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R & F: Early Risers

Hello? Is there anybody out there? Things are crazy in the world right now. As much as we’d love to see the return of all things sports related, it’s worth noting that every decision that has been made so far has been for the safety of not only the players, but also their fan bases and the world as a whole. With that in mind, we would like to take a moment to think of those affected or whose families or friends have been blindsided by the COVID-19 virus. We’d also like to take a moment to wish luck to those struggling financially during these times as a result of the pandemic. Additionally, we’d like to salute those people seeing the news and fearing the worst but still having the courage to button up their uniforms, put on their scrubs, lace up their work boots and head out into the unknown without hesitation. To all medical staff, first responders and essential personnel who keep the gears of society moving during this state of emergency, we see you and we appreciate you.

With so much going on or going wrong, we’d like nothing more than to contribute a small mental escape. With that in mind, we’d love to share a list of Risers as a result of all the free agency activity in the NFL. Hitting a lot of extremely early mock draft lobbies, it’s interesting to see how much value some of our favorite targets offer. Maybe we’re in the minority here but some of these player’s situations have either improved vastly since the San Francisco 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs or people are worried about the trends, writing off studs due to a letdown 2019 campaign. 

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

In recent mock drafts, we noticed that Mixon has begun to steadily be featured at the end of the first round in 12-team leagues. Personally, we think that is an absolute steal. In fact, we’ve found ourselves considering selecting him around the eighth pick overall as we’ve moved DeAndre Hopkins down the board since the Arizona Cardinals acquired him. For those wondering if the NFL Draft is going to be moved back or proceed on time, we’ve got news for you: the draft started three months ago. 

The Bengals are going to select Joe Burrow with the first pick overall. It’s not rocket science. Burrow has the most quarterback buzz coming out of college we’ve heard since Andrew Luck went to Indianapolis first overall in 2012. All due respect to Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield, neither of them were as complete of a quarterback prospect as Burrow appears to be. Not only that, but the Bengals franchised former stud wide receiver A.J. Green. If they were going to rebuild and select an edge rusher first overall, why would they shell out Top 5 money to a wide receiver who sat out of the entire 2019 season?

It’s going to be Burrow under center, A.J. Green out wide, and Joe Mixon in the backfield. Mixon had 1,424 total yards and eight touchdowns without a true passer or receiver. With those two assets now in the fold, Mixon could see far less defensive attention and inflate his yards per carry average.

Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Maybe the biggest jump we’ve seen from any single player since the start of free agency is Tampa Bay wide receiver Chris Godwin. We completely get it, too. Why wouldn’t you see a sudden uptick in a young wide receiver who is coming off of 86 receptions, 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns? That kind of progression would just happen naturally. But then you factor in the addition of not only the best quarterback of all time but maybe the most slot dependent passer in the history of the NFL in Tom Brady and it doesn’t take a NASA engineer to add up the numbers. But is it a smart decision to suddenly move Godwin ahead of Mike Evans on draft day based solely on where he lines up?

Everyone is going to throw up two names when deciding which Tampa Bay receiver to select in their argument: Wes Welker and Julian Edelman. And there is no fracture in that logic. But we have a name that we’d like to toss up there too: Randy Moss. In all of his time in the league, Brady has played with one true elite talent at wide receiver, being Moss. In their first season together, Brady hit the big-bodied Moss for 23 touchdowns. While Moss was still a beast, an argument could be made that he was at the tail-end of his prime. With Mike Evans, Brady gets a 6-foot-5, 225-pound receiver smack dab in the middle of his prime as he’ll be 27 just as the season begins. People quickly forget that Evans already has two double-digit touchdown seasons under his belt. In the majority of our drafts, our trend has been Mixon at the end of the first round and Mike Evans at the start of the second. 

Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings

As much as Minnesota wanted Kirk Cousins to fall in love with Stefon Diggs, it became very evident early on that it was Adam Thielen who stole his heart. Then, Diggs started to voice his frustrations and the writing was on the wall. Diggs is now running routes in Buffalo and Thielen is left alone to soak up as many targets as he can handle in Minnesota. Last season was a clear disappointment but the majority of the blame can be pointed toward his injured hamstring. It was a nagging issue that caused missed games and sucked a lot of explosiveness out of Thielen when he eventually returned.

Currently, we’re seeing him fall into the middle of the third round of points per reception (PPR) drafts. How quickly we forget that in the two-year period from 2017 and 2018, Thielen put up 2,649 yards with 204 receptions. Good luck finding another wide receiver who is that legit of a threat to hang 1,300 yards and 100 receptions at a potential fourth round price tag.

About Patrick White

Have been with Sharks for seven years. Been printed and published. Have been copied by, faced off against, and beaten some of the fiercest competition and abbreviated outlets in football. If you read RnF and live by the old "If you're not first, you're last" mentality, you'll be just fine.