Which 5 NFL Teams are the most up-and-coming?

  1. Oakland Raiders

 

If you said that the Raiders would be at the top of this list two years ago, I would have laughed in your face. But that’s the amazing thing about NFL futures, a couple of good back to back drafts can get you from last to first. With a promising young quarterback in Derek Carr the Raiders have a solid base to build their future. Add to that arguably the best edge defender in the league, Khalil Mack, and you have some dominant players on both sides of the field. The Raiders also boast one of the leagues most promising wide receiver duos in Amari Cooper, one of the highest rated rookies of the 2015 draft, and Michael Crabtree who is coming off a career year. These two weapons make Derek Carr’s future look even more favorable. Don’t forget the 6’3 athletic freak in the backfield Latavius Murray. The Raiders have plenty of holes to fill, specifically in the secondary, but they are also oozing potential. The Raiders will need to continue to draft well, as they have a top 15 pick this year, but they could make a run at their first playoff appearance since 2002 in the near future.

 

  1. Minnesota Vikings

 

The Vikings are coming off their first division title since 2009, so its no surprise to see them on this list. While their playoff run ended in heartbreak they should take comfort in the fact that they should have bested one of the leagues best team had Blair Walsh been able to make a 27-yard field goal. They have a underappreciated defense with talent at all levels. From Everson Griffen on the defensive line to linebacker Anthony Barr and one of the league’s best safeties, Harrison Smith. On the offensive side they have some question marks to fill, an heir for Adrian Peterson and some weapons for Bridgewater besides Stephan Diggs. If they can compliment their defensive talent with some stability on the offensive side of the ball they can challenge Green Bay for the NFC North every year.

 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

 

Young and solid. That’s how I would describe a lot of the starters on the Jags. For a lot of these guys the sky is the limit, however as of now they are just very solid. Blake Bortles has been good his first two years in the league and has one of the best young receiving duos in the league with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. T.J. Yeldon should also continue to play well, however they will need to drastically improve their offensive line for this offense to really click. The defense is a little weaker, but if Dante Fowler can live up to his high expectations they will have a brilliant young pass rusher to build their defense around. These good building blocks, paired with a top 5 pick in the 2016 draft and a spot in arguably the worst division in football solidify this teams bright future.

 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With the number 1 overall pick in last years draft, the Bucs drafted their quarterback of the future, Jameis Winston. A strong connection between Winston and another rising star Mike Evans insures a high flying offense for years to come. It would be beneficial to their offense to resign their pro bowl running back Doug Martin, to ensure balance moving forward. On the other side of the ball you have two great defensive players to build around. Outside linebacker Lavonte David is one of the best in the league. Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy does not play a flashy position but he is one of the best interior linemen in the league, a position that is key to disrupting opposing offenses. With a solid nucleus of rising stars, this team comes in at 4th in terms of brightest future.

 

  1. Los Angeles Rams

 

It’s hard to put a team on here with a big question mark at QB, however the Rams have arguably both the best offensive and defensive prospects in football. They also have one of the better up and coming defenses in football, centered around interior defensive lineman, Aaron Donald. This former defensive rookie of the year had just as good of a season as his first, finishing with 43 tackles and 11 sacks from the inside! This guy has an unparalleled repertoire of moves, and is often compared to JJ Watt in terms of his disruptiveness. Joined by Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree, Janoris Jenkins, and Akeem Ayers this defense will be good for years to come if they can a just a few key secondary pieces. The future of this offense will be built around Todd Gurley. Now in a huge new market of Los Angeles and paired with a top 15 pick, they are a few offensive pieces away from being the team to beat in the next 5 years.

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3 Outrageous, and Way too Early Predictions for the 2016 NFL draft

The 2016 NFL season is officially over, and the 2016 NFL draft is only 22 short weeks away. It’s time for some way too early, extremely outrageous predictions for this year’s draft.

 

  1. LA Rams Trade up to #1 Overall

 

New City. New Identity. What better of a way to build a new identity than drafting a young new quarterback to build around? In a flashy way that befits the team’s new hometown to boot. The Rams have arguably the two most intriguing prospects in the game in Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald anchoring both sides of the ball for years to come. What better of a time to take a gamble on the QB of the future?

The Titans could move the first overall pick this year, for the right price. They have their QB of the future, and stockpiling picks may be more beneficial to them than a star at #1 like LT Laremy Tunsil or DE Joey Bosa. The Rams have the 15th overall pick, and two second round picks in this year’s draft. Those three picks along with another high pick in next year’s draft, or offensive weapon Tavon Austin could be an offer the Titans can’t refuse.

