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Ranking NFL’s top 10 receivers as well as the offseason’s biggest trades, plus Bears and Tua minicamp buzz

Can’t you just feel the football in the air? It’s getting hotter outside. Summer vacations are finally on tap. And minicamp drama is upon us! John Breech decided to sit today’s newsletter out, mostly to avoid Andy Dalton discourse, so I — Cody Benjamin — will be happy to guide you through the latest from around the NFL.

This is the Pick Six Newsletter. Now let’s get to it. (And please, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re signed up to receive this newsletter every day! You don’t want to miss our daily offerings of everything you need to know around the NFL.)

We’ve got minicamp news, QB controversies, WR rankings and much more:

  1. Today’s show: Minicamp controversies in Chicago and Miami

OK, so controversies might be a strong word, but there are definitely some things brewing with the Bears and Dolphins. *Packers fans sick of reading about Aaron Rodgers’ future let out a collective cheer.* In Chicago, coach Matt Nagy insists first-round pick Justin Fields has no shot at being the No. 1 quarterback for Week 1. In Miami, second-year QB Tua Tagovailoa is fresh off a five-interception minicamp debut, and star cornerback Xavien Howard is holding out for a new contract.

On Wednesday’s Pick Six Podcast, I joined Will Brinson to break down those stories (and every other major news item surrounding minicamp). Some highlights of our discussion:

  • We don’t really care about Tua’s five picks. Is it ideal? Obviously not. But there are plenty of examples of QBs struggling in OTAs and playing just fine when it matters. If Tua starts slumping for weeks on end in the summer, maybe it’s a different story. We also explore why Justin Herbert, Carson Wentz and Jimmy Garoppolo should help inform reaction to Tagovailoa’s slow start.
  • Neither Brinson nor I can muster any reason to defend the Bears’ approach at QB. Maybe Justin Fields really isn’t ready to start, but we dive into why there’s no good reason to rule the rookie out before training camp even kicks off. We also explain why the 49ers are offering a much smarter model for handling this type of thing.
  • Will Jamal Adams get the big deal he desires in Seattle? Brinson doesn’t believe it’ll happen unless the former first-rounder settles to become the highest-paid safety (at about $16 million per year) rather than one of the game’s top-paid defensive players.

Catch the entire episode (and subscribe for all kinds of daily NFL talk) right here.

2. Most impactful 2021 trades: Stafford, Wentz deals top the list

We’ve had a lot of trades go down since the start of the offseason. Jared Dubin was kind enough to sort through them by how much they’re likely to impact their respective teams, plus the 2021 season as a whole. In his breakdown of most impactful trades, it’s no surprise that quarterback deals clogged the top of the list. Here’s a look at his top five:

  1. Rams acquire QB Matthew Stafford: The deal that sent Jared Goff and two firsts to Detroit
  2. Colts acquire QB Carson Wentz: In which Philly added a third and conditional first/second
  3. Titans acquire WR Julio Jones: The end of the star pass catcher’s run in Atlanta
  4. Panthers acquire QB Sam Darnold: With the Jets getting back a second, fourth and sixth
  5. Broncos acquire QB Teddy Bridgewater: A high-floor addition to challenge Drew Lock

3. Insider notes: Jameis Winston among breakout candidates 

Jason La Canfora combed through some of his anticipated contenders to identify one breakout candidate for each division. Some of his selections might surprise you (Alex Highsmith for the AFC North, anyone?), and some are more obvious (Brandon Aiyuk flashed enough as a rookie to warrant NFC West attention). But perhaps none of La Canfora’s picks is more intriguing than in the NFC South:

QB Jameis Winston: In his second year with Sean Payton, and with a great cast around him, Winston can do big things with the Saints. Better protection than he had in Tampa, a less high-risk scheme, and a better running attack will provide more balance and more guard rails for the interception-prone passer. Having Taysom Hill as a change of pace will also help Winston and keep him in situations that play most to his strengths. After spending most of 2020 on the bench learning from Payton and Drew Brees, I expect him to have a fairly prolific 2021 season and help keep the Saints viable in the NFC South, while the Falcons and Panthers sputter with their rebuilds.

4. Top 10 WRs of 2021: Davante Adams No. 1; Julio Jones misses cut

We’re ranking the top 10 at each position ahead of the 2021 season (QBs here, RBs here), and Jared Dubin had the unenviable task of narrowing down the pool of elite pass catchers. His list of top 10 WRs is chock-full of talent, but he was also forced to leave a crop of true No. 1s off the list entirely. Some of the biggest omissions, to no fault of his own: Allen Robinson, Tyler Lockett, Chris Godwin and new Titans acquisition Julio Jones. Here’s Dubin’s full top 10:

  1. Davante Adams (Packers)
  2. Tyreek Hill (Chiefs)
  3. Stefon Diggs (Bills)
  4. DK Metcalf (Seahawks)
  5. DeAndre Hopkins (Cardinals)
  6. Calvin Ridley (Falcons)
  7. A.J. Brown (Titans)
  8. Justin Jefferson (Vikings)
  9. Keenan Allen (Chargers)
  10. Michael Thomas (Saints)

5. Predicting Titans’ final record, every game on 2021 schedule

We are perusing each and every team’s schedule to predict final records ahead of the new year, and Patrik Walker recently tackled the Titans, a hot topic these days after their move to land Julio Jones. Does Patrik foresee a decline for Tennessee this year, or another journey to an AFC South title? Here’s a look at some of his key game predictions, as well as a projected final record:

Key games:

  • Week 15 at Steelers: By now, you’re truly understanding what the Titans are up against this year, schedule-wise. This will pit them against another possible contender, but Ben Roethlisberger is showing signs of rapid decline. At any given moment, he can either win the game or give it a way, and Mike Vrabel should be able to scheme into forcing the latter result in an impressive upset at Heinz Field fueled largely by Derrick Henry in the Pittsburgh cold. Titans win 24-20.
  • Week 17 vs. Dolphins: It’s safe to assume both (or either one) of these clubs will either need this win to secure a playoff spot, or playoff seeding. If the matchup were in South Florida, Miami would have the edge in what could be viewed as a mostly even matchup with a slight lean toward the Titans. Take that lean and add home-field advantage and the Titans start building momentum for what they hope will be a run in January. Titans win 30-23.

Final record prediction: 11-6

6. Rapid-fire roundup: Madden cover candidates, Russ is happy again

Hungry for more NFL news? Good. We’ve got a whole platter for you right here: