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.
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.
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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A 14-year veteran, DeAngelo Hall has decided to retire from the NFL on Monday according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
He will now look to work in a front office or on TV according to John Keim of ESPN.
Hall started his career off with the Atlanta Falcons for three years, before moving on to the Raiders for half of one season in 2008. For the past 10 seasons, he has called Washington D.C. his home, playing for the Redskins.
The former ball-hawk has missed games due to a torn ACL, which occurred in 2016.
Hall was a three-time Pro Bowler and did not win a Super Bowl in his career.
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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?
(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.
(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.
Featured image from nydailynews.com
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If you are a college football fan, the best day of the year was getting the new college football game. For the past few years, that has not been an option. EA Sports discontinued the super successful College Football franchise after NCAA Football 14.
“There is no college football game on the market that offers a creative experience like Gridiron Champions and we’re excited to hit the marketplace in 2020,” said Alex Lewis CEO of iMackulate Vison Gaming. The game will offer an experience never before seen in a college football game. It will give the user the opportunity to customize player uniforms, stadiums and fan atmosphere and more.
The user will be able to recreate the pageantry that they see every Saturday in the fall.
IMV Gaming has been working diligently for two years for the chance to bring college football fans another game. They have reached out to multiple professional athletes, like Oakland Raiders’ Vadal Alexander and the Brooklyn Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddle. The company has raised enough money that their dream will now be reality in the near future. The company is expecting a launch date of 2020. The game will be $59.99. It will be available via digital download through services like the PlayStation, Xbox and Steam on-line stores.
The college football game isn’t it for the company. Just like college football games, college basketball games have not been produced since Blake Griffin was in college. One year from the release of Gridiron Champions in 2020, they are working to also release the first college basketball game since 2010.
IMV Gaming is actively seeking sponsorships to bring the best product to the people. Their current sponsorships and partnerships are Xenith, Phenom Elite, Signing Day Recruiting and Gridiron Football Helmets.
Even though the game doesn’t release until 2020, over 1,300 gamers have purchased Gridiron Champions as a pre-launch item since May 2017.
Kameron and Alex Lexis, Founders of IMV Gaming, have one mission: #BringBackGreatness. Greatness will arrive in 2020.
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The NFL draft is next week. The entire football world is focusing on that, and rightfully so. Most of the free agency dust has settled. However, there are still a handful of players out there that can help teams win, even if they don’t find a home until after the draft. Here are four of those players.
(Photo from timescall.com)
The first two names are relatively new additions to the free agent pool. Anderson spent five seasons in Denver after going undrafted out of Cal. His release had more to do with finances than football. He is not going to win any foot races, but he is a very tough runner who gets better as the season goes on.
Anderson had 767 yards and eight touchdowns in the second half of the 2014 season and 234 yards rushing yards during Denver’s playoff run to Super Bowl 50. This past season he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career after an injury plagued 2016.
True featured running backs are a rare breed in today’s NFL. So there is plenty of room for guys like Anderson, who is only 27 years old. He will be a valuable pickup for a team that comes up short in a rich running back draft.
Bryant’s production has fallen off dramatically since 2014. He has not posted 1,000 receiving yards since then. Injuries, lack of chemistry with anyone other than Tony Romo and general unhappiness with the Cowboys are all factors in his statistical decline and eventual release from the Cowboys.
The former first-round pick may still have some good football left in him, but he is going to get opportunities and offers based on the player he is and not the player he was. Bryant has been very vocal about wanting to face the Cowboys twice a year, but there is not an obvious fit in the NFC East. The Ravens, Texans and Packers have all been mentioned as possible destinations.
He could work very well as a complementary receiver in Baltimore or Houston. The Packers simply do not sign many free agents. Thus, Green Bay going after a loud receiver who has been mediocre for the last three years would be a shocker. The Ravens and Texans represent Bryant’s best chances at adding a decent second act to his career.
Galette comes with injury and character concerns. He returned to the field in 2017 after missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to injury. He played in all 16 games and posted three sacks for Washington last year.
The three hardest things to find in the NFL are elite quarterbacks, left tackles and pass rushers. In the last three seasons in which Galette has played, he has 25 total sacks. That kind of production should get him an opportunity somewhere, even though it may be during training camp for the veteran’s minimum. If the team structures his contract wisely, he is the definition of low risk, high reward.
Decker has had one of the more interesting careers you will ever come across. He has been in some great offenses for wide receivers like the record-setting 2013 Broncos. Decker has also been in some horrible offenses for wide receivers. The Tim Tebow led Broncos of 2011 and last year’s Titans immediately spring to mind.
