ESPN.com's Todd McShay revealed his fifth 2014 NFL mock draft on ESPN Insider today, with this one based on the premise of taking players he would select as opposed to simply projecting what the teams around the league might do.
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As NFL schedules were announced Wednesday night, many season-ticket holders scrambled to the secondary market to list their game tickets.
The game with the highest average resale listed ticket price? The kickoff game that features the Green Bay Packers at the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday, Sept. 4. The average ticket price on resale sites for that game is $575.62, according to TiqIQ, a ticket-resale market aggregator. The get-in price for the worst seat in the house is already a steep $245.
The second-most expensive ticket, by listed price, is the Week 12 "Sunday Night Football" matchup between Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants (Nov. 23). TiqIQ says the average listed price for that game is $569.90.
The defending AFC champion Denver Broncos are featured in the three next-most costly matchups. The team's game at Gillette Stadium against the New England Patriots on Nov. 2 has an average listed price of $567.09, according to TiqIQ data.
The Broncos' "Sunday Night Football" matchup against the San Francisco 49ers at home on Oct. 19 has an average listed price of $536.76, and their Super Bowl XLVIII rematch against the Seahawks in Seattle on Sept. 21 has opened with an average listed ticket price on the resale market of $526.98.
2. Oct. 12, Bears at Atlanta, noon CT, FOX: The Falcons fell apart last season because of injuries and finished 4-12. With better health and a couple new pieces on defense, Atlanta figures to contend for the NFC South title in 2014. But the Georgia Dome is another place that has played tricks on the Bears in recent years. The Bears were poised to knock off the Falcons in 2009, but lost 21-14 after a series of costly mistakes that included: Jay Cutler throwing an interception in the red zone, Matt Forte fumbling on two straight runs from the one-yard line, and former offensive tackle Orlando Pace being whistled for a false start on 4th-and-1 from the Atlanta 5-yard line on the game’s final drive. The Bears also allowed the Falcons to escape with a 22-20 victory in the Georgia Dome in 2008 on a late botched coverage that led to a winning field goal as time expired.
4. Nov. 9, Bears at Green Bay, 7:30 p.m. CT, NBC: This all looks so familiar. The Bears, fresh off their bye week, travel to Lambeau Field for a nationally televised night game. Where have we seen this before? Oh, yes, it was last year when Shea McClellin knocked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of a Monday night game with a fractured collarbone as the Bears pulled out a 27-20 victory. Can the Bears do it again? Keep in mind the Packers will also be coming off a bye week when the Bears arrive in Green Bay, so it’s not as if the Bears are expected to be fresher. But having extra time to prepare for Rodgers and company is never a bad thing. In a scheduling twist, the Bears won’t see the Packers again after Week 9 unless the teams meet in the playoffs.
Are the Detroit Lions thinking of moving up in the draft? If not, why did they host Jadeveon Clowney on a recent visit? But what about the possibility of moving up to take Sammy Watkins to pair him up with Calvin Johnson as a dynamic receiving tandem?
That’s one of the questions our NFC North reporters -- Rob Demovsky with the Green Bay Packers, Ben Goessling on the Minnesota Vikings, Michael C. Wright on the Chicago Bears and Kevin Seifert filling in on the Lions -- will tackle in this installment of 4 Downs.
With all of the offseason movement in the NFC North, which move will have the biggest impact? Will Julius Peppers have a bigger impact with the Packers or will Jared Allen make a bigger splash with the Bears?
Will the Bears’ defense, buoyed by offseason acquisitions, enjoy the kind of resurgence in 2014 that their offense did in 2013?
Now that Adrian Peterson has reached 29 years old, will his production decrease, or will Norv Turner’s offense invigorate him?
Find out what our reporters are thinking.
Fact or fiction: The best draft move the Lions could make is moving up for Sammy Watkins.
Rob Demovsky: Fact. There's something to be said for making your strength even stronger. Clearly, with Calvin Johnson, the Lions' passing game is their strength -- they were third in the league in passing yards per game last season -- so why not make it even more difficult to stop? The addition of Watkins would give Matthew Stafford another big-play option.
