The Los Angeles Rams have signed wide receiver Brandin Cooks to a five-year deal worth $80 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Rams traded for Cooks and a 4th round pick on April 3rd from the Patriots for a 1st round pick and a 6th round pick. This will be Cooks’ third team in three years, as he was traded from the Saints to the Patriots last offseason. The Rams wasted no time signing him long-term, as he would’ve been a free agent at the end of the year. So, was this a good deal for the Rams? Let’s explore.
Cooks, 24, put together a second straight consecutive 1000 yard season last year, with 1082 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns last year. He’s a premium deep threat and uses his elite speed and route running ability to get separation from corners. That’s all he does for the most part, as at 5’10’’, he’s not much of a red zone threat. He’s also struggled with drops, as he only had a 57% catch rate a season ago. He also only graded out as the #36 receiver from Pro Football Focus, which shows he may not be as valuable as his stats would indicate.
Cooks will be expected to take over as the #1 receiver for the Rams, who lost Sammy Watkins in free agency. Cooks adds nice balance to a group of possession receivers that Los Angeles has. He also will work well with quarterback Jared Goff, who has tremendous arm strength and is a very accurate with the deep ball. Having running back Todd Gurley, a top three running back, also allows for the play action game to open up. If the play action game opens up, then the deep ball with Goff and Cooks could prove the be lethal. However, the same thing was also said about Sammy Watkins. Like Cooks, Watkins was supposed to give Goff the deep threat he needed. Instead, Watkins only had 593 yards and struggled to find a definitive role in head coach Sean McVay’s system. So while Cooks seems like a perfect fit on paper for the Rams, there is reason to be a little unsure if that will translate onto the field.
The $16 million a year Cooks will be making puts him as the 4th highest paid receiver. Remember this is the same guy who ranked as the 36th best receiver by Pro Football Focus. 36th? There’s a reason Cooks is on his third team in three years. It’s because he tends to be inconsistent and seems more valuable to a team than he actually is. The Rams have so much young talent that they will need to extend, such as defensive tackle Aaron Donald, corner back Marcus Peters, running back Todd Gurley, and quarterback Jared Goff. This is a risk that they couldn’t afford to make, and a risk that will hurt them severely long-term.
Brandin Cooks seems like a very productive receiver who is a perfect fit for the Rams. However, a similar player to Cooks in Sammy Watkins failed in this system, so there is no guarantee Cooks will succeed. The Rams should’ve atleast seen how Cooks was able to fit with them before signing him to this extension. Now, they’ll have to pay for it long-term with little financial flexibility to sign their young stars to extension.
Football can be very strange at times. Every year, many players break out, while others fall flat on their face. We’ll investigate the quarterbacks who may suffer from the latter this season.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
After a stellar rookie season in which he made pro bowl and led the Cowboys to a 13-3 record, Dak Prescott fell back to the Earth in 2017. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t stellar with 3324 passing yards, a 22-13 TD-INT ratio, a 62.9 completion percentage while leading to Cowboys to a 9-7 record without having star running back Ezekial Elliot for six games due to suspension. Even though he’ll have Elliot for a full season, there is reason to believe that Prescott will continue to regress. His top two receivers from a season ago, Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, are no longer with the team. They added Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin. However, all three of them have their issues. Hurns is injury prone and a #2 receiver at best, Gallup is a third round pick who hasn’t played a snap in the NFL, and Austin is more of a running back than a receiver. They drafted tight end Dalton Schultz out of Stanford to replace Witten, but he’s more of a blocking tight end than a receiving threat. With no clear #1 receiver or reliable tight end on the roster, Prescott is set up to fail miserably this season for the Cowboys.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
Before tearing his ACL in a week 14 game vs the Cardinals, Ryan Tannehill was on his way to leading the Dolphins to the playoffs. Miami still made the playoffs, but were eliminated in the first round and failed to make the playoffs the next year without Tannehill, who missed the whole 2017 season recovering from that injury. Don’t expect Miami to make the playoffs with Tannehill back though. Tannehill was already in the midst of regression before getting injured, as he was on pace for a career low total in passing yards since his rookie year, with a career high in interception percentage. His completion percentage was up, but was most likely due to having Jarvis Landry in his arsenal, who is known for his high catch rate while mostly being used in short yard plays. However, he was traded to Cleveland this offseason. Tannehill also won’t have his starting running back from 2016, as Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles during the season last year. Add in the fact that he’s likely to be rusty when he comes back, and Tannehill looks poised to have a rough season for the Dolphins.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
When you’re given a fully guaranteed 3 year/$84M contract, you’re expected to lead your team to a Super Bowl championship. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Kirk Cousins may not be able to do that. He was never able to get the Redskins over the hump, as the best he did as their starter was a 9-7 record. He also struggles in the big game, as he collapsed in the playoffs in 2015 and threw a costly interception in a game that would’ve gotten Washington to the playoffs if they won. Yes, he’s thrown for over 4,000 yards in his three years as a starter, but he’s also had double-digit interceptions in each of those seasons as well. Offensive Coordinator John DeFlippo struggled in his only season as offensive coordinator with Cleveland before thriving as Philadelphia’s quarterbacks coach. How well he can adjust will make a big difference, as Cousins relies on an offensive system in place for him to succeed. If DeFlippo struggles to adjust, then Cousins will be a big disappointment in his first season as a Viking.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
The Bills took quarterback Josh Allen at seventh overall to be their quarterback of the future. Allen has a cannon arm and a projectable frame at 6’5” 223 pounds. What he doesn’t have however, is accuracy. He only had a 56.3 completion percentage in his year with Wyoming. If rushed into action too soon, that flaw could be exposed quickly. He also needs a good offensive line and vertical threats so he can work to his strength of throwing the ball downfield. Buffalo doesn’t have that, as they gave up the seventh most sacks last season (and are without left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito) and their #1 receiver is Kelvin Benjamin (who only had 692 receiving yards last year). Allen’s a project who needs talent around him to succeed. Since Buffalo doesn’t have that, Allen will struggle mightily if force to start this season.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
A 11 time Pro Bowler, it seems strange to put Brees on this list. Unfortunately, the reality is that he’s 39 years old and has shown signs of regression. His ability to throw the deep ball is starting to decline, as shown in these videos below:
The first two were easy completions, but in both cases Brees underthrew his target by a lot which resulted in an interception. As for the last one, Packers corner Davon House may have played excellent coverage on Michael Thomas, but that’s a throw Brees makes earlier in his career. Despite a decline, Brees was able to set a completion percentage record at 72%. This is because he had a very effective two-headed rushing attack in Mark Ingram and rookie sensation Alvin Kamara, who were threats in both the running and passing game. Ingram is suspended for the first four games due to the use of PEDs. Head coach Sean Payton has already said that Alvin Kamara won’t get an extra carries, so Brees may be relied upon heavily in the passing game If he is, he may be exposed as shadow of his former self.
As we approach the Trade Deadline, it’s becoming more clear which teams will be buyers and which teams will be sellers. Nevertheless, each front office has their own specific goals for how they want to upgrade their team in the short-term and long-term. In this article, we’ll explore what each MLB team’s goal should be during the Trade Deadline.
Arizona Diamonbacks: Acquire an Offensive Middle Infielder
The Diamondbacks are 53-44, but they are starting to slip and have fallen out of first place in the NL West. In order to win the division, they need to add another middle of the order type bat to compliment Paul Goldschmidt. Their middle infield seems to be the problem, as second baseman Ketel Marte and short stop Nick Ahmed are hitting a combined .235. Both are serviceable due to defensive skills, but Arizona needs more production offensively from these two positions if they want to be a true World Series contender. Luckily for them, there are plenty of good middle infielders on the trade block, such as Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar of the Twins, Scooter Gennett of the Reds, or superstar Manny Machado of the Orioles. Acquiring one of these guys will likely cost them either top pitching prospect Jon Duplainter of first baseman prospect Pavin Smith, but the reward at the end may very well be worth the risk.
Atlanta Braves: Acquiring a Controlled Reliever
The Atlanta Braves looked like they had a chance to run away with the division, but that’s not the case anymore. The Phillies now lead the NL East, as Atlanta trails by a game. The Braves should definitely be buyers, but they are still very young and should continue to build for the future. Instead of focusing on rentals, Atlanta would be much better off looking to add some players controlled through this season. The bullpen is their biggest issue, as it has a 4.30 ERA which ranks 19th in the MLB. The price is high for controllable relievers, but its a good investment as it’ll help them contend in 2018 and beyond. A couple of targets are Brad Hand of the Padres, Rasiel Iglesias of the Reds, and Kyle Barraclough of the Marlins.
Baltimore Orioles: Acquire 2+ Top 100 Prospects (And More)
At 28-69, its obvious that the Orioles will be sellers at the Trade Deadline. They have plenty of players to trade, such as superstar Manny Machado and relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton. Baltimore currently only has one top 100 prospect according to MLB.Com, and its infielder Ryan Mountcastle who is ranked just #80 and doesn’t have a very high ceiling. The main goal for the Orioles should be to acquire as much minor league talent as possible. Their focus currently is on acquiring pitching as their major league team lacks it, but this team isn’t going to contend for 5-10 years. They need to acquire who they feel like has the best chance to be a superstar, no matter the position. For Machado, the goal should be to extract one top 100 prospect and two to three mid tier prospects. They should also look to acquire one extra top 100 prospect in deals for Britton and Brach, as relievers come in high demand and contenders may become desperate for bullpen help come the Trade Deadline. Baltimore desperately needs to strengthen its incredibly weak farm system, and this is the opportunity to do so.
Boston Red Sox: Acquire a Quality 8th Inning Set Up Man
The Boston Red Sox are the MLB’s best team at 68-30, and have no glaring needs. We’ll nitpick a little here though, because they could use a better 8th inning set up man to closer Craig Kimbrel. Matt Barnes (2.43 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 2.02 FIP) is having a great season, but it’s unclear it will last. His ERA the last two seasons coming into this one were 4.05 and 3.88, so it’s likely his current ERA will end up going up. That’s not a certainty though, so Boston doesn’t need to go after any big names. Going after a mid tier reliever, such as Fernando Rodney or Addison Reed of the Twins, Kirby Yates of the Padres, or Jared Hughes of the Reds would be a smart move that could pay off big time in the postseason.
Chicago Cubs: Adding a Right Handed Hitting Outfielder
Despite having the NL’s best run differential at +111, the Cubs aren’t running away with the division from the Brewers. Now, their run differential indicates they should be fine, but they shouldn’t do nothing. They don’t have any holes in their lineup, and they already have too much money invested in their rotation to upgrade it anymore. Therefore, the best thing would be to add some depth to the outfield. Two of their three starting outfielders, Kyle Schwarber and Jayson Heyward. Both have struggled vs lefties, with the former slugging .286 vs lefites and the latter slugging just .362. This could become an issue come the postseason when they’re forced to face southpaws Clayton Kershaw, Josh Hader, Patrick Corbin, Sean Newcomb, and Alex Wood in the playoffs. Therefore, acquiring a right-handed hitting outfielder to platoon or pinch hit for either Schwarber or Heyward vs lefites would be a smart idea. They could go after a veteran such as Adam Jones or take a flyer on utility man Jurickson Profar, who mashes lefties.
Chicago White Sox: Trading SP James Shields
This one is very specific, but there’s not a lot for the White Sox to do at the Trade Deadline. They don’t have any significant pending free agents to trade besides reliever Joakim Soria, and they’ll probably get a couple of mid tier prospects for him. They could trade first baseman Jose Abreu, but he’s in the midst of a huge slump and is now only hitting .252/.308/.438. One thing they should try to though is convince a team to give up a prospect for starting pitcher James Shields. Shields, 36, is having a mediocre season with a 4.53 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 4.60 FIP. However, a team like the Cubs or Yankees may take a flyar on him as a veteran innings eater. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if the White Sox just let James Shields leave at season’s end (he’s a pending free agent), but they should try to get something for him if they can.
Cincinatti Reds: Trading RHP Matt Harvey
The Reds could do a lot of things at the Trade Deadline. They could trade star second baseman Scooter Gennett, they could trade reliever Rasiel Iglesias, or they could trade starting pitcher Matt Harvey. Let’s go with the latter, as Harvey is a free agent at season’s end while Gennett and Iglesias are controlled past 2018. While the Reds could get a lot for Gennett or Iglesias, their winning record since changing managers from Bryan Price to Jim Riggleman suggests that they shouldn’t blow it up. Therefore, their focus should shift towards trading Harvey. Harvey was a complete reclamation project when the Reds acquired him from the Mets, and it’s payed off big time. His fastball is up to around 94-95 MPH and his ERA is 3.79 as a Red. Rather than have this end up just being a feels good story, the Reds should look to acquire some prospects in exchange for Harvey. There are plenty of teams that are looking for starting pitching, such as the Yankees, Brewers, and Mariners. One of those teams will likely give up a couple of mid tier prospects for Harvey if the Reds aggressively shop him they way they should.
Cleveland Indians: Acquiring Bullpen Depth
The Indians have a comfortable 7.5 game lead in the division, so they don’t have to make any moves to make the playoffs. If they want to compete with the Astros, Red Sox, and the Yankees though, they have to upgrade their bullpen that has a 5.39 ERA that ranks dead last in the MLB. Now, closer Cody Allen should see his 4.66 ERA go down (his FIP is 3.92) and Andrew Miller getting healthy will help. However outside of those two, the Indians have been relying on journeymen such as Neil Ramirez and Oliver Perez. Needless to say, they need to acquire some depth in the bullpen. Baltimore has both Zach Britton and Brad Brach to offer, while San Diego has Brad Hand, Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates. The goal should be to acquire two of these guys, as it would give Cleveland four relievers they can trust in the playoffs given that Miller stays healthy.
Colorado Rockies: Add Pitching Depth
If the Rockies want to make the playoffs (currently 51-45), they need to upgrade their pitching. Both their rotation (4.43 ERA, 22nd in MLB) and bullpen (5.23 ERA, 28th in MLB) have been awful this season. They have so much money invested in the bullpen ($37.5M this year alone with Wade Davis, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, and Adam Ottavino) that their best bet would be to hope that Davis (3.93 ERA), Shaw (7.36 ERA), and McGee (6.06 ERA) start living up to their contracts rather than invest in further. They could then turn their focus to the rotation that is extremely young and inexperienced. Acquiring a veteran starter such as Nathan Eovaldi, Clayton Richard, or maybe even JA Happ or Cole Hamels at the right price would be a good move.
Detroit Tigers: Acquire a Big Package for One Of Their Top Young Players
The Tigers have two very good young controllable players they can trade in RF Nick Castellanos and RHP Micheal Fulmer. The former is controlled through 2019 and is hitting .305/.358/.523 while the latter is controlled through 2022 and is a former rookie of the year. However, both have their reg flags. While Castellanos is a great hitter, he’s a liability defensively with -13 drs. As for Fulmer, he currently has an ERA of 4.11 and a WHIP of 1.28. Nevertheless, there is still interest in both of them due to the fact their controlled and are qualty young players. Detroit doesn’t need to trade either of them, but neither looks like a part of their future, so they’d be better off adding some position player prospects to a farm system that is very pitcher heavy. Doing this may end up speeding up their rebuild, as their farm system will get a major boost and will therefore set them up better for the long-term.
Houston Astros: Acquire a Closer
Ken Giles was supposed to be the Astros closer for the short-term and long-term coming into this season. What’s happened since? Well, Giles has an ERA of 4.99 and got demoted to Triple A after cursing out manager AJ Hinch. That leaves the defending champs looking a closer if they want to get back to the fall classic. Luckily for them, they have the prospects to get a deal done for either Brad Hand or Rasiel Iglesias. A package centered around slugger Yordan Alvarez will almost certainly get the Astros one of those two big names. If they want to buy low and not give up any premier prospects, they could take a look at reliever Zach Britton, who is a former all-star but is still trying to get back to form after returning from an Achilles injury.
Kansas City Royals: Acquire a Top 100 Prospect
In the 2018 draft, the Royals took five college arms (Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, and Jonathan Bowlan, in the first two rounds. Therefore, they don’t need to target pitching prospects when trading third baseman Mike Moustakas, second baseman Whit Merrifield, and maybe even pitcher Danny Duffy. What they could use in their farm system is some more quality position players. They have depth, but no one in their system look like anything more than solid MLB players. Even if means they don’t get as many prospects, the Royals should go for quality over quantity when it comes to the prospects they acquire in a deal. Trading Whit Merrifield should get them a Top 100 prospect, considering he’s under control through 2023.
Los Angeles Angels: Look Ahead to Contending in 2019
At 49-48 and 9 games out of the AL Wildcard, the Angels aren’t going to make the playoffs. That doesn’t mean they should be sellers, as they still have the best player in the MLB in Mike Trout, who is still in his prime. There’s also a lot of talent on this team, but they lack depth and thus haven’t been able to recover from injuries. Therefore, a smart move would be to acquire some controllable players who can multiple positions. It would give them depth to get through this year, and would fix their big problem that haunted them this season. Utility players such as Yangervis Solarte and Jurickson Profar are great targets, as they are switch hitters, can play multiple positions, and are controlled past 2018.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Add Depth in the Bullpen
Despite being in the middle of a major dog fight to win the NL West or claim a wildcard spot, the Dodgers don’t have to make a move. as they have very few holes on their roster However, they’ve dealt with a lot of injuries with their pitching. Their bullpen boasts a solid ERA of 3.86, which ranks them 14th in the MLB. It would be wise for the Dodgers to seriously consider 1-2 elite arms in the bullpen to give them a top-tier bullpen. That will help them in the playoffs, and will help them manage innings in a beaten up rotation. Some targets include Zack Britton and Brad Brach of the Orioles, Kyle Barraclough and Adam Conley of the Marlins, and Jeurys Familia of the Mets.
Miami Marlins: Acquire Big Packages for Their Relievers
The Marlins have three relievers who are young, controlled way past 2018, and are having great seasons. Those three are Kyle Barraclough (1.31 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 3.62 FIP), Adam Conley (3.04 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 3.48 FIP), and Drew Stekenrider (3.46 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 2.99 FIP). Now, Miami doesn’t HAVE to trade any of them as, but they should. The stock for these three may never be higher than they are now, so the Marlins need to capitalize on this opportunity to replenish their weak farm system. Because they’re controlled way past 2018 though, the Marlins need to be satisfied completely with package they get. For these three relievers, they should get at least two top 100 prospects and ideally 3.
Milwaukee Brewers: Add At Least One Quality Starting Pitcher
The Brewers rotation has a respectable 3.92 ERA that ranks them #11 in the MLB. That and the fact their offense only has a .244 average may suggest that the focus should be upgrading offensively, but don’t be fooled. The rotation is currently being attacked by injuries, as valuable arms Junior Guerra and Zach Davies are currently on the disabled list. Also, their “ace” Chase Anderson has a solid 3.81 ERA, but a 5.14 FIP. This suggests he’s been very lucky, and could have a rough second half. If he does have a rough second half, then that combined with the injuries could cause major problems for the Brewers. To ensure that they can survive these possible circumstances, Milwaukee should look to add at least one, but preferably two quality starting pitchers at the deadline. They could either get their ace in Chris Archer, or even Jacob deGrom if he’s available. The much more likely route however, is they acquire two solid starting pitchers that can fill the middle of the rotation. In this case, they can probably pick two of the following: Nathan Eovaldi, Clayton Richard, Marco Estrada, Tyson Ross, Ivan Nova, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, and Zach Wheeler.
Minnesota Twins: Trade All Their Pending Free Agents
Expected to contend in the AL Central, the Twins have disappointed with a 44-50 record that puts them 7.5 games out of the division. They still have a young core in place and should contend in 2019, so the Twins shouldn’t be full on sellers. They should however, trade all their pending free agents. They have a lot of pending free agents that could bring back solid prospect packages, such as infielders Brian Dozier and Escobar. Trading them will strengthen their farm system without hurting them contend in the future, as most of their pending free agents have replacements waiting in the minors.
New York Mets: Trading RHPs Zach Wheeler and Jeurys Familia
Photo Cred: ABC 7 NY
Photo Cred: NY Post
At 39-55, the Mets could completely blow it up and trade aces Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaad. They’re unlikely to do that, but should still sell off some pieces. Zach Wheeler is controlled through 2020, but he’s having a career year and the Mets should sell high on him. Because of the fact he’s controlled, he’ll bring back a solid prospect package. If they don’t trade him, they’re taking a big risk, as Wheeler is injury prone and another injury could destroy his value. As for Familia, he’s a pending free agent and is having an outstanding season with a 2.52 FIP. Contenders such as the Phillies, Giants, and Red Sox have already expressed interest, so the Mets should be able to get solid value in return. Trading Wheeler and Familia will strengthen the farm system, without hurting their MLB talent too much.
New York Yankees: Acquire Talent Without Giving Up Too Much
The Yankees have been linked to several of the top trade targets, such as superstar infielder Manny Machado, relievers Brad Hand and Zach Britton, and starting pitchers JA Happ and Cole Hamels. They could use all of the guys obviously, but they don’t NEED them as they don’t have any holes, which shows with their 62-33 record. They may have a deep farm system, but doesn’t mean they should trade recklessly. Their three Top 100 Prospects- OF Estevan Florial, LHP Justus Sheffield, and RHP Albert Abreu are all premium talents and should be untouchable. Both Abreu and Sheffield could be in the Yankees rotation next season, while Florial has tremendous upside as a 30/30 player. They also shouldn’t dig in too much into the depth of their farm system and may be better off waiting until next year or offseason if a player that they absolutely need becomes available.
The A’s have been surprise contenders this season, as they currently have a 55-42 record that puts them three games out of the AL Wildcard. A lot of the credit should go to an offense that is ranked in the top 10 in runs, home runs, and slugging percentage. Their starting pitching on the other hand on has a 4.37 ERA, which ranks them 19th in the MLB. The best move would be to pursue top starters JA Happ and Cole Hamels, right? Wrong. Remember, the A’s weren’t expected to contend, and still have a very young core in place. Rather than destroying their farm system that’s ranked #7 according to MLB Pipeline to make a move that still won’t put them remotely close to contending with the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox, the A’s should look to acquire cheap starting pitchers both contract wise and prospect wise. This fixes their biggest need and keeps them in the playoff race, without destroying the young core that they’ve put in place. The A’s have done a great job patiently putting the pieces together of a contender for the next 10 years, but now they can’t destroy that opportunity on one season.
Philadelphia Phillies: Acquire an Impact Bat Without Giving Up Sixto Sanchez
The Phillies are surprisingly 53-42 and in first place in the NL East, and have a great opportunity to possibly go to the World Series. To do that though, they’ll need to fix their offense that ranks 21st in runs, 17th in home runs, and 25th in batting average. Luckily for them, there are plenty of impact bats on the trade market, such as infielders Manny Machado and Mike Moustakas. Moustakas definitely won’t be too difficult to trade for, as he’s a pending free agent and the Phillies don’t have a lot of competition to acquire him. Machado is also a pending free agent, but is an all around superstar and therefore is drawing interest from several teams. The Phillies should definitely consider building a package around right-handed pitcher Adonis Medina, the 74th ranked prospect in the MLB, because they have a lot of young pitchers already in the MLB. What they can’t do however, is trade their top prospect in right-handed pitcher Sixto Sanchez. Sanchez is one of the game’s top prospects, and has the ceiling of a front of the rotation starter. He’s a premium talent, and one the Phillies can’t give up in an attempt to win a division that no one thought they could win at the beginning of the year. If they can keep Sanchez though, the Phillies should acquire an impact bat as it would fix their biggest need while not sacrificing their future.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade Their Veterans
At 48-49, the Pirates are technically on the fringe of contention. However, the chances of them actually making the playoffs over teams such as the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals, Rockies, and Brewers are slim. Therefore, they should continue to fire sale they started when they traded Gerrit Cole to the Astros and Andrew McCutchen to the Giants. That means trading outfielder Corey Dickerson, catcher Francisco Cervelli, starting pitcher Ivan Nova, and infielders Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison. Trading them isn’t easy as it sounds, as outfielders aren’t in high demand, Cervelli is dealing with concussion, and Nova, Mercer, and Harrison aren’t having outstanding seasons by any means. The Pirates need to find a way to trade them though, as it opens up spots for some of their young players coming up while strengthening a farm system that is currently ranked in the middle of the pack.
San Diego Padres: Get 3+ Top 100 Prospects
The Padres are in excellent position to strengthen a farm system that’s already ranked #1 according to MLB Pipeline. They have three relievers that are drawing a lot interest from other clubs in Brad Hand (3.05 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 3.16 FIP), Kirby Yates (1.47 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 2.08 FIP), and Craig Stammen (3.05 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 2.10 FIP). Hand is an elite closer who is controlled on a team friendly deal through 2021. Therefore, a team that needs a closer such as the Astros, would most likely be willing to cough up two top 100 prospects for Hand. Anything less than two top 100 prospects, the Padres can keep Hand and hope he continues to build his stock. Yates and Stammen are lesser known names, but are having great seasons and are both controlled well past 2018 (Stammen-2020, Yates-2021). Because of that, the Padres should be able to get at least another Top 100 Prospect for them. Due to the fact that all three of their top relievers are controlled well past 2018, the Padres have all the leverage in trade negotiations regarding them. Therefore, the Padres can make sure their getting three Top 100 prospects in exchange for the three of them. Anything less, and the Padres can simply hold onto them.
San Francisco Giants: Acquire Cheap Relievers
At 50-48 and 4 games out of the NL West, the Giants could very well make the playoffs as long as they upgrade their bullpen. Their closer Hunter Strickland is currently on the disabled list after breaking his hand punching a wall, and Mark Melancon and Sam Dyson have been very inconsistent for them. That leaves them relying on two lefties in Tony Watson (2.08 ERA) and Will Smith (0.95 ERA). Both are having great seasons, but also have red flags. After giving up just one home run up to July, Tony Watson ahs given up two in his last two appearances alone. Smith also is working in a limited amount due to him still working his way back from Tommy John Surgery. Its clear the Giants need more relievers, especially right handers, that they can trust in the late innings. They only issue is that they one of the league’s worst farm systems and are right near the $197 luxury tax threshold. Therefore, they have little wiggle room to make trades and will have to target relievers that are on cheap deals, won’t cost much prospect wise, and are productive. That’s much easier said than done, and the Giants may not be able to make an impactful trade for a reliever as a result.
Seattle Mariners: Add a Starting Pitcher and Center Fielder
The Mariners currently have a 58-39 record that puts them in the second AL Wildcard spot. To maintain that spot over the surging A’s though, Seattle has to fix their too biggest flaws. Those two flaws are their starting rotation and center field. The Mariners rotation currently has a 4.12 ERA which is ranked 16th in the MLB, and are clearly relying on guys such as Wade Leblanc and Marco Gonzales a little too much. They have their ace in James Paxton, so they should look to add one or two solid starting pitchers to fill out the middle of their rotation, such as Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, and maybe even JA Happ if the price is right. They also need to trade for a better center fielder, as their current center fielder Guillermo Heredia is hitting .229/.319/.317 with 2 home runs and plays below average defense with -7 drs. They don’t need to acquire a big name center fielder, with Leonys Martin and Billy Hamilton being solid options as defensive minded center fielders
St.Louis Cardinals: Plan for 2019
The Cardinals still may be somewhat in contention at 48-46, but they’re a complete mess. They recently fired manager Mike Matheny, and are dealing with a lot of controversy in the clubhouse. Rather than trade for pieces to contend in a season where they have an interm manager and so many distractions, the Cardinals should look to acquire players that are controlled past 2018 and can help them contend in 2019. An impact bat to replace Kolten Wong (.216/.305/366) at second base would be a great idea, with targets including Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Schoop, both of whom are controlled through 2019. The Cardinals don’t have many pending free agents, which means they’ll have the same core in place next year. It makes more sense to make moves to contend for next year, when they have a full-time manager and solve the issues going on in the clubhouse.
Tampa Bay Rays: Trading RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Technically, the Rays are in contention 49-47 and 8.5 games back of the AL Wildcard. Realistically speaking though, this team is overacheiving and have way too many needs to be a buyer. While their 49-47 record indicates they shouldn’t trade any of their top young players such as Chris Archer and Blake Snell, the Rays should still trade Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi has come back strong after missing all fo last year after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2017, as he has a 4.59 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 4.45 FIP. Don’t read too much into the ERA though, as his ERA went up from 3.35 to 4.59 after a rough start against the Twins. Teams are still interested though, so the Rays should try to flip Eovaldi for a MLB ready impact bat to help them fix their weak offense (23rd in runs) in the future, preferably at second base or in the outfield.
Texas Rangers: Acquire a Top 100 Prospect for LHP Cole Hamels
Trading Cole Hamels wasn’t supposed to be so hard for the Rangers. He’s a four-time all-star, a world series MVP, and would surely waive his no trade clause to join a contender. However, there are many red flags with Hamels. One is his $20M salary that hurts teams such as the Yankees and Dodgers stay under the luxury tax. The salary is big, but it wouldn’t be an issue if Hamels started pitching to his capabilities. He currently has a 4.36 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 5.04 FIP, and an atrocious HR/9 of 1.7. However, Texas may still be able to get one Top 100 Prospect for the 34-year-old southpaw, especially if pitching needy team such as the Mariners and Brewers panicking after suffering losing streaks heading into the All Star Game.
Toronto Blue Jays: Acquire 2+ Quality Pitching Prospects
The Blue Jays have one main trade candidate in left hander JA Happ. He has a 4.29 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 4.02 FIP and is a free agent this offseason. They shouldn’t have any trouble trading him, as the Yankees, Brewers, Mariners, and Cubs are interested in the 35-year-old left hander. The good news for the Blue Jays is that all four of these teams have good pitching prospects. The Yankees have the 61st best prospect in right hander Albert Abreu and lots of pitching depth. The Brewers also have great pitching depth in their farm system headlined by the 56th best prospect in right hander in Corbin Burners. Seattle and Chicago don’t have any top 100 prospects who are pitchers, but each have a lot of pitchers in their farm system. The ultimate goal is to acquire Abreu or Burnes, but as long as the Blue Jays get 2 or more pitching prospects from any of these teams, than they’ll get much-needed pitching depth in a farm system that is position player heavy.
Washington Nationals: Upgrade at Catcher
Nationals catchers rank last in the MLB with a batting average of .186. If the Nationals want to get over the hump at and contend (currently 48-48), then they need to find an upgrade at catcher. They’d love to get catcher JT Realmuto from the Marlins, who’s hitting over .300, play exceptional defense, and is controlled through 2021. However, it would require them to part ways with top prospect Victor Robles, who has five tool potential. They shouldn’t do that, but should look at other options, such as Francisco Cervelli or a reunion with Wilson Ramos. If the Marlins lower their asking price for Realmuto though, the Nationals should do everything in their power to acquire him.
Every year, there are players who breakout and players that disappoint. In this article, let’s look at some quarterbacks who struggled last year, but should do much better this year.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
A major reason that the Giants went from 10-6 in 2016 to 3-13 in 2017 was the regression from Eli Manning. After three straight seasons of 4,000 passing yards and 25+ touchdowns, Manning only threw for 3498 yards last year with 19 touchdowns. He was even benched last season for a game vs the Oakland Raiders in favor of Geno Smith. Needless to say, last year couldn’t have gone any worse for Manning. Luckily for him, this offseason couldn’t have gone any better for him. Instead of looking to replace the 37-year-old Manning, the team decided to build around him. They hired an offensive minded coach in Put Shurmer, who as the offensive coordinator was able to build a top ten offense in points per game with a journeyman in Case Keenum as the quarterback. They then signed left tackle for Nate Solder, who only allowed two sacks last season protecting Tom Brady’s blind side. Then instead of drafting the heir apparent to Manning, they drafted running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State. Barkley is a can’t miss prospect, who can run inside and outside and is an elite pass catching threat. Add in the fact that superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will be back after missing most of the season with an ankle injury, and its safe to say Manning’s supporting cast is significantly better. With an improved supporting cast and the support of the front office, expect Manning to have a bounce back season this year.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Last year wasn’t quite the rookie year Mitchell Trubisky wanted to have after being drafted number two overall in the 2017 draft. After replacing Mike Glennon as the starting quarterback in Week 5, he only threw for 182 yards a game and had a passer rating of 77.5. However, he wasn’t exactly set up to succeed. He had a defensive minded head coach in John Fox, and his best receiver was Kendall Wright. This year though, Trubisky’s supporting cast will be much improved. The Bears hired an offensive minded coach in Matt Nagy, who was previously the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs. As a young and smart offensive minded head coach, Matt Nagy could easily follow in the foot steps of Sean McVay, who turned the Rams from a laughing-stock to an elite team in just one season. Chicago also added two receivers via free agency in Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. Robinson is a true #1 receiver, but is coming off a torn ACL. If he returns as the same player though, he could be Trubisky’s go to guy. Taylor Gabriel on the other hand is an exceptional slot receiver that excels in running after the catch. Setting up screens for Gabriel could take a lot of pressure off of Trubisky. Also via free agency, they added tight end Trey Burton. from the Eagles Burton was a backup in Philadelphia, but was extremely productive and is a great receiving tight end. Quality tight ends are critical for quarterbacks to have, especially in the red zone. Lastly, the Bears added two offensive players in the draft in offensive lineman James Daniels and wide receiver Anthony Miller in the second round. Both are first round talents that should start right away. Daniels will likely play left guard and will open up the running game, while Miller is a polished receiver that gives some an Antonio Brown feel. Overall, Trubisky has a much better supporting cast, and the hiring of Matt Nagy should help his development tremendously.
