NFL Analysis


5 min read

Aaron Rodgers' Minicamp Absence Raises Questions About Jets' Leadership

New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (8) on the field after the game against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Everything matters.

That was my initial reaction as a former player to the news that QB Aaron Rodgers was an unexcused absence from the New York Jets' mandatory minicamp.

After seeing several people commenting that it didn’t matter because "he had already attended all the other OTAs (Organized Team Activities)" or because it "would have no impact on this season." I felt compelled to jot down some reasons I vehemently disagree.

Leading By Example?

My first retort is a question. If it doesn’t matter that Rodgers missed the minicamp because he had already been at the OTAs, what does matter?  

Is it OK for him to miss a few more OTAs as long as he attended a handful? In other words, what is the cut-off for what does and does not matter, and who decides? In my experience, the best players I ever played with and against treated every day — heck, every rep — as if it were critically important. 

They are obsessed with every aspect of the process, individually and as a team. Tom Brady would yell at me if my snap from center wasn’t perfect when we were in New England together. In May. During OTAs.

The discussion of whether or not this will impact the season in any way is similar. Would it affect the season if Rodgers skipped the first week of training camp? What if he just decided to miss training camp altogether and show up in Florham Park once the team breaks camp? 

What does and does not make a difference in the outcome of the games this season? Is everything fine if Rodgers shows up a few hours before the first game?

Besides, it’s so much more than that. Rodgers portrays himself publicly, or at least attempts to, as a team leader fully committed to winning games this season. How do you reconcile that with him being the only starting quarterback to skip his team’s mandatory minicamp?

I always felt like the "secret sauce" in New England wasn’t Bill Belichick’s negative reinforcement but rather the incredible standard that Brady set for everyone. He was so dedicated and committed in every way that the biggest fear and thus motivating factor for the other players was to make sure they didn’t let him down. 

Brady led by example. How exactly is Rodgers leading this week? More importantly, how will he lead moving forward?

NFL players can spot a phony from a mile away. It would be hard to overstate how critical it is that anyone in a leadership position — coach or player — is authentic and genuine. Where do things stand with Rodgers now in that regard? 

"Do as I say, not as I do" doesn’t go over well in an NFL locker room. Will the players fully buy into what Rodgers says during the season, or will him skipping minicamp linger in the back of their minds?

Jets head coach Robert Saleh stands with QB Aaron Rodgers.
New York Jets coach Robert Saleh (left) talks with QB Aaron Rodgers (center) before the game against the Washington Commanders at MetLife Stadium. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports.

The Jets Deserve Some Blame

The Jets have some culpability here, too. If Rodgers told them months ago that he had a conflict this week for an "event that was really important to him," according to coach Robert Saleh, why didn’t they move minicamp to last week as many other teams did?  

Any coach will tell you there is a different vibe at practice when the starting quarterback is there. Evidently, having Rodgers and that vibe wasn’t important to the Jets.

Then, there was the decision to make it clear to the media that his absence was unexcused. That was an interesting choice, to say the least. Players are granted excused absences all the time. 

The Packers excused three players from mandatory minicamp. The Jaguars excused even more than that. Yet Rodgers — your starting quarterback and by far the highest-paid and most important player on the team — can’t get an excused absence for something he had clearly expressed to the team was of great importance to him?

I don’t buy the notion that some have put out regarding the bad precedent it would have set. Give me a break. 

Firstly, nobody is talking about precedent in Green Bay or Jacksonville. Secondly, teams treat star players differently than the rest of the team all the time.

The Jets didn’t excuse Rodgers because they didn’t want to excuse him. They evidently wanted to send some type of message to him regarding their displeasure with his decision. No matter what Saleh says regarding him and Rodgers being on the "same page," it is pretty obvious that is not the case. If they were, Rodgers would be at minicamp, or at least his absence would be excused.

He wasn’t, and they didn’t. But that doesn’t matter and won’t impact the season, right?

NFL Analysis


6 min read

NFL Teams Are Making a Statement About How To Get Paid as a Safety

Jan 20, 2024; Baltimore, MD, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) points to Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) during the first quarter of a 2024 AFC divisional round game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tough offseason to be a safety. While a high volume of them became free agents, few got significant multi-year contracts. There are players like multi-time All-Pro Justin Simmons, who remains a free agent in mid-June.

That volume of players was part of the reason for the slow market. With so many safeties available and the rise of two-high coverages, some defenses don’t need to overpay at the position.

But there’s a difference for the players who did get paid — they do everything. Safety versatility has been a big talking point in modern defenses, but a select few can actually move all around the field and do it well wherever they line up.

Top of The Class

Let’s look at the top 10 safeties by three-year cash and note the three deals given out this offseason to Antoine Winfield Jr., who reset the safety market, Xavier McKinney, and Kyle Dugger.

What’s interesting about the safety market is there are so many different avenues for a player to get this type of contract. In contracts given out this offseason, one was a deal off the franchise tag, one came off the transition tag, and one was a free agent.

Of this top 10, four were unrestricted free agents. The only defensive position with more is off-ball linebacker, with seven.

There’s a similarity between those positions, with a small gap in the quality of players in the middle tiers. However, there are a few game-changers who can transform a defense. Those players are doing a bit of everything.

Let’s look at the same top-10 list and show where those players have lined up during the past two seasons.

Only Jessie Bates and Jalen Thompson played more than 70 percent of their snaps at deep safety. Minkah Fitzpatrick was close at 67 percent and could join those two this season after the Steelers felt they moved him around too much in 2023.

Players like Bates and Fitzpatrick can focus on playing deep because they're the best in the league in that area and thrive driving to the ball. McKinney could join this group in 2024.

He played the most single-high among these players during the past two seasons and signed with a defense expected to rely on a post safety and play more single-high under new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley. But he can also play the slot and in the box, creating more possibilities for the Packers.

Versatility Separates The Best

For most of these players, versatility is the key. While great for the individual players, moving one piece around the field can open many things up for the defense. This is especially true when creating a pass rush.

Winfield had six sacks in 2023 from all over the field. Winfield could line up in the box like he did in the below image for a sack against the Saints.

He could also blitz out from the slot and in on the quarterback before the offense can notice.

By playing all over the field, the alignment does not give away what the defense is doing, which is valuable.

Taking some of these players who can play downhill and moving them closer to the line of scrimmage at times can benefit the defense as a whole.

All of this applies to the next safety who will get paid, Kyle Hamilton. The 6-foot-4 Hamilton played mostly slot corner during his rookie season but was unleashed in Year 2. 

When Marcus Williams was healthy, the Ravens used Hamilton’s versatility to run a bunch of three-safety looks while staying in nickel personnel. That allowed Baltimore to stay strong against the run while not losing anything against the pass. On 299 plays with Hamilton, Williams, and Geno Stone on the field, the Ravens kept EPA per play and success rates equivalent to their full-season rates, which were third in the league.

That personnel package allowed Hamilton to move all over, and the defensive disguises gave opposing offenses trouble.

With Mike Macdonald now in Seattle, it doesn’t appear that the plan for Hamilton with new Ravens' defensive coordinator Zach Orr will change. Orr talked to the media during OTAs and explained how a player like Hamilton helps the defense.

“Kyle Hamilton is the ultimate chess piece; I think he’s one of the top players in the league,” Orr said. “My goal for him is to one day win defensive MVP here,  of the league. I think he has that type of talent, he has that type of work ethic, he’s that type of person. The thing about him being the ultimate chess piece [is], depending on what the offense does, he can play anywhere. He can play safety, deep safety, box safety. He can play corner, nickel, backer; he can even play outside linebacker, too, and you guys know he can rush the passer. The thing that you appreciate about Kyle Hamilton is that he works at it. He’s a smart player, so he can handle all the volume that you give him. I think he’s eager, going into his third year, to do more, so we’ll see.”

As a quick aside, let’s use this time to clarify something about chess pieces — they have specific rules about where they can and cannot go. It’s kind of the whole basis of the game. The piece that can move anywhere it wants is the queen. These players are not “chess pieces.” They are the queens on the chess board.

Hamilton might be the best example of this type of player. He’s a threat wherever he lines up on the field. He could be even more dangerous in his third season. He’ll be extension-eligible after this year. The price might only go up after that.

The top players at safety have no restrictions on movement. This type of player has become more prevalent in the modern game, and players who can differentiate themselves there will continue to be highly valued.

NFL Analysis


8 min read

Ranking NFL's Top 7 Defensive Cores Heading Into 2024 Season

Oct 23, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) celebrates with linebacker Quincy Williams (56) after a play in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 season was the year of the defense in the NFL. Teams like the Ravens, Browns, and even the Chiefs, leaned on their defenses to win games. That played out in the postseason, too, with the Chiefs stopping all of the top offenses in the NFL on their way to a Super Bowl.

But which team has the three best defensive players on their roster heading into the 2024 season? For the purposes of this article, we are only looking at each team’s top pass rusher, off-the-ball linebacker, and top secondary player.

It’s important to note that a team’s defensive coordinator and the rest of the depth on defense were not considered for this exercise. It’s also important to point out that positional value matters.

An All-Pro level cornerback is more valuable than an All-Pro safety. The same is true at linebacker. A top-flight linebacker just doesn’t carry the same weight as an excellent EDGE defender.

>> READ: Ranking NFL's Best Offensive Cores

So without further ado, here are the top seven defensive cores in the NFL going into the 2024 season:

Ranking Top NFL Defensive Cores

7. Dallas Cowboys

No. 1 Pass Rusher: Micah Parsons

No. 1 Linebacker: Eric Kendricks

No. 1 Defensive Back: Trevon Diggs

I was tempted to cheat here and call Micah Parsons a linebacker, but most of his snaps come as a pass rusher, and he primarily plays on the edge. Still, Parsons is one of the NFL’s best defensive players, and his presence alone makes the Dallas Cowboys worthy of being on this list.

While he is still searching for his first Defensive Player of the Year award, Parsons has finished second or third in the race in each of his first three seasons. He has racked up 40.5 sacks in three years, and his 89 quarterback hits are the second-most from during that span.

The Cowboys have the luxury of having two All-Pro cornerbacks with Trevon Diggs and Daron Bland, so take your pick at that spot. We will go with Diggs, given he is more experienced, but it is worth noting he is returning from a torn ACL that cost him most of the 2023 season. However, when Diggs is healthy, there isn't a cornerback with better ball skills than him.

The biggest reason this unit isn’t higher is because of its linebacker play, which hasn’t been up to par in big games. If one of its young linebackers breaks out in 2024, this group could be much higher next offseason.

Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton (14) celebrates with linebacker Roquan Smith (0) after scoring a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports.

6. Baltimore Ravens

No. 1 Pass Rusher: Justin Madubuike

No. 1 Linebacker: Roquan Smith

No. 1 Defensive Back: Kyle Hamilton

Positional value aside, the Baltimore Ravens have arguably the most unique unit on this list. Roquan Smith is arguably the NFL's best linebacker and has been a first-team All-Pro selection in back-to-back seasons. He is the defense's leader, and his ability to read and diagnose plays is unmatched.

Kyle Hamilton is another middle-of-the-field defender who had a big breakout season in 2023. He isn’t a traditional safety but is another defender who makes plays all over the field.

Then there is Justin Madubuike, who the Ravens just rewarded with a massive contract extension after a 13-sack season. He isn’t quite in the Chris Jones or Quinnen Williams tier of interior defensive lineman, but he isn’t far off.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers

No. 1 Pass Rusher: T.J. Watt

No. 1 Linebacker: Patrick Queen

No. 1 Defensive Back: Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Pittsburgh Steelers jump way up on this list after signing Patrick Queen earlier this offseason. While it remains to be seen how he fits in Mike Tomlin’s defense, Queen had the best season of his career in 2023. He should be a major upgrade over Elandon Roberts, Cole Holcomb, and Myles Jack, who were Pittsburgh's top three linebackers last year.

T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick are All-Pro players (when healthy) and have a strong track record of producing turnovers. Pittsburgh leans on its defense to win games, and why wouldn’t you with this unit?

The Steelers are strong at every spot and have plenty of star power with Watt, Queen, and Fitzpatrick.

Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Lineman Chris Jones
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Aidan O'Connell (4) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones (95) during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

4. Kansas City Chiefs

No. 1 Pass Rusher: Chris Jones

No. 1 Linebacker: Nick Bolton

No. 1 Defensive Back: Trent McDuffie

The Kansas City Chiefs have the rare combo of an All-Pro defensive tackle and cornerback, which is a big reason why their defense was so good down the stretch last year. With Aaron Donald retired, Chris Jones is widely viewed as the NFL's best defensive tackle. He’s racked up 26 sacks in the last two seasons on top of 58 quarterback hits. He is a game-wrecker and one of the NFL's most dominant players.

Trent McDuffie was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2023 as a slot cornerback. His role might grow in 2024 after the Chiefs traded away L’Jarius Sneed, but he is the top slot player in the league.

Nick Bolton is the weakest player of the three, but he’s started 37 games in the last three seasons and is a fine linebacker. However, the duo of Jones and McDuffie is why this group is ranked so high on this list.

3. Cleveland Browns

No. 1 Pass Rusher: Myles Garrett

No. 1 Linebacker: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah

No. 1 Defensive Back: Denzel Ward

The Cleveland Browns had the No. 1 ranked defense in yards allowed per game last season and a big reason why is the names listed above. All three players listed made the Pro Bowl in 2023, including Myles Garrett, who was the Defensive Player of the Year.

Garrett has been an All-Pro selection in three of the past four seasons and has racked up 58 sacks during that period. While he's never led the NFL in sacks, his ability to draw and beat double-teams at an absurd rate is the reason why he's the NFL's top rusher right now.

Denzel Ward got back to his Pro Bowl self, recording two interceptions and locking down every team’s No. 1 receiver. The biggest surprise was the development of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who turned into one of the NFL’s top linebackers. His speed and instincts made Cleveland's entire defense faster, giving it a bonafide stud on all three levels.  

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) and linebacker Fred Warner (54) defend during the second quarter against the New York Giants at Levi's Stadium. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

2. San Francisco 49ers

No. 1 Pass Rusher: Nick Bosa

No. 1 Linebacker: Fred Warner

No. 1 Defensive Back: Charvarius Ward

You can make a strong case for the San Francisco 49ers at No. 1 and no one would bat an eye. The reason why the 49ers finish at No. 2 on this list is due to their two All-Pro studs at EDGE and LB.

Nick Bosa and Fred Warner have helped the 49ers win a bunch of games, and they finished as a top-three scoring defense in the last two years.

Another reason why the 49ers are so high on this list is due to their cornerback play. Charvarius Ward had a Pro Bowl season in 2023, racking up five interceptions and a league-high 23 pass deflections. While he has started 77 games, his year-to-year consistency isn't as good as some of the other top cornerbacks on this list.

However, Ward is an ascending player and took a big step in the right direction in 2024. His improvement last season has allowed the 49ers to shoot up this list and finish near the top of the rankings.

1. New York Jets

No. 1 Pass Rusher: Quinnen Williams

No. 1 Linebacker: Quincy Williams

No. 1 Defensive Back: Sauce Gardner

It was hard not to put the New York Jets higher on this list because they have the league's top cornerback, Sauce Gardner. Although he has only been in the NFL for two seasons, he's been a two-time All-Pro selection and the 2022 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

In the last two years, Gardner has allowed just two touchdowns in coverage, and his length makes him the perfect cornerback against No. 1 receivers.

But Gardner isn't the only reason the Jets rank so highly on this list. Quinnen Williams might be the NFL's best defensive tackle. He is just as good against the run as he is as a pass-rusher. Williams is only 26 and has improved every season. Williams and Gardner might be the NFL's best duo.

And don't forget about Quincy Williams, who is coming off an All-Pro season at linebacker. He is Quinnen's older brother and just had a massive breakout season in 2023. Quincy is still a young player with only 52 career starts, but he's quickly established himself as a dynamic linebacker.

The Jets have three All-Pro defenders who are all in the primes of their careers. For that reason alone, they are No. 1 on our list.

NFL Analysis


11 min read

Ranking The Top 10 NFL Rosters Entering 2024 Season

NFL Salary Cap Explained

The NFL promotes parity as much as possible, but the presence of an all-time quarterback has created a new dynasty in Kansas City during the last few years.

Still, the only way for everyone else to beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs is to field the best roster they can and create some lucky breaks. The San Francisco 49ers nearly pulled it off in Super Bowl 58.

Free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft brought a slew of changes that have left some rosters looking much better than where we sat in January. Which 10 rosters are the best in the NFL entering 2024?

Top 10 NFL Rosters in 2024

Quarterbacks matter in our ranking, but they're not given extra credit for being so valuable. Quality at the most important positions and depth played into each team's placement. 

10. Los Angeles Rams

Whether it's because the Los Angeles Rams succeeded in 2023 thanks to a slew of unknown defensive players or their dismal 2022 season, which was wrecked by injuries, the buzz around this team is surprisingly low.

Sure, Aaron Donald retired, but the Rams finished 10-7 after ripping off seven wins in their final eight regular-season games last year. This young defense began to complement its explosive offense, setting the formula for how they'll be more competitive in 2024.

