2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 8

And then there was one. With the Titans and Seahawks losing in Week 7, the Steelers are now the only team yet to suffer a loss this season. Unsurprisingly, they find themselves at the top of this week’s power rankings.

It was a wild week of action. From late-game heroics by Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Matthew Stafford to back-breaking miscues by Russell Wilson, Stephen Gostowski and the comedy group known as the Atlanta Falcons. Week 7 was definitely not short on entertainment.

The chaos resulted in a massive shake up in these rankings. Teams like the Buccaneers and Cardinals saw big jumps following their impressive victories while teams like the Raiders and Bears dropped significantly after disappointing performances. Here is how everything shakes out heading into the league’s midway point.

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1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-0 (Last Week: 1)
Won 27-24 at Tennessee
Unlike last week, Steelers fans had to sweat this game out. Pittsburgh almost blew a 17-point halftime lead and only won the game in regulation because Stephen Gostkowski missed the potential game-tying field goal. Ben Roethlisberger still could have won the game, but momentum was definitely swinging in Tennessee’s direction at that point. Not to mention, Big Ben threw interceptions in the game. As it stands, the Steelers are now the only perfect team left in the NFL. Pittsburgh has been battled tested up to this point, but it faces its biggest challenge yet with a trip to Baltimore up next.

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2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-2 (Last Week: 7)
Won 45-20 at Las Vegas
So, that was not a one-time showing. The Buccaneers blew the doors off the Raiders just one week after demolishing the Packers. There is no question this team is playing the best football of any team in the NFC, if not the whole league. Tom Brady is looking like the Hall of Famer we saw for so many years in New England. Defensively, this team has playmakers at all three levels. Tampa has the stingiest run defense in the league right now, allowing just 66 yards per game. If the Bucs can keep this form up, they are going to be nearly impossible to stop.

Chiefs Logo

3. Kansas City Chiefs: 6-1 (Last Week: 3)
Won 43-16 at Denver
Patrick Mahomes loves the snow. You would never know it was adverse weather conditions with how well the Chiefs’ offense operated on Sunday. Mahomes looked sharp, even if he didn’t have to do too much. Le’Veon Bell showed some flashes as well in his Kansas City debut. Defensively, this Chiefs’ secondary continues to impress. Daniel Sorensen came up with a pick-six and Tyrann Mathieu also intercepted Drew Lock. KC also forced four fumbles, recovering two of them. There might not be as much chatter about the Chiefs right now because the Steelers are still unbeaten, but make no mistake, this team is playing some great football. Now, Andy Reid’s squad gets a bye week … I mean plays the Jets in Week 8.

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4. Green Bay Packers: 5-1 (Last Week: 4)
Won 35-20 at Houston
Green Bay did not dwell on it’s loss to Tampa Bay, instead taking care of Houston in convincing fashion. Aaron Rodgers was on fire, targeting Davante Adams early and often. Jamal Williams had a strong showing as well in place of the injured Aaron Jones. Defensively, the Packers did the one thing they have struggled to do for the past two years by stopping the Texans’ running game. Houston easily own the worst rushing attack in the league, but even then, Green Bay held it below its season average. With a loss by the Bears, the Packers are back on top in the NFC North. They now face a divisional foe in the Vikings coming off a bye week.

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5. Baltimore Ravens: 5-1 (Last Week: 5)
Bye Week
Baltimore got a well-earned bye week at a great time. No, the Ravens are not currently contending with a number of injuries at key positions, but instead they got a chance to rest up ahead of a showdown with the Steelers. Baltimore has a chance to essentially eliminate Pittsburgh’s undefeated start. A win for the Ravens would vault them atop the AFC North. It should be a great game, as it almost always is between these two teams, and one that carries major playoff implications.

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6. Seattle Seahawks: 5-1 (Last Week: 2)
Lost 37-34 at Arizona
It was an uncharacterisitcally turnover prone night from Russell Wislon. He threw three interceptions, including one that sunk Seattle’s chances in overtime and set up Arizona’s game-winning field goal. The Seahawks were definitely a little shorthanded. Jamal Adams was out and Chris Carson left during the game. Still, Seattle had every chance to close this game out. Arizona scored 10 points in the final 2:28 to force overtime. Wilson had two chances to lead a game-winning drive in overtime, both came up empty. The lack of a pass rush proved to really costly again, as the defense could not bring down Kyler Murray all night. A three-point loss to a division rival is not a major red flag, but this game highlighted Seattle’s biggest Achilles heal.

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7. Tennessee Titans: 5-1 (Last Week: 6)
Lost 27-24 vs. Pittsburgh
Tennessee made a valiant comeback bid, but it proved to be too little, too late. Stephen Gostkowski missed a potential game-tying field goal in the final minute of play that sealed the Titans’ fate. The defense made plays, including three interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger, but could not find a way to get off the field on third down. Mike Vrabel’s team ranks dead last in defensive third-down conversion rate. Pittsburgh dominated time of possession to take a 24-7 lead at halftime. The fact that Tennessee found a way to climb back into this game was impressive. Don’t write the Titans off for losing a close game. This team has shown it can hang with the best of the best.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

8. Arizona Cardinals: 5-2 (Last Week: 13)
Won 37-34 vs. Seattle
Up to this point, it seemed like the Cardinals were mostly feasting on cupcakes or teams struggling with injuries. What Arizona managed to accomplish in the fourth quarter and overtime of this game shows it has the ability to hang with the top dogs as well. Kyler Murray continues to put up video game-like numbers. DeAndre Hopkins looks close to unguardable. The defense … looks very porous. It also made just enough plays to pull out the win. Russell Wilson had three interceptions coming into the game. He threw that many on Sunday night. Arizona is a serious playoff contender this season.