So if the Titans want to move the first pick, and the Rams decide to trade up, who do they pick? There has been much speculation about who is the best quarterback in this draft, but after pro days, and the combine, I believe one will separate from the pack. I predict that the Rams will select Jared Goff with the first overall selection in the 2016 draft, and keep the CAL star in the Golden State for many years to come.

 

  1. 3 QB’s go in the top 5 for the first time since the 90’s

 

If my prediction above is correct, as outrageous as it is, it could create some turmoil within the top picks of the draft. In this pass happy league, there is nothing more important than a franchise quarterback. I believe this draft will be a historic one for the quarterback position.

3 quarterbacks have not gone in the top 15 since 2012, and regardless of if the first prediction is true, I believe that will happen. However, if the Rams do trade up to nab a QB, this draft will take an even crazier turn. 3 quarterbacks go in the top 5 for the first time since 1999 (when the position went 1, 2, 3.)

There is no doubt that the Cleveland Browns, under the new direction of head coach Hue Jackson, will draft a quarterback at their second overall slot. If the Rams trade up to get Goff, the Browns will be forced to go to the number two guy on their board, who I believe will be Paxton Lynch out of Memphis. This pick will allow Carson Wentz to fall to the Cowboys at selection #4, who need to take a gamble on their QB of the future under the injury prone Tony Romo.

 

  1. Worst First Round for Wide Receivers in the Past 5 Years

 

The times they are a changing, at least for the wide receiver position. As the league puts a higher emphasis on the highflying passing attack, and changes its rules to protect the receiver, this position is at a premium. In the past 5 years, there have been an average of over 4 wide receivers taken in the first round. You have to go back to 2010 to find a draft where only 2 wide receivers were taken in round 1, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas. I believe that this draft will be the first time in the past half decade where only 2 wideout’s are taken in round 1.

The depth of wide receiver talent is just not what it has been in the past couple of drafts, despite the need being there. I believe Laquon Treadwell and Corey Coleman are the only real first round talents at WR, with Michael Thomas right on the outside of round 1. This is a talented draft, but the talent lies not with the pass catchers. I believe the teams searching for their next star WR will search in the second round not the first.

 

By Ben Miller

Where Does the Bronco’s Defense Stand in History?

The Denver Broncos just gave us one of the most dominating defensive Super Bowl performances in NFL history. Now that the game is over it is time to ask where this Broncos defense stands in history. Buddy Ryan’s ’85 Bears are probably the most famously dominant defense, and in recent years the ’00 Ravens, ’08 Steelers, and ’13 Seahawks suffocated opposing offenses on their way to Super Bowl titles. First, let’s compare these teams’ defensive stats.

Yards Allowed per Game (including playoffs):

  1. ’00 Ravens: 240.2
  2. ’85 Bears: 240.5
  3. ’08 Steelers: 246.8
  4. ’13 Seahawks: 284.3
  5. ’15 Broncos: 293.5

Points Allowed per Game (including playoffs):

  1. ’00 Ravens: 9.9
  2. ’85 Bears: 12.2
  3. ’13 Seahawks: 14.3
  4. ’08 Steelers: 14.9
  5. ’15 Broncos: 17.8

Sacks:

  1. ’85 Bears: 65
  2. ’15 Broncos: 52
  3. ’08 Steelers: 51
  4. ’13 Seahawks: 43
  5. ’00 Ravens: 35

Turnovers Forced:

  1. ’13 Seahawks: 52
  2. ’85 Bears: 43
  3. ’00 Ravens: 42
  4. ’15 Broncos: 36
  5. ’08 Steelers: 32

These stats may not look very promising for the Broncos defense, but stats are often deceiving. There are two other important things to take into consideration when looking at these stats. The effectiveness of each teams’ offense during the season and the strength of the offenses that each defense faced. Both of these have the potential to seriously skew the statistics of each defense, and help the Broncos defense’s case as one of the best ever. First, let’s look at the strength of the offenses each team faced. This is done simply by adding the OSRS (Offensive Simple Rating System) score used by Pro Football Reference of each team a defense faced that season.

