Fantasy Football: Week 2 Starts/Sits

Week 2 is almost here!

By: Matt Gruber

Week two is upon us and it is time for the weekly starts and sits. This is the second installment of the 17-piece series aimed to help you make the roster decisions to give you an edge over your opponent. Let’s jump into it and win some championships.

Quarterbacks

Start: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers

After a week one shocker in which Aaron Rodgers let a lot of fantasy managers down, I expect a huge bounce back this week. Rodgers takes on the Detroit Lions, at home, in prime time. It doesn’t get much better than that. Dating back to 2019, in his four games against the Lions, Rodger has averaged 284 passing yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are going to make a statement on Monday night.

Honorable Mentions: Jalen Hurts vs. SF, Baker Mayfield vs. HOU, Matthew Stafford @ IND

Sit: Tua Tagovailoa – Miami Dolphins

Coming off a week one win in New England, Tua Tagovailoa finds himself on the sit list for the second straight week. If it wasn’t for his rushing touchdown, he would have had a disappointing Sunday. This week, he goes up against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were able to hold quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to under 200 passing yards and only one touchdown in week one. Facing an elite defense, the Miami Dolphins passing attack could be in trouble.

Honorable Mentions: Jared Goff @ GB, Carson Wentz vs. LAR, Derek Carr @ PIT

Running Backs

Start: Najee Harris – Pittsburgh Steelers

The debut for the highly touted rookie running back did not go as planned. Recording only 5.9 fantasy points in PPR leagues, Najee Harris was on a lot of losing teams. However, there is a lot to look forward to. In week one, Harris played 100% of the offensive snaps. It was just a poor matchup. This week he goes up against the Las Vegas Raiders who just gave up 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns to the Baltimore Ravens. I am confidently starting Harris this week as a running back one.

Honorable Mentions: Jonathan Taylor vs. LAR, Aaron Jones vs. DET, Damien Harris @ NYJ

Sit: Josh Jacobs – Las Vegas Raiders

In week one, Josh Jacobs salvaged his day on the ground by scoring two touchdowns. If it weren’t for those scores, he would have ended the day much worse. This week, he goes against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers defense who held running backs to only 76 rushing yards in week one. Couple this with the fact Jacobs has been battling injuries the last few weeks and it is an easy pass for me. We saw how it was Monday night. Jacobs was coming in and out of the game, limping at times, changing shoes, or getting up slowly. He isn’t 100% and because of that, I will leave him on my bench.

Honorable Mentions: Mike Davis @ TB, Myles Gaskin vs. BUF, James Robinson vs. DEN

Wide Receivers

Start: Cooper Kupp – Los Angeles Rams

Coming off a game where he logged 7 catches for 108 yards and a touchdown, Cooper Kupp will continue putting up numbers in week two against the Indianapolis Colts. It was evident that he and quarterback Matthew Stafford have a strong rapport as Kupp led the team in targets with 10. He will now face the Colts this week who just gave up over 150 yards and three touchdowns to Seattle’s wide receivers. Expect Stafford to continue to look Kupp’s way early and often.

Honorable Mentions: Chris Godwin vs ATL, Courtland Sutton @ JAX, Tee Higgins @ CHI

Sit: Robby Anderson – Carolina Panthers

Before saving his day with a long touchdown reception, Robby Anderson was trending towards a goose egg. Finishing week one with one catch for a 57-yard touchdown, some fantasy managers are a bit worried. Anderson was only targeted three times all game. This was even three fewer targets than fellow wide receiver and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. Week two doesn’t get any easier as the Carolina Panthers take on the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are riding high from their victory against Green Bay where they dominated. Holding Aaron Rodgers to under 150 yards, while giving up no touchdowns, Robby Anderson could be in for a long day.

Honorable Mentions: Will Fuller vs. BUF, Corey Davis vs. NE, Brandon Aiyuk @ PHI

Tight Ends

Start: Tyler Higbee – Los Angeles Rams

Although he did not manage to find the endzone, Tyler Higbee had an encouraging first week. Second on the team with six targets, he was able to produce five catches for 68 yards. Furthermore, his usage was unparalleled. He played on 100% of the offensive snaps, owned a massive 23.1% target share, and had an 80.8% route participation rate. It is clear the Rams want him on the field and with Stafford’s love for big pass catchers, Higbee will be a solid play this week.

Honorable Mentions: Rob Gronkowski vs. ATL, Noah Fant @ JAX, Jared Cook vs. DAL

Sit: Gerald Everett – Seattle Seahawks

Coming into week two, Gerald Everett may be the fifth pass-catching option on his team. He did manage to snag a touchdown catch in week one, however, it was done on only two targets. This was behind wide receivers Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, tight end Will Dissly, and running back Chris Carson. Playing the same number of snaps as Dissly, in addition to receiving one fewer target, I am not confident with Everett in my starting lineup. While I do like his potential, I need to see more from him before I am willing to roll him out there. Pivot to another tight end option if possible.

Honorable Mentions: Mike Gesicki vs. BUF, Tyler Kroft vs. NE, Juwan Johnson @ CAR

If you enjoyed this piece, feel free to find more of my content on Twitter @FF_Worm. I am always available to talk fantasy football and answer any questions.

Why you should be buying Aaron Rodgers

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers needs to be sought out

By Chris Moore (Twitter: @fantasy_moore)

While Aaron Rodgers just had the worst game of his pro career in Week 1, I wouldn’t be panicking about the future hall of Famer just yet. Rodgers and the Packers as a whole looked terrible against the Saints in week 1. The Saints completely dominated the Packers through four quarters. The result even led to some wild conspiracy’s online. About Rodgers possibly tanking due to how bad he looked on Sunday.

I think the result was clearly due to Rodgers missing almost all of the offseason, the change of game location, and the Packers didn’t look right on either side of the ball in Week 1. It was a rough outing for the Packers as a whole, but this performance should be viewed as an anomaly. The Packers are still favorites to win their division and remain one of the best teams in the NFC.

Buy Opportunity

Right now is the perfect opportunity to trade for the 2020 NFL MVP, as Week 1 might be Rodger’s worst fantasy performance we see all year. Rodgers and the Packers will have a great bounce-back opportunity in Week 2 against the Lions, and now should be the time to capitalize and make a trade for him. Matter, in fact, the Lions, Bears, and Vikings defense all look timid for the second straight season. Next week it may be too late to trade for the former MVP. The Packers still have one of the best offenses in the NFL, and they aren’t going to perform as poorly as they did in Week 1 every week.

Season Outlook

Let’s not forget how dominant this offense was last season. Rodgers finished as the QB3 last year. Aaron Jones finished 2020 as the RB5. Davante Adams finished as the WR1, and Robert Tonyan was the TE3. The Packers’ offense completely dominated in fantasy last season, and there’s still a chance they are that great again this year. One bad game shouldn’t change your view on how good this team can be in terms of fantasy. Rodgers was incredible last season, and I believe he has the chance to achieve that success again in 2021.

Ride The Last Dance

If you currently own Rodgers, there’s no reason why you should be hopping off the train just yet. It is unrealistic to expect Rodgers to put up the numbers he did in 2020. It’s not unrealistic to view Rodgers as a top fantasy QB. Rodgers has clear top-five fantasy upside in this offense, and he’s someone I would be looking to buy low on. While it’s anyone’s guess if this is Rodger’s last season in Green Bay, I don’t expect him to go out like this. Rodgers is going to look like the quarterback we saw last year. It’s only a matter of time until we see him and Adams tearing up secondaries once again. Right now is the perfect opportunity to trade for Rodgers while he’s coming off one of the worst performances of his career. Now is the time to hop on the Aaron Rodgers train and ride the last dance.

Dynasty: 3 Flex Players to Trade for

Trade for Broncos WR Courtland Sutton

By: Keith James

3 Dynasty Players to Buy 

The NFL is back and it is better than ever. The beauty of the NFL is that it is a week-to-week game. One week a team or a player looks great, the next week not so much. Such is life in the NFL. In a dynasty, fantasy owners can win by buying the dip. Human beings are emotional creatures. We don’t always follow logic. This is never more true than in fantasy football. People take this seriously and they get angry when their players don’t perform. 

Use that anger to your advantage. Look for young players that didn’t perform where a fantasy manager may throw their hands up and say, I’m going to cut bait on this player. This is how fantasy managers can buy productive assets on the cheap. 

This week I will give three players that can be used in the flex position that fantasy managers can buy cheaper than before the season. 

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 23 years old

Aiyuk was a mystery on Sunday. There were reports that he has been dealing with injuries all off-season but he was healed up enough to suit up against the lowly Lions on Sunday. Given the 49ers history of spreading the wealth, I cautioned fantasy owners on Aiyuk in week one. In what should have been a smash spot for the talented 2nd-year player, I was concerned that the Niners were going to spread the wealth and Aiyuk could be the odd man out solely based on his injury. 

Something else seemed to be afoot with both Brando Aiyuk and Trey Sermon and there were reports both payers may have been in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse for missing curfew. Who knows. Either way, Brandon Aiyuk watched as his fellow WR running mate, Deebo Samuel went bonkers against the Lions atrocious pass defense. Deebo had 9 grabs on 12 targets for 189 yards and a long 79-yard touchdown. Of course, he also had a terrible late-game fumble. Still, BA had to watch as his fellow receiver went crazy and Aiyuk was left with zero targets. That’s not good. 

Aiyuk will likely still be seen by fantasy managers as a great young receiver. He had 15.4 fantasy points per game last year because Aiyuk is electric with the ball in his hands. After week one, however, some of the shine may have worn off. I threw out some offers for Aiyuk to fellow league mates and I recommend you do the same. He is still a player that can have a top 24 season this year and in only his second year, he can become a fantasy scoring machine if he stays healthy and grows up. The cost will likely be high but I would offer a first-round pick for Aiyuk and try to pry an exciting young player from your league mates hands on the back of a pathetic week one show. 

Javonte Williams RB, 21 years old

Get Javonte as soon as you can! I would try to get Javonte this week before he goes crazy against the Jags and becomes all but untouchable. More than likely fantasy managers will not want to part with Javonte. Fantasy managers know that Melvin Gordon will likely be a PITA for Javonte the entire year. Managers are waiting for the year two ascension and may scoff at any Javonte offers but the fact remains Javonte played second fiddle to MG3 against the Giants. As much as I love Javonte’s talent, MG3 was by far the better back on Sunday. 

Gordon had 101 yards on only 11 attempts (9.2 YPC) and looked just as explosive as he did in his Chargers days. Javonte did not look great. He looked tentative and was bottled up for only 45 yards on 14 carries. It was encouraging to see the snaps split evenly between the two backs (they both had a 50% snap share) but the 28-year-old Gordon looked explosive and the 21-year-old Williams looked plodding. 

This is the best time to strike for Javonte. As I stated, his cost will not be cheap. Dynasty owners likely invested a lot in Javonte but like Aiyuk he may have lost his shine and if a fellow league mate is a contender that just so happens to have Williams, there may be a deal to be had for a more established RB and a pick. I would strike sooner rather than later however because up next, the Broncos take on the lowly Jags. The Jags of course were demolished by what many people think is the worst roster in the NFL in the Texans. With Denver more than likely taking a commanding lead in week two against Denver, Javonte may get enough run to put up gaudy numbers. 

This may be the last chance to get what could be a top ten back in the NFL over the next three years. If a team has any interest in selling, I am trying to buy Javonte right now. His schedule at the end of the season could make patient Javonte owner league winners. With Gordon’s history of getting beat up and missing games, this could be Javonte’s backfield to own by week 10. I’d be willing to offer a player like Chris Carson and a first-round pick to land Javonte. As I say, he won’t be cheap but he will be worth whatever it takes to pry him from your league mates hands. 

Courtland Sutton WR, 25 years old

Sutton had a bad game against the Giants. Lining up against James Bradberry is never easy and Jerry Jeudy was the star receiver in this game; until his injury. With Jeudy suffering a high ankle sprain and landing on IR, his entire season is likely toast. Remember Michael Thomas last year. Even if Jeudy comes back he will likely be hobbled the rest of the year. High ankle sprains are killers for playmakers. This is the time to strike on Courtland Sutton. 

Sutton of course is working back from his own devastating injury. Sutton blew out his ACL early in the season last year and will likely take a few weeks for him to regain his confidence and explosion. Sutton was on his way to becoming one of the best young receivers in the game in 2020. Coming off of an impressive 2019 season, Sutton blew out his knee all too early. Injuries suck. Sutton owners are likely frustrated and are wondering if Sutton will ever come back. He only had 1 grab for 14 yards on 3 targets. Steady Teddy Bridgewater will spread the wealth and he found guys like Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, and Albert Okwuegbunam against the Giants. Combined those three players had 13 grabs on 15 targets for 117 yards and two touchdowns. It seemed as though everyone but Sutton had a good game for the Broncos. 

Sutton may take some time but with Jeudy going down, Sutton has the opportunity to be a true alpha in Denver. Playing against the Jaguars this week, he could be in line for a monster game. I would throw out some offers for Sutton and see if there are any bites. Again, strike before the player goes off. Denver should manhandle the Jaguars fairly easily this week as 6 point favorites on the road. Both Williams (pricey) and Sutton (cheap) could be had for a discounted price but if they blow up against the Jaguars forget about it. Remember, human beings are emotional. Both good and bad. The strike will Sutton has put a bad taste in his fantasy managers mouth and your team could have a high-end WR2 this year and for years to come. 

3 of the most “untradeable” players in fantasy

Never trade Jonathan Taylor

By: Taylor Ford

These three players will be hard to acquire in your dynasty and redraft fantasy leagues for 2021. Though, untradeable, means it will also be hard to trade these guys at the current asking price around leagues.

Jonathan Taylor

We start with the guy that is probably the hardest to move. This is the second season for the phenom that is Jonathan Taylor. Like the other two guys on this list, his stock is probably higher than it will ever be, making it hard to acquire him. The opposite side is that he is going to be hard to trade away because most people will not be willing to give the proper asking price for the guy. I personally am in 10 leagues (8 Dynasty), and I have only seen him moved once. I was the one acquiring him, and I paid a lot. That owner received Austin Ekeler, Robert Woods, and a 2023 first-round pick.  According to Dynasty Trade Calculator, as of right now, JT has a higher value than every running back not named Christian McCaffrey. In the last 6 games of last season, He put on a show for his fantasy owners. In those 6 games, he tallied 741 yards on 119 carries and rushed for 7 touchdowns. At only 22 years old he is going to be a monster, but is he worth paying the amount asked of by owners? In my opinion, absolutely.

Kyle Pitts

Second is the rookie future Hall of Famer Kyle Pitts. He is so high in value right now before even taking a snap in the NFL, it’s unreal. Redraft leagues may not be near as difficult to acquire or move him, but in dynasty, it seems impossible. The asking price is extremely high for unproven talent. I did see one trade in a league that I am in. Pitts got sent to another team for Darren Waller, Mike Williams, and 2 second-round picks. That is the cheapest I have seen out of the offers posted on Twitter. The guy is a rare talent at that position, sure. It still remains a mystery if that will translate over to the NFL. So, is the asking price worth the pay? Not in my opinion.

CeeDee Lamb

This number 88 superstar for America’s team is an absolute stud. Last year he put up just short of 1000 yards and tallied 5 TDs on 74 receptions. This was with four different quarterbacks. Now with Dak looking all sorts of elite and being the one throwing CeeDee the ball all season, Lamb is going to kill it. Though, he is not and will not be the number one receiver in Dallas as long as 19 is there. On the contrary of what most fantasy owners have been trained to believe this offseason, CeeDee is and will be the number 2 in the big D.  Amari is Dak Prescott’s favorite target and most likely always will be as long as Coop is on the squad. Now, this does not mean CeeDee’s value goes way down. Both Dallas receivers can and most likely will finish top ten in fantasy for the 2021-2022 season. I once offered all of my draft picks for 3 years (21 draft picks) for CeeDee by himself and the guy declined it. I have completed one trade this offseason for him. It involved me giving a first and Antonio Gibson. Is he worth the price you have to pay to acquire him? Yes, he is worth it, but getting someone to pays his price may be hard to find.

Trust in Eagles QB Jalen Hurts

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts is the future

By: Brady Akins

In fantasy football, we crave players that can do it all.

Running backs who can catch passes, as well as, can run are valued much higher among experts than players who specialize in one. Wide receivers who get a high amount of targets better rank well in yards per target to be seen as a WR1. And of course, quarterbacks who run often and run well, are seen as must-start players.

The do-it-all focus is why we’ve seen players like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen emerge as some of the hottest players in all of fantasy football. They put up impressive passing stats, and oftentimes outpace their own running backs in rushing yards.

Four of 2020’s top six highest-scoring quarterbacks had at least 400 yards rushing, and with the next four players outside the top six adding at least three rushing touchdowns to their fantasy production, it might be fair to say that the trend of rushing quarterbacks isn’t going anywhere.

The latest team to pick up on the trend is the Philadelphia Eagles, who will head into the 2021 season with their second-round pick from last year’s draft looking ready to lead the team back to glory– Jalen Hurts.

Hurts, as a runner, finished ninth among quarterbacks in rushing yards, despite starting in only four games last season. On top of that, he added three rushing touchdowns in just a three-week span and used that rushing performance to finish seventh overall in fantasy points per game from the time he became the team’s starter to the end of the year.

Hurts’ fantasy production in that time was ahead of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Deshaun Watson– and did so facing strong defenses as well, going up against the Saints, Cardinals, and Washington Football Team in three of his four starting appearances.

But the craziest thing about Hurts is that he might not even be a duel threat, at least not yet. One look at the Eagles’ quarterback’s box scores will show that he still struggles as a passer. Hurts managed only one game in that four-game period with more than one passing touchdown, finished the year with a 1:3 touchdown to interception ratio in his final two games, and has yet to start a game and finish with a completion percentage above 60%.

But there’s reason to believe Hurts can improve on his passing, all while maintaining his elite ability as a rusher. If he can make the leap from ‘bad passer, good runner’ to at least above average in both, Hurts will have a legitimate case to be one of fantasy football’s best quarterbacks by the end of the 2021 season.

Help is on the way

With the 2020 season well in the rear-view mirror, it could be easy to forget that the Eagles’ pass-catchers last season were… let’s say “sub-optimal.”

The Eagles didn’t have a single player on their roster finish the season with over 1,000 receiving yards. Or, for that matter, over 900 receiving yards. Or 800… or 700.

In fact, Philadelphia’s leading receiver, a former sixth-round pick by the Detroit Lions, Travis Fulgham, didn’t even break the 600-yard mark with 539 yards in 13 appearances. 

But reinforcements should be arriving just in time to lead Hurts to a masterpiece season.

The best and the (metaphorically) biggest boost to the receiving corps will be the Alabama-rookie Devonta Smith, coming off of a Heisman-winning season where he led the FBS in essentially every statistical category you could imagine. On a loaded Crimson Tide offense, Smith’s skill stood out to the point where he became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since 1991.

Smith is now in Philadelphia, joining the Eagles’ first-round draft pick from last year in Jalen Reagor– a player who struggled with injury through a chunk of 2020 but will be looking to bounce back from a down rookie campaign. Also looking to bounce back will be tight end Dallas Goedert, who, despite finishing with more yards, catches, and touchdowns than his tight end counterpart Zach Ertz, was out-snapped and out targeted by Ertz.

But now, with rumors swirling around Ertz’s unhappiness with the Eagles, Goedert’s door to becoming the full-time starter at the tight end might be open. Between him, the addition of a potential star in Smith, and the hopeful bounceback of Reagor, Hurts could have three talented pass-catchers at his disposal, enough to make a strong leap in his passing stats.

Now add that to Hurts’ rushing potential. The guy who, again, finished top ten among quarterbacks in rushing yards with only four starts. The guy who had three games with over 60 rushing yards, and one with over 100, all while playing quarterback. 

Hurts, without the exceptional numbers as a passer, still finished as the QB7 in his time as a starter. All the stars are aligning for that already impressive ranking to get much better in 2021– and you won’t want to miss out on it.

Why the Arizona Cardinals are the biggest darkhorse Super Bowl contender

The 2021 Arizona Cardinals team is ready to surprise

By: Jake Rajala

The 2021 Arizona Cardinals team is a noticeably different animal than the 2020 Cardinals squad. Despite the vast number of upgrades to the roster and key young players garnering an offseason of growth, the new-look Cardinals team has been vastly underrated appreciated in the wide view of football media. 

Prior to Week 1 kicking off, NFL.com writer Dan Hanzus placed the Cardinals at a mediocre 18th spot. The Cardinals came in just one spot ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, who were third in the NFC East last season, and two spots behind the Indianapolis Colts, a team whose QB was sidelined for disastrous play last season. This ranking is mind-boggling, especially since an NFL.com article projecting the Cardinals to be astounding came out just one day prior.  

Cynthia Frelund, who has mastered NFL Network’s projections as an analytics expert, predicts the Cardinals to make the playoffs and she hands them the third-highest win ceiling in the NFC (behind TB and GB). It isn’t exactly a contradicting output, but yet it is a hysterical notion that some experts feel the Cardinals are a step from a step away from being a dangerous, NFC contending team — while in-depth analytics from a simulation of 81,600,000 projects the Cardinals to be elite.

I believed the Cardinals were a Top 10 team heading into the season and surely and can be an 11-12 win football team. After the Cardinals monster victory over the hyped-up Tennessee Titans, NFL..com surprisingly moved AZ up a mere four spots. Their current predicament is three spots behind the Chargers, two spots behind the Packers, and just one spot ahead of the New England Patriots. I believe it’s still a bizarre spot for the already very impressive AND talented NFC West team.

Frelund projected the Seahawks as the odd team out in the west prior to Week 1. I would feel comfortable with having the popular 49ers squad as the team out in the West. The 49ers seemed to try really hard to hand the Lions, who arguably have the NFL’s least talented roster, a victory last Sunday. To say I’m bullish on Jimmy G’s arm strength and charisma to bring a somewhat depleted defense to the playoffs in the brutal NFC West would be an understatement. The defense hardly showed the ability to complement their subpar QB against a below mediocre Lions offense in Week 1. The Lions had a whopping 438 total yards against SF’s defense, while Goff had 318 passing yards in his offense’s total effort. An unsettling cherry on top for the 49ers defensive concerns has to lie with the fact that they didn’t only allow Goff to shred their secondary, but the Lions had their will at running the football against the 49ers front seven. The Lions ground game was also were very efficient with a 4.83 YPC and 116 rushing yards. I believe the 49ers, whose defense and run game are a far cry from what the team that competed in the 2020 Super Bowl, have to be seen as the odd man out in the wild west.

The Cardinals are truly a juggernaut team. They have Chandler Jones, who was the NFC defensive player of the year in 2019, back and hunting down QBs. He showed up with a legendary performance in Week 1 with an astounding five sacks. I believe the Cardinals made a brilliant move in improving the short Super Bowl window by acquiring J.J. Watt and letting Haason Reddick leave in free agency. I believe this team is gunning to “win now” and they also made that visible by picking up A.J. Green in free agency. The players that were/are great rookie pickups in the ole Madden 12 fantasy draft really still have years left of high-caliber play left in the tank. DeAndre Hopkins has also stated that he feels Green is “still in his prime”. 

The more dangerous, yet underlooked Cardinals team will finally look to close out more games with a more seasoned Kyler Murray. The electric dual-threat QB has already taken very positive strides in his young career. Murray went from winning offensive rookie of the year in 2019 to a more robust version of himself in 2020. Murray threw six more touchdowns and improved his passer rating from 57.7 in 2019 to 68.9 in 2020. The 5’10 Murray could realistically take that big stage step into his third year, just like Bills big arm Josh Allen had done. A more dazzling Murray with a team under the radar in its own division may very well unfold to be the third NFC West team to play in the Super Bowl in the past three years.

Latest NFC South Preview: Who will win the NFC South?

Are the Buccaneers a lock to win the NFC South

By: Andy Davies

Welcome to the NFC South. This is a division that has seen three of its four teams reach a Super Bowl during the past six seasons. The Panthers lost in Super Bowl 50, the Falcons lost in Super Bowl 51 and Tampa Bay go into the season as champions after winning Super Bowl 55.

Can we see a team from the division once again reach the Super Bowl in Los Angeles? Here is a preview of the NFC South.

Atlanta Falcons (2020 Record: 4-12. Missed out on playoffs)

The Atlanta Falcons found new ways to lose last season. They lost four games by four points or less and even lost a game by accidentally scoring a touchdown. They have seen a franchise legend in Julio Jones depart this summer, as he made the move to the Tennessee Titans. This gives Calvin Ridley the chance to show he can become a WR1 for the franchise. The 3,061 yards and 26 touchdowns during his first three seasons in the NFL show that he is very capable.

Atlanta has also drafted Kyle Pitts, who can also be deployed as a wideout due to his excellent receiving skills. He recorded 12 touchdowns and 770 yards in his final college season. With Hayden Hurst likely to be the backup tight end, the Falcons have the facility to deploy Pitts in the receiver position and use Hurst as the tight end. This gives new head coach Arthur Smith flexibility in his new offense. He did an excellent job as the Titans’ offensive coordinator, playing a big role in Ryan Tannehill’s career resurgence. Falcons fans will hope that he can do the same for their quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite his tenth consecutive 4,000 yards plus season, people still have their doubts about how long he has left. Smith can turn the former MVP into a Comeback Player of the Year contender and silence the critics. Running back Mike Davis has joined this summer and will hope that he will be the back they have needed for a couple of years.

Last season, the offense wasn’t the issue. It was the defense. Only three teams allowed more total yards than the Falcons (6,374). They were dead last in passing yards allowed (4,697) but only allowed more rushing yards than five other teams (1,677). They added five defensive players in the draft. Defensive backs Richie Grant, Darren Hall and Avery Williams were taken in the second, fourth and fifth rounds respectively. Defensive linemen Ta’Quon Graham Adetokunbo Ogundeji were both taken in the fifth round.

