AROUND THE NFL
Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com teaches you how to talk like a scout:
From surgeons to pilots to carpenters, mechanics and baristas, every profession has its own language. For the next 22 days, the lingo of the NFL draft will be all over the airwaves as analysts, scouts and fans define the difference between Greedy Williams and Quinnen Williams.
For those doing the drafting and scouting, the lingo is useful.
“It’s because you look at all these [NFL draft prospects] over and over again and you’re trying grade them, stack them, separate one from the other,” former Titans general manager Floyd Reese said. “The best guys at doing it can describe what they mean, why one guy is different or why they remind them of somebody else. You hear it all and then you know right then exactly what they mean.”
Some are well-worn classics; some are so unique only one native speaker is still using them. In preparation for the draft, here’s the ESPN Abridged Draft Glossary.
The Basic Terms
Alligator arms (n., al’i-ga’ter arms): From the American alligator (Alligatoridae mississippiensis), which has an average size of 13 feet and 790 pounds. Because of their short legs, these reptiles’ bodies barely move above the ground. In the NFL, the term refers to a specimen who won’t extend his arms for a catch for fear of injury. The less common but still funny synonym: T-rex arms.
See also: someone who won’t reach for the check
Bend and burst (adj., bend and burst): The bend is what a pass-rusher does when turning the corner on an offensive lineman. The burst is the speed to close the deal. It combines a rusher’s flexibility and leverage with speed.
Body catcher (n., bod e kach ‘er): Holden Caulfield heard a song “if a body catch a body …” so maybe that’s where draft analysts got this term for a receiver who pins the ball against his body instead of catching with his hands. Then again, Holden got the song wrong.
Antonym: hands catcher
Bubble (n., bub el): The rear, derriere, can, rump, etc. Likely shortened from bubble butt or its derivatives, especially for big guys who move with power. The term “bubble” is used, according to scouts, so scouts and executives can avoid saying “ass” a lot in meetings.
Catch tackler (n., kech tack’ler): A defender whose tackling strategy is to let a ball carrier run into him and hope he falls.
Click and close (adj., klik en klos): From the Dutch for click. The ability to go backward, then forward quickly. An essential skill for defensive backs spending their professional careers doing this cha-cha in cleats.
Cow on ice (n., kow on is): Picture a cow. Now put that cow on ice and make it move. Hilarious. It’s a player with no balance who spends a lot of time falling and getting up.
Downhill runner (n., down hil run ‘er): Almost exclusively used for running backs. A ball carrier who can power through tackles while almost falling forward and also having the speed to score.
See also: north-south runner; good lean
Fluid hips (adj., floo id hips): Every human has hips with fluid. That’s just anatomy. But some players have more to go around. These liquidy joints allow them to change directions quickly.
See also: oily hips
Antonym: tight hips
Glass-eater (n., glas eder): A bad dude. The rest of us might just be avocado toast eaters, or avocado ice cream eaters in Tom Brady’s case, but these guys literally eat glass to get ready for NFL games and that makes them extra, extra tough. Usually reserved for offensive linemen.
See also: plays with a mean streak
Go-home gear (n., go-hom gir): The fastest possible speed. The ball carrier whose speed immediately separates him once he has the ball.
See also: extra gear; Deion Sanders
Hands catcher (n., hand kech ‘er): Self-explanatory. Reserved for receivers. It’s a player who, according to draftniks, “snatches” the pass with his hands.
Antonym: body catcher
Heavy hands (adj, v., hev e hands): See violent hands.
J.A.G. (n., jag): In a world searching for exceptional people, this ain’t you. Only a handful of prospects in any NFL draft will be among football’s 1 percenters. You might be nice. A pillar of the community. Maybe even a contributor to an NFL team. But when measured against draft elites, you have been deemed Just A Guy.
Tight hips (adj., tit hips): See: hips, fluid.
Violent hands (adj., v., vi-elent hands): From the Latin violentus. Not just normal hands, but just like it sounds, it’s a player whose hands are powerful enough to move people where he wants with the initial impact.
See also: good punch; active hands
Waist bender (n., wast ben’der): Again, anatomy. Every football players bends at the waist and the knees. However, from a physics standpoint, football values the bending of the latter more than the former. Ideally, for better leverage, a player in a stance should keep a flat back and bend at his knees. It allows for more power and balance. It’s physics plus football; it can’t be argued with.
“Holy s—” tackler: Like the many famous cases before the Supreme Court defining subjective obscenity by visual evidence: You know it when you see it.
L.I.A.: You know the bubble. This is the opposite. Often, this refers to a thin-waisted lineman who needs more lower-body strength. This is scout shorthand for “light in the ass.”
See also: Needs some sand in his pants
The Secret Menu Phrases
Couldn’t even use a crosswalk: When you’re watching a game and there’s that defender pacing around, that’s it. This describes a defender who repeatedly, as in all the time, has trouble getting lined up before the play.
Thinks he’s a soloist, but he can’t sing: The misplaced-confidence guy. He is a star and a leader in his mind only.
Trash can full of dirt: From the Latin lutum for dirt. Out of use in some dialects, this refers to, usually, defensive linemen who are hard to move out of the way.
Washcloth tackler: Visualize throwing a wet washcloth against something only to watch it stick briefly and then fall off. This is the guy who ends up sliding off the runners on all the big plays.
Uniform junkies take note, the Bears are going with a “fourth” jersey. Patrick Finley in the Chicago Sun-Times:
The Bears will unveil a fourth jersey — something the team is deeming a “new classic” — to celebrate their 100th season this year.
The jersey, which figures to be a throwback to their early days, will be unveiled June 7 at the opening ceremony of the “Bears 100” convention at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, the team said Thursday.
The Bears will wear four different jerseys next season — the 100th anniversary jersey; their standard navy home jersey and white road shirts; and the orange alternate jersey they reintroduced last season. The team will not wear their “Monsters of the Midway” throwback next season. Rather, the “classic” jersey could throw back to an even earlier time in team history.
“People, they’re going to talk about it,” chairman George McCaskey, an avowed uniform connoisseur, said of the new jersey in November.
The Bears won’t say which direction the new design will take. In the past, McCaskey has he’s a fan of a 1936 white jersey that had alternating blue and orange stripes on the shoulders and sleeves.
The team will wear a special patch to mark their 100th season on all four uniforms.
The Bears caused a social media stir earlier this week when they joked that, to honor the team’s 100th year, they’d wear triple-digit numbers in 2019. It was an April Fool’s joke.
The tale that Coach Mike McCarthy was holed up in his office getting a massage while his team practiced and had meetings is denied by Mike McCarthy. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
On Thursday, Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne released an exhaustive article detailing the deterioration of the relationship between McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Among the accusations levied against the former Packers coach, who was fired following a Dec. 13th loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field, in the B/R article is that McCarthy would miss meetings to have massages in his office at the team facility.
McCarthy denied those claims and refuted other aspects of the article to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Thursday.
“I wouldn’t even know where to start and stop with the article,” the former Packers coach told Pelissero. “But to say that I skipped a team meeting for a massage is utterly absurd.”
McCarthy added, laughing, “I have a massage scheduled tomorrow, and I can promise you I will not miss my primary responsibility of picking up my two kids from school.”
The coach told Pelissero that while he did used to get massages in his office, those instances occurred around 2010, when Green Bay was not struggling and in fact making postseason runs.
Among the players on the record in the B/R article were Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, DuJuan Harris and Jermichael Finley.
One former Packers receiver, however, disagreed with some of his teammates’ evaluations of both McCarthy and Rodgers. NFL Network’s James Jones called the report “just a bunch of people’s opinions.”
“I’m getting a bunch of texts from my former teammates and they’re like where was I at when this was going on?” Jones said on Total Access on Thursday night. “I don’t remember any of this stuff going on.
“When you’re with someone for 13 years, you’re gonna have some fight, you’re gonna have some arguments. … Aaron Rodgers respected Mike, and Mike respected Aaron. When it came to times where things weren’t going right or Aaron thought things should be going this way or Mike thought things should be going this way, it’ll be some conflict.
“One thing I do want to say is coach Mike would have us out there running a bunch of new plays. We’re thinking we’re going to run these plays in the game and then we get in the game and we don’t run any of these plays. I think that’s where the frustration comes with Aaron Rodgers. We’re running the same stuff but we put in 20 new plays that we’re not running.”
The Vikings will be without CB HOLTON HILL for four games. Herbie Teope of NFL.com:
The NFL suspended cornerback Holton Hill the first four games of the 2019 regular season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Hill is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.
Hill joined the Vikings last year as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas. He went on to appear in 16 games with three starts, recording 36 tackles, an interception and seven passes defensed.
The Cowboys have reached a huge deal with DE DeMARCUS LAWRENCE per NFL.com as we go to press. Over $100 million for five years is the early report.
JP Finlay of NBCSports.com hears the Redskins are at the front of the line (if indeed there is a line) to land QB JOSH ROSEN.
Have the Redskins emerged as the favorites to land Josh Rosen? It’s starting to appear that way.
All signs point to the Cardinals taking Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft later this month, and if that happens, there’s no way Arizona is keeping Rosen on the roster.
That means the Cards need to move their 2018 first-rounder, and do so without a whole lot of leverage.
Enter the Redskins, a team with a long-term hole at QB. Washington wants to add a young passer, but their current financial commitment to injured Alex Smith makes that hard.
Rosen would be perfect because the Cardinals are already paid his signing bonus and he’s owed less than $2 million for the 2019 season.
The Murray-to-Arizona speculation started growing at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and the Rosen-to-Washington rumors started almost immediately thereafter. They haven’t slowed.
The latest came from ESPN’s Todd McShay, who said of Rosen on his podcast, “I keep hearing Washington. They are the most likely of teams. They seem to be the most interested in Josh Rosen.”
Being the most likely makes sense. The 2019 rookie crop of signal callers lacks star power.
Murray might be a star, but questions remain for Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock. Still, expect both to go before the ‘Skins draft with the 15th overall pick.
Daniel Jones could be there at 15, and the Redskins will host the Duke QB next week for a pre-draft visit. Expect a visit from West Virginia QB Will Grier, too.
Still, most talent evaluators would rank Rosen only behind Murray if the former UCLA star was in the 2019 draft class.
Josh Norris, a draft analyst at Rotoworld, believes Rosen could be a real fit in the Redskins offense.
“Rosen would be a great pickup,” Norris said via text message. “I think his success is very much tied to offensive line talent, and if healthy, Washington has a good one.”
For months, sources inside Redskins Park have been clear that their first-round pick is not involved in a possible offer for Rosen. But don’t rule out a package of picks spread out over two seasons, like a 2019 second-rounder and a 2020 third-rounder and an additional late round pick in either season.
For the Redskins, Rosen might present the rare intersection of value and talent.
For the Cardinals to move Rosen means they’ve lost tremendous leverage, as the team is setting forward with a new QB. Every NFL team knows that, and in turn, Arizona won’t be made whole on their 2018 investment of the 10th overall pick.
Rosen wasn’t good as a rookie last year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be good. And in Washington, he won’t have the pressure of starting right away, as the team has Case Keenum and Colt McCoy to battle it out at starting QB for 2019.
Rosen to the Redskins is far from a done deal.
But as long as Washington holds on to its 15th pick in 2019, it is the deal that makes the most sense. With four picks among the first 96 selections, the Redskins have the war chest and the need to pull this move off.
Keep in mind, however, the Redskins front office usually makes big moves in silence.
There was no hint that the ‘Skins were moving to get Alex Smith last year until it happened. Same this year with Case Keenum.
Bruce Allen runs trades in Washington, and Bruce Allen keeps his moves very close to the vest.
That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. That certainly doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. If a deal does happen, however, Redskins fans should be prepared to wait all the way up until maybe even draft day for any news to emerge.
Or it could happen tomorrow.
The NFL is a wild ride. Buckle up. In the Rosen pursuit, the Redskins appear to be in the driver’s seat.
The DB keeps hearing that the injury to QB ALEX SMITH is not one from which he will be resuming his NFL career anytime soon – if at all.
Kyle Shanahan explains his plan to sort out the 49ers running back situation. Jennifer Chan of NBCBayArea.com:
The 49ers head into the 2019 offseason with five running backs on the roster and a decision to make on who will get the bulk of the time in the backfield.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan explained on the Adam Schefter podcast how the decision on which running backs will see time is not his to make. Instead, it will be up to the players.
“Everyone keeps asking me that like I’m in charge of that or something,” Shanahan said with a laugh. “It’s up to the players. They will define their roles. That’s kind of what’s unique about this.”
The team signed Tevin Coleman to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million. Both Shanahan and general manager John Lynch admitted that they weren’t in the market for another back but it was too good of a deal to pass up.
Coleman played in Shanahan’s system in Atlanta which should make his adaption to the 49ers seamless.
The team expects Jerick McKinnon to be ready for the offseason program, but they won’t rush him back as he recovers from his ACL injury. Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson and special teams standout Raheem Mostert round out the group which is not at a loss for speed.
“They all can do a bunch of different things,” Shanahan said. “The one thing that they have in common is they all run 4.40 or less so I don’t have to look back there to see if I have a slow guy or a fast guy, they are all fast.”
Shanahan pointed out the varying qualities of the group and also recalled 2018 when injuries plagued the team. They very well could need all five ball carriers.
“They come in different sizes, they do different types of routes,” Shanahan said. “We played with four running backs last year so I’m not going sit here and try to think about what to do with four running backs, we might need them all.”
The competition will be fierce for who will be the lead back in Santa Clara, and Shanahan is relishing the situation. He and his coaching staff like what they have in the group and look forward to seeing how they can take advantage of their varying attributes.
“If they all stay healthy it will be a fun problem for us to figure out, how to utilize them as a coaching staff.”
NEW YORK JETS
Here is the positive team spin on the new Jets uniforms.
If anything stood out about the Jets’ new uniforms, unveiled Thursday night at Gotham Hall in Manhattan, it was the words “New York” emblazoned across all three of the green, white and black jerseys.
“This is my town. I love this town,” Jets CEO and chairman Christopher Johnson said. “And I wanted these jerseys to celebrate that.”
The Jets’ players loved all three of the new colors: Gotham Green, Spotlight White and Stealth Black, all three paired with green helmets with the team name and a football in white.
The black alternate by far was the biggest hit, all the way up to ownership.
“It kicks ass,” Johnson said.
But mostly, the Jets were excited on Thursday because they believe the new uniforms are the perfect complement to this offseason’s activity to signify a new exciting beginning. They have a new head coach in Adam Gase and new player additions from Le’Veon Bell to C.J. Mosley, and the word “playoffs” was thrown around quite a bit on this night with Joe Namath and Curtis Martin among dignitaries in the house.
The heavy “New York” emphasis of their loud unveiling ceremony could be interpreted as the Jets coming to take over the city’s football spotlight.
If it’s interpreted that way, so be it.
“It’s just a different swagger,” safety Jamal Adams said. “I think it’s something this team needed. To have something new, something fresh start, new coaching staff, I think it’s just what we needed.”
Paul Lukas of UniWatch casts a more critical eye:
After months of anticipation and a late-breaking but unverified leak that stirred up a lot of reaction when it began circulating on Wednesday morning, New York Jets fans finally know what their team’s new uniforms will look like.
And it turns out that the leak was accurate. The Jets’ new uni set, unveiled on Thursday night at an event in Manhattan, swaps out the team’s longtime old-school look and replaces it with a sleeker, more modern design. The effect isn’t as radical as some of the other recent NFL redesigns—no digital alarm clock numbers like the Buccaneers’, and no big, honking wordmark on the pants like the Browns’—but it’s still significant makeover.
Before we get to Gang Green’s new look, here’s a quick history refresher: The Jets have had three major uniform eras so far. The first, which ran from 1965 through 1977, featured the team’s signature football-shaped helmet logo and contrast-colored sleeves. This is the look that Joe Namath wore while guiding the Jets to victory in Super Bowl III. The Jets then pivoted to a new design from 1978 through 1997, the period defined by the New York Sack Exchange. And then in 1998, they went back to the Namath-era design, with a few minor modifications, and maintained it up through last season.
But now the Jets are primed for their next uniform chapter. Here’s one observer’s initial reactions to their new look, one element at a time (with the usual caveat that we won’t really have a full read on the uniforms until we see them on the field).
THE NEW COLOR SCHEME
Back in the 1960s and ’70s, the Jets wore a bright, Kelly-like shade of green. Over the years it’s gotten darker (plus Nike has had problems rendering it consistently across the various uni elements).
The good news is that the new set goes back to a brighter shade of green that looks sensational. The bad news is that it has added black as an accent color on the jersey numbers, the facemask and a new alternate uni, all of which seems ill-advised.
In an interview shortly before the unveiling, Jets team president Neil Glat said the new green is designed to look better on television, where the old green often looked drab. As for the black, he said team ownership was interested in finding a third color in addition to green and white, and that the Jets explored several other color options, which he declined to name, before settling on black. The feeling here is that the black is a misstep. Still, the new green is a winner. Grade: B+
OLD JETS GREEN GOTHAM GREEN
THE NEW LOGO
The Jets have preserved the feel of their old logo with a judicious update. The “New York” lettering is much clearer than the old “NY” outlining, and the new logo oval is more clearly football-shaped. Grade: A
THE NEW HELMET
The new shell color is the single best thing about the new uniform set—a gorgeous jewel-toned emerald that shimmers nicely in the light and looks almost like candy (yes, I want to lick it). But it’s a little weird to see the logo lettering without the oval shape, and the black facemask is a mistake. White would’ve been a better call.
The visual effect of the green helmet and the classic Jets lettering is a bit like the team’s 1994 “fauxback” helmet, only without the stripes. Grade: A-
THE PRIMARY JERSEYS
The new shade of green looks great, and the number font is fine (a relief, after early reports that the numbers would be Oregon-esque). But ugh, those stripes, or wings, or contrails, or whatever they are—not a great look. It feels a bit like the Jets swooped in and salvaged the now-defunct AAF’s uniforms off the scrapheap.
Also, it’s interesting that they’re putting the city name on the chest. The Browns tried that with their current set, which was unveiled in 2015, and reaction has been largely negative, with many fans thinking it makes the jersey feel too much like a college or even high school design. That goes double for the Jets, because the combination of the green jersey, the chest lettering, the black outlining on the numbers feels a lot like Marshall and North Texas. Grade: C+
On the plus side, there’s no gimmickry or silliness. But that pointy striping feels more arena league than NFL. Grade: B-
THE BLACK ALTERNATE
An NFL team from the northeast wearing a gratuitous black alternate with green and white trim? Gee, I wonder where we might have seen that before. Look, the whole trend of sports teams wearing black alternates had already become tedious by 2003. Nowadays, it’s flat-out embarrassing (just ask the 49ers). Clearly the low point of the new uni set. Grade: D
NFL socks have almost become an afterthought. Teams with multiple sets of pants used to routinely have corresponding socks to provide contrast with the britches (the Jets, for example, had green socks for their white pants and striped white socks for their green pants), but new uni sets these days tend to have only one sock design. That’s the case with the Jets’ new set, which has one primary sock design—green. It looks fine with the white pants but creates the dreaded leotard effect when worn with the green pants. Grade: B
It could have been worse, but it also could have been better. For long-suffering Jets fans who are looking for something new to hang their hopes on, it’s not a bad reboot. But it doesn’t have the feel of a design that’s built to last. NFL rules stipulate that a team can’t change its uniforms more often than once every five years. Does anyone really think this design will last much longer than that? Grade: B-
This from Barry Pachesky at Deadspin, who gets all negatively excited about the bland font:
There are things to like about the new New York Jets uniforms, unveiled Thursday night at an event in Manhattan. And they’re all mostly undone by the jersey tops, the biggest and most important piece of the ensemble, which invite the worst possible comparison an NFL uniform can receive: Arena league.
The helmets are entirely green now, and shiny as heck, and they look great. The team also sports a new, lighter shade of green that is definitely an improvement on the old. (The Jets claim that this shade was designed specifically to look good on TV, which, we’ll see. The new green also gets a name, which is normal, but so do the secondary colors, which is not, considering that they’re, uh, white and black. Say hello to “Gotham Green,” “Spotlight White,” and “Stealth Black.” Just because you’re paying the design team a lot, you don’t have to accept every bit of marketingese they sell you.)
“It’s a statement about the future. I think it’s a statement about how we want to be perceived as a little bolder, a little more innovative and a little greater,” said Jets President Neil Glat. Well, no, it’s a ploy to sell merchandise, but let us take the aesthetics on their own merits. Here are the road, home, and alternate uniforms, pictured on the Jets’ site, which has a whole mess of photos from every angle.
I hate the jerseys. Hate em! Every detail, from the wings (or whatever) on the shoulders to the squished “New York” above the numbers on the front, screams generic. Generic, but also, somehow, extremely 2019, and even if these looked good now, they’re still going to look extremely 2019 in five or 10 years.
I especially hate the numbers. The font is “edgy and unique,” according to the Jets, but I guess words can mean a lot of things. The sans-serif font feels amateurish and looks particularly weird for the 1s, and the only saving grace of the black outline on the numbers for the home jerseys is that it’s not nearly as unappealing as the use of green-outlined-in-black on the road unis.
Black is entirely new to the Jets’ color scheme, and there’s not anything here it makes better—least of all, the new black alternate uniforms, which look too much like ripoffs of the Eagles’. Earlier in the decade, seemingly every American sports team sported a black alternate, and most have wisely since ditched or downplayed them. It’s extremely Jets of the Jets to hop on the trend now, too late.
Look, your mileage may vary with this stuff. Maybe you like the new Jets uniforms. Maybe your kid does! (I can already picture the alternate selling well around here.) Don’t let anyone else’s opinion stop you from liking things. But also, if you’re going to be shelling out 150 bucks for a jersey, you have the right to own something that won’t someday prove regrettable.
The DB would say that the old Jets uniforms were utterly forgettable, bland and dull. So this is a clear improvement, especially with the nice, shiny helmet.
THIS AND THAT
The DB is still trying to figure out how the AAF lost so much money, even if it had no income.
It’s not like the league was up-to-date on its bills. This example from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
When it comes to the disappearance of the Alliance of American Football, players won’t be the only ones left holding the bag.
According to WFTV.com, the University of Central Florida will lose more than $1 million as a result of the shuttering of the league. Per the report, the AAF did not pay UCF under a lease that made the school’s football stadium available for Orlando Apollos home games. Apparently, the school never sent an invoice to the team.
Now, it’s likely too late to do anything, other than get in line with all other creditors for whatever carcass is available to be picked over in bankruptcy.
The Apollos had average attendance in the range of 20,000 per game.
It will be interesting to see how many similar stories emerge in the coming days, as the dust continues to settle on a league that obviously wasn’t sufficiently funded to get through its initial season.
Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com adds this:
Amid reports of players being kicked out of their team-issued housing and stuck with charges on their personal credit cards that the teams were supposed to cover, the Alliance of American Football has taken a lot of criticism in recent days. AAF co-founder Bill Polian admits some of that criticism is warranted.
Polian said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that there were a lot of problems that came up when AAF chairman Tom Dundon decided to pull the plug, and that they’re in the process of fixing those problems.
“We had lots of hiccups,” Polian said. “It came so quickly — some of it was a little bit expected but a lot of it was unacceptable. But we’ve rectified that and I’m glad to see that’s been done. Myself and many of the GMs, even though we’re not on the payroll, we’ve been working all day to try and rectify those problems.”
Polian said he’s no longer getting paid by Dundon but will still try to help players and coaches with any remaining problems.
“I’m no longer employed, like most of the football people — we’re all out of work,” Polian said. “I’ve been doing what I can over the last couple days to help everybody get situated as best I can.”
Polian seems to be suggesting that Dundon is the one who dropped the ball, but it’s also fair to question why Polian and co-founder Charlie Ebersol didn’t have a better plan in place for the AAF, which needed Dundon to swoop in and save it early in the season, and then fell apart as soon as Dundon decided he had lost enough money.
There are some winners in the short run as Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com reports:
Players from the Alliance of American Football were given the green light to sign with NFL teams on Thursday and eleven of them have found new homes already.
The Panthers have shown the most interest in players with experience in the short-lived league. They signed wide receiver Rashad Ross on Thursday and then added three offensive linemen on Friday. Brandon Greene, Parker Collins and Kitt O’Brien will all try for an extended stay in Carolina.
The Steelers and Vikings have each signed two players from the short-lived league. Defensive back Jack Tocho and offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer landed in Pittsburgh while the Vikings added San Antonio Commanders teammates Derron Smith and Duke Thomas to their secondary.
Browns quarterback Garrett Gilbert, Broncos cornerback De’Vante Bausby, Washington defensive end Andrew Ankrah and Chiefs cornerback Keith Reaser have also jumped leagues this week. Given the space on rosters around the league and the chance to look at players in offseason programs as they continue to get underway around the league, there will likely be more to come in the next couple of weeks.
Cynthia Frelund is an “Analytics Expert” at NFL.com – and she has done a Mock Draft based on “analytics.” It doesn’t look like anything else you are going to see, especially since it downgrades quarterbacks.
Welcome to my first official mock draft! My analytics-based mock is based solely on a contextual, data-driven model that aims to do one thing: maximize each team’s potential to win as many games as possible in 2019.
So, before you read any further, take note: I am NOT attempting to predict or divine what teams will ACTUALLY DO on draft day. This is not meant to predict how the draft will play out in reality. Rather, I am using this model to, again, examine what teams should do if winning the most games in 2019 is their only goal.
Here’s how my mock works: I use my draft prospect model go deeper to create a numerical value for each player. These ratings can be compared across years.
Then I use my NFL model, adjusted for new free agent signings, to create projected win-contribution metrics by player, position group and side of the ball. These get added up to forecast win totals for the season.
The results quantify strengths and weaknesses of current NFL rosters. My model also factors in as many known elements of coaching philosophies (of the current staffs) as possible, and of the 2019 opponents. Then my model “selects” the draft prospect that would yield the highest win total for each team next season.
Here’s the part that’s extra: I have projections and results for all teams and the draft prospects they selected over the past 15 seasons. I examine each season’s on-field results, objectively analyzing what happened, along with the trends and strategies that led to success or failure. I also ask coaches, front office executives and even players to help me understand why results occurred. These subjective inputs help shape the results, meaning the model gets “smarter” each season.
Lastly, there are a lot of efficiencies that could be realized via trades. Consider that the Giants and Packers each have two first-round selections, and the Raiders have three; you can imagine how many trade scenarios are possible. So instead of getting into the weeds with imagined trades, I’ve held the order constant.
1 – ARIZONA
Quinnen Williams – DT
School: Alabama | Year: Junior (RS)
At Alabama last season, Williams recorded eight sacks and 71 tackles (19.5 for loss). If we look deeper, we see that, despite being double-teamed at the highest rate in the SEC, he was the most effective interior defender BOTH at stopping the run (42 stops, most among interior defenders, per Pro Football Focus) and defending the pass (56 pressures per PFF, also the most in his position group). As I told you, I create a multi-season model, and Williams has a top-five rating in the sample for his position compared to the projections of past players. Remember also that, as passing — especially quick passing — becomes more prevalent, the value of this position rises. Williams’ multiple capabilities would help the Cardinals address their league-worst red-zone passer rating and completion percentage allowed last season (122.5 and 73.7 percent). Setting aside the long-term implications of what Arizona decides to do with the quarterback position, my model has Arizona winning more games in 2019 with incumbent Josh Rosen starting at QB and Williams on the team than it does with Kyler Murray starting at QB and no first-round upgrade coming on defense.
2 – SAN FRANCISCO
Deandre Baker – CB
School: Georgia | Year: Senior
Remember when I told you that I wasn’t allowing myself to do trades? Well, this pick is an example of where a team could trade down, likely still get the same player and reap a haul in terms of additional picks. I am going to guess people will be a little shocked by a corner being drafted second overall, but hear me out. The acquisitions of veterans Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander changed the Niners’ potential up front. Adding Baker means realizing the NFL-level value of a player who showed at Georgia he could be effective in multiple schemes, possesses elite game-measured speed and, according to PFF, only allowed 10 first downs (and no touchdowns) last season. Baker’s projected NFL contribution creates the kind of front-back defensive balance that has proven to be most correlated to wins. The Niners’ defense posted the lowest single-season marks in NFL history in takeaways (seven) and interceptions (two) last season. Adding Baker here makes all of their other investments (including the signing of veteran corner Richard Sherman last season) most effective and efficient.
3 – NEW YORK JETS
Nick Bosa – Edge
School: Ohio State | Year: Junior
There are a lot of well-documented positives about this edge rusher, but I can add one that may be more unique: Over his past two seasons (17 games), according to my model, not only has he been an elite disruptor, but he’s done it from the broadest range of spaces on the field (think: beating tackles outside and sliding inside to beat guards).
4 – OAKLAND
Josh Allen – Edge
School: Kentucky | Year: Junior
The Raiders’ defense managed only 13 sacks last season, fewest in the NFL. Projecting the Raiders’ defensive stats next season with Allen on the edge shows he could account for more than half of their sack total from last year by himself; in 61 percent of way-too-early simulations, he earns 7-plus sacks.
5 – TAMPA BAY
Devin White – LB
School: LSU | Year: Junior
Kwon Alexander signed in San Francisco, further depleting a defense that allowed a league-worst 110.9 passer rating last season. Adding my model’s highest-impact linebacker — and the one whose coverage potential is the greatest at the next level — moves the Buccaneers’ win-total needle the most. Separately from the analytics, I have asked 10 individual sources from 10 different teams for their thoughts on him — I ask on-field questions only — and they have all gone out of their way to give glowing “personality” reviews. Of the 100-plus guys I have asked about in this draft class, White is the one I have heard of as having the most positive “intangibles.”
6 – NEW YORK GIANTS
Rashan Gary – Edge
School: Michigan | Year: Junior
Gary’s Michigan resume flags him as more of an exceptional athlete than a polished Day 1 starter in the NFL, but the fit here lies in the fact that his role in New York would be somewhat undefined and offer room to maximize his abilities. Gary covered more ground on average in the first 2 seconds after the ball was snapped on passing downs than any other player at his position in the Big Ten over the last two seasons — but that didn’t translate into the highest sack or pressure rates, though. The Giants traded away Olivier Vernon and seem to be rebuilding under coordinator James Bettcher. Helping Gary to realize his potential (and on the edge, no less) gives them the biggest return for the sixth pick.
7 – JACKSONVILLE
Jawaan Taylor – OT
School: Florida | Year: Junior
With Cam Robinson returning from a torn ACL to play left tackle, my model projects the addition of Taylor on the right, where he played at Florida. This will go a long way toward reducing the Jags’ pressure and sack totals, with new quarterback Nick Foles taking the reins. Jacksonville allowed 53 sacks last season (tied for 29th in the NFL).
8 – DETROIT
Greedy Williams – CB
School: LSU | Year: Junior
Detroit added defensive end Trey Flowers to a unit that also includes cornerback Darius Slay, and my model shows that complementing both Flowers and Slay with this cornerback drives the biggest win-total increase for the Lions. Williams’ game-measured straight-line speed staying with receivers (which I measured via computer vision) during his time at LSU and the disruption caused by jamming receivers from the line of scrimmage make him a strategic fit.
9 – BUFFALO
Christian Wilkins – DT
School: Clemson | Year: Senior
The Bills’ defense gave up the third fewest yards per play last season (4.86) and were one of only four teams to allow 5 or fewer yards per play on first down (4.97). In the wake of Kyle Williams’ retirement, fortifying the defensive tackle position is key. The Clemson product’s ability to both stop the run and defend the pass meant he graded in the top three amongst interior defenders last season, per PFF.
10 – DENVER
Jonah Williams – OL
School: Alabama | Year: Junior
My model really likes Williams as a right tackle. I know Denver just invested in a right tackle (Ja’Wuan James) in free agency, and I do have guard as a fit for Williams, as well. But the combination of Williams at right tackle and Garett Bolles at left tackle creates the best opportunity for QB Joe Flacco and the passing game to succeed. According to PFF, Williams only allowed 12 pressures at Alabama last season.
11 – CINCINNATI
Devin Bush – LB
School: Michigan | Year: Junior
There’s a large gap between both linebackers named Devin and the rest of the linebacker field. In light of veteran LB Vontaze Burfict’s departure, Cincinnati adds the linebacker with the best ability to help affect pressure both by rushing the passer (10 sacks in the last two seasons) and in coverage (11 passes defensed over the past two seasons).
12 – GREEN BAY
T.J. Hockenson – TE
School: Iowa | Year: Junior (RS)
Addressing their defense this offseason, via the signings of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Adrian Amos, created a lot of options for the Packers, like, say, trading this pick. Nevertheless, if Green Bay hangs on to the No. 12 selection, Hockenson could be attractive. He dropped only one pass on 51 targets last season (per PFF), and his Iowa resume flags him as a potential generational talent at the position.
13 – MIAMI
Kyler Murray – QB
School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior (RS)
I don’t think this will happen, because in reality, Murray likely won’t still be available. But I can see what the model was doing here. For a team with a lot of areas to focus on, Murray’s ability to run the ball is a big difference-maker (Murray rushed for 1,001 yards on 140 attempts last season, or 7.2 yards per attempt, with 12 TDs); as a more mobile quarterback who is also accurate, his knack for creating would make him a good fit behind Miami’s questionable line.
14 – ATLANTA
Ed Oliver – DT
School: Houston | Year: Junior
With Deion Jones and Keanu Neal returning from injury, putting Oliver next to Grady Jarrett completely changes the space opposing offenses would have to work with in the middle of the field. Considering the Falcons gave up the most passing yards on first down last season (132.6), this selection would be especially helpful in the NFC South; last season, all NFC South teams earned at least 100.5 receiving yards per game on first down, ranking in the top half of the NFL.
15 – WASHINGTON
Montez Sweat – Edge
School: Mississippi State | Year: Senior (RS)
With Preston Smith now a Packer, drafting Sweat provides the best return on investment, based on Sweat’s status as the best edge and hybrid front rusher of the players still available here. The Redskins’ defense allowed the fourth highest third-down conversion percentage (43.9) last season.
16 – CAROLINA
Andre Dillard – OT
School: Washington State | Year: Senior (RS)
My computer vision metrics reveal that Dillard has far superior results in pass protection vs. helping to set up the run. Dillard is likely to succeed at either tackle position.
17 – NEW YORK GIANTS
Dexter Lawrence – DT
School: Clemson | Year: Junior
Lawrence’s addition to the team helps fill the void left by Damon Harrison’s trade to the Lions last October. Lawrence’s profile is that of a “real” nose tackle, except with more speed. Yes, he posted a 5.05-second 40-yard dash as a 6-4 342-pounder — but I’m talking more about his game speed as measured by computer vision.
18 – MINNESOTA
Jeffery Simmons – DT
School: Mississippi State | Year: Junior
We do not have a firm timeline on Simmons’ return from the torn ACL he suffered this February, however, it’s certainly possible he’ll recover in time to play during his rookie season. Yes, my model really focuses on wins this season — which means it’s a little confusing as to how we got here. Here’s how: With Sheldon Richardson having signed in Cleveland, the need for the Vikings at this position increases. Thanks to the presence of an already-great defense, the possibility of getting Simmons even for six games pushes them into a playoff-possible win total range.
19 – TENNESSEE
Marquise Brown – WR
School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior
My wide receiver list is way different from those of many other draft analysts, and I’m kind of bummed Brown is the only receiver going in Round 1 here. No receiver in a Power-Five school had more yards after the catch with contact. (This is not just yards after the catch; rather, we’re talking about yards after catches that were contested or included contact on an attempted tackle.)
20 – PITTSBURGH
Byron Murphy – CB
School: Washington | Year: Sophomore (RS)
Corner is such a strong need for the Steelers that corners ranked even lower than Murphy create the biggest win increase for the Steelers.
21 – SEATTLE
Garrett Bradbury – C
School: N.C. State | Year: Senior (RS)
The interior of the Seahawks’ line is a major area of potential improvement, and North Carolina State’s center is the highest rated here.
22 – BALTIMORE
Clelin Ferrell – Edge
School: Clemson | Year: Junior (RS)
The Clemson edge rusher, who racked up 20 sacks over the past two seasons, helps restock a Ravens defense depleted by the departures of Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley.
23 – HOUSTON
Dalton Risner – OT
School: Kansas State | Year: Senior (RS)
The Texans’ O-line was my lowest rated O-line last season. Risner was a four-year starter at Kansas State and provides the kind of pass and run protection at the tackle position that will help optimize QB Deshaun Watson’s efficiency.
24 – OAKLAND (from Chicago)
Cody Ford – OL
School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior (RS)
The Raiders’ O-line was problematic last season — and that was before Kelechi Osemele was traded away. Free-agent signee Trent Brown would be best complemented at left tackle by the addition of an upgrade at right tackle (even with 2018 first-round OT Kolton Miller on the roster), which is where this Oklahoma product projects to be most successful.
25 – PHILADELPHIA
Johnathan Abram – S
School: Mississippi State | Year: Senior
Defensive back flags as the area where the Eagles have the biggest need. The Mississippi State safety projects to fit well with Malcolm Jenkins in a hybrid safety role. My favorite note on him: During his time at Mississippi State, Abram had the most positive results of all the safeties in this draft (measured by disruptions to catches and limiting yards after the catch) when asked to defend the slot.
26 – INDIANAPOLIS
Brian Burns – Edge
School: Florida State | Year: Junior
At Florida State last season, Burns recorded the third most pressures (66, per PFF) among edge defenders. As measured by my computer vision, Burns covered the third most average yards per play in 2 seconds or less among edge defenders in the ACC.
27- OAKLAND (from Dallas)
Rock Ya-Sin – CB
School: Temple | Year: Senior
The spot across from Gareon Conley is very important to the Raiders’ win totals, once the pass rush and O-line are upgraded. Ya-Sin’s game speed and ball tracking ratings are high. He wasn’t asked to play zone in college as often as other corners in this draft, but nevertheless, he would be a projected Day 1 starter for Oakland.
28 – LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Nasir Adderley – S
School: Delaware | Year: Senior
Adderley + Derwin James = yikes for other teams. The Delaware safety has strong coverage upside at the NFL level.
29 – KANSAS CITY
Jerry Tillery – DT
School: Notre Dame | Year: Senior
Switching to a 4-3 means more opportunity for interior pressure to be game-changing. The impact of Notre Dame interior rusher Tillery, especially next to Chris Jones, will help offset the loss of Dee Ford, who himself was responsible for 10 turnovers last season.
30 – GREEN BAY (from New Orleans)
Elgton Jenkins – C
School: Mississippi State | Year: Senior (RS)
Adding to the interior of the offensive line is the next most impactful move the Packers could make if the draft shook out like this. The Mississippi State center would really help a line that allowed 53 sacks (tied for third most in the NFL). PFF measures Jenkins as only allowing five total pressures in 369 pass blocking snaps last season.
31 – LOS ANGELES RAMS
Deionte Thompson – S
School: Alabama | Year: Junior (RS)
The Rams added free safety Eric Weddle this offseason, and the Alabama safety would be an excellent complement to him. This is another instance of a safety being projected as a hybrid, and coordinator Wade Phillips is exactly the right teacher to get the most out of him. One big trend reflected in my model is the evolution of the safety position. This is a prime example, because for another team, Thompson would be more of a “true” free safety. But as offenses evolve, changing the roles of tight ends and running backs and relying more on short and quick passes, safety roles are evolving, too..
32 – NEW ENGLAND
Dwayne Haskins – QB
School: Ohio State | Year: Sophomore (RS)
If you think I’m suggesting Tom Brady isn’t playing, think again. Backup quarterbacks are underrated. Consider that 16 teams — half of the NFL — used multiple quarterbacks last season. Also, I’ve been tracking teams who have starter-level backups and strong development plans for future starters, and they win more games. Non-starters who have similar play-style profiles to the starters also have greater rates of success, and in this sense, the pocket-passing Haskins fits.