NFL top 100 players 2017: 90-81

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 second installment, containing players 90-81.

90. Malcolm Butler, CB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Malcolm Butler (photo by twitter.com)

Butler has gone from unknown out of the University of West Alabama, to Super Bowl hero, to one of the best corners in the league. He put his talents on display last season with 63 total tackles, four interceptions, 16 passes defended, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a sack.

He will pair with number 97 on our list, Stephon Gilmore, to create a great cornerback tandem. The Patriots had the best scoring defense in the league and ranked 12th against the pass. That rank will only get better this season with Butler improving from year to year and Gilmore on the other side of the field.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get a lot of the praise, and deservedly so, but Butler and the defense are good enough to get some recognition too.

Comments: “I personally have Butler much higher on my list. Butler isn’t always asked to cover the elite receivers, but he’s proven to be excellent in coverage. Only 50 percent of the passes thrown his direction get completed. On average, he holds receivers well below their average in yards per game. He was essential to a Patriots secondary that played a major factor in getting New England a fifth Super Bowl ring.”-Blake Van Poucke

89. Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Josh Norman (Photo by washingtonpost.com)

It was a tumultuous, but effective first year in the nation’s capital for Norman. People criticized him for only playing one side of the field, not understanding what type of corner he is. He finished the season with 67 total tackles, three interceptions, 19 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

While Washington’s pass defense wasn’t good last year, ranking 25th in the NFL, Norman usually did a solid job of shutting down his side of the field. The rest of the Redskins’ secondary let the team down. In 2017, teams will still try to avoid throwing the ball to Norman’s side of the field because they can do so much damage throwing away from him.

Norman may get headlines for getting into scuffles with notable wide receivers, but he can play and it will show once again in 2017.

Comments: “Norman experienced maybe the biggest drop off from his first team all-pro 2015 with the Panthers after being moved to the Redskins. Nevertheless, he only experienced a small drop in production while taking on a smaller role on Washington’s secondary. He wasn’t the shutdown corner he was in 2015, but he was still very effective.”-Blake Van Poucke

88. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Sean Lee (Photo by nfl.com)

Lee had a phenomenal 2017 with 146 total tackles, one pass defended and one fumble recovery. There is a noticeable difference when he is on the field and healthy for the Cowboys as opposed to when he is not.

One of the things Lee is known for the most is that he is injury prone, as he has never played all 16 games in a season. Staying healthy is a key for him to stay on this list, but if he does and performs like previous years, he will deserve his slot. Last year Dallas had the fifth-best scoring defense in the league and with an emphasis on drafting defensive players and controlling the clock on offense, Lee should be able to have another great season.

Playing under Rod Marinelli, Lee has thrived and there is no reason, other than injury, to think he won’t continue to thrive for the Cowboys.

Comments: “Sean Lee is one of the best linebackers in the league. The Cowboys look so much better on the defensive side of the ball when Lee is healthy. He is a tackle machine and is the heart and soul of the defense. If Lee can stay healthy, his spot on this list is almost guaranteed.”-Joe DiTullio

87. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

NFL Top 100

Marcus Mariota (Photo by titansonline.com)

In his second season in the NFL, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 61% completion. His career is trending upward as he only won three games as a starter during his rookie season, but ended up winning eight in his sophomore campaign.

The Titans are starting to build a legitimate offensive threat around their franchise quarterback. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry provide two good running backs that keep each other fresh behind a good offensive line, which features Taylor Lewan. Tennessee selected Corey Davis with the fifth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and will pair him with Eric Decker, whom they have recently just signed, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker.

With more weapons and another year of experience under his belt, look for Mariota to have a very successful 2017.

Comments: “Marcus Mariota is not getting the respect he deserves and is a top 45 player. He got injured in the 15th game and still put up 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Had Mariota stayed healthy I fully believe the Titans would have won the division. Mariota will be a top-five quarterback by the end of this season.” -Matthew Hagan

 86. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by upi.com)

A guy who didn’t play last season makes the top 100. “Beast Mode” has given a lot of people reason to believe in him over the years, but had a disappointing and injury-plagued 2015 season before retiring. The 31-year-old has 9,112 rushing yards and will be looking to tack on as many yards as possible in his new silver and black uniform.

Live-game action is something that can’t be substituted, so Lynch may not have the greatest of starts, but he will have one thing that many running backs over the age of 30 don’t have, fresh legs. Another thing Lynch has going for him in 2017? His offensive line is among the best in the NFL and should be able to clear him a lot of space before he is contacted.

Lynch partially makes the list because of his great career, but also partially because of how great the guys in front of him will be.

Comments: “Similar to Brandon Marshall, Marshawn Lynch only made this list off of reputation. Lynch is 31 years old and didn’t even play last season. There will be some rust and he won’t be the every down back for the Raiders. I will be surprised if Lynch rushes for more than 700 yards.” -Matthew Hagan

“He lives up to his nickname Beast Mode. It seems impossible to tackle him. He can explode up the middle and have that big run like he had against the Saints that made him known as Beast Mode. With his new home with the Raiders I see him having the same success with the offensive line in Oakland. I think he could be a little higher on this list especially in front of Demaryius Thomas.”- Craig Stogdill

85. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Jerrell Freeman (Photo by chicagobears.com)

Freeman was suspended for his use of PED’s in 2016, but still put up impressive numbers. He was left off of the NFL’s top 100 player list, but because this list focuses on how well the players will do in 2017, he makes the cut. In 12 games in 2016, Freeman recorded 112 total tackles and four passes defended.

Assuming he can stay on the field, Freeman is by far the best player on the Bears’ defense. He is good at both stopping the run and in coverage, which makes him a three-down linebacker.

In 2017 Freeman will continue to be the best player on the Bears’ defense and make top 100 lists.

Comments: “Freeman didn’t make a lot of top 100 lists because of his PED suspension last season. In 2017 Freeman will return to form and have another great season. His ability to cover makes him a very valuable player.”-Joe DiTullio

84. Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Justin Houston (Photo by cbssports.com)

Injuries have derailed Houston’s last two seasons, but in 2014 he had 22 sacks. He has had knee injuries, but now says he is healthy and ready to play. If he can stay healthy an regain his form he is one of the most dominant players in the league, but that is a big if.

Kansas City ranked 28th in sacks in 2017, but if Houston is healthy he should be able to help improve that number drastically. While knee injuries are never a good thing, Houston will be 28 this season, meaning that he should still be able to bounce back.

If Houston plays a healthy season, he will be on this list at season’s end, but if he gets hurt again, his best years are probably behind him.

Comments: “It’s a shame that Houston has only been able to play 16 games in the last two seasons. A fully healthy Justin Houston is still a top-five player in this league. 2013 is considered by many to be one of the greatest single seasons ever from a defensive end. He was still around a sack per game in 2016, but only got five games in. For the sake of entertainment, please stay healthy Justin Houston.”-Blake Van Poucke

83. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Demaryius Thomas (Photo by denverpost.com)

Thomas has made five straight Pro Bowls but saw his production dip last season. He had 1,083 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 90 receptions. These are all the lowest these stats have been since his second season in the league.

Most of this isn’t Thomas’ fault. He is still a good talent but has been playing with young quarterbacks who aren’t the most talented, yet. Evidence of this is his 62.5% catch percentage in 2016, which is the third highest in his career. Ultimately Thomas’ fate rests in the hands of the developing young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

While Thomas is a player anyone would want on their team, his production and ranking in 2017 may not match his actual talent.

Comments: “Demaryius Thomas is a really good player but the quarterback situation in Denver hurts him. Neither Paxton Lynch nor Trevor Siemian will be good enough to keep Thomas as a top 100 player. Unfortunately for receivers, being a top player is somewhat out of their hands.” -Matthew Hagan

“Last year was rough for DT. He didn’t have Peyton Manning to throw him the ball and played injured last season. But Thomas is still a big target with great speed for his size. He has the size of a tight end with the speed, agility and ball skills of a wide receiver. He can get up there and make that acrobatic catch. I think DT is ranked way too high only because of his situation and that 2017 won’t look any better”- Craig Stogdill 

82. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Top 100

Gerald McCoy (Photo by tampabay.com)

The Bucs have been lucky enough to have a consistently good player like McCoy on their team for seven seasons. Last year he continued his good production with 34 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered.

As a defensive tackle, his pass rushing numbers stand out with 42 career sacks in his seven seasons. In a division that features Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton, getting after the quarterback is a must. McCoy will have to be a great player once again to give the Bucs a chance to leap into the playoffs.

This season McCoy will be a top 100 player once again.

Comments: “This guy has been a stalwart on defense for the Bucs for a long time. He could be ranked higher just due to consistency. I expect that with his team finally in a real playoff push (last year a lot of things needed to happen for them to get in) he will exceed expectations, which are already pretty high.”- Robert Hanes

81. Phillip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL Top 100

Phillip Rivers (Photo by espn.com)

In the Chargers’ last season in San Diego, Rivers had a solid season, despite not having the best talent around him. He threw for 4,386 yards on 60.4% completion, with 38 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

That might not be the best stat-line, but he was throwing to Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman for the most part, who were virtual unknowns before the season. In 2017 the Chargers will have Keenan Allen back (pending his ability to stay healthy), rookie Mike Williams, a reliable Antonio Gates and an up and coming Hunter Henry to go along with Williams, Inman and Travis Benjamin.

Rivers is aging and will be 36 this season, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. With a better cast around him in 2017, look for him to keep on climbing up in the record books and be a top 100 player yet again.

Comments:“Rivers had one of his worst seasons as a pro last year and being 35 years old doesn’t help. He threw 21 interceptions and was the leader of the offense that committed the most turnovers per game last season. As this year goes by, fans will start to realize that it is time for the Chargers to move on and look for their next franchise quarterback.” -Matthew Hagan

“What Rivers did last season with no offensive line and a crop of receivers that no one knew about is nothing short of amazing. Based on last year this ranking is justified, but looking ahead to this season, with his new weapons and a better team overall, Rivers is going to have a very good season and is better than a lot of players ahead of him on this list.”- Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players: 100-91

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC West

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 eighth, and final edition, Super Bowl series: AFC West.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are entirely overlooked and it is egregious. Andy Reid has done incredibly well so far in Kansas City. Reid has gone 43-21 and the Chiefs have made the playoffs in three of his four seasons.

The only thing missing is the playoff success and thus a Super Bowl victory. Kansas City is just 1-3 in the playoffs during the Reid era. That can change this season as the Chiefs look to make a run at Super Bowl LII.

Kansas City is a team that wades in the water like a shark and out of nowhere will sneak up and attack you. Alex Smith gets the hate while the defense gets all the love but the Chiefs averaged 24.3 points per game last season, which was 13th best in the NFL. The Chiefs were able to get out in front of teams early, scoring the eighth most first half points with 12.8 per game.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

The Chiefs weren’t special on offense but they were consistent. They ranked 18th in third down conversion percentage (38 percent), 15th in rushing yards (109.2 per game) and 19th in passing yards (233.8 per game). Again, the offense wasn’t spectacular but they are wrongfully accused of costing this team successful playoff runs.

There is still room for growth. The offense can help the defense out even more by running more plays to keep that stellar defense rested. The Chiefs ranked 27th last season averaging 61.9 plays per game. An effective rushing attack is one of the best ways to run more plays.

Kansas City has added veteran running back C.J. Spiller and rookie running back Kareem Hunt in hopes of improving the offense, but Spencer Ware should be the feature back. This offense has been consistent and as long as they improve just a tiny bit, the Chiefs can remain Super Bowl contenders.

In the Reid era, the Chiefs have averaged 27.5 points per game in the playoffs. They also lost a playoff game to the Colts, 45-44. Anytime a team scores 44 points, they should win. As much blame as this offense gets, they have performed well enough to win games in the postseason.

Stepping away from the offense, the Chiefs are truly Super Bowl contenders because of their defense. Despite losing Justin Houston after five games and Derrick Johnson after 13, the Chiefs were able to rank seventh in points allowed per game at 19.4.

The reason the Chiefs were good on defense wasn’t that they held teams to low amounts of yardage; they actually were bad at allowing yards. They ranked 24th in total yards (368.5 per game), 26th in rushing (121.1 per game) and 18th in passing (247.4 per game).

What Kansas City really excelled at was red zone defense and forcing turnovers. The Chiefs only allowed points in the red zone 49.1 percent of the time. They also led the league with 2.1 takeaways per game. There can be improvements made in how much yardage allowed but if the Chiefs can continue forcing turnovers along with getting stops in the red zone, then the Chiefs can remain a top-tier defensive team.

In order to win the Super Bowl, Kansas City must get home-field advantage. They are 18-7 at home in the past three seasons. They must also get over the tough schedule that includes New England, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas outside of the division, plus Oakland and Denver twice each.

If the Chiefs can navigate this schedule and make the playoffs, the offense needs to continue averaging 27.5 points per game and the defense must remain elite. Doing all of this will mean that Arrowhead will be home to the Super Bowl LII champions.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders were legitimate Super Bowl contenders last season but the injury bug bit at the worst time. Derek Carr broke his leg in week 16 and just like his leg, the Raiders playoff chances were shattered.

Offensive tackle Donald Penn also went down and if the Raiders can remain healthy at their key positions, then they have one of the best shots in the league to win Super Bowl LII.

In order to win the Super Bowl, the Raiders must improve defensively along with remaining healthy. The Raiders gave up 24.1 points per game and the problem was that they struggled in the second half of games.

Oakland ranked 29th in second half points, allowing 13.4 per game. The Raiders struggled in yardage as well, ranking 26th in total yards (375.1 per game), 23rd rushing yards (117.6 per game) and 24th in passing yards (257.5 per game). The Raiders spent their first three picks on the defensive side of the ball to address these defensive woes.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

Part of the reason they struggled so much defensively was that they couldn’t get off the field on third down. Opponents converted 39.4 percent of the time against the Raiders on third down. If they can fix this, it will improve their entire defense.

Fixing their third down defense starts with getting to the quarterback which the Raiders were the worst at. Oakland ranked 32nd in the NFL in sacks, accumulating just 25 for the season. Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and newly acquired Jelani Jenkins must make a bigger impact in rushing the quarterback.

Oakland must also find some discipline. The Raiders ranked dead last in both penalties (9.2 per game) and penalty yardage (77.9 per game). Without these improvements, the Raiders won’t be capable of making deep postseason runs.

The strength of the Raiders is, without question, their offense which averaged 26 points per game. Oakland seemed to get better as the game went on, averaging the fifth most points in the second half with 13.6. The Raiders had no trouble racking up the yardage either, averaging 373.3 yards per game.

They can thank their surprisingly good rushing attack. Oakland ran for the sixth most yards in the NFL last season with 120.1 per game. Adding Marshawn Lynch to the mix should improve this number and make the entire offense even better.

Oakland had the 13th best aerial attack in the NFL, throwing for 253.2 yards per game. Derek Carr has been exceptional and has also been given solid targets to throw to. His two main targets, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, combined for 176 receptions, 2,156 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.

The Raiders decided Carr needed more and added talented receiving tight end Jared Cook and explosive wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

Cook has struggled to remain healthy but has been effective when on the field. Patterson has been to the Pro Bowl as a returner but had a solid season catching 74.3 percent of the balls thrown his way last season. These two weapons could really push Oakland’s passing attack to the next level.

The only improvements the Raiders need to make on offense is on third down and in the red zone. Oakland only converted 38.1 percent on third down. Extending drives can help the defense get rest and therefore, perform better.

Although the Raiders averaged 26 points, they only scored in the red zone 58.6 percent of the time. If they can improve this percentage, then the Raiders could easily average 30 or more points per game. If the Raiders do that, then the Lombardi Trophy is going back to the bay, baby.

Denver Broncos

There weren’t many who believed the Broncos would struggle last season but Denver stumbled to 9-7. Similar to recent years, Denver’s defense was spectacular but the offense was just too far behind. The loss of Peyton Manning was more painful than fans care to realize. Denver might have a Super Bowl defense, but without a quarterback to make big plays, the offense is going to hold this team back.

Let’s start off with what this team is known for, and that’s defense. The Broncos have a reputation for beating up quarterbacks. Denver ranked third in the NFL last season with 42 sacks. This helped them get off the field on third down as they forced a third down stop 63.6 percent of the time. Getting to the quarterback often, and quickly, helped the secondary allow just 185.8 yards passing per game. That was the best mark in the NFL.

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Despite all the success against the pass, the Broncos did struggle against the run. Denver had the fifth worst rush defense in the league, allowing 130.3 yards per game. Altogether, Denver only allowed 316.1 yards per game and that resulted in allowing the fourth fewest points per game at 18.6.

In order to get back to the Super Bowl, Denver must clog up the running lanes. The Broncos have added Domata Peko at defensive tackle to help their run defense. Denver cannot depend on the play of the quarterback and therefore the defense must become elite in all facets of the game. All that is left to conquer is the run.

Offensively, the Broncos need to run the ball more often to make up for their quarterback play. Denver only ran the ball 40.2 percent of the time. This resulted in an average of 92.8 rush yards per game, sixth worst in the NFL. C.J. Anderson is a great back but has yet to play a full season in his career. Speaking of injury prone, the Broncos did add Jamaal Charles to the mix in the backfield as well. While neither can remain healthy on their own, maybe being paired together can help them stay healthy and turn Denver into a good running football team once again.

None of that will be possible without good offensive line play though. Losing Russell Okung isn’t a crushing blow because he had health problems anyway. This is why Denver drafted Garrett Bolles. Also, Matt Paradis is one of the best centers in the league and if he can lead the rest of the unit then Denver can improve their offense.

The Broncos’ passing attack was abysmal as well, ranking 21st. Because of the deficiencies on offense, Denver only managed to score 20.8 points per game. Either Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch need to grab ahold of the quarterback spot with force and prove they can be the franchise quarterback.

If neither of them can, rookie Chad Kelly could sneak in and become the man. No matter how the cookie crumbles, one of these quarterbacks needs to have a great season to help get the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

For everything to fall into place the Broncos, offensive line play must improve which in turn will help the running game improve. Denver needs a quarterback to solidify their spot as the franchise quarterback and lastly, the Denver defense needs to stop the run. If the Broncos can solve all these problems, they can win Super Bowl LII.

Los Angeles Chargers

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC West

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

The Chargers have left San Diego and are embarking on the journey to run Los Angeles. Due to a slew of injuries and a sub-par defense, the Chargers finished last season 5-11. That record didn’t indicate how good the team really was. The Chargers went 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less. Los Angeles can become a contender simply by winning these close games.

The Los Angeles Chargers are going be a much improved defensive team. For starters, Joey Bosa will be ready at the start of the season and he had 10.5 sacks in just 12 games as a rookie. They also added safety Tre Boston to help out in a secondary that gave up 242.9 yards per game through the air.

The defense also includes Corey Liuget, Brandon Mebane, Melvin Ingram, Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward. These are some really good players but they must play together to improve last year’s bad season.

Last year, the Chargers ranked 29th in the NFL in points, allowing 26.4 per game. It was so high because they really stunk in the second half of games. The Chargers gave up a total of 14.6 points per second half last season with 8.3 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

The Chargers defense partly struggled just because the offense gave up 2.2 turnovers per game, which was worst in the NFL. The defense is really talented and if they don’t get put into bad situations due to turnovers, they will easily bring down that amount of points they give up.

Last year’s offense was really good aside from the turnovers. They averaged the ninth most points in the NFL with 25.6 per game. Philip Rivers’ aerial assault led the way. They averaged 262.4 yards through the air despite losing their best receiver Keenan Allen. A healthy Allen could allow Rivers to have a better 2017-18 campaign.

In order to really improve the offense, the Chargers must run the ball more effectively. They averaged 94.4 yards per game but a banged-up offensive line hurt their potential. The Chargers know that a better offensive line will improve everything. Los Angeles snatched offensive tackle Russell Okung from the division rival Broncos. They also drafted guard Forrest Lamp.

Improvement for the Chargers starts with the offense. Running the ball more and simply staying healthy will accomplish that. The defense will then be able to bring down a number of points they allow due to rest. Lastly, the Chargers special teams must stop shooting themselves in the foot with bad punts, missed field goals, botched snaps and just horrible coverage.

It will not be easy for the Chargers to make the playoffs, especially in their division. If they can make the improvements listed, then they will have a puncher’s chance. Once they get into the playoffs it is anybody’s trophy.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC West. This was the final edition of the Super Bowl series and you can find 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!

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Super Bowl 52

If not the Patriots, then who in the AFC?

To call the Patriots heavy favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LLI is a gross understatement. Additions like Brandin Cooks have made a team that already ran roughshod over the conference last year even better on paper heading into 2017. However, sports are a funny thing.

What if the Patriots are finally derailed by the injury bug or just simply pick a bad day to have a bad day in the playoffs? Here are four teams ready to pounce.

Kansas City Chiefs

Ever since Andy Reid came to town, the Chiefs run the ball, play solid defense and do not beat themselves. This is a good formula for winning. However, when that formula comes up against a buzz saw like New England, it is also easy to end up in too deep of an early hole.

Tyreek Hill

Photo: kansascity.com

The divisional playoff matchup between the two teams following the 2015 season was a perfect example of this. Despite holding New England to just 14 points in the first half, Kansas City managed just two field goals and never got caught up.

While Tyreek Hill has provided a much needed boost to KC’s ability to strike quickly, half of their scoring drives in last year’s playoff loss to Pittsburgh were over ten plays. While those are nice, striking quickly is almost a must against the Patriots.

Hope for the Chiefs in a matchup with New England lies in Hill and their pass rushers, led by Justin Houston. With three double digit sack seasons under his belt, Houston is more than capable of wrecking a game for Brady and company, similar to what Von Miller did on Denver’s Super Bowl 50 run.

Kansas City’s opening night matchup with the Super Bowl LI champs will be a nice measuring stick for them.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have questions at quarterback. Ordinarily, that would disqualify them from an article like this, but the Broncos happen to be the only team Tom Brady has a losing record against.

Von Miller

Photo: dailysnark.com

Denver has beaten New England with Jake Plummer, Brock Osweiler and an aging Peyton Manning at quarterback over the years. Knowing that, why not Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch?

Denver invested most of its offseason resources into bolstering the backfield and offensive and defensive lines Thus, the two biggest weaknesses on this team have been addressed.

If the additions help Denver run the ball and stop the run consistently, Miller, Shane Ray and the rest of the defense will keep Denver in almost every game like they have for the better part of the last two seasons. Against New England, that is half the battle.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have not given the Patriots any trouble in recent years. If last year’s AFC title game was a boxing match, it would have been stopped early. The last Steelers’ victory against New England was in 2011.

However, any team that has Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and flirts with putting up 30-plus points every time out is always dangerous. The bad news for Steeler fans is that the Steel Curtain has been made of feathers in recent meetings with the Pats. Twenty-seven points is the fewest New England has scored during its ongoing four game winning streak against Mike Tomlin’s crew.

With the cast of characters basically the same on defense, the only way Pittsburgh beats New England this year is in a shootout. It is unlikely, but not impossible. They are one of very few teams with the firepower to beat New England in that way.

Indianapolis Colts

This inclusion to the list might surprise some, but the AFC is nowhere near as deep as the NFC. Something has been off in terms of the head coach/management dynamic in Indianapolis for the last two years. General manager Ryan Grigson is gone. With former players tweeting in response to the move, one can only assume that Grigson was a significant part of the problem.

One guy who is not part of the problem is quarterback Andrew Luck. Despite near constant drama in the front office and a flawed roster, the Colts have never posted a losing record under his on-field leadership. However, they have missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

Staying healthy has been a challenge for Luck, but 132 touchdowns to just 68 interceptions in almost five full years as a starter are the numbers of a quarterback who can carry a team on his back. The roster still lacks elite players outside of Luck. Also, Indianapolis has been obliterated by the Patriots in two fairly recent playoff meetings.

Even so, the Colts finally fall on the right side of one of a precious few things that is always true in the NFL. If you have a stable front office and a top-notch quarterback, you have a chance every single time you take the field.

Texans and Raiders miss the cut

Two teams that many people would have expected to see in this article are the Texans and the Raiders. They were each left out for very specific reasons. Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson battling for the starting quarterback job means that the Texans will not even be able to spell Super Bowl, much less get there.

Las Vegas Raiders

Photo: USA Today

Anyone who tries to lump Denver’s quarterback situation into the same category as Houston should watch what Trevor Siemian was able to do on the road in Cincinnati and New Orleans last year. The home game against Kansas City also speaks volumes about Siemian’s potential.

As for the Raiders, it is also fairly simple. Derek Carr is no doubt a special quarterback. Despite that, Oakland’s ongoing stadium and relocation drama is worthy of its own article. It is hard not to see it dragging down the on-field product.

Also, even when they were the talk of the league last year, the Raiders still led the world in penalties and got shredded by the opposing quarterback almost every week.

 

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Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

The tight end position is known for big targets that can create space and are touchdown machines in the red zone. Tight ends can sometimes be nerve racking because there aren’t many that are elite. When its draft time it’s all about patience especially for tight ends as you don’t want to reach too high or wait to long for your starting TE.

Here are the top-5 fantasy tight ends you should consider for your fantasy team in 2017.

No.5 Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

To start, my number five tight end is Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2016 he was the most heavily targeted tight end in the league. This was due in part to Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in early November. Tight ends have accounted for a 24 percent target share during Shurmur’s 122 games as a head coach or coordinator since 2009 according to ESPN.

In 2016, Rudolph  paced all tight ends with 128 targets and ranked in the top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). In the past, Rudolph would average around three receptions and 27.8 yards per game, basically becoming a touchdown-or-bust tight end. Rudolph flipped the switch in 2016 and put up 5.2 grabs and 52.5 yards per game. This helped him finish second at the position in fantasy points, his best ranking since he landed 11th in 2012.

In 2017, Rudolph should continue to be a featured option in the Viking offense as Shurmur is still around. He’s not a top-tier option but he’s much better than the tight ends you’ll find at the end of your draft.

No.4 Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed has proven to be a valuable target in Washington. In 2016 he ranked in the top 10 tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite only playing 12 games.

Reed has posted a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons in the past two seasons. In 2015, he had his best season to date with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, which allowed him to finish as the No. 3 fantasy tight end in standard leagues. In 2016 he still produced at a high level with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns but finished as just the No. 8 tight end in standard formats. An impressive stat is that Reed has caught at least three-quarters of his targets during each of his four NFL seasons. That’s scary good.

The one issue with Reed is injuries. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his career. Last year he missed two games with a shoulder injury and one with a concussion. But these injuries haven’t prevented Reed’s numbers to drastically decline. However in 2017 he should become the number one option in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both moving on.

No.3 Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

My number three tight end is Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. He may not be the flashiest player, but without a doubt he’s the most consistent tight end in the NFL.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Greg Olsen (Photo by: nj.com)

Olsen finished third in fantasy points and in the top-seven at the position in targets, completions and receiving yards each of the past five years. In 2016 he had seven games with eight-plus fantasy points. He did, however, only have three touchdowns, his fewest since 2007. Olsen is still the main piece in the Panthers passing game especially in the red zone . He had another 1,000 yard season for the third year in a row and maintains consistency in targets and receptions.

The thing that Olsen excels in is durability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He is always a reliable TE1 and expect him to bounce back in touchdowns and being consistent.

No.2 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by: washingtontimes.com)

I know I will have some hate mail, but if it weren’t for injuries Gronkowski would be my number one tight end. The three-time top fantasy tight end has missed at least one game during each of the past five years and a total of 24 during that span. However, outside of fantasy he is the best tight end in the NFL and always a top two in fantasy.

In 2016 he appeared in eight games and finished with 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on 38 targets. He still finished as the No. 20 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues which goes to show how good he is. From weeks 6-10 he was the top fantasy tight end in fantasy points. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games. In fact he has double digit touchdowns in all but two seasons of his seven year career and they were due to injuries.

Again, people will not agree with this ranking but I fear Gronkowski will again have injury issues. He hasn’t seen a full 16 games since his first two seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he only missed a total of two games and had top fantasy seasons. We hope he plays at least 13 games because when he’s healthy he’s easily the best fantasy tight end in any format. If he can do that he will be the Gronkowski that we can rely on. I do expect him to be ready and also to be the first tight end off the board in Rounds 2 or 3.

No.1 Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone might question this but I’m going with Travis Kelce as my number one tight end for fantasy in 2017. The first thing is why is he in front of Gronkowski? . Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Kelce has played in 16 games three of his four seasons and has started 42 of his 49 career games.

But other then durability Kelce had a breakout 2016 season. He led almost every category at the tight end position including yards, yards per game, catches for 20 and 40 plus yards, and had the longest catch among tight ends. The Chiefs tight end was also second in receptions. Kelce finished as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns on 117 targets. Another interesting stat about Kelce is that he was second among receivers with 100 plus yard games behind only Julio Jones with six. He had a span where he had four 100 plus yards game towards the time of the fantasy playoffs.

Kelce if anything he should see an increase in usage this year with the release of Jeremy Maclin.  Even though he will be picked as the second tight end behind Gronk, Kelce is a good option and is valuable in both standard and PPR leagues. Look for him around the 4th to 5th round to be off the board as he has become a top tier tight end in fantasy.

 

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Super Bowl series: AFC North

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC North

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 fourth edition, Super Bowl series: AFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC North

(Photo Credit: Matthew Healey/ UPI | License Photo)

The Pittsburgh Steelers were one game away from making it to the Super Bowl. Getting to the Super Bowl this season isn’t improbable. After finishing the season 11-5, Pittsburgh dismantled Miami 30-12 in their wild card game. In the divisional round, the Steelers squeaked by the Chiefs 18-16. The downfall of the Steelers was running into the New England Patriots, who went on to win Super Bowl LI.

Pittsburgh should be the favorite to win the AFC North this upcoming season. They have won 10 or more games for three straight seasons. The Steelers’ offense was one of the best in the NFL last season and all their key pieces are returning. Ben Roethlisberger had a solid season throwing for 3,819 yards, 29 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions in just 14 games. Starting running back Le’Veon Bell was the first player in NFL history to average 100 yards rushing and 50 yards receiving per game in a single season.

The final major offensive piece, Antonio Brown, will still be around as well. Last season he helped the Steelers rank in the top 10 in multiple offensive categories with 106 receptions, 1,284 yards and 12 Touchdowns. Due to the stellar play of these core players, Pittsburgh was seventh in scoring, averaging 24.9 points per game. Their dynamic passing game ranked fifth in the NFL at 263.2 passing yards per game. This lead to the seventh overall ranked offense as the Steelers averaged 372.6 total yards per game.

For Pittsburgh to win Super Bowl LII they must improve their 14th ranked rushing attack which averaged 110 yards per game. Growth from the offensive line will help with the improvement in the run game. Pro Football Focus is projecting the Steelers to have the third best offensive line in the NFL based on how well they played down the stretch last season.

Speaking of playing well down the stretch, Pittsburgh ranked seventh in fourth quarter scoring last season, averaging 8.2 points per the fourth quarter. If Pittsburgh needs to come back or put away a game late, they have proven to have the capability to score late in games.

On the defensive side of the ball, there is also room for improvement that will help with a Super Bowl berth and possible victory. Pittsburgh ranked 10th in points allowed per game at 20.6 and their first half defense was to thank. In the first half of games, the defense only gave up an average of 9.2 points, which was second best in the NFL.

Pittsburgh must learn to get off the field. Getting off the field quicker will allow the defense to carry over that kind of dominance into the second half by being less gassed. Last season their defense spent too much time on the field. The Steelers ranked fifth in opponents offensive plays with 62.1. The offense can help by putting together longer drives but ultimately the defense must get off the field.

Despite being on the field for that many plays, the Steelers ranked 10th in total yards with 339.2. Their rush defense carried them by ranking eighth as opponents only averaged 93.2 yards on the ground against them. In order for the Steelers to win the Super Bowl, their pass defense must improve which is why they added Coty Sensabaugh in the offseason.

The Steelers must build off of last year’s success on offense. Big Ben has enough experience and talent to lead this offense to some amazing performances. Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will continue to shatter record books and this offense will be Super Bowl worthy. If the defense can hold up and improve at stopping opponents passing attacks then the Steelers will hold up the Lombardi Trophy for the seventh time in franchise history.

Baltimore Ravens

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC North

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

The Baltimore Ravens stumbled to an 8-8 record last season despite having a very strong defense. In order to make the playoffs this season, Baltimore must fare better on the road as they were 2-6 in road games last year. They must also get a win in October. Going 0-4 in the middle of the season can really set a team off course.

Baltimore’s defense was clearly the team’s strength. The Ravens ranked ninth in points allowed at 20.1 points per game. This top 10 scoring defense was a result of dominant first half play. Baltimore only gave up 9.5 points per game in the first half last season.

In terms of yardage, the Ravens ranked seventh in the NFL in total defense giving up only 322.1 yards per game. Their rush defense led them to this high ranking as they ranked fifth  giving up 89.4 yards per game. To make the playoffs, and ultimately win the Super Bowl, the Ravens need to continue playing strong defense.

The loss of Elvis Dumervill shouldn’t hurt the Ravens too badly. At age 33, his best days are behind him. Dumervill only had three sacks in eight games last season. Losing Dumervill shouldn’t affect the Raven’s pass rush at all due to his lack of production.

Baltimore did add safety Tony Jefferson from the Cardinals. Jefferson is strong in coming up to support the run. He also added two sacks from the safety position. Baltimore’s defense should remain elite and as the old saying goes, defense wins championships.

In order for the Ravens to truly become Super Bowl contenders, they must improve offensively. Baltimore struggled to score points despite scoring the fourth most field goals per game last season with 2.4. Overall, the Ravens only scored 21.4 points per game which ranked 21st in the NFL.

The biggest reason the Ravens’ offense was so bad was because of their running game. Baltimore ranked last in run percentage, running the ball only 34 percent of the time. This led to the 28th worst rushing offense at just 91.4 yards per game. Despite having such a bad rushing game the Ravens were able to control the clock. The Ravens held the ball for nearly 31 minutes a game last season.

If the Ravens are able to continue playing elite defense and run the ball more often, and effectively, then winning Super Bowl LII becomes a real possibility.

Cincinnati Bengals

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC North

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

The Bengals were expected to make the playoffs for the sixth straight season but they fell apart. Cincinnati finished 6-9-1 and they didn’t get a shot to end their 26-year winless playoff drought.

Winning the Super Bowl is going to be no easy task for the Bengals. First, they must find a way to get in the playoffs while in one of the toughest divisions in football. Second, they must find a way to get over that hump and end the drought of simply winning a playoff game.

The Bengals offense does have some talent but did lose two major pieces along the offensive line. Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler both departed this offseason. Losing lineman of Pro-Bowl caliber will not be a good thing and in order to succeed in the NFL, you must have a good offensive line. The Bengals reacquired Andre Smith to help with this problem. Smith was with the Bengals for seven years but went to Minnesota for a year before returning.

One thing the Bengals’ offense did well last season is score early. Cincinnati was third in the NFL in first quarter scoring averaging 6.1 points. Sustaining that quick start was a problem because they went from third in first quarter scoring to 27th in second quarter scoring. Altogether the offense only scored 20.3 points per game.

Improving the consistency of the offense, along with filling the voids on the offensive line will be key in the Bengals pursuit of a Super Bowl title.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bengals were much better than their counterpart. Cincinnati ranked seventh in points allowed per game at 19.7. This is a closer measure of how good the Bengals’s defense was than their 17th ranked defense (according to yards given up per game, 350.8). The reason the Bengals gave up so many yards is because they were on the field a lot. The Bengals were on the field for an average of 64.9 plays per game, which was eighth most in the NFL.

Kevin Minter will be an upgrade from Rey Maualuga who also departed the Bengals. Maualuga played in 14 games and only had 27 tackles while Minter had 81 in 16 games of action. The defense should play up to the same caliber as last season allowing for the Bengals a chance to contend for the division title.

In order for the Bengals drought to end, and eventually win Super Bowl LII, the Bengals offensive line must allow the rest of the offense to become elite. If all these things fall into place then the Bengals win end up as Super Bowl champs.

Cleveland Browns

Super Bowl series 2017: AFC North

(Mandatory Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Pigs are going to have to fly and unicorns are going to have to dance for the Browns to go from 1-15 to celebrating a victory in Super Bowl LII. In all seriousness, the Browns will have their work cut out for them. They were dreadful on both sides of the ball.

Cleveland did have a solid draft and acquired a few established players in free agency. Brock Osweiler and Kevin Zeitler may improve the Browns offensively, but only time will tell. The Browns struggled to score points averaging 16.5 points per game which ranked 31st. Cleveland needs to find a way to improve the amount of plays they run and time of possession which ranked 27th and 31st respectively.

Osweiler, if named starter, should be able to help improve the Browns passing attack which averaged 204 yards per game. In 2015 with Denver, he was able to average 245 yards per game. His production dropped in Houston but Hue Jackson has been known to bring the best out of quarterbacks.

The ground game was a bit better ranking 19th in the NFL. Improving the entire offensive production can help the Browns get closer to the playoffs.

Cleveland focused on the defensive side of the ball in the first round of the NFL draft. They drafted Myles Garrett and Jabrill Peppers to help the 31st ranked defense in the NFL. The Browns also signed defensive back Jason McCourty to help in the secondary.

The Browns were on the field a lot which is why the gave up so many yards and points. Cleveland is going to be young but talented on defense and if they can begin to slow opposing offenses down, they can win some more games.

It is very unlikely the Browns win a Super Bowl this season. In order for this crazy event to happen, Osweiler is going to need to become a top three quarterback. Along with that, the defense must become feared. Jabrill Peppers and Myles Garrett will have to play at a pro-bowl level for the Browns to even make the playoffs. If pigs can fly, then the Browns will find a way to win Super Bowl LII.

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

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Football Stars on New Teams

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

In 2017, many NFL players will be moving on to new teams. I have composed a list of five NFL fantasy studs sporting new colors this season. These five players will have a major impact on not only their new teams success, but on your fantasy teams success should you be fortunate enough to draft them.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

 

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by: silverandblackpride.com)

A lot of people are excited to see Marshawn Lynch back in the NFL. After being retired in 2016, Lynch finds himself in his hometown team’s silver and black. Lynch is a big powered back that lives up to his name “Beast Mode”. He will be the go to guy with the Oakland Raiders after they lost Latavius Murray to Minnesota in free agency. The Raiders ranked within the top-10 in most rushing categories and Lynch should only improve on those statistics in 2017. The Raiders did find themselves in the top-10 in fumbles lost in 2016 and adding Lynch will improve that number as he had zero in 2015 and one in 2014. Lynch will be a high-end RB2 and maybe even a low-end RB1 in most fantasy leagues depending on how committed to the run the Raiders are in 2017.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens

 

Changing to the wide receiver position, another player to focus on is new Baltimore Ravens receiver Jeremy Maclin. Cut by the Kansas City Chiefs on June 2, he found a new home in Baltimore just 11 days later on a two-year deal. Maclin should fit in right away as Joe Flacco’s number one target. Maclin’s numbers should increase as he is in a better passing offense with the Ravens. The Ravens ranked 12th in passing yards while the Chiefs ranked 19th and Baltimore attempted 679 passes, which led the league, to Kansas City’s 546.  Maclin at worst is a valuable flex option and has the potential to be a high-end WR2.

Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

 

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

Alshon Jeffrey (Photo by: nj.com)

Another receiver looking to rebound is Alshon Jeffrey of the Philadelphia Eagles. Jeffrey is a big target with good hands and solid route running skills. Like most Chicago Bear offensive players, Jeffrey struggled last year as he only managed 95 catches for 821 yards and two touchdowns. He was also suspended for four games by the NFL for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. This year Jeffrey should bounce back being paired with Carson Wentz and having a good core of receivers in Torrey Smith, Jordan Mathews and tight end Zach Ertz around him. The Eagles last year ranked 24th in receiving yards and 29th in yards-per-reception and Jeffrey should only help improve those numbers. Jeffrey will be a high-end WR2 but will be a drafted too early as a WR1.

Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots

 

One player that could see a new role is receiver Brandin Cooks. After trade on March 10 to the New England Patriots, Cooks finds himself in a plethora of receivers that he will pair with. Tom Brady will be happy to have him. As a fantasy owner I wouldn’t worry about how many catches he will get. The Patriot offense is all about spreading the ball around. Cooks was part of that with the New Orleans Saints but he was also the number one target for them. In New England he’s another weapon and the primary deep threat for Brady. He will lose some value but he will remain a solid WR2 option in leagues this season.

Adrian Peterson, RB, New Orleans Saints

 

One of the more intriguing players we will be watching is running back Adrian Peterson of the New Orleans Saints. Peterson shouldn’t be expected to be the player he was with the Minnesota Vikings but more of an option the Saints have at running back along with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. There is no guarantee he will be the starter come week one but the Saints signed him to get some carries and take a good portion of the workload. The Saints have proven to have a consistent running game as they rank in the top-15 in most rushing categories and adding Peterson can only strengthen those numbers. He has struggled with injuries but he is Adrian Peterson and we have seen him bounce back from injuries before. He is someone to take a gamble on late in the draft as he will get touchdowns and carries.

These five players were major components for their old teams and you should expect them to be contributors to their new teams in 2017. The roles the fill will be changing and their fantasy output should be researched thoroughly before making them a key contributed for your team.

Featured Image from https://nflspinzone.com/

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The NFL's Hardwood Roster

The NFL’s Hardwood Roster

The NFL offseason is a difficult time for the fans. Once June starts people can feel the season inching closer and closer to the point where they can’t take it anymore. The fans just need some football and that is where we are at currently. Thankfully, the NBA Finals have been keeping our attention with a clash of titans in the Finals. There is still a need and want for football to be here. Many players in the NFL have played basketball before so naturally, the thought arose as to what players in the NFL would make up the best basketball team? The NFL doesn’t have many players taller than 6-foot-6 so this lineup will be the best possible considering it may be a small ball lineup. Hagan’s Haus has your answer on which players would make up the NFL’s hardwood roster.

Point Guard

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

(Photo Credit:http://www.chronicle.pitt.edu)

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers, 5′ 10″ 181 LBS: 

A point guard has to be quick and athletic. He also has to be capable of leading a team. Antonio Brown seems to be the best match to be the point guard of the NFL’s basketball team.

Antonio Brown has so much speed and explosion he would be able to attack the rim with ease. Brown had a 40-yard dash of 4.47 seconds. With that speed, it would be hard for opposing point guards to slow him down.

Brown also has a vertical jump of 33.5 inches giving him the ability to not only get the rim but finish at the rim as well. Antonio Brown would be a perfect point guard for the NFL’s basketball team.

 

Backup: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants, 5′ 11″ 198 LBS:

Odell is very similar to Antonio Brown. He is quick, fast, athletic and can jump out of the gym. There are videos of him doing some pretty sick dunks on YouTube.

O.B.J. has shown issues with maturity and handling his emotions so he may not be the best of leaders. Most point guards are the leaders of basketball teams because they run the offense. Odell’s skills and talents make him a good option, but his emotions and immaturity don’t make him the best option.

Honorable Mention: LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills, 5′ 11″ 208 LBS

Shooting Guard

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

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

Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR, Cleveland Browns, 6′ 4″ 223 LBS:

Terrelle Pryor is probably the best basketball player in the NFL today. If we form a basketball team from NFL players then Pryor is the Kobe or M.J. of the team. Coming out of high school Pryor was ranked 39th in ESPN’s top 100 for basketball. He was ranked 14 spots ahead of Klay Thompson! Nobody in the NFL was close to being ranked as high as Pryor was.

Scouting reports said Pryor was able to score both inside and behind the arc. They also said he was one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. Pryor was a legitimate basketball prospect who played both sides of the ball. Knowing all this, Terrelle Pryor would be the best player on the team.

Backup: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons, 6′ 3″ 220 LBS:

In high school, Julio Jones was a beast of a hooper along with being a great football player. There is audio and reports of him dunking on NBA center DeMarcus Cousins in a high school playoff game. Jones was even called an exceptional shot blocker by his high school football coach.

Julio is a scorer in the NFL and would be as a basketball player as well. His leaping ability and athleticism would allow him to be a solid defender and rebounder to back up Pryor.

Honorable Mention: Dez Bryant WR, Dallas Cowboys, 6′ 2″ 220 LBS:

Small Forward

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

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

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers, 6′ 5″ 245 LBS:

Everyone knows that Cam Newton is an athletic freak of nature. At 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, he is almost impossible to tackle one on one. Picture trying to stop Cam Newton driving to the rim. That would be a scary sight.

Cam has shown his athletism as a quarterback by breaking the record for most career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 48. He has done that in just six NFL season. Cam would be hard to stop, especially as he worked his way into the paint. Defensively, he has the size to frustrate opponents. Cam is athletic enough to be a really good basketball player.

Backup: Jadeveon Clowney, DE/LB, Houston Texans, 6′ 5″ 270 LBS:

Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most athletic players in the NFL. At his massive size, he still managed to run a 4.53-second 40-yard dash. Clowney has shown world class quickness while trying to get past offensive lineman.

Clowney is a defender at heart and on the court that would be no different. His lateral quickness paired with his massive size would help him become a lockdown defender.

Honorable Mention: Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings, 6′ 5″ 252 LBS

Power Forward

The NFL's Hardwood Roster

(Photo Credit: Steve Cannon/Associated Press)

Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks, 6′ 7″ 265 LBS:

It is no secret that Jimmy Graham played basketball at the University of Miami. Graham averaged 4.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in his four-year career. Although those numbers don’t blow your socks off he has proven to be one of the best at going up and coming down with the football in the NFL.

That trait came from his rebounding skill and if the NFL were to build the best possible basketball team, Graham would have to be in the front court to pull down some boards. He would be an undersized power forward in the NBA but is one of the tallest players in the NFL.

Backup: Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs, 6′ 5″ 260 LBS:

Travis Kelce would be even more undersized than Jimmy Graham is but would still be able to be the NFL’s backup power forward. Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the NFL because he can use his body to gain position against defenders to make the catch.

That ability would translate well to the hardwood as a rebounder. Kelce has the quickness to be a decent defender but as long as he knew his role was to get boards he would be good. Would you really want to get in the way of Travis Kelce going for a massive throwdown? He would be a great backup to Jimmy Graham.

Honorable Mention: Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots,  6′ 6″ 265 LBS

Center

Rico Gathers, TE, Dallas Cowboys, 6′ 8″ 275 LBS:

Rico Gathers is not only one of the tallest players in the NFL, but he has basketball experience. Gathers would have to play center on the NFL’s basketball team but he played power forward at Baylor. He averaged 8.6 points and 8 rebounds per game in his four years at Baylor.

Backup: Dan Skipper, OL, Dallas Cowboys, 6′ 10″ 320 LBS:

Basketball requires height, and Dan Skipper of the Dallas Cowboys is 6-foot-10. He may not have the skill set of a basketball player but sometimes you just need those bigs to be in the way. Skipper could be a rotation player capable of picking up some fouls and defending the rim. At the very least he should be able to get some rebounds. This is definitely reaching, but hey, this article was meant to be fun.

Honorable Mention: Demar Dotson, OL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6′ 9″ 315 LBS

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Quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season: 32-21

In the NFL today, quarterbacks are easily the most important position on the field. With an elite quarterback, winning comes easily (just look at the Patriots). But in fantasy, the demand for the position just isn’t what it used to be. Today, we’ll take a look at my 2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings, starting with numbers 32-21.

These quarterback rankings are unlike the others you’ll find. They are based on a variety of things: athletic ability, arm accuracy, arm strength, strength of receivers and strength of offensive line.

Here’s the start to my early quarterback rankings for the 2017 fantasy football season.

32. Josh McCown (New York Jets)

What happened to the Josh McCown we saw four years ago? In 2013, McCown threw for 13 touchdowns and one interception with the Chicago Bears. Do I think that he still has the ability to put up decent numbers in the NFL? Yes, just not with the broken, receiver-less Jets.

31. Cody Kessler (Cleveland Browns)

I have hope for Cody Kessler or any starting quarterback for the Browns, as they have an improved offensive line and still have some decent weapons on the team. Kessler showed signs of improvement and potential last year, but doesn’t have enough experience to be higher on this list. Plus four fumbles in nine games. I’ll take my chances with a different quarterback in fantasy this year.

30. Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams)

I still believe that Jared Goff has the potential to be something great in the NFL, but is this year his year? I’m gonna have to say no. In an offense centered around young stud Todd Gurley, with minimal receiving help, Goff is just waiting for his time to come. I’m gonna say pass on Goff this year but keep him on your radar for the future.

29. Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)

2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings

(Photo: USA Today)

I was big on Blake Bortles last year, but clearly things didn’t pan out. I know this is pretty low for a guy that finished in the top five for fantasy quarterbacks just two years ago, but I don’t believe what the Jaguars did this offseason is going to help Bortles. They brought in Leonard Fournette which makes me think they’re ready to go run-heavy, especially in the red zone. Be cautious with Bortles this year.

28. Brian Hoyer (San Francisco 49ers)

I like Brian Hoyer this year, just in fantasy football. Under Kyle Shanahan, I actually think Hoyer can make some noise in this league, as he’s got some big targets like Vance McDonald and Pierre Garcon. I just don’t believe that a quarterback leading a team to probably around four wins can do well in fantasy.

27. Mike Glennon (Chicago Bears)

The Bears were a little risky giving Glennon this much money after only a few career starts. With some nice weapons at his disposal, like Jordan Howard, Victor Cruz and Kevin White, I’d suggest keeping Glennon on your radar and picking him up on a top tier quarterback’s bye week depending on the matchup.

26. Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos)

If I had one word to describe Trevor Siemian, it would probably be mediocre. He’s an average quarterback who will throw for 250 yards, a touchdown and a pick per game, letting the dirty Broncos defense do their work. Draft another quarterback, but consider Siemian on bye weeks due to his copious amounts of targets.

25. Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)

I don’t really understand the big hype around Tyrod Taylor this year. How will Taylor succeed so well in a run-first system? Coming off his huge year, Lesean McCoy will continue to get a majority of the touches while in the red zone the Bills will use their newly signed fullbacks. I see Tyrod Taylor being nothing special again this year, so keep him off your team.

24. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)

2017 fantasy football quarterback rankings

(Photo: cincinnativseveryone.com)

Alright, I’ll be the first to say it: Carson Palmer is no longer a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. Going into this season with arguably the best running back in the NFL, Bruce Arians will probably focus on the running game this year. To make a long story short, stay away from Carson Palmer.

23. Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

I really want to put Watson higher on this list but how can I do that when he has never thrown an NFL pass? With weapons like Lamar Miller, Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller IV, Watson is in the perfect position to succeed. Stash Watson on your team and wait for him to breakout midway through the season.

22. Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)

I believe Andy Dalton is a good quarterback in the NFL and can be great. This year won’t be his year though. He has two huge targets in A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, but his offensive line took a hit this offseason. Losing two starters is hard to replace and I believe Dalton will feel the pressure this season and it will affect his numbers in a negative way.

21. Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)

Smith is the go to guy if your quarterback is on his bye week and you want to know you’ll get at least 12 points out of your fill-in. He’s not flashy and he doesn’t make big plays, but he’s safe with the ball and he makes the right decisions. If you want to wait to pick a quarterback late in your draft, Alex Smith is your guy.

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NFL Draft Quarterback

Contenders Who Should Take a Quarterback Early in the NFL Draft

The NFL Draft is upon us. More so than any other year in recent memory, there is a wide range of opinions on the quarterback class.

Whether it is the small sample size of Mitchell Trubisky, the turnovers of Deshaun Watson, the college system that Patrick Mahomes played in or something else with another prospect, they all seem to have at least one thing that makes them very risky propositions in the NFL.

There isn’t a true first-round prospect at quarterback in this draft. Moreover, there is not a rookie that will be ready to play from day one. However, we all know how important the quarterback position is and how desperate teams like the Jets and Browns are for a good one.

So, these rookies will probably get drafted earlier than their talents merit and inherit bad situations where they are set up to fail.

In a perfect world, the ideal scenario would be for the youngsters to sit and learn behind a veteran quarterback on a contending team for a year or two. However, the NFL landscape has changed so much in recent years when it comes to quarterbacks.

Contending teams do not have high enough draft picks to get their hands on a coveted quarterback. If that is not true, many teams are simply afraid of wasting a draft pick on a signal caller who will not play right away.

With the stage set, here are three teams who should (but probably will not) take quarterback early in the draft.

Alex Smith Andy Reid

Photo: CBS Sports

Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith is a fine quarterback. However, last year proved once again that there is a ceiling as to how far Kansas City can go with him taking snaps. With a rock solid defense and the emergence of Tyreek Hill at wide receiver, Kansas City does not have a ton of needs.

Thus, snagging whoever the organization feels is the best available quarterback with pick number 27 would make sense. The Chiefs can remain competitive with Smith while grooming his replacement.

In an astonishing statistic, the last quarterback the Chiefs drafted to start and win a game for the franchise was Todd Blackledge in 1987. It is time to draft and develop a young quarterback.

New York Giants

Despite an uneven career, Eli Manning has given the Giants two Super Bowl titles, but he is 36 now. The organization has spoken openly about the need to find his successor. Free agent signing Geno Smith appears to be getting the latest crack at that gig and the Giants are clearly in win now mode. Even so, finding a way to snag a raw talent like Deshone Kizer wouldn’t hurt.

With the improvement of the defense last year and the addition of Brandon Marshall on offense, the Giants can afford such a move. The ownership of the Mara family always ensures this franchise has its act together. Any young quarterback has every chance to eventually thrive.

Arizona Cardinals

deshone kizer

Photo: Scout.com

Like the other two teams, Arizona has enough talent on the roster to win now. However, at 37 and with two major knee injuries under his belt, Carson Palmer is on his last leg.

Bruce Arians has rightly earned a reputation as one of the best quarterback coaches in the business. Patrick Mahomes would be an interesting project for him to work with.

While rumors of these teams addressing their long term quarterback needs are increasing, they are more likely to address short term needs that will get them from good to great. If I am a quarterback prospect, I would give up my non-throwing arm to go to one of these situations as opposed to one like the Jets, Browns or 49ers.

 

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Franchise Analysis – Kansas City Chiefs

Since 2014, the Kansas City Chiefs have consistently gotten better. After recording nine wins in 2014, 11 wins in 2015, and 12 wins in 2016, what more could a fan base ask for? The answer is simple, win in the playoffs. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1993 and haven’t won the conference championship since 1969. So the question remains, what must happen to snap the Chiefs championship drought?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

This offense, like those in previous seasons, was predicated on not making mistakes. Kansas City finished in the top 10 in terms of giveaways by only committing 17 on the season. Given they had 15 giveaways in 2015 and 17 in 2014, it’s clear that their number one priority is taking care of the football.

Just because a team doesn’t accumulate turnovers doesn’t mean they are a great offense. The Chiefs finished 13th in points and 20th in yards, according to Pro Football Reference. I often talk about how an offense can skew a defenses ranking in points allowed; however, the Chiefs benefited from the opposite. Their defense was able to put them in great field position by creating a league high 33 turnovers.

Chiefs Championship Drought

Alex Smith became the first quarterback in NFL history to lose a playoff game when scoring two or more touchdowns than their opponent. (Courtesy of; Kansas City Star)

With any NFL offense, the focus is on the signal caller. One stat most people don’t know about Smith is that since 2011, only Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have won more games. However, despite what most people think, winning isn’t everything. At this point how Alex Smith performs in the regular season is irrelevant to Chiefs’ fans, as long as he plays well enough to get them to the postseason.

Since 2013, his adjusted yards per attempt in his postseason campaigns has declined from 10 yards, to 4.3 yards. This was never more apparent than against the Steelers. Smith failed to connect with Tyreke Hill on two occasions, one of which was a guaranteed touchdown.

At this point in his career, it would be unfair to ask Alex Smith to start attacking downfield. His style of play is one that you either take or leave, and in all fairness, is one the Chiefs should leave by 2018 at the latest. You won’t lose a Super Bowl with a quarterback who doesn’t take chances, but you can’t end the Chiefs’ championship drought with one either.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

2016 was great for this defense. With four Pro-Bowlers, two of which earned All-Pro honors, this defense was electrifying. While they may have had lapses against the oppositions running attack, there was one constant that remained. Turnovers. As stated earlier, the Chiefs were first in creating turnovers, with 33. This defense was also tied for the most interceptions caused with 18 and were first in fumbles with 15.

There’s no doubt that this team’s strength lies in the secondary. With All-Pro safety, Eric Berry, and corner, Marcus Peters, teams struggled to find favorable match ups in the passing game. Berry was the single best pass defender in terms of covering tight ends and no one has more interceptions than Peters since he entered the league.

Sadly, this team did struggle when trying to stop the run. The Chiefs finished the season as the 26th ranked run defense, something they have to improve on for next year. In a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle is the most important player in terms of defending the run. The nose tackle has to occupy double teams and not give up ground.

Chiefs Championship Drought

Dontari Poe has unique pass rushing skills as a 3-4 nose tackle, but will Chiefs wind up making him one of the most overpaid free agents of 2017? (Courtesy of; Arrowhead Addict)

Who plays nose tackle for the Chiefs? None other than, Dontari Poe. Yes, Poe has a lot of notoriety for what he does in goal line formations. However, Pro Football Focus rated Poe as the 90th best interior defender against the run. On the other hand, Poe has an uncanny ability to rush the passer from the nose tackle position, making him a unique player at that position.

It’s not entirely Poe’s fault. Other players who were liabilities against the run included defensive end Rakeem Nunez-Roches and linebacker Terrence Smith, who filled in the for the injured Derrick Johnson. This triangle of ineptitude made one side of the defense especially susceptible to the run.

If this defense plans to be the one to end the Chiefs championship drought in 2017, they must become at least an average rush defense.

Divisional Analysis

Clearly, Kansas City has everything they need to win the AFC West. However, this team is far from perfect. The Chiefs have a large decision looming this offseason, as both Eric Berry and Dontari Poe become free agents. I think the choice is simple. Let Poe walk and resign Berry.

In this situation, the Chiefs have to address their run defense by finding a new nose tackle. Brandon Williams and Kawann Short, while he played in a 4-3 scheme in Carolina, could be suitable replacements. On the other hand, it’s likely they’ll want to address such a pivotal position in the 2017 NFL Draft.

As of January 24th, our own Joe DiTullio has the Chiefs selecting Corey Davis, the wide receiver from Western Michigan. I’m not so sure. Davis would be a good fit on an offense that wants to attack down the field, but we’ve clearly outlined that isn’t what Alex Smith does.

Instead, they would likely replace Dontari Poe with Caleb Brantley, a top nose tackle prospect from Florida. They could however wait to fill this need by selecting Carlos Watkins from Clemson, or Elijah Qualls from Washington in the later rounds.

Offensively, the Chiefs don’t have a glaring need. They could bolster their receiving core, or, they could look to upgrade their running game. Jamaal Charles’ health will be questioned for the rest of his career and Spencer Ware proved he can handle a starters workload. However, Christian McCaffery would be a great addition for Alex Smith and this conservative passing attack.

Postseason Prospects

The Chiefs not only won the AFC West, but were also able to claim a first round bye. So clearly, they must be doing something right. Here are the following relevant offensive and defensive statistics that serve as good predictors for postseason success.

Chiefs Championship Drought

A good barometer for postseason teams is to have two or more categories inside the top 15 and usually one or two inside the top ten. For the Chiefs, they are top 15 in both points scored and sacks allowed. However, they are largely mediocre in the other metrics. Remember, mediocre isn’t terrible, but it isn’t good enough to win multiple playoff games.

Of these statistics, the two most telling is 3rd down conversion rate. Why? Because it gives you an idea about how effective this team is on first and second down. Teams with a high 3rd down conversion rate are successful early on first and second down, making their third down attempts less difficult.

 

Chiefs Championship Drought

The Chiefs defense suffers from an all or nothing problem. They finished top ten in points allowed and number one in turnovers. But, they were bottom third in the other defensive metrics. When Justin Houston is able to play a full season, their sack numbers will no doubt improve.

We outlined the Chiefs’ struggles against the run earlier and those struggles led to a poor production on third down. The Chiefs have to improve against the run in 2017 in order to record more sacks and get offenses off the field.

2017 Prediction

The Kansas City Chiefs are in a great position to end their championship drought in 2017. Unless Andy Reid is able to transform Alex Smith in the offseason, this team has reached their ceiling. The Chiefs will take a step back next year and will miss the playoffs after finishing 9-7.

 

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