Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast

Brand new episode of the Aftermath’s NFL Draft Podcast is here as Chris breaks down this week’s Studs and Sleepers. Check out which players have their draft stock rising and which players are seeing their stock slide. Also make sure you stay tuned for the game to watch this week. Subscribe now on Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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2019 NFL Power Rankings: Week 2

The first weekend of NFL action is officially in the books. The defending champs looked unstoppable, Patrick Mahomes was cruising once again, a lot of former No. 1 picks struggled and we got an early game of the year candidate on Monday Night Football. It was a wild first week. The Dolphins look like they will be hard to beat … in the race for the first overall pick. Lots of rookies made debuts. Overall, it was just really nice to have meaningful NFL football back.

With this being just the second week of rankings there is a ton of movement right now, as NFL teams look to establish the new hierarchy for the 2019 season. As a result, we have a completely reshuffled top 10, including a new top team. When I last published power rankings, Antonio Brown was still in Oakland, otherwise the Pats would have been the number one team. Check out where every team stands after one week of NFL games.

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1. New England Patriots: 1-0 (Last Week: 2)
Talk about dominance. The Patriots looked to be on another level with an incredible showing against the Steelers. Tom Brady was in midseason form. The defense kept Ben Roethlisberger on the run all night and stonewalled the Pittsburgh ground game. In the past, we’ve seen New England take a few weeks to get into gear, but with this performance and the addition of Antonio Brown on the horizon, there is legitimate talk of this team challenging the 2007 Patriots.

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2. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-0 (Last Week: 4)
Turns out Patrick Mahomes was ready to pick back up right where he left off. He tore apart the Jaguars defense on Sunday, while missing his most explosive receiver in Tyreek Hill for majority of the game. Sammy Watkins might like to debate that most explosive tag as well after he put up a ridiculous nine-catch, 198-yard, three-touchdown statline. Kansas City did allow Gardner Mishnew to do a lot of damage after replacing an injured Nick Foles, so there is room for improvement. Also, that LeSean McCoy signing is looking pretty good for them right now after his 81 yards on 10 carries. This offense is flush with playmakers even in Hill’s absence.

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3. New Orleans Saints: 1-0 (Last Week: 3)
That. Was. Stunning! New Orleans rebounded in the best way possible from the awful endings to the past two seasons with an emotional comeback. Drew Brees looked in fine form, despite the uncharacteristic interception early on. The Saints definitely started slow, but played their best when it mattered. There is a lot to like about the pass rush as well with six sacks. Allowing the almost game-winning touchdown on just two plays signals the defense has a ways to go, but escaping with a win is important.

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4. Los Angeles Rams: 1-0 (Last Week: 1)
It was a season-opening win for the Rams, but far from a convincing one. The timeshare at running back actually worked quite well, but Jared Goff did not have his best game. Los Angeles did just enough to hold off a surging Carolina team it had held without a touchdown for the first thirty minutes. This team has a ton of talent and it managed to avoid a complete Super Bowl hangover, but the Rams didn’t look sharp in the process. With a visit from the still probably pretty upset Saints after last year’s game coming up, Sean McVay has a lot of work to do.

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5. Los Angeles Chargers: 1-0 (Last Week: 7)
It was far from a comfortable win for this Chargers team, but it still counts. Los Angeles looked explosive on offense both through the air and on the ground. There are questions to be asked of the defense though that allowed a number of big plays of its own. Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson made everyone forget about Melvin Gordon and Philip Rivers played almost flawless, save an incredible interception by Malik Hooker. It was a solid start, but the Chargers will need to play even better to compete with the Chiefs.

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6. Minnesota Vikings: 1-0 (Last Week: 10)
Meet Kirk Cousins, the game manager. Cousins threw the ball 10 times. That’s it. He played the whole game and attempted 10 passes. Minnesota ran the ball 38 times for 172 yards and three touchdowns, including one by Cousins himself. Dalvin Cook flashed the potential he has when healthy and Alexander Mattison impressed in his debut. You might be a bit bummed if you have Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs on your fantasy team, but this ball control offense looks like it might just work. It kept Atlanta out of rhythm and took a ton of pressure off the defense.

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7. Philadelphia Eagles: 1-0 (Last Week: 6)
Slow starts seem to be pretty typical for the Eagles under Doug Pederson. Sunday was no exception as Washington jumped all over the opportunity to build an early lead. Philly stayed the course though and chipped away. If not for a late, meaningless (well it was meaningful in Vegas) touchdown, the Eagles would have capped off a double-digit victory. Carson Wentz played great and Philadelphia ran the ball well. There is still a lot to be desired from that secondary though after allowing Case Keenum and a bunch of unproven receivers to rack up 380 yards.

Packers logo8. Green Bay Packers: 1-0 (Last Week: 12)
If you had told me the Packers were only going to managed 10 points in Chicago, I would’ve expected the Bears to win comfortably. Instead, the Green Bay defense showed up in a big way, holding the Mitchell Trubisky and company out of the end zone. Considering the fact the Pack only managed 213 yards of total offense, that was crucial. It was a slog of a game, but Green Bay’s defense played better than it did at any point last year. The offense will probably pick it up a bit, as pretty much any matchup other than the Bears will be a bit easier.

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9. Chicago Bears: 0-1 (Last Week 5)
Welcome back down to Earth Bears fans. Mitchell Trubisky played like the inconsistent passer we saw during his rookie season with a pick and just 5.1 yards per attempt. Chicago still played lights out on defense, getting to Aaron Rodgers early and often and bottling up the run game. Turns out it was not enough, as the Bears drop to 0-1, shockingly placing them last in the NFC North after one week. They won’t stay there, but the offense needs to find its groove with a trip to Denver coming up.

Cowboys logo10. Dallas Cowboys: 1-0 (Last Week: 15)
Zeke is back and honestly, it might not have mattered with how well the Cowboys played. Dak Prescott tossed four touchdown and threw for over 400 yards. The wide receiving core looked great and Jason Witten even scored a touchdown. The defense was solid, but did get burned a handful of times by Saquon Barkley. The excitement around Tony Pollard definitely dropped off after a tough start to the year. With two forced fumbles defensively, there are a ton of positives for Dallas to take away from this game.

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11. Baltimore Ravens: 1-0 (Last Week: 16)
Wow. That’s probably the best way to summarize Baltimore scoring a franchise record 59 points on Miami. Lamar Jackson looked like Joe Montana picking apart a decent Dolphins secondary. Most of the damage was done in big chunks as well, rather than just grinding down the Dolphins defense. There is not much to criticize from this performance from the Ravens. With Arizona up next, it might be a few weeks before this squad is truly tested.

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12. Tennessee Titans: 1-0 (Last Week: 18)
Where in the world did that come from? Tennessee dominated the Browns in Cleveland for a 43-13 victory. Derrick Henry looked sharp, and Marcus Mariota was solid if unspectacular. The defense was cooking, sacking Baker Mayfield five times and intercepting him twice. It also came up with a safety and a defensive touchdown courtesy of Malcolm Butler. This is the formula the Titans could very well ride to a division title, as Mike Vrabel has the defense playing at a really high level. Back-to-back divisional games will help us figure out if Tennessee is for real.

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13. Houston Texans: 0-1 (Last Week: 13)
The Texans were so close to pulling off a huge opening week win in New Orleans. It was a really tough way to lose, but there is a lot to like about how the Texans played. Deshaun Watson played extremely well and the running game looked really good. However, there is plenty to not like about this performance as well. Watson got battered, taking six sacks, and the run defense was gashed by the combination of Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. Houston also gave up 370 passing yards to Drew Brees. There is still a lot to work out for this newly assembled team.

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14. Pittsburgh Steelers: 0-1 (Last Week: 8)
Losing Antonio Brown definitely hurts the offense, but the defense flat out fell apart in New England. They did nothing to get after Tom Brady and struggled to find any way to slow down the passing game. It is concerning when Phillip Dorsett torches the secondary for a pair of touchdowns. Ben Roethlisberger failed to find the end zone. James Connor never got going with 21 yards on 10 rushes. It was a failure to launch in the worst way for Pittsburgh who can just be thankful the Browns and Bengals lost as well.

