defensive backs

Top 10 DBs that could make an impact in the NFL

There were a lot of players that were in the NFL Draft that would make an impact next season. Every defense needs good defensive backs that will be able to make plays and help win games. Here are the top ten defensive backs that could make an impact in the NFL.

1. Denzel Ward, CB—Cleveland Browns

defensive backs

Denzel Ward hits receiver. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

No question that the Browns are blessed to have one of the most phenomenal cornerbacks in the draft. Ward is a game changer. He plays excellent man coverage and is very physical. During his college career, Ward had a total of 67 tackles, 24 pass breakups and two interceptions. Ward is able to play tight on receivers and read routes very well.

2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S—Miami Dolphins

Fitzpatrick is everything you want in a defensive back. He can read the quarterback really well, he’s a ballhawk, able to return interceptions back and is able to blitz and make plays in the backfield.  Fitzpatrick was a Freshman All American when he played for the University of Alabama. He was also named first team All American in 2017. He had a total of 171 tackles, five sacks, nine interceptions, 24 pass breakups, and ran four interceptions back for touchdowns. With his size and speed, Fitzpatrick will be a dangerous threat in the secondary.

3. Jaire Alexander, CB—Green Bay Packers

Alexander is an excellent playmaker who is able to cause turnovers. He’s able to play well in man coverage, and he’s able to catch interceptions and return them for touchdowns. Alexander is also phenomenal on special teams, catching punts and returning them to score. He had 77 total tackles, seven interceptions and 15 pass breakups for his whole career at Louisville.

4. Donte Jackson, CB—Carolina Panthers

defensive backs

Donte Jackson tackles receiver at LSU
(NOLA.com)

Jackson is young, tall, fast and physical. He is excellent at playing man coverage, and he knows how to track the ball very well. During his college career, Jackson had a total of 109 tackles, 17 pass breakups, four interceptions and a forced fumble. Jackson has also been second team All-SEC in 2017. He uses his speed in order to track down the ball and make something out of nothing.

5. Derwin James, S—Los Angeles Chargers

James was known for being one of the hardest hitting safeties in the ACC. Not only that he can read the quarterback in zone coverage, and play man-to-man coverage, he can come down and lay the boom on any offensive player. James is an athlete that can track down and make a play on the ball, and he is able to go down and blitz. James had a total of 186 tackles, 11 pass breakups, 5.5 sacks, and three interceptions during his college career at Florida State. He also earned second AP All American and All ACC honors. With James’ natural athletic ability, he will be a dangerous threat in the NFL.

6. Deshon Elliot, S—Baltimore Ravens

Here’s another hard-hitting safety that could also possibly become a threat later on. Elliot is an incredible athlete who can play outstanding zone defense, catch interceptions and can come down and lay the boom. He can also play the linebacker position. Elliot was a first team All-American and first team All-Big 12 honors back when he played for the University of Texas. He had a career total of 105 tackles, nine pass breakups and nine interceptions.

7. Anthony Averett, CB—Baltimore Ravens

Here is an underrated defensive back that is really slept on. Averett was able to show what he could do in the 2016-2017 season. Averett caught a lot of people’s attention, starting in 13 games and playing excellent man coverage on receivers. He may not be that big in size, but he’s fast and able to get to the quarterback during blitzes.

Averett had a career total of 90 tackles 15 pass breakups and an interception.

8. Josh Jackson, CB—Green Bay Packers

Jackson is an outstanding athlete who can play man coverage very well and play zone coverage. He is fast and has hands like a receiver. Jackson was the nation’s leader with eight interceptions and 26 pass breakups. He also earned first-team AP All American and first team all-Big Ten.

9. Mike Huges, CB—Minnesota Vikings

Huges is a major threat when it comes to making interceptions. He is an extraordinary ball hawk, he has speed and he can play zone and man coverage. Huges can also make an impact on special teams, returning kicks and running them in for touchdowns. He was an All American first team as a defensive back, with 44 tackles and four interceptions, and first team as a returner with 635 yards and two touchdowns.

10. Quenton Meeks, DB—Jacksonville Jaguars

Meeks is an all-around defensive back who can play the cornerback and safety position. He can read the quarterback really well and pick the ball off, and he can lock down a receiver pretty well. Meeks had a total of 113 tackles, seven interceptions and 12 pass breakups for his career at Stanford. With his amazing athletic ability, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ will be a great fit for him.

 

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The 2019 NFL Draft to be hosted in Nashville

The NFL owners have voted to host the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville, Tennessee from April 25 through April 27.

Nashville’s bid was seen as the favorite to host the next draft and owners agreed on that on Wednesday.

Other cities considered were Las Vegas, Denver, Kansas City and Canton/Cleveland.

In 2018 the NFL Draft was hosted in Dallas, Texas, as the NFL has decided to switch up the host-city on a yearly basis after leaving New York City for the 2015 NFL Draft. In 2015 and 2016 it was hosted in Chicago, while in 2017 it was hosted in Philadelphia.

