AROUND THE NFL

Mike Florio on the standard the NFL seems to be settling on for pass interference reversals:

 

Last year, the NFL adjusted rules regarding lowering-the-helmet rule and the roughing-the-passer after an outcry emerged from the early-season application of the provisions. This year, the new procedure for replay review of pass interference hasn’t sparked the kind of widespread negative reaction that would compel an adjustment — yet.

 

That apparently isn’t keeping the league from making an adjustment regarding the intended application of the replay-review process.

 

There’s a belief in league circles that, at some point before Week One of the regular season, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron received a mandate that only egregious errors of judgment regarding calls and non-calls of pass interference should be overturned. The mandate quite possibly came from Riveron’s ultimate boss: Commissioner Roger Goodell.

 

If so, good. It’s what needed to happen. Riveron’s assessment of a non-call of offensive pass interference in the Week 15 game between the Chargers and Chiefs and a non-call of defensive pass interference in Super Bowl LIII suggested that plenty of flags would be thrown remotely by Riveron for instances of interference that were not the kind of 500-drunks-in-a-bar clear and obvious, like the non-call from the NFC Championship game.

 

Some believe that, even with a higher standard, the process should entail more than one person making the decision. If it’s clear to, say, three people, then it’s sufficiently clear.

 

The proof that the bar has been raised appears to be hiding in plain sight, based on the decision not to penalize 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman for pass interference on Sunday based on replay review, when Sherman clearly and obviously kept Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans from getting his hands up to make a catch. That doesn’t mean interference didn’t happen; it did. It means that a flag will be picked up, or thrown, under only when the mistake of judgment is truly egregious.

 

That’s what the coaches wanted. Despite the things Riveron said before Week One arrived, that appears to be what the coaches are getting. And it’s entirely possible that the credit for this goes not to the guy who is the most powerful man in football during the games, but to the guy who is the most powerful man in football, period.

 

By that standard, would the Rams still have gone to the Super Bowl last year if the new replay rule had been in place for last year’s NFC Championship Game? 

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

Chris Liss at RotoWire.com on CAM NEWTON’s night:

 

Cam Newton lacked accuracy and timing. He had no touch on his throws, either. And for some reason he’s not running. Somehow he managed 333 yards, but it took him 51 attempts, he lost a fumble, could have had a pick or two, didn’t throw a TD and took three sacks. No idea why he abandoned Christian McCaffrey for most of the game, but he needs the easy throws to McCaffrey because he’s so hit and miss on the harder ones.

 

 

TAMPA BAY

Chris Liss at RotoWire.com on the tiny role for TE O.J. HOWARD:

 

Chris Godwin (9-8-121-1) and Mike Evans (8-4-61) were the only game in town as far as pass catchers. This is a narrow tree, and it doesn’t seem to include O.J. Howard whose only target was nullified by an offensive PI. I started Howard over Mark Andrews in a league, and I won’t make that mistake again. As talented as Howard is, Winston has always had eyes for Cameron Brate (2-2-10), and for God knows what reason, Howard isn’t featured as a pass catcher in the offense. Maybe there was something after all to Bruce Arians never involving his tight ends in Arizona, though it’s Byron Leftwich calling the plays now.

– – –

The Buccaneers were quick to say that LB DEVIN WHITE would not return to Thursday’s game, but afterwards there was optimism about his condition.  Grant Gordon of NFL.com:

 

Before a weather delay briefly put a halt to Thursday night’s game, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie linebacker Devin White already had his night ended with a knee injury.

 

White, the Bucs’ 2019 first-round pick, was injured on the Panthers’ opening drive of the game and did not return.

 

“Devin I don’t think it’s that serious,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said after Tampa Bay’s 20-14 win. “We didn’t want to take a chance on him [returning].”

 

Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey tallied a six-yard run up the middle and White was in on the tackle, but stayed on the field. He was attended to by the Tampa Bay training staff and walked off the field on his power. White went to the medical tent before joining his team in the locker room during the weather delay, which came due to lightning in the area.

 

Following the weather delay, the teams returned to the field for a brief warm-up and White was there with the rest of the Bucs. However, as the game resumed, White returned to the locker room.

 

White had two tackles in his six snaps.

 

Following a standout tenure at LSU, White was selected fifth overall by Tampa Bay in April’s draft. He had six tackles in his NFL debut in Week 1 against the 49ers.