Two games against each of their division rivals as well as Washington, San Francisco and Buffalo are equally met with winnable games against the Lions, Jaguars, Giants, Jets and Eagles. Can they overcome their recent troubles and get back to the team they once were? Matt Ryan is my tip for the Comeback Player of the Year award and Pitts is a generational tight end talent that can play in multiple positions. Atlanta will make it back to the playoffs to the surprise of many, but they are nowhere near being Super Bowl contenders. A loss in the Wildcard Round is more than likely.

Prediction: 2nd in NFC South

Carolina Panthers (2020 Record: 5-11. Missed out on playoffs)

The Panthers are another interesting team. Their star player in running back Christian McCaffrey missed the majority of last season through injury. He is back this season and has a new QB to work with. Sam Darnold was traded from the New York Jets after a difficult three seasons for the 2018 third overall pick. Going to the Panthers will allow everyone to see whether the Darnold we saw in New York is a bust or if he was hindered by the coaching of Adam Gase.
Wideout Curtis Samuel has left this summer, with the Panthers drafting LSU receiver Terrace Marshall in the draft. He will play alongside Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore, who both recorded over 1,000 yards and combined for 7 touchdowns. Running back Chuba Hubbard impressed in the preseason, particularly the first week where he recorded 80 yards from 7 carries.

The Panthers took all defensive players during the 2020 draft and ended up 18th in total points, passing yards and total yards allowed and were 20th in rushing yards allowed. This is despite the 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 21 quarterback hits and 58 total tackles from defensive end Brian Burns. Rookie safety Jeremy Chinn also recorded 117 total tackles, 1 interception in 2020. He also recorded two defensive touchdowns in ten seconds in a game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Their mixed schedule sees them play the Jets, Giants, Eagles and Texans but also the Bills, Washington as well as home and away games against Buccaneers and Saints. Head coach Matt Rhule showed promise in spells during 2020 but despite the young and exciting roster in Carolina, they will find it tough in their division.

Prediction: 4th in NFC South.

New Orleans Saints (2020 Record; 12-4. Lost in Divisional Round)

How do you replace a franchise legend? This is the dilemma facing the Saints going into the 2021 season. Quarterback Drew Brees retired after fifteen seasons with the franchise. Jameis Winston beat out Taysom Hill to the starting role and has the challenge of being the guy after the guy. Despite being the passing yards leader in 2019 with 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns, he also threw for 30 interceptions. He showed his deep ball in the Saints’ Divisional Round loss to the Buccaneers, albeit his only attempted pass of the game. Can he rebuild his reputation and pick up right where Brees left off?

He is not blessed with the most talented offense to throw the ball to. It is worth considering that the Buccaneers went 7-9 in 2019 just a season before they won the Super Bowl. He had Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to throw to who both had 1,000-yard seasons. He had the same defensive players in Lavonte David, Jason Pierre-Paul, Vita Vea and Shaquil Barrett. Whilst the Saints still have a great defense featuring Cameron Jordan and Kwon Alexander as well as an elite running back in Alvin Kamara, he has no one to throw to. With the loss of Emmanuel Sanders in Free Agency and the status of Michael Thomas unclear, Winston will have to rely on Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. If he couldn’t stop the interceptions when he had Godwin and Evans, it is hard to not see him repeating this feat with Callaway, Smith and Humphrey.

The Saints will not be able to play their home games in New Orleans due to Hurricane Ida. Their opener against the Green Bay Packers will be played in Jacksonville. They then face the Panthers and New England Patriots. This is a tough start and it doesn’t get any easier, with the Washington Football Team in Week 5, Seattle Seahawks in Week 7, Buccaneers in Weeks 8 and 15, Tennessee Titans in Week 10 and Buffalo Bills in Week 12.

If there is one man who could change Winston’s fortunes, it is head coach Sean Payton. Bruce Arians was Winston’s head coach in the aforementioned 2019 season and he is known as the “quarterback whisperer”. Payton is another individual with the personality and coaching skills to help Winston. Sadly, this experiment may not work out the way New Orleans fans hope.

Prediction: 3rd in NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2020 Record: 11-5. Won Super Bowl 55)

The Buccaneers became the first team to play a Super Bowl in their stadium, where they beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9. Tom Brady, who is highly regarded as the best to ever do it, joined last summer and everything changed. His arrival attracted players such as tight end Rob Gronkowski, running back Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Antonio Brown to join the franchise. The team took a while to gel and were inconsistent for the first half of the season, going 7-5 before winning their remaining eight games and continuing this momentum onto the playoffs and Super Bowl. The challenge they now face is whether they can go back to back. There is a reason that the last time a team retained a Super Bowl was in the 2004 season. It is a hard achievement to accomplish.

The Buccaneers have returned all their starters and added depth, which gives them a great advantage going into the 2021 season. Linebacker Joe Tryon was taken in the first round and receiver Jaelon Darden was taken in the fourth round, someone who could be a big sleeper pick. With a 3-4 scheme led by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, they have one of the scariest defenses in the NFL. Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, and William Gholston make up the front 3, with the 4 consisting of Jason Pierre-Paul, Devin White, Lavonte David, and Shaquil Barrett. Antoine Winfield and Sean Murphy- Bunting also add to a brilliant cornerback room. In 2020, White recorded 140 total tackles, whereas David recorded 117 and Winfield tallied up 94. Pierre-Paul had 9.5 sacks, White had 9 and Barrett had 8. Gholston had the most quarterback hits (20) and Pierre-Paul’s 4 forced fumbles were the most on the team. Cornerback Carlton Davis had 4 interceptions and White had the most tackles for loss (15).

Antonio Brown was involved in a training camp fight and the coaching staff will hope they are not going to see him go back to his old ways. He had a redemption year, causing no trouble and scoring 4 touchdowns in 8 games. He also scored in the Super Bowl win. His receiving teammates also played their part, with Evans maintaining his record of posting over 1,000 yards in every season of his career, including his two seasons in college. He also scored 13 touchdowns. Both Chris Godwin and Gronkowski caught 7 touchdowns, with Godwin recording 840 yards. On the ground game, Ronald Jones ran for 978 yards and 7 touchdowns. Fournette earned the nickname ‘Playoff Lenny’ and notched up 7 touchdowns in 2020.

Due to not winning the NFC South last season, their schedule is fairly favorable. Keep an eye out for their week four clash against the New England Patriots, with Brady and Gronk returning to Foxboro in what should be an emotional affair. Whilst they may face the Los Angeles Rams, Patriots, Washington, Indianapolis Colts, and Buffalo Bills, they also get to play the Chicago Bears, Eagles, Giants, and Jets. Tampa Bay should be aiming to win a second consecutive ring and will be the favorites for the NFC. Purely for how hard it is to retain a Super Bowl, the Buccaneers will reach the Super Bowl but ultimately fall short.

