Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus 2019 Regular-Season NFL Predictions

NFL StaffContributor ISeptember 4, 2019

Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus 2019 Regular-Season NFL Predictions

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Are you ready for some football?

    That never gets old. OK, it's gotten old. But still, football is here!

    On Thursday evening, the NFL's 100th season will begin when the Green Bay Packers face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. After months of personnel moves and training-camp tidbits and speculation and rumination and all the other -ations, it's time to start playing games that count.

    The regular season hasn't even started yet, and we're already neck-deep in subplots and intrigue. Will Ezekiel Elliott's holdout over the summer derail the Dallas Cowboys' Super Bowl hopes? Can the Los Angeles Chargers overcome a holdout of their own and injuries that have already hit the team hard on both sides of the ball?

    Can the Los Angeles Rams recover from last year's Super Bowl faceplant? Will the Kansas City Chiefs actually play defense in 2019? How will the New Orleans Saints respond to being on the wrong end of the worst blown call in NFL history?

    As has been the case the past several years here at Bleacher Report, the NFL gang got together to offer up their predictions for the season to come, ranging from individual accolades and success to which team will hold up the Lombardi Trophy in Miami as the champions of Super Bowl LIV.

    Spoiler alert: It won't be the hometown Miami Dolphins.

          

    Note: The writers who participated in this panel are NFL Analyst Gary Davenport, NFL Features Lead Writer Tyler Dunne, NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman, NFL Analyst Brad Gagnon, NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller, NFL Analyst Brent Sobleski and NFL National Lead Writer Mike Tanier.

Coach of the Year

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns (2 votes)

    Well, that didn't take long.

    One category in and the votes are already all over the place. Half a dozen head coaches earned at least one preseason vote as the NFL Coach of the Year, including two men whose next game as head coach will be their first.

    NFL National Lead Writer Mike Tanier went the veteran route with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin, who has a Super Bowl win on his resume but no Coach of the Year awards:

    "The Steelers are going to be better than folks think this year. And while I hate the whole 'addition by subtraction' storyline, Antonio Brown gave Tomlin a wakeup call about how loose a ship he was running and what it was doing to the team. Tomlin will have the Steelers more focused this year, and they won't leave any wins on the table like they did last year."

    However, a rookie was the only coach to earn multiple votes.

    It's been quite the wild ride for Freddie Kitchens of the Cleveland Browns. At this time a year ago, he was coaching the running backs. Then Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were shown the door, and he was elevated to offensive coordinator under interim head coach Gregg Williams.

    Cleveland's big turnaround wasn't enough for Williams to be retained, but Kitchens was with yet another promotion. NFL Features Lead Writer Tyler Dunne believes the hype is real in Cleveland:

    "Kitchens has talent everywhere, but there's a reason so many people think the hype is overblown in Cleveland. Talent alone doesn't win games, as we've seen time and time again. But Kitchens is the one who'll get the best out of everyone, the perfect combination of personality and offensive acumen for this team at this time. From Day 1, he's had all the Browns' stars paying attention to the minute details that go into becoming a champion."

    Others receiving votes: Adam Gase, New York Jets (one vote); Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers (one vote); Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (one vote); Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers (one vote); Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons (one vote)

Offensive Player of the Year

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (4 votes)

    Given the 2018 season he had, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a rather obvious choice for Offensive Player of the Year in 2019. On his way to winning MVP honors, he joined Peyton Manning as one of just two quarterbacks in league history to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a season.

    Those numbers won't be easy to back up. No quarterback has ever thrown for more yardage the year after cracking 5,000, and the other two signal-callers to hit 50 touchdowns (Manning and Tom Brady) both saw significant drop-offs in that category the following season.

    Given that, three other quarterbacks earned lone votes for OPOY: Aaron Rodgers with the Green Bay Packers, Russell Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks and Baker Mayfield with the Cleveland Browns.

    But as NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman pointed out, Mahomes will be sensational again even if his numbers dip: "It's possible he throws for fewer than 50 touchdowns this coming season but still plays better than last. We will see every aspect of his game improve. He's one of the surest MVP bets we've seen."

    We'll get to the MVP race later, but Mahomes is the panel's clear choice as Offensive Player of the Year.

    Others receiving votes: Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (one vote); Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (one vote), Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks (one vote)

Defensive Player of the Year

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns (3 votes)

    We're in something of a golden age of pass-rushers in the NFL. The league is filled to the brim with wildly talented players who excel at making quarterbacks miserable.

