03 May

Breaking down Jaden Rashada, other available portal QBs by tiers

Payton Thorne turned heads this time last year with his decision to transfer from Michigan State to Auburn, where he promptly won the Tigers’ starting quarterback job even though he wasn’t around for spring practice with the Tigers. Former Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant pulled off a similar feat when he left the Bearcats and landed as Northwestern’s starter, helping the Wildcats to an eight-win season.

Other transfer quarterbacks from the 2023 spring window included Thomas Castellanos (UCF to Boston College), Tyler Buchner (Notre Dame to Alabama), Jaylen Henderson (Fresno State to Texas A&M) and Ben Finley (NC State to Cal). All of those players ended up starting at least one game at their new schools.

This year’s spring crop of quarterbacks on the move doesn’t appear to have the same pop, or at least the same depth. But it still features a handful of players who are looking for new homes after logging meaningful game action in their last stops. Recognizable names — such as former heralded prospect Jaden Rashada and ex-Georgia Tech/Nebraska signal-caller Jeff Sims — highlight the list.

With the April 30 deadline approaching for players to enter the portal, here’s the breakdown of the top quarterbacks searching for new homes by tiers.

Tier A: Evident Upside
Given the relative scarcity of available quarterbacks in the spring transfer window, the first two players in this tier stand out for their combination of talent and youth. With multiple seasons of eligibility remaining and meaningful power conference playing experience in hand, both will have a good chance to resurface as starting quarterbacks for quality teams in the years ahead. The third player in this tier only has one season left but is a plug-and-play guy with a little upside left, too.

Jaden Rashada | Old school: Arizona State
How 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Four-star, No. 10 QB

Arizona State threw freshman Rashada into the fire with mixed results, but a knee injury derailed the experiment after just two games. He would return late in the season to play against Arizona. In total, Rashada logged action in just three games, which will allow him to count 2023 as a redshirt season. With four years left on his clock, Rashada can afford to serve as a backup for a season or two before taking on another starting role. Another example of a player taking this route is Dante Moore, who was thrust into the lineup for UCLA as a freshman in 2023 before transferring to Oregon, where he is expected to apprentice behind Dillon Gabriel.

Former Arizona State QB Jaden Rashada is officially in the transfer portal.

“With Rashada, I wouldn’t assume he’s looking for a place he can go start immediately. I’d have you pay attention what Dante Moore just did.” 🗣️@LateKickJosh

🎥 https://t.co/9dkJc8CT88 pic.twitter.com/0fc7ss7rNn

— 247Sports (@247Sports) April 19, 2024
Jacurri Brown | Old school: Miami
How 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 61 QB

Brown showed glimpses of promise in two seasons at Miami, proving to be an effective runner while completing 61.8% of his 76 pass attempts. His lone game action in 2023 came during Miami’s Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers when he completed 20 of 31 passes for 181 yards with three touchdowns (two rushing and one passing) and one interception. With three seasons of eligibility remaining, Brown has enough upside to reemerge as a potential power conference starter. Says CBSSports’ Chris Hummer: “He brings a breath of fresh air to the transfer QB market.”

Miami QB Jacurri Brown is in the portal.

Possible fits include Georgia, Michigan and Clemson, among others: https://t.co/NkgBheLXVr pic.twitter.com/jVG5gn9I3m

— Brad Crawford (@BCrawford247) April 16, 2024
Jeff Sims | Old schools: Georgia Tech/Nebraska
How 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 82 QB

Sims is an uber-athletic player with a significant body of work across four seasons at Georgia Tech and Nebraska. With just one year left to play, he needs to transfer to a place where he can win the job. The knock on Sims is how often he turns the football over. He’s thrown 29 interceptions in 680 career attempts and has also been fumble-prone. Those are what drag his 247Sports transfer ranking down probably further than it should be. If Sims can find a place to start and cut back on the whoopsies, it’s not absurd to suggest that he could garner interest as a late-round selection or free-agent pickup in the 2025 NFL Draft class. Perhaps Arizona State could be that place.

My story on three portal prospects visiting ASU right now, including Nebraska senior QB transfer Jeff Sims and two others who are more highly regarded at positions of immediate need. https://t.co/YliLGRkftT

— Chris Karpman (@ChrisKarpman) April 23, 2024
Tier B: Drop-down candidates
These quarterbacks have demonstrated some upside over the years but are running short on time to leave their mark on college football. As they seek the third school of their careers, it might be in their best interest to use what eligibility they have left in a place where they can realistically earn the keys to the offense during preseason practice.

Jacolby Criswell | Old schools: North Carolina/Arkansas
Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 80 QB

Criswell paid his dues in three years at North Carolina, but Drake Maye’s presence proved to be an impediment. The Arkansas native transferred home to play for the Razorbacks last season, backing up KJ Jefferson and positioning himself for a crack at the starting job in 2024. But with Boise State transfer Taylen Green set to win the gig, Criswell is on the move yet again. The former four-star prospect could still play two more seasons. But after four-plus years of landing at No. 2 or No. 3 on power conference depth charts, he needs to consider looking at a lower tier to find a starting job.

Collin Schlee | Old schools: Kent State/UCLA
Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: Three-star, No. 70 QB

Schlee participated in UCLA’s game of musical chairs at quarterback in 2023, appearing in seven games and logging some significant late-season action. Schlee is limited as a passer but differentiates himself as a runner. His 127 rushing yards were pivotal in the Bruins’ LA Bowl victory over Boise State. Schlee was the primary quarterback for Kent State in 2022, and it may be in his best interest to return to the Group of Five or even consider an FCS opportunity for his final season.

