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.

 

Featured image from arrowheadaddict.com.

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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.

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 series: NFC North

Super Bowl series 2017: NFC 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 third edition, Super Bowl Series: NFC North.

Green Bay Packers

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Green Bay was awfully close to winning the Super Bowl last season but lost in the NFC Championship game. Atlanta completely dominated the game and won 44-21. The Packers offense is good enough to propel the team to consistent runs at the Super Bowl but if the Packers want to recapture the magic of 2011, the defense must improve.

Calling the Packers offense good is somewhat of an understatement. Green Bay was fourth is scoring last season averaging 27 points per game. The Packers offense scored a lot of points but was very one-dimensional. The passing attack ranked seventh (262.4 yards per game) and the running game ranked 20th (106.3 yards per game). Packer fans can thank Aaron Rodgers for how much he has carried this franchise.

Rodgers has been historically amazing. He has the best touchdown to interception ratio of all time at 4.12. The next closest is Tom Brady with 3.0. He also had 4,428 yards, 40 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season.

If the Packers want to win Super Bowl LII, Aaron Rodgers must continue to put up these gaudy numbers. The impressive stats include 4,000 or more yards in six of the past nine seasons, 30 or more touchdowns in six of the last eight seasons and a career record of 90-45. If you take out 2013 in which Rodgers missed seven games due to a broken collarbone, it looks even more magnificent.

There is consistent evidence that the passing attack in Green Bay will flourish and the Packers added tight end Martellus Bennett to help Rodgers even more. Last season Green Bay’s tight ends combined for 64 receptions, 683 yards and three touchdowns.

Bennett had 55 receptions, 701 yards and seven touchdowns with the Patriots, and that was while sharing time with Rob Gronkowski. Bennett is a major upgrade that can help the Packers in the middle of the field and in the red zone.

Improving the running game will also be key in the Packers winning Super Bowl LII. Green Bay was ranked 20th, as mentioned earlier, and they lost two starting offensive lineman from last season, TJ.. Lang and JC Tretter. Losing Lang may not be as a big of a blow as most would think. The Packers struggled running to the right and ranked 25th in the NFL with 18 negative run plays to his side.

Green Bay also drafted running back Jamaal Williams out of BYU. Williams had a quietly outstanding senior season, rushing for 1,375 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 234 carries. If the right side of the line improves at run blocking and Jamaal Williams can make an immediate impact, then the offense can become unpredictable and lead the Packers to a Super Bowl victory.

The Packers offense can’t do it completely alone. Green Bay was really good at stopping the run and getting sacks last season. The run defense ranked eighth, allowing 91.7 yards per game and sixth in sacks with 40.

Green Bay’s ability to stop the run is a bit deceiving though. Opposing teams only ran the ball 39.7 percent of the time on Green Bay because it was so easy to pass on them. The Packers ranked 31st in pass defense giving up 269.2 yards per game. This must improve if the Packers want to get to the Super Bowl.

Let’s face it, with Aaron Rodgers on your team a Super Bowl is always within reach. If Green Bay can have an unpredictable offense and improve its pass defense, then the Packers can get over the hump and win Super Bowl LII.

Detroit Lions

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Detroit had what most would say was a surprising season last year. They finished 9-7 but had they beat Green Bay in week 17, then the Lions would have won the division.

The Lions got bounced out of the playoffs by Seattle 26-6. Matthew Stafford has yet to win a playoff game in his career but there is a small possibility they could win their first ever Super Bowl this season.

The Detroit defense was nothing spectacular but not horrible either last season. They ranked 13th in points allowed per game (22.4), 19th in passing yards allowed per game (269.2) and 18th in rushing yards allowed (106.3). If the Lions want to contend for a Super Bowl title, they must win the division and earn home playoff games.

Accomplishing a division title means beating Green Bay and shutting down Aaron Rodgers. Detroit needs to become a top-five pass defense and improve on their 10 interceptions from last season in order to become the kings of the North. Creating turnovers will make it easier for Matthew Stafford and the offense. Detroit should embrace bringing back the pain of the black and blue division.

Offensively, the Lions struggled to finish with points. They had the 11th ranked passing attack with 259.9 yards per game but ranked 20th in points scored per game (21.6). Stafford threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns but it wasn’t enough scoring. The running game held the team back averaging 81.9 yards per game, which was third-worst in the NFL.

Similar to Green Bay, Detroit needs to stop being one-dimensional. The additions of Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang should provide some assistance to the running game but Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick must also step up. If these two backs can combine for a minimum of 1,500 yards, there is a good chance the Lions will be good enough to win the division.

With the 18th-easiest strength of schedule heading into the season, the Lions can steal a few wins on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford. If they want to really become Super Bowl contenders, they must stop the pass and create more turnovers. Along with improving defensively, the Lions need to run their way to a division title.

Minnesota Vikings

Super Bowl series: NFC North

(Photo Credit: http://ftw.usatoday.com)

Minnesota was looking like a serious Super Bowl contender through five games last season. The Vikings started 5-0 before the wheels eventually flew off. Minnesota then went 3-8 to stumble to an 8-8 record. Interestingly enough, the Vikings are much closer to winning a Super Bowl than most would care to admit.

The Vikings are a true defensive beast in the black and blue division behind defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. Despite having a historically bad offense, the Vikings defense still had an impressive 2016-17 campaign.

Minnesota ranked sixth in points allowed per game (19.2), third in pass yards allowed (207.9), fifth in sacks (41) and third in total yards allowed despite ranking 20th in rush defense (106.9).

There isn’t much the Vikings need to improve on defensively. Replacing nickel corner Captain Munnerlyn is the biggest concern. Mike Zimmer has a long history of success with secondaries, so Vikes fans need not to worry on who Zimmer chooses. The Vikings could improve their run defense as well, but most of the issues come from defensive tackles like Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joesph dealing with on and off injuries.

The offensive side of the ball is where the Vikings need to step up. The offensive line was one of the most injured in the NFL and the Vikings lost both Matt Kalil and Andre Smith in free agency. Minnesota signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to compensate for those losses. The running game was the worst in the NFL at 75.3 yards per game. The Vikings didn’t have a single run go for over 40 yards.

Minnesota wasn’t that great passing the ball either. The Vikings ranked 18th with 239.8 passing yards per game. Due to the bad offensive production, the Vikings struggled to put up points averaging just 20.4 per game.

Not everything about the Vikings offense was miserable. There was flashes of greatness last season. Sam Bradford broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a single season by completing 71.6 percent of his passes.

The offense also improved after Norv Turner resigned midseason. Before Turner resigned as offensive coordinator, the Vikings were averaging 221.4 passing yards and 71.8 rushing yards per game. In the nine games with Pat Shurmur in charge of the offense, the Vikings averaged 254 passing yards and 78 rushing yards per game. Shurmur knows how to play to Sam Bradford’s strength and that bodes well for the Vikings moving forward.

Minnesota already has a championship-caliber defense. The defense can carry them to a lot of victories but to get to a Super Bowl the Vikings must improve their offense in all phases. If the Vikings can break the top 15 in both rushing and passing, along with staying healthy, then not only can the Vikings win their first Super Bowl, but they can win it in their home stadium.

Chicago Bears

Super Bowl series: NFC North

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

The 2016-17 Chicago Bears lost 13 games for the first time since 1969 when they went 1-13. It was a nightmare year in which the Bears were ravaged by injuries. Chicago placed 19 players on injured reserve which was the most in the NFL.

The Bears also were 1-7 in games decided by seven points or less. The 3-13 record didn’t truly reflect the team’s talent.

John Fox is ready to take the Bears to the next level. In his second season with Carolina, he led the Panthers to the Super Bowl. In his third season with Denver, he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. As he enters his third season with the Bears, he could do the same.

The Bears can’t win a Super Bowl behind Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky. They can, however, win a Super Bowl behind their defense and running game. With an entirely new roster of quarterbacks, it will be hard to predict how good the Bears offense can be.

The running game should be their bread and butter. Jordan Howard ran for 1,313 yards on 252 carries in just 12 starts as a rookie. The Bears are projected to have the fifth-best offensive line this season according to Pro Football Focus. If it pans out, the Bears will be able to run the ball with success thus taking the pressure off whoever ends up playing under center.

The passing game will remain a mystery. Mike Glennon has only started 18 games in his three-year career and has a record of 5-13 in those games. Rookie quarterback and second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky is likely to see some action this season as well.

The receiving corp is full of potential with Cameron Meredith, Kevin White, Markus Wheaton, Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz and Kendell Wright. It is unlikely all of them make the roster but aside from Kevin White, all have shown optimistic flashes of skill throughout their career.

