The 2020 regular season is now beyond the midway point and as we’ve gone over in recent weeks, there have been plenty of surprises as well as plenty of letdowns.
But the surprises tend to run more deep and extend beyond just unsuspecting players performing at a high level. There are also several household names who have exceeded expectations and are playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Here is a look at five of those players.
5. Garett Bolles, OT, Denver Broncos
Over the first three seasons of his career, Garett Bolles looked like a potential draft bust in the making. During that span, he was among the most penalized offensive lineman in the game. He even drew the public ire of his general manager, John Elway. Outside of the penalties, Bolles was average at best, and at his worst, struggled in pass protection. Here in 2020 however, the former first-round pick has completely — and we mean completely — turned a corner. Not only has Bolles seen a dramatic decrease in the number of penalties called against him, he leads all tackles with a 90.2 Pro Football Focus grade and is top four in both pass protection and run blocking grades (1st). That’s Pro Bowl stuff any way you slice it, and the reason why he got a big contract extension from Denver.
4. Brandon Graham, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
Brandon Graham feels like a player who will forever be underrated, and it’s no different here in 2020. Through eight games this season, the relentless smack-talking Graham has recorded 7.0 sacks, which is just 2.5 shy of his career high. His 80.5 Pro Football Focus grade is also tops among Eagles defenders, second overall on the team, and within the top 15 (11) league-wide at his position. Graham is consistent and can be relied upon for a certain level of play each week and that speaks volumes about his overall value to the team away from statistics, numbers and analytics. What’s even more remarkable is that he’s played well for 11 consecutive seasons and never once been named to the Pro Bowl. That could very well change this year.
3. Leonard Williams, DL, New York Giants
When the Giants acquired Leonard Williams from the New York Jets in 2019, general manager Dave Gettleman faced overwhelming criticism. However, it may be Gettleman who gets the last laugh after all. Williams is second on the Giants (250-plus snaps) with a 79.9 Pro Football Focus grade and leads the defense with 6.0 sacks. Always stout against the run, Williams has drastically improved his pass rush, and he’s arguably the best all-around player in East Rutherford. His play has helped elevate a defense that has unexpectedly kept the Giants in all but one game this season.
2. Robby Anderson, WR, Carolina Panthers
Robby Anderson spent an entire career with the New York Jets hovering around 750-800 yards per season with the sole exception of 2017 when he broke out, finishing the year with 941 yards and seven touchdowns. It was a glimpse of what Anderson could achieve, but a plateau he never reached again — until now. Anderson signed with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, and that appears to have been the right move for his career. Through 12 games this season, Anderson has hauled in 75 receptions for 912 yards and two touchdowsn. His 74.7% catch rate also represents a career high by nearly 20%. If Anderson gets those TD numbers up, there’s no denying that’s Pro Bowl-level play.
1. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Miami Dolphins
Entering his fifth NFL season, Emmanuel Ogbah had never recorded more than 5.5 sacks, which he did twice in his career — first as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns and then again in 2019 as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Through 11 games in 2020, Ogbah leads the Dolphins with 8.0 sacks and 14 QB hits. But his impact is not exclusive to rushing the passer. Ogbah also has three forced fumbles and is third on the team with five passes defensed. Collectively, those numbers also make him one of the most successful all-around defensive ends in football and should warrant serious Pro Bowl consideration.
Photo: Jeffrey Beall/Wikimedia via CC-BY 4.0
Most NFL players reach the point in their career where they’re seeking a long-term contract, but things simply aren’t working out. Sometimes that situation course corrects, and sometimes it doesn’t.
However, consistent quality play will often pave the way for those players — especially during a contract year. And as we head into 2020, these five players find themselves in that exact situation. Now they’ll need to step up.
Leonard Williams is set to take the New York Giants to arbitration over an issue related to his franchise tag.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on Thursday that the former Pro Bowler has officially submitted a case to the NFLPA to contest the Giants’ decision to tag him as a defensive tackle instead of as a defensive end. The NFLPA will then file a grievance for him.
While such an issue might seem minor on its face, the non-exclusive franchise tag, which Williams officially signed from the Giants this week, guarantees him a salary equal to the average of the top five salaries leaguewide at his position. For a defensive tackle, that would be $16.1 million, but for a defensive end, the number would rise to $17.8 million.
The 25-year-old Williams began his college career at USC as a defensive tackle and switched to defensive end as a sophomore. In the NFL, Williams has been listed as a defensive end throughout his career but actually played 12 of 15 games at defensive tackle last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Williams clearly considers himself a defensive end based on his approach to the game, but he will have to see if a neutral arbitrator agrees with him.
The NFL’s deadline for teams to franchise tag players is on Monday, and there are still several players who will likely receive a tag.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, these seven players are still likely to receive the franchise tag.
The Tennessee Titans franchise-tagging Derrick Henry makes sense after they got quarterback Ryan Tannehill under contract.
An exclusive franchise tag for Dak Prescott, that would pay the quarterback over $30 million, has been expected. Prescott being tagged would also mean Amari Cooper is possible to hit free agency, though the Dallas Cowboys would still like to get him under contract.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers tagging Barrett would mean quarterback Jameis Winston could negotiate with other teams as a free agent.
Green also probably would not be happy with his tag, considering he wanted a long-term deal.
