AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

RB KERRYON JOHNSON is ready to go.  Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com:

 

Kerryon Johnson missed the last six games of his rookie season with a knee injury, but now, months removed and with the Detroit Lions offseason workouts underway, he said Thursday that he’s fully back to his old self.

 

“Yep,” Johnson said. “Ready to go.”

 

Johnson said his goal this season — as it is every year — is to play in every game, and he figures if he does that, “the rest will take care of itself.”

 

 

MINNESOTA

RB ROC THOMAS is a convicted felon, for now.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Vikings running back Roc Thomas admitted to felony marijuana possession, but he will have the charge dismissed if he completes probation, the Pioneer Press reports. Conditions of the probationary term include a chemical dependency evaluation and possible treatment; no alcohol or drug use; and random testing.

 

Officers executed a search warrant on Thomas’ apartment Jan. 16 after complaints about the smell of marijuana. Police found 143 grams of marijuana and nearly $16,000 in cash.

 

Thomas, 23, was charged with fifth-degree drug possession.

 

Thomas, who played in five games last season, told officers he smokes marijuana and all of it was for personal use.

– – –

Are the Vikings trying to stir up interest to trade away TE KYLE RUDOLPH?  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

The Vikings fielded calls for tight end Kyle Rudolph during the draft. Unless they didn’t. Unless they did.

 

Courtney Cronin of ESPN.com has the latest word on whether the Vikings heard from other teams about a possible trade for the veteran tight end. Per the new report, the Vikings “fielded interest ahead of/during the draft” about a potential deal.

 

After the Vikings made tight end Irv Smith a second-round pick on Friday night, Albert Breer of SI.com reported that the Vikings were getting calls about Rudolph and two other veterans, cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. This reported invited speculation that the Vikings were getting the word out regarding the matter in the hopes to instigate more calls.

 

Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, who once said the Vikings had “no intent” to trade receiver Percy Harvin just before they did, said this after the draft about getting calls about veteran players: “No, not really, no. I would say we didn’t.”

 

Maybe they didn’t. But it sure seems like they’d like to.

 

Entering the final year of his contract, Rudolph has a non-guaranteed base salary of $7.25 million. Speculation has lingered that the Patriots, who drafted no tight ends in the aftermath of the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, could try to trade for Rudolph, eventually.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the byplay between the Giants and Redskins:

 

The NFC East is getting interesting again.

 

In the blue corner, Giants G.M. Dave Gettleman. In the red (ok, burgundy) corner, Washington president Bruce Allen.

 

Gettleman, defending the decision to use the sixth overall pick on quarterback Daniel Jones, said over the weekend that he knows “for a fact” that two other teams would have drafted Jones before the Giants were on the clock again at No. 17. Someone (the Giants) then leaked that those two teams were Denver and Washington.

 

Allen, appearing on NFL Network, responded to the notion that Gettleman had actual knowledge of Washington’s draft preferences.

 

“We picked the player we wanted to pick,” Allen said, via NFL.com. “I’m almost positive Dave has no clue what our draft board would be. I don’t know which draft boards he knows, but he doesn’t know ours.”

 

Gettleman doesn’t know any, absent espionage. That’s the biggest flaw in his gratuitous “for a fact” claim. No G.M. knows another team’s draft board unless there has been spying.

 

So why does Gettleman insist that two teams between No. 6 and No. 17 would have taken Jones? That’s better than the truth, which is that the Giants feared being leapfrogged at No. 17 by a team smart enough to realize that the Giants were in the Daniel Jones business, given the effort to get the fans and media comfortable with the possibility of Daniel Jones being drafted by the Giants.

 

By floating the Daniel Jones trial balloon, the Giants backed themselves into a corner. That’s the truth, but Gettleman can’t or won’t admit it.

 

Regardless, if Daniel Jones becomes a franchise quarterback, it won’t matter whether he was pick No. 6 or No. 17. Conversely, if Jones doesn’t become a franchise quarterback, it won’t matter whether he was pick No. 17 or No. 6.

 

The best news is that New York and Washington will continue to play each other twice per year every year, with Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins going head-to-head and their progress (or otherwise) being compared on an apples-to-apples basis.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

The Panthers are declining the fifth-year option of DT VERNON BUTLER:

 

Another team has made a decision about exercising a fifth-year contract option for a 2016 first-round pick.

 

The Panthers announced on Thursday that they have declined their option on defensive tackle Vernon Butler‘s deal. Friday is the deadline to exercise options and most teams have already made their calls.

