Tag Archives: Sam Darnold

My Way Too Early Speculation of Where Le’Veon Bell Will Land in 2019

Le’Veon Bell’s time in Pittsburgh is clearly coming to an end. But, where will the All-Pro, all-purpose back land in 2019?

It’s clear the Pittsburgh Steelers and All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell are headed for a divorce. At this point the relationship appears unsalvageable after his teammates, specifically the offensive line, recklessly spoke about his contract situation and reluctance to show up for their week one matchup against the Cleveland Browns. He’s even been removed from the depth chart for week two’s matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bell hasn’t signed his $14.5 million franchise tender, and will be docked $850 thousand for each game his misses. He wants a contract that will reset the market for top-flight running backs. Similar to what the LA Rams signed Todd Gurley to; 4 years, $60 million with $45 guaranteed. The 3-time All-Pro is two years older and unlikely to get that money from the Steelers, especially with the way his replacement, 2nd-year pro James Conner has performed so far in his absence in week one against the Cleveland Browns and training camp.

Bell’s not likely to get a long-term deal because of his age, but he’s a perfect match for teams that are in win now mode. Honestly, that’s the type of team he should be looking for, especially if he’s going to leave a franchise in Pittsburgh that’s always in the championship race.

So assuming it’s really over for Bell in the 412. Where could he land? Who needs him? Who could/is willing to pay him what he desires? Here is my way too early speculation of where he might land in 2019.

New York Jets. The Jets were in the hunt for quarterback Kirk Cousins and willing to pay him top dollar (I know QB money and RB money is different) before he chose the Minnesota Vikings and they drafted Sam Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. They also were interested in acquiring Khalil Mack from the Oakland Raiders before he was eventually shipped off to the Chicago Bears. My point for bringing up those two players is to show that the Jets organization has the money and appears willing and desires to make a splash. Now that they appear to have a franchise QB in Darnold on a rookie contract, and their defense looks to be more than formidable, they’re only missing a top flight back. The three best friends for a young quarterback are an elite tackle to protect his blindside, a stout defense and a strong running game. Bell would help the team check the final box. Also, it’s New York. Bell likes the spotlight, and an offer anywhere near Gurley’s, even if it doesn’t top it, would likely pique his interest and make the Jets a strong contender in the AFC.

Indianapolis Colts. They’ve been trying to pair Andrew Luck with a running back since the day he was drafted to replace Peyton Manning. They’ve tried just about everything. Last season it was then 35-year old Frank Gore. In previous seasons they went as far as trading for Trent Richardson when he flamed out with the Cleveland Browns after being drafted two slots behind Luck in the 2012 draft. Nothing has worked. The Colts finally have invested in their offensive line to protect their wounded franchise QB. The other way to further that protection, get him an elite running back. Bell is worth the money if the Colts really think Luck is the championship caliber QB to lead them.

Green Bay Packers. The Pack desperately needs to get a running game to compliment Aaron Rodgers. Even though he is superhuman, at some point you put him at too much risk, being predictable by allowing him to drop back and sling it all over the field. They need balance. Green Bay was also interested in acquiring Khalil Mack before he was traded to the Bears. So they too are in win at all cost mode, NOW. Bell would give them a dimension they’ve NEVER had in A-A-Ron’s time under center in cheese country. A balanced attack would make the best QB in the game even scarier.

DARK HORSES

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Who knows what Jameis Winston’s future is in west Florida, but if they keep him beyond his rookie contract that ends in 2019, and he improves on and off the field, their offense has everything but an elite running back. The combination of DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans at wide receiver positions and OJ Howard at tight end is lethal. With Bell they’d have better weapons than what he’s currently apart of in the Burgh. Tampa Bay’s defense led by Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Brent Grimes is stout. Bell would make the Bucs the favorites in the best division in the NFL, the NFC South. A division that has been represented in the Super Bowl 2 of the last three seasons.

Seattle Seahawks. When Russell Wilson was at his best, he had “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch behind him. Even though he’s improved each season, their offense has been very predictable and Wilson playing sandlot ball. Now, they just spent their 2018 first round pick (27th overall) on Rashad Penny out of San Diego State who led FCS in rushing with 2,027 yards in 2017. So this is less likely than the other teams I have mentioned. However, Bell is a different animal, and if you can get him, YOU. GET. HIM.

Advertisements

2018 NFL Rookies Most Likely Too…

The 2018 NFL season is drawing closer as Training Camps have opened across the League. Hopefully, we can spend more time talking about the action on the field and not who is, or isn’t showing up at the Hall of Famer enshrinement and other off-the-field issues.

The excitement is high to see the return of All-Pros and perennial Pro Bowlers that missed last season due to injury like J.J. Watt, David Johnson, Odell Beckham Junior and Andrew Luck to name a few. But, there’s also the anticipation of watching new stars begin their pro football journey.

256 players were drafted in April–39 linebackers, the most of any position–and there are several dozens more that will make rosters as free agents. I looked into my crystal ball and here’s how I see the 2018 class fairing in their careers.

Josh Rosen felt he should’ve been the number one overall pick, saying “there were nine mistakes made ahead of me.” The UCLA product will be out to prove he was right. Photo Courtesy: USA Today

Most likely to lead the NFL in passing yards….

Josh Rosen (10th Overall Pick), Arizona Cardinals. Rosen was considered the most pro-ready of the quarterbacks in the 2018 class, having played in a pro-style system at UCLA, for a former NFL head coach. He’ll also play in an NFC West division that arguably has the best collective talent at the QB position. The style of play is even more up-tempo than the direction the rest of the league has taken. The opportunities will be there as he goes toe to toe with Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jared Goff.

Most likely to lead the NFL in rushing yards….

The safe and most popular pick would be Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants, the second overall selection in the draft. While I believe Barkley will be a very productive back in both the run and pass game with the Giants, in the mold of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, but because he plays on the same unit as Odell Beckham Junior, Sterling Shepherd and Evan Ingram, New York will have a more balanced attack and he won’t carry the ball at a high rate.

So I’m going with another NFC East rookie runner, Darius Guice of Washington. The Former LSU back was selected with the 59th pick in the 2nd round. He slipped in the draft due to character issues, but many “experts” claim he was a first round talent. Guice is a physical, downhill runner who at 5’11” 224 pounds wants to play like Marshawn Lynch. He’ll be playing with Alex Smith who handed off to the 2017 NFL Leading rusher Kareem Hunt in Kansas City last season. Hunt was a 3rd round selection (pick 86) last spring.

Most likely to lead the NFL in receptions, receiving yards or receiving TDs

Michael Gallup (3rd round, 81st Pick), Dallas Cowboys. Jason Whitten has retired. Dez Bryant is on the free agent market struggling to find a new home. The Cowboys will be looking for a new threat in the passing game for third-year QB Dak Prescott to build chemistry with. Gallup caught 176 passes for 2,690 yards (15.3 ypc) and 21 touchdowns in his two seasons at Colorado State. Someone will have to be Prescott’s number one option when defenses load the box to stop Zeke Elliott.

Most likely to lead the NFL in turnovers…

Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets. The third overall pick out of USC had his troubles taking care of the pigskin in college, especially against top-notch competition. He’s going to see that quality and even better every week in the NFL. This doesn’t mean he won’t have a great career, Eli Manning has led the League in turnovers twice in his career and he’s probably going to get a Gold Jacket. But Darnold is being heralded as a “Savior” for a franchise that’s been dormant for nearly a decade, especially at that position. That means he’ll likely be the first of the 2018 class of QB’s to be thrown into the fire early in their career, and make several rookie mistakes.

Most likely to lead the league in tackles…

Roquan Smith (8th Overall Pick) Chicago Bears. The Georgia Bulldog linebacker could be the next great linebacker in the Bears book of great backers. The 2017 Butkus Award winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year, racked up 252 total tackles in his three seasons “Between the Hedges.” 137 of them came last season, 14 of them for loss. Smith has a nose for the football and is always around the action. In the “Windy City” he’ll be counted on early to help the 10th ranked total defense in 2017 stop Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins.

Most likely to lead the league in sacks…

Bradley Chubb (5th overall pick) Denver Broncos. This could very well happen in his rookie season with the attention Von Miller will attract on the other side of the field, plus linebackers Brandon Marshall, Shane Ray and Defensive End Derek Wolfe. Who do you think is going to get the least amount of attention from opposing offensive units? This answer is Chubb. The North Carolina State product recorded 10 sacks in each of his last two seasons with the Wolfpack and 25 total in his four-year career. He also made 21 and 23 tackles for loss, proving he lives in offenses backfields.