Getting Matthew Stafford another big-time playmaker in Puka Nacua last year, and then rebuilding the offensive line with two big free agents this year, is massive. The offense no longer has a clear weakness, as Kyren Williams established himself as a quality starter, and the Rams addressed the depth of every position through free agency or the draft.

Sean McVay already had the eighth-best scoring offense, and they could push into the top five this fall. 

The Rams' defense might be more interesting for football nerds. Adding the Florida State rookie duo of Jared Verse and Braden Fiske helps a pass rush that was already impactful with Kobie Turner and Byron Young. Defensive coordinator Chris Shula has more young legs to work with and create pressure. 

Behind them is an overhauled secondary that has taken some risks with Tre'Davious White and Kamren Kinchens, but the unit has a high football IQ and versatility.

If Kinchens can overcome a terrible scouting combine performance, and one of the roster's many young corners becomes an above-average starter, the Rams might have a top-10 defense in 2024. 

9. Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers' hot streak during the season's final eight weeks parlayed into an impressive set of playoff performances. Few would've expected the Packers to hit a rapid developmental burst in the middle of the season, but Jordan Love clearly ascended into a very good player.

The Packers' defense played enough quality games to support the belief that they'll take the next step under new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley.

Despite finishing 12th in offensive scoring and 10th in defensive scoring, there's still a lot of meat on the bone for the Packers to improve. Their defensive DVOA was only 27th, so the opportunity to become a truly top-tier team is huge. Adding star safety Xavier McKinney, LB Edgerrin Cooper, versatile DB Javon Bullard, and getting a healthy season from Eric Stokes totally changes how the secondary will play.

The offense doesn't have quite as much projection. There might not be a team with a deeper core of young receivers, and the additions of Josh Jacobs and MarShawn Lloyd will supercharge the running game. Youth doesn't always develop in a linear fashion, but the Packers have the trajectory of a scary opponent with tremendous upside.

8. Baltimore Ravens

Last year's No. 1 overall seed was a force to be reckoned with in the regular season, but the lack of star power outside of Lamar Jackson again reared its head in the postseason.

The Baltimore Ravens did well to address their overreliance on their MVP, bringing in Derrick Henry to tote the rock, right tackle Roger Rosengarten to upgrade the pass-blocking, and fourth-round rookie Devontez Walker to bring a legitimate deep threat. However, it's still a team with one way to win — from ahead.

When it all works as planned, the Ravens are terrific.

Their defense is a better collective unit than a group of individual stars, although first-round CB Nate Wiggins can be the x-factor who raises its level even more. Bringing back Justin Madubuike was a huge win as well. This was the league's top-ranked scoring defense because of how versatile they are, more than how each individual could change the game. 

The Ravens will likely push for a top seed in the AFC because they play to their strengths as well as anyone. Besides keeping Jackson healthy, the key is for them to evolve beyond what they did in 2023.

Developing a legitimate edge-rusher and more reliable receiving threat outside of Mark Andrews would redefine Baltimore's ability to win a Super Bowl.

7. Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins, owners of the longest active streak without a postseason victory, enter 2024 looking to prove themselves a bit.

Their road-game struggles are painfully obvious, as the NFL's second-best offense failed to score more than 20 points at Buffalo, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Kansas City. Miami hopes that a refresh along the offensive line and adding Odell Beckham is enough to avoid stagnation.

The offense is certainly talented, as Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle power the passing game. The running game is one of the league's most feared attacks, and newcomer Jaylen Wright might be their best overall back by season's end. The question is whether the line can protect Tagovailoa well enough since three of its five starters are questionable.

The defense also has some holes to fill. Adding veterans Jordyn Brooks and Kendall Fuller looks like smart short-term deals, but losing Christian Wilkins is tough. Nevertheless, if Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb return at full strength, there simply aren't many teams with more high-end talent than Miami. 

New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson, left, and running back Breece Hall
New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) and running back Breece Hall (20) are shown during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports.

6. New York Jets

If all goes right for the New York Jets in 2024, they could have an argument for ranking even higher on this list. Their starting units are excellent, particularly the defense that was already arguably the NFL's best before trading for Haason Reddick. There's no reason to believe the Jets' elite pass defense won't continue carrying its weight.

The question in New York revolves around its offense's ability to stay healthy. If available, the core of Aaron Rodgers, Tyron Smith, and Mike Williams is a massive trio of upgrades compared to what the Jets trotted out in 2023. Add in young playmakers Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Braelon Allen, and Malachi Corley, and there's a runway for a huge season for a franchise that has suffered time and time again.

However, the collective health of the offense is so concerning that New York used its first pick on backup tackle Olu Fashanu. At least New York is aware of its reliance on injury-prone talent, but this team is combustible despite its high baseline of ability.

5. Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions are breaking in many young players to their defense, but the upside is really high for Dan Campbell's Lions. Their maligned defense finished 13th in defensive DVOA in 2023 despite playing with a cornerback room that was overhauled this offseason.

It's fair to expect improvement after Terrion Arnold, Carlton Davis, and Ennis Rakestraw Jr. were added to a unit with Brian Branch and Kerby Joseph.

If that happens, and the Lions get any production across from Aidan Hutchinson, the defense can be a top-10 unit. Their run defense finished second last year, so this is no longer a leaking mess that opposing offenses can have their way with. 

It helps that Detroit brought most of its offensive gang back for 2024. A full season of Jameson Williams and Jahmyr Gibbs might unlock a slightly higher ceiling, but even a repeat of 2023 is more than enough offense for the Lions to win a championship. They've become a must-watch team with only a few holes throughout the roster. 

Chiefs players celebrate after Super Bowl winning touchdown
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates after throwing the winning touchdown to wide receiver Mecole Hardman Jr. (12) during overtime against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

4. Kansas City Chiefs

Of course, Mahomes and Travis Kelce get most of the flowers, and anyone who has watched the NFL during the last five years should know how much of a wrecking ball Chris Jones is. The rest of the Kansas City Chiefs' roster is also quite good, and most of their key talent is back from their repeat Super Bowl victory.

The Chiefs will be right back in the Super Bowl mix this season.

Giving Mahomes two new receivers in Xavier Worthy and Hollywood Brown will help the passing game, but so will second-round OT Kingsley Suamataia. Neither starting tackle in 2023 was effective, and the team's struggles to rely on a receiver not named Kelce or Rashee Rice is well-documented. It's bad news for the league that Mahomes has more explosiveness around him.

The Chiefs' defense has done more than its share of heavy lifting as they overcame an offense that slogged at times. Every starter is at least solid, but the loss of L'Jarius Sneed does present a challenging hole at cornerback. The young core of George Karlaftis, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Leo Chenal, and several corners vying for playing time will need to emerge as more impactful presences.

3. Cleveland Browns

This might be surprising because the defending Super Bowl champions aren't even the top AFC team, but the Cleveland Browns are an above-average quarterback away from fighting for a No. 1 seed.

They might get there in 2024 if the arc of Deshaun Watson's 2023 performance was a sign of things to come and he's healthy. A roster filled with high-end talent and depth across all positions is a big reason why.

Cleveland's biggest areas of concern are its No. 2 receiver role and the health of star RB Nick Chubb. The Browns' running game died as soon as Chubb suffered his brutal knee injury against Pittsburgh in Week 2, but getting Chubb at 80 perfect for the back half of the 2024 season would strike fear into opponents come January.

The acquisition of Jerry Jeudy should also bolster a good passing attack, largely thanks to David Njoku's development into a superstar last season.

Of course, the defense is the more special unit. They were historically good at home in 2023 and brought back almost everyone, plus upgrades in Mike Hall Jr., Jordan Hicks, and a healthy Grant Delpit. The defense finished first in yards allowed, third in interceptions, and second in points per drive.

2. Philadelphia Eagles

Even after losing six of their last seven games in 2023, the Philadelphia Eagles are stacked on both sides of the ball. Something was off with this team after racing out to a 10-1 start, as the defense cratered to 30th in scoring allowed.

After bringing back safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and drafting cornerbacks Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean, the Eagles have given new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio more athleticism and playmaking to work with.

The offense is in a more interesting spot. QB Jalen Hurts endured a nasty middle finger injury late in the year. Plus, his efficiency dipped after Shane Steichen left his offensive coordinator role the previous offseason to become the Colts' head coach. Philadelphia responded by reinvesting into the offense, adding star RB Saquan Barkley and veteran WR Parris Campbell, as well as two Day 3 receivers and a running back to improve their depth.

If new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and Fangio can simply refresh and retool what already works, the Eagles will push for a Super Bowl again. Their offensive line is elite, they boast an incredible trio of playmakers in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Barkley, and their defense features a ton of talent entering its prime.

1. San Francisco 49ers

It's not an accident the San Francisco 49ers finished the 2023 season second in team DVOA, third in offensive and defensive scoring, and had the second-best point differential, considering the strength of their schedule.

The 49ers are incredibly well coached, but their staff isn't solely responsible for producing eight Pro Bowlers and four first-team All-Pro members. Their playmaking on both sides of the ball consistently produces a regular-season juggernaut.

Losing Arik Armstead this offseason hurts their defensive front, but getting star safety Talanoa Hufanga back healthy will more than offset Armstead's departure. Then, factor in rookie additions Ricky Pearsall, Dominick Puni, Renardo Green, and Malik Mustapha, and the 49ers simply restocked their roster with guys who fit their schemes and have great athletic makeups. Puni should win either the right guard or right tackle spot early in his career. 

The biggest question mark about the roster is whether the star-receiving duo of Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel will make it through the season. Aiyuk is angling for a long-term deal, and Samuel's bloated cap number is partially in the way. Losing Aiyuk might be enough for the 49ers to slide down this list because the competition is that fierce.

NFL Analysis


9 min read

Ranking NFL's Best Rookie Wide Receiver Seasons Since 2000

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (13) gestures after a first down catch against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It's a golden age of rookie wide receiver play. More than ever, rookies are coming in at high volume and producing immediately. We just had a 2024 rookie class that could easily continue that trend.

Like we did with quarterbacks, let's look at the best rookie wide receiver seasons since 2000. As we can see below, a great rookie season does not guarantee a great career, and not having a top-10 rookie season does not take away from the careers of other great receivers.

All data is provided by TruMedia unless noted otherwise.

Best Rookie WR Seasons Since 2000

10. Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)

He accounted for 24.3 percent of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ targets that season, and it’s arguable Tampa Bay didn’t go to Clayton enough. The next leading receiver was Joey Galloway, with 451 yards.

Clayton was the 15th overall pick in the 2004 draft and was the fifth receiver taken after Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams, Reggie Williams, and Lee Evans. Clayton’s rookie season was impressive as he finished 13th in receiving yards (1,193) and tied for ninth with 19 receptions of 20 or more yards.

After Clayton’s rookie season, he had knee surgery and was never the same player. He did not top 500 yards after his first season while he battled injuries and inconsistency throughout his career. 

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) warms up before a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

9. Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (2013)

As a third-round pick, Keenan Allen was the seventh receiver taken in his 2013 draft class. He did not play his first game and only entered the Week 2 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when Malcolm Floyd was injured and lost for the season in the second half after putting up 102 yards in the first half.

Allen’s first catch was for 18 yards on a third-and-8, though he only finished with 34 yards on the day. He had -4 in his next game.

But Allen had 80 yards in the game after that and then had a stretch of five 100-yard games in eight weeks. He didn’t immediately become the go-to receiver and saw under 20 percent of the team targets. Still, he was the most efficient option and the leading receiver (1,046 yards) on a team with Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal, and Danny Woodhead.

8. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (2011)

It might be easy to forget how good peak A.J. Green was, given that we’re not too far removed from his lackluster final seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. But the former fourth-overall pick’s peak started in his rookie season. Green was the fourth pick in a draft that saw Julio Jones taken two picks later.

Green’s first reception was a 41-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Week 1 game from Bruce Gradkowski after fellow rookie Andy Dalton left due to injury.

In Green’s rookie season, he had four 100-yard games and tied for ninth with 19 receptions of 20 or more yards. His size and speed made him a difficult cover right from the start. His rookie year (1,057 yards) was his first of five straight 1,000-yard seasons, and he was just 36 yards short of making it seven straight in 2016.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) catches a pass over Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell (24) in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sport.

7. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (2016)

Michael Thomas had a specific role as a leading receiver that did not look like the typical No. 1 receiver.

He excelled at working in the middle of the field in the short area, especially on slants. While “Slant Boy” was framed in a derogatory way to comment on how he earned his targets, he was great at what he did.

During Thomas’s rookie season, he had 1,137 receiving yards and picked up 62 first downs on receptions, which was sixth among all receivers in 2016. He only had a 7.94-yard aDOT, but 64.5 percent of his targets earned successful EPA, the second-most among rookie receivers since 2000 with at least 50 targets. Tyler Lockett is the leader at 66.7 percent on 69 targets.

In the following years, Thomas evolved into the fully-formed high-volume, low-aDOT target that led him to lead the league in receptions twice and yards once. 

6. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2014)

The 2014 season was in the middle of the NFL's passing boom, at least for individual receivers. That season, 21 wide receivers had at least 1,000 receiving yards. It was the second year of four in a row with at least 20 receivers hitting that mark. The 2013-2016 stretch is the only time since 2000 with four years in a row (we’re on three now since 2021).

That 2014 rookie class was part of the reason (more on that in a bit). Mike Evans was the second receiver taken (seventh overall) behind only Sammy Watkins (fourth). In his first season, Evans had 1,051 receiving yards, and his 12 touchdowns tied for fourth among receivers. That came while catching passes from Josh McCown and Mike Glennon on a 2-14 Buccaneers team.

Evans had Vincent Jackson as a teammate, who out-targeted the rookie and had a 1,000-yard season, but Evans was better at converting big plays and getting into the end zone.

This is also a rookie season that ages quite well, as Evans has never recorded less than 1,000 receiving yards in a season.

Ja'Marr Chase vs. Jaguars
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) runs the ball against Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams (31) in extra time at EverBank Stadium. Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports.

5. Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals (2021)

There was a Ja’Marr Chase or Penei Sewell debate for the Cincinnati Bengals with the fifth overall pick in 2021. Cincinnati took Chase, but it’s a pick that worked out for the Bengals and the Lions, who took Sewell with the next pick.

Chase was electric as the lead piece in a receiving corps that already had Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. He had 1,455 receiving yards, which ranked fourth among receivers. His 13 touchdowns were third, and his 22 receptions of 20 or more yards were tied for fourth.

Chase could create a big play out of anything with the ball in his hands. His 8.0 yards after the catch per reception were second only to Deebo Samuel that season, but Samuel’s aDOT was more than three yards shorter than Chase’s. 

4. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants (2014)

Odell Beckham's season got off to a rough start. A hamstring injury limited his time in preseason, and he missed the first four games of the regular season, to the ire of coach Tom Coughlin.

But once Beckham got on the field… whew. Beckham finished the year with 1,305 receiving yards and a 21.7 percent target share, despite seeing no targets for the first four games. If we go from Week 5 on, he was second in receiving yards with a 28.5 percent target share.

Beckham had seven games with at least 100 yards, tied for the most among rookies, including four in a row to end the season. His 2.75 yards per route run is also a rookie record since TruMedia started keeping track of routes. 

His rookie season also included the famous one-handed catch on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys.

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua (17) had nine receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown against the Detroit Lions. (David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams (2023)

Puka Nacua was a fifth-round pick out of BYU who had three 100-yard receiving games in his final college season. In his first NFL game, he had 10 catches on 15 targets for 119 yards. In his second game, he recorded 147 yards on 15 catches and 20 targets. His third 100-yard game happened in Week 4.

The Los Angeles Rams found the perfect role for Nacua, who was seventh in the league in target share (28.8 percent) and finished the season with a rookie-record 105 catches and 1,486 receiving yards. Nacua was explosive with 25 receptions of 20 or more yards, which ranked fourth. He was the perfect fill-in while Cooper Kupp was out to start the season, but the two coexisted seamlessly upon Kupp’s return.

Nacua, with his ability to play inside and outside and his versatility with motion, was a key piece to helping the Rams reinvent their offense.

2. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings (2020)

Justin Jefferson was the fifth receiver selected in the 2020 draft. It was clear from the beginning he was the best of the bunch, and he’s now cemented himself as the league's best receiver.

Jefferson did not start the first two games of his rookie season, but when he got the start in Week 3, he went off for 175 yards on seven catches. He finished the year with seven 100-yard games, which tied Beckham for the rookie record.

His full season numbers were 1,400 yards (third among receivers) with seven touchdowns. His 2.66 yards per route run was second to Davante Adams, and he tied for the league lead with 23 receptions of 20 or more yards.  

>> READ: Jefferson Could Be All-Time Great

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver (81) Anquan Boldin against the Minnesota Vikings at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Vikings 30-17. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

1. Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals (2003)

In 2003, just 14 wide receivers had at least 1,000 receiving yards. Anquan Boldin, the 54th overall pick and sixth receiver taken in the draft, was one of them.

