Howdy-do, everyone. The Bears still haven't backed down from their plans to start Andy Dalton in Week 1, so John Breech is using his weekly off day to celebrate once more. That's why I, Cody Benjamin, am back in the saddle to guide you through all the latest from around the NFL.
This is the Pick Six Newsletter. Now let's get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you're signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don't want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)
We've got top-10 rankings (shocking), Carl Nassib reactions from around the NFL, and much more:
1. Today's show: Debating the top 10 RBs entering 2021
If you haven't noticed by now, we've been rolling out rankings pretty much every day at CBS Sports. Top QBs. Top players under 25. You name it. On Wednesday's Pick Six Podcast, I joined Will Brinson to rank and debate this year's top running backs. RBs tend to get the short end of the stick these days, but we went for nearly an hour on the best backs of 2021, so maybe they're not so unimportant, after all. Or maybe we just talk too much. Either way, the discussion was lively.
- The biggest omissions from my top-10 list, according to Brinson? Washington's Antonio Gibson, who we both agree is due for a big year as the Football Team's lead ball-carrier; and the Chargers' Austin Ekeler, who's also due for a ton of touches in Los Angeles.
- Most promising inclusion? Maybe the Colts' Jonathan Taylor, who should benefit from Carson Wentz's arrival in Indianapolis and figures to be a top-five-ish fantasy RB option this year.
- Most controversial ranking? Ezekiel Elliott. Brinson says he would've left the Cowboys star off his top-10 list entirely. You'll have to listen to see where he ended up.
- Why should Christian McCaffrey have a different role in Carolina, why is Alvin Kamara the perfect example of modern-day RBs, and why is Nick Chubb maybe the most likely active RB to have a Hall of Fame career? It's all part of the conversation.
Catch the full episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.
2. Insider notes: Carl Nassib opens the door for others to follow
Few headlines rocked the NFL landscape quite like Nassib, the veteran Raiders pass rusher, coming out as gay this week. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports that Nassib's proclamation has already affected others who may have experienced -- or are experiencing -- similar situations. Chief among them: Former longtime NFL lineman Esera Tuaolo, who came out back in 2002 after his playing days. Tuaolo tells La Canfora that Nassib's actions would've been all but impossible "back in my era," during the 1990s. More importantly, he believes Nassib has opened the door for others to follow.
Perhaps in the coming days other players will join Nassib in sharing their authentic selves with us. Tuaolo believes, in time, they will. His bravery will inspire others, which will in turn further tear down some of the divide of sexual orientation among those who play football for a living (and, hopefully, among those who coach it, scout it, watch it, and cover it as well).
"It's a ginormous step to tell you the truth from when I played ball in the '90s to now," Tuaolo said. "It's a beautiful thing, and I tell you what this will … hopefully open the floodgates for other players to come out of the closet. And seeing the response of the fans, Raider Nation, are you kidding me, that's amazing, their support for Carl. And also his friends and guys he plays with, seeing that support will hopefully open up the floodgates and more players will come out."
3. Carl Nassib reactions: Jersey sales spike, NFL colleagues respond
Nassib's announcement this week hasn't just impacted former players like Tuaolo. A day after becoming the first active NFL player to come out as gay, the Raiders reserve had the NFL's highest-selling jersey on Fanatics over a two-day stretch. Not only that, but he received a barrage of support from both teammates and colleagues, past and present. Among the big names to wish Nassib well in the wake of his announcement:
- Raiders QB Derek Carr, who says he loves Nassib like all his teammates, calling him part of the Raiders family.
- Former Raiders RB Bo Jackson, who says he's proud and that "Raider Nation" and "the whole country" stand with him.
- Giants RB Saquon Barkley, who also says he's proud of Nassib's proclamation.
- Former Patriots WR Julian Edelman, who says Nassib's corresponding Trevor Project donation is a "very classy move."
4. Ranking the NFL's top 10 safeties: Justin Simmons edges out Tyrann Mathieu
More rankings! And we know you like 'em! This time, we've got Tyler Sullivan sorting through the best of the best safeties going into the 2021 season. You'll want to check out his story for a full breakdown of why each guy made it, and why others did not, but here's a peek at his top-10 safeties ahead of the new season:
- Justin Simmons (Broncos)
- Tyrann Mathieu (Chiefs)
- Minkah Fitzpatrick (Steelers)
- Jessie Bates III (Bengals)
- John Johnson III (Browns)
- Marcus Maye (Jets)
- Marcus Williams (Saints)
- Harrison Smith (Vikings)
- Adrian Amos (Packers)
- Derwin James (Chargers)
5. Predicting Raiders' final record, every game on 2021 schedule
Las Vegas QB Derek Carr has talked this week about getting more "championship effort" from his team this year. But how likely are the Raiders to actually make the playoffs, let alone contend for a title? Jeff Kerr went through all 17 games on their upcoming schedule to forecast the 2021 season for the silver and black. The results? Here are a couple key-game picks, as well as a projected final record:
- Week 6 at Broncos: "This one is contingent on if Aaron Rodgers is in a Broncos uniform, but Vegas did sweep Denver last year. The Raiders just seem to match up well against the Broncos, mainly because Drew Lock has struggled against their pass rush." Prediction: Raiders win.
- Week 15 at Browns: "This is a rematch of the Raiders' surprising 16-6 win last year in Cleveland, so they'll be confident heading into this one. The weather should be better this time around, but this is December ... in Cleveland. Anything can happen." Prediction: Raiders win.
- Week 17 at Colts: "The Raiders need this game if they are going to make the playoffs in the AFC. Indianapolis rushed for over 200 yards off Vegas last year and will be poised to accomplish the task again with an even better offensive line this time. Heartbreak for Vegas incoming." Prediction: Raiders lose.
Final record projection: 8-9
6. Baker Mayfield's agent expects Browns extension this summer
The former No. 1 overall pick said this week he's in no rush to land a new contract with Cleveland, even though a trip to free agency could come as soon as 2022. But Mayfield's agent, Jack Mills, tells TheLandOnDemand.com that "we're not going to be dragging it out" in talks with the Browns, even going so far as to expect "something will be done this summer." An extension for Mayfield would not be surprising, but it would definitely be notable, should the Browns commit to their former first-rounder fresh off his first playoff appearance and, possibly, before the Ravens strike their own long-term deal with Lamar Jackson. Stay tuned!