AROUND THE NFL

NFC NORTH

 

DETROIT

Kelly Stafford, wife of QB MATTHEW STAFFORD, has a brain tumor.  Any brain tumor could be serious, but it looks like she has reason to be optimistic.   

 

Here is a complete update on what she is facing from Kristen Jordan Shamus of the Detroit Free Press:

 

Kelly Stafford, the wife of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, announced Wednesday on Instagram that she has a benign brain tumor called an acoustic neuroma.

 

She wrote that she noticed she was feeling dizzy and off-balance for a while. Recurring bouts of vertigo started in January and led her to seek an MRI of the brain. A couple weeks later, doctors confirmed the tumor.

 

The Free Press interviewed Dr. Jack Rock, a neurosurgeon at Henry Ford Health System and co-director of its Skull Base, Pituitary and Endoscopy Center, to tell us more about the kind of tumor Stafford has, what the treatment is like, and about the chances for recovery.

 

Question: What is acoustic neuroma and how common is it?

Answer: There’s a couple thousand diagnosed every year in the United States. They’re therefore not very common. They are benign conditions, and they are tumors that grow off of the hearing and balance nerve.

 

It’s something that’s very treatable.

 

Q: What are the symptoms of acoustic neuroma?

A: Typically you present with either some tinnitus or ringing in the ear, and even hearing loss and maybe imbalance or even vertigo.

 

So, Mrs. Stafford has got the symptoms that would lead one to believe that she has something wrong with her balance system. And if it’s in a young person, and certainly if she has any hearing loss on her audiogram, then they would suspect an acoustic neuroma.

 

You could have symptoms like she’s having with a tumor that’s 3 or 4 millimeters in size. You could have patients who have tumors twice her size with no symptoms. The size of the tumor doesn’t predict to you what, if any, symptoms a patient has, but the size does determine the risks of the surgery. The bigger the tumor, the harder it is to remove safely.

 

Q: How do you treat an acoustic neuroma?

A: There are a few different choices in terms of approach. There’s stereotactic radiation or there’s the surgical approach.

 

For those who choose surgery, basically, depending on which operation you do, it is an operation that takes anywhere from four to potentially eight hours. You will take away most of the tumor if not all of it. It requires an ICU (intensive-care unit) stay for a day or so. And in a young person, probably discharge from the hospital within four to five days of the surgery.

 

You can also choose to treat these with radiation, which can be very effective as well in preventing progression of the growth or even cause the tumor to shrink.

 

 With radiation, you’ve got to follow the tumor over the next few years, and in most circumstances, the tumor will remain stable in its growth or will shrink, but you just don’t 100% know that in advance.

 

Q: What are the risks of treatment?

The choice (of whether to have surgery or treat it with radiation) has a lot to do with your own personality and what kind of risks you’re willing to take.

 

In patients who choose surgery, the most critical issue for the surgeon and the patient is that you try not to injure the facial nerve. The facial nerve controls the actual appearance on your face.

 

If you cause an injury to the facial nerve, patients can wake up from surgery with a Bell’s palsy. Now, in experienced hands, almost 90% or 95% or better almost, that weakness is temporary after surgery, but it can be permanent.  … The facial palsy is a very challenging condition to live with, even if it’s only temporary.

 

Q: Kelly Stafford mentioned hearing loss is possible after surgery. Why is that?

A: Most people have already had some hearing loss before they even get their diagnosis. Sometimes you can save the hearing, but generally speaking, you have to advise people to prepare for being deaf in that ear after surgery.

 

Q: Is there a chance that a tumor could come back after surgery?

A: The recurrence rate, if you take out 95% of the tumor, is less than 5%. It is a very controllable condition. If you go to centers where they do these kind of surgeries relatively frequently or the surgeons have a lot of experience with it, then that scenario is usually how these work out.  

 

Most of those symptoms in patients are not going to lead to acoustic neuroma. But if they do have an acoustic neuroma, it’s important to know that it’s a benign condition that for the majority of patients has a really good outcome.

 

NFC WEST

 

SEATTLE

Time flies.  QB RUSSELL WILSON is now in line for his third contract – and now there is a deadline.  Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times:

 

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has given the team an April 15 deadline to complete negotiations on a new contract, a source with knowledge of the discussions told The Seattle Times.

 

April 15 is the day the Seahawks will begin their official offseason workout program, and Wilson is thought to want the deal done by then. It’s also thought the two sides have had some negotiations in recent days with Wilson hoping to get the contract done quickly.

 

Wilson has one year remaining on his current four-year, $87.6 million contract, but it is typical for teams to sign key players to extensions before they enter the final year of their contracts.

 

Wilson signed his current deal July 31, 2015, the day training camp opened, with the two sides agreeing to the contract the night before. That fit the usual Seahawks timeline under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll of getting significant extensions done in the late spring and summer.

 

This time, it’s thought that Wilson wants to get a deal done earlier so he can avoid the speculation and discussion about the negotiations that lingered throughout the 2015 offseason.

 

It’s unclear what happens if the two sides do not agree to a deal by April 15 and if that means there would be no further discussions in 2019 and Wilson would play out the season without a new deal, though that would seem like one reason for setting a deadline. It was widely reported in 2015 that Wilson’s camp wanted a contract done by the time training camp started so that Wilson would not have to deal with negotiations — and questions about his future — during the season.

 

It’s not thought Wilson would hold out and not play in 2019, with the likely scenario being that if the deadline were not met, he would simply tell the team he would not want to talk about a contract again until after the season.

 

Wilson said in January he would be fine with playing the 2019 season without a new contract.

 

“Oh, yeah, if that’s what I’ve got to do,’’ Wilson said the day after the 2019 season ended. “It’s business and everything else and I know essentially after this season I could potentially be a free agent, that kind of thing. I don’t think that way — I see myself being in Seattle. I love Seattle, special place for me. I also understand it’s a business world and everything else.”

 

The Seahawks have said consistently they hope to get something done with Wilson this offseason to secure his Seattle future.

 

“Russ and I met and we talked about the future,’’ coach Pete Carroll said in January when asked about getting a contract done with Wilson this offseason. “We are talking about where we are going and what we want to get done. And, you know, that’s very much in our plans.”

 

Asked about Wilson’s contract at the NFL league meetings last week, Carroll said: “We’ve been in communication, sure. It’s very topical, we’re on it.”

 

Wilson was also at the league meetings in Phoenix and talked to Carroll there.

 

Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, said he would not comment on Wilson’s contract status and would neither confirm nor deny that there is a deadline.

 

After Wilson signed his contract in 2015, Rodgers told reporters that a reported deadline of getting a contract done by the time training camp began was real.

 

 “People reported that it was an artificial deadline,’’ Rodgers said in 2015 on the day Wilson signed. “But to Russell Wilson, it was not an artificial deadline. He said to me, ‘When I step on the field, that’s it. If I’ve got a deal, great. But if I don’t, that’s it. I am not going to take that baggage out on the field with me. It’s going to take the team down. It’s what the media is going to concentrate on. … I took it as a mandate, and I laid it out for the Seahawks so they knew that a long time ago, and it certainly spurred where we are at now.’’

 

Wilson, who turned 30 last November, is due to make a $17 million base salary in 2019 with a $25.286 million salary cap hit.

 

Wilson’s contract has a $21.9 million average per year, which, when he signed it, was second in the NFL behind only Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ $22 million.

 

But as the salary cap has risen each season, so have salaries for players overall, and quarterbacks specifically.

 

Rodgers now leads all NFL players in average salary per year at $33.5 million, while Wilson is now just the 12th-highest-paid QB. It’s unclear exactly what Wilson is asking for, but he’s likely to want to at least match Rodgers’ average per year, if not exceed it.

 

If Wilson does not get a new contract with the Seahawks this spring, it doesn’t mean he is assured of becoming a free agent following the 2019 season. The team could keep him in place in 2020 by using the franchise tag, which would reportedly pay Wilson roughly $30.6 million. Seattle could also use it again in 2021, which would pay him roughly $36 million. They could even use it again in 2022, though that would pay Wilson $52.43 million for that season, according to Pro Football Talk, which makes that an unrealistic option.

 

One possible complication is that the league’s collective bargaining agreement runs out following the 2020 season and there has been some talk of eliminating or altering the franchise tag structure.

 

Wilson is coming off one of his best seasons in the NFL, throwing for a career-high 35 touchdowns while tying a career-low with seven interceptions. The 2018 season was Wilson’s seventh with the Seahawks and along the way he set franchise records for touchdown passes (196) and wins (75).

 

Wilson is the biggest name of several whose contracts could expire following the 2019 season, others including middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive end Frank Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed.

 

The team recently placed a franchise tag on Clark for the 2019 season but he has yet to sign it and the team is hoping to also sign Clark to a long-term deal this offseason.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

The Patriots have let their “character coach” move on to the Texans.  Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle:

 

The Texans hired former New England Patriots character coach Jack Easterby as their executive vice president of team development.

 

Easterby recently left the Patriots after a six-year stint with the AFC East franchise during which they won three Super Bowls.

 

Easterby also served as the Patriots’ team chaplain.

 

He was tasked with helping players and coaches deal with the aftermath of the Aaron Hernandez situation. Hernandez, who committed suicide in prison, was convicted of murder.

 

Prior to joining the Patriots, Easterby was the Kansas City Chiefs’ team chaplain for two years.

 

With the Patriots, Easterby built a strong reputation for his ability to interact with players and coaches and provide. He was regarded as instrumental behind the scenes for Patriots coach Bill Belichick and even participated in drills at practice when needed.

 

If the preceding paragraph is true, the question has to be “Why is he the former Patriots character coach?”

 

We found this by Ben Volin in the Boston Globe from February 28, that raises more questions than it answers (although the implication is that his departure was tied to Robert Kraft’s arrest):

 

The Patriots coaching staff has suffered another substantial loss this offseason as Jack Easterby, the team’s “character coach” and one of Bill Belichick’s closest confidants, is leaving after six seasons, multiple league sources confirmed.

 

Easterby’s contract with the Patriots expired after last season, and he has decided to pursue other opportunities in football.

 

The Patriots coaching staff is undergoing significant changes, with six coaches leaving in addition to Easterby. Everyone who left had an expiring contract except Brian Flores, who got the Dolphins head coaching job and brought three Patriots position coaches with him.

 

Easterby helped navigate the Patriots through significant highs and lows over six years — the Aaron Hernandez ordeal and Deflategate fiasco, plus four Super Bowl runs. Last season, Easterby’s foremost assignment was mentoring and keeping close tabs on troubled receiver Josh Gordon.

 

Easterby’s departure comes at a time when the organization is reeling from team owner Robert Kraft facing charges in Florida for soliciting prostitution. Easterby felt his time with the team had run its course, and the Kraft situation does not sit well with him, according to league sources. Easterby retweeted a message from Saints tight end Ben Watson last Friday about the “entrenched evil” of human trafficking.

 

Easterby worked behind the scenes in Foxborough with the title of “character coach/team development,” and he became a crucial voice for Belichick in the personnel department. A 2015 ESPN Magazine article depicted Easterby as the Patriots’ secret weapon, and an article about him on the team website last November called him “the most influential Patriot you’ve never heard of.”

 

Easterby’s main responsibility was to establish and set the team’s culture, but he was a jack-of-all-trades. He became a part of Belichick’s inner circle and one of the most important executives in the building, on a par with director of player personnel Nick Caserio.

 

Easterby not only served as the team chaplain but also was a trusted mentor for players, helped Belichick determine which players would and wouldn’t fit with his program, participated as a coach in on-field drills, and sat in on almost every personnel meeting with Belichick.

 

“He’s just a great person and friend,” quarterback Tom Brady told ESPN in 2015. “You feel a special connection with him and with his genuine caring for all the people in his life.”

 

Easterby joined the Patriots in 2013 after two-plus years in a similar role with the Chiefs, where he worked under general manager Scott Pioli, who was in the Patriots front office from 2000-08, rising as high as director of player personnel.

 

The Patriots hired Easterby in the wake of the Hernandez arrest, after Easterby helped guide the Chiefs through the murder-suicide case involving Jovan Belcher in 2012.

 

“I can only hope and pray to be half the man that he’s been and impact lives the way he has,” Patriots captain Matthew Slater told the team website.

 

Easterby normally would be a crucial voice for the Patriots this week at the NFL Combine as they sift through hundreds of draft prospects. But the team’s coaches found out Monday that Easterby is not returning.

 

How did such an influential person get to the end of a contract without an extension?

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The best lawyers money can buy have swooped into Palm Beach Gardens.  It will be interesting to see how the local courts greet them.  Laurel Sweet in the Boston Herald:

 

The legal team defending New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft against charges he twice paid for sex at a Florida massage parlor is attempting to block the release of alleged surveillance video. It will file a memorandum today arguing that the search warrant that led to the billionaire’s public apology was obtained unlawfully.

 

Lawyers for the 77-year-old Kraft informed Judge Leonard Hanser on Tuesday of their plans to argue the search warrant was obtained unlawfully. Kraft did not attend the brief hearing at the Palm Beach Gardens courthouse.

 

The purpose of the hearing had been for representatives of news organizations from across the country to appeal to Hanser to be able to intervene on any attempts to place the video of Kraft allegedly engaged in sex acts under a protective order.

 

Attorney Dana J. McElroy, whose clients include ABC, The Associated Press, ESPN and The New York Times, explained, “All the intervention does is allow us to have standing to see what’s happening in the case and to be notified with an opportunity to be heard. We can file things with the court, memorandums, things like that.”

 

Kraft’s attorney Alexander Spiro suggested Hanser first consider the legality of the search warrant, since his ruling could render moot the need for an evidentiary hearing on the tapes “if the court were to deem that to be a fatal issue in this case.”

 

“We believe that the warrant in this case was deficient,” Spiro told the judge.

 

Kraft is accused in a Feb. 22 Jupiter Police Department report of being caught on surveillance video receiving and paying for sexual services from two prostitutes ages 45 and 58 at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., on Jan. 19, and again with the 45-year-old on Jan. 20 —  the same day the Patriots defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to clinch the AFC Championship.

 

The spa had been under investigation for suspected criminal activity, including human trafficking, since October, police said.

 

Kraft, whose two counts of soliciting prostitution are misdemeanors in Florida, has yet to appear at a single court date, opting instead to have his lawyers enter pleas of not guilty on his behalf and demand a jury trial.

 

His only comment on the case was issued last month in the form of a statement that read in part, “I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans, and many other who rightfully hold me to a higher standard.”

 

Hanser canceled a planned April 9 proceeding and rescheduled it to April 12 for a case-disposition hearing. He also said he may have to clear his calendar just to deal with this one high-profile defendant.

 

“This case attracts a little more attention than the rest of the cases on my docket,” Hanser said. “I may have to ask some of my colleagues to take some of my trials that are already set.”

 

The DB remains confused as to why the Martin County Sheriff’s Department is involved in a case in Jupiter which is in neighboring Palm Beach County.

 

This from last week shows that some of those performing the sex acts have been arrested as well as their customers:

 

Two more women in the lengthy sex spa investigation have been arrested in Martin County, according to records obtained this week.

 

That makes at least six women jailed in the case, which Martin County sheriff’s investigators began disclosing Feb. 19. Four spas in Martin County were targeted.

 

Dozens of so-called “johns” also have been jailed in the alleged sex-for-pay cases that sheriff’s officials have described in the context of human trafficking.

 

“The tentacles of this go from here to New York to China, in Florida from here to Orange County,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said in initially announcing the busts.

 

The latest arrests are of Li Ping Wang Borja, 49, of Naples, and Yang Gaomei, 46, of Sunrise.

 

Gaomei was arrested March 13, while Borja was jailed March 18. Each was arrested on charges of racketeering, money laundering, engaging in prostitution and use of a structure for prostitution, records state.

 

Prosecutors, however, are pursuing only a single felony deriving support from proceeds of prostitution charge against Borja, according to records obtained Friday.

 

Investigators reported Borja was documented in 38 incidents in October of exchanging sexual favors for money at Bridge Day Spa in Hobe Sound. Three other women, including the business president, Ruimei Li, also have been arrested and linked to the case.

 

Hobe Sound is 10 miles north of Jupiter and in Martin County.

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

QB SAM DARNOLD is happy to be sharing the Jets spotlight with RB Le’VEON BELL.  Greg Joyce in the New York Post:

 

Sam Darnold has a new best friend.

 

The Jets’ quarterback has been watching plenty of film on his new running back Le’Veon Bell, and is looking forward to having him in the backfield next fall.

 

“I love it. What’s not to love about it?” Darnold said Wednesday at Yankee Stadium before taking in his first game in The Bronx.

 

“Le’Veon’s a great player. He’s very instinctual, too. He’s very quarterback friendly, which I’ve kind of noticed watching his tape a little bit. Whenever Big Ben [Roethlisberger] was back there, as a quarterback you sense when time runs out, you start looking for guys and Le’Veon’s always really friendly and he’s always kind of right there in your vision, or he was always in Ben’s vision.

 

“So I’m looking forward to that, just whenever I need him, just him to be that security blanket I need to check it down, and he can get yards after the catch. So I’m really excited about it.”

 

Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with the Jets in March as general manager Mike Maccagnan reeled in the big free-agent catch. The 27-year-old sat out all of last season because of a contract dispute with the Steelers, not wanting to play on the franchise tag, but he will now join Darnold in green and white under new head coach Adam Gase.

 

Darnold said he couldn’t wait to start the team’s offseason workout program, which begins Monday, but was in town early for Thursday’s unveiling of the Jets new uniforms (which may have leaked early).

 

“They’re awesome, very cool,” Darnold said. “I’m really excited for the fans to get to see them and get to see their reaction, what they think of them. I think, for us, [that] is the thing that really matters, what the fans think of them. As long as they think we look sharp, we’re going to think we look sharp. I’m going to be really excited to see their reaction.”

 

Darnold spent some time on the field before the Yankees hosted the Tigers, chatting with fellow USC product Aaron Boone about all things Trojans.

 

As for his own coach, Darnold said he has been talking to Gase as much as the NFL guidelines allow them to in the offseason.

 

“I’ve been trying, but it’s honestly a little hard with the rules and all that,” said Darnold, who played baseball until his freshman year of high school. “Next Monday we start kind of the OTA (organize team activities) process, start talking ball a little bit, so I’m really excited to get that process going.”

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

2019 DRAFT

Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay of ESPN.com go head-to-head with dueling Mock Drafts.  They actually go 1 to 64 – you can see the whole thing here while we have the top 32 below.  Kiper and McShay are in perfect synch for the first seven and agree on four others along the way:

 

ROUND 1

 

1. Arizona Cardinals

 

Kiper: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Arizona is putting up smokescreens, but I’m not changing here. Murray is a perfect fit for what coach Kliff Kingsbury wants to do.

 

McShay: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

It has been a month since the combine, and I still can’t find anyone close to the situation saying Arizona prefers keeping Josh Rosen over taking Murray here. Remember, though: This is lying season. Murray’s explosive athleticism would spark this docile offense.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers

 

Kiper: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The best pass-rusher in this class is a near lock to go in the first two picks. Could a team trade up to No. 2 to try to get him?

 

McShay: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

If Bosa is still in fact available, expect the Niners to either jump on the elite edge rusher or trade down, a possible scenario now that Dee Ford is in town.

 

3. New York Jets

 

Kiper: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

Even after splashing cash in free agency, the Jets have a hole at edge rusher. Allen would help immediately.

 

McShay: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky

Watch for the Jets to trade back with a team in search of a quarterback. That’s what I’d do here, if possible. If they don’t, it’s a tougher call, but Allen fits this defense.

 

4. Oakland Raiders

 

Kiper: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Williams is the type of defensive playmaker Jon Gruden loves, and you have to think the Raiders coach would be thrilled if he made it to No. 4.

 

McShay: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Could the Raiders think about a quarterback here? Gruden got to see Drew Lock up close at the Senior Bowl. But let’s not forget that this team badly needs defensive line help. Williams had 19.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks last season.

 

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

Kiper: Devin White, ILB, LSU

I’m beginning to think you’re copying me, Todd. … White could be a replacement for Kwon Alexander, who joined San Francisco in free agency. Defensive end is another position to watch here.

 

McShay: Devin White, ILB, LSU

Yeah, I agree with Mel. White would be a great fit as the Bucs’ defensive quarterback. His high-end instincts and speed helped him to 123 tackles in 2018.

 

6. New York Giants

 

Kiper: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

I’m sticking with Haskins to the Giants, even though they have a gaping void in their edge rush. I wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t take a quarterback in Round 1, though.

 

McShay: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

This is a tough call, but you just have to think the Giants take a quarterback here. They do need pass-rushers, but I don’t see them opting for Montez Sweat or Rashan Gary over taking care of their No. 1 problem.

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

 

Kiper: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

Jacksonville’s biggest need? Right tackle. The best right tackle in this draft? Taylor. Perfect fit.

 

McShay: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

Seeing eye-to-eye through seven picks! Have to love that, Mel. Stick Taylor at right tackle to protect Nick Foles and block for the Leonard Fournette ground game.

 

8. Detroit Lions

 

Kiper: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Yes, the Lions added Trey Flowers in free agency, but Sweat would give them a second top-tier defensive end in one offseason.

 

McShay: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

I do like the idea of plugging Sweat into the Ezekiel Ansah edge role, but Hockenson’s talent is off the charts. Let’s get Matthew Stafford a weapon in the passing game.

 

9. Buffalo Bills

 

Kiper: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Oliver is a top-10 prospect on my board, and I don’t think he will drop past Buffalo at No. 9. Remember: Kyle Williams retired after the 2018 season.

 

McShay: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Gary’s athleticism would help fill a big need off the edge. I also could see the Bills taking a tackle or cornerback here.

 

10. Denver Broncos

 

Kiper: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

We know Joe Flacco loves throwing to tight ends, and Hockenson would give him a true No. 1 tight end to target.

 

McShay: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

I don’t love this pairing, but I also don’t think Flacco is the long-term quarterback answer. If Lock is already off the board, pass-catcher or defensive line makes the most sense for John Elway at No. 10.

 

11. Cincinnati Bengals

 

Kiper: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

The Bengals aren’t tied long term to Andy Dalton, who is signed through 2020 but has no more guaranteed money on his contract. Taking Lock here would give new coach Zac Taylor a young quarterback to mold for the future.

 

McShay: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

Quarterback is definitely an option, but the Bengals badly want to restock the linebacker corps. Vontaze Burfict is gone, and Bush’s range and leadership would fill the void.

 

12. Green Bay Packers

 

Kiper: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

The Packers focused on improving their defense in free agency, and they could use their two first-round picks in this draft on offense. Metcalf has the potential to become Aaron Rodgers’ No. 1 target.

 

McShay: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Despite the free-agency aggressiveness, the Packers still have to get help for Rodgers. T.J. Hockenson probably won’t be available, and Noah Fant is a bit of a reach. Metcalf is a physical specimen.

 

13. Miami Dolphins

 

Kiper: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

You have to think the Dolphins, who are undergoing a serious rebuild, would be thrilled to get a high-ceiling pass-rusher like Gary here.

 

McShay: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

In this scenario, the top quarterbacks are gone. Don’t overthink it; take the best available player. That’s Oliver.

 

14. Atlanta Falcons

 

Kiper: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

This could be a spot for a defensive back too, but I like the fit of Wilkins next to Grady Jarrett.

 

McShay: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

If Ed Oliver is available, he’d fit in nicely, especially with Jarrett back on the franchise tag. But while there’s still untapped potential in Vic Beasley Jr. and Takkarist McKinley, Atlanta would value Sweat’s speed and pass-rush ability.

 

15. Washington Redskins

 

Kiper: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Surprised? Don’t be. The Redskins need to find a quarterback of the future, and there are several teams who like Jones. In Washington, he would be given time to adjust to the NFL while Case Keenum starts in 2019.

 

McShay: Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State

Washington could trade for Josh Rosen, which would remedy the quarterback concerns. Burns is a unique talent with upside, and while he played defensive end for the Seminoles, he could make the move to stand-up edge rusher.

 

16. Carolina Panthers

 

Kiper: Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State

I expect Carolina to go with the best available edge rusher here. The Panthers had just 35 sacks last season, which ranked 27th in the league.

 

McShay: Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama

Edge rushing and cornerback are the biggest issues. But Williams is a value pick here, and after the Panthers already added Matt Paradis, he further upgrades that line.

 

17. New York Giants (from Cleveland Browns)

 

Kiper: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

I gave New York a quarterback at No. 6, which means it has to address its pass rush with its other first-round pick. Ferrell is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end.

 

McShay: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Big Blue undoubtedly needs edge guys, but that whole line is really in shambles. The versatile Wilkins would be a good start in rebuilding the unit.

 

18. Minnesota Vikings

 

Kiper: Jonah Williams, OT/G, Alabama

It doesn’t matter if Williams ends up at guard or tackle — he’d help Minnesota at either spot.

 

McShay: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

I would have liked a defensive tackle here to replace Sheldon Richardson, but Ed Oliver and Christian Wilkins are off the board. The Vikes added Josh Kline but still need help protecting the quarterback.

 

19. Tennessee Titans

 

Kiper: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Lawrence needs to go to a team that plays a 3-4 defense — he’s the best nose tackle in the class — and this is right about where I expect him to get picked.

 

McShay: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

This might be a little early for Brown, but he’s the best receiver in the class — when healthy. A trio of Brown, Corey Davis and Adam Humphries looks pretty good.

 

20. Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Kiper: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

Pittsburgh brought in Mark Barron in free agency, but he shouldn’t be a lock to start. Bush is a playmaker and every-down linebacker.

 

McShay: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

The Steelers would love an edge rusher or a guy like Bush here, but there just aren’t solid options at No. 20. Williams’ length and speed ought to help him overcome his lower-end tackling skills.

 

21. Seattle Seahawks

 

Kiper: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

After moving from tackle to guard last season, Lindstrom had a rock-solid 2018. He’s my top-ranked guard.

 

McShay: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

There are off-field issues, and he’s recovering from a torn ACL, but Simmons is a high-end talent. However, I wouldn’t discount Seattle looking at a tone-setter safety like Johnathan Abram here to fill the Earl Thomas void.

 

22. Baltimore Ravens

 

Kiper: Erik McCoy, C/G, Texas A&M

Baltimore could go defensive line here, but McCoy would be an immediate starter along the interior offensive line.

 

McShay: Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State

Edge rusher Clelin Ferrell would make sense too, but Bradbury is a pro-ready center who excels both in pass protection and run blocking.

 

23. Houston Texans

 

Kiper: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

Let’s get some protection for Deshaun Watson, who was sacked a league-high 62 times last season. Dillard could play left or right tackle.

 

McShay: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

This is a no-brainer. You just can’t have your franchise quarterback taking that many sacks.

 

24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago Bears)

 

Kiper: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Oakland needs a No. 1 back, and Jacobs is the best — and most versatile — RB in this class.

 

McShay: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

The Raiders need a lot of things, but they need a corner. Murphy’s ball skills would be welcomed with open arms.

 

25. Philadelphia Eagles

 

Kiper: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Time to start thinking about a Malcolm Jenkins replacement? He’s 31. Abram is my No. 1-ranked safety.

 

McShay: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

Philly gets a super-instinctive cornerback here for a defense that was No. 30 in passing yards per game last season.

 

26. Indianapolis Colts

 

Kiper: Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State

Like several teams, the Colts also could add a defensive lineman here, but Andrew Luck could use more weapons, too. McLaurin is a big-play threat.

 

McShay: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Still hanging around late in the first, Ferrell slides in as a great fit at end in the Colts’ 4-3. Indy can still get a receiver early in Round 2.

 

27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys)

 

Kiper: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia

The cornerback spot opposite Gareon Conley is wide-open. There could be a run on corners at the end of Round 1.

 

McShay: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

It took three extra picks, but I also have Jacobs heading to the Bay. He hits holes hard and would pair nicely with Isaiah Crowell in a revamped running game.

 

28. Los Angeles Chargers

 

Kiper: Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

The Chargers like slot corner Desmond King, but the other spot opposite Casey Hayward could be upgraded with Ya-Sin.

 

McShay: Cody Ford, OT/G, Oklahoma

I’d like to get the Bolts someone in the middle of that defensive line, but the offensive side is equally in need. Ford, who played both guard and tackle at OU, has some versatility.

 

29. Kansas City Chiefs

 

Kiper: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

If an edge rusher falls, Kansas City could pounce at No. 29. But Williams could be a steal this late in Round 1.

 

McShay: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Abram closes like a heat-seeking missile. I love his approach to the position. With or without Eric Berry, he immediately improves the secondary from the back end.

 

30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans Saints)

 

Kiper: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Yes, that’s a wide receiver and tight end for the Packers, who need to maximize the later years of Aaron Rodgers’ career.

 

McShay: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Remember when I said Fant would be a bit of a reach for Green Bay at No. 12? Well, lucky for Packers fans, he’s still here at No. 30.

 

31. Los Angeles Rams

 

Kiper: Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State

I thought about cornerback here, but Bradbury could replace John Sullivan in the middle of the offensive line.

 

McShay: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

A 342-pound run-stopper with 5.05 speed ought to replace Ndamukong Suh nicely alongside Aaron Donald.

 

32. New England Patriots

 

Kiper: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

 

Bill Belichick could address the front seven, but I like Smith here as a potential Gronk replacement.

 

McShay: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

The Pats have 12 picks, and history suggests they’ll wait until Day 2 to get their future quarterback project. I agree with Mel here — Smith is a matchup nightmare.