Tag Archives: Kyler Murray

2020 Fantasy Football Regular Season Awards

Finally, we are through the grueling fantasy football regular season. Well, not in leagues everywhere. But most of them for sure. If you were skilled enough (and had the right amount of luck) to make the playoffs, congratulations! Now the real, work begins.

But before we do that, we should take a look back at this season and recognize the players that got us where we are today. For some, that means appreciation. In regards to others, though, it will be a show of contempt for the disappointment.

Awards for 2020 Fantasy Football Standouts

Most Valuable Player

Kyler Murray

2020 has been a bit up-and-down for Kyler Murray; our preseason pick for league MVP. In his sophomore season, the diminutive passer has improved his completion percentage, touchdown rate, and is on pace to shatter his passing yardage total from last season. He’s even upped his rushing production.

What matters most for our purposes is that he went from 10th in overall fantasy scoring to first in a year. The QB5 with an ADP of 56 in the preseason, Murray gave you MVP-level production with an emphasis on the ‘value’.

We cannot do this without acknowledging the players who came closest to winning this. Patrick Mahomes, who missed out by five points, stands out as obvious, as would most any other top quarterback named. But of the four players to round out the top-10, none was a quarterback.

Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams outscored the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, and many others this year. Kamara has been without Drew Brees for the last three weeks while Cook and Adams both missed at least one game.

Bust of the Year

Saquon Barkley

Now the “winner” may be Saquon Barkley, but this one could have gone any number of ways. Some might consider Dak Prescott since he was the league’s leading passer when he went down in Week 5. Or maybe you say it’s his teammate, Ezekiel Elliott. He hasn’t missed a game but is the RB7 after being drafted as the RB3 with an ADP of third-overall. Or is it Christian McCaffrey?

No, it’s Barkley who lasted one full week before going down with just four touches in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears. Much was expected from the former second-overall pick. It’s the second year in a row he’s failed to come close to his ADP. Last year he was the first overall pick and finished as the RB17 (82nd overall). He was drafted second overall on average this season. Oof.

Rookie of the Year

Justins

Ok, so we’re breaking the rules a bit here and, no, that isn’t an error in the heading. Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers is the easy choice. A quarterback and the highest-scoring rookie in the NFL. But we don’t do ‘easy’ around here and so we have co-Rookies of the Year in Herbert and fellow-Justin, Justin Jefferson, wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.

The latter has made a strong case for winning the award in real life too. Herbert’s case would be stronger with more winning and fewer critical turnovers. Still, he is the QB9 after going undrafted due to starting the year as a backup. Jefferson, drafted as the WR48 only to finish the regular schedule as the WR7. A tip of the cap, rooks.

Waiver Add of the Year

James Robinson

Herbert could have qualified for this award since he was a hot commodity on waiver wires after Tyrod Taylor was injured. But it’s another player that walks away with this esteemed distinction. The waiver wire is critical to any successful season and missing out on your preferred target is a different kind of pain. You probably didn’t have that problem with James Robinson.

After Jacksonville cut Leonard Fournette the discussion around this backfield was simple: Avoid. Most wrote that any potential production was negligible. Most of that was because without a preseason we didn’t know who the backup was or how they would perform. All Robinson did was finish the regular season eighth among non-quarterbacks and 20th overall in fantasy points. The undrafted rookie out of Illinois State is third in the NFL in rushing attempts and yards.

Comeback Player of the Year

Ben Roethlisberger

One of the beautifully weird things about fantasy football is how different the perception of a player may be compared to real life. Ben Roethlisberger is having a good season by most standards; over 66 percent completion and 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. But he’s just 12th in passing yards and his interception last week against the Washington Football Team proved to be costly.

Yet, after missing all but two games last year with an elbow injury, and contemplating retirement, Roethlisberger sits 16 overall in fantasy points and is the QB11 (better than his QB14 ADP). Imagine if he was operating a typical Steelers offense.

Most Improved Player

Davante Adams

Aaron Rodgers is an MVP candidate thanks in no small part to stellar wideout Davante Adams. The former Fresno State Bulldog is fourth in catches, sixth in yards, but is tied for first with 13 receiving touchdowns. Mind you, he’s missed two full games and part of a third this season. He missed four games last season and had 83 grabs for 997 yards and five scores.

All of those numbers, racked up in 12 games, are fewer than Adams has compiled through 10. Being in the second year of the offensive system has helped all of the Green Bay Packers and the connection between Rodgers and Adams appears stronger than ever. Adams was the WR32 and 87th player overall last year. He is 2020’s WR2 and 10th overall player through the regular season.

DST of the Year

Miami Dolphins

In real life, we acknowledge the best player on defense with the Defensive Player of the Year award. In most cases, fantasy football only has entire units. As such, we have to bestow this great honor to the Miami Dolphins. Yup, we’re breaking the rules again. It’s actually the Pittsburgh Steelers DST that leads the way in scoring.

With an ADP as the DST2, their production is only “mildly” impressive. Miami, however, was ranked dead last on average in the preseason. Now? They are ranked second. That’s a stunning turnaround from a unit that finished last season just as they were projected before this one.

All rankings and ADP information courtesy of Fantasypros.com

Picturing Perfect NFL Playoffs Payoffs

You go through an entire sports season (in this case a 16-game, 17 week NFL slate) and get amped up for a thrilling match just to get something with no appeal. Oh, you thought this was about quality of play? Nah. More than likely, if a team is in the NFL playoffs the game will be good. Often the least expected matchups wind up being the most entertaining.

But that does nothing for the personal investment of a storyline that really piqued your interest never coming to fruition. For years the quintessential matchup was Tom Brady and the New England Patriots taking on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. Or Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Well, Manning is retired now and the other three now reside in the same conference with Brady’s move to Tampa.

Ideal Payoffs For a Long Road to the Playoffs

For the Nostalgia

Some combination of Rodgers versus Brady versus Brees is still very much a possibility. Rodgers is a legitimate MVP candidate. He has 33 touchdowns to just four interceptions and completing passes at his highest rate since becoming a full-time starter. Brees’ top-seeded Saints are 2-0 with him on the mend from 11 cracked ribs. Brady is bringing up the rear for the trio. His Bucs are still 7-5 with the seventh-ranked scoring offense and the second-highest DVOA of the three defenses, per Football Outsiders.

It wouldn’t matter what leg of the postseason. If any two of these three were to meet it would be must-see tv. Brees-Brady has the most extensive history, despite being in different conferences. Brees owns a decisive 5-2 edge in their head-to-head matchups, including a sweep of the season series this year. Next is Brees-Rodgers, where the Packers passer holds a 3-2 lead after winning in Week 3 this year. Brady-Rodgers have faced off three times as starters and had taken one apiece before Brady’s Bucs stomped a mudhole in Rodgers’ Packers in Week 6.

Again, all would be great matchups but, given the comparative rare nature of a Brady-Rodgers matchup that might be ideal to some. But if we are going off of the current performance of the principles, Brees-Rodgers 6 would be the one. Both quarterbacks are playing at an extremely high level (or were in Brees’ case). Brady’s team might be the most talented. But the cohesion hasn’t been there and Brady has committed many uncharacteristic mental errors this year.

Air Forces

Conference Championship week has often been referred to as the best round of the playoffs. The two teams are the best of their respective conferences but tend to have a level of familiarity that adds both to the strategery of the game as well as the personal investment. Losing is bad enough, losing to a “rival” is unfathomable. In that vein, is there a more exciting potential meeting than the seemingly inevitable one of the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs?

It’s really a matchup of Ben Roethlisberger and Patrick Mahomes, though they will never be on the field at the same time save for possibly the coin-toss and the post-game handshake. Still, Roethlisberger versus Mahomes is must-see programming at its finest. Mahomes has thrown 30 touchdowns to just two picks with 3497 yards to go with that. Roethlisberger, with his 26 touchdowns and six interceptions, hasn’t generated the same kind of buzz because his team is so well rounded. But he is still throwing touchdowns at his highest rate since 2012 and throwing interceptions at his lowest rate since 2010.

Home field advantage could play a significant part in this one; both locales are notoriously tough for visitors. That’s with fans though. With empty stadiums, the bigger deciding factor could be the defenses. This is where the Steelers could prove to be the kryptonite to Mahomes and the Chiefs’ Superman. Pittsburgh’s defense is first in DVOA, sacks, and scoring. Kansas City ranks 17th in DVOA and 23rd in sacks. They are sixth in scoring, though, so maybe that squares it.

