AROUND THE NFL

In hockey, a goal can be negated by a tiny offsides violation minutes before the goal.

 

Now, as Mike Florio points out, a TD could be eradicated by an offensive interference pick play long before the receiver reaches the end zone:

 

Generally speaking, the NFL made a wise decision to make pass interference subject to replay review. Still, some of the specifics could get interesting.

 

Case in point: The automatic review of any touchdown reception will likely now include scanning the field for not only a push off at the point the ball was caught but an illegal pick at the point where the receiver got open.

 

“Blocking more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage by an offensive player prior to a pass being thrown is offensive pass interference,” the official rulebook states. And since the expansion of replay applies generally to offensive pass interference and defensive pass interference, blocking more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage prior to a pass being thrown becomes the silver bullet to wipe out a touchdown.

 

It also provide the basis for erasing a huge gain (not resulting in a touchdown) with a red challenge flag, if the play happens prior to the two-minute warning in either half of action.

 

If it’s a foul, it should be called. And maybe the availability of replay will result in more picks being called as offensive pass interference, since more missed picks can now be called after the fact.

 

Regardless of how it plays out, it’s a clear consequence (intended or not) of the rule that the league adopted on Tuesday.

 

NFC NORTH

 

MINNESOTA

The Vikings have extended GM Rick Spielman by a year.  This from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

 

The Vikings now have both their general manager and coach under contract through 2020.

 

After picking up an option in Mike Zimmer’s deal that added a year to his contract, the Vikings recently added a year to General Manager Rick Spielman’s contract, an NFL source told the Star Tribune on Tuesday.

 

Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf told reporters on Tuesday at the NFL owners’ meetings in Phoenix that the team has Zimmer’s and Spielman’s contracts “synced up.” Both contracts were set to expire after the 2019 season, but the Vikings announced at the NFL combine in February that they’d picked up Zimmer’s option. In the time since the combine, they extended the same measure of security to Spielman.

– – –

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer issues a challenge to CB XAVIER RHODES.  Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

 

As Xavier Rhodes returns to the Twin Cities next month for the start of offseason workouts, at the beginning of his seventh season with the Vikings, he’ll have some work to do to move beyond a 2018 season that the cornerback said was his hardest in the NFL.

 

Coach Mike Zimmer effectively said as much during the coaches’ breakfast at the NFL owners’ meetings on Tuesday morning, telling reporters in Arizona that Rhodes “needs to play better,” and that he’ll make sure that happens.

 

“I just don’t think he played as well as he can play,” Zimmer said. “He needs to play up to his ability level. We’re paying him a lot of money. He needs to play up to that contract.”

 

Rhodes’ $10.4 million base salary for the 2019 season became fully guaranteed on March 15, and he figures to remain one of the keys to the Vikings’ defense at age 29 this season. Zimmer said on Tuesday morning it’s more about Rhodes returning to his proper technique than about any decline in the cornerback’s ability, and the coach’s prodding of the former first-round pick has helped Rhodes reach two Pro Bowls while earning a first-team All-Pro nod in 2017.

 

As it relates to last season, however, it’s difficult to separate Rhodes’ slippage on the field from his struggles to stay healthy.

 

Rhodes battled foot, hamstring and groin injuries all season, missing a pair of home losses against the Saints and Bears and being listed as questionable on the team’s injury report five times. He played only 74 percent of the team’s defensive snaps — down from 90.8 percent in 2017 — as injuries turned his brief in-game absences from an amusing social media meme to a nagging concern. He traded defensive series with Marcus Sherels early in the Vikings’ Dec. 2 loss to the Patriots, playing even after a pregame workout showed his inability to move efficiently because of a hamstring injury that had limited him to a few snaps in practice that week. At the end of the season, Rhodes suggested his attempts to fight through injuries might have been counterproductive at times.

 

“You can’t control injuries in this game. You just can’t,” he said on Dec. 31. “I tried this season to do the most, but it happens, so I’ve just got to be better at maintaining my composure, not doing too much, maybe I was overdoing it, overworking my body this year, and one injury happened, I was just trying to get back on the field as fast as possible and it caused another one, so maybe that was a lesson learned for me to not do too much when I have an injury lingering.”

 

Rhodes’ penchant for penalties returned last season — he had six flags accepted against him for 84 yards — and the Vikings will undoubtedly count on him to handle top receivers while being cleaner in coverage this year. But no matter how much players might try to downplay the effect of injuries during the season, there’s often a link between how an injury affects an athlete’s on-field technique and a dropoff in his performance. Any fair accounting of Rhodes’ 2018 season has to consider his health struggles, and any hope of a return to form for him in 2019 likely begins with his ability to avoid the ailments that seemed to thread their way through his most recent year.

 

Here are a few other items from what Zimmer had to say to reporters in Arizona today:

 

–Depending on how the draft shakes out for the Vikings on the offensive line, Zimmer said the team could look to move Riley Reiff to guard, as our Andrew Krammer first reported in February. The move, Zimmer said, would likely hinge on whether the Vikings found a guard in the draft they felt could start. The team had former Jaguars interior lineman Tyler Shatley in for a visit last week, and there’s still a chance they could look to sign him.

 

–Zimmer said the Vikings would like to bring in a veteran backup quarterback, but given the team’s lack of cap space, they could look to Kyle Sloter as the No. 2 quarterback. According to a league source, former Rams quarterback Sean Mannion will visit the Vikings this weekend.

 

–The coach defended Anthony Barr in pass coverage, saying the linebacker’s issues against the Rams were related more to Los Angeles’ schematic approach than anything else. He also said the Vikings are “going to try some out-of-the-box things on defense this year;” it’ll be worth watching this spring, and in training camp, to see how much the Vikings could alter their approach, ostensibly in response to the schemes from teams like the Rams and Bears that gave them trouble last season.

 

–The Vikings clearly have high expectations for what assistant head coach Gary Kubiak and his associates can bring to the offense this season, and Zimmer said a conversation with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan — who coached Kirk Cousins in the same scheme in Washington — furthered that belief. “This offense with Kubiak is going to be really good for [Cousins],” Zimmer said.

 

The work Cousins did in the Redskins’ offense (with Shanahan and Sean McVay) formed the resume the Vikings considered when they decided to give the quarterback a fully-guaranteed $84 million contract last year. It’s seemed this offseason that they plan to tailor much of their offense to what Cousins has done in the past — in other words, what Kubiak learned under Mike Shanahan in Denver and implemented with Kyle Shanahan working for him in Houston. It makes good sense for the Vikings to build their offense around that which is comfortable for their franchise quarterback (though it should also be noted how frequently Cousins played behind a sturdy offensive line in Washington). But when coaching additions aren’t subject to salary cap limitations, perhaps the investment in Kubiak, his son Klint, offensive line coach Rick Dennison and tight ends coach Brian Pariani is one of the more sensible upgrades the Vikings could make to their offense.

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

The Cowboys and DE DeMARCUS LAWRENCE are at an “impasse” according to Stephen Jones.  David Moore of the Dallas Morning News:

 

Stephen Jones gave his most candid comments yet about the state of negotiations with DeMarcus Lawrence.

 

While the Cowboys executive vice president remains optimistic, he concedes the two sides are at an impasse as they wrestle to determine where the Pro Bowl defensive end should fall on a financial scale that contains profound gaps among the top players at the position.

 

“Historically, we’ve been able to sign our players,” Jones said. “We’ll see. It’s a negotiation. Those things can take time. At the same time, we’re motivated to get something done and hopefully at some point we’ll get some momentum going.

 

“Right now, the best way to describe it is we’re at an impasse. We’re apart. But certainly optimistic.”

 

Defensive end Trey Flowers signed a five-year, $90 million deal with Detroit in free agency with guarantees of $56 million. That’s the floor.

 

The top two pass rushers in terms of pay are Chicago’s Khalil Mack and Denver’s Von Miller. Mack averages $23.5 million a season with guarantees of $90 million. Miller averages $19.1 million with roughly $70 million in guarantees.

 

“The top two guys, I’m sure that is why we’re struggling a little bit,” Jones said. “There is a delta between the top two guys and where the rest of the edge rushers and pressure players have been paid up to this point.

 

“We’re motivated to do it right now. We were motivated to do it before we put the tag on him. At the same time, we have some conviction of the range he should be in in terms of his compensation and I’m sure they have some conviction of what they’re asking for.

 

“I’m not being critical, but therein lies the root of the negotiations.”

 

The Cowboys have placed at second consecutive franchise tag on Lawrence, this one for $20.5 million, to prevent him from hitting the open market while the two sides continue to negotiate. Jones stressed that no lines in the sand have been drawn by either side and they will strive to come up with some creative ways to find common ground.

 

“No one thinks more of DeMarcus Lawrence than we do,” Jones said. “He represents what we want on our football team in terms of the way he plays the game. He certainly plays it at a high level.

 

“We’ll continue to chop wood.”

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Owner Jeffrey Lurie signals that the Eagles are open for business if you want to trade up, Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

When the Eagles identified Carson Wentz as a future franchise quarterback, they did what they had to do to trade up and draft him. But aside from trading up for a franchise quarterback, the Eagles favor trading down.

 

That’s the word from Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who says that the Eagles’ top strategy in the draft is to get as many picks as they can, by trading down, trading players for picks or accumulating compensatory draft picks by maintaining discipline in free agency.

