With the NFL season hitting its halfway mark at Week 9, it’s a great time to take a look at some of the statistics I rely upon to help project and make sense of the NFL season. We’re not dealing with a huge sample when you consider that the league’s 32 teams have played only eight or nine games, but when you look at the league with statistics based around points or plays as opposed to wins, the extra data can reveal quite a bit about what’s going to happen in the second half of this campaign.
You can find out more about many of the numbers I’ll mention by reading this primer. I’ll also be citing ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), which projects what will happen over the rest of the NFL season and postseason. I’ll start by looking on the bright side:
1. Some bad teams are going to improve … if they don’t throw in the towel.
Let’s start on the bright side. It’s always dangerous to project improvement for teams either down to unplayable backups or decaying statesmen under center, because when the numbers that normally help predict performance don’t work, there’s usually replacement-level quarterback play to blame. There’s a chance teams down toward the bottom of the NFL standings simply don’t resemble the units of the first half as organizations try out young talent or tune out lame-duck coaches. With that being said, there are some obvious candidates for teams that have outplayed their record so far this season, though they have little hope of turning things around into meaningful campaigns.
The injury-riddled 49ers are 2-7 heading into Monday Night Football, but their point differential suggests that Kyle Shanahan’s team should be something closer to a 3.6-win team so far. The Niners have been competitive even after losing Jimmy Garoppolo and narrowly lost to the Cardinals, Chargers and Packers on the road despite leading each of those games in the fourth quarter. Their turnover margin — minus-13 — is likely to improve, given that the defense has forced only five takeaways in nine games. The 49ers get to play the Giants and Buccaneers over the next two weeks, two of the more generous offenses in the league.
Speaking of the Giants, they’re also in this discussion, although I’m a little skeptical. Odell Beckham Jr. & Co. are 1-7, but their Pythagorean expectation suggests they should have something closer to 2.6 wins. The Giants are 1-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less, but they’ve scored garbage-time touchdowns in three of those games to make the final score seem closer. There are games like this every year with teams that have subpar records in one-score games, of course, but rarely do we see three in what amounts to a half-season.
At the same time, the Giants did lose a game on a 63-yard field goal. They have been the unluckiest team in football so far in terms of what Football Outsiders calls “hidden” special-teams plays, which are entirely out of their control. They’ve faced the third-toughest schedule in the league so far, but Pat Shurmur’s team has to deal with only the 23rd-toughest slate in the league after this point. The Giants are not going to be good, but they should be slightly more competitive. (Cue Giants fans who want the team to tank.)
It’s a dangerous game to play when you’re talking about a team possibly quarterbacked for multiple starts by Nathan Peterman, but the Bills also should be more competitive over the second half. Their defense has been left in compromising situations defending short fields week after week, but quietly, Sean McDermott’s unit ranks second in DVOA. Buffalo has recovered only 40.5 percent of the fumbles in its games, the fifth-lowest rate in the league. The Bills have forced a league-high 23 fumbles but recovered only seven, which is sheer randomness.
Those fumble recoveries should gift the offense a few more short fields, which would help given just how bad the Bills have been during the first half. Going back through the 1970 merger, there have been 1,445 teams to complete nine games. If we use standardized score to compare each team’s points scored through those nine games to the league average, the 2018 Bills are in 1,430th place. It’s almost impossible for an offense to stay that bad, as recent examples such as the 2009 Browns, 2013 Jaguars and 2015 49ers — each of whom were worse on offense through nine games after normalizing scores than this year’s Bills — were all able to improve over the final seven contests. Josh Allen and Derek Anderson haven’t been good, but even they would be a massive upgrade over Peterman.
The Bills also were forced to endure the league’s toughest schedule through nine weeks per FPI, which seems quite unfair. The good news is they’ll face the league’s easiest slate going forward, with two games against the Dolphins and Jets, along with tilts against the Jaguars and Lions. The Patriots are the one current playoff team the Bills are set to play over the final seven games.
One more team in this discussion: the 3-6 Broncos, who rank eighth in DVOA and have a point differential of minus-8, suggesting they’re basically a .500 team through nine games. Keep in mind that three of their losses are to the Rams and Chiefs by a combined 14 points. Their offense might collapse after trading Demaryius Thomas and losing Ronald Leary and Matt Paradis to injuries for the season, but the Broncos have been better than their record, and teams who fit that bill usually improve over the second half of a season.
Matthew Berry and Field Yates detail their reasons for trusting Willie Snead the most among Ravens wideouts.
2. The Ravens are on the precipice and might need their offense to save their season.
If you’re looking for a more relevant team, the Ravens are the most obvious example of a team whose record doesn’t match up with their underlying level of play. Baltimore is 4-5 with the point differential of a 6-3 team. Much of that comes thanks to a 44-point victory over the Bills in Week 1, but again, history suggests that blowing out bad teams is a good indicator of future success.
The Ravens also beat an underrated Broncos team and the division-rival Steelers by double digits, and shut out the Titans. Their losses include a single-point defeat to the Saints and an overtime loss to the Browns in a game in which Justin Tucker had a field goal attempt blocked, and Joe Flacco threw an interception inside the 5-yard line. They lost to the Steelers on Sunday in a game in which five of their eight meaningful drives made it onto Pittsburgh’s side of the field, only for Baltimore to come away with a mere 16 points.
Even with much of the same personnel, this team has played differently than the one we saw last season. The 2017 Ravens ranked first in special teams DVOA and third in defensive DVOA, but with dismal wideout play and an offensive line ruined by injuries, Baltimore ranked 21st in offensive DVOA. This season, the Ravens are 13th in offensive and special teams DVOA and only 10th in the league on defense.
Don Martindale’s defense is still playing well, but something’s missing. The Ravens forced a league-high 34 takeaways on defense last season, including 10 over the first two games of the season. This season, Baltimore has forced only seven takeaways in nine games, which is the fifth-lowest rate in football. After recovering 12 of the 22 fumbles it forced on defense last year, Baltimore has picked up only two of nine so far this season. It would be unfair to expect the Ravens to force 11 takeaways over their next three games, as the 2017 team did after its own Week 10 bye, but this unit is too talented to come up with fewer than one turnover per game.