57-yard TD run for Collin Schlee 😱 pic.twitter.com/ivplRYpi1g

— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 16, 2023
Mike Wright | Old schools: Vanderbilt/Mississippi State
Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A in 2024; 3-star and No. 44 QB in 2023

Wright is a true dual-threat with four years of significant SEC experience at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. With a career 55.5% completion percentage, he wasn’t a natural fit in new Mississippi State coach Jeff Lebby’s pass-happy system. Wright has one season left to play, so finding a spot where he could realistically have a shot at winning the starting job in preseason practice would be prudent. That almost certainly will not come at the Power Five level. If he can find the right fit, Wright has the tools to produce big numbers.

Tier 3. J-A-G
Those in the J-A-G (Just a guy) category will likely face uphill battles to finding FBS starting jobs. Still, the players in this group are veterans who have played meaningful power conference snaps. Teams emerging from spring practice with true freshmen as their No. 2 quarterbacks might be interested in plucking one of these players to bolster their depth.

Deacon Hill | Old school: Iowa
Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A

Hill’s struggles at Iowa in 2023 were well-documented. He was forced into action due to an injury to starter Cade McNamara, and the results weren’t pretty. It wasn’t all his fault as the Hawkeyes’ lack of playmakers and schematic creativity would have impeded virtually any quarterback. Still, it’s hard to envision Hill getting on the field for another FBS school after he averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt and completed 48.6% of his 251 passes in 2023.

Shane Illingworth | Old schools: Oklahoma State/Nevada
Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A

Illingworth played meaningful snaps in each of his first four seasons of college football, first at Oklahoma State and then at Nevada. Given he was around during the COVID-impacted 2020 season and appeared in only three games in 2021, he could still play two more years. He would be a good power conference depth option or a desperation swing for a Group of Five program still figuring out its starting quarterback situation.

Brendan Sullivan | Old school: Northwestern
Where 247Sports ranks him as a transfer: N/A

Sullivan seemed well-positioned to compete for the starting job at Northwestern in 2024 after doing a respectable job filling in for the injured Ben Bryant late last season. The graduate transfer has two years of eligibility remaining after completing 68.7% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions over the past two campaigns. But it’s hard to envision Sullivan winning a starting gig at another Power Four school without the benefit of spring practice.

03 May

Five Colorado games in 2024 season where Buffs QB can dazzle pro scouts

It’s likely we’ll see four or more quarterbacks selected in the first round when the 2024 NFL Draft gets underway on Thursday. We might even see quarterbacks go with the first three picks. Why? Well, not just because teams picking early in the draft often need a QB or because it’s the most important position in sports.

Ask NFL personnel evaluators, and they’ll tell you another big reason: There isn’t much confidence in next year’s crop of quarterbacks.

Looking ahead to the 2024 college football season, there is no alpha QB — the guy everybody looks at as the best player in the country and favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. The race to be the first QB chosen next spring is wide open, and one of the names often mentioned as a possibility is Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders.

Sanders is a polarizing prospect to many, and plenty of people would respond to the idea of Sanders being the first QB chosen next year with a hearty guffaw. Those same people would have had the same response a year ago if you had told them Jayden Daniels would win the Heisman and end up as the possible No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, yet here we are.

The great thing about players is they can improve! As the numbers show, Sanders has his strengths and plenty of weaknesses to address. Here’s a look at how Sanders performed last year in some key statistics and where they ranked among Power Five quarterbacks.

Shedeur Sanders

151.7 (18th)

69.3% (7th)

7.5 (35th)

6.13 (45th)

6.3% (20th)

0.7% (4th)

49 (Last)

3.96 (65th)

More than the number of games Colorado wins next season, NFL evaluators will want to see Sanders show improvement in key areas. The biggest will be his propensity to hold onto the ball. Sanders was sacked 49 times last season, and while some of those sacks were the result of playing behind a bad offensive line, he bears plenty of responsibility himself. Few players in the country held onto the ball as long as he did waiting for a target to emerge.

Sanders isn’t alone in having this fault. USC’s Caleb Williams held onto the ball too long last season, and he will be the first pick Thursday night. The difference is Williams was far more mobile and used his legs to move the chains far more effectively than Sanders, who won’t wow anybody in the open field. I’d describe him more as fast enough than fast.

Unless Sanders suddenly emerges as a true dual-threat capable of outrunning defenders, his top priority next season should be processing quicker (both before and after the snap) and getting rid of the ball. The most impressive aspect of Sanders’ game, in my eyes, was that despite holding onto the ball too long and constantly finding himself under pressure, he took care of the football. He tucked it away when hit and didn’t fire it into dangerous areas when throwing.

Another area Sanders can improve is his ability to push the ball vertically. Only 79 of the 430 passes Sanders threw last season traveled further than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage, and he did not perform well when doing so.

Sanders isn’t likely to develop superior arm strength over the course of an offseason, but even without it, he can improve his accuracy and timing on these throws.

While improvement of any kind will be important, it also matters who you do it against. There’s a difference between lighting up an FCS team and going off against one of the best teams in the country. Thankfully for Sanders, he’ll have plenty of chances against strong competition as the Buffaloes return to the Big 12 next season and have a few big nonconference opponents lined up, too.

Let’s have a look at five games on Colorado’s schedule where Sanders could separate himself from the rest of the pack in the eyes of NFL scouts.

