The Daily Briefing Tuesday, August 14, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

The NFL’s Week 6 game between the Seahawks and Raiders won’t take place at Tottenham as scheduled.  The AP:

 

NFL games will be played at Wembley Stadium on three consecutive weekends for the first time because the new stadium being built for English Premier League club Tottenham won’t be ready.

 

Tottenham said Monday that it would be unable to host the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders on Oct. 14 due to “issues with the critical safety systems” at the 62,000-seat stadium in the final stages of construction.

 

“We appreciate the support our partner the NFL has shown since the extent of this issue became evident today,” Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said Monday.

 

The teams won’t have to adjust plans significantly because Wembley, English soccer’s national stadium, is only 12 miles across north London from Tottenham.

 

Wembley will also stage the Oct. 21 game between the Tennessee Titans and the Los Angeles Chargers, and the meeting between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars a week later.

 

Tottenham’s new stadium, which is built on the site of the now-demolished White Hart Lane stadium, was designed as much for soccer as American football. The grass soccer pitch can be retracted and kept under lights below the stands when the artificial surface is required for the NFL. The dressing rooms can also cope with NFL teams without adjustments.

 

The NFL won’t say if the 10-year contract at Tottenham only officially starts when the stadium is ready to stage games.

 

NFC NORTH

 

CHICAGO

There was a time that these happened all the time.  LB ROQUAN SMITH has ended his holdout.  ESPN.com:

 

The Chicago Bears have agreed to terms with first-round pick Roquan Smith, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

The deal is for the slotted amount of $18 million guaranteed over four years. A source told Schefter that the contract should include about $11 million in bonuses.

 

Selected with the eighth overall pick in the draft, Smith was the last unsigned rookie in the NFL. Part of the reason for his holdout was language in his contract that would allow the team to reclaim guaranteed money if the linebacker is suspended under the NFL’s new helmet-contact rules, a source previously confirmed to ESPN.

 

Smith is expected to report as early as Monday night and could play in the Bears’ next preseason game Saturday at the Denver Broncos, a source told Schefter.

 

The Bears said in a statement Monday that Smith will be available to the media on Tuesday, but they did not announce his signing.

 

Asked Sunday if missing all of camp would limit Smith’s ability to be a defensive field general on opening day, Bears coach Matt Nagy did not mince words.

 

“I think it does,” Nagy said. “You’re playing at that position ,and there are a lot of calls that go on — very similar to a quarterback, there’s a lot going on. But I have full confidence in [defensive coordinator] Vic [Fangio] and his staff that when he does get here, they’ll get him up to speed, and whenever that is, we’ll see.

 

“But again, that’s why we all get paid as coaches is to try to help our players out as much as possible, and that’s kind of where we’re at.”

 

NFC EAST

 

NEW YORK GIANTS

This wouldn’t have happened if Hue Jackson was pampering RB SAQUON BARKLEY.  Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com:

 

A flash of Saquon Barkley brilliance was spoiled by a slight limp at the end.

 

The New York Giants received a minor scare when Barkley came up lame at the end of a big play during Monday’s practice. It occurred after the No. 2 pick ran by Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins deep down the left sideline and caught a pass from quarterback Kyle Lauletta.

 

Barkley tweaked his hamstring, but he is fine, a source told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

 

“Saquon has a mild strain, and we’ll be smart with him as we move along here,” Giants coach Pat Shurmur announced after Barkley underwent tests.

 

He jogged gingerly down the sideline and then back toward the line of scrimmage, where he was eventually examined by team trainers. They wrapped Barkley’s left leg temporarily.

 

Practice only lasted several more minutes, but Barkley did not take another rep. He walked off the field gingerly without the wrap.

 

 

PHILADELPHIA

Morty Alin of ESPN.com interviews sports’ most formidable power couple – one of whom is Eagles TE ZACH ERTZ:

 

She is the reigning U.S. soccer player of the year and a World Cup champion. He just helped the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl with two huge catches in the fourth quarter. They are both next-level stars on the sports landscape — and they are in love. Technically, the honeymoon is over — because Zach and Julie Ertz have been married since March 2017 — but if you added up all the days they’ve spent together, they might still qualify as newlyweds.

 

How did the two of you meet?

 

Julie: We initially met at a baseball game at Stanford. We had mutual friends. After I won the U20 Women’s World Cup [in 2012], he sent a congrats [text] on our win. Then I watched a football game that he was in, and he scored this huge touchdown. I texted him, “Congratulations, so cool to see you doing well.” I guess a little bit of succeeding kindled our relationship.

 

Zach: That touchdown might have sealed the deal. I mean, I hope I offered more than that touchdown against Oregon. [laughs]

 

Are you competitive with each other?

 

Zach: Extremely.

 

Julie: It’s pretty bad. We play a bunch of card games and board games, but if we do board games, we have to be on the same team. Otherwise, we won’t talk to each other for like an hour. We’re just too stubborn.

 

Zach: We have a book that keeps a tally of wins. There are two sides of the book; one’s labeled “Z” and one’s “J,” and it’s just a running tally of victories, because Julie is a known cheater. [laughs] She exaggerates how many victories she has. So we had to create this book in order to hold each other accountable. I still have to look over her shoulder to make sure she’s not giving herself two victories instead of one, or that she’s actually giving me a mark in the victory column.

 

Julie: Unfortunately, Zach is winning right now. I won’t lie, he’s up. He used to be up by a pretty big margin, but I’ve been killing it in gin.

 

Zach: The one place we’re never truly competing is while working out. It’s more encouragement or just holding each other accountable — little coaching points here and there — because we know how serious the other is while the other is working out.

 

Julie: In the offseason, we work out like every day together. Lifting is an easy one to do together; we just shift weights back and forth. We do a lot of core together. Pilates and yoga, we always do those together.

 

Zach: She’s helped me with my flexibility. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve created this stretching routine that I have to do each and every night. It focuses on every muscle and joint group in the body. I can’t sleep unless I get it done before I go to bed.

 

Julie: Zach takes care of his body so well, it’s unbelievable. He’s so meticulous, like OCD, in what he does.

 

How do you support each other as athletes?

 

Julie: In a time of doubt, it’s nice to have someone who’s on your side, pushing you. A big moment when Zach was there for me was before the World Cup. I didn’t make the [qualifying games] roster, and that was a hard moment. Him being a professional athlete as well, he understands those up-and-down moments. There are daily moments of me being so tired and him saying, “OK, well, go do two more runs.” From the little things to those big things, it all helps in the end.

