NFL announces 115 players giving up college eligibility to enter draft

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The deadline for players to give up their remaining collegiate eligibility in order to enter the 2020 NFL Draft was last Friday and the league announced the names of all the players who have opted to go that route on Tuesday.

Sixteen players who earned degrees without exhausting their eligibility have opted to enter the professional ranks and 99 other underclassmen have declared for the draft. The total of 115 players is down from the record-high of 135 players in 2018.

The players who have graduated are:

Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona St.
Oluwole Betiku, DE, Illinois
Lloyd Cushenberry, C, LSU
Quartney Davis, WR, Texans A&M
Alohi Gilman, S, Notre Dame
Matt Hennessy, C, Temple
Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA
Keith Ismael, C, San Diego St.
Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Tony Jones, RB, Notre Dame
Terrell Lewis, edge rusher, Alabama
Jordan Love, QB, Utah St.
Elorm Lumor, DE, Rutgers
Houston Miller, DE, Texas Tech
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

The 99 players who are leaving school without getting their degrees are:
Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
Grayland Arnold, CB, Baylor
Devin Asiasi, TE, UCLA
Trajan Bandy, CB, Miami
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU
Lynn Bowden, WR, Kentucky
Marcus Brown, DE, Missouri Western
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington
Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
K’Lavon Chaisson, edge rusher, LSU
Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU
Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise St.
Nick Coe, edge rusher, Auburn
Trystan Colon-Castillo, OT, Missouri
Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island
Kamren Curl, S, Arkansas
DeeJay Dallas, RB, Miami
Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi St.
Gabriel Davis, WR, Central Florida
Kyle Davis, WR, Florida Atlantic
Grant Delpit, S, LSU
A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
Jordan Elliott, DL, Missouri
A.J. Epenesa, edge rusher, Iowa
Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
Jonathan Garvin, DE, Miami (Fla.)
Willie Gay, LB, Mississippi St.
Yetur Gross-Matos, edge rusher, Penn St.
Peter Guerriero, RB, Monmouth
Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah
K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn St.
Harrison Hand, CB, Temple
C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
Isaiah Hodgins, WR, Oregon St.
Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Austin Jackson, OT, USC
Trishton Jackson, WR, Syracuse
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech
Solomon Kindley, OG, Georgia
Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Javon Leake, RB, Maryland
James Lynch, DT, Baylor
James Lynch, DL, Baylor
Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii
Anthony McFarland Jr., RB, Maryland
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
Netane Muti, OG, Fresno State
Thomas Newman, DB, Virginia-Lynchburg
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU
James Pierre, CB, Florida Atlantic
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Debione Renfro, CB, Texas A&M
Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
Kenny Robinson, DB, West Virginia
Kendrick Rogers, WR, Texas A&M
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Cesar Ruiz, center, WR, Michigan
Darnell Salomon, WR, South Florida
Stanford Samuels III, CB Florida State
Josiah Scott, CB, Michigan St.
Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
Arryn Siposs, P, Auburn
Geno Stone, S, Iowa
D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Tabyus Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Jeff Thomas, WR, Miami
Michael Turk, P, Arizona St.
Michael Warren II, RB, Cincinnati
Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss
Curtis Weaver, edge rusher, Boise St.
Cody White, WR, Michigan St.
Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
David Woodward, LB, Utah St.
Chase Young, edge rusher, Ohio State
Toren Young, RB, Iowa

FMIA: Patrick Mahomes Is ‘The Whole Package,’ Running Chiefs Into Super Bowl LIV To Meet 49ers

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Super Bowl LIV is set. Peter King opens Football Morning in America in Kansas City, where “the complete package” Patrick Mahomes ran the Chiefs past the Titans, setting up a championship matchup against the 49ers. Also in the column:

• Mahomes recaps his second-quarter, tightrope, tip-toe touchdown that broke the spirit of Tennessee and ended the five-decade Super Bowl appearance drought in Kansas City.

• Raheem Mostert, motivated by numerous teams cutting him, ran the 49ers past the Packers and into Miami.

• The uniter-in-chief, Steve Gleason, and the day in D.C. where cats and dogs lived together and a hero was given his just due.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the retirement of Luke Kuechly; the absurdity of a 17-game schedule; the disappointment of the Hall of Fame class; the latest chapter in the Antonio Brown.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness, a travel note and an interesting potential landing spot for Tua Tagovailoa. [more]

Dungy: It’s Time for the Rooney Rule to Evolve

Tony Dungy
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[Editor’s Note: Tony Dungy is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the first African-American head coach to win the Super Bowl. He has served as an analyst on NBC’s Football Night in America since 2009.]

January is always an exciting time in the NFL. The playoffs are coming to a conclusion as the league moves toward crowning its Super Bowl champion. The playoff games remind us of the goal that all 32 teams have of chasing excellence and trying to be the best. This January, however, my excitement has been tempered by the conversations I’ve had with so many of my friends in the NFL—African-American men who have spent much of their adult lives serving the league and helping create that excellence. For many African-American coaches, this January in particular has fostered disappointment, frustration and hurt. That has come as the result of another hiring cycle in which African-American coaches have been left out.

It’s fitting that we are having these conversations now, as we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., because Dr. King spent his life addressing problems of inequality and injustice in society. In his iconic “l Have a Dream” speech in 1963 he spoke of seeing a day where his children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. When Dr. King delivered that speech, the NFL playing field had been integrated for more than 15 years but it was far from equal.  There were certain positions, such as quarterback, where there were no African-Americans playing. And there were no African-American coaches on the sidelines.

In the years since 1963 the NFL has made significant strides with diversity and inclusion on the field. Today the percentage of African-Americans who make up the rosters is nearing 70. In the last two years we’ve watched Patrick Mahomes and (presumably) Lamar Jackson win league MVP awards while playing quarterback. They’ve brought a fresh excitement to the game and seemingly have put an end to the question of whether blacks can flourish at the quarterback position in the NFL. So we have seen a lot of progress take place on the field.

However, with head coaches and General Managers it has been different. There were five head coaching changes made after this past season and while Ron Rivera was hired in Washington, none of the five openings were filled by an African-American. Over the last three hiring cycles 20 new coaches were named with only two African-Americans chosen. That 10 percent hiring rate goes right along with the overall percentage of African-American head coaches in the NFL currently—3 out of 32. I’m not arguing for quotas or percentages but I don’t think anyone would say that an industry with a 70 percent black workforce but only 10 percent black leadership, is an industry that is providing fair and equal opportunities for everyone. Do we think that African-Americans are talented and driven enough to play the sport but not talented and driven enough to lead and teach the sport? I don’t think that’s the case.

These numbers over the last three hiring cycles are even more disappointing to me because there was a time when coaching diversity seemed to be gaining momentum. From 2001 to 2009 I had five African-American coaches on my staff alone who went on to become NFL head coaches—Herm Edwards, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Jim Caldwell, and Leslie Frazier.  All five of them would end up leading their teams to the playoffs and three of them took teams to the Super Bowl. I would have never dreamed that a decade later we would be trying to figure out why the numbers have dropped so sharply.

In 2003 Dan Rooney, then owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was part of a committee formed by the NFL, to look at how they could help foster diversity in the area of head coach hiring. They came up with a recommendation that came to be known as the Rooney Rule, which mandated that teams looking for a head coach must interview at least one minority candidate. The intent of the rule was to get teams to slow down their process, investigate more candidates, and thoroughly gather information on potential coaches. Dan felt that would help uncover some minority candidates who might not be as well known to the owners.  In fact, it is exactly the procedure Dan used to hire Mike Tomlin, the current coach of the Steelers.

Dan had a very specific blueprint he used when hiring head coaches. He looked for energetic defensive coaches who were great communicators because he felt that fit the character of the city and the team. That formula led him to Chuck Noll in 1969 and Bill Cowher in 1992. In 2007 he was looking for that type of coach and he wanted to make sure he didn’t leave any stone unturned. In researching the coaching landscape he was eventually led to a 34-year-old coach who had just been named to his first Defensive Coordinator position a year earlier. Mike Tomlin may not have fit the mold other people were looking for but for Dan’s blueprint, Tomlin was perfect.  The hiring of a relatively unknown young coach raised some eyebrows at the time but 133 victories and two Super Bowl appearances later, it looks to have been a pretty good choice.

January of 2007 brought Tomlin’s hiring and also led up to Super Bowl XLI where the Indianapolis Colts met the Chicago Bears. Not only were both teams led by African-American head coaches but the staffs included four minority coaches who would go on to become NFL head coaches—Ron Rivera and Steve Wilks on Lovie Smith’s Bears’ staff and Jim Caldwell and Leslie Frazier on my Colts’ staff.  The Rooney Rule appeared to be having an impact, helping to bring about an uptick in minority hiring.