 

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OTAs

Philadelphia Eagles lose two linebackers in one day

Adversity caused by injuries is not rare for a football team to endure. During phase two of OTAs, it’s a little more rare. Unless you are the Los Angeles Chargers. On Tuesday that’s just what happened for the Philadelphia Eagles who lost a linebacker for the season just hours after cutting one.

Mychal Kendricks actually gets cut

On Tuesday, May 22 the Philadelphia Eagles released linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks was a valuable asset last season in which he played 60 percent of the defensive snaps. However, this season Kendricks would not have played nearly as much. He was the odd man out at the linebacker rotation when going to the Eagles’ favored nickel defense. This means he wouldn’t have seen the field all too much.

Last season he played so much because Jordan Hicks went down with a season-ending Achilles tear. However, Hicks is returning and Kendricks was going to make $7.6 million this season. That is a sizeable amount for a player that would not reach nearly 60 percent of playing time this season. This was more of a cap saving cut then anything else. The Eagles had tried to trade Kendricks multiple times throughout his career, therefore him getting cut is not overly surprising.

Paul Worrilow goes down

OTAs

Paul Worrilow. Photo by Bleacher Report

Later on, that same day is when the Eagles suffered a loss of another linebacker, this one from injury. Paul Worrilow, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions, tore his ACL during OTA’s when he collided with another player in a drill. It was apparent immediately that he was seriously injured, athletic trainers put an air cast on his knee and he was carted off the field. It was quickly learned that he had indeed torn his ACL and will be out for the upcoming season. He was likely going to be a backup and he was a toss up to make the team. Still, two lost linebackers in one day is a major loss for any team.

 

Featured image by Michael Ainsworth (AP Photo)

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Philadelphia Eagles charity

The Philadelphia Eagles off-the-field impact

Sometimes as fans, we forget that NFL players are truly people with lives, not just players or pawns on fantasy football teams. Today, let’s look at just some of the many off-the-field projects, charities and activities that the Eagles’ organization and their players take part in each year. Many of these guys are not just great players, but great people too.

The Philadelphia Eagles off-the-field ventures

Featured image by Drew Hallowell

Eagles Green Efforts.

  • Philadelphia Eagles Go Green
  • Mission of Hope
  • Home Runs for Hearts
  • Huddle Up for Autism
  • Eagles Care

Philadelphia Eagles Go Green is an initiative that has made the Eagles stadium completely self sustained. They use solar panels and wind turbines to generate electricity and the stadium produces almost no waste.

On the mission of hope trip, the players handed out shoes, painted houses, played games with the kids and helped in construction of a sports complex. Things like this can go a long way towards improving a neighborhood.

Home Runs for Hearts is a home run derby designed to raise money for research and educational programs in Philadelphia.

Huddle Up for Autism is an event where children who have autism are treated to a nice day complete with activities, meeting some of the players and even going onto the field.

Finally, Eagles Care is a program where each year, the Philadelphia Eagles select three non-profits to partner with and help strengthen to make an even greater impact. Last year, they built playgrounds, helped Dignity Housing provide affordable homes for single parents and their children and helped improve the lives of children suffering with cancer and their families. These are just some of the many ways that the Philadelphia Eagles try to make the world a better place.

Others are orchestrated by individuals on the team itself

Featured image by Drew Hallowell

Carson Wentz in Haiti. (Photo by Nick Rotondi)

Just in the last year, so many players have made such an impact on society. Chris Long donated his entire year’s salary to helping the education of the up-and-coming generation. His money went towards helping children get the best possible schooling.

Carson Wentz and his foundation, the AO1 foundation, are building a massive sports complex in Haiti. Wentz himself has even donated up to $500,000 himself towards the construction of the project.

Malcolm Jenkins helped supply needy families with food and other supplies and necessities.

These players all participate in so many more charity efforts that are not listed. Many NFL players are working towards making today a better time, and that is commendable. Maybe we should all ask ourselves what we can do for our communities even if it is just a small donation or some of our time.

 

Featured image by Drew Hallowell

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Hunter Henry tears ACL, likely out for season

Los Angeles Chargers’ tight end Hunter Henry tore his ACL on Tuesday during the team’s OTAs according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The injury occurred during a drill when he was running down the field. He was untouched, as it was a non-contact injury. A second opinion will be given on the injury on Wednesday.

Henry, the third-year player out of Arkansas, was set to start the year at tight end for the Chargers with Antonio Gates still being an unsigned free agent. He has 1,057 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in his career.

The Chargers now have Virgil Green, who figures to take over as the lead tight end but will likely be looking to free agency to add another to the team before preseason play begins.

 

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kicker rankings

2018 fantasy football kicker rankings

I know you’re probably laughing at me right now. Why would anyone waste their time ranking kickers heading into the season? I find myself asking the same questions as I’m writing, but it’s part of the job. When it comes to kickers, there’s only a few that are markedly better than the rest of the group. Let’s find out who those players are in the first edition of my 2018 fantasy football kicker rankings.