Kevin Seifert: Fiction. Adding Watkins to a group that includes Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate would be one of the top power moves in recent memory. And, yes, the best way to build a team is to draft the best players and fill in positional gaps via free agency. But mortgaging the next two drafts seems like a steep price for a wide receiver on a team that has already committed the NFL's third-most salary-cap space ($20.3 million) at the position. The Lions' best move would to be clearheaded and take the best player remaining at No. 10.
Michael C. Wright: Fiction. By now, the Lions should've already learned their lesson about investing too heavily in receivers. Besides that, Detroit needs help on defense if it wants to win now. The club has several defensive tackles set to become free agents after the 2014 season, it needs a safety and a cornerback, and it could stand to use some help at linebacker, too. The Lions already have several weapons on offense in Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, in addition to free-agent acquisition Golden Tate. They can't neglect a defense that seems to always lack depth once injuries hit. This is also one of the deepest drafts in recent years for receivers, meaning the Lions could address defense first, then come back and add another target for Stafford in a later round. That would be the best course of action for Detroit. But the Lions haven't always done what's best (even though things seem to be improving with Martin Mayhew on board).
@mikecwright False. Megatron&Tate are a good one two punch & corner and safety are bigger needs.WR is deep; the opportunity cost is too high- Ragan (@DupesSA) April 21, 2014
Fact or fiction: Julius Peppers will make a greater impact on the Packers' defense than Jared Allen will make on the Bears' D.
Demovsky: Fact. The Packers didn't have a single defensive lineman record as many sacks as Peppers did for the Bears last year, when he had seven. Even if he's only able to replicate that, it'll be an upgrade for the Packers' defense, which badly needs another pass-rusher to complement Clay Matthews, who faces near-constant double teams.
Seifert: Fiction. Call me boring, but I don't foresee one having a dramatically different impact than the other. Both will provide something their teams didn't have last season. The Packers will get a player athletic and versatile enough to spur defensive coordinator Dom Capers' creativity and legitimately draw attention away from linebacker Clay Matthews. Allen offers a classic outside pass rush that Peppers failed to provide the Bears last season.
Wright: Fiction. The Bears played it very diplomatically publicly while ushering Peppers out of the door, but even if his base salary for 2014 wasn't so astronomical, the club still didn't want him back. That's because some within the organization felt Peppers gave the Bears just five to six solid snaps per game in 2013. That sentiment falls right in line with Peppers' longstanding reputation as a player who doesn't go all-out consistently. So even if Allen's impact with the Bears in 2014 is minimal, I'd venture to guess it would be more than what the Packers will get from Peppers. That's not to say Peppers has lost it. He hasn't. He can still play at a high level when motivated. And he'll definitely be motivated in Green Bay. At the same time, Allen has never been accused of taking plays off, and over several years has earned a reputation as a high-motor player. That's exactly what the Bears need. Besides that, Peppers will be playing in a scheme totally different than anything he's ever done in the NFL, while Allen moves to a scheme similar to what he did in Minnesota. Everything considered, Allen has the best chance to be the more impactful player.
@RobDemovsky true, because the bears will play Allen on every down and wear him out. Making him less effective.- kay oh (@shredmon) April 21, 2014
Fact or fiction: Chicago will achieve a turnaround on defense similar to what the team experienced on offense in 2013.
Demovsky: Fiction. Unless your definition of turnaround is a slight improvement, don't expect this defense to jump into the top 10 after ranking 30th last season. The Bears have added some nice pieces, especially on the defensive line with Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston, but this defense was downright bad in 2013. A major turnaround could take several years.
Seifert: Fiction: Some important team-building remains, most notably through the draft. But I'm not convinced the Bears have done enough yet to expect such a dramatic turnaround. (Remember, the Bears' offense ranked second in scoring in 2013 after finishing No. 16 in 2012.) Free agency has promised a different lineup, but will it be better? As many as six projected starters will be at least 30 years old. That's not a profile for massive turnaround.
Wright: Fiction. The Bears will definitely turn things around, but I don't see the improvement being near as dramatic as what the club did in 2013 on offense. And that's OK. If the Bears can reach mediocrity on defense in 2014, that would be a huge win because the club now has a potent offense that can flat out stack points on the board. The Bears set single-season franchise records for net yardage (6,109), net passing yards (4,281), completion percentage (64.4), passing touchdowns (32), passer rating (96.9) and first downs (344) in addition to finishing eighth in total offense (381.8 yards per game), second in scoring (27.8-point average) and fifth in passing yardage (267.6). I don't see the Bears rewriting the franchise record books on defense next season, which would be incredibly difficult anyway given all the great defenses fielded in the past by this franchise.
