Indianapolis Colts – Last Word on Pro FootballIndianapolis Colts Rookie Spotlight: Deon CainWhat to Expect From Marlon Mack for the Indianapolis Colts in 2018Ranking All 32 NFL Rosters (Part One: 32-25)2018 NFL Off-Season: Which Teams Have Improved and Which Have Declined?2018 NFL Draft Grades – AFC North and AFC Southhttp://lastwordonprofootball.com Fri, 22 Jun 2018 00:36:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/06/20/colts-rookie-spotlight-deon-cain/ http://lastwordonprofootball.com/2018/06/20/colts-rookie-spotlight-deon-cain/#respond Wed, 20 Jun 2018 23:21:05 +0000

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The Indianapolis Colts selected Deon Cain with the 185th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Cain played college football at Clemson, and should provide solid depth for the Colts. Clemson has produced plenty of playmakers at the receiver position, so are the Colts getting a mere role player, or a steady force to pair with T.Y. Hilton?

Cain’s college career at Clemson had good and bad moments. He failed a drug test and was suspended during his freshman season, which caused him to miss the College Football Playoff. The very next season was resilient, as he played in all 15 games capped off by a solid performance in the National Championship win over Alabama. Cain was overshadowed by the presence of fellow wide receiver Mike Williams, however his athletic ability and physicality are attractive traits.

He finished his junior season with 58 receptions for 734 yards, while scoring six touchdowns. Critics point to Cain’s drop in production once Williams left as a weakness.  The departure of Heisman finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson must not be overlooked.

The active depth chart after Hilton is wide open for the Colts. Donte Moncrief left as a free agent to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team will not resign Kamar AikenChester Rogers returns, with free agent acquisition Ryan Grant joining the fray. The Colts also drafted Daurice Fountain from Northern Iowa in the 5th round.

Ryan Grant will most likely serve as the Colts second starting wide receiver. He has the most experience at the NFL level among receivers not named Hilton. Last season with the Washington Redskins, Grant caught 45 passes for 573 yards and four touchdowns.

This leaves Rogers, Fountain, and Cain to battle for remaining targets. None of the Colts many UDFA wide receivers are expected to make the leap to the active roster at this time. Kasen Williams stands the best chance, but he only has 10 careers receptions to his name.

Cain is showing his value during OTA practices. His ability to catch the football at the high point could lead toward red zone success. His athleticism has been on full display and the early reviews are glowing.

Most player evaluations in June should not be taken too seriously. But good reports are better than the contrary. Deon Cain could very well find himself on the field sooner than anticipated for a sixth round pick. Before the 2018 draft, NFL analyst Lance Zierlein pegged Cain as a second or third round pick, stating “Cain is a classic Clemson receiver with a good combination of size and speed and an underappreciated feel for the position.”

DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Martavis Bryant are former Clemson wide receivers that are stellar assets for their NFL teams. The Colts will be ecstatic if Cain approaches that level of play.

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The Indianapolis Colts selected Deon Cain with the 185th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Cain played college football at Clemson, and should provide solid depth for the Colts. Clemson has produced plenty of playmakers at the receiver position, so are the Colts getting a mere role player, or a steady force to pair with T.Y. Hilton?

Cain’s college career at Clemson had good and bad moments. He failed a drug test and was suspended during his freshman season, which caused him to miss the College Football Playoff. The very next season was resilient, as he played in all 15 games capped off by a solid performance in the National Championship win over Alabama. Cain was overshadowed by the presence of fellow wide receiver Mike Williams, however his athletic ability and physicality are attractive traits.

He finished his junior season with 58 receptions for 734 yards, while scoring six touchdowns. Critics point to Cain’s drop in production once Williams left as a weakness.  The departure of Heisman finalist quarterback Deshaun Watson must not be overlooked.

The active depth chart after Hilton is wide open for the Colts. Donte Moncrief left as a free agent to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The team will not resign Kamar AikenChester Rogers returns, with free agent acquisition Ryan Grant joining the fray. The Colts also drafted Daurice Fountain from Northern Iowa in the 5th round.

Ryan Grant will most likely serve as the Colts second starting wide receiver. He has the most experience at the NFL level among receivers not named Hilton. Last season with the Washington Redskins, Grant caught 45 passes for 573 yards and four touchdowns.

This leaves Rogers, Fountain, and Cain to battle for remaining targets. None of the Colts many UDFA wide receivers are expected to make the leap to the active roster at this time. Kasen Williams stands the best chance, but he only has 10 careers receptions to his name.

Cain is showing his value during OTA practices. His ability to catch the football at the high point could lead toward red zone success. His athleticism has been on full display and the early reviews are glowing.

Most player evaluations in June should not be taken too seriously. But good reports are better than the contrary. Deon Cain could very well find himself on the field sooner than anticipated for a sixth round pick. Before the 2018 draft, NFL analyst Lance Zierlein pegged Cain as a second or third round pick, stating “Cain is a classic Clemson receiver with a good combination of size and speed and an underappreciated feel for the position.”

DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Martavis Bryant are former Clemson wide receivers that are stellar assets for their NFL teams. The Colts will be ecstatic if Cain approaches that level of play.

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Marlon MackEntering the 2018 season, expectations for second-year Colts running back Marlon Mack are optimistic.  Frank Gore, one of 5 players all-time to rush for at least 14,000 yards, is no longer the workhorse for the Indianapolis backfield.  There are some notable names on the free-agent market for the position, however, the Colts seem content with their current stable of tailbacks.  Gore’s departure leaves a gaping hole for the Indy ground game; will Mack seize the opportunity?

