1) How much importance, if any, do you place on the NFL pre-season?
Taylor Venema (@taylorvenema): “Very little. It’s fun to see the guys who (barring some disaster) probably will never play and dangit, it’s actual football right there for the watching, so that’s something.”
Chris Hatch (@burnpoetry): “Importance? Probably a lot. While I’m far from the most technical NFL-watcher with regards to schemes and backup-to-the-backup guys, I’m sure that pre-season football really the non-stars. I am interested, however, by the lack of correlation between pre-season records and regular season success as the two seem to be anything but linked together. Had you replaced “Importance” with “interest”? My answer would have been: absolutely zero. I’m a Jay-Z fan. Preseason football, for me, would be like watching some white dude in a bar try to rip his way through 99 problems in an offbeat, mush-mouth karaoke song. (*Author’s note: See: me. Last time I tried Karaoke.) It’s just not the same. It feels hollow. All it does is make me want the real thing to get here more.
Seth Morris (@SethMorris7): “I place absolutely no value on anything that occurs during the NFL pre-season. In my opinion it’s extremely overrated and only leads to false hype. The play calling is vanilla and any players that will be big contributors for the team are off the field after the first series or two. In my opinion you can tell a lot more about whether or not a player will be able to contribute to your roster by how he performs while playing against your first team in a scrimmage, not how he performs against a bunch of no-names that have little to no command of the playbook. “
Danny Troutman (@dtrout2485): “Zero importance – I have a hard time getting interested in even watching my team in the preseason.”
Anthony Ocima (@amicsta): “The NFL pre-season is incredibly important, but it is for a lot of stuff that we don’t see. I agree that the quality of play from the starters is not always there and that they aren’t on the field the whole way, but pre-season is where camp battles are won and lost. For higher profile positions this is not incredibly frequent, but on things like special teams it’s every camp. Guys are fighting for their jobs, and to me that is relevant.”
Steven Edge (@sedge1982): “Not important to the fanbase at all. – For teams, it’s a good way to build chemistry/rapport, see how players deal with game situations and against opposing offenses/defenses different from their own. There’s no need for the NFL to produce revenue from meaningless games. Just let the fans into the experience and save the thousands of dollars you’re pilfering from them for the regular season.”
2) Which rookie do you think will have the biggest immediate impact (and why)?
Taylor: “I’m gonna go with Carlos Hyde (SF) for this one. He’s got the size and durability, not to mention the skills, and I think the Niners can’t keep riding Frank Gore forever.”
Chris: “Jadeveon Clowney. I think he’s got an ideal situation, playing on the same line as JJ Watt who should serve as a great role model and someone who will sap a lot of the attention Clowney would’ve seen otherwise. While I expect Johnny Football and Teddy Bridgewater to have big impacts, I think that Clowney’s outrageous athletic ability will continue to explode in front of our eyes in Houston. Now, if only he could play QB for them, too. (*Author’s note: sleeper pick: Austin Seferian-Jenkins with Tampa Bay.)”
Seth: “I think that Sammy Watkins will have a profound impact for the Bills immediately. He’s a rare talent with the ball in his hands that can be used in so many versatile roles that it will almost certainly eliminate the “learning curve” most rookies go through when adjusting to a new system. Whether it be screens, deep routes to stretch the defense, or returning kicks, he can be used in a myriad of ways to improve that offense.
Danny: “Bishop Sankey – Not much for competition to get a lot of carries. If he can adjust to the speed of the NFL, he should be a rookie that turns heads.”
Anthony: “Johnny. Football. I’m all over him in fantasy, but I also think he will be a terrific real-life NFL QB. He’ll be starting for Cleveland sooner rather than later, and it should allow the Kyle Shanahan offense to reach its fullest potential. I expect big things. “
Steven: “Brandin Cooks – I don’t know any other player was put in the best system possible to exploit their talent/skill. Apparently, he’s been ridiculous in training camps, and looked decent in game action (5-55-1 line). He’s fast, shifty, and a big time playmaker waiting to happen. He’ll have lots of open space on the field to do work in a Brees-led air attack.”
3) Looking at this past year’s first round draft picks, which one of these players do you feel is most likely to be a “bust”?
Taylor: “They’ll be calling Jadeveon Clowney a bust if he doesn’t duplicate ‘THE HIT’ every single week.”
Chris: “Drug bust? Sammy Watkins. Wait, what bust are we talking about here? Oh. . .right. Still Sammy Watkins.”
