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The top 100 pending unrestricted NFL free agents

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  • The top 100 pending unrestricted NFL free agents

    The top 100 pending unrestricted NFL free agents
    Sheil Kapadia Feb 12, 2020 70

    At 4 p.m. ET on March 18, the NFL will begin a new year, and free agents will be allowed to officially sign with new teams.

    To preview this year’s class, here is a look at the top 100 pending unrestricted free agents. We will provide updated rankings in the weeks ahead as franchise and transition tags are assigned and players re-sign with their current teams. Factors taken into account: age, positional value, the market, production and injury history.

    All stats are courtesy of SportRadar unless otherwise noted. The number in parentheses is the player’s age at the start of next season.

    1. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys (27)
    One way or another, Prescott is expected to be back with the Cowboys. He’s coming off a season in which he completed 65.1% of his passes, averaged 8.2 YPA and threw 30 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. Prescott ranked sixth in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) and fourth in QBR. He’s never missed a game due to injury. Given his age, track record and position, Prescott should be looking to become one of the highest-paid players in the NFL. If the Cowboys don’t want to pay that hefty price, they can use the franchise tag to keep him in Dallas for at least one more year.

    2. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (41)
    It’s wait-and-see mode for Brees and the Saints. He could retire or he could return to New Orleans and give it another shot. Brees missed five games last year with a thumb injury. But statistically, there hasn’t been much of a dropoff in his play. He completed 74.3% of his attempts, averaged 7.9 YPA and threw 27 touchdowns to four interceptions. Brees finished third in both ANY/A and QBR last season. The most likely scenario is that he’s back in New Orleans as the starter.

    3. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (43)
    Brady is probably the most intriguing player on this list. Barring something unforeseen, he is going to play in 2020. It’s just a matter of where. The most likely scenario is that he returns to New England, but that’s not a certainty. Other teams courting Brady should be cautious. We’re reaching uncharted territory with his age. Only one quarterback — Vinny Testaverde in 2007 — has attempted at least 100 passes in a season at age 43 or older. At this stage of his career, Brady needs a top-tier offensive line and great weapons to succeed. He didn’t have either last season and finished 17th in ANY/A and QBR.

    4. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (38)
    Given his age and his up and down 2019 season, this ranking will surprise some. But the guess here is that there will be at least a couple of teams (Tampa? Indianapolis?) convinced they can squeeze one or two more years out of Rivers now that he and the Chargers have officially parted ways. He threw 20 interceptions last season, finished 15th in ANY/A and 22nd in QBR. Given his age and lack of mobility, the key for Rivers will be finding a team with a strong offensive line.

    5. Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys (26)
    He’s been fantastic since joining the Cowboys during the 2018 season. Last year, Cooper finished eighth in the NFL with 1,189 receiving yards. Michael Thomas got a new deal from the Saints in July that pays him $19.25 million per year. Julio Jones got a new deal from the Falcons in September that pays him $22 million per year. Cooper will likely be seeking a deal in the $20 million per year range, and he has leverage, given how well he’s played, how young he is and the fact that the Cowboys gave up a first-round pick to land him. The franchise or transition tag also could be an option.

    6. Chris Jones, DT, Chiefs (26)
    His 31 sacks over the last three seasons are tied for 10th most. And as Jones showed in the Super Bowl, he can be disruptive even when he’s not producing sacks. Jones doesn’t turn 26 until July, has missed three games in four seasons and has developed into one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL. Trey Flowers’ five-year, $90 million deal with the Lions last offseason could be a good comp for what Jones is looking for. He’s a candidate for the franchise tag.

    7. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Jaguars (25)
    He’s a highly productive player who has missed just one game in four seasons and should be entering his prime. Ngakoue can line up at either right or left defensive end and does a great job bending the edge. He has a second gear and consistently makes opposing quarterbacks feel his presence. Ngakoue’s 37.5 sacks over the last four seasons rank 12th. His 85 QB hits rank eighth. And his 14 forced fumbles rank fourth. Frank Clark, who received $20.8 million per year from the Chiefs last offseason, could be a good comp. The Jaguars could use the franchise tag to keep Ngakoue in Jacksonville.

    8. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Seahawks (27)
    He battled through a core-muscle injury last season and put up modest numbers (three sacks, 13 QB hits and seven tackles for loss). Clowney is not a prototypical edge rusher. He’s at his best when he can line up in different spots, cut loose and create chaos like we saw him do during the Seahawks’ Week 10 win over the *****. The Seahawks are expected to make a strong push to re-sign Clowney. As part of the preseason trade, the Seahawks agreed to not use the franchise tag on him. So he’ll either re-sign in Seattle or hit the open market.

    9. Byron Jones, CB, Cowboys (27)
    He played mostly right corner for the Cowboys last season but has experience previously playing safety and can line up in different spots. Jones is an elite athlete and effective in both man and zone. He can match up with outside receivers and can also take on dynamic tight ends. It would be no surprise to see Jones become the highest-paid corner in the NFL at $16 million or $17 million per season. The Cowboys could use the franchise or transition tag on Jones, but he seems well behind Prescott and Cooper on their priority list.

    10. Justin Simmons, S, Broncos (26)
    Simmons is not a prototypical free or strong safety. But he’s a versatile playmaker who can line up in different spots and impact the game. Simmons had 15 passes defended (ninth league-wide) last year to go along with four interceptions. He was a ball magnet but could also fire downhill against the run. Simmons played every defensive snap for the Broncos the past two seasons and was the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient. The majority of his snaps last year came in Denver’s two-high looks, so he’ll be a bit of a projection for teams that play predominantly single-high coverages. But based on the film he put out last season, Simmons should be effective in any scheme. Eddie Jackson and Kevin Byard have set the safety market at over $14 million per year. That’s likely the range Simmons will fall into if the Broncos don’t tag him.

    11. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Titans (32)
    There’s no downplaying just how good he was for Tennessee last year. Tannehill became the second player during the Super Bowl era — Joe Montana was the first — to complete over 70% of his passes and average over 9.0 YPA in a season. By some advanced metrics like completion percentage above expectation, he was the most accurate QB in the NFL. But teams — whether it’s the Titans or someone else — should be wary about putting too much stock into a 10-game sample. The Titans seem unlikely to let Tannehill walk, but they also probably shouldn’t commit big money to him long-term. The franchise tag may make the most sense here.

    12. Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, Buccaneers (27)
    A savvy edge rusher who probably earned as much money as anybody on this list with his 2019 performance, Barrett left Denver for Tampa last year and bet on himself with a one-year, $4 million deal. He led the NFL with 19.5 sacks, was tied for first with 37 QB hits and was third with six forced fumbles. Barrett produced a sack or QB hit on 11.1% of his pass-rush chances, the fourth-best mark among the 172 players who had at least 200 pass-rush opportunities. If Barrett were a former high draft pick or had a bigger profile, he would’ve received a lot more buzz for Defensive Player of the Year last season. The risk with Barrett is that he served mostly a backup role in Denver for five seasons and has just one year of big production. The Bucs are likely to either tag Barrett or sign him to a lucrative extension.

    13. Matt Judon, EDGE, Ravens (28)
    He was productive in 2017 and 2018 (totaling 15 sacks in the two seasons), saw a bump in playing time and became the Ravens’ best pass rusher in 2019. Judon finished with 9.5 sacks, and his 33 QB hits ranked fourth. He produced a sack or QB hit on 11.3% of his pass-rush opportunities last season, which ranked second among the 172 players who had at least 200 pass-rush snaps. Judon can line up in multiple spots, has strong hands and destroys tight ends. His profile is somewhat similar to Za’Darius Smith, who left the Ravens in free agency last year to sign with the Packers for $16.5 million per season. Judon may be one of the better defensive players to actually hit the market.

    14. James Bradberry, CB, Panthers (27)
    He’s started 60 games in four seasons since Carolina drafted him in the second round in 2016. Bradberry’s been durable, having played over 90% of the Panthers’ defensive snaps in each of the past three seasons. All options would appear to be in play with Matt Rhule taking over in Carolina. The Panthers could sign Bradberry to a long-term extension, use the franchise tag or let him walk. If he hits the open market, he’ll be one of the top corners available. Perhaps a reunion with Ron Rivera in Washington would make sense.

    15. Cory Littleton, LB, Rams (26)
    Versatile, athletic three-down linebacker whose skill set really fits the 2020 version of the NFL. Littleton can match up with tight ends, cover and tackle in space. He has five interceptions, 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. Littleton has never missed a game due to injury, and only five players have more tackles than him over the past two seasons. Given his age and durability, Littleton is looking at a big payday. He’s the top off-ball linebacker in this group.

    16. Arik Armstead, DL, ***** (26)
    The 2015 first-round pick chose the perfect time to break out. He set career highs with 10 sacks, 18 QB hits and 11 tackles for loss. He can rush the passer both from defensive end and defensive tackle and can win with power and quickness. Teams will have to decide whether Armstead is a late bloomer with upside or a one-year wonder who benefited from playing with other talented players on the defensive line. Armstead produced just nine sacks in 46 games during his first four seasons in the NFL.

    17. Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers (26)
    He hits free agency at a bad time. On the one hand, Winston’s only 26 and threw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. On the other hand, Winston had the worst interception rate (30 picks total) in the league and also had 12 fumbles (sixth most). How many teams are going to be willing to pay more than $25 million per year for such a mistake-prone QB? It only takes one, but Winston’s market will be fascinating to monitor.

    18. Brandon Scherff, OG, Washington (28)
    Brandon Brooks’ four-year, $56.3 million deal with the Eagles could provide a blueprint for what Scherff, a three-time Pro Bowler, is looking for. Washington could extend him, use the franchise tag or let Scherff hit the open market. Scherff has missed 13 games over the past two seasons and didn’t look his best in 2019. The Athletic’s Mark Bullock breaks down Washington film and had this to say:

    “He has strength to maul defensive tackles and linebackers up front in a gap or power scheme but is agile enough to zone block effectively too. In fact, his athleticism makes him one of 10 best offensive linemen in the league at pulling to the edge on sweeps and crack tosses, or even in the screen game. …If he can stay healthy, he’s one of the premier guards in the NFL.”

    19. Anthony Harris, S, Vikings (29)
    He’s been excellent as the starter at free safety for the Vikings over the past two seasons. Harris had a Pro Bowl-caliber 2019 campaign, tying for the league lead with six interceptions to go along with 11 passes defended. He’s performed well in Mike Zimmer’s scheme, and it would make sense for the two sides to continue doing business together.

    20. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals (32)
    He’s had a great career, but Green didn’t play a snap in 2019 and missed 13 games from 2016 to 2018. Signs out of Cincinnati indicate the Bengals are looking to hold on to him — whether that means a contract extension or the franchise tag.

    21. Dante Fowler, EDGE, Rams (26)
    He signed a one-year, $12 million deal last offseason to stay with the Rams and will now get to test free agency after turning in a career year. Fowler set career highs with 11.5 sacks, 16 QB hits and 16 tackles for loss last season. He produced a sack or QB hit on 5.9% of his pass-rush opportunities, which ranked 57th out of 172 qualifying players. Fowler is young and plays a premium position, which means there will be a market. But his production prior to 2019 was underwhelming.

    22. Bud Dupree, EDGE, Steelers (27)
    A versatile outside linebacker best suited for a 3-4 scheme, Dupree set career highs with 11.5 sacks, 17 QB hits and 16 tackles for loss last season. When Dupree gets to opposing quarterbacks, it’s almost always by beating offensive tackles to the high side. He is not a prototypical difference-making pass rusher but can fill multiple roles for a scheme that takes advantage of his versatility and athleticism.

    23. Joe Thuney, OG, Patriots (27)
    He’s started 64 straight games for the Patriots, and according to STATS, has given up just one sack in his last 32 games. Thuney should draw interest from teams looking for a durable guard who excels in pass protection.

    24. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans (26)
    He was phenomenal in 2019, finishing first in rushing yards (1,540), tied for first in rushing touchdowns (16) and first in runs of 10-plus yards (42). But paying up for running backs has not worked out for teams in recent years (see Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell). Henry is mostly a non-factor in the passing game, and his 409 touches (playoffs included) last season were 179 more than he’d had in any year previously. Having said all that, it’s difficult to see a scenario where the Titans let Henry hit free agency, considering he helped lead them to the AFC title game. The most likely scenario is probably that Henry gets tagged.

    25. Jack Conklin, RT, Titans (26)
    He bounced back from an injury-riddled 2018 to start every game in 2019. Conklin has been a 16-game starter in three of his first four NFL seasons. He is best suited for a run-heavy offense (say like, the Titans?).

