Initial Thoughts on Buffalo’s Offseason

Now that Buffalo’s season has ended, I figured I’d do a quick review of each major position group and look at where the Bills can and should get better to continue improving. The good news for the Bills is that this is as strong a team as I’ve seen since 2000, so even though there are gaps, they aren’t enormous, crippling holes. And now, away we go!


Returning: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Davis Webb (futures contract)
Departing: Nobody

This play was 2019 in a nutshell for Allen:

Haha, Cowboys.

I won’t turn the whole blog post into an apologia for Allen—I’ll probably do one of those some other day. For now, I’ll just lay out that Allen is the quarterback, Barkley is a solid backup, and Davis Webb exists to be there.

Recommended Moves: None. Buffalo has their quarterback situation in hand. Maybe pick up a UDFA to compete with Webb for a practice squad spot or take a flier on a quarterback in the 4th through 6th round, but that’s about it.

Running Back

Returning: Devin Singletary, TJ Yeldon, Patrick DiMarco (FB), Christian Wade (futures)
Departing: Frank Gore, Senorise Perry

Sean McDermott is a two-back kind of guy, so they’re definitely going to make a move here. In this bit, I’ll first cover the existing players, and then talk about a couple of moves.

Singletary has two excellent skills: vision and contact balance. He’s slow to accelerate, doesn’t have great top speed, and is pretty small, but his ability to see a hole and stay up after hits makes him a dynamic running back regardless of his physical limitations. His hands are okay, though he dropped his share of passes and made some poor receiving decisions on reasonable balls. This little paragraph doesn’t sound very positive toward Singletary, so let me be clear: he has the chance to be a force for several years because vision and contact balance are extremely important. If he had more speed and sharper acceleration, he’d be Barry Sanders. He won’t be Barry Sanders, but he can certainly be a capable back.

Yeldon is not a good runner, but he is a good receiver. But he’s really not a good runner… Yeldon is just about replacement-level for a running back, having some skills but not enough to merit a 46-man spot, so he sat inactive most of the year.

DiMarco is a fullback who is both full and back.

Christian Wade is part of the NFL program to bring international players into the game. His primary skill is the speed and elusiveness he brought as an elite rugby player. Here was his first touch ever, and happened during the pre-season against third-stringers:

This clip doesn’t get old.

The downside to Wade is that he’s extremely raw. In the US, there was no info on him after final cuts in the preseason. In the UK, the Independent had an interview with him back in November where he talked about what he’s learned so far. I’d love to see him put in an off-season of effort, dedicate himself to learning the nuances of being a running back (including gap selection, handling the ball cleanly, and pass blocking), and sneak that 2nd spot.

Perry was one of Buffalo’s gunners and kickoff specialists. Gore looked great early in the season, but he’s lost enough in his game that by the end of the year, the only thing he could do was plow into the line of scrimmage.

Recommended moves: Sign a new gunner. Ideally, get a guy who can be a gunner and a competent RB2. Then, see if Wade can be a rosterable player. Maybe take a flier on an inexpensive running back on a one-year deal just in case Wade falls short.

Wide Receiver

Returning: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams, Nick Easley (futures), Ray-Ray McCloud (futures), Isaiah McKenzie (restricted FA), Robert Foster (exclusive rights FA)
Departing: Nobody?

Brown and Beasley are good receivers. They certainly played a role in Josh Allen’s improvement over year 1, where his “receivers” included Kelvin Benjamin, Andre Holmes, and Zay Jones. It was bad. Brown showed that he’s a complete receiver rather than just a deep threat and Beasley was typically a good underneath guy though he did have a couple cases of the drops this year.

Coming into the year, I had high hopes for Robert Foster, hoping that he’d form a dynamic tandem with John Brown to stretch the field and open things up underneath for Beasley and Jones. That, uh, didn’t happen. Foster played well on special teams but was abysmal as a receiver. Jones was dumped off to the Raiders after a terrible start to the year.

Isaiah McKenzie is Buffalo’s jet sweep guy. Most of his receptions were shovel passes on sweep action, and he’s limited as a receiver otherwise. Williams is a big-bodied guy who’s easy to love (after every reception, the crowd goes wild with “DUUUUUUUUKE!” and I’ll admit that I do the same), but he’s slow and doesn’t have great hands. What he does have that the other receivers don’t is the strength and willingness to fight for the ball.

