Each Divisional Favorite in the NFL

By: Ladarius Brown

Which teams are the favorites to win their respective divisions? Glad you asked because I will go division by division and give my favorites. Using the compass, we will start north with the AFC North.  

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens  

This division is about two teams (Ravens & Browns) with an outside chance for the Steelers. There’s always next year, the year after that for you Bengals fans. The Ravens get the edge because it’s the one team that I have the most confidence in. Head coach John Harbaugh has three consecutive double-digit winning seasons. (Steelers & Browns each have one). Their run game and that defense are still formidable.  

To be clear, you cannot ignore the Browns after their 1st winning season since 2007 and winning their 1st playoff game since 1994. The question mark here is can they duplicate, or even improve, from last year? They shored up some gaps in their secondary via both free agency and the draft. If Baker Mayfield can keep up his steady improvement, this division will be fun to watch.  

For the Steelers, it certainly looked as though Big Ben’s best days were behind him. Is the defense good enough after losing DE Bud Dupree to the Titans? As for the Bengals, Joe Burrow was a ROTY frontrunner before being injured and they drafted his LSU teammate, WR Ja’Marr Chase, as his new target. Overall, this division will come down to QB play and which defense is the best.   

AFC East: Buffalo Bills  

Josh Allen is a top 5 QB in this league. He was a huge part of their success last season, winning the AFC East for the 1st time since 1995. They return all five of their starting offensive line and if they are a strong tenacious unit this year, this is a Super Bowl contender. There is not a lot of gaps on this roster.   

The Miami Dolphins and their franchise is hinging on what QB Tua Tagovailoa can do in year two. Despite going 6-3 in his nine starts, there was still clamor that they should have pursued a starting QB. However, I have faith in Tua because of his accuracy (64.1%) and the ability to win down the stretch (two 4th quarter comebacks). Adding WR Will Fuller in free agency and drafting WR Jaylen Waddle along with WR DeVante Parker gives Tua a nice WR core to throw to. Plus, head coach Brian Flores and his defense drafted LB Jaelan Phillips out of Miami (FL) to replace LB Kyle Van Noy, who signed with the Patriots. They will be in the mix.  

Speaking of the Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick opened up the checkbook, especially on the tight end position. Hunter Henry got a three-year, $37.5 million deal, including $25 million guaranteed, and Jonnu Smith a four-year, $50 million deal with $31.25 million guaranteed. They also signed WRs Nelson Agholor & Kendrick Bourne, LBs Kyle Van Noy and Matthew Judon, and C Ted Karras. It is abundantly clear the Patriots are not rebuilding, given the Belichick is 69 years old. Even though they re-signed QB Cam Newton, they drafted Mac Jones of Alabama. Jones will play this season but when is uncertain.   

The Jets cleaned house by firing Adam Gase and hiring former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as their head coach. They drafted a franchise QB in Zach Wilson of BYU and OT Alijah Vera-Tucker to protect his blindside. They also went out and signed WR Corey Davis from the Titans, DE Carl Lawson from the Bengals, and S Lamarcus Joyner from the Raiders. The Jets are far from a contender but I love their upside because I like Zach Wilson and what he can do in this offense ran by OC Mike LaFleur.   

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts  

I am confident that this is a two-team for the division. The Colts went out and traded for QB Carson Wentz. They did not make a huge splash in free agency, but they did sign CB Xavier Rhodes from the Vikings to help in the secondary. If Wentz can stay healthy, the Colts. could sneak into the AFC Championship game. By the way, the Matt Eberflus-led defense with DT DeForest Buckner and LB Darius Leonard was great last year.  

Here is what I know about the Titans: Derrick Henry is a beast and traded for a future HOF WR in Julio Jones. I know the offense is great but can we talk about the defense for a second? They signed DE Bud Dupree and drafted CB Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech but is it enough to improve their defense? They were 28th in the NFL in total defense. Having an explosive offense is cool but can you stop anybody?   

The Jaguars have their QB of the future in Trevor Lawrence and 1st-year head coach Urban Meyer is looking to get the Jags back on track. As for the Texans, I feel bad for only two people: the diehard Texans fan and head coach David Culley. 0-17 is not out of the realm of possibility here.  

AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs  

Everyone feels this division is a lock because of the Chiefs’ success over the last three years (2 Super Bowl appearances and 3 AFC Championship game appearances). Also, having the QB Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid helps too. However, they might have some competition because the Chiefs can play down to their opponents. Nonetheless, they vastly improved their offensive line by signing Joe Thuney and Kyle Long, which was their Achilles heel last year. They are the favorite but do not sleep on the Chargers.  

The Chargers were plagued with injuries and losing close games, which cost Anthony Lynn his job. Hiring former Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their new head coach gives me a sense that they make a move in this division. Starting with their offense, QB Justin Herbert played outstanding, garnering the ROTY award. Throw in WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams along with signing C Corey Linsley from the Packers solidifies their offensive line. RB Austin Ekler could have a breakout year also. The Rams had the No. 1 defense in the league under Staley last season. He inherits DE Joey Bosa, S Derwin James, and drafted CB Asante Samuel Jr.   

The Denver Broncos passed on QB Justin Fields in the NFL Draft for CB Patrick Surtain II of Alabama. They traded for QB Teddy Bridgewater, making it a QB competition between him and QB Drew Lock. They signed CB Kyle Fuller from the Bears to play on the other side of Surtain II. The question is this: Do the Broncos have a Lock or a Bridge at QB?   

As for the Raiders, their turnover differential was –11, which was 30th in the league. Derek Carr is not the problem because this was a top 10 offense last season (8th) with a defense ranked 25th. I will contend that the head coach Jon Gruden is a great offensive mind but my concern will always be the defense with this team.   

NFC North: Minnesota Vikings  

My favorite here is based on one player: Aaron Rodgers. I believe that he might not play a down for them again. With Jordan Love under center for the Packers, they will not win this division. Rodgers moves the needle for me. Plus, they lost their C Corey Linsley to the Chargers and made no other free agency signings but did re-sign RB Aaron Jones and CB Kevin King. However, if no. 12 is not there, this team is going nowhere.  

Shifting to the Vikings, their drafts over the last two years have great, yielding WR Justin Jefferson, CB Jeff Gladney, OT Ezra Cleveland, and CB Cameron Dantzler in 2020. This year, they drafted OT Christian Darrisaw, QB Kellen Mond, and OT Wyatt Davis. Throw in that they still have RB Dalvin Cook in the backfield and a still productive QB in Kirk Cousins (still overpaid though). Plus, they still have Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, and Eric Kendricks on defense.   

The Bears finally got their franchise QB in Justin Fields. Their defense is still good but not elite, especially after losing CB Kyle Fuller in free agency to the Broncos. They have a good chance to improve if the Packers don’t get Rodgers back. As for the Lions, QB Jared Goff needed a change of scenery and the Lions needed to restart their franchise after trading QB Matthew Stafford. The Lions have RB D’Andre Swift and TE T.J. Hockenson on offense and their defense has promise with CB Jeff Okudah, DE Trey Flowers, and DT Michael Brockers.  

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys  

On paper, the Dallas Cowboys have a talented roster. With a now healthy Dak Prescott as the signal-caller, they have the best QB in the division. The biggest issue I have is if the defense, now under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, will improve. Last season, the defensive scheme of Mike Nolan was pretty bad and it showed. Plus, the injury bug hit them hard. If this defense takes some major strides, this division is theirs to lose.  

The Washington Football Team (WFT) won this division with a 7-9 record in 2020. This offseason, they signed WR Curtis Samuel from the Panthers, CB William Jackson of the Bengals, and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins. This was the second-best defense in the league last year with defensive ROTY Chase Young leading the way. Offensively, the only concern is the offensive line. They were tied for 2nd, allowing 50 sacks. Can FitzMagic stay upright to get this offense going?  

The Giants were all about building around their QB Daniel Jones, signing WR Kenny Golladay, WR John Ross III, and TE Kyle Rudolph in free agency. For GM Dave Gettleman, his job is tied to Danny Dimes. He drafted WR Kadarius Toney of Florida as well. With a healthy Saquon Barkley, this offense has to improve or it could over for Gettleman. As for the Eagles, it’s life after Carson Wentz with the Jalen Hurts era set to commence. New head coach Nick Sirianni has his cut for him as a rookie head coach trying to navigate a roster with talent but needs improvement big time.   

NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers   

When you re-sign every starter in the offseason and you won the Super Bowl, you are the favorite. If key players remain healthy, the Bucs could be in Los Angeles playing for another Super Bowl.   

The Saints lost QB Drew Brees to retirement and players like DE Trey Hendrickson, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Alex Anzalone, and DT Sheldon Rankins to free agency. However, they still DEs Cam Jordan & Marcus Davenport, CB Marshon Lattimore, and WR Michael Thomas. To me, if Taysom Hill is the starting QB, I do have reservations because he has been a gadget player ever since he’s been in the league. He was a QB at BYU but maybe with a full offseason as a QB, he could adjust.   

The Falcons hired Titans OC Arthur Smith to be the head coach after firing Dan Quinn five games into last season. They traded away one of the best players to ever don a Falcons uniform, Julio Jones. They still have QB Matt Ryan, WR Calvin Ridley, and drafting TE Kyle Pitts of Florida, they are in a transition phase. On top of Pitts, GM Terry Fontenot has a great draft and is building for the future. This defense has to be better and new defensive coordinator Dean Pees has to maximize this talent to show gradual improvement.   

The Panthers, like the Broncos, passed on QB Justin Fields for a CB. This time, it was Jaycee Horn of South Carolina. It does help their secondary and they traded for QB Sam Darnold. It was clear that head coach Matt Rhule wanted to move on from Teddy Bridgewater and did so. The biggest question coming out of Carolina is if Darnold is the guy. If so, Carolina will pay him. If not, they look to the 2022 draft for their guy.   

NFC West: Arizona Cardinals  

I am high on the Cardinals. Every team in this division can win this division. I went out on a limb with the Cardinals is because they went out and got better on defense, signing DE J.J. Watt and CB Malcolm Butler. Last year, the Cardinals’ defense was 4th in sacks and a top-15 defense. Plus, signing WR A.J. Green to pair with DeAndre Hopkins gives QB Kyler Murray weapons at the skill position. The x-factor is head coach Kliff Kingsbury. If he can elevate this offense, this team could be dangerous come playoff time.   

The Rams upgraded at QB by trading for Matthew Stafford of the Lions. It seems GM Les Snead does not believe in the draft whatsoever, giving up a lot to get him. Their defense lost S John Johnson to the Browns but they still CB Jalen Ramsey and DT Aaron Donald. The concern is if new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris can keep this defense elite to compete for a Super Bowl.   

I am a huge Russell Wilson fan but the Seahawks have been leaning on him for some time now. That offensive line allowed 48 sacks, which was tied for 3rd in 2020. Defensively, head coach Pete Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. need to shore up that secondary. They allowed 285 passing yards/game (2nd worse in the league last year). If they want any chance to win this division, this defense has to be better.  

Many people like the 49ers to win this division and I get it. Their defense is great and healthier and TE George Kittle is healthy. The biggest question mark I have is under center. Jimmy Garoppolo is not the answer and I feel Trey Lance is not the answer. I love their front office in GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. However, losing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh concerns me and uncertainty under center.   

Why the Saints Made Fantastic FA and Draft Moves with Little Cap

The Saints had a sneaky good offseason

By: Ladarius Brown

As in every offseason, teams position themselves to be successful while keeping the salary cap in mind. The New Orleans Saints, who have historically been legitimate title contenders for the past decade, had an intriguing offseason that began with them losing some major players:  

  • QB Drew Brees (retirement)  
  • WR Emmanuel Sanders (signed with the Bills)  
  • EDGE Trey Hendrickson (signed with the Bengals)  
  • DT Sheldon Rankins (signed with the Jets)  
  • DT Malcolm Brown (signed with the Jaguars)  
  • LB Alex Anzalone (signed with the Lions)  

A major reason for these departures is the salary cap purgatory the Saints are in. Even still. GM Mickey Loomis and the Saints have the 5th highest dead cap space ($22.8 million). Overall, they have nearly $62,000 in cap space, which is the last in the league and nearly the annual salary of a high school teacher. Despite their cap situation, there are a few FA signings I liked and good draft moves.   

FA Signings  

Signing DE Tanoh Kpassagnon from the Chiefs was a signing that could have great upside if Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen can maximize his talents. Nielsen has been one of the best in the league over the last four years doing as such. The 6-foot-7, 289-pounder Kpassagnon is a former second-round draft pick who has started 23 games over the previous two years and has the adaptability to slip inside on downs using the pass-rush.   

He will possibly serve as a rotational backup behind starting DE’s Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. However, the Saints have a great affinity to move bodies on the defensive line, needing more valued depth after losing DTs Malcolm Brown and Sheldon Rankins. Kpassagnon is still just 26 years old and has plenty of experience under his belt, logging more than 60 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps last year.  

Another great signing is that of TE Nick Vannett. This takes care of one of the Saints’ more immediate needs after they moved on from their top two tight ends from last season: Jared Cook (signed with the Chargers) and Josh Hill (signed by the Lions). The Saints should be thrilled about the upside of their second-year TE, Adam Trautman out of Dayton, as both a pass-catcher and a blocker. Yet, they needed some veteran depth, and Vannett fills that role.   

The 6’6”, 261 pounds, Vannett has served primarily as a blocking tight end during his five-year career with the Seahawks, Steelers, and Broncos. Nonetheless, the former third-round draft pick out of Ohio State also has 75 catches for 686 yards and five TDs in his career.  

Draft Picks  

I will be honest here in saying that I did not see DE Payton Turner of Houston going in the first round but I understand why the Saints took him 28th overall in this year’s draft. At 6’6”, 270 pounds, Turner has potential that can be unlocked by the Saints defensive coaching staff. He possesses and formidable reaction time and athleticism along with how he creates and bursts into contact. Thinking about Turner playing alongside with All-Pro Cameron Jordan ought to excite Saints’ fans. Plus, if he can be as successful as another Payton, HC Sean Payton, Turner will work out great.   

They stayed on the defensive side of the ball in round two, drafting linebacker Pete Werner from Ohio State 60th overall. Werner was a two-time All-Big Ten Conference honoree including third-team honors in 2020. At 6’ 2”, 242 pounds, he played in 47 games as a Buckeye, started 35 times, and entered his senior season in 2020 with a stat line of 131 total tackles, 13.5 tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries.   

Werner has lined up in the box, as an overhang player and a middle safety. Being a hybrid who plays in and out of the box is ideal in the NFL. He projects as a weakside LB in the 4-3 defense.   

One pick that I like that might shock some folks is their fourth-round pick out of Notre Dame: QB Ian Book. I understand they re-signed Jameis Winston (one-year deal worth up to $12 million) and Taysom Hill (four-year deal worth $140 million) but Book could be a steal here. HC Sean Payton “was drawn to his athleticism, accuracy, big-game experience, and track record of winning.” There is a handful of coaches who knows the QB position and Payton is high on that list.   

The Saints’ offseason was investing in the upside of players and seeking out veteran talent in FA. In the NFL, they went after players who either start day one or become starters within the next year or two. GM Mickey Loomis did his best Houdini impression, pulling some rabbits out of that gold & black hat.   

3 surprise teams that could get the no. 1 seed

The Cardinals could get the first seed in the NFC

By: Ladarius Brown

Every season brings about a sense of opportunity for all 32 NFL teams to win the Lombardi Trophy (even you Texans & Lions fans). In reality, there are a handful of teams that are deemed to be top contenders. However, some could make some noise come playoff time. Here, three teams make some noise and can sneak up and get that No.1 seed.  

  1. Arizona Cardinals  

Looking at the NFC West this offseason, there was a lot of talk surrounding QBs this offseason such as Matthew Stafford in, Jared Goff out in L.A., or Russell Wilson being a Seahawk. Through it all, the Cardinals signed former Bengals 7x Pro Bowler WR A.J. Green and 5x All-Pro DE J.J. Watt. Green adds veteran experience to a solid WR core, which includes 3x All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and their 2nd round pick out of Purdue Rondale Moore.   

Speaking of QBs, I believe that Kyler Murray, the No. 1 overall pick in 2019, is due for a breakout season. He has improved from year one to year two in passing yards (3,722 in 2019 to 3,971 last season) & completion % (64.4 in 2019 to 67.2 last season). While assessing his stats, something else stood out to me. Murray took way fewer sacks (only 27 compared to 48 in 2019). Throw in that they traded for Pro Bowl C Rodney Hudson to anchor the offensive line, Murray may be untouchable.   

Defensively, J.J. Watt gives them an even more stout defensive line. As a unit, the Cardinals’ defense had the 4th most sacks with 48. They also signed CB Malcolm Butler and LB Markus Golden to add with LB Chandler Jones, S Budda Baker, and CB Robert Alford. DC Vance Joseph has talent galore on this side of the ball. By the way, they added K Matt Prater, who made 84% of his kicks in his seven-year career at Detroit. Kickers are important…right Bears fans? They are a playoff team to me but can easily be a Super Bowl contender.  

  1. Los Angeles Chargers  

Staying on the West Coast, the Chargers’ 7-9 record could have been much better. They lost ten one-possession games and cost Anthony Lynn his job. Another factor was that many of their key players, especially on defense, were out for extended periods: S Derwin James, DE Joey Bosa, and CB Chris Harris, Jr. In January, the Bolts hired Rams’ DC Brandon Staley to replace Lynn. Last season, the Rams were the No. 1 defense in the entire league under Staley.   

In L.A., Staley inherits a defense that allowed the 10th fewest yards in the league and the reigning ROTY in QB Justin Herbert. Herbert had over 4,300 passing yards, threw 31 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and had three game-winning drives. Like the Cardinals, they added stud C on the offensive line in Corey Linsley, once a member of the Green Bay Packers. His hands and mobility will be a great asset to the offensive line. They drafted T Rashawn Slater with their 1st round pick in this year’s draft and will likely be protecting Herbert’s left side.   

They play in the same division as Patrick (not Pat) Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. I contend that if the Chargers could have closed games, they would have been in contention for the AFC West crown and Lynn would still be employed. Joey Bosa had 7.5 sacks last season in 12 games. Imagine what a healthy Joey Bosa can do in 16 games? The Chiefs have played down in some games, which can be to the Chargers’ benefit.  

  1. Minnesota Vikings  

This pick here is heavily contingent upon Aaron Rodgers not playing for the Packers this season, which is likely to me. Looking at the Vikings’ schedule, it looks favorable to Minnesota, with no arduous back-to-backs, comparatively agreeable travel, and no real challenging matchups. GM Rick Spielman has drafted exceptionally well over the last two years and it is manifesting in many of the players.   

Look at their 2020 draft, they drafted WR Justin Jefferson of LSU & CB Jeff Gladney of TCU in the 1st round. Jefferson had 88 receptions, 1,400 yards receiving, and 7 touchdowns while Gladney started 15 games last season and had 63 solo tackles, which was 2nd on the team. This year, they drafted T Christian Darrisaw and will be a projected started. Also, one of the best picks in the entire draft, QB Kellen Mond of Texas A&M. They nabbed their quarterback of the future, learning under Kirk Cousins.  

Adding 3x All-Pro CB Patrick Peterson gives them a veteran in the secondary with S Harrison Smith, who could be DPOY. Head Coach Mike Zimmer, is a great defensive mind. He can coach up that side of the ball with the best of them. The biggest keys are if Cousins can play as he did in 2020: (4,265 passing yards, 35 touchdowns & 13 interceptions, and a 67.6 completion %) and if the defense can get to the QB (28th in the league with 23 sacks). Also, if the 1st and 2nd-year players can maintain how they played (I.e., Jefferson & Gladney) or exceed the expectations, you will Vikings fans exclaiming “Skol” in bars all across Minnesota. They probably do that anyway so… 

Why Harrison Smith is the ultimate dark horse defensive back to win DPOY

Can Harrison Smith be the next DB to win DPOY?

By: Ladarius Brown

Since the NFL draft is over, many analysts are giving their favorites for the various awards such as MVP, ROTY, (Rookie of the Year), and OPTY (Offensive Player of the Year). However, I want to focus on a race that will be interesting in my eyes: the Defensive Player of the Year Award (DPOY). You have your usual list of players such as the L.A. Rams DE Aaron Donald (3x and reigning DPOY), Cleveland Browns DE Myles Garrett (6th in the NFL with 12 sacks), and the Miami Dolphins CB Xavien Howard (led the NFL with 10 interceptions). To me, there is a player that could be a strong contender at the season’s end for the award: Minnesota Vikings All-Pro safety Harrison Smith.

Entering his 10th season in the league, Smith is a very aware and composed game-changer who makes intelligent reads on the football field. He assesses the action adeptly then uses his solid speed and size (6’2”, 214 lbs.), and wingspan to either tackle those holding the ball or intercept passes. Smith owns an amazing all-around package of instruments to play secondary. Last season, he was tied for 2nd in the NFL with five interceptions.

Why do I feel strongly about his chances of winning DPOY? As mentioned earlier, he possesses all of the necessary tools for the safety position. Another one that is he is on the field on nearly every defensive snap. In 2020, he played 1,030 snaps, or 95.9%, of all the Vikings defensive snaps and the 7th most amongst strong safeties.

Overall, the Vikings’ defense was nothing to write home about as they were 27th in the league in total defense. However, Smith was a bright spot as he led the team in interceptions and 5th on the team with 54 tackles. This team is young on defense, which can benefit Smith because of his experience.
Most NFL teams exploit youthful defenses by throwing it more when the secondary is as young as the Vikings. Smith may not necessarily have the same lateral movement as he did a few years ago but his nose for the ball is still there. He had five QB hits (no other secondary had more than one). As this defense continues the youth movement, HC Mike Zimmer and co-defensive coordinators Adam Zimmer & Andre Patterson will be leaning heavily on Smith to make plays in every facet.

If the reports are true and Zimmer switches to a 4-2-5 defense, it fits what Smith can do. In a 4-2-5 defense, the free safety plays centerfield. The strong safety lines up as an “overhang” defender on one side of the box, and the Star (Safety) or Nickelback (not the band..I think) is on the other side.
The star or Nickelback defender, who may or not be Chad Kroeger, is an additional safety: someone who can play in coverage but is, as well, a superb tackler and productive in run defense, and who can also be a successful blitzer. Smith fits the role of that additional defender because of his superb tackling and productivity in run defense. Throw in the fact that he will have more opportunities to blitz and acquire more sacks.

Over the last ten years, defensive lineman has won the award the most. Defensive backs have won the DPOY two times in that span (SS Troy Polamalu – 2010 & CB Stephon Gilmore – 2019). If he continues to play between 95-96 of the defensive snaps as he did last season, he will be a contender to be the 3rd defensive back to win the award in eleven years.

What motivates Brady to keep playing at soon to be 44 years old? In depth look

What does Tom Brady have left to prove?

By: Ladarius Brown

For one reason or another, many of us have been doubted if we can succeed in our respective fields for numerous reasons. Overall, it is about silencing the said doubters or proving to yourself that you can make it. In some cases, it is both since, according to an NCAA study, there are 73,712 college football players. Of those, 16,380 are eligible for the NFL Draft and 254 will be drafted. In all, just 1.6% will make the transition from the NCAA to the NFL. The point: it is one of the toughest professions to enter. One player who knows the journey all too well is Tom Brady.  

Brady was a sixth round (199th overall pick) in the 2000 NFL Draft of the New England Patriots out of Michigan. In that draft, six quarterbacks were taken ahead of him:   

  • Chad Pennington   
  • Giovanni Carmazzi    
  • Chris Redman   
  • Tee Martin  
  • Marc Bulger  
  • Spergon Wynn  

Some of these names may not exactly roll off the tongue yet, for Brady, he still remembers these names, aptly called the Brady 6. Entering his 22nd season, this is what keeps Thomas Edward Patrick Brady motivated. Given his resume, he was a 1st ballot Hall of Famer years ago. However, the mere fact that 30 NFL franchises (excluding the Texans who became a franchise in 2002) passed on him drives him still. Throw in that this was his scouting report: “Poor build, skinny, lacks great physical stature and strength, and gets knocked down easily.”  

The money means next to nothing because he gave up nearly $60 million while with the Patriots in his 20 years there. He has always been team first. In his mind, he needs successful players to be a success himself. Brady feels as though he does not deserve the accolades. The term is called “imposter syndrome.”  

Conceived by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes, they allude to the term as:  

“High-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, [they] are convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”  

In Brady’s mind, he cannot process arguably one of these best resumes not just in NFL history; but all of the sports because he feels that he will be somehow “exposed” as a fraud who does not belong. He continues to play the games to prove that he belongs. It sounds odd but when we think of the most driven of individuals, this is nothing new. His deep disproval has created insane habits.

Those exterior of Brady’s mind sees the continuous work to be the best, demanding it out those around him. We have seen him become a 7x SB Champ, 14x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro, and 3x MVP. For him, it is about the game within the game. Football to him is a reminder that many people did not think he could play it. Every day he wakes up, he was to be better than the next day. We can all sit here and say that he needs to retire because there is nothing more for him to achieve.   

For Brady, he plays to win like all great competitors. Yet, there will always be that one more thing to achieve, something not reflected in trophies or rings. Brady wants to proves in his mind he is better than Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn. As we speak, he still wants to prove every team wrong 21 years later. 

Why Rondale Moore is the biggest draft steal at WR

By: Ladarius Brown

When drafting, some teams position themselves to get the player they coveted. In other cases, some players fall to teams as they slide down the draft, getting great value. Looking back at the 2021 NFL Draft, one such player of value was WR Rondale Moore out of Purdue. Falling to the Arizona Cardinals in the 2nd round, Moore was a major steal. In a draft loaded with great WR talent, he could very well end up being that 1st round value that many (myself included) for the Cardinals.

At 5’9” 180 lbs., Moore is on the short side for the position but what he may lack in height, he makes up for with his speed. With an unofficial 40-time of 4.29, he possesses the big play ability on deep routes. Looking at Moore’s game, he can be a Tyreek Hill-like player on offense for the Cardinals and QB Kyler Murray: speed for days. To me, if there is anything you cannot teach in the NFL, it is speed.

In his freshman year at Purdue in 2018, Moore led the nation in receptions (114), receiving yards (1,258 yards), and a consensus All-American. Plus, he led in broken tackles with 33. In 2019, Moore was limited to just three games with a hamstring injury and played in three of the Boilermakers’ six games in 2020 due to finger and lower body injuries. Since that 2018 season, he had 64 receptions, 657 receiving yards, and 2 TDs combined in 2019 & 2020. It largely explains why he fell to round two.

However, Moore fell to a great team in the Cardinals because of HC Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid-style offense. This is a major reason why Moore could be the biggest steal. This offense relies heavily upon WRs. Moore was a slot receiver and occasionally was spotted in the backfield of the Boilermakers’ offense. He was utilized in the short and middle zones of the field, with the offense using many passing plays created to generate chances for him to get the ball in his hands in open space.

