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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AFC eye test predictions: 16-10

Why is the preseason four weeks long? Seems odd to me. Anyways, as the preseason drags on, I have decided to do a preview of both conferences. Unlike most of my articles which are filled with a bunch of statistics and numbers, I will only be using the eye test. I will occasionally drop some numbers if necessary, but this is for the average fan who wants to see a glimpse of every NFL team.

Let’s start with the worst teams from the AFC.

16. new york jets

Wow, this team sucks. Is Christian Hackenberg really going to be the starter? Who even is Christian Hackenberg? According to CBS Sports, Hackenberg twice hit reporters with terrible throws during OTAs. The other day, he was kicked out of practice for not knowing how to break a huddle correctly.

I genuinely feel bad for this roster. Matt Forte is 88 years old in running back years. Even if Hackeberg knew how to throw the ball, there will be no one there to catch it. Their one good receiver, Quincy Enunwa, is having season-ending surgery because of a bulging disk in his neck. Now no active player on this roster has 1,000 career receiving yards.

It’s too bad because I really like Todd Bowles. The one bright spot on the roster is Jamal Adams, a former LSU safety who New York took in the first round of this year’s draft. He will for sure be a stud, but the rest of the defense is a major problem. Don’t be shocked if this team doesn’t win more than two games.

15. Cleveland Browns

Believeland! No, just kidding. The Browns are still the worst franchise in sports. The Browns are surprisingly headed in the right direction. The additions of JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler actually puts Cleveland among the top offensive lines in the league. That should help Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr. be a nice 1-2 punch in the backfield. Don’t ask me which one to pick in fantasy because I always choose the wrong one.

All signs point to the Brocket Launcher being the Week 1 starter, which is good news for the rest of the league, and bad news for the Browns. Remember when this guy beat Tom Brady and the Patriots? That seems like 10 years ago. Maybe DeShone Kizer will be ready before expected.

Kenny Britt should help a little bit, and Corey Coleman could be nice option if healthy the whole year. As for as the defensive side of the ball, the additions of Jabrill Peppers and Calvin Pryor should help. Hopefully Peppers can keep finessing around drug tests and be an immediate impact. I’m rooting for the Browns, but don’t expect more than four wins.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars

I highly recommend keeping the headset on and rolling with Henne! (Business Insider)

This team would be really fun if Blake Bortles knew how to play. After finishing near the bottom in all rushing stats, the Jags snatched Leonard Fournette early in the first round.

This dude runs with a lot of power and a lot of speed. I can’t wait to watch this kid truck stick people. Doug Marrone should give Fournette at least 20 attempts a game, which could be huge because the more running plays, the less of a chance for a Bortles interception.

I actually think their defense is pretty dope. I love the signing of Calais Campbell. He and Malik Jackson will lead a decent defensive line.

Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are legit. Along with these stud corners, at the safety positions are Barry Church and Taushan Gibson, who help make the Jags one of the best secondaries in the league.

Paul Poslunsky and Telvin Smith are a mean duo at the linebacker position. If Bortles can get the ball to Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, or anyone named Allen (Robinson or Hurns), then the Jags could surprise people. Unfortunately, Bortles doesn’t seem to be the answer. Maybe give Chad Henne some starts? This team, who has one of the easiest schedules, will probably only win five games, but don’t sleep on them if they can figure it out behind center.

13. Buffalo Bills

I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest Tyrod Taylor fan. I understand he doesn’t turn the ball over a lot, but he never does enough to win games. In 15 games last year, he only threw 17 touchdowns. I’m a big fan of the trade that sent Sammy Watkins to the Rams. Paying him would have been a huge mistake, because he simply can’t stay on the field. Acquiring Jordan Matthews in a trade is cool, but he will likely be the only reliable target.

They have the fifth-hardest schedule, which is based off last year’s records. They have a good offensive line, and LeSean McCoy, who’s coming off a really nice year, says he still feels great, even at 29. With that said, the Bills will be an efficient rushing team.

Sean McDermott is bringing in a new defensive scheme, which might take a few games to adjust to. Veterans Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus will continue to hold down the line, and Lorenzo Alexander should continue his nice play. I like the Micah Hyde signing, but the rest of the secondary is a work in progress.

Buffalo will be travelling to Carolina, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Kansas City and New England, and that looks like a whole lot of L’s. Buffalo won’t win more than six games.

12. Denver Broncos

Am I disrespecting the Broncos? Honestly, no. Look, their defense is top notch. Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, who man the “No Fly Zone”, are probably the best corner duo in the league. Von Miller is obviously one of the best all-around players this league has to offer, and Shane Ray made a wise decision to get high before the draft, because he fell to a great spot. Even the NFL’s second coolest Brandon Marshall has made a name for himself.

No Fly Zone. (247sports)

But do you really trust Paxton Lynch or Trevor Siemian? The answer is no. Especially with the below average offensive line that Denver has. If they signed the 2012 version of Jamaal Charles, then they would possibly have some hope. But instead, they signed the older, banged up Charles.

C.J. Anderson has also shown that he can’t stay on the field so the run game will lack production. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are studs, but it will be hard to catch the ducks that will be coming their way.

Denver has to travel to Los Angeles, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Miami and Oakland to name a few. They’ll finish at 6-10.

11. Houston Texans

This team seems to always sneakily slide into the playoffs. They even gave the Patriots a run for their money, until Brock Osweiler turned back into Brock Osweiler. I just don’t see it happening this year. Fun fact: Tom Savage has never thrown a touchdown in his career. While he’s only appeared in five games, and started in two, it is still embarrassing.

Deshaun Watson looked good in his preseason debut, but I’m not sure if he will be ready to perform right away. Savage will be pulled after a few games in favor of Watson, but until then, DeAndre Hopkins shouldn’t expect too many touchdowns. The DeAndre Hopkins story is actually really sad. He is super talented but has yet to work with a legit quarterback.

Will Fuller’s injury hurts Houston, and Lamar Miller is just Lamar Miller- nothing special. However, the defense is still very good, but comes with some shakeups. We know about J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Whitney Mercilus is good, but Brian Cushing is getting old. After losing Bouye to free agency, I don’t love their secondary.

The roster is good enough to get seven wins, but with Savage behind center, don’t expect anything more than that.

10. Indianapolis Colts

Will Luck lead this talentless team to the playoffs? (Colts.com)

If the Colts didn’t have Andrew Luck, they would be one of the worst teams in the league. Luck, who plans to start Week 1, is a monster. He turns the ball over too much, and forces a lot of passes, but he is a clear franchise quarterback.

T.Y. Hilton led the league in receiving yards, and Donte Moncrief is legit when healthy. But Frank Gore is old, and we can’t expect too much from Robert Turbin.

Both the offensive and defensive lines are trash. The Colts got extremely young at linebacker. Vontae Davis was terrible a year ago, but drafting safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Quincy Wilson, should help out this dreadful secondary.

Even with all this said, the Colts can win eight games. Obviously, this is dependent on Luck’s health, but they have the easiest schedules in the league. With games against the Browns, 49ers and two against the Jags, Indy could make some noise in the AFC South.

 

Featured image by cbssports.com

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2017 fantasy football notes: Cram session

One of the worst feelings in the world is feeling unprepared. You forgot to study for a quiz and have as much knowledge about the subject as Alex Smith has on not being average. You’ve got an important presentation at work but forgot your briefcase at home.

