AROUND THE NFL
QB AARON RODGERS has won the right to call plays, for good or bad, at the line of scrimmage. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
Rock, paper, scissors, Rodgers.
In a development that should surprise no one, Packers coach Matt LaFleur says that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have the ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve given him all the freedom,” LaFleur said, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “So if he sees something, he’s got the green light to do whatever he needs to do to get us into a good play. We’re not going to take that from him.”
LaFleur, who has conceded the so-called “audible thing” to Rodgers, didn’t specify the number of plays that will be available to the team’s franchise quaterback. Typically, the LaFleur offense entails two plays being called in the huddle, with the quarterback then deciding, based on predetermined factors, which of the two will be chosen at the line of scrimmage. As noted by Silverstein, LaFleur didn’t say how many plays Rodgers will be able to choose from.
Regardless, it’s a win for Rodgers. The quarterback was destined to win, given the amount of money that the Packers pay him and, necessarily, the power he has. Really, what would the Packers do if he defies LaFleur? Bench him for Tim Boyle?
This is Rodgers’ team and it’s Rodgers’ call as to the play that will be called in any given situation. And if LaFleur wants to survive in the job, he had no choice but to give the power to Rodgers.
The Vikings have signed WR JOSH DOCTSON, cut by the Redskins, to replace their own 2016 first-round failure. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
Minnesota is moving on from one 2016 first-round wideout by adding another.
Days after cutting receiver Laquon Treadwell after three seasons with the club, the Vikings signed former Redskins pass-catcher Josh Doctson to a one-year deal, a source told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Monday.
Both Doctson and Treadwell were waived by their respective teams of entry ahead of Saturday’s deadline to finalize initial 53-man rosters. Both players went unclaimed.
While Doctson has found a new home on the open market, Treadwell remains unsigned.
Selected 22nd overall by Washington in the 2016 draft, Doctson fell out of favor with Jay Gruden’s staff. The receiver was inconsistent and injury-prone in his three years in D.C., missing most of his rookie year with an Achilles injury and starting 26 games for the ‘Skins. The team declined his fifth-year option in May.
Doctson left Washington with 81 receptions for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. That production far outdoes that of Treadwell whom Minnesota drafted one spot after Washington’s selection of Doctson. Treadwell racked up 56 catches for 517 yards and just one score in 40 games and 15 starts for the Vikes.
In Minnesota, Doctson will reunite with Kirk Cousins, his quarterback in 2016 and 2017. Doctson was Cousins’ second-most targeted receiver in 2017 (78 targets) but finished fifth on the team in receptions (35). His 44.9 catch percentage that season was the fifth-worst among receivers with at least 50 targets.
Doctson is joining a receiving corps flush with talent, led by arguably the league’s top wideout duo in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen and also including potential breakout slot man Chad Beebe and Bisi Johnson.
It’s unclear what his role will be for the Vikings when they kick off the season against the Falcons this Sunday. But Doctson’s signing in Minnesota acts as a second chance for both the receiver and the team: what might have been if the 2016 draft had proceeded differently, and what still could be.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com with this update on the negotiations with RB EZEKIEL ELLIOTT:
Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports that Monday was “more positive” than Sunday, but that issues remain when it comes to the structure of the deal.
The team, per Robinson, doesn’t want to front-load the contract. The 30-percent rule, which dictates structure by preventing major jumps in contract value in any given year, “has been a grind,” Robinson explains.
As a practical matter, the rule requires money to be paid out early or other creative measures to be employed to get Elliott to the Todd Gurley $14.375 million annual average. And, again, the Cowboys don’t want to front-load the deal.
However it plays out, Tuesday seems to be the drop-dead deadline for getting something done. That allows Elliott to get to Dallas for the practices in advance of the first game of the season, and it gives the team the best chance to prepare for his presence in the building and, ideally, against the Giants, on the field.
Despite all the bluster from Jerry and/or Stephen Jones, here’s the reality: Every game they play without Elliott makes the Cowboys more likely to lose, and every loss in September or October can come back to haunt the Cowboys when it’s time to figure out who makes the playoffs, whether those games are played at home, and whether there’s a chance to rest for a week before entering the elimination round. So this deal is likely getting done, and today is the most likely day to do it.
Coach Jason Garrett wants to see Elliott before setting a timetable for his participation when his deal gets done (which it was not on Monday). Todd Archer of ESPN.com:
As the Dallas Cowboys begin preparations for their season opener against the New York Giants with practice Monday, coach Jason Garrett would not commit to a time frame for when Ezekiel Elliott needs to be with the team in order to play.
“Zeke is as capable as anybody I know. He’s an experienced player, he’s been a really good player for us, he knows our system of football,” Garrett said. “I don’t think they’ll be a lot of learning there. He’s a smart guy, an instinctive guy. But again, that’s a hypothetical. We’re just focused on the guys we have right now. We’re going to go practice as well as we can the right way to prepare for the Giants.”
Conditioning could be a factor with Elliott, since he missed all of training camp. Elliott has been in Cabo reportedly working out.
“There’s a playing progression we have every year with our guys. But again, this is a different situation than that,” Garrett said. “You try to treat each situation on its merits, specifically based on the guy and what the particular situation is.”
With the Cowboys beginning the regular season, the running back faces a new set of potential fines with his holdout.
Elliott is subject to fines of $39,890 a day for missing work. He would not be subject to a fine on scheduled off days for the players. Each game missed will cost him a little more than $226,000 in base salary, plus he could potentially be fined for missed meetings and other team protocol. According to the collective bargaining agreement, if Elliott does not report for the first game, then the Cowboys could come after another 25% of his prorated signing bonus ($1.02 million).
The Cowboys and Elliott’s agents spoke over the weekend, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting sources saying that talks were “intensifying,” but the Cowboys are set to begin their first full-fledged practice for Sunday’s season opener at 11:45 a.m. CT without their running back.
According to a source, the Cowboys will call up running back Jordan Chunn from the practice squad on Monday and will place rookie guard Connor McGovern on injured reserve with a pectoral muscle injury. Chunn gives the Cowboys four running backs on the 53-man roster, joining Tony Pollard, Alfred Morris and fullback Jamize Olawale. While Chunn’s addition could be viewed as preparation for Elliott to not be available against the Giants, he can also play on special teams.
Elliott could be on the hook for fines totaling $1.48 million for missing 37 days of training camp.
The fines are at the discretion of the Cowboys and it is not known whether they would look to collect.
No new contract yet for WR JULIO JONES. Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Falcons have been reportedly close to a deal for star wide receiver Julio Jones many times this offseason. And yet, he still doesn’t have a deal, as if moving from negotiation to gestation.
But on Monday, Jones was on the practice field as if everything was normal, and coach Dan Quinn is hoping that it stays that way.
“I have no new updates to provide you on that,” Quinn said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Sometimes the business sides do intersect. Sometimes they can creep in a little bit. If anybody has done some business or contract negotiations, you know there are two sides to it. If I chimed in, it would be a third side. . . .
“I’m not part of those conversations and calls. I’m confident that they’ll get together and get some stuff done. I’m definitely ready to move it from negotiations to celebrations. I just hope that takes place. He’s here and doing well in terms of practice for today.”
The clock’s ticking on meeting their oft-stated goal of extending Jones before the start of the regular season. And recent deals in Atlanta and otherwise aren’t making it easier, leaving Quinn to hope he can stay in his normal football lane, and that this baby finally gets delivered.
Should QB JIMMY GAROPPOLO falter, the 49ers confirm that QB NICK MULLINS is the next man up. Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News:
Nick Mullens, with little surprise or fanfare, outlasted C.J. Beathard to win the 49ers No. 2 quarterback roll and be Jimmy Garoppolo’s backup entering Sunday’s season opener at Tampa Bay.
Mullens broke the news at his locker Monday, solving one of this offseason’s biggest mysteries and one that might be relatively meaningless as long as Garoppolo stays healthy in his comeback from knee reconstruction.
Rather than bask in his role, Mullens looked at the 49ers’ big picture as they look to snap a five-year playoff drought with Garoppolo at the controls.
“Super excited for him,” Mullens said. “We all encourage each other. We all have a positive mindset in that room.
“You could see what the offense can be in that Preseason 3. We ran the ball, threw the ball and protected very well, and looking forward to carrying that momentum into Week 1. It’s all Tampa now so we’re super excited.”
Mullens has had a few days to digest news of his role, having learned about it Friday in what was a milestone day for him. Hours after coach Kyle Shanahan gave him that QB2 news, Mullens became a first-time father, as his wife, Haleigh, gave birth to their son, Luke.
“Pretty cool week. Very thankful,” the 24-year-old Mullens said, adding that his wife and son came home from the hospital Sunday healthy and happy.
Beathard, meanwhile, indicated that he got a fair shot in what Shanahan described all offseason as a “dead even” competition.
“I definitely felt it was a good competition and each of us had our fair share of plays,” said Beathard, who spoke to reporters before Mullens and declined to reveal who won their competition; Shanahan will speak with reporters Wednesday for the first time since last Thursday’s exhibition finale.
As you might expect, Coach Pete Carroll is thrilled with adding EDGE JADEVEON CLOWNEY. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll believes he added a unique piece to his defense when he acquired Jadeveon Clowney in a trade with the Texans.
Carroll said today that Clowney’s mix of size and speed, and his ability to play the run and the pass, will bring things to the table that other players can’t bring.
“He’s a rare football player,” Carroll said. “He’s got special skills that most guys don’t have. His great quickness, his reaction time, his length that he can use, his ability to run, his instincts. He’s made a lot of plays in the backfield over the years, instinctive plays, penetrating and causing problems. We plan to allow him to do that in our scheme and he’ll fit really well with what we’re doing. He’s a great fit whether it’s early downs or third downs. He’s pretty much got what you’re looking for.”
There aren’t many players in the NFL with Clowney’s athletic talent. The Seahawks didn’t have to give up much to acquire that talent, and Carroll is excited.
Former Texan T DUANE BROWN helped convince Clowney that Seattle was the place for him. Brady Henderson of ESPN.com:
The deal that brought Jadeveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks came down to the wire, according to coach Pete Carroll, and had been on general manager John Schneider’s radar for several months before it was completed over the weekend.
In between, an important phone call from Duane Brown helped make it happen.
Brown selling Clowney on the city and the team helped the Seahawks land the Pro Bowl pass-rusher, capping off an eventful six months during which he was franchise-tagged by the Houston Texans, stayed away from them as he sought a long-term deal and met with the Miami Dolphins before Seattle won out.
“Phew,” Clowney said when asked how crazy the process that led him to Seattle has been. “Very crazy.”
He spoke with reporters Monday, having taken off the No. 91 jersey that he wore during his first practice with the team, one number higher than what he wore for his five seasons in Houston. Carroll said Clowney is in line to play in Sunday’s opener against the visiting Cincinnati Bengals.
– – –
It was about a month ago that Clowney got a call from Brown, his teammate in Houston from his 2014 rookie season to when Brown was dealt to Seattle at the trade deadline in 2017. Clowney asked Brown how he likes it in Seattle.
“He was like, ‘You need to come play with us. You’ll love it here. Great weather. It’s not hot like Houston. Great fan support. Other great teammates on this team. Come be a part of something great,'” Clowney recalled. “I was like, ‘Man, you know what? I’m going to look into that, try to get up there with you guys.'”
And as a franchise-tagged player who had yet to sign his tender — meaning he wasn’t under contract and couldn’t be traded until he was — Clowney had a great deal of say about where he would end up. That was the idea all along.
“I just really tried to take control of what I could control, as far as where could I play at and how could I be traded, as far as that,” he said. “I was just taking that into consideration. It was like, ‘If I don’t sign the tag, maybe I could decide where I end up going,’ and I got somewhere I wanted to be. That’s what happened.”
In addition to Brown giving his recruiting pitch, he gave the Seahawks his stamp of approval on Clowney. Specifically, Carroll said Brown vouched for Clowney’s work ethic, the subject of questions earlier in his career.
“Without question, Duane helped us through the process in making us know who we’re dealing with and the player he used to practice against and his capabilities, potential habits, background, family,” Carroll said. “We really had a lot of insights because of Duane.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Texans gave Clowney a $7 million signing bonus and that the Seahawks are paying him only an $8 million salary. Carroll confirmed Schefter’s report that the Seahawks agreed not to franchise Clowney, 26, at the end of this season, calling it something they had to do to get the deal done. He lauded Schneider’s persistence in pursuing Clowney and the job he and vice president of football administration Matt Thomas did in completing the trade with all the moving parts surrounding the Saturday afternoon deadline for teams to set trim their rosters to 53.
“There was about 20 seconds before 1 o’clock [Sunday],” he said. “It was right to the nub. We’re a long ways away from Houston, and a lot of stuff could happen in between, and really, we’re all sitting in the office up there. J.D. is there and his agent and Matt and John and I, and we’re sitting there looking at the clock, waiting for the word to come back. So it was really, there was a lot of drama to it. So it was fun that we were able to pull it off, and really, we didn’t know right until the very end.”
Clowney cited the appeal of playing with Russell Wilson as a factor in wanting to join the Seahawks, along with getting to play end in Carroll’s 4-3 defense. Clowney — listed on Seattle’s roster at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds — said he can put on weight knowing he won’t have to drop into coverage against tight ends as he frequently did as an outside linebacker in Houston’s 3-4.
Carroll said there’s “no question he’s really in good shape” based on what he has seen from Clowney so far. Clowney trained for the bulk of the offseason in Miami and more recently in Houston.
“I know that Jadeveon was really concerned about being ready for this season coming up,” Carroll said. “He would tell you he put together the best offseason he’s ever had. … He was really healthy going through the process with the physical and all that kind of stuff, so he’s in great shape in that regard. Everything is really positive.”
Carroll said there is “without question” a chance Clowney remains a part of Seattle’s plans beyond 2019. Clowney punted on that when he was asked about it, saying he isn’t thinking that far ahead.
“I’m still trying to figure out where the cafeteria is at and where the locker room is,” he said with a laugh. “It’s all confusing.”
Houston’s big deals over the weekend seemed kind of impulsive, but Coach Bill O’Brien insists deep thought and planning went into the whirlwind. He also denies that watching Andrew Luck riding off into the sunset had anything to do with increasing a desire to protect DESHAUN WATSON. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
Houston reshaped its roster in a major way this weekend, swinging trades for offensive additions Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Carlos Hyde but also parting ways with two first-round picks, a second-round pick and a Pro Bowl pass rusher in Jadeveon Clowney in the process.
The regime-defining swaps on a wild cutdown day were the work of Texans coach Bill O’Brien. Houston’s head honcho has taken criticism in the aftermath for waiting too long to deal Clowney and giving too much up for Tunsil and the haul from Miami.
O’Brien defended his personnel decisions on Monday, stressing that Saturday’s moves were calculated.
“These moves were part of a plan, something that was well thought out, spent a lot of time on it and tried to execute the plan,” O’Brien told reporters. “It’s not just a plan to improve the team for 2019, it’s a plan to improve the roster for years to come, giving us the ability and flexibility to extend our core players while continuing to add and develop talent.”
O’Brien has been in charge of Houston’s personnel moves ever since the Texans fired general manager Brian Gaine in June and failed to hire a successor. The coach is working with other Texans front office personnel to make GM decisions. Under O’Brien’s leadership, Houston was unable to come to an agreement on an extension with the franchise-tagged Clowney before the July 15 deadline. That paved the way for Clowney to not sign his tag and force his way out of Houston to a preferred destination.
After attempting to send Clowney to Miami, where the edge rusher was not interested in landing, the Texans sent him to the Seahawks in exchange for a 2020 third-round pick, linebacker Jacob Martin and pass rusher Barkevious Mingo. O’Brien said Monday he liked Houston’s better-late-than-never return.
“I understand everybody is going to dissect how we did it and what we received back and what we gave Seattle. In the end we did what we felt was in the best interest of our organization and our team moving forward,” O’Brien said. “We feel like we got a 2020 third-round pick and we also feel like we added two players that are very versatile players. They play hard, they play with great effort, they’re high-character guys and we feel like we did what’s best for the team.”
Regarding the players that joined Houston in Saturday’s swaps, O’Brien was sunny about their potential impact on the Texans. The coach spoke highly, in particular, of Tunsil’s excellence at left tackle and flexibility along the offensive line.
“I think that when you look at Laremy, yes he is an excellent pass protector, but there’s so many other things he can do,” O’Brien said. “He can run block, he’s able to get his pads down, he works well with the guys next to him whether it’s a tight end to his left or a guard to his right, he works very well with the guys next to him, he can pull out on screens. He’s a very smart player, he’s a very instinctive player and he’s played guard before. We’re not going to line him up at guard unless we had to, but he’s done that before, so he’s got a versatile skill set. I think that everyone is excited about adding him to the team.”
The coach also expressed an eagerness for Tunsil to help mentor Houston’s rookie offensive linemen, Tytus Howard and Max Scharping.
Asked how much Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s early retirement due to chronic injuries suffered behind a subpar offensive line had anything to do with the acquisition of franchise left tackle in Tunsil, O’Brien responded with an emphatic “None.”
O’Brien did not say whether or not Houston was working on an extension with the 25-year-old left tackle, whose rookie deal is up after the 2020 season.
Week 1 roles for Tunsil, Stills, Hyde and others have not yet been explained, and there are still myriad questions that need answers in Houston before the Texans take on the New Orleans Saints on Monday night.
But there’s no question that O’Brien feels that the Texans are better off Monday than they were on Saturday, regardless of what they lost and gained in their trades.
“We’re all about trying to get better. We’re trying to do the best things we can, the best decisions we can make for the team,” O’Brien said. “You want to call it aggressive, then that’s the stuff that’s out of my control. All I can tell you is we put a lot of thought into it, had a lot of meetings about it, a lot of communication, and we feel good about where we’re at.”
The Colts lavish some love on QB JACOBY BRISSETT as he prepares to take the reins. Joel Erickson in the Indianapolis Star:
The Colts have made it clear that Jacoby Brissett’s the man.
Indianapolis backed it up financially Monday, signing Brissett to a two-year deal, a league source told IndyStar, a $30 million extension with $20 million in guarantees, according to the NFL Network. At an average of $15 million, Brissett would be the 19th-highest page quarterback in the NFL.
Brissett was heading into the final year of his rookie contract, a deal worth $2 million in base salary, before agreeing to the extension with Indianapolis on Monday. The new deal replaces the final year of his rookie contract and extends Brissett by one season; Brissett is now signed through the 2020 season.
Financially speaking, the Colts backed up what they’ve been saying about Brissett since the day Andrew Luck shocked the NFL with his retirement. Colts coach Frank Reich has repeatedly said that he believes Brissett is a top-20 quarterback; general manager Chris Ballard has called Brissett a “rare, rare leader,” an assessment backed up by the quarterback’s teammates.
“He is the man,” Reich said on Sunday. “He is our answer.”
Brissett took the opportunity to cash in on his status as the Colts’ starter for the foreseeable future. By signing an extension now, Brissett ensures that his new role pays off financially; he was headed into the final year of a rookie deal that paid him little by NFL standards, and if he struggled or suffered an injury, he could have come away with nothing, relative to starting quarterbacks.
If he’d decided to wait and played well, Brissett likely could have commanded a far bigger deal before the start of free agency in March. Nick Foles, the former Eagles backup who led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl, signed a four-year, $88 million deal with $45.125 million guaranteed at signing to become Jacksonville’s starter in free agency in the spring.
But the length of the deal means that Brissett hasn’t given up the chance for a larger payday down the line. Brissett is only 26. If he plays well and establishes himself as a bona fide, playoff-caliber NFL starter, he’ll be back at the negotiating table in two years at the age of 28, still in the prime of his career and earning potential.
From the Colts’ perspective, the length of the contract offers little in the way of risk. Indianapolis opened the day with $58,088,445 in salary-cap space available, and depending on the way Brissett’s new deal is structured, the Colts could push the majority of the guaranteed money onto the salary cap in 2019, giving the team an out if Brissett shows that he’s not the answer this season. Details of how Brissett’s contract is structured have not been released yet.
If Brissett succeeds, the Colts do not have to worry about him hitting the open market next spring, and the team would have an opportunity to negotiate another extension with him, fully committing to him for the long-term.