(Photo from titansonline.com)
Still, Decker managed to be productive even in run-heavy offenses. He blocked well and put up 44 catches for the 2011 Broncos and 54 with last year’s Titans. When he has played regularly, stayed healthy and been in more modern offenses, Decker has been a shoe-in for 80 catches.
Simply put, Decker will do whatever is asked of him and do it well. He is the kind of player that you really have to pay attention to in order to appreciate. Thus, it is mystifying that Decker continues to wait for his phone to ring. Personnel around the league are sleeping on this guy in a big way.
The Ravens and Raiders have kicked the tires on the former Minnesota Golden Gopher. There has also been some chatter about a reunion between Decker and the Broncos.
The early phases of free agency and rounds of the NFL Draft get most of the headlines, but it is often the latter part of both that separate bad teams from average ones and good teams from championship-caliber clubs.
Featured image from SI.com
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After an invigorating seven games where Deshaun Watson set the football world on fire he deserves to be the first quarterback taken. Leading the NFL in touchdowns with 19 through 7 games while playing as a rookie is no small feat, in fact, it’s almost unheard of.
2nd Overall, Chicago Bears – Myles Garrett, DE
Actual pick – Mitch Trubisky, QB
With no quarterbacks worthy of the second overall pick left, the Chicago Bears settle for the best player available and take the most talented player in the draft. Garrett was limited last year by injuries but when he was on the field he showed the special talent that made him first overall last year. He had seven sacks and a forced fumble in just 11 games played last season.
3rd Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Alvin Kamara, RB
Alvin Kamara splits two Green Bay defenders for a big gain. Photo by Sports Illustrated
Actual pick – Solomon Thomas
Sure, this is early for a running back, but with Alvin Kamara in the fold it opens up a lot of options for Kyle Shanahan to exploit in his offensive attack. Kamara had 1,500 yards from scrimmage while spliting time with Mark Ingram and as the year progressed he appeared to take the mantle of starter from Ingram as well.
4th Overall, Jacksonville Jaguars – Patrick Mahomes, QB
Actual pick – Leonard Fournette, RB
Yes, I know that Leonard Fournette had a great year and rushed for over 1000 yards. However, he was injured for three games and this seems like the perfect time for a team loaded with talent to grab a very talented quarterback to compete with and later replace Blake Bortles.
Worries about Juju Smith-Schuster’s long speed are no longer a problem after he was shown to be a blazer last season, even scoring a 97 yard touchdown where he outran the whole Lions’ defense. He would step in and make an immediate impact for the Titans.
6th Overall, New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB
Actual pick – Jamal Adams, S
The Jets get the best corner in the draft with the sixth pick, Lattimore, a lockdown corner who will help sure up the Jets defense for a long time. Lattimore was a big part of the reason the Saints defense jumped from 31st to 10th in scoring defense and 32nd to 15th in passing yards allowed. He could have a similar impact with the Jets.
7th Overall, Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S
Actual pick – Mike Williams, WR
The Chargers needed a safety and luckily the best one fell into their lap at 7th overall. Adams is a safety that you can keep single back or move him up into the box and either way he will make an impact.
8th Overall, Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook, RB
Actual pick – Christian McCaffrey, RB
Cook had a very promising rookie season for the Vikings until his season-ending injury. Cook looks to be the best running back left in this draft in terms of running and catching out of the backfield. Some would say that Kareem Hunt belongs here but I believe Dalvin Cook has a higher ceiling. He would provide the Panther’s offense with what they thought they were getting when they drafted Christian McCaffrey.
9th Overall, Cincinnati Bengals – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
Actual pick – John Ross, WR
The Bengals deal with their biggest problem on offense by drafting a big guy to help them win in the trenches. Ramczyk would shore up a line that was terribly leaky last season which caused many of their offensive issues. They allowed 40 sacks last season and had the second worst rushing attack in all of football last season. With most of the issues coming from the offensive tackle position it makes this pick easy.
10th Overall, Kansas City Chiefs – Mitch Trubisky, QB
Actual pick – Patrick Mahomes, QB
The Chiefs wouldn’t have traded up for anything else, they still need a rookie to develop behind Alex Smith and they get theirs in Trubisky. He had some promising moments in his first year as a starter, but clearly still needs the right situation to thrive. Andy Reid is a play calling magician and a quarterback whisperer if he cant make Trubisky work, no one can.
11th Overall, New Orleans Saints – Tre’Davious White, CB
Actual pick – Marshon Lattimore, CB
The New Orleans Saints needed defensive help and with Lattimore off the board, they grab the next best corner in White. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the second best corner in the league last year, the Saints are getting some serious value.
12th Overall, Houston Texans – O.J. Howard, TE
Actual pick – DeShaun Watson, QB
With all the potential quarterbacks worthy of a first-round pick gone, the Houston Texans go with someone who will help out the running and the passing game in O.J. Howard.
13th Overall, Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR
Actual pick – Haason Reddick, LB
The Cardinals finally find someone to pair up with the great Larry Fitzgerald to create a truly dominant receiving duo. Davis struggled with injuries in year one but started to come on towards the end of the season. Year two will be a more accurate measure of where he is developmentally, he lands here with the Cardinals based on potential.
14th Overall, Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Barnett, DE
Derek Barnett sacks Dak Prescott. Photo by Hunter Martin
Actual pick – Derek Barnett, DE
Barnett was the right choice for this team. That, coupled with the fact that there are no glaring needs on Philadelphia’s roster make Barnett the perfect choice. Edge rushers are the second most important position on the team and with Barnett in line for an even bigger role in 2018 this pick seems like a huge success.
15th Overall, Indianapolis Colts – Cam Robinson, OT
Actual pick – Malik Hooker, S
The Colts are a team with many holes, none of them as poor as the offensive line, which is truly offensive to football fans. They draft Robinson and he can help keep whoever is quarterbacking the Colts (hopefully Andrew Luck) safe for years to come.
16th Overall, Baltimore Ravens – Cooper Kupp, WR
Actual pick – Marlon Humphrey, DB
It feels like the Ravens haven’t had a competent receiving corps in years, drafting Cooper Kupp to play with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace might give them the firepower they need on offense. Kupp had 865 yards and 5 touchdowns as a rookie and really helped elevate the Rams recieving corps.
17th Overall, Washington Redskins – Kareem Hunt, RB
Actual pick – Jonathan Allen, DE
Hunt would add a new layer to the Redskins already multifaceted approach. He might just be the piece that could have made the Redskins’ offense elite. Hunt finished with almost 1800 yards from scrimmage on the season as the focal point of the Chiefs attack and earned the rushing title with 1327 yards in his rookie season.
A crazy athlete that also fills an important need in the Titans defense. Foster would step in and be an immediate starter in Tennessee’s defense. His range is his biggest asset and would help a Titans defense that struggled with its linebacking corps in 2017. His only downside has been off the field issues.
19th Overall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Solomon Thomas, DL
Actual pick – O.J. Howard, TE
A slightly below than expected season performance from Thomas causes him to slip until here. That being said, the Buccaneers would run this pick up to the table. The talent and potential have made him a top-five prospect and he fills a need on Tampa’s desolate defensive line.
20th Overall, Denver Broncos – Malik Hooker, S
Actual pick – Garrett Bolles, OT
The Broncos look to keep their defense at the top of it’s game with this pick, which truly solidifies Denver’s defense. Hooker is a safety with incredible range, he has the ability to truly shut down the middle of a football field.
21st Overall, Detroit Lions – Christian McCaffrey, RB
Actual pick – Jarrad Davis, LB
The Lions need a running back. The last time a running back rushed for 100 yards on the Detroit Lions was Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving, in 2013! Lion’s fans know this after hearing it in pretty much every game last season. McCaffrey is a good pick at 21st overall and although he made less of an impact than expected in year one he still has the talent that made him the eighth overall pick last year.
22nd Overall, Miami Dolphins – Haason Reddick, LB
Actual pick – Charles Harris, DE
Reddick is a really good player who would get some playing time almost immediately in Miami, they definitely need him. After playing defensive end in college he gained attention by showing that he can also be an inside linebacker in the NFL. He would be a great fit for the Dolphins with their need for both a pass rusher and a linebacker.
23rd Overall, New York Giants – Garrett Bolles, OT
Actual pick – Evan Engram, TE
The Giants take steps to help out Eli Manning by drafting an offensive lineman. Needs meet best player available again.
24th Overall, Oakland Raiders – Gareon Conley, CB
Actual pick – Gareon Conley, CB
The Oakland Raiders had a huge hole at cornerback, Conley is a over 6 feet tall and showed immense potential in his time at Ohio State. The Raiders wouldn’t let this opportunity slip by.
25th Overall, Cleveland Browns – John Ross, WR
Actual pick – Jabrill Peppers, S
Ross did not have a good first year in the NFL but he will surely develop in year two and his speed is a huge asset. After all he does have the fastest 40 yard dash at the combine ever. The Cleveland Browns seem like the team that would draft him here.
