The four teams most likely to trade for Josh Rosen

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Canvassing the league in recent days, I found two teams as favorites to acquire quarterback Josh Rosen, the 10th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, if Arizona chooses to draft Kyler Murray and trade Rosen. I believe if this does happen, Washington is in the best position to do the deal. It could come down to whether Washington is willing to give a second-round pick instead of the third-rounder that obviously it would prefer to trade for Rosen.

Where I think it’s most likely Rosen could go:

1. Washington—Draft picks in top 100: 15, 46, 76, 96. Rosen would be an excellent scheme fit in the offense of coach Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell. Gruden liked Rosen coming out of UCLA, as did O’Connell. This is a heavy play-action team that likes to throw from the pocket—both strengths of Rosen—and also likes throwing to the tight end. That’s up Rosen’s alley. Seems like the best match of need and availability. Interesting thing about potential compensation. I doubt the Cardinals will have an offer of a 2019 top-50 pick for Rosen; so close to the draft, teams hate parting with high picks. Mike Lombardi, former front-office exec with several teams, told me the other day that first-round picks are like new cars—once you drive one off the lot and own it even for a short time, it’s not worth nearly what it was when you bought it. That’s why I think Washington could try to hold out and pay Arizona the 76th overall pick instead of the 46th.

2. New York Giants—Draft picks in top 100: 6, 17, 37, 95. Unlikely that GM Dave Gettleman will give the 37th pick for Rosen, in part because of value and in part because the Giants really aren’t sure if all the noise about Rosen being difficult has any merit. But the Giants are an option because coach Pat Shurmur is a play-action devotee and likes his quarterback to throw with timing and rhythm. That’s Rosen’s game. Having Eli Manning for one more season would allow Rosen to learn behind a great preparer and very smart player. So how can the Giants make a deal like this, with no pick between early in the second round and very late in the third round? (I’d be very surprised if Arizona would consider Rosen for the 95th pick.) Well, the Giants could offer a second-round pick in 2020, or try to deal the 17th overall pick in some package that would include high second and third-round picks. But dealing for Rosen could allow the Giants to use three picks in the top 40 this year to do what Gettleman really wants to do: continue to build both lines while addressing the post-Eli QB life.

3. Denver—Draft picks in the top 100: 10, 41, 71. Unlikely. But because the Broncos will take a young quarterback this year or next, you can’t eliminate them from consideration.

4. Miami—Draft picks in the top 100: 13, 48, 78. The Dolphins quarterback plans are shrouded in secrecy; Brian Flores and offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea have learned well from Bill Belichick. But I’m told the only way the Dolphins go for any quarterback is if they’re convinced that he’s going to be the answer for the next 10 years. Hard to imagine feeling that after watching Rosen last year—admittedly under constant duress behind a bad offensive line in Arizona.

I’d eliminate New England; just don’t sense the interest there. I’d all but eliminate the Chargers; Philip Rivers seems primed to play at least two more years, and they just gave Tyrod Taylor $6 million guaranteed over the next two years.

Washington makes the most sense. We’ll see if the former NFC East partners can make this happen.

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Five NFL players who could become stars in 2019

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By Sam Monson, PFF Senior Analyst

One of my favorite aspects of PFF data and grading is how it can spot the obvious coming when it’s still some ways off on the horizon—getting ahead of the curve and identifying talent before it becomes self-evident. Every year there are players who excel in limited snaps before ultimately being handed a larger role and workload for their teams. When they continue dominating, we wonder how they were ever seen as anything other than superstars.

Case in point: When Joey Porter was a star and the sack leader for the Miami Dolphins back in 2009, coming off a 17.5-sack season, we at PFF were clamoring for his backup –- a former undrafted pass-rusher who had not long before been playing in Canada -– to get more snaps because he was generating pressure at a far greater rate than Porter. Cameron Wake ultimately went on to be one of the best pass rushers of the past decade and looked it from Day 1 if you were seeing beyond the box score numbers.

Such examples are everywhere, and each year it’s always an interesting exercise to take a look through the PFF grading and predict the players that could take that next step if they get the right opportunity. This past week we unveiled our PFF 50—a list of the best 50 players in football entering the season—but in this case let’s look a year from now and predict some players who could make that list in 2020.

Levi Wallace, CB, Buffalo Bills: If there’s a player with the backstory to rival Wake’s, it’s Wallace. With precisely zero scholarship offers coming out of high school, Wallace walked on at Alabama, and eventually earned a starting job. Then he had to do it all over again when he went undrafted before signing as a collegiate free agent with Buffalo. As a rookie in 2018, he earned the highest PFF grade of any first-year cornerback, along with the highest coverage grade, and wasn’t beaten for a catch longer than 29 yards all season. Though he played far fewer snaps than first-round selection Denzel Ward of Cleveland, Wallace looks like a potential star in the making if he’s given greater opportunity in year two.

Vita Vea, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: At the other end of the scale, you’ve got Vea, a player who went in the first round in 2018 but fell off the radar a little because he began the season injured, then took a little while to get going and ultimately didn’t produce the box score production people want to see. Vea ended up with only three sacks, but had 23 additional pressures as a pass-rusher, 17 of which came in the final six weeks of the season. Over that stretch of play, his overall PFF grade was 86.4, and he had a top-20 grade at his position, hinting at what’s to come.

Mackensie Alexander, CB, Minnesota Vikings: Changing positions in the NFL can be a significant adjustment, and sometimes it takes time. The Vikings drafted Alexander in 2016’s second round and moved him inside to the slot after he principally played outside at Clemson. His transition wasn’t smooth, but he has now seen his overall PFF grade improve each year of his NFL career: from 47.5 as a rookie, to 54.1 in 2017, climbing to 78.1 last year. Over the final half of the season, he was the highest-graded cornerback in the league at 88.2, surrendering just 80 receiving yards in a seven-game span. Alexander could emerge as a force with the right opportunity in 2019.

O.J. Howard, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Another former first-round pick, Howard has yet to top 600 receiving yards or 35 receptions in a season, even while tight ends are breaking receiving records across the NFL. Dive deeper into the numbers, however, and Howard looks primed for a huge season with an uptick in opportunity. His overall PFF grade last season was 89.4, higher than any other tight end outside of San Francisco standout George Kittle. And on a yards per route basis, he was third behind only Kittle and Kansas City star Travis Kelce. His average depth of target was 11.3 yards downfield, a top-five mark in the league, and now the vertical threat he brings is being linked up with new Bucs coach Bruce Arians and an offense that lives down the field.

Jon Halapio, C, New York Giants: The Giants are revamping their offensive line in a major way, but one of the unsung components of the rebuild is at center, where Halapio could emerge as a foundation piece to the new-look front. He began last year as New York’s starter before going down with an injury after just 116 snaps of action. But in those snaps, he didn’t allow a single pressure, despite almost 50 pass-blocking snaps against the Jaguars and their array of pass-rushing weapons. With vastly improved players beside him, Halapio could prove to be a significant upgrade as a player who isn’t being talked about much heading into 2019.

Why Jameis Winston could win NFL passing title in 2019

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By Pro Football Focus

We think Jameis Winston will challenge for the passing yardage title in 2019. Last year he trailed only Josh Allen in average depth of target. These throws put Winston in a position to do great things at times (he was second among quarterbacks in the percentage of throws we grade as “positive”), as well as bad things (he was 21st in limiting negatively-graded throws). New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has a track record of succeeding with high-variance quarterbacks like Winston.  In 2015 Carson Palmer had an MVP-caliber season under Arians, posting roughly the same average depth of target as Winston in 2018 and leading the league in percentage of positively-graded throws.  With Mike EvansChris Godwin and O.J. Howard a very capable trio of pass catchers, look for Winston to either make good on his 2015 draft position or give the Bucs no other option but to find his replacement the following year.