D’Andre swift is the key for the lion’s playoff chances

By: Chris Thomas

After the third disappointing season in a row under head coach Matt Patricia’s administration, the Detroit Lions have blown up their organization. They started their offseason by hiring Los Angeles Rams Director of Scouting Brad Holmes as their new general manager. Then Detroit made an unorthodox hire at head coach in former Miami Dolphins interm head coach and New Orleans Saints tight end coach Dan Campbell. But the largest change to the Lions that occurred this offseason happened at the quarterback position. The Lions executed a blockbuster trading 12 year starter Matthew Stafford to the Rams for 2016 1st overall pick Jared Goff, a 2022 first round pick, and a 2023 first round pick. This gave Detroit the ammunition they need to complete what appears to be a long-term rebuild.

Expectations are not super high for Lions in 2022 since they have made it clear they are trying to build their roster towards the future, but after a fantastic draft adding some great foundational pieces the Lions may be able to shock some teams an win some close games down the stretch. The key for the Lions season in 2021-22 is running back D’Andre Swift.

Last offseason the Lions selected Georgia running back D’Andre Swift with the 35th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. Many viewed Swift to be the top running back of the class, but he fell to the second round and was the second running back taken that year. When Swift got on the field he showed why he was RB1 on many peoples draft boards. During the 13 games he played during the 2020-21 season, Swift had 114 rushing attempts for 521 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had 46 catches for 357 yards and two more touchdowns. Those numbers may not look fantastic, but when Swift got double digit carries during a game he averaged 71.2 yards rushing yards per game which would have been good for tenth in the NFL a season ago between David Montgomery and Josh Jacobs.

Head Coach Dan Campbell has already publicly said that he and the teams coaching staff has a lot of confidence building their offense around Swift. He also said he could have the potential of receiving “25 carries per game”.

There have been multiple context clues that the Lion’s have shown through other transactions this offseason that have shown that Swift could be the focal point of not only their offense, but their entire team. For starters they added both Anthony Lynn and Duce Staley to their coaching staff. Both are are former NFL running backs who have prioritized running backs during their coaching career.

New Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn has gotten great production out of the running backs he has coached over the years. During his time in Buffalo as the Assistant coach and running backs coach he got three Pro Bowl seasons out of LeSean McCoy. When he was the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers he got two outstanding statistical seasons out of Melvin Gordon and developed Austin Ekeler from undrafted free agent to a dangerous NFL starting running back.

Duce Staley has become one of the most respected running back coaches in the NFL. He returns to that role in Detroit and is also the Assistant Head Coach. He has gotten the opportunity to work with some great veteran backs in Philadelphia including LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Matthews, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, and many more.

The trade for Jared Goff also is a sign that the passing game may take a backseat this next season. Despite being a two time Pro Bowler, Goff has been more of a distributor than playmaker over his career. He only plays at his best when he has great pieces around him, including a dominant running game. His past two seasons in Los Angeles where the running game was not headline the Rams offense got the organization thinking that he may not be the teams long term answer at the position, especially since they are in win-now mode. Goff is a perfect quarterback for the Lions because he is a 26 year old former first overall pick who has shown potential to play at a high level, but can be easily moved off of after this season.

Detroit’s draft and free agent transactions were also very telling on what they prioritized offensively. During free agency Detroit shockingly let former Pro Bowl wide receiver Kenny Golladay and their leading receiver from the season prior Marvin Jones Jr. hit the market and sign with other teams. The Lions replaced them with veteran receivers Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman who are veterans who can stretch the field but may be more equipped to be a teams third option in the passing game. Instead they chose to extend former first round pick offensive lineman left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow. During the draft Detroit elected to take Oregon tackle Penei Sewell with the seventh overall pick over Heisman winner Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith. The Lions didn’t take a wide receiver until they took Amon-Ra St.Brown in the fourth round. St. Brown has the upside to be a very solid wide receiver at the next level, but was not looked at a potential primary target in an NFL passing game.

By prioritizing the offensive line over pass catchers throughout the offseason it shows that they want to give running back D’Andre Swift every opportunity to not only succeed but to make an impact on every play. Nothing shows more of a “bite your kneecap off” mentality on offense than a strong running game. It is expected that Swift is the focal point of the Lions offense and the entire team because by if Swift can control the clock late in games it will help the Lions young defense stay off the field and keep opposing teams from scoring on them.

Quarterbacks that could SURPRISE in 2021

By: Alan Parker

Justin Herbert and Josh Allen burst onto the scene in 2020, one as a rookie and the other after a few years of promising play. Lamar Jackson put his elite athleticism on display en-route to leading the league in passing touchdowns in 2019. But who will put the league on show in 2021, dominating on both the field and in fantasy football?

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

It’s very strange to see Mr. Perfect in Detroit, but there’s potential for Goff to show why he was the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. 2020 was a rough year for Goff, however it was not much different to 2019 as in both years he was on pace for 4000 plus yards over 16 games to go along with close to a 3.5-percent touchdown rate and a 2.5-percent interception rate. In fact, he was considerably more accurate last season than in previous years, hitting career highs in completion percentage and on-target percentage. However, this is to be expected when your intended air yards per pass fall a whole yard and a half according to Pro Football Reference.

With his seemingly best friend and coach Sean McVay giving up on him, trading him away for a man seven years older than him, one would expect Goff’s confidence to take a hit. However, he now gets to play behind arguably one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, after Detroit selected Sewell and re-upped with Ragnow, and has a pair of dynamic weapons in Swift and Hockenson. Now the receiver room is absolutely awful, but there could be some cap casualties around the league that would dramatically improve his arsenal of weapons, potentially the ever-present Jamison Crowder.

Expect a strong season from Goff as he leads a tough, “bite your kneecap off” type of team to a few more wins than expected. A few deep threats such as Perriman and Williams, along with an intriguing Amon-Ra St. Brown as well as low expectations should let Goff sling it often.

Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

I am still a believer that Jameis Winston is exceptionally talented, albeit with some serious flaws. After getting LASIK eye surgery that should help him avoid targeting opposite defensive-backs, Winston should walk into the starting spot in New Orleans. A year under his belt at the “Harvard of quarterbacking” will help curb his poor habit of helping the opposition as much as his own team.

With Michael Thomas, arguably the best receiver in the league, as well as Alvin Kamara, arguably the best running back in the league, and Sean Payton, arguably the best coach in the league, at his disposal, Winston has a chance to reignite his career. His touch, accuracy and arm strength are something else, and his ability to drive the ball downfield and outside the numbers allows Sean Payton to spread his wings after dealing with Drew Brees’ limited arm.

The Saints, despite cap problems and few picks, easily could have just transitioned from one good quarterback to another. Look out for a strong season from the last man to break 5000 yards in a season as he plays in one of the best offenses in the league, with the ability to see opposing defenders standing in front of him. People always said, “If Jameis could cut down his interceptions he could be great”, and we will soon see what he can do. There’s potential here with two of the league’s best receiving weapons to lead the league in touchdowns.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team

Washington is pairing a no-nonsense, aggressive quarterback with Terry McLaurin (4.35 40-yard time) and Curtis Samuel (4.31 40-yard time). Add in that when he doesn’t feel like lighting up the defense down the field, Fitzpatrick can hit any of Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown, Antonio Gibson, or Logan Thomas.

Fitzmagic is going to have plenty of opportunities to throw as his electric offense is being paired with one of the most terrifying pass rushes in the NFL – Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, and Montez Sweat to name but a few (maybe half) of their dominant defenders.

Watch out for another season where we say, “Fitzpatrick can really spin it”. Washington got to the playoffs with a group of poor quarterbacks, and Fitzmagic is looking for a home. With one of the best arsenals of weapons he has had in a long time, the wiley veteran is exactly what Washington needs to repeat their previous years success, and maybe even surpass it.

Landing Spots for All 5 of the Top QB Prospects

Who will Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance and Jones play for in 2021?

by Michael Obermuller

The lead-up to the NFL Draft is a sports process like no other. The speculation, the intrigue, the misinformation and strategy used by different franchises and general managers. Considering the diverse crop of quarterback talent available in 2021, this offseason has been as wild as ever. I mean, just look at this curveball from Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer a few days before draft night.

Trevor Lawrence has been the consensus number one pick for what feels like years, and Jags owner Shad Khan has seemed pretty intent on marketing the rebirth of the franchise around the Clemson star, so why then is Meyer still choosing between three players at No. 1 overall?

It could just be due diligence from a first year NFL head coach, or maybe Lawrence to Jacksonville isn’t as much of a lock as most people thought. After all, there is certainly no reason to play mind-games with opposing GM’s when you’re the one picking first. Yet here we are left with this mysterious quote.

Don’t you worry though, I’ve seen through all the GM mumbo jumbo of the past few months and I’m confident in saying that I have figured out where each quarterback will end up — I think. Either way, I’ll give it a whirl, starting with the aforementioned Jaguars.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (No. 1)

I know, after all that in the introduction, I’m still predicting T-Law to DUVAL? That’s right, because if Meyer wants to pull off the most shocking move in recent draft memory, he can do it without my blessing. There are a couple important things to note here though. One, Meyer is not considering Mac Jones or Trey Lance in the top spot. Could this have an influence on other franchises behind him? Urban was a premier college recruiter for a long time after all. Or perhaps he has yet to gain the respect of his fellow NFL peers, and his opinion means very little to them. Two, the former Ohio State HC and program director is likely passing on his former QB, Justin Fields. Meyer actually ranked the quarterbacks in a preseason show in June of 2020, with Lawrence first in his ranks and Fields second. His reasoning at the time was this;

[Lawrence] played one more year. That was it. The one thing I’ll say about Justin Fields because I’m very close to the situation, any concerns about him being a throwing quarterback are gone now. He’s developed, he’s outstanding.

– Urban Meyer, FOX College Football

The Jags could certainly throw a wrench in the entire draft by taking either Zach Wilson or Fields, which would probably send Lawrence to New York at No. 2, but it’s highly unlikely and I’m not buying it. Size, accuracy, speed, raw ability, intelligence, drive — Lawrence is the consensus number one for a reason. I’m not saying that he’s guaranteed to be the most successful NFL product, he’s not, but he is the safe bet for Jacksonville. For the sake of all our sanities, let’s move on and assume this sticks.

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson (No. 2)

GM Joe Douglas and the New York Jets have traded 2018 first round pick Sam Darnold, so yes they are 100 percent taking a quarterback at two (for those who haven’t been paying attention). They have been linked to the BYU Cougars signal-caller more and more since Week 17, and I personally don’t see this changing on Thursday night. Wilson checks all the boxes for the Jets. He is an accurate passer and a competitive winner (albeit against lesser competition), known for his on-the-fly decision-making and pocket presence as well as an arm that throws just as far on the move as it does standing upright. Wilson has drawn recent comparisons to Patrick Mahomes for some of these intangible traits, but there’s a contingent of fans that still have doubts that scouts and GM’s are once again sleeping on in-your-face talent.

If Fields can translate his OSU skillset to the pros, it wouldn’t be the first time that the best and brightest NFL minds in the game are totally wrong. I mean he did run a 4.44 forty with a 70.2 completion percentage in 2020. For the record, as you’ll see throughout this article, Fields is my personal QB1 in this class, but that doesn’t mean he appeals to the teams picking in the top three.

3. San Francisco 49ers: Mac Jones (No. 3)

Is the infamous “smokescreen tactic” being utilized by Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers? It’s quite possible, in fact Joe Douglas and the Jets could be using it too for all we know. If Fields truly is the quarterback with the most upside potential, it would make sense that every GM behind the Jaguars is trying to keep Meyer off their trail by talking up Wilson, Jones and Lance. At the same time, it seems even more likely that the NFL brass are once again scared off by an Ohio State product who has been labeled as a runner that struggles with his progressional reads. If Lawrence and Wilson do indeed go one-two, Fields should be the pick at three in my opinion, but he may not be according to reports.

There’s something fishy about this developing story, because Jones and Lance couldn’t be more different as prospects. I can’t deny that Mac Jones makes sense as Shanahan’s favorite option. The Niners HC has highlighted his on-field and NFL-ready intelligence, citing that the Alabama product is the win-now choice for a team that was in the Super Bowl two seasons ago. Jones is also the most similar to the quarterbacks that have flourished in Shanahan’s system in the past (Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo). Lance on the other hand makes me scratch my head. He’s from a small program that did not play against NFL-type talent, he’s not game-ready by most estimations, and he’s athletic rather than accurate or experienced. The fact that San Francisco is torn between these two, but not interested in the player that is pretty much the combination of both (Fields) is odd to say the least. For these reasons, I do think there’s a chance that the 49ers are under-selling Fields on purpose, but I’ll begrudgingly stick with Jones here anyway because of how well he fits the Shanahan mold.

4. TRADE — Denver Broncos: Trey Lance (No. 4)

Some have the Atlanta Falcons taking Lance at four, but in the end I think Arthur Smith’s new offense stands pat with the reliability of Matty Ice for a couple more seasons and trades down to reconstruct this roster from the inside out. That process may not start with an inexperienced QB, but it could begin with a haul of present and future draft picks. The next question is their trade partner, and although it has not been mentioned as much as a New England or Washington Football Team, the Denver Broncos are my under-the-radar candidate to make the jump from ninth to fourth. George Paton is taking over as GM for the Broncos, and he may try and make a splash in his first NFL Draft having the final say.

Everything about Paton’s thinking for his first draft screams Lance to me. It’s unexpected, out-of-the-box, and hopefully solves the problem that John Elway failed at for years in the same position — finding a franchise quarterback. Drew Lock has yet to display any qualities that separate him from the rest of the league, so I expect Paton to jump at the opportunity to bring in someone that can compete not only with Lock, but long-term with division rivals like Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Of course, the Broncos could also go with Fields here, but I’m sticking with my theme that this inexplicable stigma drops my QB1 down to QB5. I also like the fit for Lance in Denver. He played at North Dakota State, a similar climate, and his build and physicality as a runner bear some resemblance to Elway himself. Although I’m sure Broncos fans would also take his Josh Allen comp.

5. Detroit Lions: Justin Fields (No. 7)

So where oh where will Mr. Fields land? No he won’t fall out of the top 10, and I don’t expect the Cincinnati Bengals or Miami Dolphins to trade down either when they can grab the players they covet most (Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase by all reports) at five and six. That leaves the Detroit Lions, who could choose to trade down with the Patriots or the highest bidder, but honestly why would they? The Lions roster moves have signaled a total overhaul rebuild under the new regime of Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes, and they already have enough future draft capital from the Matthew Stafford trade where they don’t need more first round picks. They need a franchise quarterback. The wrinkle that you may point out is that they also received back Jared Goff and his contract in that same deal. Let’s be honest though, Goff is a placeholder in Detroit at best. At worst, he’s a cap casualty after 2022 (when cutting him would only cost $10 million). So why not accelerate the process if Justin Fields falls into your lap?

A player with as much potential as Fields could be a dream for Holmes at No. 7 in his first NFL Draft, and the young QB could even learn under Goff as a rookie before jumpining into the NFL head-first. He can truly do it all; whether it’s his accuracy as a passer or his agility as a runner, his escapability in the pocket or strong arm on the run, his competitiveness as an premier athlete or his confidence in primetime games. I’m not sure why every team is insistent on looking past Fields, and maybe it all is a smokescreen and he goes top three, but it just feels like the NFL scouts and decision-makers are talking themselves into passing on another superstar.

