thomas as he reunites with Gase. He was a fantasy stud in Denver, and Gase could be a big reason why, given his track record with tight ends.

In 2015 as the offensive coordinator in Chicago, Gase helped Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combine for 87 catches for 878 yards and eight touchdowns, which would have been the number seven Fantasy tight end in standard leagues.

Last year with the Dolphins, the combination of Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones had 55 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. It would’ve been good for the number 10 fantasy tight end. So there is some optimism for Thomas to bounce back.

However, there could be some problems for Thomas. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout season, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker along with re-signing Kenny Stills. Thomas will have a role in the offense, especially closer to the red zone, but he will likely be the third or fourth option in a balanced offense with a lot of guys to feed the ball to.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could reemerge as a top fantasy tight end. He’s worth a late-round flier as a second tight end. There’s little risk and plenty of reward with Thomas and Gase back together.

 

Featured image from miamidolphins.com.

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Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017: A reliable fantasy option?

Demaryius Thomas had one of his worst seasons of his NFL career last season. Thomas is a big receiver who has the whole package. Thomas runs a 4.41 40-yard dash, stands 6-foot-3, 229 pounds and has great hands. He uses his body to get after the ball and has progressed into a top target for the Denver Broncos.

But last season we didn’t see the Demaryius Thomas we are used to seeing.

The Demaryius Thomas we know would have double digit touchdowns and week in and week out would be a big factor in the Denver offense. Is Thomas still reliable as a top fantasy player? Is it his fault for his struggling 2016 season? Thomas is still a top talented receiver but poor quarterback play has made Thomas questionable as a reliable fantasy player.

Early Career

Thomas was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. From 2010-2011, he was a non-fantasy factor as he was still developing as a receiver in the NFL. He only started seven games in the two-year span and had 40 and 79 fantasy points in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Combining those two year stats are still less then what he did in 2012 and also in his disappointing 2016.

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Demaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow (Photo: Denver Post)

Part of the lack of early production is similar to what Thomas struggled with last season: poor quarterback play. In 2010, Kyle Orton had a solid campaign with over 3,600 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But one bad game against the Arizona Cardinals led to Tim Tebow taking over for the last three games.

2011 really started the inconsistency of quarterbacks in Denver. Orton struggled in the first four weeks and was replaced again by Tebow and never took another snap. Tebow finished the season with the lowest passing completion rate in the NFL, reaching 50 percent in just four of his 14 games.

Thomas did thrive towards the end of the season as he emerged as Tebow’s favorite target. He would end the season setting a franchise-record by leading the Broncos in both receiving and targets over the final seven games.

The dominance with Peyton Manning

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Demaryius Thomas and Peyton Manning (Photo by:lightningrodsports.com)

Thomas’ production with Peyton Manning was crazy. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Thomas finished fifth, second and second respectively among all receivers in fantasy points. In those three years, he had over 200 fantasy points in those seasons during Manning’s prime with Denver.

He had at least 10 touchdowns per season from 2012-14 and as well as over 140 targets, 90 receptions and well over 1,400 yards in each of those three years. He was clearly a fantasy beast while Manning was Manning. It could be also because the Broncos finally went back to orange jerseys instead of those horrible navy blue jerseys.

In 2015, Manning struggled with injuries and had to give way Brock Osweiler for nine games, yet Thomas still performed well. He still saw 176 targets, 105 receptions and 1,304 yards. He did only finish with six touchdowns but still ranked 13th at wide receiver in 2015.

The production was still there for Thomas as he used his size to his advantage to catch the ball and rack up targets and yards. One key factor that could have led to the decreased production was the coaching staff changes. In 2013 and 2014, Thomas thrived with offensive coordinator Adam Gase and head coach John Fox. Fox and Gase were let go after 2014 but Thomas still produced with head coach Gary Kubiack and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in 2015.

2016

In 2016, Thomas saw a lot of change before, during and after the season. Manning retired and Osweiler left for the Houston Texans. Before and during the season there was always a quarterback controversy between Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch. Kubiack missed a game early in the season with concerns over his health which led him to retire after 2016.

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian (Photo by: USA Today)

Thomas had 90 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns on 145 targets in 2016. He also had seven games with double digits in fantasy points in standard leagues. Thomas finished as the 16th wide receiver by posting consistent but not flashy games, averaging 67 yards and 5.6 receptions per game.

Most of the decline was due to poor quarterback play, and that isn’t expected to get much better this year with either Siemian or Lynch as the starter. Last season, Siemian struggled with injuries and Lynch didn’t develope the way the Broncos expected him to. The Broncos passed for an average of 230.3 yards per game last season, tying them for the 11th least passing yards per game in the league.

One of Siemian’s most noticeable flaws as an inexperienced quarterback was taking unnecessary hits by holding onto the ball too long. The Broncos are trying to work around that habit by upgrading his protection. They signed offensive tackle Menelik Watson and offensive guard Ronald Leary, while also drafting offensive tackle Garrett Bolles with their first pick in the draft.

This also helps the run game they will try to use more as they have C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles. Last year the Broncos averaged just 92.8 rushing yards per game and only 3.6 yards per carry, good for 27th  and 28th in the league.

2017 prediction

Is Thomas still an effective receiver? Thomas still has plenty of upside as a No. 2 fantasy receiver or a very high-end flex player if the quarterback play is consistent. He’s working on five years in a row of at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards. One reason he could bounce back is the return of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who left Denver in 2012 when Thomas broke out.

He has the potential to still be a bonafide WR1 especially as he is now healthy from a hip injury. He is still a WR2 or a flex option as I mentioned previously.

 

Featured image from sportsglory.com

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Miami Dolphins 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 20 of Draftmas and the Miami Dolphins are up.

Summary

Adam Gase (Photo courtesy: dailydolphin.com)

The Dolphins started the season off poorly in 2016, going 1-4. They then went on a tear and only lost two more games the rest of the regular season to make Adam Gase’s first year as head coach successful. They did lose in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but should be able to build off of last year’s success.

Offensively, Miami was average in 2016, scoring 22.7 points per game. While they ranked near the bottom of the NFL in passing yards per game, they finished 9th in the league in rushing yards, averaging 114 yards per game.

Ryan Tannehill had an improved season under Gase, but running back Jay Ajayi became a real game-changer. Ajayi started the season as an after-thought, but finished the season as the NFL’s fourth leading rusher. The offensive line was solid last season, but they did trade Brandon Albert to the Jaguars. They signed Ted Larsen to play guard and presumably will move Laremy Tunsil out to left tackle.

Miami has two young wide receivers in Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker that should be great targets for Tannehill for years to come. Kenny Stills is also a viable option. Julius Thomas is an athletic, receiving tight end who was acquired in the trade with the Jaguars for Albert.

On defense, the Dolphins were only one of five teams to give up more than 2,000 yards on the ground. They were in the middle of the pack against the pass, ranking 15th in pass yards allowed. Miami was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 33.

Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake and William Hayes are good defensive linemen, but they need more to stop the run and get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Kiko Alonso is the only good linebacker the Dolphins have, but aging veteran Lawrence Timmons was signed to try to help. It is unlikely that he will have a big impact for the defense. A safety to pair with Reshad Jones and multiple corners will be needed to make this defense great.

 

Picks and Needs

The Dolphins have seven picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. They should be able to get a few impact players with their early picks and find some diamonds in the rough late.

First round: (1) No. 22

Second round: (1) No. 54

Third round: (1) No. 97

Fourth round: (0)

Fifth round: (3) No. 166, No. 178, No. 184

Sixth round: (0)

Seventh round: (1) No. 223

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Guard- With Tunsil moving to left tackle and Jawuan James being at right tackle, the Dolphins need to make sure guards are addressed.

Tight End- The Dolphins have Julius Thomas, but he is only signed through 2018. They may want to take a tight end late to provide depth and groom for if Thomas leaves.
Defensive Needs:

Defensive Line- Miami definitely could use a defensive tackle to put next to Suh, but having another player who can get after the quarterback would be a nice luxury.

Linebacker– Kiko Alonso is the only good linebacker they have. They may need to take a couple of linebackers in this draft.

Cornerback- Byron Maxwell is a good corner, but the Dolphins don’t have many good ones behind him. Getting at least one in this draft class is necessary.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Dolphins could realistically get where they are drafting.

First Round:

Pick #22: Forrest Lamp, OG/C, Western Kentucky

Forrest Lamp (Photo courtesy: 247sports.com)

The Dolphins can take Lamp, the best interior lineman in this draft, and fill other needs later. This is a deep draft class for some of the other needs. Lamp played left tackle in college and completely shut down Alabama’s pass rushers. He has all the tools to start in the NFL for more than ten years and be successful.

Second Round:
Pick #54: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

He may not be there for the Dolphin’s second round pick, but some mock drafts have Cunningham falling. That would be an ideal scenario for Miami. Cunningham is tall and lanky, but makes plays. He is a tackle machine that can vastly improve the run defense. His length and size allows him to cover tight ends, which paired with his run stopping ability, makes him a hot commodity. He will be a starter for the Dolphins immediately.

Third Round:

Pick #97: Derek Rivers, DE/OLB, Youngstown State

Rivers is an edge prospect from the FCS evel. He has risen up draft boards because of his pass rushing ability. The Dolphins can get great value by picking Rivers in the third round.

Conclusion

The Dolphins will still need to draft more needs later in the draft, but with a roster like this, should be able to make it back to the playoffs.

You can read all of the previous days of Draftmas here!

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