Category: NFL

NFL Week 5 DFS Lineups

As we get The Stain back running with more consistent content, why not try to make our readers some money. Here is my FanDuel and DraftKings lineups for today:

These are tournament plays going with a couple flyers. Cowboys D should get plenty of sacks against the Rams, Zappe is facing possibly the worst D in football. Teddy B I expect to put up massive numbers too.

Final 2021 NFL Mock Draft

After a trade at the QB position for the Broncos on Wednesday and more info leaking, I have adjusted my mock draft!

1JaguarsTrevor LawrenceQBClemson
2JetsZach WilsonQBBYU
349ersMac JonesQBAlabama
4FalconsKyle PittsTEFlorida
5BengalsJa’Marr ChaseWRLSU
6DolphinsDeVonta SmithWRAlabama
7LionsPenei SwewellOTOregon
8PanthersJaycee HornCBSouth Carolina
9BroncosMicah ParsonLBPenn State
10CowboysPatrick Surtain IICBAlabama
11GiantsRashawn SlaterOTNorthwestern
12EaglesJaylen WaddleWRAlabama
13ChargersChristian DarrisawOTVirginia Tech
14VikingsKwity PayeEDMichigan
15PatriotsTrey LanceQBNorth Dakota State
16CardinalsChristian BarmoreDTAlabama
17RaidersTrevon MoehrigSTCU
18DolphinsAlijah Vera-TuckerOTUSC
19Football TeamJustin FieldsQBOhio State
20BearsRashod BatemanWRMinnesota
21ColtsSamuel CosmiOTTexas
22TitansElijah MooreWROle Miss
23JetsGregory RousseauEDMiami (FL)
24SteelersNajee HarrisHBAlabama
25JaguarsCaleb FarleyCBVirginia Tech
26BrownsJeremiah Owusu-KoramoahLBNotre Dame
27RavensJaelan PhillipsEDMiami (FL)
28SaintsGreg Newsome IICBNorthwestern
29PackersKadarius ToneyWRFlorida
30BillsJayson OwehEDPenn State
31RavensTerrace Marshall Jr.WRLSU
32BuccaneersAsante Samuel JrCBFlorida State

2021 NFL Mock Draft

1JaguarsTrevor LawrenceQBClemson
2JetsZach WilsonQBBYU
349ersMac JonesQBAlabama
4FalconsKyle PittsTEFlorida
5BengalsPenei SewellOTOregon
6DolphinsJa’Marr ChaseWRLSU
7LionsDeVonta SmithWRAlabama
8PanthersRashawn SlaterOTNorthwestern
9BroncosJustin FieldsQBOhio State
10CowboysPatrick Surtain IICBAlabama
11GiantsMicah ParsonsLBPenn State
12EaglesJaylen WaddleWRAlabama
13ChargersChristian DarrisawOTVirginia Tech
14VikingsKwity PayeEDMichigan
15PatriotsTrey LanceQBNorth Dakota State
16CardinalsChristian BarmoreDTAlabama
17RaidersTrevon MoehrigSTCU
18DolphinsAlijah Vera-TuckerOTUSC
19Football TeamWalker LittleOTStanford
20BearsRashod BatemanWRMinnesota
21ColtsSamuel CosmiOTTexas
22TitansJaycee HornCBSouth Carolina
23JetsGregory RousseauEDMiami (FL)
24SteelersNajee HarrisHBAlabama
25JaguarsElijah MooreWRMississippi
26BrownsJeremiah Owusu-KoramoahLBNotre Dame
27RavensJaelan PhillipsEDMiami (FL)
28SaintsGreg Newsome IICBNorthwestern
29PackersKadarius ToneyWRFlorida
30BillsJayson OwehEDPenn State
31RavensTerrace Marshall Jr.WRLSU
32BuccaneersTravis EtienneHBClemson

Best Low-Key NFL Free Agent Signings So Far

It’s the big money deals that make us ooh and aah, isn’t it? After all, they’re what grab the headlines. However, it’s often the case that the biggest impact signings are of the smaller, more under-the-radar variety. This is especially true in football. While bona-fide stars infrequently hit the free agent market, the resulting scarcity driving up the price of comparative also rans to comical levels, savvy GMs are targeting quality if unflashy veterans to do what they always do – put in a solid shift and help the team.

Here are the five best of the unheralded signings of the free agent market so far.

Honorable Mention: Corey Bojorquez

This is cheating a little bit, hence why he’s included here instead of on the actual list, but whomever signs Corey Bojorquez is going to get a hell of a punter. The 24-year-old California native averaged just below 51 yards per punt for Buffalo last season, which is absurd. Buffalo signed Matt Haack, who isn’t terrible, in a weird move. With the enhanced attention paid to analytics in football, and the resultant emphasis on field position, it’s weird that the Bills would let a guy who flips the field better than anyone else go. And given his youth, one can realistically expect Bojorquez to continue to improve.