  1. Colorado at Nebraska
    Saturday, Sept. 7

This is the second game of the season and Colorado’s first road test. Not only is it a rematch of last season’s Colorado upset victory, but it’s likely to be one of the biggest on the schedule that weekend. Plenty of eyes will be on this one.

  1. Colorado vs. Kansas State
    Saturday, Oct. 12

Kansas State is one of the most consistent programs in the Big 12 and is annually one of the stronger defenses in the league. If Sanders balls out here, it’s a good omen of what’s to come.

  1. Colorado at Arizona
    Saturday, Oct. 19

This road trip to Arizona will be the first time Colorado runs into one of its old Pac-12 mates in the Big 12, and the Wildcats are considered one of the favorites to win the conference this season. They also have a highly touted quarterback in Noah Fifita, who emerged as one of the best in the country last season. It’s not a head-to-head duel … but it’s a head-to-head duel.

  1. Colorado vs. Utah
    Saturday, Nov. 16

Utah was a top-20 defense in plenty of landmark statistics last season, which is nothing new. Under Kyle Whittingham and Morgan Scalley, the Utes have long made life difficult for opponents (just ask Caleb Williams). If Sanders plays well in this game, it won’t go unnoticed.

  1. Colorado vs. Oklahoma State
    Friday, Nov. 29

This game is included for two reasons. The first is that it’s on a Friday, giving it a much bigger spotlight at the end of the season. More importantly, given the expectations, this could be a must-win for the Buffaloes if they want to reach a bowl game. In other words, it could be a chance to see how Sanders performs in a must-win game against a team that has finished ranked in the final College Football Playoff Rankings seven times in the last nine seasons.

03 May

Reggie Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy reinstated as former USC Trojans star wins long battle

The Heisman Trust is reinstating Reggie Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy, the organization announced Wednesday, marking the end of a long battle for the former star USC running back. Bush had not been formally recognized as a Heisman recipient since 2010, when he forfeited the trophy because of a high-profile NCAA investigation that determined Bush and his family members received impermissible benefits while he played for the Trojans.

The Heisman Trust had previously said it would honor Bush’s award once again if the NCAA reinstated his records from the 2005 season. Bush filed a defamation lawsuit against the NCAA last year, disputing a 2021 claim from an NCAA spokesperson that he was involved in “pay-for-play arrangements.”

Wednesday’s announcement is a reversal of course by the Heisman Trust, which cited “fundamental changes in college athletics” in which rules that have allowed “student athlete compensation” to become “an accepted practice and appears here to stay.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Reggie Bush back to the Heisman family in recognition of his collegiate accomplishments,” Heisman Trust president Michael Comerford said. “We considered the enormous changes in college athletics over the last several years in deciding that now is the right time to reinstate the Trophy for Reggie. We are so happy to welcome him back.”

Welcome Home!

We are reinstating the 2005 Heisman Trophy to the University of Southern California’s @ReggieBush!

In 2005, Bush gained more than 2000 yards from scrimmage and scored 18 touchdowns. He received 784 first-place votes, the fifth-most in Heisman Trophy history, while… pic.twitter.com/34oCD7P8CY

— The Heisman Trophy (@HeismanTrophy) April 24, 2024
Bush, 39, pushed for years to have the award reinstated.

“I am grateful to once again be recognized as the recipient of the Heisman Trophy,” Bush said. “This reinstatement is not only a personal victory but also a validation of the tireless efforts of my supporters and advocates who have stood by me throughout this arduous journey.”

Bush’s push to get the Heisman Trophy back became a cause championed by some of his peers, especially amid the arrival of NIL in college sports. Former Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel announced last month that he would boycott the Heisman Trophy ceremony until Bush’s award was restored.

“Doesn’t sit right with my morals and values that he can’t be on that stage with us every year,” Manziel wrote on a social media post. “Reggie IS the Heisman trophy.”

Bush agreed to forfeit the trophy in 2010 amid an 11-year NFL playing career. At the time, he referred to “persistent media speculation” about the allegations against him as “both painful and distracting.”

“In no way should the storm around these allegations reflect in any way on the dignity of this award, nor on any other institutions or individuals,” Bush said in 2010 when announcing his forfeiture of the Heisman. “Nor should it distract from outstanding performances and hard-earned achievements either in the past, present or future.”

But as the years passed, Bush’s tone changed as he pressed to be formally recognized once again for his starring role in a special era for the Trojans, who went 37-2 during Bush’s three seasons.

Bush rushed for 1,740 yards with 16 touchdowns and also caught 37 passes for 478 yards in 2005 for a USC team that was unbeaten until its loss to Texas in an epic Rose Bowl game as it fell just short in its pursuit of back-to-back BCS titles. After his NFL career, Bush returned to a place of prominence in college football as an analyst with Fox in a role that he held up until the 2023 season.

“This is a momentous day for Reggie Bush and the entire USC community as we celebrate the rightful return of his Heisman Trophy,” USC athletic director Jen Cohen wrote in a statement. “Reggie’s impact at USC and on college football as a whole is truly unmatched. He has displayed the utmost resiliency and heart throughout this process and is so deserving of every accolade and Trophy he’s ever received. We are grateful to the Heisman Trophy Trust for making this happen.”

With the bronzed stiff-armer back in Bush’s hands, USC officially retakes first place in college football’s Heisman Trophy hierarchy, with eight total. Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma each have seven.

USC Heisman Trophy Winners – All-Time
1965 Mike Garrett
1968 O. J. Simpson
1979 Charles White
1981 Marcus Allen
2002 Carson Palmer
2004 Matt Leinart
2005 Reggie Bush
2022 Caleb Williams

05 Apr

Texans atop list after Stefon Diggs trade

Quarterback will always be the NFL’s most valuable position, but a great group of wide receivers can help a signal-caller take his game to the next level.

Following the addition of four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Stefon Diggs to the Houston Texans, it makes to do a recalibration of the league’s top wide receiver trios ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft. Some of the grading criteria here is based on previous production as well as what the trio could do as a group going forward. Here is our current top 12, but this list could certainly change following the conclusion of the draft later this month.

This Titans group is one of the more recently assembled ones on this list with Tennessee outbidding its AFC South-rival Jacksonville Jaguars to procure Ridley’s services for the price of four years and $92 million with $46.98 million fully guaranteed. He returned to NFL action last season after a full-season suspension for gambling in 2022, and Ridley bounced back by leading Jacksonville in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Hopkins producing over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns on 75 catches at age 31 is incredibly impressive given the rotating door at quarterback in Nashville this past season with an injured Ryan Tannehill, rookie Will Levis and Malik Willis all throwing passes. Speaking of injuries, Burks has played just 22 games in two seasons, failing to live up to his first-round draft status. However, a return to the slot — where he balled out in college — instead of lining up out wide — where he has predominantly lined up so far in the NFL — could help him take the next step.

A case can be made for Lamb being the best wide receiver in the 2023 season. He led the league in catches while ranking second in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns. Only 2023 Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey (2,023) had more yards from scrimmage than Lamb (1,862) last season, and Lamb’s 14 touchdowns from scrimmage also paced all wide receivers as well in 2023. Eight of Lamb’s 12 receiving touchdowns came in the red zone, tied for the most in the entire NFL.

Cooks’ eight touchdown catches were tied for the eighth most in the league last season, and six of them came in the red zone, tied for the fifth most in the NFL. He also came up clutch for the Cowboys, hauling in late touchdown grabs on the road against the Chargers and the Dolphins. Cooks’ biggest component of his game is his speed, so it will be interesting to see how well he maintains that trait at age 31 in 2024.

Tolbert was a third-round pick two years ago, and he was the best of not-ideal options as Dallas’ WR3. How much further he could develop is unknown as 2023 was really his first season receiving legitimate playtime.

Puka Nacua, who was a fifth-round rookie in 2023, broke the NFL’s rookie catches (105) and receiving yards (1,486) records by essentially morphing into a second ultra-reliable option for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Nacua lined up predominantly on the outside of the line of scrimmage while Cooper Kupp does much of his work out of the slot and over the middle of the field.

Kupp himself has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons after his historic 2021 campaign in which he won Offensive Player of the Year and Super Bowl MVP, but playing alongside Nacua could allow for a revival in his thirties since defenses won’t be solely focused on him anymore.

Atwell took his game up a notch with Kupp not fully healthy, nearly doubling his career receiving yards output and more than doubling his career receiving touchdowns production. He’ll turn 25 in October, and playing alongside Kupp and Nacua will give him opportunities to make plays against lesser defenders.

How great is Justin Jefferson? Well, his career average of 98.3 receiving yards per game is the best in NFL history, and in 2023 he became only the third player in NFL history to total 1,000 or more receiving yards while playing 10 or fewer games in a season. Jefferson joined Chargers wide receiver Wes Chandler (1982) and Rams wide receiver Jim Benton (1945) as the only others to accomplish that feat.

Jefferson’s 2023 output is even more incredible considering Kirk Cousins was lost early in the year with a torn Achilles. Addison, meanwhile, became just the third rookie in Minnesota history to have 10 receiving touchdowns in their debut season joining Sammy White and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

Minnesota is currently thin at WR3 after K.J. Osborn’s departure to the New England Patriots, which is why they aren’t higher on this list.

The Seahawks are ranked as highly as they are on the strength of their trio. Metcalf is one of just six players with 900 or more receiving yards in each of his first five seasons, joining Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Mike Evans, A.J. Green and Terry McLaurin.

Metcalf also registered the third-highest percentage of his catches that went for either a first down or a touchdown in 2023 (78.8%). Lockett took a step back, seeing his four-season streak of having over 1,000 yards come to an end in 2023, but Smith-Njigba finished the second half of his rookie year strong. This group can continue to ascend on the strength of Metcalf and Smith-Njigba’s development.

Mike Evans is coming off one of his best seasons ever, co-leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns (13) along with Tyreek Hill while ranking ninth in the league in receiving yards (1,255). He has recorded over 1,000 receiving yards in all 10 of NFL seasons, and if he does so again in 2024, he will tie the GOAT Jerry Rice for the longest streak of 1,000-yard seasons in NFL history.

Godwin recorded his third 1,000-yard season in a row and fourth in the last five years while feasting out of the slot. Trey Palmer didn’t dominate as a rookie, but his game-sealing 56-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC wild card round could be a sign of things to come.

Only one trio on this list has multiple players who totaled 1,200 or more receiving yards in 2023: the Chicago Bears. Moore’s 1,364 receiving yards rank as the fourth most in a single season in Bears history and the sixth most in the league, and Allen is coming off recording a career-high 108 catches, the sixth most in the NFL last season.

Both should benefit from lining up alongside another WR1-caliber talent while catching patches from soon-to-be first overall pick quarterback Caleb Williams. This group’s ranking is being held back by 2023 fourth-round rookie Tyler Scott’s meager production in a run-heavy offense.

Only two players have more receiving yards than Brown (2,952) since he joined the Eagles in 2022: CeeDee Lamb (3,108) and Tyreek Hill (3,509). That’s it. The two top single-season receiving yards totals in Philadelphia both belong to Brown for his 2022 (1,496) and 2023 (1,456) campaigns.

DeVonta Smith is ascending, totaling over 900 yards in all three seasons as well as over 1,000 in each of the last two. The Eagles’ No. 3 receiver spot has been a role they have been unable to solidify over the past few years, but perhaps more help arrives in the draft later this month.

Brandon Aiyuk was quietly dominant in 2023. He led the NFL with 81.3% of his catches resulting in either a first down or a touchdown. He averaged the second-most yards per catch in the league (17.9) while totaling the seventh-most receiving yards in the NFL (1,342). He is in a contract dispute at the moment, and he deserves every penny.

No wide receiver is more dangerous after the catch than Deebo Samuel as evidenced by his 8.8 yards-after-catch average, the highest among all NFL wideouts. Jennings almost won Super Bowl MVP as he became the second player in Super Bowl history to throw and catch a touchdown in the Big Game, joining Nick Foles (2017 season).

Each of the Bengals’ Big Three — quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins — suffered through injuries last season. When all three are right physically, they are one of the scariest offenses in football.

Better health in 2024 is almost assured based on regression to the mean, and their trio could improve if they are able to bring Tyler Boyd back. He remains a free agent at the moment.

Tyreek Hill led the NFL in receiving yards while co-leading the league in receiving touchdowns along with Mike Evans. Naturally, he, of course, also led the league in yards per route run (3.9).

In a slight step back for Waddle, who missed three games with injuries, he totaled over 1,000 yards and 14.1 yards per catch. Not bad. Waddle and Hill, who missed one game with a leg injury, can produce even bigger seasons going forward. Braxton Berrios was more of a gadget guy/returner than he was a receiver for Miami in 2023. He may have a bigger role with some roster attrition this offseason. Or perhaps the Dolphins draft a new WR3.

Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs said it best when news broke that his older brother Stefon, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and 2020 first-team All-Pro, was being traded to the Houston: The Texans have three players who could be the top receiver on their own teams.

3 #1’s is crazy 😒..

— TRE SEVEN (@TrevonDiggs) April 3, 2024
Diggs leads the NFL in catches across the last four seasons (445) since he became a Buffalo Bill in 2020. Collins totaled the eighth-most receiving yards in the league last season while averaging 3.1 yards per route run, tied for the second most in the NFL with Brandon Aiyuk. He trailed only Tyreek Hill’s league-leading 3.9 yards-per-route-run average.

Dell’s seven receiving touchdowns through the first 13 weeks of the season were tied for the fifth most in the entire league before he went down with a season-ending fibula injury that occurred while he was blocking on a goal line run. Both he and Collins are age 25 or younger. With his return to health and Diggs’ arrival, the Texans enter 2024 as the league’s most dangerous trio of wideouts.

05 Apr

Is Bills’ contention window over? Why Josh Allen proves that’s not the case

The Buffalo Bills had an interesting offseason for a team that’s won 11-plus games and been to (at least) the divisional round of the playoffs for four straight years. Stefon Diggs getting traded was the icing on the cake for an organization that parted ways with Leonard Floyd, Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Tre’Davious White, Mitch Morse, Gabe Davis and Tim Settle.

With Diggs gone, the Bills will have to replace a player who was vital toward Allen emerging into a top-five quarterback in the NFL. Diggs holds the top-four marks for single-season receptions in team history, having 100-plus catches in each of his four seasons in Buffalo. He also is the only player in Bills history to have 1,400 receiving yards in a season — and Diggs has accomplished that feat twice.

Diggs also has the most catches (445), the second-most receiving yards (5,372), and tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns (37) in the AFC since joining Buffalo in 2020. Only Tyreek Hill has more receiving yards and receiving touchdowns than Diggs, showcasing his impact in Buffalo.

The Bills and the Chiefs were the only two teams to win 11-plus games and reach the divisional round of the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. The Chiefs have three Super Bowl appearances in that span (winning two), while the Bills have only reached the AFC Championship Game once (and that was in the 2020 season).

Things have not gone the Bills way despite the deep playoff runs, failing to capture the championship that has eluded the franchise since winning the AFL title in 1965. Buffalo still hasn’t been to the Super Bowl since losing its fourth consecutive Super Bowl in the 1993 season.

With all the offseason changes in Buffalo, is this championship window closed? Not with Josh Allen still on the roster.

Allen may have had Diggs through his four seasons of being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, yet he’s carried the Bills offense on his shoulders time and time again. He has the most combined passing and rushing touchdowns in the NFL over the past four seasons with 173, trailing only Patrick Mahomes in passing touchdowns (137) and Jalen Hurts in rushing touchdowns (36).

Allen is second in passing yards with 17,540, trailing only Mahomes. He’s third amongst quarterbacks in touchdown rate (5.8%, minimum 1,500 attempts) and ninth in passer rating (96.9). Allen is also coming off a season in which he led the NFL in total yards (4,830) and total touchdowns (44). His 20,010 combined passing and rushing yards trail only Mahomes (20,448) for the most in the NFL over the last four years.

The player with the most total touchdowns after his first six seasons in NFL history (221), Allen also has the most total yards per game in the playoffs (330.2). Allen is also seventh amongst qualified quarterbacks in playoff passer rating (100.0), throwing 21 touchdowns to four interceptions in his postseason career. His five rushing touchdowns in the playoffs are also tied for sixth in NFL history.

The Bills are 63-30 with Allen has their starting quarterback, and Allen has finished in the top five of MVP voting in three of the last four seasons. As long as Allen is on the field, the Bills have a chance.

Buffalo was winning by limiting Diggs
The Bills’ offense over-focused on Diggs when Brian Daboll and Ken Dorsey were the offensive coordinators. Once the Bills fired Dorsey and gave the play-calling to Joe Brady, the offense spread out more and didn’t feature Diggs as much.

Diggs’s numbers dwindled as a result. He had 34 catches for 315 yards and just one touchdown over the final seven regular season games, averaging 9.2 yards per catch. The Bills were 6-1 in that stretch, with their only loss in overtime to the Eagles.

While Diggs had just 10 catches for 73 yards in the playoffs to go along with his end-of-regular season numbers, Allen still was able to produce in the playoffs. He completed 68.2% of his passes with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions (101.7 rating) in his two playoff games — this after completing 60.7% of his passes with 10 touchdowns to 7 interceptions (85.5 rating) while rushing for 278 yards and 8 touchdowns with Brady as the offensive coordinator.

The Bills were winning games by limiting Diggs — and Allen was still productive. Even without Diggs and a limited wide receiver group with Curtis Samuel and Khalil Shakir leading the way, they’ll still get strong play from Allen. Keep in mind Allen still has Dalton Kincaid at tight end and James Cook at running back, two strong pass-catchers at their respective positions.

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The future regarding the salary cap
The Bills’ salary cap situation for 2024 looks bleak, but Buffalo appears to be playing the long game here. The Bills will carry $31.1 million in dead cap space with the Diggs trade, but will save $19 million in cash by trading Diggs now — giving them $19 million in freed-up cap space for 2025 by having Diggs off the books. They’ll have a projected $4.5 million in available cap space for 2024.

Buffalo isn’t in a great spot with the salary cap for 2025 even with the Diggs trade, but the cap is expected to rise again. The Bills have the No. 28 overall pick in 2024 (first round), along with the No. 60 pick (second round). They have a first-round pick and two second-round picks for 2025.

The salary cap outlook for 2024 is bleak, but it gets better for 2025 and significantly better for 2026. Allen will only be 30 years old come the 2026 season, still in the prime of his career.

The Bills will be competitive if Allen is healthy, regardless of their draft picks and salary cap situation. Buffalo has a top-five quarterback, but needs to find the No. 1 wide receiver to replace Diggs.

Fortunately, the Bills have drafted well and have the draft capital to move up from No. 28 to accomplish the task. Brandon Aiyuk and Tee Higgins are also potentially available, two options if the Bills don’t decide to draft a receiver.

The salary cap won’t matter if the Bills can replace Diggs. Buffalo appears to be in position to get a viable alternative while still having its core piece in Allen.

05 Apr

Let the buyer beware when drafting a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft

Quarterback is the most important position on a football team. It’s why a premium is placed on quarterbacks in the NFL Draft.

The incentives for selecting quarterbacks changed after the 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement drastically reduced salaries for the first few picks by implementing a rookie wage scale. Teams have been more willing to take quarterbacks extremely early since unproven commodities are no longer paid like Pro Bowlers without playing an NFL game.

The 2024 NFL Draft should be a prime example. Quarterbacks are expected to be the first three picks. Some mock drafts on CBSSports.com have history being made with four straight quarterbacks taken to start the selection process.

USC’s Caleb Williams is the presumptive first overall pick of the Chicago Bears. LSU’s Jayden Daniels, UNC’s Drake Maye and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy could go second, third and fourth (not necessarily in that order). As many as six quarterbacks could be chosen among the first 32 picks as Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix are also considered first-round possibilities.

Potential franchise quarterbacks on rookie contracts are the most valuable commodities in the NFL. Having quarterbacks on cost-contained rookie contracts allows for talented rosters that couldn’t otherwise be constructed.

A review of the first 10 years quarterbacks taken in the first round playing under the rookie wage scale (2011 through 2020) can provide an idea of whether teams are getting a good return on their investment. The number of multi-year contract extensions and re-signings after the expiration of a rookie contract are being examined.

The 2021 first-round quarterback draft class that’s particularly disappointing has been excluded because the deadline to exercise fifth-year options for 2025 is May 2. Five quarterbacks were taken in the first 15 picks in 2021. Trevor Lawrence, who was the first overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, is the only one whose fifth-year option will be picked up. He is also the only one in a position to get a contract extension.

Three of the other four quarterbacks (Trey Lance, third overall pick; Justin Fields, 11th overall pick; and Mac Jones-15th overall pick) have been traded. The New York Jets have put second overall pick Zach Wilson on the trading block. The only one of the four with any chance to open the 2024 regular season as a starting quarterback, barring injury, is Fields with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Pittsburgh starting job is Russell Wilson’s to lose.

Second contracts
Only 13 of the 32 quarterbacks have gotten multi-year second contracts from their drafting team. The number is expected to increase to 15 before the 2024 regular season starts. A contract extension with the Miami Dolphins is reportedly in the works for Tua Tagovailoa, 2020’s fifth overall pick. Absent a new deal, Tagovailoa will play the 2024 season under his fully guaranteed $23.171 million fifth-year option. Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst revealed last week at the NFL annual owners meeting that there have been preliminary discussions with Jordan Love’s representatives about 2020’s 26th overall pick getting a new deal. The second contract rate will be 46.9% assuming these two reach new agreements.

