Three Mind-Blowing 2017 NFL MVP Candidates

As National Football League teams prepare their respective training camps, there are a number of questions heading into the new season. Can the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots repeat? Will the Dallas Cowboys continue their winning ways behind a second-year quarterback and last year’s NFL Rookie of the Year? And everyone wants to know, who will win the NFL’s MVP award?

If you are looking for answers to those questions, they may very well be 1) absolutely, 2) maybe, and 3) any of a number of players. The best bet is the guy that guided New England to its (sixth) Super Bowl victory last season. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has shown no signs of slowing down despite being 39 years of age. In 2016, Brady enjoyed a season where he completed 67.4 percent of his passes, threw 28 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. His receiving corps returns and gets a boost from former New Orleans WR Brandin Cooks who had 78 catches for 1,173 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Brady will turn 40 in August, but has the ingredients for an MVP season.

Another solid bet for the NFL MVP award is Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A winner of two MVPs already, Rodgers established career highs in both completions (401) and attempts (610) last season. He threw 31 touchdown passes versus just eight interceptions and this year should have a better running game to aid the Packers passing attack. If that isn’t enough, history could be an indicator. Rodgers won his first MVP in 2011. Three years later in 2014, he won his second. The 2017 season marks three years since Rodgers’ last MVP. He will have the weapons to put together an MVP-caliber season.

The longshot pick in the MVP race is Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Watt missed most of last season with a back injury, but will return in 2017. In his first five seasons in the NFL, Watt was the league’s defensive player of the year three times. At age 28 and healthy, he should be in his prime and another 20-plus sack season could be in the cards. Watt will also benefit from the improved play of DE Jadeveon Clowney, who had six sacks and 16 tackles for loss last season. It is difficult for a defensive player to win an MVP award, but if Watt has a season similar to 2012, ’14, or ’15 he will be in the mix to be crowned the NFL’s best player in 2017.

Three NFL Teams that Crushed Free Agency in 2017!

There’s a tried and true saying in the NFL: “championships aren’t won in the offseason.”  Year after year, there are numerous teams who go out and “break the bank” in free agency, only to see mediocre results in the regular season, with some of those high-priced acquisitions failing to live up to the fat paychecks they’re earning. But at the same time, those teams who make the right combination of moves, by balancing the high-priced free agent acquisitions with the moderately-priced role players or young players with upside, can quickly change the trajectory of a given side of their football team, if not their football team as a whole.

Taking a look at the 2017 NFL offseason to date, three teams appear to have positioned themselves for significant improvements this upcoming season, thanks to both the quality, and quantity, of moves that they’ve made:

3. Philadelphia — After two straight seasons of finishing with a 7-9 record, the Philadelphia Eagles have positioned themselves to take a sizable step forward this offseason, given some of the additions they made. For anyone who watched the Eagles for any period of time last season, their biggest need — at least on offense — was painfully clear: they desperately needed reliable weapons to whom Carson Wentz could throw the football. The Eagles decisively addressed said need by adding wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey, formerly of the Chicago Bears, and wide receiver Torrey Smith, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers. Jeffrey provides Wentz with the tall, reliable receiver who can go up over cornerbacks to catch the ball, whereas Smith provides the vertical threat that Wentz can use to attack defenses vertically. On defense, the unit looked like it would mostly stay the same, save for any badly needed upgrades they would make at the cornerback position. But, they were prepared to lose the services of defensive tackle Bennie Logan to free agency. That became a reality when Logan signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, the Eagles actually may have ended up with a better player in the long run, after acquiring defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan from the Baltimore Ravens, for nothing more than a swap of third round picks. Such a price is nothing short of a steal for Philadelphia, as they acquire the rights to one of the young, talented, and unheralded defensive linemen in the NFL. That essentially means that if the Eagles were to make any upgrades at cornerback and running back in the 2017 NFL Draft, this could be a profoundly different — and profoundly better — team next season.