Most likely to lead the League in interceptions (takeaways)….

Josh Jackson (2 round, pick 45) Green Bay Packers. His ball hawking skills are elite. Many have compared him to Richard Sherman, and he looked the part against Ohio State last season when he picked off 3 passes and took one to the house. The 2017 Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, intercepted 8 passes last season and took 2 back for touchdowns. He’s a big DB at 6’1″, 196 pounds, which is the direction the League is going to counter the bigger athletic wide receivers.

Most likely to be Offensive Rookie of the Year…. 

Saquon Barkley (2nd overall pick), New York Giants. You can never go wrong betting on a running back, because history has shown us they adjust to the pro game quicker. Three of the last five winners of this award were running backs. Don’t expect that to change this season. If Eli Manning continues to struggle, as he has in recent seasons, the Giants best bet to compete in what will be a highly competitive NFC East, will be to hand the ball to Barkley in the run and pass game. On another note, no Giants rookie has ever rushed for 1,000+ yards, so Barkley would be making history as well.

Most likely to be Defensive Rookie of the Year…

Mike Hughes, Minnesota Vikings (1 round, pick 30). The NFL is a predominant passing league, which means the players on the defensive side of the ball that have the best chance to standout are pass rushers and defensive backs. Hughes was a star for the UCF Knights self-claimed National Championship team. In his only season in Orlando, he intercepted 4 passes taking one back for six and broke up 11 passes. He’ll be playing on a defense that rank first last season. Hughes is also a return specialist, having returned 2 kickoffs and 1 punt for touchdowns last season. His involvement, and success, in special teams will catapult him into voters conscious.

Most likely to be steal of the draft…

Orlando Brown (3rd round, 83rd pick), Baltimore Ravens. Other than running back, the players that have the least struggle transitioning to the pro game are offensive lineman. The “Big Uglies” typically have the biggest upside with the lowest risk of any position. That’s why I’m going with Brown. The 2017 Unanimous All-American and two-time Big 12 Lineman of the Year had a disastrous performance at the combine, causing his draft stock to fall. But, Brown was considered a first-round talent. He comes from great pedigree. His father, the late Orlando “Zeus” Brown Senior, played six seasons for the Ravens, starting 80 games. Brown Junior will be surrounded with people who will be invested in him as a player, but as a person due to his ties with the organization.

Griffin (49) is a sentimental hero, but don’t let that blind you from the fact that he’s an elite athlete with the skills and determination to be great. Photo Courtesy: USA Today.

Most likely to be a perennial All-Pro…. 

Shaquem Griffin (5th round, 141 pick) Seattle Seahawks. Everyone fell so in love with his inspiring story, a guy playing without a hand, that they almost ignored his dominating performance for a UCF Knight team that was the only team in major college football to finish the 2017 season undefeated.

His combine test scores alone should have catapulted him into the first round, but teams were scared off by what they consider a disability. They’ll undoubtedly, regret that. Then there’s his game film. If you watched any one UCF game in 2017, you saw this guy pop off the screen. He totaled 17 sacks and 30 tackles for loss in his college career as a linebacker. You should never better against a guy that’s overcome what he has. Playing along side his twin brother in Seattle, I see him being able to lead the new era of Seahawks like he did in central Florida.

Most likely to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year…

Bradley Chubb, for the same reasons I mentioned previously as to why I feel he will lead the NFL in sacks. Pass rushers are a premium in the League, and historically, they win this award more than any other defensive positions. The last eight winners were pass rushers, Calais Campbell, Khalil Mack and JJ Watt were the most recent winners. If he can disrupt NFL QBs like his new teammate, Von Miller, he will take home this award at some point in his career.

Most likely to be NFL MVP….

This award always goes to the quarterback who’s on the team with the best record in the League. In the last ten seasons, a quarterback won the award nine times. Running Back Adrian Peterson was the exception in 2012. So of course I should pick a QB, right? Yes, and I’m going with Sam Darnold. If you’ve read this far — first off, thanks — you know I believe Darnold will be a turnover machine early on in his career, which he was in college. But, I like his overall makeup and I think the early growing pains are going to serve him greatly in his development. If he wins games in that city, for that organization, he’ll have the big market bias and narrative, voters swoon over.