The Daily Briefing Wednesday, June 27, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Joe Lockhart’s reign as NFL Executive VP for Communications was somewhere between so-so and disastrous depending on who you talk to.  Those who saw shortcomings faulted a combative style honed by years of fights in the political world or a lack of understanding of the business of football, the makeup of the sports fans and/or the media who cover it. 

 

Those criticisms do not seem to have taken hold among the decision makers at Park Avenue, for they have again turned to Washington for his successor.

 

This from PR Week:

 

The National Football League has named Jocelyn Moore as EVP of communications and public affairs.

 

Based in New York, Moore will report to COO Maryann Turcke. Moore’s responsibilities will include communications, social responsibility, and government affairs, the NFL said in a statement.

 

The NFL is facing high-profile issues including the long-term effects of brain injuries, as well as players kneeling in protest of racial inequality during the playing of the national anthem, which became a lightning-rod issue after it was cited by President Donald Trump. The NFL instituted a policy in May stating that players must stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room for its duration.

 

Moore most recently served as SVP of public policy and government affairs at the NFL. She joined the league in 2016. The NFL credited her in a statement with leading its public policy and legislative agenda.

 

Moore joined the NFL from Glover Park Group, where she was MD of its government affairs division and co-led the firm’s health and wellness practice. Previously, she was a Capitol Hill staffer and aide to Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Rockefeller (D-WV).

 

Moore is replacing Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary, who held the same role at the NFL before moving to Edelman in May to become vice chairman of public affairs.

 

Here is a little more on Moore, who grew up in Georgia, but is a Gator, helped write the CHIP bill when the Democrats controlled the Senate:

 

Prior to joining the NFL, Jocelyn served as a Managing Director in The Glover Park Group’s Government Affairs Division and spent 15 years in the United States Senate, most recently as the Deputy Staff Director of the United States Senate Finance Committee. As a member of Senator Ron Wyden’s senior leadership team, Jocelyn advised on all issues before the Senate Finance Committee relating to taxes, health care, energy, human services, pensions, Social Security, transportation and trade. While at the Senate Finance Committee, she led efforts to enact the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act (TPA-2015), the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation (IMPACT) Act, and the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.

 

Prior to joining the Senate Finance Committee, Jocelyn served as Senator Wyden’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Policy Director and as Legislative Director for Senator John D. Rockefeller IV. As Senator Rockefeller’s longtime health policy advisor, she led the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, helped write key portions of the Affordable Care Act, and led bipartisan efforts to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

 

Jocelyn began her career in the office of Senator Zell Miller and later worked as a senior policy advisor to Senator Bob Graham.

 

Jocelyn is a two-time graduate of the University of Florida, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree and Masters of Education.

 

It is an impressive resume, but has little to do with football, much less sports.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com seems discomfited by the hire.

 

Fans would like to keep politics out of football. The league office, however, loves to keep politics in football, in one very specific way.

 

The promotion of Jocelyn Moore to the position of executive V.P. of communications and public affairs represents the latest effort by the league to utilize the services of someone with extensive communications experience in politics. Which means that political strategizing will continue to be a major part of what the NFL does, when it comes to shaping and sending its messages to the media and, via the media, to its fans and sponsors.

 

“Jocelyn brings a perspective and passion for communicating to our fans and other stakeholders that will strengthen our voice and put the focus on our game,” NFL COO Maryann Turcke said in the press release announcing the promotion. The internal memo regarding the hire includes the word “back” before “on our game,” which underscores Moore’s obvious mandate: To get the media and the fans to quit thinking and talking about things other than “the game.” Things like the anthem issue.

 

And so it will be someone with a background in politics who will try to eradicate politics from football. It won’t be easy, given the zeal with which one specific politician keeps foisting politics onto football.

 

Making Moore’s job even harder will be the NFL’s affinity for unforced errors, including most recently the widely-criticized decision not to let Laurent Duvernay-Tardif affix “M.D.” to his jersey and the if-it-ain’t-fixed-break-it anthem policy. If Moore’s fingerprints appear on either of those blunder, it may not be all that long before yet another former political operative is operating as the NFL’s executive V.P. of communications and public affairs.

 

The goal of getting back to the game is commendable. 

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

New Bears coach Matt Nagy seems enamored with the possibilities for RB TARIK COHEN.  Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:

 

When the Bears hired former Kansas City offensive coordinator Matt Nagy to fill their head coaching vacancy, second-year scat back Tarik Cohen immediately began to envision himself in the role of Chiefs multi-purpose All-Pro Tyreek Hill.

 

While Nagy has acknowledged the similarities between the two pint-sized playmakers, it’s unclear to what extent Cohen will be featured in Chicago’s offense this season.

 

If offseason practices are any indication, Nagy shares mentor Andy Reid’s penchant for exploiting mismatches through alignment.

 

In a Monday interview with the Jim Rome Show, Cohen revealed that Nagy already has him moving around the gridiron as a pre-snap chess piece.

 

“I feel like if I could kick the football, he’d also want me to kick the football, too,” Cohen quipped. “It just goes to show how many places he has me at. I’ve been everywhere. I’ve been at every position. It’s crazy.”

 

A fourth-round steal out of North Carolina A&M, Cohen became the first NFL rookie since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965 to score touchdowns via rushing, receiving, passing and punt return in a single season. His total of 1,578 all-purpose yards nearly matched Hill’s rookie-year output of 1,836 yards.

 

The primary difference between the two dynamic playmakers, as Nagy pointed out at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, is that Cohen is a better runner out of the backfield while Hill is a superior downfield receiver.

 

For every versatile, undersized success story such as Hill or Darren Sproles, however, there is a Tavon Austin, Dri Archer or Dexter McCluster who fell by the wayside.

 

Cohen has several factors working in his favor, not least of which is a sturdy, compact frame that allows him to withstand punishment from tacklers. He’s also operating in a custom-built offense using concepts similar to the ones he experienced in college.

 

To top it all off, he has the benefit of Hill’s 2017 play-caller, the man Reid once praised as the best coaching prospect he’s groomed in 19 years with the Eagles and Chiefs.

 

Cohen is an obvious candidate to shine in Nagy’s creative attack. The question is whether he will come close to matching Hill’s value as one of the most dangerous big-play threats in football.

 

And this from TMZ:

 

Chicago Bears star Tarik Cohen says despite his last name — he’s NOT a Jew, but says he’s gotten so much love from his Hebrew fans that he’s ready to finally try out a Jewish deli!

 

When Tarik blew up this past season … the Jewish community went crazy trying to find out if the star running back with the traditionally Jewish last name was really a member of the tribe.

 

Turns out, Cohen is not a jew — but he feels it’s an honor to get so warmly embraced by his Semitic fans.

 

“I’m not Jewish necessarily, but I do feel accepted … by the Jewish community.”

 

And get this, Cohen says he’s never even been to a Jewish deli before — but REALLY wants to go, especially since our Jewish camera guy told him he’d probably get a discount.

 

 

GREEN BAY

Tony Romo, raised in Wisconsin, loves the 2018 edition of the Packers. TMJ4.com:

 

Tony Romo held his 15th Annual football camp at Burlington High School Thursday. 

 

The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current top NFL analyst at CBS still feels it’s important to stay involved with his hometown school.

 

“I remember when I was a kid and someone came back from Whitewater it just felt like a big deal and you hung on every word that he said,” Romo said.  “It’s really just to say hi and let the kids know dreams can happen, they’re a real thing, you’re a real person and let them know there’s a sense of community and just give them a little advice here and there.”

 

Romo echoed Brett Favre’s recent comments about tackle football at the youth level.

 

“I don’t see the benefit of playing tackle football before… 12 seems like about a good age.  As far as tackling,  I’m not entirely sure tackling in 3rd grade makes you a better junior in high school,” Romo said.

 

He also loves what he sees in this year’s Green Bay Packers.

 

“I think the Packers probably got better more than any team I saw this offseason,” he said. “The Jimmy Graham thing is a big deal, people don’t understand.  You’re going to see old school Jimmy Graham. You pair him with Aaron Rodgers, you’re going to see a little bit of a different animal.  In the red zone, that will be almost unstoppable.  If the secondary is a little bit better, I think they’re the team to beat this year.”

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Something bad went down at the home of CB JANORIS JENKINS, an NFL player who has had some off-field issues in the past – but nothing like this.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The death of 25-year-old Roosevelt Rene is being investigated as a homicide, according to ABC/ESPN.

 

The story regarding the discovery of Rene’s body was covered on Wednesday morning by ABC’s Good Morning America. And even though no accusations of any kind have been made against Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who rents the house where Rene was found, the report included a quote that seems odd at best, ominous at worst.