2. New England — It might seem silly to include the reigning Super Bowl champions on a list of teams that have improved themselves this offseason, but that is actually the case with the Patriots (as scary as that may seem). New England, under Bill Belichick, usually won’t make any overtures towards free agents sure to garner lucrative contracts. That’s why it came as a surprise to many people when the Patriots quickly inked cornerback Stephon Gillmore to a five-year deal with $65 million, on the first day of free agency. Coming off a Pro Bowl season, Gillmore gives New England a pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks, alongside Malcolm Butler. Their other big move in free agency wasn’t actually an acquisition, but rather the retention of Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower opted to return to New England on a four-year, $35.5 million deal. As the middle linebacker for New England (and a favorite of the coaching staff), Hightower was an integral part of the Patriots defense. Being able to retain his services was a huge win for them. On offense, New England gave future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady yet another weapon, in the form of wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The Patriots sent the #32 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft to New Orleans for the rights to Cook, who will provide Brady with a deep threat that was sorely lacking last year. Add in the acquisitions of defensive end Kony Ealy from Carolina (an underrated pass rusher) and tight end Dwayne Allen (who has shown the ability to be a dominant red zone option), and it’s not hard to see why New England should be the favorites in the AFC yet again.

1. Jacksonville — For the second straight year, Jacksonville has gone out and spent liberally in free agency, enhancing the young and talented foundation of players they’ve taken via the NFL Draft with veteran players at key positions. This year, the Jaguars were able to secure the services of one of the true crown jewels of the 2017 Free Agency period: defensive end Calais Campbell, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals. The Jaguars only had one player finish with eight more sacks last season — rookie defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue — whereas Campbell himself has recorded  56.5 sacks over his nine seasons in the league. Jacksonville also went out and signed cornerback A.J. Bouye to a five-year, $67.5 million deal.  As one of the breakout stars of 2016, not only does Bouye give the Jaguars one of the very best tandems of cornerbacks in the NFL (alongside uber-talented rookie Jalen Ramsey), but it also makes a key division rival — the Houston Texans — weaker in the process. Finally, the Jaguars also went out and upgraded what could’ve been their biggest position of need heading into this offseason at left tackle, acquiring veteran tackle Branden Albert from the Miami Dolphins through a trade. Albert has struggled with injuries recently, but he’s less than two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl appearance. With his acquisition, it not only affords quarterback Blake Bortles more protection next season, but it also allows Jacksonville to continue to upgrade their team, by taking the best available player with their first round pick (#4 overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft.

FF-Winners.com’s Three Quarterbacks to Avoid in 2016-7

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Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders — Through the first eight games of last season, Derek Carr looked like a superstar-in-the-making, throwing for 2,094 yards, 19 touchdowns, and four interceptions. Then, in the second half of the season, his stats dropped to  1893 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. So, the simple question is: if you draft Derek Carr next season, which version of him are you getting? With all the free agent moves the Raiders made in the offseason, there’s going to be a lot pressure on them. Teams definitely won’t overlook them, the way they might’ve in 2015. Plus, given the fact that the Raiders don’t exactly have a dynamic running game, there’s going to be even more pressure on Carr to put the offense on his shoulders. How will he respond to that pressure, considering he’s only in his third NFL season? We’re not necessarily saying you should outright “avoid” Derek Carr,  because there is a lot of upside (especially in leagues with any keeper options). But we’d be a little reluctant to bank on him as a sure-fire QB1, as he was for stretches of last season, and as many envision him being this season.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons — A few years ago, Matt Ryan seemed almost destined to break into the echelon of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. But over the last three years, he’s only gone 18-30 as a starter, and his TD-to-INT ratio has dropped from 2.1 to 1.6. In 2015, he only threw for 21 touchdown passes, which was the 2nd lowest total of his career. Conversely, he also threw 16 interceptions (the second highest interception total of his career), four of which came in the red zone (the 2nd highest number in the NFL of such stat, only behind Eli Manning). Oh, and should we also mention his career-high 12 fumbles? At points last season, there were whispers of a near-mutiny by the Falcons offensive player, against Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes. Shanahan’s offense very much predicated on play-action passes, which isn’t something that Matt Ryan has shown a great proficiency with. Another season with bumps and hiccups in this offensive scheme won’t be good for business. At the point in the draft where you’d think about taking Matt Ryan, w’d be much more comfortable with guys like Matt Stafford (who could have a really nice season under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter), Ryan Tannehill (who could have a big bounce-back season working under Adam Gase), or even Jameis Winston (who’s come into training camp in fantastic shape, and looking to improve on a very promising rookie season).

Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos — Brock Osweiler is currently ranked anywhere between the #20 and #25 quarterback in fantasy next season, so it’s not like people aren’t already avoiding him. But, for those of you who think that Osweiler might be “Matt Schaub 2.0” for the Texans, we wouldn’t hold your breath. In an offense in Denver that had more depth than the one he’ll be playing with in Houston, he threw for 1,967 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, and six interceptions; extrapolate that over a full season, and you’re looking at less than 4,000 yards passing and about 20 touchdowns. Neither of those are titillating numbers. Again, we realize that he’s only in the backup/QB2 discussion for nearly everyone, but even as a backup, we think you’re better off letting someone like Jay Cutler or even Ryan Fitzpatrick fall into your lap.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

FF-Winners.com’s Three NFL Receivers to Avoid in 2016-7

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Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers — We’re not necessarily advocating “avoiding” Cobb altogether, because we still think he’s going to have a (relatively) productive season. But,we do think he’s being a bit overdrafted in most leagues. Given the circumstances around him, we think Cobb is closer to a top end WR3, versus a WR2 that he’s often being picked as. With the return of Jordy Nelson — Aaron Rodgers’ favorite receiver — there’s just no way Cobb is going to lead the team in receptions, targets, and receiving yards next season.  On top of that, Davante Adams is going to be better (he had nagging injuries for all of 2015 which really hampered his performance), Jeff Janis has had a great camp, and so has tight end Richard Rodgers . All of those guys could siphon off production from Cobb, who was basically Rodgers’ only reliable target last season (Rodgers and James Jones did a lot of their damage based off improvisation, and James knowing exactly where to go in those circumstances). Even in PPR leagues, we would take a chance on a couple of younger receivers with high breakout potential — like DeVante Parker from Miami or Donte Moncrief from Indianapolis, both of whom are being taken after Cobb in most leagues — instead of putting a lot of eggs in the Randall Cobb basket.

Michael Crabtree, Oakland — For the first half of the 2015 season, Michael Crabtree was a total stud. In the Raiders first eight games, he had 47 receptions, 591 yards, and five touchdowns. But over the next eight games, those numbers dropped to 38 receptions, 331 yards, and four touchdowns. Going into 2016, it’s not like Crabtree is a highly coveted fantasy commodity; he’s somewhere towards the bottom end of the top 40 receivers, putting him firmly as a WR3. The problem is, wewouldn’t even take him that high. Amari Cooper — a superstar in the making — is going to take the mantle of Derek Carr’s most targeted receiver, away from Crabtree. The team is also really high on second year tight end Clive Walford (who could be a breakout star in his own right in 2016), and young-but-raw receiver Seth Roberts. For my money, we’d much rather take a chance on guys like Marvin Jones, Tyler Lockett, Torrey Smith, or Dorial Green-Beckham (all of whom are being drafted after Crabtree in most leagues). They all present much higher upside potential than Crabtree.

Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins — It happens far too often in fantasy football leagues: someone overdrafts one of the big name rookies. But, even as a Redskins fan myself, we think we should pause on chasing rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson. Don’t get me wrong: he, by many people’s accounts, might’ve been the best wide receiver prospect in this year’s draft. The problem is, he’s stuck in a situation where there are just too many other talented veteran receivers. How many targets can we really expect Doctson to see, when he has DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, tight end Jordan Reed, and even second year receiver Jamison Crowder (who the team envisions as their full-time slot receiver in three receiver sets) ahead of him? At least in year one, we think Doctoson may get some looks in the red zone, for fade pass/jump ball opportunities at most. But, consider 2015 to be his “NFL redshirt year.” In dynasty leagues, Doctson is worth an early investment, if you’re perfectly ok with the idea that there will be minimal returns early on. But in redraft leagues, we don’t think he’s worth taking very high, because we don’t think he’s even going to match the stats that some of the top 2015 rookie receivers — Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker — put up last year.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

Three NFL Teams With Awesome 2016 Drafts!

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are usually on the losers of the draft, but not this year. They traded away the 2nd overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles and got lots of picks including a first rounder in next year’s draft. They then traded the 8th pick to the Titans and got even more picks while drafting speedy WR Corey Coleman later in the first round. They also got two great pass rushers in Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib, along with a nice addition to the OL in Shon Coleman. They then got QB Cody Kessler to add more competition with Robert Griffin lll. The Browns had a solid draft, but since it is the so often incompetent Cleveland Browns, they definetely had a great draft by their standards and should show improvement.

Oakland Raiders: The Raiders struck gold by drafting the best safety in the draft in Karl Joseph, who has solid coverage skills but specializes in coming into the box and unloading on RBs and WRs. The Raiders needed defensive help, and they got it with pass rushers Jihad Ward and Shilique Calhoun. Ward is raw but has a ton of upside if he can develop and Calhoun has some of the best technique of any DE in this class. They also drafted a solid backup to QB Derek Carr in Connor Cook, who was widely considered to be the 3rd or 4th best QB in the draft. The Raiders have a young nucleus of talent on offense with Carr, WR Amari Cooper and RB Latavius Murray, so the defensive additions should help the Raiders win more games this year.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars had the best draft by far in my opinion, they were able to land two top 5 players in this draft. CB Jalen Ramsey was the best player in this class to me because of his versatility, size and elite athleticism. They also got a steal in LB Myles Jack at the top of the second round. Jack fell so far because of a knee injury he suffered in college that ended his season. Before that injury, he would have been a top 5 selection. The Jaguars also essentially have another 1st round player coming in this year as their top pick last year DE Dante Fowler suffered a season-ending injury in minicamp. With a healthy Ramsey, Jack and Fowler the Jaguars defense should be much improved and will help out the offense. The Jaguars are young but extremely talented on both sides of the ball and can compete in the AFC South this year.

[Analysis by NFL expert Preston Rowe]

Top Three Quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL draft

While a lot of teams in the NFL feel like they already have a franchise quarterback to count on, there are going to be teams looking for that type of guy in the 2015 NFL draft. It might not be the most outstanding year for quarterbacks, but there are a few who have an opportunity to become starters rather quickly. Here is a look at who might be able to take a franchise to another level.

Jameis Winston

In his redshirt freshman year, Winston made a name for hiimself as a nationalchampion and a Heisman Trophy winner. However, a lot of people are goingto focus on some of his transgressions off of the field as reasons to doubt his character a little bit. He seems to be maturing quickly, and a lot of mock drafts have him as the number 1 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have been desperately looking for a franchise type of guy, and he certainly has the arm strength and the size to be solid in the NFL.

Marcus Mariota

Like Winston, Mariota goes into the draft with the Heisman Trophy alreaady to his name. He has some people doubting him as well, but that has to do with the type of style he played at the college level. There are some scouts who feel like Oregon made him look better than he actually is. His draft position seems a little bit trickier, but someone in the 1st round is going to take a chance on him. In fact, slipping out of the top 10 seems almost impossible.

Brett Hundley

After the top 2 prospects, there is a chance that we do not see another quarterback drafted until the 3rd round. There are going to be some options for teams at that time, as Bryce Petty and Garrett Grayson could go in that round as well. Hundley just seems like the guy with the most potential right now. He was able to have quite a bit of success at UCLA, and he has the armstrength to compete at the highest level.

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