jimmy garoppolo

NFL worst to first candidates for 2018

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

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

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

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

Bradley Chubb

Photo: milehighreport.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

DeShaun Watson

Photo: slate.com

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

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

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2018 Fantasy Football 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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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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NFL win projections

Man vs. Vegas: Projected NFL win totals

With the NFL Draft finally in the rearview mirror, the window for educated speculation is now open. The powers that be in Las Vegas have released their projected regular season win totals for all 32 teams.

Going up against Vegas usually proves futile, but it is fun to try anyway. Here are the three best over-under bets to cash in on. All projected win totals are from the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Indianapolis Colts: Over 6.5 wins 

Since Andrew Luck entered the league as a rookie before the 2012 season, Indianapolis has never posted a losing record in a year where their franchise quarterback has started the majority of the 16 regular season games. Luck has also led the Colts to the playoffs on three occasions. However, Luck has missed 26 games over the last three seasons, including all of last season with a shoulder injury.

The good news for Colts fans is there seems to be optimism surrounding Luck’s health for the upcoming season. Owner Jim Irsay recently stated publicly that he believes Luck will be ready to go in the fall. Irsay also mentioned that the Colts turned down trade offers for the three-time Pro Bowler.

NFL win projections

(Photo from yardbarker.com)

If Luck stays healthy, this bet really is easy money. Still, even if he does not, the law of averages is on the Colts’ side. Jacoby Brissett filled in admirably in Luck’s absence last year. He started 15 games and threw 13 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions.

The Colts won just four games last year, but also managed to lose an astonishing seven games in which they held a halftime lead. Close games in the NFL often come down to a bounce of the ball. Some of those losses will turn into wins this year, no matter who is under center. A more offensive-minded coaching staff should help Indianapolis be better in terms of closing out games as well.

The Colts also have a workable schedule. Lastly, the addition of incoming rookie Quenton Nelson should immediately improve a Colts offensive line that is a large part of the reason Luck has been injured so often. One guy cannot fix an entire offensive line, but he can certainly make it better in a hurry. Nelson is the most polished offensive lineman to enter the league in quite some time. Ending a three-year playoff drought is realistic for this team.

Los Angeles Rams: Under 9.5 wins 

This will probably raise a few eyebrows. The Rams are being touted by many to make a Super Bowl run.

Forget that. They will have a hard enough time defending their division title. Sean McVay turned the Rams offense and Jared Goff from a dumpster fire into the highest-scoring unit in the league last year. However, defensive coordinators always adjust when something comes out of nowhere and takes everyone by surprise for a year. They will adjust to the Rams’ offense, and it will regress slightly, similar to what happened to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys last year.

The competition for the Rams is also brutal. Division rival San Francisco was the hottest team in the league to close out last year under quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. As long as Russell Wilson is in Seattle, they will remain a tough out. The non-division schedule is not much friendlier. It includes established powerhouses like the Super Bowl champion Eagles as well as the Saints.

Finally, the Rams acquired a wealth of defensive talent. Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh are all outstanding players. However, they are also very strong and volatile personalities. Finances aside, there is a reason they all changed teams this offseason. Whenever you put a bunch of volatile guys on the same unit, there is a reason to be nervous. It could all backfire, especially playing for such a young coach in a city like Los Angeles.

New York Giants: Over 6.5 wins 

The Giants went 3-13 last year. Yet, Eli Manning still threw 19 touchdown passes and performed well in the midst of complete chaos around him. Yes, he is getting close to the end of his career, and the simplest thing to do when a team struggles as bad as New York did last year is change the quarterback. Still, the Giants should be applauded for not doing so.

NFL win projections

(Photo from nypost.com)

Rookie Saquon Barkley immediately becomes an all-purpose three-down running back that will assist his two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback greatly. Second-round pick Will Hernandez and former Patriot Nate Solder have fortified the offensive line, at least on paper.

 

Also, the Giants have an easier schedule like the Colts. The Cowboys and Redskins could go either way this year. Even last year when they were awful, the Giants played the Super Bowl champions tough twice.

Lastly, new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur helped guide a quarterback with far less natural talent than Manning to one game away from the Super Bowl last year with the Vikings. Manning is well-positioned to find the fountain of youth in 2018, and the Giants are poised for a big bounce-back year.

 

Featured image from medium.com

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The 2018 Drafted New England Patriots

The 2018 NFL draft kicked its first round off on Thursday night. The New England Patriots sat in a position to draft two players on both the first round (Thursday) and the second round (Friday).

The Patriots ended up gaining draft picks through the last year or so. The two picks they inherited were the #23 overall pick that was the Los Angeles Rams, and the 43rd overall pick from the 49ers. Those two draft picks were landed in the business transactions that saw Jimmy Garoppolo as well as Brandin Cooks depart from Foxboro.

The Patriots sought out what seemed to be an annual list of “needs”. The usual Offensive Lineman, Cover Linebacker and Cornerback all made appearances in another draft portfolio. That same portfolio that has “quarterback” probably in bold by now. For all of these four picks, it seemed as though the Patriots would attempt to fill the needs with suitable players. Let’s be honest here, if you thought that’s what they were going to do then you’ve never watched Bill Belichick.

The First Round:

#23

Many rumors circulated about the Patriots potentially taking Lamar Jackson at their 23rd selection. After all the smoke cleared the Patriots passed on Lamar not once but twice. The 23rd pick resulted in the University of Georgia Offensive lineman, Isaiah Wynn.

This pick proved to be a very smart move being that they lost Nate Solder this offseason. Wynn proved to be a very solid run blocker as Georgia’s two-back rushing attack was one of the best in the country and showed that he could hold up in pass protection as well. Wynn will be the immediate plug and play to replace Nate Solder and I don’t think too many New England fans are disappointed with that.

#31

This pick was the Patriots original draft selection, and one that surprised most people. After an offseason where they lost one of their lead backs in Dion Lewis, then turned around and signed former Cincinnati Bengal standout in Jeremy Hill, they turned to the draft to pick another back to be in an already crowded backfield. The Patriots shocked some people by taking Sony Michel with the 31st pick. Sony Michel is another Georgia Bulldog and a very good one at that.

Despite being in a dual backfield at Georgia, Michel was one of the stars of college football. He especially seemed to shine in the College Football Playoffs. Against Oklahoma and their subpar defense, Michel managed to get 222 yards on 16 carries. In the National Championship, basically on the opposite side of the spectrum, he got 98 yards on 14 carries against the nations toughest defense in the Alabama Crimson Tide. Michel took over the backfield and outshined Nick Chubb. He could be a possible Jeremy Hill but younger. He joins a backfield that doesn’t have a true running back but has a bunch of pass catching backs.

James White and Rex Burkhead have shown that they are the two heavy load backs, but the Patriots have lacked a true runner. Mike Gillislee is the closest thing the Patriots have to a true running back and he’s the same weight and height as the unproven Michel. Gillislee has proven to not be the guy for the Patriots, so Michel could get the opportunity to shine behind a very solid offensive line and in a great offense.

Second Round:

#56

New England Patriots

Duke Dawson Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What was originally two picks heading into the second round then turned to one. The Patriots, rather classically, traded out of their selection and managed to drop further back into another draft. They did, however, manage to take care of one of the glaring holes on their defense. Duke Dawson is a corner that played for the Florida Gators (Ah yes, SEC defenders). He is coming in trying to be the complement to Stephon Gilmore. He will come in looking to be a solid cover corner to fill in for Malcolm Butler who the Patriots let go this offseason.

Summary:

The Patriots have done a very nice job in the earlier rounds of filling some of the voids they have. Year in and year out it seems like people are worried about who is going to take over for Tom Brady. This season was no different, many people were expecting Lamar Jackson to come off the boards and go with the Patriots. Instead, they are stocking up their assets for Brady to exploit and stashing some picks later in the draft to take a chance on a quarterback for the future. The Patriots have yet again done another solid job on building a roster back up after it seemed to be depleted this offseason.

 

Featured image from The Boston Herald.

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2018 NFL Draft recap

4 things we know after the 2018 NFL Draft

The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books. It takes a couple years to really know which teams nailed it and which teams whiffed. Thus, the concept of giving out nothing more than simple draft grades in the days immediately following it is fun, but somewhat foolish.

