AROUND THE NFL

This is good news and it comes from Judy Bautista of NFL.com:

 

The number of diagnosed concussions NFL players suffered in 2018 dropped significantly, indicating that a heightened effort this season — which included two much-discussed rules changes — might have contributed to the difference.

 

The numbers, released by the league on Thursday, show a 24 percent decrease in concussions during the preseason and regular season, from 281 in 2017 to 214 this season. The drop was particularly noteworthy in the regular season, when the number of diagnosed concussions went from 190 in 2017 to 135 in 2018 — a 29 percent decrease. That means the average team would suffer a concussion to a player once every fourth game, while in 2017, it was once every third game.

 

This is good news after 2017, when the league was startled by a spike in concussion figures. The NFL’s medical officials, though, caution that it is too soon to know what caused the shift. The league’s health and safety specialists will spend the next few weeks analyzing the data. By the time the league gathers for the NFL Scouting Combine in late February, a clearer picture of what led to the decrease should emerge.

 

“We’re certainly pleased with the progress on concussion reduction,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president for health and safety. “There is a lot more work to do.”

 

The controversial rule to prevent using the helmet to initiate contact was put in place last offseason in response to the 2017 concussion data, and Competition Committee officials have admitted that its administration and enforcement has been more complicated than expected. After the rule was closely enforced during the preseason, sparking criticism from players, coaches and fans alike, enforcement seemed to ease during the year. Rich McKay, the chairman of the Competition Committee, said late in the 2018 regular season that the offseason would be spent educating officials and teams about how the league wants the rule enforced. There were also changes made to the kickoff — eliminating, for instance, the wedge and the running start — in an effort to improve the safety of what many consider the game’s most dangerous play.

 

The league has also made a point of encouraging the use of more advanced helmets, and 74 percent of players now use them, a big jump from the 41 percent who used them in 2017. That number will rise again next year, because the lowest-performing helmets will be banned. The number of sideline concussion evaluations during games remained high — 538 — even though 75 percent of those evaluations did not result in a concussion diagnosis.

 

“We continue to emphasize an extremely conservative approach,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “If they even suspect someone is concussed, we screen that player.”

 

The league is planning to introduce other initiatives this year, including a pilot program that will place sensors in the mouthguards of players on four teams to collect even more detailed data about the kinds of impact that cause concussions and a challenge launching this spring to redesign helmets for improved safety.

 

Also, the Competition Committee will consider the ideas from a crowd-sourced project to make the punt safer. Four finalists will present their ideas to a panel during Super Bowl week in Atlanta.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Shoulder surgery for QB CAM NEWTON, but the Panthers are downplaying its seriousness.  Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:

 

Cam Newton went under the knife on Thursday.

 

The Panthers announced that their franchise quarterback underwent an “arthroscopic procedure” on his right shoulder. The surgery was performed by team physician Dr. Pat Connor.

 

The team said that Newton will begin his rehabilitation process immediately. It’s unclear how long that process will be.

 

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that this is not a “major surgery” for Newton, all things considered, and that while Carolina is reluctant to put a timeframe on his recovery, the Panthers are hopeful that Newton “isn’t sidelined long.”

 

This is Newton’s second shoulder surgery in less than two years. The Panthers QB underwent surgery on a partially torn rotator cuff in the same shoulder in March of 2017.

 

Newton saw his season cut short by a lingering shoulder injury with two weeks to go and Carolina all but out of the playoff hunt. The Panthers QB’s accuracy and arm strength were notably hampered down the stretch, and Newton was parked on the sideline in favor of Taylor Heinicke in Week 16 and Kyle Allen in Week 17.

 

The Panthers signal-caller completed a career-high 67.9 percent of his passes in 2018 for 3,385 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

 

This news comes just nine days Panthers owner David Tepper told local media that while Newton’s shoulder was a “concern,” he was unsure whether the QB needed surgery. Tepper even invoked the trials of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who sat out the entire 2017 season to recover from shoulder surgery only to return fully healthy in 2018 to lead Indianapolis back to the postseason.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

The No Call in NoLa ended the career of TE BENJAMIN WATSON.  He’s not very impressed with the NFL’s non-response.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

One of the NFL’s most respected players is calling out the commissioner.

 

Saints tight end Benjamin Watson put a statement on Twitter today ripping Roger Goodell for his failure to address the missed pass interference penalty that went against the Saints late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game.

 

“Commissioner Goodell,” Watson wrote on Twitter. “We all realize that football is an imperfect game, played, coached and officiated by imperfect people. What occurred last Sunday in New Orleans though was outside of that expected and accepted norm. Your continued silence on this matter is unbecoming of the position you hold, detrimental to the integrity of the game and disrespectful and dismissive to football fans everywhere. From the locker room to Park Ave., accountability is what makes our league great. Lead by example. We are waiting.”

 

Watson is one of the NFL’s most respected players, by his teammates and his opponents, by players and fans. In addition to his impressive accomplishments on the field during a 15-year career, he’s active off the field and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award last year. When he speaks, it speaks volumes. And he’s right: Goodell needs to speak up.

 

Just when it was safe for The Commish to tread foot in Foxborough, now New Orleans has to be on his “no go” list.

 

Following the New Orleans Saints’ crushing loss in a “blemished NFC Championship game,” the New Orleans City Council unanimously agreed to demand the NFL “ignite a thorough review” of its rules and officiating.

