AROUND THE NFL

It’s official.  The NFL schedule will be released on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern.

 

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

With his wife having brain surgery, QB MATTHEW STAFFORD apparently did not make the start of Detroit’s offseason workouts.  Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:

 

The Detroit Lions aren’t saying when they expect Matthew Stafford in town for offseason workouts or how much of the program they expect their quarterback to attend.

 

The Lions started Phase 1 of the offseason program Monday and declined comment on Stafford’s status for the voluntary workouts.

 

Stafford’s wife, Kelly, announced she was undergoing brain surgery earlier this month, and Stafford is expected to miss some time to tend to his wife during her recovery.

 

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) with his wife Kelly Stafford and daughters before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit on Oct. 28, 2018.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) with his wife Kelly Stafford and daughters before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field in Detroit on Oct. 28, 2018. (Photo: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports)

 

In Phase 1 of the NFL’s offseason, a period that covers two weeks, players are limited to doing strength and conditioning workouts and physical rehab. No supervised football drills are allowed.

 

In Phase 2, which covers the three weeks immediately following the draft, teams can hold on-field workouts with coaches that include player instruction and drills, but are not permitted to have live contact or team offense vs. team defense drills.

 

For Organized Team Activities and mandatory minicamp, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.

 

The Lions start OTAs on May 20 and hold their mandatory minicamp June 4-6. They conclude veteran workouts June 13.

 

According to Dr. Jack Rock, a neurosurgeon at Henry Ford Health System and co-director of its Skull Base, Pituitary and Endoscopy Center, surgery like the one Kelly Stafford said she’ll undergo requires a short stay in intensive care and perhaps a weeklong stay in the hospital.

 

Stafford’s agent, Tom Condon, said by text message Sunday that he had not spoken to Stafford about his plans for the offseason program.

 

Stafford has been an active participant in spring workouts throughout his NFL career and has typically gathered a group of his receivers outside of the NFL’s formal offseason program for additional throwing sessions.

 

He has a $500,000 workout bonus in his contract, which he qualifies for if he “satisfactorily participates in 90% of the” Lions’ total scheduled workouts and all of minicamp, unless excused by the Lions’ “physician, head trainer or head coach.”

 

The Lions, in a statement released earlier this month, said they “fully support Kelly, Matthew and the entire Stafford family during this difficult time” and asked that “everyone respect the privacy of the situation at this time.”

 

 

GREEN BAY

Is this something?  Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

Missouri’s Drew Lock is visiting with the Packers on Tuesday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported, per a source. Green Bay holds the 12th and 30th picks in the first round of the draft. Rapoport adds that the Packers attempted to bring in Duke’s Daniel Jones for a visit as well. The visit did not take place due to timing issues, but it adds further evidence that Green Bay is doing its homework on the draft’s top QBs.

 

We also note that in him latest Mock Draft (below), Daniel Jeremiah has the Packers taking a Lock at #30.

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

QB ELI MANNING won’t be surprised when the Giants call the name of a QB in Nashville next week per this quote from Art Stapleton of The Bergen Record:

 

“I figure the Giants are gonna get a young quarterback, I understand that. Hey, I still have to do my job and do my part. My job, as I see it, is to go out there and play quarterback and win football games.”

 

As Manning says this, QB DWAYNE HASKINS from Ohio State is visiting the Giants per NFL.com.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

WR COOPER KUPP is likely to be ready for the season opener, but it is not assured.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Nov. 11. He recently said he’s “where I’m supposed to be” in his rehab.

 

Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday the goal is for Kupp to be ready for the season opener.

 

“He’s doing great,” McVay said in his press conference, via video from the team. “He’s right on track. I think the goal for us is to have him ready for Week One. I think he’ll be able to do some different things. He’s a guy who has attacked his rehab the right way. But I think for us, it’s let’s make sure we put him in the right position to be ready for whenever that opening date is. He’ll do some things individually, but as far as the specific plan and exactly where he is, the goal is let’s have him ready to return to performance, not necessarily competition, but performance where he’s playing at a high level, the level that we’re accustomed to seeing Cooper Kupp at for Week One. I know sometimes we’ll probably have to pull him back a little bit because he’s so excited to get going. But that’s kind of the goal where we are with him.”

 

Kupp caught 40 passes for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games before his injury. He made 62 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie.

 

The Rams missed him during his absence last season, and they hope to have him for all 16 games in 2019.

 

 

SEATTLE

And so – QB RUSSELL WILSON’s self-imposed deadline coaxes a record deal from the Seahawks.  John Breech of CBSSports.com on what happened:

 

As most of America hustled to beat the tax deadline on Monday, the Seahawks had their own deadline to beat with Russell Wilson, and that’s exactly what they did as the two sides finally agreed to terms on a contract extension.

 

News of the deal came from Wilson, who almost certainly became the first player in NFL history to announce his own extension while lying in bed with his wife.

 

“Hey Seattle, we got a deal,” Wilson said. “Go Hawks. I’m going to see you all in the morning. Time for you all to go to bed.”

 

Wilson’s message was mostly directed at the thousands of Seahawks fans who stayed up until midnight PT to see if the Seahawks would be able to meet Wilson’s deadline for a new deal.

 

According to ESPN.com, Wilson’s extension is a four-year deal that will add $140 million in new money to his contract. The deal also includes an NFL-record $65 million signing bonus. According to NFL.com, a total of $107 million is guaranteed.

 

The drama between the Seahawks and their star quarterback went down to the wire on Monday with negotiations going on until after midnight Pacific Time, with the quarterback officially announcing his deal at 12:44 am PT.

 

Wilson had set a deadline of April 15 for getting a deal done, and if the Seahawks didn’t meet it, he was going to cut off all negotiations with the team. However, thanks Wilson’s agent Mark Rodgers — who flew into Seattle on Friday — the deal did get done, and Wilson is now one contract closer to becoming a Seahawk for life. 

 

The new deal will keep the 30-year-old in Seattle through the 2023 season. Before the extension got done, Wilson’s contract had been set to expire following the 2019 season.

 

The new deal makes Wilson the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history based on multiple different metrics. The amount of guaranteed money in Wilson’s deal tops the previous record, which was set by Matt Ryan ($94.5 million), who signed an extension with the Falcons in May. The average annual value of Wilson’s extension is also a record ($35 million), putting him ahead of Aaron Rodgers, who signed a contract worth $33.5 million per year in August. Wilson’s signing bonus of $65 million also topped Rodgers’ previous record of $57.5 million.

 

Wilson’s new deal ends an offseason of drama for both sides. Despite the fact that Wilson has been one of the most proficient quarterbacks in NFL history over the first seven years of his career, the Seahawks had seemingly been dragging their feet in negotiations. As recently as the combine, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll admitted that negotiations hadn’t even really started.

 

Thoughts from Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

For Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the contract has a value from signing (per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media) of five years and $157 million. That’s an average at signing of $31.4 million per year.

 

Setting aside the $17 million that Wilson would have made in 2019, the last year of his prior contract, the new money consists of $140 million over four years, which equates to a new-money average of $35 million per year.

 

The deal also reportedly includes a $65 million signing bonus and $107 million in total guarantees. As often is the case, the full guarantee at signing hasn’t leaked yet, since it will be lower than $107 million — and since many will in the interim see the report of $107 million in guarantees and erroneously conclude that this means the $107 million is fully guaranteed.

 

This conventional sleight of hand regarding the reporting of the deal meshes with the conventional structure of the deal. For all the huffing and puffing about a contract tied to inevitable increases in the salary cap, Wilson eventually accepted a very large bird in the hand, choosing the certainty of $31.4 million over the next five years.

 

Last last night, we heard that the deal, if it were done, would entail huge numbers but no funky structures, and that’s exactly what happened. It will now be left for another player on another team to take the Kirk Cousins franchise-tag dance to the next level; for Wilson, it was enough to convince the Seahawks that he was serious about doing that, if he didn’t become the highest-paid player in NFL history.

 

And now he is. At least for a year or two.

 

AFC EAST

 

MIAMI

The team that is most bereft at QB at the moment is Miami, yet quite a few Mocks have them passing on a first round signalcaller and heading into the season with RYAN FITZPATRICK.  But here is something to note from Herbie Teope of NFL.com:

 

The Dolphins are heading to Duke in the coming week to work out Daniel Jones, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation.

 

Rapoport added Jones has already visited with teams potentially in the market for a signal-caller, a list that includes the Washington Redskins and New England Patriots, among others.

 

The 6-foot-5, 221-pound Jones has the ideal size most teams seek in quarterbacks, and he possesses athleticism and a high IQ, as NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks pointed out in his rankings of the top draft prospects by position.

 

Brooks has Jones ranked fourth among this year’s quarterback class, while NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has the former Duke quarterback ranked 34th overall among the top 50 draft prospects.

 

The Dolphins currently own the 13th overall pick of the draft, so they’re in a good spot if they determine Jones is their quarterback of the future.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

THE AAF

From the vantage point of the sinking San Diego Fleet, Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register has a view on the demise of the AAF:

 

Three weeks before the Alliance of American Football suspended operations against his wishes, confounding league officials and leaving stunned employees and players stranded and reeling, Charlie Ebersol stood on the sideline at SDCCU Stadium in a blue AAF windbreaker, reveling in the roar of the crowd.

 

It had been Ebersol’s vision to start a spring football league, one that might complement the NFL instead of compete with it, and in a matter of a year, he’d built one, complete with eight teams, more than 400 players and a slew of major media partners.

 

 “Everyone seems to forget that in the stories,” Ebersol told the Southern California News Group in March. “We built this league from absolutely nothing. No company behind us, no marketing agency, none of that. Built from scratch.”

 

But beneath that proud facade, the league’s foundation was cracking. A deal with billionaire investor Tom Dundon meant to bail out the AAF was already becoming its undoing. Team budgets had been slashed to nothing. Bills were left unpaid. Before long, the nascent league would crumble, leaving many who trusted the vision of Ebersol and his co-founders feeling misled and angry. Most still don’t understand exactly why the AAF shuttered. The league’s brass, meanwhile, place the blame firmly on Dundon.

 

“We started out with a vision that we all believed in,” said Jeff Garner, president of the San Diego Fleet. “We were told – just like our partners were told, our players were told, our coaches were told – that we had funding for three years and that we were going to take a long-term approach to this. We knew we were going to lose money up front, but we were going to focus on the football and the fan experience. That’s what we were told. But an investor backed out, and we made a deal with the devil.”

 

That night in San Diego, as the Birmingham Iron lined up for a game-winning field goal, no one had any idea the AAF would never return here. The Fleet had struggled to find a foothold in Year 1, often leaving large swaths of open seats in this massive stadium. But now, as a few thousand rose to their feet, the buzz for football in the spring felt palpable.

 

Ebersol beamed. This was his vision, the league he’d sketched out over pancakes with Pro Football Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian. As the stands emptied for the last time, he lingered on the field, shaking hands with players who hoped the AAF might be their second chance.

 

“Charlie Ebersol, that’s my guy,” Trent Richardson, the Iron’s running back, said in the locker room after. “He gets it.”

 

But the league wouldn’t finish its first season, cancelling its final two weeks, as well as the playoffs. Players returned from canceled practices Tuesday to find they’d been kicked out of their hotel rooms. In Memphis, some woke up to thousands of dollars in unpaid hotel charges on their accounts.

 

By 2 p.m. Tuesday, long after word of the AAF’s demise had spread, league employees received a short email sent from a generic company address. The email alerted them that their employment would be terminated the next day. “Thank you again for your service,” it read.

 

Polian issued a statement, expressing his disappointment. By Thursday, Ebersol had yet to break his silence. The AAF did not make him available for this story.

 

“They certainly didn’t take care of the employees,” Garner said. “They terminated everyone, no severance, no anything, you’re done. The players are stranded and told they have to find their own way home. Even if you had to end it, you could’ve done it in a classy way. This was classless.”

 

***

 

As the National Football League became a ratings behemoth, tightening its stranglehold as the most popular form of televised entertainment America had ever seen, there have been many well-funded, ill-fated attempts to parlay that success into a spinoff.

