LOS ANGELES — It’s hard to believe seven months have passed since confetti fell on Russell Wilson and the Seahawks after their resounding Super Bowl XLVIII victory over Peyton Manning and the Broncos but it’s gone quickly. A brief rundown of what’s transpired since: Michael Sam had a press conference, Johnny Manziel wore pads for his pro day, Jadeveon Clowney was the top pick, Manziel partied… a lot, so did Jim Irsay, some 49ers got in trouble, Ray Rice and Josh Gordon were suspended, some guys got a whole lotta money, others got hurt and Hard Knocks disapppointed. Of course, other football things happened in between but those were the stories dominating the NFL offseason, which has become appropriately titled the Non-Playing Season because it seems not a day goes by without some kind of important pigskin news. But now all the mumbo jumbo is behind us and it’s time to put foot to ball, shoulders to pads and end zone to dances. Football is back and it’s not going anywhere for the next five months, so strap in, stay hydrated and make sure your fantasy roster is set. Most of all, enjoy.
As I’ve done the last couple years, here are the pre-Week 1 You’re The Man Power Rankings in the form of Burning Questions for each team, based on nothing except what I want to know about each franchise as we begin another glorious season. My playoff predictions and Super Bowl pick are also at column’s end.
Let’s do this.
32.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-12, missed playoffs) — The only question I have about this team is why isn’t Blake Bortles starting from the get-go?
31.) BUFFALO BILLS (6-10, missed playoffs) — Based on the preseason it appears the Bills are in trouble this year, but will Doug Marone be around come Week 17?
30.) NEW YORK GIANTS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Tom Coughlin has already fined me for finishing this so late, but if Eli Manning struggles mightily again will the 2-time Super Bowl winning coach have his QB on a short leash?
29.) OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — Oakland signed several veterans this offseason but it’s going to be rookie quarterback Derek Carr who determines how far this team goes this season, but who’ll be catching the ball from his talented right arm?
28.) CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We all know what’s coming with the Browns this season, the questions is how long will the revolution take to be televised?
27.) TENNESSEE TITANS (7-9, missed playoffs) — Ken Whisenhunt will coach ’em up, there’s no doubt about that, and with some picking the Titans as a potential sleeper, can Jake Locker make it happen in a make-or-break year?
26.) ST. LOUIS RAMS (7-9, missed playoffs) — This season was already going to be the biggest of Sam Bradford’s career before he was lost with an ACL tear, now that Shuan Hill is leading the charge can he pull a Kurt Warner and take the Rams back to the playoffs?
25.) HOUSTON TEXANS (2-14, missed playoffs) — The Brinks truck was backed up for J.J. Watt, and while he deserves it, all the questions marks surrounding this team are on the offensive side of the ball, such as who is throwing the ball and will Arian Foster stay healthy for an entire season?
24.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS (5-10-1, missed playoffs) — Any team with Adrian Peterson and one of the best young tight ends in the game will have the offense to compete, but will the secondary toughen up to defend the aerial assault it’ll see on a weekly basis in division play?
23.) NEW YORK JETS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Everyone wants to make the Jets 2014 success about Geno Smith and his improvements between last year and this, but I’m more curious if the defense, specifically the secondary can match the artillery of its opponents?
22.) ATLANTA FALCONS (4-12, missed playoffs) — One play from the Super Bowl in 2012 to four wins a year later, Atlanta is a curious crew but the question is who are the real Falcons: the team that frightened opponents or the division doormat?
21.) DALLAS COWBOYS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Yes, Tony Romo is still recovering from offseason back surgery and the offense is poised to put up crazy fantasy numbers but just how bad is the Cowboys defense going to be?
20.) WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-13, missed playoffs) — With a new head coach in Jay Gruden, the Redskins are going to live and die with the right arm and two feet of Robert Griffin III and if he chooses to play smart and remain the reckless headache who can’t stay healthy?
19.) ARIZONA CARDINALS (10-6, missed playoffs) — Patrick Peterson is finally paid but Darnell Dockett is out for the season for a Cardinals team on the verge of returning to the playoffs; can they really contend in the best division in football?
18.) DETROIT LIONS (7-9, missed playoffs) — The defense is always a curious case up in the D but I wanna know if new head coach Jim Caldwell can take all that talent Matthew Stafford has and mold him into one of the game’s best QBs?
17.) BALTIMORE RAVENS (8-8, missed playoffs) — These aren’t your daddy’s Ravens, which means there’s a lot of new faces and the defense isn’t as good as year’s past; can it do enough to make up for what was lost following their improbabe Super Bowl win?
16.) MIAMI DOLPHINS (8-8, missed playoffs) — A sneaky 2014 playoff contender, will Miami play spoiler in a division owned by the Patriots for the last dozen years?
15.) CAROLINA PANTHERS (12-4, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — It’s possible I’ll be getting a few snaps at wide receiver this season in Carolina, but with the corps already thin can Kelvin Benjamin put it all together and be the monster he showed this preseason?
14.) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (4-12, missed playoffs) — We know Lovie Smith is going to have the Bucs flying around the ball on defense, but one stat I enjoyed was Josh McCown is one of four QBs 35+ starting the season across the league; will he make it through his first season as The Man?
13.) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (12-4, lost in NFC Championship) — It was not the best offseason in the Bay Area to say the least, the events played out like a soap opera, so the only question is are the 49ers set up for a monumental 2014 fall?
12.) CHICAGO BEARS (8-8, missed playoffs) — Defense is not the name of the game in Chicago anymore, and we saw how good the Bears offense could be WITHOUT Jay Cutler last year, but is No. 6 the man still or does the offense begin and end with Matt Forte?
11.) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (9-7, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — Philip Rivers basically willed his team to a playoff win a year ago, but does the Chargers defense have anything in its tank to back him up?
10.) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (10-6, lost in NFC Wild Card) — It was a wild 2013 in Philadelphia, between Nick Foles 27-and-2 run and LeSean McCoy running wild, what does Chip Kelly have tucked deep in the playbill for an encore?
9.) CINCINNATI BENGALS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — For this team it’s seemed to come down to Andy Dalton, so now that he’s paid like an elite NFL quarterback, will he start playing like one when it matters most?
8.) PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-8, missed playoffs) — You know Dick LeBeau is going to coach up the defense, what I’m curious about is how this new high-tempo Steelers offense is going to look and how Ben Roethlisberger is going to perform in it?
7.) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-5, lost in AFC Wild Card) — I know the Chiefs just extended Alex Smith for 4 years and $45M but how far can he really take them with his game managing style of play?
6.) INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (11-5, lost in AFC Divisional Round) — I’ve seen some NFL experts picking the Colts to win the whole thing and while that’s bold, is anyone going to step up and win a game so Andrew Luck doesn’t have to do everything himself?
5.) GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-7-1, lost in NFC Wild Card) — When you have Aaron Rodgers I know it’s tempting to throw the ball like it’s backyard football, but will Mike McCarthy use Eddie Lacy like he’s one of the best backs in the NFL (which he is)?
4.) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-5, lost in NFC Divisional Round) — Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger but all of his offensive weapons return and they look poised for another huge season, but is Rob Ryan’s defense ready to prove last year’s vast improvements weren’t a fluke?
3.) NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-4, lost in AFC Championship game) — It’s always Super Bowl or bust in New England, but is age finally catching up with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick?
2.) DENVER BRONCOS (13-3, lost in Super Bowl) — Once again, for me, it’s all about Peyton Manning’s health; if #18 is on his 2013 game then there’s no stopping Denver, but if he takes a few big hits, will the 5-time MVP get up?
1.) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (13-3, Super Bowl Champions) — More than any defending champions in recent years, the Seahawks are set up for a repeat run, will they stay hungry enough for 17 weeks to keep that dream alive?
NFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners: Packers, Seahawks, Redskins & Saints
Wild Cards: Bears & Eagles
NFC Title Game: Seahawks over Saints
AFC Playoff Predictions:
Division winners: Patriots, Colts, Broncos & Steelers
Wild Cards: Chiefs & Bengals
AFC Title Game: Patriots over Broncos
Super Bowl Prediction:
PATRIOTS over Seahawks
LOS ANGELES — Sports fans today are more informed than they’ve ever been. Information about your favorite team is everywhere: legit league and team websites, fan blogs, Twitter, you name it. If you want to know what your favorite player is eating or doing at a given moment, check their Instagram or wait for TMZ to have a report later that night. It’s a blessing and a curse, living in this know-it-all-the-second-it-happens time that we do. But there is once place that exists, a lone Fortress of Information Solitude where everything walks in but nothing seeps its way out, where what happens there, truly stays there: the NFL locker room.
Save for once a year when one team volunteers to allow HBO’s hidden and very public cameras to film every punching player, coaching quarrel and ridiculously resilient rookie for its duration of training camp. The result is annually the best show on television. It’s the access today’s sports fan can’t get anywhere. It can scour the internet and follow every beat writer on Twitter until there is nothing left to click and scan, but it won’t ever know the details of a very real conversation Falcons head coach Mike Smith had with five-year defensive tackle Piera Jerry, who up and announced his retirement near the end of the first week and didn’t have a clue of what he was going to do next.
Yes, the Atlanta Falcons are the featured team on this year’s “Hard Knocks,” and if it wasn’t clear right from the opening video montage of Smith screaming over guys popping each other in a fully padded Day 1 practice, then over the course of the entire 60 minutes you figured out the coaching staff wants the Falcons players to put to bed the notion their physicality is how you say, lacking.
“You’re tough if you play this game,” Smith said in the coaches meeting room, as if trying to convince himself his players have what it takes to stand up and be physical this season, “and we got tough guys.”
This theme of being tough and smart and physical played throughout the entire episode with repeated clips of guys battling at the line of scrimmage for the play and then immediately head-slapping each other and talking tons of trash well after the whistle and usually until they had to be separated by teammates. It got rather old relatively quickly for my taste as it seemed ramped up for the show. Whenever a team featuring Osi Umenyiora claims to be tough, you know it’s B.S. And I know this because last year during the first NFL GameDay Morning meeting I mentioned the two-time Super Bowl winning defensive end’s name as a reason the Falcons defense might be improved and Warren Sapp immediately looked at me, his eyes got very wide and he said, “WHAT!?!” like I insulted the very spirit of the game. “Ain’t so soft tissue in this room, boy,” he said. It was then I realized you never, and I mean ever, bring up Osi’s name in front of Warren Sapp.
Inevitably what happens each year on “Hard Knocks” is you head into the season not really caring about the team in focus, but after a couple episodes find yourself cheering for a particular rookie or enamored with a foul-mouthed assistant coach. Last season on the Bengals it was Giovani Bernard and Mike Zimmer who fit the bill, this time around it appears Falcons rookie running back Devonta Freeman, and offensive line coach Mike Tice and linebackers coach Bryan Cox who’ll be in the spotlight in that regard. One of the most amusing segments of this first episode was a cut-up of Freeman looking for an apartment somewhere in Atlanta and safety William Moore telling us about, and playing with his kids, inside his mansion, which featured not only an indoor pool with a waterfall but a palm tree. Also indoors. While Freeman was marveling in what appeared to be a relatively pedestrian 4×6-foot walk-in closet, Moore, who signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract a year ago, was showing the world his shoe closet which contained every Air Jordan sneaker ever made. Ever. Of Air Jordans.
Freeman, in what was probably the greatest single scene in the history of “Hard Knocks,” then rode in a golf cart back to his car saying how blessed he was while taking a sip from a Capri Sun.
Do I think this is going to be an interesting season of the Emmy-award winning show? Good question. It was a rather uninspiring first episode. I was pleasantly surprised with how much Matt Ryan was shown, as well as Roddy White, who will probably come away as the biggest TV star when it’s all said and done. If you’ve followed him at all on social media or seen him on NFL Network’s Top 100 show any of the last two years, that’ll come as no surprise. He has a big mouth and it was clearly on display this first go-around. I particularly enjoyed him dropping a line I’m going to now use: that’s the difference between eating steak and still eating Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Other episode highlites:
– Flowerly Branch, where the Falcons team headquarters is located, is the name of a city that could only be located in The South.
– Rookie linebacker Tyler Starr’s fiance Megan Wheeler may have overtaken Lauren Tannehill has the hottest WAG in the history of “Hard Knocks,” and overall it was a fantastic episode for player’s better halves. Harry Douglas’s wife, a Miss Georgia International (whatever that means) and tight end Bear Pascoe’s wife were both getting it done. Also, respect for getting calf roping and hay farming in this episode, HBO. Mad respect.
– Speaking of Harry Douglas (I never miss an opportunity to write out his full name), what a strange dude. The women’s deodorant didn’t bother me as much as him being really anal and clean about packing. And that giant white teddy bear in his room. Bizarre.
– Devin Hester is on the Falcons? Who knew.
– Steven Jackson opened an art gallery in Los Angeles and I didn’t get the invite? My Hollywood swag is wearing off. Anyway, some of the pieces looked pretty cool, I’ll admit. Though let me ask you all this, which was more surprising: Terrell Owens finding a way to get himself back on camera for a few seconds or Jackson getting hurt during the first week of practice? Tougher answer than you think.
– Why is Jacques Smith messing with Jake Matthews? That just seems like a terrible idea.
– I think we should do the before/after photos with NFL Network employees. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t.
– It’s safe to say we all could have learned a thing or two if we just played high school football with Byran Cox.
– Am I the only one who had no idea Kroy Biermann’s wife is that chick from Real Housewives? Also, no surprise it was low-cut shirt night in the Biermann household this week. Can’t wait to see what she wears for episode 2. And how on earth does he meet this broad to begin with? He’s some hick from Montana.
– The TV producer in me loved the end credits payoff of the earlier shot of Steven Jackson being pissed that someone had “taken” his room only to be revealed it was Matt Ryan, who unknowingly threw is stuff in there because he was first to show up.
– Thomas Dimitroff might have the best hair in football. He definitely is in a neck-and-neck running for Best Wearer of a Visor with South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.
– First audio cut of the show was Atlanta rapper T.I.’s “Go Get It.” I’m really curious to see how they’ll use the bountiful music choices during this season. No doubt Ludacris makes an appearance. Also hoping for a Magic City segment. (look it up if unfamiliar)
LOS ANGELES — Unless you’re still in the theater watching Transformers 4 because that movie is 1800 hours long, or worse yet got traded by the Red Sox, you’re aware that NFL Training Camps started last weekend across the league in Cortland, New York, Oxnard, California and everywhere in between. Rookies are learning playbooks and carrying pads, while veterans are sharpening skills and honing in on what they hope is an upcoming season filled with good health and victorious Sundays. New coaches are finally realizing their dreams of sleeping less than four hours a night and never seeing their families, and us the fans are beginning the early stages of scouting for our upcoming eight fantasy football leagues. Ah, yes, football is back and not a moment too soon. This Sunday marks the officially opening of the 2014 NFL season with the festivities at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. This year’s class is another star-studded affair with Michael Strahan and Andre Reed highlighting the honorees, and of course, the game between the Giants and Bills Sunday night kicks off football every Sunday from now until February.
So with all that in mind, here’s the latest 8 Things To Look For: NFL Preseason Week 1:
1.) Get Ready For JFFTV — If you’ve noticed a theme in your football programing in the last week, you’re not alone. The Browns haven’t got this much coverage since Jim Brown’s days and why not, between Josh Gordon and Brian Hoyer, they’re actually interesting. Though I’ll be the first to admit, a quarterback battle on a team coming off a 4-12 season isn’t exactly the most appetizing meal, but when one of those quarterbacks is Johnny Manziel all bets are off. Johnny makes headlines whenever he speaks or leaves his house. First it was saying he’s not going to change, then it was his biggest challenge is the playbook, then he threw a couple interceptions in practice, then he got spotted on his off day at a bar. He can’t win. His coach and owner have gone out of their way to praise Brian Hoyer which leads you to believe JFF will start the year holding the clipboard. But why then did the Browns draft him? There was the story about the team being shocked his partying was as ramped up as it was between draft day and camp kickoff. Do none of them have Twitter or Instagram accounts? Look, my position on the kid is well known, but I’ll be excited when actual football is actually being played and we all can judge the kid on what really counts: what goes on between the lines on game day. Until then, hope you got your popcorn ready because we’re going to have a front row seat to EVERYTHING he does for the foreseeable future.
2.) Don’t Listen To Anything Anyone Says — If you’ve heard all the player and coach interviews recently a theme has probably been observed: everyone is awesome, we are going to the Super Bowl. Brandon Marshall told Michael Irvin at Bears camp this week that Jay Cutler could win the 2014 NFL MVP. Now Irvin probably believed this because he was the one who said last year Dez Bryant would be MVP, but that aside, Marshall has seen Jay Cutler play football, right? Cutler is the man who’s thrown at least 14 interceptions in a year five times, including a league-leading 26 in 2009. I know he’s Marshall’s boy but take step back, 15. Do you trust Cutler to win a big game for you? Fourth quarter, two minutes to go, down by six? Didn’t think so. The Bears have seriously high expectations this season predicated on their explosive offense. They are a chic Super Bowl pick. I’ve heard that Las Vegas types are putting serious cashola on them as well. But it all hinges on Cutler. All of it. That should make Bears fans very nervous.
3.) Vampire Injury Biting Back — Sure, “True Blood” is going off the air soon, but vampires are still cool, right? OK, forget it … Regardless, in consecutive days the league lost running backs Vick Ballard (Colts) and Kendall Hunter (49ers) to season-ending Achilles’ and ACL tears, and Giants back David Wilson got concussed again. Texans receiver Andre Johnson strained his hamstring this week and on and on. No quarterbacks have gone down yet, thanks goodness, and while injuries are part of the game, every year a handful of stars go down and the domino effect is palpable. You hate to see anyone go down this time of year, especially, but it makes you appreciate how hard everyone works and just how precious our time in this game is.
4.) Hard Knocks with the Atlanta Falcons — Yearly, it’s the best show on television, and “Hard Knocks” returns next week down in Flowery Branch as the Falcons will be this summer’s featured team. What’s funny is that owner Arthur Blank and head coach Mike Smith volunteered for the gig. Atlanta didn’t fall under the new league-mandated guidelines with having made the playoffs in the last two seasons, but I’m guessing Blank wanted to ramp up the team’s profile and put a little pressure on his talented group of veterans in wake of a disastrous 4-12 2013 campaign. I think this will be a fun season of “Hard Knocks.” There are players we all know and are familiar with in Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Steven Jackson, and inevitably a few with personalities we never knew existed will emerge. That’s the beauty of the show; you go in not caring and come out invested in a whole new group of guys.
5.) How Will Holdout Affect Beast Mode — Marshawn Lynch proved last week he’s not only ’bout that action, boss, but he’s also ’bout that paper, boss. The Seahawks running back phoned into NFL Network to announce his hold out and returned Thursday with little bustle. Michael Silver reported Seattle tacked on a few more Skittles onto his existing contract for this season, $1.5 million to be exact, which is always nice. And while Money Lynch was the biggest name who held out this Training Camp others such as Lions all-world DT Ndamukong Suh and Chiefs QB Alex Smith want a new deals before the season kicks of in early September. Many thought Andre Johnson was going to skip Texans training camp but he showed and promptly injured his hammy. How will surrounding contract issues affect these guys? That’s always the question when it appears their main offseason focus has been their wallet and not their body. I’m guessing it’ll be minimal but you never know.
6.) Who’s Awesome/Who’s Trash — Did you hear the one on Monday where Nick Foles is garbage because he came from a rich family and neighborhood and doesn’t scream at his teammates like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Look, I like Buzz Bissinger as much as the next “Friday Night Lights” fan but seriously, Buzz, I think your leather pants are too tight on this one. It’s amazing to me a guy coming off one of the greatest statistical seasons in some time (8-2, 2,981 yards, 27 TD, 2 INT) could be criticized for not being a leader or having what it takes to be an elite quarterback in this league, but all it takes is a keyboard to take someone down, and that’s what Buzz did this week. This also plays into a larger preseason theme of declaring a player a superstar or on the cut list when no games have been played.
7.) Revis Island Taking Reservations for Weekend Getaways — The first English settlement of Martha’s Vineyard came in 1642 by Thomas Mayhew and since then the island off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts has become a playground for the affluent. This fall, however, a new inhabitant will take over the 87.5 square mile paradise island and plant his flag: Darrelle Revis. By all accounts, the Patriots new defensive back has been terrorizing New England practices this July. He even had the gall to intercept Tom Brady not once but twice! In one day! How dare he?! Revis has proven thus far to be the real deal, which is good news for a Patriots secondary that couldn’t stop me and three friends in recent years. If he is locking down half the field this fall, coupled with a healthy Vince Wilfork and Jarod Mayo, New England will be back to being a force defensively.
8.) I Still Have No Idea Who I’m Keeping In Fantasy — I know my fantasy team is always on your mind, but it’s a serious problem I’m having right now and I know I’m not alone. Surely I can’t be the only one who is pacing like Scrooge McDuck trying to decide on two keepers among six legit possibilities, and then after having done a fantasy mock draft factoring in who I think everyone else in my league is going to keep, pacing even more because I can’t decide if I should take Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall or Jimmy Graham or Julio Jones with the third overall pick?! Right? Bueller? OK, fine. Screw you guys. Never mind. I got this. (no, I don’t. help.)
LOS ANGELES — Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was recently the subject of some poor television producing when the topic of his spot in the NFL’s Top 5 QB Elite was discussed. Now, I didn’t pay this one ounce of attention because, well, duh, of course he’s still in there. But for a June conversation, it moved the dial and media outlets deprived of content this time of year ran with it and I’m sure their ratings reflected such discussion involving NFL royalty. Tim Tebow he is not, however.
Fantasy geeks who care only about on-field statistics have their theories as to what qualifies one as NFL Elite and where Brady currently ranks in today’s game. I have my own list but that’s not the point of his article. But to satisfy the stat-heads, let’s just look at basic quarterback measurables over the last three seasons to get an idea: Brady has 1,182 completions, thrown for 14,405 yards and 98 TDs, and just 31 INTs.
In my fantasy league with the scoring as follows – .25pts/comp, 40yds/pt, 6pts/TD and -2pts/INT – that calculates out to 1,181.63 points. There are 14 other QBs who have started a majority of their teams games in the last three seasons – I’ll throw Peyton Manning in there with his 2010 stats as well – so let’s see how they performed purely on a statistical basis:
- Drew Brees: 1,436 comp, 15,815 yards, 128 TD, 45 INT –> 1,432.38 pts
- Peyton Manning: 1,300 comp, 14,836 yards, 125 TD, 38 INT –> 1,369.9 pts
- Tom Brady: 1,182 comp, 14,405 yards, 98 TDs, 31 INT –> 1,181.63 pts
- Matthew Stafford: 1,227 comp, 14,655 yards, 90 TD, 52 INT –> 1,109.13 pts
- Aaron Rodgers: 907 comp, 11,444 yards, 101 TD, 20 INT –> 1,086.85 pts
- Matt Ryan: 1,208 comp, 13,411 yards, 87 TD, 43 INT –> 1,073.28 pts
- Tony Romo: 1,123 comp, 12,915 yards, 90 TD, 39 INT –> 1,065.63 pts
- Philip Rivers: 1,082 comp, 12,708 yards, 85 TD, 46 INT –> 1,006.2 pts
- Andy Dalton: 992 comp, 11,360 yards, 80 TD, 49 INT –> 914 pts
- Ben Roethlisberger: 983 comp, 11,601 yards, 75 TD, 36 INT –> 913.78 pts
- Eli Manning: 997 comp, 12,699 yards, 73 TD, 58 INT –> 888.73 pts
- Joe Flacco: 991 comp, 11,339 yards, 61 TD, 44 INT –> 809.23 pts
- Cam Newton: 882 comp, 11,299 yards, 64 TD, 42 INT –> 802.98 pts (does not include rushing stats/points)
- Alex Smith: 734 comp, 8,194 yards, 53 TD, 17 INT –> 672.35 pts
- Jay Cutler: 661 comp, 7,973 yards, 51 TD, 33 INT –> 604.58 pts
This last Monday, Brady, in so many words, said he didn’t care about those stats fantasy nerds get hard over, that wins and the final score are the only stats that matter to him. This fits with Brady’s Patriotsification over the years. Team first. Winning is all that matters. Get better each game. It is what it is. Of course, his quotes got me thinking about stats vs. wins so I looked them all up and wouldn’t you know the quarterback with the most wins in the last three seasons: Tom Brady.
Tom Terrific is 37-11 in the regular season since 2011, one ahead of Manning for the most in the league. Look at how the rest of the above fantasy studs compare when it comes down to straight wins and losses:
- Tom Brady 37-11
- Peyton Manning 36-12+
- Aaron Rodgers 31-9*
- Drew Brees 31-17
- Alex Smith 30-9-1++
- Andy Dalton 30-18
- Joe Flacco 30-18
- Matt Ryan 27-21
- Ben Roethlisberger 26-18^
- Cam Newton 25-23
- Eli Manning 25-23
- Tony Romo 24-23 **
- Philip Rivers 24-24
- Jay Cutler 22-14^^
- Matthew Stafford 21-27
* missed 7 games in 2013
+ includes 2010 season as Manning missed all of 2011
^ missed 4 games between 2010 & 2011
** missed 1 game in 2013
++ missed 8 games in 2012 & 2013
^^ missed 12 games in 2011, 2012 & 2013
Interesting how they line up, don’t you think? So, yeah, when Brady says he only cares about wins and the final score, he really knows what he’s talking about.
LOS ANGELES — It was two weeks later than normal, but the 2014 NFL Draft is finally here, as the first round gets underway shortly from Radio. City. Music. Hall. in New York City. Once again, I’ll be here to document all the action in running diary style. This is probably my favorite column of the year to write and definitely the longest. Things I’m looking forward to seeing tonight: where Johnny Manziel ends up, if someone straight up tackles Roger Goodell after their name gets called, just how bad Jerry Jones screws up the Cowboys pick, how loudly Jets fans boo their own selection and of course, what these soon-to-be millionaires are wearing. Let’s get this thing started.
4:15pmPT — We’re about 45 minutes out from the official start of this show. I’m posting up today at the lovely West Los Angeles abode of Andrew Siciliano, whom you know as the host of DirecTVs Red Zone coverage on Sundays and various programs on NFL Network. Hopefully some others joins us for what should be a fantastic evening of running commentary during this 1st Round.
4:18 — Johnny Manziel with Deion Sanders just said he was “blessed.” Over/under on how many times we’re gonna hear that today? 5,793? Wish Johnny would’ve went clean shaven, but hey, it’s his world and we’re all just living in it. Ha! He tosses it back to Rich. What a natural.
4:22 — What’s up with Jadeveon Clowney signing with Puma? Were Russell Athletic and Hutch not offering enough? Did Fila want none of that?
4:30 — So a list of the guys walk out songs has been released and we’re breaking down the draftees walk out music right now, or what AS is calling it, “draft up” music. Four Drake songs, Teddy Bridgewater coming out to R. Kelly and Cyrus Kouandjio has chosen Imagine Dragons. Sometimes the jokes write themselves. Maybe that’s why Teddy is falling.
4:35 — Draftees being introduced on the stage now. Blake Bortles was just introduced. Do we have an over/under on how many times they show his girlfriend? It’ll have to break the previous record of 8,000 set by Lauren Tannehill in 2012.
4:36 — Ha Ha Clinton Dix taking the early lead for best dressed with an Alabama crimson tuxedo jacket with a bow tie. And what is this music that’s playing? Didn’t know they turned Radio City into a club. Is Manziel’s girlfriend going to be coming out with the bottle service soon? When’s the foam party start?
4:38 — Jimmy Garappolo is dressed like he’s going to be selling insurance in 3 years. Which he very well might be… Marqise Lee looks like he should be parking cars as the valet at Boa tonight. Though he looks fantastic.
4:40 — Manziel, I think, just got booed. Which is awesome. Haters gon’ hate… Jake Matthews comes out and I ask AS who’s the biggest lock in the draft for a 10-year career and without hesitation he says Matthews. Maybe Greg Robinson…. Morgan Moses looks amazing with that beard and bow tie. Rick Ross style. “He looks like he’s actually Moses.”
4:42 — the bow tie revolution is real, people. Drew Christensen, NFLN researcher would be proud his influence has been passed down to this younger generation.
4:49 — We have now been joined by our former NFLN colleague Matt Abrams, so the commentary will be top notch. Also, AS just added a “Manziel” column to TweetDeck and it’s moving so fast you can’t read it. This guy knows how to move the needle.
4:53 – Kevin Sumlin Manziel’s former college coach, is with Deion Sanders about the Texas A&M guys, who could be 3 of the top 15 picks. What a fantastic mini fro he’s rocking right now, too. “Where would you like them to go?” Deion asks “I’d like them to come back.”
4:57 — We’re debating whether or not AS is as tall as Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. He said it’s close. Don’t ask how we got there.
5:00 — “this is kinda like the Hunger Games. We’re all gathered in the streets waiting for young men to be told where they will be going to relocated.”
5:01 — OK, let’s do this. Should be an exciting 1st Round. Of course, we’re watching NFL Network’s coverage of the events with Rich Eisen, Marshall Faulk, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin in a conservative suit again (wack) and Mike Mayock on the main desk. We also have ESPN on a smaller TV juut in case something different happens over there.
5:03 — our first RADIO. CITY. MUSIC. HALL of the night from Eisen. He’s gonna say this about 100 more times tonight so if you’re playing any Draft Drinking Games you’ve been warned. Mayock with the traditional 3-piece gangster suit. So OG.
5:04 — Goodell welcomes us to the Draft and is heavily getting booed, which has turned into a tradition unlike any other. You can have your Masters and Jim Nantz soothing voiceovers, I’ll take insanely drunk New Yorkers booing the commissioner. New York Fans are the best. Like I say every year. The best, Jerry.
5:05 — Manziel sitting at the table and it looks like he has a Rolex on because of course he does. Have a feeling he’s going to be waiting a long time tonight. Not sure why. Just do.
5:09 — Houston has been on the clock for 130 days, how have they not made a pick yet? 5 minutes to go, maybe they’re looking to trade, most likely. At this point I’m rooting for chaos. I want trades. I want missed picks. I want bear hugs and bling and Tupac as a walk out songs.
5:12 — “who cares about Houston, what are the Raiders gonna do? Probably something dumb.”
5:13 — THE PICK IS IN … OK, let’s do this, Houston. Whaddya got? It has to be Clowney. Can’t pass up on this guy. Mayock thinks it’s Clowney even though he loves Khalil Mack.
5:15 — Here’s Goodell. So many boos. Awesome … “the Houston Texans select … Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end, South Carolina” … and Clowney is crying. All of the tears. Love his hair. I’ll never have hair like that. This guy has been the top prospect and pick for the last 12 months. It would’ve been awesome if he didn’t go to college last year, but you know he was coasting just for this moment. Worth it.
5:16 — giant bear hug for Goodell. You don’t realize just how big Clowney is until he’s standing next to Goodell and Roger is a big, big man.
5:18 — We have already moved on to who the Rams are taking at #2 and we think it’s Greg Robinson. Remember Rams GM Les Snead went to Auburn.
5:22 — shot of the Rams party and there’s a guy there in a Colt McCoy Browns jersey. What the hell is going on?! Man, the Rams are set to succeed right now, if they only had a competent QB. I would love them to pick Manziel here or at 13. But it’s not happening.
5:24 — Goodell out for the Rams pick… “Greg Robinson, tackle, Auburn” … safe pick. This dude is literally the size of a brick shithouse and Bradford, if he’s going to be successful for once, needs to block everybody. Robinson hugging his mom in the green room. “I love this part,” Irvin says.
5:27 — “I won’t let you down.” Robinson says right into the camera to Rams fans. Jaguars on clock and what is taking them so long?! Why are they not taking Manziel?! They have to sell tickets!
5:30 — Pick is in for Jacksonville. Look at Shad Khan and that hair and mustache. Don’t be shocked if it’s Bortles, Mayock just said. Holy shit that would be insane… “Blake Bortles” is the pick. WOW!!! Our first stunner of the draft. I’m stunned. Unreal. Look at Manziel. He’s as stunned as we are. Hoping people from Central Florida make the trip up to Jacksonville.
5:33 — “You think Deion has any idea who this guy is?” someone in the room just said. Hilarious. And WHERE IS HIS GIRLFRIEND?!?!?! And they are partying in the streets in Jacksonville. Did Rich just say “rabid Jacksonville fan base”??
5:34 — and we have a trade! Cleveland swaps down with Buffalo… Bills have to take Mack or Watkins, right? Let’s see what Owl, my resident Bills fan and former Draft Diary sidekick, has to say about this … wow, Bills gave up two picks next year to move up. A 1 and 4. Unreal. What a chaotic few minutes.
5:36 — Bills pick is in … here’s Goodell … Sammy Watkins! E.J. Manuel is doing backflips where he is right now. Aside: you think Watkins can pick out Buffalo on a map? Does he own any winter clothing? “I bet the girls in Buffalo are just as hot as South Carolina.. oh wait, yeah, no.” That’s cold, Abrams.
5:38 — we’ve heard from Owl: “cool! bye Stevie!” … and Watkins takes a selfie with Goodell! That’s so awesome. First one of the draft, surely not the last. Look what Ellen started…. “I thought they was messing when they said they were taking me.” Watkins tells Deion. By the way, Watkins’ suit is awesome. Love the Clemson pin.
5:41 — this Draft is already better than last year’s. Wow. so great…. Goodell out for the Raiders … Khalil Mack… what value there. Never thought he’d fall to 5. Raiders defense is going to be legit next year with him, Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley… this guy looks like a freaking man. Dang.
5:43 — “his game tape against Ohio st. is the single greatest game tape against Ohio st. I’ve ever seen.” Does Mayock like hyperbole? … Now the Falcons are up at 6 and can take their tackle, the only question is if it’s Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan … Faulk just said “now the Raiders have their Von Miller.” High praise (Nic Cage voice)
5:45 — Another shot of Manziel sitting and chilling as we hear Justin Timberlake to break. He’s definitely not going to Atlanta, could Tampa Bay be the landing spot? Who the hell knows at this point.
5:48 — EJ Manuel just tweeted 12 exclamation points and that’s it. He’s going nuts right now. He’s making it rain and drinking all the Hennessey.
5:50 — Before we get to more excitement, here’s Atlanta with some boring pick … Jake Matthews it is … he’s a lock for a 10-year career at least, 4 Pro Bowls. His pedigree is beyond ridiculous, and he looks like he’s 35… Shot of Falcons party and their RISE UP towels. Get excited for an offensive lineman!!
5:52 — Matt Ryan is sleeping a little easier tonight though. He got his ass kicked last year, and look at Matthews next to Goodell. He’s ripping through his suit like the Hulk. He’s gigantic. Matthews will probably play right tackle next year… great shot on ESPN of the Matthews football family tree. All that family does is procreate amazing football players. Much like the Brockmans except not.
5:57 — Bucs on the clock and who knows what they’re doing here. Mike Evans would be great to go along side Vincent Jackson … and ESPN can’t stop talking about Johnny Manziel … also, you want some comedy, do a quick twitter search of Ray Lewis right now.
5:59 — Mike Evans is the pick … so whomever is throwing him the ball should put up some monster numbers… hope Doug Martin is healthy … and we have another trade … Browns going up from 9 to 8 … who are they taking? Manziel?
6:01 — Who are the Browns moving up to take at 8? I want it to be Manziel, but it’s gotta be a corner, right? We are speculating Justin Gilbert? Marshall is standing up when talking about Mike Evans. He’s excited. This guy catches everything. Evans in tears. Love it when this happens. And we have our first Jesus Christ reference. Speaking of, what network do you think JC gets his coverage from: ESPN or NFLN?
6:03 — I just asked Richard Deitsch that on Twitter and he responded, “HBO.” Hilarious … the pick is in for the Browns and Irvin just called Mike Evans Calvin Johnson … who the hell knows what’s coming now with the Browns … could be anybody … Lewan or Gilbert is what AS says … Gilbert it is and such a let down … Yeah, this guy is good, but he’s not Johnny Football.
6:07 — I really like Justin Gilbert’s suit. He looks fantastic. Gilbert said he had a feeling a couple days ago that Cleveland might be a landing spot for him. And his favorite player was Deion growing up. This guy seems really polished.
6:08 — Vikings pick is in and Mayock says it’s either Darqueze Dennard or Anthony Barr, which is a little early for him. I’m thinking Aaron Donald, but no one is mentioning him. Mooch likes CJ Mosley… a “Who Drafts Manziel?” graphic to the right on NFLN and the Cowboys is at 58%. If he’s gonna side, please let him go there.
6:11 — OK, we’re getting backed up as the Lions have already made their pick … Vikings take Anthony Barr, who has tremendous upside and is our first pick who isn’t in New York. He’s at home in Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif. That’s the way to do it. Big party at your house. “He has no idea what he’s doing” Mayock says. What does that even mean. That can’t be good, can it? “Exactly what you want from a top 10 pick.” Mayock contradicting himself already.
6:13 — and Barry Sanders is out to announce the Lions pick … the mic is too tall for him. He’s like Michael Dukakis. Move it down, Barry! and he thanks everyone for voting him on the cover of Madden last year. Get on with it… Lions take Eric Ebron tight end from UNC … what a day for him. He proposed to his GF on the top of the Empire State building this morning and now he’s a top 10 pick … Mayock is baffled by that. Is he locked into football or what? Wow, that offense is LOADED next year. Joseph Fauria is not dancing after this pick, either.
6:15 — this is a great spot for Ebron, I think. Big offense, they throw all the time. Lions are the new Patriots when it comes to tight ends. But honestly, what is he doing proposing? You’re about to be rich and you’re in the NFL. Parker Deay is pissed.
6:20 — Titans pick is in at #11 and it has to be a quarterback … I hope it’s Bridgwater to be honest, that would be hilarious … if we’re thinking about this logically, this is going to be Dennard or Taylor Lewan.
6:22 — Goodell’s out and it’s Taylor Lewan, the big ass tackle from Michigan… dang, Mrs. Lewan everybody. That’s some, um, yeah, upper body strength.
6:25 — So who goes to the Giants here? Has to be Zack Martin right now. Eli got sacked 8,000 times last year. They definitely need a receiver, but Odell Beckham is barely tall enough to ride the Superman at Six Flags.
6:29 — Giants take Odell Beckham. Wow! and look at that hair. He’s got the Honey Badger look going. And look at his watch. I hope that’s a rental. Irvin is loving Beckham. Here’s the question: Is Ei going to be upright long enough to throw it deep to him?
6:32 — look at the Rams and Cowboys war room as we bump to break with Manziel still sitting there waiting… and is that his sister sitting next to him? Some good genes in the Manziel family.
6:35 — Pick is in for the Rams at 13… they’ve been sending up this smokescreen that they’ve been interested in Manziel at this slot all week as Daniel Jeremiah throws out the idea of them taking Aaron Donald here, the best defensive lineman in the Draft, from Pittsburgh, which would make the Rams front line absolutely ridiculous.
6:38 — Shon Coleman, a cancer survivor who plays at Auburn out to make the pick and it’s Donald… wow. This line is insane. Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and now Donald. How on earth do you run the football against these guys. And are you passing out of a 1-step drop? I guess if you play in the toughest division in football you need to load up on defense. Have to try and stop the 49ers and Seahawks somehow.
6:39 — shot of the Rams party and the Colt McCoy is still there. “So is Elvis.”
6:43 — Bears up now and here’s Goodell … Kyle Fuller, the Virginia Tech defensive back. Bears are a boring team when Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett or Smokin’ Jay Cutler aren’t involved, so I really don’t have much to say … Steelers on the clock.
6:46 — Pick is already in and Jed York tweets that Twitter might explode … is he just stirring the pot or what? Here’s Goodell … Ryan Shazier, the all-world linebacker from Ohio St. “He looks like Charlie Villanueva” … “he’s one of the fastest linebackers I’ve ever seen come out of college football.” Thanks, Mike.
6:48 — NFLN shows Shazier running his 40 in basically his underwear and Irvin mutters “that’s a big man.” … Cowboys now on the clock at 16 and the Manziel speculation is through the roof on both channels. “I’m sure Tony Romo is loving this.” – AS
6:49 — Seriously, what is going to happen here? Honestly. Aaron Rodgers tweets that this is going to be an interesting 10 minutes. So awesome. Can Jerry Jones contain himself? “does this not prove this is greatest reality show on earth?” – AS
6:51 — Johnny’s phone is not ringing. What the hell is going to happen????
6:52 — this is so excruciatingly awesome. The suspense is killing me. AS is standing and screaming at the TVs. “what are we waitng for?! The picks is in! Ozzie Newsome has made his pick already!” Goodell is smiling as he walks to the podium. He wants it to be Johnny so badly, just like the rest of us.
6:53 — and it’s Zack Martin. What a let down. Twitter is blowing up with tweets of disappointment. Myself included.
6:57 — We still can’t believe Jerry passed on Johnny and now we’re trying to figure out where he’s going. Several teams coming up legitimately need a QB including Arizona, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and maybe Philly because of Chip Kelly, who wanted to coach him at Oregon.
7:00 — C,J. Mosely is the pick for the Ravens. And is that his dad wearing a white fedora? Maybe an uncle. That is fantastic. He’s going to be a good player. Alabama is known for producing good football players, I’ve been told. #RollTide
7:01 — so we just did some research and the only team left with a first round pick that is eligible to appear on Hard Knocks this summer is the Arizona Cardinals. Guessing Johnny goes there. Imagine the show HBO can put on with Johnny?
7:03 — Jets on the clock and the fans are readying their pipes to boo loudly whomever it is.
7:07 — I hope you’re all enjoying these shots of Manziel sitting there waiting because you’re gonna see them for the next decade… and he hasn’t said one word to his sister or his mom.
7:09 — Jets take Calvin Pryor, the safety from Louisville … “this guy is a bigger bob Sanders” says Mayock.. “that means he’s hurt already?” AS on point. This is totally a Rex move here. He’s gonna love this guy.
7:12 — We go to break with another shot of Manziel, who is seen scrolling his phone, no doubt checking Twitter and as his blood slowly boils. Whenever he’s picked he’s going to be salty in the interview. No way he saw this fall coming, even though news of it was breaking all morning. And on queue, text from Owl: “No wonder you love Johnny Football so much. Every time they show him he’s on the phone.” Well played, sir.
7:14 — a giant-headed Dan Marino is fighting the Dolphins mascot. Rich makes sure everyone at home knows it’s not the real Dan Marino. “If that was the real Dan Marino, Boomer Esiason would be right behind him telling he sucks.” I’m not allowed to say who just said that.
7:18 — Dolphins pick is in and it’s Ja’Wuan James, the big tackle from Tennessee and a few “wows” from the set. “The more tape I watch on this kid, the more I like him” says Mayock. Well there you go. We thought it was going to be Cyrus Killamanjaro.
7:19 — and the Saints have moved up into the 20 spot, swapping with Arizona, and this has to be a receiver, right? Marshall suspects that the saints want to get better on defense in the secondary and Dennard is still available.
7:23 — Saints swap picks and throw in a 3rd rounder this year (91st overall). Marshall likes Brandin Cooks here while Mayock thinks it might be Dennard. they need both positions to be honest.
7:25 — Ian Rapoport saying that Jerry Jones didn’t openly campaign to take Manziel but the room did have thoughtful discussion… and the Commish is out to announce the pick … Brandin Cooks it is… Drew Brees is very happy right now. Another weapon. Irivin compares him to Antonio Brown. We speculate that New Orleans must have thought the Eagles were taking him at 22.
7:27 — Packers on the clock and we’re thinking it’s either Ha Ha or Jace Amaro, the big tight end from Texas Tech … ESPN has something called the Bud Light Blue Room, which isn’t a room at all, it’s just Suzy Kolber on the stage and there’s no blue anywhere. Smart.
7:31 — graphic with a tweet from Mark Ingram about Johnny Manziel which is completely pointless. “great tweet Mark, you’re about a good a tweeter as you are a running back.” Also from someone in the room.
7:32 — Packers should probably take Ha Ha Clinton Dix since no one in that division can play any defense and they have to face the Bears and Lions twice who have tons of receivers… shot of the Packers war room and they’re all clapping and af ew fist bumps for Ted Thompson. They are happy. Mayock says Ted is an “old school scout.” … “And by that you mean he’s old and once went to school.” all of the jokes in here.
7:34 — Goodell is out and Dix is the pick. Well done. “He’s gonna sign his contract and then deliver caviar.” Nick Saban right there in the Chris Brockman role as Hat Guy. Seriously, Dix is amazingly dressed. Seriously, top notch. “That’s what swag is called, everybody at home.” Marshall has said swag 5 times in the last 30 seconds.
7:35 — maybe the tweet of the night from Jon Heyman about Dix.
7:37 — quick switch to ESPN and Gruden is going crazy at the thought of Andy Reid taking Johnny Manziel at 23.
7:40 — AND WE HAVE A TRADE!!! The Browns have moved up to 22 and swapped with Eagles here. Room thinks it’s Bridgewater… Mayock thinks it’s Cyrus Killamanjaro (I know that’s not his name, relax)… “the Dawg Pound will be celebrating if it’s Johnny Manziel.” Swapped picks and added a 3rd rounder this year (83rd overall)… this is going to be a boring pick. I just know it.
7:42 — and here we go … JOHNNY CLEVELAND!!!!!!!!!!!
7:43 — Johnny was the 22nd pick. So was Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden and Tim Couch wore #2. I’m not sure what that means but if anyone can break the curse it’s JFF.
7:46 — I’m the biggest Browns fan next season. And Sicliano is going nuts right now. He just pulled out his Tim Couch jersey and I’ve convinced him to put tape over it. “I’m gonna pour my heart out for this team and this organization.” Johnny is going to kill it in Cleveland.
7:48 — “I’m gonna bring excitement wherever I go.” Yeah you are, Johnny. Wow, look at this guy. He’s a freaking Beatle.
7:51 — Everything after this is the air out of the balloon… as Goodell comes out to announce Dee Ford, who said he was better than Clowney at the Combine, to the Chiefs.
7:57 — Bengals are up at 24 and take Dennard as Abrams punches the couch, hoping he’d be there at 25 for his Chargers. Great value. Didn’t think he’d fall that far.
7:59 — approaching the 3-hour mark of the draft and the Chargers pick is already in … Rapoport and DJ are saying the Browns aren’t done making moves and that they might move back into the first round to take possibly Marqise Lee. Browns aren’t screwing around.
8:02 — getting word of a great Scott Fujita tweet about having a condo to rent or sell Johnny. That’s awesome… and we get out first couch shot of Derek Carr and his girlfriend at home waiting. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
8:03 — Chargers take Jason Verrett who is tiny and dressed like a mortician but he can play and has a ton of hair.
8:05 — Siciliano is on the phone with his dad trying to talk him into the Johnny pick. Words being said over and over again: “gamble” “wow factor” “exciting”… AS might as well be working for the Browns PR department right now.
8:10 — Eagles take Louisville defensive lineman Marcus Smith, and camera cuts to a distraught Eagles fan as Mayock says the fan “has no idea who he is,” while then saying it’s a great pick and addresses a need.
8:12 — Cardinals up now, who traded down … gotta think Bridgewater and Carr are in play right now.
8:14 — cameras following Manziel throughout the Radio City doldrums like it’s Goodfellas at the Copa. Great shot. And he gives Brandin Cooks a hug. That’s awesome. Can the Browns do Hard Knocks next year?
8:16 — Cardinals take Deone Bucannon, which elicits a few groans and is definitely a reach, but that sures up their secondary big time. AFC West loading up on defense. Shot of the Cards party: “all of those fans bought their jerseys this morning.” NFL Media fantasy editor Michael Fabiano has 60k more followers than the official Cards account, by the way.
8:18 — Panthers on the clock and what are they waiting for. Get up there and take Marqise Lee .. ok good, here’s the commish … Kelvin Benjamin! Wow, there you go. I like this guy. He’s enormous. Reminds me of Marques Colston. “now you get a guy who’s area code is the catching range… reminds me a lot of Brandon Marshall.” Well then, high praise: “could be one of the biggest steals in this draft.”
8:20 — Patriots on the clock at 29 and Jace Amaro is available… or will they trade down AGAIN? Need to get somebody for Tom Brady or maybe some defensive line help.
8:25 — the Patriots have kept their pick and I’m shocked … Dominique Easley, defensive end from Florida is the guy. NFLN has a bio board and it’s noted he’s had not one, but two ACL surgeries. Awesome. It’s not enough the Pats have two old guys on the d-line, now they have one with bad knees. Uninspired.
8:29 — 49ers pick is in at 30 … fans are going NUTS at the their draft party …
8:32 — Jimmie Ward is the pick and Mayock immediately says “wow” and thought he was a second or third round pick… they are not surprisingly less NUTS at the 49ers party.
8:37 — Two picks to go and Mayock is praising Cleveland and what they did tonight: “give them credit for moving up and down the board and getting great value.”
8:38 — Broncos take Bradley Roby the defensive back from Ohio St. There’s some jokes here about some off-the-field issues between the front office and the player, but I’m not going to make them.
8:39 — also it’s been more than 3 hours and we still haven’t seen Blake Bortles’ girlfriend. Is she OK? Do I need to fly to NYC and find her? I’m willing to do whatever it takes here.
8:42 — and the Vikings have traded up to 32 and the guys are guessing they’re taking Bridgewater. It’s either him or Carr. Definitely a quarterback here.
8:45 — OK, here we go, Goodell out for the last time tonight … Vikings take Bridgewater … “you don’t have to come back tomorrow, that’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you,” the room says. Good for this kid. Seems like a genuine great kid. Poor pro day made him slip, but still a first rounder… Mayock saying he needs to get stronger but has good intangibles … “loves the game of football.” Me too.
8:46 — this just in: 25% of the first round picks are from Florida. I’ll give you one guess who Tweeted that out … thought Bridgewater would be there for Houston to start the second round, but good job by Minnesota to go up and get a starter… here’s Deion with Teddy: “made my mind up were gonna live in the moment and be anxious for nothing.” well done.
8:48 — OK, that’s gonna do it from here. Very fun start to the 2014 NFL Draft. Definitely a few surprises and of course, we were all captivated by Manziel falling but a lot of good stuff happened tonight. Cleveland made themselves better, for once Jerry Jones did the smart thing and Houston took the best player. Minnesota also helped themselves, as did St. Louis. And I hope you’re ready Rock City, Johnny Football is coming. Once again, no running backs were taken in the first round, and no player from USC or Miami, as their grip on this process loosens slightly. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the weekend brings.
LOS ANGELES — We are a mere hours away from the start of the 2014 NFL Draft, which kicks off Thursday night in primetime from Radio City Music Hall. As customary, rumors are flying across Twittersphere about trades and big names dropping, and teams are sending up smokescreens about who they’re interested in. But here at The Chris Brockman Website we’re not in the deception game, so we’re sticking to our word to complete our Mock Draft picks 32 to 1 as is. In case you need a refresher, here’s who our Draft Guru Shawn Bradley had slated for picks 11-32.
And now, as promised, Shawn’s Top 10.
10.) DETROIT LIONS — ERIC EBRON, TE, North Carolina
The Lions seem hellbent on adding another big-time receiving option to help keep eyes off of Calvin Johnson. Detroit’s new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi comes from New Orleans and is likely anxious to give Matthew Stafford a Jimmy Graham-type target. Like Graham, the 6-foot-4 Ebron is much more receiver than tight end, so expect him to line up all over the field while the re-signed Brandon Pettigrew handles in-line blocking duties.
9.) BUFFALO BILLS — JAKE MATTHEWS, T, Texas A&M
Doug Marrone gambled on E.J. Manuel last year, and for that bet to payoff Buffalo needs to keep it’s young signal caller healthy. After watching Manuel suffer through an injury-plagued rookie season, the Bills should be thrilled if the Draft’s most NFL-ready tackle falls into their laps. Matthews has All-Pro bloodlines and he might force Buffalo to move Cordy Glenn over to the right side immediately.
8.) MINNESOTA VIKINGS — BLAKE BORTLES, QB, Central Florida
Minnesota isn’t bringing in Bortles for a pre-Draft visit and they won’t be working him out privately either – the Vikings doth protest too much, methinks. Through this smokescreen it’s easy to see that the 6-foot-5, 232-pound Bortles is the type of quarterback Norv Turner would love to get his hands on. Like Manziel, expect Mike Zimmer to keep Bortles on the bench behind Matt Cassel until the playoffs become out of reach.
7.) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS — JOHNNY MANZIEL, QB, Texas A&M
Lovie Smith is really not a Mike Glennon guy. Josh McCown has already been anointed the starter which will allow Manziel to redshirt for a season. Under minimal pressure to win in his first year with Tampa Bay, Smith appears poised to completely remodel the Buccaneers roster before handing the keys over to Johnny Football in 2015.
6.) ATLANTA FALCONS — GREG ROBINSON, T, Auburn
Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff has let everyone know he’s ready to trade up but landing this mammoth mauler with the sixth selection would be a coup. Robinson will start immediately at right tackle and eventually replace Sam Baker on the blind side. Matt Ryan will be a happy man knowing he has the 6-foot-5, 332-pound brickhouse Robinson protecting him for the foreseeable future.
5.) OAKLAND RAIDERS — TAYLOR LEWAN, T, Michigan
Another year, another wasted top ten pick by the Raiders. The Oakland Tribune recently reported that the team somehow prefers Lewan over Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews. It’s ridiculous to select Lewan this early, so it makes perfect sense for the Raiders to do it.
4.) CLEVELAND BROWNS — MIKE EVANS, WR, Texans A&M
It’s been an ugly offseason for the Browns, and whiffing on a quarterback here could paralyze this already crippled franchise. Evans and Josh Gordon have the potential to quickly become the most intimidating receiving duo in the league, no matter who lines up under center. With Jordan Cameron and Ben Tate in the mix as well, Cleveland would suddenly have the AFC North’s most dangerous collection of offensive weaponry.
3.) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS — KHALIL MACK, LB, Buffalo
Mack appears to be the perfect fit for Gus Bradley’s defense and the Jaguars coach has been effusive with his praise of the Buffalo product. Mack should make an immediate impact as a pass rusher for a Jacksonville team that tied for last with just 31 sacks last season. Despite coming from a small school, the 6-foot-3, 251-pound Mack is universally loved by scouts and there doesn’t seem to be much concern about him transitioning smoothly from the small Mid-American Conference to the NFL.
2.) ST. LOUIS RAMS — SAMMY WATKINS, WR, Clemson
Playing in football’s most daunting division means the offensively-challenged Rams must add fire power. Protecting Sam Bradford is a priority for sure, but a quality offensive lineman might be available when St. Louis picks again at 13; a player like Watkins won’t be. Even in this absurdly deep receiver class, Watkins is clearly the most polished pass catcher and his presence should allow Tavon Austin to blossom in his second season.
1.) HOUSTON TEXANS — JADEVEON CLOWNEY, DE, South Carolina
Houston could be dumb enough to trade this pick – and if they do, the Bill O’Brien era will be a short one. The Texans must realize that pairing Clowney with J.J. Watt is the best way to combat Andrew Luck for the next decade. However, if Romeo Crennell foolishly forces Clowney play outside linebacker and drop into coverage then there will be unnecessary rookie struggles.
LOS ANGELES — I have to write about Tony Romo this week. Wow, what a game he played last Sunday against Denver. He went toe-to-toe with Peyton Manning and nearly came out victorious. Nearly. That seems to be a word we use often to describe Romo and his play. He nearly puts it all together. He nearly comes away with big victories when his team needs them the most. He nearly is among the top QBs in the league. In the offseason, when Jerry Jones signed Romo to that outrageous $108M contract, Jones said he wanted his quarterback to be more like Manning. He meant this in terms of being a complete football guy. Putting in the extra hours in the film room, working out, running routes with his receivers. Romo even went out of his way bypass his annual attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open this summer. And look, it’s shown. Romo has been out of his mind this year. He’s second in TD passes (13), INTs (2) and passer rating (114.3), and third in completion percentage (71.8%) but yet the Cowboys are only 2-3. Why is this? Is it all on his shoulders? When you get paid nine figures it all goes on you whether it’s your fault or not. Team can’t run the football? Who cares, you’re getting $100M. Defense can’t get off the field? BFD. You’re getting paid $100M. The NFC East is primed for Dallas’ taking and it’s up to Romo to take it.
Let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (record: 0-5) (last week: 32) — For a second, didn’t you think Jacksonville might pull off the upset against St. Louis? And Justin Blackmon, nice wheels.
31.) New York Giants (0-5) (30) — This is getting ugly with the Giants. Real ugly.
30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) (31) — So now McGlennon (as Warren Sapp calls him) is the captaining the pirate ship. I’m guessing a lotta turnovers and handoffs to Doug Martin (my pick to win the rushing crown) this week against the Eagles.
29.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4) (29) — Who woulda thought that Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning, with four Super Bowl rings between them, wouldn’t have a win after five weeks. Sure as hell not me. And not you, either.
28.) Minnesota Vikings (1-3) (25) — Is it amusing to anyone else that three of the bottom five teams all had byes last week? Welcome to town, Josh Freeman! What week is Freeman the full-time starter? Seven? Eight?
27.) Carolina Panthers (1-3) (24) — Heard an interesting stat: Cam Newton’s top two career passing games are still his first two ever played back in 2011. You believe that?
26.) Buffalo Bills (2-3) (21) — Really feel for E.J. Manuel, but he’s fortunate his knee injury isn’t as serious as Brian Hoyer’s, who’s hit looked less severe in comparison. Can’t believe it’s gonna be Tuel Time for the next couple weeks. There is some bad NFL quarerbacking going on in a few of these cities.
25.) St. Louis Rams (2-3) (27) — If the Rams lost to the Jaguars there were going to be MAJOR problems. Now comes a winnable game against the floundering Texans. Five-hundred a real possibility and a new season.
24.) Oakland Raiders (2-3) (28) — I’ve always said I wanted to like the Raiders. Not sure why, maybe it’s the simplistic badassery of their uniforms, or the “Just Win, Baby” attitude, but now I have a legitimate reason with the way Terrelle Pryor is playing. As Rich Eisen likes to say, he’s a factor.
23.) Washington Redskins (1-3) (26) — Another week’s rest for My Good Friend Robert can’t be a bad thing, nor is it bad for Alfred Morris’s banged-up ribs. But now they return to play on Sunday night against a Dallas team that’s feeling itself after hanging better than maybe anyone will this season against the Broncos.
22.) Houston Texans (2-3) (14) — In our Saturday GameDay Morning meeting, the guys throw out Bold Predictions and see what sticks. Well, before Marshall Faulk settled on taking Terrelle Pryor topping the Chargers in rushing yards, he toyed with the idea of taking Matt Schaub to throw a Pick 6 for a fourth straight game. Seemed laughable at the time.
21.) Atlanta Falcons (1-4) (15) — The wheels are falling off the Falcons bus with Monday’s shocking loss to the Jets and then Tuesday’s news that Julio Jones is most likely lost for the season with a foot injury. Good thing I have Matt Ryan and Tony Gonzalez on my also 1-4 fantasy team. Oh wait.
20.) Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) (23) — The Eagles have been outscored by 24 points this season, haven’t won at home and yet are tied for the lead in the NFC East but have a big task with Mike vick on the shelf for at least this week. That’s how wide open the NFC is. It’s going to be a such a fun ride the second half of the season.
19.) Arizona Cardinals (3-2) (22) — Raise your hand if you thought the Arizona Cardinals were 3-2? My hand is not raised. I had to double check that. It seems like they’re winning in spite of Carson Palmer, who’s completed less than 60% of his passes, has a passer rating of 67.0 and has nine interceptions to only five touchdowns.
18.) Cleveland Browns (3-2) (19) — Really excited for Browns fans and the city of Cleveland. What an awesome ride the last three weeks have been. Really feel for Brian Hoyer though, who was enjoying his best go as a professional quarterback before tearing his ACL last Thursday. Highly doubt Brandon Weeden can keep it going.
17.) San Diego Chargers (2-3) (13) — If Tony Romo went Tony Romo on Sunday, then the Chargers went Chargers Sunday night against the Raiders. I mean, how classic was opening-drive interception followed by giving up a bomb for a TD?
16.) Tennessee Titans (3-2) (12) — The Amish Rifle had the Titans so close to knocking off the Chiefs but you just knew he was going to turn it over at a key moment, and lo and behold, he did.
15.) Baltimore Ravens (3-2) (18) — Impressive win last week, going down to Miami and taking care of business. Still, it’s a little concerning Ray Rice is still only averaging 2.9 yards per carry this season. Though fantasy owners have to be pleased by his two scores.
14.) New York Jets (3-2) (20) — What did I tell you about the Geno Smith roller coaster?! Wow, that was something on Monday. I officially have no clue about the Jets. They could beat the Steelers this week by 20 or lose by 10. It’s all in play.
13.) Chicago Bears (3-2) (11) — This is the Jay Cutler Era for ya; win three straight, lose two. I’m expecting another 3-game run here followed by an injury and crushed playoff hopes.
12.) Detroit Lions (3-2) (10) — Well, I guess we see how important Calvin Johnson is to the Detriot Football Lions. Still think they’re better than the Bears, though.
11.) Miami Dolphins (3-2) (7) — There’s a lot of teams in the same boat this season. Hard to tell if that boat is sailing toward Playoff Island or not. Also, Brian Hartline was at NFL Network this week and I told him how my buddy Jason took 25 minutes to take him in the 8th round of my fantasy draft. Needless to say he was flabbergasted.
10.) Dallas Cowboys (2-3) (17) — I still say the Cowboys win the NFC East and then get blown out in the Wild Card. But hey, at least they made it, right? That’s worth $108 million. Right?
9.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) (16) — Yes, there was a monsoon right as Tom Brady was going to make this trademark comeback. Yes, the Patriots trotted out a JV corps of wide receivers. Yes, they only scored 13 points. But still, the Bengals gutted out that win and look like a playoff team.
8.) New England Patriots (4-1) (6) — At the end of the day, the Patriots are still 4-1 but six points is not going to cut it. The offense has to get better and if Rob Gronkowski comes back this week, it will. Just not sure it’s enough to take down the Saints.
7.) Green Bay Packers (2-2) (9) — Would’ve liked to have seen the Packers blow out the Calvin Johnson-less Lions but a win is a win is a win. If they can run the football a little better, Green Bay should contend in the action-packed NFC.
6.) Indianapolis Colts (4-1) (8) — Rich Eisen was on Dan Patrick Thursday morning talking Top 10 NFL quarterbacks and didn’t want to put Andrew Luck in there. I would have him in there. He’s damn good. And this is a damn good football team.
5.) San Francisco 49ers (3-2) (5) — Colin Kaepernick had just six completions and the 49ers routed Houston. Not sure if that says more about the state of the Texans or how potent this San Francisco offense is when clicking on all cylinders.
4.) Kansas City Chiefs (5-0) (4) — The Chiefs faced a little adversity on Sunday on the road, and when the going got tough made the plays needed to remain unbeaten. Of course, they were playing against the Amish Rifle, so yeah, maybe it wasn’t that impressive.
3.) Seattle Seahawks (4-1) (1) — If the Seahawks had pulled another comeback win on the road I would’ve been very shocked. As it were, they suffered their first loss and are no longer The Man.
2.) New Orleans Saints (5-0) (3) — The Saints have reached the point where there’s no chance I’m ever picking against them. Zero. They are in full-out Eff You Mode and I like it. Even though Sean Payton strikes me as that annoying frat guy who’s always gets hammered and runs his mouth about how rich his daddy is.
1.) Denver Broncos (5-0) (2) — We know how good Peyton Manning is, but the biggest question the remainder of the season will be can that defense get stops when needed. We’ll find out next week when Von MIller returns from suspension.
LOS ANGELES — Wow. What a Week 1 in the National. Football. League. Hey, what do you think Ryan Seacrest? Cool. Seriously, though, it had stunning plays, fantastic finishes and rousing introductions to the league, it’s hard to believe we went seven months without football. Seriously, it’s almost as if the epic Super Bowl 46 and Ray Lewis’s final cry were an eternity ago, and combine that with what seemed like an offseason cloud that would never lift. But lift it has, and the 2013 NFL season couldn’t be off to a more amazing start.
When I last left you here at the “You’re The Man” rankings back in February, I asked questions each team should be thinking about heading into the offseason, along with their final rankings. Now, as we head into Week 2, I’m going to give you their rank along with how they answered my question plus one more to think about as we embark on 22 weeks of pure football bliss.
As always, these are scientifically proven and 100% accurate. Now let’s find out who’s The Man.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (2013 record: 0-1) (2012 final YTM ranking: 32) — Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t get paid and Shad Khan didn’t bring in Tim Tebow, which means you can bet MoJo will be doing the Eisen Podcast End Zone Dance for another team next year while Blaine Gabbert continues to throw interceptions for the worst dressed team in the NFL. Seriously, how bad are those helmets? Burning Question: How do they get worse? Honestly, what do they do for an encore, sign that 9-year old girl from the YouTube videos last year to return kicks? Wait, that might actually work.
31.) Cleveland Browns (0-1) (26) — Brandon Weeden has some great AARP insurance because it guaranteed him the starting job this season, and would you believe the help he and Trent Richardson were seeking actually came? Maybe it’s because I watched two Browns preseason games and they looked above average, or maybe I got drunk listening to Bernie Kosar during the broadcasts. Burning Question: Every year there’s a team that surprises, could the Browns be this team?
30.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) (16) — If you want to stop explosive passing offenses you go out and trade for a guy like Darrelle Revis. Or you just go get the man himself. Now, whether or not he’s 100% healthy is another question, but in the NFC South, the Bucs are the only team who improved defensively. That’s a start. Burning Question: Josh Freeman was all over the map in Week 1; if Tampa Bay wants to be a player, he needs to be consistent and consistently great. Jury’s out.
29.) Oakland Raiders (0-1) (30) — Well, it’s always nice to start the column off with a correct prediction, like I did in accurately guessing Carson Palmer would be let go in favor of Terrelle Pryor. What I didn’t anticipate is Matt Flynn crapping down his pants in the process after being given the keys to the… wait, what kind of car would the Raiders be? I’m thinking the burnt out minivan Thomas Kubb has to drive at the end of “Project X” (awesome movie). But hey, at least he had wheels. Burning Question: At what point this season will Darren McFadden just say “eff it” and stop showing up for work? Week 6? 10? 2?
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) (15) — The Steelers thought they found some running help, then Le’veon Bell got hurt and is out six weeks. Now, their most important offensive player not named Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season, after Maurkice Pouncey’s knee injury in Week 1 vs. Tennessee. Burning Question: A team without an identity heading into the season, Pittsburgh’s back is against the wall immediately. What team will emerge from the smoke as the season rolls on?
27.) Carolina Panthers (0-1) (17) — So the Panthers went out and kept their roster basically the same as 2012 and what happened, Cam Newton had his lowest total yardage output of his career in Week 1. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Burning Question: This is something to monitor as the beginning of the season moves on, because Steve Smith isn’t getting any younger and faster.
