What to Expect From the Carolina Panthers

At this point every year, I sit down and talk myself into the Panthers going anywhere from 11-5 to 13-3. This year however, I am struggling to get to that point, but don’t worry, after enough time I got there. Throughout this post, I am doing to mention and breakdown a couple of players, do a quick run through of their draft, and end it with a complete breakdown of their schedule.

Obviously there is Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton, and Greg Olsen. They HAVE to preform and stay healthy for the Panthers to have ANY kind of success. Obviously the secondary has not shown up at all for the past few season, but I expect that to change. Bradberry and Jackson are both going to have fantastic years. Eric Reid is going to return to form, and we welcome back Tre Boston, who can remember the energy we need to have to match the 2015 season. As for the linebackers, a key offseason signing of Bruce Irvin is going to, in my opinion, prove very crucial as he will be able to pass off a ton of his knowledge to our already talented linebacker group. Every year this player seems to be “the breakout guy” but he never has proven to be. And that is Shaq Thompson. A tremendous outside linebacker, but has never taken it to the next level that the Panthers are looking for. And then we get to the front four. Fantastic. Gerald McCoy was a great offseason acquisition and I am predicting a bounce back season for Dontari Poe. You can always expect KK Short to have a great year along with Mario Addison. And then there is the newcomer Brian Burns, and I will touch on him later. But I will say one thing, I am very excited for this man to join the Carolina Panthers. VERY.

As for the offense, the offensive line is terrible. Just terrible. A somehow ranked middle of the pack pass blocking o-line, they have got to just add a few more seconds for Cam. And part of this is on Cam too. He takes way to long for a play to develop. He needs to go through his drop back and by the time his back foot plants know who he is throwing too. As for the run block, we were the 6th worse run blocking team. And if you think of how good McCaffrey was, just imagine him on a team that could actually block for him. Wild right. I think the run block is going to make a lot of improvements and the pass blocking is actually going to suffer. Which brings me to my next point, Cam Newton. What a wild ride he is. Cam needs to stay healthy if the Panthers want ANY sort of success. Coming off a shoulder surgery, I think we are going to see a Cam Newton similar to his MVP season. DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel are both going to have breakout seasons with this improved Cam Newton and McCaffrey is going to continue to be one of the best backs in the league.

Now for the most interesting part. Dissecting the Panthers schedule. Probably none of what I actually said above is going to happen which means that the next part is also gonna be wrong.

Week #1: At home playing the Los Angeles Rams

Plain and simple the Panthers are going to get thrashed. We are not going to come out hot, the Rams are going to run all over us and just dominate us. Very little chance the Panthers actually win this game.

Week #2: At home playing the Tampa Bay Bucs

After a probable demoralizing loss in week one, the Panthers are going to come back strong in a early division game. It is always going to be a tough game with the NFC South, but the Bucs are definitely the easiest team to play. I believe the Panthers will come out on top but it won’t be easy.

Week #3: Away playing the Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are probably going to be one of the worst teams in football. However, the Panthers can never get up for these kinds of games. They seem to play down to the level of the opponent. However, the Panthers are going to win this game easily and it won’t be much of a contest.

Week #4: Away playing the Houston Texans

Deshaun Watson is going to pick apart the Carolina Panthers. We will have no solution. We will lose this game to get to 2-2 on the season through 4 games.

Week #5: At home playing the Jacksonville Jaguars

This is going to be one of the closest games of the Panthers season. I believe that we are going to come out on top after a tough battle and improve to 3-2.

Week #6: Away playing the Tampa Bay Bucs

The Panthers will easily win this game. It won’t be much of a challenge, but will prove to be a very big win as we will continue to gain momentum. 4-2 on the season and getting into a rhythm.

WEEK 7 BYE

Week #8: Away playing the San Francisco 49ers

The Panthers should easily win this game. 5-2 on the season.

Week #9: At home playing the Tennessee Titans

I do not like Mariota and especially don’t think his career is going ANYWHERE. Panthers win another easy game to get to 6-2.

Week #10: Away playing the Green Bay Packers

Away at Lambeau is always challenging. Especially if the Packers have a defense which I believe they will be pretty tough this year. Panthers drop this game. And it won’t be close.

Week #11: At home playing the Atlanta Falcons

NFC South games are always challenging whether it is home or away. Panthers win this game behind a fantastic McCaffrey game. 7-3.

Week #12: Away playing the New Orleans Saints

We get smashed. Never can play the Saints. Kamara tears us apart. 7-4.

Week #13: At home playing the Washington Redskins

I believe by this time Haskins is going to be playing for the Redskins and he torches us. Panthers drop back to back games to get to 7-5 on the year.

Week #14: Away playing the Atlanta Falcons

Panthers lose three straight and start to get frustrated with the way things are going. After a close loss in Atlanta the Panthers begin to think about firing Ron Rivera. 7-6 on the year.

Week #15: At home playing the Seattle Seahawks

Four straight losses for the Panthers after a great start to the season leads to even more thought about Rivera’s job security. 500 on the year sitting at 7-7 with 2 weeks left.

Week #16: Away playing the Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are going to be one of the worst teams in football. Panthers win this one to at least finish at 500 for the season. It seems as if Rivera will be safe. 8-7.

Week #17: Away playing the New Orleans Saints

The Panthers get absolutely embarrassed in this game. Finishing at 500 on the season and not making the playoffs, Rivera is definitely on the hot seat. 8-8 on the year. Disappointing to say the least.

2019 NFL Season Preview, NFC West Edition

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Dylan White and I decided to dive deep into every team’s offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and record predictions. Here is my 2019 NFC West Season Preview. This wraps up the 2019 NFC Season Preview series. Be sure to check out the rest of our Season Previews below.

Arizona Cardinals

2019 Draft Grade – A+, In my opinion the Cardinals absolutely crushed this draft, landing numerous impact players. First overall pick Kyler Murray may not have been the best player of the class, but he filled a need in the most important position in football. After landing Murray, The Cardinals added 3 talented WRs in KeeSean Johnson (6th), Hakeem Butler (4th), and Andy Isabella (2nd). Giving Murray these weapons is a great sign of confidence in the young QB. One of my favorite players in the 2019 Draft, Byron Murphy, was a great get to start the 2nd round and he should be a quality starter for Arizona. Zach Allen and Deionte Thompson were two more value picks, and I won’t be surprised if they are considered two of the biggest draft steals come the end of the season.

Player to Watch – Kyler Murray, QB – The Cardinals were quite a good landing spot for Murray to prove himself year one. He’s got one of the better running backs in David Johnson, a future Hall-of-Fame wideout in Larry Fitzgerald, and he’s got other young WRs to develop chemists with (Isabella, Butler, Johnson and Christian Kirk). I’m personally not a huge fan of Murray but he’s being placed in a much better situation, with a lot more weapons, than other rookie QBs like Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Ryan Finley, so I’d expect a solid year from the #1 overall pick.

Positional Strengths – Edge Rusher, Wide Receiver Depth

Positional Weaknesses – Guard, Center

Projected Record – 5-11

San Francisco 49ers

2019 Draft Grade – B, Nick Bosa is a great addition to the 49ers already deep defensive line. Health has been an issue, but if healthy, Bosa should be the most productive player of the 2019 draft class. Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd give the 49ers some decent depth at WR, but neither stands out as anything more than a #3 WR. Although the 49ers may have gotten the best player in the Draft, they could have done better with their later picks.

Player to Watch – Tevin Coleman, RB – Having been in the shadow of Devonta Freeman for most of his time in Atlanta, Coleman should see a good amount of work with the 49ers. Jerrick McKinnon’s knee issues will keep him out a second consecutive season, so Matt Breida is the only real threat to dig into Coleman’s workload. With Jimmy Garoppolo healthy, the 49ers should have a more efficient offense, so Coleman could be a pleasant surprise in 2019.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Tight End, Defensive End, Defensive Tackle

Positional Weaknesses – Wide Receiver, Safety

Projected Record – 6-10

Seattle Seahawks

2019 Draft Grade – B-, The 2019 Seahawks draft class is solid, yet I don’t see any one player becoming a star at their respective position. LJ Collier and Marquise Blaire are both “fine” picks, but neither is a game changer on defense. DK Metcalf and Gary Jennings Jr. are two solid wideouts, but in an offense like Seattle, I don’t see either thriving in a system like that. The Seahawks had a lot of picks, 11 in total, so it’s to early to say none of their later round picks will turn out well, but my early impression is that there isn’t really any other names worth mentioning.

Player to Watch – Chris Carson, RB – In an offense as run-heavy as Seattle, you’d think Carson would be putting up monster stats. Well that wasn’t the case in 2018, but that could be blamed on a weak O-line and limited opportunities as a pass-catcher. Though the offensive line didn’t get too much better, Carson is expected to get a lot more work as a receiver out of the backfield. This could be beneficial to the Seahawks as a whole, and this could also make Carson a valuable fantasy asset.

Positional Strengths – Quarterback, Middle Linebacker

Positional Weaknesses – Cornerback, Guard, Center

Projected Record – 9-7

Los Angeles Rams

2019 Draft Grade – B+, The first pick the Rams had was one of the last picks in the 2nd round, but they managed to get a very good safety in Taylor Rapp. 3rd rounder Darrell Henderson is a valuable backup to Todd Gurley II, and he may wind up seeing more work than originally expected. Landing David Long in the back-end of the 3rd round was a very good selection, as he offers a good amount of upside at CB. Bobby Evans (3rd) and David Edwards (5th ) give LA good depth on the O-line as well.

Player to Watch – Todd Gurley II – There’s no question that Todd Gurley is one of the most talented backs in the NFL, the issue is his health and potential work-load management. Trading up to draft Darrell Henderson in the 3rd round is a sign that Gurley’s reps will be reduced, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a valuable player. The Rams are expected to easily make the playoffs, so by week 10 or so, I could see LA severely limiting his touches.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, Running Back, Safety, Cornerback, Defensive Tackle

Positional Weaknesses – Linebacker

Projected Record – 10-6

STORYLINES

Elite Pass-Rushers – The NFC West was notorious for having poor offensive lines and strong defensive fronts, a QB’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately for NFC West quarterbacks a bunch of big-name pass-rushers are joining the division. Nick Bosa, Jadeveon Clowney, Ezekiel Ansah, Terrell Suggs, and Clay Matthews are all moving to the NFC West. These stars are join a division already filled with talent up front including Aaron Donald, Deforest Buckner, Dee Ford, and Chandler Jones. Needless to say, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Jared Goff can’t be thrilled to face these guys twice a year.

Rams, Best Offense and Defense?? – It is quite probable that the Los Angeles Rams have the best offense or defense for the 2019 NFL season. What is less talked about is that the Rams may indeed have the best offense AND the best defense in the NFL. Though the Rams lack a top 5 receiver, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods are all top 20 WRs, making for one of (if not the) best wide receiver cores. Todd Gurley is still undoubtedly one of the premier running backs, even though injuries are a concern. At QB, Jarred Goff just signed the largest contract ever and he continues to prove worthy of a #1 overall selection. On the defensive side, the Rams have one of the best players in Aaron Donald. Clay Matthews, Eric Weddle, and Aqib Talib are three veterans past their primes, but all three are still good football players, and make an impact on the field. Young safeties John Johnson III and Taylor Rapp offer exciting youth and energy to the squad. Marcus Peters, Michael Brockers, and Dante Fowler Jr. round out this star studded defense. The only potential weakness is at linebacker, but the Rams will definitely be in the conversation for best defense come the end of the 2019 season.

