Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!
It's a big day here at the newsletter and that's because after a three-month hiatus, Pete Prisco's power rankings are returning. I almost didn't include them in today's newsletter because he doesn't have the Bengals in his top five, but he begged me to put them in here, so they're in here.
Not only do we have Prisco's Power Rankings, but we'll also be taking a look at how much DeAndre Hopkins' suspension could end up hurting the Cardinals. Plus, we have a 2023 MOCK DRAFT. And no, that is not a typo. We already have a mock for next year's draft. You can thank Ryan Wilson for that.
As always, here's your weekly reminder to tell all your friends to sign up for the newsletter. All you have to do is click here and then share the link. Alright, let's get to the rundown.
1. Today's show: AFC draft grades
At some point, we'll stop talking about the 2022 NFL Draft, but today will not be that day. As a matter of fact, today is the opposite of that day because for the Tuesday episode of the podcast, Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I did a deep dive on how each AFC team did in the draft.
Did the Jets finally get a draft right? Did the Ravens outsmart everyone again? Does anyone know what the Patriots were doing in the draft and did they get the worst grade in the conference? We answer all those questions and more.
Here are four of the 16 grades we handed out in the AFC (one team from each division):
- Bills: B. One of Buffalo's biggest needs was at running back and it filled that need by taking James Cook in the second-round. The reason the Bills didn't grab a running back in the first-round is because they landed one of the best corners in the draft instead in Kaiir Elam. They also had the best punter (Matt Araiza) drop to them in the sixth-round. When you're sixth-round pick is likely going to be a starter, you know you've had a good draft.
- Steelers: B-. The Steelers spent more than 28% of their picks on quarterbacks, which is a little odd when you consider how many needs they have. The truth about their draft is simple, though: Their grade completely comes down to how you feel about them taking Kenny Pickett at 20th overall. As you can tell, we liked it, but didn't love it.
- Texans: B. The Texans haven't made a lot of smart decision over the past few years, but they seemed to make quite a few in the draft. This team has holes all over the place and they managed to fill quite a few of them. There's a good chance their top three picks -- CB Derek Stingley Jr., OL Kenyon Green and S Jalen Pitre -- will all be starting for Houston in 2022. Alabama receiver John Metchie III could also end up being a difference maker for the Texans offense.
- Chargers: A-. Brinson handed out this grade and apparently, he loved the Chargers draft. The smartest move the Chargers made was drafting Zion Johnson with the 17th overall pick. The Chargers have now selected an offensive linemen in the first round in two straight drafts, which proves they're doing everything they can to protect Justin Herbert.
If you want the grades for each team, then be sure to click here so you can listen to today's podcast. You can also watch today's episode on YouTube by clicking here. For you NFC fans out there, we'll have grades from that conference coming to you tomorrow.
2. DeAndre Hopkins hit with six-game suspension
This NFL offseason has been full of surprises, and we got hit with another one Monday when the NFL announced that DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended for the first six games of the season.
This is a huge blow for a Cardinals team that has struggled without him on the field. If you need proof of that, just look at what happened to Arizona during the seven games he missed due to injury in 2021.
- Cardinals collapsed without Hopkins. In the 10 games Hopkins played last season, the Cardinals went 8-2. In the seven games he missed, they went 3-4, and that record is actually 3-5 if you include their playoff loss to the Rams.
- Kyler Murray tends to struggle without Hopkins. One reason the Cards seem to fall apart without Hopkins on the field is because he's Murray's favorite target. Without Hopkins last season, Murray's yards per attempt fell from 8.8 to 6.6 (that's a 25% drop), his completion percentage fell from 72% to 65%, and his QB rating fell from 108.1 to 89.7. That's a huge YIKES. The Cardinals offense is now going to have to figure out how to make things work without Hopkins.
- The Hollywood Brown trade makes more sense now. It's not clear if the Cardinals knew the suspension was coming, but if they did, that totally explains why they made the surprising trade for Marquise Brown during the draft. On the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Cardinals sent the 23rd overall pick to Baltimore in exchange for Brown. Brown was a college teammate of Murray's at Oklahoma and had a huge year during Kyler's Heisman season in 2018. If their chemistry translates to the NFL, that will be good news for the Cardinals.
- Cardinals need other receivers to step up. Hollywood Brown isn't the only one who will need to come up big to fill the void left by Hopkins. The Cardinals will also need some serious production from A.J. Green and Rondale Moore. Arizona also added a tight end in the draft in Trey McBride. If McBride and Zach Ertz can help carry the offense through the first six weeks, the Cardinals might be able to survive Hopkins' absence.
- Hopkins will be out until mid-October. Due to the suspension, Hopkins will be out at least six games, which means he won't be back on the field until Week 7 or Week 8 (If the Cardinals get a bye during the first six weeks, then Hopkins won't be able to return until Week 8). The earliest Hopkins will be back on the field is Oct. 22, but he might not be back until Oct. 29.