 

First among these flops was the World Football League, which couldn’t deliver on its initial promise – or on player paychecks – and folded in 1975 after two abbreviated seasons. A decade later, on advice from New Jersey team owner (and future president) Donald Trump, the United States Football League made a disastrous decision to move from spring to fall, quickly squandering its early success. The XFL later met a similar fate, debuting to huge ratings before closing down after one season, doomed by misguided gimmicks and bad football. None, however, fell apart as swiftly as the AAF.

 

And yet, amid this graveyard of failed upstarts, the allure of launching a spring football league persists now more than ever. It is an El Dorado of sorts for gridiron-minded entrepreneurs, intoxicating investors into spending millions on the assumption that Americans don’t just want more football, they need it. In spite of the AAF’s failure, multiple other leagues plan to launch over the next year, all with their own ideas on how to fill that football void.

 

“When you consider that football is so dominant,” Ebersol said in March, “the fact that there is no alternative football league out there is a bizarre reality.”

 

Ebersol is more familiar than most with the past failures of alternative leagues. His father, Dick, helped launch the XFL in 2001 as chairman of NBC Sports. Ebersol himself co-directed a documentary, “This Was The XFL,” which chronicled the league’s downfall. It was from that experience that Ebersol became convinced of why other spring leagues had failed in the past.

 

“People have dramatically underestimated how important it is to have good football,” he explained. “They haven’t had the operation to be able to do it.”

 

So he joined with Polian, the longtime NFL general manager and Indianapolis Colts president, and set out to construct an entire league infrastructure in mere months. It was an ambitious undertaking, but with the specter of other leagues looming, the urgency felt necessary in order to fulfill the promise of the highest quality football.

 

“We all realized it was rushed,” Garner, the Fleet president, said. “We knew that we were moving forward at the pace we were to capture talent ahead of the XFL. … I think it was probably the right thing to do from a football perspective. But everything else suffered from that.”

 

With the inaugural season fast approaching, the Fleet struggled to find facilities for practices or team meetings. The team was left scrambling after short notice kept them from securing the Chargers’ former practice facility at Murphy Canyon.

 

So the Fleet ultimately held their practices behind a maintenance shed, at the far corner of the SDCCU Stadium parking lot, where the team shared two shortened grass fields with a rugby club and a youth soccer academy. The field conditions were good, but the arrangement was hardly ideal. Players had to be bused from the field to the stadium’s locker room every day, while a series of trailers were converted into team meeting rooms.

 

“We made a little trailer park,” Garner said. “We did the best we could.”

 

Still, Fleet players weren’t complaining. They saw only opportunity. “I’ve been a couple places where your reps are so limited that it’s impossible to make an impression,” said Fleet and former Rams wideout Nelson Spruce.

 

With a three-year, guaranteed contract in hand, Spruce even wondered if he might choose to stay with the AAF over an NFL practice squad.

 

“I’m pretty invested in this,” he said.

 

***

Before he became chairman of the AAF, in a decision that would ultimately spark the league’s downfall, Tom Dundon accumulated his massive fortune primarily off subprime auto loans, which offer risky, high-interest loans to desperate people who are likely to default on their payments.

 

Dundon’s short-lived investment in the AAF was not all that dissimilar. After one of the league’s primary backers, Reggie Fowler, pulled the remainder of his pledged investment just a week into the season, the AAF found itself dangerously short on cash, even as TV ratings exceeded expectations. A delay on player paychecks was blamed publicly on a “payroll glitch”.

 

Then, in swooped Dundon, who committed $250 million and took unilateral control of the league.

 

“We didn’t assume in our business model that we would have this much success, this fast,” Ebersol raved in March. “We didn’t expect someone like Tom would want to pay such a significant amount of money to be a part of it this early.”

 

Dundon described the investment as “enough money to run this league for a long time.” Polian said it provided the AAF with “long-term stability, three, four years down the road.” But Dundon’s takeover was met with a mix of relief and unease among team officials, many of whom questioned how Ebersol and Polian could so quickly hand over control of their league to a deep-pocketed investor with unclear motivations.

 

The red flags only accumulated from there. On Dundon’s orders, team budgets were immediately slashed to account for only bare essentials. Marketing and promotions budgets were eliminated, as were team dinners. The night before one game, Fleet officials found out that the league hadn’t paid vendors for a fireworks show they’d advertised extensively to local fans. They convinced the league to cover the cost just in time.

 

Still, the vision of the league’s co-founders appeared to be at least somewhat intact before the final week of March. That’s when Dundon told USA Today that the league would likely fold without a formal player-sharing agreement with the NFL Players Association.

 

The ultimatum was a stunning departure from comments Ebersol and Polian made weeks earlier. While a developmental partnership with the NFL had always been a part of the league’s business plan, Ebersol shrugged off the suggestion that an immediate agreement was necessary to the AAF’s survival.

 

“Ultimately,” Ebersol said, “with or without a relationship with the NFL, we’re a developmental league for the NFL.”

 

The sudden shift in plan left officials in both leagues confounded. Dundon had no leverage to force the NFL into a partnership that almost certainly would violate its collective bargaining agreement. Sources within the AAF confirmed that Polian and Ebersol strongly disagreed with Dundon’s tactics. As chairman, however, Dundon had the power to shut down the AAF on his own – though doing so meant sacrificing $70 million he already invested.

 

Speculation over his motivation ensues, days after the league shut down. Some league officials have posited that Dundon, who also owns the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, might have bought the AAF for its gambling and real-time tracking technology. Given the tangle of investors involved, the actual answer is likely a simpler one.

 

“It made no sense to any of us,” Garner said. “There were ongoing conversations, as recently as Monday with the NFLPA. They were definitely talking. It was moving in a good direction with them, and ultimately, something would’ve been worked out. This had very little to do with the NFLPA.

 

“It was about money, plain and simple.”

 

***

 

Even as its vision was compromised and its capital ran dry, Garner held out hope the AAF would make it through the end of its first season. The product, he felt, had been as Ebersol promised. The TV ratings remained steady. With some time – and money – maybe the league could regroup.

 

By Wednesday, as he cleaned out his office in San Diego, Garner had given up on that future. Like most others around the league, he blames Dundon for the league’s demise.

 

But Ebersol and Polian are certainly not blameless. Both trumpeted the AAF’s stability, repeatedly assuring that the league had years of financial runway remaining. In spite of those assurances, it took just one week for the AAF to face possible financial collapse. The league lasted just seven more weeks after that, and with unpaid bills and unhappy investors, it could face impending litigation for months to come.

 

“The stability of the funding was misrepresented to everybody,” Garner said. “But we did have the right idea, and they were trying to do the right thing.”

 

As Fleet employees filed in on their last day, though, Ebersol’s original vision no longer mattered. Garner had moved his family from Pennsylvania to San Diego to be the Fleet’s president.

 

Now, in his last few hours, all that was left of the Fleet for him to preside over was laptop inventory.

 

“Hopefully,” Garner said, “the league will sell these to pay their creditors.”

 

We understand blaming Dundon for getting in and then getting out.  But shouldn’t the blame also fall significantly on Reggie Fowler.  If it weren’t for Dundon, it sounds like the same thing would have happened in the first week of the season.

 

And also on Ebersol for thinking Fowler really had the cash when a google search finds stories like this.  This from the AP in 2005:

 

When it sits down March 9 and 10, the NFL Finance Committee will take its first hard look at the career and business dealings of would-be Minnesota Vikings owner Reggie Fowler.

 

And when it does, the Star Tribune reported Sunday, league officials might find:

 

Fowler or his businesses have been sued more than three dozen times in the Phoenix and Denver areas in a variety of disputes over the past 15 years, according to a search of court records by the newspaper.

 

He has borrowed heavily against several of his commercial properties in the Phoenix area.

 

He is the landlord of a business owner who was involved in a college basketball point-shaving scam many years ago.

 

His divorce records are sealed in Arizona’s Maricopa County court.

 

Or this from Wikipedia on events in the mid-teens:

 

Fowler’s admission of default came during a legal deposition in late August in Phoenix. He lost control of his companies when a receivership was affirmed Oct. 16 in Maricopa County Superior Court after U.S. Bank obtained a judgment against him. U.S. Bank claimed Fowler’s companies had accumulated $6 million in unpaid debts to it and at least $53 million in debts to other banks.

 

 

2019 DRAFT

R.J. White of CBSSports.com offers a full 7-round Mock Draft.

 

This is his first round, with the Raiders making the Peter King trade to get KYLER MURRAY:

 

PICK    TEAM                 PLAYER

1          OAK f/ARI*       QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

2          SF                     DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State

3          WAS f/NYJ*      QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

4          ARI f/OAK*       DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama

5          TB                     OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky

6          NYG                  ILB Devin White, LSU

7          JAC                   OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida

8          ATL f/DET*       DT Ed Oliver, Houston

9          BUF                   DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State

10         DEN                  QB Drew Lock, Missouri

11         CIN                     ILB Devin Bush, Michigan

12         CAR f/GB*        DL Rashan Gary, Michigan

13         HOU f/MIA*       OL Jonah Williams, Alabama

14         DET f/ATL*       TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa

15         NYJ f/WAS*      OLB Brian Burns, Florida State

16         GB f/CAR*        G Cody Ford, Oklahoma

17         NYG f/CLE        OLB Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

18         MIN                   OT Andre Dillard, Washington State

19         TEN                    NT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

20         PIT                    TE Noah Fant, Iowa

21         KC f/SEA*         C Garrett Bradbury, NC State

22         BAL                   WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

23         MIA f/HOU*       DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State

24         OAK f/CHI         CB Greedy Williams, LSU

25         CIN f/PHI*         QB Daniel Jones, Duke

26         IND                    DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson

27         ARI f/OAK*       WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

28         LAC                    OT Kaleb McGary, Washington

29         SEA f/KC*         CB Byron Murphy, Washington

30         GB f/NO            WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

31         LAR                   G/C Erik McCoy, Texas A&M

32         NE                     WR A.J. Brown, Ole Miss

 

Here is his explanation for Oakland.

 

Oakland Raiders

RD        OVERALL         PLAYER                                           NOTES

1          1                      QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma               from ARI*

1          4                      to Arizona         

1          24                     CB Greedy Williams, LSU                  from CHI

1          27                      to Arizona                                        from DAL

2          35                      to Denver        

2          41                     RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama                 from DEN*

4          106                  TE Josh Oliver, San Jose State  

4          125                   LB David Long Jr., West Virginia (to OAK)           from DEN*

5          140                   to New Orleans                                    from NYJ

5          168                   LB Gary Johnson, Texas                                 from NO*

6          177                   TE Caleb Wilson, UCLA                      from NO*

7          218                     DT Daniel Wise, Kansas         

7          235                     to Denver                                       from SEA

 

DE Jason Pierre-Paul (from Tampa Bay)

           

Raiders fans can keep shouting from the rooftops that there’s no way the team would take Murray when it has Derek Carr, but there’s definitely smoke here with the attention they’ve shown to the talented Oklahoma quarterback. The 49ers could get out of Jimmy Garoppolo’s contract in 2020 just like Carr, while the Bucs don’t have a QB on the books after Jameis Winston’s contract runs out this year, but neither team has shown any attention to Murray, unlike the Raiders.

 

So I’m going to bet Jon Gruden falls head over heels with Murray and moves up to No. 1 for him, an easy sell for ownership with the star power he can bring to Vegas in 2020 after the team trades Carr next offseason. It costs just one other first-round pick (No. 27) plus offensive tackle Kolton Miller as a “first-round value” player who can help the Cardinals and is likely bumped from the blindside by the big-money addition of Trent Brown in Oakland. Of course, the Raiders could just stay put and take Quinnen Williams, or even trade back and pick up an edge rusher. All options are on the table.

 

The Raiders use their remaining first-rounder on the top cornerback in this class in Greedy Williams, a fast and athletic cover corner with tackling issues but someone who can make plenty of plays as well. The team then trades back slightly in the second round before juicing up the rushing attack with Jacobs. That gives them the top player in this class at three different positions (QB, CB, RB).

 

With no edge talent in their haul through two rounds, the Raiders swap a 2020 third for a 2020 fourth and Pierre-Paul, who doesn’t seem like a great fit for Tampa Bay’s move to the 3-4. Oakland added players like Luke Willson and Vontaze Burfict this offseason but still needs a talent injection at both tight end in linebacker, so they double up those positions in the next four picks. Oliver and WIlson can compete for targets as pass-catching tight ends, while Long and Johnson provide speed and athleticism at linebacker. Wise isn’t big but he’s tenacious on the interior and capable of playing an immediate role.

 

And his flip side for Arizona

 

 

RD        OVERALL         PLAYER                                             NOTES

1          1                      to Oakland       

1          4                       DL Quinnen Williams, Alabama          from OAK*

1          27                      WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State         from OAK*

2          33                      CB Deandre Baker, Georgia      

3          65                       FS Darnell Savage, Jr., Maryland         

3          93                      OLB D’Andre Walker, Georgia            from NYJ*

4          103                   to New York Jets          

5          139                   C Lamont Gaillard, Georgia        

6          174                   to New York Jets          

6          179                   DT Albert Huggins, Clemson              from TB

7          248                   to New York Jets          

7          249                  LB Sione Takitaki, BYU  

7          254                  RB Darwin Thompson, Utah State           

 

OT Kolton Miller (from Oakland) 

 

Ever since Kyler Murray fully committed to the NFL, I’ve had the Raiders moving up to No. 1 to get him, and I’m not changing that here. The Cardinals benefit by moving down a few spots and still getting a guy at a clear position of need in Williams, who’s talented enough to be taken No. 1 overall. With the other pick in the Raiders package, which also includes offensive lineman Kolton Miller as someone who can upgrade the left tackle spot if he develops, the Cardinals go local to land an excellent receiving weapon in Harry, a big weapon with excellent ball skills who’s often open even when he’s not.

 

The Cardinals start Day 2 by ending the slide of Baker, who is thought by some to be the top corner in this class but was hurt by a poor showing at the combine. He’ll join free-agent acquisition Robert Alford to give the team an impressive trio of corners after struggling to find any consistency in the starting lineup with Patrick Peterson in recent years. Safety isn’t the biggest need remaining, but Savage is a great value in Round 3 who can serve as D.J. Swearinger insurance. Rather than wait around until Day 3, the Cardinals package three of their remaining picks to go up and get an edge rusher in Walker who could easily come off the board in Round 2.

 

The move up for Walker leaves the Cardinals with just four Day 3 picks, and they use the first on a literal Bulldog who can compete for snaps immediately at center or guard. Next up is Huggins, a nose tackle prospect who can be groomed to take over for Corey Peters in 2020. Takitaki can be a special-teams ace while competing for snaps inside at linebacker, while Thompson is a borderline draftable backup running back who will likely never be capable of a starter’s workload but can carve out a role in the NFL.

 

You can read his analysis for all 32 teams here.

– – –

Here’s another Mock Draft, this from Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com.  In a tweet, Jeremiah said he was now only 60% confidence that QB KYLER MURRAY goes first overall to Arizona.  He reflects that in his comments here.  In other big news, Jeremiah has Daniel Jones all the way up to #6 for the NYG:

 

With the 2019 NFL Draft just a little more than a week away, here’s my third look at how teams will draft when Round 1 begins in Nashville, Tennessee, on April 25.

 

To see every draft pick each team holds in the 2019 NFL Draft, click here.

 

1 – ARIZONA

Kyler Murray – QB

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior (RS)

I’m not as confident as I once was that Murray will be the pick here because of all the team visits Murray is taking, but I still think he ends up being Arizona’s selection.

 

2 – SAN FRANCISCO

Nick Bosa – Edge

School: Ohio State | Year: Junior

There’s a lot of talk about Quinnen Williams going to San Francisco with this pick. I don’t think the Niners could go wrong with either him or Bosa.

 

3 – NEW YORK JETS

Ed Oliver – DT

School: Houston | Year: Junior

Gregg Williams coached Aaron Donald during his time as Rams DC and could easily find a way to utilize Oliver in the Big Apple.

 

4 – OAKLAND

Quinnen Williams – DT

School: Alabama | Year: Sophomore (RS)

With needs all over the field, the Raiders should take the best player available.

 

5 – TAMPA BAY

Josh Allen – Edge

School: Kentucky | Year: Senior

I could see this as a trade-down spot if a team wants to move up for a QB. However, if the Bucs stay here and Allen is still available, he’d be too tempting to pass up.

 

6 – NEW YORK GIANTS

Daniel Jones – QB

School: Duke | Year: Junior (RS)

If the Giants want a QB, it makes more sense to secure him at No. 6 than leave it to fate and wait until they’re on the clock again at No. 17.

 

7 – JACKSONVILLE

Jawaan Taylor – OT

School: Florida | Year: Junior

Taylor is a DNA match with how the Jaguars want to play. He’s a physical player.

 

8 – DETROIT

Jonah Williams – OG

School: Alabama | Year: Junior

Detroit has spent a lot of draft capital on the offensive line, but I could see the Lions going back to the well one more time.

 

9 – BUFFALO

T.J. Hockenson – TE

School: Iowa | Year: Sophomore (RS)

Hockenson would quickly emerge as the best friend of Josh Allen and LeSean McCoy. He helps in both the passing and running games.

 

10 – DENVER

Devin White – LB

School: LSU | Year: Junior

I know the Broncos have done a lot of homework on the quarterbacks in this draft, but I just can’t envision them taking a QB here before they get a chance to see what Joe Flacco looks like in this offense. Instead, they go with the top LB available.

 

11 – CINCINNATI

Dwayne Haskins – QB

School: Ohio State | Year: Sophomore (RS)

New coach and a new era at QB. Haskins would create a spark in an organization that desperately needs one.

