Three quarterbacks who could be surprise Week 1 starters

By: Chris Thomas

Now that the NFL is in the midst of their mandatory minicamps, quarterbacks competitions around the league have officially begun. Every year a couple of teams will have two (or three in rare cases) quarterbacks compete for the starting job. Quarterback competitions could be between two veterans, a veteran & a younger player, or an incumbent starter & a rookie. Every once in a while, a quarterback who many believe will lose the quarterback competition has a great camp and can be awarded the starting job.

There are a couple quarterbacks who may seem like long shots to win the starting quarterback job, but may end up being the Week One starter. Here are three quarterbacks who can surprise the league and be the Week One starter for their team.

Washington Football Team: Taylor Heinicke

The quarterback situation for the Washington Football team is not as open-and-shut as many believe it is. According to ESPN staff writer John Keim, Washington will still have a quarterback competition after signing Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year $10 million deal. The competition will be between Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, and Steven Montez.

After Fitzpatrick, the favorite to land the starting job is Taylor Heinicke. The former Old Dominion quarterback was back at school prepping for finals when Washington signed him to their practice squad. He was eventually promoted to the active roster and saw game action Week 16 against the Carolina Panthers. He completed 12 of his 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown in relief of Dwayne Haskins. Then when Alex Smith was ruled out for their playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Heinicke was named the team’s starting quarterback. During that game, he completed 26 of his 44 passing attempts for 306 yards and one passing touchdown. On top of that, he had six rushing attempts for 46 yards and a rushing touchdown. The most impressive part of that game was the fact that the Heinicke-led Washington team was within eight points of taking down the eventual Super Bowl champions in the first round.

After coming into the year as the team’s fourth quarterback last season he is the favorite to be the team’s backup behind Fitzpatrick. However, it wouldn’t be shocking if Heinicke was named the Week 1 starter. After his performance in the playoffs, the team has rallied around Heinicke. He also showed that he is capable of taking control of an NFL offense and will lay it all on the line for his team. If Heinicke outshines Fitzpatrick in training camp, he could be Washington’s starter Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Houston Texans: Davis Mills

The first draft selection of the Nick Caserio/David Culley era was former Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. Houston took Mills with the 67th overall pick in the third round. The selection was not a popular one because many thought Houston would have been better off taking a potential starter for another position of need with this selection over a project quarterback. But by selecting Mills in the first round the Texans administration feels that he could be their long-term starter and could even be their starter at this point this year. The Texans’ current quarterback room is made up of Mills, Tyrod Taylor, and Jeff Driskel. The belief is that former Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson will not play for the Houston Texans this season or ever again after his trade demands and his off-the-field concerns.

In a deep 2021 quarterback class Mills was considered a candidate to be the sixth quarterback drafted and the first one selected out of the first round. He ended up being the eighth quarterback drafted behind now-former Florida quarterback Kyle Trask who was taken by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 64th overall and former Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond who was taken by the Minnesota Vikings with the 66th overall pick. According to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, the Texans were prepared for select Mond with the 67th selection before Minnesota took him with the selection before.

Mills was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and the top quarterback coming out that year. However, Mills only had 11 career starts at Stanford. Mill redshirted his freshman year and only had two passing attempts his sophomore season. During his junior year, he completed 65.6% of his passes throwing for 1,960 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions in eight games. He took a slight leap forward during his senior year completing 66.2% of his passes throwing for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. Mills also had three rushing touchdowns during his senior year.

It isn’t certain that Mills will become the Texans quarterback of the future. It is very possible that the team takes a quarterback in the first round next year and Mills becomes a high-end backup. However, after taking Mills with a high selection the Texans must give him starting reps at some point this season. He was taken as high as he was because of his upside. If Mills shows why he was such a highly regarded high school recruit and has flashes of the upside Houston saw in his tape during training camp, he could easily supplant Tyrod Taylor as the team’s starting quarterback next season as early as Week 1.