 

AFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Fifteen regular season games remain on the contract of QB PHILIP RIVERS.  Will he play in the new stadium for the Chargers next year?  Jelani Scott of NFL.com:

 

With Year 16 underway, Rivers, who’s ranked No. 8 all-time in passing yards, reflected on the state of where things stand between him and Chargers general manager Tom Telesco.

 

Given how vocal players around the NFL have been in recent months about their deals, Rivers’ comments should help fans stress less over his future in the navy blue and gold.

 

“I really just feel at peace about that. Tom and I had really good conversations throughout the last couple months. I think it’s sincere, the both of us, really desire I’m still a Charger in 2020,” Rivers told Rapoport. “I think that sincerity will make it all work out. Had it worked out before the regular season got started, I’d have been fine with it, but it didn’t. Shoot, hey let’s just wait and it kinda worked best for both sides to do that. I really feel good about it. I’m in a good place.”

 

Rivers is in the final year of a four-year, $83.25-million contract extension he signed in August 2015. He kicked off his age-37 season with 333 yards, three touchdowns and a pick in a nail-biting season-opening overtime win over the Colts. Not a bad first act to follow-up 2018 when he tallied 4,308 yards, 32 TDs, made his eighth Pro Bowl and helped lead L.A. back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

 

Back in August, Rapoport reported that Rivers would likely play out his current deal and address the future after this season. Things appear to still be on that same track, and Rivers, who turns 38 on Dec. 8, seems perfectly fine with letting the hourglass run out before turning it over at the end of ’19.

 

“I’ve always said handful of years, handful of years, handful of years, and I know you can’t say that forever and I don’t have an age number on it. But I’m at the point where I think one year at a time,” Rivers said. “I’m excited about this season and I am looking forward to 2020 and then, after that, I don’t know. Doing that for me, mentally, for my family, that’s the most healthy way to approach it.”

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

CB MINKAH FITZPATRICK, used to winning big at Alabama, wants out of Miami.

 

Former first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick has received permission from the Miami Dolphins to seek a trade, according to multiple league sources.

 

Joel Segal, the agent for the defensive back, has been in contact with a number of teams. Fitzpatrick, the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, is unhappy with playing multiple positions, sources said.

 

Teams initially have been resistant to the Dolphins’ apparent asking price that includes a first-round pick, sources said.

 

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier was unavailable for comment late Thursday night, as was Segal.

 

A Dolphins official told ESPN they are not actively shopping Fitzpatrick, but did not deny that they have given permission to Segal to discuss a trade with teams.

 

Fitzpatrick is still expected to play Sunday for the Dolphins at home against the New England Patriots.

 

Fitzpatrick was part of a Dolphins defense that was exposed Sunday by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, who threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns in a 59-10 Baltimore rout.

 

Fitzpatrick, who was projected as a cornerback/safety out of Alabama, played three or four different positions against Baltimore. He has been uncomfortable with his constantly fluctuating role on the Dolphins’ defense throughout the offseason.

 

During Miami’s joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in August, Fitzpatrick’s mother, Melissa, mentioned on Twitter that he was being incorrectly used at strong safety to suit other players’ skill sets.

 

Fitzpatrick confirmed that he agreed with his mother’s thoughts after that practice, saying, “She feels very strongly. She’s not wrong. Coach has asked me to do something right now. I got to do what they ask me to do. If we have to have some discussions in the future, we’ll have those discussions.

 

“I’m not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn’t best suited for me, but that’s what Coach is asking me to do.”

 

A personnel man for one team had praise for Fitzpatrick as the “ideal slot corner who can cover, blitz off the edge, [is] intelligent, a good tackler and a good special-teams player,” but doubted that teams would be willing to part with a first-round draft choice in 2020.

 

Another GM felt that the Dolphins were unrealistic about their expectations on compensation for Fitzpatrick after “they got an arm and a leg for [Laremy] Tunsil from the Texans” before Week 1.

– – –

Veteran DE TANK CARRADINE is willing to play for the Dolphins.  Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

 

The Miami Dolphins on Thursday brought back defensive end Tank Carradine, one of the surprise cuts during Labor Day weekend.

 

A need for a defensive end arose when rookie Jonathan Ledbetter sustained an ankle injury in practice on Wednesday.

 

Ledbetter was placed on injured reserve but should be able to return later this season.

 

NFL teams can take two players off injured reserve after six weeks (five games, in Miami’s case this season), and Ledbetter and rookie linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel are the logical choices at this point.

 

Carradine, a former second-round pick out of Florida State, was this new regime’s first defensive signing in free agency, and he started the first three preseason games.

 

Dolphins coach Brian Flores said the Dolphins brought back Carradine because it was an “end for end” swap. But it’s also possible the team would have considered re-signing him after Week 1 when his salary would have no longer been guaranteed for the season.

 

“Tank’s fast, physical, he’s a good teammate,” Flores said. “We like a lot of things about him. We’re happy to have him back.”

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

Charles Robinson of YahooSports.com on NFL Justice and WR ANTONIO BROWN:

 

The immediate future of Antonio Brown’s 2019 NFL season appears to be headed to a crossroads next week. It’s uncertain and completely league-policed.

 

The entry point for Brown’s judgement before the league’s investigative arm? Still undetermined.

 

The exit point? A complete unknown.

 

Arguably the only certainty now is the NFL would like to find some finite direction with Brown’s status as soon as possible. And that doesn’t appear to be available before next week.

 

The lack of a criminal probe into this week’s rape and sexual assault allegations against Brown has left the NFL in the exceedingly difficult position of producing a home-grown investigation. There is no foundation provided by police reports. Authorities haven’t gathered interviews. And there is no prosecutor to call in hopes of determining whether circumstantial evidence (or any evidence at all) points to the likelihood of a crime having been committed.

 

In many ways, this makes the front end of Brown’s case one of the most difficult the league has ever dealt with. Not only are league investigators staring at a set of unsworn allegations in a civil lawsuit, the accompanying evidence (in the form of text messages) is thus far completely unverified. The witnesses in the lawsuit (both named and unnamed) have yet to be furnished in the case.

 

How past cases NFL ruled on differ from Brown’s

For the NFL, that makes an already inconsistent process even more vulnerable to pitfalls. Consider some other recent investigations:

 

In the probe into Kansas City Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill, there was a threat recorded on audio and a child services investigation providing the NFL with traction to move forward in its process.

 

In the Reuben Foster domestic violence investigation, there was a criminal investigation and police statements that laid an initial road map.

 

Even in the Ezekiel Elliott domestic abuse case – which never featured charges against the Cowboys star – there was both a police investigation and a victim willing to cooperate with the league’s probe.

 

All of these probes turned on two factors: The number of cooperating witnesses in the cases and the evidence (or lack of it) that ultimately led NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to determine whether or not he believed a crime had occurred. In Hill’s case, his former fiancee refused to cooperate with the league’s investigation into child abuse allegations and Goodell ultimately wasn’t able to determine that Hill had engaged in a crime. In Foster’s probe, domestic battery charges were ultimately dropped by police, leaving the league to fine him two game checks for the argument that led to his initial arrest. In Elliott’s case, which was battled out in both arbitration and the federal court system, his suspension stemmed from a totality of incidents and Goodell’s personal determination that evidence pointed to domestic violence having occurred.

 

Next week’s interview with Brown accuser is critical

To say the least, the process of the league’s investigations and the final results produced have been controversial. And now Brown is heading into some of that same territory, only without the benefit of any criminal investigations to help make a determination. All of this is important because the NFL is grappling with two overarching questions:

 

What to make of the civil suit against Brown, and what does the league do with him as the litigation makes its way through federal court?

 

Due to the lack of a criminal investigation, this one is going to be facing a mountain of difficulties. Largely because the NFL is starting at ground zero in this probe, needing to clear one significant hurdle before it can get to the next. And in this one, no hurdle is more important than the one that is going to be attempted next week:

 

Getting an interview with Brown’s accuser, Britney Taylor, on the books with investigators as soon as possible.

 

Until that happens, the NFL doesn’t appear to have the traction or evidence it needs to make a definitive decision about placing Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list. Right now, the civil suit alone is an unsubstantiated allegation, largely because it is based on testimony that is unsworn, and thus, not given the weight of statements under the threat of perjury and potential prosecution.

 

One way or another, the NFL has to create some kind of investigative imprint to back up a decision to place Brown on the exempt list. And in the process of creating that imprint, the league could walk away with the opinion that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest a crime may have occurred. That would leave Brown where he already is – on the Patriots’ roster and preparing to play out the season while the civil case runs its course.

 

Will Roger Goodell expand use of exempt list?

Does Goodell have the latitude to put Brown on the exempt list regardless of the depth of a league investigation? Yes. Even in a civil case, the language governing the exempt list appears to grant Goodell that kind of power. There are almost no guidelines explaining what an investigation must have produced or how Goodell came to determine that a crime may have occurred in Brown’s case.

 

But Goodell would also arguably be creating a wildly reckless precedent if he were to proceed like that in the face of a civil suit with no criminal charges. To the point that it could potentially make any player facing any civil allegation subject to being put on the commissioner’s exempt list.

 

There is no indication the NFL wants to go down that path. Instead, it looks like it wants to kickstart this investigation the old-fashioned way: by talking to the woman who has levied this complaint against Brown, in an effort to hear the allegations firsthand and also seek any accompanying evidence.

 

If that sounds like the first step in what could end up being a long investigative process by the league, it’s because that’s precisely what this is. The lack of criminal charges has left the NFL entering its process with more work to do than ever before in a case. And needing the cooperation of basically all parties to sort through what remedies are available, appropriate and justified.

 

For Antonio Brown, the most uncertain of crossroads has arrived. Where this goes next is the definition of the past few months of Brown’s path.

 

Volatile. Unpredictable. And as difficult to understand as ever.

 

The DB notes the lack of the name JAMEIS WINSTON in the article by Robinson.  There was not a criminal investigation there, just the driver’s report to Uber.  As we said yesterday, nothing comparable to a full blown rape, but Winston’s actions that netted a 3-game suspension seem similar to the surprise that Britney Taylor received from Brown in part two of her civil complaint. 

 

We would have to think that Winston is the ground floor for what Brown might be involved in with NFL Justice.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

First it was mono for QB SAM DARNOLD.  Now, it is a shoulder for RB Le’VEON BELL.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The good news is that Le’Veon Bell doesn’t have mono.

 

The bad news is that the Jets running back isn’t 100 percent. At the same press conference that saw head coach Adam Gase announce that quarterback Sam Darnold is out indefinitely because he has mononucleosis, we also learned that Bell is headed for an MRI.

 

It’s a shoulder injury that’s being checked out for the big-ticket free agent acquisition. Gase said that Bell is experiencing soreness and the team is hopeful that it isn’t anything more than that.

 

Linebacker C.J. Mosley is not practicing because of a groin injury, first-round pick Quinnen Williams is not practicing because of an ankle injury and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa‘s season is over because of a neck injury, so optimism feels like a tough sell for a team that opened the year by blowing a 16-0 third quarter lead in a 17-16 loss to the Bills.

– – –

With QB SAM DARNOLD out, Harry Bushnell of YahooSports.com does some nice work on the history of mono in football:

 

When Sam Darnold curls up, presumably at his North Jersey apartment, and fires up his TV to watch his New York Jets take the field without him on Monday night, he will join an exclusive club.

 

A sore, physically sapped, fevered club. A miserable club whose membership count is believed to be two.

 

“This,” says Chris Chandler, the only other starting NFL QB known to have been sidelined by mononucleosis, “is a legit, hardcore illness.”

 

Darnold was diagnosed with it on Wednesday, and immediately quarantined in his apartment. He had, according to Jets head coach Adam Gase, already lost five pounds. He had missed practice Wednesday with what Gase originally called strep throat.

 

But this – mono, as it’s commonly called – is worse. Much worse.

 

Just ask Chandler, who spoke to Yahoo Sports Thursday from his home in Utah. He contracted the virus midway through a 17-year NFL career, late in the 1995 season.

 

Following a 42-33 Houston Oilers win over the Denver Broncos, in which he threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns, “I wasn’t feeling real good,” he remembers.

 

Then came the sore throat. The tiredness. The weakness. The following week, the Oilers went to Pittsburgh. “I didn’t warm up at all,” Chandler recalls. “I actually threw a touchdown pass in the first [half]. And then I went back in the locker room, and I just fell asleep.

 

“I’ll never forget walking off that field in Pittsburgh,” he continues. “I literally went back to the locker room, on a concrete floor, laid on my back with a towel behind my head, and just fell asleep until the game was over.”

 

Chandler tried to go again the following week, back at home against Detroit. “I probably shouldn’t have played,” he now admits. He again lasted until halftime, but was replaced by rookie Steve McNair. For two or three weeks thereafter, he did “nothing.” His season, in Week 15, was over.

 

Chandler still has no idea how he got mono. “I’m not even sure exactly what mono is,” he says. “But it’s definitely a tough thing to deal with.”

 

What is mono? And why can’t NFL players play with it?

 

Mono, in short, is a virus transmitted via saliva that can cause fatigue, fevers, swelling and other unsavory symptoms that generally make life wretched.

 

Another potential symptom is an enlarged spleen. That’s why football players can’t simply fight through mono to take the field. The spleen’s enlargement puts it at risk of rupturing – and puts the players, therefore, at risk of serious injury, or even death.

 

Very few NFLers have publicly been diagnosed with it. Some, however, understand Darnold’s plight. Former 49ers offensive lineman Jonathan Martin missed OTAs with the illness in 2014. Recently retired defensive end Chris Long was diagnosed with it back in college, and says he lost 20 pounds.

 

“MISERABLE,” Long wrote on Twitter Thursday. “Couldn’t breathe.”

 

@JOEL9ONE

Al Groh was like “hey he looks good can we get him back out here?” Trainer was like “if he gets hit his spleen he could die.” So anyone claiming to die for this

 

Other college football players diagnosed with mono had similar experiences.

 

When Michigan State cornerback Darian Hicks fell ill a few weeks before the opening game of his junior season, he initially assumed he just had a bad sore throat. Only after he woke up one morning with his tonsils inflamed and swollen did he realize it was something worse.

 

“It’s kind of a surreal feeling because you hear about mono but you never think that you’re going to get it,” Hicks told Yahoo Sports.

 

For the next couple weeks, Hicks recalls constantly feeling sluggish. He lost 12 pounds because he couldn’t eat or drink anything without his body clenching up.

 

Once Hicks was finally cleared to play after fall camp was over, he struggled to regain the muscle he’d lost. Even so, he persevered, regaining his starting job by midseason, producing a career-best 33 tackles, and helping Michigan State advance to the 2015 College Football Playoff.

 

“I didn’t let that stop me from making an impact,” Hicks says. “It forced something new out of me. It was a blessing in a curse.”

 

Still, mono is both a draining affliction and a rare one. Darnold’s is just the second known case among NFL starting QBs.

 

‘This thing will grab you by the throat and throw you down’

“The virus,” according to the Mayo Clinic, “has an incubation period of approximately four to six weeks.” That jibes with Gase’s words Thursday. Darnold, the Jets coach said, will be out indefinitely. With New York on bye in Week 4, Week 5 appears to be the earliest possible return date.

 

In the meantime, Darnold won’t be able to do much more than ride mono out. Rest. Hydrate. And wait.

 

Chandler recalls the commonplace football urge to battle through. To shrug off the symptoms. To play despite them.

 

“I would assume he probably said, ‘I can do it, I’m fine,’ ” the former Pro Bowler says of Darnold. “But this thing will just grab you by the throat and throw you down on the ground and say, ‘No, you’re not playing.’ ”

 

The first phase of symptoms, Chandler remembers, were “not necessarily a flu, but you kind of have some body aches, and you just don’t feel great.

 

“Then, all of a sudden, you can’t even stay awake. When it hits you, there’s no possibility of [playing]. You’re, like, ‘Down goes Frazier.’ ”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

GRONK

Rob Gronkowski makes some news.  TMZ.com:

 

Scary revelation from Rob Gronkowski … who says he’s probably had 20 concussions in his life from playing football including 5 blackout moments — but he feels like he’s “fixed” now.

 

The New England Patriots legend was talking football to CBS News when he was asked if he’d ever let his child (if and when he has children) play the sport he loves.

 

“I would let my son play football, but first off I would educate him on the game,” Gronk said … “Educate him on what I went through.”

 

But, here’s the scary part …

 

“I truly believe any injury that you receive is fixable though. I went through it. I had 9 surgeries. Probably had like 20 concussions in my life, like, no lie. I remember 5, like, blackout ones.”

 

Of course, with CTE concerns at an all-time high, Gronk’s statement is concerning, to say the least.

 

He also described having a pint of blood drained from his body following the Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles … an issue he chalks up to internal bleeding.

 

But, the NFL superstar — who recently signed a deal with a CBD medical company which focuses on pain management — says straight-up, “I’m fixed.”

 

As we previously reported, Gronk has said he’s open to an NFL comeback if he feels passionate about playing the game again … and recently joked that he’d join the Pats in Week 14.

 

We love Gronk … but man, 20 concussions is A LOT.

 

Be careful, bro.

 

 

2020 DRAFT

Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com offers this way-too-early Mock Draft:

 

1 – MIAMI

Tua Tagovailoa QB

ALABAMA • JR • 6’1″ / 218 LBS

The Dolphins had their doors blown off by the Ravens in the season opener and it got so bad that several players reportedly have already asked off the sinking ship. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Tagovailoa is undersized by traditional NFL standards but thanks to Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, his lack of ideal height won’t prevent him from going first overall. As luck would have it, the Dolphins are already in the market for a franchise QB despite giving up a second-round pick for Josh Rosen this spring.

 

2 – WASHINGTON

Andrew Thomas OT

GEORGIA • JR • 6’5″ / 320 LBS

Here’s all you need to know: The Redskins started Donald Penn at left tackle, Ereck Flowers was at left guard and perennial Pro Bowler Trent Williams watched this game on the couch like the rest of us. Arguably the best offensive lineman in college football, Thomas not only looks the part at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, he plays like a dominant left tackle. He’ll again protect Jake Fromm’s blind side at Georgia through quick feet, athleticism and strength. Coming into 2019, Thomas has allowed just four sacks in two seasons and he can take over in the run game.

 

3 – ARIZONA

Chase Young DE

OHIO STATE • JR • 6’5″ / 265 LBS

The Cardinals had three sacks in the opener — and two came from Terrell Suggs, but he’s 36 years old and playing on a one-year deal. An explosive first step off of the edge allows Young to get into the backfield quickly, and he also can set the edge in the run game. He’s not Nick Bosa but he’s the best edge rusher in the 2020 NFL Draft class.

 

4 – N.Y. GIANTS

Jerry Jeudy WR

ALABAMA • JR • 6’1″ / 192 LBS

Jeudy is an elite route runner who does everything well. If you’re looking to nitpick, he doesn’t have top-end speed, though you wouldn’t know it to watch him in games. Tight end Evan Engram led the Giants in receiving yards in Week 1, and with Odell Beckham now in Cleveland, New York needs a legit deep-play threat.

 

5 – Oakland

A.J. Epenesa DE

IOWA • JR • 6’6″ / 280 LBS

Clelin Ferrell had a strong game vs. the Broncos but you can never have too many edge rushers. Huge. Strong. Epenesa can rag-doll offensive tackles with a straight-arm and while he’s not explosive, he has the strength to control the line of scrimmage. He’s a high-motor edge setter in the run game who can’t be contained by just one player.

 

6 – Cincinnati

Tristan Wirfs OL

IOWA • JR • 6’5″ / 322 LBS

2019 first-rounder LT Jonah Williams is lost for the season but an offensive line featuring a healthy Williams and Wirfs could be a game-changers for Cincy. Wirfs, who has a little Cody Ford in his game, is surprisingly athletic for his size, and his combination of strong hands and quick feet allows him to control would-be pass rushers. If he gets his hands on you it’s over, and he also has the ability to get into space and pave the way in the running game.

 

7 – Jacksonville

Grant Delpit S

LSU • JR • 6’3″ / 203 LBS

The Jaguars’ defense has all the talent in the world but they can’t seem to get out of their own way. Delpit can line up anywhere — in centerfield, the slot, near the line of scrimmage, off the edge — and wherever he ends up he consistently makes plays. He’s best coming downhill but he’ll continue to improve the other aspects of his game and his long, lean frame coupled with his fluid movements make him look like a natural playmaker.

 

8 – Indianapolis

Isaiah Simmons S

CLEMSON • JR • 6’4″ / 230 LBS

Simmons is a hybrid capable of dominating the linebacker position but with the athleticism to drop into coverage like a safety. He even stood out on Clemson’s stacked defense from last season’s national championship team and Simmons should only get better in 2019. If Dylan Moses returns to Alabama in 2020, Simmons is the top-rated linebacker.

 

9 – Tampa Bay

Justin Herbert QB

OREGON • SR • 6’6″ / 237 LBS

Bruce Arians didn’t fix Jameis Winston in one week. In fact, Winston threw two pick-sixes in the loss to the 49ers. Meanwhile, it’s easy to fall in love with Justin Herbert. He’s 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, incredibly athletic, has one of the best arms in the country and when he gets hot he’s hard to stop. But following a pedestrian junior campaign (he completed just 59 percent of his throws after connecting on 68 percent of passes as a sophomore) he was wise to return for his senior season.

 

10 – Detroit

Paulson Adebo CB

STANFORD • JR • 6’1″ / 190 LBS

Darius Slay is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFC and it makes sense to give him some help on the other side of the field. Adebo is a physical ballhawk who began his career as a wide receiver.

 

11 – N.Y. Jets

Laviska Shenault Jr. WR

COLORADO • JR • 6’2″ / 220 LBS

The Jets’ offense was as bland as it was predictable in Week 1. Shenault, who lines up all over the field — in the slot, offset tight end, H-back, quarterback — would change that. He has strong hands — he’s made a living out of plucking the ball out of the air with a defender draped all over him. He can win at every level and is always one play away from taking it to the house. Think a stronger, more physical N’Keal Harry.

 

12 – Denver

Derrick Brown DT

AUBURN • SR • 6’5″ / 318 LBS

Hard to move off the ball, Brown has the strength to push the pocket, even against double teams. He doesn’t have the dynamism of a Quinnen Williams or Jeffery Simmons but he is a space-eater that is disruptive around the line and allows teammates around him to make plays. Given how the Broncos were manhandled up front by the Raiders, finding defensive line help makes a lot of sense.

 

13 – Atlanta

Julian Okwara DL

NOTRE DAME • SR • 6’4″ / 248 LBS

He was given a first-round grade by the advisory committee before the 2019 season and when you watch him it’s clear why. Okwara, who plays bigger than his listed 240 pounds, shows good hand usage and quick first step around the edge and has the athleticism to sink hips and blow past the offensive tackle. He’s quick-twitch explosive, not easily blocked, and even when he doesn’t get to the quarterback his hands are up trying to make a play. The Falcons have to get better on the defensive side of the ball and it starts with bolstering the pass rush.

 

14 – Buffalo

Kristian Fulton CB

LSU • SR • 6’0″ / 200 LBS

Fulton, who considered entering the 2019 NFL Draft, has quick feet, smooth hips and was arguably LSU’s best cornerback last season even though he played across the field from Greedy Williams, the Browns’ second-round pick this spring. According to Pro Football Focus’ metrics, Fulton allowed just 41.5 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be caught and held receivers to 49 yards after the catch during the ’18 season. Fulton’s off-field history may give some NFL teams pause but his on-field abilities are undeniable.

 

15 – Tennessee

Yetur Gross-Matos DE

PENN STATE • JR • 6’5″ / 264 LBS

Yes, Cam Wake went off against the Browns, and yes, he has two years left on his contract. But he’s also 37 years old and while it may not have looked like it on Sunday, we don’t think he’ll play forever. As for Gross-Matos, his long legs result in a powerful first step when he gets space, and he shows good pursuit down the line of scrimmage, the ability to make backside tackles and uses his quickness to knife through the line. He needs to get stronger but has the quickness to regularly find himself making plays in the backfield.

 

16 – Carolina

Xavier McKinney CB

ALABAMA • JR • 6’1″ / 200 LBS

McKinney is stronger, faster and more explosive than former Alabama teammate Deionte Thompson, and he’s also much more versatile.

 

17 – San Francisco

Creed Humphrey OL

OKLAHOMA • SOPH • 6’5″ / 315 LBS

Weston Richburg struggled in the opener for the 49ers, and that was the case for much of the 2018 season. Humphrey was an integral part of a dominant unit at Oklahoma last season that saw four of his linemates drafted, and he returns in 2019 to anchor a group now charged with protecting Jalen Hurts.

 

18 – Cleveland

Lucas Niang T

TCU • SR • 6’7″ / 328 LBS

The Browns had serious needs along the offensive line coming into the season and those needs were only magnified against the Titans. Niang would immediately upgrade the unit. He started 13 games last season and didn’t allow a sack, and Pro Football Focus graded him as the best pass-blocking tackle in the Big 12.

 

19 –Pittsburgh

Bryce Hall CB

VIRGINIA • SR • 6’1″ / 200 LBS

A tall, physical corner who isn’t afraid to gamble. Last season he played mostly off-coverage in zone looks but showed the instincts and athleticism to come off his responsibility to make plays. He’s also stout against the run and is a solid open-field tackler. If Hall had come out after his junior season there’s a chance he would’ve been a first-round pick.

  

20 – Miami (from Houston)

CeeDee Lamb WR

OKLAHOMA • JR • 6’2″ / 191 LBS

If the Dolphins are drafting their next franchise QB with the No. 1 pick, it only makes sense to get him some weapons. Lamb is an elite route runner, has some of the best hands in college football and his next-level body control allows him to adjust to throws in mid-air. And while he needs to put on weight, he’s a willing blocker — look no further than the backside block he put on former Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson during last year’s meeting. Yes, he needs to get stronger but bottom line, Lamb is a game-changer.

 

21 – Seattle

Tyler Biadasz C

WISCONSIN • JR • 6’3″ / 321 LBS

Russell Wilson was sacked four times on Sunday against the Bengals. The never-ending journey to surround him with consistent pass protectors continues with Biadasz, who has few flaws and would’ve likely been a first-rounder if he declared for the 2019 draft.

