Yet another PFT Sunday mailbag

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It’s a new offseason Sunday tradition in these parts. Your questions submitted via Twitter, with the best 10 of them answered here.

So here we go, with a post-draft edition of the mailbag. Featuring 10 carefully harvested questions. Or, as the case may be, the first 10 that I happened to notice while scrolling through them.

From @gpromise3: “Grade the Dolphins’ draft.”

No.

Seriously, I mean it. No.

The process of grading draft picks is stupid. Anyone who gets it, knows it. Despite hearing the on-air draft analysts offer up reasons why every single player picked can become a solid contributor in the NFL, it’s all a guessing game, for everyone. And there’s no way of knowing where a given player’s football ceiling resides until he’s competing against (and being physically assaulted by) grown-ass men at the next level.

Roughly half of the first-round picks in any given year become busts. Yet you’ll never hear that mentioned during the coverage of the draft.

They don’t mention it for two reasons. First, that kind of transparency undermines the effort to sell hope to fans of every team, fans who are led to believe that their favorite team is one draft away from launching a dynasty. Second, if any of the on-air draft analysts were to say, “You know, half of these guys are going to stink,” plenty of fans may say in response, “Which ones?”

To which the analysts would say, “We don’t know.”

To which the fans would say, “Then why are we listening to you?”

Listening to draft grades is even more stupid, because no one knows who will and won’t thrive at the next level. But at least the grading process entails something other than an “everything is awesome” vibe, forcing on-air draft analysts to attach letters that could end up making them look stupid later.

From @deanosborn42: “What’s really going on with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers? Are they trying to ease him gently out the door?”

On Saturday, we took at stab at making sense of Green Bay’s strategy for the first two nights of the draft, which resulted in the first-round pick and fourth-round pick being devoted to Rodgers’ potential successor and the second- and third-round picks being invested in the running game.

There’s a sudden and palpable sense that the Packers are planning for life without Rodgers, but the cap consequences make it impossible to trade him before June 1, difficult (but not impossible) to trade him after June 1, difficult (but not impossible) to trade him before next June 1 of next year, challenging (but much easier) to trade him after June 1 of next year, and likely that he’ll be traded in 2022.

So it looks like the Packers are planning for two more years with Rodgers, with the possibility that he’ll convince them to extend it to a third year, based on his play. The question becomes what does Rodgers want? With the writing now on the wall, Rodgers may want to take a sledgehammer to it.

Again, it will be hard for the Packers to do anything about that before next June. Until it ends, whenever it ends, the dynamics between Rodgers and the Packers will be fascinating to monitor between now and then.

From @richardeid: “Belichick said not drafting a QB wasn’t ‘by design.’ Is that a big flashing light that says [Jarrett] Stidham isn’t the guy?”

Not necessarily. If Belichick had hoped to take a quarterback in the first few rounds but couldn’t make it work based on the complex balancing process of need and availability and position played by the various available prospects, that’s not good news for Stidham. If Belichick were merely planning to take a late-round prospect for developmental purposes, that wouldn’t have mattered to Stidham’s prospects, at all.

Given the public praise heaped on the second-year fourth-rounder from New England veterans like Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, and Matthew Slater, it’s safe to say the locker room believes in Stidham. Which makes it more likely that the coaching staff believes.

So even if Belichick’s failure to draft a quarterback wasn’t by design, Stidham continues to be the best option — and barring a future transaction he’ll be the most likely successor to Tom Brady.

From @GearsofTed: “Which of the big 3 WRs (Lamb, Ruggs, Jeudy) will be the best?”

Yes, I’ve already said that no one knows how anyone will do at the next level until they do it, or don’t. Until that happens, there are plausible reasons for making a preliminary ranking of the likely performances of Henry Ruggs III (12th overall to the Raiders), Jerry Jeudy (15th to the Broncos), and CeeDee Lamb (17th to the Cowboys).

I’d currently rank their expected performance, at least in the early years of their careers, in the opposite order in which they were drafted: Lamb, Jeudy, Ruggs.

Lamb lands in a spot with the best quarterback, running back, and offensive line of the three teams. Also, with Amari Cooper the No. 1 wideout in Dallas, Lamb won’t have to worry about being double-teamed unless and until he make a Randy Moss-style splash.

Then there’s the chip-on-the-shoulder factor. He believes he should have gone higher than No. 17, he’ll be pissed off that he didn’t, and that will give him extra motivation to get the most out of his abilities. Put simply, Lamb has a chance to explode in Dallas.

