NFL stars looking to rebound from a rough 2018

Whether it was due to injury, age or just subpar play, many NFL players are looking to rebound after disappointing 2018 seasons. Here’s a look at 25 players hoping to bounce back.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, free agent

Ansah had an injury-plagued year in 2018, likely his last in Detroit. He played only seven games, recording four sacks, and he struggled to find a market as a free agent this offseason due to a shoulder injury.

Vic Beasley, DE, Falcons

Beasley led the league with 15.5 sacks in 2016, but that production looks more like a fluke after his last two seasons. He had only five sacks in each of the last two seasons and also had just 20 tackles last year as a situational pass rusher. Atlanta desperately needs a rebound from him this year.

Randall Cobb, WR, Cowboys

At one time Cobb was Aaron Rodgers’ top receiver, but he’s struggled in Green Bay over the last three years. After playing only nine games due to injuries last season, he signed with the Cowboys to replace Cole Beasley as the team’s slot receiver.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals

Dalton’s last winning season as a starter was 2015. Last year he went 5-6 in 11 starts before a season-ending thumb injury. He also threw 11 interceptions during his time on the field. Bengals fans hope new head coach Zac Taylor can help Dalton take a step forward.

Joe Flacco, QB, Broncos

The writing was on the wall for Flacco in Baltimore after the team drafted Lamar Jackson. Despite adding several new receivers, Flacco went 4-5 as a starter with just 12 touchdown passes before giving way to Jackson due to a hip injury. Denver traded for Flacco in the offseason, but he’s in a similar situation after the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars

Jacksonville’s return for selecting Fournette fourth overall in the 2017 draft hasn’t been great thus far. He had more than 1,000 yards rushing in his rookie season but averaged only 3.9 yards per carry. Last season was worse, as he played only eight games mostly due to injuries and had a terrible 3.3 yards per rush attempt. Fournette also had minor legal issues during the offseason.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons

Freeman has struggled to stay healthy over the last two seasons and played only two games last year due to foot and groin injuries. He’s still young enough to rebound going into his age 27 season, and the Falcons need him to be healthy after Tevin Coleman left in free agency.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Packers

Green Bay expected big things from Graham after signing him last offseason, but he was a relative disappointment with only 636 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Graham deserves credit for gutting out a thumb injury late in the year, but the expectation that he’d replace Jordy Nelson’s production didn’t come to fruition.

A.J. Green, WR, Bengals

Green has missed significant time in two of the last three seasons, sitting out seven games last year due to a toe injury. For the second straight year, Green’s production when he did play was also down significantly with only 77 receiving yards per game after averaging at least 80 yards from 2012-2016.

Full 25

By: Seth Trachtman

 

NFL stars who could be traded during the 2019 draft

The NFL Draft is when the league meets its newest young stars. As for those already established, some of them may find new homes too.

Here are 12 veterans who could be traded during the 2019 NFL Draft:

Derek Carr

Most of the signs point to the Raiders keeping their young quarterback. For one, the team staged Antonio Brown meeting the signal-caller at Carr’s house. That would be all for not if Oakland now deals Carr. Every other move this offseason — signing Tyrell Williams and Trent Brown — has also been made under the assumption the Raiders already have their quarterback in place. But Raiders general manager Mike Mayock is sending mixed signals. He said, “we love Derek (Carr)” and yet has also repeated that the Raiders will “do all of our due diligence” at quarterback like every other position. It sounds like if the quarterback Mayock and Jon Gruden really like in the draft is available to them, Carr could be gone.

Leonard Fournette

Trade rumors were circling the third-year running back in January after executive vice president Tom Coughlin criticized Fournette for his actions on the team’s sideline during the season finale. The two sides appeared to make up, but then on April 11 police arrested Fournette for speeding and “knowingly driving with a suspended license.” Coach Doug Marrone told the media on April 16 that Fournette will not face team discipline for the arrest. Apparently, he’s ready to let the incident blow over, but will the front office feel the same way if a team offers the Jaguars an interesting deal for Fournette at the draft?

Tyreek Hill

Similar to Fournette, Hill is facing off-the-field problems this offseason that could jeopardize his tenure with his current team. Hill’s situation, though, is a lot more dire. Police are currently investigating Hill’s connection with two incidents of suspected child abuse. This is an extremely complicated situation because even if Hill isn’t charged with a crime, he could face a suspension.  The Chiefs didn’t waste any time dumping Kareem Hunt last fall, and it’s worth wondering if they might garner a trade for the speedster at the draft. The Athletic’s Jay Glazer reported that Hill was at the center of trade talks during the NFL combine, but if a trade is done now, Kansas City would be getting pennies on the dollar for Hill, who, in addition to possibly facing a suspension, wants a new contract.

Frank Clark

The Seahawks placed the franchise tag on Clark this offseason, but despite the possibility of making some $17 million in 2019, Clark has threatened to hold out if he doesn’t receive a long-term agreement. No team wants a Le’Veon Bell situation, and the Seahawks would like to avoid the Earl Thomas distraction they had last year too. This could lead to Clark getting traded at the draft, although as of April 14 Jay Glazer reported trade talks for Clark had “died down.”

Jack Doyle

The Colts tight end posted career bests in 2017, recording 80 receptions for 690 yards and four touchdowns. But then with the arrival of Eric Ebron in 2018, Doyle saw his targets decrease from 7.2 per game to 5.5 each contest. Doyle also missed 10 games because of injury, which led to him catching only 26 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. If the Colts are comfortable with Ebron and Mo Alie-Cox at tight end, they could shop Doyle at the draft.

Josh Rosen

Although technically not a star yet, Rosen qualifies for our list because he was the No. 10 overall pick a year ago. Rosen threw for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while averaging 5.8 yards per attempt as a rookie in 2018. As of right now, there’s no telling whether Rosen is truly going to develop into a star or not because he had little help with the Cardinals last year. It might not matter, though, as Arizona is rumored to be selecting quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 1 overall. If that happens, Rosen will be one of the hottest topics during the first round of the draft.

Duke Johnson

The Browns seemed to like the idea of three strong backs on the depth chart after they signed Kareem Hunt, but Johnson apparently wants no part of it. On April 8 Johnson requested to be traded, according to cleveland.com. Johnson has also refused to show up to the beginning of Cleveland’s offseason program. The best time for the Browns to address this issue is during the draft with a trade.

A.J. Green

Trading Green would almost guarantee the Bengals will finish in the AFC North cellar, but with Cincinnati seemingly in rebuilding mode, dealing the seven-time Pro Bowler is not the worst idea. Green turns 31 this summer and hasn’t been able to finish two of the last three years because of injuries. In 2018 he recorded 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns in nine games.  Because of the injuries, his value is already on the downswing. It might be wise to embrace a full rebuild and see what value Green has on the trade market.

Full List

By: Dave Holcomb

Winners and losers from NFL Week 11

From thrilling last-second wins by teams that are fighting to stay in contention to a horrifying injury that could shape the NFC playoff race, NFL Week 11 had it all.

A six-game winning streak was snapped in agonizing fashion. A team many thought would contend for the title suffered a sixth-straight loss. A team many thought was out of contention is right back in it thanks to a second-straight road win.

Those are among the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 11.

Winner: Captain Andrew Luck has Colts on a roll

© Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts lost five of their first six games this season. It looked like Andrew Luck’s redemption tour was going to be delayed by a year, at least, despite some solid play from him early. But since that awful start, both Luck and the Colts have started playing some outstanding ball.

With 297 yards and three passing touchdowns Sunday in a 38-10 blowout win over the Tennessee Titans, Luck extended his streak of at least three passing touchdowns to seven consecutive games.

His Colts have now rattled off four wins in a row and are in second place in the AFC South, knocking at the door to get into the playoffs. Should they complete the comeback and make the postseason, then Luck deserves to be included in the MVP conversation, along with Comeback Player of the Year.

Loser: Washington suffers déjà vu in worst possible way

© Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) reacts after breaking his leg in the second half against the Houston Texans during the second half at FedEx Field. 

Thirty-three years ago to the day, the Washington Redskins were issued a staggering gut punch. Joe Theismann suffered a horrifying broken leg that is still to this day considered among the most gruesome in professional sports.

On Sunday, Washington lost Alex Smith in the same exact manner. He broke his right tibia and fibula while being dragged to the ground on a sack. He was carted off, taken to the hospital in an ambulance and required immediate surgery. To nobody’s surprise, he will miss the rest of the season, head coach Jay Gruden announced after the game.

Washington also lost Sunday’s game in heartbreaking fashion — falling to 6-4 on the season. The team will be bringing in a bunch of veterans on Monday to see who might back up Colt McCoy.

Barring some crazy developments, it’s hard to see this team finishing off the season strong without Smith. Though it still leads the NFC East, Washington will be hard pressed to hold that lead. On the season, it is minus-one in point differential and closes out the campaign with four of its last six games on the road.

Winner: Cowboys rising 

© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown run against the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. 

Dallas couldn’t win on the road earlier this year and entered Week 9 with a 3-5 record. It looked like the ‘Boys were headed for another disappointing season. But the past two weeks have seen this team come together for two straight road wins, and Sunday’s victory in Atlanta was very impressive.

Ezekiel Elliott and the big guys up front are getting back to dominating folks at the line of scrimmage. The dynamic dual-threat running back followed up Week 10’s 187-yard game with an incredible 201-yard showing against the Falcons.

Now just one game behind Washington in the NFC East, featuring an offense that’s starting to click and a defense that can really get after folks — and with four of their final six games at home — Dallas is in great shape to win the division.

Loser: Jags are toast

© Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2018; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Jon Bostic (51) brings down Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette (27) during the second half at TIAA Bank Field.

The Jacksonville Jaguars gave it their all on Sunday. For a while it appeared they had Big Ben Roethlisberger and Co. in the palm of their hands, as the Pittsburgh Steelers could do next to nothing in the first half.

Despite a monster game from Leonard Fournette. Despite two Jalen Ramsey interceptions against Big Ben, and three interceptions overall. Despite the best showing Jacksonville has put up in weeks. The Jags lost. They lost their sixth game in a row. They’re now 3-7 on the season. Oh, by the way, Blake Bortles is still not the guy.

This team is done. A franchise many pegged to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LIII is unofficially out of the playoff chase, and it is officially the biggest disappointment of the 2018 season.

All the Winner and Losers

By: Jesse Reed

Which RB Will Make Your Fantasy Team Better?

Written by Drew Loftis and Jarad Wilk at New York Post.com

The hardest task in a routine fantasy football draft is choosing which running backs to take and when to take them. Post fantasy Madman Drew Loftis and Roto Rage Jarad Wilk debate which of these RBs is the best addition to your roster:

Melvin Gordon vs. Devonta Freeman

Drew: Both these guys go near the turn in the first two rounds. Picking that high, I go with safest guy. There is no one to challenge Gordon in the San Diego backfield. If healthy, he is the go-to guy. Freeman gets the bulk of carries, but Tevin Coleman steals a fair amount. That makes touchdowns more fickle, and it introduces a performance variable that doesn’t exist for Gordon: If Freeman doesn’t perform well, Coleman could get extra work. That factor doesn’t exist for Gordon.

Jarad: Even with Coleman in the picture last season, Freeman ranked second in the league in red-zone touches (62). He also had a team-high 17 targets in the red zone. Freeman also just signed a massive five-year, $41.25 million deal, so he will continue to be the focal point of the Falcons’ rushing attack. Gordon may have no competition, but he also has trouble staying on the field — missed three games last year, two the year before. Last season, Freeman had more yards per carry (4.8 to 3.9), more total touchdowns (13 to 12), more targets (65 to 57), a better catch percentage and more total yards (1,541 to 1,416). Freeman is the way to go.

Leonard Fournette vs. Todd Gurley

Drew: This a what-we-know vs. what-we-don’t-know argument. We know, after last season, Gurley is not QB-proof. In fact, if we go back to his first season — when he produced four consecutive 100-yard games after his first start – he has exactly one 100-yard game and two games with two TDs. Considering one of those two-TD games came in that one 100-yard game, that give you exactly two strong fantasy games in the past 24. We’re not sure what to expect from Fournette, but we will gamble the volume he receives gives a better opportunity to best Gurley’s consistent inefficiency.

Jarad: After a solid rookie campaign, 2016 was a huge disappointment for Gurley after being drafted as a top-five running back. There is, however, reason to be optimistic — he is just 22-years-old, has remained healthy, the O-line is slightly improved and he saw plenty of touches, as well as targets. The Rams also have a new, very young (31) coach who already has said he expects big things from Gurley and a bounce-back is not out of the question. Fournette, though very talented, is also an unknown playing for the Jaguars, who haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2011 and haven’t won more than five games since 2010.

Preseason Grade’s For Top Rookies

Written by Steven Ruiz at FTW.com

The first week of preseason gave us our first look at the 2017 NFL draft class. All but nine of the first 32 picks saw action over the weekend. We’ve gone and graded the performance of the 23 first-round picks who did see the field…

1. Myles Garrett, DE Browns

Grade: B+

Analysis: Garrett did his best work as a run defender, though he did manage to put pressure on the quarterback on a few occasions despite not registering a sack. He made a few effort plays as well, which should silence the critics who have questioned his work ethic — at least for now.

2. Mitchell Trubisky, QB Bears

Grade: A-

Analysis: Bears fans are excited about their new quarterback and rightfully so after a good debut. Trubisky didn’t face a whole lot of pressure but made a number of difficult throws on the run.

3. Solomon Thomas, DE 49ers

Grade: A

Analysis: Thomas may not have recorded a sack against the Chiefs, but he was all over the field. He put pressure on the quarterback, stuffed Chiefs backs in the running game and showed off his relentless motor throughout the game.

4. Leonard Fournette, RB Jaguars

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Jaguars line did not open up a lot of holes for the rookie back, but the LSU product still managed to pick up consistent yardage. He always fell forward when tackled and capped off the opening drive with a walk-in touchdown.

5. Corey Davis, WR Titans

Grade: N/A

Analysis: Davis missed the Titans’ opener with a hamstring injury. He is “week-to-week” according to coach Mike Mularkey.

6. Jamal Adams, S Jets

Grade: B-

Analysis: Adams did not play a whole lot of snaps, but we saw his versatility. He lined up at several different spots against the Titans.

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Fournette Surprised How Slow NFL Game Is

Written  by ESPN Staff at ESPN.com

One preseason game into his NFL career, Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette thinks he has it all figured out.

“It’s a lot slower than I really thought,” Fournette told NFL.com after the Jaguars’ 31-24 victory over the New England Patriots on Thursday night. “That’s how I’ve been since I first got into the NFL. A lot of people were like, ‘It’s going to be fast.’ But by me playing in the SEC, that kind of helped me a lot.

“I think, to me, it was really easy.”

Fournette, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft out of LSU, rushed for 31 yards on nine carries and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.

“I’ve had pressure my whole life,” Fournette told NFL Network. “I’m built for it. No matter what the circumstances, I’ve never let the game get bigger than me and I’ve always stayed humble. That’s No. 1.”

Fournette has said during training camp that he has felt comfortable and, since players started wearing pads, things seemed slower and “the play is coming to you.”

He told NFL.com after Thursday’s game that he thinks he could put together a rookie season similar to what Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had in 2016.

Elliott led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,631 yards on 322 carries — the third-highest yardage total for a rookie rusher in NFL history and the third-highest attempts by a rookie since 2000. Only LaDainian Tomlinson (339 in 2001) and Alfred Morris (335 in 2012) had more carries.

“Yeah, I think so,” Fournette said. “… I’m a confident guy, and I try to give my offensive line confidence too. You have to feel like you can’t be stopped.”

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Leonard Fournette Shows Up At Pro Day 12 Pounds Lighter

Written by Eric Edholm at YahooSports.com

The running joke at the NFL scouting combine was over LSU running back Leonard Fournette showing up at 240 pounds, a number that was higher than expected and one he blamed on “water weight.” Suddenly a nation of poor-eating NFL scouts and football writers had the weight-gain excuse they were looking for.

“It was surprising,” Fournette said at the time. “I drank a lot water before I weighed in. it’s water weight. It went away completely.”

(For the record, no media were heard discussing any of their own weight going “away completely” during the event.)

But on Wednesday, Fournette — our top-ranked running back in the 2017 NFL draft — put everyone on notice: The water weight apparently has evaporated … even more.

That’s 12 pounds in 35 days, or five percent of his body weight — water or not, that’s impressive. (We’d like to know his secret, other than, you know, drinking less water.)

And it’s a surprising number in some respects, considering Fournette said he played last season at 235. But it might be the ideal number for Fournette to play at in the NFL. We spoke to a few talent evaluators during and after the combine who said they felt his best range would be between 225 and 230 pounds for maximum efficiency.

It should be noted that Fournette still ran a scalding 40-yard dash for a man that size at 4.51 seconds. However, his vertical leap was a fairly putrid 28.5 inches, which was outjumped by eight offensive linemen in Indy. By running back standards, that number puts Fournette in the first percentile, per Mockdraftable, of all logged RB combine jumps back to 1999.

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Fournette To Enter NFL Draft

Written by Scott Rabalais at The Advocate

How will we remember the Leonard Fournette years at LSU?

With a handful of signature bulldozing, strongman performances, obviously, pounding opposing defensive backs and linebackers into the ground like tent stakes.

With the 2015 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision rushing title, probably. He was the first LSU back to achieve such a milestone and the first in Southeastern Conference history to lead the nation since 1949. It’s a claim SEC greats like Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson and 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry can’t make.

And he’ll be remembered without a scandal dragging down his legacy like an anchor, fortunately.

But the Fournette years will be remembered for something else, something he will have in common with some of LSU’s other sporting greats like Pete Maravich and Shaquille O’Neal and Ben McDonald and Ben Simmons.

He will leave without a national championship, or even a trip to one of the College Football Playoff’s “Big Six” bowls. He will leave without a Heisman Trophy, or even a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist. This even though college football’s biggest individual prize seemed his preordained destiny to win midway through the 2015 season.

“Things,” Fournette said in a statement Monday announcing his intentions to enter the NFL draft, “didn’t go as planned.”

Fournette never even got a running start at the Heisman this season, suffering a dreaded high ankle sprain in August during a preseason drill. The injury turned Fournette’s third and final season with the Tigers into one of fits and starts and frustration. Reinjured over and over, it was almost surprising that he indicated in his statement that he intends to play New Year’s Eve in the Citrus Bowl against Louisville.

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Top Heisman Candidates for 2017

Written by Mark Schlabach at ESPN.com

Last year Derrick Henry crashed the quarterbacks’ Heisman House party. Now two bruising runners and one of the most versatile backs in the sport’s history will challenge two QBs for the Heisman.

DESHAUN WATSON

CLEMSON QB, JR.

2015 STATS 333-of-491, 4,104 yards, 35 TDs, 13 INTs; 207 carries, 1,105 yards, 12 TDs

Less than one year removed from a serious knee injury, Watson led Clemson to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the CFP national championship as a sophomore. Can he lead the Tigers to a title as an encore?

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY

STANFORD RB, JR.

2015 STATS 337 rushes, 2,019 yards, 8 TDs; 45 catches for 645 yards, 5 TDs; 2 passing TDs; 2 return TDs

If McCaffrey didn’t play out West, he might have won the Heisman last season, when he became the first FBS player since 1996 to top 1,500 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards and 1,000 yards on kickoff returns in a single season.

BAKER MAYFIELD

OKLAHOMA QB, SR.

2015 STATS 269-of-395, 3,700 yards, 36 TDs, 7 INTs; 141 carries, 405 yards, 7 TDs

Mayfield has played with a sizable chip on his shoulder since not being offered a Big 12 scholarship out of high school, then earning and losing a starting job at Texas Tech before transferring. He’ll again be highly motivated after he was passed over as a Heisman finalist last season.

LEONARD FOURNETTE

LSU RB, JR.

2015 STATS 300 carries, 1,953 yards, 22 TDs; 19 catches, 253 yards, 1 TD

Fournette was a Heisman snub last season after a November swoon, including just 31 yards at Alabama. He still gained 1,953 yards with 22 touchdowns, but the Tigers will have to throw the ball more effectively to prevent him from fading down the stretch again.

DALVIN COOK

FSU RB, JR.

2015 STATS 229 carries, 1,691 yards, 19 TDs; 24 catches, 244 yards, 1 TD

Cook ran for 1,691 yards last season despite struggling with injuries that caused him to miss most of two games. If FSU is going to unseat Clemson in the ACC and return to the playoff, Cook will have to be the catalyst.

POSITION AWARDS

DAVEY O’BRIEN: TOP QB

Deshaun Watson Clemson Baker Mayfield Oklahoma J.T. Barrett Ohio State

DOAK WALKER: TOP RB

Christian McCaffrey Stanford Leonard Fournette LSU Dalvin Cook Florida State

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Nation’s No. 1 Recruit Rashan Gary Commits to Michigan

Written by Bruce Feldman at FoxSports.com

t’s been quite a first year for Jim Harbaugh back at Michigan. Not only did he lead his alma mater to a 10-win season and spark Michigan to a No. 12 ranking in 2015, but the former Wolverine QB just signed the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in New Jersey’s Rashan Gary. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive lineman announced on Wednesday he’s going to play at Michigan.

“I picked Michigan because that’s a place where I felt comfortable,” Gary explained on ESPN. “That’s a place where my family felt comfortable. That’s a place where I felt the academic support is great and the degree holds a lot of weight.”

Gary was the overwhelming top vote-getter this week when FOX Sports surveyed 36 college coaches about the recruit they thought was most likely to make a big impact as a freshman in 2016. Gary received eight votes from the college coaches we surveyed.

“This is a really good defensive line class and he is head and shoulders above every other D-lineman in this class,” one longtime college coach said. “He’s 300 pounds and he moves well enough, he can play end. He’s great with his hands. He’s strong. He’s been very well-coached and has had a great high school D-line coach. Rashan Gary is the Leonard Fournette of this class.”

Said one in-house recruiting coordinator who has worked at two Power 5 conference schools: “He’s a 300-pounder who moves like he’s 240. He is special.”

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