Kicker Rankings: 1-5

1. Greg Zuerlein – Los Angeles Rams

Greg Zuerlein a top this list of kicker rankings was one of the easiest decisions yet. Here’s how good Zuerlein was last season. He finished first in points with 180, which was 11 more than the next closest kicker. He was one of six kickers that attempted at least 40 field goals, and attempted the fourth most amount field goals of 50 yards or more. And by the way, he only played in 14 games. While the Rams offense will likely regress, that doesn’t mean Zurlein’s numbers will as well. If anything, it could lead to even more attempts for “Greg the leg”. He’s easily the best kicker heading into 2018.

2. Stephen Gostkowski – New England Patriots

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Stephen Gostkowski has been near the top among kickers for years. He’s attached to one of the best offenses year in and year out, and has the trust of his head coach to nail long field goal attempts. Even though Gostkowski missed multiple extra points and only attempted four field goals of 50 yards or more, he’ll still likely finish in the top five of total points.

3. Justin Tucker – Baltimore Ravens

I’m not usually a advocate of allowing kickers into the hall of fame, but Justin Tucker might be the exception. He’s historically accurate as a whole, as well as from distance. Even though he was chained to a terrible Baltimore offense, he finished fourth in total points. Joe Flacco and company are the only reason Tucker isn’t higher on this list.

4. Harrison Butker – Kansas City Chiefs

Harrison Butker was likely a fantasy season saver for some last year. Andy Reid’s trust in a rookie kicker was tremendous, especially to allow him to kick five field goals from 50 yards or more. In my opinion, Butker will produce at an even higher level next season. First, he’ll get to start the season as the Chiefs’ kicker, which he didn’t last season. And second, he’ll likely get more red zone attempts. Reid and his offense struggled in the redzone during the middle and end of the season, and that was with an accurate passer at the helm. Patrick Mahomes is talented, but he still comes with accuracy concerns. Butker will likely benefit from more questionable play calls and quarterback inaccuracy heading into 2018.

5. Matt Bryant – Atlanta Falcons

The ageless wonder continues to get it done. Matt Bryant, not to be confused with Matt Ryan, is the beneficiary of a tremendous offense in Atlanta and playing over half of his games in either a dome, or warm weather. Bryant is always a safe pick at this position.

Kicker Rankings: 6-10

6. Robbie Gould – San Francisco 49ers

When researching this article, I was shocked to see Robbie Gould so high in total points from last season. Meaning, he was producing before Jimmy Garoppolo showed up, and continued to produce when he was the starter. I’m not sure how it will translate to this season, but I couldn’t keep him lower than sixth on my first round of kicker rankings.

7. Will Lutz – New Orleans Saints

Will Lutz has been a DFS darling for years. He’s attached to one of the best coach and quarterback tandems in NFL history. He also, like Matt Bryant, gets to play over half of his games in a dome, or in warm weather. The only problem with Lutz is that he doesn’t get many opportunities to connect from 50 yards or more.

8. Chris Boswell – Pittsburgh Steelers

Like most kickers on this list, Chris Boswell plays on one of the league’s best offenses. What holds Boswell back is that there are some games where he only attempts extra points. Boswell also has games where he attempts six field goals; however, his production is too inconsistent to warrant higher placement on this list.

9. Ryan Succop – Tennessee Titans

Ryan Succop is a great option at kicker given his upside, and likely, his value. In 2017, he set an NFL record by making 56 straight field goals of less than 50 yards. That kind of consistency is what we want to find at any position. But, Succop missed over half of his attempts from 50 yards or more.

10. Matt Prater – Detroit Lions

Matt Prater, at worst, has the third strongest leg in the NFL behind Greg Zuerlein and Justin Tucker. Prater plays inside a dome and is attached to an above average offense with Detroit. He also benefits from the Lions’ lack of a running game in the redzone. It’s unclear how much Matt Patricia will impact this team and that uncertainty pushes Prater to tenth in these kicker rankings.

Kicker Rankings: 11-15

11. Kai Forbath – Minnesota Vikings

Kai Forbath isn’t particularly impressive or dominant in any category. However, he plays indoors, with an efficient quarterback, and a head coach who does not like to take chances.

12. Jake Elliott – Philadelphia Eagles

Like Harrison Butker, Jake Elliott was impressive as a rookie. Everyone remembers the 61-yarder he hit to beat the Giants. Elliott will likely be a great value at this position. What keeps him from being higher was his overall lack of attempts and inconsistencies inside 39 yards.

13. Adam Vinatieri – Indianapolis Colts

If Andrew Luck returns, Adam Vinatieri be a top five scorer at his position. Last season we saw some inconsistencies for the first time in his career, so he just cracks the top fifteen.

14. Graham Gano – Carolina Panthers

Graham Gano plays in a warm-weather division, including two domes. He plays on an above average offense, but does not get many attempts beyond 50 yards.