 

Zach: I’ve dealt with an injury the past two years at the beginning of the season, and her ability to help me maintain focus and not get too upset or too down … She’ll drop whatever she has to come out to Philadelphia, even though she’s playing in Chicago. It’s definitely a burden to take that time off from her sport, but she knows that sometimes you have to do that in order to help the other person out.

 

Julie: I feel very comfortable in who I am now, and he’s definitely a part of it. He’s behind me, he wants me to succeed and pushes me. That’s been really special the past five years now.

 

Zach: I love watching Julie play. I know how much work she puts into her sport and her craft — to see that hard work pay off is very satisfying to me too.

 

Julie: I think it’s a lot easier for me to watch Zach play than it is for his other family members, just because I know how much he loves the sport and how hard he works at it. The closer I sit, when I hear more of the pads banging against each other, my heart races a little bit. But I just want him to succeed and do what he loves.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

CAROLINA

As a PED suspension looms, LB THOMAS DAVIS says his failed test came from a product he had been taking for seven years without problem.  David Newton of ESPN.com:

 

– Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis would like to see the NFL take a player’s character into consideration when issuing penalties such as the four-game suspension he’ll serve to start this season.

 

The 2014 NFL Man of the Year for his community work with kids learned in April that he violated the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs for a failed test at the end of last season.

 

He immediately recorded a video that he released on social media, claiming the failed test season came from an estrogen blocker he’d taken the past seven to eight seasons without issue.

 

“The NFL has a tough job on their hands when you think about assessing fines, assessing punishment for certain things,” Davis said on Monday as the Panthers broke training camp at Wofford College. “I mean, you would like to think they would take into consideration the player and what the guy has done over his career, but that’s not a part of what goes into it.

 

“Ultimately, the rules says we’re responsible for what we put in our bodies. I’ve just got to do a better job of understanding what’s in the things I’m taking.”

 

Davis, 35, now has every substance he’s considering tested by the team before using it. He never had the substance that landed him the suspension tested, even though the NFL and team encourages players to have every substance tested.

 

“Once you take something for eight or nine years and you never have any issues, you never feel it’s going to be a problem until it’s a problem,” Davis said.

 

Davis announced after last season that 2018 would be his last. The suspension made him rethink that, and he wants to play another year if the Panthers want him back.

 

NFC WEST

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

Someone had emanated to the Rumosphere that the Rams and DT AARON DONALD were close to the big money deal that has been long overdue.

 

Not so fast says Coach Sean McVay.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com seems to still believe the rumors:

 

A rash of reports emerged on Monday that the Rams and defensive tackle Aaron Donald are finally close to a new deal. Coach Sean McVay pushed back on the sudden momentum.

 

“I’ve seen a lot of reports out there, but that’s news to us,” McVay told reporters on Monday. “So, no news on that front for us. Same thing as just the dialogue, but as far as anything that’s changed, it hasn’t changed.”

 

That’s not what’s privately emanating from those close to the discussions. There’s a palpable sense that the two sides are indeed close.

 

Of course, it only takes one of the two sides to make an unreasonable demand as the plane is landing to keep the wheels from touching down. But there have nevertheless been multiple indications that the Rams and Donald, after months of trying, are getting toward a long-term deal that would tie Donald to the Rams for years to come.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

The Broncos have signed a former U. of Tennessee LB named A.J. JOHNSON who was recently acquitted on a rape charge.  Austin Knoblach of NFL.com:

 

A.J. Johnson, a former University of Tennessee standout who was acquitted of aggravated rape charges last month, was signed by the Denver Broncos on Monday.

 

“A.J. hasn’t had the opportunity to play football for the last three years while resolving a serious legal matter,” Broncos general manager John Elway said in a statement. “We’ve had several conversations with him since he’s been cleared and have become very familiar with his background and character. Our organization is confident A.J. is ready to move forward and resume his playing career.”

 

Johnson and former Tennessee teammate Michael Williams were indicted in February 2015 after a woman accused both men of raping her during a party at Johnson’s apartment in November 2014. Tennessee suspended Johnson and Williams two days after the party and neither played for the Volunteers again.

 

Attorneys for Johnson and Williams argued during the trial that the woman had consensual sex with both men before lying about the incident.

 

Johnson was a three-time All-Southeastern Conference selection from 2011-14 and ranks second all-time in tackles at Tennessee (425). To make room on the roster, the Broncos released linebacker Stansly Maponga.

 

Johnson is now 26 years old.

 

10News in Knoxville has this at their website:

 

The jury foreman in last month’s rape trial of two former University of Tennessee football players compares the prosecution’s case to opening a can of Coke.

 

It started with a lot of fizz, said Ralph Pollard, but as time passed the fizz went flat.

 

“The start of the case was an emotional roller coaster for a lot of us,” Pollard said Monday in an interview at his Halls area home. “It was almost like they were basing their case on emotion. And a lot of the evidence — it was kind of tough to say, OK, how does this relate to two men and one woman and whether there was consensual sex or not.”

 

Pollard spoke Monday publicly for the first time about the two-week trial in Knox County.

 

The 75-year-old retiree and his peers acquitted the former University of Tennessee football players July 27 of rape charges after about 90 minutes of deliberation.

 

On Monday afternoon, the Denver Broncos announced they’d signed Johnson, a linebacker, to the team. That’s not something that could have happened without an acquittal.

 

Weighing the facts

 

Johnson and Williams were accused of assaulting a female UT athlete in November 2016 in Johnson’s bedroom at his South Knoxville apartment. It happened during a party that included various UT athletes staged after a UT victory over Kentucky.

 

After a week of questioning to pick a seven-woman, five-man jury, the state’s presentation of evidence took a week.

 

Witnesses included the alleged victim; a friend who had been with her, Johnson and Williams for a time in Johnson’s bedroom; a former UT football player; and a Knoxville police investigator.

 

Defense attorneys Stephen Ross Johnson and David Eldridge put on no proof, although they’d considered having A.J. Johnson testify.

 

Pollard said the state raised several questions in its presentation of the evidence.

After closing arguments and getting instructions from the judge, jurors on the afternoon of July 27 settled down to debate the merits of the state’s case. Pollard said it was clear to many there was reasonable doubt in the accusations against the pair.

 

“Obviously, it was an emotional situation for (the alleged victim),” he said. “Everybody felt for her and her testimony. It was difficult and it was a long period of time where she couldn’t talk.”

 

The foreman said the allegations certainly prompted an emotional reaction in him.

 

“I’ve got two granddaughters. If something like that happened to my granddaughter, I’d want to rip their throats out with my bare hands you know?” he said.

 

But questions lingered from the testimony: Why hadn’t certain pieces of evidence been introduced? Why didn’t certain witnesses testify?

 

Other questions persisted.

 

“It all came down to the credibility of the girl, and there were some issues that brought doubt,” Pollard said.

 

The alleged victim testified she wouldn’t put her friend, Anna Lawn, who was visiting from out of town, into a compromising situation. And yet, it happened, the foreman said.

 

The jury heard testimony that Lawn was present in the bedroom when Johnson and the alleged victim had what appeared to start out at least as consensual sex.

 

Both women also testified they got rid of their cellphones soon after the alleged rape. The victim told jurors the phone no longer worked, Pollard said.

 

“Why you would sell a phone that didn’t work to somebody else — if it in fact was too defective to save?” he said.

 

Pollard said he wondered why evidence from the rape kit, taken after the alleged attack, wasn’t introduced.

 

He said he wondered why UT player Von Pearson, who he recalled was right outside A.J. Johnson’s bedroom door after the alleged attack and who comforted the young woman, didn’t testify.

 

Verdict with one vote

 

Pollard said jurors thought something certainly happened in Johnson’s room that night. But they couldn’t agree that it reached the level of a crime such as rape for which they could convict someone.

 

The panel worked hard, Pollard said, hearing each other out and staying focused from start to finish during deliberations. Everyone was courteous; discussions were civil.

 

They reviewed evidence including photos taken at the scene and the young woman’s 911 recording. On it, she told a dispatcher she didn’t want to get anyone in trouble, Pollard said.

 

10News also spoke Monday with one of the seven women jurors in the case. She said she was the only person who at the start of deliberations thought the men were guilty.

 

But in the end, she said, she agreed the jury could not convict. She declined Monday to go on camera.

 

Pollard said jurors took only one vote — and that led to the not guilty verdicts.

 

“The people that were on the jury — you’d be proud to have any one of them for a neighbor,” he said. “They were all great people, conscientious, attentive people who took it serious.”

– – –

Coach Vance Joseph confirms that QB PAXTON LYNCH has fallen below the rookie on the depth chart.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

It’s official. Chad Kelly is currently the No. 2 quarterback in Denver. For now.

 

“Right now, he’s our backup,” coach Vance Joseph said on the day that the second-year, seventh-rounder received reps with the second-string offense for the first time. “Again, your roster is pretty much formed until something happens out there. So, right now, Chad is our backup. Things change in this league all the time, but right now he is our backup.”

 

The reason is simple. In a merit-based business, Kelly has shown the necessary merit.

 

“Chad has played well,” Joseph said. “He played well in the scrimmage and he played well Saturday night, so he deserves a chance to be the two right now.”

 

Joseph said Kelly will run the second-string offense all week, culminating in a preseason game against the Bears.

 

“It was nice,” Kelly told reporters regarding the news of the promotion. “I wouldn’t have gotten there if it wasn’t for my teammates. Those guys made the plays, they got me in the right protections and the guys with the ball in their hands made plays. Like I said, it’s not just me that got to that position. It’s those other guys around me that helped me get there.”

 

Paxton Lynch, a first-round pick in 2016, now plunges to No. 3.

 

“[He was] obviously disappointed, but he understands it’s a performance business,” Joseph said regarding Lynch. “He has great potential — physical potential — but it’s got to equal performance eventually. He understands that. It’s a performance league, and everything we do is graded and it’s counted. It’s really more about what Chad’s done, honestly. Chad has played well. He’s played with poise, he’s played with confidence. He moved the ball for us on Saturday night. It’s been that way since the spring. He had a great spring, he’s had a great camp and so it’s his turn to be the two. He’s earned that right.”

 

It’s a great story, and it’s hard not to wonder whether Kelly is just getting started. With starter Case Keenum under contract for only two years, Jim Kelly’s nephew could eventually be the No. 1 quarterback for John Elway’s team.

 

 

THE RAIDERS

T DONALD PENN is giving back part of last year’s big contract.  Chris Wesseling of NFL.com:

 

Donald Penn is staying with the Raiders on a restructured contract.

 

The veteran left tackle has agreed to terms on a small pay reduction, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation. The new deal actually increases Penn’s guaranteed money in 2018, per Las Vegas Review-Journal, in exchange for team-friendly parameters.

 

Penn signed a two-year, $21 million extension last September. Now 35 years old and coming off of Lisfranc surgery, he remains on the physically unable to perform list while first-round draft pick Kolton Miller gains experience on Derek Carr’s blind side.

 

Just a week ago, Rapoport reported that it was “very much up in the air” whether Oakland would trade or release Penn if he refused to entertain the notion of a pay cut.

 

Prior to the Lisfranc injury that ended his season in mid-December, Penn had not missed a regular-season game in his NFL career. Still playing at a high level, he has earned Pro Bowl selections in each of the past two years.

 

The twelfth-year veteran, who began his career under Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay, is expected to begin practicing soon. That would bolster the offensive line, allowing Miller to kick over to the right side.

 

If Penn recaptures pre-injury form and Miller holds his own in his NFL debut season, the offensive line might just be the strongest position group on Gruden’s team.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Some coaches would punish a player by denying them the opportunity to play in a game.  In the world of Hue Jackson, you are punished as a rookie by being given the opportunity to show your stuff.  Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSports.com:

 

On Sunday, the Jaguars issued one-week suspensions to Jalen Ramsey for tweeting and Dante Fowler for fighting at practice. That’s one way to discipline players. The Browns have a completely different kind of disciplinary system.

 

On Sunday, Browns coach Hue Jackson said that he disciplined rookie receiver Antonio Callaway for his marijuana citation by forcing him to play the entire preseason game against the Giants last week. According to USA Today, Callaway was on the field for 54 out of 63 offensive snaps less than a week after he was given a citation for marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. ESPN.com reported that Callaway didn’t tell the Browns about the incident before the news broke.

 

“I was trying to make him play the whole game if we could,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want him to come out.

 

“Because that was part of the consequence of what he had been through, and he knows it. That’s what it was. Either you sit him or make him play. I thought it was better to make him play. Make him play as long as he could. There were a couple of times he kept waving to come out, and we said, ‘No, stay in there.'”

 

It’s one thing to force an established veteran who already has a defined role with the team to play in a meaningless preseason game. That’s an actual punishment. It’s one reason why the Jaguars’ suspensions of Ramsey and Fowler feel a bit hollow. Neither of those two guys need to play in a meaningless preseason contest. If anything, they might actually enjoy their week off.

 

It’s an entirely other thing to give a fourth-round pick the opportunity to carve out a role with the team by allowing him to play an entire preseason game, which is when unproven players have their best shot at impressing their coaches. That’s why Jackson’s handling of Callaway’s legal issues feels like a backwards way of discplining a player.

 

The thing is, if the Browns have any hope of transforming into a Wild Card sleeper, they desperately need Callaway to contribute during the upcoming season. Josh Gordon, the team’s best receiver, has yet to report to the team for reasons not entirely known. Corey Coleman was just traded to Buffalo. Jarvis Landry is with the team and taking on the role of the receiving crew’s leader, but he needs help. Gordon should report at some point and if he manages to stay on the field, he’ll provide Landry with the help he needs. But the Browns still need a reliable third receiver and that’s where Callaway comes into play.

 

If not for issues away from the field, Callaway likely would’ve been a first-round pick after two explosive seasons at Florida. Instead, he fell to the fourth round, which means if Callaway is able to avoid off-the-field problems, the Browns might have gotten an absolute steal. He certainly looked like dynamite in his preseason debut, catching three passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

 

Here is the breakdown of playing time and production for Cleveland’s wide receivers in that game against the Football Giants:

 

                                  Plays

A Callaway WR         54 78%     3 catches, 7 targets, 87 yards

D Scott       WR         34 49%     2 catches, 3 targets, 24 yards

R Higgins   WR         32 46%     4 catches, 5 targets, 66 yards

D Willies     WR         23 33%                      1 target

C Board      WR         18 26%     1 catch   , 1 target,   21 yards

D Ratley      WR        12 17%      1 catch  , 2 targets,  14 yards

J Landry      WR          8 12%      2 catchs, 2 targets, 36 yards

 

Callaway started alongside Jarvis Landry, but presumably would have stayed in the game longer than the big-money veteran free agent.  So it looks like his “punishment” took away about 20 total plays from others like Willies, Board and Ratley to make an impression.  Although Callaway had the only TD (a 54-yarder), it was Scott who was more productive on a per play basis.

 

Callaway’s “impressive” TD came early in the fourth quarter when under a normal rotation he would have been long gone.  Instead, he had the benefit of playing with the top quarterback in the draft against a bunch of scrubs.  In the first half, against the better Giants players when no more than 32 of his plays occurred he did not have a reception in three targets.

 

Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com collects some other impressions of Jackson’s coaching:

 

Jackson explained that Callaway was asking to come out because he was tired, but Jackson made him keep playing. Some former players say that’s a ridiculous way to punish a player.

 

“This is not a smart coach people,” Nick Hardwick wrote. “1-31 doesn’t happen by chance. Either he should’ve really punished him, or said, ‘He’s a rookie that is going to be suspended and we need to get him as many reps before then as possible,’ followed by a ‘sorry not sorry.’”

 

And wouldn’t a rookie trying to prove himself want a lot of playing time?

 

“If I’m an undrafted rookie for the browns I’m gonna make sure i get in trouble before the next game,” Danny Woodhead wrote. “Playing all game just gives you an opportunity to make the team! This isn’t a punishment this is a gift!”

 

Also odd is that Jackson, who was shown on Hard Knocks putting his assistant coaches in their place when they said players shouldn’t be given too much rest, said that he forced Callaway to stay in the game when Callaway was getting worn out. And it raises questions about Callaway that he was apparently asking to come out of the preseason game and being told he couldn’t: Callaway is a rookie who should want every opportunity to prove himself. And although he played more than most players play in preseason game, he totaled just 57 snaps, which isn’t a particularly grueling workload compared to what players are often asked to do in the regular season.

 

Everything about Jackson’s “punishment” is strange, and it’s not surprising that some former players were left shaking their heads.

 

AFC EAST

 

BUFFALO

While no charges have been filed in Fulton County over the home invasion at the house owned by RB LeSEAN McCOY, his former girl friend who continued to live there despite his efforts to evict her has filed a civil suit.  The suit is filled with a number of allegations including animal abuse – any one of which if proven would cost McCoy time from NFL Justice.  Mike Rodak of ESPN.com:

 

Delicia Cordon, the ex-girlfriend of Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, filed a personal injury lawsuit Friday against McCoy and his former University of Pittsburgh teammate Tamarcus Porter in connection to a July 10 home invasion in which Cordon was beaten and robbed of jewelry.

 

No suspects have been named in the criminal investigation of the attack, which took place at an Atlanta-area home owned by McCoy where Cordon was living at the time. A spokesperson for the Fulton County (Georgia) district attorney’s office did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment.

 

The civil lawsuit, filed in a Fulton County court, alleges that McCoy should be held financially responsible for Cordon’s injuries because he had previously changed the security codes to the home and refused to provide them to her. As such, Cordon’s suit argues that McCoy “breached his duty to use ordinary care to protect Plaintiff from dangerous activities being conducted at the Residence.”

 

The suit says the assailant in the home invasion “indicated [to Cordon] that he knew McCoy.” Cordon told a 911 dispatcher after the attack that she suspected McCoy “set her up” because he had previously asked her to return the jewelry that was stolen from her during the home invasion.

 

Cordon’s lawsuit seeks damages including $133,000 in stolen jewelry and $13,000 in furniture that was taken by McCoy’s family and friends and not returned to the home after a June 1 visit by police. Records from Milton, Georgia, police showed that McCoy’s mother was attempting to take furniture from the home on June 1 but was told by police she could remove only McCoy’s belongings and that any common items could be removed only by a court order.

 

The lawsuit does not directly accuse McCoy or Porter of conducting or ordering the attack against Cordon but argues that McCoy had “actual and constructive knowledge of criminal activity existing on the property on July 10, 2018” because Porter had previously told police he could watch a live feed of security cameras in the house.

 

Porter is a longtime friend of McCoy who previously had filed eviction paperwork on his behalf to remove Cordon from the home. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Tuesday.

 

McCoy’s defense attorney, Don Samuel, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

 

Cordon’s lawsuit also alleges that she and McCoy would argue in the summer of 2017 over “McCoy beating his dog and beating his son frequently, as well as other issues.”

 

The lawsuit says McCoy would “exhibit rage and often brutally beat his dog in the presence of the Plaintiff and her friends” and would “aggressively, physically discipline and beat his young son over minor mistakes that all young children make.” The suit does not mention any contact with police over Cordon’s claims.

 

Last month, a woman identifying herself as a friend of Cordon posted photos of Cordon’s injuries to Instagram and alleged that McCoy beat his son and dog and used performance-enhancing drugs. In a statement at the time, McCoy denied the allegations.

 

The NFL said at the beginning of training camp last month that the matter remained under review but that his status had not changed.

 

 

NEW ENGLAND

WR ERIC DECKER is dropping the ball on his chance to make the Patriots.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Wide receiver Eric Decker didn’t sign with the Patriots until early August so he didn’t have offseason practices to round into form ahead of training camp.

 

He’s shown some signs of rust over his first week-plus with his new team, particularly when it comes to holding onto the football. Decker’s dropped several passes in practices, including three during Monday’s session, and said the lack of time on the field isn’t something to blame for the rough spots.

 

“There’s no excuses for it. It’s something I obviously have to address,” Decker said, via the Providence Journal. “It’s something you work through. In my mind, that’s why God created practice. It’s just to be able to be better and kind of flush that out. But again, my job is to catch the football. I’ve got to do better in that field.”

 

Decker called his overall immersion into the Patriots offense “a work in progress” and he bounced back on Monday to close the session with several catches in a row. More of that would be welcome in a New England receiver group that’s dealt with injuries this summer and will be missing Julian Edelman to start the season.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ANTHEM

T RUSSELL OKUNG insists we should not jump to the most obvious conclusions from his non-verbal form of protest.  He says his closed fist during the rendition of the National Anthem has nothing to do with the combative tweets and statements of Donald Trump.  And he’s not disrespecting the Flag or the military.  Now if you are a cop…

 

Dan Woike in the LA Times on Okung’s woke protest:

 

In the corner of the Chargers locker room at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Chargers left tackle Russell Okung tried to explain why he did what he did.

 

During the playing of the national anthem Saturday in the team’s first preseason game, Okung raised his fist in the air, a symbol of protest and solidarity. It’s something he’s been doing since last season.

 

And pressure from the president of the United States and an unclear policy from the NFL won’t stop him from speaking out against societal ills.

 

“I think it’s pretty simple. I think the way laws are set up, whether we’re looking at the civil rights amendment, people have abilities and (power) in which how they can handle people and handle people from certain backgrounds,” Okung said calmly. “I think police brutality is a really difficult issue in this country and disproportionate to people of color – black people specifically. I think it’s important to further that conversation and really look forward to ways of change.”

 

During the first week of the NFL’s preseason, player protests again made news, with athletes in Miami kneeling during the anthem, with players in Denver staying in the tunnel during the playing of the song and with others, like Okung, raising their fist in the air.

 

President Donald Trump, like he did during the protests last season when he advocated for the firing of any players who protest during the anthem, responded to the wave of protests on Friday by calling for players to be suspended without pay if they kneel during the anthem.

 

Okung, who had been involved in discussions with the NFL about social injustices a year ago, said reactions from Trump embolden players and force them to stick to their original convictions.

 

One, we’re not protesting the president of the United States,” Okung said. “I think it’s unfortunate that the president , I guess, does not respect advanced American citizenship, in terms of what our country actually looks like – the reflection of that. Our country is a place where there has always been creative conflict in order for us to move forward. I think what we’re doing now is healthy.

 

“It’s no direct reflection of disrespect for the military. I think all the guys who have protested are definitely for the military. It’s been unfortunate to see the president has worked to gain political points by putting players down.”

 

The NFL’s owners attempted to implement a policy that allowed for players to stay in the locker room if they didn’t want to stand for the anthem. If a player didn’t stand while on the sidelines, his team would be fined by the NFL and the player would be open to further discipline decided upon by the franchise.

 

The policy was put on hold after criticism, and currently, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are trying to find a solution that works for both sides.

 

Still, Okung views the protests as a success – at least when it comes to opening eyes to issues of social injustice and inequality that might have gone unnoticed before.

 

“I think there have been a lot of conversations. People are really aware of things that people … people maybe never saw this as an issue before,” he said. “It’s just so unfortunate that people try to shift the narrative for their own interests and create propaganda around these issues.”

 

 

FANTASY BREAKOUTS AND PLAYERS TO AVOID

From a somewhat Fantasy perspective, Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com tries to figure out which 2017 breakouts will stay out and which will go back to broke.  You can read it in full here, excerpts below:

 

It’s incredibly difficult to project breakouts before they happen. When I looked at fantasy football sleeper columns in 2015, I found that they were mostly useless. Even if a player plays well in a small sample or exhibits some level of performance that seems tantalizing, the short season and high attrition rate create obstacles in the way of some of the most surefire breakouts.

 

What’s easier and more reliable, instead, is looking at last season’s breakouts and figuring out which of those seasons are likely to recur the following year. Some elements of a player’s game just aren’t sustainable from season to season, and the data can reveal a player with a significant chance of declining over a new season, though no number is perfect. More excitingly, there are also times we can find a breakout with no obvious flaw or reason to expect regression toward the mean.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent breakout players at a variety of positions from 2017 — you’ll have to wait until next week for two young potential MVP candidates — and see whether they’re likely to keep things up in 2018. Can the Rams’ stars keep their dynamic offense going? Are the ball hawks of the league going to find more prey in 2018? Let’s find out by starting with the ball carriers:

 

Running backs

 

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Let’s start with one player whom colleague Mike Clay covered in his column on touchdown regression. Kamara’s celebrated debut campaign saw the Offensive Rookie of the Year score 13 times from scrimmage on just 212 touches, a rate that’s going to be virtually impossible to sustain.

 

His overall efficiency, though, is going to be straight up impossible to keep up. The 23-year-old ran the ball 120 times for 728 yards, an average of more than 6.0 yards per carry. Think about all the great running backs you’ve seen over the course of your lifetime. In the modern NFL — since the AFL-NFL merger — just eight backs have pulled that off once during their careers. It’s a list that includes O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders, Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson.

 

Not a single one of those players pulled it off again during their careers, let alone in the following season. Not one of them made it to 100 carries while averaging even 5 yards per carry. Kamara is an extremely talented runner, but there are a few Hall of Famers on this list, and even they couldn’t keep it up. While he could see more volume, he won’t be able to keep this pace.

