NFL Season Predictions

So instead of doing a “30 Clubs in 30 Days” thing like I did for baseball, I’m just going to do a generic preview for this upcoming NFL season. While 30 Clubs in 30 Days was a lot of fun for me to do, it ultimately was too time-consuming and not successful enough to be worth the time. But with the NFL season starting on Thursday with Falcons vs Eagles, I figured, what the Hell, let’s get this preview down now. So without further ado, here are my predictions for this upcoming season.

Projected Standings

AFC East

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Patriots at Panthers

1. New England Patriots (13-3)

2. Miami Dolphins (8-8)

3. New York Jets (6-10)

4. Buffalo Bills (4-12)

AFC North

Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers

1. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

2. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

3. Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)

4. Cleveland Browns (3-13)

AFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6)

2. Houston Texans (8-8)

3. Tennessee Titans (8-8)

4. Indianapolis Colts (5-11)

AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers

1. Los Angeles Chargers (11-5)

2. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)

3. Denver Broncos (6-10)

4. Oakland Raiders (3-13)

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles v Cleveland Browns

1. Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)

2. New York Giants (7-9)

3. Washington Redskins (6-10)

4. Dallas Cowboys (5-11)

NFC North

Seattle Seahawks v Minnesota Vikings

1. Minnesota Vikings (11-5)

2. Green Bay Packers (11-5)

3. Chicago Bears (7-9)

4. Detroit Lions (6-10)

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons v Jacksonville Jaguars

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)

2. New Orleans Saints (10-6)

3. Carolina Panthers (8-8)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

NFC West

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1. Los Angeles Rams (12-4)

2. San Francisco 49ers (8-8)

3. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)

4. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

Playoffs

AFC

1. New England Patriots (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (first round bye)

3. Los Angeles Chargers

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

5. Kansas City Chiefs

6. Baltimore Ravens

NFC

1. Philadelphia Eagles (first round bye, home field advantage)

2. Los Angeles Rams (first round bye)

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Atlanta Falcons

5. Green Bay Packers

6. New Orleans Saints

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round:

3 Chargers over 6 Ravens

4 Jaguars over 5 Chiefs

3 Vikings over 6 Saints

5 Packers over 4 Falcons

Divisional Round:

4 Jaguars over 1 Patriots

3 Chargers over 2 Steelers

1 Eagles over 5 Packers

3 Vikings over 2 Rams

Conference Championship:

4 Jaguars over 3 Chargers

3 Vikings over 1 Eagles

Super Bowl LIII:

Divisional Round - New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings

Vikings over Jaguars

So you don’t have to watch the NFL season anymore, I’m picking the Vikings to defeat the Jaguars in Super Bowl LIII. It’ll be a first for both teams: the Vikings’ first Super Bowl victory and the Jags’ first Super Bowl appearance. I have the Patriots getting upset in the Divisional Round for a couple reasons. Number 1 is that I feel like there’s just something not right about this year’s team. I’m not sure what it is, but the team just feels a bit thinner than usual. They’ll definitely win the AFC East again because it’s still Belichick and Brady, but after those two, there are a lot of question marks. I think the Chargers will have a breakthrough year by riding their defense (so long as they can stay relatively healthy). The offense will be fine, but the Chargers are going to be one of the more dominant defensive teams in the NFL this season, perhaps this year’s version of the Jaguars. Speaking of the Jaguars, I think they pull off the upset over the Patriots by doing the exact opposite of what they did in last year’s AFC Championship Game. Instead of playing not to lose, they go for the jugular and stomp on New England’s depleted receiving corps, leaving Tom Brady to have to continuously check down to James White, who keeps getting taken to task by Telvin Smith and Myles Jack. On the NFC side, I think the Rams could be a juggernaut this season. They didn’t lose anyone too significant and they reloaded on defense while returning all the important weapons on offense and adding Brandin Cooks. The Eagles I think will still be really good, but I don’t think Nick Foles will play as well in his first few games as the starter as he did in the playoffs last year. They’ll win the NFC East with ease, as the other 3 teams are hurting at the moment. The Vikings might be the most all-around sound team on paper heading into this season and that’s why I’m picking them as Super Bowl champions this year.

As for the bad teams, I still think the Browns will be near the cellar, mainly due to Hue Jackson. I have not been impressed by his coaching techniques watching Hard Knocks, as I think he’s way too soft to be a head coach. His tactics work as a positional coach, but to be the head guy, you need to have more of Todd Haley and Gregg Williams’ fire. Why is Bill Belichick so great? It’s because he doesn’t have a soul. The minute your skills start to deteriorate, you’re out the door. Jackson? It seems like he just wants to be friends with everyone on the team. I also think the Raiders are going to suck this year, but that’s not really news. Jon Gruden hasn’t been a coach in a decade and the game’s changed a lot since his last days with the Buccaneers. Now he doesn’t have a defense with the Khalil Mack trade and his offense is comprised of a bunch of old guys, Derek Carr, and a drop-happy Amari Cooper. I think they’ll end up picking first in April.

