Draft Season Never Ends: NFL Quarterback Carousel

There are at least a dozen NFL teams who have questions to answer about the future of the quarterback position this offseason. With so many teams needing new QBs, who might get left out and how will it impact this year’s NFL draft?

You can find every episode on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you find your podcasts. As always, I appreciate reviews, feedback and when you hit that subscribe button.

2022 NFL Franchise 100: No. 75-71

The NFL season is right around the corner and while all 32 franchises are trying to make their final roster decisions, I wanted to take a different approach to roster building. Inspired in part by the annual NFL Top 100 players list, voted on by the players in the league, I wanted to know who the top 100 players would be to start a team with in 2022.

There are a variety of factors that went into creating this list. Let me lay out the criteria.

First, age played a major role in determining which players made this list. Only six players over the age of 30 made the list. Positional value was the other big driving force behind these rankings. There is no doubt that Jonathan Taylor is one of the best young players in the game right now, but you wouldn’t pick him first overall to start an NFL franchise from scratch. The positional value of running backs is simply not high enough to warrant that. Neither is the longevity of the position on average. You most likely want to find a player who is going to last a long time to build your franchise around. There are a few notable exceptions to that rule. With that in mind, I prioritized quarterbacks, offensive tackles, cornerbacks, edge rushers and wide receivers. There are plenty of instances where a more talented player slid down the board a little further simply because they played a less valuable position.

There were a few other factors I considered, including years remaining on contract, contract structure and salary commitments. There is a reason why rookie contracts are so valuable, especially when you hit on a star. That player is now on a team friendly deal with several years of team control built in.

If you missed the previous entry, you can find it here.

With all of that in mind, let’s continue our countdown to No. 1. Check back Tuesday for players 70 to 66.

75. Danielle Hunter, EDGE, Minnesota Vikings
Age: 27
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $12.34
It might be easy to forget just how good Hunter has been in his career up to this point. After four straight seasons without missing a game, Hunter missed the entire 2020 due to a neck injury. A torn pec in 2021 limited him to just seven games. It is hard to justify taking a player who only appeared in seven games over the past two seasons, but in those seven games he had six sacks. There is definitely a risk, but grabbing a player at this spot who, when healthy, regularly records double-digit sack seasons is great value. Not to mention he still has two very affordable years left on his contract for a pass rusher as proven as himself.

74. Brian Burns, EDGE, Carolina Panthers
Age: 24
Years remaining on contract: 2
2022 cap hit: $4.31 million
Coming off his first Pro Bowl season, Burns is an up-and-coming pass rusher. He has had at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first three NFL seasons and has an impressive six forced fumbles in that same span. That Pro Bowl selection was well-earned, too, posting nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Now it is time for Burns to take that next step. While he has had at least 7.5 sacks each season, he has yet to top nine quarterback takedowns in a single season. Thankfully, he is still on a very affordable contract for the next two seasons and has yet to miss a game in his career to this point. At just 24, there is a ton of upside and a long career still ahead for Burns.

73. DeForest Buckner, DT, Indianapolis Colts
Age: 28
Years remaining on contract: 3
2022 cap hit: $16 million
Another interior defensive lineman makes the cut. Buckner gets the edge over many of his counterparts thanks to top-tier, consistent pass-rushing production and a fairly team-friendly deal for an elite defensive tackle. Buckner’s 36 sacks since 2018 rank third-most among defensive tackles, trailing only Aaron Donald and Chris Jones. However, his cap hit over the next three seasons is more than ten million less than both of those guys. He is a two-time All-Pro and a two-time Pro Bowler. That type of value is incredible for someone as productive and disruptive as him.

72. A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Age: 25
Years remaining on contract: 5
2022 cap hit: $5.63 million
Jalen Hurts’ newest target is the first veteran receiver to show up on this list. He is a big-bodied receiver with a knack for finding the end zone. For as talented as Brown has shown he is so far, he still has yet to really enter elite production numbers. His 24 touchdowns and 2,995 receiving yards over his first three seasons rank tied for 10th and 17th in the league respectively. Almost every single one of the players ahead of him also appears on this list. The league is full of young, talented receivers. Brown is a really good one, but his massive contract commitment down the line paired with good, but not great production, makes it hard for me to justify putting him any higher on this list.

71. Kolton Miller, OT, Las Vegas Raiders
Age: 27
Years remaining on contract: 4
2022 cap hit: $13.47 million
He does not get a whole lot of love nationally, but Miller has quietly developed into one of the better tackles in the league. His size makes him a player I would typically covet when scouting college offensive linemen. Miller measures in at 6’8″, 325 pounds with 34-inch arms and massive nearly 11-inch hands. On top of that, he has missed just two games in his first four seasons in the league. PFF gave him a grade of an 84 this year and he ranked sixth in pass-block win-rate among offensive tackles. What’s more, Miller has a relatively affordable deal for a starting left tackle. His highest cap hit over the remainder of his contract is at $17.6 million in 2024. It might not be the sexiest move, but Miller gets the job done at a solid price.

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Dolphins made a critical mistake in firing Brian Flores

Monday after the regular season ends is usually a busy day for front offices across the NFL. It is when coaches and general managers are let go following the end of the season. The Vikings, Bears, Giants and Dolphins all moved on from either their general manager, coach or both after missing the postseason. That came in addition to Vic Fangio losing his job on Sunday when the Broncos’ season ended on Saturday night.

Most of these firings were predictable. Pressure had been building in Minnesota, Chicago and New York all season. Denver stumbled down the stretch and perhaps Fangio took too much blame for a team whose fatal flaw was at quarterback. That was not something he had control over. That being said, the Broncos went 19-30 in his tenure.

Flores went 9-9 against the rest of the AFC East in his three years. (Wikimedia Commons)

Then there is what happened in Miami, which cannot be classified as anything other than a colossal mistake. Brian Flores took a young, developing roster to the brink of the playoffs two years in a row. He posted back-to-back winning seasons, overcoming uneven drafting by the front office. Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Liam Eichenberg have all gotten off to rough starts in South Beach. Then there are free-agent decisions like signing Will Fuller, who played in two games and recorded four receptions, and releasing Kyle van Noy, who had six sacks in 14 games for the Dolphins in 2020.

Sure, you can hold not reaching the playoffs over Flores’ head at this point, but that feels incredibly unreasonable. Tua Tagovailoa has struggled at times early in his career, but seemed to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem down the stretch for Miami. Just as he was finally settling into his role as franchise quarterback, this now removes any sense of stability for him heading into his third season.

Beyond any of that, Flores was beating the Patriots! He went 4-2 over his three seasons against his former team, including sweeping them in 2021. Former Bill Belichick assistants have rarely had success against him. It is truly inexplicable for the team to move on from him, especially at this point. Yes, the Dolphins started the season terribly, but they have so many young players in key positions. I think the second half of the year is closer to what that team really is right now: a wildcard-caliber team that seemed to be headed in the right direction.

This is just hard to understand. Miami does not need to look far to see what true futility looks like. The in-state Jaguars had the biggest distraction in the league as their head coach, secured their second consecutive No. 1 pick in the NFL draft and largely wasted the first year of Trevor Lawrence’s career. Then there is the team in their own division. The Jets have had one winning season since 2010, have finished last in the AFC East in five of the past six seasons and are in the midst of at least their third rebuild in the past 12 years.

Tua Tagovailoa threw 16 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions while completing 67.8 percent of his passes this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

Flores is one of the most-respected leaders in the NFL. He inherited a team headed nowhere with a huge question mark at quarterback and a roster that needed to be torn down. This is going to be an attractive head coaching opening with a young quarterback, tons of cap space and a talented defense.

For Flores, I hope he gets picked up right away. The Bears, Vikings, Giants, Broncos and Jaguars should all have him on their shortlist of coaches to interview. He would be an upgrade over most of the coaches that were previously in place, with Mike Zimmer and Fangio standing out as potential outliers.

As a Jets fan, I should be thrilled by this news. I don’t really see someone well-suited to take over this franchise and guide them to immediate success. More likely than not, the new coach will likely run Tagovailoa out of town and send the Dolphins into another rebuild.

However, I am more disappointed that a good coach was unjustly fired. I think Flores had done enough to deserve at least one more year to show he could get this team over the hump and into the postseason. If he failed to do that again in 2022, then I think it would have been fair to make a change.

All in all, this is a shocking move. Miami will be one of the most interesting teams to watch this offseason as they search for a new coach and look to take the next step.

NFL Draft Podcast – Tua, Fromm and CFP Final Preview

Tua Tagovailoa is headed for the NFL draft, as is Jake Fromm. With player declarations coming fast and furious, it’s time to catch up on how these announcements are effecting this draft class as a whole. Plus, figure out which matchups to watch in the College Football Playoff championship game. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

NFL Draft Podcast Episode 7

I’m finally back behind the mic! Glad to have the podcast up and running again because there is tons to talk about. I break down Tua Tagovailoa’s draft decision, discuss the head coaching vacancies in the NFL and review the best performances from the College Football Playoff semifinals. Check out the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.