Coach John Harbaugh said he intended to stick with Flacco coming out of Baltimore’s bye. If the Ravens go on a run over the next few weeks, Harbaugh might look like a genius without getting materially better play out of his passer. Through nine games, the Ravens have played the 12th-hardest slate of opposing defenses in the NFL by DVOA.
Over their next five contests, though, things get quite easy. They face defenses that rank 23rd (Bengals), 27th (Chiefs), 30th (Falcons), 31st (Raiders), and 32nd (Buccaneers) in DVOA. How Flacco performs in that five-game run against weak defenses could end up drastically shifting the future of this franchise, including whether he and Harbaugh will be wearing purple in 2019.
The biggest problem for Flacco has been making plays downfield. When his passes have traveled 16 or more yards in the air this season, the Ravens’ starter has posted a Total QBR of just 50.9, which ranks 29th among 32 qualifying passers. Lack of receivers might have been an excuse in years past, but the presence of John Brown should give Flacco a viable deep threat. Even if the Ravens don’t plan on turning things over to Lamar Jackson this season, adding a deep shot to his run-heavy package could unlock a sorely needed big play.
3. Miami and Washington might not be able to keep pace.
Two of the surprises from the first half of the season are the 5-4 Dolphins and 5-3 Washington, the latter of which still tops the NFC East after nine weeks. Both have exceeded expectations. I would be worried that they’re going to fall back to those expectations in the weeks to come.
Washington’s three-game winning streak consisted of wins over the Panthers, Cowboys and Giants, each by seven points or fewer. (The Giants game wasn’t as close as it seems, but you get the idea.) Washington is 3-0 in one-score games this season. It has been outscored by opponents by 12 points, suggesting it should be slightly under .500 as opposed to one game over it. Its schedule also gets tougher, as FPI estimates its strength of schedule will go from 20th before Week 9 to eighth from here. Five of Washington’s final eight games are on the road, and it still has a home-and-home left with the Eagles.
Most disconcerting, though, has to be the injury issues. Washington’s season fell apart in 2017 once its offensive line was ripped apart by injuries. Bill Callahan’s line has been one of the best in football so far this season in terms of creating holes for Adrian Peterson, but injuries have taken a toll again. Guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff were put on injured reserve this week. Star left tackle Trent Williams is out for several more weeks, and right tackle Morgan Moses committed four penalties while trying to play through a knee injury last week and might not be able to play against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
They’re not the only ones on the offense, either. Wideout Paul Richardson also hit IR this week. Receiving back Chris Thompson missed the Falcons game because of an aggravation of his rib injury. Peterson is playing with a shoulder he dislocated in Week 5. Jordan Reed is playing through a neck injury. Can a defense that has ranked 25th in DVOA this season carry Washington to the postseason if the offense slips?
The Dolphins are 5-4 with the point differential of a 3.5-win team, thanks to a season in which each of their five wins have come by eight points or fewer. Those wins include two victories over the Jets and an eight-point win over the Raiders, although Adam Gase’s team did beat the Titans in a lightning-marred opener and topped the Bears in a wild shootout at home. Miami’s four losses, meanwhile, have each been by double digits and an average of nearly 18 points. Those include three current playoff participants in the Bengals, Patriots and Texans, all of whom hold possible tiebreaker implications come the end of December.
I’ve written a bit about Miami’s red zone defense already this season, and while it has begun to regress — the Dolphins gave up four touchdowns in four trips to the Texans in Week 8 — it still ranks fourth in the league in terms of points per red zone possession, giving up 4.17 points per trip. The way to deal with this regression is to stop teams from getting to the red zone altogether, and the Dolphins pulled that off against the Jets last week. After giving up 31 red zone possessions on defense through eight games, Miami held Sam Darnold & Co. out of the red zone while picking off the rookie four times.
There are other reasons to be optimistic about the Dolphins, to be fair. They’ve recovered only four of the 15 fumbles in their games so far, and that 26.7 percent retention rate is the lowest in football. They’ve also posted the league’s fourth-lowest sack rate at 4.7 percent, and sack rate is mostly random over the course of a season, so they can expect to get to the quarterback more frequently in the second half of the season.
Matthew Berry, Stephania Bell and Field Yates talk expectations for wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the Green Bay offense.
4. Wait, what was that about sack rate?
If you look at each NFL team’s sack rate going back through the 2001 campaign and split their seasons into halves, it would stand to reason that the sack rate in the first half would be predictive of the sack rate in the second half, given that you’re working with the same pass-rushers. Drew Brees is consistent from half to half. Why wouldn’t Von Miller be consistent, too?
As it turns out, though, the correlation of determination between a team’s sack rate in Games 1-8 and their sack rate in Games 9-16 suggests that 1 percent of a team’s second-half sack rate can be explained by the first-half sack rate. In other words, it’s close to useless as a predictor. To put this in context, the teams with the 30 highest sack rates in the first half since 2001 took down opposing quarterbacks 9.9 percent of the time. Over the second half, they collectively sacked passers 6.4 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the teams with the 30 worst first-half sack rates saw their takedown percentage double from 2.9 percent to 5.8 percent.
With that in mind, teams with subpar sack rates should improve on defense over the second half. While that group includes teams like the Raiders and Giants, more notable contenders like the Patriots (3.2 percent, 31st), Falcons (4.8 percent, 28th), and Saints (5.2 percent, 27th) could ride some regression toward the mean to improved defensive play.
Likewise, you might be concerned about those defenses that are riding a sack high to stay afloat. The obvious candidate here would be the Lions, who top the league with a 9.6 percent sack rate despite spending most of the first half without star edge rusher Ezekiel Ansah. When you remove sacks, the Lions rank 30th in the league in QBR allowed (85.6) and passer rating (112.5). The Vikings (9.0 percent, second), Broncos (8.3 percent, third), Packers (8.3 percent, fourth), and Cardinals (8.1 percent, fifth) might also suffer some in the second half.
5. Danielle Hunter is great but probably not this great.
With Everson Griffen missing most of the first half and Brian Robison released, the Vikings have essentially relied on the 24-year-old Hunter to serve as their pass rush. The results have been spectacular. He leads the league with 11.5 sacks in nine games, and the former third-round pick is on pace to top 20 sacks this season. No other Minnesota player has racked up more than three sacks.
Hunter has managed to do this while knocking down the quarterback only 15 times. History tells us that pass-rushers typically rack up sacks about 45 percent of the time they take down the quarterback, and players who veer dramatically from that sack percentage tend to regress toward it over a longer period of time. Before 2018, Hunter had racked up 25.5 sacks on 39 knockdowns, which is more than you would expect given the 45 percent measure, but not quite this extreme of a total. By the 45 percent mark, we would estimate that Hunter should have just under seven sacks so far, not 11.5.
The good news for the Vikings is that the rest of the pass rush should help to counteract a potential Hunter drop-off. The trio of Griffen, Sheldon Richardson and Stephen Weatherly have combined for only seven sacks on 28 knockdowns when that number would typically create something closer to 12.6 sacks. One of the more obvious outliers in this same category would also benefit Minnesota, as Bears pass-rusher Khalil Mack has five sacks on only four knockdowns this season. Given that Mack racked up 22 knockdowns last season, though, it seems likely he’ll up his underlying hit rate once he returns from an ankle injury.
Elsewhere, standout rookie Bradley Chubb might struggle to make it to 16 sacks, as the Broncos’ first-round pick has eight sacks on 11 knockdowns, which would typically produce about five sacks. Teammate Von Miller has nine sacks on 15 knockdowns, and while it would be crazy to bet against arguably the league’s best edge rusher, Miller’s actual sack rate since 2011 (83.5) is pretty close to his expected sack rate (76.5). Panthers rotation rusher Mario Addison has seven sacks on only eight knockdowns.
On the flip side, the Eagles could see more big plays out of their pass-rushers. Interior disruptor Fletcher Cox has only four sacks on 17 knockdowns, which would typically produce 7.7 sacks. Teammate Michael Bennett has 3.5 sacks on 16 knockdowns, and Chris Long has three on 11 knockdowns.
Likewise, the Jaguars and their once-dominant pass rush could use a bit of good fortune. Yannick Ngakoue has only five sacks on 16 knockdowns, 2.2 sacks below that 45 percent expectation. Malik Jackson has only one on eight knockdowns. Blake Bortles might be permanently on the fritz, but it’s reasonable to expect more out of Jacksonville’s expensively assembled pass rush in the second half.
6. The outsider team that could go on a run to the AFC playoffs is in the AFC South …
… but it’s not the Jaguars, whom FPI pegs with just a 5.8 percent shot of making the playoffs. If I had to run through the teams with a sub-20 percent chance of sneaking into January, I think I’d go with the 3-5 Colts. To start, they’ve been better than their record; Indy has outscored opponents by 18 points in eight games, which is something close to a 4.4-win pace over eight games. DVOA has the Colts 15th in the league, just ahead of the Vikings.
The Colts have played an easy schedule, but FPI expects their schedule to stay easy. Indy has been up against the league’s seventh-easiest slate, but over the final eight games, it will actually face the fourth-easiest run of opponents in the NFL. The Colts’ only games outside the AFC South over the remainder of the season come against the Cowboys, Dolphins and Giants, all at home. Five of their final eight contests come in Indianapolis.
As I mentioned on Monday, their offense is also getting better with Andrew Luck working his way back into game shape and his offensive line finally coalescing with the return of Anthony Castonzo. Luck has been sacked only once in the past four games. Indy’s offense has averaged a league-high 34.3 points since the end of September.
I wouldn’t expect the Colts to make a run to the top of the AFC South. The Texans have been massively unlucky in the red zone on both sides of the ball and face an even easier schedule over the final eight weeks of the season than the Colts. FPI gives the 6-3 Texans a 76.5 percent shot of winning the South. Barring a serious injury to Deshaun Watson, Houston should be able to close up shop and host a playoff game in January.
As for the 4-4 Titans, well, even the numbers don’t know what to make of Tennessee. They’ve been outscored by eight points, so they’re essentially a .500 team by point differential. Mike Vrabel’s team is 22nd in DVOA. The Titans have posted the league’s best red zone defense so far, giving up only 3.4 points per trip while creating six stuffs (no points allowed) in 22 tries. Those stuffs include a failed fourth-and-1, a bad snap on a field goal try, a Malcolm Butler interception, and three red zone failures by the Cowboys on Monday night. FPI essentially has them in a dead heat with the Colts for the playoffs at 18.9 percent, but I prefer Indy’s chances.
7. The NFC North is up for grabs.
FPI feels quite confident that the Lions, who have a 1.7 percent shot of winning the division, are out of the NFC North race. Otherwise, it’s open. The 5-3 Bears are unsurprisingly the FPI leaders, with a 46.1 percent shot, but the Vikings are right behind them at 37.0 percent, with the Packers lurking at 15.3 percent. There’s close to a 50 percent chance of this division sending two teams to the postseason, but the division title is still too close to call.
As someone who thought the Bears were among the most likely teams in football to improve even before the Khalil Mack trade, I’m not surprised to see Chicago taking a leap to the top of the division. The Bears have been better in close games. Their interception rate, the fourth lowest in the league a year ago, has spiked to the league’s second-best rate so far this season. Their offense has been healthier and flashed stretches of impressive play. The Bears are for real.
The problem is that they’re about to face a lot more real teams, too. The Bears faced FPI’s easiest schedule over the first nine weeks. From here, they’ll face the 11th-toughest slate of opponents. Chicago gets a home-and-home with the Vikings, a rematch against the Packers, and a home game against the Rams. Their road schedule is otherwise pretty modest — trips to play the Lions, Giants and 49ers — but the Bears already have lost to the Packers and Dolphins on the road, and needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Cardinals in Arizona. Taking those three winnable road games and going .500 at home should be enough to push the Bears into the postseason.
The Vikings, who were on the list of six teams most likely to decline, already can’t match their 13-3 mark from a year ago. What’s far worse is that they also have to worry about their schedule getting tougher; FPI says that they’re about to jump from the third-easiest schedule to the league’s sixth-toughest slate. Four of Minnesota’s final seven games are on the road, and that schedule includes a brutal four-game stretch after the bye: The Vikings travel to play the Bears, face the Packers at home, head to Foxborough to play the Patriots, and finish up with a Monday night game in Seattle.
The Packers seem out of it at 3-4-1, and even that seems like a stretch. Their three wins include a 22-0 home victory over the Bills and a pair of frantic fourth-quarter home comebacks with no margin for error over the Bears and 49ers. As you can probably infer, the Packers are 0-4 on their travels away from Lambeau Field, losing those games by an average of 9.5 points.
The good news is that their schedule is actually about to get easier. Green Bay’s scheduled ranked 18th in the league so far, but those road games were brutal. Those four losses came against three-first place teams (the Rams, Patriots and Washington) and a fourth against the Lions in the game in which Mason Crosby was replaced by a fan and missed five kicks. The Packers lost all three of their fumbles in that game. Fate wanted the Packers to lose.
From Week 10 on, the Packers have the league’s fifth-easiest schedule. Their road schedule actually doesn’t get much easier outside of a trip to play the Jets, given that they still have to travel to play the Bears, Seahawks and Vikings, but their home slate is extremely friendly: They’ll face the Dolphins, Cardinals, Falcons and Lions in the Crosby Revenge Game come Week 17. If the Packers do make a run into the postseason, it’ll probably come from a clean sweep of those home games.
8. The Saints might not be safe on top of the NFC South.
There are three teams whose records are more impressive than their underlying statistics. All of them are still very good. The Rams are 8-1 with the point differential of a 6.5-win team. The Chiefs are 8-1 with the point differential of a 6.4-win team. They will probably settle in comfortably around 13 wins by the time we get to January, and they’re comfortably favorites to finish as top seeds. The Chiefs have a 62.0 percent shot of claiming home-field advantage in the AFC, and the Rams are at 61.9 percent in the NFC.
The largest negative gap in the NFL between point differential and win-loss record right now, though, belongs to the Saints. At 7-1, they’ve outscored their opponents by 61 points, or a little over 7.6 points per game. Their Pythagorean expectation is basically of a 5-3 team at 5.1 wins. They rank seventh in DVOA and 28th in defensive DVOA. Most metrics would say the Saints are closer to good than great right now.
Ryan Clark explains why New Orleans gets the top spot in his latest NFL power rankings.
Fortunately for New Orleans, it just swept the toughest part of its schedule by beating the Ravens and Vikings on the road and overcoming the Rams in arguably the Game of the Year last weekend. The Saints have a 96.4 percent shot of making the playoffs. Since the league went to its current divisional structure in 2002, only one 7-1 team — the 2012 Bears — failed to advance to the postseason.
The division, though, might still be vulnerable. The Panthers are only a game behind and still have a home-and-home to come over the final three weeks of the season. Carolina has rode its luck with some late-game heroics from Graham Gano, but the Panthers have a point differential within 21 points of the Saints and rank third in DVOA. Both teams face difficult schedules the rest of the way, with the Saints up against the league’s third-hardest slate and the Panthers just behind in fifth. There’s a reasonable chance that Week 17 will see a Panthers-Saints game that could both determine the division title and serve as Drew Brees‘ final statement in the MVP race.
The Falcons probably can’t win the division, but they still have a 34.7 percent chance of making the postseason after winning their past three games. They could serve as a spoiler if the race comes down to record within the South. The Falcons beat the Panthers but narrowly lost to the Saints in Week 3, while the Saints’ only loss came at the hands of FitzMagic and the Bucs in Week 1.
Atlanta could ruin Thanksgiving and make playoff life more difficult for the Saints by beating them in New Orleans on Nov. 22. They’ll need to maneuver through a three-game stretch with the Saints, a home game against the Ravens, and a road trip to Lambeau in December against a Packers team who could loom as a wild-card rival.
9. Julio Jones is going to score more touchdowns.
He finally got one last week, but the Falcons’ star receiver is touching the ball too frequently to avoid the end zone. Jones has 60 catches for 933 yards through eight games, but after a three-touchdown 2017 season, he has only that lone score to show for his efforts. To put things in context, the receiver who had previously racked up the most yards with one touchdown or fewer over the first eight games of a season was Calvin Johnson, who had 767 yards during the first eight games of 2012 and one score to show for it.
Megatron scored four times over the second half of his record-setting campaign, and unless Jones gets injured, he’s going to score more frequently out of sheer volume. The Falcons haven’t been throwing Jones the ball much in the red zone — and they’ve posted the best red zone offense in football since Week 2 while playing keep-away, for what it’s worth — but Jones is too talented to keep out of the end zone.
With a nod to colleague Mike Clay, some touchdown regression to watch out for over the second half:
Patrick Mahomes has thrown 29 touchdown passes in nine games, which is awfully hard to keep pulling off. He has thrown touchdown passes on 9.1 percent of his attempts so far. No quarterback has ever topped 9 percent over a 500-attempt season, though Aaron Rodgers‘ 2011 season rounds up to 9.0 at 8.96 percent. Mahomes could keep up his touchdown totals by throwing the ball more frequently if the Chiefs struggle, but the most likely outcome is that his touchdown rate slows during the second half of the season.
From 2015 to 2017, Blake Bortles had the league’s fourth-highest touchdown percentage in the red zone, throwing scores on 29.0 percent of his passes. This season, the embattled Jags quarterback has thrown for touchdowns on just 17.9 percent of his red zone attempts, which is 29th among 34 qualifying passers. He should bounce back and throw a few more touchdown passes during the second half.
Alvin Kamara was projected to regress toward the mean in yards per carry and receptions after posting unsustainable averages last season, and his numbers have fallen back to earth. Projection systems also expected his touchdown rates to drop, but that hasn’t yet happened; after scoring eight times on 120 rushes in 2017, Kamara has nine rushing scores on 111 rush attempts this season as part of a 12-touchdown half-campaign. While it’s tempting to say Kamara can continue to beat the system, it’s unlikely that he’ll score on 60 percent of his carries inside the 5, as he has so far this season. It also seems likely that the Saints will lean a little more on Mark Ingram during the second half, in part to help keep Kamara fresh for the postseason.
Poor Alfred Morris has eight carries inside the 5-yard line and more fumbles (two) than touchdowns (one) to show for it. The 49ers have given the veteran only one carry inside the 5-yard line since Week 5, so consider this one more of a boon for Matt Breida: The 49ers are going to score on more than 20 percent of their rushing attempts inside the 5-yard line over the second half.
Better days are ahead for Odell Beckham Jr., who has nearly matched Jones with two touchdowns on 61 receptions. Beckham leads the league with 165 garbage-time yards, which are yards on drives which a team begins with less than a 1 percent chance of winning. He might not have as many garbage-time catches if the Giants are more competitive in the weeks to come, but Beckham’s history suggests that he’s extremely unlikely to catch 30 passes for every touchdown he brings in.