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9. New Orleans Saints: 4-2 (Last Week: 9)
Won 27-24 vs. Carolina
Even without its top two receivers, Drew Brees looked sharp in an important win. Carolina challenged New Orleans’ defense consistently, but the unit did just enough to hold on. With the possibility of getting both Emmanuel Sanders and Michael Thomas back next week, this offense could look even better going forward. Unfortunately, there are no reinforcements coming for a defense that struggled to prevent big plays again. With how good the Buccaneers have looked in recent weeks, the Saints could be in trouble if they don’t step it up.

10. Los Angeles Rams: 5-2 (Last Week: 12)
Won 24-10 vs. Chicago
This defense looked incredible on Monday night. The Rams did not allow an offensive touchdown in a drubbing of the Bears. Los Angeles racked four sacks and two interceptions, proving every Chicago critic right, at least for one week. Jared Goff and the offense did more than enough to get the win, even if it was not a spectacular showing. Outside of a Robert Woods fumble, it took care of the football. It would be nice to see the Rams pick up some bigger plays and just look a bit sharper on offense, but this is a win the organization can be proud of.

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11. Buffalo Bills: 5-2 (Last Week: 11)
Won 18-10 at New York
Boy, was that ugly. Buffalo pulled a Denver, kicking six field goals without scoring a touchdown to beat an AFC East team. While the Bills’ defense looked sharp against a terrible Jets’ offense, the offense was incredibly sloppy. Josh Allen lost a fumble and the team finished 3-for-11 on third-down conversions. Zack Moss did look pretty sharp in his return from injury though, picking up 72 yards on 10 total targets. Buffalo now gets to face a reeling New England squad. A win would truly signify the end of the Patriots’ reign, seeing as the Bills have not beaten the Pats since 2016.

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12. Indianapolis Colts: 4-2 (Last Week: 14)
Bye Week
Indianapolis looked like they might just unraveling following its loss to Cleveland. Cincinnati jumped out to a 21-0 lead. It felt like that was when Philip Rivers and company finally woke up. The Colts were extremely lucky to be facing an inexperienced team like the Bengals. Otherwise, this would have been a blowout. The defense locked down and gave Rivers a chance to lead a comeback. Give him credit for successfully seeing it through, but it is a little concerning that he needed to lead a three-score comeback against a one-win team in the first place.

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13. Las Vegas Raiders: 3-3 (Last Week: 8)
Lost 45-20 vs. Tampa Bay
That win over the Chiefs is starting to look like a fluke. Las Vegas got shelled by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. He tossed four touchdown passes and racked up 369 yards. The Raiders were powerless to stop him, failing to come up with a turnover or a sack in the contest. For the offense, it was a brutal game for Josh Jacobs. He managed just 17 yards on 10 carries as Tampa shut down the running game. Derek Carr deserves some praise for his performance, but it is hard to feel good about anything that happens in a 25-point loss.

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14. Chicago Bears: 5-2 (Last Week 10)
Lost 24-10 at Los Angeles
Looks like everyone who doubted the Bears as a legitimate contender was right. Chicago’s offense was lifeless on Monday night, posting three points. The Bears’ lone touchdown came on the defensive side, well after the game had been decided. Nick Foles fell apart in the red zone all night, David Montgomery struggled and the offensive line did not do much blocking. Chicago is one of three teams with a winning record, but a negative point differential. This team might need to make some adjustments to personnel or scheme or something, because the Bears currently rank 27th in scoring.

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15. Miami Dolphins: 3-3 (Last Week: 16)
Bye Week
Brian Flores can add first shutout of the 2020 season to his resume. There should probably be an asterisk next to it indicating the shutout came against the Joe Flacco-led Jets’ offense. Myles Gaskin had another solid outing as the lead back, which is a great sign for the offense. Ryan Fitzpatrick was his usual gunslinger self, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. We even got a glimpse at the future! Tua Tagovailoa saw a little bit of mop up duty at the end of the contest. Miami is suddenly one game back in the AFC East. Could this team possibly be making a playoff push a year earlier than most expected?

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16. San Francisco 49ers: 4-3 (Last Week: 17)
Won 33-6 at New England
San Francisco has firmly put that blowout loss to Miami in its rearview mirror. Back-to-back impressive wins over the Rams and Patriots got this team back on track. Kyle Shannahan’s offense ran all over the Pats’ defense, nearly finishing with 200 yards. Unfortunately, Jeff Wilson, who accounted for 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns, exited with injury and will be out for a few weeks. Defensively, this team looked like it rediscovered its 2019 form with four interceptions. New England barely managed 250 yards of offense and failed to find the end zone. There are still some red flags despite the lopsided scoreline. Jimmy Garoppolo only threw five incompletions on Sunday, but two of them were interceptions. He must take care of the football in the second half of the season.

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17. Cleveland Browns: 5-2 (Last Week: 18)
Won 37-34 at Cincinnati
This was a costly loss for the Browns. Odell Beckham Jr. tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. It marred what was an impressive bounce back performance from Baker Mayfield. He almost carried over the same issues that plagued him in Pittsburgh when his first pass went to the wrong team. Instead, he settled down and threw for five touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 11 seconds remaining. Cleveland’s defense had mixed results. It forced two turnovers and picked up four sacks, but surrendered over 400 yards to Joe Burrow. With five wins, the Browns can certainly think about the postseason, but they still have a lot to work on.

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18. Carolina Panthers: 3-4 (Last Week: 19)
Lost 27-24 at New Orleans
Teddy Bridgewater played way better, but it was still another loss for Carolina. The ground game disappeared as the Panthers finished with just 37 yards rushing. At 2.6 yards per carry, this was a rough outing for the offense. DJ Moore did stretch the field for a 74-yard score though to make the numbers look a bit more respectable. The defense did not fare much better, allowing Drew Brees to have a great game. This team is incredibly young, so you expect growing pains. Carolina is close, it just isn’t playing complete games right now.

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19. New England Patriots: 2-4 (Last Week: 15)
Lost 33-6 vs. San Francisco
Ouch. The Patriots got punched in the mouth on Sunday and had absolutely no response. Cam Newton tossed three interceptions. Jarrett Stidham threw another one in relief. San Francisco also ran over the defense, racking up 197 yards and averaging 5.3 yards per carry. The team that looked like it was ready to compete for another AFC East title over the first few weeks of the season is nowhere to be found right now. A crucial matchup with Bills is up next. This team genuinely might just like the talent to compete right now.

20. Los Angeles Chargers: 2-4 (Last Week: 20)
Won 39-29 vs. Jacksonville
Justin Herbert is a beast! Ok, maybe the Jaguars defense makes every opposing quarterback look incredible, but this was a great showing from the Chargers’ rookie. He aired it out for 347 yards, led the team in rushing with 66 yards and scored four total touchdowns. His connection with Keenan Allen was on full display as well. This team is not ready to contend for the division title yet, but it certainly feels like Los Angeles is headed in the right direction.

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21. Detroit Lions: 3-3 (Last Week: 24)
Won 23-22 at Atlanta
Detroit has quietly gotten back to .500 with back-to-back wins over reeling teams. However, that win over Arizona is looking better and better. Matthew Stafford came up clutch with a game-winning touchdown pass on the final play of the contest. He got some help from poor clock management on the side of the Falcons, but it was still an impressive drive. The Lions get a chance to prove themselves in Week 8 against the Colts.

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22. Philadelphia Eagles: 2-4-1 (Last Week: 23)
Won 22-21 vs. New York
Welcome back atop the NFC East! Philadelphia picked up a scrappy win over New York on Thursday Night Football. Let’s be honest, this team is not very good right now. The Eagles are struggling to win games against the worst teams in the league. However, these wins are important right now given all the injuries. If Philly can get a couple more starters back along the offensive line, this team might be close to the middle of the pack than it has show in recent weeks.

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23. Houston Texans: 1-6 (Last Week: 22)
Lost 35-20 vs. Green Bay
Get Deshaun Watson some help! He posted a dominant 93.2 QBR and his team lost in overtime without getting the ball. If that’s not a compelling reason to revisit NFL overtime rules, I don’t know what is. Back to Watson. He played a much smarter game, avoiding the risks he took the week before, but still could not overcome the Texans’ defensive deficiencies. After watching David Johnson run the ball 19 times for just 57 yards, Houston fans probably want to fire Bill O’Brien again. It is going to be a long few seasons while the Texans work to turn the team around.

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24. Atlanta Falcons: 1-6 (Last Week: 21)
Lost 23-22 vs. Detroit
How do the Falcons keep doing this? Atlanta found yet another way to blow another game, but they deserve style points for this one. Todd Gurley attempted to keep himself out of the end zone in order to let the Falcons run the clock more, but could not stop himself from scoring. As a result, Detroit drove the length of the field and scored on the final play to stun Atlanta yet again. This team could very easily be 4-3 with some better clock management and knowing how to recover onsides kicks. The talent is there, at least on offense. This team is heading for a very interesting offseason.

Denver_Broncos

25. Denver Broncos: 2-4 (Last Week: 25)
Lost 43-16 vs. Kansas City
Denver didn’t really need a ton of offense to take down New England. Beating the defending champs requires a lot more offense. Drew Lock struggled again, tossing a pick-six. He got plenty of help from the running game with 177 yards on the ground, but Melvin Gordon coughed it up twice. Overall, this was a clear reminder that the Broncos are still building up this young core. Competing with the Chiefs just is not possible for this group right now.

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26. Minnesota Vikings: 1-5 (Last Week: 26)
Bye Week
Minnesota got a much-needed week off to refocus and hopefully fix some of the many problems it has had this year. Kirk Cousins has been a turnover machine through his first six games. The secondary is also one of the worst in the league due to injuries and inexperience. Thankfully, Dalvin Cook should be back after sitting out Week 6’s contest. The playoffs feel very far away for the Vikings, who are already cutting ties with veterans like Yannick Ngakoue, who they traded for in September.

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27. Cincinnati Bengals: 1-5-1 (Last Week: 28)
Lost 37-34 vs. Cleveland
Cincinnai opened the game defensively with an interception of Baker Mayfield. Someone clearly forgot to inform them that the game would keep going. Mayfield torched the secondary for five touchdowns, all of them coming after Odell Beckham Jr. had left with an injury. On the offensive side, Joe Burrow continued to do his best Superman impression despite his pathetic offensive line and lackluster running game. Joe Mixon’s absence was apparent as the Bengals never really got into a rhythm running the ball. With one win in seven games, the outcomes don’t really matter from here on out. Cincinnati just needs to determine who is worth keeping around Joe Burrow and if Zac Taylor really is the best person to coach him.

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28. Washington: 2-5 (Last Week: 30)
Won 25-3 vs. Dallas
Don’t look now, but Washington is a half-game back of the division lead and a playoff spot. Given that the team has played three quarterbacks so far this season and allowed the third most sacks in the league, that is truly remarkable. It helps to play in the NFC East, especially against a Cowboys team playing Ben DiNucci after Jon Bostic made a blatantly illegal hit to knock Andy Dalton out of the game. Antonio Gibson had a nice day while Kyle Allen continues to settle into the starting quarterback role. Ron Rivera is definitely reshaping this organization and has so far lead a talent-deprived roster to two divisional wins.

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29. Dallas Cowboys: 2-5 (Last Week: 27)
Lost 25-3 at Washington
Losing Andy Dalton to a horrific hit definitely shifts the blame somewhat for the three points managed in this game, but Dallas still disappointed even with Dalton on the field. The former Bengals quarterback averaged 3.9 yards per attempt and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes before he left. The banged up offensive line continues to be an issue as well. Ezekiel Elliott did not have much running room and Cowboys quarterbacks were sacked six times. Dallas is entering fire sale mode now, despite the fact it is only a half-game back of the division lead. Planning for the future is definitely the move for this franchise given where it stands right now.

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30. New York Giants: 1-6 (Last Week: 29)
Lost 22-21 at Philadelphia
This game pretty much summed up the Giants entire season up to this point. The team lost its starting running back due to injury, the offense slept walked through most of the game and the defense played better than expected to keep things competitive. To top it all off, Daniel Jones became a GIF when he tripped over absolutely nothing to rob himself of a nearly 90-yard touchdown run. Giants fans can take solace in knowing their team was close to pulling off a win that would have moved them atop the NFC East, but instead, they can keep looking at mock drafts.

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31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-6 (Last Week: 31)
Lost 39-29 at Los Angeles
Once again, Jacksonville’s defense made the opposing quarterback look like the league MVP. The Jaguars defense is allowing the third most yards and fifth most points per game in the league. The poor defensive performance wiped out a sensational effort from James Robinson, who accounted for 137 total yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line failed to protect Gardner Minshew once again as this team continues to get dominated in the trenches. Doug Marrone and his coaching staff are definitely on thin ice.

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32. New York Jets: 0-7 (Last Week: 32)
Lost 18-10 vs. Buffalo
Even when the Jets do things well, they still mess it up. New York held Buffalo without a touchdown but still managed to lose by eight thanks to a pitiful offensive performance. Sam Darnold struggled in his return from injury, throwing for a meager 120 yards and tossing a pair of interceptions. Adam Gase even passed off the play-calling duties, which clearly had almost no effect on the offense. There is some silver lining here. For the second straight week, the defense stepped up well on third down. The Bills and Dolphins combined to go 4-for-22 on third down over the past two weeks. This team is still headed for Trevor Lawrence, but it is nice to find a positive for how it is playing right now.

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2019 Aftermath NFL Mock Draft

Welcome back to draft season. This is always one of the busiest times of year for The Aftermath. This year, it was so busy, we actually had to conduct our mock draft in our group chat rather than via video chat. I will acknowledge that I took the longest to make a pick, waiting nearly 24 hours to make a pick for the Broncos.

Some things that need to be said right now, this is what we would do if we were drafting for these teams, not what we think will happen. Sometimes those things overlap, but being right is not the ultimate goal. On top of that, we do not allow trades. It creates way too much chaos in these mock drafts. We will discuss places we see teams likely trading though to help you predict all the draft night madness.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)1. Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
The Cardinals seem intent on drafting a quarterback and Kyler Murray here is the most NFL ready in this draft, plus there are rumors of him being their favorite choice. Part of me thinks the rumors are a smokescreen, but the pick makes too much sense not to make it with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury in town.

49ers Logo2. San Francisco 49ers – Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
While many might expect Nick Bosa here, I’m staking my claim in a player with more upside an no injury history. Quinnen Williams dominated during his time at Alabama and as just a redshirt sophomore, he still has not reached his full potential. San Francisco finds the new anchor for the interior of its defensive line.

Jets logo3. New York Jets – Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State
The Jets would be absolutely ecstatic to see Nick Bosa available at the third pick as arguably the best player in the draft, at arguably their biggest position of need. If he’s there, New York take him in a heartbeat. If not, don’t be shocked if they trade back with a team in search of a quarterback to recoup some picks they traded last year for Sam Darnold, when they were the ones hunting a franchise signal caller.

Raiders logo4. Oakland Raiders – Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky
The Raiders have set themselves up well for this draft with three draft picks in the first round. With their top four pick, they should be going with the best player available. Luckily, the best player available is a pass rusher that is the perfect replacement for Khalil Mack.

Buccaneers logo5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin White, LB, LSU
Devin White can cover ground and make hard tackles for a Buccaneers defensive line which was too leaky last year. He tested really well at the combine after a great career at LSU. Expect him to fill in well for a team that lost Kwon Alexander this offseason.

Giants Logo6. New York Giants – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
I’m not buying the smokescreen. The Giants desperately need a quarterback to take over for Eli Manning. Dwayne Haskins could use a season of learning under a veteran after just one season as the starter at Ohio State. He has the strong arm and pocket presence needed to succeed in New York.

