5 QB targets for the Colts in 2023

Sharp QB targets for the Colts

By: Jake Rajala

The Indianapolis Colts axed Frank Reich & it’s safe to say that Matt Ryan doesn’t appear to be the answer at signal-caller, as well. Matty Ice has thrown nine interceptions with nine passing touchdowns to back it up. CBS Sports rightfully dubbed Ryan as the biggest individual dead money cap charge at this point. As the Colts dream of acquiring a new starting QB1, I’m going to untwine five QB targets for the Colts in 2023.

  • Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson and potentially Sean Payton would be superb fits for Indy. Jackson and Jonathan Taylor would bring headaches to opposing run defenses for ages. Furthermore, Jackson would be able to play opposite a stingy Colts defense (featuring the likes of Darius Leonard, Deforest Buckner, and Stephon Gilmore).

Jackson has the eight-best QB rating this season (one spot behind Josh Allen) & he’s first in rushing yards at the QB spot.

  • Daniel Jones

Despite being at the helm of a 6-2 squad, Daniel Jones isn’t unveiling ungodly, Drew-Brees-like stats (six passing touchdowns to two interceptions). However, he’s still been efficient this season w/ an 88-passer rating. He’s also 25 years old and he will bring potential to any team.

  • Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy G (and his chin-line) can still have a fruitful NFL career without Kyle Shanahan in 2023 and beyond. Jimmy G has impressive arm talent combined with a tough injury history. Although, The Colts OL may be able to help Jimmy G stay fresh and crisp for a long time.

  • Gardner Minshew

Gardner Minshew may just be the best QB2 in the NFL & he will finally be out of the Eagles clutches in 2023. Minshew Mania had a magical rookie season and he even squeezed out a career-best 104.8 passer rating in 2021.

  • Teddy Bridgewater

If the Colts don’t want to break the bank for a FA QB, they could rest on inking the underrated, modest QB in Teddy Bridgewater. Teddy B had a .500 record with the Denver Broncos in 2021 — which can’t be said by Russell Wilson. Bridgewater is also gaining invaluable experience under the offensive wiz Mike McDaniel this season.

Can Lamar Jackson actually win MVP this season?

Who will win MVP this season?

By: Jake Rajala

The dual-threat quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens & Michael Vick stan, Lamar Jackson, is preparing to unleash havoc against the New Orleans Saints. Jackson was on another level in his first three starts in 2022 by throwing at least three passing touchdowns in each contest. Since his showdown against the New England Patriots, Jackson has failed to throw more than a few touchdowns in a single game. So, is Jackson still capable of being an unearhtly signal-caller & winning MVP for the second time in his career?

At this moment, I believe the answer to the previous question is yes. Jackson still sits fourth in the league in passing touchdowns & he is also sitting shiny at the top of his AFC North division. Jackson may have slipped out of the Top-3 MVP favorite group chat, but the once face of Madden can still insert himself back as the MVP favorite.

In my opinion, the AC/DC war Lamar Jackson-Baltimore Ravens contract negotiations are still in Jackson’s favor.

The Ravens didn’t sign OBJ or acquire Chase Claypool, but they did recently make a sneaky move by inking the speed-demon Desean Jackson. The Philadelphia Eagles legend hauled in 454 receiving yards a season ago w/ the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Rams. Jackson will join TE Mark Andrews (488 receiving yards, five receiving touchdowns), WR Devin Duvernay (313 yds and 3 TDs, and WR Rashod Bateman (285 yds and 2 TDs) as prime targets for the Ravens QB1.

The Lamar Jackson-led squad also has an extremely favorable schedule ahead. They play the newfound confident New Orleans Saints defense in Week 9 on Monday Night Football, who shut out the Las Vegas Raiders last week, but it’s smooth sailing for BAL after their spar with Who Dat Nation. They battle the (2-6) Carolina Panthers in Week 11, the (2-6) Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12, the (3-5) Denver Broncos in Week 13, the (2-6) Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 14, the (3-5) Cleveland Browns in Week 15, the (4-4) Atlanta Falcons in Week 16, the (2-6) Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17, & the (4-4) Cincinnati Bengals in Week 18. It should be stated that LJ has already beaten the Bengals & the Browns this season. I believe that the Saints squad which is full of bliss and preparing to face Jackson in the dome could defeat the Ravens QB, but Jackson could honestly win the remainder of his match-ups after Week 9.

The MVP race is up in the air between Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Lamar Jackson. Hurts has yet to taste defeat, while he is also third in passer rating. Of course, Josh Allen is still blazing hot with 19 passing touchdowns and 2,138 passing yards (as he is projected to finish with 5,338 passing yds and 46 passing TDs this season). The Chiefs illustrious QB Patrick Mahomes, who doesn’t have Tyreek Hill, leads the NFL in passing touchdowns (20) & his squad also sits atop the NFL’s most competitive division. The first three names may have the most momentum, but let’s forget about the utterly electric, slightly more equipped Ravens dual-threat QB that will be licking his chops against nearly all his foes moving forward. It will be a non-stop, thrill ride to witness which signal-caller crosses the finish line for MVP honors at the end of the 2022-2023 season.

What we learned from Week 3 in the NFL

Reflecting on Week 3 in the NFL

By: Jake Rajala

Week 3 is nearly completed and it was certainly an exhilarating batch of showdowns. With that said, I’m going to jump right into it & untwine seven things we learned so far from Week 3 in the NFL.

