2018 Fantasy Football Composite Rankings: QB

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 quarterback rankings:

Quarterback rankings: 1-10

1. Aaron Rodgers- Green Bay Packers

Braxton’s rank: 1

Joe’s rank: 1

2. Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

3. Tom Brady- New England Patriot

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank:4

4. Cam Newton- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 3

5. Deshaun Watson- Houston Texans 

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 9

7. Carson Wentz- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 5

8. Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 7

9. Matt Ryan- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 12

10. Matt Stafford- Detroit Lions

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: 8

Quarterback rankings: 11-20

11. Kirk Cousins- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 13

12. Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 11

13. Jimmy Garoppolo- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank:17

14. Phillip Rivers- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 10

15. Jared Goff- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank:15

16. Derek Carr- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank:14

17. Marcus Mariota- Tennessee Titans

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 18

18. Jameis Winston- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 16

19. Dak Prescott- Dallas Cowboys

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 19

20. Case Keenum- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 20

Quarterback rankings: 21-30

21. Eli Manning- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 24

22. Andy Dalton- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 21

Joe’s rank: 22

23. Alex Smith- Washington Redskins

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 21

24. Blake Bortles- Jacksonville Jaguars

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 23

25. Tyrod Taylor- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 26

26. Joe Flacco- Baltimore Ravens

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 25

27. Pat Mahomes- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 29

28. Mitch Trubisky- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 27

Joe’s rank: 28

29. Ryan Tannehill- Miami Dolphins

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: 27

30. A.J. McCarron- Buffalo Bills

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank 30

 

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quarterback rankings

2018 fantasy football quarterback rankings

The NFL Draft has come and gone, and rookie mini-camps are starting up all over the league. Meaning, it’s time to start churning out superfluous rankings that will likely be useless a month from now. My esteemed colleague, Joe DiTullio, released his rankings yesterday. He has convinced me to come to the dark side (away from talking DFS) and create my 2018 fantasy football quarterback rankings.

Quarterback Rankings: 1-10

1. Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

Despite missing most of the 2017 season, Rodgers is still the undisputed number one fantasy option at the quarterback position heading into 2018. Green Bay has added talent this offseason to support Rodgers via the draft and free agency. It’s also likely that Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams will start at running back, giving them a more traditional rusher in the backfield than Ty Montgomery. But the real reason Rodgers tops this year’s quarterback rankings is that the Packers will get to play a third-place schedule against the AFC East. That means three elite performances at a minimum against the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins.

2. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson is quickly convincing me that he is the NFL’s version of LeBron James. He never gets hurt despite his usage, he makes everyone better, and he must play well for his team to have a chance to win. Wilson, amazingly, accounted for over 90% of his team’s touchdowns in 2018. While the selection of Rashaad Penny in the first round has been debated, he will be the most dynamic presence since Marshawn Lynch. Now, whether or not the offensive line will Penny or Wilson remains to be seen. However, I’m done doubting Russell Wilson as a top quarterback, especially in fantasy football.

3. Tom Brady – New England Patriots

Tom Brady has been a staple at the top of fantasy quarterback rankings for years now, and 2018 will be no different. Given the departure of left tackle Nate Solder, running back Dion Lewis, and wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola, the Patriots will rely on Brady and this quick passing game to start the season. As new players like Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel get comfortable, they will likely start to transition to a more balanced attack. Until then, they will ask Brady to get the ball out quickly, so expect a higher volume of attempts in the early portion of the season.

4. Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints

In case you weren’t sure, Drew Brees reminded everyone in the NFC divisional game against the Vikings that he can still take over a game from the pocket. While the Saints have transitioned to a run-first offense, it will allow Brees to be even more efficient. The Saints also acquired Ben Watson in free agency. Meaning, that they have a legitimate threat at the tight end position since Jimmy Graham. Expect them to incorporate and target Watson in the red zone, as defenses will key heavily on Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara.

5. Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers

While he’s not the model of consistency, fantasy players everywhere know how dangerous Newton can be on any given Sunday. He’ll be playing in a different offensive system this season, which would usually be a downgrade. However, Norv Turner has an excellent offensive pedigree and will figure out the best ways to support Newton. Given this change, Newton may be susceptible to a slow start, but will likely progress positively in the new system as the season goes on.

6. Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons

Last year was not kind to Matt Ryan. He saw decreases across the board compared to his MVP season. It’s likely he’ll produce a happy medium between his 2016 and 2017 campaigns. Another year in Sarkisian’s system, along with new weapon Calvin Ridley, Ryan could be a great value on draft day. Not to mention, that $30 million contract will loom over this organization if he does not get off to a fast start. Look for this offense as a whole to get back on track in 2018.

7. Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans

This is where the rankings got tricky. There are three incredibly talented quarterbacks returning from injury in 2018. Of the group of Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck, and Carson Wentz, Watson got the nod at seven. If you could guarantee me that he would start for 16 games, I would have zero problems ranking him in the top three. Watson proved to everyone that he has elite upside on a weekly basis, and, his legs provide him with a stable floor. With weapons like DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Watson won’t hesitate to throw the ball deep, something all fantasy owners love.

8. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts

So the tiebreaker between Andrew Luck and Carson Wentz came down to recency. Wentz tore both his ACL and MCL in December of last year, and with Nick Foles on the roster, the Eagles won’t rush him back. Also, we have to remember how great Andrew Luck was during his last full season. In 2014, Luck threw for over 4,700 yards and 40 touchdowns, including three rushing touchdowns. In just 12 games in 2016, he threw for over 4,200 yards and 31 touchdowns. If you extrapolate those numbers, that translates to 41 touchdowns and over 5,300 yards. Given his new offensive coach and upgraded offensive line, I won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Luck if the price is right.

9. Carson Wentz – Philadelphia Eagles

All signs are pointing to Carson Wentz being available for week one. However, we can’t be so sure. This team proved to be capable with Nick Foles at the helm. So, the Eagles won’t look to mortgage their future franchise quarterback if he suffers any setbacks in the preseason. Injury aside, Wentz is in a great position. The Eagles are bringing all of their skill players back, and even upgraded Torrey Smith for Mike Wallace. They also added Dallas Goddard to replace Trey Burton in their two tight end sets. As we get more updates on his progress, Wentz could easily move up the quarterback rankings.

10. Jimmy Garropolo – San Francisco 49ers

“Jimmy Jesus” sneaks into the top ten for a few reasons. One, they will have to keep pace with Jared Goff and Russell Wilson twice a year. Two, Kyle Shanahan’s system is what propelled Matt Ryan to have an MVP season in 2016. And three, Garropolo produced at a high-level last year despite limited time to acclimate to the system and the mediocre offensive personnel. If you want Garropolo on your roster, you’ll likely have to reach for him, as last seasons hype train will no doubt skew his average draft position.

Quarterback Rankings: 11-20

11. Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins finally gets the long-term deal he was looking for, but it came with a new team. It’s not often that a quarterback with Cousins’ numbers becomes a true free agent. As a result, it’s hard to say how much this new system will impact his fantasy production. However, what’s clear is that he will be playing with a unit that is superior at every offensive position except for left tackle and right guard. Cousins played with a group that was depleted across the board last year in Washington and still managed to produce. Expect his overall volume to decrease, but, don’t expect his overall production to drop by much.

12. Jared Goff – Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay took the NFL by storm. His scheme has rescued the career of Jared Goff and reestablished Todd Gurley as an elite running back. Smartly, the Rams were aggressive this offseason and acquired talent on both sides of the ball, including the dynamic Brandin Cooks. They also looked to reinforce some potential problem areas on their offensive line in the draft. However, this league will have had an entire year to catch up to McVay, and, the Rams will play a first place schedule. Taking Goff wouldn’t be a bad decision, just be sure to temper your expectations.

13. Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions

What makes Matthew Stafford an attractive option is that he’s a high volume passer. Since 2011, Stafford has finished in the top 10 in pass attempts, including five top-five finishes. But, that volume could decrease with a new head coach, Matt Patricia. Defensive head coaches tend to be less-risky on offense. However, he may have a different philosophy on that matter coming from New England. Stafford always seems to be a value on draft day, so selecting him at the right time should position your team nicely.

14. Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers

On a personal level, I’m done with Ben Roethlisberger. His insecurity about the drafting of third-round pick Mason Rudolph is laughable. From a fantasy perspective, he still has value. The Steelers will be one of, if not, the most prolific offense in the NFL in 2018. Players like Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Le’Veon Bell will provide Roethlisberger with a multitude of explosive options. Sadly, the home/road splits for Roethlisberger are more than just a narrative, and there’s always the possibility he misses a handful of games due to injury.

15. Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans

Last year was such a disappointment for the former Oregon quarterback. In fairness, he dealt with a hamstring injury that immobilized him for most of the season. Unfortunately, that did not mean he improved as a pocket passer. I’m willing to give Mariota the benefit of the doubt, given his injury and another year to develop chemistry with Corey Davis.

16. Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are committed to the development of Derek Carr. Jon Gruden’s offensive prowess should help this offense; however, his offenses had the quarterback under center for the majority of their snaps. Hopefully, he’ll adjust his scheme to fit Carr’s strengths, but forcing him to take more snaps under center could affect his timing with Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, and the newly acquired Martavis Bryant.

17. Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers is continually one of the most undervalued players in all of fantasy football. He’s a high volume passer with good weapons like Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, and Melvin Gordon. Rivers finished last season second in pass attempts with 575 and tied for fifth in touchdowns with 28. With the upgrades on the offensive line and a fierce pass rush on defense, Rivers and company are prime for a run at the division title and another productive fantasy season.

18. Jameis Winston – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like Mariota, Winston had a disappointing season due to injuries. Also, his team had to deal with the effects of hurricane Harvey to start the year, as well as the entire team being collectively ill against the Vikings. Not all hope is lost though. Upon his return, Winston was one of the better quarterbacks in December and appeared to have put the injury behind him. Hopefully, Winston can rebound in 2018 and reestablish himself as a viable fantasy player.

19. Eli Manning – New York Giants

The ranking of Eli Manning this high is the result of his supporting cast. Nate Solder and Will Hernandez provide some much needed help on the offensive line. Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram round out a dynamic receiving core. And, the addition of Saquon Barkley elevates this entire offense’s production. Except for one other player, Manning’s supporting cast is superior to every quarterback the rest of the way.

20. Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott will be better this year than he was in 2017. Ezekiel Elliott is slated to start for all 16 games, but, this offense will be without its two most targeted pass catchers, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Prescott’s legs provide him with a solid floor, but his perimeter talent will severely limit his upside.

Quarterback Rankings: 21-30

21. Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton could rise through the quarterback rankings as we get closer to week one. He has an elite player in AJ Green, another year with Joe Mixon, and an upgraded offensive line. Dalton is always a reliable streaming option but could become a starter if his offensive line and running game improve.

22. Case Keenum – Denver Broncos

Case Keenum’s arrival to Denver has more impact on his supporting cast than his production. He’s going to take a step back regarding production, but he is undoubtedly an upgrade over Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler. Keenum should not be drafted as a starter in one quarterback leagues.

23. Alex Smith – Washington Redskins

Just like how Cam Newton’s MVP season was an outlier, so was Alex Smith’s production last year. For the first time in his career, he threw the ball down the field. It’s possible that mindset will transfer to Washington; however, he’s playing with a significantly worse group of skill players. It’s likely that this is Smith’s last stint as an NFL starter.

24. Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles, despite his sporadic moments of offensive production, is in a run-first system. The only way Bortles can become a back-end starting fantasy quarterback is if Jacksonville allows him to run the ball like he did during the playoffs. Even then, there may be better streaming options available.

25. Tyrod Taylor – Cleveland Browns

Like I said with Deshaun Watson, if I knew Tyrod Taylor was going to start the whole season, I’d have him much higher on the list. His rushing ability gives him a high floor and could have some high scoring games should he be able to connect with Josh Gordon deep.

26. Patrick Mahomes – Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes is super talented and is in a quarterback-friendly system. He’s surrounded by great players like Kareem Hunt, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. However, I’m taking the wait and see approach with Mahomes.

27. Mitchell Trubisky – Chicago Bears

While he wasn’t a failure in Chicago, there isn’t enough offensive talent to warrant drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Maybe that’s different in 2019, but until then, he’s nothing more than a backup for fantasy purposes.

28. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco is coming off one of the worst seasons in NFL history in terms of yards per attempt for a starting quarterback. It will be interesting to see how the Ravens handle him and Lamar Jackson but don’t expect Flacco to return to this Superbowl form.

29. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill should start week one after recovering from a season-ending injury last preseason. Tannehill wasn’t great to begin with, and Miami has shipped out almost all of its talent to rebuild team culture. The Dolphins could very well be one of the worst teams in the NFL.

30. AJ McCarron – Buffalo Bills

And finally, AJ McCarron will get his opportunity. Whether or not he keeps the starting job, the whole season is up for debate. But one thing we can all agree on is that you are in trouble if you are turning to McCarron as your starter.

 

Photo Courtesy of SI.com

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2018 fantasy football QB rankings

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. Here are Joe’s qb rankings:

Quarterback rankings: 1-10

1. Aaron Rodgers- Green Bay Packers

Rodgers was on pace for another great season last year before breaking his collarbone. He was able to come back for a good showing against Carolina, but was then shut down for the season with the Packers not being a contender. Jordy Nelson is now a Raider, but Jimmy Graham is now the tight end. He isn’t the same player that he was in New Orleans and Rodgers will have to use him more than he has past tight ends. Rodgers and his weapons make it easy to make him the first quarterback to go in most drafts.

2018 fantasy football qb rankings

Russell Wilson (Photo by forbes.com)

2. Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks did fail to get the necessary offensive line help for Wilson, but he was the number one fantasy quarterback last season by a wide margin. He lost Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson this offseason and will need to adjust a little bit, but he still has old reliable in Doug Baldwin. Wilson now has Rashaad Penny at running back, who should help catch passes out of the backfield. He also adds the running ability to a stat sheet and had 586 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground last season.

3. Cam Newton- Carolina Panthers

While his play hasn’t always been the best from a pure football standpoint, Newton finished second among quarterbacks last season. Newton now has more weapons in the past with Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Torrey Smith and Christian McCaffrey. He too uses his legs well, rushing for 756 yards and six touchdowns last season. He did suffer a knee injury that leaves to question whether he will be ready for the start of the season.

4. Tom Brady- New England Patriots

Brady’s play may decline some day, but there aren’t a lot of tangible signs it is happening yet. It appears that Rob Gronkowski will be back, although the Patriots are without Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks. Jordan Matthews and Sony Michel add to Julian Edelman and Kevin Hogan. The good news for Brady fans is that it has always been more about Brady and less about the weapons around him.