If the Bears want to win Super Bowl LII, it is going to be because of their defense. Akiem Hicks, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Leonard Floyd will create havoc for opposing quarterbacks. The secondary should improve with the additions of Quinton Demps and Prince Amukamara. Amukamara loves to play aggressively and in Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense he will be able to.

It is going to take a lot for the Bears to make the Super Bowl. The chances are small but there is always a chance. Chicago’s defense needs to become a Monsters of the Midway defense again for them to get there. They also need Jordan Howard to improve his performance from last season. Lastly, Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky need to be spectacular. If the Bears can do all of this, they can win Super Bowl LII.

 

Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: NFC North. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.

Super Bowl Series 2017: NFC East

Super Bowl Series 2017: AFC East

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Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 50-41

Probably the most coveted position in fantasy football, we are in the era of the running back. If you had players like Le’veon Bell, David Johnson, or Ezekiel Elliot on your team last year, you were probably in the playoffs and maybe even won your championship. These rankings can help you win your league and avoid some bad choices in your draft. Here are the Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 50-41.

50. Robert Kelley (Washington Redskins)- 

Questions come into training camp, as to whether or not Kelley can remain the lead back in Washington. Last season he averaged 4.2 yards per attempt while he rushed for 704 yards and six touchdowns. It is known that Washington will go with a running back by committee approach, and there’s a lot of running backs in Washington gunning for those touches. I’d stay away from Kelley until the later rounds of drafts.

49. Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals)

For the past couple of years, Jeremy Hill has always been the guy who’s supposed to have a great year. After his breakout season in 2014 with 1,124 yards and 9 touchdowns, he hasn’t been the same.

http://rotoviz.com/2016/03/jeremy-hill-fantasy-3/?hvid=57gwhW

The touchdowns have been there (11 in 2015 and 9 last season) but he hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rushing season since. With the addition of Joe Mixon, Giovanni Bernard coming back and the depleted offensive line, I would avoid Jeremy Hill in drafts this year.

48. Latavius Murray (Minnesota Vikings)

Before the draft, Latavius Murray joined the Minnesota Vikings and I was intrigued. Once Dalvin Cook was drafted, Murray’s stocked dropped and Cook became the front runner to start for the Vikings.

He hit the injury bug a little bit last year when he missed two games but he still recorded 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He split carries last year behind a great offensive line and now he’ll be splitting carries behind a worse offensive line. Murray is a good RB3 but nothing more.

47. Derrick Henry (Tennesse Titans)

I really like Derrick Henry this year. In the last 5 games of the season, Henry ran for more than 40 yards 3 times on minimal carries. His workload will increase this year and given Demarco Murray’s injury history, I’d stash Henry on your bench and wait it out.

http://titansized.com/2017/03/21/derrick-henry-needs-a-new-role-in-the-tennessee-titans-offense/

46. Samaje Perine (Washington Redskins)

I absolutely love Perine this year. After rushing for over 1700 yards and 21 touchdowns at Oklahoma this past season, the Washington Redskins drafted Perine with the 114th overall pick.

After running a 4.65 40 yard dash, scouts saw that he was a tough runner who could handle a big workload, which just may happen for him in Washington. The Redskins are trying to deal Matt Jones, and will use a Running back by committee, but Perine is that running back to own.

45. Jacquizz Rodgers (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Rodgers in an interesting fantasy candidate this year. Doug Martin is suspended four games and Charles Sims coming off of a torn pectoral. Rodgers will be the lead back for the start of the season. When Rodgers got at least 15 carries a game last season, he always got more than 60 yards. I would draft Rodgers for the first four games while Martin is suspended and then keep him on your bench for the rest of the season.

44. Wendall Smallwood (Philadelphia Eagles)

Smallwood reminds me a lot of his teammate Darren Sproles. Last year Sproles had a career resurgence but I think this year Smallwood will fill his shoes. After averaging 4.05 yards a carry as the 3rd running back theres no reason why he shouldn’t be able to do that in a bigger workload as the consistent third town back. He won’t get you many touchdowns but the yards will be there.

43. LaGarrette Blount (Philadelphia Eagles)

Back to back Eagles running backs, just this time I’m talking about the workhorse back. After winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, Blount rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns. The free agent market for the aging running back was slim but i think the powerful runner still has something left in the tank. The Eagles ran the ball on 40% of their plays last season without a feature back. Now Doug Pederson has his running back and good things will come from it.