15. Mason Crosby – Green Bay Packers

People forget that Mason Crosby had to deal with Brett Hundley for much of the 2017 season. He will bounce back nicely with Aaron Rodgers back under center.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of USA Today

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

The 2018 “need a ring” team: The offense

Every offseason, we see the same question plastered on every sports page looking for mid-May clicks: “Which players deserve to win their first ring?” This is good fun, but results in the same names being recycled repeatedly.

I’d like to propose a twist: Assembling a super team of veteran players still searching for their first Super Bowl win. All these players must meet the following criteria:

  1. Have not won a Super Bowl with any team (obviously).
  2. Must be over 30 years of age.
  3. Must have at least one Pro Bowl selection.

We will begin assembling our “need a ring” team with the offense. The offense will consist of one quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers, one tight end, two tackles, two guards and one center. May the selections commence!

Quarterback: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo from chargers.com)

With most of the top-tier quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers) having at least one Super Bowl win, we are left with Philip Rivers.

Since taking over the starting quarterback job in 2006, Rivers has quietly been one of the NFL’s best. The seven-time Pro Bowler is the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions. He also has not missed a game in over a decade.

Rivers came close to the Super Bowl several times early in his career, but was never able to finish the playoff run. With an improved defense and explosive supporting cast, Rivers has a good shot at returning to the playoffs in 2018.

Honorable mention: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Running back: Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins

11 of the top 12 all-time leaders in yards from scrimmage are in the Hall of Fame. The other is Frank Gore, who ranks seventh. In his illustrious career, Gore has surpassed the likes of Marshall Faulk and Ladainian Tomlinson on the NFL’s all-time rushing list.

He was the center of the San Francisco 49ers’ offense for nine seasons, and nearly delivered the city a title in 2012. Despite being 35 years old, Gore proved that he can still be effective out of the backfield. Last season with the Indianapolis Colts, he rushed for 961 yards, even without the presence of Andrew Luck.

He is in the twilight years of his career, but it would be a special sight to see Gore end his spectacular run with a Lombardi Trophy.

Honorable mention: Adrian Peterson, free agent

Wide receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals and DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo by AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

No surprise here. Fitzgerald is an all-time great that has been wasted on below-average quarterbacks like Kevin Kolb and Drew Stanton. The amount of production Fitzgerald has had given the circumstances is simply amazing.

He currently sits third on the all-time receiving yards list with 15,545. In a 10-year span from 2007-17, Fitzgerald has missed the Pro Bowl just once. He is by far the best wide receiver of this generation, and it would be a sin to have him retire without winning the game’s ultimate prize.

Entering his 11th season, DeSean Jackson has had himself a very productive career. The prototypical deep threat, Jackson could take on any defense. His tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles was his best, where he averaged over 1,000 yards per season.

The three-time Pro Bowler is not the player he used to be, but he can still make an impact in the passing game. Last season with Tampa Bay, Jackson caught 50 passes for 668 yards and three touchdowns.

Honorable mention: Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos

Tight end: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo from panthers.com)

It is a tough call between Greg Olsen and Vernon Davis, but we will go with Olsen here. Since arriving via trade in Carolina, Olsen has been the Panthers’ go-to target. He has been Cam Newton’s security blanket since being drafted No. 1 overall and has seen a huge bump in production in the latter part of his career.

Prior to the 2017 season, Olsen had three straight years with over 1,000 receiving yards. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons as well. He was one game shy of earning his first ring in 2015 on a 15-1 Panthers squad.

With a talented quarterback and solid defense, the door is still open for Olsen to win his first Super Bowl.

Honorable mention: Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins

Tackles: Duane Brown, Seattle Seahawks and Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers

In his time in Houston, Duane Brown was the anchor of the Texans’ offensive line. Outside of Joe Thomas, it would be difficult to name a better left tackle than Brown during his tenure with the Texans. He protected Matt Schaub’s (and very briefly Deshaun Watson’s) blindside with near perfection.

Unfortunately, Brown has only seen the playoffs three times, losing in the divisional round each time.

Joe Staley has suffered a similar fate so far in his career. Despite being a lockdown left tackle, the teams Staley has played on simply were not good enough to bring home the hardware. He was just a few yards short of winning it all in Super Bowl XLVII, but has not reached the big game since.

Staley is the model of consistency in San Fran, going to the Pro Bowl in six of the last seven years.

Honorable mention: Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams

Guards: Mike Iupati, Arizona Cardinals and Andy Levitre, Atlanta Falcons

NFL players without a Super Bowl ring

(Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Another member of the 2012 49ers, Mike Iupati helped pave the way for Frank Gore for most of his career. After being selected first-team All-Pro in 2012, Iupati went on to make three more Pro Bowls with the 49ers and Cardinals.

He missed the majority of last season due to injury, but will likely bounce back in 2018. With teammates David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald returning, as well as exciting rookie Josh Rosen, Iupati could return to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

The rules had to be stretched slightly to include Levitre on this list. Andy Levitre has never made the Pro Bowl, despite nine years as a solid starting guard. In his career, Levitre has only missed three starts and has played center, guard and tackle.

He was also inches away from winning his first Super Bowl ring, losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. At only 32 years old and on a perennial playoff team, Levitre could very well earn his way off of this list next year.

Honorable mention: None

Center: Ryan Kalil, Carolina Panthers

One of the most underrated players on his team, Ryan Kalil has consistently been one of the best centers in the NFL. In his 11-year tenure with the Panthers, Kalil has built himself an impressive résumé. He has been selected to five Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro twice (2013, 2015).

Like many of the players on this super team, Kalil came up just one game short of his first ring. With 2018 being his final year in the NFL, it would be fitting to send Kalil off into the sunset as a Super Bowl champion.

Honorable mention: Alex Mack, Atlanta Falcons

 

Featured image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

2018 fantasy football composite rankings: TE

The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead.

Tiebreakers were decided by both Joe and Braxton.

For longer explanations, you can find their individual rankings here: Joe and Braxton.

Here are the composite tight end rankings:

Tight End Rankings: 1-10

1. Rob Gronkowski- New England Patriots

Braxton’s rank: 1

Joe’s rank: 1

2. Zach Ertz- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

3. Travis Kelce- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank: 4

4. Greg Olsen- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 4

5. Evan Engram- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Hunter Henry- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 5

7. Delanie Walker- Tennessee Titans

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 9

8. Kyle Rudolph- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 8

9. Jimmy Graham- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank: 7

10. Jordan Reed- Washington Redskins

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank: 11

Tight End Rankings: 11-20

11. Jack Doyle- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank: 10

12. Trey Burton- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 15

13. Tyler Eifert- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 12

14. Benjamin Watson- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: 14

15. O.J. Howard- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 19

16. Charles Clay- Buffalo Bills

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 13

17. Jared Cook- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 16

18. David Njoku- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 21

19. Austin Seferian-Jenkins- Jacksonville Jaguars

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 24

20. George Kittle- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 20

Tight End Rankings: 21-30

21. Cameron Brate- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 17

22. Hayden Hurst- Baltimore Ravens

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 26

23. Austin Hooper- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 27

Joe’s rank: 18

24. Eric Ebron- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 23

25. Mike Gesicki- Miami Dolphins

Braxton’s rank: 21

Joe’s rank: 22

26. Dalton Schultz- Dallas Cowboys

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 27

27. Ricky Seals-Jones- Arizona Cardinals

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 28

28. Gerald Everett- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank: 30

29. Vance McDonald- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: N/A

Joe’s rank: 22

30. Tyler Kroft- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank: N/A

 

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jimmy garoppolo

NFL worst to first candidates for 2018

The NFL is wildly popular in America for many reasons. One of the biggest is that it is the only mainstream American sport where it is not all that uncommon for a team to go from really bad to really good in a very short amount of time. The Super Bowl champion Eagles as well as the Jaguars finished at the bottom of their respective divisions in 2016 before winning them last year.

Also, it is not like teams like the Bills and Saints were on everyone’s radar as far as contending last year either. Still, the worst to first turnaround is most impressive. There are three teams with a realistic shot at doing what the Eagles and Jags did last year.

Denver Broncos: The AFC West is pretty unique headed in to 2018. It is not difficult to imagine any one of the four teams winning it, or finishing last. A lot depends on whether or not two-time defending division champion Kansas City misses a beat in the transition to Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. The former first-round pick is basically a rookie apart from a throwaway start at the end of last season.

The addition of Case Keenum gives the Broncos some long-sought and much-needed stability at the quarterback position. Even if he regresses closer to the player he was prior to last year in Minnesota, he is certainly an upgrade over what Denver put on the field at that spot last year. Only Cleveland had more turnovers than the Broncos in 2017. A quarterback carousel was not the only reason for this but was certainly the biggest factor.

Bradley Chubb

Photo: milehighreport.com

If Keenum only raises the turnover numbers to the middle of the pack, Denver will be a much better football team in 2018. A defense that was top five in both rushing and passing yards allowed last year got younger and hungrier with the addition of Bradley Chubb up front and the departure of Aqib Talib at the back end.

The Broncos also spent another offseason taking a big swing at improving the offensive line. They are counting on veterans to stay healthy and youngsters to improve. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas saw their production drop off last year, but Keenum showed last year he can get the ball to talented wide receivers. With the improvements made and the question marks that surround their division rivals, the Broncos could be in for a very quick turnaround.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are going to win the NFC West this year. They won five games in a row once midseason acquisition Jimmy Garoppolo was inserted as the starting quarterback to finish out the season. This included defeating three playoff teams. The most impressive showing was putting up 40+ points on a Jacksonville defense that carried that team to within an eyelash of the Super Bowl.

Everyone has been singing the praises of the Rams all offseason long. However, the Jared Goff/Sean McVay offense took everyone by surprise last year. Whenever that happens, defensive coordinators always adjust the next year. Then, the offense either readjusts or never gets back to where it was. The same thing happened with the Wildcat offense in Miami as well as the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys. The Wildcat vanished almost as quickly as it appeared and this year will be the moment of truth for Prescott as an NFL quarterback.

For the Rams, this is the year where the offense regresses a little bit. We will see what Goff and McVay come up with in 2019. Los Angeles added some very splashy names on defense.

However, when you put that many strong personalities on one side of the ball, it is going to backfire. Los Angeles is a horrible place for guys like Talib and Marcus Peters to go. Their previous teams could not wait to unload them and it wasn’t because they are not good football players. To think those guys are going to be on their best behavior in Los Angeles is just plain dumb.

Seattle’s roster is a complete mess outside of Russell Wilson and Arizona is starting over as a franchise. Neither team will be a factor in the division race. San Francisco’s roster outside of Garoppolo is not full of household names.

The former Tom Brady understudy completed 67% of his passes and went 5-0 as a starter for a team that had won one game without him. Imagine what the 49ers can do with an entire off-season to build around their franchise quarterback.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has proven to be one of the league’s finest quarterback gurus in recent years. What those two are capable of doing together is flat out scary. The small sample size for Garoppolo is worrisome, but his toughest challenge should be being thrown on the field with last year’s awful team. He passed with flying colors.

 

Houston Texans: This one probably has the most ifs attached to it, but it is very intriguing. Prior to getting injured last year, then rookie quarterback DeShaun Watson had Houston looking like Super Bowl contenders. He threw 16 touchdown passes in one month and went toe to toe with Brady and Wilson on the road.

DeShaun Watson

Photo: slate.com

Blake Bortles is still Blake Bortles. If the Jacksonville defense is even slightly less dominant than it was last year, that team will take a step back. Tennessee has similar limitations at quarterback with Marcus Mariota. You can only go so far ranked 23rd in pass yards per game.

If Watson can stay healthy on offense along with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus on defense, it is sure going to be fun to see what this team is truly capable of. The Colts are capable of a similar turnaround in the same division if Andrew Luck stays healthy.

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2018 fantasy football tight end rankings

2018 Fantasy football tight end rankings

I have had some colorful discussions with my colleague, Joe DiTullio, about writing this series. Debating the position of quarterback, running back and wide receiver for our composite rankings has been great. But now, we have to rack our brains to just name 30 tight ends with fantasy value, let alone rank them. So here is, essentially, my best educated rankings for our 2018 fantasy football tight end.

Tight End Rankings: 1-10

1. Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots

This was a no-brainier. Rob Gronkowski plays in one of the most tight end-friendly positions in NFL history. Gronk is often put in a position where he has a drastic advantage over his defender, and his quarterback consistently trusts him to win that matchup.

The only discussion worth having about Gronk is when to draft him. In my experience, it is all about preference. From a total points perspective, Gronk is among a small group of tight ends who are better far and away in terms of production. So, you have to compare Gronk to players at other positions in his average draft position.

Personally, I would rather take the 10th or 11th best running back, than the No. 1 tight end. Don’t believe me? Take a look. In PPR scoring formats (which I hate) last season, 10 running backs scored more fantasy points than Rob Gronkowski.

2. Zach Ertz – Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia, while not as good as New England, is another offense that utilizes the tight end well. We saw that even when Zach Ertz was hurt. So with Ertz being incredibly talented on top of that, it is a recipe for a top-three player at the position.

What gives Ertz the nod over Travis Kelce is the consistency in which he is targeted in the red zone, and the fact that he has produced with both quarterbacks. Ertz had 29 total red zone targets, five more than Kelce. He also had 12 targets inside 10 yards, as opposed to Kelce’s four.

3. Travis Kelce – Kansas City Chiefs

I stated the first part of my case for Zach Ertz over Travis Kelce already. Red zone usage is critical to a tight end’s production and upside.

The other side of the argument for having Kelce third in my tight end rankings is his quarterback. Patrick Mahomes is talented, no doubt about it. However, you never know how quarterback preference and style will impact a player’s production.

Kelce will still be productive, as I can make the case that he is the best tight end in the NFL once he catches the ball. His leaping ability and change of direction is rare for a player his size. Kelce led all tight ends in yards after catch in 2017 with 441.

4. Evan Engram – New York Giants

Evan Engram is going to explode this season. Rookie seasons are not historically kind to tight ends. Engram was the exception to that rule. He turned his 64 catches into more than 700 yards and six touchdowns.

What is unclear is how he will be deployed under Pat Shurmur. In Minnesota, Kyle Rudolph was not an incredibly productive tight end. However, Engram is not the same type of tight end. He is not the run blocker Rudolph is, and Rudolph is not the receiver Engram is.

