What is Jared Goff’s ceiling and floor?

Could the Lions QB be a star in 2021?

By: Ladarius Brown

In an NFL offseason full of storylines, one of the bigger ones was that of the trade between the Rams and Lions. The Lions moved on from arguably the best quarterback in franchise history in Matthew Stafford in exchange for Jared Goff. Both quarterbacks needed a change of scenery for varying reasons. For Stafford, it is about the chance to play for a Super Bowl contender. In the case of Jared Goff, it is about trying to start anew someplace else. Now that Goff is in the Motor City, what are the floor and his ceiling? Let us start with his floor

Floor: Jared Goff in 2016/Carson Wentz 

The Rams made the quarterback out of the University of California the number one overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He started seven games that year, losing all seven. Goff threw for 1,089 yards with a 54.6% completion percentage and five touchdowns to seven interceptions. A large part of his shortcomings in his rookie year fell upon the offense around him. In 2016, the Rams had the worst offense in the NFL. Also, the fact that Jeff Fisher was his head coach for the preponderance of that year did not exactly help matters either.  

In that same 2016 NFL Draft, another signal-caller was taken after Goff by the Eagles in Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. Wentz had a better rookie campaign than Goff based on passing yards and completion percentage. Wentz started all 16 games, throwing for 3,782 yards with a 62.4% completion percentage and 16 touchdowns to 14 interceptions in 2016.  

Even with his less than stellar rookie year, Goff’s career is comparable to Wentz’s based on the numbers. Having Wentz as the floor for Goff does not mean I think Wentz is terrible. The Wentz comparison for Goff is that Wentz can only get better, given his new surroundings. Goff is in the same situation.  

Ceiling: 2017-2018 Goff/Matt Ryan 

Given Goff’s floor, I love his ceiling because the Goff we saw in 2017 & 2018 were two of the best years of his six-year career. Combined in those two years, Goff had 8,492 passing yards (fifth-most), 60 touchdowns (tied for fourth), and averaged 273.9 passing yards a game (sixth-most). Also, he was tied with some quarterbacks named Drew Brees and Tom Brady for the most wins at 24 in 2017 & 2018. My point, this was peak Jared Goff, and it was amazing. He was also was the starting quarterback in the Super Bowl 2018. 

With this celling comes with a disclaimer since his production picked up once Sean McVay came to Los Angeles. I am banking on that on the high end, Goff can produce similar numbers for the Lions as he did for the Rams in those two years consistently. The disclaimer comes in is if he can without Sean McVay on the sidelines. I may not be sold on head coach Dan Campbell, but I am on the offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.  

Lynn, a former offensive coordinator with the Bills and head coach of the Chargers, brings 20 years of coaching experience. In his four years as Chargers head coach, they were in the top 10 all four years. It helped to have quarterbacks in Philip Rivers and 2020 Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert, but it does not take away from Lynn’s coaching ability.  

As we travel back to college, Goff’s NFL comparison was Matt Ryan, and it turned out to be spot-on as both players are very accurate passers and excel in the pocket. Also, both Goff and Ryan are over 6’4” and have been to a Super Bowl, both on the losing end, and both came into the league under defensive head coaches. Looking at Ryan’s career, he was the league MVP in 2016, Goff’s rookie year. Ryan is still playing at a high-level entering year 14 and Goff could be the next Ryan. If Goff can take advantage of his new opportunity in Detroit, his career will bounce back.  

Why Frank Reich could win Coach of the Year

Can the Colts head coach win COTY?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

According to the Draft Kings Sports Book, head coach Frank Reich of the Indianapolis Colts has odds of +2500 to win Coach of the Year in the 2021 NFL season. This really could be an excellent value choice, or a “sleeper” pick, considering his situation this year. The award is not strictly based on who coached the team with the most wins, but instead, it takes into serious consideration the relative success of the team compared to several other factors such as major organizational changes, overcoming adversity, and exceeding team expectations. Using this criterion, Reich has a real chance to win the Coach of the Year award this season.

The Carson Wentz Factor

Nothing qualifies more as a major change than making a blockbuster trade to acquire a quarterback in the “prime” of their career while also being in the middle of a huge contract. That is exactly what the Colts did this offseason when they made a move for Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for two draft picks. The move wasn’t so much about how much the Colts gave up to get Wentz, but more about taking on the money that he is still owed despite coming off of an extremely disappointing season in 2020. He is signed through the 2024 season and the Colts owe him nearly 100 million dollars over that span.

This could be a very solid deal for the Colts if they are getting the MVP caliber version of Wentz but that may not be the case. Back in the 2018 season, Wentz was having the best season of his career before suffering an unfortunate season ending injury. Through 11 games that year, he completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 3074 yards with 21 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. His 2020 season, comparatively, was an absolute disaster. In 12 games, before being benched for rookie Jalen Hurts, he completed just 57.4 percent of his passes for 2620 yards with 16 touchdowns and an alarming 15 interceptions. This is clearly a major drop off and what really makes this trade a huge risk for the Colts.

One of the main reasons why the Colts acquired Wentz is because of Frank Reich. When Wentz was having his success in Philadelphia, Reich was actually their offensive coordinator. The belief is that by reuniting the pair in Indianapolis, it will help Wentz get back to the version of himself that was one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. This is the type of move that really could be make or break for the head coaching job of Reich. If it works out the way they hope it does, the Colts are a sleeper to be contenders for the Super Bowl, and will greatly improve the chances of Reich winning Coach of the Year. If it doesn’t, then the contract will set the franchise back several years by wasting a team roster that is built to win now, and could even cost Reich his job.

