What The Reloaded Patriots Mean For The NFL

The Buffalo Bills were going to be the perhaps the most interesting team in the NFL during the 2020-2021 season.  Every single game of their’s would have been absolutely fascinating.  Here was a team that had done everything right in terms of roster construction, whether it be drafting, free agent signings or trades.  They’d built one of the best defenses in the league thanks to a stacked defensive line and one of the game’s best cornerbacks in Tre’Davious White.  They struck gold in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft by selecting tight end Dawson Knox and running back Devin Singletary, two guys who were extremely productive during their rookie seasons in Buffalo and figure to be big pieces moving forward.  They have an indestructible offensive line, and they added the final piece to an intriguing yet lacking receiving core in Stefon Diggs, who commanded a haul from the Vikings this offseason.

Yet, the most important piece of it all was still the question mark.  Third year quarterback Josh Allen just isn’t there yet.  He could have been in line to take that next step this season.  If he did, the Bills were likely to be Super Bowl contenders.  If he didn’t, they were probably still in good shape.  A top defense was ready to make up for what Allen couldn’t.  Buffalo was probably still going to win the division.

Then the Patriots reemerged.

Cam Newton’s signing with New England puts even more pressure on Allen this year.  Buffalo isn’t going to be able to get away with the former Wyoming gunslinger being average like they previously thought they would. They can’t afford Allen to be misplacing balls or making bone-headed decisions.  He can’t keep being a boom or bust player with deep throws.  The Bills being a team that wins eight games or more thanks to their defense alone will not win them the AFC East this year.  

The NFL adding an extra playoff team to each conference will help Buffalo significantly.  It gives them a bit more of a buffer to be able to sneak in if Allen doesn’t take the step forward they hoped this year.  But a first round exit after another average Allen season won’t be very enticing to Bills fans or their front office.  The rest of the roster is too good to be out of the playoffs that early.

If New England hits their ceiling – which would likely involve the re-signing of Newton to a longer-term contract after the season – then it could force the Bills to have an unpleasant conversation about the quarterback position next March.  If Allen plateaus again this year it forces Buffalo into a Chargers-like scenario.  Being in the middle is consistently the worse position in sports, and pulling a 2015-16 Broncos – who rode a stellar defense with practically a corpse at QB to a championship – is extremely tough, especially considering that the Patriots being their best selves this season likely vaults them into being just the third best team in the AFC.

On paper, the Patriots might be the third best team in the conference heading into the season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be even better than that.

Neither the Chiefs or Ravens had to go through the Patriots in last year’s playoffs.  While the Patriots weren’t the same Patriots we and the rest of the NFL has feared for the past 20 years, it still saved each team from having Bill Belichick scheme against them in a playoff game.

Newton’s signing and the youth, energy and modernization he could bring to the Patriots doesn’t hand the league or the conference over to the Chiefs or Ravens just yet.  Patrick Mahomes might be the most talented quarterback of all-time, but he lost in a duel to prime Tom Brady in the 2019 AFC Championship Game and got quite lucky in Week 14 of last season against the Patriots, who were led by what certainly seemed to be a different quarterback.  If this was a negotiation, the Patriots still have the leverage with Kansas City.  They’re still the boss around here, and now they have a new toy to play with in Newton.

Things won’t be as easy this upcoming season for the Ravens either, whose young core got an awakening to playoff football last year in their Divisional Round loss to the Tennessee Titans.  New England could look to replicate a lot of what Baltimore has implemented offensively with Lamar Jackson thanks to Newton’s skill set.  The Ravens heavy usage of two and three tight end sets, unique running game and mobility at the quarterback position won’t be as rare anymore with the Patriots set to run a similar scheme with their newly drafted tight ends and new quarterback.  Newton’s a different runner than Jackson since he doesn’t have nearly the elusiveness or speed of last year’s MVP.  Instead, he’s a bowling ball who trucks his way down defense’s throats.  That gives New England’s run-pass-option sets more creativity, as the Ravens aren’t running Jackson’s thin frame right up the gut.  On top of that, Newton’s strong arm and deep ball ability makes throwing on the run easier than it is for Jackson, who’s deep ball and overall accuracy showed much improvement during the 2019-20 season but isn’t quite elite just yet.  

New England’s offense has the potential to be very similar to Baltimore’s if they so choose.  Having a copycat makes the Ravens schematic advantage over other teams slimmer.  No one might be fast enough to catch Jackson, but no one may be smart enough to stump Belichick as well.

Cam Newton Is The Ultimate Low Risk, High Reward Signing

For the past three months, the New England Patriots led us to believe that they were going to give up.  They were going to replace the best quarterback of all-time in Tom Brady with a fourth-round pick that no one really knew about when countless other options existed on the market.  It was the most Patriots thing ever, and because of their resume, it also didn’t seem like the most ridiculous thing ever.

Turns out, giving up was likely never their plan after all.

Sure, Cam Newton could have been scooped up by any other team over the past three months, but according to multiple reports, New England’s minimum, incentive-based deal was the former Carolina quarterback’s only offer, which coincided slyly with the NFL enforcing penalties on the Patriots due to them allegedly taping the Cincinnati Bengals illegally.

The Patriots had to be prepared for a world where they couldn’t sign Newton, which means they had at least some confidence in second year QB Jarrett Stidham going forward.  But it was never as much as they had previously indicated.

How we got here is still stunning but also makes sense.  Newton’s health has been a massive question mark the past two years – he’s dealt with a foot injury and a shoulder injury which never seemed to go away. Any team signing him to be a starter right after his release was risky, since the coronavirus pandemic didn’t allow teams to do medical checks.  Signing him to be a backup would have created a media controversy over who a team’s actual starting QB was, especially if that team that may not have the best current situation at the position.  

These factors seriously limited Newton’s options – teams like New England or the Chargers were the only places that made sense, and the Chargers made it clear after the draft that they were out.  So, New England let the market cool, knowing they had no competition for his services, and was able to slide him in on a bargain deal rather than blindly pay a large number shortly after his release.

With his health the x-factor, it seems odd that the Patriots would go about signing Newton and presumably make him the starter if they didn’t believe he was healthy.  Why create excitement when you’re not sure?  Additionally, bringing someone in to challenge your young QB in Stidham could hurt the second year signal-caller’s confidence.  If Newton gets hurt or doesn’t play well, pivoting to Stidham shows that the franchise didn’t believe in him as much as they led onto the past couple months.

On the other hand, New England is only out the NFL’s minimum salary if the Newton acquisition doesn’t work out, and if it does, the contract tops out at $7.5 million, which isn’t much either.  Plus, it did serve as a cover for the penalties handed down by the NFL Sunday night, and it certainly worked.  You couldn’t find a story about the penalties anywhere on ESPN.com’s home page Monday – it was all Newton content instead.

Ultimately, the Patriots still might have two really good options here.  Newton could be healthy – and good – and suddenly New England is a Super Bowl contender thanks to one of the league’s best defenses and an above-average quarterback at the helm.  Or, Newton isn’t healthy and/or doesn’t play well, the Patriots owe him nothing, and New England is still content with handing the reigns over to Stidham, despite his confidence maybe being hurt a little bit.  Again, Stidham had to be in the Patriots plans, even if he was Option C.  There was absolutely world – probably a non-pandemic world – where they lose Newton.  There, they would’ve had to pivot to Stidham.  If he wasn’t in their plans, they would have gone after an Andy Dalton or Ryan Tannehill mold or drafted someone.

Touting the Patriots as contenders might seem generous, but let’s lay out the case.  This operates as if health isn’t a question, because as noted, this move may not make much sense if the Patriots have questions about his health.  Newton has never been worse than average healthy.  If Carolina’s been bad, it’s been due to other injuries on the roster or a pure lack of talent around Newton, something that they’ve struggled with for years thanks to David Gettleman at GM and a defensive-minded head coach in Ron Rivera.  Their 6-10 season after Newton’s MVP-winning, 15-1 season could be pinned on the beginning of his shoulder problems – he had surgery after the season to repair his rotator cuff.  The year after, in 2017-18, Newton and the Panthers went 11-5 with Newton leading the team in rushing and Devin Funchess as the leading receiver.  It was Newton carrying the offense, with Christian McCaffrey being misused and Greg Olsen as the most talented pass-catcher.  

The following two years led to more shoulder problems and a foot injury, which led to his season being over this past Fall and his eventual release from Carolina.  

Post MVP, when his career seemed to peak, Newton’s never been bad on his own.  Injuries have caused poor performance or Carolina’s infrastructure failed him, which also included one of football’s worst offensive lines over the middle of the decade aside from lackluster weapons.  

Last year, the Patriots looked a lot like those Panthers teams – a group with an awesome defense whose offense just couldn’t do enough.  That’s not necessarily a good thing for Newton, but New England’s offensive line is certainly better than any he had in Carolina.  That will help immensely.

Plus, as hard as it might be to admit, Tom Brady was worse than ever last year.  That’s not to say he’s toast, and that’s not to say he won’t be successful in Tampa Bay, but it seemed like the Patriots experienced the perfect storm of a regressed Brady, bad luck offensively (Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon) and poor performance from skill position players (like Mohammed Sanu, who New England gave up a second round pick for and just never made an impact and Sony Michel).  It might have just been a bad year for everyone involved.

The Patriots still have Julian Edelman.  They still have James White.  They still have a good defense despite heavy losses in the offseason, and you know Bill Belichick will get more than expected out of them than less.  There was no real reason for Sanu to play poorly last year – he should return to form as a good second or third option.  The Patriots drafted two tight ends in the third round in April, which screams of a plan to possibly recreate the dominance Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.  Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi will likely be used heavily, and therefore be trusted targets.  An offense with Newton at QB, White at RB, Edelman, Sanu, N’Keal Harry and two big tight ends in a perfect scheme fit?  That could be deadly.

Last year feels like it should be an outlier for the Patriots.  Even with Brady gone, Belichick still exists, and because of that, they shouldn’t be counted out.  There’s a reason why it was going to be tough to totally write off New England with Stidham this year.  New England tends to just figure things out.  Last year was the first year in perhaps the last 20 where that didn’t happen.  Now, they’ve made sure that next season, they won’t encounter the same problem, and that the rest of the league still has to take the Patriots as seriously as they did before.

The Pros And Cons Of MLB’s 60 Game Season

On June 4, 2019, the Washington Nationals sat at a record of 27-33.  They were in fourth place in the NL East, six games below .500, and sported what was easily the worst bullpen in baseball through the season’s first two months.  It seemed like the Nationals were just doing their typical thing early that year: completely choking even with one of the sport’s best overall rosters.

But baseball seasons are long.  They’re 162 games running from March to September.  A lot can happen and change during that span, especially in a game as variant as baseball, which is almost solely based on numbers.

In 2019, a lot changed after June 4.  The Nationals bullpen improved slightly, which was just enough to have it not be the sole reason they were losing games.  Washington snuck into the playoffs, won the NL Wild Card Game on a single base hit, let the Dodgers trip on themselves again (and subsequently take the throne from the Nationals as the most disappointing team of the 2010s) and became World Series Champions.

Around MLB, a lot changed after June 4 as well.  The St. Louis Cardinals – Washington’s opponent in the NLCS – were 30-29, third in the NL Central, and sat behind the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs in the division.  Chicago didn’t even make the playoffs, and the Brewers choked in one of the most stunning ways we’ve ever seen in the playoffs.  The Philadelphia Phillies led Washington’s division and were seven games above .500; they didn’t even end up making the postseason.

The 2019 season saw seven of the 10 teams that made the playoffs in position to do so on June 4 – the day the Nationals played their 60th game of the season.  That’s a pretty high percentage.  As surprising as 2019 was, the small sample size we had on June 4 was actually quite representative of how the season ended up playing out, even though the eventual World Series champions were left out.

Even more surprising, baseball’s early season small samples aren’t as misleading as we tend to believe.  I looked at the standings on the date of the eventual World Series champions 60th game every year since 2010, and eight of the past ten seasons, more than half the teams who were in a playoff position on that date actually made it into October.  Here’s the charted data:

MLB from 2010-2011 only had one Wild Card in each league, resulting in an eight team playoff field

2010: 6/8 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the San Francisco Giants 60th game made the playoffs

2011: 5/8 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the St. Louis Cardinals 60th game made the playoffs

2012: 4/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the San Francisco Giants 60th game made the playoffs

2013: 7/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the Boston Red Sox 60th game made the playoffs

2014: 5/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the San Francisco Giants 60th game made the playoffs

2015: 8/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the Kansas City Royals 60th game made the playoffs

2016: 8/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the Chicago Cubs 60th game made the playoffs

2017: 8/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the Houston Astros 60th game made the playoffs

2018: 7/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the Boston Red Sox 60th game made the playoffs

2019: 7/10 teams who held a playoff position on the date of the Washington Nationals 60th game made the playoffs

A couple additional notes here:

  • It is extremely interesting that during the second half of the decade, the first 60 games were much more representative of the playoffs than the first half.
  • On paper this could make sense – the 2018 Red Sox, 2017 Astros and 2016 Cubs were all the best team in the baseball each of those years.  The 2015 Royals and 2019 Nationals, not so much.
  • Every Giants World Series title felt incredibly surprising in the moment, and the data backs that up, which explains why during the first half of the decade, the first 60 games were much less representative.
  • The Giants were not even in the playoff picture through 60 games in 2010 and ended up winning the World Series.  They join the 2012 Giants and the 2019 Nationals as the only three other teams to be out of the playoff picture through 60 games and win the World Series in the past 10 years.

The data doesn’t lie.  It shows that approximately 67.7% of the teams in the playoffs after 60 games make it into October over the past 10 years.  That’s a better percentage than most, including this website, seem to give credit for.  Usually the first MLB column of the year lands some time in July on this site, due to school and the NBA Finals wrapping up.  But it’s also significantly due to a perceived small sample size in games and statistics.  Writing about what’s happening a month or two into the season seems insignificant.  It might be time to reconsider that thinking going forward.

MLB is going to make us do that this season whether we like it or not.  The data shows that it may not be something we hate as much as we think it will.  Sixty games may not be the madness we think it will be.

Still, the remaining 32.3% of teams that could get screwed by this short season is significant chunk, and as the data showed, there’s a 30% chance it leaves out the World Series Champion based on the previous 10 years.  Those are both big numbers.

