The Daily Briefing Thursday, May 10, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Phil Savage was a great face for the Senior Bowl for the last six years, but no more. Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Senior Bowl and Phil Savage are “mutually parting ways” after six years with Savage serving as the event’s director.
“The national exposure and reputation of the Reese’s Senior Bowl has greatly benefited from Phil’s energy, creativity and leadership,” a news release announcing the decision said. “After six years together, it is with regret that we announce today that Phil and the organization will be mutually parting ways as of May 15, 2018. Phil deserves a great deal of credit for being a loyal caretaker of Mobile’s signature football event, and he will be missed by the Reese’s Senior Bowl staff and Mobilians everywhere. We wish Phil the best and success in all of his future opportunities and pursuits.”
Savage took over at the director of the Senior Bowl in May 2012. He had spent over 20 years working in various roles for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles before taking the job leading the top showcase postseason game for graduating NFL draft prospects.
“Cannot express how much I enjoyed the last six years @seniorbowl!” Savage said in a tweet. “I want to thank the many fans, sponsors, players, coaches, scouts, agents, media members, volunteers and the #NFL league office who helped take our game to another level of success! #CompeteAndConnect”
Savage was the general manager of the Browns from 2005-2008. He also spent time as a player personnel executive with the Ravens and Eagles.
More from the Pensacola News-Journal:
A search committee will be formed by the Mobile Arts and Sports Association to identify potential candidates.
Chris Mortensen, long time NFL writer and ESPN and other TV networks analyst, posted on his Twitter page, “Bunch of NFL teams disappointed to learn Phil Savage and Senior Bowl mutually parting ways. As executive director, Phil did indeed take the game to higher level the past six years.”
In recent years, the game has struggled to reach a sellout crowd. But the national media coverage of the game, pushed by the growth of NFL draft websites, has been significant.
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Tod Leiweke, once COO of the NFL, is now heading Seattle’s fledgling hockey operation. We think he jumped more than was pushed. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
After chatting briefly former NFL COO Tod Leiweke at the league meetings on March, I asked someone why Leiweke didn’t last in the league office.
“He’s too nice,” the person said.
Leiweke displayed plenty of nice when discussing the merits of his former boss, Commissioner Roger Goodell, in an interview with SportsBusiness Journal. And Leiweke isn’t happy with the widespread criticism that Goodell absorbs.
“There were times that I wanted to speak out, but that’s not Roger’s way,” Leiweke said. “He is on the other hand a very humble guy and he doesn’t beat his chest. He doesn’t parade around and say, ‘Look how good I am.’ Sometimes I wish we did a lot more of that for him. Now I can say these words.”
Leiweke said that Goodell accepts the fact that people like to take shots, especially as it relates to his compensation, criticism that Leiweke called “[c]omplete, ridiculous malarky.”
“I don’t mean to make light of executive compensation — because I know these dollars, as a kid who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks if you will, one could make the case that many executives are paid so much more than school teachers, firemen, police officers — but I think Roger has added extraordinary value to the NFL,” Leiweke said. “I am one guy who says, without really knowing the details of his contract, I don’t think Roger Goodell is overpaid.”
One of the reasons Goodell isn’t overpaid is because his job necessarily includes taking heat that otherwise would go to the behind-the-curtain billionaires who realize that the only thing better than being rich and famous is being rich. Goodell, as NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran describes him, is the world’s highest-paid pin cushion.
Goodell takes pride in the thickness of his skin. He actually revels in it, welcoming boos so that he can prove yet again that he’s not only the highest-paid pin cushion, but also the best.
Oh, boy. An incident from the past of new Lions coach Matt Patricia has surfaced that is particularly troubling in the atmosphere of 2018. Tresa Baldas of the Detroit Free Press:
With the #MeToo movement still in full force, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia has landed in the middle of a scandal — not for any recent actions, but for an alleged 1996 sex assault during a college spring break trip.
According to Texas court records, Patricia was charged in 1996 with aggravated sexual assault, but he was never prosecuted for it. The case — which involved claims that Patricia and a football buddy sexually assaulted a college student in a hotel room — was quickly dismissed.
According to records in Cameron County Circuit Court, Patricia was indicted in August of 1996. The case was dismissed five months later, in January of 1997.
Greg Dietrich, Patricia’s friend and former college teammate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, also was accused in the sexual assault and was not prosecuted.
Patricia issued a statement Wednesday night in which he said he was “falsely accused.”
“As someone who was falsely accused of this very serious charge over 22 years ago, and never given the opportunity to defend myself and clear my name, I find it incredibly unfair, disappointing, and frustrating that this story would resurface now with the only purpose being to damage my character and reputation,” the statement read. “I firmly maintain my innocence, as I have always done.
“I would never condone any of the behavior that was alleged and will always respect and protect the rights of anyone who has been harassed or is the victim of violence. My priorities remain the same — to move forward and strive to be the best coach, teacher, and man that I can possibly be.”
