The Daily Briefing Tuesday, April 25, 2017

AROUND THE NFL

We have added the commentary on the Eagles’ schedule that was missing yesterday (and boy did they get a lot of primetime love).  The Andy Reid Duo, Philadelphia and Kansas City, show up a lot more than you might expect this year.

 

We still have three schedules, all in the AFC South, to get to tomorrow which is Draft Eve as well.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

We neglected to comment on this Eagles schedule yesterday, but we find that the Eagles were awarded five national games interesting (more than some teams you might think are higher profile like the Falcons).  And three of the games are in the last seven weeks, including twice in three weeks on flexible NBC…Surprisingly the Giants aren’t one of those five primetime foes, FOX gets to keep both sides of the rivalry…Three-game road trip in December, including back-to-back on West Coast (presumably the Eagles will stay over)…The Eagles have two games in L.A…Three of the first four on the road as well…Yes, there is a three-game Halloween homestand, but the slate still seems tilted towards the road.

 

Sun Sep 10      at Washington   1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Sep 17      at Kansas City 1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Sep 24      New York Giants         1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 1         at L.A. Chargers          4:05pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 8         Arizona                        1:00pm             FOX   

Thu Oct 12       at Carolina                    8:25pm             CBS/NFLN    

Mon Oct 23     Washington                  8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Oct. 29      San Francisco               1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Nov 5        Denver                         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 12      BYE                

Sun Nov 19      at Dallas                       8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Nov 26      Chicago                        1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 3        at Seattle                      8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Dec 10      at L.A. Rams                4:25pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 17      at New York Giants     1:00pm             FOX   

Mon Dec 25     Oakland                       8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Dec 31      Dallas                           1:00pm             FOX   

 

NFC SOUTH

 

NEW ORLEANS

The long courtship is at an end and RB ADRIAN PETERSON is going to try to re-capture his magic in New Orleans.  Josina Anderson of ESPN got the story:

 

Adrian Peterson told ESPN’s Josina Anderson Tuesday morning that he plans to sign with the New Orleans Saints on a two-year deal that is effectively a one-year deal plus a one-year option.

 

Peterson told Anderson that the deal is worth a base total value of $7 million. Here are the terms Peterson says he has agreed to at this point. The 2017 compensation is $3.5 million (all guaranteed at signing), which includes a $1 million guaranteed salary in 2017 and a $2.5 million signing bonus.

 

The maximum incentives packages is $8.25 million and whatever incentives reached in 2017 gets added to the per game roster bonuses in 2018.

 

The 2018 compensation is $3.5 million (none of which is guaranteed). {It includes $2.4 million in total roster bonuses, (which includes a $750K roster bonus earned on third day of free agency plus $1.65 million in per game roster bonuses), $1.05 million salary and a $50K workout bonus}.

 

“I am excited to be joining the New Orleans Saints,” Peterson told Anderson. “I’m really looking forward to this opportunity. Most importantly, I chose this team because it just felt right within my spirit. Additionally, my wife and family added their confirmation with the same feelings.

 

“On offense, it goes without saying that the Saints are really solid behind Drew Brees. I feel like my skill set can make them even more dominant as a unit. They have a great offensive line, which is something that stood out to me as well. I could tell from talking to head coach Sean Payton over the last two weeks that he did his due diligence in evaluating how I could contribute. I also did a lot of homework on the defense as well. While I know that injuries have played a role in performance, I also see areas of potential with a lot of younger guys having the ability to step up. Lastly, it goes without saying that the Saints have an amazing fan base and I look forward to making them proud and creating everlasting memories.”

 

The schedulemakers are rewarded for putting Saints at Vikings as the Week 1 ESPN opener.

 

Mike Triplett of ESPN.com on why this makes sense:

 

Adrian Peterson is 32 years old. He’s coming off of a knee injury that wrecked his 2016 season. And the New Orleans Saints already have a No. 1 running back in Mark Ingram.

 

But, heck yeah, it makes sense for them to sign Peterson if they’re getting the Hall of Famer at a discounted rate — with the added bonus of a Texas-sized chip on his shoulder after being released by the Minnesota Vikings.

 

That Week 1 trip to Minnesota for Monday Night Football will sure get a lot more dramatic in a hurry if Peterson wraps up the deal with New Orleans, as anticipated.

 

Let’s face it — the entire Saints season will get a little more dramatic, with two all-time greats in Peterson and Drew Brees trying to make at least one more deep playoff run.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Peterson is clearly a huge question mark. He played just three games last season because of a torn meniscus suffered on Sept. 18 (and didn’t play all that well before the injury). Plus, even though he looked ageless when he led the NFL with 1,485 rushing yards in 2015, he is still now 32 — not a friendly age to most running backs.

 

But, with a deal like this, the potential reward seems to outweigh any potential risk.

 

Ingram will probably be the No. 1 to Peterson’s 1A — if not a 50-50 timeshare. Ingram is the stronger pass protector and pass catcher of the two, so he might play more on passing downs while Peterson plays mostly on run downs.

 

But if there is anyone who knows how to creatively use two running backs in a timeshare, it’s Sean Payton. That is likely one of the things drawing Peterson to New Orleans — along with the proximity to his home in the Houston area and the chance to play with Brees.

 

Peterson will likely take on an even bigger role than veteran running back Tim Hightower had over the past two years, before the Saints let him get away to the San Francisco 49ers in free agency. But Hightower did have a substantial role, with a combined 1,252 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns over the past two years, including two 100-yard rushing games when Ingram was either injured or temporarily benched for a fumbling issue.

 

I thought it would be a no-brainer to re-sign Hightower this offseason. So why wouldn’t Peterson be the same if the Saints don’t have to make a hefty investment?

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

Josh Weinfuss at ESPN.com gets Bruce Arians to wax poetic on what makes a great quarterback as we wonder if the Cardinals will be drafting one early this weekend:

 

To make the ideal Bruce Arians Quarterback, mix one part Peyton Manning, one part Ben Roethlisberger, one part Andrew Luck, one part Carson Palmer and add a dash of Tim Couch.

 

Voilà. There he is.

 

“You’ve got one hell of a player,” Arians said with a smirk.

 

There’s just one problem: Finding the perfectly made quarterback is impossible, but especially in this year’s draft. If the Arizona Cardinals decide to draft one – whenever it may be – they’ll be looking for someone who closest fits the bill of the ideal Arians Quarterback.

 

“It really starts here [Arians points to his head] and here [he points to his heart],” he said. “If you’ve got a guy who’s got grit and can lead, you can probably live with his skill level.

 

“Now, if he’s got the skill level, you’ve got the world champ.”

 

There’s no question Arians has a type of quarterback he prefers: a tall, big-armed, pocket passer. That’s the one common thread Manning, Couch, Roethlisberger, Luck and Palmer share.

 

Yes, even Couch.

 

“Tim Couch led the Browns to their last playoffs, and got broken up,” Arians said. “Tim Couch was no bust. He broke his leg the last regular-season game the year the Browns went to the playoffs, and he had a torn labrum, torn … he got sacked 135 or 136 times his first two years. He was never a bust in my mind. He was a heck of a young prospect.”

 

With the likes of Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, Pat Mahomes, DeShone Kizer, Brad Kaaya and Davis Webb all potential future Cardinals, what does a realistic Arians quarterback look like?

 

Arians broke it down.

 

“First of all, you have to have some stature,” Arians said. “There are no 5-11 quarterbacks. There haven’t been any since Doug Flutie, and it took him a hell of a long time to get in, and the game’s changed since Fran Tarkenton’s played, so you have to have some stature.

 

“You have to have some arm strength. It doesn’t have to be a cannon because most guys with a cannon wait to see the guy get open and they throw a fastball and those get intercepted the other way.

 

“You have to have some anticipation. So, if your arm isn’t quite as strong, you anticipate better and you’ll get it out on time. Accuracy is key, you know?”

 

If the Cardinals decide to draft a quarterback this year, it’s more than likely — almost guaranteed — he’ll sit a year behind Palmer, the starter, and backup Drew Stanton. And if the rookie gets drafted with an accuracy issue, Arians said he’ll need at least a year to improve.

 

“It’s like professional golfers,” Arians said. “Sometimes great ball strikers can’t putt but you can teach them to putt. It’s harder to teach them to be a ball striker. You can change their [the quarterbacks’] stroke but you’re not anticipating playing him as a rookie. Look at Tiger [Woods, he] changed that string twice and it took him a year to get that thing where he trusted it in action. That’s the same thing with a quarterback.”

 

To Arians, a quarterback’s brain is the hardest part to evaluate. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it scenario, Arians said. Quarterbacks either have the smarts or they don’t.

 

“Being able to decipher the information: What’s my protection? Am I hot? Do I have a sight adjustment weak side? What’s the coverage? Who do I throw to in this coverage? That all happens in 1.5 seconds. If you can’t process that information, you probably can’t play.”

 

Arians, who’s been dubbed a “quarterback whisperer” for his work with Manning, Roethlisberger and Luck, doesn’t think teams can find a plug-and-play quarterback in this year’s draft. He said there’s one he believes can start Day 1. However, if a team can afford to sit a quarterback for at least a year, like the Cardinals can, then this year’s class is “huge.”

 

Arians has said that whenever he retires, he’d like to leave the Cardinals with a quarterback for the future. That may mean this draft or next year, or even later on down the road. But whoever the Cardinals decide is that man, the quarterback they’ll build their franchise around for the next 10 years, ideally, may not be a mixture of the legends Arians has coached.

 

Then again, he may be.

 

At some point in the near future, Arians believes the NFL will see another wave of quarterbacks who will be of the same caliber of Manning, Roethlisberger, Luck and Palmer. Maybe better.

 

“With the quality of coaching right now, they’re going to come,” Arians said. “All these 7-on-7 camps, you’re going to get better passers. What are the offenses are they in? Are they going to get in a full-scale pattern read?

 

“You are going to get taller, faster, better-armed guys than when I was coming out and running the wishbone.”

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

Here’s what Todd McShay is hearing from the 49ers:

 

San Francisco 49ers: The thinking here is that there’s just not a big difference between a player you’re going to pick at No. 2 and the one coming off the board around No. 12. Plus, this is a very deep draft in Rounds 2-4. The three names I hear the most for the 49ers if they’re unable to move down: Thomas, Adams and Lattimore. Adams would make a ton of sense. He’s probably the cleanest player in this entire draft, both on and off the field. It’s not hard to imagine former safety John Lynch using his first pick as San Francisco’s GM on Adams, considering it’s a position of need.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

The five primetime games are really quite scattered, with three of them at home in Denver…They also look to be featured in five late CBS doubleheader games…That Week 17 match-up with the Chiefs is an early favorite to be flexed…It’s the only Broncos division game in December…Denver is done with the Chargers before they see the Chiefs for the first time…There is a three-game road swing around Halloween that ends in Philadelphia – one week before the Patriots visit Mile High…Four of the first five are at home which means seven of the last 11 are on the road (and four of the last six)…That’s a pretty good slate of home opponents with the Patriots and Cowboys (and both New York teams) among the five non-divisionals.

 

Mon Sep 11     L.A. Chargers            10:20pm             ESPN 

Sun Sep 17      Dallas                           4:25pm             FOX   

Sun Sep.24      at Buffalo                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct.1         Oakland                       4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Oct.8         BYE                

Sun Oct.15       New York Giants         8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Oct 22       at L.A. Chargers           4:25pm             CBS    

Mon Oct 30     at Kansas City 8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Nov.5        at Philadelphia 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 12      New England                8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Nov 19      Cincinnati                     4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 26      at Oakland                   4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        at Miami                       1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 10      New York Jets             4:05pm             CBS    

Thu Dec 14      at Indianapolis 8:25pm             NBC/NFLN   

Sun Dec 24      at Washington   1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31      Kansas City                  4:25pm             CBS    

 

 

KANSAS CITY

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

The NFL with some crazy early primetime love for the Chiefs as five of the first eight games go primetime, including divisionals at Oakland and with Denver…There is a 6th primetime game if you count Saturday, December 16 with the Chargers…They also have big CBS doubleheader games with Pittsburgh and Dallas in the late slots…AFC West foes in three of the last four and a three-game homestand in December…They never play two weeks in a row on the road, which is pretty amazing with a three-game homestand…Two games at the Meadowlands, both in November

 

 

Thu Sep 7        at New England            8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Sep 17      Philadelphia                  1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Sep 24      at L.A. Chargers           4:25pm             CBS    

Mon Oct 2       Washington                  8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Oct 8         at Houston                    8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Oct 15       Pittsburgh                     4:25pm             CBS    

Thu Oct 19       at Oakland                   8:25pm             CBS/NFLN    

Mon Oct 30     Denver                         8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Nov 5        at Dallas                       4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 12      BYE                            

Sun Nov 19      at New York Giants     1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 26      Buffalo                         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        at New York Jets         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 10      Oakland                       1:00pm             CBS    

Sat Dec 16       L.A. Chargers              8:25pm             NFLN 

Sun Dec 24      Miami                           1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31      at Denver                     4:25pm             CBS    

 

 

THE RAIDERS

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

The NFL doesn’t seem to think much of the Oakland A’s.  In the only stadium still remaining with a possible NFL regular season conflict with MLB playoffs (not counting parking lots in places like Baltimore and Kansas City), the NFL gave the Raiders three consecutive games in the heart of October…The A’s are 10-9 at the moment by the way…The Chargers and Chiefs games in October are first divisional meetings so in theory they could be flipped to StubHub Center and Kansas City…The NFL is banking on the Raiders fulfilling the promise they showed last year, awarding them five primetime games…Three of the first four are on the road, partly due to baseball concerns…With only seven games in the Black Hole (11/19 at Mexico City), three come in October…FOX didn’t have a game in Oakland last year, but they do have the Giants on December 3…In addition to the primetimers, the Raiders have at least 4 big doubleheader games, one of which is the match-up with the Patriots in Ciudad Mexico which is on CBS this year…Back-to-back East Coast games around Halloween before the bye.

 

Sun Sep 10      at Tennessee                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 17      New York Jets             4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 24      at Washington   8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Oct 1         at Denver                     4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         Baltimore                      4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 15       L.A. Chargers              4:25pm             CBS    

Thu Oct 19       Kansas City                  8:25pm             NFLN 

Sun Oct 29       at Buffalo                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 5        at Miami                       8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Nov 12      BYE                

Sun Nov 19      New England (Mex)     4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 26      Denver                         4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        New York Giants         4:25pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 10      at Kansas City 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 17      Dallas                           8:30pm             NBC   

Mon Dec 25     at Philadelphia 8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Dec 31      at L.A. Chargers           4:25pm             CBS    

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

As has been noted elsewhere, the Chargers move to LA presents huge challenges for the NFL.  Unlike the Jets and Giants who can play in different windows, early and late, for most Sunday games, the NFL cannot schedule one LA team early for more than four or five games each year.  And in 2017, neither team is one the league would want to move very often to primetime. And right now, they are playing in stadiums with night game restrictions…So as a result, the Chargers will be playing at the same time as the Rams in the boldfaced games below…After a primetime opener at Denver, the Chargers will be home in the StubHub Center on three straight Sundays early in the season…They get Thanksgiving in Dallas and a Saturday night game late in the year in Kansas City as well…They have four trips to the East, two to New York.

 

Mon Sep 11     at Denver                   10:20pm             ESPN 

Sun Sep 17      Miami                         4:05pm            CBS   

Sun Sep 24      Kansas City                  4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 1         Philadelphia                  4:05pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 8         at New York Giants     1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 15      at Oakland                  4:25pm            CBS   

Sun Oct 22       Denver                         4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 29       at New England            1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 5        BYE                

Sun Nov 12      at Jacksonville 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 19      Buffalo                         4:05pm             FOX   

Thu Nov 23      at Dallas                       4:30pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3       Cleveland                   4:05pm            CBS   

Sun Dec 10     Washington                4:05pm            CBS   

Sat Dec 16       at Kansas City 8:25pm             NFLN 

Sun Dec 24      at New York Jets         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31     Oakland                      4:25pm            CBS   

 

AFC NORTH

 

BALTIMORE

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

The DB wonders what mid-market Baltimore would get in terms of primetime exposure if it were in the NFC, because coming off 13 wins in the last two years (8-8 in 2016), three primetimers seems like a lot…They also get a London game with JAX that is awaiting a TV partner (streaming on Amazon?) and have a national game on Saturday, December 23…The Thursday game in October with Miami could be sneaky good and as usual one of the meetings with Pittsburgh goes under the lights…The Ravens start and end the season with the Bengals and meet Cincinnati in the finale for the seventh time in eight years and have three of the last four in the AFC North…The Ravens go to London in Week 3,  then come back to host Pittsburgh without a bye…After the first Steelers game, there is a nine-game run without a division opponent.

 

Sun Sep 10      at Cincinnati                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 17      Cleveland                     1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 24      at Jacksonville (Lon)     9:30am             TV TBA          

Sun Oct 1         Pittsburgh                     1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         at Oakland                   4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 15       Chicago                        1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 22       at Minnesota                 1:00pm             CBS    

Thu Oct 26       Miami                           8:25pm             CBS/NFLN    

Sun Nov 5        at Tennessee                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 12      BYE                

Sun Nov 19      at Green Bay                1:00pm             CBS    

Mon Nov 27    Houston                       8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Dec 3        Detroit             1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 10      at Pittsburgh                 8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Dec 17      at Cleveland                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sat Dec 23       Indianapolis                  4:30pm             NFLN 

Sun Dec 31      Cincinnati                     1:00pm             CBS

 

 

CINCINNATI

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

Three-game road trip to start November, followed up by three straight at home…Cincinnati at Tennessee on November 12 is a flex to FOX…The Bengals get two primetime games, including the hosting of a Thursday night Week 2 game on NFL Network…ESPN then comes to Cincinnati in December…The divisionals skew a bit earlier than some teams with only one of the last four in the AFC South.

 

Sun Sep 10      Baltimore                      1:00pm             CBS    

Thu Sep 14      Houston                       8:25pm             NFLN 

Sun Sep 24      at Green Bay                4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 1         at Cleveland                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         Buffalo                         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 15       BYE                

Sun Oct 22       at Pittsburgh                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 29       Indianapolis                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 5        at Jacksonville 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 12      at Tennessee                 1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Nov 19      at Denver                     4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 26      Cleveland                     1:00pm             CBS    

Mon Dec 4       Pittsburgh                     8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Dec 10      Chicago                        1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 17      at Minnesota                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 24      Detroit             1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 31      at Baltimore                  1:00pm             CBS    

           

 

CLEVELAND

Jeanna Thomas at SBNation.com says it is almost impossible for the Browns to screw up this draft, yet she kind of expects they will.

 

The Cleveland Browns are in an ideal situation heading into the 2017 NFL draft. All they have to do is not screw it up.

 

Cleveland has 11 picks this year, including two first-rounders for the fifth time in franchise history. With that many picks, it should be impossible not to come out of the draft with a bright future. But years of bad drafting have left Cleveland fans, and everyone else, skeptical that the Browns can get it right this time.

 

“Collecting all these draft picks, it’s going to be hard to, in my opinion, screw it up,” said Jeff Simmons, a lifelong Browns fan. “But if any one franchise can do it, it’s the Browns.”

 

Draft day failures are the reason they haven’t had a winning campaign in nine seasons. Their selection struggles go back even further than that. The Browns have been using the draft to set themselves back since 1999, when the team returned to Cleveland and took quarterback Tim Couch with the first overall pick. Couch never panned out, and he was the first of 26 quarterbacks to start for the Browns over the past 18 seasons.

 

Remember Brady Quinn? The Browns traded up to select him in the first round of the 2007 draft, and it cost Cleveland its first-round pick the next year. He started 12 games for them, going 3-9, before Cleveland gave up on Quinn and traded him to the Denver Broncos.

 

The Browns could have had Julio Jones. Instead, they traded with the Atlanta Falcons and got five picks. On paper, that sounds like a great deal, but Cleveland used those picks to draft Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Phil Taylor, Greg Little, and Owen Marecic.

 

There are only two players from the first round of the 2014 draft who are no longer in the NFL; the Browns drafted them both. Justin Gilbert played just 23 games for the Browns. Johnny Manziel washed out of the NFL after eight starts.

 

In fact, the Browns had six first-round picks from 2011-14. None of those players are with the team anymore.

 

This year is the Browns’ chance to finally leave those draft nightmares in the past and start working toward turning around years of futility in the draft.

 

Are there signs that this won’t be a typical Browns draft?

 

The approach Cleveland has taken this offseason has been different, and it all started last year with the hire of new chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta.

 

If you saw the movie Moneyball (or even better, read the book), you may recognize DePodesta’s name. He was Billy Beane’s assistant when Beane was the Oakland Athletics’ general manager. He used his Harvard education to help Beane perfect the revolutionary approach the A’s utilized to change the team’s fortunes.

 

Beane and DePodesta successfully built the A’s roster with a limited payroll by using advanced statistics to find market inefficiencies and underrated, cheaper talent. They were also willing to move on from any player whose performance justified a greater salary than the team was willing to pay.

 

We’ve already seen shades of a shift toward this in Cleveland. After DePodesta was hired, the Browns started making moves to stockpile picks for the next two seasons.

– – –

 “How are we going to increase our chances? We need to have more picks. So, if we have the same number of picks every year as everyone else, we don’t expect do better than anyone else,” DePodesta said, via The MMQB.

 

Cleveland got off to a good start this offseason by shoring up the offensive line, which surrendered an NFL-high 66 sacks and 140 quarterback hits last year. The Browns signed former Green Bay Packers center J.C. Tretter and paid a boatload of money to right guard Kevin Zeitler. They extended left guard Joe Bitonio, and with perpetual All-Pro Joe Thomas anchoring the left tackle spot, the remade line is solid.

 

Although the Browns’ offensive line didn’t give him much help last season, Isaiah Crowell rushed for nearly 1,000 yards. Just imagine what he should be able to do behind the improved line.

 

And the impact of the rebuilt line doesn’t stop there. If the Browns draft a quarterback to develop into the franchise signal caller the team has needed since 1999, he’ll have a solid line to play behind. That, coupled with Crowell’s production, should ease a young player’s transition to the NFL.

 

Corey Coleman, last year’s first-round pick, has the potential to become the Browns’ top wideout this season. Last year’s quarterback woes and injuries kept him from contributing much in his rookie year.

 

On defense, the Browns acquired outside linebacker Jamie Collins from the New England Patriots via trade last season. Collins only played in eight games, but finished 2016 third on the team for tackles and added two sacks. The Browns signed him to an extension this offseason, locking him up for the next four years. He could have an even bigger impact on the defensive side if the Browns can add an edge rusher to complement him.

 

Who do the Browns need to draft?

 

Take Myles Garrett with the first overall pick. Garrett is a game changer, and could single-handedly overhaul Cleveland’s pass rush, which ended last season with the second-fewest sacks in the league. Garrett had 24 sacks over his first two years at Texas A&M. He was injured last season, but still managed to notch 8.5 sacks. He’s got rare explosion and athleticism, and teams don’t often get the opportunity to draft this caliber of player. Do not pass on him.

 

Draft a quarterback, but don’t reach for one. So in other words, do not draft Mitchell Trubisky first overall. There’s also a rumor that they could trade back into the top 10 picks for Trubisky, which would be a bad idea. This isn’t the strongest quarterback class, and if the Browns are not in love with any of these guys, they should wait. This is a lesson they should have learned after Couch. And Quinn. And Weeden. And Manziel. If need be, the Browns could just give Cody Kessler a shot next season while the quarterback of the future develops. Kessler showed potential last year when healthy.

 

Get some secondary help. The Browns ranked 21st in the league last year against the pass, but Pro Football Focus ranked Cleveland’s secondary 28th in the league for 2016. It’s a deep class for cornerbacks and safeties. Improved pass coverage should help the front seven get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

 

Find offensive playmakers. After letting Terrelle Pryor go in free agency, the Browns lack dynamic playmakers who are dangerous with the ball in their hands. They could go with someone like tight end O.J. Howard, who is a versatile playmaker, with the 12th overall pick. If they want to wait until later in the draft, someone like wide receiver ArDarius Stewart out of Alabama may be a good choice in the third round.

 

Add a lineman, but not until Day 3. Right tackle is really the only question after bolstering their line during the offseason. The Browns could still bring back Austin Pasztor, and they have Cam Erving and Shon Coleman on the roster to compete for the job. This isn’t the best draft class for tackles, but Cleveland should consider a developmental prospect, like Florida’s David Sharpe, who should be available in the fourth round.

 

But the most important thing the Browns have to do is use each pick wisely.

 

“We don’t get any points or win any games for having the most picks,” DePodesta said. “We need to turn that into talent.”

– – –

The Oakland Raiders were in a similar situation a few years ago, without the luxury of loads of cap space, which the Browns do have. They had a long string of losing seasons, a revolving door at quarterback, and a defense that couldn’t stop many teams. Now they’re coming off their first playoff appearance in 14 years, and it all started with the draft. Since 2012, Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has made a habit of trading back to acquire more picks, and made some franchise-changing decisions in the draft.

 

The Raiders took Khalil Mack fifth overall in the 2014 draft, and he was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year and has already been named a first-team All-Pro twice in his three-year career. Quarterback Derek Carr was a second-rounder in 2014, and was an MVP candidate throughout last year until a fractured fibula in Week 16 cut his season short.

 

There might not be a Carr waiting for the Browns this year, but they can bounce back if they approach each pick like it’s their only pick. Eleven solid picks would help start a turnaround in Cleveland. A couple of wasted ones, and it’s just another year of the same old Browns.

 

If that happens, there’s only one thing left for Browns fans to do.

 

“Drink,” Simmons said. “It’s the Browns. That’s a very real possibility that they might not get it right.”

– – –

SCHEDULE NOTES

The only national exposure for the Browns comes in the early hours of Sunday morning on NFL Network from London versus the Vikings…One game in Los Angeles against the Chargers – and that leaves 14 at 1 p.m. EST, 12 on CBS…The two FOX games include a flex with the Jets and a quality opponent in the Packers…The Browns play each of their divisional opponents within the first four weeks…This is the 8th season the NFL has mandated that a divisional opponent be met in Week 17 – and this is the 7th that said foe has been Pittsburgh for Cleveland.

 

Sun Sep 10      Pittsburgh                     1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 17      at Baltimore                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 24      at Indianapolis 1:00pm CBS    

Sun Oct 1         Cincinnati                     1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         New York Jets             1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 15       at Houston                    1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 22       Tennessee                    1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 29       Minnesota (Lon)           9:30am             NFLN 

Sun Nov 5        BYE                

Sun Nov 12      at Detroit                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 19      Jacksonville                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 26      at Cincinnati                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        at L.A. Chargers           4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 10      Green Bay                    1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 17      Baltimore                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 24      at Chicago                    1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31      at Pittsburgh                 1:00pm             CBS    

 

 

PITTSBURGH

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

We believe the Steelers are the first team ever to be scheduled with four consecutive primetime games (last year Dallas was flexed into four in a row and it was said to be a first, but that wasn’t scheduled)…The schedule starts with eight straight Sunday afternoon games, just one late – then explodes with five primetime games in six contests (seven weeks with a bye)…When the Steelers do return to the “daylight” at 4:25 p.m. on December 17 for a potentially huge game with the Patriots, the sun actually will be set in the Steel City by 5…Then more national exposure with a Christmas afternoon game in Houston in Week 16…NBC has three of the primetime Sunday games, plus a Thursday battle with Tennessee, so they are very much invested in Ben Roethlisberger’s health (although flexing is possible)…CBS can’t be thrilled to have the Steelers only twice in an eight-week late-season span…No three-game home or road runs and the divisional games are rather well spaced.

 

Sun Sep 10      at Cleveland                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 17      Minnesota                    1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Sep 24      at Chicago                    1:00pm CBS    

Sun Oct 1         at Baltimore                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         Jacksonville                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 15       at Kansas City 4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 22       Cincinnati                     1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 29       at Detroit                      8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Nov 5        BYE                

Sun Nov 12      at Indianapolis 1:00pm CBS    

Thu Nov 16      Tennessee                    8:25pm             NBC/NFLN   

Sun Nov 26      Green Bay                    8:30pm             NBC   

Mon Dec 4       at Cincinnati                  8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Dec 10      Baltimore                      8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Dec 17      New England                4:25pm CBS    

Mon Dec 25     at Houston                    4:30pm NBC/NFLN   

Sun Dec 31      Cleveland                     1:00pm             CBS

 

AFC SOUTH

 

TENNESSEE

The Titans are looking to move down says Todd McShay:

 

Tennessee Titans: This is the team in the top 10 that’s most likely to trade down. Jon Robinson showed a willingness to move up and down the board in his first draft as GM, and the Titans want to recoup the second-rounder they lost in the deal to move up and draft OT Jack Conklin last year. So there could be mutual interest between Tennessee and a team looking to trade above the Jets for a QB. If the Titans are unable to work out a deal, I’m hearing they’ll take the best defensive back on the board, with Jamal Adams and Marshon Lattimore being the two favorites. Hooker, the Ohio State safety, is also an option, but his recent surgeries are a wild card.

