Foolhardy breakout predictions of 2013, Sherman/Crabtree, and the Super Bowl

Posted: January 28, 2014 in Uncategorized
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In June of 2013, I predicted six players would breakout this season. Two QBs, two rookies, and two pass catchers. I will now proceed to grade my own predictions with the benefit of hindsight of the 2013 season.

1. Kansas City Chiefs Tight End, Tony Moeaki

Moeaki was “considered one of the top tight end prospects for the 2010 NFL Draft” coming out of Iowa. His play in Kansas was continually cut short due to injury. This August he got injured yet again. In October, Moeaki became a free agent and joined the Bills. He played in two games in Buffalo and registered no catches or carries on the season.

Moeaki certainly does have potential. But he’ll never live up to it if he keeps getting injured. If the Bills decide to part ways with Scott Chandler (another former Hawkeye) they could promote Moeaki to the starting position and give him a chance to develop a rapport with E.J. Manuel. Ultimately, Moeaki was either injured or irrelevant for the 2013 season.

Final Grade: F

2. Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver, Emmanuel Sanders

I was correct in identifying that the departure of former receiver Mike Wallace would allow a new Pittsburgh receiver to step in and become the new number one target for Roethlisberger. Many NFL analysts correctly predicted that Antonio Brown would be that player. Brown finished the season second overall in receiving yards besting even the dominant Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green for total receiving yards (to be fair Johnson missed two games due to injury). This was a swing and a miss for me as Brown’s season exploded whereas Sanders’ season was indeed a career best, but by no means a breakout campaign.

Sanders played in all sixteen games this season catching sixty-seven passes for 740 yards and six scores. He played the best season of his career but watched as teammate Antonio Brown became the breakout receiving star in Pittsburgh.

Final Grade: C

3. Miami Dolphins QB, Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill had a slew of new receiving options for the 2013 season. Dolphins ownership brought in Dustin Keller (immediately lost to injury), WR Brandon Gibson, and former Steeler Mike Wallace to allow Tannehill plenty of talent in the receiving corps to make the passing offense a more viable option for Miami. Tannehill finished the season with twenty five total scores and seventeen interceptions. Acceptable improvement on a fairly rocky rookie campaign where he turned the ball over (17) more than he scored (14).

Tannehill has definitely stepped up his game from the 2012 season, but will need to continue to improve in order to have a true “breakout” season.

Final Grade: C+/B-

4. San Diego Chargers QB, Philip Rivers

Many NFL pundits predicted Mike McCoy would “fix” Philip Rivers of the turnover problems that plagued his game for the past three seasons, and he seems to have done just that. Part of the problem of Rivers’ turnovers could be blamed on TE Antonio Gates’ frequent injuries. Gates had his first sixteen game season since 2009. Part could be blamed on the loss of number one wideout Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay after 2011. It could be the lack of stability in the run game transitioning from one of the NFL’s greatest running backs in LaDainian Tomlinson to the occasionally underwhelming Ryan Mathews. Regardless, all has been forgiven as Rivers finished in the top three QB in total QBR and kept turnovers relatively low with eleven interceptions to thirty-two touchdowns. Rivers has returned to pre-2011 form and stands as one of the league’s top Passers.

Final Grade: A

5. San Francisco 49ers FS, Eric Reid

San Francisco moved up in the first round to grab Reid in order to recuperate from the loss of pro bowler Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay. Reid started all sixteen games for San Francisco and was actually San Francisco’s only representative in the Pro Bowl this season. Reid finished the season with 77 total tackles and 4 interceptions. Considering how quickly Reid earned a starting spot, his opportunistic play, and his entry into the Pro Bowl, Reid’s quickly become one of the league’s top safeties.

Final Grade: A

6. Houston Texans WR, DeAndre Hopkins

Houston management drafted DeAndre Hopkins to give Andre Johnson the opportunity to play without being double-covered every game. Hopkins’ rookie season suffered because of Houston’s catastrophically poor Quarterback play. Matt Schaub seemingly fell apart at the seams with pick-six after pick-six and returned to the bench as Case Keenum started in his absence without much more success. Hopkins finished second among rookie in receiving yards with 802 yards and averaged an impressive 15.4 yards per reception. While not as impressive a campaign as San Diego’s Keenan Allen, Hopkins still put up a strong showing considering Houston’s plummet down the power charts and their dire QB situation.

Final Grade: B

Miscellaneous:

– Christmas morning of the NFL season arrives in 3 1/2 months. The combine is less than a month away.

– Team Rice overcame Team Sanders 22-21 in a hard fought Pro Bowl match on a Mike Tolbert two point conversion play. The “unconferencing” of the Pro Bowl seems to have salvaged the game for future seasons as it was a competitive defensive contest this season.

– The Michael Crabtree/Richard Sherman fiasco is overblown media hype of back and forth between wide receiver and defensive back that happens in every NFL game. Sherman’s unhinging on Erin Andrews has brought the event to the forefront of the Pro Football media world. Richard Sherman is not a thug. He’s a pro football player who lost his temper on national television. Though he should not have behaved like that in front of Ms. Andrews. Although Sherman seemingly meant to be a good sport about the whole thing, on Mike and Mike in the morning Pittsburgh Safety Ryan Clark correctly pointed out that Sherman’s post-game congratulation to Crabtree could be seen as condescending or insulting because of how the game ended, thus resulting in Crabtree grabbing Sherman’s helmet and likely saying something out of anger. That doesn’t justify what Crabtree does, but it does contextualize it a little better. Crabtree’s a good receiver, but Sherman is an elite corner.

– The Super Bowl looms six days away and I can’t remember being less excited for the outcome. I picture it like Hitler and Stalin in the boxing ring. I’m delighted to see one lose, but not so the other wins. Manning’s worked hard enough and humbly enough that a second championship doesn’t seem unearned. Seattle’s been a dominant team all season and could get away with the trophy if the weather’s too cold/unfriendly for the passing game to play a role. Enjoy the game and may the best team win.

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