The Daily Briefing Thursday, April 5, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

Patriots WR JULIAN EDELMAN acted responsibly to a threat posted on his Instagram account – as did authorities in Port Huron, Michigan (key fact) – and a school shooting may have been prevented.  Mike Reiss at ESPN.com:

 

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman is prolific on his personal Instagram account, and his interaction with those who follow him might have prevented a potential tragedy.

 

As first reported in The New York Times, Edelman was visiting former teammate Danny Amendola in Texas in late March when he received a direct message on Instagram that read, “Dude, there is a kid in your comment section says he s going to shoot up a school, I think you should alert the authority.”

 

In an interview with the Times, Edelman explained that he notified his assistant in Boston, who found the message that read: “I’m going to shoot my school up watch the news.”

 

Edelman’s assistant then called 911, and the message was ultimately traced to a 14-year-old boy in Port Huron, Michigan. When police arrived at the boy’s home, according to the Times, he admitted to posting the threat. Authorities also found two rifles that belonged to his mother, a police chief told the Times.

 

The boy was taken to a juvenile-detention center and remains there after being charged with making a false report of a threat of terrorism.

 

Edelman plans to send something to the Instagram follower who alerted him about the threat, telling the Times, “He’s the real hero.”

 

“It’s not good enough anymore to disregard comments like those as offhanded,” said Don Yee, who is Edelman’s agent. “All of us, including players, are learning together to take these kinds of things very seriously.”

 

So far so good, but the charge of a “false threat” sounds like he may be out of juvy sooner rather than later.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Peter King on the wheeling and dealing of the Rams and what lies ahead:

 

The difference-maker in the Patriots’ trade of Brandin Cooks to the Rams on Tuesday? I’m told the deal, which had been discussed several times since the end of the season, got rekindled when Sean McVay and Bill Belichick talked at the University of Georgia football coaches clinic late last week. I hear the Rams had their first-round pick on the table, but it was the ancillary picks that needed to be reconfigured for the deal to finally get done; the Rams wanted better than a fourth-rounder in return from New England, and the Patriots stuck to their guns on their proposed compensation. And it got done Tuesday afternoon.

 

“When it got finalized,” Rams GM Les Snead said from Los Angeles on Tuesday night, “you had a very happy head coach and offensive play-caller [McVay] in our offices—and you know that they are one and the same.”

 

There’s a lot we learned about the Patriots, the Rams, the Giants and the first round of the draft when New England sent wide receiver Cooks and a fourth-round pick to Los Angeles for the Rams’ first and sixth-round picks. Breaking it down:

 

WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE RAMS

Cooks is not a consolation prize for losing out on Odell Beckham Jr. That is clear. Last year, months before the Rams traded for Sammy Watkins in August, they tried to trade with New Orleans for Cooks, before the Saints sent him to New England. “At that time we didn’t have a first-round pick and New England did, and that made all the difference,” Snead said. “We discussed [cornerback] Trumaine Johnson with New Orleans, but we could not trump New England’s one.” Beckham would cost two firsts and, if the Rams were able to sign him, about $20 million a year. Cooks, I’m guessing, will be around $17 million a year (if they can sign him beyond this year), and the Rams saved a first-rounder and dropped down 113 picks (from their one to the Patriots’ four) with the other. So in money and draft compensation, LA saved. It means very little, though, if they can’t sign Cooks. I’m assuming that has a good chance of getting done, seeing as Cooks is a Californian (Stockton) and has the same agent as Jared Goff—the Rams quarterback will likely become a big Cooks fan, soon.

 

McVay is so enthused because he has wanted a reliable outside speed receiver since he got to Los Angeles. Sammy Watkins, who left for Kansas City in free agency, was fast but not altogether reliable. Now McVay can deploy Cooks and Robert Woods on the outside and Cooper Kupp in the slot, with prospect Josh Reynolds a promising fourth receiver and Tavon Austin a gadget guy if he stays. 

 

The Rams have now acquired four Pro Bowl-caliber players in the past month—Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Cooks, and now will not pick until late on the second day of the draft, the 87th overall choice. “I can honestly say we can’t do much more now,” Snead said. They likely won’t sign even bargain unrestricted free agents now, because they want to capitalize on compensatory picks in 2019.