 

“Janoris wanted to get back to New Jersey but the New York Giants and the attorneys have told him to stay in Florida at this point as police continue to investigate,” ESPN’s Diana Russini said.

 

So why would the Giants and Jenkins’ attorneys tell Jenkins not to come back to New Jersey to participate in the investigation? Even if Jenkins isn’t and will never be a suspect, he could provide useful information regarding the other people who may have had access to the house. And if police become determined to talk to Jenkins, the fact that he’s in Florida most likely won’t keep that from happening — especially since he’ll be returning to New Jersey in roughly a month for training camp.

 

An autopsy will be performed on Rene later today. Mike Garafolo of NFL Media previously has reported, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, that strangulation or suffocation was being explored as the possible cause of death.

 

Via NorthJersey.com, Rene was a music producer and artist, who went by the name Trypps Beatz. He produced music, per NorthJersey.com, for Gucci Mane, Playboi Carti, Kodak Black, and Curren$y.

 

This sounds like something we’ll be watching on NBC’s Dateline, with Lester Holt, narrated by Keith Morrison, in a few years.

 

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

We are reminded that Texas authorities think MICHAEL BENNETT should have a felony conviction.  Austin Knoblach of NFL.com:

 

Michael Bennett’s arraignment on a felony abuse charge stemming from an incident at Super Bowl LI has been rescheduled for August 7, Bennett’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

 

The arraignment hearing has been delayed three times and the case remains in the discovery process, said Hardin, who is trying to obtain any video footage that might show Bennett entering the field.

 

Bennett’s representatives are hoping the case will be dismissed before the start of the regular season, Pelissero reported. If the case moves forward, a trial likely wouldn’t take place until after the season ends, but there’s a chance it could take place during the season.

 

The Philadelphia Eagles defensive end has yet to enter a plea on the charge, but Hardin told reporters in March his client would plea not guilty if the case moved to trial.

 

Bennett was indicted by a Texas grand jury in March on one count of felony abuse for allegedly injuring an elderly NRG Stadium worker after Super Bowl LI in Houston.

 

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office accuses Bennett of injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic woman who was working to control access to the field during the game. Prosecutors claim Bennett, 32, injured the victim after he pushed his way onto the field after being told to use another entrance for field access.

 

Bennett denies ever touching the woman.

 

“He didn’t do this,” Hardin told Pelissero in March. “He never touched anybody. And it is so totally contrary to his entire life and career.”

 

The specific charge Bennett is facing — injury to the elderly — includes intentionally and knowingly causing bodily injury to a person 65 years or older. It carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

 

Bennett, who was a member of the Seattle Seahawks at the time of the incident, was at the Super Bowl, in part, to watch his brother, Martellus Bennett, who was playing for the Patriots. The three-time Pro Bowler was traded to the Eagles  two weeks before being indicted.

 

The 10-year veteran could be subject to potential NFL discipline under the league’s personal conduct policy.

 

The Eagles open training camp July 25. Philly opens the preseason Aug. 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

 

WASHINGTON

RB DARRIUS GUICE was a first round talent who tumbled due to attitude concerns.  The Redskins appear quite happy to have him.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Washington’s top three running backs from last year — Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley — all remain with the team this year. But none of them is likely to be the starter in 2018.

 

Derrius Guice, the rookie from LSU, has impressed enough in the early offseason that it would be surprising if anyone other than Guice is the starter for Week One, according to John Keim of ESPN.

 

As a runner, Guice appears to have the most talent of the group. Washington coach Jay Gruden also said he was excited by what Guice can do as a receiver, although Thompson is an excellent receiver and will still get plenty of passes thrown his way.

 

Washington needs Guice to learn pass protection, something he didn’t do a lot of at LSU, but from all indications he’s the guy they want getting the bulk of the work at running back.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

Pat Bowlen’s wife now also has Alzheimer’s.  NFL.com:

 

Annabel Bowlen, wife of Denver Broncos majority owner Pat Bowlen, announced Wednesday she was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Bowlen made the announcement in a statement released by the team:

 

“I recently learned that I’ve joined my husband Pat and the millions of others who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

“Since Pat’s diagnosis, I have gained a vivid understanding of this disease’s progression and its effect on those living with it as well as their families. My family and I have been — and will remain — dedicated supporters of Alzheimer’s awareness, treatment and research funding.

 

“I decided to make my diagnosis public right away in the hope that it continues to raise awareness for those battling Alzheimer’s and their loved ones. With June also being Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, the timing was right for me to share this personal update with everyone.