Team Expectations

Last season, with Philip River as their quarterback, the Colts finished with an 11-5 record and made an appearance in the NFL playoffs. They believe that Wentz is a significant upgrade at quarterback, despite the fact that Rivers had a much better season than Wentz last year. In 16 games, Rivers completed 68 percent of his passes for 4169 yards with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Regardless, if the Colts are right that they improved at this position, while keeping the large majority of the rest of the roster together, then it’s fair to expect an even more successful campaign in the 2021 NFL season. If this is true, that means that the Colts will not only make the playoffs this season, but advance further than their first round exit last season. All things considered, if the Colts are able to accomplish their goals this season, then Reich will be right in the mix to win the Coach of the Year award.

What would it take for a tight end to win MVP?

Is Travis Kelce MVP worthy?

By: Reese Nasser

In the last twenty years, the NFL MVP award has become an award that almost strictly goes to quarterbacks. Only four of the last twenty winners were position players. The award is recognized as a quarterback award and is nearly impossible to win if you don’t play the position. The last non-quarterback to win MVP was running back Adrian Peterson in 2012. 

The last-position player to receive an MVP vote that wasn’t a QB was Todd Gurley in 2017. He finished with eight votes and finished second to quarterback Tom Brady, who received 40 votes. 

This past season, only three players received MVP votes. All three players were quarterbacks; Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. 

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is coming off of a season where he is just the seventh player to surpass 2000 rushing yards in one season. He also added another 17 touchdowns on the ground. Even with this monstrous season, he didn’t receive a single MVP vote. 

Outside of running backs, no position player has received an MVP award since 1986 when New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor won it. The last time a tight end received a vote was in the year 1986 when New York Giants tight end Mark Bavaro received a vote. 

It has been over 30 years since a tight end has received an MVP vote. A tight end has never even won the AP Offensive Player of the Year award.

The biggest issue in regards to skill players not winning this award is that a majority of their stats go to the quarterback as well. If a receiver catches 15 touchdown passes, that means that a quarterback had to throw 15 touchdowns. The stats will fall into both categories, almost always falling in favor of the quarterback. 

While a tight end has never one, we are living in the time of the high-powered offense, where it could potentially happen someday soon. There are multiple tight ends that are at the forefront of the NFL. There is potential at the position and the award could make its way to the position soon.

That begs the question of, what would a tight end need to do to not just earn a vote but to win the entire award? In a simple sense, it would be one of the greatest seasons of all time. When taking both a statistical approach and a team approach, the tight end would have to dominate in both ways. By being a leader on the team and being their driving force on offense.

From a numbers standpoint, tight ends have blossomed in recent years. The very best at the position is able to take over games. But even the current greats at the position haven’t done enough to garner the necessary attention to be acknowledged for the award. 

Current Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski is arguably the greatest to ever play his position. His 2011 campaign is one of the single greatest seasons in NFL history. At 22 years old the second-year tight end caught 90 passes for 1327 yards. He also reached the end zone on 18 different occasions. Even with this performance, Gronkowski was not an MVP finalist, but his quarterback Tom Brady was. 

In recent seasons, tight ends such as Travis Kelce and George Kittle have taken over the position. Kelce has steadily improved since breaking out in 2016. He has five consecutive seasons of over 1000 receiving yards and has had two seasons with double-digit touchdown receptions. 

Kelce has been one of the most dominant players in the NFL for years now but has never found his way into the MVP conversation. Understandably so when you look at who his quarterback is. As Kelce approaches 32-years old, his MVP window could already be closed. But the same can’t be said for Kelce’s counterpart, George Kittle.

Kittle could prove to be the most likely candidate to finally win the award, especially when looking at the team that he plays on. Kittle could be the main target on the San Francisco 49ers roster in 2021. His stock could go up even more if San Francisco chooses to go with rookie quarterback Trey Lance, who could not only expand the offense but could also look at Kittle to be his security blanket. 

Kittle is coming off of a down season where he appeared in just eight games. But the 27-year old tight end should be ready to perform at a high level this season. He could prove to be one of the league’s best past catchers this season. And that is what it would take for him to bring home the MVP award. 

If Gronkowski wasn’t able to take home the award in 2011 with 18 touchdowns, then it could take scoring 20 to win it. Kittle could be the player to do it. A stat line of 20 touchdowns, 100 receptions, and over 1500 receiving yards could potentially get it done. And while that would be asking a lot, that could prove to be what it takes for a tight end to finally bring the MVP award home. 

Best free-agent running back replacements for Cam Akers

Should the Rams re-sign Todd Gurley

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes  

Introduction

A perfect storm was brewing for Cam Akers in 2021. A solid offensive line, an improved quarterback and an assumed three-down role. Sadly, Akers tore his Achilles during a pre-training camp practice. The Rams’ current backfield consists of Darrell Henderson Jr., Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais, Otis Anderson, and Jake Funt. Though the Rams’ front office and head coach Sean McVay have said that they do not plan to immediately bring in more competition, it is unlikely that the room remains the same throughout the offseason.