    26. Robby Anderson, WR, Jets (27)
    He’s not a top-tier vertical threat, but for teams hoping to fill their need for speed in free agency, Anderson could present the best option. He’s averaged 14.8 YPR over the last four seasons, which ranks 27th among players with at least 100 targets. Anderson’s 50 catches of 20-plus yards during that stretch rank 19th. He’s an outside receiver who can stack defensive backs and also make contested catches. Last year, Tyrell Williams offered a somewhat similar profile and landed a four-year, $44 million deal. That could be a good comp for Anderson.

    27. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, ***** (33)
    Age is working against him, but Sanders did a good job for the ***** after a midseason trade from Denver. In San Francisco, he caught 36 passes for 502 yards on 53 targets. He played through a rib injury but made a difference for their offense. On the season, Sanders averaged 9.0 yards per target — 32nd among 155 qualifying players. Given his age and injury history (missed eight games from 2017 to 2018), Sanders won’t be attractive to every team looking for receiver help. But he can still be a nice fit for a team ready to win now.

    28. Javon Hargrave, DT, Steelers (27)
    Disruptive nose tackle who has missed just one game since entering the league in 2016. Hargrave has 10.5 sacks in the past two seasons. Last year, he had 52 tackles against the run, which ranked tied for 12th among all defensive linemen.

    29. Anthony Castonzo, LT, Colts (32)
    As of this writing, Castonzo is still mulling retirement, per The Athletic’s Zak Keefer. If he decides to keep playing, it will likely be for the Colts. He’s started 132 games over nine seasons for Indy and was on the field for 100% of the team’s offensive snaps last season.

    30. Bryan Bulaga, RT, Packers (31)
    Green Bay is expected to make a push to bring Bulaga back. He’s started 30 of 32 games over the past two seasons and 111 overall during his 10-year career with the Packers. The Athletic’s Bob McGinn had Bulaga down for four sacks allowed last season and described him as a solid starter.

    31. Chris Harris Jr., CB, Broncos (31)
    He’s a four-time Pro Bowler and has been highly productive during his nine-year career, but Harris turns 31 in June, and his play wasn’t as consistent last season. Harris has previously had a lot of success as a slot corner, but he lined up on the outside in 2019. Signing cornerbacks who are over 30 comes with risk. Whichever team adds Harris will be banking on him being an exception.

    32. D.J. Humphries, OT, Cardinals (26)
    Humphries is one of the few available starting-caliber left tackle options under the age of 30, and so he’s one of the players who should really benefit from the market. The good news is he’s only 26, improved in pass protection and didn’t miss a snap last season. The bad news is he was whistled for 13 penalties, and 2019 was the first time in his career he started all 16 games. Humphries has upside but is far from a sure thing.

    33. Devin McCourty, S, Patriots (33)
    Age is working against him, but McCourty is still one of the best safeties in the league. He’s started 155 games in 10 seasons under Bill Belichick.

    34. Trae Waynes, CB, Vikings (28)
    Drafted 11th overall in 2015, Waynes has started 53 games in five seasons. Waynes is not a true shutdown corner, but he’s a physical player and a quality starter. He’s probably a number two corner who will be looking for number one corner money.

    35. Bradley Roby, CB, Texans (28)
    Roby was a free agent last offseason and opted for a one-year, $10 million deal with the Texans, hoping to cash in on a prove-it deal. On one hand, he has the versatility to play both inside and outside, and Roby performed well for Houston in 2019. On the other, he missed six games due to a hamstring injury. It’ll be interesting to see whether Roby finds the market he’s looking for this time around.

    36. D.J. Reader, DT, Texans (26)
    He’s a player whom opposing coaches often identify as underrated because of the challenges Reader poses as a run-disrupting nose tackle. As a pass rusher, he has just 6.5 sacks in 61 career games, but Reader set a career-high with 13 QB hits last season. The market for run-stuffing nose tackles can be tricky, but Reader will be just 26 at the start of next season. The four-year, $42 million extension that Eddie Goldman signed with the Bears in 2018 could be Reader’s best-case scenario.

    37. Jason Pierre-Paul, EDGE, Buccaneers (31)
    He missed six games with a neck injury, but when Pierre-Paul returned he was his usual productive pass-rushing self. He finished the season with 8.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits in 10 games. In 2018, Pierre-Paul had 12.5 sacks. He presents a solid option for teams looking for short-term pass-rush help.

    38. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Saints (27)
    The Saints went 5-0 with Bridgewater as the starter last season. Did he light it up? No. But he completed 67.9% of his passes, averaged 7.1 YPA and threw nine touchdowns with two interceptions. Bridgewater was a free agent last offseason and settled for a one-year, $7.25 million deal to return to New Orleans. He could be an intriguing option for an organization that wants a quarterback with great intangibles who can manage the game and won’t make a lot of mistakes.

    39. Robert Quinn, EDGE, Cowboys (30)
    The Cowboys made a shrewd move, acquiring Quinn for a sixth-round pick before last season. He produced 11.5 sacks and 22 QB hits. Quinn had a sack or QB hit on 9.6% of his pass-rush opportunities, which ranked 10th among 172 qualifying players. Quinn most often lined up at right defensive end and won with speed turning the corner. He is no longer in his prime, and age will be working against him, but Quinn will be a solid option for teams looking for a veteran pass rusher.

    40. Joe Schobert, LB, Browns (26)
    There’s a lot to like about Schobert. He’s young, durable (has missed three games in four seasons) and has been productive. Over the past three seasons, only three players (Martinez, Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly) have produced more tackles than Schobert (378). He has six interceptions and seven forced fumbles during that stretch. Schobert is a nice option for a defense in need of a three-down linebacker who can cover.

    41. Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers (25)
    Durability has been an issue as Henry has played in just 41 games over four NFL seasons. When he’s on the field, he’s a highly efficient pass-catching tight end who can line up in multiple spots and be effective. Henry caught 55 passes for 652 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games last season. He’s posted an impressive 71.2% catch rate in four seasons.

    42. Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons (25)
    Highly efficient pass-catching tight end who had a career year in 2019 with 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns. Hooper’s 77.3% catch rate over the last four years is tops among the 52 tight ends who have had at least 100 targets. He’s a good route-runner with reliable hands who can make tough catches in traffic. He’ll be attractive to pass-heavy teams looking for tight end help.

    43. Andrus Peat, OG, Saints (26)
    He was drafted as a tackle in the first round of the 2015 draft but has played guard for the Saints. Peat’s made two Pro Bowls but was up and down in 2019 and has missed nine games over the past two seasons. Still, given his age and upside, along with the league-wide need for quality offensive linemen, Peat should find an attractive market.

    44. Jarran Reed, DT, Seahawks (27)
    He had a monster year in 2018 with 10.5 sacks and 24 quarterback hits, but that may have been an outlier. Reed has a total of five sacks and 20 QB hits in his other 40 games. There’s also an off-field concern. Reed was suspended for the first six games of the 2019 season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He’s a starting-caliber defensive tackle with upside, but counting on Reed to be a difference-making pass rusher is risky.

    45. Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans (26)
    It’s tough to imagine his contract year having gone much worse. Mariota completed just 59.4% of his passes, was sacked on 13.5% of his pass plays and got benched for Ryan Tannehill after the Titans got off to a 2-4 start. Tannehill then helped lead Tennessee to the AFC title game. It’ll be fascinating to see what Mariota’s market looks like. He’s still young, and there will be coaches who see talent and convince themselves they can get something out of him.

    46. Kendall Fuller, CB, Chiefs (25)
    Started 15 games in 2018 but was a rotational player in 2019, logging 45% of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps. Fuller is still young and can play outside or in the slot.

    47. Germain Ifedi, RT, Seahawks (26)
    The 2016 first-round pick has started 60 games in four seasons with the Seahawks, but Seattle declined to pick up his fifth-year option. Penalties (12 last year) have been an issue, but Ifedi is a starting-caliber right tackle. His best fit would be with a run-first offense. The Ja’Wuan James deal with the Broncos last season (four years, $51 million) could be a good comp for Ifedi.

    48. Blake Martinez, LB, Packers (26)
    He’s been a tackling machine. Martinez’s 441 tackles over the last three seasons are tops in the NFL. During that time, he’s also registered nine sacks. There’s no doubt that Martinez is a starting-caliber off-ball linebacker, but the film doesn’t always match the numbers. The Athletic’s Ben Fennell took a close look at Martinez during last season and observed that the Packers’ scheme freed him up to make plays against the run. But Fennell noted that Martinez struggles to fight off blocks, is not an explosive athlete and is not much of a playmaker. If a team wants a reliable three-down linebacker, Martinez is a nice option. He hasn’t missed a game in three seasons. But his game has limitations.

    49. Leonard Williams, DT, Giants (26)
    Before the deadline, the Giants made the baffling decision to send a pair of draft picks (including a third-round selection in 2020) to the Jets in exchange for eight games of Williams. Now the former first-round pick can test free agency. Williams is a starting-caliber defensive tackle, but he had 0.5 sacks, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble last year. He produced a sack or QB hit on 4.1% of his pass-rush opportunities, which ranked 101st out of 172 qualifying players. Given that the Giants are loaded with cap space, Williams may be positioned to land a big payday to remain in New York.

    50. Eli Apple, CB, Saints (25)
    The change of scenery from New York to New Orleans seemed to do him well. The Giants traded Apple to the Saints in the middle of the 2018 season, and he helped their defense. He started 15 games in 2019 before suffering an ankle injury. The good news is Apple doesn’t turn 25 until August. The bad news is he might be looking at his third team in five years.

    51. Logan Ryan, CB, Titans (29)
    A smart, instinctive hybrid defensive back who is coming off a career year. Ryan played different roles in the Titans defense as a slot corner, safety and savvy blitzer. His 18 passes defended were third most in the league. Ryan also added 4.5 sacks, eight QB hits, 113 tackles and four interceptions. He’s not a fit for teams looking for an every-down outside corner and can struggle against speedy vertical threats. But Ryan can be an effective playmaker in the right role and may be able to transition to safety down the road.

    52. Breshad Perriman, WR, Buccaneers (27)
    The former Ravens first-round pick signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Tampa last offseason and will now get to hit the market again. He caught 36 balls for 645 yards and six touchdowns last season. Among players with at least 50 targets, Perriman ranked sixth in YPR (17.9). He saw a bump in playing time down the stretch after Mike Evans got injured. From Weeks 13 to 17, Perriman’s 506 receiving yards were third most in the NFL. He is a legit vertical threat, shows impressive body control and can make contested catches. If Perriman can stay healthy, he could prove to be a nice find for a team looking to add speed.

    53. Jimmie Ward, S, ***** (29)
    He signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal to return to San Francisco last offseason and will now look to cash in. Ward lined up at free safety in the *****’ predominantly single-high scheme and played well. The question with Ward will be durability. He’s missed 32 games in six seasons, and last year was the first time he played more than 70% of the team’s defensive snaps.

    54. Vonn Bell, S, Saints (25)
    He’s started 45 games in four seasons with the Saints. Bell’s strength is playing in the box. He’s best suited for a scheme that has defined free and strong safeties or one that uses a lot of two-deep safety looks.

    55. Maliek Collins, DT, Cowboys (25)
    He started 55 games in four seasons with the Cowboys and finished 2019 with four sacks, 10 QB hits and six tackles for loss. Collins is still young, so the possibility exists that he’ll put it all together and make a leap in the next few years. But at this point he should be viewed as a solid, starting-caliber 4-3 defensive tackle.

    56. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT, Eagles (27)
    He started 20 games in four seasons for the Eagles, playing both left and right tackle and even seeing some time at guard. During the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017, Vaitai was their starting left tackle for 10 regular-season games and three more playoff games. Vaitai has looked like a different player when he’s had a chance to prepare as opposed to when he’s had to enter the game on the fly after a starter suffers an injury. He has shown he can be a competent, starting-caliber left tackle. Given his age and the market, that should get Vaitai paid.

    57. Danny Shelton, DT, Patriots (27)
    He’s one of many run-stuffing nose tackles set to hit the market. Shelton played 49% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps last season and set career highs with 61 tackles and three sacks. His 56 tackles against the run last year were tied for fifth most among defensive linemen.

    58. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Bucccaneers (33)
    In 2018, he signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Rams. Last year, he signed a one-year, $9.25 million deal with Tampa. Now Suh will hit free agency for the third straight offseason. He’s not the player he used to be but has been remarkably durable, having started 158 out of a possible 160 games during his 10-year career. Suh had 2.5 sacks and 14 QB hits last season.

    59. Graham Glasgow, G/C, Lions (28)
    As The Athletic’s Chris Burke details, Glasgow did not miss a snap in 2017 and 2018, but the Lions forced him into a bizarre rotation in 2019. Per STATS, Glasgow did not allow a single sack last season.

    60. Eric Ebron, TE, Colts (27)
    Per The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, Ebron’s decision to go on injured reserve in November with ankle issues caught the Colts by surprise, and he won’t be back in Indy. Ebron had a monster 2018 campaign with 66 catches for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns, but the change at quarterback in 2019 did Ebron no favors. He’s lined up in the slot on 48.7% of his snaps over the past two seasons — the second-highest rate for any tight end. Ebron has had issues with drops and isn’t much of a blocker, but he can help a pass-heavy team in need of TE help.

    61. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers (27)
    He held out at the start of last season and took some time to get going once he returned. Gordon’s play improved as the season went on, but he averaged just 3.8 YPC on 162 carries and 7.0 YPR on 42 receptions. He’s averaged under 4.0 YPC in four of five NFL seasons. Gordon can be a solid, three-down starting back, but given what we’ve seen with the running back market, he’s unlikely to find the lucrative offer he’s seeking.

    62. Ronald Darby, CB, Eagles (26)
    Darby was coming off a season-ending injury last offseason and had to settle for a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Eagles. He suffered a hip flexor injury and missed five games in 2019. In all, Darby has missed 20 games over the past three seasons. He has above-average cover skills but is not a good tackler, lacks adequate ball skills and gives up too many big plays. Given his age and natural talent, Darby should still get a chance to start on the outside somewhere.

    63. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Chiefs (28)
    He’s been on three teams in three seasons but was a 15-game starter on the outside for the Chiefs last year and could benefit from their Super Bowl run. There’s always a market for competent corners.

    64. Jordan Phillips, DT, Bills (27)
    He settled for a one-year deal to return to Buffalo last offseason and will now get to test the market again. Phillips’ numbers last year (9.5 sacks, 16 QB hits) should be taken with a grain of salt. He had just 5.5 sacks and 17 QB hits in his first four NFL seasons. Phillips is an athletic, powerful defensive tackle who is scheme-versatile and should get a chance to start somewhere.

    65. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Vikings (26)
    Versatile defensive back who played well as the Vikings’ slot corner last season, logging 49% of the team’s defensive snaps. May want a chance to prove himself as an outside CB.

    66. Shelby Harris, DT, Broncos (29)
    Became a full-time starter last season and performed well, producing a career-high six sacks. Harris showed an amazing knack for getting his hands up at the right time and led the NFL with nine passes batted at the line of scrimmage.

    67. Vic Beasley, EDGE, Falcons (28)
    He’s best suited for a role that allows him to get after the quarterback and not worry about anything else. Beasley hasn’t come close to matching his 2016 sack total (15.5), but he finished strong last season and ended the year with eight sacks and 12 QB hits.

    68. Shaq Lawson, DE, Bills (26)
    He’s started 17 games in four seasons and has mostly been used as a rotational pass rusher. Lawson is coming off a season in which he set career highs with 6.5 sacks and 18 QB hits. He produced a sack or QB hit on 9.9% of his pass-rush opportunities, which ranked eighth among 172 qualifying players. But the film shows he benefited from matchups against tight ends and botched blocking assignments from opposing teams. Teams will have to decide whether they see Lawson as a sub-package player or a starter.

    69. Markus Golden, EDGE, Giants (29)
    He had 12.5 sacks in 2016 but battled through injuries the next two years. Last offseason, Golden signed a one-year, $3.75 million deal with the Giants and produced an impressive season with 10 sacks and 17 QB hits. Golden had a sack or QB hit on 8.3% of his pass-rush opportunities, which ranked 18th out of 172 qualifying players. Golden does a good job on stunts and plays with great effort. He should have a better market this time around.

    70. Mario Addison, EDGE, Panthers (33)
    Only 10 players have more sacks than Addison over the past four seasons. Addison is a high-effort player who lined up mostly on the edge but also saw snaps as an interior pass rusher. He’s not going to be a long-term fix but can help a team looking for immediate pass-rush help.

    71. Jamie Collins, LB, Patriots (30)
    His return to New England was a success. Collins started 15 games and played 81% of the snaps on the top-ranked defense in the NFL. His versatility and athleticism allowed Collins to wear a number of different hats for Belichick. Collins set a career-high with seven sacks to go along with 10 QB hits and 10 tackles for loss. Interested teams should be cautious before assuming he’d put up those same numbers in a different scheme.

    72. Kyle Van Noy, LB/EDGE, Patriots (29)
    Belichick decided that Van Noy’s best role was as a pass rusher in 2019. He went after the quarterback on 394 snaps, according to Sportradar, and finished with 6.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hits. Van Noy is a versatile, athletic linebacker who can fill multiple roles in the right scheme.

    73. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Lions (25)
    Another run-stuffing defensive tackle in a free-agent class that is loaded with them. Robinson has started 37 games in four seasons with the Lions and can be an effective early-down player. But he has just five sacks and 14 QB hits in 58 career games.

    74. Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals (26)
    He flourished in Arizona after a midseason trade from the Dolphins. In eight games with the Cardinals, Drake ran for 643 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.2 YPC.

    75. Rodney McLeod, S, Eagles (30)
    Bounced back from injury to start all 16 games and performed well in 2019. McLeod is a prototypical free safety who can play the deep middle of the field in single-high schemes and also fire downhill against the run. Age is a factor, but he should interest teams in need of a short-term starter.

    76. Jimmy Smith, CB, Ravens (32)
    Because of his age and injury history, signing Smith would carry risk. He started five games last year and played well but has been on the field for fewer than 60% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in each of the past four seasons (Smith was suspended for four games in 2018 for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy). He could be an option for a team looking for a short-term fix at outside corner.

    77. Carl Nassib, EDGE, Buccaneers (27)
    He’s not flashy, but Nassib has been productive with 12.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hits over the past two seasons.

    78. De’Vondre Campbell, LB, Falcons (27)
    He’s started 54 games in four seasons for a Falcons defense that has struggled to find consistency under Dan Quinn. Campbell is a versatile, athletic WILL linebacker who had a career-high 129 tackles last year.

    79. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Bears (27)
    He entered free agency last offseason and had to settle for a one-year, $3 million deal from the Bears. Now Clinton-Dix will try again, but it seems unlikely that his market will be drastically different. Clinton-Dix is a starting-caliber free safety. He has never missed a game and can make plays on the ball but is not a reliable tackler and lacks versatility.

    80. Gerald McCoy, DT, Panthers (32)
    He signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Panthers last year and could be looking for another one-year deal for 2020. McCoy’s best days are behind him, but he can still contribute as a starting 4-3 DT and would be a nice locker-room addition for teams ready to compete for a title. McCoy started all 16 games last season and had five sacks to go along with 13 QB hits.

    81. Derek Wolfe, DT, Broncos (30)
    A gap-penetrating defensive tackle who can offer some interior pass rush, Wolfe finished last season with a career-high seven sacks to go along with 12 QB hits. He produced a sack or QB hit on 7.5% of his pass-rush opportunities last season; that ranked 26th out of 172 qualifying players.

    82. Karl Joseph, S, Raiders (27)
    He suffered a season-ending foot injury last season and appeared in only nine games, which makes it tricky to predict what Joseph’s market will look like. Teams that play a lot of single-high coverages and are looking for a prototypical free safety are unlikely to be interested. But Joseph could be appealing to defenses looking for a young strong safety with upside.

    83. Jason Peters, LT, Eagles (38)
    He turned 38 in January but has managed to start 29 of 32 games over the past two seasons. Peters’ play has slipped, but he’s still a starting-caliber left tackle and would provide leadership to a team that’s ready to contend. Peters would be a risky signing, but a needy team might be willing to take a one-year flier. He has said he’s not ready to retire.

    84. Andrew Whitworth, LT, Rams (38)
    Might as well pair the old-guy left tackles together. Like Peters, Whitworth saw his play decline last season, but he still stayed on the field for 99% of the Rams’ offensive snaps and is still competent in pass pro.

    85. Damarious Randall, S, Browns (28)
    Former corner who transitioned to safety after the Packers traded him to the Browns. Good tackler who will be attractive to teams that value versatility. But interested suitors will have to do their homework. Randall has clashed with two coaching staffs. The Packers benched him and sent him to the locker room during a game in 2017. And the Browns’ coaching staff left him in Cleveland when they were playing a game in Pittsburgh for disciplinary reasons.

    86. Michael Brockers, DT, Rams (29)
    He’s been a durable run-stopping defensive tackle for the Rams. Brockers’ 53 tackles against the run last season were tied for 10th among defensive linemen. He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher with just four sacks in his last 32 games.

    87. Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, Bears (27)
    Kwiatkoski got a chance to start eight games last year because of injuries to other players at linebacker, and he performed well. He flashed as a three-down linebacker and showed exceptional ability as a blitzer, finishing with three sacks. Kwiatkoski should draw interest as a full-time starter.

    88. Kevin Johnson, CB, Bills (28)
    The former Texans first-round pick signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Bills and played well. He wore a number of different hats, playing special teams and nickel before eventually earning snaps at right corner. Johnson’s versatility and age (compared to some of the other corners on the market) could prove to be attractive.

    89. Brian Poole, CB, Jets (27)
    Slot corner signed a one-year deal with the Jets last offseason and played well, logging 68% of the team’s defensive snaps. Slot corners Justin Coleman and Bryce Callahan got $9M/year and $7M/year deals, respectively, last offseason. Then again, Darqueze Dennard had to settle for a one-year, $4.5 million deal from the Bengals.

    90. Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys (30)
    The veteran signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Cowboys last offseason and played well, catching 55 balls for 828 yards while averaging a career-high 15.1 YPR. Cobb averaged 10.0 yards per target, which ranked 10th among 155 qualifying players.

    91. Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles (27)
    He had multiple opportunities to carve out a bigger role with the Eagles but could never take advantage. Agholor averaged 5.3 yards per target last year, which ranked 147th out of 155 qualifying players. Going forward, he is best suited exclusively as a slot receiver. Agholor can separate and flashes YAC ability but has bad hands, struggles to track the ball downfield and is unlikely to win on contested catches. His best season came in 2017 when he had 62 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns.

    92. Devin Funchess, WR, Colts (26)
    He got a one-year, $10 million deal from Indy last offseason but broke his collarbone in the opener. Funchess can win with his size downfield but has unreliable hands and has been one of the more inefficient receivers since entering the NFL in 2015.

    93. Demarcus Robinson, WR, Chiefs (26)
    He was on the field for 70% of Kansas City’s offensive snaps and flashed at times, catching 32 balls for 449 yards and four touchdowns. Robinson will now get a chance to parlay that performance into a long-term deal. Interested teams should be wary about thinking he can be even more productive without Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid.

    94. Connor McGovern, G/C, Broncos (27)
    Not the most exciting free agent on this list, but McGovern is young, has 36 career starts and possesses versatility to play center or guard. Given the state of O-line play in the NFL, that should be enough to draw a team’s interest.

    95. Jalen Mills, CB, Eagles (26)
    Feisty outside corner who started on the Eagles’ Super Bowl team in 2017. He’s missed 15 games due to injury over the past two seasons. Mills is a good tackler and a physical player, but his lack of speed is an issue, and he gives up too many big plays. May look to sign a prove-it deal with hopes of testing the market again next offseason.

    96. Tre Boston, S, Panthers (28)
    He’s been on three different teams in the last three seasons, has had the chance to hit the open market but has failed to score a long-term deal. Having said that, Boston earns a starting job everywhere he goes. He has 11 interceptions and 28 passes defended in the past three seasons. Boston can offer competent play to teams in need of free safety help.

    97. Kamalei Correa, EDGE, Titans (26)
    The Athletic’s John Glennon noted that Correa might have been the Titans’ most improved defensive player last season. After playing fewer than 50% of Tennessee’s defensive snaps in the first eight weeks, Correa earned a larger role and had seven sacks in the Titans’ final 11 games (playoffs included). The former second-round pick might have earned himself some money during Tennessee’s surprising postseason run.

    98. Quinton Jefferson, DT, Seahawks (27)
    High-effort defensive lineman who started 24 games over the past two seasons for the Seahawks. Jefferson had 3.5 sacks and 10 QB hits last season, can provide interior pass rush and has the versatility to line up in multiple spots.

    99. Michael Pierce, DT, Ravens (27)
    Yet another run-stuffing defensive tackle. Pierce started 14 games last year and was on the field for 49% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps. He offers very little as a pass rusher (3.5 sacks and 13 QB hits in 60 career games).

    100. Daryl Williams, OT, Panthers (28)
    He got a chance to test the market last offseason but was coming off a season-ending injury and had to settle for a one-year, $6 million deal. Williams did not have a good season in 2019, but he’s started 41 games in his career and has guard/tackle versatility. That might be enough for a team to take a flier.

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  • viper
    Best Players Available Post Day 1
    by viper
    Here's the best of the rest. Who is on your wish list?

    NFL Free Agents 2017: Best Players Available at Every Position Post Day
    Brent Sobleski NFL AnalystMarch 9, 2017


    1 of 15


    Tom Dahlin/Getty Images
    Everyone take a deep breath and let the market reset after Thursday's deluge of free-agent signings.
    Breathe in.
    Breathe out.
    The initial wave of transactions seemed closer to the opening of the stock market than the NFL's new league year.
    Backup quarterback Mike Glennon agreed to a contract with the Chicago Bears for $14.5 million per season, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Cornerback A.J. Bouye struck gold when he decided to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars for five years and $67.5 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Cleveland Browns made Kevin Zeitler the highest paid guard in NFL history, according to Schefter.
    After the initial sticker shock wears off, a realization occurs many quality free agents are still available with copious amounts of money to be spent throughout the league.
    With the first stage of free agency complete, the market starts to settle, while teams continue to search for quality additions at the right price.
    A team or teams "winning" free agency on the first day rarely results in a positive impact. Instead, it's those franchises willing to wait, find bargains and supplement their rosters that often successfully navigate the process.
    With the most-valuable targets off the board—financially, that is—Bleacher Report identified the top remaining unrestricted free agents at every position.





    Quarterback

    2 of 15


    Tony Avelar/Associated Press
    1. Colin Kaepernick: Politics aside, Kaepernick played relatively well last season. During a six-game stretch in October and November, the quarterback completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 1,440 yards and 10 touchdowns.
    2. Ryan Fitzpatrick: The Harvard product lost the Fitz-magic. It's gone. But he can still serve as an experienced backup option.
    3. Mark Sanchez: It has been seven years since the Sanchise ledthe New York Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. He's only 30 years old and may get another chance at a new destination.
    4. Geno Smith: Some team will take a flyer on this 26-year-old former second-round pick.
    5. Case Keenum: Last season proved to be a disaster. Keenum finished 22nd overall in completion percentage and 23rd in yards per attempt. He also threw more interceptions (11) than touchdowns (nine).
    6. Josh McCown: The veteran signal-caller is a consummate professional and an ideal backup.
    7. Shaun Hill: The 37-year-old quarterback dates back to NFL Europe, but he can still start in a pinch.
    8. Matt McGloin: McGloin doesn't have the physical tools to succeed as a starting quarterback, yet his...
    -03-10-2017, 10:25 AM
  • eldfan
    Team MVPs: Best players from each NFL club in 2010 season
    by eldfan
    By Nate Davis, USA TODAY
    Who were the NFL's prime performers from the 2010 season? USA TODAY's Nate Davis reviews the team MVPs for all 32 clubs (based on regular-season performance only):
    ***

    Arizona Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald. Somehow he managed to reel in 90 catches for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns while toiling on an abysmal offense that never remotely recovered from the offseason retirement of QB Kurt Warner and didn't have WR Anquan Boldin to occasionally draw coverage away from Fitzgerald. And in a league pocked with chirpy wideouts, Fitzgerald never groused while playing with scattershot QB Derek Anderson and two rookie signal-callers.

    Atlanta Falcons: WR Roddy White. With his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season, White is earning widespread recognition as one of the game's elite wideouts. He topped the NFL with a career-high 115 receptions and paced the NFC with 1,389 yards. And who can forget his game-saving strip of San Francisco ***** CB Nate Clements after he picked off Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the waning minutes of Atlanta's Week 4 win? Ryan subsequently drove Atlanta to a game-winning field goal.

    Baltimore Ravens: LB Ray Lewis. Who else? His bio says he's 35, but the 15-year veteran never seems to age much, which is why he's been a Pro Bowler a dozen times. Lewis finished sixth league-wide with 139 tackles, his highest total since 2004. He also had a pair of forced fumbles, a couple of sacks and two interceptions. But Lewis has never been a man to be measured by numbers, and the emotional fuel he continues to provide his team was a vital component in its 12-win campaign.

    Buffalo Bills: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. His ascendance to the starter's chair in Week 3 helped Buffalo become a more competitive football team, winning four of Fitzpatrick's final seven starts. Before that resurgence, Buffalo lost three consecutive games by three points each to the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears— all playoff teams. Fitzpatrick saw his streak of 15 consecutive games with a touchdown snapped in Week 16, leaving him three shy of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly's franchise record. The former Harvard signal-caller was also the first Buffalo passer to throw for 3,000 yards since J.P. Losman in 2006 and the first to reach 20 touchdown passes since Drew Bledsoe in 2004.

    Carolina Panthers: DE Charles Johnson. Maybe he won't make Carolina fans forget long-gone Julius Peppers, but Johnson stepped up with 11.5 sacks — tied for seventh in the NFL — while filling the breach. Peppers produced eight in his first season with the Chicago Bears, though at a much loftier price tag than Johnson. The pressure Johnson provided helped the Panthers finish 11th in pass defense, a small positive for a team that had little to smile about in a 2-14 debacle of a season.

    Chicago Bears: DE Julius Peppers. Chicago's $92 million man proved worthy of the...
    -01-26-2011, 08:33 AM
  • Nick
    McShay's way-too-early 2018 NFL mock draft
    by Nick
    McShay's way-too-early 2018 NFL mock draft
    Todd McShay
    ESPN Senior Writer

    Let's start by emphasizing the first part of the headline above: way-too-early. There's a reason we use that terminology for this piece. I have not studied tape on most of these players. I've simply done my best to match up many of the top players on my preliminary list with teams that make sense.

    A few more important notes:

    Most of my evaluations below came from what I've been able to see watching players in person or on TV. We still have a ton of work to do on everyone in the 2018 class.

    Last year, 14 players who were featured in my way-too-early mock draft ended up going in the 2017 first round, and 20 total went in the first two rounds. As we saw with Jake Butt, injuries are impossible to predict and certainly impact a player's draft stock.

    The draft order below was generated by Football Outsiders, using its early projected records for the 2017 season.

    Here is my way-too-early NFL mock draft for 2018. Underclassmen are noted with an asterisk.

    1. Cleveland Browns
    Sam Darnold, QB, USC*
    Watching WR JuJu Smith-Schuster in preparation for the 2017 draft, it was hard not to notice Darnold. He has the mental makeup, poise and arm strength you look for in an NFL quarterback.

    2. San Francisco 49ers
    Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming*
    Allen is very physically gifted, but he needs to improve his decision-making and be a little more consistent with his footwork. He has good mobility and the arm strength to make any throw in the book.

    3. New York Jets
    Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA*
    Rosen is coming off a shoulder injury that knocked him out of his team's final six games last season. He has raw talent but needs to improve his accuracy; he has a 59.7 career completion rate.

    4. Cleveland Browns*
    Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson*
    Wilkins finished second on Clemson with 13 tackles for loss in 2016, just behind Carlos Watkins, who had 13.5. Wilkins is very disruptive, racking up 10 pass breakups and five QB hurries last season.

    *Acquired in a trade with the Texans

    5. Minnesota Vikings
    Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama*
    The No. 1-ranked WR recruit in 2015, Ridley has accounted for 161 catches in his two seasons in Tuscaloosa. That's 28.4 percent of the team's total in that span.

    6. Denver Broncos
    Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas*
    Jefferson has started 18 games in his first two seasons with Texas. He has 15.5 tackles for loss in his career and ranked third on the team with 42 solo tackles in 2016.

    7. Indianapolis Colts
    Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State*
    Barkley had nearly 1,900 total yards in his true sophomore season at Penn State. His 22 total touchdowns ranked first among all Power 5 running backs last season.

    8. Buffalo Bills
    Derwin...
    -07-15-2017, 08:08 AM
  • Nick
    Mel Kiper's way-too-early Big Board: Top 25 2018 prospects
    by Nick
    Mel Kiper's way-too-early Big Board: Top 25 2018 prospects
    May 11, 2017
    Mel Kiper Jr.
    Football analyst

    Say so long to the Class of 2017. It's time for my annual way-too-early look at next year's (potential) NFL draft class.

    So how'd I do last year? Well, three from my top five went in the top six in the 2017 draft -- Myles Garrett (1), Leonard Fournette (4) and Jamal Adams (6) -- and another went 12th (Deshaun Watson). Tim Williams, on the other hand, dropped all the way to No. 78 after an inconsistent season. A few others dropped big time or returned to school for another season, but overall it was pretty solid.

    A few notes on my first 2018 Big Board:

    I'm not going to be too scouting-heavy here. My own reports on these guys are still half-formed, and so much will change between now and the 2018 draft.

    Keep in mind that several prospects here have only started one season, and so I'm projecting based on size, athletic ability, statistics and what I hear from people around the league.

    Speaking of sizes, what's listed here is what schools give out. These could vary greatly when players show up for the 2018 combine. True height and weight really matters for almost every position.

    Check out Todd McShay's first 2018 mock draft, and come back next week for my way-too-early rankings across every position group.

    Note: One asterisk denotes a junior, and two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore for the 2017 season.


    1. **Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California

    Darnold has everything NFL teams want in a starter. He has a big frame (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), makes quick decisions and is an accurate and natural passer. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes last season and ranked second in the nation in Total QBR (86.8). He does have an unorthodox, long delivery, however, that will have to be retooled. And the third-year sophomore has only started 10 games.



    2. *Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

    There is some projection here because Fitzpatrick (6-1, 195) has played both corner and safety and appears likely to stick at safety in 2017. But the versatility is a plus, and he could be really good at either spot. He has eight interceptions in two seasons, and four of those were returned for touchdowns. I also like that Fitzpatrick will get after it on special teams. He had 11 special-teams tackles in 2016.


    3. *Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

    The buzz has been growing around the 6-5, 216-pound Allen, who can really throw. His numbers weren't great last season -- 28 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions while completing 56 percent of his passes -- but NFL teams will take into account the talent around him. And Wyoming is losing a few offensive players to the NFL, including center Chase Roullier, running back Brian Hill, wide receiver Tanner Gentry and tight end...
    -05-12-2017, 06:42 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Ranking The Top-Five Pass-Rushing Duos
    by r8rh8rmike
    Ranking the top-five pass-rushing duos

    John Clayton, NFL senior writer

    Justin Houston became the NFL's second highest paid defensive player Wednesday by agreeing to a six-year, $101-million contract, with $52.5 million guaranteed.

    After a 22-sack season, Houston believes he's the best pass-rusher in football and the Kansas City Chiefs' deal with him reflects that. Houston has taken the 3-4 outside linebacker market from Clay Matthews' $13.2 million per year to over $16 million annually.

    And when asked at a recent charity event whether he and Tamba Hali formed the league's best pass-rushing duo, Houston wasn't shy: "I'd say so. I think everybody should think the same. I think you should think that as an NFL player, think you're the best and believe you're the best. I really do think we are."

    But there's a reason the NFL is also known as the "Not For Long" league. If one pass-rusher receives a huge contract, it often leads to the eventual departure of the other. That might soon be the case in Kansas City. Hali, who turns 32 in November, restructured his contract this offseason, taking his $11.5 million average down to $6 million and making himself a free agent next year.

    With the Chiefs investing a first-round pick on outside linebacker Dee Ford last year, Hali could be in his final season with the Chiefs.

    One important note before we delve into the list: The increasing impact of defensive tackles in the pass-rush could be forming new challengers in the coming years. Ndamukong Suh's move to Miami pairs him with Cameron Wake. Aaron Donald's nine-sack rookie season may reconfigure opinions of the Robert Quinn-Chris Long alliance in St. Louis. Marcell Dareus's 10-sack season helped the Buffalo Bills lead the league with 54 sacks.

    But let's forget about what could be for a second, and look at my current top-five pass-rushing duos.

    1. Houston-Hali

    As Houston has grown, so has the Chiefs' defensive. In their four seasons together, Houston's sack numbers have increased each season -- 5.5 as a rookie, 10 in Year 2, 11 in 2013 and 22 last year. And it's no surprise that the more Houston reached the quarterback, the fewer points KC allowed. Opponents' points per game dropped from 26.6 in 2012 to 19.1 in 2013 to 17.6 last year. The Chiefs learned his value when he missed the final five games of the 2013 season, allowing 25.2 points and 405 yards per game without him.

    Over the past four seasons, Houston and Hali have combined for 86.5 sacks. It may very well happen, but it would be a shame to see them break up after the season.

    2. Von Miller-DeMarcus Ware, Denver Broncos

    Schematically, the Broncos' switch to the 3-4 defense should enable them to outperform the Ravens' Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil this season. Miller enters every season as a candidate...
    -07-16-2015, 04:02 PM
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