This data is a surprising find, which, despite numbers never lying, leaves for some holes to potentially be poked in them and for us to potentially disagree with them a bit. It’s widely been written about how much of a crapshoot baseball is, specifically during the playoffs.  While the best team wins more times than not, it happens drastically less than in other sports, and when it does (Like the Nationals last year), it feels even more incredible.  Washington in 2019, the Royals in 2015 and almost every Giants title early in the decade was totally unpredictable.  Even the Royals opponent in 2015 – the Mets – completed an astonishing feat by making it that far.

But for three years after that, the best team truly did win: the Cubs in 2016, the Astros in 2017 (well, maybe) and the Red Sox in 2018 all dominated those respective seasons.

It ebbs and flows.  When the ebbs occur, they’re enormous, unpredictable and spectacular.  The data can’t really put that into context.

Additionally, the data set pulled may possibly not be the most accurate due to the resources available.  It might have been more accurate to take each teams best and worst 60 game stretch of each season and compare those to the playoff standings in a given year.  Comparing the first 60 games of a 162 game season may not accurately compare to the first 60 games of, well, a 60 game season.  Because baseball is so variant, stats can change dramatically during any 60 game stretch, not just the one that begins the season.

However, finding those 60 game stretches would be nearly impossible with resources available.

Still, 60 games out of 162 is not even 40 percent.  That’s leaves more than half the season left to be completed.  There’s a lot of variability that can occur in either pocket, which means ultimate chaos could still culminate when Opening Day comes along in late July.

We didn’t have to be here.  Games were going to be lost no matter what, but talks between the MLB and MLBPA started in early May regarding a resumption.  Based on camp starting July 1 for most teams, it wouldn’t have taken that long to get things going again – likely about a month total after an agreement.  June 1 was realistic when the sides first started talking.  That would have given us the potential to play somewhere around 90-100 games.

But an agreement couldn’t be made.  The owners and players union spent almost two full months arguing over small amounts of money in the grand scheme of things, most of which came down to billionaire owners being greedy rather than millionaire players being so.  Players are the ones who would be the ones traveling, interacting with others and putting themselves at the highest risk for potentially catching a case of the coronavirus.  Owners will be in their mansions tucked away watching.

There are some caveats – which aren’t defenses of billionaires – though.  Teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s are really hurting right now – no season could have legitimately put these teams into bankruptcy, in which MLB would’ve had to bail them out.

A lot of teams that cried poor over the past two months aren’t.  It’s mostly owners refusing to put more money than they want to into their teams when they have plenty more to spend in their back pockets.

Oakland and Tampa Bay don’t necessarily fit this bill.  Yes, their owners may be greedy in their refusal to sell, but they don’t possess the mammoth wealth many others do throughout baseball.  For example, Oakland’s owner, John J. Fisher, has only $750 million worth of stock in Gap, the company his parents own and founded, right now. That’s $230 million less than the value of the Miami Marlins, per Forbes.

Fisher hasn’t made his money any other way other than through his Gap stock.  As Ken Rosenthal and Alex Coffey wrote here, it’s been a tough go for the company amidst the coronavirus pandemic.  Gap’s valuation has tanked, and therefore so has Fisher’s, and the A’s, wealth.

So, the owners rejecting MLBPA proposals of games in the 70-114 range at full pro-rated salaries might have been a good thing for the future of these two teams.  It’s highly unlikely every owner in baseball was looking out for the A’s and Rays rather than just their own wealth in rejecting the proposal, but some could have factored it in.

Regardless, an extra 10-15 games probably wouldn’t have stretched the A’s and Rays that far.  At the end of the day, those owners still have a lot of money.  They’d probably be fine up to 80 games or so – about half of a normal season.  Instead, they cut it off 13 percent short of the halfway mark, all over what likely amounts to no more than $10 million for each team – chump change for billionaires.

Would that extra 13 percent of a season really change things?  The data says no, given that according to it 37 percent of the season sets a decently clear playoff picture.  Fifty percent of a season would only entrench that more so.  But halfway through the season is typically around the All-Star break, and by then, teams are forced to deal with smaller sample sizes with the trade deadline usually a week or two afterward.  A lot of teams make decisions on whether to buy or sell right up to the final days before July 31 because any extra games (or samples) they can get, they will take.

Eighty or 82 games would be a clean break.  Half the season lost to coronavirus and some bickering.  Fine.  Put that down in the record books.  We’ll deal with it.  What happened the past two months will go down as purely embarrassing and won’t ever have an easy explanation.  It was nonsensical.

The biggest reason why things panned out this way was not only because of greedy owners but because of what looms after next season (which will hopefully be a normal one and at some point have fans in the seats): the CBA’s expiration.

Up after the 2021 season, the CBA’s expiration means a lockout is a virtual guarantee.  It was even before this season, thanks to brutal free agent markets of past offseasons.  That was going to get ugly, like, perhaps no 2022 season ugly.  Factor in what just occurred over the past two months and no season in 2022 seems like a lock.

All the bickering and hard lining over these negotiations resulted in the implementation of a season because of the acquiring of leverage for the next CBA.  Giving in now makes you look weak and ready to do so more in 2022.  With things getting as dicey as they will then, neither side was willing to relinquish whatever leverage they had going for them in those talks now.  The past two months’ talks determine a two month season.  2021’s talks determine the next five full seasons.

Regardless, we’re here.  And we’ll take what we can get of it, for however long that lasts.

Lets hope it’s for awhile.  MLB took some steps when it comes to limiting the coronavirus threat, like having teams play only their divisional opponents and interleague divisional opponents to reduce travel distances.  Showers aren’t going to be allowed postgame.  There won’t be spitting, seeds or fights without severe punishment.  Media access will be only via Zoom.  Players aren’t allowed to go out to restaurants or bars postgame; they must go straight to their hotel instead.  There will be distancing in the dugout and clubhouses.

But a lot of this seems pointless when you consider how close a runner and first baseman stand next to each other, or how close the batter, catcher and umpire are at home plate.  It seems pointless considering that teams are going to be traveling on charter planes whose pilots and flight attendants won’t be in quarantine while transporting players, or that random hotel maids will be entering rooms while players are gone.  When teams are playing home series, players will go home to their families.  Those families may not be as careful as they should be – especially when one of their own is away half the time.

This is not a bubble whatsoever.  MLB players are going to be doing a lot of things that aren’t being recommended right now.  They will be coming into contact with a lot of people whom MLB has no control over.  That’s a lot of trust to put into a lot of different people.  If a player gets sick, it needs to be caught immediately, and testing every other day doesn’t cut it.  An outbreak could happen easily.

MLB has instituted a taxi squad for every team to have on deck, meaning they don’t plan to halt play if an outbreak like that occurs.  Sickness would be treated like injury, and backups would play instead.  Still, a potential outbreak on a given team may feel a lot more surreal in the moment, and could force MLB’s hand in halting play of that team or the league as a whole.

It feels a bit shortsighted, given all the time it took to get here.  MLB seems to be ignoring the one and only thing that could bring them down again.  Health and safety protocols were agreed to almost immediately between the league and union.  Now we know why: there weren’t that many to begin with.

Whether a 60 game season turns out to be completely ridiculous or not, we should be glad we got it.  If it’s the Dodgers and Yankees or the Padres and Blue Jays in the World Series, it’s better than the alternative conclusion from the past two months of pandering between the league and the players union.  A couple extra bucks from the owners probably would have given us something a little better, but everyone is racing against a time bomb in the coronavirus, and therefore, running shorter might be a little sweeter.

Did The NBA Really Ever Have A Plan?

Lets look at what a plan released by the NBA for the resumption of the 2019-2020 season should have looked like.

It should have outlined a format for the conclusion of the regular season, a settlement of tight playoff races, a format for how the final seedings of the playoffs would be determined and how those playoffs were to be conducted.

Check.

It should have explained the effects on the offseason and the beginning of the 2020-2021 season to the best of its abilities, as a time frame for this would be hard to project due the relative unknown that the coronavirus pandemic has brought.

Check.

Most importantly, it should have had a comprehensive overview of the health and safety protocols for players, coaches, team personnel and others who would be in the bubble at Walt Disney World starting in late July, which would ensure that another interruption, or perhaps a cancellation, of the 2019-20 season would not occur.

Oops.

June 4 and 5, the days in which the NBA Board of Governors and the NBA Players Association both ratified the plan to return to play, both came with nothing more than a “We’ll figure it out and let you know later” from the league regarding the most important part of their restart plan. NBA commissioner Adam Silver was supposed to speak sometime during the next week detailing those. That never happened.

Instead during that very week (last week), coronavirus cases in multiple states –including Florida, home of the NBA’s resumption – spiked worryingly high.  Reports trickled out regarding the NBA’s “bubble”, which doesn’t really seem like a bubble at all if certain people are able to freely leave and return without rampant testing.  Additionally, of course, NBA players started to do the same as many others – getting out and doing something about racial injustice rather than just tweeting about it.

So it’s no wonder there was a conference call on Friday night with about 80 players discussing some of the drawbacks of and potholes in the NBA’s resumption plan.  It was never really all there in the first place.

If the report by The New York Times is true that a delay in health and safety protocols is due to those regulations still being worked out, then June 4 and 5’s decision and vote should have never happened.  The coronavirus – and the protocols to help protect against it – should have been the league’s No.1 concern, not the format for the league’s return to play.  As demonstrated in March, the coronavirus has the power to completely shut this whole thing down.  It already did once.  It could very well do it again in the July-October window.

The league’s resumption can’t happen without the coronavirus being taken care of and locked away to the best of the league’s abilities.  Having workers like hotel maids and cooks not be quarantined in the bubble with the players makes Walt Disney World not truly a bubble.  That is putting a lot of trust into people who are going home to their families at night instead of staying in the resort.  It’s not like those people being careful is 100 percent fool-proof with this thing either – an essential trip to the grocery store for one of those workers is still risky.

There is the case to be made that the players are the ones not taking things seriously enough.  According to ESPN, some have issues with the league’s preliminary (unreleased) protocols at Disney World, feeling as though they’re too restrictive for the players.  That shows a degree of carelessness from the players, yes, but three months in a hotel room with no friends or family also doesn’t sound fun.  It’s a fair argument.

You know how the league could address and solve those player concerns?  Bubbling everyone!  If the Disney employees are kept inside the bubble, along with all NBA personnel, then freedom would be allowed inside of it.  That grants players the ability to do things like golf.

There’s a human aspect to all sides of this though.  One group is going to have to bite the bullet of leaving their families, quarantining in Disney World and just getting through October 13th for this to work.  Should that be NBA players or Disney staffers who are normal, hard-working people likely making under six figures?

That’s what it seems like this is coming down to.  Throw in Kyrie Irving and others’ concerns about whether the league should even play in the coming months given the current climate around racial inequality, and the NBA’s return suddenly seems bleak, all for the right reasons.

The NBA couldn’t have prepared for comments like Irving’s and for the unrest that the country has experienced since May 25.  What’s happening is hopefully a turning point.  While the NBA’s vote on the season’s resumption happened about a week after Floyd’s death, every other time there’s been a controversial police killing, coverage of and reaction to it has dipped shortly after.  This time, the moment is clearly not short lived.

It seems as if players like Irving could end up bailing the league out here.  A cancellation of the rest of the season in honor of Floyd and the current climate allows the league to get out of their leaky and unclear Disney World protocols.  They’ll never have to answer for those shortcomings, because they’ll be tossed and forgotten.  

If the league decides to carry on, then there will certainly be some ironing out to do between the players and league.  The scary part is that the league and owners can implement whatever policies they want with the NBA’s force majuere clause, which can be used to cancel the season and the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  That would mean an immediate lockout.  If the players ask for anything the league deems unreasonable, the league could hold the clause over the players’ head. 

It would be surprising to see things get that bad.  This isn’t baseball.   Silver is too smart and ultimately too player-friendly to let things get that out of control.  But he needs to understand that the current plan and the previous handling of the NBA’s return just hasn’t been good enough.  Health and safety protocols for the resumption should not be what we’re waiting on.  It’s the heart and soul of this whole thing, and should have been taken care of first.

2020 NFL Draft First Round Recap

Thursday night was a lot of different things.  The top eight picks were all expected in some ways, in others not.  Things got wonky once the Raiders went on the clock, which shouldn’t have surprised whatsoever.  No trades were made until pick No.13, which was indicative of the circumstances the draft was held under and that teams had so much to deal with that trades were just too much.  The Packers took a quarterback instead of helping their current one.  Mike Vrabel’s house is an absolute mess.  Kliff Kingsbury’s house is the opposite.  A lot happened last night.  Let’s recap it here, and look ahead to Friday’s second and third rounds.

No.1, Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU

The first two picks were zero surprise, and Detroit decided to take the player commonly mocked to them after not trading out.  Regarding Joe Burrow, the only extra thing that needs to be added is that this is a little concerning.

Sorry, but a potentially generational No.1 overall pick should not be forced into a quarterback battle.  Cut Andy Dalton if you have to.  Carry on.

No.2, Washington Redskins: DE Chase Young, Ohio State

Nothing really to add here.  If Chase Young is an All-Pro next year it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising.

No.3, Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

As previously written, the draft started here.  It seemed as if the Lions really milked the clock for any last minute offers, despite their claims that they wouldn’t trade once the timer started.  But once the pick was in, it seemed obvious who it was going to be.

As written in Wednesday’s mock, there was a case for defensive tackle Derrick Brown here.  But the Lions needed pass rush up front, and there’s no guarantee Brown will be able to provide a major boost to a d-line that way.  Instead, the Lions went with far and away the best cornerback in the draft, and passed the car keys to Thursday night to the Giants.

No.4, New York Giants: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

In reality Thursday night, the draft started here.  Detroit’s selection of Okudah was obvious once they actually put the pick.  New York could have gone with six different players here, and all would’ve had a case to make sense.

Turns out, general manager David Gettleman made the pick that made the most sense – a complete 180 from what most thought he would do.

Andrew Thomas may not be the best tackle from this draft class someday, but he is certainly the least likely to be the worst.  Teams that needed offensive line help were getting a safe bet in Thomas – someone who was going to be able to hold their own in any kind of protection and get the job done.  It’s why he made perfect sense for the Cardinals, a team that has struggle for a decade at the offensive line position. The Giants have had their own share of problems recently as well, and Thomas will help solve them immediately.

Calling this a reach is fair.  Thomas was OT1 on the board, but it seemed likely that he wouldn’t be the first tackle taken, mostly due to his ceiling being lower than others.  The Giants probably didn’t need to take Thomas at No.4, but it would have also been risky to trade back too far – Thomas had shot up boards recently and was figured to go at least in the top 12 picks.