 

“I feel that it is important for people to know that those in my situation do not need to completely withdraw from their daily activities. Based on my own experience with Pat, there will still be many joyous and rewarding moments for me as well as my family and friends.

 

“It’s my hope to remain involved in various Alzheimer’s events as my health allows. And of course, I’ll be cheering on our Broncos.

 

Most importantly, thank you to all of our incredible fans for the compassion and support you’ve given to me, Pat and our entire family.”

 

View image on Twitter

 

 

KANSAS CITY

Summertime and hope springs eternal that WR SAMMY WATKINS will be able to become a superstar in his new home.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ acclimation process has gone well since joining the Kansas City Chiefs on a three-year, $48 million free-agent deal in March.

 

Despite being on a new team, Watkins turned heads during organized team activities and he embraces the opportunity to absorb coach Andy Reid’s offensive scheme.

 

“This offense is the broadest offense I’ve ever been in,” Watkins told reporters on the last day of OTAs, via the Chiefs’ official website. “It’s definitely a mental challenge, but I think that’s what kind of gets me up every day to study the plays and come out here encouraged because anybody can get the ball and I’ve got to learn all the positions.

 

“I just can’t learn one position. I have to be focused and tuned in, in meetings. You have to do that off-the-field work and stay in your [play] book.”

 

Watkins raises a good point when it comes to Reid’s version of the West Coast offense.

 

Reid’s offense typically spreads the ball around, which has contributed to just five wide receivers producing a 1,000-yard receiving effort in a single season between two teams since Reid became a head coach in 1999: Tyreek Hill (2017), Jeremy Maclin (2015), Terrell Owens (2004), Kevin Curtis (2007) and DeSean Jackson, who did it twice (2009-10).

 

Hill wasn’t alone in 2017, as tight end Travis Kelce also topped the mark with 1,038 yards receiving.

 

With the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Watkins, who possesses 4.43 speed in the 40-yard dash, the Chiefs add another downfield threat and he produced 1,047 yards receiving while with the Buffalo Bills in 2015.

 

Watkins’ production has slipped the past two seasons, but he spent the offseason workout program learning new responsibilities while under Reid’s close eye.

 

“He’s helped me in this short amount of time with just being a compete receiver, not just being a, ‘Oh, he just runs go-routes,'” Watkins told reporters. “I’ve got to learn the whole route tree. My standard that he wants, he’s called me out in meetings, which that’s what you need as a player, and I take full advantage of all those things.”

 

AFC NORTH

 

PITTSBURGH

Former overall number one David Carr sounds like he wishes he had the chance to play with teammates as skilled as RB Le’VEON BELL and WR ANTONIO BROWN

 

Former No. 1 overall draft pick David Carr believes that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlsberger is currently being carried by star skill position players like running back Le’Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.

 

Carr offered his ranking of the top ten quarterback in the NFL heading into the 2018 season and did not include Roethlisberger on his list. He had Roethlisberger, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz just outside the top ten.

 

“Yes, he’s a future Hall of Famer and there’s no doubt he can still help the Steelers,” Carr wrote of his rationale for the exclusion of Roethlisberger. “But he has the most talented skill players in the league on his unit, and that pair — Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell — makes him look great 14 seasons in. I don’t think Big Ben could win a ton of games without them at this stage in his career.”

 

Roethlisberger is 36 years old and is preparing for his 15th year with the Steelers. He surpassed 4,000 yards passing for the fifth time in his career last season, throwing for 4,251 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also completed 64.2 percent of his passes, which is consistent with his career averages.

 

There is no question that Roethlisberger benefits from the presence of Bell and Brown on Pittsburgh’s roster. Trying to quantify how much of an impact they have on Roethlisberger continuing to be able to produce at such a high level is far more difficult.

 

Carr’s top ten list featured Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Derek Carr, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Jimmy Garoppolo. The inclusion of Garoppolo at this stage could be somewhat questionable given his limited sample size of games played, but it’s Carr’s opinion to give.

 

David Carr was selected by the Houston Texans with the first pick of the 2002 NFL Draft.