@mikecwright False.There will be turnaround but nothing that great.Secondary still needs work and the chemistry might not be there for team- Matt Varney (@HeadCoachVarney) April 21, 2014
Fact or fiction: At age 29, Adrian Peterson will be invigorated by a new offensive scheme and buck the trend of running backs declining in their late 20s.
Demovsky: Fact. If we've learned anything about Peterson, it's that we should never doubt him. Not after what he did following his ACL tear. That said, 2,000 yards might not be realistic. If his 1,266 yards from last season was a disappointment, then so be it, but there aren't many teams in the league who wouldn't be happy with that right now.
Seifert: Fact. I'll say this: Peterson doesn't need to be invigorated as much as he needs a transition path for continued elite production. After all, he rushed for 1,266 yards in 14 games last season. But he has undergone significant surgery in each of the past three winters, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner wants to involve him more in the passing game. More receptions and fewer carries sounds like a good plan for preservation.
Wright: Fact. But I'm not even so sure it will be as much about a new offensive scheme. Peterson just isn't human. Just kidding; sort of. Peterson is coming off his worst season since 2009 in terms of yards per attempt (4.5). But think about that for a second. Most running backs would be downright giddy averaging 4.5 yards per carry. I know Peterson has taken a pounding over the years and he's coming off yet another surgery. But doesn't that always seem to be the case for Peterson, dating all the way back to college? At Oklahoma, Peterson dislocated a shoulder in 2004, suffered a right high-ankle sprain in 2005 and a broken clavicle in 2006, which led to scrutiny going into the 2007 draft about his durability and longevity. Seven seasons and 10,115 yards later, Peterson's still here, giving defenses fits. Minnesota needs to get Peterson some help (like a quarterback) for sure. But I honestly think Peterson is such an extraordinary physical specimen, hard worker and determined player, he'll buck the trend for a while the way Fred Taylor did it. Taylor rushed for 1,202 yards in 2007, completing that season just weeks before his 32nd birthday. The year prior, Taylor rushed for 1,146 yards.
@GoesslingESPN false. Wear and tear catching up....he'll still be a good RB, but his glory days are behind him.- Vikings Fan Page (@Kevin_VFP) April 21, 2014
That drought could end next month.
Safety is clearly a position of need for the Bears after they lost both starters from last year: strong safety Major Wright left in free agency to Tampa Bay and free safety Chris Conte underwent shoulder surgery in late March that is expected to sideline him until the preseason.
The Bears did address the position in free agency by signing Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray, plus re-signing veteran Craig Steltz to a one-year deal, but the starting combination is far from set. It is conceivable that a rookie draft pick could start for the Bears at safety in Week 1, along with perhaps Mundy.
If the Bears decide to take a safety at No. 14 overall, there are two options: Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
ESPNChicago.com reported that Pryor made an official pre-draft visit to the Bears, while the NFL Network noted that Clinton-Dix also made a recent trip to Halas Hall.
Clinton-Dix is said to have terrific instincts and above average coverage skills.
Pryor is one of the hardest hitters in the draft. He can absolutely destroy ball carriers in the run game. Newly hired Bears assistant defensive line coach Clint Hurtt spent three years with Pryor at Louisville as the Cardinals’ defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator.
ESPNChicago.com also noted Washington State safety Deone Bucannon made a top-30 pre-draft visit to the Bears in March. Another physical tackler, Bucannon intercepted six passes in 2013 and finished his career with 15 total picks for the Cougars. Most analysts project Bucannon will be drafted somewhere in the second or third round.
The Bears took a safety in the third round every year from 2010-2012 (Wright, Conte and Brandon Hardin). That approach failed to solidify the position long-term.
Maybe it’s time for the Bears to swing for the fences.
Five potential targets:
1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
2. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
3. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
4. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
5. Terrence Brooks, Florida State
The next five: 6. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor; 7. Maurice Alexander, Utah State; 8. Ed Reynolds, Stanford; 9. Daniel Sorensen, BYU; 10. Antone Exum, Virginia Tech.
Position grade: B
Jennifer Stewart/Getty ImagesThe 2014 NFL season will culminate at Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium.
