We debut something new, as we close out September with our first edition of the F.F.I. Power Rankings of the three NFL and five prominent college football programs we cover.
We will rank the college and NFL teams together on the same list with the following brief criteria: how has your team looked and importantly, against what type of competition? Have they won easily or in nail bitter fashion? How injured/beat up are they at this point? How’s your team on the “it factor” of star players and looking good, etc?
So, without delay, here goes to this point (and it will change) in descending order:
8. Florida State- The Noles are reeling after their lost last Saturday to N.C. State and at 0-2 are the only winless team in our rankings. Now, you can argue that Alabama would easily hang the “L” on the other four college teams, but, the Noles played them and got handled.
No one is saying that QB James Blackman won’t grow and FSU won’t start winning some games, but for now? They are at the bottom of our list.
7. Miami Dolphins- At 1-1, the Dolphins overcame Hurricane Irma relocation to Los Angeles and beat the Chargers in the in the final minute of week one. But, followed it up with a dismal showing last week at the Jets. The Fins have stars like Ajayi, Landry, Parker, Suh, Wake, etc., but traveling to London for the Saints game Sunday will be challenge for them. Will they pull it together and move up our rankings? Let’s see.
6. Miami Hurricanes- Mark Richt’s team is 2-0. That’s the good news. The bad news is we don’t really know how improved they are. They struggled at the beginning and then blew out Bethune-Cookman. Then, after Hurricane Irma postponed their next two games with Arkansas State and FSU, they looked a bit stale last Saturday with Toledo.
Yet, RB Mark Walton ripped off a 200 yard game and they pulled away. Canes have Duke Friday night as an ACC road test that they need to pass before having the Noles in Tallahassee next week.
5. USF- We know. They are 4-0, but as Olivia Stacey wrote earlier this week, the competition was suspect these first few games for the Bulls. And we’re not sure if they will get much of a game on the road against East Carolina this Saturday.
Yes, Quinton Flowers is a talented QB. But, he has been erratic throwing and just “pretty good” with his legs, so far. There is no doubt while talented, the Bulls have benefited from playing bad teams. We simply need to see more, unbeaten or not, to move them up.
4. Tampa Bay Bucs- An impressive blowout of the Bears at home week one was undone by being manhandled by the Vikings and backup QB Case Keenum in game two. Jameis Winston is the focal point for the Bucs and he threw three INTs last week.
And, the Bucs could not run the ball and really abandoned it last week in Minnesota. They are 1-1, with two large home games coming with the Giants and then a massive Thursday nighter with the Patriots. Time to see what they are made of and if they will move up.
3. UCF- The Knights were very impressive at Maryland in a 38-10 win last week. In fact, when you consider all the prominent college teams games last Saturday, UCF had the most decisive win against the best opponent. And they did so, having just like FSU, and Miami to wait three weeks in between their first game and their second game.
QB McKenzie Milton is a true dual threat and the Knights have run the ball well in their two victories. It is a small sample and they do have a showdown in the American conference with Memphis in a re-scheduled game Saturday night. For now, UCF deserves this slot.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars- Yes. It’s early. But, yes. They are 2-1 with two blowout wins. And while you could dismiss their easy victory over the Texans in week one, you can’t ignore the 44-7 shallacking of the Ravens in London last Sunday. The Jags defense led by veteran newcomer Calais Campbell and young stars in the making like Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler has looked good in the wins.
Also, Leonard Fournette has provided the power run game to help take the pressure off Blake Bortles. Borles responded with a 4 TD game last week. You can question the competition a bit, but the Jags have two lopsided victories. They deserve this spot.
1. Florida Gators- Ok. We know this will generate debate and criticism, but let’s be honest. When we all saw how dismal Florida looked on offense in Arlington, TX, against Michigan week one, there were a lot of people speculating the Gators might lose to both Tennessee and at Kentucky. Well, in both cases, Florida did the opposite and gutted out dramatic wins. So, they deserve a ton of credit. The SEC is hard. Ask Missouri the last two years. Ask Vandy, year in and year out.
And Jim McElwain continues to succeed in close games with these last two moving him to 9-1 in SEC games decided by seven points or less. The Gators are still trying to figure out the QB spot. They will go with veteran Luke Del Rio to start this week against the Commodores. Here’s the reality. The Gators won’t stay on the top spot for very long. But for now, those two wins? In the SEC? They deserve this bump.
Early read on potential fantasy football breakout starts with Florida ties
It’s never too soon to start looking at those fantasy football lists and analysis for the upcoming season. What, with training camps getting underway in three weeks and all, you can’t get enough of the info and debate.
With that in mind, the NFL Network’s fantasy guru, Michael Fabiano, has an interesting list out of potential impact players ready to “breakout” for 2018. And, when we saw numerous players on his list that play for either the Bucs, Dolphins or Jaguars and/or have a tie to Florida somehow, we were more interested.
And a TE.
— NFL (@NFL) July 6, 2018
Right after talking up Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley to lead off his list, the fact that Fabiano went to Vikings RB Dalvin Cook next was eye opening. Cook, the former Noles star, got off to an explosive start at the beginning of 2017, only to blowout his ACL in the Vikings fourth game of the year.
He’s expected to be back fully healthy for preseason and now has new free agent signee QB Kirk Cousins at the controls of the offense. That will only help open the running lanes for Cook to make the plays that everyone envisioned.
Another running back ranking that jumped out was Fabiano going with Dolphins tailback Kenyan Drake, as the fourth choice for players to step up in 2018. We have written extensively that Drake will have a great opportunity to be the feature back, especially in the redzone and “goal to go” situations.
Drake saw a mere 57 touches in his first 11 games of last season, but he put up huge totals when thrust into a bigger role in his final five. While the Dolphins did add Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage to the backfield, Drake looks to be Miami’s new top runner. He’s a good bet to see 250-plus touches in 2018, making him a potential high-end No. 2 back.
Fabiano mixed in receivers like Stefon Diggs of the Vikings and quarterbacks like Deshaun Watson of the Texans on his list, and then, when he got to #16, it was a Bucs rookie that has him intrigued:
Ronald Jones II, RB,Tampa Bay Buccaneers: An electric playmaker who has drawn comparisons to Jamaal Charles, Jones should be considered the favorite to start in a Bucs backfield that let Doug Martin walk in the offseason. I see him as a top-50 overall selection in drafts.
Jones will split time with Peyton Barber, and for the Bucs first three games with QB Jameis Winston suspended, their running game will take on more significance
Finally, Dolphins WR DeVante Parker was two slots later on the watch list at #18. With, Miami choosing to trade Jarvis Landry to the Browns, but adding Danny Amendola from New England and Albert Wilson from the Chiefs, Parker will be challenged to get a lot of opportunities.
Again, it’s early. Way early for all of this, especially as teams have yet to report.
Still, it’s fantasy football. And everyone is looking for info and an edge on their opponents.
Who remains in free agency?
With the calendar flipping to July on Sunday, we check back in on the potential free agents that are still available for the Bucs, the Dolphins, and the Jaguars (and everyone else) with training camps beginning in about three-four weeks.
Here’s what’s still there.
If the Bucs specifically, due to the Jameis Winston suspension, are interested in a third QB to go along with veterans Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin, there are choices. First, we wrote that maybe Griffin might develop into a better option for starter on opening day. And to do that, he would have to play significantly in the preseason. Still, former Dolphins QB Matt Moore is available.
Moore filled in for the injured Ryan Tannehill at the end of 2016 and won three games. He also played in the Wildcard loss to the Steelers. Last year, he replaced Jay Cutler starting two games as well. He’s definitely an option, but Tampa Bay will likely stick with the two Ryans.
The premier one that remains is Cowboys star Dez Bryant. There is some speculation Bryant might suddenly re-sign a discounted deal with Dallas. If he doesn’t then, might the Jaguars be looking for another veteran weapon to go along with their young core of Marqise Lee, DeDe Westbrook and newly acquired Donte Moncreif? Would Bryant, who’s 30 but has also been in the Pro Bowl three times, want too much money that Jacksonville doesn’t have?
Still, it’s intriguing for Jags fans to wonder.
Still hanging out there is veteran Kenny Vaccaro late of the Saints. Vaccaro played in 12 games a year ago with 60 tackles and three INTS. He’s 27 and has already visited with the Dolphins after the draft, and has yet to sign anywhere. Miami could use a veteran safety, but Vaccaro may be holding out for a team to lose a star at his position due to injury and then try to cash in.
The Bucs have a serious ankle injury to second year LB Kendell Beckwith that will have him still sidelined into the start of camp and maybe beyond. The Jags and the Dolphins also could use a veteran presence. That’s with Jacksonville seeing Paul Posluzsny retiring and Miami electing to release veteran Lawrence Timmons after one season. Former 49ers Pro Bowl inside LB Navarro Bowman is an option. He’s 30 and played last year with the Raiders. He would be a solid and inexpensive option for any of the three to go to, if they want.
Finally, Running backs:
Both the Bucs and the Dolphins could still use a veteran in their backfield. And former Cards RB Adrian Peterson (above) and former Titan ball carrier DeMarco Murray are both unsigned as of Sunday. Both are over the age of 30, and Murray was under consideration by Miami before they signed veteran Colt free agent Frank Gore. So, the Dolphins are not a likely destination for him.
Meanwhile, Peterson who’s a Hall of Fame candidate, could be a short term option in Tampa Bay. This, as they are prepared to go into the season with third year largely unproven RB Peyton Barber, and rookie speedster Ronald Jones, whom they got in the second round of the draft.
Teams will tell you that they have their rosters set, but if their position group struggles and as mentioned earlier, injuries happen (and they will) then these names above will be contacted.
Key free agents remaining for Bucs, Dolphins, and Jaguars
Things have begun to settle down post NFL Draft for the franchises, but as we continue to document, your roster evaluation doesn’t cease during this time period. And for the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Jaguars, there are still some players out there that could help each club.
And, as Miami demonstrated late last week, they were unsatisfied with all of what happened in the draft. First they traded for young veteran defensive tackle Akeem Spence from Detroit, and then, when the Jets pulled the plug on veteran and former fourth round pick, QB Bryce Petty, the Dolphins wasted no time claiming him and assuming his over $750,000 salary for this year.
Obviously, there are several prominent names sitting out there as the calendar has flipped to May.
And there might be some interest for the the following guys:
RB C.J. Anderson- Late of the Broncos, we mentioned pre-draft that he might be a fit in Tampa Bay or Miami. However, the Bucs drafted Ronald Jones in the second round, and the Fins took Kallen Ballage in the fourth round, who both seemingly fill the need. Still, Anderson has veteran experience and will likely come cheap, and even perhaps on a one year deal.
S Kenny Vaccaro- After being allowed to test free agency by the Saints, he visited the Dolphins three weeks ago. He’s a hard hitting safety that battled groin and ankle injuries in 2017. Still, he made 60 tackles and had three interceptions in New Orleans. And like Anderson, may be willing to take a one year deal at this point to hook on with a team. It should be noted that the Jags (Ronnie Harrison), Bucs (Jordan Whitehead) and the Fins (Minkah Fitzpatrick) all drafted a safety.
However, Vaccaro is a veteran presence, former Pro Bowler, and one of the teams may be looking for depth at safety.
At linebacker: Navarro Bowman or Brian Cushing- Bowman is a former 49ers Pro Bowler who is 30, and played last year in Oakland. Cushing is 31 and had played his entire 10 years for the Houston Texans. He’s battled a season ending knee injury earlier in his career, but last year was suspended 10 games for violating the performance enhancing drugs.
All three teams drafted a linebacker last weekend. Miami went with Ohio State’s Jerome Baker in the third round, but the Bucs and Jaguars picks were both were in the sixth and seventh rounds. So, that would not necessarily preclude Tampa Bay and Jacksonville from looking at a veteran. The Bucs are without Kendell Beckwith with a broken leg in a car accident that has him sidelined into training camp. Meanwhile, Jags veteran Paul Posluszny retired last month creating a void.
Offensive line depth: While the Bucs not only signed free agent Ryan Jensen of the Ravens, but drafted Division II guard Alex Cappa in the third round, they still might be interested in someone like the Cardinals free agent Alex Boone. He’s a 31 years old, started 13 games last year and has played on a one year deal the last two years in Arizona and Minnesota.
The Dolphins did not draft an offensive lineman last weekend, could also be interested in Boone or perhaps also, former #1 pick G Luke Joeckel, who played last year in Seattle, and is 26 years old.
The Jags made a free agent splash after signing the Panthers Andrew Norwell to a massive contract, and then last weekend, took N.C. State T Will Richardson in the fourth round. So, it’s unlikely that they will have a need.
It’s unlikely that any team of the teams has an interest in Cowboys free agent WR/Diva Dez Bryant, who would likely come at a large cost. And, while the Dolphins took a good look at veteran RB DeMarco Murray, late of the Titans, in March, they elected to sign veteran Frank Gore instead.
That means Murray must likely keep looking beyond the Sunshine State.
Don’t be surprised if some of the names above will still be available through the summer, staying in shape, and waiting for a possible training camp or preseason injury to jump back on an NFL roster.
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