Looking at the Cardinals’ likely depth chart at WR, he is a 2nd option at the slot position but, with a 17-game schedule, Moore has the opportunity to be a No.1 option there as the season progresses. He has all the tools to be a great slot receiver in the NFL: fast, agility, explosiveness, solid hands, and run after the catch. He can take pressure off of their 3x All-Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins and could very well develop into a No. 2 option on the overall depth chart.

I can potentially see him also as a kick return option based on that explosiveness with the ball in his hands. His 5’9” 180 lbs. frame and sub 4.3 speed are a reminder of a player. This player was 5’11, 190 lbs. that was pretty good with the ball in his hands on special teams: Devin Hester. My point is that Moore’s size is not as big as a detriment because of his playmaking capability. If the Cardinals get that 2018 production out of Moore, he will be a major steal and a great player for years to come.

Why the Cleveland Browns have the most talented roster in the league

Where is the weak link on the Browns roster?

By: Ladarius Brown

Before their 11-5 record in 2020, the Browns had just two winning seasons since their reincarnation back into the NFL in 1999. Since 1999 and excluding the 2020 season, they had a .302 winning percentage, the worst win percentage in that stretch.   

Whether it was underwhelming 1st draft picks (Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Courtney Brown) or lack of structure in the front office and sidelines (10 general managers and 12 head coaches since 1999), success had eluded the Browns for over two decades.   

Fast forward to the 2020 season, it was arguably their best season since returning to the league and overall, since 1994, when they also went 11-5 under some coach named Bill Belichick. That 1994 team also lost in the divisional round. This current Browns roster could be the best one in the league. 


The strongest part of this offense lies within the offensive line. It was abundantly clear that the focus of this side of the ball was in the trenches. They drafted LT Jedrick Wills, Jr. out of Alabama in this 1st round in 2020 while signing the Titans’ former RT Jack Conklin in free agency that same year. As for the rest of the line, LG Joel Bitonio was drafted by Cleveland in 2014 in the 2nd round, and C JC Tretter, signed in 2017, and RG Wyatt Teller, who was acquired via trade from the Bills made up the best line in the league.  

Conklin concluded last season as the highest-graded right tackle in the league at 84.3 overall, and the only right tackle in the NFL to allow a pressure rate under 3.0% on 250 or more pass-blocking snaps (2.9%). Moreover, the improvement of RG Wyatt Teller is telling.   

His 92.9 PFF (Pro Football Focus) grade in 2020 also led his position, and it served as a major year-over-year growth from the 56.7 overall grade from PFF in 2019. No guard earned a positive mark on a higher percentage of his run-blocking snaps than Teller did.  

Speaking of running, RB Nick Chubb had 1,494 yards on the ground behind this line, good for 7th in the league. It was the most rushing yards in a single season for the Browns since 1999, eclipsing Jamal Lewis’ total of 1,304 in 2007. In total, the Browns had 2,374 rushing yards, 3rd behind the Ravens and Titans.   

Their WR core is deep behind multiple Pro Bowlers Odell Beckham Jr. & Jarvis Landry. Entering his 6th year in the league, Rashard Higgins had the 2nd most receiving yards in 2020 behind Landry. He was tied for 2nd with four TD receptions. Donovan Peoples-Jones, their 6th round in 2020 out of Michigan, only had 14 receptions but has tremendous upside. Plus, drafting WR Anthony Schwartz in the 3rd round in this year’s draft gives them a potential starter down the road.   

TEs Austin Hooper, David Njoku, and Harrison Bryant are no slouches either. Combined in 2020, they had 886 receiving yards and 9 TDs. Even though most of those stats complied are from Hooper, it does not change how all three can be contributors again this season.  

Lastly, QB Baker Mayfield is a player that showed me last season that he was the guy worthy of the 1st overall pick back in 2018. He cut down on his interceptions (8 in 2020 vs 21 in 2019) and improved his completion % (62.8 vs. 59.4 in 2019). HC Kevin Stefanski wants Baker to be smart with the ball, trust his O-Line, and run game. If he can take another step, this is a complete offense.  


The talent on this defense sells itself but I will resell it to those who do not know. Starting on the defensive line, it begins with their All-Pro DE Myles Garrett. Since arriving in Cleveland in 2017, he has 42.5 sacks, which is 5th in the league. In 2020, he was 6th in the league with 12 sacks. On the other side of the line is former No.1 overall pick, Jadeveon Clowney. If DC Joe Woods and this defensive staff can get that three-year stretch (2016-2018) of his career where he had 24.5 sacks and 57 TFL (tackles for loss), the Browns win big.   

Throw in former Falcons’ 2017 1st round Takkarist McKinley and the Seahawks’ 2017 2nd round pick Malik McDowell, there is great depth here.  

The interior of the line has DT Malik Jackson gives this line nine years of experience and 35 career sacks, and 61 TFL. DTs Jordan Elliott and Andrew Billings give the line youth and tremendous upside capable of being one of the best defensive lines by the end of the 2021 season.  

Their LB core of SAM’s (strong-side LB) Sione Takitaki and Malcolm Smith do not miss a lot of tackles. Middle LBs like Anthony Walker have a chance to shine with more playing time and MLB Mack Wilson can cover the field. The WLBs (weakside LB) of Jacob Phillips and their 2nd round pick, who was a steal in my eyes, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah can be immediate contributors.   

Lastly, their secondary got better via free agency with John Johnson III could be the best signing of the offseason backed up by getting CB Troy Hill a little later in the process. The Browns’ secondary was abhorrent in 2020. Tackling those issues was of great importance. Johnson has earned no less than an 82.9 PFF coverage grade in each of his healthy NFL seasons and will be an impact player at the strong safety position. Hill will likely be a Nickelback player: not a bass player for the band, just a football player.   

Entering the draft, they had the 2nd or 3rd best roster in the league. After the draft, they have the best roster with an amalgamation of youth, experience, and depth all over the place. The Dawg Pound has something to be proud of with this roster.   

Why the Bears Should Bring Alshon Jeffery Back

By: Ladarius Brown

Some teams are looking for depth on their rosters as a means for either competition or needs. To be more precise, the Bears could use some at the WR position. Last season, HC Matt Nagy’s team had the 8th most passing attempts but were 22nd in the league in receiving yards with 3,925. Now that they have drafted their QB of the future in Justin Fields, they need weapons. One potential option is one of their best WRs over the last 20 years: Alshon Jeffrey. Here are a few reasons why GM Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy need to bring him back.  

A Complementary WR for Allen Robinson  

Since joining the team back in 2018 after four years with the Jaguars, Robinson has 3,151 receiving yards. This is slightly over the double the next WR in that same stretch with the team: Anthony Miller with 1,564. As you can see, there is a discrepancy between the No. 1 & 2 WRs on the team.   

At this point in his career, Jeffery can be a No. 3, maybe a No. 2 guy in this league because he was a solid No. WRs for these same Bears. From 2012 to 2016, Jeffery had 4549 receiving yards and 26 TDs with the team. Since then, his production has been reduced by over less than half. With the Eagles, he had 2,237 receiving yards with 20 TDs in four years.   

A combination of Robinson & Jeffrey can be formidable, especially if Jeffrey can reach anywhere near his 1st time in Chicago.  

Bears Depth at WR  

When looking at the WRs projected to make the Bears 53-man roster, it is an interesting mix: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Javon Wims, and Dazz Newsome. The WR core, outside of Robinson, is young. Mooney is entering year two, Miller and Wims are entering year 3, and Newsome is their 6th round pick out of North Carolina. Adding a veteran like Jeffery gives this core much-needed experience.  

Jeffery has nine years of NFL experience under his belt and deserves to hit a decade. As mentioned, he still has enough to compete in the league while being a mentor as well. It gives Nagy a player who he can lean on in this offense and be an on-field coach. Injuries have derailed him but he can still contribute to this team.   

Low Risk, High Reward  

Back in 2017, he signed a 4 yr./$52 million extension with the Eagles. Fast forward to March of this year, he was given a post-June 1st release. If I told you that you can sign a player who averages 14.3 yards per reception and started in 89% of their games, you would be interested. Throw in he is 31 years old is and you sign him to a 1 yr./$8-9 million deal while making over $20 million last year.   

Currently, the Bears are in the red cap space-wise but if they can restructure a few deals of their veteran players like Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and Nick Foles, it would help. Plus, cutting TE Jimmy Graham would give them the space to sign Jeffery.   

If he can play anywhere near those five years in his previous time with the Bears, it is a great signing. However, if you get the Eagles version of Jeffery, no big deal. Overall, he is well worth the risk.   

Could Matt Ryan get back to MVP form with Kyle Pitts?

Is Kyle Pitts the next Tony Gonzalez?

By: Ladarius Brown

Now that the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, franchises now have their players of the future in place. One of those franchises, the Atlanta Falcons, did just at pick No. 4, drafting Kyle Pitts of Florida. As I have mentioned in other pieces, this was the right call for two reasons. First, there is a strong likelihood that All-Pro WR Julio Jones could be traded after June 1st because of his high cap number ($23 million). Second, the Falcons will not pick up TE Hayden Hurst’s fifth-year option, thus inserting Pitts as the starter of the future.    

The reason why he has legitimate shot at the award is because of his new QB, Matt Ryan. Ryan has 10 seasons of at least 4,000 passing yards, good for 5th all-time. Ryan knows how to get the ball to his targets, doing so his whole career.    

Here is a list of players and year(s) that they had at one 1,000-yard receiver under Ryan in his 13-year career:   

WR Roddy White – 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012   

WR Julio Jones – 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019   

WR Harry Douglas – 2013   

WR Calvin Ridley – 2020   

Notice a pattern? Every year since Ryan has been the starting QB of the Falcons, there has been at least one player with 1,000 yards receiving. When you have almost 56,000 career passing yards and average 272 yards/gm, it might not be all that surprising. This is why I am very optimistic that Pitts’ chances at winning the award.   

Looking at the history of Ryan and TEs, there are only two that have been the most productive during his tenure. First, HOF’er Tony Gonzalez, one of the best to play the position, was Ryan’s No. 1 TE for five years (2009-2013). During his time in Atlanta, Gonzalez accumulated 409 receptions, 4,187 receiving yards, and 35 TDs.    

Austin Hooper, their 3rd round pick in 2016 out of Stanford, had a very solid career for the Falcons. In his four seasons (2016-2019), he had 214 receptions, 2,244 yards, and 16 TDs. While both Gonzalez and Hooper were great in their respective tenures for the Falcons but Pitts and his game fit how the position is being played now.   

The evolution of the TE was from players who typically played on the line of scrimmage only in a stance to being slot WRs and running the route tree as a WR. At Florida, Pitts was another WR in HC Dan Mullen’s offense. He played the position as a freshman in Gainsville. Pitts as well lined up in all of the receiver positions on the field.    

TEs have become just as much of a weapon/ best friend for a QB as a WR. A few examples: Patrick Mahomes has Travis Kelce, Tom Brady has Gronk, and Jimmy G (eventually Trey Lance) has George Kittle.   

How can Matt Ryan’s weapon/best friend Kyle Pitts elevate him back to that 2016 MVP status? First, let us examine Ryan’s MVP season. He had 4,944 passing yards, 38 TDs, and 7 Ints. Here is a positional breakdown by percentage of receiving yards that year:  

WRs not named Julio Jones – 36.5% (1,817 yards)  

Julio Jones – 28.5 % (1,409 yards)  

RBs – 19.1% (944 yards)  

TEs – 15.9% (788 yards)  

As you can see, RBs accounted for more receiving yards than TEs. Even more, RBs Devonta Freeman & Tevin Coleman had more yards receiving than every single TE on the roster in 2016.   

Pitts can fill this weak spot instantaneously. In 2016, five TEs caught passes from Ryan. Pitts had 43 receptions, 770 yards, and 12 TDs in his last season at Florida. If you integrate those stats into Ryan’s 2016 MVP season, Pitts would have been 4th in receptions, 2nd in yards, and 1st in TDs. Inserting Pitts’ stats in his last season at Florida with Ryan’s in 2016 while omitting the TEs and their stats that year, here’s the stat line: 4,926 yards, 40 TDs, and 7 Ints.  

As you can see, Ryan loses 18 yards but gets an additional 2 TDs if Pitts were there in 2016. Pitts would have accounted for 15.6% of Ryan’s passing yards all by himself. That is .4% less of all TEs in that MVP year. Ryan relied more on the RBs in 2016 than his TEs, which can be quite concerning.   

Now that Ryan has a legitimate playmaker at TE in Pitts, Ryan can get back into form. Most defenses use an LB to cover TEs but that would be a major mismatch for Pitts and an elite QB like Ryan will pick that apart. Pitts can cover the field more than any other TE Ryan has ever played with. Ryan has one, possibly two, MVP years left in him. If WR Calvin Ridley is the next Julio Jones combined with Pitts, Ryan is a legit MVP candidate.   

5 teams that made the right pick, but not the most popular pick

By: Ladarius Brown

The 1st round of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the books and several teams walked away with some franchise-changing players like Trevor Lawrence to the Jaguars or Kyle Pitts to the Falcons. However, several others made some head-scratching picks (looking at you New Orleans) as their fanbases question their future after Day 1. Somewhere in the middle of the good & bad were some picks that I thought were good but maybe not the most favorable one to fans. Here are five teams that got it right, but not the most ideal pick for some. 

  1. No. 9: Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama 

As Justin Fields was there for the taking for the Broncos but they opted for, in my opinion, the best CB in the draft in Surtain II. Broncos’ fans were almost certain that Fields was to be picked despite trading for Teddy Bridgewater and even with Drew Lock on the roster. I love this pick because Surtain II is an immediate starter with former Bears CB Kyle Fuller on the other side.  

In a division where you face two of the better offenses in the NFL, Chiefs, and Chargers, it doesn’t hurt to have two great CBs. Long-term, Surtain II will be a Pro Bowler, possibly an All-Pro. Also, he can be the face of your defense for the next decade-plus, which doesn’t hurt either.  

2. No. 12: Dallas Cowboys: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State 

On a lot of draft boards, Parsons was the best defensive player in this class. After trading back with their NFC East division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, they get a defensive player because we all know why. With two of the top CBs in Surtain II and Jaycee Horn off the board, they did not reach for a player like Caleb Farley or even S Trevon Moehrig. Jerry Jones added a potential starter on this defense nonetheless. 

A LB core of Parsons, Jaylen Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch has great upside for new DC Dan Quinn. Parsons has the versatility to play MLB or WLB, which can come in very handy. Cowboys should be happy to get a guy like Parsons who can be a game-changer. 

3. No. 20: New York Giants: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida 

The Giants wanted a WR because this about surrounding their franchise QB Daniel Jones with weapons this season. Even though WRs like Rondale Moore, Elijah Moore, and Rashod Bateman were on the board, the gap between them and Toney was not that wide. Being a huge Florida Gators fan, I have watched a lot of him and Kyle Pitts.  

The best comp for Toney is one I read upon that makes sense: Stefon Diggs. Like Diggs, Toney can make big plays down the field with elite athleticism. He is raw in aspects of his game but can learn from a guy like Kenny Golladay. Toney is a weapon that can be Jones’s best friend and bail him out.  

4. No. 26: Cleveland Browns: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern 

Whether or not he saw enough top-end talent in college while in the Big 10, Newsome II is a welcome piece to a secondary that has Denzel Ward, Grant Delpit, and John Johnson III. Like Surtain II, I can see Newsome II as a starter. If you had to find a flaw on this roster, it is the secondary. He missed the end of the 2019 season because of injury but still led the Wildcats with 11 pass breakups in nine games (eight starts, also made 36 tackles).  

His play in the initial six games of the condensed 2020 season (12 tackles, one interception, team-high 10 pass breakups) getting him third-team AP All-American and first-team All-Big Ten status. The Browns got a quality CB who will contribute right away. 

5. No. 32: Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joe Tryon, LB, Washington 

It’s the end of the 1st round and the Super Bowl champs could have gone anywhere. They drafted an LB in Joe Tryon from Washington who will play with the likes of Lavante David, Shaq Barrett, and Devin White. Unlike Micah Parsons, Tryon will not be an immediate starter because of the amazing depth at the position.  

Tryon brings not only depth but an imposing physical specimen with the abilities and athletic form, but the footage reveals he could need more course work still before being a contributor on an NFL field. He utilizes his length and hands successfully at the point of attack but needs to become a form to use them as a pass rusher. 

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