Category Archives: 2017 NFL Draft

Each NFL attack and defensive ghosts of power

Every cloud has a silver lining, and every NFL team does some things well. Even the worst team has certain plays and tendencies in which the players are productive.

We’ve gone through Football Outsiders’ extensive statistical databases to point out specific strengths of each team in 2016: one for offense, one for defense. Some of these splits are significant for illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of each team’s personnel. Other splits tend to oscillate wildly from year to year, and a great performance in 2016 may not indicate that a team will be equally strong in the same ways in 2017. Either way, the numbers provide an interesting window into what each team did right last season.

Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics are explained here. The most important is Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which measures success on each play compared to the league average, adjusted for situation and opponent. Because DVOA is measured on a per-play basis, it can easily be separated to measure specific splits; you’ll see a lot of those ratings below.

Charting stats such as frequency of blitzes, pass pressure and play-action come from ESPN Stats & Information research. Other charting metrics, including player personnel and broken tackles, come from Sports Information Solutions. You’ll be able to find many more of these stats in our Football Outsiders Almanac 2017, which will be released online on July 24.

AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Offense: Running from two-back sets

The Bills were much better when they had a fullback or tight end in the backfield: 5.7 yards per carry and 24.4 percent DVOA from multi-back sets, compared to 4.6 yards and 7.4 percent DVOA from single-back sets. Fifty-seven percent of the Bills’ runs come out of multi-back sets last year, the highest rate in the league. Buffalo and New England were the only teams over 50 percent. Just five years ago, more than half the teams in the league were over 50 percent.

Defense: Play when trailing

One reason the Bills really weren’t blown out until the last week of the season: The defense never let opponents run away with a game. Although the Bills had one of the league’s worst defenses overall (27th in DVOA), they ranked third in defense when they were losing by more than a touchdown.

Miami Dolphins

Offense: Empty sets

The Dolphins were fabulous from empty-backfield sets: 8.9 yards per play and a league-leading 95.0 percent DVOA.

Defense: First-down pass defense

Overall, the Dolphins had an average pass defense, 16th-ranked DVOA in the NFL. But on first down, the Dolphins ranked third in pass-defense DVOA; only Denver and Pittsburgh were better.

Predict the best newcomer for each NFL department

This summer, NFL Nation reporters are answering the biggest questions for every team in divisional roundtables.

Monday’s question: Who will be the best newcomer?

AFC East

The rich kept getting richer. The New England Patriots acquired Brandin Cooks, who has the eighth-most receiving yards in the NFL since 2015. He’s an ideal wide receiver for the Patriots’ offense — undersized but explosive, capable of turning a short crossing route into a 30-yard gain.

After a season off, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has the potential to be the best newcomer in the AFC West.

After a season off, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch has the potential to be the best newcomer in the AFC West.

AFC North

The Cleveland Browns need the answer to be Myles Garrett, the first overall pick in the NFL draft. Garrett had 31 sacks in college and is considered one of the best defensive prospects in years. But there are plenty of wide receivers who are new to the division as well.

AFC South

There is no consensus here. The Jaguars added potential impact players in defensive end Calais Campbell, running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback A.J. Bouye. They hope the influx of new blood helps them rebound from last season’s 3-13 finish.

AFC West

As long as he is more Beast Mode than Bust Mode and more rested than rusted, the easy answer is Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch. After retiring from the Seahawks and taking a season off, he returns to his hometown of Oakland.
NFC East

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery comes to the Eagles from the Chicago Bears. When healthy, he’s a Pro Bowl player and a difference-maker who had more than 1,400 receiving yards in his second professional season. Others have a chance to make an impact.
NFC North

This is a tough question because there are a lot of players with similar levels of importance. Vikings running back Latavius Murray and Packers tight end Martellus Bennett top the list of candidates. Who else makes the grade?

NFC South

DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard could be the one-two punch the Bucs’ receiving game needs. But this division has many newcomers that could have an impact to choose from. Read more

NFC West

The San Francisco 49ers did a ton of work to rebuild under a new GM and coach. Receiver Pierre Garcon, linebacker Reuben Foster and defensive end Solomon Thomas all have potential. The Rams also made a big investment at left tackle.

Browns discussed trading up with three teams in top 8

Two days out from the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns are starting to make some moves.

Owners of the first and 12th overall draft picks, and in need of a franchise quarterback, it was long suggested that Cleveland might use its bounty of early-round selections to package picks and move up to hand-select its quarterback of the future. Numerous reports out of Cleveland suggest that man is North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Now there is tangible proof of those efforts.

NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported Tuesday that the Browns have spoken with at least “three teams in the top eight” about trading up.

“The Browns have been doing their due diligence and investigating the possibility,” Silver said on Tuesday’s edition of Up to the Minute Live. “I’ve learned that at least three teams in the top eight have been contacted by the Browns and discussions have taken place about the prospect of moving up. Now this is something that would likely happen in real time when these teams were on the clock because obviously if the target is Mitchell Trubisky and he goes earlier than expected, then those discussions would be moot.

“The Browns could still take Trubisky at No. 1. They could still trade down and try to take him a little lower than one. The more likely scenario right now would be trying to use that 12th pick and get up a little higher to get the quarterback of the future.”

After the Browns pick first overall — a selection that will most likely be Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett — the 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, Titans, Jets, Chargers and Panthers are slated to pick in that order. Excluding the Titans and Panthers, all of those teams are either QB-needy or QB-desperate; Los Angeles brass has suggested it will look into drafting its QB of the future to succeed Philip Rivers.

While no quarterback in this year’s draft is projected to be a top-10 talent, according to NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, you never know how these teams with gaping holes at the game’s most important position will react on draft night. With regards to draft-day trades, anything is possible.

So let’s speculate. Three teams to which Silver might be referring in his report are in the back half of the top eight: the Titans, Jets and Panthers.

» Tennessee needs secondary help — Jamal Adams, Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker are options — and could also be targeting Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. But if all or some of those prospects are off the board by No. 5, then the Titans would be the prime target for Cleveland. The Browns would benefit from jumping ahead of the unpredictable Jets, who are also in the market for a franchise quarterback.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson’s comments on Tuesday that his franchise is “50-50″ to stick at Nos. 5 and 18 should also spur furious speculation that the Titans are open to trading down with Cleveland.

» Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has been saying for a month that the Jets are willing to trade their sixth overall pick. And who could blame them? The Jets’ roster is untested and shallow at nearly every position, and the franchise is entering a very obvious rebuilding year. If Gang Green isn’t in love with a quarterback or any of the remaining secondary prospects at No. 6, it doesn’t hurt to fall back six picks, steal a second-rounder and accumulate much-needed talent and depth.

However, trading with the Browns presents a potential doomsday P.R. scenario for the Jets. As Cleveland did with Philadelphia and Carson Wentz last season, trading away the opportunity to procure the sought-after franchise savior could sink the fan base’s hopes for years to come, especially if the McCown-Petty-Hackenberg troika flounders as most expect it to.

» Then, there are the Panthers, one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance and still plenty deep at multiple positions. Many draft analysts have Carolina targeting the running back position with their top-10 selection, eyeing either Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffrey. While Fournette could fly off the board early on, there’s a chance that McCaffrey might fall into the meat of the first round, or at least to Cleveland’s 12th pick, which makes their eighth selection expendable.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo confirmed this hypothesis, adding, “When Mike Silver says top eight, he says top eight for a reason. Keep an eye on the Panthers. There’s also some defensive players that they like that might not be up there at No. 8. Could be that slide-back option there. And then at that point opens up a couple options, one of them is John Ross by the way. They like his speed. They do want to add speed to the offense.”

Which team the Browns eventually target, if and when they do decide to eschew their 12th pick, acquired from the Eagles in the Wentz deal, and a second-rounder in favor a second top-10 selection, remains a mystery.

But what is clear now, with 48 hours remaining until Cleveland is officially on the clock, is that the Browns are deadly serious about trading up for their franchise quarterback.

Ex-Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon settles civil lawsuit with victim

The civil lawsuit brought by Amelia Molitor, the Oklahoma student who was punched by running back Joe Mixon in 2014, has been settled out of court.

Molitor’s attorney released a statement via NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, although terms of the settlement remain confidential.

“I am happy we were able to bring the lawsuit to an end. Joe and I were able to meet privately, without any attorneys, and talk about our experiences since that night. I am encouraged that we will both be able to move forward from here with our lives,” Molitor’s statement read. “From our private discussions I am satisfied that we are going to put this behind us and work towards helping others who may have found themselves in similar circumstances. I greatly appreciate his apology and I think the feelings he expressed were sincere. We both could have handled things differently. I believe if we had a chance to go back to that moment in time, the situation would not have ended the way it did.

“… Going forward, Joe and I agreed we needed to move on from this situation and focus on the future. I’m now planning to attend graduate school. I still plan to speak out and support other people, whether on college campuses or elsewhere, who are faced with overcoming difficult circumstances that have attracted intense public scrutiny. I’m finished talking about what happened that night with Joe. It’s time to move on from that. I wish Joe the best of luck in his future.”

Said Mixon: “I’m thankful Mia and I were able to talk privately. I was able to apologize to her one-on-one. The way I reacted that night, that’s not me. That’s not the way I was raised. I think she understands that. Talking together helps move us past what happened. I know I have to keep working to be a better person, and this is another step in that direction. I love working with kids, and I’m looking forward to more chances to do that kind of work. I want to lead a life that inspires them, and I hope I can lead by example from today forward.”

The misdemeanor criminal charge against Mixon, acts resulting in gross injury, was pleaded to probation, counseling and community service. He was suspended from OU’s football team for the 2014 season. A video of the incident, released in December, brought renewed public scrutiny to Mixon, however, and his draft status has been clouded as a result. He’s considered one of the top talents at running back in this year’s draft. Reportedly, at least six NFL clubs have taken Mixon off their draft board.

The draft will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia.