The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, fantasy updates, and more. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN, or 4for4.com.
This week didn’t live up to the high standards set by Week 6, but it was still a pretty entertaining week of football. A big part of that was the trades, and I’ll give my take on the two main ones. I’ll also list the best options at quarterback for teams in need, spew about one of the most dangerous hidden aspects of an NFL game, chastise a couple coaches, hand out weekly awards, and so much more.
THINGS I KNOW
I know it’s too soon to judge the Amari Cooper trade. I’ve gotten so many questions about this deal that I felt I had to address it right away. For Oakland, they get their third pick in the 2019 draft. This gives them a better chance to add not one but multiple marquee players. In all likelihood, one of those picks will be spent on a wide receiver. Spoiler alert: The wide receiver class this year looks loaded with talent. If the Raiders want to “win” this trade they’ll ultimately need to select a guy who outperforms Cooper’s production in his first four seasons. As for Dallas, they basically said they would rather take the once-promising 24-year old WR over a younger wide receiver in the first round.
Personally I would take the latter because it allows for a team to have more options to choose from and it gives them the opportunity to mold that wide receiver through their own system and values. However, the Cowboys’ offensive weakness thus far has arguably been their receiving group. On the flip side, Offensive Coordinator Scott Lineman has had his best seasons with a true WR1, something the Dallas offense has lacked.
This trade can be a win-win if Cooper’s addition finally returns the Cowboys’ offense to amongst the NFL’s best. If Oakland adds a perennial talent with Dallas’ pick (which as of now would be 9th overall). Would I have done the trade? No because I don’t think Cooper is the problem in Oakland and I don’t believe Cooper’s production has equated to first-round talent. Nonetheless this deal could still work out for both teams, it’ll just be awhile before we can make any final judgement.
I know Carlos Hyde got spurned. Coming off a career year, Hyde signed a three-year, $15.25 million contract with the Browns. It was a good deal for both parties, especially since Hyde went to college just 142 miles south of Cleveland. Then, the Browns go and draft Nick Chubb and just like that, Hyde’s days become numbered. It sucks but that’s just life in the NFL. Players meet with teams in hopes of developing a sense of mutual helpfulness, except it’s always the team who really owns that relationship. I’m not complaining or advocating for change, I’m just saying we can’t forget that the players have feelings, too. Hyde must have felt pretty betrayed and that’s so important to consider before jumping to conclusions about any possible motives behind the deal.
On the surface, it’s not a good long-term trade but it’s a great one to help this season for the Jaguars. Once Leonard Fournette returns (whenever that’ll be), Hyde will be in the same situation that he was in while at Cleveland: a sitting duck. As for the Browns, they’re just playing Madden at this point with all these trades. A fifth-round pick for a 28-year old running back is a fantastic return, especially when you have a rising star waiting on the bench. Don’t expect Cleveland to to stop there, though. My money is on Tyrod Taylor being the next to go. With the trade deadline at 4 PM on Tuesday, it might happen sooner rather than later.
I know why the Eagles are underperforming. They were my bust pick going into the year for the same reason that they’ve been suffering now. Injuries have been a factor, don’t get me wrong, but you had to assume the team might take a step back after their Super Bowl win. Former Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich and former Quarterbacks Coach John DeFilippo both took promotions elsewhere after the Eagles’ title run. The effects of their departures can be felt throughout Philadelphia’s season. A year after finishing with the third-best offense, the Eagles are currently the 19th-best offense.
While that brain drain has affected the team physically, I bet the mental aspect of winning a championship has taken a toll on the Eagles, whether they say it has or not. It’s no secret that it’s extremely difficult to return to a championship a year after winning it. I think the team’s prior success has gotten to the heads of some players leading to underwhelming performances on the field. Approaching the half-way mark of the NFL season, the Eagles will have to wake up if they want to return to the top of the football food chain.
I know the Bills’ future looks bleaker than their present. I was never a fan of the Josh Allen selection, even if I saw it coming from a mile away back during my official mock draft. I went as far as to say “I’d hate this pick as a Bills fan…” and surprise, I still hate it. He has the lowest QBR and the lowest completion percentage among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 100 passes. Of course, not all of his horrendous play is his fault.
The Bills’ receiving group is arguably the league’s worst. Their offensive line has given up the fourth-most sacks and have the highest sack percentage (the times a QB is sacked per pass attempt) in the NFL. Their defense has been surprisingly average, but they’ve also given up 20 or more points in every game but one, including a 37-5 defeat to Indianapolis last week. Last year, Coach Sean McDermott shocked everyone by taking the team to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. That’s why most of the blame in Buffalo goes to the front office for assembling such an atrocious roster.
I know I owe Peter King a big thanks. Among other things, King writes weekly columns for NBC Sports and formerly wrote for the MMQB at Sports Illustrated. It wasn’t until maybe a year-and-a-half ago when I started reading sports articles almost daily, and I’m kicking myself for not starting sooner. King’s MMQB column quickly became my favorite weekly read and I still read his NBC columns today. More importantly, it’s those columns that convinced me to add a little sportswriting to my young career. I had been doing sports broadcasting for so long (you can check out everything on my website) that I overlooked any aspects of writing.
Fast forward to the present where I’ve been writing a weekly column of my own for over a year, and you can imagine my exuberance when I saw one of my questions featured in King’s weekly column. I know to some it might just be a measly little Q&A, but I’m just so grateful to have my opinion read by such a great sportswriter and shared with the world. I don’t know where my career will take me or what is coming next, but I can promise you that I will never stop grinding. Now, onto some more football…
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know why there isn’t more space between the field and the sideline. This has been something I’ve been talking about for years now, and not just in football. All sports need to have more room around its perimeters. Hockey is fine with it’s rink but basketball, soccer, baseball, and most importantly football need to push pedestrians back from the field or court of play and give athletes more space in case they stumble or fall.
The incident with Kenny Stills crashing into a security guard on Sunday was unfortunate, and the woman was taken to the hospital as a precaution, but I feel that could just be the tip of the iceberg. Remember when Reggie Bush tore his ACL after slipping on concrete in 2015? Imagine if he had more room to stop running. Don’t forget when Jimmy Graham was tackled out of bounds and into Sean Payton’s leg, tearing his head coach’s MCL in the process. In fact, there’s even a five-minute video of coaches getting hit on the sideline! (Payton’s injury is at the 1:52 mark). As for Stills, this wasn’t even his first incident with something like this. Back in Week 3, he crashed into the wall after scoring a touchdown. How much longer until someone is seriously hurt (again)? How much longer until sports leagues ignore this potential hazard?
I don’t know what the Giants’ offense was doing. First, I’ll address Pat Shurmur’s decision to go for two down 14 late in the fourth. It’s not what I would have done, but it wasn’t a bad decision. I like to play a little safer; I’d get the seven points and put myself a touchdown away from either tying the game or going for the win. However, Shurmur wanted a fast-track to the win by getting points sooner rather than later, and can you blame him? With just one win, the team is under so much scrutiny that Shurmur really had little to lose by being aggressive. So I’m fine with that play-call, though in hindsight it might have cost the Giants the game. That’s not what I’m ranting about, though.
With 40 seconds left in the game, the Giants waste almost 30 seconds on two failed QB sneaks. That’s just bad clock management and I think the offense deserves as much blame as Shurmur does for it. I’m not saying the Giants’ could have come back had they scored 20 seconds earlier, but this is a prime example of the dysfunctional, undisciplined New York offense. This sloppiness is inexcusable and needs to be fixed if everyone wants to keep their jobs.