On the other hand, while he’s a superstar, there’s little in Antonio Brown‘s track record pointing to his current touchdown rate. During his five-year run of excellence as arguably the best wideout in football, the Steelers’ star has 52 touchdowns on 582 pass receptions, or just over one every 11 catches. This year, Brown has a league-high nine touchdown catches on 51 receptions, which is about half his established rate. Expect the Steelers’ other receivers — a list that might sooner include Le’Veon Bell — to shoulder more of the touchdown load the rest of the way.
10. The Buccaneers’ defense will get better.
This isn’t an advanced statistic, but it’s worth mentioning. If you’re looking for a league MVP, you can probably choose between Drew Brees or whichever quarterback is lucky enough to face the Buccaneers, since their numbers have been virtually identical through the first half:
Tampa also has thrown in six pass interference penalties for an additional 83 yards. Over the next three weeks, the Bucs get to face Alex Smith without three-fifths of an offensive line, Eli Manning and Nick Mullens. If they’re ever going to look like an NFL defense, now is the time.
New York Jets Super Bowl III rings turn 50
They’ve been lost, found, stolen, dropped, sold, imprisoned, bequeathed and refrigerated. They’ve been to the bottom of the ocean and the bottom of a toilet bowl. They’ve been photographed, duplicated and damaged.
They’ve traveled the world, made grown men cry and united strangers. They’ve inspired.
The Super Bowl III championship rings, which just turned 50, have enjoyed a wonderful life on the fingers and in the jewelry boxes of the mighty men who earned them Jan. 12, 1969 — the New York Jets.
These historic rings were the reward for a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts, one of the biggest upsets in sports history. They’re elegant, but understated by today’s standards — 14-karat gold with approximately 2 carats in diamonds. And they almost never happened.
Frugal coach Weeb Ewbank preferred watches over rings, but he was talked out of it by a players committee led by quarterback Joe Namath. Feelings were chafed, but the passage of time has turned tension into joy.
It weighs only 1.5 ounces, but it carries so much history. It’s the first Super Bowl ring to actually use the words “Super Bowl.” It has the score of the game and the score of the AFL Championship Game (27-23 over the Oakland Raiders). It has Ewbank’s mantra: “Poise and Execution.”
Each ring also includes the player’s name and number. Remember that, because it’ll come in handy on the amazing journey you’re about to take.
Former Jets center John Schmitt lost his Super Bowl III ring and he tells the remarkable story about how he got it back 40 years later.
John Schmitt: Miracle at Waikiki
After the 1971 season, John Schmitt took his wife on a vacation to Hawai’i, where he spent a few hours surfing with legendary Hawai’ian entertainer Don Ho. Life was good for Schmitt. He was 29, a self-made player who worked his way up from anonymous free agent to Super Bowl champion. He was Namath’s center, and damn proud of it.
But that day on the shores of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Schmitt sobbed in the sand.
As he dragged his board back to the surf shack, he noticed his Super Bowl ring was missing from his right hand. He searched the beach. Nothing. He rented a snorkel and fins, and swam in the choppy waters until his thick arms ached. Nothing. It was hopeless. He went from hang 10 to hangdog. The mighty Pacific had swallowed his prized possession.
“I want to tell you, I was in tears,” he said. “I was crying. I nearly drowned, trying to find it.”
Schmitt returned to his home in Long Island, New York, became a wealthy businessman after his playing career and replaced the ring with a duplicate. In the fall of 2011, he received a call from a Jets executive named Bob Parente, who began the conversation this way:
“Schmitty, are you sitting down?”
Through an implausible series of events, Schmitt’s ring was found in a small wooden box, which fell out of a shoe, which was tossed out of a closet, which housed the ring for 38 years.
Are you ready for this?
In 1973, a lifeguard named John Ernstberg found the ring while snorkeling in 25 feet of water at Waikiki; his eyes were attracted to a shiny object on the bottom of the sea. He didn’t know it was a famous ring, so he stashed it.
When the old lifeguard died in 2011, his great-niece went to his apartment to sort out his belongings. While rummaging through a closet, Cindy Saffery found the ring by happenstance. She threw out a bunch of shoes, one of which spit out the box. When she opened it, there it was — buried treasure.
Saffery took it to her aunt’s jewelry store in Honolulu, where they verified the authenticity of the diamonds. Still, they didn’t know what to make of its historical significance. They asked a friend from the local ESPN radio station to take a look. He saw “Schmitt” and “Jets,” and connected the dots.
There was a call to the NFL offices, followed by a call to the Jets, followed by the call to Schmitt, who was indeed sitting down.
“You talk about miracles,” he said, smiling. “If you ask any football people, that the Jets won the Super Bowl and got this ring, that’s one miracle. … We got it back, half a world away, 40 years later. That’s two miracles. Not many people get lucky enough to have two miracles.”
Wait, there’s more.
Schmitt met Cindy, her husband and two kids when they flew to New York on Oprah Winfrey’s dime. Winfrey’s company produced a reality TV show called “Lost and Found,” which jumped at the chance to tell the story of the former Super Bowl champ and the miracle ring.
“If you ask any football people, that the Jets won the Super Bowl and got this ring, that’s one miracle. … We got it back, half a world away, 40 years later. That’s two miracles. Not many people get lucky enough to have two miracles.”
With cameras rolling, the family, which refused to accept his $3,000 reward offer, returned the ring to Schmitt. Once again, he was in tears, just like that day on the beach in 1971. They hit it off and enjoyed a whirlwind weekend in New York.
They traveled by limo to a Jets game — 50-yard line seats — and watched his old team rally from an 11-point deficit to beat the San Diego Chargers. Afterward, they went for dinner in New York City.
“Before they leave, Samuel, the father — he’s about 6-foot-6, deep voice — he says, ‘You know, John, in Hawai’i, we’re now family and families speak every week, so I expect to speak with you every week,'” Schmitt said.
And so they do. There’s a phone call every Thursday night, and they’ve been doing it for seven years.
“We’ve become a big family,” said Schmitt, who has vacationed at their home in Hawai’i.
Make it three miracles.