You can’t slam New York for taking him here.  It’s more than likely they attempted to move back and couldn’t.  Plus, moving back risks another team taking him or someone trading up to get him.  If Thomas is everything he’s projected to be, then this is a home run pick.

No.5, Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

After all the smoke, injury concerns, trade drama and #TankforTua, our gut feeling for months now came to fruition.  Tua Tagovailoa was truly Miami’s guy all along, and despite purging some roster talent, they really didn’t have to work that hard for him at all.

It just feels right.  Tagovailoa has the chance to redeem a franchise that’s been stuck at average f0r a decade.  He’s in Miami, a place that just feels right for someone with the allure and personality that he has.  He’s going to be wearing those beautiful teal jerseys, which he is going to look absolutely awesome in.

He is going to kill it with the Dolphins, and has the chance to be the best quarterback out of this class, assuming he stays healthy.  For the love of God, let that be the case.

No.6, Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

It felt like whatever quarterback didn’t go No.5 overall would go here, and as soon as Tagovailoa got selected, this felt like the wrong pick for the Chargers.

It was the probably the false hope that was built up in our minds about Tagovailoa falling.  Those rumors made him more desirable for everyone, and made Herbert ultimately less so.

The good news for Herbert is that he may not start right away – the Chargers made it clear that Tyrod Taylor was their guy next year.  Herbert isn’t ready, and throwing him out there to the wolves could hurt his development.

But that brings up the issue of drafting someone this high who won’t start.  Why take a quarterback this year, at No.6 overall, if he isn’t going to play right away?  The Chargers don’t really have a better option – Taylor will likely be average at best.    What’s the point of not starting Herbert?

This is the heart of the problem with Herbert, and is why he fell so far in the first round mock draft.  For any other team aside from Indianapolis, New Orleans and potentially New England (a stretch – who are they starting over him that makes sense?), Herbert is a high pick who isn’t ready to start, but not starting him doesn’t do anything better or worse for your franchise.  The Chargers are one of those 27 teams, and they bit the bullet this year instead of having the best defense in the league ready for a more developed rookie or a veteran QB to come into after next year.

No.7, Carolina Panthers: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn

Carolina saw an opportunity to fix what has been a porous run defense unit and took it, though it came at the expense of one of the most exciting players in this draft class.

The decision to take Derrick Brown over Isaiah Simmons comes down to old-school vs. new school.  In Brown, you get a run-stopping big man in the middle of your line.  That’s fine, but there was probably more upside in the next guy.

No.8, Arizona Cardinals: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

It still seems too good to be true.  Simmons falling into the Cardinals laps at No.8 overall as the third best defensive player in the draft is a gift for what was the league’s worst defense last year.  The former Clemson star has the chance to be a transcendent presence for Arizona, and for the league as whole given his varied skill set.  Arizona desperately needed an impactful force on the defensive side, and Simmons is more than that.  Now, it’ll be up to Vance Joseph to deploy and use him correctly, and if the defensive coordinator does, then look out.  

No.9, Jacksonville Jaguars: CB CJ Henderson, Florida

Henderson’s ascension up boards was certainly not smoke.  After figuring to go somewhere between 10-20 for most of the pre-draft process, the former Florida cornerback will now be tasked with replacing Jalen Ramsey for Jacksonville, which are shoes that Henderson could be likely to fill.

While the need was there, Jacksonville did bring in two veteran cornerbacks during free agency in Rashaad Melvin and DJ Hayden.  Both will likely be their base corners, with Henderson working his way into nickel schemes to start.  Because of what could be a light load early, it seems odd of the Jaguars to go with Henderson over a new weapon for quarterback Gardner Minshew.  We’ll get to Jerry Jeudy’s fall later, but the Jaguars seemed like an obvious landing spot for the draft’s best wide receiver given their appointment of Minshew as their starter.  Then again, maybe that’s not their plan after all.

No.10, Cleveland Browns: OT Jedrick Willis Jr., Alabama

Willis is a really good get for the Browns at No.10 overall.  Ranked as OT2, Willis bookends the offensive line with the newly signed Jack Conklin, and quarterback Baker Mayfield, with new coach Kevin Stefanski, is now out of excuses.

While Willis was ranked higher, the Browns going with Tristan Wirfs might have been the better option.  If Wirfs stumbled at tackle, Cleveland could have at least moved him inside, where he would have figured to be much more effective and has the ability to play.  Willis should work out, but if he doesn’t, there’s no where else for him to go.  He, unlike Wirfs, doesn’t project as someone who could play guard in addition to tackle.  It’ll hopefully not be something Cleveland has to worry about, but it might have been something worthy of considering for a team that seems to struggle on draft night every year. 

No.11, New York Jets: OT Mehki Becton, Louisville

Like Jacksonville, this felt like another obvious landing spot for Jerry Jeudy, whose fall left the Broncos ecstatic.  Instead, New York invested in Sam Darnold yet again, just in a different way.

Becton is the final piece to a completely revamped offensive line for the Jets, which honestly looks pretty good on paper.

Still, there’s a good case to be had that Jeudy adds much more value to Darnold in this spot than Becton does.  New York’s offensive line was going to be improved whether they selected Becton or not.  The Jets receiving core doesn’t get better by Darnold having protection – there’s still a massive lack of talent amongst the weapons he has to throw to, and Darnold hasn’t show he’s the type of guy to overcome deficiencies in his line or receiving core.  He’s someone who needs a lot of help.  Jeudy provides a lot more of that than Becton, who we’re still not totally sure can move at a NFL level.

No.12, Las Vegas Raiders: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

The draft starting getting wonky here.  For all the talk about Jeudy’s fall and teams passing him up, Las Vegas taking his 5’11, 188 pound turbo-booster yet home run or strikeout Alabama teammate over him was perhaps the most second-most egregious pick of the night (Ironically yet not surprisingly, the Raiders next pick was the most).

And yet, taking Ruggs III here is a bit defensible.

Let’s start with the negative.  Jeudy – or even CeeDee Lamb for that matter – is a way more complete receiver.  Jeudy was the best receiver in this class for a reason: the route-running, the versatility, the hands – everything.  Jeudy was a do-it-all guy.  Ruggs III obviously flies, but may only be effective running three routes at the next level (or maybe even one: straight down the field) due to his lesser footwork and lack of physicality.  There’s a good chance that Ruggs III is either scoring touchdowns or he isn’t, making him extremely boom or bust in every game.  He’s the type of receiver that a quarterback makes better, not the other way around.  Derek Carr might get more criticism than he deserves, but he is not the type of guy who is going to make Ruggs III into what he could be.

The flip side is this: the Raiders have watched Tyreek Hill in their own division and have seen what that type of speed is able to do to defenses and the impact that it can have on a given game.  Every time Hill touches the ball, he has a chance to score a touchdown because he is that much faster than everyone else.  It’s like being seven feet tall and playing basketball against a bunch of 5’10 people.  It’s a lot easier when you’re just taller than everyone else.

Ruggs III is going to have to prove that he has that type of speed, and can have the down-to-down impact Hill does.  If Ruggs III is open every time, Carr shouldn’t have a problem getting the ball to him.  But we’ve seen these type of guys before, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way.

TRADE: San Francisco trades No.13 and No.245 (7th rounder) to Tampa Bay for No.14 and No.117 (4th rounder), Buccaneers select: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

The first trade of the night, which came stunningly almost halfway through the first round, was a befuddling one.

The Buccaneers must have gauged that another team was attempting to move up to  San Francisco’s spot.  It would have been a surprise to see the 49ers take a tackle here – two years ago they took Mike McGlinchey in the first round, and while Joe Staley is 35 years old, sitting Wirfs down for at least a year wouldn’t be worth it for a team that just made the Super Bowl and needs help elsewhere offensively.

Unless another team was deep in negotiations with San Francisco, Tampa Bay’s trade up of one spot, in which they gave up a fourth, makes zero sense.  A wide receiver or Javon Kinlaw was destined to be the 49ers pick here, and Wirfs could have easily been had at No.14.

Aside from the odd trade, Wirfs is a great get for the Buccaneers.  He was the best tackle remaining by far, and fills the last real hole on Tampa Bay’s offense, which has the chance to be downright terrifying if Tom Brady was truly the product of poor surrounding talent last year.

No.14, San Francisco 49ers: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

TRADE: Minnesota trades No.25 to San Francisco for No.31 (1st rounder), No.117 (4th rounder) and No.176 (5th rounder), 49ers select: WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State

We’re moving up San Francisco’s pick at No. 25 overall here because it fits the discussion.

While San Francisco beautifully engineered the trade with the Buccaneers – picking up a fourth round pick for free – it still doesn’t make up for questionable decision making on multiple fronts.

This goes back to what was written extensively about in the mock: the decision to trade DeForest Buckner for this pick.

Essentially, San Francisco shipped out Buckner and a fifth rounder, and got back Kinlaw, Aiyuk and not Jerry Jeudy.

Replacing Buckner with Kinlaw has been covered.  The South Carolina’s prospectus for the NFL is good, but there’s no guarantee he will reach what Buckner has become.  Sure, the value that Buckner brings was worth a lot of money, but when you’re as close as San Francisco was to winning the Super Bowl, you’re paying that and not betting on a rookie to replicate that production.

On top of that, San Francisco passed on the opportunity to bring in Jeudy for Aiyuk, who is a fantastic after-the-catch receiver but needs to do everything before that a little better, which is route running and actually catching the football.

Head Coach Kyle Shanahan might be a genius, which allows him to scheme Aiyuk open rather than having the former ASU receiver do it himself.  But is Shanahan trying to make things harder for himself?  Why have to go through that process when plopping Jeudy in requires zero scheming at all?  

Sure, Shanahan might just be nuts and wants to challenge himself, and Aiyuk brings that speed and creativity he loves, but the head coach’s conservative yet creative offense has met its match twice now.  It might be time to start thinking about whether all of the nook and cranny, dink and dunk creativeness needs more of a jolt.

No.15, Denver Broncos: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

There were rumors about Denver attempting to trade up in order to solidify themselves Jeudy.  Instead, they landed him without having to give anything up.

Once they recover from falling over themselves as to how this happened, the Broncos are now staring at an offense that features Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, DaeSean Hamilton, Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon.  Regardless of Gordon’s overpay or Fant’s drop issues, that is a lot for Drew Lock to work with, and the Broncos should find out quickly if he is truly the guy going forward or not.

No.16, Atlanta Falcons: CB AJ Terrell, Clemson

It was no surprise to see the Falcons go cornerback here, but the name certainly was one.

Thursday’s mock had Terrell going to the Falcons, just at No.47 overall, making this a bit of a stretch.

There were much better cornerbacks available, although considering those who are still left heading into Friday night, it may not be as surprising.  Teams clearly had much different boards than expected at corner.

Terrell had a really great year, but was routinely attacked by LSU in the National Championship Game.  Sure, most of that came against some of the best receivers in the country, but Justin Jefferson was one of them, and he came off the board not long after Terrell.  Ja’Marr Chase, LSU’s other top weapon, could easily be a top five pick in next year’s draft.

The point is, Terrell struggling against LSU’s receivers could show a lack of readiness for the NFL.  That was next-level talent he was facing, and he wasn’t ready for it.

No.17, Dallas Cowboys: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

Relaxed on his luxury yacht, this is likely the moment Jerry Jones lost all control and infiltrated his way into the Cowboys’ plans.

Sure, CeeDee Lamb makes the Cowboys offense super enticing, and fills a need at wide receiver, but in a draft this loaded at the position, Dallas likely should have waited, landed perhaps a Tee Higgins-like mold in the next round or so and capitalized on the stunning cornerback talent still available.  Lamb’s smooth route running makes him a fit in the slot next to Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper, but the Cowboys pulled a classic Cowboys move and went flashy rather than smart here.

No.18, Miami Dolphins: OT Austin Jackson, USC

Pause for a moment and consider that Miami was a pick away from landing Tagovailoa and Lamb without having to trade up for either.

Done considering?  Okay, good.  Anyways, Lamb might’ve not been in Miami’s plans anyways considering where they went with this pick.  Jackson was widely regarded to be a second rounder, making this a potential reach as well.

Miami was smart about getting a tackle to help protect Tagovailoa, but with talent like Josh Jones or Isaiah Wilson still available here, the Dolphins could have considered trading down to take Jackson.

No.19, Las Vegas Raiders: CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State

The Raiders clearly thought it was cute when we all were shocked by their selection of Ruggs III at No.12, because this was about as far out of left field as you can get.

Thursday’s mock warned of Arnette being underrated, but he also found himself in a deep, talented cornerback class, which caused him to fall to No.57.

Turns out, last year’s selection of Clelin Ferrell at No.4 overall set the precedent for the Raiders: if they like someone, they will take him, and they don’t care where that is at.  

No.20, Jacksonville Jaguars: DE K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU

This was one of the most commonly mocked picks across the internet in days leading up to the draft, so there’s no real surprise here.  If Jacksonville is truly keen on keeping Yannick Ngakoue, then there might have been more of a case to go cornerback, but with that situation getting uglier and uglier, the end of that relationship could come to a surprising, disappointing end for Jacksonville.

No.21, Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU

Reagor going this high was not surprising – a rough draft of Wednesday’s first round mock actually had Denver taking him at No.15.  Perhaps that is the board talking, as Reagor is a top ten talent in this class.  But, the former TCU receiver going ahead of Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins amongst others is surprising, especially considering there were rumors about Jefferson not getting past the Eagles here at No.21.

The Eagles clearly wanted more speed, which Reagor has.  As mentioned in his scouting report Wednesday, he isn’t Ruggs III fast, but he’s close it.  More importantly, he combines that speed with an incredible ability to play like an outside receiver despite his tiny 5’11 frame.  Reagor developed into a jump-ball guy at TCU, making him a mismatch for a lot of defensive backs.

Jefferson’s size and fluidity was a bit more appealing though.  He should have an easier time with NFL corners, and has a bit more strength.  It’s hard to crush Philadelphia for this pick, but there might have been a better option available.

No.22, Minnesota Vikings: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

Minnesota fell over themselves after the Eagles took Reagor, and landed Jefferson as a perfect replacement for Stefon Diggs.  Minnesota still needs depth behind the former LSU product though, and in this draft, they should be able to find it.