 

Assuming they get a DB with their first pick, the Titans will be hoping that Clemson WR Mike Williams falls to No. 18, where Tennessee picks again. Based on what I’m hearing, though, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is much more likely than Williams to fall that far.

– – –

SCHEDULE NOTES

The Titans gets a Monday Night home game with Indianapolis in October to go with a Thursday night affair at Pittsburgh…Otherwise, everything is in the early slot on the East coast except for the three games Tennessee has in the West…The finale with Jacksonville is the only divisional in the last four…Three two-game road trips and two two-game home stands…The Titans play the entire AFC North in a four-game run that starts on October 22.

 

Sun Sep 10      Oakland                       1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 17      at Jacksonville 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep.24      Seattle                          4:05pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 1         at Houston                    1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         at Miami                       1:00pm             CBS    

Mon Oct 16     Indianapolis                  8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Oct 22       at Cleveland                 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 29       BYE                

Sun Nov 5        Baltimore                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 12      Cincinnati                     1:00pm             FOX   

Thu Nov 16      at Pittsburgh                 8:25pm             NBC/NFLN   

Sun Nov 26      at Indianapolis 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        Houston                       1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 10      at Arizona                     4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 17      at San Francisco           4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 24      L.A. Rams                    1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Dec 31      Jacksonville                  1:00pm             CBS

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

The Bills won as many games as the Eagles last year (7-9), but Philly gets five primetime games with their second year QB and the Bills get the semi-obligatory Thursday night game (not picked up on CBS, just an NFL Network game)…The AFC East’s divisional games are odd.  The Bills open with the Jets, then play NYJ again in early November – but the Bills do not have a single game with New England or Miami before December…The Bills do get a game flexed to Fox at the LA Chargers in November…So let’s say Buffalo is 5-4 going into December, they then have three straight home games.

 

Sun Sep 10      New York Jets             1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 17      at Carolina                    1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 24      Denver                         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 1         at Atlanta                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         at Cincinnati                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 15       BYE                

Sun Oct 22       Tampa Bay                   1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 29       Oakland                       1:00pm             CBS    

Thu Nov 2        at New York Jets         8:25pm             NFLN 

Sun Nov 12      New Orleans                1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Nov 19      at L.A. Chargers           4:05pm             FOX   

Sun Nov 26      at Kansas City 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        New England                1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 10      Indianapolis                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 17      Miami                           1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 24      at New England            1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31      at Miami                       1:00pm             CBS    

 

 

MIAMI

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

As noted with Buffalo and New England, some crazy intense divisionals in December…

They play the Bills in Week 15 and 17, right after getting done with the Patriots in the same twice in three-week segment in Weeks 12 and 14…The NFL sked rarely has twice in three-week rivalries, and we can’t remember one team having two in the same year, much less two in a six-week span….The early part of the schedule is kind of odd two with a three-week road trip that spans a range of nine time zones and three of the biggest English-speaking metropolitan areas in the world…With the home game with the Jets flexed, the Dolphins have three games on FOX…The Dolphins wanted a late bye, not one the week after playing in London, so they sit out Week 11 (right before the huge game at New England).

 

Sun Sep 10      Tampa Bay                   1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Sep 17      at L.A. Chargers           4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 24      at New York Jets         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 1         New Orleans (Lon)      9:30am             FOX   

Sun Oct 8         Tennessee                    1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 15       at Atlanta                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 22       New York Jets             1:00pm             FOX   

Thu Oct 26       at Baltimore                  8:25pm             CBS/NFLN    

Sun Nov 5        Oakland                       8:30pm             NBC   

Mon Nov 13    at Carolina                    8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Nov 19      BYE                

Sun Nov 26      at New England            1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        Denver                         1:00pm             CBS    

Mon Dec 11     New England                8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Dec 17      at Buffalo                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 24      at Kansas City 1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31      Buffalo                         1:00pm             CBS    

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

As Peter King pointed out, the Patriots play only one time in Foxborough between Halloween and Christmas Eve…Or put another way, they are home on the weekends of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, but no others in that span…Another oddity is that they do not have a single game with Miami or Buffalo before Thanksgiving…Just one of their first 10 games (at NYJ on 10/15) is a divisional…Five primetimes – three in the NBC package…Do they stay out west between at Denver and at Mexico City in Weeks 10-11?…Only one game on Fox, Carolina visiting in Week 4.

 

Thu Sep 7        Kansas City                  8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Sep 17      at New Orleans            1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 24      Houston                       1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 1         Carolina                       1:00pm             FOX   

Thu Oct 5         at Tampa Bay               8:25pm             CBS/NFLN    

Sun Oct 15       at New York Jets         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 22       Atlanta                         8:30pm             NBC   

Sun Oct. 29      L.A. Chargers              1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 5                    BYE                

Sun Nov 12      at Denver                     8:30pm NBC   

Sun Nov 19      at Oakland (Mex)         4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 26      Miami                           1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 3        at Buffalo                      1:00pm             CBS    

Mon Dec 11     at Miami                       8:30pm             ESPN 

Sun Dec 17      at Pittsburgh                 4:25pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 24      Buffalo                         1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31      New York Jets             1:00pm             CBS    

 

 

NEW YORK JETS

 

SCHEDULE NOTES

While the rest of the division has plenty of December games with each other, Jets have only one AFC East game after November 2, the mandatory meeting in Week 17 (this year at New England)…Starting on October 29, they have a run of four home contests in a span of five games (with a bye)…Three of the last four are on the road…As a New York team, the Jets have sometimes been over-rewarded with primetime activity – partly due to their market and partly due to stadium-sharing issues…That’s not the case in 201 with only one primetimer – a Thursday matchup with the Bills that is also Buffalo’s only nocturnal event… Otherwise, 13 early Sunday tilts plus two at 4:05 in the West…The NFL used to avoid putting the Jets and Giants both on early, but that’s not the case in 2017.  Sure, the Giants have a lot of late and primetime games, but they will be on opposite each other three or four times (Weeks 3, 5, 15 and maybe, 17)…Two Jets road games (Oct 8 at Cleveland and Oct 22 at Miami) will be flexed to FOX for a total of four games on the nominal NFC network).

