NFL Three Round Mock Draft

With the NFL Draft set to take place in two weeks from Thursday in Nashville Tennessee, teams around the NFL are going over final evaluations before the draft begins. Thursday will be the first-round, Friday will be the second and third round, and Saturday will be the fourth thru seventh rounds.

I don’t have all the time in the world to do a seven-round mock draft. I have time to do a three-round mock draft and I want to see how close I could possibly get.

Round 1: 1. Arizona Cardinals- Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

2. San Francisco 49ers- Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

3. New York Jets- Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky

4. Oakland Raiders- Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Devin White. LB, LSU

6. New York Giants- Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

8. Detroit Lions- T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

9. Buffalo Bills- Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

10. Denver Broncos- Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

11. Cincinnati Bengals- Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State

12. Green Bay Packers- Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

13. Miami Dolphins- Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

14. Atlanta Falcons- Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

15. Washington Redskins- D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

16. Carolina Panthers- Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

17. New York Giants- Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

18. Minnesota Vikings- Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama

19. Tennessee Titans- Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

20. Pittsburgh Steelers- DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia

21. Seattle Seahawks- Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

22. Baltimore Ravens- A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

23. Houston Texans- Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears)– Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

25. Philadelphia Eagles- Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

26. Indianapolis Colts- Clelin Ferrell, DL, Clemson

27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys)- Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson

28. Los Angeles Chargers- Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson

29. Kansas City Chiefs- Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans Saints)- Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

31. Los Angeles Rams- Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

32. New England Patriots- N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Round 2: 33. Arizona Cardinals- Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

34. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)- Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama

35. Oakland Raiders- Garrett Bradbury, OL, N.C. State

36. San Francisco 49ers- Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State

37. New York Giants- Erik McCoy, OL, Texas A & M

38. Jacksonville Jaguars- Irv Smith, TE, Alabama

39. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson

40. Buffalo Bills- Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

41. Denver Broncos- Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma

42. Cincinnati Bengals- Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

43. Detroit Lions- Jaylon Ferguson, Edge, Louisiana Tech

44. Green Bay Packers- Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State

45. Atlanta Falcons- Jerry Tillery, DT, Norte Dame

46. Washington Redskins- Ryan Finley, QB, North Carolina State

47. Carolina Panthers- Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State

48. Miami Dolphins- L.J. Collier, DE, TCU

49. Cleveland Browns- David Long, LB, West Virginia

50. Minnesota Vikings- Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

51. Tennessee Titans- D’Andre Walker, Edge, Georgia

52. Pittsburgh Steelers- Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri

53. Philadelphia Eagles (from Baltimore Ravens)- Cameron Smith, LB, USC

54. Houston Texans (from Seattle Seahawks)- Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State

55. Houston Texans- David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

56. New England Patriots (from Chicago Bears)- Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State

57. Philadelphia Eagles- Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington

58. Dallas Cowboys- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida

59. Indianapolis Colts- Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia

60. Los Angeles Chargers- Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

61. Kansas City Chiefs- Zach Allen, DL, Boston College

62. New Orleans Saints- Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State

63. Kansas City Chiefs (from Los Angeles Rams)- Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii

64. New England Patriots- Will Grier, QB, West Virginia

Round 3: 65. Arizona Cardinals- Connor McGovern, OL, Penn State

66. Pittsburgh Steelers (from Oakland Raiders)- Te’Von Coney, LB, Norte Dame

67. San Francisco 49ers- J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

68. New York Jets- Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State

69. Jacksonville Jaguars- Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

70. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware

71. New York Giants- forfeited due to supplemental draft.

72. Denver Broncos- Christian Miller, Edge, Alabama

73. Cincinnati Bengals- Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida

74. New England Patriots (Detroit Lions)- Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State

75. Buffalo Bills- Jullian Love, CB, Norte Dame

76. Green Bay Packers- Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss

77. Washington Redskins- Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor

78. Carolina Panthers- Chase Winovich, Edge, Michigan

79. Miami Dolphins- T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin

80. Atlanta Falcons- Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida

81. Cleveland Browns- Max Scharping, T, Northern Illinois

82. Minnesota Vikings- Tytus Howard, T, Alabama

83. Tennessee Titans- Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia

84. Pittsburgh Steelers- Oshane Ximines, Edge, Old Dominion

85. Seattle Seahawks- Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa

86. Baltimore Ravens- Nate Davis, OL, Charlotte

87. Houston Texans- Darnell Savage, S, Maryland

88. Chicago Bears- Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia

89. Detroit Lions (from Philadelphia Eagles)- Taylor Rapp, S, Washington

90. Indianapolis Colts- Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State

91. Dallas Cowboys- Renell Wren, DL, Arizona State

92. Los Angeles Chargers- Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

93. Kansas City Chiefs- Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

94. New York Jets (from New Orleans Saints)- Miles Boykin, WR, Norte Dame

95. Los Angeles Rams- Michael Delter, G, Wisconsin

96. New York Giants (from New England Patriots)- Keesean Johnson, WR, Fresno State

97. Washington Redskins (Compensatory pick)- Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas

98. New England Patriots (Compensatory pick)- Joe Jackson, DE, Miami

99. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams, Compensatory pick)- Amani Hooker, S, Iowa

