Category Archives: NFL

The Houston Texans Will Win the Deshaun Watson Standoff

You would have been hard-pressed to find anyone who’d say the Houston Texans would win their standoff with star quarterback Deshaun Watson when the whole saga began. Yet, nearly a month since he set the NFL on fire by officially requesting a trade, that’s exactly where we stand. Houston is, and has always been, in the driver’s seat.

Houston Texans in Win-Win Situation with Deshaun Watson

Playing the Long Game

Now, before anyone pulls their hair out trying to list all the ways Watson can make life hell in the locker room and throughout the organization, let’s think that all the way through. There’s only so far Watson can go in showing his displeasure without hurting his own image in the process.

Houston is truly dysfunctional but organizations can undergo facelifts far easier than players.

Just take a look at the Washington Football Team. A team mired in racial and sexual misconduct claims totally revamped its front office, leaned into an already-diverse coaching staff, and dropped the epithet for a name, and voila! Friendly press and a pass for the bumps that come along with a rebuild.

Juxtapose that with the image of Carson Wentz.

It’s easy to write him off as a locker room cancer and coach killer. With the team erecting a statue of his backup that everyone loved, his supposed coddling by upper-management, and just by looking at the rest of the roster, it’s kind of a miracle he lasted in a city so tough as long as he did.

No Pardons

That’s not to excuse Wentz or say the Football Team should be from under the watchful eye. It’s just to show how quick the fall is for players when the rise is so slow. And that the inverse is true for billion-dollar organizations. PR teams will do that for you.

How does this apply to the Texans and Watson?

Houston has done everything wrong for at least the past two seasons, beginning with the trade of DeAndre Hopkins. They replaced him with Will Fuller (who got suspended six games for PED use and is a free agent) and Brandin Cooks; secondary options at best.

The man responsible for that madness and the trade for Laremy Tunsil is gone but the sting remains. Look at Houston’s cap space and draft pick situation.

They’ve hired from the same organization that’s left them spinning their wheels in the New England Patriots for their new general manager in Nick Caserio. But it’s another Boston import, Jack Easterby that’s been the focus of many a fan’s ire.

Even with all of that, including the hiring of a lifelong assistant to be the head coach, Houston can distance themselves from this by winning. That becomes harder to impossible without Watson.

Watson’s Woes

As for their beleaguered quarterback, he’s felt left out of the planning process, something every franchise passer enjoys. But listening to the chatter many feel he’s being a diva.

Those people have never watched the Houston Texans play.

Watson just led the league with a career-high 4823 passing yards and threw 33 touchdowns to just seven interceptions; both career-bests. This while the Texans ground attack, led by the shell of David Johnson (the return in the Hopkins trade), ranked 31st.

Houston’s offensive line, ranked worst in Adjusted Sack Rate by Football Outsiders, allowed the franchise to be sacked 49 times, one fewer time than Wentz’s league-leading 50.

Plot Twist

Get this, here’s where Houston can choose how it wants to win this standoff with Watson. That’s right. The team did nothing right while the player has done just about all you could ask for someone in this situation and it’s still the former that can choose their destiny.

They can keep Watson in the fold and spend the next five years making it up to him. That requires solid drafting and free agency signings. Most importantly it means rebuilding the lines of communication, and ultimately the trust, between the franchise and the best player they’ve ever drafted.

Or at least, he’s the most important Texans draft pick ever.

Houston’s other option is the more conventional one. Trade Watson away for a bounty of picks and likely an up-and-coming player or two and begin the rebuild in earnest.

This is also why it might not be as beneficial to Watson to jump ship as some might believe. What good is going to a new team if it’s just been gutted to bring him on? They’ll be right where the Texans were these past two years.

For those wondering about diminishing returns for the Texans, don’t. Every team on his list has the firepower to get him. Not too many teams would pass on a 25-year-old franchise quarterback anyway.

The Houston Texans Will Win Deshaun Watson Showdown

Given how long it took the Texans to find Watson, and by extension relevance, it’s in their best interest to hold onto Watson. But, practically speaking, moving him would allow them to start fresh with little to no expectations, a better cap situation, and replenished draft capital.

Either way, they’ll take a short-term PR “hit” but this too shall pass.

To put it simply, there really isn’t a bad move for the Texans to make here. Keep Watson and have your franchise quarterback in place. Trade him and get a head start on a rebuild that may come with or without Watson.

When it comes to their standoff with Deshaun Watson, It’s a win-win as far as the Houston Texans are concerned

2021 NFL Draft First-Round Mock

We are a little over two months away from the 2021 NFL Draft and there’s no shortage of rumors swirling around the top prospects. We have a pretty good idea of how to rank them, but finding them a home proves to be a much more difficult challenge. However, this creates a golden opportunity to have some fun.

In that vein, Clocker Sports is taking you through the first round of the NFL Draft and making all 32 selections. Eventually, maybe we’ll turn this into a full seven-round mock for every team based on needs and use that to create a free agency wish list. But for now, baby steps.

Predicting the First Round of the 2021 NFL Draft

1.Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence – QB – Clemson

Not since Andrew Luck has there been a prospect touted as this complete of a package. Clemson’s decorated passer Trevor Lawrence leaves college as the holder of several school and NCAA records and a champion. He has the size, arm, and mental makeup to lead a team for the next 10-20 years; we hope.

As with any rookie, there is a bit of risk baked in. But the success rate on quarterbacks taken first overall isn’t great. Only five out of 37 quarterbacks picked first overall are Hall of Famers (a number that’s a bit misleading given there are eight former first-overall quarterbacks still playing. But even if the cut-off is Dan Marino, that’s not great.

The best cases since are Michael Vick and Eli Manning. Both have their warts but had admirable careers. It’s just that they’re the exception, not the rule. Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars better hope he too can be the exception to the rule.

 

2. New York Jets

Zach Wilson – QB – BYU

We don’t have to wait long for our first surprise pick. Maybe that depends on your draft grade for Zach Wilson of BYU. The next Punky QB led Independents in every statistical category that mattered. He showed tremendous growth from his sophomore to junior seasons and has the ideal physical makeup for today’s NFL.

The 6-foot-3 Wilson routinely displayed his rocket arm, pocket presence, and escapability last season for the Cougars. He’s also at least had a hand in leading them to three-straight bowl games. All of this has to have the New York Jets and new head coach Robert Saleh salivating.

Wilson has many of the qualities folks ascribed to Jimmy Garoppolo before, you know, actually seeing him play. He would be perfect in San Francisco but given that Mike LaFleur (maybe you’ve heard the name before) would be his offensive coordinator in New York, he should be just fine. Again, it a surprise, just not an earth-shattering one.

3. Miami Dolphins

Penei Sewell – OT – Oregon

All of the discussion around the Miami Dolphins and the third-overall pick (courtesy of the Houston Texans) focuses on the quarterback position. Rightfully so, seeing as how it’s the most important position, perhaps in all sports. But looking at Miami’s draft history makes one wonder if they aren’t better off going “safe” and building through the trenches.

Penei Sewell received the highest grade ever for a tackle from a Power 5 school. What’s incredible about that is some think he had a down year compared to last season. It’s also important because Miami also took a tackle with one of their three first-rounders last season.

Sewell is worlds better than Austin Jackson, though, so in no way should his presence preclude the Dolphins from taking Sewell. They may go quarterback again but the question would then be if they are truly getting an upgrade over Tua Tagovailoa. It would behoove them to build up the protection so they can get a true read of whoever ends up under center.

 

4. Atlanta Falcons

Micah Parsons – LB – Penn State

A new head coach for the Atlanta Falcons means wholesale changes could be expected. None of those changes will ultimately matter if they don’t add some teeth to their defense. Despite having a background as a defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn’s Falcons failed to rank higher than 19th in defensive yards or points allowed in any of the last three seasons. Enter, Micah Parsons.

Parsons is the versatile linebacker from Penn State that you may have forgotten about because he opted-out of the 2020 season with COVID concerns. But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker is still one of the best prospects in this class and had 14 tackles for loss to go with his five sacks as a sophomore.

New Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees will love getting his hands on Parsons. Pees schemes are known for being multiple to keep the quarterback from picking up tendencies. That’s right up Parsons’ alley. He can line up on the edge or at the MIKE in a 4-3 look.

 

5. Cincinnati Bengals

Rashawn Slater – OT – Northwestern

Protection is the name of the game after the Cincinnati Bengals watched their prized rookie Joe Burrow get sacked 32 times even though he missed five games. His torn ACL and MCL weren’t necessarily due to poor blocking in front of him but it certainly didn’t help the situation. Cincy has some pretty good weapons but Burrow needs time and Rashawn Slater could help.

This seems in direct conflict with what Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said in regards to moving Williams inside but it really isn’t. Slater is, like Williams, considered a candidate to play multiple positions on the line, including center. They aren’t pigeonholed by this selection.

We might see our first trade here depending on the conversations in the Bengals war room but this would be a slam dunk pick. You protect the franchise in Burrow and don’t have to move around Williams. Even the Bengals shouldn’t bungle this.

 

6. Philadelphia Eagles

DeVonta Smith – WR – Alabama

Why should the Philadelphia Eagles take DeVonta Smith so high? There will be the temptation to address the offensive line but injuries undid the Philadelphia Eagles there than lack of talent. Pass rush? Maybe, but the highest-rated option is still a project, the Eagles need help now and in a big way. Particularly with a new

Smith, on the other hand, won the Heisman this year with Alabama and would give presumed new Philly starting quarterback Jalen Hurts a premier perimeter weapon. Philly hasn’t had one of those in years. Eagles quarterbacks spent much of last season throwing to guys like sixth-round rookies Quez Watkins and John Hightower after first-rounder Jalen Reagor missed five games.

This pick could easily be a corner, and maybe it should be. But the NFL is an offensive league and it can be easy to fall behind if you aren’t constantly adding to it. Philly found that out last year and could look to avoid it happening again.

 

7. Detroit Lions

Kwity Paye – EDGE – Michigan

The Detroit Lions are ushering in a new era after trading Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and picks. Who knows the level of confidence they have in Goff, but the tried and true best way to build a team is through the trenches. That makes homegrown talent Kwity Paye an interesting target.

Paye is billed as a project, possessing all the tools but having yet to put it all together. He only had two sacks in a shortened season in the Big 10, but he had 6.5 as a sophomore and has the build to stay on the field for all three downs.

This might not be a sexy pick for Lions fans. There are some high-profile names at corner and wide receiver on the board. However, Detroit got just two sacks out of Trey Flowers and 3.5 from the ghost of Everson Griffen while Romeo Okwara broke out with 10. It’s time to add some talent here and if Dan Campbell is anything like his presser suggests, this is a pick he will love.

 

8. Carolina Panthers

Caleb Farley – CB – Virginia Tech

Carolina could be tempted to go tight end here given their need and the projections for the top prospect in this class. But the Panthers were also 18th against the pass and ranked 23rd in pass defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders. They need backend help opposite Donte Jackson. Add Caleb Farley to plus-sized safety Jeremy Chinn and the Panthers could have good length outside of Jackson.

The Panthers also need linebacker help but, like with tight end, they sit a little too high to take a linebacker that doesn’t rush the passer. Farley opted out of last season due to COVID concerns but he was elite in coverage in 2019; allowing a 26.8 passer rating and snagging four interceptions.

There are some injury concerns for Farley, including back spasms that kept him out of the last two games of his final season in Blacksburg. Perhaps that scares off the Panthers but there’s no denying what adding Farley would do to their secondary and defense as a whole.

 

9. Denver Broncos

Justin Fields – QB – Ohio State

This could easily be Wilson should the Jets take Justin Fields. But the latter has seen his stock slide after Ohio State had a shortened season and he didn’t play his best in their biggest games. But he was the consensus QB2 entering the season and, if they stay away from recency bias, the Broncos could opt to move on from Drew Lock.

Denver has needs at cornerback and possibly EDGE if Von Miller’s time truly has come to an end in the Mile High City. But if they really doubt Lock, as has been reported, then they can’t reasonably pass on arguably the second-best (some would say best) passer in this class.

Again, one could argue that the Broncos have less talent at other positions. But no one can argue against the importance of quarterback play in today’s NFL. Lock has shown flashes in his but has been inaccurate on the whole and dealt with injuries last season. Fields has the tools of a superstar. He just needs a strong system around him to put it all together.

 

10. Dallas Cowboys

Patrick Surtain II – CB – Alabama

This could very well be an offensive lineman as the Dallas Cowboys have seen their once-mighty line regress to the mean over the last two years. But they also struggled to stop anyone last season; a big part of why they passed so much to start. Patrick Surtain II carries a respected name but has the game to match, possibly solving part of Dallas’ backend issue.

The Cowboys finished 2020 ranked 11th in passing yards allowed but much of their ranking that high is because they were 32nd against the run. That would make defensive line an option, but reviews are mixed on the top prospect there whereas Surtain is a blue-chipper at a position of need.

No Cowboys cornerback held opposing passers below 54.8 percent completion in their coverage; a mark that came from rookie Trevon Diggs. Additionally, Diggs is one of just three Dallas corners with contracts beyond this season. Counting on Antony Brown (67.9) and Reggie Robinson (a special teamer) would be asking for trouble.

 

11. New York Giants

Christian Darrisaw – OT – Virginia Tech

Some may want to replace Daniel Jones with this pick or maybe even reach to find Saquon Barkley’s replacement. But what the Giants, and those players by extension, need is quality blocking. Christian Darrisaw, the tackle out of Virginia Tech, started as a freshman and only got better as time went on.

Jones was sacked 45 times; fourth-most in the league. And even if Barkley was healthy, the line allowed just 2.6 yards before contact per attempt. New York took Andrew Thomas out of Georgia with the fourth-overall pick in last year’s draft but they need more talent upfront to get a better read on Jones.

Perhaps the Giants go with Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern given his positional versatility. It could get tempting to snag another weapon or if one of the top three quarterbacks falls. All bets would be off then. But barring that, they need to go offensive line here.

 

12. San Francisco 49ers

Trey Lance – QB – North Dakota State

In this scenario, the San Francisco 49ers will have a shot at one of the top offensive tackles and Trent Williams is a free agent. However, they’d also have a shot at Trey Lance. The North Dakota quarterback was once a candidate to be a top-five pick before being forced to play a one-game season thanks to COVID.

It’s San Francisco’s gain as Lance’s skillset would mesh perfectly with Kyle Shanahan’s run-heavy scheme. Imagine defenses having to cover George Kittle for an extra two or three seconds because Lance broke the pocket and extended the play. Jimmy Garoppolo almost literally could never.

There’s the obvious fear in taking a small-school product. And, full disclosure, it would be understandable to see him take a (big) slide with so little recent tape available. Taking a shot on the dynamic Lance could make the 9ers offense the perfect compliment to its stout defense.

 

13. Los Angeles Chargers

Zaven Collins – LB – Tulsa

The Chargers just miss out on the top offensive tackles but can land one of the most versatile athletes in the draft for new head coach Brandon Staley’s defense. Zaven Collins is listed at 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds so he can hold his own against the run as well as rush the passer. But he also has shown the ability to drop into coverage.

Los Angeles could lose Melvin Ingram to free agency and Uchenna Nwosu is entering a contract year. Staley talked of using Joey Bosa in an outside role in addition to kicking him inside so maybe this is an afterthought. But Collins checks many on the boxes Staley used to describe Bosa. Two of those guys would give him endless possibilities.

Interior offensive or defensive line could be the pick as could trade down with a team targeting one of the remaining name-brand quarterbacks. Collins makes a lot of sense if the Chargers stand pat, though.

 

14. Minnesota Vikings

Alijah Vera-Tucker – OL – USC

The Minnesota Vikings seem to be perpetually in need of offensive line help and get a versatile one if they don’t make a trade. Alijah Vera-Tucker played mostly at tackle in college but has the ideal size to play inside if a team wants. His athleticism would also allow him to start on the inside and move outside if Riley Reiff leaves Minnesota after the season.