Jaguars logo7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Juwuan Taylor, OT, Florida
Jacksonville could go a few directions here, but Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls with the Giants by having a solid front on both sides of the ball. Juwuan Taylor, alongside Jonah Williams, is arguably the best tackle in the draft. Look for the former Gator to stay in the Sunshine State to protect Nick Foles and his new contract.

Lions Logo8. Detroit Lions – Montez Sweat, Edge, Mississippi State
There is a very good chance the Lions will lose Ezekiel Ansah, so they are in need of pass rusher. Honestly, they were in need of a pass rusher even without the potential loss of Ansah. They can get a bit a steal in Montez Sweat if you look past the possible heart condition.

Bills logo9. Buffalo Bills – Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
The Bills will likely have a couple of viable options at the No. 9 pick and their defensive line could use some help. I went with Rashan Gary because of his versatility; hopefully he can plug more than one hole for them when needed.

Denver_Broncos10. Denver Broncos – T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
While there will certainly be calls to take a quarterback here. reaching for Drew Lock or Daniel Jones would be a mistake. Denver needs a new offensive weapon with Demariyus Thomas gone and Emmanuel Sanders injured. T.J. Hockenson is a complete tight end capable of opening holes for Phillip Lindsay and helping Joe Flacco acclimate to the altitude.

Bengals Logo11. Cincinnati Bengals – Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
This pick could just as easily be Devin Bush, with the Bengals desperately needing a speedy linebacker patrolling the field. But Ed Oliver has top 10 potential and could be one of the best athletes in this draft who can get after the quarterback from the inside. The Bengals have a lot of holes, so they’ll take a top talent here.

Packers logo12. Green Bay Packers – Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State
The Packers need help on their defense in multiple position areas. However, with the loss of Clay Mathews, the position with the most immediate need on defense is pass rush. Thus, drafting Brian Burns will allow Green Bay to get a piece to build around for years to come.

Dolphins logo13. Miami Dolphins – Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
The Dolphins offensive line might as well be made of cardboard, just ask Ryan Tannehill, with needs at center, tackle, and guard. I assume they will go for the best available offensive lineman with this pick and in our mock it was Jonah Williams. He could start at right tackle or right guard this season.

Falcons logo14. Atlanta Falcons – Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
The Falcons have a number of needs, mostly on defense. With the number of injuries this team suffered last season, drafting a player with a major knee injury might seem like a questionable move. The consensus on Jeffrey Simmons is that, despite a video from high school of him punching a woman in a fight and a major injury, he is a top-five talent. Simmons potential impact on the field is massive. Atlanta will not tolerate anything from him off the field, nor should they.

Washington made up logo15. Washington – Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
There’s a lot of uncertainty in Washington at the QB position right now. Alex Smith may never play again after that gruesome knee injury that reminded many spectators of Joe Theismann. Bringing in Case Keenum may be a short-term solution, but Drew Lock is the long-term one. He at one point was considered the top passer in this draft. Plus, he could learn a lot from a guy like Keenum, who transitioned from an Air Raid-style offense in college to a respectable pro career, something Lock may need to do in a hurry to keep Washington afloat.

Panthers logo16. Carolina Panthers – Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
For the past few years, the Panthers have not been able to field an adequate pass protection. The injuries have been piling up for Cam Newton, and is probably a correlation. That is why drafting Cody Ford will help the team’s franchise player in the best way possible. He blocked for a mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray in college and should be able to do it again for Newton.

Giants Logo17. New York Giants (via Cleveland) – Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
Assuming the Giants draft a quarterback with their No. 6 pick, I think they will kick off the run on corners with the pick they landed in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. I like Byron Murphy’s ball hawking ability. He might be able to generate some turns for a struggling secondary now without Landon Collins.

Vikings logo18. Minnesota Vikings – Garrett Bradberry, C, NC State
Signing Kirk Cousins didn’t push the Vikings into Super Bowl contention like they thought. That was mainly because of the poor play of the offensive line. Garrett Bradberry will immediately improve the interior of this line. If there is someone else they like better, don’t be surprised if Minnesota moves up to get him.

Titans logo19. Tennessee Titans – DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
The Titans have a big decision coming up after the season on the future of Marcus Mariota, so they need to find him help in the first round either in the form of a protector or a target. There are some good linemen left in this draft, but D.K. Metcalf is an absolute athletic freak that you rarely see in football. A big, fast and strong matchup nightmare could be a great complement for a shifty, possession-style route-runner like Corey Davis, giving Mariota multiple options at multiple levels of the field.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo20. Pittsburgh Steelers – Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Greedy Williams has fallen a bit in this draft, which is lucky for the Steelers. Joe Haden is not getting any younger, and they have been in need of a second corner back anyway. Signing Steven Nelson to a big contract does not exactly solve their secondary issues. If Williams can improve as a tackler, he will be an absolute steal.

Seahawks logo21. Seattle Seahawks – DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
Remember the days of the Legion of Boom? Those linebackers were able to stop the run so easily because they had a great secondary covering the passing game. Seattle has lost that coverage in recent years. Drafting a well-rounded corner like DeAndre Baker might help them return to those days.

Ravens logo22. Baltimore Ravens – Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
It is pretty unlikely falls this far, but Baltimore would be ecstatic if Devin Bush is still on the board. With C.J. Mosley now in New York, the Ravens need someone to wreak havoc in the middle of their defense. Bush seems like a very good fit to do just that.

Texans logo23. Houston Texans – Chris Lindstrom, OL, Boston College
Houston had a great run last season thanks to Deshaun Watson returning from his ACL tear in the similarly spectacular form that caught the whole league’s eye during the start of his rookie season. But if the Texans are to stay on top of the AFC South, the Swiss cheese known as their offensive line won’t cut it. Bringing in Chris Lindstrom, a big body, from a school with a long pedigree of great pro-linemen in Boston College. He could immediately help keep the Texans in contention again next season.

Raiders logo24. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago) – Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
With the second of their three first round picks, the Raiders can continue to rebuild their defense. The cornerback position has been a weakness of the Raiders for almost the entire decade. By picking Justin Layne, an underrated product with tons of college production, they can end the cycle and bolster the secondary. Between Josh Allen rushing the passer and Layne helping on the back end, we should see huge improvements from Oakland’s defense.

Eagles Logo25. Philadelphia Eagles – Andre Dillard, OL, Washington State
The Eagles really need more help on defense, but at the 25th pick Andre Dillard was a steal.  Philly is an offensively minded team and their offensive line will soon be aging out, so spending a late first round pick is well worth the future investment. With Carson Wentz’s injury history, keeping him clean should be a major priority.

Colts logo26. Indianapolis Colts – AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss
His college teammate has gotten a lot of love during the pre-draft process for his performance at the combine, but AJ Brown is actually a much more pro-ready prospect. He is a savvy route runner with good hands. He would complement T.Y. Hilton well in this Colts offense and give Andrew Luck a proven playmaker. Instant impact is important for an Indy with an eye on a championship.

Raiders logo27. Oakland Raiders (via Dallas) – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
With my other drafters taking the liberty of upgrading the Raiders defense with their first two picks, perhaps the Raiders can use their third to keep giving David Carr every chance to succeed. Did you know that Noah Fant, a 6’4”, 249 lbs TE, ran a 4.51 at the combine? Now, recall the Raiders recently acquired the receiving services of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. This might just be a quick turnaround for the Oakland offense.

Chargers logo28. Los Angeles Chargers – Kaleb McGary, OL, Washington
The Chargers have one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Nevertheless, Phillip Rivers is what will guide them to a Super Bowl, and keeping him upright should be Los Angeles’ number one priority. Adding Kaleb McGary can help Rivers extend his career and utilize Melvin Gordon even more effectively.

Seahawks logo29. Seattle Seahawks (via Kansas City) – Clelin Ferrell, Edge, Clemson
The Seahawks find themselves back on the clock after trading away Frank Clark. His departure creates a need for a pass rusher, and there are plenty of those in this year’s draft. Clelin Ferrell comes from a good program and should adjust to the NFL well. Pairing him with DeAndre Baker gives Seattle a solid draft haul to bolster the defense.

Packers logo30. Green Bay Packers – Marquis Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Let’s say we give the most talented passer in the league an electric, game-breaking new toy to play with. That is what would be happening here. Marquis “Hollywood” Brown is the cousin of new Raiders receiver Antonio Brown and the guy who reeled in passes from Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray the past two years. His speed is unreal. Brown has the versatility to play in the slot or outside, giving new head coach Matt LaFleur a fun chess piece to move around.

Los Angeles Rams logo31. Los Angeles Rams – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
An unsung factor that helped propel the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance this season was their strong depth at several positions. Tackle and linebacker are minor needs, but one of the best players in this draft slipped to the end of the first round in our draft. The Rams can use their depth to their advantage to take the best player available, so they can take a polished interior pass rusher in Wilkins to slot right alongside Aaron Donald, giving him plenty of one-on-ones. Rich keep getting richer.

Patriots Logo32. New England Patriots – Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
If I was allowed to for this draft, I would have traded this pick like Bill Belichick probably would. Alas, trades are not allowed, so the Patriots finally land their quarterback of the future, who can replace Tom Brady whenever it is he actually decides to retire. Rumor has it Daniel Jones could go sooner, but if he sticks around, New England would be wise to grab and groom him.

The Flaw in Each Heisman Contender

This past weekend in college football was wild. Lots of top 25 teams fell and some Heisman hopefuls suffered major blows.

Just a week ago, I profiled the shallow group that makes up this Heisman race. This time around, I’m back to break down why each of the true contenders won’t win this years award. These are the front runners for the award and while it is still early, we are starting to see the full picture on the candidates. Let’s be clear, all of these players have had phenomenal seasons so far. This is explaining why they still might not win the Heisman.

Oklahoma LogoKyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
Flaw: Offensive System
This might seem a bit unfair to Murray, as it isn’t his fault Lincoln Riley is a great head coach, but Oklahoma also produced Baker Mayfield last year. When you compare the two, Murray is putting up comparable numbers. Mayfield averaged 330 yards passing per game with three touchdowns and a completion percentage of 70.5 in 14 games. Murray is averaging 294 yards with 3.5 touchdowns and a 71.1 completion percentage. Murray produces more with his legs as he accounts for 62.8 yards per game rushing compared to Mayfield’s 22 yards per game during his Heisman season.

Riley is an offensive mastermind and playing in the wide open Big 12, this system is amplified an extra step. It is hard not to wonder if Murray is simply benefiting from the same system that turned Mayfield into a landslide Heisman winner. Voters will be wary of voting in a different player at the same position from the same school as they did the year before. Only once in the history of the award has a school had back-to-back winners. It happened back in 1945-46 when Army produced two different Heisman winners in as many years. These are all things Murray cannot control, but that does not mean they will not come into play when it comes time to vote.

Alabama Logo

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Flaw: Importance to team
When was the last time it felt like a team could still win the national championship without its Heisman candidate? Alabama is dominating everyone who steps on the field with them. The Crimson Tide is outscoring opponent’s by an average margin of 40 points per contest. After years of being known as a defense team, Nick Saban is boasting an offense to match it. At the center of it is Tua Tagovailoa. He is putting up incredible numbers, putting up video-game-like numbers. He has completed 75 percent of his passes, averaging 14.8 yards per attempt and has the highest passer rating in the country at 258.4.

However, he barely has to play when it matters, because it often doesn’t for Alabama. He has attempted more than 20 passes in a game only once. Tagovailoa has not taken a single snap in the fourth quarter of a football game this season. By that point, the Tide has been up by enough that his services are no longer needed. ‘Bama is far and away the best team in the country and Tagovailoa might be the best quarterback in the country, but this team seems like it would easily make it back to the playoff if it was only relying on Jalen Hurts. In limited playing time, Hurts has completed 71 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and only one interception. If the system issue for Kyler Murray was bad, this seems almost worse in Alabama where there is another quarterback performing well in the same season. It is difficult to poke holes in Tagovailoa’s campaign, but equally hard to say he should be the Heisman winner when it feels like the team would be fine without him.

West Virginia logoWill Grier, QB, West Virginia:
Flaw: Gunslinger
Will Grier has had one heck of a year so far. He has thrown for at least 330 yards in every game. He is completing 71 percent of his passes. He is also averaging a ridiculous 4.2 touchdowns passes per game. Grier has proven he can toss it all over the yard. He has West Virginia up to number six in the polls, its highest ranking since 2012. While the level of competition the Mountaineers have faced is certainly a concern, they have yet to play another ranked team and likely won’t until November, the much bigger concern is Grier’s playing style.

Much like Kyler Murray, Grier plays in the wide open Big 12. It serves up opportunities for tons of passing yards and weak secondaries to feast on. Heading into the game, he had only thrown three interceptions. Against Kansas, Grier tossed three more. Throwing three interceptions in a game is not a good thing. Throwing three interceptions against Kansas. The Jayhawks are 2-4 this season, including a loss to Nicholls State, an FCS team. Grier’s now six interceptions rank him tied for sixth most in the country. That is not an awful thing, but when you compare him to the other Heisman candidates, it is a bad look. Haskins has four, Murray has two and Tagovailoa has yet to throw one. Each of those three has played one more game than Grier as well. It begs the question of how Grier will fare when faced with top tier teams like Texas and Oklahoma, both of whom West Virginia will play next month. If Grier turns it over against those teams, not only will it likely cost his team the game, it will certainly cost him the Heisman.

Ohio State LogoDwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Flaw: Starting slow
If there is anyone in college football who is putting up the kind of number Tua Tagovailoa has, it is Dwayne Haskins. He has completed 71 percent of his passes en route to averaging 320 yards per game through the air. Haskins also leads the nation in touchdown passes through six games with 25. Looking at Ohio State’s schedule, it should relatively smooth sailing for them heading into their final game of the year against Michigan.

In the last two games for the Buckeyes though, the team has started rather sluggishly. Against Penn State, Haskins threw an early interception which lead to a field goal. Ohio State went down 13-0 and it probably would have been that score at halftime if not for a costly fumble from the Nittany Lions. Haskins played very well in the second half to lead Ohio State to a victory. Essentially the same script played out again at home against Indiana. Haskins threw a second quarter interception to kill the drive and set up a Hoosier touchdown, which put Indiana ahead at that point. He played lights out in the second half, but the lack of a complete game is troubling. The Big 10 is a tough conference to compete in and Ohio State has road games with Purdue, Michigan State and Maryland left. None of those poise serious threats, but going down early in games is not sustainable for any team. I guess if Haskins continues to do it, you could label as clutch, but it raises a red flag for me indicating he takes a little while to settle into a game.

Clemson LogoTravis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Flaw: Pass Catching
I said Etienne was getting close after his dominant performance against Syracuse. After thrashing Wake Forrest, Etienne earns himself the title of Heisman contender. He is fourth in the nation with 761 yards rushing, third for his yards per carry average of 9.2 and tied for fourth with 11 rushing touchdowns. His value cannot be overstated for a Clemson team that had its former starter Kelly Bryant transfer and now starts a true freshman under center. Against Wake Forrest, Etienne racked up 167 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries. He is an explosive playmaker on a top team in the country.

The one major concern Heisman voters will have with Etienne is he doesn’t fit the bill of a true Heisman back. He is not a powerful runner in the way that Mark Ingram or Derrick Henry, the last two running backs to win, were at Alabama. Much like Tua Tagovailoa, he is not a heavy usage player running the football as he has eclipsed 16 carries just once. We’ve seen plenty of running backs add to their candidacy by featuring as pass catchers out of the backfield on swings, screens and wheel routes downfield. On the season he has just five receptions for 27 yards and one receiving touchdown. It is not a requirement to be a good receiving back to win the award, Henry finished his winning season with just 11 grabs, but with Etienne not putting up nearly the same numbers running the ball as those that came before him, it is going to be difficult to outshine any of these quarterbacks without making an impact in the passing game.