TRADE: New England trades No.23 to the Chargers for No. 37 (2nd rounder) and No.71 (3rd rounder), Chargers select: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

The Chargers made up a little bit for their puzzling selection at No.6 overall with Murray here.  They plugged that last hole in their defense, though it remains to be seen whether Murray’s presence can be enough to make it the best in the league instead of runner-up.  It’s certainly possible, but his selection and the trade up for it feels extremely underwhelming after passing on Simmons and taking Herbert.

No.24, New Orleans Saints: C Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

Just one year after selecting a center in the third round in Erik McCoy, the Saints made one of the three strangest selections of the night by taking a center once again.

Reports have trickled out Friday morning that the Saints plan is to make Ruiz the starting center and slide McCoy to guard, which would effectively leave Larry Warford out of a spot.  In one instance, this makes New Orleans’ offensive line absolutely loaded, as they eliminate Warford who was the weak spot last season.  Plus, it’s not like New Orleans had a ton of other holes to fill.

But in another light, they certainly made due with Warford last year, and cornerback seems to always be a hole for them aside from Marshon Lattimore.

Nonetheless, Ruiz will be a beast.  It does seem reasonable to think that trading down should have been in the cards as well, though.

(San Francisco’s pick at No.25 covered above)

TRADE: Miami trades No.26 to Green Bay for No.30 (1st rounder) and No.136 (4th rounder), Packers select: QB Jordan Love, Utah State

We’ve reached the last of the strangest picks of the first round, and it might as well of been the strangest.

Even at 36 years old, it seems like Aaron Rodgers is still in his prime.  Season after season, he’s consistently let down by injuries and a lack of talent surrounding him on offense or defense.

Last year, the Packers invested heavily in their defense – finally – and it came through big time.  This offseason, it could have been foreseen that they’d finally do the same on the offensive side of the ball.

This logical thinking is why the Packers were never mentioned as a landing spot for Jordan Love in Monday’s quarterback primer.  Even though Rodgers is 36, it felt like he would be playing for years more – at least until he was 40.  There hasn’t been any reason to think the Packers would be considering a change, or even looking to the future beyond Rodgers.  It just felt too far away.

With Brett Favre in 2005, the end wasn’t exactly near.  But he was closer to it than Rodgers is now, making it slightly more defensible for the Packers to take Rodgers in that draft, who also happened to be plummeting down the board for no good reason at all.  It was a free opportunity that Green Bay pounced on.

Rodgers was in the conversation to be the No.1 overall pick that year.  That was never, ever the case with Love.  For Green Bay, Rodgers made sense.  At least, more sense than this.

It’s easy to see that Green Bay had the same thinking in mind with Love as they did with Rodgers in 2005.  As soon as it was announced that they were trading up, it felt inevitable: Love was the pick.

The Packers maybe should have been considered a bit more when it comes to ideal situations for Love though.  The reality of it seemed low, but Love needed a place where he didn’t have to start right away and had a knowledgable, talented quarterback to learn from.  He also needed good coaching, which is the questionable part of this Green Bay formula.  

Overall, the pressure won’t be on Love, that is, unless Rodgers isn’t too happy about it, which opens up a can of worms that it seems Green Bay didn’t totally think through before making this pick.

No.27, Seattle Seahawks: LB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech

It was quite surprising to see Brooks – who wasn’t even a projected second-rounder in Thursday’s mock – go here ahead of Patrick Queen.  In addition, Seattle could have easily gone pass-rusher or cornerback here – linebacker is the last position they needed on this roster.  Perhaps they’ll ask Brooks to play a limited role given that talent surrounding him, which will be good as he is a prospect that needs a bit more time to develop.

No.28, Baltimore Ravens: LB Patrick Queen, LSU

The Ravens should have gotten more respect in Wednesday’s first round mock.  They’re another type of defense and organization that Queen – someone who is undersized and has weaknesses because of it – could go to and be alright.  Baltimore isn’t the Patriots when it comes to success yet, but in terms roster-building and management, they’re approaching it, and Queen could be a perfect example of that if he blossoms.  The Ravens do desperately need linebacker though, so overtasking him is something they can’t do given his deficiencies.

No.29, Tennessee Titans: OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia 

Wilson was an early second round projection, but given some of the tackles that went off the board before him, this is an absolute steal for the Titans.  They also find their Jack Conklin replacement in Wilson, who bookended an unbelievable Georgia offensive line last season with Andrew Thomas.  Josh Jones might have been a better talent, but Wilson is SEC proven, which might have given him the upper hand.

No.30, Miami Dolphins: CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

There were rumors about Igbinoghene sneaking into the first round, though him going ahead of Jaylon Johnson among others was a surprise.

The team he ended up on was too.  The last thing Miami needed was cornerback, given the Byron Jones signing and Xavien Howard already back there.  Receiver would have been nice here too, but if they add a safety on Friday, Miami’s secondary could be the best in the league.

No.31, Minnesota Vikings: CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

Minnesota traded back, got a little extra capital and landed a steal at cornerback late in the first round.  

Johnson was ranked ahead of Gladney, but the TCU product is an electric playmaker in the secondary.  That can get the best of him sometimes, but he certainly won’t end up in trouble for reasons that Xavier Rhodes did last season.  If anything, it’ll be the opposite problem: aggression.

No.32, Kansas City Chiefs: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU

Sure, the argument can be made that the Chiefs are allowed to do whatever they want coming off of a Super Bowl win.  But they also lost a key piece in that Super Bowl recipe despite returning most of their starters: Kendall Fuller.

Replacing him at cornerback would have been nice here, especially with Johnson and Fulton on the board.  But instead, the Chiefs decided to go running back, a position that the Chiefs themselves literally just proved doesn’t mean anything.

Kansas City had the least rushing yards in the league last season and won the Super Bowl, meaning that they probably didn’t have to do anything regarding that “problem.”  Patrick Mahomes should be enough of a solution.

Instead, the Chiefs took the fifth-best running back available, let alone the best in Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who had a fantastic offensive line and a lot of other distractors around him in that LSU offense this past year.

But perhaps the Chiefs are viewing it like the Warriors viewed DeMarcus Cousins in the summer of 2018.  Remember how the Warriors always talked about how the missing piece to their offense was a post-up big, and how Cousins was the answer to that?  Perhaps that’s how the Chiefs see Edwards-Helaire.  An above average running back would take them to the next level, even farther than we thought was possible.  Now, they just need that thinking to work out better than it did for Golden State.

Second round mock:

No.33, Cincinnati Bengals: OT Josh Jones, Houston

No.34, Indianapolis Colts: CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah

No.35, Detroit Lions: DE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

No.36, New York Giants: DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

No.37, New England Patriots: LB Zach Baun, Wisconsin

No.38, Carolina Panthers: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU

No.39, Miami Dolphins: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

No.40, Houston Texans: DE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

No.41, Cleveland Browns: DT Ross Blacklock, TCU

No.42, Miami Dolphins: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama

N0.43, Chicago Bears: S Grant Delpit, LSU

N0.44, Indianpolis Colts: DT Marlon Davidson, Auburn

No.45, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota 

No.46, Denver Broncos: LB Malik Harrison, Ohio State

No.47, Atlanta Falcons: DT Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma 

No.48, New York Jets: WR Denzel Mims, Baylor

No.49, Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State

No.50, Chicago Bears: G Damien Lewis, LSU

No.51, Dallas Cowboys: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama

No.52, Los Angeles Rams: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia

No.53, Philadelphia Eagles: WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC

No.54, Buffalo Bills: WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado

No.55, Baltimore Ravens: S Ashtyn Davis, California

No.56, Miami Dolphins: DT Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M

No.57, Los Angeles Rams: DE Josh Uche, Michigan

No.58, Minnesota Vikings: DT Jordan Elliot, Missouri

No.59, Seattle Seahawks: C Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU

No.60, Baltimore Ravens: WR KJ Hamler, Penn State

No.61, Tennessee Titans: DE Curtis Weaver, Boise State 

No.62, Green Bay Packers: DT Raekwon Davis, Alabama

No.63, Kansas City Chiefs: DE Bradlee Anae, Utah

No.64, Seattle Seahawks: OT Lucas Niang, TCU

2020 NFL Mock Draft – Round Two

For the first time ever, we’re doing a second round in the annual NFL mock draft.  No live sports has allowed more time for a deeper evaluation of certain prospects, though not everyone selected in this second round mock will have a scouting report featured.  Below the mock are a couple of positional big boards and the annual “How did this guy not get drafted?” list.

No.33, Cincinnati Bengals: OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia

Wilson was lost a bit in Andrew Thomas’ shadow, which speaks to how good Thomas was considering Wilson’s size.  With Jonah Williams coming back for what will essentially be his rookie year, the Bengals will have young, talented protection for Joe Burrow on the edges of its offensive line, which was one of the worst groups in football not long ago.

No.34, Indianapolis Colts: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama

McKinney would make an awesome duo with Malik Hooker in Indianapolis’ secondary, assuming they don’t move on from the fourth-year safety.  These two could easily each have five interceptions in a season.

No.35, Detroit Lions: DT Ross Blacklock, TCU

No.36, New York Giants: DE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

Another guy who’s had some first round buzz yet slipped.  Okwara was a disruptor in college and with Leonard Williams as their best edge rusher, the Giants improve significantly with this pick.

No.37, Los Angeles Chargers: OT Austin Jackson, USC

No.38, Carolina Panthers: CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

There’s been first round buzz about Igbinoghene.  CBS Sports’ Pete Prisco absolutely loves him, and it makes sense given his speed.  With James Bradberry gone, Carolina could get an instant plug-and-play guy to help out what’s been a troublesome unit the past couple years.

No.39, Miami Dolphins: S Grant Delpit, LSU

Delpit is likely going to face a similar fate that his former teammate Greedy Williams did in last year’s draft: sliding way farther than imagined due to tackling issues.

It’s become a position group related issue at LSU.  Williams couldn’t tackle, neither can Kristian Fulton and the same goes for Delpit, who at safety needs to have that skill more than the corners do.

It’s really Delpit’s only downfall.  The former LSU Tiger is a top 15 pick this year without those concerns – the same went for Williams last year.  Here, Miami gets great value, replaces Minkah Fitzpatrick and sneakily has one of the best secondaries in football.

No.40, Houston Texans: DE Joshua Uche, Michigan

No.41, Cleveland Browns: DT Marlon Davidson, Auburn

Davidson lived in Derrick Brown’s shadow for most of the season, similar to a pair of Ohio State defensive backs (one of whom is coming up shortly).  Cleveland is currently banking on Sheldon Richardson at one of its inside spots, which comes with a massive risk.  Davidson provides stability and a piece for the future alongside Myles Garrett.

No.42, Jacksonville Jaguars: S Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota 

Winfield Jr. could go much higher than this, and he’d be deserving of it.  Deployed as a cornerback in the Golden Gophers scheme at times, the son of the former Vikings star is an unbelievable tackler and is fantastic in coverage as well.  Jacksonville has to rebuild a secondary that was atop the league not long ago, and Winfield Jr. is a good start.

No.43, Chicago Bears: S Ashtyn Davis, California

The Bears are devastated by Winfield Jr. being taken the pick before and panic a bit with Davis, who could be considered a reach here.

No.44, Indianapolis Colts: QB Jordan Love, Utah State

No.45, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia

You select players in the first round that make an immediate impact and will be a piece for hopefully years to come.

Running backs can do one of those two things.

Swift going anywhere in the first round makes zero sense.  He’s a complement running back at best, which does bring important skills to the table (pass-catching ability, blocking ability), but not at the price of a top 35 pick.  

Swift won’t be someone that gets fed the ball 20 times per game.  He’s not built for that.  He’s built for eight rushes and eight catches, with significant yardage racked up that way.  He’s a complement, and that’s all Tampa Bay really needs at this point offensively.  Swift should be better than Ronald Jones Jr. at any aspect of the position though.  Because of that, the Buccaneers can reach here, because any other positional need can be traded down for.

No.46, Denver Broncos: DT Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma

Gallimore is a depth pick for the Broncos, who should seriously consider trading down here due to their need at linebacker.

No.47, Atlanta Falcons: CB AJ Terrell, Clemson

Terrell is high on the cornerback big board below due to his length and coverage ability, but watching him get absolutely cooked in the National Championship Game was tough and is responsible for this fall.

No.48, New York Jets: WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC

Pittman is the most underrated receiver in this insanely talented class.  Ranked fifth on the big board, the USC product is a jump-ball extraordinaire thanks to his 6’4 frame.  Route running and speed aren’t sacrificed due to his size though – Pittman’s extremely fluid for how big he is.

The Jets passed on a receiver at No.11 overall in Wednesday’s first round mock and still get a top five talent in this class.  Sam Darnold needs serious help – Breshad Perriman is currently New York’s best receiver.  Pittman Jr. takes that title in a heartbeat with this pick.

No.49, Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State

No.50, Chicago Bears: G Damien Lewis, LSU

No.51, Dallas Cowboys: WR KJ Hamler, Penn State

The No. 1 option in Penn State’s explosive offense the past couple years, Hamler is an unbelievable talent.  The slot man has lightning speed and an impressive vertical for his 5’9 size – he played like someone who was 6’4.

He’d be a perfect compliment to Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb in Dallas’ offense, as both receivers are outside presences.  Now it’ll just be up to Mike McCarthy to make sure he can get the best out of the weapons.

No.52, Los Angeles Rams: LB Malik Harrison, Ohio State

No.53, Philadelphia Eagles: WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State

The Eagles are heartbroken that Hamler went two picks before, and settle with Aiyuk instead.

Aiyuk isn’t the top tier receiver that most Eagles fans want, but understand that wide-out may not be as big of a need as thought.  Philadelphia’s weapons were injured what felt like 100 percent of the time last season, leading to guys like Greg Ward Jr. taking on a No.1 receiver role.  There wasn’t a lack of talent, there was just unavailable talent.

But receiver is still needed.  Alshon Jeffrey is getting older and his production is slowing, and aside from DeSean Jackson there isn’t much else.

Aiyuk may not be as good as Laviska Shenault Jr. at the next level, but Philly can’t afford to take a rookie with a premium pick and have him be injured just like every other receiver of their’s.  Aiyuk has his injury concerns as well, but Shenault Jr. was consistently beat up at Colorado.  Aiyuk was pretty reliable at ASU.