26th Overall, Atlanta Falcons – Takkarist McKinley, DE
Actual pick – Takkarist McKinley, DE
The Falcons made the right pick as far as I’m concerned, McKinley looked good last year and seems to fit the scheme well.
27th Overall, Buffalo Bills – Jonathon Allen, DE
Actual pick – Tre’Davious White, CB
Jonathan Allen slipped on draft day because of health concerns, now he’s slipping again because of them. Jonathon Allen looked good last year but how long can he stay healthy? You can’t make an impact if you’re not on the field.
28th Overall, Dallas Cowboys – T.J. Watt, OLB
Actual pick – Taco Charlton
T.J. Watt showed explosion at times last year, I just don’t believe he was as consistent as I would have liked, but, despite that, and his size concerns, he rose two spots. The Cowboys were disappointed by Taco Charlton last year they wouldn’t be disappointed with this pick. I believe Watt could be an effective pass rusher for the Cowboys.
29th Overall, Cleveland Browns – Marlon Humphrey, DB
Actual pick – Deshone Kizer, QB
Marlon Humphrey is a big, fast, and strong corner. His biggest question mark was his ball skills but his two interceptions last season in Baltimore showed that it probably will not be too much of a problem.
30th Overall, Pittsburgh Steelers – Shaquill Griffin, DB
Actual pick – T.J. Watt, OLB
Shaquill Griffin showed off some real potential in his rookie season earning himself the corner spot opposite Richard Sherman. He would be a great asset for Pittsburgh to have as they reshape their defense.
31st Overall, San Francisco 49ers – Evan Engram, TE
Actual pick – Rueben Foster, LB
Engram is not the best at blocking, but he is a good reciever, with good hands and good speed for a tight end. Exactly the kind of player coach Shanahan and General Manager John Lynch would want to add to his team.
32nd Overall, New Orleans Saints – Marcus Williams, S
Marcus Williams misses a tackle in the NFC Championship game. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Actual pick – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
Williams has shown to be a great fit in the Saint’s defense, a good tackler who makes good decisions (except that one play in the NFC divisional round). Why not take the same guy since he worked out so well.
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The 2018 NFL Draft is just under a month away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Oakland Raiders 2018 NFL Draft profile.
Jon Gruden (Photo by usatoday.com)
The Raiders were a trendy pick to win the AFC West but failed to live up to expectations in 2017. They had some injuries and finished the season at 6-10. Oakland lured Jon Gruden out of the ESPN Monday Night Football booth to return to lead the silver and black.
Derek Carr hurt his back last season and missed a game, but needs to remain healthy in order for the Raiders to win big. One of his two favorite targets, Michael Crabtree, is now gone, but they may have gotten an upgrade with Jordy Nelson. The other, Amari Cooper, had a down season. Jared Cook gives Carr a decent tight end, but more weapons will be needed.
Marshawn Lynch is expected to return at running back. He shook off the rust from his one-year retirement to rush for 891 yards. Doug Martin was signed from Tampa Bay, giving the Raiders a good one-two punch. They also have Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, who are good third down backs. They will be running behind a solid offensive line, that needs a little bit of help.
The defensive line also needs a little bit of help on the interior. Defensive tackle has been a need for a while and with Gruden’s 4-3 system that relied on Warren Sapp in Tampa Bay, they need to get a star. Khalil Mack is one of the league’s best players off the edge and totaled 10.5 sacks last season. He will need some more help getting after the quarterback.
While they have signed a few linebackers in free agency, including Tahir Whitehead, but will likely need at least one more, even if only for depth purposes.
They have signed some corners to help their depth, but they don’t have any elite talent at the position. Karl Joseph and Marcus Gilchrist should be able to anchor the safety position for the Raiders in the 2018 season.
Picks and Needs
Gruden will have 11 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft to start building the team the way he sees fit. With a good draft and a healthy Carr, the Raiders can be contenders once again.
First round (1 pick): 10
Second round (1): 41
Third round (1): 75
Fourth round (1): 110
Fifth round (2): 159, 173
Sixth round (4): 185, 212, 216, 217
Seventh round (1): 228
Wide receiver- They have two solid receivers in Nelson and Cooper, but will need more depth and guys they can play in the slot.
Offensive tackle- Donald Penn is old on the left side of the line and a right tackle is needed now. The line will still be solid if this isn’t addressed, but in order to keep Carr healthy, it would be wise to invest in a right tackle.
Defensive tackle- Eddie Vanderdoes and Justin Ellis don’t really strike fear into opponents. If the Raiders want a truly dominant defense, this need has to be filled.
