It's Earth Day, which got me thinking, how on Earth are we only one week away from the NFL Draft?
This time next week, there will be no more mock drafts, we won't get to argue anymore about who the 49ers are going to take with the third pick and I will be able to stop debating with Bengals fans about who Cincinnati is going to take at fifth overall.
Although we've been talking about the draft nonstop over the past few weeks, we won't have as much draft talk today and that's because the NFL had a big day on Wednesday. Not only did the league announce when the 2021 schedule will be unveiled, but the owners also approved several new rules for the upcoming season. We'll be covering that and more in today's newsletter, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: Ranking the defensive backs in the draft
The NFL Draft is now just ONE WEEK AWAY and because of that, I'm guessing you can figure out what we talked about on today's podcast and if you can't figure it out, the answer is the NFL Draft.
For today's episode, Will Brinson was joined by draft expert Josh Edwards and the two of them ranked the top defensive backs in the draft. When you look at Edwards' DB rankings below, the first thing you're going to notice is that the draft is heavy on talent at the corner position, but not so heavy at safety.
1. CB Patrick Surtain II (Alabama)
2. CB Caleb Farley (Virginia Tech)
3. CB Greg Newsome II (Northwestern)
4. S Trevon Moehrig (TCU)
5. CB Jaycee Horn (South Carolina)
In his latest mock draft, Edwards actually has six defensive backs getting taken in the first round and if you want to know who those players are, you can check out that mock by clicking here. If you listen to the entire podcast today, you'll notice that Edwards has Florida State's Asante Samuel Jr. ranked as the 10th-best defensive back in the draft. Edwards has him ranked lower than most people, but thinks teams value him, so he won't be surprised if Samuel goes in the first round.
To listen to today's show -- and to follow the podcast -- be sure to click here.
2. NFL announces schedule-release date
If I had to rank my favorite events on the NFL offseason calendar, the draft would come in second and that's because my favorite day of the offseason is when the schedule gets released. Seriously, I don't think anyone enjoys the schedule release more than me. It's a national holiday at my house and I only celebrate three holidays (Flag Day, Earth Day and Schedule-Release Day)
The problem with the schedule release is that you never know when it's going to happen. I mean, I'm starting to think that the NFL just picks a random date out of a hat.
The good news is that the date for this year's release has now been picked: The 2021 NFL schedule will be unveiled on Wednesday, May 12, so you can go ahead and circle that on your calendar or save it in your Google calendar or send yourself a TikTok reminder. I have no idea what the kids are doing these days.
Although we don't know much about the schedule, here are a few quick nuggets:
- Thursday night opener in Tampa Bay. The defending Super Bowl champion annually plays host in the opening game of the season, which means the Buccaneers should be playing host in the Thursday night opener. Their home schedule consists of the Falcons, Panthers, Saints, Bills, Bears, Cowboys, Dolphins and Giants, so they'll be playing one of those eight teams. If the NFL wants the highest TV ratings possible, it will be Cowboys-Buccaneers.
- AFC to play host for the 17th game. The AFC and NFC will alternate hosting duties for the 17th game every year and for 2021, the AFC will start things off with the NFC playing host in 2022. Remember, this isn't the actual 17th game in the season. These extra games will be spread throughout the schedule.
- Falcons headed to London. The Falcons announced earlier this month that they would be playing in London. When they made the announcement, the team said the game would be against a non-divisional team, which means they'll be playing either the Lions, Patriots, Jets, Eagles or Washington.
- Every home-and-away opponent for all 32 teams. Although we don't know the time and dates for any game yet this year, we do know who each team will be playing and you can check out the home-and-away opponents for all 32 teams by clicking here.
- Super Bowl to be pushed back a week. With the regular-season schedule set to be played over 18 weeks (instead of 17), that means the Super Bowl is going to be pushed back a week. Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles will be played on Feb. 13, which will make it the latest that any Super Bowl has ever been played (Feb. 7 is currently the latest the game has been played).
3. All the NFL rule changes coming in 2021
The NFL's 32 owners held a virtual meeting on Wednesday and during that meeting they approved several rule changes for the 2021 season, so let's take a quick look at those changes:
- Overtime in the preseason has been eliminated, which is something I think we can all get behind.
- For one year only, the NFL will establish a maximum number of players in the setup zone (That's the area that's between 10 and 25 yards from the kickoff spot). Under this rule, only nine players on the receiving team will be allowed in the setup zone during kickoffs, which will theoretically make it easier for the kicking team to recover an onside kick. Under the old rule, the receiving team could put 10 or 11 players in the setup zone. For more details on this change, be sure to click here.
- The replay official and designated members of the officiating department are now allowed to provide certain objective information to the on-field officials. This means that the replay official can now buzz down to fix a missed call. This only applies to objective calls like spotting the ball, overturning an incomplete pass or whether a player is down by contact.
- A rule has been approved that ensures the enforcement of all accepted penalties committed by either team during successive try attempts. If a team gets penalized on an extra point, they can take the penalty at the 2-yard line OR 15-yard line. If they get penalized again, the penalty has to be enforced from wherever the first penalty was enforced, so if they had a false start on a 2-point conversion, they could have that enforced at the 2- or 15-yard line. If they had a second false start, they no longer get an option, it would be enforced from the spot of the first penalty
- A rule has been approved that will add a loss of down for a second forward pass from behind the line scrimmage and for a pass thrown after the ball returns behind the line. The Rams almost got burnt on a two-pass play by Tom Brady during the 2020 season and they don't want to see it happen again. Under the old rule, a team was only penalized 5 yards if it threw a second forward pass from behind the line scrimmage or for throwing a pass after the ball returns behind the line. This adds a loss of down.
- The NFL also approved the rule to give players at certain positions expanded jersey number options. This rule will allow running backs, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs to wear No. 1-19. For a full look at all the number options each positional group will have this year, be sure to click here.
4. Joe Burrow won't try to influence Bengals draft pick, hoping to be on field in Week 1
If the top four teams in the draft all take a quarterback, which is looking like something that could happen, that means the Bengals will have the option to take the best non-quarterback in the draft when they go on the clock with the fifth overall pick next week.
Although there had been some speculation that Joe Burrow had been lobbying the team to draft his former LSU teammate, Ja'Marr Chase, it seems that's not the case. During a recent interview on the "The Cris Collinsworth Podcast," Burrow said he trusts the Bengals to pick the right player, no matter who that player might be.
"I'm not watching film on any of these guys," Burrow said, via the team's website. "I've just seen highlights. The organization knows more than I do and will make the best pick. I trust the organization to do what they do and do their jobs and pick the best player."
Of course, Burrow then went on to point out that the team signed Riley Reiff in free agency, which might have been his subtle way of telling the Bengals to take Chase. Also, based on the Bengals recent track record in the draft, maybe Burrow should be in charge of the pick.
"I think we're in a good spot to take just the best available, especially after the free agency we had," Burrow said. "We got a lot of really good players that are going to be a lot of help on defense, and Riley Reiff at tackle is going to help us a lot."
The draft wasn't the only thing Burrow talked about this week. After tearing his ACL in November, the Bengals quarterback isn't sure if he'll be on the field for Week 1, but right now, things seem to be trending that way.
"I'm very optimistic about where I'm at and also where the team is at," Burrow said. "Rehab is going very, very well and lifting is going very, very well. I'm in great shape. Legs feel good; knee feels good... There's still a long way to go, but I'm expecting to be there on the first snap of 2021. I'm expecting to play Game 1. I expect to take part in practice. I'm feeling really good. I'm ahead of schedule. I can't roll out and throw yet, but it's feeling good right now."
I vote the NFL gives the Bengals their bye in Week 1 so Burrow gets one more week to heal.
5. How the Chiefs can have the perfect draft
Between now and the start of the 2021 NFL Draft, we'll be going over how each team can pull off the perfect draft, and today, we're finally closing out that series with the four teams in the AFC West, but mainly, the Kansas City Chiefs.
The last time we saw the Chiefs, they were getting clobbered by the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl. A big reason the Chiefs struggled is because Patrick Mahomes spent nearly the entire game running for his life.
Although this team has played in two straight Super Bowls, it still has some holes to fill and that's where our Jordan Dajani comes in. If the Chiefs want to have a perfect draft, they just need to follow Dajani's simple plan below and that simple plan is to bring in some help for Mahomes.
- Draft an offensive tackle early. "The Chiefs parted ways with both their starting left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, and their starting center Austin Reiter is still in free agency looking for a new deal. Kansas City did sign one of the best guards in the game in Joe Thuney, but who will start at left tackle is a question that's hard to ignore. I don't think the Chiefs' perfect draft hinges on taking an offensive tackle in the first round, but I do think it's a good idea."
- Take advantage of the deep receiver class. "Much like last year's draft, I'm calling on all 32 NFL teams to take a shot on at least one wide receiver -- whether it be a positional need or not. I believe there is legitimate talent in all seven rounds, which is good news for the Chiefs because they're in the market for a new wideout."
- Fill holes on defense. "The Chiefs defense ranked No. 16 in the NFL this past season with an average of 358.3 yards of total offense allowed per game. That may not raise many red flags, but statistically they weren't a great unit. In fact, Kansas City had the worst red-zone defense in the league last season, allowing touchdowns on 76.6 percent of red-zone drives. It was the third-worst red-zone defense since 2000. The Chiefs have holes to fill at EDGE, linebacker and cornerback, and should use a second- or third-round pick on at least one of these needs."
You can check out Dajani's full explanation for his perfect Chiefs draft by clicking here. If you want to know how the rest of the AFC West can pull off a perfect draft, click here to see what the Broncos should do, click here to see how the Chargers should handle things and click here to see what moves would make the most sense for the Raiders.
6. Rapid-fire roundup:
It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, so I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- T.J. Ward retires. The former Broncos Pro Bowl safety has decided to call it a career after eight seasons. Ward entered the NFL as a second-round pick in 2010 after being drafted by the Browns. Following four seasons in Cleveland, he moved on to Denver where he made his mark. Not only did he win a Super Bowl with the Broncos, but he was also a part of the vaunted "No Fly Zone" defense.
- Aldon Smith turns himself in. Aldon Smith has dealt with multiple legal issues over the course of his career and he's now dealing with another one. The Seahawks defensive end turned himself into Louisiana police after a warrant was issued for his arrest stemming from an alleged assault. If Smith gets convicted, he could face up to eight years in prison along with a fine of up to $2,000. For more details on the situation involving Smith, be sure to click here.
- Seahawks sign Pierre Desir. The Seahawks added some solid depth at cornerback with the signing of Desir to a one-year deal. The 30-year-old has started a total of 31 games over the past three seasons. Although Desir hasn't been bad, he hasn't been able to stick with a team. The Seahawks will be the fourth team he's played for since the start of the 2019 season.
- Antonio Brown settles lawsuit with trainer. Nearly 18 months after being hit with a sexual assault lawsuit by his former trainer, Brown has resolved the case. The receiver has reached a settlement with his former trainer, Britney Taylor. Terms of the settlement are confidential.
- 49ers sign two players. The 49ers decided to plug a few roster holes before the start of the draft and they did that by signing defensive end Arden Key and running back Wayne Gallman this week. Both players were given a one-year deal.
- Saints need a cornerback. Do you play cornerback or know someone who does, because if so, you might want to give New Orleans a call. Saints coach Sean Payton said this week that cornerback is a position that needs to be "addressed' between now and the start of the season.
7. The Kicker: Ravens wild overtime proposal is going to be used by another league
Although the Ravens "spot and choose" overtime proposal got shot down by NFL owners on Wednesday, it is going to be used this year. The Spring League, which is a football league you might have heard of because Johnny Manziel once played in it, has decided to fully embrace Baltimore's crazy overtime plan.
The rules for this overtime are simple: The winner of the coin toss decides what yard line the ball is going to be placed on and then the other team decides if it wants to play offense or defense. The upside of the Spring League using this rule is that if it works out well, the NFL might eventually decide to embrace it.
Also, the fact that the Spring League is using this rule means I might actually watch the Spring League this year.