The GOAT and The Kid

It may only be the opinion of this writer, but in my experience, no other spectacle in sports of the last 20 years has produced as many captivating stories of suspense, heartache, and triumph as the Super Bowl – and this year seems right on track to do the same.

Gone are the days of big game blowouts of the 80s and 90s, as the turn of the millennium has resulted in some of the most exciting games in the history of competitive sports. I don’t believe it to be any coincidence that since the year 2000, half of the Super Bowls played have featured Tom Brady.

Even further, it’s no coincidence that the nine previous times he’s graced the gridiron’s biggest game have been some of the greatest games ever played. The man after all, is ‘The G.O.A.T.’

It’s hard to believe that once upon a time people tried to contend that no one would ever be greater than Joe Montana, but Brady has absolutely shattered any doubt surrounding the argument. He is undisputedly the greatest to ever take to the field.

What sets Brady apart from other legends of the game is his relentless pursuit of perfection in the excellence of execution. While not as physically talented as the likes of Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson, maybe not the big arm capabilities of Drew Brees or Josh Allen, and not the mind of Peyton Manning – there is no greater competitor in sports. ‘Practice makes perfect’ is an understatement if you think you’re going to share a locker room with the man.

When you look at some of the players he’s thrown the ball to over the years, there isn’t to much to be impressed with outside of one amazing year with Randy Moss. Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, and Danny Amendola aren’t anything special. Throwing the check down to Gronk or James White, Dion Lewis, and Danny Woodhead hasn’t been to exciting either. But none the less, the style of play had worked near flawlessly for well over a decade thanks to Tom’s dedication to working with his receivers.

The amount of time he put into building trust and chemistry with his guys undoubtedly resulted in the obtaining of Lombardi trophies. By mastering the timing route, Brady always knew where and when a player was supposed to be on the field allowing him to place the ball almost without thought.

There’s an old saying that hard work with lesser talent will beat talent with lesser work, but when you put talent and hard work together the only way to be beat is if you beat yourself. But then … enter Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes is by far the most talented quarterback I have ever seen play the position, with a Brady type psyche and an Elway style playing ability. Similarly to Elway, it doesn’t matter if you know that Mahomes is going to throw the ball 9 times out of 10, he will find a way to beat you EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

And even more amazing, we’re only scratching the surface of finding out what Mahomes is capable of. No other player in his first three years as a starting quarterback has both a MVP and a Super Bowl win, and before this year is over he very well could double both of those categories.

With Kansas City going into Sunday -3.5, it’s clear that the oddsmakers are favoring the up and coming kid over the GOAT.

And while there is plenty of hype surrounding the idea of Brady passing the torch down to the next generation, I think its a fair point that we’ve seen other players we would have assumed to become the next GOAT. Dan Marino is still the only quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl in his rookie season. After being crushed by the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, Marino would never return to the big game (And yes, he was crushed – ‘Laces out Dan’ is just a work of fiction.)

Russel Wilson is the other quarterback who joins Brady and Mahomes as the only to lead their team to a Super Bowl twice in his first three seasons as starter, and after winning in the first trip to the big game, I think we all remember how the second effort went. Wilson has yet to lead the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl or accumulate any MVP awards, in fact not even a single MVP vote.

I think this Super Bowl will be a humbling experience for Mahomes regardless of the outcome. It’s a known fact that it’s incredibly difficult to get to a Super Bowl, requires an insane amount of effort to win a Super Bowl, and it’s nearly impossible to repeat as champion – as we’ve only seen it to have occurred one time in this century.

My gut feeling is that Mahomes and the Chiefs must be mentally exhausted at this point. Reflective in their record against the spread this year as they went 7-9 against the spread and only covered once during the second half of the season.

While they’ve continued to find ways to win, this stat becomes concerning as it simply means the Chiefs have not been living up to the expectation set for them as the reigning champs. It should also be noted that the Chiefs at times struggled (albeit without Mahomes for portions of the game), against a Browns team that had not been to the playoffs since 2002 and was led by an inconsistent young QB and first year head coach.

They also allowed themselves to fall behind by nine against the Bills, led by another young QB/Coach duo and a franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs in 25 years!

The story may be different for the Chiefs this Sunday if they underplay against the Buccaneers. With only a 3-point spread, it’s almost certain that failure to meet expectations will result in a defeat. Synonymous with the Brady-Belichick era in New England, Brady knows how to make teams pay for their inability to execute and it’s almost guaranteed he’ll put his team in a position to win.

Of course there are other factors that will play in to the outcome of the game – I do not trust Tampa’s secondary to be able to keep up with the speed of the Chiefs skill players. Plus, with Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s ability to generate pressure with a 4-man rush, the Bucs OL will have a challenge in keeping Brady upright.

But, if the game truly becomes the spotlight of two great quarterbacks, the legend and the prodigy – I would never bet against Brady’s ability to find a way to win. My man’s been winning Super Bowls since before Mahomes was old enough to play tackle football and in a tightly contested game, I think he does it again.

Brady fanboy or not, my prediction …

Buccaneers – 33

Chiefs – 31

Tom gets his seventh.

Enjoy the Game!

2020 Sports Awards: The Game, Athlete and Achievement of the Year

Let’s be honest – 2020 was the absolute most unpredictable, craziest year of all of our lives. For a moment, let’s stop and look back at the year that was in sports.

Where do I even begin? 2020, sports wise, was a year of unpredictability – the world stopped, lives were changed and priorities shifted.

Somehow, all the major leagues found ways to finish their seasons. That’s a remarkable achievement in it’s own right, as they provided us with amazing moments through the darkest of times.

The sports world as a whole deserves an award for simply continuing on, but certain teams, athletes and leagues impacts were felt above all. Let’s take a look at 2020’s best.

Game of the Year: Ravens def. Browns 47-42

This game simply had it all. On a year where Monday Night Football drew the short-end of the primetime stick, they got lucky with this legendary game.

Lamar Jackson running off the field, twitter going wild with bathroom conspiracies – only for the reigning MVP to return to the field and win the game for the Baltimore Ravens.

It was a memorable duel between two division rivals, and fittingly, fans were allowed in. It would’ve been a shame for the game of the year to go on in-front of an empty stadium.

It’s a game where the highlights will be shown for years to come, much like 2018’s shootout between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.

There aren’t many football games that evoke that kind of emotion.

Honorable Mentions: Mavericks-Clippers (Luka GW); Lightning-Blue Jackets (5 OT); World Series Game 4

Athlete of the Year: LeBron James

It couldn’t have been anybody else.

LeBron James did more in 2020 than any other athlete alive.

He was a voice for the voiceless during the social justice movement. He won his fourth and perhaps most important championship – carrying the memory of Kobe Bryant with him throughout the entire playoffs.

What LeBron did this season is the stuff that legends do – when times are the toughest, when things are at their most bleak, they turn around and face it head on, and in the end .. they come out on top.

LeBron James came out on top of 2020. A remarkable year for The King.

Honorable Mentions: Patrick Mahomes; Mookie Betts; Jimmy Butler

Greatest Achievement: The Way the NBA Handled COVID-19 & The Social Justice Movement

The National Basketball Association proved to not just the sports world, but the entire globe that they’re the top run league with how they handled everything thrown at them this year.

They were trailblazers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – the first league to postpone their season, and the league that came up with the greatest solution: The Disney Bubble.

The bubble was a resounding success, providing fans with great basketball and a satisfying conclusion in a safe, controlled environment. The fact that they proved you could finish a season during a pandemic through groundbreaking protocols was history making.

Then, when players voices needed to be heard more than ever before, the NBA provided them with a platform to do so.

Names on the back of jerseys, commercials helping people to register to vote, and millions of dollars in donations are just a few ways in which players helped move the social justice movement forward. Instead of silencing their athletes, the NBA embraced them more than ever – something that has had a huge impact.

The way the NBA handled everything thrown their way in 2020 was a masterclass in how to run a league, and that’s why it’s the greatest achievement of 2020.

Honorable Mentions: NHL Bubble; Dodgers Title Run; NASCAR Season

The Bengals Questionable Offseason

The 2-6-1 Cincinnati Bengals were up by two against the 2-7 Washington Football Team with a little over eleven minutes left in the third quarter. The Bengals were a half of football away from getting their third win of the year, and a big morale boost as well. Then, every single Bengals fan’s worst nightmare occurred.

Joe Burrow hit the ground once again – and immediately clutched his leg – and did not get up. The cart came out, and fans expected the worst. Shortly after, tweet by Burrow all but confirmed his season was done. Monday afternoon revealed he had torn both his ACL and MCL.

