PFR Polls

Poll: Who Is Bucs’ Top NFC Challenger?

While the Chiefs reside as the clear favorites in the AFC, multiple successful rebuilds have strengthened the conference and created considerable depth going into the 2021 season. In the NFC, depth is harder to find.

The Buccaneers operated aggressively this offseason, bringing back every starter and most of their top off-the-bench contributors to chase another championship, and late-June betting odds reflect this. Tampa Bay resides as the clear NFC favorite, per Las Vegas. The team did not enter 2020 on this pedestal, but the NFC landscape looks less imposing a year later.

The Saints exited the 2020 season in a new tier of salary cap hell, and although GM Mickey Loomis navigated it, their 2021 team may take a step back. Oddsmakers certainly believe this will be the case in the franchise’s first post-Drew Brees season. New Orleans has been the NFC’s most consistent team over the past four years, going 49-15 in that span, but its future Hall of Fame quarterback retired. Tampa Bay’s path back to the Super Bowl also may not involve another Canton-bound passer — Aaron Rodgers — which further muddles the equation.

January’s Matthew Stafford trade seems a good place to start. The Rams dealing two first-round picks and change for the longtime Lions passer provides Sean McVay with a quarterback upgrade, and the team perpetually unconcerned with first-round selections is operating like an all-in contender. Los Angeles, which Bovada gives the NFC’s second-best odds to advance to Super Bowl LVI, also re-signed top edge rusher Leonard Floyd. While the Rams’ penchant for big swings and big extensions led more key role players out of town in free agency, with safety John Johnson and defensive lineman Michael Brockers exiting, they return four starters from Pro Football Focus’ No. 3-ranked offensive line.

But the NFC West may be the NFL’s toughest division. No rebuilds are taking place here, separating it from most of the league’s divisions, and the 49ers rank alongside the Rams — per Bovada — in Super Bowl odds. San Francisco endured vicious injury fortune last season but has Super Bowl LIV starters — Nick Bosa, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel — due back from injury. And the team kept Trent Williams — on an O-line-record contract. Kyle Shanahan‘s squad also moved the needle at quarterback, bringing in Trey Lance at a historic cost. Lance’s readiness may determine the 49ers’ outlook. Although Jimmy Garoppolo was effective (12th in QBR) when fully healthy in 2019, he missed 23 games over the past three seasons.

The Seahawks diffused Russell Wilson trade rumblings and added veteran guard Gabe Jackson. Their defense will be without Jarran Reed and probably K.J. Wright next season, however. Seattle has not advanced to an NFC championship game since Wilson’s rookie-contract years but still has the division’s most accomplished quarterback. The Cardinals brought in multiple impact starters, in future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt and Pro Bowl center Rodney Hudson, in an effort to capitalize on Kyler Murray‘s rookie-deal window. But Murray struggled down the stretch last season, and Arizona will have two new cornerback regulars.

Rodgers’ commitment to being done in Green Bay represents the NFC’s biggest domino. The reigning MVP has not budged, and this standoff is expected to drag on to training camp. The Packers trading Rodgers, or the superstar passer being out of the picture while the team retains his rights, will probably take them off the board as a Super Bowl threat. Given the Packers’ 26-6 performance over the past two seasons, Rodgers’ status looms large in this year’s Super Bowl equation.

What sleeper teams realistically factor in here? The Cowboys extended Dak Prescott and hired a new defensive coordinator (Dan Quinn), but they have won one playoff game during their now-wealthy starter’s tenure and allowed a franchise-record 473 points in 2020. Washington boasts one of the league’s best defenses but opted against trading up for a quarterback in Round 1. Ryan Fitzpatrick will turn 39 this year and has never made a playoff start. The Bears did trade up for a passer, and the Vikings retooled their defense. The Giants made multiple splashy receiver additions but have big questions up front. Do any of these teams qualify as legit Bucs obstacles?

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your NFC assessments in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Will Tim Tebow Make Jaguars’ Roster?

Considering the jersey sales and Jacksonville’s proximity to where Tim Tebow starred in high school and college, he might already be the most popular tight end in Jaguars history. Marcedes Lewis was obviously far more accomplished and made 12 Jaguars rosters. Will Tebow end up making one?

The Jags have a noticeable hole at tight end; this issue has persisted for several years. Lewis’ run of 400-plus-yard seasons stopped after the 2012 campaign, and the Jags gave Julius Thomas a big-ticket deal in 2015 to provide a better receiving option. That did not end up working out, and the franchise has not featured much of note at the position since it traded Thomas in 2017. Its current tight end group consists of veterans James O’Shaughnessy and Chris Manhertz and recent Day 3 picks Tyler Davis (2020, Round 6) and Luke Farrell (2021, Round 5). Among those who were pros in 2020, O’Shaughnessy’s 262 receiving yards — a career-high mark — led the way.

Of course, Tebow’s profile does not point to him providing a remedy for the Jags’ tight end issues. But the former Heisman winner, playoff starting quarterback and minor league outfielder generates considerable discussion and has throughout his time in the spotlight. Urban Meyer has both expressed concern for his tight end group and lauded Tebow’s leadership qualities.

Although he spent time with the Eagles and Patriots through the summer of 2015, Tebow has not played in a regular-season game since 2012 with the Jets. Should Tebow return to a game that counts in 2021, he would be only the fourth NFLer since the merger to return to the league after at least eight seasons away. Doug Flutie was the only player to do so without the 1987 players’ strike factoring into the equation; both the others — ex-Broncos offensive lineman David Diaz-Infante and former Chiefs QB Tony Adams — were replacement players in 1987.

Given Meyer and Tebow’s history, the recent Mets farmhand lasting beyond the summer probably should not be considered a shocking proposition. The Jags did not guarantee any of Tebow’s one-year, $920K contract, however, and the former Broncos first-round pick has never caught a pass in an NFL game. Tebow reportedly impressed Jags coaches at his new position during his workout and displayed ball-carrying chops at Florida and as a Bronco (660 rushing yards, six TDs in 2011). And the Jags do not have a host of roster locks at this position.

Should Tebow be released ahead of roster cutdown day, he would be eligible for Jacksonville’s practice squad. As strange as it would seem, given Tebow’s age (34 in August), a developmental/roster insurance role would make sense — if the Jags view him as a viable tight end, of course. This path may be amenable to Tebow, who spent multiple seasons with much younger teammates as part of the Mets’ minor league system. Practice squads increased from 10 to 16 players last year, but barring another change, the CBA calls for 12-man taxi squads in 2021.

On a slow weekend, weigh in with your view of Tebow’s comeback. Will he end up sticking with the Jags in 2021, or will his No. 85 jersey end up a collector’s item like Jerry Rice‘s No. 19 with the Broncos?

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Poll: Who Will Julio Jones Be Playing For In 2021?

Julio Jones remains on the trade block. We learned earlier today that the star receiver is still available, and the Falcons would like to trade the future Hall of Famer.

While Jones missed a handful of games in 2020, these trade rumors aren’t based on his production…there are few wideouts in the NFL who can compare to Jones’ consistent receiving numbers. Rather, the Falcons are shopping the veteran for financial reasons. The front office is currently sitting with around only $500K in cap space, and they still need to sign their draft class. With Jones earning an AAV around $22MM on his last extension, he’s always seemed like the likeliest cap casualty. GM Terry Fontenot even acknowledged that the team has to consider trading the seven-timer Pro Bowler.

“We are in a difficult cap situation,” Fontenot said. “That’s just the circumstance…Our administration has done an excellent job up to this point getting us in position to be able to manage the cap. Yet, we still have more work to do.

So, when teams call about any players, we have to listen, and we have to weigh it and we have to determine what’s best for the organization, and we have to handle everything with class. Obviously, that particular player [Jones] — we hold him in high regard. He’s special…but we have to consider [listening on] any player if it’s right for the team, because we have to do what’s right for the team.”

There are some hurdles with a trade, particularly Jones $15.3MM salary for 2021. At this point of the offseason, it’s going to be tough for teams to find the cap room to afford the receiver…and, similar to the Falcons, few teams will want to renegotiate with Jones and pile money onto the later seasons of his contract. As a result, the Falcons reportedly aren’t seeking a first-round pick for the 32-year-old.

So, considering Jones’ talent and the Falcons asking price, a long list of teams have been mentioned as potential suitors for the receiver. So, that leads us to today’s question: who will Jones be playing for come Week 1 of the 2021 season? We provided a handful of candidates below.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans have been mentioned as a potential suitor for Jones ever since the wideout hit the block, and the connection makes plenty of sense. The team hasn’t really filled the hole on their depth chart left by Corey Davis, who signed with the Jets. If the Titans want to continue their postseason momentum, pairing A.J. Brown with Jones would make for one of the best receiver tandems in the league. Plus, new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith had spent the previous decade in Tennessee, so he’d certainly have some good words about the organization if Jones tries to control his own fate.