Legarrette Blount racked up 69 yards rushing and three touchdowns in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

42. Terrence West (Baltimore Ravens)

After a nice year with the Ravens, rushing for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns, West should have a bit of a fall in 2017. With the addition of Danny Woodhead and the emergence of Kenneth Dixon, I don’t see West being anything special this season. Dixon is suspended however so West could be good for four games but after that I wouldn’t keep West on your team.

41. Matt Forte (New York Jets)

Running backs may be the only good thing that the New York Jets have on they team anymore. Forte and Bilal Powel provide a strong one-two punch but in this case, Forte is the worse choice of the two. A former first round pick in fantasy football, Forte is still a good running back, but with his age and his injury history (hasn’t played a full season since 2014), I’d stay away from him this year.

 

 

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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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Minnesota Vikings 2017 NFL Draft Profile

It’s day 31 of Draftmas and the Vikings are on the clock.

Summary

The Minnesota Vikings had a lot to deal with last season, as Teddy Bridgewater went down with a knee injury right before the start of the season. Sam Bradford was acquired and competed admirably, but Minnesota failed to make the playoffs at 8-8.

With Bradford and Bridgewater, the Vikings have two solid, but not great quarterbacks. If Bridgewater isn’t ready to go following the injury, Bradford will start until a competition can get underway. Adrian Peterson was not re-signed and is now a free agent, while Latavius Murray was signed to replace him. Stefon Diggs is a good young receiver, but last year rookie Laquon Treadwell didn’t see the field much and didn’t play all that well when he was on it. Minnesota does have a good tight end in Kyle Rudolph.

Mike Zimmer (Photo courtesy: upi.com)

The offensive line still needs to be addressed and was a major issue last year. Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff were signed to start at the tackle spots, but both had bad seasons last year. The Vikings will likely target a few offensive linemen in this draft.

Defense was the Vikings forte last season. They gave up the third fewest passing yards and were average stopping the run. The defense does have a few things to address this offseason.

Sharrif Floyd had complications with his recovery from knee surgery, which could be career ending. That leaves the Vikings thin on the interior of the defensive line. Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffin both had good years at defensive end.

Anthony Barr did not play well last year, but should be able to bounce back to good form. Eric Kendricks had a solid second season, but they might need some depth behind those two. Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes are both young corners who still need growth. Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the game, but needs a partner in crime at the safety position.

 

Picks and Needs

The Vikings have eight picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, but none in the first round.

First round: (0)

Second round: (1) No. 48

Third round: (2) No. 79, 86

Fourth round: (2) No. 121, 129

Fifth round: (1) No. 160

Sixth round: (1) No. 199

Seventh round: (1) No. 232

These needs are in no particular order.

Offensive Needs:

Offensive Line- There is a pressing need for offensive line help and signing veterans who aren’t great, will only go so far.

Running Back- Murray was signed, but they will need depth behind him to groom.
Defensive Needs:
Defensive Tackle- This may not have been a huge need before the Floyd news, but it is now.
Outside Linebacker- Another linebacker is needed to go with Kendricks and Barr.

Safety- They will likely just get depth at this position to start.

Targets and Thoughts

The picks here are who the Vikings could realistically get where they are drafting. There will be no trades.

Second Round

Pick #48: Dan Feeney, G, Indiana

Dan Feeney (Photo courtesy: Drafttek.com)

Feeney is a physical guard that can help get the Vikings ground game going. They could go with a tackle here too, but there may not be any worth taking at this spot.

Third Round:

Pick #79: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

With the Floyd injury, the Vikings need to get at least one defensive tackle in this class. Watkins is good at stopping the run, but was Clemson’s best interior pass rusher last season.

Pick #86: Semaj Perine, RB, Oklahoma

Perine is a power back that can be a nice compliment to Murray. He set the single game rushing record for division I college football during his time in Norman.

Conclusion

The Vikings have more needs than originally anticipated, but if they get the right players in this draft, they can find themselves back in the playoffs.

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

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Marshawn Lynch Return? Intriguing, but not Impactful

The Raiders on field product is in position to be a force for several years to come despite growing turmoil off the field. Oakland may have been the stiffest obstacle between the Patriots and another Super Bowl if MVP candidate Derek Carr didn’t get injured late in the regular season.

Derek Carr

Photo: heavy.com

However, there is one offseason rumor surrounding the Raiders that will not seem to go away: The possible return of retired running back Marshawn Lynch to join his hometown team in Oakland. Lynch reportedly visited team headquarters on Wednesday.

The Raiders have operated unconventionally throughout their history with mixed results.  This particular out-of-the-box move is a bad idea. Here is why.

Oakland Has Bigger Needs Elsewhere

Oakland’s defensive unit ranked outside the top 20 against both the pass and run last year. Their total defense ranking followed suit. The Raiders were quite fortunate that Carr and the offense were so good last year.

The offense will be very good as long as Carr is healthy. Last year’s starting running back Latavius Murray is now with the Vikings, but the Raiders still have two talented young running backs on the roster.

With an above-average offensive line, bringing in another running back should be way down on the Raider’s list of priorities. It is somewhat surprising that linebacker Jelani Jenkins is Oakland’s only defensive free agent signing to this point with their defensive rankings. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that all of their football related resources need to be dedicated towards building the defense in the draft. Any time spent on Lynch is a waste.

Spell Out the Specifics, It Makes No Sense

The Raiders suddenly find themselves trying to make the jump from good to great after over a decade of futility. This is the toughest jump to make in the NFL. Lynch’s power running style and outlandish personality made him one of the best and most memorable running backs of his era.

Beast Mode run

Photo: sportsworkout.com

In nine seasons, Lynch averaged over a thousand yards per season. A return would be interesting to see, but he will turn 31 later this month.

Ask yourself the following question: When was the last time an NFL team went from good to great by acquiring a 31-year-old running back who has not played in two years? One of Oakland’s decision makers needs to ponder this question before this flirtation goes any further.

 


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Tony Romo

For Some Teams, Not Signing Romo is a Bigger Risk Than Doing So

Despite Cowboys owner Jerry Jones not sounding fully ready to move on, reports emerged earlier this week that quarterback Tony Romo will be released. Assuming these reports are true, the market for the often injured 36-year-old quarterback is not being viewed correctly. For three teams in particular, he would not be a risk, but rather a lifeline.

Before we get there, let’s trim the field a little bit. By his own admission, Romo only has two or three years left. Thus, being part of a total rebuild in Cleveland or San Francisco is out of the question. Carson Palmer is coming back in 2017 for another season with the Cardinals. The Broncos continue to articulate their commitment to Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

The Jets and Bills are hoarding young quarterbacks in the hopes that one might stick. Adding a veteran like Romo just does not seem to be on their radar, but perhaps it should be.

All these teams seem poised to either stand pat, add a quarterback through the draft, or look for a longer-term solution in free agency. If he is released and not traded, the teams that should be beating down Romo’s door are as follows.

Bears: Chicago is not as far away as last year’s 3-13 record suggests. They lost six games by one possession. Despite not being highly thought of by fans, John Fox is actually a heck of a coach. He got to a Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme and won a division title with Tim Tebow.

Jay Cutler John Fox

Photo: twitimes.com

The organization seems poised to move on from the temperamental enigma that is Jay Cutler. Romo is the kind of upgrade Fox needs to improve upon his 9-23 mark with the Bears and keep his job beyond this year.

 

Pair Romo with emerging running back Jordan Howard and an improving defense that ranked seventh against the pass last year, and the playoffs are not a stretch. Romo has roots in Illinois. The same can be said of Jimmy Garoppolo, who could be a fallback option for the Bears. Regardless, Chicago will likely add a quarterback at some point in the draft as well.

Texans: These next two teams would be tricky from a financial perspective, but I am not an accountant. It took winning a playoff game with Brock Osweiler for Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to receive confirmation from ownership that he would return in 2017.

O’Brien is a fine coach who had nothing to do with the ridiculous $72 million contract Osweiler was given. Rest assured though, O’Brien will take the fall if quarterback play continues to hold the rest of this championship caliber roster back. A completion percentage under 60 and more interceptions than touchdowns should be enough to give up on Osweiler after one year, despite his contract.

Romo would bring quarterback stability to Houston, something the franchise has never had. If he gets hurt, the Texans would be right back where they are now. However, at least he would offer a potential off-ramp from the path to nowhere they are on with their current quarterback options.

Vikings: I am on an island here, but Minnesota is loaded. With guys like Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes on defense, the Vikings are a notch below the 2015 Broncos. The defense cannot win a title by itself, but a slightly more balanced Vikings team would be lethal.

After his devastating training camp injury last year, questions continue to linger about Teddy Bridgewater’s future. Mike Zimmer seems strangely stubborn about sticking with Sam Bradford. Granted, the Vikings did give up a lot to bring him in. As good as his record completion percentage and four to one touchdown to interception ratio made him look last year, there is one very important thing Bradford has never done all that well: win games.

sam bradford

Photo: foxnews.com

In 78 career starts for three different franchises, Bradford has posted a winning percentage of 41 percent and has never lead a team to the playoffs. In the words of a very wise Canadian songstress, “that don’t impress me much.” Yes, football is the ultimate team sport. However, the blame has to start going on the quarterback and not the supporting cast.

After fading down the stretch behind Bradford last year and putting up only nine points in a home playoff loss with Bidgewater the year before, Zimmer needs to start winning big quick or whispers will start about his job security. With the talent on this roster, a healthy Romo makes the Vikings instant Super Bowl contenders. Sticking with Bradford makes Zimmer being unemployed within two years a virtual certainty.

Understandably, there is real skepticism about Romo’s ability to stay healthy for an entire season. He has not done so since 2014. Even so, for these three coaching staffs under varying degrees of pressure to win now, his career winning percentage (61 percent) makes him a chance worth taking. In fact, recycling average veteran or unseasoned young quarterbacks that will get them nowhere is a much bigger risk.

 

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2017 NFL Players Set to Breakout Under the Age of 25

The rookie class last season had some great players explode onto the NFL scene. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Joey Bosa, Jack Conklin, Keanu Neal, and Michael Thomas are some of the rookies who had great first seasons. There were also a few second-year players who are emerging as stars as well.

There is a lot of great young talent in the NFL. It is always interesting to see who the next cream of the crop is going to be. The league is only as good as its top players and brightest stars. Listed here are 10 players, under the age of 25, poised to become stars or superstars next season who haven’t been in the spotlight and do not have more than one Pro Bowl appearance.

Players that are not listed are already considered stars such as the rookies already mentioned above. These players listed will all become Pro Bowlers or have a chance to be a top-five player at their position in the next few years.

Jordan Hicks: Philadelphia Eagles-LB

(http://insidetheiggles.com/2017/01/04/philadelphia-eagles-rising-young-star/)

Jordan Hicks is one of the best young linebackers in the NFL. Hicks was a third-round pick out of Texas in the 2015 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he played in eight games and had 50 tackles, one sack, two interceptions, and a touchdown. He followed up his rookie season starting 16 games for the Eagles and recorded 85 tackles, one sack, and a stunning five interceptions.

Hicks’ teammate, Nigel Bradham, had this to say of Hicks.

“The things he can do on the field,” Bradham said. “His instincts. His power. His speed. He’s everything you want in a linebacker. I know him and I feel like honestly, he can work himself into getting into a gold jacket.”

That is high praise from a fellow linebacker. The ceiling for Hicks is high and if he can continue to make strides forward, he will be one of the best players in the NFL.

 

Cameron Meredith: Chicago Bears- Wr

(http://www.sportingnews.com/fantasy/football/news/fantasy-football-waiver-wire-pickups-week-6-cameron-meredith-jacquizz-rodgers-injury-update-doug-martin/15dzf3a2t2ld11mebkbpnnknqy)

Cameron Meredith was a huge surprise in the Windy City this season. The Bears already had a Pro Bowl receiver in Alshon Jeffery but they were expecting Kevin White to emerge as a solid second option alongside Jeffery. That has been unable to happen due to injuries. Instead, Meredith stepped up and played big for the Bears in his second NFL season.

Meredith went undrafted in 2015 out of Illinois State. He caught only 11 passes in his rookie season. This season he played in 14 games and started 10 of them. He had 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns. He also had four games with over 100 yards receiving. If the Bears can figure out their quarterback situation, Meredith has a chance to become a star in Chicago.

 

Christian Kirksey: Cleveland Browns-LB

(credit: ESPN)

Browns fans will sure be happy to see a young player on this list that can help change the culture in Cleveland. Like Jordan Hicks, Kirksey was also a third-round draft pick. In his first two seasons in the NFL, he started a total of 13 games.

