The morning takes return, as we beat away the offseason doldrums by taking a look at some pieces around the network while offering “takes” after taking a look at what the other writers have to say.
1. AFC East Breakout Candidates
Their take: NFL Mocks’s Erik Lambert is running a series where he looks at a breakout candidate for each team, and he did the AFC East today. E.J. Manuel (a must-breakout given what the Buffalo Bills have put around him), Dee Milliner (came on strong at the end of the year after being the consensus No. 1 corner in the previous draft), Jamie Collins (he already had a mini-breakout late last year when he saw the field), and Jamar Taylor were all highlighted as breakout candidates.
My take: That’s a great group of four that I’m not arguing with, though I do think Chandler Jones could explode next year due to his own talent and development, better play around him, and the fact that his two-year career arch has similarities to Robert Quinn‘s.
Anyway, the most interesting name on that breakout list to me is Jamar Taylor, who wasn’t able to see the field much as a rookie due to a myriad of factors, including hernia surgery. Taylor was a touted CB out of Boise State, and many teams, such as the New England Patriots, were linked to him with supposedly high interest. Cortland Finnegan is physical and had success in the past, but he was just downright awful last season. I will be very surprised if Taylor doesn’t start next year, and I believe he’ll end up winning a starting gig. He looks set to be Dimitri Patterson‘s replacement opposite of star corner Brent Grimes, and the Dolphins could have a great cornerback tandem in front of a strong safety duo if Taylor pans out in his second year and SS Reshad Jones bounces back.
2. David Yankey the Vikings biggest steal?
Their take: The Viking Age’s Dan Zinski is one of my favorite writers around, and he took a look at a piece Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar did on the Minnesota Vikings offseason. There’s plenty of insight in Farrar’s piece, but Zinski took a look at the tabbing of Stanford guard David Yankey as the Vikings most underrated draft pick.
My take: “Underrated” is a difficult term to apply to draft picks, because there are different ways of looking at it. We know a “steal” is when a team scoops up a player who slides too far, and this definitely applies to the way the Vikings scooped up Yankey. While he doesn’t have great physical tools, the guy was mentioned as a potential first round pick at one point, because he’s a safe, smart guard who could immediately step in and start. Greg Jennings, David Yankey” href=”http://nflspinzone.com/2014/05/16/minnesota-vikings-friday-fades-greg-jennings-david-yankey/”>I’ve touted Yankey as a starter for the Vikings for quite some time, because he’s honestly their best option. Zinski agrees that it won’t be difficult for Yankey to start as a rookie, because he’ll be going up against turnstile Charlie Johnson and Vlad Ducasse. If Yankey shows up well in August, I’m sure the Vikings would much rather start him, especially since he has more upside.
Yankey was a definite steal and was an incredibly consistent player in college, but I think there’s a different player who fits the bill as the Vikings most underrated draft pick this year. Kyle Fuller went to the Chicago Bears and should be a very good player there after an amazing college career that featured some well-rounded play, but his former teammate Antone Exum will also join him in the NFC North after sliding in the draft. Had he not suffered a major injury, Exum would have been a second-round pick, and he has the ability to play corner or safety due to his unique skill-set. He’s no far off from Fuller in terms of overall talent, and the Vikings desperately needed someone with Exum’s tools and upside. Exum has better competition around him than Yankey, but I think the “underrated” tag fits him a tad better.
3. Philip Rivers and the no-huddle
Their take: Bolt Beat’s Sam Kweon, in a great piece, writes about how San Diego Chargers new offensive coordinator Frank Reich will give Philip Rivers more freedom, and he believes this, combined with Reich’s intent to run the no-huddle, will cause Rivers “to fly” and prove he’s an elite quarterback with his new freedom.
My take: I think I’ve made my admiration for Rivers clear on this site, and he was the second-best quarterback in the league last year behind Peyton Manning after a career renaissance. Not only did he receive much better coaching out of Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt, but he also had a legitimate offensive line in front of him after being subject to brutal beatings that led his playing and reputation to falter as a result of the league’s most deplorable line. With better blocking in front of him, Rivers carried a first-year turnaround team into the playoffs, as he had to overcome a poor, rebuilding defense and consistent play from just a few pass-catchers. There’s no doubt in my mind that Rivers is the fifth-best QB in the league behind the elite quartet of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Manning (in no particular order), but Rivers could make it five elite quarterbacks if he has another huge season next year.
4. Robert Woods projection
Their take: BuffaLowDown’s Scott DelleFave takes a look at what we can expect out of second-year wide receiver Robert Woods in 2014, and he offers a projection of 55 receptions for 810 yards and six touchdowns.
My take: Sammy Watkins is unquestionably the Bills top target after an aggressive move to ship out Stevie Johnson and move up to draft the elite prospect, but this also makes Woods the Bills top returning target. They acquired troubled receiver Mike Williams, whose past with Doug Marrone called some to smile a bit at the trade, for a mere sixth-round pick, but his past production and talent won’t put him above Woods on the depth chart. In two-receiver sets, Woods will start before kicking into the slot in three-wide sets, so 55 receptions might actually be a conservative estimate. It’s all contingent on how many targets he shares with Williams and how many times the Bills run the ball, but it’s clear to me that Woods is going to be fellow second-year pro E.J. Manuel’s safety blanket.
I’m sure Manuel will use his safety valve quite liberally next year, as Woods has all the traits you look for in a possession receiver. He can play inside or outside, he was productive in college, he runs incredibly clean routes, he understands timing and how to connect with quarterbacks, he has good intangibles, and he has solid speed and quickness. DelleFave has Woods ticketed for an average of around 14.7 yards per reception with his 55-810-6 projection, but that’s like a Watkins YPR projection. I think Woods will average something closer to 11 yards per catch. But since I have him hauling in 75 catches, I think he will have 825 receiving yards next season as the team’s No. 2 option. This is a very rough projection, but I think 75-825-5 falls right in line with what we should project out of him, and it’s pretty close to what DelleFave has tabbed for Woods.