The Daily Briefing Monday, May 1, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
I think I must ask (and I am not the first): Is it really necessary for Roger Goodell to announce all the picks on day one, and a host of them on day two, while boos rain down on him like a summer storm in a rainforest? I bring you two sub-quotes of the week, from day two, when you think the crowd might have gotten the booing out of its system after doing it 32 times Thursday. The first, when Goodell went onstage with Ron Jaworski to kick off day two, and he could barely be heard over the booing in Philadelphia: “JUST ONE SECOND! And you can resume your booing.” And then this, every time he returned Friday:
“BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Wouldn’t it be better, say, if he kicked off the draft with either military folks with him (perhaps just after the National Anthem) or with some legendary players on stage from the city hosting doing the draft? And then, in each city, a local legend (Ron Jaworski in Philadelphia, for example) announces the first-round picks, with Goodell off to the side, welcoming and bro-hugging the players but not getting showered with disdain … and then the league continues the tradition of various announcers for the rest of the draft. It’s getting distracting, trying to hear Goodell over the rancor. It’s almost to the point that the booers seem to be trying to out-do themselves. It can’t be good for the league, or the 32 owners, to see that, year after year.
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Here are the drafted QBs:
Trubisky, Mitchell Round 1 (2) Bears 6’2″222 North Carolina
Mahomes, Patrick Round 1 (10) Chiefs 6’2″225 Texas Tech
Watson, Deshaun Round 1 (12) Texans 6’2″221 Clemson
Kizer, DeShone Round 2 (52) Browns 6’4″233 Notre Dame
Webb, Davis Round 3 (87) Giants 6’5″229 California
Beathard, C.J. Round 3 (104) 49ers 6’2″219 Iowa
Dobbs, Joshua Round 4 (135) Steelers 6’3″216 Tennessee
Peterman, Nathan Round 5 (171) Bills 6’2″226 Pittsburgh
Kaaya, Brad Round 6 (215) Miami 6’4″214 Lions
Kelly, Chad Round 7 (253) Broncos 6’2″224 Mississippi
Some thoughts from the DB on the chart:
All three first round QBs were selected after teams traded up to get them, presumably to replace MIKE GLENNON, ALEX SMITH and TOM SAVAGE. All three are basically the same size – as are three of the other seven.
When we look at that trio, why did this pop into mind from the first round in 2011:
1 Cam Newton Panthers
8 Jake Locker Titans
10 Blaine Gabbert Jaguars
12 Christian Ponder Vikings
The three QBs after Newton are all out of the league. The teams that selected them have long since used another first round pick on a quarterback (only Tennessee would seem to have done so successfully). There were plenty of other good players that could have been drafted instead (T Tyron Smith went at 9 to Dallas, DE J.J. Watt went at 11 to Houston).
Nine other QBs went in later rounds in that 2011 draft. Andy Dalton is now a 2nd round starter. Colin Kaepernick also in the 2nd round had more success than Locker/Gabbert/Ponder. Tyrod Taylor of Buffalo was a 6th round pick for a different team (Ravens) than the one he tenuously starts for.
Is Kizer going to be the Dalton of this draft, the second rounder who succeeds better than the first rounders? Who is going to bust and who might surprise like Russell Wilson or Dak Prescott?
We note that the Steelers, apparently thinking Landry Jones is not the answer when Ben Roethlisberger called it quits drafted Dobbs in the 4th round who might be the poor man’s Prescott. Like Dak, Dobbs is an athletic QB with plenty of SEC experience, but with questions about his pure passing ability. He’s smarter than Dak (or any other QB to come out recently), but hasn’t been as successful in elevating his college team.
The Giants also tried to get a later round successor for their older QB by drafting Davis Webb of Cal (he was run out of Texas Tech by Mahomes). The Chargers, Cardinals and Saints did not opt to draft possible replacements for Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Drew Brees.
The Steelers took Dobbs over Peterman, the Pitt QB who literally spent his career in their training facility.
Kyle Shanahan seems to love C.J. Beathard far more than any other scout. He didn’t see much action at the Senior Bowl, but that could have been due to a lingering injury from his Iowa bowl game.
Days later, the NFL remains baffled by the thinking of Bears GM Ryan Pace. Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com:
The beauty of the draft is in the eye of the beholder. It will take years for these players to succeed or falter and the true outcome of which teams got it right and which ones struck out is impossible to know right now.
But that hasn’t stopped evaluators and decision-makers around the NFL from whispering about what they liked and what they didn’t like. And no team is being met with more scrutiny than the Bears. It’s not a revelation that things are not great between young GM Ryan Pace and old-school head coach John Fox. I’ve been reporting and commenting on it since before last season. But it is reaching a nadir and the puzzling decision to give up a ransom to move up one spot and take QB Mitchell Trubisky, who would have been sitting there at pick No. 3 anyway, is just one of several decisions that has others questioning the longevity of this regime in Chicago.
“We don’t know what the hell they were doing,” said an executive from one team that is routinely in the postseason. “It’s all anyone is talking about. It’s really bad between Pace and Fox. Fox is fuming about being left in the dark on the trade (for Trubisky). I don’t know anyone who likes their draft. From the first pick on, we can’t figure out what they were doing. Go back and look at how many small-school kids they took. People around the league are shocked. It’s really bad between Pace and Fox.”
An executive from another team noted: “Either the Bears know something no one else in the league knows, or that draft just got a lot of people fired only they don’t know it yet.”
The Trubisky pick will tell the tale of this franchise moving forward. And it remains to be seen whether or not this old-school ownership group would blow everything up again in 2018 or not (front office and coaching staff), but few groups will go into this season under more scrutiny. The Bears had just five picks in total after trades, and selected players from Ashland University, North Carolina A&T and Kutztown to go with Trubisky and an injured safety from Alabama, despite having glaring holes all over the roster.
Oh, and don’t forget they gave Mike Glennon $18.5M to play quarterback for them this season. Perhaps the Bears will prove the skeptics and critics wrong, but if they don’t, there is almost certain to be a significant shakeup there come January. If Pace does get to hire another head coach next year, I expect you hear plenty about longtime Saints assistant Pete Carmichael, who he worked with in New Orleans, and highly-regarded Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald. Most assume Fitzgerald will never leave that program, but the Bears might well try to coerce him should they suffer another poor campaign — as my man Brady Quinn astutely pointed out during our draft live show over the weekend.
Thoughts from Rob Rang at CBSSports.com:
Scouts like to use the baseball analogy of swinging for the fences with first-round picks and no club swung mightier than the Chicago Bears with their top choice, surrendering three picks (No. 67 and 111 in 2017 and a third-rounder in 2018) to move up just one spot to guarantee the selection of North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The move was surprising given that the Bears invested big dollars in veteran Mike Glennon and have few proven weapons for either quarterback to throw to, but Trubisky does possess intriguing traits, including accuracy, mobility and vision.
General manager Ryan Pace gave his quarterback(s) some help later, but each of those picks is facing a steep jump in competition, with second-round tight end Adam Shaheen playing his college ball at Ashland, fourth-round running back Tarik Cohen starring at North Carolina A&T and offensive lineman Jordan Morgan toying with opponents at Kutztown. Alabama free safety Eddie Jackson, selected in the fourth round, was a notable exception, but he is coming off injury.
If Trubisky is the Bears’ long-term answer, Pace will have quickly found security in Chicago. However, at least from the outside looking in, this draft reeks of unnecessary risk and a potential disconnect between Pace and his coaching staff.
The beleaguered Pace gets some support from Peter King:
When new Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was introduced to the crowd at the Celtics-Bulls game Friday night in Chicago, fans booed. It was probably due to the impression from fans that the Bears overpaid to move up from the third pick in the draft to the second to get Trubisky in a trade with San Francisco. I disagree with the anger over the deal.
The last time a team traded up from three to two in the first round to get a quarterback happened in 1998, when San Diego moved up one spot and ended up drafting Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf. Let’s compare the compensation paid for two quarterbacks picked in the same spot 19 years apart.
• What the Bears paid to move from three to two for Trubisky: third- and fourth-round picks this year, and a 2018 fourth-round pick.
• What the Chargers paid to move from three to two for Leaf: a second-round pick in 1998, a first-round pick in 1999, returner/receiver Eric Metcalf and linebacker Patrick Sapp.
NFL teams use a device during the draft (reference above in my lead on the Niners) called the draft-trade value chart, which assigns points to every pick in the draft. So when teams start to talk trade, they can use some sort of universal trade language to calculate the fairness of the compensation. Let’s calculate how much San Diego GM Bobby Beathard paid to move up to get Leaf, and how much Bears GM Ryan Pace paid to move up for Trubisky, using an estimate of the 16th pick in the fourth round to calculate the value of the 2018 pick for this year’s calculus.
• Points Beathard paid to get in position to draft Leaf: 1,980.
• Points Pace paid to get in position to draft Trubisky: 580.
I know how this looked Thursday night: The Bears waaaay overpaid for Trubisky, when they could have just sat at three and drafted him. That’s possible, and in fact it’s more likely than not. But as someone who was with San Francisco GM John Lynch for much of the day, and in a planning meeting with cap guy Paraag Marathe and coach Kyle Shanahan 25 minutes before the draft began, and in the 49ers’ draft room that evening, I can tell you that is a false assumption. Ask me my gut feeling, and it is that yes, the Bears would have gotten Trubisky at three without moving. But it was not at all certain. What if the scenario happened that, as of Thursday, was legitimately possible—what if the Browns packed up enough picks to make the Niners move from two to 12? The 49ers had been in touch with Cleveland before the draft, and were anticipating they could get a call from the Browns when they were on the clock at two with Trubisky available. There was also a mystery team that I could not identify that wanted to move to two and wouldn’t say which player the team was targeting.
Understand this also: The Niners were not stuck on drafting Solomon Thomas had they stayed at two. It certainly was most likely, but they would have been fine with moving back for a ransom, or moving back as far as eight and taking Reuben Foster for less of a ransom.
So let’s say you’re Pace, and you’ve determined that you really want Trubisky. You call the 49ers and trying to work out fair compensation if the Browns do not pick him at one. You think Trubisky’s going to be the long-term Bears quarterback, starting in 2018 or later. By late Thursday afternoon, you think there’s probably an 80 percent chance you’re going to get Trubisky at three. Are you willing to take the chance of staying put? Or, for the cost of the 67th and 111th picks this year and a third-rounder next year, are you willing to guarantee you’ll get Trubisky if Cleveland passes on him?
The market for quarterbacks is always weird. In 2004, the Giants had the fourth overall pick and dealt it to San Diego for the first overall pick, so New York could snare Eli Manning in 2004. The Giants gave up future first-, third- and fifth-round picks to make the swap. That’s a lot. But is it really? Manning has helped deliver two Super Bowl titles to the Giants in 13 seasons, and he’s been an ironman. This year’s market was filled with flawed passers who were lusted after nonetheless. Really, the NFL has two drafts—a regular draft, and a draft for quarterbacks. Yet three teams moved up a total of 31 draft slots to get them. The Chiefs, Texans and Bears paid a total of two 2018 first-round picks and a third- in ’18, plus two thirds and a fourth this year to move up for Trubisky, Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
For quarterbacks, NFL history says you pay Four Seasons prices. That’s why I can’t fault Pace for what he did. He wasn’t willing to risk losing the guy he loved.
We had forgotten that the Chargers traded up to get Ryan Leaf – and that the GM was Bobby Beathard.
Pete Prisco didn’t like Detroit’s draft, although his comments read better than the final grade:
First-round pick Jarrad Davis is a nice three-down linebacker who will fill a major need, so that pick is solid. But this is a team that had major pass-rush issues last season, and they waited until the sixth round to take a defensive lineman. That’s not wise in a division with Aaron Rodgers. Second-round corner Teez Tabor was a reach at that spot. I just didn’t think it was a good haul for the Lions.
Pete Prisco is impressed by Green Bay’s draft:
Some general managers seem to always do it right in the draft, and Green Bay’s Ted Thompson is one of those guys. He had another good draft, trading out of the first round and still landing a lot of good players. He took Washington corner Kevin King in the second round, and he will be a big-time player. Second-round safety Josh Jones is a nice player who helps offset the loss of Micah Hyde. I love third-round defensive tackle Montravius Adams. Fourth-round running back Jamaal Williams will be a 1,200-yard rusher in a season at some point in his career.
Rob Rang on the Vikings draft:
The Vikings did not have a first-round pick in 2017 but got a top-32 talent nonetheless, when Florida State running back Dalvin Cook slide to No. 41 overall. A superstar from Day 1 in Tallahassee, Cook could overtake free-agent addition Latavius Murray as the Vikings’ primary weapon out of the backfield if he can prove that his character and injury concerns have been overblown. Head coach Mike Zimmer has a well-earned reputation for grit, which could make classic Big Ten standouts Pat Elflein (center) and Ben Gedeon (linebacker) immediate favorites of his among this rookie class. Perhaps Zimmer’s personality will rub off a bit on Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and Day 3 pass-catchers Stacy Coley and Bucky Hodges, who have each flashed exciting playmaking ability but have struggled with consistency over their respective collegiate careers.
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I think the most stunning non-draft news of the week, to me, was the Vikings prepping to say goodbye to Teddy Bridgewater after the 2017 season, reportedly leaning toward not exercising his fifth-year option. Just think where we were nine months ago. Bridgewater was the centerpiece of the franchise, the 10-year cornerstone. Then, just before the season started, he took one awkward step on the practice field and blew out his knee and did significant nerve damage, and there hasn’t been enough regeneration reportedly, and here we are. Amazing and sad at the same time.
So should we believe that TMZ.com has sources in the NFL Drug Program? Jerry Jones doesn’t. Clarence Hill, Jr. in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones openly questioned a report from TMZ regarding another failed drug test by suspended defensive end Randy Gregory.
“I would be very skeptical,” Jones said Sunday asked about the TMZ report of Gregory not only failing a seventh test but he also blowing off NFL drug treatment officials attempting to contact him, thus putting his future reinstatement and career in jeopardy.
Gregory is already serving a year-long suspension for repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
He can apply for reinstatement in December but it hinges on his ability to stay clean and adhere to the treatment program.
Jones said the Cowboys remain very supportive of Gregory and believe he is a great asset to the team.
“We need him on the football field,” Jones said. “We do support him absolutely.”
Jones even acknowledges that he had optimistic hopes of Gregory returning the league because of possible negotiations to changes to the NFL’s drug policy in regards to marijuana.
To that end, however, Jones said that Gregory is in a good place and has a lot of support as he continues to deal with his issues, better than last year and at any time since he’s been in the league.
It’s one reason why Jones scoffed at the report of Gregory not cooperating with the league officials.
“That’s just not right,” Jones said. “He is getting a lot of support
He is not void in any way. He’s got in my mind a better method of support than he had most of last year. I’m very comfortable with his support and we are trying to stay in communication with him.”
Gregory, a top 10 talent at Nebraska, dropped to the second round in the 2015 NFL Draft where he was picked by the Cowboys because of a failed drug test the NFL Scouting combine.
His troubles returned almost immediately as he failed a test during the season resulting in four-game fine. He then failed another test, resulting in a four-game suspension to start the 2016 season. A subsequent failed test prompted an additional 10-game suspension.
He returned to play two games before getting popped again, resulting in the year-long suspension.
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In case you missed it, here is Drew Pearson’s epic introduction of the Cowboys’ second round pick, delivered over a crescendo of boos:
“How about them Cowboys?! I want to thank the Eagle fans for allowing me to have a career in the NFL. Thank you. I am honored as an undrafted free agent to be selected to make the Cowboys’ second-round draft pick, and on behalf of the five-time world champion Dallas Cowboys, Hall of Fame owner Jerry Jones! … Gene Jones and the Jones family, coach Jason Garrett and ALL THE COWBOYS PLAYERS WHO PLAYED BEFORE ME! … And played with me and played after me! … With the 60th pick in the second round the Dallas Cowboys select defensive back from Colorado Chidobe Awuzie!!!”
—Former Dallas wide receiver Drew Pearson, who drove the crowd crazy in Philadelphia with a massive trolling of the Eagles while introducing the second-round pick for Dallas.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com on first round pick TE EVAN ENGRAM:
It had become painful watching Giants tight ends Will Tye and Larry Donnell play. Neither could run-block well and, worse, both were reliable when it came to failed catches. (Tye due to limited athletic flexibility, Donnell to shaky hands.) At worst, Engram can rectify the catching problem. At best, he can revolutionize an already scary passing game. For all the Giants’ talent at wide receiver, the lack of threat over the middle of the field made their simplistic, execution-based passing game too easy to defend tactically.
Pete Prisco on the Redskins draft:
Although they don’t have a true general manager, the Redskins had a nice draft haul. With their first two picks, they picked two good Alabama players. They got lineman Jonathan Allen in the first and pass rusher Ryan Anderson in the second. Those were two need spots. Allen was really a steal at No. 17. They also got first-round talent in UCLA corner Fabian Moreau, who dropped because of a torn pectoral muscle. Fifth-round tight end Jeremy Sprinkle is an in-line tight end to go with Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed.
Thoughts from Andy Benoit on Atlanta’s first round pick DE TAKKARIST McKINLEY:
Atlanta’s young, rapidly improving defense had only one need: an edge rusher opposite Vic Beasley. If McKinley shows half the determined energy on the field that he did onstage Thursday night, well, he’ll get 15 sacks and about that many personal fouls flags a year.
Andy Benoit on whether or not RB CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY is a good fit with the Panthers:
What always skews the equation is how a player fits his new team’s scheme. It’s not as simple as a team having a need at a position and a man who plays that position. It’s about how that man plays the position.
The most fascinating illustration is the Panthers’ selection, eighth overall, of Stanford Swiss Army knife Christian McCaffrey. GM Dave Gettleman will surely say McCaffrey was their top running back choice. Most likely, the top choice was actually LSU bruiser Leonard Fournette (taken fourth overall by Jacksonville).
Disclaimer: If McCaffrey turns out to be a transcendent NFL talent, then these next few paragraphs will be rendered moot. But truly transcendent talents rarely come around. If McCaffrey winds up just being a versatile, dynamic weapon, as many scouts expect, then there’s a fascinating disconnect with him in Carolina.
Players such as McCaffrey, who can line up anywhere and are most dangerous in space, are built for spread offenses that are predicated on quick-timed passing games. Think Darren Sproles or Randall Cobb. The reason for this is that the mismatches the running back creates by flexing to receiver often reveal the coverage before the snap. That information is what helps the QB get the ball out quickly.
The Panthers can’t run a quick-strike passing game. That system demands precise ball-placement and timing. Cam Newton is not that type of quarterback. He’s a deep-dropback power thrower.
The Panthers know this. Not only have they built a passing game on deep dropbacks, but they’ve also acquired big, methodical receivers for Newton (Kelvin Benjamin, first round in 2014; Devin Funchess, second round in 2015; Greg Olsen via trade in 2011). They haven’t selected the Sproles or Cobb type players because those guys don’t fit Newton or the scheme.
McCaffrey is a greater talent than Sproles or Cobb, but the point is that stylistically, he’s cut from their cloth. To maximize McCaffrey’s value, the Panthers must tweak their scheme in ways it can’t be tweaked. You don’t just install a bunch of quick-strike throws and execute them on Sunday. Those plays must be your foundation. They must be practiced repeatedly. And they must be executed by a precise quarterback and quicker skill position players. McCaffrey is Carolina’s only quick skill player. Essentially he’s a sports car that’s about to go off-roading with a fleet of trucks.
The good news is McCaffrey’s shiftiness will work well behind the moving pieces of Carolina’s run-blocking. And as a checkdown receiver, he has the potential to conjure extra yards. But make no mistake: McCaffrey became a top-10 prospect because of his ability to line up anywhere and create in space. There won’t be natural opportunities for that in Carolina.
Panthers OC tells Peter King that he knows that McCaffrey will require a change in offensive philosophy:
“In the Super Bowl,” Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula wondered the other night, “how many passes do you think Tom Brady threw to his backs? Mostly completed, right?”
Nineteen passes attempted to James White and Dion Lewis. Fifteen completed.
“So maybe sometimes it turns into just a four-yard gain. But I’ll take a four-yard gain,” Shula said.
In the draft, the Panthers did a couple of things to help Cam Newton, who completed just 44 passes to his backs last year while crashing to a 52.9 percent accuracy rate, a stunning 7 points lower than 2015. Carolina drafted Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel, a couple of versatile backs/slots/receivers with 206 career receptions and 804 career rushes in college. McCaffrey will play running back, slot receiver and wideout (less) and help in the return game. Samuel could become the next Percy Harvin, with jet sweeps and pitches and some field-stretching on the outside. They are potentially going to overhaul how Shula calls his offense, and give Newton some easy completions. “They’re glorified runs sometimes, but they work and it doesn’t matter what you call them,” Shula said.
The combined stat line for McCaffrey and Samuel from a total of six college seasons:
Total touches: 1,010
Yards per touch: 7.59
I spoke with Shula after the McCaffrey choice Thursday night and before Samuel was picked in round two. The Samuel pick was an exclamation point on my theory to Shula. Two picks in the top 40, to resuscitate Cam Newton. That’s how I see it. Not 19 targets to his backs per game, certainly, but five or six easy completions in an offense that has been predominantly deep strike.
“I think Christian’s going to help Cam,” Shula said. “In fact, I know he’s going to help Cam. Giving him those guaranteed completions—well, high-percentage completions—you hit it right on the head. With what we’ll be asking Cam, he can get the ball out quicker now.”
It’ll be interesting, too, to see how the Panthers’ return game (2016: 7.0 yards per punt returns, 22.4 yards per kick returns, both mediocre) is impacted. The early guess is McCaffrey could handle punts and Samuel kickoffs.
“We’ll have to see about Christian’s touches,” Shula said. “But if he gets 20 per game, and it’s just too early to know, whatever, however you do it could be different each week.”
The one interesting point Shula made was about McCaffrey: He values him as an inside runner, which isn’t something you heard a lot about in the run-up to the draft. “The one thing with his size that I think people underestimated with him was his ability to break tackles, especially break tackles with his legs,” Shula said. “He’s definitely underrated as an inside runner, and some of those runs we saw at Stanford are part of core run-game calls. You see him lined up all over the place, but he’s not just a guy you try to put in different spots to confuse the defense.”
It’s hard not to like what the Panthers did for their offense, and to make their quarterback more efficient, in this draft.
Pete Prisco on the draft of the Saints:
They probably thought they had no chance to get Ohio State corner Marshon Lattimore when the draft started, but they end up getting him in the 11th spot. That was a nice pick of the top corner. I didn’t love the pick of Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk with the 32nd pick — he has some medical issues and is that really a major need? — but they added some nice players later in Utah safety Marcus Williams in the second and pass rusher Troy Hendrickson in third. I also think third-round linebacker Alex Anzalone from Florida has a chance to a long-time starter if he stays healthy. That’s a big if, based on his career.
Andy Benoit on the pick of TE O.J. HOWARD:
Look out: Not only have the Bucs added maybe the NFL’s fastest wide receiver in DeSean Jackson, they’ve also brought in the best rookie tight end prospect. And last year’s starting tight end, Cameron Brate, was the most improved player in the league at his position. Long and flexible, Brate can line up anywhere and produce. With Brate and Howard on the field together, and the Bucs still being a classic run-oriented offense, Jameis Winston is going to be working against more base defenses. In a base defense, the pass defenders are slower and the coverage looks are simpler.
Gregg Rosenthal puts the Cardinals on his list of teams that improved themselves over the weekend:
Did GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians head-fake the rest of the league with their public interest in quarterbacks?
Intentional or not, the Chiefs and Texans traded ahead of Arizona for QBs, completing a surprising top of the draft that included seven skill-position picks in the top 12 overall. That caused top-shelf defensive players to slide, and the Cardinals happily snapped up linebacker Haason Reddick, from Arians’ former employer, Temple. Reddick in Round 1 and safety Budda Baker in Round 2 were great scheme fits for a Cardinals defense that prizes versatility. The team upgraded talent at positions where safety Tony Jefferson and linebacker Kevin Minter left in free agency. Two offensive linemen taken on Day 3 continued the trend of the Cardinals finding options who can help in 2017.
With the futures of Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and even Arians up in the air, this was not the draft for the Cardinals to take on more projects. Their time is now.
There is some great video at the link from inside the Cardinals war room as they make the trade for Budda Baker.
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com also liked what the Cardinals did:
They landed a future star in first-round pick Haason Reddick. He will add speed and versatility to their defense. I love second-round pick Budda Baker, the safety from Washington. He will help offset the loss of Tony Jefferson. Third-round pick Chad Williams, a receiver from Grambling, could be a steal where he was drafted, adding much-needed speed, and I love fourth-round pick Dorian Johnson. It was a really good draft.
LB REUBEN FOSTER was either a steal at #31 – or appropriately drafted, but still a good pick. Andy Benoit:
Nobody doubts the ability. Foster is a true three-down linebacker with multidirectional speed. But there are three questions: 1) His reported shoulder problem; 2) the off-field issues, including a diluted sample at the combine; and most interesting, 3) his struggles with drawing up plays on the board. The good news is you can work around classroom difficulties; football IQ on the field is what matters most. And San Francisco’s scheme, which will be Seahawks style under new coordinator Robert Saleh, is not overly complex. It allows for guys to pin back their ears and play. If Foster’s shoulder and maturity are sound, he has a chance to stabilize a linebacking corps that was rocked by injuries last season.
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Peter King was embedded with the 49ers – and he has the inside story of how the 49ers thought they were trading down to give Chicago SOLOMON THOMAS, but were okay with REUBEN FOSTER at three. And then things went crazy:
“Let’s duck in here a minute and talk,” rookie San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch said to coach Kyle Shanahan and chief strategy officer Paraag Marathe in the team’s John McVay Draft Room here, motioning to his office across the hall 23 minutes before the start of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Three men, one plan. As they walked into the room and Lynch shut his door, this is what they knew: Cleveland, picking first, was not trading, and was likely but not certain to take pass-rusher Myles Garrett over quarterback Mitchell Trubisky … San Francisco, picking second, had three men clearly atop its board: Garrett one, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas two and, in a surprise, Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster three … Chicago, picking third, badly wanted someone. The Bears and Niners had an understanding that if Chicago’s man was still on the board after Cleveland picked (Chicago GM Ryan Pace wouldn’t tell Lynch who Player X was; the Niners figured it was Thomas), the Bears would give at least two third-round picks to move from three to two.
No nerves, but no pleasantries either. Marathe, who talks very fast and with great confidence, called another team with interest in the second slot and said, “We got some good action on the pick.” Marathe talked to the club official (he would not disclose the team, or the official) for maybe a minute, just to crystallize that if Garrett was there at two, the Niners would either pick or take a ransom for the pick.
“See if we can get one last thing with Chicago,” Lynch said to Marathe.
Marathe called the Bears. “To try to solidify this now,” Marathe said to Pace, “we’re gonna need a little bit more to finish. It wouldn’t have to be much. Like, your four. So let’s say your third, 67 overall, this year, your three next year, and your four this year, 111 overall … I’m not gonna string you along … No … I will do it quickly. Let me get with John and Kyle and I’ll call you right back.”
The Bears agreed. They’d give two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder to move up one spot.
“Man, who do they want?” Lynch said. “Gotta be Solomon, right?”
“Call me crazy,” Marathe said. “But I think it’s Trubisky.”
“Then why’d they go get [free-agent quarterback Mike] Glennon?” Lynch said.
They debated, and made sure that if they couldn’t find a trading partner to move down from three, they were comfortable taking Foster—with a questionable shoulder and a positive combine test for a diluted drug sample—with the third overall pick. But they wanted to try to move down as far as No. 8 because they felt Foster had no chance of being picked before Cincinnati at No. 9.
Four minutes passed. “Don’t lose Chicago, Paraag,” Lynch said.
Marathe got the Bears on the phone. “Cleveland needs not to do something crazy,” Marathe said to Pace. “Other than that we’re good to go if you are—67, 111 and next year’s three, 2018. Shoot, is next year 2018? Time flies. We’re close to a handshake, right?”
“Hey,” Marathe said, “can you tell me who you’re taking? I’m so curious.”
Off the phone, Marathe said to Lynch and Shanahan: “He [Pace] said, ‘I think you guys are going to be comfortable with what we do.’ So I don’t know what that is.”
Eight minutes till the draft went live in Philadelphia. The Niners were fairly sure Garrett would go number one. Now they’d made a verbal deal with Pace for the number two pick. They felt good. They felt mystified. They weren’t sure who the second pick would be. They weren’t sure if they’d be able to deal the third pick down for more picks to replenish one of the least talented rosters in the NFL. After four months of studying a vital draft, the GM and coach who’d been paid millions with twin (and unheard of) six-year contracts truly didn’t know if they’d have Thomas, or Foster, or a bevy of draft picks and neither, or a bevy of draft picks and one or both, by the end of the evening.
“Got a Keurig in here, John?” Shanahan said. “I need some coffee.”
Lynch took over as GM in late January with no previous experience in an NFL front office.
In the 24/7/365 media crushing of the NFL, somehow the significance of this San Francisco draft was, if anything, being underplayed last week. Think of the historic similarities to the only great era in Niners history.
In the spring of 1979, the 49ers were coming off a 2-14 season, with a new coach/GM, without a quarterback of the future, and with a 30-something owner. Entering the draft last week, the 49ers were coming off a 2-14 season, with a new coach and GM, without a quarterback of the future, and with a 30-something owner.
When I pitched the inside story about the new 49ers regime’s first draft to Lynch at the NFL owners meetings in March, I explained the similarities between Bill Walsh’s start 38 years ago and the new start now. “You just gave me goose bumps,” Lynch said. And so this story was born.
– – –
Before Lynch went to bed the previous night, Elway called to alert him that he’d heard reliably that the Browns really might take Trubisky, not Garrett. Someone else told Lynch on Wednesday night that Cleveland coaches would be stunned if the pick was anyone but Garrett. Who to believe?
But Thursday morning, Lynch got another call. And now he thought strongly the pick would be Garrett. And so he ran the flat San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail on a warm morning, passing Silicon Valley joggers and bicyclists in anonymity. “To be honest,” he said, taking a slow pace, “we’ve been anticipating they’d take Myles the entire time. It wasn’t till the last couple days, really yesterday, that I got a heads up they really may be going Trubisky. Then it kept mounting. I think in retrospect they tried with Myles for a while to get someone to move up to their pick, and it didn’t work. So they said, 24 to 48 hours out, let’s put out the word on Trubisky. Probably not a bad play on their part.”
– – –
Marathe asked: “What if Foster falls, free falls, and he’s sitting there at 25?”
“To me, that’s easy,” said Shanahan. “Get him.”
“He’s not getting past Cincy [with the ninth pick in the first round], though,” Lynch said.
“I think he is getting past Cincy,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think he’s getting past [Ravens GM] Ozzie [Newsome at 16].”
Really interesting part of the pre-draft hours that would surprise most people: These guys have the second pick in the draft. They’re in the belly of the beast. And they truly don’t know what’s going to happen.
– – –
At 4:57 p.m. Pacific Time, Lynch and his coach walked back into the draft room. There were 31 people in the place. Across the front of a three-sided square table: Marathe, CEO Jed York, Shanahan, Lynch, Peters, senior personnel executive and former Lions GM Martin Mayhew (Lynch’s sounding board) and co-chair John York. Scouts and medical personnel ringed the table; Jed York’s son Jaxon, 4, came in and out. In the back were a collection of minority owners and a few fans who paid handsomely to the team’s foundation ($30,000 in one case) to silently observe the proceedings. “A couple ground rules,” said Lynch. “My first time doing it. But let’s have a business atmosphere in here. If you have a phone in here, and you’re on it, it’s got to be for work purpose. This is a serious day for our organization … We’re gonna get after this thing. But let’s have some fun.”
Garrett to the Browns. The trade with the Bears went through. No drama in the draft room. The TV seemed happier. “The 49ers picked up all that draft capital—phenomenal!” Mike Mayock said on NFL Network. Then the waiting, and Marathe made a round of phone calls between four and 14. Six teams said no. No tradedown.
5:21 PT. Lynch: “TRUBISKY!”
Marathe: “I TOLD YOU!”
That was a shock. Now the room went from possibly/probably reaching for Foster to picking Thomas. At 5:29, after waiting for an offer that never came, Lynch picked up the landline on the table in front of him and dialed Thomas’ cell. Bizarrely, as Jenny Vrentas of the The MMQB reported, Lynch and Thomas took a management class together when Lynch returned to Stanford to get his degree in 2014. Thomas was a freshman. So Lynch said when the phone was answered, “Solomon! It’s me! … John Lynch! You want to be a 49er?”
Lynch, to me: “Had Solomon been gone, we’d have gone Reuben. And been happy.”
– – –
Now the draft was at 12 overall. And Marathe or Mayhew or Peters or Lynch called or took calls from every team between 12 and 26. Foster, Foster, Foster. Nothing worked. For instance, Marathe on with Tampa Bay, preparing to pick 19th, at 7:14 PT:
“Hey it’s Paraag. You are? … Anything? … Okay.”
Marathe off phone. “Standing pat.”
Foster still there. Miami, 22, standing pat. Giants, 23, keeping. Raiders, 24, staying.
Seattle GM John Schneider (26) called.
Marathe: “John, we got a nice juicy fourth pick in the fourth round, 111 overall, for you to move … Yeah, I know, but we like 67 [the third-round pick] too.”
Schneider would think about it.
“He’s got to pee,” Marathe said. “He’ll call back.”
Fifteen minutes passed. Marathe called Schneider back. “Still in?”
Lynch: “Ask him how the pee was.”
Shanahan: “Long one.”
No deal. A few more calls. Some confusion with Schneider about the trade chart. Schneider traded down from 26 to 29, and then from 29 to 31.
Roger Goodell on the TV: “With the 30th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select … T.J. Watt, linebacker, Wisconsin.”
Foster is still there.
8:23 PT. Marathe called Schneider. “DUDE!” Marathe said, then looked pained. “HE PUT ME ON HOLD!” … Schneider came back on the line. Marathe said, “You’re on the clock, you know … CALL ME BACK.”
The room could feel it. A gift from the gods. Whether they’re worried about his shoulder or his smoking or his lifestyle, Reuben Foster, the third player on the board, the player Shanahan called “my favorite player in this draft,” sits there.
8:24 PT. No call back. “I don’t think it’s happening,” Marathe announced.
8:25 PT. Lynch called Schneider, who said he’s thinking about it.
No reason not to do it, according to the draft trade chart most teams use. Each pick in the draft is assigned a value. You total the picks on either side of the trade, and if they’re close to equal, the deal is usually agreed on both sides to be fair. This had to work. The 31st pick has a value of 600 points. San Francisco’s two picks—34 and 111—totaled 632.
A minute or so later, with 80 seconds left in the 10-minute period to take a first-round pick, Schneider told Marathe, “Okay, we’ll do it. We got a deal.”
Marathe pumped his fist gently. “He’s in!” Marathe said to the room. But it wasn’t over. Now each team had to verbally tell the league the terms of the trade, and the league then had to put San Francisco on the clock before the Niners could turn in this card:
The room was buzzing, and excited. Getting louder. “GOT HIM!” someone yelled.
“Not yet!” Marathe said pointedly. “Don’t celebrate yet. Let’s wait till we get confirmation from the NFL!”
Lynch picked up the phone, and one of all-time weirdest conversations in draft history happened next.
“REUBEN!” Lynch said into the phone. “John Lynch with the 49ers! Ready to be a 49er?”
8:28 PT. I looked up. Nineteen seconds left on the clock in this period. If the clock went to :00, the next team would be able to pick a player. The next team was New Orleans. New Orleans loved Foster. New Orleans was the team that worried the Niners most. “We got it!” Marathe said. “Turn in the card!”
The room erupted.
“HOW ‘BOUT THAT S—!” someone screamed. Fans hugged in the back of the room. Eighty-three bro hugs in the front of the room. Shrieks.
Lynch on the phone, trying to be heard by Foster.
Foster was following the draft on TV. And five minutes earlier, he’d gotten a call from Saints coach Sean Payton. “It got down to the point where he was like, ‘I’m going to pick you,’” Foster told me. “But he said, ‘I got a question. What’s your girlfriend first name?’ I said, ‘Alissa.’ He said, ‘Is she next to you? Give her the phone.’
“I was like, okay, I gave her the phone. You know, you don’t want to argue with no head coach. You respect them! So I gave her the phone and I was just nervous and scared just thinking about what they were talking about. But all he was saying was is she gonna be that guidance and that person and make sure I don’t get in no trouble.’ This I heard after the fact.
“So my girlfriend holds the phone out to me. Call waiting. I look at the screen. San Jose California. 408 number.
“It was San Fran. It was the GM and I was like, ‘Hey coach.’ And he was like, ‘Hey Reuben, we’re going to pick you. And I’m watching on TV, and it hasn’t changed over yet, and I was like, ‘It’s too late man, you’re the 34th pick, New Orleans is right around the corner and they are about to come get me.’”
Lynch finally got through to him, and explained it exactly, and the excitement in the room didn’t die down for the two minutes it took for Foster to understand he was a 49er.
Linebackers coach Johnny Holland, the former Packer, couldn’t believe what happened. “I thought he’d be a top five pick. He’s one of the best three, four linebackers to come out of college football in the last 10 years.”
“It’s the pick we had no business getting!” Jed York said, 20 minutes later.
On TV, Mayock said: “This kid’s got tape like Kuechly.” On TV, someone else worried about how long Foster’s surgically repaired shoulder would hold out. Earlier, the Niners said their doctors passed Foster and thought his shoulder was okay.
Lynch hollered to his chief medical officer, Jeff Ferguson: “You guys worried about his shoulder?”
“What shoulder!” Ferguson yelled back.
Having a cocktail 90 minutes later, Marathe still looked shaken. And thrilled.
“That’s the most electric day I’ve had in 17 years working for this organization,” Marathe said. “It’s definitely my most exciting day here.”
One round in a seven-round draft was over.
Would anyone here have the energy for the last six?
We cut out some good stuff for space and you can read about the rest of the 49ers draft here. Interesting about QB C.J. BEATHARD and RB JOE WILLIAMS.
This is interesting about Marathe, back from the dead:
Marathe still seemed ebullient from the night before. He joked about doing deals with Eagles executive VP Howie Roseman, who is notoriously tough in his trade requests in the GM community. Marathe caught immense crap from the public and the media in recent years as part of the York team, even though he had precious little to do except negotiate contracts with coaches Jim Harbaugh, Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. Now, in a day and a half of this draft, the tide has turned. He’s a peer of Lynch. “I love him,” Lynch said. “He’s quick, and he ‘s smart.” Figures. Marathe was a salutatorian when he graduated from Cal-Berkeley. “I grew up loving sports,” said Marathe. “That’s why a day like yesterday was so thrilling to me. You’re a part of a team, and you feel like you contributed to the team. I love that.”
Rob Rang is skeptical about Seattle’s offensive line picks:
The Seahawks did add two offensive linemen, burly blockers Ethan Pocic and Justin Senior from the SEC, but neither possesses the agility and balance most teams require of its tackles, so expecting either rookie to solve Seattle’s pass blocking woes is probably unrealistic. Seattle prioritizes power, versatility and toughness in its offensive linemen, which the former LSU and Mississippi State blockers do boast.
Andy Benoit didn’t see QB PATRICK MAHOMES coming as the apple of Andy Reid’s eye:
Mind-blowing. Andy Reid’s offense is highly structured. All it needs is a quarterback who runs the plays properly. (Hence the success they’ve had with Alex Smith.) Mahomes is not that. While uber-talented, Mahomes was a willy-nilly sandlot player at Texas Tech, despite operating in an Air Raid system, which demands quick decisions. He’ll have a lot to learn.
Did the Raiders draft a tackle in the fourth round who is “almost blind” in his right eye? Vic Tafur in the San Francisco Chronicle:
David Sharpe might be best suited for right tackle, but the Raiders are probably looking at their fourth-round pick Saturday as a project to replace left tackle Donald Penn one day.
Here’s a good reason: NFL scouts say Sharpe is almost blind in his right eye.
Sharpe is huge, though, at 6-foot-6, 343 pounds with an 87-inch wingspan, and Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio had some inside information on the Florida project. Del Rio’s son, Luke, was the Gators’ starting quarterback part of last season.
Sharpe, on a conference call, said the reports about his vision are not true.
“I’m not blind,” he said. “That info is false, all of it is false.”
Sharpe said that he had a cataract removed as a kid and that his vision on his right side is “a little blurrier.” He said it doesn’t affect his play on the field.
“We’ve had all that researched,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “He’s fine. He has great peripheral vision. I don’t know what the formal diagnosis is, but he’s not legally blind.”
Sharpe said it “kind of” makes him mad that people say he is.
“It doesn’t really make me mad,” he said. “I just brush it off. It was false, and I addressed it.”
Once an outstanding basketball player from Jacksonville, Fla., Sharpe surprised NFL executives when he decided to come out a year early after a so-so junior season.
One scout, while questioning Sharpe’s upper-body strength and shaky technique, said he “has good enough feet to be a left tackle.”
Sharpe said Luke Del Rio called him Saturday morning to tell him his dad had asked about him.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Acknowledging that WR MIKE WILLIAMS is a good player, Pete Prisco thinks he was overdrafted:
I didn’t love taking receiver Mike Williams that high in the first round, but I think they had a really good draft in the next four rounds. Williams doesn’t separate enough for my liking. They upgraded their offensive line with Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney and added two other weapons for Philip Rivers and two quality safeties. Nice job. Taking Williams too high drops it down from an A for me.
Peter King praises the selections of Lamp and Feeney:
OFFENSIVE PICKS OF THE WEEK
Forrest Lamp (second round, 38th overall) and Dan Feeney (third round, 71st overall), guards, San Diego. Chargers GM Tom Telesco knew he had a major weakness in his offensive line, and I’ll be surprised if both of these men are not starting by midseason.
Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com on CB MARLON HUMPHREY:
Ravens fans might wonder how this could be the Alabama defender GM Ozzie Newsome took, given that defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reuben Foster were still on the board. Humphrey comes with fewer questions than those guys. Most first-round corners are touted for their man coverage skills, which makes sense: man-to-man requires more athleticism than any other chore in football, and great athletes are the ones who go in the first round. But with Humphrey, scouts are high on his ability in zone coverage. Fluid hips give him the transitional movement skills to squat and break on balls. The Ravens play a lot of zone. Humphrey could have time to learn, too. With Cowboys free agent Brandon Carr aboard, and last year’s fourth-rounder, Tavon Young, coming off a nice rookie season, there is outstanding depth at corner.
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com gives the Bengals an A:
I thought the Bengals had as good draft as any team in the league. Taking receiver John Ross with the ninth pick is a bit of a risk, but you can’t coach speed. They took a different type of risk with Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in the second round, but the kid is the best runner in the draft. They clearly looked past the assault video to take him. They then landed two good pass rushers in Kansas State Jordan Willis and Auburn’s Carl Lawson, two players who will compete to start at right end. Fourth-round receiver Josh Malone from Tennessee can fly. There are some risks here, but I think they will pay off big.
– – –
Judy Bautista of NFL.com on the selection of RB JOE MIXON:
Joe Mixon has seen the video we have all seen by now.
“It hurt to see it,” he said.
It has hurt to live it, for Mixon and certainly more so for the victim of his punch, Amelia Molitor. The two recently settled her civil lawsuit after finally speaking face to face about the assault that has changed their lives, that altered the course of Mixon’s draft, that, by extension, has put the Cincinnati Bengals right back into renegade territory, where they seem curiously satisfied to live. That settlement helped the Bengals make peace with their consideration of Mixon in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, coach Marvin Lewis said, but if it freed the Bengals’ consciences and Mixon from his obligations, it has hardly helped shed the stigma that he carries with him into his professional life. All of the smiling relief, the seemingly sincere and remorseful answers, the apparent willingness to go before media and fans at a draft party, can’t do that.
“This is definitely going to be attached to my name the rest of my life, and [at] the end of the day, I’m going to do whatever I can to move forward and move past it,” Mixon said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “Just keep playing, and I look forward to having a great career here and being the best teammate and person possible.”
It is almost impossible to assess the depth of Mixon’s sincerity now. Only time will tell whether this is the beginning of a pattern of violence or an aberration, as his high school coach Kevin Hartwig insisted in an interview with NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. The Mixon he knows is the kid who broke up a fight in the high school cafeteria, stepping in when a boy was hitting a girl.
“It’s a situation he’s never been in before, just a poor decision,” Hartwig said of the incident on the video. “But a 15-second video — and I do not condone that — that’s not him.”
That goes directly to the question of what you believe and whether Mixon should even be here. In conversations with team executives leading up to the draft, their mixed emotion seemed to reflect the greater public. There were those who were simply happy their team already had a running back so he didn’t even have to think about Mixon. There were others who viewed it analytically, as a relatively low-risk pick, because the slide down the draft board saves the Bengals millions. But Mixon was completely off the board for some teams, and one team personnel executive summed up his feelings about Mixon like this:
“He makes me sick,” he said. “And some idiot will draft him.”
“We are so full of crap.”
That executive is particularly disgusted by what he believes is the hypocrisy of the NFL, which vowed to take a firm stand against domestic violence after Ray Rice introduced damning videos to the list of controversies. Now, with Mixon and with the celebration of Chiefs sensation Tyreek Hill — who choked and punched his pregnant girlfriend before he became a rookie phenom — it has to wonder where that stand is when domestic violence may be unacceptable in some circumstances, but acceptable when an exceptional player can be acquired at a bargain price.
NFL decision makers are not alone in their malleable morality. We all want to believe we will stand firmly against the kind of behavior Mixon showed. But every day, we buy music from singers, go to movies featuring actors, tune in to television shows headlined by stars who exhibit abhorrent behavior and are allowed to continue their lucrative livelihoods unabated, with a soundtrack of applause. It is a question that surfaced shortly after Rice’s video did: Why do we expect the NFL to be the agent for social change when the institutions that are charged with that responsibility don’t always do it, while with our choices, we are all quietly complicit?
Hill might be the best example of this. A year ago, he was drafted in the fifth round by the Kansas City Chiefs. There are surely plenty of people who root for the Chiefs who find Hill repugnant. But there was an awful lot of cheering last year when Hill scored 12 touchdowns and was an All-Pro as a rookie. Even some league officials shook their heads at how quickly Hill’s immense transgression receded into the depths of his biography, well behind his sterling stat sheet. There was no video of Hill’s violence though, and that may in part explain how Hill popped up in another video — a year-end NFL highlight reel shown at the most recent league meeting, according to one dismayed team official who saw it.
Mixon has said all the right things since he was drafted, and whether you think he should have been drafted or not, the only thing to do now is hope that he is successful — as a player, sure, but also at keeping himself from ever committing another act of violence. He wants to be involved in the community, to talk to young people and adults about his experience, to encourage them not to repeat his transgressions.
We have seen plenty of second chances granted before, to wildly varying results. Lawrence Phillips proved irredeemable. But Brandon Marshall, who had domestic violence issues earlier in his career, has become a passionate and eloquent spokesman for the mental healthcare he received that changed his life. Michael Vick, who was greeted by protesters when the Eagles signed him after he was released from a federal prison, remains one of the most remarkable turnaround stories imaginable.
Whatever you think about the Bengals wrapping their arms around Mixon, remember this. He was 18 when he punched Molitor and is just 20 now. His formidable football skills survived a one-year suspension and have now forced all of us to wrestle with the haunting question of whether we are comfortable writing off someone so young. Mixon is not entitled to a job in the NFL any more than a welder is entitled to one on a construction site, and neither will have a job for long without performing up to expectations. But it is naïve to think that only the NFL and only the Bengals offer opportunities to men who demean women. That Mixon’s second chance translates into the potential for much greater earnings than the welder — that we are having the conversation again so soon after Rice first made it a headline — is not his fault. It’s ours.
Jason Hirschorn of SportsOnEarth.com says the Browns actually had a smart draft:
The Cleveland Browns’ analytically minded front office has asked a lot of the team’s fans and ownership. After a trying 2016 and an anxiety-filled draft offseason, that patience appears to have paid off in the form of a celebrated free-agent haul and talented draft class that could become the nucleus of a future title contender. Yes, you read that right.
The “trust the process” mantra proffered by rebuilding teams can frustrate fans, especially the long-suffering supporters of the Browns. The franchise has rebooted its staff more frequently than other in recent years, employing six different general managers and head coaches since 2008. Accordingly, Cleveland’s decision to reorganize its front office around Sashi Brown and former baseball executive Paul DePodesta last offseason tested an already broken trust.
In the time since those changes, the Browns produced little on the field. They looked destined for much of last season to become just the second team ever to finish with an 0-16 record. When they did win late in the season, it all but eliminated their shot at the No. 1 overall pick. The San Francisco 49ers bailed out Cleveland with an inexplicable December victory of their own, but it did little to dispel the fans’ concerns.
However, in the past few days, the Browns have gone a long way toward changing their narrative. After publicly flirting with the idea of drafting local kid Mitchell Trubisky with the top pick, the team selected Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, the near-consensus top prospect in the draft and a DeMarcus Ware-like edge rusher capable of transforming the defense. Cleveland held the 12th pick as well but traded down to No. 25 — eventually used on versatile Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers — in order to pick up a future first-round selection. Not satisfied, the front office traded back into the first round to take uber-athletic Miami tight end David Njoku.
But perhaps the franchise’s biggest move came the on Friday. While three teams traded up for signal-callers on Day 1, the Browns waited to scoop up Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer midway through the second round. Kizer proved to be one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft, with some teams concerned with his self-comparisons to Tom Brady and Cam Newton as well as his midseason benching last year. Still, the 6-foor-4, rocket-armed quarterback offers more talent and upside than those selected before him. Finally separated from a sometimes-toxic environment in South Bend, he could bloom into a star under the tutelage of his new head coach, Hue Jackson.
The draft has potentially resolved two long-time needs for the Browns: a true alpha pass-rusher and a franchise quarterback. Over the past decade, only one Cleveland player has recorded double-digit sacks in a season (Paul Kruger’s 11 in 2014). Garrett has the talent to eclipse that figure as a rookie, and his fit with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams further elevates his chances.
As for Kizer, the presence of 2016 third-round pick Cody Kessler and others should prevent the Browns from prematurely forcing the rookie onto the field. That gives Jackson and the coaching staff some time to iron out Kizer’s flaws and determine when he can adequately pilot the offense. Njoku and a receiving corps led by Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt should provide plenty of help.
Those additions in the draft build upon a massively successful free-agency period for the Browns. In one of the most creative maneuvers of this or any offseason, the team traded a Day 3 draft choice for Brock Osweiler and a second-round pick. While Osweiler performed like a third-string quarterback and his contract contains onerous guarantees, Cleveland and its over $100 million of available salary-cap space can easily absorb his deal regardless of whether he plays a snap at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Furthermore, the Browns made significant investments in the offensive line. Guard Kevin Zeitler and center JC Tretter both signed multi-year deals to bring their talents to Northeast Ohio while the team proactively extended guard Joel Bitonio. With All-Pro Joe Thomas still manning the blindside, the offensive line has transformed from a weakness to one capable of insulating Kizer when he eventually steps into the starting lineup.
All of which underscores how the Browns have changed. In years past, the team could only peddle false hope and a plan that seemed likely to change in a matter of months. Finally, ownership, the front office and the coaching staff appear share a singular vision, one that should set the team up to break its 14-year playoff drought.
The faith in Cleveland might finally be rewarded.
And Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com says we can now count nine players that were netted by the trade down in 2016 that gave the Eagles QB CARSON WENTZ –with more to come:
The haul of players the Browns have acquired with picks they got from Philadelphia in last year’s Carson Wentz trade is extraordinary, and it hasn’t even ended yet.
Cleveland sent the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft (along with a 2017 fourth-round pick) to the Eagles in exchange for Philadelphia’s first-round, third-round, and fourth-round picks in last year’s draft, Philadelphia’s first-round pick in this year’s Draft and Philadelphia’s second-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
With Philadelphia’s 2016 first-round pick, Cleveland traded down again and got Tennessee’s first-round pick and third-round pick, as well as Tennessee’s 2017 second-round pick. With Tennessee’s first-round pick, Cleveland chose receiver Corey Coleman. With Tennessee’s third-round pick, Cleveland chose offensive tackle Shon Coleman. With Tennessee’s 2017 second-round pick, Cleveland chose quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Cleveland packaged Philadelphia’s 2016 third-round pick and a fifth-round pick and traded them to Carolina for the Panthers’ 2016 third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks. With the third-round pick, Cleveland chose quarterback Cody Kessler. With the fourth-round pick, Cleveland chose safety Derrick Kindred. With the fifth-round pick, Cleveland chose offensive tackle Spencer Drango.
Cleveland sent Philadelphia’s 2016 fourth-round pick to Oakland for the Raiders’ fourth- and fifth-round picks. With the fourth-round pick, the Browns chose receiver Ricardo Louis. With the fifth-round pick, the Browns chose receiver Jordan Payton.
Cleveland sent Philadelphia’s 2017 first-round pick to Houston for the Texans’ first-round picks this year and next year. With the Texans’ first-round pick, the Browns selected safety Jabrill Peppers.
So the Browns now have nine players — Corey Coleman, Shon Coleman, DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Derrick Kindred, Spencer Drango, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton, Jabrill Peppers — as well as the Texans’ first-round pick next year and the Eagles’ second-round pick next year, all for trading the opportunity to choose Wentz.
That’s an incredible haul. Also incredible is the possibility that Wentz will turn into a franchise quarterback, the Browns won’t find one, and Cleveland fans will be left wishing the Browns hadn’t made that trade.
So at the moment, one pick has spawned nine players – with a first and second round pick still to come.
A Peter King note:
When former Pitt running back James Conner reports to his new team, the Steelers, he’ll have a short trip. It is 15 steps from the front door of the Pitt football facility to the front door of the Steelers facility. They are connected on Pittsburgh’s South Side.
Andy Benoit on whether or not QB DeSHAUN WATSON will be good to go on Week 1:
Your college coach called you Michael Jordan, and your new team has Super Bowl aspirations. Oh, and they traded next year’s first-round pick to get you. No pressure. Watson’s first NFL offseason is about to be dogged by one question: Can he be the Week 1 starter? If we’re to examine Bill O’Brien’s full system, which features complex option routes, the answer is probably no. But O’Brien in recent years has reduced his scheme to accommodate his struggling quarterbacks. The guess here is he’ll do the same early for Watson.
Rob Rang of CBSSports.com thinks the Colts had the best draft in the AFC South:
Throughout most of his time in the NFL, Andrew Luck has had little choice but to attempt to win high-scoring games, as the Colts defense was unable to slow down anyone. Addressing the defense was clearly the top priority for first-year general manager Chris Ballard, who found a falling star in Malik Hooker to give the Colts a potentially dominant center fielder and a highly physical press cornerback in Quincy Wilson in the second round to complement Vontae Davis. MAC Defensive Player of the Year and Senior Bowl standout Tarell Basham will outplay his selection at No. 80 overall, and an offensive line known more for its passivity will get a jolt of size, power and exuberance with the massive Zach Banner, a future starter. Marlon Mack adds juice to the backfield still reliant upon Frank Gore, and the Colts nabbed one of the more intriguing sleepers in big man Grover Stewart. Hooker must clean up his aggressive pursuit angles, but this is one of the year’s best draft classes on paper.
Andy Benoit hints that WR COREY DAVIS was over-drafted:
Most likely the Titans wish they could have traded down and gotten Davis later. But to their credit, they still took their guy when the phones didn’t ring. Smart drafting. The idea is to acquire players that your team can use. And the Titans absolutely can use a wide receiver. The question is whether Davis is the right one. This receiving corps needs speed. Some see Davis more as a possession type.
This from Gregg Rosenthal who liked what the Titans did:
Give general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey credit for knowing that a strong running game will not be enough in the year 2017. The Titans prioritized playmaking throughout their draft in an effort to help out quarterback Marcus Mariota.
No one expected Western Michigan product Corey Davis to go No. 5 overall after he missed the post-draft process following ankle surgery, but Davis plays more like a true No. 1 receiver than anyone in this class. His combination of strength and quickness should help take a lot of short Mariota throws a long way. The Titans selected another speedster in Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor in the third round, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if both rookies were to contribute early. This is the same team that started 2016 fourth-round pick Tajae Sharpe at receiver all last season despite ho-hum production.
First-round cornerback Adoree’ Jackson out of USC is another player with speed who can put the ball in the end zone. He’ll improve Tennessee on all four downs with his return ability; he’s a lighter edition of what the franchise once thought it was getting from Adam Jones.
Tennessee won nine games last season with a meat-and-potatoes roster. This draft brought the sizzle.
– – –
Here is what CB ADOREE JACKSON does in his spare time:
“For my relaxing time I watch the Food Network. I’m into the competition shows so I like Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped, Iron Chef, The Gauntlet. I watch Beat Bobby Flay a lot. I try to cook myself, but I just don’t like washing dishes. I like making fried rice, with everything. I make combination fried rice because you can put it away and heat it up and it never gets old. I just like those competitive shows because they are making something out of nothing. They give you three ingredients and they say make this. To see people transform it, you got people from different areas and fields and it’s amazing. People always outdo themselves and what they think they can do, just being adaptable. I couldn’t do it in 30 minutes. I would need the Cupcake Wars time, like two hours. I know a little bit, but I don’t know the right terminology, the right spices, or to put in a reduction.”
As soon as the draft came to an end, the Bills fired their GM and all of his scouting staff. Josh Alper at ProFootballTalk.com:
The Bills announced that General Manager Doug Whaley has been fired early on Sunday and they confirmed more departures later in the day.
Owner Terry Pegula said that the team has also cleared out their pro and amateur scouting departments as they shift directions on the personnel side of the organization. That housecleaning includes personnel heads Jim Monos and Kelvin Fisher, but Pegula says that a decision on vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf, who has a big role in contracts, will rest with the next General Manager.
Pegula said that the team made the decision to fire Whaley and the others after he and wife Kim “ran our process” and they made the moves now because the scouting year came to an end with the draft. He also said that Whaley ran the draft, which runs counter to the perception of many that coach Sean McDermott was pulling the strings and is a bit odd given the decision they made about Whaley’s future with the organization.
Whaley took over as Buffalo’s G.M. in 2013 before the Pegulas bought the team so this will be their first hire for the position.
Thoughts from Mike Florio:
Many have criticized the Bills for waiting until after the draft to fire G.M. Doug Whaley and the entire scouting department. While the franchise has done plenty of things in recent years that merit criticism, this wasn’t one of them.
The end of the season is the best time to fire a coach, and the conclusion of the draft is the best time to move on from a G.M. Plenty of teams fire the G.M. at the end of the season due in part to an effort to appease the fans and quiet the media. This overlooks the fact that the G.M. has done plenty of work in preparation for free agency and the draft, and that a new G.M. would in some respects be starting from scratch.
Sure, if the team regards the G.M. as worthy of being fired, his work isn’t worthy of being trusted. But what’s the alternative, especially when the entire scouting department is going to be gutted?
The Bills could have done what the Colts did, hiring a new G.M. while keeping the scouts in place through the draft. But that could have made a dysfunctional situation even more dysfunctional in Buffalo, especially if the scouts realized that the hammer eventually would fall. (And, obviously, they knew it was coming as of last week.)
It seems that, ultimately, the Bills have decided to press the reset button on the front office not because of skill but to clean out the dysfunction. The team itself isn’t horrible, which is a testament to the people who built it. While Whaley indeed whiffed on big decisions like drafting EJ Manuel and giving up two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick for Sammy Watkins, the roster isn’t lacking for talent.
The circumstances suggest that something beyond substantive football decisions was going on. The refusal of owner Terry Pegula to discuss the reasons for the decision to fire Whaley bolsters that perception.
So if it’s not about the work, why not let Whaley keep working until the work related to free agency and the draft is done?
Compare that approach to what Washington did with G.M. Scot McCloughan, dumping him before free agency and allowing him to carry away his research and evaluations, which then were used to assist other teams as a consultant. By keeping Whaley around, the Bills kept Whaley and his scouts from assisting other teams.
Now that the draft has ended, the Bills can move on. The only problem is that the new G.M. may not have hired the fairly new head coach. Which could eventually set the stage for even more dysfunction, culminating in the new G.M. wanting his own coach — unless the new coach ends up being stronger than the usual G.M.
And Peter King:
I think it’s easy to take potshots at owners for making changes, and now Terry and Kim Pegula, who bought the Bills 30 months ago, will be hiring the second GM of their tenure to go along with three head coaches in that short time. The fired Doug Whaley, history will show, likely overspent trading up for first-round wideout Sammy Watkins in 2014, and picked wrong with quarterback E.J. Manuel in the first round of 2013. So no one’s saying Whaley got jobbed. But I’ll keep coming back to the point I make about franchises that make changes regularly: Show me one with nine coaches in 17 years, a succession of franchise architects, and no steady, winning quarterback, and I’ll show you a team that never wins. So I understand dumping Whaley. But nothing is going to change in Buffalo without two things: continuity and a quarterback the franchise commits to.
And here are those final Whaley picks, graded by SI:
Round 1, Pick 27 (No. 27 overall)
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU: A long wait for the Bills after trading away pick No. 10, but it would have been hard to screw this up too badly at No. 27, with Buffalo now holding Kansas City’s picks at 91 and in the first round next year. And this definitely is not a miss. White may not wholly replace the departed Stephon Gilmore, but without question he should help the Bills navigate past that difficult free-agent loss. White’s a rangy corner who can match up with receivers both outside and in the slot—a nice piece for new coach Sean McDermott. GRADE: A
Round 2, Pick 5 (No. 37) (From L.A. Rams)
Zay Jones, WR, ECU: Buffalo traded down in Round 1, then goes up in Round 2—picks 44 and 91 to the Rams for 37 and 149. The Bills did so because they needed a wide receiver and missed out on the top three guys Thursday night. Jones should be their No. 2 guy opposite Sammy Watkins right away. GRADE: B+
Round 2, Pick 31 (No. 63) (From Falcons)
Dion Dawkins, G, Temple: Buffalo sent picks 75, 149 and 156 to Atlanta for this spot, which is a decent price to pay for a 12-spot boost. However, Dawkins is one of the last O-linemen with obvious starter potential as a rookie, be it at guard or tackle. The Bills could let him compete either spot—Jordan Mills is hardly a lock at right tackle. Grade: B+
Round 5, Pick 19 (No. 163) Matt Milano, LB, Boston College
Round 5, Pick 28 (No. 171) Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
Round 6, Pick 11 (195) Tanner Vallejo, LB, Boise State
In the second half of the first round, the pass-rusher’s name I heard the most while researching my mock draft was Charles Harris. Miami made a good call at 22, and the Dolphins are fortunate to get him there.
Gregg Rosenthal admires how the Patriots have improved their team this year:
Don’t be fooled by the Patriots only selecting four players over the weekend. Their draft season included the acquisition of wide receiver Brandin Cooks (for the No. 32 overall pick), running back Mike Gillislee (in restricted free agency for a fifth-round pick), tight end Dwayne Allen and defensive end Kony Ealy.
It was an unorthodox draft season for Bill Belichick, but he used his picks on players who can contribute right away to a roster that will be difficult for rookies to crack, especially on offense.
The rookies that the Patriots did select came at positions of need, with two offensive tackles and two versatile front-seven players in Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise.
Belichick probably wouldn’t be comfortable taking an approach like this every season, but it’s where he found value using his picks this year. And Belichick never turns down value. Come September, few teams will have found more immediate contributors using their draft picks than the Patriots.
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets did nothing about their quarterback position in the draft – a course of inaction approved by David Steele of The Sporting News:
The Jets went into the NFL Draft as living proof of an old adage: When you have too many quarterbacks, you have no quarterback.
Yet as the draft rolled on to the third day and the late rounds, the Jets kept picking, kept trading, kept moving around … and kept taking everybody except quarterbacks. When they took their final player Saturday afternoon, they had stockpiled fifth- and sixth-round picks, filled needs in their secondary, got help with pass catchers … but still had the same underwhelming people throwing to them.
And that’s a good thing.
If one theme was pounded home in the run-up to this draft, it was that this quarterback class was nothing special. This was not the year to give in to the usual quarterback panic — the fear that you’ll miss one if you don’t grab one right now, no matter who he is and how much you had to talk yourself into liking him.
The last thing the Jets needed to do was to repeat what they’d done each of the previous four years (and five of the previous six): draft a quarterback without a clear-cut plan for him. Drafting them high, drafting them low and drafting them to add to the ones already on the roster, including the ones they signed as free agents.
That’s how they ended up where they are: looking at the most important position on the field, and not only picking a player they weren’t sure was the answer, but not knowing the question in the first place.
They began the 2016 NFL Draft with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty from the year before — not to mention offseason signee Josh McCown.
They ended it with players who were not Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, who were both available when they took safety Jamal Adams sixth overall.
DeShone Kizer was there when they took another safety, Marcus Maye, in the second round. With Davis Webb out there in the third round, they traded down, took wide receiver ArDarius Stewart further down and let their stadium co-tenants, the Giants, take Webb.
And on Saturday, in the fourth, they traded down twice, going back 28 spots, taking another wide receiver and signaling for good that they were out of the quarterback business for this draft.
That’s a worthwhile streak to end. It served as a reminder that, unless things change drastically this offseason and in training camp, the streak ended a year late.
Hackenberg is the biggest unknown of the quarterbacks they have — the second-rounder that perplexed everybody when they took him last year, then perplexed them further when he couldn’t get on the field at all during the disaster of that season.
If that position is utter chaos, it’s still an isle of calm compared to the rest of the roster. And Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles have torn it down to build it up for that exact reason. The secondary was an abomination last season. The wide receiver spot was gutted. They found a tight end in the fifth round this year (Clemson’s Jordan Leggett) after the position was a mirage all last year.
The top quarterbacks were not going to help them with all the problems they had to address. The players they did take were very much what they needed. And after the second round, the quarterbacks in play were not worth the excess drama drafting them would have caused.
Would Webb, Josh Dobbs or Nathan Peterman have made the Jets’ quarterback situation any clearer, more encouraging or less baffling? Would Chad Kelly or Brad Kaaya satisfy anybody? And C.J. Beathard — how excited was anybody about him other than the man who drafted him so high, Kyle Shanahan?
The one thing that’s worse than passing on good quarterbacks, is reaching for inadequate ones.
Like the ones the Jets appear to have already.
THIS AND THAT
There were trades involving 11 slots in a 13-pick span in the low-first, high-second round area, and I’m convinced that has to be a record. Some of that was due to the fact that teams can now trade compensatory picks; 20 of those picks were involved in trades. But I think overall the record number of trades (38) happened because teams have a cadre of young draft/cap managers (I saw it in Paraag Marathe in San Francisco) who flip picks so fast and figure the real value of picks quickly and efficiently—and most teams have trade managers who are similarly versed in the well-worn NFL draft-trade value chart.
I daresay Chad Kelly is probably the most talented Mr. Irrelevant of all time.
c. Football is a funny game: A long-snapper, Colin Holba, was drafted in the sixth round by Pittsburgh, ahead of Brad Kaaya and Chad Kelly—ahead of 40 other players, actually.
The smoke has barely cooled from the 2017 draft and Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com is looking ahead to next year.
There are still 360+ days until the 2018 NFL Draft, but with the 2017 NFL Draft complete, scouting services and NFL front offices will start to look toward next year’s college prospects. Below is an early position-by-position preview of the players who have attracted NFL interest.
*indicates draft-eligible underclassman
1. Sam Darnold, USC* (6-3, 225, 4.74)
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA* (6-3, 210, 4.97)
3. Lamar Jackson, Louisville* (6-2, 205, 4.47)
4. Josh Allen, Wyoming* (6-5, 230, 4.74)
5. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (6-4, 235, 4.77)
Just missed: Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma), Luke Falk (Washington State), Max Browne (Pittsburgh), Matt Linehan (Idaho), Wilton Speight (Michigan), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State* (5-11, 223, 4.49)
2. Derrius Guice, LSU* (5-11, 222, 4.53)
3. Ronald Jones, USC* (6-0, 195, 4.49)
4. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama (6-1, 228, 4.59)
5. Nick Chubb, Georgia (5-10, 220, 4.54)
Just missed: Myles Gaskin (Washington), Rawleigh Williams III (Arkansas), Royce Freeman (Oregon), Ralph Webb (Vanderbilt), Kalen Ballage (Arizona State), Justin Jackson (Northwestern)
1. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M* (5-11, 200, 4.39)
2. Courtland Sutton, SMU* (6-3, 215, 4.52)
3. Calvin Ridley, Alabama* (6-1, 188, 4.50)
4. James Washington, Oklahoma State (6-0, 205, 4.49)
5. Deon Cain, Clemson* (6-1, 210, 4.47)
Just missed: Antonio Callaway (Florida), Dante Pettis (Washington), Simmie Cobbs (Indiana), Allen Lazard (Iowa State), Deebo Samuel (South Carolina), Deontay Burnett (USC), D.J. Clark (LSU)
1. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma* (6-4, 250, 4.77)
2. Mike Gisecki, Penn State (6-5, 252, 4.85)
3. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin (6-5, 248, 4.84)
4. Tyrone Wheatley, Michigan* (6-5, 276, 4.89)
5. Deandre Goolsby, Florida (6-4, 245, 4.76)
Just missed: Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State), Durham Smythe (Notre Dame), Marcus Baugh (Ohio State), Dalton Schultz (Stanford), Ryan Izzo (Florida State), C.J. Conrad (Kentucky)
1. Connor Williams, Texas* (6-5, 290, 5.06)
2. Mitch Hyatt, Clemson* (6-5, 295, 5.05)
3. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (6-7, 310, 5.22)
4. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma* (6-7, 340, 5.44)
5. Trey Adams, Washington* (6-7, 309, 5.28)
Just missed: Toby Weathersby (LSU), Brock Ruble (Florida State), Martinas Rankin (Mississippi State), Jamarco Jones (Ohio State), Chukwuma Okorafor (Western Michigan), Zachary Crabtree (Oklahoma State)
1. Billy Price, Ohio State (6-3, 315, 5.19)
2. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame* (6-5, 325, 5.23)
3. Martez Ivey, Florida* (6-5, 305, 5.04)
4. Mason Cole, Michigan (6-5, 305, 5.06)
5. Braden Smith, Auburn (6-5, 300, 5.08)
Just missed: Cody O’Connell (Washington State), Tyrone Crowder (Clemson), Hunter Bivin (Notre Dame), Beau Benzschawel (Wisconsin), William Clapp (LSU), Maea Teuhema (LSU), Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama), Frank Ragnow (Arkansas), Michael Deiter (Wisconsin), Alec Eberle (Florida State), Scott Quessenberry, UCLA
1. Arden Key, LSU* (6-5, 232, 4.74)
2. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State* (6-4, 265, 4.76)
3. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson* (6-5, 255, 4.78)
4. Bradley Chubb, NC State (6-3, 273, 4.86)
5. Harold Landry, Boston College (6-2, 250, 4.72)
Just missed: Duke Ejiofor (Wake Forest), Josh Sweat (Florida State), Marquis Haynes (Ole Miss), Porter Gustin (USC), Dorance Armstrong (Kansas), Tyquan Lewis (Ohio State), Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), Dante Booker (Ohio State), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Oklahoma)
1. Christian Wilkins, Clemson* (6-3, 310, 5.04)
2. Vita Vea, Washington* (6-4, 332, 5.19)
3. Da’Rony Payne, Alabama (6-2, 319, 5.38)
4. Lowell Lotlulelei, Utah (6-2, 310, 5.08)
5. Maurice Hurst, Michigan (6-2, 282, 4.93)
Just missed: Michael Hill (Ohio State), Christian LaCouture (LSU), Derrick Nnadi (Florida State), Kahlil McKenzie (Tennessee), Folorunso Fatukasi (Connecticut), Greg Gaines (Washington), David Moa (Boise State)
1. Malik Jefferson, Texas* (6-2, 238, 4.57)
2. Cameron Smith, USC* (6-1, 245, 4.74)
3. Micah Kiser, Virginia (6-1, 240, 4.76)
4. Jerome Baker, Ohio State* (6-1, 215, 4.59)
5. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech* (6-4, 236, 4.82)
Just missed: Christian Miller (Alabama), Shaun Dion Hamilton (Alabama), Azeem Victor (Washington), Jack Cichy (Wisconsin), Josey Jewell (Iowa), Skai Moore (South Carolina), Matthew Thomas (Florida State)
1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama* (6-0, 203, 4.52)
2. Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State* (6-1, 201, 4.49)
3. Jaire Alexander, Louisville* (5-11, 188, 4.43)
4. Anthony Averett, Alabama (6-0, 183, 4.49)
5. Denzel Ward, Ohio State* (5-11, 184, 4.50)
Just missed: Iman Marshall (USC), Quenton Meeks (Stanford), Kevin Toliver (LSU), Tony Brown (Alabama), Brandon Facyson (Virginia Tech), Duke Dawson (Florida), Juan Thornhill (Virginia), Jordan Thomas (Oklahoma), Ed Paris (LSU)
1. Derwin James, Florida State* (6-2, 213, 4.52)
2. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama* (6-2, 216, 4.57)
3. Quin Blanding, Virginia (6-1, 205, 4.58)
4. Armani Watts, Texas A&M (5-11, 200, 4.49)
5. Chase Hansen, Utah* (6-2, 212, 4.67)
Just missed: Jordan Whitehead (Pittsburgh), Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern), Marcus Allen (Penn State), Chris Hawkins (USC), Damon Webb (Ohio State), Nick Washington (Florida), Drue Tranquill (Notre Dame), Terrell Edmunds (Virginia Tech), Andrew Wingard (Wyoming)