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15. Atlanta Falcons: 0-1 (Last Week: 9)
That was far from an ideal way for the Falcons to start the season. Atlanta committed three turnovers and gave up four sacks to Minnesota. Matt Ryan finally turned things around a little bit with some late success, but it was a lackluster performance for the whole team. The Falcons cannot avoid the injury bug either as first round pick Chris Lindstrom hit the IR on Monday. He could return later this season, but that is a blow to an offensive line that struggled a lot last season. A Sunday night game against Philadelphia awaits them and Atlanta would love to avoid a 0-2 hole to dig out of.

Seahawks logo16. Seattle Seahawks: 1-0 (Last Week: 14)
That was a surprisingly close call for the Seahawks. It was mostly due to a questionable showing from the Seattle offense. Russell Wilson took four sacks and the top rushing offense from a year ago managed 2.9 yards per carry. The secondary also got burned twice by John Ross. On the plus side, the defense forced two Andy Dalton fumbles and kept Joe Mixon to pedestrian numbers. Seattle was lucky to win this game, but a win is a win. A trip to face the reeling Steelers is on deck, which represents another tough test.

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17. Cleveland Browns: 0-1 (Last Week: 11)
So maybe the Browns aren’t quite who we thought they were, even if Delaine Walker knew otherwise. Cleveland got steamrolled by the Titans at home in a woeful outing. Baker Mayfield will need to take better care of the football, but the offensive line will need to take better care of Mayfield. After trading Kevin Zeitler for Olivier Vernon during the offseason, the Browns never really replaced him in the starting lineup. Even if there are a ton of targets to throw to, Baker will need more time to get the ball to them. A game against the Jets should make things easier for a team who just got punched in the mouth.

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18. Indianapolis Colts: 0-1 (Last Week: 22)
It’s hard not to play the what if game here with the Colts. It will be hard not to all season. Indy came up just short of taking down the Chargers in overtime. Marlon Mack was great, the defense had a few big plays and Jacoby Brissett was … actually he was pretty good. He didn’t throw for a ton of yards, but he took care of the football and tossed a pair of touchdown passes to T.Y. Hilton. Had Indianapolis won the toss to start overtime, it might have been a different story. The Colts are still a solid team, but definitely do not feel as complete without Andrew Luck.

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19. San Francisco 49ers: 1-0 (Last Week: 21)
Last season, the 49ers had two interceptions as a team. On Sunday, they picked off Jameis Winston three times. Already, this team is surpassing levels from last year. It wasn’t a dominant performance from Jimmy Garoppolo, but he was solid in his regular season return. Tevin Coleman is going to miss some time with an injury though, leaving Matt Breida as the starter. With three straight games against the AFC North coming up, all the teams that lost in Week 1, San Francisco could be a sneaky team to pick for a hot start.

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20. Carolina Panthers: 0-1 (Last Week: 20)
It was a tale of two halves for Carolina. The Panthers managed just three points in the first half, but exploded for 24 in the second. It just wasn’t enough to beat the Rams. Christian McCaffrey was otherworldly again, but Cam Newton had a forgettable day. He had no touchdown passes, an interception and negative rushing yards. Los Angeles forced him to beat them as a passer, which he almost found a way to do in the second half, but it was too little, too late.

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21. Oakland Raiders: 1-0 (Last Week: 26)
What a week for the Raiders. Antonio Brown was suspended, then back in the starting lineup, all for him to end up in New England. That all happened before they even took the field. The play on the field made a lot of people forget about how tumultuous a week it had been off it. Oakland dominated Denver, even if they only won by eight points. Derek Carr proved he has truly figured out Jon Gruden’s system and the offensive line won the night. It did not allow that Broncos’ pass rush to bring down Carr once and opened up some nice running lane for the impressive Josh Jacobs. However, the competition gets much tougher as the Chiefs roll into town for an AFC West showdown.

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22. Jacksonville Jaguars: 0-1 (Last Week: 19)
Hopes of a rebound season under Nick Foles deflated quickly after the newly signed quarterback broke his collarbone. Jacksonville traded for Josh Dobbs on Monday from Pittsburgh as a result. All might not be lost, as Gardner Mishnew played extremely well in relief. He went 22-25 for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He did throw one interception, but it was a positive performance for the rookie quarterback. Unfortunately, the Jags defense gave up 40 points to Patrick Mahomes and company, even without Tyreek Hill for most of the game. The season is far from over after one week, but the defense needs to play better.

Denver_Broncos23. Denver Broncos: 0-1 (Last Week: 17)
It was an inauspicious start to the season for Denver. The supposedly vaunted defense was nowhere to be found as Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were held in check by the Oakland offensive line. It was really a debut to forget for Vic Fangio on defense as Derek Carr carved up the secondary. Now the Broncos were down a couple key contributors on that side of the ball, but the Raiders had control of this game from the very beginning. Joe Flacco will need to settle in quickly as this offense looks to find its footing. This won’t get any easier with the Bears coming to town.

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24. Buffalo Bills: 1-0 (Last Week: 25)
It wasn’t always pretty, but a win over a division rival on the road is huge for Buffalo to start the season. Down 16 to the Jets, Josh Allen engineered a big comeback. That retooled receiving core looked pretty solid as John Brown made an immediate impact. There were a lot of early miscues as the Bills committed four turnovers, but bouncing back from that and finding a way to win showed a lot of maturity from an overall young group.

Washington made up logo25. Washington: 0-1 (Last Week: 30)
Nothing like inducing a little panic in a division rival early in the year. Case Keenum balled out in his debut for Washington, with 380 yards through the air. There is some bad news, as Derrius Guice seems to be headed for the bench for a few weeks. There is a decent amount of depth in the backfield though with Chris Thompson, Adrian Peterson and Wendall Smallwood on the roster. They will need a bit more success running the ball after managing just 28 yards on 13 attempts against the Eagles. Still, this was a very promising start for the team despite the final result.

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26. New York Jets: 0-1 (Last Week: 24)
Oh boy. Where to even start here? The defense played lights out for three quarters and even scored eight points. Meanwhile, the Jets offense sputtered and only managed to find the end zone once, despite receiving great field position from a number of forced turnovers. Jamison Crowder and Le’Veon Bell integrated themselves well, but overall this was a major disappointment for the debut of Adam Gase’s offense in New York. Toss in continued kicking woes and the Jets are in midseason form for unresolved issues.

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27. Cincinnati Bengals: 0-1 (Last Week: 31)
Well that was not what most expected of the Bengals to open the season. Cincinnati held the Seahawks relatively in check and showed some explosiveness on offense. John Ross showed up after two years of absolutely nothing with two massive touchdowns. If not for a ridiculous Andy Dalton screw up, the Bengals could have emerged from new head coach Zac Taylor’s debut with a shocking victory. It is a step in the right direction though, as Cincy appears to be much more competitive this season.

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28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 0-1 (Last Week: 23)
We probably just witnessed the beginning of the end for the Jameis Winston era in Tampa Bay. With three interceptions, including a pick-six, and an 8.6 QBR, Winston fell flat versus San Francisco. He actually got some help from his running game, as the Bucs running backs averaged 5.1 yards per carry. The defense wasn’t great, but the pick-six from Vernon Hargreaves was a nice touch. It was a rough start for a Tampa team that had higher hopes for the 2019 season. We will need to see some major improvement across the board.

