The New York Giants Finally Did The Right Thing On Draft Night

Kayvon Thibodeaux posing for a picture

Draft night for New York Giants has been a “house of horrors” during the Dave Gettleman regime. After watching Gettleman six feet under, good things have not happened on draft night for the New York Giants. When Gettleman referred to the data analysts as “computer folks,” it was time for him to leave the draft room and head to the golf course.

With the fifth and seventh picks, the Giants were in a prime position to significantly improve at two important positions. In my opinion, the five most important positions are quarterback, offensive tackle, edge rusher, defensive back, and wide receiver. Going into tonight, tackle, edge rusher, and defensive back were a high priority.

I’m in foreign territory. I’m about to compliment the Giants. With their first two selections, the Giants selected DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and OL Evan Neal. Two words: home run.

Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll absolutely crushed the first round. Thibs is a monster on the edge and will be a nice running mate with Azeez Ojulari. Neal will start Day 1 at the right tackle position with Andrew Thomas at left tackle. That’s four promising players at two key positions. This is a smart regime, something that cannot be said about the last few years in New York. I’m so happy right now. I don’t know how to feel because I haven’t felt this positive about the Giants since 2016.

There’s still a lot of work left to do, but fans should enjoy this victory for the night. Now, let’s start the “Malik Willis to the G-Men in Round 2” discussion.

Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments or tweet me, @danny_giro.

The NFL QB Carousel: Breaking Down What Every Team Will Do At QB

Cam Newton of the New England Patriots

Round and round here we go, where it stops, nobody knows! The NFL QB Carousel is in full swing as free agency starts next week.

Teams need a good quarterback to compete for a Super Bowl. Correction, teams need the right quarterback to compete for a Super Bowl. For those saying “No shit, Sherlock,” you’d be surprised with how many teams don’t understand this concept!

It’s not hyperbole to say this has been a wild few months at the quarterback position. It almost resembless an NBA offseason with all of the trades. Matt Stafford is now a Ram, Jared Goff is a Lion, and Carson Wentz is a Colt.

Between free agency and the draft, more teams are going to address the quarterback position. Here are my QB projections for every team.

  • Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes
  • Tampa Bay Bucs – Tom Brady
  • Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen
  • Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
  • Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert
  • Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow
  • Cleveland Browns – Baker Mayfield
  • Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson
  • Tennessee Titans – Ryan Tannehill
  • Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Muray
  • Minnesota Vikings – Kirk Cousins
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence*

*I’m putting the Jags on this list because there is a 99.9% chance they take Trevor Lawrence.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers – Benjamin Roethlisberger
  • New York Giants – Daniel Jones
  • Las Vegas Raiders – Derek Carr
  • Los Angeles Rams – Matthew Stafford
  • Detroit Lions – Jared Goff
  • New England Patriots – Cam Newton
  • Indianapolis Colts – Carson Wentz
  • Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott

That leaves us with 12 teams who must decide on QB for the upcoming season. Some of these teams will take care of their needs in the draft. Others will try to make a blockbuster trade in hopes of changing their franchise. The biggest wildcard is Deshaun Watson and the Texans. There is no chance he’s the starting QB for the Texans on opening day. If that’s the case, where will he end up?

Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan is still good enough to start in the NFL. He’s your classic fantasy QB who gets you 300 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs. The Falcons are in salary hell because Ryan and Jones combine for over $63m of their cap. Will they try to move Ryan? I doubt it. As I said, he’s still capable of leading a team to the playoffs. However, they may draft Ryan’s successor with the fourth pick in the draft.

New Orleans Saints – Jameis Winston / Taysom Hill

My wish was finally granted. Jameis Winston upgraded his eyesight!

This all comes down to Drew Brees. After losing to the Bucs, it appeared as if Brees played his last game for the Saints. However, Brees is now working out like a guy who wants to play again. There’s a difference between doing some mobility stretches in the morning and pushing sleds up the street. Does he want to make a comeback? My gut tells me Brees retires, which means the Saints should sign Jameis and keep Taysom Hill as the backup.

Chicago Bears – Alex Smith

The Bears are screwed if they don’t acquire Watson, Russell Wilson, or one of the top QBs out of college. Seriously, what can they do if all else fails? I love Mitch Trubisky (the person) and I actually believe he’s a competent QB. However, he’s not a franchise-changing player. Nick Foles is an expensive backup QB, not a starter. If they can’t trade for Wilson or Watson, I would sign Alex Smith and Trubisky to one-year deals. Then, fire Ryan Pace and (possibly) Matt Nagy and draft a QB next year.

Washington Football Team – Ryan Fitzpatrick

Once again, we’ll see if the WFT can draft a top QB or trade for Watson. However, Riverboat Ron Rivera and Ryan Fitzpatrick were made for each other. Fitzy would love to sling it to Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas. This seems like a perfect fit.

Philadelphia Eagles – Jalen Hurts

History tends to repeat itself. Will the Eagles draft another quarterback to compete with their starter? It didn’t work well for Wentz, let me tell ya that! The Eagles need to rebuild. Draft weapons, take care of the offensive line, and see if Jalen Hurts is “the guy.”

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson

Hahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Imagine having a top-five QB and trading him away because you couldn’t take care of him? Couldn’t be my team! In all seriousness, the Hawks should jump in the Pacific Ocean and never come back if they trade Russell Wilson.

San Franciso 49ers – Sam Darnold

I’ve never wavered from this prediction. If the Jets trade Sam Darnold, it will be to the San Francisco 49ers. Sorry Jimmy G, but your health is an issue. If you can’t stay on the field, then you can’t be a franchise QB. Those are the rules. Kyle Shanahan is going to unlock Darnold and remind us all why we loved the SoCal QB out of USC.

Carolina Panthers – Teddy Bridgewater/Trey Lance

It’s no surprise that the Panthers want to make a splash with a new owner who is not afraid to spend money. Teddy B is a serviceable QB, but the Panthers will be looking to upgrade. If they don’t get Watson, the draft is where they’ll make their mark and take a guy like Trey Lance.

New York Jets – Zach Wilson

The Mormon Manziel is coming to New York City if and only if Watson gets traded elsewhere. Zach Wilson’s stock is soaring as he continues to garner comparisons to Aaron Rodgers. Pair him with some WRs and another tackle and the Jets will be much improved in 2021.

Miami Dolphins – Deshaun Watson

Miami, this is the move to make. You have the ammo to make the move with the first-round picks. You have the QB to send back to Houston in Tua Tagovailoa. With Flores as the foreseeable coach in the future, Watson would be happy as a member of the Dolphins organization for the next decade.

Houston Texans – Tua Tagovailoa

See above. This is not personal, Tua. It’s just business. I like Tua, but Watson is the superior talent right now.

Denver Broncos – Drew Lock/Justin Fields

Drew Locks has shown flashes of potential, but he’s not the guy. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. Denver will most likely trade up in the draft to take a QB like Justin Fields. Let Fields compete with Lock and hopefully (for John Elway’s sake), Fields comes out on top.