The Cardinals will find out exactly which opponents Hopkins won't get to play against when the NFL schedule is released on May 12.
3. Prisco's post-draft NFL Power Rankings
It's been nearly three months since we saw Pete Prisco update his power rankings, and although I was 90% sure he had retired from doing them, it turns out he was just waiting until the end of the 2022 NFL Draft.
With free agency and the draft now in the rear-view mirror, Prisco decided to unveil his newest set of power rankings today, so let's check it out, starting with the top five:
I'm not going to spoil the rest of the power rankings here, but I am going to give you a few nuggets:
- The biggest drop went to the Titans, who fell TEN SPOTS. They were ranked sixth back in February, but now they're all the way down to 16th. After watching them finish the regular season as the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, Prisco has clearly not been impressed with their offseason, which included trading A.J. Brown during the draft.
- The COMMANDERS made the biggest jump of any team and to be honest, I'm starting feel like Prisco might secretly be Carson Wentz's biggest fan, because that's the only way to explain how they moved up TWELVE SPOTS. They closed the season as the 25th-ranked team, but now they're up to 13th. The Broncos also made a huge jump, but that one makes sense with Denver adding Russell Wilson since Prisco's last power rankings. With Wilson in the fold, the Broncos moved up 11 spots from 19th to eighth.
- In news that might come as a surprise, there's a new last place team in Prisco's Power Rankings, a team that was nowhere near the bottom spot in 2021. That team is the ATLANTA FALCONS, and they're at the bottom after dropping nine spots from 23rd to 32nd.
If you want to know where your favorite team ended up in Prisco's rankings, be sure to click here. If you want to argue with Prisco over his rankings, you can do that on Twitter by clicking here. I argue with him all the time about everything.
4. 2023 NFL Mock Draft
After going 96 straight hours without sleep over the weekend, I assumed CBS Sports draft guru Ryan Wilson would be sleeping for three straight days now that the draft is over. But apparently, that's not his plan. As soon as the 2022 draft ended, Wilson started putting together his first mock draft for 2023, and he officially released that Monday.
One thing you'll notice about the 2023 draft class is that the crop of quarterbacks is expected to be much better than they were this year. As a matter of fact, Wilson has three quarterbacks going in his top 10.
With that in mind, let's check out the top-10 picks in Wilson's first 2023 mock:
- 1. Texans: LB Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama)
- 2. Jets: DL Jalen Carter (Georgia)
- 3. Lions: QB C.J. Stroud (Ohio State)
- 4. Jaguars: DB Kelee Ringo (Georgia)
- 5. Giants: QB Will Levis (Kentucky)
- 6. Bears: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
- 7. Panthers: QB Bryce Young (Alabama)
- 8. Falcons: LB Nolan Smith (Georgia)
- 9. Seahawks: QB Tyler Van Dyke (Miami)
- 10. Commanders: TE Michael Mayer (Notre Dame)
If you're like me and you're wondering how the draft order was made, it was determined using SportsLine's Super Bowl odds, but in reverse order. Anyway, if you want to see how the rest of the first round plays out, and trust me, you do, then you're going to want to click here.
5. Fifth-year option deadline
One of the most forgotten dates on the NFL calendar is the deadline for fifth-year options. This year, that deadline was yesterday (May 2), which means teams had until then to decide if they wanted to pick up the fifth-year option on any player they drafted in the first round back in 2019. (Only first-rounders are eligible for a fifth-year option; all other drafted players are given a four-year deal.)
Of the 32 players taken in the first round back in 2019, a total of 11 of them didn't have their option picked up. Under the new CBA, the salary amount in the fifth-year option is now FULLY GUARANTEED, which means if a player's option got exercised, the team is on the hook for the entire salary. (Before last year, the option was an injury-only guarantee, which means a player could still be cut with no financial loss to the team as long as the player wasn't injured.)
With that in mind, here's a look at the players who had their option picked up, along with what their salary will be in 2023 when the fifth-year option kicks in (all salary numbers are via Over the Cap). The only way the salary number can change is if the player agrees to an extension between now and the start of the fifth-year option season in 2023.
1. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, Cardinals: Picked up ($29,703,000).
2. 49ers DE Nick Bosa: Picked up ($17,859,000).
3. Jets DE Quinnen Williams, Jets: Picked up ($11,500,000).
4. Raiders DE Clelin Ferrell: Declined.
5. Buccaneers LB Devin White: Picked up ($11,706,000)
6. Giants QB Daniel Jones: Declined.
7. Jaguars DE Josh Allen: Picked up ($11,500,000)
8. Lions TE T.J. Hockenson: Picked up ($9,392,000)
9. Bills DT Ed Oliver: Picked up ($10,753,000)
10. Steelers LB Devin Bush: Declined.
11. Bengals OT Jonah Williams: Picked up ($12,604,000)
12. Packers LB Rashan Gary: Picked up ($10,892,000)
13. Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins: Picked up ($10,753,000)
14. Falcons OL Chris Lindstrom: Picked up ($13,202,000)
15. Commanders QB Dwayne Haskins: Released
16. Panthers DE Brian Burns: Picked up ($16,012,000)
17. Giants DT Dexter Lawrence: Picked up ($10,753,000)
18. Vikings C Garrett Bradbury: Declined.
19. Titans DT Jeffery Simmons: Picked up ($10,753,000)
20. Broncos TE Noah Fant: Traded to Seahawks, who picked up the option ($6,850,000)
21. Packers S Darnell Savage Jr.: Picked up ($7,901,000)
22. Eagles OT Andre Dillard: Declined.
23. Texans OL Tytus Howard: Picked up ($13,202,000)
24. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs: Declined.
25. Ravens WR Marquise Brown, Ravens: Traded to Cardinals, who picked up the option ($13,413,000)
26. Commanders DE Montez Sweat: Picked up ($11,500,000)
27. Raiders S Johnathan Abram: Declined.
28. Chargers DE Jerry Tillery: Declined.
29. Seahawks DE L.J. Collier: Declined.
30. Giants CB Deandre Baker: Released
31. Falcons OL Kaleb McGary: Declined.
32. Patriots WR N'Keal Harry: Declined.
As you can see, the backend of the draft got pretty ugly, as the final six players taken didn't have their option picked up.
6. Rapid-fire roundup: Browns off the hook for tanking
It's been a wild 24 hours in the NFL, and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you.
- NFL says Hue Jackson's tanking allegations couldn't be substantiated. The NFL's tanking investigation into the Browns is finally over, and according to the league's findings, Cleveland is officially off the hook for any possible tanking violations. "The investigation found no evidence to suggest that the Browns' Four-Year Plan or the club's ownership or football personnel sought to lose or incentivized losses and made no decisions deliberately to weaken the team to secure a more favorable draft position," the NFL wrote in a statement. You can check out more details on the story by clicking here.
- Tyrann Mathieu lands $33 million deal with Saints. We mentioned yesterday that Tyrann Mathieu would be signing with the Saints, and now we officially know the terms of the deal. According to ESPN, the Honey Badger is getting a three-year, $33 million contract that includes $18 million in fully guaranteed money.
- Chiefs make trade for corner. The Chiefs added some cornerback depth Monday when they made a trade for Houston's Lonnie Johnson Jr. In exchange for Johnson, the Chiefs sent a conditional 2023 seventh-round draft pick to the Texans. The Chiefs also spent their first-round pick on a corner when they selected Trent McDuffie last week.
- Grady Jarrett lands huge extension. The Falcons signed the seven-year veteran to a three-year extension Tuesday. Garrett's new deal is worth up to $51 million and includes $34.5 million in total guarantees, according to NFL.com.
- Browns cut their veteran kickers. It appears the Browns have decided to give their kicking job to rookie Cade York. Just two days after selecting York in the fourth round, the Browns cut the only other kickers on their roster (Chase McLaughlin and Chris Blewitt).
- NFL likely won't have a Black Friday game this year. Although there had been some chatter that the NFL would hold a game the day after Thanksgiving this year, it's likely not going to happen. According to Peter King of NBC Sports, the league is likely going to hold off until 2023 to implement the game.
- NFL's international schedule is coming tomorrow. Although the NFL schedule won't be released until May 12, the NFL is giving us a small taste of things tomorrow. During Wednesday's episode of "Good Morning Football," the league will be announcing the five international games.
7. Bonus: Chiefs and Ravens take advantage of rarely used NFL rule
The Ravens and Chiefs raised some eyebrows around the league Monday after they both decided to take advantage of a rarely used NFL rule. As a matter of fact, I had to dust off my rulebook to fully understand what exactly they did.
Here are the details on the situation:
- The Chiefs used the tender on Melvin Ingram while the Ravens used the tender on Justin Houston.
- Under the rules of the tender, if either player signs with another team before July 22 (or the first day of training camp), the signings will count toward the NFL's compensatory draft pick formula. This means if the Chiefs lose Ingram (or if the Ravens lose Houston), they would get a bonus pick in next year's draft. This is notable because all other free agent signings stopped counting toward the compensatory formula at 4 p.m. yesterday.
- On the flip side, if the players DON'T sign with a team by the July 22 deadline, then the teams get EXCLUSIVE negotiating rights at 110% of the player's 2021 salary. Basically, if Houston or Ingram don't find a new team to play for by July 22, they'll have no choice but to play for the team that tendered them.
The last team to use the "unrestricted free agent tender" was the Giants in 2020 when they used it on Golden Tate. Before that, the tender hadn't been used since 2017 when the Patriots used it on LeGarrette Blount.