Philadelphia Eagles: Joe Flacco

After the 2020-21 NFL season it was believed that the Philadelphia Eagles would have a quarterback competition between Carson Wentz and 2020 Second Round pick Jalen Hurts to determine the team’s starter for this upcoming season. But instead, Philadelphia decided to trade Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a package of draft picks. Even with Wentz off of the roster new head coach Nick Sirianni still wants to have a quarterback competition to determine the starter for this upcoming season. The veterans that Hurts will have to compete with for the starting job are recently signed former 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens and former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.

It has felt like a long time since Joe Flacco was considered a borderline Pro Bowl quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Eight years has passed since Flacco won the Super Bowl MVP winning Super Bowl XLVII against the San Fransisco 49ers. Since that point Flacco had been very average and then was replaced by Lamar Jackson late in the 2018-19 season after a neck injury.

He was traded to the Denver Broncos the following season for a fourth-round pick. He went 2-6 in eight games for the Broncos completing 65.3% of his passes and throwing for 1,822 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions. After injuring his neck Brandon Allen and 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock started the rest of the Broncos games that season.

Flacco was then released by Denver the next offseason and picked up by the New York Jets to be the backup to Sam Darnold. When Darnold missed four games due to a shoulder injury, Flacco played decently well as the starter. He completed 55.2% of his passes and throwing for 864 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions during that time.

After how Hurts played during his four starts last season it would be shocking if he was not the teams starting quarterback in year one. But if he has a rough camp and doesn’t show improvement in a new system with a healthy offense around him, Nick Sirianni may feel that the 13-year veteran may give them a better chance to win early on. It is important to note that Nick Sirianni has done a lot of more work with veteran pocket passers versus younger mobile quarterbacks like Hurts.

More backup QBs who can become starters later in the year

Minnesota Vikings: Kellen Mond

One of the biggest surprises of the 2021 NFL Draft was the Minnesota Vikings selecting Kellen Mond with the 66th selection in the third round. According to Mike Florio of ProFootball Talk, the Vikings were prepared to move up to the eighth overall selection to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields to eventually replace Kirk Cousins as the team’s starting quarterback. That didn’t work out and Fields ended up with division rival Chicago Bears. So their plan B was the take Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond in the third round to potentially fill that void. Similar to Fields, Mond is a mobile quarterback that may be rawer than Fields but has the upside to become an NFL starting quarterback.

In 2016 the Dallas Cowboys did not land Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round and settled for Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round. It is fair to say that their plan B worked out for them extremely well. That is what Minnesota could hope for in Mond. If the Minnesota Vikings struggle early in the 2021-22 season, they could turn to Mond and see if he could potentially be the team’s long-term future at quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mason Rudolph/Dwayne Haskins

After the Pittsburgh Steelers crushing playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns the biggest question surrounding the team was how would the team be constructed and whether Ben Roethlisberger would return for another season. Roethlisberger decided to return for his 17th season after taking a pay cut. He is expected to be the team’s starter in Week 1, but at this point of his career, Roethlisberger may not be capable of competing at a high level for a 17 game regular season and potential postseason play. Pittsburgh may have to evaluate their options in the house and make the tough decision of replacing Roethlisberger midseason with one of the younger quarterbacks on their roster.

Their quarterback situation this season may be similar to what the Super Bowl 50 Champion Denver Broncos’ was during the 2015-16 season. 2021 Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning only played in ten games during his finals season in Denver and was relieved by Brock Osweiler midway towards the season. But Manning returned as the team’s starter right before the playoffs and had enough in the tank to win the Super Bowl. That should be the blueprint for the Pittsburgh hopes to achieve this season with their aging quarterback and the younger quarterbacks behind him on the depth chart.

The battle for the backup job in Pittsburgh is between Mason Rudolph and 2019 first round pick Dwayne Haskins. Both have underachieved throughout their careers, but feel that they could be the Steelers long term option at quarterback if Roethlisberger decides to retire after this season. In 2019 Rudolph went 5-3 as a starter, but only threw for 1,765 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Last season Rudolph threw for 324 yards two touchdowns, and an interception in five games (only one start).

Haskins spent his first two seasons in the league in Washington and was thrown in as the starter about midway through the season when he clearly wasn’t ready yet. In his first season, he went 2-5 as a starter, threw for 1,365 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The following season new head coach Ron Rivera made it clear early on that Haskins would have to earn the starting job and showed signs of not believing in him long term. Due to the lack of depth in the quarterback room, Haskins was named the starter and started six games for Washington last season. He went 1-5 as a starter, threw for 1,439 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. After a photo leaked of Haskins breaking COVID-19 protocol and attending a party with strippers, he was stripped of captain and later released after a brutal start against Rivera’s former team the Carolina Panthers. This offseason he signed a futures contract with the Steelers.

An interesting transaction that occurred this offseason is that the Steelers did give Rudolph a one year extension after this season worth $5 million. That is a sign that they view him as the potential replacement for Roethlisberger long-term or is comfortable with him competing for the job with Haskins or a rookie next season. It would be hard to imagine one if not both of these quarterbacks getting a shot at being the teams starting quarterback for a couple games this season to preview what their quarterback situation could look like next season and beyond.

Top 3 Landing Spots for Justin Houston

What team will Justin Houston play for next season?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

It is now the back half of the NFL offseason and there are still some big-name free agents that are without a team for the 2021 season. One of the best available remaining players is edge rusher Justin Houston. He is now 32 years old but has shown in recent years that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Over the last four years combined he has recorded 37.5 sacks, including a minimum of eight sacks in each of those seasons and a high of 11 in 2019. That’s not quite as impressive as his career-high of 22 sacks back in 2014 but it clearly demonstrates that he still has the ability to contribute in a big way.

The ideal landing spot for Houston in this upcoming season is a contending team that could use some help in the pass-rushing department. He could help a win-now team take a step to the next level. Additionally, his age would imply that his price tag should be relatively reasonable. In comparison, Ryan Kerrigan, who is the same age as Houston, just recently signed with the Eagles on a one-year contract worth 2.5 million guaranteed. Houston will likely be looking to get more than that, but he will not break the bank for interested candidates now that the market has been set. All things considered, here are his top three landing spots.

Buffalo Bills

The Bills are a team that is looking to improve their pass rush. They were middle of the road last season, ranked 16th in the NFL with 38 team sacks. They did use a first-round draft pick on Gregory Rousseau and a second-round pick on Carlos Basham, which demonstrates that it was an area of focus this offseason. Houston would not only give them an established pass rusher to help them win now but would also assist in the development of the younger players in the position group.

The Bills are a real Super Bowl contender this season, but if they could improve their pass rush they would become a whole new level of competitor. Houston could help them do exactly that. After recently restructuring the contract of Stefon Diggs, they have some available cap space to play with, and this may be the best way for them to use it.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have done a great job in recent years building their offense, but this offseason they have focused on improving their defense. They know they have to be better on that side of the ball if they want to improve from a playoff team to a real contender. They were fifth-worst in the NFL last season in yards allowed per game with 398.3 and ninth-worst in points allowed per game with 27.4. Knowing they have to be better than that, they made moves this offseason in an attempt to improve defensively including adding Bud Dupree and drafting Caleb Farley.

Pass rush is a particular area that they struggled in, recording the third least team sacks in the NFL last season with just 19 total. Adding Dupree will help that number, but pairing him with Houston would provide a significant jump in that category. They would potentially go from one of the worst teams in the league at pass rushing to one of the better ones, and that would be a wise move for a team trying to contend this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are a team that did not struggle at all in rushing the passer last year. They had the most sacks in the NFL with 56 total. The problem is that they lost Bud Dupree this offseason to free agency. He was an extremely important part of their defensive scheme and they do not have a proven replacement on their roster. Having a complementary pass rusher to play opposite of superstar TJ Watt is crucial to their philosophy of pressure defense.