Recently, however, the rule has come under fire and many people think it is outdated. With the advent of the Internet, search firms, and the proliferation of analytics in the NFL now, the interview is no longer the primary way owners gather information on candidates. In fact, some hires are made without a formal interview.  I know because I was hired for my last coaching job after a series of phone conversations with Colts owner Jim Irsay. We never sat face to face for a formal interview.

Dan Rooney’s objective in formulating the rule was to promote the gathering of information and to give minority coaches another tool in the process of making themselves known to NFL team decision-makers. The spirit of the Rooney Rule is excellent but the current application of it has fallen short of the desired result. I believe the league office needs to take another look at how it can best help the owners gather information on prospective head coaches and General Managers before the interview process even takes place. We need to get more candidates truly included in the search process, by raising owners’ awareness of them long before an opening presents itself.

I know many people think that all of this discussion about the Rooney Rule and diversity in hiring is unnecessary. They think that since all teams want to win that everyone searches for, and selects, the best candidates possible. They think the problem is on the supply side—that we simply need to do something to create more of a pipeline of minority candidates.

I’m all for looking at ways to help develop coaches but I don’t subscribe to the theory that the problem is solely on the supply side. I think owners need help identifying quality candidates. And I don’t chalk it all up to racism. I don’t believe there are many people in professional football who would intentionally bypass a candidate they thought could take them to the playoffs or to a Super Bowl simply because of their race. However, I do believe there are owners who don’t know all of the best candidates or how to find them.  I truly believe there are more Lovie Smiths, Jim Caldwells, and Mike Tomlins in our coaching ranks today. We just need a better mechanism to discover them, a new application of the same spirit Dan Rooney employed back in 2007. It will take some work and require people to dig and look outside our traditional boxes, but the payoff can be huge. We can make our great game even better by utilizing all of the talent and resources that we have available.

PFT’s championship game picks

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The postseason is rocketing toward a crescendo, and MDS enjoys a one-game lead with three to play because someone (i.e., me) foolishly believed the Vikings would beat the 49ers — and failed to surrender to the gut feeling that the Titans would beat the Ravens.

This week, we disagree on one game. Which gives me a chance to forge a tie heading into the Super Bowl.

For our picks, keep reading.

Titans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Titans have a path to victory in this game, and it’s similar to their path to victory in the regular season: An efficient day for Ryan Tannehill, a lot of yards for Derrick Henry, and some special teams breaks going their way. But I don’t see that as the most likely path. More likely, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense proves it just has too much firepower for the Titans to stop, and Tennessee’s run-first game plan proves not to put enough points on the board. Kansas City is going to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 30, Titans 17.

Florio’s take: The Titans narrowly beat the Chiefs in Week 10, but Tennessee should have been blown out. In his first game back from a knee injury, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was slower than he is now, which made him less dynamic as a thrower. He still generated more than 400 passing yards, and he’ll likely do it again. Will the Chiefs be able to stop Derrick Henry? If they can build enough of a lead, yes, because the Titans will have to abandon the run, at some point.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 34, Titans 24.

Packers at 49ers

MDS’s take: This game wasn’t close in the regular season, and I don’t think it’s going to be close in the postseason, either. The 49ers’ defense is going to shut down Aaron Rodgers, and although Aaron Jones will have a decent game on the ground, that won’t be enough. The 49ers will take an early lead, their defense will protect it, and the running game will grind out the clock in the fourth quarter as San Francisco gets back to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Packers 13.

Florio’s take: The 37-8 victory in Week 12 becomes a ball and chain for the 49ers this time around. Despite the margin, the game turned sharply against the Packers during a first half that featured dumb penalties, a very untimely fumble, a misguided decision to run from shotgun formation on fourth and one while down by only 10 points, and horrendous clock management near the end of the second quarter. If it’s a lot closer than 23-0 when the third quarter starts on Sunday, the Packers will have a very real chance to win — especially since Aaron Rodgers is keenly aware of his football mortality and Jimmy Garoppolo has the potential to make a critical mistake in crunch time. If the Packers can weather the early storm, they can steal a Super Bowl appearance late, setting up  rematch of what was called at the time the AFL-NFL World Championship Game to cap the NFL’s 100th season.

Florio’s pick: Packers 24, 49ers 21.

FMIA Divisional: Aaron Rodgers, Packers Aren’t Finished, Derrick Henry Can’t Be Stopped, and more

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And then there were four. Peter King opens “Football Morning in America, Divisional Weekend” in Green Bay where the Packers joined the Niners, Titans and Chiefs as the championship weekend guests of honor. Also in the column:

• Aaron Rodgers, 36 years old, still has the deft touch, and has Green Bay one win away from another Super Bowl appearance.

• Derrick Henry might not care about stats, but the numbers he’s putting up have never been seen before.

• Tyrann Mathieu tries to make sense of the Chiefs’ really weird win over the Texans.

• A quick look at all the two Championship Sunday games—Tennessee at Kansas City, and Green Bay at San Francisco.

• A tick-tock through the 40 hours that changed the futures of the Panthers and Giants, and the lives of Matt Rhule and Joe Judge, including the importance of knowing which Penn Station is the right one.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the Rooney Rule mess, and how to fix it; the importance of process in Carolina; the Rhule contract; the Kevin Stefanski hire.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, beernerdness, a travel note and a wild thought on Andy Dalton becoming a Patriot in 2020. [more]

PFT’s divisional round picks

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Last week, MDS and I went 2-2 in the wild-card round, properly believing in the Texans and Seahawks but blowing it as to the Patriots and Saints.

This week, we agree on three of the four picks, with one of us having the guts to call for an upset.

Our picks for the best NFL weekend of the season appear below.

Vikings at 49ers

MDS’s take: The Vikings put on an impressive performance in New Orleans, winning a game that few thought they could. The 49ers, however, have been the best team in the NFC all season, and there’s little reason to believe that will change in the playoffs. Look for George Kittle to have a big game for San Francisco and the 49ers’ defense to shut down Kirk Cousins and the Vikings’ passing game.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 28, Vikings 10.

Florio’s take: Thirty-two years ago, Anthony Carter and the Vikings shocked the 49ers in San Francisco, six days after shocking the Saints in New Orleans. One year earlier, the Vikings stole a regular-season game in San Francisco with a 27-24 overtime win. Earlier this year, the 49ers lost their first game of the year, 27-24 in overtime. So what the hell? Lightning strikes all over again for the Vikings, who are good enough to keep it close and if they can keep it close anything can happen.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 27, 49ers 24 (OT).

Titans at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Titans will likely prioritize the running game and try to control the ball with Derrick Henry, but I just can’t see them slowing the game down the way they did against the Patriots. The Ravens’ offense is just too good, and the Titans’ defense won’t be able to stop it.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 30, Titans 20.

Florio’s take: The Titans are good enough to win this one. Much of it hinges on the ability of the offense to shorten the game and to keep the Ravens offense on the sideline. That will work, but not well enough to return the favor from 2008, when the top-seeded Titans fell at home to the Ravens.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 20, Titans 13.

Texans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: The Texans went to Kansas City and beat the Chiefs in the regular season, so it’s certainly not out of the question that they could pull the upset. But top to bottom I think the Chiefs are a significantly better team, on offense, defense and special teams. I like the Chiefs to win this one and I don’t see it being particularly close.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Texans 20.

Florio’s take: For some reason, the Chiefs have faded from the collective national radar screen. They shouldn’t have. The offense is potent and the defense is improved. The Texans just don’t have the horses to keep up with the only team left in the postseason that made it this far last year.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 31, Texans 20.

Seahawks at Packers

MDS’s take: The Packers caught a break when the Saints got upset by the Vikings. I believe the Saints match up very well against the Packers and would have won in Green Bay. The Seahawks, however, have a weak run defense that will allow Aaron Jones to have a big game, and the Packers will win this one and head to the NFC Championship Game.

MDS’s pick: Packers 20, Seahawks 17.

Florio’s take: A Vikings win on Saturday will give the Packers a psychological boost, since they won’t have to return to San Francisco. This makes the Packers more likely to win, setting up the first ever Vikings-Packers border war with a berth in the Super Bowl riding on the outcome. (If the 49ers win Saturday, the Seahawks become more likely to prevail.)

Florio’s pick: Packers 24, Seahawks 21.

FMIA Wild Card: Tom Brady the Pragmatist Controls His NFL Future

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Wild-card weekend is over, and whoa, what a start with four thrilling games. Peter King opens Football Morning in America in Foxboro where the NFL world witnessed a momentous event. Also in the column:

• Tom Brady, “not crushingly disappointed” by the loss to the Titans, talks about being a free man for the first time in 20 years. And Robert Kraft breaks his silence on Brady’s future and what’s in store next in New England.

• A review of the four wild-card winners, and the players—Deshaun Watson, Derrick Henry, Kirk Cousins, DK Metcalf—that propelled their teams.

• A quick look at all four divisional weekend games—Minnesota-San Francisco, Tennessee-Baltimore, Houston-Kansas City and Seattle-Green Bay.

• Memories of Sam Wyche, the influential coach who passed away last week at age 74.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the AP all-pro team; the Kyle Rudolph no-call; college coaches in the NFL; the most interesting team to watch this offseason.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness and things learned on a train ride to Providence. [more]

Michael Thomas, Stephon Gilmore unanimous All-Pro selections

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The Associated Press has announced the results of this year’s All-Pro voting and two players were selected as first-team choices by all 50 voters.

Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas got the unanimous nod after setting a new record for receptions during the 2019 season. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore joined Thomas in that category. Both players have made the first-team two straight years.

Projected MVP Lamar Jackson got 47-of-50 votes at quarterback. Russell Wilson of the Seahawks got the other three votes.

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey wound up with 45 votes, although they were split between running back and the flex spot created to reflect the way offenses are set up now. He wound up winning the vote at both spots after picking up more than 1,000 yards as a runner and receiver his season.

The entire first- and second-teams are listed below:


Quarterback: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore.

Running Back: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina.

Flex: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina.

Tight End:  George Kittle, San Francisco.

Wide Receivers: Michael Thomas, New Orleans; DeAndre Hopkins, Houston.

Left Tackle: Ronnie Stanley, Baltimore.

Right Tackle: Ryan Ramczyk, New Orleans.

Left Guard: Quenton Nelson, Indianapolis.

Right Guard: Zack Martin, Dallas.

Center: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia.


Edge Rushers: Chandler Jones, Arizona; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh.

Interior Linemen: Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams; Cam Heyward, Pittsburgh.

Linebackers: Bobby Wagner, Seattle; Demario Davis, New Orleans; Eric Kendricks, Minnesota.

Cornerbacks: Stephon Gilmore, New England; Tre’Davious White, Buffalo.

Safeties: Jamal Adams, New York Jets; Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pittsburgh.

Defensive Back: Marcus Peters, Baltimore; Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City; and Marlon Humphrey, Baltimore (tied with seven votes each).


Kicker: Justin Tucker, Baltimore.

Punter: Brett Kern, Tennessee.

Kick Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago.

Punt Returner: Deonte Harris, New Orleans.

Special Teamer: Matthew Slater, New England.


Quarterback: Russell Wilson, Seattle.

Running Back: Derrick Henry, Tennessee.

Flex: Derrick Henry, Tennessee.

Tight End: Travis Kelce, Kansas City.

Wide Receivers: Julio Jones, Atlanta; Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay.

Left Tackle: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay.

Right Tackle: Mitchell Schwartz, Kansas City.

Left Guard: Joel Bitonio, Cleveland; Joe Thuney, New England (tied with three votes each).

Right Guard: Marshal Yanda, Baltimore.

Center: Rodney Hudson, Oakland.


Edge Rushers: Shaq Barrett, Tampa Bay; Cameron Jordan, New Orleans.

Interior Linemen: Grady Jarrett, Atlanta; DeForest Buckner, San Francisco.

Linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Carolina; Darius Leonard, Indianapolis; T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh.

Cornerbacks: Richard Sherman, San Francisco; Marcus Peters, Baltimore.

Safeties: Justin Simmons, Denver; Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City.


Placekicker: Josh Lambo, Jacksonville.

Punter: Tress Way, Washington.

Kick Returner: Mecole Hardman, Kansas City.

Punt Returner: Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh.

Special Teamer: Cordarrelle Patterson, Chicago; J.T. Gray, New Orleans (tied with three votes each).

PFT’s wild card picks

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The postseason is here. Which means that it’s time to throw out the regular-season records. Which is useful, because MDS kicked my ass in the regular season.

We finished the year 10-6 and 8-8, respectively, giving me a full-season record of 156-100. MDS won by a whopping 10 games, at 166-90.

We disagree on none of the games in the wild-card round. Check out our picks below.

Bills at Texans

MDS’s take: Deshaun Watson will be the difference in this game. The Bills have a good defense and an offense that can control the ball, and because of that I see them keeping it close for most of the day. But in the end, Watson will make some big plays that put the Texans over the top and send them on to the divisional round.

MDS’s pick: Texans 27, Bills 20.

Florio’s take: Deshaun Watson has playoff experience. Josh Allen doesn’t. Although the Bills arguably have the more talented team, Watson will use last year’s loss to help him understand what he needs to do to avoid falling to 0-2 at in the postseason, with both losses at home.

Florio’s pick: Texans 20, Bills 17.

Titans at Patriots

MDS’s take: Since benching Marcus Mariota for Ryan Tannehill, the Titans have become one of the best teams in football. In fact, the Titans are 7-3 since Tannehill became the starter — better than the Patriots over the same time. New England is just 4-4 over the last eight games. So I’m strongly tempted to pick the Titans, but instead I just feel like I can’t pick against New England, at home, in the playoffs. The Patriots will take this one, but it won’t be easy.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 17, Titans 16.

Florio’s take: The Patriots are the Terminator; presume they’re dead at your own peril. And they’re not dead until the metal-skeleton corpse is dismembered, dissolved in acid, and the acid is burned until it fully evaporates. The Patriots know how to play single-elimination football; Tom Brady has 40 postseason starts. Ryan Tannehill? None. Yes, the Titans are the better team. But the better team doesn’t always win.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 23, Titans 20.

Vikings at Saints

MDS’s take: This is the easiest pick of the weekend. The Saints are one of the league’s elite teams — good enough that in most years they would have earned a bye week — and the Vikings just aren’t on their level. I like the Saints not just to win this one, but to win by a couple of touchdowns.

MDS’s pick: Saints 24, Vikings 10.

Florio’s take: It will take more than a miracle for the Vikings to upend one of the best teams in the league. Minnesota won’t even have a chance without a potent running game that makes it easier to move the ball through the air. Even though Dalvin Cook is healthy, the Saints’ defensive front should be able to bottle him up, and in turn to make the Vikings’ offense one-dimensional. The Saints, who shouldn’t even be playing in this round, advance to the next one easily.

Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Vikings 10.

Seahawks at Eagles

MDS’s take: I wouldn’t count the Eagles out. They’re playing at home, and they’re a team that has shown it can save its best for the postseason. But the Seahawks have the better roster, from top to bottom, and I expect them to emerge on top in a close and hard-fought game.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 14, Eagles 10.

Florio’s take: It feels like Carson Wentz has spent 10 years in the NFL. (It’s actually his fourth season.) This will be his first playoff game. And while he’s been playing very well recently, the competition has been lackluster. The Seahawks are anything but. While not among the NFL’s elite teams, the Seahawks know how to win. And there’s something to be said for that during the win-or-go-home phase of the calendar.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Eagles 20.

PFT’s 2019 All-Pro team

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QB: Lamar Jackson: The undisputed MVP had a season for the ages.

RB: Christian McCaffrey: Just the third player ever to have 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving.

TE: Travis Kelce: Not as flashy as some of his teammates, but a key cog in the Chiefs’ offense.

WR: Michael Thomas: Set the new standard with an NFL-record 149 catches.

WR: Julio Jones: Another strong season was somewhat overlooked because the Falcons weren’t contenders, but he was second only to Thomas in receiving yards.

WR: DeVante Parker: One of the pleasant surprises of this NFL season, Parker was playing in a bad offense but still managed to gain a first down on more than 80 percent of his 72 catches.

OT: Ronnie Stanley: The second-most important player in the Ravens’ offense.

OT: David Bakhtiari: Gives Aaron Rodgers all day to pass.

G: Zack Martin: The Cowboys’ 8-8 record was a disappointment, but Martin remains an elite guard.

G: Brandon Brooks: Had a big year in Philadelphia; his playoff absence after a Week 17 injury will be a big loss.

C: Rodney Hudson: Jon Gruden raves about Hudson’s importance to the Raiders’ offense.

DE: Nick Bosa: Showed up as a rookie and looked like a star from Day One.

DE: Shaquil Barrett: Led the league with 19.5 sacks.

DT: Aaron Donald: Didn’t get as much attention this year because the Rams declined, but Donald is as good as ever.

OLB: T.J. Watt: Had his best season and may even be able to stake a claim as the best Watt brother, which is high praise indeed.

LB: Eric Kendricks: The best linebacker in football at covering running backs out of the backfield.

LB: Luke Kuechly: In a down year for the Panthers, Kuechly had another strong season toward his Hall of Fame career.

CB: Stephon Gilmore: The biggest reason that the Patriots had the NFL’s best defense.

CB: Marcus Peters: The Ravens got an absolute gift when the Rams traded Peters away.

CB: Tre'Davious White: As important as anyone to the Bills making the playoffs.

S: Minkah Fitzpatrick: Some asked what the Steelers were thinking when they gave up their first-round draft pick for Fitzpatrick. They were thinking he’s one of the best players in the NFL.

S: Budda Baker: The 23-year-old had by far his best season and emerged as a major building block for the future in Arizona.

K: Justin Tucker: The most reliable kicker in NFL history had his typical stellar season.

P: Logan Cooke: Averaged a whopping 46.8 yards per punt while dropping 25 punts inside the 20 and having only two touchbacks.

KR: Brandon Wilson: One of the Bengals’ few bright spots, Wilson averaged 31.3 yards per kickoff return.

PR: Deonte Harris: The smallest Saint is a big playmaker.

ST: Matthew Slater: It’s automatic that Slater makes a big impact in the kicking game.

Comeback player of the year: Jimmy Garoppolo

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The 49ers were the sexy darkhorse pick before the 2018 season. That lasted until Week Three when Jimmy Garoppolo tore an anterior cruciate ligament.

The 49ers finished 4-12.

Fast forward to the 2019 preseason: No one expected anything out of Garoppolo and the 49ers.

Yet, here they are: The No. 1 seed in the NFC, with Garoppolo having directed them to a 13-3 record.

For that, Garoppolo is PFT’s comeback player of the year. He beat out a load of worthy candidates, including Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Raiders tight end Darren Waller, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, Cowboys center Travis Frederick, Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen and Ravens safety Earl Thomas.

The 49ers traded a second-round pick for Garoppolo, who spent 3 1/2 seasons behind Tom Brady in New England, and gave him a $137.5 million deal after only five starts for them.

Garoppolo proved he is a franchise quarterback this season in his first full season as a starter. He completed 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,978 yards with 27 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 102.0 passer rating.

Coach of the year: John Harbaugh

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As the 2019 season unfolded, various candidates for coach of the year emerged, faded, re-emerged, and/or re-faded. The only certainty was that, once the season ended, the picture would become far more clear.

And it now is. The 2019 coach of the year is, without question, Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

He earned it with a 14-2 record generated by a 12-game winning streak that began after a two-game losing streak. After the win at Cleveland that clinched the top seed in the AFC playoff field, Harbaugh told PFT that the turning point was the overtime win at Pittsburgh, and that he sensed during a practice in advance of the win at Seattle that the Ravens were about to get on a run.

They did, with road wins (like at Seattle) and close wins (like vs. the 49ers) and blowouts of teams in games that could have been traps. It happened with an offense built around quarterback Lamar Jackson and a defense that reloaded after several free-agent departures. Especially on the offensive side of the ball, Harbaugh confirmed that the best coaches don’t have a system to which they are bound but a determination to craft a playbook that suits his players.

Maybe that’s the best argument for giving special-teams coordinators greater consideration for head-coaching jobs. Although Harbaugh had a palate-cleansing season as defensive backs coach before joining the Ravens in 2008, he made his way not as an offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator but as a special-teams coach. And his offense was so good this year that he didn’t need to use very much at all.

Harbaugh also has helped transform attitudes regarding rolling the dice on fourth down, making what was once unconventional far more commonplace, with a Madden-style attitude creeping into NFL football as coaches ignore potential fan and media criticism flowing from a failed fourth-down attempt. As a result, fans and media have become less likely to criticize a failed fourth-down attempt.

And to think that last year there was a sense that the Ravens and Harbaugh were careening toward a mutual parting. As teams prepared to line up for a chance to hire Harbaugh, the Ravens realized what they had, and they did what they had to do to keep him around.

Others who received serious consideration, and who thus merit a mention in this item, include 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Packers coach Matt LaFleur. Shanahan led the 49ers to a 13-3 record, with three losses that each could have become wins. A master of offensive play design, Shanahan held the 49ers together down the stretch, as they limped toward the regular-season finish line but still won close games against the Rams and Seahawks to nail down the No. 1 seed, earning a desperately needed week off.

LaFleur walked into a potential buzzsaw in Green Bay, but he wisely showed deference to quarterback Aaron Rodgers and presided over a team that did what it had to do, week by week, to win games. He not only took the Packers to the playoffs after two years on the outside but lifted them to the No. 2 seed. While other teams are more talented, the Packers won as consistently as the most talented teams; when that happens, the coach should get plenty of credit for it.

Special teams player of the year: Justin Tucker

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The Ravens are a lot more than Lamar Jackson.

And if they get in a close game in the playoffs, they know they can turn to a guy who has been making big plays for years.

Veteran kicker Justin Tucker missed a field goal against the Texans in November, hitting the right upright in the first quarter.

The good news is, he didn’t miss before that, or since, as he finished the regular season 28-of-29 on field goals (96.6 percent).

That kind of consistency has led PFT to name Tucker our special teams player of the year for 2019.

Tucker’s a career 90.8 percent on field goals, making him the most accurate field goal kicker in league history. He’s also proven to be trustworthy in the biggest moments, including last-second game-winners against the Steelers and 49ers this season.

Jacksonville kicker Josh Lambo and Saints return man Deonte Harris made it a difficult decision in their own ways.

Lambo hit for a higher percentage than Tucker (97.1), making 33-of-34 field goals. It’s not entirely his fault he plays for a lesser team with little pressure, though.

Harris, an undrafted rookie from Assumption College, emerged as one of the top returners, leading the league in punt return yards and finishing in the top five in both punt and kick return average.

Defensive player of the year: Shaquil Barrett

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As they began a rebuild on defense, the Buccaneers had some degree of hope that Shaquil Barrett could help them.

They could have never imagined to what degree.

Barrett broke Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp’s franchise record, and led the NFL with 19.5 sacks this year.

He also had six forced fumbles and interceptions, and helped make a thing which was bad much better.

That kind of transformation has led PFT to name Barrett our defensive player of the year for 2019.

Barrett had just 14.0 sacks in five seasons with the Broncos, so there was little reason to believe he was capable of anything like this.

He’s also set himself up for a handsome payday, winning big on a one-year bet on himself in a new defense. The Bucs have already admitted they want to do what it takes to keep him, and coach Bruce Arians said Barrett “ain’t going anywhere.” But with just one franchise tag at their disposal and a tricky situation with quarterback Jameis Winston ahead as well. it figures to be a fascinating offseason there.

There were a number of strong candidates for the award, including Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt, and Cardinals outside linebacker Chandler Jones.

Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions, and his ability to shut down most threats helped make the Patriots the league’s top-ranked defense this year.

Watt had 14.5 sacks for a team that nearly made the playoffs without a quarterback, and tied for the league lead with eight forced fumbles, showing the kind of game-changing plays he made all year.

Jones was only a half-sack behind Barrett for the league sack lead, and tied with Watt for the league lead in forced fumbles with eight.

But those guys had at least shown indications this was possible previously.

Offensive player of the year: Michael Thomas

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Michael Thomas did something no other player ever has done. He caught 149 passes.

That broke Marvin Harrison’s 17-year-old record by six catches.

Thomas’ 1,725 receiving yards was the seventh-most in NFL history, 239 yards behind Harrison’s mark in 2012.

If not for Lamar Jackson‘s special season, Thomas would have a chance to become the first receiver to win MVP honors. As it is, Thomas is PFT’s choice for offensive player of the year.

He beat out Jackson and Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who became only the third player in NFL history with 1,000 receiving yards and 1,000 rushing yards. McCaffrey led the league with 2,392 yards from scrimmage and led all non-kickers in scoring with 116 points.

But Thomas made NFL history, setting a record that could stand a long time.

Then again, Thomas has improved his catches every season from 92 as a rookie to 104 in 2017 to 129 in 2018 to 149 this season. So maybe it won’t stand long.

And he did it for a team that was without its starting quarterback for five games and still managed to go 13-3.

A receiver has not won the Associated Press’ offensive player of the year award since 1993 when Jerry Rice won his second. The Hall of Famer also won the award in 1987. That’s the only seasons in history a receiver has claimed offensive player of the year.

The AP offensive player of the year award will be announced during the NFL Honors Show the night before the Super Bowl.