The 2020 NFL Draft

It’s here. The college prospects are waiting impatiently for their names to be called to an NFL franchise to start their careers. The “experts” are finalizing their final mock drafts before the real one begins, and fans everywhere await with anticipation to see who the next possible star is for their team. The NFL Draft is one of my favorite sporting events in the world, as it generates some of the best television across the globe. Every year, we witness a kid who was projected a top pick, drop late in the 1st round due to his character, off the field issues, or from videos surfaced hours before the start of the draft. We also witness a guy who attended a small school get drafted earlier than expected. It’s reality TV at its finest, as we watch people who have worked their entire lives towards their dream of playing professional football come to fruition.

This is where superstars are born. It doesn’t matter what round they’re drafted in, they’ve made it. For the top prospects, it’s time to go out and show everyone why you were selected in the first round. As for guys taken later, you were drafted late, and so what? Now it’s time to go and prove everyone wrong. The Draft is what separates the bad teams from the great teams. The best evaluators make the most of their draft picks no matter how much, or little, they have. The Draft is where careers start, as we’ve seen the greatest NFL players of all time come through the system. Guys like Peyton Manning, or Charles Woodson, who dominated in college, and continued their domination in the NFL. You also have guys like Tom Brady, and Deacon Jones, who were selected late and ended up having Hall of Fame careers. But what makes the Draft so thrilling, is the gamble teams make with every selection. As every year consists of busts too. Mathematically, with every superstar selected, there’s two bad picks made (I made up that math myself). Like Jamarcus Russell, who never panned out for the Raiders after being selected 1st overall. Or Ryan Leaf, where experts literally thought would have a better career than Peyton Manning, only to become one of the biggest busts in NFL history. This is what makes the Draft so fun. You never actually know how it’s going to pan out, and I can’t wait for this thing to kickoff this Thursday at 8pm (eastern time).

Although the Draft is exciting, it’s different this year, as COVID-19 has forced people across the globe from gathering in large crowds. We’ll be missing out on some of the things we’re used to, but there will still be some familiarity. The spectacle may not be there, but the emotions, and captivating trades will be. Additionally, this years draft class is rather deep, and every NFL team is chomping at the bit to acquire these talented athletes onto their rosters. The 2020 NFL Draft should still usher in high quality content, despite the impact of the coronavirus.

COVID-19’s Affect on the NFL Draft

By now, everybody is aware of COVID-19 that has put an abrupt halt on the world (and if you don’t, then please, stay under the rock you’ve been living in for the last three and a half months for all of our safety). The impact has been heard around the globe, as businesses have been shut down, social gathering is no longer at our leisure, and sports have stopped playing completely. The NBA couldn’t even finish their season, the MLB didn’t even start theirs, and the XFL got completely wiped out. The start of football season is in question as well, as College football typically kicks off in August. But we’re here, and for the most part, it’s out of our control until a vaccine comes into play. So in the mean time, at least we have some sort of normalcy with the NFL Draft launching this week.

Last year, the NFL Draft was held in Nashville, Tennessee. It was placed smack dab in the middle of the busiest block of the city, and it generated an estimated attendance of 600,000 people, along with 47.5 million viewers in a three day time span. That number shattered the previous record of a mere 100,000 attendees at the 2018 draft in Dallas, Texas. This year however, the Draft was scheduled to be held Las Vegas, Nevada, Sin City, where Nashville’s record would have been undoubtedly been broken as well. The bright lights, the gambling, the drinks, the strippers, the dru… Okay, the NFL probably wouldn’t have shown the REALLY good parts of Vegas on national TV, but you get my point. The spectacle of the Draft was going to be at its highest peak, and we don’t get to see any of that because of the coronavirus. Instead, we’ll be watching at-home video footage of the commissioner, the teams, athletes, and announcers. It’s going to feel like watching a group of 32 teams conducting a fantasy draft that’s aired on TV for our viewing. It’s like a glorified episode of The League, only the characters are much more serious, and nobody (that we know of) has a psychotic brother-in-law named Rafi.

With that being said, the NFL seems to have done a good job of preparing each franchise for this odd situation, as earlier this week they conducted a couple mock drafts to make sure the system works. It was reported there was a hiccup during the first pick of the mock draft, but after it was resolved it became smooth sailing. There’s also been reports of coaches and GMs arguing with their families to stop hogging the wifi so the system didn’t run so slow. But other than that, it seems the NFL is ready for business this weekend. At first, team’s front offices voiced their concerns of possible hackers, but that idea has seemed to die out as quick as Gronk’s retirement. Now team’s are worried about the leisure of reaching out and signing Undrafted Free Agents. It’s going to be a race, a first come first serve scenario, as team’s make the phone calls to sign who they can before the start of training camp.

Something else we haven’t seen before, is the lack of communication coaches have had with the prospects. Of course, they have tape, and they had the chance to watch these athletes perform at the combine, as well as had the opportunity to sit down with some of the players. However, because of COVID-19, visiting players in person was cut short. Some coaches have described the situation as “going out on a Tinder date, then immediately asking that person to marry you.” So it seems some of these picks may not work out the way they planned due to the virus. This is what is REALLY going to separate the best teams from the worst. Front offices who don’t have strong scouts and evaluators are truly at a disadvantage over the ones who do. There are a handful of teams that are depending on the draft to help them go over the top to make a deep playoff run next year, and there’s teams looking for young talent to enter their program and become the future stars of the team. Without being able to evaluate these prospects accordingly, we could see more busts than usual.

Lastly, my favorite part of the NFL Draft won’t be in full swing on Thursday either. Every year, on every pick he approaches the podium, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is boo’d by everyone in attendance. It’s glorious, wonderful music to my ears. The boo’s are like beautiful song birds singing in the early morning as you sip your hot coffee. The boo’s of Roger Goodell soothe me to my core in the same way a mother’s song soothes a sleeping child. And it’s been taken away from me. From us. Those boo’s and jeers we’re used to are now gone this year, all because some dude supposedly ate a bat!? It’s not completely lost though, as I know that everyone who watches the Draft this weekend will be booing from home. Although we won’t hear the boo’s on our television screens, we will be booing Roger Goodell from the safety of our homes, which truly touches my heart. Boooooo, Roger. Boooooooo.

What We Can Still Expect

Even though the NFL Draft will feel different this year, there’s still a few things to look forward to. First, we’ll still have access to witness the emotions of the prospects as they receive that call with great news. I love watching these kids who have sacrificed so much, and who have worded so hard, to one day be drafted in the league. The reactions they have as they pick up the phone and talk with the coach. Their loved ones swarming them with love and affection. The tears of joy, the laughter, and the pride, will all still be there, as most of the athletes will have an at-home setup for viewers to see.

Additionally, it’s not like the NFL lacks drama. The Draft is full of possible trade scenarios, sending different future draft selections, and sometimes, they trade away players to different franchises. This year there are some intriguing names involved in the rumor mill. Guys like Malik Hooker, Trent Williams, Leonard Fournette, OJ Howard, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jamal Adams have all had their names thrown around as possible trade candidates for the Draft. After this weekend, some (or all) of these players could have a new home by Saturday. The NFL is a race for the Super Bowl, and every team will do what they feel is necessary to accomplish that goal. There’s not only big names available in the draft, but these guys I named are big name players in the NFL already. There is going to be a ton of maneuvers made this year, adding more excitement to the already highly anticipated Draft.

We’re also still going to see the Draft “experts” be incredibly wrong like they are every year. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both work for ESPN, and it’s their jobs to predict the Draft. Only thing is, they’re literally wrong every single year. Where else can you work and be wrong well over 90% of the time? Now, don’t get me wrong, both Kiper and McShay are capable of spouting off stats about players you and I have never heard of, who have attended a school that is just as anonymous. So it’s not like the experts don’t do their homework. But it always makes me laugh to see Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay bash a team for it’s selection because it didn’t match with their own draft boards. It’s even better when that player goes and plays well, making Kiper and McShay look dumb for making those comments. So, it’s a sure fire bet we’ll be seeing the same, usual, inaccurate Draft boards the “experts” put up.

This Years Draft Class

This years class is DEEP. I don’t remember the last time there were so many QBs that have the potential to take over a franchise one day. We have Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert all projected first rounders with remarkable college careers. There’s also Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm, and Jacob Eason that scouts are excited about as well. I mean, even the QBs projected late have some potential. I’ve seen scouts raving about James Morgan, Nate Stanley, and Cole McDonald. Another reason the QB position is interesting this year, is there seems to be more teams searching for a QB. Whether it’s a high caliber guy to come in and play right away, or maybe a team needs depth for the future. The Bengals, Dolphins, and Chargers, are all rumored to draft a QB with their first picks, while the Saints, Patriots, Titans, and Buccaneers, are all teams that need a young backup.

On top of that, we’re looking at the deepest Wide Receiver class to date, where many analysts are claiming they have up to 20 WRs named in their top 100 prospects. There’s so many good receivers this year, if your team drafts one in round 5, he still has the potential and the talent to come into the organization and gain immediate reps. Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III, all lead the long list of WRs available this year, and for a passing league, the NFL is going to become more air heavy next year. One GM was mentioned, saying that he’d rather, “take the 10th best WR on the board before drafting the top TE in the Draft.” That’s a pretty bold statement, but really it’s true, as the number of talented WRs in the Draft drastically out weighs the talent in the TE position.

The Draft doesn’t lack any defensive talent either, as Chase Young is easily the top prospect in the Draft this year. I personally am more excited about him right now, than I was when Jadeveon Clowney entered the Draft. But Young isn’t the only name that sparks my interest. There’s some serious talent in the likes of Jeff Okudah, CJ Henderson, Isaiah Simmons, Kenneth Murray, and Derrick Brown. There is so much talent this year that it’s very possible we’re looking at one of the best Draft Classes we’ve seen in history… But only time will tell.

It’s Bigger Than Sports

I’ve loved watching sports since I was a little kid. Michael Jordan was the first athlete I remember watching as I learned the game of basketball. Then that quickly transitioned to Kobe Bryant. Then I began watching football, where the first Super Bowl I remember was the Tennessee Titans VS the St. Louis Rams. I remember choosing to root for the Titans that game strictly because everyone else was rooting against them at the house we were watching in… and I’ve been a die hard Titans fan ever since. Sports contain valuable life lessons as well, like, how to work towards a goal, team work, leadership, studying, coaching, etc. It has everything you’d want your children to learn growing up, and they learn these life lessons while staying active, and staying in shape. These kids this weekend that are available in the 2020 Draft, have dedicated their entire childhoods to football, with the hopes of reaching the NFL and changing their lives forever.

COVID-19 has shut down the opportunity for any sports to happen currently. States are starting to open back up, and slowly but surely everything will go back to normal… eventually. The best thing we can do is find good in the little things right now, and spend time with friends and family (FROM A DISTANCE!!). It’s nice to know that the NFL Draft is going to bring some equilibrium to the sports world, as lord knows we need it. So on Thursday night, 8pm eastern time (west coast, you’re so lucky with your time zone, you don’t even know how good you have it), put on your favorite jersey, crack open a beer, and sit back and enjoy the NFL Draft together, from the comfort and safety of our homes.

Running Backs: Are They Worth It?

The NFL Draft is just around the corner, and front offices are making decisions they feel is best for their franchise. One of the most talked about positions lately has been Running Backs, not because of their talents, but more so of the value of their worth. There seems to be this odd conversation happening throughout the masses, claiming that paying a RB top dollar is not a smart investment. In history, that seems to hold true… to a point, as I believe you can literally say that about every position in the NFL. Football is a team sport, and you can’t win games with one guy. It takes the effort of every player on the roster, as well as solid coaching, in order for a team to win games. The fact of the matter is, the best players should be paid the most money, despite what position they play.

The Front Office is the Real Enemy

We’ve seen it time, and time again. A high profile player has a speculator season (or 2), then they sign a huge contract, giving them a ton of money, and they disappear. We’ve seen it happen with Running Backs… and Quarter Backs, Defensive Tackles, Corner Backs… I’d list more examples, but i’m sure if you’re reading this you know the name of most, if not, all of the positions on the field. The point is, it’s a gamble every time a team offers a big contract to a player. In fact, every acquisition a team makes is a gamble. When it comes to the NFL Draft, you better hope your front office knows how to accurately evaluate college players. Otherwise that team is going to be bad for some time. Just ask the 2009-2015 Tennessee Titans, or the Cleveland Browns every year. There is an art in evaluating talent, especially in the draft, and is the reason why the same teams are in the playoffs every season. But that evaluation continues throughout free agency, signing coaching staff, and even signing general managers. You literally never know if it was a good acquisition until a few years down the road (or however long their contract is).

First example, Jared Goff, the QB for the Los Angeles Rams, signed a 4-year $134 million deal. In 2019, Goff finished 5th in total passing yards, 4th in completion percentage, 15th in yards per attempt, 17th in touchdown passes, had the 4th most interceptions, and finished the year with a 48.5 QBR (23rd in the league). Even before his big pay day, Goff was mediocre at best as he was apart of a team that went to the super bowl, only to put on a lackluster performance. His 2019 stats show nothing more than that he threw the ball a lot. The Rams spent a ton of money on both their RB, and their QB. And when Gurley went down, their high paid QB couldn’t get the job done, as the Rams missed the playoffs entirely this past year. The rams have a good defense, a decent offensive line, and weapons for Goff to throw to. So why is so much blame being put on Todd Gurley? There is always a ton of finger pointing when things don’t go your way, especially after your team was so successful the year before. If anything, Goff is completely over rated, and the front office isn’t giving Sean McVay a chance to acquire top talent in the draft, after the front office dished away their 1st round picks in 2020 and 2021. Not only that, they officially cut Gurley after they couldn’t find a trade partner. Putting the Rams in a situation where they now need help offensively, and have weakened their chances of acquiring a prolific player in the draft for the next two years.

Okay, maybe you like defense more. Let’s go back to 2009. The Tennessee Titans just finished their 2008 season going 13-3. After earning the first seed in the AFC, they ultimately lost to the Baltimore Ravens that year in the playoffs (that game still haunts me to this day). The Titans defense that year was one of the best in the NFL, and was a HUGE part in helping them win 13 games that year. One of those guys was none other, than Albert Haynesworth. After finishing the year with a career high 8.5 sacks, and dominating the interior line all season long, the Titans opted not to re-sign him to the roster. Haynesworth was a monster for the Titans for 4 of the 7 years on the team, and clearly deserved some form of payment for his efforts. Additionally, he was 28 years old at the time, which meant he was entering his prime years as an athlete. Titans simply couldn’t afford him, so the Washington Redskins came in and scooped him up for a whopping seven year, $100 million dollar contract. Now, respectively, it’s commonly known that the prime years of an athlete are typically between the ages of 28-32. Which meant the Redskins signed him for longer than his prime. The result? Albert Haynesworth didn’t even play two full seasons. Costing the Redskins a ton of money. Since 2004, the Redskins have had 11 losing seasons. The best RB in Redskins history (arguably) is Clinton Portis, who was their star player from 2004-2008 (he started to decline at age 28). In 2004, Portis signed an 8-year $50.5 million deal, which at the time, made him the highest paid Running Back in the NFL. Now did the deal correlate to wins? Not really, but the Redskins also signed Haynsworth to a terrible contract in 2008, which didn’t help the team either. At the end of the day, it was Washington’s failure of a front office that doomed the team, as they acquired more bad players than good during that stretch.

Sometimes, It’s Just Bad Coaching

At the beginning of the 2019 season, we all watched Ezekiel Elliot holdout until the Dallas Cowboys offered him a monster six year contract worth up to $90 million dollars. By the time the deal expires, Zeke will be 31 years old. Clearly, he was paid for his accomplishments for his past work, however, the Cowboy’s franchise RB had a great season last year. After totaling 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns, Zeke finished within the top 5 in both categories. Additionally, like I stated previously, athletes prime years range from 28-32. Now, Running Backs seem to age faster than other players in the NFL, where they seem to start declining in their late 20s. In retrospect, signing Zeke for that length is what made this a bad deal. He’s 26 years old now, but considering how he’s played, it’s not crazy to think he can defeat the odds and keep playing at a high level until he’s 31 (Look at Adrian Peterson and Emmit Smith’s careers). However, The Cowboys were rather smart with their signing, as Zeke’s contract is back logged. He’s due most of his money in 2025 and 2026, (he’ll be 31 in 2026) which means if Zeke starts declining, the Cowboys can cut him and regain some money back. Now, despite Elliot’s efforts in 2019, the Cowboys missed out on the playoffs. But was it really at the fault of their star Running Back?

Dak Prescott was a good (not great) QB last season, The Cowboys notoriously have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Amari Cooper showed once again that he’s one of the best WRs in the league, and the Cowboys defense finished with the 11th best defense in the NFL (Pro Football Reference). On paper, the ‘Boys looked like sure fire bets to make a super bowl run, and looked the part to start the season. But the fault of the Dallas Cowboys was their coaching staff. Jason Garrett had been the Cowboys head coach for 10 years before he was fired and replaced by Mike McCarthy after the 2019 season. I don’t know how many times it was discussed on ESPN, FoxSports1, Dallas sports bars, and by my friends, that Garrett was on the hot seat. There were countless moments where everyone thought he was going to be fired, only to stay on the team for another season. From the outside looking in, it always seemed like he didn’t have any control of the team, and was used as a puppet for Jerry Jones to control. Those are probably harsh words, but still, Garrett never really did a great job with the team, and last year, the Cowboys had a real chance to make some noise. We’ll see what the Cowboys can do with a new head coach, but I’d bet everything I have that Zeke has another freak year.

There Are Two Sides to Every Argument

Christian McCaffrey, Running Back of the Carolina Panthers, recently signed a 4-year $64 million deal, averaging $16 million per year. CMC is now the highest paid RB in NFL history as we head towards the 2020 season. The past couple days has brought up interesting debate on whether this was a good deal or not for the Panthers. It almost seems close to 50/50 where people think you should never give a Running Back that kind of payment, where the other half of people think CMC more than deserves the money. Let’s take a closer look and consider both sides of the argument.

As stated before, people argue that in history, it hasn’t worked out for teams who give a large quantity of money to a RB. But as I said before, you can say that for every position in football, not JUST Running Backs. The other argument is that people claim you don’t need a top dollar RB anymore to win games. It’s kind of true, as the San Fransisco 49ers finished in 2nd with the most rushing yards in the league. They played with a committee of players, each sharing reps, and each of them ran the ball particularly well. The offensive line is where the run game thrives, and the argument is that any RB can be great, as long as they have the blockers necessary. Makes sense, as 8 of the top 10 rushing teams have a good O-line. Football is a game that is fought in the trenches. Typically, the teams with the best offensive lines fair better than the teams that don’t. The same can be said on the defensive side of the ball. The 49ers spent a lot of high quality draft picks on the front lines of their team, both on offense and defense. This played a HUGE role in helping make their way to the super bowl last year. And really, who wouldn’t want a badass offensive and defensive line to bully the opponent every week?

Now, like I said, the argument makes sense, but there’s a reason why the 49ers lost to the Chiefs in the super bowl. The Chiefs were in a similar situation with their RB position. Just like the 49ers, the Chiefs had a group of under appreciated RBs, a top Tight End, and a stout defense. But the real key difference was the QB, and the other skills position players. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, who seems to already be the next great player for years to come. He’s throwing the ball to arguably the best TE in the league, along with a WR core that was nearly impossible to guard. With guys like Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, and Mecole Hardman, it was obvious the Chiefs just had too much for the 49ers to handle. Now it wasn’t like San Fran lacked in talent, as they had guys like George Kittle, Emmanual Sanders, and Deebo Samuel. But in comparison to the Chiefs, the 49ers just didn’t have enough fire power to beat the prolific offense Kansas City possessed. Considering Jimmy Garoppolo was only slightly above average all year, and the team relied so much on the run game, it was only a matter of time for the team to fall. But what if the 49ers had a guy like Christian McCaffrey? A player who posted over 1300 rushing yards along with over 1000 receiving yards in 2019? Rather than playing with a committee, it’s possible the 49ers could’ve won the super bowl had they had a better Running Back on their roster, considering how GOOD that O-line was. Their offensive line made Raheem Mostert look like an all star, and I never even heard of him until I put together my fantasy football lists in June last year. Could you imagine the damage a guy like McCaffrey could do running behind that O-line? The added weapon Garoppolo would have in the passing game? The Chiefs undeniably would have had to approach that game with a completely different strategy, and who knows, a high caliber player like CMC could have been the difference for the 49ers.

The Christian McCaffrey Affect

Now going back to Christian McCaffrey’s contract with the Panthers. He just signed a deal making him the highest paid Running Back in NFL history, surpassing Ezekiel Elliot’s contract that broke the record less than a year ago. A lot of people are caught up in the “don’t pay Running Backs that kind of money” argument, and using the 49ers as their main example. However, McCaffrey’s situation is different than most RBs we see in the league. Not only did McCaffrey rush for over 1300 yards, but he also had over 1000 receiving yards on the year. CMC finished 28th in total receiving yards, putting him ahead of some big name Wide Receivers like Devante Adams, Mike Williams, and Larry Fitzgerald. He was only 112 receiving yards behind Julian Edelman. Stats wise, CMC proved he is an elite RB1 in the league, and a solid WR2 simultaneously. He’s also the first and only player in NFL history to gain 2,500 rushing AND receiving yards in his first 3 years. Not only that, since 2017, CMC has 303 receptions, tying him with the 3rd most receptions in the ENTIRE LEAGUE (Michael Thomas 378, DeAndre Hopkins 315, Christian McCaffrey 303, Keenan Allen 303, Julio Jones 300). The guy is competing with the top WRs in the NFL and he doesn’t even play that position. He’s the ultimate dual threat RB, and he’s accomplishing more than we’ve ever seen before.

“But Running Backs age quicker than other players in the league, you said so yourself,” someone types in the twitter thread… Yes, it’s true. Most RBs in the NFL start declining once they hit their late 20s. LaDainian Tomlinson rushed over 1000 yards every year until he became 30. Clinton Portis was the same until he reached 29 years old. Then you have your freaks of nature like Frank Gore, who keeps competing for starting reps after being in the league for a hundred years. Even Emmitt Smith played until he was 35, and nearly rushed for 1000 yards in his final year. But let’s look at Christian McCaffrey. He’s currently 24 years old, and by the time his contract ends, he’ll be 28. The Panthers signed him long term during his prime years as a RB. And according to history, most NFL RBs start declining at 28 years of age. There’s reason to believe that CMC will continue playing at a high level throughout these next 4 years (as he’s done EVERY year of his career), making this a smart signing on the Panthers part. Sure, they’ll be taking a hit on their cap space this coming season. But in 2021, the Panthers have a group of players that will become free agents, retire, or be released, which should give the Panthers back enough money to make a splash in the future. The Carolina Panthers locked in their franchise player to build around for the next four years. That’s not something every team in the league can say.

Conclusion

The main point is, the best players in the league should be paid top dollar, despite whatever position they play. Sports are a performance based business. Meaning, in order to receive money, players have to perform at a high level in order to earn their contracts. Just like every job in the world, when a person is given a raise in pay, it’s based off what they have already accomplished, as well as what the company believes that person will accomplish in the future. The NFL works no differently, only that the player’s pay raises consists of a lot more money.

Additionally, giving someone that amount of money is a gamble every time. Especially in football, which is one of the most violent sports in the world. Guys are constantly hitting each other in every game, and there’s the head trauma issues the NFL has been dealing with for nearly the past decade now. But at the end of the day, what it really comes down to is smart decision making. A front office should look at their players from every angle when they consider giving him large contract. What’s his injury history in college/NFL? How many years has he performed at this high caliber level? Was last season his only good year? How much does our team depend on him for the future? etc. etc… Either way, if it’s a good fit and it makes sense to the franchise, teams should be paying RBs top dollar if they’ve proven they deserve it, and earned it.

Return of the Pack, We Know that They’ll be Back… To the Playoffs

The historic Green Bay Packers have been around since the birth of football. One of the longest running franchises in the NFL, Green Bay has had an historic run throughout the years. Along the way they’ve filled the NFL Hall of Fame with multiple legends like Brett Favre, and Reggie White. The Super Bowl trophy is even named after their legendary coach Vince Lombardi. So when the Packers finished the year at 13-3, it seemed like business as usual for Aaron Rodgers and the Pack Attack. Most of Rodgers’ career has been offense heavy with emphasis in the pass game. But something was different about this 2019 Green Bay team. Not only could they pass the ball, but Aaron Jones continued his dominance as a running back, and this year, the Packers defense showed up to play. Even Rodgers seemed pleasantly surprised after their week 1 win against the Chicago Bears, stating, “We got a defense,” during a post game interview while expressing a proud smile.

This years Packers team was a dangerous unit from the start, as their offense finished 9th in efficiency, and their defense ranking 6th (according to ESPN). Putting the team within the top 10 for both sides of the ball. However great this team seemed to be all year long, there was something noticeably missing in every game. Despite finishing the year with one of the top defenses in the league, Green Bay gave up 1,921 rushing yards, which was the 9th most amongst other teams. We watched the San Fransisco 49ers take advantage of the Packers’ weakness not once, but twice. First in the regular season, and then again in the NFC Conference Championship, spoiling the Packers hopes of taking a trip to the Super Bowl.

As we’re now in the NFL offseason just a few days away from the start of free agency, the Packers, luckily, will have a majority of their main players coming back in 2020, as they’re all still under contract. Even so, they still have 3 main players hitting the free agent market on Monday, those being Bryan Bulaga (RT), Blake Martinez (ILB), and Geronimo Allison (WR). The Packers only have roughly $25 million in cap space this year (according to Spotrac), which means they’ll only be able to re-sign ONE of these guys. This makes the NFL Draft incredibly important for the Packers, as they’re looking to win the Super Bowl in 2020. Before the season starts, these are the transactions the Packers should take in order to go to the Super Bowl.

Decisions, Decisions…

Like I mentioned, the Packers have 3 main guys entering free agency. Those being Bryan Bulaga, Blake Martinez, and Geronimo Allison. Considering the Pack Attack’s front office only has about $25 million to play with, they’ll only be able to sign one of these players. To make the right decision, the front office is going to have to decide which they think is more important, offense or defense. By a simple process of elimination, the front office should make the right decision. Considering Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and the WR history the team has had with him under center, I’d remove Allison from the possibility of a re-sign. Rodgers still has Davante Adams, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Also, there always seems to be a new guy who shows up and performs well for Green Bay too.

That leaves Bulaga, or Martinez. Bryan Bulaga is one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL, and has been for a long time. He’s 31 years old right now, which means Green Bay probably still has 2 years maximum of Bulaga playing at this high of a level. On the other hand, Blake Martinez is a former 4th round pick and has excelled his expectations since taking over as the starting inside linebacker, recording 155 total tackles, 3 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception in 2019. He’s only 26, which means he has his best years ahead of him, and can be an impact player for the Packers for years to come.

At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to what the front office believes gives them the best chances of winning. Having said that, I think the Packers will make the decision to re-sign Bryan Bulaga. Giving Aaron Rodgers as much protection as possible will give the Packers the best chance at succeeding. Bulaga is already familiar with Rodgers and the offensive scheme, so bringing in a new veteran could cause some problems for the O-line next year, and depending on a rookie offensive tackle to take over and fill Bulaga’s shoes just isn’t realistic. The veteran tackle is expected to sign a deal that would give hime about $12 million per year (according to CBS Sports), which would bring the Packers cap space from $25 million, to about $13 million. With that money left over, the Packers should be looking to sign cheap, veteran players to add depth to the roster.

What About the Defense?

After re-signing Bryan Bulaga, the Packers are in a tricky position. Not only do they still need to find a way to stop the run, but they need to replace their star linebacker as well. I think it would be very important for the Packers to find some veteran help on defense with the $13 million left over. With that money, I think the Packers should consider signing Ndamukong Suh. I know there’s some bad blood with Packers fans and Suh due to some dirty moves on Suh’s part. However, Ndamukong played a HUGE role in stopping the run in Tampa Bay (the Buccaneers finished as the number 1 rush defense in 2019). Suh isn’t what he used to be, and won’t be able to rush the QB like he did in Detroit. But his ability to stop the run makes him a valuable asset that Green Bay would need in order to make a run at the Super Bowl. His dominant presence would boost the Packers rush defense drastically. Suh is 33 years old right now, which means his best years are definitely behind him, but he has signed a $5 million deal in both 2018 and 2019, making him affordable for the Packers this year.

Draft Time

The Pack Attack has the 30th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Green Bay has a total of 10 picks this year too, giving them a great chance to find the right guys to join the team. Because the Packers 1st round pick is near last, they’re not going to be able to draft the top guys available and will be looking at players projected late first, early second. Now after bringing back Bulaga, and possibly signing Suh, the biggest need for the team is ILB, after departing away from Blake Martinez. Even though that may be the case, I think the smartest choice for the Packers would be to draft a defensive tackle like Justin Madubuike. The 6’3″, 304 lbs lineman is projected to go in the 1st or 2nd round, and could be a guy the Packers look to acquire. I actually think he’s one of the better DT’s in the draft, as he recorded 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 11.5 tackles for a loss during his junior year at Texas A&M. I think choosing Madubuike would be great for this Packers team, as he could have the chance to learn behind Ndamukong Suh for a year before taking over as the starter. I think this would be best case scenario for the Green Bay Packers first pick.

As for the 2nd round and 3rd rounds, the Packers could find their replacement at ILB. The two guys that stick out to me the most for the Packers, are Anfernee Jennings (ILB/OLB, Alabama) and Troy Dye (ILB, Oregon). Both players are projected to be 3rd or 4th round picks (according to Walterfootball.com), which would make them great possible additions to the Packers front seven. Both players have their strengths and weaknesses, as Jennings specializes in blitzing and stopping the run, but lacks in coverage schemes. The Alabama alumni could be a great player to mix into the linebacker rotation until he’s ready to take over as the starter. As for Troy Dye, he stands at 6’4″ and has been a great all around player for the Ducks. But scouts question his awareness and ability to read plays. He’s also a bit light for the linebacker position, which means he could be bullied by offensive lineman until he bulks up more. Either way, I think Jennings or Dye would be huge acquisitions for this Packers defense and their future success.

After addressing the main issues on defense, I’d like to see Green Bay make a play for one of the wide receivers in this years draft. It’s a very deep class lead by Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, and I think the Packers could take advantage by drafting WR during day three. The possible players I see the Packers choosing are Jalen Reagor (TCU), Gabriel Davis (Central Florida), or Chase Claypool (Notre Dame). Anyone of these guys would be a great addition to the offense as the team will need someone to step up and fill Geronimo Allison’s shoes. It never hurts to give Aaron Rodgers another target to throw to. In addition to that, Jimmy Graham is no longer on the roster, and as of right now, the starting tight end is Mercedes Lewis. I don’t think finding a TE is high on the Packers priority list, but there’s a few guys available in the draft Green Bay could acquire. None of these guys are expected to become the next big star TE in the NFL, but drafting a guy like Cole Kmet (Notre Dame), Adam Trautman (Dayton), or Colby Parkinson (Stanford) would go a long way in adding depth and youth to this Packers offense.

NFL Kickoff

With the front office possibly looking to keep the offense intact and re-signing Bulaga, along with the WR and TE acquired in the draft, expect this Packers offense to start right where they left off. Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers, and he will make the plays the Packers need to win games. He still has Davante Adams to throw to, and Aaron Jones doesn’t seem like he’s going to slow down anytime soon. The loss of Blake Martinez is going to hurt, but if the Packers can focus on acquiring players to stop the run, I think their defense will be better than it was in 2019. They have a real chance at signing Ndamukong Suh, who adds tremendous power on that defensive front, and if they follow that up by drafting Justin Madubuike, then Green Bay will have that position covered for the future too. If the Packers follow a game plan similar to this, they’re going to be a great football team, and an extremely tough opponent to play against. All I can say, is look out for the Pack.

Detroit in the Playoffs? I’m Not Lion to You

Detroit, Michigan; home of the Lions, the football team we’ve all witnessed play through thick and thin. In my lifetime watching football, the Lions almost always seem like they’re near the bottom of the totem pole. I actually had high hopes for them last year in 2019. I thought Matt Patricia had a good team in front him of, and believed the NFC North was open to anybody. However, things fell apart for Detroit as they finished the year 3-12-1. Despite having one of the worst records this last season, the Lions are in a fantastic spot to turn things around. They currently have the 3rd overall pick in the upcoming draft, they’re looking to trade away Darius Slay and acquire even more picks, and are currently sitting at roughly $50 million in cap space (this can jump up to about $60 million once they trade away Slay). Additionally, the Lions offense is very close to becoming dominant, and they showed some flashes of brilliance at times last year.

Where Detroit fell short though, was their defense. They gave up more passing yards than anyone else at 4,551, and also gave up nearly 2000 rushing yards. They also had a difficult time creating turnovers, as they only forced 18 turnovers all year. Not to mention, teams scored at will agains the Lions, giving up 46 total touchdowns (33 of those through the air). So when it comes to their defense, the Detroit Lions have it cut out for them. The Lions are also in a tough division, where Green Bay finished a game away from the Super Bowl, the Vikings made the playoffs, and the Bears are only a few key pieces away from being a serious contender. With that being said, it’s going to be difficult for the Lions to make the adjustments necessary to win the NFC North. However, there is a real possibility they could sneak into the wildcard. Here are what I think the Lions front office should do to make the playoffs next year.

Trade Darius Slay

Now this shouldn’t come to you as a shocker, as Slay has been on the trading block since the end of the season. Even though Darius is one of the better cornerbacks in the league, Detroit needs to deal him away as soon as possible so they can game plan their draft strategy more effectively. This will be a huge trade, as whoever acquires Slay will have a drastically better secondary. For the Lions, this would clear up some cap space and give them an additional 1-2 picks in the upcoming draft. As much as I like Slay, this could be a great maneuver by the Lions front office, but only if the guys they draft turn into future stars. One team I can see making a play for Slay, is the Miami Dolphins. They have the draft picks necessary to make the deal enticing to the Lions, and they have the cap space necessary to give Darius what he wants – a big contract. Don’t expect a 2020 first rounder in the deal, but whatever the Lions receive should be worth it.

Clean Up the Offense

According to ESPN, the Detroit Lions offense ranked 19th overall. Not the worst, but certainly not the best. The one thing the Lions have going for them though, is the offense is pretty close to becoming dangerous. Stafford’s still got it, and it doesn’t seem like it matters who the receivers are for him to sling it around the field. Kerryon Johnson needs some help, and the offensive line could bulk up too.

Going into free agency, I think the first move for the Lions would be to acquire one of the top offensive tackles available. Now there’s a good amount of options they have, but I think it would come down to either Jack Conklin, Anthony Castonzo, or Bryan Bulaga. Conklin is looking like he may be receiving one of the largest contracts for a tackle in NFL history, so if the Lions are smart, I think they should lean towards Castonzo or Bulaga. Both of these guys are 31, so they still have at least 2-3 (really) good years left before their abilities start declining. For the Lions, I don’t think it matters which of the two they sign, as long as they have one of them on the team. Adding a top tackle to this already pretty good offensive line is only going to help Stafford throw the ball, and Kerryon Johnson run it.

As far as the running back position goes, I feel like the Lions are constantly unlucky with the guys they draft. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Johnson and think he still has potential to be a good back in the league. Even so, he hasn’t really done anything that would make me comfortable to say that he’s the right guy for the job right now. Based off their lack of luck in drafting RB’s, I think Detroit should look towards the free agent market. They definitely shouldn’t break the bank for anybody, but they shouldn’t pick up a chump either. What makes the most sense to me, would be either Melvin Gordon, or Jordan Howard. Considering how the RB market is right now in the NFL (except I’m pretty sure Derrick Henry is going to receive a massive deal), the Lions should be able to acquire Gordon or Howard for a decent price. Sure, they may be a little more expensive than you’d like, but these guys would give Stafford that RB he needs to help him open up the passing game, and control the clock.

Defense! (Clap, Clap) Defense! (Clap, Clap)…

Now that the offense is addressed, the Lions desperately need help on the defensive side of the ball. They cut Damon “Snacks” Harrison, and they’re trading away Darius Slay. So this team is obviously is looking to rebuild. Based off what I’ve said already, it’s pretty realistic for the Lions to still have roughly $30-$35 million of cap space left over after signing their star tackle and running back. The Lions currently don’t have any real threats in their front seven, so I think the first move would be to sign one of the top defensive tackles available. I think DJ Reader would be a fantastic pickup for this Lions defense, or possibly even Arik Armstead, who is finally playing up to his first round pick potential. Either one of these guys would boost the defense incredibly, making a great first step in the rebuilding process.

From there, the Lions should be looking to add depth, and veteran presence. Simply put, use the rest of the free agency to find guys who can come in and compete for a starting spot. This creates an atmosphere of guys all fighting and competing against each other for playing time, which makes for a hungry defense ready to prove itself against their opponents. This would be a perfect scenario for a Lions team that drastically needs help on that side of the ball.

The NFL Draft

The most exciting time of the NFL offseason. This year, the Lions have the 3rd pick overall, which puts them in a great spot to pick up a truly talented player. Now we can only assume what the Bengals and Redskins do with the 1 and 2 picks, but I think there’s one guy that would create havoc from the get-go for this Detroit defense. I think the best option for this Lions defense is to draft Isaiah Simmons, the linebacker out of Clemson. This dude is a freak and will be in the running for defensive rookie of the year. The kid is 6’4″ and 225 pounds, and clocked in one of the most impressive combines we’ve seen to date. Not only that, but he played over 100 snaps for five different positions throughout the 2019 season, wracking up 104 total tackles, 7 sacks, a forced fumble and recovery, as well as 3 picks. According to NFL scouts, he’s a natural born leader, and the guy is just excited to play football. He’s someone I think the Lions could use on defense and build around to create an identity.

After drafting Simmons, the Lions will have 7-9 more picks (depends on what they receive in the Darius Slay trade). Considering their defense still needs some help, I think it would be wise of the front office to go defense heavy in this draft. I’d like to see them draft a CB and/or a safety. I’d like to see them add an edge rusher or even another interior defensive lineman. They should also consider drafting a wide receiver, as it wouldn’t hurt to acquire a prospect for the future years to come.

The Long, Hard Road to the Playoffs

Now the Lions have their roster ready, with a stacked offensive line and a new running back, Detroit’s offense could make the jump from 19th overall, up to the top ten. That offense is ready to attack and could be a scoring machine, which should help them win more games in 2020. In addition to that, the defense found a DT in free agency, and drafted a defensive anchor in Isaiah Simmons. They also acquired a few other rookies and veteran players to create a hungry defense that wants to prove itself. Like I mentioned, this defense last year finished near last in 2019, but with these acquisitions paired with Patricia’s defensive mind, they could make the jump from last, to about 18th-20th. It would be nearly impossible for this defense to flip it around a full 180 degrees, but I think this jump into the top 20 would help this team tremendously. It could be enough for the Lions to be a dangerous wildcard team in the NFC.

Redskins Path to Winning the NFC East

The Washington Redskins completed the 2019 season at 3-13, earning them the 2nd pick in the NFL Draft. Free agency starts next week, and Washington is in a good spot to turn this franchise around. They’ve already hired a new coaching staff (a noticeably good one at that), and are in a division that’s wide open for any of the four teams to take over. Washington also has roughly $60 million in cap space (according to Spotrac), which gives them some decent wiggle room to build the roster. Now it’s not all peaches and cream for the ‘Skins, as they don’t plan to hire a GM until after the draft, and their offense last year finished near last in almost every category. But I don’t think Washington is too far away from being a playoff contender as early as next year. With free agency and the draft still ahead, the Redskins have a chance to make some noise in the offseason. Here are the main transactions that need to happen for the Redskins to make the playoffs next year.

Trade Trent Williams and Find his Replacement

Now, obviously this is already in the works. But it needs to happen sooner rather than later to clear up some cap space for free agency. Now the loss of Williams really isn’t that big of a deal, even though he’s one of the best left tackles in the league, as the Redskins offensive line played well without him. They were easily the best unit on the offense, despite the entire team finishing so low. However, they still need to find that replacement at the O-line. In terms of trade value, Washington makes it sound like they’ll accept nothing short of multiple 1st round picks. Is that likely? Maybe if they find a desperate team to trade with, but I think it’s much more likely to at least get a 2nd round pick in 2020. But first, in the free agent market, I think it would be wise for the Redskins to look at Jason Peters. I get that he’s 38 years old with a little injury history, but I think his experience and all around game play would be a huge asset for this offensive line. This also opens up the possibility of Washington drafting a Tackle in the upcoming draft. He doesn’t have to be a first round pick, but it would be great for them to have a young prospect to play and learn behind Peters until he’s ready. Not to mention, Peters should be a cheaper sign than other players like Conklin, or Bulaga.

Re-sign Brandon Scherff

I know he lost some time due to injuries last year, but Scherff is one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL. This guy would be the anchor of this O-line, and with the addition of Jason Peters, Washington’s front five is nearly ready to dominate. Now there’s some speculation that Scherff will be asking for a big contract, as back in November it was discussed he could be asking for a deal larger than Brandon Brooks’ extension with the Eagles. Meaning Scherff could be reeling in a 4 year deal that’s over $56 million dollars. Pretty pricy, but the veteran Guard more than deserves it. Besides, the Redskins would still have a decent amount of cap space available.

Improve the Rush Defense

The Redskins gave up 2,339 rushing yards, the second most in the league. Opposing offenses were able to dominate and control the game clock all year long as a result, which helped lead to a 3-13 record. However, the Redskins pass defense was right in the middle of the pack. Josh Norman is gone (great move for Washington), which gives the Redskins the opportunity to find someone better. So the defense isn’t too far away from becoming legit, which makes acquiring the right players crucial for this franchises future. First and foremost, they HAVE to address the rush defense. They already have guys like Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen on the line (all guys I like), which means I think they should go after an Inside Linebacker in the free agent market.

First, they should re-sign Jon Bostic. He wasn’t signed until training camp last year, but during his year in Washington, he recorded over 100 tackles, a sack, and an interception. Now he’s not the best player available by any means, but he’s very well rounded and already familiar with the team. Additionally, he’s not going to break the bank either, giving Washington more money to acquire more players. Now I know they have Reuben Foster and Cole Holcomb, but Foster’s coming off a big injury and has had problems off the field for quite awhile, and Cole Holcomb is still a young prospect. Finding another ILB for this squad will give this defense massive improvements in the run game while Holcomb (and hopefully Foster) can keep learning and subbing in.

My suggestion is Joe Schobert. The Cleveland Browns have already claimed they don’t plan to re-sign the 26 year old ILB, which opens up the possibility of the Redskins landing a solid player who has his best years ahead of him. He’ll be a bit expensive, but considering how this defense looked last year, the money spent would be worth it, as the former 4th round pick recorded over 130 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles in 2020. Schobert would be a huge sign for the Redskins and would vastly improve the defense.

Find a New Tight End

Jordan was one of the better TE’s in the league, but unfortunately, he constantly suffered from concussions throughout his career. I personally hope he retires and gets healthy, but Reed is a grown man and will make his own decisions. So for now, we’ll have to wait and see what Jordan Reed’s decision will be. But for the Redskins, they have big shoes to fill in the position, as I don’t think Jeremy Sprinkle is the answer. Considering I think the Redskins will have spent a good amount of money on the O-line and the defense, I think Washington will be looking for a cheaper option. The best possible candidate I can think of, is Darren Fells. I’m aware he’s 33 years old and his best years are likely behind him. But he’s 6’7″ and caught 7 touchdowns in 2019. Fells is a great all-around player, and could be a great red zone target for this offense. Fells and McLaurin would be a great 1-2 punch for the QB.

The Draft

Lately there has been speculation of the Redskins drafting a QB. In the position this team is in, and if they do acquire the right guys on offense, I think they should give Dwayne Haskins a shot. They drafted him last year in the first round and he didn’t play all that poorly during the season. I think a lot of the struggles could be blamed on the lack of weapons around him, so why not load up and give him a chance to succeed? The other rumors I’ve heard is for them to trade back and acquire more picks. This is an option to consider, as the Redskins could benefit from picking up more young talent to add to their roster. However, I think there’s a player available in the draft that holds more value than 2 first round picks. I’m also a huge believer in the “Defense Wins Championships” mantra. Having said that, the Washington Redskins should draft Chase Young, the defensive end out of Ohio State. The kid is a 6’5″, 265 lbs monster. In 2019 alone, Young recorded 46 total tackles, 16.5 sacks, and 6 forced fumbles. If you’re looking for a game changer, you’ve found him. Plus, he would be paired up with Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan, and Montez Sweat within the front seven. Factor in Washington could have Joe Schobert at ILB as well, all I can say to opposing offenses… Good luck.

I think the team should stick to defense in the 2nd or third round, preferably focusing on the corner back position. They just traded away Josh Norman, and will need someone to replace him. I think it’s realistic they let one of the guys on the roster already take that spot, but why not draft a young CB in the 2nd round? Additionally, they’ll have to address the offense, specifically, wide receiver. I love Terry McLaurin, and I think he has the talent to be a number one receiver for this team. But Haskins is going to need as much help he can get. The Washington Redskins literally just signed Pierre Garçon (17 minutes before writing this) to the squad. I like this sign as this adds a veteran WR that can really help the young core. He also still has some juice left and can be a threat in the redzone. Add to the fact that this draft consists of a very deep WR class. They can take a guy in the 3rd or 4th round and feel confident he they acquired a guy with a lot of talent and high potential.

Ready for Kickoff

Now that the draft is over we head to training camp. Where we’ll all get to see the Redskins new training staff. With Ron Rivera serving as Head Coach, and Jack Del Rio as the Defensive Coordinator, Washington will have outstanding leadership and experience for these players to learn from. We’ll get to see Scott Turner as an Offensive Coordinator for the first time after working with Ron Rivera in Carolina as the QB Coach in 2018 (Newton had a 67.9 completion percentage that year, which is highest in Panthers Franchise history). It should be exciting to see what this team does in the 2020 season, as like I mentioned earlier, the NFC East is WIDE OPEN.

After strengthening up their defense by drafting Chase Young, and signing Joe Schobert, this front seven all of a sudden becomes a wrecking ball. In addition to any other defensive players they sign or draft, this defense could go from dead last to top 15 quickly. As for the offense, the O-line is still strong, and hopefully Derrius Guice can stay healthy. I think Haskins having a guy like Scott Turner as his OC is only going to help him. He’ll also have continued chemistry with WR Terry McLaurin, and new redzone targets in Darren Fells and Pierre Garçon. Obviously, this team still has a couple holes on the roster, but considering how weak the NFC East is, I think this could be enough for the Washington Redskins to go out and win their conference.

The Bengals’ Road Back to the Playoffs

The Cincinnati Bengals finished the 2019-2020 season with a 2-14 record, earning them the number one pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. With a combination of one of the worst offensive lines in the league, the worst defense in the league, poor quarterback pla- I could go on and on, but what I want to focus on instead, is how Cincy is in a great spot for a rebuild. We’re early in the offseason, and Bengals fans should be excited right now. Before they get to the draft, there are a few moves I think they should make beforehand. In addition to that, the Bengals have 7 total picks right now (one in each round), and each pick is 1st for each round (or just about). So the Bengals have a chance to sign some help, and draft young talent to boost the roster. Here are the main transactions the Bengals should do in order to reach the playoffs next year.

Remove Andy Dalton’s Contract

I want to pay more attention to the size of Dalton’s contract here first. 2020 is the final year of his deal, which is causing a cap hit of $17.7 million dollars (according to Spotrac). That’s a ton of money that could really help this Bengals front office if used elsewhere. Cincinnati currently sits with roughly $47 million in cap space, which isn’t a whole lot for a team trying to rebuild itself back into the playoffs. Now notice that I said to remove his contract. That doesn’t necessarily mean for them to remove Andy Dalton from the team. I think the Bengals should consider reconstructing his contract (if they’re able to) so they can keep a veteran QB for the young prospect they may be drafting in April. That would be a fantastic scenario for the prospect, to be able to sit a few games and learn, and then eventually take over.

However as great as it sounds, it may not be realistic. Andy Dalton is 32 years old and has been a Bengal his entire career. So why would he agree to a pay cut just to be a mentor for a rookie for a year? What’s more likely, is the Bengals either trade him away, or cut him from the roster in order to regain that money back. If traded, they of course would have to find a trading partner. It’s been rumored that the Bears, Buccaneers, and Patriots are interested in setting up a possible trade for the Red Rifle. I don’t think Bengals fans should worry about what they’re getting in return, as the $17.7 million in cap space would be a big enough reward for Cincy.

Keep AJ Green, or Sign Amari Cooper

I think signing AJ Green is a bit more realistic than the Bengals acquiring Cooper. But either way, the Bengals need to have top talent on the roster. I know Green has been injury prone for the last couple seasons, but when he’s healthy, AJ is easily one of the top WR’s in the league. If the Bengals draft a QB at number 1, he’s going to have a loaded wide receiving core. Having AJ Green/Amari Cooper, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross III, any QB would have a field day slinging the ball through the air. Not to mention they also have Joe Mixon at running back, who has played well throughout the course of his young career. Acquiring a top WR like Green or Cooper is a must have for the Bengals offense. That way, they have something to create an identity with.

Toughen Up the Offensive Line

The Bengals had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year, and it all started with the fall of Jonah Williams. The Bengals 2019 first round pick came down with a shoulder injury, removing him for the year. He should be back by the start of next season, which will be huge in the rebuilding process. But that still leaves the other four spots open for consideration. There are a decent number of top O-line free agents available this offseason. Cincinnati, I believe, could make a play for two of these guys. First, I think they should make an offer for Jason Peters (Tackle). I know, I know, he’s 38 years old, and he had some lingering injuries in 2019. But, that means the Bengals could get him for cheaper money. Peters is a 9 time pro bowler, and has a ton of experience. He’d be a great voice in the locker room and could add some stability to the shaky O-line. In addition to Peters, I think it would be smart of the Bengals to acquire one of the top Guards as well. Once they free up Dalton’s contract, they can essentially give that money to either Joe Thuney, or Brandon Scherff. Thuney is one of the best (probably THE best) Guards in the NFL. Scherff is right there next to him, and could be ranked higher than Thuney if it wasn’t for his injury history. However, adding one of these guys alongside Jason Peters and Jonah Williams, the Bengals O-line already looks 100% better, and we haven’t even gotten to the draft yet.

Defense Wins Championships

This is where it gets tricky for the Bengals, as they’ve (assuming I’m 100% correct… haha) spent a good chunk of money on the offense. According to Pro Football Reference, the Cincinnati defense ranked 25th overall, near last place in the league. And of the teams that made playoffs last year, 10 of the 12 teams had a defense ranked 15th or higher. The Seahawks and the Texans being the only two teams whose defenses were outside the top half of the league. So based off those numbers, having a great defense plays a large part in making it to the playoffs. Having said that, I think the Bengals should use the rest of the Free Agency period to acquire any additional help on the defensive side of the ball as they can. I think there’s some veterans they could sign for cheap. They can also go for guys that can come into the roster and compete for a starting spot. The goal would be to develop as much depth as possible for the defense, as the team heads into training camp.

The Draft

We’re finally here. It’s April 23rd, and the Bengals are on the clock with the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. Assuming the Bengals follow my plan to a T, they’ve already addressed the offensive line, signed a superstar wide receiver, and added depth to the defense. That leaves the quarterback position as the biggest need for the Cincinnati Bengals. With the first pick, I think the Bengals go with Joe Burrow. Pretty much everybody is saying Burrow will go number one, so this shouldn’t come as a shock to you. But everyone is saying it for good reason. Joe Burrow was the 2019 Heisman trophy winner, lead the LSU Tigers to the National Championship, and completely showed out all season long. Throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns (yeah, 60) in the SEC, Joe Burrow proved he’s ready for the next level. Now of course, there will be growing pains, as there is for all rookies. But I think Joe Burrow is the most NFL ready QB in the draft. The Bengals can feel confident in his ability to play right away.

As for the rest of the draft, the Bengals still have 6 remaining picks. After drafting Burrow, I think the Bengals should spend the rest of the draft loading up on defense. There is a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball in this years draft, and the Bengals have an opportunity to acquire some top talent onto their roster. I think the combination of picking up defensive players through free agency, and adding young talent, would only do the Bengals some good. Let the guys on the roster battle it out for roster spots, then use the 2021 offseason to focus on the defensive side of the ball.

Playoffs?

Now that the Bengals are heading into training camp, it’s time to get the players ready for the new season. With a restructured offensive line, solid skills players, and a new QB, the Bengals offense is ready to attack. As for the defense, they still have their top guys like Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. In addition, they’ve acquired some veteran players in free agency and young talent through the draft. I don’t think this will be enough to flip this defense into the top 10 of the league. However, having a solid mix of guys all competing for roster spots makes for a hungry defense full of players wanting to prove themselves. Because of this, I think the defense could push itself closer to the top half of the league (I imagine somewhere between 17th-20th), which would be a substantial jump from the 2019 defense. With a dangerous looking offense, and an improved defense, I think THIS Bengals team would have the potential of making one of the wild card spots.

XFL: The Very Fun League

Football has been apart of American lives since the early 1900s. College football was the first level that caught popularity, and eventually the National Football League became the most popular professional league in the world. Throughout its lifespan, the NFL has hosted 52 total super bowls with many more to come, and as a fan of football, I’ve loved every second of it (even if my team has never won any, but still). But at times, the NFL has had its down moments too. Facing player safety issues, concussion protocol, and the rest. The NFL has tried to do its part in making football more safe for the players. In doing so, they’ve earned the nickname, “The No Fun League.” No longer is a big hit on a wide receiver running down the middle a spectacle to behold, but instead, it’s a penalty. At one point, Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, had touchdown celebrations removed (thanks to Chad Johnson, Steve Smith and Terrel Owens for one of the most exciting seasons of all time). The NFL has gotten better through the past few years however, allowing more touchdown celebrations, and showcasing the highest level of football for everyone to enjoy. But there seems to be something missing. A connection, if you will, to the fans of the game. There’s also a problem with the referees consistently missing calls, which at times makes it hard to watch.

Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love watching football on Sundays… and Thursdays and Mondays, and I won’t ever revere away from that. However, I’d be blind and stupid to not realize the NFL’s mishaps too. Thankfully, there’s another professional league amongst us. It brings beer chugging, touchdown celebrations, and cup snakes all together into one glorious event. It also raises the bar for refereeing to entirely new levels, and offers an inside look fans have never had access to before. I’m of course talking about the XFL. The one time, odd-ball league of the early 2000s that allowed nicknames on the back of jerseys, to the now, ambitiously fun professional football league. The XFL is here, and we better treat it well, other wise we’ll lose it. The league is pure fun, it’s good for the NFL, and there’s actually some things the rest of the sporting world can take away. So here are my reasons as to why the XFL should be here for the long term.

F-U-N

The XFL is officially halfway through its first regular season (they signed a 3 year deal with the networks), and I can’t wait for the second half. The first thing that really separates the XFL from the NFL, is the XFL just oozes fun. I can’t get enough of the touchdown celebrations. These guys are literally jumping into the stands, grabbing beers from fans and chugging them right there in the end zone. You don’t see stuff like that in any other sports league out there. This is a truly “for the fans” environment the XFL has created. Washington DC is over 4000 miles away from where I live, and I want to travel there for a Defenders home game just to take part in building that giant cup snake. The tickets are cheap, costing a family of four roughly $284 (according to Team Marketing Report). That same family would have to spend nearly double that (on average) to go to a NFL game. AND you get to chug beers with the players. Sign. Me. Up.

In addition to the fun, comes the sideline interviews. For viewers at home, we have the pleasure of watching a sideline reporter conduct a short interview with players that just scored, made a big play, or even caused a turnover. I can’t imagine the emotions going through a QB’s head being asked “what was going on out there?” after throwing an interception in a crucial part of a game. I for one, love the sideline interview. A lot of these players in the XFL are not big name super stars. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a little star power in the league, but most people have never heard of a majority of these athletes. These sideline interviews allow for the fans to get to know these guys throughout the season. It builds a story around the players and it makes me root for all of these guys to get a second chance in the NFL.

It’s Good for the NFL

NFL teams are constantly looking for top talent. Free agency opens up soon, and the NFL Draft is next month. But now with this new professional league, the NFL has another source to find talent. In my opinion, the XFL will never become as large, or popular as the NFL, but I think where the XFL can survive for years to come, is as a supplement to the National Football League. The XFL has already stated they’ll be looking at college athletes to come play in their league, which could be a huge blow to the NCAA (we’ll keep an eye on that). For the NFL, there would be no difference. That same college recruit is still going and playing the same game and learning along the way.

In week 5, it was reported that NFL scouts attended the Houston Roughnecks game to watch their starting QB, PJ Walker. The one time Temple quarterback has been playing out of his mind since the start of the XFL season. So far throwing for 1,338 yards, with a 15-4 touchdown-interception ratio. Walker is making his case for re-entering back into the league since being released by the Colts in August 2019. He’s not the only one though, wide receiver Cam Phillips has been on a tear from the start of the season. With nearly 500 yards and 9 touchdowns, Phillips has been Walker’s go to target since week one. In addition to those two, Jordan Ta’amu (QB St. Louis Battlehawks) has thrown for over 1000 yards with a 72% completion percentage, making his case for the NFL as well. There’s also impressive play on the defensive side of the ball. Steven Johnson (LB, Seattle Dragons) leads the league with 20 tackles, and Mike Stevens (CB, LA Wildcats) is the leader in picks with 2. NFL scouts now have more insight on how these guys may contribute to their teams in the future, and they have the XFL to thank for it.

Now a real challenge the XFL will be facing is how the NCAA will react to the XFL possibly poaching players to leave college and play in a professional league. In my experience, a lot of athletes are in college with the soul focus of playing sports. Their goal is to go pro and get paid to play the sport they love. I’m just saying, if I were college athlete and an XFL team hit me up after my freshman year, I’d be tempted to leave. The reason being is these guys will get paid in the XFL, and if education really is that important to them, they can continue to further their education by taking online classes. There are rumors that maybe one day the NCAA will start paying their players, but until then, this could be a situation that gets sticky. We won’t know how it goes until late 2020/early 2021. So we’ll bookmark this subject for another time.

Referees and Review Process

This is easily my most favorite part of the XFL. The fact the head ref is mic’d up during the game is absolutely incredible. Being able to just listen to the discussion while the referees try to make a decision makes it so refreshing. I love that I know the call, AND know the reason WHY they’re calling it the way they are. And to sweeten the deal, the review process is the best I’ve ever seen in any sports league. It’s excruciating to watch NFL refs take (what feels like) five hours just to rule the play a fumble… and be wrong. Even if you watch other sports. It seems like the referees and umpires are keeping everyone from knowing what’s going. The XFL instead removes any questions in doubt and we get to listen in on the review, and the conversations that take place. Not only is it educational and clear, but the XFL literally has a rule set in place where reviews can’t take any longer than 60 seconds to come up with a finalized decision. The XFL took the review system and made it substantially better, to the point where I think every sports league should adopt this rule. Can you imagine MLB umpires being mic’d up?

Even with the fantastic review system, the XFL referees still missed a call in the Dragons – Roughnecks game on Saturday. PJ Walker’s knee was down, which should have turned the ball over on downs, but the refs called it first down, ending the game on the spot. The XFL posted an apology (something I’ve never seen a sports league do before) and they reassigned Wes Booker, the Officiating Supervisor of that game. Despite the beer chugging, and fan interaction, the XFL has been beyond professional in handling mishaps. I applaud Oliver Luck and Vince McMahon for putting together an incredible league. I can’t wait to see where the XFL goes from here.

Where’s Tom Brady Going?

Tom Brady is easily the most covered athlete in the NFL right now. Considering he’s won six championships, and has led the Patriots to a winning record every year since 2001. The man is going to be 43 by the start of next season, and he’s hit the free agent market for the first time in his career.

The long time Patriot QB has said before he wants to play until he’s 45 years old. An incredible goal, and considering the way he’s played throughout his career, it’s hard to imagine him not accomplishing this feat. However, age does become a factor, especially in the NFL. We’ve seen some Hall of Fame QB’s abilities drop considerably once they hit the back end of their careers, those including Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning. So with signing Brady, there’s a risk factor involved strictly because of his age. We just don’t know if he’ll still be able to compete like he has before or not. The answer to that won’t be answered until the 2020 NFL season. Also factor in that Brady is projected to sign a 2 year $67.8 million dollar contract (according to Spotrac). Tom Brady becomes a high risk high reward scenario for any team in the NFL.

Now, obviously, there’s a lot of teams that are interested in signing the future Hall of Famer onto their roster but who are the serious contenders? According to the FoxBet website on March 6th, 2020, there are five teams that have the best odds of signing Tom Brady. Those teams being, the Patriots, Titans, Raiders, Chargers, and the Colts. Let’s take a look at Brady’s impact for each of these five teams, and what each team would have to do in order to be serious contenders next season.

New England Patriots

So, as of right now, the Patriots are the favored team to sign Brady. And why wouldn’t he come back? 20 long dominating years with the same head coach. The Patriots are one of the best teams in building a roster, and maintaining their finances. Bill Belichick is still the coach, and if he wants to, he can keep coaching for a long time. Belichick leaving the Patriots any time soon just isn’t realistic. With that in mind, I think it would be wise for Coach Belichick to keep his franchise QB for another two years while he finds a predecessor. With Brady back, and an offseason to gather more offensive weapons, it’s more than likely the Patriots could make another run at the super bowl, while they rebuild simultaneously.

In order for Brady to come back though, he’s gonna need help. The defense was one of the best in the league in the 2019 season, and should be just as dominate next year too. But for the Patriots to win another super bowl next year, they HAVE to acquire more talented skills players. Luckily for the Patriots, there are plenty of WRs available in this years draft. I don’t think they’ll be able to draft guys like Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb, but they could draft someone like Henry Ruggs III or Laviska Shenault Jr. to boost their WR group. There’s also the rumor swirling of Brady’s continued contact with WR Antonio Brown, as Brown claims Brady has told him he wants him on his team, wherever that may be. The New England Patriots are truthfully, the only franchise I can even imagine following through on signing both Brady and Brown.

After watching 20, long years of the Patriots dominance amongst the NFL, the Patriots can easily entice Brady to re-join them for one (technically two) more hoorah before his retirement. Give him his weapons and the Patriots are right back where they never left… The playoffs.

Tennessee Titans

The odds of the Titans signing Brady has slowly, but steadily, gone up every week. And really it makes a ton of sense as to why he would join them. They have a strong offensive line (especially if RT Jack Conklin re-signs), he’d be paired up with arguably the best RB in the league in Derrick Henry, big time playmakers like AJ Brown and Jonnu Smith, possession receivers in Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, as well as one of the top defenses in the league (still need an edge rusher though, but that’s a different conversation for another time). Not to mention, the Titans have a ton of Patriots ties within the front office, coaching staff, and the roster.

With all of that in place, how are the Titans not the favorite, right? Really the only thing stopping the Titans is their cap space, or lack there of. Sure, they can easily afford Tom Brady if they want to go ahead and sign him for the next two years. But how much would they have left over? They still need to re-sign Henry, figure out if they want to keep Jack Conklin or not, and still find a dominant edge rusher to finally fix that hole. From the outside looking in, Tom Brady makes a ton of sense for the Titans. But signing him could mean the Titans lose out on other assets that could be equally as important.

When it comes down to it, the Titans are looking at Tom Brady or Ryan Tannehill as their starting QB next year. I foresee the front office choosing the cheaper option, as they’re going to need as much wiggle room as possible to make a play at other high profile players like Jadeveon Clowney, who would increase the Titans defense tremendously. But if the Titans choose Tom Brady over Tannehill, I would expect the Titans to still make another deep run in the playoffs, despite losing out on one of the other assets.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders will officially be in Vegas next year, and with being in such a flashy town, they’re going to want to make some splashy moves in the offseason. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock made some big moves last year, trading for Antonio Brown (we all know how that went), and drafting good players that have the potential to really put this Raiders team back in the playoffs. So the coaching staff and front office are not afraid to pull the trigger for big name players. The Raiders were also one of the first teams that publicly announced their interest in Tom Brady.

As for the roster, the Raiders aren’t too far off from having a scary good team. Their offensive line showed massive improvements in comparison to 2018. And Josh Jacobs looks like he has the potential to be a top RB in the league one day. If the Raiders really want Brady, they’re going to have to pick up some WR’s, as Derek Carr had Darren Waller as his top receiving option. There’s plenty of WR talent in the NFL draft this year, and the Raiders have two 1st round picks, zero 2nd round picks, and three 3rd round picks. They really need help with defense, but if Brady decides to sign with them, they’ll have to acquire another weapon for Brady to throw to.

Obviously the Raiders want Brady in Vegas, but I think what keeps him from going their is the amount of assets they’ll have to acquire to make it more enticing for Tom. They need one or two WR’s, and they really need to bulk up that defense. According to Spotrac, the Raiders have just over $51 million in cap space available to play with. So they can afford Brady, but can they afford Brady along with other guys that can push their defense into the top ten? I think it’s unlikely. However, if Brady does sign with Las Vegas, I think they’d be pushing for a wildcard spot, as it’s going to take a lot for this Raiders team to surpass the Chiefs.

Los Angeles Chargers

Since being in LA, the Chargers haven’t seemed to find their fan base. I know a lot of Chargers fans in San Diego abandoned the team once they moved north to LA, and the city of Angeles seems to like the Rams a bit more. Having said that, the Chargers are still in Los Angeles, which is one of the biggest markets in the sporting world. If the Chargers can find some superstar talent on the offensive side of the ball (winning helps too), the Chargers could suddenly make some big time money in LA. So why not go for Brady? He’s the biggest name in football right now, and they have the 5th overall pick in the upcoming draft. The Chargers could really set themselves up for big time future success by drafting a QB with that pick, and simultaneously be in a win now situation by signing Brady.

The signing makes sense, as Brady’s family reportedly lives in LA during the offseason, as Tom was also born and raised in Southern California. The team also has the offensive weapons available for Tom to win right now, as Keenan Allen is still a top target in the NFL, Mike Williams has been progressing nicely for them, and Hunter Henry is a great TE option. In addition to that, the Chargers just re-signed Austin Ekeler (best receiving RB in the league) to a 4 year deal. The defense isn’t half bad either, as the Chargers have a bunch of young talent that should take another step forward in their development in 2020. The only thing stopping the Chargers from signing Tom is their offensive line struggles.

The Chargers offensive line has been near the bottom of the NFL for the past few seasons. It was painstakingly clear they couldn’t protect Philip Rivers, which played a huge role in the team only winning 5 games last year. The Chargers have made a trade though, with the Carolina Panthers, receiving Trai Turner and dishing away Russel Okung, who has been hit with injuries for the last couple seasons. The trade is a head scratcher for the Panthers, but the Chargers made a huge leap grabbing the 5x pro bowler to strengthen the Guard position, which is a step forward in rebuilding their O-line. But it’s going to take a bit more than that to turn this offensive line around. Sure, they could sign a big name player in free agency and use the draft to find young talent. But I don’t know if this offseason is enough time for them to make a complete 180 on their O-line struggles. But if the Chargers acquire the GOAT, I actually like their playoff chances more than the Raiders in 2020.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are one of the more intriguing matches for Brady, as you can argue Indianapolis would’ve been a playoff team if their Luck didn’t run out (see what I did there?). The Colts easily have one of the best offensive lines in football, and their defense is right in the middle of the pack. Not to mention, Frank Reich, so far, seems to be a great head coach for this squad. Where the struggles lie for the Colts is the WR position. The group was riddled with injuries all season long, and Jacoby, albeit playing decent, isn’t the most accurate passer in the NFL. I truly believe the Colts would have been a much more dangerous team if Andrew Luck had been under center during 2020.

Despite the Colts being unLucky, they have a lot going for them heading into free agency. The Colts have over $86 million in cap space, giving them more available money than any of the other teams on this list. The Colts can essentially sign whoever they want, meaning they can sign Brady, as well as offensive and defensive weapons to bulk up the roster. They also have the 13th overall pick in the NFL Draft this year, which is a prime spot for them to draft one of the top caliber WRs available in the draft. Can you imagine Brady throwing to TY Hilton and someone like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy? With the team so close to having everything put together, why are the Colts the least likely option (of the teams on this list) to be Brady’s destination? The only answer I can think of, is the location, and the lack of Patriots ties within the organization.

I mean, think about it. He’s been on the Patriots his entire career, one of his best friends is the head coach in Tennessee, the Raiders expressed interest immediately, and the Chargers are in Southern California where Brady already lives. Sure, Indianapolis is a great football franchise and has a history of winning, especially in comparison to the rest of the AFC South. But when it comes down to it, I just don’t think Brady has any interest to play in Indy. If he were to sign with the Colts, they’d automatically become the favorite in the AFC South, and I think they’d at least make a deep playoff run. But with no familiarity for Tom Brady at all, it’ll be difficult for the front office to convince Brady to sign with them.