I don’t know why Mike McCoy wasn’t fired sooner. Remember last week when I said “I don’t know why Mike Smith wasn’t fired sooner”? And how it was going to be “I don’t know why Mike Smith hasn’t been fired yet” until Smith was actually fired? Well, what if I told you that I was also going to write “I don’t know why Mike McCoy hasn’t been fired yet” but decided to potentially postpone it to this week. Once again, a team stole my firepower with a move that should have happened eons ago. McCoy was the iceberg to the Titanic mess that is the Cardinals’ offense. David Johnson was still never used properly and Josh Rosen was left helpless (despite me complaining about both in recent weeks). Like many others within the league, I have high expectations for former quarterback and new Arizona Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich. The Cardinals have the skill players to be a viable team offensively and it’ll be on Leftwich to right McCoy’s various wrongs.
I don’t know if Blake Bortles has a future in Jacksonville. Anytime you’re benched for Cody Kessler, you need to reconsider how you’ve been playing. Bortles has had ups-and-downs in his five-year career with Jacksonville. Despite a trip to the conference championship last season, patience seems to be wearing thin within the Jacksonville organization, if his benching was any indication. It doesn’t really look like Bortles can be consistently good enough to propel Jacksonville back to the success they had last year. The locker room was also reportedly starting to lose faith in the former third overall pick. With a $21 million contract due next season, the clock might be striking 12 on Bortles’ time in Jacksonville.
I don’t know why the NFL chose this as their 100th year logo. I’ve seen a few versions of it put out by the NFL, but each have the same premise of a massive ‘100’ preceding a smaller NFL logo. A small football is zipping diagonally through the ‘100’ too. It looks like an NFL Rush logo, if you remember what that is. It’s a clean logo but it seems a little too childish for me. I think it’s because of the football zooming through the ‘100’. Also, why is the NFL logo on the right of the numbers? That forces us to read from left to right, which you shouldn’t have to do with a good logo. Instead, it would look better if the logo was on top of the numbers, that way you can give it a single glance and not feel like one aspect is more important than the other. Maybe this will grow on me, but for now the 100th season logo is a disappointment.
TRIVIA OF THE WEEK
Question: The Eagles play in their first ever international game this Sunday. What are the other two teams to never play an international game?
Check out the ‘Awards’ section for the answer.
As fantasy football season rolls on, I’ll be focusing on a couple fantasy-related issues. This can include Players to Watch, Making the Case, questions from readers, or anything fantasy-related.
I got a few questions about how to handle the Amari Cooper trade so I thought I’d assess it from a fantasy standpoint. Like I said before, I think Cooper can and likely will improve in the Dallas offense. What does this mean for the other players? It all depends on which wide receiver is lined up opposite of Cooper. My bet would be the rookie Michael Gallup as he’s improved over the last few games. I’ve praised Gallup many times now and I still think he can be a factor this season. If it’s Allen Hurns getting the nod, then he’s a fine addition too.
As for the Raiders, I can definitely see them passing the ball more now with Marshawn Lynch on IR, but I’m skeptical of any other wide receivers not named Jordy. Martavis Bryant used to be boy (still pains me to think about) and while he has the talent to be great, he just hasn’t been consistent enough both on and off the field. If you really need a wide receiver, I’d take a Cowboys’ starting wide receiver over Bryant.
Every week, I’ll feature a college football player who recently grabbed the spotlight. This week, Armchair Scout Rob Paul subs in and highlights Jachai Polite.
Every year, the NFL misses on a freaky undersized edge rusher because they become obsessed with their build. That trend is going to stop in the 2019 NFL Draft because Jachai Polite is too damn good to fall out of the first-round. The Florida edge rusher has been dominant this season and is a top five edge rusher in this class. Polite is just 6-2, 242 pounds, but he doesn’t let the lack of size hurt him on the field. In seven games this season Polite has racked up 9.5 TFLs, seven sacks, and four forced fumbles. He’s been the best player on the Gators’ roster and shown up big time in their three biggest games against Kentucky, Mississippi State, and LSU putting up six TFLs and four sacks in those games.
