How pro football has changed in the past 10 years: 12 ways the NFL evolved this decade - Kevin Seifert
More aggressive playcalling
The mainstreaming of analytics demonstrated — for all who cared to listen — that NFL game strategy is far too conservative. On-field buy-in remains limited, but there has been an indisputable rise in aggressiveness from some coaches and franchises.
During the first three quarters of games, when game situations remain fluid, fourth-down attempts have risen 55% since the start of the decade, and 2-point conversion attempts have spiked 569%. Some coaches are going for two when down eight points in the fourth quarter, rather than waiting until later when there would be less time to compensate for a miss. Analytics covers more than fourth downs and 2-point conversions, but its most visible impact has been to deliver games that are more interesting and dramatic.
A late-decade changing of the guard at QB
In 2010, the NFL’s top 15 quarterbacks, as ranked by Total Quarterback Rating (QBR), included Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Eli Manning. Peyton Manning retired in 2015. The rest remain active but have mostly been eclipsed by a new wave. Brees and Ryan are the only members of that 2010 group to rank among the top 15 in QBR this season.
In their place is the 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson, along with Super Bowl LIV MVP/2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes and a host of other dynamic players. And it should be lost on no one that five of the top seven in QBR this season — Jackson, Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson — are black. That’s more than twice the number in 2010 (Michael Vick and Josh Freeman) and a strong sign that the NFL has overcome one of most shameful stains in its history.
OT Ronnie Stanley
Baltimore Ravens · Seasons: 4
Hall of Fame tackle Jonathan Ogden spent his entire career with the Ravens, and the franchise should do its part to ensure the same thing can one day be said about Stanley. The sixth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft has steadily improved, thanks to an unbelievable work ethic, to the point that he’s in the conversation about the NFL’s best left tackle. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Stanley will be seeking a deal equaling, if not exceeding, the three-year, $66 million extension recently given to Texans tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Top 10 tight ends of 2020: Super Bowl starters Travis Kelce, George Kittle headline this year’s group - Cody Benjamin
4. Mark Andrews, Ravens
Buried as the No. 4 TE on Baltimore’s crowded depth chart just two years ago, Andrews has quickly emerged as MVP Lamar Jackson’s favorite target, and the best thing he has going for him is upside. After catching a league-leading 10 TDs in 2019 despite officially starting just four games and missing one more, this guy’s still got all kinds of green grass in front of him. The 24-year-old former third-rounder just has to be competent in a Ravens offense strictly built around Jackson and a run-first attack that demands plenty of quick strikes over the middle, and yet he’s much more; Andrews’ 14.3 yards-per-catch total from 2018-2019 bested everyone ahead of him on this list. Alongside Jackson, the sky is the limit.
2020 NFL Draft: Day 3 picks who landed in favorable situations - Michael Renner
Stone will never be your classic do-it-all safety. What he can do, though, is make plays when given a chance around the line of scrimmage. He goes to a franchise in Baltimore that routinely uses safeties at or around the line of scrimmage in a variety of creative ways. The Ravens played dime personnel on 433 snaps last year (third-most in NFL) and brought defensive backs on blitzes on 156 of those snaps — more than double of any other team in the NFL. That’s a role Stone was born to play, and even though there’s a crowded safety room with Chuck Clark’s emergence last season, expect Stone to see the field.