100. Los Angeles Rams (Compensatory pick)- Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford

101. Carolina Panthers (Compensatory pick)- Shareef Miller, Edge, Penn State

102. New England Patriots (Compensatory pick)- Joejuan Williams, CB, Kentucky

103. Baltimore Ravens (Compensatory pick)- Blake Cashman, LB, Minnesota

 

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Quarterbacks Who Could Be Under Fire In 2019

Most of the times we hear coaches being on the hot seat. Or ones who could be under fire. With the NFL Draft approaching we hear a lot about where quarterbacks could end up going. The teams who desperately need a quarterback will obviously draft one and other teams with a franchise QB (or allegedly) will surprise a few if they take a quarterback early. So today, I will look at quarterbacks who could be in trouble of keeping their spots on the team after the season and in the future. Some may surprise you. And yes, I’m not a salary cap person so obviously some financial things have to be worked with a few others.

But let’s begin.

Dalton has been heavily scrutinized for Cincinnati’s failed attempts in January

ANDY DALTON (BENGALS): Many people point this as an obvious one. Well, there’s probably truth to it especially now with a new coach in Cincinnati (finally). Dalton has been maligned in part because he hasn’t been able to win games in the playoffs for the Bengals but isn’t one of the “gun-slinging” style quarterbacks despite having AJ Green as a top receiver. With all of it said, Dalton hasn’t been too horrible throughout his career, but just nothing overly strong to really think of him as a franchise quarterback anymore. With Zac Taylor at the helm, it isn’t out of the realm to see Cincinnati draft a quarterback THIS year early on and make the move to give Dalton a final hurrah in Cincy.

Dak will need a lot of good games to keep people off his back

DAK PRESCOTT (COWBOYS): Now it depends if Dak ends up having a contract extension in his pocket by Week 1. If Dallas extends Dak in the off-season, then he isn’t on here. If they don’t, this will be very interesting. Prescott looked far better after the Amari Cooper trade happened as he finally got a legit receiver to throw at. However, he still has those flashes of inconsistency and it seems like he is a reflection of his coach Jason Garrett. What I mean by that is, if Dallas wins, Prescott gets credit. If Dallas loses, Prescott is the reason why. But keep an eye for that contract extension.

It may be Flacco’s only season in Denver

JOE FLACCO (BRONCOS): Well, duh. He really is something to hold over assuming the Broncos draft a quarterback in the first round this year. The Case Keenum experiment backfired and Denver brought in a guy who has generated some playoff success. However, his final years in Baltimore were maligned as well. It’s probably not out of the realm that Denver will be trying to find another QB after this season is over.

Stafford doesn’t seem to be a favorite in the Lions new regime.

MATTHEW STAFFORD (LIONS): I don’t want to put this one here. I don’t even think he NEEDS to be on this list. We have to think back to the pre-Stafford Lions years especially the ones from 2001-2008 where Lions fans had to deal with the likes of Ty Detmer, Stoney Case, Mike McMahon, and Dan Orlovsky to name a few and remember why the Lions were just hideously bad. Stafford arrives and solves the quarterback issue and the Lions are at least a respectable team on the field now with a few playoff appearances. But Detroit has been rumbling about trading Stafford since Bob Quinn took over. Do the Lions really need to take a chance hoping another QB will guide them in the future? It failed when they had the idea of drafting Joey Harrington. People soured on Stafford last year as the numbers dropped all around. But people also failed to realize how horrible and depleted the Lions offensive line was (and has been for the majority of his career-40 or more sacks four of the last five seasons) and somehow he got up and played all 16 games for the last 8 seasons. But then again, this is the Lions. So in other words, if Stafford has another season resembling 2018, he’s gone for good.

Age and health may slow down Rodgers to the point of Green Bay having to make a touch decision in 2020.

AARON RODGERS (PACKERS): Wait, what?! This guy? In trouble? It’s very possible. He’s 35 and will be 36 by the time December arrives. After last year, his leadership was brought into question on a few occasions, thus many thinking he was probably prompted to play in a meaningless Week 17 game against Detroit where he got injured to show “leadership.” People have really pointed the blame at Mike McCarthy for the Packers fall from grace, but others also think that Rodgers has to shoulder some of it as well. So instead of the last few years of being debated alongside Tom Brady as the GOAT, Rodgers has now lost some of his luster and some wonder if his attitude and leadership is going to bring him down a notch. And from what I’ve seen, he hasn’t been too excited for the new head coach Matt LaFleur. Also factor in, Rodgers has been dealing with injuries the last two seasons and while you can go “oh well, he may not be injured this year” a guy at his age, once you start getting injuries, they don’t stop. So while I don’t think this will be Rodgers last year in Green Bay by any means, I do think if he struggles or can’t be relied on health-wise, the Packers could look at drafting a quarterback in the 2020 draft.

Goff really struggled down the stretch for the Rams this year.

JARED GOFF (RAMS): Really? Him too? A few things to note: while Goff had a monster start in 2018 and the first 12 games were stout (3,700 yards, 27 TD 7 INT, completion rating of 67%, and QBR of 109), down the stretch was a mess for Goff (QBR 76, comp% of 60, 5 TD, 5 INT, 900 passing yards). The playoffs weren’t earth-shaking either (55%, 700 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT). Now, it’s not easy to replace a franchise QB at all. But it seems like Goff fell backwards despite having a great head coach in Sean McVay. One argument and it may have something is that when Todd Gurley was getting dinged up, teams focused more on Goff and trying to prevent him from beating them. But if Goff can’t lead a team without Gurley (and godsend signing CJ Anderson signed with Detroit), there has to be some flags at some point for the Rams about Goff. Goff is coming up on an extension, but if he struggles, the Rams may entertain the idea of moving on.

Minnesota fans didn’t like the fact Cousins failed to get the Vikes into the playoffs

KIRK COUSINS (VIKINGS): Seemed like Cousins was always on the hot seat in Washington and anytime he was, he played well enough to stay off of it as much as possible. You think going to Minnesota would change that. And, nope. Cousins struggled at times and the Vikings fell back in 2018 and the same thing that has plagued him all his NFL career is coming back of being unable to lead a team to the playoffs. For Cousins, it won’t be about numbers, but about making the playoffs.

Carr may be running out of Oakland soon.

DEREK CARR (RAIDERS): Duh. And given Oakland added Antonio Brown, he doesn’t have an excuse. We do forget Carr was an MVP candidate in 2016 until he broke his leg so one wonders if he hasn’t fully recovered from that physically or mentally. However, Jon Gruden has not been fully supportive of Carr, saying he needs to play better. If he doesn’t, Gruden will probably try to bring in a veteran QB to replace him.

Wentz issues may be staying healthy and with Foles gone, that’s a big key for him in 2019

CARSON WENTZ (EAGLES): Similar to Carr, Wentz had an MVP season in 2017 before falling to injury. We know the story of Nick Foles winning the Super Bowl for the Eagles. But Foles is gone and if Philadelphia wants to return to the Super Bowl, Wentz needs to be at the top of his game and stay healthy. If he can’t do either, Eagles fans will question if he is really the guy.

Winston’s behavior on and off the field has been concerning in Tampa Bay

JAMEIS WINSTON (BUCCANEERS): Has Winston regressed as an NFL quarterback? Controversy surrounded the former Heisman winner at Florida State for acting like a petulant child on numerous instances. He gets to Tampa Bay and has two strong years and people went “well, maybe he just needed some growing up” before back-tracking in 2017 and 2018 to the point of being benched in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick. And the off-field troubles continued. Having issues with now former head coach Dirk Koetter and former teammate DeSean Jackson showed maybe he wasn’t the leader Tampa Bay thought they had. And I don’t see Bruce Arians being a guy to put up with Winston’s foolishness. If Winston doesn’t succeed, he will be trying to find a job somewhere.

Mariota’s health may be what keeps him from staying in Tennessee.

MARCUS MARIOTA (TITANS): There are times Mariota has looked great. And there are times Mariota is on the sideline in street clothes. Tennessee is trying to give him a vast assortment of weapons but it is hard to utilize when you’re on the bench injured. Yes, you can’t blame injuries, but if it continues, the Titans have no other solution but to let him go. And they traded for Ryan Tannehill in case Mariota is injured and/or he isn’t considered the guy.

I’m not projecting all of the quarterbacks on this list will lose their job. In fact, I’m not saying any will. But they will be on the hot seat if they don’t perform well or not be on the field. In this case, I think the one most likely to be out would be Flacco, than Winston.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Jordan Howard Traded to the Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles have acquired running back Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears for a 2020 sixth-round draft pick. That pick could become a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Philadelphia needed a three down running back in the worst way. It was a surprise that Chicago traded away Jordan Howard for basically nothing. The Eagles now have their number one running back for next season. With this move, it most likely means they are not bringing back running back Jay Ajayi.

Howard rushed for 935 yards on 250 carries and nine touchdowns last season with the Bears. He also caught 20 passes for 145 yards receiving.

Jordan Howard was a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He is only 24 years old. Howard could exceed very well in this offense. He will not be the only running back used on this team. Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams will also be used.

Those running backs will be really good as second and third running backs, but those players are not number one running backs. The Eagles really missed that last season when Jay Ajayi went down with injury.

 

Rob Gronkowski Announces Retirement

It has been almost two months that the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII 13-3. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has won three Super Bowls in his tenure with New England. Well, he has decided to finally retire and Gronkowski made his announcement on Sunday afternoon on Instagram.

He is retiring at only 29 years old. Rob Gronkowski has dealt with so many injuries throughout his NFL career. He is no question the greatest tight end to ever play in the NFL. Gronkowski was a nightmare catching passes down the seam and lining up on the outside on smaller cornerbacks, but he was also a tank in the blocking game.

In his career, Rob Gronkowski caught 521 passes for 7,861 yards receiving and 79 touchdowns.

In his postseason career, he caught 81 passes for 1,163 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.

Gronkowski made the Pro Bowl five times and he was a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft out of the University of Arizona.

The New England Patriots will have 12 draft picks in the 2019 NFL Draft and they will probably use one in the earlier rounds to draft a replacement tight end for Rob Gronkowski. In reality though, there may never be a tight end like him in the NFL ever again.

Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Cleveland Browns

2019 Coaching Staff

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team this optimistic after firing its coach mid-season the year prior and then ditching its interim coach. Funny what a sudden stockpile of elite players will do for the soul. It’s quite poetic how the team’s prospects have mirrored the meteoric rise of Freddie Kitchens, who somehow managed to go from starting last year as the running backs coach to starting this year as the head coach. While Kitchens does plan to retain the scheme he inherited from Todd Haley as well as play-calling duties, he did bring in former Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken to become his OC. Former Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks will come in as defensive coordinator.

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns

What to Expect

As mentioned above, Kitchens plans to retain Todd Haley’s offensive scheme and continue calling plays. This means the Browns’ 2019 offense should look pretty similar to the 2018 version in structure. However, it’s hard to ignore the hiring of Todd Monken. Monken’s background is in the air raid offense, something he ran to great effect in Tampa Bay last year as the Bucs set franchise records left and right. These two minds creating a gameplan every week is scary enough for opponents, but what will really give defensive coordinators nightmares is the sudden influx of talent GM John Dorsey has brought in. Questionable off-field actions aside, pairing Kareem Hunt with Nick Chubb has to be the most lethal backfield duo in the NFL. Yet, you can’t stack the box to stop them unless you want Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham, Jr., and David Njoku going to town on your secondary. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Browns could field the top offense in the NFL next year.

In fact, the only thing that might slow down Cleveland’s offense is Cleveland’s defense. Steve Wilks’s resume is a little short on coordinating experience – he had one year as defensive coordinator in Carolina and one year as head coach in Arizona, with moderate success at both on the defensive side of the ball – but if he’s worth his salt at all he’ll be able to make something of the solid defensive pieces the Browns have accumulated. The defensive line in particular almost rivals the Rams as the most talented in football. While the defense as a whole isn’t quite at the same level as the offense, there’s enough to work with that a good gameplan from Wilks could quickly turn games into one-sided affairs. This probably won’t happen every game, but it might be enough to slow down an otherwise torrid pace from the offense.

The Data

There’s no reason to sugar-coat this; the Browns are going to pass early and pass often. Under Kitchens last year, the Browns called a 60/40 pass/run split. Tampa Bay under Todd Monken was even more extreme at a 63/37 split. To be fair, Tampa had no defense and no running game worth mentioning, but nevertheless these are two very pass-happy coaches running the show in Cleveland. Despite this, I don’t expect the Browns to pass at a higher rate than last year. It appears to be the dawn of a new age in Cleveland, and if the Browns are leading more often than not then there’s little reason to suspect they won’t lean on the running game to chew up the clock. If the offense is more pass-happy but spends more time ahead, I would expect a very similar 60/40 split to last year.

David-Njoku

The positional target splits get more interesting. The Buccaneer wide receivers under Monken led the league in positional target share last year at about 67% while the Browns were just above average at about 58%. Reconciling this discrepancy will shape the Browns’ offense more than anything else this year. On the one hand, Monken’s influence will surely bump up the wide receiver target share from last year, and a wideout corps featuring OBJ and Jarvis Landry will demand targets. On the other, Tampa’s stable of running backs was pitiful and their starting tight end was injured halfway through the year, while the Browns boasted a surprisingly deep running back rotation and a rising star tight end in David Njoku. Cleveland’s wide receivers should see their target share creep up, but the sheer volume of talent across the offense should temper that growth.

Fantasy Impact

Cleveland’s offense figures to be explosive this coming year. It should look pretty similar to the offense they fielded last year, except relying a bit more on wide receivers. Any way you slice it though, you’ll want a piece of this offense.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 415 Attempts
Projected Passing: 385 Completions on 595 Attempts, 30 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 215 Receptions on 355 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 85 Receptions on 115 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 85 Receptions on 125 Targets

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Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Cincinnati Bengals

2019 Coaching Staff

After hanging onto the just-better-than-mediocre Marvin Lewis for what seemed like an eternity, the Bengals are finally cleaning house. The fact that it happened was expected (I think many Bengals fans would say overdue). The direction they went was not. While it is true that the current NFL coaching trend focuses on creative young minds who may not have so much experience, Cincinnati’s hire of Rams QB coach Zac Taylor took that philosophy to the extreme; Taylor has all of five games worth of pro-level offensive coordinator experience. For that matter, his coordinators aren’t exactly household names either; defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo served as the interim defensive coordinator on the same 2015 Dolphins squad that Taylor was offensive coordinator for, and Brian Callahan has never served as a coordinator at the pro level…or any level for that matter.

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What to Expect

With so little pro-level experience to draw from with the new coaching staff, it’s hard to say what we should expect from the Bengals. It’s almost a certainty that Taylor and Callahan will put their own spin on their scheme, but given that Taylor will hold play-calling duties it seems likely that the offense will be based on Sean McVay’s playbook. Don’t hold your breath for the same level of offense though; the Bengals have noticeable downgrades at almost every position on the offense, with the notable exception of A. J. Green.

While the offense may not be as effective as the Rams, they will likely be a higher volume offense. Anarumo will have his work cut out for him with a defense that just ranked dead last in the NFL in yards allowed and third worst in points allowed. He doesn’t have much talent to work with (outside of the defensive line) in his effort to improve it either. With all signs pointing to the defense struggling again, Taylor will likely run a bit more pass-heavy offense than his mentor McVay.

The Data

Assuming Taylor wants to emulate the Rams’ offense, it makes sense to take a look at what the Rams have been doing under McVay. In McVay’s first year as the Rams’ head coach, he called around a 55/45 pass/run split. This balance skewed a bit more pass-heavy in year two (up to a 57/43 split), but then that’s the difference between playing a 3rd place schedule and playing a 1st place schedule. The Bengals likely won’t have much defense to speak of – which will skew their play-calling a little more pass-heavy – but they will be playing a 4th place schedule. Also, while they might not have quite the same level of talent and depth as the Rams, they do have some blue chip pieces of their own; the 1-2 punch of Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard is not much of a downgrade from Gurley, and while Cincinnati can’t completely replicate the Kupp-Woods-Cooks/Watkins combo, they could do worse than A. J. Green and Tyler Boyd. It’s probably safe to say that the Bengals will only be a little more pass-happy than McVay’s year-one Rams, so we’re expecting around a 56/44 split.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals

The place where the depth concerns come in is determining positional target shares. The Rams have targeted their wide receivers a little more than 60% of the time under McVay. This is in no small part because the Rams’ base offense is 11 personnel with three wide receivers, but part of the reason they can play 11 personnel so frequently is that they’ve had three solid wideouts at all times. The Bengals have Green, Boyd…and that’s about it. The wide receiver target share should still go up a bit if Cincinnati does strive to emulate the Rams, but Cincinnati is more likely to give a few exotic looks given their strength at running back.

Fantasy Impact

There’s a lot of guesswork in trying to determine what the offense will look like under people with minimal experience designing offenses, but based on what we do know it will be based on Sean McVay’s Rams scheme. Implementing that offense could be a bit tricky given the difference in depth, not to mention the lack of defensive talent, so expect something akin to McVay’s scheme but leaning a little more pass-heavy.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 440 Attempts
Projected Passing: 340 Completions on 525 Attempts, 35 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 190 Receptions on 315 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 90 Receptions on 120 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 60 Receptions on 90 Targets

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McCann-Crosby-Guentzel Line Sparks Penguins over Capitals

With the Pittsburgh Penguins trailing 2-0 in the second-period, they needed a spark in the worst way. The Jared McCann-Sidney Crosby-Jake Guentzel line combined for five points for the rest of the game and it sparked Pittsburgh to a 5-3 victory at home over the Washington Capitals.

Jakub Vrana scored with 33 seconds remaining in the first-period for Washington and he also scored with 9:36 remaining in the second-period to give them a 2-0 lead.

Jake Guentzel scored with 7:23 remaining in the second-period for the Penguins. Sidney Crosby scored 47 seconds later. He also scored a power-play goal 1:02 seconds later.

Phil Kessel scored a power-play goal for Pittsburgh with 8:04 remaining in regulation. Evgeni Malkin recorded two assists in the game, including the one on the Kessel goal. The assist on the Phil Kessel goal was Evgeni Malkin’s 1,000th career point.

John Carlson scored a power-play goal for the Washington Capitals with 5:58 remaining in regulation. Alex Ovechkin assisted on that goal and he recorded his 1,200th career point on that assist.

Jared McCann scored an empty net goal with 56 seconds remaining in regulation. Pittsburgh won the season series against Washington 3-1. Hopefully this isn’t the last time this season these two teams are facing each other. Hopefully they will meet each other again in the postseason.

Braden Holtby made 25 saves for the Capitals. Matt Murray made 38 saves for the Penguins. Washington’s next game will be against the Philadelphia Flyers on the road on Thursday night. Pittsburgh’s next game will be against the Buffalo Sabres on the road on Thursday night.

Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Chicago Bears

2019 Coaching Staff

Well that was a surprise. Many expected first year head coach Matt Nagy to begin the turnaround from the John Fox disaster, but I’m not sure anyone expected the Bears to win the NFC North and come just a few doinks away from the second seed (or, you know, winning the wild card game). While it was a disappointing end to an otherwise miracle season, that doesn’t change the fact that it was an otherwise miracle season. Nagy unquestionably returns to one of the safest head coach seats in football, bringing offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich with him (though let’s be honest, this is Nagy’s offense and Helfrich is just along for the ride). Chicago unfortunately lose defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to the Broncos, though. He will be replaced by former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

What to Expect

Matt Nagy was brought in as a recognized QB guru to help shape the extremely inexperienced Mitchell Trubisky. While I’m sure that means that someday Chicago’s play-calling will lean more pass-happy, for now that means a strong running game that Trubisky can lean on as he develops. Regardless of whether Jordan Howard is kept or replaced, whoever is paired with Tarik Cohen in the backfield will be the heartbeat of the offense. Also helping Trubisky’s growth will be the continuity of the personnel; almost every 2018 day one starter will also be day one starters in 2019. With this in mind, it seems very likely that the 2019 Bears will look a lot like the 2018 Bears.

In fact, the most notable change with regard to how the offense will perform is actually a change on the defense. It’s tough enough having to follow up Vic Fangio’s top tier coaching, but Chuck Pagano’s resume feels particularly incomplete. Pagano has a pretty solid history as a secondary coach – and to his credit, those secondaries performed rather well on the whole – but he only spent a single season as the Ravens’ defensive coordinator before being scooped up as the Colts’ head coach. His one season in charge of the Ravens defense was great. His six years with the Colts? Not so much. Only once in those six seasons was Pagano’s defense in the top half of the league in yards allowed. The only plausible silver lining is that Pagano’s defense wasn’t a complete dumpster fire given how little talent GM Ryan Grigson was able to acquire. It’s tough to overlook six years of mediocrity when those were the last six years Pagano was in charge of anything, but given the circumstances and level of talent Pagano will get to field with the Bears defense, I’m inclined to believe that there shouldn’t be much dropoff.

The Data

While an argument can be made that Chicago will need to throw more than 2018 (Trubisky’s growth, tougher schedule, etc.), it’s also worth pointing out that the Bears were frequently forced to throw because the run game was that bad. The Bears started the season primarily running a gap blocking scheme, which was not the strength of the offensive line and certainly not the strength of primary back Jordan Howard. To that point, Howard only managed 2.9 YPC running behind a gap scheme last year. If your primary running back is getting less than 3 YPC, you’re going to have to pass if you want to maintain drives. What was lost in the shuffle though was that Chicago switched back to a zone scheme toward the end of the year, which Howard ran for 4.1 YPC behind. If the Bears keep that zone scheme (or if they bring in someone else more adept at running behind a gap scheme), they could easily run the ball more with better success. On balance, it seems likely that Nagy won’t stray much from the 54/46 pass/run play-call ratio he had last year.

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As mentioned above, the 2019 starting lineup will be almost identical to the 2018 lineup. If all the starters are the same and all the offensive coaches are the same, then it stands to reason that the target shares won’t change much either. The only thing that should really alter the balance is Trubisky’s own growth. In Trubisky’s first year under Nagy, he frequently only checked a single read before taking off. If Trubisky has a future in the NFL, he’ll need to do a better job of making it all the way through his progressions. Given that the shorter throws to running backs and tight ends were frequently the first read in an effort to build up Trubisky’s confidence and rhythm, more progressions will likely benefit the wide receivers the most.

Fantasy Impact

The Bears return almost all of their 2018 starting lineup in 2019, so the scheme shouldn’t change very much; we expect Chicago to continue to pass just a little more than they run, with a disproportionately large target share going to running backs thanks to Tarik Cohen. Ultimately, if there are any major changes, it will depend on Trubisky’s growth.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 475 Attempts
Projected Passing: 355 Completions on 520 Attempts, 35 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 185 Receptions on 290 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 100 Receptions on 130 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 70 Receptions on 100 Targets

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Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Carolina Panthers

2019 Coaching Staff

The Panthers finished a disappointing 7-9 last season, but don’t let the record fool you. After all, it’s rather difficult to win when your star QB spends half the season physically unable to throw the deep ball. The Carolina brass certainly was not dissuaded as it stayed the course with long-time head coach Ron Rivera. Norv Turner was also kept on as offensive coordinator as he managed to find reasonable success despite the handicapped QB.

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What to Expect

The fascinating thing about the last three Panther offensive coordinators is that they all basically run the same offense. Sure there are some personal tweaks here and there, but Rob Chudzinski, Mike Shula, and Norv Turner all run an Air Coryell offense that features a power running game and deep shots down the field. After all, what else would you run with a cannon-armed QB who runs as well as any running back?

Of course, the caveat of having a premier dual-threat QB is that he’s going to take a beating, which is precisely what sunk the Panthers’ season. After nine weeks, the Panthers were sitting pretty on a 6-2 record. In week 10, though, Newton took a shot to his throwing shoulder, aggravating an injury that had been nagging him since week 7. The result? Seven straight losses as Newton was suddenly unable to push the ball down the field, a rather important aspect of a scheme that relies heavily on vertical routes. Turner will have to do a better job of protecting his QB if he hopes to revive the Panthers offense. The good news is that Newton will be at full health for the start of the new season. With a healthy Newton, a rising star in Christian McCaffrey, and an up-and-coming wide receiver corps, the Panthers should field one of the more explosive offenses in 2019.

The Data

The exact balance of passing plays vs. running plays is a bit tough to predict for the Panthers offense. Norv Turner has frequently adjusted the balance to match his team’s strengths, so there’s no clear cut answer there. Even assuming he calls plays similarly to his predecessors in Carolina doesn’t give a definitive answer at first glance as the ratios bounce all over the place. When you start to dig though, there is one thing that sticks out; the Panthers throw the ball a lot more when Newton isn’t healthy. This past season, the Panthers ran pass plays almost 59% of the time. In 2016, when Newton was playing with a partially torn rotator cuff, the Panthers passed 57% of the time. The Carolina pass percentages in 2015 and 2017 with a healthy Newton? 50% and 52%, respectively. Injuries are tough to predict, which makes this part of the projections particularly tricky. Complicating the issue is that star running back Christian McCaffrey is just a little smaller than you’d like a feature back to be at 205 lbs, and the Panthers don’t have a good 1B option behind him. Ultimately, a healthy Newton means more running plays, but the ratio might not drop all the way back down to a 50/50 split. Expect more of a 53/47 pass/run ratio.

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The other interesting dynamic at play is the turnover at the skill positions for Carolina. For a while, the Panthers passing attack was dominated by Steve Smith out wide and Greg Olsen up the seams, while Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams split the backfield. Steve Smith gave way to a short era featuring Kelvin Benjamin, but for the most part Newton’s supporting cast was pretty stable. This has not been the case the last couple of years; the wide receiver corps has gotten much younger and now boasts several new faces, Greg Olsen has struggled to stay on the field due to foot injuries (and has looked like a ghost of his old self when he does play), and the two-headed backfield has been replaced by do-everything back McCaffrey. With all the change, target shares have been fluctuating wildly as everyone jockeys for position in the new order. Predicting how it will turn out will be difficult, but there are a couple things we can keep in mind.

First, Christian McCaffrey received a huge boost when Newton hurt his shoulder. Through week 10, McCaffrey was averaging 6 receptions per game. From weeks 11-16, that number skyrocketed to 8.7. If Newton stays healthy, McCaffrey will struggle to replicate his record-setting pace from last year.

Second, the likelihood that Olsen comes back fully healthy at this point seems slim, but if he does he could easily command a huge target share. Carolina tight ends have been targeted well under 20% of the time while Olsen has struggled with injuries the last two seasons. Before that though, Olsen pushed the group to target shares as high as 30%.

Finally, the wide receiver corps is very young and still has much to improve on. D. J. Moore in particular led all Panther wideouts in targets despite being a rookie. Second year receiver Curtis Samuel also really started to heat up toward the end of the year after struggling with injuries to start his career. If the group continues to improve, it will be difficult to deny them targets. The group is still going through changes though as “veteran” (relatively speaking) receiver Devin Funchess is being allowed to leave in free agency.

Fantasy Impact

If Newton can stay healthy, the Panthers offense should return to a more run-heavy approach. It’s hard to envision a scenario where McCaffrey isn’t peppered with targets, but the degree to which that happens depends on the health of Olsen and the growth of Moore and Samuel.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 475 Attempts
Projected Passing: 320 Completions on 505 Attempts, 35 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 160 Receptions on 280 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 95 Receptions on 125 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 65 Receptions on 100 Targets

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Fantasy Opportunity Breakdown: Buffalo Bills

2019 Coaching Staff

There’s some coaching continuity in Buffalo for a change. Despite a down year in terms of standings, head coach Sean McDermott was retained due to the promise the Bills showed on the field. Namely, the defense was surprisingly effective and rookie QB Josh Allen routinely put the offense on his back. More importantly for our purposes, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was retained to continue working with Allen, hopefully turning him into the franchise QB Buffalo drafted him to be.

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What to Expect

The key in Buffalo is fixing the offensive line. The Bills bled talent from their O-line during the offseason and it showed as PFF ranked the Bills’ O-line 26th by the end of the season. Josh Allen was constantly under pressure and the line couldn’t open holes for the running game to take pressure off him. That’s not an easy thing to deal with for veteran QBs, but it’s especially tough on a rookie QB who isn’t known for finesse and doesn’t have much in the way of receiving talent to throw to. The Bills have hired a new offensive line coach to try to address the issue, but they’ll need some more talent at the line positions as well. Failure to fix the issue will end with Allen on his back and the coaching staff out the door.

Improving the O-line enough so that Allen isn’t constantly running for his life will also be critical for Daboll to run his preferred scheme. Daboll hasn’t spent much time as an NFL offensive coordinator – certainly not much recently, at least – but what little data there is on him shows dedication to the running game; his offenses finished outside the top 6 in rush attempts only once in five years, but never finished better than 28th in pass attempts. For that matter, his passing game isn’t even very efficient as it has only recorded a yards per attempt number better than the bottom 25% once. His running game is a little better – typically around the middle of the pack – but it has still been rather inconsistent across his coaching career. This is a little alarming as the top two RBs on the roster are both on the wrong side of 30 and both coming off the worst years of their respective careers. The defense should give the offense plenty of chances, but the Bills need to surround Allen with a lot more talent before the offense will be able to begin pulling its weight.

The Data

Before last year, Daboll’s previous stint as an NFL OC was with the Chiefs back in 2012. While we can glean some insight from looking at his offenses back then, it’s a wide enough gap that we will primarily be considering Daboll’s offense with the Bills last year. Despite being known as a run-first coordinator, the Bills actually only had 468 rush attempts last year against 540 passing plays (including 41 sacks) under Daboll, approximately a 54/46 pass/run ratio. That doesn’t account for the fact that Allen was the team’s leading rusher on the season, so it’s fair to say that Daboll actually called an even higher percentage of pass plays. Which way that ratio goes from here depends on what kind of talent the Buffalo front office can surround Allen with. I’m sure Daboll would love to take some pressure off Allen and return to his preferred run-heavy approach, but that would require either a late-career resurgence from LeSean McCoy or new blood at the running back position, not to mention the improvements required along the offensive line. Given where the team roster stands right now, it seems likely that the pass/run ratio isn’t dipping any lower than last year.

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It also seems likely that the wide receivers will continue to dominate targets in the passing game. Last year, Buffalo wide receivers were targeted about 60% of the time while the running backs and tight ends both saw a little under 20%. There is an argument to be made that the tight end group was just young and that there will be improvement moving forward, but no one in the group looked like a future star. The running backs are on the opposite end of the spectrum in age, and both spent time injured last year. They could see improvement this season with some better health, but both McCoy and Chris Ivory have reached the dreaded big 3-0. It’s fair to think that their bodies could be breaking down (especially Ivory, who has been a bit injury-prone his whole career). Meanwhile, Zay Jones and Robert Foster aren’t exactly household names at the wideout position, but both certainly proved to be capable this past year. Allen’s penchant for throwing deep also adds to the wide receiver target share. Unless there are some significant personnel changes in Buffalo, expect Jones and Foster to continue to anchor the passing game.

The final point worth noting is the effect Kelvin Benjamin had on Josh Allen’s accuracy and the catch percentage of the wide receiver group as a whole. Despite finishing solidly as the second most targeted player on the Bills, Benjamin finished fourth in receptions with a pitiful 37.1% catch rate. With him in, the wide receivers only compiled a 51.4% catch rate. Without him, the group catch rate rose to 55%. Make of that what you will, but I think Allen will see at least a little improvement in that area with Benjamin gone.

Fantasy Impact

Buffalo has a strong defense that, in theory, should provide the offense with plenty of attempts and complement Brian Daboll’s run-first approach. In practice, the Buffalo front office has to fill holes across the offense if they hope to see any real improvement. Any notable acquisitions could alter the balance, but for now it seems likely that the Bills will enter 2019 with a very similar offense to what they had last year.

Projected Team Rush Attempts: 465 Attempts
Projected Passing: 305 Completions on 505 Attempts, 40 sacks allowed
Projected WR Catches: 175 Receptions on 310 Targets
Projected RB Catches: 65 Receptions on 95 Targets
Projected TE Catches: 65 Receptions on 100 Targets

Updates

Update 1: The Bills have been active early in free agency. In addition to a couple of defensive moves, the Bills signed RB Frank Gore and TE Tyler Kroft. Gore shouldn’t have much impact on how the team operates (quite frankly I’m not sure what prompted the Buffalo front office to sign yet another 30+ year old back), but Kroft might. Kroft had some success as Tyler Eifert’s backup in Cincinnati, and his surprisingly large contract (up to $21 million over 3 years) indicates that Buffalo has a particular role in mind. Most of Kroft’s production will probably come at the expense of the tight ends already on the roster, but don’t be surprised if he siphons off some of the running backs’ target volume.

Update 2: Buffalo’s early involvement in free agency continues as they welcome new receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown. There still isn’t a true #1 wide receiver on the roster, but it’ll be tough to defend the sheer volume of #2 receivers the Bills have accumulated. Surrounding Josh Allen’s cannon arm with wideouts also would indicate a bit more willingness to fire downfield.

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