The Colts pick up a pivotal win against an elite opponent

I was optimistic about the Indianapolis Colts’s chances to be successful entering 2022. I felt like my heart was broken after they started 0-1-1 and set to face off against a Prometheus-like team in Kansas City in Week 3. Well, the Colts strangely upset the Patrick Mahomes show in their own stadium by a score of 20-17. Matty Ice was crisp with the football (222 passing yards, 2 TDs, 0 ints) & his defense limited Mahomes to 262 passing yds, 1 TD, and 1 INT.

There is certainly a lot of hope for the illustrious Colts team that is led by the scary RB Jonathan Taylor. The Colts sit at 1-1-1 in the AFC South — which is behind the 2-1 Jacksonville Jaguars and in front of the 1-2 Tennessee Titans & 0-2-1 Houston Texans.

Miami Dolphins look like an AFC Juggernaut

The Miami Dolphins have ascended to 3-0 — after beating the potent Baltimore Ravens squad in Week 2 & the mighty Buffalo Bills in Week 3. It should be noted that Tua Tagovailoa was nicked up, yet he fought back to help his team grab the victory.

It’s very early in the season, but it’s hard to imagine the Phins WR group slowing down and Mike McDaniel’s brain taking a slower gear. Hill wasn’t electric against the Bills, but Waddle certainly snuck through the Bills defense and ousted 102 yards.

The Phins defense has allowed less than 20 points in two of the last three games.

It’s really unclear if the Phins be the top seed in the AFC or have the edge over the Bills, but It looks like the Phins are a playoff team at this moment. I don’t believe that many teams want to face off against the explosive and stingy AFC East team in the post-season.

Jameis Winston struggles for the second straight week

Jameis Winston, who is the mega-arm QB in the Big Easy, has lost his spark without Sean Payton. After throwing a whopping three interceptions in Week 2, Winston unveiled two interceptions (although, one int was on the last play) against the Carolina Panthers. Winston nearly threw a few other ints against the Panthers, but his hard-balls to the Panthers DBs laps were uncatchable. Winston has battled through minor injuries, so hopefully, he can bounce back to 100%, too.

Lamar Jackson shines again

The man on a mission for a monster contract, Lamar Jackson, claimed victory against Bill Belichick and the Pats. LJ impressively accumulated five touchdowns against the Patriots. He also leads the NFL in passer rating, per CBS Sports. He is clearly seeking vengeance and his second MVP ring in his career.

Josh Allen vs Lamar Jackson: who has the edge?

Josh Allen vs Lamar Jackson: who will win in Week 4?

By: Jake Rajala

The battle between Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson in Week 4 will be more legendary than the fight between Po and Tai Lung. In the 2020 divisional round contest, Allen and the Bills edged out Jackson and the Ravens by a score of 17-3. After the playoff game, It was seen that Jackson was a pedestrian QB under the bright playoff lights. With that stated, I’m going to the outlook for each QB heading into Week 4 and conclude which mighty QB has the edge in the imminent blood-bath AFC showdown in 2022.

Lamar Jackson

Lamar Jackson’s 2021 stats: 2,882 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and 767 rushing yards

The Baltimore Ravens dual-threat QB and face of Madden 21 has been a breath of fresh air thus far. Jackson has registered a potent three passing touchdowns in each of his prior two match-ups. He was crafty with a 72.41 completion percentage in Week 2.

Let’s not forget that the scary leg ability combined with Jackson’s gifted arm, as he ran for 119 rushing yds and a TD last week.

Jackson is expected to have Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay back and healthy in Week 7 against the New England Patriots, according to The Baltimore Sun. It’s clear the second-year WR (Bateman) is improving his chemistry with Jackson after recording an impressive 108 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. Mark Andrews is also on fire (9 catches for 104 yds and 1 TD) heading into Week 4. Andrews was first-team All-Pro last season by hauling in 107 receptions, 1,361 yds, and 9 touchdowns.

The Bills have a lethal defense with Von Miller (2 sacks against LA in Week 1). The Bills rank second in PPG allowed. It’s worrisome that LT Ronnie Stanley is sitting out Week 3 and could not be ready for Week 4, too. Per Baltimore Ravens team page, he practiced on a limited basis for the first time Wednesday and Thursday. It’s encouraging that Stanley is shaking off the rust, but I believe it will seem unlikely for him to be 100% and in sync in Week 4.

The Bills have only allowed 17 points over the past two games combined. Although, It should be noted that the Bills defense has bled against top-tier signal-callers in recent memory. Patrick Mahomes unveiled three touchdowns and 378 passing yards in the latest divisional round & Tom Brady threw 363 passing yards and 2 touchdowns to defeat the Bills in December of 2021. The ultimate question is: which Bills defense should we expect against the elite Ravens QB?

Josh Allen

Josh Allen’s 2021 stats: 4,407 passing yards, 36 passing TDs, 15 ints, and 763 rushing yards

The ring leader of Bills Mafia, Josh Allen, is undoubtedly the MVP favorite at this very early point in the season. The Bills QB1 has registered 7 passing touchdowns to 2 interceptions in two contests combined. He also ran for a touchdown and 56 yds in Week 1. Allen also has a freaky-high completion percentage (75.4 completion percentage) right now. It simply can’t be undermined that one of his wins came against the reigning Super Bowl Champion (Los Angeles Rams). Allen already has a whopping 90.7 grade by PFF.

The connection between Allen and Stefon Diggs is absolutely cooking. Diggs ousted 12 catches for 148 yds and 3 TDs in Week 2 & 8 catches for 122 yds and 1 TD the game prior. PFF has given Diggs a 90.8 grade for his work thus far. In 2021, Diggs unleashed 103 catches, 1,225 yds, and 10 touchdowns. Gabriel Davis garnered four catches for 88 yds in the Bills opener. Of course, he was a major factor in the recent Bills playoff battle against KC — by ousting a playoff-record four touchdown catches.

The Bills have honestly had quality pass protection early in the 2022 season — as Allen has only been sacked on three occasions in two contests. The Bills LT Dion Dawkins had done an admirable job (0 sacks allowed and a 76.9 grade by PFF). Dawkins was a pleasant LT last season with a 77.5 grade by PFF.

The Ravens pass defense was undoubtedly surprisingly porous last week against the Miami Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa threw for a record six touchdowns against BAL. Tyreek Hill (11 receptions, 190 yds, and 2 TDs against the Ravens) and Jaylen Waddle (11 catches, 171 yds, 2 TDs) weren’t exactly weak against the Phins, too.

Verdict:

I am a big fan of the momentum that each AFC signal-caller carries in this early chapter of 2022. Although, it will undoubtedly be a tall task for Jackson to have a high-end performance against the Bills pass rush, especially if Stanley is MIA. I also really feel the Bills defense in 2022 is superior to the 2021 Bills defense (which was the best defense in football).

The Ravens defense has a ball-hawk in Marcus Williams (three ints in two show-downs) and an ascending rookie safety in Kyle Hamilton, but I don’t want to express extreme confidence in the Ravens CB group, to say the least. Marcus Peters has a 44.5 grade and Marlon Humphrey has a 61.2 grade by PFF after Week 2. Diggs also has a similar skill-set as Hill, so Ravens nation should be concerned.

Allen is 1-1 against the Lamar Jackson train, but I suspect that Allen will edge out the former Louisville QB and climb forward to possess the 2-1 record in the AFC rivalry. Allen inked a hefty extension in the 2021 off-season for a six-year deal worth $150 million guaranteed. Hopefully, Jackson can ink a massive contract extension with the Ravens very soon. It would be extremely exciting for the NFL world if each QB can remain with their squads and have a plethora of fascinating duels in the future.

The Bills and Ravens square off at 1 PM on Sunday, October 2nd.

Was Kyle Hamilton the steal of the 2022 NFL Draft?

Who was the steal of the 2022 NFL Draft?

By: Jake Rajala

The former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton surprised John Harbaugh when he was available for BAL to snatch at 14th overall. The Notre Dame royalty will be a valuable asset to the Ravens secondary that currently features Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Marcus Williams. It wouldn’t be a total surprise if the Ravens flexed the top pass defense in the NFL with Hamilton in their defensive unit.

Hamilton was a special draft prospect, to say the least. Hamilton notched three interceptions, two sacks, and 34 tackles in seven games in 2021. The 21-year-old was the eighth-best prospect on Pro Football Focus’s big board. His combination of size, versatility, and production made him a special draft profile. Hamilton has been often compared to the mythical Kam Chancellor.

Hamilton was projected to be selected by many teams in the Top 12 of the draft, such as Atlanta, Carolina, and Washington. Yet, Hamilton fell in the Ravens hands outside of the Top 12. The Hamilton selection by the Ravens was an enormous reason why CBS Sports dubbed the Ravens as one of the main draft winners. It was obvious that the fact that Hamilton slid to pick 14 wasn’t as surprising that Malik Willis fell to the Titans in the third round, but it was still bizarre that the Ravens were able to add another elite chess piece to their pass defense in Hamilton.

The rookie safety can be a key factor in imminent, prime-time matchups against key AFC contenders like Buffalo, Kansas City, and Cincinnati. The Ravens can’t rely on Lamar Jackson unveiling miracle 2-minute performances in the AFC playoffs. Joe Flacco won Super Bowl MVP as a Raven, but his defense put the most steam in the engine in their successful 2012-2013 road to the big dance. Perhaps Hamilton can be a noticeable spark to the Ravens defense and the Ravens can be the next darkhorse AFC team to play in the Super Bowl.

Why are the Ravens not extending Lamar Jackson?

It is time for the Ravens to give Lamar a contract extension

By: Tim Rodriguez

NFL teams never make it easy when it’s time to extend their star quarterbacks. The Dallas Cowboys spent far too long dragging their heels with Dak Prescott. Fortunately, they were able to get it done, but it hung over the franchise for quite a while. Washington spent years franchise tagging Kirk Cousins, and they haven’t been able to find a quarterback anywhere near his level since he walked in free agency. We have another situation brewing in the AFC North.

The Baltimore Ravens have been able to extend Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, for over a year, but still have no deal in place. Why? Wish I had an answer. While many media members have floated the idea that Jackson should be allowed to test the market by Baltimore, the Ravens should be doing everything necessary to keep him on the roster.

What are the Ravens without Lamar Jackson?

Average. They drafted him for a reason. He was the quarterback that was supposed to take them to a new level that post-2012 Joe Flacco couldn’t. And he did. A 14-2 campaign in 2019 had the Ravens poised to sit atop the AFC for years to come. Sure, they got run off the field in the playoffs, but that should not take away from their dominant performance. In 2020, despite a midseason COVID outbreak, the Ravens stormed to the postseason and avenged their 2019 divisional round loss. A Jackson injury eliminated any hopes of winning the next week. 

This season, the Ravens were ravaged by injuries and COVID, including a season-ending ankle injury to their young star quarterback. Tyler Huntley filled in for Jackson and played amicably, proving that he deserves a chance to compete for a starting job…somewhere else. Unfortunately, his above average play has led many to believe that he could start for Baltimore, leaving Jackson and his contract status expendable. 

Lock him up

There’s no reason to let Lamar Jackson walk in free agency. He is, without question, one of the most explosive players in the NFL. He is also accomplishing some tremendous feats given what he has been given. It’s no secret the Ravens have struggled to put together a consistent group of weapons, with tight end Mark Andrews emerging as the most reliable pass catcher on the team. All-world tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is taking up a large portion of the salary cap, has been on the receiving end of two devastating season-ending injuries in 2020 and 2021. Orlando Brown was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs last off-season, leaving the offensive tackle room in disarray. There were times in 2021 where Jackson was under siege. Through all that, he made it work. Baltimore was in prime playoff positioning when he went down. 

Why the hesitation?

Jackson is always going to be held to a different standard than everyone else. You can come to your own conclusions why. His play style simply rubs people the wrong way. Whether the narrative be “he isn’t accurate enough” or “he can’t win the big games” or even “he can’t play from behind”, Jackson has a huge target on his back. Clearly, the lack of playoff success, as well as his increased likelihood to get injured given how he plays, the Ravens have some concerns as well. Other players on the team, like Stanley, have been taken care of, but Jackson has to remain humble and quiet. If Kirk Cousins can have a cap hit of nearly $50 million, Lamar Jackson, a former *checks notes* MVP, can get essentially whatever he pleases. 

Lamar Jackson sweepstakes?

Make no mistake, Lamar Jackson hitting free agency would be the biggest seismic shift in NFL history when we look back on it. Quarterbacks this amazing simply don’t hit the open market at this age. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady hit the market when they were old enough to run for President of the United States. This could have Drew Brees to New Orleans levels of impact. The Saints were a downtrodden franchise and Brees, who the Chargers let walk away in 2006, helped them win a Super Bowl, win countless games and become one of the most consistent teams of the last two decades.

Potential landing spots for Justin Houston

What is the best landing spot for Justin Houston?

The Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Justin Houston might be 33, but he’s still a productive player at this stage in his career. Houston unleashed 4.5 sacks in 2021 and 8 sacks in 2020. Here is a closer look at how productive Houston has been in his career.

  • 102 career sacks
  • 22 sacks in 2014
  • Four time Pro Bowl selection
  • eight seasons of 7.5+ sacks

It’s clear that Houston has been one of the best pass rushers of all time. Houston is still seeking to add a Lombardi trophy to his legacy. With that said, which team could look to obtain Houston? Here are a few squads that would make a ton of sense.

  • Kansas City Chiefs

It wouldn’t only be poetic if Houston returned to Arrowhead Stadium, but they desperately need him. The Chiefs inked Melvin Ingram, but they won’t be head over heels to bring him back after his earth-shattering 1 sack in 2021. They were aching for pass rush help in the AFC Championship matchup against Cincy and they get a pass rush boost from an old friend in Houston.

  • Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens mistakenly let Yannick Ngakouye and Matt Judon leave the building and they can’t afford to let Houston leave, too. The Ravens really need Houston in their lineup, especially after they finished 24th in sacks last season. The Baltimore Ravens and not the Cleveland Browns were last in the AFC North last season. They can’t allow Lamar Jackson, who received the torch from Tom Brady, to miss the playoffs for the second season in a row.

Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals will likely lose Chandler Jones this offseason, but they can replace him with a cheaper veteran edge rusher in Houston this offseason. Houston and J.J. Watt can wreak havoc on opponents next season. It may not be 2015, but the two pass rushers can still be stars on the big stage in 2022. The Cardinals would be a nice fit scheme-wise, plus he can really pursue a Super Bowl trophy with Watt and Kyler Murray.

Darkhorse AFC squads in 2022

The Chargers are a darkhorse AFC squad in 2022

By Chinmay Kulkarni

The NFL has an embarrassment of riches with it comes to young, promising quarterbacks. Unfortunately, these players have all been thrown into the AFC like an insanely biased game of dart, turning it into a future bloodbath resulting in good teams getting unlucky, and those that catch lightning in a bottle. This year’s Cincinnati Bengals were no different, going from a losing team to winning the division and the conference while losing in the Superbowl.

However, I believe the odds of the Bengals reaching another Superbowl soon is highly unlikely, due to the sole purpose of tough competition in nearly every AFC division. Let’s look at some dark horse candidates that might make it to the AFC Championship game.

Los Angeles Chargers

The LA Chargers are a weird team, making some amazing plays at times, and completely biffing it in others. As one of the worst run defenses in the league, teams like the Raiders and Browns had a complete field day on the soft defense. Next season is likely to be a make-or-break year, as rumblings of Brandon Staley on the hot seat start to emerge while wasting Justin Herbert’s talent.

The Chargers must make the playoffs next year despite the extremely tough division with a potentially elite quarterback at every team depending on off-season signings (ahm Aaron Rodgers). However, they seem like the most likely to copy the Bengals formula, and therefore can still catch lightning in a bottle.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are certainly building something, having winning seasons under Tua despite having a questionable show front office. The signing of the next head coach Mike McDaniel seems to have the binary direction of either going extremely well or extremely poorly. However, unlike the Bears who keep hiring defensive minds, their new offensive head coach will need to create schemes to beat both the Bills and improved Patriots and Jets teams looking to better themselves in the off-season.

While I don’t expect the Dolphins to win the division, they’re still relevant as a wild card team provided they beat the plethora of weaker teams resulting from a relatively easy strength of schedule. However, it’s certain that Miami is building something, and more weapons around Tua will strengthen their case.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are historically one of the most consistent NFL franchises, making the relatively seamless transition between Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson. Unfortunately, this season’s struggles can be attributed to the plethora of injuries to the running game as well as defense. However, even with an absent team, the Ravens were the number one seed for a week this regular season. As one of the grittiest and most talented teams in the league, they should have a straight shot to the playoffs with an easy 2022 regular season. The only case against them – their tough division.

Honorable Mention – New England Patriots

It’s even sacrilegious to say that the New England Patriots can’t flip a switch, taking them to a few divisional rounds or AFC Championship games. The first year for Mac Jones is considered nothing less than a smashing success, with the rookie making an appearance in the Pro Bowl after getting smacked around in the playoffs by the Buffalo Bills.

First, the Patriots must surround the quarterback with talent at the wide receiver and running back position. The Patriots haven’t been too keen to draft extreme playmakers at the receiving positions, but taking a younger prospect from the draft to learn and grow with Jones is a pattern with the plethora of other young quarterbacks in the AFC.

10 Biggest NFL Draft Trades of all time

By: Chris Moore, Jake Rajala, and Menachem Ickovitz

The 2022 NFL draft is the biggest focal point of the offseason and it’s where dreams come true for the next wave of draft prospects. Three of us Pro Football Mania writers decided to nicely reflect back on the most polarizing moments of the NFL draft by celebrating the biggest NFL draft trades of all time. Without further ado, here are the 10 best NFL draft trades of all time.

49ers trade up to select Jerry Rice

By: Chris Moore

You cannot have a list of the NFL’s best draft-day trades without including Jerry Rice. The Patriots probably still regret making the trade with the 49ers that allowed them to move up to select Rice 16th overall in the 1985 draft. The 49ers trading up in the 1985 draft for Jerry Rice was one of the best moves the 49ers have ever made in the history of their organization. Rice would go on to become possibly the greatest wide receiver of all time, helping the 49ers win three Super Bowl rings in the process. Rice played for the 49ers for 16 seasons, accomplishing multiple records, accomplishments, and accolades. Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. He is regarded as one of the greatest if not the best receiver of all time.

The 49ers’ decision to trade up for Jerry Rice changed their franchise. It’s one of the greatest NFL draft trades to ever happen. Rice finished his career as a 13-time pro bowler, 10-time All-Pro selections, and a Hall of Famer. When talking about wide receiver’s there are not many better than Rice, if any at all. The 49ers traded up for a franchise-changing player, and it is a no-brainer to have this trade on the list.

Steelers trade up to select Troy Polamalu

By: Chris Moore

Well, we just got done talking about a team trading up for a Hall of Famer. Why not discuss another? The Steelers traded up in the first round in the 2003 NFL Draft to select Troy Polamalu. The Steelers traded up for a game-changing safety out of USC, who turned out to be a Hall of Famer. Polamalu was a superstar for the Steelers, making the Pro Bowl eight times, and was selected to the All-Pro team four times throughout his prestigious career. Trading up for Polamalu was a huge draft-day trade for the Steelers, as it was something the organization had never done before. Not only have the Steelers never traded up in a draft before.

But it was the first time the Steelers were selecting a safety that early as well. The Steelers recognized how special Polamalu was, and trading up for him is one of the greatest moves in the history of the organization. Polamalu had a historic career during his time on the Steelers, winning two Super Bowl rings on the Steelers throughout his career. Trading up for Polamalu was one of the best NFL Draft trades we have seen over the years, and Polamalu was a legendary player for the Steelers throughout his time in the NFL.

Saints trade up to select Alvin Kamara

By: Jake Rajala

The selection of Alvin Kamara was really special, especially because he was a third round draft pick. New Orleans Saints picked a future Hall of Fame talent in Alvin Kamara in the third round of the 2017 draft. Kamara didn’t take long to make his unique presence known, as he won Offensive Rookie of The Year in 2017. “AK” had a career-high 826 receiving yards in his rookie year, plus 728 yards rushing and 6.1 YPC. Kamara had a career season in 2020, where he registered a personal high 21 total touchdowns and career-best 1,688 total yards. 

Kamara has proven to be one of the most dynamic running backs of all time in his career thus far. If the Saints RB can reel in a Lombardi trophy and a few more seasons of elite play, he will be a sure-fire Hall of Famer and he will go down as one of the most superb all-purpose ball carriers of all time. Kamara was what the Saints expected to get out of Reggie Bush when they selected Bush second overall in the 2006 draft. Bush won a Super Bowl with the Saints and he was a quality weapon and special team player (especially in the 2010 playoffs), but he wasn’t even near the player that Kamara has been with the Saints. Brees expected Kamara to be a skat back, while the Saints expected Bush to be a Hall of Fame RB. It’s safe to say they switched spots.

Sean Payton selected Kamara in the third round, while also selecting Michael Thomas in the second round of the 2016 draft. Payton and Mickey Loomis have been notorious for selecting stars beyond the first round.

Ravens trading up to select Lamar Jackson

By: Chris Moore

While he might not be a Hall of Famer yet, the Ravens trading up to select Lamar Jackson in the 2018 NFL Draft deserves to be on the list. Jackson was not viewed as one of the best quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class, but he proved doubters wrong as Lamar has shown he is a franchise quarterback. Lamar was in a QB class that included the former number one pick Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen. Considering Jackson was selected after all of those guys, it is safe to say the Ravens made a home run pick and won the 2018 draft while grabbing their future franchise quarterback in the process.

While many believed Jackson would not make it in the league as a quarterback. Jackson won the MVP award unanimously in only his second NFL season. Jackson led the Ravens to the playoffs in his first two NFL seasons and has made the pro bowl twice in his four NFL seasons. Jackson already has an MVP award and has shown he is one of the most electric players in the entire NFL. While he has not led the Ravens to a Super Bowl yet, Jackson has shown he is one of the top quarterbacks in the league. The Ravens got a steal trading up for him in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Ravens trade up in 2018 was one of the more recent big NFL Draft trades. It deserves to belong on the list of the best NFL Draft trades due to how special Jackson is. We do not know if Jackson will end up in the Hall of Fame, but Jackson is a phenomenal player that we don’t see often in the league. There might not be another quarterback who has the special running ability Jackson possesses. The Ravens found their franchise quarterback in the 2018 draft, and it remains one of the best NFL Draft trades of all time.

Chiefs trade up to select Tony Gonzalez

By: Jake Rajala

The Kansas City Chiefs selected “the greatest TE of all time” in the 1997 draft. Tony Gonzalez, who is now pursuing a film career, made three straight All Pro teams in 1999, 2000, and 2001. Gonzalez was also a basketball player for UCLA.

Gonzalez made 14 Pro Bowls in his career and he holds many TE records. The former gifted profile has the most yards all-time for a TE (15,127) and the most receptions of all time for a TE (1,325) and the second-most touchdowns ever for a TE (116). 

In 2008, Gonzalez made his first appearance in an Atlanta Falcons uniform. Gonzalez played his last season in the NFL as a Falcon in 2013. It’s obvious that the cream of the crop TE showcased a Hall of Fame career, but he has received his fair share of haters for failing to win a Super Bowl in his career. Meanwhile, Robert Gronkowski of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has won four Super Bowls. 

I fully expect Gonzalez to remain the greatest tight end of all time, which is impressive given his time of entrance to the league. Travis Kelce has an opportunity to put together a Top 5 TE career of all time, but it won’t come close to matching the career of former Chief Tony Gonzalez. It’s also important to note that Gonzalez didn’t play with a QB like Mahomes, yet he yielded historical dominance from the TE position.

Houston trades up to select Deshaun Watson

By: Menachem Ickovitz

In the 2017 Draft there were three quarterbacks that were highly touted, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Of the three, Watson had arguably the best college career. He threw for 10,168 yards with 90 touchdowns in his three years at Clemson. Most notably, he led Clemson to the 2016 National Championship.

The Houston Texans went into the draft looking to make a splash and get their quarterback of the future. The issue they had was they were drafting at pick #25 and the quarterbacks would most definitely be gone by then. So the Texans contacted the Cleveland Browns, who picked Myles Garrett first overall and had pick #12 from their part in the Carson Wentz trade from the 2016 Draft.

The Texans acquired the 12th pick and game up the 25th pick and a first round pick in 2018. Houston got their man in Watson and the Browns picked Michigan Safety Jabrill Peppers in 2017 and Ohio State Cornerback Denzel Ward with the 2018 pick they got.

Watson has had a good career with the Texans through 2020. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and was the NFL’s leading passer in 2020. However, following the 2020 season, Watson requested a trade after being upset with his voice not being listened to when it came to changes in the front office and coaching staff. Additionally, Watson had some off the field issues with allegations of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, he is still on the Texans’ payroll.

The Browns traded away Peppers as part of the deal that landed OBJ in Cleveland for the 2019 season. Ward has played well for the Browns, having been named to two Pro Bowls. He has dealt with some injuries in his short career but has 10 interceptions and 50 pass deflections.  

Atlanta trades up to select Julio Jones

By: Menachem Ickovitz

The 2011 NFL Draft will go down as one of the best in recent history. The top of the first round was filled with players with multiple Pro Bowls and probably future Hall of Famers. One such player was Alabama receiver Julio Jones. 

The 2010 Atlanta Falcons finished with a 13 – 3 record, good enough for first place in the NFC South. However, they lost in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 48 – 21. While they had nine players make the Pro Bowl, the need for another big-play wide receiver to pair up with Roddy White was one of the team’s top off-season priorities. The problem for the Falcons was they had the 27th pick in the upcoming draft.

Sitting at the 6th pick was the Cleveland Browns, coming off a 5 – 11 season and the firing of head coach Eric Mangini. The Browns were more than one superstar wide receiver away from contending and when Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff called and offered the 27th, 59th and 124th picks in the 2011 Draft as well as first and fourth round picks in the 2012 Draft, they jumped at the opportunity to accumulate assets.

At the moment of the trade, both teams did well. The Falcons picked Jones who elevated the offense and quarterback Matt Ryan while the Browns picked up multiple assets with the opportunity to improve their team in multiple spots.

Jones, who played for the Falcons from 2011 – 2020, was named to seven Pro Bowls, was a first-team All-Pro twice and a second-team All-Pro three times. In his 10 seasons in Atlanta he had 848 catches for 12,896 yards and 60 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, the Browns took the five picks from the Falcons and whiffed on all of them. Most notable of the picks were DT Phil Taylor, WR Greg Little and QB Brandon Weeden. All played for the Browns, none particularly well and were out of the NFL soon after.

Chiefs trade up to select Patrick Mahomes

By: Jake Rajala

The Kansas City Chiefs made a trade up for the best young quarterback in the league right now with Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 NFL draft. Mahomes was selected 10th overall in the 2017 draft. Mahomes displayed arguably a Top 3 QB single-season performance in a season in 2018 where he unleashed 5,097 yards and 50 passing touchdowns. 

The Chiefs QB has three seasons of 37+ passing touchdowns, four straight seasons of 11+ wins, and he’s obtained a Super Bowl ring. Mahomes has serious potential to go down as the greatest QB of all time.

Mahomes has been trying to win another Super Bowl ring since achieving Super Bowl glory in 2019. He should have the fastest WR of all time in Tyreek Hill and the Top 3 TE Travis Kelce to help him make the progress for many more Super Bowl berths.

Mahomes may break all of Drew Brees’s records, but I don’t expect the Chiefs QB to come close to matching Tom Brady’s Super Bowl count. I still expect Mahomes to be in and out of the AFC Championship throughout most of his career.

Mahomes’s offense in Kansas City is very similar to that of Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos offense, or Kurt Warner’s “greatest show on turf” offense. When it’s all said and done, Mahomes’s offense could go down as the most respected offense of all time. Mahomes has quite the story, as he also chose to pursue a career in baseball.

New Orleans Saints trade up to select Rickey Williams

By: Menachem Ickovitz

When you’re one piece away from Super Bowl contention, mortgaging your future for one player makes some sense. However, this was not the case for the New Orleans Saints heading into the 1999 NFL Draft.

Saints’ head coach Mike Ditka was enamored by Texas running back Ricky Williams and traded up to the 5th spot in the Draft to take him. Ditka gave the Washington Redskins all his picks in the 1999 Draft as well as the Saints’ first and third round picks in 2000.

For the bounty that Ditka gave up, he and Williams would forever be tied together. It got so strange that ESPN the Magazine did a photo shoot of the two of them as a bride and groom, with Williams donning the wedding dress. Sadly, for both of them, the honeymoon was over quick, after a 3 – 13 season, Ditka was fired.

Williams played three seasons in New Orleans before getting traded to the Miami Dolphins. Each season in New Orleans he got progressively better, finishing with 3,179 yards in his 38 career games with the team.

The Redskins used the picks they acquired from the Saints and maneuvered around a drop. They traded back up to pick #7 and drafted cornerback Champ Bailey. They also drafted key contributors, Jon Jansen and LaVar Arrington with picks they got for New Orleans.

The infamous Phillip Rivers-Eli Manning trade

By: Menachem Ickovitz

Before the 2004 NFL Draft, the worst kept secret was that Eli Manning did not want to play for the San Diego Chargers. The problem was that Manning was considered the best quarterback in the draft and San Diego had the first pick.

As for the Chargers, they wanted a talented quarterback like Manning but also had the opportunity to work closely with NC State quarterback Phillip Rivers at the Senior Bowl and he impressed the coaching staff. When Draft Day came, the Chargers chose Manning and waited.

New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi drafted Rivers with the fourth pick, with the thought of trading him to the Chargers to get Eli Manning. The Giants and Chargers consummated the deal, as the Giants got Eli Manning and the Chargers got Phillip Rivers and three draft picks. The Chargers used two of the picks on players who were with them for numerous years, kicker Nate Kaeding and linebacker Shawne Merriman.

This was one of those trades that you look back at and realize both teams did very well with. The Giants won two Super Bowls with Manning. He was the face of the franchise for his entire 16 year career and is a future Hall of Famer. The Chargers didn’t get the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl, but for most of his career, Rivers was the reason that Chargers were always a playoff contending team. Additionally, Merriman and Kaeding had productive careers with the Chargers.

Why the QB situation may prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West

The 49ers QB spot is a question mark

By: Andy Davies

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Only the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers (both 6) have more Super Bowl wins than the 49ers (5). The 49ers’ five Super Bowls all came between the years of 1981 and 1994. They have lost two since, in the 2012 and 2019 seasons. The quarterbacks that led the 49ers to the Lombardi Trophy were Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young. Three of those five wins saw Montana as the starter and Young as the backup.

Young is seen by many as the best backup quarterback in history, considering the gold jacket that he earned despite many years as the backup to Montana. He would win a Super Bowl as the starter after the franchise moved on from Montana. Ever since Young decided to hang up his cleats, the 49ers have struggled to find his replacement. Have they found the guy in Trey Lance?

Perhaps, but here is why the quarterback situation involving Lance and current starter Jimmy Garoppolo could prevent the 49ers from winning the NFC West during the 2021 season.

Struggles Since Young

Jeff Garcia was the man to come in for Young. During his five seasons in the Bay, he threw for 113 touchdowns and 56 interceptions as well as 16,408 passing yards. He had a 35-36 record as a starter for the 49ers in the regular season and a 1-2 record in the postseason, meaning he never hit the heights of his predecessor.

Alex Smith was the number one overall pick in 2005, shattering Aaron Rodgers’ dreams. However, he was a good quarterback, not a great quarterback. Colin Kaepernick replaced Smith and took the 49ers to the Super Bowl. They ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in a game often called the ‘Blackout Bowl’. Kaepernick failed to live up to the standards he set that season.

He would be kicked out of the league for taking the knee in a protest against police brutality in 2016. He has not played a snap in the NFL since. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded from the Patriots to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season. He gave hope to the organization after winning all five of the games he started in 2017. The fanbase had hope going into the 2018 season.

Many non-49ers fans had San Francisco down as their dark horse for the season. A season-ending injury to Garoppolo in Week 3 saw the starting role shared between Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard. However, the 49ers finished 4-12 as they went into 2019 with the second overall pick. Nick Bosa was selected and transformed the defense of San Francisco and Jimmy G had the best season of his career. He threw for 3,978 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Despite these stats, Garoppolo saw his production limited in the NFC Championship game as the coaching staff decided to use more of their running game. This led to many questions leading to the Super Bowl. The 49ers threw away a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter as they would end up losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54.

Garoppolo was criticized heavily for an overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders that would have given San Francisco back the lead. His 2020 season saw a mixture of poor form and injury. During the 2021 offseason, the 49ers traded up with the Miami Dolphins to gain the number three overall pick. They took Lance with the pick, showcasing their intentions to eventually move off from Garoppolo. There is now talk of whether San Francisco and head coach Kyle Shanahan will start Lance in week one. The other scenarios discussed are either Lance coming in mid-season or sitting out the whole campaign as the backup to Garoppolo. The uncertainty will have a significant impact on the 49ers’ season.

The Strength of the NFC West

This is a problem that will affect all four teams in the best division in the NFL. There is a chance that all four teams can make the playoffs. Los Angeles has an exciting new quarterback in 2009 first overall pick Matthew Stafford. Both the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals have quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray that they would never dream of trading away. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ starting quarterback is largely unpopular by fans, due to a mixture of the overthrown pass in the Super Bowl, his poor 2020 campaign and his injury record.

San Francisco has the least trusted quarterback in the division. With the position being one of the most crucial in all sports, it does not bode well for a team when there is uncertainty in the position. Garoppolo may be benched at some point during the season for Lance. However, the 49ers would be putting a rookie that will still be learning the system into the toughest division in the NFL.

Learning From Mahomes, Jackson, Tua and Burrow

If San Francisco are to help Lance succeed, they will need to take some lessons from recent draft classes. Patrick Mahomes, widely seen as the best quarterback in the league, spent all but one game of his 2017 rookie season as a backup to Alex Smith. The Chiefs then traded Smith the following offseason and Mahomes has never looked back. In his first three full seasons as a starter in the NFL, he has reached two Super Bowls, winning one. He has also been crowned MVP and Super Bowl MVP and reached three successive AFC Championship games. All three have been at home. On the flip side, 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow started in week one of his rookie year. He wouldn’t last the season, only playing ten games before injury curtailed his first NFL campaign. He was impressive before his injury but there are no guarantees he will be the same player when he returns.

Lamar Jackson was a backup to Joe Flacco during his 2018 rookie year but won the starting role midseason. He has since gone on to win an MVP award and is the future of the franchise. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins brought Tua Tagovailoa in mid-season but he struggled in his rookie season. He is seen to already be on the hot seat, with many feeling the Dolphins rushed him in. These examples all show there are reasons for the 49ers to be hasty when it comes to choosing when to bring Lance into the starting role.

Lance Or Garoppolo In 2021?

The 49ers will have to decide soon who their starter will be in 2021. Considering Lance has only played one full season (2019), he is likely to start the season as the backup. He only threw for a combined total of 31 passing attempts, two touchdowns and 1 interception across the 2018 and 2020 seasons, albeit the latter campaign being disrupted by the pandemic. He is likely to be a work in progress but his 28 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in 2019 mean that he is one for the future.

Garoppolo will likely start in week one but it was clear from the NFC Championship game that Shanahan doesn’t completely trust him.

Jimmy G is a capable quarterback but his health is a concern. Expect Garoppolo to remain as the starter provided the 49ers are winning games but for Lance to come in should Garoppolo either be injured or start the season poorly.

Should this happen, this will be the end of Garoppolo’s time in San Francisco. Depending on timing, he will then be traded either before the deadline or in the 2022 offseason.

Can The 49ers Returning Players Avoid A Repeat Of 2020?

This is key if the 49ers are to challenge for both the NFC West and the NFC. After earning the number one seed and reaching Super Bowl 54 during the 2019 campaign, San Francisco finished 6-10 in 2020 and bottom of the division. A ‘Super Bowl Hangover’ played its part but the main cause of such a decline was down to a colossal amount of injuries the team suffered. Along with the aforementioned Garoppolo, the 49ers also saw Bosa, Dee Ford, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and Solomon Thomas miss large chunks of the 2020 season due to injury.

San Francisco had 33 players reported questionable and there were 186 occasions when the 49ers reported a player on injured reserve. They had the second-most injuries of any team in the NFL over the past twenty years. Should all these players come back, then this 49ers roster will be one of the best in the league. This will make life much easier for whoever the San Francisco starting quarterback is.

However, from the strength of the division to the uncertainty at quarterback, San Francisco will find it tough to win the NFC West.

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