The Daily Briefing Thursday, March 29, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Enjoy kickoffs this season. You are warned that it might be the last of it. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com:
Injury rates on NFL kickoffs remain so high that the league’s competition committee will give a mandate: Make the play safer, or the committee will recommend its elimination in the near future.
At this week’s owners meetings, the league’s medical department presented statistics showing that concussions are five times as likely to happen on kickoffs as on an average play, according to Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy — who is a member of the competition committee. That rate has remained steady even after a rule change, made permanent at this meeting, to bring touchbacks back to the 25-yard line.
“We’ve reduced the number of returns,” Murphy told a small group of reporters, “but we haven’t really done anything to make the play safer.”
As a result, the league will bring together head coaches and special-teams coordinators “in the next few weeks,” Murphy said. There is no indication that the kickoff would be eliminated for 2018, but it’s clear that its future is in doubt barring a significant turnaround.
The message for the group, Murphy said, would be: “If you don’t make changes to make it safer, we’re going to do away with it. It’s that serious. It’s by far the most dangerous play in the game.”
Murphy’s comments add a layer to what was a deep and eventful discussion about NFL player safety. On Tuesday, owners approved an unexpected new rule that threatens ejection for any player who lowers his head to initiate contact with his helmet. The effort came about a month after chief medical officer Allen Sills declared a “call to action” in response to 291 concussions in 2017.
Part of the committee’s concern, Murphy said, was that concussions continue to occur even on touchbacks. So while the rule moving the touchback to the 25-yard line has reduced the overall rate of returns, the action before the touchback has still proved to be dangerous.
“The other thing that’s kind of frustrating,” he said, “is there were concussions on touchbacks. So even though there’s no return, [the committee is] looking at what kind of things you can do to make sure people were aware that there’s not even a return. You see this, too: One player lets up, the player covering lets up, and one of the blockers comes over and, you know. That creates problems when you’ve got one player going half-speed and the other one full speed.”
The new rule about lowering the helmet, which came out of the blue, has alarmed defensive players. Mike Jones of USA TODAY:
As news of the new stricter helmet-to-helmet rule that owners voted to enact broke on Tuesday afternoon, a horde of NFL players expressed displeasure with the change, saying it will now become even more difficult for them to play the game effectively.
According to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, “It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field.”
Although the wording of the rule says all players will have to live by the rule, defensive players said they will suffer the most from the rule, and they worried both that they would be unable to change their approaches and that officials would struggle to enforce the rule effectively and consistently.
“I don’t know how you’re going to play the game,” Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said when reached via telephone. “If your helmet comes in contact? How are you going to avoid that if you’re in the trenches and hit a running back, facemask to facemask and accidentally graze the helmet? It’s obviously going to happen. So, I don’t know even what that definition looks like.”
Reached via text message, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said, “It’s ridiculous. Like telling a driver if you touch the lane lines, you’re getting a ticket. (It’s) gonna lead to more lower-extremity injuries.”
Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander – a 12-year veteran and, like Sherman, a co-vice president on the NFL Players Association’s executive committee – agreed.
“It continues to put us in a predicament,” he said in a phone interview. “In our mind, it makes it hard to play defense in this league. In my mind, there needs to be more of a common-sense approach to it. … It is football at the end of the day. There are going to be injuries that you can’t avoid. You can’t legislate everything out.
‘I’m a guy that considers myself physical and lays big hits. I’ve never had a helmet-to-helmet hit, but what if I get one next year? And that’s putting onus on a referee and he throws out a star player that impacts a game? I don’t know how that’s going to play. It only takes one time to throw out a Von Miller or Khalil Mack.”
Multiple players expressed concern about split-second decisions, citing an example of a quarterback ducking his head to brace for a hit, and then drawing contact from a pass rusher. They wondered who would be at fault in that case.
The owners are still working to finalize the parameters that could lead to an ejection, and the plan is for coaches and players to be consulted prior to the finalization of the rule in May. But Alexander and several of his peers remain concerned and believe ejections would be unfair.
“Maybe throw a flag on field and review it in booth after game and the panel says it looks like it’s intentional and maybe they vote and you suspend or fine a guy – not heat of the battle,” Alexander suggested. “I think there are better ways to make sure guys aren’t playing that way.”
But he added, “Even when we met with (the competition committee this offseason on this matter), we said coaches are teaching guys to separate the ball from guys and giving pluses in meeting rooms, but then you’re trying to tell me you’re going to throw me out of the game. I’m in a bind here. They need to be a little more creative or and strategic rather than throw something out there that sounds good or looks good from player safety. … Because of (the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), they feel like they have to do something to show the fans they’re trying to change it. End of the day, it’s football, and if you change the game so much, we’ll eventually have to play something else.”
Norman called it extremely unlikely that players will be able to alter their tackling approaches, even if portions of practice time were devoted to refining techniques.
“It’s not going to do anything. I don’t know any other way to play,” he said. “I understand trying to be safer, I get it. We saw what happened to (Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker) Ryan Shazier, and I get it and understand that, but at the same time, it’s football. I don’t know what other way to say it but it’s football. … I pray for the game and hope it’ll still be what it is, but it seems in our day and age, the game as we know it is coming to an end. But really, we’re all playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
It sounds like all players, not just defenders, have a right to be worried. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
How big a deal is the new NFL rule outlawing lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet? A very big deal.
Although we’re still waiting on specific examples of what is and is not a penalty, suffice to say that the penalty is going to make significant changes to the sport of football. The league office tells PFT that a USA Today report that the competition committee found fewer than 10 examples of plays from last year that would have been penalties under the new rule is incorrect. Instead, the league pointed us to comments from committee chair Rich McKay, who said the new rule will make a major difference.
“It’s a substantial change,” McKay said. “Lowering their head, creating a different spine angle, and delivering a blow . . . we need to protect all players at all times and say that technique is not allowed. So if you lower your head to initiate contact and you initiate, it’s a foul. . . . It’s one of the most dangerous techniques there is, but yet we’ve allowed it to creep in and it’s now very prevalent. And we need to get it out. And we’re not going to get it out by saying, ‘We need to teach it better,’ we’re going to get it out by penalizing it.”
McKay made clear that this is not just a rule that applies in certain situations, such as hits on defenseless receivers or quarterbacks. This rule applies to everyone: Offense and defense, receivers and safeties, blockers and pass rushers, ball carriers and tacklers. If you’re on the football field, you’re not allowed to lower your head to initiate contact with your helmet. If you do, you won’t be on the football field anymore.
WR ALLEN HURNS will wear number 17 to honor the victims of Nikolas Cruz. Dan Gartland of SI.com:
After four years wearing No. 88 with the Jaguars, new Cowboys receiver Allen Hurns has decided to wear No. 17 in Dallas as a nod to the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“The Douglas shooting that was in Florida, 17 people lost their lives, so I chose that number,” Hurns said in an interview with 105.3 The Fan.
Hurns is a Miami native and went to the University of Miami, not far from where the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School occurred.
Backup quarterback Kellen Moore, who was recently hired as Dallas’s quarterbacks coach, wore No. 17 for the past three seasons. The number was previously worn by receivers Dwayne Harris and Sam Hurd.
By the way, this is about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas whom the school is named after:
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998) was an American journalist, author, women’s suffrage advocate, and conservationist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development
Yep, you read those dates correctly. She lived to be 108.
NEW YORK GIANTS
See LOS ANGELES RAMS for today’s news in the saga of WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr.
Hmmm. Not only do the Redskins believe they matched KIRK COUSINS with the addition of ALEX SMITH, Coach Jay Gruden calls it a significant upgrade. John Keim of ESPN.com:
Considering the big move they made, and the decision to let Kirk Cousins walk, there’s only one thing Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden could say about the change at quarterback: They’re better. And that’s what he said to reporters during breakfast at the owners meetings in Orlando, Florida.
“Yeah, without a doubt,” Gruden said when asked if Washington is better off after trading for Alex Smith. “I don’t want to compare two players, but we’re always trying to be better at every position. We got better. Alex’s experience is well-noted, and his record the last five years is what it is. You could argue that all day, but we feel very good.”
That’s exactly what Gruden should say, otherwise why make the moves they did? The Redskins traded a third-round pick and corner Kendall Fuller to Kansas City for Smith. They let Cousins leave via free agency.
The Redskins need to say they’re better off with Smith, otherwise they would be admitting a mistake. But they do like Smith and feel he’s a better fit for their situation. For starters, he signed a long-term contract, something that wasn’t going to happen with Cousins.