Strength of Offenses Faced:

  1. ’15 Broncos: 35.8
  2. ’13 Seahawks: 20.7 (This is given a 14.1 boost for facing the Broncos’ historically rated offense in the Super Bowl)
  3. ’08 Steelers: 15.7
  4. ’85 Bears: 7.8
  5. ’00 Ravens: -6.4

While an imperfect rating system, this is one of the best ways to show the aggregate strength of the offenses faced by these teams. It is also important to take into account the rule changes since 2000 that have favored offenses more and more (this is reflected by a general increase in OSRS over time). The Broncos defense faced the most difficult offensive schedule of any of these great defenses, but they were also hindered by the ineffectiveness of their own offense. Now let’s look at the OSRS of each of these teams.

Strength of Own Offense:

  1. ’85 Bears: 6.5
  2. ’13 Seahawks: 4.1
  3. ’08 Steelers: 1.6
  4. ’15 Broncos: 0.3
  5. ’00 Ravens: 0.0

The ’85 Bears are known for their dominant defense, but many people forget they had the league’s second-best offense that year led by dominant running by Walter Payton. The Seahawks similarly, had a fantastic running game in 2013 and the league’s third-rated offense (in a down year for offenses outside Denver). The Steelers, Ravens, and Broncos defenses all had to carry anemic offenses throughout their seasons. The Ravens and Steelers offense turned the ball over on about 12% of their drives and the Broncos offense on about 15%. The Steelers and Broncos each averaged about 105 rushing yards per game, the Ravens 137 yards. With the run game being the best way to compliment a strong defense this cannot be overlooked.

Then there are the intangibles and in-game context of these stats that will be forgotten years from now. The word “clutch” is often thrown around when discussing quarterbacks, but Denver’s defense this year deserves the same moniker. The Broncos set an NFL record this season of 11 wins by seven or fewer points and the defense set a record for most fourth-quarter leads protected. Fittingly, in the first game of the year against the Ravens the Broncos were given the lead with an Aqib Talib pick-six and the game was sealed with a Darian Stewart interception in the endzone. Against the Chiefs in week two Bradley Roby recovered a fumble and took it for a touchdown with 27 seconds left to give Denver the lead. In week 4, T.J. Ward strip sacked Teddy Bridgewater with 35 seconds left to secure Denver’s three point lead. There are too many plays to mention here but almost every week the Broncos defense came through when it mattered most. And in the final game of the season with 4:51 left Bowl it is no surprise that Gary Kubiak felt comfortable punting to the league’s best offense with only a six-point lead, and the defense delivered one last time.

All of these defenses have arguments that can be made against them being the best ever. The Bears lost to the only top 4 offense they played in ’85 (the drop-off from 4th to 5th was significant), the Steelers were torched by Kurt Warner in the Super Bowl and counted on a legendary drive ending with a Santonio Holmes catch to win the game. The Seahawks scored the 8th most points in the league in 2013 and had a dominant rushing attack that helped their defense tremendously, and the ’00 Ravens faced an incredibly weak offensive schedule. In addition to this, the rule changes that have taken place over the years and many variables that are inherent to football muddy the waters when deciding on the best defense to ever play. It is not only impossible, but also not necessary to declare any of these defenses number one. Statistics often lie in football, but anyone who watched these Denver Broncos play knows that they deserve to be called one of the best defenses of all-time.

 

By Alex Rigberg

The Carolina Panthers and Super Bowl 48

 

Tomorrow, the biggest football game of the year will be played when the Carolina Panthers square off against the Denver Broncos. Cam Newton will play for a chance to bring the young Panthers franchise its first Super Bowl win. The Broncos, led by their defense, will play to give Peyton Manning one more Super Bowl ring and avenge their humiliating loss in Super Bowl 48. In this game there is a team that has some striking similarities to that 2013 Denver team, but it’s not the Broncos.

The 2013 Broncos started the season off on fire, with only one loss before their week nine bye. They would finish the season with only three losses. Peyton Manning posted one of the greatest seasons recorded by a quarterback, throwing for 55 touchdowns. Despite their dominant performance in the regular season some said the Broncos had not been tested and faced a weak schedule. Peyton Manning seemingly proved these doubters wrong when he dispatched the Chargers and Patriots in the playoffs to advance to the Super Bowl. Later that day the Seattle Seahawks would defeat the 49er’s in a nail biter to secure their spot in Super Bowl 48. The Broncos were favored coming into the game. People were giving the league’s best offense a slight edge over the number one defense. The first snap of the game Broncos center Manny Ramirez sent the ball over Manning’s head into the end zone for a safety. The Seahawks would crush the Broncos 43-8.