From high-profile veterans facing their former teams, to the 16th meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, here is a look at some of the early highlights of the 2014 season:
DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith, Chris Johnson, Darrelle Revis, Jared Allen and Julius Peppers.
Those are just a handful of veterans released during the off-season who will have a chance to play against their former teams in 2014.
After a career year in 2013, Jackson was released by the Eagles this off-season. He will face the Eagles twice this season (Week 3 in Philadelphia and Week 16 in Washington).
Smith, the Panthers career leader in touchdowns, receptions and receiving yards, promised there would be "blood and guts everywhere" if he faced the Panthers in 2014 after being released by the team in March. As a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Smith will get a crack at the Panthers on Sept. 28 in Baltimore.
Johnson only joined the Jets a little more than a week ago, but he's already slated for a Tennessee reunion. Johnson and the Jets will travel to Tennessee Week 15 to take on the Titans. Johnson has posted six straight 1,000-yard seasons, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Allen signed a 4-year deal with the Bears at the end of March after spending six seasons in Minnesota. Allen led the NFL with 85.5 sacks during his Vikings tenure. Allen will face the Vikings twice this season (Week 11 and Week 17).
Peppers is now on the other side of the NFL's most-played rivalry after signing a three-year deal with the Packers in March just days after being released by the Bears. Peppers totaled 38 sacks in his four seasons in Chicago and made three Pro Bowls.
And a college reunion
Former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly and the Eagles will play the NFC West this season as part of the standard division rotation.
Kelly will have the opportunity to coach against former Pac-10 coaching rivals Pete Carroll (USC) and Jim Harbaugh (Stanford). As a head coach, Kelly was a combined 2-1 against Carroll and Harbaugh with a win over each.
Kelly and the Eagles will also travel to Indianapolis in Week 2 for a Monday Night Football showdown against former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Kelly's Oregon teams were 2-1 against Stanford during Andrew Luck's collegiate career.
On Nov. 2, Manning and Brady will meet for the 16th time, including the playoffs, tied for the most between any pair of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
Manning will also face his former team for the second time as the Broncos will host the Colts to open their season. Manning and the Broncos lost to the Colts 39-33 in 2013.
Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks in the 2012 draft, will meet for the first time in Week 13. In their young careers, Griffin III is 12-16, while Luck is 22-10.
A rematch of last year's Super Bowl, Broncos-Seahawks, will also take place this season. The Seahawks' 35-point margin of victory in the Super Bowl is tied for the third largest in NFL history.
Breakdown: Teams discuss the need to start off quickly so often it's become almost cliché. But in Chicago's case, it holds true with the club playing two of the first three games on the road against quality opponents. The Bears open Sept. 7 at home against the Buffalo Bills, before hitting the road for the opening of the new Levi's Stadium against the San Francisco 49ers in a prime-time clash. In Week 3, the Bears go back on the road for a Sept. 22 game against the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football." So Chicago's revamped defense, which finished 32nd last season against the run, will be tested early on in the schedule against Frank Gore (1,128 yards last season) and new Jets addition Chris Johnson (1,000-plus yards in six consecutive seasons). Maybe both backs are truly washed up. Maybe they're not. Either way, the Bears get a chance to find out while they're fresh. After the outings against the 49ers and Jets, the Bears host the Green Bay Packers. So what's expected to be a revamped Bears defense better be prepared.
Starting with the matchup at San Francisco, the Bears play four of their first six games on the road: at Carolina on Oct. 5, at Atlanta on Oct. 12 and at New England on Oct. 26 just before what will likely be a much-needed Week 9 bye. What's good for the Bears is they play five of their final eight games at Soldier Field, which could make for a tremendous advantage as the weather begins to turn downright frigid in Chicago.
Complaint department: Why not start the schedule at Soldier Field against former coach Lovie Smith and former backup quarterback-turned-starter Josh McCown? That would make for an intriguing, potentially drama-filled matchup to kick off the season. Instead, that matchup won't come until four days before Thanksgiving.
Furthermore, the Bears play the Lions on Thanksgiving, and then host them in Week 16 before concluding the regular season on the road Dec. 28 against Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium. Prior to the Thanksgiving clash with Detroit, the Bears host the Vikings Nov. 16. That means the Bears face the Lions and Vikings for a combined four games over the last seven weeks of the season. That could be either boring, which might be complaint-worthy, or full of drama and playoff implications if the teams are in the thick of the hunt in the NFC North. So we're not sure whether to complain or applaud here.
