Welcome to the triumphant return of the Hot Take-o-Meter. In this series, NFL hot takes will be placed on a scale of peppers. There are 12 levels ranging from zero heat (milk level) to maximum heat (Pepper X). Cold takes will fall under milk, bell pepper, jalapeno, and serrano levels. Medium takes will fall under the chile de arbol, tabasco, cayenne, and scotch bonnet levels. Hot takes will fall under the habanero, ghost pepper, Carolina Reaper, and Pepper X levels. Stay tuned for further installments as the days count down toward the 2022 NFL season.
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Take 1: Daxton Hill Should Play Outside Corner
The reigning AFC Champions have had quite the turnaround since drafting Joe Burrow. Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals had little in the way of need. They had even heavily addressed the offensive line in free agency. In turn, they took a swing for a long-term stud in Hill. Hill was a do-it-all player at Michigan, but there is a logjam in the Bengals’ secondary at the moment. Hill’s natural free safety position is blocked by Jessie Bates. Vonn Bell occupies the strong safety spot. Even Mike Hilton is in the slot.
However, the Bengals still employ Eli Apple. Hill has the athleticism and instincts to replace Apple as the No. 2 perimeter cornerback for the Bengals. Hill played some press-man coverage while at Michigan, so he could make the transition from versatile chess piece to legitimate star at corner. Apple had his ebbs and flows in 2021, but Hill gives the Bengals yet another option to match up with the best teams in the AFC. If the Bengals do not want to put Hill on the outside, they also drafted Cam Taylor-Britt from Nebraska in the second round.
Hotness Level: Serrano (Level 4)
Take 2: Cordarrelle Patterson is a Hall of Famer
Patterson’s Hall of Fame candidacy is contingent on the likes of Shane Lechler and Devin Hester. Lechler and Hester are the greatest at their respective positions (punter and returner), and Patterson likely needs both of them to make the Hall of Fame for him to have a shot after he retires. Patterson has a reasonable argument for being the greatest kick returner in NFL history. He is a four-time AP All-Pro kick returner, and he holds a tie for the NFL record for kick returns. He has the longest kick return in NFL history, and he is third in kick-return average.
Patterson is one of 89 players to earn four All-Pro nods and four Pro Bowls in the Super Bowl era. Of the 77 players that have retired, 65 are in the Hall of Fame. Five of those 12 (Luke Kuechly, the aforementioned Lechler, Joe Thomas, Jahri Evans, and Darrelle Revis) are not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. These odds bode well for Patterson, and he accomplished more than even Hester. Special teamers have always fought an uphill battle for the Hall of Fame, but Patterson is second to only Justin Tucker among active special teamers in Hall of Fame chances.
Hotness Level: Chile de Arbol (Level 5)
Take 3: Brad Holmes is a Top-10 General Manager
Holmes has been the general manager for the Detroit Lions for just 16 months. However, he has pulled out two stellar draft classes even when accounting for the Lions’ draft capital. Excluding his three first-round picks, Holmes had one of the steals of the 2021 class in Amon-Ra St. Brown, and his 2022 class was exceptional as well. Even with only two picks between 13 and 176, Holmes likely earned a second A-minus or better draft class in two years. He has entirely overhauled a roster from one of the worst in the sport to a sneaky wild card team in 2022. However, has he done enough in his short tenure to slip into the top 10?
Hotness Level: Cayenne (Level 7)
Take 4: Baker Mayfield is a Top-20 Quarterback
Mayfield has been usurped as the starter in Cleveland (barring a suspension for Deshaun Watson). After a particularly strong end to the 2020 season, Mayfield tripped over the last half of the season in 2021. In his final six starts, Mayfield had a passer rating of 64.1 and a PFF passing grade of 47.1. In his first eight starts, he had a much more respectable 99.4 passer rating and 66.5 passing grade.
There is likely plenty of good quarterback play left in Mayfield’s system. He was dealing with a shoulder injury for the entire 2021, and he picked up a slew of other nagging concerns. While he is unlikely to ever start again for the Browns, it is strange that no team has taken a shot on the former No. 1 pick this offseason via trade. Mayfield is most certainly a top-32 quarterback, but he currently does not have a path to starting.