5. John Brown, WR. Las Vegas Raiders

The Patriots have certainly opened some eyes with their spending spree on pass catchers, a certain departure from the last two decades of free agent philosophy under Bill Belichick, it is after all the post-Tom Brady era in New England. But while they snagged the headlines for shoveling well north of 100-million dollars in multi-year deals to the likes of Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, the Raiders got Brown for less than four million on a one-year deal. Yes, Brown does come with a bit of an injury history but he’s one season removed from a career year. If he can stay healthy, an admittedly big if, he’s as good of a deep threat as there is in the game. If he doesn’t, the Raiders risked little and will have lost little.

4. Yannick Ngakoue, DE. Las Vegas Raiders

I swear, we aren’t Raiders fans. But for all of the deserved criticism they’re getting for dismantling their offensive line, you cannot argue with the value here. While Shaquille Barrett, Leonard Floyd, Bud Dupree, Trey Hendrickson and others are signing huge money deals for four plus years, the Raiders inked Ngakoue for two years and a modest 26 million. It can be argued maybe Ngakoue isn’t quite in the class of a Barrett, but you can make a strong case that he’s better than Bud Dupree, who is both older and three times as expensive.

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB. Washington Football Team

Quick reminder, the FT made the playoffs last season. They accomplished this in spite of a 7-9 record, and ruinously bad quarterback play from the likes of Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen. It’s true, the team performed better under the leadership of Alex Smith, but if we’re being honest, the heartwarming story of his comeback from a limb and career-threatening injury somewhat obscures the fact that he didn’t play that well either. It wasn’t until Taylor Heinicke emerged from the very definition of nowhere that the team got any kind of inspired play at the position. While he makes for another nice story, a team with playoff aspirations may want to see more than a couple of inspired performances before hitching their wagon to him. Enter Fitzpatrick, the beloved veteran of now his ninth team. Fitz’s occasional turnover problems are well known, but he’s a tough guy, a leader, and every single team he has every played for has been better because he was on it. While teams like the Rams and Colts shelled out draft capital to upgrade their lots in life at the QB position, the FT did it for one year and ten million. Solid business.

2. Malcolm Brown, RB. Miami Dolphins

There’s an old saying about never having too many running backs. There’s also a saying about not paying top dollar for running backs. And if there isn’t, there should be. There were and still are some big names on the running back market. Aaron Jones re-upped with Green Bay, but household names Chris Carson, Leonard Fournette (fresh off a dominant Super Bowl performance) and Kenyan Drake remain out there. The Dolphins snagged Brown, a productive and dependable veteran for one year at less than two million.

1. Alex Mack, C. San Francisco 49ers.

It’s not often that a 35-year-old center clearly in the twilight of his career is the signing that moves the needle. But while the headlines are on the gazillion dollar deal the Niners reached with Trent Williams, replacing the injured Weston Richburg was of tantamount importance. So they got the best guy available. (Note, Rodney Hudson ended up being traded before he was released, so he was never technically available.) Mack may not be the dominant force of nature anymore that he was early on with Cleveland, but he’s still been good for Atlanta the last few years, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be. The one year deal Frisco gave him is well worth the risk to find out. Also, fun fact. Mack’s real first name is Javon, making him the only white guy named Javon in NFL history. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I didn’t feel like looking up an image history of every NFLer ever named Javon.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know on Twitter @thestainsports. Thanks for reading.

Why do Sean McVay’s Coaches Keep Leaving Him?

The narrative around the NFL is that Rams changed how head coaching hires were being looked at when they brought on McVay in that role in 2017. And to a large degree, it’s true, for good reason. After years of sub-mediocrity for the very sub-mediocre Jeff Fisher, McVay led the team to the playoffs in his first season, and a Super Bowl berth in his second, riding the strength of an innovative, arguably league best offense.

Suddenly, in a league where the old white guy coach was the enduring tradition, it wasn’t crazy to hire a 30-year-old to lead the team. Suddenly, more people were doing it. In fact, teams were going after guys on McVay’s staff. It made sense in 2017 and especially 2018. Matt LaFleur and Zac Taylor took head coaching positions, and are doing well – even Taylor who got off to a shaky start in Cincinnati, seemed to have gotten things moving in the right direction before Joe Burrow’s unfortunate and very serious injury. This year of course, it’s Brandon Staley who masterminded the league’s best defense before accepting the Chargers’ head coaching position vacated by Anthony Lynn.

But in this article, we aren’t talking about the moves that make sense. Of course, given the opportunity, 99% of coordinator level coaches will accept that bump up in stature and pay that comes with being a head coach. We’re also not talking about removing incompetent guys like John Bonamego from positions they never should have had to begin with.

We’re talking about the lateral moves.

Liam Coen heading back to the college ranks. Andy Dickerson heading up to Seattle, joining the also departed Shane Waldron (who to be fair got a coordinator position out of his move). It’s highly regarded cornerback coach Aubrey Pleasant leaving a top rated defense with all world corner Jalen Ramsey for roughly the same position in Detroit where they have… let’s just say not all world corners and are a long way removed from any kind of contention. It’s Joe Barry, following Staley to San Diego for roughly the same position he had with the Rams. It’s the popular John Fassel leaving after last season for the same position with the Cowboys.

The media paints a picture that McVay is simply so good at developing coaches that other teams just have to have them… but is that really the case? Why would guys leave a job on a good team in Los freaking Angeles for the same job on a worse team in a city with worse weather, San Diego notwithstanding?

Why won’t anyone ask if the reality is that McVay is just miserable to work for?

Here’s the thing. NFL head coaches are not known for their modesty. Bill Belichick is one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, had well below average turnover on his staff, and is insufferably arrogant. Any head coach who has experienced success to any degree in the NFL is going to have an inflated sense of self-importance.

So this has nothing to do with McVay’s massive ego, which understates actually how big it truly is. It has nothing to do with his smarmy and disingenuous attitude towards the media. Take his name out of that description and it still fits any of 20 or more head coaches.

What if it’s that he’s a control freak? What if it’s his stubborn insistence on continuing to call the plays on offense, despite not being any good at it. And before you say, “Whoa, wait a minute, remember when they were unstoppable and yada yada yada and this and that and Todd Gurley and,” yeah, I do remember. You had massive talent on that squad, and McVay to his credit is a master schemer – a borderline savant-level genius at designing and philosophizing offensive concepts and strategies to flummox defenses and maximize his offensive unit’s potential for success.

But that doesn’t translate into his play calling. To be fair, it’s not always woefully inept. He should get a mulligan for the Super Bowl against the Patriots where he was pretty much a deer in headlights, and called plays for four quarters that were the equivalent of smashing your head against a brick wall. It was his first Super Bowl, he was going against the best coach in the game, and folded under the pressure. It could have happened to anyone.

What’s troubling is the next two seasons. The Rams missed the playoffs in 2019, plagued by squandered chances to defeat inferior teams. Then came 2020, a dramatic improvement on the defensive side of the ball, counteracting a precipitous drop in offensive efficiency. A predictable 17 week regular season sequence of telegraphed wide receiver screens and repetitive underneath routes blown up with regularity was obscured by a brilliant defense that limited opposing offenses to less than 19 points a game, and regularly created short fields with turnovers.

McVay showed either an alarming inability, or unwillingness to make adjustments, and respond to the adjustments made by opposing defenses to his offense. And yet, he continued to cling to the role of play calling, and for what?

Many blamed the deterioration of Jared Goff’s play at the quarterback position. It’s a fair analysis, based on the numbers, but is a chicken or an egg thing? Is it a decline in Goff’s ability that’s to blame, or is it a stubbornness by McVay to stick with poorly working game plans that put his quarterback in bad positions?

We will learn a lot in 2021. The Rams paid a King’s ransom (as they should have) to drastically upgrade the quarterback position with Matthew Stafford, and don’t project to lose much if any talent from offense. If despite this, and multiple years of lessons learned, the offense continues to be stuck in a rut, we will have our answer, won’t we? If after another missed, or early exit from the playoffs another five or six coaches leave in lateral moves, we’ll definitely have our answer.

Super Bets!

Super Bets!

BetOddsShaun’s PickTorsten’s Pick
WinnerChiefs -117, Bucs -105BucsBucs
Over/UnderO56 -113, U56 -108UnderOver
Total Players to attempt a passOver 2.5 +165, Under 2.5 -215OverOver
Total Players with a receptionOver 15.5 +13.5, Under 15.5 -167UnderOver
Jersey number of first TD scorerOver 24.5 -121, Under 24.5 -103OverOver
Opening kickoff a touchbackYes -305, No +230YesYes
O or D lineman to score TDYes +800, No -2000YesNo 
A Safety to be scoredYes +800, No -1667NoNo 
Successful 2-pt conversionYes +230, No -305YesYes
First play from scrimmagePass -124, Run +100RunPass

2020 NFL Draft Recap: NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 8 Overall – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson – Could easily argue Simmons is the second-best defensive player in the draft behind Chase Young. Simmons is a guy who played basically every position but DT in college and can line up at any of those again in pro ball. He would be my favorite to be the defensive rookie of the year, and immediately improves the Cardinals defense.

Least Favorite Pick: None – Josh Jones from Houston was their only other selection in the first two days, and he could have been a first rounder but instead slips to the third round. The Cardinals draft was fantastic, and this is just another example of it.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 7, Pick 222 Overall – Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State – Likely fell based upon his performance at the combine, otherwise he would have been an early day three selection. He is short, but has plenty of size despite the lack of height that allows him to run between the tackles, and has solid hands making him a three-down back. Doubtful he will ever be a workhorse back, but he can be a valuable part of a quality backfield.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Jake Benzinger, OT, Wake Forest – The guy I really wanted the Cardinals to take a shot on was Khalil Tate, who ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but instead I have to settle for an offensive lineman who is a practice squad guy at best. Benzinger is a long 6’7” but weights in under 300 lbs. He needs to add some strength and improve his strength if he wants to ever suit up. That said, he is the guy in the UDFA class I “like” most with the Cardinals.

Los Angeles Rams

Favorite Pick: Round 2, Pick 57 – Van Jefferson, WR, Florida – Son of long time NFL receiver Shawn Jefferson, Van wowed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his route running, intelligence, and drive to learn more about being an NFL receiver. Based purely on what he did on the field, this is just an average selection, but I personally love the fit as he can be an elite third receiver.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 3, Pick 84 Overall – Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama – A long injury history leaves plenty of questions as to the future availability of Lewis, but he was productive on an elite Alabama defense. If he remains healthy, he should add productivity off the edge for the Rams, but he was much more of a round four selection for me, so it was a bit of a reach here.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 4, Pick 136 Overall – Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue – The Rams approached the draft from a best player perspective rather than a need perspective, and this is an example of it. Hopkins will see very little playing time his rookie season with Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett ahead of him, but Everett is a free agent following the season, and Hopkins gives them a ready-made replacement.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Trishton Jackson, WR, Syracuse – Torsten did a deep dive into the Rams draft but did not dive into their UDFA class at all. He was excited Bryce Perkins signed with the team, but the guy I am highest on is Jackson. He gets separation better than his 4.50 40-yard dash would suggest, and he does struggle to make contested grabs, but he is very raw and has plenty of improvement in his game. He is most likely a practice squad guy who can get the call up if there are injuries to receivers on the team.

San Francisco 49ers

Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 14 – Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina – I had Kinlaw as a top ten selection, so slipping down to the 49ers (even after trading back) is an absolute steal for the team. The 49ers traded DeForest Buckner for this selection and get a player who can be just as good as Buckner, cost less, and added selections with the trade. Overall, as good a selection as any in the draft.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 25 – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State – Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., Van Jefferson, and Denzel Mims all went later than Aiyuk and are receivers I liked more. That said, this was as deep a receiver group as any draft has ever had, so this is a quality selection to me in most seasons and he will have success in the bay, there were just others I liked more.

Day Three Sleeper: Round 5, Pick 153 Overall – Colton McKivitz, OT, West Virginia – Not a fantastic lineman, but he is a guy who can play both tackles and both guard spots, so the versatility brings a ton of value with this pick. The 49ers added Trent Williams via trade during the draft, and now add a backup lineman that can help out across the line, just strengthens a team that had a lead late in the Super Bowl.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Salvon Ahmed, RB, Washington – The 49ers rode the running game to the Super Bowl a season ago behind the likes of Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida. Breida is gone but Tevin Coleman is healthy, despite that, depth at RB is always a position to keep an eye on for this club. Ahmed is a guy that will bring the most value as a pass catcher, something the 49ers could certainly use.

Seattle Seahawks

Favorite Pick: Round 3, Pick 69 Overall – Damien Lewis, G, LSU – Other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there may not be a team in the NFL that has had more trouble across the offensive line than the Seahawks. He is a bruising run blocker and stands his ground well in pass protection. He has a real shot to start at left guard right from the start. He will never be a Pro Bowler but he should be a long time starter for the Seahawks.

Least Favorite Pick: Round 1, Pick 27 Overall – Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech – A guy I did not have in my three-round mock, he goes in the first round. Granted, I would not have faulted a team if they took him on day two, but this was far too early for me. The linebacker group this season was not the best this season, but it Brooks does fit the Seahawks defense well. Basically, I don’t dislike the fit, just don’t like the cost.  

Day Three Sleeper: Round 4, Pick 144 Overall – DeeJay Dallas, RB, Miami – Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and Travis Homer was the RB depth chart before the draft, not exactly a backfield that scares you. Dallas isn’t a back that will scare you either, but he is a quality receiver and pass blocker, making him a guy Russell Wilson could come to rely on rather early on.

Undrafted Free Agent to Watch: Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State – Quick, go look up the Seahawks QB depth chart. Spoiler alert, Gordon is the only one listed behind Russell Wilson. Even had he landed with another team, he likely would have been an UDFA to watch he might be the best QB that went undrafted (toss up for me between him and Steven Montez). Mike Leach QBs are always tough to project at the next level, and Gordon was not the decisive passer as his predecessor Gardner Minshew, but he isn’t afraid of a challenge so he will be a very interesting watch in the preseason.