Chris Jones does not seem happy about his tag from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Still, being tagged does not preclude a team from reaching a long-term contract with the player. The sides would have until July 15 to reach an agreement on a long-term deal.
Brandon Scherff (Redskins), Hunter Henry (Chargers), Matthew Judon (Ravens), Yannick Ngakoue (Jaguars) and Justin Simmons (Broncos) have already received tags.
The New York Giants may be planning to do whatever they can to keep Leonard Williams in 2020, but the star defensive lineman has not signed a new contract with the team.
On Saturday, someone posing as an SNY reporter claimed Williams has signed a multi-year deal with the Giants worth $12 million annually. However, that person has since deleted their Twitter account, and there has been no confirmation of the report from any reputable source. Williams seems more likely to be franchise or transition tagged than he is to sign a long-term deal with New York.
The Giants sent a third-round pick in 2020 and a fifth-round pick in 2021 to the New York Jets in exchange for Williams last season. The former No. 6 overall pick had 17 sacks in his first four NFL seasons but just a half-sack with the Giants in eight games last season.
Free agency is always a crazy time in the NFL, and the frenzy promises to be just as wild this year. That also means that teams will rush to sign players before their competitors are given a chance, driving up prices, and leading to some massive over-payments.
Here’s a look at five impending free agents who are bound to be overpaid in 2020.
5. Logan Ryan, CB, Tennessee Titans
Just a few short years ago, Logan Ryan was considered one of the best up-and-coming cornerbacks in the NFL, and there were 32 teams that would have been happy to have him. However, Ryan has seen a production decline in recent seasons, finishing 2019 with a Pro Football Focus grade of just 64.9 after surrendering 80 receptions for over 1,000 yards. Despite those struggles, Ryan is still on the right side of 30 and has a stretch on his resume that will intrigue any team in need of a veteran cornerback. And while there are some similar talents potentially becoming available in March, Ryan is still likely to command top dollar — far beyond what his 2019 season should warrant.
The New York Jets have found a new home for Leonard Williams, but it will not require much of an adjustment for the star defensive lineman.
Williams has been traded to the New York Giants in exchange for a third-round draft pick in 2020 and a fifth-round pick in 2021, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
There has been talk that the Jets could trade multiple players prior to Tuesday’s deadline, and Williams was known to be one of the veterans they were shopping. The former No. 6 overall pick has never missed a game and has been productive through his first four-plus NFL seasons, but he is making $14.2 million this season and is expected to demand a big contract in free agency next offseason.
Williams has not recorded a sack this year, but he had 17 total in his first four seasons in the league. He should provide the Giants with some much-needed help along their front seven.
The New York Jets aren’t shy about the rebuilding stage they’re currently in, but it doesn’t mean they’re going into fire sale mode when it comes to some of their younger veterans.
Such is the case with defensive lineman Leonard Williams, who will not be traded this offseason, reports Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
The Daily News has learned that the Jets have no plans to trade defensive lineman Leonard Williams amid their ongoing rebuilding process. My understanding is that Gang Green wants Williams to be a part of its future and is amenable to signing him to a contract extension this year.
“It would be stupid” to trade the 24-year-old Williams this offseason, according to one Jets source.
Williams has started 63 of the 64 games he’s appeared in over the previous four seasons, recording 220 tackles (113 solo), 22 stuffs, 17 sacks and one interception.
He is on the books for $14.2 million in 2019.
New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams is setting himself a pretty lofty goal.
Williams told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News that he wants to collect one sack per game for the Jets in 2017.
“My goal this year is a sack in every game,” Williams said. “That’s my goal. It seems like something’s that pretty tangible. If you’re looking at it game-by-game, a sack a game doesn’t seem too far away (or) too far of a stretch.”
Williams hasn’t told his coaches about this — it’s simply a personal goal of his.
“It’s just something that I think about personally,” Williams said.
It’s a little less ambitious and more realistic than this rather wild goal, but all the same, Williams has work to do. He collected seven sacks last year, so he’ll need to more than double it to achieve his ambition.
The New York Jets are expected to be one of the worst teams in football this season, and there are some who believe ownership wants it that way so the team can have a shot at drafting its quarterback of the future. Leonard Williams says the players in the locker room do not share that mentality.
Williams, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, dismissed any talk of the Jets tanking. In fact, he said they are only thinking about one thing.
“We play football to win,” Williams told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News this week. “We’re not here to say that we want a certain record. We want a championship. It doesn’t matter what outside people think. It doesn’t matter who’s here and who’s not here. We’re just going to work on what we got and work on a championship. Every year if you’re not focused on a championship or a Super Bowl, what are we doing it for? Why are we showing up to OTAs and the offseason program and putting our bodies on the line if we’re not focused on a Super Bowl?”
The Jets have made a concerted effort to rid themselves of veteran players in the past several months. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were sent packing, and Josh McCown is probably the team’s best option at quarterback. You can call that tanking or rebuilding, but Williams believes the Jets are closer to Super Bowl contention than many realize.
“I think it’s definitely realistic,” Williams said. “I know how much talent we have on our team. I think at this level it’s not about who’s the most talented. It’s about who’s the most together as a team and who’s going to play well with each other and have the least amount of mistakes.”
It’s admirable for Williams to take on the role of optimist and leader, but just read what one NFL executive said about the 2017 Jets roster. Fans in New York are in for another long season.