Micro Machines

Remember those fun, tiny little toy cars where the spokesman in the commercial talked like he was hooked up to a caffeine drip? This is kind of like that. Unconventional as they may be, the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson and the Arizona Cardinals Kyler Murray have proven they can hang with the big boys. Both of these players spent time as the MVP favorite this season. Wilson, who has never even received a first-place vote for the award, had a case for longer than Murray, but the latter was a popular preseason pick for MVP.

The season has been filled with ups and downs for both quarterbacks and franchises. Neither escaped the rash of severe injuries that hit the NFL so hard this season with Seattle losing their top-four running backs for different stretches of the season and Arizona losing stud pass-rusher Chandler Jones. The quarterbacks both had hands in their own undoing, with both having three-interception games at one point or another.

These two have split the series both seasons since Murray entered the league, with Seattle taking the most recent duel in primetime. Playing in what might be the toughest division in professional football, these teams have spent much of the season beating up on each other and that has led to many taking both to task for their flaws. But the NFC is wide open and both of these offenses can hang points on you in a hurry. Seattle is third in scoring and Arizona is eighth.

Picture Perfect NFL Playoffs Payoffs

There are just some of the potential NFL playoffs matchups that would be worth the price of admission. A playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins would be a throwback to the ’80s and ’90s. If they were healthy, seeing the San Francisco 49ers take on the Tennessee Titans might not be the Super Bowl the league wants. But seeing the game’s greatest rushing system and its greatest runner go at it for the ultimate glory just feels like an ode to its origins. At any rate, we’ll get to see the actual NFL playoffs pairings in just a few weeks. Hopefully, the payoff is worth it.

Week 11 Primetime Moneymakers: Like Looking Into a Mirror

After weeks of having at least one stinker on the primetime NFL slate, we finally get treated to great matchups across the board in Week 11. All six teams are in the playoff hunt and two of the games feature divisional opponents. We also have no fewer than four MVP candidates and a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. You could say it’s pretty loaded.

Week 10 was a rough one. We committed a cardinal sin in betting: betting with the heart and not with the mind (looking at you, Chicago Bears), resulting in an 0-3 week. It’s the first winless week of the year and it stings. The record now stands at 8-11. Yuck. It is what it is and we won’t be dissuaded. As usual, there’s money to be made and if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us!

Primetime Moneymakers: Like Looking in a Mirror

Arizona Cardinals (6-3) at Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

Spread: Seahawks -3

O/U: 57.5

Arizona Cardinal’s (5-4 ATS) Kyler Murray Hail Mary’ed himself back into the MVP race with his late-game heroics in Week 10. A 43-yard heave found stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the end zone in the middle of three Buffalo Bills defenders. After starting the season 2-2, the Cardinals have won four of their last five to pull into a tie with their opponent in this very game. Arizona leads the league in total yards, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. They’re also seventh in points per game. And they’re far from one-sided, ranking ninth in scoring defense and have allowed just 23 touchdowns, four off the league-lead.

Russell Wilson has seen his MVP stock dip in recent weeks. He threw 19 touchdowns to just three interceptions through the first five weeks. He’s thrown nine scores to seven picks and lost three fumbles in the four games since. The Seattle Seahawks (5-3 ATS) need Wilson to play perfectly because their defense is as porous as they come. Seattle ranks 32nd in total yards and passing yards allowed. They’re a respectable fourth against the run but are 28th in scoring defense. It’s why they’ve lost three of their last four after starting off 5-0. Letting Russ cook has led to them getting burned.

This is the matchup that started the recent woes for the Seahawks. Tyler Lockett was dominant and D.K. Metcalf famously hawked safety Budda Baker but the Cardinals won 37-34 in overtime.  A Wilson interception essentially sealed that one too. Arizona has won the last two meetings between these two squads after losing the previous three. These two teams are trending in different directions heading into this battle for a leg up in the chase for the NFC West crown. Ride the heater and take the Cardinals plus the points. Speaking of points, expect a lot of them. Arizona has allowed an average of 32.6 PPG over its last three contests while Seattle has allowed 32.7 in their last four.