This past season he started all 16 games for the Browns and was the team’s leading tackler with 148, which was also third best in the NFL. He also added 2.5 sacks. Kirksey should continue to build off the improvement in his third season and the Browns may have a defensive quarterback for the future.

 

 

Jordan Howard: Chicago Bears-RB

(http://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/film-study-jordan-howard-fits-identity-that-bears-offense-wants/)

One of the quietest, yet most successful rookie campaigns came from Jordan Howard. Few would call Jordan Howard a star, but he made the Pro Bowl and finished second in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,313 yards. What was probably the most impressive is that he averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Howard has a chance to become a receiving threat in due time as well as had 29 catches this season and that number will go up in the next couple of years.

Howard is in a big market in Chicago and his star will continue to grow. As the franchise looks for a quarterback, Howard can be that piece that keeps the Bears competitive while they look for that quarterback.

 

 

Melvin Gordon: Los Angeles Chargers-RB

(http://cleatgeeks.com/blog/2016/02/25/on-the-clock-san-diego-chargers-2016-offseason-preview/)

Melvin Gordon had a forgettable rookie year to say the least. Gordon was going into his second season with much to prove. Doubts about how Gordon would fair in the NFL arose because of how well Todd Gurley performed in his rookie season.

Gordon shattered all doubt this season by rushing for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns in just 11 starts. He also became a threat in the passing game, catching 41 passes for 419 yards and two touchdowns. Now that the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles, Gordon will challenge Gurley as the best back in L.A.

 

 

 

 

Hunter Henry: Los Angeles Chargers-TE

(Credit: AP Photo)

Hunter Henry is listed at 6′ 5″ and 250 pounds. He looks like a stud waiting to explode on the football field. Henry was drafted in the second round out of Arkansas. In his rookie season, he had to share time at tight end with Antonio Gates, which kept him out of the lineup consistently.

What was impressive about his rookie season was that every 4.5 catches he made were for a touchdown. He finished the season with 36 receptions, 478 yards, and eight touchdowns. It is just a matter of time before Henry becomes a top five tight end in the NFL.

 

 

Marcus Mariota: Tennessee Titans-QB

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Marcus Mariota is on the verge of stardom. Not many people talk about him and he took a step back when he broke his leg. Mariota was quietly leading the Titans to a possible playoff berth.

In his rookie season, Mariota started 12 games and had 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Before breaking his leg, Mariota had started 15 games and had 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. With three more games, he had seven more touchdowns and one less interception. The most important stat was wins though. The Titans were in a position to win the division. As Mariota continues to grow, the Titans will become a legit contender and Mariota will become one of the faces of the league.

 

 

Danielle Hunter: Minnesota Vikings-DE

(USA Today Sports)

Danielle Hunter has a chance to become a Hall of Famer one day. Hunter was drafted in the third round out of LSU in 2015. He was the youngest player in the NFL in his rookie season. In very limited action he had six sacks. He showed quickness and athleticism that had Vikings coaches raving.

This season he played just 58 percent of the Vikings defensive snaps and ended up tied for third in the NFL in sacks with 12.5. This kind of production in such a limited amount of reps is unheard of. Once Hunter is inserted into the starting lineup, he will become a sack king and eventually have a 20-sack season.

 

 

Landon Collins: New York Giants- S

(http://nyg.247sports.com/Bolt/Giants-Landon-Collins-excited-about-new-role-46797532)

Some would say Landon Collins already had a breakout year this season. It is hard to argue against that as he made the Pro Bowl and was named first team all-pro. Collins had a great season with 125 tackles, four sacks, and five interceptions, and he put offenses on notice. He will be in the running for defensive player of the year and offenses around the NFL will fear him for the next decade.

 

 

 

Vic Beasley: Atlanta Falcons-DE

(http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/2512400/vic-beasley-jr)

Vic Beasley is in the same boat as Landon Collins, as some would say he has already had a breakout season. Similar to Collins, Beasley was selected to the Pro Bowl and named first team all-pro. He was the NFL sack king this season with 15.5 sacks, which was way up from the four sacks he had last season.

Beasley has been a big reason the Flacons defense has improved over the second half of the year. Beasley’s production has helped Atlanta reach the Super Bowl. If Beasley has a monster game, he will become a superstar, but no matter how he performs in the Super Bowl, he is on his way to stardom.

 

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