Houston could definitely solve this problem. He is a piece that would allow them to continue their defensive dominance, which is a staple of their organization. The Steelers believe that they are Super Bowl contenders this season, so if Houston believes that as well then this could be a perfect fit. They currently have around 8 million in available cap space so they have more than enough to sign him.

Post NFL draft Winner and loser from each division

By: Gladys Louise Tyler

In every endeavor, there is a winner and a loser.  The repercussions from the 2021 NFL Draft are no different.  Of course, who won and who lost is all subjective until the playing actually starts.  But some teams did do better than others, and here they are.

AFC EAST

WINNERS: MIAMI DOLPHINS

It remains to be seen whether letting Ryan Fitzpatrick go handing the team completely over to Tua Tagovailoa was the right move.  However, the Dolphins did little wrong elsewhere. 

Drafting Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle should help settle Tagovailoa and the offense.  But having the sixth-ranked scoring defense return in a division that has to deal with quarterback Josh Allen and newly arrived gunslinger Zach Wilson just seems good business.

LOSERS: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Yes, the Patriots are loaded up from their spending spree in free agency, including returning quarterback Cam Newton. 

Drafting their presumptive franchise quarterback, Mac Jones feels right.  But now the Patriots have two quarterbacks with diametrically opposite skill sets. 

So what do you do? It could work, and of course, you never count the Patriots out, but….

AFC WEST

WINNERS: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

The Chargers solidified and added depth to their offensive line.  They added Larry Roundtree in the sixth round, who may prove what the Chargers offense needs behind Austin Ekeler to round out what was already a very good offense.

LOSERS: DENVER BRONCOS

If the Broncos passed up their chance to draft a franchise quarterback because they know something we don’t, my apologies.  But under current conditions, it appears to be an omission that will come to bite them in the ass.

AFC NORTH

WINNERS: BALTIMORE RAVENS

In two of the past three drafts, the Ravens have taken a wide receiver.  It has not helped.  The third time is the charm?  Rashod Bateman has the skill set to be WR1 in the Ravens offense (albeit a low bar), but if he can help the Ravens pass/run ratio become more equitable, it is a win.

In a division historically known for its defense, adding edge Odafe Oweh to their top-ranked defense is a bonus.

LOSERS: PITTSBURGH STEELERS

It could all work out; after all, tight end Pat Freiermuth is known for his blocking skill set.  But the offense, which finished last season 32nd in rushing yards per game (84.4) and yards per attempt (3.6) per teamrankings.com, needed to improve the 31st ranked run-blocking offensive line.

Fun fact Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry ran for 676 more rushing yards than the entire Steelers team in 2020.

AFC SOUTH

WINNERS: JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

With the number one pick and nine total picks, the Jaguars got their franchise quarterback and seemingly faster on offense. 

There was really nowhere to go but up.

LOSERS: HOUSTON TEXANS

They could not have won this.  The Texans needed a lot.  Their first pick was not until round three, and they managed only five total picks.  Thanks to Bill O’Brien, the Texans did good with what they were given, but winning wasn’t an option.

NFC WEST

LOSERS: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

The Seahawks had the 30th ranked defense in passing yards last season.  They lost Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar in free agency.  And they only had three picks in this year’s draft. 

Their first pick was a wide receiver, D’Wayne Eskridge.

WINNERS: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

It may be more accurate to say winner Trey Lance.  Going to a team that, but for injuries, is a playoff contender is a win. 

Now Kyle Shanahan has the quarterback of his dreams, and the 49ers are back in playoff contention.

Can we just acknowledge that this might be the most competitive division in the NFL?

NFC EAST

This was the hardest division to project a loser because basically, they all got what they needed.  However, it must be done.

LOSERS: WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM

Depending on Ryan Fitzpatrick this season, okay, I get it.  But not getting a quarterback for the future may prove costly.