For the moment, Brissett and the Colts both get short-term security, and the quarterback position is settled with Brian Hoyer as the backup, and likely with Chad Kelly as a developmental No. 3 once he returns from a two-game suspension.
“We want to make sure we make the right decision, both in the short term and in the long term,” Ballard said of his quarterback situation on Sunday.
Financial implications aside, the Colts have made it clear that they believe that Brissett can be the answer for this team.
“You know we feel about Jacoby,” Reich said last week. “I mean yes, he has been Andrew’s backup. I’ve made it known, and Chris the same way, from Day 1 I came in and watched all of Jacoby’s film, get to meet him, get to know him, and in my mind, I say this guy is a top-20 quarterback. This guy is a legit starter in this league.”
Brissett has been a starter before; when he took over in Indianapolis on short notice in 2017, he completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,098 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions, finishing with a 4-11 record.
That was an emergency situation. Brissett was traded to the Colts right before the start of the season, and he took over a faulty roster that has completely been remade. Indianapolis gave up 52 sacks in 2017; a remade offensive line gave up just 18 last season, the best mark in the NFL, and an improved running game averaged more than 120 yards per game when starting running back Marlon Mack was in the lineup.
Brissett, the Colts believe, will thrive on a team that was built with the goal in mind of being able to compete even without the brilliance of Andrew Luck.
“I do believe in defensive football,” Ballard said Sunday. “I know you’ve got to score points, I get it, but you’ve got to be able to block people, and you’ve got to be able to stop people. Those are two areas that we’ve really emphasized since we’ve been here. And the depth that you have, we are obsessed with it.”
Luck’s retirement, and Brissett’s ascension to the starting role, will be the ultimate test of Brissett and the team around him, playing in an AFC South that looks like it’s anybody’s for the taking this season.
When Luck decided to walk away from football, the Colts knew where they would turn, to a player they’ve believed in for a long time, and a player they’ve now rewarded for everything he’s done to get to this point.
Everything else is out of the way. Now, it’s up to Brissett to reward the Colts’ faith in him.
“I know this about Jacoby,” Ballard said. “He won’t flinch.”
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com has some thoughts:
The Colts had an eventual decision to make with quarterback Jacoby Brissett. They made it now, although they’ll now have to make another one later.
PFT has confirmed that Brissett has agreed to terms on a two-year, $30 million deal. It’s not an extension, but a two-year contract that replaces the remainder of his rookie deal, which was due to pay $2 million this year.
With an extra $28 million over the next two years, the Colts have basically pre-exercised the franchise tag on Brissett, giving him the same two-year payout he would have gotten if the Colts had tagged him after the season. The Colts bought some time, building a bridge to making a long-term decision at quarterback, post-Andrew Luck.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Colts weren’t enamored with next year’s expected class of free-agent quarterbacks, so they opted to give Brissett the security that he didn’t have, along with dibs on earning another deal.
The Colts also benefit from the fact that, even though they’re basically giving Brissett a deal that equates to the money he would have earned this year plus next year’s franchise tag, they don’t have to actually apply the tag to make it happen, giving them the ability to do it in 2021 and 2022, before it would become ridiculously expensive in 2023.
And then there’s the Luck factor. If he comes back in 2020, the Colts won’t have so much cash tied up in Brissett that they can’t welcome Luck back and reabsorb his contract.
THIS AND THAT
After one week of the college season, Chris Trapasso of CBSSports.com vaults QB JALEN HURTS into the first round, but still, somehow, has Oregon QB JUSTIN HERBERT as the first overall pick.
1 – Miami
Justin Herbert QB
OREGON • SR • 6’6″ / 237 LBS
I’m of the belief that Herbert’s physical abilities will catapult him over Tagovailoa to the No. 1 overall spot in the 2020 Draft. The Dolphins have Josh Rosen in the mix, but the new front office and coaching staff will likely be enamored with the idea of drafting what is hopefully their future franchise quarterback, and Herbert has those type of skills.
2 – Washington
Andrew Thomas OT
GEORGIA • JR • 6’5″ / 320 LBS
The Redskins are a long way from fielding a high-powered offense, and it looks like Trent Williams has played his last down in Washington. Thomas has the athleticism and power to be a franchise left tackle.