Worst of all, your fantasy draft is tonight, yet you’ve spent the last six months watching baseball and catching up on your favorite guilty pleasure on Netflix. Your pulse reaches an unhealthy level as your heart races trying to think about how to prepare a draft plan good enough to beat your friends, yet you rank Adrian Peterson as your No. 6 running back because you think he’s poised for a great year with the Vikings.

But Adrian Peterson doesn’t play for the Vikings, and you’re screwed.

Fear not, lazy fantasy football player, I’ve got just the article for you. Let’s talk about all the big news and notes you missed so you can have a fighting chance to compete in your league this season.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: QUARTERBACKS

Marcus Mariota is undervalued

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: titansonline.com

Marcus Mariota is among the top 25 most attractive players in the NFL, and it turns out he’s pretty good at football too. Mariota was good enough to earn spot starts last season, and finished as the No. 13 scoring quarterback. He’s especially suited for fantasy football thanks to his rushing ability, and he’s gotten some upgraded toys to play with for 2017.

No shade at Rishard Matthews or Tajae Sharpe, but Mariota didn’t have the greatest receivers to throw to last season. The Titans signed Eric Decker during the offseason and drafted top wide receiver prospect Corey Davis with their first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. On top of that, Mariota plays with an elite offensive line and DeMarco Murray, who got back to his usual RB1 self last season.

Entering his third season, the myth of a sophomore slump cannot affect Mariota. Mariota was the top scoring quarterback from weeks five through week 12 of last season, which shows his upside is through the roof this season.

Mariota is being drafted as a fringe QB1 this season, which is way too low. Sit back and wait for Mariota as others grab overvalued quarterbacks, and then grab him once you’ve filled out your starting lineup and part of your bench.

Blake Bortles sucks at throwing footballs, but don’t overlook his volume

Sure, you may’ve spit up in your mouth a little due to reading the name Blake Bortles, and that’s fine. Bortles ruined Allen Robinson last season and made some of the worst throws of the season in 2016. However, while Bortles gets roasted by Twitter everyday, he could make for a good backup for your team.

Before you click the “x” in the upper right corner of your device, hear me out.

Bortles had the fourth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2015, and followed that with the tenth-most points among quarterbacks last season. Even with all the hate Bortles gets, he’s still been a QB1 in each of the past two seasons.

I’m not saying you need to draft him as your QB1 this season, but you should at least consider the volume he’ll see. Leonard Fournette will suck in Jacksonville’s system unless they plan on taking less snaps out of the shotgun this season. Jacksonville started plays out of the gun more than every single team in the NFL except one last season, so don’t expect Fournette to be successful in his current system.

This paves way for Bortles to continue to see a bunch of pass attempts, and at some point they have to turn into touchdowns and 250-yard games. Bortles will most likely embarrass himself this season, and you’ll get heckled for taking him, but if quarterbacks are thin, take him as your QB2.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: RUNNING BACKS

Don’t be that guy who drafts Adrian Peterson

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: Associated Press

You thought I was kidding about Adrian Peterson no longer being a Viking, didn’t you? Well, I’m no Photoshop wizard, so the picture to your left with Peterson doning New Orleans Saints getup proves Peterson is a Saint this season.

I have no clue why the Saints signed Peterson this offseason. Mark Ingram was productive enough last season to be the eighth-best fantasy running back in PPR leagues. Drew Brees is still under center, so expect the Saints to continue to air it out this season, especially with Michael Thomas playing on the outside.

Ingram will most likely be the starter come Week 1, and even though Peterson will see touches this season, it won’t be enough to sustain any kind of success. Peterson managed just three games last season, and averaged just 1.9 yards per carry. He’s also topped 40 catches in a season just once in his career, compared to Ingram doing that in each of his past two seasons.

Peterson will be dropped halfway through the season by all active owners, so save yourself the trouble and keep Peterson off your team. You can score Terrance West, Robert Kelly, Tevin Coleman or even Danny Woodhead at Peterson’s price, and all of which offer much more upside and volume potential.

Eddie Lacy isn’t as fat as he used to be, but that doesn’t mean you should draft him

Eddie Lacy literally got paid this offseason to not be so chunky. Lacy’s always been overrated to me, but that hasn’t stopped others from clogging their arteries by drafting him. In case you missed it, Lacy is now a Seattle Seahawk, and he’ll be fighting off Thomas Rawls to get fed this season.

While the two were splitting time with the first team to open camp, it appears Thomas Rawls has taken over the bulk of the first team work, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times said on Aug. 9. For the near future, Rawls looks to be the starter.

Fantasy owners will draft Lacy for the same reason as Peterson, and that’s for name value alone. Rawls doesn’t have the name recognition, but he does have the advantage in terms his skillset. Rawls has much better lateral quickness and has forced more missed tackles over the course of his career. That ability is a necessity in a Seattle offense that has a terrible offensive line.

Marshawn Lynch is playing football again

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: raiders.com

At the end of the 2015-16 season, Marshawn Lynch called it quits even though it seemed he had more left in the tank. Well, Lynch okie-doked us all by coming out of retirement to join the Oakland Raiders.

With Latavius Murray now in Minnesota, Lynch will own the backfield for the Raiders. Oakland’s offense already owns one of the top one-two punches at wide receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL in Derek Carr. The talent is no longer shifted to benefit only the passing game with the addition of Lynch.

Lynch is the No. 15 running back according to the consensus Fantasy Pros rankings for 2017. Expect Lynch to end up as a low RB1 by season’s end. He’s ranked lower than Leonard Fournette, Isaiah Crowell and Carlos Hyde in the rankings, which is odd to say the least. Lynch is in a better offense and will receive the same if not more volume as the aforementioned players.

2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL NOTES: PASS CATCHERS

Brandin Cooks now plays for the Patriots, and that’s not fair

Tom Brady has made his money by throwing to a bunch of late round draft picks and one large tight end that seems to party more than he plays. That changes this season with the addition of Brandin Cooks. The Patriots traded for Cooks during the offseason, and with that addition and other moves, there’s been pundits saying New England could go undefeated this season.

Cooks’ most notable trait is his speed. His catch rate on deep passes last season was 45.8 percent, good for fourth in the NFL. He also had 544 deep receiving yards which was second in the NFL. Patriots beat writers have raved about Cooks to start camp, which further proves he has a great chance to one of the best receivers Brady’s ever had.

I’ve yet to take Cooks in any drafts at his ADP, as his ADP is a little too high for my taste. However, taking Cooks as your WR2 could pay huge dividends for your team. He resides in a pass-heavy offense with one of the best quarterbacks of all time. I’m not quite comfortable with Cooks as my WR1, but if you have him as a WR2, your receiving corps will be solid.

Terrelle Pryor used to be a bad quarterback but now is a good wide receiver

2017 fantasy football notes

Photo: redskins.com

Terrelle Pryor made a cool one-handed catch in training camp, and for one day fantasy football Twitter anointed him as the next coming of Randy Moss. But that’s what happens during the start of training camp, as our football-thirsty brains need something to sip on. Even so, Pryor is in line to become the No. 1 option in a pass-heavy offense this season.

Kirk Cousins may be his generation’s Alex Smith, as he’s as average as Philadelphia fans are angry. However, the Redskins’ poor defense and questionable running attack could give Pryor the chance to see a lot of targets.

Pryor had 1,007 receiving yards last season with the Cleveland Browns, and that’s as impressive as ESPN ignoring the impulse to tweet about Tim Tebow smacking a double in a low-level minor league game. Pryor was a low end WR2 last season, and his situation this season should allow him to be a solid WR2 again this season.

Martellus Bennett will clown around in Green Bay’s offense

Martellus Bennett signed with the Packers this season, making him the first player to sign with Green Bay during free agency since Bart Starr (that’s called sarcasm, folks). Bennett had a better season last year as a backup in New England than half of the starting tight ends in the NFL. Moving to a pass-heavy offense and playing with a future Hall of Famer in Aaron Rodgers gives Bennett the chance to be a TE1 this season.

Bennett was fifth among tight ends in yards per route run last season at 1.96. This shows he took advantage of his time on the field better than nearly all tight ends. Bennett also dropped just two of his 57 catchable targets last season, which will please Aaron Rodgers (that’s a slight against Davante Adams, folks).

Bennett won’t have to battle anyone on the roster for snaps at tight end, so he has the upside to be a top tight end this season. He’s been drafted as a low end TE1 right now, but if you can get greedy and take him as a TE2, you’ll have a good problem on your hands midseason.

 

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NFL awards predictions

 

After last week’s Hall of Fame Game, between the Arizona Cardinals and the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL is officially back. Get hype!

What a time to be alive. This week, HBO’s Hard Knocks returns. Jay Cutler finessed his way out of the first two weeks of training camp, and agreed to a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins. The New York Giants put out another electric dance video.

With all that said, it is time for my 2017-18 NFL awards predictions.

AP MOST VALUABLE PLAYER+ AP OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Derek Carr, qb (oakland raiders)

I absolutely love this kid. His 81 passing TD’s in his first three seasons are good for 4th most in NFL history. Last year, Carr led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before breaking his fibula in week 16. He threw for 3,937 yards with 28 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

The guy doesn’t even curse. He has a mamba mentality and is the hardest worker on the field. He ranked 7th in completion percentage for quarterbacks who threw at least 560 passes. That number will only go up, with the addition of Jared Cook and Cordarrelle Patterson. Adding Marshawn Lynch to the backfield will keep this offense clicking.

Oakland is also up against a plethora of teams who do not defend the pass well. Nine of their matchups will be against teams who, last year, ranked in the bottom half for passing defense. The NFL’s highest paid player is about to have a monster year.

AP COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ROB GRONKOWSKI, TE (NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS)

While only starting six games last year, Gronk still finished 4th in 20+ yard receptions among all TE’s. After getting his third surgery to repair a herniated disc, Gronkowski looks to be 100 percent, and quite possibly in the best shape of his life. He is now working with Alex Guerrero, the man in charge of Tom Brady’s TB12 Sports Therapy Center.

Healthy Gronk= Nightmare for all defenses (si.com)

Just how dedicated is Gronk to staying healthy? For every alcoholic beverage he consumes, Gronk has to drink three glasses of water.

The addition of Brandin Cooks makes Gronkowski even harder to defend. Cooks’s speed makes him a legit threat over the top, which defenders will have to monitor. This will lead to less double teams for Gronk, which means even more Gronk spikes. The 4x Pro Bowl TE could possibly have his best year.

 

AP DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JADEVEON CLOWNEY, DE (HOUSTON TEXANS)

Ever since that epic hit during the 2013 Outback Bowl, Clowney has been a force, when healthy. Coming off a breakout year in which he collected six sacks and 40 tackles, Clowney was selected to his first Pro Bowl. In just 14 games, Clowney earned 2nd team AP All Pro honors.

With JJ Watt healthy, the Texans defense will be up there with the best. Their early preseason depth chart has Clowney listed as an outside linebacker. A freak athlete who cannot be blocked, Clowney’s versatility will be key in order for Houston to make a deep run.

AP OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: LEONARD FOURNETTE, rb (jacksonville jaguars)

The Jaguars have been in need of a good running back since Maurice Jones-Drew. I know it sounds crazy to give an award to a Jaguars player. Not only a Jags player, but a running back who will have to go up against the Titans and Texans, both division rivals, who defend the run extremely well. But let’s be real, this kid is special.

To be honest, I’m usually not even a fan of LSU running backs in the NFL. They give us too many Joseph Addai’s and Jeremy Hill’s, but Fournette is a different breed. He is an absolute house, with great speed. Former Jaguar Fred Taylor called him, “an absolute beast” and “a man amongst boys.” Taylor knows a thing or two about running the ball so I’ll take his word for it.

The Jaguars will be relying heavily on Fournette (Saturday Down South)

Fournette will be the focal point of Jacksonville’s offense. Last year, the Jags ranked 24th in rushing attempts, 22nd in rushing yards, and 29th in rushing touchdowns. With Fournette, they will be able to rush the ball 30 times a game. More rushing attempts means less of a chance for a Bortles’ interception. Look for Fournette to be used like Ezekiel Elliot in Dallas.

AP DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: SOLOMON THOMAS, DE (SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS)

After recently signing a four-year deal worth up to $28 million, the defensive linemen from Stanford is already standing out at Niners camp, due to his size and speed. Elvis Dumervil told reporters that Thomas “will be a dominant player in this league.”

Thomas will be joining the worst defense in the NFL. Last year, the 49ers ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed, rushing touchdowns, and rushing attempts. Teams could run with ease all over them. Thomas will be an immediate factor, as someone who can attack the QB and get in the backfield. During his last year at Stanford, Thomas recorded 8.5 sacks. Over his last two years, he had 24.5 tackles for loss.

Because of Stanford’s spring schedule, Thomas was unable to participate in team activities, but this did not stop him from getting better. During this time, he worked out with Warren Sapp, Demarcus Ware and Von Miller.

Yes, the Niners suck, but that actually helps Thomas, who will for sure slide right in as a starter. He will have more chances than anyone to be successful, as teams will most likely continue to run heavily against San Francisco.

AP COACH OF THE YEAR: BILL BELICHICK, HC, (NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS)

The GOAT. Not much has to be said in this section. His team is favored in every game. Coming off last year’s Super Bowl, they only got better on offense with the additions of Dwayne Allen, Brandin Cooks and Mike Gillelsie. The number one defense last year, the Patriots also beefed up that side of the ball by adding Stephon Gilmore, Kony Ealy and David Harris.

Will the Patriots repeat? (ESPN.com)

With a healthy and not suspended Tom Brady, who went 11-1 during last year’s regular season, don’t sleep on 19-0.

Featured image by The Fresno Bee

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NFL Top 100 Players 2017: 60-51

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the fifth installment, containing players 60-51.

60. Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals

NFL Top 100

Geno Atkins (Photo by bengals.com)

Atkins has been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL for years now and is a five time Pro Bowler that should be making his sixth appearance in 2017. In 2016, his latest Pro Bowl season, Atkins had 32 total tackles and 9 sacks and was the best player on the Bengals’ defense yet again.

The Bengals’ defensive line has been thinning out in the talent department the last few years, but the two players who made this list, Atkins and Carlos Dunlap (#91), have done their parts. Cincinnati has added Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson via the NFL Draft to help out in the pass rushing department. If they can get to the quarterback, it should free up Atkins (and Dunlap) from facing a lot of double teams.

In 2017 Atkins will continue to be one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL as well as be good against the run.

Comments: “You watch him play and tell me he doesn’t deserve to be higher.”- Robert Hanes

59. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Minnesota Vikings

NFL Top 100

Xavier Rhodes (photo by twincities.com)

The Vikings have a great, young corner in Rhodes, who has shown flashes of how good he can be in his first four seasons in the NFL. Rhodes went to his first Pro Bowl in 2016 while totaling 52 tackles, five interceptions, one touchdown, 10 passes defended and one forced fumble.

Rhodes often does a great job against an opponent’s best receiver, which often times means the ball isn’t thrown his way very much. He was a big reason why Minnesota was the third best defense against the pass in 2016, which is no small feat being in the same division as Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford.

In 2017 Rhodes will again be called upon to shut down great receivers and doing so could move him up in next year’s list.

Comments:  “This is asinine. Rhodes allowed 3.1 yards per pass attempt which was best in the NFL. He had five interceptions and a touchdown in 14 games. Rhodes locked Odell Beckham down so bad that Odell was saying football wasn’t fun anymore after the game. Rhodes is a top three corner and that is a fact.” -Matthew Hagan

58. Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Jordan Reed (Photo by espn.com)

Reed has been phenomenal in his NFL career, when healthy. Unfortunately, he has been often injured. When he is healthy, he produces and is Kirk Cousins’ favorite target. In 2016 he played in 12 games and started eight. He still managed to record 66 receptions for 686 yard and six touchdowns.

While he was an average tight end in his first two years in the league, he has blossomed with Cousins over the last few seasons. Cousins will be under center, for at least one more season, so there is no reason to expect Reed to stop producing, unless he gets injured once again in 2017.

He is one of the best tight ends in the league and a dynamic offensive weapon. If Reed can stay healthy his presence will elevate the level of play on the Washington offense.

Comments: “Jordan Reed is a great tight end when he is healthy. He is a pure receiver that makes Kirk Cousins a better quarterback when he is on the field. With Desean Jackson and Pierrre Garcon gone, Reed will be even more of a go-to-guy for Cousins.”-Joe DiTullio

57. Kyle Long, OG, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Kyle Long (photo by philly.com)

In his first four seasons in the NFL, Long has made three Pro Bowls. He missed the Pro Bowl in 2016, but only played in eight games. The most impressive thing for Long, and the Bears is that he was great at opening up holes for rookie running back Jordan Howard, who had four of his seven 100 yard rushing games when Long was in the lineup.

After an ankle injury ended Long’s 2016 season prematurely, he will be looking forward to having a good 2017 season. He will have to continue to open up holes for Howard and block for a new quarterback (Mike Glennon or Mitch Trubisky). The Bears’ offense won’t be great in 2017, but it won’t be because of Long.

If Long is able to come back healthy in 2017, he will reclaim his status as one of the NFL’s best guards.

Comments: “The Bears were bad which is the only reason Kyle Long doesn’t get the love he deserves. Long helped rookie Jordan Howard finish second in the NFL in rushing yards. Without Long, the Bears would be even worse,” -Matthew Hagan

56. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Kirk Cousins (photo by cbssports.com)

He may not have a long-term contract, but Cousins has been turning heads in his two full seasons as a starting quarterback. Cousins had the third most passing yards in the NFL last season. In 2016 he finished with 4,917 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

A lot of Cousins’ receivers have left, but Washington has signed Terrelle Pryor to help fill the void. With him Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed (#58), Cousins will have enough weapons to be successful. He will also have one of the NFL’s best linemen, Trent Williams, protecting his blind-side.

If Cousins wants to have a long term deal, whether it’s from Washington or not, he will have to put up more good numbers in 2017.

Comments: “Yes the Redskins are an incompetent franchise but there is a reason they won’t commit to him long term. Kirk Cousins is an average quarterback that will not lead a franchise to a Super Bowl which is why I believe he should be lower.” -Matthew Hagan

“Numbers don’t lie. While I do not necessarily think he should be a lot higher I think this man can play Quarterback and do it well. Haters need to back off. Imagine if Jay Gruden wasn’t his coach?”- Robert Hanes

55. Alex Mack, OC, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Alex Mack (photo by usatoday.com)

Mack endured playing on a bad Cleveland Browns team for the first seven years of his career but made the Super Bowl in his first year on the Falcons. He has made four Pro Bowls in his career and is one of the best centers in the NFL.

The Falcons had one of the best offenses in the NFL in 2016 thanks in large part to a good offensive line, which was led by Mack. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman all coming back the Falcons’ offense should be great once again.

If Atlanta wants to make it back to the Super Bowl they are going to need good offensive line play, with Mack taking charge once again.

Comments: “Easily one of the top three if not number one center in the league. He is finally not playing for the Browns, isn’t it about time he gets some love?”- Robert Hanes

54. Calais Campbell, DT, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Top 100

Calais Campbell (Photo by jacksonville.com)

The Jaguars made a great offseason move by acquiring Campbell in free agency. While he has been in the NFL since 2008, Jacksonville will be just his second team. In 2016 Campbell was all over the field with 53 combined tackles, eight sacks, six passes defended, two forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, an interception and a safety.

At 6-8 and 282 pounds, Campbell is a disruptive force and he isn’t slowing down. He will be age 31 in the 2017 season and will be flanked by a lot of talent that the Jaguars acquired in the offseason. Campbell has a chance to take the Jaguars defense to the next level in 2017 and will likely be the best player on the much-improved defense.

Jacksonville made a statement by going after a lot of defensive players and in Campbell, they get a disruptive lineman who has been consistently good over his career.

Comments: “Campbell is a beast. He has been a gem in the desert, but will now help the Jags defense take it to the next level. With some new players also joining him, Campbell has the chance to be the best player on a good defense.”-Joe DiTullio

53. Taylor Lewan, OT, Tennessee Titans

 

NFL Top 100

Taylor Lewan (Photo by titansonline.com)

2016 was Lewan’s first Pro Bowl season, which looks like it will be the first of many. Lewan was a big part of the Titans rushing for the third most yards in the NFL and giving up 28 sacks as a team, which is one of the best in the league.

Lewan will be entering his fourth season in 2017 and the Titans’ offense is improving each year. Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray will lead the rushing attack and Marcus Mariota will continue to develop especially with new weapon Corey Davis. The offense is trending upwards and Lewan will be a big reason why the skill position players are successful.

After a solid first three seasons in the league, Lewan is cementing himself as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL and 2017 will be the next step to proving it.

Comments: “Lewan has had a great start to his career and by year’s end could even be ranked higher than this. Not only has he done a good job of protecting Marcus Mariota, but he has also cleared holes for Henry and Murray. 2017 will bring another Pro Bowl.”-Joe DiTullio

52. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Chris Harris Jr. (Photo by denverpost.com)

Harris Jr. has been a stalwart on the Broncos defense for years and is one of the best corners in the NFL. Last season he recorded 63 total tackles, 11 passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovered.

In 2016 Harris Jr. made his third straight Pro Bowl as he helped the Broncos be the best defense against the pass in the NFL. Harris Jr. will continue to have Bradley Robey and Aqib Talib flanking him as the other corners, which allows him to move inside to the slot at times. He is a very versatile player that will continue playing well in 2017.

With Harris Jr. and Talib at the corner spots, the Broncos will have one of the best tandems in the NFL once again in 2017.

Comments: “He may be forgotten behind Miller and Talib, but Harris has made himself into one of the NFL’s best corners himself. He shuts down good wide receivers and helps this defense be the best against the pass in the NFL.”-Joe DiTullio

51. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers

NFL Top 100

Jordy Nelson (Photo by packers.com)

The Packers have come on strong at the end of seasons for the past two seasons and Nelson came on strong at the end of 2016. In the last eight games, he had four of his five 100 receiving yard games. Overall Nelson had 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Nelson is undoubtedly Aaron Rodgers’ number one target once again in 2017 and will put up some big numbers. He will be 32 this season which isn’t ideal for a receiver who relies on his speed, but he still has a lot left in the tank. In the past three seasons, Nelson has set a new career high in targets each year and he should get his fair share again in 2017.

The Rodgers to Nelson connection may not be able to happen for too much longer, but they have a few more seasons together.

Comments: “Jordy Nelson is a silent assassin. He has had over 1,200 yards in three straight seasons. Nelson has also accumulated 27 touchdowns over that past two seasons. Aaron Rodgers has struggled at times without Nelson. Jordy is a top five receiver in the NFL but doesn’t have the flash required to be ranked higher.” -Matthew Hagan

NFL Top 100 Players: 70-61

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 80-71

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the third installment, containing players 80-71.

80. Jarvis Landry, WR, Miami Dolphins

NFL Top 100

Jarvis Landry (Photo by theredbeat.com)

Landry has done a lot in his three seasons in the NFL, but he isn’t talked about as a top receiver in the league quite yet. Last season he had 94 catches for 1,136 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He added a very impressive catch percentage of 71.8%.

The last two seasons Landry has been in the top ten in receptions in the NFL and it doesn’t look like 2017 should be any different. First year head coach Adam Gase helped turn Miami from a bad offensive team to an average one last season. If the players around Landry keep progressing, it should only help him have continued success.

With his flexibility to play in the slot and on the outside, Miami will be able to get the ball to Landry a lot in 2017. If he can capitalize on that he will be a top 100 player in 2017.

Comments: “Landry is a reception machine who can line up anywhere and be effective. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t been a top quarterback in the NFL and Landry has still produced. With Adam Gase getting the offense rolling, Landry  should have another productive season.”-Joe DiTullio

79. Eric Weddle, S, Baltimore Ravens

NFL Top 100

Eric Weddle (Photo by espn.com)

In his first season in Baltimore, Weddle was nothing short of amazing. He finished the season with 89 total tackles, four interceptions, one forced fumble and one sack.

Weddle will be 32 during this season, which gives some room for pause, but he is coming off one of his best seasons yet. The signing of Tony Jefferson should make the back end of the Ravens’ defense stronger. He was left off of the NFL top 100 list, but he makes this one.

Although he might not have too many years left as an elite player, you can bet on Weddle having a good 2017 season.

Comments: “I truly have no clue how he made the list and managed to be only one spot behind Harrison Smith? Weddle is not even a top five safety anymore and at 32 years old he will start to see his play diminish.” -Matthew Hagan

78. Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota Vikings

NFL Top 100

Harrison Smith (Photo by wjon.com)

After his second straight Pro Bowl season, Harrison Smith has started to get the respect he deserves. In 2016 he totaled 91 tackles, two passes defended and two fumbles recovered in 14 games played.

Smith was one of the best players, if not the best, on the fifth best scoring defense in the league. He didn’t get any interceptions, but his combination of good coverage skills and run support make him one of the league’s best safeties. He will likely be one of the best players on one of the best defenses in 2017 again.

Turn on a Vikings’ game in 2017 and Smith will prove why he is a top 100 player.

Comments: “If Harrison Smith did exactly what he has been doing on the Seahawks or Patriots people would be putting Harrison Smith in their top 25. He has 411 tackles in just 67 games. He is a versatile safety, amassing 7.5 sacks and 12 interceptions in his career. Smith has also found the endzone four times. Harrison “The Hitman” Smith is one of the top 25 players in the NFL.” -Matthew Hagan

77. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Top 100

Jalen Ramsey (Photo by jacksonville.com)

Ramsey was one of the most impressive rookies in the 2016 class and will be looking to improve on that. He started off his career well in 2016 with 65 total tackles, 14 passes defended two interceptions, one forced fumble and a touchdown.

The entire Jaguars’ defense should elevate their games with the signings of Calais Campbell, Barry Church and A.J. Bouye. If he can glean anything from these players and benefit from their good play as well, Ramsey will be better in 2017 than he was in 2016.

Not only does Ramsey look like he will be a top 100 player in 2017, but also looks like he has a bright future beyond that.

Comments: “Ramsey stepped right into the NFL and went toe to toe with the game’s best wideouts. He is going to be a superstar and as he gains experience his game will improve. Ramsey is going to be one of the top three corners in the NFL this season and this ranking is going to look very disrespectful.” -Matthew Hagan

76. A.J. Bouye, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Top 100

A.J. Bouye (Photo by jaguars.com)

One spot later and Ramsey’s new teammate shows up. Bouye went from an undrafted free agent to one of the best corners in the league. Last year for the Texans, Bouye totaled 62 tackles, 16 passes defended, one interception and one sack.

Bouye will be able to shut down his side of the field in 2017 and improves the Jaguars defense drastically. Life hasn’t always been great for the Jaguars, but With him and others signing, the Jaguars are looking to win the AFC South title. The match-ups he will have with T.Y. Hilton, Deandre Hopkins, Corey Davis and others should help him show how good of a player he is.

There won’t be many balls thrown in Bouye’s direction in 2017, which shows his value.

Comments: “Sometimes stats don’t tell the entire story. Despite only having one interception, Bouye was a top five corner last season and the Texans are going to miss him. Pairing him alongside Jalen Ramsey will force teams to choose which corner they would rather throw at. Either option is dangerous.” -Matthew Hagan

75. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Amari Cooper (Photo by Raiders.com)

Cooper is one of the best young receivers in the league and has gotten better in each season he has been in the NFL. In 2016 he had 83 catches for 1,153 yards and five touchdowns to complete a great sophomore year.

The young Raiders, including Cooper and Derek Carr, have grown up quickly. The combination is destined to keep producing with a great offensive line and Michael Crabtree across the field from Cooper. All of the components of the offense, Cooper included, makes the Raiders a team that is AFC Champion-caliber.

At 23, Cooper still has a lot of room for improvement and could really rise up this list with another productive year.

Comments: Amari Cooper had the second highest grade on go routes last season, putting up a wide receiver rating of 137.2. The 23-year-old has a tendency to disappear towards to end of the season, but he’s reportedly bulked up during this offseason which should help his body stay in better shape throughout the season. Cooper has all the tools to be a superstar in the NFL, and with Derek Carr throwing to him, there’s no reason why he won’t be an elite receiver this season.” –Tim Miller

74. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL Top 100

Leonard Fournette (Photo by Jaguars.com)

The one and only rookie on this list is Leonard Fournette. Other lists don’t allow rookies, but there is a good chance that a rookie, especially in this loaded rookie class, could be a top 100 player in 2017. Fournette totaled 3,830 rushing yards in three seasons at LSU.

Jacksonville doesn’t have the greatest offensive line, but tried to upgrade it by acquiring Brandon Albert. Last season they ranked 22nd in rushing yards, but that should improve with the addition of Fournette and Albert. The Jaguars have an aging Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, who has never lived up to expectations, so Fournette should be able to shoulder most of the load and be productive.

While not many people will have Fournette in their top 100 lists before the season, he will likely show up on more by season’s end.