To blame the Bengals offensive line, front office, coaching, or anyone is irresponsible. Quarterback injuries are uncommon in general, and contact ACL injuries are even more rare. Russell Wilson, Carson Wentz, and Daniel Jones have all been hit or sacked more times than Burrow has this season. But – anyone who has watched a Bengals game this year has had the same thought. Joe Burrow needs protection BADLY.

Even with a porous offensive line, Burrow has shown why he was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. Yet the question remains, why was Burrow in this position in the first place?

Sure – first overall picks are usually in bad situations, but Burrow has absolutely no help up front. What were the Bengals doing this offseason?

The first place to start is on December 22nd, 2019. Week 16 of the 2019 NFL season.

The 1-14 Bengals were traveling to the 3-11 Miami Dolphins. With a little over eight minutes left in the third quarter, the Dolphins were in the driver’s seat, up 28-6 with victory clear in sight. Some Andy Dalton heroics occurred shortly after, and the game ended up going to overtime tied at 35-35, with Dalton throwing four touchdowns in the final eighteen minutes.

Regardless, a Jason Sanders field goal won the game for the Dolphins, and officially clinched the Bengals the number one pick in the NFL draft. The Joe Burrow Bengals jerseys being custom made by fans went from dream, to reality.

With the number one pick practically locked in months before the draft, the next step for the Bengals would be to improve their roster as much as possible for their quarterback of the future.

The offensive line wasn’t a priority, as Dalton had around the league average sacks and QB hits in 2019. Yet, the Bengals cut both their left tackles, Cordy Glenn and Andre Smith, beforethe 2020 season. They also let guard John Miller walk to the Panthers.

They kept their left guard, Michael Jordan, even though the lineman played nothing like the superstar with the same name. Their 2019 center and right tackle, Trey Hopkins and Bobby Hart, also returned – but neither has played well. Hart was moved inside to allow 2019 first round pick, Jonah Williams, to play – who has actually been good.

The Bengals thankfully had draft capital, and a ton of cap space to build up their roster. Yet, what they did to help Burrow transition to the NFL was spend on the other side of the ball.

Free agent defensive tackle DJ Reader was given a $53 million dollar contract over four years. Reader played five games at a subpar level before getting injured, and missing the rest of the 2020 season.

Trae Waynes was given a three year, $42 million dollar contract, but has yet to play.

Vonn Bell was given a three year, $18 million dollar contract, and has played terribly.

They paid free agent left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, then he got injured in September and also has not played. So, with the bulk of the Bengals cap space used on defensive players, it was evident that any offensive additions would need to be done in the draft.

The Bengals would obviously use their first pick on Burrow, and then they surprised many by taking Tee Higgins with their second pick. Higgins has played well, and was a smart choice if you believe another weapon would help Burrow. It’s after this pick the Bengals draft becomes confusing.

With their third pick, the Bengals drafted an inside linebacker, Logan Wilson. Wilson has not been great, and that choice looks worse when you see that guard Damien Lewis went a few picks later, and he has been great.

Then, in the fourth round, Cincinnati took outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, who has been terrible for them with only one start this season. Tackle Saahdiq Charles was taken with the following pick, and while he has not played due to an injury sustained in his first start, you have to wonder if he would have helped more than ADG has.

Entering the fifth round, the Bengals decided to keep the same formula, as they then took edge rusher, Khalid Kareem. Kareem has not played well for the Bengals, and only played following DJ Reader’s injury.

Two picks following Kareem was guard Danny Pinter, who would’ve certainly been an upgrade for this Bengals roster.

Three picks over two days, and the Cincinnati front office decided to just continue acquiring more and more defensive players, as if they hadn’t done the exact same thing in free agency months prior. While these moves do not directly lead to Burrow’s injury – as it was a freak occurrence that could happen to anyone on any play – you have to wonder why the Bengals just ignored their offensive line.

Thankfully for the Bengals, they have a clear shot at the second or third overall pick, and will probably take Oregon’s stud, Penei Sewell, to be their franchise LT for years to come. But until then, Bengals fans can only hope Joe Burrow comes back at 100% – both physically, and mentally.

2020 NBA Draft: Official Myla Mock

2020 has been a year like no other in NBA history. From the season being suspended, to the bubble in Orlando – many crazy things have happened. Thanks to Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA staff, we still got the see big events like the NBA Playoffs, Finals, and Draft Lottery. Now, it’s time for the biggest moment of the offseason – the 2020 NBA Draft.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves – Anthony Edwards (Georgia, SG, Freshman)

This pick could be on the move, with the Timberwolves trying to contend now after acquiring D’ Angelo Russell in February. If the pick stays with Minnesota, I think they will go with Georgia’s Anthony Edwards. Edwards is a 6’5″ guard at 225 pounds, with great explosiveness. He’s a three level scorer, who can also play off the ball. On the other hand, he’s a streaky shooter, and his defense is a question mark – but his offensive talent is way too good to pass up. The big three of KAT, D-Lo and Edwards should be enough to compete in a very tough Western Conference.

2. Golden State Warriors – James Wiseman (Memphis, C, Freshman)

Another pick that could also be on the move, with the Warriors finally getting back to full heath now with Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry getting healthy. If the picks stays with the former dynasty, I think James Wiseman is a great fit with the Warriors. He’s got the perfect size for a center at 7’1″ 240 lbs, and he’s got great athleticism for someone of his size, a great skill set, and can block shots well.

3. Charlotte Hornets – LaMelo Ball (Australia, PG)

The Hornets have a couple solid guards in Graham and Rozier – however, they need a franchise player. Lamelo Ball would be a great pick for them. He’s a 6’6″ guard who controls the flow and pace of the game, plus his court vision is very good. He also can be a very solid defender just off his athleticism, size and IQ. He will need to become a more consistent shooter though.

4. Chicago Bulls – Obi Toppin (Dayton, PF/C, Sophomore)

I’ve seen some call Dayton’s Obi Toppin the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft. Toppin would give the Chicago Bulls a much-needed jolt of excitement as a rim runner, lob-catcher and floor spacer under their new coach, Billy Donovan. Colby White and Toppin will work well together in pick and roll plays, as I believe he can play the three, so you have Lauri at the four, and Carter at the five.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv, SF/PF)

Deni Avdija is the best prospect from Israel since Omri Cassipi. The 6’9″ forward from Israel is a very good playmaker who can score from deep. He can play off the ball as well, so he can fit in with Sexton and Garland in Cleveland. With how great Luka has been already in his career, I believe it has really changed how scouts view international prospects.

6. Atlanta Hawks – Isaac Okoro (Auburn, SF/PF, Freshman)

The Atlanta Hawks general manager, Travis Schlenk, has a reputation of picking three and D players, with last year’s first two picks being Reddish and Hunter. In today’s NBA, you can never have enough players who can switch onto different positions and hold their own. Okoro has the tools to be an NBA wing, and has so much space to grow offensively.

7. Detroit Pistons – Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State, PG, Sophomore)

With Derrick Rose in trade talks , the Pistons will need a point guard, and Haliburton will be a good fit. Haliburton has great court vision, and with his size at 6’5″ he can defend either guard position. He has one of the highest basketball IQs in the draft and can shoot the ball effectively from deep. His shooting form is very odd, but is very effective.

8. New York Knicks – Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm, PG)

Will be this be the draft that Knicks fans remember for years? I hope so. Hayes game is very similar to D’Angelo Russell and Manu Ginobili. Both are left-handed and can create shots for themselves, and their teammates. He’s very creative with the ball, and can dominate in the pick and roll game with Mitchell Robinson. Hayes and Barrett should be a solid foundation for years to come.

9. Washington Wizards – Onyeka Okongwu (C, USC, Freshman)

Okungwu could go very high in this draft. Teams love his ability to switch on every position on defense due to his athleticism. He’s very good rebounder, and has great footwork in the post. Teams are trying to find the next Bam – Okongwu is a very similar.

10. Phoenix Suns – Devin Vassell (Florida State, SF, Sophomore)

The Suns are going all in after the CP3 trade. They’re going to need to fill out their roster with complimentary players for Booker, Ayton and CP3. Vassell has the potential to be a very good three and D player. His form is odd, and might have to change it at the next level, but he’s a very good defender and will make life easier for Booker, who can just focus on scoring.

11. San Antonio Spurs – Aaron Nesmith (Vanderbilt, SF, Sophomore)

It will take awhile to get used to the Spurs always being in the lottery. It’s clear – like the Patriots – the dynasty is over. They will need to rebuild. Nesmtih is a very good shooting wing and will fit in with Murray and Walkers game. He might be the best shooter in the draft, and he has great work ethic.

12. Sacramento Kings – Patrick Williams (Florida State, SF/PF, Freshman)

Another three and D player here for Sacramento. Sacramento has a bunch of talent, Williams will fit right in to their core of young players. He will be a complimentary piece to Fox on offense. Fox loves to drive, and when he does, he’ll find Williams in the corner for three. Williams can switch well on defense with his athleticism and height of 6’8″.

