AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

Packers GM Mark Murphy seems to be admitting that Bleacher Report’s Tyler Dunne got things at least half right in his expose on the relationship between Mike McCarthy and QB AARON RODGERS. WXOX-TV:

 

It’s only April but the Packers are already on the defensive.

 

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy responded Wednesday night for the first time publicly about that Bleacher Report article that came out last week, which called into question Aaron Rodgers’ leadership and the fractured relationship he had with Mike McCarthy.

 

Murphy along with Packer alums Nick Barnett, Earl Dotson, Ryan Grant, Bernardo Harris, Aaron Kampman and Scott Wells were in Sparta as part of the Packers annual Tailgate Tour.

As for that article, it suggested the Packers would have won more than just one Super Bowl if the egos of Rodgers and Mc Carthy hadn’t gotten in the way.

Here’s what he told WXOW 19 Sports:

 

“It’s all in the past. It’s a lot of half-truths and a lot of stuff just made up. The conversation that allegedly took place between Aaron and I was completely false. We had a great conversation. It was very positive. We talked about Matt La Fleur and I said ‘Aaron, I think this change is going to be great for you and the organization and he was very positive,” Murphy said.

 

“I think this is going to be great motivation for him and the team. You hate to have your dirty laundry aired but I do think it’s going to be a positive.”

 

“Was some of that part of the impetus for you to take over football operations?”

 

“Yeah. If things were as bad as that article implied, we never would’ve won a Super Bowl. we never would’ve gone to 8 straight playoffs. It was certainly exaggerated. But I just felt like we did need a change and I think last year, with Ted stepping down into more of a senior advisery role, then this year, just felt like we needed a change. As Aaron said, I have nothing but great respect for Mike and what he’s accomplished for us,” Murphy said.

 

NFC EAST

 

WASHINGTON

The Redskins say they are not impressed by all the people who have been trying to stick them with QB JOSH ROSEN.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

“They have done a little bit of homework here, at least tried to figure out what the Cardinals’ price would be,” NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said on the Around the NFL podcast. “But they’re not actively chasing him and I don’t know that they have a hard offer on the table because I know for a fact that they’re still going through the motions with the guys in the draft apparently.

 

“And they have made no firm decision about, ‘Are we going to draft a guy or are we going to go the Josh Rosen route or try to trade for someone?’ I just don’t sense it. … I don’t really believe that it’s a sizzling market for Josh Rosen.”

 

The Redskins have done their due diligence on some of this year’s top quarterback prospects, including Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones, Clayton Thorson and Jarrett Stidham.

 

And it makes sense the Redskins would do a deep evaluation at the quarterback position when considering Alex Smith continues to recover from a gruesome leg injury.

 

Washington addressed the position by trading for Case Keenum from the Denver Broncos, and Keenum is expected to battle Colt McCoy for the starting job in Smith’s absence.

 

Based on what we saw last year, it is hard to say that Rosen would represent much of an upgrade from the serviceable Keenum and McCoy.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY rarely left the field last year – and that’s just how he likes it.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Christian McCaffrey made normal “workhorse running backs” look lazy in 2018.

 

The Carolina Panthers’ dual-threat back played 91.3 percent of the team’s offensive snaps last season. His 924 snaps were by far the most by an RB, outdistancing Ezekiel Elliott’s 847 (83 percent of Cowboys snaps), per Next Gen Stats.

 

Despite McCaffrey’s overwhelming success last season — 1,098 rushing yards and seven TDs on 219 attempts, and 867 receiving yards and six TDs on 107 receptions — lessening his workload has been a stated goal of the Panthers this offseason.

 

The 22-year-old, however, doesn’t see the need for the Panthers to curtail his playing time or touches.

 

“I played in every game last year, felt great,” McCaffrey told ESPN. “I can do it again. I feel I can do it over the next many years. … I would definitely like the ball as much as possible. … That’s why I train.”

 

The Panthers signed C.J. Anderson last season to pair with McCaffrey, then never used him and eventually granted the veteran his release.

 

Offseason plans to lessen McCaffrey’s workload are easy to discuss. Under the fire of meaningful games, it would take a concerted, disciplined effort for the Panthers coaching staff to take such a dynamic, game-changing dual-threat back like CMC off the field.

 

Currently, Cameron Artis-Payne, Elijah Hood and Reggie Bonnafon are the other backs on the roster. None would provide McCaffrey more than a brief breather. The Panthers could add a mid-round pick to pair with their dynamic runner. Wouldn’t CMC reuniting with former Stanford teammate Bryce Love make for a great story and tandem

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

RB DAVID JOHNSON thinks he can do some damage if Coach Kliff Kingsbury lets him run from the shotgun.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The prevailing notion among the football cognoscenti states that an NFL running game will struggle if used primarily from the shotgun.

 

Running backs don’t get the same downhill momentum when a handoff comes out of shotgun, which can curtail some of the production. The increase in shotgun usage has coincided with a league that prefers the pass to the run.

 

The predominant belief is that if shotgun helps the quarterback more, then overall it’s beneficial. Some running backs, however, struggle from that formation. It’s one reason a future Hall of Famer like Adrian Peterson found it hard to land a home last season. All Day runs much better when the QB is under center than when he’s given the ball in shotgun.

 

Kliff Kingsbury’s offense in college relied on shotgun to an extreme. The new Arizona Cardinals coach won’t let on if that ratio will remain in the NFL, but it’s clear he loves the shotgun like a kid loves cake.

 

How does former Pro Bowl running back David Johnson feel about most of his runs coming from shotgun?

 

“I actually love that,” Johnson said, via the team’s official website. “I did that in college. That’s all we did in college is the gun, a read-option-type thing. I think it really opens up more space for me and makes me able to read the defense a little bit more.”

 

It’s comforting to hear Johnson likes the idea of running more shotgun.

 

Last season, the Cardinals ran 54 percent of their plays from shotgun, per Warren Sharp, tied for seventh fewest. They ran out of the formation on 18 percent of plays, 23rd in the NFL. During Johnson’s best season in 2016, the Cards played even less out of shotgun (47 percent) and ran out of that formation a league-low 10 percent.

 

Johnson’s own success rate fell from 39.2 percent on under center runs to 33.9 percent from shotgun last season. DJ’s success rate in shotgun last season was worse than the league average by 13.1 percent, per Sharp’s metrics.

 

The stats don’t scream to be a positive for Johnson in 2019, but we’ll hold judgment until we see Kingsbury’s full plan in his first year in Arizona. Perhaps, as Johnson notes, defenses focusing on the pass could open up holes for him to exploit.

 

At the very least, the Cards’ most dynamic weapon is on board with what the new coach brings to the table, and that’s a positive.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

The Ravens have added a year to the contract of G MARSHALL YANDA.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Marshal Yanda received some contract assurances beyond this season.

 

The Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl guard signed a one-year contract extension, the team announced Thursday. Yanda was set to enter the final year of his deal. Now he’s under contract through 2020.

 

ESPN first reported the extension.

 

Offseason speculation suggested that the 34-year-old guard was considering retirement. The extension wouldn’t preclude Yanda from re-evaluating next offseason but suggests he’s planning on playing beyond the 2019 campaign.

 

Since being drafted in the third round of the 2007 draft, Yanda has become one of the most dominant guards in the game. In 12 NFL seasons, he’s earned two first-team All-Pro selections, four second-team nods, and seven Pro Bowls, including in 2018. When Yanda missed all but two games in 2017 due to injury, the Baltimore offensive line struggled mightily. Pro Football Focus has Yanda as the second-highest graded guard in their entire history (since 2006).

 

Losing Yanda would have left a massive, massive hole in the Ravens’ offensive line. The contract extension could mean the team won’t have to live without him for two more years.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

RB JOSH JACOBS seems to show up with the Raiders are either 24 or 27, but he would make a lot of sense for the Colts.  Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Even though the Colts had a huge pile of salary cap space, they didn’t go out and spend it on a free agent running back (even though one was openly lobbying them).

 

Part of that is because they like Marlon Mack. But part of it could also be they prefer to keep players at a short shelf-life position on cheap rookie deals.

 

According to Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio, the Colts brought Alabama running back Josh Jacobs in for a visit.

 

Jacobs is the top back in this year’s class, and unlike some Alabama runners, he hasn’t had all the tread worn off his tires in college (just 251 attempts in three seasons, at a 5.9 yards per attempt average).

 

Putting him in the backfield with Mack would make for a solid pairing for an ascending team, and it would make financial sense as well — like many of the Colts’ other moves this offseason.

 

The Colts did have Jay Ajayi come in for a visit, but he’s coming off a torn ACL and figures to be inexpensive.

 

The DB has a feeling that someone is going to have to trade up a bit to land Jacobs.

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

Jaguars knucklehead RB LEONARD FOURNETTE gets arrested for disrespecting driving laws.  Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com:

 

Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was arrested Thursday afternoon after a traffic stop and charged with knowingly driving with a suspended or revoked license, according to Jacksonville jail records.

 

Fournette paid a $1,508 bond and was released after spending less than 30 minutes at the Duval County Jail.

 

The Jaguars released a statement in which they said they were aware of Fournette’s “situation,” are gathering more information and would not have any further comment at this time.

 

Fournette’s arrest is related to a speeding ticket he received in Jacksonville Beach on Nov. 17, 2018. Fournette was cited for driving 12 mph over the posted 25-mph speed limit, which carried a $204 fine. Court records show he did not pay the fine, and the case was sent to a collection agency on March 18.

 

In Florida, failure to pay a speeding ticket results in a suspended license.

 

This is the latest trouble for Fournette, who already was facing questions about his maturity, commitment to football, conditioning, on-field behavior and production after a disappointing 2018 season.

 

Fournette, the fourth overall pick in 2017, missed six full games and half of two others with a right hamstring injury in the first eight weeks of the 2018 season, and there was mounting frustration inside the organization about the length of his absence. The Jaguars built their offense around a power-run game that had a hard time functioning consistently without him on the field.

 

Fournette was also suspended without pay for one game for leaving the bench and fighting with Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ 24-21 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25. Fournette said he ran across the field because he saw Lawson shove Carlos Hyde and wanted to defend his teammate.

 

Shortly after that, the Jaguars told Fournette they were voiding the guaranteed money remaining in his contract as punishment, a move that Fournette has appealed with the NFL.

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW YORK JETS

The Jets have added another running back besides Le’VEON BELL:

 

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Jets have signed former Packer and Raven Ty Montgomery to a one-year deal. Montgomery visited with the team on Thursday and was set to visit the Dolphins on Friday, but Miami will have to look elsewhere for backfield help.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ALL-PAID TEAM

Anthony Holzman-Ezcareno of NFL.com tells us who will be getting “record” contracts in the near future.  An edited version below, the whole thing is here:

 

I’ve named the player who I expect to receive the next big-money contract at each position, along with the expected range for the annual average value (AAV) of their next contracts. I’m not projecting every player listed here to definitely re-set the market at his position, as the final outcome depends on where in the projected range each player’s AAV lands; in fact, at some positions, I’m NOT expecting the market to be re-set. I’ve also listed several other players to watch.

 

NOTE: The positional contract benchmarks below each position do not include rookie contracts or players who were designated franchise players.

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($34M-plus)

Wilson’s current AAV: $21.9 million

Wilson can be a free agent in: 2020

Current highest AAV: Aaron Rodgers, Packers ($33.5 million)

Most guarantees: Matt Ryan, Falcons ($100 million)

Most guaranteed at signing: Ryan ($94.5 million)

 

Wilson should be ending Rodgers’ reign as the NFL’s highest-paid player soon. Wilson’s 75 career wins are the most in a player’s first seven seasons in NFL history. Since he entered the NFL in 2012, only Tom Brady has more regular-season and playoff wins than Wilson, whose 100.3 career passer rating is also the second-highest in NFL history, behind Rodgers’ mark of 103.1.

 

Entering negotiations in 2015, when he signed his current four-year extension, Wilson had been, to that point in his career, propped up by a strong run game and the NFL’s best defense. Fast-forward to 2019, and there may not be a player more valuable to his team’s success than Wilson. He’s carried a team devoid of a strong offensive line or an elite defense for some time. Remember that Wilson was the Seahawks’ leading rusher in 2017. Consider also that Seattle’s defense, which ranked in the top five in each of Wilson’s first five seasons, finished 11th in 2017 and 16th last season.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: In his first season as a starter, Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. Just two years into his rookie contract, he’s not eligible to renegotiate until next offseason, but whenever he signs his next deal, there’s only one question: How high will Mahomes set the AAV bar? $40 million? $45 million?