Andy Dalton, Cincinatti Bengals
Andy Dalton was a big disappointment last season. After throwing for 4206 yards the year prior, that total fell to 3320 last year. His quarterback rating also dropped all the way down to 42.0, which is a major red flag. It wasn’t entirely his fault though, as Dalton was constantly pressured as the Bengals offensive line was one of the worst in football. He was sacked 39 times, and 8 of those came from opposing defenders who were facing Cedric Ogbuehi, the left tackle who took over for pro bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who signed with the Rams in the prior offseason. To put it in perspective, Whitworth didn’t allow a single sack in 2016. Luckily for Dalton, the Bengals may have found their answer at left tackle in Cordy Glenn, who they acquired from the Bills. Glenn only played in six games last year, but has the reputation of one of the game’s best tackles. If he stays healthy, he’ll be a huge upgrade over Ogbuehi. They also drafted center Billy Price out of Ohio State in the first round, who should help open up the running lanes for second year running back Joe Mixon. With an improved offensive line, Dalton should have much more time to throw and thus should have a significantly better season that he did last year.
Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns
To be fair, Taylor didn’t have a bad season last year. He guided the Bills to the playoffs and threw only four interceptions. There were several bumps in the road, as he was benched mid-season for Nathan Peterman and then inserted back in after Peterman threw five first half interceptions to the Chargers. He also only threw for 187 yards a game and 14 touchdowns. With a better supporting cast in Cleveland (Yes, I know that sounds crazy), he should see his totals go up. The Browns traded a third round pick to get him mostly to be a bridge starter and a mentor for quarterback Baker Mayfield, who the team selected first overall in the draft. Taylor can’t be overlooked though. In Cleveland, Taylor will better receivers in Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, a better offensive line, and a three-headed running attack with Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb, and Duke Johnson. Taylor is the type of player that needs talent around him to thrive, and he’ll have that with the Browns. Expect him to half off Baker Mayfield as the starting quarterback for most of the season while also leading the Browns to at least 4-6 wins, a big upgrade their 0-16 record a season ago.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
You’re probably thinking: “Jimmy Garoppolo went 5-0 as a starter and just got given a 5 year/$137.5M extension, why does he need to have a breakout season?” Well, Garoppolo’s extension was criticized by many due to the fact he’s only started seven games, so this first season will give us more of an indication on how good of a player he is. Expect him to thrive, as he’s in a perfect situation in San Francisco. Not only does he play for an offensive mastermind in head coach Kyle Shanahan, but the 49ers built around him this offseason. They brought in running back Jerick McKinnon, a speed receiving threat out of the back field who is a great check down running back for Garoppolo that he didn’t have a season ago. Plus, the 49ers added to their once weak offensive line by signing center Weston Richburg in free agency and drafting right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Now, there will more time for the brilliant plays drawn up by Shanahan to fully develop. Lastly, wide receiver Pierre Garcon will be fully recovered from his neck injury he suffered a season ago most likely. Garoppolo never got to play with Garcon, who gives Garoppolo a solid #1 receiver that had 1041 yards in 2016 and was on pace for 1000 yards last season. There’s a lot of pressure for Garoppolo to succeed, but he’s in a great position to do so.
Meet the newest member in the Manny Machado sweepstakes, the New York Yankees. On Wednesday, Jon Heyman of FanCred reported that the Yankees made a “very strong offer” for Machado. To add more drama into this situation, Machado liked a picture on Instagram of him in a Yankees jersey. Many question if the 60-31 Yankees should trade a big package of prospects to land a superstar in Machado, who is a free agent at the end of the year, when they seem to be fine without him. However, the Yankees need to take advantage of the opportunity to land a superstar in Machado, and get a deal done with the Orioles.
What position Machado would play with the Yankees is a major question in analyzing his fit with them. After playing third base for the first five seasons of his career, he moved back to shortstop, where he played in the minors. He has stated several times that he wishes to remain at shortstop, so that’s the most likely case scenario here. That means most likely he’d be replacing Didi Gregorius at shortstop. This gives the Yankees three options in a trade for Machado. They could trade Gregorious and prospects to the Orioles, they could trade young third baseman Miguel Andujar and a couple lower level prospects to the Orioles and move Gregorious to third, or center a trade around their top prospect in outfielder Estevan Florial. The most logical option would be to trade Gregorious and mid tier prospects to Baltimore. Even though the Orioles aren’t in win now mode by any means (hence why they’re trading Machado), they may still value Gregorious as their potential shortstop of the future, or they can simply trade him for more prospects. In logical for the Yankees, as they trade Gregorious (doesn’t matter because they have Machado) and a couple mid tier prospects they can afford to give up in a rich farm system. Regardless of what position Machado plays, he’ll almost certainly bat third in what would be the best lineup in the MLB.
Here are two potential lineups for the Yankees with Machado
If he plays short:
Brett Gardner LF
Aaron Judge RF
Manny Machado SS
Giancarlo Stanton DH
Gary Sanchez C
Greg Bird 1B
Aaron Hicks CF
Miguel Andujar 3B Gleyber Torres 2B
If he plays third: Brett Gardner LF
Aaron Judge RF
Manny Machado 3B
Giancarlo Stanton DH
Didi Gregorious SS
Gary Sanchez C
Greg Bird 1B
Aaron Hicks CF
Gleyber Torres 2B
Assuming Machado plays short, he’ll be replacing a valuable contributor in Didi Gregorius. However, Machado is an all around much better player than Gregorious. Machado is hitting .314/.383/.573 with 23 home runs, while Gregorius is only hitting .260/.322/.460 with 15 home runs. Machado also has a much higher win probability added (WPA) than Gregorius, as he has a 2.15 WPA compared to Gregorious’ 0.34 WPA. While Machado has struggled defensively by the metrics, Gregorious has to with a -1 drs. So the difference between the two defensively is marginal if there is any. Even if Gregorious is a slightly better player, Machado is the far superior offensive player and therefore is the more valuable player.
If Machado decides to move back to third base, he’ll be replacing Miguel Andujar. Andujar is having a solid rookie season, hitting .279/.313/.495 with 12 home runs. Obviously, Machado is the much better offensive player. Andujar is a liability defensively as he already has -12 defensive runs saved (drs), which puts him on pace for an atrocious -22 drs. Machado on the other hand, had 6 drs when playing third base a season ago. As expected, Andujar WPA of 0.29 is much lower than Machado’s 2.15. Yes, Andujar is a young player who is still developing player. However, he’d be lucky to develop into half the player that Machado is.
For the short term, this would easily make the Yankees the best team in baseball. Not only is Machado a clear upgrade over whoever he replaces, he’d make the rest of the lineup better. Currently, pitchers only throw 39.1% of their pitches in the strike zone when facing Aaron Judge. For Giancarlo Stanton, that total drops to 37.6%. Assuming Manny Machado hits third and Aaron Judge hits second, Judge will get a lot more pitches to hit because he has a superstar in Machado waiting behind him. Stanton will then get more pitches to hit because he’ll almost certainly have more chances to hit with runners on base. Machado also brings balance to what is currently a one dimensional lineup. The Yankees lineup is currently in the top ten in strikeouts. Aaron Judge strikes out in 30.8% of his at bats, while Giancarlo Stanton strikes out in 31.3% of his at bats. On the contrary, Machado strikes out in only 12.8% of his at bats. The Yankees have been looking for someone to hit in between Judge and Stanton all year, and Machado would be that guy. He’d also help them in crucial situations, something the Yankees sluggers have struggled in. Judge has a -1.15 Clutch Rating and had a -3.64 Clutch Rating last year, while Stanton has a -1.32 Clutch Rating this year and had a -1.61 Clutch Rating last season. Machado on the other hand had a 1.44 Clutch Rating last year. Hitting in crucial situations is huge come playoff time, and Machado does that exceptionally well compared to Judge and Stanton.
For the long term, there are some red flags. First off, Machado is a free agent at the end of the year, so many teams are hesitant to trade top prospects for a so called “rental” with no guarantee he’d resign. That’s a legitimate argument for many teams, but not for the Yankees. Not only did Machado like a photo of him in a Yankees jersey on Instagram, probably a hint that he wants the Yankees to trade for him, he’s told those close to him that the Yankees are “clearly his first choice” in free agency. An extra two to three months to convince Machado to sign long term would likely be the final straw in getting a deal done. After playing in a small market in Baltimore, he clearly wants to go to a bigger market, and New York is as big of a market as there is. While this may cause some financial issues long term with the luxury tax, the Yankees are clearly not shy of paying this. The main issue with going over the luxury tax to an extreme is that the Yankees’ first round pick would drop ten spots. However, the Yankees will almost certainly be picking in the late 20s in the first round for the next ten years, so does going down from 30 to 40 make that much of a difference? Especially considering with a superstar in Machado who is in his prime, they’d be the World Series favorite for the next five to ten years. If they were going to make a big financial commitment, it should definitely be in the lineup because they have a lot of pitching prospects but no good position player prospects besides outfielder Estevan Florial, who still can be slated in as the team’s long term center fielder. So while a Machado trade doesn’t make sense long term for several teams, it certainly does for the Yankees.