What should your team do at QB? Let me know in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.

Undrafted College Football Players Should Be Allowed to Return to CFB

College football players undrafted Hunter Bryant Washington Hawaii

The 2020 NFL Draft was definitely one to remember. It was completely virtual due to the Coronavirus. Potential draft picks watched at home. They awaited a phone call informing them that they were selected by an NFL team. Elite players, like Joe Burrow and Chase Young, accomplished their goal of being a first-round NFL Draft pick. However, many NFL Draft hopefuls did not realize their dream of being selected in the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, for many of those players, their football career as players may be over. It is true that many of them will attempt to earn a spot on a team as an undrafted free agent. Entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent is not easy and will not happen for all of them. This realization is especially unfortunate for draftees who left college early to enter the NFL Draft.

Every year, some college football players decide to forego their remaining college eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. NFL rules require draft entrants to be out of high school for three years and to have used all of their college eligibility before the start of the next college football season. However, college players with remaining eligibility request league approval to enter the NFL Draft early. 99 players were granted special eligibility for the 2020 draft. This means that 99 players who had remaining college eligibility gave up their remaining eligibility for a shot at the NFL. Despite the fact that only 1.5 percent of college football players go pro, 99 players still thought it was best to enter the draft. Why do college football players make the decision to forego their remaining eligibility given the odds of making it to the NFL?

Reasons College Football Players Leave College Early to Enter the NFL Draft

There are many reasons college football players forego their remaining college eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. There are two reasons that stick out the most. One reason is due to the unrealistic sense that many college football players have about their prospects of being drafted. Many college football players prematurely forego their remaining college eligibility to enter the NFL Draft, even though they are not ready. Another reason college football players forego the remaining college eligibility because some from disadvantaged backgrounds and need to make money. College sports is a billion-dollar business but the players’ only compensation is a cost-of-attendance scholarship. While a scholarship is valuable that does not mean that players should be limited to only that.

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College Football Players who Come From Disadvangeted Backgrounds Would Greatly Benefit from Getting into the NFL as Quickly as Possible

Roughly 86 percent of African-American college athletes come from families that live below the poverty line. Since the Coronavirus pandemic, the inequities that many college athletes face have become even more visible. For example, Sam Williams, a University of Mississippi linebacker, tweeted about the hardships he is facing since being unexpectedly home from school. Specifically, Williams tweeted:

We worked so hard to get out of the hood but forced to go back to the hood…Still gotta pay rent so all of our money gone and I can’t swipe my ID nowhere in Alabama. Then if we get help it’s a ‘violation’. I just don’t understand.”

Williams highlighted a problem that may college athletes are facing. A study conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice prior to the pandemic highlights many of the issues that college athletes face. 452 Division I athletes were surveyed. 24 percent of them suffered from food insecurity in the 30 days prior. Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as the lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. The survey sheds light on the issue of food scarcity amongst college athletes across all the divisions. Williams’ tweet and the survey’s findings further demonstrate the needs of many college athletes, particularly those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Everybody Gets Rich Except the Players

Furthermore, Williams’s tweet and the survey certainly make it clear why a college football player would leave college football eligibility on the table for a shot at the NFL. Due to the NCAA’s asinine amateurism rules, college football players are precluded from sharing in the billions they generate outside of a cost-of-attendance scholarship. While coaches, athletic directors, and other sports administration personnel make millions, the players are capped to a scholarship.

As Williams tweeted, college athletes cannot receive any assistance that is not first approved by the NCAA. If an athlete does, he will be subject to an NCAA violation, just ask Chase Young. Why would an athlete remain apart of a system that stops them from earning their true worth and risk injury, while everyone else makes millions?

The Good News is that the NCAA Can Fix Both of These Problems and Retain College Football Players

The NCAA can fix these problems and retain college football players if they would simply amend their rules. One way the NCAA can fix this problem is by allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). After mounting pressure, the NCAA is finally on the track to allow that to happen. If the NCAA does this, it could take the pressure off of players to go pro to make money. Last month, the NCAA announced that they are moving toward allowing college athletes to profit from their NIL. However, only time will tell how much the NCAA will amend their current rules to actually help the athletes.

Currently, college football players cannot return to college football after they enter and go through the NFL Draft even if they have remaining eligibility. Why is this the case? How does this benefit the football players? How does it benefit college football? The truth is that these rules do not benefit the players nor college football. This is another way the NCAA can fix their problems. The NCAA should change its rules to allow players who are not drafted to return to college football. It is time for things in college football to change. Change is more than possible, just look at recent changes in college basketball.

Recent Changes in College Basketball

Sweeping changes have come to college basketball during the last four years. In 2017, a scandal was exposed in college basketball. Soon after, the NCAA amended college basketball rules. The NCAA began to allow NBA Draft entrants with remaining eligibility to return to college. Prior to entering the NBA draft, the player must seek an evaluation from the National Basketball Association’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee. If the player intends to return to college, he must remove his name from the draft list and declare his intent to return to college within 10 days of the conclusion of the NBA Draft combine. These types of rule changes are exactly what the NCAA should adopt in college football.

The NCAA Should Allow College Football NFL Draft Entrants to Return If Undrafted

Two former NFL Players who entered the league as undrafted free agents agree that college football players could benefit if the NCAA made changes to their rules. Patrick Cobbs entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He believes that college football players could benefit from being able to return to college after entering the NFL Draft. Cobbs, a running back, led the nation in rushing in 2003. As a junior, Cobbs was projected to be a second or third-round draft pick. He stated that if he had the option to try his chances at the NFL Draft and return to college if undrafted he would have taken advantage of it.

Greg Camarillo also entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He also believes that college football players could benefit from being allowed to return to college football after the NFL Draft. Both Cobbs and Camarillo believe that an advisory committee should be created for potential draft entrants. Camarillo stated that the committee should create a program to give the players a realistic sense of their chances in the draft. Potential draft entrants should be required to consult the committee before entering the draft.

Both Cobbs and Camarillo do not think that agents should be a part of the committee due to potential bias. They suggest that the committee be made up of former NFL scouts, former coaches, and former NFL and college players. Camarillo suggests that the advisory committee’s evaluations take place immediately after the college football post-season.

The NCAA Should Be Proactive in Making These Changes in College Football

If the NCAA adopted these changes it could greatly change the landscape of college football for the betterment of the players. A player should not be forced to forego his remaining college eligibility just because he entered the draft. The idea of college football players being able to return to college if undrafted is gaining traction amongst prominent college coaches. Recently, the University of Michigan coach, Jim Harbaugh, released a proposal in support of this issue. He suggested that undrafted players be allowed to return to college. The NCAA needs to take note and make changes before they are forced to like they were with basketball.

Unafraid Show’s Pac-12 2020 NFL Draft Recap: Herbert Leads the Way

Pac-12 NFL Draft 2020 picks, Justin Herbert

The 2020 NFL Draft brought fans together for a sporting event for the first time in what seems like forever. Thirty-two players from the Pac-12 heard their names during the three days of the NFL draft. Many teams were able to add impactful Pac-12 players.

Chargers Make Justin Herbert QB of the Future As Sixth Pick of 2020 NFL Draft

Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 7

Justin Herbert went sixth overall to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers hope Herbert can be the second Oregon quarterback, after Dan Fouts, who brings success to their franchise. It is unfair to make comparisons between the two, but Herbert can have NFL success. He is the modern-day pocket passer who can use his legs to run if he must.

Austin Jackson Second Pac-12 Player Drafted In First Round of 2020 NFL Draft

In a move that may have surprised some, the Miami Dolphins selected USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson 18th overall. Jackson has the task of protecting Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside in Miami. Beefing up the offensive line by drafting Jackson was a good move for Brian Flores and the Dolphins, as Tagovailoa had a propensity for making plays on his own at Alabama. The Dolphins are trying to build their team from the ground up, and Austin Jackson figures to be part of the solution.

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Brandon Aiyuk Drafted in First Round Before Pittman Jr., Shenault

The San Francisco 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings to the 25th overall pick, and selected Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk with the trade. Aiyuk was the third and final Pac-12 player taken in the first round.

Seeing Aiyuk drafted before Michael Pittman Jr. and Laviska Shenault was a bit surprising. However, Aiyuk does not have the extensive injury history that the other two have had in their college careers. Aiyuk gives the 49ers a speedy, skilled option. He should help fill the void left from the departures of Emmanuel Sanders and Marquise Goodwin.

USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. did not have to wait long on Day Two to hear his name called. The Indianapolis Colts selected him with the 34th overall pick.  

Laviska Shenault has the most upside out of all the Pac-12 receivers. Still, he was on the board until the Jaguars took him 42nd overall. Shenault has first-round talent, but injuries played a part in him falling to the second round. If Shenault can stay healthy in the NFL, the Jaguars may have got the best receiver in the 2020 draft.

Eight Pac-12 Players Drafted On Day Two, Utah Leads Way with Four Selections

The Pac-12 had eight players taken on Day Two of the 2020 NFL Draft. Four of those players were Utah Utes. Jaylon Johnson was taken in the second round by the Chicago Bears. It was the Bears first pick of the draft, and they may have got a first-round talent in Johnson. Safety Julian Blackmon was drafted by the Colts in the 3rd round, one pick before Zack Moss was taken by the Bills. Pairing Moss with Devin Singletary in the Buffalo Bills’ backfield may prove to be an effective one-two punch on Sundays. Defensive back Terrell Burgess was the last Utah player drafted on Day Two by the Los Angeles Rams.

Potential Steals of 2020 NFL Draft Include Devin Asiasi, Evan Weaver

There were many potential steals of the 2020 NFL Draft from the Pac-12. First off, tight end Devin Asiasi was a third-round pick of the New England Patriots. The Patriots drafting Asiasi with Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene is reminiscent of the strategy Bill Belichick employed in 2010 when he took both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Asiasi flourished in Chip Kelly’s offense in 2019 and looks to build upon his success.

Evan Weaver was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. That means he was an early-round pick, right? Unfortunately, teams believed Evan Weaver was undersized, but he still has a great football acumen. The Arizona Cardinals took him in the sixth round of the draft.

The Colts drafted Jacob Eason, who could become their quarterback of the future, in the 4th round. Eason was a highly sought after quarterback after his high school career but had a rocky journey through college. He started his career at Georgia but did not get extended playing time with them. At Washington, Eason was able to show his skills, but he was unable to elevate Washington to national prominence this past season. Eason is in a good situation where he can sit and learn from Philip Rivers and head coach Frank Reich, who is known for getting the most out of his quarterbacks.

2020 NFL Draft Shows Pac-12 Has Work to do to Catch Up to Other Power 5 Conferences

In an NFL Draft that saw 14 SEC players taken in the first round, the Pac-12 only had 11 players taken across the first two days of the draft. Some may argue that there is an east coast bias in the draft also, but the Pac-12 simply has had trouble competing with the top football conferences in the country. The Pac-12 does not have a powerhouse program now, as the last team from the conference to make the College Football Playoff was Washington in the 2016-17 season. Conference trends are also seen in the draft, and it will be interesting to see if the Pac-12 is able to have more players drafted earlier in the future.

Unafraid Show’s Pac-12 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Part Two

Unafraid Show's Pac-12 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Part Two

The 2020 NFL Draft is drawing near as Pac-12 Prospects have made their cases to teams as to why they should draft them. The Pac-12 has many players who could help teams out this upcoming season.

This article is part of Unafraid Show’s two-part NFL Draft preview.

Quarterbacks Lead the Way for Pac-12 in 2020 NFL Draft

Justin Herbert – QB Oregon

Justin Herbert will be the first Pac-12 player off the board on Thursday. However, there has been more debate of who will go first between Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa. Some pundits even view Herbert as better than Joe Burrow, the presumptive first overall pick on Thursday. Herbert would be an interesting fit with certain teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers. Both teams have receivers that could ease the pressure on Herbert. It will be interesting to see if Herbert is a day one starter or if he has to sit and learn. After being a starter for the majority of his college career, he has the potential to have a successful rookie season.

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Jacob Eason – QB Washington

Jacob Eason is primed to be a Day Two pick at the 2020 NFL Draft. Eason was the National Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior year of high school in 2015-16. However, Eason had an uneasy college career that started at Georgia. Still, Eason is a pocket passer that teams could see as an eventual starter. The best situation for Eason would be a place where there is an established veteran starter that he can learn from. Possible teams that fit that bill include the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.  

Anthony Gordon – QB Washington State

Anthony Gordon was named Second Team All Pac-12 in 2019. Gordon was able to thrive in Mike Leach’s Air Raid system, making him an intriguing fit as a backup in some of the hybrid NFL systems. Gordon could be a legitimate backup with teams such as the Arizona Cardinals who employ Air Raid concepts. However, Gordon looks to be a Day Three draft pick in part because he played in the Air Raid system in college. The last quarterbacks to play in Mike Leach’s system, Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew, have both started NFL games. It will be interesting to see if Gordon could have a similar career trajectory.

Steven Montez – QB Colorado

Steven Montez Colorado

Like Gordon, Steven Montez figures to be a late-round draft pick. Montez has great arm strength, but has flaws in his game. When he would extend plays during his time at Colorado, Montez would sometimes be able to find receivers open downfield. Those types of plays simply do not happen often in the NFL, but Montez’ ability to extend plays could help him as long as he takes care of the football.  

Pac-12 Offensive Talent Present In 2020 NFL Draft

Zack Moss – RB Utah

Zack Moss figures to be one of the first running backs off the draft board. However, he may not hear his name called until Friday night. He ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which is considered underwhelming for a running back. On the flip side, Moss was First-Team All Pac-12 in 2019, rushing for 1,416 yards and 15 touchdowns. The cousin of Santana and Sinorice Moss, two former NFL wide receivers, Moss could be a good power back option for some teams. Potential fits for Moss include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He proved himself as an effective pass-catcher at Utah with 28 receptions. Tom Brady loves throwing to his running backs, and Zack Moss would be an interesting piece in Bruce Arians’ and Byron Leftwich’s offense.  