Linebacker- Tahir Whitehead was signed and they have some depth, but their outside linebackers aren’t great.
Cornerback- This has been a position of need for some time now. The Raiders drafted Gareon Conley last year, but he was injured for a lot of last season. Their defense could be so much better with one shutdown corner on the field.
Vita Vea (Photo by nfldraftdiamonds.com)
Pick No. 10: Vita Vea, DT/NT, Washington
The Raiders need that interior presence on the defensive line. Vea is huge at 6’4″ and 347 pounds, but he is mobile enough to be more than just a gap stuffer. With some work and training, Vea can be that dominant force at defensive tackle for Gruden’s defense. This will take some of the blockers off of Mack and allow him more one on one opportunities to get to the quarterback.
Pick No. 41: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Yes, they drafted Conley last year, but Oakland still needs a corner. Hughes has garnered rave reviews, even from Deion Sanders at the NFL Combine. He spent one year at UNC before going to UCF and playing one season there. In 2017 he had four interceptions, was a good returner and helped shut down some good receivers down the stretch for the Golden Knights. He presents good value in the second round and can be a future Pro Bowler.
Pick No. 75: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
Rankin was one of the best pass blockers in college football last season. He helped protect Nick Fitzgerald, which in turn allowed him to become a star. He isn’t the biggest tackle but would be a nice pick to help make a good offensive line even better.
The Raiders aren’t too far off from being a contender again. In Gruden’s first draft since leaving ESPN, he can fill a few holes and try to get the Raiders back to the playoffs.
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This offseason has already seen the making of a memorable one for history. Big crazy trades and free agent signing has set an overcast in the journey to the upcoming NFL Draft. One signing, in particular, would be the San Francisco 49ers acquisition of Pro Bowl corner Richard Sherman. Sherman, whose season was cut short after an Achilles injury in week 8, agreed to a contract worth up to $39.15 million dollars for three years, three days before free agency opened up. But there has been some controversy surrounding the deal itself and Sherman’s role in it. It is reported that Sherman himself handled the negotiations without the representation of an agent.
Some questions now have surfaced to why Richard Sherman would go this route and the future of players handling their own affairs pertaining to contracts. Some see this as the future of the league while others see this as Richard Sherman’s ego getting in front of his talent once again. Sherman has been critical of how agents operate and encourages a path for players to be more proactive in these areas. However, the same can be said about the team he signed to minutes after he was released, comprised a deal that many have criticized.
First, let’s talk about the contract. Richard Sherman has signed a deal that is worth $39.15 million dollars. The key word is “worth”. Most NFL contracts, like other sports and management positions, are worth a dollar amount. Most of the money to be earned is tied up in incentives, bonuses and allowances. Sherman’s deal includes $3 million dollars in full guarantees, $7 million in practical guarantees and up to $9 million in earnings baring injury during the 2018 season.
In an offseason where the value of individual prospects and a team’s desire to certain prospects have set an unprecedented amount of money for their acquisitions, this deal doesn’t seem to make much sense. This could be a fault towards Sherman who essentially worked out the deal himself. This contract is purely based on Sherman’s ability to stay healthy and perform at a high level. However, this opens a door for other players. Sherman, who is also a Stanford grad, is a key player in the NFLPA and knows how the business works. If players are to take the same route, they too might be able to capture some control in the debating process.
Players ultimately have all the power. They decide whether to take deals or leave hem on the table. Agents look to give them the best deal possible. In return, this could leave the player losing the ability to play for a favorable destination. Not saying that players aren’t sitting at the negotiation table but what Richard Sherman did, extends the amount power a player has.
Because of this, the player is able to negotiate a deal that they might feel is good for them. Most agents meet with teams with a hardline offer and it doesn’t really dip or bend from there. Plus with the ability of players to sit out, this pretty much twists the hands of management into submission. Most teams now have tried to stay away from hardline offers as they have led to some of the worst deals. Kirk Cousins suffered from franchise tag-itis because of The Washington Redskins horrible deal with Albert Haynesworth. As other teams have been ultimately forced to give in to player demands. If players want to take slashes in their guaranteed money in favor of being placed with the team that they desire to be on, then they should have that power.
What makes this deal seem sour is the subject at hand, Richard Sherman. Richard Sherman anchored one of the best defenses in five years that led to two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title. With the right defense, Richard Sherman is arguably the best cornerback in the National Football League. With that being said he should be paid accordingly to his value. Looking at this contract, it seems that he is selling himself a bit short. For example, as an analogy, Richard Sherman believes he should get $10 million dollars a year. Team A is willing to give him $10 million dollars and Team B is willing to give him $15 million dollars.
Your value isn’t the price tag that you put on yourself but rather how much someone is willing to pay. Despite his wishes, Richard Sherman is worth $15 million dollars in actuality. In comparison to the deal made in reality, Sherman would never see those $15 million dollars. If he never talks to Team B, it would be impossible. The idea of him not talking to other teams is quite depressing. He would never fully exercise the potential of the deal. This could be a downside for players who really want to play for a particular team and might be blindsided by their “wants” when they should focus on what should be owed to them.
At the end of the day, Richard Sherman has to accept or decline a deal. This particular deal is what he wanted and it is what he got. Other players in the future may not be so lucky. Determining a players’ value really depends on a broad spectrum. It’s not a discussion with a team who only really seems to benefit themselves and not the player. Despite this, a lawyer never acts as a legal representation for himself and a doctor doesn’t examine herself.
Agents are there to work out a deal. They know more about the process and are able to twist numbers and squeeze out the best deal possible. If that means shelving off between 1.5% to 4% in earnings so be it, there is no such things as a free lunch. In the future, negotiations should be left to agents as most believe that one would never let Sherman walk away with that deal. Sherman’s deal isn’t bad at all for other cornerbacks.
However, for an all-pro player, that gravitates a brand presence and is arguably the best cornerback in the league, it’s a terrible one. This contract is a deal for players that are on the cusp of proving themselves. For Sherman, he doesn’t have to. Despite suffering an injury and turning 30 years old in a matter of days, Richard Sherman has already proved his worth. A contract suited for someone who hasn’t is deplorable in his situation.
Fortunately, Richard Sherman got the deal he wanted. He went to the team he wanted and is in the best situation for himself. He’s happy and everyone should. More than likely, the deal will mature to be a wise one. It also might open the doors for other players to follow. On the other hand, if it flops, it would be a disaster and cemented as “pulling a Richard Sherman”. Who knows? Only time will tell.
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There has been a lot of commotion about many key players in the NFL that are being traded right now because of their contract being released. Some have found new homes, and some are still on the market. Some teams also agreed to stay with the team they’ve been playing with. Teams are still negotiating about different deals they will give to different players.
Here are a few key free agents that have found a new home.
Richard Sherman returning an interception (WTHR)
As you all know, Cornerback Richard Sherman is recovering from a torn achilles that ended his 2107-18 season. On Friday, Mar. 9th, the Seattle Seahawks released the seven year veteran. It has been a rumor for two days prior to this event, but it was hard to believe. One of the key players on the Legion of Boom has found a new home, and it didn’t take long
Richard Sherman agreed to a three-year $39 million contract with the San Fransisco 49ers the next day. This is a huge gain for the Niners and also a huge bonus for the seven year vet, which topped his $11 million that Seattle was offering. When Sherman is fully recovered and is 100%, he will be back to the fierce, lockdown corner as before. He has been a key player to Seattle’s defense throughout his whole NFL career. Sherman helped lead the Seahawks to Super Bowl 48 on Feb. 2, 2014. He also has a career high of 32 interceptions, 367 tackles, and 99 pass deflections.
Tyrann Matthieu has also been the main topic this past week as well since he became a free agent. He has been struggling during his five years in the NFL due to his past injuries. Three of his seasons had ended with him being on the injury reserved list. The Arizona Cardinals tried to get the young safety to take a pay cut. He declined the offer, and they’d cut him loose on Wednesday. But it didn’t take long for the Honey Badger to find a new home as well.
Tyrann Mathieu (Sports Illustrated)
On Friday, Mar. 16, Matthieu had agreed to a one year contract with the Houston Texans. There, he will become a huge addition to the team’s, young, rebuilding defense, along with former defensive MVP, JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowny, and cornerback Kareem Jackson. With Matthieu being a versatile defensive back, he will be a huge help to the Texans.
The Oakland Raiders had released wide receiver Michael Crabtree on Thursday due to his attitude problems. Mar. 15. The day after, the Baltimore Ravens had signed him to a three year $21 million contract. Baltimore has been low on their receiving core this year. Crabtree will be a key receiver to the Raven’s offense due to his high level of experience and his red zone skills. He is also a quick route runner and can make good separation. He will also work well with former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver, John Brown, who will also become a key receiver to the offense.
Jordy Nelson (Sports Illustrated)
The Raiders might have lost Crabtree, but they gained another dangerous weapon to their offense. Free agent wide receiver, Jordy Nelson signed a two year $15 million contract with Oakland. Nelson was a ten year veteran of the Green Bay Packers, leading his team to a Super Bowl win in 2010. He was one Aaron Rodger’s best options to throw to in the passing game. He was able to stretch out into open field, becoming a huge threat in the red zone. Along with Amari Cooper, Nelson would be a huge help on the Raiders’ offense.
Kirk Cousins struck gold by becoming the Minnesota Vikings new quarterback. He not only attained a spot on a new team, he is getting paid a lot of money while doing it.Cousins had been the quarterback for the Washington Redskins for over six years. The Redskins, at first, were paying him $44 million for the past two years, but Cousins had lost interest. The Vikings offered Cousins an $84 million deal that is guaranteed fully. This is one of the richest contract in NFL history. By doing this, this makes him the first quarterback to sign a multi year guaranteed contract, and he is also the highest paid player in the history of the NFL.
Kirk Cousins (The Viking Age)
Cousins is one of the NFL”s top 10 quarterbacks since 2015. He has a total of 16,206 passing yards and 99 touchdowns for his whole career. Cousins would be a great leader to the Vikings’ offense, for he also has dangerous receiving threats that he can throw to. He also has Dalvin Cook signed up alongside with him in the backfield.
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1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Atlanta Falcons
5. Green Bay Packers
6. New York Giants
7. Dallas Cowboys
8. Kansas City Chiefs
9. Arizona Cardinals
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Tennessee Titans
14. New Orleans Saints
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Houston Texans
17. Cincinnati Bengals
18. Washington Redskins
19. Detroit Lions
20. Baltimore Ravens
21. Philadelphia Eagles
22. Denver Broncos
23. Minnesota Vikings
24. Los Angeles Chargers
25. Los Angeles Rams
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
27. Indianapolis Colts
28. Buffalo Bills
29. San Francisco 49ers
30. Chicago Bears
31. Cleveland Browns
32. New York Jets
The 2017-2018 NFL season was anything but ordinary. It shifted from stories permeating of the last season. With those stories that molded political arguments and orchestrated the foundation to likes of humanity. This season touched hearts of survivors of this years unprecedented natural disasters and also filled the Twitter mentions of our beloved president. This year was a year to talk about not only for the sport of football but also the moral fiber of our society.
Simply, sports are not just sports. An argument appeared this year during the season. This year like the last, was highlighted by the many protests started by Colin Kaepernick. During a rally in Alabama, President Trump made some indecent remarks pertaining to the protest of players kneeling during the national anthem and flag. These comments created a dissolution among players and the leagues fans.
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Some backed up the president believing that the protest were disrespectful to our armed forces. Others felt that the players were standing up against injustices in this country that the anthem contradicts and are not true for every citizen. And even others took no position on either side but agreed that the protest were well within the rights of the players. In an attempt to preserve the notion of free speech, across the NFL, teams united in a protest by kneeling or locking arms in unification before games or not attending the national anthem and flag bearing at all.
While some saw the protest as an act of defiance, not only to the president of the United States but to our country as a whole, some even saw the protest as illegitimate and did not stand for what Kaepernick originally kneeled for. While Kaepernick was kneeling to bring awareness to police brutality and racial divisions, the players were kneeling for their right to protest and protection of their First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the craze did lose its originality as the notion of Kaepernick’s arguments have yet to be discussed.
Many were critical of the NFL’s involvement in political fashions and wanted players to just play citing “football is just a sport”. The problem with that is football is not just a sport. Sports are never just seen as a collection of over sized men and women competing in gladiator like feats for a trophy. Sports have been able to bring people together. Football was never just a sport, not in America. Football itself has embodied the very grit and passion of what it is to be an American.
What football means
In the digital age, football has spread to consumers across the globe and in almost every house in our nation. Players now have platforms and are looked as icons, heroes, and even moral leaders. If you don’t believe it, ask JJ Watt. Ask Benjamin Watson. Or ask Greg Olsen about philanthropy.
Sports are part of the platform to give back, uplift individuals and inspire future generations. You want proof? Remember when New Orleans natives watched their football time emerge from the ruins of their torn city and bring a title to avenge their will after Katrina. Or how an NBA championship can uplift a city after from a fifty year championship drought to embodied the strength of Cleveland. Or even this year, when Hurricane Harvey ravaged, displaced and destroyed lives in Texas, Houston natives were able to see their beloved baseball team bring home a championship and use the achievement as a beacon of hope.
Sports have been politicized since its very birth. The policies and rights bestowed upon each and everyone of us has given us the ability to watch, appreciate, and participate in sports and should never be questioned.