    That J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans (one of just two men in NFL history to be named Defensive Player of the Year three times) didn't get a single vote here shows just how loaded with talent the league is on that side of the ball.

    Two of our writers, including NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller, think Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams will join historic company by winning his third DPOY award in a row.

    "Not only is Donald the best defensive football player in the league, but he's also the best overall player in the game," Miller said. "Breaking the single-season sack record isn't out of the question as long as he stays healthy."

    However, Donald came up just short here.

    In just two seasons, Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns has already established himself as one of the most feared 4-3 ends in the game. NFL Analyst Gary Davenport believes the offseason additions up front in Cleveland are going to help Garrett take his game to a whole new level:

    "Garrett came just half a sack shy of the franchise record in 2018 despite next to no help from his teammates. Now, with Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson in town, opposing offenses won't be able to focus all their attention on Garrett every play. Good luck blocking the first overall pick of the 2017 draft one-on-one. He's on the cusp of a huge season."

    Others receiving votes: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams (two votes); Khalil Mack, OLB, Chicago Bears (two votes)

Offensive Rookie of the Year

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    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears (3 votes)

    For the most part, individual awards on the offensive side of the ball are all about the quarterback position. The last time a non-quarterback was named the league's Most Valuable Player was 2012 when Adrian Peterson took home the honor.

    However, the Offensive Rookie of the Year award has been the exception to that rule. Three of the last four OROYs have been tailbacks: Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants in 2018, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints two years ago and the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley back in 2015.

    The NFL gang here at Bleacher Report thinks the 2019 campaign will make it four in five years. Rather than No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals, third-round tailback David Montgomery was the choice of three scribes, including NFL Analyst Brad Gagnon.

    "I called the guy the next Alvin Kamara, so of course I'm all over Montgomery as Offensive Rookie of the Year," Gagnon said. "The Iowa State product looks the part, he plays the perfect position for rookie success, and he's in the right place at the right time in Chicago."

    Gagnon isn't alone in his expectations for Montgomery in 2019. Per Arthur Arkush of Pro Football Weekly, All-Pro teammate Eddie Jackson thinks the youngster is set to do big things in his first season:

    "Uh, man. David's a dog. That's just plan-right and just-flat out. He's a dog. He's a gamer. Just to see how he come out here and compete against us, our defense, it just shows that he's something special. He's one of those X-factors that we have on offense right now. Him and Tarik [Cohen], and Mike [Davis], to see what that backfield can do, it's kind of crazy. We're really expecting a lot from him as a young guy."

    Others receiving votes: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals (two votes); Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders (one vote); Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington Redskins (one vote)

Defensive Rookie of the Year

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Devin Bush, ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers (2 votes)

    The 2019 NFL draft was lauded for being loaded with defensive talent, especially up front.

    It's no surprise a defensive tackle and two edge-rushers each got one vote for DROY. Quinnen Williams of the New York Jets was regarded by some as the top overall prospect in his class. Brian Burns piled up four sacks in the preseason for the Carolina Panthers, and Josh Allen joins a loaded defensive front for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Miller cast his vote a bit further off the line, selecting sixth overall pick Devin White of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: "Traditionally, it pays to be a linebacker when it comes to DROY hardware. White will see a ton of tackle opportunities as he replaces Kwon Alexander in the middle of the Tampa defense, and Todd Bowles' scheme is ideal for White's run-and-chase skill set."

    However, it was the other Devin who was the only defensive rookie to garner more than one vote here.

    That the Pittsburgh Steelers moved up 10 spots in the first round of April's draft demonstrates both the confidence they have in the former Michigan standout's talent and how badly they needed an infusion of athleticism and range at inside linebacker.

    For Davenport, it's that perfect storm of talent and opportunity that puts Bush over the edge:

    "Bush is going to be counted on to be the linchpin in the middle of the Pittsburgh defense from Day 1. He's an excellent bet to lead both the Steelers and all first-year players in tackles, and emerging as a defensive star for Pittsburgh is the sort of thing that gets a young player noticed. White may be the better talent, but Bush will have the better first year."

    Others receiving votes: Devin White, ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (one vote); Quinnen Williams, DT, New York Jets (one vote); Brian Burns, EDGE, Carolina Panthers (one vote); Josh Allen, EDGE, Jacksonville Jaguars (one vote); Johnathan Abram, S, Oakland Raiders (one vote)

Comeback Player of the Year

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (3 votes)

    After a rookie season in which he topped 1,000 yards on the ground, Jacksonville Jaguars tailback Leonard Fournette entered 2018 as one of the more promising young running backs in the NFL.