 

22 – Baltimore

Dylan Moses LB

ALABAMA • JR • 6’3″ / 235 LBS

The Ravens let C.J. Mosley leave for the Jets and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they replaced him with another Alabama standout. Moses will miss the 2019 season, however, after suffering a torn ACL in August. That said, he is the prototypical NFL inside linebacker in that he’s explosive, extremely athletic and has sideline-to-sideline playmaking abilities. He can rush off the edge and has the ability to sift through trash and knife would-be blockers to make plays in the backfield. Moses was the best inside linebacker on Alabama’s defense a season ago (and that included Browns fifth-rounder Mack Wilson).

 

23 – LA Chargers

Alex Leatherwood OL

ALABAMA • JR • 6’6″ / 310 LBS

Both Chargers’ tackles struggled against the Colts and if the plan is to keep Philip Rivers, who was sacked three times, playing into his 40s he’ll need to be adequately protected.

Round 1 – Pick 24

 

24 – Green Bay

Jalen Reagor WR

TCU • JR • 5’11” / 195 LBS

With Randall Cobb now in Dallas, Aaron Rodgers would love Reagor in this offense. He can line up inside or out and he’s quick off the line, can put foot his in ground and get in an out of breaks, leaving defensive backs helpless to do much about it. Reagor is also explosive coming across the middle, snatches the ball out of air with ease and is a YAC machine.

 

25 – Minnesota

Javon Kinlaw DL

SOUTH CAROLINA • SR • 6’6″ / 310 LBS

Kinlaw is stout at the line of scrimmage and has the ability to consistently push the pocket. His strength can be disruptive, pushing linemen into backfield and affecting timing of both run and pass plays. The offensive has to account for him on every snap, often double-teaming him with mixed results.

 

26 – Dallas

A.J. Terrell CB

CLEMSON • JR • 6’1″ / 190 LBS

The Cowboys have needs at safety, too, but with the top two safeties already off the board, they turn to a deep cornerback class to restock the secondary. Terrell is disruptive and aggressive, and has a chance to be better than Trayvon Mullen, the Raiders’ second-round pick in the spring.

  

27 – Oaklands (from Chicago)

Jordan Love QB

UTAH STATE • JR • 6’4″ / 225 LBS

Yes, Derek Carr was really good against the Broncos in the opener. But we still don’t know if he’s in Jon Gruden’s long-term plans as the team relocates to Las Vegas. The ball explodes out of Jordan Love’s hand and he has great touch to all levels — short, intermediate and deep. If he has a strong 2019 campaign he may end up being a top-10 pick.

 

28 – Philadelphia

K’Lavon Chaisson LB

LSU • SOPH • 6’4″ / 250 LBS

Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are both 31 and Curry is in the final year of his deal. Chaisson, meanwhile, had a sack and a tackle for loss in LSU’s big win over Texas last Saturday. And after missing all but one game of the 2018 campaign with a knee injury, he’s looking to make some noise in the coming weeks and months.

 

29 – LA Rams

Trevon Diggs CB

ALABAMA • SR • 6’2″ / 207 LBS

If Diggs didn’t suffer an injury last season he would’ve been a first-round pick. At 6-1, 200 pounds, he has the prototypical size and speed for today’s NFL cornerback and he has the strength, speed and athleticism that will likely see him go in Round 1 next spring.

 

30 – New Orleans

Jake Fromm QB

GEORGIA • JR • 6’2″ / 220 LBS

Last week, we had the Saints taking Jacob Eason. This week, it’s Fromm. Through two games, Fromm, as we’ve come to expect, has been efficient from the pocket, often making the right reads and delivering short and intermediate passes accurately and on time. Questions about his deep-ball accuracy remain, even when the opponent is incapable of providing much in the way of competition.

 

31 – Kansas City

CJ Henderson CB

FLORIDA • JR • 6’1″ / 202 LBS

Long-legged and long-armed, Henderson can flip his hips, get in and out of breaks against top-flight receivers, and displays good mirroring skills. He’s strong in man coverage, and while he isn’t a ballhawk (two INTs, five passes defended last season) he has the hands of a wide receiver. Henderson sometimes struggles to disengage from blocks to make tackles in the run game and he’ll need to add weight to what can be described as a slight frame, at least by NFL standards.

 

32 – New England

Henry Ruggs III WR

ALABAMA • JR • 6’0″ / 190 LBS

With Julian Edelman turning 34 next season, the Patriots could again be in the market for a downfield playmaker. Regularly the fastest player on the field, Ruggs is a YAC monster who dominates short and intermediate routes and must be accounted for on every play.