However, we now have a better idea of how teams view themselves and how they will fare in the fall. Here are a few things we learned over the three day extravaganza.

Denver does not view Case Keenum as a stopgap 

After scouting every elite quarterback in the draft, Denver passed on drafting a quarterback altogether. Instead, the Broncos bolstered an already loaded pass rush after Bradley Chubb fell into their lap. Then, John Elway spent five of his remaining picks on running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.

Incoming rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton in particular could be asked to make an impact right away. A consistent third pass catcher to take the heat off of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders has been lacking for a few years now.

2018 NFL Draft recap

(Photo from wralsportsfan.com)

The Broncos clearly think Case Keenum can lead them right back into contention in 2018 and beyond. He has almost everything a quarterback needs to succeed, much like he did in Minnesota. Defense was the centerpiece of the Vikings last year and it will be for the Broncos this year.

It is a little bit surprising that Denver spent only one draft pick on offensive line. The decision-makers there are putting their faith in Garett Bolles to make a huge leap forward in his second year and veterans Ronald Leary and Jared Veldheer to stay healthy and stabilize a unit that has needed help for a long time.

Still, it is now apparent that the Broncos think they can win now and are reloading, not rebuilding.

Cleveland did not learn from history, but also hopes not to repeat it 

Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manziel are different people, but the comparison really does write itself. They are both undersized quarterbacks who won the Heisman Trophy after dominating college football for a very short period of time. Moreover, the Browns ignored significant off-the-field concerns in hopes that they could resurrect a dead franchise.

Manziel failed spectacularly, and that is largely on him. But Cleveland has been the worst culture for young quarterbacks to develop in the last 20 years. Manziel had no chance to succeed there. Tyrod Taylor is a solid quarterback that is more than capable of getting the Browns at least four wins this year. That should lessen the immediate pressure on Mayfield. This, combined with the fact that Mayfield’s rough edges are a little smoother than Manziel’s give him a better chance to do well in Cleveland.

Still, the Browns going with Mayfield after the Manziel experience straddles the line between gutsy and stupid. No one would argue that Sam Darnold is not a safer prospect, even the temperamental Josh Rosen would have raised a few less eyebrows.

The Patriots are not concerned about Tom Brady’s age 

Whether it is Robert Kraft or Bill Belichick calling the shots in Patriot land nowadays, this is the only conclusion that can be drawn. Jimmy Garoppolo is in San Francisco, Tom Brady is 40 and New England passed on taking Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph.

New England did take a quarterback in the seventh round, but LSU’s Danny Etling was not on most radars as a draftable prospect. The Patriots have outsmarted everyone with quarterbacks in the late rounds of the draft before, but it is hard to imagine Etling was drafted with the idea of being Brady’s successor. We know that 32-year-old Brian Hoyer certainly is not Brady’s successor either.

Regardless of how dedicated Brady is, quarterbacks fall off a cliff quickly in the NFL. The most recent example of this is Peyton Manning, who was younger than Brady is now when he played his final season, which was also his worst statistically. The lack of a long-term plan at quarterback is slowly putting New England’s position as the NFL’s gold standard in more and more jeopardy.

Russell Wilson is going to run for his life again in 2018 

When the awesome story of the Griffin brothers is put aside, Seattle’s draft as a whole is worrisome. They reached by as much as two rounds for running back Rashaad Penny and tight end Will Dissly, but that is not all.

2018 NFL Draft recap

(Photo from nocoastbias.com)

Seattle’s offensive line was atrocious last year. At its worst, there were games where Russell Wilson was pressured on a third of his drop backs. The only reason Wilson lived to tell about it is because he is one of the most mobile quarterbacks on the planet. His arm and legs created all but one of Seattle’s offensive touchdowns last year. Wilson was able to keep Seattle relevant until the very end of the regular season.

Wilson will need a repeat performance to do the same this year. The Seahawks continued their long standing reputation of refusing to invest in the offensive line. They only took one and waited until the fifth round to do so. They even traded up to take a punter before paying any attention to their biggest need.

This was a very deep draft for offensive lineman. Thus, it feels like the Seahawks missed a big chance to improve. With the “Legion of Boom” pretty much a memory, Wilson really is the only thing this franchise has going for it. After this draft, the weight of the world remains on his shoulders.

 

Featured image from tylermorningtelegraph.com

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Dez Bryant

Best destinations for Dez Bryant

The Dallas Cowboys have recently released the 29-year-old, three-time Pro Bowler Dez Bryant. Bryant is now in search of a new team. Whether it is getting revenge on his former team or taking less money for a better shot at winning a Super Bowl, Bryant is moving forward with the next chapter in his football career.

There are a handful of teams that could be good fits for Bryant for many different reasons. Here are a few teams that could help him get back on track.

Dallas statistics

Dez Bryant

Dez Bryant and Tony Romo (Photo from Wallsdesk.com)

Before we do that, we have to discuss Bryant’s production over the years. In his eight-year career, he has 531 receptions with the Dallas Cowboys that translate into 7,459 yards total and 73 touchdowns. He averages 14 yards per reception and every 7.29 catches he makes goes for a touchdown.

Before Dak Prescott arrived in 2016, he had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He was arguably a top-five wide receiver in all of the NFL and had four of his five best receiving years overall with Tony Romo at the helm. Basically, the Dallas Cowboys are drastically different with Prescott.

In 2012, (Tony Romo’s best statistical season), Bryant had the most receiving yards in his career to date and his third-most touchdowns. Romo threw the ball 648 times that season. In Dak Prescott’s two-year career, he has only thrown it 949 times. Dez’s declining statistics also has to do with a consistent run game. Ezekiel Elliott entered the league with Prescott in 2016. He has yet to have a season with less than 983 rushing yards.

In Bryant’s career season in 2012, DeMarco Murray only rushed for 663 yards and only 4.1 yards per carry. In one of Bryant’s most statistically underwhelming seasons (the first year with Elliott and Prescott), Elliott ran for over 1,600 yards and Prescott only threw for eight yards per attempt. The Dallas Cowboys are trending away from throwing it downfield and utilizing Bryant’s size.

NFC East

Just knowing Bryant’s personality after all these years, he is going to immediately try to get back at the Cowboys for releasing him. The Giants or Redskins may not be the best fit for him, but it could be a place he lands due to scheduling.

The Redskins made a big move this offseason by getting Alex Smith. They have the cap room and are looking for a little help for Jamison Crowder to free him up a little.

The best NFC East fit for Bryant, if he chooses to go that way, would be the Redskins. They have the salary space to afford him, and he could slide right back into a possible No. 1 wide receiver role. And of course, he would get a shot at playing Jerry Jones and the Cowboys twice a year.

San Francisco 49ers

There is plenty of reasons to believe in Jimmy Garoppolo. Marquise Goodwin has shown that he needs a little help at times. With Goodwin’s speed, Bryant could complement him well and play a nice counter role. He would yet again be a No. 1 wide receiver, and he would get a shot at jumping on board with an improving team that is hungry for the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Bryant’s personality matches up well with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags seemingly need a wide receiver to take the reigns and be the guy. Blake Bortles would love throwing to Bryant and his large frame. He would instantly go to a contender and a team that would pay him pretty well. The Jaguars are committed to spreading both the pass and the run out, and Bryant could get back to catching at least 10 touchdowns for the first time since 2014.

Houston Texans

This one is a no-brainer. Bryant would be extremely close to his hometown. He would instantly jump into a No. 2 receiver role and take lots of pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins and draw single coverage. He would have tons of targets and could carve out a great role alongside another great wide receiver. It is one of the rare opportunities where Bryant will get to play in front of his hometown friends and family and could get paid pretty well.

New England Patriots

After an offseason where the Patriots lost multiple offensive starters, including wide receivers in Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, the Patriots would love to add another redzone asset for Josh McDaniels’ offense.

The Patriots are a team that invites different personalities. They gave Randy Moss one of his best statistical seasons and created one of the best offenses in NFL history with Tom Brady at the helm. Even though that feels like a lifetime ago, Brady is still the guy in Foxborough, and he would love to throw passes to Dez Bryant.

Only time will tell where Dez Bryant lands.

 

Featured image from Sports Illustrated.

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2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks

Best fits for top 2018 NFL quarterback prospects: Part II

Welcome to the second of a two part series examining the best fits for the top six quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. You can check out the first part here. Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph go under the microscope this time around.

Playing matchmaker is a little tougher with these three. They are likely to go later in the first round, or perhaps even early in the second, but trades are always possible, especially in that part of the draft.

Baker Mayfield: Arizona Cardinals 

Carson Palmer is retired. No one is mistaking Mike Glennon for a franchise quarterback. Sadly, it is not a matter of if Sam Bradford will get hurt again, but when. Arizona is the most quarterback needy team in the entire draft.

Mayfield’s roughness around the edges is well documented on and off the field. Being drafted to a locker room with veterans like Larry Fitzgerald would go a long way towards smoothing out Mayfield’s character flaws.

On the field, the Cardinals have no long-term quarterback plan, even if Bradford makes it through 2018 healthy. They need one. Mayfield is a legitimate duel threat, but the numbers say he would much rather throw. He never averaged more than 3.2 yards per carry in college. Defense in the Big 12 is bad, but it is not hard to see why there is great intrigue around the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at the next level. He threw 81 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions in his last two years of college.

Other than being a tick too short, He has all the stats and physical attributes NFL people look for. There is more than enough there to ignore the concerns over his arrest and less than sportsmanlike behavior on the field. His ability to ad lib when plays break down should also serve him well if he is thrown on the field as a rookie.

Picking at No. 15, Arizona’s quarterback options are somewhat limited without a trade, but there is some talent on the roster. Mayfield’s upside in a situation like the Cardinals is endless.

Lamar Jackson: Buffalo Bills 

This was the toughest prospect to pair with a team. Any quarterback who weighs just over 200 pounds and has 655 rushing attempts in three years of college football is going to have a short and painful NFL career, unless their game is retooled through coaching. Concerns about size and running too much aside, Jackson’s college numbers and pure athleticism are going to earn him a long look in the NFL.

In Buffalo, AJ McCarron is there on a two-year deal to keep the team competitive while it searches for long-term quarterback. Early returns on the Nathan Peterman experiment have been disastrous. Even though Buffalo could not wait to get rid of him, Tyrod Taylor did lead Buffalo to the playoffs last year. Taylor is a decent pro comparison for Jackson, so the coaching staff would be well-suited to coach him.

The former Heisman Trophy winner going to Buffalo makes sense in terms of both need and draft position. Jackson’s college production shows that he is capable of learning how to become an NFL pocket passer.

Mason Rudolph: New England Patriots

Whether he realizes it or not, Tom Brady is 40 years old. With Jimmy Garoppolo in San Francisco, the Patriots have no plan for Brady’s successor. Recent reports have New England taking a shine to Jackson. However, it is hard to imagine Bill Belichick taking a chance on an undersized quarterback who some would argue is a better runner than thrower.

2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks

(Photo from zambio.com)

Rudolph is the all-time leading passer at Oklahoma State. He specializes in the vertical passing game that dominates the NFL landscape today. 10 percent of his dropbacks in college resulted in at least a 25-yard completion. Rudolph needs a little polishing to go from Oklahoma State’s gun-slinging offense to the NFL.

New England is the perfect place for him to get that. He can learn from Brady for a while. Then he can either succeed him or get a big payday somewhere else like other Patriot backup quarterbacks have done. Regardless of which quarterback ends up there, New England is an ideal spot. Rudolph is the best fit.

More than just the six teams mentioned in these two articles could be in the quarterback market early in the draft. New Orleans, Denver and Miami could all be additional players in the market for rookie signal callers. With so many teams potentially needing quarterbacks, some of the prospects ranked seventh and lower in the quarterback class will eventually be asked to make an impact as well.

 

Featured image from clutchpoints.com

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San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is now under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into the NFL Draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. You will find it here. Draftmas will continue with the San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile. 

Summary

San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. (Photo from usatoday.com)

For the San Francisco 49ers, the beginning of the 2017 season was a complete disaster. The 49ers lost their first nine games and entered December with a 1-10 record. They then got hot, winning their last five games in a row. This hot streak was sparked by the addition of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who came in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Offensively, the 49ers exceeded all expectations, thanks to new head coach Kyle Shanahan. The 49ers ranked ninth in passing yards per game and 12th in total offense. Their rushing attack was not as impressive, ranking 21st in the league. The struggles in the running game were mainly due to average offensive line play and constantly playing from behind last season.