Vera-Tucker is widely regarded as the top interior lineman, and that’s with most of his experience at another position. While the Vikings were top-10 in yards before contact on the ground, Kirk Cousins was sacked 39 times.

The Vikings ranked 18th and 21st in ESPN’s Pass Block and Run Block Win Rate metrics, respectively. Football Outsiders graded them out really well in their run metrics. They were first in adjusted line yards and third in second-level yards. But they checked in at 26th in adjusted sack rate. Cousins needs protection.

 

15. New England Patriots

Kyle Pitts – TE – Florida

This pick has “trade” written all over it given the current state of the New England Patriots roster and that they have no third-round pick. Sitting tight could yield the best offensive weapon in the draft in Florida’s Kyle Pitts. The 6-foot-5 former quarterback can line up all over the formation and would give whoever ends up at quarterback a tremendous safety valve.

Pitts was a consensus All-American in 2020 and was the John Mackey Award winner after posting 43 catches for 770 yards and a whopping 12 touchdowns in eight games as a junior. He had 54 grabs, 649 yards, and five scores in 13 games last season; evidence he’s just scratching the surface.

Again, our expectation would be the Patriots trade this pick away. This is also the highest they’ve been slated to pick in the draft since 2000; Bill Belichick’s first season at the helm. Perhaps New England takes advantage and selects a generational talent.

 

16. Arizona Cardinals

Travis Etienne – RB – Clemson

Another potential to be traded, in this scenario the Arizona Cardinals use the 16th-overall pick on the best running back in the draft. Travis Etienne leaves Clemson as the ACC’s all-time leading rusher with 4952 yards to go along with a 7.2 yard-per-carry average and 70 rushing touchdowns. A dual-threat, he also has 102 receptions for 1155 yards and eight scores.

Arizona used the transition tag on Kenyan Drake last season but it’s hard to see them investing heavily in him. He was fairly average and was even outplayed by backup Chase Edmonds at times last season. The Cards were reluctant to trust Edmonds as well so why not upgrade for cheap?

Arizona would have loved to have landed Kyle Pitts (and perhaps in real life they will since we think New England trades down). They also need corner and EDGE help. But there isn’t one worth taking here so another trade could happen. Remember, we still have two of the potential first-round quarterbacks

 

17. Las Vegas Raiders

Ja’Marr Chase – WR – LSU

Las Vegas sits still and gets the player some say is the best wide receiver in this class. Why not upgrade the supporting cast around Derek Carr with Jamarr Chase? Instead of trying to part with a quarterback who just had the best full season of his career (he got injured in Week 16 of 2016). His numbers tailed-off at the end of the year but look at who he was throwing to.

Darren Waller is amazing and dynamic at tight end but the Raiders had Nelson Agholor and rookie Henry Ruggs acting as the top perimeter options. Tyrell Williams opted out last season and has been released. While Vegas still has 2020 third-rounder Bryan Edwards on the roster, he’s not the dynamic playmaker that Chase was for the Tigers in 2019.

He had 84 grabs for 1780 yards and 20 (!!!) receiving touchdowns. There’s concern that he only had success with now-Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow since he stayed away last year with COVID concerns. Luckily for the Raiders, Carr shares Burrow’s accuracy and ability to find his playmakers.

 

18. Miami Dolphins

Terrace Marshall Jr – WR – LSU

After all of the speculation, the Dolphins should pass yet again on replacing Tagovailoa under center and instead give him another weapon. Terrace Marshall was “the guy” for LSU with Chase opting out and Justin Jefferson in the NFL. He did not disappoint with 48 receptions for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns in just seven games, surpassing all but his touchdown total from 2019.

What’s more is he has shown the ability to line up outside or in the slot, giving the Dolphins offense some much-needed versatility. Also, at 6-foot-3, he’s got the size to make up for some accuracy issues from a young quarterback still growing himself.

Miami has relied on DeVante Parker the past few years but he hasn’t played a full season yet. After Parker, tight end Mike Geisicki, and running back Myles Gaskin, 5-foot-7 Jakeem Grant was Miami’s next leading receiver. That’s not an environment conducive to success for any quarterback.

 

19. Washington Football Team

Trevon Moehrig – S – TCU

Many will want the Football Team to go quarterback here. But, on top of neither of the remaining “top options” fitting what head coach Ron Rivera has had in the past, neither is worthy of this selection. So maybe there’s a trade or maybe Rivera gets a quarterback for his secondary. A defensive coach like him knows the value a player like Trevon Moehrig can bring.

Washington already has Landon Collins to handle the box duties in run support, Moehrig would be free to roam the center of the field. There he can use his athleticism and instincts to be the playmaker that picked off six passes and broke up 20 more his last two seasons in college.

What Washington would absolutely love is to snag one of Justin Fields or Trey Lance but that requires trading up in this mock. The problem is there aren’t any teams ahead of the ones picking those quarterbacks that would seem likely to facilitate such a move. The Football Team may have to get creative here.

 

20. Chicago Bears

Mac Jones – QB – Alabama

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace can’t come out of this process without a quarterback so look for the Bears to be aggressive in trying to move up (though they’ll face the same challenges as Washington). In this scenario, they sit tight and land a polarizing one in Alabama’s Mac Jones.

No one will argue about Jones’s physical tools. He’s not overly athletic and doesn’t possess the strongest of arms. But he’s smart and can deliver the ball on time to his playmakers. That does assume he has protection to find those playmakers, though, and Chicago has been light on that.

This Bears fan would prefer to see them use this pick to move up, down, or maybe even reach for a wide receiver or tackle. But it’s hard to imagine the draft breaking this way and Pace risking missing out on a “top” passer in the draft. Unless, of course, he trades for one.

 

21. Indianapolis Colts

Dillon Radunz – OT – North Dakota State

The Colts would have loved to use this pick to add another weapon for newly-acquired Carson Wentz. But the retirement of Anthony Castonzo has created a void on the left side of one of the best lines in football. Given Wentz’s issues in Philly behind subpar line play, it must be filled and Dillon Radunz is a great option to do so.

Radunz is 6-foot-7 and moves well but does have some questions in regards to his initial pop at the point of attack. But scouts believe that could come with age and a professional weight regimen. There does seem to be a consensus that if he fills out he can be a very good tackle.

That Radunz hails from Wentz’s alma mater is just happenstance. What’s important is that they keep Wentz upright. He was sacked a league-high 50 times last season. The Colts tied with the second-fewest sacks allowed, giving up just 21. They need to keep the good vibes rolling with Radunz for the Wentz-Frank Reich reunion to work.

 

22. Tennessee Titans

Joseph Ossai – EDGE – Texas

The Tennessee Titans have one of the league’s most potent offenses but also one of the leakiest defenses. It’s an odd combination with head coach Mike Vrabel’s background. Tennessee ranked 28th in total defense, placing 29th in pass defense but a better-but-still-bad 19th against the run. Joseph Ossai can help with both off the edge.

He’s a better athlete than football player but could explode under Vrabel and new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen. Tennessee needs horses and Ossai is a great athlete. Their top sack-getter was Harold Landry with 5.5 but he’s entering a contract year and Jadeveon Clowney, who had all of zero sacks, is a free agent.

It’s a stated mission of the Titans front office to fix the pass rush this off-season. They need to because, for as good as their offense is, it’s built to play with the lead. A good defense goes a long way in making that possible.

 

23. New York Jets

Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama

The Jets have a new quarterback and opt to give him some firepower with their second pick of the first round. Jaylen Waddle is small, checking in at 5-foot-10, but he’s an explosive athlete that can play anywhere in the offense; including the backfield. New York needs playmakers around their new passer (be it Wilson or Fields) and Waddle is one of the best in this class.

Jamison Crowder was New York’s leading receiver last season but only appeared in 12 games and is a free agent after this season. He’s small like Waddle, which could make the Jets opt for a bigger body with this pick. But Waddle is arguably the best pound-for-pound athlete left.

He only played in six games for the Crimson Tide in 2020 due to a lingering ankle injury but that’s why he’s available here. If the medical check comes back clean, he would be a steal and a perfect compliment next to 2020 second-rounder Denzel Mims. New York could also trade this pick to a team looking to get back into the first round.

 

24. Pittsburgh Steelers

Liam Eichenberg – OT – Notre Dame

It’s so very tempting to take Ben Roethlisberger’s potential future replacement here but the Steelers don’t reach. We could also see them go EDGE but last year’s third-rounder Alex Highsmith flashed after taking over for Bud Dupree, who isn’t expected back in Pittsburgh. But there are reports the Steelers will move on from Alejandro Villanueva and Liam Eichenberg is a ready-made left tackle.

The former Golden Domer isn’t the most athletic but is technically sound. He’s also a force in the run game, an area the Steelers need to get back on track if they are to go anywhere with the statue of Big Ben under center.

Pittsburgh allowed a league-low 14 sacks in 2020. But they also allowed the second-fewest yards before contact in the NFL. Adding Eichenberg could maintain the first stat and help improve the second. This would also be a pick that both help Big Ben now and the Steelers later in a post-Roethlisberger world.

 

25. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jackson Carman – OT – Clemson

Trevor Lawrence gets his former blindside protector from college as his new one in the NFL in Jackson Carman. Life is sweet. In all seriousness, the Jags need talent upfront. They allowed 44 sacks in 2020, tied for fourth-most in the NFL. Starting left tackle Cam Robinson is a free agent and the team needs to upgrade from him anyway.

Carman is massive, listed at 6-foot-5 and 345 pounds, but moves well for a man his size. That doesn’t mean he won’t struggle against speed rushers. But that could be where his familiarity with Lawrence (and vice versa) could pay dividends.

Jacksonville needs help in the defensive secondary as well but protecting the franchise is far more important. They might also try to add another weapon, but with DJ Chark, Laviska Shenault, and James Robinson, they really need a tight end and there isn’t one worth taking with this pick. Think safe, think long-term, think Carman.

 

26. Cleveland Browns

Gregory Rousseau – EDGE – Miami

The Cleveland Browns made the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. To make that trend and not an anomaly, they’ll need to add some teeth to their defense. Despite spending several first and second-round picks on defenders in recent drafts, Cleveland still ranked 17th in yards and 21st in points. They need another impact defender and Gregory Rousseau fits the bill.

They were 15th in sacks and 24th in pressure rate. Even the best cornerbacks in the game can only cover for so long so the Browns would do well to cause some more chaos in the trenches and Rousseau had 15.5 sacks for the Hurricanes in 2019 before opting-out of 2020 with COVID concerns.

Myles Garrett is already one of the best EDGE defenders in the game but Olivier Vernon and his nine sacks are gone. Garrett needs a long-term running mate anyway. There will be some trepidation after Rousseau really only had one year of production but what a year it was.

