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My Take on the 2021 NFL QB Class

While this season has been massively impacted by COVID. I am probably the most hyped for the QB's than I have been in a while. Easily my favorite class since 2018 and easily the best since 2012 which is 1983 of all QB classes. 1983 featured six quarterbacks were taken in the first round—John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O'Brien, and Dan Marino. Three ended up as Hall of Famers.

2012 featured first-round draft picks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weeden, as well as third-rounder Russell Wilson. By season's end, three more rookie quarterbacks would start their first games – third-round draft pick Nick Foles, fourth-rounder Kirk Cousins, and sixth-rounder Ryan Lindley. While Luck retired early due to injuries ended what would be a hall of fame career, Russell Wilson looks like a lock for the hall and potentially the greatest QB in NFL history if he continues at this pace. Cousins and Tannehill have solidified themselves as legit starting QBs and Foles is a super bowl MVP.

This class features 12 guys to really watch and to me, four really special QBs in Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and D'Eriq King. Brock Purdy, Iowa State, Jamie Newman, Georgia, Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Kyle Trask, Florida, Shane Buechele, SMU. Kellen Mond, TAMU, K.J. Costello, Mississippi State and Tanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota.

Sunshine (Lawrence) is probably the most talented QB prospect to enter since Elway. Elite arm, arm talent, mobility, size, field vision, and has tremendous Football IQ. He has flaws, he has the Elway/Cutler syndrome where instead of anticipating where the WR is going to be, he sees them open which he can get away with but not always. He gets happy feet at times in a muddy pocket and wants to run. He needs playmakers more than he MAKES playmakers.

Lance has the best tape of the four horsemen. Best deep ball. 2nd best anticipation (King), 2nd best athlete (King), best system flexibility, 2nd best decision-maker (King), the closest prospect to Andrew Luck they say and I agree. His tape is amazing but like Luck, has flaws. Lance barely had a muddy pocket, only 14 sacks in 16 games. He was a big part of it with his pocket mobility but it wasn't that damn good. He rarely had to go to 3rd and 4th options but he did so well. 0 INTs but without elements, it's kinda hard to really evaluate is it real or not.

Fields has tremendous talent, size, the athletic ability for his size, arm strength, and is a solid decision-maker. What I like the most about Fields is his projectability and how well-coached he is as a prospect for a dual-threat guy. While I don't think he's superior QB wise to Haskins, he's a McNabb like athlete and I think he will translate as a solid starting QB in year 1. I do think translating to the NFL will be harder for him than people think but like Josh Allen, he has just enough athletic ability and size to really make things happen in the NFL and his arm is crazy strong as well. Just pure God-given talent and really well-coached.

King is the best QB in this class to ME overall. He reminds me the most of Burrow who was the best QB in the draft to me last year. A system QB who's best in a spread like Kyler Murray. He was PFF's best QB in 2018 in college football and he's on his way to being the best QB in 2020 as well. Like Burrow, he's an older QB, in fact, he's the same age(23) as Burrow and I think that gives him a lot of advantage over TL, JF, and TL who are all 20-21 years old. While he is similar to Burrow, he has elite elusiveness and break tackle ability like a running back. His flaws to me is his size, system flexibility, unlike Burrow, I would like him to have more pocket mobility like Wilson to counteract the lack of size, and he could still work to improve his arm talent like we have seen Wilson do when he joined the Seahawks. When I like a guy, I like him and I gave him a 1st round grade last year if he entered so why not again.

Brock Purdy, Iowa State, Jamie Newman, Georgia, Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Kyle Trask, Florida, Shane Buechele, SMU. Kellen Mond, TAMU, K.J. Costello, Mississippi State and Tanner Morgan, QB, Minnesota.

Purdy has a lot of Baker Mayfield in him including being bad in a muddy pocket. I just don't like him as much as Baker because well, Baker's production was insane. I think Purdy realistically is a 2nd round grade.

Newman has shades of Daunte Culpepper with his deep ball and his tremendous playmaking ability. He lacks the ability to just simply move the chains so personnel will be key with him. The talent and playmaking ability is exceptional but does he fit the modern NFL if he doesn't land on one of these big-play teams is the question. He has tremendous value in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Trask never started a HS game but that's okay because D'eriq King was their QB. Still, Trask got major SEC D1 offers and King did not. Trask had a good first year with the Gators and showed that he's a NFL level QB. I really feel he's in the mold of Kirk Cousins but with more size to boot which will impress scouts. 2nd or 3rd round grade.

Sam Ehlinger, Texas, Shane Buechele, SMU, Kellen Mond, TAMU, K.J. Costello, Mississippi State, and Tanner Morgan are all 4th to 5th rounders to me.

Ehlinger's best shades are a better throwing Tebow which I disagree with because Tebow was a much better football player than Sam is and Taysom Hill which I think actually makes some sense. As a backup, I like him overall.

Buechele is a tremendous system QB in the mold of Case Keenum. Keenum has had a tremendous career as a 2012 undrafted QB. In today's NFL where they are looking for QB's like Buechele as backups over the game managers. I expect Buechele to be taken in the 5th round as the game is changing for backup QBs.

Mond has raw but impactful arm strength, productive, and is an athletic QB who some teams love to bet on as a 1st rounder type. Some will say he's as talented as Jordan Love but I will argue that Love is a far better NFL prospect as he can throw into tight windows and while his decision making needs to improve as well as his mechanics, his arm talent is not off the charts as well. Now, he's a better prospect than someone like Kizer because he is productive, I have a tough time with inconsistent Black QB's almost all either have to produce or they are career backups. They don't get the time that white QB's get. I do think he's a 2nd round talent but I gave him a 5th round grade.

Morgan is a damn relic to me. The Matt Hasselbeck QB's are on the way out. Matt Ryan is the last of the Mohicans. My big issue with him for his style of QB, I would prefer he would be 6'4-6-6. Being that he's 6'2, he needs to be a lot more mobile than he is and I do think he has a strong NFL future but he's a backup at best to me. 4th to 5th round grade.

Overall, I love this QB class. It's deep, has tremendous top-heavy talent, and is worth talking about. I wasn't hyped at all about last year's class and Kyler Murray is a system QB and thankfully went to the right system. This is a class, you have a chance to hit big with a QB. I think teams should consider a QB this year even if you have one already entrenched.
submitted by nbasuperstar40 to NFL_Draft [link] [comments]

Should the Golden State Warriors gamble on a draft pick? Or cash in their chips for a proven player instead? A look at potential trade packages

Back in 1978, "The Gambler" Kenny Rogers gave all NBA general managers some sage advice. "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."
Golden State decision makers Bob Myers and Steve Kerr are clearly fans of Rogers, because they acted quickly and decisively this season. As soon as they saw the writing on the wall that a playoff push wouldn't happen this year, they made sure to rack up as many losses as possible. As a result, they'll enter the offseason with a 15-50 record, in the catbird seat with the # 1 slot in the draft heading into the lottery.
When a strong team winds up with a high pick like this, there's a natural reaction: this is the Spurs and Tim Duncan all over again!"
Realistically speaking, that's not what's going to happen here. After 4 years in college, Tim Duncan came into the NBA as one of the most pro-ready prospects of our lifetime. As a rookie, he averaged 22-12 with 2.5 blocks and earned All-Star status right out of the gate. He even finished 5th in MVP voting (as a rookie!). Golden State shouldn't expect that. More realistically, you're looking at a top pick that could be an "average" player as a rookie, and hopefully work their way to All-Star status in year 3 or 4.
The question for Golden State is: can they afford to wait that long? Steph Curry is 32. Klay Thompson is 30 and coming off a serious injury. Draymond Green is 30 and perhaps on a decline already.
Given that, the Warriors have a choice to make. Should they utilize this top 5 pick as a way to supplement their playoff roster now, with the expectation that the prospect could develop into their next franchise player down the road? Or should they cash in their draft assets for a "win now" approach? In order to answer that question, let's take a look at more of the specifics.
What kind of package can they offer?
There's no way the Golden State Warriors will trade Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, especially given how well their skill sets should age over time. In theory, they could debate trading Draymond Green (still owed 4 more years) for younger legs, but I imagine he's too important to the franchise from a culture and historical standpoint.
Other than that...? All bets are off.
As we peek through the Warriors' cupboard for potential assets, here's what we find:
THE LOTTERY PICK. Currently slated at # 1, there's only a 14% chance it stays there. That pick could land anywhere from 1-5, with 3 or 4 being the most likely outcome. While this isn't a very strong draft, there's inherent value to a top 5 pick. I would estimate that the top 3 is especially valuable this year, with three potential bluechip prospects emerging from the pack in SG Anthony Edwards (Georgia), C James Wiseman (Memphis), and PG LaMelo Ball (facebook).
Minnesota's 2021 R1 pick. This had been included in the D'Angelo Russell deal. The pick is top 3 protected, but could still be a valuable asset. Under Ryan Saunders, the Timberwolves have gone 36-70 overall. With Karl-Anthony Towns and a full season of D'Angelo Russell (not to mention another top 5 pick), the Wolves may get closer to .500 range, but there's also a good chance the pick lands in the top 10 regardless.
Andrew Wiggins. Sadly, Young Mr. Wiggins would be used mostly as contract filler at this stage. He's not a bad player, but he happens to be overpaid on his current contract. He'll get $29.5M next season, $31.5M the following year, and $33.5M in the final year. He'll need to take a massive step up in efficiency to be worth that type of money.
Eric Paschall. The forward from Villanova had a solid rookie year, averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Realistically, there may not be a huge amount of upside left in the tank for the 23 year old, but the price makes him appealing. He's only due $1.5M next season and $1.8M the following year.
Kevon Looney. The 2019-20 campaign was a lost season for Looney due to injury, but he's still a potential asset on his current contract ($4.8M + $5.2M player option.) When last healthy in 2018-19, he averaged about 12-10 per 36 minutes of action. He's one of the few "middle class" contracts on the books, so he's going to be a common throw-in to trades.
Damion Lee. Steph Curry's brother-in-law is a personal favorite of mine. He's worked his way up through the G-League and 10-day contracts and proven to be a legitimate rotational player. The Warriors locked him up on a team-friendly contract ($1.7M + $1.9M) that makes him a positive asset as well.
Marquese Chriss. Amazingly, mega "bust" Marquese Chriss flashed some improved play for the Warriors last year. Teams will still be wary of trusting him, but his salary ($1.8M) makes him a decent throw-in and flier.
Alen Smailagic. The 20-year-old Serbian only played 139 total minutes for the big league club this year, but did pretty well (15.2 PPG in 25.9 minutes) in the G-League. He's a decent flier of a prospect who at the very least can be an extra contract ($1.5M) to throw into a deal.
other picks. The Warriors also own the # 48 and # 52 picks in this year's draft, and could throw in future R1 picks of their own as well.
If we throw in ALL of these players (hard to do with roster constraints), we're talking about a salary package of about $40M. More likely, you can make anywhere from $30-35M work presuming you include Andrew Wiggins as a major component of the trade.
Overall, I'd say the Warriors have three levels of trade packages to offer.
THE GOLD PACKAGE: Would be this year's lottery pick + Wiggins (for contract purposes) + a solid young player like Pascall
THE SILVER PACKAGE: Minnesota's pick next year + Wiggins (for contract purposes).
THE BROWN/TURD PACKAGE: Wiggins + minor picks and assets (but no high picks.) With this package, the Warriors would be looking to acquire other "toxic" assets more than anything else.
Potential deals for the THE GOLD PACKAGE (Wiggins + this year's lottery pick)
Bradley Beal (WAS) ($29M + $34.5M + $37M player option)
Look, I don't want to do this any more than you do, but the United States Congress just passed legislation (Provision BB-3) that requires every single trade post to mention Bradley Beal.
For this to actually happen, a number of events would have to fall in line. The first is that Beal formally demands a trade, forcing Washington's hand. His recent extension makes that unlikely, but not unprecedented given today's NBA climate. Secondly, the Warriors would have to grab a top 3 pick -- likely # 1 or # 2. If they do that, then they would have a legitimate offer to make the Wizards for Beal: that top pick + Wiggins + maybe Eric Pascall as an additional piece. They could even throw in a future R1 pick to sweeten the pot if need be.
You may question whether another shooting guard (emphasis on shooting) would even fit on Golden State, but we shouldn't overthink this one. Shooting is like peanut butter -- it goes with everything. Moreover, Klay Thompson could easily slide out to SF if need be. The defense would take a hit, but the offensive firepower would be devastating enough to make up for it.
Myles Turner (IND) ($18M + $18M + $18M) + $10M in trade filler
If the Warriors' pick lands in the 4-5 range, they may have to set their sights lower in trade talks, and look towards near All-Stars like Myles Turner instead.
The Indiana Pacers went into this season with an unconventional two-big lineup, and it actually worked pretty well overall. That said, they've been playing without Domatas Sabonis in the bubble, and it's given scorers like T.J. Warren more room to operate. Looking ahead, perhaps the team decides they need to break up the big guys in order to maximize their spacing and spark their offense (ranked 18th pre-bubble.) And hey, maybe they decide they don't want to pay Victor Oladipo (a FA next summer) big money and lock into a core that may top out as a 4-5 seed no matter what. Acquiring a young starter like Andrew Wiggins and a top 5 pick would give them some more options and potential upside.
From the Warriors' perspective, Myles Turner (or Sabonis) would give them a very good center that can play without the confines of their offense. Turner is also particularly stout on defense, and would pair with Draymond Green for a formidable duo inside. Originally, I had listed Jeremy Lamb ($10M + $10M) as the trade filler to make it work, but his ACL injury complicates that math. Presumably, the Warriors would like some healthy bodies to help a team that would be dangerously thin. They'd likely prefer Doug McDermott ($7.5M), but may have to settle for lesser white dudes like T.J. McConnell ($3.5M) and T.J. Leaf ($4.5M) instead.
Potential deals for the THE SILVER PACKAGE (Wiggins + MIN 2021 pick)
Blake Griffin (DET) ($37M + $39M player option)
Blake Griffin has been in the NBA for 10+ years now, but he's still one of the more misunderstood players in the league. He still has the rep as an athlete/dunker, despite the fact that he's a highly skilled ball-handler and passer as well. When last healthy in 2018-19, he averaged 24-7-5 and helped push the Pistons into the playoffs. Griffin's (offensive) potential on this Warriors team would be terrifying.
From Detroit's perspective, this would represent a reset and rebuild. They'd hand the reins of the PF spot from Griffin (31 years old) to Christian Wood (24) and go with a younger approach. Andrew Wiggins may never be the All-Star we hoped, but he still fits that timeline at 25 years old, and has proven to be more durable than Griffin (who isn't?).
With this "silver package," the Pistons would also get that Minnesota draft pick to help their rebuild. There's some uncertainty to that pick, so they may prefer some type of pick swap this season instead. For example, let's say Golden State lands at # 2, and Detroit comes in at # 4. The two teams may negotiate some deal that would allow the Pistons to jump up to 2 and grab their preferred prospect.
Aaron Gordon (ORL) ($18M + $16M) + Terrence Ross ($13.5M + $12.5M + $11.5M)
After six seasons in the league, it may be time to give up on the idea that Aaron Gordon will develop into a go-to scorer. Instead, he may be best served as a 3rd or 4th starter who's going to be a movable piece on defense and an energy scorer on offense. That doesn't sound like what the doctor ordered in Orlando (with Jon Isaac already there), but it could fit well in Golden State. Gordon and Draymond Green would be a "small" PF-C combination, but it's a mighty switchable tandem. Terrence Ross would be included for salary and depth, although Orlando may try to push for Al-Farouq Aminu instead.
Why would Orlando be interested in Andrew Wiggins? They wouldn't, necessarily, but this package would also offer them that extra Minnesota draft pick. Moreover, it would help clear some logjam in their frontcourt. Aside from Jon Isaac, they also have Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba, and this past year's rookie Chuma Okeke. Personally, I'm excited to see what Okeke can offer when healthy next year.

Potential deals for the THE BROWN/TURD PACKAGE (Wiggins + minor picks and assets)
Kevin Love (CLE) ($31M + $31M + $29M)
Can we possibly go full circle here? Andrew Wiggins started his career by being traded for Kevin Love, so it'd be fitting for the two to swap places once again.
From the Cavs' perspective, this move would be all about a rebuild. Kevin Love (31 years old, turning 32 in September) never felt like a great fit for their very young team. While Wiggins isn't an ideal building block, he's younger and easier to slide into a lineup at the wing. They'd also be getting off a contract that's naturally risky given Love's age and injury history.
The Warriors had resisted adding Kevin Love before (for Klay Thompson), but his "fit" would be interesting right now. Offensively, his ability to rebound and stretch the court would make their lineup even more potent. Defensively, your hope is that Draymond Green could cover for any potential weakness he may have. Love is also a good team-first player who shouldn't have any problem fitting in and chasing another ring.
Al Horford (PHI) ($27.5M + $27M + $26.5M)
Another skilled big man in his 30s, Al Horford could be an option if the Warriors want to make a quick push to win now at the expense of their future. Horford is past his prime, but he's still a heady player who would fit into the offensive system and culture well.
That said, Horford carries sizable risk to him given the length of his contract. He recently turned 34, so he'll be paid $20M+ into his age 35-36 seasons. It's almost guaranteed to be an albatross contract by the end, but perhaps the Warriors can talk themselves into it if they believe their window is only 1-2 more years anyway.
For the Sixers, Andrew Wiggins isn't ideal either (as a mediocre shooter), but he'd at least offer them more depth at the wing. Paying a big man like Al Horford to go along with Joel Embiid never made a ton of sense in the first place.
LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) ($24M)
The San Antonio Spurs haven't embraced a full-on rebuild yet, but they're verging on that territory. That'd be especially easy at center, where Jakob Poeltl is more than ready to man 25-30 minutes. Given that, LaMarcus Aldridge would be an easy piece to push aside. Would the Spurs want a player like Andrew Wiggins back in return? Probably not. Still, they may have the faith that their player development system can get Wiggins to tap into his full potential.
From the Warriors' perspective, this would be another push to "win now." Despite being 35 years old, Aldridge can still be an offensive weapon, as illustrated by his 18.9 points per game this season. In some ways, he could be a bootleg version of what Kevin Durant gave the Warriors -- bailing out their offense in half-court possessions when needed. Defensively, he should be able to play alongside Draymond Green as well.
While LaMarcus Aldridge may not sound like a needle mover at this stage, this is a good time to remind the reader that these latter packages don't include those valuable draft picks.
Julius Randle (NY) ($19M + $20M) + SG Wayne Ellington ($8M)
You're not going to find more polarizing players than Julius Randle. The raw stats suggest he's a star (he neared 20-10 again with averages of 19.5 and 9.7 this season.) The advanced stats suggest he's a net negative. Still, you'd like his chances of success playing with this Golden State offense. Randle is an underrated ball-mover himself, so he may fit in well with their lineup. For his part, Wayne Ellington would be a contract filler and a potential depth play.
Would the Knicks want Andrew Wiggins? Eh. He's probably a little better than Julius Randle, but he's about the same age (both 25) and would be on a more expensive, longer-term deal. Their decision here may come down to the draft. If they have a chance to take another big (be it James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu) they may want to jettison Julius Randle sooner than later to clear room.
Kyle Anderson (MEM) ($9.5M + $10M) + Gorgui Dieng ($17M)
This would certainly be the lowest profile trade option, and it would essentially be the Warriors' way of admitting that they never wanted Andrew Wiggins in the first place. I like the idea of "Slo-Mo" Kyle Anderson on the Warriors given his basketball IQ, while Gorgui Dieng may be good enough to give them 20 minutes a night. Still, the only reason the Warriors would make a trade like this would be if they viewed Wiggins as a toxic/negative asset.
From the Grizzlies' perspective, this deal would represent some risk as well. This is a young and talented team that doesn't necessarily need more help on the wing. They have a full plate already with Dillon Brooks, Justice Winslow, Grayson Allen, Josh Jackson, etc. Still, it's never easy for a market like Memphis to draw in "big names," so perhaps they view Wiggins as that type of star material.
submitted by ZandrickEllison to nba [link] [comments]

2020 Offseason Review Series Day 26: The New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Division: AFC East 2019: 12-4, Division Win
Before I dive in, I want to give a massive, massive thanks to timnog - who is a national treasure and the resident .gif queen of the Patriots - and arbrown83 - who provides excellent high-quality OC and manages, a definitive repository for content complete with data and .gifs spanning the past 20 years. Basically everything in this piece that isn't sourced in the click (twitter, youtube etc.) came from one of them and I don't want to imagine what this would look like without them.

Coaching Changes:

After last year's mass coaching exodus there are relatively few losses among the coaching staff this season, but two of them are major losses that will certainly be felt. The team has remained true to form this year in handling coaching turnover - losses have been addressed by promotions from within and the team has brought in one mid-priority, experienced outsider to supplement.

Free Agency

Players lost/cut
Player Position New Team Contract
Tom Brady QB 2 yrs, $50M
Kyle Van Noy Edge 4 yrs, $51M
Jamie Collins LB 3 yrs, $30M
Danny Shelton IDL 2 yrs, $8M
Ted Karras C 1 yr, $3M
Nate Ebner ST 1 yr, $2M
Elandon Roberts LB 1 yr, $2M
Phillip Dorsett WR 1 yr, $1M
Players signed
Player Position Old Team Contract
Beau Allen IDL 2 yrs, $7M
Adrian Phillips S 2 yrs, $6M
Damiere Byrd WR 1 yr, $1.6M
Dan Vitale FB 1 yr, $1.3M
Brian Hoyer QB 1 yr, $1M
Marquise Lee WR 1 yr, $1M
Brandon Copeland LB 1 yr, $1M
New England entered the 2020 Free Agency period without much cap space to speak of. After placing a franchise tag on Left Guard Joe Thuney and re-signing Free Safety Devin McCourty, the team was left without much of anything to work with. Trading away Duron Harmon turned out to be a necessary move solely for the cap ramifications.
Not much in the way of splashy names. Those signings left New England without even enough money to sign a draft class. Without even enough cap space to fit a veteran minimum contract, the team couldn't have possibly added any more players..... Wait. What?
Player Position Old Team Contract
Cam Newton QB 1 yr, $1.75M
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Round Pick Player Position School
2 37 Kyle Dugger Safety Lenoir-Rhyne
2 60 Josh Uche LB Michigan
3 87 Anfernee Jennings LB Alabama
3 91 Devin Asiasi TE UCLA
3 101 Dalton Keene TE Virginia Tech
5 159 Justin Rohrwasser K Marshall
6 182 Michael Onwenu G Michigan
6 195 Justin Herron OT Wake Forest
6 204 Cassh Maluia LB Wyoming
7 230 Dustin Woodard C Memphis
It's never easy to talk about Patriots drafts. In 2020 the team clearly wanted to add versatility on multiple levels, and they did something we've seen them do multiple times before and double dipped at positions of significant need. A number of pundits have panned the Pats 2020 draft class because it didn't include a Quarterback or receiver, while others have praised it because the team moved around a number of picks and that must be a good sign. If forced to give a grade I'd throw out a B/B-. Dugger has a ridiculous potential ceiling but his rawness is scary. I absolutely love the Uche pick. He was a favorite of mine through the process with nice tape who seemed generally undervalued due to lack of volume. He could return major upside. Jennings is a classic Patriots prototype pick who could be great for the team, and he was selected at about "expected" range. Asiasi is someone I liked in the scouting process as a competent receiver but I would have preferred Adam Trautman as the more complete package. I liked Dalton Keene for fit but I didn't expect him before the middle of day 3. Trading 2 4ths to the Jets to move up for Keene there just doesn't sit right. The Rohrwasser pick is another Belichick staple on the current rookie wage scale. Once the 5th round rolls around he starts taking his "reach" shots on special teamers or long-shot projects e.g. Punter Jake Bailey, Long Snapper Joe Cardona, Punter Zoltan Mesko or reclamation projects Byron Cowart and Marcus Cannon. Most of those picks have turned out pretty good for the team. Given that track record and the need, I expected and don't hate taking the kicker there. I know nothing about Rohrwasser except he apparently went 100% from 50+ yards and had a handful of impressive kicks in bad weather, but Belichick has been on point with specialists and the team hasn't brought in any competition so I believe in his ability. The rest of the selections are just prospective depth, which is hard to get excited about but is also something the team desperately needed. I'm glad the team didn't try to take a QB and instead focused on addressing a lack of roster depth, an aging safety group, an eviscerated LB corps and the worst TE room in the league. For the oldest roster in the NFL and for how many contributing bodies the team lost in free agency, this draft class isn't exactly sexy, but it is a necessity and very on-brand for the Patriots.

