NFL News & Analysis

Doug Kyed's Week 17 Mailbag: Mac Jones' OROY chances, under-the-radar free agents and Russell Wilson's next team

Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) participates in pregame warmups against the Arizona Cardinals at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With the New Year approaching, this week’s mailbag focuses on the future. 

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Read below for answers to your questions on the offensive rookie of the year race, under-the-radar free agents, how the Cleveland Browns can win the AFC North and more.

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@jack_tweeddale: Do you think Mac still holds the lead for OROY? I know he’s had a couple of bad games the last two weeks, but Chase has cooled off a bit and there’s always that QB bias.

It’s getting really close, but I’d still probably give NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year to New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones with the caveat that he must play better over the final two weeks of the season.

Overall grade Passing grade Big time throw % Turnover worthy play % Accuracy %
Weeks 1-11 86.2 84.6 4.8% 2.5% 64.1%
Weeks 12-16 52.9 51.3 1.7% 3.1% 47.5%

Jones has really struggled over the Patriots’ last five games, but he still has a 78.9 overall grade this season, which ranks fourth among qualified offensive rookies regardless of position. He also leads offensive rookies by a commanding margin in PFF wins above replacement (WAR) at 2.35 WAR. Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields is second at 0.60 WAR.

Player Team Overall grade
C Creed Humphrey KC 92.2
WR Jaylen Waddle MIA 81.4
TE Kyle Pitts ATL 81.4
QB Mac Jones NE 78.9
LT Rashawn Slater LAC 78.8
WR Ja’Marr Chase CIN 78.5
OT Penei Sewell DET 78.0
RB Javonte Williams DEN 77.4
RT Samuel Cosmi WAS 75.9
WR DeVonta Smith PHI 75.6

Humphrey, Slater and Sewell certainly deserve recognition, but ultimately, it’s unlikely that an offensive lineman will win rookie of the year. With two games still to go, Humphrey is actually the top-graded offensive rookie in our database, which spans back to 2006. 

Chase is the favorite among pass-catchers because he has the numbers to back him up, but Waddle and Pitts should be in the conversation, as well.

Kyle Pitts Jaylen Waddle Ja’Marr Chase
Receiving grade 82.9 81.7 79.0
Receptions 64 96 68
Receiving Yards 949 941 1,163
Touchdowns 1 5 10
Drops 4 6 9
Contested catches 14 12 6
Explosive plays (15+ yards) 28 16 31

All three pass-catching rookies have been phenomenal and have bright futures in front of them.

I’ll stick with Jones for now, however. But if his struggles continue, then voters might have no choice but to give the honor to Chase.

@thisryanjackson: In your view, are there any “under-the-radar” type players you expect to get a good payday this offseason?

One player I’d put in that category is San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle D.J. Jones.

The 2017 sixth-round pick is 26 years old and currently ranks 15th among qualified interior defenders with a 75.5 overall grade. He ranks fourth with 38 defensive stops on the season and has been a key cog in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

Sticking with the 49ers, 32-year-old right tackle Tom Compton has been fantastic since taking over a starting role in Week 12. Over the last five weeks, he ranks first among offensive tackles in overall grade (92.7) and run-block grade (96.4). He’s 26th with a 72.5 pass block grade.

One more to mention: Green Bay Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell has been a stellar find this season. He’s our second-highest graded linebacker with an 82.4 overall mark.

De’Vondre Campbell grades among linebackers in 2021:
Overall grade 82.4 Second
Run defense 78.2 Second
Tackling 90.2 First
Pass rush 76.0 Ninth
Coverage 79.7 Third

@BrownsBR1: Do you think the Browns still can pull off the AFC North title? I mean, they've not been playing very well, but there is a realistic scenario…

It’s not out of the realm of possibility. The Cleveland Browns currently have a 14% chance of winning the AFC North, according to our projections.

The Cincinnati Bengals are at 73 percent, the Baltimore Ravens are at 8 percent and the Pittsburgh Steelers are at 5 percent. So, it’s still a competitive race.

The Browns need to win out against the Steelers and Bengals. They also need the Bengals to lose to the Chiefs in Week 17 while the Ravens lose to either the Los Angeles Rams or Steelers.

It’s possible because the most likely scenario this week is that the Browns beat the Steelers while the Bengals lose to the Chiefs and the Ravens lose to the Rams. That would make the winner of Week 18’s matchup between the Browns and Bengals the AFC North champion.

I’d still bank on the Bengals winning the division because they should be favored in Week 18, but it’s certainly not out of the question that Cleveland could still take it, which is pretty incredible given the team's overall disappointing season.

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@Deeep_Blue: Outside of Josh McDaniels any members of the Pats coaching staff getting looks or potential flight risks?

Depending on what jobs become available, I wouldn’t be shocked if Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo gets at least one interview for a vacancy. He might still be a couple of years away from actually getting a job, but he’s the best coaching “prospect” on New England’s coaching staff outside of Josh McDaniels.

One other name to keep in mind for the future is tight ends coach Nick Caley. He could rise up the Patriots’ staff if McDaniels leaves this offseason.

@rikirccv: Russell Wilson's next team?

That’s really hard to say. Any and all teams should be interested in Russell Wilson if the Seattle Seahawks are willing to trade him this offseason. League sources expect the Seahawks to at least entertain the idea of parting ways this offseason.

The Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins could be contenders for Wilson.

The Broncos have a great young nucleus of pass-catchers on their roster in wide receivers Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick, tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam and running back Javonte Williams. They really just need a quarterback to lead the group.

The Saints could be appealing because of head coach Sean Payton, though that roster – especially on offense – needs some work.

The Steelers will be looking for a quarterback since this is Ben Roethlisberger’s last season in Pittsburgh. The Steelers, like the Broncos, have an impressive array of young playmakers in running back Najee Harris, wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool and tight end Pat Freiermuth.

League sources aren’t convinced that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will be back in 2022 even after Miami’s turnaround and seven-game winning streak this season. Wilson would certainly be an upgrade over Tagovailoa.

Beyond those teams, the New York Giants, Washington Football Team and Carolina Panthers would benefit from acquiring Wilson.

The Broncos make the most sense, but there’s something about the Saints that seems to fit. I’ll stick with my gut and say New Orleans.

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