Dream Draft Targets for LA Rams

Which positions will the LA Rams bolster in the NFL Draft?

by Michael Obermuller

If you were wondering whether or not the Los Angeles Rams have a first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — they don’t. In fact, the franchise that has not had a first round selection since drafting Jared Goff in 2016 is not scheduled to have another until 2024.

Rams general manager Les Snead has preferred trading his first rounders for proven NFL talent, which has had mixed results over the years. His most recent decision to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford actually reversed a previous deal he made to move up for Goff in 2016 (a mistake that would normally get a GM fired), but the Rams sustained success has lengthened the leash on Snead’s strange tenure.

Now that the Goff era has met its end in LA, we all finally get to see what Sean McVay can do with a top 15 quarterback talent. Here are the other major ins and outs that the Rams have made so far this offseason.

Leonard Floyd, EDGEMatthew Stafford, QBJared Goff, QBBlake Bortles, QB
DeSean Jackson, WRJohn Johnson, S
Devlin Hodges, QBSamson Ebukam, EDGE
Austin Blythe, C
Troy Hill, CB
Michael Brockers, DT
Gerald Everett, TE
Josh Reynolds, WR

As you can see, the cap-stretched Rams franchise has not had much flexibility in free agency after their recent trades for stars like Stafford and Jalen Ramsey. Necessary extensions for Aaron Donald, Robert Woods and others have not helped either. That all makes the NFL Draft crucial for Los Angeles, and they’ll have six picks to hit on from rounds two through seven (headliners are one second and two thirds).

With holes on the roster and not much money left to fill them, what areas should the Rams target with their top picks in 2021? Here are a few dream prospects for LAR in rounds two and three at positions of need.

3. Nick Bolton, ILB (Missouri)

Some analysts have Nick Bolton falling to the third or fourth round due to his 2020 season, while others rave about his consistency as a run-stopper and tackler at Missouri. Pro Football Focus has him as the second-highest graded linebacker behind Micah Parsons the past two seasons, so the potential is there so long as the pro-fit is right. I believe it could be in Los Angeles.

The Rams need an inside linebacker that does nothing but tackle, and Bolton totaled 198 of those during his Junior and Sophomore campaigns combined. During those two seasons, 16.5 of those stops were for a loss, with an added three sacks and three turnovers forced (two interceptions). Considering the Rams have been cycling through sub-par inside backers like Micah Kiser, Kenny Young and Troy Reeder for years now, Bolton could be an asset that immediately steps into a major role on this defense.

2. Creed Humphrey, C (Oklahoma)

With the departure of center Austin Blythe in free agency, Snead is left with a glaring problem at the heart of his offensive line. Brian Allen could be slated to start in 2021, but the former fourth round pick has yet to prove he can perform at the NFL level (58.6 PFF grade in 563 snaps in 2019). LAR needs to draft it’s center of the future, and that could be Oklahoma Sooner Creed Humphrey.

The 2020 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year did not allow a sack on 401 passing plays. His intelligence and toughness help project him as a prospect that should go somewhere from rounds two to four, and his durability marks another trait for the Rams to rely on (compared to a talent like Landon Dickerson out of Alabama).

1. Aaron Robinson, CB (UCF)

Assuming no trades occur, the Rams first selection in 2021 will be at No. 57 overall, and they should really consider using this pick on a versatile defensive back like Aaron Robinson. The UCF product generally lined up in the slot in college, but scouts think he could play outside if need be. He’s a 5’11” press-corner that thrives at in your face man-to-man coverage, and his intensity should get him some looks in the second round (15 pass breakups the past two seasons).

Robinson would slot in behind Ramsey and Darious Williams in 2021, as the Rams nickel CB (replacing Troy Hill). His style is similar to the All-Pro CB1 in LA, and Ramsey could even assist in the development of the rookie as a mentor of sorts. It’s possible Robinson may not make it to No. 57, but some other similar options at interior corner or CB/S hybrid include names like Asante Samuel Jr., Jevon Holland and Shaun Wade.

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