 

Butler was the 30th overall pick in 2016 after playing college ball at Louisiana Tech. He has never played in all 16 games during a season and hasn’t seen more than 33 percent of the team’s defensive snaps at any point during his NFL career, which likely didn’t force the Panthers to think too hard about whether or not they should exercise the option.

 

Butler has 45 tackles and two sacks in his 38 regular season appearances.

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

The battle for the starting quarterback job in Arizona is over.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

A year ago, the Cardinals drafted Josh Rosen 10th overall after signing Sam Bradford in free agency. The Cardinals named Bradford the starter but added they would give Rosen a chance to compete for the job.

 

Everyone knows how that turned out. Both quarterbacks now are gone after a three-win season.

 

While Kliff Kingsbury stopped short of naming Kyler Murray the team’s starting quarterback for the 2019 season opener, General Manager Steve Keim stated the obvious.

 

He quickly answered, “Yes,” when Rich Eisen asked if Murray would start against Detroit on Sept. 8.

 

Eisen followed with, “You didn’t stutter,” prompting Keim to say, “No.”

 

“We didn’t draft him one overall to ride the pine,” Keim added on The Rich Eisen Show this week. “I know it’s a lot to put on his back, but that’s why we drafted him. He’s a fierce competitor, and that’s what he did at Oklahoma this year. He put the team on his back. They didn’t have a great defense, and he knew he had to score on almost every series to give them a chance to win. I sort of like the chances there.”

 

Kingsbury answered, “We’ll see,” when asked about Murray starting on The Jim Rome Show, and mentioned veteran Brett Hundley. (And, no, he didn’t seem to intend it as a joke.)

 

The Cardinals wasted the Rosen choice, giving him no chance to become the franchise quarterback they obviouslythought he was a year ago. He’s now in Miami, and the Cardinals now are Murray’s team.

 

Who could have envisioned that?

 

“Oh, man,” Keim said. “It’d be hard to understand any circumstances other than the one that just happened that that would happen. I know it sounds far fetched, but again, if I didn’t the feel I got while watching the tape of Kyler Murray and how dynamic he is, there’s probably zero chance of that happening.”

 

Keim’s future now is in Murray’s hands from Day One.

 

AFC WEST

 

THE RAIDERS

A setback for the Raiders as RB ISIAH CROWELL tears his Achilles.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Running back Isaiah Crowell signed a one-year contract with the Raiders in free agency, but he won’t be on the field for the team this year.

 

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Crowell tore his Achilles while working out with the team on Tuesday. He will have surgery next week and is going to miss the season while recovering from the injury.

 

Crowell ran for 685 yards and six touchdowns for the Jets last season and was released after the team signed Le’Veon Bell to take over as their lead back. He landed in Oakland and was atop the depth chart at running back until the team drafted Josh Jacobs in the first round last Thursday.

 

Jacobs and Crowell may have been on track to share work, but the rookie now looks like the clear No. 1 in Oakland heading into the season. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are also on hand and the team may look for more help to make up for Crowell’s absence.

 

The team may be asked if Marshawn Lynch is a candidate for that role. He spent the last two seasons in Oakland and word in April was that he is not planning to play in 2019, although he’s reversed course in the past for a chance to play for his hometown team.

 

Something else to keep an eye on would be the return of RB DOUG MARTIN.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

With an eye toward QB-ETC TAYSOM HILL, the Ravens are looking to utilize QB-ETC TRACE McSORLEY in a variety of roles.  Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta thinks he got the ultimate Swiss army knife with his final pick in the draft.

 

With the 197th overall pick, the Ravens took former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, a good athlete who’s probably not a good enough passer to play quarterback in the NFL. DeCosta said on PFT Live that McSorley can do a little of everything on the football field.

 

“I think he’s a football player and everything that entails. His skill set is varied and multiple,” DeCosta said. “He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s tough, he’s a playmaker, he’s a football player. We’ve seen teams, for instance the New Orleans Saints with Taysom Hill, we’ve seen other teams find ways to play with players like this and they can help you win football games. He fits our defense, he fits our offense, he fits special teams.”

 

Yes, DeCosta said defense: McSorley could get playing time at safety, as well as making some plays on offense, returning kicks, possibly even punting if the Ravens asked him to.

 

“I think he fits everything,” DeCosta said.

 

McSorley bristled at the Combine when he was asked to play a position other than quarterback, but the Ravens sound like they have the kind of plan in place for him that he’d gladly accept.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

The Titans have decided not to exercise their fifth-year option on T JACK CONKLIN, the 8th overall pick in the 2016 draft, even though he has a history as a First Team All-Pro.  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Conklin became an immediate starter with the Titans during his rookie season, earning a first-team All-Pro selection, and he started all 32 games over his first two seasons.

 

His 2018 season, though, saw him start just nine games as he missed the first three games while recovering from an ACL injury suffered in the 2017 postseason. Conklin also missed Week 10 with a concussion before a knee injury suffered in Week 14 landed him on injured reserve to close out the season.

 

The injuries of the past season might have played a role in the Titans’ decision to pass, but Conklin could use the 2019 season to prove he is worth a lucrative payday either with the Titans or on the open market in 2020.

 

Conklin becomes the highest-drafted player of the 2016 draft class to not receive the fifth-year option. He is the second player within the top-10 selections, as the New Orleans Saints declined the option on cornerback Eli Apple, who was the 10th overall pick in 2016.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

PETE PRISCO’s DRAFT GRADES

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has been throwing out instant draft grades for a long time.  As usual, his commentary often seems adrift from his grades.  For example, he gives Miami’s first round pick an A+, doesn’t dislike anything else they did and gives them a B. 

 

NFL Draft grades usually end up being embarrassing for those who do them.

 

So what? We love them, right?

 

It’s probably unfair to do draft grades right after the draft, but we eat them up. The fair way to do it is to wait three years, which is why I always re-visit my grades and look back at the draft.

 

For now, the best grade of this year’s draft goes to the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick and crew had an outstanding draft and earned my only A+ grade. I loved what they did, even though I wasn’t totally on board with their first-round pick of receiver N’Keal Harry.

 

Some personnel people in the league think Belichick enjoys the draft process more than he does coaching. I don’t know if that’s the case, but this draft sure looks that way. It’s part of why he’s the best to ever do it.

 

Now for the grades:

 

Arizona Cardinals: A

Best pick: Second-round corner Byron Murphy will be a nice nickel corner early in his career, and then move outside to a starter’s role.

 

Worst pick: I am not as crazy about No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray as most. I would have just kept Josh Rosen.

 

The skinny: Even though I am not crazy about the Murray pick, I still love their draft. They hit on a lot of good players. I like both second-round picks: Andy Isabella and Murphy.

 

Atlanta Falcons: B

Best pick: First-round guard Chris Lindstrom is a mauler. He will step in and start right away to help protect Matt Ryan better.

 

Worst pick: Trading back into the first round to take Washington tackle Kaleb McGary. He’s a good player, but did they need to move to get him?

 

The skinny: This was a draft about protecting Ryan better. And they accomplished that. The line will be improved. Fifth-round running back Qadree Ellison will be a nice addition.

 

Baltimore Ravens: B+

Best pick: Third-round receiver Miles Boykin gives them a big target with a lot of raw ability. With a little coaching, he can be a big-play receiver.

 

Worst pick: I wonder if sixth-round quarterback Trace McSorley was worth the pick. He’s an athletic player, so maybe they want somebody who can run like Lamar Jackson.

 

The skinny: First-year general manager Eric DeCosta had a nice first draft. Picking receiver Marquise Brown in the first round will pay off in a big way. I like fourth-round running back Justice Hill as well.

 

Buffalo Bills: B

Best pick: It’s first-round pick Ed Oliver. He fills a major need and will be a star down player. He has a chance to be a lot like former NFL great John Randle.

 

Worst pick: I didn’t love taking running back Devin Singletary in the third round. That might have been a bit high.

 

The skinny: Getting Oliver and tackle Cody Ford with their first two picks were good moves. I also like fourth-round tight end Dawson Knox. This is a team that general manager Brandon Beane has moving in the right direction.

 

Carolina Panthers: B+

Best pick: Second-round tackle Greg Little had first-round ability. I think with a little seasoning he could develop into a Pro Bowl player.

 

Worst pick: I didn’t love the decision to take quarterback Will Grier in the third round. They do need a developmental passer, but is he that much better than backup Kyle Allen?

 

The skinny: They did a nice job with their first two picks, adding Little and first-round edge Brian Burns. The pass rush badly needed help as they move to using more 3-4 defenses. Fourth-round edge rusher Christian Miller could also help there.

 

Chicago Bears: C

Best pick: Fourth-round receiver Riley Ridley doesn’t run that well, but he plays faster than his 40 times. I think he has a chance to be a quality starter.

 

Worst pick: They really didn’t have one because they had just two picks in the first four rounds.

 

The skinny: They didn’t pick until the third round because of the Khalil Mack trade. They traded away picks to move up in the third to take running back David Montgomery, who is a solid runner.

 

Cincinnati Bengals: B-

Best pick: Fourth-round defensive tackle Renell Wren will end up being a steal. He was miscast as a nose tackle at Arizona State, but should flourish in their defense.

 

Worst pick: I am not a big fan of Ryan Finley, their fourth-round quarterback. He might never be more than a career backup.

 

The skinny: They smartly addressed offensive line with their first-round pick by taking Jonah Williams, who will be a Pro Bowl player someday. Adding two backs in Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson late were also good moves.

 

Cleveland Browns: C+

Best pick: Fourth-round pick Sheldrick Redwine is a good-sized safety who can run. There’s value in that.

 

Worst pick: They took kicker Austin Seibert in the fifth round. I never like that.

 

The skinny: They traded their first-round pick to the Giants for Odell Beckham Jr., which is a win for them. Greedy Williams is an outstanding cover player, but he needs to work on his tackling. The rest of the draft was just OK.

 

Dallas Cowboys: B-

Best pick: I like second-round pick Trysten Hill, a defensive tackle from Central Florida. He is a quick, penetrating lineman who will make a deep unit even deeper. He has to be more focused.

 

Worst pick: I didn’t love the pick of running back Tony Pollard in the fourth round. They had bigger needs.

 

The skinny: The Cowboys traded their first-round pick for Amari Cooper, and he is better than any of the receivers in this class. So they won that. Getting Hill and third-round guard Connor McGovern were nice picks. They had a decent haul.

 

Denver Broncos: B+

Best pick: Second-round quarterback Drew Lock will pay off big for this franchise. They will look back on the pick someday and think what a bargain he was in that round.

 

Worst pick: I liked their first four picks, so it’s tough to find one. I might have gone in a different direction than taking tackle Dalton Risner in the second round. That’s being nitpicky.

 

The skinny: Some will say it’s weird even mentioning this, but John Elway had a good draft. I like the move to drop from No. 10 overall to add extra picks. First-round tight end Noah Fant will be a nice weapon and if Lock becomes the long-term starter – which I think he will do – they will have a heck of a draft.

 

Detroit Lions: C

Best pick: Fifth-round corner Amani Oruwarlye was great value. There were some scouts who thought he’d go a lot higher. The Lions have a need, so it makes sense.

 

Worst pick: I didn’t love fourth-round pass rusher Austin Bryant. He was the fourth guy on a dominant Clemson line. How good is he?

 

The skinny: I like first-round tight end T.J. Hockenson, but was that really a major position of need after signing Jesse James as a free agent? What about more pass rush? It was just an OK haul.

 

Green Bay Packers: B

Best pick: Third-round tight end Jace Sternberger will add a nice dimension to the offense in the passing game. Aaron Rodgers will love his game.

 

Worst pick: I didn’t love the pick of Rashan Gary in the first round. He’s an athletic kid, but where was the production last season?

 

The skinny: The Gary pick at No. 14 is a little rich, but I liked safety Darnell Savage, their other first-round pick. Second-round center Elgton Jenkins was one of my favorite lineman in the draft.

 

Houston Texans: C-

Best pick: Third-round tight end Kahale Warring has a chance to be special. He is raw, but he has a ton of athletic ability.

 

Worst pick: It was first-round tackle Tytus Howard. Coming from Alabama State, he will be forced to make a big jump as a rookie. Can he?

 

The skinny: I liked the idea of adding help for the offensive line for Deshaun Watson, but they took some risks in doing so. Second-round corner Lonnie Johnson from Kentucky will push for time as a rookie and eventually be a good starter.

 

Indianapolis Colts: B-

Best pick: Second-round receiver Parris Campbell can fly and he will be a force in their offense with Andrew Luck.

 

Worst pick: Second-round pick Ben Banogu has the speed to become an effective rusher, but he needs a lot of seasoning. It may take some time.

 

The skinny: They did some draft-board maneuvering – moving out of the first round – to end up with 10 picks. That was smart. I love Campbell and I think second-round corner Rock Ya-Sin will be a good player.

 

Jacksonville Jaguars: B+

Best pick: I will go with their first-round pick Josh Allen. I had one GM tell me he might be the best player in the draft. He will improve a pass rush that needed help.

 

Worst pick: Third-round linebacker Quincy Williams is a little bit of a risk. A lot of personnel people had him as a undrafted free agent. But the Jaguars loved his speed and explosive playmaking ability.