 

The Council (and every Saints fan) attributes that loss to a now-unforgettable no-call pass interference tackle that would have set up a first down and a chance for the Saints to run down the clock with less than 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

 

“Instead, the no-call forced overtime and the Rams beat the Saints 26-23, advancing to Super Bowl LIII,” the resolution says. “The no-call will affect more than a trip to this year’s Super Bowl LIII for the New Orleans Saints; it has the power to impact the careers of players and coaches and calls attention to a problem the NFL has neglected to address for far too long.”

 

Sports, at its best, provides an escape from everyday life. For a few hours, fans can forget their personal worries about work and family, abo…

 

The resolution, authored by City Council Vice President Helena Moreno and cosponsored by the other six members of the City Council, argues that the evolution of the game requires “the need for officiating that is rooted in consistency, speed, accuracy, and is capable of keeping up with changes in the game.”

 

The resolution is not legally binding but, as District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer explained, will “express the intent of the City Council … and what the city feels.”

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Would Sean McVay have had PK GREG ZEURLEIN hoist his game-winning kick from 61 yards, instead of 57?  Thanks to WR BRANDIN COOKS, we will never know.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Brandin Cooks caught seven passes for 107 yards in the NFC Championship Game, but his biggest contribution came on a drop.

 

The Rams receiver intentionally dropped a third-and-seven pass from Jared Goff in overtime from the New Orleans 39-yard line, coach Sean McVay revealed Thursday. It appeared cornerback Marshon Lattimore would have tackled Cooks for a 4-yard loss, which would have made Greg Zuerlein‘s attempt 61 yards.

 

Zuerlein easily made the 57-yard game-winner.

 

“Brandin Cooks, talk about a smart football player,” McVay told reporters, via NFL.com. “Having the presence when I give him a terrible play call on the third down to drop it, knowing that it would have been a terrible play where he intentionally drops it.”

 

Goff didn’t realize it was an intentional drop until later and said he should have thrown the ball at Cooks’ feet. Cooks saved him.

 

“I think it’s one of those things where you see what happened, one of the D-ends and Marshon, the way that they played it, being able to be in the backfield before I technically really was able to catch the ball and get upfield,” Cooks said. “I think it was more important to save those yards, not that Greg needs them, but rather play it safe than sorry.”

 

As Williams notes, it looked, in retrospect that Zuerlein easily had the leg on his kick to hit from 61.  But knowing that a miss would give New Orleans the ball across midfield, needing only a FG, would McVay have allowed him to try?

 

Actually, not much has been made of the fact that McVay did try the 57-yarder, which even with Zuerlein’s skills probably was no better than 60-40 to have been made.  In fact, the odds would seem to have been significantly than making two inches at the goal line which McVay opted not to risk a few minutes earlier.

 

And pay no attention to the walking boot on Zuerlein’s plant foot.

 

Despite a left foot injury, Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein is expected to play in Super Bowl LIII, coach Sean McVay said Thursday.

 

Zuerlein has been walking around the team’s practice facility wearing a boot on his left foot — his plant foot — since Monday. He was listed as “did not practice” on a projected injury report Wednesday.

 

McVay said the boot was merely a precautionary measure after Zuerlein suffered a foot strain during the Rams’ 26-23 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game.

 

“We’re just being extra cautious with him,” McVay said. “But he’ll be OK.”

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

Mike Mayock, GM of the Raiders, seems like a guy who enjoys a good bout, pugilisitic or verbal.  So he has no problem with QB DEREK CARR getting feisty with his media critics.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock is standing by quarterback Derek Carr after Carr said he’d like to fight the “clowns” on television who question his abilities.

 

Mayock said on NFL Network that he doesn’t follow social media and doesn’t know all the details of Carr’s Twitter takedown of the hosts of ESPN’s First Take. But Mayock does like the fact that Carr stood up for himself.

 

“I like our quarterback. I like the attitude,” Mayock said. “Sometimes guys get frustrated by what they perceive to be a lack of understanding in the media. And these days in the media, let’s be honest, guys shoot first and ask questions later.”

 

Mayock worked in the media until the Raiders hired him this offseason, so he knows the business better than most NFL executives. And it’s unsurprising that Mayock is standing by his guy.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

This from Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic:

 

@jeffzrebiec

Ravens held off on making John Harbaugh available while contract extension talks were going on. Harbaugh is talking to reporters tomorrow. Yes, that means his contract extension is done. No announcement from team and don’t know details, but the contract ext is a done deal.

 

And indeed, the Ravens tweeted out that a four-year extension is a done deal.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

JACKSONVILLE

The Jaguars are said to be betwixt and between on the future of TE AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS with the team.  Nick Shook of NFL.com:

 

Austin Seferian-Jenkins is still under contract, but it sounds like that’s not for long.

 

The Jaguars tight end tweeted a message of gratitude and departure to the Jacksonville community Thursday, closing with the words “next chapter”.

 

A. Seferian-Jenkins

@Aesj88

 Appreciate the time Jax! It wasn’t what we wanted! But I’m happy y’all supported me and my teammates! Next chapter

 

Sure sounds like Seferian-Jenkins is headed elsewhere in 2019, right? Well, not so fast, say the Jaguars. Tad Dickman, Jaguars director of public relations, disputed the notion that the team had decided on Seferian-Jenkins’ fate with a statement:

 

Tad Dickman

@TDickman89

 Regarding TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins’s roster status with the @Jaguars:

 

The club has until Feb. 19 to make a decision on his 2019 option, which would be the 2nd season of a 2-year deal.

 

The team HAS NOT made a decision on his 2019 option. Any reports to the contrary are false.

 

Seferian-Jenkins made his way to Jacksonville in 2018 after stops in New York (with the Jets) and Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers drafted Seferian-Jenkins early in the second round of the 2014 draft, but he failed to find his footing in Tampa, appearing in nine games or less in each of his three seasons with the team. He was abruptly released after he was arrested for a DUI in September of 2016 (he eventually took a plea deal in the case), and claimed by the Jets, where he served his two-game suspension.

 

We should note that Field Yates of ESPN.com has stated that the option has indeed been declined.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

Word is that Miami’s new coach Brian Flores will be bringing the right-hand man of Josh McDaniels to be his Dolphins OC.  Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

 

Incoming head coach Brian Flores could bring a fellow New England Patriots assistant with him to run the Miami Dolphins offense.

 

Flores, who can’t be named Dolphins coach until after the New England Patriots face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3 in Atlanta, will attempt to hire Patriots receivers coach Chad O’Shea as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, according to a league source.

 

Flores, who had his second meeting with Dolphins officials on Wednesday, has already begun assembling a coaching staff, but nothing can be finalized until after the Super Bowl.

 

He’s reportedly hiring former Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell as his assistant head coach, and appointing former Green Bay Packers linebackers coach Patrick Graham as his defensive coordinator. However, none of those hirings will become official until he signs his contract with Miami next week.

 

Kelly: Chris Grier’s peers confident Dolphins general manager will be successful in Miami | Commentary

Flores has worked alongside O’Shea since 2009. The former college quarterback at Marshall and the University of Houston is viewed as one of the NFL’s up-and-coming offensive minds.

 

If Miami does lure O’Shea, convincing him to leave New England, he’ll become a first-time play-caller on any level.

 

Last year, it was widely speculated that O’Shea either would join Josh McDaniels in Indianapolis, if he took the Colts job, or would replace him in New England as the offensive coordinator.

 

When McDaniels stayed in New England, pulling out of the Colts job at the last minute, so did O’Shea. This year, O’Shea was reportedly a candidate for the Lions offensive coordinator opening, potentially joining former Patriots assistant Matt Patricia, but he never interviewed for the position that was filled by the hiring of Darrell Bevell last week.

 

“Chad’s unbelievable,” McDaniels told MassLive.com last year. “He’s incredibly responsible for any and all of our success in the red zone. He does a lot of that work and prepares us well for that situation in the game.”

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Some people don’t forget, like this kid who was six in Kentucky when footballs were losing air.  Jenna West of SI.com:

 

Science fairs are a rite of passage in elementary school and one clever 10-year-old just won his by asking the question on so many Americans’ minds–is Tom Brady a cheater?

 

Ace Davis from Millcreek Elementary in Lexington, Ky., focused his project on Deflategate, telling nfldraftdiamonds.com how the Super Bowl-winning quarterback inspired it.

 

“I hate Tom Brady,” Ace said. “He’s been accused of cheating before. I want him to be caught.”

 

The young quarterback hypothesized that “under-inflated footballs provide a competitive advantage in a game.” It looks like Ace, his mom and sister put the theory to test. He even included hand-drawn charts and graphs of his findings like all good science fair projects should have.

 

Ace concluded that “The Patriots were found guilty of doctoring football [sic], thus losing $1,000,000 and future draft picks. Tom Brady is indeed a cheater.” He also included a photo of the Patriots’ quarterback crying to make sure we get the message. Brady’s getting no sympathy from this little scientist.

 

And Michael Salfino of The538.com has a story under the headline “Move Over Tom Brady, The Running Backs Are Stealing The Show”

 

The identity of the New England Patriots has been not having an identity. What’s made them so difficult to beat in the Tom Brady era is an amorphous quality that has them adapting a game plan effortlessly to any opponent. So the team’s emphasis on the run versus the pass — and to whom the passes are targeted — historically has changed based on where the defense of that week’s opponent is most vulnerable.

 

But the Patriots’ identity this season has seemed to take on a more specific shape — particularly in the postseason. Over the past two wins, the Patriots have become a power-running, ball-control passing team that has their offense flow through their backs. And even more shockingly, they often indicate whether they are going to run or pass based on who they have on the field. They are winning less with deception, instead simply daring the defense to stop them.

 

This postseason, nearly 59.9 percent of New England’s offensive snaps have ended with the ball in the hands of a running back (meaning a run or a completed pass to a running back), according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. Since 2001, this is the fourth-highest running back usage rate among playoff teams.

 

New England’s running back usage rate was 12 percentage points lower during the regular season — though its share of 47.5 percent was still the sixth-highest in the NFL. Rather than dialing down their running back usage and putting the season in the hands of the NFL’s greatest quarterback, the Patriots have dialed the RB game up to 11. This increase in running back usage is the highest in the 16 postseasons of the Brady-Bill Belichick era. Belichick and his coaching staff have typically chosen to go in the other direction — in 12 of those postseason appearances, the rate of running back touches went down. That includes last season, when it declined from 49.5 percent during the regular season to just 38 percent in their playoff run, which ended with a pass-happy Super Bowl shootout loss to the Eagles.

 

And not only can the defense reasonably guess that the ball is going to a running back, it can determine with an even higher degree of certainty whether Brady is going to hand off or pass depending on which running back is in the huddle.

 

In the regular season, when Sony Michel was on the field, the Patriots ran the ball 75.9 percent of the time. But when the Patriots subbed in James White, the Pats ran on only 23.8 percent of plays, while the Pats threw the ball the other 76.2 percent of the time. In the postseason, rather than seeking to cross up the opponent, their tendencies have somehow gotten even more extreme: 83.8 percent of plays with Michel on the field have been runs, while 89.2 percent of snaps with White have been throws. In the process, the Pats scored 78 points in their two wins and rolled up 1,022 yards, well above their per-game regular-season averages of 27.3 points (fourth most) and 393.4 yards (fifth). So, the game plan may be predictable, but it’s working.

 

(When necessary, the Patriots do have a back that they can deploy without strongly indicating run or pass. With Rex Burkhead on the field, the Patriots threw the ball on 53.2 percent of plays during the regular season. And in the postseason, that’s risen to just 55 percent.)

 

The Patriots have long championed passing to a running back, given that they drafted White in the fourth round in 2014 and quickly made him a receiving specialist with more career catches than rushes. But this heavy reliance on the run is a new identity for them. As recently as the 2015 season, their rate of running back usage in the postseason was just 24.1 percent, which ranked above only the 2011 Lions among all 216 playoff teams in the sample. Last year’s team ranked 158th in postseason running back usage. And their Super Bowl-winning edition in 2016 was 132nd. The last time a Brady-led Patriots playoff team was this running back-centric was in 2004, when the team had Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk. With 54 percent (21st) running-back usage, that team beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

 

It’s unknown whether this transformation was by necessity or design. There’s no doubt that the passing game is without its full arsenal. No one expected a healthy Rob Gronkowski to virtually disappear as a receiving threat (149 yards in his past five games, though 79 came in the AFC championship). And the tight end’s ineffectiveness comes after former All-Pro wideout Josh Gordon in December first “stepped away” and then was suspended indefinitely from football for violating the terms of his reinstatement after he was previously suspended under the NFL substance-abuse policy.

 

So bereft of game-breaking receiving threats, the backs via Michel’s running and White’s pass-catching have had to fill the void in a passing game that was left in “shambles.”

 

Brady, for his part, has really ramped up his checkdown game. During the regular season, the Pats connected on just 74.8 percent of passes to backs (mainly White) within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, which ranked the Patriots 28th in the NFL. New England’s success rate1 on these plays was just 49.7 percent, barely above the NFL average of 45.9 percent. But in the postseason, those numbers have climbed to a 85.2 percent on 27 passes to backs, including seven first downs, and a playoff-leading play success rate of 63 percent.

 

Even though running their offense through their backs was a trademark of New England’s regular-season success, we can’t dismiss the possibility that it just perfectly aligned with the weaknesses of its playoff opponents. The Patriots’ divisional-round foe, the Chargers, were reasonably stout against the run (12th in yards allowed per rush); but they had transitioned to a defense featuring smaller defensive backs in place of linebackers. And they were just 24th in the regular season on defensive play success on passes to running backs. The Chiefs were poor both against the run (31st in yards allowed per rush) and in preventing success on running back passes (31st).

 

The Rams are a mixed bag, actually ranking last in yards allowed per rush but first in preventing success on tosses to backs. That could end up meaning a lot more Michel and a lot less White in the Super Bowl. Or, given the Patriots history, this could all be an elaborate con — and Brady may cross up Los Angeles completely by throwing early and often to Gronkowski and his wide receivers.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2018 RE-DRAFT

If we knew then what we know now, ESPN asks it’s SBNation correspondents to re-draft.

 

 

1. Cleveland Browns

Original pick: Baker Mayfield, QB

New pick: Baker Mayfield, QB

There’s zero reason to change this pick. Mayfield energized the team and city in a fantastic rookie season. — Pat McManamon

 

2. New York Giants

Original pick: Saquon Barkley, RB

New pick: Sam Darnold, QB

This has nothing to do with Barkley. He was everything the Giants expected and more. But the 5-11 campaign only punctuated this organization’s need for a quarterback with Eli Manning in decline. — Jordan Raanan

 

3. New York Jets (from IND)

Original pick: Sam Darnold, QB

New pick: Josh Allen, QB

After trading up from No. 6, the Jets were committed to taking a quarterback, even if it meant passing on Barkley. They ranked Josh Rosen over Josh Allen, but we’re reversing the order after seeing the way Allen outplayed Rosen as a rookie. — Rich Cimini

 

4. Cleveland Browns (from HOU)

Original pick: Denzel Ward, CB

New pick: Saquon Barkley, RB

Two factors here: The Browns had Barkley ranked among their top one or two players, and Nick Chubb’s rookie season means he would never be available in the second round. Barkley is a special talent and too good to pass up here. He and Mayfield put the best two players in the draft on the same offense. — Pat McManamon

 

5. Denver Broncos

Original pick: Bradley Chubb, OLB

New pick: Bradley Chubb, OLB

The same scenario stayed in place for the Broncos. With Mayfield and Darnold — the quarterbacks they liked best — off the board, they would have looked to trade down, as they did on draft day. But Denver would have scuttled those plans when Chubb was still available. The Broncos’ enthusiasm was well-founded, as Chubb was one of the league’s best rookies, finishing with 12 sacks. — Jeff Legwold

 

6. Indianapolis Colts (from NYJ)

Original pick: Quenton Nelson, G

New pick: Quenton Nelson, G

The board allowed the Colts to again take Nelson, who didn’t miss a snap and made the All-Pro team as a rookie. He was a major factor in the unit’s giving up an NFL-low 18 sacks. — Mike Wells

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Original pick: Josh Allen, QB (BUF traded up)

New pick: Derwin James, S

The Bucs need an upgrade at safety, and James is a playmaker and a ball hawk. James’ physical style would be the perfect complement to Justin Evans’ range. James had three interceptions and eight pass breakups, and he has a shot at being named Defensive Rookie of the Year. — Jenna Laine

 

8. Chicago Bears

Original pick: Roquan Smith, LB

New pick: Roquan Smith, LB

Smith is still the choice. The Georgia product finished with a team-high 122 tackles — the second most tackles ever by a Bears rookie, behind only Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. — Jeff Dickerson

 

9. San Francisco 49ers

Original pick: Mike McGlinchey, OT

New pick: Darius Leonard, LB

McGlinchey was good, and the Niners don’t regret taking him, but a re-draft offers the benefit of hindsight. Knowing what we know about Reuben Foster and the team’s need for star power on defense, Leonard was simply too good to pass up. — Nick Wagoner

 

10. Oakland Raiders

Original pick: Josh Rosen, QB (ARI traded up)

New pick: Denzel Ward, CB

Keep the Raiders’ real first-round draft pick while adding a Pro Bowler to pair up with an emerging stud? Sign me up. Putting Ward opposite a finally healthy Gareon Conley, a former Ohio State teammate who had three picks in 2018, would provide a sense of familiarity. — Paul Gutierrez

 

11. Miami Dolphins

Original pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S

New pick: Lamar Jackson, QB

Fitzpatrick was a strong pick for the Dolphins, and he will be a central player for the defense for years to come. But they desperately need a young franchise quarterback. Jackson immediately speeds up the timeline on the team’s rebuild, allowing a smooth transition from Ryan Tannehill. — Cameron Wolfe

 

12. Buffalo Bills (from CIN)

Original pick: Vita Vea, DT (TB traded up)

New pick: Josh Rosen, QB

Some Bills fans were upset during the draft when Buffalo traded up to No. 7 and took Allen instead of Rosen. Some might not be happy that Rosen is the choice here, but he is the only remaining quarterback who makes sense without the ability to trade up. — Mike Rodak

 

13. Washington Redskins

Original pick: Daron Payne, DT

New pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S

Payne was a good choice; he’s a solid player. But the Redskins liked Fitzpatrick before the draft, and they might have taken him ahead of Payne. His versatility in the secondary is a major plus; he also provides a future leader in the backfield. Also, knowing that the Redskins can get Tim Settle in later rounds — as they did in April — allows them to bypass a defensive lineman here. — John Keim

 

14. Green Bay Packers

Original pick: Marcus Davenport, DE (NO traded up)

New pick: Jaire Alexander, CB

The Packers took Alexander at No. 18 after they traded picks, but they’d take him again at No. 14 after the impact he made on their defense. It appears they finally got it right with one of their early-round cornerback picks. Alexander was a pass-breakup machine as a rookie. — Rob Demovsky

 

15. Arizona Cardinals

Original pick: Kolton Miller, OT (OAK pick in ARI trade up)

New pick: Mike McGlinchey, OT

If all the quarterbacks are off the board at No. 15, Arizona needs the next-best thing: someone to protect the quarterback. Drafting McGlinchey could give Arizona a young right tackle to complement D.J. Humphries at left tackle. — Josh Weinfuss

 

16. Baltimore Ravens

Original pick: Tremaine Edmunds, LB (BUF traded up)

New pick: Calvin Ridley, WR

With Lamar Jackson being selected in the top 10 instead of lasting until the bottom of the first round, the Ravens take the top wide receiver in the draft. Baltimore has repeatedly needed more playmakers on the outside, and Ridley can make an immediate impact, especially in the red zone. Under this scenario, however, the Ravens wouldn’t land their future franchise quarterback, and Joe Flacco likely remains the starter in 2019. — Jamison Hensley

 

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Original pick: Derwin James, S

New pick: Leighton Vander Esch, LB

With James off the board in the top 10, the Chargers fill another need at linebacker. They struggled to stop the run in a humbling loss to the Patriots in the divisional round with linebackers Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown and Kyzir White all on injured reserve. Vander Esch adds athleticism and playmaking ability. — Eric D. Williams

 

18. Seattle Seahawks

Original pick: Jaire Alexander, CB (GB traded up)

New pick: Tremaine Edmunds, LB

The Seahawks drafted Rashaad Penny to reinforce their run-centric offense after trading down at the end of Round 1. Penny showed some encouraging flashes, and he projects to have a larger role next season, but Edmunds is the better choice in this scenario. He would have been valuable when K.J. Wright went out because of a knee injury. — Brady Henderson

 

19. Dallas Cowboys

Original pick: Leighton Vander Esch, LB

New pick: Dallas Goedert, TE

The Cowboys liked Goedert entering the draft. Although this might be a little high for a tight end, there’s not a defensive player worth selecting at a position of need, as Vander Esch was last April. — Todd Archer

 

20. Detroit Lions

Original pick: Frank Ragnow, C/G

New pick: Will Hernandez, G

I could have stuck with Ragnow here because he played well as a rookie. But considering how the club used Ragnow — as a guard, not a center — Hernandez seemed to make more sense because he is a natural guard who had a strong season and could be a future stalwart. Detroit couldn’t have gone wrong with either player, though. — Michael Rothstein

 

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from BUF)

Original pick: Billy Price, C

New pick: Frank Ragnow, C

Ragnow had the edge over Price in the original draft, and with him available, the Bengals stick with the same position but get their first choice. Since Ragnow also can play guard, the Bengals could’ve played him ahead of Alex Redmond and allowed Trey Hopkins to play center, giving them some flexibility. — Katherine Terrell

 

22. Buffalo Bills (from KC)

Original pick: Rashaan Evans, LB (TEN traded up)

New pick: Billy Price, C

The Bills’ offensive line was a disaster, and it will be a focal point of the 2019 offseason. Ragnow would have been the choice here, but the Bills will settle for Price. — Mike Rodak

 

23. New England Patriots (from LAR)

Original pick: Isaiah Wynn, OT/G

New pick: Daron Payne, DT

The Patriots might have their left tackle of the future in Wynn, so the move to Payne is only a result of Wynn’s spending his rookie season on injured reserve after tearing his Achilles tendon. Payne played at Alabama under Nick Saban, one of Bill Belichick’s close friends in the business, and he plays a hard-to-fill position at the heart of the line of scrimmage. The pick also forecasts ahead to 2019, when Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton are unrestricted free agents. — Mike Reiss

 

24. Carolina Panthers

Original pick: DJ Moore, WR

New pick: DJ Moore, WR

Nothing would have changed here. The Panthers needed a top wide receiver and felt Moore was the best in the draft, selecting him over Ridley. With Ridley gone here, the option remained Moore, who proved worthy of being the No. 1 receiver the second half of the season. — David Newton

 

25. Tennessee Titans

Original pick: Hayden Hurst, TE (BAL pick from TEN trade up)

New pick: Harold Landry, OLB

Landry was the best remaining edge rusher on the board, and that was a position of need for the Titans. Instead of giving up draft capital to move up and pick Landry in the second round, the team picks him here. Landry gives the Titans a promising player who can anchor their pass rush for years to come, which is especially important with the expiring contracts for Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. — Turron Davenport

 

26. Atlanta Falcons

Original pick: Calvin Ridley, WR

New pick: Braden Smith, G/OT

The Falcons should have considered upgrading the offensive line over adding another receiver to begin with, so why not look at a versatile lineman such as Smith? He is capable of playing guard and tackle, and he would have been a starter on the Falcons’ line. — Vaughn McClure

 

27. New Orleans Saints

Original pick: Rashaad Penny, RB (SEA traded up with GB from earlier NO deal)

New pick: Marcus Davenport, DE

This is an easy choice for the Saints, since they land the same guy at No. 27 after trading all the way up to No. 14 to get him in the real thing. The reason New Orleans coveted Davenport was that elite edge rushers have become the second-hardest commodity to acquire, after quarterbacks. He has the chance to become one after a promising rookie year that included 4.5 sacks and 12 QB hits. — Mike Triplett

 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Original pick: Terrell Edmunds, S

New pick: Nick Chubb, RB

With Le’Veon Bell most likely heading to a new team, the Steelers have a chance to rebuild their running game and provide more balance for the offense. Chubb is the best back in the draft not named Saquon Barkley and can pair with James Conner for a vicious tandem. The top defensive playmakers were off the board, so Pittsburgh must get secondary help in the second round. — Jeremy Fowler

 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Original pick: Taven Bryan, DT

New pick: Christian Kirk, WR

The Jaguars needed to add a playmaker — not take a player with an eye toward 2019 — and Kirk is the best receiver on the board here. — Mike DiRocco

 

30. Minnesota Vikings

Original pick: Mike Hughes, CB

New pick: James Daniels, C/G

Would drafting an interior lineman at No. 30 have solved all of the Vikings’ problems along the offensive line? Probably not. But going with Daniels, who became a full-time starter for the Bears around the same time Brian O’Neill became a full-time starter in Minnesota, would have allowed Mike Remmers to move back to right tackle and aided some of the Vikings’ issues at guard. — Courtney Cronin

 

31. New England Patriots

Original pick: Sony Michel, RB

New pick: Sony Michel, RB

As he showed in a divisional-round win over the Chargers, 5-foot-11, 215-pound Michel can be a go-to option in the most important game of the season. Asked what traits stand out in Michel, Bill Belichick said, “He’s had a lot of production in his career; we’d seen it certainly when he was in college. Good vision. Strong. Runs with good pad level. Gains yards after contact. He’s got a good set of running skills.” — Mike Reiss

 

32. Philadelphia Eagles

Original pick: Lamar Jackson, QB (BAL traded up)

New pick: Courtland Sutton, WR

The Eagles’ first selection in the real draft came at No. 49, as they picked tight end Dallas Goedert, who was snatched up by Dallas here. The Eagles need a steady presence opposite Alshon Jeffery, and Sutton would provide that. Philly will gladly take 6-3, 216-pound Sutton, who had 42 catches for 704 yards and four TDs for the Broncos. His 16.8 yards per reception ranked seventh in the NFL. — Tim McManus

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com says no one impressed enough at the Senior Bowl to knock Ohio State’s DWAYNE HASKINS. off his perch as the best quarterback in the draft.

 

Who was the biggest winner at quarterback in the first phase of the NFL’s draft process?

 

He probably wasn’t on hand at the Senior Bowl this week.

 

Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins looks cemented atop the quarterbacks class. And while the jury is still out on Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, his competition on the second tier seems less threatening than it did last week.

 

That’s one of the biggest takeaways from the personnel ranks after three days of Senior Bowl practices, which saw streaky QB performances and plenty of cushion for Haskins at the top of his position.

 

This wasn’t unexpected, mind you. In an overall class of quarterbacks that lacked the elite-level talent of last season, the Senior Bowl wasn’t expected to be an exception to the rule. But it was a chance for someone to grab the spotlight and momentum toward a first-round selection. Instead, that opportunity appears to have fallen flat in the practices.

 

While evaluators had yet to go over Thursday’s third day of film, a handful who spoke to Yahoo Sports about the QBs suggested the group is heading toward Saturday’s game with the same developmental curve that was expected coming in.

 

One high-level personnel man may have summed it up best when asked if there was a potential Day 1 starter in the group, replying: “Day 1 of what year?”

 

That’s somewhat of a departure from the past few Senior Bowls, which produced Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen in 2018 and Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz in 2016. This class might be more along the lines of an upgraded version of 2017, which touted C.J. Beathard, Nathan Peterman, Davis Webb and Joshua Dobbs. The 2019 grouping is still better than that, although nobody lit up the stage all week in practices.

 

So what was the scuttlebutt? The assessments were fairly vague without the addition of a live game, but four had some consistent takeaways:

 

Missouri’s Drew Lock stood out as the guy with the most tools to work with inside the group. Might end up being the third first-round quarterback after Haskins and Murray, depending on how coaching staffs feel about him fitting into their scheme. If you picked a winner from the quarterback derby this week, he was it.

 

Daniel Jones got some positive reviews after Day 1 and then struggled on Days 2 and 3. He threw a couple of bad interceptions and had some snap issues. If your front office wants the best arm talent, it’s probably not here, either.

 

Jarrett Stidham stood out as the one player who seemed to get a little more warmth as the week went along. Nothing like Josh Allen, who seemed to take huge strides with every practice last season, but definitely a guy who stacked up better with each passing day. Apparently his ball placement wasn’t always perfect, but Stidham sounds like he can help himself if he has a good game Saturday.

 

Will Grier adapted solidly to getting under a center and was the one guy who had a little more zip on his ball than expected. He definitely helped himself this week.

– – –

Chase Goodbread and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com file this report:

 

With Reese’s Senior Bowl week winding down, 100-plus prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft had one last chance to impress in practice on Thursday. NFL.com‘s Lance Zierlein and Chase Goodbread provide a look at the stars of Day 3, as well as notes from interviews with coaches, scouts and players.

 

Five standouts from Day 3 of practice

Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina: He was fantastic all week. He’s physical, well put together and runs good routes. Receivers get grabbed a ton out here at Senior Bowl practices. The corners are really grabby — things that are going to be penalties at the next level. Not only did he play through it, but a lot of times he worked himself wide open through his physicality inside the route and route acumen. He was smart in terms of how he got out of his brakes, and he caught everything that was thrown his way. I talked to a couple of teams that were really excited about what he did in the first two days here and there’s no way they’re not going to like what they saw today. — Lance Zierlein

 

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn: Stidham had some really nice throws on Thursday, fitting the ball into tight windows and delivering it cleanly and crisply. Everything about him from the talent to the character to the traits — they’re all positives. The real test for him is going to be how he handles pressure in the pocket in live situations, which makes Saturday’s game a big deal for him. He has a lot of what you want in a QB, but poise is a concern after he was under tremendous duress this past season at Auburn because that offensive line just didn’t protect him. — Lance Zierlein

 

North squad offensive line: This unit got whipped on Day 1 in all the one-on-one drills and team scrimmages. It was a complete 180 on Thursday. I thought this group was very talented coming into the week and I was disappointed with what I saw from them on Tuesday. They rose to the occasion today, though. OTs Kaleb McGary (Washington) and Dalton Risnor (Kansas State) may have helped themselves as much as anybody just by putting on the pads. They are thickly built and play with a little attitude. They showed good strength and physicality. I think eight of the 10 offensive linemen for the North have a pretty decent chance of going in Rounds 1-3. Risnor and OG Chris Lindstrom (Boston College) love playing next to each other. Erik McCoy (Texas A&M) and Garrett Bradbury (N.C. State) both did an excellent job at center. These guys came together as a unit and shined on the final day of practice. — Lance Zierlein

 

Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame: Williams was a beneficiary of the North O-line’s dominant performance. He can stick his foot in the ground and go. He showed good agility, fluidity in his hips, vision and the ability to process what he sees quickly and burst when he finds a crease. He can catch the ball, too, although he wasn’t asked to do so at Notre Dame very much. He has good size (5-foot-11, 215) and speed, and he doesn’t have a lot of tread off the tires (257 carries in four years at ND). I won’t be surprised if he goes on Day 2 (Rounds 2-3). — Lance Zierlein

 

Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama: He played really well today, and actually all week. He lined up at defensive end for the Tide, but I think he’s going to move down to defensive tackle in the NFL. He’ll either be a nose tackle or a three technique. He’s really good with his hands, like most Alabama defensive linemen. He really played well in one-on-ones on Thursday and showed he has the body type and play traits to make the switch to an interior position. He proved he can take control against some guys that are a little bigger than him. He’s probably a Day 3 pick (Rounds 4-7), but he could work his way into Round 3. — Lance Zierlein

 

MEDIA SESSION NOTES: What we learned from Jon Gruden, Hunter Renfrow and more

Scout’s perspective: Among eight quarterbacks on hand for the Senior Bowl, the pair from the ACC — Duke’s Daniel Jones and N.C. State’s Ryan Finley — have been the most impressive among them this week, according to an NFC scout. Both play for the North squad, along with another quarterback who’s drawn praise this week in Drew Lock of Missouri.

 

Jones has displayed a quick release and threw effectively in the early practice on Thursday, connecting with two receivers who have consistently made plays this week in Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin and UMass’ Andy Isabella. Finley has shown good accuracy and has had a familiar face to throw to in practice in Jakobi Meyers, his leading receiver with the Wolfpack last season. — Chase Goodbread

 

– – –

Here is a look at the defensive JOSH ALLEN, from Austin Gayle of ProFootballFocus.com, who will go in this draft about where the offensive JOSH ALLEN did last year:

 

Josh Allen hated football his freshman year and nearly quit on the first day after taking a hard hit and getting jumped in the locker room. He was “whooped on” in practice. He didn’t play in any games. And he (actually) quit, multiple times.

 

“It was terrible. I quit. I actually quit two or three times,” Allen said in an interview with Pro Football Focus in December.

 

The same Josh Allen is now University of Kentucky football’s career sacks leader (31.5), PFF’s highest-graded edge defender in 2018 (92.1) and a projected top-five pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Wildcat alumnus overcame extreme adversity to hear his name called high in the draft come April, and he’s not done, yet.

 

Allen, of course, stuck with football despite his struggles with Osgood-Schlatter disease in his knees, despite struggling to bench the bar as a freshman, despite getting jumped by his teammates, despite everything. Leaning on his aunt and uncle for support, Allen returned to Abbeville High School’s football program and turned in strong sophomore and junior campaigns at wide receiver – no defense.

 

“I wasn’t fast at all, but I could sure catch, you know,” Allen said. “I had the best hands on the team. Everybody solidified that.”

 

Allen didn’t take his talents to the defensive side of the ball until he returned to Montclair for his senior season, where he led the state in sacks and earned First-Team All-State honors.

 

“So, I tried [defensive end], loved it, you know,” Allen said. “First scrimmage, we played against a private team in Jersey, whooped on them… It was one of the best performances I feel like I’ve had, you know, ever, to this day.”

 

Allen’s love for defensive end and his spectacular season, however, didn’t have colleges lining up at his door.

 

Monmouth University, an FCS school 60 miles away from Montclair, was the first and only school willing to offer Allen a scholarship immediately after his senior season. Then, just a week before signing day, Kentucky came to Allen’s school and had him on a plane to Lexington in a span of hours.

 

Opting for UK over Monmouth and a late offer from Buffalo, Allen developed into one of the Wildcats’ best defensive players in school history. In addition to laying claim to the career sacks record, Allen earned All-SEC honors in both his junior and senior seasons, played in 51 career games and led the team to its first bowl win since 2009.

 

Allen recorded four pressures, including three sacks and a quarterback hit, in UK’s 27-24 win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl. While other top prospects in this year’s draft class opted out of their respective bowl games, Allen said the game was bigger than him – for his teammates.

 

“It’s not a Josh Allen legacy,” Allen said of his illustrious UK career. “It’s a this class legacy. I want people to look back at this class and say this class changed Kentucky program history.

 

“The credit goes all around. Every award that I won is from them guys. It’s a team effort. I’ve never heard of anybody winning an award by themselves or that doesn’t have a good team around them. The credit goes everywhere.”

 

Putting UK above himself also factored into Allen’s decision to return to school after his junior season rather than enter the draft. That, and the birth of his son, Wesley, forced Allen to dream bigger.

 

“In my mind, I wanted to be a guaranteed first-rounder,” Allen said. “I wanted to be a top-10 pick, a top-five pick, and last year, I felt like I wasn’t.”

 

Slotted at fourth overall to the Oakland Raiders in PFF’s latest mock draft, Allen made the right decision in returning to UK, improving his overall grade from 77.1 in 2017 to an FBS–high 92.1 mark in 2018. He also posted a 28.3 pass-rush win rate and a 23.4 pressure percentage this past season, vastly improving his figures from his junior campaign.

 

Constantly improving, constantly working to be the best, Allen won’t have to worry about getting jumped in the NFL. He’ll play plenty of games. There’s no quit in him, now.