NFL Top-200 of 2016

  1. DT Aaron Donald (Los Angeles)
  2. DE JJ Watt (Houston)
  3. DE Khalil Mack (Oakland)
  4. WR Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh)
  5. OLB Von Miller (Denver)
  6. OT Joe Thomas (Cleveland)
  7. MLB Luke Kuechly (Carolina)
  8. TE Rob Gronkowski (New England)
  9. S Harrison Smith (Minnesota)
  10. CB Richard Sherman (Seattle)
  11. DT Ndamukong Suh (Miami)
  12. WR Julio Jones (Atlanta)
  13. OLB Jamie Collins (New England)
  14. CB Chris Harris (Denver)
  15. OLB Anthony Barr (Minnesota)
  16. DT Geno Atkins (Cincinnati)
  17. G Marshal Yanda (Baltimore)
  18. WR Odell Beckham (NY Giants)
  19. DE Michael Bennett (Seattle)
  20. OT Tyron Smith (Dallas)
  21. DE Olivier Vernon (NY Giants)
  22. C Travis Frederick (Dallas)
  23. OT Terron Armstead (New Orleans)
  24. DE Mike Daniels (Green Bay)
  25. MLB Dont’a Hightower (New England)
  26. OT Trent Williams (Washington)
  27. QB Cam Newton (Carolina)
  28. CB Darius Slay (Detroit)
  29. DT Fletcher Cox (Philadelphia)
  30. S Tyrann Mathieu (Arizona)
  31. S Devin McCourty (New England)
  32. CB Patrick Peterson (Arizona)
  33. OLB Sean Lee (Dallas)
  34. DE Brandon Graham (Philadelphia)
  35. WR AJ Green (Cincinnati)
  36. DT Jurrell Casey (Tennessee)
  37. G Zack Martin (Dallas)
  38. OLB KJ Wright (Seattle)
  39. RB Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh)
  40. G Josh Sitton (Chicago)
  41. OT Joe Staley (San Francisco)
  42. QB Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)
  43. DT Kawann Short (Carolina)
  44. WR DeAndre Hopkins (Houston)
  45. DE Malik Jackson (Jacksonville)
  46. OT Mitchell Schwartz (Kansas City)
  47. CB Ronald Darby (Buffalo)
  48. QB Russell Wilson (Seattle)
  49. CB Jason Verrett (San Diego)
  50. TE Jordan Reed (Washington)
  51. S Earl Thomas (Seattle)
  52. CB Desmond Trufant (Atlanta)
  53. QB Tom Brady (New England)
  54. DE Ezekiel Ansah (Detroit)
  55. WR Sammy Watkins (Buffalo)
  56. DE Derek Wolfe (Denver)
  57. OT Ryan Schraeder (Atlanta)
  58. TE Greg Olsen (Carolina)
  59. G Trai Turner (Carolina)
  60. C Jason Kelce (Philadelphia)
  61. TE Zach Ertz (Philadelphia)
  62. QB Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)
  63. OT Cordy Glenn (Buffalo)
  64. WR Alshon Jeffery (Chicago)
  65. MLB Brandon Marshall (Denver)
  66. DE Calais Campbell (Arizona)
  67. G TJ Lang (Green Bay)
  68. DE Everson Griffen (Minnesota)
  69. G Justin Pugh (NY Giants)
  70. OT Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati)
  71. G Evan Mathis (Arizona)
  72. DT Gerald McCoy (Tampa Bay)
  73. OLB Pernell McPhee (Chicago)
  74. WR Doug Baldwin (Seattle)
  75. RB Todd Gurley (Los Angeles)
  76. MLB Danny Trevathan (Chicago)
  77. QB Carson Palmer (Arizona)
  78. OLB Justin Houston (Kansas City)
  79. RB Lamar Miller (Houston)
  80. DT Marcell Dareus (Buffalo)
  81. WR Mike Evans (Tampa Bay)
  82. S HaHa Clinton-Dix (Green Bay)
  83. CB Stephon Gilmore (Buffalo)
  84. S Eric Berry (Kansas City)
  85. G Andrew Norwell (Carolina)
  86. DE Sheldon Richardson (NY Jets)
  87. OT Jason Peters (Philadelphia)
  88. G Kelechi Osemele (Oakland)
  89. QB Drew Brees (New Orleans)
  90. DE Robert Quinn (Los Angeles)
  91. WR Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)
  92. C Weston Richburg (NY Giants)
  93. DE Cameron Heyward (Pittsburgh)
  94. CB Sean Smith (Oakland)
  95. S Patrick Chung (New England)
  96. MLB Derrick Johnson (Kansas City)
  97. RB Adrian Peterson (Minnesota)
  98. TE Delanie Walker (Tennessee)
  99. OLB Tamba Hali (Kansas City)
  100. S Morgan Burnett (Green Bay)
  101. DE Leonard Williams (NY Jets)
  102. MLB Jerrell Freeman (Chicago)
  103. DE Muhammad Wilkerson (NY Jets)
  104. WR Allen Robinson (Jacksonville)
  105. G Kevin Zeitler (Cincinnati)
  106. RB Doug Martin (Tampa Bay)
  107. G Richie Incognito (Buffalo)
  108. OT Taylor Lewan (Tennessee)
  109. WR Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona)
  110. DT Linval Joseph (Minnesota)
  111. DE Jabaal Sheard (New England)
  112. C Matt Slauson (San Diego)
  113. DE Robert Ayers (Tampa Bay)
  114. S Malcolm Jenkins (Philadelphia)
  115. CB Johnathan Joseph (Houston)
  116. DE Cameron Jordan (New Orleans)
  117. OLB Jerry Hughes (Buffalo)
  118. DE Carlos Dunlap (Cincinnati)
  119. OLB DeMarcus Ware (Denver)
  120. WR Jarvis Landry (Miami)
  121. CB Josh Norman (Washington)
  122. S Reshad Jones (Miami)
  123. MLB Bobby Wagner (Seattle)
  124. WR Keenan Allen (San Diego)
  125. OLB James Harrison (Pittsburgh)
  126. OLB Vontaze Burfict (Cincinnati)
  127. G David DeCastro (Pittsburgh)
  128. CB Vontae Davis (Indianapolis)
  129. G Jack Mewhort (Indianapolis)
  130. S Rodney McLeod (Philadelphia)
  131. OT Jared Veldheer (Arizona)
  132. S George Iloka (Cincinnati)
  133. G Mike Iupati (Arizona)
  134. CB Delvin Breaux (New Orleans)
  135. DT Damon Harrison (NY Giants)
  136. C Rodney Hudson (Oakland)
  137. G Gabe Jackson (Oakland)
  138. WR Demaryius Thomas (Denver)
  139. CB Darrelle Revis (NY Jets)
  140. OLB Ryan Kerrigan (Washington)
  141. S Eric Weddle (Baltimore)
  142. CB Casey Hayward (San Diego)
  143. G Joel Bitonio (Cleveland)
  144. DT Brandon Williams (Baltimore)
  145. TE Travis Kelce (Kansas City)
  146. RB Devonta Freeman (Atlanta)
  147. WR TY Hilton (Indianapolis)
  148. DE Cliff Avril (Seattle)
  149. WR Emmanuel Sanders (Denver)
  150. OLB Chandler Jones (Arizona)
  151. DE Stephon Tuitt (Pittsburgh)
  152. G Clint Boling (Cincinnati)
  153. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (NY Giants)
  154. S Kam Chancellor (Seattle)
  155. QB Matt Ryan (Atlanta)
  156. OLB Lavonte David (Tampa Bay)
  157. OT Jake Matthews (Atlanta)
  158. DE Jaye Howard (Kansas City)
  159. WR Brandon Marshall (NY Jets)
  160. S Da’Norris Searcy (Tennessee)
  161. OLB Jadeveon Clowney (Houston)
  162. S Reggie Nelson (Oakland)
  163. DE Jason Pierre-Paul (NY Giants)
  164. CB Adam Jones (Cincinnati)
  165. OT Anthony Castonzo (Indianapolis)
  166. RB Jamaal Charles (Kansas City)
  167. RB Eddie Lacy (Green Bay)
  168. C Joe Berger (Minnesota)
  169. QB Andy Dalton (Cincinnati)
  170. OT Kelvin Beachum (Jacksonville)
  171. TE Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati)
  172. OLB Brian Orakpo (Tennessee)
  173. WR Dez Bryant (Dallas)
  174. OLB Whitney Mercilus (Houston)
  175. WR John Brown (Arizona)
  176. OT Morgan Moses (Washington)
  177. G John Greco (Cleveland)
  178. CB David Amerson (Oakland)
  179. OLB Thomas Davis (Carolina)
  180. DE Cameron Wake (Miami)
  181. DT Sharrif Floyd (Minnesota)
  182. WR Jeremy Maclin (Kansas City)
  183. QB Philip Rivers (San Diego)
  184. DT Dontari Poe (Kansas City)
  185. WR Allen Hurns (Jacksonville)
  186. C Ryan Kalil (Carolina)
  187. OLB Clay Matthews (Green Bay)
  188. WR Randall Cobb (Green Bay)
  189. OT Donald Penn (Oakland)
  190. TE Antonio Gates (San Diego)
  191. G Ramon Foster (Pittsburgh)
  192. DT Johnathan Hankins (NY Giants)
  193. OLB Derrick Morgan (Tennessee)
  194. WR Golden Tate (Detroit)
  195. OLB Melvin Ingram (San Diego)
  196. S TJ Ward (Denver)
  197. CB Trumaine Johnson (Los Angeles)
  198. MLB Tahir Whitehead (Detroit)
  199. WR Julian Edelman (New England)
  200. TE Martellus Bennett (New England)




2017 NFL Mock Draft

  1. Cleveland Browns – QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

The Browns are trying Robert Griffin at quarterback this season, their 25th different starting quarterback since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999. It might not be Robert Griffin’s fault if they’re in this position, picking #1 overall, as he has next to no help on either side of the football, but the Browns would probably have a hard time passing on someone who could fix their quarterback issues for the next 10 years if they got the top pick. They would be the 15th team in the last 20 years to draft a quarterback #1 overall.

  1. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams) – OLB Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)

The Rams moved up from 15 to 1 last year to select a quarterback, even though there wasn’t a marquee quarterback prospect in the 2016 draft class like Watson. The Rams gave up the 15th pick, a pair of 2nd round picks, their 3rd round pick, and a 2017 1st and 3rd round pick to move up to #1 to select California’s Jared Goff. So far, the plan seems like one that’s going to backfire. Goff looked horrible this pre-season and is not expected to open the year as the starter. That means the Rams could easily be one of the worst teams in the league this season, after several off-season losses, no real off-season additions, and very few other draft picks with which to add young talent. If that happens, their high pick would go straight to the Titans, who are picking in the top-2 for the 3rd straight year in this scenario.

Another trade down makes sense because Garrett is the top defensive player in the draft class, but doesn’t fill an obvious need for a Tennessee team that already has Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo, and Kevin Dodd, while teams will also likely want to move ahead of San Francisco for quarterback Brad Kaaya. I’m not projecting trades 8 months out because I’m not that crazy, but this seems like an obvious spot for the Titans to move down. If they stay put, they might not have a choice but to take Jarrett, as none of the other top players available fit their biggest needs. They’d figure out a way to get all of their pass rushers on the field in sub packages.

  1. San Francisco 49ers – QB Brad Kaaya (Miami)

The 49ers are the reason teams would want to move up to 2 to grab a quarterback. The 49ers could also just move up one spot themselves to ensure they get a quarterback. By the 2017 NFL Draft, Colin Kaepernick is not likely to still be a member of the San Francisco 49ers, while Blaine Gabbert is unlikely to play well enough to keep the starting job long-term. After being leapfrogged by both the Rams and Eagles for quarterbacks in 2016, the 49ers get their guy here in 2017. It’s a long rebuild for the 49ers, but having a promising young quarterback in place makes everything easier because free agents are more willing to play for teams that have their quarterback situation figured out. The 49ers enter the 2016 season with 45 million in extra cap space after not being able to convince anyone of note to play for them this off-season.

  1. Atlanta Falcons – DT Malik McDowell (Michigan State)

If the Falcons are this bad in 2017, they’d probably be targeting Myles Jarrett in a trade up, but they have to settle for the draft class’ 2nd ranked defensive lineman here at 4. Jarrett might fill a more obvious need as a second edge rusher in sub packages opposite 2014 1st round pick Vic Beasley, but McDowell would instantly be their best defensive tackle. Both Tyson Jackson and Jonathan Babineaux are washed up veterans, 2014 2nd round pick Ra’Shede Hageman has shown nothing in two years in the league, and Grady Jarrett was just a 5th round in 2015 and is still unproven.

  1. Miami Dolphins – RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)

The Dolphins added a running back in the 3rd round this year, taking Alabama’s Kenyan Drake. However, he’s expected to open his rookie year as the 3rd running back behind veteran starter Arian Foster and second year player Jay Ajayi. He won’t prevent the Dolphins from taking a running back like Fournette early in 2017. Foster is only on a one-year deal and would be going into his age 31 season, with a serious injury history, next off-season. He may only spend one year as the starting running back in Miami. Neither Drake nor Ajayi look like future starters either. Fournette is the early Heisman favorite and one of the best running back prospects of the decade.

  1. Chicago Bears – OT Cam Robinson (Alabama)

The Bears added at right tackle this off-season, bringing in ex-Cardinal Bobby Massie to start, which allowed them to move Kyle Long back to his natural position of right guard. However, they still have major issues on the left side, where Charles Leno is being given another chance to start in 2016. Leno was horrible in 2015 and is unlikely to be better this season, but the Bears seem to believe in him. It’s unclear how much they’ll believe in him in a year if he struggles again though, so the Bears using a top pick on a left tackle is definitely not out of the question, especially if they can get the best one in the draft class.

  1. New Orleans Saints – CB Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)

The Saints have a 2-3 year rebuild ahead of them on defense, so they’ll probably be looking at defensive players in the first round of the draft again in 2017, after taking Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins at 12 in 2016. This time around, they take the top cornerback in the draft class, to give them a long-term option opposite the promising Delvin Breaux. 2015 3rd round pick PJ Williams will start opposite Breaux in 2016, after missing his entire rookie year with injury, while washed up veteran Cortland Finnegan figures to man the slot. Unless Williams surprises, cornerback will be a need for the Saints next off-season.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – S Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)

The Buccaneers went with a cornerback in the first round in 2016, filling a major need there. However, they still have problems at safety, where mediocre veterans Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald start. Conte is actually coming off of a solid 2015, but neither one of them are very good and both are free agents next off-season. That gives the Buccaneers an opportunity to upgrade and they’re picking in the top-10 in a draft with a pair of talented safety prospects. They grab one of them here.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – S Jamal Adams (LSU)

Adams is the other top safety prospect. He’ll fill a need for a Jacksonville team that still needs to add to their defense. John Cyprien and Tashaun Gipson are their starting safeties are both are coming off of bad 2015 seasons. Gipson was better in 2014 and signed to a big contract, so he’ll probably be around for more than a year, even if he struggles in 2016, but Cyprien is going into the final year of his rookie deal and running out of chances. If he doesn’t turn it around in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they let him go and replaced him with a top safety prospect.

  1. New York Jets – OLB Tim Williams (Alabama)

The Jets have the best trio of 3-4 defensive ends in the league with Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Leonard Williams, but outside linebacker is a completely different story. They’re counting on unproven 2nd year player Lorenzo Mauldin to be an every down player, with 3rd round rookie Jordan Jenkins penciled in as the other starter, with no proven depth behind either. Many thought they’d take an edge rusher at 20 in the first round this year. They didn’t, but the position should be high on their list next off-season.

  1. Houston Texans – DT Lowell Lotulelei (Utah)

The Texans obviously have JJ Watt, but they need to get him help on the defensive line. Experienced veteran starter Jared Crick is gone, leaving them with only unproven players on the other side opposite Watt, while veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork is going into his age 35 season and possibly his last season in the league. Lotulelei is big enough to play the nose, but he’s also a good enough pass rusher to go this high and be an every down player in the NFL. If he can reach his potential, the Texans would have a pair of monsters on the defensive line.

  1. Indianapolis Colts – RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)

The Colts are going into 2016 with a 33-year-old Frank Gore at running back with absolutely no depth behind him. Considering Gore rushed for just 3.22 yards per carry over his final 8 games last season, this likely won’t go well. Even if this isn’t Gore’s final year in the league, the Colts will likely be looking at running backs next off-season, including early in the draft, rather than paying Gore 3.5 million non-guaranteed in 2017. Cook isn’t quite as good as Fournette, but could also be a high pick in a good running back class.

  1. Washington Redskins – MLB Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State)

The biggest obstacle to the Redskins repeating as NFC East champions is how weak they are on the defensive line and up the middle of their linebacking corps. They’ll likely be one of the worst run defenses in the league. Their defensive line got worse this off-season, while their middle linebackers didn’t get any better. Tim Compton and Mason Foster, both of whom struggled mightily last season, are penciled in as the starters, with little depth behind them. It’s a position they could address early in next year’s draft.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – CB Teez Tabor (Florida)

I still don’t understand the Cowboys passing on Jalen Ramsey for Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott obviously has a chance to be great in Dallas’ offense, but they ran the ball well even without him last season. Their running game was not the problem. Their defense was a much bigger problem, particularly in the secondary. Despite that, they didn’t address the cornerback position until the 6th round, when they took Purdue’s Anthony Brown. Because of that, Morris Claiborne, one of the worst cornerbacks in the league last season, and Brown will be the primary reserves behind Orlando Scandrick, who is coming off of a torn ACL, and Brandon Carr, a declining, overpaid player going into his age 30 season in 2016. With Carr possibly in his final year in Dallas, this position will need to be addressed next off-season.

  1. Denver Broncos – TE OJ Howard (Alabama)

I thought about giving Denver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the draft class’ top wide receiver, but that only makes sense if the Broncos aren’t unable to keep wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who is a free agent next off-season. Still, they need to add pass catchers either way, even if Sanders returns. With Owen Daniels (517 yards in 2015) retiring, the Broncos don’t have a single receiver on their roster behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders who had more than 207 receiving yards in 2015. They’re hoping for a big year from 2nd year tight end Jeff Heuerman, who missed his entire rookie year with a torn ACL, but if they don’t get it, they could be looking at a tight end in the first round in 2017.

  1. Baltimore Ravens – MLB Reuben Foster (Alabama)

The Ravens took an Alabama middle linebacker in the first round in 2014 and struck gold with CJ Mosley. They may do the same again in 2017. Mosley figures to remain in Baltimore for a long-time, but they need help inside next to him, where Zach Orr, a 2013 undrafted free agent with 0 career starts, is penciled in as the starter, going into 2016. The Ravens also might move rookie 2nd round pick Kamalei Correa from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, but they need him outside long-term. Foster fixes the problem inside long-term.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC)

As mentioned, JuJu Smith-Schuster is the top wide receiver in this draft class. The Chiefs are hoping that either Albert Wilson or Chris Conley can step up as the #2 wide receiver after Jeremy Maclin, but Wilson is undersized and best on the slot long-term, while Conley has upside, but hasn’t shown anything at the professional level yet, struggling on limited snaps as a rookie. Unless he has a breakout 2016, the Chiefs will likely be looking for wide receivers next off-season. It’s not a strong wide receiver class, but it’ll be hard for them to pass on Smith-Schuster here.