 

The biggest looming issue for the Rams: Star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Cooks are both looming 2019 free agents. If they both get to the market, the Rams can only tag one. That’s likely to be Donald, the best defensive lineman in football. So the race will be on to get one or both signed long-term and, if necessary, put a franchise or transition tag on the other to keep him for 2019.

 

“One of our main priorities now is to make Aaron Donald a Ram for a long time,” Snead said.

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

The Ravens, who shied away from Colin Kaepernick last year, are taking a chance on QB ROBERT GRIFFIN III.  Jon Benne at SBNation.com:

 

Once upon a time, Robert Griffin III was the most electrifying quarterback prospect in the NFL. Now he’s on his third team in four years after signing with the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced Wednesday.

 

Griffin is now the third quarterback on the roster. The Ravens were in the market for a backup for Joe Flacco. His previous backup, Ryan Mallett, is a free agent this offseason, and the only other quarterback on the roster was Josh Woodrum. General manager Ozzie Newsome said Griffin visited the team to workout last week, and the two sides came to an agreement last night.

 

At their press conference, head coach John Harbaugh said, “Where we’re at right now, I’m pretty excited about this player. I’m really feeling like we got a steal.”

 

Griffin tweeted about it shortly after the announcement:

 

@RGIII

 #PlayLikeARaven

 

Griffin’s fall from grace was hard to predict back when he was lighting up NFL defenses five years ago. Washington gave up a bounty to land the Baylor quarterback, trading away multiple high draft picks to select him No. 2 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. RGIII exploded out of the gates in his rookie year, throwing 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions, averaging 8.1 yards per attempt, and rushing for 826 yards and seven touchdowns. He was a dual-threat phenomenon the likes of which the NFL hasn’t seen since Michael Vick was in his prime.

 

It all went downhill from there. After leading Washington to the division title, Griffin tore his ACL in the Wild Card round loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The injuries only piled up from there, as he played just 13 games in 2013 and nine in 2014. Meanwhile, Griffin devolved into a turnover machine, throwing 18 interceptions and losing eight fumbles over two years. Head coach Mike Shanahan got fired after the 2013 season, and new coach Jay Gruden eventually favored Kirk Cousins over RGIII, who spent the entire 2015 season on the inactive list.

 

Griffin got released by Washington and landed with the Cleveland Browns in 2016. The Browns hired Hue Jackson, a creative offensive mind who seemed committed to getting RGIII’s career back on track. Unfortunately, it was never to be. Griffin suffered a serious shoulder injury in Week 1 and ended up playing just five games. When healthy, he was the same rattled mess as before, not even throwing a single touchdown pass until the meaningless season finale. In that time, he threw three picks and set career lows in completion percentage (59.2) and yards per attempt (6.0). To his credit, he gave the Browns their last regular season win.

 

Griffin is only 28 years old, but the shine is thoroughly off him at this point, his brilliant rookie year a distant memory. But if Joe Flacco struggles in 2018, maybe there’s one last window of hope for him.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com sees an ulterior motive:

 

With the benefit of: (a) a night of sleep; (b) a cup or two of coffee; and (c) a chance to talk through the situation during the opening segment of PFT Live, it’s possible that I’ve figured out the connection between the Ravens announcing on Wednesday that quarterback Robert Griffin III will be signed (not has been signed, but will be signed) and G.M. Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh being questioned on Thursday in quarterback Colin Kaepernick‘s pending collusion grievance.

 

Newsome and Harbaugh likely will be saying that they regarded Griffin as being a superior talent to Kaepernick. If they would have been saying that on Thursday without letting the world know on Wednesday that they’ll be signing him next week, the line of questioning would have gone something like this:

 

Lawyer: Why did you offer a contract to Griffin last year and not to Kaepernick?

 

Witness: We think Griffin is a better player than Kaepernick.

 

Lawyer: How much better?

 

Witness: Dramatically better.

 

Lawyer: Dramatically better?

 

Witness: Dramatically better.

 

Lawyer: Better than any other option on the backup quarterback market?

 

Witness: (Pauses.) Yes, better than any other option of the backup quarterback market.

 

Lawyer: Tell me, which NFL team currently employs Griffin?

 

Witness: (Pauses.) Well, none of them.

 

Lawyer: Well, why don’t you?

 

By adding Griffin, that line of questioning goes away. And while it’s odd to think that the Ravens would allow legal strategy to influence football decisions, it’s too coincidental that they held a press conference on Wednesday announcing that Griffin will join the team next week, a day before Newsome and Harbaugh are scheduled to answer plenty of questions about why they picked Griffin over Kaepernick.

 

Besides, the truth seems to be that the Ravens previously allowed business strategy to influence football decisions, based on the decision not to sign Kaepernick last year. The challenge for the Ravens and the NFL on Thursday ultimately will consist of showing that the Ravens made their decisions about Kaepernick on their own, and without any influence of a league office that arguably was spreading the word that signing Kaepernick would be bad for business.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

INDIANAPOLIS

G JEREMY VUJNOVICH has signed his one-year exclusive rights tender offer.  He started every game at right guard last year.

 

 

 

TENNESSEE

The Titans have new uniforms.  In simple terms, the helmets and pants have gone from white to navy for the home uniform to go with the navy jersey.  The road uniform will still sport navy pants.  Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com breaks it down much further.

 

It felt like much of Nashville was behind the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday night as several players — past and present — led by quarterback Marcus Mariota unveiled the team’s new uniforms. Mariota rocked the all-navy blue jersey.

 

Several thousand fans stood shoulder to shoulder down Broadway, a long street of honky-tonks. Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., estimated that the crowd numbered somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000.

 

Music blasted from an on-stage DJ, a live Titans band and a performance by country music act Florida Georgia Line to close out the festivities. It was about as Nashville as you can get.

 

“Nashville knows how to throw a party,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel yelled before the unveiling.

 

The Titans’ new uniforms, which they’ve branded as “tradition evolved,” arrive as the team celebrates its 20th season in Tennessee. It signals the Titans taking another step toward making themselves a brand separate from their predecessors, the Houston Oilers.

 

The Titans’ uniforms consist of three primary color combinations: navy blue (home), white (away) and a light blue called Titans blue (color rush).

 

The most drastic shift comes in the look of the helmet, which is now navy blue with one, two-toned silver stripe, a feature that resembles a Titan sword. The uniform pants have this same feature. The Titans’ previous helmet was white with two navy blue stripes.

 

The new uniforms have multiple instances of Tennessee state pride and Titans pride, such as the three red stars from the state flag featured on the inside neckline of the jersey.

 

The number on each jersey is shaped similarly to the northeast corner of the state of Tennessee and is inspired by Greek lettering, playing off the team’s name.

 

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk figured the numbers would get the most widespread reaction from the fan base because the edges are pointed and far different than numbers on other NFL uniforms. But the Titans wanted Tennessee state pride to be a big part of the uniform design, and they were open to a modern look.

 

(DB aside – the new Titans numbers will not make things easier for spotters or other people who want to look at the numbers for the primary reason of reading them)

 

“This team is not rebuilding. It’s just reloading. And these uniforms symbolize that,” said Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo, who rocked the white road jerseys. “Look good, play good.”

 

Titans general manager Jon Robinson, a Tennessee native, teared up when he talked about what this team has meant to him. He called the new uniforms “fierce.”

 

Nike said the new uniform is 29 percent lighter in weight than the previous uniform, with a focus on it being more comfortable and cooler for the players.

 

“When I first saw them, I really liked them,” Titans all-time leading rusher Eddie George said. “I was really jealous. They have so many options.”

 

The team has noticeably embraced change in the months leading up to the unveiling, such as when Robinson in January introduced Vrabel as the fifth head coach in Titans history, instead of the 18th coach in franchise history.

 

Dozens of Titans players were in attendance at the event.

 

You can see the new uniforms here where Paul Lukas of ESPN’s uniwatch grades them:

 

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

 

That’s the approach the Tennessee Titans are taking with their new uniform set, which was unveiled on Wednesday night. The new designs, which lean heavily on sword-based imagery, represent the franchise’s first makeover since adopting the Titans moniker in 1999.

 

Like most NFL uniform sets, this one has a lot of components. Let’s go one element at a time (with the usual caveat that we’ll need to see these uniforms on the field to get the full effect):

 

The Helmet

The helmet represents the new uniform set’s biggest change, and it’s mostly for the better. The Titans’ old white helmet has been replaced by a navy blue shell with a satin finish. The face mask is chrome, and the tapered silver center stripe is meant to evoke the tip of a sword.

 

The one holdover element is the Titans’ familiar helmet logo, variously known as “the flaming thumbtack” (if you’re among the many fans who’ve ridiculed the logo over the years) or “the fireball” (if you’re the team’s marketing department). It’s been given a silver outline but is otherwise unchanged. Too bad — it could have used some updating.