Thanksgiving turkeys: That's typically what the Bears have been on this holiday in recent history, but perhaps that changes this year with the schedule featuring a Thanksgiving matchup on the road against the Detroit Lions. Interestingly, Chicago and the Lions have squared off on Thanksgiving on 15 occasions, with the Bears holding an 8-7 record. But the Bears own a 1-4 mark in their past five outings on Thanksgiving, with their last win coming courtesy of the Lions on Nov. 25, 1993. The Bears haven't played a Thanksgiving game since Nov. 25, 2004, when they lost 21-7 at Dallas during former coach Lovie Smith's first season at the helm. That season, the Bears finished with a record of 5-11.
Strength of schedule: 15th, .496 | Vegas over/under : 8
Bears Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at San Francisco, 8:30 p.m.
Week 3: Monday, Sept. 22, at N.Y. Jets, 8:30 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, at Carolina, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, Miami, 1 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at New England, 1 p.m.
Week 9: BYE
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, at Green Bay, 8:30 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 27, at Detroit, 12:30 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 4, Dallas, 8:25 p.m.
Week 15: Monday, Dec. 15, New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Draughn also returned 23 kickoffs for 537 yards that same year in Kansas City.
Bears general manager Phil Emery served as the Chiefs' director of college scouting when Draughn entered the league in 2011 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of North Carolina. Draughn originally signed with the Washington Redskins before eventually making his way to Kansas City.
The 6-foot, 205 pound tailback appeared in just three games and ran the ball only four times for two yards for the Ravens last season.
The Bears were looking to add depth in the backfield in the offseason after the club released veteran running back Michael Bush on the eve of NFL free agency in March. The team could still decide to draft a running back in the late rounds to compete with the likes of Draughn and Michael Ford for the reserve roster spots behind two-time Pro Bowl starter Matt Forte.
It's worth noting the Bears also added veterans Israel Idonije, Trevor Scott and Austen Lane in free agency to bolster a corps of defensive ends that includes David Bass, Tracy Robertson and Cornelius Washington.
“We’re going to be involved in a drafting process here that there’s going to be a lot of young players,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said in February at the NFL combine. “They’re all going to be young players and they’re all, for the most part -- not all -- but for the most part, it’s going to be a defensive-oriented draft in terms of where we’re going. It all starts with, schematically in the offseason, with [us] putting in a system of football where we have to be able to stop the run first. Stopping the run isn’t just a first line of defense area, it’s all three areas. But certainly that’s a big part of it, and obviously we want to be able to rush the passer and create a pass rush with four guys. Everybody wants four guys rushing to be able to inhibit the quarterback from completing a throwing motion and disrupting in the pocket.”
The Bears believe they’ve found a solid group of starters to complete that task, but the club learned the hard way from last year’s rash of injuries that the roster can never contain too much depth; especially along the defensive line. So while it’s almost a certainty the Bears won’t use the No. 14 overall pick in the draft to select a defensive end, the club might still use a selection in the later rounds to bolster depth at the position.
If Chicago’s recent activity is any indication, defensive end doesn’t appear to be a priority for the team at this point. So far, none of the club’s official pre-draft visitors at Halas Hall have been defensive ends, and it’s believed the Bears haven’t worked out any players at that position during various pro days around the country.
Here’s a list of potential fits for the Bears at defensive end:
Five potential targets
Player, School, Projected Round
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, 1
2. Dee Ford, Auburn, 1
3. Kony Ealy, Missouri, 1-2
4. Scott Crichton, Oregon State, 2
5. DeMarcus Lawrence, Boise State, 2
The next 5: 6. Kareem Martin, North Carolina; 7. Trent Murphy, Stanford; 8. Marcus Smith, Louisville; 9. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas; 10. Will Clarke, West Virginia.
Position grade: A-
The NFL released its 2014 schedule Wednesday, so let the fun begin.
It starts in the West. The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl but play in a division that could have four teams with winning records. That makes things tougher for the AFC West, which had three playoff teams last year but faces the NFC West this year. Last year, Denver, Kansas City and San Diego piled on for 11 wins in 12 games against the NFC East.
Here are the five games I'm looking forward to most: