The Daily Briefing Tuesday, April 17, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
The NFL and NFLPA have come together to ban the use of certain helmets. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com:
The NFL and NFL Players Association for the first time have banned specific helmets for use, saying those models performed poorly in its annual testing procedures or are no longer supported by their manufacturers.
Ten helmet models from Rawlings, Schutt, SG Helmets and Riddell have been targeted for phaseout, six immediately and four by the start of the 2019 season. Approximately 200 NFL players wore one of those models in 2017, according to Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety initiatives.
The NFL has been ranking helmets, from best- to worst-performing based on laboratory testing, for four years. On Monday, teams and players received the 2018 rankings, which are topped by two models from VICIS, a company that was founded in 2013.
“Over the last few years, we’ve seen some dynamic changes in the helmet industry,” Miller said. “We’ve seen a number of new helmets enter the market from both new innovators, as well as new helmet models from incumbent companies, which means that there are a number of helmets for players to move to.
“And we’ve begun to see that over the last couple of years, players [are] moving from helmets that rank in the poorly performing areas to those that are ranging closer to the top-performing helmets. We think that is an important move, and we think that will improve player health and safety. And the purpose of continuing to rank the helmets, and the purpose of the joint decision to prohibit certain helmets this year, is to increase that continued movement into better-performing helmets.”
Thirty-four helmets were tested for the 2018 rankings. They came after a season in which NFL players suffered 291 concussions, the highest number on record. NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills called that number “unacceptable” and declared a “a call to action” in February to address it.
League owners agreed in March to a significant rule change that will threaten immediate ejections anytime a player lowers his helmet and initiates contact with another player. The kickoff is under heavy scrutiny after it was determined to cause concussions at five times the rate of an average play, and plans are underway to work with teams to address a spike in concussions caused during training camp scrimmages.
Dr. Jeff Crandall, the chairman of the NFL’s engineering committee, said the helmet testing recreated 24 conditions that typically occur on NFL playing fields. It measures “a number of accelerations and motions of the head,” Crandall said. Helmets are ranked on how they “manage the forces” that players most often come into contact with, he added.
More on Vicis:
The Vicis helmet features a unique outer shell material and flexible interior columns designed to mitigate the forces thought to cause concussions. It retails at $950 — down from its original $1,500 price — and players from 18 NFL teams wore the helmet last season, in addition to hundreds of athletes from top college programs. The helmet was one of Time Magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2017.
Vicis is also targeting younger athletes. More than 400 high school programs have signed up to have players wearing the ZERO1 for this upcoming 2018 season.
Vicis originally spun out of the University of Washington in 2014. The 85-person company has raised $50 million to date from investors like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson; prominent spine and neurological surgeons; Cincinnati Reds minority owner Harry Fath; angelMD; W Fund; Alliance of Angels; and Trilogy Equity Partners.
DE ZIGGY ANSAH has signed his franchise tender. Dave Birkett in the Detroit Free Press:
The Detroit Lions were hopeful that Ziggy Ansah would take part in a portion of voluntary workouts this offseason so first-year coach Matt Patricia could get to know his star pass rusher.
It appears, they’ll get their wish.
NFL Network reported Monday that Ansah will sign his franchise tender and report for workouts on Tuesday when he returns from his trip to Ghana.
Ansah spent more than a month in his homeland this offseason, visiting family and making media appearances.
He led the Lions with 12 sacks last season, and general manager Bob Quinn said last week it was a no-brainer for the team to use the franchise tag on Ansah before the start of free agency.
“That’s something when we were going through the process, Matt got on board and Ziggy was the No. 1 conversation,” Quinn said. “What are we going to do with Ziggy? I had my thoughts. It didn’t take long for me to show Matt why we should do what we did. To have an outside edge rusher that can be as dominant as Ziggy was something that was really appealing to Matt because Matt has had a lot of great players in New England and I think Ziggy would rank right up there with some of the best players that Matt has ever coached.”
LB ERIC KENDRICKS gets paid. SI.com:
The Minnesota Vikings and linebacker Eric Kendricks agreed to a five-year, $50 million extension, the team announced.
The deal comes with $25 million in guarantees. He is set to make $1.14 million in base salary for the final season of his rookie deal.
Kendricks was the team’s second round pick in 2015 and has led the team in tackles in each of his three seasons with Minnesota.
Kendricks, 26, had 113 total tackles this past season, helping the Vikings defense become a dominant unit.
Where might WR DEZ BRYANT sign? Adam Schefter has tweeted that Baltimore is also one of the teams interested, along with the Arizona Cardinals, the Buffalo Bills, and the Green Bay Packers.
This analysis from Conor Orr of SI.com:
Something inside Cowboys owner Jerry Jones must twitch at the thought of releasing a franchise cornerstone player in a timely manner. Once again, it’s April and we’re here talking about a player—this time, Dez Bryant – who was instrumental to the team during their most recent series of playoff pushes but who now looks for a new home with much of the other teams’ salary cap money allocated.
In terms of April surprises, this barely registered on the scale. Bryant, for a large portion of his final season in Dallas, seemed like a player either in decline or disinterest, and either one of those is enough to undercut a significant cap hit. Dallas will wisely build around receivers who fit better with Dak Prescott’s skill set. As we noted in last week’s draft column, they have been immersed in this year’s ho-hum wide receiver class, with access to some of the top talent in 2018. They will almost certainly spend a first or second-round pick there, even if drafting for need isn’t so popular anymore.
As for Bryant, he has some options and seems to be leaning in a certain direction. Here’s where he might end up when the dust settles…
1. THE NFC EAST
Bryant needs some work to make this happen. Depending on how serious he is about his parting threat—a DallasCowboys.com columnist reported that he said “I’ll see you guys twice this year” on his way out of the building—it all comes down to what teams have left to spend and how much of a haircut Bryant would take for a yearly trip to JerryWorld.
According to NFLPA estimates, here is the current amount of cap space for each of the teams in the NFC East:
While cap space isn’t necessarily the best indicator, Washington is really the only team who has the type of flexibility to make this move. The Giants likely are not going to add Bryant to a room with Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shephard and Brandon Marshall, unless they view Bryant as an upgrade over Marshall at a reduced rate. The Eagles are not going to sign a receiver who would likely flounder in their trips-heavy offense given the look of his routes in 2018. Would Washington, considering they want to develop Josh Doctson and continue to feed Jamison Crowder? Paul Richardson signed in free agency to round out their base set starting lineup. He’s cheaper and more flexible than Bryant, with a higher upside at 26. Jay Gruden might like the idea of another big bodied pass catcher who can create mismatches near the end zone.
2. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Baltimore has $10,136,846 in cap room and could actually present the most formidable wide receiver grouping on paper during the Joe Flacco era with Bryant and Michael Crabtree, which says a lot about Flacco’s weapon set over the years. Ozzie Newsome was lukewarm on Breshad Perriman at the combine and could use the signing of Bryant to light a fire under the first round pick. If this seems like a desperation move by a team on the edge, well, what do you know, the Ravens fit the bill. Staring down a 2019 with a potentially new quarterback and offensive philosophy, they may use Bryant to help them squeeze the remaining toothpaste out of 2018.
3. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Like the Ravens, the Bengals know they need to make something happen with this current version of the roster and coaching staff, or else management may actually consider making substantive changes (come to think of it…). A.J. Green cannot operate this offense alone and John Ross faces an uphill climb after an injury-riddled 2017. Bryant would fit Cincinnati’s habit of shopping in the free agent bargain bin and would give Andy Dalton an instant upgrade inside the 20-yard line.
4. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
They’re tight against the cap, but Bryant could replace a similar dynamic Seattle lost with Jimmy Graham. Bryant has experience playing with two improvisational quarterbacks who can create a secondary play on the move, and may fit in well with Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin.
5. OAKLAND RAIDERS
*Jon Gruden voice* “This is Dez Bryant we’re talking about man. He gets north and south, brother. He’s a legend out there. We’re looking for football players and Dez Bryant is a football player.”
In reality, Oakland’s No. 1 wideout is a 32-year-old Jordy Nelson. Amari Cooper needs a coordinator with a vision to free him up, and Bryant is the type of chess move that can make it happen. There’s no one Oakland will find in this year’s draft who will have a similar impact right away and the Raiders need to quickly legitimize this Gruden hire before moving to Las Vegas.
6. NEW YORK JETS
The Jets still have almost $20 million in cap space and will almost certainly be breaking in a new rookie quarterback this year. Bryant gives them a short-term rental in the type of market that could appeal to him. Mike Maccagnan hasn’t been shy about throwing money at aging veterans and already has 17 receivers on the current roster. Signing Bryant could eliminate some of that throw-some-stuff-at-the-wall uncertainty.
7. CHICAGO BEARS
The Bears still have $24 million in cap space and are looking for pieces to cobble together an offense for Mitchell Trubisky. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Kevin White, assuming he can shed some ridiculously horrible luck on the injury front, could be a formidable lineup. Bryant adds a different dimension.
8. BUFFALO BILLS
The Bills are sorting through some notable issues at both receiver and offensive line as they head into the draft. There is enough cap space for a short-term Bryant stint, which could take some pressure off A.J. McCarron and a prospective rookie challenger. An engaged Bryant at least gives McCarron someone who can draw pass interference penalties, win some battles against lesser corners and create a short-yardage passing game inside the 10-yard line along with Kelvin Benjamin that would force the defense to make some interesting personnel decisions.
For more on the Ravens, see BALTIMORE.
Michael Irvin, who knows all about being a diva receiver, provides insight on Bryant’s state of mind.
Dez Bryant hasn’t been the player he was when he signed a lucrative contract with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. As a result, he’s no longer a Cowboy.
One of the greatest Cowboys to ever play the position shed some light on it during an appearance on NFL Up To The Minute on Monday, referrring to Bryant’s comments about how he felt some people inside the locker room wanted him gone.
“Honestly, Dez is a fighter and what happens is when he gets in these situations he does what he knows how to do. He fights,” Michael Irvin said Monday. “And if you’re not careful with how you speak to him and how you speak with him, he ends up fighting everybody and anybody and even fighting some of the people that are trying to help him. And I think that was the situation in Dallas.
“It got a little bad off the football field, then fighting to get back where he balls, where he wants to be and where he belongs and I think he was fighting even the people that were trying to help him.”
Bryant has long been known as a passionate and outspoken player, a competitor who lets his desire to win be known. We’re not out to drag an outcast under the guise of trying to uncover why a team released him, but according to Irvin, that seemed to bubble over into producing negative results recently. Combined with a large salary-cap number for a player who wasn’t producing 1,200-yard, 10-touchdown seasons anymore, Dallas decided to cut him loose.
“To some degree, I guess that’s how you can put it,” Irvin said when asked if Dallas simply grew tired of Bryant’s fighting. “They just said at this point we’ll just move on because the fighting is not directed in the right places.”
This will undoubtedly be considered by any team that weighs adding Bryant, but this was somewhat known for a while. Hearing it from a Hall of Famer who’s close to Bryant just makes it more real.
The Redskins have picked up the option on G BRANDON SCHERFF. Nick Shook of NFL.com reminds us what a good pick Scherff was:
In a sport that seems to discard first-round linemen as often as it praises them, Scherff has done nothing but proven Washington correct in selecting him fifth overall in 2015. The guard has earned back-to-back Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017 and was also named to the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team in 2015.
The Iowa All-American and 2014 Outland Trophy winner has carried on the Big Ten Conference’s predominantly sterling reputation for producing top-flight linemen. Scherff has appeared in 46 regular-season games in three years in the NFL and stands a chance to become Washington’s new-millennium version of Russ Grimm, should he maintain his success over the course of his career. He’s definitely off to a good start.
DT MALIK McDOWELL officially will become a blown draft pick soon. NFL.com:
Seahawks fans can only wonder what could have been with Malik McDowell.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Seattle is expected to release last year’s second-round defensive tackle in the near future, according to a source.
The Seahawks have yet to medically clear McDowell, who was involved in a “serious” ATV accident last July that forced him to spend his entire rookie season on the team’s non-football injury list.
McDowell’s physical situation has been something of a mystery ever since. The former Michigan State star suffered a concussion and facial injuries in the accident, leaving Seattle’s decision-makers entirely unsure of his status for 2018.
“Nothing new,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of McDowell, per The Seattle Times. “Same kind of thing. He’s got a process he is going through, we get information rarely in his case, but there will be a time when you will hear more.”
That time is now, with Seattle preparing to move on from the 35th overall pick in last year’s draft.
McDowell was brought into the league as a space-eating, 299-pound interior force. The primary question today is whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to catch on with another team.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com notes unhappiness in the timeline of WR KEENAN ALLEN:
After the news broke on Sunday night that the Chargers had rescinded the restricted free agent tender previously extended to defensive end Chris McCain, Chargers receiver Keenan Allen wasn’t happy.
“I just don’t understand sometimes!” Allen said in a since-deleted tweet, via TheBigLead.com. “But we sign people like… nvm.”
The first part referred to McCain; the second part potentially referred to quarterback Geno Smith, one of the few offseason additions by the team in free agency.
Other tweets still existing on Allen’s timeline seem to hint at his displeasure with the situation. And while Allen’s frustration may be fueled by the fact that Allen and McCain attended the same high school and college, the Chargers have been sticking to the more traditional ways of building a team while the Rams have been going all in.
Of course, it’s not too late for the Chargers to make a splash. They could trade for Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. And they could add Allen to the compensation package.
Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun says that the Ravens are among the teams interested in former Cowboys WR DEZ BRYANT:
Before the Ravens started their great wide receiver search of 2018, team officials reviewed all their pass-catching options. They looked at the pending unrestricted and restricted free-agent receiver classes, the wide receivers available in the NFL draft and the rumored salary-cap casualties at the position.
Two of the names that stood out to them from that third category were Michael Crabtree and Dez Bryant.
A day after the Oakland Raiders released Crabtree on March 15, the Ravens agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract with the veteran, giving quarterback Joe Flacco a much-needed proven possession receiver. Neither the Crabtree addition nor the signing of John Brown ended the Ravens’ pursuit of wide receivers.
They met with restricted free agents Cameron Meredith and Willie Snead, and they explored signing Meredith, who ultimately agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints. They hosted veteran Eric Decker, worked out Michael Floyd, bid on Allen Hurns and made an effort to keep Michael Campanaro, who ultimately signed with the Tennessee Titans.
That’s all after they spent the early free-agent period exploring a trade for Jarvis Landry, pursuing Allen Robinson and Albert Wilson, and orally agreeing to a deal with Ryan Grant before backing out of it after the former Washington Redskin failed his physical.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome vowed to turn over every stone in rebuilding his wide receiver corps, and he’s been true to his word.
Now, Bryant is suddenly available after the Dallas Cowboys unceremoniously released the 29-year-old late last week. Predictably, the Ravens have interest in him, sources confirmed. Ravens fans, who still lament the fact that the team was unable to land Bryant in the 2010 draft, seem infatuated with the idea.
Bryant might not be the same player as he was earlier in his career. He caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns receptions in 16 games last year. Numerous evaluators have said Bryant struggled to get separation from defensive backs and is not coming down with as many jump balls as in the past. Bryant caught just 52 percent of his targets last season. Bryant’s sideline outbursts also can turn some people off.
But Bryant is still a dangerous red-zone target. He’s still a receiver capable of making big plays. And he competes with a physicality and intensity that the Ravens not only love, but badly need on the offensive side of the ball.
What isn’t clear is whether Bryant is interested in the Ravens. He reportedly wants to remain in the NFC East so he can punish the Cowboys twice a year. There’s been talk that Bryant’s decision will not be based on money, but on his offensive fit and how well he believes he’ll mesh with his next quarterback. Bryant has been part of only one playoff victory in eight seasons, so it stands to reason he’ll want to join a team with a good chance to win the Super Bowl.
The Ravens have a history of signing standout receivers later in their careers, and several of those additions have worked out. Despite adding Crabtree and Brown, the Ravens have a clear need, and there’s little doubt a healthy Bryant would become one of the focal points of their offense. With more than $10 million of remaining salary cap space, the Ravens have enough financial flexibility to make a deal.
But none of those things matter unless Bryant is truly interested in playing for the Ravens and believes that they represent his best opportunity.
THIS AND THAT
Add Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com to the list of folks that think the Browns are going to take the inaccurate QB JOSH ALLEN with the first overall pick as we look at Rang’s three-round Mock Draft
The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills, each owning five of the first 65 picks of the draft, are in prime position to be big winners. The Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots are also projected to fill key needs over all 100 picks scheduled for Rounds 1-3.
–1. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: Trading for veteran Tyrod Taylor gives the Browns a legitimate starter to play immediately while providing the franchise time to develop its future at the position. Allen would perceived as a gamble over more polished passers, but GM John Dorsey and the scouts on his staff have historically made bold draft-day decisions. Further, no quarterback in this class better fits head coach Hue Jackson’s vertical offense or the challenges of a cold-weather environment. Allen’s 56.2 career completion percentage is worrisome but is not much lower than the numbers put up by former top three picks Matt Ryan (59.9) and Matthew Stafford (57.1) in college.
–2. NEW YORK GIANTS: Sam Darnold, QB, USC: When healthy, the Giants boast a more talented roster than most of the others picking in the top five, making general manager Dave Gettleman’s decision with this pick a fascinating one. He may very opt for the immediate help that edge rusher Bradley Chubb or running back Saquon Barkley would provide. The trade of Jason Pierre-Paul and willingness to at least listen to offers for Odell Beckham Jr., however, signal that Gettleman is building for the future. Darnold (or another young quarterback) to groom behind 37-year old Eli Manning would give head coach Pat Shurmur an ideal foundation to continue New York’s transition, with a trade down to another QB-needy club (Buffalo?) also a strong possibility.
–3. NEW YORK JETS: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Signing veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater provide the Jets options but considering their recent history — Mark Sanchez and Chad Pennington are the only quarterbacks to start the equivalent of two full seasons for the Jets since the turn of the century — GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles know full well how critical it is to find the right quarterback. Rosen is the most polished passer in this draft but his durability concerns require his future NFL team to have other starting-caliber options.
–4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (from HOUSTON TEXANS): Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State:
While the Browns’ quarterback woes have earned plenty of attention, their need for a pass rusher opposite last year’s No. 1 overall selection Myles Garrett is also a significant cause for concern. Garrett struggled with various injuries last season but still managed seven sacks, nearly double that of any other member of Cleveland’s defense. Chubb is a proven playmaker who enters the NFL with even better technique and consistency than the freakishly athletic Garrett, giving aggressive defensive coordinator Gregg Williams the tandem to terrorize opponents.
–5. DENVER BRONCOS: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State:
John Elway did not win his first Super Bowl as a player until the Broncos complemented his brilliant passing with Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis. With Case Keenum signed to start at quarterback and the top three young prospects at that position off the board, Elway may choose to add more horsepower to the Broncos’ stable of runners, a relatively pedestrian including former starters C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker, as well as second-year pro De’Angelo Henderson. Barkley could excel against the wide-open run defenses of the AFC West.
–6. INDIANPOLIS COLTS: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: The Colts’ decision to trade back is perhaps the best indication yet that the club is satisfied with Andrew Luck’s recovery. Acquiring three second-round picks (including the Jets’ 2019 selection) to move down three spots and still have arguably the best player in the entire draft available? That’s a huge win for the Colts, who could use Nelson’s size, athleticism and nastiness inside.
–7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Derwin James, SS, Florida State:
The Bucs overhauled their defensive line to create more of a pass rush, but the secondary still could use an infusion of playmakers. Plugging in a versatile athlete like James into a deep patrol tasked with handling divisional weapons like Devontae Freeman (Falcons), Alvin Kamara (Saints) and Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) makes sense.
–8. CHICAGO BEARS: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech: It is perhaps appropriate that Bears’ legendary middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was voted into Canton this year as Chicago could find itself in position to add a similar physical specimen in the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Edmunds, a freakish athlete, who at just 19-years-old is still just scratching the surface of his potential.
–9. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama: Fitzpatrick possesses an ideal blend of instincts, athleticism and size, which helped him line up wherever Nick Saban most needed him on a game by game basis at Alabama. Few will appreciate that versatility more than former Tampa Bay Pro Bowl safety (and current 49ers GM) John Lynch. Pairing Fitzpatrick with Richard Sherman … suddenly, San Francisco might boast the most formidable secondary in the NFC West.
–10. OAKLAND RAIDERS: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: Despite boasting a terrific 1-2 set of edge rushers in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, the Raiders featured one of the league’s leakiest secondaries in 2017 and finished with an NFL-low five interceptions. Ward is a true cover corner, blanketing receivers due to his exceptional quickness and speed.
–11. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Vita Vea, DT, Washington: The release of costly defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh provided the Dolphins with cap relief but left the roster weak at defensive tackle. Vea offers a similarly freakish combination of size, power and athleticism as Suh but comes at a much cheaper price.
–12. BUFFALO BILLS Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: The Bills’ trade of starting left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals is a thinly veiled plan to be in better position to take advantage of the talent in this year’s quarterback class with another trade into the top five possible, if not likely. After working with Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton, defensive-minded head coach Sean McDermott might be more comfortable than most with a dual-threat quarterback like Mayfield operating the offense. Despite signing AJ McCarron in the offseason, the Bills have shown plenty of interest in this year’s top quarterbacks, including Mayfield, who was scheduled for a two-day visit April 9-10 at the team facility.
–13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia: Following the splashy trade for Alex Smith, Washington might turn its attention to adding a quarterback on defense. Smith, the 2017 Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker, lacks ideal bulk but his speed to the flanks and in coverage makes him perfectly suited to today’s pass-happy NFL.
–14. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College: With an aging roster that still ranks among the best in the NFC, new general manager Brian Gutekunst may be looking to make a splash with his first selection. Landry’s numbers plummeted in 2017 after ranking among national leaders in sacks, tackles for loss and fumbles as a junior but his burst and bend off the edge is unparalleled in this class — attributes that Gutekunst may find appealing with Clay Matthews Jr. and Nick Perry each struggling with durability concerns.
–15. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: From a style perspective, Jackson could not be more different than Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, the two cement-footed veteran signal-callers the Cardinals signed in the offseason. That is all the more reason why Jackson might make sense in Arizona, especially given that new head coach Steve Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy come with a lot of experience working with athletic quarterbacks.
–16. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: Despite using multiple draft picks and investing in free agents, the Ravens’ receiving corps essentially remains a black hole for production with Baltimore ranking last (and by a significant margin) with just 5.7 yards per passing attempt in 2017. Filling a position of need with one last pick from his alma mater might be the perfect send-off for retiring general manager Ozzie Newsome.
–17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: Veteran nose guard Brandon Mebane was a solid signing, but his best days are behind him. The Chargers — who ranked last in the league in 2017 by allowing 4.9 yards per carry — would likely jump at the chance to fortify the middle with the powerful (and aptly named) Payne.
–18. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: The Seahawks already spent their second- and third-round picks of the 2018 draft, landing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (Jets) and offensive tackle Duane Brown (Texans) in trades, leaving general manager John Schneider with essentially two choices here — either trade back to recoup picks or directly address the club’s anemic running game. The 5-foot-11, 218-pound Guice possesses the combination of burst, balance through contact and toughness Seattle has lacked since Marshawn Lynch left town.
–19. DALLAS COWBOYS: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: Hurst’s draft stock was in flux after medical tests at the Combine indicated an abnormality with his heart, although he was later cleared to resume football activities. It should be noted that a similar test did not keep the Carolina Panthers from making then-Utah defensive Star Lotulelei the 14th overall pick five years ago. The Cowboys have shown a willingness to gamble on medical red flags in the past and could see as the perfect interior complement to explosive edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence.
–20. DETROIT LIONS: James Daniels, C, Iowa: With starting center Travis Swanson off to the Jets, the Lions could look to the draft for a replacement. Daniels possesses rare quickness and length for an interior offensive lineman, projecting as a Day One starter.
–21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Marcus Davenport, DE, UT-San Antonio: Last year’s selection of speedy wideout John Ross proved yet again that the Bengals are more willing than most to gamble on athletic upside. While still quite raw, few offer more intriguing potential than Davenport, a 6-6, 264-pounder with 4.58 speed who could go earlier than many expect due to his own upside, as well as the relative lack of top-end edge rushers in this year’s draft.
–22. BUFFALO BILLS: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia: The Bills gained draft capital by trading away Cordy Glenn but do not currently appear to have the players on the roster to handle losing its best blocker. Like Glenn, Wynn stood out at left tackle at Georgia but has the build some feel is better suited for guard.
–23. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (via RAMS): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Proving that there is more than one way to make his future Hall of Fame quarterback happy, Bill Belichick nabs a massive, long-armed left tackle to take the place of Nate Solder (who is now with the Giants) with the selection picked up in the Brandin Cooks.
–24. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Connor Williams, OT, Texas: If there is a silver lining for Panthers fans upset with the loss of guard Andrew Norwell it is that there should be several quality replacements via this pick. Williams, a coordinated, powerful blocker, played tackle at Texas but projects as a guard for some clubs due to his 33-inch arms.
–25. TENNESSEE TITANS: Rashaan Evans, OLB, Alabama: The Titans could see Evans as a plug and play starter and ideal match with Wesley Woodyard after losing inside linebacker Avery Williamson to the Jets in the offseason. Evans is the classic ‘Bama ‘backer, athletic, tough and well-coached.
–26. ATLANTA FALCONS: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida:
The Falcons boast one of the better young defensive tackles in the game in Grady Jarrett but have little besides him on the roster. Jarrett’s ability to disrupt from the interior would be that much more effective with a complementary threat like Bryan, whose raw talent likely would intrigue Dan Quinn, a former defensive line coach at Florida.
–27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State: Second-year wideout Michael Thomas emerged as one of the league’s best last season but adding another talented pass-catcher to this offense could make the Saints virtually impossible to defend. While not quite as big as former star Jimmy Graham (who considered re-signing in New Orleans before inking with Green Bay), Gesicki possesses a similar ability to attack the seam.
–28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State: The frightening spinal injury to star Ryan Shazier could force the Steelers to strongly consider investing an early pick at inside linebacker. Some will criticize Vander Esch as a one-year wonder at Boise State, but the same criticism also followed standout rookie T.J. Watt at Wisconsin. Like Watt, Vander Esch has the motor Steelers fans will love, as well as the length, athleticism and playmaking ability to earn a first-round selection.
–29. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland: Moving on from Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julian Thomas and Marcedes Lewis means that pass-catcher jobs in Jacksonville are literally up for grabs. Built more like a running back than a traditional receiver at 6-0, 210 pounds, Moore could be the perfect slant and screen game weapon to penalize defenses loading the box against the run.
–30. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Will Hernandez, OG, Texas-El Paso: The retirement of longtime starting right guard Joe Berger further muddies the offensive line charged with protecting splashy free agent signee Kirk Cousins. Powerful, competitive and durable at a position of concern, Hernandez would be a quality addition to a roster built for a Super Bowl run.
–31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa: With Malcolm Butler now in Tennessee, Bill Belichick will be on the lookout for another playmaking cornerback with Jackson — who led the country with eight interceptions in 2017 — a logical candidate for the perimeter.
–32. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama: The Super Bowl champs boast one of the more complete rosters in the NFL but could use an intimidator in the back end. Harrison remains better against the run than the pass at this point, but he could be afforded a “redshirt” year with veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod already in place in Philadelphia.
33. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC — Carlos Hyde was signed to be the hammer, but he’ll be more effective with a game-breaker like Jones complementing him.
34. NEW YORK GIANTS: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville — Providing insurance against another Eli Apple meltdown with a first-round talent just makes too much sense for a team building for the future.
35. CLEVELAND BROWNS (via HOUSTON): Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon — The Browns must fill the huge hole at left tackle due to the retirement of Joe Thomas.
36. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida — Hughes brings ball-skills and tenacity to a Colts’ secondary lacking in both.
37. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (via NEW YORK JETS): Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State — Hubbard isn’t the flashiest edge rusher in this class but he is the kind of reliable defender Indianapolis needs to turn around this defense.
38. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia — None of the three running backs currently on Tampa’s roster are starting caliber.
39. CHICAGO BEARS: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA – If Mitchell Trubisky is to take the next step in his second season, he’ll need better protection and weapons to work with.
40. DENVER BRONCOS: Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU — If the Broncos opt to go any other direction other than a young quarterback at No. 5 overall, it could signal that Elway and Co. are looking for immediate impact potential.
41. OAKLAND RAIDERS: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford — The Raiders must address their leaky middle but won’t have to look far for the best blue collar run-stuffer in the draft.
42. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU — Trading away Jarvis Landry means the Dolphins need to find another reliable set of hands.
43. NEW ENGLAND (via SAN FRANCISCO): Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M – There are not many receivers in this class with Cooks’ straight-line speed but Kirk would provide big play potential in the underneath game.
44. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn — Like the Bucs, the Redskins will almost surely address their pedestrian running back corps with a headliner on Day Two.
45. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado — When scoring (and giving up) as many points as the Packers, consistently adding long, playmaking corners is always a priority.
46. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Billy Price, C/OG, Ohio State — Last year’s starting center Russell Bodine is no longer on the roster and Price would be a terrific value at this point in the draft.
47. ARIZONA CARDINALS: DJ Chark, WR, LSU — A perfect complementary speed threat (and willing blocker) to help the Cardinals re-establish their offense.
48. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Rasheem Green, DL, USC — The Chargers finished tied for dead last in run defense a year ago. Expect heavy investments in the front seven.
49. INDIANAPOLS COLTS (via JETS, SEAHAWKS): Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia — The best way to ensure that Andrew Luck succeeds in his comeback would be to protect him with a legitimate bell cow runner.
50. DALLAS COWBOYS: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma — Jason Witten can’t last forever.
51. DETROIT LIONS: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn — Long and physical, Davis would provide the Lions with the stopper in the secondary it has been lacking.
52. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Justin Reid, FS, Stanford — Eric Weddle isn’t going to last forever.
53. BUFFALO BILLS: Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State — A star at the Senior Bowl, the Canadian-born Shepherd has the size, power and versatility that could intrigue defensive-minded head coach Sean McDermott.
54. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama — With Marcus Peters no longer on the roster, the Chiefs must find pro-ready help for the secondary.
55. CAROLINA PANTHERS: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State — Adding a vertical threat like Washington to the Panthers’ offense should open up things in the short and intermediate levels for last year’s top picks Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel.
56. BUFFALO BILLS (via RAMS): Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State — Trading away Cordy Glenn opens up a huge hole at tackle. The similarly-built Rankin could help fill it.
57. TENNESSEE TITANS: Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada — The Titans already boast one of the NFL’s better young lines but adding a versatile tough guy like Corbett could make the glue that much stronger.
58. ATLANTA FALCONS: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU — Sheer speed is always a top priority when matching up against the weapons at receiver in the NFC South.
59. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (via SAINTS): Dante Pettis, WR, Washington — Finding a reliable flanker to serve as Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target will be a draft-day priority and few offer more consistent hands and routes than UW’s Pettis.
60. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Steelers are looking hard at young quarterbacks to groom behind Ben Roethlisberger and may see Rudolph’s accuracy on deep passes as the perfect fit.
61. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina — Adding a seam threat like Hurst to pair with veteran free agent Austin Seferian-Jenkins would make it that much tougher on defenses trying to slow down Leonard Fournette and Co.
62. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan — The Vikings prioritize size along the line of scrimmage and might be intrigued by the 6-6, 320 pound Okorafor’s versatility and upside.
63. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State — Regardless of Rob Gronkowski’s plans, the Patriots will want to find another seam threat to keep their offense running smoothly.
64. CLEVELAND BROWNS (via EAGLES): Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame — Josh Gordon is clearly the go-to option in Hue Jackson’s deep vertical game but the Browns would be wise to add a similarly built backup option to maintain continuity.
65. BUFFALO BILLS (via BROWNS): Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
66. NEW YORK GIANTS: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
67. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State
68. HOUSTON TEXANS: Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
69. NEW YORK GIANTS (via BUCCANEERS): Kemoko Turay, DE/OLB, Rutgers
70. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (via BEARS): Micah Kiser, ILB, Virginia
71. DENVER BRONCOS: Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
72. NEW YORK JETS: Uchenna Nwosu, OLB, USC
73. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama
74. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
75. OAKLAND RAIDERS: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
76. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Rashaan Gaulden, CB/S, Tennessee
77. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas
78. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (via REDSKINS): Frank Ragnow, C/OG, Arkansas
79. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Jessie Bates III, FS, Wake Forest
80. HOUSTON TEXANS (via SEAHAWKS): Tim Settle, NG, Virginia Tech
81. DALLAS COWBOYS: Josey Jewell, ILB, Iowa
82. DETROIT LIONS: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
83. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB/DE, Oklahoma
84. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
85. CAROLINA PANTHERS (via BILLS): Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
86. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
87. LOS ANGELES RAMS: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
88. CAROLINA PANTHERS: John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
89. TENNESSEE TITANS: Fred Warner, OLB, BYU
90. ATLANTA FALCONS: Shaquem Griffin, OLB, Central Florida
91. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Breeland Speaks, DE, Mississippi
92: PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Jaylen Samuels, RB, North Carolina State
93. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU
94: MINNESOTA VIKINGS: R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
95. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
96: BUFFALO BILLS (via EAGLES): Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
97. ARIZONA CARDINALS (compensatory): Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
98. HOUSTON TEXANS (compensatory): Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
99. DENVER BRONCOS (compensatory): Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College
100. CINCINNATI BENGALS (compensatory): Geron Christian, OT, Louisville