 

Running back: Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys ($14M-$16M)

Elliott’s current AAV: $6.2 million

Elliott can be a free agent in: 2020, or 2021 if fifth-year option is exercised

Current highest AAV: Todd Gurley, Rams ($14.375 million)

Most guarantees: Gurley ($45 million)

Most guaranteed at signing: Le’Veon Bell, Jets ($27 million)

 

 

Elliott has led the NFL in rushing yards per game in each of his first three seasons. Only four players since 1950 had more such seasons in their entire careers: Jim Brown (eight), Eric Dickerson (five), Barry Sanders (four) and Adrian Peterson (four). As of now, Elliott (101.2) and Brown (104.3) are the only players in NFL history to average 100-plus rushing yards per game over a career.

 

Elliott is unquestionably the most important player on the Dallas Cowboys’ offense. During his six-game suspension in 2017, the team was noticeably inefficient. With him in the lineup that year, Dallas went 6-4 and gained 354.7 total offensive yards per game; without him, Dallas went 3-3 and averaged 294 offensive yards. The 2016 No. 4 overall pick has expanded his role in the passing game, setting career highs in every major receiving category in 2018 (77 catches for 567 yards and three touchdowns) and has recorded the most scrimmage yards in the NFL since 2016 (5,247). He also has the most touches (1,003), which will be a topic of discussion in his impending negotiations with the Cowboys.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers: The former first-round pick is entering a contract year courtesy of the fifth-year option. He’s the only player in the NFL with 1,300-plus scrimmage yards and 10-plus touchdowns in each of the last three seasons and is a vital part of the Chargers’ offense.

 

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants: Barkley put his versatility on display, setting an NFL record for rookie running backs with 91 receptions in 2018. He was also the third rookie to eclipse 2,000 scrimmage yards in NFL history (following Edgerrin James and Eric Dickerson). When it’s his time to sign an extension, he’ll surely take his turn atop the running back market.

 

Wide receiver: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons ($18M-$20M)

Jones’ current AAV: $14.25 million

Jones can be a free agent in: 2021

Current highest AAV: Odell Beckham Jr., Browns ($18 million, signed with Giants in ’18)

Most guarantees: Beckham Jr. ($65 million)

Most guaranteed at signing: Beckham Jr. ($40.959 million)

 

Arguably the best receiver of his generation, Jones requested a new contract prior to last season. The Falcons did not budge, but the team did promise to revisit the deal this offseason. In 2015, Jones signed a five-year, $71.25 million extension. Given how the wide receiver market has grown, he’s provided exceptional returns on the Falcons’ investment.

 

He’s also played at a different level since signing that contract. In the four seasons before he signed (2011-14), he posted 278 receptions (5.7 per game), 4,330 receiving yards (88.4 per game) and 26 receiving touchdowns. In the four seasons since signing (2015-18), he recorded 420 receptions (6.8 per game), 6,401 receiving yards (103.2 per game) and 25 touchdown catches.

 

Jones has rattled off five straight seasons with 1,400-plus receiving yards, the longest such streak in NFL history — and he trails only Jerry Rice (six) for the most such seasons in a career. Jones is a long, long way from reaching Rice in career receiving yards, but the former does average the most receiving yards per game in NFL history (96.7).

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Not only are his 321 receptions since 2016 the most in the NFL in that span, but they are also the most in a player’s first three seasons in NFL history. As a second-round pick, Thomas will avoid the fifth-year option, meaning he’ll be eligible to hit free agency after 2019. He’ll come in near or at the top of the market when he signs a new contract.

 

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs: The game’s most explosive wide receiver, Hill ranks fourth in receiving yards and touchdowns over the last two seasons combined, despite still growing as a route runner and receiver. He also provides unmatched value on fourth down as a punt returner. Note that there is an ongoing law enforcement investigation into alleged battery of a juvenile in which Hill may be involved, which could obviously impact his future in the NFL.

 

Tight end: George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers ($12M-$15M)

Kittle’s current AAV: $6.75 million

Kittle can be a free agent in: 2021

Current highest AAV: Jimmy Graham, Packers ($10 million)

Most guarantees: Trey Burton, Bears and Jordan Reed, Redskins ($22 million)

Most guaranteed at signing: Burton ($18 million)

 

In just his second season, George Kittle set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end (1,337), thanks mostly to his ability after the catch. Only four tight ends in NFL history have recorded 75-plus receptions and 1,300-plus receiving yards in a season: Kittle, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Travis Kelce.

 

The Chiefs and Eagles played their hands well signing Kelce and Zach Ertz to extensions in 2016 before either truly emerged as the game-changing pass catchers they’ve become. The next elite tight to sign a deal should shatter the AAV that currently paces the position (Graham’s $10 million). Kittle will have to continue to build on his recent success, but he’s likely to be that tight end, despite not being eligible to renegotiate until the 2020 offseason.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs and Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles: Each is a wild card in the market. Clearly the two best tight ends in the NFL, Kelce and Ertz each have three seasons left on their current contracts. It’s possible one or both will get a new pact before Kittle.

 

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Howard missed six games in 2018, but only Kittle, Kelce and Ertz averaged more receiving yards per game. Few players in the NFL have Howard’s blend of size (6-foot-6, 251 pounds) and athleticism.

 

Evan Engram, New York Giants: Teams believe in physical skills. Engram has all of them. He posted 722 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a rookie in 2017, and it’s easy to forgive his down ’18, with Eli Manning chucking him the rock.

 

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers: When he’s on the field, Henry is arguably one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL. However, he needs to show he can stay healthy, as he’s only played 29 games in three seasons.

 

Offensive lineman: David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers ($17M-$18M)

Bakhtiari’s current AAV: $12 million

Bakhtiari can be a free agent in: 2021

Current highest AAV: Trent Brown, Raiders ($16.5 million)

Most guarantees: Taylor Lewan, Titans ($50 million)

Most guaranteed at signing: Brown ($36.25 million)

 

The offensive line is one place where greatness can go somewhat unnoticed. In a short time, Bakhtiari has become one of, if not the, best pass protectors in the NFL, earning his first All-Pro selection in 2018.

 

Bakhtiari got the nod at left tackle as a rookie after teammate Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL prior to the 2013 season. Bulaga has played right tackle ever since. Bakhtiari, meanwhile, signed a four-year, $48 million deal in 2016, and he’ll be a free agent after 2020. He’s in line for a market-setting contract, given his age (27) and recent development. The Packers locked up Aaron Rodgers in 2018 and should do the same with his left tackle in the near future.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly, Indianapolis Colts: The Colts found two centerpieces of their offensive line in the first round in the last three seasons in Kelly (2016) and Nelson (2018). The team will have to make each the highest paid at his position eventually.

 

Others to consider: Ryan Ramczyk, Saints; Ronnie Stanley, Ravens; Jack Conklin, Titans; Taylor Decker, Lions.

 

DEFENSE

Interior defensive line: Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs ($18M-$22M)

 

Improving significantly in each of his three seasons, Jones ascended into the elite ranks of interior pass rushers in 2018, joining the likes of Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox. Jones was one of just three players to post more than 14.0 sacks and 25 QB hits last season, along with Donald and Von Miller. He was one of the few bright spots on the Chiefs’ 31st-ranked defense.

 

The former second-round pick will have to string together a similar season in 2019 and possibly another in 2020 if the Chiefs decide to franchise-tag him. It might be awhile before someone surpasses Donald in the interior, but Jones has as good a chance as any to do it.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons

 

DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers

 

Kenny Clark, Green Bay Packers

 

Edge rusher: Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans ($20M-$24M)

 

If Clowney ever found his way to the open market, he would be the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. Since he can negotiate exclusively with the Texans between now and the deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign an extension, the chances of that happening are slightly lower.

 

Still, Clowney is one of three players with five-plus sacks, 15-plus QB hits and 15-plus tackles for loss in each of the last three seasons (along with Aaron Donald and Cameron Jordan). He has elite physical traits that are arguably unmatched for a player his size. He’s also proven to be a Swiss Army Knife for his defense over four healthy NFL seasons. He’s one of the NFL’s most talented players at its second-most important position.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers

 

Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns

 

Linebacker: Nobody soon

Current highest AAV: C.J. Mosley, Jets ($17 million)

 

Cornerback: Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars ($16M-$19M)

 

Entering his fourth season, Jalen Ramsey is arguably the game’s best corner. It’s easy to see why he was selected fifth overall in 2016. His size (6-1, 208 pounds), length and athleticism give receivers fits at the line of scrimmage and throughout their route.

 

Ramsey has allowed a 51.1 completion percentage and a 69.4 passer rating when targeted in his career, according to Pro Football Focus, while his 44 career passes defensed rank fourth in the NFL over the last three seasons.

 

In terms of AAV, Josh Norman ($15.0 million) and Trumaine Johnson ($14.5 million) currently pace the cornerback market. Ramsey is a far superior player to either.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys

 

Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints

 

Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers (nickel CB

 

 

Safety: Eddie Jackson, Chicago Bears ($14M-$16M)

 

A broken leg during his final season at Alabama might have pushed Jackson down draft boards, but the 2017 fourth-round pick has put the NFL on notice in his first two seasons. He could be the best cover safety in the NFL and adds more value with his play in the slot. Jackson became the only player to record eight-plus picks and five-plus defensive touchdowns in his first two seasons over the past 30 years. In 2018, he led all safeties with 15 passes defensed and finished second at the position with six interceptions.

 

The safety market took off this offseason, with three players (Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu, Earl Thomas) signing contracts higher than Eric Berry’s previous positional high of $13 million per season. Jackson will surely continue the trend.

 

ON THE RADAR:

 

Jamal Adams, New York Jets

 

Kevin Byard, Tennessee Titans

 

Derwin James, Los Angeles Chargers and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins

 

 

MOCK DRAFT

Eric Edholm of YahooSports.com offers his Mock Draft:

 

Our third mock draft has some changes — in fact, some big ones.

 

The idea of Duke quarterback Daniel Jones going prior to Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins would have felt preposterous not long ago. But we have to keep in mind that pairing up quarterbacks and teams is not strictly a talent-first operation. Think about them as dance partners, and teams have a certain type they’re looking for.

 

So stave your outrage when you see how high Jones goes here … and how far Haskins drops. And that’s not the only outrage-worthy development: Zero running backs in Round 1! We had a few teams we liked pairing with Alabama’s Joshua Jacobs but ultimately couldn’t pull the trigger.

 

An immensely handy tool throughout the process was Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor’s AFC team needs piece, with his NFC team needs story set to drop next week.

 

1. Arizona Cardinals — Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray

We’re not sure much has changed. If you’re going to make Kliff Kingsbury your coach, hardly a safe choice immediately after firing a one-year head coach, you might as well get him the QB to fit his system. Yet this is the type of move that requires ownership approval, one might safely assume. So if the Bidwills weren’t in on this wacky idea, Murray likely wouldn’t have been in town recently for a visit.

 

But! A bit of a teaser: What would happen if they passed on taking him? Chaos ensues? That will be the subject of a story we’re working on for Friday. Stay tuned.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers — Ohio State EDGE Nick Bosa

So Bosa said some things that could make the locals upset. We’ll see if that has any tangible effect on his status with the 49ers. They reportedly loved him before. On top of that, they’ve invested a lot up front in recent years. They can’t afford to pass on this good a talent here, and edge rush remains a concern.

 

3. New York Jets — Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen

When Allen was coming out of high school in Montclair, New Jersey — about 10 miles from MetLife Stadium as the crow flies — his dream school for football was Rutgers. When Allen was in high school, the Scarlet Knights were making bowl games. They weren’t interested in his services at the time. So Kentucky swooped in and nabbed the kid. Turned out pretty well for them and for Allen. For Rutgers? Not so much. They are coming off a 1-11 season.

 

The Jets won’t make the mistake Rutgers did passing on him. The outside pass-rush need is too great, although trading down appears to be general manager Mike Maccagnan’s first choice and we honestly would take Quinnen Williams here. But Allen would be an excellent option nonetheless.

 

4. Oakland Raiders — Alabama DT Quinnen Williams

The Raiders remain a mystery shrouded in a conundrum. One of the few positions they’re in decent shape is defensive tackle, where they have depth and young talent. But passing on Williams here might be too absurd for even the Raiders to pull off.

 

If they can’t maneuver elsewhere on the board via this pick, they’ll stick with Williams and we’ll hear afterward that it was Mike Mayock pounding the table for him and — gasp! — Jon Gruden giving his new GM the deciding vote.

 

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — LSU LB Devin White

If a team wants to get ahead of the Giants to get a quarterback, this might be the landing spot. The Bucs traded down last year and twice passed on Derwin James, which feels like the kind of mistake that might haunt a franchise for years. But we could see them move down again if the right offer comes in.

 

Short of that, one of the worst-kept secrets in this draft cycle has been the connection of the Bucs to White. He fills a need for sure, but this might be a bit too rich at this spot.

 

6. New York Giants — Michigan EDGE Rashan Gary

Let me preface this by saying I almost mocked them a QB here — and it was not Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. If you can make it all the way to my No. 17 overall pick explanation, I’ll have more on this there.

 

Like Allen, Gary is a New Jersey kid who would be coming home in this scenario. Now, that’s no reason why the Giants should draft him, of course, and there’s a question about where best he might fit in James Bettcher’s defense. But there would be enough of a match here to where Gary can be a pressure/energy player up front in a few different spots.

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars — Florida OT Jawaan Taylor

Another commonly mocked pairing, and you can see why. The Jaguars couldn’t pass block a year ago, so Taylor would help immensely, even though Washington State’s Andre Dillard might be a touch better in that capacity now. Taylor has the higher ceiling, though, so the Jaguars take another step in remaking their offensive DNA. They once were built to be a power-run team, but that has changed with the offseason acquisitions of QB Nick Foles and pass-friendly coordinator John DeFilippo.

 

8. Detroit Lions — Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson

Yet another trade-down possibility, the Lions could also stay here and get a very good defensive tone setter, which is still a need after signing Trey Flowers. But I just can’t help but think that Hockenson fits that Matt Patricia/Bob Quinn mold of what they want in a player.

 

Hockenson is nothing like Eric Ebron as a player, but that’s where fans’ brains are going to go if this pick happens. Hey, I can’t help that.

 

The Lions could get help for their run game and passing game with Hockenson, and it’s a big position of need. I wouldn’t rule it out.

 

9. Buffalo Bills — Houston DL Ed Oliver

I was this close to giving them Washington State OT Andre Dillard, but after signing six offensive linemen this offseason it felt like overkill. Instead, we’ll give them a traits-based difference maker in Oliver, who fills a need on a defense that quietly could be one of the five or six best in the NFL before long.

 

10. Denver Broncos — Missouri QB Drew Lock

We know that John Elway has spent ample time looking at quarterbacks this offseason, even after landing Joe Flacco, and Lock has been one of the players most connected to Denver. I considered other positions of need to help new head coach Vic Fangio reconstruct this defense, but ultimately I leaned on what Paylor wrote on their situation: “finding someone who can spend a year learning under Flacco and take the reins in 2020 should be of the utmost priority.”

 

Agreed. I am not, ahem, locked in on this one completely, but passing on a QB here likely means Elway is going to have to wait at least a round or two to get another one.

 

11. Cincinnati Bengals — Mississippi State EDGE Montez Sweat

They’re looking hard at edge players, which is why I am giving them Sweat and not a QB. Yes, in our previous mock draft we have them selecting Dwayne Haskins, and that would make a lot of sense given that Andy Dalton might be headed into his final year with the team. But I just don’t know if that’s the direction they ultimately go, and beefing up a defense that completely fell apart might be the front office’s main thrust up high in the draft.

 

12. Green Bay Packers — Michigan LB Devin Bush

Bush is a complete package as a linebacker — an undersized one, sure, but a playmaker the likes of which the Packers have not had in a while. Adding an athletic cover player and a seek-and-destroy hitter would be a smart move, even if they need to give Aaron Rodgers more help. Fortunately, with two more picks coming up in the next 32 selections, they don’t need to reach for an offensive fit here.

 

13. Miami Dolphins — Washington State OT Andre Dillard

They’ve been doing a lot of work on edge rushers, so I can’t rule that spot out. But Dillard would be able to step in as a right tackle right away and give the offense a nice piece at a major position of need. He’s a reliable and highly athletic pass blocker who would be ready to step in Day 1.

 

They won’t go quarterback here, and I’ve felt that way for a while. It’s less about tanking and more about maybe not being in love with any one of them this high in the draft.

 

That said, the Dolphins have strong connections with Ohio State (do yourself a favor and read Pete Thamel’s incredible 10-part draft series last year on the Miami scouting department), having drafted Buckeyes each of the past two years and with former Dolphins WR Brian Hartline on the Ohio State coaching staff.

 

If Miami, which currently has Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starting quarterback, passes on Haskins here it might lend credence to the idea that the media grades on him were more ambitious than the ones some NFL teams are placing on him.

 

14. Atlanta Falcons — Clemson DT Christian Wilkins

If the Falcons can’t get Ed Oliver, this is a good consolation prize. Wilkins would be a very safe selection who could come in and start and give them a nice piece up front where they’re painfully thin, especially with Grady Jarrett currently unsigned. Wilkins also passes the character test with flying colors, something the Falcons’ front office puts a lot of stock into. An offensive lineman also could be on the menu here.

 

15. Washington Redskins — Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf

Jay Gruden said they need instant-impact players, and Metcalf could be a major weapon if healthy. The Redskins have two veteran tight ends, they spent money last year on a lean speedball in Paul Richardson and they also seem to like the idea of Trey Quinn in the slot. There’s also Josh Doctson in the mix, but who knows about him heading into the final year of his deal. Metcalf has his warts, but he could be the explosive, jump-ball weapon that Jay Gruden needs.

 

I am also working under the assumption that the Redskins remain the favorites to land Cardinals QB Josh Rosen, which is why I have them bypassing Haskins here.

 

16. Carolina Panthers — Florida State DE Brian Burns

Burns is an electric edge rusher who needs to bulk but should be able to heat up the pass rush immediately. With the Julius Peppers era over, the Panthers must find solutions to getting to quarterbacks, and this is what Burns does best. GM Marty Hurney has an extremely high slugging percentage with his first-round picks historically, and this would be an excellent choice if it came down to this.

 

17. Giants (from Cleveland Browns) — Duke QB Daniel Jones

We’d be as skeptical as you might be if Jones is the pick here, as his arm talent and potential upside does not read top-20 selection. That said – going back to our dance-partner theory – it feels like a very Giants-y pick. Jones would be a safe selection, as his smarts and toughness would serve him well in the New York market.

 

And the Eli Manning comparisons are impossible to ignore, from Jones working with David Cutcliffe to dealing with sub-par offensive line and receiver talent holding him back in college. There’s a lot of smoke coming from the Giants-Jones connection, so we’re pegging him here even with reservations.

 

18. Minnesota Vikings — Alabama OL Jonah Williams

A few weeks ago, it felt unlikely Williams could fall this far. Now it’s a legit possibility. Williams could start Day 1 at guard or tackle and give Mike Zimmer exactly the kind of smart, versatile, battle-tested offensive lineman to spur the run game. Williams is a perfect fit here.

 

19. Tennessee Titans — Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence

With Hockenson gone, the Titans could pivot to help up front. An offensive lineman would make sense, but they also could consider help inside on defense. Lawrence would give Mike Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson a Vince Wilfork-esque presence in the middle, which is needed. They need someone to put next to Jurrell Casey, with the idea that Austin Johnson might be in the final year with the team.

 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell

This would be their seventh defensive pick in Round 1 in eight years, as they’ve missed on some high picks in recent drafts. Ferrell doesn’t perfectly fit what the Steelers often seek in their edge rushers, as I am not quite convinced he could be as effective playing on his feet. But a Ferrell-T.J. Watt combination would be one of the AFC North’s best and give the Steelers more pass-rush juice than they’ve had in a few years now.

 

21. Seattle Seahawks — Florida S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

With Frank Clark possibly on the market, an edge rusher might make sense here. They’ll absolutely be looking to move down considering they have only four total selections in the draft and only one more before the 124th pick. Gardner-Johnson could fill the void at safety in a variety of roles and be a good addition to a secondary that’s in need of a talent boost.

 

22. Baltimore Ravens — North Carolina State OL Garrett Bradbury

Another team looking hard at edge players, but there ultimately isn’t one here worth reaching for. Instead, the Ravens can fill another problem area with a very Ravens-y choice in Bradbury, a high-floor prospect who could start immediately at center or guard. Investing in Lamar Jackson means the Ravens must insulate him properly, and that goes beyond drafting a bunch of wide receivers or — nerdy football humor alert — another six or seven tight ends.

 

23. Houston Texans — Oklahoma OL Cody Ford

They’ve added a few pieces at tackle, but it would be surprising if the Texans didn’t add more — perhaps even multiple offensive linemen — to help out a major trouble spot. Ford is big and highly athletic and would be a good fit in an offense that shouldn’t be too schematically different with Deshaun Watson at the helm from what Ford ran at Oklahoma with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray at the helm. Plus, the Texans need a few more dogs up front, and Ford has that grit they’re looking for — either at tackle or guard.

 

24. Raiders (from Chicago Bears) — Oklahoma WR Marquise Brown

Wouldn’t this be something? Brown is cousins with Antonio Brown and would give the Raiders an exciting trio of playmakers in the passing game. They could allow his broken foot to heal properly and then use him as an all-over-the-field mismatch piece. The Raiders have brought in a bunch of receivers for pre-draft visits even after trading for Antonio Brown and signing Tyrell Williams, so this wouldn’t be a shock.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles — Notre Dame DL Jerry Tillery

Defensive tackle is a big need and Tillery would be a good fit here. He lined up at a number of spots on the line for the Irish and could help replace Michael Bennett’s role outside and inside. The Eagles also have been more liberal-minded on bringing in personalities that don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold, and Tillery’s outside interests away from football likely wouldn’t scare this team away in what is a colorful locker room.

 

26. Indianapolis Colts — Washington CB Byron Murphy

GM Chris Ballard has done a fantastic job letting the draft come to him and amassing good talent at a lot of spots. Here he lands a potential shutdown guy in a year or two in Murphy, our highest-graded talent at cornerback this draft. Sure, he’s not the fleetest of foot, but in a zone-heavy scheme that’s far less important. He could be a Pro Bowl-level talent in time.

 

The Colts pick again early in Round 2 and could address other needs, such as defensive tackle, safety and wide receiver. Going best player available here makes a ton of sense.

 

27. Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys) — LSU CB Greedy Williams

The Raiders are said to be fans of Williams, and he would be the long-levered corner they’ve had trouble finding in the draft since Nnamdi Asomugha. A three-pick haul of Quinnen Williams, Hollywood Brown and Greedy Williams not only would give them some great nicknames with their first-round selections, but also a huge talent upgrade on both sides of the ball.

 

28. Los Angeles Chargers — Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins

Another scenario we had no idea could materialize not long ago. And honestly, this feels like too far a drop. Ten of the past 11 first-round quarterbacks have gone to teams trading up into that spot, so if Haskins tumbles outside of the first 15 or 20 picks, you easily could see a team move up for one. The Chargers are in great shape now with Philip Rivers and Tyrod Taylor as the top two, so Haskins would be a Year 1 luxury. But could they afford to pass on Haskins at this spot? We say no.

 

29. Kansas City Chiefs — Georgia CB Deandre Baker

New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has used a lot of five-DB alignments in the past, and we’re not sure the Chiefs have five starting-caliber defensive backs after trading Eric Murray and losing Steven Nelson. Upgrading the pass rush would be nice, and adding a safety is a must. But Baker here gives them a confident cover man who can help a defense that likely will be giving up a lot of yards but keying on takeaways and defending well in the red zone.

 

30. Packers (from New Orleans Saints) — Iowa TE Noah Fant

Fant isn’t your typical tight end, and he could add another pass catcher to the mix to help spur the offense. He has big-play ability and would allow the Packers to consider moving on from Jimmy Graham if he’s not deemed a fit any longer. The Packers have dipped into the Iowa program quite a bit over the years (Josh Jackson, Micah Hyde, Mike Daniels, Bryan Bulaga) and could do so again.

 

31. Los Angeles Rams — Texas A&M C Erik McCoy

The Rams are in an interesting spot here in that they don’t currently select again until late in the third round and there are some holes to fill for the Super Bowl runners-up. One certainly is on the offensive line, where center John Sullivan was let go, and even if the Rams believe 2018 fourth-rounder Brian Allen is ready to take that spot, they could use more depth inside. OG Austin Blythe was exposed by season’s end, and a McCoy-Allen combo could help take over inside at those two spots.

 

32. New England Patriots — Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown

The Patriots have been doing enough work on receivers to make us believe that they will not be afraid of taking one in this spot, even though the last first-round wideout Bill Belichick selected was Derrick Alexander in 1994 with the Cleveland Browns. Brown has a big frame and was the most polished wideout on an Ole Miss team that also had D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge. We could see him fitting the Patriots mold at a position at which they’ve struggled to draft consistently well.

 

Teams without a first-round pick

 

48. Browns — Ole Miss OT Greg Little

Midway through last college football season, many had Little pegged as a first-round talent, but scouts have poked a few holes in him since and his stock has dropped a bit. Still, at this phase of the draft, his talent is worth taking a shot on, and he could give the team more insurance at left tackle.

 

58. Cowboys — Boston College DL Zach Allen

A high-motor rusher who would be a great fit in a Rod Marinelli style defense, Allen has great production in terms of disruption but tested only as an average athlete. That’s the lone reason he’s available here and would be a great pick in Round 2 for the Cowboys, who are still seeking to upgrade on defense.

 

62. Saints — Notre Dame CB Julian Love

At this phase of the draft, Love would be a steal. Similar to former Iowa DB Desmond King, Love is going to get knocked for his lack of elite size or testing numbers, but who cares? He’s a ballhawk with great positional instincts and would be a very nice addition to a defense that still needs help on the back end.

 

87. Bears — Auburn CB Jamel Dean

If one of the Bears’ preferred running back choices were not there for them here, we easily could see them taking a corner such as Dean, who has good size and who tested well (always something that attracts the eye of GM Ryan Pace) and who could be a nice addition to a lean secondary if his past health issues are not considered too concerning.

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Whether or not teams are valuing draft picks properly is an open question, but Bill Belichick says they are currently valuing picks similarly.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The 1990s Cowboys were built in large part by Jimmy Johnson’s wheeling and dealing with draft picks, and Johnson developed a chart that demonstrated how to value draft picks. Soon every other team started using the same chart.

 

That chart is now obsolete, as the rookie wage scale and research showing greater value in accumulating more picks has changed the way teams evaluate draft trades. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick says all teams have arrived at more or less the same place on how to value draft picks.

 

“I would say that, in general, the trades over the last several years for the most part have been, let’s call them within 5 to 10 percent, pretty equitable trades,” Belichick said. “So, for you to have a chart that’s different than the other 31 charts isn’t really that productive because now we’re just arguing about which chart – ‘My chart says this. Your chart says that.’ . . . I would say everybody probably uses about the same value chart. I’d say in our draft trade negotiations through the years, especially the last two or three years, there hasn’t been a lot of, ‘My chart says this. Your chart says that.’ Now 10 or 15 years ago there was some of that. ‘Oh, here’s what we think it should be.’ Well, the other team’s in a different ballpark because they’re looking at a different chart. I would say that when you look at the trades now, over the past few years, a majority of them fall within what we would say is a range of a fair trade. What the going rate would be is what the team gave up and what the team got is about what you would expect them to get, whether it’s our trade or not. I’m just looking league wide. The first round is a little bit different because you’re trading for a very specific player at that point. Not that you’re not trading for a player in the second and third round – I’m not saying that – when a team moves up, they move up to take a certain player that they want. But not everybody’s necessarily after that player, whereas in the first five, 10 picks, whatever it is, when you’re trading there you’re trading for a certain guy and when they trade out of it they know that they’re trading away from that player. It might be one or two players but it’s a much more defined situation.”

 

Ultimately, every team knows more or less what constitutes a fair trade of draft picks. Some teams are willing to go above and beyond for a particular player, especially to move up for a quarterback in the first round, but the chart is not highly protected intellectual property anymore.

 

– – –

Football Outsiders provides content to ESPN.com that purports to use “metrics” to discern who are the best passrushers in the draft:

 

The top of the 2019 NFL draft is likely to be dominated by edge rushers. As many as four edge rushers are projected to go in the top 10, thus a team with a high pick and a need to upgrade their pass rush is likely to have plenty of highly touted options. But will this group live up to the hype? Will the 2019 draft be to edge rushers what the 1983 draft was to quarterbacks?

 

SackSEER, Football Outsiders’ statistical system for projecting college edge rushers to the next level, wants to throw just a bit of cold water on the hype following edge rushers in this draft. Although SackSEER agrees that it is a reasonably deep draft for edge rushers, it also believes that this draft lacks a truly top-tier prospect like Khalil Mack or Von Miller.

 

Rather, SackSEER lumps this year’s top edge rushers together in a group of good-but-not-great prospects who will likely have some success at the NFL level, but could just as easily bust. Additionally, SackSEER’s best prospect this year — who wins that distinction by a projection of less than half a sack — is a player who might not even go in the first round.

 

What follows is a ranking of the top edge rusher prospects for 2019 according to our model:

 

Brian Burns, Florida State Seminoles

SackSEER Projection: 26.6 sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 35

Similar historical prospects: Jadeveon Clowney, Dontay Moch

 

Burns’ combination of good production and athleticism earns him the top spot in this year’s SackSEER projections. Burns recorded 23 sacks and seven passes defensed in only three seasons at Florida State. His workouts, however, were even better. Burns ran a freakish 4.53-second 40-yard dash — the same time Clowney recorded in 2014. Burns’ broad jump and vertical jump were not quite as good as his 40, but were both well above average, leaving Burns with an excellent explosion index. Burns also recorded a strong 7.01-second 3-cone time.

 

The greatest knock on Burns is that he played light at Florida State — he weighed in at only 235 pounds. However, Burns bulked up to 249 for the combine and obviously did not lose much of his athleticism. Burns might have to play as an outside rush linebacker in the NFL, but he has a great chance to excel in that role.

 

Josh Allen, Kentucky Wildcats

SackSEER Projection: 26.3 sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 3

Similar historical prospects: Ryan Kerrigan, Aldon Smith

 

Allen has an all-around good, but not great, projection. He had 17 sacks in 13 games as a senior, which are really good numbers, but almost all senior edge rushers drafted in the first few rounds have good senior numbers, so those 17 sacks do not give Allen the boost you might expect. Similarly, Allen had a good combine workout, but it was far from historically great. Allen ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, which is a great time for a 262-pound player, but was only average on his jumps, recording vertical and broad jumps of 33.5 inches and 9-foot-10, respectively.

 

Continuing the theme, Allen had above average passes defensed numbers, but only slightly above average. Allen had one interception and eight passes batted away, which again is good, not great. For perspective, Allen’s passes defensed are way better than famous bust Vernon Gholston (who had only one pass defensed in his college career), but not quite as good as Mack (who had 25 passes defensed).

 

The upside to Allen’s SackSEER is that his numbers are all-around good and he has no glaring weaknesses (at least from a statistical standpoint). In that regard, Allen is similar to Kerrigan, who was also unusual in his uniformly good but not quite great SackSEER numbers.

 

Montez Sweat, Mississippi State Bulldogs

SackSEER Projection: 25.7 sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 10

Similar historical prospects: Bruce Irvin, Anthony Barr

 

Sweat proved at the combine that he is explosive, fast and quick. He recorded a 2019 edge-rusher-best, 4.41-second 40-yard dash as well as good jumps and a good 3-cone time. Sweat also proved that he was good at sacking the quarterback at Mississippi State, recording 22.5 sacks in just 26 games for the Bulldogs.

 

The one black mark on Sweat’s SackSEER is his zero career passes defensed. In that regard, Sweat is similar to former first-rounder Irvin. Irvin, like Sweat, entered the draft as a senior after playing only two seasons of major college football. Irvin also had good combine numbers, lots of college sacks, but only one pass defensed. Irvin finished his first five years in the NFL with 29 sacks, which is close to Sweat’s projection.

 

 

Nick Bosa, Ohio State Buckeyes

SackSEER Projection: 22.1 sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 1

Similar historical prospects: Joey Bosa, Brandon Graham

 

Despite being ranked first overall on many boards, Nick Bosa does not have the numbers to top SackSEER’s list of top edge rushers. Bosa had good college sack production, but much of it is uncertain. Bosa was on the way to having a breakout season as a junior, but played only four games, so there is no way of knowing whether he would have kept up that pace. Bosa also has only two career passes defensed, which is below average for a drafted edge rusher. Bosa’s explosion numbers at the combine were also below average.

 

None of his metrics doom him to failure — far from it. Bosa is still an above-average edge rusher prospect, but he does not possess the typical indicia of a future NFL star at the position. To be fair to him, SackSEER somewhat underprojected his brother, Joey Bosa.

 

It could be that Nick has the same qualities that allowed his brother to overperform his SackSEER projection. That said, Joey Bosa’s projection was similar, but stronger than Nick’s. Joey had slightly above average passes defensed numbers, while Nick’s are below average. Joey’s and Nick’s explosion numbers were similar, but Joey was much quicker, recording a 6.89-second 3-cone time as opposed to Nick’s 7.10-second time. Nick Bosa’s uncertain SackSEER should at least give teams pause before they assume that he will be able to replicate his older brother’s success in the NFL.

 

Rashan Gary, Michigan Wolverines

SackSEER Projection: 22.1 sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 5

Similar historical prospects: Frank Clark, Margus Hunt

 

Gary is the quintessential raw talent. He has amazing athleticism for his 277-pound size. Gary ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds, which he paired with a 38-inch vertical leap and a 10-foot broad jump. However, Gary does not have much sack production — his best season was 5.5 sacks in 13 games as a sophomore. Also, he did not record a single pass defensed.

 

Luckily for Gary, there are certainly examples of successful edge rushers in the NFL who had the athletic measurables but lacked college production. For example, Clark, who also attended the Michigan, had good explosion numbers for his size, but few college sacks. Despite his lack of college bona fides, Clark has 35.0 NFL sacks in just four seasons. Gary could follow a similar career trajectory; however, he could just as easily end up like Hunt, a freakish athlete who has been relegated mostly to role-player status in the NFL.

 

Zach Allen, Boston College Eagles

SackSEER Projection: 19.6 sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 48

Similar historical prospects: Ereck Flowers, Jabaal Sheard

 

Allen is a big defensive end at 280 pounds who might be better suited as a 3-4 defensive end or a run-stopping end in a 4-3. Allen is far from a Julius Peppers-level athlete, running the 40-yard dash in a glacial five seconds. However, Allen leads the class in passes defensed rate, intercepting two passes and batting down 14 others for the Eagles, suggesting possible untapped pass-rushing potential.

 

Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion Monarchs

SackSEER Projection: 18.0 Sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 62

Similar historical prospects: Shaun Phillips, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim

 

Ximines is a small-school prospect who is worth a flyer in the late second or early third rounds. After all, Jared Allen and Robert Mathis, two highly successful NFL edge rushers, attended Idaho State and Alabama A&M, respectively. Although Ximines had a mediocre combine, he was extremely productive in college, with 51 sacks and 13 passes defensed.

 

Clelin Ferrell, Clemson Tigers

SackSEER Projection: 17.6 sacks through five seasons

Scouts, Inc. overall ranking: No. 29

Similar historical prospects: Victor Abiamiri, Michael Haynes

 

Clemson has sent a lot of edge rushers to the NFL with varying degrees of success. According to SackSEER, Ferrell is a thoroughly average draft prospect who probably does not belong in the first two rounds. Ferrell had few passes defensed in college and his sack numbers were just OK. Ferrell did not do a complete workout at the combine and did not work out at his pro day due to a toe injury. The only SackSEER-relevant drill Ferrell performed was the 3-cone, which was a below-average 7.26 seconds.