 

We could certainly see Roethlisberger no longer being in someone’s top ten list of QBs.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ROSTER RANKINGS

In an article published at ESPN.com, ProFootballFocus.com ranks the strength of NFL rosters from 1-32.  You can find the immensely long article here if you are an ESPN Insider.  Here’s what they say about their methodology which still leaves some muddy areas.  Presumably having a great QB is better than having a great inside linebacker.  A severely edited version below, but we will show you the QB rating for each team (which we find interesting – ALEX SMITH above AARON RODGERS or TYROD TAYLOR above CAM NEWTON for two examples).

 

With the kickoff to the 2018 season just a couple of months away, it’s time to dive into the Pro Football Focus database and rank every roster as it stands now, at the end of June, focusing on the expected starters and how they look in our metrics. PFF grades every player on every play of every game of the NFL season, allowing us a comprehensive look at what each player has to offer.

 

Below, we rank the overall roster talent of every NFL team from 1-32 and offer up projected starting lineups on offense and defense.

 

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest strength: As a part of the most dominant defensive front in football, Brandon Graham had the best year of his career in terms of sack total while continuing to cement his place as one of the most consistent edge defenders at producing pressure. For the second straight year, Graham registered an elite grade, and since 2012, he has averaged just 5.8 pass rushes per pressure generated, which is second to only Von Miller in that span.

 

Biggest weakness: The departure of Mychal Kendricks, who was the team’s highest-graded linebacker, leaves a question mark over the Eagles’ linebacking corps, with fifth-year player Corey Nelson set to fill the void. Nelson played only 43 snaps last season, and he ended the year with a grade of 64.4, his lowest since 2015.

 

By the numbers: A season-ending knee injury robbed us of the conclusion of a spectacular breakout sophomore campaign from quarterback Carson Wentz, but fans will nevertheless be excited by what they saw. Wentz showed dramatic improvement under pressure last season and finished with the league’s fourth-best passer rating on pressured throws (81.7), an incredible 48.9 points above his 2016 mark.

 

QB Carson Wentz  87.6

 

2. Atlanta Falcons

 

QB       Matt Ryan   88.6

 

3. New Orleans Saints

 

QB        Drew Brees    88.6

HB        Alvin Kamara 90.2

 

4. New England Patriots

Biggest strength: It’s Tom Brady. Do we need to say anything else? Brady led all QBs last season with a 95.5 grade — his third straight season north of 93.0 — and his 96.6 passer rating under pressure was higher than the passer rating that 22 different quarterbacks earned from a clean pocket.

 

QB       Tom Brady        95.5

 

5. Minnesota Vikings

Biggest strength: Harrison Smith’s 97.0 grade last year established a new PFF-era record for the safety position. He missed just two tackles all season, second best in the league among safeties with at least 20 on both run and pass plays (Arizona’s Antoine Bethea missed just one).

 

QB           Kirk Cousins      78.8

 

6. Los Angeles Chargers

Biggest strength: The Chargers got away with highway robbery in free agency following the 2015 season, as the team’s brass signed then-four-year veteran Casey Hayward to a three-year, $15.3 million deal to play slot cornerback. After earning an 88.9 overall grade in his first year with the Bolts, Hayward turned it up a notch in 2017, earning the top-ranked overall grade among cornerbacks (96.4). He also finished the season ranked sixth in passer rating allowed among cornerbacks with 400-plus coverage snaps in 2017.

 

QB            Philip Rivers     85.5

 

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

 

QB       Ben Roethlisberger       88.5

 

8. Dallas Cowboys

 

QB       Dak Prescott                80.5

 

9. Los Angeles Rams

Biggest strength: Interior defender Aaron Donald was the best player in the NFL in 2016 and still somehow managed to get better the following season, leading to his placement at No. 1 in our top-50 list for the second consecutive year. Donald led all players at his position in total pressures (71) despite playing in just 14 games in 2017.

 

QB             Jared Goff             81.3

DE            Aaron Donald        99.7

 

10. Jacksonville Jaguars

 

QB               Blake Bortles      78.3

 

11. Green Bay Packers

 

QB               Aaron Rodgers    84.4

 

12. Seattle Seahawks

Biggest strength: The centerpiece to the Seahawks’ defense for the past six seasons, veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner has been the epitome of consistency throughout his career and still managed to best previous career highs in 2017. Wagner’s 96.7 grade ranked No. 1 among qualifying linebackers last season, and he enters the 2018 season as a clear-cut favorite to have a repeat performance.

 

QB                   Russell Wilson    87.2

 

13. Kansas City Chiefs

 

QB       Patrick Mahomes       79.9

 

14. Carolina Panthers

 

QB          Cam Newton          77.6

 

15. Detroit Lions

Biggest strength: No cornerback played the ball in the air better than Darius Slay last season, as he led the NFL in both interceptions (eight) and total passes defended (21). Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 55.6 against him, the third-lowest mark among cornerbacks who faced at least 50 targets.

 

Matthew Stafford                 83.3

 

16. Buffalo Bills

 

QB       AJ McCarron          50.1

 

17. Tennessee Titans

 

QB       Marcus Mariota       83.9

 

18. Cincinnati Bengals

 

QB       Andy Dalton            79.4

 

19. San Francisco 49ers

 

QB       Jimmy Garoppolo       85.2

 

20. Baltimore Ravens

 

QB           Joe Flacco            76.7

 

21. Washington Redskins

 

QB       Alex Smith             87.2

 

22. Chicago Bears

 

QB         Mitchell Trubisky      75.7

 

23. Arizona Cardinals

 

QB       Sam Bradford          68.9

 

24. Oakland Raiders

 

QB        Derek Carr             77.7

 

25. Denver Broncos

 

QB           Case Keenum        85.3

 

26. Miami Dolphins

 

QB       Ryan Tannehill          N/A

 

27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

QB       Jameis Winston       81.2

 

 

28. New York Giants

 

QB       Eli Manning           75.5

 

29. New York Jets

 

QB           Josh McCown       77.1

 

30. Indianapolis Colts

 

QB            Andrew Luck     N/A

 

31. Houston Texans

 

Biggest strength: Full disclaimer — a healthy J.J. Watt is the Texans’ biggest strength. But considering his injuries the past two seasons, it’s difficult to judge what Watt will be capable of in 2018. The Texans’ next best is wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who finished 2017 with the fourth-highest grade of any wide receiver at 90.6. There might not be any better player at roping in sideline passes and using his tremendous body control to keep his feet inbounds.

 

QB       Deshaun Watson       75.1

 

32. Cleveland Browns

 

QB           Tyrod Taylor          83

 

 

MVP ODDS

Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com has some interesting odds.  We boldfaced five guys whose odds we like and are curious who you might support:

 

Aaron Rodgers has two NFL MVP awards. Tom Brady has three.

 

Not surprisingly, the two are betting favorites for the official Associated Press MVP award for 2018, per Bovada. Rodgers has 13-2 odds, while Brady, who repeated as the top-ranked player in the NFL Network’s Top 100, currently is at 7-1.

 

The top 17 players — those with 30-1 or lower odds — are quarterbacks. Quarterbacks have won 10 of the past 11 MVP awards, with running back Adrian Peterson winning it in 2012.

 

A quarterback or running back has won the award every year since 1986 when voters honored Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor.

 

2018 NFL regular-season MVP odds to win:

 

Rodgers 13/2

 

Brady 7/1

 

Carson Wentz 19/2

 

Drew Brees 15/1

 

Russell Wilson 15/1

 

Jimmy Garoppolo 20/1

 

Cam Newton 20/1

 

Matt Ryan 20/1

 

Deshaun Watson 20/1

 

Kirk Cousins 22/1

 

Jared Goff 22/1

 

Philip Rivers 22/1

 

Ben Roethlisberger 25/1

 

Derek Carr 28/1

 

Andrew Luck 30/1

 

Dak Prescott 30/1

 

Matthew Stafford 30/1

 

Le’Veon Bell 40/1

 

Todd Gurley 40/1

 

David Johnson 40/1

 

Marcus Mariota 40/1

 

Antonio Brown 50/1

 

Ezekiel Elliott 50/1

 

Case Keenum 50/1

 

Eli Manning 50/1

 

Jameis Winston 50/1

 

Patrick Mahomes 55/1

 

Saquon Barkley 60/1

 

Leonard Fournette 60/1

 

Kareem Hunt 60/1

 

LeSean McCoy 60/1

 

Alex Smith 60/1

 

Blake Bortles 66/1

 

Alvin Kamara 66/1

 

Julio Jones 70/1

 

Joe Flacco 75/1

 

Mitchell Trubisky 90/1

 

Andy Dalton 100/1

 

Devonta Freeman 100/1

 

AJ Green 100/1

 

Rob Gronkowski 100/1

 

DeAndre Hopkins 100/1

 

J.J. Watt 100/1

 

Sam Bradford 125/1

 

Nick Foles 125/1

 

Tyrod Taylor 125/1