 

Still, the overall helmet is an upgrade. The Titans never looked quite right wearing white helmets, which are primarily the province of the AFC East. The new look works nicely. Grade: A-

 

The Home Jersey

The Titans are sticking with a navy home jersey with a contrasting shoulder yoke. But the old yoke was Columbia blue and ran as a solid horizontal stripe, while the new one features two shades of grayish silver and tapers to a point at each sleeve, supposedly to represent a beveled sword. If you ignore the sword nonsense and just assess it on an aesthetic level, it’s not bad. And the navy jersey pairs well with the new navy helmet.

 

There’s also a new number font, which takes inspiration from stone-carved Greek lettering. That’s an intriguing idea that, like so many of Nike’s typographic concepts, doesn’t work so well in real life. The whole appeal of stone-carved lettering is that it’s, you know, carved in stone — it’s fixed in place, immobile, eternal. But these jersey numbers are rendered in fabric that will be flexing, twisting, wrinkling and puckering, and Nike’s press photos suggest that the font doesn’t look so great under those conditions. Also, the font comprises a lot of fairly thin strokes, which looks fine on a slender defensive back but is less than ideal on a 300-pound lineman.

 

Each numeral also includes a little triangular point at the upper-right corner to evoke the northeastern tip of Tennessee — a fun idea that works better with some numerals than with others. In the overall context of the number font, it’s largely harmless.

 

Finally, the jersey also includes Columbia blue side panels, which is a major mistake. Contrasting side panels never look good on an NFL jersey (see: Patriots, Bengals, Broncos), and this one feels particularly gratuitous. A worthless throw-in element that serves no purpose and seriously detracts from the design. Grade: C+

 

The Road Jersey

Basically the same thing as the home jersey, but rendered in white. The silver-gray yoke works surprisingly well with the white jersey, and the blue side panels, while still pointless, aren’t quite as obtrusive against the white background. Also, this jersey looks particularly good with the navy pants — here’s hoping the Titans go with that pairing on the road. Grade: B-

 

The Alternate Jersey

The same template again, this time in Columbia blue. Much like the team’s previous Columbia blue jersey, this design will serve two functions: It will be an alternate jersey that can be worn up to twice per season, presumably with white pants, and it also will be worn for Thursday night games with matching Columbia blue pants. (And if Titans history is any guide, it might one day be redesignated as the team’s primary jersey, with the navy design becoming the alternate.)

 

Unfortunately, the gray yoke looks much too drab against this color — a downgrade from the navy yoke on the previous alternate. On the plus side, however, this jersey looks better with the navy helmet than the previous alternate looked with the white helmet. Grade: B-

 

The Pants

Nike’s designers like to play around with diagonally oriented pants piping. We’ve seen that before with the Jaguars and Buccaneers. Now they’ve put two diagonal gray stripes on the sides of the Titans’ new pants and are claiming that it represents — wait for it — a sword being worn on the hip.

 

This is classic Nike — a design detail that gets people saying, “Ahh!” at the unveiling event and then everyone will forget all about it by the next day. But if you ignore the sword silliness and just treat the two gray stripes as two gray stripes, they have a nice regimental look — not bad. Grade: B+

 

The Socks

What, no sword imagery? OK, just kidding (mostly). Nothing new here — the same navy-over-white socks that they’ve worn for years. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s too bad they didn’t come up with a white-topped sock for the navy pants, which will still be susceptible to the dreaded leotard effect. Grade: B+

 

Overall

A good football uniform always starts with a good helmet, and the Titans have made significant strides on that front. But the jerseys could be better, and the sword motif is overplayed. Final grade: B

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

Peter King says the Patriots will not go after ODELL BECKHAM, JR. with BRANDIN COOKS gone to LA:

 

New England is in enviable draft position now. This is the first time since 1998 that the Patriots have had two first-round picks and two second-round picks in a draft. That’s great, because the Patriots have a lot of holes to fill. They need a quarterback heir to soon-to-be 41-year-old Tom Brady. They need a left tackle after the departure of Nate Solder to the Giants in free agency. They need a corner and could use a young receiver to build around. I doubt this means the Patriots will collect a bunch of draft capital to move up for one of the hot quarterbacks in the draft. It doesn’t make sense, especially considering that the Browns at one and the Jets at three seems locked on quarterbacks … and to trade from the 23rd slot into the top five or six will take more than four picks they’ve got in the top two rounds—numbers 23, 31, 43 and 63 overall. At quarterback, it makes much more sense to stand pat for a second-tier quarterback like Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph.