Comments: “Leonard Fournette shouldn’t even be on this list. Sure, he’s one of the best running backs in his draft class, but that doesn’t mean anything now that he’s in Jacksonville. Fournette is an in between the tackles runner and needs a fullback in order to be successful. The Jags ran the second most plays out of the shotgun last season, which won’t bode well for Fournette. Unless Jacksonville changes their offensive scheme, don’t expect the LSU product to be very productive this season.” -Tim Miller

73. Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins

NFL Top 100

Jay Ajayi (Photo by phinphanatic.com)

No one’s stock rose more than Jay Ajayi last season. He started the season as a healthy scratch, but then came on and finished the season strong. After rushing for 117 yards in the first four weeks, Ajayi finished the season with 1,272 yards and completed a Pro Bowl season.

Adam Gase helped the Dolphins’ offense get a lot better in year one, and should help continue that growth in year two. Miami may not have as good of an offensive line, losing Albert to the Jaguars, but Laremy Tunsil had a good rookie season and is moving to tackle. The line may not be as good, but Ajayi will progress.

In 2017 Ajayi will have the whole season to prove his worth and prove that he is a top 100 player.

Comments: “Ajayi had an interesting season, but came on strong and cemented himself as the starting running back. His footwork is impeccable. With a full season as a starter this year, Ajayi should produce big time.”-Joe DiTullio

72. Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons

NFL Top 100

Devonta Freeman (Photo by heavy.com)

Freeman is coming off of his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season and is a part of one of the best offenses in the league. He had less carries in 2016 than in 2015, but was more productive. Last season he finished with 1,079 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

In the Falcons’ offense, Freeman is not only a great runner but also a great receiver out of the backfield. With Matt Ryan chucking the ball all over the field, Freeman gets to catch a lot of passes and it helps keep the defense from stacking the box. The offensive line is solid and should continue to open up holes in the running game in 2017.

Tevin Coleman does take away some of Freeman’s carries, but keeping him fresh is a priority for the Falcons because of his immense talent.

Comments: “An important part of the Falcons’ offense, Freeman had 4.8 yards per carry and also provides a good receiver out of the backfield. With a good offensive line in front of him and a balanced offense, Freeman will have another good season in 2017.”-Joe DiTullio

71. Cameron Jordan, DE, New Orleans Saints

NFL Top 100

Cameron Jordan (Photo by nflmocks.com)

The Saints’ defense hasn’t been good in years, but Cameron Jordan has been a consistently good player for them. Jordan just doesn’t have a lot of good players around him. In 2017 he finished with 7.5 sacks, 58 total tackles, a forced fumble and six passes defended.

2016 marked a down year in terms of sack totals for Jordan, but he did play solidly in other areas. New Orleans will likely struggle on defense again in 2017, but they do have a solid young secondary that should be helped by rookie Marshon Lattimore. If their coverage is better, it will give Jordan a couple more seconds to get to the quarterback.

Look for Jordan to have another great year on another sub-par defense in 2017.

Comments: Cameron Jordan’s sack numbers don’t impress the average NFL fan, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a menace. Jordan had 79 quarterback pressures last season, which is exactly as many as Von Miller. Jordan received an elite grade from PFF, with a 92.4 score which is good for third among edge rushers last season. The Cal product also tied for the lead the NFL in tackles for loss last season, chalking up 17. Jordan is ranked too low for my taste, and this season will prove that.” – Tim Miller

NFL top 100 players: 90-81

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Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

The quarterback position is the most iconic position in all of sports. Football fans watch and discuss the position as if it was a soap opera on ABC. If your team has a franchise quarterback then you know you have a shot at the playoffs. If your team doesn’t then you are constantly searching for that guy. Not finding a franchise quarterback will put a team in a situation similar to that of the Browns or Jaguars.

Why does this matter? Just the other day a father and son were simply talking football like many do. One topic that came up was could the Jaguars sign Johnny Manziel as a backup plan to Blake Bortles. Bortles struggled mightily last season and if he regresses again, Jacksonville will more than likely look for a new candidate as the franchise quarterback. The topic of conversation then evolved to who and where could either Manziel or Kaepernick end up this season. Here are some possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick, the two controversial quarterbacks.

Johnny Manziel

The quarterback known as Johnny Football has had an infamous journey thus far. Recently Jon Machota of Dallas News tweeted a quote from Manziel that said, “I know the situation I put myself in. I know the year I took off and obviously the mistakes that I made. Right now, I’m hopeful. I think that I made some progress in that regard. But we’ll see. Whenever I get a call, I’ll do what I can to make the most of it.”

Reports have come out that Manziel is fighting hard to make a return to the NFL. He is still only 24 years old and if he is given the chance, can prove that he can still lead a franchise, so what teams are even a possibility?

Jacksonville

Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

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

This whole idea started because of the question if the Jags could or should sign Johnny Manziel. Blake Bortles has gone 11-34 in his first three seasons in the NFL. He also struggles with protecting the football and hasn’t had a season with less than 16 interceptions yet. This season is truly a make or break season for Bortles who will have a workhorse at running back, Leonard Fournette. The Jags also have a very talented defense that can succeed if the offense isn’t putting them in bad situations routinely.

This opportunity would allow Manziel to serve as the backup, which is the first step he will have to take in order to get back into the NFL. Depending on how things play out in Jacksonville, he may get a shot to take over a struggling Bortles. With the pieces in place, Manziel would have little to no pressure thus improving his chances of becoming the franchise quarterback they are looking for.

New Orleans

Back in March, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton met with Johnny Manziel for breakfast. Payton was rather coy on why they met but did say he was a fan of the talent Manziel possessed. The Saints are only a possibility because of Drew Brees age. He hasn’t shown signs of regression but quarterbacks don’t get better at 38. Even if he plays for two years, he could be an amazing mentor to Johnny Football.

Another reason this could work is that they are practically the same size. The knock on both Brees and Manziel coming out of college was their height. Both are six foot tall and around 208 pounds. Brees has proven, at his size, that even short quarterbacks can throw for 5,000 yards and win a Super Bowl.

Considering how respected of a quarterback and a person Brees is, he could really be the perfect role model for Manziel as Brees’ career comes to an end. Sean Payton would have his quarterback in waiting and the Saints could be set for the next ten years.

New York Giants

The big apple could be dangerous, yet the perfect destination for Johnny Football. Eli Manning is 36 and although hasn’t hinted at retirement, he could be done with football soon. Similar to the situation in New Orleans, Manziel could come in and sit behind Manning for two to three years. The Giants have a good defense and great receiving weapons on offense. Sitting behind Manning could allow Manziel to come in at the right time to be the man in the city so nice they named it twice. This isn’t insider information, just speculation but could you imagine the media frenzy if Manziel went to the Giants?

Colin Kaepernick

Pittsburgh

Possible destinations for Manziel and Kaepernick

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Ben Roethlisberger has already struggled with the idea of retirement but decided to come back this season. If the season is long and tough on Big Ben then it is very likely this is his last season. Pittsburgh will need a new man under center. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell could carry the offense and let Colin Kaepernick manage the game. Kap has experience going deep in the playoffs and can jump straight into the fire with the Steelers. Mike Tomlin could be the coach to take that shot on Kaepernick.

Baltimore

This won’t make much sense at first glance because Joe Flacco doesn’t seem likely to be going anywhere soon. But every team needs a backup and what better place for Kaepernick than to join the team whose head coach is the brother of the coach you had the most success with? Colin Kaepernick may not want to be a backup but at this point, he must take what he can get. John Harbaugh faced Kaepernick in the Super Bowl and knows what he is capable of. It may not be what Kap wants but needs instead.

Jacksonville

Every reason on why Johnny Manziel could play for the Jaguars is why Colin Kaepernick could as well. Last season Bortles threw a touchdown on 3.7 percent and interceptions on 2.6 percent of his throws. That was horrible compared to Kaepernick who threw touchdowns on 4.8 percent and interceptions on 1.2 percent of his throws. Kaepernick would be an improvement over Bortles. If Bortles continues to struggle not only will Manziel be an option but Kaepernick would be the best option.

Other

Both teams in Los Angeles are a possibility. Jared Goff could prove to be a bust for the Rams and if they don’t want to keep trying to find a franchise quarterback through the draft then Manziel or Kaepernick could be worth a shot. The Chargers are a young team with lots of talent aside from Philip Rivers. Rivers is 35 years of age and is coming off of one of his worst seasons as a pro. If he duplicates last years performance, the Chargers may decide to move on.

The Cardinals are another team with an aging quarterback. Arizona also has an offensive minded genius at head coach. Manziel or Kaepernick could be the replacement for Carson Palmer.

Three other teams, the New York Jets, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins may also be looking for a quarterback after this season ends and it is possible one of these teams throw either of these guys an opportunity.

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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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Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the sixth edition, Super Bowl series: AFC South.

Houston Texans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: http://cover32.com)

The Houston Texans have finished 9-7 for three straight years. Last season, it was enough to win the division but the Texans should be striving for better.

Houston has been led by its defense and has been a quarterback away from being one of the best teams in the NFL. That is why they took a shot on Deshaun Watson in this year’s draft. Houston is very close to winning a Super Bowl so explaining how they can win it this season will be relatively simple.

Houston’s defense is nothing short of elite. J.J. Watt only played in three games last season which may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Watt’s injury allowed Jadeveon Clowney to finally show signs of stardom. Clowney made some amazing plays against the Raiders in the playoffs, to the point where it looked like he was taking over the game. With Watt returning, the combination of these two great defenders may push Houston’s defense to legendary status.

The Texans gave up the fewest yards per game last season, allowing teams to just over 300 yards per game. Unfortunately, that didn’t always stop teams from scoring on them. Houston gave up 20.5 points per game last season, which ranked 11th in the NFL. They also struggled closing out halves giving up 7.4 points per second quarter and seven points per fourth quarter.

If the Texans can do a better job at closing out halves, their defense will take the next step. They must also replace nose tackle Vince Wilfork, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Quinton Demps in order to continue being an elite defense. Houston must also do a better job at creating turnovers. They only had 1.1 takeaways per game.

Houston’s offense is the part of the team that needs the most work. The offensive unit ranked at the bottom of most offensive categories including points per game (17.4, ranking 29th), points per game in the first half (7.6, ranking 32nd), yards per game (314.7, ranking 29th), third down conversions (37.3 percent, ranking 22nd) and passing yards (198.5, ranking 29th). The lack of success from the offense resulted in the Texans drafting Watson and trading Brock Osweiler.

If it wasn’t for Houston’s run game, its offense would have been one of the worst of all time. The Texans ran for 116.2 yards per game on the 28.5 attempts per game. Lamar Miller was a bright spot on this offense as he ran for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on just 268 carries. He needs to build on this season to help whoever lines up under center. This may be difficult with the loss of right tackle Derek Newton who is out for the season with patellar tendon tears.

If the Texans can go from one of the league’s worst offenses to being one of the top 15, then this defense will be able to carry Houston to a Super Bowl LII victory.

Tennessee Titans

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The Titans finished the season tied with the Texans at 9-7 but lost the division on tiebreakers. Marcus Mariota broke his leg in week 15 and the Titans lost to the Jaguars 38-17 in that contest. Had the Titans won that game, they would have won the division. Mariota is young but the Titans can go as far as he will lead them.

Marcus Mariota is becoming the face of the franchise but part of his success is due to the sustainable running game of the Titans. Tennessee ranked third in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game on the ground. They also ran the ball often, averaging 28.5 attempts per game. This effective running game has taken the pressure off of their young quarterback which has given him the opportunity to succeed.

Taking the next step means giving Mariota receivers that will allow him to improve on the Titans 25th-ranked passing attack. Tennessee drafted Corey Davis and signed Eric Decker to be that help. The Titans’ coaching staff must now open the playbook and allow Mariota to take charge of the offense.

He has shown to be a great decision maker already in his career. Mariota converted at the third-best rate in the NFL on third down last year. He also has helped the Titans to a 72 percent conversion rate in red zone scoring while never throwing a red zone interception in his career.

Aside from continuing to dominate the run game and opening up the passing attack for Mariota, Tennessee needs to do a much better job of scoring in the second half. The Titans ranked 23rd in second half scoring, averaging 9.7 points. Shoring up these loose ends will turn the Titans’ offense into a playoff-caliber offense.

Defensively, the Titans are much closer to Super Bowl caliber. Tennesse only gave up 23.6 points per game which may seem impressive considering its defense got off to such slow starts. The Titans ranked 29th in first quarter points allowed. Getting off to quicker starts will bring that 23.6 point total down and result in more wins.

Tennessee had a horrible secondary last season. Their pass defense was the third-worst in the NFL. The Titans addressed this problem in the offseason. They let go of Jason McCourty but drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson and signed defensive backs Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The combination of these three players can help the Titans catch up to their second-ranked rush defense.

If the Titans allow Mariota to sling the rock more then the offense can become more balanced. Defensively, the Titans secondary must give up less than 250 yards a game through the air. Simply doing these two things, in addition to what the Titans already do well, will push Tennessee from fringe playoff team to Super Bowl contender.

Indianapolis Colts

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

(Photo Credit: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)

The story of the Colts’ failures are well documented. Their defense is pathetic and they are contributing to wasting away Andrew Luck’s career. Indianapolis went 8-8 last season and has missed the playoffs for two consecutive years. In order for the Colts to really have a shot at winning Super Bowl LII, they need this defense to become much better.

The Colts have finally begun to realize they need to address the defense. In the draft, the Colts selected safety Malik Hooker who many believe is the next Ed Reed and cornerback Quincy Wilson.

During free agency, the Colts signed numerous defenders that will fit in with the new 3-4 scheme. These players include defensive ends Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard and John Simon along with linebackers Sean Spence and Jon Bostic.

This complete change in scheme and personnel is what is supposed to cure a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed. Indianapolis’ defense didn’t have a strength. They ranked 27th against the pass (269.2 yards per game) and 25th against the run (120.4 yards per game) for a total of 382.9 yards allowed per game. The unit as a whole must improve if the Colts are to have a shot at making the playoffs.

On the other side of the ball, the Colts are led by a great quarterback. Andrew Luck has put up impressive numbers so far, with 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions but needs more balance. Indianapolis only ran the ball 39 percent of the time for an average of 101.8 yards per game. Frank Gore did rush for over 1,000 yards last season but he is 34 years old. The Colts drafted running back Marlon Mack as a possible spell or replacement for Gore.

Even with their unbalanced offense, the Colts managed to put up 25.7 points per game last season, good for eighth best in the league. Adding a rushing attack will only improve the offense, thus the team’s chances at a Lombardi Trophy. If the defense comes around to being a top 15 defense, you can guarantee that Andrew Luck will win Super Bowl LII.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC South

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

The Jacksonville Jaguars have been so bad that they have picked in the top five of the NFL Draft for six years running, which is an NFL record. Jacksonville is far from competing for a Super Bowl, or so it seems. It is going to be difficult for the Jaguars to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl, but it is possible.

Jacksonville has a very good and underrated defense. Although they gave up 25 points per game, they ranked sixth in yards allowed at 321.7. The Jaguars offense put them in bad situations often as displayed in Jacksonville’s amount of giveaways per game.

Jacksonville had 1.8 turnovers per game, tied for 26th in the NFL. Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air.

Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air. They lost defensive backs John Cyprien and Prince Amukamara but signed A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, both of which are upgrades over their counterpart.

To improve this defense even more, the Jags signed defensive end Calais Campbell. The Jacksonville defense will be elite and as long as their offense doesn’t make crucial mistakes, they can lead this team to the playoffs.

Getting to the playoffs is one thing, but getting to the Super Bowl is an entirely different beast. Jacksonville is going to need a complete resurgence from its offense. They signed tackle Brandon Albert and drafted tackle Cam Robinson to bolster their offensive line. If this unit plays well, they can open up running lanes for one of the most dynamic running backs to enter the league since Adrian Peterson.

Leonard Fournette, the man to be the best running back since Adrian Peterson, will be asked to be a workhorse and improve the 22nd-ranked rushing game. Jacksonville must also run the ball more than 37 percent of the time if Fournette is going to become a threat on the offense.

Generating a solid running game will help in a multitude of areas for Jacksonville. The Jaguars ranked 28th in third down conversion percentage at 35.3 percent. Shortening the chains will go a long way in fixing this problem. Converting more on third down can lead to more points as well.

Jacksonville scored 19.9 points per game last season. By now you can see the pattern starting to form. Running the ball leads to shorter third downs, which leads to more points, which all leads to taking the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands. Bortles has shown flashes of brilliance but the entire weight of the offense is too much for him. If Leonard Fournette can make an immediate impact, then this offense can become really good.

Being better on defense and offense simply aren’t enough. Jacksonville must become more disciplined as well. The Jaguars gave up 8.1 penalties per game for an average of 74.2 yards per game. Both ranked 31st in the NFL. Improving on this is a must if the Jaguars want to start drafting outside of the top five.

Defending home field is also vital in acquiring success in the NFL. In the past four years, the Jaguars are 9-29 at home. Playing in such a humid and hot climate should provide a better home field advantage.

If Jacksonville can put all these things together, then it is possible for them to win Super Bowl LII. The odds of that happening though are the about as equivalent of the Patriots going 0-16.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC South. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Matthew!

Featured image courtesy of http://www.steelcityunderground.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/afc-south.png

Under the Radar Fantasy Running Backs

Under the radar fantasy running backs to watch

This season there are fantasy running backs worth watching. These five running backs may not be the biggest names in the NFL, but they can be valuable assets for your team this upcoming season.

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

Under the Radar Fantasy Running Backs

Jordan Howard (Photo by: chicagobears.com)

The first running back that everyone should keep an eye on is Jordan Howard. When starter Jeremy Langford got hurt last season, Howard took the starting job and didn’t look back. Not only was he good, he was dominant.

As a rookie, Howard rushed for the second-most yards in 2016 with 1,313, behind another rookie in Ezekiel Elliot. Howard also finished second in yards per carry with a 5.2 average. Howard averaged 87.5 rushing yards per game that ranked third in the league and just outside the top 10 in attempts (252).

Howard only scored six touchdowns, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Howard is on a team in which they have to come from behind which leads to passing situations on almost every down. This means that Howard doesn’t get the ball late in games to improve on some of his numbers.

Howard’s numbers will improve, especially in touchdowns. I also don’t expect Howard to have that sophomore slump. Howard will be a first round pick and could still rise to a top-five pick.

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins

After Arian Foster retired early in the 2016 season, Ajayi had his chance to play and went all in. Three times did he have a 200-yard or more rushing game, including back-to-back weeks. Miami did rank 18th in rushing attempts, but in those attempts Ajayi ran the ball with intensity and purpose.

Ajayi’s 1,272 rushing yards ranked fourth among rushers in the league. Ajayi also ranked fifth in yards per game at 84.8, ninth in rushing attempts with 260, seventh in rushing yards per attempt (4.9) and just outside the top 10 in touchdowns with eight.

Although the Dolphins ranked 18th in rushing attempts, they did rank ninth in rushing yards which means Ajayi has an effective offensive line that should help deliver a repeat performance in 2017. Ajayi’s ADP (average draft position) is around the eighth to ninth running back picked, which means look for him second or third round.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound bruiser known as Leonard Fournette will be the new man in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield. Fournette is a running back who can punish defenses with power and get chunks of yardage with speed. He’s not the most agile running back, but when he has a running lane, he accelerates quickly and can hit a home run.

Fournette won’t give you many catches, that’s not his game. His backups T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory don’t pose any threat other than a carry here and there to give Fournette a blow. Yeldon will be the pass-catcher and Ivory is the same type of back Fournette is. Although the Jaguars ranked 17th or lower in every rushing category, Fourette should help those numbers because of the ability he has.

I see Fournette as a guy like Ezekiel Elliot. A physical, breaking tackles and hit the home run guy once in open space back. The Jaguars will use the fourth overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft to protect quarterback Blake Bortles from having to drop back 40 times a game. I would rate Fournette a high-end RB2 with the potential to be a solid RB1. He will be a second round pick in most fantasy drafts.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

under the radar fantasy running backs

Joe Mixon (Photo by: cincinnati.com)

The good part about the Cincinnati Bengals running game is that they have ranked top-ten in the NFL in both rushing attempts and red-zone carries in each of the past three seasons. However, the Bengals running game for yards and consistency has been dreadful ever since Jeremy Hill’s rookie season in 2014.

Hill has declined and has delivered fewer than 60 rushing yards per game. Hill doesn’t catch the ball either. Giovani Bernard is working back from a torn ACL and will mostly be used in the passing game.

Fans should be excited to see Joe Mixon from a fantasy perspective rather than his off-the-field issues. Mixon has the potential to be a better runner than Hill, and a solid pass-catcher like Bernard. I look at Mixon and I see a David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell type player who has great ability to run and catch the ball.

Hill will probably be the starter and end up getting a good number of touches. Mixon will eventually take over somewhere in the middle of the season but don’t count him out to take the job sooner. If he’s there by the fourth to fifth round he could be a steal as he has the potential to be a RB1 but will start likely as a RB3 if he is the backup.

Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots

My dark horse running back is Mike Gillislee of the New England Patriots. With the departure of LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots signed Rex Burkhead to a one-year contract and still have James White and Dion Lewis. What separates Gillislee from the others is that he can pound the ball between the tackles.

He will fill the shoes that Blount filled last year. He was LeSean McCoy’s backup in Buffalo last year and finished with only 101 carries but ran for 576 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. His 5.7 yards per carry ranked first among all running backs with at least 100 carries.

The Bills didn’t have a great offensive line as it ranked 16th in run blocking but Gillislee’s 3.34 yards after contact per attempt was third best in the NFL. He was also a machine within the 10-yard line as seven of his eight touchdowns came from within that range.

We know Gillislee can be valuable for touchdowns, but be cautious because of the other running backs the Patriots have around him. Gillislee will get his touches as the Patriots ranked third in rushing attempts in 2016. Gillislee’s ADP right now is around the fourth to fifth round as a RB3 mostly because he enters as the starter.

 

Featured image from bigcatcountry.com

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