The 2015 Carolina Panthers bear some striking similarities to that 2013 Broncos team. A likely league MVP quarterback in Cam Newton leading an offense that has steamrolled the competition. Like that Broncos team; however, the Panthers faced one of the weaker schedules in the league and have been heavily favored coming into the game, they will also face the league’s number one defense. All season the Panthers and Broncos have been doubted by fans and analysts. For one of the first times this year the Panthers are not playing the underdog role and have spent the past two weeks being inflated by the media. The Panthers will need to The Broncos, on the other hand, have been doubted throughout the playoffs. People didn’t believe they could beat a healthy Patriots team in the AFC Championship. They responded by hitting Brady 23 times and stifling the Patriots offense. The Broncos face an uphill battle against the Panthers, but have thrived off the underdog role this season. They need to harness that energy for one more game and set the tone on Sunday. If the Broncos defense can come out and punch the high flying Panthers offense in the nose, they can avenge their loss in Super Bowl 48.

Why NFL Teams shouldn’t start a Rookie Quarterback

The NFL has become an incredibly lucrative business, in which more and more teams will do anything in order to contend for a coveted playoff spot, and who could blame them? Winning games put fans in the seats and jerseys on their backs. However, this trend is ruining the careers of College Quarterbacks who make the jump to the pros, most of whom fall off after 3 or 4 years. To prove that theory, look at the 2011 NFL Draft Class. 12 Quarterbacks were drafted, 11 after Cam Newton was taken first overall by the Carolina Panthers. After Newton, only 2 of the remaining 11 are still starting quarterbacks in the NFL. The compiled 2014 record of the 2 teams those Quarterbacks still play for today is 18-13-1. The remaining 9 Quarterbacks are either backups, or out of the NFL entirely.

At first glance, 18-13-1 isn’t a bad record. However, if we do a little math, you’ll find that it isn’t a good one either. 18-13-1 split in half is 9-7, and 9-6-1. Take 2014 as an example, as it is the most recent year we can judge. Not one team out of the 12 participating in the postseason had less than 10 wins.  Both of those players started within one season out of college. Even the best of the best don’t cut it anymore.

Now, you may be asking yourself “Why didn’t he account for Cam Newton in that stat?” It’s very simple. Every so often, there is a Quarterback taken that is a once-in-a-lifetime talent that is going to win games for whatever team he plays for. Additionally, there are occasionally teams who have bad years and get high draft picks even though they aren’t a bad team (see Andrew Luck below). In 2011, the Panthers fell into both categories. They already had a decent defense, a solid receiving corps, and a good coaching staff. Newton was the piece they needed to wipe away the nightmare that was Jimmy Clausen, and he did with multiple playoff berths. It would be wrong to factor in Newton-type talents with other decent college quarterbacks. There is always the chance that a team can draft that franchise player, but more often than not, they don’t.

Over the last four years, the top Quarterbacks taken (in ascending order) were Andrew Luck, EJ Manuel, Blake Bortles, and Jameis Winston. Andrew Luck is an isolated example, as a team who was playoff ready drafted him, and he is a once-in-a-generation talent (see above). However, look at Manuel, Bortles, and Winston. Manuel lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2014. Fitzpatrick was cut after the 2014 season. Manuel is still on the roster, but has again lost his starting job, this time to Tyrod Taylor. After one season, Bortles, who started 14 of 16 games, lead the Jaguars to a 3-13 record, and Winston has played in 3 preseason games, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. Quarterbacks who jump right into the league don’t succeed because, contrary to popular belief, winning in college means next to nothing in the National Football League.

NFL teams need to start drafting Star QB’s to sit them. Nobody can teach somebody how to be an NFL quarterback more than an NFL quarterback. The only way teams will build Quarterbacks to win games is by doing what I like to call the Green Bay Packer effect. Aaron Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre from 2005-2007. He waited his turn, learned from a talented, seasoned Quarterback, and now has a Super Bowl Ring, and two MVP awards sitting on his Wisconsin mantle. His team consistently makes the playoffs, and he is consistently in the running for league MVP. If you don’t agree with me, pick any other top Quarterback. Tom Brady? He sat behind Drew Bledsoe. Drew Brees? Started his first year in the NFL (2001), but was then replaced by veteran Doug Flutie.

The bottom line is Rookie quarterbacks can’t get it done anymore. I don’t hate Rookies; in fact, I have the utmost respect for any player that has enough talent to even get invited to an NFL training camp. However, the only time a Rookie should start in the NFL is during their 2nd season.

Written by: Max Mirkin, Everybodyhatesdallas.com

Max Mirkin covers the NFL and its teams for Everybodyhatesdallas.com; his opinions and content is not at the consent of the NFL or its teams