Andre Roberts was a massive improvement over McCloud and McKenzie as kick and punt returner. Roberts has nice hands as a returner and can break one, two things Buffalo returners lacked last year. It was so nice knowing that when the other team punted, there was somebody back there who could make sure that meant Buffalo went on offense.

McCloud isn’t an NFL-caliber receiver and muffs the ball way too often to be a return man. Easley is a practice squad body.

Recommended moves: The Bills could really use a guy with Duke Williams’s size, Robert Foster’s speed, McKenzie’s jet sweep capabilities, and the ability to catch the ball. This is a stacked draft for receivers, so there’s a good chance the Bills will have a chance to improve here. My current favorite is Laviska Shenault from Colorado, but considering that we’re still pre-combine, that can change. Picking up a third good receiver lets the Bills keep Roberts as a return man and somebody as a gunner and 4th receiver, maybe Robert Foster if he re-dedicates himself to improvement in the offseason.

Tight End

Returning: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, Nate Becker (futures), Jason Croom (exclusive rights FA)
Departing: Nobody?

Dawson Knox has elite physical skills. He’s a really good run blocker and when he has the ball in his hands, he’s got the Madden truck stick down.

Dawson Knox went to the Nelson Muntz School for Advanced Football Technique

The problem is the “when he has the ball in his hands” part. He was responsible for far too many drops and poor attempts at receiving the ball. If there’s one thing I want to see Dawson work on this off-season, it’s hours and hours of practice catching the ball. If he improves his hands to just “pretty good,” he’s capable of a thousand-yard season.

Tyler Kroft’s key skills involve getting injured. Aside from that, he has some receiving skills, but it’s hard to tell when he can’t get on the field. I expect him to be a cut candidate.

Lee Smith is a 6th lineman style of blocking tight end. He might catch a ball once in a while, but it’s rare.

Tommy Sweeney was a late-round pick who has decent skills across the board. He has pretty good hands, is a pretty good run and pass blocker, and has pretty good physical skills. He doesn’t excel at anything, however. He would have been a natural fit for a tight end in the early ’90s. Today, he’s a decent option for TE2.

Jason Croom is a former wide receiver ‘tweener, who’s a bit slow for a receiver and a bit light for a tight end. He got hurt this year, so we didn’t see what he could do hands-wise. He might be a cut candidate this year, but if he sticks around, maybe he gives Allen another big-bodied underneath option with some physical skills to make plays after the catch.

Recommended moves: Figure out which 3 tight ends are the best for the team and go from there. The Bills don’t need 5 TEs, and I think the 3 best men for the job are already on the roster with no draft picks or free agents.

Offensive Line

Returning: Dion Dawkins (T), Mitch Morse (C), Jon Feliciano (RG), Cody Ford (T/G), Ty Nsekhe (T), Ryan Bates (T/G/C), Ike Boettger (G), Spencer Long (G/C), Victor Salako (T, futures)
Departing: Quinton Spain (G), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

Buffalo’s offensive line went from abysmal to pretty decent this year. Dawkins rebounded with a solid Quinton Spain next to him. Mitch Morse simplified life for Allen and was a huge improvement over Russell Bodine and Ryan Groy. Feliciano is a mauler of a guard. Nsekhe is a proficient pass blocker and Ford has skills but needs to refine his technique.

As far as backups go, Bates can play any position in a pinch. Long is a really good backup and a mediocre starter, making him excellent depth material. I don’t think Boettger has the skills to fill in as a starter.

Recommended moves: The Bills need to figure out if Cody Ford is a guard or a tackle. If they think he’s a guard, move him to left guard and find a good swing tackle (maybe re-signing Waddle). If they think he’s a tackle, they need a left guard. If Quinton Spain is willing to come back on a fairly low-price deal ($5 million per year or so), cool; if not, they’ll need to find a free agent or draft a new guard.

Defensive Ends

Returning: Jerry Hughes, Darryl Johnson, Mike Love, Trent Murphy, Jonathan Woodward (futures)
Departing: Shaq Lawson

Hughes is getting up there in age, but he’s still a good defensive end. Murphy is not a good defensive end (and his high PFF score makes me question the PFF system). Johnson was a 7th-round pass rusher who showed some things during the pre-season but not during the regular season. Love got hurt before the season began and isn’t considered a great prospect.

Lawson didn’t live up to his draft billing as a top pass rusher, but he did develop into a good run defender and occasional threat to sack the quarterback.

Recommended moves: I’d love to see the Bills splurge on a big talent like Yannick Ngakoue. He’d be a pass-rushing beast across from Hughes. He would cost a lot of money, but it’d be nice to see the Bills front-load that contract pretty heavily and take advantage of the current cap space situation. Then, cut Trent Murphy. I’d be happy with the Bills resigning Shaq Lawson as well. In that case, Lawson would be a 3rd DE, splitting time on both sides. He could also serve as a defensive tackle on obvious passing downs. That’d be a lot of money in a single position group, so it’s unlikely, but oh would it be nice.

Defensive Tackle

Returning: Ed Oliver, Harrison Phillips, Star Lotuleilei, Vincent Taylor
Departing: Jordan Phillips, Corey Liuget

Oliver is the real deal. He’s got a good chance to be an elite 3-technique DT. Harrison Phillips switched from 3-tech to 1-tech in 2019 before getting hurt, and he was doing well as a run-stuffer and occasional pass rusher. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL, so who knows what he’ll look like after he gets back.

Lotuleilei is probably the most villified player on the Bills roster. He’s a 1-tech DT, so the stats never pile up and that makes his contract look terrible. Granted, his contract is not good, but at the same time, that hasn’t prevented the Bills from doing what they want. Lotuleilei is a good run stopper with zero pass-rushing skill.

Vincent Taylor came up from the practice squad and was about what you’d expect from a practice squad defensive tackle. Liuget was a late-season acquisition who was better than a turnstile.

Jordan Phillips is an interesting case. He had 9.5 sacks this year and had a couple of games where he just dominated. He’s also always out there getting fans into the game—so many times the camera cut to Phillips, he was exhorting fans to make some noise. The problem is that he is not a good run-stopper and is going to get paid like an elite defensive tackle.

Recommended moves: Let Jordan Phillips get his payday, but not with Buffalo. Try to bring in some competition for 3-technique, as McDermott loves to cycle his defensive linemen through the game and the Bills need someone better than Taylor or Liuget.


Returning: Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, Vosean Joseph, Corey Thompson, Tyrel Dodson (futures), Del’Shawn Phillips (futures)
Departing: Lorenzo Alexander, Maurice Alexander, Julian Stanford

Edmunds and Milano are a pair of rising stars for the Bills. They are classic McDermott linebackers: rangey and able to cover, blitz, and run stop. Matt Milano is going to get paid, and the Bills need to pay him.

Vosean Joseph got hurt before the season began. He came into the NFL as a rocket: moves in one direction and does a lot of damage if he hits his target. Dodson was reasonably well-regarded though had some personal problems which kept him off the roster. I don’t know if either of those two is good enough to merit a spot. Corey Thompson is a decent special teamer but you don’t want him starting.

Lorenzo Alexander was on the downside of his career, but was a Bills favorite because he’d do anything. He was the starting SAM (for a team which plays in nickel 70% of the time) and special teams captain, but he would also line up as a defensive end and a pass-rushing defensive tackle. He could rush passers, cover tight ends and running backs (well enough…), and whatever else the coaches needed. Alexander was a versatile piece of the puzzle.

Maurice Alexander is a former safety and a special teams player. He did not fare very well in Buffalo, so I don’t see them bringing him back. Stanford might come back, but he’s a replacement-level guy.

Recommended moves: Look for a couple of linebackers who can play special teams and not look totally useless on defense. McDermott and Beane have done pretty well in drafting linebackers, so maybe there’s another Matt Milano (5th round pick) hidden in this draft. If Joseph or Dodson drastically improves year-over-year, one of those two might end up being the starting SAM, but I’d want there to be some good competition at that position.


Returning: Tre’Davious White, Taron Johnson, Levi Wallace (exclusive rights FA), Cam Lewis (futures)
Departing: Kevin Johnson

Tre’Davious White is an excellent cornerback, which is what you’d expect considering that he is the greatest goalie in Louisiana high school history. He takes time out of his busy schedule to run the Tre White Goalie Academy of Louisiana at Buffalo.