Jeudy has great weapons around him, too, along with a great defense. And Broncos quarterback Drew Lock showed star potential in limited time as a rookie. Jeudy, like Lamb, will have a chance to build confidence via one-on-one matchups, generate stats, and become a quality player, right out of the gates.

Ruggs, in contracts, steps onto a team with no No. 1 wideout, a quarterback who has by all appearances hit his ceiling, the highest expectations of any receiver because he was the first one picked, and the ball-and-chain that comes with generating a ridiculously fast time in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. Plenty of guys who have great unencumbered, straight-line speed can’t adapt to the broken-field impediments to running fast (starting with getting jammed at the line), the expectation to stop and start and change directions smoothly, and the question of whether, ultimately, the player can reliably catch the ball.

Ruggs also may face double teams right out of the gate, making it even more of a challenge to become the best of the first three receivers taken.

From @lenberkowitz: “Does this tank job by the Jags qualify as earliest tank job ever in the NFL?”

The Jaguars are not tanking. They aren’t even rebuilding. They’re retooling on the fly, changing the culture and swapping out players with name recognition for unproven players without name recognition who could prove to be better than expected.

Gardner Minshew II, a steal in round six last year, will get a chance to show that he’s the guy. The offense, under new coordinator Jay Gruden, likely will be redesigned to enhance Minshew’s chances.

The team’s goal this offseason was to get the salary-cap situation under control, and to make free-agency and draft decisions aimed at adding to and enhancing a quality core of players. First-round cornerback C.J. Henderson and first-round pass rusher K’Lavon Chaisson definitely have the potential to beef up the defense, and second-round receiver Laviska Shenault adds to a quietly potent receiving corps that includes D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, and Keelan Cole.

And here’s the best reason for thinking the Jags aren’t tanking — owner Shad Khan has made it clear that coach Doug Marrone and G.M. Dave Caldwell are under the gun. So they’re trying to put together a team that will competitive in 2020, not position themselves to be able to pick Trevor Lawrence in 2021. If the Jaguars are in position to pick Lawrence next year, neither Marrone nor Caldwell will be employed by the team.

From @trmullen: “Greetings from the uk!! Are you surprised [Jameis] Winston is signing with Saints? And where do you think Cam Newton ends up Chicago or New England or elsewhere?”

From the moment Winston didn’t find a starting job, the Saints made the most sense. He can be the new Teddy Bridgewater, and if given a chance to play, Winston can set himself up for a starting job elsewhere in 2021.

Things could get even more interesting if coach Sean Payton sees enough in Winston to make him the starter in 2021 over Taysom Hill, who currently is the presumed successor to Drew Brees and who now has a two-year, $21 million deal. For now, though, Winston and the Saints would be (if the deal happens) a one-year arrangement aimed at helping both sides.

As to Newton, who knows? His best play at this point may be to wait for someone’s starter to get injured, or possibly to show up for training camp in horrible shape, thanks to months of not doing nearly enough to stay ready.

From @TeGentzler14: “Did the Eagles draft Jalen Hurts to combat the exact situation that happened to them against Seattle in the playoffs last year? With the ‘gadget plays’ being secondary?”

Every team needs a quality backup quarterback, especially when the starter has a history of getting banged up. Indeed, once Carson Wentz exited the playoff game against the Seahawks after a hit that should have resulted in a flag and a fine for Jadeveon Clowney, it was over for the Eagles.

Hurts, ideally, gives the Eagles for the next four years a better option behind Wentz, along with someone who could be used from time to time in different roles. It’s the best of both worlds for the Eagles, giving them a backup who can run the base offense and a utility player who can enhance it, when Wentz is playing.

Then there’s the coronavirus angle, which at least one reporter has mentioned (and which at least one other reported privately has mocked). If the NFL plays this year, and unless the players are quarantined from their families and/or society, any player could test positive, at any time. If it’s the starting quarterback who gets abruptly shut down for several weeks, it makes more sense than ever to have a replacement ready to go.

From @TheLaughingMan5: “Is there a reason Jake Fromm fell as far as he did? Usually we hear why people are falling down the board, but I felt there was a lot less of that this year.”

Sometimes, there’s a prospect who gets more hype than he deserves. Sometimes, that’s a result of the fact that he’s represented by an agency that also represents more than a few people who are in position to hype him in the media.

Sometimes, the evaluators fall for it. Sometimes, they don’t.

Sometimes, that’s all that needs to be said.

From @SkolVikings407: “As a Vikings fan myself. Chris Simms didn’t mention them as having a strong draft, what’s your opinion on how their draft went?”