2018 Heisman Hopefuls are Hard to Find

cappelletti_heisman_trophy_crop_1
Only quarterbacks and Alabama running backs have won the Heisman dating back to 2000. (Wikimedia Commons)

After five weeks of action in the 2018 college football season, the shortlist of contenders for the Heisman Trophy is shrinking. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, West Virginia’s Will Grier and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray are the clear front runners at this stage. All four of them are undefeated quarterbacks playing on Power 5 conference teams ranked in the top 10. At this stage, any of them could win the award, but it seems like there is not much chance anyone else manages to get their name into the running. Let’s break down who else was supposed to be in this race.

The Preseason Hopefuls
There were several other players who were supposed to challenge for the highest individual honor in the college game. Stanford running back Bryce Love and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor headline this group. Love was the runner up for the award last season when Baker Mayfield took it home. Taylor finished sixth in the voting. The pair finished second and third in the nation in rushing respectively behind Seahawks first round selection Rashaad Penny. This season Taylor is fifth in the country for ground yardage, but hasn’t scored in either of his past two games and Wisconsin lost to an unranked BYU squad. Love has missed time with some nagging injuries.

Also in this group is Shea Patterson of Michigan and Kelly Bryant of Clemson. The two quarterbacks had rough starts to the season. For Patterson, he lost his season opener to Notre Dame and failed to throw a touchdown pass. He only has seven through five games this year. On the other hand, Bryant actually lost his starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence and announced he plans to transfer.

The Sleeper Picks
Every year, there are a bunch of dark horse candidates to win the Heisman. 2018 was no different. The most popular sleeper pick this year had to be Penn State’s Trace McSorley. A true dual-threat quarterback, the senior has thrown for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 450. Normally, that would put you right in the heart of the conversation. However, McSorley sustained a heavy blow to his candidacy with PSU’s loss to Ohio State at home. On top of that, he has a woeful completion percentage of 52 and had two games where he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing.

Alongside McSorely were Drew Lock and Jarret Stidham, two SEC quarterbacks with first round potential in the upcoming NFL draft. Lock was always going to have a tough road to the award being on an unranked team. He opened the season on fire, but came back down to Earth when Georgia drubbed Missouri. Lock failed to complete 50 percent of his passes against the Bulldogs, threw no touchdowns, one interception and for under 250 yards. For a quarterback who doesn’t run much, that pretty much ended Lock’s campaign. Stidham’s candidacy turned out to be mostly hype. Through five games, the Auburn quarterback has only thrown five touchdowns, lost at home to LSU and topped 200 passing yards twice.

400px-baker_mayfield_282934943606729
Mayfield became the first senior to win the award since 2006 and translated it into the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. (Wikimedia Commons)

Still Could Join the Party
I have bashed the depth of the hopefuls pretty thoroughly, but it is still early and there a are a handful of players who could make some noise and draw Heisman attention before the season is over.

The first is Justin Herbert. The Oregon quarterback is making a case to be the first quarterback selected in May at the NFL draft. He could also sneak into the Heisman conversation, but it feels like he missed his best chance to assert himself. It will be hard for voters to shake the memory of him throwing four straight incompletions to lose at home to Stanford in overtime. He also has a couple of ugly statistical games on his record where he tossed multiple interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.

There is no way that only quarterbacks finish as finalists either. Travis Etienne of Clemson has a chance to thrust himself into the conversation before the season is out. He is currently seventh in the country in rushing with an outrageous 8.1 yards per carry. The sophomore running back also has eight touchdowns so far. Additionally, Etienne might have just had his Heisman moment as he carried Clemson to a comeback in Death Valley over Syracuse with the team’s third-string quarterback under center. He rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Tigers undefeated. Being the lead back on a team likely to make the playoff and having your starting quarterback transfer, Etienne has everything in place to take a stab at this.

One last one that is a bit of a unique case is Ian Book. The Notre Dame quarterback took over as the starter in the third game of the season. He threw the game-clinching touchdown against Wake Forest and has thrown for 603 yards and six touchdowns over his last two starts. He torched what is a good Stanford defense and has a stellar 74 percent completion rate. On top of all of that, he hasn’t thrown an interception. The Irish sit at sixth in the AP poll and have a chance to make the College Football Playoff. If Book puts up similar numbers and leads Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season, he could be in the mix.

The Longshots
Just because you aren’t at a big school doesn’t mean you can’t make some noise. Now, Kentucky is a big school, but you probably know them for basketball. However, Ben Snell Jr. is having an impressive year running the ball. He is fourth in the nation in both yards and touchdowns. Kentucky is also 5-0 and up to #13 in the AP Poll. He will get a chance to play some great competition as Texas A&M and Georgia are still on the schedule. He could be a late riser.

Even more of a long shot is John Ursua of Hawaii. He really doesn’t belong, but he leads the nation in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He is on pace to finish with 100 catches, 1500 yards and 24 touchdowns. That kind of production usually catches the eyes of Heisman voters, but the best team Hawaii has played all year is Army. Unless Ursua can step it up and start shattering some records along with Hawaii winning out, he won’t really draw much attention.

One last name to throw around is Steven Montez from Colorado. The Buffaloes are 4-0 this season for the first time in 20 years. Montez is completing 75.8 percent of his passes, which leads the nation. Colorado is 21st in the polls and has road games against USC, Washington and Cal. Montez has thrown for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in four games so far. He still has two-thirds of his games left in his season. It will be interesting to see what he can do with it.

The season is far from over, but it seems like the majority of the whittling down for the Heisman Trophy has already occurred. We might get some fireworks by season’s end, but this feels like a four-man race with a lot of people wondering what could have been.