WINNERS: NEW YORK GIANTS

It remains to be seen if stockpiling 2022 NFL Draft picks will win the day.  Not getting offensive line help for quarterback Daniel Jones may hurt this season.

NFC SOUTH

LOSERS: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

The Saints needed a cornerback.  Their first two picks were defensive end and linebacker.  There is also the questionable acquisition of quarterback Ian Book in the fourth round. 

It all seems so muddled. 

WINNERS: ATLANTA FALCONS

Taking arguably the best player on the board seems like a smart choice.  Adding him to an already prolific offense is a no-brainer.  Picking up much-needed help in a secondary that allowed 293.6 passing yards per game, check.

NFC NORTH

LOSERS: GREEN BAY PACKERS

I don’t know if further pissing off your reigning MVP quarterback counts as a loss, but it should.

WINNERS: CHICAGO BEARS Jumping up to #11 to pick up the second-best quarterback in the draft is a w

The Steelers Made a Mistake Not Drafting a Quarterback

By: Tayyib Abu

The fabled draft of 2004 spawned three of the great quarterback careers of the modern era. Eli Manning took the Giants to two Super Bowl championships. At the same time, Philip Rivers established himself as a gunslinging ironman.

Lastly, Ben Roethlisberger took the reigns in Pittsburgh to become the franchise quarterback of the fabled Steelers. The former two players are now retired, and after last years offensive struggles and playoff defeat, questions surrounded Roethlisberger.

Big Ben is coming back into 2021 with a restructured contract; however, at 39-years-old, Roethlisberger is not the long-term solution in Pittsburgh. The Steelers made a mistake in last week’s draft by not drafting a rookie quarterback. The franchise is in choppy waters regarding the most crucial position in the sport.

The State of the Steelers Quarterback Room

Roethlisberger’s 2020 season was a myopic existence of caution. Despite the talented core of receivers, Roethlisberger played inconsistently and conservatively.

Roethlisberger’s intended air yards were a low 6.9 yards, which suggests that he is not throwing much beyond the line of scrimmage. That 2020 number is a drop from 2018, where Roethlisberger’s intended air yards was 7.8.

In a team where the running game is mediocre, the 2020 number is not justifiable. Moreover, in a conference with Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Pittsburgh will get left behind in the AFC arms race with that type of production from Roethlisberger.

Moreover, a look at Roethlisberger’s next-gen passing chart for 2020 underlines how mediocre his passing production was. In all but three passing quadrants, Roethlisberger performed at an average or below-average level. At his age, that won’t improve.

As for Mason Rudolph, his career has suggested nothing but a ceiling of a career backup. Rudolph’s been a Steeler for three seasons. Therefore, if the organization truly believed in him, he’d be the starter.

So the state of the quarterback room is this; an aging veteran is getting worse; meanwhile, the other notable quarterback is a backup. For a team that prides itself on stability, that is an unstable position.

Drafting a Rookie Quarterback Made Sense for Pittsburgh

On the contrary, there were still several attractive quarterback prospects in the mid-rounds of the draft. Davis Mills and Ian Book got drafted by the Texans and Saints, respectively. Pittsburgh should’ve considered selecting one of these players.

The franchise knows what they possess with their current quarterbacks. The opportunity to evaluate and develop a rookie signal-caller is too good to ignore when your quarterback is 39-years-old.

It also provides flexibility to the team. If Roethlisberger was to get hurt, there is a different proposition for Pittsburgh. It is more exciting than Rudolph and another journeyman player. Plus, this year’s quarterback class boasted a ton of depth.

It may not be the case next year. With the Steelers perennially picking late, the opportunity to take Roethlisberger’s successor may not arise in future years. It would’ve been a low-risk, high-reward move for Pittsburgh. If it didn’t work out, then that’s ok; if it did, they found their franchise future.

The path they are treading instead is shrouded in mystery; there is no insurance policy for the club if Roethlisberger quits. That is a scary place to be in a division where the other three teams are set with their quarterbacks. The Steelers aren’t.

Letting a young quarterback learn and develop away from the spotlight is the most brilliant move a team can make. It alleviates pressure from everyone involved. Instead, the Steelers are riding solo into 2021 with a franchise quarterback that may retire.

Good or Bad? Grading the Steelers 2021 NFL Draft Class

Steelers 2021 NFL Draft Class Overview

By: Noah Nichols

The Pittsburgh Steelers came into the 2021 NFL draft looking to do one thing: improve the run game. The Steelers were dead last in the NFL in 2020 at running the football. To remedy that, they selected a running back, tight end, center, and offensive tackle, with their first four picks in the draft. This 2021 NFL draft class will certainly do something for the Steelers in the running game. Will it make it a top five rushing attack? Probably not. But it certainly has the potential to. With that said, here are the draft grades for the Steelers 2021 NFL draft class.

Najee Harris RB

Probably the best running back in the 2021 NFL draft class, the Steelers immediately upgraded their run game with this pick. Harris is also an accomplished route runner and Steelers offensive coordinator will use Harris’s route running abilities to their full potential. The only knock on Harris is his age. At 23 years old Harris will probably age out of the league quicker then most, but the Steelers don’t seem concerned by that here. Harris gives the Steelers a patient running style reminiscent of Le’Veon Bell, something they have sorely missed over the past three years. 

Grade: A

Pat Freiermuth TE

This was a surprise pick, but not because the Steelers didn’t need a tight end. They did. It was simply a surprise because of who else was available. Creed Humphrey and Quinn Meinerz were both still on the board and the center position was seen as a bigger need then tight end. However the Steelers elected to take the second best tight end in the 2021 NFL draft class, and massively upgraded their tight end room. Freiermuth will be a future tight end one, with his strong receiving hands, contested catch ability, and blocking frame. This 6″5 270 pound prospect won’t impact the Steelers this year as much as he does in future years. 

Grade: B

Kendrick Green OC

The Steelers seemed to have their eye on him all along. The Steelers offensive line coach, Adrian Klemm said this about Green; “He was a guy we had our eye on. We love the way that he plays in terms of what we’ve been talking about and in terms of changing our demeanor. I feel like the attitude we want to carry onto the field, he embodies all of that.” Green is a nasty, physical run blocker. He has limited experience at center with only four games played there, but the Steelers have told him that he will transition to center. Green is a perfect pick for what Matt Canada wants to have in the center position. He is quick, smart, physical, and overall a great prospect for a zone run game scheme. 

Grade: A

Dan Moore Jr OT

Another nasty, physical blocker, Moore has a lot of room to grow. He is athletic and long armed, a rare thing in the 2021 NFL draft class for tackles. He will probably redshirt this upcoming season, but the Steelers expect him to compete for the day one job. Moore probably wont win it, not because he lacks the talent, but he lacks the experience. He will probably be a year two or three starter, depending on how the starters in front of him play. He was a good selection to begin the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft.

Grade: B

Buddy Johnson ILB

For Steelers fans, Johnson is a faster, more athletic version of Vince Williams. Coming in at 6″2 Johnson put up some pretty good numbers at his pro day. His 4.57 40-yard dash and 128-inch broad jump both ranked fifth among 2021 linebackers, his 38.5-inch vertical jump ranked sixth, and his 4.03 shuttle time ranked second. The Texas A&M product should be an immediate special teams contributor and could push Vince Williams or Robert Spillane for playing time. A solid pick here, but nothing glamorous.

Grade: B-

Isaiahh Loudermilk DT

This one did not make a lot of sense at the time. The Steelers gave up a future fourth round pick to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for their fifth round pick. The Steelers then selected Loudermilk with that pick. Loudermilk will be a defensive tackle, and back up Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt on the defensive line. However, Loudermilk could probably have been picked later, and Shaun Wade was still on the board. This pick could have been used for something else, and trading a future pick is risky.

Grade: C-

Quincey Roche EDGE

Now this pick was the opposite of the prior. Roche was projected to go as high as the first round, and defensive coordinator Keith Butler admitted after the Steelers picked Roche: “We had a late third, fourth, fifth round grade on him, so we were surprised when he was still there in the sixth.” Roche will contribute on special teams and backup T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. Roche does not have a lot of upside, but he is a very polished player that wont need much time to grow and coach.

Grade: A

Tre Norwood CB

A corner/safety/slot, Norwood is a “swiss army knife” as Mike Tomlin called him. Norwood will compete for a spot to backup starters Cameron Sutton and Joe Haden. Norwood will also probably play in Dime packages, and might push Marcus Allen off the roster. A player with upside, nevertheless Norwood is not guaranteed a roster spot and will have to compete for it in camp.

Grade: C+

Pressley Harvin III P

Interesting pick here. The Steelers take Danny Smith‘s, their special teams coordinator, guy. Smith was at Harvins pro day and reportedly loved him. Harvin is a huge punter at 5″11 253 pounds. He also has proven himself adept at running fake punts so the Steelers get themselves a punter with a lot of upside here. He should be a day one starter. His average punt was 44 yards, one of the best in the country, and he has potential to improve that average. He will have to get his big leg under control however, as he has had a tendency to shank a punt every now and then.

Grade: B

Overall grade: A

The Steelers added to every position of need in this draft. They didn’t do it in the order most people expected, but they were not looking to meet draft nicks expectations. They took a running back in the first round because they knew one would not be available later. They added a center and tackle. The only position that is surprising is how early they added a tight end. But they did need one and so they addressed the position. This draft was more about next year than it is today, but it looks to be a great group that the Steelers are bringing into camp. 

Pros and Cons For The Browns to Trade OBJ Away

Should the Cleveland Browns trade Odell Beckham Jr.?

by Michael Obermuller

Odell Beckham Jr. has become one of the more polarizing players in the NFL, ever since being drafted by the New York Giants in 2014. After receiving a five-year, $95 million contract extension from Big Blue in 2018, OBJ forced his way out of New York with his off-the-field antics. The first franchise to step up in negotiations was the Cleveland Browns, who outbid the competition for the frustrated star wide receiver.

Pretty much since the day he touched down in Cleveland, trade talks have swirled around Odell and the Browns franchise once again. You see, Beckham didn’t choose the Browns, and he has not seemed truly happy in Cleveland since the day he arrived. Now Browns general manager Andrew Berry (who took over after the OBJ trade) has rumored that the franchise is open to dealing the playmaker for the right return.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of trading OBJ, from the perspective of the Browns.

Cases FOR Trading OBJ

  • An Offer Cleveland Cannot Refuse
    • Another franchise could simply offer the Browns a similar haul that they once paid the Giants for OBJ, which would allow them to wash their hands of the situation entirely. Cleveland sent NYG Jabrill Peppers, a first (No. 17 overall), and a third in return for Beckham.
    • This seems unlikely based on Beckham’s contract and injury history, especially when you consider that the pandemic has crippled revenue and lowered the cap this season.
  • Financial Obligations vs. Contribution
    • Considering how little Beckham has actually played (more on that below), he’s costing Cleveland a fortune in both dollars and cap space.
    • OBJ has a $15.75 million cap hit in 2021, and a $15 million flat cap hit in 2022 and ’23. They made the postseason without the wide-out in 2020, so the argument could easily be made that this money could help this roster more if it were allocated elsewhere.
    • Beckham had over 1,000 yards receiving and four touchdowns for the Browns in 2019, but they missed the playoffs that season. He only totaled 319 yards and four touchdowns in 2020, when the Browns made the playoffs and defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in round one. OBJ did not factor in the second half of the year, or any of the postseason games.
  • Off-the-Field Noise
    • OBJ has become a locker room distraction in the past with the Giants. It’s not that he’ll break team rules or do anything illegal, but Beckham tends to run his mouth to the media and aggravate teammates.
    • The Giants ended up trading OBJ the offseason after he publicly criticized quarterback Eli Manning in an interview. Baker Mayfield is not exactly an MVP candidate either, so you never know when Beckham might get frustrated and make waves, which could negatively impact team chemistry.
  • Injury History
    • Speaking of the aforementioned injuries the star has suffered, Beckham has only played 15 or more games in three out of his first seven seasons in the league. He made 12 appearances twice, seven once, and four in 2017 with only two games started.
    • In terms of wear and tear, most of OBJ’s injuries have been to his lower half. Beckham had his first issue during preseason of 2014, when he suffered a grade three tear in his hamstring. He then pulled his hammy again in OTA’s the following season, has missed minor amounts of time with hip strains, suffered a grade three high-ankle sprain in preseason of 2017, fractured the same ankle later that year, missed games with a quad hematoma bruise in 2018, groin-related sports hernia in 2019 — and worst of all, an ACL tear in 2020.
    • Eventually, a body can only take so much and still perform as it once did. If the Browns get the right offer, it might be hard for the new regime not to sell high on this extensive injury history.