Best goalie ever.

White is entering year 4 and Buffalo needs to sign him to a big contract. In his first couple of seasons, powerful and fast wide receivers like AJ Green could beat up on him, but this year, he dominated pretty much everybody he faced. For example, Tre White on OBJ:

Shut down.

The play I really wanted to highlight wasn’t in this clip. It was a play where Beckham had a touchdown dead to rights but White mugged him in the end zone to knock the ball out of his hands, drawing a pass interference flag in the process. This was a very smart play because it was already 1st down on the 1 (due to penalties), so White saved a touchdown at the cost of one extra play. He then broke up the end zone pass in the clip above and, after some dramatics, the Browns failed to score at all on that drive.

Across from White, the Bills played Levi Wallace and Kevin Johnson. Johnson has elite talent but has always been hurt. Wallace has weak physical skills (including being small, light, and slow) but a lot of drive. They actually make for a good tandem, as they excel in different areas—Johnson is good in man coverage and Wallace zone. I’d like to see Wallace retained and, at the right price, Johnson back as well.

Taron Johnson is a good slot corner with injury problems exacerbated by his bullet train mentality. I love the physicality he brings to the position, but don’t love the shoulder injuries.

Recommended moves: Buffalo needs a #2 corner aside from Tre White. Kevin Johnson, at the right price, can be that guy. Levi Wallace is an excellent #4 corner and a below-average to adequate #2 corner. Taron Johnson is a good slot corner who needs to stay healthy, even if it means not making as many aggressive tackles. Ideally, the Bills would have one more cornerback who can play inside or outside and act as depth.


Returning: Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Jacquan Johnson, Siran Neal, Dean Marlowe (restricted FA)
Departing: Kurt Coleman

When I think about Buffalo and safeties, I embrace my inner Abe Simpson.

I, too, am not a crackpot.

The Bills had 6 safeties on their 53-man roster and sometimes suited up 5 of them. That means they had more safeties than cornerbacks on their gameday rosters. Now, to be fair, Siran Neal is a big nickel slot guy more than a true safety or cornerback, and he’s a ‘tweener who the team technically counts as a CB…but he’s really a safety.

Poyer and Hyde individually are good safeties, but they make for an outstanding tandem. The reason is that they are interchangeable and probably telepathic. The two have similar skill sets and can play either safety position. Within the safety role, both can cover deep zone, play a robber zone, cover man-to-man, play the run, and blitz. What makes them such a dangerous combination is that they both fake extremely well and track what the other is doing pre-snap. For example, Hyde might come up into the box looking to play the run or blitz. Meanwhile, Poyer would trail the receiver in motion. For the quarterback and offensive coordinator, this combination is a dead giveaway that the Bills are playing man coverage (and probably blitzing Hyde).

But Hyde and Poyer know, based on quarterback tendencies (and when the in-helmet microphone shuts off), when the quarterback normally snaps the ball. If the QB normally snaps at about 7 seconds on the play clock, they’ll break off into their real routes at about 8 or 9 seconds on the clock, showing that instead of a blitzing Hyde and man-covering Poyer, Hyde is playing deep zone and Poyer robber—and if that motion man hadn’t moved, then Poyer would have played deep and Hyde robber. This is how you turn two good players into an elite tandem.

Poyer’s entering the last year of his contract, and he definitely deserves an extension. As far as the other safeties go, I’d like to see Johnson play a bit more and do like what I see from Siran Neal as a big nickel guy. Dean Marlowe is serviceable as a final safety, and I don’t think they need another.

Recommended moves: Give Poyer a bunch of money and keep Marlowe. Otherwise, don’t mess with it.

Special Teams

Returning: Corey Bojorquez (P), Reid Ferguson (LS), Steven Hauschka (K), Kaare Vedvik (K/P)
Departing: Nobody.

Reid Ferguson can snap the ball a long way.

Hauschka had a couple of scary stretches this year but ended on a fine note. He doesn’t have the leg to nail 50+ yarders anymore, so there might be some value in competition here.

