NFL UK launches ‘NFL Academy’

Could NFL UK’s ‘NFL Academy’ be the next step towards a potential future London franchise?

In news that shocked absolutely no one — today the NFL launched its first dedicated academy outside of North America. Starting in September 2019 student athletes aged between 16-18 will be given the opportunity to hone their skills as well as their athletic abilities with the chance of playing for NCAA college football scholarships. Of course the official line from the NFL is a little more inspiring:

The NFL Academy is a unique programme that gives aspiring young American football players and outstanding athletes the chance to develop their skills and knowledge of the game.​ Alongside elite coaching, athletes will study courses of their choice at Barnet and Southgate College.​ There will also be a character development programme for students to give them all the tools to be successful in whatever pathway they take following the NFL Academy. Athletes will be given access to elite sports training facilities, kit and equipment, as well as an opportunity to learn from players and coaches from the NFL. They will be involved in outreach projects in the local community and be given a pathway for apprenticeships and higher education opportunities (in the UK and US). This life-changing opportunity is available for up to 80 students per year, aged 16-18. Selection for the NFL Academy programme will be based on athletic ability, as well as educational and character assessment.

The high school level programme has been a priority for the NFL ever since it partnered with Tottenham Hotspur, with their state of the art NFL purpose built stadium residing less than 5 miles from Barnet and Southgate College. Yet don’t be fooled by key words such as ‘higher education’ and ‘apprenticeships’. Many have long suspected the move, ourselves included, with the NFL likely setting the foundations for a future franchise based in London. To facilitate the long term success of said potential franchise, Roger Goodell believes it is imperative for a market as large and important as the UK to have home grown talent. Consequently, with several British players having varying degrees of success over the past 10-15 years, due in part to the NFL’s International Player Pathway scheme, the NFL has once again decided to show its hand with where it believes future expansion to be. J

Post NFL Draft Power Rankings

Who will be the team to beat in 2019?

So the NFL’s annual ‘next generation’ showcase has closed for yet another year. In the salary cap era the draft is supposed to be the great ‘eraser’ where GM’s across the league earn their money. Yet despite all the pre draft hype surrounding a number of players your uncle Jimmy had taken in his mock draft basement party, it’s easy to forget most of these rookies likely won’t contribute this year — despite an NFL record 40 draft day trades reflecting the immediate needs of a number of teams. Like every draft there were a number of surprises too; Daniel Jones going to the Giants for the 6th pick was a shocker, and several players with legitimate 1st round talent weren’t taken until day 3. Once again the draft proved one thing — no one outside of those respective war rooms knows a damn thing or what to truly expect, ourselves included. Nevertheless, due to said draft, free agency, veteran experience, strength of coaching and schedule, here are our initial power rankings for the 2019 NFL season. J

1. New England Patriots

2. New Orleans Saints

3. Los Angeles Rams

4. Los Angeles Chargers

5. Chicago Bears

6. Kansas City Chiefs

7. Philadelphia Eagles

8. Atlanta Falcons

9. Dallas Cowboys

10. Pittsburgh Steelers

11. Indianapolis Colts

12. Minnesotta Vikings

13. Green Bay Packers

14. Cleveland Browns

15. Seattle Seahawks

16. Jacksonville Jaguars

17. Baltimore Ravens

18. Tennessee Titans

19. Houston Texans

20. Carolina Panthers

21. San Francisco 49ers

22. Denver Broncos

23. Oakland Raiders

24. New York Jets

25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

26. Detroit Lions

27. Washingtion Redskins

28. Buffalo Bills

29. Miami Dolphins

30. Cincinnati Bengals

31. New York Giants

32. Arizona Cardinals

Final 2019 NFL Draft predictions

The NFL Draft is finally upon us. Tonight 32 college players will have their lives forever changed. Following our original draft predictions, not only have several moves been made (Frank Clark being one), but insider whispers have a number of players rising at the last minute. There will undoubtedly be a number of draft day trades, with teams wishing to move up and down the board. Nevertheless, on the assumption that there will be no trades here are our final first round draft predictions. J

1. Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals)

2. Nick Bosa (San Francisco 49ers)

3. Ed Oliver (New York Jets)

4. Devin White (Oakland Raiders)

5. Josh Allen (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

6. Quinnen Williams (New York Giants)

7. Jawaan Taylor (Jacksonville Jaguars)

8. Clelin Ferrell (Detroit Lions)

9. D.K. Metcalf (Buffalo Bills)

10. Drew Lock (Denver Broncos)

11. Marquise Brown (Cincinnati Bengals)

12. T.J. Hockenson (Green Bay Packers)

13. Dwayne Haskins (Miami Dolphins)

14. Christian Wilkins (Atlanta Falcons)

15. Greedy Williams (Washington Redskins)

16. Andre Dillard (Carolina Panthers)

17. Daniel Jones (New York Giants)

18. Cody Ford (Minnesota Vikings)

19. Jeffery Simmons (Tennessee Titans)

20. Byron Murphy (Pittsburgh Steelers)

21. Rashan Gary (Seattle Seahawks)

22. N’Keal Harry (Baltimore Ravens)

23. Greg Little (Houston Texans)

24. Noah Fant (Oakland Raiders)

25. Johnathan Abram (Philadelphia Eagles)

26. Dexter Lawrence (Indianapolis Colts)

27. Montez Sweat (Oakland Raiders)

28. Rock Ya-Sin (Los Angeles Chargers)

29. Devin Bush (Seattle Seahawks)

30. Jonah Williams (Green Bay Packers)

31. Garrett Bradbury (Los Angeles Rams)

32. Dalton Risner (New England Patriots)

The ‘Russell Wilson’ dilemma

Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round in 2012

So just where are those former players and execs that still refuse to acknowledge the shift in player power this morning? After Antonio Brown was granted everything under the sun by the Raiders, it now appears that if you are a franchise QB you can impose a contract deadline and get a record setting deal in return. After weeks of rumours regarding a potential trade/end of season free agency move to the New York Giants (often a negotiating tactic by the agent representing the player), the Seahawks starting QB got what he ultimately wanted. In the early hours of this morning he signed a 4 year contract worth a reported $140m, that now makes him the highest paid player, per season, in NFL history. With such a huge contract and the current trend of big name players getting what they want, here we take a quick look at how this could impact the NFL moving forward.

As has been the trend over the last 4 to 5 seasons, NFL QB’s are getting paid. First it was Andrew Luck, then Jimmy G, then Kirk Cousins, and then Matt Ryan, until Aaron Rodgers blew all of their respective contracts out of the water in 2018. Yet each contract was expected, largely due to how the NFL’s current labor deal is structured. Signed as part of the collective bargaining agreement in 2011, it has allowed players to command more and more each year due to ever increasing NFL revenue. Nevertheless, although said agreement runs to 2021, with several premier QB’s now under contract and players like Dak Prescott likely to secure at least $25m per year sooner rather than later, don’t expect the market to spiral completely out of control for at least another 2 years, when we will see Patrick Mahomes receive the next record setting deal.

Yet when these contracts are agreed who wins? Is it good for the players? Absolutely. Is it good for the teams? Well that is a little harder to answer. Russell Wilson got paid his current market value, and in return the Seahawks secured their franchise QB for what should be the best years of his relatively young career. Yet look at the immediate impact such a large contract had on the Packers, the Falcons, the Vikings and the Colts. Teams often appear to struggle to secure both their young stars, as well as the occasional marquee talent that might just push them over the top towards a championship. So unless a team has an unprecedented run in the draft (like the Seahawk’s had with Wagner, Sherman, Chancellor, Wilson et al), or players are playing lights out in a contract year, history has shown that it becomes increasingly harder to remain competitive, at least in the short term. In reality only Bill Belichick has been able to successfully turn over a roster year after year and still remain a force. Yet the Patriots have had relative financial flexibility over the years due to the discount Tom Brady gives the organisation. Once he retires the Patriots will likely find themselves in a similar position — having to pay whatever the market rate is for their future franchise QB.

And this leads me to one final observation. How much do these players want to win a championship? There can be little doubt regarding their respective talents, and both Rodgers and Wilson will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But have they done absolutely everything that is necessary to win? Is it even their responsibility to do so? Ask yourself whether you would take a pay cut to ensure a better working environment? If the answer is no how can anyone expect a professional athlete to? Nevertheless, no team has ever won a Super Bowl whilst having a player account for over 13% in total cap space, and for the time being at least, this trend will likely continue. Finally, could we see a future trend where teams regularly draft new (cheaper) QB’s like they do with other skill positions? Could blockbuster QB trades be the future to ensure teams can spread the wealth? Or perhaps more QB’s will risk playing under the franchise tag, as Kirk Cousins did when he was with the Redskins, if teams become reluctant to hand over more guaranteed dollars? Yet whilst QB’s are making more money than ever before, we will likely have to wait for the next collective bargaining agreement to answer those questions. J