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Lunchbreak: ESPN Calls NFC & AFC North ‘Most Compelling’ Division Races

Every season, there are a number of division titles that come down to the wire.

ESPN’s Hank Gargiulo and Seth Walder recently took a look at the upcoming NFL season and tabbed the NFC North and AFC North as the “most compelling divisional races” in 2019. They wrote the following:

In the case of the AFC North, the three teams are given at least a 30 percent chance.

The aforementioned Browns are the slight favorites in the AFC North as the 36 percent plurality favorite, thanks in part to what FPI sees as a slightly easier schedule (27th-most difficult) than either the Steelers (22nd) and Baltimore Ravens (21st). But their division foes are given healthy 31 and 30 percent chances, respectively._

Over in the NFC, the defending North champion Chicago Bears are in a slightly more advantageous position as 38 percent favorites, though the Packers (27 percent) and Vikings (26 percent) are both seen as more than viable contenders for the throne._

Gargiulo and Walder said the AFC South is the only other division lacking a majority favorite and “also is the only division in which FPI gives each team a double-digit percent chance at winning.”

The Indianapolis Colts are the early FPI favorites to take the AFC South at 40 percent, followed by the Houston Texans (27 percent), Tennessee Titans (19 percent) and Jacksonville Jaguars (14 percent).

The favorites elsewhere all have at least a 56 percent chance at winning their respective divisions, but none is favored more than the Patriots in the AFC East at 80 percent. The Chiefs, FPI’s top-rated team, is a 65 percent favorite in the AFC West. Rounding out the FPI divisional favorites are the Rams (62 percent), Saints (61 percent) and Eagles (56 percent).

Vikings projected to receive 3 compensatory picks in 2020

With the 2019 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, NFL analyst Lance Zierlein is turning his attention to next year’s compensatory picks.

Each year, 32 compensatory picks are distributed, but they are not divided equally among teams. Zierlein reminded that in order to qualify for compensatory picks, “teams must end up with more compensatory free agents lost than gained in a particular year.” It is also worth noting that teams are not allowed to receive more than four compensatory picks.

With that in mind, Zierlein made his projections for the upcoming season. He wrote:

The compensatory picks for the 2020 draft won't be determined by the NFL Management Council's formula until after the 2019 season is over, but in this post, I'll attempt to project who will be receiving compensatory picks next year and the round in which those picks could fall.

To qualify as a compensatory free agent, players need to have been signed as unrestricted free agents before May 8, be on their team’s roster for at least 10 weeks of the regular season and rank in the top 50 percent of the NFL’s compensatory-pick formula. Players who were released by their previous team are not eligible for the formula.

Zierlein expects two teams (Patriots, Seahawks) to receive four compensatory picks apiece and another two teams (Ravens, Vikings) to receive three.

Zierlein listed Sheldon Richardson (Browns), Nick Easton (Saints) and Latavius Murray (Saints) as Minnesota’s “key free-agent losses” this spring, and he noted defensive tackle Shamar Stephen as a key addition.

The Vikings lost eight qualifying free agents while signing only one, but they are expected to land three picks as some of their losses won’t have APY totals high enough to make it into the top 32 comp picks. Sheldon Richardson was in the key free-agent additions column last year, but now he should fetch the Vikings a third-round pick as long as the Browns use him as expected. Tom Compton (Jets) has an outside shot at bringing in a seventh-rounder for the Vikings.

Zierlein projected seven teams to receive two picks, four to receive one and 17 – including the NFC North-rival Lions and Packers – to not receive any compensatory picks in 2020.

Thielen included in The MMQB’s ‘All-Undrafted Team’

Gone are the days where Adam Thielen wasn’t yet known on a national scale.

Thielen has strung together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and this spring the Detroit Lakes native signed an extension to stay with his home-state team for the foreseeable feature.

As everyone knows, Thielen got his start when he signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2013. The receiver was recently included in The MMQB’s “All-Undrafted Team” put together by Andy Benoit.

Benoit listed Thielen, Tyrell Williams (Raiders), Adam Humphries (Buccaneers) and Robby Anderson (Jets) as the top undrafted wide receivers. He wrote:

Thielen is a top-shelf superstar capable of aligning all over the formation, so the passing game will go through him.

Thielen was the sole Viking that Benoit included on team of diamonds in the rough.

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