The Daily Briefing Friday, April 6, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
The DB thought he knew every QB in the NFL. The Cardinals have proven that not to be true with their latest two acquisitions, both waiver claims. Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic:
The Cardinals have been awarded waiver claims on two quarterbacks, doubling the number of quarterbacks on the roster.
The team claimed former Lion Alek Torgersen and former Dolphin Brandon Doughty.
Neither has thrown a pass in the NFL.
Claiming the two quarterbacks doesn’t preclude the Cardinals from drafting one later this month. The team will be able to evaluate Torgersen and Doughty in the weeks before the draft, including a minicamp April 17-19.
They join Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon as quarterbacks on the Cardinals roster.
Torgersen played at Penn and entered the NFL last year as an undrafted free agent with the Falcons. He was cut by the Falcons and spent time on Washington’s practice squad. The Redskins cut him in October and he was signed to the Lions practice squad for the final week of the season.
Torgersen is 6-feet-2 inches and 230 pounds and turned 23 in January. In his final two college seasons, he passed for 36 touchdowns and had seven throws intercepted.
Doughty, is 6-feet-3 inches and 212 pounds and played at Western Kentucky and was drafted by the Dolphins in the seventh round in 2016. He spent parts of the next two seasons on the Dolphins practice squad.
Doughty, 26, threw 97 touchdown passes and had just 19 throws intercepted in his last two years in college.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
It’s hard to believe that 12 months ago, the Rams (and the Jaguars for that matter) were among the five worst teams in football.
In April of 2017, the Rams were coming off a 4-12 season that had resulted in the firing of Coach Jeff Fisher. Rookie QB JARED GOFF had been unimpressive. Although they were 8-8 a couple of times, the Rams had gone 13 seasons without a winning record. Although there had been some good picks (TODD GURLEY III, AARON DONALD), Rams management had also made some very clunky picks (i.e. T Greg Robinson, WR Tavon Austin) that did not feed confidence for future success. They had just picked a 30-year-old unknown Sean McVay as their head coach.
Now, just a year later, they may be a super team. Mark Maske in the Washington Post:
NFL traditionalists can begin their finger-wagging now, aimed in the direction of the Los Angeles Rams. Trying to construct what amounts to a super-team by bringing in big-name veteran players generally has not been a path to success in a league in which the time-tested method of wise roster-construction has been all about drafting well and developing young players, and perhaps filling in just a little bit around the fringes when needed with a veteran addition or two.
Spending sprees and glitzy overhauls with marquee names? That didn’t work for the Washington Redskins in 2000. It didn’t work for the would-be “Dream Team” of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011.
Can the Rams make it work now?
It will be interesting to watch.
It has been an eventful offseason indeed for the Rams, who have bolstered — they hope — the roster of an NFC West-winning team by trading for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as a free agent after he was released by the Miami Dolphins.
Suh, Peters and Talib have totaled 12 career Pro Bowl selections among them. Cooks is a three-time 1,000-yard receiver in four NFL seasons for the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.
“If it’s trades, if it’s free agency, if it’s through the draft or it’s just re-signing our own, those are things that we’re going to explore and we’re going to do,” Rams Coach Sean McVay said last week in Orlando at the annual league meeting, before the Cooks deal with the Patriots was completed Tuesday. “I think one of the things [about] being able to play in such a unique environment and atmosphere like L.A., it provides an opportunity to take advantage of that. And that’s something that we want to be proactive about, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
The Rams did pay attention to their NFL history lessons, McVay said last week. They simply chose to ignore them in hopes of writing a new history for themselves with their attention-grabbing roster tweaking.
“That’s something that you absolutely look into,” McVay said in Orlando. “I think when you just look at … different situations that kind of recreate history, if you will, for us, what we look at is each individual piece or each individual player that we wanted to add. We felt like the main reason is these are guys that love football. They’re about the right stuff and they’re obviously very talented football players. And we felt like if they came in, they’ll fit with what we’re trying to accomplish. They fit within the framework of the scheme, especially when you talk about those three defensive players with the way that we want to operate defensively. We felt like it was going to be a good fit.”
The Redskins of 2000 brought in cornerback Deion Sanders, defensive end Bruce Smith, safety Mark Carrier and quarterback Jeff George, adding them to a team coming off an NFC East title. They went 8-8 and fired their coach, Norv Turner, with three games remaining in the season.
The Eagles of 2011, coming off the NFL owners’ lockout of the players, added cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive end Jason Babin, running back Ronnie Brown and quarterback Vince Young, among others, to a team coming off three straight playoff seasons. Young dubbed it a Dream Team. But its play was far from dreamy, as the Eagles sunk to 8-8 and missed the playoffs in coach Andy Reid’s second-to-last season with the franchise.
Those predicting greatness for these Rams are forewarned.
The Rams have plenty going for them. They are adding to a good team, not attempting to fix a bad one. They made McVay the youngest head coach in modern NFL history last year, and he quickly proved to be the real deal. He made the Rams relevant in L.A. and significant again in the NFL. He turned Jared Goff into a franchise quarterback and helped tailback Todd Gurley to finish second in the league MVP balloting.
McVay is the reigning NFL coach of the year. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the reigning NFL defensive player of the year. The newcomers on defense are being led by a legendary defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips.
“The biggest thing that we felt like is when you do your vetting process and you look into just adding people like that, you want to find guys that love football,” McVay said at the league meeting. “And we felt like the three players especially when you look at Marcus, Aqib and now Ndamukong, these guys love football. They’re passionate about it. And you feel like if that exists, then everything else will kind of fit. I think they understand exactly kind of the way that we want to operate organizationally. They felt like hey, you know what, this is the place that they want to be. And we’re excited about adding players of that caliber. I think it’s going to be fun to play. I think the defensive coordinator has more swag than all of them. So we’ll be in good shape.”
The potential upside is that Cooks gives Goff a game-breaking receiver to make the offense even better, Suh teams with Donald to form an impossible-to-block middle of the defensive line, and Peters and Talib smother opposing receivers to the point that Phillips can dial up anything he wants on defense. That could be a Super Bowl-winning formula.
But McVay and Phillips now face the considerable task of making it all work, of keeping all the personalities and egos in check to form a cohesive and fully functional team. If the Rams fail, it could be a spectacular failure indeed.
Either way, it should be a sight to see, right there in the nation’s entertainment capital.
“All of it’s on paper right now,” McVay said last week. “But I think we do feel really good about adding the two corners that I don’t think it really matters what system you’re playing, they’re going to fit. Their production kind of speaks for itself. And then Ndamukong, the same way. It’s about continuing to figure out how we can be connected as a team, how we can really commit to each other and be the best version of ourselves, ultimately to be a great football team. That’s what football entails. It’s something that we felt like was going to help us improve and get better. We’re excited to see how that thing meshes and molds together as the offseason program starts up here in a couple weeks.”
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Despite all the additions, the Rams think they still have enough money to pay DT AARON DONALD. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com:
Straining their salary-cap space to the very last dollar, the Los Angeles Rams have acquired big contract after big contract, all the while apparently avoiding the All-Pro elephant in the room, Aaron Donald.
But according to Rams general manager Les Snead, Los Angeles hasn’t forgotten about the perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle. In fact, the Rams have made each of their moves — trading for Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Brandin Cooks and signing Ndamukong Suh — with Donald’s impending mega-extension in mind.
“We’ve got good dialogue with their agents. I’ll keep all of that in-house, but none of it affects Aaron Donald,” Snead responded during Cooks’ introductory news conference Thursday when asked about Donald’s contract situation. “He’s one of 53 and as I’ve said plenty of times before, we’ve got that budgeted into the budget. We didn’t do all this and forget about him for sure.”
Cap-strapped for the 2018 season — and currently over the cap by $3 million, according to OverTheCap.com — the Rams will enter 2019 with the second-most cap space in the league, just behind the New York Jets. Los Angeles will have more than enough room to pay Donald and some of their new acquisitions with expiring contracts (Peters, Suh); in fact, Snead and Co. are already working on a contract extension for Cooks.
But the Rams can’t afford to let Donald test the open market, meaning an extension has to happen in 2018, preferably before the season begins and leverage becomes fluid week-to-week.
As for L.A.’s blockbuster spending on players not named Donald, Snead tempered hype that the Rams are “all in” this season.
“Simply put, 2018 is important, we definitely want to repeat as NFC [West] champions,” Snead explained. “A lot of the players we’ve acquired are young and have evolved to be in the prime of their careers and we’d love to take advantage of that, not just ’18 but ’19, ’20, ’21 and moving forward.
The GM continued: “2018’s important, ’19’s very important and Sean [McVay] and I have been saying the whole time, that guess what, it’s ’18 but we’re still 11 wins behind the ’17 season. Just because we’ve had a flashy 2018 offseason doesn’t mean that we’re any better this year than we were last year because we’re 11 games behind last year’s team. But it’s up to us to start here in the next couple weeks, like we did last year and make sure we win 12 or more.”
Building to win now and constructing a roster for the future are often two diametrically opposed objectives in the NFL, but the Rams are confident that, with some creative cap management and extension ingenuity, they can have the best of both worlds.
Would a “surprise pick” be a quarterback? Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com:
Could Ozzie Newsome deliver a shocker in his last draft as the Baltimore Ravens general manager?
That’s what Newsome seemed to suggest at the Ravens’ pre-draft press conference. Speaking about how he caught some off guard in 1996 when he went with offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden as his first-ever pick, Newsome wouldn’t rule out going against the grain on what will be his final first-round pick.
“You might be surprised at who we pick at 16 this year — if we pick at 16,” Newsome said.
The ultimate jaw-dropper would be a quarterback. The Ravens can part ways with quarterback Joe Flacco as early as next season, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson should be available in the middle of the first round.
But owner Steve Bisciotti scoffed in February when asked if it was time for the franchise to start thinking about life after Flacco. If Baltimore was going to select a quarterback, it’s more likely the team will do so in second or third rounds, particularly after how team officials raved about the depth of this quarterback class.
Another unexpected move would be drafting a defensive player. The Ravens’ biggest needs are improving the NFL’s No. 27 offense, but Baltimore could see more value in someone like Alabama inside linebacker Rashaan Evans, who would upgrade the spot next to Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley. It would be more jarring if Baltimore chose Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, especially after Bisciotti ruled out taking a defensive tackle in the first round.
Other picks that would be described as surprising include picking a center in the first round for the first time in franchise history (Iowa’s James Daniels is the top-rated one) or using another top pick on a cornerback (Iowa’s Josh Jackson could be available).
The most popular picks for the Ravens in recent mock drafts are Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and Notre Dame offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey.
The Texans have signed JOE WEBB, nominally a QB, but actually a special teams ace and jack of all offensive trades. Aaron Wilson in the Houston Chronicle:
The Texans signed versatile quarterback-wide receiver Joe Webb on Thursday.
Webb, 31, played last season for the Buffalo Bills, where Texans general manager Brian Gaine worked last year.
Webb completed 2 of 7 passes for 35 yards and one interception. He has also played wide receiver and special teams and has previous stints with the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings.
In 86 career games, he has completed 90 of 159 career passes for 888 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s rushed for 326 yards and four touchdowns with 326 receiving yards.
Webb is 6-4, 230 pounds and was a Vikings sixth-round draft pick out of Alabama Birmingham in 2010.
He’s the only quarterback in the NFL who also plays on special teams, seeing the field for 278 special-teams plays last year.
Webb has returned 18 career kickoffs for 401 yards.
The agency Athletes First learned they had lost G RICHIE INCOGNITO via Twitter. Jaclyn Hendricks of the New York Post:
Richie Incognito turned Twitter into his own personal boardroom Wednesday, delivering pink slips to his agents in the form of a tweet.
“@AthletesFirst You are Fired!” the Bills guard posted from Scottsdale, Ariz. “I wish you guys nothing but the best moving forward. Thank you for all of your help and guidance along the way. It’s time for me to go in a new direction ✌🏼.”
The Twitter account for the Laguna Hills, Calif.-based agency didn’t reply publicly to Incognito.
Incognito, 34, is set to return to the Bills for a fifth season, after restructuring the final year of his contract and taking a pay cut. It’s unclear what prompted the agent firing, and the four-time Pro Bowler said last month he was “fired up” to be back in Buffalo.
“BUFFALO! I’m thrilled to be returning this season and fired up to get back to work with my #BuffaloBills brothers. I truly believe in the vision and the path we are on. We have all that we need to finish what we started #honored #letsdothis,” Incognito tweeted.