On to the awards.

NFL MVP:

Wild Card Round - Atlanta Falcons v Los Angeles Rams

Todd Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams

Offensive Player of the Year:

Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers

Antonio Brown-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers

Defensive Player of the Year:

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots

Jalen Ramsey-CB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Offensive Rookie of the Year:

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Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

Defensive Rookie of the Year:

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Packers at Raiders

Josh Jackson-CB-Green Bay Packers

Coach of the Year:

Washington Redskins v Los Angeles Chargers

Anthony Lynn-Los Angeles Chargers

Comeback Player of the Year:

Arizona Cardinals v Detroit Lions

David Johnson-RB-Arizona Cardinals

Breakout Player of the Year:

Miami Dolphins v Carolina Panthers

Kenyan Drake-RB-Miami Dolphins

So yeah, that’s what’s going to happen this season. If you have any questions about this upcoming year, let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

NFL Rookies Best (and Worst) Set up for Early Success

So every year guys get drafted by teams that just put them in the perfect situation, whether that be the scheme fit or having the right supporting cast around them. A lot of times success and failure in the NFL is based on just being in the best situation. So with that, let’s take a look at some rookies that are in the best and worst position to succeed.

Best: Sony Michel-RB-New England Patriots

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This one’s not quite so obvious, but hear me out. Yes, Michel is in a VERY crowded backfield in New England and he’s going to be in an offense that prefers to throw the ball (who could blame them with the GOAT slinging it). However it’s a very similar situation to what he had at Georgia and look how that turned out. Michel shared a backfield first with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb, then with Chubb and D’Andre Swift. Nowadays he’s going to be sharing with James White (pass catcher), Rex Burkhead (wildcard), and either Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee (power back) and replacing Dion Lewis as the de facto all-around guy. One of Michel’s main issues coming out of college was stamina and when you’re splitting carries, it allows you to remain fresh throughout the game. Michel will basically be doing the exact same thing in New England that he was at Georgia only this time the roles are more defined and there will likely be a specific gameplan geared towards his skills. I think that bodes well for his future NFL success. He may never reach 1000 rushing yards in a season, but his yards per carry is probably going to be nuts.

Worst: Sam Darnold-QB-New York Jets

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Darnold is probably the safest quarterback in this year’s class. There’s very little that he does poorly, or at least there are far fewer red flags than what you get from the other quarterbacks. However there was one major flaw at USC that had me a little concerned about team fits and that was the fact that his play dropped significantly when the talent around him wasn’t as good. He was awesome his redshirt freshman season when he was throwing to guys like Juju Smith-Schuster, however when Juju was drafted by the Steelers and Darnold’s entire offensive line went pro as well, he struggled mightily. While from a talent standpoint, the Jets are obviously better than USC, they are one of the least talented offenses on paper. Robbie Anderson is the #1 receiver and while he had a pretty solid season last year, that was more out of necessity than anything. The offensive line of the Jets isn’t great either and unless the front office somehow manages to swing a deal for some talent before Darnold gets the starting job (whether that be this year or next), he could be in for a world of hurt, no matter how good he is.

Best: Saquon Barkley-RB-New York Giants

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Barkley doesn’t really need help to be great but he’s going to get it anyway. Not only is he the most talented runningback to come out of college maybe ever, but he’s going into a situation that will be really beneficial for him. Now yes, the Giants sucked last season, but injuries and offensive line woes played a big part of that. Well ODell Beckham Jr is coming back healthy and the Giants signed Nate Solder at left tackle and drafted Will Hernandez out of UTEP to play guard. Plus, if they should decide to move Ereck Flowers to guard, that could wind up being beneficial for his career. So having Beckham back to take pressure off of him and an improved offensive line should set up Barkley nicely for early career success.

Worst: Denzel Ward-CB-Cleveland Browns

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Ward is a really good corner but given the Browns’ lack of options at the position, he may draw #1 receiver duties from Day 1. Now granted, it worked for Marshon Lattimore with the Saints last year, but I felt like Lattimore was a more complete player than Ward was. Ward struggled with the bigger receivers and there are plenty of them in the AFC North like AJ Green, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Michael Crabtree. Plus there’s also the smaller but even more dangerous Antonio Brown to contend with. Lattimore didn’t have an ideal group of guys to cover either like Julio Jones and Mike Evans, but again, he was more polished than Ward is and Lattimore also didn’t have to draw #1 receiver duties out of the gate. And even if he did, he had better safeties available to bail him out should he need them. I’m not saying Ward isn’t up to the challenge because if any cornerback in this year’s rookie class is it’s him, but his situation isn’t ideal by any stretch.

