AROUND THE NFL
We went 2-2 with our Wild Card picks, as the NFC results were ill-guessed.
This week we take both home teams, Kansas City and Baltimore, in the AFC. In the NFC, we think the 49ers will prevail over Minnesota, but the home streak ends with Seattle’s Russell Wilson finding a way to win in Green Bay.
WR ADAM THIELEN shows up on the Vikings injury report. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Wide receiver Adam Thielen didn’t practice on Thursday, but that doesn’t rule him out of Saturday’s game against the 49ers.
Thielen suffered a cut on his ankle during Wednesday’s practice and needed stitches to close the laceration. That led him to sit out the team’s final on-field workout ahead of their trip to California for the game.
“I just got a little tangled up in practice but I’m going to do whatever it takes — it’s playoffs,” Thielen said on NFL Network Thursday. “I’ll do whatever it takes to be out there on Saturday with my teammates and try to help this team win.”
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs returned to practice on Thursday after missing two days due to illness. He does not have an injury designation.
The Vikings ruled out cornerback Mackensie Alexander after he had knee surgery earlier this week. Safety Jayron Kearse (toe, knee) is listed as doubtful.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Once the blue bloods (and we don’t mean cops) of the New York athletic scene, the Giants now have a coach promising blue collar. The AP:
Joe Judge has every intention of bringing old-fashioned, blue-collar football back to the struggling New York Giants.
Roughly three minutes after being introduced as coach of the Giants, the relative unknown 38-year-old disciple of two of football’s coaching greats set out to answer the question of who is this young man taking over a franchise that has made the playoffs once since the 2011 season.
“What I am about is an old-school physical mentality,” Judge said Thursday. “We are going to put a product on the field that this city and region are proud of because this team will represent this area. We will play fast. We will play downhill. We will be aggressive. We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, and we will play every play with a relentless, competitive attitude.”
The team did not release terms of Judge’s contract, but it certainly was not close to the seven-year, $62 million deal the Carolina Panthers gave Matt Rhule on Tuesday. The former Giants assistant had been considered a front-runner for the Giants’ job.
Judge refused to answer a question about being the Giants’ second choice, insisting his sole focus is taking advantage of the opportunity he has been given. He said his team will be fundamentally sound and prepared. He said he will take care of his players and asked them to give everything they have.
If that sounds like things that Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Alabama coach Nick Saban would say, it’s not surprising. Judge worked for both men, winning two national titles with Saban and the Crimson Tide and three with Belichick and the Pats.
Judge said Saban taught him to address everyone on not only what they had to do, but how it should look, what they are going to do to get there and why it is important. Belichick made him understand the need to be flexible with his personnel and to make sure they were playing to their strengths.
Judge talked for roughly 20 minutes in setting out his goals for a team that has won 12 games over the past three seasons, including nine under Pat Shurmur over the past two.
Shurmur was fired a week ago Monday. They Giants needed eight days and five interviews to find a successor.
Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch, who have lost credibility with their recent hires of Ben McAdoo and Shurmur, described Judge as detailed-orientated, passionate, disciplined, someone with a voracious appetite to learn, a great communicator, a student and a teacher.
Judge plans to take his time assembling a staff, saying he wants teachers. He wants his players to have a team-first approach.
Mara said he went into the interview with Judge on Monday not expecting that much since he did not know much about him. Halfway through the meeting, he felt strongly the Giants had their next coach.
The Giants had an interview scheduled with Rhule on Tuesday. The team planned to keep the appointment but Rhule’s agent telephoned to say his client had a deal with the Panthers.
The Giants felt the length of the deal was too long and Mara said they were excited about Judge.
“There are always risks when you hire a coach who has never been a head coach. I am just excited about what he brings to the table. He has a certain poise and presence.”
The Giants were once the team of corporate Manhattan and Westchester County. The Jets catered to Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens. Then both teams ended up in New Jersey.
Doug Pederson fired two coaches, a day after lavishing them with praise. Jelani Scott of NFL.com:
Things appeared to be all good just a day ago but the Philadelphia Eagles pivoted on Thursday, and decided it was time for a change.
In a statement from coach Doug Pederson, the Eagles announced that offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walch had been relieved of their duties, a stark contrast to the comments Pederson made Wednesday. What a difference a day makes.
“After much consideration and discussion, I have decided to make a change at the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach positions,” Pederson said. “It was not an easy decision for me to make and I appreciate everything Mike Groh and Carson Walch contributed to the organization and to my staff.
“As I said yesterday, they were a big part of our success down the stretch this past season. This is one of the most difficult parts of the job and something that weighs on me, but ultimately I have to make decisions that I believe are in the best interest of the football team moving forward.”
Pederson also acknowledged and apologized for his comments on Groh and Walch in addition to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who is in the running for the Browns’ head coaching job. Pederson said on Wednesday that he assumed Schwartz will be back next season, despite no formal decision being made regarding his standing and the Eagles still evaluating the team top to bottom.
A lot of Pederson’s statement was centered around walking back what he said 24 hours ago. Aside from stating outright that “both those guys will be back” in 2020, Pederson gave a vote of confidence for Groh and Walch during his press conference, giving the impression that he and team management were pleased with both coaches and willing to keep them in the fold.
“I think both of those guys did an outstanding job for me this year. There were a lot of things we faced on offense as you know, through adversity, through injury, through many different facets of trying to get the pieces together,” Pederson previously said. “So my hat goes off to both of those gentlemen because of the game plans that Mike and I and the offensive staff put together, first of all. Then here towards the end of the season, Carson Walch having a big impact on getting these young players ready to go and to play at a high level. That’s not easy.
“For guys to basically come off our practice roster, who were within weeks of being on our roster or being on the practice squad, to be elevated to game status, it’s not easy to do, and these two gentlemen did an outstanding job for me, for the team, and really put us in a position to be in the postseason here at the end of the year.”
One gets the impression that Pederson does not control who is one his coaching staff.
Doug Williams survives the staff overhaul in Washington, but in a new role. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
The regime change in Washington is still underway.
The Redskins announced on Thursday multiple moves indicating a complete reorganization of the front office.
Just over a week after parting ways with team president Bruce Allen, Washington announced it was dismissing senior vice president of football operations Eric Schaffer after 17 seasons with the organization.
The Redskins also announced that Doug Williams was reassigned out of the player personnel department, will be named senior vice president of player development and will report directly to new coach Ron Rivera.
“We want to create an atmosphere that is all about the players,” Rivera said in a statement. “Doug will be an invaluable asset in player development in making sure that all of our players have the guidance and resources needed to be successful on and off the field.”
A Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the organization, Williams had been in Washington’s personnel department since 2015 and the senior VP of player personnel since 2017. In his new role, he will work alongside newly promoted senior director of player development Malcolm Blacken.
As for the incoming personnel in D.C., Washington also announced the hiring of Rob Rogers to replace Schaffer as its new senior vice president of football administration. Holding a background in player finance and roster and salary cap management, Rogers had been with the Carolina Panthers for the past 25 years, nine of which came with Rivera in charge.
Rogers is the third former Panthers employee to be hired in Washington since Rivera was hired. The Redskins brought in Ryan Vermillion as head athletic trainer after 18 seasons in Carolina in the same capacity and hired Scott Turner as offensive coordinator after he spent the last two seasons with the Panthers.
Long seen as an insular organization, the Redskins are being remolded in the image of Rivera, an outsider, and his former Panthers co-workers.
The DB was there when Mike Mularkey started his NFL coaching career with Sam Wyche and the Buccaneers.
Atlanta Falcons tight ends coach and former NFL head coach Mike Mularkey is retiring after 25 years of coaching in the NFL.
“I’ve been blessed to do this for a long time and have a lot of great memories from the game I love,” Mularkey said in a statement. “I’ve also missed a lot of time with my family who I love and who has supported me so much throughout my career. I am looking forward to spending even more time with them and making even more memories.”
Mularkey’s retirement was one of two coaching moves the Falcons announced Thursday. They also added Joe Whitt Jr., last with the Cleveland Browns, as the new secondary coach under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
Mularkey, quarterback Matt Ryan’s first NFL offensive coordinator back in 2008, came back as tight ends coach for the 2019 season. He was instrumental in the continued development of one-time Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper.
“I learned a tremendous amount from him; really value his leadership and wisdom,” Hooper told ESPN after the Mularkey announcement.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn praised Mularkey for his career accomplishments.
“What an awesome career for Mike,” Quinn said. “When you look back at his 25-year coaching career, you’ll not only see a great coach but you’ll also see an unbelievable human being and leader. Mike has been a great asset for our organization and for me personally. We wish he and his family well and congratulate him on a well-deserved retirement.”