 

The third-round pick also caught 81 passes while averaging 10.2 yards per catch, which is remarkably high for a running back. The only back with a minimum of 60 catches last season to top that mark was Todd Gurley, who we’ll get to in a minute. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, only 14 backs have topped those numbers since 2001. Again, it’s a legitimate group of stars, which includes Le’Veon Bell, Brian Westbrook and Chris Johnson.

 

None of those guys was able to top 10.0 yards per reception with that sort of workload again. If we go back through 1970, I can find five players who pulled it off twice during their careers, and only four who did it in consecutive seasons: Keith Byars, Marshall Faulk, Herschel Walker and the delightfully named Amp Lee. Repeating his feat wouldn’t be unprecedented, but Kamara would be the first back to pull this off since the turn of the century.

 

It’s possible that Kamara could hit 1,554 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns again, but it’s going to take a larger workload for him to get there. The Saints might very well hand him that workload given that Mark Ingram will be suspended for four games to start the season, but even if Kamara’s fantasy numbers look the same, the Saints can’t expect him to be as effective on a carry-by-carry and catch-by-catch basis. And when Kamara isn’t, it will drag down the effectiveness of what was one of the league’s deadliest offenses a year ago.

 

Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Let’s get to Gurley, who had an MVP-caliber campaign for the Rams in 2017. Earlier this summer, I wrote about how the Rams, as a team, would struggle to keep up their yards after catch, as they were the most YAC-happy team of the past decade before sitting their stars in Week 17. Gurley himself averaged 12.5 yards after catch, which is the most any player with 50 receptions or more has posted in a single season over the past decade — by a full half-yard.

 

Clay covered Gurley’s touchdown regression; the former first-round pick scored 19 touchdowns from scrimmage a year ago, six more than any other player. Nobody has done that in back-to-back years since 2006, and the players who were doing it were getting the sort of workloads that feel like they’re from another era. Running backs who scored 19 or more touchdowns since the merger needed an average of 328 carries and 47 receptions to get there.

 

In a year in which the Rams won a lot of games and Gurley stayed on the field, he came 49 carries short of that total. If you think Sean McVay is going to run Gurley into the ground for personal milestones after just signing him to an extension, consider that he sat Gurley in Week 17 and cost his back any shot at an MVP award.

 

What is sustainable, though, is Gurley’s rushing performance. I couldn’t say that about his 2015 season, when Gurley averaged 4.8 yards per carry but was 36th in Football Outsiders’ success rate statistic, which measures how frequently a back keeps his offense on schedule and moves the chains. Gurley’s rushing numbers during that rookie season were inflated by six runs of 45 yards or more, or one every 38 carries or so. When the big runs disappeared in 2016 — Gurley’s longest run of a frustrating sophomore season was 24 yards — his yards per carry collapsed to a minuscule 3.2-yard average.

 

Gurley was efficient last season, though. He had just one run longer than 45 yards and seven of more than 20 yards, but the former first-round pick was fifth in the league in success rate, at 53 percent. If he can retain that level of efficiency, Gurley might even add a couple of long runs to his collection in 2018 and improve his rushing average.

 

Kareem Hunt, Kansas City Chiefs

While Kamara won Offensive Rookie of the Year, all Hunt did in taking over for the injured Spencer Ware was win a rushing title. The No. 86 overall pick finished with 1,327 rushing yards on 272 attempts and turned his 53 receptions into 455 yards, scoring 11 total touchdowns. After fumbling on the first touch of his career, Hunt didn’t fumble again. You could make a case that Hunt was the more productive player last season.

 

In a way, Hunt already regressed back toward the mean during the 2017 season. During the first month of the season, Hunt racked up four plays of 50 yards or more, three that went for scores. No running back had produced four 50-plus yard plays over an entire season since Adrian Peterson in 2012. It was pretty clear Hunt wasn’t going to be able to keep that pace up, no matter how impressive the rookie had looked in his debut campaign.

 

Indeed, Hunt’s longest play after Week 4 was for 35 yards, one of his two touches to top 30. After averaging 7.4 yards per rush and 12.1 yards per catch over the first month of the season, he racked up 4.0 yards per run and generated 7.5 yards per catch afterward, which were 24th and 21st among running backs, respectively. Hunt was a viable MVP candidate through four weeks … and just a guy afterward.

 

Hunt’s efficiency should lie somewhere between those two poles in 2018. Even top-tier running backs usually rack up no more than two 50-plus yard plays in a single season, so the safe projection for Hunt would be one huge gainer. The arrival of Patrick Mahomes makes everything about the Chiefs less certain, but I have another concern about Hunt that might reduce his ceiling: The Chiefs get to play with only one ball at a time.

 

I wrote that the Chiefs have the league’s top set of weapons for Mahomes, and they’re all going to have to get the football. Travis Kelce’s target total has grown each season — from 87 to 103 to 117 to 122. Tyreek Hill had 105 targets in his second season. The Chiefs are replacing Albert Wilson in the lineup with Sammy Watkins, and I strongly suspect that they’re not paying Watkins $16 million per season with the expectation of throwing him 62 targets, as Wilson got a year ago. Ware is also back from injury and should demand more of the workload than Charcandrick West (45 touches) did a year ago.

 

The 23-year-old Hunt touched the ball 325 times as a rookie. Andy Reid has worked with some talented running backs in his 19 years as a head coach, but that’s the fourth-highest total for any back under Reid, behind Brian Westbrook (368 touches in 2007), Duce Staley (366 touches in 1999) and Jamaal Charles (329 touches in 2013). Staley and Westbrook got back above 300 one more time, but Reid doesn’t tend to overwork his running backs. A healthy Hunt is probably looking at something between 275 and 300 touches in his sophomore campaign with a downtick in overall rushing efficiency.

 

Wide receivers

 

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

No wideout had a more surprising season than Thielen, who went from nearly being replaced in the starting lineup by would-be free-agent addition Alshon Jeffery to breaking out with a 91-catch, 1,276-yard campaign. The 27-year-old finished fifth in the league in receiving yards and is signed to what might be the best veteran contract in football, given that he has three years and $15.5 million remaining on his extension from last offseason.

 

The good news for Vikings fans is that Thielen actually underperformed in one way last season: his 91 catches produced only four touchdowns. Receivers with that sort of volume — players who have caught 90 passes or more in a season since the merger — score about once 11.5 catches or so. Typically, Thielen’s 91 catches would turn into an eight-touchdown campaign. He should score more frequently in 2018.

 

Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs

On the other hand, there’s Watkins, whose average annual salary of $16 million is slightly more than what Thielen is set to make over the next three years. The former fourth overall pick still seems to have plenty of untapped upside, and while he didn’t blow away the Rams last season, Watkins still managed to score eight touchdowns on just 39 receptions.

 

You might argue that Watkins made the most of his receptions, but let’s look at his stats in the red zone. Here are the receivers who caught the most touchdowns in the red zone in 2018, and the number of targets it took them to get there:

 

Does Watkins stand out a bit? During his time in Buffalo, Watkins scored just five red zone touchdowns on 19 targets, so there’s nothing suggesting the Clemson product is some secret Gronkowski laboratory experiment. If Watkins wants to get to eight or more touchdowns again, he’ll have to break 40 receptions.

 

Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions

Do you know who led the league in yards per reception last season? You could probably guess: It was Jones, who racked up 18 yards per catch while producing his first 1,000-yard season. He did that in an offense in which Matthew Stafford throws relatively short passes; consider that while Jones averaged 14.9 air yards per target, fellow starting wideout Golden Tate’s average pass traveled just 5.9 yards in the air, while departed tight end Eric Ebron was at 7.5 air yards per throw.

 

Can Jones keep that up? Evidence suggests it will be tough. For one, Jones dropped just one of the 107 targets thrown his way in 2018, which is difficult for any pass-catcher to keep up year after year. In 2016, Jones’ drop rate was 6.8 percent, the eighth-highest mark in the league among wideouts with 50 targets or more. His drop rate in Cincinnati was 2.9 percent, and Jones is likely to fall somewhere around that percentage in 2018.

 

Quarterbacks

 

Case Keenum, Denver Broncos

It’s hard to believe that Keenum could even have envisioned what happened last season. Signed by the Vikings to serve as a short-term backup between Sam Bradford and the return of Teddy Bridgewater, Keenum ended up taking over for Bradford in Week 2 before claiming the job for good after Bradford re-injured his knee against the Bears in Week 5. When the dust settled, Keenum finished the year second in Total QBR (71.3), seventh in passer rating (98.3) and seventh in adjusted net yards per attempt (7.03), which weights interceptions and touchdowns more accurately than passer rating while also accounting for sack yardage.

 

Can Keenum keep that up in his new digs? It depends. Last season proved that Keenum has the upside to succeed in the right situation, but the Broncos will have to expect some regression, particularly with giveaways. Before 2017, Keenum had produced a career interception rate of 2.6 percent while fumbling 15 times across 24 starts. Last year, though, Keenum threw interceptions on just 1.5 percent of his passes and fumbled once in 14 starts.

 

The Vikings rarely put Keenum in spots in which he had to throw his team back into the game, which is a way to inflate counting stats but also to encounter turnovers. It’s easier to hold onto the football when teams don’t know what’s coming and defensive linemen have to honor the threat of the run. The Vikings also had a solid offensive line, while the Broncos spent the offseason again retooling their tackle situation by acquiring Jared Veldheer from the Cardinals.

 

It’s likely that Keenum will turn the ball over more frequently in 2018, and after completing just 58.4 percent of his passes before 2017, that 67.6 percent rate from a year ago also seems like an outlier. The extent to which he regresses should depend upon how the Broncos support him and keep him in positive game situations.

 

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Written off after an ugly rookie season, Goff flourished under the tutelage of Sean McVay and produced a remarkable first full season as a starter. He pushed his passer rating from 63.6 to 100.5, the third-largest increase among passers with 200 attempts or more since 2001. Only Nick Foles and Drew Brees had larger season-to-season improvements over that time frame than Goff.

 

Projecting his 2018 season is tricky. Let’s start with the interceptions. Goff threw seven on 205 pass attempts as a rookie. Not good. He followed it by throwing seven on 477 pass attempts last season. Much better. Goff’s interception rate fell from 3.4 percent all the way down to 1.5 percent. Interception rates under 2 percent aren’t infeasible in the modern NFL, but unless you’re Tom Brady or Alex Smith, it’s tough to count on avoiding interceptions at that rate. Goff will probably come in just better than 2 percent in a typical season.

 

There’s also the YAC problem, which I wrote about in discussing the Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks extensions earlier this summer. No team over the past decade averaged more yards after catch than the Rams did during the first 15 games of their 2017 season with Goff in the lineup. (They fell to fifth after benching their stars in Week 17.) That’s not going to be sustainable year after year.

 

On the other hand, the Rams are replacing Watkins in the lineup with Cooks, who should be an upgrade as both a target and a distraction for opposing defensive backs. Goff probably is going to throw the ball more. The arrival of Cooks and the added volume should improve Goff’s cumulative numbers, but it will be tough for him to be more efficient than he was in 2017.

 

Alex Smith, QB, Washington

Smith didn’t break out as much as he changed his stripes. Famously reticent to throw the ball downfield, Smith took aim to Tyreek Hill & Co. and found that he, too, was capable of creating big plays. After averaging just less than 25 completions per year on deep passes (16-plus yards downfield) from 2012-16, Smith completed 47 such passes last season, which was tied for fifth in the league. He threw 13 touchdowns against one pick on those plays, good for the best TD-to-INT ratio on deep passes in football. (The rest of the league threw 214 touchdown passes against 177 interceptions on those same passes.)

 

Can he keep that up in Washington? Smith hadn’t been that sort of quarterback at any point previously during his career, and he won’t have the weapons Andy Reid gifted him in Kansas City. Jordan Reed has Travis Kelce-ish upside, but he’s rarely healthy. Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson have the pedigree to make plays downfield, but neither has been particularly healthy or impressive so far in their pro careers. Smith’s most likely targets are Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder, both of whom are midrange weapons. It seems likely we’ll see a return to the conservative Smith of years past.

 

There are plenty of other players who broke out in 2018, of course. I’ll be taking a closer look at Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz later this month as we project what they’re likely to do in 2018.

– – –

Eric Karabell of ESPN.com offers a list of players to avoid in your draft.  Full thing here, somewhat edited below:

 

Avoid Rob Gronkowski! OK, that is not exactly what we say every year in the annual “Do Not Draft” blog entry, but choosing to select running backs and wide receivers in the second and third rounds of fantasy football drafts — both PPR and traditional — is clearly the recommendation from this end.

 

Why is this? Well, put simply, the value just is not there for the intriguing Gronkowski that early, and it has not been for years. Having the eccentric New England Patriots tight end lead off this oft-misunderstood column also has become tradition because fantasy managers continue to make him one of their building-block players, thinking they get the proverbial leg up on opponents. That is simply not reality.