With players like Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley on the roster, Engram will almost never be the primary or secondary focus on a defense’s gameplan.

5. Greg Olsen – Carolina Panthers

Despite coming off an injury, Greg Olsen has proven to be a favorite target of Cam Newton. He has been productive every year since being in Carolina, and Norv Turner will likely add to his production.

When he has had talent at the tight end position, like Antonio Gates and Kyle Rudolph, he uses them. I do not think Olsen will be explosive, but that was never what made him successful. His large frame and route running will still make him a problem for safeties and linebackers.

6. Hunter Henry – Los Angeles Chargers

I was a year early to the “Hunter Henry is a top fantasy tight end” discussion. I am not proud of it, but we all make mistakes.

Everything sets up for Henry to have his best season as a pro. He finally assumes the starting tight end role and will benefit from all the formational matchups that Antonio Gates saw throughout his career. Even though Henry only saw 56 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, he was still targeted 23 times in the red zone, including 11 targets inside 10 yards. His production is going to skyrocket when he sees more than 65 percent of the offensive snaps in 2018.

7. Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans

Delanie Walker was a favorite of mine in daily fantasy last season. While he struggled to find the endzone consistently, he was tied for third among tight ends in catches with 74, and fourth in yards with 807.

Even if Marcus Mariota does not take a large leap forward, expect his number of touchdowns to increase as a result of regression to the mean. He has averaged just over five touchdowns a year since starting for the Titans, and it is likely that he will reach that number again in 2018.

8. Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings

Last year may have seemed like a down year for Kyle Rudolph. He played great in 2016 and had career highs in catches and yards. Sadly, that season is an outlier if you look at Rudolph’s career. In 2017, Rudolph had 57 catches for 532 yards and eight touchdowns. For his career, he averages 46 catches, 450 yards and five touchdowns.

His numbers could experience an increase given the arrival of Kirk Cousins. However, I don’t see him getting enough targets to make him a top five fantasy tight end.

9. O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I was screaming to anyone who would listen last season that Cameron Brate was the more valuable fantasy asset, and I was right. Even though Brate had a slightly lower snap rate, he had 22 more catches, 159 more yards and the same amount of touchdowns.

However, all of that is going to change in 2018. Howard is going to take over the starting role and will have more catches and yards than Brate.

The only problem is that Brate has tremendous chemistry with Jameis Winston in the red zone. Brate had 18 red zone targets, compared to Howard’s 12 in 2017.

10. Jimmy Graham – Green Bay Packers

While the move from Seattle to Green Bay looks great on paper, I have zero faith in Jimmy Graham as a top-eight tight end. Yes, he gets to play with Aaron Rodgers. Yes, he gets to play in an offense that will allow him more favorable matchups.

But, Green Bay does not feature the tight end in their offense. It is simply a matter of scheme. Since Mike McCarthy took over in 2006, the best fantasy season for a tight end was Jermichael Finley in 2011, where he had 55 catches for 767 yards and eight touchdowns. That production in 2017 (PPR Scoring) would have resulted in the seventh best tight end, beating out Jack Doyle by 1.6 points.

Tight End Rankings: 11-20

11. Trey Burton – Chicago Bears

After the top 10, you can essentially make the case for any of these players in any order. I personally like Trey Burton at the eleventh spot because Chicago needed to replace Zach Miller after his gruesome injury, and because the Bears did not pay him $22 million guaranteed to not produce.

I firmly believe that Burton could have a similar trajectory to Delanie Walker when he finally gets a chance to start. Burton is not the overall athlete Walker is, but he is a bigger target, and one that Mitch Trubisky will rely on.

12. Jordan Reed – Washington Redskins

If you are reading this, I am going to do you a favor. Under no circumstances should you draft Jordan Reed in the first nine rounds. He has shown everyone that he cannot stay healthy and that he cannot do something every great NFL player can do: play hurt.

If it is the 10th round or later, then sure, take Reed. If he starts playing well, I would flip him for anything because he is absolutely going to get hurt and take up space at the end of your bench.

13. Ben Watson – New Orleans Saints

Ben Watson is on a short list of players that I am bullish on heading into this season. In 2017, playing for one of the worst passing games in the league in Baltimore, Watson finished 11th in scoring among tight ends with 61 catches for 522 yards and four touchdowns.

Now he gets to play in one of the best offensive systems ever, with one of the best quarterbacks ever. Even at his advanced age, Watson will be productive because the Saints have lacked a player who could dominate the middle of the field since Jimmy Graham left. Coby Fleener and Josh Hill clearly are not the answer.

Watson will be the most dangerous in the red zone as defenses will have to focus on Michael Thomas, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

14. Tyler Eifert – Cincinnati Bengals

I feel about Tyler Eifert the same way I feel about Jordan Reed. If you do not think he will get hurt again, look at his contract. The Bengals signed him to a one-year deal for $8 million, with $3 million guaranteed.