 

The skinny: Getting Allen and second-round tackle Jawaan Taylor makes this a heck of a draft. Taylor had first-round ability. Third-round tight end Josh Oliver will get time as a rookie.

 

Kansas City Chiefs: C+

Best pick: Second-round safety Juan Thornhill will give them a nice, rangy player on the back end. He is perfect for the way the game is played now.

 

Worst pick: I know second-round receiver Mecole Hardman can fly, but I thought there were better options on the board when they made the pick.

 

The skinny: They didn’t have a first-round pick, trading it away for Frank Clark, and I didn’t love what they did with the picks they did have. Third-round pick Khalen Saunders could end up being a steal.

 

Los Angeles Chargers: B+

Best pick: I love first-round pick Jerry Tillery. Once he becomes a bit more consistent, he can be a dominant player.

 

Worst pick: Third-round tackle Trey Pipkins from Sioux Falls seemed like a reach and some personnel people I talked with said it was just that.

 

The skinny: Landing Tillery and safety Nassir Adderly with their first two picks was good stuff. I also really like seventh-round defensive tackle Cortez Broughton.

 

Los Angeles Rams: B

Best pick: Third-round tackle Bobby Evans impressed me leading up to the draft and could be the player to take over when Andrew Whitworth retires.

 

Worst pick: I like third-round back Darrell Henderson, but did they really need to use a pick on a back that high? What’s that say about Todd Gurley’s knee?

 

The skinny: They didn’t have a first-round pick because of a trade, so they didn’t pick until No. 61 in the second round. They took safety Taylor Rapp with that pick, and he will spend next season watching Eric Weddle and John Johnson. So it’s a future pick. I did like fifth-round defensive tackle Greg Gaines.

 

Miami Dolphins: B

Best pick:  It was their first one, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. He will be a star. He got my only A+ in my first-round grades.

 

Worst pick: They really didn’t have any, but fifth-round linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel was probably taken a little too high.

 

The skinny: Landing Wilkins was a great move and fills a major need, but I also loved that they traded their second-round pick to land Josh Rosen from Arizona. He could be their long-term quarterback.

 

Minnesota Vikings: B+

Best pick: I think fourth-round guard Dru Samia will be a quality starter – maybe right away. He is a nasty brawler.

 

Worst pick: Third-round running back Alexander Mattison has some ability, but it might have been a round too high for him.

 

The skinny: They addressed offensive line need by taking center Garrett Bradbury in the first round and Samia in the fourth. Second-round tight end Irv Smith Jr. gives them insurance for Kyle Rudolph, who has one year left on his deal.

 

New England Patriots: A+

Best pick: I love second-round corner Joejuan Williams. He was the captain of my Better-Than team – guys I love more than the scouts.

 

Worst pick: I know they need receiver help, but first-round pick N’Keal Harry doesn’t run well and I think they needed to get faster.

 

The skinny: The Patriots nailed it again. Even though I didn’t love the Harry pick, he will be a producer. The rest of the draft I loved. Williams and third-round edge rusher Chase Winovich are vintage Patriots players. The only flaw: They took a punter in the fifth round.

 

New Orleans Saints: B-

Best pick: It was trading up to land center Erik McCoy in the second round. They had to get a replacement for the retired Max Ungar.

 

Worst pick: There wasn’t one because they didn’t have a lot of picks.

 

The skinny: They didn’t have many picks because of deals, but I liked what they did with their first two, getting McCoy and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. Their first-round pick went to Green Bay in the trade for Marcus Davenport. He needs to play big this season.

 

New York Giants: B+

Best pick: I love the pick of defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence with the 17th choice in the first round. He will be a force on their defense.

 

Worst pick: Third-round edge rusher Oshane Ximines is a project who might need some time to develop.

 

The skinny: This draft will be one that is defined by quarterback Daniel Jones, who they took with the sixth overall pick. Most hated the pick. I didn’t like the spot, but I like the player. They also traded back into the first round to take corner DeAndre Baker. If Jones is good, and I think he has a chance, this draft could be special.

 

New York Jets: B+

Best pick: It was their first, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The kid will be a dominant player for a long time on their line.

 

Worst pick: It’s hard to find one, but I might go with second-round pass rusher Jachai Polite because of his off-field issues. But as a player, he can be a steal if he can stay focused.

 

The skinny: I liked their first three picks, which included third-round tackle Chuma Edoga. This draft will be a nice building block as they try and catch the Patriots in the division.