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29. Detroit Lions: 0-0-1 (Last Week: 27)
Up 15 in the fourth quarter against a rookie quarterback and the team who earned the first overall pick last year. Should be a slam dunk right? Not for Detroit. The Lions underwent a massive collapse, mostly by their own doing. A questionable timeout call and a disappearing act by the defense led to a bitter tie. No one expected the Detroit to be pushing for a playoff spot, but if this is how the team is going to play this season, Matt Stafford and Matt Patricia could be on their way out of town.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)30. Arizona Cardinals: 0-0-1 (Last Week: 29)
It was about as ugly a start as possible to the Kyler Murray era. Then, the former Heisman winner channeled the magic he often found at Oklahoma and led an incredible fourth quarter comeback. Sure it resulted in a tie rather than a win, but there were signs of optimism for that offense. Unfortunately, the defense looks extremely weak. Getting a full strength secondary will make a huge difference, but this is still a talent-deprived roster with a rookie quarterback. Expect growing pains.

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31. New York Giants: 0-1 (Last Week: 28)
So it turns out that trading away your best pass rusher makes it really difficult to stop Dak Prescott. The Giants secondary looked pathetic trying to track down Dallas receivers all game long as Prescott shredded New York for more than 400 yards passing. Some questions certainly arise about Saquon Barkley’s usage as well, mostly that he didn’t get the ball enough. He had 120 yards rushing, on just 11 carries. Just run the ball with him more. Seems like a logical solution. I think the Daniel Jones hype might cool a bit after that debut fumble. The Giants are destined for a top-five pick.

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32. Miami Dolphins: 0-1 (Last Week: 32)
I am tempted to put a few college teams above the Dolphins after that showing. It clear this team is angling for the number one pick and possibly a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Ravens dropped 59 points on the Fins and dominated in every facet of the game. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen both struggled. No one on defense had an answer for Lamar Jackson, who tore up Miami through the air. With the Patriots on tap next week, things are definitely going to get worse before they get better.

NFL 2019 Week 1 Power Rankings

Welcome back to another NFL season football fans! After the 8-month long drought of meaningful football, we are now just two days away from the season kicking off. This is shaping up to be a very interesting season in the league. It feels like there are very few teams who seem to have no shot at the postseason this year. There will undoubtedly be surprises that very few saw coming. That’s what makes the league so much fun to watch every year.

This year, it feels like there is a pretty deep group of contenders. Picking the top team out of that group is difficult. Ranking the list of contenders is probably even harder. Every team has flaws. There is not a team that feels head and shoulders above the rest. Even the reigning champs have a couple of question marks after the retirement of Rob Gronkowski and departure of high-priced free agents. Yet, I will give it my best shot and fill you in on much of what happened during the offseason for each team. It’s time for the season’s first power rankings to begin.

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1. Los Angeles Rams: Lost in Super Bowl
Los Angeles will try to buck the trend of teams who lose the Super Bowl struggling the follow season. New England certainly did, follow up its Super Bowl loss to Philly by taking home the Lombardi. The Rams return the majority of their roster. There was some turnover along the offensive line as both John Sullivan and Roger Saffold departed. However, the front office bolster the defense by keeping Dante Fowler Jr. and signing Eric Weddle from the Ravens. Oh and they also get Cooper Kupp back from injury. LA is far from a lock to win the Super Bowl, but they feel the best positioned to right now.

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2. New England Patriots: Won Super Bowl
The champs are here. Winning the title and dropping one spot in the power rankings is not too bad when you consider how much roster turnover the Patriots had this offseason. I already mentioned Gronk moving on, but Trent Brown and Trey Flowers also left for greener (lots of green actually) pastures. New England added some savvy veterans like Ben Watson (suspended 4 games), Demaryius Thomas and Michael Bennett. The receiving core has also been bolstered by the conditional return of Josh Gordon. There are certainly holes on this Pats roster and Father Time will catch up with a number of key contributors eventually, by doubting Bill Belichick is a very questionable approach.

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3. New Orleans Saints: Lost in NFC Championship
New Orleans should have been in the Super Bowl and actually caused a rule change this offseason. The Saints return all of its key offensive and defensive contributors. Mark Ingram does depart though after eight seasons in NOLA. This team was explosive to start the season, but really fizzled down the stretch. The lack of proven receiver depth behind Michael Thomas is a major concern, but the addition of Jared Cook at tight end should help alleviate some of the pressure. Latavius Murray also signed on to fill Ingram’s vacated role. If rookie center Erik McCoy transitions well to the pros and the defense takes the next step, the Saints could be hosting an extended Mardi Gras party in February.

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4. Kansas City Chiefs: Lost in AFC Championship
Will Patrick Mahomes replicate his 50 touchdown season? Can he lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl? Is he the greatest thing since sliced bread? These are just some of the questions floating around Chiefs’ camp coming off their deepest playoff run in 25 years. Kansas City tried to address its woeful secondary by signing Tyrann Mathieu and drafting Juan Thornhill in the second round. KC also allowed Justin Houston to walk and shipped Dee Ford to San Francisco. Bringing in Frank Clark from Seattle should ease those losses, but the defense once again feels like a question mark potentially holding the Chiefs back from a chance at a title.

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5. Chicago Bears: Lost in NFC Wild Card
It is hard to know what to make of the Bears. Chicago shocked everyone by dominating the NFC North last season. It was a great run cut short by a a kick hitting the upright against the Eagles. Mitch Trubisky enters year three without a clear top receiving threat. The collection of Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton did just enough to power the passing game. Chicago is very excited about David Montgomery and still returns the best defense in the league, but it is down a few key pieces. Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan both departed in free agency, leaving some holes in the secondary. Da Bears took fliers on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine to help patch it up. The front seven is still fearsome and should be good enough to mask any weaknesses in that back four.

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6. Philadelphia Eagles: Lost in NFC Divisional
You know who would really like to make Philadelphia forget about Nick Foles? Carson Wentz. The former North Dakota State star has missed the conclusion of each of the previous two seasons due to injury. Foles stepped in and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win and divisional round appearance respectively. Philly was likely an inexplicable Alshon Jeffrey drop away from a trip to the NFC Championship game as well. Now its Wentz’s turn to show he has what it takes to lead the Eagles deep into the postseason. The backfield is restocked with rookie Miles Sanders and import Jordan Howard. DeSean Jackson is back for another run. The secondary is finally healthy. If Wentz can stay on the field this year, Philly is going to be one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.

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7. Los Angeles Chargers: Lost in AFC Divisional
It feels like now or never for the Chargers. Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekler, Hunter Henry and Mike Pouncey are all in contract years. We’ve already seen that Gordon is not happy about entering the season without a new deal. However, Los Angeles needs to make significant progress from the team that was shelled by New England in the playoffs last year. Some improved offensive line play should definitely help solve that. Thomas Davis also adds a veteran presence to the defense, already boasting a stud pass rusher in Melvin Ingram. The AFC West will be tough, but the Chargers are in a good position to finish on top of the division.

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8. Pittsburgh Steelers: Finished 2nd in AFC North
Even with Antonio Brown in Oakland and Le’Veon Bell in New York, the Steelers actually feel like a more complete team in 2019. Adding Devin Bush, Justin Layne and Isaiah Buggs through the draft gives Pittsburgh some young building blocks. Mark Barron is also an intriguing free agent signing. James Conner and Jaylen Samuel form a solid backfield tandem and the offensive line is among the best in the league. The front seven is among the better groups as well. If the Steelers can finally find some answers in the secondary, expect them back in the postseason this year.

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9. Atlanta Falcons: Finished 2nd in NFC South
No team was more ravaged by injuries last year than the Falcons. With a healthier defense, a retooled offensive line and the return of Dirk Koetter as offensive coordinator, I am optimistic about the Falcons this season. They have depth at the skill positions and some intriguing talent on defense. If Vic Beasley can regain some of his 2016 form and Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen pick up where they left off before their injuries, the Atlanta should be a lot closer to what we saw in the back-to-back playoff appearances. Matt Ryan is an MVP-caliber quarterback with one the best receiver cores in the league. Keep an eye on these birds.