Contracts for draft choices can’t be renegotiated until the conclusion of a player’s third regular season. Nine of the extensions came at the earliest possible instance as Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jared Goff, Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray, Ryan Tannehill, Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz didn’t play their fourth NFL seasons under rookie contracts.

Andrew Luck and Cam Newton signed extensions in their option year. Daniel Jones also got a new deal after four years. His breakout 2022 season led to the New York Giants signing him to a four-year, $160 million contract (worth up to $195 million through incentives and salary escalators) after his fully guaranteed $22.384 million fifth-year option was declined.

Lamar Jackson is the only one of the 13 that played under a fifth-year option. The Baltimore Ravens placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson last year before signing him to a five-year, $260 million contract averaging $52 million per year a few weeks later.

Several of the second contracts haven’t panned out for the drafting teams for a variety of reasons. The Indianapolis Colts seemingly had a franchise quarterback for the foreseeable future when Luck became the NFL’s highest-paid player in 2016 on a five-year extension averaging $24.594 million per year. Luck retired because of injuries shortly before the 2019 regular season started.

The Houston Texans thought they were set at quarterback when signing Watson to a four-year, $156 million extension averaging $39 million per year in 2020. The relationship between Watson and the Texans deteriorated so much that he was dealt to the Cleveland Browns along with a 2024 sixth-round pick in March 2022 for 2022, 2023 and 2024 first-round picks, a 2022 fourth-round pick, a 2023 third-round pick and a 2024 fourth-round pick. Surprisingly, the Browns gave Watson a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract in connection with the trade.

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There have been three other trades besides Watson’s. Tannehill and a 2019 sixth-round pick were dealt to the Tennessee Titans in March 2019 for a 2019 seventh-round pick and 2020 fourth-round pick after playing two of the four extension years. He took a pay cut and his 2020 contract year was deleted to facilitate the trade.

Tannehill resurrected his career in 2019 after replacing 2015 second-overall pick Marcus Mariota at quarterback six games into the season. He was named 2019’s NFL Comeback Player of the Year and signed a four year, $118 million to remain with the Titans.

The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles developed buyer’s remorse with 2016’s first- and second-overall picks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. The Eagles signed Wentz to a four-year, $128 million extension worth up to $144 million through salary escalators in June 2019. Goff signed a four-year, $134 million extension worth as much as $148 million because of incentives and salary escalators a couple of months later.

Both were dealt in 2021 without playing any of the new contract years for their original teams. The Eagles took a then-record $33,820,611 in dead money, which is a salary cap charge for a player no longer on a team’s roster, for an individual player in a league year with Wentz’s trade to the Indianapolis Colts.

Rams head coach Sean McVay felt he needed an upgrade at quarterback despite Goff’s extension. Goff was thought to be a throw-in or a salary dump who would just be a “bridge” quarterback for the Detroit Lions in the Rams’ trade for Matthew Stafford. Wentz’s and Goff’s careers have gone in opposite directions since being dealt from their original teams. Goff has put himself in position for an extension before the 2024 season starts that could average in excess of $50 million per year. Wentz has become a journeyman with his continued regression.

The Giants also seem to have buyer’s remorse with Jones because of ineffectiveness last season prior to him tearing the ACL in his right knee during a Week 8 contest versus the Las Vegas Raiders. Taking a quarterback with the sixth-overall pick isn’t out of the question for the Giants if one of the top four passers is still available.

Final thoughts
Based on history, there’s a better chance that a team selecting a quarterback in the 2024 first round won’t get a good return on their investment from the pick than they will. There are only seven (Allen, Burrow, Herbert, Jackson, Luck, Mahomes and Newton) who can definitively qualify as franchise quarterbacks. Some may find Newton’s inclusion questionable. The end of Newton’s career doesn’t detract from what he did with the Carolina Panthers over his first nine NFL seasons. Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 while earning NFL MVP honors during the 2015 season.

Only Burrow and Mahomes have taken teams to the Super Bowl besides Newton with Mahomes being the only winner. Mahomes is the NFL’s gold standard. He’s won three Super Bowls while being named Super Bowl MVP each time and two NFL MVPs in his seven seasons with the Chiefs. Jackson was named NFL MVP in 2019 and 2023 to join Mahomes and Newton as the only league MVP winners among this group.

A case can be made for Goff because he has played the best football of his NFL career with the Lions. Goff has proved he’s more than just a product of McVay’s offensive system. Watson easily fit the bill before his trade to the Browns. He’ll need to regain the form he displayed with the Texans to be considered one again. The jury is still out on Lawrence, Love, Murray and Tagovailoa.

05 Apr

Grading Houston’s blockbuster deal for Buffalo’s disgruntled Pro Bowl WR

The Stefon Diggs era in Buffalo has come to an end. The Bills finalized a blockbuster trade to send the four-time Pro Bowl receiver to the Houston Texans, the team announced on Wednesday. In exchange for Diggs, the Bills will receive a 2025 second-round pick (via Minnesota) while they will also send a 2024 sixth-rounder and a 2025 fifth-round pick to Houston along with Diggs.

This trade marks the end of what had grown into a somewhat toxic relationship between Diggs and the Bills organization. Last month, Diggs had a cryptic social media post where the wideout said he was “ready for watever.” That was just the latest in what appeared to be indicators that he wanted out from Buffalo, including being absent from the start of mandatory minicamp last year. At the Pro Bowl Games back in February, Diggs also cast some doubt on his future with the franchise. When asked if he was optimistic about his future with the Bills, he said, “I can’t tell you what the future holds, but I’m still being me.”