 

27. Baltimore Ravens

Rashod Bateman – WR – Minnesota

Many have the Ravens pegged for an EDGE defender here with the possibility of both Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue leaving in free agency. But, as we saw throughout this past season, their offense is lacking a true number one threat on the outside. Or, at the very least one capable of playing complementary football to speedster Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews.

Rashod Bateman is the guy, should the Ravens pick in this slot, that should be the target. In his three seasons in the Big 10, Bateman racked up 147 catches, 2395 yards, and 19 scores. Used mostly in the slot by the Golden Gophers, he has the build — he’s listed at 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds — to be the solid and dependable weapon Lamar Jackson needs to reach the next level.

Baltimore got by with Willie Snead and Miles Boykin as the second and third options at receiver but the former is a free agent and Boykin is best served as a third-down chain mover with his big body. Bateman’s route running and ability to create separation would be huge in Baltimore.

28. New Orleans Saints

Jaycee Horn – CB – South Carolina

The New Orleans Saints are in salary cap hell like nobody’s business. They’ll need to make some tough decisions and one of the easier ones could be to move on from 2010 first-round pick, Patrick Robinson. He has one year left on his deal but the Saints could save a few million and the son of former Saints receiver Joe Horn, Jaycee Horn, would make a great replacement.

Horn has the tools to be a really good corner on the outside, though he has experience in the slot as well. What he needs is to become more of a technician which can be done with sound coaching. You can’t teach his athleticism, though and Horn allowed just 33 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed last season.

New Orleans still has Janoris Jenkins opposite Marshon Lattimore but he will be 33 not long into the season. Horn gives New Orleans a capable slot corner now and a future bookend for Lattimore down the road.

 

29. Green Bay Packers

Jalen Mayfield – OT – Michigan

Green Bay is going to be tempted to take a wide receiver with this pick. But David Bakhtiari (ACL) won’t be ready to start the season and the Packers just released right tackle Rick Wagner to clear some cap space. Jalen Mayfield has the ability to play either tackle spot or could be used at guard. That would give Green Bay ample options with Billy Turner and Jon Runyan.

Mayfield is explosive and versatile, fitting in the mold of previous Packers picks but he’d come in with a better chance to man the blindside than any in recent memory. Green Bay tied Indy for second-fewest sacks allowed last season but we say in the playoffs what a lack of protection did to Aaron Rodgers and the rest of this offense.

The Packers can come back later in the draft to get a receiver; the class is deep and they have some younger guys still on the roster. What they can’t afford is to waste the remaining time Rodgers has left in Green Bay. This would ultimately help Jordan Love too.

30. Buffalo Bills

Najee Harris – RB – Alabama

The Buffalo Bills ranked second in points and yards, were third in passing yards, but finished 20th in rushing yards. Part of that was their ranking just 17th in attempts. But much of it was the lack of a true workhorse back. Neither Devin Singletary (5-foot-7, 203 pounds) nor Zack Moss (5-foot-9, 223 pounds) received more than 156 carries. Najee Harris could handle more.

Very much in the mold of defending two-time rushing champ, Derrick Henry, the 6-foot-2 Harris ran for 2690 yards over his last two seasons in Tuscaloosa. That came with 39 rushing scores, 26 of which came this past season. Unlike Henry, Harris catches passes, hauling in 70 balls for 729 yards and 11 scores as a junior and senior.

It’s quite possible the Bills don’t address their running game, at least not in this way. But if they did, it would make a ton of sense. They may go linebacker. Matt Milano is testing free agency and A.J. Klein is approaching 30.

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Wyatt Davis – OG – Ohio State

We saw how rough life would be for Patrick Mahomes if he didn’t get consistent protection. All the speed you could want on the outside couldn’t make up for that. And with the potential of having to replace several starters along the offensive line, it would make sense to take the best remaining interior protector on the board in Wyatt Davis.

The former Buckeye has been charged as being inconsistent and having played his best ball in 2019 but that doesn’t mean he can’t find that again and keep it in the right environment. He allowed just four sacks the last two seasons.

Kansas City allowed just 24 sacks all last regular season but they were middle of the pack in terms of pressure allowed on Mahomes. This is a pick as much about recency bias as it is just thinking about the future. The rest of Kansas City’s offensive line is going to need to be addressed next off-season.

32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Christian Barmore – DL – Alabama

Todd Bowles is a happy man in this scenario. The Bucs get the best interior defensive lineman without having to lift a finger. Christian Barmore offers versatility along the defensive front. More importantly, he’s a nice compliment to nose tackle Vita Vea and a replacement for free agent Ndamukong Suh.

Barmore was never a starter for a full season at Alabama. But he made his presence felt in the college football playoffs against Notre Dame and Ohio State, being credited with 10 total tackles, three tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks.

Tampa Bay could look to address depth at EDGE but getting another big body in the middle would be big too. Remember how much they struggled without Vea for 11 weeks. Barmore is a different kind of a player but a load to move, nonetheless.

Scouting reports and prospect rankings from The Draft Network and Pro Football Focus were used to make this mock draft.

Triple Zeros: “I Just Made Myself Mad…”

Triple Zeros

“I Just Made Myself Mad…”

In this episode of Triple Zeros, Josh reminds everyone that he called Tom Brady beating Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LV, tracks the latest on all Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, and other quarterbacks in the NFL. Then he gets into the Rookie of the Year voting, tells you who the Brooklyn Nets biggest threat is, and talks about the Lonzo and LaMelo Ball in the NBA. All of that and so much more!

Anchor | Apple

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Triple Zeros. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. Triple Zeros

Triple Zeros: Super Bowl Sunday and the NBA MVP Race

Triple Zeros

Super Bowl Sunday and the NBA MVP Race

Josh starts by getting into the storylines of Super Bowl Sunday outside of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. He then refutes Tedy Bruschi‘s assertion that Matthew Stafford “isn’t tough”. He also takes an early look at Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and the chances of others in the NBA MVP race and takes a quick victory stroll over his Tyrese Haliburton hype. All that and much more in this episode of Triple Zeros!

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Triple Zeros: The King, the Sniper, and the MVP Award

Triple Zeros: The King, the Sniper, and the MVP Award

Josh flips the script and leads with some NBA talk on MVP frontrunners, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Then he gets into the NFL and the latest on Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford, and other quarterbacks expected to be on the move. That and so much more in this episode of Triple Zeros.

Anchor | Apple

Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshGBuck and follow the pod on Twitter and Facebook @3ZerosPod.

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Triple Zeros. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss.

NFL Running in Circles When it Comes to Backs

Another year of football, another year of the NFL running in circles when it comes to running backs. Despite ample reason not to, we see several teams invest heavily in a running back. And almost every time they come to regret that decision. This can hold a franchise back much in the way missing on a first-round quarterback, or any player, can.

Backs Have NFL Running in Circles

No Absence of Evidence

Locking in a player at a position with such a short shelf-life should be enough cause for pause. In a league where the average career length is just 3.3 years, running backs bring up the rear of the position groups at just 2.57 years.

This isn’t just a faceless projection of numbers, either. We have concrete evidence from just this past season of why teams should spread the wealth elsewhere.

Of the top seven backs by salary (the cutoff is making $10 million or more), only Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara made it through the season unscathed. Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey, David Johnson (woof), and Joe Mixon missed large chunks of the season.

To be fair, three of the top-10 rushers from last season are on this list in Henry, Dalvin Cook, and Ezekiel Elliott who, though he finished fifth in rushing this season, came into camp out of shape and looked a step slow.

Johnson’s contract is the oldest but, just like most of the others, it aged poorly fast. Singed in 2018, Johnson went on to have the second-best season of his career with 1,386 total yards from scrimmage. His rushing average did drop to sub-4.0 per carry.

It would only get worse for Johnson from that point on as he missed time each of the last two seasons and three of his last four. His average rose this season but it didn’t do much good as he missed Weeks 10-12.

More of the Same

McCaffrey (and Mixon in Cincinnati before the arrival of Joe Burrow) is the best thing going in Carolina and the smallish back was rewarded for it. But, after back-to-back seasons with 300-plus touches, he ended up on the shelf.

McCaffrey missed all but three games with various injuries. It was a banner moment for the detractors who said he was too small to last.

Elliott has long been a focal point of the Dallas offense but was once the focal point. But the necessary ascension of Dak Prescott found Zeke on the backburner often this past season.

He also came into camp out of shape and saw second-year man Tony Pollard show some juice in his stead. It’s not too far out there to picture the Cowboys cutting bait after the 2022 season.

Cook was leading the league in rushing for several weeks but missed time causing him to finish second to Henry. The dual-threat back is arguably Minnesota’s best player but he’s missed time in all four of his seasons in the NFL.

Still, he’s seen his carry totals rise each year and surpassed the dreaded “300-carry” mark.

Next Cycle

This should a warning to teams rostering the next batch of extension candidates. The likes of Josh Jacobs in Las Vegas, or Kenyan Drake who was transition tagged by Arizona but will be looking for a new deal this offseason.

We haven’t even touched on Saquon Barkley, who’s gone from playing a full slate as a rookie to missing 14 games two years later.

What are these teams to do? Jacobs is the second-best player for the Raiders and has missed time in both of his seasons in the NFL. Drake has been a part-time player since college and proved why so he’ll likely move on. Plus Arizona has Chase Edmonds to at least share the load.

But the Raiders are in a tough spot seeing as how there could be changes at the quarterback position.

It matters what kind of changes come. A rookie passer means a rookie contract at the game’s most expensive position. Any high-priced running back better be on a team with one of those otherwise it gets tricky filling out a roster with quality.

It’s also why Mixon isn’t talked about more in this piece. Carolina, Minnesota, and Tennessee all have quarterbacks making some decent coin. How long can they make it all work?

Easing the Burden

It’s not just Mixon that is out of focus for us, it’s also Henry and Kamara. Henry has been disproving critics all along just given his size and running style. But he’s led the league in rushing each of the last two seasons, increased his rushing production for the third straight season.

He also joined elite company by going over 2,000 yards on the ground. The only knock is he doesn’t catch a lot of passes limiting him; a scary thought.

Kamara’s usage is why the Saints aren’t drawing ire here. He has never carried the ball even 200 times; keeping him well away from the 300-carry mark. But he has 100-plus targets in all but one season, 2019 when he missed two games and still had 97 looks come his way.

Even here we see our pattern popping up. Kamara has never been used like a true “feature” back and he still was forced to miss time from getting banged up.

NFL Running in Circles with Backs

Larry Johnson was a big topic well before his tweets made the rounds. Over a two-year span during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, the Chiefs gave Johnson 752 carries. In one of those years, he had a whopping 416 carries.

Just like with David Johnson, Larry would sign an extension with the Chiefs before the 2007 season only to miss half of that campaign. He never started more than 12 games or appeared in more than 14 (which happened just once) again after that and was out of the league following the 2011 season.

Todd Gurley came out of college with bum knees but he and Leonard Fournette might be the poster children for not drafting a back high let alone giving him a monster deal.

Gurley will be on his third team next season. Fournette will be playing in the Super Bowl for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but he split that job this season, preserving him some.

We have this conversation all the time. You don’t pay running backs. So, sorry to Aaron Jones. You’ve had back-to-back incredible seasons. He still shouldn’t crack the $10 million-per-season threshold.

We know what straw stirs that and every drink across the NFL and it isn’t the running back. Not anymore. Teams would be better served reloading yearly at the position and cutting bait. Because, so far, the risks have far outweighed the rewards.

Triple Zeros: A Week 6 Remix

A Week 6 Remix

Josh gets you set for what should be an exciting Conference Championship Sunday in the NFL, wonders if a Lakers-Nets NBA Finals is a foregone conclusion, and so much more in this episode of Triple Zeros!

Anchor | Apple

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Triple Zeros. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss.

Triple Zeros: Jacksonville Jaguars Had to Hire Urban Meyer

The Jackosnville Jaguars Had to Hire Urban Meyer

In this episode of Triple Zeros, Josh goes into the hiring of Urban Meyer by the Jacksonville Jaguars after 17 years in the college ranks and two years in the broadcast booth. He also goes into the New York Jets hiring of Robert Saleh and how his personality weighed just as heavily as Xs and Os. After the NFL, he switches to the NBA and gets into the blockbuster trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets and how they still aren’t the winners in the deal. Josh continues to celebrate hot starts and breakout performances too, this time looking at Chris Boucher.

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Jacksonville Jaguars Urban Meyer. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss

Triple Zeros: From DangeRuss to Danger, Russ

From DangeRuss to Danger, Russ

In Triple Zeros – ‘From DangeRuss to Danger, Russ’, Josh sorts through Russell Wilson’s  Super Wild Card Weekend including Russell Wilson struggling and Doug Pederson getting the boot in the NFL. In the NBA,  Kyrie Irving went M.I.A. and John Collins‘ qualms with Trae Young. All that and more!
 
 

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The Chicago Bears Season in Review and Ahead

It’s been a rough season for the Chicago Bears. Okay, that may be putting it mildly. On paper, the Bears started strong with a 5-1 record. The defense was leading the way for the Bears. Many had hoped either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles would improve the offense to a serviceable level of competition. The victories were close, but that’s what good teams do, win the close games. That was what the optimistic sect of Bears fans told themselves.

Reviewing the Chicago Bears Season and Taking a Look Ahead

The Skid

Then the losing streak hit. Each week it felt like groundhog day, with little change to the frustrating cycle. The defense would do its best to hold their opponent within arm’s reach. The offense would go entire quarters, sometimes even games without much production. Injuries to the defense piled up and glaring issues were exposed.

Chuck Pagano built his defensive reputation in Indianapolis but his time in Halas Hall has seen immense regression. Chicago went from number one in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.7) to 14th (23.1). This is despite a big offseason acquisition in Robert Quinn who has just two sacks. At 5-7 and six straight losses, Matt Nagy was on the hot seat.

The Resurgence

One constant of the Nagy organization is, his team refuses to turn on each other. After Foles’ injury against the Vikings in Week 10,  Trubisky was thrust back into the starting lineup. The offense began ticking again. In their next three games, Trubisky led his team to an average of 36 points per game and won all three contests. This stretch paved the way to slip into the playoffs in the number seven seed and seems to have kept Nagy and company around for at least one more season.

Nagy’s run as head coach hasn’t always been the smoothest but this has been the most successful era since Lovie Smith. Nagy is without a losing season in his first three years as head coach, reaching the playoffs twice. This accomplishment shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s been nearly a decade and a half since the monsters of the midway have seen the postseason that frequently. There is tangible frustration, and it’s warranted, but even when things seem hopeless some franchises find fortune.

The Strengths of This Team

The losses of Bobby Massie and James Daniels forced the offensive line to shuffle. Notre Dame alums Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars have stepped up huge. They are part of the reason why David Montgomery eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark and finished fifth in overall rush yards. Nagy has capitalized on this and re-focused the offense to match its strengths.

Few fans will disagree that Trubisky’s legs are one of his stronger attributes. The play calling now includes more moving pockets and RPO’s and less deep dropbacks and slow-developing plays. When the defense gets pressure on the quarterback, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller have the freedom to jump routes and make plays. All-Pro special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson will need to make his presence felt if the Bears have any chance at winning on Sunday against the Saints.

It’s a New Season for the Chicago Bears

As the postseason gets underway this weekend the Chicago Bears do have a chance to make a run, no matter how unlikely it may seem. Teams with more systemic problems have united in the past and forged unlikely roads to success in the playoffs. The 2011 New York Giants are an example of a team that surprised analysts and fans alike. They made adjustments at just the right time leading to iconic playoff memories. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning led the G-Men who had an eerily similar season to this year’s NFC North contenders.

The Giants lost five of six games late in the season and fans were calling for Coughlin’s head. The team limped into the playoffs with a 9-7 and a negative point differential. The defense was pitiful in the regular season giving up over 25 points per game but in the playoffs, they averaged just 14 points against even though only one of the games was held at home. They ended their season with a Lombardi trophy upsetting the legendary duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for the second time. As a fan, enjoy this Sunday, who knows when another game as meaningful as this will take place for the Chicago Bears.

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