Bojorquez is apparently a practice star but is quite inconsistent in-game. Vedvik was brought in to compete with Bojorquez as a punter, though he can also kick off and place kick, making him versatile (though not necessarily good).

Recommended moves: Look for a good punter. Bojorquez can nail a 60-yarder but then shank the next one. This might be worth a late-round draft pick. Perhaps it’s time to look at a new kicker as well.

Buffalo Draft Review, Day 2

Pick 38: Buffalo trades a 5th rounder to the Raiders to move up two picks, then selects RT Cody Ford.

Buffalo has added 7 new offensive linemen this offseason, including 6 unrestricted free agents and now Ford. Ford is likely the new starting right tackle. With him in place, the question is now whether Ty Nsekhe or Dion Dawkins is the LT. Nsekhe was better as a left tackle than a right tackle, and Dawkins can project as a really good guard…though the Bills brought in 3 linemen who can play guard in Spencer Long, Jon Feliciano, and Quinton Spain. Add Wyatt Teller and there’s a lot of competition for those guard positions.

Ford is a first-round talent and a great pass blocker, which I’m all for, and trading a 5th rounder to move up to get him is something I won’t lose any sleep tonight over. It’s going to be a tough minicamp and preseason for offensive line coach Bobby Johnson.

Pick 74: Buffalo drafts RB Devin Singletary.

Singletary is a shifty runner. Perhaps a shady runner? Best case scenario, he becomes an elusive back and potential starter. And learning from McCoy can’t hurt. He also seems to be a bit more powerful than his size indicates.

However, right after him the Packers picked Jace Sternberger, and I think I’d rather have a good tight end prospect than a running back prospect for Buffalo here. The Bills have zero good tight ends. After passing on Irv Smith in the 2nd round, Sternberger was probably the last good tight end prospect on the board.

Pick 96: Buffalo trades both 4th round picks to the Redskins to get pick 96 and choose TE Dawson Knox.

After me complaining about missing Jace Sternberger, the Bills trade both 4th rounders to move back into the 3rd round and choose Dawson Knox, a tight end out of Ole Miss. He’s fast and has some of the skills which translate to success in the NFL. On the downside, he’s a major project and never scored a touchdown in college. Granted, Ole Miss had several targets above him on the list, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more production.

Overall, I’m happy with pick #2, less happy with pick #3, and moderately pleased with pick #4. I think I would rather have had Sternberger at 74 than trading back up for Knox, but I will give Brandon Beane credit: he’s brought in at least two impact guys at positions of need and is giving Josh Allen all the tools he can get to succeed. I don’t know if Knox contributes much next year but maybe he develops into a good tight end over the next couple of seasons.

Game blogging update and Baseball HOFs

I’m going to move future game blogging to my Patreon page. I will occasionally make comments about non-gaming (i.e. sports stuff) here, but the gaming stuff fits more over there. I’ll be starting my YouTube channel soon, so keep an eye out for that!

As far as the Hall of Fame voting, in all honesty, there weren’t that many surprises, unless you count Pudge sailing in despite the controversies of his career. I was pleasantly surprised to see Manny surpass 25% and Bonds and Clemens to break 50%, which means good things for their candidacies. Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman now look like locks, although the 2018 class has some strong first time candidates (Chipper Jones and Jim Thome strike me as definite first ballot guys, and I expect Scott Rolen will get in eventually). My favorite case for next year is Jamie Moyer; he won 260+ games, so we’ll have to see what kind of voting he gets. Vizquel will get traction, but probably not make it the first time.

Jorge Posada did better than I expected, getting almost enough to stay on the ballot, but I’m surprised Drew or Orlando Cabrera didn’t get a vote. The Boston thing must not be as strong as I thought.



Hall of Fame Coverage

I deeply apologize to you, dear readers. I have been quite busy with other projects and have failed you. We have two Hall of Fame ballots to discuss for baseball and I haven’t talked about either one! Shall we? Yes, I believe we shall!

Author’s note: They went and elected people to the HOF while this article was in draft mode, the jerks. Therefore, I will keep my original Veterans’ Committee piece, but will say who won at the end (so you don’t try to cheat).

