Dark horse candidates for the 2018 Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy is awarded to the best player in college football but that doesn’t always mean they were the favorite to in the award heading into the season. Whether it is Jameis Winston or Johnny Manziel winning it as freshmen or RGIII winning at Baylor, the unknown names sometimes come out on top. Here are some of the players that can win the award with odds of 25/1 or worse:

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

Jarrett Stidham Auburn

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by al.com)

Current odds: 25/1

Stidham was actually on this same list last year but qualifies again because of the odds. In his first year at Auburn, after playing at Baylor and junior college, Stidham threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns. With him at quarterback, the Tigers were able to finish with a 10-4 record and made an appearance in the Peach Bowl.

Auburn has a typically tough schedule with Washington, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama on the docket. All these games will help him get the eyes of Heisman voters. He can start off the season as a frontrunner with solid games against Washington and LSU within the first three weeks of the season.

The schedule is tough, but if they can win eight games in the regular season, Stidham could be in contention for the award. If the defense can keep up with the offense, Stidham should be able to win enough games to help him get some consideration for postseason awards.

Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

Current Odds: 25/1

While Baker Mayfield got all the headlines last year, Anderson had a solid season as the starting running back for the Sooners. Anderson finished with 1,161 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 6.2 yards per carry. His running abilities helped Oklahoma get to the College Football Playoff and this year he will be the focal point of the offense.

The Big 12 may be down with Oklahoma State losing key players and TCU needing to take a step forward. They won’t have a lot of great games for Anderson to show off his skills, but they do play UCLA and Florida Atlantic along with their Big 12 schedule.

With the Big 12 not being the most competitive and their non-conference schedule, which features two decent, but not great, teams, Oklahoma could get through the season unscathed if they play at their best. They will need new starting quarterback Kyler Murray to really step up and produce, as well as their defense to play at an average level too.

A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College

Current Odds: 25/1

Dillon made headlines on National Signing Day when he flipped his commitment from Michigan to sign with Boston College. In his freshman season he rushed for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Eagles went 7-6 last season with Dillon and are hoping he can lead them to new heights this season.

The non-conference schedule features Notre Dame, which would be a good game to show out in. There is a stretch of games that could get Dillon a lot of attention featuring games against N.C. State, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson and then Florida State.

While that is ample opportunity to make an impression, the downside is that Boston College may not have the talent to beat those teams. An unwritten rule of the Heisman Trophy is that the player winning the award has to play on a winning team and the Eagles will be lucky to get to 6-6.

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Current Odds: 33/1

Oregon went 7-6 last year, but Herbert was only able to play eight games for the second consecutive season. When he stays healthy he has the ability to play well and be a star. He threw for 1,983 yards and 15 touchdowns, while only throwing five interceptions last season.

The Ducks’ schedule is pretty light so Herbert will have to make the most of the few big games he will play in. Games against Washington and Stanford will help decide the Pac-12 North. Games against Stanford and Arizona will pit Herbert against other Heisman contenders in Bryce Love and Khalil Tate respectively.

With the easier schedule, the Ducks should be able to win enough games to get Herbert the Heisman, if he puts up the stats. A key thing to note is that Herbert will have to deal with his third different coach in three years after Mark Helfrich was fired and Willie Taggart left for Florida State within the last two years.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Current Odds: 33/1

D'Andre Swift Georgia

D’Andre Swift (Photo by zimbio.com)

Swift worked his way into getting carries as a freshman in a backfield that included Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. With limited touches, he was able to rush for 618 yards and three touchdowns on 7.8 yards per carry. He helped Georgia get to the National Championship as a freshman and now will see most of the workload at running back.

South Carolina, LSU, Florida and Auburn are all on the schedule this season enabling Swift to have some time on national television. They are also the frontrunners to win the SEC East, giving him another game to pad his stats and be in the spotlight.

Georgia lost a lot from their team last season but should be able to recover for another solid season. Their recruiting has been great and there aren’t many threats to their SEC East title. Ultimately, Georgia’s record shouldn’t hold Swift back from winning the Heisman.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State

Current Odds: 33/1

Florida State’s season went south as soon as Francois was lost for the season in the opener against Alabama. In 2018 Francois was able to throw for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns, while only throwing seven interceptions. This is especially impressive given that his offensive line was not good at all. During that season the Seminoles went 10-3 with a win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl.

Playing Notre Dame and Florida is as good as it gets for the nonconference schedule while playing Virginia Tech, Louisville, Miami and Clemson in conference should give him a chance to showcase his skills. The first game of the season against Virginia Tech can get him going on the right path for the Heisman, as they are a solid team, even though they lost a lot from their defense last season.

With a new coach in Taggart, Florida State will have to make adjustments for this season. They can win a lot of games but if they don’t fit into Taggart’s new system, they could lose as many as five or six games. Francois will need to help transition to the new coaching staff and lead the team to better results than last season to win the Heisman.

 

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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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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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Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents that could make the final roster

Last week, we looked at an early prediction of the Vikings’ depth chart heading into 2018. These offseason guesses are fine reads, but often neglect to represent a team’s undrafted free agent (UDFA) class.

Every year, dozens of talented players slip through the cracks to sign as UDFAs. Although many will fail to stick around in September, some may become valuable starters. Here are the five undrafted free agents most likely to make the Vikings’ roster in 2018.

Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Former South Dakota State wide receiver Jake Wieneke (No. 19) makes an acrobatic touchdown grab against Cal Poly. (Photo by Dave Eggen/Inertia)

Wieneke is your prototypical red zone threat. His size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds) gives him an immediate advantage near the goal line. Combine this with his insane high-pointing ability and physicality and Wieneke is a clear threat inside the 20-yard line. He is an impressive route runneri as well.

Wieneke put up insane numbers in college, with over 5,000 career receiving yards and 59 touchdowns. The main knock on the former Jackrabbit is his speed. He does not have great straight-line speed, which could be a major handicap heading into the NFL. Faster cornerbacks will not allow him to gain any separation, no matter how crisp his route running is.

Despite this, he will likely compete with Laquon Treadwell for the team’s fourth receiver spot.

Roc Thomas, RB, Jacksonville State

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Running back Roc Thomas at the NFL combine. (Photo from AL.com)

As a running back, Thomas is relatively small in stature, standing at only 5-foot-10. This brought down his draft stock, causing him to go undrafted. But what he lacks in height he makes up for in work ethic and quickness. Thomas is a very elusive back that can dominate defenders at the next level.

His jump cuts are second to none, but he does need to improve his vision to complete his game. He was impatient at times, jumping to the outside instead of waiting for running lanes to develop. If this can be corrected, Thomas can be a special talent. He has the potential to be a great change-of-pace back and could be the Vikings’ third running back this fall.

Holton Hill, CB, Texas

Holton Hill could have (and should have) been drafted, but his maturity issues forced many teams to push him away. He is long, fast and physical, fitting the mold of coach Mike Zimmer’s ideal cornerback. He also excels in coverage, minus the ball skills that first-round pick Mike Hughes has.

Despite playing cornerback, Hill is not afraid to commit to the run and is an excellent tackler. Based purely on talent, Hill could have been drafted as high as the third round. But after being suspended from Texas for violating team rules, his character came into question.

His perceived immaturity is a major red flag and will dictate whether he stays in the NFL. If Zimmer can set him straight, the Vikings may have found a diamond in the rough.

Hercules Mata’afa, LB, Washington State

Minnesota Vikings undrafted free agents

Hercules Mata’afa (No. 50) hits pressured Cal quarterback Austin Hinder. (Photo by James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

Like many undrafted free agents, Mata’afa is a high-production player that may struggle to find a position in the NFL. At Washington State, he was a disruptive force as an interior defensive lineman. His quickness and toughness helped him earn an All-American and All-Pac-12 selection in 2017.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to see Mata’afa play on the defensive line at the professional level. He is far too small (6-foot-2, 254 pounds) to play as a defensive tackle, and does not have the burst needed to play as a 4-3 defensive end. He is currently listed as a linebacker, providing a steep learning curve for the native Hawaiian.

Mata’afa may need another year to develop, but his tenacity will help him compete for a job during training camp.

Garret Dooley, LB, Wisconsin

Like many Wisconsin defenders, Garret Dooley is very technically sound. He displays good hand use and is a solid tackler. Dooley is also a strong competitor who has been raved about by his coaches at Wisconsin.

He fits the mold of a traditional 4-3 middle linebacker, but lacks the athleticism needed in today’s NFL. None of Dooley’s physical attributes “wow” on tape. He is stiff as a runner and pass rusher and is too slow to excel in coverage. However, he only started for one year in college, and will now have an NFL weight room at his disposal.

Right now, he is only a practice squad-caliber player, but with the lack of depth at the linebacker position, Dooley might sneak onto the Vikings’ active roster.

 

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Andrew Luck injury 2018

Andrew Luck could be playing for his job in 2018

The NFL offseason is primetime for wild speculation, and outlandish trade theories run rampant in the news cycle. Earlier this year, we saw this with the trade rumors regarding Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Now that the draft has come and gone, those talks have mostly died down. However, there is another story that many people don’t seem to be following: Andrew Luck’s future in Indianapolis.

After missing the entire 2017 season due to a shoulder injury, Luck will be a welcome sight for Colts fans, as he is expected to be available during training camp. Since he was drafted, the Indianapolis Colts have had a 10-16 record without the services of Andrew Luck. Compare this to his 43-27 record and it is clear why he is the face of the Colts’ franchise.

When he is on the field, Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. But with his injury history and his high cap number, could we see Andrew Luck in a new uniform in 2019? It is unlikely, but if he cannot perform next season, there are some reasons why Indy could move on from the former No. 1 overall pick.

The Salary

Andrew Luck injury 2018

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

For starters, Luck’s contract puts the Colts in a tricky situation.

In 2016, the team signed Luck to a six-year, $140 million extension, the biggest contract in NFL history at the time. With a $24 million cap hit this year, Luck will be the seventh-highest paid player in the NFL in 2018. This is a hefty price for a player who has struggled to stay on the field as of late.

One interesting piece of information regarding Luck’s contract is his guaranteed money. The contract’s front-heavy structure would allow Indy to move on from the quarterback next season with little repercussion. If the Colts were to release Luck right now, it would result in $40 million in dead cap space. If things don’t work out next season, the Colts could move on from him with only a $12.8 million cap penalty.

This potential out would save the team over $50 million in cap space over the next three years. This, along with an already large sum of cap space, would allow the team to enter a full rebuild and find their next quarterback of the future.

The front office

Andrew Luck injury 2018

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard. (Photo from offthemonstersports.com)

Along with this, the current Colts’ front office has no emotional ties to Luck. Since he was drafted in 2012, the entire coaching staff has left Indianapolis. Former general manager Ryan Grigson is also no longer with the team.

After three outstanding years, Luck struggled to stay on the field in 2015. A sprained shoulder and later a lacerated kidney derailed his season, allowing him to only start seven games. His nagging shoulder injury bled into the next season, but Luck was able to start 15 games. He then underwent shoulder surgery, and he has not played a down since.

With such a laundry list of injuries, there will be even more pressure on Andrew Luck to bounce back. He will need to prove to his new coaching staff that he is still the top-tier quarterback we saw from 2012-14. It is common for new regimes to start fresh with a new quarterback, so patience may grow thin if he cannot produce next season.

Conclusion

Although there will be plenty of pressure on Andrew Luck to return to form, saying that he will not return to Indianapolis in 2019 is purely speculative. Since he was in college, Luck has been heralded as a generational talent.

He turned his team into a playoff contender, and when healthy, is easily one of the league’s top five quarterbacks. Barring another major setback with his shoulder rehab, Luck should be the Colts’ franchise quarterback for years to come.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction

With the NFL Draft over and training camp over a month away, we are officially in the “dead zone” of the NFL offseason. With that being said, it is never too early to speculate how teams’ depth charts will look heading into next season.

The Minnesota Vikings have the majority of their depth chart set in stone, aside from some spots on offense. Here is a way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction.

Offense

Below is the current projected depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings. Rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Quarterback Kirk Cousins Trevor Siemian Kyle Sloter
Running back Dalvin Cook Latavius Murray Mack Brown
Fullback C.J. Ham
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs Adam Thielen Kendall Wright Laquon Treadwell Tavarres King
Tight end Kyle Rudolph David Morgan Tyler Conklin
Left tackle Riley Reiff Rashod Hill
Left guard Nick Easton Cornelius Edison
Center Pat Elflein Josh Andrews
Right guard Mike Remmers Danny Isidora Colby Gossett
Right tackle Brian O’Neill Cedrick Lang
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Kirk Cousins as a Washington Redskin. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There are not too many surprises with the quarterback position. The Vikings signed Cousins to a massive three-year, $84 million contract during free agency. He will be the team’s franchise quarterback going forward.

Dalvin Cook missed most of last season due to an ACL tear. Prior to the injury, Cook was a favorite to win rookie of the year. His dynamic ability as a runner and receiver out of the backfield will make this offense one to be reckoned with.

There was some movement along the offensive line, as this was the Vikings’ biggest need heading into the offseason. Second-round pick Brian O’Neill will start at right tackle, forcing Mike Remmers inside at guard. It is likely that several of these linemen rotate to find the best combination of players.

Defense

Now moving on to defense, here is the anticipated depth chart. Again, rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Left defensive end Danielle Hunter Brian Robison
Left defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson Jalyn Holmes
Right defensive tackle Linval Joseph Jaleel Johnson Dylan Bradley
Right defensive end Everson Griffen Tashawn Bower
Weak-side linebacker Ben Gedeon Reshard Cliett
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks Eric Wilson
Strong-side linebacker Anthony Barr Kentrell Brothers
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes Trae Waynes Terence Newman Mike Hughes Mackensie Alexander
Strong safety Andrew Sendejo Anthony Harris
Free safety Harrison Smith Jack Tocho
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Sheldon Richardson as a New York Jet. (Photo from turnonthejets.com)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The only new starter on the Minnesota Vikings’ defense is Sheldon Richardson. Richardson signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the team in March. He should provide an additional pass rush to Minnesota’s already stout defensive line.

Due to the amount of depth on the Vikings’ defense, rookies Mike Hughes and Jalyn Holmes will struggle to find playing time in 2018. However, Hughes should get on the field early as a returner.

One big question on the defense is the fate of linebacker Kentrell Brothers. Last month, Brothers was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Seventh-round pick Devante Downs has the best chance of any of the Vikings’ linebackers to fill in for Brothers. However, this remains unlikely, due to Downs recovering from a serious leg injury.

Special Teams

Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Former Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson. (Photo by Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Kicker: Daniel Carlson
  • Punter: Ryan Quigley
  • Long Snapper: Kevin McDermott

Don’t forget about special teams! The only change from the Vikings’ 2017 roster is at the kicker position. It is facetious to guess who will win the Vikings’ kicking job this early, but Daniel Carlson does appear to be the favorite.

At Auburn, Carlson displayed one of the strongest legs in football. Although his accuracy took a small dip in 2017, the Minnesota Vikings believe he can be the team’s long-term answer at the position.

 

Featured image by Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune

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Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster

Eagles 53-man roster prediction offense edition

Real football begins in just about four months. Today we look forward and consider who will be playing once the preseason is over and the games start to matter.

There is a lot of speculation involved with projecting a roster from this far out. Even Eagles general manager Howie Roseman does not know exactly who will be on the roster after final cuts are made.

Let’s break down the roster by position groups to show exactly who could be left on the roster. There will be two parts, offense and defense. The first is offense. Next week, we will look at predictions on the defense. Only players on the Eagles official roster on their website will be listed.

Quarterback – (3)

Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster

Sudfeld and Foles (Photo by AP/Matt Rourke)

Make the roster: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Cuts: Joe Callahan

Barring a surprise trade of Nick Foles, Philadelphia seems to have this position group settled. Joe Callahan would have to outplay Nate Sudfeld substantially for them to put him on the roster. The Eagles have been very vocal in their praise for Sudfeld, and it seems they truly like him and his potential.

Although the signing of Callahan to a two-year contract is interesting, Sudfeld still holds a large edge over Callahan. He even has an extra year of learning the offense on his side.

Running back – (4)

Make the roster: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Josh Adams

Cuts: Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones

Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles are locks to make the roster. Adams will have to fight for his spot against the remaining three running backs.

Donnel Pumphrey seems like he has not put on enough weight yet to contribute at the running back position. Wendell Smallwood has a history with injuries and fails to make a big enough impact when he does play.

Finally, Matt Jones has a problem with fumbling. The Eagles are a ball control offense, and turning the ball over is not acceptable for their running backs.

Offensive line – (9)

Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster

Matt Pryor (Photo by Getty Images)

Make the roster: Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Pryor, Isaac Seumalo

Cuts: Taylor Hart, Aaron Evans, Darrell Greene, Jordan Mailata, Jon Toth

The starting offensive line is the best in the whole NFL. The possibility of a starter being unseated is unlikely. Therefore, it is really a battle for the backup roles.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai played well as the season came to a close last year and should be the primary backup to Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. Chance Warmack is the Eagles best backup interior lineman and has a year left on his contract. Matt Pryor should make the roster because he was just drafted and has some good potential. Isaac

Seumalo is on the fence. He was terrible last season, but the year before the future looked bright for him. Hopefully there is a good battle for the ninth spot and the best player makes the roster regardless of age or size.

Recievers – (5)

Make the roster: Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Bryce Treggs

Cuts: Marquess Wilson, Markus Wheaton, Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward, Rashard Davis

Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins are locks. Wallace is a near lock and will be on the roster unless two of the other six receivers have amazing camp, practice and preseason performances. For now, the final spot will probably be Bryce Treggs because he knows the offense and he has coveted speed at the position.

Shelton Gibson and Markus Wheaton are his biggest challengers for the roster spot. Gibson could not catch last year and had trouble learning the playbook. After a full year, he should look much better. Wheaton spent last season injured, so his performance will be a mystery until we see it.

Tight Ends – (3)

Make the roster: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Billy Brown

Cuts: Adam Zaruba, Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins

Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are obvious locks. Billy Brown is a young tight end the Eagles think has a bright future. His main problem is poor blocking. Unfortunately for him, blocking is very important in Philadelphia’s diverse offensive attack. Hopefully a year on the practice squad has helped him improve his blocking. If not, it could be Richard Rodgers who earns the third tight end spot.

Adam Zaruba is a former rugby player and a long shot for the 53-man roster. Josh Perkins was released by the Atlanta Falcons in January after spending a couple seasons on their team. He has a career total of three catches and 42 yards, so he should be considered another long shot for the position.

That is a total of 24 players on offense. After taking out three spots for the special teams positions, that leaves 26 open for a deep defense to retain as much talent as possible.

 

Featured image from Al Bello/Getty Images

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Carson Wentz Week 1 start

Carson Wentz is very confident he will play Week 1

Carson Wentz went down with an ACL and LCL tear on Dec. 10, 2017. After a few days, the news broke that the injury was an ACL tear.

Immediately after the announcement, everyone proclaimed that the Philadelphia Eagles were done for the year. They also said that Wentz was unlikely to be able to start the beginning of next season for the Eagles. Looks like both of those statements just might turn out to be wrong.

The standard recovery time of 9-12 months puts him back on the field Sept. 10 at the earliest and Dec. 10 in the near worst case. This time, expectations may be exceeded. Wentz says that he expects to be back for the season opener on Sept. 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Could Wentz really be ready for Week 1?

Carson Wentz Week 1 start

Carson Wentz (Photo by Eric Hartline USA TODAY Sports)

Many times, athletes can be overly optimistic about their recoveries from injury. Just last year, the Indianapolis Colts brass and even Reggie Wayne stated that they believed Andrew Luck would be ready for Week 1. However, as the season drug on for the Colts, Luck did not play one game.

Sometimes, an athlete can be a special circumstance and recover much more quickly or effectively. For example, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in December of 2011. However, he was able to come back and rush for over 2,000 yards in 2012.

In the end, Peterson fell eight yards short of the single season rushing record with 2,097. It is truly remarkable that he was able to get even close to breaking the record in a season where many thought he would not even be able to start Week 1.

That shows that quick recoveries are possible with dedicated rehab, a smart recovery plan and good genetics. This case is especially impressive at the position of running back as they take the most abuse of any player on the field. Wentz is a quarterback, which should help his odds of making it back.

Will Carson Wentz be one of these success stories? Maybe. We probably will not know until we are closer to the season opener.

It sure sounds like he thinks he will be ready though, and if anyone can do it, Wentz can. Wentz was asked on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football about the possibility of starting Week 1 and said this in response.

“I’m very confident,” he said. “It’s a fluid process, so you never know how it’s going to go, but where we’re at, just trying to do what the doctors say and just take it step by step. There are times when you feel great and want to push it more, but you’ve got to stay the course with what the doctors are saying. I feel really good and really confident for Week 1.”

In addition to his confidence, Ian Rapoport recently tweeted some promising news for Eagles fans.

What if Wentz is not ready for the season opener?

It is very likely that Wentz will be back for Week 1. However, at the same time, it would not be surprising if the Eagles held him out just a little longer to make sure that their franchise quarterback stays healthy.

Luckily for the Eagles, that is a very minimal problem for them. Philadelphia has a strong backup in Nick Foles, who just led the team to a Super Bowl victory. After all, Wentz would likely not have much of a problem with not playing immediately if it was in his best interest. Wentz has been very vocal in saying that he will listen to doctors and not risk his health to rush the recovery process.

Wentz also talked on Good Morning Football about how good of a relationship he has with Foles. He stated that there is no “ruffled feathers” between them and that they are “friends first and foremost before teammates.”

How will Wentz prevent injuries in the future?

Carson Wentz Week 1 start

(Photo by Sports Illustrated)

Much has been said about Wentz struggling with injuries over the last few years. He has suffered broken ribs and now a torn ACL and LCL in his first two seasons in the NFL. Therefore, Wentz was recently asked if he would change his playing style to avoid being injured in the future. Wentz responded by saying that he will always learn from injuries and other lessons he learns while playing. For example, when he watches game tape and realizes that he could have avoided a big hit on a play and only sacrificed a couple yards by sliding.

However, he also stated that he will never change his aggressive mentality because that is just who he is. As uneasy as it can make the fans, his competitive nature is part of what makes him such a great quarterback. He will learn to protect himself more as he gains experience in the NFL.

The full interview of Carson Wentz

Featured image from Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

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Minnesota Vikings rookies

Instant impact: The Minnesota Vikings’ rookies

Every year, we hear the same question being asked after the NFL Draft: Who will be the next Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara or Andrew Luck? Rookie sensations take over the NFL each season, reshaping both their team and the league in the process. In 2017, Kamara made the Saints’ even more formidable, turning them into Super Bowl contenders.

With the 2018 NFL Draft long gone, it is time to predict which rookies will make an immediate impact with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have one of the best rosters in the league, but could still use an influx of young talent.

The following players are the three most likely to make an instant impact with Minnesota in 2018.

Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh

Minnesota Vikings rookies

Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill (No. 70). (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Leading the pack is the Vikings’ second-round pick, Brian O’Neill. The Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line has struggled for the last several years, making tackle a position of need. Last offseason, the Vikings signed tackles Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff in free agency. Both are just average starters and are getting older (29 years old each).

With Reiff locked in at left tackle, O’Neill will likely start on the right side. This will also allow Remmers to move inside at right guard, a position he is more suited for.

O’Neill is not the strongest of tackles, but was one of the most athletic offensive linemen in this year’s draft. He also has very long arms and good mechanics. At Pittsburgh, O’Neill played every game, which is a testament to his outstanding durability.

While he needs to become stronger to take on NFL pass rushers, the Vikings’ lack of depth along the offensive line will allow O’Neill to play early and often in 2018.

Chance of starting next season: 85 percent

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

Despite him being Minnesota’s first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mike Hughes is just a notch below O’Neill here. This is in large part due to the Vikings’ outstanding depth at the cornerback position. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Terence Newman all have a greater chance at starting Week 1.

Minnesota Vikings rookies

UCF corner Mike Hughes returns a kickoff for a touchdown against rival USF. The return would end up being the game-winning score. (Photo by Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

In addition, coach Mike Zimmer is infamous for bringing along his rookies slowly. For example, both Waynes and Anthony Barr had to fight for playing time as rookies, despite being selected high in their respective drafts.

Hughes may not be quite ready to start on defense either. With limited experience at UCF, he would benefit from seeing a reduced role in 2018.

That being said, there is a high probability of Hughes becoming a force on special teams. He was one of the most dynamic kick returners in college, returning two kickoffs and a punt back for six points. His speed and physicality would make him an excellent gunner as well.

Hughes has the traits of a lockdown cornerback, but he needs some time to develop early on. Expect him to be featured on special teams, and eventually move into the slot corner role.

Chance of starting next season: 70 percent

Tyler Conklin, TE, Central Michigan

Minnesota Vikings rookies

Former Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin. (Photo by Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Conklin is one of the more intriguing players in this year’s class. In 2016, he was one of the most dynamic players at the position, displaying great body control, hands and blocking ability. He is the stereotypical “basketball player converted tight end” and will be a great red zone target in the NFL.

Unfortunately, a severe foot injury derailed his 2017 season. Conklin looked unlike himself last season, struggling to find separation and was sluggish on the field. In order for him to make the 53-man roster, Conklin will need to bounce back from his injury fast. If he can return to his 2016 form, he could be a draft steal.

There is little depth at the tight end position behind Kyle Rudolph, so Conklin could easily become the Vikings No. 2. Kirk Cousins also enjoys utilizing his tight ends, making Conklin’s role even more important.

He still needs to fully recover, but Conklin could see plenty of playing time early in 2018.

Chance of starting next season: 35 percent

Bonus pick: Daniel Carlson, K, Auburn

Stop the presses. We got a kicker battle on our hands!

Carlson will be competing with 2017 starter Kai Forbath for the Vikings’ kicking job this summer. The outcome of these kicking competitions is always difficult to predict, making Carlson impossible to rank.

At Auburn, he displayed one of the strongest legs in football, making 13 field goals of over 50 yards. His accuracy took a slight hit compared to his 2015-16 stats, but was still one of the best kickers in the draft.

 

Featured image from the Associated Press

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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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