The Daily Briefing Monday, April 23, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
We have our schedule notes on all the teams in the AFC EAST and NFC EAST. More tomorrow.
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Peter King says the value of this draft is on Friday:
• There will be some trades in this draft that might seem one-sided. Several team officials told me in the past few days that they value Day 2 picks (rounds two and three) so highly that they’d be willing to take slightly less in compensation to move down. Where could this come into play? Cleveland (four), Indianapolis (six), Baltimore (16), Seattle (18), New England (23, 31), New Orleans (27), Philadelphia (32). “This is not your typical draft,” said one veteran club official Sunday. “The second, third and even fourth rounds are gold. You can take less than the trade-value chart says and still make a very good trade if you get multiple picks in those rounds.”
The Cowboys had opened with the Giants five times in the last six years and in each of the last three (four times in Dallas). That run ends in 2018, instead the Giants come to Dallas in Week 2, once again on NBC…It’s away-home for the Cowboys, until they get a three-game homestand with two national night games starting with Thanksgiving…Five primetime games, plus Thanksgiving late in the afternoon which is typical fare of the Cowboys. But they are scheduled to show up in FOX’s early window five times at the moment, which seems more than usual…It just doesn’t seem right that Dallas at Washington in Week 7 will be on CBS…If this is a bounce back year for the Pokes, FOX will be glad to have them in each of the last seven weeks in one form or another.
Sun Sep 9 at Carolina 4:25pm ET FOX
Sun Sep 16 New York Giants 8:20pm ET NBC
Sun Sep 23 at Seattle 4:25pm ET FOX
Sun Sep 30 Detroit 1:00pm ET FOX
Sun Oct 7 at Houston 8:20pm ET NBC
Sun Oct 14 Jacksonville 4:25pm ET CBS
Sun Oct 21 at Washington 4:25pm ET CBS
Sun Oct 28 BYE
Mon Nov 5 Tennessee 8:15pm ET ESPN
Sun Nov 11 at Philadelphia 8:20pm ET NBC
Sun Nov 18 at Atlanta 1:00pm ET FOX
Thr Nov 22 Washington 4:30pm ET FOX
Thr Nov 29 New Orleans 8:20pm ET FOX/NFLN
Sun Dec 9 Philadelphia 4:25pm ET FOX
Sun Dec 16 at Indianapolis 1:00pm ET FOX
Sun Dec 23 Tampa Bay 1:00pm ET FOX
Sun Dec 30 at New York Giants 1:00pm ET FOX
NEW YORK GIANTS
A bad team in 2017 that might bounce back, the Giants get four primetime tilts – all in their first 9 games…Only four Sunday at 1s in the first nine, then potentially seven in a row…With the Week 6 game on Thursday, a bye and the Week 10 game on Monday, the Giants only play twice in a 29-day span between 10/12 and 11/11…After trips to Texas in back-to-back weeks in Weeks 2 and 3, the Giants are home-away, home-away the rest of the season…The divisional games are rather well spread out during the season.
Sun Sept. 9 Jacksonville Jaguars 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Sept. 16 at Dallas Cowboys 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun Sept. 23 at Houston Texans 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Sept. 30 New Orleans Saints 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 7 at Carolina Panthers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Thr Oct. 11 Philadelphia Eagles 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)
Mon Oct. 22 at Atlanta Falcons 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Oct. 28 Washington Redskins 1 p.m. (FOX)
Nov. 4 — BYE
Mon Nov. 12 at San Francisco 49ers 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Nov. 18 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Nov. 25 at Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 2 Chicago Bears 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 9 at Washington Redskins 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 16 Tennessee Titans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Dec. 22/23 at Indianapolis Colts TBD (TBD)
Sun Dec. 30 Dallas Cowboys 1 p.m. (FOX)
Five games at night, one in the morning for the Eagles…They don’t play on CBS until December 23 as the Week 3 game with the Colts is cross-flexed to FOX…That’s three games on NBC counting the Thursday night opener…Three of the last four on the road…All three home division games come in a four week run starting after the bye.
Thr. Sept. 6 Atlanta Falcons 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun Sept. 16 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Sept. 23 Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Sept. 30 at Tennessee Titans 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Oct. 7 Minnesota Vikings 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Oct. 11 at New York Giants 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)
Sun Oct. 21 Carolina Panthers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Oct. 28 at Jacksonville Jaguars (London) 9:30 a.m. (NFLN)
Nov. 4 — BYE
Sun Nov. 11 Dallas Cowboys 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun Nov. 18 at New Orleans Saints 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Nov. 25 New York Giants 1 p.m. (FOX)
Mon Dec. 3 Washington Redskins 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Dec. 9 at Dallas Cowboys 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 16 at Los Angeles Rams 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun Dec. 23 Houston Texans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 30 at Washington Redskins 1 p.m. (FOX)
Both of the Skins primetime affairs fall in the ESPN Monday night package – and both are on the road…The first two games are against teams that also are seeking to regain their footing after downturns in 2017…Four of the first six are at home, four of the last five are on the road…Both Eagles games are in December…The Redskins return to Dallas on Thanksgiving. They’ve been there many times before including in 2012 and 2016. That game in ’16 was FOX’s highest-rated regular season game ever with 35.1 million viewers (is it possible 300 million Americans didn’t watch some of it?).
Sun Sept. 9 at Arizona Cardinals 4:05 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Sept. 16 Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 23 Green Bay Packers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Sept. 30 — BYE
Mon Oct. 8 New Orleans Saints 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Oct. 14 Carolina Panthers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Oct. 21 Dallas Cowboys 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 28 at New York Giants 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Nov. 4 Atlanta Falcons 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Nov. 11 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Nov. 18 Houston Texans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Thr Nov. 22 at Dallas Cowboys 4:30 p.m. (FOX)
Mon Dec. 3 at Philadelphia Eagles 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Dec. 9 New York Giants 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 16 at Jacksonville Jaguars 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec 22/23 at Tennessee Titans TBD (TBD)
Sun Dec. 30 Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m (FOX)
One of Tampa Bay’s third day picks will be made by a parrot. Sort of. Adam Maya of NFL.com:
Zsa Zsa, you’re on the clock.
The NFL announced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have a parrot reveal a Day 3 selection from the pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium.
Whereas the Buccaneers typically feature a remote-controlled parrot perched on the ship and engaging with fans, the draft called for the real thing. Zsa Zsa, an eight-year old Catalina Macaw hailing from the Florida Exotic Bird Sanctuary, will relay the Bucs’ fourth-round selection to an announcer on Saturday.
The bird’s involvement is just one of many creative initiatives being taken throughout the league for Day 3 selections. The 49ers will have Ron Howard, Chewbacca, stormtroopers and R2-D2 announce picks at Lucasfilm headquarters in San Francisco, in addition to the SFPAL’S 49ers prep flag football team. The Vikings will feature members of the 2018 U.S. men’s Olympic curling team, which became the country’s first ever to win gold, at the St. Paul Curling Club in Minnesota.
Last year, an orangutan aided in the Colts announcing their fourth-round selection of offensive lineman Zach Banner. Zsa Zsa is scheduled to fly onto the pirate ship with the Bucs’ selection in her beak and then repeat the announcement.
Say his name, say his name, Zsa Zsa.
John Lynch comes awfully close to saying LB RUEBEN FOSTER’s time with the 49ers is over. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
After linebacker Reuben Foster was charged with three felonies resulting from a February arrest related to an alleged domestic violence incident, the 49ers released a statement saying that his spot on the team is under “great scrutiny.”
They subsquently announced that Foster will not participate in team activities while he is dealing with legal matters and General Manager John Lynch addressed Foster’s status again on Monday. Lynch said Foster could rejoin the team if circumstances change, but also vowed to end Foster’s time with the team if the charges are proven.
“The gravity of these charges has not been lost on us,” Lynch said, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “We take it extremely seriously. We do feel like patience is the right approach right now. We’re gonna learn things through this legal process. I do want to be abundantly clear that if these charges are proven true, if Reuben did indeed hit this young lady, he will not be part of this organization going forward.”
Given how long legal proceedings of this type can take, it may be quite a while before the 49ers have the level of proof they would need to follow through on Lynch’s vow. It’s also unclear what circumstances might allow for Foster to return to the team pending the final resolution of the matter, but the G.M. did say that the team has to prepare for their football future as if one of last year’s first-round picks won’t be around.
The Raiders are picking up the fifth year option of WR AMARI COOPER. Marc Sessler of NFL.com:
The Raiders have made their feelings clear on Amari Cooper.
The team on Monday exercised the fifth-year option on their lead wideout, putting to bed a brief rash of hemming and hawing over Cooper’s future in Oakland. The option is set to be worth roughly $13.9 million.
“I don’t want to put anything out there, don’t want to put the cart before the horse so to speak,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said earlier this month about Cooper’s option, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “But we like Amari.”
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers announced Monday that they are picking up the fifth year option on RB MELVIN GORDON.
The Saints will let WR WILLIE SNEAD become a Raven. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
Snead signed an offer sheet with the Ravens late last week and PFT has learned, via a league source, that the Saints will not match the offer. Snead was tendered at the lowest level so Baltimore does not owe any compensation for signing the wideout.
It’s a two-year, $7 million contract for Snead with another $3.4 million available via incentives. Snead caught 141 passes for the Saints in 2015 and 2016 before dropping to eight catches in 11 games last season. Snead was suspended to start the year and never recovered his former role in the offense once he was reinstated.
He’ll try to find better footing with the Ravens, who have also added John Brown and Michael Crabtree to their receiving corps this offseason. They’ve been mentioned as a potential landing spot for Dez Bryant as well, but Snead’s addition doesn’t leave much space in the lineup at the moment.