 

Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) at Las Vegas Raiders (6-3)

Spread: Raiders +8

O/U: 56.5

Led by MVP-frontrunner Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-3 ATS) sit just behind the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers for the best record in the NFL. The Chiefs are first in offense DVOA, per Football Outsiders, tied for first in points per game, and fifth in total yards. Mahomes is third in the NFL with 25 touchdown passes to just one interception. Kansas City may also get wide receiver Sammy Watkins back this week as well. He hasn’t played since Week 5 when these teams last met. They will be without tackle Mitchell Schwartz, however. Their defense is no slouch either. While they rank 14th in defense DVOA, they are sixth in scoring defense, allowing just over 20 PPG.

It’s been about as good of an inaugural season in Sin City as the Las Vegas Raiders (6-3 ATS) are off to their best start since 2016. They finished that season 12-4 but lost to the Houston Texans in the Wild Card round. Derek Carr was an MVP candidate that season but suffered a broken leg in Week 15. Flash forward and Carr is having the best statistical season of his career while the Raiders offense is eighth in scoring, ninth in DVOA, and 13th in total yards. Their defense is ungood so they rely on a run game ranked fifth in rushing attempts and touchdowns, and seventh in rushing yards to keep them looking average statistically.

Las Vegas pulled off the shocker last time these two met, walking out of] Kansas City with a 40-32 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs. The Raiders are 3-1 since that game and have averaged 34 PPG over their last two contests. Too bad for them they are facing an Andy Reid team. His record coming off of extra rest is the stuff of legend. Add in the extra incentive of revenge and this could be a recipe for disaster if, unlike last time, the Raiders fail to establish the run. Look for the Chiefs to be aggressive early to eliminate that threat and protect their 27th ranked (30th in DVOA) run defense. Take K.C. but just moneyline as the Las Vegas ground game could keep this one close. That also makes the under appealing.

Los Angeles Rams (6-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3)

Spread: Bucs -4

O/U: 48

It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the Los Angeles Rams ( 5-4 ATS) of late. Despite coming off their bye week to beat the Seahawks, they’re just 2-2 in their last four games after starting the season 4-1 with road losses to the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. Jared Goff is 12th in passing attempts and 11th in passing yards but has just 13 touchdowns (and six picks) to show for it. L.A. is eighth in rushing and their 14 rushing touchdowns rank second but they’re only 18th in scoring. The Rams defense is second in total yards, third against the pass, and fourth in stopping the run.

Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5) are second in total DVOA while he leads the league in pass attempts and sits fourth in pass attempts. This is the Bucs best start since 2010 when they also started 7-3. They finished 10-6 that season but still missed the playoffs. That shouldn’t be an issue this year as they sit behind the 7-2 New Orleans Saints in the NFC South but Drew Brees just went on IR and Taysom Hill is starting his first-ever game in the NFL. The Bucs could easily find themselves in the catbird seat with a win. Tampa also boasts the number one defense in DVOA, though the unit has allowed 26 PPG over the last four games; nearly four points higher than their season average.

L.A. is looking for just its third win this season over a team with a winning record after beating the Chicago Bears a few weeks back in addition to the Seahawks last week. Tampa is still seeking its first. If we look at the season, all three of the Buccaneers losses have been against teams in the top-five in DVOA. Their only win against a team in the top half of the league in defense DVOA is against the Denver Broncos. The Rams are eighth. But Los Angeles is just 2-3 on the road this season while Tampa Bay’s lone loss at home was to the Saints. Both teams are just 2-2 ATS over their last four, so we revert back to home-field advantage (and Goff’s disadvantage). That makes the Bucs the preferred play and with these defenses, hit the under.

NFL Week 6 Primetime Moneymakers

In the age of COVID, NFL games are constantly subject to being rescheduled. We have already seen the Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, and several other teams have their seasons rearranged already and it’s a safe bet there will be more to come. We’ve already had this week’s Thursday night matchup moved to Monday afternoon since the Buffalo Bills had to play on Tuesday.

We went 1-2 on our picks last week and missed on our weekly prop of Rob Gronkowski scoring a touchdown. Woof. Alas, there is more money to be made. And if anyone is going to make it, it should be us, right? With that let’s dive into three games to eye this week for their earning potential.