5. Carson Wentz- Philadelphia Eagles

This ranking is assuming Wentz can come back healthy. If he can’t he will be dropped in the rankings. He finished fifth in fantasy scoring among quarterbacks last season, even though he missed the last three games of the season. Wentz will have Dallas Goedert and Mike Wallace to replace the production of Torrey Smith and Brent Celek, meaning he could even do better this season.

6. Deshaun Watson- Houston Texans

There are a lot of currently injured players on this list and Watson fits that bill. The hope is that he can be ready for week one, but nothing is definite. He lit up the NFL last year as a rookie and only played in seven games. An offseason to study the playbook will help, but there are some risks in taking Watson. Can he cut down the number of interceptions? Will his play be hampered due to his injury? Will teams figure him out in year two? Watson is a good quarterback to have, but if his injury is still a question mark, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get another quarterback on your roster.

7. Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts

Another risky pick could be Andrew Luck. He sat out all of last season with an arm injury and will have his fair share of rust to shake off. If he plays at his best he can be atop this list, but he could also have more complications with the injury. The offensive line is better than the last time he took the field, but his weapons are likely worse. He’ll have to rely on T.Y. Hilton to be the player he was two seasons ago.

8. Matthew Stafford- Detroit Lions

Stafford ranked seventh in fantasy points for quarterbacks last season and should have a better offensive line and a running game to support him for the 2018 season. Neither Golden Tate nor Marvin Jones Jr. are number one targets, but they, along with Kenny Golladay, give Stafford a good group of receivers to throw to. Rookie Kerryon Johnson will help the run game and be another good running back to throw to.

9. Drew Brees- New Orleans Saints

While Brees was very efficient last year, he didn’t throw as many passes as he has in the past. The focus on the run game resulted in him finishing ninth among quarterbacks. The good news for people want to select Brees is that Michael Thomas is getting better every year and Cam Meredith was added. Alvin Kamara will continue to provide that good receiving back for Brees as well.

10. Phillip Rivers- Los Angeles Chargers

The eighth-ranked fantasy quarterback from last year, Rivers didn’t have as much help as he expected. Forrest Lamp and Mike Williams were limited in their rookie seasons due to injury. With these players healthy, Rivers might not have too much worse of a fantasy season than last year and could actually see improved stats.

Quarterback Rankings: 11-20

11. Ben Roethlisberger- Pittsburgh Steelers

Roethlisberger should be expected to miss a week or two, whether with injury or the Steelers already locking up a playoff spot. He has two of the most exciting receivers in the game in Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back Le’Veon Bell. It should be another good season for Roethlisberger and the Steelers with a dynamic offense.

2018 Fantasy football qb rankings

Matt Ryan (photo by myajc.com)

12. Matt Ryan- Atlanta Falcons

If Steve Sarkisian wasn’t the offensive coordinator, Ryan would be much higher on this list. He has the weapons in Julio Jones, Mohammed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper. Last year, with all of those players listed except Ridley, he finished as the 15th quarterback. His season included duds against Buffalo and Minnesota, where he scored less than ten points.

13. Kirk Cousins- Minnesota Vikings

Cousins is the boom-or-bust play at quarterback. He had six games of under 12 points and six games of over 20 points last season. He will have better receivers to work with, but the Vikings got a great season out of Case Keenum last year and he was only able to finish in the middle of the pack in fantasy. Cousins also preferred dump off passes to running backs and may not use the wide receivers as much. Luckily though, Dalvin Cook is back from injury and should be able to help out big time out of the backfield.

14. Derek Carr- Oakland Raiders

The Raiders now have Jon Gruden at the helm and Carr should feel good about that. Carr will also have Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant joining the team to help fill the void left by Michael Crabtree. If Carr stays healthy and Amari Cooper can keep his hands on the ball, he should have a solid season.

15. Jared Goff- Los Angeles Rams

Goff had a great season last year and now gets a more productive receiver in Brandin Cooks to replace Sammy Watkins. He finished 12th in the league last year. This season the Rams will still have a good running game and a good defense, so Goff likely won’t get the volume of some of the other quarterbacks on this list.

16. Jameis Winston- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

He finished 22nd among quarterbacks last season, but had he stayed healthy and not missed three games, he likely would’ve finished around this range. He still has Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, but now also has Ronald Jones out of the backfield to throw to.

17. Jimmy Garoppolo- San Francisco 49ers

Garoppolo is still undefeated as a starter and will now be the full-time guy in San Francisco. He doesn’t have the best receivers to throw to but does have Jerick McKinnon who will help him out from the running back position.

18. Marcus Mariota- Tennessee Titans

It’s odd for a starter of Mariota’s caliber to not have a game over 20 points, but he didn’t last season. He also had a few really bad games, which likely leaves him as a QB2.

2018 Fantasy football qb rankings

Dak Prescott (photo by upi.com)

19. Dak Prescott- Dallas Cowboys

Prescott will be without Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, but Witten is the greater loss, as Prescott capitalizes on short, safe throws. He will still get a lot of points throwing to Cole Beasley and running in touchdowns.

20. Case Keenum- Denver Broncos

Last year Keenum had a career year and it still was only good enough to rank 14th. Denver has great receivers, but he may not be able to replicate last year’s success.

Quarterback rankings: 21-30

21. Alex Smith- Washington Redskins

Another veteran who had a career year last season, Smith is now with the Redskins. He won’t have the resources he had last year in Kansas City and will regress as a result.

22. Andy Dalton- Cincinnati Bengals

The offensive line for the Bengals will be vastly improved, which in turn should help Dalton, but there are other issues that could make it tough on Dalton. The first question that comes to mind is: Are they going to let their young receivers play? Both Tyler Boyd and John Ross saw limited action last season. If they play more, Dalton could shoot up a few spots on the list.

23. Blake Bortles- Jacksonville Jaguars

Gone are Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. The Jags still have other solid receivers, but the team’s main focus will be on the run game.

24. Eli Manning- New York Giants

OBJ coming back helps, but it is still really hard to trust Eli Manning as a viable fantasy quarterback. Barkley helps out and we’ll have to see how Manning looks under new head coach Pat Shurmur.

2018 fantasy football qb rankings

Joe Flacco (Photo by baltimoreravens.com)

25. Joe Flacco- Baltimore Ravens

Flacco isn’t a very good quarterback anymore and also doesn’t have the talent around him to start week in and week out in fantasy.

26. Tyrod Taylor- Cleveland Browns

This ranking is very much dependent on how the Browns plan to use Baker Mayfield. If Taylor gets to start, he should do a viable job, as the Bills traded away almost all of their good players and he still led them to the playoffs. With some good skill position players around him, Taylor could be a spot starter in fantasy.

27. Ryan Tannehill- Miami Dolphins

Tannehill will have a lot less to work with now that Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi are gone. If the Dolphins don’t win this season, he will not stat next season.

28. Mitchell Trubisky- Chicago Bears

Trubisky had a decent rookie season and now has Allen Robinson to throw to.

29. Patrick Mahomes- Kansas City Chiefs

The new starter in Kansas City is a gun-slinger. He has great weapons to use, but will also turn the ball over a lot.

30. A.J. McCarron- Buffalo Bills

The Bills should start McCarron day one. They don’t have great receivers or an offensive line and wouldn’t want to throw Josh Allen into that fire.

 

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New Orleans Saints 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the 2018 New Orleans Saints NFL Draft profile.

Summary

The New Orleans Saints rebounded in a big way in 2017. After finishing 7-9 the year before, the Saints were one miracle play away from the NFC Championship game. What made this year’s Saints particularly exciting was the way their offense evolved from the traditional Sean Payton approach.

New Orleans Saints 2018 NFL Draft profile

(Photo from defpen.com)

Payton is known for his incredible creativity and willingness to throw in any situation. However, that changed in 2017. The Saints recalibrated their offense to, literally, run through Mark Ingram and rookie standout, Alvin Kamara. The Saints finished 13th in rushing attempts and fifth in rushing yards. These were their highest rushing rankings since they won the Super Bowl in 2009.

Conversely, Drew Brees and company were equally productive and efficient. This offense was 19th in pass attempts, but fifth in yards. Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr. and Kamara were incredibly explosive and consistent for the offense.

The offense was not the only unit to evolve and improve in 2017. The Saints’ defense finished 10th in points allowed and 17th in yards allowed. Finally, Brees and the offense were supported by an above average defense. Standouts among this unit were defensive end, Cameron Jordan, and rookie stars in the secondary, Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore.

Picks and Needs

The New Orleans Saints have eight picks in this year’s 2018 NFL draft. As a Super Bowl favorite, this draft will be about securing as much depth as possible.

First round (1): 27 

Second round (0):

Third round (1): 91

Fourth round (1): 127

Fifth round (2): 147, 164

Sixth round (2): 189, 201

Seventh round (1): 245

Offensive needs:

Offensive guard – Andrus Peat has been mediocre in his first three years and missed time due to injury in 2017. The Saints should try to upgrade or secure depth at this position so that one injury does not compromise their ability control the line of scrimmage.

Tight end – There is not a tight end on the roster who can threaten defenses vertically on a consistent basis. Ben Watson is a good fit because of his veteran experience, but lacks the explosiveness to be a true threat. If the Saints could find a young receiving tight end in this draft, it would add yet another dimension to the 2018 New Orleans Saints offense.

Defensive needs:

Linebacker – As the roster is currently constructed, A.J. Klein is slated to start at the Sam linebacker position. His play has fallen off a cliff since 2015 and is one of the few liabilities on this defense. Hopefully the Saints can find a replacement for Klein in the later rounds of the draft.

Strong safety: Kenny Vaccaro’s injury and sharp decline in 2017 is concerning. It is very possible he heals and bounces back in 2018. However, the Saints should try to add depth at this position given Vaccaro’s health.

Targets

These are some prospects that the 2018 New Orleans Saints can realistically target in the draft given their current draft position.

First round:

Pick No. 27: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

New Orleans Saints 2018 NFL Draft profile

(Photo from Big Blue View)

This pick does not address an immediate need. It would be great if the Saints could take Isaiah Wynn, the multi-positional lineman from Georgia, but it is unlikely he falls this far.

However, Miller would solidify some great depth at the tackle position. He is incredibly athletic and has experience playing both tackle positions in college.

Miller’s selection here is an insurance policy. The Saints absolutely have championship aspirations and would hate to have those hopes derailed by an injury to either tackle. As the Philadelphia Eagles showed, depth at key positions, like tackle, can keep playoff and championship hopes alive.

Third round:

Pick No. 91: Darius Leonard, OLB, South Carolina

Leonard has received rave reviews from NFL scouts. His tackling, coverage and block-shedding skills are impressive. The only thing holding Leonard back from a higher selection is his size and athletic ability. The Saints would add an impact player who would have a chance to start at the third linebacker position, and at worst, is a versatile contributor at multiple positions and special teams.

Conclusion

The 2018 New Orleans Saints are in a great position. However, they need to execute a strong draft in order to stay ahead of the pack in the incredibly competitive NFC South.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Pittsburgh Steelers 2018 NFL Draft profile.

 

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NFL draft

Four teams with aging star quarterbacks who should draft a rookie to develop

With the upcoming draft not too far away I am going to outline some teams that could surprise everyone and draft a quarterback early even though they already have a star in place.

Everyone knows that the quarterback is the centerpiece of the football team. Once you have a quarterback, you can begin to assemble your team and position them for a chance to win. Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams have shown that after drafting the right quarterback your team can become a contender almost immediately. Last season, the San Francisco 49ers were a glowing example of the difference between a team with a quarterback and a team without one. Before Jimmy Garoppolo began starting the 49ers were 1-10. Once Jimmy G came on, they convincingly won all five of their last games on the way to a 6-10 finish.

Clearly a quarterback is of utmost importance in this league, therefore, in a year where five quarterbacks may go in the first round of the draft, it seems like a great opportunity for a team that is used to winning with an aging star to be able to draft a guy that they can develop as a succession plan. Without further ado, let’s get on to the list!

What teams should draft a quarterback?

1. The New York Giants
draft

Baker Mayfield throwing at the combine. Photo by NY Post

Sure, this one seems obvious. An aged Eli Manning is coming off a rough season and the Giants are going into rebuild mode. This means they are in perfect position to draft the second-best quarterback in the draft, or, maybe the best with the browns track record of drafting QBs.

At 37, and with a weakening arm, Eli Manning is in the twilight of his career. Manning could have a couple starter quality years left, which means he would make a perfect mentor for a young quarterback like Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield. With the second pick in the draft the Giants can take their pick of the quarterbacks left, or if they feel they can still get their guy later in the draft, they could trade down, collect some draft picks, and still get a rookie to develop.

2. New England Patriots

The brilliance of Terrific Tom won’t last forever. He will be 41 when the season starts which is uncharted territory for starting quarterbacks in the NFL. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to draft a rookie to develop behind him, much like they did with Jimmy Garoppolo.

Since they were the Super Bowl losers, they don’t pick until late in the first, 31st Overall. However, the Patriots aquired the Saints first rounder at 23 as well, with two second round picks and their firsts at 23 and 31, the Patriots have the ammo to trade up and snag a guy they want if he falls into the teens. The Patriots are masters at game-planning and preparation so I could see them drafting someone like Lamar Jackson that they can eventually tailor their offense to after Tom Brady retires.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
draft

Lamar Jackson throws a pass. Photo by Melina Vastola of USA Today

Ben Roethlisberger has contemplated retirement each of the last two offseasons. How much longer until the Steelers are left exposed at the quarterback position?

The Steelers could take a guy like Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph to develop until Big Ben actually retires. Mason Rudolph seems particularly intriguing for the Steelers as a guy they could take outside the first round while still using their first-round pick to shape their team to win now.

4. New Orleans Saints

An aging 39-year-old star on a two-year deal, Drew Brees’ small stature could prevent him from playing too much longer in the NFL. The Saints are another team in position to draft a late first round guy, like again, Lamar Jackson, who would work wonders with Sean Payton. Jackson has the potential to be a Micheal Vick like talent with the right development and scheme.

What this really means?

All of these teams could draft a quarterback in this draft, but replacing a star is more than just drafting the right guy, it’s also about developing that guy into a viable starter. Historically not all of the quarterbacks projected to go in the first round will even be successful in the NFL. In the first round, excluding the first pick overall, which none of these teams have, the hit rate for quarterbacks is very low, less than a third. However, with proper development, coaching and a scheme that fits their strengths that number should be higher.

These teams, maybe excluding the Giants, seem to have the elements in place to transition from one quarterback to a new one with less of a rebuild than is usually required. They would be wise to take that opportunity while they still can.

 

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Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Detroit Lions: Quarterback preview 2018

The Detroit Lions quarterback position has largely been a position of disappointment. They have been trying to break the curse of Bobby Layne. When Bobby Layne was traded to Pittsburgh in 1958, he stated, “(Detroit) will not win for 50 years.”

It looks like they found their man, the man being Matthew Stafford. He has already cemented himself as the greatest quarterback in franchise history and the only thing left to do is bring the Lombardi trophy to Detroit.

Quarterbacks Coach

The Detroit Lions parted ways with Brian Callahan, who served as the quarterbacks coach for the past two seasons. During that span, Stafford amassed 8,773 yards and a 65.5 completion percentage. He also threw for 53 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Godsey during his time with Texans. (Photo by Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle)

The new man in charge of the quarterbacks’ room is George Godsey. In 2017, Godsey came over to Detroit from the Houston Texans where he spent three seasons, one as the quarterbacks coach followed by two seasons as the Texans’ offensive coordinator.

He was a defensive assistant for the Lions last season and has history with new Lions head coach Matt Patricia as they worked together in New England. Godsey served as an offensive assistant in 2011 for the Patriots before coaching the tight ends for two seasons.

For what it’s worth, Godsey was a four-year quarterback at Georgia Tech from 1998-2001. The familiarity with Patricia and his previous year of experience in the Motor City, combined with his potential as a young, enthusiastic coach brings a lot of energy and hope to the quarterback position.

Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford making adjustments on Sunday Night Football against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Rick Osentoski, Associated Press)

Matthew Stafford does not need much introduction to NFL fans, especially, Detroit Lions fans. He is the all-time leader in completions, yards, touchdowns and passer rating in Lions history. He has shown strength, durability and the blue-collar, hardworking attitude that perfectly symbolizes the culture of Detroit.

His hard-nosed grit only endears himself more to fans and his teammates. His ability to lead the team down the field for game-winning touchdowns or field goals brings a calming attitude and mentality to the team when they find themselves behind in the fourth quarter.

He finds himself in sixth place on the fourth quarter comebacks list with 26 behind Tom Brady (42), Ben Roethlisberger (32), Drew Brees (30), Eli Manning (30) and Matt Ryan (27). Stafford also has 32 game-winning drives in his career.

Jake Rudock

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

(Photo by Mike Mulholland, mlive.com)

Jake Rudock is unproven with a great deal of potential, as he has shown to have success in the month of August, although it was against preseason defenses. He only appeared in one regular season game in 2017 when Stafford injured his hand against Baltimore. Rudock only attempted five passes and completed three with one interception.

During the preseason, he did perform well in the so-called “dress rehearsal” third game of the preseason against New England where he went 10-for-13 for 113 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Coming out of Michigan, Rudock is a local fan favorite to some Wolverines fans, and may end up paying off in the future as an asset to acquire more draft picks.

Alek Torgersen

Detroit Lions quarterbacks

Alek Torgersen during his senior year at Penn – Photo credit: Zach Sheldon

Alek Torgersen comes out of his rookie season as a relative unknown. He played with the Atlanta Falcons during the preseason with little production (40 percent completions, no touchdowns and two interceptions).

The Atlanta Falcons waived Torgersen on Sept. 2. The Washington Redskins signed him a few days later and released him a month later.

Detroit signed him to the practice squad in December. The Lions then signed him to a reserve-future contract on Jan 1, 2018.

He played his college ball for the Pennsylvania Quakers. In his final two seasons at Penn, he threw for 4,227 yards, 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Future (Is Now)

With Stafford turning 30 on Feb. 7, the window for the Lions to win with him is closing. General manager Bob Quinn has stated the importance of drafting or signing a quarterback in every draft class. A sentiment brought over from New England (i.e. Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Mallett and Jacoby Brissett). Not only to plan for Stafford’s eventual departure, but also investments for future draft picks.

Quarterbacks that could be added to the roster in the draft or as undrafted free agents include Ryan Finley (NC State), Clayton Thorson (Northwestern), Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech), Riley Ferguson (Memphis) and Danny Etling (LSU).

Stafford appears to have at least another six or seven years of his prime left. Possibly a few more if he is able to maintain his body and the offensive line can limit the number of hits he takes. Detroit fans hope he can be the one to get them off the list of teams to never win a Super Bowl. They would probably even take a division title or two and a playoff win to start.

Click here for a preview of the Lions’ coaches.

 

Featured image by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

AJ McCarron

Teams should be very wary about AJ McCarron

Earlier this week, A.J. McCarron won his grievance case against the Bengals. The former Alabama standout is set to become an unrestricted free agent. The supply and demand for decent quarterback play in the NFL is as out of whack as it has ever been. Thus, McCarron and several other quarterbacks are about to be grossly overpaid by quarterback needy teams.

In today’s NFL, if you do not have a quarterback, you don’t have anything. So, teams must overpay at that position on occasion. However, here is why turning to McCarron in particular is going to be a grave mistake for some franchise.

He is even less of a proven commodity than other quarterbacks who may be on the move:

Drew Brees has given every indication that he will be back in New Orleans. Assuming that is the case, it would be a stretch to call any of the free agent quarterbacks elite. The same goes for trade candidates. Still, guys like Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles and Case Keenum have all had stretches where they looked like guys who could carry a franchise for a decade.

While any team should think twice about giving big money to a quarterback who has been pedestrian for his entire career and then suddenly catches lighting in a bottle, McCaron has never had a hot stretch like the three names in the last paragraph

The only season where he had relevant playing time was 2015. He played in 7 regular season games including three starts for an injured Dalton. He put up 854 yards, six touchdown passes and two interceptions. Those numbers are okay, but there certainly are not the kind you build your franchise around.

McCarron’s only playoff start was also unremarkable. He barely completed half of his throws while tallying just 212 yards, a touchdown pass and an interception. He did put his team in positon to win, but they didn’t. Now, some might argue that McCarron has not been given an opportunity to be “the guy” and that is why he has never been anything more than average. That fact is actually very telling as to why teams should avoid him like the plague.

McCarron never really pressured Dalton:

With a career passer rating in the 80s, a completion percentage in the low 60s, and a winless playoff record, Andy Dalton is the posterchild for average quarterbacks everywhere.

Andy Dalton

Photo: Getty Images

Yet, there was never a true quarterback controversy in Cincinnati. As a Cincinnati native, I can tell you that the only talk that ever really existed was in the fan base. Whatever a fan base talks about is pretty meaningless, as fun as it may be. Many fans in NFL cities want to change the quarterback and head coach after every loss. Thankfully, the league does not work that way.

The Bengals organization is far from being run well. However, the people who run any NFL franchise are smarter than the vast majority of fans. If that were not true, the fans would be running the team.

In the last two years, the Bengals have posted losing records. If McCarron was anything special, Cincinnati would have thrown him in there to try and turn the last two years around, but that never happened. If he cannot beat out Andy Dalton, the only place he can take a franchise as a starting quarterback is off a cliff.

McCarron has already had the best supporting cast he is going to get:

Scroll up and read McCarron’s numbers from 2015 again. That Bengals roster had seven pro bowlers on it. Those numbers are all McCarron could manage. Wherever he goes, he won’t be surrounded by seven pro bowlers. Instead, he will perhaps be asked to turn guys like the Jets receivers into pro bowlers. The numbers do not lie. He is not capable of that.

McCarron is about to make a whole lot of money for doing very little in the NFL. He is by no means the first nor will he be the last player this will happen for. Good for him. However excluding rookie deals, these situations rarely turn out well for the player or team involved. Brock Osweiler in Houston, Mike Glennon in Chicago, and the list goes on.  McCarron will no doubt continue that trend.

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A trail of tears from Cleveland

Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland natives tend to feel the cold fronts coming off of Lake Erie this time of year. Unfortunately, what seems of late, they can settle for the bitter cold feeling of their once beloved football team. For at least a half a century, the city has been on the wrong side of history. Fortunately, recent success has come from the anchors of The Land, the Indians and the Cavaliers.

For the Indians, who haven’t had scent of a world title since the Truman administration, the tide is turning for the Wahoos. The past seasons have been pretty fortuitous to say the least. Coming off of a 100-win season in 2017 and World Series appearance the year prior, the Indians’ future looks brighter than ever. This upcoming season, the Indians are predicted to compete for a title as a top baseball club.

The Cavaliers have been through their own personal battles but still hold their position as Cleveland’s best export. The return of LeBron James has been filled with fortune and serendipity. The Cavs Captured a title in 2016 and ended the championship the fifty-year drought for the city. As long as King James and the Cavaliers are one of the heavyweights in the NBA, they will forever be the epicenter of Cleveland sports.

However, the Browns are at an all time low. Coming off a 2016 season that only amounted to a single win, 2017 couldn’t be any better. In fact, it wasn’t. The worst team of the past became the worst team of the present. And at this rate, they look to be the worst of all time.

On January 7, 2018, along Alfred Lerner Way, Brown fans celebrated their “perfect” season. Instead of cheers, cries for help were heard adjacent of the FirstEnergy Stadium. A parade that mirrored a funeral buried the 2017 Browns along with the NFL’s list of deplorable winless teams. With a platform built by greats including Ozzie Newsome, Lou Groza and Jim Brown, Cleveland has yet to return to such heights.

Enveloped in the lingering scent of their 1964 championship, which unfortunately now has only seen by a handful. The majority of the fan base still cringe over the most gut wrenching moments as the world recognizes them as miracles. The Fumble, The Drive, The Move, all still remain in many fans’ hearts as the lowest points in the franchise. Since the golden ages of the 80’s, the Browns haven’t been able to capitalize in the turn of the century.

Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports

Without a playoff birth in almost two decades, fans questions have turned to prayers. With a lack of a notable franchise star, a questionable and ever-changing coaching staff and poor management, the future looks pretty dim as of right now. Even at the franchise’s lowest point, it seems that it is going to get worse as the years go by. Only thing that is safe to say, is that the Browns are here to stay. The efforts of Art Modell in moving the team to Baltimore in 1995 was disastrous. Other than setting precedent for franchise relocations and expansions of the future, for Cleveland, it was futile.

With that being said, Cleveland will have to bare what is to come. In doing so, the seasons of the future might mimic the franchise’s lack accomplishments like the display this past year. For Cleveland to turn things around, this particular off-season will prove to be detrimental for the squad.

 

A star…?

In the past, Cleveland has harbored quite a few franchise cornerstones. Some of who were regarded as not only arguably the best in their respective position like Ozzie Newsome, Bernie Kosar and Lou Groza but also the best player in the league. From 1957 to 1965, Jim Brown reigned as the best player in all of football. Bringing home a rookie of the year trophy, three NFL most valuable awards, and garnishing the franchise’s last championship in 1964.

At the height of his career, Brown retired from professional football in 1965, leaving the franchise in search for a new star. Spurts from Hall of Famers like Bobby Mitchell, Greg Pruitt and Leroy Kelly proved to be promising. Unfortunately, the void left by Brown became too hard to fill. That void still plagues the franchise fifty-years later.

An addition of a prominent all-pro player or an emergence of a young star may speak vibes for the team going forward. After an impressive season by the Buffalo Bills that ended in a playoff berth, the Browns now have the longest current playoff drought in the NFL. In other words, the way the organization is going, the Browns won’t be seen in the winter anytime soon. Great confidence, effort and camaraderie comes from leadership, something the Browns lack. A star could be the epitome of these components and their focus and pursuit in becoming a contender.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A bright spot in the tumultuous past has been the career of all-pro left tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas, who holds the NFL record for most consecutive snaps played, has proven to be remarkable with nine all-pro selections and ten Pro Bowl appearances. But questions mount as the organization looks to move on from arguably the best lineman in football. According to Cleveland.com, reports show that the 33 year old might consider retirement after a ten year career with the Browns. On a laundry list of problems, this holds as the highest priority for the franchise.

Let’s be honest, Cleveland isn’t the most attractive destination for a free agent or even a draft pick. It does not have the appeal of Los Angeles, Miami, New York or even Texas. The golden age of the city is long gone so a potential of a star wanting to play in Cleveland is slim.

When asked about Cleveland, New York Knicks center Joakim Noah said during an interview with TNT in 2009, “I don’t know about this place, man. I just stayed in my hotel room, man. Every time I look out my window, it’s pretty depressing out here, man.” He reiterated his position in a later press conference season after facing the Cavaliers. He was asked if he had regretted his comments, he replied, “Not at all. You like it? Do you think Cleveland’s cool? I mean, I’ve never heard anybody say ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ What’s so good about  Cleveland?” The franchise has to offer more than just Cleveland to reel in targets.

 

A move in Free Agency

The Browns’ organization has been in a rebuild mode since the beginning of their playoff drought. Though certain components of the franchise might seem unattractive, it can be a valuable home for player looking to revitalize their career. A quarterback is  probably the most inconsistent position for the franchise since the departure of Bernie Kosar… literally. Since Tim Couch, the last quarterback for the Browns to start an entire season in 2001, the Browns have started 25 different quarterbacks in 16 seasons, the league’s highest.

This one seems a bit far fetched, but any big name potential targets in this years free agency wouldn’t be any different.  Drew Brees, who has plagued the NFC South Division with four division titles and a Super Bowl in 2009 might look for a change in scenery. After an astounding season with 4,208 passing yards with 23 touchdowns on 73% completion, an NFL record, Brees looks better than ever. The only ones looking forward to Brees departure are the Buccaneers, the Panthers and the Falcons. More than likely, if Brees is to leave, he would want to play for a contender. As tough as the AFC North is, contending for a title isn’t in the team’s imminent future. Brees would be the best case scenario. His pedigree would add appeal for free agents to come to Cleveland.

Patrick Smith/Getty

Kirk Cousins at the moment, is having a difficult time with management of the Redskins. During an interview on the Pritchard and Cecil Hour Podcast, former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan told the tandem when questioned about Cousins, “He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special”. McCloughan was responsible for putting the two franchise tags on Cousins. For that, Cousins has something to prove, something he won’t get from a contender. Cousins has to prove he is a legitimate franchise player.

A career in Washington may not be the answer. With franchise tags it seems that Washington is not 100 percent sold on Cousins. NFL analysts expect the ‘Skins to take a quarterback in this upcoming draft. The only downfall is that Cousins has dealt with a shifting front office. His trust of Cleveland management might not be enough to sign and he’s not wrong for thinking so. To counter that, Cousins play has reflected the ‘Skins success. But it seems a contending team’s management may not think so. Cousins might have to settle with a rebuilding franchise.

Cleveland as a destination could be in consideration. Not only for the money, but a list of players who also have a chip on their shoulder. Browns receiver Josh Gordon is looking to prove the critics wrong and have his named edged in consideration as one of the league’s top wideouts. Also free agent pick ups like Marquise Lee or Terrelle Pryor could be a good addition to the core. Pryor/Lee and Gordon could be wonderful targets for Cousins or Brees or even a younger quarterback.

The Draft

Luckily for the Browns, bad seasons return great draft picks. The team gets an A+ for drafting Myles Garrett last year. After tallying seven sacks in only ten games, the rookie out of Texas A&M might break the chain of poor draft picks for the Browns. This year, they have a chance to do the same as they have the first and fourth pick (via Houston) of the first round in the draft.

Free agent targets like Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees might be out of reach for the Browns. Because so, the organization might have to settle for drafting a quarterback. Luckily, a whole slate of quarterbacks can fit the bill. Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Heisman trophy winners, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson all look promising for any team. The only problem is the fourth pick, which is a good problem to have. A perfect execution can be the foundation for the future and help pull the Browns out of this hole.

As a prediction, in the first round, the Browns are getting a quarterback and a running back. If the Browns are sold and solely want a particular quarterback, they should pick him first.

Jeff Roberson/AP

As the mock boards have it, the Giants have their eyes on Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. If the Browns want Josh Rosen, they should draft him. However, that leaves a home run hitter like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley on the board. If Josh Rosen is taken first by the Browns, the Giants or the Colts could take Barkley for the second and third picks respectively. If that’s the case, the Browns should draft Barkley first. The Giants will probably take Rosen, but the Colts won’t draft a quarterback. This leaves Darnold, Mayfield and others on the board for the fourth pick which should be suitable.

Injuries make most players question their futures but ultimately the doubt will fade. More than likely, Joe Thomas will stay with the Browns. He has a lot more football to play and like the Browns, he has something to prove. With that being said, the Browns should look to fortify their defensive line or secondary instead. Best bet is defensive tackle, Trenton Thompson from Georgia at the 33rd pick and Mike Hughes, defensive back from UCF with the 35th pick to replace the released Joe Haden. If the future of Joe Thomas fears the organization, Offensive tackle Connor Williams from Texas looks valuable at the 63rd pick. In the end, Spencer Drango looks promising after filling in for the injured Thomas this year if Thomas decides to hang it up.

 

The fan base

As the transportation hub of the Great Lakes, Cleveland rose to prominence in the mid nineteenth century. By the 1920’s, it became the nation’s fifth largest city. The progressive era brought on businesses and businesses brought a booming economy that welcomed an influx of people. This economy aided the birth of sports as Cleveland was dubbed, City of Champions.

Matthew Emmons- US Presswire

Because of these roots, the love for sports have seeped into the culture. There is no discussion, no fan base is more loyal than Cleveland fans. When most of our country’s industries of energy, automobile manufacturing, and agriculture slowly left the region, the residents of the 216 embraced sports. As the surrounding area seemed to deteriorate, Baseball, Football, Basketball, were seen as beacons of hope for natives of northeast Ohio. Camaraderie means everything to a team. A mystery lies whether if there is enough among the players. However, the fans show to not disappoint.

Over the last seven seasons from the ball club, the team’s record has only amounted to an abysmal 89 loses and 23 wins. However, the Browns fans have been able to keep up almost a full attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium over those years. That can be music to a free agent’s ears. There is nothing like home, but a place where you are wanted can move mountains. A free agent like Kirk Cousins, who has been doubted by  his own ball club’s fan base would instantly be accepted among the dawg pound.

Cleveland’s downfall has come by its own merit. Poor management, lack of a stable roster, and a questionable coaching staff have prevented the franchise from reliving those glory days of the past and give what their respected fan base deserves. To no surprise, the Cleveland Browns’ organization is moving toward being the worst franchise, not only in the NFL but in professional sports. Not only because of its dysfunctional team’s performance, but the potential the team should have based upon the foundation it lays upon.

Despite all of this and what their record was this past season, there should optimism in Cleveland. It literally cannot get any worse than this. Anything is better than current situation of the franchise. And there’s hope. The region was built on determination and grit. The energy and commitment of the fans exhibit those roots. As grim as it may seem, light is always at the end of tunnel. But there aren’t any miracles in northeast Ohio, at least not in favor of Browns. No magical superstar is going to fall out of the sky and it’s unlikely LeBron James will take his talents to the Cleveland backfield.

With that being said the Browns are all they got. There are going to be desperate changes. Maybe a couple drifter-like free agents ever now and then, a couple of hiring and firing of coaches and questions of leadership will still linger. But maybe some advice from it’s parallel sport franchises in the Indians and Cavaliers might be of some help. As they’ve been able to pluck themselves out of their downfalls. It is well known the teams are built around stakeholders and the community. If any motivation the Browns are going to get, it lies within the roots of the fight that the city of Cleveland is willing to put up.

 

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NFL divisional playoffs picks

NFL divisional playoffs preview and picks

We were fortunate enough to get four reasonably competitive games to kick off the NFL playoffs last week. You can check out last week’s picks here.

For this week’s divisional playoffs, games will be picked both straight up and against the spread. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Postseason record- 3-1

Postseason record against the spread- 2-2

Saturday

Falcons at Eagles – For the first time since the NFL adopted its current playoff format, a sixth seed is favorite over a home standing top seed. This is not without merit though. Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles are just another average to below-average football team. In the final two games of the regular season, Philadelphia’s offense accounted for a grand total of 13 points, and the team as a whole was pushed around for long stretches by the non-playoff bound Cowboys and Raiders.

The above paragraph is not a good recipe for taking on the Falcons at the moment. Atlanta needed to win as much as humanly possible late in the regular season to keep its playoff hopes alive. The sudden death nature of the NFL playoffs changed nothing for them last week. They have been in that situation for almost 2 months.

Reigning MVP Matt Ryan and the offense are not quite the juggernaut they were last year, but they are still very good. What has sparked Atlanta’s late-season run as much as anything is defense. The Falcons have not surrendered more than 24 points in a game since Week 11. This includes holding the top-ranked scoring offense to just 13 points last week. If all the offense has to do is score in the high 20s, this team is tough to beat.

Apart from winning a shootout with the lowly Giants, the Eagles offense has not gotten anywhere close to the high 20s with backup quarterbacks since the injury to Wentz. Philadelphia’s defense is pretty good and has stood on its head in recent weeks to keep the Eagles in games. Thus, this will not be a blowout.

However, one of these teams is quarterbacked by Matt Ryan and the other by Nick Foles. Sometimes, it is just that simple.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: Falcons (-3) Atl 21 Phi 13

Titans at Patriots – Tennessee did a great job of making a few plays to pull off the big upset in Kansas City last week. However, that result had more to do with Kansas City’s collapse. If New England has a double-digit lead, whoever is playing running back will get the ball a lot more than 11 or 12 times.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from USA Today

You can’t help but be impressed with the resilience and toughness of Tennessee. That roster is not good enough to get to this point on talent alone. Different guys have stepped up for them all year long. Last week, it was Marcus Mariota playing with his head on a swivel to complete a touchdown pass to himself and Derrick Henry rushing for 156 yards in the absence of backfield mate DeMarco Murray that made the difference.

However, the Titans lack the firepower to really make the Patriots nervous in a playoff game. At this point, nothing more can be said about the greatness of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They are 25-9 in playoff games. Moreover, only three of those nine losses have been at home. Tennessee will keep this close for a while with solid fundamental football, but New England will pull away late.

Winner: New England

Good bet: Patriots (-13) NE 34 Ten 20

Sunday

Jaguars at Steelers – Vegas is showing great restraint by making the Steelers only a seven-point favorite here. With the way the Jacksonville passing offense has looked for the last month, a double-digit spread would have been perfectly reasonable.

However, the Jacksonville defense has shut down some very good offenses this year. The Jaguars went in to Pittsburgh early in the year and intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times in a route.

Also, there is more than one way to look at the performance of Blake Bortles last week. It is easy to say he threw for just 87 yards and therefore was completely awful, or you can commend him for his 88 rushing yards and ability to make enough plays for his team to win, even though he did not play very well.

Not very many people have subscribed to the second school of thought leading up to this game, but I am one of them. With a great supporting cast around him, Bortles is fine. Other than one or two games, Jacksonville has had no problem scoring points this year. Almost every offense is going to get shut down at least once or twice a year, no matter who the quarterback is.

Jacksonville is too good to get blown out. Any team that leads the league in rushing offense, as well as several defensive categories, is capable of going anywhere and beating anyone. However, Roethlisberger getting Antonio Brown back will be the difference in this one. Even if Brown is not fully healthy, his presence alone gives the vaunted Jacksonville defense another thing to worry about on a loaded Steelers offense.

Winner: Pittsburgh

Good Bet: Jaguars (+7) Pit 27 Jac 24

Saints at Vikings – No team was more impressive than New Orleans last week. All year, the Saints had done most of their damage by running the ball with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Carolina held that duo to under 50 combined rushing yards. The Saints still managed to win. Drew Brees showed us all why he is going to the Hall of Fame someday.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from si.com

Unless there is a truly dominant team, whoever wins the Super Bowl has to find a way to win a game or two where its best stuff is not working. There is no dominant NFL team this year, and that is exactly what the Saints did last week.

This week, the task is a little bit tougher as New Orleans goes on the road to face another very stout defensive unit in Minnesota. The vast majority of Minnesota’s success this year has come from backups, castoffs and other spare parts. Mike Zimmer and his staff have done an incredible job of getting the most out of Case Keenum. Keenum has nearly doubled his career touchdown passes this season. However, much like the other NFC matchup this weekend, it is foolish not to take the established star quarterback over the journeyman in playoff football.

Winner: New Orleans

Good Bet: *Saints (+ 5.5) NO 27 Min 20

 

Featured image from chiefs.com

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NFL Wild Card Weekend

NFL Wild Card weekend preview and picks

The NFL playoffs are here, and the road to Super Bowl LII kicks into overdrive this weekend. For the 12 teams who still have championship dreams, the slate is wiped clean and everyone is 0-0 again. The same goes for people like me who picked games throughout the regular season.

Throughout the playoffs, games will be picked against the spread as well as straight up. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Saturday

Titans at Chiefs – Even though these are both playoff teams, they are trending in opposite directions. After a bizarre midseason slump, Kansas City finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak to claim their second straight division title. Andy Reid’s team put up at least 26 points in all of those games.

The Chiefs finished the regular season looking like the team that dominated the league in the first month of the season. Alex Smith may have limitations as a quarterback, but this is an offense that has done a great job taking care the football all year long and knows that getting the ball to playmakers like rushing champion Kareem Hunt is the winning formula.

NFL Wild Card Weekend

(Photo from faketeams.com)

The Titans did just enough to squeak into the playoffs despite losing three of their last four games with the offense accounting for 15 points or less in two of those games. Defense does tend to win football games this time of year, and Tennessee has a good one.

But the offense has to be at least average. The Titans offense hasn’t been anywhere near average since November. For that reason, there are reports that head coach Mike Mularkey may still be on the hot seat despite the playoff berth.

Arrowhead Stadium is a very tough place to play. However, Kansas City’s home playoff track record is worrisome. They have not won a home playoff game since the early 90s. In order to continue that trend, the Titans defense will have to play a nearly perfect game. Given the quality of opponent, that is a tall order.

Winner: Kansas City

Good bet: Chiefs (-8.5) KC 28 Ten 17

Falcons at Rams – The scene of a late afternoon/early evening playoff game in Los Angeles will be a beautiful backdrop as two high-powered offenses battle it out. The Rams have been the more consistent team all year long, but this is uncharted territory for this mostly young football team, including coaching sensation Sean McVay.

This team has been in such a good rhythm all year long. Thus, the decision to rest most starters last week is a risky one. A rusty first half this week likely means the end of a magical season for Los Angeles.

Additionally, the kicking unit has struggled a bit since the injury to kicker Greg Zuerlein. Things like that often have a way of rearing their head when it really matters.

Atlanta is one of few teams that can keep up with the Rams top ranked scoring offense. Additionally, the Falcons have been in must win situations for weeks. So, playoff pressure should not change much for them. Most of the Falcons’ main pieces were a part of last year’s playoff run, which was very good, other than the ending. The playoffs are a different animal and experience is invaluable.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: *Falcons (+6.5) Atl 34 LAR 31

Sunday

Bills at Jaguars – It has not always been pretty for these two teams, but they both deserve a ton of credit for getting here and breaking long playoff droughts. This is the simplest game of the week to size up.

As much heat as Blake Bortles gets, the Jacksonville offense ranks fifth in scoring. The scoreboard is all that matters. That is one of few offensive stats worth paying attention to. Make no mistake, Jacksonville’s identity is running the ball with Leonard Fournette and playing defense, but the quarterback is not a major liability.

As for Buffalo, they needed a huge assist from the lowly Bengals to reach the playoffs. Their best offensive weapon is running back LeSean McCoy. Even if the six-time Pro Bowler can somehow go from being carted off to playing in a playoff game in the span of a week, it is impossible for him to be 100 percent.

The Buffalo offense ranks 22nd in scoring with a healthy McCoy. How in the world can this team go on the road and compete against a defense that has been the best in football in several categories all year long? The short answer is that they probably can’t.

NFL Wild Card Weekend

(Photo from zambio.com)

Winner: Jacksonville

Good Bet: Jaguars (-8.5) Jac 24 Buf 10

Panthers at Saints – On a rare occasion, division rivals meet for the third time in one season in the playoffs. It is tough to predict a winner. These teams know each other so well, and there is nothing one team can do to surprise the other.

If quarterback play is as important as it is often made out to be, the Saints will reach the Super Bowl. Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFC playoffs by far. Brees is the future Hall of Famer. The fact that New Orleans found a legal two-headed monster at running back and a solid defense to pair up with him this year is almost unfair.

Carolina is similar to New Orleans. Cam Newton has been nowhere near his MVP form of two years ago, but he has played good complementary football to go with a versatile group of running backs and a good defense all year long.

It is very hard to beat the same NFL team three times in the same season. The opportunity does not present itself all that often. New Orleans has won both matchups with Carolina this year fairly convincingly. Even so, Carolina is here for a reason and this meeting will be much closer.

There is not much that separates these two teams. The defenses are both easily in the top half of the league in most categories. Also, although they accomplish it differently, both teams rely heavily on the ground game. The one thing that jumps out is that Brees has half the number of interceptions Newton does. Turnovers decide the vast majority of football games from preseason to the playoffs. Moreover, New Orleans has the most basic advantage of all, which is playing at home.

Winner: New Orleans

Good bet: Panthers (+6.5) NO 27 Car 24

 

Featured image from nflodysseyonline.com

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