13. New Orleans Pelicans – Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama, PG, Sophomore)

With Holiday on the way to the Bucks, the Pelicans will now try and replace him in the draft. Lewis’ speed is off the charts. Using that speed, he can get to the paint without a screen, and he’s very good finisher. His shot improved continually over his time at Alabama. He will need to get bigger, as his small frame might get exposed on the next level.

14. Boston Celtics – Precious Achiuwa (Memphis, PF/C, Freshman)

Achiuwa has ideal defensive versatility. He can play center in small ball lineups, and he’s very aggressive on offense, as he loves to drive to the rim. He showed improvement, but will need to improve his shot even more at the next level.

15. Orlando Magic – Saddiq Bey (Villanova, SF/PF, Sophomore)

The Magic could very take a point guard here, but I have them taking Saddiq Bey. Bey’s a very good defender, and can shoot the three ball very well. He’s got good size for a wing at 6’7″, and his wingspan of 6’11” is great. He has a solid feel for the game and has played multiple positions. He will need to work on his jumper, as well as learning to create his own shot.

16. Houston Rockets – Aleksej Pokusevski (Olympiacos II, PF)

The Rockets gained this pick after trading Robert Covington to the Trail Blazers. I have no clue what the Rockets’ plan is after their two MVP superstars have asked for a trade, but it seems like they plan to blow it up. I can see the Rockets drafting Pokusevki here, as he does fit their current roster as a three point shooting power forward.

17. Minnesota Timberwolves – Josh Green (Arizona, SF, Freshman)

The Timberwolves are going to need a good defender. I can see them drafting Green, who can compliment the stars on Minnesota. Green has good size for a wing at 6’6″, and is a very good defender, possessing the ability to switch onto multiple positions. He’s a very capable shooter, and will make smart decisions with the ball.

18. Dallas Mavericks – Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky, SG, Freshman)

Tyrese Maxey is a versatile guard who’s a very solid scorer. He knows how to flow with the pace of the game, or change it into his favor. He’s a confident defender, but he needs to improve consistency on the offensive floor, as well as his shot sections. The Mavericks may draft a big here, but rumors are they will try to find one in free agency.

19. Brooklyn Nets – Jalen Smith (Maryland, PF/C, Freshman)

The Brooklyn Nets could have the three of the best iso scorers in the league soon. With that in mind, they will need defenders and players to rebound. Jalen Smith does that and more, to a very effective level. He can also shoot from anywhere on the floor, providing spacing on offense.

20. Miami Heat – Cole Anthony ( UNC, PG, Freshman)

There might be a chance that their point guard, Goran Dragic, leaves in free agency, and that will leave a hole at the position. Kendrick Nunn will probably take over as the starter if that happens, and Anthony will be become a very viable backup. Before the season he was expected to be a lottery pick, but Anthony still has very talented game on the offensive end, and a high ceiling.

21. Philadelphia 76ers – RJ Hampton (USA, PG)

RJ Hampton started off this year as a potential top five pick, but he fell off due to injury. At 6’5″, he can play either guard position, as well as taking the load off for Ben Simmons when he needs to rest. He’s a capable shooter, but will have to get better at that aspect off his game. He can run the floor in transition like the best of them in this draft.

22. Denver Nuggets – Jaden McDaniels (Washington, SF/PF, Freshman)

Denver has been known to take chances on draft picks before, and they’ve worked out for the most part. They took chances on players like Nikola ‘Joker’ Jokic, Michael Porter ‘MPJ’ Jr., and Bol Bol (No, that’s his real name.) To simplify it, yeah, it has worked out for them. McDaniels had an inconsistent season, but has tremendous amount of untapped potential.

23. Utah Jazz – Tyrell Terry (Stanford, PG/SG, Freshman)

Mike Conley will be on the final year of his contract this year, and the Jazz will need to find a replacement. Terry is a good shooter and a solid playmaker. He will compliment Donovan Mitchell well on the offensive side of the ball, but he will need to work on his defensive side of his game.

24. Milwaukee Bucks – Malachi Flynn (San Diego State, PG, Junior)

The Bucks have an elite starting lineup, but they have no bench. Literally, nobody. With this pick, they will draft a back up point guard to run the second unit. In the playoffs, they showed us they need another playmaker when the league MVP, Giannis, goes to the bench. Flynn is a very good shooter, and can create for others.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder – Isiah Stewart (Washington, PF/C, Freshman)

The Oklahoma City Thunder are tanking and gaining draft picks. Steven Adams will be on the move soon, and they will draft their replacement here. Stewart has great size for a center, and he can rebound amongst the best of those in this class. He can also defend the post well.

26. Boston Celtics – Theo Maledon (France, PG)

There were reports of Kemba being shopped for Jrue Holiday, so maybe general manager Danny Ainge wants a new point guard. France’s Maledon has great size for a point guard, and it will help him on the defensive end of the floor. He’s also a very good shooter from the three point and free throw lines.

27. New York Knicks – Desmond Bane (TCU, SF, Senior)

Here, the Knicks will try to fix their lack of shooting with TCU’s Desmond Bane. Bane is one of the best shooters in the draft, and has range well beyond the NBA’s three point line. He’s also a terrific perimeter defender, using his physical tools and basketball IQ very well on that end.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder – Leoandro Bolmaro (Argentina, SG)

Sam Presti and the Thunder have a lot of draft capital, all the way until 2026 . They will have plenty of chances to draft low risk, high reward level players, similar to the Nuggets. Bolmaro has good size and is a very good passer, knowing how to control the pace of the game. He doesn’t have the athleticism you would like to have in an NBA player, though.

29. Toronto Raptors – Cassius Winston (Michigan State, PG, Senior)

Fred Van Vleet is an unrestricted free agent who will most likely leave Toronto, and I believe this is where Toronto plans on replacing that position. Kyle Lowry is also turning 35, so Winston will step into a big role on a good team. He’s more than capable – a very smart player who uses screens to his advantage, and knows how to take advantage of his defender.

30. Boston Celtics – Zeke Nnaji (Arizona, PF/C, Freshman)

Zeke Nnaji is a physical big who is a tremendous defender and rebounder. With that, he makes more noise on the offensive glass. For a big man, he has solid range shooting the ball, and a good hook shot. He needs to become a more consistent shooter/scorer on offense, as well as becoming a better rim protector.

No Risk, No Reward: How The Arizona Cardinals Broke The Mold With Their Rebuild

The 2018 Arizona Cardinals had all the looks of a classic NFL rebuild: highly drafted quarterback prospect, first time head coach with potential and a mix of some young and veteran talent. 

Everything was status quo, and then? They threw it all away.

Why? Because the status quo just isn’t good enough in the NFL.

The 2020 Arizona Cardinals didn’t get here by accident. Just two years removed from finishing 3-13, they’re now entering the upper echelon of teams in the NFC. A 5-2 start, wins over the undefeated Seattle Seahawks, the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers and a quarterback in MVP talks, they’re proving they belong. 

So what’s the difference between the Cardinals and teams who just can’t get their rebuilds right? (Looking at you, New York). They took risks. They threw the rule book out the window and did everything different. General Manager Steve Keim said to hell with how things are supposed to be done, and guess what, it worked.

Originally, Keim made a bevy of mistakes at his first attempt to rebuild his team. 

First, he hired Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks. Wilks may be a highly respected coordinator, but was an uninspiring head coach, to say the least.

He drafted UCLA’s Josh Rosen in the first round in 2018. Rosen was a highly regarded prospect, but right now he looks like one of the biggest quarterback busts ever. He’s currently a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad.

In the NFL, if you have the wrong coach or quarterback, you have nothing. If you miss on both, you usually don’t get another chance to fix it.

In 2019, Keim decided to throw away the rule book and change everything. He risked his job, his reputation and everything in between when he decided to burn his first attempt at a rebuild to his ground.

Instead of taking the safe route this time, he would take the road less traveled. He would take risk after risk, every decision being torn to shreds by the media and fans alike.

First, he replaced Wilks with former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury was coming off of losing his job as the head coach in Lubbock, but was ready to accept the position of offensive coordinator at USC. Keim saw the NFL changing around him into an offensive driven league, and his team needed a coach who could help his team do the same. Kingsbury was his guy.

The move was panned by almost everybody who covered the NFL and fans alike. Stephen A. Smith, of ESPN’s First Take, still stands firm in his stance to this day, stating that Kingsbury didn’t deserve the job.

Second, instead of sticking with his first round quarterback from 2018 in Rosen, he went out and drafted the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, Kyler Murray, in 2019. His detractors said he was too small, that he wouldn’t even be able to see over his offensive line – Keim still didn’t care. It was another risk he was willing to take. He was all in.