I would rather take a chance on a player like Tyler Kroft (depending on the size of your bench) to be your second tight end because he will eventually start. Eifert joins Reed on my personal list of undraftable players.

15. David Njoku – Cleveland Browns

David Njoku could be poised for a breakout season. I would love his prospects even more if Jarvis Landry was not on the roster. Landry does most of his damage out of the slot, and as a result, will create less space for Njoku to exploit mismatches in the middle of the field. It is also unpredictable how Cleveland’s quarterbacks will distribute to their targets.

16. Jack Doyle – Indianapolis Colts

Jack Doyle was a player I was passionate about heading into last season. Similar to my negative thoughts on O.J. Howard, I was incredibly excited about Jack Doyle. Rob Chudzinski had a track record of producing relevant fantasy tight ends. However, he is no longer in charge of calling plays.

All reports say Andrew Luck will be back for Week 1, but we saw Doyle produce last year without Luck. Hopefully his role in the offense will not take a significant step back in 2018.

17. Hayden Hurst – Baltimore Ravens

I have no idea what to expect from Hayden Hurst. Baltimore spent a first-round pick on Hurst. However, they also spent a third-round pick on Mark Andrews, the dynamic tight end from Oklahoma.

Joe Flacco has a history of targeting tight ends from Dennis Pitta to Ben Watson. But when you consider all of the new receiving threats they added this offseason, the distribution of targets will likely be unpredictable.

18. Charles Clay – Buffalo Bills

Charles Clay had a good season last year, but almost nothing is going to carry over. Clay is playing with a new quarterback, an inferior offensive line and will no longer benefit from the read option and play action Buffalo ran with Tyrod Taylor.

I am not touching Clay. Unless AJ McCarron or Josh Allen treat Clay like a No. 1 wide receiver, which we will not know until three or four games in, I am not interested in Clay.

19. Austin-Seferian Jenkins – Jacksonville Jaguars

Austin-Seferian Jenkins (ASJ) is a substantial upgrade over Mercedes Lewis at the tight end position. He proved that he can be a red zone weapon. The Jaguars do not throw the ball enough for ASJ to be productive between the 20s, but he will absolutely catch four or five touchdowns at a minimum in 2018.

20. Jared Cook – Oakland Raiders

After stints with the Titans, Rams and Packers, it appears that Jared Cook has found a home with the Raiders. Cook has always been an athletic mismatch, but he has failed to be productive for an entire season without fading.

He also has a documented problem with drops. It is unclear how Jon Gruden’s system will affect this entire offense, let alone Cook’s production.

Tight End Rankings: 21-30

21. Mike Gesicki – Miami Dolphins

Mike Gesicki is wildly talented as a pass catcher, but he is not capable of being a blocker at this point in his career. Gesicki will probably finish as a top-20, maybe even top-15 tight end, but don’t waste a valuable pick on him.

22. Eric Ebron – Indianapolis Colts

This player was the bane of my DFS existence last season, so much so I am not going to mention his name. He drops passes at seemingly the most pivotal moments. The Lions were so done with him that they did not even pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal. The only way he should be considered as a starter is if Jack Doyle gets hurt, and Andrew Luck has shown a propensity to target the tight end.

23. George Kittle – San Francisco 49ers

George Kittle is going to see a lot of snaps for San Francisco. However, the upside is not there. He is not overly fast, quick, big or strong. He is a solid player and one that should be considered if you need a replacement at tight end.

24. Dalton Shultz – Dallas Cowboys

Don’t believe the Rico Gathers hype. Dalton Shultz will be the starter for the Dallas Cowboys, and I will bet money on it. Shultz, unlike Gathers, is a true football player and is a massive player at the tight end position.

25. Dallas Goedert – Philadelphia Eagles

Dallas Goedert is the one player in this section of the rankings I would take a chance on. He will play in an offense that uses multiple tight end sets often, and we have a track record of the backup producing when the starter gets hurt.

26. Cameron Brate – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

O.J. Howard will likely take over more of a starting role this season. If anything happens to Howard, Brate is a must-add off the waiver wire.

27. Austin Hooper – Atlanta Falcons

Austin Hooper is a starting tight end on a top offense in Atlanta. I do not think he will be anything special this season, but he would be a decent fill-in on bye weeks or if there is an injury.

28. Ricky-Seals Jones – Arizona Cardinals

He is essentially a wide receiver. Hopefully, they will feature him more in the offense, but it is unlikely since Larry Fitzgerald plays the slot and controls the middle of the field.

29. Tyler Kroft – Cincinnati Bengals

Tyler Kroft can potentially be a top-20 tight end if and when Tyler Eifert gets hurt. Until then, he is not worth a roster spot.

30. Gerald Everett – Los Angeles Rams

The Rams spent a second-round pick on Gerald Everett, so I expect them to incorporate him more in his second season. It is an incredibly crowded receiving core, so he will not produce unless there is a massive injury or offensive shift.

 

Featured image from USA Today

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