26.) New York Jets (1-0) (27) — Turns out Mark Sanchez got irrevocably broken sooner than I anticipated. But for the second year in a row, the Jets did Sanchez dirty (see what I did there) by bringing in another quarterback while at the same time pledging he was the man. He’s never been the man. Ask me point blank and I can’t tell you why I feel bad for Sanchez, I just do. He didn’t deserve all this. He could’ve been a fine NFL backup for a dozen years. Sadly, I think he’s out of the league in two. Burning Question: How exactly will Rex Ryan go down? Will it be guns blazin’ “Desperado” style? Will it be quietly in his sleep? Will there be a bloody horse head? Will he choke on a Krispy Kreme? I just hope it’s broadcast live on NFL Network.
25.) Minnesota Vikings (0-1) (12) — It’s almost as if the Vikings read my column back in February, because they went out and signed Greg Jennings and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson to be pass catchers for Christian Ponder. But in Week 1 they were hardly effective. And after a 78-yard jaunt on his first play, Adrian Peterson was held to 17 yards on 15 carries. Get used to this, Vikings fans. Burning Question: It’s still all about Ponder for the Vikings. If he can develop and make teams respect the pass attack, this will be continue to be a playoff team.
24.) Buffalo Bills (0-1) (23) — The Bills were 7 seconds away from beating the Patriots, and the Dolphins took care of Cleveland in Week 1, which means Bills fans have something to be encouraged by. However, CJ Spiller was held in check and failed to show anything really of what made people think last season he could be a superstar in this league. EJ Manuel, however, now there’s something Bills fans should be encouraged by. Burning Question: Will Manuel be the guy this season and make Buffalo forget about Fitz, Trend Edwards, Rob Johnson, and all the other jamokes it trotted out behind center since No. 12 hung ’em up?
23.) San Diego Chargers (0-1) (22) — Do you think Norv Turner watched the Monday night game? Let’s say that he did. What do you think his range of emotions were? Kinda like Deb on “Dexter” I’m guessing. In the end, Norv got the last laugh after the Chargers choked away what would’ve been a pretty big statement win to start the year. Now who do you blame? Philip Rivers? Burning Question: Will Manti Te’o get himself a real-life girlfriend this year? I hope that’s reported on to no end like we all did his fake one.
22.) Arizona Cardinals (0-1) (28) — Bruce Arians decided on his quarterback and the name he pulled out of his Kangol hat was Carson Palmer. I’ll let you make your own joke. I actually think the Blonde Bomber could have a big season and no, he didn’t pay me to say that. Burning Question: Will we see the Larry Fitzgerald of old this year or did the year’s of gawd-awful quarterbacking suck the superstar blood from his veins?
21.) St. Louis Rams (1-0) (21) — Tavon Austin might not be a huge, household name as we head into Week 2, but it was a splash, and a potentially explosive one for Sam Bradford and that Rams offense. Austin wasn’t showcased at all in the preseason and exactly how he’ll be used is something everyone is watching for. Burning Question: Is Sam Bradford going to finally show he was worth of that #1 pick back in 2010?
20.) Tennessee Titans (1-0) (25) — The Titans kept Chris Johnson and his 1,200 yards around this year and people are predicting a comeback season for CJ. Looking at his stats, he’s never had a sub-1,000 yard season, which is pretty amazing. You wonder how much he has left in that tank. Burning Question: What will the Titans get out of Jake Locker this season and can he be a franchise quarterback?
19.) Detroit Lions (1-0) (24) — I don’t think anyone on the Lions got arrested this offseason (though league-wide odds would say otherwise) so that’s a good start, but this team is still full of knuckleheads and it begins with the head coach. Burning Question: Matthew Stafford got a boatload of cash this offseason for his 17 career wins; does he improve from the chubby gunslinger to elite status to carry his team?
18.) Miami Dolphins (1-0) (20) — The Dolphins went and out signed Steelers big-play receiver Mike Wallace to catch the ball from Lauren Tannehill’s husband but that didn’t stop No. 11 from saying the media should “ask the coach” after the game as to why he wasn’t more involved in the offense. Uh oh. Burning Question: Do they have enough defense to stop the Patriots and win the AFC East?
17.) Kansas City Chiefs (1-0) (31) — Here’s the funny thing, even I’ve talked myself into being a Chiefs fan. I’m almost ready to pick them to win the AFC West. Unlike most, I don’t think Denver can repeat 2012 and San Diego/Oakland are completely inept. Burning Question: How much weight will Andy Reid put on this season? OK, a serious question: will Jamaal Charles carry the ball on consecutive plays?
16.) Indianapolis Colts (1-0) (9) — The Colts picked up right up where 2012 left off, meaning Andrew Luck had to lead them from behind to victory, against the hapless Raiders, no less. Indy didn’t get any better on defense so look for Luck to have a lot of games like Week 1. Burning Question: Peyton Manning made a huge leap in his second year in the league; can Luck do the same and a repeat playoff berth as well?
15.) Washington Redskins (0-1) (10) — In the first half against the Eagles, it looked as if My Good Friend Robert hadn’t run or played football in quite some time; which he hadn’t. He either a) shouldn’t have been out there or b) should’ve played some in the preseason. His health is paramount. Burning Question: Will Robert stay quiet this season (the opposite of his M.O. this offseason) and let his superb play do the talking?
14.) Baltimore Ravens (0-1) (1) — It isn’t exactly clear who replaced Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Dannell Ellerbe, or even Dennis Pitta and Anquan Boldin, but they still have the hardware and every team this year is going to give the Ravens their best. That is a fact. Burning Question: When the Ravens get behind in games, much like they did in Week 1, who is going to be their go-to guy to bring them back? Bueller?
13.) New York Giants (0-1) (14) — As it turns out, consistency is not for sale at any price, though Tom Coughlin probably wishes there was a price tag attached so he would at least know what it might cost him. You saw the famed Giants roller coaster on full display Sunday night in Week 1 vs. the Cowboys. Six, count ’em, six turnovers but yet there they were, a final drive touchdown away from victory. Get used to it. Burning Question: In the wake of Andre Brown’s injury and David Wilson pissing down his leg for the second straight season opener, what will New York do at running back to compliment Eli Manning? ‘Cause they have to do SOMEthing.
12.) New Orleans Saints (1-0) (19) — The Saints were DFL in the NFL in defense last season and hired Rob Ryan to make them less sucky. So far, so good, holding the explosive Falcons to 17 points in a huge Week 1 win. Hey, when you hit rock bottom, there’s only two ways to go: straight up or sideways. Burning Question: Will New Orleans consistently be able to stop teams so that Drew Brees doesn’t have to score 40 a game to win?
11.) Houston Texans (8) (1-0) — There’s no boost to the secondary like adding the words “Ed” and “Reed,” however you’d like to get the Ed Reed that was making Pro Bowls and winning Super Bowls, not the one who looks better in a tux at the Oscars Red Carpet with me. Unfortunately, that’s who the Texans have at the moment. Who knows when Ed is going to play again, because he sure doesn’t. Burning Question: Could this be the beginning of the end for Arian Foster? Simmons threw out Larry Johnson’s name in his Cousin Sal podcast and it doesn’t seem that far off given how Monday night played out.
10.) Philadelphia Eagles (1-0) (29) — Not only did Chip Kelly stick with Michael Vick, but after watching what a disaster Geno Smith has turned into with the Jets, I’m sure Mr. Hurry-Up is doubly glad he didn’t trade his whole draft away to get him. This new college-style offense seems tailor made for Vick, who is flying under the radar as someone who could have a potential monster season (OK, I’m talking myself into him after drafting him in my 5th fantasy league). 2013 Burning Question: When will the first column be written saying “I told you so” about Chip’s offense never being able to work in the NFL?
9.) Chicago Bears (1-0) (13) — It seems as if the Bears are going to replace Brian Urlacher with an even better version of 2012’s Peanut Tillman. It took him all of 15 minutes to have two forced turnovers. Though rookie MLB Jon Bostic looks as if he could be the real deal. Burning Question: As always, the onus is on Jay Cutler to lead this team and be the new face of the franchise. Whether he can do it is a whole other red hot question.
8.) Green Bay Packers (0-1) (7) — Green Bay didn’t get younger or faster on defense and guess what happened? Colin Kaepernick torched them again. Oops. Packers/49ers is turning into one awesome rivalry. Burning Question: Will Aaron Rodgers score enough points this season to render the inept Green Bay defense unnecessary?
7.) Dallas Cowboys (1-0) (18) — Dallas brought in Monte Kiffin to call the defense and Bill Callahan to call the offense, leaving head coach Jason Garrett to supervise and ya know, be the head coach. While try as they might to lose it, a Week 1 win against the rival Giants is a good start. Still, gotta be weary of Tony Romo’s bruised ribs. Burning Question: Will Dez Bryant be the all-world guy we saw the last 8 weeks of last season or the dog of the first 9?
6.) Atlanta Falcons (0-1) (3) — You want to know how the Falcons improved on defense? They let John Abraham and Brent Grimes walk, and signed Osi Umenyiora. That’s it. Not sure how they stop the 49ers and Seahawks with that, let alone the Saints, Cowboys or Packers. Burning Question: Can Matt Ryan complete 4th and Goal to advance to the Super Bowl? Because Arthur Blank sure has hell didn’t pay him serious Home Depot money not to.
5.) New England Patriots (1-0) (4) — The Patriots did sign a receiver this offseason. That is a fact. They did not sign a big-play corner guy (Aqib Talib re-signed) nor did they bring in a big-time rush end. Now, if you had Game 2 as the first Danny Amendola would miss, raise your hand. I see too many hands up. Maybe my roommate was right. Who knows what the Pats are gonna do this season. Burning Question: Who will emerge as the darkhorse offensive go-to guy, since it has to be someone?
4.) Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) (11) — If “Hard Knocks” star Jay Gruden uses his Week 1 gameplan for A.J. Green in the playoffs this time around, I’m guessing the Bengals will have a different result. Dude is a beast and could be better than Calvin Johnson this season. It’s just up to Gruden and Andy Dalton to get him the ball. Burning Question: How will the Bengals handle the title role of expected greatness?
3.) Seattle Seahawks (1-0) (5) — Despite the suspensions and notoriety the Seahawks got this offseason, I still stand by them being the most complete team in the NFL, though they’re not my pick to win the Super Bowl. I also can’t recall if they bolstered their offensive or defensive lines. Go Hawks! Burning Question: What will Percy Harvin look like when he returns to the team for the final month? Will he make an impact or will it not matter at that point?
2.) Denver Broncos (1-0) (6) — Wait. Peyton Manning just threw another touchdown pass. OK, back to the column… In other news, was I really that stupid to predict a Favre-in-2010-esque season for Manning this year? Jesus. No wonder I’ve never won the ROFFL championship. Burning Question: Will Rahim Moore be able to knock down a 2nd-and-72 Hail Mary?
1.) San Francisco 49ers (1-0) (2) — Oh, you want Colin Kaepernick to stand in the pocket and beat you? No problem. You didn’t think they had a deep threat with Michael Crabtree out? How’s Anquan Boldin doing these days? Forgot how awesome that defense was? How’s Aaron Rodgers feeling this week? Burning Question: As the tape grows on Kaepernick, will someone figure out a way to stop this kid, or will he continue to wreck the whole league?
Finally, we made our picks on the Rich Eisen Podcast last week and here’s who I said would take home individual crowns:
Passing Champion: Matthew Stafford, Lions
Rushing Champion: Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, Patriots
MVP: Tom Brady, Patriots
Super Bowl: Patriots vs. Falcons
BALTIMORE — The most exciting day of the year for my college buddies and I isn’t Christmas, any of the eight days of Hanukkah or Thanksgiving. It isn’t a big movie premiere, birthday or even finally getting a date with that girl from the subway; it’s the day in the first week of August when the Retired Orangemen Fantasy Football League Draft Book arrives in the mail. It’s the very best day of the year because it means two things are in our immediate future: the upcoming NFL season, and the annual ROFFL Draft Weekend.
The ROFFL dates back to 2002 and as you guessed, consists of me and my Syracuse University buddies, along with a few stragglers we needed back in the day to fill out the league (Binghamton, Haverford and Oneonta are also represented). But it’s turned into much, much more with a website, weekly articles, a podcast, an entire Draft Weekend, trophies for first and last place, and the aforementioned Draft Book. That first season we picked our players via an autodraft, and ironically, the guy who won has never had a winning season in 12 years.
In 2003 though, it all changed when we decided to have a yearly live draft in Atlantic City. For our 10th anniversary we tore down Las Vegas (what can I say, we like to gamble) and for our 13th year we started a new tradition: holding our draft in the city of the team that wins the Super Bowl. So as it was we all packed up our magazines, ADP lists and team gear for the state where crab cakes and football are emphatically done: Maryland.
Admittedly, Baltimore wasn’t my first choice. Being a West Coast Guy now, I was rooting for San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII, but to say the Charm City was anything but a fantastic host would be a classic Barry Sanders stretch run. For the 12 of us who made the trek – Parker had to phone in from Los Angeles and Jarrett from New Jersey – it was arguably the most fun we’ve had at a Draft Weekend.
It all started with a night at Camden Yards in a suite to watch the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics but not before a few of us hit up Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, which is home to some of the rarest comic books in the world. Jason, Jay and Marc are makeshift nerds and were geeking out upon seeing the first edition Superman and Batman, as well as old action figures, movie posters and the like from pop culture throughout the years. It was a pretty amazing and well curated museum, and the history buff in me enjoyed it immensely. A couple of them even bought Avengers keychains, while I would’ve loved to have taken home an Elvis poster.
But the real reason we were there Friday night was to see some baseball, stuff our face with Boog Powell’s BBQ and announce our keepers for the upcoming season. See, the ROFFL is a 2-player keeper league and you can retain any player for you want for a maximum of three seasons; so there’s definitely some strategy that goes into who you’re keeping on a year-to-year basis. This season was the end of my time with Texans superstar running back Arian Foster, so I was forced to keep Jaguars stud Maurice Jones-Drew and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. I debated keeping Mike Wallace over Ryan since quarterback has some depth this year, and even had a plan hatched earlier in the week to wait and draft Andrew Luck and a Colts receiver, but I chickened out and made the safe play with The Mattural and the high-powered Atlanta offense.
All-in-all, the keepers went pretty much as I predicted in my mock draft, aside from Rob Gronkowski not being kept, one guy keeping Antonio Brown instead of Reggie Wayne and another keeping Ray Rice over Reggie Bush (we’re a PPR league), and so as the Orioles game went on – and they rallied for a 9-7 win thanks to a Brian Roberts’ grand slam – talk in the suite and the bar afterward turned to draft strategy. Back into the mix this season were all-world running backs Adrian Peterson, Foster, LeSean McCoy, and some studs who were not kept, such as Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Larry Fitzgerald and Stevan Ridley. As I was picking in the 8 hole, I figured to have my selection of one of the latter four, which I was completely OK with.
Before I get ahead of myself, Saturday kicked off with a trip to the smallest and most-stupidly-staffed Dunkin Donuts in the 410 and a pre-draft tour of M&T Bank Stadium, also known as the Ravens Nest (I don’t know if anyone actually calls it that, but let’s be honest, they should). Originally, I wasn’t too keen on taking a tour of a football stadium, as I’d been in a couple before, and generally speaking, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
Boy was I wrong.
Some highlites: the stadium is made with 1.5 million bricks, and if you laid them out end-to-end would cover 155 miles to Ocean City, Md.; the new-and-improved concourse wasn’t open to the public for last Thursday’s preseason game, which made us the first civilians to walk through it; our tour guide was this 70-year old named Tom who used to be a roadie for the Allman Brothers Band; a luxury suite can be yours for the cool price of $125,000 a year, which includes 28 tickets and 23/hour a day access throughout the entire year; Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti’s two-story luxury suite has bulletproof glass for when President Obama comes to visit; they have 3 jail cells in the depths and roughly kick out 150 people per game, most of them women; when John Madden used to still broadcast games for Fox and NBC, he’d drink a half case of beer before each contest and Tom said he almost got fired once for knocking a beer all over the broadcast console; our buddy Josh, who set the whole thing up and worked a year for RaveTV, wrote some of the inspirational essays that adorn the Club Level walls, which was pretty neat to see; the Ravens lockeroom is located 30 seconds from the field, whereas the visitors takes a few minutes to access. Tom made sure to let us know that’s a huge advantage come halftime.
However, the ultimate highlite of the tour was when Tom let us go on the field to run rampant like those brats in “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but not before we walked through the Ray Lewis Memorial Look At Me And All My Awesomeness Tunnel. Of course, I had to do the dance. The only thing missing was a giant heap of sod for me to throw off myself and shove down my throat, which Tom assured us Ray would do before each game after posing for a picture with the weekly sod giver contest winner. Once on the field, we went Ray Kinsela after he finally finished the Field of Dreams and stood there and soaked in what he had created. Our jaws were agape and eyes buggin’ at what we were absorbing through our sports fan pours. Now, I’ve covered many football games in my sportswriting days and even stood on the sideline next to the head coach for most of them, but I have to admit, it was pretty awesome being on a NFL field with your 10 buddies and a football. My arm isn’t what it used to be, but I turned back the clock a bit throwing touchdown passes to the guys. Oh, and I even dusted off my shoe and drained a 25-yard field goal (on my 2nd attempt). So if Justin Tucker misses any chip shots in the first couple games, I’M READY!!!!
As for the draft itself, I was more than happy to take Ridley with my first pick. I debated between him and Morris for a couple minutes, but in the end, it’s always fun to have a player on the team you root for (and one who could score 15 touchdowns this season). So instead of Tom Brady touchdown passes, I’ll be hoping receivers get tackled at the 5 and Ridley takes it in from there. The problem with my league is that most of my buddies tend to over-think and over-analyze who’s available and their potential. As has been proven time and time again, fantasy football is 98% luck and 2% setting yourself up to have good luck, so there’s roughly no difference between who you’re taking in the later rounds. Such, our draft runs insanely long, and that’s just what happened last weekend. Thankfully, there was an Orioles game going on we could peek out the windows of the B&O Warehouse behind Camden Yards (oh, did I fail to mention we drafted in the warehouse behind Camden Yards? my bad) and take in while Jason and Nick spent an episode of Ray Donovan debating between Brian Hartline and Toby Gerhart.
In the end, I was very satisfied with my top selections (MJD, Ryan, Ridley, Marques Colston, Tony Gonzalez), my defense (Seahawks) and my backups with starting potential (Roy Helu and Andre Roberts). I took a flyer on a couple sleepers (DeAndre Hopkins and Markus Wheaton) and went back to old reliable with my kicker (Sebastian Janikowski). Is this finally the year the Gregg Moore Trophy takes its rightful home at Brockman Manor? I don’t know, since an injury could squash all title hopes faster than you can pronounce Michael Hoomanawanui. The Colt .45 LA Bandits have been so close before and came up short, but with another season anew I’m hopeful, and that’s no fantasy.
LOS ANGELES — Whenever NFL Network airs old episodes of “Hard Knocks,” no matter the team, I always tune in. In addition to being fantastically produced by the NFL Films team, they are hilarious to watch with the benefit of hindsight. When the Jets cut little Danny Woodhead in 2010 you had no idea he would turn into this all-world, do-everything back for the Patriots. Nearly three years later, after New York has proven to be the buffoons of the league, the move is even more laughable. Watching the Dolphins last summer you never got the impression they would ever sniff the .500 mark or be a competent football team; you were too busy waiting patiently for any scene with Lauren Tannehill. In 2009, Chad Johnson looked like a lock for Cooperstown and his career faded quicker than the yellow enshrinee jacket. And on and on.
So, with less than 3 months until the 2013 season begins – the Hall of Fame Game between the Miami and Dallas is on Aug. 4 – here’s my wish list for teams for this upcoming season of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” (in no particular order).
Washington Redskins: They have the most dynamic young player in the league who just so happens to be coming off a horrific knee injury in Robert Griffin III, a squirrelly coach in Mike Shanahan, an owner who likes to meddle and flash his deep pockets, and a rabid, rabid fan base thirsty for a winner again. What’s not to like here?!
Seattle Seahawks: Football is back on the Pacific northwest and the Seahawks have a dynamic, rah-rah coach in Pete Carroll and some explosive players (Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice) to go with their charismatic young quarterback, Russell Wilson. Throw in the big mouth of Richard Sherman and the rest of the Boom Squad and this would be a very, very fun season of Hard Knocks.
Atlanta Falcons: I was pulling for them to be the choice last season, as the Falcons were a team on the rise, a thought confirmed as they were a play away from the Super Bowl. This time around is no different. Tony Gonzalez, the greatest pass-catching tight end of all-time, is back for a final season. Matt Ryan is one of the top quarterbacks in the league, Mike Smith looks like an extra on “The Sopranos,” Roddy White is among the chattiest in the league, Julio Jones as well; not to mention Brian Banks and his struggle to get back his football life.
Arizona Cardinals: Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I think the Cardinals would be extremely entertaining over four weeks of Training Camp. Bruce Arians and his Kangol hats would bound for laughs, Larry Fitzgerald is among the worldly NFL players, Patrick Peterson, the Honey Badger, not to mention Carson Palmer and his old tired arm and perfect hair. Sounds good to me.
New England Patriots: Yes, this is a homer pick, but who wouldn’t want to see exactly how Bill Belichick and Tom Brady perform their magic; to go behind the curtain with a 3-time Super Bowl Champion as they gear up for another AFC-dominating campaign. I know I would, and if you’re honest with yourself, you are, too.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is the NFL James Bond and is now paid like a Sultan, same goes for Clay Matthews, who now has enough cashola to have a room full of FatHeads of himself. Throw in Mike McCarthy, the people of Green Bay, the young and exciting Randall Cobb, and you have the recipe for entertainment.
Philadelphia Eagles: This one makes a lot of sense. You got a rookie head coach with a pretty high profile in Chip Kelly and the hype surrounding his new offense, of course there’s Michael Vick and the “dynasty” comments he’s made in recent offseasons, add in the outspoken DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, the fans who would be bound to call into local radio to complain about the show, and I can’t see how this wouldn’t be a hit.
Buffalo Bills: A bit of a sleeper here, but think about it: Stevie Johnson is the new Chad Johnson right down to the game to back it up, they have a rookie quarterback learning the NFL game in surprise-First-Round-pick E.J. Manuel, a rookie head coach with a larger than life personality and enthusiasm for life in Doug Marrone. I’m guessing C.J. Spiller will wear a bunch of outrageous outfits, Marcel Dareus will do something ridiculous and they’ll eat a lot of wings. I hope.
San Diego Chargers: Two words: Manti Te’o.