  1. New York Giants – RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)

The Giants got a steal in the 5th round with UCLA running back Paul Perkins in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they could still take a running back early in 2017. Rashad Jennings is the lead back, but he’ll be going into his age 32 season in 2017. He’s also never had more than 195 carries in a season in his career and needs a big 2016 to remain the lead back into 2017. Either way, this team needs an upgrade at the position and could easily take a running back early in a strong running back class in 2017.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings) – CB Adoree Jackson (USC)

The Eagles get this pick from Minnesota in the Sam Bradford trade. It’s not enough to make up for all they gave away to get quarterback Carson Wentz, but the Eagles are actually a more talented team that people realize, especially on defense, where the front 7 looks poised for a big year under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The Eagles are still my pick to make it out of a weak NFC East. However, they have obvious issues at cornerback. The new regime does not like 2015 2nd round pick Eric Rowe, who did struggle as a rookie, and are starting Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin at cornerback in 2016. The latter is not very good, while the former is only on a one-year deal. With few other needs, cornerback will be at the top of their list next off-season.

  1. Buffalo Bills – WR Mike Williams (Clemson)

The Bills lost Chris Hogan to the Patriots this off-season and have no depth at wide receiver behind Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Greg Salas is penciled in as the 3rd receiver and he has just 46 career catches in 5 years in the league. Woods isn’t very good either and is going into the final year of his rookie deal. They need a long-term complement to Sammy Watkins and they get one here, taking another Clemson wide receiver in the first round. Mike Williams largely replaced Watkins at Clemson. Now he joins him in Buffalo.

  1. Tennessee Titans – CB Desmond King (Iowa)

The Titans didn’t really fill a need with their first pick in the first round, taking the draft class’ top defensive player, Myles Jarrett. However, that’s okay because they have two first round picks (and two third round picks) and relatively few positions in need of long-term help. Cornerback is one of those positions though and they address the need here in with their other first round pick. Both Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty are expensive, aging veterans coming off of injury plagued years and they have no good depth behind them either. A good, young cornerback is needed.

  1. San Diego Chargers – OT Roderick Johnson (Florida State)

The Chargers’ offensive line should be a lot better in 2016 than it was in 2015, as they added center Matt Slauson in free agency and should be healthier in general. However, there’s no guarantee that veteran left tackle King Dunlap bounces back from an injury plagued 2015 season, as he’s already going into his age 31 season in 2016. Owed 6.75 million non-guaranteed in 2017, this could be his final year in San Diego if he can’t have a bounce back year. The Chargers could be looking for a long-term left tackle very soon.

  1. Detroit Lions – DE Carl Lawson (Auburn)

The Lions have Ezekiel Ansah on one end of their defensive line for the foreseeable future, but they need a long-term option on the other side. Devin Taylor, a 2013 4th round pick, will start there this season and he has shown potential, but he’s also going into the final year of his rookie deal and they don’t have any depth behind him. Lawson is a talented edge rusher that could easily go higher than this.

  1. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles) – OT Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame)

Most teams that draft a quarterback in the first round use their next pick on another offensive player. The Browns don’t need any more young pass catchers after using 5 picks on pass catchers in 2016, but they need help on the offensive line. Joe Thomas is still the top left tackle in the NFL, but he’s getting up there in age and might not want to around for another long rebuild. Even if he plays at a high level on the blindside for the Browns for another few years, they need help opposite him at right tackle. Mitchell Schwartz was a good right tackle for 4 years for the Browns, but he signed with the Chiefs this off-season.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – DT Jarron Jones (Notre Dame)

The Bengals thought they got a steal in the 4th round in 2016 when they drafted defensive tackle Andrew Billings, a projected 2nd round pick. However, he’ll miss his entire rookie year with injury. He could still have an impact in 2017 and beyond, but they need another defensive tackle opposite Geno Atkins long-term. Domata Peko is currently the other starter, but he’s going into his age 32 season and hasn’t been a good player for a few years.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – OLB Charles Gaines (Missouri)

The Steelers used a 1st round pick on an outside linebacker in 2013 (Jarvis Jones) and 2015 (Bud Dupree). However, Jones has been a massive bust through 3 years in the league and did not have his 5th year option picked up, meaning this is likely his final season in Pittsburgh. Dupree, meanwhile, struggled mightily as a rookie and will miss at least half of the 2016 season with a groin injury after being put on injured reserve. James Harrison remains their best outside linebacker, but he’s going into his age 38 season and certainly isn’t a long-term option. Another young outside linebacker is needed.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – CB Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)

Everyone knows about Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, but the 4th and 5th members of the Legion of Boom have been rotating for years. Right now, DeShawn Shead will start opposite Richard Sherman, despite struggling down the stretch after taking over as a starter midway through the 2015 season. Jeremy Lane is also in the mix, after being re-signed for 23 million over 4 years this off-season, but he’s expected to open the season as the 3rd cornerback and is unproven because of how injury prone he is. They could add another young cornerback early in 2017.

  1. Green Bay Packers – G Dan Feeney (Indiana)

The Packers made the shocking decision to part ways with long-time guard Josh Sitton at final cuts this off-season, even though he’s only going into his age 30 season and has been one of the best guards in the league over the past few seasons. In the short-term, the Packers could move Bryan Bulaga inside to guard and start 2nd round rookie Jason Spriggs at right tackle, but it’s unclear if that’s a long-term solution. The Packers also have left tackle David Bakhtiari and right guard TJ Lang set to hit free agency next off-season, so another offensive lineman is needed regardless.

  1. Oakland Raiders – OLB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)

The Raiders have done a great job of rebuilding their defense in recent years, but they still have major issues at linebacker, where unproven 2nd year player Ben Heeney plays every down inside and mediocre starter Malcolm Smith plays every down outside. Cunningham can be an immediate upgrade at either spot and possibly take this defense to the next level.

  1. Carolina Panthers – DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)

The Panthers brought long-time defensive end Charles Johnson back this off-season at a cheaper rate, after originally releasing him. However, he’s only on a one-year deal and not a long-term solution. On top of that, the Panthers have next to no depth at the defensive end position behind him and Kony Ealy. Defensive end is one of their few positions of need.

  1. New England Patriots – DT Jonathan Allen (Alabama)

The Patriots have used their last two first round picks on defensive tackles, but they could easily take another one in the first round in 2017. Dominique Easley, their first round pick in 2014, is not even with the team anymore and the Patriots still have a major need at the position. Malcolm Brown, Vincent Valentine, and Alan Branch are all primarily run stuffers, so they need another interior pass rusher inside next to hybrid defensive end/defensive tackle Jabaal Sheard, who is a free agent next off-season anyway.

  1. Arizona Cardinals – QB Chad Kelly (Mississippi)

If the Cardinals end up winning the Super Bowl, quarterback Carson Palmer could follow Peyton Manning’s lead and ride off into the sunset. That would mean that the defending Super Bowl champion would have a major need at quarterback for the 2nd straight season. Like the Broncos did with Paxton Lynch, the Cardinals could take a quarterback in the first round as a long-term solution.