Peter King quotes Mike Mayock on the Browns’ big choice:
“I really believe—and this is Mike Mayock talking, not [Cleveland GM] John Dorsey, I have no inside knowledge—my gut tells me that, if you’re choosing between the two, Josh Allen might have the higher ceiling, but you’ve swung and missed so many times in Cleveland at quarterback, can you afford another one with your first pick? Your first pick has got to set the tone, and I think at the end of the day it will be Sam Darnold, and he’s got a little Brett Favre in him, which I think John likes. John likes a little swagger. [Darnold will] make some mistakes and turn the ball over, but at the end of the day, that’s what my gut tells me.”
“Does he win? Does he have accuracy? Does he have a strong arm? Can he throw the ball in the red zone and in tight windows? Can he drive the ball? At the end of the game, does he win? That is kind of what I look for.”
—Cleveland GM John Dorsey, in discussing the quarterback-preference factors at his draft news conference Tuesday.
Darnold was 20-4 as a college starter, Allen 16-9 (at a lower level of competition).
My point: Look for clues in what Dorsey says during press conferences at your own risk.
The Steelers have exercised the fifth year option on LB BUD DUPREE. Marc Sessler of NFL.com:
The Steelers aren’t ready to give up on Bud Dupree.
Pittsburgh on Monday exercised the fifth-year option on the team’s 25-year-old pass-rusher, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Dupree’s price tag for 2019 comes in at a robust $9.232 million.
Dupree remains a work in progress for the Steelers. The 22nd overall pick from 2015 has failed to top six sacks in any of his first three campaigns, leaving plenty of Steelers fans frustrated with the fourth-year edge rusher.
General manager Kevin Colbert said last month the team was still pondering what to do with Dupree, saying the outside linebacker “hasn’t scratched the surface yet of his potential.”
GM Jon Robinson signals a move down. Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com:
The Titans picked 10 players in Jon Robinson’s first NFL Draft as the team’s general manager.
A year later, the team selected nine players in the draft.
Heading into this year’s draft, the Titans are scheduled to make just six picks, beginning with the 25th overall pick.
And that doesn’t sound like nearly enough for Robinson.
During a pre-draft press conference on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, Robinson made it clear he’d like to accumulate additional picks. He’ll need to orchestrate a trade to make it happen, of course.
“I love my draft picks,” said Robinson, shaking his head. “We’ll see how it goes. There may be a situation that comes up Thursday night, and we bail on 25. It is the value of the player that is staring at you on the board versus the value of the picks that you can get.
“Can you get that player that you are considering at 25 four picks later or are you going to miss out on him? Or would you rather have another, I don’t know, second or third round pick? That is stuff we’ll have to evaluate. I am working through some of that now, just preliminarily, what that would take for us to dance around the board there late.”
Robinson, hired as the team’s GM in 2016, anticipates fielding calls from other NFL teams when the Titans are on the clock at 25, but he said the team could initiate some calls prior to that in the draft.
In addition to the 25th overall pick, the Titans also have picks 57 (second round), 89 (third round), 125 (fourth round), 162 (fifth round) and 199 (sixth round). The Titans don’t currently have a seventh round pick.
“If there’s a player on the board that we really like and we don’t think he will make it to us, and we only have six picks, we don’t want to give up too much draft currency if we don’t have to,” Robinson said of the first round possibilities. “But that team, maybe their player is gone that they were going to take and maybe they are willing to mortgage it for next to nothing, so…”
They may have gone to the playoffs last year, but the Bills only get one primetime game and everything else is in the Sunday early window, everything else. We can’t recall a more vanilla schedule in terms of time…In fact 14 games are on CBS, including the Nov. 4 home tilt with the Bears which comes from FOX inventory…The one primetime game is a doozy, the hated Patriots at home in the cusp of Halloween…The Patriots game is Buffalo’s first division matchup and they don’t play the Dolphins until December…That game with New England comes after the Bills have been on the road for four of the previous five contests…All told, the Bills play five of the first seven on the road, then six of the final nine at home…Plenty of chance for a white field with three December dates at home.
Sun Sept. 9 at Baltimore Ravens 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 16 Los Angeles Chargers 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 23 at Minnesota Vikings 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 30 at Green Bay Packers 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 7 Tennessee Titans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 14 at Houston Texans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 21 at Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. (CBS)
Mon Oct. 29 New England Patriots 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Nov. 4 Chicago Bears 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Nov. 11 at New York Jets 1 p.m. (CBS)
Nov. 18 — BYE
Sun Nov. 25 Jacksonville Jaguars 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 2 at Miami Dolphins 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 9 New York Jets 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 16 Detroit Lions 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 23 at New England Patriots 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 30 Miami Dolphins 1 p.m. (CBS)
The Dolphins only have one primetime game, a Thursday night match on the road and everything else that appears on the schedule is at 1 p.m. …That’s a lot of Florida heat for the games with Tennessee and Oakland in September…Four of the first eight are on FOX, including the Thursday night game…They are done with the Jets by November 4, which is four weeks before they meet the Bills for the first time…A potentially very cold and snowy finale in Buffalo, offsets the September heat.