3 – N.Y. Giants
Chase Young DE
OHIO STATE • JR • 6’5″ / 265 LBS
Receiver might be a bigger need for the Giants, but Young has alpha edge rusher written all over him, and New York needs more juice (and size) around the corner.
Tua Tagovailoa QB
ALABAMA • JR • 6’1″ / 218 LBS
Ryan Finley had a strong preseason, which, theoretically, could stop the Bengals from going quarterback in Round 1, but with they simply cannot pass on Tagovailoa here.
5 – Arizona
Trey Smith OL
TENNESSEE • JR • 6’6″ / 325 LBS
Smith looked like a future first-round pick as a freshman, and he was cleared to play in the 2019 season after dealing with blood clots last year. He has a rare power and movement skill combination.
6 – Tampa Bay
Tristan Wirfs OL
IOWA • JR • 6’5″ / 322 LBS
Wirfs is as overpowering as it gets up front, and I’m making this pick thinking Jameis Winston does enough to earn an extension in Tampa under Bruce Arians’ tutelage this season.
7 – Buffalo
A.J. Epenesa DE
IOWA • JR • 6’6″ / 280 LBS
The Bills continue to build their defensive line, and edge is a need because of Jerry Hughes’ age and the mediocre pass-rushing depth behind him in Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson.
8 – Detroit
Kristian Fulton CB
LSU • SR • 6’0″ / 200 LBS
The Lions cut ties with former second-round pick Teez Tabor, and even with Darius Slay and Justin Coleman in the mix, the secondary is lacking depth. Fulton can flourish in man or zone thanks to his ridiculously fluid athleticism. Matt Patricia will love him.
9 – Denver
Javon Kinlaw DL
SOUTH CAROLINA • SR • 6’6″ / 310 LBS
Kinlaw didn’t load the stat sheet in 2018 but was super disruptive on run and pass plays. The Broncos have the horses (pun intended) on the outside of their defense but need a true penetrator on the interior.
10 – N.Y. Jets
Bryce Hall CB
VIRGINIA • SR • 6’1″ / 200 LBS
Hall is a long, decently twitchy, incredibly aware outside corner who led the nation in pass breakups last season. He’s exactly what the Jets desperately need.
11 – Indianapolis
Jerry Jeudy WR
ALABAMA • JR • 6’1″ / 192 LBS
The Colts now can’t rely on their quarterback to elevate the receiving talent on the roster. Jeudy can complement T.Y. Hilton early in his career before ultimately taking over as the No. 1 in Indy.
12 – Tennessee
Jacob Eason QB
WASHINGTON • JR • 6’6″ / 227 LBS
Eason is a large, strong-armed, aggressive-style quarterback. His big arm and downfield passing specialty will be refreshing for the Titans organization after moving on from Marcus Mariota following the 2019 campaign.
13 – Carolina
Paulson Adebo CB
STANFORD • JR • 6’1″ / 190 LBS
Adebo was everywhere last season for Stanford. His length and flexibility allow him to get his hands on the football often. The Panthers have to acquire a top talent at the cornerback position playing in the NFC South.
14 – San Francisco
Grant Delpit S
LSU • JR • 6’3″ / 203 LBS
Delpit would provide the 49ers with the game-changing safety the defense really needs. He’s a little further ahead as a run defender than he is in coverage but is strong in both areas.
15 – Oakland
Isaiah Simmons S
CLEMSON • JR • 6’4″ / 230 LBS
The Raiders just released Brandon Marshall, and Vontaze Burfict is playing on a one-year deal. Simmons has rare, freakish athleticism, and represents the future of the linebacker position with his size, range, and coverage ability.
16 – Baltimore
Kenny Willekes DE
MICHIGAN STATE • SR • 6’4″ / 260 LBS
The Ravens have a clear-cut need on the outside of their defensive line. Willekes is a powerful and refined hand work master around the corner.
17 – Seattle
Essang Bassey CB
WAKE FOREST • SR • 5’10” / 190 LBS
The Seahawks made a gigantic upgrade to their defensive front by trading for Jadeveon Clowney. He’ll help the secondary. But the cornerback room could use a boost in talent, and Bassey is a long, twitchy ball hawk.
18 – Miami (from Houston)
Walker Little OT
STANFORD • JR • 6’7″ / 309 LBS
The Dolphins have an enormous hole at left tackle after trading Laremy Tunsil. Little was a big recruit at Stanford and his arrow is pointing up. He’s a devastating run blocker and has the balance and anchoring skills to be a sturdy pass protector.
19 – Atlanta
Yetur Gross-Matos DE
PENN STATE • JR • 6’5″ / 264 LBS
Gross-Matos wins with immense length and power on the outside. With former first-round pick Vic Beasley likely headed for free agency, the Falcons have to address the edge of their defensive line next year.
20 – Jacksonville
Alohi Gilman S
NOTRE DAME • SR • 5’11” / 202 LBS
The Jaguars need a center fielder to pair with strong safety Ronnie Harrison on their defense. Gilman has tremendous ball-tracking skills and speed from the deep middle.
21 – Minnesota
CeeDee Lamb WR
OKLAHOMA • JR • 6’2″ / 191 LBS
With the Laquon Treadwell experiment now officially over, the Vikings take another swing at receiver in the first round to pair with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Lamb can do it all.
22 – Green Bay
Jalen Reagor WR
TCU • JR • 5’11” / 195 LBS
The Packers would see the selection of Reagor as giving Aaron Rodgers a younger Randall Cobb for the twilight of his career.
23 – Pittsburgh
Alton Robinson DL
SYRACUSE • SR • 6’4″ / 260 LBS
Robinson flashes good bend at times, but if he can tightly wrap the corner more frequently than he did last season, he’ll be on track to land in Round 1. He has an arsenal of pass-rushing moves and plenty of upper body strength.
24 – L.A. Chargers
Jalen Hurts QB
OKLAHOMA • SR • 6’2″ / 219 LBS
For the past two drafts, many have speculated the Chargers would take an heir apparent to Philip Rivers. Hurts is positioned to have a monstrous year at Oklahoma and would be the perfect quarterback to sit for a year or two to refine his array of natural skills.
25 – Dallas
J.R. Reed S
GEORGIA • SR • 6’1″ / 194 LBS
Reed, the son of former Vikings receiver Jake Reed, has length for days and high-end instincts in coverage down the field. The Cowboys need a playmaker on the back end.
26 – Cleveland
Calvin Throckmorton OT
OREGON • SR • 6’5″ / 309 LBS
The right tackle spot is a major need for the Browns, and Throckmorton is arguably the best right tackle in the country. While not the most athletic at the position, he’s an old-school mauler on that side of the line.
27 – Philadelphia
Darrell Taylor LB
TENNESSEE • SR • 6’4″ / 255 LBS
Taylor’s flying under the radar but has serious juice around the corner and can bend the edge as well as anyone in this class.
28 – New Orleans
Collin Johnson WR
TEXAS • SR • 6’6″ / 220 LBS
The Saints liked what they got from large, undrafted free agent Emmanuel Butler this preseason, but Johnson is more ready to contribute from Day 1 as a big-bodied, ball-skills master out wide.
29 – L.A. Rams
Tyler Biadasz C
WISCONSIN • JR • 6’3″ / 321 LBS
While Sean McVay’s zone-based running attack will stretch Biadasz’s athleticism to the limit, he’s a super-balanced, power player at center and will thrive in pass protection earlier than most centers do.
30 – New England
Albert Okwuegbunam TE
MISSOURI • JR • 6’5″ / 255 LBS
Okwuegbunam is probably the nation’s most talented pass-catching tight end thanks to strong hands, good athleticism, and running back-like skills once he gets the ball in his hands.
31 – Oakland (from Chicago)
Trevon Diggs CB
ALABAMA • SR • 6’2″ / 207 LBS
Even after picking Trayvon Mullen in Round 2 and Isaiah Johnson in the fourth round of the 2019 Draft, the Raiders add Diggs, a dynamic athlete with a nasty demeanor as a tackler on the outside.
32 – Kansas City
CJ Henderson CB
FLORIDA • JR • 6’1″ / 202 LBS
Henderson is a sticky man-to-man cornerback with an aggressive style and the necessary plant-and-drive skills to consistently make plays in zone. He’s precisely what the Chiefs need.