Michael Pittman Jr. – WR USC

Michael Pittman Jr. will probably be a Day Two draft pick. With a deep wide receiver class in the 2020 draft, Pittman will be a steal for whoever gets him. A Biletnikoff Award finalist, Pittman posted 1,275 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019 for the Trojans. With a bigger build, Pittman could complement a team who needs a possession receiver. Pittman ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He has the speed to do well at the NFL level.

Brandon Aiyuk – WR Arizona State

Brandon Aiyuk is in the same boat as Laviska Shenault as far as his draft stock. NFL Network reported that Aiyuk had core muscle surgery on April 7. Aiyuk is regarded by many as a first-round talent. He had big-play ability at Arizona State. The team that ends up drafting Brandon Aiyuk will be getting a playmaker that can excel in both the receiving and return game on special teams. A prime fit for Brandon Aiyuk would be the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers is still looking for a solid second receiver along with Davante Adams, and Aiyuk fits the bill.

Austin Jackson and Calvin Throckmorton Could Help Teams on Offensive Line

Austin Jackson – OT USC

Austin Jackson has the potential to be a first round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. His athleticism will attract teams on draft night. Teams may view Jackson as a project though because his fundamentals need work. A team who may look to draft Jackson either late in the first round or early in the second round could be the Denver Broncos. Jackson figures to compete for a starting job wherever he goes.

Calvin Throckmorton – OG Oregon

Calvin Throckmorton led a talented group of offensive lineman at Oregon in 2019. However, Throckmorton had an uneasy performance at the 2020 Senior Bowl. Still, he was a First-Team All Pac-12 Selection in 2019, and can play any position along the offensive line. Throckmorton finished his career at Oregon with a 3.8 GPA and Second-Team Academic All American honors. He will probably be a Day Two pick, but a team who wants an intelligent, versatile offensive lineman should know that Throckmorton fits that description.

Evan Weaver, Jaylon Johnson Lead Defensive Players from Pac-12 in 2020 NFL Draft

Evan Weaver – LB California

Evan Weaver garnered Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2019. However, he is projected to be a late-round draft pick because he is simply undersized. Despite that, Weaver led the country with 182 tackles during the 2019 season. He ran a 4.76 40-yard dash, and has the intangibles to be a contributing member for an NFL team. Weaver may not be the prototypical NFL athlete, but he will have a chance to prove himself if a team is willing to give him a chance.

Jaylon Johnson – CB Utah

Jaylon Johnson could be a first-round draft pick on Thursday. Johnson garnered First-Team All Pac-12 Honors in both 2018 and 2019. Johnson also received All-Academic honors. Teams that value a good mix of talent with hard work will see Johnson as someone they want on their football team. Standing at exactly six feet, some people may question Johnson’s size at the cornerback position. Still, he plays the position with physicality and is not afraid to challenge opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. Don’t be surprised if Johnson is a late first-round pick on Thursday.

After 2020 NFL Draft, Pac-12 Players Will Start Next Chapter

There is plenty in store once the 2020 NFL Draft gets rolling on Thursday night. We will be able to see where all of the Pac-12 standouts from the 2019 season will end up starting the next phase of their football career.

Unafraid Show’s Pac-12 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Part One

Pac-12 NFL Draft 2020

The Pac-12 is hoping to have multiple first-round draft picks in the 2020 NFL Draft. The conference has many offensive and defensive prospects that teams will be looking to draft between April 23-25. Today, we will look at prospects who are possible Day Two draft picks.

This article is Part One of a 2-part Pac-12 NFL Draft Preview.

Trey Adams of Washington May Have Rocky 2020 NFL Draft Road

Adams’ college career was derailed because of injuries. Still, his talent presents teams with an intriguing option for teams. Adams ran a 5.6 second 40-yard dash at the combine, along with a 24.5 inch vertical jump and a 92 inch broad jump. These numbers were not great, and Adams did not make the best impression on NFL scouts. A Sports Illustrated article featured a Pro Football Weekly analyst who criticized Adams’ time at the combine. The same article reported that Adams may have not been smart with certain answers he gave in interviews. Adams is ranked number 90 in ESPN’s Best Available list, but it will be interesting to see if he can salvage being picked within the first two days of the draft.

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Devin Asiasi Looks to be Day Two Pick at 2020 NFL Draft

Asiasi broke onto the scene in 2019, as he caught 44 passes for 641 yards and 4 touchdowns. He started his career at Michigan, but wanted to be closer to home. He was able to find a place in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense at UCLA. His play in 2019 helped him attain the ranking of the third-best tight end available according to ESPN’s Best Available list. A team with a need at tight end may look at drafting Asiasi. He fits the bill of being a more physical tight end that still possesses breakaway ability. Due to the class at tight end being not as deep this year, Asiasi should be a Day Two draft pick.

Bradlee Anae Made Great Impression At Senior Bowl

Anae received First-Team All Pac-12 honors in 2018 and 2019. He also wreaked havoc at the Senior Bowl in January, as he tallied three sacks in that game. At the combine, Anae ran a 4.93 40-yard dash. Anae could become a hybrid player in the NFL, playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He had 13 sacks his senior year at Utah. It is shocking that Anae is not higher on draft boards. He is ranked as the 83rd best prospect on draft boards. The 2020 NFL Draft is deep at the defensive end position, but Anae should be a Day Two pick.

Ashtyn Davis’ 2020 NFL Draft Stock Affected By Pro Day Cancellation

Originally a scholarship track athlete at Cal, Davis became a second-team all-conference football player. Davis could be a Day Two draft pick, but some teams are having trouble evaluating him after his Pro Day was canceled. He sustained a groin injury in Cal’s game against UCLA on November 30th and was unable to run at the combine. Thus, Davis does not have a recorded 40 time. However, being a safety who can act quickly off the ball makes Davis an intriguing prospect for NFL teams.

Troy Dye Could Go Up Draft Boards Due to Football IQ

Troy Dye is a great option for teams as a Day Two draft pick because of his high football IQ. Dye did not participate in drills at the NFL Combine. Still, he had a productive season in 2019 with 52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles. Dye played the entire game against Washington this past season despite breaking his thumb early in the game. Teams like qualities like toughness and football IQ, and Dye possesses both. It would be a shock if Dye was not a Day Two draft pick.

Laviska Shenault Jr. Could Be First Round Pick, But Injuries a Concern

Laviska Shenault Jr. is another example of a player whose college career was impacted by injuries. When Shenault is 100 percent, he is a freak of nature on the football field. However, he had to have core muscle surgery in early March. Shenault was dealing with a core muscle injury for the majority of the 2019 season but still garnered team MVP honors at CU. He had 56 receptions for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 2019. When he was healthy, Shenault was the favorite target of quarterback Steven Montez. Shenault may be a late-first round draft pick, but may slide to an early second-round pick because of this injury.

All of the prospects talked about in this article are being projected as Day Two draft picks. Next week, we will preview prospects that may have greater first-round potential, such as Justin Herbert and Brandon Aiyuk.

Pac-12 Football Review: USC NSD Fail, Donte Williams, NFL Combine Invites

Pac-12 Football Review: USC NSD Fail, Donte Williams, NFL Combine Invites

USC’s Poor National Signing Day Highlights it’s Pac-12 Football Recruiting

Last Wednesday, National Signing Day came and left. While there wasn’t much Pac-12 football activity, Colorado kept its guy. That is to say, Ashaad Clayton signed with Colorado.

And all Buffaloes sighed.

Certainly, the four-star running back out of New Orleans is a great addition. With that signing, Colorado made a big move. It showed its school is doing the work.

However, the program that needed to make the biggest leap failed miserably.

So many Pac-12 football programs brought it this offseason. Utah and Arizona State made huge strides. Meanwhile, USC fell. Firstly, USC boasts (if that word can be used) just 13 three-five star recruits for 2020.

  • Two four-star recruits
  • 11 three-star recruits

In short, their 2020 recruiting is dismal.

When compared to Pac-12 football programs, USC’s 2020 class ranks 10th. Just above Washington State and Arizona. Overall, USC’s distressing 2020 class is outside of the top-50 in college football. Their 55th-ranked class is completely pitiful. Especially considering their 2019 feats:

  • 8 wins, 5 losses
  • 32.5 points per game
  • Holiday Bowl berth
  • Breakout true-freshman Kedon Slovis

This was a huge alarm for the Trojans. But thankfully, USC stole Donte Williams away from Oregon.

Pac-12 Top-Recruiter Donte Williams Heads to USC

Unfortunately, cornerbacks coach Donte Williams’ move to USC was not because of football. As seen from his Tweet, it’s a move to his “father’s aging/failing health”. Family first. Respect.

Though is move to USC is family-driven, Williams is still a gift for their program. Prior to this news, USC recruiting was in free-fall. They were 10th in the Pac-12. Barely ahead of Washington State. That’s not acceptable for their program. So, they need to treat Williams as best as they can. During his short time with Oregon, he’s ranked:

  • 5th-best recruiter in Pac-12 in 2019 class
    • 62nd-best in nation
  • Best recruiter in Pac-12 in 2020 class
    • 7th-best in nation

Understanding that, this move is incredible for USC. They needed him bad. With his recruiting, he’ll become instrumental in their success. Certainly, Williams will be missed in Oregon. But for USC, he’s their savior.

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2020 NFL Combine Pac-12 Football Participants

On Friday, the NFL released its full list of 2020 NFL Scouting Combine invites. Of the 337 prospects invited, here are the Pac-12 football players:

Arizona (1 invite)

  • J.J. Taylor, Running Back

Arizona State (4 invites)

  • Brandon Aiyuk, Wide Receiver
  • Eno Benjamin, Running Back
  • Cohl Cabral, Offensive Line
  • Michael Turk, Punter

Cal (3 invites)

  • Ashtyn Davis, Defensive Back
  • Jaylinn Hawkins, Defensive Back
  • Evan Weaver, Line Backer

Colorado (4 invites)

  • Tony Brown, Wide Receiver
  • Steven Montez, Quarterback
  • Laviska Shenault Jr., Wide Receiver
  • Davion Taylor, Line Backer

Oregon (7 invites)

  • Jacob Breeland, Tight End
  • Troy Dye, Line Backer
  • Jake Hanson, Offensive Line
  • Justin Herbert, Quarterback
  • Juwan Johnson, Wide Receiver
  • Shane Lemieux, Offensive Line
  • Calvin Throckmorton, Offensive Line

Oregon State (2 invites)

  • Isaiah Hodgins, Wide Receiver
  • Jake Luton, Quarterback

Stanford (2 invites)

  • Colby Parkinson, Tight End
  • Casey Toohill, Line Backer

UCLA (4 invites)

  • Devin Asiasi, Tight End
  • Darney Holmes, Defensive Back
  • Joshua Kelley, Running Back
  • JJ Molson, Kicker

USC (2 invites)

  • Austin Jackson, Offensive Line
  • Michael Pittman, Wide Receiver

Utah (9 invites)

  • Bradlee Anae, Defensive Line
  • Francis Bernard, Line Backer
  • Julian Blackmon, Defensive Back
  • Terrell Burgess, Defensive Back
  • Leki Fotu, Defensive Line
  • Javelin K. Guidry, Defensive Back
  • Jaylon Johnson, Defensive Back
  • Zack Moss, Running Back
  • John Penisini, Defensive Line

Washington (7 invites)

  • Trey Adams, Offensive Line
  • Salvon Ahmed, Running Back
  • Hunter Bryant, Tight End
  • Myles Bryant, Defensive Back
  • Jacob Eason, Quarterback
  • Aaron Fuller, Wide Receiver
  • Nick Harris, Offensive Line

Washington State (2 invites)

  • Anthony Gordon, Quarterback
  • Dezmon Patmon, Wide Receiver

Somehow, Utah leads the way in combine invites for Pac-12 football programs. As a result, their school gained instant respect. Their school-record nine combine invites is great for their program’s recruiting. But, it’s a tough task to replace.

“It is not hard to figure out why we were formidable on defense this past year and why we had statistically one of the best defenses we have ever had at Utah,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “It is going to be a big challenge replacing those guys.”

Deseret News

Apart from a lackluster finish, Utah played well in 2019. As a result, they nearly made the College Football Playoffs. Or, at least they were in the discussion. These nine combine invites were a large part of their winning. In other words, it’s a big loss to the program.

Nevertheless, Utah is upping their recruiting game by leading the Pac-12 in combine invites.

Colorado’s Mel Tucker Calms Anxious Fans

Last Tuesday, Mark Dantonio retired after 13 seasons as Michigan State’s head coach. It was reported that Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell and Colorado’s Mel Tucker were those interviewing.

Although it was Tucker’s first season ever as a head coach, no program wants to lose their H.C. Furthermore, no program wants to lose their coach after the coaching carousel already hired the most qualified candidates. Consequently, it’s not the best time to hire.

But, Tucker made sure to raise the spirits of the Colorado program, its players and its fans.

Arizona State Close to Adding Robert Rodriguez as D-Line Coach

Reportedly, the Arizona State Sundevils are reportedly close to signing Robert Rodriguez as defensive line coach. Because of Jamar Cain’s departure, Rodriguez is a big hire.

Rodriguez just completed his fifth year with the Vikings. During that time, he worked closely with Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson. They utilized aggressive schemes for playmakers Daniel Hunter and Everson Griffen. As a result of his NFL experience, Rodriguez is a sound hire. Above all, Rodriguez will be paid to bring defensive pressure.