Joe Namath: Broadway Joe’s 34th fumble
Namath was the star of the team, the star of professional football and a star in any room. He was so popular after the Super Bowl that Elvis Presley invited him backstage after a show in Las Vegas. Namath loved the glitz, but he wasn’t into the bling — well, at least not jewelry.
Other than an ID bracelet in junior high school — a present from his mother — Namath didn’t wear flashy rings or necklaces during his playing days. (Fur coats, different story.) Even now, at age 75, he keeps it simple — a St. Jude medal around his neck.
Until it’s time to be Broadway Joe.
“Our ring tells a story. And I think our story is pretty incredible.”
When he goes out to a function or a sporting event, he will reach into “my humble little vault” and pull out his senior football ring from Alabama, a gift from legendary coach Bear Bryant, or his Super Bowl ring, which might be the most photographed piece of jewelry this side of the crown jewels in England.
“I share it with people,” Namath said. “I let them see it. I take it off now and then and let a youngster, let a Jets fan wear it. Every time I take it off to give to a little guy or little girl, big guy or a big girl, I’m careful with it. Very, very careful with it, and I put it in their hand.”
The NFL record book says Namath fumbled 33 times in his career. He’s haunted by the 34th.
“I can remember the one time I dropped the ring and — man. Oh, my God, my stomach jumped,” he said. “It hit the ground and bounced. Oh, man. I picked it up to see if anything had come loose or was broken. And it survived. When I take it off and give it to somebody, I tell them to hold on to it because I dropped it once and, man, I don’t want to get it dropped again.
“Of all the times I’ve shared that ring with a Jets fan, I was the only one to fumble — the only one,” he said with a laugh. “The handoffs have all been good, except the one time I didn’t complete it properly.”
Namath still has his original ring, which he cherishes more than ever. He acknowledged how the Jets’ model has been dwarfed by the monstrous rings of recent vintage, but he’s cool with that.
“Our ring tells a story,” he said. “And I think our story is pretty incredible.”
Emerson Boozer: Frisky the cat
As a running back, Emerson Boozer was known for his catlike quickness. He was the master of the spin move, capable of embarrassing defenders.
About 10 years after winning the Super Bowl, he was on the receiving end of a stealthy move by a real feline.
One day at his Long Island home, Boozer noticed his ring was missing. He searched frantically for hours, room to room. It just disappeared, and it crushed him.
“He was upset because he always took special care and special precautions,” said Enez, his wife of 50 years.
A month later, Enez found the ring while cleaning behind the furnace in the laundry room. It didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out how it got there. Their pet, Frisky, moved it from the bedroom.
A true cat burglar, that Frisky.
“He doesn’t wear it that often, but he treasures that ring,” Enez said of her husband, 75, who is battling health issues. “It’s a magnificent ring.”
Randy Rasmussen: Unplayable lie
“You haven’t heard my story?” Randy Rasmussen asked. “I’ve got the best one of all.”
It happened at a golf course in Norwalk, Connecticut, on an October day about 20 years ago. It started with a wardrobe dilemma.
When he got to the locker room, Rasmussen decided it was warm enough to wear shorts. He went to his car to get the golf shorts and, on the way back to the clubhouse, he discovered his ring was missing. His initial thought was that he didn’t take it to the course, so he and his golfing buddies searched the grounds only briefly.
“I wasn’t heartbroken right away because I said, ‘I’ll bet I left it at home,'” said the former offensive guard, who played more games (207) than any non-kicker in Jets history. “When I got home, I searched every chair, every corner, five times. Then you feel like an idiot because how can you lose something that valuable? But I did.”
The years passed: One … two … three. Nearly four years to the day of his infamous round, Rasmussen received a call from a stranger who had the ring.
It was a fellow golfer who had spotted a gleaming object in the dirt at the intersection of two sidewalks outside the clubhouse. It was caked in so much mud that it took two days of soaking in water before the inscription was legible. He saw Rasmussen’s name, and tracked him down.
“Think about this: The lawn mower had been going over and over it and over it,” Rasmussen said. “It could’ve chopped it up, but it came back in great condition. It’s incredible, to tell you the truth. Shocking.”
Rasmussen, figuring the ring was worth about $25,000 at the time, was blown away by the man’s kindness. He offered a cash reward, but the gentleman declined, preferring a husbands-and-wives dinner at a popular restaurant in nearby Greenwich. Rasmussen obliged, happily.
Now 73, Rasmussen is eternally grateful to have the ring in his possession. He called it a constant reminder of what they accomplished a half-century ago.
“I know we won,” he said, “because I’ve got the ring.”
Don Maynard: Chilled ice
Don Maynard was one of the best wide receivers of his generation — and maybe the most eccentric. Born in a dusty corner of Texas, he came to New York in the late 1950s (first as a member of the Giants) with long sideburns, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.
He was different, so it should come as no surprise he stores his Super Bowl ring in a most unusual place.
“If the house caught on fire or something, ain’t nothing in the refrigerator will get burned,” Maynard said in his thick Texas drawl, explaining his odd storage choice.
The way he figures it, it’s safe from home invaders, too.
“Nobody ever looks in the refrigerator unless somebody is hungry,” he said, not trying to be funny.
Open Maynard’s fridge, and you’ll find milk, eggs and glittering diamonds.
Maynard, 83, lives a simple life in El Paso, Texas. The Pro Football Hall of Famer always keeps work gloves in his hip pockets, looking to do chores around the house. He doesn’t wear his ring that often because he works with his hands outside, shoveling, hammering or raking. During his playing days, he worked as a plumber during the offseason.
Just because he doesn’t wear the ring doesn’t mean he doesn’t cherish it.
“It means everything,” his wife, Anna, said. “He’s very careful with it and very proud of it. Nobody gets that ring unless you take a finger with it.”
Buddy Ryan: Rex wins the draw
The late Buddy Ryan won two Super Bowl rings during his illustrious coaching career. The second came as the defensive coordinator of the celebrated 1985 Chicago Bears. The first came with the Jets, when he was a 37-year-old assistant in his first NFL gig.
This presented a problem when he sat down to make out his last will and testament. With two sons coaching football, Ryan decided to make them draw straws for first dibs. Rex won and, without hesitation, took the Jets. His twin brother, Rob, got the Bears.
“That’s the team our family will always identify with,” Rex said of the Jets, whom he coached from 2009 to 2014. “My father loved that team. The fans obviously identify him with the Bears more than they do with the Jets, but I think he knew the importance of that game. Weeb told him, ‘You have to make a difference here.’ And I guess he did.”