 

Sun Sep 10      at Buffalo                      1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 17      at Oakland                   4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Sep 24      Miami                           1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 1         Jacksonville                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 8         at Cleveland                 1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 15       New England                1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Oct 22       at Miami                       1:00pm             FOX   

Sun Oct 29       Atlanta                         1:00pm             FOX   

Thu Nov 2        Buffalo                         8:25pm             NFLN 

Sun Nov 12      at Tampa Bay               1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Nov 19      BYE                

Sun Nov 26      Carolina                       1:00pm FOX   

Sun Dec 3        Kansas City                  1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 10      at Denver                     4:05pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 17      at New Orleans            1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 24      L.A. Chargers              1:00pm             CBS    

Sun Dec 31      at New England            1:00pm             CBS

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

AARON HERNANDEZ

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com thinks the rumors of Aaron Hernandez’s bi-sexuality are fake news.

 

On the heels of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez committing suicide and at the outset of an effort by his family and lawyers to ask tough and pointed questions about it, someone in law enforcement has decided to begin leaking inflammatory allegations about Hernandez. And multiple media outlets are embracing it.

 

We weren’t going to write about the Newsweek report that Hernandez was bisexual; that he left a suicide note for his “prison boyfriend” and that Hernandez may have killed Odin Lloyd to conceal that Hernandez was involved in an intimate relationship with a man. Hernandez’s sexuality isn’t relevant or newsworthy, especially at this point.

 

But then, as MDS and I traded emails regarding how to handle this one, the light bulb flickered: The “law enforcement sources” who are leaking this information on an anonymous basis apparently believe they are smearing Hernandez, possibly as a warning to those who plan to challenge whether prison officials failed to take steps aimed at preventing Hernandez from committing suicide.

 

If Hernandez was motivated to kill Lloyd because Lloyd was going to “out” Hernandez, wouldn’t that have come up at some point between the discovery of Lloyd’s body in June 2013 and the conviction of Hernandez for the killing in April 2015? The biggest weakness in the Lloyd murder (other than the failure to discover the murder weapon) was the absence of a clear motive.

 

So now law enforcement sources claim anonymously that this was the motive, even though over the past four years there had never been a hint that this was the motive?

 

Regardless of the true motive for leaking this information about Hernandez, it’s shameful that law enforcement sources are doing it, and those reporting it merit criticism and scrutiny. This isn’t about having sympathy for the murderer; this is about family members who are trying to get to the truth and who now have to brace for any and every kind of ugly accusation to be leaked to Newsweek or other publications if they dare to ask too many tough and pointed questions about the circumstances surrounding Hernandez’s death.

 

 

THE NFL SEASON

Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post notes that the NFL has the shortest of seasons among the major sports, just 17 weeks long:

 

The NFL has it perfect right now. A 32-team league lends itself to mathematical perfection when it comes to scheduling a 16-game season. Everything about the NFL schedule makes sense, from the rotating divisions teams play against every third year to the six divisional games every team plays to the two games teams play every year against two conference teams who finished in the same place in the standings.

 

It is why whenever the NFL talks about either of the two things that would wreck this perfection — expansion or an 18-game schedule — it makes even less sense than you think. Are 16 games too many? You certainly could argue that, but the fact is: Football is a dangerous sport. Guys would (and did) get hurt in a 14-game schedule, and a 12-game schedule. And would get hurt in an eight-game schedule, too.

 

So football can be left alone.

 

It’s the other sports that, in a perfect world, would turn their schedules over to men with machetes and let them chop away. Not only do MLB, NBA and NHL schedules drag on, they clearly take a toll: Look at how many injuries pile up simply because there are so many pit stops on the way to the playoffs. And look at the mess that resting NBA stars has created (maybe some of them should have rested more, the way they’re dropping).

 

We propose these things knowing owners and players like money just as much, enjoy revenue just as much, and would be reluctant to part with the dollars that reduced schedules would mean. But for a few paragraphs, anyway, can’t we at least dare to dream of what could be possible if we revamped — and shortened — schedules?

 

Major League Baseball

 

Current schedule: 162 games

Revised schedule: 154 games

Baseball managed to survive quite nicely on 154-game schedules from 1901-60 (AL) and ’62 (NL). It may not sound like a lot, eight fewer games scattered across six months, but I never have talked to a baseball player who wouldn’t prefer a shorter slate, even by only a week.

 

How do we get there? In a 30-team league, it actually works quite well: Play 12 games against every team in your division (48). Play six games against every other team in your league (60). Play three games against every team in the other league (42) except your designated rival (the Mets/Yankees, for instance), against whom you play four (4) times. Voila! That’s 154.

 

NBA

 

Current schedule: 82 games

Revised schedule: 76 games

Some want to get especially radical and slice this to a 66-game schedule, but that seems a bit extreme. Six fewer games though? It would mean less of a financial hit. And, as with the NFL and MLB, it makes mathematical sense.

 

How do we get there? In another 30-team league, this works well, too: Play four games against every team in your division (16). Play three games against every other team in your conference (30). Play two games against every team in the other conference (30). Every other year you get an extra home game against conference teams out of your division. Equitable and fair.

 

NHL

 

Current schedule: 82 games

Revised schedule: 76 games

There is so much wrong with the NHL setup, it is hard to know where to start, and that only will be compounded once the Vegas Golden Knights enter the league next year as a 31st team. If the NHL ever does find a city to make it an even 32 — Quebec City, anyone? — this certainly would allow for an easy transition to a 76-game schedule.

How do we get there? In the 32-team league you would play all seven teams in your division four times each and every other team in the league twice apiece to reach 76 games. In a 31-team league … ah, that’s too much math. Just root for Quebec City.

 

Well, actually he doesn’t note it, but the NFL season is only 17 weeks long, the other sports run for about 26 weeks.

 

 

2017 DRAFT

Mike Florio on the Wonderlic scores of the 2017 quarterbacks, plus those from past drafts:

 

Each year, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obtains and discloses the scores. This year, each of the 12 incoming quarterbacks ranked by McGinn secured at least a 20 on the test.

 

Leading the way was Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya (pictured) with a 34. Here are the rest: Nathan Peterman, 33; Trevor Knight, 30; Josh Dobbs, 29; DeShone Kizer, 28; C.J. Beathard, 26; Mitchell Trubisky, 25; Davis Webb, 25; Patrick Mahomes, 24; Chad Kelly, 22; Jerod Evans, 21; Deshaun Watson, 20.

 

So what does it mean? No one really knows, which is all the more reason to get rid of the test. In past years, Hall of Famers like Terry Bradshaw (16) and Dan Marino (15) struggled. Jeff George had a 10.

 

On the other end of the spectrum, Blaine Gabbert racked up a 42, Alex Smith scored a 40, Eli Manning got a 39, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Tony Romo managed 37s, Aaron Rodgers scored a 35, Tom Brady scored a 33, and Johnny Football arguably was, at least for a day, Johnny Wonderlic, with 32 correct answers.

– – –

Some draft buzz from Todd McShay at ESPN.com:

 

1. How many QBs will go in Round 1? My guess is three, based on talking to folks in the league: North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. The one name I keep hearing a bunch is Cal’s Davis Webb. Some people like him a lot more than I do. I’m not sure that means he’ll go in Round 1, but he’s a name to keep an eye on.

 

2. Alabama ILB Reuben Foster and Florida State RB Dalvin Cook are two players who have gotten a lot of attention in draft circles for off-field concerns. Their status varies depending on the team you’re talking to, but Cook appears to have the potential to fall a little bit more than Foster. Here’s the latest based on what I’ve heard:

 

On Foster: One person I spoke to said the Indianapolis Colts could end up being the parachute pick for Foster at No. 15 overall, given how they’re trying to overhaul the defensive side of the ball. If he doesn’t go there, the Redskins two picks later could be in play.

 

On Cook: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers really like Cook and will strongly consider him if he’s on the board at No. 19. The concerns with Cook are who he surrounds himself with, so keeping him in the state of Florida would be a risk, considering that’s where he went to college and grew up (Miami).

 

Hey, this is what we said yesterday when Peter King had the Browns trading with the Jets:

 

3. Are the Browns really waffling on taking Myles Garrett No. 1 overall? One person in the league told me you can bet as much as you want on Cleveland taking the Texas A&M pass-rusher. The biggest question facing the Browns: Do they sit patiently at pick No. 12 or try to move up for a quarterback? Everything I’ve pieced together is that they like Trubisky the best among the quarterbacks. There’s some thought that Cleveland might have to trade ahead of the Jets at No. 6 if they really want the North Carolina QB.

 

4. Speaking of the Jets: I’ve been getting mixed reports on whether they’re really interested in Trubisky, or if they’re just trying to making it appear like they are so some team (like Cleveland) trades ahead of them. The latter strategy would make sense. Think about it: If Jets know they don’t want to spend the sixth pick on a QB, the best possible scenario is to have someone trade above them and take a passer, leaving one more non-QB for the Jets to choose from.

 

5. Two teams continue to come up in conversations about Mahomes: the Arizona Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs. The closer we get to the draft, I’m not sure the Texas Tech QB will still be around when the Chiefs are on the clock at No. 27 overall.

 

6. One interesting nugget I’ve picked up on when talking to teams about quarterbacks: Those that don’t need a passer prefer Watson. They cite his intangibles and the ability to raise his play in the biggest moments. Trubisky and Mahomes seem to be of more interest among teams that actually need a QB. I’m having a hard time narrowing down exactly where Watson will go.

 

7. From the people I talk to, the Carolina Panthers are getting a lot of love as a landing spot for Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey at No. 8 overall — even if LSU’s Leonard Fournette is still on the board. You can certainly make the case for the Panthers going that direction, considering they have a need at both running back and slot receiver, and McCaffrey could help fill both holes. One interesting connection: Lance Taylor, who’s now Carolina’s receivers coach, was McCaffrey’s running backs coach for three seasons at Stanford.

– – –

 

10. Maybe it’s recency bias, but it feels like this draft has more top players with character or durability issues than any other I can remember. Just in the past week, we’ve had Foster and Michigan S Jabrill Peppers test positive for dilute samples and Florida DT Caleb Brantley get charged with battery for allegedly punching a woman. More of my conversations than in other years seem to be centered around teams searching for the cleanest players in the draft. It’s one of the reasons guys like Adams, McCaffrey and Alabama TE O.J. Howard — all of whom could be top-10 picks — are picking up steam while others are falling.

 

– – –

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com on the report of Adam Schefter that there is another reason, as if there needs to be another, besides the diluted sample that has sent the draft stock of S JABRILL PEPPERS plunging:

 

Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers was one of a handful of draft prospects who didn’t play in his team’s bowl game. And now that may be costing him in the eyes of NFL teams.

 

Adam Schefter reported today on ESPN that there are teams with concerns that Peppers didn’t play in his bowl game. Those teams apparently worry that by sitting out Michigan’s Orange Bowl contest against Florida State, he showed a lack of commitment to his team.

 

Why should that affect Peppers’ draft stock when it hasn’t seemed to affect the stock of LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, both of whom also sat out their teams’ bowl games? Apparently because Peppers didn’t reveal he wasn’t playing until the day of the Orange Bowl, whereas both Fournette and McCaffrey addressed their decisions with their coaches and teammates well in advance of their bowl games.

 

However, it’s a little odd that this report is coming from Schefter today, because on the day of the bowl game, Schefter reported that Peppers had legitimately suffered a hamstring injury and wanted to play but physically couldn’t.

 

A few NFL decision-makers, including Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, have said they would be concerned about a player who sat out his bowl game. But this is the first report we’ve heard a report that a specific player is actually dropping on draft boards for that decision.