Unfortunately, Cain left behind more than defensive coaching. Jamar Cain is considered one of the best recruiting coaches. Losing him hurt. But, Rodriguez coached for UTEP from 2008 to 2014. So, at least he does understand how collegiate coaching and recruiting works. Both as a player and a coach.

Justin Herbert’s Rose Bowl Win and 3 Rushing TD’s Saved His NFL Draft Stock

Justin Herbert NFL Draft

Justin Herbert’s First Drive was Phenomenal

12 plays, 75 yards and a rushing touchdown highlighted by a Justin Herbert stiff-arm.

It was a near-perfect opening drive for Herbert and the Oregon Ducks. Herbert’s first possession stats included:

  • 4-of-5 completions for 49 yards
  • 2 rushes for 7 yards and a touchdown

With ease, Justin Herbert and company carved through the Wisconsin Badgers. Although Oregon fans have become accustomed to high-scoring outings by their Ducks, this was against Wisconsin’s ninth-ranked defense in the nation, per Football Outsiders DFEI. To start like that was incredible. If Herbert kept his play at that high of a level, his 2020 NFL Draft stock would have risen substantially.

However, that didn’t happen.

Stalled Offense and Poor Decision Making

On his very next drive, Justin Herbert erased his flawless first possession. Tied at 7-7, following a Wisconsin kick-return touchdown, Herbert threw a horrible throw into traffic. Granted, most of the time passes near lineman are batted down. Few are intercepted like this. But, this throw was different. It was oddly low, into a cluster of players and Wisconsin’s Jack Sanborn was sitting there, waiting with eyes on Herbert. Herbert didn’t even try a different read.

Either he didn’t see the Sanborn or the Wisconsin cluster, threw the ball far lower than he wanted to or thought he could force a football through too tight a window. Regardless of why the interception happened, it grades very poorly for Herbert.

After opening the game with a 12 play, 75 yard touchdown drive, Oregon’s offense faltered for five consecutive drives. Justin Herbert couldn’t get anything going. Interception, punt, punt, punt, turnover on downs.

It wasn’t until the final four minutes of the first half when Herbert was able to lead any significant drive. But, that wasn’t solely because of him. Instead, it was mostly due to the Oregon Ducks’ defensive plays.

Relying on Defensive Turnovers

At the end of the game, Oregon forced four turnovers. Three fumbles and one interception. Considering Brady Breeze took one fumble to the house, Herbert doesn’t get credit for those seven points. However, two of Herbert’s three touchdown drives came off of turnovers. His team got him the ball at the Wisconsin 36, the Wisconsin 33 and the Wisconsin 30.

With field position like that, Herbert’s scoring drives were less impressive. Ignoring drives after turnovers and his first-half kneel, Justin Herbert’s nine remaining drives included:

  • One Touchdown
  • One Interception
  • 6 Punts
  • One Game-Sealing Drive to Run out the Clock

Not great. Yes, we can’t take away his touchdowns. He had two, critical touchdowns in the game that came off of turnovers. He didn’t lead them to field goals on those. They came away with 14 points because of him. However, a top-NFL scout needs to be able to create his own success and not rely so heavily on his defense.

Justin Herbert Shows Off Stiff Arm and Dual-Threat Ability

Thankfully, for Justin Herbert’s case, he chose to run. His three rushing touchdowns displayed the NFL’s newest delight: dual-threat ability. In the NFL, the game is evolving. Quarterbacks are running more read-options and designed quarterback runs. It’s a new era. NFL play-callers desperately want quarterbacks with versatility.

With successful stiff-arms and a game-winning 30-yard rushing touchdown, Herbert showed off that versatility. It changed the way scouts will look at him.

Although he’s no Lamar Jackson, Herbert’s athleticism in the Rose Bowl saved his lack of throwing success.

Just Enough to Cover-Up Mistakes and Maintain Draft Stock

While some saw an erratic passer, others saw a leader with grit and the clutch-gene. Herbert’s three rushing touchdowns displayed his athleticism. His 30-yard rushing touchdown showed his athleticism and game-winning ability. Then, at the end of the game, his poise on a game-sealing drive demonstrated his “winning effort”. Like Bucky Brooks said, his play “wasn’t always pretty”. But, Herbert did just enough to erase his mistakes.

At the end of the day, the Rose Bowl is still just one game. Justin Herbert’s four-year career for Oregon has been iconic. Some would even put him above the likes of Marcus Mariota in Ducks’ fame. With his highlight-reel three-touchdown scamper and the Rose Bowl “W”, Herbert kept himself in the top-three quarterback discussion.

Pac-12 Players Needing Big Years for the NFL Draft

Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 4

College football is finally here. The Power Rankings are in and the season has started. But the Pac-12 season is more than just teams and team-wins. There is an individual end game… The NFL Draft.

Each year, a maximum of 256 college athletes can be drafted each year by the NFL. Only 256. Out of every college and thousands upon thousands of draft prospects. Most players make their way onto scouts’ lists early in their collegiate careers. But, for this set of senior, offensive Pac-12 players, they desperately need to make the most of their final season.

The Five Offensive Pac-12 Players Needing it Most

Aaron Fuller – UW – Senior – Wide Receiver

With 58 receptions and 874 yards, Aaron Fuller finally had his breakout season in 2018. He led the Huskies in 2018 and looks to do the same this season. Even though UW lost the Rose Bowl, Fuller stood out with 7 receptions. Furthermore, he’s cemented himself on the Biletnikoff Award watch list.

Nonetheless, Fuller has a lot to prove this season. As many already know, the most talented wide receivers in college leave early for the draft. Of note though, the 2019 NFL draft was different. Deebo Samuel, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Parris Campbell and Andy Isabella were drafted in the second round. All of them were seniors. So, there is definitely hope for Fuller. And with 874 yards, he certainly has a good base to build off of.

But, he still needs to step up. Fuller has to display explosiveness. At 5-foot-11, 188lbs, he’s not going to turn heads like DK Metcalf. However, he’s the type of receiver the NFL is evolving to enjoy. As a senior, Fuller has to get the counting stats, display good route running and hands for the scouts, ball-out at the Senior Bowl. If he’s having his best year, hopefully he’ll get a chance to push his name into the draft with an NFL Combine invite as well. All in all, Fuller needs to be Washington’s steady and reliable playmaker this year. 

Anthony Gordon – WSU – Redshirt Senior – Quarterback

2 games. 5 attempts. 3 completions. 17 yards. 1 interception.

That is all that Anthony Gordon, redshirt senior, has to show for his WSU career. Yet, somehow he earned the nod from Mike Leach. After losing Gardner Minshew, the Pac-12’s leader in pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns, Mike Leach turned to the older, yet unknown, Gordon. 

As a true underdog, Gordon first played in Junior College for the City College of San Francisco. But, he led the CCCAA Conference in passing yards (3,864) and touchdowns (37) as a true freshman. In addition, Gordon led his team to a CCCAA Championship and earned the CCCAA Championship Game MVP. So, he’s at least got that going for him.