Sun Sept. 9 Tennessee Titans 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Sept. 16 at New York Jets 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 23 Oakland Raiders 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 30 at New England Patriots 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 7 at Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 14 Chicago Bears 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Oct. 21 Detroit Lions 1 p.m. (FOX)
Thr Oct. 25 at Houston Texans 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)
Sun Nov. 4 New York Jets 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Nov. 11 at Green Bay Packers 1 p.m. (CBS)
Nov. 18 — BYE
Sun Nov. 25 at Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 2 Buffalo Bills 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 9 New England Patriots 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 16 at Minnesota Vikings 1 p.m. (CBS)
Dec. 22 or 23 Jacksonville Jaguars TBD (TBD)
Sun Dec. 30 at Buffalo Bills 1 p.m. (CBS)
Do the NFL schedule makers think the Patriots will be less than dominant this season? New England gets five primetime games, but none after November 4…Four of the six games after the rather late bye are divisionals, including two against the Jets…There is a three-game homestand in Weeks 4-6, then only one home game between November 4 and December 16…This will be the 4th straight year that the Patriots meet the Steelers, the third straight year the game is in Pittsburgh.
Sun Sept. 9 Houston Texans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 16 at Jacksonville Jaguars 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Sept. 23 at Detroit Lions 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun Sept. 30 Miami Dolphins 1 p.m. (CBS)
Thr Oct. 4 Indianapolis Colts 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)
Sun Oct. 14 Kansas City Chiefs 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun Oct. 21 at Chicago Bears 1 p.m. (CBS)
Mon Oct. 29 at Buffalo Bills 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Nov. 4 Green Bay Packers 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sun Nov. 11 at Tennessee Titans 1 p.m. (CBS)
Nov. 18 — BYE
Sun Nov. 25 at New York Jets 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 2 Minnesota Vikings 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 9 at Miami Dolphins 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 16 at Pittsburgh Steelers 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 23 Buffalo Bills 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 30 New York Jets 1 p.m. (CBS)
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We missed this last week, but Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com had this on Resistance to the Deep State in New England:
On the 18th anniversary of Bill Belichick’s decision to make Tom Brady a Patriot, is Brady actively trying to unmake the Patriots?
The notion that #Tommy is fomenting Foxborough friction would have been inconceivable a year ago. Now, Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston connects the dots in a way that suggests Brady resides at the center of the storm that keeps gathering around Belichick and his grumpy old man ways.
Curran identifies scattered Patriots who revolted in the past, from Adalius Thomas to Randy Moss to Wes Welker to Logan Mankins. This time, it’s very different.
“The pushback now is being led by Brady,” Curran writes. “And it’s not about one thing, it’s about everything. It’s about the culture. A culture we’ve all celebrated for nearly two decades as being the reason the Patriots from 2001 through 2019 will be the standard by which all American sports dynasties are measured.
“But when the player whose buy-in is most important — Brady — begins an open revolt, then what? What changed? Who changed? How many teammates agree with him? What next?”
Curran’s column lacks hard evidence that would support the proclamation that Brady is leading a “pushback,” or that he has launched an “open revolt.” Curran will join Monday’s PFT PM podcast, where that will surely be one of the questions.
The column contains plenty of quotes from now-former Patriots that suggest a sea change regarding the willingness of players to continuously be mentally and emotionally beaten down by a “zero fun, sir” head coach whose quest to win each and every Super Bowl may not be shared by guys who eventually have a couple of rings (or more) and who decide that life is too short to let it be run by a single-minded, all-consuming, soul-expunging obsession.
Really, how many times can a guy give everything he has to keep scaling a mountain he already has scaled, especially when there’s no clear evidence that all work and no play is the secret to making it to the summit? The Eagles, a far more fun-loving and loose group than the Patriots, won the Super Bowl this year by beating the Patriots, thanks in part to Belichick choosing to send a message to the locker room in a way that kept one of his best defensive players on the bench for four hours.
It’s one thing to process a pair of losses to the Giants that felt like divinely-intervened flukes. It’s quite another to lose the Super Bowl to a team with a head coach who doesn’t expect his players to be robots, thanks in large part to a specific effort by Belichick to remind his robots that they should remain robotic by removing the battery from Malcolm Butler.
NEW YORK JETS
Two nationally-televised games in the first three weeks, then the Jets go into witness protection at 1 p.m… Presumably the hope in Week 3 is to get a match-up of the first two QBs in the 2018 draft, although the Browns are pledging to keep whoever they draft under wraps…Jets at Detroit for the first Monday night game is kind of uninspiring…Three of the first four are on the road, but then there is a three-game home stand…The Jets are done with the Dolphins (November 4) before they start with the Patriots (November 25).
Mon Sept. 10 at Detroit Lions 7:10 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun Sept. 16 Miami Dolphins 1 p.m. (CBS)
Thr Sept. 20 at Cleveland Browns 8:20 p.m. (NFLN)
Sun Sept. 30 at Jacksonville Jaguars 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Oct. 7 Denver Broncos 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 14 Indianapolis Colts 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Oct. 21 Minnesota Vikings 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Oct. 28 at Chicago Bears 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Nov. 4 at Miami Dolphins 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Nov. 11 Buffalo Bills 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Nov. 18 — BYE
Sun Nov. 25 New England Patriots 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 2 at Tennessee Titans 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Sun Dec. 9 at Buffalo Bills 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sat Dec. 15 Houston Texans TBD (NFLN)
Sun Dec. 23 Green Bay Packers 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sun Dec. 30 at New England Patriots 1 p.m. (CBS)
THIS AND THAT
Peter King thinks an award from Amnesty International should positively influence NFL owners vis a vis Colin Kaepernick.
I think I hope the 32 NFL owners saw Colin Kaepernick get the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award in Amsterdam on Saturday night. An internationally noted citizen cannot find employment in the NFL. If that’s not a damning indictment of the NFL, I don’t know what is.
Before we get to Peter King’s Mock Draft, this from King:
It is absurd that the NFL draft begins 108 days after the college football season ends, and 152 days after the last big Saturday of the college football season. There is no good reason for the draft to be so late, and to add to the already mountainous degree of difficulty for these college players by preventing them from working with their teams until May.
Peter King offers us his Mock Draft:
My advice to all of those professional and fan forecasters of the 2018 NFL draft in the hours leading up to the first round on Thursday: Be careful with the absolute statements. Three of the first four picks are controlled by two men (Cleveland GM John Dorsey at one and four, GM Dave Gettleman of the Giants at two) who could work for the CIA. There’s an inordinate number of teams very high that I believe will want to trade down, and perhaps for only moderate value because of the strength of the second and third rounds and the thinness of the first round.
“This year it seems like there’s no normal,” San Francisco GM John Lynch said on Saturday. The Niners pick ninth in the first round. “I’m having our analytics guys go over every scenario we could face at nine, and there could be 50 of ’em.”
And so this year’s mock first round is a dart-throw if there ever was one. Wish me luck. Trades (and wild guesses) included.
1. CLEVELAND—SAM DARNOLD, QB, USC
Though half the free world has Josh Allen to the Browns, it’d still be a risk because he didn’t dominate mid-level competition. Dorsey is a measurables guy, and Allen is THE measurable quarterback here (6’5″, 237 pounds, 4.79 in the 40). But a couple of factors influenced my call here. One is Mike Mayock. The NFL Network conscience has a way of cutting through the gorgonzola and stating reality. He said the Browns have made too many mistakes on quarterbacks, and they can’t go risky here. It made a lot of sense—and Mayock is a guy who loves the long-term Josh Allen. And we’re all prisoners of the people we know in this league. And someone I trust, who is very often right and is very well-connected, told me Sunday it’s not Allen. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Science of the Mock. Darnold is safe, with strong potential, and most NFL folks think he can turn around the turnover bug (37 career turnovers in 26 USC games). Darnold’s a jock who wants to be a great football player. And at 8:46 p.m. Sunday, that’s where I am. All I can say is, good luck to anyone who bets on the first pick in the draft based on my waffling logic.
2. NEW YORK GIANTS—SAQUON BARKLEY, RB, PENN STATE
Just seems logical. No inside dope here—though I did hear Sunday that Darnold is the Giants’ guy if they choose a quarterback. Gettleman did draft Christian McCaffrey eighth overall last year for the runner-needy Panthers. The Giants haven’t had a great back in 12 years, since Tiki Barber retired. The consistency of Barkley—three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons at a high level of competition, rushing averages of 5.9, 5.5 and 5.9 yards per rush—has to attract the Giants, as would the thought of Barkley, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and left tackle Nate Solder to take the pressure off 37-year-old Eli Manning.
3. NEW YORK JETS—JOSH ROSEN, QB, UCLA
Could be Baker Mayfield, easily. And there have been times in this process when I was sure it would be Mayfield. But I give the Jets the surest QB thing in this draft, as long as you can live with the specter of his two documented concussions and all the noise (which I consider total bullcrap) about Rosen’s life of other interests. The Jets need a player who can be suave, sophisticated and ready for Broadway, and this quarterback is as ready as any since Namath.
4. CLEVELAND—BRADLEY CHUBB, EDGE, N.C. STATE
I spent most of Saturday trying to figure a way to give the Browns the heir to Joe Thomas in tackle Mike McGlinchey, and just couldn’t make it work with a trade-down. Nice consolation prize here. Chubb’s had two straight years of 10 sacks and 20 tackles-for-loss, and is easily the best front-seven disrupter in a weak class of them. But Dorsey will have multiple options here if he wants to move.