Last season, Gore started all 16 games and received 261 carries.  Mack netted 93 carries, while Jacoby Brissett, filling in for an injured Andrew Luck, was third on the team with 63 rushing attempts.  The biggest question regarding Marlon Mack will be his projected usage.  If he receives close to Gore’s 261 carries, similar or better numbers should result.  Gore’s yards per attempt was 3.7 while Mack finished with 3.8.  However, rushes of at least 20 yards were heavily in Mack’s favor, as he was tied for 11th in the NFL with six.  Gore had one rush of at least 20 yards.  Mack’s elusive rating (ability to miss tackles) and breakaway percentage show game-changing potential.

Running Back Competition

The Colts selected two running backs in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Nyheim Hines was selected 104th overall, followed by Jordan Wilkins with the 169th pick.  Current players returning for the 2018 season include Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson, and Christine Michael.  The Colts typically keep four running backs on their active roster. Marlon Mack is the early front-runner for lead back duties.  Robert Turbin has a clearly defined role as the short-yardage back.  This leaves two spots open for the remaining players.

Nyheim Hines is showing quite a bit of versatility during the team’s OTA practices.  From lining up as a receiver in the slot to fielding kickoffs, his roster spot is all but assured.  He projects as a change of pace option, who thrives when given the ball in space.  Hines’ presence will likely end the tenure for Josh Ferguson.  Both are similar players, however, Hines is a fourth-round draft pick with a higher ceiling than the undrafted Ferguson.

Jordan Wilkins, at 6’1″ and 200 pounds, fits the mold of a three-down running back.  Pro Football Focus listed Wilkins 28th among all rookies in regards to dynasty fantasy football rankings.  He is even receiving some first-team reps at minicamp with a minor injury sidelining Marlon Mack.  Having Wilkins on the roster will allow the Colts to release the Seattle castoff, Christine Michael.  Wilkins offers way more upside and is an intriguing option moving forward.

Which Colts running back emerges as the starter?

Marlon Mack, barring injury, is the week 1 starter.  Jordan Wilkins is the dark horse candidate who could be the starter by the end of the season.  Colts fans should not be surprised if new head coach Frank Reich rotates rushers frequently.  With an improved offensive line and Andrew Luck returning, the Colts running backs should have more room to roam.  Colts fan will be excited, regardless of who is the starter.

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Embed from Getty Images

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Marlon MackEntering the 2018 season, expectations for second-year Colts running back Marlon Mack are optimistic.  Frank Gore, one of 5 players all-time to rush for at least 14,000 yards, is no longer the workhorse for the Indianapolis backfield.  There are some notable names on the free-agent market for the position, however, the Colts seem content with their current stable of tailbacks.  Gore’s departure leaves a gaping hole for the Indy ground game; will Mack seize the opportunity?

Last season, Gore started all 16 games and received 261 carries.  Mack netted 93 carries, while Jacoby Brissett, filling in for an injured Andrew Luck, was third on the team with 63 rushing attempts.  The biggest question regarding Marlon Mack will be his projected usage.  If he receives close to Gore’s 261 carries, similar or better numbers should result.  Gore’s yards per attempt was 3.7 while Mack finished with 3.8.  However, rushes of at least 20 yards were heavily in Mack’s favor, as he was tied for 11th in the NFL with six.  Gore had one rush of at least 20 yards.  Mack’s elusive rating (ability to miss tackles) and breakaway percentage show game-changing potential.

Running Back Competition

The Colts selected two running backs in the 2018 NFL Draft.  Nyheim Hines was selected 104th overall, followed by Jordan Wilkins with the 169th pick.  Current players returning for the 2018 season include Marlon Mack, Robert Turbin, Josh Ferguson, and Christine Michael.  The Colts typically keep four running backs on their active roster. Marlon Mack is the early front-runner for lead back duties.  Robert Turbin has a clearly defined role as the short-yardage back.  This leaves two spots open for the remaining players.

Nyheim Hines is showing quite a bit of versatility during the team’s OTA practices.  From lining up as a receiver in the slot to fielding kickoffs, his roster spot is all but assured.  He projects as a change of pace option, who thrives when given the ball in space.  Hines’ presence will likely end the tenure for Josh Ferguson.  Both are similar players, however, Hines is a fourth-round draft pick with a higher ceiling than the undrafted Ferguson.

Jordan Wilkins, at 6’1″ and 200 pounds, fits the mold of a three-down running back.  Pro Football Focus listed Wilkins 28th among all rookies in regards to dynasty fantasy football rankings.  He is even receiving some first-team reps at minicamp with a minor injury sidelining Marlon Mack.  Having Wilkins on the roster will allow the Colts to release the Seattle castoff, Christine Michael.  Wilkins offers way more upside and is an intriguing option moving forward.

Which Colts running back emerges as the starter?

Marlon Mack, barring injury, is the week 1 starter.  Jordan Wilkins is the dark horse candidate who could be the starter by the end of the season.  Colts fans should not be surprised if new head coach Frank Reich rotates rushers frequently.  With an improved offensive line and Andrew Luck returning, the Colts running backs should have more room to roam.  Colts fan will be excited, regardless of who is the starter.

 

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Ranking All 32 NFL RostersThe dog days of summer are here. NFL fans haven’t had football since February. Free agency and the NFL draft have come and gone. I currently find myself watching football games from past seasons over and over again. However, one can only watch the “Philly Special” so many times before there is a craving for something new. For me, that craving has overtaken me in full force.

Therefore, I find myself finding ways to satisfy that need. Welcome to the fruits of my labor with this ranking of all 32 NFL roster. Within this ranking, each team’s level of talent, their depth of that talent, and how well that team is set up for the long-term is evaluated. Some of these results are certainly surprising. I came into this project believing one thing and finished it believing another. Readers should keep in mind that these are not “power rankings” or predictions of these team’s standings in the upcoming season. This is a complete roster evaluation. I devised a rankings system to numerically grade each team. I graded each position group and eventually, a composite score was formulated.

Because of the myriad of information contained here, it will gradually come out as a four-part series. Stay tuned for the rest of the rankings!

Without further adieu, let’s begin with teams 32-25.

Yes, the Buffalo Bills were a Wild Card team in 2017. Yes, the team supposedly has found their quarterback of the future. And yes, this team still has LeSean McCoy. However, despite all of these things, the roster as a whole still has a lot of work to be done.

While the team may have drafted Josh Allen, this team still has a lot of questions marks at the quarterback position. Second-year pro Nathan Peterman struggled in limited playing time last year and free-agent addition A.J. McCarron has only started three games in his four-year career. Any one of these three could start week one for the Bills and odds say that it would not end well.

This team is wrought with young talent. However, they are simply too deficient at multiple positions. With good talent, there needs to be a mix of veteran experience and that is what this team is lacking. With that being said, this team has made moves to get themselves going in the right direction. They have acquired quality young talent at premium positions. However, their star player, McCoy, is on the wrong side of the running back age threshold as he’ll be 30 when the season starts. But, if everyone else develops like the front office believes they will, then this team could be very good in a couple years. For now, it is a rebuild.

An aging star quarterback and a good defense is this team’s story. Unless Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta is the answer, the team has failed to find a viable contingency plan should Eli Manning retire. The theme of the Giants off-season has been finding ways to prolong Manning’s career. First-year general manager Dave Gettleman drafted the incredibly talented Saquon Barkley in the first round and then selected road grater Will Hernandez in the second. The only real qualm about the offense is the aging quarterback situation and the lackluster offensive line. Minus those two points, this offense is very scary and has the potential to put up gaudy numbers.

If this team is going to win football games in 2018, it is going to be by running the football and playing good defense. Moving on to the defense, the big pieces are there, but this team still needs help in order to make this philosophy work. The team needs some more proven talent at the cornerback and linebacker positions.

The real question when it comes to this roster is the longevity. Gettleman has made some moves to get the team going in the right direction, but they still have some work to do to increase their overall longevity as competitors in a very competitive NFC.

There is a lot to like about the direction that the Jets are headed. However, there are also some glaring holes.

To begin, this quarterback group might be the most competitive one in the league. With the likes of former standout Teddy Bridgewater, the wily veteran in Josh McCown, and first-round pick Sam Darnold, this competition is going to be one of the most fun to watch come training camp. I am not particularly a fan of the receiving corps or the running back situation. Robby Anderson is a suspension waiting to happen and Isaiah Crowell has a history of barely cracking four yards per carry.

The safety tandem of Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams might be the best duo of young safeties in the NFL. Add these two to the talents of defensive lineman Leonard Williams, linebacker Avery Williamson, and big money free-agent Trumaine Johnson, then the defense starts to look pretty formidable.

While this Jets roster has some bright spots like the ones mentioned above, it also has its pitfalls. Every good team has a high-quality offensive lineman, and this is one position where the Jets are lacking. Give this team another couple years to acquire some more talent and get future franchise quarterback Darnold some more help, then we will talk. Who knows though, maybe this group outperforms their “on-paper rating,” just as they did in 2017.

Looking at the Redskins as a whole, the roster screams average. Alex Smith, for most of his career, has been average. This defense is average. There is only one position that really sticks out on this entire roster and that is the receiver position.

Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder should prove to be a thorn in the sides of defenses. If Jordan Reed can stay healthy, then he will just add to the fire that is receiving options. Vernon Davis has been good when called upon, despite being 34 years old. Head coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will look to scheme touches for both Chris Thompson and rookie Derrius Guice.

The defense is another story. A majority of the defensive unit is aging or has made a career out of being just average. Second-year pro Jonathan Allen and rookie Daron Payne will look to anchor this defense for the foreseeable future. However, I would not expect much from this defensive unit in 2018.

It is not saying much, but I am actually a little bit higher on the Dolphins then I thought I was going to be.

Ryan Tannehill, if he can stay healthy, can help this team to relevancy. The offensive line unit and running back group are ones that I favor. The offense is young and continues to develop well, despite losing Mike Pouncey. Kenyan Drake should continue to develop into a starting role after promising flashes from 2017. The receiving corps is my biggest concern. It seems as though Miami has made a point to acquire every quality small-bodied receiver.

The defensive unit is this team’s strength currently. The defensive front is sneaky good with talent, youth, and depth along the front. This unit can absorb the loss of Ndamukong Suh more than others could. The secondary is on the rise with the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cordrea Tankersley, and Xavien Howard. The linebackers are young and do lack experience, but they have the talent to be impactful players in the near future.

As a whole though, this roster has holes at key positions. The team could desperately use some depth and versatility at key positions and this will continue to hurt them.

Like Washington, the Bengals find themselves under the curse of being just average.

Stemming from their quarterback play, this team will only go as far as Andy Dalton will allow them to. The receiving corps could be good, but I have my doubts. A.J. Green, at 30 years old, is not getting any younger. 2017 first-round pick John Ross saw only 17 snaps in his rookie campaign. After that, the rest are even bigger question marks. One obvious deficiency in 2017 was the team’s offensive line play. The Bengals did their best to address the unit in the off-season, but still have work to be done.

Like the Dolphins, this defense has a chance to be pretty good. The defensive front is deep and young. At linebacker, Vontaze Burfict is incredibly talented but lacks the discipline to avoid suspension. After Burfict, there is not much to call home about other than rookie Malik Jefferson, who will need time to adjust to the pro game. William Jackson is a star in the making, but you need more than one quality corner in today’s NFL.

The Bengals will be a competitive bunch in 2018 but aren’t necessarily set up for a long-term future. The team has several holes to address in the near future.

Jon Gruden has definitely made his return to the league a noticeable one. However, many of the moves that he has made have been vigorously scrutinized.

Gruden took over a roster that disappointed in 2017 and failed to live up to their expectations. This team is ripe with former NFL stars who have now entered their post-prime part of their careers. But even some of the younger talent that Gruden has brought in does not appear to have been the best of moves. The consensus among experts is that the Raiders reached for offensive tackle Kolton Miller in this year’s draft.

This Oakland team may be able to compete in 2018, but in no way is the team set up for the future. The evaluation of the roster was pretty straightforward: aging. There are many question marks moving into the 2018 season and beyond.

In terms of overall talent level, the Colts roster is severely lacking. However, the roster’s saving grace is the youth. There are only five players over the age of 30 on the roster and they should all be starters or significant contributors in 2018. Also, Andrew Luck.

Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett may be the best backup in the NFL which in turn negates the Luck injury factor, just a little bit. General manager Chris Ballard has done a great job of adding competition at all levels of the roster. Coupling this mentality with the overall youth of the roster should yield favorable results.

With that being said, this team is a long way from competing for any championships. What separates this team from the ones listed above is the premium talent they have at a few positions. It seems as though the plan to let the rest of the roster work itself out.

If you didn’t see your team ranked above, then stay tuned to see where they land.

Part Two

Part Three

Embed from Getty Images

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Ranking All 32 NFL RostersThe dog days of summer are here. NFL fans haven’t had football since February. Free agency and the NFL draft have come and gone. I currently find myself watching football games from past seasons over and over again. However, one can only watch the “Philly Special” so many times before there is a craving for something new. For me, that craving has overtaken me in full force.

Therefore, I find myself finding ways to satisfy that need. Welcome to the fruits of my labor with this ranking of all 32 NFL roster. Within this ranking, each team’s level of talent, their depth of that talent, and how well that team is set up for the long-term is evaluated. Some of these results are certainly surprising. I came into this project believing one thing and finished it believing another. Readers should keep in mind that these are not “power rankings” or predictions of these team’s standings in the upcoming season. This is a complete roster evaluation. I devised a rankings system to numerically grade each team. I graded each position group and eventually, a composite score was formulated.

Because of the myriad of information contained here, it will gradually come out as a four-part series. Stay tuned for the rest of the rankings!

Without further adieu, let’s begin with teams 32-25.

Yes, the Buffalo Bills were a Wild Card team in 2017. Yes, the team supposedly has found their quarterback of the future. And yes, this team still has LeSean McCoy. However, despite all of these things, the roster as a whole still has a lot of work to be done.

While the team may have drafted Josh Allen, this team still has a lot of questions marks at the quarterback position. Second-year pro Nathan Peterman struggled in limited playing time last year and free-agent addition A.J. McCarron has only started three games in his four-year career. Any one of these three could start week one for the Bills and odds say that it would not end well.

This team is wrought with young talent. However, they are simply too deficient at multiple positions. With good talent, there needs to be a mix of veteran experience and that is what this team is lacking. With that being said, this team has made moves to get themselves going in the right direction. They have acquired quality young talent at premium positions. However, their star player, McCoy, is on the wrong side of the running back age threshold as he’ll be 30 when the season starts. But, if everyone else develops like the front office believes they will, then this team could be very good in a couple years. For now, it is a rebuild.

An aging star quarterback and a good defense is this team’s story. Unless Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta is the answer, the team has failed to find a viable contingency plan should Eli Manning retire. The theme of the Giants off-season has been finding ways to prolong Manning’s career. First-year general manager Dave Gettleman drafted the incredibly talented Saquon Barkley in the first round and then selected road grater Will Hernandez in the second. The only real qualm about the offense is the aging quarterback situation and the lackluster offensive line. Minus those two points, this offense is very scary and has the potential to put up gaudy numbers.

If this team is going to win football games in 2018, it is going to be by running the football and playing good defense. Moving on to the defense, the big pieces are there, but this team still needs help in order to make this philosophy work. The team needs some more proven talent at the cornerback and linebacker positions.

The real question when it comes to this roster is the longevity. Gettleman has made some moves to get the team going in the right direction, but they still have some work to do to increase their overall longevity as competitors in a very competitive NFC.

There is a lot to like about the direction that the Jets are headed. However, there are also some glaring holes.

To begin, this quarterback group might be the most competitive one in the league. With the likes of former standout Teddy Bridgewater, the wily veteran in Josh McCown, and first-round pick Sam Darnold, this competition is going to be one of the most fun to watch come training camp. I am not particularly a fan of the receiving corps or the running back situation. Robby Anderson is a suspension waiting to happen and Isaiah Crowell has a history of barely cracking four yards per carry.

The safety tandem of Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams might be the best duo of young safeties in the NFL. Add these two to the talents of defensive lineman Leonard Williams, linebacker Avery Williamson, and big money free-agent Trumaine Johnson, then the defense starts to look pretty formidable.

While this Jets roster has some bright spots like the ones mentioned above, it also has its pitfalls. Every good team has a high-quality offensive lineman, and this is one position where the Jets are lacking. Give this team another couple years to acquire some more talent and get future franchise quarterback Darnold some more help, then we will talk. Who knows though, maybe this group outperforms their “on-paper rating,” just as they did in 2017.

Looking at the Redskins as a whole, the roster screams average. Alex Smith, for most of his career, has been average. This defense is average. There is only one position that really sticks out on this entire roster and that is the receiver position.

Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder should prove to be a thorn in the sides of defenses. If Jordan Reed can stay healthy, then he will just add to the fire that is receiving options. Vernon Davis has been good when called upon, despite being 34 years old. Head coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will look to scheme touches for both Chris Thompson and rookie Derrius Guice.

The defense is another story. A majority of the defensive unit is aging or has made a career out of being just average. Second-year pro Jonathan Allen and rookie Daron Payne will look to anchor this defense for the foreseeable future. However, I would not expect much from this defensive unit in 2018.

It is not saying much, but I am actually a little bit higher on the Dolphins then I thought I was going to be.

Ryan Tannehill, if he can stay healthy, can help this team to relevancy. The offensive line unit and running back group are ones that I favor. The offense is young and continues to develop well, despite losing Mike Pouncey. Kenyan Drake should continue to develop into a starting role after promising flashes from 2017. The receiving corps is my biggest concern. It seems as though Miami has made a point to acquire every quality small-bodied receiver.

The defensive unit is this team’s strength currently. The defensive front is sneaky good with talent, youth, and depth along the front. This unit can absorb the loss of Ndamukong Suh more than others could. The secondary is on the rise with the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cordrea Tankersley, and Xavien Howard. The linebackers are young and do lack experience, but they have the talent to be impactful players in the near future.

As a whole though, this roster has holes at key positions. The team could desperately use some depth and versatility at key positions and this will continue to hurt them.

Like Washington, the Bengals find themselves under the curse of being just average.

Stemming from their quarterback play, this team will only go as far as Andy Dalton will allow them to. The receiving corps could be good, but I have my doubts. A.J. Green, at 30 years old, is not getting any younger. 2017 first-round pick John Ross saw only 17 snaps in his rookie campaign. After that, the rest are even bigger question marks. One obvious deficiency in 2017 was the team’s offensive line play. The Bengals did their best to address the unit in the off-season, but still have work to be done.

Like the Dolphins, this defense has a chance to be pretty good. The defensive front is deep and young. At linebacker, Vontaze Burfict is incredibly talented but lacks the discipline to avoid suspension. After Burfict, there is not much to call home about other than rookie Malik Jefferson, who will need time to adjust to the pro game. William Jackson is a star in the making, but you need more than one quality corner in today’s NFL.

The Bengals will be a competitive bunch in 2018 but aren’t necessarily set up for a long-term future. The team has several holes to address in the near future.

Jon Gruden has definitely made his return to the league a noticeable one. However, many of the moves that he has made have been vigorously scrutinized.

Gruden took over a roster that disappointed in 2017 and failed to live up to their expectations. This team is ripe with former NFL stars who have now entered their post-prime part of their careers. But even some of the younger talent that Gruden has brought in does not appear to have been the best of moves. The consensus among experts is that the Raiders reached for offensive tackle Kolton Miller in this year’s draft.

This Oakland team may be able to compete in 2018, but in no way is the team set up for the future. The evaluation of the roster was pretty straightforward: aging. There are many question marks moving into the 2018 season and beyond.

In terms of overall talent level, the Colts roster is severely lacking. However, the roster’s saving grace is the youth. There are only five players over the age of 30 on the roster and they should all be starters or significant contributors in 2018. Also, Andrew Luck.

Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett may be the best backup in the NFL which in turn negates the Luck injury factor, just a little bit. General manager Chris Ballard has done a great job of adding competition at all levels of the roster. Coupling this mentality with the overall youth of the roster should yield favorable results.

With that being said, this team is a long way from competing for any championships. What separates this team from the ones listed above is the premium talent they have at a few positions. It seems as though the plan to let the rest of the roster work itself out.

If you didn’t see your team ranked above, then stay tuned to see where they land.

Part Two

Part Three

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Baker MayfieldThe 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone and rookie minicamps have already started. This signals the ending point for most teams off-seasons. Sure, some teams might add or drop players before the season to make their final 53-man roster limits. However, most teams aren’t adding any more players any time soon. This opens the door for us to be able to look how teams have fared in the 2018 NFL Off-season.

Most Improved Teams

Chicago Bears

Wow, what an offseason. The Bears entered free agency with one goal in mind, to give Mitch Trubisky all the weapons he needs. They end up with a brand-new look on offense with some nice pieces on defense. In free agency, they go out and grab Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Then in the draft, they took wide receivers Anthony Miller and Javon Wims. After finishing 32nd in receiving yards last year, these key additions put them in a good position going forward.

The Bears also hired Matt Nagy to be their new head coach. He’s an offensive minded coach, being the Chiefs offensive coordinator a season ago, who should help Trubisky take gigantic steps forward with his development.

The team also went out and got some new faces on the defensive side of the ball. First-round pick Roquan Smith, being the biggest one. Smith immediately steps in at linebacker and takes control of the defense. He is a good cover linebacker, with the range of a safety to make plays anywhere on the field. He should put up great tackle numbers in his first year and is an early defensive rookie of the year candidate for me.

Overall, this team improved drastically since the end of last season and their record this upcoming season should show it. Don’t be surprised if the Bears make the playoffs as a wildcard team or come close to it.

San Fransisco 49ers

The 49ers are a very popular team right now. Ever since Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the team and won the last five games of their season, some people have already anointed the team as division champs. Others have even gone far enough to say they will most definitely be in the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Now that’s some high praise for a team that finished last in the division just last season ago. Especially when you must play the even more dangerous LA Rams twice a year.

Still, the 49ers were able to improve as a team this offseason and help Garoppolo out. They signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year $30 million deal. Pairing him and Matt Breida together will make for a good backfield (or maybe that’s just the Georgia Southern bias in me talking) that could look familiar to what Kyle Shanahan ran in Atlanta with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.

The team also drafted two wide receivers to help Garoppolo in Dante Pettis (second round) and Richie James (seventh round). Pettis is expected to be an instant starter and could turn out to be a good compliment to Marquise Goodwin. James won’t see any playing time soon, as he is still very raw and needs to learn. He provides good upside and might be a guy who could see the field as a rotational guy in late years. The 49ers first round pick Mike McGlinchey will start instantly at right tackle for the team. He has Jack Conklin type upside at right tackle and could move to the left side when Joe Staley retires. The team also signed center Weston Richburg this off-season, shoring up the offensive line and giving their franchise quarterback some protection.

On defense, the team added depth at linebacker in Fred Warner. Warner is a good linebacker who is a safety plan depending on what happens to star linebacker Reuben Foster. No matter the outcome don’t be surprised if you see Warner on the field in certain packages as he offers good upside with his instincts and cover skills.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Going into the draft the Bucs knew they needed to improve at a few positions: running back and cornerback being the biggest. They did just that. In the second round, they were able to grab running back Ronald Jones II. He should be the starter coming out of training camp and can take a lot of pressure off Jameis Winston. They then doubled up on corners drafting Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart both in the second round. Both corners will challenge for the number one spot.

The team also drafted offensive lineman Alex Cappa in the third round. Cappa is a versatile player who has a chance to be a long-term starter for the team. He probably won’t start instantly but don’t be surprised to see him on the field down the home stretch of the season depending on offensive line play.

Teams Getting there

Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Antonio Callaway, and David Njoku. What a receiving core. If you can get Gordon and Callaway to stay clean off the field, then this could be one of the best receiving corps in the league. Then you add in first overall pick Baker Mayfield throwing them the ball. Not to mention the likes of Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde carrying the ball. This Browns offense has a lot of potentials to be an upper tier offense in the league, it is just going to come down to coaching, which is very worrisome.

On paper, this team has a lot of good pieces. They have a good running back and receiving corps, a good quarterback, two linebackers in Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey who finished tied for first and tied for fourth in the league in tackles respectively, a good defensive line with depth throughout it, and a true number one corner. That’s a lot of pieces for a team that has only won one game in the past two seasons.

The Browns also drafted Genard Avery in the fifth round who could end up being a starter and outplaying Schobert. He probably won’t beat him out year one, but he could be the answer long-term at middle linebacker for the team and a name to watch out for.

It is going to be interesting going forward watching the quarterback battle of Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield during the preseason and in training camp. My prediction is that even if Mayfield doesn’t come out week one as the starter it is only going to take a game or two of below average quarterback play from Taylor for fans to be calling for Mayfield.

This could be the year that the Browns win more than a game but ultimately comes down to coaching and how long Hue Jackson lasts as head coach before he’s fired.

Indianapolis Colts

Chris Ballard is one of the best GMs in the league and has already brought in some great talent to a roster that is lacking outside of Andrew Luck, who is even a big question mark at this point in his career.

Coming into the offseason the team had a handful of key pieces to build around, half of which were drafted by Ballard his first year. They came into the off-season with Quincey Wilson at cornerback, Malik Hooker at safety, TY Hilton at wide receiver, and Andrew Luck at quarterback.

The Colts come out the offseason with a lot more starters and pieces that improve a very bad roster. They grab tight end Eric Ebron in free agency to help give Luck that security blanket over the middle, they grab Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines in the draft to pair with Marlon Mack and make a potentially good running back trio. The most important pieces they grabbed were offensive guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. Both with be immediate starters at left and right guard respectively and make a good interior offensive line with center Ryan Kelly already there.

The Colts still have holes on their roster, but Ballard took the job knowing it was a multiple year rebuild. Next year, if Luck can play again, we should see the emergence of the team and see them win games.

New York Jets

After doubling down on safety in the 2017 draft the Jets finish the secondary in the 2018 offseason. They add cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Parry Nickerson to the group of Morris Claiborne, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye.  They also traded for edge Henry Anderson who will be a starter for the team. Their third-round pick Nathan Shepard could end up starting early for the team as well.

On offense, they add their quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold. Darnold was my number one overall quarterback in this year’s draft and him falling was a blessing for the Jets. Darnold might not start this year but has the chance to learn behind veteran quarterback Josh McCown. The team also signed Teddy Bridgewater this off-season. It is currently a crowded quarterback room but that could be beneficial to the team and Darnold. Right now, the Jets aren’t a win now team and Darnold might take some time before he’s ready to start. The team could start McCown or Bridgewater and have them work through the rough patches on offense while Darnold sits and learns. Then next year surround Darnold with weapons and give him the reins of your franchise.

Overall, the Jets aren’t going to be competing for division leaders this year but are closer than many people think. I think the team just needs one more good off-season before they are competing for second in the division. Let’s be honest, they aren’t beating Tom Brady any time soon.

Total Rebuild (& they might not even know it)

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle addressed the draft like a team without many holes, and that’s just the problem. This is a team that would surprise many if you say they are going through a rebuild. Then you look at their depth chart it is apparent they need help at some major spots.

This offseason the Seahawks lost star corner Richard Sherman, pass rusher Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, which was just a one-year experiment gone terribly wrong. They also lost tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson on the offensive side of the ball this off-season. That’s a lot to replace in an off-season, while also trying to fill the other holes on this roster.

I am a Rashaad Penny fan but taking him in the first round just doesn’t make any sense. He is a running back who can not catch or pass block to save his life. This will make him struggle to stay on the field for all three downs. You also have so many other holes on the team that need to be addressed. The team has done well with Russell Wilson carrying them, but you can’t continue to put it all on him.

On the flip side, the team did make some good decisions this off-season. Being able to snag Jamarco Jones in the fifth round was an absolute steal. He needs to learn better body control but makes up for it with his long arms and upper body strength. He has potential to be an NFL starter for the team. The Seahawks also drafted tight end Will Dissly in the fourth round. Dissly was one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft and fits the mold of what Seattle looks for.

Overall, this is a team who may struggle more than anyone expects them too. After making the playoffs six of the past seven years they may find themselves facing their first losing season since Wilson was drafted.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals entered the offseason with their quarterback and head coach retiring. That put them a little behind where they wanted to be as an organization. However, they now have a new head coach in Steve Wilks and a new and crowded quarterback room with Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, and Mike Glennon.

The team had a solid draft, giving up for virtually nothing for Rosen. Then turning around in round two and grabbing Christian Kirk to learn under Larry Fitzgerald for a few years. In round three coming around and grabbing Mason Cole to help solidify a bad offensive line. Still, the team is lacking at many positions and aren’t looking to finish high in a competitive division.

While Rosen will be their quarterback of the future, he won’t play right away. He may be the most “pro ready” quarterback but is injury prone and would play behind a bad offensive line. Even though Rosen may be ready for Arizona, Arizona may not be ready for Rosen.

Overall, the Cardinals have many core pieces needed, but it might take them another off-season before they’re ready to compete.

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Baker MayfieldThe 2018 NFL Draft has come and gone and rookie minicamps have already started. This signals the ending point for most teams off-seasons. Sure, some teams might add or drop players before the season to make their final 53-man roster limits. However, most teams aren’t adding any more players any time soon. This opens the door for us to be able to look how teams have fared in the 2018 NFL Off-season.

Most Improved Teams

Chicago Bears

Wow, what an offseason. The Bears entered free agency with one goal in mind, to give Mitch Trubisky all the weapons he needs. They end up with a brand-new look on offense with some nice pieces on defense. In free agency, they go out and grab Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Then in the draft, they took wide receivers Anthony Miller and Javon Wims. After finishing 32nd in receiving yards last year, these key additions put them in a good position going forward.

The Bears also hired Matt Nagy to be their new head coach. He’s an offensive minded coach, being the Chiefs offensive coordinator a season ago, who should help Trubisky take gigantic steps forward with his development.

The team also went out and got some new faces on the defensive side of the ball. First-round pick Roquan Smith, being the biggest one. Smith immediately steps in at linebacker and takes control of the defense. He is a good cover linebacker, with the range of a safety to make plays anywhere on the field. He should put up great tackle numbers in his first year and is an early defensive rookie of the year candidate for me.

Overall, this team improved drastically since the end of last season and their record this upcoming season should show it. Don’t be surprised if the Bears make the playoffs as a wildcard team or come close to it.

San Fransisco 49ers

The 49ers are a very popular team right now. Ever since Jimmy Garoppolo was traded to the team and won the last five games of their season, some people have already anointed the team as division champs. Others have even gone far enough to say they will most definitely be in the Super Bowl this upcoming season. Now that’s some high praise for a team that finished last in the division just last season ago. Especially when you must play the even more dangerous LA Rams twice a year.

Still, the 49ers were able to improve as a team this offseason and help Garoppolo out. They signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year $30 million deal. Pairing him and Matt Breida together will make for a good backfield (or maybe that’s just the Georgia Southern bias in me talking) that could look familiar to what Kyle Shanahan ran in Atlanta with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman.

The team also drafted two wide receivers to help Garoppolo in Dante Pettis (second round) and Richie James (seventh round). Pettis is expected to be an instant starter and could turn out to be a good compliment to Marquise Goodwin. James won’t see any playing time soon, as he is still very raw and needs to learn. He provides good upside and might be a guy who could see the field as a rotational guy in late years. The 49ers first round pick Mike McGlinchey will start instantly at right tackle for the team. He has Jack Conklin type upside at right tackle and could move to the left side when Joe Staley retires. The team also signed center Weston Richburg this off-season, shoring up the offensive line and giving their franchise quarterback some protection.

On defense, the team added depth at linebacker in Fred Warner. Warner is a good linebacker who is a safety plan depending on what happens to star linebacker Reuben Foster. No matter the outcome don’t be surprised if you see Warner on the field in certain packages as he offers good upside with his instincts and cover skills.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Going into the draft the Bucs knew they needed to improve at a few positions: running back and cornerback being the biggest. They did just that. In the second round, they were able to grab running back Ronald Jones II. He should be the starter coming out of training camp and can take a lot of pressure off Jameis Winston. They then doubled up on corners drafting Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart both in the second round. Both corners will challenge for the number one spot.

The team also drafted offensive lineman Alex Cappa in the third round. Cappa is a versatile player who has a chance to be a long-term starter for the team. He probably won’t start instantly but don’t be surprised to see him on the field down the home stretch of the season depending on offensive line play.

 

Teams Getting there

Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Antonio Callaway, and David Njoku. What a receiving core. If you can get Gordon and Callaway to stay clean off the field, then this could be one of the best receiving corps in the league. Then you add in first overall pick Baker Mayfield throwing them the ball. Not to mention the likes of Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde carrying the ball. This Browns offense has a lot of potentials to be an upper tier offense in the league, it is just going to come down to coaching, which is very worrisome.

On paper, this team has a lot of good pieces. They have a good running back and receiving corps, a good quarterback, two linebackers in Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey who finished tied for first and tied for fourth in the league in tackles respectively, a good defensive line with depth throughout it, and a true number one corner. That’s a lot of pieces for a team that has only won one game in the past two seasons.

The Browns also drafted Genard Avery in the fifth round who could end up being a starter and outplaying Schobert. He probably won’t beat him out year one, but he could be the answer long-term at middle linebacker for the team and a name to watch out for.

It is going to be interesting going forward watching the quarterback battle of Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield during the preseason and in training camp. My prediction is that even if Mayfield doesn’t come out week one as the starter it is only going to take a game or two of below average quarterback play from Taylor for fans to be calling for Mayfield.

This could be the year that the Browns win more than a game but ultimately comes down to coaching and how long Hue Jackson lasts as head coach before he’s fired.

Indianapolis Colts

Chris Ballard is one of the best GMs in the league and has already brought in some great talent to a roster that is lacking outside of Andrew Luck, who is even a big question mark at this point in his career.

Coming into the offseason the team had a handful of key pieces to build around, half of which were drafted by Ballard his first year. They came into the off-season with Quincey Wilson at cornerback, Malik Hooker at safety, TY Hilton at wide receiver, and Andrew Luck at quarterback.

The Colts come out the offseason with a lot more starters and pieces that improve a very bad roster. They grab tight end Eric Ebron in free agency to help give Luck that security blanket over the middle, they grab Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines in the draft to pair with Marlon Mack and make a potentially good running back trio. The most important pieces they grabbed were offensive guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. Both with be immediate starters at left and right guard respectively and make a good interior offensive line with center Ryan Kelly already there.

The Colts still have holes on their roster, but Ballard took the job knowing it was a multiple year rebuild. Next year, if Luck can play again, we should see the emergence of the team and see them win games.

New York Jets

After doubling down on safety in the 2017 draft the Jets finish the secondary in the 2018 offseason. They add cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Parry Nickerson to the group of Morris Claiborne, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye.  They also traded for edge Henry Anderson who will be a starter for the team. Their third-round pick Nathan Shepard could end up starting early for the team as well.

On offense, they add their quarterback of the future in Sam Darnold. Darnold was my number one overall quarterback in this year’s draft and him falling was a blessing for the Jets. Darnold might not start this year but has the chance to learn behind veteran quarterback Josh McCown. The team also signed Teddy Bridgewater this off-season. It is currently a crowded quarterback room but that could be beneficial to the team and Darnold. Right now, the Jets aren’t a win now team and Darnold might take some time before he’s ready to start. The team could start McCown or Bridgewater and have them work through the rough patches on offense while Darnold sits and learns. Then next year surround Darnold with weapons and give him the reins of your franchise.

Overall, the Jets aren’t going to be competing for division leaders this year but are closer than many people think. I think the team just needs one more good off-season before they are competing for second in the division. Let’s be honest, they aren’t beating Tom Brady any time soon.

Total Rebuild (& they might not even know it)

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle addressed the draft like a team without many holes, and that’s just the problem. This is a team that would surprise many if you say they are going through a rebuild. Then you look at their depth chart it is apparent they need help at some major spots.

This offseason the Seahawks lost star corner Richard Sherman, pass rusher Michael Bennett, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, which was just a one-year experiment gone terribly wrong. They also lost tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson on the offensive side of the ball this off-season. That’s a lot to replace in an off-season, while also trying to fill the other holes on this roster.

I am a Rashaad Penny fan but taking him in the first round just doesn’t make any sense. He is a running back who can not catch or pass block to save his life. This will make him struggle to stay on the field for all three downs. You also have so many other holes on the team that need to be addressed. The team has done well with Russell Wilson carrying them, but you can’t continue to put it all on him.

On the flip side, the team did make some good decisions this off-season. Being able to snag Jamarco Jones in the fifth round was an absolute steal. He needs to learn better body control but makes up for it with his long arms and upper body strength. He has potential to be an NFL starter for the team. The Seahawks also drafted tight end Will Dissly in the fourth round. Dissly was one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft and fits the mold of what Seattle looks for.

Overall, this is a team who may struggle more than anyone expects them too. After making the playoffs six of the past seven years they may find themselves facing their first losing season since Wilson was drafted.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals entered the offseason with their quarterback and head coach retiring. That put them a little behind where they wanted to be as an organization. However, they now have a new head coach in Steve Wilks and a new and crowded quarterback room with Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, and Mike Glennon.

The team had a solid draft, giving up for virtually nothing for Rosen. Then turning around in round two and grabbing Christian Kirk to learn under Larry Fitzgerald for a few years. In round three coming around and grabbing Mason Cole to help solidify a bad offensive line. Still, the team is lacking at many positions and aren’t looking to finish high in a competitive division.

While Rosen will be their quarterback of the future, he won’t play right away. He may be the most “pro ready” quarterback but is injury prone and would play behind a bad offensive line. Even though Rosen may be ready for Arizona, Arizona may not be ready for Rosen.

Overall, the Cardinals have many core pieces needed, but it might take them another off-season before they’re ready to compete.

 

 

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