There is no discussion that should over shadow the celebration of champions. The Philadelphia Eagles have now joined the list of 52 teams to have been able to label themselves as world champions. For a long time coming, this achievement gave the franchise its first world title and the city of Philadelphia its first championship since the 2008 World Series where the Phillies were crowned victorious.
The ups and downs in this season did not falter the Super Bowl champions even when starting quarterback Carson Wentz went out with an injury. Orchestrated by a swagger unlike any other team in the NFL, the squad welcomed Nick Foles in the starting lineup as he led them to a historic run in the playoffs. During the Super Bowl, with no surprise, the Eagles were seen as underdogs as they faced the defending Super Bowl champions. The New England Patriots, like many others, saw this matchup as a dynasty solidifying opportunity.
Thirteen years ago, the Patriots took the hearts of many Eagles fans as they beat them 24-21. A win that many saw to be spectacular, taking down a squad lead by Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and NFL Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. However, this team was not the 2004-2005 Eagles. This team was heralded by a forgotten star in Torrey Smith, a mid season pick up in Jay Ajayi, and a backup quarterback in Nick Foles. Pitted against a team that mirrored the leagues greatest teams assembled of all time, the Eagles never cowered from its opposition. After beating the the Patriots by a score of 41-33, the Eagles brought home their first championship in franchise history.
A team that no one predicted to even compete for a title this year, hoisted the Lombardi trophy on February 4. To spice up the pot even more, at center stage, a player that had been sidelined under the play of an MVP candidate, Nick Foles, held the Lombardi trophy in one hand and the game’s MVP in the other. Of course the Eagles are winners and truly earned it after an incredible season.
AP Most Valuable Player: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year: J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
Coach of the Year: Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Comeback Player of the Year: Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Offensive Player of the Year: Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
Assistant Coach of the Year: Pat Shurmur, OC, Minnesota Vikings
Bridgestone Elite Performance Play of the Year: Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs “Minneapolis Miracle,” divisional round, Minnesota Vikings
FedEx Air & Ground Players of the Year: Carson Wentz, QB,
Philadelphia Eagles and Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams
Deacon Jones Award: Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Courtyard’s Greatness on the Road Award: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston Texans
Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Year: Philadelphia Eagles
Salute To Service Award: Andre Roberts, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina Panthers
There is no hiding this. For the second year running, to no surprise, the Cleveland Browns are the biggest losers of the year. To be frank, 0-16 is down right deplorable. After a year prior that the team went 1-15, the make up of this season didn’t seem any better. Mid-season reports around the organization had suggested that the franchise was looking forward to upcoming draft and ending the season despite only being five games into the schedule. The Browns have a chance to change a few names and numbers on the jerseys this off season but don’t count on it holding any weight. There is no player that will magically turn the tide for the team. The culture is now stuck in conundrum that leaves their fan base with more questions of doubt than accolades to take pride in.
How the Browns are going down the road in the future, the next generation of Browns fans will be Bengals fans, not like that is any better. Changes have to be made from the top if players are going to rally and motivate themselves. Something is going to have to change in Cleveland if change for the good is to come. For a franchise that has lost so much it has to believe in something first to fight for.
NFL Final Standings
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New England
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. New Orleans Saints
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Los Angeles Rams
9. Carolina Panthers
10. Green Bay Packers
11. Los Angeles Chargers
12. Houston Texans
13. Seattle Seahawks
14. San Francisco 49ers
15. Tennessee Titans
16. Kansas City Chiefs
17. Baltimore Ravens
18. Detroit Lions
19. Buffalo Bills
20. Dallas Cowboys
21. Oakland Raiders
22. Washington Redskins
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
24. Chicago Bears
25. Cincinnati Bengals
26. Miami Dolphins
27. New York Giants
28. Arizona Cardinals
29. Denver Broncos
30. New York Jets
31. Indianapolis Colts
32. Cleveland Browns
Class of 2018 Hall of Fame Inductees
This year of football is in the history books. The off-season will guide us to a new year as questions mount for the future. What will come the NFL Draft? Will Colin Kaepernick play on a team next year? Will the NFL and NFLPA come to a solution to keep the league open? Fortunately, 2017 was all the glitz and glamour and also the grit and grime of our world. Despite records showing a drop in viewership for the league, those problems don’t come from the sport specifically. The NFL is a dynamic league that grows each and every year. A few policy changes and rule adjustments should get the NFL back in shape. Above all, for longtime dedicated fans, 2017 was a year to remember but also a foundation for what 2018 has to come.
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