Seth: “From recent history, oftentimes it seems that quarterbacks are most prone to being “busts”. I think this occurs for two reasons: quarterback is such a crucial position that oftentimes players are drafted higher than they probably should be, and the teams drafting these quarterbacks so high don’t have many weapons around them. Therefore, my answer would have to be Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel. “
Danny: “Odell Beckham – If Eli stays on the same path he went down last year, none of their receivers will have great years. I don’t think he’ll be a bust, per se – I think he’s in a situation where he won’t have the opportunity to shine like he should.”
Anthony: “Odell Beckham. It pains me to say it as a Giants fan, but I think he was horribly overdrafted by Big Blue. Not a dominant college player, and not that big, yet he will be playing the outside this season. Track speed, but can he play football at a high level? I’m not sold. I am not expecting much in year one, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him lose his job by next season. “
Steven: “EJ Manuel – He was never set up for success to begin with when drafted by the Bills and should have been a “redshirt” player to start out. In games, he often looked lost. The Bills D and run game dictated if the team won or not. Word out from this offseason’s workouts/practices are that he’s still inconsistent with his throws though he’s working heard to build chemistry with newly acquired Sammy Watkins. If he gets his confidence back through Watkins, things may turn around, but I wouldn’t bet on it.”
4) The NFL has experimented with extra points this pre-season in an attempt to make them less “automatic”. What are your thoughts on this and why?
Taylor: “Any NFL placekicker worth the paper his contract is printed on will still hit them all, so I don’t really care much.”
Chris: “I’m actually one of those old crones who firmly believes that the extra point is totally fine the way it is. You earned a touchdown. You’ve earned the right to kick from that close if you so choose. Besides, when else am I going to sprint to the kitchen, crack two beers, load up a plate with artery-clogging goodness, and then sprint back just in time to complain about the commercial promotional tie-in that this NFL game has with the latest Star Wars movie?”
Seth: “I don’t like it at all for two reasons. First and foremost, no fan wants to see the fate of a game come down to an extra point. Second, it will make two point conversions extremely difficult. With the ball spotted on the 12 yard line and only one down to score it essentially forces a pass. A team can drop back into a blanket zone and give up 8-10 yards without suffering anything because of it. (Note: Since stating this I have learned that 2 point conversion attempts will most likely remain at the 2 yard line).
Danny: “I’m for changing up the distance some. I’m not in support of doing away with extra points entirely and making a TD worth 7 points, like some people have suggested. But if it goes back 10-15 yards, I wouldn’t be opposed. Typically I’m a traditionalist, but in this case, the 99.5% make rate over the last 3 years makes this at least a debatable topic. I say take it to the 15 yard line.”
Anthony: “I like that the league is doing this. Makes the game more exciting, and I do think that it will eventually lead to more 2-point conversions if they still get the ball from the 2 yard line (that’s how they handled it in the pre-season, they did not run the play from 12). Anything that increases the importance of every play I’m all for. It’s the least the league can do after neutering the kickoff game. “
Steven: “Something has to change – I’m all for 2-pt conversions being the standard for extra points. It challenge coaches to be more creative, bring back the BIG BACK (i.e. Bettis, [Natrone] Means, Okoye, etc.), and will make game-winning drives a bit more interesting.”
5) If you could place one former player (in their prime) on your favorite NFL team this season, who would it be and why?
Taylor: “I don’t really have a “favorite” NFL team (I just bounce around to whoever’s the most fun to watch) but I wish we could’ve seen a younger, healthier Michael Vick in Chip Kelly’s offense. That was almost a match made in heaven last year.”
Chris: “Jerry Rice. Back on the 49ers. Because Kaepernick needs more WRs and Jerry still feels like he should be wearing #80 in the red and gold. (*Author’s Note: Honorable mention: Barry Sanders. Because he’s Barry F-ing Sanders, son.)”
Seth: “As a Broncos fan I’d love to see Terrel Davis alongside Peyton Manning. A great running back would make that already potent offense even more lethal.”
Danny: “Jerry Rice back to the 49ers, hands down. Greatest player of all time back on my team. Didn’t have to think for more than 0.5 seconds for that one.”
Anthony: “LT. The real LT, as in Lawrence Taylor. I’d love to see him back with Big Blue wreaking havoc in opposing backfields. RG3, Foles, and Romo better watch their lips.”
Steven: “Rod Woodson – I was a little irked when the Steelers passed on drafting a starting CB this year. Either aged or unproven at both RCB and LCB, one can only wait to see if the position was really a need. Enter Rod Woodson. I’d bring him back to my beloved Steelers because he already knows the defense, was elite in his prime (11-time Pro Bowler & 6-time First-Team All-Pro), and would relieve any and all doubt for myself and Steeler Nation that we were back in business.”