Prediction: 1st in NFC South and Losing Super Bowl 56 Finalists

Breaking down Philadelphia Eagles depth chart: offensive edition

Will Jalen Hurts shine this season?

By: Jacob Keppen

There are a ton of questions about the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021, specifically on offense. What we will see from Philly’s new-look offense in 2021 is largely unproven. There is talent and highly selected players, but at most positions, there is little in the way of known commodities. From the center snapping the ball to the man throwing the ball, here is a breakdown of the position units for the Philadelphia Eagles on offense.

Quarterback: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew

The big question at quarterback is of course Jalen Hurts. The Eagles can only go as far as Jalen Hurts can take them in 2020. Last year’s second-round selection, Hurts showed good flashes in his four games as a starter, including a three-yard touchdown performance against Arizona in Week 15. One of the least accurate quarterbacks last season was still Hurts. Can Hurts fully round out his game and become a franchise quarterback? Or will the Eagles be searching for quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft? If Hurts doesn’t shine and the Eagles, unfortunately, have a high draft choice next year, it wouldn’t be hard to know which position they’re selecting in round one. 

As for the backups heading into the season, Joe Flacco is what he is at the age of 36 and shouldn’t be counted on to come in and win games for the Eagles. He’s a pure mentor for Hurts and a reliable QB to take care of the football in emergency situations. Then there is Minshew Mania. Minshew shows intrigue though as a potential long term high end backup quarterback for the Eagles. Minshew is one of the best backup QBs in the league and still young at 25. We saw Winston go into New Orleans as a young backup and eventually become the starter. If Hurts doesn’t pan out soon, Minshew may see the field in the near future. 

Running Back: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Kenny Gainwell 

The Eagles went light at the running back position, surprising virtually everyone. This was a team that almost had too many running backs in the preseason, expected to struggle to only keep four in the regular season. Jordan Howard and Jason Huntley were both cut, making their way to the practice squad (don’t be surprised when Jordan Howard ends up on the main roster once again)

Which Miles Sanders will the Eagles be getting this season? Sanders didn’t quite look the same in 2020 as he did in his freshman year, struggling in the receiving game mightily. Sanders still has big-play potential, able to break off a run at will. Behind him is Boston Scott, a very competent 3rd down back who can step in a pinch. Scott is coming off a career year in scrimmage yards (586). Rookie Kenny Gainwell impressed in the preseason with the highest PFF rookie grade on the Eagles and one of the highest in the league. He very might challenge for a lot of touches in the Eagles offense. Don’t be surprised if the Eagles get Gainwell involved in the offense in multiple ways. The real thing missing in the Eagles backfield is a real power presence. Maybe it will be Jordan Howard, but for now, the Eagles lack a bit of bite in their rushing attack.

Wide Receiver: Devonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

The Eagles wide receiver room is not a great one, nor is it a proven one. While there is potential, there are two first-round receivers in the room, nobody is proven here. Devonta Smith should easily be the best pass-catcher on the Eagles offense, potentially able to be a true #1 receiver for Philadelphia. You’d still like someone a little more proven alongside him though.

Jalen Reagor has potential but didn’t quite live up to the hype last season. While he has looked good in practice he needs to prove it in a game first. Quez Watkins was a breakout star in the preseason, his lightning speed unmatched early on in the Eagles offense. Can the former 6th round pick carve out a big role in the offense, or is it just a product of the preseason. Ward is who he is, a reliable set of hands who doesn’t really do anything dynamic. Arcega-Whiteside is the puzzling name left, most fans surprised (and upset) to see him still on the team for his third season. Despite having an even worse sophomore campaign, Arcega-Whiteside managed to make the roster over Travis Fulgham, a free agent acquisition who showed real potential last year. Is this the year J.J. Arcega-Whiteside does ANYTHING for the Eagles?

Tight End: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Jack Stoll

As it has been over the past few years, the Eagles have one of the best tight-end groups in the entire league. Dallas Goedert is a player many are pegging as a breakout candidate in 2021, his flashes over the past three seasons finally culminating into true stardom. He’ll still have to compete with fan-favorite Zach Ertz who is back, contract situation is resolved. For a team hard-pressed to find any reliable receivers, bringing back Zach Ertz was a great decision for the Birds, his consistency was a great asset to such a young offense.

Offensive Line: Jordan Mailata, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Nate Herbig, Brett Toth.

If everything works out and everyone stays healthy, the Eagles should have one of the best lines in the league. Injuries have played the biggest problem over the past year, the Eagles unable to field a consistent unit upfront. The stars are back, with pro bowl center Jason Kelce returning for another season in Philadelphia. Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks look to continue to hold down the right side of the line, both amongst the league’s best when fully fit. The problem is health has definitely been an issue, with Brooks returning from his second Achilles tear. With both, over 30 health could potentially ruin a dynamic partnership.

On the left side of the line, it is finally Jordan Mailata time! Jason Peters is not here to take the job away from him anymore, and former first-round pick Andre Dillard was unable to take the job away from him in the preseason. Mailata is a giant amongst giants, towering over even the biggest defensive linemen. He has made incredible strides over the past few years, and really has the potential to be a franchise tackle for the Eagles. Always seemingly forgotten, Isaac Seumalo is certainly one of the better options at guard. While not a superstar like some of his compatriots, Seumalo gets the job done and is at worst a serviceable average guard in the NFL. Look for Philly to dominate upfront in easily their best unit on the offense… again so long as they can stay healthy.

Three players primed to dominate the flex spot

Fantasy season is upon us

By: Keith James

Feel the burn

The flex position is the most forgotten spot on your roster, yet it is the spot/s that causes the most heartburn. The dreaded Thursday and Monday Flex decision is enough for most fantasy players to pull their hair out. Ask me how I know. In this article, I will give three players that are going late in drafts that will be set and forget flex players for your fantasy squad. 

Slow and Low

When flexing it’s best to go slow and low. This works for bicep curls and for your fantasy football drafts. What do I mean slow and low? I mean slow because these players are getting slow buzz. They are boring, but they are producing. When the fantasy managers laugh, you win. What do I mean by low? I say low because their ADP remains much too low for their sexy flex appeal. These are players you snag late in drafts, and hit the flex all season long, adding up to major points for your fantasy squad. 