Now, after redshirting and sitting on the bench for three seasons at WSU, it’s Gordon’s time to shine. Fortunately for him, he plays for Washington State University. He’s got a team around him and the perfect head coach for quarterbacks. In Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense, quarterbacks are given friendly schemes and can compile big numbers. As a redshirt senior with no NCAA experience, Gordon needs everything he can get. Off all of the offensive Pac-12 players on this list, he’s the biggest underdog right now. In order to make it to the NFL, he needs to brand his name on the NFL scout list with big-time throws and massive numbers.

Noah Togiai – OSU – Redshirt Senior – Tight End

Snakebitten by injuries, Noah Togiai has to prove that he can stay healthy. After breaking out in 2017 with 34 receptions, 461 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns, Togiai caught just 10 passes in 2018. His production took a major dip and injuries were a large part of that.

“He’s done a lot of good things,” Beavers offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren told NBCSNW. “I think last year he was probably like 80 percent… I don’t think we really saw what he’s capable of doing in the pass game.”

After tearing his ACL in the Beavers’ second game of 2016. Additionally, he missed the first three games of the 2018 season. Thankfully, Togiai was granted an extra season of eligibility in 2017 because of his ACL tear. He’s lucky. Because of this medical hardship season, Togiai didn’t have to finish his collegiate career on a 10 reception, 77 yard season. However, he needs to prove he is able to withstand the brutality of an NFL-level game. Can he do that? It’s unclear, especially considering he’s battling an ankle injury he sustained in spring camp. But, if he can stay healthy, Togiai could become Oregon State’s third receiver and one of the best offensive Pac-12 players at the tight end position.

Juwan Johnson – Oregon – Redshirt Senior – Wide Receiver

Unfortunately for Oregon, their wide receiving corps hit the injury bug. Brenden Schooler, Mycah Pittman and Juwan Johnson are each dealing with their own. While Schooler and Pittman are likely out for the first few weeks, there is hope that Johnson can suit up for Auburn.

If Johnson is able to suit up, he could quickly become a favorite target for Justin Herbert. Because if the Penn State transfer is one thing, he is a large target. At 6-foot-4, 230lbs, Johnson certainly garners attention. He’s big, powerful and has a frame unlike the other receivers on the team. Johnson also brings experience to the Ducks squad. He played the most games of any Ducks receiver. As a veteran, he is going to be both a role-model for younger receivers and a reliable option for Herbert.

“I’m here to be a leader,” he said. “That’s my job here, come in and bring a leader and bring that energy to the team. I want to bring the guys up so we can win a Pac-12 championship, national championship and those sort of things.”

If he can regain his health, Juwan Johnson can step into the void and separate himself from the rest of Oregon’s playmakers. The path for him to breakout in the list of top, offensive Pac-12 players is there. He’s on a great offense, on a top team, with needs at the position. Get healthy and get out there Johnson.

Cameron Scarlett – Stanford Redshirt Senior – Running Back

No Bryce Love. Washington drafted him in the fourth-round of the 2019 draft. No JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The Philadelphia Eagles picked him up in the second round. No Trenton Irwin. The Miami Dolphins scooped him up as an undrafted free-agent. So, Stanford lost their feature back and two top receivers. Someone needs to step up.

Out of the shadows steps Cameron Scarlett. The fifth-year back has yet to break out. Which makes complete sense. He’s played behind not only Bryce Love, but Christian McCaffrey as well. It’s not easy to usurp Heisman hopeful running backs. But this year, he doesn’t have to. The backfield is his for the taking.

Fortunately for Scarlett, he’s not completely green. In both 2017 and 2018, he displayed versatility in rushing and receiving. Scarlett’s 719 rushing yards and 283 receiving yards in 2017 and 2018 display this. He also notched 8 rushing touchdowns in each, along with 1 receiving touchdown in 2018. Finding the paydirt is obviously a good thing. Moreover, Scarlett displayed exceptional special-teams play. In 2017, his 1,008 kick return yards ranked second nationally and first in the Pac-12.  

His feature-back size (6-foot-1, 216lbs), combined with his dual-threat ability and versatility in the return-game, should provide ample opportunity for him in 2019. But, he’s a redshirt-senior without a feature-back year on his resume. Scarlett has to make that happen. In 2019, he needs to capitalize on volume and display his ability to be a bell-cow back.

The Melvin Gordon Holdout is One with Little Leverage

Melvin Gordon Holdout Chargers

Where have you heard this before? The NFL has a star running back sitting out training camp until he gets paid. In fact, two prominent running backs are holding out: Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys and Melvin Gordon of the Los Angeles Chargers. After a close review of situations, it’s clear that in the case of the Melvin Gordon holdout, he has little to no leverage.

Melvin Gordon is a Great NFL Running Back

Before getting to Melvin Gordon’s holdout, let’s talk numbers. Important to note is that Gordon had his best season in 2018, a performance earning him the number 34 spot on the NFL’s annual Top 100 list. In just 12 games, Melvin Gordon rushed for 885 yards, 5.1 yards-per-carry, and 10 touchdowns. Of note, this was his first season with a yards-per-carry above 3.9. In addition, he racked up 50 receptions for 490 yards and 4 more touchdowns.

14 touchdowns are nothing to dismiss, especially considering how the first-round back started his career. After missing the pay-dirt in his rookie season, Gordon amassed 38 touchdowns in his next three seasons. For many (Gordon himself included), it’s difficult to ignore that production.

Melvin Gordon Chargers Holdout

Efficiency wise, Gordon was also the highest-graded running back against stacked boxes, per PFF. PFF also ranked him 3rd overall for running backs in 2018 and 11th in PFF’s wins above replacement. Additionally, Melvin Gordon posted a staggering number of top efficiency stats on Player Profiler. His plus-34.6 (No.4 ) Production Premium, 34-percent (No. 5) Dominator Rating, 79 (No. 6) Evaded Tackles, 35.1-percent (No. 5) Juke Rate and 2.07 (No. 3) Yards Created Per Carry are elite.

As a player, Gordon has the ability to run inside, outside and is an effective receiver. He was good to great in most areas of production and efficiency in 2018. By most measures of production and efficiency in 2018, Gordon was at the top. It makes sense he would try and renegotiate his contract. He feels elite and wants to be paid as such.

Running Backs are Devalued. Sorry Melvin Gordon Holdout

Unfortunately for Melvin Gordon, he is a running back in the NFL. While running backs are the most important position in fantasy football, they aren’t as valuable to actual football teams. Let’s dissect this (If you would like to continue learning more about running back devaluation and replaceability, read in-depth analysis from PFF, Josh Hermsmeyer, JJ Zachariason, and Ben Baldwin).

Running Backs are Replaceable

Before injury in 2018, Todd Gurley was playing at another level. He had all the production to qualify his elite talent. Gurley was the bell-cow back that everyone loves, rushing for 98 yards and 1.25 rushing touchdowns per game in his first 12 games. Adding to that, Gurley had 3.83 receptions per game for 39.5 yards and 0.33 receiving touchdowns in that span. He was, by all means, an excellent form of offensive production before his injury slowed him down in December.

With that said, C.J. Anderson (a backup running back CUT by the Panthers after Week 9) replaced the injured Gurley and also played on an elite level. Prior to exploding with the Rams, Anderson had just 24 carries for 104 yards and 1 reception in 9 games with the Panthers. In his first three games with the Rams, Anderson rushed for 422 yards and 4 touchdowns.

A similar situation occurred in Kansas City. After Kareem Hunt was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, Damien Williams produced at a level similar to Hunt. Neither the Rams nor the Chiefs offenses halted. In fact, the Chiefs made it to the AFC Championship and the Rams made it to the Super Bowl.

As PFF’s Steve Palazzolo and Sam Monson point out, running backs are highly dependent on surrounding talent, offensive line, game script and offensive scheme. Unlike throwing in a backup quarterback, throwing a backup running back into a high-octane offense is almost seamless. After all, the Chargers had 4 wins and 0 losses without Melvin Gordon in 2018.

The Chargers have Two Quality Backup Running Backs

Austin Ekeler

Alongside Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler was an excellent complementary back. They were quite the one-two punch in 2018. Ekeler, while not as efficient or productive as Gordon, still posted a plus-25.9 (No 8) Production Premium, 4.9 (No. 8) True Yards Per Carry, 6.6 (No. 4) Yards Per Touch and a 9.4-percent (No. 1) Breakaway Run Rate. Ekeler, though he began his career undrafted, made a name for himself in the Chargers backfield. Because of both his talent and the replaceability of running backs, Austin Gayle believes that Ekeler can replace Gordon’s production in the case of a holdout. 

Justin Jackson – Razzle Dazzle

Behind Ekeler, the Chargers also have sophomore running back Justin Jackson. 

Aside from having a tremendous College Profile, Jackson also has that ‘razzle dazzle’.

“He’s a creative runner,” backfield mate Austin Ekeler said. “He’s a unique runner. There aren’t many people I’ve seen, in general, that run like he does. Like I tell him, he’s got that razzle-dazzle, some hocus-pocus [laughs] — I make up all these different things. That’s how he runs, and that’s how I’d describe his runs because you really don’t know what he’s going to do.”

Austin Ekeler

Running Back Decline, Injury Risk and the Melvin Gordon Holdout

The Age of Decline

According to both Pro Football Reference and Mike Taglier of Fantasy Pros, the average age of running back decline is at 28 years of age. Well, Melvin Gordon is entering his age-26 season. He’s only two years away from  If he holds out in 2019, he’s only one year away from the dreaded age-28 season. Why pay up for a running back just before his decline?

Injury Risk

Everyone would agree that football is a vicious sport. After all, the average NFL career only lasts 3.3 years. But, out of every position in football, none is riskier than running back. Running backs have the shortest careers, averaging only 2.57 years in the NFL. Due to the nature of the position and the number of regular collisions, it makes sense. This is another reason why many NFL teams avoid paying large contracts to aging running backs. 

Moreover, Melvin Gordon is not a picture of perfect health.

Melvin Gordon Injury Report

Gordon also accrued 1,079 touches in his four-year career. Because of injury risk and inevitable decline, it’s often easier for teams to just draft another running back than pay the current producer.

Teams Don’t Stop Everything for Running Backs

“I don’t find that happening any time soon. If his own team isn’t going to pay him, I don’t think there are other teams out there who will pay him what he’s looking for,” Quinn said. “I don’t see many teams knocking down the door to offer long-term extensions to running backs anymore.”

Brady Quinn

According to Over the Cap, teams spend just 3.33-percent of their overall cap towards running backs. That doesn’t mean that they spend 3.33-percent for their best running back, but all running backs combined. As noted in the paragraphs above, the running back position is replaceable in production and a constant flow of talent entering the draft. Teams opt to run their back to the ground and then just get another. Or, many teams like the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles deploy a committee of specialist running backs at value. 

Another reason that running backs don’t earn as much money is that the running back position is analytically worth less than other positions. Without getting too much into it, passing is simply more efficient and valuable than rushing. That’s why a 5-yard rush is considered good, while a 5-yard pass isn’t. To paraphrase a common analytical stance, the running back position is closer to punter in value than it is to quarterback. Instead of running backs setting up the pass, there’s more evidence that the pass sets up the run. Establishing the run has become more of a trope than a definitive. Because of this, analytics has popularized the phrase “running backs don’t matter.” While this is hyperbole, the statistical impact a running back has on a football field is smaller than many think.

If you want to read about this, read these articles by Josh Hermsmeyer, JJ Zachariason, or Ben Baldwin.

Even Ezekiel Elliott isn’t worth the money according to Josh Hermsmeyer of FiveThirtyEight. And behind Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott is regarded as the second-best running back in the league. So if Zeke doesn’t deserve it, then Gordon’s value also takes a hit. 

Fans, Quarterback and a Franchise Tag

Unfortunately for Melvin Gordon, he doesn’t have the fans and team completely behind him. In a fan poll on Bolts From the Blue, about 70-percent of respondents would rather trade Gordon away, while 8-percent voted to let Gordon sit out without pay. The fans certainly don’t have his back.

Also painful for Gordon is that Philip Rivers came out and said the Chargers would be fine without Gordon. Ouch.

Last, the Chargers hold the best cards in the case of a holdout. Let’s say that the Melvin Gordon holdout leads to him sitting the entire 2019 season. If he does this, he is subject to fines ($40,000 for each day of training camp) and loss of game checks. But worst of all, he doesn’t accrue his fifth-year with the Chargers and he is still under contract for 2020. Essentially, Gordon would just push his 5th-year option forward a year. So he gets another year older without anything changing. Then, if he accrues that fifth season by playing all or part of the 2020 season, the Chargers can just franchise tag him for 2021. They have all the leverage.

Conclusion

Us at the Unafraid Show are all for players getting paid. We’ve written extensively about it. See the articles below.

https://unafraidshow.com/ussf-uswnt-makes-more-than-usmnt/
https://unafraidshow.com/why-is-paying-college-athletes-viewed-so-negatively-by-some-fans/
https://unafraidshow.com/nba-superstars-underpaid/

However, this article is about leverage and Melvin Gordon simply doesn’t have as much leverage as he thinks he does with this holdout. That’s because running backs are in a horrible cycle for sports. Draft them, run them to the ground and then dump them. Teams don’t need to pay up for them. Are there running backs that are more talented than others? Completely. Can an elite running back give a team an edge over other teams in different situations? Of course.

But, with the amount of talent available for drafts, teams can draft a player and own his rights for his five, best years. If running backs want to get paid, they need to change the NFL CBA. Instead of four-year contracts with a fifth-year option, perhaps it would benefit running backs more if they were drafted to two-year contracts with a third-year option. That would allow running backs to earn second contracts before their best years are behind them. So, instead of holding out for pay for himself, Melvin Gordon holdout should be advocating for change for the players yet to enter the draft.