Road Teams Dominate in ‘NFL Week 6 Primetime Moneymakers’

Los Angeles Rams (4-1) -3 vs San Francisco 49ers (2-3)

Are the Los Angeles Rams good again, or at least, as good as their record says they are? Who knows, but they have been getting the job done against the spread this season (3-2 ATS) including last week’s 30-10 drubbing of the Washington Football Team. San Francisco isn’t as bad as Washington, but they are plenty banged up, especially on defense. L.A., averaging 27.2 points per game, should be able to score almost at will after the Miami Dolphins hung 43 on the 49ers defense.

San Francisco is 0-3 at home and 2-3 against the spread and just had their starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, benched for throwing two picks and taking several sacks. In his defense, it was his first start since suffering an ankle injury. Working against him is the Rams defense is worlds better than Miami’s surprising bunch. An early Rams lead could spell quick doom for a 49ers team undoubtedly looking to run it a lot in this one.

One team has looked playoff-ready most of the season and are laying just 3.5 points to a team that has looked disjointed and is certainly in diminished form. San Francisco looked decent against the New York Giants a couple of weeks ago but the Miami game is probably closer to what we should expect from their defense. That spells trouble against Los Angeles. The over has been hitting for the Rams but the expected emphasis on the run from the 49ers could suppress the score so the under looks more attractive here.

Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) -4 vs Buffalo Bills (4-1)

These two teams should come into this one pissed off. Both suffered embarrassing losses in Week 5. The Kansas City Chiefs watched the Las Vegas Raiders beat them 40-32 in Arrowhead playing their own game as Derek Carr threw touchdowns of 59 and 72 yards. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills got shellacked by the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday. Perhaps they wouldn’t have won the game anyway, but losing 42-16 wasn’t in anyone’s forecast.

Allen was the clubhouse leader for MVP but his performance surely allowed Russell Wilson to at least close the gap. More concerning is how simple he was rendered ineffective by the Titans. Playing a bunch of zone coverage, they limited Buffalo’s ability to stretch the field with Stefon Diggs and kept Allen from breaking off any big runs. Patrick Mahomes was harassed all game by the Raiders so Buffalo will have to pressure him better than they did Ryan Tannehill or they’ll suffer the same fate.

Both teams have the same records straight up (4-1) and against the spread (3-2) so nothing immediately jumps to mind. If it simply comes down to who do you have more faith in, it’s hard to vote against the guy who already won an MVP against a guy chasing his first. To be honest the only thing we might have any comfort in is the under hitting; 57.5 is fairly high.

Arizona Cardinals (3-2) -1.5 vs Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Arizona Cardinals are still a team in transition. They have victories over the lowly New York Jets and Washington Football team one top of their surprise win over the 49ers in the opener. Their losses have come against the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers, teams whose offensive talent is closer to that of the Dallas Cowboys than any of the opponents Arizona beat. The x-factor in this one will be Andy Dalton who takes over for the Cowboys at quarterback following Dak Prescott’s ankle injury.

Kyler Murray was the preseason favorite in this space for MVP but he has been inconsistent. and turnover prone. He’s thrown a pick in all but one game this season and threw three against the Lions in Week 3. Dalton steps into a role that had Dak breaking records for passing yards to start the season. There aren’t many better backups in the NFL, as evidenced by his completing nearly 82 percent of his passes in a comeback win against the Giants last week.

Dallas laying any points (+1.5) at home is funny when you think of where we thought this team would be. But Arizona is a challenging foe capable of taking advantage of a suspect Cowboys defense that’s allowed no fewer than 24 points in any game this season. Dalton should have time in the pocket after the Cardinals lost Chandler Jones for the season, but will he be as effective as most think he can be in this offense? It’s hard to confidently bet on a team switching quarterbacks, especially with Dallas 0-5 against the spread this season at full strength. It still feels like people are undervaluing the rest of the talent on the Cowboys and overvaluing the Cardinals. Take Dallas plus the points even if you expect Arizona to win outright.

The NFL’s Best Off-Seasons of 2020

Who had the best off-season in the NFL ahead of the 2020 season? It’s a fair question on its own, but even more so after we laid into the worst of the worst in our previous installment. That list included two members of the NFC North and one AFC South representative. This time around, three divisions are represented and we still span both conferences.