The current free agent options are serviceable at best, but the Rams will need to go bargain hunting to piece together a competent running back room. Though none of the available players are uber-athletic, there are experienced veterans and pass catchers that could be of use to the Rams.

Duke Johnson

Duke Johnson Jr. has no business sitting in free agency while running backs like Carlos Hyde and Devontae Booker have defined roles. Since entering the league, Johnson has totaled over 300 receptions and almost 3,000 receiving yards out of the backfield.

If the Rams were to sign Johnson, it would be as a complementary piece in their committee. Darrell Henderson has not been used as a pass-catcher with the Rams, so signing Johnson would give them an impact player in the passing game. Johnson’s 4.51 speed on his 210-pound frame is nothing more than average, but the Rams should be thrilled with league-average production right now.

Adrian Peterson

AP is quietly still a capable running back. In his past three seasons, he has totaled over 2,500 yards on the ground and 450 yards as a receiver. Peterson also has 20 total touchdowns since 2018. Peterson ranked 13th in yards created per touch and 31st in evaded tackles last year, per player profile. Though these metrics are not anything special, Peterson has proved that he still has enough juice left in the tank. 

The Rams can deploy Peterson on any down and trust him to be a willing pass protector. AP’s experience across over a decade in the league is invaluable, and he could benefit the franchise more than any other free agent. 

Todd Gurley

The divorce between the Los Angeles Rams and Todd Gurley was ugly. Gurley even claimed that some of his game checks were not delivered. All that said, the Rams bringing in Todd Gurley makes too much sense, if Gurley is open to a reunion. The Rams would love a running back that has a deep knowledge of their system, like Gurley. The comfort level that Gurley has with coach McVay’s system is an immediate bonus. 

Gurley is no longer an elite running back. However, it has been demonstrated that teams can win games without high-end backs. The Chiefs won a super bowl with Damien Williams as their lead back in 2019 and the Buccaneers won in 2020 with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones. Gurley, Darrell Henderson, and Raymond Calais would be one of the worst running back rooms in the league, but it just might be enough to get by.

Would the Eagles be NFC East favorites with Deshaun Watson?

Will Houston Texans trade Deshaun Watson to Philadelphia Eagles?

By: Jake Rajala

The Philadelphia Eagles are strongly considering acquiring Houston Texans star dusted, controversial Deshaun Watson. According to Howard Eskin, who is a sports reporter in Philadelphia, he believes there is a 90% chance Philly reels in the elite Texans QB. There is clearly an ascending belief around Eagles nation that the fit makes too much sense and a deal will most likely be put in place for Nick Sirianni to snag his targeted QB. 

In terms of Watson’s outlook, the QB who is under lots of uncertainty believes there is a “good chance” he suits up in 2021. If a deal is established between Eagles nation and Watson, then Watson proceeds to play in 2021, the question begs to ask: What would the Eagles team look like next season under the new signal-caller? 

The former Eagles team led by Doug Pederson finished dead last in the NFC East a year ago. If Watson is in the building with the new leader Nick Sirianni, it would be at least a three to five game winning difference in 2021. With a generational talent like himself, it is enjoyable and possible to imagine a deep playoff run, but it really would put themselves with a fine, noticeable, yet not an unearthly improvement.

They should boast an extraordinarily strong chance of claiming at least 7 to 9 wins with Watson under the helm. It may not be a superior juggernaut team in the NFC, but they would at least be able to compete for the East title down to the wire. The Washington Football Team under Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB appear as the clear favorites to capture NFC East prominence for the second year in a row, but Watson’s mobility against the fiery Washington pass rush rotation in a head-to-head matchup (Eagles play Washington Week 15 and Week 17) is sure to be a serious a clear x-factor.

The Eagles and Washington are clearly different teams, under new coaching staffs, with a new attitude, but the Eagles did put up a serious fight against Washington in Week 17 of last season. Even with the unpopular benching of Jalen Hurts, the Eagles lost to the WFT by a score of 20-14. The Eagles would have slightly different tweaks around the roster, but a sizable improvement at QB. Meanwhile, the Washington team will still have an average ranked QB in Fitzmagic with largely the same team.

Throughout the season, If the Eagles defense plays average at least, it should be enough for Watson to get enough victories with his utmost prominent playmaking ability himself. Some may question why Watson could carry the hopeful Eagles if he could not bring the Texans to playoff royalty with an MVP-like season, he flexed in 2020. Well, the Texans defense didn’t just do a poor job at complementing Watson, they did a flat-out horrific job. The Eagles total defense was 19th in the total YPG allowed, while the Texans defensive unit was 30th in the league. The Texans just gave up three fewer yards than the 32nd ranked Lions defense that played Aaron Rodgers twice a season.

It is also important to note that the Texans had two teams in their own division that made the playoffs: Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans. The Texans flashed a combined 0-4 record against those opponents. In the East, there was not a true playoff-like talent, but rather a team that won the “least” NFL division with six wins. The rule that every division must send a team to the playoff dance is certainly questionable, especially during NFL seasons like last year.

On the horizon, Watson has been working relentlessly this offseason, as the former Clemson star has a massive chip on his shoulder. If he heads up north, he should have very strong weaponry to utilize. The Eagles currently possess the top TE duo in the league (Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert), a young talented wideout in Jalen Reagor, and all of this explosion will be taking place behind an offensive line led by the well reputable Lane Johnson, a unit that could be stout if it can stay healthy. Expect Watson to show another elite season of play with a more talented supporting cast, amid a weaker division.