Mularkey, who is 58, was an NFL head coach for three franchises: the Buffalo Bills (2004-05), Jacksonville Jaguars (’12) and Tennessee Titans (’15-17) and had a career record of 36-53 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs.
The Falcons didn’t immediately announce a successor to Mularkey, who brought an emphasis on physical, run-oriented, power football to the offense — an element the Falcons sorely need to reestablish next season. The Falcons could promote offensive assistant Ben Steele to tight ends coach, considering Steele coached the tight ends in Tampa Bay under current Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Whatever the case, Quinn insisted the Falcons would examine ways to run the ball more efficiently next season.
Vagabond CB JANORIS JENKINS, who talked his way off the Giants, is trying to talk his way back for a return to New Orleans. Rod Walker of NoLa.com:
Janoris Jenkins wasn’t around for the Minneapolis Miracle or the no-call.
Heck, the cornerback wasn’t even around for the Saints’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons in November or the one to the San Francisco 49ers just a month ago.
But being the new kid on the block didn’t ease the sting of an early playoff exit Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
“It was tough,” Jenkins said. “It hurt me, I can’t front. We’re going to come back next year and hopefully make it back and do better than we did this year.”
Jenkins was speaking Monday as he and his teammates cleaned out their lockers for the final time this season. For some of them, it was their final time in the Saints locker room. They’ll move on to other teams. Jenkins hopes he is one of the ones who returns. When he talks about the Saints’ future and erasing the pain and frustrations of three straight playoffs, he often uses the word “we.”
“You just have to get over that hump,” Jenkins said. “And when we do, it’s going to be special.”
Jenkins wants to be a part of it. But that decision will be up to the Saints, not him.
When the Saints claimed him off waivers in December, they also claimed the final year of his contract with the New York Giants. That would hit the Saints’ salary cap for just over $11 million in 2020. Or the Saints could extend his deal and lighten the load on what he counts toward the salary cap. Based on what he did in his brief time in New Orleans, the Saints may be willing to do just that. Jenkins provided just a small sample, but what he showed may have been enough.
Jenkins helped keep Vikings receiver Stephon Diggs in check in Sunday’s 26-20 loss in the wildcard round of the playoffs. Diggs, who Jenkins shadowed in man-to-man coverage, finished with just two catches for 36 yards and was targeted five times. The week before that in his first start in the regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers, Jenkins recorded his first interception as a Saint. He finished the year with five interceptions when you throw in the four he had with the Giants. That’s tied for second in the league.
“I thought he did well,” coach Sean Payton said Tuesday. “Look, he’s a real good foot athlete. He’s smart, he came in and competed. Obviously he was in great shape, but I was encouraged and impressed.”
Jenkins’ assessment of his time in New Orleans?
“I did my job,” he said. “I can say that.”
But it wasn’t just his work on the field that Jenkins was pleased with. He likes what he saw off the field, too. The culture in the Saints’ locker room, something often talked about quite a bit the past few seasons, made a lasting impression on Jenkins in a short amount of time.
“You could tell there is a lot of love around the building and they are focused on winning,” Jenkins said. “You have a lot of leaders in here. Everybody is self motivated and everybody loves to play football. You can tell by the way they act and how they approach things.”
And for Jenkins, who turned 31 in October, that’s a little different from his previous stops with the Giants and the then-St. Louis Rams.
“Everybody has their different ways of how they handle things,” Jenkins said. “I just feel like here it’s more tight, more family-oriented. A lot of guys come in here every day excited, with the same energy. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
He would like to stay a part of it. But the Saints’ other cornerback who played opposite Marshon Lattimore — Eli Apple — figures into the equation, too. Apple started every game this season before suffering an ankle injury late in the season. He is an unrestricted free agent.
Jenkins hopes to be back in the Saints’ locker room in a few months. And he’d like to be back playing for the home team in the Dome like he was on Sunday.
“That’s my plan,” Jenkins said. “I’d love to see that. Business is business. They control what goes on. I’m just happy to be here and hope I can stay.”
Changes are spotted on the Cardinals coaching staff. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
It’s become a cliché at this point, for the coach on the hot seat to say he’ll keep showing up until his key card doesn’t work.
For lower-level assistants, the indicator may be the team website.
According to Jeremy Cluff of the Arizona Republic, five Cardinals assistants have been removed from the team’s website in the last 24 hours, including two who were previously reported to be out as head coach Kliff Kingsbury tweaks his staff for his second season.
Those first two were defensive line coach Chris Achuff and assistant special teams coach Randall McCray, whom Kingsbury inherited from Steve Wilks’ short-time staff. The others were assistant strength and conditioning coach Vernon Stephens, defensive assistant Chris Wilson, and assistant wide receivers coach Peter Badovinac.
Presumably, their key cards no longer work. Or won’t soon.
LB KWON ALEXANDER, a key cog in the 49ers defense, is back for Saturday against the Vikings. Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com:
The bye week was good to the San Francisco 49ers, who are about as healthy as they’ve been since Week 3 at the most opportune time.
For Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Niners are likely to welcome back four key players from injury.
Safety Jaquiski Tartt (ribs), defensive end Dee Ford (quad/hamstring) and guard Mike Person (neck) are on track to be ready to take on Minnesota, with only Ford appearing on the injury report as questionable. He’s likely to go through some pregame testing before a decision is made.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said linebacker Kwon Alexander (torn pectoral) will be activated from injured reserve Friday and available for Saturday’s game. Alexander is not listed on the injury report, but San Francisco wouldn’t be activating him if it didn’t believe he would be able to play.
Game plans for every divisional-round matchup: How Titans, Texans pull off an upset
Alexander’s return will require a corresponding roster move that the Niners have not announced. Like Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, Alexander is returning from what is normally a six-month injury in a little more than two months. He wore a blue no-contact jersey in practice all week and made it through the week without any issues.
The biggest remaining question is how much Alexander will play. Earlier in the week, Shanahan indicated Alexander could be a bit restricted from his usual workload and rookie Dre Greenlaw would continue to get plenty of playing time.
RB MARK INGRAM was back at practice on Thursday. Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram was listed as questionable Thursday for Saturday’s playoff game against the Tennessee Titans but is expected to play, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Ingram returned to practice Thursday, participating in his first team workout since injuring his left calf on Dec. 22.
Ingram did not appear to favor his injured calf when doing some light running and performing high knee kicks on the sideline during the special-teams portion of practice. No offensive drills were run in the 30-minute media viewing period.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Ingram was a limited participant in practice.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Harbaugh said after Thursday’s practice.
The top-seeded Ravens host the No. 6 seed Titans on Saturday in an AFC divisional playoff game.
Ingram, 30, was selected to his third Pro Bowl this season after finishing fourth in the NFL with 15 touchdowns. In his first season with the Ravens, he was second on the team with 1,018 yards rushing, which is the third time he has cracked 1,000 yards in a season.
He injured his left calf early in the fourth quarter of Baltimore’s 31-15 win at Cleveland on Dec. 22. An MRI revealed a mild to moderate strain, Harbaugh said.
The Ravens signed veteran T ANDRE SMITH, the former first round pick of the Bengals, this week. He’s 32 and also played with the Cardinals and Vikings.
Turron Davenport on the role played by Eddie George as DERRICK HENRY has broken out:
Eddie George hasn’t suited up since 2003, but he’s still making an impact for the Tennessee Titans. His relationship with running back Derrick Henry helped spark a late 2018 surge that Henry has taken into the new season.
Rewind to midway through last season, and things just weren’t working for Henry. He was averaging only 3.25 yards per carry and had reached the end zone just once through the first seven weeks. After a 20-19 loss to the Chargers in which Henry had 12 carries for just 33 yards, he was searching for answers.
Henry texted George — with whom he first crossed paths when Henry won the Heisman Trophy in 2015 — to see if they could talk. The ensuing conversation led to Henry adopting a new approach to carrying the football.
“He shot me straight. It was what I needed to hear. He told me I needed to be more physical and finish runs, make the defense pay,” Henry said. “He told me I could play better, and I wasn’t playing to my potential. It gave me a different outlook. The mindset, when I talked to Eddie, it was mind over matter. It’s either going to be you or me and it ain’t going to be me.”
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George felt the 6-foot-3, 247-pound Henry needed to run more like he used to — with the authority to make defenders pay for trying to tackle him.
“It comes down to you imposing your will on defenders. You are too big not to use that as your strength,” George said, according to the team website. “You now have to run as if your career depends on it, because it does. Your career depends on this, so you have to run hard every single play, whether it is one carry or 25 carries. You have to run like it is your last carry because it might be.”
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Henry said when he was growing up he looked up to George, who rushed for over 10,000 yards for the Titans. They caught up with each other recently when they filmed the latest “Heisman House” commercial. Henry said he usually dreads the long flight back to Nashville from the West Coast, but it was a lot better since George was on the plane with him. They talked football the whole time.
The two have been compared since Henry was drafted in the second round by the Titans in 2016. While Henry is his own back and doesn’t want to be compared with George or anyone else, he is well aware of the Titans fans’ love for George.
“I hear his name all of the time, from the time I got drafted. ‘Ed-die.’ You hear how they say ‘Hen-ry’ in the stadium, but that all came from him,” Henry said. “He’s the epitome of what I want to be and how you play the game. Being a big back, having big size, being physical, catching the ball, he was the whole thing. Hopefully, sooner than later he gets into the Hall of Fame.”
It’s a discussion as old as time – we thought the NFL injury report was designed to let gamblers safely know who was going to play in the next game. If a player has an “injury”, but is certain to play, must that injury be listed? We think not, but the NFL has ruled otherwise in the past (Brett Favre comes to mind) and they may again regarding a Bills player, DE JERRY HUGHES, who played every game in 2019.
Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes revealed on social media this week that he played with torn ligaments in his wrist.
That has prompted an NFL investigation into whether the Bills violated the league policy on reporting injuries, Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN reports.
The Bills did not list Hughes with a wrist injury at any time in the 2019 season. The team did list him as missing practice or as limited with a groin injury and for a veteran rest day at different times in the year, according to Louis-Jacques.
Coach Sean McDermott was asked at his season-ending news conference about why the Bills didn’t list Hughes with a wrist injury.
“He was on the injury report. It was not in relation to his wrist,” McDermott said, via Louis-Jacques. “He was on the injury report, I believe, at one point for his groin, and then another time just overall for veteran rest.”
Hughes has not missed a game in his seven seasons in Buffalo.
The NFL’s policy states “all players who have reportable injuries must be listed on the Practice Report, even if the player takes all the reps in practice, and even if the team is certain that he will play in the upcoming game.”
The NFL punished the Steelers for not listing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with an elbow injury before their Week Two game. The Steelers paid a $75,000 fine and coach Mike Tomlin a $25,000 fine.
Hughes made 4.5 sacks in the regular season and a career-best three in Saturday’s loss to the Texans in the wild-card round.
THIS AND THAT
SUPER BOWL TICKETS
The end of Super Bowl tickets as we know them looms. And then the NFL will know who is re-selling tickets and to who/whom. Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com:
The good old days of NFL fans wrapping their hands on paper tickets stubs for the Super Bowl appear to be numbered. So much so, next month’s Super Bowl LIV might be the last time the game isn’t fully converted to mobile ticket entry.
League and industry sources confirmed a report this week from The Athletic that the NFL is aiming to push this year’s Super Bowl to roughly 10,000 mobile entries, which the report stated would double last season’s figure. The increase is aimed at measuring the feasibility and potential pitfalls of converting the Tampa Super Bowl in 2021 almost entirely to entry via mobile phones, which would essentially eliminate the age-old “in-hand” ticket stubs that have come to define part of the Super Bowl experience.
A league source confirmed The Athletic’s reporting that the NFL is weighing the potential of issuing some kind of commemorative ticket in place of the popular “stubs” that often flood the memorabilia market in the ensuing years after memorable games.
Such a move would benefit the NFL on multiple fronts financially in the coming years, wiping out fraudulent duplication of paper tickets, setting the stage for potential cost-cutting through the elimination of physical stubs by franchises, funneling fans onto more of the league’s mobile platforms, and further monetizing the NFL’s tightening grip on who has the ability to sell its product.
Two aspects of mobile tickets could end up being particularly lucrative: collecting the personal data of fans who are attending the games, which could intensely sharpen the impact of league marketing in the coming years; and further sucking the oxygen out of a secondary market that has seen the league’s most prized game generate tens of millions in resale profits for brokers who haven’t cut the NFL in on the profits.
It apparently won’t end there, either. Industry sources familiar with the NFL’s continued study of ticket control told Yahoo Sports that the league is thinking outside the box and aggressively examining how different forms of intuitive technology could help the NFL squeeze every last dime out of ticket sales. According to one source, those efforts have included engaging companies that have worked to develop complex proprietary ticket-selling algorithms that could weigh thousands of data points in real time to help maximize both price and sales online.