Manny Machado is a once in a generation type player who is a player almost every team would love to build their team around. He clearly wants to go the Yankees, so it’s up to them to go trade for him now. We’ve seen before in the sports world where a player at one point wants to go to a team, but then falls in love with a different team he is traded to. Look at the NBA, where star player Paul George came out and said he wanted to be a Los Angeles Laker. The Lakers didn’t trade for him right then, and instead George was traded to Oklahoma City Thunder. A year later, George ended up falling in love with the Thunder’s culture and resigned long term. So the lesson here for the Yankees is to not end up like the Lakers, and go out and get their guy now to make certain they are able to have him long term. As soon as they get Machado, the Yankees will be the next MLB dynasty, mark my words. Think Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors.
Today, EA Sports released their full Madden 19 player ratings. Some of their ratings are spot on, but others weren’t as good. In this article, we’ll explore who the real best player on each NFL team is compared to who Madden 19 says it is.
Arizona Cardinals: RB David Johnson
Despite missing practically the entire season with a thumb injury, David Johnson is still the best player on the cardinals. In 2016, he had 2,118 yards combined (1239 rushing and 879 receiving) with 20 combined touchdowns (16 rushing and 4 receiving). He brings a lot if versatility to the Cardinals offense and is by far their most important player. When he went down with the thumb injury last year, it became clear that the Cardinals truly missed him and needed him. Madden 19 agrees, as David Johnson leads the Cardinals with a 93 overall.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones
In what some considered a down year for Jones, he still had 1444 yards receiving and 3 touchdowns. Now, the touchdowns were way lower than anyone expected. However, that had more to do with the Falcons’ overall struggle to adapt to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s scheme than Jones himself. Those three touchdowns may have been a career low for him in a full season, but he still ranked as Pro Football Focus’ #3 wide receiver, earning an overall grade of 91.4. Madden 19 definitely agrees with this, as Julio Jones leads the Falcons with a 98 overall.
Baltimore Ravens: G Marshall Yanda
Marshall Yanda may have suffered an ankle injury that forced him to miss 14 games last season, but he’s still undoubtably the Ravens’ best player. He had made the Pro Bowl six straight seasons prior to last season, and made All Pro Teams in 2014 and 2015. He’s as consistent as it gets, and is still one of the game’s best run blockers. Madden 19 also agrees with this one, as Yanda leads the Ravens with a 92 overall.
Buffalo Bills: CB Tre’Davious White
Tre’Davious White may have had as good of a rookie season as a rookie corner can in his rookie year. In any year besides last year, he would’ve won rookie of the year. However, Marshon Lattimore was able to win it, as in year one Lattimore was already a top five corner. Back to White, he graded out really well for Pro Football Focus. His 92 grade ranked him only behind Casey Heyward of the Chargers for corner backs. He had four interceptions in his rookie year, and guarded every team’s number one receiver, which many rookie cornerbacks can’t do. He should continue to develop into one of the game’s best corners. Madden 19 actually doesn’t agree with this, as safety Micah Hyde leads the team with a 91 overall. Hyde is a great player, but White graded out much better and is more valuable to the Bills defense than Hyde, as White is responsible for containing opposing teams’ number one option.
Carolina Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly
Arguably the game’s best linebacker, Kuechly continues to be the face of the Panthers defense. The 27-year-old has already made five Pro Bowls and four All Pro First Teams. He had a stellar 2017 campaign, where he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ #3 linebacker with a 93.9 grade. Overall, he did it all with 74 tackles and 3 interceptions. Madden 19 agrees with this choice, as Kuechly is one of Madden 19’s seven players to earn a 99 overall.
Chicago Bears: S Adrian Amos
In his three-year career, Adrian Amos hasn’t made the Pro Bowl once. That’s about to change very soon. The 25-year-old safety actually graded as Pro Football Focus’ #2 safety a year ago with a 92 grade. He’s not a ball hawk, as he only has one career interception. However, he has great speed and has been a tackling machine. Last year, he had 60 tackles in just 10 games started. With 16 games started, he can probably get over 100 tackles. Expect Amos to develop into one of the game’s top safeties very soon, if he already isn’t one. Madden 19 agrees with this, as Amos leads the Bears with a 90 overall.
Cincinatti Bengals: WR AJ Green
Despite playing with an average QB at best in Andy Dalton, AJ Green still totaled 1078 yards receiving with 8 touchdowns. He only graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 12th ranked receiver with a 83.5 grade. A part of this was due to his career low catch rate at 52.4%. However, the two years prior his catch rate was 65.2% and 66%. Therefore, this season was most likely an outlier and Green should return to form into his top five receiver form this season. Even if he doesn’t, 1078 yards with 8 touchdowns are still amazing numbers. Madden 19 agrees with this choice as well, as Green leads the Bengals with a 93 overall.
Cleveland Browns: G Joel Bitonio
Arguably the most underrated offensive lineman in football, Bitonio has been a staple of a solid Browns offensive line since he came into the league. While he’s an average run blocker, he’s an elite pass blocker and may possibly get a chance to move to left tackle with the retirement of Joe Thomas. At just 26 years old, he should continue to improve and develop into one of the game’s best offensive lineman. He graded out well for Pro Football Focus, earning a 85.2 grade which ranks him as the #6 guard. Madden 19 has him tied for the highest overall with G Kevin Zeitler at an 89 overall. Bitonio provides a little more flexibility and has more upside than Zeitler, and I think he’s the better player.
Dallas Cowboys: G Zack Martin
Now that Joe Thomas has retired, G Zack Martin is officially the best offensive lineman in football. He’s started every single game as a pro in his four seasons, and has made the Pro Bowl in each of those four seasons. He also has earned First Team All pro honors twice, in 2014 and 2016. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ top guard a year ago, earning a 92.2 grade. He’s the linchpin of Dallas’ running game, which constantly succeeds no matter who the running back is. Madden 19 doesn’t agree with this choice, as Martin is tied for second for highest overall Cowboys player with LB Sean Lee at a 96 overall, and trails C Travis Frederick who is a 98 overall. Martin and Lee play different positions and are hard to compare, but Martin is much more durable than Lee, making him the better player. As for Frederick, Martin has accomplished a little more than he has, and Martin also graded out better this season.
Denver Broncos: LB Von Miller
In what was a down year for Von Miller, he still was able to post double-digit sacks (10). That’s still very impressive considering he gets double teamed practically every play. He also forced two fumbles, and played in every game this season. His presence opens it up for his teammates due to the fact that he draws all the attention. He still graded out as Pro Football Focus’ #2 edge defender in 2017 with a 95.0 grade. In his seven-year career, he’s made the Pro Bowl six times and the All Pro First Team three times. Madden 19 definitely agrees with this one, as Miller is one of seven players to earn a 99 overall, and is 11 points higher than anyone else on the Broncos. (Chris Harris, Demaryius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders are all tied for second with an 88 overall)
Detroit Lions: CB Darius Slay
Last season, CB Darius Slay lead the NFL with 8 interceptions and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance and made the All Pro First Team for the first time in his five career. Considering he quadrupled his career high in interceptions, its safe to say that Slay has finally developed into one of the league’s best corners. He’s become a true #1 corner and has become the face of the Lions defense. He graded out as an above average corner from Pro Football Focus last year with a score of 88.1 that was good enough to rank him #11 among corners. If he has another year like he did, and all indications are that he should, he will have cemented his case as of the NFL’s top five corner backs. Madden 19 agrees with the choice of Slay, as they too have Slay as the best Lions player at a 91 overall.
Green Bay Packers: QB Aaron Rodgers
Despite missing 9 games with a collarbone injury, Aaron Rodgers is clearly the best player on the Packers. Without him, Green Bay fell from Superbowl contenders to completely out of the postseason race. In his 10 years as a starting quarterback, Rodgers has posted a losing record just once, and that was in his first season. He’s also earned six Pro Bowl appearances, made two All Pro First Teams, and has had six straight seasons with less than 10 interceptions. Before getting injured, Rodgers was on pace for another season of over 4,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns. He’s shown no signs of slowing down, and remains the most talented quarterback in the NFL. Madden 19 agrees, as he’s one of those players with a 99 overall.