The Cardinals could’ve played it safe and stuck with their mistakes, like most teams do. They could’ve kept Wilks and Rosen together for another year, drafted Nick Bosa and tried to let them gel together.

The Cardinals would still be in the NFC’s cellar if they did that.

Teams like the New York Giants, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars have been stuck in what seems like a forever rebuild because they stick with their mistakes for too long. Dave Gettleman, Adam Gase and Doug Marrone should’ve been unemployed a long time ago.

The NFL is a results driven business – if you can’t prove your worth, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or tenth year, you can be replaced. The Cardinals didn’t get lucky during their rebuild, they were cognizant of their mistakes and wasted no time in fixing them. 

The bottom line? No risk, no reward. The Arizona Cardinals are a playoff team in contention to win their division. Teams that have played it safe? Only 185 days until the draft.

2021 Mock Draft 1.0

While most teams have only played 5 games this season (some playing less), it’s becoming clearer which teams are contenders and which are pretenders. Teams such as the Seahawks, Packers, Bills, and Chiefs look dominant, while others like the Giants, Jets, and Falcons are already looking ahead to April.

This mock draft is based on projected records at the end of the season by ESPN’s Football Power Index, and picks are made assuming the front office and coaching staff will remain the same as they are at the time of this article being written. While it’s obvious this won’t be the case come April, (looking at you – Dave Gettleman and Adam Gase), it’s impossible to predict what new staff’s will look at before we know who is hired. There are no trades either as those are also impossible to predict.

New York Jets – Trevor Lawrence

The Jets are bad. If you blindly threw a dart at their depth chart, odds are you’d hit a position of need. The modern NFL is offense based, and the Jets used their first pick on upgrading the trenches by taking LT Mekhi Becton. Unfortunately, the offense still stinks and it’s impossible to tell what the issue is specifically, as it’s most likely a ton of problems. Sam Darnold is not to blame for the Jets failures, but is he good enough to pass on a generational prospect at the most important position for a team? No. Darnold has had a terrible environment around him since entering the league, and he’s flashed potential, but the potential from Lawrence outweighs the potential that Darnold will suddenly become a star. Lawrence will give the Jets a clean slate for their current rebuild.

New York Giants – Penei Sewell

Danny Dimes survives .. for now. The Giants offense was average at best with Saquon Barkley. Without him, they are abysmal. Daniel Jones has been sacked the fourth most times this season, which makes it pretty difficult to move the ball. Sewell, alongside the Giants 2019 first pick Andrew Thomas, gives the G-Men a pair of tackles that Jones and Barkley can feel safe behind. While Jones might not be the quarterback of the future, it’s tough to pass on a prospect like Sewell when it fills such a huge need for the future.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Fields

Minshew Mania sadly comes to an end. While Gardner Minshew is the perfect representation of what a Jacksonville QB should look like, his play is streaky and inconsistent, and with each passing week he looks less and less like the guy. The Jaguars hope to finally have their first good QB in years with Justin Fields. He would be the highest QB taken by the Jags since Blake Bortles in 2014. Jaguars fans will be elated to be able to look forward to the Fields-Chark connection for years to come.

Atlanta Falcons – Micah Parsons

Atlanta fans might be upset that they missed out on Justin Fields for the hometown story only Hollywood could write, but this ain’t that and once they watch Parsons, they’ll feel much better. The Falcons defense has been bad for quite some time now, and Parsons would be an incredible upgrade for Atlanta. He can play in coverage alongside Deion Jones, or rush the QB alongside Takk McKinley. Either way, he’ll be a positive change for the Falcons defense.

Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase

Missing out on Sewell would be a tough blow to the Bengals, as Joe Burrow is on pace to be sacked SEVENTY times his rookie year. The offensive line is the biggest positional need for the Bengals, but it’s too early to reach here and there are no trades in this mock. Fortunately for Burrow, he gets his number one receiver from LSU in Ja’Marr Chase. Chase set a single season record last year for yards and touchdowns while playing with Burrow, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue dominating at the next level. Alongside Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, the Bengals receiving corps becomes scary.

Denver Broncos – Caleb Farley

Bryce Callahan has been a serviceable cornerback for the Broncos. Besides that, there’s a large gap in talent for that group. Farley would immediately become the best corner on the team. Vic Fangio would love a corner that acts like glue in man coverage, as Denver bolsters it’s defense in a division full of potent offenses. The continued development of Drew Lock, Jerry Jeudy and Sutton on offense, while Bradley Chubb and Farley grow on defense, Denver’s young core looks quite promising.

Washington Football Team – Trey Lance

Whether you think Dwayne Haskins could be the guy or not, it doesn’t really matter. Riverboat Ron has made his judgement known and feels that Haskins time is up. While Lance is a risk since he did not get to play this season due to the pandemic, his 28 touchdown to 0 interception season last year was enough to impress front offices. He’s already declared for the draft, and is expected to be the third or fourth QB off the board next to Florida’s Kyle Trask. With Lance, Rivera gets a QB who can make plays with both his arm and his legs, as the WFT trio of Lance, Terry McLaurin, and Antonio Gibson has the potential to be the best in their division after Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles – Dylan Moses

Philadelphia is surprising most as they look flat so far this season. The offense and the defense are just not clicking, as both flail out week after week – leading to a 1-3-1 start. Nate Gerry is not meant to be a starting linebacker and it showed as Chase Claypool embarrassed him for his fourth touchdown of the day against the Eagles defense. Moses has been shaky this season, but he has the potential to be the hard hitting backer the Eagles have been missing.

Detroit Lions – Gregory Rousseau

The Lions defense is putrid and has been for awhile. They are tied for the second least amount of sacks in the league, which is sad because the only team behind them is the Titans who have played 2 less games. Rousseau can play alongside Trey Flowers and give the Lions the pass rush that they have been missing. If Matt Patricia survives this season, he’ll have a short leash, but Rousseau has the potential to help the Lions defense become the unit Patricia promised when he was hired.

Los Angeles Chargers – Creed Humphrey

Justin Herbert looks like the real deal – now, the Chargers need to protect him. They have one of the worst offensive lines in the league and their current center is not who you want protecting your franchise QB. Humphrey is a leader on the line, and as a former wrestler shows he can handle NFL caliber defenders. As someone who can help identity the middle linebacker as well, Humphrey provides multiple benefits for Herbert.

Miami Dolphins (via Houston) – Jaylen Waddle

While Devonta Smith is an intriguing option here for the Tua connection, Waddle adds a deep threat to an offense who already has a solid receiver in Devante Parker. A Waddle, Parker, Gesicki receiving corps would give Tua all the weapons he needs to succeed. The pieces are beginning to come together for Miami as they become more and more competitive.

Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II

The Cowboys secondary has struggled since Byron Jones left for Miami. Trevon Diggs has struggled so far this season and Dallas’ offense can only do so much. Surtain would immediately become the number one corner in Dallas, and help bring Dallas back to playoff contention. As the NFC East fills up with young receivers, Surtain can help limit their productivity as they face the Cowboys twice a year.

Minnesota Vikings – Marvin Wilson

The Vikings have a choice between cornerback or interior defensive line with this pick, and they go with the latter in Marvin Wilson. Wilson is an overwhelming force that alongside Ngakoue will give Minnesota the defensive trenches they need to make opposing offensive coordinator’s jobs difficult.

Miami Dolphins – Quincy Roche

After using their first pick to improve the offense, the Dolphins don’t have to look far for their next pick. Roche wouldn’t have to travel far from the Hurricanes to the Dolphins, and he’d give the Fins an edge rusher they desperately need. With a receiver and an edge rusher in the first round, Miami’s future looks pretty bright.

San Francisco 49ers – Tyson Campbell

Richard Sherman will be a free agent this offseason, and he isn’t getting any younger. After him the Niners corners drop off even more. Campbell can be an instant starter for San Fran helping their secondary while also being a positive contributor to their run defense. Having the number one defense is how they got to the super bowl, and if they want to return they’ll need some new pieces.

Carolina Panthers – Kyle Pitts

The Panthers didn’t pay Teddy to give up after one season. In an entire new scheme and offense he hasn’t looked great but he could be far worse. Pitts would give Bridgewater a new target that would make Carolina arguably the best receiving corps in the entire league. He’s been an incredible threat in Florida’s offense and alongside DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, and CMC, Matt Rhule and Joe Brady would have a plethora of weapons at their disposal.

Arizona Cardinals – Wyatt Davis

When you have a young franchise QB in Kyler Murray, you want to protect him. When he has to go against Nick Bosa and Aaron Donald a quarter of the schedule, you really want to protect him. Davis would become an immediate plug and play for the Cardinals offensive line. With more time in the pocket, Kyler will be able to do more damage by air and help Kliff Kingsbury get the offense he envisioned.

New England Patriots – DeVonta Smith

Another first round wide receiver for Bill Belichick. Julian Edelman will be 35 next season and N’keal Harry has been okay so far when healthy but besides him, the Patriots don’t have many weapons. Smith would give whoever the future QB is for New England another weapon, something New England has lacked for awhile now.

Chicago Bears – Kyle Trask

Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer. Nick Foles is probably not either. Trask would give Chicago the one position they’ve been missing in quarterback. Allen Robinson continues to get frustrated with the quarterbacks he’s had in the league, but Trask has the opportunity to change that, and finally bring Chicago to the next level.

Indianapolis Colts – Rondale Moore

The Colts receiving corps has been lackluster for a few years. They addressed it last offseason by drafting Michael Pittman but an unfortunate injury shows how little depth they have. T.Y. Hilton is on the final year of his contract and he’s getting older. Whoever the next QB in Indy is, he’ll need weapons and Moore will help provide another one.

Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Barmore

The Raiders defensive line has been lackluster. Maxx Crosby is a great edge rusher, but Clelin Ferrell has shown nothing but spurts of potential, struggling to put it all together, and free agent acquisition Maliek Collins has yet to get another going. Barmore checks off Mike Mayock’s tendency of drafting from top pedigree universities, and can provide an interior rushing force to help the Raiders run defense and pass rush.

Tennessee Titans – Rashod Bateman

Corey Davis has shown some potential finally this season, and A.J. Brown is a young stud, but Bateman would become an immediate upgrade for the Titans passing game. With Bateman, Brown, Jonnu, and Derrick Henry, the Titans will become almost impossible to game plan for.

New Orleans Saints – Paulson Adebo

The Saints window is closing quick, and the defense is falling apart once again. Janoris Jenkins is not the answer at cornerback opposite Lattimore. Adebo is a quality outside corner who can help the Saints secondary reach the level it was during the Saints past few playoff runs. After losing to the Vikings twice in the playoffs on last second touchdowns, the Saints hope adding Adebo prevents this from happening again.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pat Freiermuth

The Bucs window is even smaller than the Saints. Bruce Arians wants to give Tom all the help he can and Gronk is clearly past his prime. The Penn State tight end is a stud who will help Tom out on third down plays and in blocking. With him added to that offense, the Bucs will be virtually impossible when it’s firing on all cylinders.

Cleveland Browns – Hamsah Nasirildeen

The Browns defense is shaky outside of Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. Free agent Karl Joseph has not been that good, and Cleveland gets a shot at a complete upgrade at the safety position. Hamsah can roam around the field creating havoc, and will bring an intensity to the secondary level of the Browns defense that is much needed in the AFC North.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Alex Leatherwood

Whether Ben plays another year, or the Steelers look elsewhere for a new QB, Pittsburgh will need a strong offensive line to let their plethora of weapons go to work. Leatherwood is an immediate plug and play on the line and can help in the trenches battle.

Los Angeles Rams – Dillon Radunz

Jared Goff, like most quarterbacks, is at his best in a clean pocket. During the Rams superbowl run they had one of the best lines in the league as Gurley burst free for huge gains and Goff picked apart defenses under the instruction of Sean McVay. Then the Rams lost a bunch of their line and they fell apart. Radunz can help them try to recreate that incredible season where they were a few plays away from winning it all.

Buffalo Bills – Trey Smith

Josh Allen is beginning to play at an MVP caliber level. The Bills defense has taken a step back this year, but they’re still solid. The Bills offensive line has some holes in the middle though, and that’s where Trey Smith comes in. The Tennessee guard has some concerning health issues, but there’s no question about his talent, and what he can bring to that Buffalo offense.

Green Bay Packers – Jay Tufele

The Packers biggest needs would be sizable reaches here, so expect a trade down come April. For this mock though, the Packers bolster their defensive line with the USC D-Lineman. If you give Rodgers a strong defense the sky is the limit for the Packers.

Seattle Seahawks – Josh Myers

The Seahawks have finally given in and let Russ cook. Now it’s time to finally protect him. Myers can be the center of the future for Seattle, and protect Russ as he finally gets to air it out. The offensive line is something Seattle has ignored for awhile, but enough is enough.

Baltimore Ravens – Aidan Hutchinson

The Ravens could use an edge rusher, and Hutchinson provides a power rushing skillset that the Ravens lack. Jim Harbaugh will surely learn all the details of the Michigan edge rusher as all he has to do is call his brother in the north for any info he needs. The Baltimore defense is already scary, and adding Hutchinson only makes it better.

Kansas City Chiefs – Hamilcar Rashed Jr

What do the reigning super bowl champs need? Whatever they want. The Chiefs still have a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense, so this pick can be whatever they want. Besides Frank Clark, the Kansas City edge rushers are nothing special, and Rashed has the talent to develop into an impact player in both run stopping and pass rushing.

NFL Week One: Predicting Each Game (ATS)

In one of the craziest years we’ve ever experienced, the NFL rolls on. Kick back, relax, and let me help you make some money on opening weekend.

Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-9)

The two highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL will go head to head on opening night, when the post-DeAndre Hopkins trade Houston Texans take on the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. A rematch from last year’s AFC divisional round, the Texans won’t have a chance to blow a four touchdown lead in this game. The Chiefs get out to a fast start in their quest for back to back championships, taking care of business opening night.

The Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (-9)

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-6.5)

The classic 1pm, opening day match-up: the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. With the departure of Tom Brady from the AFC East, the Bills have become the sexy pick to win the division. News flash, there is nothing sexy about the Buffalo Bills. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a good team, but I’m not as convinced as everyone else is about them. The Jets had somewhat of a tumultuous offseason, trading away Jamal Adams and stuck in a never-ending, media driven soap opera between Adam Gase and Le’Veon Bell. Sam Darnold has to take another step forward this year, and he’s actually undefeated in Buffalo. Give me the Jets in a shocker.

The Pick: New York Jets (+6.5)

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons (+1.5)

One team that has continually given Russell Wilson and the Seahawks fits over his career has been the Atlanta Falcons. The Seahawks might be one of the best teams in the NFC, but they’re also one of the mots inconsistent teams in the entire league. The Falcons had a season to forget last year, but they ended it on a good note. I think they carry that momentum, plus a classic nobody believes in us attitude, into this season. The Falcons are better than people think, and they’ll show it week one.

The Pick: Atlanta Falcons (+1.5)

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-3)

If there’s an NFC version of the Jets-Bills match-up, it’s this match-up between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions. The Bears were extraordinarily disappointing last year, but they still managed an 8-8 record. On the other hand, the Lions were one of the worst teams in the entire league, but a healthy Matthew Stafford, along with the addition of De’Andre Swift, should give their offense some life. It’s put up or shut up time for Mitchell Trubisky though, and I believe his talent will finally be on display this year *ducks*. I know it’s popular to disparage his ability, and I don’t know if he’ll do enough to keep the Bears starting job beyond 2020, but he’ll do enough to get the win here.

The Pick: Chicago Bears (+3)

Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (-3)

The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers both fell victim to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs last season, and they’ll both be looking to improve upon good seasons from last year. The Vikings shipped out a big play receiver in Stefon Diggs, but they replaced him with first round pick, Justin Jefferson. The Packers on the other hand, they’re rolling with Allen Lazard as their number two receiver. I think the addition of Yannick Ngakoue will pay dividends for the Vikings as well, but it may take some time for him to get acclimated to an entirely new defense. The Packers swept the Vikings last season, and they look to do it again this year, starting with a victory in Minnesota.

The Pick: Green Bay Packers (+3)

Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-6.5)

The Miami Dolphins shocked the football world in Week 17 of last season, when they went up to Foxborough and defeated the New England Patriots, in what we now know was Tom Brady’s last regular season game as a member of the team. The loss helped set the table for Brady leaving for Tampa Bay, and for a new man under center in New England, a super-man, Cam Newton. I love the fit of Newton with Bill Belichick, and I think it’ll pay dividends for both. Fitz-Magic doesn’t reign supreme in New England again, as Newton and the Patriots offense will have something to prove this season.

The Pick: New England Patriots (-6.5)

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team (+6)

A rematch from week one last year, where the Washington Football Team got off to a blistering start, only to blow it to the Carson Wentz led Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles number one receiver going into this game will be DeSean Jackson, and no, this is not 2011. The Eagles did defeat the Washinton Football Team late last season with a former quarterback and converted tight end playing wide receiver for them, so it may not matter. I think the Ron Rivera led squad will keep it close, cover, but the Philadelphia Eagles win a close one.

The Pick: Washington Football Team (+6)

Las Vegas Raiders at Carolina Panthers (+3)

The first game of a new era for the Raiders, as they officially leave Oakland for ‘Sin City’, Las Vegas. This new story begins in Carolina, taking on a team in the Panthers who have also undergone a facelift. Baylor’s Matt Rhule is calling the shots now, and former Vikings, Jets and Saints quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, will be under center. Personally, I believe the Raiders should be much better than the Panthers this season, but the Raiders have also been consistently inconsistent over the last couple years. I expect this year to be no different, but who wouldn’t want to see the Vegas-Era start off with a win? Probably Panthers fans, but .. oh well.

The Pick: Las Vegas Raiders (-3)

Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (+8)

An eight point line, at home, on opening day, is disrespectful – even for the Jaguars. Have we forgotten all about Minshew Magic? The mustached super star? And this is a team three years removed from an AFC Championship game birth. Wait, they traded who? Released, waived, rid themselves of almost everyone? Man, maybe that eight point line isn’t so disrespectful after all. Phillip Rivers is reunited with Frank Reich, and the Colts will finally have some stability at quarterback this season. Sorry Jaguars fans, as much as you wish it was 2017 instead of 2020 .. it’s not.

The Pick: Indianapolis Colts (-8)

Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (-8)

The Cleveland Browns are a fantastic candidate for a post-hype sleeper team. They were a popular pick to win the division last season, but then, as things usually go, the hyped up team fell flat on their face. Coaches and General Managers were fired, Baker Mayfield went from someone who couldn’t shut up to a player you haven’t heard a peep from, and Kevin Stefanski is a much better candidate to get the most out of this team than Freddie Kitchens was. The Baltimore Ravens, at least in the regular season, were the best team in the league last year. They’re out for revenge after a disappointing playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, and Lamar Jackson is out to prove his MVP season wasn’t a fluke. The Ravens will be great again this season, but this will be a closer game than the line suggests. Ravens win, but the Browns cover.

The Pick: Cleveland Browns (+8)

Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals (+3)

The Los Angeles Chargers are entering a new era: the post Phillip Rivers era. Before they enter the Justin Herbert era though, Tyrod Taylor is here to interject and hopefully, to stay. Another team who’s turning over a new leaf? The Cincinnati Bengals. Hometown hero Joe Burrow fell into their laps at number one overall, and the fit couldn’t be more perfect. If there’s anyone who can get the best out of this Bengals team, it’s the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. In a battle of teams trying to start new era’s out with wins, give me the one with the better signal caller – Joe Burrow.

The Pick: Cincinnati Bengals (+3)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have quickly become the sexy pick to win the Super Bowl. They had a great offense last year with a quarterback who threw thirty interceptions, and now they replace him with the greatest of all time, Tom Brady. Bringing Rob Gronkowski out of retirement and getting former top five pick Leonard Fournette at great value, this offense could be an all timer. The New Orleans Saints let another great season be wasted by a disappointing playoff loss, and while they should still contend for the division crown, this is arguably the biggest game of week one. Who plays better in big games, Tom Brady or Drew Brees? And thats, that.

The Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5)

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (-7)

The San Francisco 49ers are the class of the NFC, but even during their magical season last year, the Arizona Cardinals gave them fits. I’m not buying the Kyler Murray-MVP hype, but I do think the Cardinals are one of the most improved teams in the entire NFL. De’Andre Hopkins and Isiah Simmons should produce instantly, and I can’t wait to see this team on the field. People have short memories, and I believe people have forgotten about just how good the 49ers were last year. The Cardinals will keep this one close, and I want to pick them to win here, but cooler heads prevail. I’ll throw them a bone though, with a cover.

The Pick: Arizona Cardinals (+7)

Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (+3)

The Los Angeles Rams moved on from their star running back in Todd Gurley, but they got a formidable replacement in the Florida State product, Cam Akers. I think Akers will be great for the Rams, but it remains to be seen just how many touches he’ll get in week one. The Dallas Cowboys added more talent to an already talented offense with the addition of CeeDee Lamb, and even though they didn’t give Dak Prescott a long term deal this offseason like other top quarterbacks, I’m expecting him to play like one this year. It starts week one, and the Cowboys have always started the season hot. They keep the status quo this year with a win.

The Pick: Dallas Cowboys (-3)

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants (+5.5)

Ben Roethlisberger returns to the Pittsburgh Steelers starting lineup, a sight that will for sure be welcome after the play of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodgers last year. Juju Smith-Schuster should have a better year with his return, and the offense as a whole should be good. The New York Giants finally got rid of their lame duck head coach in Pat Shurmur, replacing him with the fiery Joe Judge. Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley and the Giants offense should take a step forward with another year of development and new offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, calling the shots. All rise, the Giants get Joe Judge a victory in his first game as a head coach.

The Pick: New York Giants (+5.5)

Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos (+1.5)

The dreaded late night Monday game on opening week features the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos this year. Both these teams will be interesting, as they feature talented offenses with some stars on defense. The addition of Jadeveon Clowney should pay dividends for the Titans, even in his first game. The Broncos finally found their franchise quarterback in Drew Lock, and they got him some new weapons in the offseason, with the additions of Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Melvin Gordon. That offense will hum eventually, but week one belongs to the Titans.

The Pick: Tennessee Titans (-1.5)

Sizing up the AL West: Could Change be Coming?

The AL West is one of baseball’s most underrated divisions. In the past twenty years, no team has taken the leap to separate themselves from their division rivals. The A’s and the Angels have won the divisional title six times in that period. The Rangers four times, the Astros three times, and the Mariners only once. In that time, only the Astros and Angels have reached the pinnacle of baseball excellence, the World Series, and come home champions.

The story line of the past few seasons has been the Astros success in the postseason (which now looks far less impressive due to a massive scandal), the Athletics stuck embarrassing themselves in the wild card game, the Angels failing to provide Mike Trout a team that he can lead to the postseason, and the Rangers and Mariners just kicking dirt in the infield. But after a hectic offseason and a shortened schedule due to the pandemic, things could be looking different in the west. So, how is each team shaping up come the end of July?

Houston Astros

The Astros are coming back this season with their heads hung low from a demoralizing combination of a Game 7 World Series loss and a cheating scandal that shocked the world. On top of this, they lost their strikeout king and ace, Gerrit Cole, to their biggest rival in the American League, the Bronx Bombers. The belief is that bad things come in threes, but the Astros were not so lucky – they also lost their General Manager and Team Manager due to a sign-stealing scandal. Yet, the Astros are still the favorite to win the AL West. That just shows how much talent is in their lineup still.

Alex Bregman may be one of the most hated players in the league currently. He talks a big game, which irritates a lot of fans, but when you finish 20 points away from winning the MVP award and set new career high’s in batting average, dingers, and RBI’s, you’re afforded the luxury of spitting some trash talk. Houston will rely on Bregman again this year to help them reach the postseason for a fourth consecutive year. Bregman isn’t alone in that offense though, as the offseason helped the Astros heal up, as Altuve, Springer, and Correa are all healthy and ready to play. Even Houston’s biggest haters have to recognize the incredible hitting potential from that group.

The Astros won’t be relying on hitting alone though. While they certainly are not getting any younger, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are still two all star pitchers who are capable of having Cy Young seasons. Verlander showed last year that even at 35 years old, he’s still capable of pitching a no-hitter. Greinke looked a bit lackluster in his time in H-town so far, but a season without fans could be exactly what someone like him needs.

The Astros biggest wildcard is sophomore slugger Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez hit an incredible .313 last year, finishing fourth on his team in home-runs in half of a season only. It was no surprise to see him win the Rookie of the Year Award because of this. But when the playoffs came, Alvarez disappeared in the ALCS – only getting ONE hit against the Yankees in six games. His batting average dropped to .045l, which would make Chris Davis look like an all star. In the World Series, he got back to his elite hitting, but you have to wonder if the Yankees figured something out that other teams will capitalize on with an entire offseason of film study and prep.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s are coming off of two back-to-back dud performances in the postseason wildcard game. When the vote comes up discussing if the MLB should change the one game playoff format, Oakland will be sprinting to the podium in favor of removing it. The A’s streak of losing winner-take-all postseason games continues to now nine straight losses. Oakland looked well over there heads in 2018 against the Yankees losing 7-2, and then somehow looked even worse last season losing 5-1 to the Rays. With Houston favored to win the west again, The A’s will either need to step it up to secure a postseason series or attempt to break their streak in the wildcard game.

The A’s have some weapons of their own to battle Houston for the top spot. While Alex Bregman won 2nd in MVP voting last season, A’s shortstop Marcus Semien was 3rd after an incredible breakout season. Semien was an incredible factor in the A’s offense while also contributing to the A’s elite defense they’re known for. If Semien can replicate his career best season he had last year, the A’s will have someone to rely on to shoulder the load of their offense.

Speaking of Oakland’s defense, Semien was a top 10 MLB player in DWAR last season although he didn’t receive a Gold Glove award for his efforts. Yet two other Athletics did last season. 3rd basemen Matt Chapman continues to be arguably the best defender in the entire league. In only his third season he’s already made the all star game, won two gold gloves, and was the leader in DWAR in the AL for the past two seasons. First Basemen Matt Olsen was right behind him in DWAR last season, and also won a gold glove award the past two seasons. The Athletics rely on ground ball pitchers to put the ball into the infield and let their elite defenders handle the rest. But wait there’s more. In the outfield, the A’s have one of the best arms in the game, behind Ramon Laureano who loves when runners test his arm.

On the pitching end, Oakland remains solid as long as they stay healthy. Sean Manaea had an ERA last season of 1.21 in the few games he played, but unfortunately could not stay on the field with a shoulder issue, finally returning for the postseason only to have a rough outing in the wildcard game. In front of him is Frankie Montas who throws absolute heat earning him the ace spot in the A’s rotation. They also have Mike Fiers who is famously known now as the man who revealed the Astro’s true nature, but he is still a solid pitcher who can help the A’s earn some wins if he plays up to his potential. In the bullpen, Liam Hendriks had an incredible breakout season where he became one of the best closers in the league. It will be interesting to see if these pitchers can help soften the blow of losing 3 quality pitchers in the offseason in Homer Bailey, Tanner Roark, and Brett Anderson.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels have the best player in the entire MLB and yet have had little success with him. Mike Trout has won 3 MVPs, made 8 All-Star games in 8 seasons, and won MVP in 2 of those 8 games. He’s also won a Silver Slugger award in every season he’s played except one. In his 8 full seasons with the Angels, he’s tasted postseason baseball only once getting swept against the Royals in the 2014 ALDS. Trout has needed help for a long time now, and there was even a period of time in which people believed he’d walk away when his contract was up to sign with a contender. The fish man shut down that thought when he signed the largest MLB contract in history with a mass extension. Now it’s time for the Angels to get some pieces around him, and they started off with a bang this offseason.

The Angels hitting has been questionable for a while now. They added Japanese duel pitching and hitting superstar Shohei Ohtani, who won Rookie of the Year in 2018 but ended that season needing Tommy John surgery which kept him off the mound all of last year. He looks to continue his success at the plate and hopefully begin pitching again now that he is fully healthy. The Angels shocked many though this offseason signing 3rd basemen Anthony Rendon to a huge contract after he won the world series with the Nationals. Rendon is an incredible hitter who somehow looks better and better each season, coming in 3rd place in last season’s NL MVP voting. The Angels hope that the hitting trio of Trout, Rendon, and Ohtani can help them make the postseason once again. In a shortened 60 game season, that may be true.

If the Angels announced they forgot pitching was an aspect of the game, many would not be shocked. Last year they faced a tragic death in young pitcher Tyler Skaggs, and have not acquired much talent since. If Ohtani struggles to be the ace the Angels are looking for, they’ll have to look at veteran acquisitions Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran, both of whom are far from ace material and are really inning eaters at this point. The Angels just need to hope that hitting will carry them to a postseason berth, where they can hopefully win a playoff game for the first time in Mike Trout’s career.

Texas Rangers

It’s almost been a decade since the Rangers have been to the World Series, and while they were unsuccessful both times, those years were far better than what the Rangers have put out recently. Texas ranges season to season from slightly below average team to a slightly above average team, not winning a single postseason series since 2011. Last season they went 78-84 putting them in the direct middle of the division bordering mediocrity. But in a 60 game season anything can happen, and Texas fans have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

The Rangers had two great pitchers last season in Lance Lynn and Mike Minor. After a rough stint with the Yankees, Lynn had success in Texas. There he posted a respectable 16-11 record, with a 3.67 ERA that put him 5th in Cy Young voting in the AL. Mike Minor put up similar stats which earned him his first All-Star game in his career. These two provided 30 of the Rangers 78 wins alone. Now the Rangers have added All-Star pitcher Corey Kluber, trading for him after a bad season with the Indians. It’s only been 3 years since Kluber won the Cy Young award, and prior to last season Kluber had a 3 year streak of All-Star games with an average ERA of 2.76. If Kluber can get back in his groove, the Rangers have the opportunity to have a top 5 rotation in baseball.

Offensively, the Rangers are still pretty lackluster. Joey Gallo is the main piece in that lineup, and cannot carry an offense alone. The rest of the Rangers hitters are extremely streaky, including Rougned Odor. Odor last season led the league in strikeouts but also put up a career-high number in RBI’s. They also have Danny Santana, Elvis Andrus, Willie Calhoun, and Shin-Soo Choo, who are all quality players but not game-changers the Rangers need. If come the deadline, the Rangers are in contention, they’ll be a team to keep an eye on for acquiring a bat.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are in rough shape. The last time they made the postseason, they had the AL Rookie of the Year in 2001. His name is Ichiro Suzuki who has since retired. Ichiro played an entire lengthy career in the time since the Mariners made the playoffs in his rookie year. For bad teams this 60 game season will be a good time to see who will be apart of the future after the rebuild is over, and the Mariners are not an exception to this.

The three key players Seattle will be looking closely at are Evan White, J.P. Crawford, and Shed Long Jr, all of which are 25 or younger. White is a 2017 first round pick who looks like he could develop into an elite defensive player at first base, and his hitting has improved as well. This year will show if he’s ready for the majors or if he needs more time down in double-A. Crawford and Long flashed potential last season batting, so this will be a good test as well to see how they perform in a full season. Long hit an impressive .263 in his first action in the MLB last season in 42 games.

Seattle also has two of the top prospects in baseball, both outfielders, and will continue to develop them during this shortened season. Both are young players though and are far away from seeing the majors anytime soon. This past draft, the Mariners also added an arm to their farm, drafting a pitcher 6th overall. Hopefully Seattle could add another top prospect after this season in next seasons draft, and continue upgrading their farm which is currently ranked 9th according to MLB.com.

Key Players to Watch:

Yordan Alvarez will be a crucial piece in determining how successful the Astros are this year. He has power and the potential to lead the league in home runs.

Jesus Luzardo is a top rookie prospect who saw success in the limited action he faced last year with the A’s. Luzardo had a delayed training camp due to testing positive to the Coronavirus but is now healthy and joining the team. It seems as though the plan is for him to begin relieving first, and then starting where he will begin his climb up the rotation.

Shohei Ohtani/Jo Adell are two big pieces for the Angels future. Adell is a top 5 prospect in the MLB and may see some time called up this season. He has dominated the minors, and is close to a call-up where he will eventually play in the outfield alongside Trout. In the mean time, Ohtani is the biggest variable. If he can stay healthy and live up to his hype, the Angels will be in good shape.

Corey Kluber can make the Rangers a top rotation in baseball. If he can return to his former glory, Texas will have 3 incredible pitchers in a row, giving teams fits in each series. If he can’t then the trade to acquire him will set back the Rangers progress quite a bit.

Evan White is already a gold glove contender at first, and projects to be the Mariners first basemen of the future. His defensive rating as a prospect was nearly perfect, and his hitting in the minors has been a success. Now we get to see how he performs in the major league.

Baseball is Back: 3 Players to Watch for in 2020

TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT! BASEBALL IS BACK!

The MLB and MLBPA *finally* reached an agreement on a 60 game season, which means there will be baseball in 2020. Personally, baseball is my favorite sport, and I’m glad there’s something to look forward to in this crazy year. Sports being able to resume play in 2020 is truly a blessing for everyone. Aside from seeing my Yankees play with their new ACE, Gerrit Cole, I am most excited to see some of the games best young talent breakout this year. I’ve decided to keep my first baseball article brief. The next generation of talent has arrived in baseball and its taking the game by storm. Let’s take a look at some players I look forward to seeing this year.

Fernando Tatis Jr.

Credit: MLB

The first player I am excited to see play is Fernando Tatis Jr. The Padres’ shortstop put up a stellar rookie campaign before going down with an injury after playing just 84 games in 2019. Before his injury, his average was a white-hot .317, coupled with 22 homers and an OPS of .969, while also flaunting a wOBA of .398. Tatis Jr. was on his way to possibly being the National League Rookie of the Year (yes fans of the New York Mets, he was giving Pete Alonso a run for his money), if he was able to play a full season. Tatis Jr. playing alongside Manny Machado in the infield is a sight to see, as both of them are capable of flashing the leather while also putting up gaudy numbers at the plate. The fielding ability is there, but his strong arm from short can lead to some sloppy throws to first. Obviously, the sample size for Tatis Jr. is small, but hitting over .300 and being on pace for a 35-40 home run season is nothing to scoff at, and it’s what makes me so excited to see what he can do at full health in 2020.

Ronald Acuna Jr.

Credit: MLB

This is probably the player I am most excited to watch this season. He took the MLB by storm last season, emerging as a young star outfielder in the league. Ronald Acuna Jr. is the perfect example of what a dual threat hitter is, power and speed personified. In 2018, he hit 26 homers, while also stealing 45 bases to win the Rookie of the Year, and even finished top 10 in MVP voting. In 2019, he broke out – an all star season, slugging 41 homers, driving in 100 runs and continuing to show off his speed with 62 stolen bases. He was top 5 in MVP voting this time, and won a prestigious silver slugger award. I believe his talent can put him up in the games upper echelon, with names like Yelich, Trout and Betts. One knock on Acuna Jr. is the amount of strikeouts he’s had in his first two years (its um .. a lot), but with his numbers and potential there’s no doubt he will mature and be more disciplined at the plate. The Braves’ star is on pace to be one of only four players to hit 80 home-runs and steal 70 bases at the age of 22, even with a shortened season on the horizon. The other three players, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout, and Andruw Jones, are pretty good company. With that being said, he’s my early frontrunner for NL MVP.

Bo Bichette

Credit: MLB

Finally, we’ve come to Blue Jays short-stop, Bo Bichette. Whats there not to like about this guy? The leg kick, ability to flash the leather, and of course, the hair flow. Toronto found a young gem in Bichette, and despite only playing 46 games in 2019 he displayed a lot of potential for fans to look forward to. In his short season, Bichette hit .311, with 11 long balls and 21 RBIs, going along with an OPS of .930. Along with Fernando Tatis Jr., Bichette is another example of the next generation of young infield talent. In the AL, you have guys like Tim Anderson, Gleyber Torres, and now Bichette earning full time gigs at SS. He shown he can hit consistently and that he doesn’t shy away from facing the games best pitching talent. In a series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he squared up against Clayton Kershaw, and sure enough Bichette took him DEEEEP….. TWICE! Only 22 years old and he’s already taking Cy Young pitchers yard, a true young talent to look out for.

Some honorable mentions were Gleyber Torres, Dustin May, and Tim Anderson, who will still be on my watch list. Torres has proven to be a consistent threat at the plate for the Yankees, and can sneak his way to being an MVP this year. Tim Anderson, the bat flip king, has flashed some power and swagger in a White Sox lineup that has been missing it for quite some time. Dustin May didn’t secure a rotation spot with the Dodgers, but the young righty is going to be a great arm for LA, and can possibly be a great 6th man for the team.

It’a great to see these young talents able to play this year. Losing a year of play would’ve sucked for any player, and these guys have money to make and positions to be secured. I think MLB has so much new, young talent in the game right now that hopefully their entertaining play helps us forget about the mess the MLB and MLBPA created throughout June. Anyways, baseball is back, so enjoy it! Oh, and if you want to make sure we make it through the season, here is a tip … WEAR A DAMN MASK!

3 Must Have Late Round Players

The recipe for dominating your fantasy football draft is simple. Draft your stud players to carry your group early within the first handful of rounds and then focus on acquiring depth in the later rounds of your draft to help balance out your lineup between guys who are your weekly starters, guys who can fill in on any given week, and late round dart throws that can potentially catapult your team to the next level. I will be listing my top 3 late round dart throws that will potentially help elevate your team should you draft them.

(Thedraftnetwork.com image)

Cover Photo courtesy of (youtube.com/Respectthepoint)

Denzel Mims

WR New York Jets

ADP WR 69 (nice) 202 overall

Denzel Mims is a prime candidate to instantly produce this year for the New York Jets. Mims has a lot to offer as a potential deep threat and red zone target with his freakish ability to bring down highly contested balls and should be the teams go to deep threat player as Jameson Crowder isn’t really a deep threat and more of a threat with the intermediate routes while Perriman will be on the outside opposite of Mims. The Jets invested a second round pick on him in hopes that he can form chemistry with Darnold and help the offense that lacks explosiveness.  I also expect Sam Darnold to take a step forward this year after having Mono last year and missing 3 games and having a year of the Adam Gase offense under his belt. This should boost the passing game thus helping the case for Mims. Furthermore The Jets subtracted a total of 154 targets between Robby Anderson and Demaryius Thomas in free agency and only added Breshad Perriman through free agency on a one year deal and Darnold is going to have to throw to somebody besides Crowder and dumping it off to Le’veon Bell. These targets may skew more to Perriman early, but I expect Mims to establish himself as the season goes on. To add because Mims is a deep threat he doesn’t need a ridiculous amount of targets to be fantasy relevant. The only thing stopping Mims from being drafted higher that the 16th round is Breshad Perriman who is going in the 10th round for the same fact of the vacated targets and opportunity in New York. I do not see Perriman being as good as people may expect and don’t think he is talented enough to be a clear wide receiver 1 or 2 on a team. This is his 5th year in the league and hasn’t really done anything in his previous 4 years that should warrant a breakthrough. At some point you are what you are in the NFL and Perriman is just a guy. Don’t be surprised if Mims is similar to last years version of DK Metcalf in terms of production because the sky is the limit with potential for this guy and he is basically free in drafts.

(Playerprofiler.com image)

Blake Jarwin

TE Dallas Cowboys

ADP TE 21 170 Overall

If you’ve recently played fantasy football you probably know that finding a very good tight end to help you every week is very scarce outside of George Kittle and Travis Kelce, along with a tier underneath of Zach Ertz, Darren Waller, and Mark Andrews. In order to draft one of these 5, you are going to need to spend a 5th round pick at the very minimum. If you strike out on those guys you’re looking at the Hayden Hursts and Austin Hoopers of the world, which isn’t bad but you should pair up one of these guys with a high upside guy like Jarwin later on. However, I feel very strong on Jarwin and think he can make his mark similar to how Andrews and Waller did this past year. According to Fantasypros.com the 2 most owned tight ends on playoff teams were Waller at 63% and Andrews at 59%. You heard that correctly not Kittle or Kelce. So save yourself from spending that second round pick on tight end and really deep dive on finding the next guy and Jarwin will be that guy after the departure of Jason Witten. Now you must be thinking “what does Witten have anything to do with this he wasn’t any good last year”. While you may not totally be wrong, Witten did see 83 targets, which are now gone to Oakland. This leaves Jarwin not only the starting job, but the targets associated with being a full time payer. Jarwin had 41 targets while Witten had 83. Combining for a total of 124 targets which would’ve ranked third in the league last year behind Kelce (136) and Ertz (135). Why can’t Jarwin put up these many targets? If a Jason Witten fresh out of retirement playing 70% of the snaps can command 83 targets and finish last year as the 11th best TE, then Jarwin playing nearly 100% of the snaps and being miles ahead of Witten in terms of talent at this stage should be primed for a top 7 finish and may even peep into the top 5. To add, Jarwin has no notable competition at all. His backup Dalton Schultz has 13 career catches in 2 years and is mostly a blocking tight end. He is no threat whatsoever to Jarwin, and the cowboys even believe so by paying him like a starting tight end in the league with a recent 4 year 22-million-dollar deal. Ill be taking Jarwin every time at his 14th round value and you should too if you want to smell the playoffs.

(Espn.com image)

Boston Scott

Rb Philadelphia Eagles

ADP Rb 49 133 Overall

I can honestly say that life has 3 guarantees. Death, Taxes, and Doug Pederson using a running back by committee approach. Let’s face it, its hard to find rbs this late in a draft that you can honestly feel optimistic about, but I genuinely think Scott has a chance to return value. I fully expect Miles Sanders to be the focal point of this backfield and wouldn’t be surprised if he had a top 5 finish, but Boston Scott can produce even with Sanders. Last year Scott took over the secondary role after Jordan Howard basically went on IR halfway through the season and Darren Sproles for lack of a better term “died” last season. Scott in the last 4 games of the season posted 24.8,13.5,7.9, and 35.8 PPR points respectively according to Sleeper.com. Now the week 17 explosion was when Sanders only played 30% of the snaps due to an injury so we should take that figure with a grain of salt. The other 3 games however Scott averaged 13 opportunities (attempts + targets) per game while playing 37% of the snaps which is normal for a change of pace running back which he will be in 2020 behind sanders. Furthermore, if Sanders does get hurt like he did in week 17 you could make the case that Scott would be a top 10 play at the position for period he is out. You cant say the same about some of the other running backs going around his ADP such as Duke Johnson and Nyheim Hines. I see Scott as a bootleg version of Tarik Cohen and James White who are going multiple rounds ahead of him even though all 3 have the same role in their respective offenses. The possible opportunity along with the expected stand-alone value make Scott the best value Running back past the 10th round.