2020’s Best NFL Off-Seasons

3. Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills, who went 10-6, had by far the best 2019 of any of the teams mentioned here. But that in and of itself was a surprise so the efforts made by the front office to make it a regular occurrence is encouraging. It doesn’t hurt they made one of the biggest moves of the offseason and followed our theme of surrounding your young passer with targets.

Maybe it doesn’t really qualify as a free agent acquisition, trading for Stefon Diggs was big time. Their package that included only one pick in the first round is good value; only outdone by the Cardinals nabbing Hopkins. Head coach Sean McDermott didn’t just give his quarterback someone to lean on. He brought in a number of his former Panthers players to further his defense.

In the draft, Buffalo surprised many by going with A.J. Espenesa but they needed a power end who could set the edge. The real smart pick was Zack Moss to pair with Devin Singletary. The diminutive pair should make for a nice crutch for Josh Allen and the passing game. Getting Gabriel Davis in the fourth was also a nice steal.

Buffalo has a path to owning the AFC East now that the Patriots as we know them are no more. But with the Dolphins fast-tracking their rebuild and the Jets still growing around Sam Darnold, it won’t be easy. It appears the front office recognizes this and has set out to ensure they are the next perennial winners of the division.

2. Denver Broncos

Offensive weapons are the name of the game in today’s NFL and in this article. The Denver Broncos off-season has been a terrific example of how to go about stockpiling them. They already have their franchise quarterback and a 1,000-yard receiver and running back in the trio of Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, and Phillip Lindsay. That didn’t stop them.

Free agency saw the Broncos lose Ronald Leary, Connor McGovern, Chris Harris, and Derek Wolfe (all starters) but replace all four. And in a surprising case of the rich getting richer, they also managed to lure Melvin Gordon over after the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers let him walk. Gordon and Lindsay are the best 1-2 running back combo in the league.

Sometimes the draft just falls in your favor. That happened when Lock fell to Denver a year ago and it happened again in this draft. Jerry Jeudy was in the conversation to be the first wide receiver taken and even a top-five pick. So his falling to 15 is almost inconceivable. Add to that landing KJ Hamler in the second round and you see why Lock was quoted saying the Broncos “…got some stallions”.

Denver went 7-9 with lock going 4-1 completing 64 percent of his passes for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns, and three picks. That is impressive for a player thought to be too raw to start as a rookie. With a year under his belt and an improved supporting cast, Lock is poised to breakout. It’s too soon to be talking dark-horse MVP candidate, but Offensive Player of the Year, maybe?

1. Arizona Cardinals

An off-season in which a team nabs a versatile, top-tier talent in the draft after stealing arguably the best wide receiver in the league absolutely has to make any list of best off-seasons. When that team’s other moves highlight their desire to improve their porous defense, like the Arizona Cardinals, they have a good shot at “winning” the off-season.

Free agency was too kind to the Cards. DeAndre Hopkins is third in receptions and yards and is second in touchdowns since he entered the league in 2013. All it took to land him was David Johnson’s bloated deal and a mid-round pick. The Houston Texans made the bad version for this list largely on this trade. Adding De’Vondre Campbell, Jordan Phillips, and Devon Kennard should make Chandler Jones happy.

The reinforcement of the defense didn’t stop in free agency, either. Arizona took Isaiah Simmons of Clemson with the eighth overall pick. The versatile defender will play linebacker to start but expect him to line up all over the field in just as he did in college. Getting Houston tackle Josh Jones in the third round is a boon.

If there is one knock on what the Cardinals did it has to be they didn’t add more talent to the offensive line. Adding Jones and free-agent addition Marcus Gilbert is nice, but Kyler Murray took 48 sacks last season. That number will come down as he learns to get rid of the ball quicker or pull it down and run sooner. But the offensive line was not good in 2019. Will it improve in 2020?

Best Off-Seasons of 2020 in the NFL

This was not meant to be a slight to the other teams that had really strong off-seasons. The Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, and  Baltimore Ravens all had great off-seasons as well. But Dallas and Carolina lost Travis Frederick and Luke Kuechly, no small blows, and Baltimore was 14-2 last season. It’s hard to see them winning more games in 2020.

Free Agency Best and Worst: NFC West

All good things must come to an end and, thus, we have reached that point with our Best and Worst series. Our final installment takes on the NFC West. There hasn’t been too much change at the top, but a cellar-dweller seems poised to make some noise in 2021 and a former contender suddenly has a need to retool.

AFC: North | South | East | West

NFC: North | South | East

Best and Worst of Free Agency: NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Best Move: Nuking the Competition

The best trade of the offseason may be up for debate. Rob Gronkowski to Tampa has made it interesting. But the Arizona Cardinals trade (see: fleecing) with the Houston Texans for stud wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins might take the cake. Not only did they get arguably the best receiver in the game today, but they also moved the massive contract of running back David Johnson.

Murray, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, got through last season with the ageless Larry Fitzgerald as his top option. Fitz is a Hall of Famer without a doubt, but at this point, Hopkins is undoubtedly the better receiver. At least one writer thought Kyler Murray would be the MVP next season. That number is sure to rise now.

Worst Move: Not Protecting the Franchise

It just wouldn’t be a Best and Worst installment without lamenting an organization’s failure to address a porous offensive line. Murray tied with Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson for the league-lead with 48 sacks taken. Sure, some of that could be attributed to rookie struggles. But the Cards line was just as much of an issue in 2018 with Josh Rosen.

Murray mobile to say the least so it’s also not a stretch to say he covered up some of the deficiencies of the line. Arizona re-signed Marcus Gilbert, who didn’t see the field in 2019, and has starting center A.Q. Shipley sitting in limbo. He’s started every game for the last three years. With four picks in the first four rounds (but no second-rounder) watch for a couple of linemen to land in the desert.

Next Move: Stop…Anybody

Arizona’s offense should be very formidable next season. Murray, Fitz, Nuk, and the re-signed Kenyan Drake can be as good as any other group in the division. But the defense needs a LOT of work. They finished 2019 ranked 24th in rushing yards allowed and 31st in passing yards allowed.

They were in the top-10 in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win-Rate metric and had Chandler Jones’ 19.5 sacks (2nd) so the issue isn’t the pass rush, though Jones could use a running mate. Rookie cornerback Byron Murphy had a rough season opposite Patrick Peterson who was involved in trade rumors last season. The biggest issue is a lack of playmakers; Arizona ranked 27th in takeaways.

Los Angeles Rams

Best Move: Ummm…

This offseason has been…interesting for the Los Angeles Rams with not much of it being in a good way. They’ve had to cut their high-priced running back due to injury concerns. Cap issues have forced them to watch pass rusher Dante Fowler (who had 11.5 sacks) head to Atlanta. They also managed to retain Michael Brockers after his deal with Baltimore fell through.

Los Angeles did add A’Shawn Robinson from Detroit and Leonard Floyd from Chicago. So maybe that’s the best thing for the Rams this offseason. That they were able to add anyone (they’re currently $6 million over the cap) is remarkable. They even took advantage of the halt in physicals to keep Brockers and Floyd on hold while deciding who to keep or how to keep both.

Worst Move: Lack of Foresight

This might be the most obvious of all the sections so far. The Rams were a sub-.500 team just four years ago and deserve credit for their quick turnaround from that to appearing in Super Bowl LIII. But the cost has been immense and the bill has finally come due. Now they will have to navigate the next couple seasons with financial constrictions and no first-round picks.

Bears fans will tell you how much that lack of picks in the first round hurts. You can’t readily remedy a poor selection from the year before. And if you do, you have to hamstring yourself in future drafts; if you survive, that is. Luckily for L.A. they still have talent on the roster and who they believe is the franchise in Jared Goff under center.

Next Move: Practice Patience

Patience might as well be a four-letter word in the sports world. Almost no one is in favor of slow, drawn-out processes and the Rams were no different. Their mortgaging of the future paid off with that Super Bowl berth. Now, though, they might need to shift their focus. They were able to take advantage of Goff’s rookie deal and his extension has tightened the purse strings.

That isn’t a bad thing, or at least it doesn’t have to be. They should use this time, and the lowered expectations, to figure out who they really are. Most teams will look good when stacked like the Rams were. But when the onus has to be on the quarterback (second contract status), you get to see the truth. Goff is flawed and benefitted heavily from his head coach. They have to see if he can be more.

San Francisco 49ers

Best Move: Adding Another 1st

Trading away a key member from a unit that was your biggest strength is rarely a good idea but that’s where the San Francisco 49ers find themselves after flipping defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick. Buckner and linemate Arik Armstead were reminiscent of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud in their heyday.

Buckner’s trade aided the Niners in retaining Armstead, who just re-signed for five years and $85 million with $48.5 million guaranteed. But more important, San Francisco didn’t get jobbed like many of the deals we saw go down; Arizona’s robbing of Houston comes to mind. Not only did they get a good deal, getting a first-rounder back moves this deal to ‘great’ territory.

Worst Move: Not Getting WR2

The not-so-subtle implication here is that the 49ers already have a top option at the wide receiver position. That option would be Deebo Samuel who, as a rookie, caught 57 balls for 802 yards. He showed versatility, too, toting the rock 14 times for 159 yards. He had 6 total touchdowns. But after him, the 49ers are banking on a lot of unrealized potential.

Emmanuel Sanders (36 receptions, 502 yards) is now in New Orleans. Kendrick Bourne had just six fewer catches than Sanders and only had 358 yards. They all fall in behind tight end George Kittle, but that doesn’t mean ignore the position altogether. Teams will be better prepared for the run game in 2020 and Jimmy Garoppolo will be forced to answer the challenge. Make it easier for him, San Francisco.

Next Move: Plan for the Future

Aside from another receiving threat and offensive line depth, the 49ers offense is largely set. And despite their defensive dominance, that side of the ball could be worth a look. They will likely replace Buckner with an incumbent and/or draft pick, but they might need to look at EDGE too with rumors they were looking to move pass rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander.

But their biggest need might be cornerback. Richard Sherman is a three-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowler, and Super Bowl Champ. He’s also on the wrong side of 30 and had a poor game in Super Bowl LIV, reminding everyone of his struggles with speedy receivers. Well, receivers won’t be getting slower and Sherm isn’t getting any younger. The 49ers should be proactive in finding his successor.

Seattle Seahawks

Best Move: Letting the Market Play Out

It wouldn’t have shocked anyone if the Seattle Seahawks ponied up and paid Jadeveon Clowney. They didn’t give up much for him, but the three-time Pro Bowler was thought to be one of the premier pass-rushing threats in free agency, if not the entire NFL. Seattle, not exactly flush with cap space, didn’t move too quickly and might benefit from that.

We are less than two days away from the NFL Draft and Clowney is still a free agent. This despite being linked to multiple teams in rumors. Perhaps his extensive medical history played a role as teams are wary of paying big money for an injury risk without the ability to conduct a physical. But Clowney only had three sacks last season. That wee production could be to Seattle’s benefit.

Worst Move: Living DangeRuss

Is it possible the Seahawks offensive line got worse? A group that is far better executing the run game than the passing attack. Seattle also lost Germain Ifedi (16 starts) and George Fant (seven starts) to free agency. They did retain Mike Iupati and added Cedric Ogbuehi and B.J. Finney. Ifedi and Fant weren’t setting the world on fire, but Ogbuehi and Finney had all of four starts in 2019, all by Finney.

Wilson is a wizard at the quarterback position. His ability to extend plays and improvise when the play breaks down is unmatched. But Seattle has never protected him commensurate to his value. That has to change and the draft is a great place to do so. They have tackle Duane Brown but he, along with Iupati, is on the older side. By any measure, the Seahawks need to address this.

Next Move: Find the Pass Rush

The Seahawks tied for 31st in sacks in 2019 with 28. That is the lowest ranking and total in the Pete Caroll era. Their top sack artist, Rasheem Green, had a grand total of four. This is part of the reason why letting Clowney (and Ezekiel Ansah for that matter) sit in limbo while they weigh their options. There isn’t a ton of production on the line.

That isn’t to say they wouldn’t welcome either back, just at the right price. But there is also the avenue of the draft. Some mocks have them targeting Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State in the first round. That would be a good start but don’t be surprised to see them double down on the position. They need all the help they can get with or without Clowney and Ansah.