They’ve pointed to Smith’s record with Kansas City — the Chiefs were 50-26 with him starting. However, Smith would be the first to say he couldn’t do it alone. And of the defenses he played with, four ranked among the top 10 in points allowed (they were 15th this past year). Two were top 10 in yards allowed, though the other three were 24th or lower.
The Redskins haven’t had a defense finish top 10 in points allowed since 2008. In fact, that’s the last time they had a defense ranked in the top half in points allowed. There’s only so much a quarterback can do, whether it’s Cousins or Smith. That’s why the Redskins can say they’re better off, and Cousins can say the same thing about his situation with Minnesota.
But Gruden does like a lot of what Smith brings to Washington. He said the team can expand its offense because of those skills. Keep in mind that Cousins topped 4,000 passing yards each of the past three seasons.
“It’s not one thing, it’s everything. It’s the entire body of work,” Gruden said of Smith. “He’s very good at the intermediate ball. He’s good with the quick game. He can run zone reads, the [run-pass options]. Very exciting. … The ability to ad-lib, make plays that aren’t there and keep plays alive. Coaching him for the first time will be exciting because I don’t think there’s a limit on what he can do. He has all the thing you want a quarterback to be able to do.”
In Tampa Bay, they are concerned about a video of CB VERNON HARGREAVES III. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times:
Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, working to bounce back from struggles on the field last season, now may have off-field issues to deal with as well.
A short video posted on Instagram this week appears to show Hargreaves smoking a cigarette of unknown substance.
It’s unclear exactly what Hargreaves is smoking and when the video was taken. It shows him in a hoodie, looking into the camera and blowing smoke at it. The video doesn’t have sound. A lyric from the song Too Playa by Migos — “i put a lil ice on the flex” — are posted on the screen.
The video was not posted from Hargreaves’ Instagram account but one with a similar handle, _vhiii_, the difference being an underscore before and after his nickname. The video was posted twice, noticed by others and posted to Twitter early Wednesday. The Instagram account had been deleted by later Wednesday morning.
Hargreaves, 22, nor his agent returned calls seeking comment. The Bucs did not have any comment when notified of the video.
The NFL could be interested in what Hargreaves might have been smoking. Marijuana is a banned substance in the league, and a positive test puts a player in the league’s substance abuse program and can result in a suspension.
Less than a day earlier, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter had expressed confidence and support for the 2016 first-round draft pick, saying he was a big part of their defense moving forward and had played well after moving into a part-time role as the nickel cornerback last season.
Here is the area in the first round where Hargreaves was picked in 2016.
9 Chicago Leonard Floyd OLB Georgia
10 New York Giants Eli Apple CB Ohio State
11 Tampa Bay Vernon Hargreaves III CB Florida SEC
12 New Orleans Sheldon Rankins DT Louisville
13 Miami Laremy Tunsil OT Ole Miss
14 Oakland Karl Joseph S West Virginia
15 Cleveland Corey Coleman WR Baylor
16 Detroit Taylor Decker OT Ohio State
17 Atlanta Keanu Neal S Florida
18 Indianapolis Ryan Kelly C Alabama
19 Buffalo Shaq Lawson DE Clemson
20 New York Jets Darron Lee OLB Ohio State
Neal is the only one who has made a Pro Bowl.
Lee seems to be a good player. Decker and Kelly are good players if healthy. Rankins starts and doesn’t put up big numbers (but he may still be a productive inside plugger). Tunsil, who was risky at the time, has done okay.
The 49ers coveted LB REUBEN FOSTER above all teams, drafting him despite warning signs. Now, after a series of mis-steps, he gets a warning from ownership to clean his act up. ESPN:
As the San Francisco 49ers and linebacker Reuben Foster await word from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office about possible charges against Foster, Niners CEO Jed York made it clear Wednesday that Foster’s future with the team will depend on his ability to avoid future trouble.
“We’d love Reuben to be on this team,” York told NBC Sports Bay Area at the owners meetings in Orlando, Florida. “And we’d love him to participate for us. But if he’s not doing things off the field that allow us to be able to rely on him — or he’s doing something that we’re not comfortable with off the field and it’s proven that’s what’s going on — I think the guys have said then you’re just going to have to move on.”
Foster was arrested on Feb. 11 in Los Gatos, California, on suspicion of domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon. As of Wednesday afternoon, the district attorney’s office has yet to make a decision about whether to pursue charges against Foster.
The 49ers have not been in a hurry to make a decision about Foster until the legal process plays out. They don’t have any team activities scheduled until April 16, when they open their offseason program in Santa Clara.
York told NBC Sports Bay Area that he has not talked to Foster about either of his offseason arrests — he was also arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession on Jan. 12 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama — but he has had conversations with general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan about their dealings with Foster.
“From my conversations with John and Kyle, I know Reuben is very cognizant of where his position is right now, and his time with the 49ers could potentially be over if he continues to do things outside of the team that aren’t what we want him to be a part of,” York said.
The 49ers took Foster with the No. 31 pick in last year’s NFL draft. He went on to finish second on the team in tackles, with 72 in 10 games. That came after Foster raised some red flags at the 2017 NFL scouting combine; he was sent home early after he got into an argument with a hospital worker and his urine sample showed up as diluted, which, according to the NFL’s policy on substances of abuse, was treated as a positive test.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Do the Rams have room for one more out-sized personality/knucklehead? Apparently, WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr. hopes so. Gary Myers of the New York Daily News:
Broadway Beckham Goes Hollywood could be Steve Tisch’s next movie.
Rams coach Sean McVay was careful Tuesday not to give the Giants any ammunition to file tampering charges, but Los Angeles’ interest in trading for Odell Beckham Jr., is real.
The Giants’ interest in trading him is to be determined. Nobody can prevent a team from calling and the team on the receiving end will always listen. When there’s conversation, anything can happen.
McVay, the new state of the art offensive coach in the NFL, led the Rams to the NFC West title and their first playoff berth since 2004 in his first year on the job in 2017. He was named coach of the year.
He has Jared Goff, one of the best young quarterbacks, and running back Todd Gurley, the offensive player of the year. OBJ would complete the Triplets, giving him his own Aikman, Smith and Irvin.
Can it work?
“As long as we have a lot of snaps a game, I think we can keep everybody happy, if that’s the case,” McVay said.
There are three elements to Beckham being traded to the Rams that must be satisfied for this to happen:
– Do the Rams want Beckham to add to McVay’s offense? Yes. Definitely.
– Does Beckham want to play for the Rams? One source told me Beckham has told a couple of Rams players he wants in. He does love New York, so his feeling for the Rams could quite possibly be only if the Giants trade him. The Rams are going to want to get him signed to a long-term extension to avoid playing the franchise tag game with him in 2019 and 2020 after he plays for the $8.4 million fifth-year option.
– Do the Giants even want to trade Beckham? Pat Shurmur desperately wants an opportunity to coach Beckham and give him some tough love to help him grow up. He’s in love with his talent. John Mara has backed off being in a rush to sign a check for $50 million guaranteed and it doesn’t take much to see he’s grown weary of Beckham’s childish act. The Giants don’t want to trade Beckham but if they feel he is poisoning the locker room with his selfish behavior, they could be ready to move on.
Of course, from a football standpoint, it makes no sense for the Giants to get rid of OBJ. He’s a once in a generation player. He is the most explosive offensive weapon in team history. Mara is a patient man — he learned that from his father — but every man has his limits. Mara’s talks with Beckham have not made an impact.
If he gets traded, Beckham to the Rams makes sense. Los Angeles GM Les Snead is not afraid to deal. Already this offseason, he’s traded for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, traded away defensive end Robert Quinn and just invested $14 million in Ndamukong Suh. Peters, Talib and Suh all arrive with character questions.
OBJ spends his offseason in LA when he’s not getting videoed in Paris hotel rooms with models he just met, so presumably if he’s traded away, the Rams will be his preferred destination. The Rams own the 23rd pick in the first round. That’s the starting point for negotiations. They don’t have a second-round pick. That went to the Bills last year for Sammy Watkins, whom they allowed to leave as a free agent. He signed with Kansas City. The Giants should demand next year’s No. 1 as well.
If GM Dave Gettleman is going to trade Beckham, he will open up the bidding. The 49ers, with the ninth pick, should want OBJ as a weapon for Jimmy Garoppolo. The Patriots own the Niners’ second-round pick in the Garoppolo trade, but the Niners own the Saints second-round pick after an exchange of picks during last year’s draft.
The Giants should demand two first-round picks in any OBJ trade. That’s what Bill Parcells received for Keyshawn Johnson when he traded him to the Bucs in 2000. Tampa had the 13th and 27th picks in the first round. Parcells was convinced Johnson would hold out that summer and didn’t want to burden rookie coach Al Groh with the distraction.
Eventually, Mara and Tisch may not want Shurmur to have to deal with the daily Beckham questions if he holds out of camp. The difference with Keyshawn is he was not showing his immaturity on an almost daily basis. Beckham has not been arrested or gotten into trouble off the field, but he continues to do things, like putting himself in that situation in Paris with the hotel room video, that have the Giants wondering if he’s ever going to get it.
There was an NFL Network report Monday that said Beckham will not show up for the Giants or anybody else without a new contract. Up close, OBJ’s act seems much worse to the Giants than it would to the Rams, because viewed from a distance going on a boat trip to Miami less than one week before playoffs doesn’t seem so bad, but the Giants know the damage it did to their chances in Green Bay.
“Hypothetically, a player of his caliber can kind of really do everything,” McVay said. “We don’t really get into the situations of discussing players that are under contract with any other team, just out of respect for tampering and the things that come with that.”
McVay wants players who love football. Beckham checks that box. If the Giants are going to trade Beckham, the deadline is the first round of the April 26 draft. If they are going to dump their best player, they need an immediate return.
S SU’A CRAVENS, who quit on the Redskins for mysterious reasons last year, is traded to the Broncos. ESPN.com:
The Broncos are swapping fourth- and fifth-round picks with the Washington Redskins in a deal that sends safety Su’a Cravens to Denver, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.
Denver will also send Washington an additional fifth-round pick in this year’s draft and a conditional sixth-rounder in 2020, the source said.
Cravens’ agent, Peter Schaffer, told ESPN that his client will go to Denver on Monday to meet with team officials.
“John [Elway] called him up and told him how excited they were to have him,” Schaffer said. “Everyone is positive going forward and that’s all Su’a is concerned about now.”
Cravens was cleared to resume football activities in late December after suffering from post-concussion syndrome.
The Redskins placed Cravens on the exempt/left squad list on Sept. 3 after the second-year player said he wanted to retire. Cravens was dealing with family issues at the time.
On Sept. 18, Washington placed him on the reserve/left squad list, which meant he would have to sit out the season.
In 2016, Cravens suffered a concussion in Week 4 that caused him to miss two games. He said in a social media video that the concussion impaired his vision and prompted him to get glasses.
Cravens missed the final three games of that season because of an elbow injury. At one point late in the year, he did not show up to the facility, leaving the Redskins to wonder about his whereabouts.
He participated in offseason and training camp practices until injuring his knee in the opening game of the 2017 preseason. He required arthroscopic surgery, and Washington thought he would miss only two to three weeks.
As for Cravens’ commitment to the game, Schaffer said: “That’s not even a question in my mind. In every conversation we have, he breathes, he talks, he eats football. I don’t understand what people are talking about.”
This from John Keim:
It soon became evident the sides were headed for a mutual divorce. Cravens upset some teammates by sending a group text message on the day of final cuts telling them his plans. From that point on, the Redskins didn’t trust that he wouldn’t do it again. They couldn’t locate him for a day late during his rookie season; there was a time he walked away at USC as well. The Redskins didn’t feel they could trust him, so they moved on. Simple as that. Perhaps Denver is a far better fit, a place he likes more than Washington.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
No contract yet, but QB GENO SMITH has visited the Chargers.
What a difference a year makes. Last March, the Jaguars were perpetual, hopeless doormats. Today, still with BLAKE BORTLES, they legitimately aspire to rule the AFC. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
After the Jaguars announced quarterback Blake Bortles‘ contract extension, executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin said the deal came with “high expectations” that Bortles will improve in 2018 and beyond.
Coughlin expanded those high expectations to the entire team at this year’s league meetings. The Jaguars added guard Andrew Norwell to the offensive line with a big contract, bring back most of last year’s highly-ranked defense and have running back Leonard Fournette with a year of NFL experience under his belt, all of which fueled Coughlin’s statement that team brass expects even bigger things after a division title and a trip to the AFC Championship Game.
There’s only one way to go up from there and coach Doug Marrone said this week that he’s more than happy to take on that burden.
“I embrace that,” Marrone said, via ESPN.com. “I’d much rather be on team that has expectations than on a team with like, ‘Look, these guys, they’re awful. Here they go.’”
There were a lot of years when people were saying that and worse about the Jaguars, so it is definitely a different day in Jacksonville.
THIS AND THAT
Here is a Mock Draft from Will Brinson of CBSSports.com who is so big on the power of quarterbacks that MASON RUDOLPH goes in the top 15:
Everyone is playing chess in terms of lining up to find a quarterback, except for John Dorsey and the Browns, who have to sit back and do the easy thing: figure out who the best one is. No telling if that guy is Sam Darnold or Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield or whoever.
What I do know is that when the Browns come on the clock with No. 4 overall, they will already have a quarterback. And there will also be at least one more top-shelf quarterback sitting out there, with the Broncos itching to grab him. Some QB-desperate team is going to make a bold play up the board and try beat the Broncos for the next guy on the board.
Cleveland is in the catbird’s seat from that regard. And in this particular instance, the team that is making the move is the Miami Dolphins, with Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum interested in finding another non-Ryan Tannehill option while also extending their shelf life in Miami should things go south next season.
Adding a young quarterback with a first-round pick always buys you time. Plus, in this particular instance, it would be awesome to watch Gase design an offense around Baker Mayfield. There’s potential for fireworks and potential for fun.
Much to the chagrin of my editors, I also added another trade in the first round, with the Bears sitting there at eight, seeing how the QB economics played out and moving up two spots to grab a player they covet. The Colts could use Quenton Nelson, but they signed guards this offseason and could really use additional draft picks, so it’s a beneficial move.
For these trades, I’m assuming the Dolphins surrender (at least) a future first, while the Bears likely gave up something like a third-round pick to move up those few spots. It’s not going to be cheap to be flying around the draft board this year.
1. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California: The Browns have to go quarterback at the top of the draft and Darnold’s done a nice job of cementing himself as the top available option.
2. NEW YORK GIANTS
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: Chubb played primarily as a 4-3 defensive end in college, but he can rush the passer from anywhere on the field, and would fit nicely as a replacement to Jason Pierre-Paul in the Giants new 3-4 defense.
3. NEW YORK JETS (FROM INDIANAPOLIS)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: The Jets grabbing Josh Allen, with his status as a raw but talented prospect, might make some fans cringe with Christian Hackenberg still on the roster. They can afford to play Josh McCown/Teddy Bridgewater while letting Allen get ready for the long haul.
4. MIAMI DOLPHINS (FROM HOUSTON)
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: The Dolphins already have a Big 12 quarterback on the roster, but Ryan Tannehill has been there for five years now and hasn’t proven to necessarily be the answer. Mayfield would inject serious life into Adam Gase’s offense, and drafting a quarterback would buy the current Miami regime a little time.
5. DENVER BRONCOS
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: A stunned John Elway doesn’t know what to do when the Dolphins make their move, so he’s got to pull the trigger on the next best option, landing Rosen to pair with Case Keenum in a very awkward quarterback situation.
6. CHICAGO BEARS (FROM NEW YORK JETS)
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: Dream scenario for Bears fans here. With free agency serving as an opportunity to secure Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel, GM Ryan Pace again pays a big price (a third-round pick?) to move up a small way and get the guy he wants. He’s giving Mitchell Trubisky everything he needs at this point.
7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: A precipitous drop given where people expect Barkley to land in this draft, but the reality of the quarterback situation this year is we’re going to see multiple stars fall further than they should. This is a prime landing spot for Barkley, with Doug Martin cut this offseason and Jameis Winston needing a playmaker in the backfield.
8. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (MOCK TRADE WITH CHICAGO)
Derwin James, SS, Florida State: What a haul for the Colts here. Trade down twice and still come away with one of the five best players in the draft. James is a versatile monster and a modern-day defensive weapon. His freshman tape is ridiculous and he might be underrated in this draft.
9. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Alabama: The 49ers should feel pretty good about this too, getting to sit pat at No. 9 and come away with a cornerback who is capable of playing all over the field.
10. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia: Jon Gruden wants to throw it back to 1998 so why not get a fast and punishing linebacker. Smith flying around the field in the silver and black would be a beautiful thing.
11. CLEVELAND BROWNS (MOCK TRADE WITH MIAMI)
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Trading down netted the Browns a pile of picks, and now they can go secure a future left tackle replacement for the departed and retired Joe Thomas.
12. BUFFALO BILLS (FROM CINCINNATI)
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: The quarterback economics are going to be NUTS this year and if the Bills want to guarantee they get a franchise quarterback, which Jackson has the potential to become, they are going to need to use their first pick — not their second — on one.
13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: With Bashaud Breeland a free agent and Kendall Fuller traded, the Redskins need to restock the cupboard when it comes to their defensive backs.
14. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College: The Packers need to keep piling up weapons to give Mike Pettine’s defense a fighting chance at turning things around in 2018 and actually generating some pressure.
15. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: The additions of Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon were nice upside options for the Cardinals, but they are probably not the long-term answer at quarterback.
16. BALTIMORE RAVENS
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland: The Ravens got Michael Crabtree in free agency, but still need to develop some long-term weapons if they aren’t going to land a quarterback.
17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Tremaine Edmunds, ILB, Virginia Tech: The Chargers have long been a team that could target OL help in this draft but they’ve really beefed up their unit at this point. Getting some more defensive help should be a priority, especially with a talent like Edwards at linebacker.
18. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia: The Seahawks might be forced to draft for need here, which would involve going after a pretty good crop of offensive linemen and improving the protection for Russell Wilson.
19. DALLAS COWBOYS
Vita Vea, DT, Washington: The Cowboys have secured some pass rush this offseason, so they need to get a big body in the middle of the defensive line.
20. DETROIT LIONS
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: Matt Patricia can kickstart his new defense in Detroit by adding an anchor who can soak up plenty of blockers.
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS (FROM BUFFALO)
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama: It feels more and more likely that the Bengals could end up moving on from Vontaze Burfict in the long haul, which means they’ll be in the business of trying to find a replacement quarterback.
22. BUFFALO BILLS (FROM KANSAS CITY)
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: The Bills get to pair their new starting quarterback with a new starting wide receiver, which feels like it might be even more of a necessity after Zay Jones’ bizarre incident. Bonus: AJ McCarron and Ridley can yell “Roll Tide” after each touchdown. Bonus 2.0: this run on Alabama players means that the tide is …………. rolling.
23. LOS ANGELES RAMS
Leighton Vander Esch, OLB, Boise State: The Rams could use some help at outside linebacker, so they pursue the guy with the best name in the draft who is coming off a productive career at Boise.
24. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Will Hernandez, OG, Texas-El Paso: The Panthers lost Andrew Norwell in free agency and would benefit greatly from being able to add a guard in the first round of the draft. This might be the dream scenario.
25. TENNESSEE TITANS
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA: The Titans are quietly putting together a really nice little defense in Tennessee, but it would probably behoove them to secure some more guys who can generate pressure on the passer.
26. ATLANTA FALCONS
Mike Hughes, CB, UCF: The Falcons just have a knack for drafting upside-filled defensive players who probably shouldn’t have slipped to them in the draft and they’re trying to do so here too.
27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State: For whatever reason one of the Saints’ weaknesses happens to be the weapons available to Drew Brees. After missing on Jimmy Graham, they can get younger and better at the tight end position.
28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: I’m willing to roll with the rumor du jour and mock the Steelers taking a running back here. The reality is they will have to replace Le’Veon Bell at some point in time.
29. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Connor Williams, OT, Texas: The Jaguars can invest in the offensive line now hoping it will pay dividends down the road, with them having some flexibility not to toss Williams into the fire right away.
30. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa: The Vikings don’t mind grabbing talented corners and squatting on them for a bit, which is what they can do here with Jackson, a very nice value pick at this spot.
31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: Health concerns cause Hurst to slide down the board to the Patriots, who snag another talented defensive-line prospect.
32. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: After losing Trey Burton in free agency, the Eagles can go into the first round of the draft and start planning for the long haul with another tight end to pair with Zach Ertz.