2016 NFL Free Agency Predictions

Von Miller Denver Broncos 6-year, 110 million
Kirk Cousins Washington Redskins 1-year, 20 million
Olivier Vernon Jacksonville Jaguars 5-year, 70 million
Muhammad Wilkerson Chicago Bears 5-year, 70 million
Malik Jackson Oakland Raiders 5-year, 68 million
Josh Norman Carolina Panthers 5-year, 66 million
Brock Osweiler Denver Broncos 3-year, 45 million
Cordy Glenn Buffalo Bills 5-year, 62 million
Kelechi Osemele Oakland Raiders 5-year, 55 million
Janoris Jenkins Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-year, 53 million
Alshon Jeffery Chicago Bears 1-year, 14.6 million
Alex Mack Jacksonville Jaguars 5-year, 50 million
Trumaine Johnson Los Angeles Rams 1-year, 14 million
Eric Berry Kansas City Chiefs 5-year, 46 million
Sean Smith Jacksonville Jaguars 5-year, 44 million
Danny Trevathan Chicago Bears 5-year, 41 million
George Iloka Cleveland Browns 5-year, 40 million
Jason Pierre-Paul New York Giants 4-year, 34 million
Marvin Jones Detroit Lions 5-year, 36 million
Mitchell Schwartz Cleveland Browns 5-year, 35 million
Damon Harrison Tennessee Titans 5-year, 35 million
Bruce Irvin Atlanta Falcons 4-year, 32 million
Prince Amukamara Dallas Cowboys 4-year, 32 million
Jaye Howard Kansas City Chiefs 5-year, 34 million
Casey Hayward Indianapolis Colts 5-year, 33 million
Brandon Brooks San Francisco 49ers 5-year, 33 million
Doug Martin Tennessee Titans 4-year, 30 million
Ryan Fitzpatrick New York Jets 3-year, 25 million
Rodney McLeod New York Giants 5-year, 31 million
Russell Okung Seattle Seahawks 5-year, 31 million
Tamba Hali Arizona Cardinals 3-year, 24 million
Eric Weddle Carolina Panthers 3-year, 24 million
Pacman Jones Miami Dolphins 3-year, 24 million
Mario Williams New York Giants 3-year, 24 million
Donald Penn San Diego Chargers 3-year, 24 million
Jerrell Freeman Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3-year, 24 million
Coby Fleener Indianapolis Colts 5-year, 28 million
Reggie Nelson Cincinnati Bengals 4-year, 26 million
Travis Benjamin Atlanta Falcons 5-year, 25 million
Jeff Allen Philadelphia Eagles 4-year, 24 million
Jermaine Kearse San Francisco 49ers 4-year, 24 million
Derrick Shelby Miami Dolphins 5-year, 24 million
Derrick Johnson Kansas City Chiefs 3-year, 20 million
Alex Boone Indianapolis Colts 4-year, 22 million
Akiem Hicks San Diego Chargers 4-year, 22 million
Lamar Miller Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-year, 22 million
Tashaun Gipson Philadelphia Eagles 3-year, 19 million
Cedric Thornton Houston Texans 4-year, 21 million
Mark Barron Los Angeles Rams 4-year, 21 million
Rueben Randle San Diego Chargers 4-year, 21 million
Walter Thurmond Los Angeles Rams 4-year, 20 million
Robert Ayers Baltimore Ravens 3-year, 18 million
William Hayes Los Angeles Rams 3-year, 18 million
Ian Williams San Francisco 49ers 3-year, 18 million
Mohamed Sanu Cleveland Browns 4-year, 18 million
Ladarius Green Los Angeles Rams 4-year, 18 million
Rishard Matthews New York Giants 4-year, 18 million
Dwayne Allen Arizona Cardinals 4-year, 16 million
Demario Davis Buffalo Bills 3-year, 15 million
Adrian Clayborn Carolina Panthers 3-year, 15 million
Tahir Whitehead Detroit Lions 3-year, 15 million
Haloti Ngata Indianapolis Colts 3-year, 15 million
Geoff Schwartz Miami Dolphins 3-year, 15 million
Nick Fairley Philadelphia Eagles 3-year, 15 million
Ramon Foster Pittsburgh Steelers 3-year, 15 million
Nigel Bradham Washington Redskins 3-year, 15 million
Richie Incognito Buffalo Bills 2-year, 12 million
Robert Griffin Los Angeles Rams 2-year, 12 million
Kelvin Beachum Chicago Bears 1-year, 7 million
Charles Johnson Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-year, 11 million
William Gay Pittsburgh Steelers 2-year, 8 million
Patrick Robinson Kansas City Chiefs 3-year, 12 million
Matt Forte New England Patriots 3-year, 12 million
James Starks New York Giants 2-year, 8 million
Joe Barksdale New York Giants 3-year, 12 million
Alfred Morris Oakland Raiders 3-year, 12 million
Stefen Wisniewki Tennessee Titans 3-year, 12 million
Greg Hardy Detroit Lions 1-year, 6 million
Leon Hall Cincinnati Bengals 2-year, 9 million
Stephen Tulloch Dallas Cowboys 2-year, 9 million
Jahri Evans Houston Texans 2-year, 9 million
Rashad Johnson Arizona Cardinals 3-year, 10 million
Chris Ivory Dallas Cowboys 2-year, 8 million
Anquan Boldin New England Patriots 2-year, 8 million
Antonio Gates San Diego Chargers 2-year, 8 million
Evan Mathis Baltimore Ravens 1-year, 4 million
Aldon Smith New Orleans Saints 1-year, 4 million
Terrance Knighton New York Jets 1-year, 4 million
BJ Raji Green Bay Packers 1-year, 3 million
Benjamin Watson New Orleans Saints 1-year, 3 million
Rolando McClain New Orleans Saints 1-year, 3 million
Brandon Boykin New York Giants 1-year, 3 million
Arian Foster New York Jets 1-year, 2 million

Off-season Hobbies of NFL Stars

During the NFL offseason, we tend to hear a lot about what players are doing wrong, or at least the controversies that come up in their lives. A few years back, it was the horrible news that former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez was being arrested on suspicion of murder. This year, we’ve heard stories ranging from ex-NFL star Darren Sharper’s arrest on suspicion of rape to Colin Kaepernick’s strange involvement with the Miami police. To be clear, Kaepernick has not been charged with a crime, and for that reason shouldn’t be lopped in with men like Hernandez and Sharper—but it still wasn’t a good series of headlines for the NFL.

Indeed, the NFL seems to have a problem with player conduct, and far too many arrests or suspicious incidents occur in the offseason. But this still isn’t a fair picture to pain of the league, when you consider that the majority of players are fairly normal (if, you know, famous and rich) during the offseason! So to counter the negative headlines of the past few off seasons, here are a few more cheerful activities some prominent players have enjoyed during their spring and summer months.

Russell Wilson – Professional Baseball

Nothing new here for Seahawks fans, but given the sports world’s constant lookout for the next Bo Jackson, Wilson’s offseason hobby of professional baseball has to be considered one of the most interesting extracurricular activities for NFL players. A former college baseball star, Wilson is technically a member of the Texas Rangers’ organization and has indicated on multiple occasions that he’s open to pursuing pro baseball in the future (though his primary focus remains on football, and… you know… winning Super Bowls). Wilson did spend time this offseason at the Rangers’ training camps.

Jimmy Graham – Flying

No, Jimmy Graham can’t fly, though he’s such an incredible athlete we can think of a few things that would be more shocking. He has, however, worked hard enough at learning to fly a plane that he obtained a pilot’s license and spends a great deal of time in the offseason flying around for fun. Men’s Journal even quoted Graham as saying “in my life, the sky is literally the ceiling” in a 2013 article detailing Graham’s ambition to one day partake in the Red Bull Air Race Championship.

Miles Austin – Poker

Most would say Miles Austin had a busy offseason in 2014, given the fact that he remained an unsigned free agent until being picked up by the Browns. However, Austin appears to have actually had a relaxing offseason, evidently having taken time off to pursue his other competitive hobby of playing poker. Most notably, Austin appeared in a WPT World Championship event in New Jersey earlier this year. Generally populated by pro players (but not a closed environment to celebrity guests or fortunate amateurs), these events require some serious poker chops, so we’d guess Austin is quite the experienced player. Or, perhaps, he could indeed be one of those fortunate amateurs. As is often seen on the betfair poker platform, the company often teams up with real-life tournaments to allow amateurs to earn a chance at a table filled with longtime pros, like those he took on in Jersey.

Arian Foster & Maurice Jones-Drew

You may know them best as the running backs who sabotaged your 2013 fantasy team, but both MJD and Foster remain capable backs in the league. Also, they have had some of the best individual rushing seasons in the past decade or so. Apparently, the two also enjoy their video games during the offseason, with both apparently being avid Call Of Duty fans. Realistically, there are likely hundreds of professional athletes who spend a great deal of time with video games—it’s relaxing, social, and altogether fun. But few play with enough enthusiasm to make news headlines!

These are just a few publicly known examples of offseason bobbies and activities. But with so much legal trouble reaching the news in the past few years, let’s remember that there are plenty of NFL stars who simply enjoy their fun when they’re away from the game as well.

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18 Remaining NFL Free Agents Who Could Have An Impact

The draft is over, but teams with needs still have hope. The end of the draft usually kicks off a 2nd wave of free agency featuring players that teams were waiting until after the draft to sign. I did a list like this last year and it included some players that went on to have big impacts in the 2013 season. That list included John Abraham, who signed in July and had 12 sacks for a 10-win Arizona team, Quentin Mikell, who signed in September and started 13 games for a Carolina defense that was one of the best in the NFL, Karlos Dansby, who rehabbed his value in one year in Arizona and signed with the Browns on a 4-year, 22 million dollar deal this off-season, and Daryl Smith, who rehabbed his value on a one year deal in Baltimore and re-signed with the Ravens on a 4-year, 16.1 million dollar deal this off-season. In addition, from that list of 18 players, 8 were starters in 2013. This year’s list isn’t as good, partially because last year’s was so good, partially because the draft was 2 weeks later this year (Anthony Spencer would have definitely made the list, but he signed a week before the draft. Miles Austin also already signed), but there are still a number of guys available who could end up being starters this season.

G Travelle Wharton

Why he’s still available: Wharton is heading into his age 33 season and is considering retirement. More likely, teams just aren’t meeting his asking price as he’s likely asking for a multi-year deal, which could be tough for him to get, even after a strong 2013 season, because of his age and injury history. He missed the entire 2012 season with injury.

What he can still bring to a team: Wharton only started 12 games last season and only played 851 snaps, but after signing on a cheap one-year deal, Wharton proved to be a savior on the offensive line for the Panthers, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked guard.

Who could be interested: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Kansas City, Carolina

DT Kevin Williams

Why he’s still available: This is another combination of age and asking price. Williams is going into his age 34 season and, after 11 seasons in the NFL as one of the league’s premier defensive tackles, he doesn’t seem willing to play for anything less than his asking price and is willing to retire.

What he can still bring to a team: As I mentioned, Williams has been one of the league’s premier defensive tackles for a long time. He’s graded out above average on Pro Football Focus every season since their origin in 2008. The future Hall-of-Famer was a top-3 defensive tackle in 2008-2010 and didn’t finish below 9th until last year. Even last year, he was 27th. He presumably still has another year or two left in the tank, but the price will have to be right.

Who could be interested: Dallas, Seattle

OT David Stewart

Why he’s still available: Stewart is going into his age 32 season and has shown decline on the field over the past 2 seasons. He’s also missed 8 games over the past 2 seasons. Finally, he’s a pure right tackle, which is a devalued position in the NFL when compared to the left tackle position.

What he can still bring to a team: Even though he’s on the decline, he’s still graded out above average on Pro Football Focus since its origin in 2008. He’s not the 3rd ranked offensive tackle he was in 2008 and 2011, or the 6th ranked offensive tackle he was in 2009, but he can still play. 32 years old isn’t completely over the hill, so, if healthy, he should still have something left in the tank. I think he’s still a starter on the right side somewhere.

Who could be interested: Houston, Baltimore, Arizona, Carolina

S Quintin Mikell

Why he’s still available: Mikell makes this list for the 2nd straight off-season. He was forced to settle for a one-year deal with the Panthers right before last season started and now he’s going into his age 34 season. He could have to settle for a similar deal near or at the veteran’s minimum this off-season.

What he can still bring to a team: Mikell only signed so late last off-season because he had a higher asking price earlier in the off-season. He was Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked safety in 2012, excelling against the run and as a blitzer, though struggling in coverage. Upon joining the Panthers, he had a positive impact, grading out above average on 688 snaps for one of the NFL’s best defenses. He should be able to have a similar impact for a team on a deal near the minimum.

Who could be interested: Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Carolina

G Harvey Dahl

Why he’s still available: Dahl is going into his age 33 season and graded out below average on Pro Football Focus for the first time in their history last season. He’s also missed 9 games with injuries over the past 2 seasons, including 7 last season.

What he can still bring to a team: He may have graded out below average last season, but only barely and he’s been a great player in the past. He’s graded out above average every season since 2008, maxing out at 5th in 2010. He’s old, but not quite so old that it would be improbable that he has another season as an average starter left in the tank if he can stay healthy.

Who could be interested: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Kansas City, Carolina, Seattle

CB Drayton Florence

Why he’s still available: Drayton Florence’s career seemed over when he was part of the Panthers’ final cuts last off-season, after bouncing around from Buffalo to Denver to Detroit during the 2012 season and struggling mightily in 2011 with the Bills. The Panthers re-signed him mid-season in September, but now he’s going into his age 34 season.

What he can still bring to a team: Florence might not have been on a team until September last season, but he randomly had a great season once he was on the field for the Panthers, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 22nd ranked cornerback on 600 snaps, allowing 54.4% completion into his coverage. There’s no guarantee he can repeat that season, after struggling mightily the previous two seasons and going into his age 34 season, especially if he’s without Carolina’ dominant front 7 in front of him, but he could still be a solid addition.

Who could be interested: Washington, Minnesota, Tennessee, Baltimore, San Diego, Carolina, San Francisco

G Brian Waters

Why he’s still available: On a list of old players, Waters is the oldest, going into his age 37 season. He’s played just 7 games and 344 snaps over the past 2 seasons, retiring briefly for the 2012 season and then suffering a season ending injury mid-season in 2013.

What he can still bring to a team: While he’s old, he’s also a potential future Hall-of-Famer and he showed he had something still left in the tank last season, grading out above average on Pro Football Focus. In his last full season in 2011, Waters graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked guard with the Patriots, making the Pro-Bowl, his 8th career Pro-Bowl appearance.

Who could be interested: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Kansas City, Carolina, Seattle

OT Tyson Clabo

Why he’s still available: Clabo was also on this list last off-season. He signed with the Dolphins towards the end of the off-season and started 15 games for them at right tackle, but he showed noticeable decline. Now going into his age 33 season, he should have a harder time finding work than he did last off-season, when he signed a 1-year, 3 million dollar deal.

What he can still bring to a team: While Clabo did show decline last off-season, he still graded out about average on Pro Football Focus. Before last year, he had graded out well above average on Pro Football Focus since 2008 and he’s been incredibly durable. He’s not over the hill year in football years and he could conceivably have at least a year left in him as an average starter. He struggled mightily early in the season, but turned it on down the stretch, even though he was miscast in a zone blocking scheme in Miami. I think he can still be a starter in a power blocking scheme.

Who could be interested: Houston, Baltimore, Arizona, Carolina

G Uche Nwaneri

Why he’s still available: Nwaneri was cut by the Jaguars earlier this off-season because they didn’t think he was worth his salary, going into his age 30 season. He hasn’t had a shortage of visits since he’s been released, visiting with the Titans and Bengals and drawing interest from a few other teams reportedly, so it’s possible his asking price is too high after being scheduled to make about 5 million dollars in 2014 originally.

What he can still bring to a team: Nwaneri is actually one of the younger players on this list and graded out about average on Pro Football Focus last season, as he does in most seasons. He’s also missed just 1 game in the last 4 seasons. Unless he has a steep drop off in level of play at age 30, Nwaneri should still be a solid starting guard somewhere in the NFL, at the right price of course.

Who could be interested: Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Kansas City, Carolina, Seattle

MLB Erin Henderson

Why he’s still available: Henderson was cut by the Vikings and has since found a cold market after being arrested for DUI twice in a three month span towards the end of last season. He was benched for the first one and released for the second one. There’s a chance any team that signs him will be without his services for the first few games of the season as he could be facing suspension.

What he can still bring to a team: Off-the-field aside, Henderson is only going into his age 28 season and he graded out about average on 868 snaps last season. Henderson’s best season as a pro was in 2011, when he dominated as a two-down outside linebacker, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked 4-3 outside linebacker against the run, but he struggled when moved to three down work in the middle in 2012, eventually getting benched and moved back to two-down work, where he wasn’t the same. He was given another shot as an every down middle linebacker in 2013 though and seemed to be a much more complete player, though still not as dominant as he was against the run in 2011. That was before the off-the-field problems. If he can keep his head right, he could be a solid starter at middle linebacker.

Who could be interested: Houston, Miami, Kansas City, Denver

S Mike Adams

Why he’s still available: Adams is going into his age 33 season and was benched for unproven former undrafted free agent Duke Ihenacho before the start of last season.

What he can still bring to a team: While he was benched to start the season, he eventually became a starter again when injuries struck in the Broncos’ secondary. He graded out above average on Pro Football Focus, something he had done in 2011 and 2012 as well, with the Browns and Broncos respectively. He has versatility to play both safety and slot cornerback. His age is an issue, but he deserves to be on a team competing for a role in the secondary somewhere.

Who could be interested: Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Carolina

TE Dustin Keller

Why he’s still available: Keller has caught just 28 passes in 8 games over the last 2 seasons combined, missing 24 with a variety of injuries, including all 16 games last season with a devastating knee injury suffered in the pre-season. He tore 3 ligaments and dislocated the kneecap, causing some nerve damage that made many wonder if he’d ever play again. A once promising once tight end now goes into his age 30 season with major injury questions.

What he can still bring to a team: That being said, Keller is still relatively young by this list’s standards and the former first round pick of the Jets is just 2 seasons removed from catching 65 passes for 815 yards and 5 touchdowns despite having Mark Sanchez under center. He’s a great natural passing catching tight end and, if relatively healthy, could be a solid addition to a team as a #2 move tight end.

Who could be interested: Oakland, Buffalo, NY Giants, Green Bay, New England

TE Jermichael Finley

Why he’s still available: Like Dustin Keller, Finley is coming back from a serious injury, suffering a neck injury last season and undergoing spinal fusion surgery that made many wonder if he’d ever play again. Finley has missed a combined 26 games in his 6 year NFL career and has never surpassed 55 catches for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns despite playing with Aaron Rodgers throughout his career, struggling with drops primarily.

What he can still bring to a team: Finley is only going into his age 27 season, making him the youngest player on this list, and he’s still a starting caliber type end when healthy. Like Keller, he could be a solid addition to a team as a #2 move tight end and I could definitely see Green Bay bringing him back in some form on a cheap one year deal.

Who could be interested: Oakland, Buffalo, NY Giants, Green Bay, New England

C Jonathan Goodwin

Why he’s still available: Goodwin is one of the oldest players on this list, going into his age 36 season and he’s shown noticeable decline on the field over the past few seasons. The 49ers replaced him with Mike Martin in the 3rd round of the draft and there aren’t a lot of teams with open spots in the starting lineup at center. Goodwin may not be willing to be a backup or to play for less than a certain amount of money. He’s reportedly considering retirement.

What he can still bring to a team: While he’s shown decline, he still graded out above average as Pro Football Focus’ 14th ranked center last season, struggling some in pass protection, but continuing to excel as a run blocker. On run blocking alone, he was 7th at his position. Centers tend to have among the longest careers in the NFL and the 6-3 318 pounder would be a great fit for a run heavy, power blocking team, at the right price of course.

Who could be interested: Jacksonville, Green Bay, Cincinnati, New Orleans

TE Fred Davis

Why he’s still available: Like Keller and Finley, Davis is a young, talented tight end with issues, but the difference is his issues go deeper than injuries. Yes, Davis did 9 games with a torn Achilles in 2012 and struggle upon his return in 2013, catching just 7 passes in 10 games, but he’s also a failed drug test away from a season long suspension and he had issues with his coaches after he was benched for rookie Jordan Reed last season. He’s also a below average and, at times, unwilling blocker in the run game.

What he can still bring to a team: Davis is only going into his age 28 season and caught 83 passes for 1121 yards and 3 touchdowns over a 19 game stretch from 2011-2012, which is 70 catches for 944 yards and 3 touchdowns over 16 games. He’s another year removed from that injury now and a change of scenery might do him some good. He’d be a good fit somewhere as a move tight end in a strong organization that could handle him.

Who could be interested: Oakland, Buffalo, NY Giants, Green Bay, New England

TE Ben Hartsock

Why he’s still available: Hartsock is going into his age 34 season and has a combined 4 catches since 2009.

What he can still bring to a team: Hartsock is listed at 6-4 265, but might be even bigger. He doesn’t offer anything in the passing game, but he acts as a 6th offensive lineman, holding up in pass protection and excelling as a run blocker. He was Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked tight end last season in terms of run blocking and he would have ranked 8th in 2012 had he played enough snaps to qualify.

Who could be interested: Carolina, New England

OLB James Harrison

Why he’s still available: Harrison is a former Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and could be a Hall-of-Famer after he retires, but he’s going into his age 36 season. He missed 8 games from 2011-2012, leading to his release from the Steelers, and last season ended up in Cincinnati as a two-down run stopping outside linebacker in a 2013, playing just 383 snaps, including just 143 pass rush snaps. His pass rush skills have mostly eroded.

What he can still bring to a team: Harrison may be old, but he showed enough last season as a run stuffer to suggest he could still play a two-down run stuffing role somewhere. He was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked 4-3 outside linebacker against the run last season, despite his limited snaps and he was a top-3 run stopping 3-4 outside linebacker from 2010-2012 with Pittsburgh. It would have to be at the veteran’s minimum, but I could see either of his former teams, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, signing him for a situational role.

Who could be interested: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati

S Kerry Rhodes

Why he’s still available: Rhodes wasn’t in the NFL at all last season. There were some rumors that it was because of the rumors that he was gay, but more likely it had to do with his history of issues with coaches, the bizarre homophobic way he reacted to his the rumors that he was homosexual (which including claiming that he might be the father of ### #######’s baby), and his high asking price. He reportedly turned down a 3 million dollar offer.

What he can still bring to a team: Maybe a year out of the league has lowered his asking price. It’s always risky signing someone who has been out of the league for a year, especially a mercurial player like Rhodes, but he’s only going into his age 32 season and he was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked safety in 2012. I could see a safety needy team bringing him in for a workout and offering him to a minimum deal. It would then be up to him to accept.

Who could be interested: Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Carolina




2014 NFL Day 2 Mock Draft

* = Player had private visit with team

33. Houston Texans- DT Louis Nix (Notre Dame)

34. Washington Redskins- OT Morgan Moses* (Virginia)

35. Cleveland Browns- WR Marqise Lee (USC)

36. Oakland Raiders- QB Derek Carr* (Fresno State)

37. Atlanta Falcons- TE Jace Amaro* (Texas Tech)

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- QB Jimmy Garoppolo* (Eastern Illinois)

39. Jacksonville Jaguars- C Weston Richburg (Colorado State)

40. Seattle Seahawks- DE DeMarcus Lawrence* (Boise State)

41. Buffalo Bills- OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Alabama)

42. Tennessee Titans- RB Carlos Hyde* (Ohio State)

43. New York Giants- DT Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota)

44. St. Louis Rams- S Terrence Brooks (Florida State)

45. Detroit Lions- WR Cody Latimer* (Indiana)

46. Pittsburgh Steelers- WR Martavis Bryant* (Clemson)

47. Dallas Cowboys- DE Kony Ealy* (Missouri)

48. Baltimore Ravens- S Keith McGill* (Utah)

49. New York Jets- WR Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt)

50. Miami Dolphins- MLB Chris Borland (Wisconsin)

51. Chicago Bears- DT Timmy Jernigan (Florida State)

52. Arizona Cardinals- OT Joel Bitonio (Nevada)

53. Green Bay Packers- TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington)

54. Philadelphia Eagles- S Ed Reynolds (Stanford)

55. Cincinnati Bengals- DE Scott Crichton (Oregon State)

56. San Francisco 49ers- C Mike Martin (USC)

57. San Diego Chargers- OLB Jeremiah Attachou* (Georgia Tech)

58. New Orleans Saints- CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste* (Nebraska)

59. Indianapolis Colts- DE Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)

60. Carolina Panthers- G Xavier Su’a-Filo (UCLA)

61. San Francisco 49ers- OLB Trent Murphy (Stanford)

62. New England Patriots- TE Troy Niklas (Notre Dame)

63. Denver Broncos- OLB Telvin Smith (Florida State)

64. Seattle Seahawks- WR Davante Adams* (Fresno State)

65. Houston Texans- QB Tom Savage* (Pittsburgh)

66. Washington Redskins- CB Phillip Gaines (Rice)

67. Oakland Raiders- G Brandon Thomas* (Clemson)

68. Atlanta Falcons- OLB Kyle Van Noy* (BYU)

69. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- OT Billy Turner* (North Dakota State)

70. Jacksonville Jaguars- WR Allen Robinson (Penn State)

71. Cleveland Browns- OT Zach Mewhort (Ohio State)

72. Minnesota Vikings- G Gabe Jackson (Mississippi)

73. Buffalo Bills- TE CJ Fiedorowicz (Iowa)

74. New York Giants- DE Kareem Martin (North Carolina)

75. St. Louis Rams- QB AJ McCarron* (Alabama)

76. Detroit Lions- S Dexter McDougle* (Maryland)

77. San Francisco 49ers- WR Paul Robinson* (Colorado)

78. Dallas Cowboys- S LaMarcus Joyner* (Florida State)

79. Baltimore Ravens- WR Jarvis Landry (LSU)

80. New York Jets- OLB Carl Bradford (Arizona State)

81. Miami Dolphins- G Trai Turner* (LSU)

82. Chicago Bears- CB Walt Aikens* (Liberty)

83. Philadelphia Eagles- MLB Jordan Tripp* (Montana)

84. Arizona Cardinals- WR Donte Moncrief* (Mississippi)

85. Green Bay Packers- WR Bruce Ellington (South Carolina)

86. Philadelphia Eagles- CB Dontae Johnson* (NC State)

87. Kansas City Chiefs- WR Kevin Norwood (Alabama)

88. Cincinnati Bengals- DE Will Clarke (West Virginia)

89. San Diego Chargers- DT Da’Quan Jones (Penn State)

90. Indianapolis Colts- CB Pierre Desir (Lindenwood)

91. New Orleans Saints- RB Tre Mason (Auburn)

92. Carolina Panthers- OT Antonio Richardson (Tennessee)

93. New England Patriots- C Travis Swanson (Arkansas)

94. San Francisco 49ers- CB Aaron Colvin* (Oklahoma)

95. Denver Broncos- RB Jeremy Hill (LSU)

96. Minnesota Vikings- RB Bishop Sankey (Washington)

97. Pittsburgh Steelers- DE Brent Urban (Virginia)

98. Green Bay Packers- MLB Jordan Zumwalt (UCLA)

99. Baltimore Ravens- OT Cameron Fleming (Stanford)

100. San Francisco 49ers- MLB Christian Kirksey (Iowa)

2013 NFL MVP Pick: Peyton Manning

I’ve saved the most obvious one for last. Anyone who doesn’t vote for Peyton Manning this year is doing it to be edgy, because he personally hates Peyton Manning, because he doesn’t like the word unanimous, because he’s an asshole, or probably some mix of the four. The only two interesting debates around MVP this year are who will be runner up and is Peyton Manning’s single the greatest by a quarterback of all time. I’m going to tackle the latter and then double back to the former.

There’s definitely an argument to be made that this is the greatest regular season by a quarterback in NFL history (playoffs are yet to be written). Manning now has both the single season passing touchdown record and the yardage record. He has the former by a pretty significant margin and he could have extended both even more if he hadn’t sat out the 2nd half of week 17’s game against the vastly overmatched Raiders’ defense. He also was the quarterback for the highest scoring offense in NFL history.

However, he did throw 10 interceptions and had one of the easiest schedules in terms of opponents’ defenses in the NFL. That’s obviously nitpicking, but when you’re talking about greatest of all time, you kind of have to nitpick. When Brady threw for 50 touchdowns in 2007, he threw just 8 interceptions. Sure, Manning broke Brady’s touchdown record by 5, but 2007 Brady still had the superior TD/INT ratio. He also was slightly better in terms of completion percentage (68.9% to 68.3%) and yards per attempt (8.32 to 8.31) and thus QB rating (117.2 to 115.1).

In fact, in terms of QB rating, a more all-encompassing statistic, Manning’s season didn’t rank 1st all time. It didn’t even rank 2nd all-time. 2013 Manning comes in 5th in this regard. Hell, he didn’t even lead the NFL in QB rating this year, as Nick Foles improbably posted the 3rd best single season quarterback rating in NFL history at 119.2. This wasn’t even the best QB rating of Manning’s career. In 2004, the first time he set the single season touchdown record, he had a 121.1 QB rating, which is 2nd all-time (Brady’s 2007 was 4th). That was as a result of a 67.6% completion percentage and a 9.17 YPA. There’s an argument to be made that this wasn’t even the best regular season of Manning’s career. Manning faced a tougher schedule in terms of opponents’ defenses in 2004, as did Brady in 2007.

If you love QB rating as a measure of quarterback’s season, then you might think Aaron Rodgers had the greatest regular season in NFL history by a quarterback in 2011. He completed 68.3% of his passes for an average of 9.25 yards per attempt and 45 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He did that in just 15 games, sitting out week 17 with the #1 seed locked up. Considering his backup Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns in that game, there’s an argument to be made that Rodgers (who was at 4643 yards and 45 touchdowns through 15 games), would have thrown for 5000+ yards and 50+ touchdowns had he played in that week 17 game against Detroit’s miserable secondary. Sure, Manning did that this year, but Rodgers would have done it with a higher YPA and fewer interceptions against a tougher schedule.