It seems unlikely Aiyuk will be available at this spot.  He could very well go in the first round Thursday night.  He’s a big play threat who racks up yardage after the catch, but he was a drop machine during the 2018-19 season, which is something that hasn’t surfaced as much in scouting reports.  In this receiver class, that minor issue can be a major hit to your stock.

No.54, Buffalo Bills: WR Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado

Unlike Philadelphia, the Bills can take a risk here.  The rest of their roster is filled out quite well, and everything from here out will be depth picks for them.

Buffalo landed Stefon Diggs in a trade and have John Brown and Cole Beasley, but could use another outside receiver for Josh Allen.  Shenault Jr. is a jack-of-all-trades.  He’s 6’1, can play either receiver position, flies up and down the field and is a pristine route runner.

If health wasn’t a concern, he’d be a top 20 pick.  He’s got the type of completeness in his game that Jerry Jeudy does, and his ceiling could be even higher than the Alabama stud.  But there’s a chance that injuries derail his whole career and we never get to see it.  The Bills are one of few teams that can afford that risk here.

No.55, Baltimore Ravens: C Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

Baltimore could go receiver here as well, but the talent on the board takes a deep dive after once Sheanult Jr. goes off the board.  

Ruiz has been projected as early as the top 20, most notably to Dallas at No. 17 overall.  That would make sense given the retirement of Travis Frederick, but that seems like a too high of a pick to use on a center.

Center is a rare need for teams.  It’s like buying a couch.  You really only need one every 8-10 years.  

Ruiz could easily slide to this point in the draft due to that.  Because of a center’s value, they tend to stick around.  There aren’t a lot of teams that need one right now.

The case can be made for Dallas to take Ruiz, but there have been rumors about them being comfortable promoting from within, and Connor McGovern was good as a rookie last year after replacing Frederick from the guard spot.

Baltimore could use guard or center with Marshall Yanda’s retirement, and while Ruiz doesn’t ever project as someone who can move positions, his impact at center should improve the positions next to him as well, taking care of two needs in one.

No.56, Miami Dolphins: G Jonah Jackson, USC

No.57, Los Angeles Rams: CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State

 Jeff Okudah was not wrong about his teammate.

Here, the Rams get the last highly-rated corner available before the talent drops off significantly.  Arnette and Jalen Ramsey could be a really exciting duo at some point.  

No.58, Minnesota Vikings: DT Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M

Minnesota could regret not going cornerback in the first round, as it is a big need for them and this mock has them coming out of the second round without one.  The talent pool drops off significantly at this point in the draft.  There are some late round fits that could make sense though.

Instead, the Vikings continue to plug other holes defensively, and come away with at least two new defensive linemen in AJ Epenesa and Madubuike.

No.59, Seattle Seahawks: DE Terrell Lewis, Alabama 

Seattle really needs a presence on the edge.  Their defensive line has a lot of young talent, but aside from the aging Bruce Irvin, every player is more of an inside force.

Lewis has a high-ceiling thanks to an injury-plagued college career, which saw him suffer two season-ending injuries.  With other edge options potentially being a reach, Lewis is an okay gamble here.

No.60, Baltimore Ravens: WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

Like a couple of upcoming teams, the Ravens are playing with house money here.  This might be high, but Baltimore doesn’t have a receiver on its roster like Claypool, who’s someone who goes up and grabs footballs.  He has massive size, making his athleticism extremely impressive.  Linebacker and safety are other positional needs for Baltimore, but the players left on the board at this point would be reaches.  Instead, Lamar Jackson has even more toys to play with, and that is downright terrifying.

No.61, Tennessee Titans: RB JK Dobbins, Ohio State

As mentioned in the first round mock, the Titans roster is pretty loaded, and they’re going to go as far as quarterback Ryan Tannehill takes them.

Running back Derrick Henry had an all-time stretch of games in last year’s playoffs and got hit with the franchise tag as a result, with the Titans delaying paying him what will likely amount to an obscene amount of money.

Tennessee may not want to do that at all, which could result in Henry walking away after next year.  The Titans have limited depth behind him – understandably so considering the workload he has carried.  Getting JK Dobbins – the best running back in this draft – would give Tennessee depth for this upcoming season and a starter for the next one if Henry departs.

Dobbins was awesome at Ohio State, and is just as good out of the backfield as a receiver as he is a runner.  This feels a bit high for any running back to come off the board (let alone the second one), but Dobbins is the best long term bet, making him worth a second round gamble for a team that has a lot of freedom when it comes to this draft.

No.62, Green Bay Packers: DT Raekwon Davis, Alabama

No.63, Kansas City Chiefs: DT Jordan Elliot, Missouri 

No.64, Seattle Seahawks: OT Lucas Niang 

Quite a fall for Niang, but he goes to a situation where he’ll be respected heavily.  This would be a great value pick for the Seahawks, whose offensive line has been a mess for years.

How did these guys not go in the first two rounds?

  • QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
  • QB Jacob Eason, Washington
  • RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
  • RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
  • WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
  • TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame
  • OT Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn
  • C Lloyd Cushenberry III, LSU
  • DE Curtis Weaver, Boise State

Select big boards:

QB:

  1. Joe Burrow
  2. Tua Tagoviola
  3. Justin Herbert
  4. Jordan Love
  5. Jacob Eason
  6. Jalen Hurts
  7. Jake Fromm

RB:

  1. J.K. Dobbins
  2. D’Andre Swift
  3. Jonathan Taylor
  4. Zack Moss
  5. Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  6. Cam Akers
  7. Lamical Perine 
  8. A.J. Dillion
  9. Eno Benjamin
  10. JJ Taylor

WR:

(oh boy)

  1. Jerry Jeudy
  2. CeeDee Lamb
  3. Henry Ruggs III
  4. Tee Higgins
  5. Michael Pittman Jr.
  6. Justin Jefferson
  7. Laviska Sheanult Jr.
  8. KJ Hamler
  9. Jalen Reagor
  10. Denzel Mims
  11. Tyler Johnson
  12. Brandon Aiyuk
  13. Chase Claypool
  14. Collin Johnson
  15. Donovan Peoples-Jones
  16. Van Jefferson
  17. KJ Hill
  18. Bryan Edwards
  19. Jauan Jennings
  20. Devin Duvernary
  21. Tyrie Cleveland
  22. Aaron Fuller
  23. Marquez Callaway
  24. Austin Mack
  25. Isaiah Hodgins

OT:

  1. Andrew Thomas
  2. Jedrick Willis Jr.
  3. Tristan Wirfs
  4. Mehki Becton
  5. Josh Jones
  6. Isaiah Wilson
  7. Lucas Niang
  8. Austin Jackson
  9. Ezra Cleveland
  10. Prince Tega Wanogho

CB:

  1. Jeff Okudah
  2. CJ Henderson
  3. Jaylon Johnson
  4. Bryce Hall
  5. Kristian Fulton
  6. AJ Terrell
  7. Jeff Gladney
  8. Noah Igbinoghene
  9. Trevon Diggs
  10. Damon Arnette

2020 NFL Mock Draft – Round One

After teasing select picks, it’s time to release a full first round mock draft.  Tomorrow, a second round mock in addition to a couple positional big boards will drop as well, which is the first time we’ve done such a thing in history of this site.

Let’s get it to it.

No.1, Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU

No.2, Washington Redskins: DE Chase Young, Ohio State

Chase Young is so good it is hard to write words about him.  He’s one of those guys that already has the stardom of someone who’s name-recognition is so strong that nothing else needs to be said.  His impact in the NFL should back that up immediately.

It seems like whispers about Washington sniffing quarterback with this pick have quelled, especially since the trade for Kyle Allen, who may or may not be the new franchise quarterback for Washington.  That’s another (depressing) story.  Unless it’s a god-father offer with two future firsts or something ridiculous, then a trade down from this spot shouldn’t be in the consideration either.  Take Chase Young.  There’s literally no way you will regret it.

No.3, Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

No.4, New York Giants: OT Mehki Becton, Louisvillle

David Gettleman is old-school.  He rode with Eli Manning too long.  He drafted a running back at No. 2 overall.  He took a quarterback who was a projected fourth-rounder at No.6 overall and didn’t even trade down to take him.  He also doesn’t totally understand the concept of value.

The Giants could use a tackle with Nate Solder’s contract looking rougher by the day and journeyman Cameron Fleming on the ends of the offensive line. Mehki Becton is Gettleman’s type of player.  He’s impossibly massive at 6’7 and 364 pounds, which has created some viable concerns.  His ceiling is sky high, but you have to make sure the floor doesn’t collapse underneath him first – literally.

Becton is complicated.  Reading too much into the Combine is always dangerous, but that 40-yard dash run verified a lot of what’s seen on tape: the dude can hang at a high level despite a frame that seems like it’d have zero lateral quickness or overall agility.

“Hanging” isn’t going to cut in the NFL however, where edge rushers are faster than ever.  Becton could be a force in run game regardless, but it’s in pass protection where he’s going to need even more nimble feet than he has now.  It’s a big, risky bet, because there’s still a lot of growth needed here.  It could be the difference between him being a bust or a force that we’ve never really seen before, and the middle ground might be narrow.  That’s why he’s the fourth-ranked tackle on tomorrow’s big board. It seems unlikely Gettleman will resist, though.  That is, unless Miami bails them out, but that seems to be some 3D chess-playing on their front.

No.5, Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

No.6, Los Angeles Chargers: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

A quarterback could easily be the Chargers first round pick.  Whether it’s here at No. 6 or Tagovailoa at No. 3, most of the smoke about what Los Angeles will do seems to be quarterback-centered.

As written Monday, if Tagovailoa is their guy, then the Chargers are going to have to move up and outbid Miami for him, which will be tough thanks to the Dolphins three first round picks.  Los Angeles will be paying 110 cents on the dollar for Tagioviola, which, despite his raving review in Monday’s column, is risky given what we don’t know about his medicals.  

That doesn’t mean reaching for a quarterback at No. 6 should be the Plan B though. While Herbert and Love are could possible be high picks, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be.  

In addition, the Chargers have radiated confidence in Tyrod Taylor, who seems like he could be in line to not only be the starter next year but for years to come.  Taylor played his best football in Buffalo when Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn was his offensive coordinator, and at his peak performance, Taylor is at least an average quarterback.

Taylor’s ceiling could be the case for selecting someone with higher upside here, but the Chargers have enough talent around him that it’s probably worth seeing how far  that talent can take him first.  The defense is excellent (and with this pick, even better), and the weapons just need to stay healthy.  Plus, Cam Newton is available.  The Chargers could easily just pivot there instead of drafting someone with question marks this high.  A flyer-signing with the former Panther involves a lot less risk than that.

The Chargers defense is arguably the best in the league before adding Isaiah Simmons.  If LA selects him, they’re probably the scariest group in the league – and by a large measure too.  Simmons fills their only hole at linebacker, but labeling him as just that is devaluing him.  The former Clemson star is amazing in coverage – the Tigers used him in the slot at cornerback quite a bit last season.  Against NFL receivers, that could be daunting.  But that 4.39 40-yard dash time at the combine speaks otherwise.

Hybrids like Simmons haven’t lived up to the hype so far in the NFL.  Shaq Thomspon and Deone Bucannon haven’t been the swiss army knife at linebacker/safety that we expected them to be.  But Josh Allen made a massive impact last season for the Jaguars, and Simmons is on a whole other planet athletically compared to those two.  Simmons is the type of guy that could change a defense single-handily.  The Chargers selecting him would just add to their embarrassment of riches.

No.7, Carolina Panthers: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn

Carolina’s struggle to defend the run despite having one of the more talented front sevens in football was a major reason why Ron Rivera lost his job last season.  Now, the Panthers can finally fix that issue by selecting Brown, who easily has a case to be a top five pick.

Part of what makes Brown special is that he’s not just a one man wall against the run.  He’s incredibly good at rushing the quarterback from the inside, which is impressive at 6’5 and 326 pounds.  Teaming him up with Kawaan Short and second year pass rusher Brian Burns could make Carolina a hassle for opposing offensive lines.

No.8, Arizona Cardinals: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Thomas has been flying up boards and it doesn’t make much sense as to why it took this long.  He’s the most consistent, most NFL-ready offensive tackle in this draft class.

Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs can have the same claim be made about him, but there are questions as to whether he’s actually a tackle or a guard.  Some teams see him as an inside presence.  With Thomas, there’s no question about his position, and it’s why he’s the No.1 ranked tackle on tomorrow’s big board.

Why Thomas over Alabama’s Jedrick Willis?  Thomas is just an inch taller, but that extra length shows up in his arms and legs.  The Georgia product has better feet due to those long legs, and with Kyler Murray’s dual threat ability, Arizona needs someone who can get to the second level of the defense quick.

Murray was under siege last year, and because of his small size, that needs to taken care of immediately to prevent injury.  Willis might have a higher ceiling, but Thomas’ floor is higher due to consistency in run and pass protection.  Arizona needs an answer now with Marcus Gilbert an unknown coming off an ACL tear.

No.9, Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama 

There’s a case for the Jaguars to trade down here, as defensive end, linebacker and safety all are needs.  It’s a little high for K’Lavon Chaisson, and who knows – maybe Yannick Ngakoue changes his mind (End is only a need if he’s traded).  The same goes for the linebackers not named Isaiah Simmons, and safety is a seen as a back-of-the-first-round selection in this draft.

The Jaguars also have a young quarterback who they need to make sure is truly their guy, and there’s no better way to do that than taking the best wide receiver in the draft.

Jerry Jeudy is a craftsman.  He’s an absolutely pristine route runner who doubles as a big play threat.  In college, he was the country’s Antonio Brown (this is strictly an on-the-field comparison): a do-it-all receiver whose number one skill was his feet, but could separate for deep balls, make plays after the catch and become a nightmare for secondaries to have to game-plan for.

If there’s an extra concern about Tagovailoa besides the medicals, it’s the insane surrounding cast he had around him, which could have made him out to be more than he truly is.  That seems like an overreaction, but it’s certainly fair to say that Judy and Tagovailoa definitely helped one another out the past two years.

Jeudy can be a quarterback’s best friend in the NFL, and if he’s not Gardner Minshew’s, then the Jaguars might have to start over at quarterback yet again.

No.10, Cleveland Browns: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

A lot of smart people have Wirfs ranked as the best tackle in this draft.  That isn’t a crazy opinion whatsoever, especially if you consider his versatility important in that thinking.

As mentioned in Thomas’ scouting report, there are teams that view Wirfs as a guard, which hurts his value as a tackle immensely, especially for a team like the Cardinals who desperately need someone outside.

The Browns could use either position on the offensive line, which is why Wirfs is perfect for them. When Cleveland went out and signed Jack Conklin, that moved Chris Hubbard – the team’s big get in the 2018 offseason – to the left side.  Hubbard’s contract has been a disaster, and he essentially got benched for Conklin. Cleveland could even release him this offseason, since his struggles on the right side of the line won’t translate well to the left.

The Browns also haven’t recovered well from losing Kevin Zieter in the trade for Odell Beckham Jr. last offseason, which leaves a hole inside at guard.  If Wirfs’ sometimes off-balance athleticism gets the best of him at tackle, he could easily slide in and be more than effective.

Wirfs’ size and power is what makes him attractive at tackle, and it’s certainly worth a look for him there.  But for some teams, a tackle who’s just a guard is a wasted investment.

No.11, New York Jets: CB CJ Henderson, Florida 

Henderson has shot up boards, and there have been reports about some teams viewing him in the same tier as Jeff Okudah.

He’s not projected to have the ceiling Okudah does but in terms of skills, there’s really not much lacking with Henderson.  The Florida product should be a Day 1 impact guy if the Jets take him here – their secondary could very much use an upgrade, especially with rumors about safety Jamal Adams sparking up again.

Wide receiver could also be a viable option for the Jets here, but with a class this talented, that can wait.  Teams will be able to find high-impact wide receivers all the way until the third round in this draft, and Henderson fits the Jets’ needs just a little more.

Offensive tackle has also been pegged here by some.  It would certainly make sense, but after doing a lot of work in free agency on it, general manager Joe Douglas might not want to go offensive line.  He could see his moves through before considering a change there.

With so many holes up and down this roster, it could also be worth for it New York to trade back and pick up some extra picks.  The Falcons could have their eye on Henderson as well, making them a viable partner.

No.12, Las Vegas Raiders: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

The Raiders roster is sneaky good, with most holes filled aside from the secondary.  A trade-back can’t be ruled out here – No. 12 is too high for the rest of the cornerbacks remaining, though the Raiders have made it clear they are completely okay with reaching. However, Las Vegas has another pick at No. 19 overall, and by then those corners will certainly be up for grabs.

No matter what the Raiders do to address the secondary, it likely won’t overshadow the impact that Derek Carr will have on this team, for better or for worse.

Las Vegas needs to figure out whether he’s actually the guy.  Things were encouraging last season until they basically weren’t – Carr and the team fell apart right as their chances of making the playoff increased.

Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow provided Carr a lot of help last year – both were excellent pickups by the Raiders front office.  But it just doesn’t seem to be enough help for Carr yet.

Enter CeeDee Lamb.  Some draft experts and scouts have him ranked as the best receiver in this class, which seems insane given the completeness of Jeudy’s game, but Lamb’s explosiveness, athleticism and size make him easily the second-best prospect available.  The Oklahoma product is hard to stop after the catch, and runs routes extremely well for someone of his length and size.  He’s silky, and slips through the cracks of a defense after the catch with ease.  He could be a reliable weapon for Carr, who with this arsenal, will be running out of excuses.

No.13, San Francisco 49ers: DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

San Francisco made an interesting decision in the opening days of free agency, acquiring this pick from Indianapolis in exchange for DeForest Buckner, while simultaneously deciding to extend Arik Armstead instead of Buckner himself.

That decision leads the 49ers to draft Buckner’s replacement with the pick they shipped him out for.

Buckner is ironically a really good comparison for Javon Kinlaw.  Both are big, menacing interior lineman whose speciality is their pass rush ability rather than run defense.  Kinlaw and Buckner both use their special athleticism at around 300 pounds to be a mismatch for thicker, less mobile interior lineman.

The problem with this pick and San Francisco’s decision is that with Buckner, the 49ers knew what they had, and knew he was good.  Kinlaw could be great – the combo of his frame and explosiveness is intimidating – but he also may not be.  If Kinlaw was a sure thing, he’d be going top five.

That’s not a hit on or a projection of Kinlaw whatsoever, it’s simply comparing him to Buckner and the (theoretical) decision to replace him with Kinlaw.  Buckner is a player who’s worth top-dollar money.  If you know someone’s worth that, why wouldn’t you pay him and not the lesser guy?  Sure, the 49ers are probably prepping for the contracts extensions of Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa in the coming years, but your window is clearly now.  Go for it, and don’t cut corners.

No.14, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Jedrick Willis, Alabama

The draft’s second best tackle somehow falls to No. 14 overall, and the Buccaneers are ecstatic about it.  

With 43-year-old Tom Brady taking over under center, the Buccaneers need to ensure that he’ll be protected well.  Tampa Bay’s interior o-line is good, but the edges could use some sharpening.  

Willis is less risky than Becton, and is more valuable to Tampa Bay than Wirfs.  He’s got some issues in pass protection – mostly the nimbleness of his feet – which allows Thomas to sneak in over him on the big board, but aside from that, Willis projects as a shoe-in contributor.  With some adjustments, he’ll have Brady covered –for however long that is.

No.15, Denver Broncos: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

The Broncos have a nice pair of receivers (Cortland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton) on the outside for quarterback Drew Lock to work with, and also have Noah Fant at tight end.  But after trading the speedy Emmanuel Sanders to San Francisco midseason, Denver has a hole in the slot.

Henry Ruggs III is an absolute rocket.  He’s not quite Tyreek Hill (He might be the fastest player ever), but he’s close.  Ruggs III doesn’t do much else besides run past people – he’s small and frail and doesn’t have the best route running skills in the short range of the field.  While his feet can absolutely move, the footwork just isn’t really there.  He just has to run past opposing cornerbacks, which means 7-8-9 routes (posts, corners and deep shots) will be his calling card.  While he doesn’t have the size, Ruggs III can basically be your second outside receiver with his big play and deep threat ability.

It seems hard to trust Denver’s confidence in Lock, but after next season, the answer should be clear for them.  The former Missouri quarterback will have a stacked cache of weapons and help around him, and it’ll be up to him to prove he can take advantage of it.

No.16, Atlanta Falcons: CB Kristian Fulton, LSU

Now is the time when the rest cornerbacks can start coming off the board.  It almost feels as if Okudah is in a tier of his own at the top, then Henderson has his own slightly below, and then there is everyone else in the next tier.

Atlanta’s secondary has seen change this offseason with Desmond Trufant being released.  They also tend to be ravaged by injuries every season, as Keanu Neal has gone down with back-t0-back season-enders the past two years.

Fulton would be on the same level as Henderson if not for two major issues: 1) a drug suspension that saw him miss a full season at the college level and 2) his lackadaisical tackling which plagued LSU’s secondary (and its draft prospectus) over the past two years.

Aside from that, Fulton is a fantastic cover corner who won’t get beat or blow coverages.  If the Falcons can’t move up for one of the top guys, they should be plenty comfortable landing Fulton here.

No.17, Dallas Cowboys: CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

Dallas loses out on Henderson and Fulton, so they take one of the better corners available in Gladney.  After not paying up and watching Byron Jones leave for Miami, Dallas has a hole in an area of the field that’s plagued them for sometime, even with Jones holding his own on one side.

Gladney is different than any cornerback taken so far.  He’s small and fast, and is a ball-hawk.  It’s the electricity he plays with that sticks out, not necessarily the coverage skills.  His speed makes him versatile on the back-end, which makes him even more attractive for a team like the Cowboys who can use help in all areas of the secondary.

No.18, Miami Dolphins: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson

The Dolphins are in the midst of coming home from this draft with an absolute haul.  They have a new quarterback, and now a new wide receiver.

Higgins has fallen in some mocks and it doesn’t make sense as to why.  The guy has freakishly long arms and legs, and is fluid in his routes.  He’s a big play threat, but does lack that after-catch speed.  

With Higgins, the Dolphins could have a true No.1 receiver for Tagovailoa, with DeVante Parker sliding into more of a complementary role.  Parker and Higgins would be menacing on the outside, as both can go up and get any ball thanks to their length. Tagovailoa might not be getting one of his former teammates to whip it too, but he is getting pretty close to the next best thing.

No.19, Las Vegas Raiders: CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah

After going wide receiver at No. 12, the Raiders get that cornerback they desperately need.

It comes at a price though, as this might be a couple spots too high for Johnson.  Exploring a trade-down might make sense for Las Vegas here, as their roster has most of its holes filled.

Johnson was fantastic on a Utah defense that shut people down over the past couple years, and he was a large part of that.  Johnson’s long, and uses that length to keep receivers in reach of him.  

Like Fulton though, there are tackling concerns, which makes his value slide a bit and this pick possibly a reach.  His length should aide him with that at the NFL level, though.

No.20, Jacksonville Jaguars: DE K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU

With Yannick Ngakoue’s situation in a standstill that will likely come to an unhappy ending, Jacksonville finds his replacement with great value at No. 20 overall.

Chaisson isn’t the ferocious presence that someone like Chase Young is, but he is athletic and has a smooth way of getting around opposing linemen.  With Josh Allen bringing that nastiness on the other end (and all over the field), Chaisson can hopefully bring to the table what Jacksonville will miss with Ngagouke, as their other options on the edge currently are average at best.

No.21, Philadelphia Eagles: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma

Murray was perhaps the singular force behind Oklahoma’s defense not being a complete embarrassment last season.  His improvement brought the unit to an at least competent level, which still didn’t help much in the College Football Playoff.

Murray couldn’t do it all though even with his ranger-like presence.  He’s got a little bit of Isaiah Simmons in him, as he’s extremely versatile as a linebacker, run stopper and pass rusher.  A better pro comparison might be Jamie Collins, though that wild-card can get the best of the now-Lion sometimes.  The same goes for Murray.

The Eagles will take that though.  After losing Zach Brown (who didn’t last a full season), Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks over the years, they need someone who they can pop in at linebacker and trust.  Limiting Murray’s responsibilities might be the key, because at Oklahoma, he was likely overtasked.

No.22, Minnesota Vikings: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU

The Vikings got an absolute haul back from Buffalo in the Stefon Diggs trade, and they’ll use one of the picks they received in it to replace him.

Jefferson has a big frame for a slot receiver.  He’s not your typical guy that plays the position, as he lacks the speed that you typically see inside.  Jefferson can catch anything though, and plays a lot bigger than he is.  A set with Brown and Adam Thielen on the same side of the field would be absolutely deadly for Minnesota, just like it was with Diggs.

Minnesota could theoretically take their No.25 overall pick here and take Jefferson three spots from now, but that brings risk.  Jefferson is the sixth-best receiver in this class, and New Orleans could be interested in the hometown guy at No. 24 overall.

No.23, New England Patriots: LB Patrick Queen, LSU

Queen is typically ranked ahead of Kenneth Murray in most mock drafts and big boards, which wouldn’t be odd except for the fact that Queen is six feet tall.

They’re extremely similar players.  LSU used Queen similar to how Oklahoma used Murray.  Both were deployed all over the field and have ranger-like skills in run and pass defense.

But Queen isn’t just short.  He’s tiny.  He only weighs 229 pounds at six feet tall – he’s basically a running back’s size.

That’s why we’re sending Queen to New England – a place that will help him overcome his natural deficiencies and pair with an absolute genius in Bill Belichick. Plus, New England could use linebacker help after losing practically their whole core to Detroit and Miami – both teams coached by former Patriots assistants – in free agency.

No.24, New Orleans Saints: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

No.25, Minnesota Vikings: DE AJ Epenesa, Iowa

Minnesota experienced a purge of defensive talent this offseason, having to part ways with Xavier Rhodes (who seemed washed) and Linval Joseph.  Everson Griffen was also let go in a cost-cutting move, but there’s a small chance he returns back to the Vikings at a cheaper cost.

Regardless, the Vikings have to replenish talent on that side of the ball.  

Epenesa’s stock has seemed to fall a little bit in the pre-draft process; there were once top 15-20 rumors about him, so this could be considered a reach, which makes taking Jefferson above him much more defensible.

Epenesa is ironically built a lot like Danielle Hunter, his potential partner on the other edge.  Both are big and use their size to get past lineman, rather than their quickness or moves.  It leaves Minnesota with a lack of speed on the outside, but they can make up for that with the talent at hand.

N0.26, Miami Dolphins: OT Josh Jones, Houston

Like Minnesota, Miami could probably get away with flipping their previous two picks, especially considering Tee Higgins’ dropping value (They could probably take Jones high, trade down from this spot and still land Higgins).  But to continue the no trades tradition, we’ll have Miami take their Laremy Tunsil replacement with one of the picks they received from the Texans in the deal.

Jones has shot up boards.  There had been concerns about his pass-blocking ability, but those seem to be alleviated with his rise.  Miami landing Tagovailoa means they’ll have to protect him, especially with the injury risks he brings. Tagovailoa’s left-handedness means that Jones playing on the left takes some of the pressure off him in pass protection, which will lead to greater success at the next level.

No.27, Seattle Seahawks: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama

Seattle’s secondary was one of the most frustrating positions groups in football last year.  What seemed to be a ton talent could just not come together.  

Enter Diggs, who’s one of the best cornerbacks remaining (Someone coming shortly is ranked higher, though) in a round where a ton have gone.

Like Jeff Gladney, Diggs has great ball skills but is bigger than the TCU product.  He should be excellent in Seattle’s scheme, which usually features more than two corners.  That way the coverage skills he’s still working can be sheltered a bit.

No.28, Baltimore Ravens: LB Zack Baun, Wisconsin

A diluted sample at the combine that was reported last week figured to slide Baun’s value a bit, but as more has came out, it seems to be the result of a last-minute weight gain attempt from the Wisconsin linebacker.

The Ravens roster, especially their defense, is pretty loaded.  But linebacker could stand to use some reinforcements.  Baun is your classic Wisconsin player: big, strong and nasty.  Some draft experts have mentioned that he could be a pure pass rusher, but it seems like a waste to have that be the case when you factor in his impressive athleticism for his size.  

No. 29, Tennessee Titans: DE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

The Titans roster is sneakily loaded, so much so that it was hard to find the right player for them at such a high pick.  At this point in the draft, their needs can perhaps wait a bit.

Despite that roster talent, Tennessee is stuck in a precarious situation where it’ll only go as far as their quarterback can take them – you can argue that position is the only one that needs upgrading.

However, edge-rusher could use some juice.  The Titans signed Vic Beasley Jr. in free agency, who was literally a non-factor for the Falcons the past two seasons.  Gross-Matos can provide them with some extra oomph from the outside, as most of their pressure generators are tackles who lineup in the A or B gaps.

No.30, Green Bay Packers: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU

Green Bay is devastated that Justin Jefferson didn’t last till No.30, which means that trading down could be an option here.  Receiver is the position that makes the most sense for them at this point in the draft (For their other holes, it’s too early), but as stated prior, teams can wait if they want to.  The talent will be there.

Reagor would be ideal for Green Bay, complementing Davante Adams nicely from the inside and providing Aaron Rodgers help.  Reagor doesn’t have Ruggs III’s speed but he’s not lagging behind him either.  Like the Alabama speedster, Reagor isn’t the best route runner, but he played much bigger than his 5’11 frame by going up and making incredible catches in college.  Like CeeDeeLamb, he was a Big-12 caliber play-maker, which is impressive for a little guy in an explosive league.

No.31, San Francisco 49ers: WR Denzel Mims, Baylor

Mims shot up boards thanks to a good combine in Indianapolis.  The guy is absolutely massive at 6’3, 207 pounds, and would give San Francisco two specimens at wide receiver in combination with Deebo Samuel.  Mims is a go-up-and-get-it guy who’s also quick.  He’s reminiscent of N’Keal Harry from last year’s draft, where the big play ability is there but the route running is not.  San Francisco made out well with the limited receiving talent last season, but Mims would be impactful in making sure quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is truly the guy and takes the next step. 

No.32, Kansas City Chiefs: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia

This might be high for Hall, but the guy has the potential to be a mix of Jaylon Johnson and Jeff Gladney: a long ball-hawk corner with absolute shutdown potential. Kansas City’s secondary has long been the armpit of an at-times disgraceful defense, and Hall would help fill the gap left by Kendall Fuller in a hurry.

The Detroit Lions Control The 2020 NFL Draft

No.3, Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

The draft really starts here.  The first two picks are set in stone.  Joe Burrow to the Bengals has been obvious since halfway through the college football season, and Washington – despite rumors about them going QB – seems locked in with Chase Young and at least one of the quarterbacks on their roster, even if it’s not their first round pick from last year.

Jeff Okudah has been the popular pick to the Lions at No.3 overall, and it’s what we’re going with.  But there is certainly a case for someone like Derrick Brown here, which has been mocked elsewhere on the internet.  The Lions are paying cornerback Justin Coleman $9 million a year for the next three seasons, and just inked former Falcons CB Desmond Trufant to a two year, $21 million contract.  They’ve already done a lot to replace Darius Slay and Rashaad Melvin, and although Detroit played with three corners 75 percent of the time last season, they could be better off using this pick in areas other than their secondary.  

The signing of defensive end Trey Flowers last offseason hasn’t exactly paid off, and Brown would plug a hole next to Danny Shelton and fit head coach Matt Patricia’s ideals.  Brown and Shelton would be a running back’s nightmare, and the former Auburn stud is a good pass-rusher for his size and position.

But, there’s a reason Trufant was cut by Atlanta, and the Coleman contract already looks like a bit of an overpay.  Okudah has the chance to have an impact in Year 1 similar to another former Buckeye DB, Marshon Lattimore.  That might be too good for the Lions to pass up on.

There’s another direction Detroit could go here, though it’s quite unlikely.  Tua Tagovailoa is sitting there like a get out of jail free card.  As written a month ago, moving on from Stafford is not a typical Lions move.   Their organization just doesn’t make major changes like that on a whim.  But if the Lions want to get out of their elongated phase of mediocrity, getting a new signal-callar – and a potentially generational one – wouldn’t be a bad start. 

A quarterback could easily go No.3 overall Thursday night, just not to Detroit. The Dolphins and Chargers have long been rumored to be competing with one another for a quarterback at the top.  With concerns about Tagovailoa being floated out there, it’s possible it’s a ploy by one of the two organizations to bring his value down and not encourage the other to trade up and take him.  It’s also possible that both Los Angeles and Miami are sour on him, and the competition is for Justin Herbert rather than Tagovailoa.  

No matter what, it puts the Lions in a fantastic spot.  Okudah will certainly still be there at No. 5 or No. 6 overall.  The Giants signed former Panthers CB James Bradberry to big money and have last year’s second rounder Deandre Baker on the other side at corner – offensive line seems most likely for them.  If Miami is jumped by Los Angeles for a QB, and Detroit falls to No.6, the Dolphins will likely take the other signal-caller remaining at No.5 overall or could go anywhere but cornerback, where Xavien Howard and Byron Jones currently reside.  

If either Miami or Los Angeles wants to come up,  it’d basically be extra draft capital at no loss for the Lions.  It turns out controlling the draft is pretty good after all.

Sifting Through The Polarizing 2020 Quarterback Class

For a draft topped with two of the most surefire prospects in the past 10 years, the 2020 quarterback class offers one of the more puzzling and polarizing pool of prospects we’ve encountered.

Not all of that is these prospects faulst, though.  The coronavirus pandemic has stifled normal operations for every NFL team and the league office itself.  The draft is literally being held via a Zoom call, which seems to be going great so far.  Teams haven’t been able to sit down with prospects and talk for as long as they’d like to (The Combine helped but ultimately wasn’t enough).  They haven’t been able to bring them to their facilities, show them around and get a vibe for what type of person they are..  Most importantly, team doctors haven’t been able to get their hands on prospects and evaluate them medically, which means that teams are picking practically blind-folded to anything but what they see on tape.

If it seems truly ridiculous that this is happening, well, it is.  The draft should have been postponed, but in common NFL fashion, they pushed through and acted like nothing happened, putting everyone at a disadvantage except those atop the league office, who admittedly are smart to put the league at even more of a forefront in the media/content landscape.  It’s just a shame that it has to be at the expense of its own teams and the people who run and work for them.  

For one top quarterback, none of these unforeseen circumstances matter at all.  For another, Thursday night could be an absolute roller-coaster ride.  For the last of the top tier, it’s the tape that’s in question and subject to debate rather than anything else.  

Below are four select picks from this year’s mock draft, which consists of two rounds for the first time ever and will be rolled out over the course of the next couple days before Thursday night.  All four picks below are quarterbacks, and a couple of their landing spots within in the NFL and on draft night(s) might surprise you.

No.1, Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU

It only took a generational quarterback prospect for the Bengals to cut bait and move on from the Andy Dalton era, which reflects most poorly on owner Mike Brown’s refusal to hire a GM and keep Marvin Lewis as the head coach for five years too long.

Anyways, the Bengals have finally moved on from a long period of average football, and get to start anew with the guy who posted perhaps the best college football season of all-time.

When Burrow first showed up at LSU in the Fall of 2018, his impact was immediate.  LSU finally had a quarterback that could throw the football more than six yards down the field.  The offense was dynamic (for LSU’s standards, at least).  Burrow was a revelation for one of the most grit-and-grind programs in the country.

Turns out, he was a revelation for the whole country and the NFL as well.

Joe Brady came in a year later and turned Burrow into a monster.  Now the Panthers offensive coordinator, Brady has actually been a cause of concern for Burrow – draft experts are skeptical of only one year of insane production and the massive jump he took from 2018 to 2019.

That jump actually has less to do with Burrow and more to do with Brady.  Burrow didn’t put up the numbers he did in 2019 during his first season with the Tigers, but he did have a similar impact on the offense.  It was Brady that turned everyone else loose, which came thanks to scheme adjustments and players gaining more experience (like Ja’Marr Chase).

The Tom Brady comparisons for Burrow are reasonable.  No, Burrow will probably not win six Super Bowls – that’s not the point here.  The point is that neither quarterback has a cannon for an arm, but can absolutely dot up defenses with precision accuracy.  The term “making throws” isn’t overused with Burrow.  They’re also both excellent at recognizing defenses and making changes at the line of scrimmage.  That doesn’t mean Burrow will be the leader Brady is, or have the clutch ability that he does, but in terms of pure football aspects, the similarities are there, and Burrow has the advantage going forward.  He’s taller, more athletic and can actually escape pressure.  Plus, he’s going No. 1 overall in the draft.  Everyone believes in him, and because of that, the doubt that surrounded Brady won’t be clouding around Burrow.

No.5, Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

The Dolphins would obviously not like to have to trade up to land him, and there could be a pretty likely scenario in which they don’t have to.  

Miami isn’t competing against Detroit at No.3 overall for Tagovailoa They’re competing against possibly Los Angeles and any other team who might be attempting to trade up to the spot.

That could mean an all out bidding war in trade talks, but we’re not going to project that here.  Instead, Miami lands their guy and doesn’t have to do a thing but call the pick in.

Tagovailoa’s medicals have been a massive concern in the pre-draft lead-up, and rightfully so.  The guy has dealt with a lot in college, and one of those many injuries he sustained was a horrific and rare one.  With the current climate taking its toll on the draft, more and more skepticism about Tagovailoa’s medicals is being lobbed out there.  Teams don’t really know right now.  Because of the circumstances, teams are forced to pick based on what they believe, not what they know, and that can be really scary.

Tagovailoa just might be worth that risk though.  If he was 100 percent healthy and injuries weren’t a concern, it’s not far-fetched to say there’d be a debate about the No. 1 overall pick right now. Tagovailoa’s accuracy is the best out of perhaps anyone this decade.  That’s adjusting for yards per attempt; you know, actually throwing the football downfield a little bit, perhaps more than five yards (Sorry, Jake Fromm).  The No. 1 skill we always talk about quarterbacks needing to have is the ability to truly make throws.  Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, (younger) Tom Brady, Russell Wilson… those guys aren’t dinking and dunking it downfield like an Alex Smith, (younger) Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garroppolo (Sorry, but it’s true!)… you get the point. Tagovailoa has that skill, and not only is it his best one, but it’s the best out of anyone’s in a long time.

Sure, the arm strength isn’t as good as some would like it to be.  But when you can dot up defenses the way Tagovailoa does, it really doesn’t matter.  In general, people aren’t only overreacting to his arm, but they’re probably underrating it.  His arm is good, not great.  The qualms about it could just be a case of lefty-bias.

Miami should be hesitant about trading up for Tagovailoa given the health concerns, but if he’s here when they’re up, they have to take that chance.  Otherwise, bring on the tank for next season, because Miami didn’t enact this tanking scheme for someone who has the question marks that Justin Herbert and Jordan Love do.

No.24, New Orleans Saints: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

Let’s make one thing very clear: obviously, Justin Herbert will not be available at No. 24 overall and it is very unlikely that New Orleans ends up with him in any scenario.  The same will go for the quarterback we discuss next.

This is more about making a point regarding Herbert, who despite being QB3 on the Sports Hub big board is miles behind between QB2.

Nothing points to Herbert as being a generational talent, like Tagovailoa and Burrow could be.  He’s got a good arm, though it’s more about how the ball comes out of his hands than the arm strength itself (A trait similar to Tagovailoa).  He’s also tall – really tall.  That’s the whole book with Herbert: arm, zip and height.

You can see why teams like him though.  That zip on his passes is at times incredible to watch.  In the first half against Arizona State this past season, he was dotting the Sun Devils up.

Things changed later in that game though, which was a contest that could serve as a microcosm for Herbert’s evaluation as a prospect.  He started missing throws badly, which led to balls being sailed over receivers heads.  He occasionally missed so bad that it seemed like a miscommunication between him and the receiver, but it wasn’t.  It was just a really off-target throw.

Herbert needs to go to a situation where things are absolutely perfect in order for him to be a successful quarterback.  He needs serious development in some areas.  He needs to sit for at least a season and learn.  He needs some of the best coaching the NFL has.

New Orleans is perfect.

It seems extremely likely that this will be Drew Brees’ last year.  Sean Payton basically said so here, which seemed like a slip-up that revealed a dark truth.  In addition, Brees agreed to a broadcasting contract with NBC even though he’s not retired yet.  That doesn’t seem like the type of deal NBC would do if it was too far into the future, which makes it likely that it’ll commence in the next year or two.

With the Saints, Herbert gets an all-time quarterback to sit and develop behind for at least a season and a coach who’s innovative and has a knack for offensive development.  Just look at how terrifying Payton has made the likes of Taysom Hill, Deonte Harris and Tre’Quan Smith.  Those guys would be close to nobodies on any other team.

In New Orleans, Herbert would have a chance to be a successful NFL quarterback.  In Miami, probably not.  With the Chargers, possibly.  With the Raiders, possibly as well, although they should wait a year and attempt to land one of the top guys next year, in a QB class that could be a lot more intriguing than the one we’re currently evaluating.

We’ll get to this later in the week, but the pick before New Orleans is the Patriots. There might be some surprise that New England passed on Herbert in the mock considering the value they’d get at this point, as the Patriots have very similar organizational traits that fits what Herbert needs. But understand a couple things: one, in New England, there’s currently no one for him to sit behind.  Jarrett Stidham and Herbert are a year apart in NFL experience.  Herbert won’t learn and drafting him makes Stidham look like a wasted pick a year ago.  Two, as time passes on after Tom Brady’s departure, and the likes of Cam Newton and (gulp) Jameis Winston still remain available, it seems more and more likely the Patriots are going to roll with what they have in Stidham, and give him a true shot at becoming the next franchise quarterback.  Them going QB really high in this draft seems unlikely.  Taking a flyer on James Morgan doesn’t really move the needle that much, and doesn’t represent a true threat to Stidham.

No.46, Indianapolis Colts: QB Jordan Love, Utah State

Like we did with Justin Herbert, lets make one thing absolutely clear: Jordan Love will not be available at No. 46 overall and it is very unlikely he’ll end up with the Indianapolis Colts by the end of this weekend.

There’s a legit chance he goes ahead of Herbert on Thursday night, and could even be the second quarterback drafted if things shake out unexpectedly.  But there is no chance he falls out of the top 20.

The reason he is available at this point in this mock is because the Utah State product is going to get someone fired.  That may be the person who took him or the person who passed on him, but Love is bound to be the reason at least one GM is out of a job due to a confusing college resume.

Love is exactly what happens when teams miss completely on Patrick Mahomes (By the way, this site completely missed on him as well).  Their strengths and weaknesses as prospects out of college align closely: big arm, above-average mobility with serious accuracy issues.

Teams don’t want to miss on the next Mahomes, who has an argument for being the most talented quarterback of all-time.  They fell for the trick of believing that his inaccuracy out of school would detract from his arm talent, and ultimately waste it.  It’s overcorrection time, and Love is the prospect at the center of that market shift.

Love could simply be just a “correction” in the market of inaccurate, big-armed quarterbacks.  If he was a better desicion-maker and limited his turnovers, perhaps that would be the case.  He’d be a much more appealing quarterback if decision-making was a positive on his scouting reporting.

Calling Love a poor decision-maker might be an understatement.  The quarterback led all of Division 1 in interceptions thrown last season with 17.  He threw just three more touchdowns than he did picks.  Experts have cited Utah State’s heavy restructuring of its offense on and off the field between Love’s sophomore and junior season as reasons for his turnover total in 2019-20, but a jump from six picks to 17 can’t solely be blamed on that.  Love played in 13 games.  He averaged 1.31 a game.

Love’s drawbacks are different than Herbert’s.  Herbert doesn’t tend to make poor decisions.  The former Oregon QB’s turnovers are typically the result of poor accuracy rather than a bad choice being made.  It’s two problems in one, which while scary, also means there’s only a single fix to be made to solve both.

Love has two separate issues.  The inaccuracy and the decision-making, which leads to the turnovers.  For someone who’s touted for his downfield throwing ability, this stat doesn’t bode very well (Neither does it for Herbert, by the way).

We aren’t viewing Herbert as some bomb-it-downfield quarterback though, like we are with Love.  It’s also a stat that shows the separation of Love’s accuracy and turnover problems.  Notice how these percentages are in reference to an open receiver, which cancels out the excuse of having a lack of talent around him and a new system. The stat reflects solely on his accuracy, not his turnovers.

The bottom line is that Love has a lot to overcome, and like Herbert, needs an especially good situation to thrive.  Indianapolis would be perfect, even though it’d be the second questionable move from GM Chris Ballard regarding the quarterback position.

Phillip Rivers signed a one year with the Colts in free agency, and if last year was any indication, next season should be his last.  Despite his struggles, Rivers would be the ideal quarterback for Love to sit behind and learn.  In addition, if anyone can turn Rivers around, it’s head coach Frank Reich, who won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles quarterbacking his offense, was in charge when Carson Wentz played the best football of his career, and had Jacoby Brissett looking above average before T.Y. Hilton got hurt.  Even if Rivers improves, retirement certainly seems possible given his age and ESPN’s looming contract offer for a TV role.  Letting Love learn from the former Chargers quarterback and be coached by Frank Reich might be the best option available for him.  

Wherever Herbert fits best is where Love does as well, but the odds of both of them winding up in one of those situations, and taking advantage of it, are slim.

At What Point Do Sports Become Worth It?

When it was announced that President Trump would have a conference call this past Saturday with several sports commissioners, the odds of the return of the NBA, the start of the MLB season and the resumption of normal NFL offseason activities increased dramatically.  Though it probably would have posed a threat greater than the one the country is facing now due to the novel coronavirus, the President could have been expected to carry the same lax attitude toward the outbreak that he has all long.  That meant sports were coming back sooner than we thought – at the cost of more cases and deaths, but it’s not like the President has cared about those anyways.

But that’s not what the President did, which greatly relieved the country of even more hardship than it’s currently experiencing and was perhaps his best display of handling the crisis thus far.

Unfortunately for sports fans, Trump actually doing the right for once was a big blow.  His declaration on that conference call that the goal was for fans to be allowed back into stadiums and arenas was August or September dealt baseball and basketball a bad deck of cards, while giving the NFL and college football a royal flush.


When LeBron James said “I ain’t playing” when asked about the possibility of playing NBA games without fans on March 7, he answered that question not just for himself, but for the Lakers and the rest of the players in the NBA.  LeBron’s words aren’t the gospel just because he’s the best player in the league, but this is an issue that will likely be very one-sided.  The NBA Finals would be weird in an empty arena.  The Finals aren’t just about the series – it’s an event, a spectacle.  You know the pressure is on when the ball tips because there’s that energy and buzz in the crowd.  It’s loud.  It’s part of the experience.

So what’s it going to be like when Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off in mid-August at the Honey Training Center – the Clippers HQ – in Playa Vista, California or the Froedtert & The Medical College Of Wisconsin Sports Science Center – the Bucks HQ – in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with just team personnel and a folding table with Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy at it watching?  Not fun, and perhaps not even worth it.

The amount of guys that walk onto that court and think “Man, this is pathetic” or “What are we doing here?” will be large.  The same goes for the Orlando Magic, who  before they get stomped on by the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs will think “Is this really worth it when we have no chance of making the Finals anyway?”

LeBron’s words send the league office a message from the players: the season is over unless we can have fans at games.  Even those with a chance to add a title to their legacy will accept and pull for that.  It just won’t be fun.  Basketball needs to be fun.

The regular season is probably over.  You can spring into the playoffs without easing guys back into things – most players have courts at their house, and everyone is staying in game shape at home.  Jumping into the playoffs has complications though – the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings and Spurs won’t be too happy about that, as all of them sit between three-and-a-half to four games out of the eighth seed out West, whereas the Wizards sit five-and-a-half out in the East.

All of those Western Conference teams probably deserve a shot to get in, whereas no one in the East really does.  The NBA can’t address one without the other – the West can’t just have a play-in tournament because it’s better.

But the playoff situation has its own complications.  Take the Magic again like we did above for example.  Would a Sacramento or a Charlotte even bother if the environment for the play-in tournament is really going to be someone’s practice court with no fans?

Fans – at some point – are going to have to be part of the equation here.  We could easily see teams and players bow out – even out of a playoff series – if they aren’t there.  LeBron’s words carry weight with the league, and even though he backtracked on that statement, his line “I ain’t playing” was truly LeBron’s feeling.  His rebuttal about that statement being a joke blew his cover – “I didn’t know that was seriously being considered.”  Okay, so that means that your gut reaction changed?  Get out of here.

The NBA’s dilemma is this: fans probably won’t be able to be at games until the Conference Finals or the Finals, assuming that 1) Trump’s estimate of August or September is correct and 2) the league is dead-set on the season being over by the end of Labor Day weekend.  How do you convince 12-14 teams (excluding those who make the Conference Finals or Finals) to play for essentially nothing?  What does Orlando have to gain?  Dallas?  Denver?  More playoff experience?  The Mavericks training facility will surely put Luka Doncic in a fearsome playoff environment.

The league is asking itself this: how do we make these games worth it to the players if there will be no fans?  How can we make this cool, or replicate what the playoffs will truly be like?

Here’s one ridiculous idea…

There isn’t one player in the NBA who hasn’t seen the movie Hoosiers.  It’s one of the most iconic sports movies of all time, and is one of the best stories ever told.  Move the season to Indianapolis, create the “bubble” there where players are isolated, have the proper human resources and clearance and tip-off your playoffs in the infamous Hoosier Gym about 50 miles east of the city.  There would need to be some updates – the court isn’t the right size and it seems plausible that it’d need some updated technology, but at least starting things off there would make it worthwhile for everyone involved.  Then, by the time the Finals roll around, you’re hopefully in sold-outs arenas and are somewhat back to normal.

If the Hoosier Gym isn’t feasible, the NBA could pick a couple cool, smaller college basketball venues around the country.  Cameron Indoor Stadium comes to mind first, so does Hinkle Fieldhouse – also ironically in Indianapolis.  Hinkle is perhaps a little big – you don’t want massive arenas since there won’t be fans.  But those places are cool, and that’s what we have to make this: cool.


If the NBA seems screwed, then baseball is really screwed.  The challenges of the outbreak beginning before the season even started are massive.  It leads to a large revenue cut for a sport that secretly really needs it because so many games will be lost.  It affects some teams more than others, since baseball teams act as corporations and don’t have the same revenue sharing policies as leagues like the NFL and NBA – they have to find money to pay their players, which is why you have rich teams and poor teams.  It has shorten the draft, since money will be tight.  It cancelled the rest of spring training outright, and it has really put players in a rough spot, since paycheck collection for the year had just gotten started.  Now, players could be facing months with no paycheck coming in (MLB is so far paying players through the next two months, but that’s it).

A grand solution broke yesterday morning though: starting the season off by creating a “bubble” here in Arizona, with teams playing at spring training parks and Chase Field in front of no fans surrounded by proper personnel and resources.  Players would be quarantined in hotels in between games – away from families and anyone on the outside of the baseball sphere – and would only travel to games.

But that “bubble” and “baseball-sphere” is massive, and requires a lot of non-baseball people to be quarantined as well.  You’re talking about bus drivers, cooks and chefs, stadium maintenance people, media personnel.  That’s a lot of people to quarantine, or a lot of people to trust.

Plus, some parameters of the Arizona plan just seem silly.  Players, instead of sitting in the dugout, would sit in the empty stands to ensure they’re six feet apart from each other.  What is this, a high school baseball tournament where the team that plays next waits for the first game to finish?  In addition, does that just go out the window when a runner is standing on first base?  Or at the plate, where a batter is near a catcher and perhaps even an umpire? (If MLB wants to do electric strike zones, this would be the perfect time)

It would be a great way to pump money into the Arizona economy – lots of jobs as hotel workers, cooks and drivers would be created.  But that also means plucking people from their somewhat normal lives.  Those people would have to be quarantined just like the players and other essential baseball staff.

It would also help MLB and its teams salvage some lost revenue.  While fans wouldn’t be in attendance, the more games played means more TV revenue from local and national partners.  Ratings would shoot up, and baseball would be making major cash since it’d be the only sport on in May most likely.

Still, the Arizona plan seems far-fetched, and it’s first problems aren’t the logistic of the baseball, it’s the baseball itself.

When MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a deal on March 27 that provided some clarity on the potential return to baseball this season, there was one major bullet point that didn’t get talked about enough.  It read, per ESPN.com:

As part of the agreement, obtained by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the players and MLB primarily agreed that the 2020 season will not start until each of the following conditions are met:

  • There are no bans on mass gatherings that would limit the ability to play in front of fans. However, the commissioner could still consider the “use of appropriate substitute neutral sites where economically feasible”;

Certainly sounds a lot like the NBA, right?

Players don’t want to play without fans.  It’s weird.  It’s different.  It’s not how sports should be.

However, the second sentence of that bullet point is an interesting one.  It seems as if the Players Association made a bet that commissioner Rob Manfred wouldn’t be able to figure out a solution that 1) featured no fans and 2) was approved by the players.  The Arizona plan seems to have done that, as ESPN’s reporting mentioned that “Major League Baseball and its players are increasingly focused on a plan that could allow them to start the season as early as May.”

Still, the original stipulation says a lot.  The players don’t want to play without fans, and they probably don’t want to have to sit in empty stadium seats at least six feet apart from one another instead of in the dugout.  

It might be worth it for MLB to just wait until things can be semi-normal, meaning that team travel is okay, that playing in your actual home ballparks is okay and that being in the dugout is okay.  Sure, that would be without fans, but a shortened regular season and perhaps an expanded playoff would be entertaining as hell.  You’re talking about a sprint to the finish line, and in a sport that’s already insanely variant, we could see some of the most stunning standings in awhile.

Plus, MLB can likely bank on having fans not only for the playoffs, but for the last quarter or so of the regular season.  That’s worth starting things up for all the teams in the league, not just those making it into October.

Baseball without fans is not basketball without fans.  In arenas, sound is trapped and has nowhere to go.  Baseball games aren’t super loud in the first place.  Without organs, music and PA announcers, it’d be pretty quiet.  Subtracting fans makes for a different experience, but not as different as basketball would be.  Essentially, baseball becomes more worth it than basketball for that reason.

The Arizona plan is really all about one thing: money.  It’s a makeshift, save-grace move to keep the bottom from potentially falling out.  It would really just be MLB winging it.  The NBA doesn’t have to deal with this as heavily, because they’ve earned a decent chunk of the revenue they projected to.  Baseball’s earned close to zero.  Perhaps MLB can see how another league does with the winging it strategy first before moving forward.


It is super ironic that the NFL will likely benefit the most from Saturday’s conference call.  Trump and Roger Goodell feel like they could be brothers with the way they’ve both done their jobs over the past four-to-six years.  Trump ruling that his body double’s league could start on time is a hilarious coincidence.  

And like Trump wants the country to, the NFL will continue to push on as if nothing ever happened.  The decision to let free agency carry on was smart, but it’s not like it was one that wasn’t obvious.  That’s an event that is done virtually for the most part anyways.  Few people and personnel are needed to be grouped together to sign free agents.  The only toll really taken was potential visits, and those are usually reserved for high-end guys.

The decision to let the NFL Draft go on is perplexing.  While making it the big event it usually is has a low probability of occurring before the season’s kickoff, it’d be best to hold the draft at a time when it’s best for the teams… you know, the people actually doing the hard work of scouting and selecting players.

NFL teams are more fortunate than NBA teams, who not only have to deal with what looks like one of the worst incoming crops of talents in years, but likely won’t have a combine and won’t get anything other than tape and video interviews.  The NFL at least had the combine, which is a massive event not just for scouting but for interviews, meetings and medicals.  Still, Pro Days and visits have been outright canceled, severely limiting teams’ ability to really personalize their scouting reports, have their own team doctors look at a prospect and meet one-on-one.  That’s the type of stuff that usually makes or breaks picks.  Everyone has the same tape to look at and evaluate. It’s everything else that determines how a team truly feels about a player.

Adding to the disadvantage given to teams is the set-up enforced by the NFL itself.  While team facilities should remain closed, not having a small group of top executives and scouts be in the same room as one another makes for tougher communication during the most stressful time of the NFL calendar.  Dialogue in person is different than dialogue via video conference.  Because of this, pick selection and the debate that comes with that will be difficult.  There could be a record-low amount of trades over the course the draft.  Imagine communicating with another team when communicating with your own is hard enough.

This doesn’t mean that the NFL should allow those small groups to be together for the draft though.  It means that the NFL should postpone it until those small groups – and Pro Days and visits – are allowed.  OTA’s and rookie minicamps aren’t happening anyways.  The NFL’s goal is likely training camp, and that seems feasible given the information dispersed Saturday and information given by a more trustworthy source more recently.  Essentially, the draft just needs to be over with by mid-Jul.  That leaves the NFL plenty of time to work with.  Instead, the NFL is pushing through, following the voice at the helm of the country, who’s ideas about leadership and accountability strike a similar, shameful tone as the voice atop their own organization.