AFC East West quarterbacks

Quarterback questions loom largest in AFC East and West

We now have a pretty good idea of what NFL rosters will look like come September. Predicting team records is still very difficult to do in May. However, it is now easier to understand the factors that will lead to success or failure for certain teams. Thus, here are the biggest questions in a couple of AFC divisions. One that is wide open now, and another that could be before long.

AFC West: Is Patrick Mahomes any good?

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from 610sports.com)

This might be the biggest question in the entire NFL. Kansas City has taken control of this division over the last two years as Denver has struggled to transition away from Peyton Manning.

Despite a few playoff failures, Alex Smith never posted a losing record as the starting quarterback for the Chiefs. So replacing him with Patrick Mahomes is pretty bold.

Mahomes is headed into his second year with just one career start. Young quarterbacks have to get handed the keys at some point, but was Smith really what was holding the Chiefs back? His career-high passer rating of 104.7 last year would suggest otherwise.

No quarterback does it alone. Kansas City has an average defense and an offense littered with playmakers, but bad quarterback play can drag a very good roster downward. Last year’s Broncos are a prime example. That was not going to be a concern with Smith. There has to be at least a little bit of doubt when it comes to Mahomes.

One start is nowhere near enough to determine whether any player can be successful in this league, and Mahomes may come out and play very well. If he does, Kansas City will win this division again.

Still, the Broncos upgraded at quarterback, the Chargers improved the middle of their defense, and Oakland is once again being coached by Jon Gruden, the last guy that made and kept that franchise relevant. If Mahomes struggles, at least one of those teams will be right there to pounce, and one of the most consistent teams in the NFL over the last half decade will quickly turn into a non-factor.

AFC East: When do we see the rookie quarterbacks?

As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around, the Patriots will win this division. They have done so for nine consecutive years. The drama in the division this year is going to be when we see Sam Darnold in New York and Josh Allen in Buffalo. In a perfect world, both guys would probably benefit from a year on the bench.

Particularly in Darnold’s case, that does not seem to be feasible. This is a franchise that has won five or fewer games in three of the last four seasons. It needs a sign of hope and fast. When the inevitable losses start to mount under veteran quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown, the Jets will need to get a glimpse at what they hope is a bright future.

The Jets do have a workable schedule for the first month of the season and could get off to a decent start. So it would not be shocking to see one of the veterans last as the starter until the Week 11 bye. Of course, there is always a chance that the rookie could impress enough in training camp and the preseason to start the season opener.

Either way, the Jets know Brady and Belichick won’t be around forever, and New England does not seem to be ready for life after either one. With Darnold, the Jets have a chance to be the kings of this division in a few years. The first step to helping make that happen is making him the starter at the right time.

Josh Allen is a little more tricky. The Bills made the playoffs last year, but were anemic on offense at times and scored just a field goal in their playoff loss. AJ McCarron replaces Tyrod Taylor as the veteran presence at the quarterback position. Allen was drafted more on measurables than college production and clearly needs time to develop.

However, it is hard to imagine him being afforded that luxury if Buffalo gets off to a bad start under McCarron, who is basically a career backup except for a handful of mediocre performances filling in for an injured Andy Dalton late in the 2015 season.

The Dolphins are just sort of existing in this division at the moment. They regressed last year with Jay Cutler taking the place of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Even though Tannehill is coming off an injury, Miami was linked to several of the top quarterback prospects in the draft. This could be a make or break year for him as well as head coach Adam Gase.

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from presnapreads.com)

These two divisions are interesting in their own way for 2018. The AFC West is intriguing right now because it is impossible to know what to expect from the team that has dominated it for the last two years. Meanwhile, the AFC East could look very different in a couple years.

This year might provide us with at least some answers in that regard. It all comes down to changes that already have and will eventually need to be made at the most important position in all of American sports, quarterback.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

With the NFL Draft beginning later today, all of the rumors of the the last few months will finally be shown to be either true or false. Today we cut through the noise and misdirection employed by many of the NFL’s teams and give a reasonable summary of some things to expect in this upcoming draft. To be more specific, who could slide and become a bargain, and who could be selected earlier than expected?

Sliders

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft, playing in three separate pro-style offenses at UCLA. He knows much of the terminology used in the NFL as a result.

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

Josh Rosen (Photo from AP)

However, with Sam Darnold the likely first overall pick in the draft and Baker Mayfield looking like he may have jumped up to be the second quarterback selected, Rosen could be left in a bit of a free fall. In addition to all of this, if a team becomes enamored with Josh Allen, he could be selected before Rosen. Therefore, it is not out of the question that he could fall all the way until the Miami Dolphins take him at the 11th pick.

Look for a team like Arizona to trade up to 10th to get ahead of the Dolphins if Rosen does slide. Overall, a slide on draft day might work out in Rosen’s favor. This is because he could end up on a team with a much higher talent level. For example, the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals are much better than a team like the New York Jets.

Antonio Callaway

News recently broke about Callaway testing positive for marijuana in his combine drug test. Callaway was considered a high upside day-2 pick. However, now he could be a late-round pick or even undrafted.

Callaway has the talent of a first-round prospect. This is offset by the fact that he has a poor reputation. He has already faced significant concerns off the field regarding a sexual assault allegation and drug misdemeanor charges. Although he was eventually cleared of wrongdoing in the sexual assault case, many people worry because the investigator looking into the incident was also a Gators football booster.

Callaway should still be selected. An NFL team would be hard-pressed to overlook the talent of a prospect who, minus the character concerns, could have been a day-1 selection.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick is a very talented defensive back. The issue that could cause him to slide is that teams may value Derwin James over Fitzpatrick. This is because James is more athletic and versatile. This is supported by the fact that Fitzpatrick may have been a little overhyped as a top-10 lock, especially when not many teams in the top 10 are looking for a defensive back. There also may be a rush for quarterbacks in the top 10, forcing top prospects at other positions to slide back.

Risers

Josh Sweat

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

Josh Sweat (Photo from Glenn Beil of USA Today)

Pass rushers are valued at a premium in the NFL. The only position considered more important by evaluators is quarterback.

Josh Sweat went to Florida State as a five-star prospect and has all the athletic tools to become a dominant pass rusher. He stands at 6-foot-5 with long arms and a 4.53 40 time, which projects well for his ability at the next level. Main concerns about Sweat are his thin frame and injury history.

If we have learned anything in the last few drafts, it is that teams are willing to overlook some problems. Recent years of the draft have shown us many teams reach for a guy whose potential they believe in. In 2014, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Marcus Smith in the end of the first round despite his thin frame. In last year’s draft, the Dallas Cowboys selected Taco Charlton at the end of the first round regardless of concerns about him. This year could be similar with Josh Sweat sneaking into the end of the first round.

Baker Mayfield

Over the last few weeks, we have seen Heisman winner Baker Mayfield rise from being projected in the mid to late teens. Now he is seen as a potential top-five pick. Originally, many thought he would not be selected early due to his size and character concerns. However, rumors have recently surfaced that Mayfield was being considered by the Browns at first overall. Plus, many well-informed insiders have been projecting him to be drafted in the top five or top 10.

Courtland Sutton

Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley has been considered the top receiver in this year’s draft for the most part. After a middling combine performance that failed to build hype, concern has been voiced about Ridley’s size and athleticism.

In addition, Courtland Sutton had a very nice combine performance and has prototypical size at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds. This means that he could rise up and surprise as the first receiver selected in the NFL draft. He has even been endorsed by the all-time best receiver Jerry Rice through a tweet on April 23.

Justin Reid

NFL Draft Day sliders and risers

Justin Reid at the NFL Combine. (Photo by Pats Pulpit)

Reid is an athletic playmaker at the safety position. He is able to play a center fielder type role as well as cover the slot. He could actually be the best center fielding safety in this whole draft.

Teams will see this, and a team who needs a cover safety as opposed to an enforcer type box safety could draft him towards the end of the first. At that point in the draft, many teams are looking to grab players they think will not last through the beginning of the second round. Teams to look out for are the Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

In the end, just like every year, this draft is sure to have some major surprises that no one saw coming. It will be interesting to see who will rise and fall this year.

 

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NFL draft trades

Intriguing NFL draft-day trades

All the waiting and anticipation is almost over. Only one more day until the 2018 NFL Draft begins and all our questions are answered. That is why today, we will be listing some potential NFL Draft trades that you should look out for once the draft comes around.

Denver Broncos trade the fifth overall pick to the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins or Arizona Cardinals

NFL draft trades

Four of the quarterbacks projected to go in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. (Photo from Sporting News)

All of these teams could trade up to draft their signal caller of the future, especially if Josh Rosen from UCLA or Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma are still available, as at least one should be. The Buffalo Bills possess the 12th and 22nd picks in this year’s first round, which is very valuable ammunition. Those firsts and a second or two could make this trade very persuasive for the Broncos.

Conversely, maybe the Dolphins or Cardinals first rounders this year and next will be considered more valuable. They could feel this way because the chances of the Dolphins or Cardinals having a first-round pick lower than 22nd next year are pretty likely.

In the end, it probably depends on how Denver feels about the prospects in this year’s draft versus next years.

Philadelphia Eagles trade the 32nd pick for a couple of day-2 selections

The Philadelphia Eagles lack a selection in the second and third rounds. This, compiled with the fact that teams often like to trade into the end of the first round, means that there will most likely be suitors should the Eagles want to trade back. Teams like to trade into the last spot because it secures the extra fifth-year option in the rookie contracts of the player they draft. Therefore, if a player a team loves is left on the board at 32nd, they could be tempted to make the trade.

In addition, Philadelphia has the luxury of not having large holes on their roster, which means they can draft the best player available. Therefore, if the Eagles have similar grades on a few prospects at 32nd, it would not be surprising for them to trade away the pick and add some picks later on in the draft.

New England Patriots trade up for Lamar Jackson

NFL Draft trades

Lamar Jackson (Photo from Chowder and Champions)

After Lamar Jackson’s visit with New England  it was reported that the Patriots were intrigued and impressed by the former Louisville quarterback. That being said, it would not be surprising if the Patriots move up a few spots to secure Jackson. The Patriots have two first-round selections and two second-round picks, so if he is still on the board into the teens, New England could move up to draft him.

The Baltimore Ravens trade back, potentially with the Patriots

The Ravens have the 16th pick in the draft. This position lines up very well with where Lamar Jackson is expected to be drafted. The Ravens, on the other hand, have holes at the playmaking positions on offense. Due to the potential flood of quarterbacks selected early in the draft, much of the offensive skill players could slide. This means that Baltimore could trade down and gain some additional draft capital while still being able to take a premier wide receiver like Calvin Ridley, D.J. Moore or Courtland Sutton at New England’s 23rd pick.

Philadelphia Eagles trade Mychal Kendricks on day 2 for a pick in the third or fourth round

NFL draft trades

Mychal Kendricks and Jalen Mills celebrating. (Photo by Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Mychal Kendricks had a bounce-back year last season. That means this could finally be the year this trade happens. Kendricks filled in admirably for Jordan Hicks, who was lost for last season with an Achilles tear. A team could have interest in Kendricks to fill a weakside linebacker role for a second-day selection.

Kendricks has two years left on his contract, both with a cap hit of around $8 million. That is pretty expensive, which limits his value as a trade chip. However, a  team trading a third or fourth for the speedy linebacker is not out of the question.

New York Giants trade left tackle Ereck Flowers for a late-round draft pick

Ereck Flowers has been largely a disappointment after being selected ninth overall by the Giants in 2015. The Giants signed left tackle Nate Solder this year and are expected to trade Flowers. A trade could be the best option for both the team and Flowers, who could benefit from a fresh start. A team could be interested enough to part with a late draft pick because he still has the athleticism that made him a top-10 selection in 2015.

 

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Detroit Lions Schedule Prediction

2018 Detroit Lions schedule predictions

Well, it’s official, the NFL schedules have been released! Fans are busy planning which games they will attend and predicting ways for their team to make the playoffs. If predicting these games were possible, there would be no need to play the games. In the NFL, there are too many factors to consider when predicting who will win games. Injuries are unpredictable and often will reveal the character of a team. Additionally, the chemistry within the locker room will dictate how well these teams perform. Chemistry is affected by many things like, the personality of the coaching staff, new players melding together with returners, and the amount of trust built between the players and staff. Without further ado, here is the Detroit Lions schedule predictions for the 2018 season.

New York Jets – Week 1 – September 10, 2018 – Home (1-0)

The Detroit Lions start the 2018 season on primetime, Monday Night Football, at Ford Field. With the New York Jets coming to town, this figures to be a very winnable game for the Lions. The Jets finished in the bottom quarter of the league last season. However, they present a tough physical challenge, which should provide insight into Matt Patricia’s coaching style.

Lions win, 27-17

San Francisco 49ers – Week 2 – September 16, 2018 – Away (2-0)

Traveling out west in week two should be a great early season test of a road trip. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded midseason to San Francisco. He took the reigns of a team that was 1-10. He started the final five games of the regular season, earning a 5-0 record. They beat the Titans, Jaguars and Rams in weeks 15, 16, and 17 respectively, all three teams participated in the playoffs. This will be a very close game and a hard-fought road win for the Lions.

Lions win, 24-21

New England Patriots – Week 3 – September 23, 2018 – Home (3-0)

Matt Patricia is reunited with his old team, this time on opposite sides of the field. Will he be able to prove his ability to outcoach his mentor and longtime head coach, Bill Belichick? The good news for the Lions is they get the Patriots early in the year where they tend to struggle. Another bonus, the game is in primetime on Sunday Night Football and is going to be played in Detroit. The uncertainty hanging over the Patriots organization also leads to New England having a slow start, as they did last year.

Lions win, 31-27

Dallas Cowboys – Week 4 – September 30, 2018 – Away (3-1)

Dallas comes off a down year, largely due to the suspension of Zeke Elliott looks to rebound and should challenge Philadelphia for the division crown this year. This is a road game for the Lions and it is always tough to play down in Jerry’s World.

Lions lose, 27-21

Green Bay Packers – Week 5 – October 7, 2018 – Home (4-1)

After sweeping the Packers last season, Detroit needs to set the tone for this season by continuing their win streak against the hated Packers. Green Bay currently appears to be the third best team in the division as they let Rodgers’ top target and friend Jordy Nelson walk and have serious question marks on the offensive line. They have serious needs on both sides of the ball and if they can’t protect Aaron Rodgers, their season will be short lived yet again. The Lions take care of business at home against the Pack, finishing the first 5 games with a 4-1 record.

Lions win, 34-27

Bye – Week 6

Miami Dolphins – Week 7 – October 21, 2018 – Away (5-1)

Detroit Lions Schedule Predictions

Photo: Andrew Weber

After the strong start to their season, the Lions travel to Miami to play the Dolphins. Miami is in a rebuilding year of sorts after trading away Jarvis Landry and still searching for their franchise quarterback. They also released Ndamukong Suh and look to have a tough year ahead where they will be fighting to finish third in their division.

Lions win, 31-10

Seattle Seahawks – Week 8 – October 28, 2018 – Home (6-1)

The Seahawks are looking like a new team and it will be interesting to see how they rebound from losing some of their star players. Michael Bennett is now in Philly and Richard Sherman is with division rival, San Francisco. On offense, Jimmy Graham is in Green Bay and Paul Richardson signed with the Redskins. If they are not able to replace these players, they will be an average team. Also, the Lions get them at home.

Lions win, 20-17

Minnesota Vikings – Week 9 – November 4, 2018 – Away (6-2)

This will be a major challenge for the Lions heading to NFC runner-up Minnesota. However, they did win on the road against the Vikings last year, 14-7. With Kirk Cousins in town, the Vikings believe they have their franchise quarterback and have gone all-in on winning a Super Bowl. Dalvin Cook will return from injury as well and if he can run with the potential he showed last season, they will be a serious contender once again.

Lions lose, 28-17

Chicago Bears – Week 10 – November 11, 2018 – Away (7-2)

Detroit Lions Schedule Predictions

Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press

The Chicago Bears finished at the bottom of the division last year and are expected to struggle again this year. They have a young quarterback and it will be intriguing to see Trubisky’s development. Will he develop into a top-level quarterback or has he already reached his ceiling? Even though this is on the road and it is tough to win in the Windy City, Detroit still wins.

Lions win, 34-20

Carolina Panthers – Week 11 – November 18, 2018 – Home (7-3)

After losing to the Panthers last season, the Lions have a chance at revenge. Cam Newton and McCaffrey continue to develop chemistry and this will be a big game for both teams. The Lions will drop one here to the Panthers and look to rebound on Thanksgiving Day.

Lions lose, 31-24

Chicago Bears – Week 12 – November 22, 2018 – Home (8-3)

Thanksgiving Day games for Detroit Lions is a great tradition and Stafford tends to play well on Thanksgiving. He currently holds the record for most passing yards in Thanksgiving Day games over his career. Lions win this easily.

Lions win, 38-13

LA Rams – Week 13 – December 2, 2018 – Home (8-4)

The Rams are one of the most improved teams on paper. They added Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh to their defense. They also acquire Brandin Cooks on offense from New England. This team appears to be a front-runner for the NFC title. Thankfully, the Lions have them at home and it should prove a lot about the team as the playoffs draw near.

Lions lose, 27-17

Arizona Cardinals – Week 14 – December 9, 2018 – Away (9-4)

After a tough week against the Rams, the Lions have three of the final four games on the road. The Cardinals are moving forward with Sam Bradford and could select a QB in next week’s draft. It’s hard to project how they will be, due to that uncertainty they appear to be a big underdog in this game. With QB questions looming as well as the return of David Johnson after injury, Detroit is able to pull this one out on the road.

Lions win, 28-13

Buffalo Bills – Week 15 – December 16, 2018 – Away (9-5)

Playing on the road in the NFL is always a challenge. Add to that the fact it is in a cold weather city in December and we have a recipe for a loss in upstate New York. This also could be a trap game as the Lions mentally prepare for the “Battle for the North” in the final two weeks.

Lions lose, 17-10

Minnesota Vikings – Week 16 – December 23, 2018 – Home (10-5)

The Lions are in prime position to make a push for the playoffs and that will start with a home win against the Vikings.

Lions win, 21-17

Green Bay Packers – Week 17 – December 30, 2018 – Away (10-6)

Detroit Lions Schedule Prediction

GREEN BAY, WI – NOVEMBER 06: at Lambeau Field on November 6, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Week 17 could very well decide the division but playing at Lambeau Field in late December is a challenge for any team, even more so for a team that plays home games indoors. Ultimately, eight months away from the game with no knowledge of the condition of the teams, the home-field edge goes to Green Bay.

Lions lose, 27-24

Recap

Overall, the season starts out with some big challenges and the entire season appears to be a difficult road. The Lions have the second toughest in the league. The final three games will prove tough and could make or break the season. Week 15 at the Buffalo Bills will be a cold outdoors game in the middle of December. Then, to end the season against the other two division contending teams could ultimately decide who wins the NFC North.

Based on these projections the Lions finish the season 10-6 which would put them in position to challenge for the division championship, at least a wildcard spot in the playoffs. This would be a great outcome and finish to the season. The Lions record could really end up anywhere from 6-10 to 12-4. There are six games on the schedule that are toss-ups and are nearly impossible to predict. No matter how it turns out, it will be interesting to see how the team responds to Patricia’s coaching. Can Detroit have a quick turnaround with a first-time head coach like the Rams did last season with McVay? Lions fans certainly hope so!

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New England Patriots

What the Patriots need

New England Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady is still questionable for the 2018 season. People believe that there’s no doubt that he will play this year, but they don’t know for sure if he will return. Brady is in his early 40s and is still playing like he’s in his 20s. He didn’t show up for the first week of the offseason program.

The five-time Super Bowl champion isn’t the only player that hasn’t shown up; Tight end Rob Gronkowski also missed the first week of the offseason program as well. There are questions that if he will return to the Patriots. But that’s not the only issue. Star receivers Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and running back Dion Lewis were traded and went to different teams. Now the real question is, who will the Patriots pick up in the draft to rebuild their offense?

Brady’s Situation

There’s no answer on who will take Brady’s place and at quarterback. He’s been in the NFL for 18 years and led the Patriots to five Super Bowl victories. Last season, he threw for 4,577 yards and 32 touchdowns; and he also won his third AP MVP award. Brady has a total of 66,159 passing yards and 99 touchdowns for his whole career.

New England Patriots

Tom Brady
(Sports Illustrated)

It’s still questionable if he will return, therefore, The Patriots are making preparations on who they will pick up in the NFL draft. Of course, they have back up quarterback, Bryan Hoyer right behind Brady, who played with the San Fransisco 49ers last season. He threw for 1,245 yards and four touchdowns. Hoyer is a good quarterback, but he wouldn’t be able to replace Brady and continue his legacy. Hoyer is also the only back up since the Patriots traded away Jimmy Garappolo to the San Fransisco 49ers.

Will Gronk return?

New England Patriots

Rob Gronkowski
(CBS Boston)

The Patriots also need a back up tight end for Gronkowski just in case if he doesn’t come back. He is one of Brady’s favorite targets to throw to and is one of the best tight ends in the league. He has a combined total of 7,179 receiving yards and 76 touchdowns for his whole career.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Gronk plays next year, but his ability to stay healthy is the main concern. He’s been to the hospital numerous times for surgery on his knee, ankle, forearm four times, and on his back three times. There’s no telling how much his body is willing to take for one more year, and he’s only 27.

What will the Patriots Need?

Gronk and Brady aren’t the only players that are missing. Star wide receivers, Amendola and Cooks both switched to different teams. Amendola denied the Patriot’s offer and signed with to the Miami Dolphins for the 2018-2019 season. Brandin Cooks has been traded to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for two draft picks. These wide receivers were huge playmakers that were fast and able to leave defenders behind.

Dion Lewis, who was a huge weapon to New England’s run game, was not re-signed and left for the Tennessee Titans. On the day of the draft, the Patriots will need to pick up more receivers to strengthen their depth and an explosive running back. Since the Patriots have two first and second round picks, and a third-round pick, they have an opportunity to acquire as much young talented rookies to back up and replace them.

 

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New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is now under a week 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 New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile. 

Summary

New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile

Tom Brady (Photo by bleacherreport.com)

New England made it to the Super Bowl again last season but were unable to keep up with the Philadelphia Eagles. They had a good season, but losing in the biggest game of the year created an offseason that has been far from normal.

The Patriots averaged the second most points in the league at 28.6 points per game. They ranked in the top 10 in both passing (second) and rushing (10th). Tom Brady is expected to be back for next season, even though reports have come out this week that he hasn’t committed to it yet. Brian Hoyer is his backup and is in his second stint in New England, meaning he should be able to run the offense decently well if Brady gets hurt, or opts for retirement.

Brandin Cooks was traded to the Rams and Danny Amendola signed with the Dolphins, meaning new wideouts will be needed. Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman return, although Edelman will have to prove he is back from his torn ACL. Jordan Matthews was signed to help bolster the receiving core, but they will likely need to add more in the draft.

Rob Gronkowski has been in headlines all offseason for contemplating retirement and for possibly being on the trading block. Odds are he returns. The offensive line will look a lot different next season as Nate Solder and Cameron Flemming are no longer Patriots.

The running backs are mostly the same, but Dion Lewis left for the Titans. Jeremy Hill was added to the crew in which no one knows who will produce on any given game.

While the defense struggled early in the season, they recovered to finish fifth in the league in points allowed. Adrian Clayborne and Danny Shelton were acquired to bolster the defensive line that was notably pretty weak in 2017. They now have turned it into a solid unit that even has a little bit of depth.

The linebackers did not perform well last season, but there is some talent at the position in Donta’ Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Malcolm Butler was signed by the Titans, so Jason McCourty was acquired, but they still need a few good young corners. Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are solid safeties, but they aren’t among the best in the NFL.

There has been a lot of change to the roster this offseason, but with the right moves in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Patriots could make it to another Super Bowl.

Picks and Needs

The Patriots have eight picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, five of which are in the first three rounds. This is a luxury they haven’t had in a while.

First round (2 picks): 23, 31

Second round (2): 43, 63

Third round (1): 95

Fourth round (0):

Fifth round (0):

Sixth round (2): 198, 210

Seventh round (1): 219

Offensive needs:

Quarterback- Who knows how long Brady can play for? Hoyer is a good backup, but after trading Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett a new young quarterback to develop is needed.

Offensive Tackle- With both Solder and Flemming gone, the Patriots need to get a tackle who they can trust to protect Brady for the rest of his career. There aren’t a lot of great tackle prospects in this draft class, so they will need to strike gold.

Wide Receiver- The Patriots have a few solid wide receivers in Edelman, Hogan and Matthews, but should add more to the roster. A young target who could develop into a number one would be a nice addition to the roster.

Defensive needs:

Defensive Tackle- Shelton and Malcolm Brown make a decent tandem, but depth is needed. They will also need a player to rush on passing downs.

Linebacker- Hightower and Van Noy had down years and they’ll, at the very least, want to get a third linebacker.

Cornerback- McCourty is a solid replacement for Butler, but he isn’t the youngest. With so many picks early in the draft, they should use one on a corner.

Targets

New England Patriots 2018 NFL Draft profile

Lamar Jackson (Photo by cincyjungle.com)

First round:

Pick No. 23: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The going rumor for the first round is that the Patriots love Lamar Jackson. With Brady’s career winding down, they do need to add a plan for the future. With Bill Belichick’s genius, they could use Jackson before ever making him the starting quarterback. Sitting and learning behind one of the best quarterbacks of all time is a great way to start a career.

Pick No. 31: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

To address the losses on the offensive line, the Patriots can select a tackle at the end of the first round. Williams is athletic, but has short arms and isn’t the strongest. New England will have to develop him, like any other tackle in the class, but could turn him into a great lineman.

Second round:

Pick No. 43: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

With the departure of Malcolm Butler, Oliver can be the new young corner on the Patriots. He is lengthy, but slight and will need to add length to his frame. With time he can grow into a shutdown corner.

Pick No. 63: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Jefferson has good athletic ability and speed, but could never seemingly put it all together at Texas. New England’s coaching staff should be able to get the most out of him.

Third round: 

Pick No. 95: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame

St. Brown is tall and fast, but needs improved route-running. Playing with Brady will immediately help him out and make him a good pro.

 

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NFL draft

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

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

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

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

What teams should draft a quarterback?

1. The New York Giants
draft

Baker Mayfield throwing at the combine. Photo by NY Post

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

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

2. New England Patriots

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

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

3. Pittsburgh Steelers
draft

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

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

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

4. New Orleans Saints

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

What this really means?

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

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

 

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Featured image from Brad Penner of USA Today

Brandon Cooks

Brandin Cooks traded to the Rams

The Rams have once again hit the jackpot. This offseason, they’ve traded away Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree; and they’ve brought in Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh to make an all-star defense that will become a problem in the NFL this upcoming season. Now it’s time for the offense to get involved in the mix as well. On Tuesday, April 3, general manager Les Snead gave up their number 23 pick in the first-round of the NFL Draft to the New England Patriots in order to get wide receiver, Brandin Cooks (A sixth-round pick was also traded from the Rams to the Patriots in exchange for a fourth-round pick. This is the second year that the Rams will be without a first-round pick.) Now that he’s part of the team, there’s no telling what the Los Angeles Rams are capable of this upcoming season.

What Cooks Will Bring to the Table?

Cooks will replace Sammy Watkins as their new elite vertical threat. He is an expert at causing separation from defensive backs, and he has the speed and agility to go up and make plays. Now, Rams quarterback, Jarod Goff, will have more options to choose from when he’s on the field. Cooks will also work well alongside wide receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, and Rams star running back Todd Gurley. Cooks is not an Odell Beckham Jr., which was who the Rams were going for, but he’s just as effective and more productive than him and Watkins. Another difference between the two talented receivers is that Cooks is more discipline and has a better attitude than Beckham.

Brandon Cooks

Brandin Cooks
(Calisportsnews)

As a receiver, Cooks has a total of 227 receptions for 3,393 yards and 24 touchdowns throughout his three years in the NFL. He was ranked 15th in the NFL for yards per catch when he was with the New Orleans Saints. Last season, Cooks had a total of 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns, putting him in as one of the four players to record three seasons of 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns before turning 25. The other three that achieved this task were Randy Moss, Odell Beckham Jr. and John Jefferson.

Reason For Leaving

Although Cooks has only one year left on his rookie contract, the Rams hope to sign him over to a long-term extension. Now, the Patriots are looking for someone to replace the young receiver. Of course; it was a tough loss for them. Cooks is a fast, energetic receiver who can go up and make plays.

If his contract hadn’t expired with New England, then there’d be no doubt that he would’ve stayed. The Patriots were also going to pay Cooks up to $14 million per year. But since they knew that his contract wasn’t going to last, they decided to trade him a year early. The Patriots have other problems as well that they’re trying to solve. Two of their best players, quarterback Tom Brady and star tight end Rob Gronkowski, are now in a year-to-year situation. In order to have another successful season, the Patriots will need to gather up players that will be able to stay on their team long term.

What Will the Patriots do Now?

Now the Patriots have two first-round picks, two-second rounders, one third-rounder, two selections in the sixth round, and one in the seventh. They will be able to rebuild, having the flexibility to move around the draft board, and add more talent to their dynasty. There have been rumors saying that the Patriots might pick up New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Most likely it could happen, but there wouldn’t be a need to since they have a number of picks in the draft.

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