 

The Patriots, I’m told, tried to re-sign Cooks beyond this final year of his deal. But that was problematic because they didn’t view him (or any receiver) as being worth $15-17 million a year, and because of the domino effect it would have had to pay any pass-catcher significantly more than tight end Rob Gronkowski (due $8.9 million in salary and bonuses this year).

 

Trading for Beckham seems a preposterous notion, both in compensation and in contract size.

 

This is the most important draft in years for the Patriots. This is an aging team without many young players of star quality. This draft is strong for potential cornerstone players until about pick 12, then, as several personnel gurus have told me this offseason, it’s fairly strong in starter quality well into the third round. The Patriots, to build for the post-Brady era, have to hit on two or three stalwart players.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

RANKING THE NUMBER ONE OVERALL PICKS

Interesting exercise by Eliot Harrison of NFL.com as he ranks the 51 number one overall picks of the common draft.  It’s no surprise that JaMarcus Russell is number 51 and Peyton Manning is number 1.  Let’s see where everyone else ranks (we have edited out most of Harrison’s commentary which you can see with vintage photos here).

 

As the DB counts it, including Peyton Manning as a sure thing, the top 11 are in the Hall of Fame.  No one else yet, with some like CAM NEWTON and ELI MANNING still to be judged.

 

51) JaMarcus Russell, quarterback     Drafted by: Oakland Raiders, 2007.

Does anyone remember JaMarcus Russell completing 72 percent of his passes with a 128.1 passer rating in a win over the Texans, or going 15 of 22 against the Dolphins earlier in that 2008 season? I remember the latter, as I wrote about it for http://FoxSports.com. There was a time, in Russell’s second season, when it looked like he would and could be a player. It was mostly downhill from there, as he was less ready to be a franchise leader off the field than on it. His “want to” was questioned. His passer rating plummeted. And so did Oakland’s hopes of not having to lean on guys like Andrew Walter.

 

50) Myles Garrett, defensive end              Drafted by: Cleveland Browns, 2017.

Myles Garrett went first overall in 2017, then we didn’t hear about him much. That’s what happens when you don’t have “QB” listed on your draft card, apparently. The Browns going 0-16 didn’t really push Garrett’s decent rookie season to the forefront of greater foodballdom’s consciousness, either. Decent, only because the top overall pick was not able to play a full schedule last year … ankle injuries have been around even longer than the NFL draft. Garrett has already been more effective than JaMarcus Russell and will probably push much farther up this list with more than 11 games under his belt. Still, even in that limited time, Garrett posted seven sacks, 31 tackles, and a forced fumble last year. He is a certifiable building block on what could be an exciting (gulp) Cleveland team.

 

49) Steve Emtman, defensive end                Drafted by: Indianapolis Colts, 1992.

Like several of the players coming up on this list, Steve Emtman’s career was ravaged by injury.

 

48) Courtney Brown, defensive end                Drafted by: Cleveland Browns, 2000.

Courtney Brown’s career didn’t go the way media or the fans expected, but the man himself accepted. A quiet player, Brown maybe didn’t take his on-field struggles in stride internally, but he kept plugging away through several injury setbacks.

 

47) Ki-Jana Carter, running back                          Drafted by: Cincinnati Bengals, 1995.

Ki-Jana Carter was the most talented running back in the top conference in college football, but he’s remembered for being a mediocre NFL running back. The bridge — the broken bridge — between the two is what happened on Aug. 17, 1995: Carter made a cut in the Pontiac Silverdome on his third professional carry, tearing a ligament in his knee

 

46) Kenneth Sims, defensive end                             Drafted by: New England Patriots, 1982.

Sims stumbled out of the blocks in a rookie season interrupted by a player’s strike. Sims was hurt in Year 2, and by Year 3 was considered a bust with all of 6.5 sacks to his name. He stuck with it through off-field ups and downs, enjoying his finest season in 1985 with 5.5 sacks and a Super Bowl berth for the upstart Patriots. By his final season, he had worked himself into a decent player … for a 5-11 team.

 

45) Tim Couch, quarterback                                        Drafted by: Cleveland Browns, 1999.

Loved what Bruce Arians said a few years ago about Tim Couch to Peter King, and it bears repeating: “Tim Couch. Hell of a player. Tim was no bust. It kills me when people call him a bust. His arm was just so torn up he couldn’t play anymore. He would have been a real good one.”

 

44) Aundray Bruce, outside linebacker                        Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons, 1988.

After a promising rookie campaign with 70 tackles and six sacks, Bruce could never take the next step.

 

43) Walt Patulski, defensive end                                       Drafted by: Buffalo Bills, 1972.

Would you believe the first Notre Dame player to go No. 1 overall was Walt Patulski?. Patulski never lived up to his draft status, unfairly described as not being mean enough.

 

42) Eric Fisher, offensive tackle                                      Drafted by: Kansas City Chiefs, 2013.

Eric Fisher has at least become a reliable starter in Kansas City

 

41) Tom Cousineau, linebacker                                       Drafted by: Buffalo Bills, 1979.

He was a decent player in Cleveland, leading the team in tackles multiple times. Ah, but that first-round pick … can you say Jim Kelly?

 

40) Jared Goff, quarterback                                            Drafted by: Los Angeles Rams, 2016.

While we still have no idea who or what he’s going to be as a quarterback, he more than displayed his long-term potential in 2017 by leading the Rams to the playoffs

 

39) John Matuszak, defensive end                                    Drafted by: Houston Oilers, 1973.

The first overall pick of the Oilers in 1973 was traded to the Chiefs in the deal that landed Hall of Famer Curley Culp in Houston. Two years later, Matuszak landed in Oakland, where he won two Super Bowls and was a starter five of six seasons for the Silver and Black

 

38) Dan Wilkinson, defensive tackle                              Drafted by: Cincinnati Bengals, 1994.

Big Daddy was far from a bust, though, ultimately playing 13 years in the league and racking up 54.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position.

 

37) Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end                              Drafted by: Houston Texans, 2014.

Jadeveon Clowney didn’t take over the league last year as some predicted, but he was pretty solid.

 

36) David Carr, quarterback                                                Drafted by: Houston Texans, 2002.

The first thing that comes to anyone’s mind regarding David Carr’s career is how much he was annihilated. No one — from the fans to assorted media members — can get past the constant barrage of pressure the elder Carr was under early in his days with the Texans.

 

35) Sam Bradford, quarterback                                             Drafted by: St. Louis Rams, 2010.

Sam Bradford might be the most difficult player on this list to evaluate.

 

34) Ricky Bell, running back                                  Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1977.

Ricky Bell was a workhorse back. He could flat-out play. But many people didn’t see it that way after his production slowed down severely in 1980, and he was out of the league in 1982. What they didn’t know was that Bell was suffering from heart failure caused by dermatomyositis. Prior to that, Bell had been an ascending player on an ascending expansion team, culminating with a 1,263-yard season and an appearance in the 1979 NFC Championship Game. Unfortunately, Bell would be out of football within three years and die two years later from heart failure. A tragedy in every sense of the word.

 

33) Jameis Winston, quarterback                          Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2015.

Jameis Winston has probably carried as much team responsibility as any three-year player in recent memory. The Bucs revolve around his play, and they often fail or succeed because of it

 

32) Jeff George, quarterback                                   Drafted by: Indianapolis Colts, 1990.

The Jay Cutler of his day.

 

31) Jake Long, offensive tackle                                  Drafted by: Miami Dolphins, 2008.

Jake Long was a top performer at left tackle early in his run in pro football, even making first-team All-Pro in only his third season with the Dolphins.

 

30) Russell Maryland, defensive tackle                         Drafted by: Dallas Cowboys, 1991.

Russell Maryland might have been the oddest No. 1 overall pick of the last 51 years. In 1991, the consensus top player in the country was Rocket Ismail. The speedster flew north to the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL, leaving Jimmy Johnson to take someone he was comfortable with in Maryland (his former player at Miami). Maryland was a fine defensive tackle in the NFL, winning three Super Bowl rings and making a Pro Bowl in a 10-year NFL career.

 

29) Bo Jackson, running back                               Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1986.

While many people will want to see Bo Jackson much higher on this list, reality versus myth comes into play. Was Jackson an exceptional athlete? Absolutely. But splitting time with MLB meant that Jackson never even rushed for 1,000 yards (he came quite close in 1989 in only 11 games). Incidentally, Jackson did not play at all the year he was taken No. 1, passing on suiting up for the Bucs to play for the Memphis Chicks in the Kansas City Royals’ farm system.

 

28) Keyshawn Johnson, wide receiver                           Drafted by: New York Jets, 1996.

Often discussed more for his mouth than his play on the field, Keyshawn Johnson accomplished much during a noteworthy 11-year career with the Jets, Buccaneers, Cowboys and Panthers.

 

27) Michael Vick, quarterback                                          Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons, 2001.

Like Eli Manning, Michael Vick’s selection as the top overall pick involved his future team making a trade with the Chargers. Soon thereafter, the speedy lefty became the most exciting player in football, leading the Falcons to a win at Lambeau in the playoffs in 2002 (the first ever postseason loss for the Packers there), then the 2004 NFC Championship Game. Off-the-field decisions affected Vick’s career from there, although he experienced a nice renaissance in Philly in 2010.

 

26) Andrew Luck, quarterback                                        Drafted by: Indianapolis Colts, 2012.

Andrew Luck stays at the same spot on his list from a year ago, mostly because his career is in neutral.

 

25) Mario Williams, defensive end                                      Drafted by: Houston Texans, 2006.

Much debate came with Mario Williams going ahead of Reggie Bush, but now there is little doubt that it was the right choice.

 

24) Vinny Testaverde, quarterback                        Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1987.

Quarterbacks drafted before everyone else always get saddled with the most pressure, which is compounded by the fact that they are usually joining a lousy football team. Case in point: Vinny Testaverde, who suffered through six tough years in Tampa Bay before turning into a solid veteran QB for the Browns, Ravens and Jets. Testaverde not only played until he was 44, but he threw for 46,233 yards and 275 touchdowns. Wow.

 

23) Irving Fryar, wide receiver                                   Drafted by: New England Patriots, 1984.

Irving Fryar struggled early in his career, especially with the incredible expectations of being the top overall pick a year after so many rookies made a huge impact (1983). Over time, though, Fryar developed into a reliable possession receiver.

 

22) George Rogers, running back                                 Drafted by: New Orleans Saints, 1981.

You won’t find too many No. 1 overall picks who paid more immediate dividends than George Rogers, who led the NFL in rushing with a whopping 1,674 yards as a rookie.

 

21) Alex Smith, quarterback                                         Drafted by: San Francisco 49ers, 2005.

Once plagued by instability at offensive coordinator and head coach early in his career, Alex Smith has evolved into a much more steady performer as he’s enjoyed more stability around him.

 

20) Carson Palmer, quarterback                                     Drafted by: Cincinnati Bengals, 2003.

Carson Palmer sat his entire rookie season to learn, but by Year 3, he had the Bengals in the playoffs, with the promise of much more to come. However, injuries and inconsistent play marred much of Palmer’s time in Cincy

 

19) Jim Plunkett, quarterback                                    Drafted by: New England Patriots, 1971.

Jim Plunkett won two Super Bowls for the Raiders, and he might be one of the least-talked about successful quarterbacks in NFL history

 

18) Bubba Smith, defensive lineman                                 Drafted by: Baltimore Colts, 1967.

Bubba Smith was a monster to play against when healthy

 

17) Steve Bartkowski, quarterback                                     Drafted by: Atlanta Falcons, 1975.

Steve Bartkowski played 11 seasons in Atlanta, taking the Falcons to the playoffs three times.

 

16) Drew Bledsoe, quarterback                                 Drafted by: New England Patriots, 1993.

Despite being largely known as the man replaced by Tom Brady in New England, Drew Bledsoe should be remembered for being a fine passer in the 1990s

 

15) Billy Sims, running back                                             Drafted by: Detroit Lions, 1980.

Another first overall pick whose career was derailed by a knee injury, Billy Sims was simply brilliant in four-and-a-half seasons with the Lions.

 

14) Cam Newton, quarterback                                           Drafted by: Carolina Panthers, 2011.

Cam Newton and the Panthers bounced back in 2017 after a subpar 2016 season that saw them miss the playoffs after a Super Bowl berth the year prior.

 

13) Matthew Stafford, quarterback                                  Drafted by: Detroit Lions, 2009.

While it was admittedly not fun for me, Matt Stafford leapfrogs another Lions great (and a favorite) on this list in Billy Sims.