Athletes First still reps the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Nick Foles and Josh Norman.
Have the Patriots loaded up in draft picks to go after QB BAKER MAYFIELD? Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com:
The New England Patriots are now firmly in the 2018 quarterback market in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Big Time. Make no mistake about it.
And the Patriots aren’t close to done making trades, either (although not any involving Rob Gronkowski because that was fake news, anyway). Tuesday’s trade of receiver Brandin Cooks as part of a package that included the Rams’ 23rd overall pick had ramifications throughout the league, with tentacles that reached the Giants and Odell Beckham, Jr., and the Cardinals and, yes, even Gronkowski, but as we unpack the fallout of this latest blockbuster transaction we must start with what it means for the quarterbacks drafted in the first round at the end of this month.
Because in all likelihood one of them is going to Foxboro to be Tom Brady’s eventual replacement. That process is well afoot and has long been a quiet vocation in New England, only now they have some of the pieces necessary to actually move from the 31st pick to a position to actual secure one of the top passers in this draft. Sure, this trade also means that Cooks isn’t the difference maker the Pats hoped and he wasn’t transformative in their offense or a player the Pats would or could pay big money to after his fifth-year option expires, but more than that it connotes just how badly Bill Belichick is motivated to land an heir apparent at quarterback.
When I asked a member of the Pats organization in the know if they would be shocked if Belichick moved well into the first half of the first round to land a quarterback, he responded: “Certainly not.” This individual is convinced that this Cooks trade was a mere cog in the overall machine and a piece that will end up with one of the top three-or-four rated passers in this draft landing in New England. History – recent and dating back to guys like Richard Seymour – has revealed that Belichick is rarely averse to dealing current players for future assets, and he could move another veteran plus the three picks the Patriots now hold between picks 23 and 43 to do so.
Total hunch here, but I’m thinking Baker Mayfield could be the guy Belichick targets. He’s been all about mobile quarterbacks the last few years – Tim Tebow love affair, dabbling with Johnny Football, drafting Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett before dealing them both. Belichick can handle the kid’s attitude and curb his wayward tendencies and he could be the best value play – especially if three quarterbacks are drafted ahead of him – and Josh McDaniels could coach him up and scheme him up and put him in positions to replicate what he did best at Oklahoma.
And this is where, as much as I respect and have lauded Belichick’s actions running the Patriots, we have to point out how shortsighted it was not holding a massive auction for Garoppolo before last year’s draft, because it was always impossible the Pats could hold on to him beyond 2017. The time to get the biggest haul for him was then, and not just before the 2017 trade deadline when they landed only a high second-round pick for a quarterback who quickly became the game’s highest paid player on a temporary basis. If they made the Jimmy G trade then – and exploited all they could have from the Cleveland Browns – then they’d already have been in position to control the quarterback market in this year’s draft. I’m just saying. Oh yeah, and had Garoppolo not run the table in December for San Fran then the Pats would be sitting on like the 35th pick perhaps and not the 43rd as part of that trade.
So Belichick will be working the phones like a madman this month to get in position to land a quarterback, which likely means multiple trades to do so. We all know by now four quarterbacks could go in the first five picks, and with Arizona and Baltimore sitting in the middle of the first round, at least five are going in the first 15 picks. Belichick has work to do, and, for the Cardinals, already motivated to move up, the onus becomes even greater. You don’t want Belichick getting into the low teens to land a guy, and Arizona can’t really think Sam Bradford is going to stay healthy long enough to truly impact their franchise. They blew it not landing Pat Mahomes a year ago; they can’t sit in a passive role as the Jets already made their move and Buffalo and New England are intent on moving more and the Ravens still badly need to find someone to take over for Joe Flacco sooner rather than later too.
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The Patriots are adding WR JORDAN MATTHEWS. Nick Shook of NFL.com:
Two days after trading away Brandin Cooks, New England has secured his replacement.
The Patriots signed Jordan Matthews to a one-year deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the deal.
ESPN first reported the news.
Matthews entered the league with the Philadelphia Eagles as a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2014 and looked to have the potential to become a No. 1 receiver. He saw less playing time in his final season in Philadelphia, and Eagles GM Howie Roseman gave up on those hopes entirely in 2017 when he dealt Matthews to Buffalo. The receiver struggled to stay healthy and caught just 25 passes for 282 yards and one touchdown in his lone season with the Bills.
Bill Belichick has quite a history of taking chances on castoff receivers. He’s had mixed results, with Randy Moss serving as the best payoff and Chad Johnson being the worst.
Prior to 2017, Matthews averaged 75 receptions for 891 yards receiving and about six touchdowns per season. He’s demonstrated he has the physical tools to be an effective receiver. Should the 6-foot-3, 212-pound wideout return to that level, New England will have found itself a bargain.
More on the signing from Mike Reiss of ESPN.com:
Why I like the fit: One of the things that is often said about the Patriots’ offense is that players have to run precise routes and know where they need to be. Matthews, if healthy, fits that profile. There isn’t a standout trait that jumps out about him — he’s not blazing fast, and he doesn’t have the quick-twitch suddenness of a traditional slot receiver like Danny Amendola, but he catches the ball well and can be a complementary asset in an overall passing attack if healthy.
Overall wide receiver depth chart: The Patriots have two proven receivers in their system in Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan, and then there should be a solid competition with Matthews, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister. Matthews fits a different profile than the rest of the group.
NEW YORK JETS
Here are the thoughts of Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News on where the Jets minds are at with three weeks to go before the draft:
The Jets quarterback decision is absolutely fascinating. My understanding is that it’s a fluid and complicated situation. Shortly after Gang Green traded with the Colts to jump up to the No. 3 spot a couple weeks ago, I touched base with folks on One Jets Drive to get a better handle on the motivation behind the deal.
The people in the organization that I spoke to loved Baker Mayfield’s fire, competitiveness and leadership, but thought he was a tick below Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen at that time. However, they cautioned that there was still an important part of the evaluation process that included Pro Days — and more importantly — the impending private workouts and visits to Florham Park.
Make no mistake: The Jets are currently divided on which quarterback to take at No. 3. Oh, sure. The team will invariably try to sell us that (INSERT DRAFTED QB HERE) was the top choice all along, but I’ve heard enough varying opinions about these four quarterbacks from inside the organization to know better.
Let’s get something clear: There isn’t a civil war on One Jets Drive, but there are varying opinions and preferences. This regime has encouraged healthy debate through the years for all draft prospects, so I firmly believe that it’s a good thing that there are differing positions on the top four signal callers. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, after all. There are good and not-so-good traits for each of those players.
Full disclosure: Rosen would be my choice if he’s on the board. The former UCLA quarterback has drawn comparisons to Jay Cutler because of his intellect and relatively low tolerance for people who don’t share his football I.Q. New offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates got the best out of Cutler in Denver and Chicago. I have confidence that Bates would help turn Rosen, a quiet leader, into a star for the next decade. It would be a perfect personality match.
Rosen might not have the escapability to make plays off schedule like the other three guys, but he is the best in the pocket.
When I see Rosen, I see Matt Ryan.
Others believe that Allen, who played in Wyoming’s pro-style offense, shouldn’t be discounted due to his low completion percentage, because his wide receivers, well, stunk. Know this: There are very important people in the building who love Allen’s skill set. He’s a physical specimen. His potential is undeniable. There are some Jets folks, however, who wonder whether Allen has the makeup to make it in the New York crucible.
Now, Mayfield. While everyone I touched base with in the organization can’t say enough about his intangibles, there are concerns about his height (6-foot, 5/8) and hand size (9 ¼ inches).
There’s a reason why Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and, yes, Fran Tarkenton (whom Todd Bowles mentioned recently) are outliers. That’s not to say that Mayfield can’t be successful at his height at the next level, but it’s an inherent challenge that doesn’t impact the other three guys.
Will Mayfield make the transition from a college spread system?
Will he be a dual threat at the next level? (Allen ran a faster 40-yard dash (4.75) at the Combine. Mayfield’s 4.84 was a tick better than Darnold’s 4.85).
Does Mayfield have the necessary anticipation on his throws?
Is he Brett Favre, whose freakishly large hands (10.4 inches) helped him excel in cold weather, or Case Keenum or Chase Daniel?
There’s even a debate about Mayfield’s footwork. It needs to be nearly flawless to excel in the pocket at that height at this level. (Brees, for example, has arguably the best footwork in the NFL.)