Of course, the move toward strangling the secondary ticket market further won’t sit well with secondary brokers, who have seen the NFL wage war on their services in recent years.
Asked for thoughts of the league’s move toward fully mobile tickets in 2021, one broker replied: “Data. Data. Data. Control. [Money]. Prices will be higher. The NFL will control the inventory.”
Undoubtedly, the league having data on who is holding its tickets — down to a person’s name and financial payment information — could create some interesting scenarios as the NFL determines how it wants to control tickets. As it stands, some teams have already created some fairly inflammatory moments with their fan bases in recent years by pulling season tickets from fans who chose to sell single-game seats through the league-approved sites online.
The Denver Broncos, for example, raised some eyebrows when they tracked fans who were selling seats on The NFL Ticket Exchange, which is one of the league’s advertised partner platforms on Ticketmaster. Using the data handed over by Ticketmaster, the Broncos pulled some season tickets from fans without fully explaining the criteria used to determine that too many tickets had been sold on the exchange. It stands to reason that if some NFL teams are analyzing that kind of Ticketmaster data on the team level, it creates an open-ended opportunity for the league to study Super Bowl tickets on a granular level as well, monetizing loyal fans moving forward or weaponizing the data against fans who might run afoul of the NFL in some way (such as repeatedly re-selling Super Bowl tickets).
Time will eventually sort out those possibilities, but one way or another, the future of Super Bowl tickets is going to change. The league sees too much money and too much wasted opportunity to let its most highly coveted ticket live in the past.
Georgia QB JAKE FROMM, who ran off both Ohio State’s JUSTIN FIELDS and Washington’s JACOB EASON, is heading to the NFL Draft. ESPN.com:
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, who has guided the Bulldogs to three consecutive SEC East titles, will bypass his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Fromm made the announcement on social media on Wednesday.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Fromm as the fifth-best quarterback eligible for the 2020 draft, behind LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Washington’s Jacob Eason.
Fromm, a junior from Warner Robins, Georgia, was 35-6 as a starter, including a 13-5 record against Top 25 foes. His 41 career starts were the most among FBS quarterbacks who played this past season.
As a true freshman in 2017, Fromm helped lead the Bulldogs to their first SEC title in 12 years — after he was thrust into the starting job when Eason was injured in the opener. Fromm threw for 2,615 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions that season, helping the Bulldogs reach the College Football Playoff National Championship, losing to Alabama 26-23 in overtime. Eason transferred to Washington after the season.
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With QB TUA TAIGALOVA in the draft, Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports.com offers his latest Mock. Six of the top 18 played for the worst Alabama team in some time.
Fifty-two days elapsed from the time Tua Tagovailoa suffered a fracture hip that ended his season last November and Monday, when the Alabama quarterback held a press conference to announce that he was leaving school and headed to the NFL.
That was the easy part. Now NFL teams have to figure out how long Tagovailoa’s recovery will take (there is typically a 6-8 month recovery following such a hip surgery), and if he’ll even be ready to take the field at any point during 2020. But even if Tagovailoa has to use next season to redshirt, there should still be plenty of interest.
It starts with the Dolphins, who we all thought were #TankingforTua to start the 2019 campaign but finished with five wins in their final nine games and currently find themselves with the No. 5 overall pick (along with picks 18 and 27). In a perfect world, they could land their franchise QB, an edge rusher and an offensive linemen as they look to rebuild on coach Brian Flores’ first season, but there could also be competition for Tagovailoa should the Chargers, Jaguars and possibly even the Patriots consider trading up.
In other news, Joe Burrow and Chase Young remain locked into the top two selections, while two other quarterbacks have their name called at the bottom of Round 1.
NFL MOCK DRAFT – 01/09/2020
1. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU: This is happening. If it doesn’t, the Bengals should be relegated to the XFL forever. Joe Burrow is coming off a season that was as close to perfect as we’ve seen. Cincy HAS to take him.
2. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State: Dwayne Haskins, Washington’s 2019 first-rounder, has already welcomed Young to Twitter, and with new coach Ron Rivera’s defensive background, this pick is somehow more of a no-brainer than a few weeks ago. Young has a chance to better than Nick Bosa, the No. 2 pick a year ago.
3. DETROIT LIONS
Jedrick Wills Jr., OL, Alabama: Taylor Decker anchors the left side but the Lions have issues at right tackle; Jedrick Wills solves that problem on Day 1, and would go a long way in keeping Matthew Stafford upright in 2020.
4. NEW YORK GIANTS
Andrew Thomas, OL, Georgia: The math is pretty simple: The Giants took Daniel Jones last year to be their franchise QB, Jones struggled with turnovers, in part because of a porous O-line, and Thomas, who starred at left tackle for three seasons, fills a gaping need.
5. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: Tagovailoa announced on Monday that he’s leaving Alabama for the NFL Draft, and if can return to the form we saw the last two seasons, this is an easy choice for the Dolphins. The big question, of course, is when Tua will be cleared to return to football.
6. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn: Yes, the Chargers used a first-round pick on Jerry Tillery last April, and yes, the team needs a quarterback upgrades along the offensive line, but L.A.’s D-line ranked in the bottom third in the league in stopping the run and getting after the quarterback, and Brown, one of the best players in this class, is coming off a dominant 2019 season for the Tigers.
7. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State: The Panthers secondary is young and it showed at times last season. James Bradberry is in the final year of his deal and whether he returns or not, it makes sense to add the top cornerback in the class in Okudah.
8. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Isaiah Simmons, S, Clemson: The Cardinals struggled at linebacker and in the secondary in 2019 and Simmons’ versatility means he can line up anywhere. He reminds us of a bigger version of Derwin James with the same type of playmaking abilities, which is exactly what Arizona could use.
9. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa: Yannick Ngakoue sounds like he may have played his last game for the Jags and Calais Campbell and Marcell Darius will have their contracts expire after next season. Epenesa is a force on the outside but he can also kick inside and play defensive tackle. He would fill several needs for a rebuilding Jacksonville team.
10. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Tristan Wirfs, OL, Iowa: The Browns have myriad problems and fixing the offensive line is as good a place as any to start. Ultimately, this team’s success comes down to Baker Mayfield, but protecting him might make that a lot easier. Wirfs was dominant last season and he can play either right or left tackle.
11. NEW YORK JETS
Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama: Three of the Jets top four cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus grades, are unrestricted free agents (Brian Poole, Maurice Canady, Arthur Maulet). And while the defense was a top-10 unit under Gregg Williams, they ranked 18th against the pass, via Football Outsiders. Adding a physical, playmaking cornerback seems logical given the lack of depth at the position.
12. OAKLAND RAIDERS
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma: Hunter Renfrow had a breakout season but he’s not the deep threat the Raiders need. Lamb is, and along with Renfrow, Darren Waller and Tyrell Williams, Las Vegas could have one of the best young receiving corps in the AFC West.
13. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina: The Colts need to bolster their defensive line — they were 15th against the run and 21th against the pass in ’19, according to Football Outsiders — and Kinlaw is one of the best pass-rushing interior linemen in this draft class.
14. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State: The Bucs’ 2019 draft class was defense-heavy and the results were immediate; the unit was the No. 5 defense in the league but the D-line could look completely different next season; Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Rakeem Nunez-Roches are all soon-to-be free agents. Gross-Matos has the size, strength and quickness to play the edge but he’s still raw. The good news is he’ll only get better with experience.
15. DENVER BRONCOS
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama: Courtland Sutton is an emerging star who is a bona fide deep threat. Noah Fant is the dynamic tight end entering Year 2. Phillip Lindsay is the backfield playmaker, and Drew Lock is the quarterback who appears ready for the full-time job. Why not add one more weapon to this offense, the most exciting player in this draft class: Jerry Jeudy.
16. ATLANTA FALCONS
CJ Henderson, CB, Florida: The Falcons secondary is young but they have to get better to compete in the NFC South; the unit was 25th against the pass, according to Football Outsiders. C.J. Henderson is a long, cover corner who has the ability to lockdown the opponent’s best receiver.
17. DALLAS COWBOYS
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama: WR may not seem like an obvious need but the Cowboys have to re-up Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper. Even if they keep both (and they likely will), there isn’t a ton of depth at wideout, plus it would be hard to pass on Ruggs here. He’s a burner and a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama: Lewis has battled through knee and elbow injuries that forced him to miss most of the previous two seasons but he’s shown in 2019 just how disruptive he can be off the edge. If he’s healthy, there’s a good chance he finds his way into Round 1.
19. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: CBS Sports’ NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported late last month that the Raiders could be looking for a new QB and Herbert, who has a rocket right arm and checks every box for what a franchise passer should look like, could certainly get Jon Gruden’s attention in the coming weeks and months.
20. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State: Doug Marrone bought himself another season to sort out the Jags and after whiffing on Nick Foles, it’s time to find a proper franchise QB. Love is really, really raw, but he’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Mahomes for his arm strength and athleticism. And like Mahomes, he’ll need a year of seasoning on the bench, which could guarantee Marrone’s job beyond 2020.
21. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Julian Okwara, DL, Notre Dame: Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry were the Eagles’ two most efficient pass rushers, according to PFF, but Graham is 31 and Curry appears headed for free agency. Okwara’s season ended in November, and while he wasn’t quite as productive as a year ago, he’s a high-upside prospect who explodes off the ball. He’s listed at 240 but plays much stronger than that, and he’ll likely add weight in the weeks leading up to the combine.
22. BUFFALO BILLS
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson: John Brown can stretch the field and Cole Beasley can man the slot, but Josh Allen needs a big downfield target. At 6-4, Higgins is that and then some; he high-points the ball better than anyone in this class and Allen would certainly welcome him to Buffalo. The Clemson standout had his best showing of the season in the ACC title game, hauling in nine passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns, and he’ll have one more chance to impress in the national championship matchup vs. LSU.
23. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame: Kmet will be in the running for TE1 in the coming months but the just-declared junior fits what the Patriots need compared. He’s an inline tight end who is a proficient blocker and a legit threat in the downfield passing game. The Pats struggled in the passing game in 2019 and you could argue that losing Gronk was the biggest reason why.
24. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado: Shenault can line up anywhere and would be a versatile chess piece in Sean Payton’s offense — and offer one more weapon alongside Michael Thomas for Drew Brees. How high Shenault is selected will come down to his testing, but when he’s healthy he’s damn near unstoppable.
25. TENNESSEE TITANS
Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU: Logan Ryan and Tramaine Brock are two of the Titans’ top three cornerbacks and both will be out of a contract in March. But even if Tennessee brings back one (or both), you can never have enough defensive backs on the roster. Fulton would’ve been a likely first-rounder had he come out a year ago.
26. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson: Vikings coach Mike Zimmer loves big physical cornerbacks and Terrell is that and then some. Plus, according to Spotrac, the Vikings can clear $11.75 million in cap space if they move on from CB Xavier Rhodes, who has had a rough season. Additionally, former second-round pick Mackensie Alexander is in the final year of his rookie deal.
27. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Austin Jackson, OL, USC: Jackson has prototypical size for an NFL left tackle but he moves like someone 100 pounds lighter. He had a standout campaign for the Trojans and could be one of the top offensive linemen drafted next spring. In Miami, he’ll be part of the rebuilding process, that now could include Tua.
28. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU: Jadeveon Clowney has been dominant at times but he’s been going it alone. And 2019 first-rounder L.J. Collier was largely ineffective for 152 snaps this season. Chaisson is undersized but incredibly quick off the ball and play much stronger than listed weight of 250 lbs.
29. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma: The Chiefs defense has improved as the season has progressed, but they struggled to find consistency from their linebackers. Murray changes that. He is undersized but he flies all over the field, and has sideline-to-sideline speed, the ability to make plays in the backfield and the athleticism to cover RBs and TEs.
30. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU: Jalen Reagor is a four-down player, who can line up anywhere, and would give Aaron Rodgers a smaller, quicker, faster pass-catching option on a wide receivers corps full of straight-line giants.
31. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Grant Delpit, S, LSU: We’ve typically had Xavier McKinney going to the 49ers here, and even though McKinney officially declared for the draft this week, Delpit is ranked slightly higher for us. That could change during the pre-draft process, especially given that Delpit, who battled through an ankle injury this season, struggled to consistently make tackles. When he’s on, however, he can be one of the best players on the field.
32. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford: The team re-upped Marcus Peters but former first-rounder Jimmy Smith is in the final year of his deal, and 33-year-old Brandon Carr’s contract will expire after the 2020 season. Adebo is a physical corner who would fit in well in Wink Martindale’s system.