The Garoppolo trade was the highlight of the year in San Francisco, and it appears that the 49ers now have their quarterback of the future. Garoppolo signed a five-year, $137 million contract extension with the team in February. The 49ers will look to add talent around their new quarterback during the offseason. They recently signed running back Jerick McKinnon and center Weston Richburg in free agency.

On defense, the 49ers ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every category. Despite having some talented players (DeForest Buckner and Reuben Foster), the Niners struggled to stop anyone in 2017. The team signed former Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman to a three-year deal, but there is still much more work to be done.

Aside from defensive tackle and cornerback, the 49ers could use help at any position on the defensive side of the ball.

Picks and Needs

The San Francisco 49ers have nine picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. This will give them plenty of opportunities to continue rebuilding their team with young talent.

First round (1 pick): 9

Second round (1): 59

Third round (1): 70, 74

Fourth round (1): 128

Fifth round (1): 143

Sixth round (1): 184

Seventh round (1): 223, 240

San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

Former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon signed a four-year deal with the 49ers this offseason. (Photo by Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)

Offensive needs:

Running back – This may be an odd choice since the 49ers recently signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million deal. However, McKinnon and Matt Breida are both pass-catching backs. Adding a power back later in the draft for early downs will form a more complete running back room.

Wide receiver – Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin are talented pass catchers, but neither are true No. 1 receivers. Finding Garoppolo a legitimate weapon in the passing game would make this offense one of the league’s best.

Guard – The 49ers signed free agents Weston Richburg and Jonathan Cooper in free agency to help their offensive line. However, if you are going to pay your quarterback over $27 million per year, you need to do everything possible to protect him.

Defensive needs:

Linebacker – When he is on the field, Reuben Foster is a force in the middle of the 49ers defense. However, outside linebackers Malcolm Smith and Eli Harold are just average starters. Adding more talent around Foster will help unlock his full potential and fix the run defense.

Safety – The absence of Eric Reid leaves a hole in the back of the defense. The 49ers’ pass defense was below average in 2017, and a rangy free safety will help limit any big passing plays. With a new safety and an improved cornerback group, the 49ers’ secondary could greatly improve.

Targets

First round:

Pick No. 9: Derwin James, S, Florida State

As a former safety himself, general manager John Lynch knows the importance of an enforcer in the backfield. Derwin James is best suited as a strong safety but can play free safety as well. He is extremely versatile and can excel in almost any defensive scheme. In his time at Florida State, he displayed excellent ball skills and tackling ability. If the 49ers can pair James with their improved cornerback corps, their secondary could quietly be one of the league’s best.

Second round:

Pick No. 59: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

Hernandez may not make it past the first round, but this year’s draft is very deep for interior offensive linemen. This may allow Hernandez to slip to the 49ers at pick No. 59. Hernandez is somewhat undersized but has all of the traits of a starting guard in the NFL. He displayed excellent strength and run-blocking ability and performs adequately in pass protection. If Hernandez manages to fall to pick No. 59, the 49ers should jump at the chance to draft him.

Third round:

San Francisco 49ers 2018 NFL Draft profile

Georgia running back Nick Chubb. Chubb is expected to be picked between the second and fourth round. (Photo from cbssports.com)

Pick No. 70: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Nick Chubb is the type of running back that could be the thunder to Jerick McKinnon’s lightning. He does not display excellent speed or catching ability but could be a solid early-down back. Chubb runs with a low center of gravity and is very strong in between the tackles. If he falls this far in the draft, the 49ers can form an impressive three-headed running back committee.

Pick No. 74: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

Wide receiver is not a deep position in this year’s draft, so it may be wise to wait until the later rounds to add another pass catcher. Miller is not the big-bodied threat the 49ers need but can be a strong supporting member in the passing game. He shows outstanding potential with good route running and work ethic. Miller still needs to improve his reliability and avoid costly drops. If so, he could get playing time early as the 49ers’ third receiver.

Conclusion

The San Francisco 49ers’ main goal during the draft should be to surround Jimmy Garoppolo with as much talent as possible. With a limited amount of talented tight ends and wide receivers, the 49ers may focus on improving the running game, which was one of the league’s worst in 2017. After having a solid draft, the 49ers may have a chance at making the playoffs as a Wild Card in 2018.

Enjoy the days of Draftmas here at The Game Haus! Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Oakland Raiders 2018 NFL Draft profile.

 

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Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks

The Arizona Cardinals are at risk of becoming a laughing stock again

The offseason quarterback derby has settled as much as it is going to before the NFL draft. The franchise history of the Arizona Cardinals is far from glorious. However, they have spent most of the last decade as a competitive franchise that has gotten to the playoffs and done damage on occasion.

Still, this offseason has suddenly left them in danger of returning to laughing-stock territory for a couple reasons.

No long-term plan at quarterback 

When Carson Palmer retired earlier this offseason, Arizona had zero quarterbacks on the roster. Going by that metric, this free agency signing period has been a smashing success for the Cardinals.

In reality, Mike Glennon is a career journeyman who barely lasted a month before being replaced by then rookie Mitch Trubisky in Chicago last year. Also, Sam Bradford has put up decent numbers in his career including 101 touchdown passes to just 57 interceptions. Despite that, he has never led a team to the playoffs and has only been healthy enough to start all 16 games in a season twice.

By all accounts except his own, Bradford’s knees are in bad shape. He has had two ACL tears as well as an additional procedure last season. It made the news wires when Bradford passed his physical last week. Usually, that only happens if a guy fails a physical. That should tell you a lot.

Even if it is just for a year, handing the keys to your franchise over to either one of these guys is not only risky, but also close to plain stupid. The Vikings, Browns, Jets, Broncos and Bills have all addressed the quarterback position this offseason. Some have added a quarterback. Some are in position to draft one. Some are clearly doing both. There is no way plans will work out for all of these teams, but at least you can see the plan beyond this year.

Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks

Photo from NFL.com

Meanwhile, Arizona only has the fragile Bradford for one year to go with Glennon for two. Glennon has just nine starts in the last four years. Logic would dictate that means Arizona needs to draft a quarterback early. However, being at pick No. 15, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield will all almost certainly be gone by the time the Cardinals are on the clock.

 

That leaves them with two options: trade up to get one of those guys, or reach for someone like Mason Rudolph. Neither option is particularly good. The Cardinals would have no negotiating leverage with another team on draft day, but there is no such thing as too steep a price for long-term stability at quarterback in the NFL. Either option would be helped out greatly by Glennon or Bradford panning out, but that is iffy at best.

The rest of Arizona’s roster is not terrible. A healthy David Johnson is something just about every team would kill to have in the backfield, Larry Fitzgerald is ageless and Patrick Peterson is now the leader of a defense that looks a little different, but should still be pretty good in 2018.

Even so, if you don’t have good quarterback play, the rest of your roster does not matter. A bunch of losses are in your future. Just ask last year’s Denver Broncos.

An unstable future at quarterback is not the only thing that has the Cardinals organization in a delicate spot.

The NFC West is loaded

The biggest key to any NFL team preforming well is playing well within the division. This will be a challenge for Arizona no matter who their quarterback is in 2018 and beyond.

Seattle is in the midst of overhauling its roster and Arizona has played the Seahawks well in recent years, but Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks on the planet. It was him and him alone that kept the Seahawks in it until the very end of the regular season last year. If Wilson needs to, he can carry this franchise again. The defense is certainly not better in terms of name value, but getting younger in the secondary might actually be a good thing.

Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks

Photo from azcardinals.com

Then there are the 49ers and Rams. The Rams were reborn last year as rookie head coach Sean McVay and his high-powered offense took the league by storm. Los Angeles also acquired Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. As volatile as those two can sometimes be, that cornerback tandem is sure to give every offense in the league a hard time.

San Francisco ended the season on a five-game winning streak after Jimmy Garoppolo was inserted as the starting quarterback. There is no reason to think that won’t carry over.

Playing these three teams twice a year with Bradford, Glennon or a rookie is setting rookie head coach Steve Wilks up to fail. The Cardinals should have been more aggressive for guys like Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum. Drafting a quarterback will likely result in some growing pains for the Cardinals, but it is now their only chance at having a clear long-term direction for the foreseeable future.

 

Featured image from usatoday.com

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