Boldin’s 1,377 receiving yards were third among receivers that year behind Tory Holt and Randy Moss. He had a 31.6 percent target share, second only to Moss, which has not been topped by a rookie since. Boldin’s quarterbacks that season were 33-year-old Jeff Blake and 24-year-old Josh McCown.

His 150 targets are second only to Nacua’s 160 (with an extra game), and his 101 receptions are third behind Nacua (105) and Jaylen Waddle (104).

If you want to see a player completely take over a game, look at some highlights from Boldin’s first NFL game — a 10-catch, 217-yard performance with two touchdowns.

NFL Analysis


8 min read

Ranking the Top 10 NFL Rookie Defensive Seasons of All Time

An upper body image of Sauce Garner as he gets ready to take the field
New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner (1) walks onto the field before the game against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has been filled with incredible individual seasons. Standing out as a defensive player can be especially hard, considering statistics never fully capture a defender's true impact. However, some rookie defenders exceeded all expectations and set a new standard for future generations through measured and immeasurable outcomes.

We're ranking the top 10 NFL rookie defensive seasons of all time. Recent years have brought several new faces to a long-standing list of stars.

We'll aim to answer the question: Who is the greatest rookie defensive player ever?

Top 10 NFL Rookie Defenders of All Time

We have to set some ground rules before diving in. First, we're only counting seasons produced after the 1966 NFL merger. This removes some incredible seasons, including Night Train Lane, Dick Butkus, and Paul Krause, but the change in competition and lack of counting stats make it hard to contextualize their play. 

We also favor some more recent seasons as statistics and rules have changed. Coverage penalties changed after Lem Barney and Mike Haynes set the NFL ablaze with their physical styles, so it's more impressive for modern defenders to succeed when they can barely get away with contact. 

10. Patrick Willis, LB, San Francisco 49ers

The player who usurped the title of best linebacker from Ray Lewis rapidly became a dominant force, leading the NFL with a remarkable 174 tackles.

No defender could match the first-round draft pick's prowess in tackling, with Patrick Willis' 136 solo tackles coming in at least 30 more than any of his peers. He added four sacks, two forced fumbles, and five pass breakups.

Despite the San Francisco 49ers' disappointing 5-11 record and being years away from their resurgence under coach Jim Harbaugh, their do-everything middle linebacker was an immediate standout.

Willis quickly became the defense's linchpin during their rise in the early 2010s, distinguishing himself as a rare rookie to be named a first-team All-Pro, an accolade he would achieve four more times in the following five years.

9. Sauce Gardner, CB, New York Jets

There have been many tremendous rookie cornerbacks throughout the last 57 seasons, but the advancement of player tracking and contextualized performance has made it easier to see how well individuals perform beyond interceptions.

While Marcus Peters, Marshon Lattimore, and Darrell Revis were fantastic in their rookie campaigns, Sauce Gardner was more dominant on a play-by-play basis in 2022.

Gardner became the first rookie corner to make first-team All-Pro since Ronnie Lott in 1981. He allowed only 54 yards in man coverage in 18 games, led the NFL with 20 pass breakups, totaled 75 tackles and two interceptions. His blend of length, physicality, and ball skills immediately translated from college, and his 62.3 quarterback rating allowed (1,115 snaps) put him in all-time consideration for single-season impact.

8. Mark Carrier, SAF, Chicago Bears

Landing with the Chicago Bears as the sixth selection in the 1990 NFL Draft out of USC, Mark Carrier immediately became a difference-maker for a team that quickly returned to the playoffs upon his addition.

The safety led the NFL with 10 interceptions, five forced fumbles, and 122 combined tackles. Mike Ditka's defense rose from the 20th-best scoring unit in 1989 to the ninth-best, largely thanks to Carrier's forced turnovers.

He added an 11th interception in their wild card round win against Steve Walsh's New Orleans Saints. Carrier finished his career with 32 picks, 16 forced fumbles, and 863 tackles in 11 seasons. Though he was known for delivering punishing hits, his knack for finding the ball was just as important and impressive.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws the football against the Dallas Cowboys during the first quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports.

7. Micah Parsons, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys

Adding Micah Parsons over Julius Peppers, Nick Bosa, and Aldon Smith might be surprising at first glance, given that Peppers averaged one sack per game and Smith outproduced Parsons in sack total.

However, Peppers only played in 12 games as a rookie, and both Bosa's and Smith's production outside of sacks was lacking in comparison. Parsons gets the nod.

With 13 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, 30 quarterback hits, and three forced fumbles, historians can't forget that Parsons was playing as a standup linebacker for chunks of his rookie season. His stats were ridiculous, even without the fact he wasn't a full-time edge rusher yet. The eye test was even better, as Parsons regularly flew to the ball and disrupted plays.

He's a huge reason Dallas jumped from the 28th-best scoring unit to the seventh in one year.

>> READ: Where Parsons Ranks Among All Rookies

6. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

Often maligned for his on-field antics, teams continued to deal with Ndamukong Suh's occasional outbursts because he was a generational talent at defensive tackle. He racked up a career-best 10 sacks as a rookie and added an interception, forced fumble, 13 tackles for loss, and 17 QB hits.

Suh earned first-team All-Pro honors on the 6-10 Detroit Lions over in-prime versions of Kyle Williams, Vince Wilfork, and budding star B.J. Raji.

Jim Schwartz's defense lept from 32nd in the NFL to 19th. The only real notable players under 32 years old on the unit were Chris Avril and Louis Delmas, so Suh was clearly the driving force in getting the unit to a more respectable level.

He continued to play at a high level throughout the rest of his career, even if he didn't make another Pro Bowl or All-Pro team after turning 30. 

Tennessee Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse (90) acknowledged fans in the stadium moments after teammate Eddie George scored on a touchdown.

5. Jevon Kearse, EDGE, Tennessee Titans

One doesn't earn the nickname "The Freak" without incredible accomplishments.

Javon Kearse owns the NFL rookie sack record with 14.5 since the charting era began in 1982. He forced eight fumbles, broke up nine passes, and added 49 solo tackles. The Titans made their way to the Super Bowl, riding the rookie's back, and nearly won.

In that run was a legendary performance against the Buffalo Bills in the "Music City Miracle" game. Kearse sacked Bills QB Rob Johnson twice, forced two fumbles, and logged a safety. His sack against Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXIV was nearly enough to secure the franchise's historic run after moving from Houston in the offseason. 

4. Al Baker, EDGE, Detroit Lions

Before the NFL sack record was established in 1982, Al Baker's remarkable total of 23 sacks was the league's gold standard. It's even more incredible that his 23 sacks in 1978 came in his rookie campaign. Baker's early career highlights how the lack of recorded defensive statistics disadvantaged players from previous times.

In his rookie season, he was named a first-team All-Pro, lapping the second-best pass-rusher by 5.5 sacks. By the end of his third season in 1980, Baker had 56.5 unofficial takedowns. 

3. Ronnie Lott, CB, San Francisco 49ers

Not only did Ronnie Lott log a historic rookie season, but he did it at a position he's not even best known for. In his first year, the 49ers placed Lott at cornerback before switching him to safety in 1985.

Despite this, the first-round selection excelled, grabbing nine interceptions (including two during a divisional-round victory against the Giants) and running back four of those interceptions for touchdowns. 

The USC prodigy transformed the 49ers' defense, which leaped from 26th place in 1980 to second in 1981. Although the 49ers' secondary featured several impactful rookies, Lott's blend of physical play and keen sense for coverage played a pivotal role in leading the team to its first Super Bowl title.

2. Reggie White, EDGE, Philadelphia Eagles

Some don't count Reggie White's NFL debut as his actual first professional since he played two seasons in the UFL, but he was still considered an NFL rookie. The greatest pass-rusher of all time began his career with a bang, totaling 100 tackles and 13 sacks in only 13 games.

He finished behind Indianapolis' Duane Bickett in the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award in 1985.

White's unblockable nature got the best out of his teammates as well. Greg Brown, who averaged 6.5 sacks per season before White joined the Philadelphia Eagles, totaled 38 sacks in his next three years across from the future Hall of Famer.

White's rookie season was the start of a run with nine straight double-digit sack seasons and an amazing career that featured 198 sacks. 

New York Giants Linebacker (56) LAWRENCE TAYLOR tackles Cincinnati Bengals Receiver (80) Cris Collinsworth at Riverfront Stadium. Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY NETWORK.

1. Lawrence Taylor, EDGE, New York Giants

Despite Lott's exceptional performance in 1981, he did not receive the Defensive Rookie of the Year title. Instead, Lawrence Taylor, acclaimed as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, overshadowed Lott and Joe Klecko's impressive season, which featured 20.5 sacks. 

Retroactively, Taylor's recorded sacks stand at 9.5, with an additional two in postseason play, yet his revolutionary approach to the linebacker position set him apart. Dubbed a size-speed phenomenon akin to future generations, Taylor's debut season is credited with reshaping the NFL.

Dominating against running backs and tight ends, his contributions as an outside linebacker significantly improved the Giants' defense, elevating it from 27th to third between 1980 and 1981. 

Taylor's influence necessitated pivotal changes in blocking strategies and propelled the Giants to their first playoff appearance in 18 years.

NFL Analysis


8 min read

NFL Quarterbacks Who Must Avoid Being One-Hit Wonders During 2024 Season

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) warms up before a 2024 AFC divisional round game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports.

Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud was a big success in his rookie season after being drafted second overall in 2023. He was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and led the Texans on a surprising turnaround from 3-13-1 to AFC South champs with a playoff victory against Cleveland.

Is Stroud a one-hit wonder, or will he continue to ascend? You could ask the same of Jordan Love after a terrific second half of the season and playoff run for the Green Bay Packers. And for Brock Purdy, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in his first full season as the starter.

These three players lead my list of five signal-callers who recently had great seasons and are now under pressure to prove themselves as elite-level quarterbacks. 

QBs Who Must Avoid Being One-Hit Wonders


The six first-round quarterbacks in the most recent draft will attempt to follow in Stroud's footsteps. He statistically had a fantastic rookie season and led his team to the playoffs.

Stroud was so poised and confident. He went 9-6 in his 15 regular season starts, ranking sixth in passer rating (100.8) and eighth in passing yards (4,108), while his five interceptions were the fewest by a quarterback with more than eight starts. 

Stroud then exploded for 274 yards passing and three touchdowns with a near-perfect passer rating as the Texans throttled the Browns’ top-ranked defense 45-14 in the wild card round. A 34-10 loss followed that in the divisional round at Baltimore, but Stroud had no turnovers in that game.

Stroud was selected to the Pro Bowl, a rare achievement for a rookie quarterback.

Houston has improved Stroud’s supporting cast by adding four-time Pro Bowler Stefon Diggs to create a dynamic trio of receivers in Diggs, Nico Collins, and Tank Dell. They also have Joe Mixon in the backfield, Dalton Schultz at tight end, and a solid offensive line.

Now, Stroud and the Texans have high expectations to win another division title and earn a higher playoff seed. Some might have visions of the team’s first Super Bowl trip despite playing in the stacked AFC. 

Pressure indeed for a second-year quarterback.

Jordan Love throws a pass (in a green jersey and yellow pants/helmet)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) drops back to pass against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half of the 2024 NFC wild card game at AT&T Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)


The Packers traded four-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers to clear the way for Love — their 2020 first-round pick — to finally take over after three years as a backup. 

At midseason, when Green Bay was 3-6, things were not going well.

Then, Love caught fire with 18 touchdown passes and only one interception in the final eight regular season games, leading the Packers to a 6-2 record (including upset victories against Kansas City and Detroit) to earn a wild card spot.

Love then led a huge road win in Dallas in the wild-card round. He passed for 272 yards and three touchdowns in a game the Packers led 27-0 in the second quarter. Love and the Packers pushed the 49ers to the brink in the divisional round before falling 24-21.

Love, 25, ranked second in the league with 32 touchdown passes and seventh in passing yards (4,159). He’s signed for $13.5 million this season but should be extended before training camp as this is the final year of his contract. 

Regardless of whether his contract is settled, there will be pressure on Love to prove his strong finish last season wasn’t a fluke. He’ll be competing in the tough NFC North and trying to follow his predecessors — Rodgers and Brett Favre — in leading the Packers to a Super Bowl triumph.  

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) holds the George Halas Trophy after winning the NFC Championship football game. Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.


As the last pick in the 2022 draft, Purdy burst on the scene by winning his first seven starts, including two playoff games before a severe elbow injury in the NFC title game ended his rookie season. 

He’s on my list this year since 2023 was his first full season as the 49ers’ starter.

And what a great season it was for Purdy. He led the league in passer rating (113.0) with 31 touchdowns (third-most), 11 interceptions, a 69.4 percent completion rate (fifth-best), and 4,280 passing yards (fifth-most). Those numbers led the 49ers to 12 wins and the NFC West crown. 

In the playoffs, he beat Green Bay and Detroit before losing in overtime to Kansas City in the Super Bowl. Purdy showed good scrambling ability in addition to his passing skills last season, earning a Pro Bowl selection.

Purdy is one of the NFL’s best bargains, with a $985,000 base salary in 2024. After this season, he’ll have one year left on his rookie deal. He will surely receive a lucrative extension in 2025 if he continues to produce at a high level and has a great supporting cast to help his cause.

With a new contract on the line and as the quarterback for a Super Bowl contender, this shapes up as a pressure-filled season for the former Mr. Irrelevant.  

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) on the field in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.


It may seem odd to include a seventh-year quarterback who was the first overall pick in 2018 and led the Browns to the playoffs in 2020 with an 11-5 record before directing a road playoff victory against the arch-rival Steelers.

However, Baker Mayfield’s career plummeted after that 2020 season. He struggled (with injuries a factor) in 2021. Then, he was traded to Carolina in 2022 and finished that year with the Rams. 

He signed a bargain one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season and threw for career-highs of 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns. That helped the Buccaneers win the NFC South title with four wins in their final five games. 

Mayfield played well in the playoffs, recording 337 passing yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 32-9 wild-card round blowout against the Eagles. Then, the Buccaneers lost 31-23 to the Lions the following week. Mayfield had 349 passing yards and three touchdown tosses in that game but was intercepted twice. He made his first Pro Bowl last season.

He signed a new three-year, $100 million deal (plus $15 million in incentives) with the Buccaneers before free agency. The Buccaneers also re-signed Pro Bowl receiver Mike Evans, which was good news for Mayfield. 

Now he has to prove that his 2023 version is the real deal compared to his 2021 and 2022 seasons, or the Buccaneers could consider drafting his successor as soon as next April.  


Daniel Jones is another former first-round quarterback (from 2019) who made this list last season after his career-best year of 2022. 

But in his six 2023 starts, he had a sub-par season, with a dismal 70.6 passer rating (two touchdowns, six interceptions, 1-5 record). He played behind the league’s worst pass-protecting offensive line. He was sacked 30 times before his season ended with a torn ACL.

There were rumblings that the New York Giants tried to trade up from No. 6 in this year’s draft to take Drake Maye due to their concern about Jones’ ability to return to his 2022 form. 

In 2022, Jones went 9-6-1 as the starter, leading the Giants to a wild-card spot and a road playoff win in Minnesota (with 301 passing yards, two touchdown tosses, and 78 rushing yards).

In the regular season, Jones had 15 TD passes, only five picks, and threw for 3,205 yards with a 92.5 passer rating. He also showcased his running ability, recording 708 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.

Jones’ fine 2022 season in the final year of his rookie deal (after the Giants had declined his fifth-year option) set him up for a four-year, $160 million pre-free agency contract last year. 

But if he doesn’t return to his 2022 form, the Giants can cut or trade Jones next March and take a tough but manageable dead money hit of $22.2 million while gaining $19.4 million in cap room. 

There’s tremendous pressure this season on the 27-year-old Jones, who was not drafted by the current football leadership of general manager Joe Schoen and coach Brian Daboll.

The good news for Jones is he has been participating in the Giants’ OTA sessions as he continues his ACL recovery. Also, the Giants drafted WR Malik Nabers sixth overall, giving Jones the best receiving weapon he’s had in New York. 

But he’ll miss the production of retired TE Darren Waller and Pro Bowl RB Saquon Barkley, who Devin Singletary is replacing. And the Giants' offensive line is still a question mark.

NFL Analysis


8 min read

Ranking the Top 10 NFL Playoff Moments in History

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) intercepts a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the thrilling world of NFL playoff history, where magic unfolds before our eyes every postseason. The NFL playoffs always keep us entertained, from jaw-dropping catches to improbable defensive plays.

So, sit back, relax, and dive into the best moments from NFL playoff history. For this piece, we are focusing on singular plays that everyone remembers. The greater the stage, the higher the ranking.

Lasting impact matters, too, so expect plays that alter NFL history to appear higher on the list. So without further ado, here are the top 10 NFL playoff moments:

Ranking Top 10 NFL Playoff Moments

10. Demaryius Thomas Touchdown vs. Steelers

The Denver Broncos were 7.5-point home underdogs against the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL. With Tim Tebow at quarterback, it was nearly a given the Broncos would be one-and-done in Round 1 of the 2011 NFL playoffs.

However, after a 366-yard performance by Tebow, the Broncos got the game to overtime. And on the first play in overtime, Demaryius Thomas took a dig route 80 yards to the house to knock off Pittsburgh in Round 1.

The image of Thomas running away from the entire Pittsburgh defense in overtime will live on as one of the best moments in playoff history. This play (and game) was among the most surprising because it happened in the Wild Card Round.

Still, the Broncos were knocked out of the playoffs the following week, so it’ll stay at No. 10.

9. Beast Quake Run vs. Saints

Do you remember where you were during the greatest single run in postseason history?

Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Quake” run helped seal a massive upset for the Seattle Seahawks in Round 1 of the 2010 playoffs. After sneaking into the playoffs at 7-9, the Seahawks were 10-point home underdogs against the 11-5 Saints with Sean Payton and Drew Brees.

Lynch's 67-yard touchdown run, which featured nine broken tackles, helped the Seahawks take a 41-30 lead with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. The crowd noise during that run was loud enough to register on a seismic station, hence the name “beat quake.”

8. James Harrison Pick-Six vs. Cardinals

There are only a few defensive plays on this list, but you knew we had to include James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

Right before halftime, Harrison dropped into coverage and picked off Kurt Warner, and the rest is history. His 100-yard return seemed to take forever, but he eventually made his way to the end zone in what turned out to be a potential 14-point swing.

The only reason this play isn’t higher is that it took place in the second quarter. Every other game on this list had its best moment in the fourth quarter or overtime.

7. The Minneapolis Miracle

It might have only been the Divisional Round, but Stefon Diggs’ walkoff touchdown against the Saints remains one of the most improbable plays in NFL history.

With the Vikings down by one with just 10 seconds remaining, they held the ball at their 39-yard line with no timeouts left. And on third and 10, Case Keenum found Diggs down the left sideline. Diggs caught the pass, turned upfield, and ran the rest of the way to the end zone untouched.

That play allowed the Vikings to return to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the Brett Favre era and remains one of the best game-ending plays in NFL history. You'll probably never hear a stadium louder than when Diggs turned upfield with no one else in sight. It was quite the moment.

6. Immaculate Reception

Trailing by one on fourth and 10 from their own 22-yard line, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed a miracle to beat the Oakland Raiders during the 1972 playoffs. Terry Bradshaw threw a pass over the middle to John "Frenchy" Fuqua, but he was hit at the moment the ball arrived by Jack Tatum.

The ball ricocheted into the hands of Franco Harris, who took the ball into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. This is one of the best plays in playoff history, but it isn’t higher because it took place in the divisional round, and Pittsburgh lost to Miami the following week.

This play did help the Steelers win their first-ever playoff game so that counts for something.

5. The First Hail Mary

Down by four with just 32 seconds left, the Dallas Cowboys' championship hopes and dreams were on the line. Roger Staubach heaved a pass down the right sideline to Drew Pearson, hoping for a wild completion.

Pearson made the catch and got into the end zone, and the Cowboys took a 17-14 lead against the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round. Staubach coined the phrase "Hail Mary” as the Cowboys advanced to the NFC Championship Game and eventually the Super Bowl.

4. The Music City Miracle

Of all the plays listed here, the most improbable was the Music City Miracle.

The Tennessee Titans trailed the Bills by one in the 1999 playoffs and had just 16 seconds left to save their season. Rather than trying a Hail Mary or something else on offense, the Titans devised a brilliant plan on the kickoff return.

The entire special teams unit ran to the right side with Frank Wycheck, who proceeded to throw the ball all the way across the field to Kevin Dyson. Was the lateral legal? That question haunts Bills fans to this day, but Dyson took the ball 75 yards and into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

The Titans would continue that momentum all the way to the Super Bowl and nearly beat the “Greatest Show on Turf” that year. The Music City Miracle remains one of the wildest plays in NFL history and won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

3. David Tyree’s Helmet Catch

Just how important was David Tyree’s helmet catch in Super Bowl XLII? If that play never happened and Eli Manning’s third-and-5 pass was incomplete, the Patriots become the first team in NFL history to go 19-0, giving Tom Brady his fourth Super Bowl win in seven seasons.

Instead, the New York Giants knocked off one of the greatest teams in NFL history, all because Tyree secured a 32-yard pass to the side of his helmet. We still aren't sure to this day how Tyree managed to catch that pass, but this play remains one of the greatest in Super Bowl history.

2. “The Catch” By 49ers TE Dwight Clark

You can make a strong case this should be No. 1 because it helped the San Francisco 49ers win their first Super Bowl and launched one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.

Joe Montana and the 49ers faced a third-and-3 from the Cowboys' 6-yard line, down by six with under a minute remaining in the NFC Championship Game.

Montana rolled to his right, and his pump fake got several defenders to leave their feet, including Ed “Too Tall” Jones, the NFL's tallest player. Everyone in the stadium and watching at home thought Montana was throwing the ball out of the end zone to avoid a sack.

Instead, Dwight Clark snagged the pass in the back of the end zone, giving the 49ers a one-point lead. Montana became the face of the NFL after the 49ers beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl, and the rest is history.

1. Malcolm Butler's Interception vs. Seahawks

No play in a Super Bowl was as dramatic or impactful as Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception against the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. The Seahawks were just one yard away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls and taking down Brady and the Patriots.

With just 23 seconds left, Russell Wilson threw a quick slant to Ricardo Lockette, which was picked off by Butler at the goal line. The Patriots kneeled out the clock, sending the Seahawks' potential dynasty into a tailspin.

Without Butler's play, the Seahawks might have been the team of the 2010s, and Wilson still might be the quarterback in Seattle. The Patriots won their first Super Bowl since 2004 and reignited New England's dynasty.

NFL Analysis


7 min read

6 Most Important NFL Observations From Latest Offseason Workouts

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow makes a throw during OTAs on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, at the Kettering Health Practice Fields outside of Paycor Stadium.

Most NFL teams are off for the rest of the summer and will report for training camp in late July.

However, a few teams across the league recently held offseason workouts. Here are the six biggest stories coming out of those offseason practices this week:

6 Important OTA Takeaways

1. Bengals Using Extreme Caution with QB Joe Burrow

Joe Burrow needs no introduction. He is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks and is one of the few who can go toe-to-toe with Patrick Mahomes in big games. However, his injuries are starting to pile up, and now he is dealing with a hand injury that had to be surgically repaired this offseason.

The Cincinnati Bengals gave Burrow a rest day once a week during OTAs, but eyebrows were raised when the star quarterback did not practice on Tuesday or Wednesday last week. While there is nothing to suggest that a setback has occurred, it is evident the Bengals are being cautious with their star quarterback.

The NFL season is three months away, and there is no need to overwork Burrow during voluntary OTAs. However, it's clear the Bengals will have to carefully manage Burrow's workload for the remainder of the year, even into the season.

Zack Martin prepares to block Fred Warner
Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin (70) during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

2. Cowboys' Zack Martin Teases Retirement After 2024 Season

Zack Martin is set to enter his 11th NFL season, and the All-Pro guard hasn't shown any signs of slowing down. But that doesn't mean he isn't thinking about the future. Ahead of mandatory minicamp, Martin discussed that the 2024 season could be his last.

Martin's contract expires after the year, and he'll turn 34 in November. While he could easily play another three to four seasons at a high level, it's clear Martin doesn't want to overstay his welcome. At this point, it would be a minor shock if he played beyond the 2024 season.

3. Saints Planning To Use Taysom Hill Even More This Season

If you thought the Taysom Hill experiment was finished, think again. Not only are the New Orleans Saints planning to keep Hill's role in the offense, but it seems like they expect to feature him more than ever.

In a recent article by John Hendrix of SaintsNow, the Saints are using Hill even more in the backfield, giving him traditional running back touches:

Folks. I don't know how else to put this, but the Taysom Hill element to this Saints offense has major potential. Today we saw him being used as a halfback more and more. He had three plays where he was the running back and took tosses to the left and right…He was even a singleback on one of the reps. New Orleans is using a lot of motion involving Hill, including that speed motion that will surely confuse some defenses. This could get really fun really fast.

John Hendrix, SaintsNow

Hill saw the most touches of his career in 2023, racking up 33 receptions and 81 carries for a combined 692 yards and six touchdowns. While it's tough to envision Hill getting more work in 2024 at age 34, that appears to be the plan in New Orleans.

Can the Saints find a way to make him even more effective? At what point does it not make sense to feature an older player at this career stage? Time will tell, but the Saints appear to be leaning into making Hill a featured part of their offense again this season.

Treylon Burks
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) catches a pass against Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (9) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.

4. Two Former First-Round Wide Receivers Find New Roles

It's never great for a former first-round wide receiver to see a significant change in their role early in their career. But sometimes, that can help save a career.

Look no further than Darrius Hewyard-Bey, who transitioned from a top-10 pick at wide receiver to a special teams ace. Heyward-Bey flamed out at wide receiver but ended up playing 10 years in the NFL because he was an exceptional gunner.

Treylon Burks could be the latest first-round pick to have a similar transition. After two disappointing seasons at wide receiver, the Tennessee Titans are using him more on special teams as a gunner during OTAs. While it isn't ideal for his long-term outlook at receiver, it's a move that could help him get a helmet on gamedays.

Another receiver making some noise is N'Keal Harry, who is transitioning to tight end with the Minnesota Vikings. Harry is a former first-round pick by the Patriots (2019 NFL Draft) and has combined to catch 19 passes since the start of the 2021 season.

It's clear Harry doesn't have the twitch and route-running ability to win at wide receiver, but the Vikings believe he could make their 53-man roster as a tight end. He's turned some heads during OTAs and could be the next wide receiver to transition to tight end.

5. Eagles Installing New Offense Under OC Kellen Moore

The Philadelphia Eagles needed to change their offense, which is why Kellen Moore was brought in this offseason. Rather than just tweaking the offense, Moore is installing a brand-new system. According to Jalen Hurts, the offense is "95 percent" new, emphasizing more timing-based routes for the wide receivers.

The Eagles finished seventh in points per game last year (25.5 PPG), but the offense tanked starting in December. They averaged just 18.8 points per game in the season's final seven games (including playoffs), and Hurts saw a major decrease in his production and efficiency.

The plan for Moore's offense is to get Hurts under center more and emphasize the run game. When Moore was the Cowboys' offensive coordinator, Dallas was near the top of the league in first down run rate. Expect some early struggles for the Eagles' offense, but it will be more balanced than in previous seasons.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) gestures at the line of scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports.

6. Two Star Wide Receivers Miss Mandatory Minicamp

Now that Justin Jefferson has signed a mega deal with the Vikings, CeeDee Lamb and Brandon Aiyuk are the next in line. However, Lamb and Aiyuk were selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and are set to play on the fifth-year options.

Both star receivers missed their team's respective minicamps and are subject to significant fines.

Lamb and Aiyuk both hope to sign deals for more than $30 million per year, but neither player has had much traction. Lamb is likelier to sign a deal right away. His numbers are close to Jefferson's, and the Cowboys have no one else on offense who can handle his workload. While a deal might not be imminent, there is no real concern that it won't get done eventually.

>> READ: In-Depth Look At Lamb's Potential Extension

Aiyuk's situation is a little different and much more complicated. The 49ers are already paying a huge contract to Deebo Samuel and just signed Jauan Jennings to a nice deal. It's also interesting that the 49ers spent their first-round pick on Ricky Pearsall, which could indicate their eventual plans for Aiyuk.

There have been plenty of trade rumors surrounding Aiyuk this offseason, and those won't go away until he signs a new contract or is dealt. Still, expect these negotiations to carry through the summer and for things to get messy if neither player is signed before training camp starts.

NFL Analysis


6 min read

2025 NFL Draft QB Study: Should Carson Beck Be in Pole Position for No. 1 Pick?

The 2025 quarterback isn't as cut-and-dry as the 2024 class was at the top. Caleb Williams went wire-to-wire as the top prospect, whereas this year's crop has room for movement based on what happens this fall and throughout the draft process.

We don't have an elite athlete like Williams, Jayden Daniels, or Drake Maye looming at the forefront of our minds.

One player who created a lot of momentum in his first season as a starter in 2023 is Carson Beck. The Georgia Bulldogs star proved to be a tremendous talent after spending the majority of his previous three seasons as a backup.

But should he be the early favorite to be the top pick in 2025?

>> QB Film Room: Shedeur Sanders Breakdown

Carson Beck 2025 NFL Draft Outlook

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Beck is the definition of a late bloomer despite coming to Georgia as a high-end four-star recruit out of Jacksonville, Florida.

Stuck behind Stetson Bennett until his fourth year on campus, Beck immediately gave the Bulldogs a different aptitude from the pocket. Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo suddenly had a tall, stronger-armed, and consistently accurate option to build his offense around.

The unit immediately benefitted from Beck's high floor and pocket-passing acumen. Despite the program building a generational reputation from its immense running game success, Bobo and Beck combined to redefine the unit's operation. Georgia's passing offense finished 2023 with elite marks in explosiveness, success rate on passing downs, and predicted points added. 

Often, Beck lifted a unit that was good at running but was far more efficient and explosive when throwing the ball. They ranked as the country's fourth-most effective passing game and the second-most explosive unit. Beck's ridiculous raw numbers reflected this.

Rising To The Top

Only Bo Nix (77.4 percent), Jacob Zeno (73.6 percent), and Graham Mertz (72.9 percent) finished ahead of Beck's 72.4 percent completion rate. Daniels (11.7 yards per attempt), Jalen Milroe (10), and Kaidon Salter (9.9) were the only quarterbacks to finish with a higher YPA average, which accounts for yards after the catch as well as air yards. He was third in yards, trailing Michael Penix Jr. and Nix.

Just isolating Beck's in-pocket performance makes him even more impressive. He led all Power 5 quarterbacks in completion rate, YPA, on-target rate, EPA per attempt, and points above average per attempt on three, five, and seven-step dropbacks. That's a dominant set of numbers.

It was close to a perfect season for someone seeing his first significant time on the field in 2023.

His consistency was especially remarkable.

In comparing his passing efficiency to 2024 first-rounders, he saw little variation in his performance after his 52nd pass attempt in 2023. Williams, Nix, and Penix were consistently higher than Beck but were also historically good with their output.

Maye and McCarthy were in a similar range, but this metric immediately shows why Beck was trending toward being in the first-round conversation had he declared after 2023.

Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) throws a pass during the G-Day spring football game in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 13, 2024.

Can Carson Beck Be The No. 1 Pick in 2025?

Putting the numbers aside, Beck has an intriguing skill set that seems to be coming back into style. Everyone wants a dynamic dual-threat with 4.4 speed, a cannon for an arm, and the precision to make any throw regardless of pressure or launch angle. But that player doesn't seem to exist in the 2025 class and is historically rare. 

Teams unable to find their own Williams or Josh Allen have found enough success with guys like Jared Goff and Tua Tagovailoa that someone like Beck can conceivably be a realistic No. 1 pick. Especially comparing Beck to Shedeur Sanders, who struggles more in a timing-based, rhythmic passing game but is dominant on extended plays, teams may opt for the higher-floor approach.

Beck struck me as more similar to Goff than I expected. Neither creates a ton with their legs but can buy time in the pocket or take off for an occasional scramble. Both rely more on their plus touch and ability to layer the ball between defenders instead of overly strong arms that can push the ball into non-existent windows.

Each also panics under pressure more than top-end peers, which is a concern. Beck is prone to standing still and is either late seeing free defenders, or late in reacting and unable to escape. He doesn't have the tools to overcome loose rushers, and his arm strength doesn't generate enough velocity to be unbalanced and still avoid dangerous throws. 

Sometimes he has to swallow a sack or throw into a defender's body to avoid the negative play. Goff has always been a more aggressive vertical thrower in comparison, but his issues with turnovers while under pressure have been notable throughout his career. Beck seems to have the same limitation.

Beck played a screen-heavy game with many easy check-downs and quick throws, overinflating his completion rate compared to his actual pinpoint throwing ability. While he throws a catchable ball, he sometimes struggles to rifle in a pass that maximizes the yards gained after the catch.

Growing into his body more and continuing to improve the consistency of his weight transfer could help, but he plays into his strengths enough to believe he won't have trouble bringing his quick-game success to the NFL.

He has better physical traits than Mac Jones, so he should be able to evolve more than the former Alabama star who busted with the New England Patriots. But Jones' struggles aren't something to completely wipe away when projecting Beck. Beck has a better arm, but there's a looming question entering this fall about how much heavy lifting Beck did in 2023. 

Jones also orchestrated a super-efficient offense with even better playmakers than Georgia's last year, showing off better touch but more point-guard skills than someone creating a lot on his own.

Georgia's scheme wasn't the sole reason for Beck's success, and injuries to Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey forced Beck to utilize fringe NFL talents. There was little to no drop-off when dealing with those factors.

Can Beck become the top overall pick in 2025? Yes, he can, but players like Milroe, Cameron Ward, and Garrett Nussmeier have better tools and the ability to rise to a level that Beck physically can't reach.