Twenty Players to Watch in the 2021 Sweet Sixteen

The first Sweet Sixteen in two years starts Saturday. And we’ve been spoiled with 20 appointment-television level players.

Folks, March Madness is in full swing. It’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen this much Madness™, and it’s glorious. There are four double digit seeds left, which is the second most all-time. If you combine the remaining seeds, you’ll get an aggregate score of 94. This is 5 digits higher than the all-time record of 89, set in the 1986 tournament.

This makes sense though, everyone knows how severely COVID sent everything that we know and love into a tailspin. It was inevitable that college basketball would feel the effects.

By now, I’d assume that most college basketball fans are aware of the teams that are left in the tournament. However, I’m not entirely sure that the stars of these teams are getting enough recognition. I felt like the spotlight has been too much on the programs themselves; among other characters like the omnipresent Sister Jean, the apparent prophet known as Bill Walton, and Oral Roberts, for the name and the institution itself. So without further ado, I ranked the stars that are still in Indianapolis.

I graded these guys with a very meticulous, objective, scientific process. I came up with four qualities that I think are the most important for a star during March Madness. I watched all these guys play at least a few times, and I graded these players out of 10 using the following categories. Finally I combined the scores, and ranked the players accordingly.

Watchability: This is the most subjective category. I tried to take an objective look at what makes watching a player fun: personality, energy, verticality, and obvious other reasons that I’ll detail later.

Story: If you were expecting a category that was any more straightforward than the last, sorry to disappoint. I judged this category based on how interesting the narrative surrounding a certain player is. If a player is really flying under the radar and not making headlines, he probably won’t do well here.

Talent: This is much easier to explain. In this category, I score players based on their natural talent, which kind of goes hand-in-hand with their potential to play professionally.

Team Success: Another easy one. This score mostly correlates to a team’s seed, or their potential to reach the Final Four.

20. John Petty Jr., G #23, Alabama

Watchability: 8/10 | Story: 1/10 | Talent: 5/10 | Team Success: 8/10 | Overall: 22/40

John Petty Jr. pretty much only made this list because he kind of resembles Playboy Carti. In addition to this, he’s actually a pretty entertaining player to watch. He plays a little recklessly, in a good way. He takes over six 3’s a game, plays hard on defense, and does not pass the ball. He scores at all costs, which makes him a fascinating wrinkle to Alabama’s potential Final Four run.

19. Ethan Thompson, G #5, Oregon State

Watchability: 7/10 | Story: 4/10 | Talent: 6/10 | Team Success: 5/10 | Overall: 22/40

Ethan Thompson is an absolute bucket-getter. He’s been the best scorer for Oregon State during their highly unlikely Sweet Sixteen run, and it’s been really fun to watch. He’s a super physical player; he doesn’t shy from contact around the rim, which is a cause of some of his higher-scoring games. He can score from all three levels, and it’s a pleasure to watch.

18. Scottie Barnes, F/G #4, Florida State, Fr.

Watchability: 5/10 | Story: 1/10 | Talent: 8/10 | Team Success: 6/10 | Overall: 22/40

Scottie Barnes was a consensus Top-10 recruit coming into this season, and he’s definitely lived up to that billing. He’s a fascinating player to watch; he’s listed as a guard (although he’s more of a forward), and he’s 6’9″, 230lbs. He’s a future lottery pick, and he plays hard, just like most Leonard Hamilton-coached players. He has scoring ability, although he doesn’t do it at a high volume, and he has extremely good instincts on both ends of the floor. He’ll be a player to watch in one of the biggest games this weekend vs. Michigan.

17. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, F #24, Villanova

Watchability: 8/10 | Story: 1/10 | Talent: 8/10 | Team Success: 6/10 | Overall: 23/40

Robinson-Earl is another former Five-Star that’s been super fun to watch this season. His game is really similar to Justin Champaigne’s; he’s a bruiser who finishes really well around the rim and occasionally can pop out and hit a couple of threes. He’s kind of the perfect modern 5, except his defense could use some work. He’s got a tough matchup against Baylor this weekend though; we could see an off game from him due to the defensive depth that Baylor has at his position.

16. Marcus Zegarowski, PG #11, Creighton, Sr.

Watchability: 8/10 | Story: 1/10 | Talent: 8/10 | Team Success: 6/10 | Overall: 23/40

Zegarowski is a crafty primary ball-handler for the Bluejays. He’s got ridiculous range and he can whip around passes as well as anyone in college basketball. His brand of basketball isn’t super exciting, and Creighton really isn’t much of a Final Four threat. He’s still fun to watch, and it’ll be cool to see him show his skills versus a team like Gonzaga.

15. Chris Duarte, G #5, Oregon

Watchability: 7/10 | Story: 3/10 | Talent: 8/10 | Team Success: 6/10 | Overall: 24/40

Although Chris Duarte is clearly Oregon’s best player, the rest of Oregon’s starting five is just about as fun to watch. Their starting five, college basketball’s Death Lineup, scored 89(!!) of their 95 points versus Iowa this past weekend. Duarte is the leader of this high-flying group; I wouldn’t be surprised they come to play again with the same amount of earth-shattering dunks and electric defensive plays as they had when they took down the 2-seed. Expect this 7-seeded team to make some noise this weekend.

14. Franz Wagner, G/F #21, Michigan

Watchability: 7/10 | Story: 1/10 | Talent: 8.5/10 | Team Success: 9/10 | Overall: 25.5/40

Franz Wagner, brother of Moe Wagner, is personally one of my favorite college players from this year. He’s a 6’9″ wing with a ton of athleticism, and he can do just about anything you could ask for on a basketball court. His on-ball defense is spectacular, as with his defensive instincts in general. He can finish way above the rim, and he also has a nice outside jumper. He’s a future NBA player, and he’s Michigan’s X-Factor. Strongly recommend watching him.

13. Buddy Boheim, F #35, Syracuse

Watchability: 7.5/10 | Story: 6/10 | Talent: 6.5/10 | Team Success: 6/10 | Overall: 26/40

This one’s pretty obvious. When I first watched him as a three-star freshman at Syracuse, I wasn’t too bullish on his future as a college basketball player, especially at a high-prestige program like Syracuse. I was dead wrong. Buddy Boheim, the 22-year-old son of 77-year-old Jim Boheim, is a certified bucket. He’s an absolute flamethrower from deep, and he can also create shots for himself on about any level of the floor. He’s been averaging about 28 PPG since the postseason began (including the ACC tourney). He’s a must-watch player right now; you have no excuse to not watch Syracuse this weekend.

12. Hunter Dickinson, F/C #1, Michigan

Watchability: 7.5/10 | Story: 2/10 | Talent: 7.5/10 | Team Success: 9/10 | Overall: 26/40

This guy is a total throwback on the basketball court. He operates primarily with his back to the basket, similar to Luka Garza. He doesn’t have a ton of range, but his footwork and fluidity around the basket is unbelievable. His hands look like they’re covered in glue when he hits the boards, and he’s an above-average passer from the post. He’s an incredibly fundamentally sound player who rarely makes mistakes, and he’s only 20. It’s going to be super interesting to see how the uber-athletic Florida State team handles him.

11. Moses Moody, F #5, Arkansas

Watchability: 8/10 | Story: 1/10 | Talent: 9.5/10 | Team Success: 8/10 | Overall: 26.5/40

Moses Moody is another lottery-level talent that’s left in March Madness. He’s a 6’6” guard that somehow plays bigger than he actually is. He’s a super explosive athlete that also has a seemingly endless bag of moves on the perimeter. Arkansas is looking poised for a potential Final Four run since they’re the highest remaining seed left in their region. In their upcoming game against Oral Roberts, Moody’s probably going to be the best athlete on the floor, so that’ll be interesting to watch.

10. Davion Mitchell, G #45, Baylor

Watchability: 8.5/10 | Story: 1/10 | Talent: 7.5/10 | Team Success: 10/10 | Overall: 27/40

Another one of my personal favorite players left is Davion Mitchell. This is mostly because of how eerily similar this guy is to Donovan Mitchell. Obviously, their names are almost the same. Plus, they wear the same number, play the same position, and they both play the game with a high level of passion and intensity.

Mitchell is the glue guy for Baylor, he’s unbelievably consistent, and he has the ability to set the tone for Baylor on both ends of the floor; as a reliable scorer and an outstanding defender. He’s a huge part of Baylor’s success over the past few years.

9. Jahvon Quinerly, G #13, Alabama

Watchability: 10/10 | Story: 2/10 | Talent: 8/10 | Team Success: 7/10 | Overall: 27/40

Jahvon Quinerly is one of my six 10/10’s on the watchability scale. He’s got shades of Kyrie Irving in his game; he’s got insane ball-handling skills, and he can hit difficult shots as well as anyone in college basketball. He’s an absolute spark plug off the bench, easily the best sixth man in the nation.

He’s also an interesting story to follow because of the road he took to get to Alabama. As a five-star high schooler, he was originally committed to play for Arizona. After their issues with the FBI, he pulled his commitment and chose to play college ball at Villanova. He then transferred from Villanova due to a lack of fit in their offensive system, and now he’s tearing it up at Alabama. He’s now leading Bama’s bench unit as they try to make their program’s first-ever Final Four appearance.

8. Johnny Juzang, G #3, UCLA

Watchability: 10/10 | Story: 6/10 | Talent: 6/10 | Team Success: 5/10 | Overall: 27/40

I’m going to be completely honest here, I don’t necessarily understand what’s happening when I watch Johnny Juzang play for UCLA. He’s got a pretty unassuming look on the court, with the classic rec-league T-shirt underneath his jersey. And he doesn’t really blow you away with his athleticism or ball-handling.

There is one special thing about him: his shots go in. He scores from about everywhere on the court, and when he gets hot, he gets as hot as anyone. Think Game 6 Klay Thompson. He’s averaging 23 ppg over three games in the tournament, and he’s doing this on 51/39/86 splits, which is outstanding for a college player. UCLA is a pretty heavy underdog this weekend, so watch Juzang while you have the chance.

7. Max Abmas, G #3, Oral Roberts

Watchability: 10/10 | Story: 9/10 | Talent: 6/10 | Team Success: 4/10 | Overall: 29/40

Max Abmas has been in the driver’s seat as Oral Roberts has made their Cinderella run to the Sweet Sixteen. He led the nation in scoring over the regular season, and he’s been just as hot in March. He’s scored an absurd 55 combined points in the first two rounds, and it’s not looking like he’s going to slow down. The man doesn’t do much else but shoot the damn ball, and I love it. He has NBA range, and he’s got an NBA mindset when it comes to shooting: short-term memory.

I’m expecting their matchup versus Arkansas to be similar to their game versus Florida, which is a recipe for another high-scoring game from Abmas, as the Golden Eagles will likely be fighting a deficit for most of this game.

6. Quentin Grimes, F #24, Houston

Watchability: 9/10 | Story: 5/10 | Talent: 8/10 | Team Success: 8/10 | Overall: 30/40

As we enter the Top 6, pretty much all of these guys have a future in the NBA. Quentin Grimes has played himself up the draft boards in this tournament. The 6’5″ junior has shown a diverse set of offensive skills, and his wide frame and vertical+lateral explosiveness make him an absolute handful for opposing teams on both sides of the ball.

The former Kansas Jayhawk has found a perfect home in Houston, and he’s an absolute pleasure to watch thanks to his high motor and good attitude on the court.

5. Jared Butler, G #12, Baylor

Watchability: 7/10 | Story: 4/10 | Talent: 9/10 | Team Success: 10/10 | Overall: 30/40

Jared Butler gets an honorary Top-5 nod here because he’s the leader of the second-best team left in the tournament. I don’t mean that in a negative way; I’m just guessing that if you’re a college basketball fan, you’ve probably already watched Butler play several times.

Butler is a hyper-intelligent, experienced player who is pretty much the commander of Baylor’s defensive attack. He’s a fantastic all-around player; he doesn’t really have any specialties. He performs at a high level in just about every game; scoring at ease and making a huge impact on defense.

4. Evan Mobley, C #4, USC

Watchability: 10/10 | Story: 5/10 | Talent: 10/10 | Team Success: 6/10 | Overall: 31/40

Honestly, there was a small part of me that thought Evan Mobley’s appearance in March would be similar to Deandre Ayton’s. USC proved me completely wrong. With the emergence of Isaiah Mobley and the persistent dominance of Evan, USC looks like a force to be reckoned with.

Although Evan, the younger Mobley brother, hasn’t been scoring at a high clip in this tournament, his impact is felt on the boards and around the rim on defense. The 19-year-old is a mobile 7-footer who has good instincts when it comes to any aspect of basketball. He’s an outstanding defender and shot blocker, he finishes well on offense, and he’s a surprisingly talented ball distributor. He’s likely to be a Top-3 pick in the next NBA draft, so watch him at USC while you can.

3. Corey Kispert, F #24, Gonzaga

Watchability: 9/10 | Story: 3/10 | Talent: 9/10 | Team Success: 10/10 | Overall: 31/40

Corey Kispert just had an all-time season at Gonzaga and it kind of just slipped under the radar. No matter what conference you play in, a 55/45/90 shooting line (on high volume!!!) is borderline incomprehensible. The 4th-year player is the leader of the title-favorite Gonzaga Bulldogs, and it’s going to be up to him to keep the rest of his team in line as they make their championship run.

He’s another do-it-all kind of player; he scores well, passes well, defends well, and is one of the best shooters in the country. Every time he takes a three, it looks like it’s going in. I swear. Gonzaga is the team of destiny this year, and Corey Kispert is about to make his case as a legend of college basketball.

2. Cameron Krutwig, C #25, Loyola-Chicago

Watchability: 10/10 | Story: 5/10 | Talent: 9/10 | Team Success: 8/10 | Overall: 32/40

All you really need to know about Cameron Krutwig is this: he’s pretty much what would happen if you gave Nikola Jokic’s basketball abilities to a 1920’s strongman.

He’s an absolutely mesmerizing player to watch. Nobody at his size should be that light on his feet. He’s also an incredibly confusing player. He’s almost mastered the offensive aspects of basketball but he cannot shoot from outside the paint. He whips around passes from the post like Jokic, and he has beautiful touch around the rim. For god’s sake, he took Kofi Cockburn to school multiple times with his incredible post moves. He made one of the best, strongest big men in the country look like a chump. Loyola-Chicago somehow has the third-best odds to win the championship right now, so I’d advise you to watch them.

1. Jalen Suggs, PG #1, Gonzaga

Watchability: 11/10 | Story: 3/10 | Talent: 11/10 | Team Success: 10/10 | Overall: 35/40

This is a somewhat subjective list, so obviously I had to put my favorite player to watch at #1. Jalen Suggs looks like a transcendent type of player when he’s out there playing for Gonzaga. He literally moves at a different speed than everyone else on the court.

He doesn’t put up lucrative stats, but when he is on the court, I am watching Gonzaga no matter what. He’s Zion-esque with his combination of fluidity and extreme athleticism. I personally think he’s the most talented player left in the tournament, and he’s on the best team. So as far as watchability goes, you can’t get much better than that. Also….

(I think he’s better than Cade Cunningham)


Other People/Things to Watch:

The living-legend coach who will literally pick his boogers and eat them on the sidelines during games.

That one coach who sometimes takes his shirt off after winning big games. Also known as a bus.

The old woman who exploits one of the world’s largest religions for basketball wins.

The general decline of the University of North Carolina’s basketball program.

Keep watching the transfer portal. One of the most lucrative years of transfers ever.


Solving the NBA’s Dunk Contest Problem

Anfernee Simons won the 2021 NBA Dunk Contest Sunday Night. Does anyone care?

The 2010’s produced several All-Time historic Dunk Contest moments. Zach Lavine became a true dunking legend. Aaron Gordon was the perfect underdog. John Collins jumped over a goddamn airplane! But somehow, the NBA is still searching for consistency in the year-to-year success of this event. Why is this? Why can’t Adam Silver, the do-no-wrong Commissioner of pro sports, figure this out?

. . .

The Problems Within

The Dunk Contest is still an objectively entertaining event to watch, I don’t think there are any glaring problems with its formatting. The judges are fun, passionate, and unpredictable. The dunks themselves are still awesome, these athletes are doing things that 99.99% of human beings are incapable of. The problems lie outside of the contest itself.

Watch this video if you want to see a 6’1” white guy outdo every dunk you saw in Sunday night’s contest. Credit: Jordan Kilganon

As you can see in this attached video, Jordan Kilganon has made dunking into an art. As the NBA built its popularity throughout the 80’s and 90’s, the dunk contest was a significant pipeline for new fans. Guys like Kilganon probably grew up idolizing high-flyers like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady or Jason Richardson; players that dominated the dunk contest while making a relevant impact during the season as well.

This isn’t a revolutionary idea, the NBA has always seen the dunk contest and the other All-Star competitions as a way to entertain the next generation of fans. And kids have always grown up idolizing these dunkers, trying to replicate the seemingly magical nature of these high-flying, basketball-wielding acrobats. The only thing that’s changed is that the kids that actually were able to replicate these dunkers now have a platform to show off.

Youtube and all of the other world-altering social medias have given a home to hoopers that have perfected the dunk, but not much else. Before the widespread use of the internet, people were only able to see NBA-caliber dunks in NBA games. Now, you can access a “50 Epic Dunk Compilation” within seconds. The idea that these NBA players are the world’s greatest dunkers may need to come to an end, because there are literally people like Kilganon and The Flight Brothers that have made a career out of perfecting the dunk. The awe and magic of the NBA Dunk Contest isn’t gone, but it’s been severely diluted.

. . .

The Solution

The solution for the dunk contest has been in front of our faces for years. We’ve talked about it to its uttermost extent. If you look at the success of the three-point contest, if you look at the ratings of certain playoff series, one thing becomes abundantly clear. The NBA revolves around its stars.

This is nothing new. The NBA has always been a star-driven league, simply due to the lack of facial coverings during games and the unique, direct impact that superstars have on winning in this league.

A couple times over the past few years, the Three-Point contest has overshadowed the Dunk Contest. It’s not because of the contents of the contest itself; we can watch Steph Curry hit 105 three-pointers in a row any time we want. It’s just the same shooting motion 35 times in a row, there’s nothing intrinsically entertaining about that. What’s entertaining is the direct competition between the all of the stars that we’ve become so attached to.

The NBA has the capital to get four stars into the Dunk Contest every year. There’s been proven to be very little injury risk, and it’s a fantastic extra branding opportunity for budding or fading NBA stars. If these players are worried about injury, tell them to tone down the dunks. As long as we’re seeing these athletes do things that we can’t, we’ll be entertained.

Make it happen, Adam Silver. Throw more money and incentives at these players. We don’t need to see the best dunks from mediocre players, we need to see mediocre dunks from the best players. Ten times out of ten, I’d rather see Zion Williamson pull off a basic, rim rocking windmill than Cassius Stanley attempt his first nationally televised dunk of the season. And I barely knew who Cassius Stanley was before this contest, probably along with 5% of all the other viewers. Make the event more accessible and understandable for people. I hope I never have to look up another basketball reference page while watching the Dunk Contest.

The NBA Notebook – Panic Button Teams & Bright Future Teams

The Boston Celtics and New York Knicks have similar records at this point in the season. Why are their fans reacting differently?

It’s officially the halfway point in the 2021 NBA season, so I thought it would be a great time to introduce a new series of pieces that I’ll be doing for FTS. This will pretty much be a multi-part, holistic view at the state of the NBA; looking at what we can learn from the recent past and what we can look forward to at any given time during the year, since the NBA is apparently a year-round thing now.

In the first of three parts to my Notebook, I’ll look at certain organizations that are currently moving up and down the NBA relevancy ladder. They could be trending upwards like the Knicks, or they could be looking at a desolate future like the Raptors.

Bright Future Teams

If you have access to a TV, I strongly recommend watching these teams play.

New Orleans Pelicans

New Orleans is starting to utilize Zion in the right way. This comes as good news to literally anyone who somewhat enjoys watching basketball, because watching Zion run point is like watching magic happen. It’s like watching a Rhinoceros move with the lateral dexterity of Christian McCaffery.

I’m not sure their roster makes complete sense, it’s still up in the air if Zion and Brandon Ingram are the right duo for their future. I’d like to see Zion with a stretch five that can defend- a Marc Gasol or Myles Turner type would be perfect. They’re rare, but it might be necessary for Zion to reach his full potential. They’ll probably miss the playoffs this year (which is fine), and hopefully they can move some pieces around in the offseason to fit Zion’s game a little better. 

Charlotte Hornets

 The Hornets are the most fun team in the league right now, and they have a legit shot at the playoffs. If you told me that would be their season four months ago I would’ve laughed in your face, then probably started crying.

I’ve lived in Charlotte for twenty years, and I haven’t seen anyone this excited for the Charlotte basketball team. Although it took him time to figure out the right lineups for this team James Borrego is a fantastic coach. I love the development of PJ Washington, Miles Bridges, and Malik Monk, who are all 23 or younger. Any of those guys could drop 30 on any given night. Lamelo Ball is a future All-NBA player, and we must do everything we can to keep him in Charlotte. 

New York Knicks

Are these officially the bright future Knicks? I’m rooting for them. And that’s the biggest thing. They have a team that people want to root for. That’s all they need in Madison Square Garden.

RJ Barrett has been solid this season, and now that the Knicks are winning, he can develop without the pressure of the city on his shoulders. Julius Randle has finally learned how to make a defensive impact thanks to Tom Thibodeaux, which has turned him into an All-NBA caliber player. Immanuel Quickley, also known as IQ, has emerged as one of the biggest steals from this season’s draft; the former 25th pick is challenging Tyrese Haliburton and Lamelo Ball in the race for Rookie of the Year. I love watching the Knicks, and I’m going to love it even more when they start allowing fans back into MSG. 

Panic Button Teams

To truly quantify the amount of panic I feel about these teams, I’ll leave an out-of-ten rating at the end of every breakdown.

Boston Celtics

Celtics fans are in shambles right now. I’d feel bad, but I’ve been around Hornets fans for pretty much my entire life. Bostonians are turning on former Franchise Savior Danny Ainge, and the future of the franchise is looking murky.

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will always provide a floor for Boston. However, they’ve lost so many assets for nothing (Rozier, Hayward, Horford). I’m not sure what they need to add in order to become a championship contender. They’re out of picks, they’re out of cap space, and they’re out of young, valuable trade assets. I’m not sure when we can expect to see a championship window open for Boston. Panic meters are relative, and this one is so severe because this is a franchise that expects to win championships. 9/10

Golden State Warriors

Their panic button looked much different earlier in the season. Steph wasn’t exactly used to carrying a team, and it was a true hassle to accustom all of their new players to the Golden State system. Like him or not, Steph Curry is one of the most fun players to watch, there’s something about his presence on the court that makes him a must-watch at all times.

I’m still not sure what their plan is with James Wiseman. As expected, he’s a major work in progress, but his potential is apparent. I’m guessing that the Golden State front office is okay with being just a feisty playoff team this year, there’s no need to flip Wiseman for an impactful veteran. Along with every Golden State fan on earth, I’m hoping for a triumphant Klay comeback, and a sophomore jump for Wiseman that leads them to a top 3 seed in the West next season. 3/10

Toronto Raptors

This season has sucked for Toronto, but they honestly have plenty of valid excuses. You can’t overstate how much of an effect their move to Tampa has had on the team. They made it late into the bubble last season, moved back to Toronto, then immediately moved back to Florida. That sucks. Pascal Siakam may have reached his ceiling, and I think they’re going to be moving in place for the next couple of years.

They won a ring though, so I wouldn’t be too upset if I was a Raptors fan. 5/10

Dallas Mavericks

When I look at the immediate, 2-3 year future for the Mavericks, I don’t get too excited. This is a problem for a team that has a blossoming top-five guy in the league in Luka Doncic.

I’m not sure what their plan is with Kristaps Porzingis, who has become an extreme defensive liability and isn’t the same scorer he was a couple years ago. He’s getting to the line only 3 times a game as a seven-footer, and he’s shooting below 35% from 3.

If you can’t defend, you have to be an outstanding offensive threat. When you’re neither of those, I’m not sure you can be a top-2 player on a contending team, let alone a top-3 player. The Mavs need to take advantage of the window that they have during Luka’s rookie contract, and I think that starts with moving Porzingis. I’d love to see them package Porzingis, picks, and maybe an extra asset to move into the Top 3 of this year’s draft. I’d love to see Luka alongside a player like Jonathan Kuminga. 6.5/10

Miami Heat

Heat fans have a right to be unhappy. It seems like they’re the team that changed the most in the bubble. Herro looked like a true blossoming star in the bubble, but he hasn’t shown much improvement this year. Nunn has also fallen in efficiency, but he’s getting back into rhythm. Adebayo and Robinson have been the only starters that have stayed healthy throughout the shortened season. So they’re still going to make the playoffs, and I’m guessing they’ll become more healthy as the season progresses.

My panic meter rating is about them missing on Harden and probably Beal. I’m not sure they have what it takes to make the finals again considering the wrecking crews known as the 76ers and Brooklyn. 7/10

The 2021 NBA Trade Deadline: New Team for Beal?

After a surprisingly smooth start to the 2021 season, it’s time to look forward to March’s trade deadline. Will a superstar be on the move?

We’ve officially made our way past the first quarter of our NBA season. Some teams have risen above expectations like the Sabonis-led Pacers or the all-around improved (1st in the West!!) Jazz. Some have fallen off a cliff, desperately searching for ways to reinvigorate their lineups and rosters. Teams like the Pelicans have been rumored to be looking to move around some role players as their lineups surrounding franchise players Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram have severely underperformed. Teams like the Wizards, who have failed miserably this season, could be looking to move a superstar. And lastly, there are teams like the Nets; contenders who are one piece away from a fully loaded  run to the Finals. 

So I’ll be taking a way-too-early look at players that have been recently thrown around in some trade talks. So here’s my ideal trade deadline; after a month of the 2021 season.

Lonzo Ball

Jan 8, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball (2) brings the ball up court against Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) during the third quarter at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In an ideal world, the Pelicans will try to find capable outside creators with a combo of Ball, another player and picks. They’re not exactly contending this season, so New Orleans doesn’t need to look for immediate roster help at the deadline.

Pels Receive: Bojan Bogdanovic, 2022 Unprotected First Round Pick, 2023+2025 Second Round Picks
Jazz Receive: Lonzo Ball, Niccolo Meli, 2021 First Round Pick (Unprotected) (via LAL)

As he fails to progress in New Orleans, Lonzo Ball’s future becomes murky. It’s clear that he still has quite a bit of talent, it just seems like his confidence has fallen since his awful stint in the bubble. So naturally, it’s probably time to find a change of scenery for the former Top 3 Pick.

The Jazz have over-performed so far this season, so I’m not sure how likely it is that they make a move at the trade deadline. I still believe that Lonzo should be a trade target for them. It’s likely that the Jazz will face a guard-dominant team in the playoffs this year, and they surely don’t want to see a repeat of last year’s duel with the Nuggets. Lonzo Ball could easily be one of the best perimeter defenders in the league currently, and he could help take a bit off of Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley’s defensive plates. Bogdanovic has never been a natural fit in Utah, so I don’t think it would be a bad break between him and the Jazz. The Jazz will receive the Lakers’ first pick in this year’s draft, likely a very late pick; to add a potential role player as Utah attempts to maximize Mitchell and Gobert’s prime window.

Derrick Rose

Jan. 27, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose (2) reacts to a foul against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since he re-emerged as a reliable off-the-bench scorer, Derrick Rose has a bad habit of ending up on teams that don’t need him. So obviously this isn’t the first time his name has been floated around before the trade deadline. Luckily, there’s always a market for a second-unit playmaker and scorer. More than a few teams looking to make a playoff push would welcome a guy like Rose.

Pistons Receive: PG Dennis Smith Jr., 2021 Dallas First Round Pick (Unprotected)
Knicks Receive: PG Derrick Rose

This move brings D-Rose back to MSG, which is a universally loved possibility. It also gives Dennis Smith another change of scenery, but his future in the league is honestly looking bleak. I think the first round pick is necessary because I’m not sure how much value Smith Jr. actually has; but it works out because this Dallas pick will likely be outside of the lottery. This trade is sorta boring but it benefits both teams, as the Knicks acquire another on-ball scorer to help Immanuel Quickley with the New York second unit. 

Pistons Receive: PG/SG Terence Davis, 2021 Second Round Pick, 2022 Second Round Pick
Raptors Receive: PG Derrick Rose

The Raptors fall under the umbrella of “Teams that have severely underwhelmed” this season. This isn’t necessarily their fault, as they left the Disney bubble in October, went home for a month, then were abruptly relocated to Tampa for the year. This is a tough situation for every Raptors member involved, but a trade could still help shake things up a little. Terence Davis is a promising defender and overall contributor off the bench for ‘Toronto’, but I don’t think he’d be a difficult goodbye for the Raptors. The Raptors need more offensive creators off their bench, the playmaking from Davis and Norman Powell isn’t nearly enough for them. This gives Detroit a non-depreciating asset, and a pick in this year’s draft. I’m not sure Detroit pulls the trigger on this, but I like the idea.

Bradley Beal

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) attacks an opposing defense. Mandatory Credit: Getty Images

Obviously I had to save the main event for last. Bradley Beal trade machine possibilities have been discussed ad-nauseum for the past few years, and both sides have remained loyal, not wanting to move anything around. This may have come to an end; Beal is averaging over 34 points per game with a 3-10 record.

The Wiz will likely be looking for youth with this trade, trying to acquire draft picks and assets for the future. Remember though, Beal and the Wizards have a prior agreement to give Beal veto power on any trade. Don’t expect the Wizards to dump Beal to a non-playoff team.

Wizards Receive: SF De’Andre Hunter, C/PF Onyeka Okongwu, SF Tony Snell, PG Brandon Goodwin, 2021 First Round Pick (Lottery Protected) 2023 First Round Pick (Unprotected)
Hawks Receive: SG Bradley Beal, SG/SF Troy Brown Jr.

This is probably my most fun, least realistic trade for Bradley Beal. Of course it would be unbelievable to see a reincarnation of the Splash Brothers in Trae Young and Bradley Beal, but Young would have to become less ball dominant. This would be an absolute positive for Young’s game regardless, but we haven’t really seen how he works without the ball. Washington probably doesn’t get enough back in this trade, depending on how you view De’Andre Hunter and Onyeka Okongwu’s respective futures. Hunter has improved quite a bit in his sophomore year, showing small flashes of Kawhi in his game as he progresses. Okongwu is less proven in the league, and there’s reason to be skeptical of an all-star level future. He looks a bit small on the court, he’s been pretty lost on offense so far, and he’s super raw as far as skills go. He’s shown a ton of explosiveness around the rim though, and he’s an outstanding rim protector given his time in the league.

Hunter and Okongwu together is a solid package of assets, and they won’t get in the way of a tanking-style rebuild. Washington’s picks plus the newly acquired Atlanta picks could give them a rock-solid foundation to build with those two guys. 

And now, for my absolute favorite trade scenario….

Wizards Receive: C/PF James Wiseman, SF Kelly Oubre Jr., 2021 First Round Pick (Top 3 Protected) (via MIN), First Round Pick (Swap Best) in 2023+2025
Warriors Receive: SG Bradley Beal, First Round Pick (Swap Worst) 2023+2025

This is the only trade that I’ve included that immediately changes the scope of the NBA. Even as someone who’s hoping for Lebron to secure his fifth ring this June, I would love to see the Warriors catapulted back into title contention. Steph and Beal would immediately become the best backcourt in the NBA (sorry Blazers), and the Warriors would go back to an offense that actually resembles what we saw during their previous title runs.

It would be tough to let go of James Wiseman so soon, especially considering his almost-certain all-star offensive potential. He just hasn’t been good enough defensively, and I’m not sure he’ll be experienced enough to contribute defensively come playoff time, this year or the next. So this is a huge incentive for the Warriors to capitalize on his trade value now. Wiseman is probably the most valuable asset the Wizards will have the chance to acquire, assuming Ben Simmons is never offered. Wiseman could eventually be a franchise cornerstone for Washington, and it’s almost certain that the Minnesota pick will be top 10 whether it’s this year or next. The pick swaps will probably be a cherry on top, as Golden State still doesn’t have a ton of leverage, and they’ll have to give up as much as Washington wants for Beal. The Warriors won’t have a ton of rim protection after this trade, but the offensive improvements will far outweigh this.

Dylan White’s 2020 NBA Mock Draft

Folks, it’s time for the NBA Draft. In Mid-November. Just like everyone expected. Get ready for an explosive night of trades, draft surprises, and just about anything you could want from draft night. When you have teams like the Thunder, Celtics, and Pelicans that have an extreme surplus of picks, expect some fireworks, and I’d recommend turning on tweet notifications from Woj and Shams.

I did what I could with this weird-ass draft class. Literally anything could happen with the Top 10 picks, and the prospects from the 20-45 range are basically indistinguishable. So here are my likely very inaccurate predictions for this year’s draft.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Lamelo Ball

PG, USA. 6’7”, 190lbs. Wingspan: 6’10”. Age: 19

I’m going to start off this mock draft very strongly by admitting that I have no idea what the Top 5 picks are going to look like tonight. A lot of insiders and writers have come to the agreement that Ball is the best prospect in this draft, and that Minnesota might try to pair him with D’Angelo Russell. I think it would work. Ball is a good enough passer to coexist with anyone, and Russell is honestly a natural shooting guard anyways. Ball is probably one of the best passers we’ve seen in the past decade, and his size provides a floor for his finishing ability and defense. His shot is worrisome, but I like his touch and his confidence, which are two things that his older brother Lonzo doesn’t have.

2. Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman

C, Memphis. 7’1″, 240lbs. Wingspan: 7’6”. Age: 19

Golden State is in desperate need of a big man. I think the pick will be Wiseman, but I really really wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled off a shocker and went with Onyeka Okongwu here, who has much better defensive versatility than Wiseman, and will probably fit the Golden State scheme better However, Wiseman is still a great prospect. He’s very developed on the offensive end, and I expect him to develop an outside game very early in his NBA career. If the Warriors are looking for a piece to help them win a title this year, they should take Okongwu. If they’re looking for someone to give the torch to as Curry and Thompson age, I think Wiseman is a much better option.

3. Charlotte Hornets – Anthony Edwards

SG, Georgia. 6’5”, 225lbs. Wingspan: 6’9′. Age: 19

Anthony Edwards is one of the most polarizing players in this draft class. His athleticism is off the charts, and he’s a very aggressive scorer and defender. Lots of experts are projecting a big man to come to Charlotte, but I wouldn’t rule out any position, simply because their roster is so bad. Edwards is an extremely powerful player when he drives to the rim, and he can score from the outside very well. I like his ceiling about as much as any other player in this draft, but his decision-making and work ethic could be a lot better.

4. Chicago Bulls – Tyrese Haliburton

PG, Iowa State. 6’5”, 185lbs. Wingspan: 6’8”. Age: 20

Haliburton is my favorite guy in the draft. He’s impossible to bust, but his ceiling isn’t crazy though. He’s a fantastic decision maker and playmaker, he has great shot IQ and a good jumper, as well as being solid on defense. I think he would work perfectly alongside Coby White; in an opposites-attract way. 

5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Deni Avdija

F, Israel. 6’9”, 215lbs. Wingspan: 6’9”. Age: 19

Avdija is probably the best foreign prospect in this draft. He has great size, and he produced well in Europe at 18 years old. His strengths are in his playmaking ability as a big, and he has a projectable frame. 

6. Atlanta Hawks – Patrick Williams

F/C, Florida State. 6’8”, 225lbs. Wingspan: 6’11”. Age: 19

Patrick Williams is an interesting player. His athleticism is off the charts, and he has natural talent on both offense and defense. He’s very raw but the Hawks have time as they try to develop a supporting cast around Trae Young. Any time you have a chance to find a shot creator that can defend most positions, you have to go after him no matter how much of a project he is.

7. Detroit Pistons Killian Hayes

PG, France. 6’5”, 215lbs. Wingspan: 6’8”. Age: 19

I love Hayes’s feel for the game. He’s one of the smoothest players in this class, and playmaking just comes naturally to him. The Pistons have one of the worst and most confusing rosters in the NBA, but drafting a guard that could eventually create shots for himself and others is a really good place to start. At 6’5’’ with an almost 6’9’’ wingspan, he has the potential to have a size mismatch in about every situation against other guards.

8. New York Knicks – Obi Toppin

F/C, Dayton. 6’9”, 220lbs. Wingspan: 6’11”. Age: 22

Obi Toppin is almost guaranteed to go to the Knicks. He just feels like such a Knicks player. He is so explosive and flashy on the offensive end, but when it comes to defense, he’s almost entirely helpless. He plays defense like he has bricks tied to his feet, but he can still defend vertically. He probably is the most polished offensive big in this draft, and it’s not particularly close.

9. Washington Wizards – Onyeka Okongwu

F/C, USC. 6’9”, 245lbs. Wingspan: 7’1”. Age: 19

Okongwu is super tall and very mobile for his size. He’s a perfect modern big for small ball. Okongwu can be a small ball 5 while providing a size advantage at 6’11, as he can move on the perimeter very well. Because of his mobility both vertical and horizontal, he’s an incredibly versatile defender, which has become quite the valuable attribute in the league these days. He’s not a very diverse offensive player though, although he’s a solid offensive rebounder and lob catcher.

10. Phoenix Suns – Isaac Okoro

Wing, Auburn. 6’6”, 225lbs. Wingspan: 6’9”. Age: 19

Okoro is exactly what the Suns need, now that they’ve traded for Chris Paul. Okoro is probably the best defender in the class, he’s so passionate and skilled on the defensive end.  He has offensive upside with good touch, he’s not afraid to take ball into traffic. He has absolutely no perimeter game on offense though. He’s a very similar player to Kelly Oubre or Justice Winslow.

11. San Antonio Spurs – Devin Vassell

Wing, Florida State. 6’7”, 195lbs. Wingspan: 6’10”. Age: 19

Vassell is a total Spurs guy. He tries extremely hard on defense, and is probably one of the best defenders in the draft. His outside shot is developing quickly, which is always a good sign. He’ll be a great piece for the Spurs as they try to navigate their rebuild. 

12. Sacramento Kings – RJ Hampton

G, USA. 6’5”, 190lbs. Wingspan: 6’7”. Age: 19

Adding RJ Hampton to the Kings would immediately give them one of the fastest backcourts in NBA history. RJ Hampton is outstanding on the fast break, has a good handle, and can finish at the rim. His jumper is questionable, but his athleticism trumps those concerns.

13. New Orleans Pelicans – Kira Lewis Jr.

G, Alabama. 6’3”, 165lbs. Wingspan: 6’6”. Age: 19

Kira Lewis is a lightning-quick guard who can create shots from almost anywhere on the court. He’s got a great in-and-out game, and is comfortable in the PnR. Solid on defense, but will probably be a liability on switches until he bulks up. 

14. Boston Celtics – Saddiq Bey

F, Villanova. 6’8”, 215lbs. Wingspan: 6’10”. Age: 21

Saddiq Bey is a prototypical modern day 4. He has a smooth, reliable jumper, and he is quick and long enough to guard positions 2-5 as soon as he enters the league. Bey is also a Jay Wright product, and if you look at recent Villanova prospects, their transitions to the league are usually seamless. 

15. Orlando Magic – Tyrese Maxey

SG, Kentucky. 6’3”, 200lbs. Wingspan: 6’6”. Age: 19

Maxey would be a great value if he falls to the Magic at 15. He’s a jack of all trades kind of player, which is why he’s flying under the radar during this draft process. He’s a natural shot creator, plays hard on defense, and doesn’t have any athletic limitations on either side of the floor. His shooting stats from his year at Kentucky aren’t great, but he’s confident and has a soft touch, which will translate very well into the league.

16. Houston Rockets –  Aaron Nesmith

Wing, Vanderbilt. 6’6”, 215lbs. Wingspan: 6’10”. Age: 20

Nesmith is probably the best current three-point shooter in this draft. The man has an absolute clip. He averaged 23 points per game at Vanderbilt this year, while shooting 52 percent from the three point line. He’s not a great passer, not a great defender, but his jumpshot alone will land him in the Top 20 tonight.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves – Precious Achiuwa

F, Memphis. 6’9”, 225lbs. Wingspan: 7’2”. Age: 20

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Achiuwa land with a contender. He fits with the Wolves though, I see him as a mixture between Robert Williams and Montrezl Harrell. He already has a NBA-ready body at 6’9” 230lbs. He has a massive wingspan at 7’2”, which gives him noticeable defensive upside. He has a solid bag of offensive skills within 15 feet, but doesn’t have much touch outside of there.

18. Dallas Mavericks – Jalen Smith

F, Israel. 6’10”, 225lbs. Wingspan: 7’1.5”. Age: 20

Jalen Smith reminds me a lot of Bobby Portis. This sounds like a negative, but it definitely isn’t. Dallas could be the perfect place for Smith. He could develop into a real problem on offense, showing potential to be a threat rolling to the rim, or popping out for as a reliable catch-and-shoot big. He doesn’t have much defensive versatility, but I’d like to see Rick Carslile create the greatest offense in NBA history, so I don’t care about his defensive problems.

19. Brooklyn Nets – Tyler Bey

F, Colorado. 6’7”, 215lbs. Wingspan: 7’1”. Age: 22

This is a slight reach for the Nets, but Bey is exactly what the Nets are looking for as they compete for a title. His body is NBA-ready, and he can be a primary defender of any wing/big man. He competes on the offensive and defensive boards, and he could be the perfect backup for DeAndre Jordan, assuming the Nets move Jarrett Allen.

20. Miami Heat –  Robert Woodard II

F, Mississippi State. 6’7”, 235lbs. Wingspan: 7’1”. Age: 20

Woodard is a big, strong wing that has a lot of defensive potential. He plays hard, and he provides depth at forward as Olynyk/Leonard could leave in free agency.

21. Philadelphia 76ers – Tyrell Terry

G, Stanford. 6’2”, 175lbs. Wingspan: 6’2”. Age: 19

Tyrell Terry is a guard that can exist alongside Ben Simmons. I don’t think that’s much more than the Sixers can ask for right now. Terry has a fantastic outside shot, and he doesn’t need to be ball-dominant to score. However, he does have severe defensive limitations, which will cause him to slide tonight I would love to see him in Philly.

22. Denver Nuggets – Isaiah Stewart

C, Washington. 6’9”, 250lbs. Wingspan: 7’4”. Age: 19

Stewart is a former five-star that didn’t exactly live up to expectations in his first year at Washington. However, he’s still a great prospect. While he didn’t showcase a diverse set of moves on offense, he still plays really hard and his height/wingspan/athleticism combo provides a ton of upside on both sides of the floor. He is the anti-Jokic, which somehow could make them great complements.

23. New York Knicks – Cole Anthony

PG, North Carolina. 6’3”, 190lbs. Wingspan: 6’4.5”. Age: 20

I actually think that Cole Anthony has become underrated. He’s fast as hell, and he has the confidence and the skill to create points in several ways. He was thrown into a tough situation at UNC, playing against the best competition in the nation with subpar help around him. He has a smooth jumper and can finish with both hands around the rim. He has limitations on defense.He’d excel at MSG.

24. New Orleans Pelicans – Jaden McDaniels

F, Washington. 6’9”, 200lbs. Wingspan: 6’11.5”. Age: 19

New Orleans has a clear strategy here. They’re taking swings on projects and developmental players in the draft, and they have the cap space to surround Zion with reliable veterans in the meantime. Jaden McDaniels is definitely a project; he’s a raw athlete with a projectable skillset. He can handle the ball very well for his 6’9’’ frame, and he has a natural jumper.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Aleksej Pokusevski

C, Serbia. 7’0”, 200lbs. Wingspan: 7’3”. Age: 18

Pokusevski is a super skilled seven-footer. He’s surprisingly agile for his height. He has a great jumper for his height, and he can pass the ball very well too. However, he is listed at 7’, 200 lbs. That is a huge problem. He’ll be an absolute nonfactor on defense as well as in the post on offense, unless he gains weight and muscle. He has a thin frame anyways, so it’s tough to project him in the league. 

26. Boston Celtics – Cassius Winston

PG, Michigan State. 6’1”, 185lbs. Wingspan: 6’5”. Age: 22

The Celtics are in need of another playmaker in their second unit. Brad Wanamaker is fine, but Cassius Winston is an almost immediate upgrade. He can handle well, pass well, and his outside shot is NBA-ready. 

27. Utah Jazz – Josh Green

Wing, Arizona. 6’6”, 210lbs. Wingspan: 6’10”. Age: 19

Josh Green projects as an undersized 3 and D wing, similar to Gary Harris or Josh Richardson. He probably won’t produce immediately, but eventually he’ll be a solid rotation player.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – Malachi Flynn

PG, San Diego State. 6’1”, 185lbs. Wingspan: 6’3”. Age: 22

Flynn was an outstanding player at San Diego last season, and he probably would’ve really benefited from an NCAA tournament appearance. He’s a relatively undersized point guard with an arsenal of offensive skills, so he’ll probably end up being a good leader of a bench unit.

29. Toronto Raptors – Desmond Bane

Wing, TCU. 6’6”, 215lbs. Wingspan: 6’5”. Age: 22

Bane is a disciplined player on the offensive and defensive ends. He doesn’t jump off the screen athletically, but he rarely makes bad decisions. He’ll immediately be a solid rotation player for Toronto as a reliable shooter and defender. 

30. Boston Celtics – Xavier Tillman Sr.

F/C, Michigan State. 6’8”, 245lbs. Wingspan: 7’1”. Age: 21

The Celtics continue to add size to their rotation with this pick. Tillman is comparable to PJ Tucker in his ability to defend bigs as an undersized big man. He’ll eventually provide versatility for Brad Stevens as a small ball 5. His ceiling isn’t super high, but he does everything that you want a big man to do, and he does it well. 

Dylan White’s 2020 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

It’s finally time. Time for a strange, exciting, and online(?) draft.

To be completely honest, it’s been difficult for me to get excited about this year’s draft. Normally, draft season is the best. It begins in January, with the college football postseason, where we get to see some of the most highly-touted prospects on a national stage. Then you have the Senior Bowl and the East-West game, where scouts fall in love with prospects based on less than a week’s worth of work. All of this was moving along according to plan with nothing standing in the draft’s way.

Then obviously something got in the way. The scouting combine was overshadowed by mass hysteria and nationwide concern, and after that, everything else was canceled. There were no pro days, so none of the injury-riddled athletes from the combine got to put out their official numbers. There were no real ‘official visits’ for prospects, so it’s a bit more difficult to see who teams are specifically looking at this year. And now apparently the draft is going to look like a shitty EA video game. The only good thing that’s come out of all this is the fake “Pro Days” that prospects are holding for themselves, where they magically shave .3 seconds off of their official combine-timed 40.

With all of this said, there are still plenty of reasons to get excited about this year’s draft. I can guarantee a trade in the Top 10 of the draft, with the Lions and Giants holding picks 3 and 4, dangling the hopes of drafting Tua Tagovailoa over the Dolphins and Chargers’ respective heads. Four teams have multiple first-rounders this year: the Dolphins, Jaguars, Raiders, and Vikings. I wouldn’t count out a trade-up for any organization except for the Vikings. Even though this draft will be conducted through computers, there will still be plenty of action in the first round. So without further ado, here are my predictions for the first round.

1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Although there are some believers in Tua over Joe Burrow, I know there’s not much to overthink here. Joe Burrow just had one of the most dominant seasons that we’ve ever seen by a pure pocket passer in college, winning every major award, including the National Championship. He rolled through secondaries that were full of NFL talent in Alabama and Clemson, and he showed very few moments of weakness. He’s accurate, calm under pressure, and has enough arm talent to be a great NFL quarterback. The Bengals are lucky that they chose this year to completely suck. Just kidding, they suck every year.

2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

Taking Chase Young here is a no-brainer. I understand that cornerbacks have slightly more positional value than edge rushers. I understand that if they believe that Tua is an upgrade over Dwayne Haskins, they could take him. But Chase Young is the right pick. His draft profile is among the likes of Myles Garrett, Von Miller, and Jadeveon Clowney. The only difference is, he was twice as productive as any of them in college. Unless the Washington front office has literally zero faith in Haskins, Young HAS to be the pick here. He is as close as you can get to a guaranteed perennial All-Pro player.

3. Miami Dolphins (From DET) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

I’m not one for making trades in Mock Drafts, but it is so obvious that there’s going to be a trade in the Top 5. With two QB-needy teams sitting behind Detroit, they’d have to be completely incompetent not to have a bidding war for their pick, which would be the right to Tua Tagovailoa. Tua is a smart, athletically gifted, and productive player. There’s not much more you can ask for from a QB. The only ‘knock’ on Tua is that he played with too much NFL talent in his college career.

As you can see, there are two Alabama WRs picked in the rest of this mock, and there’s an OT from ‘Bama too. I don’t think that playing with too much talent is negative unless these receivers were consistently bailing Tua out of bad situations (ex.: Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans), but this was rarely the case. Tua maximized the production of his offense in Alabama, and I think he’ll be able to take command of an NFL offense with equivalent efficiency.

Trade Details: DET Receives: 5, 26, 56, ’21 R2, ’21 R4. MIA Receives: 3, 85, ’21 R5.

4. New York Giants – Andrew Thomas, T, Georgia

This pick honestly feels like a toss-up to me. The best player available here is clearly Jeffery Okudah, who I believe will be a franchise CB. However, the Giants have invested an insane amount of capital in the cornerback position over the past two years. They spent a first-round pick on Deandre Baker, and they completely overpaid James Bradbury, so it seems like they’ll be looking elsewhere with their fourth pick. A glaring need of theirs is at tackle with the aging Nate Solder at LT and an unsolved RT spot. Andrew Thomas was a stalwart for the Georgia Bulldogs over the past two seasons, he has prototypical LT size, and he hasn’t shown any glaring weaknesses. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave Gettleman settled for Thomas here.

5. Detroit Lions (From MIA) – Jeffery Okudah, CB, Ohio State

This year’s draft has the potential to be a grand slam for the Detroit Lions. They most likely will trade out of their third spot. If they manufacture a trade that lands them only two spots back to five, they’ll get the guy they would’ve picked at three anyways. After trading superstar cornerback Darius Slay, they have a glaring need for an outside cornerback. If they can luck into Okudah here, they’ll have one of the most dangerous CB groups in the league, with Okudah and Desmond Trufant outside the numbers, and Justin Coleman at slot. Okudah was an absolute lockdown cornerback at Ohio State this past year, maintaining high levels of production against teams like Clemson and Penn State. He tested well at the combine and is as smooth of an athlete that you’ll see at the CB spot. He’ll be a perfect replacement for Slay.

6. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

After losing the bidding war for Tua, the Chargers will have to ‘settle’ for Justin Herbert. Herbert’s production doesn’t jump off the screen, but that’s okay. He’s as NFL-ready as they come; he has a great arm, he does well under pressure, and he doesn’t have too many concerns with accuracy. If you compare him to some of the most recent rookie QB’s taken in the 5-10 range (Josh Allen, Daniel Jones), you’ll realize that the Chargers are actually getting pretty good value here. And if you doubt that Los Angeles will be looking for a QB here, I don’t know what to tell you. The only person that believes that Tyrod Taylor is a long-term solution is Tyrod Taylor. Out of all the QB-needy teams in the draft, I think that the Chargers would be the best situation for a young QB. You couldn’t ask for much more as far as weapons go. Herbert gets to stay on the west coast, and he gets to live in Los Angeles. I don’t see a better place for the Oregon kid to go.

7. Carolina Panthers, Isaiah Simmons – LB/S/EDGE, Clemson

I want this pick to happen so badly. With the sudden and devastating retirement of Luke Kuechly, the Panthers have a gaping hole at linebacker. They also have to fill a spot at safety. They also need a better DB for their nickel&dime packages. Isaiah Simmons is one player that could account for all three of those needs. Simmons is a modern defensive Swiss Army Knife; he played about 11 different positions on Clemson’s defense. He showed his ability to rush the passer, fill gaps as a run-stuffing linebacker, and to play centerfield as a safety. He’s an absolute unicorn, and in any other draft he’d be a Top-5 pick. The Panthers would be blessed if he fell to them. Oh, by the way, he’s 6’4″, 238lbs, ran a 4.38 40, and had a 39 inch vertical.

8. Arizona Cardinals – Tristan Wirfs, T, Iowa

This is a relatively easy pick to predict. There’s uncertainty as to who the Cardinals will take here specifically, but it’ll be an offensive tackle. Their offensive line is a complete disaster, but the rest of their offense is actually pretty damn good, especially after they fleeced Bill O’Brien out of DeAndre Hopkins. Tristan Wirfs consistently mauled Big-10 edge rushers this year, and he’s an athletic freak. The Cardinals will be able to plug him into their offensive line immediately. If Arizona can hit on this pick, I’ll be really excited to see how their offense evolves over the next few years.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Once again, a team benefits from a loaded Top-10. I feel like I’ve already said this a couple times, but Jerry Jeudy should be a Top-5 pick. He would be in most draft classes. Over the course of his Alabama career, he dominated defensive backs with his superior physical profile, superior route running, and an extraordinary knack for winning contested catch battles. He’s as much of a sure thing as you can get at receiver, and he would be a perfect weapon for sophomore QB Gardner Minshew. Jeudy can stretch the field with his speed, he has above-average RAC ability, and he can also work as a possession receiver in the middle of the field. He’s a bit thin, but if he fills out in the NFL, he’ll have a prototypical WR1 frame.

10. Cleveland Browns – Ceedee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

After trading for perennial All-Pro LT Trent Williams, the Cleveland Browns have somehow figured out their offensive line since the season ended. This opens the door for them to improve their already lethal receiving corps. As the league has become almost universally pass-first, most NFL offenses consider three wide receivers to be starters. The Browns are missing a solid third option for Baker Mayfield. Adding Ceedee Lamb to their offense would create an elite receiving trio with Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. Lamb would actually be reuniting with Mayfield after the both of them played at Oklahoma. Lamb shows very few weaknesses in his game. He has prototypical size, he’s lethal in the open field, and he’s a creative and refined route runner. This pick could catapult the Cleveland offense into one of the NFL’s elite.

11. New York Jets – Jedrick Wills Jr., T, Alabama

After doing Sam Darnold no favors over the first few years of his career, the Jets have to do something to help. Their receiving corps is a mess, their offensive line situation is less than ideal, and Adam Gase cannot be trusted. Rolling into 2020 with an unproven second-year right tackle and a left tackle that didn’t even start on the Seahawks(!) cannot be good for Sam Darnold’s confidence. If the Jets actually want to build something with Darnold at QB, they need to invest capital in their O-Line and their WRs. They could go with Henry Ruggs here to replace Robby Anderson, but I just think that Jedrick Wills is a safer pick for them. He’s played against the grown-ass men of the SEC for a couple years (and he dominated), and he protected Tua’s blindside as well as anyone could. He was also a superb run-blocker, creating power and leverage that’ll translate to the NFL. This would be a solid pick for New York.

12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

The Raiders could go one of three ways here. In my opinion, I would trade back, letting a team jump the Buccaneers and 49ers to draft Henry Ruggs. The Raiders are in desperate need for depth at cornerback and wide receiver. They already have another first round pick, and if they could get two picks in the 20-45 range plus later capital for #12, Mike Mayock could hit an absolute home run with this draft. The value of this draft for receivers and corners is in the 20-45 range, so it’s almost a no-brainer to trade back, maybe pickup a Tee Higgins/Denzel Mims and a Jeff Gladney/Bryce Hall type guy. If they decide not to trade back, I would take Henry Ruggs III here. It’s a bit of concern that he hasn’t received a ton of volume on his Alabama team over the past couple years, but he has game-breaking speed and very few concerns with his actual level of play. He’s an elite deep threat with a clean and consistent release and 4.27 speed. He would open up the field for the Raiders, and they could have elite talent at every level of the field with Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Ruggs.

13. San Francisco 49ers – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

This is a stupid pick, and I don’t like it. The 49ers have needs in their secondary, interior offensive line, and wide receiver. The problem with that is the lack of value at each of those positions at #13. Henry Ruggs would be an absolute perfect pick for them here. Hopefully he falls to them, but if he doesn’t, they’d probably have to take the best player available here then address WR at pick 31. Derrick Brown was a monster at Auburn. San Francisco would be the perfect spot for him. They need a space eating DT, and he’d face little to no pressure due to the 49ers’ already loaded defensive line. He’d see about zero double teams next year, which is a lot different from what he saw while in the SEC. He’d be a solid pick for the 49ers here, but if Ruggs is off the board, I wouldn’t be surprised to see San Francisco trade back.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Josh Jones, T, Houston

This draft is for Tom Brady. This draft is to get him more weapons, more protection, to make sure that the GOAT is happy in his first year away from New England. Once again, Henry Ruggs would be the ideal pick here. However, the Bucs also have the 45th pick. I’m confident that they could get a K.J. Hill or a K.J. Hamler to stretch the field for Tom Brady and co. So with their first rounder, they could address the eyesore they’ve had at tackle for a few years. With the choice between Josh Jones and Mekhi Beckton, I’d be inclined to say that Tampa would go with the safer option. Jones had an extremely productive year at Houston, giving up four sacks+qb hits+hurries on 635 total snaps. The Buccaneers should be content with taking the safe route at tackle here.

15. Denver Broncos – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

The Broncos had a sneaky-good offseason. Their offensive line is young, but they’re set for a few seasons. They acquired Jurrell Casey and his contract for pretty much nothing. Now they have five Top-100 picks, and they’re ready to get some weapons for Drew Lock. Ideally they’ll trade up from 15 to 10, giving up 15, a third, fourth, and maybe a future third to the Browns. Jerry Jeudy or Ceedee Lamb would be a perfect complement for Courtland Sutton, but if they’re not able to do that, that’s okay. They can address their mess of a cornerback group in the first and take a WR later. Kristian Fulton is a corner with fantastic instincts, and any CB that has consistent success in the SEC should have little problems adjusting to the NFL.

16. Atlanta Falcons – C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

I have mixed feelings about the Falcons right now. They have little cap flexibility, and have major concerns at several valuable positions. But then again, this is what happens when you have a quarterback that makes >$35 million/year. After trading Desmond Trufant they have nothing at corner; no offense to Jordan Miller and Isaiah Oliver. C.J. Henderson is a prototypical man cover corner with elite physical traits. He’s not as consistent as you’d like a CB1 to be, but at 16 you can’t ask for much more.

17. Dallas Cowboys – Xaiver McKinney, S, Alabama

If McKinney falls to the Cowboys I’d be ecstatic. I’m not saying it’s unlikely, I just think he’s a perfect fit for them. He’s the total package as far as the safety position goes, he has deep coverage skills, he can be used in blitz packages, and he can move into the slot CB role if needed. He actually reminds me a lot of another Alabama safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick. For a team that is in desperate need of more talent in the secondary, McKinney should be their guy. I think McKinney and Grant Delpit are on the same tier as far as talent goes, but I think McKinney’s versatility makes him a more intriguing prospect.

18. Miami Dolphins – Grant Delpit, S, LSU

With the second of their three first-round picks, the Dolphins are free to pick the best player available. Kind of. I think Javon Kinlaw is probably the best player available here as far as class value and talent goes, but the Dolphins used their first on a d-lineman last year, so I’d think that they’d go in a different direction this year. Grant Delpit is a rangy, tall safety that can cover as well as any safety in this class. He has elite instincts in the passing game, and his length and speed will translate well to the NFL.

19. Las Vegas Raiders – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

The Raiders are in need of another man-to-man corner. It’s no secret that Gruden and Mayock love defensive players from Clemson. Put those two ideas together, and you have Las Vegas selecting A.J. Terrell with their second first rounder. He tested extremely well at the combine, and even though it may look like he was exposed by Ja’Marr Chase in the national championship, the tape on Terrell is kinder than expected. He’s a fluid athlete, he’s got good technique for a man corner, and I think the Raiders could plug him in as a day-1 starter in 2020.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

It’ll be interesting to see if Kinlaw actually falls in the draft like this. He probably won’t. I honestly think that it’s more likely that Kinlaw is selected in the Top 13 of this draft. He’s all the way down to twenty just because it’s hard to justify taking a defensive tackle that high unless he’s a game-wrecker like Aaron Donald. Defensive tackle is a position that’s becoming more and more replaceable, and Kinlaw is suffering from this. Kinlaw was an extremely effective pass-rusher at South Carolina, and he has potential to be a cornerstone piece for the Jaguars’ defensive rebuild. He has incredible athleticism for his size (6’6″ 302), I think he’ll be a quality starter for years.

21. Philadelphia Eagles – Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

This is where the wide receivers start to fly off the board. As far as talent and NFL project-ability, I have most of these wide receivers pretty close to each other. It now comes down to fit. The Eagles need every type of receiver aside from a deep threat. And they also need a deep threat because Desean Jackson is like 50. Laviska Shenault has been on scouts’ radar since his sophomore year, as his ability to win contested catches has made for some impressive highlight tapes. He’s not just a jump-ball guy though. He has speed, and he’s as dangerous as anyone with the ball in his hands. He didn’t get much work from the slot at Colorado, but I think it’s easier for receivers to transition from outside the hashmarks to inside the hashmarks (Due to the lack of press). The Eagles have been building an offense around Carson Wentz for years, and Shenault should be one of the final pieces.

22. Minnesota Vikings – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

The Vikings have been waiting quite a while to get rid of Stefon Diggs and his twitter antics. They waited for the perfect year, where they could use a late first round pick to select a wide receiver that could go Top-10 in a weaker class. Tee Higgins has been the number one option for one of the nation’s best offenses for two years. Even with all this attention from the NCAA’s best defenses, he still produced at a high level. He has a fantastic blend of height, speed, route-running nuance, and ability to win at the point of the catch. He’s a wideout with very few weaknesses, and I think he’d fit perfectly with the Vikings; where he has an above-average QB, and another good wide receiver to take the attention off of him.

23. New England Patriots – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

Here’s the first true reach of the draft. Obviously the Patriots have very few weaknesses, Bill Belichick is one of the greatest team-builders of this generation. They have a need for playmaking wideouts, but they can address that more effectively in the middle rounds. They do however have a glaring need for an athletic inside linebacker. Queen is a modern linebacker, specializing in coverage as opposed to run defense. In his last year at LSU, he was moved all around their defense, taking snaps as a pass rusher, slot CB, and even safety. His versatility would be maximized in New England, making him a solid pick at 23.

24. New Orleans Saints – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

The Saints have the most complete roster in the NFL. They have an offensive powerhouse that only got stronger after adding Emmanuel Sanders, and their defense has an above-average pass rush and secondary. Trevon Diggs was my pick here because the Saints need depth at corner, and if you add elite talent to a position that’s already solid at, you do so. Janoris Jenkins is their CB2, and he’s obviously not a long-term answer. Trevon Diggs is a press specialist, and he can lock down deep routes as well as anyone. He’s also violent at the point of attack, in regards to contested catches. He’s long and crafty, but he’s not an incredibly smooth athlete. The Saints could utilize his unique skill set correctly and make him an impact player.

25. Minnesota Vikings – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah

After playing it safe and drafting Tee Higgins at 22, I’m inclined to think that the Vikings would take a bigger risk at pick 25. Jaylon Johnson reminds me of Marcus Peters: he’s extremely instinctual and physical, which ends up causing some extreme positives and negatives. He’s a smart player though, which is what allows him to play a sort of reckless style at cornerback. In his 1,256 cover snaps at Utah, he gave up three touchdowns.(PFF) He has a few weaknesses that’ll be ironed out in the pros, but he has the potential to be a game-changing player from outside the hashmarks.

26. Detroit Lions (From MIA) – A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

I don’t think that Epenesa will fall this far. But Detroit is an awesome fit for him and I like to fantasize. He’s extremely technically sound, and he understands the leverage game at an elite level. He doesn’t have the burst that you’d want from an edge rusher, but he can win with a big arsenal of pass rushing moves and pure strength. He’s big, strong, and he can defend at a high level against the pass and the run. He’s like Diet J.J. Watt, and that is easily good enough. He’d be perfect for Detroit, who runs a scheme that needs defensive ends that aren’t just pass-rushing specialists.

27. Seattle Seahawks – Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State

Will the Seahawks take another edge rusher at the end of the first round? Yes. The addition of L.J Collier did little to nothing for Seattle’s pass rush. If they let Clowney walk, I’m reluctant to believe that Collier and a 32 year-old Bruce Irvin will provide an effective pass rush for a team that’s trying to contend for a Super Bowl. Curtis Weaver’s athleticism is severely lacking, and he’s not as fit as you’d want an NFL edge rusher to be. He produced on an otherworldly level at Boise State though, racking up 38 sacks over his three years of college football. He gives me big Jarvis Jones vibes, hopefully he can get into shape in the NFL.

28. Baltimore Ravens – Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

This would somewhat be a steal for the Ravens. The Ravens just need someone to rush the passer. That’s all they need. He’ll do exactly what the Ravens need at a very high level, and not much else. His run defending isn’t great, but that doesn’t matter. The Ravens have Calais Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe for that. Okwara is strong and fast, and he consistently pressured the passer at a high rate. He never really converted his pressures into sacks at a high rate, but once again, that doesn’t really matter.

29. Tennessee Titans – Mehki Becton, T, Louisville

This is another strange pick. I wouldn’t bet on this pick happening. I personally wouldn’t be comfortable spending a first-round pick on Becton, but he’s such an athletic marvel that a team is bound to take a swing on him early. He was moderately productive at Louisville, and some of his highlights are like watching Orlando Pace manhandle guys at Ohio State. Sometimes though his technique is lacking, and he gives up leverage easily due to his titanic frame. Tennessee has a need at right tackle, and Becton was exclusively a LT for Louisville this year. However, he did play RT during his Sophomore year.

30. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

It’s time that the Packers get Aaron Rodgers more receiving help. I know it’s a controversial take, but I had to say it. Scooping random guys off the street to play wideout for them has worked in the past, but enough is enough. Jalen Reagor is an electric player, with game-breaking speed and an unmatched ability to change direction. He’d put some juice into the Green Bay offense, which is exactly what they need.

31. San Francisco 49ers – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

In a perfect world, the 49ers would get someone that can really stretch the field at #31. Denzel Mims ran a 4.38 second 40 at the combine. He can stretch the field. He has the perfect frame for the modern receiver (6’3″ 205), and his athletic profile is so elite that he can work pretty much anywhere on the field. He does have some pretty apparent weaknesses though. His hands are a problem (12.9 drop %), and he doesn’t have an expansive route tree. He’d be perfect for San Francisco though. He won’t be expected to run the route tree of a first option, or even a second option. He’ll be there to take the top off of a defense, and he’ll win contested deep balls. He could truly add another dimension to the 49ers’ offense.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

To cap off the first round, the defending Super Bowl champs will be addressing the only hole in their roster. Damien Wilson and Anthony Hitchens are simply not the answer for them at linebacker. Not only are they not productive or particularly talented, they are slow. Slow inside linebackers have pretty much been phased out of the NFL in the name of pass coverage. Kenneth Murray is explosive, and he had one purpose at Oklahoma: hunt players at his level of the field, from sideline to sideline. He does need to improve his intelligence as a football player, he’s a bit slow in reading offenses and route combos, but his speed kind of makes up for it. KC would be good for him, he could learn from one of the smartest defensive players in the league in Tyrann Matheiu.

The NFL Playoffs, Way-too-Early NBA Reactions, and CBB Talk // Roughing the Caster Ep. 5

Lead FTS Writers Dylan White and Adam Simkowitz return from their brief podcasting hiatus to discuss football and basketball.

In this edition of Roughing the Caster, FTS Writers Adam Simkowitz and Dylan White take a break from their respective college grinds to talk about some early-season NBA reactions, and predictions for the NFL playoffs. Topics discussed include the emergence of Luka Dončić, the NBA’s load management issue, the odd Pittsburgh Steelers, and more!

Roughing the Caster Episode 5

Antonio Brown, The Baltimore Ravens, and More Week 1 Reactions // Roughing the Caster Ep. 4

FTS Writers Adam Simkowitz and Dylan White return for a quick conversation about the NFL’s first week.

In this edition of Roughing the Caster, lead NFL Writers Dylan White and Adam Simkowitz give their reactions and analysis to Week 1 of the NFL season. Topics discussed include the horrible Dolphins and Steelers, and the elite Ravens and Patriots. And yeah, it’s a little late, but who really cares?

Roughing the Caster, Episode 4.

The Post-Preseason-Podcast + Week 1 Preview // Roughing the Caster Ep. 3

In this edition of FTS’s flagship podcast, lead NFL Writers Dylan White and Adam Simkowitz connect over Skype to discuss some of the preseason’s final headlines. This includes takes on Ezekiel Elliot and Jared Goff’s new contracts, Andrew Luck’s retirement, and the dumpster fire that is the Houston Texans’ front office. Download, comment, and leave a like! Thanks for listening!

Roughing the Caster, Episode 3.

2019 NFL Season Preview: AFC North Edition

As the juggernaut of the AFC, the North could send three teams to the playoffs this season.

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, my fellow FTS Writer Adam Simkowitz and I decided to dive deep into every teams’ offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and record predictions. We’ll release two AFC and NFC division previews per week, and we now we’ll kick off the second week with the northern divisions.

Here are the previous division previews:

AFC East Preview

NFC East Preview

NFC South Preview

AFC South Preview

Baltimore Ravens

2019 Draft Grade: A- – As a Steelers fan, it pains me to see Baltimore continuing to draft well. They drafted three playmaking athletic freaks; Miles Boykin’s (WR) athletic profile is almost identical to D.K. Metcalf’s, Justice Hill (RB) is as explosive as any RB in this class, and Marquise Brown (WR)s pretty much a more refined Desean Jackson. Their offensive is slowly morphing into a powerhouse, but it all depends on whether or not Lamar Jackson can consistently throw the ball accurately. If his ball placement improves, the Ravens will wreak havoc on NFL defenses for the next 5-8 years with these playmakers. Trace McSorely (QB) looked really good this preseason, and he’ll likely make the final roster as a third QB. Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE) wreaked havoc at Louisiana Tech, and I think the second rounder will get a chance to showcase his pass-rushing prowess this season.

Player to Watch: Earl Thomas III, Free Safety – This is kind of a weak pick. Earl Thomas is a household name, and everyone knows how dominant he can be. I’m just really interested in seeing the impact that he will have on the Ravens’ defense. Thomas III is a rare talent, and he’s one of the most valuable and impactful defensive players in the NFL at a position that isn’t traditionally viewed as valuable. He’s coming off of a broken leg, and he’ll be 30 years old this season. I think that he was by far the most important free agent signing this offseason, and I really believe he can change this Baltimore defense.

Positional Strengths: Cornerback, Safety

Positional Weaknesses: Wide Receiver

Projected Record: 9-7

Cincinatti Bengals

2019 Draft Grade: B- – Jonah Williams (OT) at #11 is my favorite pick of the draft, and it’s not close. It’s a damn shame that he’s already landed on the IR. The Bengals haven’t had the best injury luck with their recent first round picks. The second round pick of Drew Sample (TE) fills the hole left by Tyler Kroft and the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, and Germaine Pratt (LB) will add depth at inside linebacker, their weakest position. Rodney Anderson (RB) had potential to get some touches backing up Joe Mixon this year, but he went down with a torn ACL this preseason.

Player to Watch: Carl Lawson, Edge Rusher – This is a true sleeper pick. I pretty much had to choose an obscure player though, because the Bengals suck. Last year, Lawson played in seven games. He registered 25 pressures in these games while playing only 225 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. He’s an efficient pass rusher, and that was just his second season. I’m really looking for another jump to be made by Lawson this year.

Positional Strengths: Running Back, Edge Rusher

Positional Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

Projected Record: 5-11

Cleveland Browns

2019 Draft Grade: B+ – Browns’ General Manager John Dorsey has proven again and again that he has a ridiculous eye for talent. Greedy Williams (CB) was one of my favorite picks of the draft, falling all the way to the mid-second round due to tackling concerns? Denzel Ward and Greedy will make for one of the scariest secondaries in the NFL come ~2022. I don’t love the selections of Sione Takitaki and Sheldrick Redwine, who are also two of my nominees for the best worst names of the draft. Redwine fills the Browns’ only true need at safety though, and I like his athletic profile. Mack Wilson is a young, raw inside linebacker who showed glimpses of coverage skills and natural instinct in the preseason. I absolutely believe that the Browns could turn him into an impact starter, and I bet we’ll see him this regular season.

Player to Watch: Myles Garrett, Edge Rusher – There’s currently a clear tier of transcendent defensive talents in the NFL. It consists of Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and Bobby Wagner. By the end of this season, Myles Garrett will be included in this tier. This year will be his third season in the NFL, and this offseason has seemed to be the trademarked “I’m going to morph into an absolute physical monstrosity this year” offseason, as made popular by athletes like Victor Oladipo and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Myles Garrett has a shot at having a Defensive Player of the Year season, and I’m really excited to watch him wreck offensive tackles this year.

Positional Strengths: Wide Receiver, Quarterback, Running Back, Defensive Tackle, Defensive End

Positional Weaknesses: Offensive Line, Linebacker

Projected Record: 10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers

2019 Draft Grade: A – For the seventh year in a row, the Steelers have drafted a defensive player in the first round. And in the words of fellow FTS writer Adam Simkowitz, “Their defense is still not good.” HOWEVER, I really like their draft class this year. This totally isn’t the Steeler fan in me talking, but I believe in a Devin Bush (MLB) DROY run this year. They’ve had a need for a good corner for about 25 years, so I’m guessing that third-round pick Justin Layne (CB) is the answer. Diontae Johnson (WR) is a wideout that severely underperformed in the combine, but his on-field speed is unreal. He’s undersized, he creates separation at an elite level, and he’s one of the best route-runners in this class. Overall, it was a solid draft for the Steelers. Much better than last year.

Player to Watch: Devin Bush, Linebacker – My expectations for Devin Bush are way too high this year. But they’re totally justified. The rookie from Michigan is one of the most electric linebackers I’ve ever watched in college football, and his combine numbers backed that on-field speed up. He led all Steelers in tackles in the preseason, he was literally everywhere on the field at all times. He’s an inside linebacker that can move from sideline to sideline as quickly as anyone, and he still has insane pass-rushing efficiency, which is a skill that is needed in Keith Butler’s defense. I’m expecting a defensive rookie of the year award for Bush, and I will accept nothing less.

Positional Strengths: Quarterback, Defensive End, Running Back

Positional Weaknesses: Cornerback (Just for now, don’t sleep on Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton)

Projected Record: 11-5


The Good, the Bad, and the Bengals – The AFC North will most likely be the best division in the AFC this year, and they’re really only being challenged by the AFC West. The Steelers, Browns, and Ravens are all teams that are worth paying close attention to, they’re all capable of making deep runs in the playoffs this year. The Bengals on the other hand, are extremely bad. Just check out their linebacking corps. They literally have four linebackers on their roster. Their offensive line is a mess; they have a fourth-round rookie starting at guard, the corpse of Cordy Glenn at tackle, and their 2018 first-round pick Billy Price has been benched in favor of Trey Hopkins, a former undrafted player.

The Baltimore Ravens’ Offense – This season, the Baltimore Ravens are going to run the ball with a passion and ferocity that the NFL hasn’t seen since the 1970’s. Their new offensive coordinator is Greg Roman, who was the mastermind behind Colin Kaepernick’s record-breaking rushing performances in the early 2010’s. Lamar Jackson is one of the most exciting quarterbacks I’ve ever watched, and his running abilities are going to be absolutely unleashed this season. While the entire NFL is turning toward a pass-first, play-action heavy offensive approach, the Ravens are attempting to do the contrary.

2019 NFL Season Preview: AFC South Edition

The shocking news from Indianapolis has made the AFC South the Houston Texans’ to lose.

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, my fellow FTS Writer Adam Simkowitz and I decided to dive deep into every teams’ offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and record predictions. We’ll release two AFC and NFC division previews per week, and we now we’ll finish off the first week with the southern divisions.

Here are the previous division previews:

AFC East Preview

NFC East Preview

NFC South Preview

Houston Texans

2019 Draft Grade: D+ I didn’t really love what the Texans did this year. Tytus Howard felt like a total reach to me, probably as a result of the Eagles leapfrogging them to draft Andre Dillard, the superior tackle prospect. Lonnie Johnson Jr. is a somewhat understandable pick at 54, filling the absence of Kevin Johnson and the eventual departure of Jonathan Joseph. I appreciate the Texans’ effort to bolster their offensive line, but they may have gone about it in the wrong way. We’ll definitely see Tytus Howard and Max Scharping get regular-season reps this year, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up about these first-year tackles.

Player to Watch: Deshaun Watson, Quarterback – I’m going to be honest for a second. When times get tough, and my spirits are down, I try to go to my happy place. My happy place is a wonderful, make-believe land where bad things don’t happen, the clouds are made out of cotton candy, and everyone is happy. In my happy place, Deshaun Watson plays behind 5 Hall-of-Fame offensive linemen. Here are a few stats regarding Deshaun Watson’s 2018 season. In 2018, Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times in 16 games, which averages out to be about 3.8 times per game. Despite this, he managed to account for over 4500 yards and 30 touchdowns. If Deshaun Watson has a somewhat functional offensive line, his production has no ceiling. With the addition of two Top-100 draft picks to his offensive line, I’m hoping that this year will be a little easier for Watson. The world deserves to see Deshaun Watson at his highest potential.

Positional Strengths: Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Edge Rusher

Positional Weaknesses: Running Back, Cornerback, Offensive Line

Projected Record: 10-6

Indianapolis Colts

2019 Draft Grade: B – Chris Ballard seems to have figured out the draft (For now). The Colts recognized their team needs (WR, Secondary,LB), found out where the value was for these positions (picks 30-90), and put their resources into dominating that section of the draft. Rock ya-Sin is a physical, instinctual corner with a good amount of room to grow. Ben Banogu and Bobby Okereke are both ridiculous athletic specimens in their own ridiculous ways. Parris Campbell is a modern Swiss Army Knife at WR. This class could easily become as successful as their class from last year. However, their appearances will be limited this year, as the Colts are in championship contention. As of now, Okereke and Ya-Sin are the only rookies slotted to get a good amount of playing time this season, but I bet we’ll see some of Campbell and Banogu this year.

Player to Watch: Jacoby Brissett, Quarterback – This doesn’t need much explanation. Just kidding.

Positional Strengths: Linebacker, Edge Rusher

Positional Weaknesses: Cornerback, Right Side of Offensive Line

Projected Record: 8-8

Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 Draft Grade: A- – I think the Jaguars may have the league’s most immediate impact from their draft class (Outside of the Arizona Cardinals). Josh Allen (EDGE) and Jawaan Taylor (OT) are both future starters, and Allen is a very strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He showcased his defensive versatility in the preseason, wrecking offensive tackles from the edge and being a complete playmaker in the open field. Taylor is slotted to start at right tackle, and he played very well in the preseason, which is rare for a rookie offensive lineman. Josh Oliver (TE) out of San Jose State will see some playing time, both as a blocker and as a possible mismatch in the passing game.

Player(s) to Watch: Taven Bryan, Defensive Tackle; D.J. Chark, Wide Receiver – I chose both of these players for the same reason. You could probably guess why; they’re both second-year players in which the Jaguars invested a good amount of draft capital, and neither of them have shown their worth yet. It’s not necessarily a make-it or break-it year for these sophomores, but another disappointing year from these two could spell trouble for the rest of their respective careers. From what I’ve seen this offseason, it’s more likely that D.J. Chark will be able to progress in a substantial way this season.

Positional Strengths: Defensive Line, Cornerback, Interior Offensive Line, Linebacker

Positional Weaknesses: Running Back, Tight End,Wide Receiver

Projected Record: 6-10

Tennessee Titans

2019 Draft Grade: A -This draft for Tennessee has been par for the course on their upwards trend as a franchise. They selected Jeffery Simmons (DE) in the first, who’ll likely succeed Brett Urban as a starting defensive end by the end of the season.A.J. Brown (WR) was one of my favorite receivers from the draft. He runs like a running back after the catch, and he’s able to create separation at a borderline elite level. Given their weak receiving corp, I’d imagine that he’ll get a healthy amount of playing time this season. Amani Hooker (S) and D’Andre Walker (LB) were both picks of a high value, but it’ll be a while before they see first-team reps, barring injuries to their current starters.

Player(s) to Watch: Derrick Henry, Running Back – Okay, this was a selfish and possibly a mean pick. At most sports-books, the line for the over/under for Henry’s rushing yards this season is around 1220 yards right now. Last year, Derrick Henry rushed for 1059 yards. This included a 99 yard rush against Jacksonville. If you remove that one anomaly of a play from his 2018 stats, he ran for 960 yards; while missing zero games. There is nothing, and I mean nothing that indicates that he will increase that total by about 250 yards this year. Their offensive line remains the same, except they’re losing Taylor Lewan for four games. Their quarterback is the same, and he’ll likely play more than he did last season, taking away even more from Henry’s production.

The recency bias on Derrick Henry’s rushing abilities is strong. It reminds me of when Jay Ajayi broke out, rushing for over 200 yards three times in 2016; then regressed in an extreme way in 2017, rushing for 20 less yards per game. I love watching Derrick Henry play, when else are we going to see a running back that is almost always the strongest player on the field? I just think that the NFL Media has hyped him up far too much, and he’s due for regression this year.

Harold Landry II, Edge Rusher – I decided to include Harold Landry in my players to watch only because I felt guilty after writing my thoughts about Derrick Henry. I’ve loved Landry since his sophomore year at Boston College, where he racked up 16 TFL and completely wrecked Florida State in primetime. He rushes the passer with a blend of power and finesse, showcasing a beautiful array of pass-rushing moves, and he has a great motor. He was a steal in the second round of the 2018 draft, and he played very efficiently in his limited reps as a rookie. Now he’s a starting edge rusher for Tennessee, and I’m really excited to see if he makes a leap in his second NFL season.

Positional Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary

Positional Weaknesses: Wide Receiver

Projected Record: 8-8

Storylines to Watch

Marcus Mariota’s Fifth Season – This year, the former #2 overall pick is entering the fifth and final season of his rookie contract. Up to this point, his career has been painfully average in just about every way. He is 27-28 as a starter, his QBR has hovered around 55 in every season of his career, and he graded as the 18th best quarterback in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s actually impressive that Mariota never seemed to slip into the lower tiers of NFL QBs, he’s had to deal with three different head coaches in his four years in the NFL. He’s never had an above-average supporting cast of skill-position players, and his offensive line has at times been objectively horrible. This is the most important year of Mariota’s young career, his level of play this year will likely decide his future with the Titans’ organization.

The Houston Texans’ General Manager (Or Lack Thereof) – After firing Brian Gaine, their incumbent general manager, this past June, the Texans were without a general manager heading into the 2019 season. Another interesting aspect to this situation is the fact that they fired their GM after the 2019 draft and the entirety of free agency. One would assume that a general manager is necessary for an NFL franchise, but Houston has decided to roll into the regular season using a GM-by-committee approach. So far, this has led to the Texans trading a fourth-round pick for a one-down running back. It’s rare for a team with the opportunity to contend for the AFC Championship to have such a lack of stability and leadership at the top of their front office.

2019 is Jacoby Brissett’s Year

Jacoby Brissett has the opportunity of a lifetime. Will he capitalize on it?

Perhaps the most shocking news of the NFL’s past decade surfaced yesterday when former #1 overall pick and 2018 Comeback Player of the Year Andrew Luck retired at the age of 29. It left the entire NFL in shock, including media, fans, and the players themselves.

It is absolutely horrible to see injuries causing such a talented player to leave the game in his prime. However, Andrew Luck is an extremely smart, kind, and likable person, so I expect that he’ll find happiness in his post-NFL life. Now we need to switch gears.

Jacoby Brissett, the former Patriot and North Carolina State- Wolfpack? Wolf??, is the starting quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. To quote Darren Rovell, “I feel bad for our country. But this is tremendous content.” I think this monstrosity of a quote (formerly referring to the election of Donald Trump) relates to Brissett’s upcoming season for a number of reasons. Primarily, Brissett will face an unprecedented amount of adversity for someone who has always just been a backup quarterback. Every single throw and decision he makes this year will be put under a microscope. He’ll be looked at through the lens of ‘What Would Andrew Luck have done?’. To add to this attention, it has been an unreasonably active offseason for Brissett, as his weird quasi-philosophical tweets and preseason hype articles have already put him into the national spotlight.

Just six days ago, Bob Kravitz of The Athletic wrote an extensive piece on the relationship between Colts’ Head Coach Frank Reich and Jacoby Brissett. Given the events of the past 24 hours, the timing of that article is strange and unbelievably good. I’m not into conspiracies, but isn’t it a little weird that less than a week before an NFL team’s indisputable franchise quarterback retired, a piece is written about his backup’s ability to be a starting quarterback? There are plenty of quotes from this article that reinforce the Colts organization’s confidence in Brissett.

“The Colts have said it innumerable times: They believe Brissett is a top-20 quarterback. In other words, a quarterback capable of starting and winning.” (Bob Kravitz, The Athletic)

““Any time anybody asks me (what qualities a starting quarterback needs), I always say the same thing: mental and physical toughness,”[Frank] Reich said. “And Jacoby is a 10 out of 10 there.””(The Athletic)

I feel like including some of Jacoby Brissett’s more notable stats would serve this piece well. In his 17 career games as a starting quarterback, his record is 5-12. Quarterback wins are a bad stat to measure quarterback efficiency, but in those starts, his defense gave up an average of 22 points per game, which would’ve been good for the NFL’s 14th ranked scoring defense last season. In his defense, though, (defense, nice one) he was sacked 52 times over 15 1/2 games in his 2017 season. He led the league in times sacked that year, although he ranked 6th in Time to Throw, according to NFL’s next-gen stats. Over his career, he has posted a subpar 59% completion percentage per Pro Football Reference.

There is one last fold to Brissett’s situation that raises the stakes even higher: He will be a free agent after this season. So, in review. Brissett is now for the first time ever, the bonafide starter for an NFL franchise. I almost forgot to mention, this franchise had Super Bowl hopes heading into this season, and everyone (especially their fans) was aware of this. So in this first year of being a 16-game starter, he’s playing for his second contract, the Super Bowl, and he’s playing to get out of Andrew Luck’s shadow. I have some confidence in Brissett, he has as good of a coach/GM combo as anyone in the league (except for Tom Brady), he has quality skill-position players in T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack, Eric Ebron, and Parris Campbell, and he has plenty of talent himself. The spotlight will be on Jacoby Brissett this year, and I cannot wait to see what he does with it.

2019 NFL Season Preview: AFC East Edition

Is this the year that the New England Patriots finally give up the division title? No, obviously.

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, my fellow FTS Writer Adam Simkowitz and I decided to dive deep into every teams’ offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and record predictions. We’ll release two AFC and NFC division previews per week, and we decided to kick it off with the eastern divisions.

Buffalo Bills

2019 Draft Grade: A- – In this past draft, the Bills were lucky enough to have Ed Oliver (DT/DE) fall to them at #9. I really like Cody Ford (OT), their second-round pick, who successfully protected Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray’s respective blindsides for the past two years. I could also see Dawson Knox (TE) becoming a productive starter in the league. Between Devin Singletary (RB), Vosean Joseph (LB), and Jaquan Johnson (S), there will be at least two future starters from that group. However, that may not be the case for this season. This was a fantastic draft from the rebuilding Bills. As of right now, Ed Oliver and Cody Ford are the two from this class that are slotted to start immediately.

Player to Watch: Josh Allen, Quarterback – Okay, look. I’m not saying Josh Allen is a good quarterback. I’ll be the first to criticize him when he overthrows Cole Beasley by 10 feet on an underneath route. However, he might be the most entertaining quarterback to watch; aside from Lamar Jackson. Allen is a surprisingly fast, high-flying QB with an insanely powerful arm. Watching him play quarterback is like watching Michael Vick in Brock Osweiler’s body. I think it’ll be an interesting year for Allen; we’ll see how his style of play changes once defenses figure out his game.

Positional Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary

Positional Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running Back

Projected Record: 6-10

Miami Dolphins

2019 Draft Grade: C+ – The Dolphins didn’t have a ton of picks this year. With their two Top-100 picks, they elected to stay in the trenches with Christian Wilkins (DT) and Michael Deiter(LG). I appreciate the Dolphins draft strategy though; linemen are the first position that you want to draft when beginning a rebuild. Wilkins and Deiter will be week one starters, but outside of that, the only production that’ll be seen from this draft class is from Andrew Van Ginkel (LB), who’ll showcase his athleticism on special teams.

Player to Watch: Charles Harris, Edge Rusher – I’m going to keep it simple here. This is a make-it or break-it season for Charles Harris. That will come as a surprise to approximately zero Dolphins fans, as they’ve had to watch their former first-round edge rusher rack up THREE total sacks in his first two seasons as a pro. However, Harris has looked relatively dominant thus far in preseason action. This is the season to prove that he belongs in the NFL. His offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase is in New York now, and he was replaced by Brian Flores, who coached linebackers in New England. Now that he has a favorable coaching staff and plenty of opportunity for this rebuilding defense, he either needs to put up or shut up this season.

Positional Strengths: Cornerback

Positional Weaknesses: Pretty much every position except for cornerback.

Projected Record: 2-14

New York Jets

2019 Draft Grade: B+ – I have mixed feelings about the Jets’ 2019 draft class. I absolutely love Quinnen Williams (DT). I think he’ll be great right off the bat; he’s one of my favorite bets for defensive rookie of the year. Outside of Williams though, I kind of hate the rest of the New York draft class. Third round picks Jachai Polite (EDGE) has had a subpar preseason so far, and Chuma Edoga (OT) understandably won’t be an immediate starter for them. I think Quinnen Williams’ success will likely overshadow the rest of the class’s shortcomings.

Player to Watch: Jamal Adams, Safety – Jamal Adams is one of the two defensive players that I expect to leap into Superstar-Dom this season. This offseason has been an onslaught of praise and good reports for Adams, from offering to switch positions to staying hours after a preseason game just to sign autographs and take pictures. He was Pro Football Focus’s 2nd highest-graded safety last year, and this year I expect him to solidify himself as one of the league’s premier safeties.

Positional Strengths: Skill Positions

Positional Weaknesses: Offensive Line

Projected Record: 8-8

New England Patriots

2019 Draft Grade: A – Although I didn’t love the selection of N’Keal Harry (WR) with the 32nd pick in this past year’s draft, I still love the Patriots draft class. Their draft class was mostly about building depth on their lines, both defensive and offensive. They had a stronghold on picks in this draft too, so it’s likely that rookies will see more action than they did last year. Last year, the Patriots ranked in the bottom two of the NFL in terms of rookie playing time. This is due both to a season-ending injury to their first-round pick, Isaiah Wynn, and Bill Belichick’s general coaching philosophy of playing mid-level veterans over rookies. According to their current unofficial depth chart, none of the current rookies surpass the third string. I would bet that Harry, JoeJuan Williams (CB/S), Chase Winovich (EDGE), and Byron Cowart (DT) will all see playing time this season. I included Winovich and Cowart because of rave reviews from training camp, and dominant performances in the preseason.

Players to Watch: The Entire Offensive Line – Okay, this probably needs an explanation. Later in this preview, I’ll talk a little bit more in-depth about Tom Brady’s situation this year. And to be honest, there aren’t that many more big personalities or entertaining players on the Patriots. Wow, I wonder why they’ve won 5 championships since 2001… So I picked their offensive line. They have the unarguably best offensive line coach in the NFL, Dante Scarnecchia, and with the addition of Isaiah Wynn, this might be the most talented group New England has had since the late 2000s. They have a group of monsters up there, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Patriots continue the ground-and-pound approach that they switched to mid-season last year. I think it could be a big year for their running game, and they’ll do a great job of protecting their 42-year-old quarterback.

Positional Strengths: Offensive Line, Quarterback, Linebacker, Secondary

Positional Weaknesses: Tight End

Projected Record: 12-4

Storylines to Watch:

Tom Brady vs. Father Time (And the Patriots?): This will be one of the leading storylines of the AFC East’s season no matter what. Personally, I hate to bet against time, because time is undefeated. But here’s an interesting fact: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time, and he won a Super Bowl at age 41. So I’m betting on Tom Brady. I think he’ll be as efficient as ever, even if that means not throwing the ball down the field as often. However, it’ll be very interesting to see what happens if Brady slows down this season. A few weeks ago, the Patriots restructured Brady’s contract, giving him a ton of money this year, but giving the Patriots the ability to cut him with minimal financial repercussions after this season. Essentially, if Brady doesn’t play to a certain level this season, there’s a chance he gets cut, then retires. I don’t think it’s likely, but anything can happen.

Second Year Quarterbacks: Here is a very likely scenario:It’s Week 5, and three 2018 top-ten picks are starting quarterbacks for 75% of the AFC East. Sam Darnold and Josh Allen are clearly starters for the Jets and Bills, respectively, but Josh Rosen has to win the Dolphins’ starting job from the ageless and seemingly magical Ryan Fitzpatrick. I cannot confirm this, but that will probably be the first time that three Top-Ten QBs’ from the same draft class are starting in the same division. Twitter will be all over this, and it’ll turn into a year-long comparison of these three guys. That is all I have to say about that. Oh, and my rankings of those QBs are: 1. Sam Darnold …………………………………………………2a. Josh Rosen, 2b. Josh Allen.

ALL-Division Team

QB – Tom Brady, NE

RB: Le’Veon Bell, NYJ RB: James White, NE

FB: James Devlin, NE

WR: Julian Edelman, NE WR: Robby Anderson, NYJ

TE: Chris Herndon, NYJ

OT: Laremy Tunsil, MIA OT: Marcus Cannon, NE

OG: Shaq Mason, NE OG: Joe Thuney, NE

C: David Andrews, NE

EDGE: Jerry Hughes, BUF EDGE: Leonard Williams, NYJ

DL: Ed Oliver, BUF DL: Quinnen Williams, NYJ

LB: C.J. Mosley, NYJ LB: Dont’a Hightower, NE

LB: Tremaine Edmunds, BUF LB: Kyle Van Noy, NE

CB: Stephon Gilmore, NE CB: Xaiven Howard, MIA

S: Jamal Adams, NYJ S: Devin McCourty, NE

DB: Micah Hyde, BUF DB: Tre’Davious White, BUF

K: Stephen Gostkowski, NE P: Matt Haack, MIA

Roughing the Caster Ep. 3: Fantasy Football Preview

FTS Writers Dylan White and Adam Simkowitz return to the RTC Podcast to give their favorite fantasy football takes for this upcoming season.

In this episode, FTS Lead Writers Dylan White and Adam Simkowitz return from their summer break to talk about this season of fantasy football. They discuss sleepers like Josh Gordon (pictured), and some possible fantasy letdowns, like Colts TE Eric Ebron. Guest appearances include Max White, Mr. E, and more!

Roughing the Caster: Episode 3.

Roughing the Caster Ep. 2: NBA Offseason Edition

An episode featuring FTS Sports’ three Founders: Hank Grzeszczak, Dylan White, and Adam Simkowitz.

In this episode of FTS’s official podcast, we talk about everything the NBA has to offer. In this jam-packed, hour-long podcast, we give some draft reactions, scorching hot trade takes, and free agency predictions. Give it a listen!

Roughing the Caster Episode 2.

NBA Offseason Preview: The End of an Era… and the Beginning of a New One?

As the Toronto Raptors closed out the 2019 NBA Finals, it was widely agreed upon that this has been the most entertaining Finals experience of the 21st Century. I’ve never seen an NBA Finals in which the unrelated subplots were as important (if not more important) than the actual basketball being played in late May and June.

While the Raptors clinched their first ever NBA Championship over the Golden State Warriors, the NBA Rumor Mill couldn’t have been more active. After a playoff run for the ages, speculation of Raptors star and upcoming free agent Kawhi Leonard’s future was at an all-time high, in both importance and ambiguity. The same could be said for Warriors stars and upcoming free agents Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson; until they both suffered catastrophic injuries. In news that was unrelated to the Finals, Kyrie Irving declined his player option for the 2019-2020 season with the Boston Celtics, fired his agent, then signed with a different agency. He signed with Roc Nation, whose President (Michael Yormark) is the twin brother of the Brooklyn Nets CEO (Brett Yormark).

Now, as the age of player empowerment hits its stride, what happens next?

Let’s start with a timeline.

June 20, 2019

  • NBA draft.

June 24, 2019

  • Last day for potential restricted free agents to exercise player options.
  • NBA awards are announced.

June 29, 2019

  • Last day for decisions on player, team and early termination options, unless individual contracts specify otherwise.

June 30, 2019

  • Last official day of the 2018/19 NBA league year.
  • Last day for teams to make qualifying offers to players eligible for restricted free agency.
  • Last day for players eligible for veteran extensions in 2018/19 to sign them.

July 1, 2019

  • Official start of the 2019/20 NBA league year.
  • July moratorium begins. The moratorium allows teams and players only to agree upon deals in principle, no pen-to-paper deals are allowed.
  • Free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams.
  • Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet.
  • Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts.

July 6, 2019

  • July moratorium ends (11:00am CT)
  • Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades.
  • The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

Who makes this offseason so important?

Here are some important names of this year’s offseason. These are the players that will in one way or another, change the landscape of the NBA’s next 5-7 years in this offseason. Included are their current team, their age at the beginning of next season, their stat line from this past season (PPG/RPG/APG/SPG/BPG, FG%/3FG%/FT%), their contract status, and my prediction for where they’ll land this offseason.

  • *Kevin Durant, GSW: 31, 26 PPG/6 RPG/6 APG/1 SPG/0.7 BPG, 52 FG%/35 3FG%/88.5 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: New York Knicks
  • Kyrie Irving, BOS: 27, 24 PPG/5 RPG/7 APG/1.5 SPG/0.5 BPG, 49 FG%/40 3FG%/87 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Brooklyn Nets
  • **Klay Thompson, GSW, 29: 21.5 PPG/4 RPG/2 APG/1 SPG/0.6 BPG, 47 FG%/40 3FG%/82 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent (Eligible for Super Max). Prediction: Golden State Warriors
  • Kawhi Leonard, TOR: 28, 26.6 PPG/7 RPG/3 APG/1.8 SPG/0.4 BPG, 50 FG%/37 3FG%/85 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers or Toronto Raptors
  • Kemba Walker, CHA: 29, 25.6 PPG/4 RPG/6 APG/1.2 SPG/0.4 BPG, 43 FG%/36 3FG%/84 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent (Eligible for Super Max). Prediction: Charlotte Hornets
  • Jimmy Butler, PHI: 30, 19 PPG/5 RPG/4 APG/1.9 SPG/0.6 BPG, 46 FG%/35 3FG%/85.5 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers or Los Angeles Lakers
  • D’Angelo Russell, BKN: 23, 21 PPG/4 RPG/7 APG/1.2 SPG/0.2 BPG, 43 FG%/37 3FG%/78 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Utah Jazz or Indiana Pacers
  • Nikola Vucevic, ORL: 29, 20.8 PPG/12 RPG/4 APG/1 SPG/ 1 BPG, 52 FG%/36 3FG%/ 79 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Orlando Magic
  • Kristaps Porzingis, DAL: 24, 2017-18 Stats: 22.7 PPG/ 6.6 RPG/1 APG/ 0.8 SPG/ 2.4 BPG, 44 FG%/ 39.5 3FG%/ 79 FT%, Restricted Free Agent. Prediction: Dallas Mavericks

*Durant suffered a ruptured achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, sidelining him for the entire 2019-20 season, therefore diminishing his value as a free agent. **Thompson suffered a torn ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, likely keeping him out of the upcoming regular season.

The most important part of this list lies within the two Warriors mentioned. The injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant will keep both of them out for at least the 2019/2020 regular season. So even if Golden State somehow re-signs both of them, the Warriors won’t be nearly as strong as they’ve been. The Warriors have been a perennial powerhouse of the NBA. The collapse of a superpower seems like it should be accompanied by the passing of the proverbial powerhouse torch, but things haven’t ever worked that quickly in the NBA. After Russell’s Celtics fell, it took about a decade for Larry Bird and Magic to take over the league (Although Kareem just about completely dominated the 70’s). The transition from the 80s’ Celtics/Lakers era to the 90’s Jordan Bulls era was relatively smooth, but it was separated by a buffer called the Bad Boy Pistons. After Michael took six rings, it took a few years for the Kobe/Shaq Lakers to take hold of the league. What I’m trying to say is, don’t expect a new era of the NBA to be ushered in as quickly as the Warriors have fallen.

The Short-Term Future (1-2 Years)

If we’re looking at the next couple years of the league, we have to pay complete attention to Kawhi and Anthony Davis. If the Clippers sign Leonard, they automatically become a contender in the West. If Kawhi stays in Toronto, the West is left wide open. There will be a black hole where content used to spawn in the West naturally, and it could be filled by just about any teams or players. Here are some of the teams from the West that I think could make their case as perennial contenders next year:

  • Dallas Mavericks – It’s hard to think of a team that has a better long-term core than the Mavs. Luka Doncic just had one of the most impressive rookie seasons of the past 20 years, and he’ll only be 20 by the beginning of next year. Kristaps Porzingis has been almost forgotten about since he tore his ACL. He was a borderline All-NBA level player for the Knicks at 22 years old, but, understandably, he lost hype after his knee injury. It’s difficult for a 7’3″ man to rehab a knee injury and return to 100%. Dallas has a ton of cap space, they have over $50 Million free this offseason, but they’ll likely sign Porzingis to a deal worth over $30 Million annually. They still have enough salary cap room to sign a third all-star level player. There are rumors that they’ll offer Kemba Walker. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pursued someone like Khris Middleton, although Dallas hasn’t had a ton of recent success in the free agent market.
  • Los Angeles Lakers – This is an obvious one. Even though it’s premature to crown the Lakers as the favorites to win it all next year, they’ll dominate the NBA news cycle no matter how successful they are as a team. I think they could go one of two ways in free agency this year. They have somewhere from $23-27 million in cap space and five players on their active roster (Lebron, AD, Kuzma, Isaac Bonga, Mo Wagner). The first option is to target a ball-handling star and try to convince him to take a pay cut (i.e., Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, Jimmy Butler) then use the veteran minimum to fill out a lackluster bench. The second option is to try and sign a few solid role players to round out a balanced 7-8 man rotation. They could target guys who could take $6-9 million annually, like Patrick Beverly, Danny Green, Paul Milsap, Marcus Morris, or Seth Curry. I like the latter option, but I think it’s more likely that Rob Pelinka will go with the superstar route.
  • Los Angeles Clippers – Sticking with another Los Angeles team, I think this is pretty straight forward. If the Clippers sign Kawhi, they’re the favorites to win the 2020 NBA title. It’s as simple as that. It’ll be a battle in Staples Center for control of the West, and I think that could be the most entertaining storyline of this offseason.
  • Utah Jazz – This is less of a breakout candidate because they’ve already broken out as a contender. However, they’re rumored to be targeting D’Angelo Russell in free agency. I love his fit with Utah, although they already have a slightly inefficient, volume-shooting, ball-dominant guard in Donovan Mitchell. Replacing Rubio with Russell adds an entirely new dimension to their already-solid offense, and their defense will barely take a hit.

There’s a lack of Eastern Conference teams for several reasons. Mainly, everything is pretty much set out there. If Kawhi re-signs in Toronto, they’re defending their title with a good chance to repeat. If they don’t re-sign him, they go into a rebuild. The Bucks are mostly figured out for the next few years, as are the Sixers (Barring a surprise Ben Simmons trade.)

The Long-Term Future (5-7 Years)

  • Boston Celtics – It seems like Danny Ainge’s asset-stacking strategies never really resulted in any notable success, which is bad. I like the Celtics’ long-term roster, though, which is good. Jayson Tatum had a pretty bad sophomore slump this past year, but I think he just completely over-performed in his rookie year. The Celtics are going to be relevant no matter what, but I don’t see a championship window opening for them over the next four or five years. They’re eventually going to have to pay Jaylen Brown and Tatum, and I don’t see either of them ever being the best player on a championship team, and I only see Tatum has potentially being a great number two. It’s going to be tough to build around those two.
  • New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans currently have a dream team. More specifically, a dream team if you’re playing Franchise Mode in NBA 2K. They have the greatest abundance of young talent that the league has seen in the past 25 years, and it’ll be exciting to see what happens with it. I love the backcourt duo of Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball. They’re two young, extremely intelligent, unselfish, and very defensively savvy guards, and their team-first brand of basketball will be perfect for a budding superstar like Zion Williamson. They also have what seems like every single one of the Lakers’ first-round draft picks for the next four-five years, so if Zion, Lonzo, Jrue, and Brandon Ingram blossom into a cohesive, efficient core, it won’t be hard to surround them with more talent. I don’t love Brandon Ingram’s fit in New Orleans, a pure scorer may be all he amounts to in the NBA, and I don’t know how he’ll develop as a defender due to his thin frame. It’ll be interesting to see what the Pelicans do with their fourth pick. There are reports that they’re negotiating with Washington in a deal for Bradley Beal. Sending the fourth pick, Brandon Ingram, and a future first-rounder for Beal would make sense for both teams. It would free up cap room for Washington, give them two future assets to boost their rebuild, and a potential star in Ingram. For New Orleans, it would introduce a win-now culture while developing their young players, plus it wouldn’t damage their rebuild due to all of the picks they acquired from Los Angeles. I think the Pelicans will be a League Pass must-watch for the next decade.
  • Milwaukee Bucks – I had to include them on this list. Whichever team has Giannis for the next ten years will be a force to be reckoned with. I hope that they can continue building a roster with championship potential around Giannis before his contract expires. They’ve already done a better job of this than how Cleveland and New Orleans treated Lebron and AD on their rookie contracts, respectively.
  • Philadelphia 76ers – I don’t have a great feeling about the 76ers’ future, but what do I know? I think Joel Embiid is a little too fragile, and he already moves like he’s 40. I got some real Greg Oden vibes in the playoffs this year, but he was technically nursing a back injury (and gastrointestinal issues.) Okay, now I have to go out and say it: I don’t think Ben Simmons is a Top 25 player in the NBA, and I will continue to believe this until he either develops a jumper or decides to show up in the playoffs consistently. If I were a GM trying to win a championship, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having him as my second option. I hope he improves, though. I hope he proves me wrong, and I would like to see the Sixers win a title over the next 5-7 years. If things go right for them, they could win a couple.

NBA Award Predictions

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

Coach of the Year: Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets

Most Improved: Pascal Siakam, PF/SF, Toronto Raptors

Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic, SF, Dallas Mavericks

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

How to Keep Track of Everything:

Keeping up with all of the happenings in the NBA’s offseason is tough. There’s smokescreens, welched deals, false reports, internet trolls, etc. If you need a way to stay connected to all of the news, I suggest following these twitter accounts. Rob Perez of the Action Network, @WorldWideWob, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, @WojESPN, Shams Charania of The Athletic, @ShamsCharania, and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, @KevinOConnor . NBA Twitter is the best part of twitter, don’t forget that.

Roughing the Caster Episode #1: NFL Draft Recap and Reactions

It’s a little late, but here’s the inaugural episode of FTS Sports’ main podcast. In this episode, FTS writers Adam Simkowitz and Dylan White give their immediate reactions to the 2019 NFL Draft. This includes their favorite and least favorite picks from the draft, and the teams who won and lost this year’s draft. It’s only 30 minutes so it’s a quick, easy, and condensed listen!

2019 NFL Draft Grades: Full Team-by-Team Analysis – NFC Edition

In a surprising turn of events, Dave Gettleman and Dan Snyder may have been two of this year’s draft winners. The same can’t be said for the Houston Texans.

Some draft analysts argue that immediate draft reactions are useless. I disagree with that. I believe that there is value in assessing a combination of how a team filled its positional needs relative to the value of the pick that the player was selected. For example, if the Falcons had a dire need for edge-rushing talent, then selected edge rushers in the sixth and seventh rounds, they did not get enough value for a positional need. This would result in a lower grade. So obviously, these teams’ grades will lean more on how the teams drafted early.

See my AFC Draft Analysis here.

It’s clearly impossible to truly tell who the winners of the draft are the day after it ended, so I wouldn’t normally put a lot of weight into immediate analysis. But I’m right about this stuff, I swear.

Arizona Cardinals: A+

  • Round 1 (1): Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma – A+
  • Round 2 (33): Byron Murphy, CB, Washington – A+
  • Round 2 (62): Andy Isabella, WR, UMass – A
  • Round 3 (65): Zach Allen, DE, Boston College – A-
  • Round 4 (103): Hakeem Butler, WR, Arizona State – B
  • Round 5 (139): Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama – A
  • Round 6 (174): KeeSean Johnson, WR, Fresno State – A
  • Round 6 (179): Lamont Gallard, C, Georgia – A
  • Round 7 (248): Joshua Miles, OT, Morgan State – C
  • Round 7 (249): Michael Dogbe, DE, Temple – C
  • Round 7 (254): Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA – A

The Cardinals by far had the flashiest draft this year. Almost every pick saw either huge college production or huge athletic numbers this past year. The Cardinals are a team with a lot of holes in their roster, so their clear strategy of selecting the best player available will hopefully work out for them. They drafted three extremely polarizing wide receiver prospects this year. It’s going to be interesting to see how they mesh with Kyler Murray, perhaps the most polarizing overall prospect in the draft. Not only did they find value early after selecting my CB1 in the second round, but they also found tons of value late, Lamont Gallard, Caleb Wilson, and KeeSean Johnson are three of my favorite late-round picks this year. This could be a franchise-altering draft for Arizona. The only concern is that they didn’t address their putrid offensive line until late, which could delay their rebuild.

Atlanta Falcons: C+

  • Round 1 (14): Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College – B+
  • Round 1 (31): Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington – B+
  • Round 4 (111): Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State – C
  • Round 4 (135): John Cominsky, DE, Charleston – C
  • Round 5 (152): Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh – C-
  • Round 5 (172): Jordan Miller, CB, Washington – C
  • Round 6 (203): Marcus Green, WR, Louisiana-Monroe – C

The Falcons had one of the stranger draft classes this year. They reached for Chris Lindstrom, who was almost universally graded as a late first-early second rounder. They traded back into the first round to select Kaleb McGary, who I also thought was a bona fide second rounder. They didn’t add anyone to their pass rush until late in the fourth round, which is an area of concern for them.

Carolina Panthers: A-

  • Round 1 (16): Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State – A
  • Round 2 (37): Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss – A
  • Round 3 (100): Will Grier, QB, West Virginia – B+
  • Round 4 (115): Christian Miller, LB, Alabama – B+
  • Round 5 (154): Jordan Scarlett, RB, Florida – B
  • Round 6 (212): Dennis Daley, OT, South Carolina – C
  • Round 7 (237): Terry Godwin, WR, Georgia – C

The Panthers were the true beneficiaries of the surplus of pass-rushing talent in this year’s draft. In almost any other class, Brian Burns almost certainly would have been drafted in the Top 12. He’s an athletic unicorn with somewhat refined pass-rush moves, and he has a high motor. Greg Little is another prospect that I love. Per PFF, Little allowed 26 total pressures and three sacks in 993 pass-blocking snaps over his past two seasons. He’s been consistently productive, has no major injury concerns, and no athletic red flags. He’s perfect for a Carolina O-Line that needs work. The third-round selection of Will Grier could be hit-or-miss for Carolina. He has an incredible arm, but his feet and decision-making are iffy. He has great poise, and his issues are definitely fixable. With Cam Newton’s status up in the air for this season and no real backup, Grier is a good pick.

Chicago Bears: D+

  • Round 3 (73): David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State – B+
  • Round 4 (126): Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia – B+
  • Round 6 (205): Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State – C
  • Round 7 (222): Kerrith Whyte Jr., RB, FAU – C
  • Round 7 (238): Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State – C

The Bears had very few selections due to the Khalil Mack trade, which is a problem I’m sure they’re content with. David Montgomery is a great between-the-tackles runner (Tarik Cohen is not.), and he’ll serve as a good two-down runner for them. Riley Ridley is a pass catcher that slid in this draft, probably due to athletic limitations and average college production. I still believe he’ll be productive for the Bears, although their depth chart at receiver is a little clogged up right now.

Dallas Cowboys: C

  • Round 2 (58): Trysten Hill, DT, UCF – C
  • Round 3 (90): Connor McGovern, G, Penn State – B
  • Round 4 (128): Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis – C
  • Round 5 (158): *Michael Jackson, CB, Miami – B
  • Round 5 (165): Joe Jackson, DE, Miami – B
  • Round 6 (213): Donovan Wilson, S, Texas A&M – C
  • Round 7 (218): Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State – B
  • Round 7 (241): Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon – B

This may be my least favorite draft class from this year. Although Trysten Hill will likely become a starter on the Dallas D-Line in a couple years, I still feel like they reached for him at 58. It does fill a positional need for them, with the bizarre, seemingly substance-influenced surprise retirement of David Irving this offseason. Connor McGovern was a solid player at Penn State, and Jason Garrett will be able to move him throughout the interior of his offensive line in the future. Past that, I don’t see a ton of impact from their late-round players, except for some potential from Michael Jackson, the defensive back from Miami.

Detroit Lions: C+

  • Round 1 (8): TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa – A-
  • Round 2 (43): Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii – D+
  • Round 3 (81): Will Harris, S, Boston College – B
  • Round 4 (117): Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson – B
  • Round 5 (146): Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State – A
  • Round 6 (184): Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion – C
  • Round 6 (186): Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland – C
  • Round 7 (224): Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia – C
  • Round 7 (229): P.J. Johnson, DT, Arizona – C

I didn’t exactly understand the game-plan with the Lions’ draft. I’m not going to argue the T.J. Hockenson pick, I think he’ll be a great pro, but they already put resources into the TE spot this offseason with the signing of Jesse James. They have needs at almost every defensive position, which I’m assuming explains the apparent overcorrection that followed Hockenson, drafting defensive players in rounds 2-5. I don’t love Jahlani Tavai, I never really saw anything that made him deserving of a second round pick, but I have no quarrels with the 3rd and 4th round picks of Harris and Bryant. A pick that I actually do like is of Amani Oruwariye in the fifth round, which I think is excellent value for a player of his caliber. I didn’t see any apparent reasons for his fall to the fifth, he put up good production in coverage and performed fine in his workouts. Overall, it was a confusing draft from the Lions.

Green Bay Packers: A-

  • Round 1 (12): Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan – B-
  • Round 1 (21): Darnell Savage Jr., S, Maryland – A
  • Round 2 (44): Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State – A
  • Round 3 (75): Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M – A-
  • Round 5 (150): Kingsley Keke, DT, Texas A&M – A
  • Round 6 (185): Ka’Dar Hollman, CB, Toledo – C
  • Round 6 (194): Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame – C
  • Round 7 (226): Ty Summers, LB, TCU – C

Despite all of the negative press surrounding the Packers’ selection of Rashan Gary, I kind of love their draft class. Even if Gary doesn’t pan out, they still may have built the most dangerous young secondary in the NFL, adding Darnell Savage Jr. to a secondary with Jaire Alexander, Adrian Amos, and Josh Jackson. Stealing Elgton Jenkins from the Saints in Round 2 was one of the more underrated moves from the draft, and adding Kingsley Keke to their already-dominant defensive line was a great move. Jace Sternberger was one of my higher-rated tight ends in this class, he has one of the more refined route trees in this year’s loaded class. Overall, the Packers added serious firepower to their defense, and they gave Aaron Rodgers another weapon at tight end.

Los Angeles Rams: A+

  • Round 2 (61): Taylor Rapp, S, Washington – A
  • Round 3 (70): Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis – A-
  • Round 3 (79): David Long, CB, Michigan – A+
  • Round 3 (97): Bobby Evans, OT/OG, Oklahoma – A
  • Round 4 (134): Greg Gaines, DT, Washington – A
  • Round 5 (169): David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin – A-
  • Round 6 (243): Nick Scott, S, Penn State – C
  • Round 7 (251): Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech – C

The Rams maximized the values of their respective picks this year. They drafted secondary early, added another playmaker to their electric offense, added depth to their defensive line, and added depth and versatility to their offensive line. My philosophy for building winning football roster goes something like this: When you already have a quarterback, the next most important thing is bolstering your linemen on both sides, and being able to cover on defense. The Rams did exactly this in their draft. I love Taylor Rapp’s versatility on defense, although his strong suit is in the box. Darrell Henderson averaged an insane 8.9 YPC over his last two seasons at Memphis, his explosiveness will be properly utilized in Sean McVay’s offense. David Long is an undersized corner out of Michigan, but his production, instinct, and cover skills will make him a valuable part of the Los Angeles defense. I see him having a similar impact to what Desmond King does for the Chargers, or more realistically what Jourdan Lewis does for Dallas.

Minnesota Vikings: B-

  • Round 1 (18): Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State – A
  • Round 2 (50): Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama – B-
  • Round 3 (102): Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State – C
  • Round 4 (114): Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma – C
  • Round 5 (162): Cameron Smith, LB, USC – C
  • Round 6 (190): Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas – B
  • Round 6 (191): Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming – C
  • Round 6 (193): Oli Udoh, OT, Elon – C+
  • Round 7 (217): Kris Boyd, CB, Texas – C
  • Round 7 (239): Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon – C
  • Round 7 (247): Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State – C
  • Round 7 (250): Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force – B

It’s rare that a non-playoff team has few holes to fill come draft day. It’s not rare when a roster stages a mutiny on its offensive coordinator, and when their offensive line and defense is ravaged by injuries. The Vikings have the second worst offensive line out of any team over .500 from this past year, second to the Texans. I would’ve been happy for the Vikings if they had selected an offensive lineman with every pick in this draft. That (obviously) didn’t happen, and they rolled with Garrett Bradbury in the first round. Although interior linemen aren’t nearly as valuable as tackles, I like Bradbury as the 18th pick in the draft. Irv Smith Jr. is an understandable pick in the second round. Kirk Cousins historically works well with athletic tight ends, and he’s yet to have one in Minnesota. None of their later round picks stand out to me, but I do like Armon Watts out of Arkansas.

New Orleans Saints: C+

  • Round 2 (48): Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M – B
  • Round 4 (105): Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida – A
  • Round 6 (177): Saquan Hampton, S, Rutgers – C
  • Round 7 (231): Alizé Mack, TE, Notre Dame – C
  • Round 7 (244): Kaen Eliss, LB, Idaho – C

With a lack of picks due to the Marcus Davenport trade, the Saints had few opportunities to address their team needs. After Max Unger’s surprise retirement, center was the highest priority for the Saints. They picked a center, Erik McCoy with their first pick, a player that I think has a bright future. The stopped the slide of Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the fourth round, a safety with little experience and subpar instincts.

New York Giants: B (Excluding Daniel Jones: A+)

  • Round 1 (6): Daniel Jones, QB, Duke – D+
  • Round 1 (17): Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson – B
  • Round 1 (30): Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia – A
  • Round 3 (95): Oshane Ximines, EDGE, Old Dominion –A
  • Round 4 (108): Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame – A
  • Round 5 (143): Ryan Connelly, LB, Wisconsin – C
  • Round 5 (171): Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn – C
  • Round 6 (180): Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn – A-
  • Round 7 (232): George Asafo-Adjei, OT, Kentucky – C
  • Round 7 (245): Chris Slayton, DT, Syracuse – C

I see the Giants’ draft class in two different respects. There is a clear good and a clear bad side. Here’s the good side: I think that they built an extremely strong foundation to their defense, rebuilding their aging secondary with Deandre Baker, Julian Love, and Corey Ballentine. Dexter Lawrence II is another player that I think will be a difference-maker for their defense, although I don’t really know how valuable a 340 pound, run-stuffing DT is these days. (See: Damon Harrison Trade) Oshane Ximines was one of my favorite picks in the third round, he was an extremely productive player in college, even though his competition at Old Dominion may not have been too strong. Here’s the bad: Daniel Jones. I’ve never seen a pick that was more universally hated than Daniel Jones. It seems as if every expert, analyst, and general fan of football knows that Jones was a complete reach at pick six. I agree with these sentiments. Although he has the somewhat prototypical size for an NFL quarterback, he has severe concerns with accuracy. He also has a subpar arm, there’s rarely any ‘zip’ on his passes. It seems likely that David Gettleman may have wasted the sixth overall pick. It’s not a franchise-crippling pick though, due to their success in the later rounds.

Philadelphia Eagles: A-

  • Round 1 (22): Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State – A+
  • Round 2 (53): Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State – B-
  • Round 2 (57): J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford – A-
  • Round 4 (138): Shareef Miller, EDGE, Penn State – B+
  • Round 5 (167): Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern – C+

The Eagles had a productive draft despite their lack of picks. They traded up in the first round to take offensive tackle Andre Dillard. Jumping ahead of the offensive-line needy Houston Texans was another savvy move by GM Howie Roseman. They swapped first-rounders with the Ravens, sending them back only three spots, so the compensation that they had to give for the 22nd pick wasn’t too bad (They gave up the 127th and 197th overall picks). Andre Dillard may be the second most NFL-ready tackle prospect behind Jonah Williams, he as ideal size and experience in a pass-happy offense at Washington State. In the second round, they added more offensive weapons to compliment Carson Wentz. This was a necessary move, their running back corps has been weak for years, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will be a red-zone target to draw attention from Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery. Clayton Thorson will hopefully develop into a solid backup quarterback, and Shareef Miller will eventually serve as valuable pass-rushing depth.

San Francisco 49ers: B (Excluding Nick Bosa: D+)

  • Round 1 (2): Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State – A++
  • Round 2 (36): Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina – B
  • Round 3 (67): Jalen Hurd, WR/RB, Baylor – C-
  • Round 4 (110): Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah – C-
  • Round 5 (148): Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas – C
  • Round 6 (176): Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford – C
  • Round 6 (183): Justin Skule, OT, Vanderbilt – C
  • Round 6 (198): Tim Harris, CB, Virginia – C+

I have mixed opinions about the 49er’s draft. They were able to take Nick Bosa with the second pick, who I believe is the best player in this draft. I don’t really like the rest of their draft though. They needed offensive weapons to pair with Jimmy Garoppolo, but I think they could’ve drafted better talent than Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd. The picks make sense, Kyle Shanahan runs a west-coast scheme that will normally have Garoppolo going through his progressions quickly, throwing a good amount of shallow, quick routes. Both Deebo Samuel and Hurd are crisp route-runners, and they produced mostly from the slot in college. Jalen Hurd is 6’4”, an absurd height for a slot receiver, it’ll be interesting how he’s able to separate early given his big frame. It’ll also be interesting to see if they both remain lined up in the slot in the NFL because picking two slot receivers with your second and third round selections don’t make a ton of sense value-wise. They picked a punter in the fourth round which is strange, but if John Lynch thinks he has the 49ers’ punter for the next 10 years, it’s not a bad pick.

Seattle Seahawks: B-

  • Round 1 (29): L.J. Collier, EDGE, TCU – B
  • Round 2 (47): Marquise Blair, S, Utah – B-
  • Round 2 (64): D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss – A
  • Round 3 (88): Cody Barton, LB, Utah – C
  • Round 4 (120): Gary Jennings Jr., WR, West Virginia – B+
  • Round 4 (124): Phil Haynes, OG, Wake Forest – C
  • Round 4 (132): Ugochukwu Amadi, S, Oregon – C
  • Round 5 (142): Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington – C
  • Round 6 (204): Travis Homer, RB, Miami – C
  • Round 6 (209): Demarcus Christmas, DT, Florida State – B+
  • Round 7 (236): John Ursua, WR, Hawaii – C

I would question the selections of L.J. Collier and Marquise Blair if this was any team but the Seattle Seahawks. At first glance, I saw these selections as complete reaches. I thought of Collier as a mid to late second round pick, and Blair as a third. I then watched a solid amount of film on both of them, and my opinions changed. Collier has an extremely powerful first step, which is one of the more important qualities of a college pass-rusher. He has a solid variety of pass-rushing moves, and he displays the ability to counter. Marquise Blair is a linebacker in a safety’s body. He hits with reckless abandon, and his closing speed while defending the run is impressive. I think that Pete Carroll could turn him into one of the league’s best box safeties, if not converting him into a hybrid safety/SAM linebacker. D.K. Metcalf was one of the more highly-touted prospects coming into the draft. He has insane straight-line speed, but he has concerns with change of direction and footwork. His route-running will be questionable in the NFL, but he’s been blessed with Russell Wilson, who has turned Tyler Lockett and David Moore into elite-seeming players.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: B

  • Round 1 (5): Devin White, LB, LSU – B+
  • Round 2 (39): Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan – B
  • Round 3 (94): Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn – B+
  • Round 3 (99): Mike Edwards, S, Kentucky – B+
  • Round 4 (107): Anthony Nelson, EDGE, Iowa – B
  • Round 5 (145): Matt Gay, K, Utah – C-
  • Round 6 (208): Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green – C
  • Round 7 (215): Terry Beckner, DT, Mississippi State – C

Tampa Bay came into this draft with a clear strategy: building a foundation for their defense. With the loss of Kwon Alexander and Brent Grimes, their defense has been their priority for their entire offseason. They signed Shaq Barrett, made a splashy hire as Todd Bowles as their defensive coordinator, and used 6 of their 8 draft picks on their defense. Sean Bunting, Mike Edwards, and Anthony Nelson were relatively safe picks, they were productive in college and had solid workouts. Jamel Dean was one of the winners of this year’s combine, dominating almost every event. Overall, it was a productive draft for the Bucs, although their franchise turmoil will likely not end until they figure out the quarterback position, as this year is pretty much Jameis Winston’s last shot to prove himself as a franchise quarterback.

Washington Redskins: B+

  • Round 1 (15): Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State – A+
  • Round 2 (26): Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State – A
  • Round 3 (76): Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State – B
  • Round 4 (112): Bryce Love, RB, Stanford – C+
  • Round 5 (131): Wes Martin, OG, Indiana – C
  • Round 6 (153): Ross Pierschbacher, OG, Alabama – C
  • Round 7 (173): Cole Holcomb, LB, North Carolina – C
  • Round 6 (206): Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State – A
  • Round 6 (227): Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison – C
  • Round 6 (253): Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma State – B+

The Redskins won this year’s award for Luckiest Team on draft night. They didn’t trade up for a quarterback (which they were rumored to do), and Dwayne Haskins fell into their lap. In my eyes, Haskins is the second most talented quarterback in this draft, behind Kyler Murray. He has an NFL-ready body, and he has the anticipation, timing, and arm talent necessary to become a franchise quarterback. They traded up for Montez Sweat and barring any career-threatening injuries, he could be one of the best picks of the draft. Sweat is undoubtedly the best athlete for his position in this class, and there are no limits on his potential in the league. It’s just a question of work ethic and motor with Sweat, both of which have never been problems for him. They added two offensive weapons to complement Haskins, but I’m not crazy about either of them. Terry McLaurin was the primary deep-pass receiver for the Buckeyes this past season and will be good with Haskins from a chemistry standpoint. I don’t love the selection of Bryce Love. Love was once a Heisman Hopeful who had his college career derailed by an ACL injury, and there have been several roadblocks on his path to recovery. I doubt that he will ever return to full strength.

2019 NFL Draft Grades: Full Team-by-Team Analysis – AFC Edition

In a surprising turn of events, Dave Gettleman and Dan Snyder may have been two of this year’s draft winners. The same can’t be said for the Houston Texans.

Some draft analysts argue that immediate draft reactions are useless. I disagree with that. I believe that there is value in assessing a combination of how a team filled its positional needs relative to the value of the pick that the player was selected. For example, if the Falcons had a dire need for edge-rushing talent, then selected edge rushers in the sixth and seventh rounds, they did not get enough value for a positional need. This would result in a lower grade. So obviously, these teams’ grades will lean more on how the teams drafted early.

It’s clearly impossible to truly tell who the winners of the draft are the day after it ended, so I wouldn’t normally put a lot of weight into immediate analysis. But I’m right about this stuff, I swear.

Baltimore Ravens: A

  • Round 1 (25): Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma – A
  • Round 3 (85): Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech – A-
  • Round 3 (93): Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame – A
  • Round 4 (113): Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State – A-
  • Round 4 (123): Ben Powers, G, Oklahoma – C
  • Round 4 (127): Iman Marshall, CB, USC – B
  • Round 5 (160): Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M – C
  • Round 6 (197): Trace McSorely, QB, Penn State – D+

As a Steeler fan, it pains me to see Baltimore continuing to draft well. They drafted three playmaking athletic freaks; Miles Boykin’s athletic profile is almost identical to D.K. Metcalf’s, Justice Hill is as explosive as any RB in this class, and Marquise Brown s pretty much a more refined Desean Jackson. Their offensive is slowly morphing into a powerhouse, but it all depends on whether or not Lamar Jackson can consistently throw the ball accurately. If his ball placement improves, the Ravens will wreak havoc on NFL defenses for the next 5-8 years with these playmakers. One last thing- Jaylon Ferguson may be the most productive pass rusher in college football history, and him being on the Ravens’ defense scares me.

Buffalo Bills: A-

  • Round 1 (9): Ed Oliver, DT, Houston – A+
  • Round 2 (38): Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma – A
  • Round 3 (74): Devin Singletary, RB, FAU – B
  • Round 3 (96): Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss – B+
  • Round 5 (147): Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida – B
  • Round 6 (181): Jaquan Johnson, CB/S, Miami – B
  • Round 7 (225): Darryl Johnson Jr., DE, North Carolina A&T – C
  • Round 7 (228): Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College – C

The Bills were lucky enough to have Ed Oliver fall to them at #9. This is what made their draft, I see him being a perennial All-Pro player in the NFL, his lateral, vertical, and north-south athleticism is off the charts, and once he fills into his frame completely, he’ll be close to unstoppable. I also really like Cody Ford, who successfully protected Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray’s respective blindsides for the past two years. I see Dawson Knox becoming a productive starter in the league, and between Singletary, Jospeh, and Jaquan Johnson, there will be at least two starters from that group. this was a fantastic draft from the rebuilding Bills.

Cincinnati Bengals: B-

  • Round 1 (11): Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama – A++
  • Round 2 (52): Drew Sample, TE, Washington – C+
  • Round 3 (72): Germaine Pratt, LB, NC State – B
  • Round 4 (104): Ryan Finley, QB, NC State – B
  • Round 4 (125): Renell Wren, DT, Arizona State – C
  • Round 4 (136): Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State – C
  • Round 6 (182): Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M – C
  • Round 6 (210): Deshaun Davis, LB, Auburn – C
  • Round 6 (211): Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma – A
  • Round 7 (223): Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State – C

Jonah Williams at #11 is my favorite pick of the draft, and it’s not close. He’s about as much of a sure-thing prospect as Quenton Nelson was last year, and he plays a much more valuable position. Not only did the Bengals get insane value with Williams, it was also at a position of need. The second round pick of Drew Sample fills the hole left by Tyler Kroft and the oft-injured Tyler Eifert, and Germaine Pratt will add depth at inside linebacker, their weakest position. I also really like Rodney Anderson, a big, powerful runner with receiving skills and a solid amount of elusiveness. He has severe injury concerns though.

Cleveland Browns: B+

  • Round 2 (46): Greedy Williams, CB, LSU – A
  • Round 3 (80): Sione Takitaki, LB, BYU – B
  • Round 4 (119): Sheldrick Redwine, S, Miami – B+
  • Round 5 (155): Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama – B
  • Round 5 (170): Austin Seibert, K, Oklahoma – B+
  • Round 6 (189): Drew Forbes, OT, Southeast Missouri State – B
  • Round 7 (221): Donnie Lewis Jr., CB, Tulane – C

It’s very possible that Greedy Williams and Austin Seibert end up being the only starters from the Cleveland draft class. However, Greedy Williams will be a very good starter for the Browns. It’s widely believed that Williams slid in this draft due to concerns with tackling. My response to that is the same of John Dorsey’s: “Cornerbacks are paid to cover.” Williams was the best man corner from this draft, and his long arms and good range will directly translate to the league. Denzel Ward and Greedy will make for one of the scariest secondaries in the NFL come 2022. I don’t love the selections of Sione Takitaki and Sheldrick Redwine, who are also two of my nominees for the best worst names of the draft. Redwine fills the Browns’ only true need at safety though, and I like his athletic profile. Mack Wilson is a young, raw inside linebacker with a lot of room to grow. I absolutely believe that the Browns could turn him into an impact starter. Do I think they will, though? Probably not.

Denver Broncos: A-

  • Round 1 (20): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa – B+
  • Round 2 (41): Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State – A
  • Round 2 (42): Drew Lock, QB, Missouri – A-
  • Round 3 (71): Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State – A
  • Round 5 (156): Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon – C
  • Round 6 (187): Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado – C

The Broncos did about as much as they could’ve with the lack of picks that they had this year. They masterfully traded back from the 10th spot, acquiring the picks necessary to trade up for Drew Lock while simultaneously being able to fill a need, drafting Noah Fant, adding a playmaker that they desperately needed. With the departure of Demaryius Thomas and the tragic achilles injury to Emmanuel Sanders, there are almost zero dynamic pass-catchers on the roster, Courtland Sutton has yet to prove himself. Dalton Risner is one of the most versatile linemen in this draft class, playing highly-graded seasons at center, right tackle, and left tackle at Kansa State. He will likely become the center for the Broncos, but if needed, he can shift around the line. I didn’t love Drew Lock coming into this year’s draft, but he’s well worth the position at which the Broncos were able to select him. The biggest issue with his QB play is his inconsistent footwork, but being around two longtime NFL quarterbacks in Joe Flacco and John Elway will absolutely help him. Dre’Mont Jones was one of my favorite mid-round picks in this draft. On film, he’s an extremely slippery defensive tackle, moving laterally as if he were a linebacker. His workout numbers don’t match that, which caused him to slip in the draft. The Broncos have been thin at DT ever since the departure of Malik Jackson, Dre’Mont Jones will be a good piece for them.

Houston Texans: D+

  • Round 1 (23): Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State – C+
  • Round 2 (54): Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky – B-
  • Round 2 (55): Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois – B
  • Round 3 (86): Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State – C
  • Round 5 (161): Charles Omenihu, DE, Texas – C
  • Round 6 (195): Xaiver Crawford, CB, Central Michigan – C
  • Round 7 (220): Cullen Gillaspia, RB, Texas A&M – C

Personally, I really didn’t love what the Texans did this year. Not one of their picks was on my pre-draft Top 60 board, and they made 3 picks in the top 60. Tytus Howard felt like a total reach to me, probably as a result of the Eagles leapfrogging them to draft Andre Dillard, the far superior tackle prospect. Lonnie Johnson Jr. is a somewhat understandable pick at 54, filling the absence of Kevin Johnson and the eventual departure of Jonathan Joseph. I appreciate the Texans’ effort to bolster their offensive line, but they may have gone about it in the wrong way.

Indianapolis Colts: B+

  • Round 2 (34): Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple – B+
  • Round 2 (49): Ben Banogu, LB, TCU – A
  • Round 2 (59): Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State – A
  • Round 3 (89): Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford – A
  • Round 4 (109): Khari Willis, S, Michigan State – B
  • Round 5 (144): Marvell Tell III, S, USC – C+
  • Round 5 (164): E.J. Speed, LB, Tarleton State – C
  • Round 6 (199): Gerri Green, DE, Mississippi State – C
  • Round 7 (240): Jackson Barton, OT, Utah – C
  • Round 7 (246): Javon Patterson, C, Ole Miss – C

Chris Ballard seems to have temporarily figured out the draft. The Colts figured out their team needs (WR, Secondary,LB), found out where the value was for these positions (picks 30-90), and put their resources into dominating that section of the draft. Rock ya-Sin is a physical, instinctual corner with a good amount of room to grow. Ben Banogu and Bobby Okereke are both ridiculous athletic specimens in pretty much opposite ways. Parris Campbell is a modern Swiss Army Knife at WR. This class could easily become as successful as their class from last year.

Jacksonville Jaguars: B-

  • Round 1 (7): Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky – A
  • Round 2 (35): Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida – N/A (Injury Questions)
  • Round 3 (69): Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State – C
  • Round 3 (98): Quincy Williams, LB, Murray State – C
  • Round 5 (140): Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple – C
  • Round 6 (178): Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State – C
  • Round 7 (235): Dontavius Russell, DT, Auburn – C

It’s going to be interesting to see where the Jaguars utilize Josh Allen in their front seven. His blend of size, strength, speed, and instincts already make him one of the versatile linebackers in the NFL. I hope that they use Allen in a way that’s similar to Chandler Jones in Arizona; majorily as a pass-rusher. I gave Jawaan Taylor a N/A grade, he has concerns with a degenerative knee problem. The Jaguars have no problem with taking risks on talent with injury history, though (Myles Jack). If Taylor remains healthy, he’s pretty much the perfect tackle for Jacksonville. He’s powerful and quick as a run blocker, and he’s had plenty of experience as a pass blocker too. Aside from those prospects, I don’t see much else impact from their class. Josh Oliver is a big, fast tight end that is mostly seen as a project, but he does have a relatively high ceiling.

Kansas City Chiefs: B-

  • Round 2 (56): Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia – C+
  • Round 2 (63): Juan Thornhill, CB/S, Virginia – A-
  • Round 3 (84): Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois – A
  • Round 6 (201): Rashad Fenton, CB, South Carolina – C
  • Round 6 (214): Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State – A-
  • Round 7 (216): Nick Allegretti, G, Illinois – C

The fact that Kansas City used their first pick of this years’ draft to select a small, fast, receiver highlights a more significant issue that arose this weekend. With the possible absence of Tyreke Hill for the entire 2019 season and perhaps longer, the Chiefs are thin outside the hashmarks. Before the draft, they had by far the weakest cornerback room out of any playoff team from 2018. They didn’t exactly address cornerback, either. They took Juan Thornhill in Round 2, an athletic freak that I love as a prospect. He has an athletic profile that strongly resembles Donte Whitner’s, so I don’t really know if they’ll be able to relocate him to cornerback. Khalen Saunders is possibly my favorite pick from the third round, he’s undersized but incredibly explosive, I think he can be a disruptor on the interior of Kansas City’s line. Overall, they didn’t really fill their most significant needs, but they drafted a solid amount of talent.

Los Angeles Chargers: B+

  • Round 1 (28): Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame – A
  • Round 2 (60): Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware – A
  • Round 3 (91): Trey Pipkins, OT, Sioux Falls – D
  • Round 4 (130): Drue Tranquil, LB, Notre Dame – C
  • Round 5 (166): Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State – C
  • Round 6 (200): Emeke Egbule, LB, Houston – C
  • Round 7 (242): Cortez Broughton, DT, Cincinnati – C

For the second year in a row, the Chargers knocked it out of the park in the first round. Jerry Tillery was an extremely efficient pass-rusher at Notre Dame this past year, and he may be an immediate starter for their lackluster interior defensive line. Nasir Adderley was a best-player-available pick for Los Angeles in the second. He showed out at the Senior Bowl, and performed well in his workouts. I see them as two impact starters by the end of this season, but I don’t see much else in the rest of their draft. Trey Pipkins is pretty much the definition of a project prospect at a position that takes some time to develop. Drue Tranquil is an athletic inside linebacker, he’ll provide depth for them behind Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman.

Miami Dolphins: C+

  • Round 1 (13): Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – B+
  • Round 3 (78): Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin – B+
  • Round 5 (151): Andrew Van Ginkel, LB, Wisconsin – A-
  • Round 6 (202): Isaiah Prince, OT, Ohio State – C
  • Round 7 (233): Chandler Cox, RB, Auburn – D
  • Round 7 (234): Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington – D

The Dolphins did’t have a super flashy draft this year. With their two Top-100 picks, they elected to stay in the trenches with Wilkins and Deiter. I appreciate the Dolphins draft strategy though, linemen are the first position that you want to draft when beginning a rebuild. I like the selection of Andrew Van Ginkel, a raw, rangy inside linebackers with similarities to fellow late-round pick Fred Warner. I don’t like their late-round running back picks, they have their running back depth chart pretty much set with Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage.

New England Patriots: A

  • Round 1 (32): N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State – C
  • Round 2 (45): Joejuan Williams, CB/S, Vanderbilt – A
  • Round 3 (77): Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan – A
  • Round 3 (87): Damien Harris, RB, Alabama – B
  • Round 3 (101): Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia – A
  • Round 4 (118): Hijalte Froholdt, OG, Arkansas – A
  • Round 4 (133): Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn – B
  • Round 5 (159): Byron Cowart, DT, Maryland – C
  • Round 5 (163): Jake Bailey, P, Stanford –B
  • Round 7 (252): Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss – C+

This draft would have been an A++ if it weren’t for the N’Keal Harry pick at the end of the first round. Harry is a fine prospect, he reminds me of Dez Bryant in good and bad ways. He has ideal size for a WR at 6’2″ 228 lbs, and his workout numbers are outstanding, but he struggled to create separation in college, and he definitely will struggle in the NFL. The Patriots had a need at safety before the draft due to injuries to Patrick Chung, and it seems that they selected the oversized, fast Joejuan Williams to develop as a safety. Getting Chase Winovich at 77 is a classic perfect Patriots pick. He’s a high-motor, high-production, high-athleticism player. The only reason for him to slide to the third round is the fact that he’s 24 years old, but that’s a bad excuse not to take a player like him. Yodny Cajuste and Hijalte Froholdt are both players that don’t seem like great picks right now, but after four years of coaching from Dante Scarneccia, they’ll probably be the league’s highest-paid players at their respective positions. (Sarcasm?) Jarret Stidham is a fundamentally sound QB that throws the ball inconsistently, it’ll be interesting to see if Tom Brady mentors him similarly to Jimmy Garoppolo.

New York Jets: B+

  • Round 1 (3): Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama – A
  • Round 3 (68): Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida – B+
  • Round 3 (92): Chuma Edoga, OT, USC – B
  • Round 5 (157): Blake Cashman, LB, Minnesota – B
  • Round 6 (196): Blessuan Austin, CB, Rutgers – C

The Jets had a relatively successful draft given their lack of picks. There were several reports that Quinnen Williams was the #1 player on multiple teams’ draft boards. There was even a report that Jachai Polite was the #2 pass-rusher on the Jet’s board despite his lackluster workout showings. Blake Cashman was another player that was hurt by combine his performance and measurements. It was clear that the Jets’ strategy in this draft was chasing college production. Chuma Edoga was a player the received a ton of draft hype before this college football season due to his athleticism and success protecting Sam Darnold. His play declined this year, but getting him in the late third round way a steal for the Jets. The Jets had an extremely successful offseason. They fixed their most glaring issues as well as they could have, addressing their lack of playmaking in free agency with Le’Veon Bell, and stocking up on pass rushers in the draft. Their interior offensive line is still relatively weak, but it’s not a crippling issue.

Oakland Raiders: A-

  • Round 1 (4): Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson – B+
  • Round 1 (24): Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama – C+
  • Round 1 (27): Jonathan Abram, S, Mississippi State – A
  • Round 2 (40): Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson – B+
  • Round 4 (106): Maxx Crosby, EDGE, Eastern Michigan – B
  • Round 4 (129): Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston – C
  • Round 4 (137): Foster Moreau, TE, LSU – A
  • Round 5 (149): Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson – C
  • Round 7 (230): Quinton Bell, DE, Prairie View A&M – C

The quality of the Raiders’ draft class may be the the most universally disagreed upon by draft analysts. Drafting a running back in the first round is pretty much criminal these days, and experts are arguing whether or not Jonathan Abram is just a box safety. Personally, I liked the Raiders’ draft. It could have been better, but it’s not going to set them back as a franchise. Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden were clear in their attempt to create a winning culture in Oakland, they drafted four players who played in this years’ CFB Championship. I love the selection of Foster Moreau late in the fourth, he has exceptional athleticism, he was a captain and leader of the LSU team for the past few years, and he fits into most blocking schemes. The Raiders had a clear plan for this year’s draft, and that’s about all you can ask for given the chaos that preceded their draft.

Pittsburgh Steelers: A-

  • Round 1 (10): Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan – A
  • Round 3 (66): Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo – A-
  • Round 3 (83): Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State – A
  • Round 4 (122): Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky – B-
  • Round 5 (141): Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan –C+
  • Round 6 (175): Sutton Smith, DE, Northern Illinois – C
  • Round 6 (192): Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama – C
  • Round 6 (207): Ulysses Gilbert III, LB, Akron – C
  • Round 7 (219): Derwin Gray, OT, Maryland – C

For the seventh year in a row, the Steelers have drafted a defensive player in the first round. And in the words of fellow FTS writer Adam Simkowitz, “Their defense is still not good.” I think Devin Bush will be an immediate impact player for the Steelers, I can see him finding his place in the front seven by week ten. I like the mid-round picks for Pittsburgh too. They’ve had a need for a good corner for about 25 years, so I’m guessing that Justin Layne is the answer. Diontae Johnson is a wideout that severely underperformed in the combine, but his on-field speed is unreal. He’s undersized, he creates separation at an elite level, and he’s one of the best route-runners in this class. Sound familiar? As for the rest of their draft, they seem to have picked some depth for James Conner, even though Jaylen Samuels performed at a high level as a rookie. This enables them to properly utilize Jaylen Samuels’ true versatility. Zach Gentry should end up serving as a replacement for Jesse James, who they lost to Detroit in free agency. Overall, it was a solid draft for the Steelers. Much better than last year.

Tennessee Titans: A-

  • Round 1 (19): Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State – A-
  • Round 2 (51): A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss – A
  • Round 3 (82): Nate Davis, OG, Charlotte – C
  • Round 4 (116): Amani Hooker, S, Iowa – A
  • Round 4 (121): Trevon Wesco, TE, West Virginia – B+
  • Round 5 (168): D’Andre Walker, OLB, Georgia – A
  • Round 6 (188): David Long Jr., LB, West Virginia – A

This draft for Tennessee has been par for the course on their upwards trend as a franchise. They’ve built an extremely deep roster, due to their ability to hit on a high percentage of late-round picks. Amani Hooker and D’Andre Walker were both picks of a high value, as they both produced at an elite level at their respective Power-5 schools. Amani Hooker has tackling concerns, but he’ll be able to cover well in the NFL. As for their early round picks, they selected Jeffery Simmons in the first, who’ll likely succeed Jurrell Casey as their cornerstone interior defender. He has character concerns stemming from an incident from high school, as everyone saw on national TV on Thursday, but he’s remained clean throughout college. He also tore his ACL, but it wasn’t a severe tear. It’s likely that he’ll return to full strength and go back to the extremely powerful, disruptive defender that he was at Mississippi State. A.J. Brown was my favorite receiver from the draft. He runs like a running back after the catch, and he’s able to create separation at a borderline elite level. He struggles with breaking the press, so he’ll produce the most from the slot in the league. The middle of the field will be open for him, as Delanie Walker is being phased out of the offense, and former first-rounder Corey Davis mostly works outside the hash marks. Of course all of their superb years of drafting will become obsolete if Marcus Mariota continues to be plagued by injury, never reaching his full potential.

2019 NFL Draft Official Preview: Big Board, Draft Night Predictions, and more.

With the draft just days away, I had to get a few things off my chest. Featuring a finalized 60-prospect Big Board, and some prospects that I love and don’t love.

Left to Right: Kyler Murray (OU), Drew Lock (MIZZOU), Daniel Jones(DUKE), Dwayne Haskins (OSU)

The draft is only a few days away, and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited. There’s a good amount of ambiguity surrounding the first overall pick, which has been and will be extremely entertaining to monitor. It could be argued that some of the most aggressive front offices have the most amount of draft capital – the Giants and Raiders both have multiple first-rounders, and I predict they’ll make some noise come draft night. So without further ado, I’d like to give some more organized thoughts about this year’s draft.

  • It’s an excellent year for rebuilding teams, and it’s an especially good year to have a surplus of picks, the prospect pool is extremely strong in the second-third round range and it’s top heavy too. The talent in this draft is a little more concentrated in places like offensive line, defensive line, and the secondary; positions that are becoming a premium in this era of football. In terms of the strongest and weakest position groups, skill position players are scarce this year, the running backs and wide receivers have no clear top-tier players. Don’t be surprised to see teams reach for players at these positions, similar to how players like Corey Davis, John Ross, and Zay Jones were over-drafted in 2017.
  • If I were to rank the position groups in this year’s draft class, it would have to look like this:
  1. Interior Defensive Line – There will be value in every round for this position, and players like Quinnen Williams and Ed Oliver could be transcendent.
  2. EDGE Defenders – Perhaps the most well-rounded of the positions, and the athletic prowess of this group is unprecedented. There are some hidden gems in the later rounds.
  3. Wide Receiver – The amount of talent in this position group is highly disputed this year, but I believe there could be six future pro bowlers in this WR class.
  4. Offensive Tackles – An abnormal amount of talent for a position that is difficult to project.
  5. Safety – There are so many safety prospects in this draft that I love. Very balanced class.
  6. Cornerback – A ton of talent in the first two rounds.
  7. Tight End – It’s T.J. Hockenson then everyone else, but there’s a surprising amount of depth.
  8. Interior Offensive Line – A balanced position group without a clear #1.
  9. Quarterback – It’s Kyler, then everyone else.
  10. Linebacker – Extremely top heavy.
  11. Running Back – Lacking all-round talent.
  12. Special Teams (Obviously)
  • Based off of team needs, here are the teams that benefit from the distribution of talent this year:
  • These are mostly teams with deficiencies in their secondary and at wide receiver. All of these franchises will likely be comfortable with picking for specific needs on Thursday, don’t expect any crazy moves from any of these teams. (Except for the Raiders)
  • And on the opposite side, the teams that do not benefit from this:
  • These are mostly teams that need quarterbacks for the future (NYG/NO/CIN/MIA), or have a serious lack of talent at running back (MIA/PHI), interior O-Line (NYG/NO/BAL), or linebacker (CIN/BAL/PHI). Converse to what I said about the beneficiaries of this draft class, these teams may be more adept to trading up to fill the holes in their respective rosters. Also with teams like Baltimore, don’t be surprised if they trade out of the first round to build draft capital for a future class that may suit them better.

Big Board ft. Pro Comparisons (Top 60 Prospects):

  • Tier One: Potentially Transcendent Prospects. Ceiling: Multiple All-Pro selections or better. Ranks 1-10.
  • Tier Two: Elite Prospects. Ceiling: A few All-Pro Selections. Ranks 11-21.
  • Tier Three: Day One Starters. Ceiling: Perennial Pro Bowlers. Ranks 22-44
  • Tier Four: Future Starters. Ceiling: Impact Starter, one or two Pro Bowls. Ranks 45-60.
  1. EDGE/Ohio State – Nick Bosa, 22. Player Comp: Joey Bosa
  2. QB/Oklahoma – Kyler Murray, 22. Player Comp: Russell Wilson
  3. DT/Alabama – Quinnen Williams, 21. Player Comp: Ndamukong Suh
  4. DL/Houston – Ed Oliver, 22. Player Comp: Geno Atkins
  5. OT/OG/Alabama – Jonah Williams, 22. Player Comp: Joe Staley
  6. TE/Iowa – TJ Hockenson, 21. Player Comp: Tyler Eifert/George Kittle
  7. EDGE/Kentucky – Josh Allen, 22. Player Comp: Chandler Jones
  8. ILB/LSU – Devin White, 21. Player Comp: Deion Jones/Jaraad Davis
  9. CB/Washington – Byron Murphy, 21. Player Comp: Ronde Barber/Desmond King
  10. OT/Washington State – Andre Dillard, 22. Player Comp: Jake Matthews
  11. DT/Mississippi State – Jeffery Simmons, 21. Player Comp: Chris Jones
  12. RB/Alabama – Josh Jacobs, 21. Player Comp: Kareem Hunt
  13. EDGE/FSU – Brian Burns, 21.. Player Comp: Leonard Floyd
  14. LB/Michigan – Devin Bush, 20. Player Comp: Fast Vince Williams
  15. QB/Ohio State – Dwayne Haskins, 21. Player Comp: Nick Foles/Jameis Winston
  16. DE/DT/Notre Dame – Jerry Tillery, 22. Player Comp: Kenny Clark
  17. OG/C/NC State – Garrett Bradbury, 22-23. Player Comp: Travis Frederick
  18. WR/Oklahoma – Marquise Brown, 21. Player Comp: Desean Jackson
  19. WR/Ole Miss – AJ Brown, 21. Player Comp: Juju Smith-Schuster
  20. EDGE/Missouri – Montez Sweat, 22. Player Comp: Danielle Hunter
  21. OT/OG/Kansas State – Dalton Risner, 23. Player Comp: Brandon Scheriff
  22. CB/Georgia – Deandre Baker, 21. Player Comp: A.J. Boyue
  23. WR/Ole Miss – D.K. Metcalf, 21. Player Comp: Poor Man’s Terrell Owens
  24. CB/LSU – Greedy Williams, 21. Player Comp: Joe Haden
  25. DT/Clemson – Christian Wilkins, 23. Player Comp: Grady Jarrett
  26. DT/Clemson – Dexter Lawrence, 21. Player Comp: Akiem Hicks
  27. CB/Michigan – David Long, 21. Player Comp: Chris Harris Jr.
  28. WR/Stanford – J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, 22. Player Comp: Eric Decker
  29. EDGE/Michigan – Chase Winovich, 23. Player Comp: Ryan Kerrigan
  30. S/Alabama – Deionte Thompson, 22. Player Comp: Marcus Williams
  31. EDGE/Clemson – Clelin Ferrell, 21. Player Comp: Everson Griffen
  32. S/Delaware – Nasir Adderley, 21. Player Comp: Adrian Amos
  33. OT/Florida – Jawaan Taylor, 21. Player Comp: Morgan Moses
  34. TE/Iowa – Noah Fant, 21. Player Comp: O.J. Howard
  35. OT/Ole Miss – Greg Little, 21. Player Comp: Duane Brown
  36. RB/Iowa State – David Montgomery, 21. Player Comp: Devonta Freeman
  37. OG/Boston College – Chris Lindstrom, 22, Player Comp: Andrew Norwell
  38. WR/Ole Miss – D.K. Metcalf, 21. Player Comp: Poor Man’s Terrell Owens
  39. S/Maryland – Darnell Savage Jr., 22. Player Comp: Donte Whitner
  40. OG/OT/Oklahoma – Cody Ford, 22. Player Comp: La’el Collins
  41. S/Virginia – Juan Thornhill, 22. Player Comp: Damontae Kazee
  42. WR/Massachusetts – Andy Isabella, 22. Player Comp: T.Y. Hilton
  43. QB/Missouri – Drew Lock, 22. Player Comp: Jay Cutler
  44. OG/C/Mississippi State – Elgton Jenkins, 23. Player Comp: Weston Richburg
  45. QB/West Virginia – Will Grier, 24. Player Comp: Andy Dalton with a Stronger Arm
  46. S/Mississippi State – Jonathan Abram, 22. Player Comp: Keanu Neal
  47. CB/Vanderbilt – JoeJuan Williams, 21. Player Comp: Ahkello Witherspoon/Richard Sherman
  48. CB/Michigan State – Justin Layne, 21. Player Comp: Kendall Fuller
  49. WR/Arizona State – N’Keal Harry, 21. Player Comp: Demaryius Thomas
  50. S/Washington – Taylor Rapp, 21. Player Comp: Jordan Poyer
  51. EDGE/Louisiana Tech – Jaylon Ferguson, 23. Player Comp: Michael Johnson
  52. WR/Ohio State – Parris Campbell, 21. Player Comp: Percy Harvin
  53. S/Florida – Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, 21. Player Comp: Lamarcus Joyner
  54. QB/Duke – Daniel Jones, 21. Player Comp: Josh Allen with a weaker arm.
  55. EDGE/Michigan – Rashan Gary, 21. Player Comp: Vernon Gholston/Bradley Chubb
  56. WR/South Carolina – Deebo Samuel, 23. Player Comp: Randall Cobb
  57. LB/Notre Dame – Te’Von Coney, 21. Player Comp: Wesley Woodyard
  58. CB/Central Michigan – Sean Bunting, 22. Player Comp: Robert Alford
  59. DE/Boston College – Zach Allen, 22. Player Comp: Aaron Smith
  60. CB/Notre Dame – Julian Love, 21. Player Comp: Malcolm Butler

Sleepers/Late Round Value:

  • LB/West Virginia – David Long Jr. – Versatility at inside linebacker is a trait that’s becoming more valuable by the year. David Long Jr. is a bit undersized, but his range and run-stopping productivity make up for it. He runs and hits with reckless abandon, and he was able able to shoot through Big 12 offensive lines and and be a game wrecker in the running game. He lacks instincts and experience in pass coverage, which is a pretty significant red flag, which will end up causing him to slide to the middle rounds. Projection: Late Third Round
  • DT/Western Illinois – Khalen Saunders – Saunders was one of the several winners of this year’s Senior Bowl, showcasing his athleticism both on and off the field. He’s undersized, but he’s able to generate enough power and disruption to overcome his size. Projection: Mid Fourth Round
  • OG/Wisconsin – Beau Benzschawel – Benzschawel was a one-year-wonder of sorts in his senior year at Wisconsin. He was extremely productive, but showed signs of inconsistency. According to Pro Football Focus, he was efficient in both run and pass blocking. He ranked in the Top 10 in both inside and outside pressures allowed per snap among all draft-eligible offensive guards. I can see him becoming a perennial starter in the NFL, as long as he’s developed in the right scheme. Projection: Third Round
  • TE/LSU – Foster Moreau – Moreau is one of my favorite late-round prospects in this draft. He’s one of the most gifted athletes among the tight ends in this class and he has an extremely high motor. He has the athleticism and effort, he was graded well during his career at LSU, but he just didn’t have the production to back it up. Production doesn’t always translate to NFL success and vice versa. Projection: Early Third Round
  • WR/Notre Dame – Miles Boykin – He’s a projected third or late-second round pick. His athleticism is off the charts- his broad jump ranked second among WRs, his vertical jump and 3 cone time ranked first, and his twenty and sixty yard shuttles ranked in the Top 5. There are no major red flags on or off the field. He’s a little stiff for his position, and his route tree needs improvement, but his ability to create separation and athleticism will compensate for that. Projection: Late Second Round/Early Third
  • WR/Missouri – Emmanuel Hall – He’s similar to Miles Boykin in an athletic sense, they tied for the furthest broad jump at this year’s combine. He’s much less laterally explosive, which limits his potential route running-wise. He stands at 6’2″, which is about the perfect height for the modern wide receiver. He most likely will never be the WR1 for a team, but he can make an impact as a solid WR2/WR3, and his ceiling is probably becoming one of the league’s premier deep threats. Projection: Mid Fourth Round

2019 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Round 1

With the NFL Draft beginning in just about a week, it seems like as good of a time as any to release my first official mock draft. After gathering information from all across Draft Twitter, scouting reports, player film, and the league’s rumor mill, this is as good of an explanation as I can give as to what should happen in this year’s draft. Obviously this won’t be accurate at all (no mock drafts are accurate), but based off of team needs and prospect buzz, these are my predictions.

  1. ARI: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma – The media’s confidence in Arizona selecting Murray with the first pick is decreasing. The trade buzz around Josh Rosen is slowly dying, and I highly doubt that Arizona would draft Kyler with Rosen still on the roster. Kyler is one of the better QB prospects of this decade despite his height concerns, and I think that he’ll go first overall to whichever team ends up with this pick.
  2. SF: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama – San Francisco has a ton of money and talent tied up at EDGE so it would make sense for them to take Williams with this pick. SF just put money into Dee Ford, which is probably why they’ll go with Williams, who’ll still be a game wrecker. He dominated thoroughly at Alabama, pretty much destroying the interior of every offensive line he faced this past season. He has good hands, a high motor, and fantastic size, all which will translate to the NFL.
  3. NYJ: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State – Is pretty much a photocopy of his brother Joey, except with much more refined pass rushing moves for his age. He’s also slightly more athletic than his brother. Getting Bosa at #3 will give the Jets the dominant pass rusher that they’ve been searching for since John Abraham left.
  4. OAK: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky – There’s no replacing a player of Khalil Mack’s caliber, but Josh Allen would be a great consolation. He’s extremely versatile, he can work as a pass rusher or as a coverage linebacker. His strong suit is by far as an edge rusher, both as a 3-4 linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end. This versatility makes him an excellent pick for Oakland.
  5. TB: Devin White, ILB, LSU – He has excellent range, although I think he’s being hyped up too much. I don’t see what makes him so much better than Deion Jones, a similarly quick ILB from LSU, who was taken in the second round in 2016. I still think he’ll be a good player, and he’s going to be picked high due to the lack of depth at ILB in this class.
  6. NYG: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State – I really have no idea what the Giants are going to do here. Dave Gettleman seems to still have attachment issues with Eli Manning, but I have a feeling that it’s just a smoke screen. Dwayne Haskins was a one-year starter for Ohio State, setting Big Ten records in passing yard and passing touchdowns. He has an NFL build, although he’s terribly slow and a bit unathletic.
  7. JAX: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama – Jonah Williams is being supremely underrated. He’s not a guard, he’s not an RT. He is a franchise LT, and he has done nothing to disprove this in his two extremely productive seasons at Alabama. The Jaguars are a team with a ton of holes on offense, so you can never go wrong with the best available player.
  8. DET: Ed Oliver, DE/DT, Houston – The Lions will be lucky if Oliver slides this far, but I think it’ll happen. He’ll replace Ziggy Ansah with ease. He has as high of potential as anyone in the draft. Crazy Stat: He had a faster 20-yard shuttle than Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey. At 280 pounds. Also, his 3 Cone Shuttle time would’ve placed him in the Top 5 of this class’s WRs. He’s undersized at around 6’1″, but just like Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald, his lateral speed will make up for his lack of size.
  9. BUF: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Missouri – The Bills need offensive weapons, but I don’t think any of this year’s receivers are worthy of a Top 10 pick. Montez Sweat would be a nice addition to their already solid pass rush. I predict a trade back for the Bills, but if not, Sweat has about as much potential as any edge rusher we’ve seen.
  10. DEN: Devin Bush Jr., LB, Michigan – This is a perfect fit for a team with a glaring need at ILB. Coverage linebackers are at an all-time premium in the NFL, and Bush can cover the field as well as any LB with his sub 4.5 40 speed. He’s also the most talented pass-rushing inside linebacker in this draft. Bush is a little undersized at 5’11”, but he plays much bigger than what he’s listed at.
  11. CIN: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington – Murphy has incredible ball skills and good measurables, and is more disciplined than Greedy, who I think is the second-best CB. He’s a good fit for Cincinnati, but he’d be a good fit anywhere, he’s explosive and has the best instincts out of any cornerback in this draft. Him and William Jackson III would make for one of the best young secondaries in the NFL.
  12. GB: TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa – Outside of the top three picks, I don’t think you can get any safer than Hockenson in this draft class. Luckily for the Packers, they need a TE. Hockenson is a great receiver, great blocker, and he’s been through the same coaching as All-Pro TE George Kittle at Iowa.
  13. MIA: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri – Personally, I don’t love Drew Lock as a prospect. However, the QB room in Miami is looking extremely dire, featuring Ryan Fitzpatrick and Luke Falk as QB1 and QB2, respectively. It sounds like a crime, putting a rookie QB into a system with a new (defensive) head coach, but the Cardinals did it last year. If there’s any organization dysfunctional enough to make the same mistake this year, it’s the Miami Dolphins. Lock has an NFL-level arm, and the production in college to back it up. He has accuracy concerns though.
  14. ATL: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida – Although the Falcons tried to upgrade their talent at tackle with their signing of Ty Sambrailo, they don’t have much of a future at RT. I If Hockenson slips, I could see them going with a TE here. They need an upgrade at CB and EDGE too, so their pick is a toss-up. I could also see them taking Rashan Gary or Brian Burns here too.
  15. WSH: Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan – If I had to pick one first-round-projected prospect that I trust the least, it would be Rashan Gary. He’s an athletic marvel, but there are serious concerns with his pass-rushing inconsistency and his unreliable work ethic. It works out, though, because the organization that I trust the least is the Washington Redskins, who could pick Gary to replace an aging Ryan Kerrigan.
  16. CAR: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson – This is one of my favorite potential picks of the first round. Ferrell is being overlooked when it comes to this class of edge rushers. He set the edge for Clemson’s 3-4 just as well as anyone in CFB, and I think his talents will translate directly to what the Panthers run in Carolina. 19.5 TFL and 13 sacks on that stacked Clemson line are insane, and he has the pro-level measurables to back everything up.
  17. NYG: DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss Player Comparison: With this pick, I think the Giants will try to make a splash. There isn’t a more splash-inducing pick than DK Metcalf. After trading Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants have no deep threats at wide receiver. And when you’re a team that’s (not admittedly) rebuilding, you’re more adept at taking risks in the draft, which is precisely what Metcalf is; a risk. College production isn’t always an indicator of NFL success (George Kittle), and Metcalf may be one of the most physically talented receivers the NFL’s ever seen.
  18. MIN: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson – The Vikings need to address two significant sections of their roster in this draft: Their defensive line, and their offensive line. In my opinion, the class of offensive linemen is slightly deeper than the defensive line class this year, so in round one, I have them choosing a defensive tackle that will eventually take Linval Joseph’s place. Wilkins eats space like no other DT in this class and has the agility and lateral speed to become a run-stuffing stalwart in the NFL.
  19. TEN: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa – Titans GM Jon Robinson has sneakily built one of the deepest and balanced rosters in the NFL; there are just about zero red flags when it comes to their needs in this year’s draft. However, after Delanie Walker’s gruesome ankle injury this past season, it is time for the Titans to find their future at Tight End. Noah Fant would be a great fit on just about any team, and I think he’ll come in and make an immediate impact for the Titans. He was highly graded in his junior season at Iowa, and he had WR-like numbers at the combine. He needs to add muscle and weight to his frame to adjust to the physicality of the NFL, but I think he’s still a solid prospect.
  20. PIT: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU – Williams is a sticky, agile man-to-man cover corner, with great instincts and natural talent while playing the ball in the air. He’s long and athletic, he’ll be able to run with almost anyone and challenge almost anyone physically. He doesn’t love to defend the run, but the Steelers have been drafting a ton of non-tackling defensive backs lately with players like Artie Burns and Senquez Golson.
  21. SEA: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State – This past season, Seattle solidified its identity as a run-first team; ignoring the emergence of the high-powered, pass-first offense that is dominating the new NFL. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has dedicated his life to perfecting the art of the power run scheme, and for that to rise to its full potential, the Seahawks need to add more talent to its offensive line. They already have Duane Brown at LT, but he’s aging, and they Dillard can still fill in at RT.
  22. BLT: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma – Despite his below-average stature and concerning weight, Marquise Brown has maintained a first-round status throughout combine season. He’s the most talented route-runner in this class, and he has Desean Jackson-esque burners. He’s pretty much a souped-up version of John Brown, a player that the Ravens lost this offseason.
  23. HOU: Dalton Risner, OT/OG, Kansas State – Dalton Risner is one of the more underrated players of this draft class. I’ve seen several experts that are projecting him as a guard in the league, but after four extremely productive seasons at tackle for Kansas State, I see no physical or football-related reasons for him converting to guard. Houston’s offensive line is unarguably the worst in the NFL, and their number-one priority for this draft HAS to be to protect Deshaun Watson more, who is the future of their franchise. I can see Risner as a franchise LT, which would be insane value at 23.
  24. OAK: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State – Oakland is (in)famous for taking freakish athletes with their high picks. Obi Melifonwu, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Darren McFadden; players along those lines. Brian Burns fits right in with those guys. He ran a 4.5 40 and broad jumped about eleven feet at around 250 pounds at the NFL Combine. Those types of numbers are unheard of (unless we’re talking about Montez Sweat). Brian Burns is a high-ceiling, productive edge rusher that could somewhat fill the shoes of players like Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, two pass rushers that the Raiders have gotten rid of lately.
  25. PHI: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama – According to Pro Football Focus, there are five college running backs in the past 6 years with running and receiving grades above an 85: Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon, and Josh Jacobs. All four of these players have translated exceptionally well to the pros, and I have no doubts that Jacobs will be elite. It works out well, as the Eagles probably have the most significant need for a running back, and although I disagree with drafting running backs early, they have very few holes on their roster outside of running back.
  26. IND: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame Jerry Tillery is one of the more underrated prospects in this class. He’s an incredibly disruptive pass rusher, possibly as effective as any interior pass rusher in this class. (Except for Quinnen Williams) He’s a little inconsistent in run defense, which is the cause for his lack of hype. In the right scheme, he could become one of the league’s premier pass rushers. The Colts are a franchise with a ton of momentum, and hitting on a player like Tillery could push Indianapolis into the upper echelon of AFC teams.
  27. OAK: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama – The Raiders knock out another team need with this pick. Thompson is a player with limited range athletically, but his instincts and playmaking are what propels him into the first round. After whiffing on Obi Melifonwu and reaching for Karl Joseph, the Raiders hopefully can counter their tendencies of falling for uber-athletic players, and instead, take a much safer prospect in Deionte Thompson.
  28. LAC: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State – The Chargers have just about an equal need for depth at interior defensive line and offensive line, so with the 28th pick, I have them taking the best available player of the two positions. Although he recently suffered a torn ACL, Jeffery Simmons was an absolutely dominant player at Mississippi State, comparable to what Fletcher Cox did during his time there. He was a monster in the run and pass game, and the Chargers will be lucky if he slides due to his injury.
  29. KC: Taylor Rapp, S, Washington – This pick fills one of many holes on the Kansas City defense. Come to think about it, the only position that isn’t a need on their defense is in their interior defensive line. That is a problem. If I were the Chiefs, I wouldn’t select a single offensive player in this draft. Taylor Rapp played well at Washington, and he’ll be a fine pro.
  30. GB: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss – A.J. Brown could go anywhere from the 15th overall pick to the 45th overall pick in this draft. Personally, I think he has a ton of talent and a ton of charisma. Brown can be an elite receiver out of the slot or outside of the numbers. He’s a crisp route runner, and he has a strong build with good height. There aren’t many concerns with his hands, about zero total red flags. He’d work beautifully with Aaron Rodgers, who’s desperate for a middle-of-the-field receiver.
  31. LAR: Garrett Bradbury, OG/C, NC State -Garrett Bradbury is an excellent fit for the Rams, an organization with a quickly aging offensive line and a Super Bowl window that’s wide open. He plays as hard as any O-Lineman in this class, and he does it efficiently.
  32. NE: Jonathan Abram, S, Mississippi State – The Patriots’ most glaring need is at playmaking positions like wide receiver and tight end. Given Bill Belichick’s inability to draft wide receivers, I believe that the Patriots will avoid that position in the first round, especially given the depth at WR. Instead, the Patriots improve the depth of their secondary, the unit that can be most credited for winning their past Super Bowl. Abram is an active, instinctual, hard-hitting safety that can properly replace Patrick Chung, who is getting older and has been riddled with injuries lately.