Draft picks are scratch-off lottery tickets. And I’m always a fan of getting as many scratch-off lottery tickets as possible.

The Vikings emerged from the 2020 draft with 15 lottery tickets. So I like it.

The problem this year is that those young players will have reduced opportunities to catch the eye of the coaching staff, given the absence of a usual offseason program. Thus, plenty of those 15 players ultimately will get cut.

Before it’s time to cut those players, there undoubtedly will be a chance for them to prove that they belong. But they’ll have to do it quickly — especially the six who were taken in rounds six and seven.

From @dcowboy777: “If theres no season how do they do next year’s draft order?”

Dave Birkett recently wrote an article about the 2005 NHL draft, which happened after a season lost to a lockout. Hockey used a lottery with the number of balls tied to factors like playoff berths in the seasons preceding the draft and whether teams had the first overall pick in recent years.

If there’s no NFL season in 2020 — and despite stated plans and at-times blind optimism that possibility needs to be taken seriously — the league will have to come up with some way of crafting a draft order. Of course, if there’s no NFL season there definitely won’t be a college football season. Which will make the 2021 draft even more of a crapshoot than it was this year.

There will be various practical impediments to playing football, apart from the question of whether fans will be present. Most importantly, how can the NFL justify the widespread and continuous testing of its players, coaches, trainers, etc. if widespread testing still isn’t available to the general public?

Here’s the simple reality: If the NFL eventually has to craft a draft order without the benefit of a preceding season that naturally generates one, we’ll all have much bigger problems than pro football coming up with a process for selecting dibs on college football players who won’t have played in well over a year. So here’s hoping it doesn’t come to that, for plenty of reasons other than the fact that it will be another problem for the NFL to solve.

29 responses to “Yet another PFT Sunday mailbag

  1. Skins had the best draft in the league — ending up with the most dynamic defensive player in Young and the most dynamic offensive player in Gibson. The dynasty has gone south from Boston to DC and the Giants, Eagles, and Cowboys will just have to deal with it.

  2. If there’s no season, a computer generated system will assign prospects to teams without regard for need. It will be pure chaos as players won’t be allowed to be traded and would have to go back in the 2022 draft if they chose not to sign.

  3. Rodgers to the colts or raiders 2021. Makes no sense to keep Rodgers beyond 2020. If you do, you basically negate the benefits of having a rookie quarterback salary. Packers must get rid of Rodgers as soon as they can if they truly want to get the most out of the benefits of the rookie contract. I actually think this was a wise move by the packers. They can get a ton of picks for Rodgers and go to the young guy with minimal salary hit next year and another 3 years after that before they have to worry about signing him to a huge deal. They are clearly moving on from Rodgers in 2021 despite the hard dead cap hit they’ll take. I for one think this love kid could be pretty good.

  4. 1) Aaron isn’t playing to 45 as he thinks, his battered risk-taking body’ll be dust within 2-3yr.
    2) When StiddyJ beat Hoyer to be Brady’s sole backup in 2019, that sealed it. That Hoyer is now back as vet cover further tells you, if you weren’t sure, it’s Stiddy Time. As for Dalton, King is twice nuts – for not seeing the above and for overlooking Pats can’t pay him anyway.

  5. Somewhere in there you forgot to add how fans comment on their team’s draftees as if they watched most of the games involving the teams that all those draftees played for while commenting on their strengths and what they did.

    As with all players, lowlight reels can just as easily be created as highlight reels. Watching a big-name player from the SEC dominate his competition from Liberty U. shouldn’t impress anyone.

  6. If Belicheat doesn’t sign Cam Newton or Andy Dalton now, then he’s not nearly as smart as everyone seems to think he is.

  7. No, Rodgers is not being pushed out the door … Love has lots of natural ability, but he’s in no way close to being a starting QB in the NFL. He can sit behind Rodgers for the next 3 to 4 years and develop – that seemed to work out well for Aaron.

    How many very young receivers actually make an impact their first couple of years in the league? Not too many. Currently, the Packers have a bunch of guys that will be in their 2nd and 3rd years, plus St. Brown is coming off of injury, and we did pick up one receiver via free agency.

    Running Backs take a pounding in the NFL – so adding a 3rd decent back is a good move. Jones is a quality back, but nobody is guaranteed more than their next play … and after that it’s a crap shoot. Also, it appears the Pack will be placing even more emphasis on the running game for the next season – whenever that is. Even the tight end resembles an H-back. Besides, the Packers top two RB’s are both free agents after this season.

    The linemen are all part of the draft & develop mindset the Packers have, and they seem to do a pretty good job of that. Their All-Pro left tackle was a 7th round pick – as an example.

    As for Aaron, he will be just fine. He’s being paid over a hundred million, so it’s not like he’s going to be suffering too much. He’ll be just fine.

    And all I’m hearing the how the Packers draft was for the future … well hell, that’s what the draft is for. If you’re basing your teams upcoming success on how well all your rookies play, then you’re not really too good to begin with.

    Some organizations – like the Vikings – are not draft & develop outfits. While the Packers have had two QB’s over the last 20 some years – consider the route the Vikings have taken: Rich Gannon, Jim McMahn, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Tavarious Jackson, Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Shaun Hill, Sam Bradford … and now, Kirk Cousins.

    For my nickel, I prefer the Packer Way of Draft & Develop.

  8. How about knocking off the Carr bashing. Just because he blocked you it is time to put your big boy pants on and get over it.

  9. We’ll have almost no offseason programs and we’re all hoping training camps can open in time. I’m curious if the league may expand rosters and/or practice squads to allow more evaluation of talent than we’ve gotten with the loss of rookie camps and possibly abbreviated training camps. Personally I’d like to see practice squads being increased from 10 to 15 and possibly even add a couple regular roster spots (with the game day rosters remaining the same). This will hopefully help make up for the evaluation of those prospects who missed out on all the pro days and regional combines where so many unknowns (e.g., Adam Thielen) make their mark. I’m hoping for a PFT article about this, or at least maybe address it in a future mailbag.

  10. Mike – the idea of grading draft results isn’t “stupid” – any more than executing a draft is stupid. As long as a grader recognizes that they are predicting future results versus think they are identifying them, it is no different than the draft itself. Teams evaluate their needs and fans evaluate the same needs, maybe differently. Teams make unexpected picks, draftees fall to teams unexpectedly. Teams make good or stupid trades (oh…hi Bill O’Brien). I can’t imagine why you don’t want to grade a draft – maybe has to do with pittsuburgh’s results.

  11. Ruggs already signed his contract? Carr hit his ceiling? You can tell that by the fact that he improved his rating to over 100 for the first time in his career, and threw for a career high yardage with THAT receiving corp? I’ve said it before, if you think he’s the Raiders biggest issue this off season, you never watched them play defense the last decade.

  12. Arnold Ziffel says:
    April 26, 2020 at 3:03 pm
    Blah, blah, blah … Some organizations – like the Vikings – are not draft & develop outfits. While the Packers have had two QB’s over the last 20 some years – consider the route the Vikings have taken … more blah blah blah.
    ——————————-
    I’m a Packers fan. But even I recognize the Vikings have had some really good teams over the same time period with just some bad luck getting to the big game. Favre’s INT combined with Peterson’s worst pro game vs NO stopped a team that should have gone to the Super Bowl. The 1998 team would have been in the Super Bowl against Denver if it weren’t for an errant chip shot FG attempt by the league’s most accurate kicker. There have been plenty of other pretty good teams in that span. Getting to and winning the Super Bowl involves a bit of luck. The Packers barely made the 2010 playoffs on a tie-breaker before winning it all. I may give Vikings fans crap for turning the postseason collapse into an art form, but I have to admit it’s been one of the better run franchises (despite its ownership at times) over the last 30 years.

  13. Arnold Ziffel says:

    Some organizations – like the Vikings – are not draft & develop outfits.
    ###

    FWIW – 56% of the Vikings roster is from their drafts picks and udfa signings. That just happens to be the best draft and develop percentage in the NFL.

    That fact was prominently displayed while watching day three of the draft every time the Vikings pick was up. And that was pretty often.

    “While the Packers have had two QB’s over the last 20 some years”

    That’s partially true. Favre never missed a start. The Packers, due to Rodgers inability to stay on the field have played: Tim Boyle, Deshone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan, Scott Tolzien, Matt Flynn, Seneca Wallace and Graham Harrell…

  14. Arnold Ziffel says:
    April 26, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    The linemen are all part of the draft & develop mindset the Packers have, and they seem to do a pretty good job of that. Their All-Pro left tackle was a 7th round pick – as an example.

    —————-

    That all-pro lineman, who went to my favorite university, was actually a 4th round pick.

  15. I am a die hard Vikings fan who is not impressed with this years draft. A tackle with short arms. A wide receiver who is best in the slot (so is Thelein) and no one to take the top off the defense. Another wide out and a safety, both of which are slow for their position. A defensive end who is too small, a cb who is too slim and light to win against bigger receivers, the list just goes on. The immediate needs at corner and o-line are no clearer and if we don’t have a speedster to pull some defense back it gets crowded enough at the line of scrimmage that it gets hard to run the ball. There were a lot of good project players but no clear answered to out roster holes. And I really expected a RB so Abdullah can go fumble for someone else. I guess time will tell.

  16. The computer simulation draft next year will be an absolute tv Bonanza. No one will know what will happen. Can you imagine Trevor Lawrence being allocated to a team like KC or Houston? Obviously this pure fantasy but if there’s no season, it would be amazingly entertaining idea.

  17. “From the moment Winston didn’t find a starting job, the Saints made the most sense. He can be the new Teddy Bridgewater, and if given a chance to play, Winston can set himself up for a starting job elsewhere in 2021.”

    I don’t understand why I keep hearing this in the media. All I heard last season was how Taysom Hill was their future….now suddenly I see “win-win-win” articles. There are plenty of teams with weaker 2nd-string QB situations where Winston would be the net man up if the starter got hurt.

  18. @ragnarthegreat

    I feel the same wayand also a Vikes fan. Everyone saying the Vikes had such a great draft but once again, our top priority, oline, was neglected once again!! Theres one resson and one reason only we got spanked out of the divisionals by the 9ers in January and cuz we were completely out classed in the trenches on the offensive side of the ball. So what do we do with 13 Saturday pics in our back pocket? Continuously sit there and watch good young OL prospects go off the board in rounds 4 and 5. BRUTAL RICK!! If he thinksthis Brendal and Hinton guy can make even a small difference next year, he’s sadly mistaken. Swing and a miss Rick.

  19. Derek Carr’s fan boys are similiar to Matthew Stafford’s fan boys. Losing is acceptable as long as their QB is racking up nice stats against prevent defenses.
    Ruggs will also benefit from it.

  20. “If theres no season how do they do next year’s draft order?”

    If there is no college season, how about no draft in 2021. All of the college players just go back for their “2020 season” just hold it in 2021. Just a “lost” year, like most of the rest of us……

  21. The only thing that is called correctly is that some time during the draft Mel Kiper will burst a vein, otherwise everything else is throwing darts at a dartboard.

  22. “While the Packers have had two QB’s over the last 20 some years”

    That’s partially true. Favre never missed a start. The Packers, due to Rodgers inability to stay on the field have played: Tim Boyle, Deshone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan, Scott Tolzien, Matt Flynn, Seneca Wallace and Graham Harrell…”

    So true,and not one of them could be called a successful winning quarterback when it came filling in.Flynn was good enough to sign a hefty contract with another team and become a starter but failed again at winning games.Kizer had the best opportunity with two teams and failed miserably.is it any wonder then that the Packers picked Love,they are seeking not only Rodgers future successor but also a competant backup who can finally win games when AR goes down again.

  23. From the moment Winston didn’t find a starting job, the Saints made the most sense. He can be the new Teddy Bridgewater, and if given a chance to play, Winston can set himself up for a starting job elsewhere in 2021.
    ———————
    Uh…not so much. Bridgewater Had proven himself to be a very capable QB, coming off of an injury. All he had to prove was that he was healthy. Winston has to prove that he can play.

    BIG difference. Another big difference? The Who Dat Nation does not like Winston.

  24. sfsaintsfan says:

    April 26, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    “If theres no season how do they do next year’s draft order?”

    If there is no college season, how about no draft in 2021. All of the college players just go back for their “2020 season” just hold it in 2021. Just a “lost” year, like most of the rest of us……
    ——–
    Why on earth would the players want to go play another season in college for free rather than getting paid? A lot of players likely would forego college entirely and go straight to nfl from high school if that was an option.

  25. Sunday Swami says:
    April 27, 2020 at 10:15 am

    ,…….

    Why on earth would the players want to go play another season in college for free rather than getting paid? A lot of players likely would forego college entirely and go straight to nfl from high school if that was an option.

    …..

    You don’t understand, this is if there’s NO SEASON in 2020 for College players. They won’t have played “another season” this year, it would essentially be like a redshirt year for everybody.

    I think colleges should reopen with on campus students only, wall them off from society, older professors should teach remotely and college football should happen and only students, on campus students, should be in the stands.

  26. So….I guess the decision to hold the draft wasn’t the “bad optics” unmitigated tone deaf disaster as predicted.

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