Deshaun Watson

NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

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NFL preview 2019: Derek Carr, three other possible MVP sleepers in AFC

With training camps getting started, hope once again springs eternal in the NFL.

Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are primed to defend their crown, but a pack of worthy challengers is frothing at the mouth for the chance to take down the king.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes sits atop the NFL's other throne as The Shield's reigning league MVP. The dynamic signal-caller once again is viewed as the favorite to take home the hardware, and while the like of Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers are viewed as the most likely to take the crown from Mahomes, the AFC has a few other young passers who are lying in wait.

When looking at possible MVP sleepers in the AFC, I made sure to look only at players that had odds at 80-to-1 or higher, as listed by Westgate Las Vegas. With the framework set, here are four potential MVP sleepers who reside in the AFC.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders

The Case For: Carr has the arm talent and the leadership qualities to be an MVP. We saw that in 2016 when he led the Raiders to a 12-3 record before fracturing his fibula in Week 16. With a wealth of offensive talent around -- including Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, -- and a full year of Jon Gruden's system under his belt, it wouldn't be hard to see Carr returning to his MVP-caliber form in 2019. If he puts up big numbers while helping the Raiders navigate a tough early-season schedule, he should be in the mix.

The Case Against: There was little about the Raiders' offense in 2018 that would tell you a turn around is coming. The offensive line struggled and the running game was relatively non-existent. This is a make or break year for the Carr-Gruden relationship and there's a chance it just won't work.

Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans

The Case For: Despite a shaky offensive line, Watson completed 68.3 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards and five scores. If the Clemson product can get some protection, he could put up big numbers and lead the Texans to another AFC West title. The recipe for an MVP campaign is there for Watson.

The Case Against: The offensive line is atrocious. Watson might spend more time running for his life than looking downfield for the streaking DeAndre Hopkins. If the Texans can't keep Watson off his back, there will be no MVP delusions in Houston.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans

The Case For: When he's been healthy, Mariota has put up good numbers. That was with an offense designed for the 1940s with one offensive weapon. Mariota enters a make-or-break year for him with the Titans with two new wide receivers in rookie A.J. Brown and former Buccaneers Adam Humphries. If new offensive coordinator Arthur Humphries can tailor the offense to Mariota's strengths, the possibility for a breakout season is there.

The Case Against: Look, he hasn't been able to stay healthy. If Mariota can't stay on the field, then his chance at winning the MVP and the Titans' playoff hopes go in the trash can.

[RELATED: How Raiders' defense stacks up against AFC West rivals]

Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

The Case For: Jackson rushed for 556 yards in the seven games he started last season. If you extrapolate that over a 16-game season, it amounts to 1,271 yards. That would be more than the 1,039 yards Michael Vick rushed for in 2006. If Jackson has improved his passing and leads the Ravens to the playoffs, he could very well be an MVP sleeper.

The Case Against: As the Los Angeles Chargers showed in the AFC Wild Card Game, it's easy to stop Jackson if he's only able to move the chains with his legs. If the Louisville product hasn't made big strides with his accuracy and pocket presence then he won't be in the MVP conversation.

NFL QB Power Rankings Week 9: It's the return of Deshaun Watson

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NFL QB Power Rankings Week 9: It's the return of Deshaun Watson

You have to do some pretty impressive things these days to be at the top of our weekly NFL Quarterback Power Rankings.

That explains why Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson have pushed the future Hall-of-Fame trio of Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady down our board.

You think the 49ers have problems at quarterback? Check out what’s going on in Buffalo.

Here are the rankings at the beginning of Week 9:

1. Deshaun Watson, Houston: With a five-TD, no-interception performance, he’s back where he left off last season, and the Texans are atop the AFC South. (Last week: 16)
2. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City: It’s not a fluke. He’s really this good. (1)
3. Russell Wilson, Seattle: The number 158.3 is perfect. That was Wilson against Detroit. The playoff push is real. (7)
4. Drew Brees, New Orleans: He might have the best supporting cast he’s ever had. Need proof? The Saints can win even when he throws for 120 yards. (2)
5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay: Here’s a friendly suggestion to Stanford guy, Ty Montgomery: Do NOT screw up a chance for the Cal guy to win it or you’ll get traded away on the spot. (4)
6. Tom Brady, New England: A subpar game for Brady: That would be 324 yards and no interceptions, but also no TDs, against the Bills. (3)
7. Philip Rivers, L.A. Chargers: He spent the bye week working on his funky throwing mechanics. It’s questionable whether he can have a long career unless he learns traditional mechanics. ;-) (5)
8. Cam Newton, Carolina: His all-around play is as on-point as his post-game fashion. (9)
9. Matt Ryan, Atlanta: This guy gives the Falcons, with their depleted defense, a chance. (6)
10. Jared Goff, L.A. Rams: The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through Southern California. (8)
11. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia: He tied Matt Ryan’s record of 21 consecutive games with at least one TD pass and no more than one interception. (10)
12. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis: He’s hot, but the most impressive part: Luck has not been sacked on his last 156 pass attempts. He was sacked 156 times in the first five seasons of his career. (14)
13. Matthew Stafford, Detroit: He toughed his way through injuries to both hands in a loss to Seattle. (11)
14. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota: The Vikings are just slightly above average, which is a huge disappointment, though Cousins has hardly been to blame. (12)
15. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: He has proven to be the ultimate coach killer . . . in Cleveland, that is. (13)
16. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago: He’s getting better and better. (17)
17. Alex Smith, Washington: The stable leader of D.C. has his team atop the NFC East (15)
18. Dak Prescott, Dallas: Amari Cooper for a first-round draft pick? He better catch everything Dak throws his way. (18)
19. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati: It’s the bye week, so go to an island and work on that tan. (19)
20. Joe Flacco, Baltimore: There’s always a little something extra in the air when the Steelers visit. (20)
21. DEREK CARR, RAIDERS: With the 49ers and their meager pass rush on the slate for Thursday, Carr is looking forward to feeling no soreness on Friday morning. (21)
22. Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants: It has just about ran its course. (22)
23. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee: Oatmeal in hotel breakfast buffets have more consistency than Mariota. (24)
24. Case Keenum, Denver: When the Texans released Keenum in 2014, coach Bill O’Brien told him he was a third-stringer. Keenum wrote that in his book. Guess which team Keenum plays this week? Yep. (26)
25. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville: He did not get arrested, which means he had a better weekend in London than a lot of his teammates. But with the Jags on a four-game losing streak, the leash is short. (32)
26. Baker Mayfield, Cleveland: Let this be a lesson: Lose twice to the Steelers and heads will roll. (25)
27. Sam Darnold, N.Y. Jets: He didn’t have much of a chance with his two best receivers, Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson, being inactive against the Bears. Come to think of it, he doesn’t have much of a chance when his best receivers are Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson. (28)
28. Josh Rosen, Arizona: Step aside, Larry Fitzgerald, there’s a new 49ers Killer in the desert. (30)
29. Brock Osweiler, Miami: He’s back at it for another week with Ryan Tannehill on the mend. (27)
30. C.J. BEATHARD, 49ERS: Despite his messed-up right hand, he did not commit any turnovers. So that’s a start. (29)
31. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay: Hey, if you get benched, you go to the bottom – except for the Buffalo QBs. Ryan Fitzpatrick is back as the starter, but Winston gets to hold onto the shame of No. 31 for a week. Sorry, but those are the rules. (23)
32. Nathan Peterman, Buffalo: Among QBs who’ve attempted more than 30 passes, Derek Anderson ‘s 56.0 rating is second-worst in the NFL. He’s one spot behind Bills injured rookie Josh Allen. The absolute worst? That’s Peterman with a 20.8 rating. And Peterman gets the nod this week. Sheesh! (Anderson, 31)

Shanahan meeting with draft's top QB prospects: 'Every guy’s different'

Shanahan meeting with draft's top QB prospects: 'Every guy’s different'

SANTA CLARA – 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan hit the road last week as part of his evaluation of the top quarterbacks in this month's draft.

Shanahan confirmed he traveled to meet with North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky on Thursday. Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will visit the 49ers’ training facility on Tuesday, Shanahan said.

Trubisky, Watson and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer are among the top quarterbacks available in the draft. The 49ers own the No. 2 overall selection.

General manager John Lynch previously traveled to meet with the top quarterbacks, including Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. Trubisky is the first known quarterback with whom Shanahan has visited since the NFL scouting combine.

“It went really good,” Shanahan said. “I enjoyed it. Met with him at the combine, too, and then got to spend a little bit more time with him last week.”

Shanahan said he met with “a number” of quarterbacks at the combine. He said he has also spoken with others -- either in person or on the phone -- over the past few weeks.

“I don’t take the same system with each person,” Shanahan said. “There’s some guys you can watch on tape and you just talk to them on the phone and you feel you’ve got a great feel for them or you watch them on tape and you remember the time you spent with them at Indy and you feel good about it.

“There’s some guys you feel that you’ve got to meet, you’ve got to see something -- maybe just one little thing that you’re looking for. So there’s lots of different things that go into each person. It could change every year for me. Sometimes I don’t feel like I need to see anybody. I can see what I would want on tape or I can see what I don’t want on tape and you’re good to go. But every guy’s different.”