 

Oakland Raiders: B-

Best pick: Taking running back Josh Jacobs with the 24th pick was a good move. I don’t usually like taking backs in the first round, but he was one of the best players in this draft and in that spot it’s OK.

 

Worst pick: I didn’t like taking defensive end Clelin Ferrell with the fourth-overall pick. There were better defensive players on the board.

 

The skinny: Ferrell was taken too high for my blood, but they bounced back to take Jacobs and safety Jonathan Abrams with their next two first-round picks. I do like fourth-round corner Isaiah Johnson.

 

Philadelphia Eagles: B-

Best pick: Second-round running back Miles Sanders has a chance to be a 1,200-yard runner in a year or two. He has that type of ability.

 

Worst pick: I don’t love the pick of receiver J.J. Arecega-Whiteside in the second round. He ran well, but he didn’t seem to play to that speed.

 

The skinny: This was a draft for the future. They had three picks in the first 57 and it’s doubtful any will start next year. Even so, it’s smart to draft for the future and I like the players they took.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers: B

Best pick: I think third-round corner Justin Layne has a chance to be a good starter. He is long and can cover. The Steelers need that.

 

Worst pick: Third-round receiver Diontae Johnson is a smallish MAC receiver, which makes him a little bit of a risk. But who are we to argue with the Steelers when it comes to smallish receivers in the draft?

 

The skinny: They made a bold move to move up to land linebacker Devin Bush with the 10th overall pick, a move I like. The rest of their draft was solid as well. Not flashy, but solid.

 

San Francisco 49ers: C

Best pick: It was their first, defensive end Nick Bosa. He has star potential written all over him and the Cardinals will regret passing on him.

 

Worst pick: They took punter Mitch Wishnowsky in the fourth round. Why? You don’t draft punters this early – if at all. I don’t care how good he is and can be.

 

The skinny: I liked their pick of Bosa, but wasn’t as enamored with the rest of their draft. They did add receivers in Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, but there were better options there when they took both, in my mind.

 

Seattle Seahawks: B

Best pick: I think they landed a big-time steal in fourth-round receiver Gary Jennings Jr. The kid can fly.

 

Worst pick:  I think they took second-round safety Marquise Blair a round too high. I know they need range back there, but they had other needs.

 

The skinny: First-round defensive end L.J. Collier fits with what they wanted to do in replacing the traded Frank Clark. I like the pick. But this draft will be judged on Blair and second-round receiver D.K. Metcalf.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+

Best pick: I love first-round linebacker Devin White. He flies to the football. White has the speed teams need to have these days with all the spread-out offenses.

 

Worst pick: Why did they take a kicker again? They took Matt Gay in the fifth round, which means they didn’t learn from the Roberto Aguayo fiasco from the past. You sign kickers. You don’t draft them.

 

The skinny: They had to get better on defense, so spending their first five picks on that side of the ball made sense. White will be a star, and I like second-round corner Sean Bunting.

 

Tennessee Titans: C

Best pick: Taking defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons in the first round is risky because he’s coming off a torn ACL, but he will pay off in a big way. The kid is a force.

 

Worst pick: Third-round guard Nate Davis is a project who will need time to develop. I didn’t love that pick.

 

The skinny: I liked the pick of Simmons and second-round receiver A.J. Brown. Keep an eye on sixth-round linebacker David Long. He has some skills to stick. This draft will be judged by Simmons, which means it may take some time.

 

Washington Redskins: A

Best pick: It was their first one when they took quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round. He will be their long-term guy and could end up as the best quarterback in this draft.

 

Worst pick: I didn’t like the pick of fourth-round running back Bryce Love. He is coming off a torn ACL and he didn’t have a great senior season.

 

The skinny: The Redskins did a nice job being patient to land Haskins and then traded back into the first round to take pass rusher Montez Sweat. If his health isn’t an issue, he could be a steal. They added some other nice pieces as well.

 

 

2020 DRAFT

Today we have Todd McShay of ESPN.com looking ahead to next spring.

 

Let’s just be clear right away. This is an extremely early projection of the first round of next year’s NFL draft. I haven’t even studied tape on most of these players yet; I start in on that next week, so these evaluations are based on watching players in person or on TV last season. The names on this list will change quite a bit even by the start of the 2019 college football season, so take the following 32 predictions for what they are: a premature look at the 2020 NFL draft.

 

I didn’t decide on the draft order. It was generated by Football Outsiders, using its early projected records for the 2019 season. They forecast a range of possibilities for each team’s offense, defense and special teams based on numerous factors including personnel changes, three-year performance, standard regression toward the mean and schedule strength.

 

This exercise is typically a good introduction to the draft class. Last year’s way-too-early mock featured 13 prospects who ultimately ended up going in the 2019 first round. Three top-10 picks remained as such and a bunch of second-round talents littered the field, while five players decided to stay in school another season (four of them are on here again this year). But again, this is 12 months out. Boston College safety Lukas Denis, coming off a seven-interception campaign, was also on my list last year, but he ended up going undrafted. It happens this early. And that’s not even to mention injuries, which caused running backs Bryce Love and Rodney Anderson to slide to Day 3. Regardless, let’s have some fun here.

 

Note: Underclassmen are noted with an asterisk. And since the Raiders will officially be in Las Vegas at draft time, they are referred to as the Las Vegas Raiders in this mock.

 

1. Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama*

Josh Rosen gets bumped by yet another No. 1 overall pick. Tagovailoa completed 69 percent of his passes last season, and he threw 43 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His 93.1 Total QBR trailed only Kyler Murray. The 6-foot-1, 218-pound lefty looks as if he could be the Dolphins’ long-term answer at quarterback — but most other teams likely to land the first overall pick would also take Tagovailoa without a second thought. He’s that good.

 

2. Arizona Cardinals

Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama*

The Cardinals certainly don’t need a quarterback. But they could definitely use a shifty, talented receiver like Jeudy. Tagovailoa’s favorite target caught 68 balls for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch. He is dangerous with the ball in his hands, and Kliff Kingsbury would love to have another dynamic player in his offense.

 

3. Denver Broncos

Grant Delpit, S, LSU*

The Broncos — or any team, for that matter — would covet this kind of range in their defensive backfield. The 6-3 playmaker had 74 tackles, five interceptions, nine passes broken up, five sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in 2018. That’s quite a résumé. And Justin Simmons is set to be a free agent after this season.

 

4. Washington Redskins

Chase Young, DE, Ohio State*

The Redskins added Montez Sweat in the first round last week, but you can never have enough talented edge rushers. And we’re talking about a kid who had 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss coming around the corner for the Buckeyes in 2018.

 

5. Las Vegas Raiders

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

If he had declared for the 2019 draft, he might have been a top-10 pick — and for good reason. The 6-6, 233-pound quarterback has a good combination of arm strength and touch, and he threw for 3,151 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Ducks last season. He is also mobile and can run when he needs to. But he does have some room for development in decision-making.

 

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Brown was consistently in my 2019 top-32 rankings before he decided to return to Auburn. No matter, he’s right back in the fold for the 2020 draft. He is an easy mover and shows good initial pop at the line. Brown closed 2018 with 10.5 TFLs, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

 

7. Cincinnati Bengals

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma*

Jalen Hurts is going to love this talented receiver in that Oklahoma offense, and Cincy wouldn’t mind him, either. Lamb has good, 6-2 size and knows his way to the end zone. He caught 65 balls for 1,158 yards and 11 scores in 2018.

 

8. New York Giants

Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado*

The Giants continue to look for receiving assets to replace Odell Beckham Jr., and the speedy, 6-2 Shenault would certainly give them an athletic target. He hauled in 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns last season — and had five scores on the ground.

 

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

Collin Johnson, WR, Texas

At 6-6, Johnson is a massive target, and Nick Foles could use a red zone weapon. The Jaguars really want reliable wide receivers, and Johnson’s 68 catches for 985 yards and seven touchdowns suggest he could help.

 

10. Buffalo Bills

Terrell Lewis, DE, Alabama*

The redshirt junior missed last season because of a torn ACL, but he is a talented pass-rusher off the edge. Jerry Hughes will be 31 this season and is on an expiring contract, so the Bills could look for an edge guy to stick next to defensive tackle Ed Oliver in the trenches. Lewis had a sack in five games back in 2017.

 

11. San Francisco 49ers

CJ Henderson, CB, Florida*

Henderson has six interceptions in two seasons with the Gators. And the Niners need options at defensive back.

 

12. Atlanta Falcons

Lorenzo Neal, DT, Purdue

The son of longtime NFL fullback Lorenzo Neal, this 315-pounder would help in the middle of a Falcons line potentially losing Grady Jarrett after the 2019 season. Neal made 30 tackles, including three for loss, last season.

 

13. Las Vegas Raiders (via Chicago Bears)

Isaiah Simmons, OLB, Clemson*

Jon Gruden continues to rebuild with early picks, thanks to this apparent regression by the Bears. A converted safety, Simmons is all over the field for Clemson. He made nine tackles in the national title game in January. On the season, Simmons made 89 tackles, including 9.5 for loss, and had 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

 

14. Minnesota Vikings

Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama

Davis is a 6-7 menace along the defensive line. I love his agility and the way he fights through double-teams. He had 5.5 TFLs in 2018.

 

15. Carolina Panthers

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson*

Terrell hauled in three picks for the Tigers in 2018, and he took one to the house. Ross Cockrell and James Bradberry are both scheduled to be free agents after the 2019 season.

 

16. New York Jets

Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin*

How about Football Outsiders projecting eight wins for the Jets! Biadasz was first-team All-Big Ten in 2018 after starting all 13 games at center for the Badgers. He’d help give Le’Veon Bell some run blocking while also keeping Sam Darnold upright in the passing game.

 

17. Houston Texans

Walker Little, OT, Stanford*

Sure, the Texans added some linemen in the 2019 draft, but they still have room for improvement. Little started all 12 games at left tackle for the Cardinal and was an All-Pac-12 first-teamer.

 

18. Cleveland Browns

Trey Adams, OT, Washington

Adams was a potential first-rounder for 2019, but then he got hurt, and then he decided to return to Washington. He’s a powerful, 6-8 blocker who can move defenders in the run game, and his length allows him to stall speed rushers.

 

19. Baltimore Ravens

Nick Coe, DE, Auburn*

Coe had seven sacks and 13.5 TFLs last season. Even after drafting a productive pass-rusher, Jaylon Ferguson, the Ravens could use that kind of presence on the edge.

 

20. Seattle Seahawks

A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa*

Put up 10.5 sacks, 16.5 TFLs and four forced fumbles and you’re going to get the draft buzz started early. I think new Seahawk L.J. Collier is going to be effective in the pros, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for this 6-6, 277-pounder flying off the edge in Seattle.

 

21. Tennessee Titans

Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida

Zuniga’s 11 TFLs and 6.5 sacks sound even better when you remember that 2019 first-rounder Jeffery Simmons ought to be healthy and ready to make plays on that line alongside him.

 

22. Indianapolis Colts

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama*

And the entire AFC South collectively shudders at the thought of having to slow Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell and Ruggs. This burner out of Bama scored 11 times in 2018.

 

23. Detroit Lions

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson*

By the time you finish reading this sentence, Etienne will have scored three touchdowns. He popped off 24 of them last season while rushing for 1,658 yards. Pairing him with Kerryon Johnson, the Lions’ run game could do some damage.

 

24. Dallas Cowboys

Alex Leatherwood, OT/G, Alabama*

Leatherwood has experience at both tackle and guard, and he started all 15 games for the Crimson Tide last season. Alabama gave up only 16 sacks over that span.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles

Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

Diggs was limited to just six games in 2018 after breaking his foot. In addition to being a solid cornerback (one interception and six passes broken up in limited time last season), he has returned kicks and punts for the Crimson Tide in the past.

 

26. Kansas City Chiefs

Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin*

Taylor and his 4,000-plus rushing yards over the past two seasons could be a final touch in making the Chiefs’ offense unstoppable.

 

27. Green Bay Packers

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson*

Aaron Rodgers still needs help. And this 6-4, 200-pound receiver might be an answer. He had 59 catches for 936 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018.

 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jared Pinkney, TE, Vanderbilt

Fifty catches for 774 yards and seven scores is impressive production for a tight end. He could end up being the Steelers’ new Heath Miller.

 

29. Los Angeles Rams

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State*

While his yards per carry fell from 7.2 to 4.6 in 2018, Dobbins still broke 1,000 yards and scored 10 times. He is strong and athletic, and with Todd Gurley and Darrell Henderson, the Rams would have the NFL’s most elite backfield.

 

30. New England Patriots

Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri*

Albert O is a 6-5, 255-pound athlete with ability to create after the catch. He has 17 touchdowns over two seasons with the Tigers, and he could be a Rob Gronkowski replacement for Bill Belichick.

 

31. Los Angeles Chargers

Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa

The Chargers drafted Easton Stick in the fifth round, but he’s probably not the heir to Philip Rivers’ throne. Stanley has the tools to become a starting NFL quarterback, and I think his decision to get another season of college game experience will pay off. He threw for 2,852 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. This is going to be a very good quarterback class.

 

32. New Orleans Saints

Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia

Hall broke up 22 passes in 2018. He also had a pair of sacks and pulled in two picks. He’d be a good asset for the Saints to add to their cornerback group.