Three Reasons Mac Jones Will Be the Patriots Starting Quarterback

Which QB will start in New England?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

With the 15th pick in the draft, the New England Patriots selected Mac Jones, the quarterback from Alabama. They also resigned Cam Newton, who played for the Patriots last season. In this article, we will discuss why Jones and not Newton should start for the team in 2021.

The Patriots were busy this off-season bringing in players to help the quarterback play be better in 2021. Two of the top tight ends, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are hoping to recreate the magic the Patriots had when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were playing tight end for them. Additionally, they brought in wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who has big-play speed and the ability to take the top off the defense.

There is a large discussion that needs to be mentioned here about how long different teams allow rookie quarterbacks to sit and learn. While some gain a lot by sitting behind a veteran many come in and take the league by storm. Usually, this has a lot to do with how the team is built around them and who the option is as a starter ahead of them.

Some will point to Patrick Mahomes sitting behind Alex Smith for an entire season and now Mahomes is a perennial MVP candidate. Others will point out that quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Justin Herbert sat behind Tyrod Taylor before Taylor sustained an injury. So why not give Mac Jones some time to sit and learn?

Below are three reasons why Mac Jones should start. After we go through the reasons we will give a final verdict as to what the Patriots will do at quarterback to start the season.

Reason 1: Cam Newton is who we think he is!

Cam Newton is a former MVP, three-time Pro Bowler and in college, he won the Heisman Trophy. He has been a dynamic player for many years and led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015. In his last two seasons in Carolina, he dealt with numerous injury issues which eventually led to Newton’s release.

In 2020, Newton played 15 games for the Patriots. He played well early, but after testing positive for COVID-19, his play was not on the same level. Newton had four games last season in which he threw for less than 100 yards which is no way to win in the NFL. He threw for a total of 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also added 592 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.

 Newton was on target for 74.6% of his throws but with an intended air yards per play at 6.8, it shows his inability to make big plays. At this point in his career, that’s what Newton is. He’s a solid quarterback option who is no longer capable of making the huge plays like he once was capable of doing.

Reason 2: Mac Jones is a good quarterback

When the San Francisco 49ers moved up to the third overall pick and people thought that Mac Jones was going to be the player drafted there, the Mac Jones “hate-train” started. However, if you look at Jones’ abilities he is a good player and the Patriots, along with their fans, should be excited he made it to them at the 15th pick.

Jones is not like the new breed of quarterback who can use their athleticism to make or extend plays outside the pocket, but then again, neither was Tom Brady. What Jones does well is that he is accurate, has great poise and is efficient. While he did have some of the best weapons in the country around him at Alabama, he does have a team around him in New England that rookie quarterback’s dream of.

Finally, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Alabama head coach Nick Saban are long-time friends and coworkers, there is no doubt that Saban gave Belichick all the information he needed, not only to be comfortable taking Jones, but with how to utilize him best.

Reason 3: Long-term, the Patriots will be better with Jones starting now

Whenever Mac Jones gets his opportunity there is going to growing pains. So the question needs to be asked, would you like to make the playoffs in 2021 with Newton then replace him with Jones and miss out on the playoffs in 2022 because Jones needs to develop or would it be best for Jones to get his chance to play in 2021, miss the playoffs with their rookie quarterback but be in position to make the playoffs in 2022 and beyond?

The Verdict:

The Patriots, most specifically, Bill Belichick understands the big picture much better than most teams. More importantly, as Belichick has no less of a chance of being fired like many other coaches would be, he can stay true to himself and play the player who gives him the best chance.

Early on, that player is most likely going to be Cam Newton. Especially with the new weapons as well as the return of running backs Rex Burkhead from injury and James White from a down season that included dealing with his father’s untimely death and his mother being in critical condition after they were in a car crash.

I do think there are two ways Mac Jones gets to play early. The first is if Newton starts off the year poorly and Belichick feels Jones gives the team a better chance to win. The other is even more likely, an injury to Newton. Newton has had trouble staying healthy these last few seasons and there’s no reason to believe he can stay healthy through a 17 game season.

While I think it is smarter to start Jones from the beginning of the season, due to the reasons listed above, Belichick’s only concern is winning. If Jones does not give the Patriots the better chance to win, he will not play, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Ranking Each 1st Overall Pick from the Last Ten Years of the NFL Draft

Who is the best #1 pick from the last 10 NFL Drafts?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

With the countdown to the NFL Draft switching from weeks to days and now to hours, it’s a good time to look back at previous drafts. In this exercise we are ranking the 10 players drafted with the first overall pick from 2011 – 2020. If you have not seen the rankings for the fourth, third or second overall picks, make sure to check them out.

Some of the things considered while making this list include but are not limited to:

  • Pro Bowls
  • All Pro Teams
  • Durability

For teams with the #1 pick, drafting a quarterback is the typical thing to do. Of the 10 players on this list, seven of them are quarterbacks and the three that aren’t quarterbacks are at premium positions like left tackle and defensive end.

10: Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2015

Jameis Winston is as low on this list as he is for two reasons. The first is he has not lived up to his being picked number one overall and second because his upside is lower than players like Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

Of positive note for Winston, he was named to the 2015 Pro Bowl and in 2019 he was the NFL passing leader, throwing for 5,109 yards. In that 2019 season, his last as a member of the Buccaneers, he also threw for 33 touchdowns and a league-leading 30 interceptions. He spent his 2020 season as a backup to Drew Brees in New Orleans and is poised to take over the starting role there in 2021.

9: Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams, 2016

Jared Goff is a two-time Pro Bowl player who led the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018. In his five year career he has thrown for 18,171 yards with 107 touchdowns and 55 interceptions.

One of the biggest “issues” with Goff is that we have seemingly seen his ceiling. In 2019 he signed a big contract extension which included $110 million guaranteed. After the 2020 season Goff was traded to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.

8: Joe Burrow, QB, Cincinnati Bengals, 2020

Joe Burrow is ahead of Winston and Goff because of his potential because had we based it on what they have accomplished already in the NFL, Burrow hasn’t had as much of an opportunity. Burrow was playing well in 2020 when he got hurt during a Week 11 game against the Washington Football Team.

Burrow’s accuracy is one aspect of his game that people are very excited about. With an on target percentage of 75.3% in 2020 and having only thrown five interceptions in 404 passing attempts, there is a lot to be excited about.

The biggest concern Bengals fans should have is protecting Burrow. In 2020 he was sacked 32 times in only 10 games. During the off-season the Bengals signed tackle Riley Reiff, but will need to continue to build up the offensive line if they want Burrow to stay healthy.

7: Eric Fisher, OT, Kansas City Chiefs, 2013

The 2013 NFL Draft was one of the worst in recent history. While some later round picks like Travis Kelce and Le’Veon Bell and Tyrann Mathieu have emerged as excellent players, the top of the draft is full of players who never lived up to being drafted so high.

While not exciting, Eric Fisher was the right pick to go number one overall. He has had a nice long career which has included being named to the Pro Bowl twice and helping the Kansas City Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV.

In his eight year career, 2019 was the only season he played less than 10 games, which shows his durability. Additionally, in the over 7,000 snaps he has played in the NFL he has only been called for 54 penalties. He was recently released by the Chiefs and is currently a free agent.

6: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans, 2014

This is probably one of the more controversial placements on these lists. Many people see Jadeveon Clowney as a total bust who should be at number 10 on this list, however, he has made it to three Pro Bowls, which is more than most players on this list.

Additionally, it’s important to understand who Clowney is. He is not a sack artist like Myles Garrett or Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, but he is a very good player. It is fair to say that he was drafted too high for his skill set, but the Texans clearly saw his athleticism and thought he would be the right player.

He has bounced around to a few teams these past few seasons and is currently a member of the Cleveland Browns. Getting the chance to play with Myles Garrett should give Clowney opportunities to play better than he has recently.

5: Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns, 2018

In Baker Mayfield’s three seasons as a starter for the Cleveland Browns he has had one and a half good years and one and a half difficult years. 2020 and the second half of his rookie campaign in 2018 were very good while the first half of 2018 and 2019 were less than ideal.

Of positive note for Mayfield, for the first time as a professional, he will have the same coaches for a second consecutive year. Additionally, the offense, which he kept looking more comfortable in as the 2020 season progressed, is bringing all the key players back.

A few of Mayfield’s accolades and accomplishments include, but are not limited to:

  • Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) Rookie of the Year in 2018
  • Held the rookie touchdown record until it was broken by Justin Herbert in 2020
  • Most passing yards in a season by a Browns rookie with 3,725
  • Most passing yards in a game by a Browns rookie with 397
  • Most 4th quarter comebacks by a Browns rookie with 3

\The Browns recently picked up Mayfield’s fifth year option and are hoping to sign him to a long-term deal. If he can stay healthy he is in a great situation to keep producing at high level on a yearly basis.

4: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals, 2019

Even though he has only been in the NFL for two seasons, Kyler Murray is well-deserving of being this high on the list. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2019 and a Pro Bowler in 2020. He has thrown for 7,693 yards with 46 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his two seasons. He also has rushed for 1,363 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Murray was put into a perfect situation of having a head coach in Kliff Kingsbury who had a very specific vision for Murray. Had any other team, with any other head coach had the first overall pick in 2019, Murray would likely have not been the pick. Arizona’s offense is in a good spot and if the defense can play better in 2021 the Cardinals should be playoff-bound.

3: Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns, 2017

Myles Garrett is a difference maker on defense. In his four-year career he has 42.5 sacks, 83 quarterback hits and 10 forced fumbles. He has been named to the Pro Bowl twice and in 2020 he was a First Team All-Pro. While the incident that took place against Pittsburgh in 2019 will always follow him, it does not affect him for this list.

The Browns spent the off-season building up their defense and Garrett should be a major beneficiary. If he can continue his ascension, he should be one of the few players on this list who will be a future Hall of Famer.

2: Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts, 2012

When talking about number one overall picks there are usually three narratives. The first is the player who lived up to the hype, the second is the player who was a total bust and the third is players whose careers were cut short due to injury. Andrew Luck is the “Venn Diagram” of the first and third types of number one picks.

Luck started his career with three Pro Bowl seasons, but in his fourth season, 2015, the injuries started. He would miss most of the 2015 season, all of the 2017 season and retire during the preseason of the 2019 season.

In his career he threw for 23,671 yards, 171 touchdowns and 83 interceptions. In 2014 he had a career high of 40 touchdown passes. He was also a clutch performer, leading the Colts to 16 fourth quarter comebacks.

1: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers, 2011

Generally speaking, we remember the most recent things we saw and when it comes to Cam Newton, his most recent play has been underwhelming. However, he is a former Rookie of the Year and MVP who holds multiple NFL records, including:

  • Most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 70
  • Most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season with 14
  • Most rushing attempts by a quarterback with 1,071
  • He is the only player in NFL history to with at least 30 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns
  • Most passing yards by a quarterback in his debut with 422

Sadly for Newton, in his last three seasons, he has dealt with numerous injuries. Most notably, in 2019 he only played in two games after suffering an injury to his foot. He is currently about to start his second season with the New England Patriots.

Ranking Each 3rd Overall Pick from the Last Ten Years of the NFL Draft

Who is the best #3 pick from the last 10 NFL Drafts?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

With the NFL Draft coming very soon, it’s a good time to look back at previous drafts. In this exercise we are ranking the 10 players drafted with the number three overall pick from 2011 – 2020. If you have not seen the rankings for the fourth overall pick, make sure to check that out.

Some of the things considered while making this list include but are not limited to:

  • Pro Bowls
  • All Pro Teams
  • Durability

Of the top four picks, the third pick might be the worst collection of players for the past 10 years. This list is almost in three tiers, the first tier is the player by number one, the second tier is players two and three and the third tier is the players listed from four until ten.

Also, the third pick has the most players amongst the top four who are no longer in the league. This will allow some of the younger players on this list to jump up multiple spots with one good season.

10: Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns, 2012

Trent Richardson was supposed to be the “next big thing.” Instead he played in the NFL for three seasons and has been trying to stay relevant by playing in leagues like the CFL, AAF and FAM, a football league in Mexico.

He did have a solid rookie season rushing for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns but was not worthy of the third overall pick. The best thing he did for the Cleveland Browns was getting traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick in 2014.

9: Jeff Okudah, CB, Detroit Lions, 2020

With just one year of experience and having only played nine games in 2020, Jeff Okudah would not have been too high on this list. He did register 47 tackles and one interception in his rookie campaign. With a new coaching staff in the building, including new defensive coordinator and former NFL cornerback Aaron Glenn, Okudah is in a good position to move up this list pretty quickly.

8: Dion Jordan, DE, Miami Dolphins, 2013

Dion Jordan has played for four teams since joining the NFL in 2013. Of the 63 games he has played in his career, he has started only five of them. He has missed many games throughout his career, some due to injuries and some due to being suspended for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing substance policy.

In his time on the field he has had some flashes of good play, but it has been too inconsistent. In 2020 he played for the San Francisco 49ers and recorded three sacks to bring his career total to 13.5. He is currently a free agent and only time will tell if he will be on the field in 2021.

7: Solomon Thomas, DT, San Francisco 49ers, 2017

Everything was set up pretty perfectly for Solomon Thomas to be fighting for the #1 spot on the list. He was drafted into a great situation after being highly touted in college but he fell flat. In his four years with the 49ers he had 95 tackles and six sacks.

His 2020 season was spent on injured reserve after a Week 2 injury against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Thomas was one of many players who got injured that day and were lost for the season. Thomas has since moved on and is now a member of the Las Vegas Raiders.

6: Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets, 2018

 Sam Darnold should have been much higher on this list. He was in consideration for the number one overall pick in 2018 and had players with less college pedigree than him in Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson drafted after him. But he is not higher, because he is not any better than sixth place amongst these players.

In Darnold’s defense, he has had injury issues, including getting Mono in 2019. Additionally, and more importantly to why Darnold deserves a bit of defending is that he had Adam Gase as his head coach. Gase has notoriously held players back, like QB Ryan Tannehill or WR Jarvis Landry, both of whom played for Gase in Miami.

Darnold does have a golden opportunity to move up this list quickly now that he has been traded to the Carolina Panthers and is teamed up with offensive coordinator Joe Brady.

5: Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2014

There are two reasons why Blake Bortles is ahead of Same Darnold on this list. The first is that Bortles has slightly better statistics than Darnold. The second is that Bortles led the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots in 2017.

After playing for the Jaguars from 2014 – 2018 he joined the Los Angeles Rams in 2019 to be the backup for Jared Goff. In 2020 he started the season with the Denver Broncos but was picked off their practice squad by the Rams when Goff got hurt. Bortles is currently unsigned and only time will tell if he will be playing in 2021.

4: Dante Fowler, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2015

Dante Fowler was part of a defensive front that helped lead a Blake Bortles led Jacksonville Jaguars team to an AFC Championship game in 2017. In 2018 the Jaguars traded Fowler to the Los Angeles Rams and he went from playing an end in Jacksonville’s 4 – 3 defense to playing an outside linebacker in Los Angeles’ 3 – 4 defense.

As a member of the Rams he got to start consistently and his play improved immensely. He also was finally getting the sack numbers that were imagined when he was drafted so high in 2015. He is currently a member of the Atlanta Falcons and with new defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Fowler should have another excellent season in 2021.

3: Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets, 2019

Quinnen Williams has been one of the bright spots on an otherwise underwhelming New York Jets roster. He has only played two seasons but in that short time he has played well for the Jets. He has missed a few games in each of his two seasons, so hopefully for the Jets and for himself, he can stay healthy and on the field.

His career total of nine and a half sacks seems low, but he’s still developing as a pass rusher. He has done an excellent job bringing pressure up the middle and now with new head coach Robert Saleh, Williams should have a defense that is more in line with his skill set.

2: Marcell Dareus, DT, Buffalo Bills, 2011

Having been drafted in 2011, Marcell Dareus should be ranked very high as he has had the most opportunity to be impressive. He has been a two-time Pro Bowl tackle and in 2014 was named an All-Pro. He spent six and a half seasons with the Buffalo Bills and two and a half seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, including the 2017 season, a year we have referenced before as a good one for the Jaguars.

Dareus was an extraordinarily consistent player. He only had two seasons where he played less than 14 games and due to his consistency, he is ranked higher than Quinnen Williams. As Dareus is no longer in the league, Williams should overtake him pretty easily; however, Dareus’ good play should not be forgotten.

1: Joey Bosa, DE, San Diego Chargers, 2016

In Joey Bosa’s five year career he has been named to three Pro Bowls, has been a two-time All-Pro and in 2016 he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. In July of 2020 the Chargers signed Bosa to a contract making him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL.

He has dealt with some injuries but has still done more than enough to be the highest-ranked player on this list. His 47.5 sacks are impressive but he is regularly around opposing quarterbacks applying pressure and knocking down the quarterback. If he continues to perform as he has in the past and can stay healthy, there is little doubt that he will one day be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ranking each 4th overall pick from the last ten years of the NFL Draft

Who is the best #4 pick from the last 10 NFL Drafts?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter @menudo_man)

With the NFL Draft under two weeks away it’s a good time to look back at previous drafts. In this exercise we are ranking the 10 players drafted with the number four overall pick from 2011 – 2020.

Some of the things considered while making this list include but are not limited to:

  • Pro Bowls
  • All Pro Teams
  • Durability

Additionally, it would be interesting to look at these same 10 players in a year from now and see what would have changed. As an example, the players drafted in 2019 and 2020 have had less of an opportunity to overtake players who have been in the NFL since 2011.

To help further this point, some of the players who were drafted in this time frame are no longer in the NFL. Right now they rank wherever they are but after a year or two more from the younger players on this list, there is an expectation that they should leapfrog anyone who is out of the league.

#10: Andrew Thomas, OT, New York Giants, 2020

Andrew Thomas is number 10 partially because he has only played for one season and partially because in that one season he was underwhelming. Thomas was the first of four tackles taken early in the 2020 NFL Draft and the other three, Jedrick Wills (pick 10), Mekhi Becton (pick 11) and Tristan Wirfs (pick 13) all played better than Thomas did.

Sadly for Thomas, he will always be compared to Wills, Becton and Wirfs and while he might end up having a very good career, having been the fourth best in his rookie year could forever haunt him.

#9: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Oakland Raiders, 2019

Clelin Ferrell, much like Thomas at number 10, is rated this low partially because of his minimal NFL experience as well as having not been too successful in his first two NFL seasons. In 2020 he missed some games due to being placed on the COVID-19 list in the middle of the season along with being placed on injured reserve towards the end of the season.

His six and a half sacks in two years is pretty pitiable, especially when you consider that the Raiders drafted Maxx Crosby in the fourth round of the 2019 draft and he has 17 sacks in his two years. With Crosby’s excellent output, perhaps the Raiders should have drafted someone else at number four overall. Once that thought is being said, clearly Ferrell should not be higher than ninth on this list.

#8: Matt Kalil, OT, Minnesota Vikings, 2012

Matt Kalil made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and everything looked like he was a great pick at #4 overall for the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, he had some injury issues and his promising career was cut short. In the five seasons he actually played, he was called for 32 total penalties and only seven were for holding.

After being with the Vikings from 2012 – 2016 he signed with the Carolina Panthers and had the opportunity to play with his brother Ryan Kalil. He only played one season for the Panthers before missing the 2018 season due to a knee injury. He attempted a comeback with the Houston Texans in 2019 but he didn’t stick with the team and has been out of the NFL since.

#7: Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills, 2014

In 2021 Sammy Watkins will be playing for his fourth team in his career. Between injury and inconsistency, Watkins was too high of a pick especially when you consider the other wide receivers taken in 2014. Amongst them are Pro Bowl caliber receivers like Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry.

In his seven year career, Watkins has a career catch rate of 58.8% and only one season where he had over 1,000 yards receiving. Additionally, he has never had a season with double-digit touchdown receptions. He will be joining the Baltimore Ravens in 2021 and it is doubtful that his numbers will improve as Baltimore is a team that focuses more on running the ball than passing the ball.

#6: Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars, 2017

Sometimes we have a bias due to what we just saw. Leonard Fournette was most recently playing very well for the Super Bowl winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers but looking at his four year career, he has not done much to be worthy of the fourth pick in the draft. In many ways, 6 – 10 on this list could be changed any way you would like and Fournette has the advantage of the players behind him being younger or more injury-prone.

In his three seasons with the Jaguars he rushed for 2,631 yards averaging 73.1 yards per game and caught another 1,009 yards. Meanwhile, drafted four spots behind Fournette was running back Christian McCaffrey, who while being injured for most of 2020 still has about 500 more rushing yards and 1,600 more receiving yards.

What hurts Fournette the most is that he was released after the Jaguars could not find a team to trade him to. At that point, he signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers and was a good contributor to the Super Bowl Champions.

#5: Denzel Ward, CB, Cleveland Browns, 2018

Denzel Ward stepped on the field for the first time in 2018 and had two interceptions off Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was a sign to all the Browns fans out there that Ward was the right pick at #4. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. If he can stay healthy, which has been no guarantee, he could climb into the higher echelon of cornerbacks and more importantly, be higher on this list next time we look it over.

As mentioned above, Ward has had some injuries in his first three seasons. He has played 37 games out of a possible 48 games. He has seven career interceptions and has given up only 10 touchdowns during that time. The Browns will have a big decision coming up as they assess if Ward is worthy of the fifth-year option or not.

#4: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys, 2016

Ezekiel Elliott is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time NFL rushing yards leader. There is a narrative out there that he is often injured but he has played in 71 games in his five-year career, out of the possible 80 games maximum he could have played. In 2016 he was named to the All-Rookie Team.

In his five seasons in the NFL he has a career 6,384 yards, with his low season being 979 yards in 2020. Over the last three seasons Elliott’s yards before contact has decreased, which some will say shows that he is not playing as well, when in fact it is more indicative of the offensive line not playing as well recently.

#3: Lane Johnson, OT, Philadelphia Eagles, 2013

Lane Johnson is one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL even though he was the third tackle taken in the 2013 Draft behind Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel. Amongst Johnson’s many accolades, he is a three-time Pro Bowler, was named to the 2010s All-Decade Team and was instrumental in the Eagles winning Super Bowl LII. What is possibly most impressive is that he is still playing on such a high level entering his ninth season.

#2: Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders, 2015

Amari Cooper was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2015 and was successful early having consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons in 2015 and 2016, garnering a Pro Bowl bid in both of those seasons. After a less than stellar campaign in 2017, Cooper got traded to the Dallas Cowboys, where he has gotten back to his early career success.

Outside of the 2017 season, Cooper has been a top of the league wide receiver. Here are a few statistics for Cooper in the non-2017 seasons.

  • He has caught at least 55% of all passes thrown his way, with his highest being 70.8% in 2020
  • He has at least 1,000 yards in each of the aforementioned seasons
  • He has caught at least 72 passes in each of the aforementioned seasons
  • Since 2018, he has caught at least 54 passes per season for a first down

The only reason why Cooper is second on this list is that A.J. Green, who is first has been doing it longer.

#1: A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals, 2011

A.J. Green is a seven-time Pro Bowl player who was drafted by the Bengals in 2011 and has played for them since. He has had some recent injury issues but managed to play in all 16 games for the Bengals in 2020. During the off-season he signed with the Arizona Cardinals.

Of his 649 career receptions, 508 of them have been for touchdowns or first downs. He has a career 57.4% catch percentage and is less than 600 yards away from 10,000 career receiving yards. He is most probably already a Hall of Fame player, but if he can stay healthy with Arizona and have a few good seasons in the desert, he should be a sure-fire Hall of Famer and that’s what made him the obvious choice for #1 on this list.

Top WR/RB Draft Targets for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Which wide receiver and running back prospects would be a great fit for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter @menudo_man)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a Super Bowl victory and bringing back the entire crew which means that for them the draft is an opportunity to augment their team, as opposed to most teams who are looking for players to plug into their lineups right away. In this article we will focus on some of the wide receiver and running back prospects that would make sense for the Buccaneers to target.

At the wide receiver position, the Buccaneers have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as their top two receivers. At the moment, there’s a big drop-off from the top two to the rest of the group. Last year they brought in Antonio Brown who is currently a free agent and it is unsure whether he will be back. Their next best receiver is Scotty Miller, who had a nice season with 33 catches for 501 yards and three touchdowns but could definitely be upgraded over.

As far as the running back room is concerned, the Buccaneers are bringing back Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II, but if another running back falls into their laps, they would be foolish to not go after him. Both Fournette and Jones have had their ups and downs in recent seasons, so bringing in another running back can also keep them focused on what they need to be focused on.

Of course, the best aspect of adding offensive weapons to the Buccaneers is the opportunity to see them play with quarterback Tom Brady. For all the years that Brady has had a receiver group that was extremely underwhelming, it’s nice to be able to add a young talented wide receiver to the group.

First Round Options

With the final pick in the first round, there are two players that would make a lot of sense. The first is wide receiver Rashod Bateman from Minnesota, the second is running back Travis Etienne from Clemson. Either of these players would be major contributors for the 2021 Buccaneers.

In the late 1990s when John Madden was the voice of the Madden video games, one of the classic lines he’d say was, “speed kills!” Bateman and Etienne are the embodiment of this statement. Either of these players would be great for the Buccaneers late in the first round.

Bateman is a 6’0” 190 lbs. wide receiver who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash. He only played five games in 2020 amassing 472 yards and two touchdowns on 36 receptions. In 2019 he had a breakout season catching 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had at least one reception in each of the 31 games he played in college.

He runs the route tree well and has good size to be an outside target in the NFL. Playing alongside Evans and Godwin, Bateman will have the opportunity to be a deep threat but also make plays across the middle. He does need to improve as a blocker in the running game.

As far as Etienne is concerned, he could go as high in the draft as the mid-teens or as late as the second round. If he does fall in the draft, it’s not indicative of Etienne’s abilities, rather the deep running back class and the recent propensity to not draft running backs in the first round.

Etienne has speed and good vision for a running back. He ran for 4,952 yards and 70 touchdowns during his four-year career at Clemson and is also a big force in the passing game as he has a career 11.3 yards per catch average. At Clemson last season, Etienne was occasionally lined up as a wide receiver. This level of versatility would bring something to the Buccaneers’ offense that they did not have last season.

One thing he needs to continue to improve on is ball security. He had some costly fumbles in 2020 but that doesn’t take away from all the good he accomplished in college

Second Round Wide Receiver

The second round wide receiver who would fit well with the Buccaneers is Tutu Atwell from Louisville. Atwell is a smaller receiver than Bateman but also has great speed. Due to his size and speed, Atwell will excel with bubble screens and jet sweeps, which many teams are incorporating into their offense.

What makes him so enticing is his big-play potential. Imagine if in the first round the Buccaneers take Travis Etienne and come back in the second round with Atwell. They could have a lineup that would have big play potential on every play. Adding a dynamic player like Atwell could help bring the offense to the next level.

In his 32 college games, he has a total of 139 receptions for 2,303 yards and 20 touchdowns. He will probably be asked to be a special team player to start his NFL career, which he had little work on during his college days. He did have a few punt returns in 2019, if he can improve on his form, he would make a great return man due to his speed.

Fourth Round Running Back

There is something to be said to finding running backs at any point in the draft. In this situation, a good fourth round running back for the Buccaneers is Chuba Hubbard from Oklahoma State. He runs with good tempo and has good instincts when running through traffic. Additionally, he is an effective receiver, maybe not as top of the line like Etienne, but he is a good mismatch for linebackers in coverage.

Hubbard’s 2020 numbers were a bit less impressive than his breakout 2019 season, but were still good. In 2020 he rushed for 635 yards on 133 carries for an average of 4.7 yards per carry; while in 2019 he rushed for 2,094 yards on 328 carries for an average of 6.4 yards per carry.

The ideal role for Hubbard, especially early in his career is as a backup running back in a committee, which is what he would be in Tampa Bay along with Fournette and Jones. Hubbard would have the opportunity to sit and be a change of pace back early on and eventually, in a year or two, he could be their starting running back.

Atlanta Falcons Four Round Mock Draft

Who will the Falcons Pick in The 2021 Nfl Draft?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

The Atlanta Falcons are in a unique position with the fourth pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. They can draft a quarterback as the heir apparent to Matt Ryan, they can trade back to a quarterback needy team and still get an upper echelon player or they can stay at their pick and draft the best available player.

For the sake of this mock draft, trading out of the pick is not being considered, although in reality it might be the best option. The Falcons have a lot of needs and if they don’t take a quarterback this year they will probably need to next year, so why not maximize how many picks they have and fill some holes this year and have extra ammunition to move up (if needed) next year.

After finishing 4 – 12 in 2020, the Falcons have a lot of holes on their roster. Three of the biggest needs are running back, secondary help and edge rusher. In the upcoming four pick of this mock draft, the Falcons take care of two of those needs.

First Round (#4): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Kyle Pitts is arguably the best position player in the draft and Atlanta should be ecstatic to get him with the fourth pick to add to quarterback Matt Ryan and receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Falcons President/CEO Rich McKay was adamant that the team is “all-in” on Ryan as their quarterback and drafting Pitts shows their level of seriousness to that.

Some might scoff at the idea of taking a tight end so high in the draft, but Pitts is built differently. He can line up all over the field making him an offensive weapon in the body of a tight end and thanks to wonderful play over the past few years of players like Travis Kelce, Greg Kittle and Rob Gronkowski, Pitts’ athleticism and abilities are seen over the fact that the letters “TE” proceed his name.

Pitts is a big play threat on every play. He averaged 14.9 yards per catch in 2020 and only had four receptions that were not for a touchdown or first down. Adding him to Jones and Ridley should really open up the field for Matt Ryan to deliver the ball.

Second Round (#35): Javonte Williams, RB, North Carolina

If a pass-catching tight end is a quarterback’s best friend, a good running game is right up there as well. Javonte Williams would be a great running back for the Atlanta Falcons to draft in the beginning of the second round as he can run and catch the ball effectively. In 2020, he rushed for 1,140 yards with 19 touchdowns as well as 305 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

While at North Carolina, Williams shared time in the backfield with Michael Carter. For the Falcons, Williams will have the opportunity to be the lead running back after their top two leading rushers from last year, Todd Gurley and Brian Hill are no longer on the team.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has compared Williams to current Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt due to his abilities in both the running game and passing game. After adding Pitts in the first round, Atlanta can have Jones and Ridley on the outside, Pitts in the slot and Hayden Hurst lined up as an inline tight end and Williams in the backfield. Quite the lineup with plenty of mismatch opportunities that Matt Ryan will need to take advantage of.

With the NFL becoming more of a position-less game, having a running back who can contribute in the passing game goes a long way. Pitts and Williams being added to the offense raises the level of the Falcons a lot. Additionally, with Williams’ ability to run the ball will not only help Ryan’s efficiency, but also it should help the defense, as a good running attack can shorten the game.

Third Round (#68): Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State

Shaun Wade was one of the top cornerbacks in college in 2019 and when he originally opted out of the 2020 season he was projected as a first round draft pick. Then he opted back in and did not play as well as he did the previous season.

It is important to point out, that there was a big change for Wade in 2020; he played outside cornerback, not just in the slot like he did in 2019. Wade has the size and strength to play man-to-man as well as the skills to play in zone coverage, however, playing outside proved to be a bit too much for him.

There has been some talk about moving Wade to safety in the pros to maximize on his strengths without him having to worry about being on an island in coverage or needing to be responsible for too much of an open area. If he does move to safety, he would still be able to come down in nickel situations to cover the slot receiver.

Fourth Round (#109): Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse

The Falcons lost two long time starters at the safety position in Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen. Andre Cisco is a ball-hawking safety who excels in zone coverage. He has good instincts but sometimes gets himself in a bad position when trying to make a tackle which means using him as a single high safety does not put him in the best position to succeed.

Cisco played well in 2018 and 2019 but in 2020 he only played in two games due to an injury sustained when he collided with a teammate in pregame warm-ups. In 2018 he had 60 tackles, seven interceptions and nine passes defended, while in 2019 he had 65 tackles, five interceptions and five passes defended. In both seasons, Cisco had a forced fumble.

Much like with Wade, Cisco would have been drafted earlier coming off his 2019 season, but fortunately for the Falcons, they get the opportunity to get both of these very talented secondary players in later rounds.

Top Three Best Rumors Surrounding the Washington Football Team

Three rumors and a prediction for the Washington Football Team

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter @menudo_man)

The Washington Football Team went 7 – 9 in 2020 to win the NFC East. They have made some improvements to their team but more will be needed as other teams in the division have improved as well.

The best thing Washington has going for them is a head coach in Ron Rivera who is stable and gets his players to buy-in. Additionally, they recently hired a new GM, Martin Mayhew, and a new executive vice president of football/player personnel, Marty Hurney, both of whom have years of NFL experience.

They also have a decent amount of draft capital. They have a total of eight picks, including four picks in the first 82, starting with the 19th overall pick in the draft. They have an extra third round pick that they acquired from the San Francisco 49ers in last year’s NFL Draft when they traded away longtime left tackle Trent Williams.

Rumor #1: The Washington Football Team will draft a quarterback

Washington signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal to compete with Taylor Heinicke for the starting quarterback position. Head coach Ron Rivera has said seemingly inconsistent statements regarding the quarterback situation:

  • He’s announced Fitzpatrick as the starter.
  • He has said he’s looking forward to the quarterback competition between Fitzpatrick and Heinicke.
  • He said that drafting a quarterback is not out of the question if the fit is right.

The top quarterbacks in the draft are not expected to make it to the 19th pick. Washington can use as many picks as needed to move up and try to get whoever is left between Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones but the better move for them may be to draft Florida quarterback Kyle Trask.

Trask had an excellent Pro Day and showed his ability to throw deep and move around a bit. Many scouts were impressed by what they saw. The best part of drafting Trask is they don’t need to use a high pick to get him. Trask should be available in the second or maybe even the third round. Washington can draft him and still get a difference maker like one of the cornerbacks or offensive linemen at #19.

2020 was a breakout season for Trask as he threw for 4,283 yards with 43 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. If Washington drafts Trask they could let him sit behind Fitzpatrick and Heinicke to learn and eventually he can be the starter. Fitzpatrick has a history of playing well for a few weeks only to be replaced by a young quarterback.

Washington has some very good weapons on offense in running backs Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic, wide receivers Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries as well as tight end Logan Thomas. All they really need to do is buttress the offensive line and Trask would be in a great situation to succeed.

Rumor #2: The Washington Football Team will trade for tackle Orlando Brown Jr.

Baltimore Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has requested a trade so he can play left tackle. In 2020 he played left tackle due to an injury to Ronnie Stanley, but with Stanley expected to be back, Brown wants to continue playing left tackle which will not happen in Baltimore. Brown played well in Stanley’s absence and could be the answer to Washington’s left tackle issue.

Washington can trade a few mid-round picks (this year and next) to acquire Brown, including the 74th pick in the draft, the one Washington got from San Francisco for Trent Williams.

Washington can totally change their offensive line by adding Brown to guard Brandon Scherff and drafting an offensive lineman at #19. They could go with Alijah Vera-Tucker the guard/tackle from USC or Christian Darrisaw the tackle from Virginia Tech and have a totally revamped offensive line.

Rumor #3: The Washington Football Team will sign another cornerback

Washington has already signed Williams Jackson III from the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this off-season but they are not done yet. There is still a good amount of cornerbacks available to be signed including but not limited to Richard Sherman, Malcolm Butler, Brian Poole and Xavier Woods.

By adding to the back end of the defense, Washington’s defensive line will be even better, which is hard to imagine considering that each year from 2017 – 2020 they drafted a defensive lineman in the first round, most recently, Chase Young as the second overall pick in 2020.

Additionally, a team can never have too many defensive backs. Guys get hurt and someone needs to step in. It would be a lot better for Washington if an injured cornerback is replaced with a player of Richard Sherman’s caliber as opposed to some back up whose primary role is on special teams.

Bonus Rumor:

This is technically a prediction, not a rumor, but I felt it was in the same vein as some of the rumors above and therefore I’m adding it.

The three rumors mentioned above are all things that would occur before the season starts. However, this one is for something that will not occur until next off-season, hence, the phrase “bonus rumor.”

This prediction is that both offensive coordinator Scott Turner and defensive line coach Sam Mills III will get head-coaching interviews next off-season and at least one of them will be a head coach in 2022. Turner is the son of long-time NFL coach Norv Turner and is considered a young rising offensive mind. As for Mills, with the greatness of the defensive line in Washington, many people in the league are taking a long look at Mills’ qualities and abilities to be an NFL head coach.

Both Turner and Mills have been assistants to Rivera for a long time. They have learned from some of the best in their careers and should be ready to take the next step in their careers. Some teams might want to wait on Mills until he has some coordinator experience but do not be surprised when a team hires him even without ever being a defensive coordinator.

The Best Five Draft Targets for the Minnesota Vikings

Who should the Minnesota Vikings draft with the 14th pick?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

The Minnesota Vikings hold the 14th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are multiple positions and players they can target in this draft as both their offense and defense took a step back in 2020 from 2019. The Vikings did deal with some key injuries but still had opportunities to be better in 2020.

The one major bright spot last season was rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson was picked with the 22nd pick, which the Vikings acquired from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Jefferson caught 88 passes for 1400 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Vikings have already been busy this off-season revamping the defense. They have added defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerback Patrick Peterson to the team. While both are expected to make huge contributions in 2021, the Vikings still need more help on defense and the draft is a perfect place to get that help.

This is an important year for head coach Mike Zimmer. He cannot afford to go 7 – 9 again (or worse) like he did in 2020. If the Vikings do not make the playoffs Zimmer will probably be fired, so the Vikings need to add players who can be major contributors right away.

Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan 

The Vikings had the fifth fewest sacks in the NFL in 2020 with 23. They tried to improve the pass-rush last season by trading for Yannick Ngakoue, but that didn’t last long as he was traded from the Vikings to to Baltimore Ravens at the end of October. Adding Kwity Paye will add a young impact player with a lot of upside.

While Paye has only had 8.5 sacks in his previous 16 games, putting him on the other side of Danielle Hunter will help both of them get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Additionally, with Dalvin Tomlinson on the inside, the defensive line would be much improved.

At Michigan, Paye was moved around to try to utilize his athleticism. At the NFL level, especially early in his career, it will behoove whoever drafts him to keep him in one spot so he can learn proper technique. It will also help him as he is not very experienced, having started only 19 games in his college career. 

Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

Gregory Rousseau is one of many players who opted out of the 2020 season. In 2019 he had a breakout season with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. While he only put up these huge numbers in one season he has the athleticism and instincts to do this year after year.

Much like if the Vikings draft Paye, Rousseau will give them a young player with a lot of upside. For both Paye and Rousseau, having co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Andre Patterson there to teach them much like he did with Danielle Hunter when he came out of LSU in 2015 is a big advantage over other teams that could draft them.

DeVonta Smith, Wide Receiver, Alabama

Selecting DeVonta Smith might seem like a luxury pick as opposed to picking for need, however, if Smith is there it would be difficult to pass up the opportunity. Smith had a great season in 2020 at Alabama, garnering the Heisman Trophy.

If the Vikings do draft him, he will start off as the third receiver behind Jefferson and Adam Thielen and he will eventually replace the 31-year old Thielen. Thielen had a good 2020 season, catching 70 passes for 925 yards and 14 touchdowns, which was the most touchdowns by a Vikings receiver since Randy Moss had 17 in 2000, but he is still getting older at a position where rookies are making big contributions on a yearly basis.

Devonta Smith had the opportunity in 2020 to step up at Alabama thanks to Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs joining the NFL and Jaylen Waddle dealing with an injury. Smith showed himself to be a true number one receiver with big-play speed and excellent route-running abilities. The one knock against Smith is his size but that didn’t affect him in college.

Alijah Vera-Tucker, Guard/Tackle, USC

The Minnesota Vikings are looking for a new tackle after the loss of Riley Reiff who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Due to Vera-Tucker’s ability to play both guard and tackle, he makes sense for the Vikings.

In last year’s draft the Vikings added Ezra Cleveland, who played tackle in college but was moved to guard with the Vikings. If the Vikings add Vera-Tucker this year, they have the flexibility to decide who they would rather have at guard and rather have at tackle.

Vera-Tucker’s strength and balance is on display in pass protection. Additionally, he has excellent awareness and when he does get beat, he recovers quickly. As a run blocker he takes excellent angles on defenders and is often in a good spot.

He was a three-year starter for USC with very good technique. He gets to the second level quickly and still has room to grow athletically. He has drawn comparisons to current Kansas City Chiefs lineman Kelechi Osemele, who has been a good player since being drafted in 2012 by the Baltimore Ravens.

Christian Darrisaw, Tackle, Virginia Tech

Christian Darrisaw has been starting for the Hokies since 2018. He is a dynamic blocker and because he is fast to get to the second level, he would fit with the Vikings’ wide zone run scheme. His athleticism and playing experience give him the edge over other offensive line prospects.

If the Vikings want to keep Ezra Cleveland at guard, taking Darrisaw would give them the perfect opportunity to plug him into the lineup to replace Riley Reiff. Darrisaw’s awareness and upper-body strength are just two of the many qualities that will make him a day one starter.

The Best Five Draft Targets for the New York Giants

Who should the New York Giants draft with the 11th pick?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

The New York Giants have the 11th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are so many options for them; it is somewhat hard to narrow it down to just five players. The key for the Giants will be to draft the best player on their board as they should get a very good player.

The Giants need for as many quarterbacks as possible to go in the top 10 picks. With Jacksonville, the Jets, Atlanta, Carolina and Denver as teams that could go for quarterback, plus teams like San Francisco (#12) and New England (#15) as teams that could trade into the top 10, there are plenty of opportunities for the Giants to get some blue-chip prospects fall into their laps.

With some of their additions in free agency, like cornerback Adoree Jackson, wide receivers Kenny Golladay and John Ross or linebackers Ifeadi Odenigbo and Reggie Ragland, most people would assume that players at these positions wouldn’t get drafted. While of course it is possible it doesn’t automatically preclude them from doing so.

Additionally, there is an inevitability that players get injured. Last season the Giants had to play without superstar running back Saquon Barkley, if one of their wide receivers or linebackers were to get hurt, having a superstar rookie to step in would be very beneficial.

Of course, we cannot discuss the Giants without bringing up their young quarterback Daniel Jones. Jones is entering his ever important third season in the NFL and giving him as many weapons as possible as well as giving him a good defense will go a long way in helping his growth.

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

The more quarterbacks go in the top 10, the better of a chance that Kyle Pitts can fall to the Giants at #11. Pitts lined up all over the field for Florida in 2020 and was the top target for quarterback Kyle Trask. He also made every catch count as he averaged 14.9 yards per reception and only had four catches that were not for a touchdown or a first down.

The Giants already have tight ends Evan Engram and newly signed Kyle Rudolph, however, Pitts has a different skill set and has the potential to be a top five tight end in the NFL. If the opportunity to draft Pitts arrives, the Giants should pounce on him.

Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

In some ways, if the Giants draft Jaylen Waddle it would be a luxury pick instead of picking a player of need. However, when you have the opportunity to draft a player of Waddle’s ability, you do not let it pass.

In terms of what Waddle brings to the NFL, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said, “Overall, Waddle isn’t quite as strong as Tyreek Hill, but he’s capable of having the same impact in the NFL.” When I hear that, I do not care that the Giants just signed Kenny Golladay and John Ross to go along with Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton, I would draft Waddle.

While not a reason to draft him with the 11th pick in the draft, but Waddle would also help in the return game. In his career at Alabama, he had 38 punt returns for 733 yards and two touchdowns and nine kickoff returns for 214 yards and one touchdown. Adding a dynamic return man can help put the Giants offense in advantageous positions.

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

Caleb Farley has the opportunity to be a number one cornerback in the NFL which explains why he opted out of the 2020 season. He has good size, speed and athleticism which are coveted by many across the NFL.

The Giants just signed cornerback Adoree Jackson adding him to a defensive backfield that includes cornerbacks James Bradberry and Julian Love as well as safeties Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney. Much like with the possibility of drafting Waddle, drafting Farley after signing Jackson is less likely but not impossible.

Farley is an aggressive corner who is excellent in coverage and is willing to come up and tackle in the run game. In 2019 he gave up a passer rating of 26.8 to opposing quarterbacks and never allowed a touchdown of 25 yards or more.

One thing that could affect Farley’s draft status is the recent news that he needs to have a procedure on his back. According to Drew Rosenhuas, his agent, Farley should be cleared to be a full participant for the start of training camp.

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

With all the moves the Giants have made in free agency, the one position that still has some glaring holes is the offensive line. Last year, with the fourth pick, the Giants drafted tackle Andrew Thomas and there’s a good chance they can dip into the offensive line again this year.

Rashawn Slater is a bit undersized and while he is listed as a tackle, he could be moved inside to guard. Either as a tackle or guard, Slater would be an upgrade on the line for the Giants.

In 2019, Slater played left tackle for Northwestern and did not give up a sack. He opted out of the 2020 season and is in a prime position to be drafted high. Slater has many strengths; including but not limited to:

  • He has quick feet
  • An excellent blocker, especially when he makes it to the second level
  • He has displayed exceptional agility
  • He has upside athletically
  • He is experienced

In terms of his weaknesses, they all stem from the fact that he is undersized and there is little he can do about that.

Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

Gregory Rousseau is another player who opted out of the 2020 season. In 2019 he had a breakout season with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. While he only put up these huge numbers in one season he has the athleticism and instincts to do this year after year.

When the Giants won their two Super Bowls in the 2000’s they were spearheaded by a pass rush that was difficult to deal with. If the Giants add Rousseau to Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams and B.J. Hill, many fans will have memories of Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora from Super Bowl XLII as well as Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul from Super Bowl XLVI.

Additionally, because Rousseau is still raw, having players like Lawrence and Williams ahead of him can give him time to develop while also giving him some playing time and letting loose on opposing quarterbacks. Finally, he has the versatility to play in either a 3 – 4 or 4 – 3 defense.     

The Best Five Draft Targets for the Atlanta Falcons

Who will the Falcons pick in the 2020 Draft?

By: Menachem Ickovitz (Twitter: @menudo_man)

Everyone is excited about the upcoming NFL Draft and when looking at the draft order, in many ways the draft starts at pick #4 with the Atlanta Falcons. The top two picks of Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson can almost be stamped in for the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets.

As for the Miami Dolphins and the third pick, many mock drafts have them taking wide receiver Jamarr Chase from LSU. The few that don’t have them taking Chase, have them trading back with a quarterback-needy team.

Then comes the Atlanta Falcons with the fourth pick. There are multiple opportunities for them and depending on their thought process will depend on who they draft. GM Rich McKay has been adamant that they are in “win now” mode, but some opportunities are a shame to waste.

One way to think is, they hope to not be drafting this high again. While quarterback Matt Ryan is back and the Falcons are going all-in with him, how many years does he have left? Wouldn’t it be smart to draft his successor when you’re in a good position to do that?

The next thought would be, Matt Ryan is back and we need to make sure the team is better. The offense was good enough last season but the defense needs help. So with the fourth pick in the draft, go for a defensive stud.

The final thought would be, let’s get Matt Ryan more weapons for the offense. There are few blue chip offensive players that could step in day one and make a huge impact.

One last point, if the decide not to take a quarterback, their pick becomes very valuable for a quarterback-needy team. The Falcons might have a great opportunity to move back from the fourth pick to the eighth pick (Carolina’s) or the ninth pick (Denver’s) and would still be able to get a game changing player.

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

Trey Lance has the skill set and decision-making to be a top-level quarterback. He also needs time to develop. If the Falcons draft Lance, they are saying that they are preparing for the future but Matt Ryan is still their guy for the immediate future.

Lance only played 18 games in his college career, which would have some teams wary of drafting him. However, for the Falcons, this may be a perfect situation. With Matt Ryan returning, Lance can sit and learn the offense and get a large percentage of the preseason snaps so he can acclimate himself to the NFL.

Additionally, the level of talent that Lance went up against in college may not be up to par with the defenses that Trevor Lawrence of Justin Fields went up against, but the talent around him was also less, so being able to play as well as he did in college should be looked as a big plus in his favor.

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Justin Fields is going to give whatever team drafts him a smart and talented quarterback, so why not have it be his hometown Atlanta Falcons. Fields flourished once he joined the Ohio State Buckeyes for the 2019 and 2020 seasons throwing for 5,373 yards with 63 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

There are two reasons why Fields would be the choice here. One is if the Falcons are impressed with Fields’ body of work and feel he would be a good fit for head coach Arthur Smith’s new offense. The other is that they really want a quarterback and the top three picks were Lawrence, Wilson and Lance.

Besides for his ability to throw the ball, Fields can run it as well. During his two years at Ohio State he averaged four yards per attempt and scored 15 touchdowns. The latter fact made him a threat to score every time the Buckeyes were in the red-zone and forced the defenses to account for him.

If either of the quarterbacks are drafted, they will have some excellent young coaches to help them excel, including head coach Arthur Smith, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone, quarterbacks coach Charles London as well as passing game specialist, T.J. Yates.

Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Micah Parsons is an athletic linebacker who will give new defensive coordinator Dean Pees a playmaker. Parsons would slide in as an edge rusher to give the Falcons what they didn’t get from Dante Fowler or Takk McKinley in 2020.

Unlike the quarterbacks, by picking Parsons, the Falcons are adding a player that they’d be expecting an immediate impact from. Currently, the Falcons only have three linebackers on their roster.

Parsons opted out of the 2020 season. In 2019, as a sophomore, Parsons played great. He had 109 tackles and five sacks on the season making major impacts in many games, most notably, against the best teams from the Big Ten, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

The NFL is becoming a position-less league where play-making ability and speed are becoming the boxes one needs to check. Kyle Pitts is a perfect example of this.

While he is listed as a tight end, during his time at Florida he lined up all over the field, inline, flexed in the slot and split out like a wide receiver. His 14.9 yards per catch make him a big play threat on every play.

In what amounted to a shorter college football season because of Covid-19, it is expected to see statistics for 2020 to be a bit lower than statistics from 2019. That was not the case for Pitts as in 2020 he had more yards, touchdowns and a higher yards per catch.

Also, as he is listed as a tight end, he did improve on his blocking in 2020. While he still has room to improve, he has already shown a big step in the right direction.

Jamarr Chase, WR, LSU

If Miami does trade away the third pick to a team who is drafting a quarterback, Jamarr Chase becomes an option. Chase opted out of the 2020 season and is still considered one of the best players coming out this year.

In 2019, Chase had 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns which led to winning the Biletnikoff Award, which is given to the top wide receiver in college football. He played alongside Justin Jefferson, who had a breakout season for the Minnesota Vikings in 2020. As good as Jefferson is, Chase is better.

 If the Falcons draft Chase, he will join an excellent group of receivers highlighted by Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley.

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