ALL DIVISION TEAM

QB: Russell Wilson, SEA RB: Todd Gurley II, LAR

WR: Brandin Cooks, LAR WR: Tyler Lockett, SEA

TE: George Kittle, SF  C: Weston Richburg, SF

OT: Joe Staley, SF OT:  Duane Brown, SEA

OG: Austin Blythe, LAR OG: Mike Person, SF

DE: Jadeveon Clowney, SEA  DE: Chandler Jones, ARI

DT: Aaron Donald, LAR MLB: Bobby Wagner, SEA

LB: Jordan Hicks, ARI  LB: Kwon Alexander, SF

CB: Patrick Peterson, ARI CB: Richard Sherman, SF

FS: Eric Weddle, LAR  SS: John Johnson III, LAR

2019 NFL Season Preview, NFC North Edition

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Dylan White and I decided to dive deep into every team’s offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and record predictions. Here is my 2019 NFC North Season Preview. NFC West is up next!

Detroit Lions

2019 Draft Grade – B-, T.J. Hockenson is the obvious player to talk about here. Jesse James is not a valuable asset at TE, so adding Hockenson give Matthew Stafford a very solid option at tight end. If not for such a stacked Detroit defensive line, 4th round pick, Austin Bryant could be a starting caliber defensive end. Detroit also added some secondary depth with Will Harris (3rd) and Amani Oruwariye (5th) so they now have some more security on defense.

Players to Watch – Kenny Golladay, WR – With Golden Tate going to the Giants and Marvin Jones on the decline, Golladay has a real chance to become a highly regarded wideout. With a very competent quarterback in Stafford, and being a part of a balanced offense, Golladay’s name could be seen near the top of 2020’s best WRs.

Damon Harrison Sr., DT – in the 2018 offseason, Harrison was dealt from the New York Giants to the Lions for a 5th round pick. This was largely due to to his salary and age. Taking many by surprise, Harrison actually had his best year in 2018, landing his highest grade according to Pro Football Focus. Though he is entering his 30’s, Harrison can still play at a high level, the question is if he can remain as effective this year for Detroit.

Positional Strengths – Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Safety

Positional Weaknesses – Guard, Linebacker

Projected Record – 6-10

Green Bay Packers

2019 Draft Grade – B+, I really liked the first few picks of Green Bay’s 2019 draft. Rashan Gary wasn’t the best option, but I think he’ll be a valuable piece of the Packers defense regardless. Darnell Savage Jr was a guy I liked a lot, so I’d have to say trading up for him was a good move. Elgton Jenkins is yet another quality piece obtained via the Draft, as quality centers are hard to come by. Overall I liked the Packers Draft, and while they don’t have a name that stands out as a perennial Pro-Bowl candidate, they added some very quality players just under the “star” threshold.

Players to Watch – Rashan Gary, LB/Darnell Savage. S – I picked this pair of 2019 1st rounders for the same reasons. The youth among the Packers defense is exciting. Gary and Savage will be nice additions to a young defense already including Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Josh Jackson, and Kenny Clark. If both (or even one) of these guys perform anywhere close to their potential, the Packers could have one of the best defensive cores in the NFL.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Quarterback, Safety

Positional Weaknesses – #2 Wide Receiver, Tight End, Middle Linebacker

Projected Record – 9-7

Chicago Bears

2019 Draft Grade – B+, Landing All-Pro, Khalil Mack, cost Chicago a lot of its draft capital, but its hard to complain when you land one of the best defenders in the NFL. With only 5 picks in total it is hard to make a “splash”, but the Bears managed to add a couple quality players to their roster. David Montgomery has been a nice find, and he could wind up playing a larger role than expected. Cavin “Riley” Ridley was another good pickup, as the Bears could use all the help at WR they can get. Don’t expect too much from this class, but remember that Chicago didn’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick.

Player to Watch – Mitch Trubisky, QB – In my opinion Trubisky has one of the worst supporting casts in the entire NFL. Without an above average offensive line, a true #1 wideout, or a “work-horse” running back, there is not one player Trubisky can rely on to make big plays. I’d expect Trubisky to wind up outside of the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks this year, potentially winding up in the high 20’s.

Positional Strengths – Linebacker, Safety, Defensive Tackle

Positional Weaknesses – Wide Receiver, Running Back

Projected Record –  8-8

Minnesota Vikings

2019 Draft Grade – C+, The Vikings sure did have a lot of picks in the Draft, but the majority of those resided in the last couple rounds. Their first two picks are the only ones I see as having a impact this season. Garrett Bradbury fills a weakness at center, though adding a OT would have been ideal. Irv Smith Jr. is a very athletic tight end who will complement Kyle Rudolph nicely until he winds up as the #1 TE. Minnesota did add an additional 10 players via the Draft, but as of now, I wouldn’t expect much from that bunch.

Player to Watch – Dalvin Cook, RB – After being drafted by Minnesota in 2017, Cook looked like he was primed to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. Injuries have really limited his opportunities though, as he has appeared in just under half of his team’s games. 2019 looks like it could be Cook’s year if he can stay healthy. Both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are extreme threats so defenses can’t just focus on the run versus the Vikings. If healthy, all signs point towards to a top 10 season for Cook.

Positional Strengths – Defensive End, Safety

Positional Weaknesses – Guard, Center

Projected Record – 9-7

STORYLINES

Breakout RB’s – Aaron Jones, Dalvin Cook, and Kerryon Johnson are all running backs with the potential for breakout years. All three have been limited by lack of opportunity or injuries, but at least one of these guys should take a huge leap forward in 2019. Although the NFC North is one of the best divisions in terms of defense, expect to hear all three of these guy’s names a lot more frequently this year.

ALL DIVISION TEAM

QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB RB: Aaron Jones, GB

WR: Davante Adams, GB   WR: Adam Thielen, MIN

TE: Kyle Rudolph, MIN  C: Corey Linsley, GB

OT: David Bakhtiari, GB OT: Taylor Decker, DET

OG: Graham Glasgow, DET  OG: Cody Whitehair, CHI

DE: Trey Flowers, DET  DE:  Danielle Hunter, MIN

DT: Kenny Clark, GB  MLB: Eric Kendricks, MIN

LB: Khalil Mack, CHI  LB: Anthony Barr, MIN

CB: Darius Slay, DET CB: Kyle Fuller, CHI

FS: Eddie Jackson, CHI  SS: Harrison Smith, MIN

2019 NFL Season Preview: AFC South Edition

The shocking news from Indianapolis has made the AFC South the Houston Texans’ to lose.

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, my fellow FTS Writer Adam Simkowitz and I decided to dive deep into every teams’ offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and record predictions. We’ll release two AFC and NFC division previews per week, and we now we’ll finish off the first week with the southern divisions.

Here are the previous division previews:

AFC East Preview

NFC East Preview

NFC South Preview

Houston Texans

2019 Draft Grade: D+ I didn’t really love what the Texans did this year. Tytus Howard felt like a total reach to me, probably as a result of the Eagles leapfrogging them to draft Andre Dillard, the superior tackle prospect. Lonnie Johnson Jr. is a somewhat understandable pick at 54, filling the absence of Kevin Johnson and the eventual departure of Jonathan Joseph. I appreciate the Texans’ effort to bolster their offensive line, but they may have gone about it in the wrong way. We’ll definitely see Tytus Howard and Max Scharping get regular-season reps this year, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up about these first-year tackles.

Player to Watch: Deshaun Watson, Quarterback – I’m going to be honest for a second. When times get tough, and my spirits are down, I try to go to my happy place. My happy place is a wonderful, make-believe land where bad things don’t happen, the clouds are made out of cotton candy, and everyone is happy. In my happy place, Deshaun Watson plays behind 5 Hall-of-Fame offensive linemen. Here are a few stats regarding Deshaun Watson’s 2018 season. In 2018, Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times in 16 games, which averages out to be about 3.8 times per game. Despite this, he managed to account for over 4500 yards and 30 touchdowns. If Deshaun Watson has a somewhat functional offensive line, his production has no ceiling. With the addition of two Top-100 draft picks to his offensive line, I’m hoping that this year will be a little easier for Watson. The world deserves to see Deshaun Watson at his highest potential.

Positional Strengths: Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Edge Rusher

Positional Weaknesses: Running Back, Cornerback, Offensive Line

Projected Record: 10-6

Indianapolis Colts

2019 Draft Grade: B – Chris Ballard seems to have figured out the draft (For now). The Colts recognized their team needs (WR, Secondary,LB), found out where the value was for these positions (picks 30-90), and put their resources into dominating that section of the draft. Rock ya-Sin is a physical, instinctual corner with a good amount of room to grow. Ben Banogu and Bobby Okereke are both ridiculous athletic specimens in their own ridiculous ways. Parris Campbell is a modern Swiss Army Knife at WR. This class could easily become as successful as their class from last year. However, their appearances will be limited this year, as the Colts are in championship contention. As of now, Okereke and Ya-Sin are the only rookies slotted to get a good amount of playing time this season, but I bet we’ll see some of Campbell and Banogu this year.

Player to Watch: Jacoby Brissett, Quarterback – This doesn’t need much explanation. Just kidding.

Positional Strengths: Linebacker, Edge Rusher

Positional Weaknesses: Cornerback, Right Side of Offensive Line

Projected Record: 8-8

Jacksonville Jaguars

2019 Draft Grade: A- – I think the Jaguars may have the league’s most immediate impact from their draft class (Outside of the Arizona Cardinals). Josh Allen (EDGE) and Jawaan Taylor (OT) are both future starters, and Allen is a very strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. He showcased his defensive versatility in the preseason, wrecking offensive tackles from the edge and being a complete playmaker in the open field. Taylor is slotted to start at right tackle, and he played very well in the preseason, which is rare for a rookie offensive lineman. Josh Oliver (TE) out of San Jose State will see some playing time, both as a blocker and as a possible mismatch in the passing game.

Player(s) to Watch: Taven Bryan, Defensive Tackle; D.J. Chark, Wide Receiver – I chose both of these players for the same reason. You could probably guess why; they’re both second-year players in which the Jaguars invested a good amount of draft capital, and neither of them have shown their worth yet. It’s not necessarily a make-it or break-it year for these sophomores, but another disappointing year from these two could spell trouble for the rest of their respective careers. From what I’ve seen this offseason, it’s more likely that D.J. Chark will be able to progress in a substantial way this season.