There are some folks on One Jets Drive who aren’t concerned about Mayfield’s uneven footwork, because he was absurdly accurate in college. His completion rate was like a video game: 68.5 percent in four seasons. His completion rate in his final two years was even better: 70.8 percent.
Here’s the bottom line: Mike Maccagnan has contractual control over the draft and the 53-man roster. He will pull the trigger on this franchise-altering draft pick. When all the discussion and debate end, he will have final say.
But the pick remains a mystery for several reasons, including the reality that nobody actually knows what the Giants will do at No. 2.
My understanding is that one of the major reasons why the Jets struck so quickly on this trade was that they believed that the Bills were angling to swap with the Colts, too. Buffalo is still hoping to move up to position itself to draft a quarterback, according to sources. The Jets, frankly, were concerned that their AFC East rivals would beat them to the punch and make a deal with Indy, who quietly made it known that they were open for business and looking to move down to stock up on draft capital.
The Patriots’ blockbuster trade with the Rams Tuesday night gave Bill Belichick more draft capital ammunition to try to trade up for Tom Brady’s heir apparent. Could the Evil Empire rocket all the way up to No. 2 by making a deal with the Giants? A few teams in the Top 10, including the Jets, are fully aware of the Patriots’ affinity for Mayfield.
Or will the Bills continue to inch up the board and ultimately make a trade with the Giants to get their quarterback (believed to be Allen)?
Which signal callers will actually be available when the Jets are on the clock? Right now, it looks like Rosen and Mayfield.
Alas, nobody really knows at this point.
If you would have told me on April 4, 2016, that the Jets would have drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round, I would have called you coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs since just about nobody other than the GM wanted to take the Penn State quarterback that high.
My understanding is that Maccagnan isn’t likely to retreat to Big Macc Island again. There’s a strong feeling on One Jets Drive that this will be a joint decision between the general manager and head coach, which bodes well for more voices to be heard. Todd Bowles will lean heavily on Bates, who will have the gargantuan task of molding the incoming rookie into a franchise quarterback.
Is it possible that the Jets parted with three premium draft picks to move up three spots for a short quarterback with small hands from a spread offense? I’ll repeat what I wrote a few weeks ago: One successful general manager of a team that isn’t in the market for one of these four guys told me that Mayfield was the quarterback that he liked most in this draft class.
So, yes. Anything is possible.
THIS AND THAT
ESPN.com has its correspondents check in on the top six teams in the draft – with the idea the top six picks will be four QBs, RB SEQUON BARKLEY and DE BRADLEY CHUBB:
1. Cleveland Browns
Not much has changed for the Browns with this pick, nor will it change. The Browns will use this pick to take the quarterback they feel is the best fit, not for today but for two or three years down the road. Tyrod Taylor is the starter in 2018. The drafted quarterback will learn in ’18 and start in the future. Chris Mortensen reported that the Browns are down to USC’s Darnold or Wyoming’s Allen. Both would work; either would be a good pick. What’s important is the Browns have the ability to choose their quarterback, and that they do it. — Pat McManamon
2. New York Giants
The Giants are doing their due diligence on all the top prospects. They’re meeting individually with the quarterbacks, running back Saquon Barkley and edge rusher Bradley Chubb, among others. Still, the most likely scenarios appear to be selecting Darnold if he’s not the No. 1 overall pick, trading back with a QB-needy team, or taking Barkley if they remain at No. 2 and Darnold is the top pick. So, many options for the Giants, and they remain in a position of power. — Jordan Raanan
3. New York Jets
They’re in the final stages of the evaluation process, as they’re planning to host Mayfield and Rosen on pre-draft visits. The Jets assume Darnold will be off the board, so their pick will come down to Mayfield, Rosen or Allen. Mayfield has been gaining momentum in recent weeks and could be the pick at 3, but the Jets are intrigued by the arm talent of Allen and Rosen. It’s a tough decision, one they can’t afford to mess up. — Rich Cimini
4. Cleveland Browns