Houston Texans: WR DeAndre Hopkins
The obvious choice here would be DE JJ Watt, but he’s been hit with the injury bug the last two seasons. So now let’s focus on the best player on the Texans: DeAndre Hopkins. Despite QB Deshaun Watson only starting six games, Hopkins had 1378 yards receiving and led the league with 13 touchdowns. Remember, outside of Watson, Hopkins was forced to play with QBs such as Tom Savage and TJ Yates. The fact that Hopkins can lead the league in touchdowns with these quarterbacks throwing him the ball is insane. He ranked as Pro Football Focus’ #4 receiver with a 90.6 grade. As long as Deshaun Watson is healthy, expect Hopkins to exceed 1500 yards and lead the league in touchdowns again. Madden 19 has Hopkins has the second best player with a 94 overall, trailing Watt at a 98 overall. As mentioned before, Watt has been hit hard with the injury bug and has only played in 8 games the last two seasons. Therefore, Watt can unfortunately no longer be trusted as the Texans’ best player.
Indianapolis Colts: DE Jabaal Sheard
Jabaal Sheard is definitely one of the most underrated players in the league. While he’s never made a Pro Bowl, he’s constantly put up solid numbers, been versatile, and has been a disruptive presence on the defensive line. Last year, he showed he was more than capable of switching off between 3-4 outside linebacker and defensive end. He only totaled 5.5 sacls, but he’s a one man wrecking crew on the defensive line in Indianapolis and draws all the attention. He still graded out as the 9th best edge defender with an elite 91.3 grade by Pro Football Focus. The obvious choice in most years would be QB Andrew Luck, but he hasn’t even thrown a football in a year, so he cannot be trusted. WR TY Hilton is tied for the highest rated Colts player with Sheard at a 89 overall. However, Hilton didn’t even eclipse 1000 yards last season without Luck, showing that he needs a good quarterback to succeed. Sheard however, was able to put together a productive season despite having no supporting cast on defense.
Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Calais Campbell
A free agency acquisition from last year, Campbell had a breakout season in the first year of his 4 year/$60M contract, posting a career high in sacks (14.5) . Campbell is a physical force at 6’8” 300 pounds, and is mainly a 3-4 defensive end. Therefore, he doesn’t even need to have a lot of sacks to be productive. So the fact that he can still put up double-digit sacks when it’s not even his main job is extremely impressive. He was able to earn his third Pro Bowl appearance last season, and also made the All Pro First Team. He also graded out extremely well from Pro Football Focus, earning a 93.5 grade which ranked him as the #4 edge defender. Madden 19 rates Campbell as the third best Jaguars player at a 92 overall, trailing corner backs Jalen Ramsey (97 overall) and AJ Bouye (94 overall). Bouye really struggled in the postseason and was targeted often, and Campbell is more accomplished than Ramsey. Ramsey should overtake Campbell in a couple of years as he continues to develop into one of the game’s premier corners.
Kansas City Chiefs: TE Travis Kelce
For the second straight season, Travis Kelce posted over 1,000 receiving yards with 1038 yards in 2017. He also had a career high 8 touchdowns, proving to be a dominant force in both the open field and in the red zone. He’s also become an excellent blocker, improving each season. Because of this, many believe Kelce may actually be the NFL’s best tight end. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the #3 tight end, with a 87.8 grade. Madden 19 has Kelce as the second highest Chiefs player at a 95 overall, trailing only Eric Berry who is a 96 overall. Berry tore his Achilles in week one and missed the rest of the 2017 season. Therefore, no one knows how productive he’ll be this year, while they can expect Kelce to have over 1,000 yards and continue to be an excellent blocker.
Los Angeles Rams: DT Aaron Donald
Despite missing the first and last games of the 2017 season, Aaron Donald still had 11 sacks, which is excellent for an interior defensive lineman. He is a force in shutting down both the pass game and the run game, and is arguably the most unblockable defensive lineman in the NFL. His 99.7 grade from Pro Football Focus shows how perfect of a player he is, and he has a legitimate case as the best player in the NFL. He is one of the seven players to earn a 99 overall in Madden 19, as they also recognize how amazing of a player he is.
Los Angeles Chargers: CB Casey Hayward
Casey Hayward has been a much better player since signing with the Chargers in the 2015 offseason. In his two years with the Chargers, he has 11 interceptions and made the Pro Bowl in each of those two seasons. He has become the face of a young and up and coming Chargers defense, and has a legitimate case as the NFL’s best corner. Pro Football Focus graded him as the best corner with a 96.4 grade, so his production is definitely backing up that claim. Madden 19 has Keenan Allen as the highest overall at a 92 overall, with Hayward as a 91 overall. Think of it this way, Hayward may be the best corner while Allen isn’t even a top five receiver. Hayward is definitely the best player on the Chargers and should be at least a 95 overall.
Miami Dolphins: DE Cameron Wake
Even at age 36, Cameron Wake is still the best player on the Dolphins. He’s still a very good player, as he had 10.5 sacks last season and played in every game. He also has a lot on his resume, as he’s made five Pro Bowls and one All Pro First Team. He graded out as the #28 edge defender in the NFL with a 83.2 grade from Pro Football Focus. On any other team, he’s probably not the best player. However, the Dolphins aren’t very talented, so the 36-year-old Wake is still the best player. Madden 19 has him as the second highest Dolphins player at an 89 overall, trailing S Reshad Jones who is a 91 overall. Jones really had a down year last year, so I don’t think he should be higher than Wake, who is much more consistent.
Minnesota Vikings: S Harrison Smith
In the last three years, Harrison Smith has developed into the best safety in the NFL. He’s made the Pro Bowl in each of those last three years and made the All Pro First Team last year, as he had 5 interceptions and 61 tackles while playing in every game. He graded out extremely well from Pro Football Focus, earning a 97.0 grade which ranked him as the best safety in the NFL. Madden 19 agrees with this choice, as Smith is the highest ranked Vikings player with a 97 overall.
New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady
As long as he keeps playing, QB Tom Brady will always be the best player on the Patriots. The 40-year-old has reached 13 Pro Bowl appearances, made three All Pro First Teams, won five Super Bowls, and is a three-time MVP. He’s showing no signs of slowing down, as he led the league with 4577 passing yards last year, and has a tremendous 32-8 tocuhdown-interception ratio. Pro Football Focus graded him as the best quarterback in the league with a 95.5 grade. He is obviously one of the seven players who earned a 99 overall in Madden 19. (His teammate Rob Gronkowski is also one of them).
New Orleans Saints: DE Cameron Jordan
This isn’t about QB Drew Brees declining with age (he isn’t), nor the fact that the Saints three young superstars (WR Michael Thomas, RB Alvin Kamara, and CB Marshon Lattimore) aren’t as experienced. This is more of a testament to how dominant of a player Cameron Jordan has become however. He totalled a career high in sacks last year with 13, besides being a one man wrecking crew on a weak New Orleans defensive line last year. He graded out as the #1 edge defender last year over Von Miller with a 96.2 grade. Madden 19 agrees that Jordan is the Saints best player, as he leads the Saints with a 95 overall.
New York Giants: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Last year was not the season WR Odell Beckham Jr. wanted to have. He was only able to start two games, as he had injury issues to start they year, and then he fractured his ankle in Week 5, which caused him to miss the rest of the year. It’s hard to ignore what he did in the two-year before last season though, as he had a combined 2817 yards and 23 touchdowns. These stats are insane, and he’s easily a top five wide receiver. He’s tied with DT Damon Harrison with a 95 overall in Madden 19. This was neck and neck between Harrison and Beckham Jr., but I just believe that Beckham Jr. is a one in a kind player who should continue to get better as long as he rehabs well from his ankle injury.
New York Jets: DL Leonard Williams
Leonard Williams may not be a flashy player, but he’s developing into an outstanding player. He’s improving as a pass rusher and is an excellent run stuffer. He’s already been to one Pro Bowl, in 2016, and is an extremely valuable player to the Jets defense. He earned a 84.8 grade, which ranked him as the #21 defensive interior lineman. The Jets aren’t a very talented team, which is why Williams is the best player. On any other team than the Jets and the Dolphins, he wouldn’t be the best player. Williams is tied for second for highest Jets player with WR Robby Anderson at an 84 overall while safety Jamal Adams is a 86 overall. Anderson is a very talented player, but he struggled a lot with drops. As for Adams, he’s only been in the NFL for one season, and wasn’t anything spectacular in his rookie season. Therefore, Williams (the only one out of those three with a Pro Bowl appearance) is the best player on the Jets.
Oakland Raiders: DE Khalil Mack
In four seasons, Khalil Mack has already made three Pro Bowls and two All Pro First Teams. He’s had double-digit sacks the last three years and had 10.5 last year. With more help on the defensive line, he could have a legitimate chance to break the all time season sack record. He earned a 92.1 grade, which ranked him as the #5 edge defender. Remember, this was all in a “down year” for him. Madden 19 agrees with this, as he’s the highest Oakland Raider with a 98 overall.
Philadelphia Eagles: DL Fletcher Cox
This choice was extremely close between Cox and QB Carson Wentz. However, Cox is a little more accomplished than Wentz. Wentz also is coming back from a knee injury, which gives Cox the edge as the Eagles best player. A three-time Pro Bowler, Cox is arguably the game’s best run stuffer. he’s a force to be reckoned with, and often draws a lot of double teams. That draws one on ones for Cox’s fellow teammates Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett, who are able to feast on these match ups. He graded out well from Pro Football Focus, earning a 91.2 grade which was good enough to rank him as the third best defensive interior lineman. Madden ranks Cox as tied for the second best player with guard Brandon Brooks at a 93 overall, trailing safety Malcolm Jenkins who is a 94 overall. Jenkins is overrated, as he did not grade out well at all from Pro Football Focus. Brooks is a solid player, but he has currently is no where the near the force on the offensive line that Cox is on the defensive line.
Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Antonio Brown
Easily the best wide receiver in the NFL, Brown barely beats out running back Le’Veon Bell as the Steelers best player. He is as consistent as it gets, as he has had five straight seasons with over 1000 yards receiving. He’s led the league in receiving yards twice, in 2014 when he had 1698 yards, and last season when he had 1533 yards. Remember, he was knocked out with an injury early in a Week 15 contest vs the Patriots, so he missed two and a half games. If he had stayed healthy, he would’ve had a chance at 2000 yards. That’s simply absurd, and he does it all. He’s the best route runner, has the best hands, and wins almost every jump ball. He’s made four straight All Pro First Teams and five straight Pro Bowls. Madden 19 agrees with this, as Brown is one of those seven players with a 99 overall.
San Francisco 49ers: DL DeForest Buckner
Since coming into the league in 2015 out of Oregon, DeForest Buckner has been a force to be reckoned with. He hasn’t developed yet as a pass rusher, but he may never need. He has great run stuffing ability, and has tremendous strength with his 6’7” 300 pound frame. He’s another one of those guys who is able to open it up for his fellow teammates to pressure the quarterback because he commands all the attention from an offensive line. Once he develops as a pass rusher, he’ll be right there with Aaron Donald as the best interior defender in the game of football. He graded out extremely well from Pro Football Focus, earning a 90.4 grade, ranking him as the #6 defensive interior lineman in just his second season.Madden doesn’t agree with this one, as Buckner is the fourth highest rated 49ers player behind LB Reuben Foster (87 overall), LT Joe Staley (90 overall), and CB Richard Sherman (90 overall). Foster has only played ten games of his career, while Sherman is recovering from a brutal Achilles injury. Therefore, it comes down to Buckner and Staley, and Buckner graded out better than Staley and is also still developing.
Seattle Seahawks: QB Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson nearly single-handedly carried the Seahawks to the playoffs last season. Despite not having a running game or any sort of protection from the worst offensive line in football, Wilson still threw for 3983 yards, threw for 34 touchdowns, and led the team in rushing with 586 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. He’s already a four-time Pro Bowler, and is as talented as it gets. If he had any sort of supporting cast around him, he’d be able to put up stats worthy of making the All Pro First Team. For now though, Wilson is stuck in Seattle where his supporting cast actually got worse this offseason. Madden 19 doesn’t agree with this, as Wilson is the third highest Seahawks player at a 92 overall behind safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner. Both of those two guys are tremendous players, but neither has to single-handedly carry the defense like Wilson has to carry the offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Lavonte David
One of the more underappreciated players in the NFL, David had a tremendous season last season that should have earned him Pro Bowl honors. He was on pace for nearly 100 tackles (missed three games) and forced five fumbles. He graded out extremely well with a 94.2 grade, ranking him as the second best linebacker over Luke Keuchly. David didn’t have an interception, but he is able to shut down the run game and cover a lot of range. Madden 19 agrees with this, as David is highest ranked Bucs player at a 95 overall.
Tennessee Titans: DL Jurrell Casey
Jurrell Casey is another one of those players who isn’t flashy, but is extremely productive. A 3-4 defensive end for his entire career, he’s not a big threat as a pass rusher. However, he’s one of the best run stuffers in the NFL and is extremely durable. He’s made three straight Pro Bowls and is as consistent as it gets. He earned a 89.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, which puts him as the 9th best defensive interior lineman. Normally though, he’s arguably a top five defensive interior lineman. Madden 19 doesn’t agree with this, as Casey is tied for the second highest Titans player with safety Kevin Byard at a 89 overall and trails tight end Delanie Walker who is a 93 overall. Byard may have been tied for the most interceptions a season ago, but he’s still developing as an all around safety and wasn’t close to as good the year prior. As for Walker, he is nowhere near as durable as Casey, as Walker has started just 21 games the last two seasons compared to Casey’s 31 games started.
Washington Redskins: G Brandon Scherff
In his three year career in the NFL, Brandon Scherff has already made two Pro Bwols. He also has been a starter since day one, and is very versatile. A tackle in college, Scherff has primarily played guard in the NFL. If Washington ever needed him to switch back to tackle, he could certainly do it as he’s an exceptional pass blocker. He earned a 83.2 grade from Pro Football Focus, which ranked him as the eight best guard. Expect for him to be at least a top five guard at the end of this season. Madden 19 doesn’t agree with this, as Scherff is the third highest Redskins player at 90 overall, behind left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jordan Reed, who each are a 94 overall. Reed and Williams are great players when healthy, but the issue is they are never healthy. Scherff has played in 46 out of 48 games in his three seasons as a pro. In that same three-year span, Reed has played in 22 games and Williams has played in 36 games. Therefore, Scherff is much more reliable, which gives him the edge as the best Redskins player
Blake Snell has the lowest ERA in the AL at 2.09. Bryce Harper has an average of .218 and a WAR of 0.2. Snell didn’t even make the All Star Game, while Harper is getting to start in the Mid Summer Classic. This is simply absurd, and it shows how flawed the All Star Game Voting is.
Lets start with the first major flaw, which is that each team needs one representative. This is what hurt Snell. Tampa Bay already had a representative in staring catcher Wilson Ramos. On the other hand, the Blue Jays and Twins need a representative. Because of that, JA Happ (4.44 ERA) and Jose Berrios (3.54 ERA) made the team over Snell. The All Star Game is supposed to showcase the best MLB players. However, the worse teams have to have representatives, so that goal is no longer being fulfilled.
A 2.09 ERA should put Blake Snell in the running to be a starter. He has been amazing as of late and really separated himself from the pack this month. However, the players have to vote a month and a half before and are given a paper with no stats on it, according to Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. At the time, JA Happ had been very efficient, but a horrible June upped his ERA to 4.44. He may have been deserving of the All Star Game at the time, but its clear he is no longer deserving of that honor. The difference in ERA between Snell and Happ is 2.35. That difference is too big to ignore, and it just how flawed voting the reserves and pitchers is.
Now lets focus on the most major flaw, which is the fan voting. Every year, the MLB lets the fans vote for who they believe should start in the All Star Game. Even though they provide stats, fans tend to still vote for their favorite players. Hence, why Bryce Harper made the team as a starter despite having a .218 average and a 0.2 WAR. He’s one of the most popular players in the league, so as long as fan voting exists, he’ll start in the All Star Game every year for the rest of his career no matter how bad of a season he is having. Plus, the stats that is given is only offensive stats. To be an All Star, a player should be able to contribute in all facets of the game. Someone like Lorenzo Cain may not have flashy numbers with a .290 average and 8 home runs. However, he has an elite .394 OBP, 12 drs, and a 4.1 WAR (highest in the NL). By his WAR, Cain is a serious NL MVP candidate. However since the fans can’t see these very important stats, they vote for the guys with the highest average and the most home runs, even if that’s all they are good for. If the All Star Game is supposed to showcase the best players, then more important stats need to be provided for fans, or fan voting should just completely be taken away.
The All Star Game is supposed to showcase the best players in the MLB. However due to several flaws in the voting, this doesn’t happen. Blake Snell getting snubbed and Bryce Harper making the team as a starter is simply just a harsh reminder of how broken the system is. For the All Star Game to achieve its main purpose, commissioner Robert Manfred needs to fix this flaws in a hurry. If he doesn’t, the All Star Game will continue to be a complete waste of a game.