4) AFC WEST
Denver Broncos: Case Keenum
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers
Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr
Don’t sleep on the AFC West quarterbacks. I think Mahomes is going to blossom into an instant star under Andy Reid. I can’t wait to watch the spectacularly gifted signal-caller heave it all over the field to his fine collection of weapons in Kansas City. Rivers is still playing at a Hall of Fame level, having just posted his lowest interception total since 2009. Jon Gruden will swiftly help Carr get back to his MVP form -- as will a clean bill of health for the 27-year-old QB. And while I am skeptical Keenum can ever repeat his magical 2017 campaign, he’s still a major upgrade on Denver’s QB play from last season.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
It’s the Pat Mahomes show. Whether or not he’s ready in his second season, he’s going to play. I think he’ll do well because Andy Reid knows how to help his quarterbacks with scheme and design. He did it for years with Alex Smith, and with Donovan McNabb back in Philadelphia.
The first six names are no-brainers. But seeing Tyreek Hill, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Robert Woods slip into the top 10 may be a bit surprising. (All of those players ranked high in terms of fantasy points scored above aDOT-based expectations, too.)
WR SAMMY WATKINS, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS | 2017 OVERALL GRADE: 76.2
Watkins had a resurgence under Sean McVay’s tutelage with the Rams in 2017, as the former No. 4 overall pick recorded a 122.0 passer rating when targeted and did not drop a single one of his 39 catchable targets this past season. Running slants and post routes, Watkins earned a 128.9 and 143.9 passer rating when targeted, respectively, both of which were at least 40.0 points above the league average. Now paired with the Chiefs’ strong-armed quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Watkins has enough speed to stretch the defense and take full advantage of Mahomes’ cannon. The two should get off to a hot start in 2018.
Around the league
There’s something to be said about how the NFL is constructed in today’s sports world. Billionaire owners reaping the benefits of the most-popular sports product in North America. With league-wide revenue having reached $14 billion last season, the NFL outpaces every other major professional sports league in the continent. Even then, players themselves are not being rewarded at a fair clip.
The NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy reportedly offers reduced sentences for players who provide information that leads to additional violations for other players.
Just don’t tell that to Eagles tackle Lane Johnson, who has been suspended twice for PED use in his career.
“No snitchin’,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday after ProFootballTalk linked to its story about the loophole.
Johnson served a four-game ban in 2014 for a drug violation before sitting out 10 games in 2016 for a similar offense.
New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins on Thursday made his first public statement since his older brother, William H. Jenkins Jr., was arrested on suspicion of felony aggressive manslaughter in the death of Roosevelt Rene.
Jenkins acknowledged with “regret and sadness” the passing of Rene, whom the Giants cornerback called a “good friend” and noted the two were working on producing music together.
“It truly hurts my heart to know he has passed away,” Jenkins said in a post on Instagram. “At the time of the incident, I was in Florida preparing to finish off my promotional tour. “As this is an ongoing incident, I cannot answer any questions related to the investigation. I am praying for Roosevelt and his family.”
Todd Gurley will receive a fully guaranteed salary this season after the Rams picked up his fifth-year option, but the star running back believes all NFL players deserve guaranteed contracts.
Note from Pete: I know this is not news but I couldn’t help myself.
Here’s how their exchange went in E!’s preview of the show, which seems to highlight Cutler’s life in retirement, even if it’s not totally official in his mind:
Cavallari: What’s on tap for you today?
Cutler: I’ve got a big 2:30 appointment.
Cavallari: Picking up boys from school.
Cutler: Getting the boys from school. I wanna be first in line…
Cutler: …beat all the other moms there.
Cavallari: But like honestly, what do you do all day?
Cutler: I like to keep myself pretty free, so if something does pop up, bounce right into it.
Cavallari: So you think that you’re 100 percent done with football?
Cutler: I mean, I can’t say 100. Probably.
Cavallari: When will you know if you’re 100 percent?
Cavallari: Yeah, like the first football game?
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Tanoh Kpassagnon is often one of the first names mentioned as a “[John] Dorsey pick” in reference to a player that is a good athlete without a real position who’s upside was bet upon.
And while Dorsey did, in fact, make the selection of Kpassagnon, his vision of the player appears to be different than what the current staff had, or now has, in mind for him. Almost as quickly as Dorsey was let go last year, Kpassagnon’s position changed from defensive lineman to outside linebacker. This took an already-raw player coming from a smaller college program (Villanova) and put him even further behind in his development. This year, there should be no last-minute position switch and a dedicated coach for Kpassagnon to work with all offseason as he improves his craft.
It goes without saying that Kareem Hunt is one of the best running backs from the 2017 draft class, but let’s recap (just for fun).
He ran for over 1,300 yards and added 455 through the air in the regular season. He torched the Patriots in his first regular-season game out of the MAC. He scored a 35-yard touchdown in one touch against the Broncos. He could have done even more if the offensive line had been healthier. We’ve known he’s special for a long time.
So, what does +120 mean?
In the betting world, that would mean you would need to bet $100 on the Chiefs to make the playoffs in order to win $120. The Chiefs are thus slight underdogs to make the playoffs, or have a 45.45 percent chance, according to betting odds.