The phrase “best player available” never meant more than this spot. With the fourth pick, the Browns should be able to choose among Chubb, Barkley and defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Denzel Ward. At least three will be available at the fourth pick, and if the Giants take a quarterback or trade the pick to a team that wants one, all four could be. For the Browns, it’s starting to feel like the choice is coming down to Chubb or Barkley. Like the two options with the first pick, either is a good choice who would improve the team. — Pat McManamon
5. Denver Broncos
John Elway has said the Broncos options are still “wide open” at No. 5, and they also continue to do the pre-draft homework on the top quarterbacks on the board, including a workout with Darnold in Los Angeles on Friday. But the Broncos will have met with or worked out all the top quarterbacks by the time the draft rolls around. If the Giants trade out of the top five, there is some belief the quarterbacks could go 1-4. In that scenario, the Broncos would have an opportunity at one of the draft’s best non-quarterbacks — players such as Chubb, Barkley or Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. They are unlikely to surrender what it would take to move up and the chances of them taking a quarterback at No. 5 still hinge on whether they fall in love with at least one of the quarterbacks and he’s still on the board. — Jeff Legwold
6. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts, despite moving back three spots in their trade with the Jets last month, still believe they’ll be able to get an “impact” player at No. 6. Who that player is –Barkley, Chubb or Nelson – probably will be predicated by how many quarterbacks are taken by the teams selecting in front of Indianapolis. You can never rule out the possibility of GM Chris Ballard moving back again in the draft to stockpile more picks. But it probably would happen only if Barkley, Chubb and Nelson were all gone by the time the Colts select. — Mike Wells
Chad Reuter of NFL.com has 5-round Mock Draft to consider.
Here is Round 1, the rest is here.
Here’s my latest mock of the 2018 NFL Draft. We saw another trade involving a first-round pick earlier this week, and I’m projecting five more here, including a blockbuster deal between the Saints and Bears.
1 – Cleveland
Josh Allen – QB, Wyoming
The Browns have a difficult decision to make here. I think it could come down to Allen vs. Sam Darnold. Allen’s superior arm strength might push GM John Dorsey to bring in the former Cowboy over the former Trojan.
2 – New York Giants
Sam Darnold – QB, USC
Eli Manning is the Giants’ quarterback in 2018, but I won’t be surprised if the team decides to move on after next season so their young star can lead the franchise for the next 12-15 years.
3 – New York Jets
Josh Rosen – QB, UCLA
Baker Mayfield in New York would be an intriguing fit, as well. But Rosen’s gifts as a passer are the best in the class, and it might be tough to pass up on those skills.
4 – Cleveland
Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State
Dorsey gets his quarterback in Allen, and then he lands the top player in the draft in Barkley. Browns fans should be thrilled by this turn of events.
5 – Denver
Bradley Chubb – EDGE, N.C. State
The Broncos’ defense was at its best when Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware were terrorizing quarterbacks. Now Chubb will help Miller strike fear into passers in the AFC.
Quenton Nelson – OG, Notre Dame
When Andrew Luck returns, the Colts will need to protect him. Nelson can do that, as well as plow open lanes for whichever running back they take later in the draft to replace Frank Gore.
7 – Tampa Bay
Derwin James – S, Florida State
The back end of the Buccaneers’ defense needs revamping; grabbing James is a good start.
8 – New Orleans
Baker Mayfield – QB, Oklahoma
PROJECTED TRADE WITH BEARS. The Chiefs traded from No. 27 to No. 10 to get Patrick Mahomes last year, giving up a 2017 third-round pick and a 2018 first-rounder. Mayfield’s talents and Drew Brees’ ability to mentor him could establish a great situation for the team and player.
9 – Buffalo
Lamar Jackson – QB, Louisville
PROJECTED TRADE WITH 49ERS. AJ McCarron was signed to what amounts to a one-year contract, and did not garner the attention most would associate with a franchise quarterback. Therefore, I think Sean McDermott will want a playmaker for down the road a year or two — and that’s Jackson.
10 – Oakland
Roquan Smith – LB, Georgia
They’ve already signed Tahir Whitehead, and adding Smith instantly gives the Raiders a great group at the second level for Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme.
11 – Miami
Tremaine Edmunds – LB, Virginia Tech
Edmunds is an absolute stud who would be picked in the top five or six spots of many drafts. He goes a little lower here due to the early QB run.
12 – San Francisco
Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB, Alabama
PROJECTED TRADE WITH BILLS. The Niners trade down three spots, pick up an extra selection and still get the guy they wanted in Fitzpatrick.
13 – Washington
Vita Vea – DT, Washington
The Redskins’ run defense was atrocious last season, and Vea’s an immovable object who can help close down running lanes.
14 – Green Bay
Denzel Ward – CB, Ohio State
Green Bay gets the top cover corner in the draft, meeting a huge need.
15 – Arizona
D.J. Moore – WR, Maryland
The Cardinals get the draft’s best receiver, a major bonus at a position of need.
16 – Baltimore
Marcus Davenport – EDGE, UTSA
Davenport has the potential to become an excellent pass rusher for the Ravens, who will need help when Terrell Suggs retires or moves on to another team.
17 – Los Angeles Chargers
Leighton Vander Esch – LB, Boise State
With the top two safeties off the board, the Chargers improve another part of their defense with the athletic and instinctive Vander Esch.
18 – Carolina
Calvin Ridley – WR, Alabama
PROJECTED TRADE WITH SEAHAWKS. The Panthers need suddenness at the receiver position, which is Ridley’s calling card.
19 – Dallas
Kolton Miller – OT, UCLA
La’el Collins could be a good right tackle, but he’d be a dominant guard with Miller sliding in at RT.
20 – Detroit
Maurice Hurst – DT, Michigan
Getting an impact interior defender is important for the Lions, and keeping a former Wolverine in state would be a Michigan cherry on top.
21 – Cincinnati
Frank Ragnow – C, Arkansas
The Bengals have focused on improving their offensive line this offseason, and they continue to do so here. Ragnow’s a beast, and showed off even better athleticism than expected at his pro day.
22 – Buffalo
Courtland Sutton – WR, SMU
Kelvin Benjamin is due to become a free agent in 2019, and given Zay Jones’ recent off-field issue, the Bills should be looking for more help at receiver. Sutton’s NFL-sized frame and quick feet make him a nice downfield threat.
23 – New England
Harold Landry – EDGE, Boston College
It’s possible that the Patriots’ trade of Brandin Cooks to the Rams was the precursor to another deal. On the other hand, it’s possible Bill Belichick just wanted to move on from Cooks and secure younger talent in this draft. I’ll go with the latter, with the Pats keeping Landry in the Northeast to chase quarterbacks.
24 – Seattle
Josh Jackson – CB, Iowa
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PANTHERS. Jackson’s skill set would fit perfectly in Seattle’s defense, and the departure of Richard Sherman makes bolstering the position a need.
25 – Tennessee
Josh Sweat – DE, Florida State
Sweat could learn from (and perhaps take over for) Derrick Morgan and/or Brian Orakpo, as both are due to become free agents after the 2018 season.
26 – Atlanta
Da’Ron Payne – DT, Alabama
Payne will wreak havoc in the middle on Sundays.
27 – Chicago
Mike McGlinchey – OT, Notre Dame
PROJECTED TRADE WITH SAINTS. The Bears take advantage of New Orleans’ aggressive move for a young quarterback. Quenton Nelson’s off the board when it’s their time to pick at No. 8, so they move down and allow O-line coach Harry Hiestand, who held the same position with Notre Dame last season, to work with a different former Fighting Irish OL.
28 – Pittsburgh
Jaire Alexander – CB, Louisville
Pittsburgh released former Louisville cornerback William Gay this offseason, so bringing in another talented Cardinal would be a good move.
29 – Cleveland
Connor Williams – OT, Texas
PROJECTED TRADE WITH JAGUARS. Cleveland trades up to land a player who will be charged with replacing Joe Thomas, giving up a fourth-round pick to move up a few spots.
30 – Minnesota
James Daniels – C/OG, Iowa
The Vikings continue to fortify their line to help new quarterback Kirk Cousins succeed. Daniels is an athletic lineman with the ability to play guard or center.
31 – Tampa Bay
Derrius Guice – RB, LSU
PROJECTED TRADE WITH PATRIOTS. Finding a new running back is paramount for the Buccaneers, so it won’t be surprising if they trade into the first round to grab Guice.
32 – Philadelphia
Dallas Goedert – TE, South Dakota State
Losing Trey Burton in free agency and releasing Brent Celek leaves the Eagles without a couple key TEs from last season. Goedert has great potential to be a difference maker — especially in a situation where he’ll be working with Zach Ertz.