First, the Veterans’ Committee will consider the “Today’s Game” Ballot, which includes players from 1988 to the Present. Like the normal HOF, you need 75% of the vote, which means 12 ballots. There are ten candidates:

Harold Baines: Baines was a very good player for a very long time, but if you’re a guy (or gal) obsessed with peak, he’s not your pick. He’s well regarded, which is a point in his favor, but he barely cracked the 5% mark. He’s a better version of Tony Perez without Joe Morgan in his corner. Compared to other OFs, he’s terrible, and he’s not a good enough DH to make it ahead of Edgar Martinez. Baines, offensively, just wasn’t a huge force. 121 OPS+ just isn’t hugely impressive. Pass.

Albert Belle: Belle is the opposite of Baines in many ways. Belle was awesome at his peak, especially 1995. He was also an asshole and made few friends. Belle’s peak is noteworthy. By rate statistics, Belle is an amazing offensive hitter. He only had two seasons of under 100+, and in one of those, he had all of 25 PAs. That said, his career was extremely short. If he’d played five more years, he could have approached 600 home runs, and this would be a much more interesting conversation. The combination of his personality and short career will doom him. Pass.

Will Clark: I kind of like the idea of Clark in the Hall of Fame. He was actually surprisingly good (I genuinely didn’t remember much about him before going to B-Ref). He’s not outstanding, but he’s a better candidate, arguably, than Baines or Belle. He was even pretty decent defensively, winning a Gold Glove. He’s even better than the average 1B in the HOF (although Perez is one of them, so…) That said, he’s not remarkable enough to really make the Hall. He lacked overwhelming power, and that’s almost sine qua non for a Hall of Fame 1B. He had one season of more than 30+ HRs, a career slugging percentage of < .500, and an OPS+ of only 137. Pass.

Orel Hershiser: Hershiser was solid. He peaked young–1987-1989–but was a perfectly serviceable innings eater for much of the rest of his career. He’s well regarded and pitched on a memorable team in 1988. That said, it’s hard to get excited about a pitcher with an ERA barely over league average and some frankly terrible FIP numbers in the 1990s. Pass.

Davey Johnson: Johnson, as a player, is not in the conversation. As a manager, he had an amazing career with the Mets, but settled into being quite good overall. In 17 seasons, he had 14 seasons over .500. He got into the playoffs seven times, but never quite reached the heights of 1986. His playoff record is a significant negative, however. Pass.

Mark McGwire: Big Mac was really, really good at hitting homers. Everything–good and bad–feeds off of that. He’s done a decent job of rehabilitating his name, especially his bizarre interview with Bob Costas. His offensive capabilities are undeniable, and in a neutral world, he’s a definite Hall of Famer. The question is the slippery slope argument: if McGwire gets in, you’ll have to let in other confirmed cheaters who were better players (see Clemens and Bonds). I would let him in, but I’m not sure the Hall will. Hit… but likely a pass from the actual committee.

Lou Pinella: A long career of barely above averaging managing. He was on some bad teams, some mediocre teams, and a single World Series title. He’s a better case than Davey Johnson, but only because of his lengthier career. Pass.

John Schuerholz: As a GM, he’s one of the best all time. Hit.

Bud Selig: I can’t imagine him not getting in. He essentially ended labor disputes, presided over significant expansions in the number of teams and playoffs spots, and saw baseball’s popularity explode. Hit.

George Steinbrenner: As an owner, it’s hard to think of a more successful individual. He took the Yankees when they were a joke and made them into a juggernaut again. Hit.

My ballot: McGwire, Steinbrenner, Selig, Schuerholz.

So who actually won? Click below!

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So long, Barkevious

I am an acknowledged fan of Barkevious Mingo, both in Madden and in real life. However, apart from his ridiculously awesome name, he produced surprisingly little on the field. He is now a New England Patriot for the price of a fifth round pick. The Patriots think he can contribute on special teams and/or act as depth. I myself suggested Mingo was a pure pass rusher and not likely to provide much else of value; it turns out he couldn’t even do that very well.

That was a pretty lousy draft for Cleveland, which is fair given the number of picks we had, but at least Armonty Bryant turned out to have some talent. He’s suspended for four games, but he’s far and away the best player from the class, so… yay?

Browns trade down

There I was, minding my own business and (successfully) defending my dissertation, when I learned that Cleveland had traded the #2 pick. I had previously hoped that Cleveland would do just that, and I am pleased that they did.