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10. Minnesota Vikings: Finished 2nd in NFC North
There is no question 2018 was disappointing for the Vikings. Coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship game (a beatdown though it was), expectations were high for Minnesota. Instead, the Kirk Cousins-led offense sputtered and the defense could not do enough to carry them to the postseason. The Vikings invested a lot of draft capital into the offense and Dalvin Cook should be back in action as well. With possibly the best receiving pair in the league now with Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs, Minnesota should be knocking on the door of the playoffs once again.

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11. Cleveland Browns: Finished 3rd in AFC North
This is easily the highest I have ever had the Browns in the power rankings to start the season. Cleveland went out and acquired Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon from the Giants this offseason. It also added Sheldon Richardson and Greedy Williams. While many are picking the Browns to win the AFC North, that offensive line has me a little worried, particularly after shipping Kevin Zeitler to New York. And while Baker Mayfield was amazing last year, this will be his first full season as the starter and Freddy Kitchens first full year as the coach. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but an ample amount of them to be cautious as well.

Packers logo12. Green Bay Packers: Finished 3rd in NFC North
Talk about turnover. The Packers fired Mike McCarthy last year, replacing him with Matt LeFleur. Rumor has it Green Bay will run the ball a bit more this season, a wise choice with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams available to carry the rock. Aaron Rodgers is still trying to find a second weapon to rely on in the passing game behind Davante Adams. If Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Jake Kumerow can finally step up, this offense should get back to where we expect it to be. Defensively, the secondary is deep, but pass rushers are hard to find. The Pack took fliers on ZaDarius Smith and Preston Smith. Rodgers is talented enough to overcome a lot of this, but he could desperately use some help after being stranded for the past several seasons.

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13. Houston Texans: Lost in AFC Wildcard
Seem low for the Texans after reaching the playoffs last year? Maybe it is. They had an extremely busy offseason, adding Laremy Tunsil to bolster the offensive line, a move it desperately needed to make. However, it lost Jadeveon Clowney, a blow no matter how you look at it. Elsewhere, Deshaun Watson also needs some help from someone not named DeAndre Hopkins, a task made harder with Lamar Miller suffering a major knee injury. The defense is still one of the better ones in the league, led by J.J. Watt. The secondary took a few hits, but adding Bradley Roby should help mitigate any losses. In a tougher AFC South, the Texans need to play at a high level to make it back to the playoffs.

Seahawks logo14. Seattle Seahawks: Lost in NFC Wildcard
If you are a fan of old-school, smash mouth football, the Seahawks are your team in 2019. With an improving offensive line, the dynamic duo of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny and of course Russell Wilson, Seattle is going retro. It was the only team to run the ball more than it threw it last season. With Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor all gone, it is truly the beginning of a new era though. Adding Jadeveon Clowney should help, but it is possible these key veteran departures could be too much for this team to overcome. Even with Bobby Wagner leading the defense, Seattle has some work to do to replace that leadership.

Cowboys logo15. Dallas Cowboys: Lost in NFC Divisional
On one hand, I get it. Paying a running back a ton of money seems like a questionable way to spend cap space. However, this is probably the most complete running back in the NFL we are talking about. Ezekiel Elliott powers that Dallas offense and I would be very wary of them making the playoffs, much less winning the NFC East if his holdout carries deep into the season. Sure there is other talent in Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, but the Cowboys are a bit short on proven skill position players. They are counting on Michael Gallup to take the next step and Jason Witten to pick up right where he left off after a year in the broadcasting booth. Thankfully, the defense does not seem to have too many holes, which should keep Dallas in the mix if the offense sputters.

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16. Baltimore Ravens: Lost in AFC Wildcard
Baltimore had a tough offseason. Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley, ZaDarius Smith and Eric Weddle walked away, signing with new teams. The Ravens did fill the void by bringing in Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram, but it wasn’t enough to make it feel like the team had taken the next step. Surrounding Lamar Jackson with talent is the key, but there is no one right now that inspires confidence right now. Marquis Brown is explosive, but Willie Snead and Chris Moore are far from elite receivers. There are a lot of question marks on this offense and more on the defense than we are used to.

Denver_Broncos17. Denver Broncos: Finished 3rd in AFC West
Another year, another quarterback for Denver. This one though has the best resume of anyone since Peyton Manning hung up his cleats. Joe Flacco is no Manning, but he is a former Super Bowl MVP. With Emmanuel Sanders looking healthy, some solid tight ends and two young receivers coming up, this passing game should improve in 2019. Pair that with a lethal defense and this has the makings of a sleeper playoff team. Denver just needs to find a way to survive the juggernauts in the West.

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18. Tennessee Titans: Finished 3rd in AFC South
Defense wins championships and Mike Vrabel has built a defense worthy of championship contention. He bolstered the group with veteran pass rusher Cameron Wake. Now if only the offense could find a way to support it. Marcus Mariota is in his finally year of his rookie deal and is out of excuses. He has a better receiving core after Adam Humphries joined this offseason. Derrick Henry is playing better and Tennessee still has Dion Lewis as well. Not having Taylor Lewan the first four games due to suspension is going to be hard, but this is the Titans year to either break through or look at a rebuild.

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19. Jacksonville Jaguars: Finished 4th in AFC South
I’m buying the Jaguars turning things around this year. I know Nick Foles is not going to suddenly become Tom Brady, but he will be an upgrade from Blake Bortles. He has tons of big game experience. Leonard Fournette obviously needs to improve after a rocky season. It also remains to be seen just how good this receiving core is, led by Dede Westbrook. Defensively, Jacksonville is still stacked. Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Yannick Ngakoue, Marcel Dareus, Calais Campbell, Myles Jack and now Josh Allen. This is an explosive group with tons of talent. The Jags feel like the team that could grind their way to a playoff appearance.

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20. Carolina Panthers: Finished 3rd in NFC South
Which Panthers team are we going to see this year? The one that started 6-2 or the one that finished the season 1-7 after that? Much of that will depend on Cam Newton’s health. He has been banged up throughout his career. Carolina can rely heavily on Christian McCaffrey once again, but the difference between the Panthers being a postseason contender or a middling team will be Newton’s health. Luke Keuchley will have even more responsibilities with Thomas Davis gone. Edge rusher Brian Burns is making some early noise, but the corners remain a bit of an unknown. The Panthers are a quality team, but we’ve already seen how inconsistent they can be as a group.

49ers Logo

21. San Francisco 49ers: Finished 4th in NFC West
The 49ers will almost undoubtedly be better in 2019 simply due to staying healthier and being a bit luckier. No one had fewer interceptions than San Francisco did last season and that was after losing Jimmy Garoppolo. With him back, Tevin Coleman and Deebo Samuel making plays and more talent on defense, the Niners are creeping into .500 territory. Make no mistake, this team is still a few pieces away from truly competing. We’ve already seen the struggles for Jimmy G coming back from his torn ACL in the preseason. If Nick Bosa can finally get on the field, this should be a fun team to watch on both sides of the ball.

 

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22. Indianapolis Colts: Lost in Divisional Round
When I started working on this, the Colts were top 10 team. Then Andrew Luck retired. It’s easy to forget this team started last year 1-5. Indianapolis clearly showed what it was capable after that, finishing the regular season 9-1 and beating the Texans in the Wild Card. After boasting the best rookie class in the league last year, the Colts still have things to be excited about, but hopes of a Super Bowl walked out the door with Luck. The addition of Justin Houston gives Indy a proven pass rusher, so maybe the defense can find a way to carry it to another postseason appearance, but I’m not ready to put that much faith in Jacoby Brissett.

Buccaneers logo

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Finished 4th in NFC South
Time for the Bruce Arians era. For what feels like the 5th year in a row, there is a flickering of optimism surrounding this team. It still remains to be seen if that optimism will ever result in the Bucs taking a step forward. There is no question Jameis Winston will need to show some consistency this year if he hopes to still be on the roster next season. After an up and down year, Tampa does not feel like a true playoff contender, but should be more competitive in the NFC South.

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24. New York Jets: Finished 4th in AFC East
Years of mediocrity could finally be coming to an end in New York. However, for the Jets are on their third coach in six years, meaning the direction of the franchise has changed once again. They also held onto Mike McCagnan through the NFL draft and then fired him in the middle of the offseason. A fresh start was probably needed, and there is some hope still in the form of Sam Darnold. The other major storyline playing out on Broadway this year will be the return to action for Le’Veon Bell. If he can regain his level of dominance he had in Pittsburgh, perhaps the nine-year playoff drought will finally be snapped.

 

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25. Buffalo Bills: Finished 3rd in AFC East
The Bills are not ready to challenge the Patriots quite yet, but there is no question they closed the gap. That has more to do with what happened in Buffalo this offseason and less to do with any developments in New England. Adding John Brown and Cole Beasley should help Josh Allen’s progression. Even after cutting LeSean McCoy, the Bills look much stronger and deeper across the whole offense. Considering this is traditionally a talented defense, perhaps Buffalo can make some noise this year.

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26. Oakland Raiders: Finished 4th in AFC West
It’s hard to know what to make of Oakland. There is no question this team got better during the offseason after addressing a bunch of needs with its three first round picks. There are still some major holes though, as Oakland lacks a proven receiver and still needs help throughout the defense. The Raiders will be more competitive this season without question, but they are playing in a tough division with a roster full of young players. There will be some growing pains.

Lions Logo

27. Detroit Lions: Finished 4th in NFC North
I have been yelling it from the rooftops for years now. The Lions will never be a good team as long as Matt Stafford is the quarterback. Detroit enters another season with a ton of question marks across the roster. It let Ezekiel Ansah walk and replaced him with Trey Flowers, a smart move, but years of poor drafting has left the defense in shambles. Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson and TJ Hockenson should form a solid trio of skill players, but with an average line and not much depth, it looks like another disappointing season is coming in the Motor City.

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28. New York Giants: Finished 4th in NFC East
No team shed more top-tier talent than the Giants this summer, sending Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon to Cleveland and letting Landon Collins walk to Washington. With a porous offensive line and a battered defensive front, it looks like a long year for the Giants. Eli Manning is still the starter, even with Daniel Jones waiting in the wings. This is a massive transitional year for New York that could ultimately decide Pat Shurmur’s fate as the team’s coach.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)29. Arizona Cardinals: Finished 4th in NFC West
If nothing else, Arizona will be a lot more fun to watch this season. Between Kyler Murray taking over at quarterback and Kliff Kingsbury coming in as the new coach, the offense should definitely receive a jolt. The line still isn’t great, but the franchise has turned the corner in it’s rebuild. Don’t expect much immediate success, but success for this team should really be judged by how well it progresses with Murray at the helm. Look for Byron Murphy to play a major role early on as well with Patrick Peterson suspended the first six games of the year.

Washington made up logo30. Washington: Finished 3rd in NFC East
This ranking is not indicative of Washington’s offseason. Landing Dwayne Haskins and Landon Collins give them building blocks to push this team forward. Expectations are low though for any team that plans to start a rookie quarterback at some point. However, there is a lot of potential for this team to outperform those expectations. Derrius Guice is back after he missed his rookie year with a torn ACL. The defensive line also boasts a pair of former first round picks in Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne. Considering how good this team was last year before Alex Smith got hurt, there is still potential for Washington to make a playoff push.

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31. Cincinnati Bengals: Finished 4th in AFC North
If there is anyone stuck in the middle of an awkward transition, it is the Bengals. They are still holding onto the veterans from the previous era who will not be on the team the next time Cincinnati reaches the playoffs. Topping the list of holdovers is Andy Dalton, who is on his last leg with the franchise. Dalton has never won a playoff game and hasn’t made it back to the postseason since crashing out in 2014. That isn’t for a lack of skill position talent with AJ Green, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd and Giovani Bernard surrounding him, but the Bengals might have the worst offensive line in football other than potentially the Dolphins.

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32. Miami Dolphins: Finished 2nd in AFC East
Speaking of the Dolphins, welcome to the bottom of the pile Miami. That’s what happens when you trade your stud left tackle, starting middle linebacker and most reliable receiver less than a week before the season. Who am I kidding, the Fins would’ve been here anyway. This is a team banking on Ryan Fitzpatrick delivering some of his magic once again, who also brought in Josh Rosen to see what he could do. Miami is the clear frontrunner for the first pick heading into the year and there is a good chance that won’t change much.

2020 NFL Mock Draft: Colts find Luck’s Successor

It’s finally football season. This year, the Aftermath will be devoting more time to covering college football, particularly focusing on the NFL Draft. You can listen to our new podcast starting this Thursday, which will focus on all things related to the draft. Let’s kick off our college football coverage with a mock draft. On the first Monday of each month, I will have a brand new mock draft reflecting all of the developments of the college season, so keep an eye out for more of these in the future. It’s very early in the year and most of these projections are based on the needs of NFL teams at this stage rather than the true value of these players in the draft, so expect a lot of changes in future additions.

This is one of the best draft classes for skill position players we’ve had in a few years. There are also three future franchise quarterbacks, all of which I believe will go in the top 10. The Colts find their successor to Andrew Luck, the Jets finally draft a pass rusher, the Giants find their OBJ replacement and tons of Alabama players will go in Round 1 as per usual.

The draft order was dictated by the Super Bowl odds currently available on Vegas Insiders, with tiebreakers coming via strength of schedule entering the season. There were a couple of instances where teams had to be moved around because of playoff purposes (someone had to win the AFC South) and conference ordering of playoff finish (why the Bears are picking later than the Patriots). Without further ado, here is the first mock for the 2020 NFL Draft.

Dolphins logo1. Miami Dolphins (500-1)
Pick: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
While many might expect the Dolphins to go after a quarterback here. I think they will see enough from Josh Rosen to keep him in house and opt for the best player available. Miami cleaned house when it came to pass rushers, letting Cameron Wake walk and shipping Robert Quinn to Dallas. Young becomes the latest Ohio State defensive lineman to make the jump to the NFL in the top five. He has the talent to surpass Nick Bosa, who went second overall in 2019, after racking up 10.5 sacks last season.

Washington made up logo2. Washington (200-1)
Pick: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Trent Williams wants out of Washington. Teams around the NFL have inquired about the veteran tackle and it’s hard to see him lasting the full season in the nation’s capital. After investing in Dwayne Haskins last year, it is vital for GM Bruce Allen to build an infrastructure he can thrive in. Having a quality left tackle is crucial for any young quarterback and Andrew Thomas can become just that in Washington. Thomas is not an elite run blocker, but he does an excellent job in pass protection. He will be battle-tested after three years in the SEC, going up against NFL-caliber talent regularly.

Bengals Logo3. Cincinnati Bengals (200-1)
Pick: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
The first quarterback comes off the board. This could end up being any number of quarterbacks. Coming into the 2019 college football season though, Herbert is the best option. He has physical tools scouts tend to love. He has the chance to lead a high-profile Oregon team. Andy Dalton’s time is up in Cincy and this is the true beginning of the Bengals rebuild. It is time to tear it down and rebuild around a young quarterback.

Giants Logo4. New York Giants (200-1)
Pick: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
In case you were living under a rock, the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. this past offseason. They also drafted Daniel Jones to be the heir apparent to Eli Manning. He is going to need some weapons to throw to not named Saquon Barkley. Jeudy was a stud as a sophomore for Alabama, posting 1,300+ yards receiving and hauling in 14 touchdowns. He has great hands, the frame needed to be a number one receiver and insane route running. With the addition of Jeudy, the Giants offense suddenly looks like one of the better ones in the league just in time for Daniel Jones to take over.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)5. Arizona Cardinals (200-1)
Pick: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
It is almost impossible to replace Larry Fitzgerald, a task the Cardinals will have to complete sooner rather than later. The best way to do it might just be to draft a man who spent all of 2018 catching passes from new Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. CeeDee Lamb will provide some explosiveness to an Arizona offense that lacks it on paper. He has the capacity to take the top off a defense at moment’s notice. Lamb would immediately help Murray’s growth as a passer and would give the Cardinals a young starting pairing at receiver with Christian Kirk.

Buccaneers logo6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (100-1)
Pick: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Tampa Bay passed on Derwin James in 2018 despite needing secondary help. Then again, a lot of teams did. This time though, the Buccaneers snag a top-tier defensive back out of the real DB U. Delpit becomes the latest plug-and-play safety and immediately helps the worst defensive backfield in the NFL. Tampa could be looking at a quarterback here if it decides to move on from Jameis Winston, but I expect them to spend one more season waiting to see if he can make it work with Bruce Arians and address their porous secondary.

Lions Logo7. Detroit Lions (100-1)
Pick: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Shocked to see the Lions take a quarterback? Don’t be. Detroit has an out in Stafford’s contract after 2020, meaning they can either wait for one year before turning things over to Tagovailoa or look to trade him to a team needing a veteran passer. Either way, Tagovailoa offers a bright future for the Lions alongside Kenny Golladay, Kerryon Johnson and T.J. Hockenson. Tua does not have a super strong arm, but he is extremely accurate and knowledgeable. We’ve seen as far as Stafford can take the Lions. He has never won a playoff game. It’s time to move on.

Bills logo8. Buffalo Bills (100-1)
Pick: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado
This might not be a name too many NFL fans are familiar with, but if you are a fan of Pac-12 football, Shenault is already a star. He topped 1,000 yards last year and led the conference with 86 receptions. He doesn’t always go up against the best defensive competition out west, but at 6’2″ 220 pounds, Shenault projects as a future No. 1 receiver at the next level. Buffalo desperately needs more talent at the skill positions. Josh Allen should not be required to rely on John Brown, Zay Jones and Cole Beasley after this year. Giving Allen a reliable target will make a huge difference in his development.

Denver_Broncos9. Denver Broncos (80-1)
Pick: Walker Little, OT, Stanford
After years of putting off fixing the offensive line, it is finally time for the Broncos to go after some top-tier offensive line help. Walker Little brings a massive 6’7″ frame and tons of potential. He might not be ready to start at left tackle from day one, but he provides a projectable starter there in the future. If Garrett Bolles continues to struggle, Little will take over on the left side when Bolles’ contract expires after the 2020 season.

Colts logo10. Indianapolis Colts (60-1)
Pick: Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
With the shocking retirement of Andrew Luck, Indy now turns its attention to finding a new franchise quarterback. They won’t have to look very far if Jake Fromm is still on the board at 10. Fromm is a natural passer that checks all the boxes for a prototypical NFL quarterback. He has tons of big game experience, starting in a national championship game as a freshman. Fromm also improved his accuracy in his sophomore year. If he can take another step forward, there is a chance he could be the top quarterback off the board in April.

Jets logo11. New York Jets (60-1)
Pick: AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
For years, the Jets have needed to find an edge rusher. Leonard Williams has not developed into a consistent sack artist. Henry Anderson is good in spurts. This team hoped to solve the problem after drafting Jachai Polite this year in the third round, but he didn’t even make the final roster. To fix this, New York finally adds the bonafide pass rusher they haven’t had since Sean Ellis left. Epenesa goes up against plenty of NFL caliber linemen in the BIG 10 and has the production to back it up. With 10.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles a year ago, he would be a welcome addition to Greg Williams’ defense.

Titans logo12. Tennessee Titans (50-1)
Pick: DeAndre Swift, RB, Georgia
But what about Derrick Henry? The former Alabama running back is in the final year of his rookie deal and has been way too inconsistent to warrant a big pay day. Heading into his 238-yard explosion last season, Henry had eclipsed 50 yards rushing just twice. He also offers very little value as a receiver. Instead, the Titans will add the latest star to command the Georgia Bulldogs’ backfield. Swift is explosive, versatile and ready to start right away. What sets him apart from the other top backs in this class is his ability as a pass catcher, with 45 receptions over the past two years. Tennessee might be looking for a new quarterback at this point as well, but no will be worth taking with the top three already off the board.

Panthers logo13. Carolina Panthers (50-1)
Pick: Triston Wirfs, OT, Iowa
There are some schools that just produce quality offensive linemen. Iowa is definitely one of them. Wirfs is the latest tackle to catch the eye of NFL talent evaluators. There is no question Carolina could use some upgrades along the line. They did nab Greg Little in the second round this year, but finding ways to keep Cam Newton upright has to be a priority. Those two would create great bookends on the offensive line. With a talented front seven on defense, a veteran quarterback and some solid playmakers around him, it’s time to bolster the pass protection.

Raiders logo14. Oakland Raiders (40-1)
Pick: Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
Khalil Mack is gone. The Raiders already made some effort to replace him in drafting Clelin Ferrell, but one pass rusher is not enough in the NFL theses days. Brown is a space eater at 6’5″, 315 pounds. He racked up 4.5 sacks last year and 10.5 tackles for loss. There seems to be a trend for teams looking to generate pressure on the interior. Brown can help do that and plug up the middle against the run. Oakland should just continue to amass young defensive talent as it continues its rebuild.

49ers Logo15. San Francisco 49ers (40-1)
Pick: Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
This team desperately needs an infusion of youth at corner. Richard Sherman is still holding it down on one side, but he is 31. Outside of Sherman, the cupboard is pretty bare. Adding Bryce Hall gives San Francisco a projectable starter alongside Sherman in his final few years, before turning things over to Hall as the No. 1 corner. After investing heavily along the defensive line in recent drafts and retooling the offense in free agency, this seems like the most logical move.

Ravens logo16. Baltimore Ravens (40-1)
Pick: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Ravens landed their explosive, game-breaking wideout in Marquise Brown in the 2019 draft. Giving him a big-bodied red zone threat to play across from would make this Baltimore offense tons of fun to watch. Surrounding Lamar Jackson with talent has to be the priority right now. Higgins fits the bill, coming off a season where he had 12 receiving touchdowns at Clemson. Oh and he is 6’4″. He has the potential to have a Mike Williams-type impact on an offense.

Seahawks logo17. Seattle Seahawks (40-1)
Pick: Yeuter Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Even after trading for Jadeveon Clowney, pass rusher is still a huge need for the Seahawks. Clowney projects as just a one-year rental right now and Seattle shipped out Michael Bennett and Frank Clark in successive offseasons without finding a clear long-term replacement. Gross-Matos would be a good one with plenty of speed. He had eight sacks last season in his first full year as a starter. If he can do that again against some good competition on Penn State’s schedule, he will lock up his stock as a first round pick and provide a nice boost to Seahawks defense.

Dolphins logo18. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (30-1)
Pick: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
Chaisson, coming off an ACL tear, flashed plenty of pass rushing potential during his freshman season. This draft spot is all about the ceiling he has right now. He is on As just a redshirt sophomore, there is no question he will need a little bit of seasoning. Given that the Dolphins are definitely more than just one piece away from Super Bowl contention, that is something they can live with. Miami is desperately in need of talent on both sides of the ball. They did add Christian Wilkins last and have Charles Harris on the outside. This would help turn the defensive line into a strength for the Fins as they continue to rebuild.

Falcons logo19. Atlanta Falcons (30-1)
Pick: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
After patching up the offensive line, finding some help in the secondary is a crucial for the Falcons. With Desmond Trufant under contract through 2022, they need to pair him with a capable counterpart. Henderson seems up to the task, as he already has six career interceptions for the Gators. He has decent size for an NFL corner, but doesn’t seem like a typical run and bump type. If can show some ability to jam receivers at the line, he could rise up some draft boards.

Vikings logo20. Minnesota Vikings (20-1)
Pick: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
Minnesota grabbed Garrett Bradberry in 2019 and will continue to build its offensive line with a massive tackle from TCU. Lucas Niang stands 6’7″ and weighs 328 pounds. He has spent most of his time at right tackle in college, but that seems to be a spot the Vikings could address. With Riley Reiff holding down the left side, 2018 draft pick Brian O’Neill projects as the starter on the right. If he struggles this year, Niang could slot in to anchor the right side and turn this offensive line into a strength for Minnesota.

Jaguars logo21. Jacksonville Jaguars (25-1)
Pick: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
This feels like a no-brainer for Jacksonville, who is desperately in need of some playmaking. With Marquise Lee battling through injuries, Dede Westbrook has been the only reliable receiver for the Jaguars. Adding in Ruggs, who has already arrived on the college stage at Alabama, would certainly make things much easier for Nick Foles. The Jags invested a lot of money into Foles. Putting talent around him to make it easier for him to succeed is a major responsibility for the front office.

Packers logo22. Green Bay Packers (20-1)
Pick: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
Clay Matthews hit the road this offseason and Green Bay could use some help in their linebacking core. Simmons is not the pass rusher Matthews was, but he has the speed to make plays from sideline to sideline. He is a converted safety, offering plenty of versatility. He could be a player comparable to either Mark Barron or Keanu Neal, stepping in as a box safety, while also covering receiving tight ends. Don’t sleep on his run stopping ability either; he had 9.5 tackles for loss last year. The Packers could opt for a receiver here if no one else breaks through this season, but given the depth of this receiver class, they go defense instead.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo23. Pittsburgh Steelers (20-1)
Pick: Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
The Steelers would be ecstatic if Fulton fell to them here. They signed Steven Nelson this offseason, but corner is still a major position of need. Joe Hayden is not going to be able to play forever and Mike Hilton has struggled a lot in his Pittsburgh tenure. Fulton has the physical traits to become a true lockdown corner in the future. LSU also breeds defensive backs, producing Tyrann Mathieu, Tre’Davious White, Eric Reid, Jamaal Adams and Greedy Williams in the past six years. If Fulton can come anywhere close to those guys, Pittsburgh will have a starting-caliber player for years to come.

Cowboys logo24. Dallas Cowboys (18-1)
Pick: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Part of this projection is just for the fan of addressing the ongoing contract stalemate between Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. Assuming Zeke does hold out and Dallas is looking for a new feature back, Travis Etienne feels like very obvious fit here. He does not have a ton receiving experience, but he an elusive runner with very good vision. Clemson has leaned on him heavily, even with Trevor Lawrence taking over as quarterback last year. If he has another great season and shows some improvement as a receiver (read as more than 12 catches in 2019), he could be going much higher in this draft.

Browns logo25. Cleveland Browns (18-1)
Pick: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Cleveland shipped out Jabrill Peppers and turns to Tramon Williams and Damarious Randall as its two starting safeties. Williams is 36 and the Browns probably don’t have his replacement on their current roster. Xavier McKinney is a proven tackler that is already a pretty polished prospect. He has the ability to start as early as next season if Williams retires. Cleveland is building a Super Bowl contending roster, with needs along the offensive line best suited to be filled later in the draft, McKinney makes a lot of sense.

Chargers logo26. Los Angeles Chargers (18-1)
Pick: Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
The Chargers have made it very clear to Melvin Gordon that they are not willing to overpay to keep a running back. LA even allowed Gordon to begin seeking potential trade partners. That means there is going to be an opening at starting running back in SoCal next year. Jonathan Taylor should fill that void very well coming off a prolific career at Wisconsin. No player has ever rushed for more yards in their first two seasons than Taylor, and he is even beginning to show improvements as a receiver. He projects as a complete back that would pair really well with Austin Ekeler.

Saints logo27. New Orleans Saints (12-1)
Pick: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
I strongly debated going with a quarterback like K.J. Costello from Stanford, because I still don’t buy Teddy Bridgewater or Taysom Hill as Drew Brees’ successor. Instead, the Saints will continue to load up for these final years of Brees’ career by landing the explosive Jalen Reagor. He compliments Michael Thomas very well as a slightly undersized field-stretching receiver. The Saints have tried to bring that with Ted Ginn Jr. in recent years. Reagor caught 72 passes last season for the Horned Frogs and he could bring a new element to a New Orleans offense that lagged a bit down the stretch.

Eagles Logo28. Philadelphia Eagles (12-1)
Pick: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
The Alabama dominance continues as the Eagles nab Dylan Moses. Philly has built a decent amount of depth in the secondary and has a stellar defensive line. Now Nigel Bradham is still on the roster, but if the Eagles designate him as a post June 1 cut, they can save $8 million in cap space. Moses could immediately fill in for Bradham. Bradham has been a serviceable middle linebacker, but he will turn 30 on September 4. Moses did just tear his ACL, but that should not hurt his draft stock to the point where he drops out of the first round. With not a ton of holes to fill, Philadelphia can look to get younger at a key position and save some money in the process.

Los Angeles Rams logo29. Los Angeles Rams (12-1)
Pick: Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
In a relatively surprising move this offseason, the Rams cut ties with veteran center John Sullivan. That means Brian Allen is stepping into the starting spot, who played all of 37 snaps last season. Jared Goff is going to get a major extension in the next year, so Los Angeles would be smart to protect their investment by beefing up that offensive line. Biadasz would help them do just that. He moves well by all accounts and looks solid in pass protection. He should have the power needed to play at the next level as well. The last three centers drafted in the first round were Ryan Kelly (Colts), Travis Frederick (Cowboys) and Garrett Bradberry (Vikings) for whatever that’s worth.

Patriots Logo30. New England Patriots (6-1)
Pick: Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State
This feels like such a Patriots pick. Weaver is a 6’3″, 265-pound edge rusher with a decent amount of power. That build is very similar to Trey Flowers, who turned a great season last year with New England into a payday in Detroit. He could be a bit of project for Bill Belichick, who likes to take players with production and potential along the defensive line. He came up just short of double-digit sacks last season and is already off to a good start to his 2019 campaign.

Raiders logo31. Oakland Raiders via Chicago Bears (12-1)
Pick: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
This is another pick from the Khalil Mack trade, which the Raiders will use on another Alabama player. Terrell Lewis is coming off a torn ACL in 2018, but he flashed tons of potential in 2017. He has a big frame at 6’5″, 250 pounds. If he shows he is healthy and takes the next step in his development, he could be long gone by now. Regardless, some NFL team is going to gamble on his potential at the end of the first round or early on Day 2. That Oakland defensive front seven is starting to look stacked with Ferrell, Brown and now Lewis.

32. Kansas City Chiefs (6-1)Chiefs Logo
Pick: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
There is no question Kansas City needs help in the secondary. That was what held the Chiefs back from a Super Bowl appearance last year. Paulson Adebo is poised for a big season at Stanford. He has good for an NFL DB at 6’1″ 190 and has shown he can make big plays. Adebo came up with four interceptions last year. Another good season could move him out of the Chiefs’ range, but for now he projects well as a future starter in Andy Reid’s secondary.

All images from Wikimedia Commons

2019 NFL Coaching Carousel

Black Monday came and went in the NFL, leaving eight head coaching vacancies throughout the league. Each team has a bit of a different approach to filling the opening and unique factors to consider, making this a fun exercise. This is who I think each team should hire as their head coach, not necessarily who they will hire. Let’s take a look at the best fits for each opening across the league.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)
Previous coach: Marvin Lewis
New hire: Vic Fangio

After 16 years, Marvin Lewis is finally out in Cincinnati. Lewis turned around the Bengals, but never managed to secure a playoff win. It is a result-driven business and the results have not been Lewis’ friend in recent years. This is a team that might be about to undergo a complete overhaul on offense. Rumors persist about the futures of both A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. There are plenty of holes on that side of the ball for the new head coach to fill. Let’s make something clear, Hue Jackson is not the answer to the offensive problems. It sounds like Cincy might go this route, which would be a massive mistake.

However, the defense has been even worse. Cincinnati allowed the most yards per game and the third most points per game. That’s where Vic Fangio comes in. Fangio has overseen the incredible transformation of the Chicago Bears defense. His defense allowed the third fewest yards per game and fewest points per game. At age 60, Fangio is far from a young option, but has 32 years of NFL coaching experience at different levels. Fangio deserves a shot to lead a team. For a team searching for an identity, the Bengals could find one with this defensive guru.

Denver Broncos (6-10)
Previous coach: Vance Joseph
New Hire: Kris Richard

John Elway made it very clear he wants a coach that is an expert on his side of the ball. The Denver Broncos should be very familiar with Kris Richard’s expertise when it comes to coaching defense. He coached the Legion of Boom in Seattle en route to a Super Bowl victory at Peyton Manning’s expense. That was the best statistical offense in NFL history and Richard stymied it.

Over the course of this season as the defensive backs coach in Dallas, he has helped develop Byron Jones into a true lockdown corner. He dealt with all kinds of personalities in that Seattle locker room and learned under Pete Carroll. Richard has a good resume for a first-time coach. The damage he could do with Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Chris Harris Jr. would be fun to watch. The team needs to figure out a long-term solution at quarterback, but finding a way to get this defense back on track is a huge step to pushing this team in the right direction.

Cleveland Browns (7-8-1)
Previous coach: Hue Jackson
New hire: Gregg Williams

It has been 15 years since Gregg Williams was a head coach in the NFL, leading the Bills during the early 2000s with no avail. His successes as the defensive coordinator in New Orleans, winning a Super Bowl in 2009, are a bit fresher in our minds. He was excellent in that role, save Bounty Gate. Now, he took over as the Browns coach midseason and led the team to a 5-3 record and much-improved overall play. There is no question Williams and offensive coordinator Perry Kitchens have been essential in that. Cleveland won more games under the duo in the second half of the season than it had in the previous three years combined.

For the sake of the development of Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett Nick Chubb and some of the other young prospects, it makes sense to keep some stability. No one is going to be better-suited to continue Mayfield’s development than Kitchens other than maybe Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley, who signed a contract extension with the Sooners on Tuesday. Plus the level of turnaround this team saw was incredible. The three losses under Williams came against the Texans, Chiefs and Ravens, all playoff teams. Belief is this club could be a playoff team next year. Keeping this coaching staff in place would be a wise move.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Previous coach: Dirk Koetter
New hire: Eric Beinemy

The biggest task for whoever takes over for the Buccaneers is figuring out what to do at quarterback. Jameis Winston does not seem like a guaranteed long-term solution. The former first overall pick in the 2015 draft will be under contract for 2019, but is not guaranteed anything past that. That leaves the franchise in a very tough position with no other even potential long-term solution at quarterback on the roster.

There is no question that finding an offensive-minded coach to mentor Winston will be crucial. Enter Eric Bieniemy, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator. Every team will be looking for the next Sean McVay with their newest hire. Bieniemy might not be McVay, but he is a former NFL running back, so there is that understanding of what it is like to be a player in the league.

Concerns with Bieniemy start and end with his experience. This is his first season as offensive coordinator and he is not the one calling the plays. However, the league places a high value on Andy Reid assistants and Bieniemy was Kansas City’s running backs coach from 2013 to 2017. In that span, the Chiefs produced two different 1st-team All-Pro backs and several good role players, including Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware and Damien Williams. Tampa needs a coach to revitalize the franchise and maximize the talent already existing on the roster. I trust Bieniemy to do just that after helping Patrick Mahomes become the 3rd quarterback in NFL history to toss 50 touchdowns in a season. It is time to give him a chance.

Arizona Cardinals (3-13)
Previous coach: Steve Wilks
New hire: Jim Caldwell

Arizona made the perplexing decision to fire Steve Wilks after one season, meaning it is time for a second straight offseason coaching search. This time, the Cardinals would do well to bring in a veteran coach with plenty of experience developing and fostering quarterbacks. Jim Caldwell fits the bill. Caldwell led the Colts to a Super Bowl berth in 2009, and took the Lions to the playoffs twice in four seasons. If you scrub the year where he coached the Colts without Peyton Manning, Caldwell’s record is 60-36. Needless to say, he deserves another chance in the NFL.

With Josh Rosen in need of some real guidance, Caldwell worked with one of the greatest quarterbacks ever in Manning. He also helped Matt Stafford become a much more efficient passer in Detroit. Former Colts center Jeff Saturday described Caldwell as being more laid back as well, an approach that could work well for a team that has Larry Fitzgerald on the roster. Caldwell is good at fostering the culture the players create. Fitz does it better than anyone else. Don’t overthink this and bring in a coach with real experience to oversee this rebuild.

Miami Dolphins (7-9)
Previous coach: Adam Gase
New hire: Dave Toub

There are a number of reasons why Dave Toub may be the best option for Miami. For one, he comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree, which has produced Matt Nagy, Sean McDermott and Doug Pederson most recently. The last Reid special teams coordinator who landed a head coaching job was John Harbaugh, who through 11 seasons is 114-77 including a 10-5 playoff record and a Super Bowl ring. I’m not saying Toub is guaranteed to be Harbaugh, but don’t sneer at the idea of a special team’s coordinator taking the top job. He did a stellar job in 2018, as the Chiefs ranked 2nd in special teams DVOA.

The other reason Toub makes sense is because this roster needs a complete overhaul. He is not a specialist, but a good teacher. That is something the Dolphins desperately need. Outside of a handful of defensive pieces, Miami lacks talent. I actually think Adam Gase deserves a ton of credit for the success the offense did have this season. He had to get creative with a middling offensive line, no true No. 1 receiver, 36-year old Frank Gore as his top running back and the combination of Brock Osweiler and a banged up Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. The bigger decision here will be building the roster. Toub will be good at teaching everyone when they get some better young talent in the locker room. He has the experience teams want in a head coaching candidate.

New York Jets (4-12)
Previous coach: Todd Bowles
New hire: Jim Harbaugh

It’s time to bring some bravado back to Broadway. This is a really young team in New York in desperate need of discipline and leadership. Todd Bowles was a players coach through and through, but the Jets were one of the most penalized teams in the league during Bowles’ final two seasons. Harbaugh also has a pretty good track record at developing quarterbacks. He led the 49ers to the Super Bowl with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Under Harbaugh, Kaepernick threw 50 touchdowns to just 21 interceptions and completed 60 percent of his passes. In college, he helped develop Andrew Luck.

Harbaugh would probably be interested in working with Sam Darnold. He is a former NFL quarterback with a great coaching record at 44-19-1 during four seasons with the 49ers. It will take a decent amount of effort to pull him away from Michigan, but the critics have been out in full force after Jim failed to beat Ohio State for the fifth straight year. (Fun fact: Michigan has beaten Ohio State just twice since 2000.) Harbaugh represents a good teacher, with previous NFL head coaching experience and the personality to thrive in the New York market. This is the closest thing the Jets are going to find to the offensive-minded version of Bill Parcells, the last time they had a great head coach. If Mike Macagnan is serious about doing things differently, this is the route to go.

Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)
Former coach: Mike McCarthy
New hire: Josh McDaniels

After what he did to the Colts last season, teams are likely wary of the Patriots offensive coordinator, but he fits well with this Packers team. He is bit more fiery than Mike McCarthy, which is something I think fans will relish. He does have some head coaching experience in Denver, which didn’t go too well, but you would have to think he learned from his mistakes. The Packers also have some good offensive weapons for McDaniels to work with in Aaron Jones, Davante Adams and a solid offensive line.

There is a bigger reason why McDaniels to the Packers rumors will persist. He would have the opportunity to work with possibly the only quarterback in the league comparable to the one he worked with in New England. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are in a league of their own in terms of talent and personality. It is no secret they both possess egos that sometimes makes headlines. McDaniels’ experience working with Brady makes him one of the best candidates to work with Rodgers. He might even be able to bring some Patriots assistants with him to help turnover the defense with some good young pieces, but in need of a better system. Overall, it is time for McDaniels to get another chance, and for him to actually take it this time.