The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, fantasy updates, and more. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN, or 4for4.com.
What an action-packed weekend. If you saw any of the 15 games from the past week, chances are you were very entertained. The offensive dominance continued through the quarter mark of the season, as evident by this tweet from Adam Schefter. Two young quarterbacks were huge contributors to that stat and I’ll talk about both today. Also, I’ll lament two coaches who should be under fire, look at the infamous Earl Thomas situation, bow down to the greatest football dynasty of all-time, dish out weekly awards, and so much more.
THINGS I KNOW
I know you should’ve joined me on the Jared Goff bandwagon. A little over a year ago, I begged the question: Why is everyone just realizing Jared Goff’s greatness? Keep in mind this was just three games into his second season. If you remember correctly, Goff’s rookie season was so underwhelming that some already branded him as a bust. Fast forward to the present where a week after Goff tossed five touchdowns (four of which came in the first half), there are already cries for Goff to take home the MVP trophy. Honestly, it’s about time. Goff has always had a beautiful and concise throwing motion; he just never had the pieces in place to succeed. Well, now he has pieces. Loads of them. Add those with his consistent improvement and Goff is for sure a favorite to be this year’s MVP.
I know Matt Nagy is trending towards Coach of the Year. As I mentioned in Week One, I was thiiis close to writing Nagy’s name under Coach of the Year. The Bears’ recent performance is really making me regret my decision. As if that 48-10 butt-kicking wasn’t enough, Chicago is first in the NFC North and has the eighth-best offense in the NFL. Of course, you can’t forget about the Bears’ fifth-best defense either. The team’s turnaround reminds me of the Rams’ turnaround from a year ago. First-year coach Sean McVay won the Coach of the Year last year, and if the Bears continue to improve, Nagy might be following in McVay’s footsteps.
I know the Patriots’ dynasty isn’t dead. Last week, I wondered if it was actually the end of an era in New England or just another annual panic. Just as I figured, the Patriots dominated two straight games as they rose from the dead. (Were they ever really dead to begin with?) Had the Patriots lost one of those then I’d have called for the Grim Reaper. At this point I wonder if the Patriots will ever fall off their perch as Kings of the AFC. The Chiefs are hot, but they’ve struggled to stay hot into January before. The only other perennial threat to the Patriots’ dynasty, the Steelers, have not looked like contenders thus far. Once again, Bill Belichick silenced his doubters and restored hope for yet another title run.
I know Dirk Koetter was right. After the Buccaneers got trounced by 38 points to the Bears, Koetter said, “We should fire everybody that was on that field today, starting with me. That was horrific.” You think? I’ve been skeptical of the Bucs for some time now and this beat-down might signal a turning of the tides in Tampa Bay. It’s not like Koetter has won anything special with the team sans two outliers to begin this season. Koetter’s first season ended with an uninspiring five wins and no clear identity on offense. The unit ranked just 18th in total offense while the defensive finished 22nd in total defense. A carryover from the forgettable Lovie Smith era, Koetter’s time in Tampa Bay might be soon coming to a close.
I know this was an aesthetic weekend. At least for my taste, that is. Some of the uniforms worn this past weekend were phenomenal. The Saints should wear those wonderful whites more often and might be among the league’s best. The Falcons’ throwbacks were on point, too. The Broncos-Chiefs game produced a nice uniform matchup as well. The Packers’ throwbacks and Lions’ all-grays certainly stood out, though I’m not sure if it’s for better or for worse. The real pièce de résistance, though, was awarded Uniform of the Week below.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know what to make of the Earl Thomas situation. It’s tragic anytime a player gets hurt especially when his season and potentially his career could be over. By now, Thomas’ angst with the Seahawks’ organization has been pretty well documented. Despite his public demands for trade and comments against the franchise, Thomas still suited up each game for Seattle. All this considered, it was nearly impossible to not feel bad for Thomas when he went down. Despite all that, was a middle finger really appropriate?
Sure, Thomas probably wasn’t thinking about potentially being caught by a camera or anything. It’s hard to blame him for having other things on his mind. No one’s even exactly sure who Thomas’ gesture was meant for. I wonder if other teams saw the incident and now think less of Thomas. No one wants a player who could easily get ticked off, even if he used to be a sensational player. Obviously there’s a lot of mixed feelings about how both the Seahawks and Thomas have handled his situation, so for now I’ll hold any judgement and just hope that Thomas can make a quick return to the field.
I don’t know how this comparison can be any better. Let’s play a quick fill-in-the-blank. _______ has always had a beautiful and concise throwing motion, he just never had the pieces in place to succeed. If you said Jared Goff, congrats on reading the first section of the Things I Know. However, I would also have excepted ‘Josh Rosen in two to three years’. The similarities between Goff and Rosen are plentiful; both are thin, privileged, multi-sport athletes who were high picks out of a California school. On the field, they share a quick and gorgeous throwing motion. While they aren’t known for their mobility they do have great footwork in the pocket. The physical comparisons don’t end there, but I wanted to take a quick look at their situations, too. Goff had a horrendous coaching staff his rookie year and almost no offensive help. Rosen is suffering through that phase now. I’m not saying Rosen is Goff 2.0, but the similarities (and potential similarities) are too hard to ignore.
I don’t know what to think of Frank Reich’s decision to go for it. My first reaction was pretty negative. Why on Earth would you go for it on fourth-and-four on your own 43 yard-line? That’s what the Colts did, and after a failed pass from the shotgun, the Texans won on a field goal just moments later. Reich’s call initially seemed like a pretty boneheaded decision. However, I’ve given the call some more thought. First, there was only 27 seconds left when Reich chose to go for it. Also, the team supported the decision, which bodes well for the first-year head coach. Finally, if the Colts did punt, it’s highly likely that the game would’ve ended in a tie. Ties suck. So while Reich cost the Colts the game, does it really matter? I can’t see this team reaching the playoffs, anyways. At least Reich showed he’s not only got the confidence of his team, but he’s also got some guts.
I don’t know how many QBs will go in the first round. If you really know me, you know that the NFL Draft is my true obsession. It’s my favorite non-sporting sports event of the year. With that said, it was pretty hard to resist looking at the potential group of signal-callers for this year’s class. Update: I’m still looking. The only guy who has truly established himself as a potential first-round pick is Oregon’s Justin Herbert. (Read on for a little more about the potential QB1.) Guys like Missouri’s Drew Lock and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham have flashed potential but ultimately have been too inconsistent for my liking. West Virginia’s Will Grier and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins have certainly been flashy but neither have really screamed ‘Pro-Ready,’ especially Haskins who’s only a Redshirt Sophomore.
TRIVIA OF THE WEEK
Question: Since the start of 2017, which QB has led seven comeback drives, the most in that timespan?
Check out the ‘Awards’ section for the answer.
As fantasy football season rolls on, I’ll be focusing on a couple fantasy-related issues. This can include Players to Watch, Making the Case, or questions from you, the reader.
I know, I know, everyone knows who these guys are. On the contrary, no one seems to know what’s going to happen with each player this season. There are so many questions swirling around the Steelers’ running backs even after it came out that Bell will reportedly return to the team during their Week Seven bye. The best approach to dissecting the duo’s respective values is to look at each scenario.
Let’s say Bell returns and stays with the Steelers. He’s automatically a top player again; whereas, Conner becomes one of the league’s top backups and potential fill-ins. If Bell either a) returns only to be traded or b) ends up not returning, Conner will continue to be a top-seven RB. Keep in mind that Conner has seen the sixth-most touches through the first four weeks. The most realistic outcome is Bell returns, but not with the Steelers. Factoring in the disdain he’s voiced towards Pittsburgh and the reactions from his teammates, Bell will almost assuredly leave in the offseason. It’s been proven that the Steelers won’t meet Bell’s contract demands so why wouldn’t Pittsburgh try and get some value back for him? At this rate, Conner and Bell could still both have value later in the season. Keep an eye on this situation.
Every week, I’ll be scouting a college football player who recently grabbed the spotlight. This week, Armchair Scout Rob Paul subs in and highlights Justin Herbert.
The 2018 NFL Draft was full of talented quarterbacks and we saw five go in the first round. Well, it’s a whole different story for the 2019 NFL Draft. It’s one of the weaker quarterback classes over the last few years. For one lucky team picking early and in need of a quarterback, there is one guy: Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
Herbert has been hyped since his Sophomore year and has been my QB1 since December. There was talk of other quarterback in the top spot conversation, but recently the Oregon signal caller’s stock has gone through the roof as he has gotten more exposure. Usually when looking for a franchise quarterback the guys who get “the hype” are either physical freaks, like Josh Allen, or mechanically-sound poised passers, like Josh Rosen. Justin Herbert falls into both categories. Entering the year Herbert’s physical tools were what originally caught my eye. He’s listed at 6-6, 233 pounds, has the arm talent to make every throw and the mobility to make flashy plays. There’s no questions regarding Herbert’s physical tools.
That’s not to say there were big questions surrounding his poise, accuracy, or mechanics either. He checked the boxes for all of those in my summer grades. The biggest change this year is they’ve all gone up a notch. In his last two games, Herbert has played ranked opponents in Stanford and Cal. He has shown elite ball placement in both games. The throws he is making are into NFL-level tight windows.
Having that kind of consistent accuracy with the physical tools is flat out sick. With his improved ball placement/accuracy, Herbert’s footwork and throwing mechanics are about as good as it gets. He’s got clean, quick feet and never falters with his base. His throwing motion is tight, consistent and short. On top of all this, when under fire Herbert always stays poised and is great at avoiding the rush while remaining a passer. Everything is there for Herbert to be the next elite NFL quarterback. Early Projection: Top 10
The ‘Hands’ Award: Juwan Johnson
I’ve been putting it off since the inaugural DRFN over a year ago but I’ve finally decided to consider collegiate catches for this famous award! All you need to do is watch this incredible catch-of-the-year candidate to see why. That’s how you catch a damn football.
Uniform of the Week: Los Angeles Rams
These are my favorite uniforms in the NFL. Period. It’s a fantastic adaptation of the Rams’ 70s-90s threads. The yellow nicely complements the blue tone of the jerseys and helmet. The white lettering for the player name is a subtle yet powerful touch, too.
Mr. Bummer: Jordan Howard
A week after 16.4 fantasy points on 24 carries, Howard was not featured in the Bears’ offensive jamboree on Sunday. He saw just 11 carries while rushing for a mere 25 yards. As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, he couldn’t reel in his one and only target.
The Blunder Ball: Martavis Bryant
For a guy who I used to bang the table for, this wide-open drop especially hurt. Not sure if he lost the ball in the sun or tripped over those big blades of grass. Either way, this is too bad of a mistake. Jon Gruden will be grinding his teeth over that one.
The GOAT Award: Adam Vinatieri
Vinatieri now owns claim to the most field goals made of all time with 566. On top of that, he’s twenty-six points away from the most points scored of all-time. The 45-year old continues to rewrite record books and defy Father Time.
The Swiss Army Knife Award: Taysom Hill
Return man? Check. Lined up in the backfield? Check. Lined up as wide receiver? Check. Third-string quarterback? Check. Hill’s been used so much that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play defense for the Saints too.
The Spider-Man Award: Eric Murray
Murray’s spider senses were off-the-charts on this unreal, no-look interception. His reflexes were also insane as he used one arm to tear the ball away from Jeff Heuerman. Heuerman. Sounds like a lame comic book villain.
Trivia Answer: Marcus Mariota
Question: Since the start of 2017, which QB has led seven comeback drives, the most in that timespan?
Say what you want about the former second-overall pick, but Mariota is as cool under pressure as any quarterback in the NFL. That probably explains his clutch performance in Sunday’s victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.
ONE LAST THING
I was going to name some coaches on the hot seat but it seemed too early for that. Instead, I chose a less depressing award to look at: MVP.
1. Patrick Mahomes – Four games. Fourteen touchdowns. Twelve hundred passing yards. No picks. No losses. Enough said.
2. Jared Goff – Also on an undefeated team, Goff’s 1,406 passing yards is just eight yards behind first place. Eleven touchdowns and two interceptions is pretty good too.
3. Khalil Mack – Mack has helped the Bears’ recreate the Monsters of the Midway. He is not only tied for second in sacks, but he’s recorded a strip sack in each game thus far.
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