 

“We believe in volume,” Lurie said. “We’re not cocky enough to feel that you’re going to draft way better than anybody else, and it’s very important to create volume. This draft we’re going to have good volume, especially in the top of the draft, two [second-round picks] and two [fourth-round picks] to go with our [first-round pick], and next year we’re going to have quite a few draft choices.”

 

Lurie said that between the picks the Eagles already have in 2019 and the haul of compensatory picks they should get in 2020, a lot of talent will be arriving in Philadelphia.

 

“It’s very important, so when you look ahead over the next 13 months, we’re going to be adding about 20 draft choices,” Lurie said. “You’re going to have some undrafted players make the team, and so you can imagine there’s probably going to be about 20 to 25 players that are going to be about 22 years old, 23 years old on our roster, and we planned for that. To Howie’s credit in the front office, what they’ve done, I think they’ve always balanced this and sort of analyzed it, should you sign a player who is a potentially good starting player at age say 31 or 30 versus a low-level starting player who’s a lot younger. So, when I talk to Howie, it’s always about what is the next two years going to be in that comparison. Yeah, you get the 25- or 26-year-old in his second contract, but he’s a low-level starter. His team didn’t want him, and maybe he can be a low-level starter for us at best, or you can get a guy who can make an impact, several guys who can make an impact, and we’re banking on them for one to two years. So that’s resource allocation.”

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

Coach Sean Payton has some frustration with the departure of RB MARK INGRAM.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Payton also discussed the change to the team’s backfield that took place. Mark Ingram left for the Ravens as a free agent and Latavius Murray will now join Alvin Kamara as the running back duo in New Orleans. Payton said he is excited about having Murray and complimented the new arrival’s “exceptional speed” and ability as a pass blocker.

 

Payton also lamented the way that things unfolded with Ingram, who spent the last eight years in New Orleans.

 

“It happened pretty quickly,” Payton said, via NOLA.com. “Look, I’m excited for Mark’s opportunity. He’s been a tremendous, tremendous player for us and leader for us. It was frustrating because I felt there was little dialogue. At least usually, I’m able to visit with the player, and I wasn’t able to, so the ends and outs specifically to how that unfolded still to me are a little bit cloudy. Tried texting him, tried calling him, direct message. He texted me back, and then the next day we weren’t able to speak.”

 

Ingram signed a three-year, $15 million contract with $6.5 million in guaranteed money while the Saints gave Murray a four-year, $14.4 million deal with $7.2 million guaranteed in the first two years of the deal.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

The Cardinals have signed WR DAMIERE BYRD after he spend four seasons in near-anonymity with Carolina.  He has 12 career catches and a TD on a kickoff return.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CINCINNATI

Owner Mike Brown isn’t oblivious to the fact that QB ANDY DALTON is not a top-tier QB.  Jeremy Bergman at NFL.com:

 

Andy Dalton is one of football’s longest-tenured starting quarterbacks. Since being selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 2011 draft, Dalton has missed just eight starts in eight seasons.

 

The Bengals rewarded their franchise quarterback with a six-year extension in 2014, one season before his rookie deal was set to expire. However, with that massive contract entering its second-to-final year, don’t expect Cincinnati to reward Dalton with another extension any time soon.

 

“I think it’s a good year for [Dalton] to show like he can, like we think he will,” Bengals owner Mike Brown told reporters at the Annual League Meeting this week, per The Cincinnati Enquirer. “After he re-establishes himself, we would want to get together with him and see if we can extend it.”

 

To re-establish himself in the mind of the owner and new coach Zac Taylor, Dalton must rebound positively from a shortened 2018 season. The Bengals QB missed the final five games of the campaign with torn ligaments in his thumb.

 

Dalton and the Bengals started hot in 2018, but by the time Dalton suffered his season-ending injury, Cincinnati had lost five of its last six and was falling out of contention. The Red Rifle finished with 2,566 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 picks with a 61.9 completion percentage.

 

“I think Andy is a good player and that he will rebound off last year,” Brown told reporters. “He was hurt. We lost so many other pieces. It fell apart, but if he’s healthy and we stay healthy enough, I have confidence in him.”

 

Brown’s sentiments imply that 2019 will be a prove-it year of sorts for Dalton. If he doesn’t bounce back under a supposed offensive wunderkind like Taylor, then Cincinnati will feel free to not extend him and look elsewhere for a franchise QB; perhaps they might do so in this year’s draft.

 

Cincy currently employs just one other quarterback with starting experience on the roster: Jeff Driskel, who played out the 2018 season well while Dalton was on injured reserve. There’s also Brad Kaaya. Depending on how the Bengals fare in 2019, Cincy could also be in play for one of the top signal-callers purportedly coming out in 2020 (Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert).

 

But if Dalton does perform up to his Pro Bowl capabilities, then Bengals brass will have a tough decision on their hands: Give up on Dalton, as the Dolphins did with Ryan Tannehill this offseason, or extend him again out of hope and loyalty?

 

In January, Bengals general manager Duke Tobin said that the organization was “very comfortable” with Dalton and thought the quarterback had “a number of years left” in Cincinnati. Whether that number is more than two remains to be seen.

 

 

CLEVELAND

Terez Paylor of YahooSports.com sees some comparisons between the current Browns and the Cowboys of the early 90s:

 

Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey peered down over his black-rimmed eyeglasses earlier this week, his eyes directed toward the ground as he listened intently. And as Dorsey, who stood in the lobby of the posh Arizona Biltmore hotel at the NFL owners meeting, began his response to the central question that many have posed about the suddenly star-laden team he has assembled — what makes you believe your team is equipped to withstand potential drama all these big personalities can bring? — Dorsey looked convinced as he explained the singular trait he expects to unify the Browns.

 

“Get guys that love the game of football, get guys that are passionate about it, get guys that are really good teammates … and you can get along with that,” Dorsey told Yahoo Sports.

 

“I’ve seen locker rooms with huge personalities [that won]. The San Francisco 49ers. The Dallas Cowboys back in the day, with Deion [Sanders] and Michael [Irvin] and all those guys. The Green Bay Packers with Reggie White and Brett Favre. You had some big personalities in those locker rooms.”

 

That’s why, in the pursuit of turning around a perpetually hapless franchise, Dorsey is OK with stacking the roster with players who draw lots of attention for their sometimes flammable personalities.

 

This offseason alone, Dorsey added running back Kareem Hunt — the NFL’s leading rusher in 2017 — who was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs last season after a video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel, and Odell Beckham Jr., a star receiver whose sideline tantrums and volatile personality made him a lightning rod for the New York tabloids. He also signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who made lots of headlines early in his career with the New York Jets.

 

Those three join a team that includes Antonio Callaway, a super-talented receiver who fell to the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft after a string of incidents at Florida, and even outspoken quarterback Baker Mayfield, whose often-endearing brashness bubbled to the surface many times last season. Between that group, all it will take to provide a week’s worth of headlines is one on-field tantrum, one off-field rant or one non-team sanctioned interview.

 

Dorsey has never been afraid of drama, largely due to his unflinching belief in himself and the importance of stacking talent in a results-driven league.

 

“I think it gives you … a sense of belief [about winning] based off of individual talent,” Dorsey said.

 

If any franchise could use a sense of belief about victory, it’s the Browns, who haven’t had a winning season since 2007.

 

After last year’s 7-8-1 season — a breakthrough, as Mayfield emerged as one of the league’s best young quarterbacks as a rookie — Dorsey senses the Browns are on the precipice of being a perennial playoff contender, not unlike what he helped build in Kansas City, where he served as the general manager from the 2013 to 2016 seasons.

 

But while Kansas City saw a ton of success during Dorsey’s tenure — a run that included a 43-21 regular-season record, a slew of Pro Bowl draft picks and three playoff berths, a few of his acquisitions brought some accompanying headaches. The Chiefs dealt away Marcus Peters, a 2015 first-rounder, after a series of on- and off-field blowups in 2017, and were forced to cut Hunt — a 2017 third-rounder — last season after the video surfaced first on TMZ.

 

What’s more, receiver Tyreek Hill, whose selection in the fifth-round of the 2016 NFL draft was controversial in Kansas City, is back in the news after police began investigating an incident involving alleged battery of a juvenile at his home in March.

 

Yet, all three players were unequivocally serious about football, which is part of the drive that made them great players for the Chiefs.

 

Few can doubt how much the likes of Mayfield, Beckham, Richardson and several other of Dorsey’s additions — like star receiver Jarvis Landry, who dropped an emotional speech in “Hard Knocks” last summer that included 22 f-bombs — love the game just as much, too.

 

“They’ve been there, they know how to [win],” Dorsey said. “They’re true professionals.”

 

Besides, Dorsey accounted for the need to manage the character mix when he hired Freddie Kitchens to be the full-time head coach this offseason. Internally, Kitchens impressed many in the organization with his ability to command the respect of the room after his midseason promotion to offensive coordinator, and if Kitchens’ media session at the coaches breakfast Tuesday was any indication, he’ll continue to do so with a wit and confidence that makes him endearing and followable.

 

“Am I not a big personality? I mean hell, I think I’m a pretty big personality,” Kitchens joked, when asked how he’d handle his roster. “I’m just kidding. [But] you know what? I think sometimes people equate their personality with the passion they have for the game, and the passion they have for life. I’m going to treat Odell just like I treat everybody. He’s got my trust and I’m going to have his. And then, if we all know that we’re in this thing together, and we’re doing it for the same goal, the same purpose, that will never be a problem.”

 

Dorsey is counting on that being the case, not only as it relates to Kitchens’ relationship with Beckham, but for the entire roster. After all, the ’90s three championship teams he mentioned as having loads of big personalities — the 49ers, Cowboys and Packers — were all guided by elite head coaches (George Seifert, Jimmy Johnson and Mike Holmgren).

 

“Anytime you can get a guy who lead men, who’s going to hold them accountable and be very honest and straight, who will be consistent, you do [that],” Dorsey said. “Then you go get guys that love the game of football and are talented.”

 

From there, Dorsey said, you simply have faith those players’ desire to win will overcome all — a potentially combustible mix, included.

 

“Collectively,” Dorsey said, “they’ll all have to come together as one.”

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

Jim Irsay says he did his best to bring Peyton Manning back to the Colts as an executive.  Zak Keefer in the Indianapolis Star:

 

For the first time, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay on Wednesday detailed just how close the greatest player in franchise history came to returning to the team in a top executive role.

 

“It did get close with Peyton,” Irsay said from the NFL owner meetings in Arizona. “I wouldn’t say super serious close, but enough to kick the tires and say, ‘What are you thinking?’ Because my counsel is there for him whether he comes to the Colts or chooses to do something else.

 

“There was definitely some interest on both sides.”

 

Irsay’s courtship of Peyton Manning, his longtime quarterback, began with a conversation in November 2016, during the team’s 10-year celebration of its Super Bowl XLI title. The talks soon got “serious,” Irsay said.

 

Months later, after firing general manager Ryan Grigson, Irsay explored Manning’s interest in “a president, general manager sort of thing,” Irsay said.

 

Manning mulled the possibility,  but eventually declined, telling Irsay he wasn’t quite ready for the long, demanding hours required of the role.

 

“I’m just not ready yet,” Irsay remembers the quarterback telling him. “(He said,) It’s just not right, right now. And if I’m all in, I’m all in. … You know I’d like to spend more time with the family.”

 

“He clearly expressed that to me. And I wasn’t surprised.”

 

Soon after his conversation with Manning, Irsay conducted a league-wide search to fill the Colts’ vacant general manager post and eventually hired Chris Ballard.

 

“I don’t believe he wants to pursue head coaching jobs,” Irsay said of Manning, who at the moment is being pursued by ESPN for a role on Monday Night Football. “I talked to him a little bit about ownership. He’s got a lot of options, and I think the great thing is Chris knew Peyton is a good friend of mine, and loves this franchise. Chris did not, at all, even feel any looking behind my back, ‘Is Peyton around?’ It was the opposite. He’s called Peyton. Peyton’s been in our building working out, and it’s great to see.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Today’s Mock Draft comes from Mel Kiper, Jr.

 

If we compare it to Peter Schrager’s yesterday, there are 24 names that appear in both.  They agree on 4 of the first 5 picks – Murray, Bosa, Allen and White. 

 

Schrager likes Ed Oliver at #4 to the Raiders, while Kiper has him at 14.

 

Schrager likes OT Cody Ford at #11, Kiper has him #28.

 

Kiper likes Edge Montez Sweat at #8, Schrager has him at #21.

 

Kiper likes LB Devin Bush at #11, Schrager has him at #24.

 

Schrager has OT Kaleb McGary going at #18, Kiper does not have him in First Round.

 

Kiper has OLB Brian Burns at #15, Schrager does not have him in First Round:

 

Can you believe we’re less than a month away from the 2019 NFL draft? The combine is over. Pro days are winding down. Most of free agency is done, although a few signings are still trickling in. And the complete draft order — all 254 picks — is set.

 

Let’s go 1-32 with a new Mock Draft, my third of the cycle. As always, I’ll project the first round and give my thoughts on each pick and prospect. Since the bulk of free agency is over, we have a good feel for the needs of every team. And we also have true heights, weights and athletic testing numbers for every prospect, which means you’ll see some new names based on combine risers — and notice a few players who have dropped out of Round 1.

 

Let’s start with the Cardinals, where I have changed my pick from my previous two projections …

 

1. Arizona Cardinals

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

The buzz around Murray going No. 1 has only heated up since the combine. And here’s why it makes sense: New coach Kliff Kingsbury can start his tenure in Arizona with his guy. The 5-foot-10, 207-pound Murray can run the offense Kingsbury wants to run, with no limitations. Josh Rosen is a much different quarterback than Murray, and Kingsbury was going to have to fit his Air Raid concepts to Rosen’s strengths. Now, we can question the logic behind taking a quarterback in the first round in back-to-back drafts. It’s a terrible look to ditch a top-10 pick after a year. Can general manager Steve Keim get a first-round pick for Rosen in a trade, even if it’s in 2020? That might help the Cardinals save face. There’s a lot to like about Heisman Trophy winner Murray, even if we should expect some struggles early behind Arizona’s offensive line.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The 49ers could be the big winners if Murray goes No. 1 because it means the top pass-rusher — and my top-ranked prospect — is still on the board here. Two potential options:

 

Take Bosa and put him on the other side of new addition Dee Ford, and the edge-rushing group — a major weakness in 2018 — immediately becomes a strength.

 

Put the pick up for sale and get more capital to improve a talented team that still has some holes.

 

We’ve seen San Francisco GM John Lynch trade down before; he did it in 2017, when the Bears moved up one spot to take Mitchell Trubisky, and the Niners got back two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder. Could Lynch do it again?

 

3. New York Jets

Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

This is simple: New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams says he’s sticking with a 3-4, and Allen is the best pass-rushing outside linebacker in the class. The Jets didn’t address the position in free agency — they did spend a ton of money at inside linebacker with C.J. Mosley — so this is a clear need. The 6-foot-5, 262-pound Allen had 17 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. It’s worth noting again that New York doesn’t have a second-round pick because of the Sam Darnold trade-up last year. This is an important selection for GM Mike Maccagnan.

 

4. Oakland Raiders

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Jon Gruden & Co. are the other big winners if Murray goes with the first pick. Instead of the top three defensive players coming off the board, at least one of them would be available at No. 4 in this scenario. And with a dire pass rush in 2018, we know the Raiders need help there. Williams (6-foot-3, 303 pounds) is coming off a stellar season and combine, and he’d be an impact player from Day 1 in the middle of the Oakland defense.

 

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Devin White, ILB, LSU

White, a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine, is one of my favorite prospects in this class. And after the Bucs lost Kwon Alexander in free agency, White (6-foot, 237 pounds) can step in and fill the void at middle linebacker. As I noted in my Mock Draft 2.0, the No. 5 pick is a spot to watch for teams trying to move ahead of the Giants to draft quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

 

6. New York Giants

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

I’ll stick with my top-ranked signal-caller here, with the Giants taking Haskins, who grew up a fan of the team. But, again, there’s no guarantee Haskins (6-foot-3, 231 pounds) will be available at No. 6, and GM Dave Gettleman might have to move up to get him. The team now has the No. 17 overall pick from the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, which could be used in another deal. It’s no certainty that the Giants take a quarterback with this pick, however; they are clearly rebuilding, have several needs (offensive tackle and edge rusher stand out) and could instead use the 17th pick for a QB.

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Taylor is likely to be the top tackle off the board, ahead of Alabama’s Jonah Williams, and I also pegged him to Jacksonville in my Mock Draft 2.0. With Nick Foles taking over, he’s going to need protection on the right side. That’s where Taylor has experience, as he started 33 games there at Florida.

 

8. Detroit Lions

Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

I really liked Sweat’s 2018 film, as he had 11.5 sacks and was a terror off the edge for the Bulldogs. And after running a 4.41 40-yard dash at 260 pounds at the combine, he has likely locked in a spot in the top 10. There is a fit in Detroit, which just added big-money signing Trey Flowers as a replacement for Ezekiel Ansah but needs help on the other side. Sweat could be an impact pass-rusher in the tough NFC North.

 

9. Buffalo Bills

Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Gary had a strong combine — he ran a 4.58 40-yard dash and tested well in every workout — but we already knew he was gifted physically. The interviews were more important for him there. He was undoubtedly asked about why he had just 10.5 sacks over three seasons. This pick is a bet for his ceiling, which is extremely high, and coaches will try to get the best out of him consistently. The Bills added receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley in free agency, but don’t rule out a tight end for second-year quarterback Josh Allen here.

 

10. Denver Broncos

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

This is probably too high to go for an interior offensive linemen, and Denver addressed its need at cornerback in free agency with Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan. So I’ll give the Broncos the top tight end in the class in Hockenson, a complete player who will be able to start immediately. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Hockenson has been compared to Rob Gronkowski, and you can see the similarities on film. I’m not sold Denver has a No. 1 tight end on its roster, even as it has used draft picks in recent years on Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt and Troy Fumagalli.

 

11. Cincinnati Bengals

Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

I have gone with the other Devin in previous Mock Drafts — LSU’s Devin White — but Bush isn’t far behind White as the best middle linebacker in this class. One of the prospects I picked out as a combine riser because of his workouts, Bush is always around the ball on film. The Bengals just brought back Preston Brown in free agency, but Bush could play any of the linebacker spots at the next level. He’s a three-down player.

 

12. Green Bay Packers

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

GM Brian Gutenkunst was aggressive in free agency, addressing holes at edge rusher, safety and guard. But the Packers didn’t add a wide receiver, and I expect them to use one of their two first-round picks on one. Metcalf lit up the combine with a 4.33 40-yard dash and 40-inch vertical at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, but there are some concerns about his lateral athleticism and health (he had a scary neck injury last season). Still, if Metcalf is 100 percent, he can be a true weapon for Aaron Rodgers.

 

13. Miami Dolphins

Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

I thought about Lock for Denver at No. 10 and Cincinnati at No. 11, but Miami also makes a ton of sense. The Dolphins are clearly in the beginning stages of a rebuild, and they need a new face of their franchise after parting ways with Ryan Tannehill. Lock (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) is inconsistent, but he has a strong arm and can make every throw. There have been some rumblings that Lock could be the second quarterback off the board, before Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Miami could go also go offensive line with this pick, or it could try to trade down to pick up assets.

 

14. Atlanta Falcons

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

The Falcons were devastated by injuries on defense last season, but this is still a talented roster. They’re not far away from being back in the playoffs. Adding another interior disruptor next to Grady Jarrett makes sense here. Oliver’s weight was a hot topic last season, and he weighed in at 287 at the combine, quieting concerns that he didn’t have the size to play defensive tackle at the next level. Oliver is a tremendous athlete who could also move outside to rush the passer from the edge.

 

15. Washington Redskins

Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State

If Washington wants Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, it might have to trade up. And since I can’t project trades here, Lock isn’t on the board at No. 15. So with a void left by Preston Smith signing with the Packers in free agency, the Redskins go with the best edge rusher on my board in Burns (6-foot-5, 249 pounds), who is rising after the combine. He can bend the edge as well as any pass-rusher in this class.

 

16. Carolina Panthers

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

The Panthers signed pass-rusher Bruce Irvin to a one-year deal to help replace the retired Julius Peppers, but they need some more help now and for the long term. Ferrell is a fit as a classic 4-3 defensive end with a big frame (6-foot-4, 264 pounds). He’s not flashy on film, but he gets to quarterbacks and is strong against the run. Safety is another position to watch for Carolina.

 

17. New York Giants (from CLE)

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

This selection ends a run on edge rushers, with six going in my top 16 picks. The Giants need help there, too, especially at outside linebacker in James Bettcher’s 3-4, but Wilkins (6-foot-3, 315 pounds) is a different kind of defensive lineman who could play tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4. He has been underrated on a loaded Clemson defense, but he had 15 tackles for loss last season.

 

18. Minnesota Vikings

Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama

The Vikings would be thrilled with Williams, a tackle in college — he made 43 consecutive starts for the Crimson Tide — who could play guard at the next level. If Minnesota moves Riley Reiff inside to guard, Williams (6-foot-4, 302 pounds) could stick at left tackle. As always, don’t be shocked if coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman target a pass-rusher here.

 

19. Tennessee Titans

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Lawrence is the best true nose tackle in this class, a massive 6-foot-4, 342-pound rock who would be an ideal complement next to Jurrell Casey, one of the most underrated defenders in the league. The Titans have upgraded at guard and wide receiver in free agency, so this pick should be to help improve their defense, which lost a few pieces this offseason.

 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

Pittsburgh signed former Chiefs corner Steven Nelson in free agency, but the team could still target a defensive back in the round. As I wrote in my Mock Draft 2.0, former first-round pick Artie Burns had a rough 2018 season, and the Steelers need more depth at cornerback. Baker (5-foot-11, 193 pounds) had a solid combine workout, although he’s not an elite athlete. The Steelers are another team that could target an edge rusher early.

 

21. Seattle Seahawks

Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

The Seahawks’ offensive line was one of the most improved units in 2018. And while Seattle re-signed D.J. Fluker and added Mike Iupati in free agency, the guard position isn’t solidified for the future. Lindstrom (6-foot-4, 308 pounds) is rising after his combine workout — he ran a 4.91 40-yard dash and tested well athletically — and he’s getting some first-round buzz.

 

22. Baltimore Ravens

Erik McCoy, C/G, Texas A&M

Another post-combine riser, McCoy ran the fastest 40-yard dash of any offensive lineman (4.89 seconds) in Indianapolis. And when you turn on the tape, you see a consistent player with great feet. The 6-foot-4, 303-pound McCoy started all 38 games of his Texas A&M career, including a few at guard. The versatility is a plus, and the Ravens could play him at left guard or center. Baltimore’s defense took a hit in free agency, so GM Eric DeCosta could try to upgrade at a few spots.

 

23. Houston Texans

Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

As I wrote last time, the Texans’ biggest weakness in 2018 was their offensive line, as they gave up a league-high 62 sacks. And I don’t have a lot of faith that Matt Kalil is the answer. So let’s give them Dillard (6-foot-5, 315 pounds), one of the best pass-protectors in this class and a true left tackle. Houston could also address its secondary, which lost several impact players in free agency.

 

24. Oakland Raiders (from CHI)

Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin, the Raiders’ top two backs last season, are both unsigned free agents, and the position is a huge question mark for Jon Gruden’s team in 2019. Could the best running back in the draft fall to them here? It’s possible. Jacobs has limited tread on his tires — just 300 career touches for the Crimson Tide — and is a receiving threat out of the backfield. Oakland has had a nice offseason, and with three first-rounders, these are important picks to get the franchise back on track.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles

Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Philadelphia has done a nice job filling holes this offseason. DeSean Jackson can replace Golden Tate. Malik Jackson is an upgrade on Haloti Ngata & Co. at defensive tackle. Vinny Curry will help with Michael Bennett moving on. GM Howie Roseman hasn’t addressed the secondary, however, outside of bringing back Ronald Darby on a one-year deal, which means Philly could target a safety or corner in the first round or with one of its two second-round picks. Abram (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) is my top-ranked safety, a physical tackler who showed off 4.45 40-yard dash speed at the combine.

 

26. Indianapolis Colts

Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State

There are several wide receivers extremely close on my board, all with late Day 1 or early Day 2 grades. That includes Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, who hasn’t been able to work out for teams because of a foot injury, and Ole Miss’ A.J. Brown, whom I had here in my Mock Draft 2.0. It also includes McLaurin, a true speed threat who averaged 20.0 yards per catch last season. The 6-foot, 208-pound wideout ran a blazing 4.35 40 at the combine. Andrew Luck needs better weapons at wideout, even after Indy added Devin Funchess in free agency.

 

27. Oakland Raiders (from DAL)

Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

I really liked what I saw on tape from Ya-Sin in his lone season at Temple, when he broke up 12 passes and had two interceptions. He’s an easy mover with outstanding athletic traits. Let’s plug in Ya-Sin (6-foot, 192 pounds) on the other side of Gareon Conley and consider the Raiders’ top needs filled in this first round, with an interior game-wrecker at No. 4, a top running back at No. 24, and a starting-caliber corner here.

 

28. Los Angeles Chargers

Cody Ford, G/OT, Oklahoma

I thought about defensive tackle here, and Los Angeles could also target a corner. But in the 6-foot-4, 329-pound Ford, the Chargers could get a versatile offensive linemen who has started multiple games at both guard and tackle for the Sooners. He could step in at either position in L.A. Ford’s strength is in the run game — he’s a mauler.

 

29. Kansas City Chiefs

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

With Dee Ford, Justin Houston, Eric Berry and Steven Nelson all gone, the Chiefs’ defense will look different in 2019 under new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. And Kansas City still has questions at linebacker and the other safety spot next to Tyrann Mathieu. And even after signing Bashaud Breeland on a short-term deal, the team also needs a cornerback. You’ll notice that Williams (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) has dropped a bit; there are questions about his willingness to tackle and about his fluidity in coverage.

 

30. Green Bay Packers (from NO)

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Let’s go all-in on helping Aaron Rodgers. After giving the Packers a receiver at No. 12, I’ll go with the best pure pass-catching tight end in this class here with the pick they got from the Saints in last year’s draft. Fant (6-foot-4, 249 pounds) is supremely athletic and naturally gifted as a receiver, but he’s not on the same level as a blocker as his former teammate T.J. Hockenson. Green Bay could use Fant as more of a slot receiver in the same lineup as Jimmy Graham until Fant improves as a blocker.

 

31. Los Angeles Rams

Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State

Bradbury had a fantastic week at the Senior Bowl in January, and he followed it up with a strong combine workout, which has him on the fringes of Round 1. With the Rams moving on from John Sullivan this offseason, this is a straight like-for-like replacement, as Bradbury (6-foot-3, 306 pounds) could step in and start on Day 1. Cornerback is another position to watch for L.A., with the futures of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib uncertain.

 

32. New England Patriots

Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

What now for the Super Bowl champs? Bill Belichick always has a plan. Rob Gronkowski is retiring, and the Patriots also lost several big contributors in free agency, including Trent Brown, Trey Flowers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Dwayne Allen and Malcom Brown. They already have replacements for a few of these players, but tight end is another story. Smith is a notch below T.J. Hockenson, but he’s a solid, all-around player who can hold his own as a blocker. And we know Belichick has an affinity for Nick Saban and Alabama. This pairing makes sense.