Hotness Level: Tabasco (Level 6)
Take 5: Elgton Jenkins is a Top-100 Player
In his three seasons, Jenkins has played at all five offensive line spots. He was the primary left guard in both 2019 and 2020, also tacking on 297 snaps as a center in 2020. In 2021, Jenkins played nearly 500 snaps at left tackle in place of David Bakhtiari. Entering 2022, Jenkins profiles as the starting right tackle for the Green Bay Packers as Bakhtiari returns from a 2020 torn ACL.
While he has only played 33 snaps at right tackle, he was a Pro Bowl-caliber interior piece in 2020, and he earned a career-best 82.1 PFF grade in 2021 at left tackle. Everything Jenkins has touched in his NFL career has turned to gold, and his versatility helps in his ranking among the best of the best. He might be difficult to rank as a tackle or as an interior piece in a vacuum, but he is one of the most valuable linemen in the NFL.
Hotness Level: Serrano (Level 4)
Take 6: Jalen Pitre and Derek Stingley Jr. Will Make a Pro Bowl
Pitre and Stingley likely will be the starting slot corner and No. 1 corner respectively from Day 1 with the Houston Texans. There will be ups and downs in 2022, but this also allows them to develop that they might not have gotten had they gone to a different organization. Pitre could also play safety in the NFL, but the same idea holds.
Stingley had the best single-season tape of anyone in the 2022 NFL Draft, and Pitre checked off too many boxes to not be successful in the league. The Texans are starting to build a Legion of Boom, and these two pieces are the first of many. The only question is how quickly Stingley and Pitre will reach their potential. The AFC is loaded with quality cornerbacks, but these two have as much potential as anyone in the 2022 class.
Hotness Level: Scotch Bonnet (Level 8)
Take 7: Chris Boswell is the Second-Best Kicker in the NFL
At face value, the correct answer to the proposed prompt is either Harrison Butker or Younghoe Koo. Butker and Koo are second and third respectively in field-goal percentage while Boswell is fourth. However, since Boswell’s disastrous 2018 season, he has been nothing short of automatic. Only Justin Tucker and Koo have made more kicks at a higher percentage than Boswell in the last three seasons. Tucker is the top dog, but Boswell has a reasonable argument for second. Koo gets to kick in controlled environments in more than half of his games as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. On the other hand, Boswell is forced to contend with one of the most difficult kicking environments in Pittsburgh.
Hotness Level: Jalapeno (Level 3)
Take 8: Buffalo’s Defense is Overrated
The Buffalo Bills led the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, first downs allowed, passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, and yards per pass attempt. On one hand, the Bills only allowed 35 points or 400 yards once each in the regular season. On the other hand, they played 11 games against teams who ranked in the bottom 10 in scoring offense or total offense. They also played the New England Patriots three times including in the playoffs. In the remaining five games, the Bills won just one game, needing four takeaways to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 5.
The Bills have a good defensive unit, but their standing as the best in the NFL is likely due in some part due to the horrific competition they faced. For context, the third-best quarterback that the Bills faced is either Mac Jones or Ryan Tannehill. To start the season, the Bills faced Ben Roethlisberger, Tua Tagovailoa/Jacoby Brissett, Taylor Heinicke, and Davis Mills. Naturally, the Bills shut two of those quarterbacks out. Out of 17 games, the Bills played against six backup quarterbacks and four different rookies.
Hotness Level: Habanero (Level 9)
Take 9: Nick Chubb is the Best Running Back in the NFL
No running back in the NFL matches Chubb’s combination of volume and efficiency. Since 2018, Chubb is second in the NFL in rushing yards behind Derrick Henry. Simultaneously, he is eighth in the NFL in yards per rush among those with 200 carries. Of the seven players ahead of him, four are quarterbacks and one is Taysom Hill. Raheem Mostert and Rashaad Penny are the only pure running backs ahead of Chubb, and Chubb has more than 600 extra carries to his name.
Hotness Level: Tabasco (Level 6)
Take 10: The Saints Will Have a Top-10 Offense in 2022
The potential return of Drew Brees could throw a wrench into this take, but the currently constructed New Orleans Saints have an outside shot of being a top-10 offense in 2022. Last season, the Saints finished 19th in scoring and 28th in total offense. However, Jameis Winston only started seven of 17 games, Alvin Kamara missed four games, and Michael Thomas missed the entire season. The Saints have also acquired Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave during this offseason, giving Winston legitimate options beyond Thomas. Through Winston’s starts, the Saints were 12th in scoring offense and 30th in total offense. Adding Thomas, Landry, and Olave should help this production.
Hotness Level: Ghost Pepper (Level 10)
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