 

12 – GREEN BAY

Devin Bush – LB

School: Michigan | Year: Junior

I think Bush could go much earlier than many people expect due to the combination of his talent and the lack of depth at his position.

 

13 – MIAMI

Rashan Gary – Edge

School: Michigan | Year: Junior

The Dolphins did not pick an offensive or defensive lineman last year. This draft will be heavy in both for them.

 

14 – ATLANTA

Greedy Williams – CB

School: LSU | Year: Sophomore (RS)

The Falcons need an upgrade in their secondary. Williams offers an intriguing mix of size and playmaking ability.

 

15 – WASHINGTON

Brian Burns – Edge

School: Florida State | Year: Junior

I still have Washington as the likely landing spot for Josh Rosen, which would take the ‘Skins out of the quarterback derby. So, their pass rush took a hit with the departure of Preston Smith. Enter Burns.

 

16 – CAROLINA

Andre Dillard – OT

School: Washington State | Year: Senior (RS)

I can’t see Dillard going much later than this spot. Carolina needs help on the O-line.

 

17 – NEW YORK GIANTS (from Cleveland)

Montez Sweat – Edge

School: Mississippi State | Year: Senior

The Giants end up with their edge rusher and quarterback — but in the opposite order from what’s been expected. Sweat could go later than some anticipate.

 

18 – MINNESOTA

Garrett Bradbury – C

School: N.C. State | Year: Senior (RS)

Bradbury was made to play in this Gary Kubiak-style offense. The Vikings will move Pat Elflein to guard to clear a spot for the rookie at center.

 

19 – TENNESSEE

Christian Wilkins – DT

School: Clemson | Year: Senior

Wilkins will help the interior pass rush and be a perfect complement to Jurrell Casey.

 

20 – PITTSBURGH

Lonnie Johnson Jr. – CB

School: Kentucky | Year: Senior

This is higher than I have Johnson rated, but he’s catching a lot of buzz right now and the Steelers have a need at the position.

 

21 – SEATTLE

Jeffery Simmons – DT

School: Mississippi State | Year: Junior

He did suffer an ACL tear in February, but I would not be surprised if, five years from now, Simmons is viewed as the best player from this draft class.

 

22 – BALTIMORE

Clelin Ferrell – Edge

School: Clemson | Year: Junior (RS)

Ferrell fits Baltimore’s profile. He’s physical, tough and has a high floor.

 

23 – HOUSTON

Cody Ford – OT

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior (RS)

With their pass-protection woes, the Texans have to take the best available offensive lineman.

 

24 – OAKLAND (from Chicago)

Noah Fant– TE

School: Iowa | Year: Junior

Fant would be an upgrade over Jared Cook, the tight end they just lost in free agency.

 

25 – PHILADELPHIA

Marquise Brown – WR

School: Oklahoma | Year: Junior

It would make sense for the Eagles to add a receiver because I don’t think DeSean Jackson’s a long-term solution and they could lose Nelson Agholor next year, as he’s due to hit free agency.

 

26 – INDIANAPOLIS

Johnathan Abram – S

School: Mississippi State | Year: Senior

Selfishly, I would just love to see him play opposite Malik Hooker in Indy. Abram could play in the box and allow Hooker to make plays over the top.

 

27 – OAKLAND (from Dallas)

Chris Lindstrom – OG

School: Boston College | Year: Senior

GM Mike Mayock gets a year pass on donating to his alma mater by taking a fellow Eagle! All jokes aside, Lindstrom is highly regarded and has a good chance of being picked in the 20s of Round 1.

 

28 – LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Rock Ya-Sin – CB

School: Temple | Year: Senior

There are other needs here — safety and defensive tackle among them — but it was apparent that the Bolts need to add some talent on the outside based on their performance against the Patriots in the Divisional Round of last season’s playoffs.

 

29 – KANSAS CITY

Byron Murphy – CB

School: Washington | Year: Sophomore (RS)

This would be a no-brainer. Kansas City takes the best defensive back still available and gets good value.

 

30 – GREEN BAY (from New Orleans)

Drew Lock – QB

School: Missouri | Year: Senior

The Packers have been doing a lot of homework on quarterbacks this draft season. They once spent a first-round pick on a QB who’d become the eventual replacement for a 35-year-old future Hall of Famer, and they repeat history here.

 

31 – LOS ANGELES RAMS

Elgton Jenkins – OG

School: Mississippi State | Year: Senior (RS)

Jenkins is another player who’s made his way into the first-round conversation. Teams love his strength and power inside. He can play any of the three interior positions.

 

32 – NEW ENGLAND

Dexter Lawrence – DT

School: Clemson | Year: Junior

While the rest of the league moves away from massive DTs like Lawrence, the Patriots see the value in a dominant run defender who can push the pocket on passing downs.

 

– – –

Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com offers this list of sleepers:

 

A tradition since 2004, my list of hidden gems – including at least one per position NOT invited to the Combine.

 

Anyone can get lucky and draft a Pro Bowler in the first round. It takes an ability to find “diamonds in the rough” in the middle and late rounds to stick as a scout in the NFL, however.

 

Below is a list of players who for whatever reason haven’t yet received the attention their physical abilities warrant. Some starred at a lower level of competition, just like Kareem Hunt (Toledo) and Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington) – both prominently featured in this article two years ago – did prior to leading all NFL rookies in rushing and receiving yards in 2017.

 

Others played at relative FBS powerhouses but injuries, suspension, a lack of preferred size or talent ahead of them on the depth chart kept them relatively overshadowed. That was the case with Phillip Lindsay, who rushed for 1,037 yards for the Denver Broncos and was the first undrafted offensive player in NFL history to be voted to the Pro Bowl as a rookie after going undrafted. Lindsay, you may recall, was even more successful for the Colorado Buffaloes against quality Pac-12 competition, but he fell out of last year’s draft presumably because scouts didn’t think the 5-07, 185-pounder could duplicate his success against the greater size and physicality of the NFL.

 

One player is featured per position with five others listed alphabetically who deserve honorable mention. In keeping with the true sleeper theme, at least one player per position was not invited to the 2019 Scouting Combine. These players are noted with an asterisk.*

 

QUARTERBACKS

 

Jacob Dolegala, 6-7, 242, 4.91, Central Connecticut State*

With even fewer “sure things” at quarterback in this draft than most years, savvy clubs willing to invest some time will want to take a look at Dolegala, a record-breaking four-year starter with prototypical size, arm strength and even NFL bloodlines. He was widely regarded as a D-I talent prior to tearing his labrum as a high school senior and fell through the recruiting cracks, getting his only scholarship offer from the Blue Devils, an FCS program. Despite leaving CCSU as the program’s all-time leading passer (8,129 yards, 48 TDs vs. 29 interceptions), Dolegala was not invited to any of the top all-star games or the Combine, perhaps because the Blue Devils’ run-heavy attack limited his statistics. However, he turned heads at the University of Buffalo Pro Day (competing alongside fellow Diamond Tyree Jackson) as well as his own subsequent on-campus workout.

 

Five Other Quarterbacks to Consider:

 

Taylor Cornelius, 6-6, 224, 4.70, Oklahoma State*

Tyree Jackson, 6-7, 249, 4.59, Buffalo

Gardner Minshew II, 6-1, 225, 4.97, Washington State

Brett Rypien, 6-1, 210, 4.91, Boise State

Easton Stick, 6-1, 224, 4.62, North Dakota State

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

Alexander Mattison, 5-11, 221, 4.67, Boise State

I’ve long argued that the most overrated element when evaluating running backs is 40-yard dash time, whereas the most underrated characteristics are balance through contact and the determination to truly finish runs. In many ways, Mattison reminds me of former Bronco and NFL standout Jay Ajayi with his competitive running. He was a three-year producer for Boise State – rushing for over 1,000 yards and a touchdown a game each of the past two seasons, including 1,415 yards and 17 scores (both career-highs) before opting to give up his final year of eligibility to make the NFL jump.

 

Five Other Running Backs to Consider:

 

Alex Barnes, 6-0, 226, 4.59, Kansas State

Damarea Crockett, 5-10, 225, 4.50, Missouri*

Jalin Moore, 5-10, 212, 4.53, Appalachian State

Tony Pollard, 6-0, 210, 4.52, Memphis

Darwin Thompson, 5-8, 200, 4.47, Utah State*

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Andy Isabella, 5-9, 188, 4.31, Massachusetts

Given his size, skin pigment and New England roots, Isabella has been unfairly typecast as a “just” a slot receiver throughout much of his career. As his 40-yard dash time emphatically proves, however, Isabella possesses the straight-line speed to offer legitimate big play ability. Of course, savvy scouts already knew that after watching him outrun a talented Georgia defense for 15 grabs for 219 yards and two scores in the 2018 season opener, as well against top competition at the Senior Bowl. Further, while short by NFL standards, Isabella is well-built and tough, showing the courage to catch passes across the middle and the determination to pinball off would-be tacklers.

 

Five Other Wide Receivers to Consider:

 

Keelan Doss, 6-2, 211, 4.50, California-Davis

Jazz Ferguson, 6-5, 227, 4.45, Northwestern State (Louisiana)

Travis Fulgham, 6-3, 215, 4.58, Old Dominion

Jalen Guyton, 6-1, 212, 4.44, North Texas*

David Ungerer, 5-10, 170, 4.55, Idaho*

 

TIGHT ENDS

 

Kahale Warring, 6-5, 252, 4.67, San Diego State

One of the reasons why you can expect to hear plenty of other tight ends mentioned by anonymous scouts in the build-up to the 2019 NFL draft is that they may be trying to keep Warring – an ascending prospect who played just one year of high school football – a secret. Warring spent most of his prep career playing other sports, earning league MVP honors in basketball as a senior and previously all-league honors in water polo while also competing in swimming, tennis, and cross country. He caught just 21 passes (but for 548 yards) in his breakout 2018 campaign for the run-heavy Aztecs, showing off the physicality as a blocker and athleticism before, during and after the catch to suggest that his best football is still to come.

 

Five Other Tight Ends to Consider:

 

Keenan Brown, 6-3, 250, 4.75, Texas State

Dawson Knox, 6-4, 254, 4.55, Mississippi

Josh Oliver, 6-5, 249, 4.63, San Jose State

Donald Parham, 6-8, 240, 4.65, Stetson*

Dax Raymond, 6-5, 255, 4.73, Utah State

 

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

 

Tytus Howard, 6-5, 322, 5.05, Alabama State

Lost in all of the hype about this year’s dominant defensive line class is an above average crop of offensive tackles with Howard – a former high school quarterback and tight end as recently as 2014 – ranking among this year’s top sleeper prospects, not only among blockers but regardless of position.

 

Despite hailing from the talent-rich state of Alabama, Howard fell through the recruiting cracks while focusing more on basketball and wound up at Alabama State as a tight end. Four years and roughly 85 pounds later with stellar performances at Auburn, the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine, however, and Howard is well on his way to joining his former linemate Jylan Ware (a seventh round pick by Oakland in 2017) as an NFL draft pick and possibly the highest selection from the Hornets since another former quarterback – Tarvaris Jackson – was picked 64th overall by Minnesota back in 2006.

 

Five Other Offensive Tackles to Consider:

 

Brandon Hitner, 6-6, 305, 5.10, Villanova*

Devon Johnson, 6-7, 338, 5.16, Ferris State

Tyler Roemer, 6-6, 312, 5.21, San Diego State

Max Scharping, 6-6, 327, 5.29, Northern Illinois

Oli Udoh, 6-6, 323, 5.05, Elon

 

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

 

Nate Davis, 6-3, 316, 5.23, Charlotte

Poor grades contributed to Davis winding up at Charlotte, where he was forced to sit out his first season to get his grades in order. Once he did so, however, Davis was a fixture in the 49ers’ starting lineup, spending the next three years at right guard before switching outside to right tackle in 2018. Like he did when his 49ers faced Temple (2016), Louisville (2016), Kansas State (2017) and Tennessee (2018) as out of conference opponents over the past three years, the power-packed Davis impressed me at the Senior Bowl. Despite his experience, Davis is fundamentally raw, with even his initial stance drawing criticism from offensive line gurus. The raw power and use of leverage is there, however, to project Davis as a future right guard in the NFL.

 

Five Other Interior Offensive Linemen to Consider:

 

B.J. Autry, 6-3, 337, 5.58, Jacksonville State*

Hjalte Froholdt, 6-5, 306, 5.20, Arkansas

Drew Forbes, 6-5, 308, 5.05, Southeast Missouri*

Ethan Greenidge, 6-4, 327, 5.47, Villanova

Iosua Opeta, 6-4, 301, 5.02, Weber State

 

 

EDGE RUSHERS

 

Maxx Crosby, 6-5, 255, 4.66, Eastern Michigan

Crosby wowed during Combine workouts with his raw explosiveness (ranking third among all down defensive linemen with a 36” vertical jump) and change of direction and leading his position group in both the 3-cone drill (6.89) and short shuttle (4.13). Better yet, these numbers simply quantify what savvy scouts see on the field, where Crosby’s initial burst and lateral agility to elude made blocking him like trying to wrap your hands around smoke. There is no denying that he is raw. Physically-speaking, Crosby is still just a pup, needing to grow into his lanky frame before some of the tricks he pulled in the MAC are going to work against NFL-caliber blockers. His needs to get stronger and his hands need plenty of work, as well. But don’t be surprised if a club invests a Day Two selection in the hopes this pup grows into a pack leader.

 

Five Other Edge Rushers to Consider:

 

Jaylon Ferguson, 6-5, 271, 4.82, Louisiana Tech

Carl Granderson, 6-5, 254, 4.79, Wyoming

Daryll Johnson, 6-6, 253, 4.82, North Carolina A&T

Corbin Kaufusi, 6-9, 279, 4.89, BYU*

Oshane Ximines, 6-4, 253, 4.78, Old Dominion

 

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

 

Khalen Saunders, 6-0, 324, 5.01, Western Illinois

Saunders made quite the impression at the Senior Bowl, opting to compete in it while his wife delivered the couple’s first child (a little girl named Kambridge), turning heads with an impromptu gymnastics routine following practice in which the 320+ pound completed a dazzling over-head backflip and flashing the initial quickness and lateral agility which helped him earn a reputation as the “Aaron Donald of the FCS.” As his flip and eye-popping production (204 tackles, 34.5 tackles for loss, 18 sacks and four forced fumbles) suggest, Saunders is a fantastic athlete, projecting as a middle round prospect who may very well outplay some of the more traditionally-built defensive tackles selected ahead of him.

 

Five Other Defensive Linemen to Consider:

 

Ed Alexander, 6-1, 319, 5.26, LSU*

L.J. Collier, 6-3, 283, 4.91, TCU

John Cominsky, 6-5, 286, 4.69, Charleston

Albert Huggins, 6-3, 305, 5.12, Clemson

Renell Wren, 6-5, 318, 5.01, Arizona State

 

TRADITIONAL OFF-BALL LINEBACKERS

 

Kaden Elliss, 6-2, 238, 4.62, Idaho*

While I believe only two traditional off-ball linebackers (LSU’s Devin White and Michigan’s Devin Bush) are likely to crack the top 32 in the 2019 draft, the depth at this position is encouraging with several of the “other” linebackers listed below worthy of earning this featured position. Each of them, however, were invited to prominent all-star games, the Combine, or both, which Elliss was not despite posting impressive statistics (278 tackles, including 47 for loss, 17 sacks, six forced fumbles and five interceptions), as well as possessing an NFL frame, athleticism and bloodlines. Elliss won’t be the first player on this list to get drafted but make no mistake, he will be drafted. In fact, I believe he will be the first player selected this year who was not invited to the Combine, making him the unofficial captain of this year’s Diamonds in the Rough squad.

 

Five Other Off-Ball Linebackers to Consider:

 

Dre Greenlaw, 6-0, 237, 4.58, Arkansas

Terrill Hanks, 6-2, 242, 4.98, New Mexico State

Sutton Smith, 6-0, 233, 4.69, Northern Illinois

Sione Takitaki, 6-1, 238, 4.63, BYU

Jahlani Tavai, 6-2, 250, 4.86, Hawaii

 

CORNERBACKS

 

Sean Bunting, 6-0, 195, 4.42, Central Michigan

Despite playing his prep ball in the football-loving state of Michigan, Bunting fell through the recruiting tracks, only earning a scholarship from CMU after showing up on campus to talk to coaches in person and forgoing offers from programs at lower divisions. He started off at safety and even saw some time at wide receiver during an initial redshirt season before committing to cornerback, where he proved a standout the past two seasons, earning the MAC’s Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2018 before answering any doubts about his size and athleticism at the Combine.

 

Five Other Cornerbacks to Consider:

 

Corey Ballentine, 5-11, 196, 4.47, Washburn

Blace Brown, 6-0, 194, 4.75, Troy

Jordan Brown, 6-0, 201, 4.51, South Dakota State

Joejuan Williams, 6-4, 211, 4.65, Vanderbilt

Jimmy Moreland, 5-10, 180, 4.49, James Madison*

SAFETIES

 

Nasir Adderley, 6-0, 205, 4.49, Delaware

Among the first players announced this year as invited to the prestigious Senior Bowl, Adderley is viewed by many as the year’s elite “small school” prospect and I fully expect him to be the first player in this article to be selected in the 2019 draft. He started every game the past four seasons – the first two at cornerback, the final two at free safety – earning all-conference honors as a sophomore, junior and senior, as well as being honored as a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award (the top overall player in this division of football) in 2018. Like several others on this list, Adderley has NFL bloodlines. His cousin, Herb Adderley, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a cornerback in 1980, winning three Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys.

 

Five Other Safeties to Consider:

 

Ugo Amadi, 5-10, 201, 4.50, Oregon

Marquise Blair, 6-1, 195, 4.48, Utah

Stephen Denmark, 6-3, 220, 4.50, Valdosta State*

Malik Gant, 6-0, 209, 4.63, Marshall

Andrew Wingard, 5-11, 214, 4.55, Wyoming