2020 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Redskins, Giants Strike a Deal, OL Prospects Fall

It hasn’t been an easy time for sports fans by any means.  I’ll be sharing my experiences without sports once this whole quarantine is over.  But this April, while quarantine continues, the NFL Draft is one thing all sports fans can look forward to.  Today, I’ll be sharing my post-free agency mock draft, my first NFL mock of 2020.  This mock draft is primarily based on player rankings and my assessment of each team’s needs.  Most of the first round picks I predicted are need-filling picks.  I took rumors into account but didn’t base this mock draft entirely on rumors.

I created this mock draft on an app known as Mockout.  If you’d like to create your own mock and compare it against mine on draft day, you can join the Boston Sports Mania 2020 Mock Draft Contest on the Mockout app.

Today, I’ll be sharing the first round of this mock draft.  In addition to the first round, I wanted to give some insight about how I think Bill Belichick will be preparing for the post-Tom Brady era, and how the Bucs will be building around Brady.  So I have also included picks from Rounds 2-7 for the Patriots and Buccaneers.

Let’s kick this off with pick #1:

1. cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

The Bengals appear to have their sights set on Burrow.  This would be a great pick for them, as they are in desperate need of a new QB with Andy Dalton falling off.  Zac Taylor helped groom QB Jared Goff in LA, so I definitely think he’s capable of preparing Burrow for NFL action.  I’ve heard rumors that the Bengals would be open to trading down, but I cannot see them letting go of the opportunity to draft Burrow.  Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert are also good QBs, but Burrow is on another level of greatness and with some  coaching from Taylor, he should be NFL ready by Week 1.

TRADE ALERT:

Giants acquire: #2 overall pick

Redskins acquire: #4 overall pick, #110 overall pick, 2021 1st rounder, 2021 3rd rounder

2. new-york-giants-logo New York Giants (via Washington)

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

The Giants are in desperate need of front seven help, and they struck a deal with ILB Blake Martinez in free agency, but despite being linked to Jadeveon Clowney, they left the first wave of free agency without filling their need for an edge rusher.  As one of the best NFL draft prospects in years, Young would provide the Giants elite talent at the position.  Some people have even gone so far to compare Young to Giants legend Lawrence Taylor.  But the Giants would probably have to trade up to pick #2 to get their hands on Young.

The Redskins have reportedly been listening to offers for this pick, and if they don’t trade down they would likely be taking Young for themselves.  But I don’t feel that Young is a great fit for Washington, and there will be plenty of defensive talent still available at pick #4.  The trade I included above would allow the Giants to snag the defensive star they need and allow the Redskins to find a better fit for their defense at pick #4 and pick up extra draft picks in the process.  The only downside for New York: they’d have less of a chance at the top tier of offensive tackles, another position they have a need at.  As a result, these tackles will begin to fall a bit, and I could see other teams passing on these top tier tackles in order to fill bigger needs.  This could allow the Giants to pick up some good talent at tackle in later rounds, so trading up should be worth the risk for them.

3. Detroit Lions Logos | History team and Primary emblem Detroit Lions

Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The Lions already helped replace CB Darius Slay by signing CB Desmond Trufant.  But the Lions could still use some young talent for their secondary.  Okudah is easily the best DB prospect in this draft, and with Young and Burrow gone, he would be the best non-QB left on the board.  Okudah is definitely a good fit for the Lions and I doubt they’d pick differently in this situation.

4. washingtonredskins2 Washington Redskins (via NY Giants)

Isaiah Simmons, ILB, Clemson

Simmons is no Chase Young, but he can help fill Washington’s huge need at linebacker and would provide them with a strong defender of their own after allowing the Giants to take Young.  Simmons was a standout player on a strong Clemson defense and played both linebacker and safety, but he’s viewed by most as a linebacker headed into the draft.  He might not have the immediate impact Young will have, but with time he could become a standout on the Redskins defense too.

5. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Tua’s season was cut short by injuries last year, and he’s dealt with a number of injuries throughout his college career.  But according to reports he is feeling 100% and passed another medical test heading into the draft.  Tua has fallen on some teams’ draft boards, but Miami is another team with a big need at QB, and I can’t see them taking Oregon QB Justin Herbert over Tua.  The Dolphins could opt for a tackle here, but that would be a better investment with their later first round picks, as Tagovailoa and Herbert will both likely be gone by Miami’s next pick.

6. Chargers make some alterations to logo for 2020 season - Los ... Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The Chargers have said they will not be signing any free agent QBs and that they’ll be rolling with QB Tyrod Taylor.  That could change with QB Cam Newton on the open market, but it would be a better choice to take a QB with this pick, especially if Herbert is still on the board.  Herbert, ex-Oregon QB Marcus Mariota’s successor, has impressed throughout his career.  He was primed to be a top prospect in last year’s draft but opted to return to Oregon for his senior season, joining a stronger 2020 QB class.  The Chargers can use Taylor as their bridge QB, giving him a shot to prove himself while giving Herbert the chance to learn from a more experienced player.  Plus, if Taylor struggles, having Herbert ready to go will allow the Chargers the flexibility to change course during the season.

7. carolina-panthers-logo Carolina Panthers

Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

With veteran d-linemen Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy gone as well as young DT Vernon Butler, the defensive line should be Carolina’s #1 priority in this draft.  After opting to play out his senior season, Brown is one of the best d-linemen in this draft class and would be a great start in Carolina’s efforts to fill this need.  I don’t see a better option for them at #7 unless CB Jeffrey Okudah falls, which is unlikely considering the Lions will probably snag him first.

8. az-cards Arizona Cardinals

Tristan Wirfs, T, Iowa

This draft has a lot of elite o-line talent, and o-line help is arguably Arizona’s top need.  At #8, without a single offensive lineman off the board, the Cardinals will have plenty of options.  T Andrew Thomas is falling on draft boards, so Wirfs seems to be the most likely pick for Arizona if he’s still available like I think he’ll be.  Wirfs backed up a strong career at Iowa with an impressive combine, which should be enough to make the case for him as the top o-line prospect in this draft.

9. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars

Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

I’ve heard rumors that teams are looking to trade down for Kinlaw, as they would be interested in drafting him, but know he would be available later in the draft.  However, Jacksonville doesn’t have much of a need to trade down.  They already have a pair of first round picks and a good amount of picks overall.  DT is Jacksonville’s top positional need in my book, and Kinlaw appears to be the best player for them.  Even if it’s a bit of a reach, I don’t think they’ll be hesitant to take Kinlaw here.

10. cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns

K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU

This is similar to Jacksonville’s pick in the fact that it is on the borderline of a reach, but fills a top team need (linebacker in this case).  Chaisson was an elite talent on the LSU defense and a key contributor and leader on this year’s NCAA championship team.  With such a big need at linebacker, it’s hard to pass on a talented linebacker like Chaisson, or even risk missing the opportunity to draft him by trading down.  There may be a lot of talent at tackle still on the board here, but Cleveland’s need at linebacker is much more significant, and the hole at tackle can be addressed in a later round.

11. Brand New: New Logo and Uniforms for New York Jets New York Jets

C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

The Jets have been eyeing top WR options with this pick.  But I think addressing New York’s defensive holes would be a better use of the pick.  Henderson didn’t have the strong season Okudah did.  But he has had a great college career overall and his elite talent should not be overlooked.  With CBs Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts gone, the Jets need some more talent at that position.  They already brought in CB Pierre Desir, but Henderson could be the star corner they need, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he outperforms Desir and stands out in the Jets secondary from the very beginning.

12. oakland-raiders Las Vegas Raiders

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

The Raiders added WR Nelson Agholor this off-season, and QB Derek Carr utilized TE Darren Waller as a top target last season.  But the Raiders need a true WR1 if they want the chance to contend, and Lamb has the potential to be that guy.  I feel like Lamb is the most NFL-ready of the top WRs in this class, and I expect the Raiders to opt for Lamb over Alabama WRs Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III.

13. San Francisco 49ers Logo F5 - Football & Sports Background ... San Francisco 49ers (via Indianapolis)

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

The 49ers also have a big need at WR after the departure of WR Emmanuel Sanders, and they should be able to fill it with this 1st rounder they received in the DeForest Buckner trade.  Jeudy, one of Tua Tagovailoa’s top two receivers at Alabama, would be the 49ers best option with Lamb off the board.  Jeudy would play next to second year WR Deebo Samuel, who should improve with more targets from QB Jimmy Garoppolo.  TE George Kittle is easily Garoppolo’s top target, and Samuel will be a big help for the Niners next year too.  But after struggling to find a good receiver in free agency, the 49ers need a guy like Jeudy as an additional option for Garoppolo in order to stay on top of the division and contend for the Super Bowl once again.

14. tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (see rest of mock draft below)

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

The Bucs could take a top tackle prospect here.  But Tampa failed to address their backfield needs in free agency after signing QB Tom Brady.  Brady is already surrounded with some good receivers, but he’ll need a top RB in the draft and some o-line help to lead the Buccaneers back to the playoffs for the first time in a while.  There’s plenty of good o-line options in this draft class.  Elite RBs will come in smaller numbers.  I think it would be in Tampa’s best judgement to get their top RB in Taylor with this pick, waiting on offensive line help till later rounds.  Plus, there’s still plenty of offensive line options in free agency and on the trade market.  It’s hard to say the same about free agent running backs.

15. denver-broncos-logo Denver Broncos

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Assuming Lamb and Jeudy are gone by this point, this pick makes a lot of sense.  QB Drew Lock needs another reliable receiver to pair with Courtland Sutton, and the free agent market is running low on receivers, so drafting someone like Ruggs appears to be Denver’s best option.  In addition, the Broncos have been repeatedly linked to Ruggs and rumors have pointed to Denver taking a WR here.  Ruggs was the WR2 behind Jeudy at Alabama.  He’s is a well rounded player and one of the fastest in this draft class.  Pairing him up with Sutton will set the Broncos offense up for success in years to come.

TRADE ALERT:

Titans acquire: #16 overall pick

Falcons acquire: #29 overall pick, #93 overall pick

16. tennessee-titans. Tennessee Titans (via Atlanta)

Jedrick Wills, T, Alabama

I have the Titans trading up to get in on this elite tier of tackles and the Falcons trading down to get good value on a linebacker (their top need) later in the first round.  Wills has a proven track record and is practically a lock to go in the first round, so the Titans would need to trade up to get a guy like Wills to replace T Jack Conklin.

17. dalcowboyslogonew Dallas Cowboys

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Higgins has fallen down many draft boards after he skipped the combine due to a disappointing Pro Day.  Teams are increasingly worried about his athleticism and are suspecting his success is primarily the result of QB Trevor Lawrence.  However, Higgins was outperforming WR Hunter Renfrow at Clemson, and Renfrow has been successful on the Raiders.  Teams like the Cowboys, who would want an immediate difference maker at WR, might be intrigued.  The Cowboys have their top two WRs in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.  But they lack depth at the position, and having Higgins around can help them fix that.  The Cowboys have been linked to a number of CBs with this pick, but I think WR depth should take priority here.

18. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (via Pittsburgh)

Andrew Thomas, T, Georgia

At one point, Thomas was much higher than this on most draft boards.  But the Dolphins are one of a few teams with a serious need for a tackle, and with the stock of Tristan Wirfs and Jedrick Wills rising, I could see Thomas slipping to this pick.  The Dolphins might need o-line help more than they need a new QB, and with Tua Tagovailoa headed to Miami, the Dolphins will need to find a good tackle to protect him.  Tagovailoa, unlike many QBs, throws the football lefty, so Thomas will have to play right tackle to protect Tua on his blind side.  It would be nice for Miami to bring in Wills, Tua’s right tackle for most of his college career, and if Wills is available here, Miami should take him.  But otherwise, Thomas will have to do, and the Dolphins still have plenty of opportunities in this draft to bring in some of Tua’s Alabama teammates.

19. oakland-raiders Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago)

Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

With the Eli Apple signing falling through, the Raiders are left with a hole at corner.  This pick seems like a good spot to address that, especially if the Raiders go WR like I think they will with their earlier first round pick.  This pick was sent to the Raiders in the Khalil Mack trade, so it would be fitting for them to use it for defensive upgrades. Diggs, Alabama’s top corner from this season, should be a big help.  Diggs and ex-Clemson CB Trayvon Mullen will make for a talented young CB duo that will set up the Raiders secondary for success in years to come.

20. jacksonvile-jaguars Jacksonville Jaguars (via LA Rams)

Grant Delpit, S, LSU

The Jaguars received this pick in the Jalen Ramsey trade, and heading into this draft, Jacksonville’s secondary needs a lot of help.  Drafting Delpit here could be smart, as he has the potential to emerge as Jacksonville’s next secondary star.  Delpit disappointed a bit in his final season at LSU, but overall, he’s been a stud throughout his college career, and it’s evident that he has insane potential.  Many teams have taken Delpit out of first round consideration, but I think the Jaguars should take a gamble on him, as they have two first round picks this year (the first of which they can use on a DT) and this could potentially pay off big time.

21. philadelphia-eagles-logo Philadelphia Eagles

Kenneth Murray, OLB, Oklahoma

With Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill leaving, the Eagles need an outside linebacker more than ever.  Philly has been linked to a variety of wide receivers and secondary members with this pick, as flaws at those positions prevented the Eagles from success last year.  But if they don’t address their linebacker situation adequately, it will come back to bite.  The free agent linebacker market is dwindling down, and this draft class is packed with linebackers.  Murray, a leader on the Sooners defense, can emerge as a leader of this new, younger group of Eagles linebackers.

22. Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 12.23.14 PM Minnesota Vikings

Mekhi Becton, T, Louisville

The Vikings have bigger needs in this draft, but with any kind of o-line need, it’s hard to pass up on one of the four elite tackles of this draft class this late in the game.  Becton has seen his draft stock rise, but I still can’t see him going before Wirfs, Wills, or Thomas.  Most think all four of them will be gone by this point.  But with very few teams needing o-linemen this early and even teams like the Vikings hesitant to pull the trigger on one this late in the round, Becton could realistically fall this far, or potentially even further.

23. new_england_patriots New England Patriots (see rest of mock draft below)

Patrick Queen, OLB, LSU

There’s been a lot of talk about Bill Belichick trading up or down from this pick, and he’s usually pretty active in the draft day trade market in hopes of gaining extra picks for the Patriots.  But this year, I think New England has plenty of picks already and the best decision for them would be to stick with this pick.  It’s too early for any tight end in this draft class, and if they want to pair Jarrett Stidham with another QB it should be a veteran QB.  So the best choice here would be to take a linebacker.  Queen stood out at LSU despite playing in the same LB corps as fellow top prospect K’Lavon Chaisson. He can help fill the need that LBs Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins left the Patriots with.  He’ll be able to learn a thing or two from veteran LB Dont’a Hightower and become Bill Belichick’s star linebacker of the future.

24. nosaints New Orleans Saints

Zack Baun, OLB, Wisconsin

The Saints don’t have many positional needs right now; they’re a pretty well balanced team.  I could see them opting for the best player available.  But the LB corps is one weak spot that New Orleans could address here.  With Murray and Queen off the board, I don’t have a problem with the Saints taking Baun in Round 1.  Baun projects as an early 2nd round talent, but the Saints can fill there only major positional need by taking Baun here.  I think that’s worth reaching a little bit.

25. Screenshot 2020-04-05 at 12.23.14 PM Minnesota Vikings (via Buffalo)

Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

The Vikings got this pick in the Stefon Diggs trade.  Before that trade, the Vikings had two WR1 caliber players in Diggs and Adam Thielen, and neither was reaching their full potential because they battled with each other for reps.  With Diggs gone, Thielen is the clear #1 guy for Kirk Cousins.  But the Vikings suddenly lack WR depth behind Thielen.  Bringing in Reagor gives the Vikings a young, talented #2 receiver that should be NFL ready from the very beginning.  Reagor stood out on a below average TCU squad, and he’ll stand out on a Vikings team that’s on the verge of a rebuild.

26. Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins (via Houston)

Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

The Dolphins got this pick in the Laremy Tunsil trade, so taking an o-lineman would be fitting.  But the Dolphins don’t need two o-linemen in this first round, and bringing in a teammate of Tua (something they couldn’t get for their o-line) at another position of significant need (safety) would be a good use of this pick.  McKinney is definitely one of the most NFL-ready safeties in this draft class, and the Dolphins would be able to start him with Reshad Jones and Minkah Fitzpatrick gone.  McKinney would join a talented young Dolphins secondary that also includes CBs Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.

27. seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks

Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

Fulton opted to stay at LSU for his senior season, and after a big year there, he looks to be one of the best corners in this draft class.  The Seahawks have had secondary problems ever since the Legion of Boom began to fall apart, and Fulton should slot in as Seattle’s #2 corner behind Shaquill Griffin.  Fulton’s no Richard Sherman, but he’s a solid corner who’s worth a first round pick and worth a chance in Seattle’s starting lineup.

28. Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens

Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan

The Ravens have three top priorities in this draft: building their LB corps around Matt Judon, giving QB Lamar Jackson some better receivers, and finding a replacement for legendary guard Marshal Yanda.  The Ravens will miss Yanda regardless, and there’s nobody on the open market that can completely make up for his retirement.  But Ruiz is looking more and more like the best interior o-linemen in this draft class, and he would be considered a steal in this spot.  The Ravens could take a receiver like Justin Jefferson here, or a linebacker such as Terrell Lewis.  But it’s hard to pass on Ruiz this late into the 1st round.

29. atlfalcons Atlanta Falcons (via Tennessee)

Terrell Lewis, OLB, Alabama

Lewis is a bit of a reach in the first round.  But there’s a lot of teams that need serious help at linebacker this year, and the Falcons might have the biggest need for a linebacker in the entire league.  Lewis will absolutely be a Day 2 selection if he doesn’t come off the board in Round 1.  But it’s looking more and more like Lewis is part of the top tier of a stacked linebacker class, alongside fellow SEC linebackers K’Lavon Chaisson and Patrick Queen.

30. gbpackers2 Green Bay Packers

Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

The Packers still lack depth at WR behind Davante Adams.  They did sign Devin Funchess this off-season, and Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have shown promise.  But they could still use one more quality receiver.  Jefferson was Joe Burrow’s #2 receiver at LSU, so his big year is partially due to Burrow.  But both Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase (too young to be drafted) will likely have some success in the NFL if put into the right system.  QB Aaron Rodgers has fallen off a bit, but he’s still capable of leading offenses to dominance when he has a good surroundings.  If the Packers take Jefferson, Rodgers and Jefferson will be able to help each other perform better by working together.

31. San Francisco 49ers Logo F5 - Football & Sports Background ... San Francisco 49ers

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

The 49ers should be able to address their WR situation with their earlier first round pick.  The 49ers never really built up the secondary around CB Richard Sherman, so they should use this pick to find another corner to start alongside Sherman.  Terrell was a bit inconsistent last year at Clemson, and he collapsed against LSU’s star receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson in the National Championship.  But he showed some insane potential, leading Clemson’s secondary by far in most metrics.  I expect some of that to carry over to the NFL, but I wouldn’t trust him as a #1 corner.  He’s still worth the late first rounder, and the 49ers have Sherman as a #1 corner, so Terrell doesn’t have the pressure on him to lead the secondary.  He just has to put up a solid season to supplement Sherman.

32. kansas-city-chiefs-logo Kansas City Chiefs

D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Before Jonathan Taylor’s huge season, Swift was regarded as the top RB prospect in this draft class.  Swift’s season was slightly disappointing, but it shouldn’t effect his draft stock too much.  Georgia has helped many running backs on the way to NFL stardom before Swift.  In recent years they’ve had Todd Gurley, Sony Michel, and Nick Chubb, and Swift had the opportunity to learn from Michel and Chubb.  I don’t think Swift will be as talented as those three, but he can definitely bolster the Chiefs RB corps.  It’s hard to trust an inconsistent, injury prone Damien Williams with the whole backfield to himself.  Swift and Williams will make for a strong Chiefs RB duo.

new_england_patriots New England Patriots (Full Draft Class):

  • Round 1, Pick 23: Patrick Queen, OLB, LSU: See description above
  • Round 3, Pick 87: Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU: It’ll likely be Jarrett Stidham (not Brady) that has the chance to throw Randy Moss’ son, but Moss is one of the better tight ends in this draft class, he’s well worth it in Round 3, and Bill Belichick may be intrigued by another member of the Moss family.
  • Round 3, Pick 98: Anfernee Jennings, DE, Alabama: Jennings will be another asset for the Patriots pass rush, and it’s a good value pick this late into Day 2.
  • Round 3, Pick 100: Leki Fotu, DT, Utah: Fotu will help replace DT Danny Shelton and likely compete with Adam Butler for a starting gig.
  • Round 4, Pick 125: Chazz Surratt, OLB, UNC: He’s another asset for the LB corps, and could have the chance to start in 3-4 sets alongside Queen, Hightower, and Bentley.
  • Round 6, Pick 195: Charleston Rambo, WR, Oklahoma: This is a bit of a reach, but Belichick could capitalize on Rambo’s success at Oklahoma to groom him into an NFL ready receiver.
  • Round 7, Pick 204: Mohamed Barry, ILB, Nebraska: This will add depth to a shallow LB corps, and who knows, maybe Barry can replace Hightower someday.
  • Round 7, Pick 212: Demetris Robertson, WR, Georgia: Robertson looks to be a better fit for the NFL than Rambo, and the Pats need as much receiving depth as they can get their hands on.
  • Round 7, Pick 213: Justin Herron, T, Wake Forest: The Patriots offensive line looks to be in good shape this year, but with Marshall Newhouse headed out, the Patriots need more depth in case Isaiah Wynn or Marcus Cannon get hurt again.
  • Round 7, Pick 230: T.J. Brunson, ILB, South Carolina: The Patriots have a boatload of picks, so drafting a fourth guy into a linebacker corps that’s in dire need of an upgrade can’t hurt.
  • Round 7, Pick 235: Josh Metellus, S, Michigan: It could be a smart move to bring in another young safety with Devin McCourty getting older.
  • Round 7, Pick 241: Dane Jackson, CB, Pitt: The secondary isn’t really a priority in this draft, but it seems like Belichick always likes to draft a corner at some point.  Hopefully the 7th round gamble on Jackson will work out better than taking Ken Webster last year.

tampabaybuccaneers Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Full Draft Class):

  • Round 1, Pick 14: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin: See description above
  • Round 2, Pick 45: Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State: I have a lot of strong defensive ends, like A.J. Epenesa and Gross-Matos falling into the 2nd round.  The Bucs have a very strong front seven, but Gross-Matos is a good bargain pick this late into the draft.
  • Round 3, Pick 76: Collin Johnson, WR, Texas: Texas struggled during Johnson’s senior year, but Johnson stood out on that team and is worth a Day 2 selection.  The Bucs have two stud WRs already in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but taking Johnson adds depth after the departure of Breshad Perriman.
  • Round 4, Pick 117: Damien Lewis, IOL, LSU: If Brady’s going to succeed here, he needs some good protection.  It would be good for Tampa to draft an o-lineman in the first two days of the draft.  But taking Lewis on Day 3 can’t hurt.
  • Round 5, Pick 139: Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State: Gordon will be able to learn from Brady and potentially replace him when he leaves Tampa or retires.
  • Round 6, Pick 161: Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame: The Bucs need to add depth at corner now that Vernon Hargreaves is gone; drafting Pride is a good start.
  • Round 6, Pick 194: Christian Rector, DE, USC: Some expect Rector to go undrafted, but I think he’s worth a 6th or 7th round gamble.  Tampa’s front seven is set right now, but it isn’t young by any means.

That’s all for my post-free agency mock draft.  I’m thinking about posting one more mock closer to the draft, especially if there are any drastic changes (trades, announcements, etc) leading up to the 23rd.  For now, feel free to comment with your thoughts or make your own mock draft for my Mockout contest.

 

 

 

2020 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Brady’s decision and destinations for other top players

The coronavirus has left the sports world and and the world as a whole in shambles.  The NBA, NHL, and MLB postponed their seasons.  March Madness was outright canceled.  Even schools and workplaces are starting to close.  But there is nothing stopping the NFL off-season from continuing to play out.  With most major sports leagues on hold, the NFL will be the primary focus of the sports world in the coming weeks.

NFL free agency is right around the corner, and many top players will hit the open market.  But the biggest name of them all: Tom Brady.  Speculation of Brady’s decision in free agency has been widespread since the end of the season.  Will he stay in New England, or will he go?  If he does leave, where will he go?  Today I’ll be breaking down Brady’s decision and making some predictions about the other top free agents on the market.  I’ve broken up the free agents by position, as the market for each position can be different.

 

This year’s QB market relies on Tom Brady’s decision, so I’m going to talk about that first.  If Tom Brady ends up leaving New England, he’s going to want to be on a good team in a good city with lots of WR options. The Titans could be a good fit. They have a good group of WRs including the young A.J. Brown, almost-Patriot Adam Humphries, Corey Davis, and veteran tight end Delanie Walker.  But other than that, there are very few good options for him.  The Bears and Panthers lack the receivers.  It’s unlikely the Saints go after Brady even if QB Drew Brees leaves.  The Cowboys and Bucs are leaning towards re-signing their current QBs.  Las Vegas appears to be in the mix for Brady and they have cap space.  But I cannot see them giving up a young, promising Derek Carr for an aging Brady in the end.

It’s going to come down to the Pats and Titans, and I think Bill Belichick will be hesitant to bring back Brady at first in hopes of a cheaper option.  However, Brady’s departure would cause the Pats serious salary cap problems, and I think the options for a replacement will be slim once guys like Brees, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott re-sign.  Plus, Nashville is a much smaller market than New England.  Even though the Titans are coached by Brady’s former teammate Mike Vrabel and ex-Patriots can be found across the roster, I think Brady is coming home.  The Pats will need to sign a new WR or TE to convince him, but they have the money.

With that, the Titans will bring back QB Ryan Tannehill.  I think the Panthers will get rid of QB Cam Newton in the end, so they’ll sign QB Teddy Bridgewater in hopes of a consistent starter.  This move will put the classic QB carousel into full effect.  Newton will be traded to the Chargers, forcing Rivers to leave.  Meanwhile, I have Rivers heading to Chicago to challenge QB Mitch Trubisky after a rough season.

I can’t see the Titans passing on Derrick Henry, but a number of top running backs will find new homes.  Now that the Chargers have Austin Ekeler as a long term solution, Melvin Gordon will move on to Houston, a team that has been inconsistent at running back in recent years.  Former Texans RB Lamar Miller will help out the Jets backfield in his recovery from a torn ACL, serving behind RB Le’Veon Bell.  Meanwhile, RB Carlos Hyde, who started in Houston with Miller hurt, will head to Tampa for a two man backfield with Ronald Jones II (Peyton Barber will leave in free agency).  The Cardinals do not have the money for both David Johnson and Kenyan Drake, so I have Drake as a younger alternative to LeSean McCoy in Kansas City.  McCoy will head to Cleveland as a veteran backup for Nick Chubb.

The Cowboys need Cooper not only to fill their need at WR but also to convince QB Dak Prescott to return to Dallas.  They have the cap space for both, so that’s not a problem.  I think Sanders will also return, as the 49ers prepare for a duo of Sanders and Deebo Samuel in the long run at WR.  Other receivers will find new homes.

I have WR Robby Anderson headed to Baltimore to play across from Marquise Brown.  He’s the right type of WR for a QB like Lamar Jackson just like Brown is.  He’s fast and he can catch deep balls.  WR A.J. Green may have injury problems, but the Raiders need a #1 receiver and a gamble on Green is worth it for them.  If the Cowboys re-sign Cooper, they won’t need Cobb, so he’ll join fellow ex-Cowboy Cole Beasley in Buffalo.  Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor will head to Miami as they add some much needed depth at WR.

The lack of experience at tight end after Rob Gronkowski’s departure did not work out for the Pats last year.  Hunter Henry is a quality starting tight end.  He’s young, but he has experience, and he’s only going to keep getting better from here.  He’s a great replacement for Gronk and will help fill New England’s desperate need for receiving weapons.  Hooper is the slightly better player, but comes with a much higher price tag.  In the end, I have Hooper back in Atlanta.  Ebron will head to Arizona, where there’s been a hole at tight end as long as I can remember.  The Colts should be fine without him since they have TE Jack Doyle too.  I have Eifert staying in Cincinnati and maintaining the TE duo of Eifert and C.J. Uzomah.  After being released by the Redskins, I have Reed headed to Houston to throw an experienced tight end in the mix with Houston’s inexperienced group of tight ends.

Bulaga has been a key part of the Packers o-line for years, so I can’t see him leaving.  Gilbert has no reason to leave Arizona either, and the Redskins and Colts need Penn and Castonzo back.  But I do have an aging Jason Peters leaving now that the Eagles have added a number of younger players at tackle.  Conklin will also leave, headed to Buffalo to start across from second year o-lineman Cody Ford.

After successful first five years to their careers, I have Scherff and Peat re-signing with their current teams.  I don’t see another team signing Incognito, but the Raiders will probably want him back.  An aging Kalil probably won’t sign elsewhere either, but I have him playing another year with the Jets.  Meanwhile, Seattle and New England have replacements ready for their free agent guards.  Iupati will head to Tennessee and Thuney will head to Houston to fill holes at the position.

The Falcons need to use the money they have on a depleted LB corps, so they may not have the money for Beasley.  I have him headed to the Giants, who need to upgrade all aspects of their defense starting with the pass rush.  I have Clowney returning to Seattle, McCoy returning to Carolina, and JPP returning to Tampa, as those three teams have the money and have the need to bring their top pass rushers back.  With Beasley in New York, Leonard Williams will head to Denver as an upgrade over DE Derek Wolfe.  After a year in Dallas, I have Quinn joining Chandler Jones in improving the Cardinals pass rush.  Brockers will head to Chicago to help fix the Bears’ biggest defensive flaw: the d-line.  With Brockers leading a strong d-line, the Bears should still have the best defense in the league.

The Colts have a lot of cap space this off-season, and they could use a big name d-lineman like Suh alongside some of their younger players.  Jernigan will return to Baltimore, where the front seven is also in desperate need of some new personnel.  The Texans will move on from Reader, instead signing ex-Steelers DT Javon Hargrave.  Reader will head to Vegas as the Raiders fill a DT need they have had for 3 years.  Meanwhile, Robinson and Collins will need to return to their former teams.  Detroit needs Robinson now that they released Damon Harrison, and Collins’ best fit is back in Dallas.

I can’t see much movement happening here.  Dupree, Van Noy, and Collins are all needed by their former teams.  The Pats might struggle to get together the money to re-sign both KVN and Jamie Collins, but I think they’ll be able to pull it off.  If not, Ja’Whaun Bentley is absolutely capable of taking on a starting job alongside Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts, and KVN or Collins.  I think the Pats need at least one of them, but having both back would be nice.  Meanwhile, Barrett and Judon will carry expensive price tags after breakout seasons.  I have Barrett headed to Detroit, who desperately needs a long term solution at linebacker.  The Falcons are in a similar situation, so Judon is a better investment than the re-signing of Beasley.

The Packers don’t necessarily need Martinez back, so I think he’ll head to Baltimore, who should be able to let go of Judon if they sign an inside linebacker like Martinez as an alternative.  Woodyard and Trevathan are needed back on their 2019 teams, and I have them both re-signing.  But Ragland and Schobert will also switch teams.  Miami needs to upgrade their defense in all areas, and they absolutely have the cap space and roster space for Schobert.

The Broncos need a solid #1 corner, and Harris returning is the perfect solution.  The Chiefs should also bring Fuller back after his strong season. But with CB Josh Norman already leaving for Buffalo after release, the Redskins will need to look elsewhere for an upgrade at corner.  I have them adding Waynes and Talib.  Carolina will sign the released Amukamara, a much-needed upgrade over pending free agent James Bradberry.  I have Trumaine Johnson, who was released by the Jets recently, signing with the Texans to fill the gap of multiple current Texans corners set to hit the open market.

The Saints may have limited money, but re-signing Bell will not be a big burden for them.  I don’t see the Pats re-signing McCourty as they have bigger needs at linebacker and on offense.  He’ll head to San Fran as a veteran presence in the secondary.  The Bears also have limited cap space this year, and I can’t see them re-signing Clinton-Dix.  The Broncos will be looking for a big upgrade at safety with Justin Simmons leaving.  There’s no superstar safeties on the market, so a strong safety duo of Clinton-Dix and Joseph will fill Denver’s need.  Berry is hoping to return to the league, and I think the Cowboys will be the team to bring him back as they look for an experienced player to be part of their secondary.  The released Jefferson will head to Detroit, another team in need of veteran help at safety.

That sums up my NFL free agency predictions.  I’ll be tracking these top free agents on social media, using the far right column to track the actual destinations of players.  Stay tuned for more free agency news.  With the rest of the sports world coming to a screeching halt, free agency is about to come into the spotlight.

2019-20 NFL Playoff Predictions: The Most Unpredictable Year in a While

The NFL playoffs begin today as Wild Card Weekend kicks off at 4:35 PM with a battle between the 4-seed Houston Texans and 5-seed Buffalo Bills.  This may be one of the most unpredictable years in NFL history.  I think there are 6 or 7 teams with a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl.  But I gave a playoff bracket prediction my best try.  Below is my bracket:

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I think many of these games will come down to the wire, and could go in a different direction than I predict.  For example, just because I have the Patriots losing in the Divisional Round, it doesn’t mean I’m ruling out a Pats Super Bowl run.  But today, I’ve written my explanation and score prediction for each game on the bracket.  Check it out below:

Wild Card Weekend

#4 Houston Texans over #5 Buffalo Bills 20-3

This is a battle between one of the most improved defenses in the league and one of the most experienced defenses in the league.  With DE J.J. Watt back on the field, I don’t expect much from the Bills against a Texans defense that is still elite.  The run game will face serious struggles against Watt and the front seven, and QB Josh Allen’s receivers are no match for one of the deepest DB corps in the league.  Meanwhile, the Texans offense will slow down against an improved Buffalo D.  But QB Deshaun Watson will connect with his best receivers (like WR DeAndre Hopkins) and put up more than enough points to lead Houston to victory in this defensive battle.

#3 New England Patriots over #6 Tennessee Titans 26-13

QB Tom Brady is lacking weapons against an underrated Titans D, so this won’t be the most exciting Patriots game we’ve seen.  But I expect a motivated Patriots squad to rebound from a tough Week 17 loss and find a way to victory at home against the Titans.  Against a struggling Patriots team, the Titans should put up a bit of a fight, especially with multiple ex-Patriots spread across the team’s roster and staff (including head coach Mike Vrabel).  RB Derrick Henry will have a strong game against a weakening Pats front seven.  But QB Ryan Tannehill and his receivers will be shut down as the Pats hold on for a comfortable victory.

#5 Seattle Seahawks over #4 Philadelphia Eagles 20-17

This will be closer than most expect, as Philly tries to pull a home upset against an overrated Seahawks squad.  But with QB Carson Wentz lacking healthy receivers more than ever, the Eagles will fall short.  This won’t be Seattle’s best game, but they’ll come up clutch as they have all season, with QB Russell Wilson getting the job done for Seattle and throwing TDs to his best receivers in Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf against a flawed Philly secondary.

#3 New Orleans Saints over #6 Minnesota Vikings 24-19

The Saints have been an offense-first team ever since QB Drew Brees took over.  But the defense will win them this game.  An improved Saints secondary that added CB Janoris Jenkins for the playoffs, will significantly limit WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.  The Vikings will come close in this one, but the offense will fail to score when they need to the most, and they’ll fall short to the Saints in New Orleans.

Divisional Round

#1 Baltimore Ravens over #4 Houston Texans 26-24 

Last time Baltimore played Houston, they won with ease.  But with the Texans back to full health and familiar with this Ravens squad, they will make things close.  Their run game will thrive and the combo of QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins should also have success, even against a strong Ravens secondary.  However, I still expect QB Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to squeeze by for a victory.  Jackson’s versatile playing style will be a bit much for the Texans D, and Jackson will lean on TEs Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst in the receiving game.

#2 Kansas City Chiefs over #3 New England Patriots 30-27

This game will be very close, and it could go either way.  Things will be difficult for the Patriots on the road.  But now that the Pats have played the Chiefs in a game that was heavily influenced by the refs, they’ll know what they’re facing and be hungry for revenge.  This game will come down to the wire, as the Pats run game helps them keep up with QB Patrick Mahomes and his receivers.  But I have the Pats falling just short as the Chiefs utilize WR Mecole Hardman with Tyreek Hill covered by CB Stephon Gilmore.

#1 San Francisco 49ers over #5 Seattle Seahawks 31-27

The first two match-ups between these divisional rivals were last minute thrillers.  In this one, I expect QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers to get out to an early lead against a flawed Seattle secondary.  The Seahawks will make the game close later on, but I still expect Seattle to fall short.  They can come up clutch against most teams, but they are no match 49ers squad that has seen them twice already.

#3 New Orleans Saints over #2 Green Bay Packers 34-28 (OT)

Though RB Aaron Jones has won Green Bay multiple games this year, this will be a battle of legendary QBs Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.  Jones will have a strong game, but the Packers will have to rely on their passing game to keep pace with the Saints.  Even so, I have Brees and his Saints winning this pass-heavy offensive shootout in overtime.  However, this is another game I could see going either way.

Conference Championships

AFC Championship: #1 Baltimore Ravens over #2 Kansas City Chiefs 34-31 (OT)

Whether Baltimore plays the Chiefs or the Patriots, this will be a close game.  You never know what the Pats will be able to pull off, and the Chiefs are one of two teams to beat the Ravens this season.  However, I have Baltimore learning from their early season mistakes and just barely topping the Chiefs in overtime.  Baltimore’s run game, led by QB Lamar Jackson and RB Mark Ingram, will rebound in this one and be the primary reason for a Ravens victory.  Kansas City’s run game will try to keep up though, and QB Patrick Mahomes will have as good a day as a passer.  The AFC Championship could end up in the hands of Baltimore, Kansas City, or even New England.  But I have Jackson coming up clutch and leading the Ravens to victory at the last minute.

NFC Championship: #3 New Orleans Saints over #1 San Fransisco 49ers 21-13

This will be the game in which San Francisco is exposed as an overrated team.  The Saints are just as good if not better.  While the New Orleans defense significantly limits Garoppolo and his receivers, QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas will put up enough points to take the NFC title.

Super Bowl LIV

#1 Baltimore Ravens over #3 New Orleans Saints 35-21

The Saints defense is no match for QB Lamar Jackson & co.  This will be close at first as RB Alvin Kamara dominates, but will become a one-sided game later as the Ravens continue to score points while New Orleans wears out later on.  This Super Bowl could be very different if different teams make it.  But a Ravens-Saints match-up will result in a comfortable Baltimore victory.

Baltimore might be the most deserving of the Super Bowl, and I think they have the best chance to win.  But these playoffs will be the closest we’ve had in a long time, and they could be heavily based on what head-to-head match-ups we see.  Just because the Ravens can beat the Chiefs and the Chiefs can beat the Pats, it doesn’t mean the Pats can’t beat the Ravens.  Match-ups will be everything in these unpredictable NFL playoffs.

 

2019 NFL Week 15 Picks & Previews: Which Teams Will Be Held Back by Injuries?

Welcome to my Week 15 NFL Picks & Previews.  Last week I went 13-3, putting my overall record at 125-81-1 (126-81-1 with Week 15 TNF).  As we approach the end of the regular season, many teams, contenders included, have been decimated by injuries.  Some teams have been able to adjust, while others have fallen behind due to injuries. More injuries have occurred in the past week.  Which contenders will be able to adjust? Which contenders will fall short? Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

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QB Carson Wentz won’t do quite as well with WRs Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor all sidelined.  But he’ll rely on the TE duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert to lead the Eagles past an underrated Redskins defense.  Most teams would be able to put up a fight against a 20 point performance. But without RB Derrius Guice, Washington’s offense will appear anemic against an above average Philly defense.  This will allow the Eagles to win with ease.

Upset of the Week

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Even with QB concerns, expect Jacksonville to pull off an upset, as RB Leonard Fournette has a day up against a depleted Raiders front seven.  QB Gardner Minshew will put up a decent performance as well, but will struggle with consistency. Minshew and Fournette’s success should be enough for the Jaguars victory.  QB Derek Carr and his offense will make this close, but expect them to fall short against a middle of the pack Jags defense.

 

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday

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Expect QB Lamar Jackson and his offense to thrive against a depleted Jets defense.  However, this will be a run heavy game, as Jackson and RB Mark Ingram lead the way for the Ravens.  Meanwhile, RB Le’Veon Bell will have a strong game for the Jets. But a struggling QB Sam Darnold will fail to keep up with Jackson as the Jets fall short. 
img_6458 This game will go how most of New England’s games against bottom of the barrel teams have gone.  The Pats defense will hold Cincy to just 1 TD. But this won’t exactly be a field day for QB Tom Brady and his WRs.  Until he finds some more help at WR, don’t expect the Pats to drop 30+ points on any defense, even the Bengals.
img_6459 Even against an aging Giants defense, Miami will struggle to put up points.  WR DeVante Parker will be the lone sign of hope for this offense, as the run game struggles without RBs Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage.  Meanwhile, RB Saquon Barkley will lead the way for the Giants against an inexperienced Dolphins front seven as QB Eli Manning takes the back seat in his first victory of 2019.
img_6460 Look for Houston to win with ease here, especially with WR Will Fuller V slated to play.  The Titans will put up some points, but QB Ryan Tannehill will struggle against a Texans front seven that is still good despite the losses of DE J.J. Watt (injured) and OLB Jadeveon Clowney (traded).  RB Derrick Henry will put up a decent game, but it won’t be enough.
img_6461 The Broncos will put up more of a fight here than most people expect.  The run game will thrive against a flawed Chiefs defense. Denver may even take this game to overtime, as their defense limits QB Patrick Mahomes and his receivers.  But Mahomes and the Chiefs will find a way to victory against a team that is highly unlikely to make the playoffs.
img_6462 Look for QB Aaron Rodgers and his offense to edge out a victory as the Packers sweep Chicago, even against a strong Bears D.  Meanwhile, QB Mitch Trubisky and the Bears offense will make this close, but they will fall short against a young Packers D.  
img_6463 Without WR Mike Evans, the Buccaneers will struggle to put up enough points for victory.  Even without QB Matthew Stafford, the Lions offense will do alright against an inexperienced Tampa Bay, leading the way for a Detroit victory. 
img_6464 This will be a pass heavy game, as the WRs thrive against two of the weakest secondaries in the league.  With their WRs wide open, QBs Russell Wilson and Kyle Allen will both have very strong games. But Wilson’s experience will give him the edge over Allen and Seattle the edge over Carolina, even on the road.
img_6465 With unmotivated WR Odell Beckham Jr. covered by CB Patrick Peterson, QB Baker Mayfield will struggle to connect with his receivers.  This will allow QB Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to edge out a victory at home. Against a banged-up Browns defense, Murray will thrive, throwing for 200+ yards and multiple TDs.
img_6466 Expect the Minnesota defense to step it up here, holding aging QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers to just 1 TD.  Meanwhile, the combo of RB Dalvin Cook and WR Stefon Diggs will just be too much for LA’s defense to handle, and their success will allow the Vikings to win comfortably.
img_6467 QB Jared Goff and his receivers will put up enough points here to take down Dallas, even without TE Gerald Everett.  QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott will look alright against the Rams D. But they will be prevented from scoring too much, especially with CB Jalen Ramsey shutting down Prescott’s favorite target, WR Amari Cooper.  
img_6468 The 49ers offense has been dominant all year, and the Falcons defense will struggle to contain them.  Meanwhile, with WR Calvin Ridley out for the season, QB Matt Ryan will lack the weapons to keep up with San Francisco.
img_6469 Without WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, this will be close, as Buffalo will shut down Pittsburgh’s other WRs with ease.  But QB Duck Hodges will lean on RB James Conner and TE Vance McDonald to help the Steelers to victory. However, an underrated Steelers D will nail in the win, shutting down the Bills run game, and significantly limiting QB Josh Allen.
img_6470 Expect a dominant game out of QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara, and WR Michael Thomas against a rather inexperienced Colts defense.  QB Jacoby Brissett and his offense will find a way to put up some points and make this a bit competitive. But it won’t nearly be enough to give the Colts any kind of chance at a victory.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon.

2019 NFL Week 14 Picks & Previews: Lots of Scoring, Divisional Match-ups as Playoffs Approach

Welcome to my Week 14 NFL picks and previews.  Last week, I went 8-8, putting my overall record at 112-78-1 (113-78-1 with Week 14 TNF).  As the playoffs approach, this week will be filled with scoring and exciting rivalries. Which teams will come out on top and advance in the playoff race?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.  

Lock of the Week

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Against an underrated Titans defense, QB Derek Carr and the Raiders will struggle to put up points.  Carr will be without WR Hunter Renfrow, and the Tennessee defense should be able to handle RB Josh Jacobs, WR Tyrell Williams, and TE Darren Waller.  Meanwhile, expect Oakland to struggle stopping RB Derrick Henry. QB Ryan Tannehill will also have a strong game, tossing multiple touchdowns and leading the Titans to a blowout victory with help from Henry.

Upset of the Week

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This one should be close, but look for the Rams defense to slow QB Russell Wilson down more than usual. Meanwhile, QB Jared Goff and his receivers will take advantage of a good match-up against an inexperienced Seahawks secondary.  RB Chris Carson should have a strong game for Seattle, but it won’t be enough as the Rams have too big an advantage against the Seattle secondary.  

The Other Games

Posted to Twitter Thursday

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Look for QB Mitch Trubisky and his receivers to have a strong day against a young Cowboys secondary and lead the Bears to victory.  However, RB Ezekiel Elliott will help Dallas make this close against a strong Bears defense that will shut down QB Dak Prescott.  
img_6380 Led by their strong run game, the Bills will put up a good amount of points and make this close.  But even a rising Buffalo defense is no match for QB Lamar Jackson. Jackson will rely on RB Mark Ingram and a variety of receivers in addition to running the ball himself.  Jackson’s versatile skillset will lead Baltimore to a fairly easy victory.
img_6381 Without RB Le’Veon Bell, the Jets will have to rely on QB Sam Darnold and his receivers.  But against a Dolphins secondary that’s decimated by injuries, I think the Jets are capable of victory without Bell.  The Dolphins will put up a fight, but they won’t win in New York.  
img_6382 With TE David Njoku back, QB Baker Mayfield and his offense will be up to full speed in this game.  They’ve had time to develop chemistry and get healthy. Now they’ll take advantage of a favorable match-up against Cincinnati.  QB Andy Dalton and his receivers will make it close, but the Browns should win in the end.
img_6383 Even without WR Will Fuller V, the Texans should be able to take down Denver here.  Expect the Texans D to severely limit QB Drew Lock and his offense. It’s hard to tell how QB Deshaun Watson and his receivers will do, but the Texans should win with ease regardless.
img_6384 The Colts young secondary will have a very hard time stopping WRs Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.  This will allow QB Jameis Winston to have one of his best games of the year and lead the Buccaneers to victory.  QB Jacoby Brissett and the Colts will put up some points on an inconsistent Tampa Bay defense, but without WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Eric Ebron, they won’t have enough in the tank.
img_6385 This will be closer than people expect, as Washington surprises against a young Green Bay defense.  But the Packers will win in the end, as they rely on RB Aaron Jones and QB Aaron Rodgers, who can make just about any WR look good.  
img_6387 Even without WR Adam Thielen playing, this should be a blowout.  The Vikings will lean on RB Dalvin Cook to lead them. Meanwhile, the Minnesota defense will easily shut down QB David Blough and his receivers, and with RB Kerryon Johnson hurt, Bo Scarbrough is the best RB the Lions have to compete with Cook.
img_6388 This will be an exciting game, as it could preview this year’s NFC Championship.  QB Drew Brees will lean on RB Alvin Kamara and TE Jared Cook with WR Michael Thomas likely to be covered by CB Richard Sherman for most of the game.  QB Jimmy Garoppolo and his receivers will find a way to make this close, but the Saints will prove themselves as NFC frontrunners in this one.
img_6389 In Atlanta, QB Kyle Allen will struggle with TE Greg Olsen sidelined.  RB Christian McCaffrey will have a strong game, but he cannot win Carolina games on his own.  QB Matt Ryan and a strong Falcons offense will be too much for McCaffrey to compete with here.
img_6390 Even with QB Gardner Minshew starting again, the Jags will struggle against the Chargers D.  WRs Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark will be out-matched by a strong Chargers secondary, especially now that S Derwin James is back. Meanwhile, QB Philip Rivers will rebound against a weak Jags D after a tough loss.
img_6391 This is going to be the biggest shootout of the year.  Against a below average Chiefs D, QB Tom Brady will rebound.  The Pats defense will struggle as QB Patrick Mahomes continues to succeed and makes this close.  As Brady relies on his young receivers, the Pats will edge out a victory. But it won’t be easy.
img_6392 Even with QB Duck Hodges starting, I think the Steelers should be able to take down Arizona.  Hodges and his offense will put up a decent game against a young Cardinals defense, and Pittsburgh’s defense will limit QB Kyler Murray and his receivers to just 2 TDs to allow Pittsburgh to edge out the victory on the road.
img_6393 With QB Daniel Jones out, QB Eli Manning will have to start.  Under pressure from a strong Eagles front seven, he will struggle.  The Eagles won’t have the most flattering of games, but they’ll get by against an aging Giants defense as QB Carson Wentz relies on his tight ends.

 

That’s all for my picks this week.  Stay tuned for more posts soon, including some MLB free agency coverage as Winter Meetings approach.

2019 NFL Week 13 Picks & Previews: Road Upsets Continue in Fight for Playoff Contention

Welcome to my Week 13 NFL Picks.  On Thanksgiving, I went 2-1 as all 3 road teams won, putting my overall record at 106-71-1.  I expect lots of road teams to win today as well, with teams hungry to clinch and other teams looking for their last chance at contention.  Who will lock up a playoff spot, and who will lose their chance at one? Keep reading to find out what I think, and as always, feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Lock of the Week

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QB Jacoby Brissett is running out of options.  RB Marlon Mack, WR T.Y. Hilton, and TE Eric Ebron are all injured.  The rest of this depleted Colts offense is sure to struggle against an underrated Tennessee defense.  Meanwhile, the success of QB Ryan Tannehill and his receivers will continue against a young Indy secondary.  TE Delanie Walker will be out, but that won’t come close to stopping the Titans here.

Upset of the Week

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Seattle has a good chance at winning the NFC West at this point.  But Minnesota will be hungry to take over their own division, and I could see them pulling off the upset here.  QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers will have a field day against the young Seattle secondary. QB Russell Wilson and his offense will struggle to keep up, especially as they will be limited by one of the best defenses in the league.  Wilson will find a way to make this close, but the Seahawks will still struggle to keep up in this one.

The Other Games

img_6315 Look for the Jets to keep their win streak alive against the winless Cincinnati Bengals.  RB Joe Mixon will have a strong game, but don’t expect much from QB Andy Dalton and his shallow group of receivers against a young, underrated Jets secondary.  Meanwhile, QB Sam Darnold will throw multiple TDs against a banged up Bengals D and lead the Jets to a comfortable victory.
img_6316 Expect Philly to revive themselves against a weak Miami defense.  QB Carson Wentz will turn things around, and the RB duo of Miles Sanders and Jay Ajayi will succeed against Ajayi’s former team.  Meanwhile, the Eagles secondary will be capable of containing Miami’s receivers, and RB Kalen Ballage will continue to struggle against a strong Eagles defensive front.
img_6317 The Niners defense will be no match for QB Lamar Jackson.  Jackson and his offense will continue to dominate, exposing the 49ers as overrated.  San Fran will have a strong game offensively as well, but this will mostly be a result of a strong game by RB Tevin Coleman against a DB-heavy Ravens defense.  The Ravens should succeed in limiting QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s receivers and outscoring the Niners.
img_6318 Look for QB Baker Mayfield to continue to succeed, even going against an improving Pittsburgh defense without TE David Njoku.  With QB Mason Rudolph, RB James Conner, and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster out of the lineup, the Steelers will fail to keep up.
img_6319 QB Jameis Winston will turn it around against a Jaguars secondary that has struggled without CB Jalen Ramsey.  QB Nick Foles will improve in this game now that he’s been healthy for a few weeks, utilizing all three of his best receivers.  However, it won’t be enough to outscore a strong Tampa offense, even in Jacksonville.
img_6320 The Giants would have a good chance here if they were fully healthy.  But WR Golden Tate and TE Evan Engram highlight a long list of absent Giants players this week.  The Giants have struggled with injuries all season, and those struggles will cost them as they fail to outscore a strong, but flawed Green Bay offense.
img_6321 Washington’s defense has done fairly well this season, but their offense has looked anemic at times.  Expect that pattern to continue in this defensive battle between the Redskins and Panthers. The Redskins will be able to limit Carolina’s offense.  But RB Christian McCaffrey is the one person Washington won’t be able to stop.
img_6322 The Rams are decimated by injuries, and QB Jared Goff has declined throughout the season.  But they’ll be able to take down a below average Cardinals offense. The Rams defense will hold Arizona TD-less, making it easy for Goff to lead the Rams to an important road victory.
img_6323 Oakland’s offense is pretty good, and they will put up a decent game against the Kansas City defense.  But without WR Hunter Renfrow in the mix, Oakland will fall short to QB Patrick Mahomes and an even stronger Chiefs offense.  Mahomes will lean on WR Tyreek Hill in this one, but WR Sammy Watkins, TE Travis Kelce, and RB LeSean McCoy will also put up big games.
img_6324 QB Philip Rivers is in danger of being benched, but the Chargers defense will save him here as they shutout Denver.  Rivers will look alright, throwing multiple TDs despite turnover concerns. But the Chargers D will be the real reason for the LA victory, making Rivers look a lot better than he actually is.
img_6325 In this Sunday Night game, the Pats will clinch a playoff berth as they take down the Texans in Houston.  CB Stephon Gilmore will shut down WR DeAndre Hopkins, forcing the Texans to rely on WR Will Fuller V. The Texans run game will succeed against the Pats defense too.  But QB Tom Brady and co. will find a way to lead the Pats to edge out a victory despite many player absences due to the flu.  

 

2019 Thanksgiving Day NFL Picks: Home Field Advantage won’t mean much

Thanksgiving is here, and so are my Thanksgiving Day NFL picks.  Last week, I went 10-4 in picks, putting my overall record at 104-70-1.  On Thanskgiving, the Lions and Cowboys will continue the day’s tradition of playing a home game.  But will their home field advantage matter that much?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and feel free to comment with your thoughts.

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions: 12:30 PM EST on CBS

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The Bears offense may be bad, but the Lions defense just might be worse. After a strong first few games in which the offense led them, the Lions have fallen out of the playoff picture. Without QB Matthew Stafford, there’s little hope for a victory, even against an offense like Chicago’s. The Bears run game will thrive especially against Detroit. Meanwhile, the elite Chicago defense will prevent QB David Blough and his offense from scoring a single TD in a one-sided game.

Buffalo Bills @ Dallas Cowboys: 4:30 PM EST on FOX

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This will be the closest of the three NFL games today, but look for Dallas to pull ahead early and hold on for victory. The Bills defense is pretty good, but they’re no match for QB Dak Prescott and his trio of capable WRs. They may have trouble stopping RB Ezekiel Elliott too. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s WRs will outmatch a young Cowboys secondary. But the Cowboys will stop the run, preventing QB Josh Allen from scrambling as much as he usually does and allowing the Cowboys to hold on for victory.

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: 8:20 PM EST on NBC

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The Falcons did get RB Devonta Freeman back for this one, but they’re still missing TE Austin Hooper (injured) and WR Mohamed Sanu (traded). The defense was struggling as it is, but they’ve lost S Keanu Neal to an injury. Against one of the best offensive cores in the league, they will struggle. QB Drew Brees and the Saints will go all out here, as RB Alvin Kamara and TE Jared Cook have especially strong games. QB Matt Ryan will rely on WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to keep the Falcons in the game. But it won’t nearly be enough to take down New Orleans, even in Atlanta.

That’s all for today’s picks.  Watch some football, eat some good food, spend time with family, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I just came back from the Algonquin vs. Westborough Thanksgiving game, which Algonquin won 24-7.  Stay tuned for a link to my Harbinger article on that game alongside my other fall sports posts.