Another factor that needs to be mentioned is that, of the aforementioned 3 seasons, only Rodgers’ 2011 season was played under the stricter NFL head-to-head contact rules that have completely opened up the middle of the field. Who knows how good 2004 Manning and 2007 Brady would have been under 2013’s rules. That also brings some of the old timers into the conversation as it’s so much easier to pass the ball under today’s rules or even the rules of the 2000s than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.

Steve Young’s 1994 season, in which he set the then record for QB rating at 112.8, was figuratively revolutionary. Young completed 70.3% of his passes for an average of 8.61 YPA, 35 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions and he also rushed for 293 yards and 7 touchdowns, which doesn’t even show up in QB rating. How about Dan Marino throwing for 48 touchdowns and 5084 yards in 1984? Who throws for 48 touchdowns 5084 yards in 1984? That’s like 60 touchdowns 6000 yards by today’s standards.

Marino completed 64.2% of his passes for an average of 9.01 yards per attempt that season and though he did throw 17 interceptions, his 108.9 QB rating is still 16th all-time and was 2nd at the time back then, behind Milt Blum’s 1960 season. How about Milt Blum? Can we throw him into the discussion for completing 60.4% of his passes for an average of 9.2 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions in 1960? What’s that by today’s standards? Does anyone know? Is there an exchange rate? And how have I written 800+ words already without mentioning Joe Montana, arguably the greatest quarterback of all time? His 1989 season, in which he had a 112.4 QB rating, is still 7th all-time in QB rating and was a record at the time. Sure he only played in 13 games, but he completed 70.2% of his passes for an average of 9.12 YPA, 26 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. Milt Blum only played in 14 games. Should we hold that against poor old Milt Blum?

The point is: picking the single greatest regular season all-time by a quarterback is near impossible for a variety of factors. Peyton Manning’s season is in there, but it’s hardly the only one that deserves mention. Just know it was the best season by a quarterback this season (sorry Nick Foles, you have to play more than 9 games all the way through) and he deserves the MVP unanimously for that reason.

Now who deserves to be the runner up? Well, that’s a bigger field than who deserves to win. LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles were both all-purpose freaks for playoff teams, but they’re just running backs and you really have to do what Adrian Peterson did last year to deserve to be MVP in today’s NFL. Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, and even Tom Brady did great things from the quarterback position this year. You could also get me to listen on Nick Foles, but I don’t think any other quarterback had as good of a season this year as Philip Rivers.

I touched upon this when I laid out his candidacy for Comeback Player of the Year. It didn’t give it to him because it required a loose definition of “comeback,” but he fits here perfectly no matter your definition of “value.” After posting QB ratings of 100+ for 3 straight seasons from 2008-2010, Rivers saw his QB rating drop into the 80s in both 2011 and 2012. There were rumors of injuries and age, going into his age 32 season, was also seen as a factor.

Instead, Rivers found the fountain of youth in 2013, with help from his new coaching staff and the front office. New head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt did a fantastic job fixing Rivers and building an offense better suited to his strengths. Also, after playing for 2 years with minimal offensive supporting cast, new GM Tom Telesco (who got some Executive of the Year consideration from me) did a great job fixing the situation, without big offensive signings and with just one off-season. Drafting DJ Fluker in the first round helped, but the real steals were getting Keenan Allen (an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate) in the 3rd round getting and King Dunlap and Danny Woodhead on cheap contracts in free agency.

The results were great. Rivers posted a 105.5 QB rating that tied for his career best. He completed 69.5% of his passes for an average of 8.23 YPA, 32 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, while leading the Chargers to a 2nd place finish in rate of moving the chains (78.26%) behind Denver and an AFC Wild Card berth, in spite of a terrible defense supporting him (75.36%). Rivers still didn’t have a lot of offensive help around him, but he made the most of it. He finished 2nd behind Peyton Manning in QB rating among quarterbacks who made every start (Nick Foles and Josh McCown also qualified and had higher QB ratings than Rivers). For all of that, I think he deserves to be the runner up here.




2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Pick: JJ Watt

Defensive Player of the Year more often than not goes to the best defensive player on one of the best defenses in the NFL. I have a very strong feeling this award will go to media darling Luke Kuechly, the consensus top player on a Carolina defense that allowed the 2nd fewest points in the NFL this season. I don’t think that’s deserved. Kuechly definitely had a great season, but he’s not nearly as flawless as people seem to think he is.

As good as he is against the run, he can struggle in coverage. Only one middle linebacker (the Jets’ Demario Davis) allowed more completions than the 55 Kuechly allowed, as Davis allowed 56. Putting up a ton of tackles is great, but it’s an overrated stat because not all tackles are equal. If you’re tackling a guy after a 9 yard completion, you’re not doing a lot of good. Kuechly also missed 14 tackles, 6th at his position.

Kuechly had just 39 tackles for a “stop” against the run, meaning a tackle within 4 yards of the line of original line of scrimmage on first down, 6 yards on 2nd down, or the full distance on 3rd or 4th down. He did this on 325 run snaps, a rate of 12.0% that was 7th among eligible middle linebackers. That’s certainly not bad, but considering his run play is his best attribute, it’s hardly Defensive Player of the Year material and he was helped by a fantastic defensive line eating up blocks in front of him.

All this might sound like nitpicking, but nitpicking is what you have to do when picking a single defensive player for an award. Carolina certainly has a great defense and Kuechly is a big part of the reason why, but he has a fantastic supporting cast. You could make an argument that he’s not even the best defensive player on his team with the way Greg Hardy played this year. Hell, you could make an argument that he wasn’t even the best linebacker on his team with the way Thomas Davis played.

Pro Football Focus had him as their 8th ranked middle linebacker and left him off of their Pro-Bowl team. I don’t know if I would go quite that far (they had a two-down linebacker in Brandon Spikes and a player who missed significant time with injury in Sean Lee above him), but I’d say Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are probably better middle linebackers than he is and you can make arguments that other 3-4 middle linebackers like Derrick Johnson and Karlos Dansby, as well as Detroit’s 4-3 middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch had better years than him. Outside linebacker Lavonte David is also someone I’d vote for over Kueckly and I already mentioned teammate Thomas Davis. I like Kueckly, but there are players who had far better seasons than him this year.

The other guy I could see winning this award, based on the best player on the best defense model is Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman. He deserves this award much more than Kuechly, as he actually is the best player on his defense and, with apologies to Darrelle Revis, he’s also probably the best player in the NFL at his position, picking off 8 passes for the 2nd straight year and allowing a 47.3 QB rating against that was the best in the NFL at his position. Sherman would probably get my 4th place vote and it’s hard to compare guys across positions. However, there are 3 guys who I think had better years, but they may fly under the radar because they played on teams that didn’t make the playoffs.

My 3rd place choice would be Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers were, by all measures, a bad team this year, going 4-12, but their defense was easily their best side of the ball. They allowed opponents to move the chains at a 72.95% rate that is higher than average, but not significantly and Gerald McCoy really was able to make a huge impact on Tampa Bay’s defensive line without much help whatsoever from his linemates.

The dominant player on an average defense on a bad team narrative isn’t nearly as sexy as Sherman’s or Kuechly’s, but McCoy graded out, by far, as Pro Football Focus’ #1 defensive tackle, he had 10 sacks, 14 hits, and 56 quarterback hurries, while playing well against the run as well. You’d be happy with those pass rush numbers from a defensive end. You’re thrilled with those pass rush numbers from a defensive tackle who was double teamed on almost every play because of the lack of talent around him. Only two defensive players in the league had bigger gaps between them and the #2 player at his position on Pro Football Focus. Unsurprisingly, those are the two guys I’m going to talk about next.

Robert Quinn would get my 2nd place vote and I think he actually has a good chance to win the award. St. Louis’ defense wasn’t particularly good or anything and the Rams finished 7-9 and outside of the playoffs, but he finished tied for first in the NFL in sacks with 19, which is something voters like to see. Robert Mathis also had 19 sacks, but he doesn’t get much consideration from me because Quinn was easily the best edge rusher in the NFL. Their sack numbers might have been the same, but Quinn had 21 quarterback hits and 51 quarterback hurries, while Mathis had 5 hits and 39 hurries. That’s not much of a contest, which is why Quinn was far and away Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked 4-3 defensive end, while Mathis was 2nd among 3-4 outside linebackers.

Quinn’s pass rush productivity number of 15.3 was not only far and away the best among 4-3 defensive ends (Cameron Wake was 2nd at 14.0), but only Jerry Hughes, a 3-4 outside linebacker from the Bills of all people, had a higher pass rush productivity at any position and he was at 15.4. Quinn also played well against the run as his 25 run stops on 312 run snaps gave him an 8.0% rate that ranked 14th at his position. As a result, Quinn graded out 3rd at his position against the run, which is part of how he was able to grade out so much higher than everyone at his position. Like McCoy, he was a dominant player on an average defense (73.44% rate of moving the chains against) on a bad team, but he deserves recognition and for more than just his raw sack numbers.

The only player who had a bigger gap between them and the player ranked in 2nd below them on Pro Football Focus is a familiar name, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt. I’m going to preface this by saying there’s a next to zero chance that Watt actually wins this award. The voters hate voting for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, as the only player to ever win it twice in a row was Lawrence Taylor and he did it in a strike shortened season. It’s not going to happen for the first time in a season of regular length with a guy who played on a 2-14 team and didn’t come close to matching his sack total from the year before.

That being said, there’s definitely an argument to be made that Watt had a better year this year than last year. He was the definition of dominant player on an average defense on a bad team. The Texans’ defense was hardly the problem this season, as they allowed opponents to move the chains at a 69.40% rate, above average. They were just consistently saddled with bad field position thanks to an inept offense and “allowed” several touchdowns when they weren’t even on the field, in the form of return touchdowns on special teams and off of turnovers. Watt is by far the biggest reason why they were solid on defense.

Watt didn’t come close to matching the 21 sacks he had in 2012 (11) nor the 15 batted passes (6), but he had 36 quarterback hits and 38 quarterback hurries, as opposed to 25 hits and 30 hurries the year before. Those 36 quarterback hits were by far best in the NFL. Only Quinn with 23 even came close. As a result, Watt had a pass rush productivity number of 12.8 which not only blew out of the water the next best pass rush productivity number by an interior defensive lineman (Gerald McCoy with 11.1), but it blew the 10.8 pass rush productivity number he had in 2012 out of the water as well. Sacking the quarterback is great, but getting to the quarterback consistently, getting in his head and hurrying throws is even better.

Watt didn’t match his absurd 17.1% run stop rate from 2013, but his 13.7% run stop rate was 2nd in the NFL among eligible players behind Kenrick Ellis of the Jets, a part-time player whose name has now improbably ended up in an article about Defensive Player of the Year. Watt also actually had a higher run grade on Pro Football Focus in 2013 than in 2012 and a higher grade overall. He didn’t post the flashy numbers he did in 2012 or play on a good team like in 2012, but the argument can still be made that he played as well or better.

No defensive player in the NFL had a bigger margin between the player who was in 2nd place behind him at his position on Pro Football Focus than Watt in terms of raw numbers and only Quinn had a bigger margin in terms of percentage. However, it’s a very small advantage to Quinn in that aspect and that can be attributed to the lack of real difference makers at 4-3 defensive end this year. Greg Hardy and Cameron Wake both had very good years, but after that the position is pretty devoid of elite level guys.

The field that Quinn blew out of the water at 4-3 defensive end is not nearly as good as the field Watt blew out of the water at 3-4 defensive end. Guys like Calais Campbell, Kyle Williams, Cameron Jordan, and even my Defensive Rookie of the Year pick Sheldon Richardson all had fantastic seasons from the 3-4 defensive end position. Watt was significantly better than all of them. For that reason, in spite of his lower raw numbers and his team’s significantly worse performance this year, Watt is still the best defensive player in football. And that’s what this award should be about.




2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year Pick: Sheldon Richardson

In my Offensive Rookie of the Year write up, I talked about how hard it is to compare players across positions, which led to a trio of wide receiver Keenan Allen, running back Eddie Lacy, and guard Larry Warford that was hard to choose from. The same is true on defense, but fortunately there’s one defensive rookie who I feel was by far the best, regardless of position. I say this with apologies to the two Carolina defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short (who I talked about in the writeup for Dave Gettleman for Executive of the Year), Buffalo middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, and even injured Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu.

New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson was the only defensive rookie I even really considered as a Pro-Bowler (Mathieu I would have had he not gotten hurt) and I think he was one of the best defensive linemen in the game this year. The fact that he didn’t make the Pro-Bowl is a testament to the public’s obsession with sack numbers and their distastes for all things Jets (unless they’re hilarious).

Richardson only had 4 sacks on the year but was a huge part of a dominant Jets’ 3 man defensive line that played a big role in the Jets finishing #1 in yards per carry allowed, allowing 3.4 yards per carry. No one else allowed fewer than 3.7 and there was more distance between #2 and #11 than there was in between #2 and #1. For that reason, I argued the Jets’ entire defensive line should have gotten to go to Hawaii. There might not be a single better unit on any other team except for maybe Seattle’s secondary.

Richardson’s 52 solo tackles were 2nd most at the 5-technique defensive end position behind all-everything JJ Watt and he also had 16 assisted tackles, which led the position, and missed just 4 tackles. As good as JJ Watt was, he missed 7 tackles. Richardson also had 41 “stops” which also came in 2nd at his positions, again behind Watt. Stops refer to a tackle within 4 yards of the original line of scrimmage on 1st down, 6 yards on 2nd down, and the full distance and 3rd and 4th down. 32 of those stops came on run plays, on 325 run snaps, a rate of 9.8% that was 7th among eligible 5-technique defensive ends. He also did a great job of tying up multiple blockers when asked. For his work against the run, he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 5-technique against the run and 5th overall.

He wasn’t nearly as impressive as a pass rusher, with those aforementioned 4 sacks. He also had 5 hits and 24 hurries, for a pass rush productivity number of 5.4, 29th at his position out of 45 eligible. That isn’t that bad and he only graded out slightly below average in this aspect on Pro Football Focus. Overall, his body of work at his position is significantly greater than any other defensive rookie, especially since rushing the passer wasn’t his primary job. For that reason, he deserves Defensive Rookie of the Year.




2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Pick: Larry Warford

The way I see it, there are 4 strong candidates for Offensive Rookie of the Year. It’s hard to pick between them because they all played very well at their respective positions and it’s tough to compare players across position. I’m going to narrow the field down by eliminating one of the two players who play the same position, running backs Giovani Bernard of the Bengals and Eddie Lacy of the Packers (Le’Veon Bell is in there to an extent, but I think Bernard and Lacy had noticeably better seasons).

Bernard and Lacy both had very good seasons, but were polar opposites in terms of how they play. Lacy is a 230 pound bruiser, while Bernard is somewhere around 200-205 and is already one of the best in space running backs in the NFL. Other than that though, they’re very comparable. They had the exact same grade on Pro Football Focus, tying for 4th among running backs (for comparison, Bell was 26th) with Lacy excelling as a runner and Bernard excelling in the pass game. They both averaged 4.1 yards per carry with 2.3 yards per carry after first contact.

Lacy saw more usage (319 touches to 225), but they played a comparable amount of snaps, with Bernard playing 627 and Lacy playing 689. In terms of elusive rating (which takes into account broken tackles and yards after contact), Bernard ranked 10th and Lacy ranked 11th. Bernard also averaged 9.2 yards per catch, while Lacy averaged just 7.3 yards per carry. Lacy outrushed Bernard by far (1178 to 695) and scored 11 total times to Bernard’s 8, but in terms of yards from scrimmage the gap was smaller, as Lacy was at 1435 and Bernard was at 1209, even though Bernard had 94 fewer touches. Lacy was the more traditional back and I think had the slightly bigger impact, which is why I’m giving him the edge, but few running backs are scarier when they have room to run than Bernard. Other writers seem to agree as Lacy was named to the 2nd team All-Pro, while Bernard wasn’t.

The next candidate is someone who probably won’t even get consideration from the voters, but unfairly because of his position. There’s never been an offensive lineman win the award, let alone a guard and frankly if Joe Thomas couldn’t win in 2007, I don’t think any offensive lineman will win the award until we have a serious shift in the way the position is viewed. Also, I’m probably not talking about the offensive lineman you’re thinking about. In a draft that had offensive lineman go 6 times in the first 11 picks and 9 times in the first round overall, the one who had the biggest impact was a 3rd rounder out of Kentucky by the name of Larry Warford.

Warford played every snap one of Detroit’s 1158 offensive snaps as a rookie on a much underrated offensive line that surrendered 23 sacks, 2nd fewest in the NFL. Some of that is because of Matt Stafford’s strong pocket presence and quick release, but you kind of need to have a quarterback with elite pocket presence and a quick release to allow fewer than 30 sacks over the course of a 16 game season, so I wouldn’t hold that against them or Warford. Warford didn’t allow a single sack from the right guard spot and only allowed 5 quarterback hits and 10 hurries, while committing just 4 penalties this season. That’s insane, regardless of who his quarterback is.

Warford played every snap over a 16 game season and only allowed his man to even get close to the quarterback 15 times. In fact, he only allowed more than 2 quarterback pressures in a game once and that was against Cincinnati, when he was frequently matched up with all-everything defensive tackle Geno Atkins, before Atkins’ injury. On top of that, the right guard gap produced 4.8 yards per carry for the Lions, a team that averaged just 4.0 yards per carry overall. As a result, Warford was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked guard and was an obvious Pro-Bowl snub.

The final candidate is someone who gets much more attention, San Diego wide receiver Keenan Allen. Like Warford and Lacy, what Allen did that was so impressive was he didn’t seem like a rookie. He was one of the best receivers in the NFL and by far his team’s best receiver, taking on the opponent’s #1 cornerback and double teams with frequency. His 1046 receiving yards were just 21st in the NFL, but Pro Football Focus takes into account how much attention from the defense he was getting and they graded him 10th overall and 8th in pass catching grade.

He also did that despite being a healthy scratch week 1 and not becoming a starter until week 4. He caught 70.3% of passes thrown to him and he ranked 7th in the NFL in quarterback rating when thrown to, among eligible receivers, as Philip Rivers had a 118.1 QB rating throwing to Allen. Wide receivers almost always take a year or two to develop. Rookie wideouts aren’t supposed to do what Keenan Allen did. Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson were top-3 picks and didn’t come close to what Keenan Allen did this year as rookies (58/780/8 and 48/756/4 respectively).

At the end of the day, it’s a very tough choice. Like I said earlier, all 3 of these guys didn’t resemble rookies at all. They’re already among the best players in the NFL at their respective positions. I’m giving it to Larry Warford because I think he dominated his position more than the other 2, but it could really go either way. It’s tough to compare across positions. For what’s it’s worth, Warford had the highest grade among the 3 on Pro Football Focus, though you can’t compare players across positions. He also tied for highest ranked, coming in 4th at his position. Also, Warford has zero chance of getting the actual award, so it’s nice to give him some recognition here.