Buddy Ryan, a tough SOB who fought in the Korean War, died in 2016. A big part of his legacy now lives on Rex’s ring finger.
Ewbank, a Hall of Fame coach who died in 1998, bequeathed his Super Bowl ring to a grandson, Tom Spenceley, who hung around training camp as a teenager in the 1960s. Ewbank’s defensive coordinator was Walt Michaels, 89, who still has his ring sans the original diamonds. They were reset a long time ago in a gift to his wife, Betty.
“I guess he decided she’d wear the diamonds better than he would,” said Walt Michaels Jr., who owns a duplicate, as do his three siblings.
Mark Smolinski: Do the math
Mark Smolinski went out on top. After Super Bowl III, he retired from football and became a high school math teacher in his hometown of Petoskey, Michigan, a small lakeside town. He was a celebrity in the school, dazzling the students with his bling. It was too dazzling.
“I’d be at the blackboard and the kids were more interested in the ring than the class,” said Smolinski, 79, the Jets’ special-teams captain. “After a year, I just took the ring off. Whatever I was teaching, they were paying more attention to the ring. I didn’t need that. I needed more attention on mathematics.”
Smolinski still wears the ring on special occasions, but he retired it to a place where it won’t cause any distractions.
His sock drawer.
Earl Christy: Super sale
Earl Christy returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl III, but never touched the ball again — ever. He was released the following summer, marking the end of his football career at age 26. It stung the team because Christy, with his infectious personality, was popular in the locker room.
In 2013, Christy sold his Super Bowl ring for $53,775, according to Heritage Auctions. Why? He said he’s not bitter. He loves that team and still attends the reunions. So why part with such a treasured piece of memorabilia?
“I had a history of losing it,” he said.
Christy’s young daughter once dropped it in the toilet and flushed. Luckily, it was too heavy to go down the drain. Another time, it came off his finger in the snow. Not wanting to chance it, he ordered a duplicate and placed the original in a safe box. Then he got to thinking: If it’s just sitting in a box, why not get money for it?
At least one other player sold his ring — former defensive end Verlon Biggs, who died of leukemia at the age of 51. His widow sold it to a New Orleans jewelry store, which sold it to Heritage Auctions in 2016 for an undisclosed amount.
Christy said he doesn’t regret his decision.
“I wouldn’t have sold it if I couldn’t make a duplicate,” he said. “I’m not a materialistic person. The ring is great, but it’s more about the fellowship, the memories and the joy of winning.”
Gerry Philbin: Super sale that wasn’t
Gerry Philbin wears it every day, which explains the worn lettering, so you can imagine his shock when he received a phone call nearly 20 years ago from a concerned friend wondering why he had sold his beloved ring.
A New York newspaper reported that Philbin, one of the Jets’ defensive stars, sold it for $12,000 via an auction house in Manhattan. Philbin, living in Florida, quickly figured out what had happened.
Years earlier, he took his ring to a Manhattan jeweler to have it resized. It was out of his sight for two or three days, during which time he suspects a copy was made and later sold after his jeweler friend had died.
Furious, Philbin contacted a New York attorney with the hope of suing the auction house, but the suit never materialized. To this day, it still bothers him. Sell his ring? Not a chance. He recalled a post-Super Bowl conversation with then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, who told Philbin he’d appreciate the intrinsic value of the ring long after his Super Bowl winnings were spent.
“It’s something that has no price tag,” said Philbin, who always shuns memorabilia dealers. “It’s priceless.”
Larry Grantham: Freedom’s ring
Larry Grantham enjoyed a storybook football career, from his legendary days at Ole Miss to defensive captain of the Jets, but his life away from the game was hard. He was an alcoholic who once spent a night in jail after being part of a five-car crash when he was drunk.
“My Super Bowl ring got me in the front door with clients,” he told Jerry Izenberg of NJ.com. “My drinking sent me staggering out the back door. I verbally abused my kids.”
Later in life, Grantham battled throat cancer and underwent hernia surgery, resulting in medical bills he couldn’t pay. Desperate, he put his Super Bowl ring up for sale with an online auction house in 2009.
“The ring meant everything to him, so I’m sure that was a tough decision that he struggled with,” said his son, Jamie Grantham. “The Super Bowl ring never left his hand. He wore it all the time. He was very proud of it and willing to share it.”
Struggles notwithstanding, Larry Grantham’s heart was filled with goodness, and that goodness resulted in the return of his ring.
Freedom House, a New Jersey drug-and-alcohol treatment center he had supported for more than a decade, found out about the online auction and immediately raised $18,000 in an effort to buy back the ring for Grantham. When the president of the auction house heard the backstory, he took down the ring from its website and overnighted it to Grantham. The $18,000 went toward his medical bills.
Grantham, who died in 2017 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was sober for the final 33 years of his life. He raised $1.3 million for Freedom House, holding an annual golf tournament that drew many of his former teammates. He often spoke to the patients, telling old football stories and letting them hold his Super Bowl ring. Eight years ago, the center dedicated a wing to Grantham.
These days, his ring resides in a safe-deposit box in Alabama, not far from his son’s house. Those who know Grantham never will forget his reaction when it was returned after its brief stay in online limbo. The old linebacker, known for his gritty toughness, broke down and cried.
Winston Hill: The blind side
Winston Hill’s ring was stolen out of his car on a drive from New York to Colorado in 1970. He and his wife had stopped for a night at a motel, and they left the ring and her Super Bowl pendant — given to the players’ wives — in a suitcase in the trunk.
Shrugging it off, he replaced the ring and used it for the rest of his life as a tool to teach the values he treasured — effort and commitment. The team chaplain during his playing days, Hill enjoyed speaking to large groups and sharing his ring. His daughters, Hovlyn Hill May and Heather Hill, joked that strangers wore it more than he did.
“He used his fame from the Super Bowl win to connect with people and inspire them,” Hovlyn said.
Best known as Namath’s blindside protector, Hill was one of the most revered players on the team. He was deeply spiritual, unselfish and soft-spoken … until game day, when he morphed into one of the most dominant left tackles of his generation.
Hill wasn’t into individual accolades and he certainly wasn’t a fan of jewelry, but he knew the ring could help others. When he spoke to kids, he urged them to find their “inner ring.” In 2014, he spoke at Valley High School in tiny Gilcrest, Colorado, where Hovlyn teaches. A homecoming crowd saw the ring and heard his message.
In November 2015, a few months before he died, Hill was honored by his alma mater, Weldon High in Gladewater, Texas. As a young boy, he couldn’t play football because there was no team for blacks in the segregated town. That same school now has a wall mural of Hill, Super Bowl hero.
That night, he addressed a packed stadium, then gave his ring to one of the players, who passed it to the next player. It went through the entire Weldon team.
“It was always fun to see those little fingers in that giant ring,” Heather said.
Fittingly, Heather Hill, an accomplished soprano, sang the national anthem Oct. 14 at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets celebrated the 50th anniversary of their only Super Bowl team. On the field, she was surrounded by her father’s former teammates.
She wore her father’s old jersey, No. 75, beneath a green and white Jets jacket. Around her neck was a gold chain. Hanging from the chain, between the 7 and 5 …
Look closely …
His Super Bowl ring.
49ers have plenty to gain coaching at Senior Bowl – San Francisco 49ers Blog
Upon taking over as head coach and general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch made it clear that they intended to hold the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft only in that first year after succeeding Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke.
When: April 25-27
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
How to watch: ABC/ESPN/ESPN App
• Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0: Murray’s options »
• Draft order: Picks 1-28 set »
• Tracking underclassman declarations »
• McShay’s Mock Draft 1.0: Going 1-32 »
• Meet the 2019 quarterback class »
• Priorities for teams with top-10 picks »
• Kiper’s Big Board » | McShay’s Top 32 »
• More NFL draft coverage »
The hope, of course, was that the Niners would never again lose enough to find themselves in such lofty draft position. But here we are, just two years later, and the Niners again find themselves with the No. 2 overall pick. The bad news is that means the 49ers are coming off another dismal season, this time in the form of a 4-12 record.
The good news? San Francisco will get another crack at landing an elite player via the draft. What’s more, since Shanahan and Lynch are incumbents, they will have a bit of a head start on identifying that player. The Niners coach the South team in this week’s Senior Bowl.
For Shanahan, who has been on staffs that coached a Senior Bowl twice previously, that means an opportunity to dive deeper than the tape and get to know some of this year’s top prospects.
“It’s not about the athletes and stuff because you can see that on tape pretty well,” Shanahan said. “You can see that when we work them out. It’s about being around people. It’s hard in the interview process to fully get to know someone. It’s hard to get tricked when you’re with someone for seven straight days.”
Although most of the top prospects in this year’s draft are underclassmen, there figures to be plenty of talent at this year’s Senior Bowl. With that in mind, here’s a look at what the 49ers have to gain and what they’ll be watching closely this week in Mobile, Alabama:
Sorting through a strong class of edge rushers
The news that Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen dropped out was a disappointment for the Niners, especially since he would have been on the South roster and was the only player slated to be in Mobile who would be in consideration for the No. 2 overall pick. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be edge-rushing talent for the Niners to get to know this week.
Early projections for this class indicate that edge rusher is one of the strongest and deepest positions.
“I think it’s strong there,” Lynch said. “That’s clear. There’s good pass-rushers in this draft. I think that’s a strength of this draft. … Everyone is looking for those guys, so I think we’re excited.”
The question then becomes how the 49ers will sort through them. They’ll get an up-close look at two of the draft’s more intriguing outside rushers this week with Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson on the South roster. ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks Sweat as the No. 21 player in the 2019 draft class, with Ferguson checking in at No. 30. Sweat and Ferguson are just two of the eight players McShay ranks in his top 32.
Boston College’s Zach Allen, who appears on McShay’s list at No. 22, is on the North roster.
Between now and the draft, much will be made of this class of edge rushers. Opinions will vary. For the Niners, the chance to begin that process with a close look should only help in the evaluation.
More middle-round talent?
The Niners’ first two drafts under Shanahan brought mixed results at the top. Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster, first-round choices in 2017, have mostly been disappointing, though tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 2018 first-round choice, was quite good as a rookie.
While the jury remains out on those two draft classes as a whole, the Niners have had some success finding talent in the middle rounds. Tight end George Kittle looks like the steal of the 2017 draft after San Francisco scooped him up in the fifth round. Last year, the Niners found linebacker Fred Warner in the third round, and he immediately stepped in as a starter in the middle.
Warner played in last year’s Senior Bowl, while quarterback C.J. Beathard and receiver Trent Taylor took part in the 2017 edition. It’s reasonable to think that the additional exposure to prospects while serving as the coaching staff for the South could help uncover the 49ers’ next middle-round gem, especially considering that many of the top seniors might have to wait until Day 2 or 3 to come off the board.
Among the most interesting names on the South roster to watch: Buffalo receiver Anthony Johnson, South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel, Oklahoma guard Ben Powers, Alabama guard Ross Pierschbacher and Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram.
Keeping up with quarterbacks
No, the 49ers don’t need a quarterback, and they almost certainly won’t use a draft pick on one unless it comes very late and the value is too much to pass up. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have at least mild interest in what’s happening with the quarterbacks in Mobile.
Neither Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins nor Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray will be participating, but Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones both will be, and they are considered potential first-round picks. The better they perform, the more valuable the Niners’ No. 2 pick becomes. It’s unlikely that Lock or Jones will garner consideration from a team offering a boatload of picks to the Niners in exchange for the No. 2 selection, but if the 49ers find a partner to trade down with, it would only benefit them to have multiple quarterbacks go in front of whatever spot they end up picking.
As a bonus, the ability of Shanahan and his staff to get the most from their quarterbacks, even in a short period of time, could help boost the stock of the signal-callers on the South team (West Virginia’s Will Grier, Washington State’s Gardner Minshew, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson). Again, the more quarterbacks who go in front of the Niners’ picks, the better the Niners’ chances of getting a player they covet.
Darren McFadden, former Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys RB, arrested in drive-thru
McFadden, 31, was taken into custody early Monday morning after employees at a McKinney, Texas, Whataburger reported a sleeping man inside a vehicle in the drive-thru lane.
McFadden is facing charges of driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest, search or transport.
Selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Raiders, McFadden ran for 5,421 yards and 28 touchdowns over 10 seasons, with his final three coming as a member of the Cowboys.
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