Three biggest obstacles for the Los Angeles Rams next season

What could stop the Los Angeles Rams team?

By: Jeremy Trottier

The Los Angeles Rams are widely being considered a playoff contender at the very least, if not a contender for the Super Bowl.  With the addition of Matthew Stafford this offseason among other weapons such as DeSean Jackson and Tutu Atwell, they seem to be in a good place in terms of their offense.  With Aaron Donald on the defense and Jalen Ramsey, they have assets on the defensive side of the ball as well.  However, they also have some glaring hurdles to overcome in the 2021-2022 season if they want to make a title push.  In this article, I will go over the main three of these challenges, and why they change the Rams odds at a title run.

New Defensive Scheming

One of the biggest changes this offseason for the Los Angeles Rams came in the form of coaching.  Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who spent the 2020 season as the Rams defensive coordinator, will be moving on to be the head coach of the other Los Angeles team in the Chargers.  This move left the Rams in somewhat of a scramble to find a new DC, which ended up being Raheem Morris, who spent his last seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons as a DC, interim head coach, and assistant coach of many positions at times. 

This scheme change could be a huge one, as Raheem comes from the Jon Gruden coaching tree, focusing on hard-nosed football on both sides of the ball and pure power.  Morris also worked under Mike Shanahan, Jay Gruden, and Dan Quinn during his career, which somewhat factors in the unknown of what defensive scheme he will utilize with his new team.

Division Strength

The only word to come even remotely close to describing the NFC West is Elite.  All four teams in this division are truly high-powered on both sides of the ball, and we could see some huge competition from these teams fighting for the top seed.  The Seattle Seahawks still have Russell Wilson, which basically lands them a playoff spot regardless of what happens.  However, with DK Metcalf only improving for the last two seasons, Tyler Lockett locked into an extension, Gerald Everett to improve the TE room, and D’Wayne Eskridge potentially for the slot.  

The Arizona Cardinals have made improvements as well, the most notable being the addition of JJ Watt to the defense, as well as Zaven Collins to bulk up the linebacker core, and Isaiah Simmons getting a true shot at starting at LB as well.  Finally, the 49ers, who have returned to a fully healthy form that was in the Super Bowl only a season ago in 2019-2020, and now Brandon Aiyuk, Trey Sermon, and Trey Lance added on top of that previous roster, as well as the return of 2019-2020 DROY Nick Bosa along the defensive line.

Matthew Stafford Conforming to Scheme

Now, this is in no way ragging on Matthew Stafford, as he is an absolutely phenomenal QB, and really has done well with a team that gave him not much to work with lately.  With that said, Stafford is going from a relatively base level offense with not a lot of flashy plays and trick plays, to the team with the highest rate of Play Action from 2017-2021.  

This wildly different type of offense could be very good for Stafford, there is no doubt about that, and he will have some amazing weapons around him in Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell, and Tyler Higbee.  With that said, subtracting Cam Akers from the mix due to a ruptured Achilles tendon, this offense is going to rely very heavily on the passing game and play action/redirections, which could definitely take time for Stafford to get used to. 

Why the Cowboys are Super Bowl Contenders

The Cowboys are Super Bowl contenders

By: (@AdamHulseSports)

The Dallas Cowboys are a team that is a real Super Bowl contender heading into the 2021 NFL season. They have a head coach in Mike McCarthy who has already won a ring with the Green Bay Packers, one of the best offensives in the NFL lead by superstar quarterback Dak Prescott, and an improved defense with a brand new, and highly respected, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. They are the current betting odds favorite to win the NFC East Division at +135 according to the Draft Kings Sports Book and they actually have the second easiest strength of schedule ranking. There are many reasons to believe that the Cowboys can compete for a Super Bowl this season.

Dak is Back

After missing the majority of the 2020 season due to injury, Dak is back and ready to go for the 2021 NFL season. He has consistently been one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and there is no reason to believe that won’t continue as long as he is fully healthy. In his last full season in 2019, he put up the best numbers of his career including 4902 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns, both of which were career highs. In fact, because he has consistently trended up each year in terms of production, it’s still very possible that he will be even better this coming season than ever before. The best version of Prescott may still be on it’s way and that’s a very exciting thought for the Cowboys.

Elite Offense

The Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the entire NFL. Last season, even without Prescott for eleven games, the Cowboys still ranked 14th in total offense at 371.8 yards per game and 17th in scoring offense with 24.7 points per game. This demonstrates that even with the terrible quarterback play, and a ton of injuries to the offensive line as well, their offensive weapons were still good enough to produce. Now that Prescott and the line are both healthy again, they can get back to being the dominant force that they were in 2019 or even better. That season the Cowboys ranked 1st in the NFL in total offense with 431.5 yards per game and 6th in scoring offense with 27.1 points per game.

