By: Robert Bishop
Reports surrounding the New York Jets cite increased optimism around third-year tight end Chris Herndon. Injury ruined Herndon’s second season, but the 2018 fourth-round pick is seemingly healthy and ready to build off his strong second half. As a rookie, Herndon exhibited impressive chemistry with fellow rookie Sam Darnold. Herndon shined as a pass blocker while in college, and he excelled as a red-zone target as a rookie. Stardom isn’t likely, but there is every reason to expect Herndon to make a difference in the passing game for the Jets this season, both in pass protection and as check-down option for Darnold.
As expected, the Eagles confirmed intentions of handing the reins to the starting left tackle job to 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard. A disappointing rookie season soured many on Dillard, but he remains a high-upside talent that was a steal at pick 22 in 2019. Most of Dillard’s struggles as a rookie came while filling in at right tackle, marring a productive stretch at left tackle as he operated as an injury replacement for veteran Jason Peters. Plenty of attention has been levied toward a few of Philadelphia’s high profile acquisitions this off-season. Still, the team’s decision to trust in the development of Dillard protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside could be the most significant move of the off-season for the Eagles.
Overlooked superstar Anthony Harris signed his one-year franchise tender on Sunday, agreeing to remain with the Vikings on a one-year deal worth just over $11 million. Harris broke out in 2019, forming the NFL’s best safety duo alongside Harrison Smith. Smith’s presence diminishes Harris’s stardom, and the Vikings are wise to his value and are likely going to continue looking to lock up Harris to a multi-year deal. Harris shines as a playmaker in coverage, and he is among the best tacklers at his position in the NFL. The Vikings have question marks aplenty at cornerback, but with Harris back for 2020 alongside Smith, Minnesota’s secondary will likely again be a strength.
When Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the veteran quarterback’s upgrade at available receiving talent was equal parts evident and tremendous. Lead receiver Mike Evans is an established superstar in the NFL with a lengthy track record of dominance. However, it is Chris Godwin that represents the most intriguing pairing with Brady. Godwin’s ability to work on the outside is among the best in the NFL, but it is his success in the slot that will likely make him Brady’s favorite target in 2020. Godwin put up superstar numbers in 2019, racking up 86 grabs for 1,333 yards and 9 TDs. For the upcoming season, betting the over on those numbers would be prudent.
Kansas City used a first-round pick last month to give quarterback Patrick Mahomes another weapon in the form of running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Though Edwards-Helaire may have the biggest impact on the stat sheet thanks to his role in the offense, he isn’t likely to have the biggest impact on Kansas City’s quest to repeat as Super Bowl champions among the team’s rookie class. That honor goes to linebacker Willie Gay Jr., the team’s second-round selection. Gay exhibited elite athleticism on tape and at the combine, and Kansas City’s linebacking corps was among the worst in the NFL in 2020 despite the team’s success. Provided the Chiefs can harness his athleticism, Gay will be a difference-maker at some point in 2020.
Clelin Ferrell’s rookie season did not go as planned for the 2019 fourth-overall selection. It was an outright disaster. By mid-season, fellow rookie defensive lineman Maxx Crosby has seized the spotlight. Now heading into year two, Ferrell will be tested for playing time by newly-signed pass rusher Carl Nassib. It is worth noting that Ferrell seemed to figure things out during the final month of the season, especially as a run-stopper. It will be his pass-rushing ability that determines whether or not the Clemson product lives up to his draft status, however, and that remains an unknown. Ferrell taking the next step to becoming a feared pass rusher would be a massive boost to Vegas’s chances at contending in 2020.