Best: Rashaan Evans-LB-Tennessee Titans

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Evans was a leader on Alabama’s National Championship-winning defense and it looks like he’s going to be thrust into the limelight in Tennessee as well, as he immediately becomes the best member of the Titans’ needle-thin linebacking corp. The offensive lines he’ll be going up against in the AFC South are mediocre and the only really potentially deadly runningback he’ll have to face at this point is Leonard Fournette. He’s also got an excellent coach of linebackers in Mike Vrabel as his head coach so he’s going to get even further mentoring. He’s in prime position for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Worst: Rashaad Penny-RB-Seattle Seahawks

<> on December 23, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Penny was a reach by Seattle, however given that he was likely going to be gone the next time they picked (late 3rd round), I can understand why they went that route if they were so high on him. Penny’s a good back, don’t get me wrong, and he fits the bruising style of running back the Seahawks like to employ. However the Seahawks have once again hardly touched that god-awful offensive line this offseason so they’re just setting Penny up for failure. Duane Brown at left tackle is the only competent guy on that offensive line and he’s going to be 33 when the season starts. He’s basically going to be running for his life out there. Plus aside from Doug Baldwin, there aren’t any receivers of note to take the pressure off the running game. Again, Penny does have the power to bulldoze over guys, but he’s going to get stuffed behind the line more often than not and I’ve got a feeling his yards per carry numbers are going to be pretty ugly.

So those are just a few guys that have some interesting situations brought about with them. I stuck with just first rounders given that the expectations for them are so much higher than the others. Let me know what you think of these conundrums in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Patriots Trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams

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Last season, the Patriots traded the 32nd overall pick to the New Orleans Saints for the speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks was being phased out of the Saints offense as the emergence of Michael Thomas proved that any wide receiver could succeed in that offense (which is pretty true) and that Cooks was expendable. The Patriots got a good season out of Cooks while the Saints used the 32nd pick acquired from the Patriots on Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Ramczyk was my top-rated tackle in that class and he did not disappoint, as he was very productive as the Saints’ starting right tackle. For the Patriots, Cooks had 65 catches for 1082 yards and 7 TD’s. Really good numbers considering how much the Patriots like to spread the targets around between what was a plethora of receivers even with the absence of Julian Edelman.

However the Patriots found themselves in a similar situation as to that of Chandler Jones a couple years ago. Jones had a year left on his contract when he was traded to the Cardinals for a 2nd round pick (which was used on Cyrus Jones, who has been a disaster in his first 2 seasons). The Patriots felt they wouldn’t be able to afford Chandler Jones so they felt like they ought to get something for him instead of letting him walk in free agency. This is the same situation with Cooks, as his contract expires after the 2018 season. The Patriots likely weren’t confident in their ability to re-sign him so they sent him to the Rams, who have a big need at receiver after the departure of Sammy Watkins in free agency. In exchange, the Patriots will receive the 23rd overall pick in the draft and a 6th rounder while also sending a 4th to the Rams with Cooks.

So what does this mean for both teams? Well for the Rams, it seems like they’re all in on the 2018 season. They made some big splashes this offseason, acquiring both Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at corner, signing Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle, and now trading for receiver Cooks. The Rams now have a receiving corp of Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tavon Austin. Lots of speed at wideout. However they’re taking a risk investing in so many 1-year contracts. Cooks has 1 year left, Suh has 1 year left, Peters has 1 year left, and Todd Gurley may only have one year left if his club option isn’t exercised (which I can’t imagine the Rams not doing). So this all points to a big run at a Super Bowl in head coach Sean McVay’s second year as head coach. A Super Bowl win in 2018 would make McVay the youngest head coach ever to win the Super Bowl. However their draft prospects for this season take a hit, as barring a blockbuster trade they won’t have a first round pick for the second consecutive year and their first pick in 2018 isn’t until 87th overall, midway through the third round due to a trade made with the Bills for their second rounder.

As for the Patriots, a lot of people are saying this opens the door for them to make a run at ODell Beckham Jr. I’m going to put the breaks on that REAL quick. Beckham is a transcendent talent, sure, and the Patriots have 2 first rounders to offer the Giants, which is their minimal asking price. But Beckham doesn’t fit the Patriots culture. Now yes, the Pats have had success with “diva” receivers before…well, really they only had success with the one, Randy Moss. Beckham, like Cooks, also only has one year left on his contract and he wants to be the highest paid receiver of all time. There’s no chance the Patriots pay that so trading for Beckham doesn’t put them in any better situation than Cooks, only they’ll be out two first rounders.

So what do the Patriots do here? Well for starters, this puts them in a much better position to get a tackle to replace Nate Solder. Left tackle is the biggest hole on the Patriots roster right now, as La’Adrian Waddle is currently the guy. He couldn’t crack the Lions starting lineup, to think he can start for the Patriots is just laughable, no matter how good a line coach Dante Scarnecchia is. I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying UCLA’s Kolton Miller is most likely, as he compares favorable to the departed Solder and I’d have to say they’re not wrong. He is the 4th-rated tackle on my board, but he is the better fit for the Patriots amongst the three ahead of him (Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, Pittsburgh’s Brian O’Neill). It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them go that route with the 23rd pick. It does create a little more intrigue with the 31st pick, though. Quite frankly, I don’t think the Patriots make the pick. The last time Belichick made two first round selections was 2012 when he took Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Now, both picks were home runs, but I don’t think this class is as strong as the 2012 one. I think they’re going to trade back a couple picks with a team that picks in the early 2nd round trying to get back into the first in order to build some draft capital.

So as a Patriots fan, I’m sad to see Cooks go. I enjoyed the threat he posed with his great speed and he was an exciting playmaker. But it was a necessary move to make for New England as they simply wouldn’t be able to afford him and now they have an extra first round pick for their troubles. Let me know what you think of the Cooks trade in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Top 10 NFL Players By Position for 2017

Yesterday was my NFL Awards for 2017, now we move on to the next segment of my postseason NFL series: Top 10 players by position. Now I’ve got to put a disclaimer on this: this isn’t necessarily who I think is the best at each position, I’m going by who had the best seasons. So guys who missed significant time due to injury will be at a serious disadvantage. For example, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt did not make the lists and will not appear on my Top 100 that I’m posting tomorrow, which follows the same rules. I’m trying to not take past success into consideration, buuuuut I’m only human and certain guys may have gotten some preferential treatment due to what they’ve done in the past. It’s my list, if you think it sucks, make your own. Better yet, leave a comment and tell me how bad my list is. So with that, let’s go position by position to see who the best in the NFL were.

Quarterback

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

1. Tom Brady-New England Patriots

2. Carson Wentz-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Russell Wilson-Seattle Seahawks

4. Alex Smith-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Jared Goff-Los Angeles Rams

6. Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints

7. Philip Rivers-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Matt Ryan-Atlanta Falcons

9. Kirk Cousins-Washington Redskins

10. Ben Roethlisberger-Pittsburgh Steelers

If you read my awards blog, you would know that Tom Brady was my runner-up for MVP, an award he has somehow only won twice. Then again, Babe Ruth only won 1 MVP in baseball (granted, he played at a time when the MVP award was the Chalmers Award and the trophy was a car so you were only allowed to win it once. What a strange thing classic baseball was). But Brady, at 40 years old, is still the best quarterback in the game and it doesn’t matter who is on the field or is injured or whatever, Brady’s going to do big things. Carson Wentz and Jared Goff were revelations this season as they seem to be jumpstarting the next wave of superstar quarterbacks in the NFL. Philip Rivers quietly finished second in the NFL in passing yards and was instrumental in helping the Chargers out of a 0-4 hole and nearly became the second team ever to make the playoffs after starting so poorly.

Runningback

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1. Todd Gurley-Los Angeles Rams

2. Le’Veon Bell-Pittsburgh Steelers

3. Kareem Hunt-Kansas City Chiefs

4. Mark Ingram-New Orleans Saints

5. Alvin Kamara-New Orleans Saints

6. LeSean McCoy-Buffalo Bills

7. Jordan Howard-Chicago Bears

8. Ezekiel Elliott-Dallas Cowboys

9. Leonard Fournette-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. Dion Lewis-New England Patriots

Naturally, my league MVP is going to finish at the top of my positional rankings. Todd Gurley had over 2000 yards from scrimmage so naturally, being the most complete back in the NFL today, he’s going to win out. Le’Veon Bell was also terrific, but his yards per carry was below 4.0 for much of the season, which is probably the thing that hurt him the most in my rankings. The fact that I had to say that and he’s still #2 on my list goes to show what I think of the guy. Ezekiel Elliott likely would’ve been much, much higher had he not had to serve the suspension because he actually was pretty quietly his same old self on the field. Dion Lewis makes the list purely for how well he finished the season, as he was torching opposing defenses to the point where it didn’t matter if Brady wasn’t at his best.

Wide Receiver

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1. Antonio Brown-Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Julio Jones-Atlanta Falcons

3. DeAndre Hopkins-Houston Texans

4. Keenan Allen-Los Angeles Chargers

5. Michael Thomas-New Orleans Saints

6. Adam Thielen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Tyreek Hill-Kansas City Chiefs

8. AJ Green-Cincinnati Bengals

9. Brandin Cooks-New England Patriots

10. Golden Tate-Detroit Lions

After the top 2, this list got pretty tough. Antonio Brown and Julio Jones are clearly the two best receivers in the game. After that things get pretty tight. I went with Hopkins at 3 because he was the league leader in receiving touchdowns. Keenan Allen was nearly my comeback player of the year, perhaps should’ve been because he was terrific. Adam Thielen carried my fantasy team to another third-place finish. Deciding who was 10th was probably the hardest choice, as there were a lot of different guys that could’ve been there and no matter who I chose, somebody deserving would be left out. I went with Golden Tate, though his teammate Marvin Jones could have also been the choice. Tate is one of the more dynamic receivers in the league and is basically a poor man’s Antonio Brown.

Tight End

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1. Rob Gronkowski-New England Patriots

2. Travis Kelce-Kansas City Chiefs

3. Zach Ertz-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Delanie Walker-Tennessee Titans

5. Evan Engram-New York Giants

6. Jack Doyle-Indianapolis Colts

7. Hunter Henry-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jason Witten-Dallas Cowboys

9. Charles Clay-Buffalo Bills

10. Cameron Brate-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gronk could be the greatest tight end of all time when all is said and done, his career has been that tremendous and he’s not even 30 yet. He led all tight ends in receiving yards despite missing a game due to suspension and having no catches in the season finale, hence my conspiracy theory that he finished with exactly 69 catches for the season on purpose. Evan Engram was probably the lone bright spot for the Giants this season, as they appear to have a really talented player at the tight end position. I hate making this comparison because of the things that happened off the field, but Engram kind of reminds me of Aaron Hernandez with his athleticism and ability to play all over the field.

Offensive Tackle

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1. Tyron Smith-Dallas Cowboys

2. Trent Williams-Washington Redskins

3. Alejandro Villanueva-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Andrew Whitworth-Los Angeles Rams

5. Taylor Lewan-Tennessee Titans

6. Lane Johnson-Philadelphia Eagles

7. Terron Armstead-New Orleans Saints

8. David Bakhtiari-Green Bay Packers

9. Cordy Glenn-Buffalo Bills

10. Jack Conklin-Tennessee Titans

The main thing that put Tyron Smith at the top of this list is what happened to the Cowboys while he was injured. His replacement, Chaz Green, let up 6 sacks against Adrian Clayborn of all people and the Cowboys offense couldn’t even score on a hooker for the couple weeks Smith was out. But once he was back, it was like they were their old selves again even without Ezekiel Elliott. That’s MVP stuff right there out of the offensive line. Alejandro Villanueva is not only a really good football player, but he’s a Hell of a man as well, particularly as a veteran of the Armed Forces. Go read up on the guy, you’ll see some pretty cool stuff.

Offensive Guard

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1. Zack Martin-Dallas Cowboys

2. Brandon Brooks-Philadelphia Eagles

3. Marshall Yanda-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kelechi Osemele-Oakland Raiders

5. Joel Bitonio-Cleveland Browns

6. David DeCastro-Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Xavier Su’a Filo-Houston Texans

8. Brandon Scherff-Washington Redskins

9. Kevin Zeitler-Cleveland Browns

10. Shaq Mason-New England Patriots

The Cowboys front office continue to reap the rewards of telling Jerry Jones “no” when Jones wanted to draft Johnny Manziel over Zack Martin. This is what happens when you don’t surround yourself with “yes men.” Martin is about as well-rounded an offensive lineman as you’ll ever find. Despite their poor season, the Browns had some pretty solid pieces on the offensive line in Bitonio and Zeitler. They would’ve had Joe Thomas too if not for injury.

Center

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1. Alex Mack-Atlanta Falcons

2. Travis Frederick-Dallas Cowboys

3. Jason Kelce-Philadelphia Eagles

4. Rodney Hudson-Oakland Raiders

5. Maurkice Pouncey-Pittsburgh Steelers

6. Max Unger-New Orleans Saints

7. Brandon Linder-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Mitch Morse-Kansas City Chiefs

9. Ryan Kalil-Carolina Panthers

10. Corey Linsley-Green Bay Packers

I don’t know if I respect any player in the NFL more than I do Alex Mack, who played the Super Bowl on a broken leg, and played well I might add. I don’t think people understand just how much of a factor your legs play in blocking, given how large the upper bodies of these offensive linemen are. Jason Kelce, brother of Chiefs tight end Travis, is quietly his brother’s equivalent on the offensive line, as he was arguably the most important part of keeping Carson Wentz, and then Nick Foles, upright.

Defensive Line

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1. Calais Campbell-Jacksonville Jaguars

2. Aaron Donald-Los Angeles Rams

3. Cameron Heyward-Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Geno Atkins-Cincinnati Bengals

5. Malik Jackson-Jacksonville Jaguars

6. Kawann Short-Carolina Panthers

7. David Irving-Dallas Cowboys

8. Gerald McCoy-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

9. Jurrell Casey-Tennessee Titans

10. Fletcher Cox-Philadelphia Eagles

This was kind of a tough one because while it’s hard to leave JJ Watt off any list, I really had no choice but to do it. He didn’t play enough. It became tough again putting Campbell over Donald because while I do think Donald is the best at his position, I think Campbell had a better season. Plus Donald held out the first game of the season, losing some ground on surpassing the Jaguars stud. David Irving was quietly among the best pass rushing interior linemen in the NFL. After having previously been best known as being the guy who got his nipple ring ripped out during practice, Irving went on to record 8.5 sacks at a position of constant double teams. Maybe that dumb thing was holding him back, who knows?

Edge Defender

at the Hard Rock Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

1. Von Miller-Denver Broncos

2. DeMarcus Lawrence-Dallas Cowboys

3. Chandler Jones-Arizona Cardinals

4. Khalil Mack-Oakland Raiders

5. Joey Bosa-Los Angeles Chargers

6. Everson Griffen-Minnesota Vikings

7. Cameron Jordan-New Orleans Saints

8. Ryan Kerrigan-Washington Redskins

9. Yannick Ngakoue-Jacksonville Jaguars

10. JaDeveon Clowney-Houston Texans

Von Miller might not have had as many sacks as the guys behind him on the list, but he impacted games the way no other edge defender could. You have to double team him on the edge to really stop him and even then it might not work. When running the ball, you have to run to the opposite side of the field and he’s still fast enough to catch you. Chandler Jones led the NFL in sacks and as a Patriots fan, letting him go for just a second round pick that was used on Cyrus Jones continues to haunt me, especially when we had to go to a 39 year-old James Harrison to get some competence opposite Trey Flowers. JaDeveon Clowney continues to get better with each year as his pass rushing skills are starting to catch up to his dominance against the run.

Linebacker

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1. Bobby Wagner-Seattle Seahawks

2. Luke Kuechly-Carolina Panthers

3. DeMario Davis-New York Jets

4. CJ Mosley-Baltimore Ravens

5. Deion Jones-Atlanta Falcons

6. Telvin Smith-Jacksonville Jaguars

7. LaVonte David-Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. Vince Williams-Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Joe Schobert-Cleveland Browns

10. Alec Ogletree-Los Angeles Rams

I feel like people don’t give Bobby Wagner enough credit for what he does for this Seahawks defense. Everyone likes to point to the Legion of Boom, but Wagner may be even more critical than the tandem of Earl Thomas-Richard Sherman-Kam Chancellor. Telvin Smith played a similar role with the Jaguars, as their secondary got a lot of the praise, but he was the main cog that made things go. Joe Schobert may be a surprising entry on this list but he actually led all NFL linebackers in run stops.

Cornerback

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1. Patrick Peterson-Arizona Cardinals

2. AJ Bouye-Jacksonville Jaguars

3. Xavier Rhodes-Minnesota Vikings

4. Marcus Peters-Kansas City Chiefs

5. Darius Slay-Detroit Lions

6. Marshon Lattimore-New Orleans Saints

7. Casey Hayward-Los Angeles Chargers

8. Jalen Ramsey-Jacksonville Jaguars

9. Jimmy Smith-Baltimore Ravens

10. Tre’Davious White-Buffalo Bills

This one’s kind of tough because it’s hard to measure a cornerback’s success. On the one hand, you can go with interceptions, but that’s often the result of being in the right place at the right time or could be an indicator that quarterbacks think they can challenge you. Really you have to go with advanced metrics, which I can’t provide without a Pro Football Focus subscription, which I’d be able to get if PEOPLE CONTRIBUTED TO MY FUCKING PATREON! *Exhales* I’m calm, I’m calm. But Patrick Peterson is not only an excellent corner, he’s also dynamite in the return game, which kind of puts him over the top for me. Darius Slay tied for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions this season, which when watching him play seemed to be more of a skill thing than a luck thing. Richard Sherman was left off this list mainly due to the fact he was battling injuries, which hurt his production some before he had to get shut down for the season.

Safety

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1. Earl Thomas-Seattle Seahawks

2. Harrison Smith-Minnesota Vikings

3. Eric Weddle-Baltimore Ravens

4. Kam Chancellor-Seattle Seahawks

5. Landon Collins-New York Giants

6. Kevin Byard-Tennessee Titans

7. Tashaun Gipson-Jacksonville Jaguars

8. Jamal Adams-New York Jets

9. Glover Quin-Detroit Lions

10. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix-Green Bay Packers

It was a hard choice between Earl Thomas and Harrison Smith for top safety in the NFL this season, as both guys were terrific and leaders of top defenses. I went with Thomas simply because he’s been doing it for longer, though they’re basically 1A and 1B. Kevin Byard tied with Slay for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions, which I actually think means more for safeties than it does for corners because playing safety is more about reading the field and deciphering what the quarterback is thinking rather than just straight up covering a guy like a corner. Jamal Adams was one of my favorite prospects from the 2017 NFL Draft and he and fellow rookie Marcus Maye were big parts in the Jets being somewhat relevant in 2017.

Those are my rankings by position for the 2017 NFL season. Check back in tomorrow for my Top 100 players, followed by my first Mock Draft. Let me know what you thought of these rankings in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

2017 NFL Awards

Happy New Year everybody! I apologize for no blog yesterday but I was downing IPA’s like they were Miller Lites and was in no position to begin my NFL postseason series blogs. I won’t be doing a playoff predictions segment as that would defeat the purpose of doing NFL picks, which I’ve decided to continue doing for the postseason, the first of which will be posted on Saturday instead of the usual Sunday. Haven’t decided yet if I’m going to do the entire Wild Card Round for the Saturday blog or if I’m going to do Saturday’s games on Saturday and Sunday’s games on Sunday. Stay tuned. But with the NFL regular season wrapped up, I’d like to start handing out some awards. Some of these will be real NFL awards, a few will be made up. But all of them mean something and each player will have to make room in their trophy case for what I’m handing out. So with that, on to the awards.

NFL MVP: Todd Gurley-RB-Los Angeles Rams

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I’m going to get an earful from my friends and family for not choosing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for this, but looking at the overall stats, I didn’t feel like there was any other option. Not only has Gurley been a major part of the Rams sudden turnaround, but his stats are insane. He’s second in the NFL in rushing with 1305 yards and led the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns. He also was second amongst runningbacks with 788 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. So that’s 2093 yards from scrimmage with 19 touchdowns. The one knock I have against Gurley’s candidacy is his fumbling, which he led NFL runningbacks with 5. However, the fact that he carried the ball 279 times could be an explanation. I’m not sure where Gurley ranks in terms of fumble rate, as I lack the willpower to do all the math for every player, but I don’t think he’d be at the top of that list. As for Tom Brady, I was all in on his MVP candidacy until his streak of 5 straight games with an interception late in the season. Plus, his numbers started trending downwards by the end. Gurley only got better.

Others receiving consideration: Tom Brady-QB-New England Patriots

*Disclaimer* I’m not putting down an Offensive Player of the Year because Gurley would also win that. The argument would be repetitive.

Defensive Player of the Year: Calais Campbell-DL-Jacksonville Jaguars

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I won’t go too much into this, as I had Campbell as my midseason DPOTY in my midseason awards blog. Basically check out my segment on Campbell and reapply it to here. He kept at his rate from midseason. He finished tied for second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks and that came despite his playing primarily on the interior of the defensive line, where by nature he would take on double teams. You just don’t see that from guys outside of JJ Watt. Plus, Campbell’s presence helped this Jaguars defense take a gigantic leap from last year, as they went from a decent unit to arguably the best in the league. Guys like Dante Fowler Jr finally broke out and Yannick Ngakoue quietly became one of the league’s top pass rushers.

Others receiving consideration: Aaron Donald-DT-Los Angeles Rams, Chandler Jones-EDGE-Arizona Cardinals

Coach of the Year: Sean McVay-Los Angeles Rams

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There were a few candidates for this spot, as there were a lot of breakout teams in 2017. But I’ve got to go with Rams rookie head coach Sean McVay for a couple reasons. Number 1 being the Rams had been totally stagnant for about a decade, never seeming to be able to rise above being 8-8 and coming off a disastrous first year in Los Angeles, as Jeff Fisher was fired midseason on the Amazon Prime series “All or Nothing.” They were the worst offense in the NFL in 2016 as well. Enter McVay. The Rams completely flipped and went from the worst scoring offense in 2016 (14.0 PPG) to the highest scoring offense in 2017 (29.9 PPG). Not bad from a guy who was younger than a large chunk of quarterbacks in the league (he was 31 when he was hired). But the biggest deciding factor for me for McVay being COTY is the development of Jared Goff. Goff was the #1 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft and he had a disastrous rookie year, as he went 0-7 as a starter and was already looking like a bust. Under McVay, however, Goff became one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, going 11-5 as a starter, finishing 10th in the NFL in passing yards at 3804, 3rd in yards per attempt at 7.98, tied for 5th in passing touchdowns with 28, and only threw 7 interceptions, which was fewer than the totals of Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and even Tom Brady. That’s the difference a good coach can make.

Others receiving consideration: Sean McDermott-Buffalo Bills, Doug Marrone-Jacksonville Jaguars, Doug Pederson-Philadelphia Eagles, Bill Belichick-New England Patriots

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Alvin Kamara-RB-New Orleans Saints

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Kamara did it all for the Saints this year. He ran, he caught, and he returned kicks on occasion. He was third amongst rookies in rushing yards with 728 on only 120 carries for an average of 6.1 YPC, which led all NFL runningbacks. This came despite the fact that he was sharing a backfield with Mark Ingram, who was having a great season in his own right. Kamara also was a great pass catcher for the Saints, as he had 81 catches out of the backfield for 826 yards, trailing only Steelers standout Juju Smith-Schuster and Rams stud Cooper Kupp for rookie receiving yards. And he’s a runningback. He also took a kick to the house against the Buccaneers in Week 17 and averaged 31.5 yards per kick return (granted he only returned 11 kicks, but still, that’s a terrific rate). Alvin Kamara is my clear favorite for OROTY. Now if only he’d get rid of that damn septum ring. God I hate those things. I don’t know how people can think they look good.

Others receiving consideration: Kareem Hunt-RB-Kansas City Chiefs, Juju Smith-Schuster-WR-Pittsburgh Steelers, Leonard Fournette-RB-Jacksonville Jaguars

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Marshon Lattimore-CB-New Orleans Saints

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The Saints have ROTYs on both sides of the ball, it seems. Lattimore ranked among the best cornerbacks in the NFL, leading what has actually been a really good class for rookie cornerbacks, as Buffalo’s Tre’Davious White and Dallas’ Jourdan Lewis also had strong seasons. Lattimore was consistently put on the opposing team’s best receiver and had 5 interceptions this season, including a streak of 3 games in a row with a pick towards the end of the season, including one he caught with his ass.

According to Pro Football Focus, Lattimore was graded as the 5th best corner in the NFL and graded amongst the game’s elites. He looks like he has a long, successful career ahead of him.

Others receiving consideration: Tre’Davious White-CB-Buffalo Bills, Carl Lawson-EDGE-Cincinnati Bengals

Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski-TE-New England Patriots

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2016 was a lost season for Gronk. He was always injured and missed out on the Patriots’ amazing run to their victory in Super Bowl LI. I even read articles that suggested that Gronk is now expendable for the Patriots and could be the next in their high-profile cuts. How did he respond? Only with 69 catches (which I swear he did on purpose) and led all NFL tight ends with 1084 yards (which was 10th in the entire league) to go along with 8 touchdowns. At 28 years old, Gronk continues to show the league why he is the absolute best.

Others receiving consideration: Keenan Allen-WR-Los Angeles Chargers

Breakout Player of the Year: Jared Goff-QB-Los Angeles Rams

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As I highlighted in my defense of Sean McVay being COTY, Goff was a borderline bust heading into his second NFL season. The Rams gave up a fortune to the Titans to pick him as they were looking to make a splash with their return to Los Angeles. Well that move was looking like a disaster as Goff was absolutely dreadful in 2016, going 0-7 as a starter, completing only 54% of his passes, while throwing only 5 touchdowns against 7 interceptions. But he did a complete 180 in 2017, where he was about as efficient as any quarterback in the NFL.

Others receiving consideration: Adam Thielen-WR-Minnesota Vikings, Marquise Goodwin-WR-San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppolo-QB-San Francisco 49ers

Play of the Year: DeAndre Hopkins Touchdown Catch on Christmas Day vs Steelers

Others receiving consideration: Maurice Harris one-handed touchdown vs Vikings, Tarik Cohen punt return TD vs 49ers

My Favorite Player of 2017: Tarik Cohen-RB-Chicago Bears

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Tarik Cohen’s nickname “The Human Joystick” perfectly sums up the type of player he is. He’s only 5’6, but he’s nearly impossible to catch in the open field. Just look at this punt return against the 49ers, which nearly won for my play of the year.

He also likes to do things like this in his spare time.

This kid’s an electric factory.

Others receiving consideration: Carson Wentz-QB-Philadelphia Eagles, Tyreek Hill-WR-Kansas City Chiefs

That’s it for my NFL Awards segment. Check back in tomorrow when I rank each NFL player by position, followed by my Top 100 players. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.