The Core

Flex positions are difficult because you build your core in the first 5-6 rounds. Flex players then become ultra star bench players. When drafting for depth, instead think of what players can maximize the flex position. I will admit, most of my flex players are wide receivers these days. I often draft top-heavy running backs, grab my tight end early, then grab my two starting WR’s and wait on QB’s until rounds 6, 7, or 8. But flex positions are often overlooked. Start thinking of all flex positions as starting players and you will draft more upside players that can win you weeks from the flex. 

When comparing RB’s to WR’s taken this late in the draft, wide receivers will score more than running backs on a weekly basis. The later rounds can find handcuff RB’s or a RB 4/5 for your team but more than likely the best bet is to focus on high potential wide receivers for the flex positions. The following are three players I love this year to strike gold in the later rounds that can be played on a weekly basis in the flex spot. 

Corey Davis (ADP 118, WR48)

Corey Davis is coming off of a career year and he was rewarded by the Jets for his efforts. He was signed to a 3 year, 37.5 million dollar deal and in fantasy, it is always good to follow the money. Davis was also signed to be the alpha in NYC. His rapport with Zach Wilson has been evident in the offseason and Wilson looks to be legit.

Young quarterbacks tend to focus on their first read and Davis will be the first look on the majority of pass plays. The Jets don’t have a productive tight end as a security blanket so Davis will serve in that role. Davis is a perfect big body that won’t compete for many outside targets. Crowder and dynamic rookie Elijah Moore will work out of the slot but Davis will eat in the big apple and serve as a locked-in flex position for your team.

Marvin Jones (ADP 135, WR53)

Marvin Jones is another player coming over from a different team. Leaving the friendly confines of the motor city and Matt Stafford’s strong right arm, Marvin Jones all of a sudden finds himself as the old man in the wide receiver room. The wide receiver room is talented and so is Trevor Lawrence. Jones is a perfect wide receiver for Lawrence to rely on in 2021. DJ Chark is a big body, the uber-talented kid that is in a contract year. Laviska Shenault is one of the most talented receivers from the impressive 2020 wide receiver group but I believe Jones will be Lawrence’s first option.

Jones knows how to get open and with attention being paid to Shenault and Chark, Jones will have the opportunity to find space in the open field. Jones has been Lawrence’s target in the preseason and although he is a boring pick he is a guy that will be the most productive wide receiver for Trevor’s first year in the league. We all like the new and exciting option on the menu but McDonalds fries are still the best option when you are hungry. Jones is Trevor’s golden arches fries and he will be a proven option in your flex position. 

Jakobi Myers (ADP 153, WR64)

Jacoby Myers is a quick man, said like John Gruden. I had the chance to watch his tape in the 2020 season and he is a twitchy slot option that knows how to use his body and leverage cornerbacks to get open. With the inevitable Mac Jones take over from Cam Newton, I love Myers at his current ADP of 153. That is around 12 or later. Myers will be another, you guessed it, security blanket, for a rookie QB. At this point in the draft, I am looking for upside and guys that will be involved in the offense. Myers may not have a huge upside but he will be heavily involved.

Myers has limited upside but his ADP is reflective of a zero touchdown performance in 2020. Touchdowns are fluky and Myers had some bad luck in the TD department. I imagine if Myers stays healthy he is due for positive TD progression and out of the slot could hit pay dirt three or four times in 2021. 

Myers has the ability to be a top 32 wide receiver in this league. Being drafted as wide receiver 64, there are few better options to turn to at this point in your draft. Myers will be the number one wide receiver option and the Patriots love using the slot to find holes in the defense and get up field. Mac Jones doesn’t have a great arm, but he is accurate in the short passing game which is a staple of the NE offense. Myers and Jones are a match made in heaven. Fire up Myers in your sexy flex spot and watch him pay off. 

Treat Flex Spots as Starters

A good mind trick is to treat flex spots as starters. Once a core is established, start thinking of flex guys, not as mix and match guys, but as set it and forget players. This way you can avoid frustration by choosing who to play with. You set your lineup and get ready to win. Corey Davis, Marvin Jones, and Jakobi Myers have the opportunity to lead their team in targets and receptions. They are not the flashiest players, but they are solid weekly contributors that will help you win your fantasy league. Don’t sleep on the flex appeal, they are people too. 

Projecting the Vikings 53 man roster

Who will make the Vikings roster?

By: Grant Schwieger

The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up an 0-3 preseason with a 28-25 loss to Kansas City on Friday. While it was still a loss, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game as the team now looks forward to its Week 1 matchup in Cincinnati versus the Bengals. Before they get to that game, however, the team needs to cut its roster down from 80 players to just 53. That means 27 players will have to receive the heartbreaking news and receive the proverbial pink slip. Some will catch on with other teams, via the active roster or practice squad, and some will remain with the Vikings on their practice squad as well. For now, though, I’m going to tackle the difficult task that is predicting who will make the Vikings’ initial 53-man roster. A task so tedious even the Vikings’ play-by-play announcer never nails it (This obviously excludes any potential acquisitions via free agency/waivers/trades although there is a good chance that occurs).

Quarterback (2): Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond

Before the third preseason game, this projection would have included Jake Browning as well. However, Browning showed zero ability to operate an NFL offense against a live opponent this preseason, and if the team truly wants to keep him around, they should not have an issue getting him on their practice squad once he clears waivers. Cousins is the starter and Mond played well enough against Kansas City to potentially give Minnesota the confidence to make him the only other QB on the active roster. This is a position the team could look at addressing via another team’s roster cutdown or trade. No matter what, if Cousins misses extended time this year, the season is over.

Running back (5): Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Ameer Abdullah, Kene Nwangwu, CJ Ham (fullback)

Dalvin Cook is the starter and will likely get one of the heavier workloads among all NFL RBs if healthy. Mattison is locked in as his backup and Ham will continue to be his lead blocker. There were thoughts that Abdullah’s time in Minnesota might have been up with the draft selection of Nwangwu, but with Nwangwu and Mattison battling injuries and Cook being held out of the preseason, Abdullah has improved his value to the team. He remains a core special teamer and likely makes the roster due to that. There is a chance Nwangwu’s injury lands him on the Injured Reserve to start the year, which would free up a roster spot elsewhere for the time being. AJ Rose Jr also deserves a shoutout for being the team’s battering ram this preseason. Hopefully, he can land himself on the practice squad.

Wide receiver (6): Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dede Westbrook, KJ Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Chad Beebe

The depth was murky behind Jefferson and Thielen heading into camp. Westbrook should make the team even with him being eased back in from an ACL injury, and Osborn likely solidified the Mr. Mankato award and a roster spot. Not all 5th-round picks are locks to make the team, but Smith-Marsette did plenty enough to secure himself a spot as well. If the Vikings decide to go with six WRs, the final one may go to the WR with the most experience left on the roster in Beebe. Dan Chisena looked much better as a WR this year than last and has an argument for a spot over Beebe or if the team decides to keep seven. Due to the poor QB play in the preseason, Whop Philyor and Myron Mitchell were not able to do much to stick out and make much of an impact.