The CeeDee Lamb Factor

In addition to Ezekiel Elliot, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup, who were all a part of the team in 2019, is the now second year wide receiver in CeeDee Lamb. He had a very impressive rookie campaign in 2020 with 74 receptions for 935 yards and 5 touchdowns in a crowded passing offense. The fact that only five of his sixteen games played were with Prescott makes his season even more impressive. Most importantly, his best games of the year were when Prescott was playing including both of his games where he eclipsed 100 receiving yards, his only game with multiple touchdowns, and his most receptions with eight in a single game. This connection between Prescott and Lamb is something to keep an eye on in the 2021 NFL season and will likely be a huge weapon for the Cowboys.

Improving Defense

The Cowboys were a disaster defensively in the 2020 season. They ranked 23rd in yards allowed with 386.4 per game and 28th in points allowed with 29.6 per game. Despite not losing much in terms of personnel, this was a huge drop-off from their solid 2019 season where they ranked 9th in yards allowed with 327 per game and 11th in points allowed with 20.1 per game. This is why defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was fired after just one season with the Cowboys. They upgraded in a big way this offseason by hiring Dan Quinn to be the new DC, who was the mastermind of the famous Legion of Boom defense in Seattle with the Seahawks. With stars like Jaylon Smith and DeMarcus Lawrence to pair with exciting newcomers like Micah Parsons, Quinn has an excellent opportunity to get Dallas back into the top ten defenses in the NFL.

Season Outlook

Playing in the NFC East division that is fairly weak compared to the rest of the NFL gives the Cowboys an excellent chance to make a postseason appearance. The Eagles are in a complete rebuilding year, the Giants are improving but don’t appear quite ready to compete yet, and the defending division champions, Washington, are a solid team but definitely beatable and not as talented as the Cowboys are as a whole. This is why the Cowboys are the favorites to win their division and make an appearance in the playoffs. If Dak Prescott can continue to improve, and Dan Quinn lives up to his expectations of greatly improving the defense, then the Cowboys will be right in the mix as a Super Bowl contender.

Should the Detroit Lions bring back Adrian Peterson?

Should the Lions resign RB Adrian Peterson?

By: Reese Nasser

Running back Adrian Peterson has been one of the league’s most polarizing players since he entered the league in 2007. He has filled the NFL record book, achieving things that most players at his position can only dream to achieve. 

But at age 36, Peterson is trying to prove that he still has gas left in the tank. The 14-year NFL veteran is still currently a free agent and is trying to find a home for the 2021 season. 

Peterson spent his entire 2020 season with the Detroit Lions. He appeared in all 16 games and started 10. In his lone season with Detroit, Peterson reached the end zone seven times and gained 705 yards from scrimmage on 168 touches.
Petersons ability to still perform at a consistent level has led many to wonder where he will play this season. A return to the Lions could be a real possibility and be a win-win situation for both teams.

The Lions depth chart currently lacks a truly established veteran running back. Second year running back D’Andre Swift will be the lead back in 2021, regardless of who else the team adds before the season starts. Swift played well in his rookie season, appearing in 13 games where he scored 10 times and had 878 yards from scrimmage. 

The real issue begins when you look past Swift. The lack of depth could lead to the Lions needing to bring in extra running backs. Outside of Swift, there is just one back on the roster that has played in the NFL; Jamaal Williams. Williams spent the past four seasons with the Green Bay Packers where he played in 60 games. He scored 18 total touchdowns and was effective in both the pass and run game. 

The next two stored backs are both rookies; Jermar Jefferson and Dedrick Mills. Jefferson was selected in the seventh round. The Oregon State product scored 29 touchdowns for the Beavers, with 27 of them coming on the ground. Dedrick Mills spent time at both Georgia Tech and Nebraska. He finished with just over 2100 yards from scrimmage and 26 touchdowns. 

Between all four rostered backs in Detroit, there are just 73 NFL games played. The clear lack of experience could be the driving force in bringing Adiran Peterson back for one more season. Peterson has still been one of the more explosive players at his position over the past few seasons. 

His ability to consistently stay on the field could also be a reason that the Lions bring Peterson back. In the past three seasons, he has missed just one game and has performed well whenever he has stepped onto the field. 

Arguably the biggest reason to bring Peterson back to Detroit could be his veteran presence. He is one of the most accomplished players in the history of football and his knowledge could help elevate this particular young running back room. 

Peterson could also potentially move into seventh all-time on the running back yards from the scrimmage list this upcoming season. A few quality games from Peterson or a steady handful of carries throughout this reason could be just enough for him to move up. 

The Lions could benefit from bringing Peterson back and Peterson could add even more to his long and storied resume. His career has been elite up to this point and Peterson isn’t ready to hang it up just yet. A one-year deal could be just what both sides need. 

Do the Minnesota Vikings have a playoff contending roster

Is the Vikings roster elite?

By Christopher Thomas

The NFC playoffs are almost impossible to predict because there are so many teams in the middle of the pack that can easily sneak into the playoffs if they get hot towards the end of the year. Last year’s team who snuck into the NFC playoffs was the Chicago Bears who were led to the playoffs by their starting running back David Montgomery. This year that team could very also be from the NFC North.

The Minnesota Vikings are at an interesting crossroads with the way their current roster is projected. They have some elite talent spread throughout their roster. But they also have a combination of veterans past their prime and inexperienced young players filling out the rest of their roster. Head coach Mike Zimmer is one of the best and most respected at his position around the league. However, this current Vikings roster could have the Vikings finishing anywhere between picking in the top-10 and potentially winning the NFC North. Here is a deep dive of the Minnesota Vikings roster. 

Quarterbacks

Much like a majority of teams in the NFL the Minnesota Vikings playoff hopes are reliant on the play of their quarterback. During the 2017-18 offseason, the Vikings signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a 3 year $84 million deal. Since signing Cousins the Vikings have made the playoffs once over the last three seasons and have a 25-21 -1 record when he is the starter. This offseason Minnesota gave him a two-year $66 million extension that will keep him in Minnesota until 2022. He has played at a borderline Pro Bowl level every season but has not played up to the expectations that the Vikings had when they signed him. Minnesota believed Cousins was going to be the piece to get Minnesota over the hump and into Super Bowl contending territory. Instead, the team has been stuck in between playoff contention and a restart. In the two seasons Cousins has thrown double-digit interceptions. The only season in Minnesota where Cousins did not throw double-digit interceptions he did not reach 30 passing touchdowns or 4,000 yards passing. This wouldn’t be a major issue except Cousins is being paid like one of the premier quarterbacks in the league. 

If Cousins can limit his turnovers while maintaining the production he put up during his first and third seasons with the team Minnesota could have a shot at the playoffs. However if Cousins begins to falter, the Vikings took Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond early in the third round to potentially take his place and become the team’s starting quarterback of the future. If Mond becomes the Vikings starting quarterback early in the season it is unlikely that he has a Dak Prescott-like impact on Minnesota despite being the fourth highest-ranked quarterback on Chris Simms 2021 draft rankings. Minnesota needs Cousins to play at a Pro Bowl level to make the playoffs. 

Running Backs

There is an extremely valid case for running back Dalvin Cook to be considered the best player on the Minnesota Vikings. It also isn’t too farfetched to say Cook is the best pure running back in the league overall. Over the last two seasons, Cooks has put up career-high numbers in every major running back category. He has finished top-10 in rushing over the last two seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl every year as well. 

The Vikings’ offense could very well feature Cook as the focal point, but the major question about him is his health. Cook has dealt with multiple injuries that have not allowed him to play a full sixteen-game schedule over his first four seasons in the league. Cook has played in 43 of a potential 64 games since being drafted in 2017. Things did not look great for Cook early on after he missed 17 of his first 32 games he could have played during his first two seasons. However, Cook has been able to play in 28 of the last 32 games the Vikings have played.

If Cook is unable to play the Vikings have turned to 2019 third-round pick Alexander Mattison to lead their backfield. Despite being valuable in fantasy football as a replacement for Cook, Mattison is not as great of a runner as him and likely cannot be the focal point of the team’s offense. For Minnesota to make the playoffs next season Cook needs to play a majority of the team’s regular-season games. 

Pass Catchers (Wide Receivers and Tight Ends)

Even though Minnesota’s offense is based on the run, the Vikings have an extremely talented group of pass-catchers at their disposal. The Vikings have two Pro Bowl-caliber wide receivers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen along with a young talented tight end in Irv Smith Jr. 

A season ago Jefferson broke the rookie record for most receiving yards in a single season with 1,400. He did that off of 88 receptions and had seven touchdowns. Thielen fell 75 yards short of becoming the Vikings’ second 1,000+ yard receiver finishing the year with 925 yards in 15 games. However, Thielen was a scoring machine scoring 14 receiving touchdowns last season which was tied for fourth in the league. Smith Jr. finished the season with less than 400 receiving yards, but the former second-round pick looked more than capable of replacing Kyle Rudolph as the team’s primary receiving tight end at the end of last season. Over his last six games, Smith Jr. caught 19 of his 26 targets for 216 yards and all of his five touchdowns. Now that Rudolph is now a member of the New York Giants Smith Jr. can build on what he did a season ago, be the team’s starting tight end for an entire season, and become the team’s third receiving option on offense.

To make the playoffs Minnesota is going to need Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen to play the same level or better than they did last season. While it would be a major help if Irv Smith Jr. had a breakout season posting career highs in his first year as the team’s primary tight end. 

Offensive Line

For the last half-decade, it seems like the Minnesota Vikings have invested heavily into their offensive line. So far their investments have paid dividends. Some may say that the players they’ve drafted have not met the expectations Minnesota had when they drafted them. Minnesota has taken six offensive linemen in the first three rounds in the last five seasons. None of which have made a Pro Bowl in that time and outside of Brian O’Neill have been regarded as better than average. The Vikings took two offensive linemen inside the first three rounds this past draft that they expect to contribute right away. 

One of the biggest question marks on the Vikings offensive line is at left tackle. After trading down from 14th overall and passing on arguably the best interior offensive lineman in the draft Alijah Vera-Tucker, Minnesota took Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw 23rd overall. Darrisaw should be the Vikings starting left tackle from Day one. If he could anchor the offensive line and do a great job protecting the blindside of Kirk Cousins (or Kellen Mond, the Vikings’ offensive line could get the boost they need to remove themselves from the average or below-average territory it has been in for the last couple of seasons. Opposite Darrisaw on the right side is the most solid and best player along the Vikings offensive line Brian O’Neill. Since being drafted in 2018, O’Neill has entered the territory as one of the best young right tackles in the league. 

The interior of the Vikings offensive line starts with a player Minnesota took in the second round last year to potentially become their left tackle. After taking Darrisaw in the first round this past year it seems that Ezra Cleveland will likely stay on the interior for Minnesota. Cleveland was solid in his rookie season, if he progresses and develops into a better player this year that would go a long way to increasing the production of the Vikings line. Their center Garrett Bradbury has been a disappointment since being drafted in the first round in 2019. Bradbury was taken in the first round and has not played anything like the player many thought he would be coming out of NC State. Minnesota traded a sixth-round pick for former Arizona Cardinals center Mason Cole to push Bradbury for the team’s starting job. Cole was drafted in the third round by Arizona in 2018 and has started 32 of the 46 career games he has played in Minnesota. The biggest question mark along the Vikings offensive is at right guard. Minnesota is expected to have a competition for the right guard position between veteran Dakota Dozier and third-round pick Wyatt Davis. 

If Minnesota puts their best five offensive linemen out there to protect their quarterback and open holes for the running game efficiently that could very well be what the Vikings need to get back into the playoffs next season. 

Defensive Line

Last season the Vikings’ defensive line was atrocious. The lack of production from this unit impacted the rest of the roster. However, this unit has been almost completely revamped and could easily be the strength of their defense. Their sack leader from a season ago was Yannick Ngakoue who had five sacks in six games in Minnesota before getting shipped to Baltimore near the trade deadline. From there on out it is fair to say Minnesota had one of the worst defensive lines in the league last season.

A healthy Danielle Hunter is about as good as it gets at defensive end. If all goes well Hunter should have double-digit sacks for Minnesota, a Pro Bowl nob, and possibly recognition as an All-Pro. Opposite Hunter is expected to a rotation of a few players off the edge. Veteran defensive end Stephen Weatherly started all nine games he played in Carolina last season. He returns to the Vikings as the favorite to land a starting defensive end job. A rookie third-round pick out of Pittsburgh Patrick Jones could compete with Weatherly for the starting job and will likely rotate with him throughout the season. Janarius Robinson out of Florida State could get on the field this year as well. The fourth-round pick has all the traits to be an NFL defensive end but needs to be coached up. Robinson landed in an ideal situation getting coached by one of the better defensive coaches in the league Mike Zimmer. 

A dark horse candidate to take some snaps and potentially start at defensive end is former Pro Bowler and 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year interior defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. The Vikings reunited with Richardson a few weeks after being released from the Cleveland Browns. Since Minnesota has an elite duo on the interior of their defensive line they may experiment with lining up Richardson as a base defensive end. Richardson has always been a better pass rusher than run defender during his career. The opportunity to rush off the edge on an elite defensive line may be what Richardson needs to rejuvenate his career. 

Minnesota will get to see both their major free agent signings from the past two seasons playing for them for the first time this upcoming season. Last year Minnesota replaced Linval Joseph with former Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Michael Pierce. Minnesota signed Pierce for three years $27 million. The former Raven was an elite-run defender due to his size and ability to plug up holes created by opposing offensive lines. The Vikings did not get to see Pierce play last season due to him opting out of the 2020 NFL season due to Covid-19 concerns. This offseason the Vikings spent big again on the interior of their defensive line bringing in former New York Giants Dalvin Tomlinson on a two-year $22 million deal. Tomlinson was a part of a dominant defensive line in New York that almost singlehandedly carried the Giants defense and team overall to the playoffs last season. He has been an elite-run defender as well during his time in New York and also has been able to rack up 3.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons. 

There is a lot of talent on the Minnesota Vikings offensive line. If Mike Zimmer can coach each of these players to their potential it would put overwhelming pressure on opposing offenses. A defensive line this talented could be what carries the Vikings into the playoffs next season. 

Linebackers

Since 2015 the Minnesota Vikings have had one of the better linebacker duos in the league between Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. Over the last couple of seasons, both have been to multiple Pro Bowls and have been major parts of the Vikings’ defense. Both missed time due to injury last season. Both need to remain healthy for the Vikings to contend next season. 

Kendricks has been a tackling machine over the last couple of seasons averaging 106.5 combined tackles a season since being drafted. He is also no stranger to creating turnovers when factoring in his four career forced fumbles and seven career interceptions. Three of Kendricks’ career interceptions came last season. Over a couple of year stretch Barr was considered one of if not the best 4-3 outside linebacker in football. However, there has been a slight decline for the former 2014 first-round pick. Prime Anthony Barr does a little bit of everything. He not only can rush the passer like a defensive end, but he could also tackle and play in coverage as well as a linebacker on the inside. If Barr can play similar to how he did during his stretch of four straight Pro Bowls Minnesota’s defense could look similar to how it did in the late 2010s when it was considered one of the best in the league. 

The play of Minnesota’s linebacker duo is so important to their success. Not only do they need to stay healthy, but Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr need to play at a high level for this defense to have done their part to get this team in a position to contend for the playoffs. 

Secondary

The biggest question mark about the Vikings’ defense coming into this season is their secondary. Mike Zimmer is known for spending high draft picks on cornerbacks and developing defensive backs extremely well. In the last couple of seasons, it has become clear that Zimmer prefers to build his defense from the back forward. 

The Vikings gutted their cornerback room and drafted two cornerbacks with their first four picks in 2020. They took Jeff Gladney Jr. in the first round and Cameron Dantzler in the second round. Gladney was the team’s starting slot cornerback last season and Dantzler covered the team’s number one cornerback on the outside last season. It is fair to say that they struggled to defend pass catchers last season. This is not necessarily a knock on Gladney and Dantzler as players, a lot of cornerbacks struggle early in their careers in the NFL regardless of how high they were drafted. But in year two in the same defense, both are expected to take a leap forwards and play at a solid level if not better. The Vikings also made two major moves to their cornerback room. First, they signed former Pro Bowler and Arizona Cardinal Patrick Peterson to a one-year $10 million deal. Then Minnesota traded 2018 first-round pick, Mike Hughes, to the Kansas City Chiefs for a sixth-round pick in 2022. 

The dynamic duo of safeties that Minnesota has had over the last two seasons will not return this season. Free safety Anthony Harris left Minnesota in free agency and shockingly signed a cheap one-year $5 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings replaced Harris with former Dallas Cowboy Xavier Woods and fourth-round pick Camryn Bynum. However, Harrison Smith will be returning to Minnesota for his tenth season. Smith has been one of the best and most important players to this franchise over the last decade. His production has been extremely reliable for the Vikings including last season when the team’s defense played awful as a whole. Smith finished last season with five interceptions and 89 combined tackles. 

Minnesota’s secondary can very well tie this defense together and return it to the juggernaut it was only a few seasons ago. If the young defensive backs that are expected to have feature roles in this secondary can play up to their potential and the veterans continue to play at a high level, Minnesota could have one of the best secondaries in the league. However, if Gladney and Dantzler do not improve from last season and Peterson plays like how he did last year, that could be enough for the Vikings defense to underperform and hold the team out of the playoffs. 

Final Verdict 

After evaluating this roster it is fair to say that a major component of this roster is health. A lot of vital pieces across this roster got hurt last season and Minnesota paid the price for it falling out of playoff contention early in the year before trying to play catchup towards the end. There is so much talent spread across this roster the veterans need to continue to play at a high level and possibly develop into better players, while the young guys need to make a major impact for Minnesota early in their careers.

It is fair to say the biggest component that will decide the fate of the Minnesota Vikings this season is the status for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. If Rodgers decides to hold out or is traded the Vikings have the roster to surpass Green Bay as the favorite to win the NFC North. At that point, all four teams in the NFC North would be rebuilding or retooling their roster likely making the winner a team with a close to .500 record and the race to determine the winner very ugly much like the 2020-21 NFC East. If last season’s MVP does not play in Green Bay and his replacement Jordan Love doesn’t have a breakout season Minnesota has what it takes to make the playoffs next season as long as their team can stay healthy and none of the vital or young players on this roster majorly disappoint. 

Fantasy Football: 3 Quarterbacks to avoid in 2021

Do not draft Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

Despite the quarterback position making a minimal impact in most fantasy football leagues, taking a quarterback at any point does not have to be a fruitless endeavor. Navigating the position correctly can give you an edge that few other league-mates possess. Last year, targeting players in the middle rounds like Josh Allen (and fading players like Drew Brees) gave you a leg up on your competition. 

This year, there are a few tight ends that you should not be drafting at their current average draft positions, including some familiar faces from prior years. If you can properly fade the quarterbacks that will disappoint, you are in a good place.

Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes stands the best chance to finish as the top quarterback in fantasy football in 2021. However, he is currently drafted over one round ahead of any other quarterback. Drafting Mahomes is a significant, and unnecessary investment. When you draft anyone as the top player at their position, the only way they can meet expectations is by finishing as such. Taking a gamble on Mahomes as the QB1 instead of a better wide receiver or running back will likely set your team(s) back. 

The Chiefs rebuilt their offensive line, which should help the overall dynamism of the offense. Mahomes will have more time to throw to his elite weapons Tyreek Hill and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. However, the better offensive line could shift red-zone play-calling to favor giving goal-line carries to running backs as opposed to opportunities for Mahomes.

Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow is the easiest fade at the quarterback position right now. Burrow is drafted ahead of Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Ryan Tannehill. The addition of college teammate Ja’Marr Chase is keeping Burrow’s ADP high. Burrow has perhaps the best wide receiver trio in the national football league, but he also plays behind a poor offensive line and is coming off a torn ACL injury.

As a rookie, Joe Burrow met expectations. He did not do anything extraordinary like Justin Herbert, but he proved that he was fit to lead Cincinnati for the next decade. Then, all of the sudden, Burrow lost the second half of the year to a torn ACL. Burrow’s injury will likely make him less mobile. The consequences of Burrow’s reduced movement will be fewer rushing yards, a major disappointment to fantasy owners. Though Burrow offers a tad more rushing upside than Stafford and Brady, he is on an inferior offense and should be faded at his current cost.  

Baker Mayfield

Baker Mayfield is not going as a top 16 QB, but an average draft position of QB19 still feels rich. Given the rushing upside that Carson Wentz and Daniel Jones offer, it seems foolish to take Baker ahead of those two dual threats. If Baker Mayfield plays the entire season, he will almost certainly finish as a QB2 in terms of total points and likely points per game. That said, the QB19 is not winning you any titles.

Baker is still on a run-first team due to the Browns’ elite offensive line and stud running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, hurting his upside. If Baker does end up slightly outproducing his ADP, will you be happy with him as your backup quarterback? Unless the answer is a resounding yes, stay away from Mayfield.

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