Cases AGAINST Trading OBJ

  • Trade Stock At Lowest
    • A GM never wants to trade a player at their lowest value, and OBJ could be at his lowest right now (recovering from a torn ACL in the midst of a financial crisis/pandemic).
    • They must at least recoup a first round pick for OBJ, and that’s still a good deal less than what they originally paid for him. If the return is too low, the smarter move might be to bet on Beckham’s recovery.
  • Browns Should Bet On Talent
    • Whether or not they get the right offer, many still believe that OBJ’s talent and attributes are too rare and dynamic to trade away. There aren’t too many receivers in the NFL that have Beckham’s mix of size, athleticism and speed, not to mention his hands and route running ability (two acquired skills).
    • Beckham has totaled 1,000-plus receiving yards in every season but two (2017 and 2020, due to injury), and 1,300-plus yards three out of the five 1,000 yard campaigns.
    • Odell had a yards after catch (YAC) per reception of 4.4 yards in 2019. For comparison, DeAndre Hopkins had a 4.58 YAC per reception in 2020, and only the top receiving weapons in football like Davante Adams and Travis Kelce topped 5.0 YAC per reception last season.
    • OBJ has had a consistent yards per catch that has hovered around his 14.0 career average every season, with a 15.1 yards per reception career-high in 2015.
  • Cleveland is Better with Beckham
    • One of the main reasons the Browns fell short against the Kansas City Chiefs in the postseason was a lack of receiving weapons (and more specifically, no clear No. 1 wide-out).
    • Rashard Higgins filled the role admirably in 2020 after Beckham’s injury, but this offense is so much more potent with OBJ in the lineup. Think about it; Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant/David Njoku, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins AND Odell Beckham Jr. That arsenal would be a challenge for any opposing defense, and OBJ’s unique skillset throws a wrench into a coordinator’s game prep and strategy.
  • Wide Receiver is a Need Area for Cleveland
    • 2020 proved that the Browns are shallow at wide receiver, and they have yet to add to that WR room this offseason. At this point, there aren’t many WRs left in free agency (and none nearly as influential as OBJ).
    • Cleveland could try and replace Beckham through the draft, but it would also be hard to find a talent like him at their current draft position (unless they received a lower first rounder back in return — unlikely).
    • This roster is one of the more complete ones in football, but their biggest “need” might actually become wide receiver if they trade Beckham. It wouldn’t be wise to create a hole like that, without the proper solution in place to fix it.

The Verdict

Based on the current landscape of the NFL, this probably isn’t the best time to trade Odell. Unless a surprise bidder emerges, Cleveland would likely get short-changed at his current value. The smarter bet is to ride out OBJ for another year and hope that he has a bounce-back campaign. There should be much more of a market for the wide receiver in 2022, so long as Beckham stays healthy.

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