5. ARIZONA (FROM DENVER)—BAKER MAYFIELD, QB, OKLAHOMA
Call this hunch the Won’t Get Fooled Again Pick. I’ve always thought a segment of the Cardinals had regrets over the 2017 draft when, with a 37-year-old quarterback (Carson Palmer) possibly in his last year, they were leap-frogged by teams that took Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson one and three picks ahead of them. Plus, the Cardinals don’t like Baker Mayfield. They love him. That’s a good thing, because John Elway likes him a lot too. Interesting strange-bedfellows scene at the Broncos’ cafeteria during Mayfield’s on-campus visit. Elway sat alone at one table with Mayfield, conversing. Walking through the salad bar at the time: Case Keenum.
6. BUFFALO (FROM INDIANAPOLIS)—JOSH ALLEN, QB, WYOMING
While we’re hung up on finding a landing spot for all the quarterbacks, I’d remind you of four things at this pick: A) I don’t know if Buffalo loves Allen; B) but I hear they love his ability to throw it through the lake effect winds and snow; C) Allen is a garrulous, genial version of Jim Kelly, a rifle-armed work in progress the fans in western New York will love; and D) I think this trade fits both teams because I’m not sure the Colts would demand both Bills’ first-round picks in return. In fact, because of the strength of the second round, I could see Colts GM Chris Ballard valuing the 53rd and 56th picks collectively higher than the 22nd pick in this draft. So, 12, 53, 56 and, say, 96 for six? Could be equitable. It would leave the Bills with their second of two first-rounders.
7. TAMPA BAY—MINKAH FITZPATRICK, DB, ALABAMA
No end to the love for the versatile Fitzpatrick, who can play either safety, either corner, the slot, or, in a pinch, as an in-the-box linebacker. And he’s done it for three full seasons at the highest level of college football, which NFL people love. Denzel Ward could go here too, but my bet’s on the valued Fitzpatrick. Late note: One or two teams who are sniffing around this area of the draft love Fitzpatrick.
8. CHICAGO—QUENTON NELSON, G, NOTRE DAME
If this doesn’t happen, every mock drafter in America will be proven to be the frauds we all are. I mean, usually there’s some universal agreement on something at the top of the draft. This year, it’s universal agreement on the man Notre Dame line-coach-turned-new-Bears line coach Harry Hiestand coached in his college career, Nelson. And it fits what new coach Matt Nagy wants—a mauler who will help Nagy build the run game and protective front wall to give Mitchell Trubisky the space and time he needs in up-the-middle protection. Smart pick.
9. SAN FRANCISCO—ROQUAN SMITH, LB, GEORGIA
As a sideline-to-sideline playmaker in this draft, Smith has no peer. I gave McGlinchey and cornerback Denzel Ward serious consideration here too—as are the Niners. But I passed on McGlinchey because of the Niners’ belief that Joe Staley, who will be 34 in August, can play two more seasons at a good level. And the need for Smith, particularly with the uncertain future of linebacker Reuben Foster, could be great in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s scheme, where athletic playmakers are a must at linebacker.
10. OAKLAND—MIKE MCGLINCHEY, T, NOTRE DAME
The Raiders have multiple needs, and Denzel Ward and Derwin James fit perfectly here too, with a scotch-taped secondary (only Gareon Conley is solid at corner; free safety Reggie Nelson turns 35 in September) in place for new coordinator Paul Guenther. But left tackle Donald Penn (35 on Friday) has maybe a year or two left, and a franchise quarterback stays a franchise quarterback in part because of how he’s protected. Derek Carr would vote for this pick.
11. MIAMI—VITA VEA, DT, WASHINGTON
The New Suh. This pick is notable more for what the Dolphins aren’t doing. Like everyone else, I was pretty sure Miami would be among the cadre of teams looking to trade up for a quarterback. The splash move has been an MO of club architect Mike Tannenbaum over his career. And maybe it happens. But more recently I’ve started to think, through what I’ve heard in the pre-draft process, that Miami is more likely to stick with Ryan Tannehill (who has missed the last 19 games with injury) and continue the progress he was making with Adam Gase in the 2016 season. We’ll see. One word of caution with Vea: He’s got to manage his weight if he wants to be more than a two-down player.
12. INDY (FROM BUFFALO)—TREMAINE EDMUNDS, OLB, VIRGINIA TECH
A note about what the Colts have done, if I’m right here (and I have my doubts) about Indy dealing the sixth pick to Buffalo for a first, two mid-seconds, and a low-third-round pick. In January, Colts GM Chris Ballard owned picks in rounds one, two and three—3, 36 and 67 overall. With this second trade-down of the first-rounder, the Colts would have 12, 36, 37, 49, 53, 56, 67 and 96 this year … plus the Jets’ second-round pick in 2019. With all the holes Ballard has to fill, Edmunds is a very good start. Raw but fast (4.54 in the 40) and physical. Big need for the Colts’ D.
13. WASHINGTON—DENZEL WARD, CB, OHIO STATE
He’s got the speed and the hands to anchor a needy Washington secondary for years, and he’d go higher if he had a bigger body. One other knock is that he had only two interceptions in two-plus seasons for the Buckeyes, but Jalen Ramsey hadn’t been a productive picker either when Jacksonville got him in 2016. Washington needs edge help too, so I can see Marcus Davenport in play here.
14. GREEN BAY—JOSH JACKSON, CB, IOWA
For a team that’s spent so much draft capital on the secondary recently (five defensive backs picked in the top two rounds in the last four drafts), the Packers sure need a cornerback for new coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme. Tramon Williams, at 35, could start at corner for Green Bay this fall. The big knock on Jackson is his 4.54 speed in the 40, and that’s a legitimate worry. But his eight picks last year in the Big Ten caught scouts’ eyes, and some think he could be Richard Sherman. He’s tall (6’1″), instinctive, a former wideout like Sherman, and, like Sherman, has a frame that can add some strength. Marcus Peters doesn’t have the great speed either, but he’s proven that smarts and instincts win in the NFL too.
15. DENVER (FROM ARIZONA)—MIKE HUGHES, CB, CENTRAL FLORIDA
Hughes has some personal concerns that could push him down the board, so this is as fungible a pick as I could make; it’s a need pick for the Broncos, who I believe will deal down with a few positions of great need and go for the corner. Watch for interior lineman James Daniels of Iowa here too. Broncos have need in both spots. And, of course, Elway will be torn about staying and picking Baker Mayfield in this scenario. Tough call for him, but he doesn’t want to throw away Paxton Lynch just yet. What sold Elway on this theoretical trade was Arizona’s No. 1 in 2019, which could be a top-10 pick if the Cards are the worst team in the NFC West.
16. BALTIMORE—DERWIN JAMES, S, FLORIDA STATE
Ravens love his instincts, his love of football and his position versatility. He might end up as a Will linebacker and a sideline-to-sideline chaser and hitter. Watch for defensive end Marcus Davenport here if James is gone. Lamar Jackson’s a possibility, but I see Baltimore filling a bigger need and giving Joe Flacco this season to solidify his future in Baltimore long-term.
17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS—KOLTON MILLER, T, UCLA
Boom or bust guy for a lot of people in this draft. Need pick for the Chargers. Strange that with such a good back, Melvin Gordon, the Chargers struggled so much on the ground last year; they were 32nd in the league in rushing. More importantly, the Chargers need some long-term answers on what’s been a patchwork unit for a few years. They may have to be patient with this one-year starter.
18. SEATTLE—MARCUS DAVENPORT, DE, TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO
You know how we always say, This team never thought Player X would be there? This is the first example of that in the first round. Davenport could go 10 to Oakland, and in a few spots between. I believe GM John Schneider thought it smart at this point to deal this pick down, and he very well would have if a good falling player was not available. Good for the Seahawks—who have had some rotten luck in recent drafts (particularly with Malik McDowell)—to be able stay put and get a guy who looks like the second-best edge-rush prospect in this draft.
19. DALLAS—D.J. MOORE, WR-KR, MARYLAND
What, no Calvin Ridley? The Alabama wideout seemed so natural here, as did Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans, at a position (sideline-to-sideline linebacker) of major need for Dallas. But Moore, a fast riser with return ability, could solve two issues for Dallas, and the Cowboys want to find a long-term receiver to be what Dez Bryant failed to be since signing a huge deal in 2015. It’s a risky venture, though, based on the recent performance of so many failed number one picks.
20. DETROIT—DA’RON PAYNE, DT, ALABAMA
This is an Albert Breer special. I stole it from him, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Payne is the kind of versatile, big-bodied interior lineman who will be a Matt Patricia staple in the next three years as he builds a stout front. Payne is 311 pounds, a bit of a Malcom Brown type, and he’s just 20, with lots of time to be sculpted into a classic two and three-down player to disrupt the interior in the NFC North.
21. CINCINNATI—LAMAR JACKSON, QB, LOUISVILLE
The Brown family has a shake-it-up history at quarterback dating back to Boomer Esiason in round two of 1984, and this would certainly shake up the locker room and the draft. So many reliable draftniks (Mayock, McShay, etc.) think Jackson has the potential to be the most exciting and productive quarterback in this crop—but you’ll have to cater your offense to him. Isn’t that what good coaches do? Get very good players and cater their schemes to fit the players? I like this pick for the Bengals, even if it could push Andy Dalton (five of seven starting seasons with a sub-90 passer rating) out of town in 2019.
22. BUFFALO—JAMES DANIELS, G-C, IOWA
Need pick. Smart of the Bills to insist in their dealings and offers to various teams that they’d have to keep this pick to buttress a part of their team buffeted by a wild offseason. Gone: center Eric Wood and guard Richie Incognito (retired) and tackle Cordy Glenn (traded). If you’d told anyone in the Bills front office that they’d exit day one of the draft with a quarterback of the future and the second-best interior lineman in the draft with lots of experience playing pro-style football, they’d have been very happy.