    He left it a bust in the eyes of many after failing to gain even 500 yards, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, battling injuries and clashing with coaches.

    Ben Iannacchione, who coached Founette at LSU, told Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne he thinks complacency crept in with the bruising back:

    "I think Leonard had a really good rookie year, but to be honest, I think he thought he had it figured out. And I would say he probably got a little complacent with his training. Which isn't in Leonard's nature. I've never seen him be complacent. But I've never been in a position where, at 20 years old, you have a really good rookie season and people are talking about you like you're the next great running back and you've got a substantial amount of money in your bank account. He probably got a little complacent, and last year smacked him in the face a little bit."

    That complacency is gone in 2019 for a slimmed-down, ticked-off young running back eager to show his 2018 struggles were a fluke. If the Jaguars are going to get back into playoff contention in 2019, they will need a big season on the ground from Fournette.

    And if the team and Fournette rebound in 2019, he'll be in the thick of the race for Comeback Player of the Year honors.

    Others receiving votes: Travis Frederick, C, Dallas Cowboys (two votes); Le'Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets (one vote); Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers (one vote)

Fantasy Player of the Year

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (4 votes)

    Of the B/R writers who participated in this piece, Gary Davenport is the resident fantasy football fanatic. He plays in a number of leagues that can best be described as "seek professional help."

    His selection of Detroit Lions tailback Kerryon Johnson as the Fantasy Player of the Year may appear a bit odd at first. But there's logic to his line of thinking: 

    "For me, the Fantasy Player of the Year isn't just a player who goes on to have a big season. It's about a player who returns maximum value by out-playing his draft-day asking price by a substantial amount. In 2019, that's going to be Johnson, who could be set for a true breakout season playing in Darrell Bevell's run-heavy offense."

    Still, it's hard to argue with New York Giants tailback Saquon Barkley as the panel's choice here.

    After piling up over 2,000 total yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie, Barkley was the first overall pick in more fantasy leagues than not over the summer. With Odell Beckham Jr. gone, he will be the no-doubt centerpiece for the Giants offense in 2019.

    Assuming the second-year pro stays healthy and holds up under what should be a massive workload, he's about as sure a bet as bets get to have another outstanding statistical season.

    Others receiving votes: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers (one vote); Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (one vote); Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions (one vote)

Breakout Player of the Year

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    Michael Owens/Associated Press

    Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets (4 votes)

    A ton has already been written and said about the quarterback class of 2018. Two members already had their coming-out parties. The Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield set a new NFL record for touchdown passes by a rookie. Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens led his team to the postseason.

    Now, in the opinion of our panel, it's Sam Darnold's turn.

    The third overall pick showed flashes as a rookie, especially down the stretch. After an offseason in which the Jets bolstered both the offensive line and the skill-position talent around him, Dunne thinks it's next-step time for the former USC star:

    "The Jets' offense is severely underrated headed into this season with a ton of weapons, even beyond Le'Veon Bell. From Ty Montgomery to Jamison Crowder to Robby Anderson to Quincy Enuwa, Sam Darnold is going to have so many different options with so many different skill sets. He's too smart and has too good an arm to not take advantage in Year 2, especially with Adam Gase now in charge."

    If the preseason was any indication, Dunne and the others who voted for Darnold may be onto something. It was admittedly in limited action, but Darnold completed 68 percent of his passes, threw two touchdowns without an interception and posted a passer rating north of 120.

    The Jets with an actual quarterback. There's a concept.

    Others receiving votes: Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers (two votes); Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (one vote)

Most Improved Player of the Year

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 votes)

    Apparently, the writers here at Bleacher Report either see plenty of room for improvement among the NFL's young players or think it's going to be a good year for players taking the next step.

    OK, maybe both.

    Half a dozen players garnered a vote in this category, including three quarterbacks: Josh Rosen of the Miami Dolphins, Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills and Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Winston is the elder statesman of the group. The No.1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft, he's headed into the last year of his rookie contract under new head coach Bruce Arians.

    It's a make-or-break season in the truest sense, and Freeman believes Winston will answer the call, largely because of his supporting cast: "This is more about the people around Winston than the quarterback himself. Bruce Arians is one of the smartest coaches in football, and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will put Winston in the best spot to succeed."

    The next 16 games for Winston could be worth upwards of $100 million and define the Buccaneers franchise for years to come.

    Others receiving votes: Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings (one vote); Terrell Edmunds, S, Pittsburgh Steelers (one vote); Marcus Davenport, DE, New Orleans Saints (one vote); Josh Rosen, QB, Miami Dolphins (one vote); Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills (one vote)

Most Touchdown Passes

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (3 votes)

    Four different quarterbacks received at least one vote for the most touchdown passes in 2019. NFL Analyst Brent Sobleski went with the road less traveled, making an outside-the-box selection given that Russell Wilson plays for one of the league's more run-heavy teams:

    "Patrick Mahomes is the obvious choice, but regression should be expected after last year's 50-touchdown MVP campaign, whereas Russell Wilson led the NFL in touchdown passes the previous season. An increase in Wilson's production should be expected with the Seahawks' running backs becoming a bigger part of the passing game, tight end Will Dissly's return to the lineup and DK Metcalf's added vertical presence (once he's healthy)."

    The leading vote-getter, however, was that obvious choice.

    It's true Mahomes will likely regress statistically in 2019. No quarterback who has thrown for 5,000 yards in a season threw for more the next year, and the two 50-touchdown quarterbacks experienced substantial drop-offs the following year.

    But Mahomes didn't just lead the league in scoring strikes last year; he did so by double digits. He's not a sure thing to lead the NFL in that category again, but to call him the front-runner is an understatement.

    Others receiving votes: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (two votes); Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (one vote); Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (one vote)

Most Rushing Yards

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (4 votes)

    Were it not for Ezekiel Elliott's holdout, this vote would likely have been quite a bit closer. Even so, two writers, including Davenport, believe the league's reigning rushing king will repeat in 2019:

    "Elliott has played a full season (or close to it) two times in three years. Both of those seasons (2016 and 2018) ended with him winning the rushing title. Even if his role is scaled back a bit over the first couple of games, my money is on Zeke making it three out of four. Dallas has Super Bowl aspirations, and its offense flows through No. 21."

    However, another NFC East tailback was the leading vote-getter here.

    Saquon Barkley isn't just going to be the offensive focal point of the Giants in 2019. He'll more than likely be the New York offense. And Gagnon believes that will equate to a huge Year 2 for the 2018 second overall pick.

    "Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley were the only NFL players with 1,200-plus rushing yards last season," Gagnon said. "Elliott is holding out, and Gurley's bad knee is a major concern, which makes this one easy. I wouldn't be surprised if the 22-year-old sophomore ran away with the rushing title by a significant margin."

    This probably means you can pencil Le'Veon Bell or David Johnson in as the rushing king.

    Others receiving votes: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (two votes); Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints (one vote)

Most Receptions

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers (2 votes)

    The vote for the NFL's receptions leader is a veritable who's who of the league's top pass-catchers.

    It was also all over the place: Six wideouts received at least one vote.

    The league's receptions leader in 2018 (Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints, who reeled in 125 catches) received a vote. So did DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans, Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons, Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Everyone in that esteemed group had at least 100 catches last season. So did the only receiver who got more than one nod.

    That receiver is Green Bay's Davante Adams, who posted a 111/1,386/13 stat line in 2018. Adams is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver in the Packers offense, and only Jones had more passes thrown his direction last year.

    Adams also doesn't have to contend with a No. 2 wideout like Calvin Ridley in Atlanta. If the statistical rebound most expect from Aaron Rodgers comes to pass in 2018, he'll be the biggest beneficiary.

    Others receiving votes: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (one vote); Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons (one vote); Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints (one vote); DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans (one vote); Adam Thielen, WR, Minnesota Vikings (one vote)

Most Sacks

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    Khalil Mack, OLB, Chicago Bears (4 votes)

    We're in a golden age of pass-rushers in the NFL. The league is positively brimming with talented defenders who excel at making quarterbacks miserable.

    Frankly, it's more than a little surprising this vote wasn't more spread out.

    Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams didn't get a single vote despite leading the league in sacks in 2018 on the way to winning his second Defensive Player of the Year award in a row. Neither did J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans, who finished second in the league with 16. Or Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs, who piled up 15.5.

    Three writers cast votes for the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett, who tallied 13.5 sacks in his second season. However, Khalil Mack, who registered 12.5 sacks in his first year with the Chicago Bears, brought home four votes, including one from Tanier.

    "As good as Mack was last year, I still don't think we've quite seen what he's fully capable of," Tanier said. "He's a 20-sack season waiting to happen. And frankly, the Bears might need him to be that good if they hope to repeat last year's success."

    Others receiving votes: Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns (three votes)

Most Tackles

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Darius Leonard, OLB, Indianapolis Colts (3 votes)

    Darius Leonard was a revelation for the Indianapolis Colts in 2018.

    Selected in the second round of last year's draft, Leonard instantly became one of the best off-ball linebackers in the game. By the time the dust settled, he had piled up a league-leading 163 total tackles and 111 solo stops while pitching in seven sacks, two interceptions and four forced fumbles.

    Not surprisingly, those numbers netted Leonard Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. But as Logan Reardon reported for NFL.com, he told NFL Network he's only just getting started.

    "I want 200 tackles. I want 10 sacks. I want to be NFL Defensive Player of the Year. I want to be All-Pro, Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl MVP. Just everything with my name at the top of the charts.

    "... I still have that chip on my shoulder. I wasn't MVP. I wasn't at the top of the charts. I wasn't a Pro Bowler. I wasn't a Super Bowl champion. So, that's still goals that I want to achieve. And until I achieve them goals, I'm gonna still have that chip on my shoulder to outplay everybody and be the top competitor that I can be."

    Given all that he accomplished making the jump from the FCS and South Carolina State to the NFL last year, we wouldn't bet against Leonard accomplishing those goals.

    Others receiving votes: Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Dallas Cowboys (two votes); Devin White, ILB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (one vote), Bobby Wagner, ILB, Seattle Seahawks (one vote)

Most Interceptions

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Damarious Randall, S, Cleveland Browns (2 votes)

    Interceptions are one of the hardest statistical categories to predict. Even the best ball-hawks see wide-ranging swings in that category and can go quite a while without logging any picks at all.

    Last year, three players (Kyle Fuller of the Chicago Bears, Damontae Kazee of the Atlanta Falcons and Xavien Howard of the Miami Dolphins) tied for the NFL lead with seven interceptions apiece. In 2017, that trio had six picks combined.

    One of those players (Fuller) was among the six defensive backs who earned a vote from our panel of writers to log the most interceptions in 2019. But the only one to earn two votes is a converted cornerback playing free safety for the league's most hyped team.

    To his credit, Damarious Randall has been pretty consistent about notching picks at the professional level. In four NFL seasons, the 27-year-old has never logged fewer than three interceptions, and he has four in each of the past two campaigns.

    If the Cleveland offense is as good as many believe it will be in 2019, opponents are going to have to throw to keep up.

    That's going to mean opportunities for Randall to make plays.

    Others receiving votes: Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago Bears (one vote); Justin Reid, S, Houston Texans (one vote); Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars (one vote); Eddie Jackson, S, Chicago Bears (one vote); Earl Thomas, S, Baltimore Ravens (one vote)

Worst Team (and Record)

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Miami Dolphins (3-13) (3 votes)

    This is a category no team wants to "win."

    Well, except for maybe the Miami Dolphins.

    You won't get the Miami brass to say it publicly. But by trading the team's starting left tackle and best receiver to the Houston Texans for a package of picks that included two first-rounders, the Dolphins made it pretty clear they're punting the 2019 season.

    However, not every move the Dolphins have made looks toward the future. For reasons known only to head coach Brian Flores, they will roll out veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback in Week 1 instead of second-year pro Josh Rosen.

    Tanier is on board with the team's rebuild, but not that decision under center:

    "They're a rebuilding team with the weakest roster in the NFL. I just hope they make finishing in last place count. That doesn't just mean drooling over the draft board or dreaming of what they will do with their future cap space. It means giving Josh Rosen a real chance to develop and giving long looks to some of the Robert Nkemdiche and Preston Williams types who could make them better in a hurry in 2020."

    Miami is not alone in the "competition" for the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. But if the Cincinnati Bengals or Arizona Cardinals are going to beat the Dolphins in the race to the bottom of the NFL, they have their work cut out for them.

    Others receiving votes: Cincinnati Bengals (3-13) (two votes); Arizona Cardinals (3-13) (one vote); Miami Dolphins (2-14) (one vote)

Super Bowl LIV Matchup

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    New England Patriots vs. New Orleans Saints (3 votes)

    Given the parity that exists in today's NFL, it's not a huge shock that a number of teams earned a nod as a Super Bowl representative in 2019.

    Four teams from the NFC received at least one vote, and the New Orleans Saints led the way with four. There was less disparity in the AFC. With the exception of one vote for the upstart Cleveland Browns, the teams that squared off in last year's AFC title game split the vote right down the middle.

    Gagnon sees a rematch of the very first Super Bowl in the offing with the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers meeting in Miami:

    "I think both teams are due. I'm not yet worried about the somewhat awkward transition that has taken place in Green Bay. I love what the Packers have done this offseason, and I think Aaron Rodgers will be on a mission after a tumultuous 2018. Meanwhile, the Chiefs look more powerful than ever, and everyone else in the AFC is ripe for the picking."

    The top vote-getter was a matchup we very nearly got last year—and one that features the top team from each conference in the B/R NFL Power Rankings for Week 1.

    There would be no shortage of subplots in a Super Bowl featuring the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, not the least of which would be a duel between two all-time-great quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Tom Brady.

    Others receiving votes: Cleveland Browns vs. Seattle Seahawks (one vote); Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (one vote); New Orleans Saints vs. Kansas City Chiefs (one vote); Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs (one vote)

Super Bowl LIV Champion

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    New England Patriots (2 votes) and Kansas City Chiefs (2 votes)

    Yes, there was a tie. Yes, ties are awful. And yes, said tie involved the New England Patriots.

    Stop groaning.

    Five teams got a vote as the champions of Super Bowl LIV, including one (the Cleveland Browns) that would probably signal the apocalypse were it to actually happen.

    For Freeman, the call was the New Orleans Saints and the restoration of a measure of order to the universe.

    "The reason is simple: They were a crappy call away from going last season," he said. "This year's team is even better."

    Sobleski, on the other hand, was one of two pundits to cast a vote for the Kansas City Chiefs: 

    "The Chiefs' offensive potency is obvious. Patrick Mahomes could take a step back statistically yet be a better quarterback in 2019 thanks to an improved understanding of pre- and post-snap reads, coverages and overall experience. The NFL's decision to not suspend wide receiver Tyreek Hill certainly played in Kansas City's favor. Plus, the defense can only get better after adding Frank Clark, Alex Okafor, Darron Lee, Bashaud Breeland, Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu."

    Davenport went the Captain Obvious route, picking the Patriots to win their third title in four years.

    "Listen, I get it. Everyone outside the greater metropolitan Boston area is well and truly sick and tired of watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick expand their jewelry collection. And the Patriots aren't the NFL's best team on paper. But games aren't played on paper, and there isn't a team in the league that's anywhere near as good at navigating an NFL season, making it to the Super Bowl and then being ready to take advantage of that opportunity. The Pats are the greatest dynasty the NFL has ever seen, and they aren't done yet."

    Others receiving votes: Green Bay Packers (one vote); New Orleans Saints (one vote); Cleveland Browns (one vote)

Most Valuable Player

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs (2 votes)

    It's a pretty good bet that the 2019 NFL MVP will be a quarterback. The last time a non-quarterback won the award was 2012, and that took a 2,000-yard season from Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson.

    The question is which one.

    Will it be Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, who was the front-runner for the award two years ago before an ACL tear wrecked his season? What about Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, who has somehow never won the award despite a Hall of Fame career, a Super Bowl ring and all sorts of gaudy stats?

    How about poor Tom Brady, who barely has any trophies to put on the mantel of his bajillion-dollar palace? Poor guy.

    Perhaps the MVP will be a dark-horse candidate like Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns, who was Dunne's pick:

    "Incredible beer-chugging aside, Baker Mayfield has skills few quarterbacks in the NFL possess: a gun of an arm, maneuverability in the pocket to create his own passing windows, the ability to get teammates to follow him. And now? Now, he has the best cast of receivers to work with, and it really isn't close. Not to mention a full offseason to work with all those receivers. Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes will stage an MVP race for the ages with Mayfield edging him out in December. Go wild, Browns fans."

    All those signal-callers earned a vote. But only one landed two: 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs.

    "Picking anyone else would just be irresponsible at this point," Miller said. "Mahomes' 50 and 5,000 season was legendary, but he has more talent around him in 2019 (Mecole Hardman) and will only be more comfortable after finishing his first year as a starter in the NFL."

    Others receiving votes: Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns (one vote); Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (one vote); Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (one vote); Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers (one vote); Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (one vote)