 

The goal is to win your league, not win at individual positions, and while most rank Gronkowski as the top tight end in the sport, it is hardly consensus and he comes with obvious risks. To start with, Gronkowski is never a lock to play every week, and even when he does, he is not as productive as he used to be. He is, after all, 29 years old, so we should not expect the same great things he provided at age 22. Last season, in fact, the highest-scoring tight end in PPR scoring was actually Kansas City Chiefs talker Travis Kelce, and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz was right there as well. Gone are the days of Gronkowski being easily the best tight end.

 

Gronkowski remains a productive player, of course, but my contention is that running backs and wide receivers are the ones fantasy managers must focus on for the early rounds. Depth is precarious and the difference between the top tight ends and those in the middle rounds is, kind of like at quarterback, not what most realize. There will be, just like every season, surprising performances from quarterbacks and tight ends, but since we need only one of each for most of a season, it is not like running back and wide receiver, positions where depth truly comes into play. Relying on someone that constantly grapples with injury is a poor investment so early.

 

Some of the names you will see below are repeaters from previous years in the “Do Not Draft” blog, and the philosophy has not veered. It is a risk-versus-reward game and I stick with what works for me. It is also worth noting that none of these players is going after the 10th round in ESPN ADP (average draft position). I mean, we could tell you to avoid drafting Sam Bradford, Bilal Powell and Brandon Marshall, but they are not the least bit coveted to start with.

 

Let us go position by position.

 

Quarterback

 

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: By some definition, the first quarterback off the draft board must be recognized in this space, and often it is Rodgers. Nobody disputes that he is terrific and it seems unwise to assume he is suddenly brittle, so that is not the concern. There is simply no reason to invest in any quarterback in the first five — perhaps 10 — rounds of a single-quarterback draft. There is ample depth here — definitely more than 10 quarterbacks worthy of being a fantasy starter — and streaming the position remains a decent plan. Rodgers, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson simply are not worth the early-round investment.

 

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Perhaps he is healthy, perhaps not. Nobody seems to know for sure and we might not find out until September. I realize the argument for investing in Luck at a reasonable price goes against the Rodgers argument, to some extent. With ample depth, why not take a chance or two. I see that point, but I regard roster spots as precious.

 

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers: People seemed to fall in love when he finally emerged as statistically relevant after being exiled from New England, but he finished with seven touchdown passes versus five interceptions and was a borderline top-10 fantasy quarterback in those five weeks, indistinguishable from many others. Joe Flacco and Blake Bortles outscored him in that small sample, so why are people going crazy over Jimmy G and making this unproven passer with limited resources around him a clear top-10 option? I am not. Give me Matthew Stafford, always a top-10 scorer, or the big upside of Patrick Mahomes.

 

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Well, if you can find someone to start at quarterback for the weeks Roethlisberger plays road games, then I recommend it.

 

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Quickly back to earth after his aberrant 2016 campaign, Ryan is not even much of a matchup play anymore. Bortles has outscored him two of the past three seasons except, you guessed it, for 2016, and nobody talks about drafting Bortles.

 

Running back

 

LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills: I curiously have no issue with the consensus top-10 options at this position, even the rookie among them, but then it gets tricky with proven veterans versus new rookies as surefire RB2 choices. The veteran McCoy has indeed aged well and was fantasy’s No. 7 running back last season, but there sure is a mess around him on the rebuilding roster, whether it is at quarterback or offensive line, and certainly, a mess of a different kind surrounds him off the field. McCoy is 30, and when the end comes, it could come quickly. He remains a RB2 call for me, but I am concerned.

 

Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles: As I blogged about earlier this summer, despite early indications from united team personnel, the Eagles have little motivation to make one of their numerous quality running backs the clear star.

 

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans: A physical specimen with little value in the passing game, Henry is going to share time with former Patriots option Dion Lewis, but it might not be what most people think. Lewis rushed for 896 yards on 5 yards per tote last season, so let us not assume he is strictly a third-down option. I think Lewis is the one to draft, though neither makes my top 20. People are a bit too excited about Henry.

 

Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders: Lynch was highlighted in this space a year ago, and while the second half of his season looked better than his first, it still was not special. Lynch is 32 and barely a factor in the passing game

 

Others later in drafts: Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins; Frank Gore, Miami Dolphins; Carlos Hyde, Cleveland Browns; Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers; Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks

 

Wide receiver

 

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts: This is all about Luck and his prospects of returning to prominence and remaining on the field. Hilton as a top-10 wide receiver, based on 2017 returns, seems a bit dangerous. If it is the fourth round, however, I see opportunity. Again, nobody is saying to ignore the likes of established stars Gronkowski, Hilton and Rodgers, but there is little value in current ADP figures.

 

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown just does not share, and I do not see that changing. Smith-Schuster is talented, and on most other teams, I would predict stardom. On this team, I predict Brown gets a million targets. No second wide receiver he has played with has seen enough volume to be a WR2, and that is how aggressively Smith-Schuster is going in drafts.

 

Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns: Again, I do not deny the skills. Gordon is immensely talented and showed it in 2013. That was a long time ago, and while we want to see this player perform, there is obvious risk based on off-field issues. Even the Browns seem concerned about his summer absence. Even in non-PPR, I would rather draft the security of his teammate Jarvis Landry.

 

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles: Whenever a team admits that a key player might not be ready for Week 1 due to recovery from offseason surgery, there is room for skepticism.

 

Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams: Always be skeptical when a presumed top player joins his third team in as many seasons because there is always a reason why.

 

Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs: Another fellow with three teams in three seasons, I really like the starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He will be a star. However, it is wrong to assume Watkins, a noted and brittle underachiever, will suddenly have that monster season.

 

Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders: His ADP is actually more reasonable than I expected, but I still have trouble making the case for him as a WR4. I have little faith in Derek Carr making Amari Cooper a WR2, but at least Cooper is young and potentially dominant. Nelson is not Cooper.

 

Other later in drafts: Dez Bryant, free agent; DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins; Sterling Shepard, New York Giants; Martavis Bryant, Oakland Raiders

 

Tight end

 

Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins: In addition to ignoring the top options in the first three rounds, I would avoid Reed in the later ones. When healthy, he can be awesome, just like Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert, but these fellows just cannot stay healthy and health is not a skill that players gain later in their careers. Draft Reed or Eifert and you still will need to draft another tight end. It is not worth it.