The trade was #2 and a 2017 4th rounder to Philadelphia for their first rounder this year (#8), a 3rd rounder, a 4th rounder, and a 1st rounder and 2nd rounder next year. On the surface, it looks like Cleveland got a lousy haul, but keep in mind that the Browns are still in the top ten. LA was #15, which made the #1 pick more valuable to them. Cleveland, on the other hand, only dropped six spots and got a lot for their trouble.

Now, making great trades for good picks is one thing. Cleveland has done this before (sorry, Kevin).  However, when team picks well (Watkins looks like a great pick for Buffalo) and the other doesn’t (Gilbert looks like a bust), the trades don’t look as good. It will be up to Brown and DePo to make a smart choice with pick #8. Two different mock drafts have Cleveland taking linebacker Myles Jack at #8. That would be a great pick. He’s extremely . versatile, which Cleveland needs. Other mocks have Cleveland taking DeForest Buckner, a huge defensive end who could be just what Cleveland needs; Jack Conlin, a tackle who would apparently play on the right side (I’m not keen on going tackle in the top 10 unless you’re going to trade Joe Thomas too); another trade down with Miami to take linebacker Darron Lee; Paxton Lynch, who strikes me as Brandon Weeden 2.0 but could have more upside; another tackle, Ronnie Stanley; and/or Joey Bosa, the hometown lineman and pass rusher.

I’ve heard some people suggest Cleveland take a later round QB (Connor Cook has been bandied about quite a bit), perhaps with #32. Paxton Lynch might go #7 to San Francisco, assuming LA and Philly both take QBs. Given that Philly has Sam Bradford, it’s actually conceivable they traded up to take Laremy Tunsil. I’m not sure.

One thing I haven’t seen in any mock is Cleveland going wide receiver. There’s no Calvin Johnson in this draft, true, but Cleveland is pretty desperate for receiving help. Don’t be shocked if Laquon Treadwell goes at #8.

My official preference, assuming Jalen Ramsey is gone, is probably Buckner or Jack. Jack’s knee injury has me uneasy. We have to knock it out of the park with this pick. A healthy Jack is better than Buckner, but a real beast on the defensive line is something we’ve needed for a long time. We shall see, my friends.

Rams trade for #1 overall pick

If you hadn’t heard, the St. Louis LA Rams have traded a king’s ransom for the #1 pick. In brief, the Rams are giving a first, two seconds, and a third in 2016 and a first and a third in 2017 for the #1 pick, a fourth rounder, and a sixth rounder (both 2016). According to, a big loser as a result of this trade is the Browns.

Taken only in its own context, I’m not sure this is such a brilliant move for the Rams. They need a QB, true, since Nick Foles has finally, conclusively, proved that 2013 was the weird fluke it appeared to be. They have a great running back in Todd Gurley. Then again, Pro Football Focus ranked them 28th in offensive line play. (Cleveland was 6th.) Football Outsiders is similarly unkind to LA (and Cleveland). The Rams’ best receiver was Kenny Britt, who ranked as 31st in the league. A healthy Tavon Austin would mitigate the lack of quality somewhat. My point is that if LA wants an elite offense, they’re more than a QB away.

For Tennessee, it’s brilliant. They miss a chance for Laremy Tunsil (who will be gone long before the #15 pick rolls around), but in exchange get a whole bunch of picks in the top 100. Like Cleveland, the Titans need a lot of pieces to be competitive, and that many picks will surely help them accomplish those goals.

Now, we look at the part that really matters: how this affects Cleveland. Either Wentz or Goff is going to be gone by the time Cleveland jumps up to #1. Either is a possibility. At different times, Cleveland has been linked to both QBs, so it could be that nothing changes. Cleveland takes whomever is left. The Browns could draft Tunsil and flip Joe Thomas. They could draft Jalen Ramsey. Or, somebody even more desperate for a QB than Cleveland could trade up to #2 to take the Rams’ leavings.

I genuinely don’t know what route the new front office will go. RG3 is not a long term solution at QB. Josh McCown is probably not even a short term solution. Connor Shaw and Austin Davis are unknowns. Taking the leftover QB seems like the best play. However, there are lots of other holes to fill too, and trading down will look awfully tempting. It is highly unlikely this draft makes the Browns a Super Bowl contender, so we could grab a QB next year or late in this draft.