Tight end (3): Irv Smith Jr, Tyler Conklin, Brandon Dillon

Irv Smith Jr just had surgery on his meniscus that will result in him missing at least a few weeks. Tyler Conklin missed two weeks due to a hamstring injury this preseason. Between Brandon Dillon, Zach Davidson, and Shane Zylstra, none of them have pulled away as a TE3 on this roster. There were discussions about whether the team will bring in another TE, and with Smith’s injury, the chances of that happening have increased drastically. Dillon gets the nod as the third TE due to his familiarity with the team. Davidson and Zylstra could both be practice squad candidates.

Offensive tackle (4): Rashod Hill, Brian O’Neill, Christian Darrisaw, Blake Brandel

Hill and O’Neill are going to be the Week 1 starters at tackle against the Bengals. Darrisaw will make the roster as a first-round pick, but the real question will be about his health. Minnesota would prefer to see Darrisaw on the field sooner rather than later but rushing him back from injury could only make things worse. Brandel should make the team as their swing tackle. The only other tackle on the roster is Zack Bailey and he has not done much to stand out this preseason. If the team decides to cut Brandel, a move for another tackle would likely follow.

Interior offensive line (6): Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Oli Udoh, Dakota Dozier, Mason Cole, Wyatt Davis

The starting interior OL will be Cleveland, Bradbury, and Udoh from left to right. Cole had an awesome preseason as the backup center and Davis’s roster spot is not in danger as a third-round rookie. Davis showed some promise in preseason games one and two before struggling a bit in game three. As for Dozier… just accept it Vikings fans. The team is infatuated with him. They moved him to left guard, where he started 16 games last season, for the third preseason game. This signals that they trust Davis to be the backup right guard and the team likely has seen enough of Dru Samia, who has been injured recently anyways.

Edge defenders (6): Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Stephen Weatherly, DJ Wonnum, Kenny Willekes, Patrick Jones

Which edge rushers make the roster is one of the toughest positions to figure out. Hunter, Griffen, and Wonnum should be considered locks. Weatherly might be starting opposite Hunter, or he could end up as a veteran cut. Either of those scenarios seems possible. I think they keep him around as an experienced vet at the very least. If Minnesota keeps just five edge rushers, Jones, Willekes, Hercules Mata’afa, and Jalyn Holmes have to battle for the last spot. Rookie Janarius Robinson has already been placed on IR or else this decision would be even more difficult. The Vikings have kept 6 edge rushers in years past so let’s assume they do so again. Jones makes it as a mid-round rookie, and Willekes makes it over Mata’afa. Willekes and Mata’afa both had strong preseasons, but this would be Mata’afa’s third season on the team and he has yet to make a huge impact. The unknown of former 7th-round pick in Willekes is appealing and gives him the tiebreaker and a chance to be a rotational player along the defensive line. Holmes has yet to make a positive impact in his three seasons with the team and is all but gone.

Defensive tackles (4): Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, Sheldon Richardson, Armon Watts

Pierce, Tomlinson, and Richardson are all locks. Reading those three names as DTs for the Vikings this year should make fans swoon after the atrocity they saw across the defensive interior last year. Watts should make the team as well and has shown enough promise in his first two seasons to keep him rostered. James Lynch has garnered some praise this summer, but he may be the odd man out if Minnesota keeps only 10 total players along the defensive line.

Linebackers (5): Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Nick Vigil, Troy Dye, Chazz Surratt

Kendricks, Barr, and Vigil will all make the team without a sweat as the three starters in the Vikings’ base package. Dye has shown some improvements from his rocky rookie season and the team will not give up on him this soon, so he should be a lock as well. The team took Surratt in the third round, which was a reach, but they obviously view him as a future piece of this team. If the team keeps only five LBs, which I expect them to, that leaves Blake Lynch, Ryan Connelly, and Tuf Borland the odd men out. Lynch and Connelly made a few plays this preseason and the team could try and stash them on the practice squad. Borland was always just a camp body. In the event Barr needs to go on IR, however, Lynch might find himself on the roster.

Cornerbacks (6): Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, Mackensie Alexander, Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand

Peterson and Breeland will be the starting outside CBs with Alexander starting in the slot. Even with a less than ideal training camp and preseason, Dantzler will still make the team as well. If the team keeps six CBs, that leaves Boyd, Hand, Tye Smith, and Parry Nickerson left to battle out the last two spots. Boyd has the experience and has played well for most of the preseason, even starting at outside CB in the last two games. Hand has not done that much in camp and this preseason, but his rookie campaign last year was encouraging. The Vikings likely do not want to expose him to the waiver wire. Smith and Nickerson had two of the team’s five highest PFF defensive grades this preseason, so this decision will not be an easy one for Vikings brass. Zimmer will forever love his CBs, so it is easy to envision him pitching to keep seven of them.

Safety (3): Harrison Smith, Xavier Woods, Cam Bynum

Minnesota went into 2020 with only three safeties on their active roster, and 2021 could be no different. Smith just received a lucrative extension and will be starting with Woods. The team liked Bynum enough to draft him in the fourth round and move him from CB to safety. He is not ready to be a full-time safety right now, though, and his competition this offseason has left a lot to be desired as well. Myles Dorn, Josh Metellus, and Luther Kirk have not done much to impress, leaving the Vikings left to once again roster only three safeties. An acquisition for another safety would be no surprise, the team would just have to make a cut elsewhere on the roster to make it happen (I’m sure Harrison Smith still has Andrew Sendejo on speed dial).

Specialists (3): Greg Joseph, Britton Colquitt, Andrew DePaola

Colquitt bounced back from a shaky punting performance against Denver to perform well enough in the next two games to be back as the Vikings’ punter. DePaola has had no issues as a long snapper and has that locked up as well. Then there is Greg Joseph. Minnesota and kickers are like cats and cucumbers, so he already started at a disadvantage. If you don’t know what I mean, just go on YouTube, it will make sense immediately. Joseph seemingly beat out Riley Patterson in camp, who was hurt, came back and kicked seemingly pretty well, and then waived with an injury designation anyways. Joseph has not been terrible, but a few misses on kicks over 50 yards have not necessarily eased Minnesotan’s concerns when it comes to kicking. However, barring a move for another kicker, which is common and would not be a huge surprise, Joseph will be the Vikings’ kicker for the time being.

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