For what it’s worth, running back Derrick Henry made it abundantly clear on Twitter today that he’d welcome the future Hall-of-Fame receiver to Tennessee.

The downside? The Titans don’t have a whole lot of cap space, so it’d be tough to fit Jones’ massive contract on their books.

Las Vegas Raiders

Jon Gruden has been hunting for a big-name wide receiver since he joined the Raiders organization. He played a role in the infamous acquisition of Antonio Brown, and they used their 2020 first-round pick on Henry Ruggs III. In other words, the head coach would undoubtedly be a supporter of a Jones acquisition. Besides Gruden’s apparent attraction to top wideouts, the team also kind of needs help at the position; their top-three options are currently Ruggs, John Brown, and Hunter Renfrow.

The Raiders still have around $10MM in cap space, so while they’d have to overcome a few financial hurdles to acquire Jones, it certainly wouldn’t be impossible.

New England Patriots

The Patriots have made headlines for revamping their offense this offseason. The team added the two top free agent tight ends in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, they acquired Trent Brown to solidify the offensive line, and they drafted Mac Jones to compete with Cam Newton at quarterback. However, the team’s wide receivers are still a bit underwhelming. The team dished out some money on Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, but neither of those players really profile as top-end receivers.

Bill Belichick has seemingly had a love-hate relationship with receiver acquisitions over the years, as he often provided Tom Brady with too many receivers or not enough receivers. The Patriots currently have a clear need for a receiver, and Jones would certainly help their quest to return to the postseason. Plus, the Patriots are currently sitting with $15MM in cap space, which would be almost enough to acquire Jones without any funny cap machinations.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are clearly all-in on this current iteration of this team, as they’ve sacrificed their first-round picks through 2023 in order to snag Trey Lance with the third-overall pick. With that in mind, giving up a handful of non-firsts for a star receiver doesn’t seem like a huge risk when the cupboard is already a bit empty.

Plus, while it remains unseen if Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo will be under center for Week 1, the 49ers could use a player of Jones’ caliber. The team hasn’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Anquan Boldin in 2014, and Jones would provide the starting quarterback with another Pro Bowl talent alongside tight end George Kittle.

The 49ers have more than $17MM in cap space, and they could carve out even more space if they decide to move on from Jimmy G. If any suitor has the financial flexibility to add Jones, it’s San Francisco.

Atlanta Falcons

Financial ramifications aside, keeping Jones in Atlanta also makes plenty of sense. The wideout has established himself as one of the top players in franchise history, he’s been incredibly productive throughout his career, and he’s only played in fewer than 10 games twice (of course, one of those seasons came in 2020). Plus, if the Falcons have any hope of returning to the Super Bowl with Matt Ryan as their starting quarterback, a loaded offense would certainly help. Jones would just be one of the many talented targets in Atlanta, along with former first-round receiver Calvin Ridley and the No. 4 pick in the 2021 draft, tight end Kyle Pitts.

 

We could have listed at least a handful of other teams on this list: the Chargers, Ravens, Colts, and Packers have also been listed as potential suitors (by both pundits and bookies). But for the sake of a tidy poll, we’ll group each of those teams into the “other category.”

So, with all that said, who do you think Julio Jones will be playing with to begin the 2021 campaign? Vote in the accompanying poll, and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: How Will Broncos Address QB Need?

The only two starting quarterbacks to retire after winning Super Bowls played for the same franchise. While the Broncos made the playoffs multiple times in the five years following John Elway‘s retirement — with the likes of Brian Griese and Jake Plummer operating as the team’s primary starters — they have hovered off the contention radar for most of their post-Peyton Manning stretch. No team has started more quarterbacks than Denver’s 10 (counting the Kendall Hinton game) since 2016.

This stretch has placed the Broncos back on the quarterback radar. Although their last foray into the first-round market careened off course quickly (Paxton Lynch in 2016), the Broncos’ three subsequent QB investments — Case Keenum, Joe Flacco and Drew Lock — largely struggled. Will this run of futility at the NFL’s premier position force the Broncos to acquire one of this year’s top QB prospects?

New GM George Paton has said multiple times this offseason the Broncos will acquire a quarterback to push Lock, but it is not certain that will be a rookie. Denver brass, however, did extensive work on this year’s top passer crop. Paton was at Justin Fields and Trey Lance‘s initial pro days, while offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur trekked to the second workouts held by the Ohio State and North Dakota State QBs. Other teams have viewed Denver as a stealth quarterback seeker as well.

Only two of the draft’s top five passing prospects will be available to teams picking after No. 3, with the 49ers moving up for a quarterback. Considering the needs of some teams picking outside the top 10 — the Patriots, Washington and Bears have been linked to trade-up maneuvers — and the not-impossible prospect of the Lions (No. 7) or Panthers (No. 8) jumping into the fray, it is possible the Broncos will be left out if they stand pat at No. 9. They are believed to have inquired about trading up, though Paton denied this. The Falcons (No. 4), Dolphins (No. 6), Lions and Panthers are all open to trades, creating opportunities for the Broncos and teams eager to trade in front of them.

Given the Broncos’ above-average defense and bevy of skill-position weapons, going into another season with Lock (29th in 2020 QBR) could lower the team’s ceiling — in a hot-seat year for Vic Fangio. But Fangio’s status could also push the team to trade for a veteran instead of hoping this year’s fourth- or fifth-best QB prospect can make an impact right away. Although the Broncos sat out the free agent market and passed on trades for Carson Wentz and Sam Darnold — after falling short for Matthew Stafford — veteran arms remain available.

Paton was with the Vikings when they drafted Teddy Bridgewater in the 2014 first round; Carolina has since given Bridgewater permission to seek a trade. Given Paton’s history with the 28-year-old QB, it would make sense if the Broncos were one of the teams interestedGardner Minshew figures to be available — even though Urban Meyer denied it. The 49ers are holding out for a big offer to part with now-lame-duck starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

Lock has not been blessed with great circumstances, despite Denver drafting Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the first and second rounds last year. The pandemic nixed the young passer’s first offseason with Shurmur, and No. 1 receiver Courtland Sutton went down in Week 2 last year. But the 2022 quarterback class, as of now, has received far less hype than the past two drafts’ QB crops generated. The Broncos not making a move for Fields, Lance or Mac Jones next week could limit their options going forward.

How do you think the Broncos will play this? Will they prioritize acquiring another quarterback by trading up or hope one falls to No. 9? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Who Will Falcons Draft At No. 4?

This year’s draft is almost certain to begin with Trevor Lawrence going to the Jaguars and Zach Wilson to the Jets, making the 49ers’ No. 3 overall pick the beginning of what promises to be a drama-filled top 10. Just behind San Francisco, however, a team faces a more complicated decision.

Picking in the top five for the first time in 13 years, the Falcons hold the No. 4 overall selection. They have a few intriguing options; each would represent drastically different paths for the franchise. After previously not being on the same page about the pick, new GM Terry Fontenot and new HC Arthur Smith are believed to be in agreement now. Which way should the franchise go?

Fontenot was believed to be leaning toward acquiring Matt Ryan‘s heir apparent. There are reasons to support this route. Ryan will turn 36 this year, has not made a Pro Bowl — in the easiest era for such an honor — since his MVP 2016 season, and the Falcons have a rare opportunity to draft one of this year’s prized QB prospects. While late-blooming prospects will likely emerge, the 2022 quarterback class is not currently rated highly. Drafting Trey Lance, Mac Jones or Georgia native Justin Fields — two will be available — would give the Falcons a player around whom the new regime could build. The Falcons proceeding in this direction would make this the first time a draft has started with four quarterbacks being chosen.

[RELATED: Who Will 49ers Draft At No. 3?]

When the duo was believed to be split, Smith was viewed as being in favor of selecting a player who could help a still-Ryan-centric team. With Ryan still an above-average quarterback, and the Falcons possessing needs elsewhere, a case certainly exists for the team to stay the course with its veteran passer. The Falcons having restructured Ryan’s contract earlier this year also would limit their benefit from a rookie-QB salary in 2022. The Jaguars and Jets have no veteran quarterback contract of note on their books, and the 49ers can part ways with Jimmy Garoppolo without much of a dead-cap hit. The Falcons have more than $40MM in Ryan signing bonus money prorated beyond 2021.

With the 49ers having traded up for a quarterback, the Falcons have the chance to take this year’s top non-QB prospect. Many experts believe that is Kyle Pitts, and many around the league expect the Falcons to draft the Florida tight end. Pitts said the Falcons are interested, and the 6-foot-6 pass catcher would team with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to form an imposing aerial trio. The Falcons could also take Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. However, the team has 29-year-old left tackle Jake Matthews and used a first-round pick on right tackle Kaleb McGary in 2019.

Option 3 would be moving the pick. The Falcons are interested in moving down, likely eyeing the type of trade package the Dolphins received (three first-rounders and a third) to do so. Multiple teams have contacted the Falcons about moving up. Washington is believed to be high on Lance, while Broncos GM George Paton has been busy trekking to QBs’ pro days. The Bears are eager to acquire a long-term QB as well, though Washington and Chicago’s draft slots — Nos. 19 and 20 overall — would up Atlanta’s asking price.

So, how will the Falcons proceed? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Poll: Which QB Will Be Traded Next?

The NFL’s quarterback carousel continued earlier this week when the Jets finally traded former third-overall pick Sam Darnold to the Panthers. The 23-year-old became the fifth quarterback to switch teams via trade this offseason:

While teams have already shifted focus from veteran acquisitions to the draft, that doesn’t mean we won’t see another QB trade. Sure, it takes two to tango, and a number of teams already have already solidified their quarterback situation (or they will in the upcoming draft). Still, teams like the Patriots, Broncos, Bears, Saints, and Washington could be in the market for a signal-caller depending on what happens with the draft.

So who could be available? We know one name is definitively on the block: Teddy Bridgewater. Following the Panthers’ acquisition of Darnold, the front ofice gave the 2020 starter permission to seek a trade. It seems like a trade is inevitable, with reports indicating that multiple teams have reached out to Carolina about the veteran. Many of these teams are apparently eyeing Bridgewater as a backup, which could complicate a trade if the veteran is hunting for a suitor who will let hm start. Further, interested teams would also like to rework Bridgewater’s contract, adding another hurdle to negotiations.

It was widely assumed that Jimmy Garoppolo would be on the trade block after the 49ers made a blockbuster trade for the No. 3 pick. However, the organization appears to be playing hard ball. After declaring that the veteran would be sticking around San Francisco for the 2021 season, the 49ers are reportedly seeking a first-rounder for Jimmy G. This could obviously just be leveraging via the media, and the 49ers will be hard pressed to find a team that will give up that type of draft capital and inherit Garoppolo’s hefty deal. Either way, the rumors will surely persist, especially if Garoppolo’s former team, the Patriots, roll into the regular season with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham as their top quarterbacks.

What about Gardner Minshew? The former sixth-rounder took a step back from a team-record perspective in 2020, but he still proved to be a capable game manager, connecting on 66.1-percent of his passes and tossing 16 touchdowns vs. only five interceptions. The Jaguars will presumably take Trevor Lawrence will the first-overall pick in the upcoming draft, relegating Minshew to a backup role. Minshew has a low salary and plenty of upside, so Jacksonville won’t just give him away. However, if a team is willing to pony up for the mustached quarterback, the Jaguars will probably listen. For what it’s worth, we heard back in March that the Jaguars weren’t shopping Minshew “at this point” in time.

Those three quarterbacks appear to be the most realistic trade targets, but there are plenty of additional quarterbacks who have lingered in trade rumors. Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson were the biggest names thrown around this offseason, but it’s unlikely either player is dealt any time soon (Wilson because he’s a franchise quarterback and the Seahawks aren’t dumb, Watson because of the ongoing sexual misconduct allegations against him (and the Texans prior refusal to trade him despite demands)). Some less sexy names include Nick Foles, who could be displaced in Chicago after the Bears signed Andy Dalton. Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, and Drew Lock have also been tossed around, but it’s unlikely any of those players switch teams.

So that leads to our question: who will be the next quarterback to be traded? Let us know if we forgot anyone in the comments.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Poll: Will The 49ers Trade Jimmy Garoppolo?

There’s an old saying in the business world: “Don’t tell them ‘no.’ Tell ’em how much it’ll cost.” That seems to be the 49ers’ approach when it comes to Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s at least some level of interest in the quarterback, but the asking price has been set at a first-round pick, according to one recent report. Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has heard similar chatter of a first or high-second round pick (h/t Bleacher Report). 

[RELATED: 49ers Want First-Round Pick For Jimmy G]

The Niners only gave up a second-round pick for Garoppolo back when his stock was at its peak, so it seems unlikely that any team will be willing to cough up more. Last year, the Niners went 3-3 in the six games he started, and Garoppolo completed 67.1% of his passes for 1,096 yards and seven touchdowns against five interceptions. That’s a far cry from his best work two years ago, when he was under center for the Super Bowl. In 2019, he racked up 3,978 passing yards and 27 touchdowns (with 13 INTs) en route to the NFC title.

Even after trading up to the No. 3 pick, the Niners are insistent that Garoppolo will be in the fold for 2021. Beyond that, the job will probably belong to one of this year’s top QB prospects — Mac Jones, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or, perhaps, BYU standout Zach Wilson, if he gets past the Jets.

No one’s going to send a first-round pick to SF for Garoppolo – we can say that with confidence. Would a QB-needy team offer a third-round pick for him? That seems possible, especially since the Patriots are far from sold on Cam Newton as their starter. The Bears could also give that some thought, even though they insist that Andy Dalton will be their guy in 2021.

Assuming that no one meets the 49ers’ initial ask, do you envision the Niners trading Garoppolo between now and September? Cast your vote below (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Who Will 49ers Draft At No. 3?

Trevor Lawrence has been expected to lead off the draft for a while now, while the Jets’ connection to BYU’s Zach Wilson continues to gain steam. Although the Jets are not a lock to move on from Sam Darnold and take Wilson, they appear to be on the doorstep of such a consensus. The draft suspense may, then, begin with the 49ers.

Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have each endorsed Jimmy Garoppolo as the planned 2021 starter, and the 49ers are sending out signals they do not expect to trade their incumbent passer. But the team parted with tremendous future draft capital to climb nine spots to No. 3 overall. The 49ers should be widely expected to draft a quarterback in the first round for the first time since they chose Alex Smith first overall in 2005. Which one will they select?

Only two drafts — 1971 and 1999 — have begun with three consecutive teams taking quarterbacks. With the Falcons connected to choosing a Matt Ryan heir apparent, this draft could be the first to start with four straight QBs. Should Lawrence and Wilson head to the Jaguars and Jets, the 49ers will have their pick of seemingly Justin Fields, Trey Lance or Mac Jones. With a Garoppolo trade seemingly now in play, one of these three could have the keys to the San Francisco’s offense as soon as this coming season.

Fields has resided on this tier the longest, being the 1B option to Lawrence going into the 2020 season. Dwayne Haskins‘ Ohio State successor did not do too much to ding his stock, even though multiple choppy performances did occur this past season. Fields boasted a 41-3 TD-INT ratio in 2019 and dominated in the Buckeyes’ rout of Clemson in the College Football Playoff this past season. That said, Hall of Fame scout Gil Brandt does not expect the 49ers to go with Fields, whom some teams have well outside the top 10 on their respective boards.

Fields’ final college QB opponent, Jones has received glowing endorsements from soon-to-be first-round picks DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. The ex-Crimson Tide pass catchers preferred Jones to the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, and the former completed a stunning 77% of his passes, averaged 11.2 yards per attempt and finished a 13-game season with 41 touchdown passes. Scouts Inc., however, has the less mobile Jones well below Fields and Lance, slotting the one-year Alabama starter 28th overall.

Scouts Inc. rates Lance as this draft’s third-best QB prospect, placing him 12th (to Fields’ 13th position). The North Dakota State prodigy profiles as one of the strangest prospects to ever land on the top-10 radar. Division I-FCS players typically do not enter drafts early; Lance put his name in this year’s draft after one full season as the Bison’s starter. While that season featured eye-popping production (28 TD passes, no INTs, 1,100 rushing yards) and resulted in North Dakota State’s latest title, a team using a top-five pick on an FCS prospect with one season of experience and no Scouting Combine to further judge him would be a historic move.

Where will the 49ers go at No. 3? How will they proceed with Garoppolo and his $26.4MM cap number? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR Poll: Will Saints’ Drew Brees Retire?

In the midst of the playoffs, it was widely reported that Drew Brees would retire after the season. Now, we’re in March, and Brees has yet to make any sort of announcement. 

Of course, Brees has nothing left to prove. The 42-year-old can walk away with one of the most illustrious careers in the history of the sport. He currently has the most yards in league history, and more touchdowns than anyone not named Tom Brady. He even has his post-retirement career lined up after signing a deal with NBC Sports last April.

Brees has missed significant time with health issues in each of the past two seasons and he’d be leaving the Saints in a pretty okay place, provided that they can re-sign Jameis Winston. The Saints also have Taysom Hill on the roster with hope that he can be the answer under center in the long run. So, what’s the hold up?

Over the past few weeks, many have speculated that Brees could be having second thoughts about retiring. The longer this goes on, the more chatter picks up about the Super Bowl XLIV champ actually playing in 2021 on the (effectively) final year of his contract.

At this point, do you expect Brees to retire? Cast your vote below (link for app users) and let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Where Will Deshaun Watson Play In 2021?

This Week in Deshaun Watson produced perhaps the most noteworthy headline of the saga thus far. The disgruntled quarterback’s meeting with new Texans HC David Culley did not cause him to back off his trade request.

New Texans GM Nick Caserio is dug in against the prospect of trading Watson, according to NBC Sports’ Peter King. With the Texans not viewing free agency as a deadline to make a deal, a resolution does not appear imminent. With teams pursuing Watson potentially moving to other options in the near future, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the days leading up to the new league year.

Thus far, the Texans have not budged. Caserio and Cal McNair have issued multiple statements indicating they want Watson back under center in Houston next season. In holding Watson’s rights, the Texans certainly have leverage. Trading Watson later in the offseason may affect his assimilation with his next team and affect that team’s 2021 roster plan, though that might be a small factor here. And Watson could be fined more than $20MM this year if he is truly committed to never playing for the Texans again, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

By waiting until after the draft, the Texans would put themselves in danger of downgrading significantly at quarterback and doing so without collecting the kind of trade package that would help kickstart a rebuild. Thanks to their Laremy Tunsil/Kenny Stills trade, the Texans are without 2021 first- and second-round picks. And they may be set to let Will Fuller walk; prior to his trade request, Watson wanted the Texans to retain Fuller. While they would stand to recoup these and much more were they to unload Watson, he remains a Texan for the time being. Where will he be when the season starts?

Although the Texans might not even view the draft as a loose deadline to trade their three-time Pro Bowl passer, the Jets and Dolphins’ draft arsenals would be enticing. Both pick in the top three this year — the Jets at No. 2, the Dolphins third — and hold extra Round 1 picks (the Dolphins at No. 18, the Jets at 23). The Dolphins also have two second-round picks this year, while the Jets have two 2022 first-rounders from the Jamal Adams trade. Watson is believed to be a Robert Saleh fan, but subsequent reports have emerged indicating he would favor a deal to Miami over New York.

The Dolphins and Jets have QBs they could send to Houston, in Tua Tagovailoa and Sam Darnold, and these incumbent options would hold more appeal compared to the passers the Broncos and Panthers could send over. However, Watson has a no-trade clause, and both Carolina and Denver outflank the two AFC East squads at the skill positions.

Carolina and Denver already discussed Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, respectively, in talks with the Lions for Matthew Stafford. Both franchises have new GMs not tied to the acquisitions of either passer, and each team holds a top-nine pick — the Panthers at 8, the Broncos at 9 — this year. The Panthers thus far lead everyone in reported Watson interest. Multiple reports have emerged about owner David Tepper being beyond smitten with Watson and obsessed with his franchise making a major quarterback upgrade. Starting nine quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos are planning to be aggressive as well — if Watson is made available.

The Panthers have both young assets that would intrigue Watson — in Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson — and players that would potentially appeal to the Texans in a trade package. So do the Broncos (Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant). Though new Denver GM George Paton was reluctant to part with young assets for Stafford, Watson being a 25-year-old superstar would change the equation surely.

It is not known how aggressive the 49ers will be, but they did discuss Stafford with the Lions. No offer emerged, however. They have made statements indicating they are fine with Jimmy Garoppolo returning, but Stafford discussions certainly point to San Francisco being interested in a Watson swap. The 49ers’ plan, as of late February, would be either making a Watson-level splash or trot out Garoppolo again. While the Broncos are on Watson’s list of approved destinations, the 49ers may well be ahead of them on said list.

Who are the key dark-horse teams to monitor here? The Raiders have been mentioned as a potential suitor. Of course, they have since been named one of Russell Wilson‘s four acceptable destinations. How much should Watson fetch in a trade? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.