 

12) Eli Manning, quarterback                                       Drafted by: San Diego Chargers, 2004.

Not wanting to play for San Diego, Manning was part of a draft-day trade with the Giants that included Philip Rivers. So while he never succeeded for the original franchise that drafted him, no one was expecting him to compete for the Chargers anyway. He also wasn’t a player who enjoyed an improved Act II with another team, a la Jim Plunkett or Carson Palmer (Act III) or Vinny Testaverde (too many Acts). Thus, Manning is only like one other player on this list in that regard — John Elway.

 

11) Ed “Too Tall” Jones, defensive end                             Drafted by: Dallas Cowboys, 1974.

Not many people were scouting Tennessee State back in 1974, but former Cowboys personnel czar (and my NFL.com colleague) Gil Brandt was. Dallas was rewarded for its interest in the 6-foot-9 Jones with 15 fine years.

 

10) Orlando Pace, offensive tackle                               Drafted by: St. Louis Rams, 1997.

Pace was maybe the best player at his job on the 1999 Rams, a.k.a. “The Greatest Show on Turf.”

 

9) Lee Roy Selmon, defensive lineman                Drafted by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1976.

The Bucs’ first real star, Lee Roy Selmon came out of Oklahoma ready to play in 1976, and by 1979, he was making the Pro Bowl every year.

 

8) Ron Yary, offensive tackle                                    Drafted by: Minnesota Vikings, 1968.

A Hall of Fame tackle, Ron Yary was as steady a player as there was in the 1970s, a six-time first-team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler

 

7) Earl Campbell, running back                                 Drafted by: Houston Oilers, 1978.

Quite simply the greatest power back in NFL history.

 

6) O.J. Simpson, running back                                        Drafted by: Buffalo Bills, 1969.

O.J. Simpson didn’t hit his stride with the Bills until Lou Saban took over head coaching duties in 1972. Simpson led the NFL in rushing in four of the next five seasons, including with 2,003 yards in 1973.

 

5) Troy Aikman, quarterback                                         Drafted by: Dallas Cowboys, 1989.

Hard to believe that it was 29 years ago when Troy Aikman was drafted first overall by the Dallas Cowboys.

 

4) Terry Bradshaw, quarterback                                   Drafted by: Pittsburgh Steelers, 1970.

One of only three quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls, Terry Bradshaw did it first.

 

3) John Elway, quarterback                                              Drafted by: Baltimore Colts, 1983.

You could make the argument that John Elway belongs even higher, but given that he never played a down for the team that originally drafted him, third seems right.

 

2) Bruce Smith, defensive end                                       Drafted by: Buffalo Bills, 1985.

The NFL’s sack king deserves this high ranking, especially because Bruce Smith provided 15 Hall of Fame seasons for the team that drafted him.

 

1) Peyton Manning, quarterback                                    Drafted by: Indianapolis Colts, 1998.

Easy choice at the top of the list.

 

 

NO NEED FOR AN AGENT?

Should a rookie have an agent?  CB RICHARD SHERMAN doesn’t think it is necessary.  Michael David Smith at ProFootballTalk.com:

 

San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman likes having company among prominent NFL players without agents.

 

So Sherman says he’s pleased to see that Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson hasn’t hired an agent in advance of the 2018 NFL draft.

 

“Yes, it’s a great idea,” Sherman told USA Today. “In terms of improving his draft stock or the amount of money he receives, there isn’t much they can do. I’m sure he has mentors and [advisers] who can guide him.”

 

Not hiring an agent makes more sense for a rookie like Jackson, who is going to be stuck with the contract slotted to his draft position, than for a veteran free agent like Sherman, who was involved in active contract negotiations. So even if Sherman is right that Jackson doesn’t need an agent, that doesn’t mean Sherman made the right call when he decided not to hire an agent for himself.

 

But agents do more than just negotiate contracts. Agents for draft prospects set up meetings and workouts with NFL teams, and there have been reports that teams have had trouble getting Jackson scheduled for workouts.

 

The question, then, is whether an agent’s help in setting up meetings and workouts for Jackson with NFL teams would bolster Jackson’s draft stock enough to be worth paying an agent 1 percent to 3 percent of his rookie contract. Jackson and Sherman don’t think having an agent is worth the money. The overwhelming majority of NFL players think it is.