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, team president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn issued a joint statement in which they said Patricia’s standard pre-employment background check did not disclose the issue.
“We have spoken to Coach Patricia about this at length as well as the attorney who represented him at the time. Based upon everything we have learned, we believe and have accepted Coach Patricia’s explanation and we will continue to support him.”
Patricia’s attorney from the case, Jeff Wilson, said the case is “not newsworthy.”
“I’ll have to talk to Matt at this point in time,” Wilson said. “I’m not talking to anybody else unless he wants me to. So that’s the bottom line. I’ll have to talk to him and talk to the Lions and go from there.”
Asked if Patricia did anything wrong in the incident, Wilson said, “I’m not saying anything. I’m tired of talking to people. So just I’ll talk to Matt and then you probably need to make contact with the Detroit Lions from now on.”
Dietrich did not respond to a message left on his cell phone, and a woman answering the phone at his home said he was not available before hanging up on a reporter.
Dietrich’s attorney in the case was Sheldon Weisfield. Reached by phone late Wednesday, he would only say:
“I don’t remember the case and you can’t refresh my recollection. That was 20 years ago,” Weisfield said, noting he handles many criminal cases. “They all run together. I don’t recollect that case.”
According to a 1996 article by the Brownsville (Texas) Herald, the alleged victim was a college student on spring break at South Padre Island.
According to the newspaper, Patricia and Dietrich burst into a room at the Radisson hotel and took turns assaulting the student, whom had befriended them on the beach.
South Padre Island Police Chief E. E. Eunice told the Herald that the victim told police she was sleeping in a friend’s room when she was awakened by Patricia and Dietrich.
“They were also students and casual friends,” Eunice told the newspaper in 1996. “She told us she had palled around with them for a few days.”
According to the newspaper, the incident happened at about 6 p.m. and both Patricia, then 22, and Dietrich, then 21, were arrested later that same night after the victim identified them. They were charged with sexual assault and released on bond.
Hard to believe 1996 is already 22 years ago. And that a case that was dropped (and with the passage of time can never truly be picked up again) might bring Patricia down.
Could DE RANDY GREGORY become a productive part of the Cowboys defense? Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory is going through the league’s steps to apply for reinstatement, with his representation finishing the paperwork and hopeful of filing with the NFL next week, according to sources.
A source said, “He’s doing unbelievable in California, getting ready for the season. We’ve got our fingers crossed that he could become the comeback story of 2018.”
Several of Gregory’s teammates, including Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lee, wrote letters of support for Gregory to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I tried to give my two cents to the league and what I think is best for Randy,” Crawford said Wednesday. “I think it’s best he’s back in the locker room, he’s back around us. I think it will be good for him, and it’ll be good for us.”
Gregory hasn’t played since the regular-season finale in 2016. The league suspended Gregory on January 6, 2017, for at least a year for violating its substance abuse policy.
Now, Gregory hopes for a second chance from the league.
“I have been proud of Randy during this offseason,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I’m very aware of how hard he’s working to get back in the league and get back on the field. We know that his talent level. It’s concerning that he needs to be in a team environment and needs to be a part of the regime of preparing to actually compete, and so all of that will be a challenge for him, but very doable.
“I know him to be of the character and the kind of individual that is very capable of not only competing and overcoming the fact that he hadn’t played this past year. I think he’s capable of that. But I don’t want to be presumptuous in any way whether or not he’s going to qualify to be reinstated.”
Gregory has 20 tackles and a sack in 14 games since the Cowboys made him a second-round pick.
Ben Navarro is a bidder for the Panthers – and he wants Peyton Manning to be a partner. Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer:
Charleston billionaire Ben Navarro has reached out to two-time Super Bowl winner Peyton Manning about joining his ownership group that is bidding on the Carolina Panthers, according to two sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Manning is still considering Navarro’s offer to become a limited partner, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the Panthers’ sale.
Attempts to reach Manning and Navarro were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Manning, the former Indianapolis and Denver quarterback who won a record five MVPs, retired in 2016 after beating the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
Manning has had multiple opportunities within or around the NFL since he retired two years ago.
Manning was reportedly approached by the Cleveland Browns last fall about a possible role in their front office, although Browns owner Jimmy Haslam told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer he never offered Manning a position.
Manning, who lives in Denver, also passed on two high-profile broadcast jobs in recent months.
The four-week suspension of RB MARK INGRAM has apparently been circulating behind the scenes for a while. Even though it just came to light this week, he has already lost an appeal. Mike Triplett of ESPN.com:
– New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram “vigorously challenged” his four-game suspension, according to a statement from his agents, saying that he tested positive for a substance that was “permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL.”
The NFL, however, reiterated Wednesday that an arbitrator has made a final ruling on Ingram’s appeal, which is why the league announced his suspension on Tuesday.
The Saints will be without Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram for the first four games of 2018 due to a violation of the NFL policy against performance-enhancing substances.
Ingram’s agents suggested in their statement that they might explore further options once they review the arbitrator’s full opinion, which is due by May 16. But NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy clarified that the outcome has been decided and that all parties have been notified. The only thing they are waiting on is the full written explanation, and there is no further appeal still to be decided through the NFL.
Neither side has specified which substance Ingram tested positive for. The NFL announced only that he violated the league policy on performance-enhancing substances.
“At the end of the 2017 season, as a result of a NFL mandated random drug test, Mark Ingram tested positive for a substance that was not a performance enhancing substance, nor an illegal substance, but a substance in fact permissible with the proper use exemption with the NFL,” Ingram’s agents, Paul Bobbitt and David Jones, said in the statement.
“He has vigorously challenged the test results through the arbitration process. … Upon having the opportunity to review the arbitrator’s opinion, we will explore what further options are needed.”
If the suspension stands, Ingram will miss games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants. He will be eligible to return to the Saints’ active roster on Oct. 1.
Daniel Kelley of ProFootballFocus.com touts WR BRICE BUTLER, both for the Cardinals and your fantasy team:
The last four years, the Arizona Cardinals had two guys named Brown in their wide receiver corps. John Brown and Jaron Brown combined for one fantasy season higher than the No. 48 WR (when John finished at No. 21 in 2015), mostly ending their respective Cardinals tenures as what-might-have-been quasi-disappointments.
What the Browns ended up being in Arizona was deep threats, guys who would inevitably have a handful of scintillating deep-ball moments a season but struggled to put it together into a complete season, particularly for fantasy purposes.
In the end, though, Cardinals receivers had three of the five highest average depths of target in 2017. Yes, the quarterback and coaching staff will be different in 2018, but the player profiles are the player profiles.
Now, John Brown is a Baltimore Raven, while Jaron Brown is in Seattle. And apologies to Cobi Hamilton and the other names, but the Cardinals enter the 2018 season with five wide receivers who have the potential to have fantasy relevance, but only two who are likely to soak up much of the deep work the pair of Browns offered.
J.J. Nelson is who he is at this point in his career. He’s a deep threat (30.7 percent of his targets over three years have been 20-plus yards downfield) who the team just doesn’t appear likely to give a full-time workload — and considering he’s 5-10, 160 pounds, there’s some defense for that.
The other receivers: Larry Fitzgerald, who has taken 45 percent of his targets out of the slot the last six years, and saw all of 12 deep targets last year; rookie Christian Kirk, who saw virtually all of his targets out of the slot in college; Chad Williams, who saw all of seven targets as a rookie; and Brice Butler.
The Cardinals signed the 28-year-old Butler last month. In five years in the league, Butler has only 126 total targets, for 1,177 yards and 8 touchdowns. He’s coming off his best fantasy season, when he finished … 78th at the position in fantasy scoring. In short, Butler doesn’t come in with the pro resume to be much of anything but roster filler.
Butler has been a favorite breakout candidate for years, both in the fantasy setting and real-world, without it coming to fruition. That led to the Cardinals getting him on a two-year deal this offseason, at terms that Butler felt weren’t quite appropriate, based on his Twitter profile.
But he could scarcely have entered a better situation for his skillset. He’s 6-3, 220, with 4.37 40 speed. In a five-year career, 35 of Butler’s 126 targets have been deep (20-plus yards). The pair of Browns averaged 30 such targets a year over the last four years, reaching at least 30 three times. Nelson might get some of that workload. Williams and Fitzgerald might get a little. But it seems likely that the majority of that deep-ball spillover will be Butler’s to soak up.
New Arizona quarterback Sam Bradford isn’t known for his deep-ball prowess (his average depth of target was only 6.6 yards in his last full season in 2016), but he did lead the league in adjusted completion percentage on deep passes on 47 deep attempts in 2016. Rookie Josh Rosen, when and if he ever takes over for Bradford, had the No. 13 adjusted completion percentage on deep balls in the draft class — like Bradford, he isn’t going to be lighting it up down field, but he did have nine deep scores in 2017.
Butler isn’t likely to be a weekly fantasy option, if only because deep balls aren’t consistently predictable. But as an emergency fill-in or best-ball candidate, Butler has super-high weekly upside. The last two years, Brown, Brown, and Nelson combined for 18 top-24 weeks (more if you stretch back to when John Brown had his big season). If Butler gets even a third of those in 2018, he’s a good late-round best-ball investment, especially considering his current MFL ADP of the No. 153 receiver. For best-ball purposes, I’d be comfortable bumping him up a full 50 spots at the position.
A tweet from Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com:
Brandon Marshall is visiting the #Seahawks, per @AdamSchefter and me. Was cut by the #Giants recently with a failed physical designation
QB PATRICK MAHOMES wants everyone to know that ALEX SMITH was not BEN ROETHLISBERGER. Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner:
Think about the spot Alex Smith was in last season.
The Kansas City Chiefs traded a future first-round pick to move up to draft Patrick Mahomes. That meant no matter what Smith did last season, it was almost assured he was gone in 2018. And that’s what happened. Smith led the Chiefs to an AFC West title, led the NFL with a 104.7 passer rating, made a Pro Bowl and was traded anyway. That would have happened whether he was a good teammate to Mahomes or not.
And the whole time, Mahomes said, Smith was helping the rookie who he had to know would take his job.
“He’s an awesome guy and a true pro,” Mahomes told Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB during a long Q and A focusing on his transition to being a starter this season. “He had a great season last year, and being the person he is, he always was helping me whenever I did something he thought he could help me improve on. That’s just the type of leader he is. We have a great relationship, still, going forward.”
The debate about a veteran quarterback’s role in mentoring a rookie has come up again with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger saying he had little interest in mentoring Mason Rudolph. It’s true that Roethlisberger has a job, and it’s to play quarterback for the Steelers. The Steelers pay coaches to bring along Rudolph. It’s not Roethlisberger’s responsibility.
Still, Roethlisberger has a short memory. As The MMQB pointed out earlier this week, Roethlisberger thanked Tommy Maddox back in 2005 for his help. Maddox helped bring Roethlisberger along, although Roethlisberger was a first-round pick brought in to take his job.
”He’ll meet me halfway out on the field to answer a question for me,” Roethlisberger told USA Today in 2005, via The MMQB. “I owe so much of my success to his help.”
Given that and Mahomes’ comments about Smith, it’s a bit jarring to hear Roethlisberger basically say he won’t mentor Rudolph. Mahomes clearly benefited from having Smith as a teammate. His comments weren’t just general praise for Smith to avoid a touchy subject either; Mahomes provided specific details on how Smith helped him to The MMQB.
“Alex showed me how to make the reads easier so I can process faster and play faster,” Mahomes told Vrentas. “You look at coverages, and you learn how to eliminate things. Alex had seen and studied so much, and he was very helpful about showing me what he saw, so when I got out there I could put the ball in the right place and make the play work. In the Denver game he was helping me every single time I went to the sideline. We’d get on that tablet and we’d look at the plays, and he would help me identify how they were blitzing by how they were lining up with their fronts, and who was coming, and if this guy came, where I was supposed to put the ball.”
It does reflect well on Smith, who has been often criticized during his career but has put together a really solid 12-year resume as he heads to his third team, the Washington Redskins. If Smith wants a job in football afterward as a coach or executive, the selflessness he showed to Mahomes will be remembered and seen as a positive.
That doesn’t mean Roethlisberger should be Rudolph’s mentor. But Smith showed it can be done.
LB DERRICK JOHNSON wanted to play for Jon Gruden. Edward Lewis of NFL.com:
Derrick Johnson said he had offers from “three or four teams” to join their squads this offseason, but he picked the Raiders over them all mainly for one big reason: Chucky.
“He’s a big factor,” Oakland’s newest linebacker said of coach Jon Gruden during an interview on NFL Up to the Minute on Wednesday. “He’s a very inspiring man. He’s a guy who can get the players to play at a high level. He’s a proven winner. He’s a guy who has a lot of respect in this league and I have a lot of respect for him, and definitely, definitely a big reason why I ventured this way.”
After spending the entirety of his 13-year career knowing Oakland as a rival when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs, Johnson agreed to a deal with the Raiders just hours after visiting them late last week.
It was on that trip, where he met with Gruden and found out the coach’s plans for him, that he learned it’d be an easy choice to put pen to Silver and Black paper.
“The biggest thing was the Raiders had more of a plan for me,” Johnson said. “At this age, when you have a plan for a guy that’s 35 years old, that’s an opportunity you have to look into more. Meeting the coaching staff, meeting everybody here at the organization — I’ve always had respect for the Raiders even though I wanted to tear their heads off playing for K.C. — but just having the upmost respect for them, great organization, glad to be here.”
In getting an experienced vet who’s logged more than 1,100 tackles and knows the AFC West landscape, we’re sure the feeling is mutual from Gruden.
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T DONALD PENN will not be charged with anything in a possible domestic violence incident. Gary Peterson of BayAreaNewsgroup.com:
Upon further review, domestic violence charges will not be filed against Raiders offensive lineman Donald Penn.
Penn, the Raiders left tackle, was involved in a verbal disagreement with his wife Dominique on April 29 according to TMZ Sports. The news organization reported that Penn slapped his wife’s bottom, poured a drink over her head and grabbed her by the wrist. Penn left his house before authorities arrived. Police investigated the incident.
Penn, 35, and his wife are in the middle of a divorce. They issued a joint statement regarding the altercation stating, “There was a verbal disagreement, there was NO physical altercation.”
The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue charges, TMZ reported.
“The office rejected this case because of lack of corroboration and on the grounds that there is no reasonable likelihood of conviction on the domestic violence matter,” a spokesperson said.
“Bottom line, lack of sufficient evidence.”
The 6-foot-4, 340-pound Penn is a three-time Pro Bowler. He signed a two-year, $21 million contract extension in 2017. He is recovering from season-ending foot surgery.
An injury on New England’s offensive line will test the team’s depth. Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:
In each of the last two seasons, one of the constants for the New England Patriots has been Joe Thuney’s presence at left guard.
Thuney, a 2016 third-round draft choice out of NC State, has been the definition of a plug-and-play starter, coming off the field for just four snaps as a rookie and only five last year, which was usually because the game was in hand and it was a chance to get his backup some work.
But such a workload hasn’t come without a personal toll.
While the affable Thuney has been present at the Patriots’ voluntary offseason program this year, his participation has been limited as he prepares for upcoming foot surgery, according to those familiar with his situation. The procedure that Thuney is scheduled to undergo on his foot isn’t considered anything that should threaten his availability for the 2018 season, but naturally will keep him off the field for upcoming organized team activities.
Thus, it highlights the importance for the team to have quality depth in case things take an unexpected turn.
Along those lines, here are some of the factors in play:
* While the Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn (No. 23 overall) in hopes of him becoming their long-term left tackle, he could also factor into the mix at guard if needed. Some NFL teams viewed him more as a guard than tackle because of his height (6-foot-2⅜). If Wynn ultimately takes snaps at left guard, it highlights the importance of players such as Trent Brown, LaAdrian Waddle, Cole Croston and Matt Tobin as possible options at left tackle.
* Last season, if one of the team’s top guards would have missed time, 2016 sixth-round pick Ted Karras would have been the top in-house option to fill in. Karras started the first two games of his career at right guard as a rookie and added a start at center last season. He’s still on the roster.
* The free-agent signing of Luke Bowanko (40 games played, 15 starts) adds a layer of experienced depth that could be important. A 2014 sixth-round pick of the Jaguars, the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Bowanko worked at all five spots on the line in practice during his time in Jacksonville but has mostly been a center/guard. He’s the type of smart, light-on-his-feet offensive lineman that fits the Patriots’ system.
* Croston, a 2017 undrafted free agent from Iowa, took snaps at tackle and guard last year. So he would likely still be in the conversation at guard in the event help was needed.
* Jason King, an undrafted free agent from Purdue who spent parts of last season on the Patriots’ practice squad, is also in the developmental pipeline.
NEW YORK JETS
A Jets teammate can’t wait to see QB SAM DARNOLD take a ferocious hit. Darryl Slater of NJ.com:
Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has gotten a lot of praise recently, including acting owner Christopher Johnson saying Tuesday that the Jets drafting Darnold will eventually be seen as a turning point in the team’s path to greatness.
But the Jets’ veteran left tackle, Kelvin Beachum, isn’t ready to heap praise on Darnold just yet.
Beachum, who turns 29 next month and is entering Year 2 with the Jets, hasn’t even met Darnold. And while Beachum has heard positive feedback from others in the organization, he is maintaining some healthy skepticism about Darnold — for good reason.
“I’ve heard that he is a great person,” Beachum said Tuesday. “I’m excited to get him in that room.”
“Man, I’m one of those guys: Until you get hit in the mouth, I don’t know what you’ve got yet,” Beachum said. “And he ain’t been hit in the mouth by an NFL defensive lineman. So when that time comes, we’ll see.”
THIS AND THAT
Curtis Patrick of ProFootballFocus.com ranks rookies in terms of their value as Fantasy Football contributors:
Ranking incoming rookies among current NFL players is a critical part of dynasty fantasy football rookie draft preparation. Rookie picks are among the most traded assets during the dynasty offseason. How can you make value-building trades without a sense for which veterans you’d rather own than certain rookies, and vice versa? It would be like accepting an offer on your used car without any sense of its actual value. Obviously, the recommended process is to check the current Blue Book value before establishing what you’d consider to be an acceptable sale price (or purchase price if you’re the one buying). Knowing which veterans these rookies are closely ranked to by our analyst team should help you formulate some trade ideas leading up to your dynasty rookie drafts or even when you’re on the clock.
The PFF dynasty team’s composite rankings had 12 rookies valued as top-100 dynasty players prior to the NFL draft. Following post-draft adjustments from three of our dynasty analysts there are now 13 rookies in the composite top-100 dynasty rankings. Who is the new face in the crowd? Who were the biggest risers and fallers? It’s all here.
ROOKIES IN THE PFF COMPOSITE TOP-100 DYNASTY RANKINGS:
POST-NFL DRAFT EDITION
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 4
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 8
Highest rank: No. 4
Lowest rank: No. 15
Key veterans in same value tier: Ezekiel Elliott, Mike Evans
Barkley figures to see over 300 touches in his rookie campaign after the Giants invested the second overall pick in his talent. The question of whether he has elite touchdown or receiving upside in an offense that also includes Odell Beckham Jr. remains to be seen. It has worked out for Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in Pittsburgh, so there is recent precedent.
Derrius Guice, RB, Washington Redskins
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 39
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 37
Highest rank: No. 32
Lowest rank: No. 44
Key veterans in same value tier: Jordan Howard, JuJu Smith-Schuster
Guice surprisingly fell to the end of the second round in the draft. Early-down work is up for grabs in Washington, but the dynasty team is still showing caution with Guice’s ranking as he will be competing with Chris Thompson for receiving work. Guice’s upside may be capped.
Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 58
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 47
Highest rank: No. 33
Lowest rank: No. 40
Key veterans in same value tier: Jarvis Landry, Corey Davis
Penny impressively rose 11 spots in the PFF composite dynasty rankings after being the second running back off the board in the NFL draft’s first round. Seattle was perhaps the smash landing spot available for a rookie as there is no competition from any player with significant draft pedigree. Team press conferences following the draft seemed to point to Penny being a key part of the offense and the team indicated he will be playing on all three downs and even be involved with special teams as a returner.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 50
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 38
Highest rank: No. 33
Lowest rank: No. 45
Key veterans in same value tier: Adam Thielen, Aaron Rodgers
Chubb landed in a bit of a confusing situation in Cleveland. The running back depth chart was already solid with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson in the fold, but the early second-round investment by the team speaks to early and heavy utilization for Chubb. If he can surpass Hyde on the depth chart early and show some prowess in the receiving game, Chubb does have massive upside under offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 57
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 38
Highest rank: No. 45
Lowest rank: No. 71
Key veterans in same value tier: Sammy Watkins, Derrick Henry
Like Chubb, Michel landed in a situation where a committee could throw a wrench into any hopes of a potential year one breakout. However, the Patriots have rarely invested early draft capital in running backs under Bill Belichick, so perhaps there is a change in the offensive system coming in 2018.
D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 57
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 64
Highest rank: No. 51
Lowest rank: No. 84
Key veterans in same value tier: Tevin Coleman, Devin Funchess
Carolina has not been a consistent haven for top fantasy producers at the wide receiver position during Cam Newton’s career. The Panthers seem intent on transitioning to a more modern passing game after adding Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey in 2017 and Moore in 2018. One potential problem for Moore is that with a handful of pass-catchers who are best utilized in a low air-yards-per-attempt capacity already there, how much target volume can he realistically command? Moore’s talent is undeniable, but as evidenced by the wide range of rankings from the PFF team, there is some uncertainty regarding whether he should be viewed as a dynasty WR3 so soon.
Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 87
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 73
Highest rank: No. 46
Lowest rank: No. 97
Key veterans in same value tier: LeSean McCoy, Jamison Crowder
What you think of Freeman in Denver is likely based on your evaluation of Devontae Booker’s abilities. Freeman was drafted in the third round, which is decent pedigree-wise, but not high enough to be a surefire starter from the jump. Booker has shown some ability in the receiving game, posting 30-plus receptions in back-to-back seasons but has also averaged just 3.5 and 3.8 yards per carry over the same span. C.J. Anderson got 280 touches last year and finished as PPR RB18. If Freeman can win Anderson’s job, he will prove to be one of the biggest discounts in dynasty this offseason.
Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 81
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 74
Highest rank: No. 71
Lowest rank: No. 77
Key veterans in same value tier: Emmanuel Sanders, Alex Collins
Of rookies outside the top-50, Jones has the tightest distribution of ranks from our team, ranging from 71 to 77 overall. He rose up the board slightly after being selected by Tampa Bay, a team with no established lead running back.
Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 115
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 75
Highest rank: No. 52
Lowest rank: No. 89
Key veterans in same value tier: Will Fuller, Dez Bryant
Kirk didn’t make the cut in our pre-NFL draft top-100, but his early draft pedigree and NFL situation propelled him up the board 40 spots, making him our biggest post-NFL draft riser. Cardinals brass has already stated that Kirk will begin his career as a perimeter receiver, allowing Larry Fitzgerald to continue to work the slot. This is a bonus for Kirk in the near term (and his dynasty owners), as he won’t have to sit behind the future Hall of Famer and can start scoring fantasy points right away in an offense looking to reassign 124 vacated targets from outbound free agents Jaron Brown and John Brown.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 73
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 81
Highest rank: No. 66
Lowest rank: No. 105
Key veterans in same value tier: Duke Johnson, Sterling Shepard
The biggest post-NFL draft faller in the PFF composite dynasty rankings, Sutton slid out of the first round of the NFL draft and landed in Denver where he will back up two aging former fantasy stars. Demaryius Thomas managed to grind out a PPR WR16 in what was a down year for wide receivers across the board but is entering his age-30 season. Emmanuel Sanders was a rumored cap casualty early in the offseason and struggled to stay healthy in 2017. Sutton figures to play a limited role in 2018 unless the team decides to move on from Sanders after all, but patient dynasty owners could see him become fantasy relevant in 2019.
James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 84
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 83
Highest rank: No. 59
Lowest rank: No. 107
Key veterans in same value tier: Sterling Shepard, Mike Williams
Washington’s ranking remained essentially unchanged as the team barely responded to his landing in Pittsburgh as the heir to the Martavis Bryant role. The team does appear very split on Washington’s fantasy potential though, with 58 spots separating his high and low ranks.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 97
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 89
Highest rank: No. 74
Lowest rank: No. 99
Key veterans in same value tier: Chris Thompson, Martavis Bryant
Johnson gained value among our dynasty rankers after being selected in the second round. Detroit has been a muddy committee for a number of seasons, so it’s not a sure bet the Johnson will be anything more than an early-down grinder. However, at this price, there’s little risk.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Overall dynasty rank, pre-NFL draft: No. 88
Overall dynasty rank, post-NFL draft: No. 90
Highest rank: No. 58
Lowest rank: No. 106
Key veterans in same value tier: Marlon Mack, Chris Godwin
In the pre-draft version of this article, I predicted that Ridley would be the biggest post-draft riser among our dynasty rankers on the strength of what I said would was a lock first-round profile. Ridley was indeed selected in the first round, but our rankers aren’t impressed yet. The Alabama product’s perceived value remained flat. His year-one baseline begins with inheriting Taylor Gabriel’s 51 vacated targets. From there, Ridley would need to begin cutting into Mohamed Sanu’s target share.
To the DB’s eye, RB RONALD JONES of the Buccaneers is significantly undervalued in these rankings.
Peter King’s time with Sports Illustrated is coming to an end after 29 years, but he is revealing it could have reached its termination a couple of years ago after he made a Deflategate blunder. Alex Putterman of Awful Announcing:
On Wednesday, Peter King appeared on a podcast with Richard Deitsch of The Athletic to discuss his jump to NBC after 29 years at Sports Illustrated, as well as other subjects. And although King’s explanation for his departure mostly mirrored what he had previously offered (he was tired of the NFL grind and wanted to give other, younger writers a chance), he did drop in one fresh and fascinating tidbit.
Midway through the conversation (around the 35-minute mark), King casually mentioned the fact that he once offered to resign from Sports Illustrated after an erroneous report during the Deflategate scandal. In January 2015, King somewhat famously confirmed a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen saying that the footballs the Patriots used to beat the Colts in the AFC Championship Game had been significantly under-inflated. The report proved inaccurate and King soon apologized.
The subject came up this week when Deitsch asked King about the perception that he was too cozy with the league he covers. King rejected that premise but said he understands why people feel that way given that the two biggest reporting errors of his career both favored the NFL.
If I were a person looking at me, I would say you’ve done two things that were really wrong and that they both have been in favor of the NFL. And I would understand that. I got a significant fact in the Ray Rice case wrong when he visited the league office and had his hearing, and then I got a significant fact wrong when I confirmed Chris Mortensen’s story about the footballs being more than two pounds under pressure. In both cases I admitted it. In one case, the Patriots’ case, I offered my resignation to [Sports Illustrated editor] Chris Stone, and they said no. But I would have resigned. Because that is something you cannot get wrong. I got it wrong. I deserve all the criticism for that that comes by way.
The fact that King was willing to resign over his mistake might not assuage Patriots fans, many of whom will go to their graves screaming about the injustice of Deflategate, but it does demonstrate some pretty real (excessive?) contrition.
“When I think of my career at SI, those are two things I’m ashamed of,” King added. “Because that can’t happen. You can’t get facts like that wrong.”
Ultimately, SI was never going to led King, a decorated writer who drives traffic as much as anyone in the industry, walk away over one bad report. If every journalist who had ever blown a story walked away, newsrooms across America would be even emptier than they are now. But hey, it was nice of him to offer.
SUPER BOWL POSSIBILITIES
Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com confidently tells 24 teams they can’t win the Super Bowl this year.
How many teams in the NFL have a legit shot to win the Super Bowl this upcoming season?
Sure, it’s only May, and injuries and unforeseen schedule situations and numerous other factors will surely intervene to railroad some seasons and buttress others, but just play along with me for now. We still have about four months before real football games are being played. So indulge me. If you had to separate the haves from the have-nots at the highest level possible, who would make the cut?
I figure roughly 25 percent of the league in a good year has the real potential to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Out of 32 teams, I’ll say eight would make my cut right now. Sort of like if you were creating two super divisions within the league. Which eight teams seem like the best bets right now – at a time when you can start putting money anywhere you want in Vegas – and in what order?
Well, after spending hours running my mathematical equations and testing my algorithms (or not), here is my list of the Elite Eight in the NFL as we head into OTAs. Because as much as people will try to tell you that a certain player or a certain team will be making some substantial gains over the next six weeks based on lukewarm practices in T-shirts and shorts, don’t believe them. Ain’t happening. Until these guys put the pads on, nothing much is going to change with these rosters and no one’s stock is really going to rise or fall.
Any player evaluations or projections made off of spring practices are fraught with peril (even less scientific and reliable that this exercise I am currently undertaking!) and no starter is winning or losing a job during OTAs unless someone close to him on the depth chart suffers a freak injury. So with that out of the way, here are the teams that most have my attention in terms of being able to win it all.
I know no one repeats anymore, except for the Pats like once a decade, but I also can’t recall too many champs who get a markedly better quarterback returning than the one who they won the Super Bowl with. Doesn’t matter when or how Carson Wentz starts the season, just that he looks the part come December. The roster is still intact enough, Jason Peters could provide a big boost to the offensive line if he can stay healthy, and while they did lose some bright minds off their offensive staff, it’s still Doug Pederson’s baby on that side of the ball and not losing DC Jim Schwartz to a head coaching job was a coup. No hangovers here with Wentz super motivated.
They came damn close a year ago, it’s hard not to love their roster and kudos to them for being willing to go all-out to land Kirk Cousins in an attempt to win it all right now. Cousins can exceed what Case Keenum did, he has ample weapons, and we’ll see in January about his big-game ability. The running game should be fine with Dalvin Cook returning. They have a true home-field advantage. They’re loaded with young, hungry, impactful players. And the sting of how meekly they went down in Philly last year should fuel their quest. Yes, this franchise generally finds a way to wilt at the worst possible time, but all slumps end eventually.
No one can look at all of the talent they lost this offseason and say they appear to be a better team than a year ago. Replacing a starting left tackle and corner and a couple of starting receivers and running backs is a task even for the great Bill Belichick. Then add in all the Tom Brady/Gronk/Belichick drama and the fact Bob Kraft needs to step up and pay Brady and Gronk again and it might not look pretty. And the outfit Brady wore to The Met should be a disqualifier alone. But who really got better at the top of the AFC? And how aren’t the Pats going to roll through the AFC East with the likes of AJ McCarron/Josh Allen and Ryan Tannehill and Josh McCown/Sam Darnold to contend with? And who is going to beat them in Foxboro in January? Sure, Brady could finally get sucker punched by Father Time, but if he plays at close to last year’s level they’ll be just fine in the end. Watch.
Everyone is harping on the Marcus Davenport trade as this huge gamble … but they don’t need him to be a 15-sack guy right now. Just be able to make a play or two on third down late in the season and that might be enough to get them a little deeper in the playoffs. Keeping Drew Brees was paramount. I wouldn’t rule out them making a big trade before the deadline, if possible, to upgrade at pass catcher or pass rusher, and Mark Ingram’s suspension might be a good thing come the postseason, when his legs should be fresher. They have a Super Bowl-winning coach and QB and most of their other best players are still on their rookie contracts. That’s not a bad formula.
The NFC South should be a monster. Which cuts both ways. A good team or two might miss the payoffs entirely from that division, but the teams that emerge may already have a leg up on the rest of the field. Breaking with some old tendencies on offense was huge, as they added some new coaches and ideas on that side of the ball. D.J. Moore can be an immediate spark plug, they started figuring out how to unlock Christian McCaffrey in the second half of last season and Greg Olsen still moves the chains. Yes, the secondary gives me some concern, but the defense got its swagger back a year ago and Cam Newton wins a lot of football games.
Aaron Rodgers is the best in the world and this team still, somehow, hung around the periphery of the playoff scene without him for most of the season with Brett Hundley pretending to be an NFL quarterback. I’m not sure that basically swapping Jordy Nelson for Jimmy Graham is much of an upgrade, but I also am not naïve enough to think this offense will be an issue with Rodgers back. And the defense has to be much better. Love the additions to the secondary and they have the makings of the best 3-4 DL in the NFL. Muhammad Wilkerson will prove to be a massive signing and this has to the season where Green Bay doesn’t run out of running backs by, like, November, right?
It’s hard not to want to pencil in Pittsburgh vs. New England in the AFC Championship Game. But after getting declawed by Jacksonville in the playoffs a year ago, the Steelers will have to earn their way back. Ben Roethlisberger seems all about earning a new contract (and alienating backup Mason Rudolph) and this is the last hurrah with Le’Veon Bell. Ending the madness with Martavis Bryant was a wise move, too. The last time the team made a coordinator change it brought the best out of Big Ben in the coming seasons. Woulda loved to see an Earl Thomas trade put them over the top, and I still have concerns about the linebacker group and edge rushers, but the AFC is so watered down that the Steelers still really stand out to me.
Others might have the Falcons in this group (I’ll believe Steve Sarkisian can get that offense humming when I see it) or the Rams (I could see a little regression from them) and I wouldn’t argue much. They almost made the cut. But the Chargers should have an easier path to the playoffs, they already could make big plays in the passing game and attack the opposing quarterback (essentials to win it all) and I love what they added this offseason. Like the Vikings, it’s hard not to think they’ll somehow undermine themselves in the end, given their history of doing just that, but Philip Rivers must have one more playoff run in him and they can be damn balanced on offense (adding Mike Pouncey will further help that cause). There is no shortage of talent on defense and I’m not sure anyone else in the AFC West is treading water, much less really getting markedly better.
We’d be more impressed with LaCanfora if he could prove he had the Eagles, Vikings and Saints last year.
And we feel he may regret not having the Jaguars, Texans or Titans on this list.