23. NEW ENGLAND—RASHAAN EVANS, LB, ALABAMA
The Patriots are the chameleon of the first round. As of this morning, I cannot see them trading into the top of the draft for a quarterback. But I can see them doing something else big—I just don’t know what it is. Trading next year’s one? Dealing Gronk? Packaging a lot of picks to go after a beloved played like Bradley Chubb? Mostly, I think the Patriots will stock up on the long-term future. With Evans playing in tandem (at least early) with fellow Tide alum Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots would have a force at linebacker in the next couple years.
24. CAROLINA—CALVIN RIDLEY, WR, ALABAMA
There aren’t many national championship-caliber wideouts in an era of plummeting production of first-round receivers in the draft that show the potential of Ridley. Alabama’s not a bombs-away offense, and in his three seasons there, Ridley caught 89, 72 and 63 balls. But he’s not a great deep threat, which is why he’s still hanging around here at 24. Still, the Panthers’ need at the position is huge, and Ridley’s slide past mid-round is a gift for Cam Newton.
25. TENNESSEE—HAROLD LANDRY, EDGE, BOSTON COLLEGE
The Titans would match need with good fortune if Landry is still on the board after 75 percent of the first round. A year ago, after Landry’s 16.5-sack season in 2016, he decided to return to BC, and he was projected in some preseason mocks as the first pick of 2018. But an ankle injury stunted his production, and now some team will be taking him on the come. The Titans desperately need Landry’s help on the edge, and new coach Mike Vrabel will make sure he gets enough chances to show his burst around end.
26. ATLANTA—TAVEN BRYAN, DT, FLORIDA
Some scouts think Bryan, at 291 pounds with a sub-5.0 40 time, will be a better pro than collegian. He had only 16 tackles behind the line in three NCAA seasons, and playing next to Grady Jarrett, he should do better than that. Atlanta needs depth along the defensive front, and even if Bryan is only a 35-snaps-per-game player, it’s a need that cries out to be addressed.
27. NEW ORLEANS—FRANK RAGNOW, C-G, ARKANSAS
My surprise of the first round. The Saints could use a center with some position versatility. Max Unger is 32. The Saints are in an interesting position. They for once have no crying need entering the draft and can afford to draft, say, a sixth offensive lineman who could start in 2019 or 2020 at guard or center. Ragnow has had time in the strong SEC at both center and guard, and the Saints think he’s the kind of brute-force player (with some athleticism) who could start for them for a few years.
28. PITTSBURGH—JAIRE ALEXANDER, CB, LOUISVILLE
Oh, how wonderful it would have been if the draft fell just right to the Steelers and they could take an all-field playmaker to replace the fallen Ryan Shazier. That playmaker, Leighton Vander Esch, could be available at 28 … but he’s got a cervical issue that is causing some to steer clear of him this week. In Alexander, the Steelers could get a 4.38 cover guy who’s shown eagerness to tackle and be a physical player in run support. He’d be a good fit for Mike Tomlin.
29. JACKSONVILLE—CHRISTIAN KIRK, WR, TEXAS A&M
The Jags can’t love any of the wideouts left, but they’ve got a need, and Kirk was hugely productive as a college player if not particularly explosive. He had 80, 83 and 71 catches, with 26 total touchdowns, in his three collegiate seasons, and the Jaguars need a producer right now after the offseason losses of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Things turn over quickly in Jacksonville, and Kirk will have to produce right away.
30. MINNESOTA—WILL HERNANDEZ, G, UTEP
The Vikings can plug holes here rather than seek the best available player, regardless of position. The guard group for Minnesota is its biggest weakness (possible starters: Nick Easton, Tom Compton), and Hernandez, many scouts think, is a plug-and-play day one starter with the kind of mean streak in the running game that will make him an immediate favorite of the pugnacious Mike Zimmer. I love this pick for them.
31. NEW ENGLAND—LEIGHTON VANDER ESCH, LB, BOISE STATE
I realize the Patriots need long-term players, and Vander Esch has worried some teams in the league with cervical issues at Boise, and he has but one very good season on his résumé. Cool story. He played eight-man football in high school in Idaho, and just recently emerged as a strong bottom-of-the-first-round candidate. Some teams have marked him down because of his neck issues, and there’s a strong chance the Patriots will be too worried about it to pick him here. We’ll see.
32. PHILADELPHIA—CONNOR WILLIAMS, G-T, TEXAS
But I think the Eagles are much more likely to deal this pick; I just don’t know to whom. They’re seeking a trade—that I can tell you. Philadelphia has no pick in rounds two or three, and the Eagles don’t pick until the end of round four. So as of now, they go from 33 to 129 without a pick. That’s why they’ll be trying to deal all night Thursday. If they stick … The Eagles have a 35-year-old left tackle, Jason Peters, coming off major injury, and starting guards (Stefan Wisniewski and Brandon Brooks) who will be 29 this season. Connor’s the perfect pick for them, in the unlikely event they stick.