Patriots

McCourty disappointed players were left out of NFL anthem policy discussion

McCourty disappointed players were left out of NFL anthem policy discussion

FOXBORO - From Devin McCourty's perspective, it didn't have to go this way.

The NFL's anthem policy has reappeared in headlines since changes were implemented at the league's spring meetings last week. Though players are allowed to stay in the locker room for the playing of the anthem, teams will now be subjected to discipline should their players take the sidelines and do not stand for the anthem. 

McCourty explained on Thursday that the anthem policy, which the NFLPA has said was adopted without player input, felt like owners trying to "lay the hammer down" on players. 

"The NFL's a group where you have owners and players, but it can work together," McCourty said. "We'll see how that works out, how it plays itself out."

McCourty has been outspoken about the anthem issue for more than a year now. Immediately after the playing of the anthem at the 2016 season-opener, McCourty and Martellus Bennett raised fists in the air. McCourty was among a group of Patriots players who knelt during the anthem before their Week 3 game against the Texans. 

McCourty understood that change to the anthem policy would likely be coming, but he felt as though the solution - and the way in which that solution was reached - should have been different. From his perspective, a better alternative would have been to go back to the way things were just before McCourty entered the NFL as a rookie in 2009. That was the year the league began to have teams on the field for the anthem. Prior to that, teams remained in their locker rooms until moments before kickoff.

"If you're going to change the rule," he said, "doesn't that make more sense than telling a guy, if you go, you have to do this? You know what I mean?

"I felt the rule was going to change. I thought [staying in the locker rooms] was the best solution. I think we all knew something was going to happen. I thought that was the best way. [That way] it doesn't allow anyone to be different."

Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin co-founded the Players Coalition that has teamed with owners on a $90 million initiative to tackle social justice issues. In an interview with the Associated Press in March, following a summit at Harvard Law School that was attended by both McCourty and Jenkins, McCourty said he was encouraged by the league's support of the players' goal to take on subjects like criminal justice and education reform.

"I think the NFL has seen the bigger picture," McCourty said at the time, "that this is not just the players trying to do something to give back -- but these are real issues that not just the players should care about but we should all care about."

On Thursday, he said he thought the new anthem policy was a step in the wrong direction for the relationship between players and owners. 

"To me, the disappointing part of it is owners across the league have been all in on helping the players understand this," he said. "So, then when the rule came out it was like, 'Wait...We've been doing so many great things, why send this to the public and make it seem like the players are the bad guys again?' To me, that was the disappointing part."

McCourty said he believes players will seek avenues to have the policy changed again, but there's uncertainty as to whether or not players will have a seat at the table moving forward when it comes to the anthem. 

"I guess the thing is now, for us as players, is it our decision? I would hope there would be some wiggle room to change it," he said. "I guess not even wiggle. Let's just change this thing. But I don't know. I don't know how we get that done."

There remains the possibility that players may protest during the anthem now not only to bring awareness to social issues . . . but to protest the anthem rule itself. Jets CEO Christopher Johnson has already said he would pay any anthem fine his team is assessed next season. 

"Anytime something happens like that," McCourty said, "and people don't agree with that, you can take everything else out of it. Protesting, reasons...Some people might say, 'I just don't like the rule so I want to do something to go against the rule.' I knew that was a possibility as soon as I heard the rule. Like, this is silly. This is dumb."

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2020 NFL Draft: Scouting the top running backs

2020 NFL Draft: Scouting the top running backs

We'll be blunt: This isn't exactly the Golden Age of running backs.

Only one running back (Josh Jacobs) was a top-50 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and it's very likely that trend will continue in 2020.

Teams are more wary than ever of spending premium draft capital at a position with such injury risk, especially with a host of talented wide receivers and tight ends on the 2020 NFL Draft board.

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And yet: The running back position still is a great place to find value.

Just ask the Buffalo Bills, whose 2019 third-round selection, Devin Singletary, is now a high-upside starter. Or the New Orleans Saints, who snagged superstar Alvin Kamara in the third round of the 2017 draft.

  • 2020 Draft Rankings: QB

The New England Patriots have taken a running back in back-to-back drafts -- Sony Michel in 2018 and Damien Harris in 2019 -- to complement James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden, so they don't necessarily have a backfield need.

But have you known Bill Belichick to pass up value? Let's check out the top 10 running back prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.

1. D'Andre Swift

College: Georgia
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 196 carries, 1,218 yards, seven touchdowns (24 receptions, 216 yards, one touchdown)

The latest workhorse back to come out of Georgia, Swift is the most well-rounded runner of the 2020 class. He boasts top-end speed (4.48-second 40-yard dash) and a strong frame (5-foot-9, 215 pounds) but more importantly possesses patience and vision that should help make him a successful three-down back for whatever running back-needy team scoops him up.

Projected Round: First

2. Jonathan Taylor

College: Wisconsin
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 320 carries, 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns (26 receptions, 252 yards, five touchdowns)

Taylor put up monster numbers at Wisconsin, leading the Big Ten in rushing in three straight years and winning two Doak Walker Awards as the best running back in college football. His heavy workload (926 carries over three seasons) might make some teams wary, but Taylor has the tools to be a starting NFL running back out of the gate.

Projected Round: First or Second

3. J.K. Dobbins

College: Ohio State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 301 carries, 2,003 yards, 21 touchdowns (23 receptions, 247 yards, two touchdowns)

Dobbins averaged 6.7 yards per carry in 2019 and broke Ohio State's single-season rushing record held by Eddie George with 2,003 yards. He's no George or Ezekiel Elliott, though, and will have to prove those numbers weren't just the byproduct of an explosive Buckeye offense as he tries to compete for a starting NFL job in 2020.

Projected Round: Second

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire

College: LSU
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 215 carries, 1,414 yards, 16 touchdowns (55 receptions, 453 yards, one touchdown)

What Edwards-Helaire lacks in height (5-foot-8), he makes up for with exceptional balance and explosiveness, as evidenced by his 6.9 yards per touch for the national champion Tigers. His receiving ability (3.7 receptions per game in 2019) also should appeal to a club looking for a boost on offense, although there's a good chance he slips to the third round with so many elite wideouts on the board.

Projected Round: Second or Third

5. Cam Akers

College: Florida State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 231 carries, 1,144 yards, 14 touchdowns (30 receptions, 225 yards, four touchdowns)

A highly-touted recruit out of high school, Akers broke Dalvin Cook's freshman rushing record in 2017 and put up three seasons of solid production for an otherwise disappointing Seminoles team. Ball security is an issue (10 fumbles in three seasons), but Akers represents solid value in this second tier of backs.

Projected Round: Second or Third

6. Zack Moss

College: Utah
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 235 carries, 1,416 yards, 15 touchdowns (28 receptions, 388 yards, two touchdowns)

The cousin of former NFL wide receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss, Zack Moss is a bruiser whose physical running style could translate well to the NFL. Moss turns 23 in December and his 2018 knee injury is a potential red flag, but he has the potential to be a solid sleeper pick.

Projected Round: Third

7. Eno Benjamin

College: Arizona State
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 253 carries, 1,083 yards, 10 touchdowns (42 receptions, 347 yards, two touchdowns)

Benjamin's production actually dipped last season after a 300-rush, 1,642-yard campaign for the Sun Devils in 2018. The Texas native has top-end elusiveness, though, and could be a serviceable change-of-pace back for an NFL team after averaging 8.3 yards per reception in 2019.

Projected Round: Fourth

8. Anthony McFarland

College: Maryland
Class: Sophomore
2019 stats: 114 carries, 614 yards, eight touchdowns (17 receptions, 126 yards, one touchdown)

McFarland is one of the fastest running backs in the 2020 draft (4.44-second 40-yard dash) but has been dogged by injuries, including a high ankle sprain that limited his production in 2019. If an NFL team is convinced he can get healthy, he's an enticing mid-round flyer.

Projected Round: Fourth

9. A.J. Dillon

College: Boston College
Class: Junior
2019 stats: 318 carries, 1,685 yards, 14 touchdowns (13 receptions, 195 yards, one touchdown)

Boston College's bell-cow back amassed 845 carries over three seasons, boasting impressive athleticism for someone with his 6-foot, 250-pound frame. Dillon doesn't have any standout traits, though, and likely will begin his NFL career as a backup.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

10. Ke'Shawn Vaughn

College: Vanderbilt (via Illinois)
Class: Senior
2019 stats: 198 carries, 1,028 yards, nine touchdowns (28 receptions, 270 yards, one touchdown)

Vaughn's best college season came in 2018, when he averaged 7.9 yards per carry (1,244 yards on 157 attempts) after transferring from Illinois to Vanderbilt. A regression in 2019 impacted his draft stock, but he still should go in the middle rounds after a decent showing at the Senior Bowl.

Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth

NFL analyst says Tom Brady 'would have won 10 Super Bowls' with Ravens

NFL analyst says Tom Brady 'would have won 10 Super Bowls' with Ravens

Six Super Bowl titles. Nine Super Bowl appearances. Three NFL MVP awards. Fourteen Pro Bowl selections. Several NFL records.

That's just some of what Tom Brady accomplished in his 20-year tenure with the New England Patriots. But would he have accomplished even more had he played for a different organization?

It certainly seems like a silly question to ask, but for one NFL analyst, the answer is an emphatic "yes."

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Wednesday on the Dan Patrick Show, former Baltimore Ravens scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah was asked what question he would pose to Brady if he could get one honest answer from the 42-year-old quarterback. His response was... interesting.

"Tom, if you were the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens, with their personnel, how many Super Bowls would you have won there?" Jeremiah answered. "If he was telling the truth, he’d say 10."

Patrick and the rest of the crew were left speechless before Jeremiah doubled down.

"I mean, look at the personnel, Dan," he said. "Compare the personnel of those two teams, outside the quarterback position, for the 2000s decade. I think he would have won 10 Super Bowls."

Watch below (begins at 11:54 mark):

We'll give you a moment to cool yourself off after hearing that scorching hot take ...

... OK, all better now? Good.

Jeremiah's argument is based around the Ravens of the 2000s boasting Hall of Famers and Pro Bowl performers Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, Chris McAllister, and Jonathan Ogden among others. While there's no doubt Baltimore's roster was stacked, it's not like New England lacked star power. There's also that Bill Belichick guy who's been running the show for the past 20 years. Some might say he's been pretty important to the organization's sustained success.

Brady is 8-4 for his career (including playoffs) against Baltimore. We'll never know how he would have fared against New England if the tables were turned, but we don't need to. What he did in his 20 years with the Patriots was more than enough and more than what any other quarterback has accomplished in NFL history.