On the field, Diggs also seemed to get out of rhythm with quarterback Josh Allen as the 2023 season went along. After recording 100-yard receiving games in five of his first six games, Diggs averaged 51.2 receiving yards per game the rest of the way. He finished the year with 107 catches for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns.

More on Bills
Why Bills’ contention window not closed yet
The 30-year-old arrived in Buffalo in 2020 after the Bills pulled off a trade with Minnesota. Diggs was drafted by the Vikings in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft out of Maryland and had established himself as one of the top young receivers upon landing in the pros. That said, Diggs joining the Bills sent his production to a higher level when paired with Allen, leading the league in receptions and receiving yards in his first season in Buffalo.

While that may have deteriorated as of late, Diggs is one of the top receivers in the NFL when firing on all cylinders and now pairs himself with arguably the brightest young quarterback in the league in C.J. Stroud, who is coming off an Offensive Rookie of the Year season in 2024.

Diggs, who will wear No. 1 in Houston, joins a Texans team that is on the rise after drafting Stroud No. 2 overall and year ago and immediately winning the AFC South under first-year head coach DeMeco Ryans. The arrival of Diggs also creates one of the best receiver rooms that the NFL has to offer. On top of him, the club sports talented pass catchers like Nico Collins, Tank Dell, Noah Brown, and Robert Woods. That’s also not accounting for tight end Dalton Schultz and running back Joe Mixon, who was acquired in a trade with the Bengals earlier this offseason.

While Houston’s offense jumps to a new stratosphere with Diggs coming aboard, it will be interesting to see how Buffalo reshapes its wide receiver room. Along with this departure of Diggs, the Bills also saw Gabe Davis leave for the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency. At the moment, their wide receiver depth chart is headlined by Curtis Samuel, Khalil Shakir, Justin Shorter, and Mack Hollins.

With Diggs now off to Houston, let’s grade the trade:

05 Apr

Here’s when the Patriots are set to meet with two of the top QB prospects

The New England Patriots are revealing a major portion of which direction they plan on going in the NFL Draft based on two of their pre-draft visits scheduled for next week. New England is meeting with Drake Maye in Foxborough on Friday and Jayden Daniels on Monday, per multiple reports.

Both Maye and Daniels are expected to be top-five picks in the draft, as the Patriots are expected to go quarterback. New England traded 2023 starter Mac Jones to the Jacksonville Jaguars and signed Jacoby Brissett this offseason, paving the way for one of the top quarterbacks to be taken at No. 3 overall.

One of Maye or Daniels is expected to be there at No. 3, depending on who the Washington Commanders take at No. 2. Caleb Williams is expected to be selected No. 1 overall by the Chicago Bears, and then Washington is expected to take a quarterback at No. 2. Who will be the pick is up in the air.

“If somebody thinks they know, they’ll have to fill me in,” Quinn said with a laugh at the NFL Annual Meetings last week. “And so, with [general manager Adam Peters] and I, we’re not there yet.”

The Patriots are searching for their next franchise quarterback, something they have been looking for since Tom Brady departed after the 2019 season. New England is 29-38 since Brady departed, making the playoffs once and failing to win a playoff game in the four years since.

Jerod Mayo was hired as head coach to revitalize the Patriots after a 4-13 season, the franchise’s worst since 1992. Perhaps Maye or Daniels will bring New England back to its glory days from the Brady era.

These upcoming visits will be huge for the Patriots

05 Apr

How a former Super Bowl MVP (not Patrick Mahomes) influenced Carson Wentz’s decision to sign with Chiefs

Carson Wentz has never played for Andy Reid, yet there were many familiarities in the Kansas City Chiefs organization that led him to sign there. The biggest one was Nick Foles, Wentz’s former teammate with the Philadelphia Eagles who revived his career in Kansas City.

Foles spent a year with the Chiefs before signing to be Wentz’s backup with the Eagles in 2017. When Wentz went down in December of that season, Foles steeped in and led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. Along the way, Foles raved about his time with Reid in Kansas City.

“When I played with Nick (Foles), I remember all the good things he had to say about his time here,” Wentz said Thursday, via a Chiefs transcript. “He absolutely loved it, he loved working with those guys, those things he said to me back then definitely still rang true in my head as I was making this decision so to speak.”

Wentz and Foles formed a strong quarterback room in their two years together in Philadelphia under Doug Pederson, who was the former offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Pederson was a quarterbacks coach under Reid in Philadelphia before joining him on his initial staff in Kansas City. Reid drafted Foles in his final year with the Eagles in 2012 and revived his career with the Chiefs as the No. 2 quarterback to Alex Smith.

Foles had one of the all-time great postseason performances with the Eagles in 2017, completing 72.6% of his passes for 971 yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception and a 115.7 passer rating to lead Philadelphia to a Super Bowl title. In Super Bowl LII, Foles took home MVP honors after going 28 of 43 for 373 yards, 3 touchdowns and a 106.1 passer rating. (He also caught a touchdown pass on the “Philly Special.”) He’s the only quarterback to throw and catch a touchdown pass in the postseason.

Foles doesn’t get to that point without his year in Kansas City. That led Wentz to trust the Chiefs can do the same for him.

“I just remember all the positive things he said about the organization, the coaches, those names you just mentioned (head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy),” Wentz said. “Those things were definitely a factor and gave me a little more peace and comfort in knowing what I was getting into.”