It’s actually kind of exciting. Let’s see what DePo and Sashi Brown can do!

Schedule analysis time!

So, the Browns released the regular season schedule. I am now going to attempt to predict the result (but not the score, because I’m not insane) of each game. Of course, once the draft is finished, this may change, but I’m basing things on who I think Cleveland is likely to pick and why.

Week 1: @ PHI. Philly and Cleveland were ranked 26 and 27 in offensive DVOA last season, despite Sam Bradford quietly having a pretty okay season. However, defensively Philly was much better. Eagles win. 0-1.

Week 2: vs. BAL. Baltimore is not a good team. They are not likely to be good soon. Cleveland will probably at least split the season series with them and I’m picking this game as a win because a) it’s at home, b) it’s Baltimore, and c) the cavalcade of injuries won’t come until later in the season. Browns win. 1-1

Week 3: @ MIA. Without some serious upgrades, Cleveland will be at best mediocre against the run. Lamar Miller will probably be healthy. Dolphins win. 1-2

Week 4: @ WAS. Do you believe in Kirk Cousins? No, you don’t. He had a very good year last season, but it’s unlikely that he’ll repeat it. RG3 is going to be playing with a huge chip on his shoulder, though, and Washington can’t run the ball. Browns win. 2-2

Week 5: vs. NE. Unless Tom Brady is abducted by aliens, there’s no way we’ll win this game. Even if he is abducted by aliens, we still probably lose. Patriots win. 2-3

Week 6: @ TEN. Before the trade with LA, I would have bet this would be a guaranteed win. If the Titans draft intelligently and the Browns don’t, we could be in some trouble. I have just enough faith in the new regime that we’ll make enough improvements to keep pace with the Titans in 2016, but next year? We’ll see. Browns win. 3-3

Week 7: @ CIN. The Bengals are objectively the better team, but Hue Jackson will be fired up to prove he can be a great coach. It’ll be closer than anyone thinks, but still… Bengals win. 3-4

Week 8: vs. NYJ. The Jets had a decent offense, but they also had Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is mediocrity personified. Also, they lost their left tackle. I think I smell an upset. Browns win. 4-4

Week 9: vs. DAL. The Cowboys were horrifically bad because they didn’t have competent QB play. If Tony Romo is even remotely healthy, I don’t have a lot of confidence in Cleveland winning here. Cowboys win. 4-5

Week 10: @ BAL. I predicted a season split earlier, so I’ll stick to my guns. Ravens win. 4-6.

Week 11: vs. PIT. Pittsburgh got reamed by injuries last season and I don’t think we’ll have that kind of luck again. Steelers win. 4-7

Week 12: vs. NYG. The Giants and Browns were very similar teams, except the Giants had Eli Manning and Cleveland didn’t. I think that still applies, so… Giants win. 4-8

Week 13: A late bye would be good if we were making a playoff run. I do not think that is going to happen.

Week 14: vs. CIN. … However, coming off the bye, Cleveland might have some momentum. And it’s a home game. Upset? Upset. Browns win. 5-8

Week 15: @ BUF. Great running game meets bad rushing defense. Bills win. 5-9.

Week 16: vs SD. See NYG game, but replace Eli Manning with Philip Rivers. Chargers win. 5-10.

Week 17: @PIT. If Pittsburgh makes the playoffs, which I think they will, they would normally rest starters. Of course, it’s still CLE-PIT, so… Steelers win. 5-11.

So, this season, I’m predicting 5-11. The biggest problem is that the Browns, right now, are clearly worse on offense than they were last year. A good draft could change that, but then there’s also the defense, which is younger but I’m not sure if it’s better. I also really don’t like Ray Horton’s defensive scheming. After all, last season I predicted an 11-5 season, based on Johnny Manziel not being a total asshat. Well, joke’s on me. I did correctly predicted we’d beat the 49ers and Titans, but I missed the third win (I had them beating Baltimore in Week 12, not Week 5).

You know what? A 5-11 season would be a sign of progress. I could even see a 7-9 record if the Chargers and Giants aren’t as good as I think they are. This isn’t a one season rebuild, after all.