AROUND THE NFL

Michael David Smith on what’s happening in Los Angeles:

 

The Chargers’ win over the Chiefs on Thursday night leaves open the real possibility that the road to the Super Bowl, in both the AFC and the NFC, could go through Los Angeles.

 

The Chargers are now two wins and a Chiefs loss away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and the Rams are three wins and a Saints loss (or two wins and two Saints losses, among other possibilities) away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. If they had home-field advantage, both teams would be one win, in the divisional round of the playoffs, away from hosting the conference championship games.

 

That would be quite an event for the NFL, which spent two decades out of Los Angeles and now wants to see the return succeed in a big way.

 

Of course, neither the Chargers nor the Rams are exactly in ideal situations to host major playoff games. The Chargers are playing in a tiny stadium in Carson, California, and often play in front of as many fans of the road team as the home team. The Rams are playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and although they’ve generated more local support than the Chargers, they’re not exactly the hottest ticket in Tinseltown either.

 

Starting with the 2020 season, the Rams and Chargers will share a new stadium, which promises to be an architectural marvel that the NFL would love to show off with big playoff games. If both teams were to host conference championship games while sharing a stadium, however, there would be logistical challenges. The NFL has confirmed in the past that if the Giants and Jets, or any other teams that share a home stadium, were to host the conference championship games in the same year, the league would move one conference championship game to Monday night.

 

It’s possible that the NFL would find that giving each conference championship game its own day would bring even more attention to the games and generate higher television ratings. If that happens, the NFL might make the Sunday-Monday conference championship game split a permanent change.

 

That’s a long way off. But both Los Angeles teams hosting the conference championship games could be just five weeks away.

 

In 2016, the teams were a combined 9-23 (4-12 LA Rams, 5-11 lame duck San Diego Chargers).  Two years later, they are a combined 22-5 at the moment.

 

Smith also has clinching scenarios which we have edited out tie scenarios below:

 

The Los Angeles Chargers became the fourth team to clinch a playoff berth.

 

With their win over the Chiefs on Thursday night, the Chargers have joined the Chiefs as the only two AFC teams to clinch a spot in the playoffs. They are still battling it out for the AFC West title, with one of them likely to earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and the other team stuck as a wild card.

 

Two teams in the AFC can clinch playoff berths and join the Chiefs and Chargers this weekend, while in the NFC, the Saints and Rams are already in and three more teams could join them this weekend.

 

Here are the playoff scenarios for this weekend:

 

AFC

 

CLINCHED: Kansas City Chiefs-Playoff berth

Los Angeles Chargers-Playoff berth

 

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-4) (at Pittsburgh (7-5-1), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)

 

New England clinches AFC East division title with:

 

1) NE win + MIA loss or tie OR

 

New England clinches a playoff berth with:

 

1) NE win + TEN loss or tie OR

 

2) NE tie + BAL loss + TEN loss + IND loss or tie

 

HOUSTON TEXANS (9-4) (at New York Jets (4-9), Saturday, 4:30 PM ET, NFL Network)

 

Houston clinches AFC South division title with:

 

1) HOU win + IND loss or tie + TEN loss or tie OR

 

Houston clinches a playoff berth with:

 

1) HOU win + MIA loss or tie + PIT loss OR

 

2) HOU win + MIA loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR

 

NFC

 

CLINCHED: Los Angeles Rams-NFC West

New Orleans Saints-NFC South

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (11-2) (at Carolina (6-7), Monday night, 8:15 PM ET, ESPN)

 

New Orleans clinches a first-round bye with:

 

1) NO win + CHI loss or tie OR

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-2) (vs. Philadelphia (6-7), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)

 

Los Angeles clinches a first-round bye with:

 

1) LAR win + CHI loss or tie OR

 

CHICAGO BEARS (9-4) (vs. Green Bay (5-7-1), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

 

Chicago clinches NFC North division title with:

 

1) CHI win OR

 

2) MIN loss OR

 

Besides with a win, Chicago clinches a playoff berth with:

 

2) WAS loss or tie

 

DALLAS COWBOYS (8-5) (at Indianapolis (7-6), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX)

 

Dallas clinches NFC East division title with:

 

1) DAL win OR

 

3) PHI loss + WAS loss

 

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-5) (at San Francisco (3-10), Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, FOX)

 

Seattle clinches a playoff berth with:

 

1) SEA win

 

– – –

With numerous traditional league cities, plus historic Canton, begging for the NFL Draft – the NFL takes the 2020 edition to Las Vegas in advance of the Raiders arrival.  Patrick Schmidt of Fansided.com:

 

The Raiders aren’t the only ones moving to Las Vegas, the NFL Draft is moving there too for 2020.

 

This will be the first time Vegas has hosted the draft that has moved around in recent years from Radio City Music Hall to Chicago to Philadelphia to Arlington and Nashville where the 2019 draft will be held.

 

“The NFL Draft is one of the most-anticipated events of the year and we are excited to take it to Las Vegas,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Raiders, Las Vegas officials and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to create an unforgettable week-long celebration of football for our fans, the incoming prospects and partners.”

 

The announcement comes about a year and a half after the Raiders announced they’d be moving from Oakland to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.

 

At this rate, the Raiders just might be owners of the top pick in the first draft in their new home city. Regardless of that, the draft in Vegas should make for a festive atmosphere for the prospects and their families attending and all the media and fans covering or attending the event.

 

“The Raiders are very excited for Las Vegas and are proud to help host the 2020 NFL Draft,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said, via NFL.com. “Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world and will provide a tremendous experience for the NFL and its fans.”

 

Alabama quarterback and Heisman runner-up, Tua Tagovailoa, could be among the top prospects in that draft should he declare after his junior season.

 

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

NFL.com on the success of the acquisition of WR AMARI COOPER:

 

How good has Amari Cooper been for the Cowboys? Since debuting for America’s Team in Week 9, Cooper leads the NFL with 642 receiving yards and is tied for the league lead with six receiving touchdowns. Dak Prescott has taken off as well, completing a league-best 74.1 percent of his passes and compiling a 105.7 passer rating since Cooper’s arrival.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

QB CARSON WENTZ has a fractured back.  He won’t start Sunday night at the Rams, but they will keep him active for now.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Carson Wentz’s back is more than sore, it’s fractured.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that a battery of tests revealed the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback has a fracture in his back, per sources informed of the injury.

 

Per Rapoport, the Eagles performed CT scans throughout the season, but none revealed the fracture until now. The team is still determining if there is any risk of worsening the injury if Wentz continues to play.

 

The QB will not need surgery.

 

Wentz missed practice as the Eagles sought further information on the back injury. He’d previously been on the injury report with a back injury earlier this season. Coach Doug Pederson characterized the issue as “soreness” on Wednesday. Now we know it’s much more than that.

 

Rapoport previously reported Wentz is expected to miss Sunday’s game versus the Los Angeles Rams, and the Eagles could contemplate shutting down the starter for the season. The fractured back makes it more likely Wentz will miss the final three games.

 

@RapSheet

 With no surgery coming for #Eagles QB Carson Wentz, rest is the key. That’s why he’s not expected to play on Sunday — with QB Nick Foles starting. No determination has been made on Injured Reserve… but they won’t put him at risk. Looking more likely we’ll next see him in ’19.

 

At 6-7, the Eagles still own an outside shot at the playoffs. Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will take over under center as long as Wentz is out. Foles started the first two games of the season as Wentz returned from a torn ACL, completing 65 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception as the Eagles started 1-1.

 

If the Eagles shut down Wentz for the season, they’ll need Foles to recapture last year’s postseason magic to keep Philly’s dimming playoff hopes alive.

 

The back fracture is the latest in a string of issues for Wentz, who played through a rib injury early in his rookie campaign (missed preseason) and suffered a season-ending ACL tear last December.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Part of the reason for the Panthers recent decline is a the shoulder injury that QB CAM NEWTON is playing through with varying degrees of success.  TheRedZone.org:

 

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was officially “limited” at practice on Thursday as he continues to try to battle through a shoulder injury according to the team’s website.

 

The Panthers coaching staff has repeatedly said they are not concerned about Cam’s shoulder but perhaps they should be.  Although he is a total gamer and we have no doubt he will suit up to face the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football with the team’s dwindling playoff hopes on the line, it has been clear that his level of play has not been the same the past few weeks.  He has complained of “soreness” in his surgically-repaired shoulder, most of his passes have been in the short and intermediate range, and his accuracy has fallen off alarmingly.  Most tellingly, backup Taylor Heinicke has been called on in consecutive weeks to throw Hail Marys that Newton would normally have handled.  A physically-diminished Newton does not bode well for the rest of the 2018 season and the Panthers should consider sitting him if/when they are eliminated from the playoff picture.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Anthony Lynn on the winning decision to go for two.  Austin Knoblach of NFL.com also covers the arrival of WR MIKE WILLIAMS:

 

Mike Williams was just as stunned as the rest of the football world when he converted on a two-point conversion attempt to complete the Los Angeles Chargers’ improbable 29-28 comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday.

 

Winning the game didn’t shock him. Rather, he was surprised how easy it was for him to do it.

 

“They left me wide open in the end zone. I was surprised,” Williams said. “They were double-teaming me in the slot, every time I was down there, so I’ll take it to win the game.”

 

The second-year wide receiver was one of the primary catalysts behind the Chargers’ comeback, hauling in seven passes for 76 yards to keep the Chargers in the game.

 

Williams also played a critical role on the game-winning drive. He forced a very questionable pass interference penalty on Kendall Fuller to move the ball up to the 1-yard line before catching the game-tying TD pass on the next play. He then was left wide open on the two-point conversion attempt — a play quarterback Philip Rivers initially didn’t think coach Anthony Lynn would greenlight.

 

“I was coming off to kick the PAT and go to OT and hopefully win the coin toss. And coach Lynn said, ‘hey let’s go win it right now,'” Rivers said. “And we were right back out there. Mike caught a touchdown on the very same play in the other corner of the end zone in the first half and we dressed it up a little bit and threw it to him again.”

 

Lynn never second-guessed his decision to go for the win, which punched the Chargers’ first postseason ticket since 2013.

 

“We didn’t come here for a tie. We came here for the win,” Lynn said. “So, for me, it was a no-brainer.”

 

As for Williams, he said the Chargers’ receiving corps knew they had to pick up the slack on offense after leading receiver Keenan Allen left the game in the second quarter with a hip injury. Williams certainly did his part, showcasing the field-stretching skill set that made him the seventh overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft.

 

“Nobody in the locker room doubted why he was picked seventh, but if anybody had any questions, he’s answered those this season,” Rivers said.

 

We note that the Chargers were down 14 and did not go for two then as the Eagles did earlier in the year and has been proven to be the sound strategy (at least to stat geeks).

 

More thoughts on the game from Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

The Los Angeles Chargers (11-3) are in the postseason. The Chargers clinched an AFC playoff berth with a dramatic, 29-28, comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (11-3) at Arrowhead Stadium. Here’s what we learned from the game:

 

1. The West looked won on Thursday night. Until it wasn’t. Down two touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter and without their leading rusher and receiver, Philip Rivers and the Chargers scored twice in the final four minutes against the conference-leading Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to pull even atop the division. After forcing Kansas City’s fourth punt of the game with a quick three-and-out with 2:37 left, Rivers connected deep with Travis Benjamin (2 receptions, 57 yards) twice for key conversions to march L.A. down into the red zone. With eight seconds left, the Chargers earned a first down from the 1-yard line following an iffy pass interference call on Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller covering Mike Williams, one of many suspect whistles blown on both teams. Rivers went back to Williams on the next play for the touchdown. Instead of kicking the extra point and settling for overtime, Coach of the Year front-runner Anthony Lynn called for a two-point conversion. Rivers went right back to the well with Williams, who capped a career night (eight touches, 95 yards, three TDs) with a wide-open reception in the right corner of the end zone.

 

Following the win and the on-field celebration that followed, Lynn defended the decision to go for two, not that he had to. “We didn’t come here for a tie. We came here for the win,” Lynn told reporters. “So, for me, it was a no-brainer.”

 

2. The improbable victory against the AFC’s hottest offense is Los Angeles’ second second-half comeback on the road against an AFC playoff contender in three weeks. The Bolts pulled off a similar feat against Pittsburgh in Week 13. The Chargers clinched an AFC playoff berth with the win and are back in the postseason for the first time since 2013. More importantly, L.A. tied the Chiefs at 11-3 atop the AFC West. Though Kansas City still controls its destiny and will secure a division title and home-field advantage if it wins out in Seattle and against Oakland, the Chargers are now nipping at K.C.’s heels. Los Angeles finishes at home versus the Ravens and at the Broncos.

 

3. Eric Berry’s return to the Chiefs secondary after nearly 16 months on the shelf couldn’t salvage the chronically dismal unit. The safety was all over the field in the first half, finding himself in coverage and blitz packages during his 27 snaps. But Berry didn’t see the field once in the final two quarters when L.A. made its comeback. It was expected that Berry would be on a pitch count coming off his heel injury and Chiefs coach Andy Reid confirmed as much after the loss, telling reporters the team “kind of backed off” Berry’s reps in the second half.

 

The Berry-less secondary was picked apart by an incisive Rivers in the fourth quarter and was especially victimized in the red zone where at the end of the game the Chiefs followed up a killer penalty to facilitate a TD with a blown coverage to allow the game-winning two-pointer.

 

 

“We shot ourselves in the foot here with the penalties. You can’t do that in a game like this,” Reid said. “We were in great position to get off the field, we didn’t. A lot of those extended drives were because of penalties … No excuses, we got to get it done.” The Chiefs committed 10 penalties on the evening.

 

4. The Chargers entered Thursday night short of their top two rushers and within 30 minutes of kickoff found themselves without their leading receiver. Keenan Allen suffered a hip injury that kept him out of the second half, roaming the sidelines alongside fellow injured skill players Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. And yet the Bolts had little trouble moving the ball on their three second-half touchdown drives thanks to clutch play from farther down the depth chart.

 

“They’re used to when Keenan’s out there,” Rivers said of his secondary players. “Keenan gets a lot of the attention and he was getting it early. And then all the sudden Keenan was out and they have to shift gears.”

 

Shift, they did. Williams was a dual-threat revelation, earning in one night the seventh overall pick L.A. spent on him in 2017. Impending free agent Tyrell Williams was targeted 12 times and reeled in six catches of his own. Even ol’ man Antonio Gates got in on the action, juking Chiefs defensive backs out of their cleats in the open field to extend drives. Lynn’s decision to keep Gordon (MCL sprain) under wraps for another week paid off, as Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome filled in nicely, combining for 92 yards on 22 attempts. Los Angeles has one of, if not the deepest rosters in football, one constructed for nights like this and January nights to come.

 

5. Kansas City wasn’t quite shut down by Los Angeles’ defense — the Chiefs after all did score four touchdowns — but Patrick Mahomes and Co. were held in check on half of their drives. The Chiefs punted as many times as they scored, and none of their drives ending in a punt lasted longer than four plays. Kansas City was held to a season-low 294 total yards by Gus Bradley’s defense, which eliminated for the most part the big-play threat posed by Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Kelvin Benjamin (11 snaps, one catch) was a negligible presence. Without the injured Spencer Ware and the released Kareem Hunt, Mahomes instead ran most of his offense through the backs Williams, Damien and Darrel (unrelated). K.C. relied on an effective screen game with Damien Williams, who led the team in rushing (49 yards), receiving (74), and scored twice on the goal line in the second half. The MVP contender Mahomes still displayed flashes of brilliance, his first-quarter TD toss to Demarcus Robinson chief among them, but the fourth-quarter magic he mustered just five days ago against Baltimore wasn’t there on Thursday.

 

6. Kansas City’s front seven can’t win games all by itself but it sure as hell can try. Led by the unstoppable Chris Jones, the Chiefs took down Rivers four times in the first half and five times in the game. The third-year defensive lineman had 2.5 sacks, all in the first half, and eight (!) QB hits on Rivers. Jones has 14 sacks on the season, second behind Aaron Donald’s 16.5, and tied an NFL record by recording a sack in 10 consecutive games. He’s due some money. It takes a special pass rusher to relegate Dee Ford and Justin Houston (2.5 sacks combined) to the bottom of the paragraph.

 

Does the NFL really want the spectacle (or lack thereof) of an NFL playoff game at StubHub Center?  Could such a thing be moved to the Coliseum?  Would anyone attend?  Lots of visiting fans from Houston or Pittsburgh?

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

This is the guy that Hue Jackson wanted to keep on the bench.  NFL.com:

 

Not only is Baker Mayfield 3-2 in five starts under new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, he has been one of the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks since the Browns’ coaching shakeup in Week 9. In that time, Mayfield ranks third in completion percentage (73.2), first in yards per pass attempt (9.2), and third in passer rating (114.4) among QBs to make at least four starts.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

RB STEVAN RIDLEY, who sees the Patriots this week as a member of the Steelers, says the Patriots made him a non-person after an injury.  Kevin Duffy of the Boston Herald:

 

When Stevan Ridley tumbled to the turf at Buffalo four seasons ago, he was one of the more successful young running backs in the league.

 

He already had a 1,200-yard season under his belt. A tough, physical runner, Ridley had logged a pair of 100-yard games early in the 2014 campaign, his final year under contract with the Patriots.

 

But a torn ACL and MCL suffered that October ended his season and his tenure in New England. It also sent his career in a direction he never could have anticipated.

 

Since the injury, Ridley has worn seven different NFL uniforms and totaled 265 rushing yards.

 

Patriots notebook: Stephen Gostkowski moving on from rough outing vs. Dolphins

Now with the Steelers, Ridley has been working to break the cycle of being a backup and third-stringer, “fighting and clawing” for an opportunity to showcase his abilities.

 

And he’s been waiting for years to do it against the Patriots.

 

“I’m very open and I have to be real: I want this game more than any other game, man,” Ridley told The Herald. “That’s just the bottom line to it. And it’ll be that way from this year until I go in the grave. I’m just that kind of person.”

 

He didn’t mince words when asked why.

 

“I was trashed after an injury,” Ridley said. “I’m just going to put it that way. I’m not going to say specifically, but to be a starter for (the Patriots) for four years, to tear my ACL and never get a call back, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

 

Ridley indicated the Patriots did not contact him after his contract expired at the end of the 2014 season.

 

“And now they’re still looking for a running back to try to come in and play — how many running backs have been through there to try to give them some consistency as a quote-unquote first or second down back?” Ridley said. “They’re still looking for it right now. Yeah, it’s very personal. It is.”

 

After Ridley’s injury, the Patriots briefly leaned on one-hit wonder Jonas Gray to carry the running game. Then LeGarrette Blount walked out on the Steelers, and the Pats scooped him up for a Super Bowl run. Dion Lewis burst onto the scene as a game-changer the following year, and the Pats enjoyed success with the Blount-Lewis combination for several seasons.

 

The Pats let Lewis walk in free agency this past spring, replacing him with first-round rookie Sony Michel. The move didn’t sit well with Lewis, who after the Titans’ win over the Pats gloated, “That’s what happens when you go cheap. You get your ass kicked.”

 

Ridley makes Lewis look like a Patriots homer.

 

“I had circled the game when I was with the Jets — I think it was Week 7 or 8,” Ridley said, “and man, I’ve had that game circled on my schedule every year since I left there to try to get a shot at these guys and get some kind of redemption.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

BROADCAST NEWS

We thought that FOX would produce a higher Thursday rating than its predecessors, for a number of reasons, and they did.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When FOX agreed to a five-year, $3.3 billion deal with the NFL to televise Thursday Night Football, some saw it as an overly costly investment in a product whose ratings were declining. But after the first year of Thursday night NFL games, FOX has to be pleased with the results.

 

Austin Karp of SportsBusiness Daily reports that last night’s Chargers-Chiefs game delivered a 12.4 overnight rating, the second best Thursday Night Football overnight rating of the season, and a whopping 68 percent increase over last year’s Week 15 Thursday night game.

 

With this year’s Thursday night schedule now over, that puts FOX’s Thursday Night Football ratings at 7 percent higher than last year, when the package was split between NBC and CBS. (NFL Network has always simulcast the Thursday Night Football package.)

 

Generally speaking, the Thursday night games seemed to be better this year than last year, not so much because the NFL put together a better schedule (no one could have predicted when the schedule came out in the spring that Chiefs-Chargers would be such a great game), but because the football has been better across the board this year. That’s why ratings are up on Sundays and Mondays, too.

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Here is a Mock Draft from Chris Trapasso of CBSSports.com.  Like Todd McShay, he has a flood of pass rushers.

 

1. Arizona Cardinals

Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State.

There are a select few teams that probably wouldn’t take Nick Bosa at No. 1 overall. The Cardinals are not one of them. Chandler Jones has been a menace on the outside but needs a running mate at the edge-rusher spot. Bosa would fit into that role perfectly.

 

2. Oakland Raiders

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston.

Yes, Maurice Hurst is there on the inside for the Raiders, and I don’t expect the team to give up on P.J. Hall. But Oliver is too talented to pass up, and Jon Gruden will see shades of Warren Sapp in him.

 

3. San Francisco 49ers

Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky.

I have a feeling Allen is going to test through the roof at the combine, and he fits the profile of a top-three pick at the edge-rusher position at close to 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds. While not a master with his hands, he has freaky burst, acceleration, and bend to the quarterback, and his motor never stops humming. He’d be a welcomed addition to the 49ers’ front.

 

4. Buffalo Bills

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama.

The Bills want Josh Allen’s strong arm to be the feature of their passing offense, and they need high-caliber blocking to provide time for receivers running long-developing routes to come open. Williams is the instant starter at right tackle and was tremendous in all phases in that position as a freshman in 2016. 

 

5. New York Jets

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss.

The Jets have an underrated young receiver in Robby Anderson but not much else out wide for Sam Darnold. Brown would be a chain-moving big slot who can create after the catch for Gang Green.

 

6. Jacksonville Jaguars

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon.

Herbert hasn’t stated what he plans to do after Oregon’s bowl game, but there are some rumblings the 6-6 quarterback could declare for the 2019 NFL Draft. The Jaguars need a franchise signal-caller, and while Herbert isn’t a finished product by any means, he has a live arms, loads of athleticism, and flashed good pocket-movement skills during his time as the starter in Eugene.

 

7. Atlanta Falcons

Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson.

Wilkins is the most versatile defensive lineman in this class and has been a steady force on Clemson’s dominant line for three seasons now. He’d be a fun fit next to Grady Jarrett in Dan Quinn’s defense.

 

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU.

 I keep coming back to this prospect-team pairing because it’s ideal. Williams has the size and athleticism to be a No. 1, outside cornerback and that’s precisely what Tampa needs.

 

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State.

The Bengals stay in state with the selection of Haskins, and they don’t feel the need to rush him onto the field, although no one would be surprised if he beat out Jeff Driskel in camp. Haskins demonstrated franchise-quarterback skills for the Buckeyes in his first year as a starter but needs more experience dealing with pressure.

 

10. New York Giants

Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson.

Defensive line, especially on the edge, will be a pressing need for the Giants this offseason, particularly if they clean out some cap space by releasing Olivier Vernon. Ferrell is a lengthy athlete with plenty of strength in his game.

 

11. Cleveland Browns

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State.

Get Baker Mayfield an alpha wideout … on the outside. A presence of that type will do wonders for Jarvis Landry too. Harry may not be the fastest receiver, but he’s a menacing high-pointer and is deceptively athletic.

 

12. Detroit Lions

Zach Allen, EDGE, Boston College.

Like the Giants, the Lions are going to be a NFC team that puts ample resources into rebuilding its pass-rush this offseason. Allen is a large, hand-work master who can play anywhere on the defensive line and create havoc.

 

13. Green Bay Packers

Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma.

Ford is a mammoth individual at 6-4 and 338 pounds. He’s also one of the most light-footed prospects I’ve seen at that size in a long time. Ford’s been at right tackle this season for Oklahoma, and his game is predicated on power. But he’s manned the guard spot for the Sooners in the past, and that’s where he’ll play with the Packers.

 

14. Washington Redskins

Drew Lock, QB, Missouri.

The Redskins probably have to go quarterback early in the 2019 NFL Draft, and they should be happy with this scenario. Lock lands in the nation’s capital after a long, illustrious career in the SEC, the NFL’s farm league.

 

15. Carolina Panthers

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama.

Williams may not fall this far, but it won’t be crazy if a redshirt sophomore with one year of major production doesn’t go in the top five or 10. Williams would add more youth and talent to Carolina’s defensive front, which, surprisingly, needs both of those elements.

 

16. Philadelphia Eagles

Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State.

The Eagles are bracing for the end of Jason Peters’ potential Hall of Fame career, and Lane Johnson could move to left tackle as early as next season. If that’s the case, they need a high-caliber right tackle to maintain their dominance up front. Risner can be that guy.

 

17. Denver Broncos

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia.

In this scenario, there’s not a quarterback the Broncos would take here, so instead they add to their secondary that’s still good but aging. Baker is a mirroring master with loads of experience and production in the SEC.

 

18. Minnesota Vikings

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss.

The Vikings have to get more out of their $84 million investment in Kirk Cousins. Adding serious talent to their offensive line will help them do that. Little needs to add some strength for his anchor and play more under control at times, but he’s a smooth athlete with NFL size and length.

 

19. Miami Dolphins

Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State.

The Dolphins should give Ryan Tannehill more weapons on the perimeter. Harmon is one of the best back-shoulder receivers to come into the NFL in a while and has great size at 6-3 and 215 pounds.

 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington.

Murphy may not declare, as he’s only a redshirt sophomore, but he was the best corner in the Pac-12 this season and is a freaky explosive athlete. If he’s part of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Steelers should have him on their radar. They need more secondary help.

 

21. Indianapolis Colts

Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State.

The Colts seemingly prioritize length and athleticism on their defense, and Oruwariye is a big, long cornerback with dynamic athletic talents.

 

22. Tennessee Titans

Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida.

Polite is gifted physically and flashed some impressive pass-rushing moves during his time at Florida. The Titans have to get younger on the edge.

 

23. Baltimore Ravens

Oshane Ximines, EDGE, Old Dominion.

The Ravens again have one of the league’s best defenses. Both Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith are headed for free agency in a few months. Ximines, who has the best set of pass-rushing moves among edge-rushers not named Nick Bosa in this class, will be needed in Baltimore.

 

24. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)

Devin White, LB, LSU.

This is ideal for the Raiders. They land their quarterback of the defense with the pick they received in the Amari Cooper trade.

 

25. Seattle Seahawks

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida.

Russell Wilson is pressured too much. Taylor has developed nicely in his tenure at Florida and is a dancing bear at 6-5 and around 325 pounds.

 

26. Oakland Raiders from Bears

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma.

How about the infusion of weapons for Derek Carr, who’s really started to click over the past few games? Brown can take the top off any defense and is a good salesman as a route-runner.

 

27. Houston Texans

Terronne Prescod, OG, NC State.

The Texans must get Deshaun Watson better protection. Prescod is a compact, athletic guard who gets underneath defensive linemen on pass plays and in the run game.

 

28. New England Patriots

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson.

Good luck running inside against the Patriots after this selection. Also, Lawrence will provide quality push on the interior as a pass-rusher, because he’s a rare athlete for his size and knows how to use his hands.

 

29. Los Angeles Chargers

Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame.

This is a must-add for the Chargers. They’re awesome on the edges … not so much inside. Tillery is a tall, high-motor defensive tackle with heavy hands.

 

30. Green Bay Packers from Saints

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa. Jimmy Graham’s presence doesn’t stop the Packers from bringing in a super-athletic pass-catching tight end with some blocking prowess in Fant.

 

31. Kansas City Chiefs

Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame.

Love is always around the football. His 35 pass breakups and four picks since the start of 2017 should indicate that. The Chiefs need more youthful talent in their secondary.

 

32. Los Angeles Rams

Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State.

Bradbury started his NC State career at tight end but was converted to offensive line before his first action at the college level. So there won’t be questions about his athleticism. With the amount of stretch run plays the Rams run, they’d be glad to pick Bradbury here.