Projected Depth Chart

Position Groups

Camp Battles to Watch


Schedule Prediction

Other Offseason News that has Affected the Team

Thanks for reading if indeed you have. If not, thanks for at least scrolling to the bottom. I hope it's been enjoyable and informative. Stay safe and be good to each other.
E: Of course within hours of posting this the Patriots finalized multiple roster moves. Lamar Miller was signed to a 1 year deal. While the terms are unknown at the moment, he'll be a strong candidate to come in and carry a significant workload. The signing suggests that the team is unsure of Sony Michel's availability after the foot surgery that currently has him on the PUP list and does not feel comfortable leaning on Burkhead or Harris in the event that Sony misses time. Jordan Leggett has also been signed and could push Ryan Izzo for a roster spot.
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MAME 0.223

MAME 0.223

MAME 0.223 has finally arrived, and what a release it is – there’s definitely something for everyone! Starting with some of the more esoteric additions, Linus Åkesson’s AVR-based hardware chiptune project and Power Ninja Action Challenge demos are now supported. These demos use minimal hardware to generate sound and/or video, relying on precise CPU timings to work. With this release, every hand-held LCD game from Nintendo’s Game & Watch and related lines is supported in MAME, with Donkey Kong Hockey bringing up the rear. Also of note is the Bassmate Computer fishing aid, made by Nintendo and marketed by Telko and other companies, which is clearly based on the dual-screen Game & Watch design. The steady stream of TV games hasn’t stopped, with a number of French releases from Conny/VideoJet among this month’s batch.
For the first time ever, games running on the Barcrest MPU4 video system are emulated well enough to be playable. Titles that are now working include several games based on the popular British TV game show The Crystal Maze, Adders and Ladders, The Mating Game, and Prize Tetris. In a clear win for MAME’s modular architecture, the breakthrough came through the discovery of a significant flaw in our Motorola MC6840 Programmable Timer Module emulation that was causing issues for the Fairlight CMI IIx synthesiser. In the same manner, the Busicom 141-PF desk calculator is now working, thanks to improvements made to Intel 4004 CPU emulation that came out of emulating the INTELLEC 4 development system and the prototype 4004-based controller board for Flicker pinball. The Busicom 141-PF is historically significant, being the first application of Intel’s first microprocessor.
Fans of classic vector arcade games are in for a treat this month. Former project coordinator Aaron Giles has contributed netlist-based sound emulation for thirteen Cinematronics vector games: Space War, Barrier, Star Hawk, Speed Freak, Star Castle, War of the Worlds, Sundance, Tail Gunner, Rip Off, Armor Attack, Warrior, Solar Quest and Boxing Bugs. This resolves long-standing issues with the previous simulation based on playing recorded samples. Colin Howell has also refined the sound emulation for Midway’s 280-ZZZAP and Gun Fight.
V.Smile joystick inputs are now working for all dumped cartridges, and with fixes for ROM bank selection the V.Smile Motion software is also usable. The accelerometer-based V.Smile Motion controller is not emulated, but the software can all be used with the standard V.Smile joystick controller. Another pair of systems with inputs that now work is the original Macintosh (128K/512K/512Ke) and Macintosh Plus. These systems’ keyboards are now fully emulated, including the separate numeric keypad available for the original Macintosh, the Macintosh Plus keyboard with integrated numeric keypad, and a few European ISO layout keyboards for the original Macintosh. There are still some emulation issues, but you can play Beyond Dark Castle with MAME’s Macintosh Plus emulation again.
In other home computer emulation news, MAME’s SAM Coupé driver now supports a number of peripherals that connect to the rear expansion port, a software list containing IRIX hard disk installations for SGI MIPS workstations has been added, and tape loading now works for the Specialist system (a DIY computer designed in the USSR).
Of course, there’s far more to enjoy, and you can read all about it in the whatsnew.txt file, or get the source and 64-bit Windows binary packages from the download page. (For brevity, promoted V.Smile software list entries and new Barcrest MPU4 clones made up from existing dumps have been omitted here.)

MAME Testers Bugs Fixed

New working machines

New working clones

Machines promoted to working

Clones promoted to working

New machines marked as NOT_WORKING

New clones marked as NOT_WORKING

New working software list additions

Software list items promoted to working

New NOT_WORKING software list additions

Merged pull requests

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An alternative version of the NFL Top 100

Every year NFL Network puts out a list of the Top 100 Players for the upcoming season, as voted by their peers. I have talked about the flaws of that whole process a few times already – the players only write down their top 20 players, which is understandable, but also doesn’t result in the proper results, since everybody is somewhat to put their guys on, not all players actually get to watch a lot of games, if they don’t include teams they actually face or are limited to watching highlights, and the voting concludes before the playoff are even here, which can be the only somewhat logical reason, Patrick Mahomes was only number four on the official list – even though that would still be wrong.
For the purpose of this list, I first put together my rankings of the top players at every single position, but then somewhat went off script by just writing down names in the order that they shot into my head, before comparing it with the positional rankings and trying to weigh guys against each other. And just to make this clear – these rankings are based on players regardless of their position, since otherwise would have almost half the starting quarterbacks in the league within the top 20 or so. And of course this is a bit of a projection and not solely built on what these players did this previous season, but also not about where they will be at the end of 2020.
Here is my list:

  1. Patrick Mahomes
  2. Aaron Donald
  3. Russell Wilson
  4. Lamar Jackson
  5. Stephon Gilmore
  6. Julio Jones
  7. George Kittle
  8. Quenton Nelson
  9. Jamal Adams
  10. Jalen Ramsey

What is there still to say about Mahomes? In just two years as a starter, he has been a league MVP and just led his team to three consecutive double-digit comebacks to get that Lombardi trophy. He is the most talented player I have ever seen and will now have the Chiefs as contenders in the AFC for the next decade, after signing that blockbuster deal. You can not tell me there are three humans on earth that are better at football than this guy.
If we lived in a world without Mahomes, Donald would be the obvious pick here for the best player regardless of position. You can easily argue that the gap between the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and the next-closest players is even bigger (since I have a QB at three), since Donald doesn’t just have the numbers despite facing constant attention, but does so much more that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, in terms of blowing up plays before they can even get going.
Wilson to me has earned his way up to being the second-best quarterback in the league. He throws those unbelievable rainbow deep balls, is elusive as it gets at extending plays as a passer and seems to always come through when his team needs him most. He has covered up a lot of issues for the Seahawks – leading his team to a winning record every single season of his career – and the only thing that can hold him back is his own conservative coaching staff.
I “only” have the league’s reigning MVP at number four, because I think there are two more proven quarterbacks and there are definitely things he can still improve upon, but holy crap, was this guy exciting last season. Lamar led the league with 43 total touchdowns and a ridiculous 9.0 touchdown percentage. His QB-record 1206 yards on the ground helped the Ravens break the all-time rushing mark for a team, but as spectacular as he was in the open field, the stats say he was also elite from within the pocket.
The reigning DPOY shows up at number five here for me and while there were other worthy candidates, Gilmore was on a different level as the other corners in the league last season. He was tied for the lead-league in interceptions and scored more touchdowns (2) than he was responsible for in coverage (1), while allowing a league-best completion percentage of 44.6 and 41.8 passer rating. Outside of a week 17 blunder, he shut down every top receiver he faced.
Julio to me is still the best receiver in the game and it’s not that close to be honest. His freakish combination of size, speed, leaping ability and hands set him apart from most guys, but it is the way he has continued to advance as a route-runner and technician that have paved his way to being an all-time great. Over the last six seasons, he has averaged 1565 receiving yards per season and his 96.2 yards per game is almost ten yards more than any player in NFL history.
The best and most complete tight-end today is Kittle. There are only five players in the entire league with more receiving yards over the last two seasons, despite seeing about 60 targets less than the five guys ahead of him, and his 1507 yards after the catch over that stretch is second only to Christian McCaffrey. As impressive as all that is, he is equally valuable as a run-blocker, being a huge factor in setting things up for the 49ers’ second-ranked rushing attack.
I know he has only been in the league for two years, but I would already take Nelson over any other interior offensive lineman in football without a doubt. When I evaluated his college tape, I thought he was a generational prospect and he has come nothing short of his expectations. Nelson has only been responsible for one sack in those two seasons combined and been named a First-Team All-Pro in both of them.
If you want to know how great Adams is, just check out the kind of compensation Seattle gave up to acquire a disgruntled player at a position that is deemed undervalued by most people. The Jets are probably happy to still get as much back as they did, but Adams was their best run-defender, coverage player and pass-rusher. He is a chess piece, that improves every area of a defense and gives them an attitude and tremendous versatility.
The one guy who can challenge Stephon Gilmore for the title as best corner in the league is Ramsey. While the numbers in coverage didn’t look quite as impressive last season, switching teams mid-season and missing four games, he still only allowed 45.6 yards per game and one total touchdown in coverage. Ramsey is one of only two or three guys at the position, who can match up with the opposing’s top receiver every single play.

  1. Saquon Barkley
  2. Christian McCaffrey
  3. Michael Thomas
  4. Khalil Mack
  5. Von Miller
  6. Deshaun Watson
  7. Minkah Fitzpatrick
  8. Davante Adams
  9. Bobby Wagner
  10. Travis Kelce

It was a very close race for the top back in the game, but I just had to go with the unbelievable talent of Saquon here. He is so explosive, elusive and powerful. Barkley was banged up for pretty much half of last season, but still averaged 5.4 yards per touch and 60 percent of his rushing yards came after contact, with bad offensive line play in front of him, that had him avoiding defenders as soon as he got the handoff at times. His 279 scrimmage yards against Washington in week 16 was the most since Julio Jones’ 300-yard performance in 2016.
McCaffrey comes in right behind Barkley, coming off a highly impressive season. CMac became just the third player in NFL history to put up 1000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season and also easily leading the league with 2392 scrimmage yards. Maybe even more impressive – he had eight yards more after the catch (1013) than total receiving yards. Nobody is a bigger asset running routes out of the backfield, but he has also become a much more efficient in-between-the-tackler runner.
Thomas set a new all-time record with 149 receptions last season and led the league with 1725 receiving yards. The crazy thing about that is the fact he lead all receiver in catch percentage last season at 80.5, despite being really the only guy the Saints could rely upon at that position on a weekly basis. He’s not nearly as dangerous after the catch or on vertical patterns as guys like Julio Jones or Tyreek Hill, but he is so physical and constantly comes through on third downs.
When you look at what Mack had done in the five years since his rookie season (49 sacks and 76 TFLs over four seasons), he didn’t quite live up to his lofty standards last season. With that being said, he is still the most impactful guy coming off the edge when totally healthy. He is an elite run-defender, routinely puts offensive tackles on skates and has a knack for getting the ball out (11 forced fumbles since 2018).
Similar to Mack – and as it has been like for several years now when these two have been right next to each other in any rankings – Miller had a down-year in 2019. He did not reach double-digit sacks for the first time since 2013, when he was put on IR mid-season, but I expect that to go back to normal with more help around him. His burst, ability to bend and smarts for the position will create issue for offenses once again this season.
Deshaun is just an absolute baller. Like his former college head coach Dabo Swinney said, he is Michael Jordan-like in the big moments. Over the last two seasons, he has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for just over 4000 yards on average and 52 touchdowns compared to 21 INTs over that stretch. More importantly, he gets the Texans out of the toughest situations and has led five game-winning drives in both years. I don’t think anybody else could have led this team back in that Wildcard game, other than maybe Mahomes.
After coming over from Miami via trade early last season, Fitzpatrick completely turned around this Steelers defense by bringing the secondary together and became one of the premiere play-makers in the entire league. He came up with eight takeaways and scored two touchdowns himself, with both of them completely shifting the momentum those respective games. Minkah is most valuable patrolling the deep middle of the field, but offers the versatility to play just about everywhere.
I know this may be a little bit of a controversial pick, with other guys at the receiver position deserving consideration, but to me Adams right now is the third-best receiver in the game. He came up with three yards short of cracking the 1000-yard mark due to missing four games and dealing with a banged up toe, but he came up big in two playoff games, with 300 combined yards and two TDs. Adams offers the best releases in the game, as well as beautifully setting up routes with head-nods and body language, to go with tremendous body-control.
Now that Luke Kuechly has retired, B-Wagz to me is the clear choice as the top middle linebacker in football. He displays great range and has to cover a lot of ground with how much base personnel the Hawks run. Wagner is also a very secure tackler, who led the league in take-downs for the second time in his career last season, after missing just one of his attempts the year before. What doesn’t get enough attention is his football IQ and the process of getting to the ball in the first place.
If I told you the next player has caught 200 passes for 2565 yards and 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons, you would say that’s a great receiver – since that ranks behind only Julio, Mike Thomas, D-Hop and Mike Evans. What is even more impressive about those numbers is that Kelce has averaged 9.0 yards despite that high target share. He is the premiere flex receiving tight-end, who can be moved all over the formation and create problems.

  1. Fletcher Cox
  2. Chris Jones
  3. Chandler Jones
  4. Cameron Jordan
  5. DeAndre Hopkins
  6. Tyreek Hill
  7. Aaron Rodgers
  8. T.J. Watt
  9. Carson Wentz
  10. J.J. Watt

In a world without Aaron Donald, Cox would be known as the best defensive tackle over the last decade. He has only reached double-digit sacks once in his career and to be fair, dipped a little last season, but the numbers will never tell the whole story as what kind of player he is. He has that quickness to shoot through gaps and show up in the backfield, but he can also bench-press 330-pounders and toss them to the side when he needs to. Just watch him destroy the interior O-line of the Seahawks and almost singlehandedly keep them in that Wildcard Round game without Carson Wentz.
Nipping at the heels of Cox is another game-wrecker on the inside of the defense for the reigning Super Bowl champs. Jones may not nearly be the same run-stopper at the point of attack, but his length and burst off the ball allow him to impact plays in a penetrating role and he is an elite pass-rusher at his position. 24.5 sacks and 49 QB hits in his last 29 games is highly impressive, but in the biggest game, he only logged on tackle and still made a huge impact, with a couple of batted passes and directly forcing a pick.
The most overlooked edge rusher and maybe overall player in the league over the last several years has been Chandler Jones. Since coming over to Arizona in 2016, he has led the league with 60 sacks and 17 forced fumbles, while also being near the top in total pressure numbers every single season. That is despite playing on one the worst defensive units over the last couple of years and having no legitimate threat up front with pretty much the entire time.
Cam Jordan is a very unique player. He has more of a 3-4 defensive end body type, rather than your typical edge rusher. He has great power and strings his hands and feet together really well, but what makes him special is the way he can read pass-sets and take advantage of weight-distribution and how far tackles open up their hips. Not only did Jordan set a personal high with 15.5 sacks last season, but he is also an excellent run-defender (15 TFLs).
Even though his trade to Arizona is still confusing for most people, when you see how little his new team had to give up, don’t let that make you think D-Hop isn’t a top-tier receiver anymore. If you take out the 2016 season, when Brock Osweiler could not have gotten the ball to his superstar receiver, even if he were just inches away, he has averaged 1369 receiving yards and 9.6 touchdowns since his rookie season. He may not as homerun-hitter, but he might be the most physical receiver off the ball and at the catch point, plus he has the best hands in the game.
Did I just say homerun hitter? Outside of Julio, I think there is an argument to be made that Tyreek is the next-best receiver in the league. He breaks the game open with his next-level speed and changes how defensive coordinators have to call coverages. However, he is much more than just a deep threat, with quick feet to stop and start on his routes, he shows great concentration when the ball is in the air and he does now shy away from the physical aspect of football.
We have not seen Rodgers play at that elite level since 2016, when he led the league in touchdown passes (40), but he is still one of the best in the game. He has lost just a little bit of his elusiveness to extend plays and does not take as many chances down the field as we are used to from him, but his quick release, ability to see the field and the arm talent to throw off platform are all still special. Just watch what he does in his second year in Matt LaFleur’s system, with added motivation.
The younger T.J. Watt stepped out of the shadow of his older brother last season, when he finished top five in sacks (14.5) and quarterback hits (36), while also leading the league with eight fumbles forced and recovering another four, to go with a couple of picks. He finished behind only Stephon Gilmore and Chandler Jones in the hunt for his first DPOY trophy and will be a terror on Pittsburgh’s ferocious defense for years to come.
At 29 is the player that shamefully didn’t even make the official top 100 list. Maybe it is people still saying Nick Foles won the Eagles their Super Bowl or they call him injury-prone, but let’s not forget Wentz set this team up with home-field advantage through the playoffs back in 2017 in an MVP-level season and he has actually missed only eight of 64 career regular season games. Last year he put the team on his back, with practice squad players catching passes and both his tackles missing multiple weeks, and led them to a home playoff game.
Closing is the top 30 is the older Watt brother. I gave the slightest edge to the Pittsburgh outside backer. He certainly the track record as one of only two guys to be named Defensive Player of the Year three times in his career, but injuries have started taking a toll on him and over the last four years, he has missed the equivalent of two full seasons. However, when he played all 16 games in 2018, he still topped his little bro with 16 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He played at a very high level when healthy last season and miraculously returned in the playoffs to make a big impact against Buffalo.

  1. Marlon Humphrey
  2. Derwin James
  3. Mike Evans
  4. Eddie Jackson
  5. Alvin Kamara
  6. Derrick Henry
  7. Tre’Davious White
  8. Zack Martin
  9. Dalvin Cook
  10. Nick Chubb

One of the most underrated guys on the player’s countdown is Humphrey. To me there are no five corners in the game that you can tell me are better than this guy – and I actually have him at number three. He is long and physical in press-coverage, he can move into the slot, he is a hard hitter from that position and he is like a magnet for the ball, with three interceptions, two fumbles forced and three recovered. Humphrey is only 24 years old and already near the top of football.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently said something pretty interesting, when he tweeted that “if you put all players in a league-wide draft, Derwin James would be the top safety on every board”. To me Jamal Adams has done enough to earn the title as best player at that position and Derwin only played five games, but the Chargers superstar can do pretty much everything Jamal does, in terms of defending the run as a box-defender, blitzing off multiple spots and just being a position-less player, while also having the range to basically play free safety.
Big Mike has now become only the second receiver in NFL history alongside Randy Moss to start his career with six consecutive 1000-yard receiving seasons. He gets in and out his breaks better than you would ever think of a 6’5”, 230-pound guy, he is much more of a vertical threat than people label him as, averaging 1.5 yards more per catch than Tyreek Hill (17.5), and he obviously dominates at the catch point, while also bullying DBs as a blocker.
At 34 I have another defensive back, who has become a highly underrated player in my opinion. Somehow Eddie Jackson didn’t make the official list, which is still mind-blowing to me, because just a year ago, he was right up there among the premiere defensive play-makers in the game. His takeaways went way down on a Bears defense that took a step back, after coming up with eight of those in 2018 and scoring a league-high three defensive TDs, but he is still one of the smartest and rangiest player on the back-end we have in the game.
That third running back behind Saquon and McCaffrey was a tough choice, which is indicated by four players at that position over the next six spots, but I went with Kamara here. He recently that he basically played on one leg last season, which may be a little exaggerated, but when healthy, his explosiveness and contact balance are second to none, plus he is an elite weapon out of the backfield, who is basically un-coverable on option routes.
The next guy here is the reigning rushing leader Derrick Henry. This may seem a little low for him and he is the only one of this group to get that second contract so far, but since he is only a factor on screen plays in the passing game, I could not put him any higher. Still, what King Henry did down the stretch was unbelievable. He put the team on his back, rushing for 896 yards over his final six games in the regular season and 374 yards combined in wins over the then-reigning Super Bowl champs and the team with the best record in the league, on the way to the AFC title game.
Another corner that I just love to watch is the Bills’ Tre’Davious White. While he plays in a zone-heavy system, that doesn’t leave him on an island as much as a Stephon Gilmore or a Jalen Ramsey, he is tremendous in that role and can match up against some top receivers one-on-one. What makes him special is the ability to anticipate routes and read the receiver and the quarterback at the same time. He was tied for the lead-league with six INTs, while deflecting another 17 passes and forcing a couple of fumbles.
Martin has been as consistent as it gets. He has started all but two of his 96 career games at right guard and been named First-Team All-Pro in four of six NFL season. Over the course of his career, he has allowed just eight total sacks and he was flagged for holding just once last season and four times in the last four seasons. He is a road-grader on gap and zone schemes, while having a tremendous anchor and clamps in protection.
Did you know Dalvin Cook finished second behind only Christian McCaffrey in scrimmage yards per game? He was tremendous for Minnesota last season in that zone-based rushing attack and a real weapon out of the backfield, catching 53 of 63 targets for over 500 yards. Dalvin is so good at pressing the front-side and then transitioning in one step to cut off the backside, while also having the burst to threaten the edges of a defense, and he has become a very tough runner.
My final RB here is Nick Chubb. There were a lot of stars on this underperforming Browns team last season, but this guy was the best player for them pretty much every single week. Similar to Henry, Chubb is not the most valuable receiver, but his physical running style was the best part about Cleveland’s offense. He can run inside and outside zone, does a great job setting up power plays and not only is he patient with letting plays develop, he has great acceleration once he puts on the gas and consistently falls forward.

  1. Myles Garrett
  2. DeForest Buckner
  3. Tom Brady
  4. Ryan Ramczyk
  5. Odell Beckham Jr.
  6. Za’Darius Smith
  7. Tyrann Mathieu
  8. Lane Johnson
  9. Nick Bosa
  10. Chris Godwin

What happened in that week 11 Steelers game was not pretty and I’m sure people will bring it no matter what this kid continues to accomplish, but he just got a mega contract and to me is ready put his name among the elite defensive players in football. Garrett has only played 37 career games so far, but he has already put together 30.5 sacks and 32 tackles for loss, with one QB take-down per game last season. He is obviously an athletic freak, but his pass-rush arsenal has come a long way already.
DeFo is one of the most talented defensive linemen in all of football, but his technique has improved every single season and among all that talent on the NFC champions’ roster, he was named team MVP. As great as he was all the way throughout the regular season, he terrorized the interior O-line of the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. The 49ers had to move on from him this offseason due to cap reasons, but he immediately a key piece for that Colts D.
He might be the GOAT, but Brady lands at number 43 for me heading into 2020. Contrary to popular belief, his arm isn’t far off from what it was when he entered the league at the start of the millennium and his pocket movement is impeccable, but what bothered me when watching him play last season, was that reluctancy to stand tall in the pocket and take the punishment in order to deliver big plays, which will be an interesting mesh with Bruce Arians’ vertical passing attack.
While there about five guys in that conversation for me right now, Ryan Ramczyk earned the top spot here. More of a luxury pick three years ago, he ended up sliding right in at right tackle and has been absolute stalwart for them ever. Ramczyk has started 47 of 48 games and improved every single season, earning first-team All-Pro honors last season, when he did not allow a single sack and had did not have a holding call accepted against him past week two.
This is the lowest I have had Odell in my rankings since his rookie season. I have never been a huge fan of the antics with him, but the media constantly bashing on him has turned me into a fan, and I believe he will make all the haters shut up in 2020. OBJ was dealing with a foot injury all of last year and the amount of miscues between him and Baker Mayfield was countless, when it comes to break off or adjusting routes on the fly. He is still one of the all-time talents.
New to the list is a guy, who was quietly getting the job done as a rotational piece in Baltimore’s defensive front for a few years, before getting a big contract by the Packers. Smith instantly went from a nice player to one the premiere edge rushers in the entire league. While he “only” finished sixth with 13.5 sacks, he led all players with 93 total pressures and also had the fourth-most TFLs (17). I love the way Mike Pettine moves him around all over the formation in Green Bay.
The one thing I actually learned from the official top 100 is the fact Tyrann Mathieu was actually named team MVP, despite playing with the best player in the entire league. As explosive as that Chiefs offense is, the difference for this team was how the Honeybadger helped turn around this defensive unit and the energy he brought to the table. Mathieu can line up in the box, cover the slot, drop into deep coverage, blitz from multiple spots and tackle in the open field.
Another guy in that tackle conversation is maybe the most athletic one of the bunch. Johnson only played in 12 games last season, but he was tremendous in those, allowing just one sack and being called for holding once, despite facing some great pass-rushers in the NFC East and the conference overall. He has the feet to seal the edges in the run game and works up to the second level as well as anybody in the league.
The top rookie on the list this year is Nick Bosa. Making the top 20 on the official list seems a little rich, but this guy was dominant from the moment he stepped onto the field. Bosa finished one sack short or cracking double-digits, but he easily blew away the rookie record for total pressures (80) and finished tied for fifth overall in the regular season, plus another crazy 22 in the playoffs. He was also tied for fifth in tackles for loss (16) and got a pick, whilst constantly playing with all-out effort.
One of the biggest breakout players last season was Godwin. I predicted this already the year prior and wasn’t wrong necessarily, when he finished with 842 yards and seven touchdowns, but he took it to another level in 2019, when he finished third in receiving yards (1333) and tied for fourth in touchdowns (9) despite missing two games. He is so tough going over the middle to get those hard-earned yards, is incredibly hard to bring down after the catch (577 YAC) and led the league in 20+ yard receptions (25).

  1. Jason Kelce
  2. Darius Leonard
  3. Ronnie Stanley
  4. Joey Bosa
  5. Kevin Byard
  6. Danielle Hunter
  7. Mitchell Schwartz
  8. Eric Kendricks
  9. Jadeveon Clowney
  10. Aaron Jones

The title for best center in the league has been in Philadelphia for at least the last three years and to me also for the decade. He may not as powerful as a few other guys, but the mobility to beat linebackers to the spot or can put hands on people as a puller or on screen plays allows the Eagles to do pretty much anything, while also doing a great job of recovering in pass-pro and transitioning assignments. Kelce has allowed multiple sacks just once since 2015.
There is a pretty significant drop-off between the first and second linebacker, but right now I would take Leonard behind only Bobby Wagner. Over his two years in the league (28 games), he has put together 284 tackles (including leading the league as a rookie), intercepted seven passes, forced six fumbles, recorded 12 sacks and deflected another 15 passes. “The Maniac” shows up all over the field and truly has a knack for the ball.
My top left tackle in the league is Ronnie Stanley. He took his game to another level last season, when he was named a first-team All-Pro. On 515 pass-blocking snaps, he did not allow a single sack and didn’t surrender any pressures in nine games. He also was a huge piece to the Ravens breaking the NFL’s all-time rushing yardage record (3296 yards) that had stood for over 40 years, as Stanley had the lowest percentage of negatively-graded run blocking snaps according to PFF.
Joey comes in five spots below his younger brother for me. While I believe Nick Bosa is a little more athletically gifted, Joey came into the league slightly more technically refined in his hand-usage. He may not quite have the burst off the ball like a Danielle Hunter or the ability to bend like a Von Miller, but Bosa is as complete a defensive end as we have in the game. He does a great job setting the edge in the run game and when he gets after the passer, he is so smooth with his hand-combos and finds the weakness of the tackle’s pass-sets.
Another one of those enormous snubs from the actual list is Byard, who has become one of the premiere safeties in the game. Over the last three seasons, he leads the league with 17(!) interceptions and broke up another 33 passes. The range he presents as a deep-middle safety and the confidence he has in his game, combined with extremely dependable tackling in space (just two of 86 attempts missed last season), definitely earn him a spot.
Since I just talked about Hunter, this is where he comes in. The Vikings D-end is another one of those guys, who has improved pretty much every year, since coming in as a pretty raw product from LSU. Hunter has put up 14.5 sacks in each of the last two seasons, but he massively improved his total pressure number of 97 (including the playoffs) and he actually got the ball out of the quarterbacks as well (three forced fumbles). He is an athletic phenom, who has learned to string moves together incredibly well.
We have started a bit of a run on offensive tackles here, with Schwartz coming in slightly outside the top 50. There is a good argument to be made for this guy being the best at his position, especially if you base it off that incredibly postseason run he just had, when he allowed no sacks and just one total pressure on 142 pass-blocking snaps against some of the baddest dudes on the planet. Schwartz wasn’t responsible for any sacks through the regular season either and the Chiefs averaged an NFL-best 5.93 yards per carry through the gaps to either side of him.
If you just base the list on this past season, you could argue Kendricks was the best linebacker in all of football. He has been a beast against the run pretty much since coming into the league, but what put him on a different level last season was his play in coverage. Kendricks allowed only 53.3 percent of the passes his way to be completed (very low for a LB) and broke up 12 passes, leading to a forced incompletion rate of 21.9 percent, which is more than four percent better than Luke Kuechly in his best season (who had been the previous record-holder).
Let’s get this out of the way – Clowney can be an absolute game-wrecker. However, I really struggled with his ranking, because he is such a disruptive player when on the field – which the stats simply don’t tell you – but injuries have just been too much of an issue for him. That is also a big reason why he is still signed. Yet, you can not overlook how incredibly gifted Clowney is and how much better he has gotten with his hands. That week ten game at San Francisco was the best performance from a defensive player all season long.
It’s always great when you predict a player to break out and he actually does. Jones already was on all my fantasy teams two years ago, but I said he would take another step forward in 2019 and he surprised even me. His 1558 scrimmage yards were the eight-most in entire league and he was tied for the most touchdowns at 19, while touching the ball almost 60 times less than the backs ahead of him (285 touches). He is so explosive and can just slither through defenses, while also being a true downfield threat as a receiver.

  1. Shaquil Barrett
  2. Ezekiel Elliott
  3. David Bakhtiari
  4. Keenan Allen
  5. Akiem Hicks
  6. Zach Ertz
  7. Justin Simmons
  8. Matt Ryan
  9. Juju Smith-Schuster
  10. Drew Brees

I always thought Barrett was a good player as part of that rotation in Denver, but when he finally got a chance to shine, that’s exactly what he did. After posting 14 combined sacks over his four season with the Broncos, he led the league with 19.5 in his first year with Tampa Bay. He also finished second in tackles for loss (19) and forced six fumbles. Watching him rush the passer, his game is built on the bull rush and long-arm, off which he can covert power-to-speed, in terms giving a little hesitation and then winning on a quick burst to the outside.
Talking about the top backs in the game, Elliott’s name doesn’t come up too often for me anymore. He still finished fourth in the league with 1357 rushing yards, but that was running behind a top-five offensive line and he just looked a step slow to what we have seen from him, without that explosion through the hole and turning those good runs into big gains. With that being said, he might still be the most complete back in the game and could return to glory in 2020.
It almost feels bad to put Bakhtiari this low, but he is still one of those five elite offensive tackles. I think what puts him as last of that group is the fact he is closer to the average in terms of his run-blocking than the other guys. Still, he has been the best pass-protector over the last four years at least, when he did not allow more than three sacks once and the lowest amount of total pressures, despite his QB finishing in the top six of time to throw in all but one of them. While he did allow two sacks through the first half of last season, from week ten all the way through the NFC Championship game, he did not surrender a single one.
If you asked me who the best route-runner in the game today was, I would probably say Keenan Allen. He is so elusive off the line, deceptive with how he sets up his breaks and he has that quick-twitch to create separation on the short and intermediate level. He does lack some vertical speed and his YACability isn’t among the best at the position, which is why he isn’t even higher, but if you need somebody to get open on third downs, this is your guy. He terrorized Darius Slay last season.
Hicks did miss missed 11 games last season, but unlike the players around the league apparently – I did not forget about him. With just one sack and five TFLs in the five games he did play, it’s understandable that he would drop in the rankings, but let’s forget that in 2018 he rivaled Fletcher Cox and Chris Jones for the league’s best D-tackle not named Aaron Donald. Hicks was a frequent visitor in the backfield, with both ten marks in QB pressures and defensive stops. His impact was felt most when he wasn’t on the field for the Bears last season and they were closer to average than number one.
While Kittle and Kelce to me are clearly in a tier of their own, Ertz is still that third guy at the tight-end position. He has been one of the most productive pass-catchers in the entire league for several years now. After setting a new record for most receptions in a season for a TE (118) in 2018, he took a little step back last year. Ertz is by far Carson Wentz’s favorite target, having lead the Eagles in both receptions and receiving yards in all four seasons the QB has been there for. Since he isn’t as much of a downfield or YAC threat as the other two guys at his position – as well as only being an okay blocker – this is where he falls for me.
Somehow I think the player just don’t respect safeties, since this is the third guy now that should have clearly made the list at that position. I have always been a fan of Simmons and called for him getting more playing time, after mostly being a backup his rookie season, when the Broncos last won the Super Bowl. His range, instincts and smarts as a single-high free safety have allowed him to become a true difference-maker. And he certainly had the stats to back it up last season, with four picks and 15 more plays on the ball.
Matty Ice has never gotten the love he deserves on this list or from people covering the league as a whole. People seem to still think about the 28-3 game and while his MVP season was more of an outlier due to playing with the game’s best offensive mind in Kyle Shanahan, he has thrown for 4000+ yards in nine straight seasons, completing exactly two-thirds of his passes for a TD-to-INT ratio of 2.26 and a passer rating of 97 over that stretch. He has pretty much always been second tier for me, but he has had to deal with some bad O-line play and a couple of questionable years of play-calling under Steve Sarkisian.
2019 was not a good season for Juju by any means. He missed four games and had less than half the production of the year prior. However, a lot of that had to do with the worst quarterback situation in the league and you don’t put over 2300 yards and 14 TDs before you even turn 23, if you aren’t a special player. With Big Ben under center in ’18, Juju finished top five in the NFL with 1426 yards and was named team MVP over Antonio Brown – which the latter let us know later on.
I know this is what will get me the most hate, but whenever people want to give me all the stats on Drew Brees, they forget to mention that he is playing behind an elite offensive line, a record-setting receiver, one of the premiere pass-catching backs and one of the all-time great play-callers. I have called him a well-oiled machine in that Sean Payton offense several times and his command of that group is impeccable, but the raw arm talent simply isn’t quite there anymore.

  1. Dak Prescott
  2. Demario Davis
  3. Stefon Diggs
  4. Marcus Peters
  5. Fred Warner
  6. Cameron Heyward
  7. Calais Campbell
  8. Grady Jarrett
  9. Jaylon Smith
  10. Deion Jones

  1. Joe Mixon
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Anthony Harris
  4. Kenny Clark
  5. Arik Armstead
  6. Lavonte David
  7. Harrison Smith
  8. Cooper Kupp
  9. Mark Andrews
  10. Josh Jacobs

  1. Budda Baker
  2. Rodney Hudson
  3. Brandon Scherff
  4. Marshon Lattimore
  5. Byron Jones
  6. Amari Cooper
  7. Darren Waller
  8. Richard Sherman
  9. Devin McCourty
  10. Matthew Stafford

The players who just missed the cut and the ones who didn't qualify are in the comments!

If you enjoyed this breakdown, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece -

You can also listen to my analysis on the Youtube channel -
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Offseason Review Series: Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers

Division: AFC North
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
3. Cleveland Browns (6-10)
4. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)

Coaching Changes

Steelers Hire Matt Canada as Quarterbacks Coach
Previous Experience: Interim HC at Maryland, OC/QBC at Maryland, LSU, Pitt
After two seasons of not having a designated Quarterbacks Coach following the promotion of Randy Fichtner to Offensive Coordinator, the Steelers decided it was for the best to re-introduce that position to their staff. Fichtner was challenged with developing two young QBs following Ben Roethlisberger’s injury while simultaneously being focused on the offensive gameplan, and at times that definitely felt like too much on one man’s plate. Having a dedicated QB coach will allow Fichtner to solely focus on the game-plan while also giving the young guys someone who is prioritizing their development. To fill this role, the Steelers hired former Maryland OC Matt Canada after a year away from coaching. It is likely that they were previously familiar with him from his time working with the Pitt Panthers back in 2016. Canada is renowned for his offensive creativity and has three drafted QBs to his name (Brissett, Peterman, Etling) from his time in the college ranks. His presence should be a huge benefit to Mason Rudolph and/or any rookie QB that may be brought in in the near future, and there’s a chance this hiring could lead to a larger role once Big Ben and Randy Fichtner retire.
Steelers Hire Ike Hilliard as Wide Receivers Coach
Previous Experience: Redskins WR Coach, Bills WR Coach
Former Wide Receivers Coach Darryl Drake passed away around the beginning of last year’s Training Camp, and former Steelers coach Ray Sherman was brought in only on an interim basis to fill that vacancy. Coach Drake was a real mentor figure and had a deep impact on all the young receivers, so his loss was an especially challenging part of last season. Regarding the full-time replacement, multiple names were floated around including former WR Jerricho Cotchery, but the Steelers eventually hired another former WR in Ike Hilliard. Coach Hilliard spent the past six years in the same role with the Washington Redskins, where he worked with receivers such as DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, and most recently Terry McLaurin. Hilliard himself had a 12-year career with the Giants and Buccaneers, which only speaks to his knowledge at the position. With the most veteran player in the room being 4th-year JuJu Smith-Schuster and also having a high profile draft pick at the WR position, Coach Hilliard has a big challenge ahead of him in maximizing all this young talent in front of him. Players have already spoken highly about him as a person and his desire to connect with them on a deeper level, and the hope is that it will pay big dividends once they get out onto the practice field. The WR room is filled to the brim with potential, and the Front Office believes that he is the man who can get the best out of them.
”Never choose good when great is available” - Darryl Drake (1956-2019)

Free Agency

In-House Moves
Player Position Signing Type Contract Details
Bud Dupree EDGE Franchise Tag 1 year, $15.82 million
TJ Watt EDGE 5th-Year Option ~$10 million (2021)
Matt Feiler OT RFA Tender 1 year, $3.26 million
Mike Hilton CB RFA Tender 1 year, $3.26 million
Zach Banner OT UFA Signing 1 year, $1.75 million
Jordan Dangerfield SAF UFA Signing 1 year, $825k
Kameron Canaday LS UFA Signing 2 years, $2.425 million
  • Bud Dupree: Around this time last offseason, Steelers fans were largely convinced that Bud Dupree was a first-round draft bust who would soon be playing his last season with the team. In his first four years, Dupree showed flashes but never was able to turn the corner as a player and often left fans wanting more. Despite his inconsistencies, Kevin Colbert exercised his fifth-year option back in 2018 and that soon proved to be the correct decision. 2019 was a true breakout campaign for Dupree as he posted a career high 11.5 sacks (nearly doubling his previous high of 6) and another 28 pressures on top of that. Dupree showcased a wide variety of pass-rush moves and approaches that we hadn’t seen before and was a constant force against the run. By season’s end, it became clear that Pittsburgh couldn’t let him leave given the effectiveness of the Watt & Dupree tandem and what little depth they had behind those two. There are still some hesitations about him being a one-year wonder, so Colbert decided to place the Franchise Tag on their emergent pass-rusher (which Dupree has since signed) but no long-term deal was reached. He will play out the 2020 season looking to prove that the corner has truly been turned and that signing him is a worthwhile investment.
  • TJ Watt: In an absolute no-brainer of a decision, Pittsburgh exercised TJ Watt’s fifth-year option of his rookie deal, keeping him in town through the 2021 season. Watt has emerged into a superstar talent and one of the league’s best pass rushers, and all indications suggest that Pittsburgh wants to keep him around as the face of their defense for many years to come. Picking up Watt’s option was the logical first step as the two sides begin to focus on a long-term deal that will surely be an expensive one. Fellow 2017 draftee and pass-rusher Myles Garrett recently signed a 5 year, $125m extension which will likely serve as a reference point for TJ’s eventual deal.
  • Matt Feiler: Following a trade that sent long-time RT Marcus Gilbert over to Arizona, Matt Feiler emerged as a rock-solid replacement at the same spot. Feiler was a steady presence all-season long and also showcased his versatility when he kicked inside to Guard (and succeeded) against the Rams. At 28, Feiler is currently the youngest member of the OL, and his capabilities at both Guard and Tackle will likely have Pittsburgh wanting to keep him around a bit longer. For the time being, Pittsburgh has tendered a contract offer for the upcoming season where he will be a locked-on starter for the second year in a row.
  • Mike Hilton: Mike Hilton has quietly emerged as one of the league’s better Nickel Cornerbacks over the past few seasons. Hilton is well-known for his effectiveness as a blitzer and his willingness to make plays in and around the box, but in 2019 he showed major strides in pass coverage alongside that. Despite his effectiveness in his role, Hilton’s long-term outlook with Pittsburgh is a bit murky due to the emergence of Cam Sutton as yet another effective coverage corner. With both players set to become Free Agents at the end of this season, the Front Office doesn’t seem willing to commit to Hilton on a long-term deal given that Sutton may come far cheaper. Like Feiler, Hilton was RFA tendered in order to keep him around next season.
  • Zach Banner: #72 will be reporting as eligible once again in 2020 after signing a one-year deal to stay in Pittsburgh. After being discarded by a handful of teams back in 2017, the 6’8 360 lb mammoth of a man has found a home in the Steel City, acting as a 6th OL in short-yardage situations. Banner has endeared himself to Steeler Nation with his lovable personality and hilarious twitter account, so it is no surprise that the fanbase is excited to have him back. Banner will have a shot to take on a larger role this season as the RT spot may be up for grabs depending on where Matt Feiler plays.
  • Jordan Dangerfield: After hanging around the practice squad for a couple of seasons back around 2014-16, Dangerfield has steadily earned a spot on the 53-man roster year after year, and he has been brought back once again on a one-year deal. Dangerfield is a reliable special teamer who contributes on all four units and also adds depth to a thin Safety room.
  • Kameron Canaday: Kameron Canaday has been around since 2017 after winning the starting job following the retirement of long-time LS Greg Warren. He has snapped the ball long distances effectively and will continue to snap the ball the long distances following a two-year contract extension.
Player Position New Team Contract Details
Javon Hargrave IDL Philadelphia Eagles 3 years, $39 million
BJ Finney IOL Seattle Seahawks 2 years, $8 million
Sean Davis SAF Washington Redskins 1 year, $4 million
Artie Burns CB Chicago Bears 1 year, $1 million
Tyler Matakevich LB Buffalo Bills 2 years, $7 million
Nick Vannett TE Denver Broncos 2 years, $5.7 million
Ramon Foster IOL Retired N/A
  • Javon Hargrave; When you’re up against the cap year after year, you unfortunately can’t keep all of your stars. That was the case this year as the young and talented Javon Hargrave priced his way out of Pittsburgh following an impressive 2019 campaign. Hargrave is a modern-day Nose Tackle who is very effective as a pass-rusher from that spot. Following a Week 6 injury to Stephon Tuitt, Hargrave moved into a full-time starting role and excelled to the tune of 60 tackles, 4 sacks, and 14 pressures. The Steelers had a decision to make between retaining Bud Dupree and Javon Hargrave and they opted in favor of Bud due positional value and much stronger depth at DL. For his efforts, Hargrave was rewarded with a cushiony 3 year $39m deal that will take him cross-state to Philadelphia. With the return of Tuitt, some young talent in the room, and an ever increasing usage of the 2-4-5 package, the loss of Hargrave isn’t the most crippling of blows, but it always hurts to lose young talent. J-Wobble and his bubble butt will surely be missed.
  • BJ Finney: BJ Finney is an excellent depth lineman who has been the first interior player off the bench over the past four seasons. Finney made four starts this past season at both Center and Guard and his high level of play earned him an offseason payday. Pittsburgh was hoping to retain him as the long-term replacement to Ramon Foster but he was lured away to Seattle with a 2 year, $8m deal which will almost assuredly come with a starting gig from Day 1. It definitely hurts to lose young OL talent, especially when Pittsburgh has one of the oldest lines in the league, but that’s the price of keeping a core group around for so long. On a positive note, Finney will always be remembered in Pittsburgh for this infamous moment. Some say he still hasn’t snapped the ball to this day...
  • Sean Davis: Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you’d hope with young players and that was the case with Sean Davis. The 2016 second-rounder started his career as a slot DB, moved to the starting SS spot in his second year, and eventually found his way to the FS spot in year three. Unfortunately, he never really found comfort in any of those positions. Davis performed admirably in coverage but his painful lack of ball skills and tendency to surrender lapses in coverage always haunted the secondary. After picking up a shoulder injury in preseason, Davis played one game before being placed on IR. The trade for Minkah Fitzpatrick spelt the end of his career in Pittsburgh as he was never re-activated. There’s not much to remember him fondly for during his time here, but he has an opportunity to re-write the script in Washington where he will fight for a starting FS spot.
  • Artie Burns: Speaking of failed 2016 draft picks, former first-round selection Artie Burns is also gone following a fairly awful stint in Pittsburgh. After showing a lot of promise as a rookie, Burns failed to take the next step in year two, and then the wheels completely fell off in year three. Teams would pick on him game after game and he was unequivocally the worst player on the field before eventually getting benched for good. In the very few opportunities he did get in year four, nothing seems to have changed. Burns is a massive draft bust, rivaled only by Jarvis Jones in the past decade, and he will certainly not be missed. Chicago picked him up on a one-year deal which is likely the last hurrah of his career.
  • Tyler Matakevich: Dirty Red carved out a nice little career for himself as a former seventh-round selection and was rewarded with a solid payday over in Buffalo. His high intensity and excellent football IQ had him falling in favor with the coaching staff early on, and he developed into one of Pittsburgh’s key special teamers over the past four seasons. Whenever there was a big punt block or forced fumble on a return, Matakevich always seemed to be the culprit. He isn’t athletic enough to be a starting LB in the NFL, but he can certainly make some spot starts when called upon.
  • Nick Vannett: Following a rash of injuries to the Tight End room early in the season, Pittsburgh flipped a 5th-rounder to Seattle in exchange for Nick Vannett. He rewarded the team with 4 catches for 38 yards total and subpar blocking before vanishing entirely once Vance McDonald was back to full health. Vannett was not particularly good at anything and was basically a wasted pick. He eventually landed in Denver and proceeded to bash the Steelers organization afterwards. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
  • Ramon Foster: Despite entering the league as a UDFA back in 2009, Ramon Foster carved out an impressive 11-year career where he was nothing but reliable across 145 starts. “The Big Ragu” was a fan favorite for his personality and was also the Steelers’ NFLPA Union rep the past few seasons. At 34 years old, Foster started to show his age this past season and also missed a pair of games due to injury. With his contract having expired at the end of the year, Foster decided to hang up his cleats for good and entered a well-deserved retirement.
Player Position Old Team Contract Details
Eric Ebron TE Indianapolis Colts 2 years, $12 million
Derek Watt FB Los Angeles Chargers 3 years, $9.75 million
Stefen Wisniewski IOL Kansas City Chiefs 2 years, $2.85 million
Chris Wormley IDL Baltimore Ravens Acquired via Trade
Curtis Riley SAF Oakland Raiders TBD
Tyree Kinnel SAF XFL 1 year, $610k
  • Eric Ebron: Ever since Heath Miller retired in 2015, the state of the TE position has been inconsistent at best. Jesse James came and went, Ladarius Green was an injury riddled bust, and Vance McDonald is still kicking around but struggled mightily without Big Ben. GM Kevin Colbert decided to give the position a new spark when he signed Eric Ebron to a two-year deal. Ebron is who he is at this point; a big-bodied target with great athleticism who will make huge splash plays but has an ugly propensity for drops. However, the blueprint for Ebron as a dominant red-zone threat was showcased with Andrew Luck and the 2018 Colts en route to a ridiculous 13 TD campaign. Big Ben loves his TEs, especially in the red-zone, so it seems like the Steelers want to recapture that 2018 magic from Ebron.
  • Derek Watt: Move over TJ, there’s a new Watt in town! Derek comes cross-country from Los Angeles to reunite with his brother here in Pittsburgh, much to the jealousy of older brother JJ. Incumbent starter Roosevelt Nix missed the majority of last season with various injuries, and rushing performances noticeably suffered in his absence. As the Steelers look to get “back to their ways” in establishing a physical run game, Derek will be a huge addition leading the way for James Conner and the rest of the RB stable. On top of that, Derek is a key contributor on Special Teams and will be relied upon the same way in Pittsburgh as he was in LA. It also doesn’t hurt to keep TJ happy with an important long-term contract on the horizon.
  • Stefen Wisniewski: Long-time Left Guard Ramon Foster announced his retirement following a long career, and Stefen Wisniewski was brought in as an option to fill that void. Wisniewksi has bounced around the league during his nine-year career, most recently being crowned a Super Bowl champion after starting each game during Kansas City’s postseason run. There’s nothing particularly flashy about him but he’s a solid plug-and-play starter and an added veteran presence who will compete for a starting gig. If the Steelers opt to keep Matt Feiler at RT, I expect Wisniewski to settle into the LG spot without much issue.
  • Chris Wormley: For the first time since 1997, the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers completed a trade; Chris Wormley and a 2021 7th headed to Pittsburh with a 2021 5th headed back the other way. While certainly a huge surprise given the circumstances of the trade, it made a lot of sense to add depth to a DL room that saw departures this offseason. Wormley is primarily a 3-4 DE who is stout against the run. He will likely fill a similar role as a rotational player who may also kick inside to NT in certain pass-rush packages.
  • Curtis Riley: In the middle of writing this piece, Pittsburgh went out and picked up Curtis Riley to add to their safety room. Riley started three games for Oakland last season and projects as more of a FS type. Given the lack of depth in the safety room, it makes sense to bring in some more bodies for competition purposes, especially since most of the current crop are SS types.
  • Tyree Kinnel: The Steelers have shown some interest in former spring-football players recently, with AAF standout Kameron Kelly making the 53 last season and a handful of XFL castoffs being brought in this offseason. Of the group, I believe DB Tyree Kinnel has the best chance at this year’s 53 given the lack of depth at the safety position. I cannot comment much on his performance as a player since I never watched the XFL, but I definitely believe he has a reasonable shot at a depth safety spot.
Player Position New Team Contract Details
Mark Barron LB Unsigned N/A
Anthony Chickillo EDGE New Orleans Saints 1 year, $1 million
Roosevelt Nix FB Indianapolis Colts 1 year, $615k
Johnny Holton WR Unsigned N/A
  • Mark Barron: Prior to drafting Devin Bush in the 2019 Draft, Mark Barron was signed to add some athleticism to a room that was desperately lacking. The former safety-turned-linebacker has dealt with injuries over the past few seasons but was still a clear upgrade athletically over the likes of Jon Bostic from the season prior. Barron eventually found a role as a Dime-backer on passing downs with Vince Williams playing running downs. While I wouldn’t call him a particularly bad player for Pittsburgh, I wouldn’t exactly call him a good one either. His coverage was solid but uninspiring and he had a bad habit of low effort plays that drove Steelers fans mad. If the team wasn’t so pressed against the cap, my guess is he would’ve been retained for depth purposes, but his contract presented too much in cap savings to justify otherwise.
  • Anthony Chickillo: Anthony Chickillo was drafted in 2015 and has somehow stuck around due to lack of OLB depth and some reasonable special teams contributions. He found himself on the exempt list this past season due to allegations of domestic assault, but he was found not guilty and returned to the team by season’s end. Chickillo is alright against the run but offers little to nothing in pass rush. No self-respecting team should be relying on him as a third pass-rusher like Pittsburgh has these past few seasons. Surprisingly enough, he did end up finding a new home in New Orleans, probably only for special teams.
  • Roosevelt Nix: The signing of Derek Watt marked the end of a successful stint in Pittsburgh for Roosevelt Nix. Rosie was a big fan favorite during his time here due to his selflessness as a blocker and some surprisingly big moments. Unfortunately for Nix, he only appeared in three games in 2019 due to various injuries, and it ended up costing him his job as Pittsburgh opted to target a healthier and slightly younger fullback in Watt. Rosie was excellent for the team as both a FB and a Special Teamer and Steeler Nation has nothing but love for him as he heads to Indianapolis to block for Jonathan Taylor and the rest of their rushing attack.
  • Johnny Holton: The preseason standout Johnny Holton hung around on the Practice Squad before being activated to the 53-man roster early on in the season. He had a few opportunities for gametime due to some injuries to the starters later on in the season, but he really struggled. He has some nice speed to his game but not much else as far as receiving traits go. Cutting him gave the team some slight cap relief.

2020 NFL Draft

Round Pick # Player Position College
2 49 Chase Claypool WR Notre Dame
3 102 Alex Highsmith EDGE Charlotte
4 124 Anthony McFarland Jr. RB Maryland
4 135 Kevin Dotson IOL Louisiana-Lafayette
6 198 Antoine Brooks Jr. SAF Maryland
7 232 Carlos Davis IDL Nebraska
I wrote in detail about the Steelers draft with my Defending the Draft piece over on NFL_Draft. In the essence of post length, all my thoughts and comments can be found there.

Other Offseason News

Compared to the AB-laden insanity that was the 2019 offseason, this offseason was about as quiet as quiet could get. The highlight of the offseason for Steelers fans was watching Ben Roethlisberger throw a football for the first time since his Week 2 injury, and getting a celebratory haircut which drew the ire of Governor Tom Wolf. Big Ben is now cleared to go for the pre-season and the city of Pittsburgh is filled to the brim with anticipation for his big return.
Another cause for excitement for Steelers fans was watching a trio of former greats become part of the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Legendary Safety Troy Polamalu became a first-ballot entrant in recognition of his decorated 12-year career, and former Head Coach Bill Cowher along with Steel Curtain-era Safety Donnie Shell will join him as part of the Hall of Fame’s Centennial Slate initiative. Pittsburgh was unsurprisingly selected to participate in the 2020 Hall of Fame Game against the Dallas Cowboys but that game has since been cancelled. The actual induction ceremony has been postponed indefinitely, so we won’t get to hear from Troy, Cowher, and Donnie just yet, but if it’s moved back to next Summer then hopefully Alan Faneca will finally get to join them.
Also worth noting, for the first time since 1961, Pittsburgh will not be hosting their Training Camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. In what would’ve been the 55th consecutive year of attendance, Pittsburgh will instead hold Training Camp at Heinz Field. This is a huge disappointment for many fans as Pittsburgh’s Training Camp is one of the most fan-friendly experiences in the entire league, but thankfully this is just a temporary absence as the Steelers have already committed to returning to Latrobe in 2021 and beyond

Training Camp Battles

Left Guard: Matt Feiler vs Stefen Wisniewski vs Kevin Dotson
After Foster’s retirement, the Steelers signed Stefen Wisniewski from the Chiefs and then drafted Kevin Dotson in the 4th round of the 2020 Draft. However, Tomlin recently confirmed what some Steelers fans had suspected, which is that Matt Feiler will get the first crack at the LG position. Feiler was the team’s starting RT last season, but has played LG in the past.
With a truncated offseason program, rookies across the league will have a hard time making an immediate impact. Dotson will likely be relegated to a backup role, leaving the battle for LG between Wisniewski and Feiler. It’s usually safe to take Tomlin at his word, so I expect Feiler to win the job out of camp with Wisniewski being the primary G/C backup.
Right Tackle: Zach Banner vs Chukwuma Okorafor
If Feiler indeed moves to LG, that leaves his former RT spot up for grabs between Banner and Okorafor.
Banner was originally drafted by the Colts in the 4th round of the 2017 Draft. After bouncing around to Cleveland and Carolina, he’s spent the last 2 seasons as a backup for the Steelers. Last year, he gained fan-favorite status as “The Most Eligible Receiver” due to him frequently coming in as a 6th OL in heavy formations.
While Banner got much more playing time than Okorafor last year, it was actually Okorafor who got the start at RT in the game against the Rams. Foster missed the game due to injury, so Feiler slid inside to LG and Okorafor started at RT. That is a strong indication to me of how they’ll handle the situation now that Foster is gone permanently.
Nose Tackle: Tyson Alualu vs Dan McCullers
Alualu signed a 2 year deal with the Steelers in 2017, then signed another 2-year deal last year. In his time with the Steelers he’s played about 40% of snaps as the top interior DL backup. Whether it was Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, or Javon Hargrave who needed relief, Alualu was the guy to step in.
McCullers, meanwhile, has been with the team since he was drafted in 2014. He’s only started 3 games in his career, but a 6+ year career as a 6th round pick is nothing to scoff at. He’s got an old-school, massive NT build at 6’7” 350 lbs, but offers little penetration and is really just a clogger. Again, taking Tomlin at his word (see the earlier Feiler tweet), I expect Alualu to win the job.
Wide Receiver Room: JuJu Smith-Schuster vs Diontae Johnson vs James Washington vs Chase Claypool
JuJu, at 23 years old, is somehow the veteran of this group. He’s the most proven and will surely be a starter despite an injury-plagued season last year. Johnson quietly led all rookie receivers in receptions last season, and showed some excellent route running and YAC ability in his rookie season. Both can play nearly any receiving role asked of them, so the question is which of them is better suited for the slot.
Washington and Claypool, on the other hand, are pure boundary WRs. Both have the speed to threaten defenses over the top and excel at tracking deep throws. Claypool is much more physically gifted, but again as a rookie in a shortened offseason I expect the coaches to bring him along slowly.
Initially, I expect JuJu in the slot with Johnson and Washington outside while Claypool tries to make an impact where he can. There might be times when Johnson is in the slot and JuJu outside, or perhaps Claypool makes a more immediate impact than expected and takes Washington’s spot. Seeing how they define the WR roles will be one of the most fascinating parts of training camp.

Full 53 Roster Prediction:

  • Starters in Bold
  • Rookies Italicized
For a tabulated version of the 53-Man Roster, CLICK HERE
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges
Healthy Big Ben can still be a top 10 QB, but we won’t know how healthy he is until the pads come on. Rudolph and Hodges were good enough for 8 wins last year, but weren’t exactly driving forces in most of those. Still, they’re young enough to expect some improvement and hopefully won’t be called upon anyway.
HB: James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Kerrith Whyte, Derrick Watt
Again, health is the biggest factor in this group as Conner can be a Pro Bowl back when he’s not sidelined. Snell and McFarland create a nice thunder and lightning combo behind him. I gave the nod to Whyte over Jaylen Samuels since he has a good chance to win the kick return job, though I could easily see Samuels making the team due to his receiving chops.
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Ryan Switzer
While the Steelers have a reputation for finding great receivers in the mid-late rounds of the draft, they’ve actually spent some high capital on the position in recent years. Their top 4 receivers were all top 70 picks with one in each of the last 4 years. That leaves the final spot (or two) up for grabs. I expect Switzer to win the last WR spot over Deon Cain and Amara Darboh. With this being such a young group, I think Ben and the coaches will value Switzer’s reliability and special teams capability although it might come at the expense of a few explosive plays.
TE: Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
Legendary stiff arms aside, McDonald has never been better than maybe the 20th best TE in the league. Sure, some teams have it worse, but the Steelers wanted more from their TE position so they went and signed Ebron. The problem is that where McDonald lacks in explosive plays, Ebron lacks in reliability. The Steelers seem to be hoping that having two B-level TEs will translate to A-level production.
OL: Al Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Chukwuma Okorafor, Zach Banner, Stefen Wisniewski, Kevin Dotson, Derwin Gray
The position was covered a lot in camp battles, so let’s focus on the backups. Either Banner or Okorafor will be penciled in as the swing tackle if they don’t win the RT spot, Wisniewski as the top interior backup, and Dotson is in place if injuries stack up at one position. The final spot will likely come down to whoever can show the most promise at OT, since ideally we’d have more than just one backup there. I’ve penciled in Gray, a 2019 7th round pick, who spent last year on the practice squad.
DL: Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Chris Wormley, Dan McCullers, Isaiah Buggs
With Tuitt back from injury, he and Heyward form one of the league’s most dangerous interior DL duos. As stated earlier, Alualu is sliding inside to NT so the Steelers brought in Wormley as the new top DE backup. Buggs may also work his way into the rotation as he impressed in limited duty after being a 6th round pick in 2019.
LB: TJ Watt, Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Bud Dupree, Ola Adeniyi, Alex Highsmith, Ulysses Gilbert, Robert Spillane, Tuzar Skipper
In addition to one of the best interior DL combos, the Steelers also boast an excellent edge rush duo with Watt and Dupree. They will try to replicate, or even improve upon, their 26 combined sacks from last season. With Barron gone, Williams returns to his starting spot next to Bush, who will look to build upon a promising rookie season after being the Steelers’ first top 10 pick since 2000. Highsmith and Adeniyi will be the edge backups while Gilbert looks to be the top backup at ILB ahead of Spillane and Skipper. The depth at ILB is pretty thin - and Williams has his limitations to begin with - so I would not be surprised if the Steelers pick up a veteran after final cuts are made across the league.
CB: Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cam Sutton, Justin Layne
Once again, Steelers boast another excellent defensive tandem; this time at CB with Haden and Nelson. Hilton is also an excellent slot man while Sutton provides solid depth both outside and in the slot. Layne got virtually no playing time last year, but when your #5 is a 3rd round pick in his second year, it probably means you’re in a good spot depth-wise.
SAF: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Jordan Dangerfield, Antoine Brooks Jr., Curtis Riley
Fitzpatrick is an All-Pro caliber player that has been talked about ad nauseum since his trade from Miami. Edmunds, meanwhile, was also a 1st round pick in 2018. He’s turned into a reliable tackler and has all the physical gifts you could ask for, but his coverage skills are lacking at this point. If he can take the next step the secondary will truly have no holes to attack, which is an exciting thought for this defense. The depth here is a concern, however, as Dangerfield is more of a special teams player and Brooks is a 6th round rookie. The final spot came down to Riley or Marcus Allen. While Allen has been on and off the practice squad for the past 2 seasons, and therefore has more familiarity with the defense, Riley has starting experience at FS which none of the other backups can really offer.
ST: Chris Boswell (K), Jordan Berry (P), Kameron Canaday (LS)
After a disastrous 2018 season, Boswell re-rewarded the Steelers’ faith in him by returning to form as one of the most accurate kickers in the game. Canaday was re-signed for a reason, so I expect him to make the roster without much issue. Berry isn’t a very good punter but he’s still penciled in until Tomlin or Colbert officially cuts him.

2020 Schedule Predictions

Week 1: at New York Giants (MNF)
I expect both QBs to struggle out of the gate. Jones is a second-year QB who has lost most of his first offseason as a starter while Ben will likely be rusty coming back from injury. The difference will come on the defensive side, where the Giants have no real star-power and the Steelers have plenty.
Prediction: Steelers 20-13
Week 2: vs Denver Broncos
Denver is in a good position to compete for a wildcard spot with what could be a resurgent defense and young playmakers on offense. Adding AJ Bouye and Jurrel Casey with Bradley Chubb coming back from injury, I think they can pull off an upset in Pittsburgh while the offense is still finding its footing.
Prediction: Broncos 17-14
Week 3: vs Houston Texans
The 2020 Texans, for better or worse, remind me of the 2018/2019 Seahawks teams. I think Deshaun Watson will be running around for his life making plays with little-to-no help from the rest of his team, much like Russell Wilson has done the last couple years. Those Seattle teams still made the playoffs, but I’m afraid the bottom may fall out for Houston.
Prediction: Steelers 27-17
Week 4: at Tennessee Titans
Tennessee is a bit of an enigma for me. Unfortunately, I get some 2017 Jaguars vibes where a deep playoff run brought expectations up to an unhealthy level. Still, with home-field advantage, I think they will be too much for the Steelers to handle.
Prediction: Titans 20-17
Week 5: vs Philadelphia Eagles
Another team with a star QB and little supporting cast, I think the Steelers’ secondary will feast on the Eagles’ inexperienced receivers. If they can bottle up Ertz, Philly doesn’t stand much of a chance. Their defense always seems to give us fits, however, so I expect another low scoring game.
Prediction: Steelers 16-9
Week 6: vs Cleveland Browns
I think the Steelers offense will finally hit its stride against a familiar opponent at home. The Browns will put up a fight, but it won’t be enough.
Prediction: Steelers 34-21
Week 7: at Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh is one of maybe two or three defenses in the league capable of corralling Lamar Jackson, as they proved last year. With home-field advantage, however, I think the Ravens’ defense will get enough stops for the offense to pull out the win.
Prediction: Ravens 24-14
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Dallas Cowboys
It’s no secret that Jason Garrett was allowed to coach Dallas for far too long. I’m not sure that McCarthy is a great coach, but I’m pretty sure he’s better than Garrett. I think Dallas will have the best shot at their division this year and will handle the Steelers at home.
Prediction: Cowboys 24-21
Week 10: vs Cincinnati Bengals
I like a lot of the moves the Bengals have made this offseason and I think they could push for 7 or so wins after a 2-14 season last year, but I don’t believe they’ll be ready to win in Pittsburgh yet.
Prediction: Steelers 31-13
Week 11: at Jacksonville Jaguars
This is a trap game for the Steelers and it’s one I could easily see them dropping if they’re not careful. Looking at the talent on the Jags’ roster, however, I just can’t see them being dangerous enough to pull it off this season.
Prediction: Steelers 20-17
Week 12: vs Baltimore Ravens (TNF)
About once a season Ben just plays flawlessly. It’s usually in or around November, it’s usually at home, and it’s usually in primetime. In each of Ben’s last two seasons (2017 and 2018), it was on a Thursday night. Ask the 2018 Panthers, 2017 Titans, 2016 and 2015 Colts, and the 2014 Ravens what that’s like. It just so happens that a big rivalry game is on a Thursday night in November this year, and my money is on Ben lighting it up. The Ravens won’t go down without a fight, but I think the stars align too much against them for this one.
Prediction: Steelers 35-27
Week 13: vs Washington Football Team
Washington is quietly putting together a talented team, but it all depends on how Haskins develops. I think their team will surprise some people, but at Heinz field and pushing for a playoff spot I’m going with the Steelers to take care of business.
Prediction: Steelers 24-13
Week 14: at Buffalo Bills (SNF)
The Bills’ defense, and especially their secondary, is legit. I think they’ll be able to handle the Steelers’ receivers at home in a fight with major playoff implications.
Prediction: Bills 20-16
Week 15: at Cincinnati Bengals (MNF)
Like I said, I think the Bengals will show a lot of progress this year, but they haven’t beaten the Steelers since 2015. Their record in primetime games is abysmal. I’ll believe they can do it when I see it.
Prediction: Steelers 24-20
Week 16: vs Indianapolis Colts
I like the Colts’ roster a lot, with the exception of Phillip Rivers. He’s had a ton of talented rosters in the past that have fallen short because he just doesn’t have the clutch gene. Pencil in the Colts to have the chance at a game-winning drive that ends in an interception.
Prediction: Steelers 27-21
Week 17: at Cleveland Browns
A lot of this will depend on if the Browns have imploded or are still in the hunt. Call me unconvinced.
Prediction: Steelers 20-10
Final record prediction: 11-5. 5th seed in AFC
Link to Schemes Section

Closing Notes

I’d like to give a special thanks u/ezDuke for collaborating with me on this write-up. I focused on the portions pertaining to the past (Coaching Changes, Signings, Draft, etc.) whereas Duke focused on the portions pertaining to the future (Camp Battles, 53-Man Roster, Schedule Predictions).
I’d also like to thank u/PlatypusOfDeath for giving us the opportunity to write this piece. I hope everyone found this both enjoyable and informative!
Link to Hub
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