On the field, the explosiveness Polite plays with jumps off the screen. His get off automatically gives offensive tackles issues. Even though he lacks size, it plays to his advantage because the get off and leverage he plays with is tough for offensive linemen to deal with. When you factor in his ability to dip and bend around the edge, he looks like a double digit sack player in the NFL. One of the best things about Polite’s game is his motor. Sure, the pass rushing is the flashy stuff that gets him picked high, but the motor makes him an impressive run defender despite the lack of size. Polite constantly forces run plays to stretch outside with his motor and athleticism, and protects the LOS at a high level. Polite’s size might worry some, but just watch the tape. Early Projection: Top 20
The ‘Hands’ Award: Isaac Zico
Some nifty one-handers this week, but Zico’s catch in the back corner of the end-zone takes the cake. It would have been better if he snagged it on the initial touch but it was still challenging enough with a defender on his tail.
Uniform of the Week: Los Angeles Chargers
Mr. Bummer: Justin Tucker
Kicking errors have become pretty common headlines since the extra-point line was moved back to the 15-yard line, but who knew that headline would apply to Tucker? To put the miss into perspective: Tucker’s last missed extra-point came when he was just 17-years old. Up until that miss, only three things were inevitable in the world: Life, death, and a Justin Tucker extra point. Credit to the 14-mph wind with some great defense on that kick, though.
The Blunder Ball: New York Giants
I basically explained my reasoning here earlier. Obviously we don’t know what would have happened if the Giants’ converted for two or didn’t waste all that time at the end of the game. What we do know is they would have had at least better chance to win, even if it was unlikely.
Best New Gif: Baker Mayfield’s Shock
So, so many good ones this week. Justin Tucker’s bewildered expression after his missed kick is a great one. So is Alex Smith being surprised by the snap. But Mayfield’s reaction to losing the game is an all-timer and one I’ll definitely have to use soon.
Most Points in a Fantasy Game: Me
I just had to mention it this week: My ten-team PPR team dropped 203.7 fantasy points. No gimmicks, no super-flexes. My lowest-scoring players were Colts defense and Giorgio Tavecchio at 16 each. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a 200+ weekly performance, so excuse me for gloating.
WWE Move off the Week: Eric Reid
Can I interest you in another wrestling move? A week after I awarded this to Leonard Floyd, Reid takes home the belt. How Reid flipped the 6-5, 250 pound Zach Ertz is beyond me. This was my reaction when I saw it. (Too soon?)
Karma Award: Garry Peters
As the cornerback of the CFL’s B.C. Lions quickly found out, life comes at you fast. Better be careful who you taunt next time, Garry.
Question: The Eagles play in their first ever international game this Sunday. What are the other two teams to never play an international game?
With the ever-growing popularity of the NFL overseas, I’m sure this will change.
ONE LAST THING
I was so tempted to do a little mock draft here, but honestly I just couldn’t stop thinking about quarterbacks this week. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the offseason, but I used three tiers to break down which signal-callers might be available for QB-needy teams after the season (or even right now, with the Trade Deadline next week):
Tyrod Taylor – Taylor’s contract ends after the season but he could still be traded and sign a new deal elsewhere.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – His contract also ends this offseason, though you have to wonder if there’s any FitzMagic left in the tank.
Justin Herbert – The clear QB1 right now. I’d be shocked if those rumblings about Herbert returning to school became true.
Dwayne Haskins – Haskins has emerged as a popular QB2, but he could also stay in school another year.
Blake Bortles – Bortles has handicapped the Jags’ offense for a while now and it might be time for them to cut him and his $16 million cap hit loose.
Nick Foles – At this rate, Foles looks to be the top backup quarterback. Oh yeah, he also won a Super Bowl.
Eli Manning – Many people want him to be traded or cut. I think the only value he has left in the NFL is by finishing his career in New York, and not because he has a no-trade clause.
Ryan Tannehill – Could Tannehill’s time be nearing an end? Anything’s possible yet I still think there is confidence about him within the organization.
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