Positional Strengths: Defensive Line, Cornerback, Interior Offensive Line, Linebacker

Positional Weaknesses: Running Back, Tight End,Wide Receiver

Projected Record: 6-10

Tennessee Titans

2019 Draft Grade: A -This draft for Tennessee has been par for the course on their upwards trend as a franchise. They selected Jeffery Simmons (DE) in the first, who’ll likely succeed Brett Urban as a starting defensive end by the end of the season.A.J. Brown (WR) was one of my favorite receivers from the draft. He runs like a running back after the catch, and he’s able to create separation at a borderline elite level. Given their weak receiving corp, I’d imagine that he’ll get a healthy amount of playing time this season. Amani Hooker (S) and D’Andre Walker (LB) were both picks of a high value, but it’ll be a while before they see first-team reps, barring injuries to their current starters.

Player(s) to Watch: Derrick Henry, Running Back – Okay, this was a selfish and possibly a mean pick. At most sports-books, the line for the over/under for Henry’s rushing yards this season is around 1220 yards right now. Last year, Derrick Henry rushed for 1059 yards. This included a 99 yard rush against Jacksonville. If you remove that one anomaly of a play from his 2018 stats, he ran for 960 yards; while missing zero games. There is nothing, and I mean nothing that indicates that he will increase that total by about 250 yards this year. Their offensive line remains the same, except they’re losing Taylor Lewan for four games. Their quarterback is the same, and he’ll likely play more than he did last season, taking away even more from Henry’s production.

The recency bias on Derrick Henry’s rushing abilities is strong. It reminds me of when Jay Ajayi broke out, rushing for over 200 yards three times in 2016; then regressed in an extreme way in 2017, rushing for 20 less yards per game. I love watching Derrick Henry play, when else are we going to see a running back that is almost always the strongest player on the field? I just think that the NFL Media has hyped him up far too much, and he’s due for regression this year.

Harold Landry II, Edge Rusher – I decided to include Harold Landry in my players to watch only because I felt guilty after writing my thoughts about Derrick Henry. I’ve loved Landry since his sophomore year at Boston College, where he racked up 16 TFL and completely wrecked Florida State in primetime. He rushes the passer with a blend of power and finesse, showcasing a beautiful array of pass-rushing moves, and he has a great motor. He was a steal in the second round of the 2018 draft, and he played very efficiently in his limited reps as a rookie. Now he’s a starting edge rusher for Tennessee, and I’m really excited to see if he makes a leap in his second NFL season.

Positional Strengths: Offensive Line, Secondary

Positional Weaknesses: Wide Receiver

Projected Record: 8-8

Storylines to Watch

Marcus Mariota’s Fifth Season – This year, the former #2 overall pick is entering the fifth and final season of his rookie contract. Up to this point, his career has been painfully average in just about every way. He is 27-28 as a starter, his QBR has hovered around 55 in every season of his career, and he graded as the 18th best quarterback in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s actually impressive that Mariota never seemed to slip into the lower tiers of NFL QBs, he’s had to deal with three different head coaches in his four years in the NFL. He’s never had an above-average supporting cast of skill-position players, and his offensive line has at times been objectively horrible. This is the most important year of Mariota’s young career, his level of play this year will likely decide his future with the Titans’ organization.

The Houston Texans’ General Manager (Or Lack Thereof) – After firing Brian Gaine, their incumbent general manager, this past June, the Texans were without a general manager heading into the 2019 season. Another interesting aspect to this situation is the fact that they fired their GM after the 2019 draft and the entirety of free agency. One would assume that a general manager is necessary for an NFL franchise, but Houston has decided to roll into the regular season using a GM-by-committee approach. So far, this has led to the Texans trading a fourth-round pick for a one-down running back. It’s rare for a team with the opportunity to contend for the AFC Championship to have such a lack of stability and leadership at the top of their front office.

2019 NFL Season Preview, NFC South Edition

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Dylan White and I decided to dive deep into every team’s offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and record predictions. Here is my 2019 NFC South Season Preview. NFC North is up next!

Carolina Panthers

2019 Draft Grade – B+, Brian Burns was the big addition of the Panthers 2019 draft class. He’s a quick, athletic edge rusher who will make an immediate difference for an already solid Carolina defense. Greg Little was a good value pick and gives the Panthers a talented backup incase of injuries. Will Grier was a good get in the 3rd round, but he is unlikely to see any meaningful playing-time barring an injury to Cam Newton.

Player to Watch – DJ Moore, WR: With Devin Funchess gone, DJ Moore is Cam Newton’s clear #1 target to throw to. Although Christian McCaffery is going to be a workhorse for Carolina, definitely expect a boost in DJ Moore’s targets. Fellow wideout Curtis Samuel could see similar increases as well.

Positional Strengths – Running Back, Defensive Tackle, Middle Linebacker

Positional Weaknesses – Defensive Back, Big-Bodied Wide Receiver

Projected Record – 9-7

atlanta falcons

2019 Draft Grade – C-, I was quite puzzled by the Falcons draft strategy. They ended up with 2 first-round picks (#14 and #31), taking offensive linemen, Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary. While both players are solid, I didn’t have either projected to land in the first round. This being said, the Falcons definitely improved their offensive line and have more flexibility to move them around.

Players to Watch – Devonta Freeman, RB: With Tevin Coleman now in San Francisco, Freeman is the clear #1 back in Atlanta. After an injury-plagued 2018, Freeman should have much higher success in the upcoming season as long as he can stay healthy.

Keanu Neal, SS: Neal missed all of 2018 after tearing his ACL in week 1, but he is primed for a great comeback. The leader of a sneaky-good defense, a healthy Neal is a necessity for the Falcons to make it far in the talented NFC South.

Positional Strengths – Safety, Wide Receiver

Positional Weaknesses – Tight End

Projected Record – 8-8

new orleans saints

2019 Draft Grade – C, Another team with a limited amount of picks, New Orleans only had one selection in the top 100 picks. They managed to pick up a decent center in Eric McCoy, and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could be a value pick in the 4th, but no one in this draft class offers elite upside for the Saints.

Player to Watch – Michael Thomas, WR: After signing a huge contract extension, Thomas is now the highest-paid wide receiver in the NFL. That puts a lot of pressure on Thomas to keep up his elite production, even with his future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Drew Brees, entering his age 40 season. The only concern here would be Thomas drawing a lot of double coverage without other talented wideouts around him. Even so, expect another huge year for Thomas.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Quarterback

Positional Weaknesses – Linebacker, Wide Receiver Depth

Projected Record – 8-8

tampa bay buccaneers

2019 Draft Grade – B, Replacing Kwon Alexander with Devin White is huge. The Bucs have relied on Alexander and Lavonte David to lead their defense, and White should fill Alexander’s role perfectly. The majority of their selections wound up on the defensive side of the ball, so no major improvements on offense should be expected.

Player to Watch – O.J. Howard, TE: It has become clear that O.J. Howard is one of the best young tight ends around. The unique athleticism makes Howard a deep threat risk unlike any other player at his position. 2019 should be Howard’s best season as he should have Jameis Winston as his QB for the entire season. Without much of a run game, Howard, along with Cameron Brate and Mike Evans, will all receive a large number of red-zone targets

Positional Strengths – Tight End

Positional Weaknesses – Running Back, Offensive Tackle, Cornerback, Safety

Projected Record – 6-10

Storylines

Best QB?: Currently, I would have to say the NFC South had the strongest group of starting quarterbacks. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston have all been very good in past years. While all four are not equal in terms of status, they can all post great numbers on a weekly basis, and it will be a good contest to see who leads NFC South QB’s by the end of the season.

Elite RBs: Its clear Saquon Barkley is the best running back in the NFL, but with Ezekiel Elliot and Melvin Gordon both questionable to start the season, it is increasingly likely that Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffery are the 2nd and 3rd best RBs of 2019. With Mark Ingram gone Kamara could see even higher volume, and McCaffery is said to be looking even better than last year. Though Atlanta and Tampa Bay don’t have elite running backs, McCaffery and Kamara make this a division worth watching.

All division team

QB: Matt Ryan, ATL RB: Christian McCaffery, CAR

WR: Julio Jones, ATL WR: Michael Thomas, NO

TE: O.J. Howard, TB C: Alex Mack, ATL

OT: Jake Matthews, ATL OT: Ryan Ramczyk, NO

OG: Trai Turner, CAR OG: Ali Marpet, TB

DE: Cameron Jordan, NO DE: Brian Burns, CAR

DT: Grady Jarrett, ATL MLB: Luke Kuechly, CAR

LB: Lavonte David, TB LB: Deion Jones, ATL

CB: Marshon Lattimore, NO CB: Desmond Trufant, ATL

FS: Ricardo Allen, ATL SS: Keanu Neal, ATL

2019 NFL Season Preview: AFC East Edition

Is this the year that the New England Patriots finally give up the division title? No, obviously.

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, my fellow FTS Writer Adam Simkowitz and I decided to dive deep into every teams’ offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths and weaknesses, and record predictions. We’ll release two AFC and NFC division previews per week, and we decided to kick it off with the eastern divisions.

Buffalo Bills

2019 Draft Grade: A- – In this past draft, the Bills were lucky enough to have Ed Oliver (DT/DE) fall to them at #9. I really like Cody Ford (OT), their second-round pick, who successfully protected Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray’s respective blindsides for the past two years. I could also see Dawson Knox (TE) becoming a productive starter in the league. Between Devin Singletary (RB), Vosean Joseph (LB), and Jaquan Johnson (S), there will be at least two future starters from that group. However, that may not be the case for this season. This was a fantastic draft from the rebuilding Bills. As of right now, Ed Oliver and Cody Ford are the two from this class that are slotted to start immediately.

Player to Watch: Josh Allen, Quarterback – Okay, look. I’m not saying Josh Allen is a good quarterback. I’ll be the first to criticize him when he overthrows Cole Beasley by 10 feet on an underneath route. However, he might be the most entertaining quarterback to watch; aside from Lamar Jackson. Allen is a surprisingly fast, high-flying QB with an insanely powerful arm. Watching him play quarterback is like watching Michael Vick in Brock Osweiler’s body. I think it’ll be an interesting year for Allen; we’ll see how his style of play changes once defenses figure out his game.

Positional Strengths: Defensive Line, Secondary

Positional Weaknesses: Quarterback, Running Back

Projected Record: 6-10

Miami Dolphins

2019 Draft Grade: C+ – The Dolphins didn’t have a ton of picks this year. With their two Top-100 picks, they elected to stay in the trenches with Christian Wilkins (DT) and Michael Deiter(LG). I appreciate the Dolphins draft strategy though; linemen are the first position that you want to draft when beginning a rebuild. Wilkins and Deiter will be week one starters, but outside of that, the only production that’ll be seen from this draft class is from Andrew Van Ginkel (LB), who’ll showcase his athleticism on special teams.

Player to Watch: Charles Harris, Edge Rusher – I’m going to keep it simple here. This is a make-it or break-it season for Charles Harris. That will come as a surprise to approximately zero Dolphins fans, as they’ve had to watch their former first-round edge rusher rack up THREE total sacks in his first two seasons as a pro. However, Harris has looked relatively dominant thus far in preseason action. This is the season to prove that he belongs in the NFL. His offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase is in New York now, and he was replaced by Brian Flores, who coached linebackers in New England. Now that he has a favorable coaching staff and plenty of opportunity for this rebuilding defense, he either needs to put up or shut up this season.

Positional Strengths: Cornerback

Positional Weaknesses: Pretty much every position except for cornerback.

Projected Record: 2-14

New York Jets

2019 Draft Grade: B+ – I have mixed feelings about the Jets’ 2019 draft class. I absolutely love Quinnen Williams (DT). I think he’ll be great right off the bat; he’s one of my favorite bets for defensive rookie of the year. Outside of Williams though, I kind of hate the rest of the New York draft class. Third round picks Jachai Polite (EDGE) has had a subpar preseason so far, and Chuma Edoga (OT) understandably won’t be an immediate starter for them. I think Quinnen Williams’ success will likely overshadow the rest of the class’s shortcomings.

Player to Watch: Jamal Adams, Safety – Jamal Adams is one of the two defensive players that I expect to leap into Superstar-Dom this season. This offseason has been an onslaught of praise and good reports for Adams, from offering to switch positions to staying hours after a preseason game just to sign autographs and take pictures. He was Pro Football Focus’s 2nd highest-graded safety last year, and this year I expect him to solidify himself as one of the league’s premier safeties.

Positional Strengths: Skill Positions

Positional Weaknesses: Offensive Line

Projected Record: 8-8

New England Patriots

2019 Draft Grade: A – Although I didn’t love the selection of N’Keal Harry (WR) with the 32nd pick in this past year’s draft, I still love the Patriots draft class. Their draft class was mostly about building depth on their lines, both defensive and offensive. They had a stronghold on picks in this draft too, so it’s likely that rookies will see more action than they did last year. Last year, the Patriots ranked in the bottom two of the NFL in terms of rookie playing time. This is due both to a season-ending injury to their first-round pick, Isaiah Wynn, and Bill Belichick’s general coaching philosophy of playing mid-level veterans over rookies. According to their current unofficial depth chart, none of the current rookies surpass the third string. I would bet that Harry, JoeJuan Williams (CB/S), Chase Winovich (EDGE), and Byron Cowart (DT) will all see playing time this season. I included Winovich and Cowart because of rave reviews from training camp, and dominant performances in the preseason.

Players to Watch: The Entire Offensive Line – Okay, this probably needs an explanation. Later in this preview, I’ll talk a little bit more in-depth about Tom Brady’s situation this year. And to be honest, there aren’t that many more big personalities or entertaining players on the Patriots. Wow, I wonder why they’ve won 5 championships since 2001… So I picked their offensive line. They have the unarguably best offensive line coach in the NFL, Dante Scarnecchia, and with the addition of Isaiah Wynn, this might be the most talented group New England has had since the late 2000s. They have a group of monsters up there, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Patriots continue the ground-and-pound approach that they switched to mid-season last year. I think it could be a big year for their running game, and they’ll do a great job of protecting their 42-year-old quarterback.

Positional Strengths: Offensive Line, Quarterback, Linebacker, Secondary

Positional Weaknesses: Tight End

Projected Record: 12-4

Storylines to Watch:

Tom Brady vs. Father Time (And the Patriots?): This will be one of the leading storylines of the AFC East’s season no matter what. Personally, I hate to bet against time, because time is undefeated. But here’s an interesting fact: Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time, and he won a Super Bowl at age 41. So I’m betting on Tom Brady. I think he’ll be as efficient as ever, even if that means not throwing the ball down the field as often. However, it’ll be very interesting to see what happens if Brady slows down this season. A few weeks ago, the Patriots restructured Brady’s contract, giving him a ton of money this year, but giving the Patriots the ability to cut him with minimal financial repercussions after this season. Essentially, if Brady doesn’t play to a certain level this season, there’s a chance he gets cut, then retires. I don’t think it’s likely, but anything can happen.

Second Year Quarterbacks: Here is a very likely scenario:It’s Week 5, and three 2018 top-ten picks are starting quarterbacks for 75% of the AFC East. Sam Darnold and Josh Allen are clearly starters for the Jets and Bills, respectively, but Josh Rosen has to win the Dolphins’ starting job from the ageless and seemingly magical Ryan Fitzpatrick. I cannot confirm this, but that will probably be the first time that three Top-Ten QBs’ from the same draft class are starting in the same division. Twitter will be all over this, and it’ll turn into a year-long comparison of these three guys. That is all I have to say about that. Oh, and my rankings of those QBs are: 1. Sam Darnold …………………………………………………2a. Josh Rosen, 2b. Josh Allen.

ALL-Division Team

QB – Tom Brady, NE

RB: Le’Veon Bell, NYJ RB: James White, NE

FB: James Devlin, NE

WR: Julian Edelman, NE WR: Robby Anderson, NYJ

TE: Chris Herndon, NYJ

OT: Laremy Tunsil, MIA OT: Marcus Cannon, NE

OG: Shaq Mason, NE OG: Joe Thuney, NE

C: David Andrews, NE

EDGE: Jerry Hughes, BUF EDGE: Leonard Williams, NYJ

DL: Ed Oliver, BUF DL: Quinnen Williams, NYJ

LB: C.J. Mosley, NYJ LB: Dont’a Hightower, NE

LB: Tremaine Edmunds, BUF LB: Kyle Van Noy, NE

CB: Stephon Gilmore, NE CB: Xaiven Howard, MIA

S: Jamal Adams, NYJ S: Devin McCourty, NE

DB: Micah Hyde, BUF DB: Tre’Davious White, BUF

K: Stephen Gostkowski, NE P: Matt Haack, MIA

2019 NFL Season Preview, NFC East Edition

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Dylan White and I decided to dive deep into every team’s offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and record predictions. We’ll release two AFC and NFC division previews per week, and we decided to kick it off with the eastern divisions.

Washington Redskins

2019 Draft Grade – C+, The grade of C+ might seem like a bit of a surprise, but outside of Dwayne Haskins and Montez Sweat, I don’t see any impact players in Washington’s 2019 draft class. Haskins should compete for the starting QB job, while Sweat should be a lock to start on a middle-of-the-road Redskins defense. Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon offer some decent depth to one of the worst receiving corps in all of football, but neither has an elite upside. The Redskins shouldn’t expect more than two or three impact players from this draft class.

Player to Watch – Derrius Guice, RB: After missing his entire rookie campaign, Guice could be a potential breakout player for Washington. The only issue with Guice is that Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, and Bryce Love make for a crowded backfield, so Guice will need to show he is ready for a full load before he starts to get high volume attempts.

Positional Strengths – Running Back Depth

Positional Weaknesses – Wide Reciever, Quarterback, Defensive Back Depth

Projected Record – 6-10

New York Giants

2019 Draft Grade – A, The only reason I’m don’t give the Giants an A+ is their pick of Daniel Jones. I’m personally a fan of Daniel Jones and think he has a great mentality for New York. The only thing I didn’t like about the pick was the spot he was chosen. Although the Giants may have reached just a bit for Jones at #5, they sure did make up for it with there later selections. Deandre Baker (1st), Julian Love (4th), and Corey Ballentine (6th) could wind up being New York’s starting three CBs by the end of the year. Dexter Lawrence II will also make an immediate impact on a Giants defensive line, as he shares many attributes with former Giant, Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Linebacker Oshane Ximenes was one of my favorite picks of the draft, and he could be a factor as well.

Players to Watch – Sterling Shepard, WR: With Odell Beckham gone and Golden Tate set to miss the first 4 games, Shepard is the clear-cut #1 WR for New York. It will be interesting to see what kind of numbers he puts up, as he should be in line for a large volume role.

Jabrill Peppers, SS: One of the more exciting players from the 2017 draft class, Peppers made great strides in 2018 before being dealt to the Giants in the Odell Beckham trade. His freakish athleticism and versatility are going to make him a very important part of New York’s young defense.

Positional Strengths – Running Back, Quarterback Depth

Positional Weaknesses – Linebacker, Offensive Line Depth

Projected Record – 8-8

Dallas Cowboys

2019 Draft Grade – D, Without a 1st round pick, it can be quite difficult to make an impact on your roster. Surely enough, the Cowboys couldn’t seem to gather much talent due to their lack of a top pick. There’s not even one guy who is likely to make a big difference for the Cowboys this year, so there is not much to discuss here.

Players to Watch – Leighton Vander Esch, LB: After a stellar rookie season in 2018, all eyes will be on Vander Esch to see if he can repeat his dominance. Taking over Sean Lee’s role as the defensive cornerstone, Vander Esch is a critical component in Dallas’s playoff hopes.

Travis Frederick, C: Considering Frederick missed all of 2018 it will be interesting to see if he remains the same elite blocker he was earlier in his career. Having Frederick healthy is crucial to the success of the entire Cowboys offense.

Positional Strengths – Guard, Linebacker

Positional Weaknesses – Tight End, Wide Receiver Depth

Projected Record – 9-7

Philadelphia Eagles

2019 Draft GradeB-, With only 5 picks in the 2019 Draft, the Eagles still managed to find 3 impact offensive players within the top 60 picks. Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside all provide valuable depth to an already capable Eagles offense.

Players to Watch – Dallas Goedert, TE: Zach Ertz is a star TE, but that doesn’t mean Goedert can’t succeed as well. With his stock on the rise, Goedert could be more of a factor to the Eagles than most would expect. Seeing the Eagles with two TE’s on the field for a majority of their plays would not be surprising.

Carson Wentz, QB: An injury cost Wentz the chance to take his team to the playoffs in 2018, and Nick Foles eventually led Philly to a Super Bowl victory. With Foles now in Jacksonville, the Eagles no longer have that safety net to fall back on. If the Eagles want to make it far in the playoffs it all depends on Wentz regaining his form and remaining an above-average QB in Philadelphia.

Positional Strengths – Tight End, Offensive Tackle, Defensive End

Positional Weaknesses – Bell-Cow Running Back

Projected Record – 10-6

Storylines

Dak Prescott/Ezekiel Elliot Contract Statuses: With Dallas’s two offensive leaders contracts making big news, the extensions of both Prescott and Elliott will be closely monitored as the NFL season approaches. Prescott’s desire for a 40 million dollar contract is a bit absurd, but something closer to 32 million could happen.

Eli Manning/Daniel Jones: Though Eli Manning is expected to be New York’s starting QB for 2019, Daniel Jones’s great start to the pre-season could make it a tough decision for giants staff. If Manning struggles early in the season, he may have a shorter leash if Jones continues to play well.

All-Divison Team

QB: Carson Wentz, PHI RB: Saquon Barkley, NYG

WR: Amari Cooper, DAL WR: Alshon Jeffrey, PHI

TE: Zack Ertz, PHI C: Travis Frederick, DAL

OT: Tyron Smith, DAL OT: Lane Johnson, PHI

OG: Zack Martin, DAL OG: Kevin Zeitler, NYG

DE: Demarcus Lawrence, DAL DE: Brandon Graham, PHI

DT: Fletcher Cox, PHI MLB: Jaylon Smith, DAL

LB: Leighton Vander Esch, DAL LB: Ryan Kerrigan, WAS

CB: Byron Jones, DAL CB: Deandre Baker, NYG

FS: Rodney Mcleod, PHI SS: Landon Collins, WAS