The Daily Briefing Wednesday, April 25, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

WR ANTONIO CALLAWAY was nothing but trouble at Florida.  Now, he’s got trouble with the NFL.  Adam Schefter of ESPN.com:

 

Former Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway, whom some personnel evaluators consider as talented as any wide receiver in this week’s draft, tested positive for marijuana at the combine, NFL sources said.

 

Callaway’s new agent, Malki Kawa, said Tuesday that it was for a diluted sample. A diluted sample is treated as a positive test result under the NFL’s Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse.

 

Kawa did not represent Callaway during the combine; he was hired two weeks ago.

 

Shortly after Callaway was informed that he tested positive, he and his former agent, Melvin Bratton, parted ways.

 

In December 2015, a female Florida student accused Callaway of sexually assaulting her, but a Title IX hearing officer cleared him of wrongdoing in August 2016. The woman and her witnesses boycotted the hearing because the university appointed an attorney who was also a Gators football booster to hear the case. Callaway was never criminally charged in the incident.

 

According to the hearing officer’s ruling, Callaway testified that he was “high on marijuana” during the encounter with the woman and stated that he was “so stoned I had no interest in having sex with anyone.”

 

Callaway also was one of nine Florida players last season who allegedly used stolen credit card information to fund bookstore accounts, and he was cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession and possession of drug equipment during a traffic stop by Gainesville police in May 2017.

 

NFC NORTH

 

GREEN BAY

Seattle John Schneider talks about the day 13 years ago that the Packers drafted QB AARON RODGERS.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

In explaining the team’s effort to scout the incoming class of quarterbacks despite the presence on the roster of one of the best quarterbacks in football, Schneider pointed out his experience with the Packers prior to the 2005 draft.

 

“Aaron Rodgers was supposed to be the first pick in the draft, and we weren’t necessarily as prepared as we should have been for him to fall,” Schneider said. “So be prepared. And so, quite frankly, when we acquired Aaron that day we had to make some more calls during [the] draft, which you never really want to do, right? ‘OK, why is he falling?’”

 

Fall he did, past the 49ers at No. 1, the Dolphins at No. 2 (they took Ronnie Brown), the Browns at No. 3 (Braylon Edwards), the Bears at No. 4 (Cedric Benson), the Bucs at No. 5 (Cadillac Williams), the Titans at No. 6 (Pacman Jones), the Vikings at No. 7 (Troy Williamson), the Cardinals at No. 8 (Antrel Rolle), Washington at No. 9 (Carlos Rogers), the Lions at No. 10 (Mike Williams), the Cowboys at No. 11 (DeMarcus Ware), the Chargers at No. 12 (Shawne Merriman), the Saints at No. 13 (Jammal Brown), the Panthers at No. 14 (Thomas Davis), the Chiefs at No. 15 (Derrick Johnson), the Texans at No. 16 (Travis Johnson), the Bengals at No. 17 (David Pollack), the Vikings at No. 18 (Erasmus James), the Rams at No. 19 (Alex Barron), the Cowboys at No. 20 (Marcus Spears), the Jaguars at No. 21 (Matt Jones), the Ravens at No. 22 (Mark Clayton), and the Raiders at No. 23 (Fabian Washington).

 

Look at all the busts. Rodgers was better than all of them (even the non-busts), and he’s still going strong and performing at a high level, all because the Packers were able to slap together a seat-of-the-pants evaluation.

 

But for the fact that Brett Favre was a few years into his annual retirement musings, maybe the Packers wouldn’t have taken Rodgers at all. Regardless, they rolled the dice. And it paid off.

 

The message is this: The draft really is a crapshoot. And to get a player who will truly transform the franchise, it needs to be a franchise quarterback. And if a team wants to transform the franchise, a team needs to be willing to roll the dice.

 

 

MINNESOTA

Would the Vikings be Super Bowl champs if RB DALVIN COOK had stayed healthy?  Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

 

Dalvin Cook ran through on-field drills with Vikings players on Tuesday inside the Eagan facility’s fieldhouse, marking steps forward in his rehab from a torn ACL less than seven months ago.

 

Cook has “knocked the rehab out of the park,” according to Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and will hopefully be ready for the start of training camp and then Week 1.

 

“He’ll participate in OTAs moving forward on a limited basis,” Sugarman said. “Same thing for minicamp [in June], that’s no different.”

 

Cook, who was among NFL leaders with 288 rushing yards in his first three games, is able to use his left knee for all functions, according to Sugarman, however the “hard part is yet to come” with full speed and pads down the road.

 

“It’s a process. It’s a journey,” Cook said Tuesday. “It’s something you have to trust yourself and know you did everything in your power to get your knee back to where it was at. It’s a lot, man. It’s a lot I have in front of me.”

 

NFC EAST

 

DALLAS

WR DEZ BRYANT thinks he will have more value after the draft.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

Dez Bryant likely won’t find a home this week.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Bryant isn’t expected to sign prior to the NFL draft, which opens Thursday, per sources informed of the decision. Rapoport added that the ex-Dallas Cowboys receiver could wait a week or two before finding a landing spot.

 

Bryant was released less than two weeks ago, extremely late in the offseason process for a veteran to hit the open market.

 

 

The Baltimore Ravens emerged as an early favorite to land the former Pro Bowl wideout, but the team elected to sign restricted free agent Willie Snead away from New Orleans instead.

 

With that connection nixed, Bryant will wait until after the draft to ink a deal.

 

Teams likely want to see how the draft shakes out before they shell out money for an aging receiver. If a wideout they like lands in their laps, clubs would prefer the cheaper rookie deals rather than paying Dez his asking price.

 

It’s a double-edged sword for Bryant. He could have his potential landing spots whittled down by cheap rookies. On the other hand, if a contender gets boxed out of the receiver market in the draft, it could provide Bryant the leverage he needs to try and recoup some of the money lost after being cut by the Cowboys.

 

 

WASHINGTON

Redskins WR PAUL RICHARDSON says he was profiled.  ESPN.com:

 

The Virginia State Police says it’s reviewing claims made by new Washington Redskins receiver Paul Richardson Jr., who tweeted that a trooper asked whether he was in a gang and told him he thought he was a drug dealer after pulling him over Tuesday afternoon.

 

Richardson, the former Seahawks wideout who signed with the Redskins last month, tweeted that he got pulled over in a toll lane, leading to the questions from the trooper.

 

@prichiejr/Twitter

“Before asking my name he asked me if I was in a gang, then minutes later told me he thought I was a dealer (drugs),” Richardson posted. “What a welcome to the east coast. Finished up with asking me how much car cost me.

 

“I’ve had this car 2 weeks and this amazing officer gave me a ticket for only having temporary registration. Mind you I have up to 2 months in Va before needing to register it AGAIN in Virginia.”

 

Richardson’s tweets have since been deleted.

 

A spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police confirmed that Richardson, who was driving a Mercedes SUV, was stopped in Loudoun County “because the vehicle did not have license plates displayed as required by Virginia law” and that he was cited “for failing to have the vehicle properly registered.”

 

Spokeswoman Corinne Geller said state police were notified of Richardson’s tweets later Tuesday and are looking into what happened.

 

“While no formal complaint has been filed, the Department is reviewing the matter, to include the trooper’s in-car camera footage of the traffic stop, to determine if the traffic stop was handled in accordance with state police policy,” Geller said.

 

Richardson signed a five-year deal worth up to $40 million at the beginning of free agency last month.

 

NFC SOUTH

 

ATLANTA

SCHEDULE NOTES

The Falcons are the guests for the Eagles Super Bowl celebration, plus they get two other primetime games…They actually end up with two Thursday games, but neither is part of the “Thursday” Night Football package.  No both Week 1 and Thanksgiving are in NBC’s Sunday Night Football package…The Sunday slate is pure vanilla with everything at 1 p.m. Eastern at the moment…After the opener in Philly, the Falcons have a three-game homestand.  Then, it is back to Pennsylvania to play the Steelers…On the flip side, 3 of the last four are on the road.

 

Thr. Sept. 6                 at Philadelphia Eagles 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Sept. 16              Carolina Panthers                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 23              New Orleans Saints                1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 30              Cincinnati Bengals                  1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 7                  at Pittsburgh Steelers              1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 14                Tampa Bay Buccaneers         1 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Oct. 22               New York Giants                    8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

         Oct. 28 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 4                 at Washington Redskins         1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 11               at Cleveland Browns               1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 18               Dallas Cowboys                      1 p.m. (FOX)

Thr. Nov. 22                at New Orleans (Thanks)       8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Dec. 2                 Baltimore Ravens                   1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 9                 at Green Bay Packers                        1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 16               Arizona Cardinals                    1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 23               at Carolina Panthers               1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 30               at Tampa Bay Buccaneers     1 p.m. (FOX)

 

 

CAROLINA

SCHEDULE NOTES

The Panthers don’t get as much love as you might think a team that usually makes the playoffs would…Two primetime games, one on Thursday, none on NBC…They do score what would seem to be “America’s Game Of The Week” on FOX for Week 1, but after that all of their Sunday games are early…They are a de facto member of the NFC East early in the year with 4 of their first 6 games against that division…And how about the fact that their first game with the Saints, their first game, doesn’t come until Week 15…Four of the last five are in the division.

 

 

 

Sun. Sept. 9                Dallas Cowboys                      4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              at Atlanta Falcons                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 23              Cincinnati Bengals                  1 p.m. (CBS)

        Sept. 30 — BYE

Sun. Oct. 7                  New York Giants                    1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 14                at Washington Redskins         1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 21                at Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 28                Baltimore Ravens                   1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 4                 Tampa Bay Buccaneers         1 p.m. (FOX)

Thr. Nov. 8                  at Pittsburgh Steelers              8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Nov. 18               at Detroit Lions                        1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 25               Seattle Seahawks                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers     1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 9                 at Cleveland Browns               1 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Dec. 17              New Orleans Saints                8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Dec. 23               Atlanta Falcons                       1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 30               at New Orleans Saints            1 p.m. (FOX)

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

SCHEDULE NOTES

Of the three teams that vied for the NFC South last year, the Saints are featured the most for a primetime audience in 2018 with a full complement of five primetime games plus two slottings for “America’s Game of the Week” on FOX and one prime late appearance in a cross-flexed CBS game (at the Giants on September 30)…There will be not one, but two big showdowns with the Panthers in the final three weeks of the season…Back-to-back big Thursday games starting with a home Thanksgiving showdown with Atlanta…Two Sunday night home games…

 

Sun. Sept. 9                Tampa Bay Buccaneers         1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              Cleveland Browns                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 23              at Atlanta Falcons                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 30              at New York Giants                4:25 P.M. (CBS)

Mon. Oct. 8                 Washington Redskins             8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

         Oct. 14 — BYE

Sun. Oct. 21                at Baltimore Ravens               4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 28                at Minnesota Vikings               8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Nov. 4                 Los Angeles Rams                  4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 11               at Cincinnati Bengals              1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 18               Philadelphia Eagles                 1 p.m. (FOX)

Thr. Nov. 22                Atlanta (Thanksgiving)            8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Thr. Nov. 29                at Dallas Cowboys                  8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Dec. 9                 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers     1 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Dec. 17              at Carolina Panthers               8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Dec. 23               Pittsburgh Steelers                  4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 30               Carolina Panthers                   1:00 p.m. (FOX)

 

 

TAMPA BAY

SCHEDULE NOTES

Somehow the Buccaneers escape without a Thursday game…Their lone primetime exposure is in Week 3 when they host the Steelers on Monday…Before and after that everything else is at 1 p.m. and everything else is on FOX…15 games in the early FOX window including the home game with Cleveland that his cross-flexed…The start is tough with three division champs from a year ago – New Orleans, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh…The competition gets a bit easier after that but 4 of the next five are on the road…Tampa Bay does have three straight home games around Thanksgiving.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                at New Orleans Saints            1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              Philadelphia Eagles                 1 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Sun. Sept. 24     Pittsburgh Steelers                  8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Sept. 30              at Chicago Bears                    1 p.m. (FOX)

        Oct. 7 — BYE

Sun. Oct. 14                at Atlanta Falcons                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 21                Cleveland Browns                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 28                at Cincinnati Bengals              1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 4                 at Carolina Panthers               1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 11               Washington Redskins             1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 18               at New York Giants                1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 25               San Francisco 49ers               1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 2                 Carolina Panthers                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 9                 New Orleans Saints                1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 16               at Baltimore Ravens               1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 23               at Dallas Cowboys                  1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 30               Atlanta Falcons                       1 p.m. (FOX)

 

NFC WEST

 

ARIZONA

SCHEDULE NOTES

The Cardinals, something of an unknown quantity in 2018, are viewed cautiously by the schedulmakers with just one Thursday primetime game…With only the Raiders game on another network, they are 15-game fixtures at FOX…Three of four at home, all against other unproven clubs, could represent an opportunity for a good start for new coach Steve Wilks.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                Washington Redskins             4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              at Los Angeles Rams              4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 23              Chicago Bears                        4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 30              Seattle Seahawks                   4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 7                  at San Francisco 49ers           4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 14                at Minnesota Vikings               1 p.m. (FOX)

Thr. Oct. 18                 Denver Broncos                      8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Oct. 28                San Francisco 49ers               4:25 p.m. (FOX)

         Nov. 4 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 11               at Kansas City Chiefs             1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 18               Oakland Raiders                     4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 25               at Los Angeles Chargers        4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Green Bay Packers                        1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 9                 Detroit Lions                            4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 16               at Atlanta Falcons                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 23               Los Angeles Rams                  4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 30               at Seattle Seahawks               4:25 p.m. (FOX)

 

 

SAN FRANCISCO

SCHEDULE NOTES

The schedulemakers are all in on JIMMY GAROPPOLO…Imagine as you watched the 49ers go to 0-9 last November 5th if some crazy person had told you the 49ers would be getting five primetime games in 2018?  Even a Trump presidency might seem more unlikely…They get two NBC Sunday games, two ESPN Monday games and a Thursday game on FOX…All in the span of seven weeks starting in mid-October!…Three of the first four are on the road, but there is a three-game homestand in December…Both games with the Seahawks are in December, long after the 49ers are done with the Cardinals…The Niners finish at the Rams for the second straight season (and in 2016, 49ers at Rams was in Week 16).

 

Sun. Sept. 9                at Minnesota Vikings               1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              Detroit Lions                            4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 23              at Kansas City Chiefs             1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 30              at Los Angeles Chargers        4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 7                  Arizona Cardinals                    4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Oct. 15               at Green Bay Packers                        8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Oct. 21                Los Angeles Rams                  8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Oct. 28                at Arizona Cardinals                4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Thr. Nov. 1                  Oakland Raiders                     8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Mon. Nov. 12              New York Giants                    8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

         Nov. 18 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 25               at Tampa Bay Buccaneers     1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Seattle Seahawks               8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Dec. 9                 Denver Broncos                      4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 16               Seattle Seahawks                   4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 23               Chicago Bears                        4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 30               at Los Angeles Rams              4:25 p.m. (FOX)

 

 

LOS ANGELES RAMS

SCHEDULE NOTES

The Rams get four primetime games including two on NBC (one at SF, the other at home with the Eagles)…It’s amazing how the Rams and 49ers have both become “must see” TV in the NFL’s eyes in the space of under a year…The ESPN game is a “home” game in Mexico City.  Peter King has a long explanation of the game’s extraordinary path to this spot on the schedule that you can scroll down and read here.  The bottom line for making it happen?  A willingness to give the Rams and the Chiefs a highly unusual Thanksgiving weekend bye…The Coliseum will be rocking with three home games in a 12-day span in September, including the first game ever between the Chargers and Rams where each is representing Los Angeles…Then the Rams take off on a three-game road trip.

 

Mon. Sept. 10             at Oakland Raiders                 10:20 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Sept. 16              Arizona Cardinals                    4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 23              Los Angeles Chargers 4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Sept. 27               Minnesota Vikings                   8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Oct. 7                  at Seattle Seahawks               4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 14                at Denver Broncos                  4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 21                at San Francisco 49ers           8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Oct. 28                Green Bay Packers                4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 4                 at New Orleans Saints            4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 11               Seattle Seahawks                   4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Mon. Nov. 19              KC Chiefs (Mexico City)        8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

         Nov. 25 — BYE

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Detroit Lions                        1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 9                 at Chicago Bears                    1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 16               Philadelphia Eagles                 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Dec. 23               at Arizona Cardinals                4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 30               San Francisco 49ers               4:25 p.m. (FOX)

 

 

SEATTLE

SCHEDULE NOTES

The DB wonders if the Seahawks are going to take a significant step backwards this year, they weren’t very good at the end of ’17 and they seem to have shed more talent than acquired…That said the NFL still gives them a full five primetime games, including four in the final seven weeks…So we’ll go on record with the idea that Kansas City at Seattle on December 23 is a leading candidate for flexing…Three of the first four and five of the first eight are on the road…But that means four of the last five and five of the last seven are at home…Both meetings with Richard Sherman and the 49ers are in December.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                at Denver Broncos                  4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Sept. 17             at Chicago Bears                    8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Sept. 23              Dallas Cowboys                      4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 30              at Arizona Cardinals                4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 7                  Los Angeles Rams                  4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 14                at Oakland Raiders (London) 1 p.m. (FOX)

        Oct. 21 — BYE

Sun. Oct. 28                at Detroit Lions                        1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 4                 Los Angeles Chargers 4 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 11               at Los Angeles Rams              4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Nov. 15                Green Bay Packers                8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Nov. 25               at Carolina Panthers               1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 2                 San Francisco 49ers               8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Mon.Dec. 10               Minnesota Vikings                   8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Dec. 16               at San Francisco 49ers           4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 23               Kansas City Chiefs                 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Dec. 30               Arizona Cardinals                    4:25 p.m. (FOX)

 

– – –

Pete Carroll has had enough with the sniping from CB RICHARD SHERMAN and DT MICHAEL BENNETT.  Kevin Patra at NFL.com:

 

 

Pete Carroll isn’t going to sit by and let former players take shots at his coaching methods.

 

The Seattle Seahawks head coach was criticized by ex-defenders Richard Sherman — who said Carroll’s philosophy was “more built for college” — and Michael Bennett after being shipped out of town.

 

This week Carroll fired back at that criticism.

 

“The thing I would tell you about that is that we’ve been through a lot around here, we’ve grown tremendously together and all of that, and changes are inevitable,” Carroll said, via The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell. “Sometimes, guys can’t hang with what’s expected, for one reason or another — their growth, their development and all of that.

 

“And the best thing I can tell you is, that they’re not here.”

 

It’s unusual to hear the overly enthusiastic Carroll clap back, especially at former players who were key to his success in Seattle.

 

Carroll also disputed a story from Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop that Bennett would bring books to meetings because he was so bored with the coach’s message.

 

“Mike never brought a book to a meeting, I’ll tell you that,” the Seahawks coach said.

 

AFC WEST

 

DENVER

SCHEDULE NOTES

What to make of the Broncos – a team with a proud history, recent success and a horrible 2017 season.  The NFL gives them a fairly full schedule with three primetime games including a Week 16 ESPN tilt at the Raiders than can’t be flexed…It’s one of two Monday night games for the Broncos who do not appear on NBC’s Sunday sked for the first time in a while…The Broncos with 3 of the first 4 at home and 4 of the first six can aspire to a fast start…They are done with the Chiefs on October 28, three weeks before their first meeting with the Chargers.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                Seattle Seahawks                   4:25 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              Oakland Raiders                     4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23              at Baltimore Ravens               1 p.m. (CBS)

Mon. Oct. 1                 Kansas City Chiefs                 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Oct. 7                  at New York Jets                    1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 14                Los Angeles Rams                  4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Thr. Oct. 18                 at Arizona Cardinals                8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Oct. 28                at Kansas City Chiefs             1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 4                 Houston Texans                      4:05 p.m. (CBS)

         Nov. 11 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 18               at Los Angeles Chargers        4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 25               Pittsburgh Steelers                  4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Cincinnati Bengals              1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 9                 at San Francisco 49ers           4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sat. Dec. 15                Cleveland Browns                   TBD (NFLN)

Mon.Dec. 24               at Oakland Raiders                 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Dec. 30               Los Angeles Chargers 4:25 p.m. (CBS)

 

 

KANSAS CITY

SCHEDULE NOTES

Five primetime games for a team heading into a brave new world at quarterback.  The schedulemakers showing great faith in Andy Reid’s reputation as a QB whisperer…Three primetime games in the final six, including two in December…As we said with SEATTLE, we think Chiefs at Seahawks on December 23 is a prime bet to be flexed (we like Atlanta at Carolina to take its place)…Three of the first four games on the road, three home games in December…The odd Thanksgiving bye after the Mexico City meeting with the Rams on ESPN…Both meetings with the Raiders are in December.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                at Los Angeles Chargers        4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 16              at Pittsburgh Steelers              1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23              San Francisco 49ers               1 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Oct. 1                 at Denver Broncos                  8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Oct. 7                  Jacksonville Jaguars              1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 14                at New England Patriots         8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Oct. 21                Cincinnati Bengals                  1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 28                Denver Broncos                      1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 4                 at Cleveland Browns               1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 11               Arizona Cardinals                    1 p.m. (FOX)

Mon. Nov. 19              at LA Rams (Mexico City)      8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

         Nov. 25 — BYE

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Oakland Raiders                 4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 9                 Baltimore Ravens                   1 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Dec. 13                Los Angeles Chargers 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Dec. 23               at Seattle Seahawks               8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Dec. 30               Oakland Raiders                     1 p.m. (CBS)

 

 

THE RAIDERS

SCHEDULE NOTES

The final game of Week 1 will be in the Black Hole on ESPN, then the Raiders head out for three of the next four…Again, the NFL thinks the Raiders will bounce back with Jon Gruden as the Silver & Black get four primetime games including two in December…The London game is just a FOX regional in Week 6, starting at 10 a.m. in the home markets of both teams (of course, it would have been 6:30 a.m. if an earlier start like the other two London games).

 

Mon. Sept. 10             Los Angeles Rams                  10:20 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Sept. 16              at Denver Broncos                  4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23              at Miami Dolphins                   1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 30              Cleveland Browns                   4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 7                  at Los Angeles Chargers        4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 14                Seattle Seahawks (London)   1 p.m. (FOX)

        Oct. 21 — BYE

Sun. Oct. 28                Indianapolis Colts                    4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Nov. 1                  at San Francisco 49ers           8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Nov. 11               Los Angeles Chargers 4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 18               at Arizona Cardinals                4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 25               at Baltimore Ravens               1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 2                 Kansas City Chiefs                 4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 9                 Pittsburgh Steelers                  8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Dec. 16               at Cincinnati Bengals              1 p.m. (CBS)

Mon. Dec. 24              Denver Broncos                      8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Dec. 30               at Kansas City Chiefs             1 p.m. (CBS)

 

 

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

While the rest of the AFC West gets all kind of national games, the Chargers get only a December Thursday road game in Kansas City and the Week 7 morning game in London…Of course, the StubHub Center isn’t really a great venue for a national game, so it isn’t much of a surprise…The Bolts’ first six home games are all against teams from the two Western divisions.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                Kansas City Chiefs                 4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 16              at Buffalo Bills                         1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23             at Los Angeles Rams              4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 30              San Francisco 49ers               4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 7                  Oakland Raiders                     4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 14                at Cleveland Browns               1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 21                Tennessee Titans (London)    9:30 a.m. (CBS)

        Oct. 28 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 4                 at Seattle Seahawks               4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 11               at Oakland Raiders                 4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Nov. 18               Denver Broncos                      4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 25               Arizona Cardinals                    4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Pittsburgh Steelers              1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 9                 Cincinnati Bengals                  4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Dec. 13                at Kansas City Chiefs             8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Dec. 22 or 23              Baltimore Ravens                   TBD (TBD)

Sun. Dec. 30               at Denver Broncos                  4:25 p.m. (CBS)

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Without firing a shot, and without anything to go on, the “experts” are hearing SAM DARNOLD has tumbled in the mind of the Browns.  Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

 

A day before the draft, it could be down to Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall for the Browns, league sources tell cleveland.com.

 

The Browns have given strong consideration to all of the four top quarterbacks in the draft — Allen, Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen — but the choices seem to be narrowing to the cannon-armed passer from Wyoming and the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, the sources say.

 

Many experts still believe the Browns will draft Sam Darnold Thursday night, but sources say the Browns have cooled on the USC passer in recent days and that Allen and Mayfield have surpassed him.

 

92.3 The Fan’s Dustin Fox, who’s part of the Browns’ in-house broadcast team, also reported last Friday he was told it was down to Allen and Mayfield, and Dan Patrick reported on Monday that an NFL scout told him the same thing.

 

One well-connected top-level NFL personnel executive has been insisting to cleveland.com since the Senior Bowl in January that Browns GM John Dorsey will take Allen. “You can take it to the bank,” the executive said again this week.

 

And quotes from Hue Jackson?  Meaningless according to a tweet from Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com who fancies himself in the loop:

 

Observations about the Browns pick:

 

1. Only Dorsey *knows* who they’ll pick at 1

2. That decision has been made

3. Info to the contrary is disinformation

4. His people aren’t telling media his plan; they don’t know

5. Hue, who will be coaching for his job, is out of the loop

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

SCHEDULE NOTES

Three of the first four on the road, then three of four at home…There is a three-game homestand late in the season…Presuming a potent and healthy DeSHAUN WATSON, the Texans get three primetime games, plus the possibility of another on Saturday in Week 15…The division games are relatively widely spaced around the schedule and never back-to-back.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                at New England Patriots         1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 16              at Tennessee Titans                1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23              New York Giants                    1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 30              at Indianapolis Colts                1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 7                  Dallas Cowboys                      8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Oct. 14                Buffalo Bills                             1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 21                at Jacksonville Jaguars          1 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Oct. 25                 Miami Dolphins                       8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Nov. 4                 at Denver Broncos                  4:05 PM (CBS)

        Nov. 11 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 18               at Washington Redskins         1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 26               Tennessee Titans                    8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Dec. 2                 Cleveland Browns                   1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 9                 Indianapolis Colts                    1 p.m. (CBS)

Sat.  Dec. 15               at New York Jets                    TBD (NFLN)

Sun. Dec. 23               at Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 30               Jacksonville Jaguars              1 p.m. (CBS)

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS

SCHEDULE NOTES

Just one primetime event for the Colts, in Week 5 at New England on Thursday Night…They could earn another one against the Giants as one of four games tabbed for the first Saturday midseason flex in history…There is a run of 4 of 5 on the road after the home opener, but then three in a row at home after the November 4 bye…So the Colts don’t leave Indy between October 28 and December 2…All three of their divisional first meetings are at home, then they visit each of their AFC South rivals in December.

 

 

Sun. Sept. 9                vs. Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 16              at Washington Redskins         1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23              at Philadelphia Eagles 1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 30              vs. Houston Texans                1 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Oct. 4                   at New England Patriots         8:20 PM (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Oct. 14                at New York Jets                    1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 21                vs. Buffalo Bills                       1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 28                at Oakland Raiders                 4:05 PM (CBS)

         Nov. 4 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 11               vs. Jacksonville Jaguars        1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 18               vs. Tennessee Titans              1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 25               vs. Miami Dolphins                 1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 2                 at Jacksonville Jaguars          1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 9                 at Houston Texans                  1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 16               vs. Dallas Cowboys                1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 22 or 23      vs. New York Giants               TBD (TBD)

Sun. Dec. 30               at Tennessee Titans                1 p.m. (CBS)

 

 

JACKSONVILLE

SCHEDULE NOTES

Usually scheduled into obscurity, the Jaguars pose a quandary as a small-market, conference championship finalist with a positive future outlook.  How much respect will they earn from the NFL schedule makers?  The answer is some…Two primetime games, including one on NBC Sunday night. But in the division, the Titans and Texnas each get three…Actually, the scene of the branded Steelers under the arcs on Sunday night against the aroused Jaguars should be a good one.  And it was Jacksonville that won both meetings last year…They also get a sneaky good meeting with the Eagles in a Sunday morning game of the year from London, nationally shown on NFL Network…The Jaguars are to be twice featured in the big CBS window at 4:25 Sunday…Even with the Eagles subtracted from the home slate in Jacksonville, it’s still a good one with the Patriots, Redskins, Jets and Steelers…Both Colts games are in November…There is a three-game home stand in September, but then with the London game they are only in JAX one time between September 30 and November 18.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                at New York Giants                1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              New England Patriots             4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23              Tennessee Titans                    1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 30              New York Jets                                    1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 7                  at Kansas City Chiefs             1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 14                at Dallas Cowboys                  4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 21                Houston Texans                      1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 28                Philadelphia (London)             9:30 a.m. (NFLN)

        Nov. 4 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 11               at Indianapolis Colts                1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 18               Pittsburgh Steelers                  8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Sun. Nov. 25               at Buffalo Bills                         1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 2                 Indianapolis Colts                    1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Dec. 6                 at Tennessee Titans                8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Dec. 16               Washington Redskins             1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Dec. 22 or 23      at Miami Dolphins                   TBD (TBD)

Sun. Dec. 30               at Houston Texans                  1 p.m. (CBS)

 

 

TENNESSEE

SCHEDULE NOTES

After starting out vanilla, the Titans schedule has a good amount of spice with a trip to London to play the Chargers and then three primetime games in the six weeks after the bye, two on Monday night, one on FOX Thursday…The Monday night matchups are both road games in Texas…They also could be part of the Saturday flex in Week 16…Nothing special about the home-away mix, nor the divisional game alignment.

 

Sun. Sept. 9                at Miami Dolphins                   1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Sept. 16              Houston Texans                      1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 23              at Jacksonville Jaguars          1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Sept. 30              Philadelphia Eagles                 1 p.m. (FOX)

Sun. Oct. 7                  at Buffalo Bills                         1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 14                Baltimore Ravens                   4:25 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Oct. 21                at LA Chargers (London)        9:30 a.m. (CBS)

        Oct. 28 — BYE

Sun. Nov. 5                 at Dallas Cowboys                  8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Sun. Nov. 11               New England Patriots             1 p.m. (CBS)

Sun. Nov. 18               at Indianapolis Colts                1 p.m. (CBS)

Mon. Nov. 26              at Houston Texans                  8:15 PM (ESPN)

Sun. Dec. 2                 New York Jets                                    4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Thr. Dec. 6                  Jacksonville Jaguars              8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN)

Sun. Dec. 16               at New York Giants                1 p.m. (CBS)

Dec. 22 or 23              Washington Redskins             TBD (TBD)

Sun. Dec. 30               Indianapolis Colts                    1 p.m. (CBS)

 

AFC EAST

 

NEW ENGLAND

The horse Gronkowski is not going to post in the Kentucky Derby, but the tight end says he will play in 2018.  ESPN.com:

 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, met Tuesday with New England coach Bill Belichick, telling him that Gronkowski will play for the Patriots this season. The decision ends speculation that Gronkowski could retire.

 

“It was very positive, and Rob is committed,” Rosenhaus told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

A source told Schefter that Gronkowski will not be traded this season.

 

Gronkowski announced his return on Instagram.

 

 

Gronkowski, who turns 29 on May 14, earned All-Pro honors in 2017 as he bounced back from a season in which he was limited to eight regular-season games in 2016 and underwent back surgery. He led the Patriots with 69 receptions, which went for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

 

The importance of drafting a tight end has likely lowered considerably for the Patriots, who know that they’ll have Rob Gronkowski in the mix for 2018.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ANTHEM MEETING TAPED

There was a story that the Eagles hadn’t decided whether or not to go the White House.  Now, comes a secretly recorded conversation that the New York Times has no problem running with that shows that Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie wouldn’t want to be on the same stage with Donald Trump.  Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:

 

Monday’s item in the New York Times regarding the Eagles’ negotiations with the White House regarding the traditional visit by the Super Bowl champions buried the story’s most interesting fact: Someone secretly taped Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie during last October’s ownership meeting regarding the anthem issue and provided the recording to the Times.

 

“Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump,” Lurie said. “Yes, there are some. There are some players who do, too. But this is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one f–king disastrous presidency. Don’t quote me.”

 

Lurie wasn’t quoted. He was taped, saying inflammatory things about the president. Obviously without Lurie’s knowledge. And that wasn’t the headline.

 

It should have been, and Lurie should be upset. Who taped it? Was it another owner? Was it someone from the league office? Was it one of the players who attended the meeting at the invitation of ownership?

 

While it’s not a legal issue (New York is a one-party state), the notion that someone secretly recorded Lurie and gave it to the Times raises significant trust issues between Lurie and whoever it was that recorded his words and handed it to the media.

 

And there is more:

 

As to the issue of kneeling during the national anthem, Patriots owner Robert Kraft delivered a strong assessment of the Commander-in-Chief’s strategy.

 

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

 

Kraft has been a strong supporter and close friend of President Trump. Previously, Kraft publicly expressed dismay at the tone of President Trump’s comment when he said as to any player who fails to stand during the anthem, “Get that son of a bitch off the field.”

 

Also during the meeting, Texans owner Bob McNair urged players to stop kneeling.

 

“You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you,” McNair said.

 

The article provides a glimpse into the way the sausage gets made. And the message, as characterized by the Times, is that everyone was focused on making their own sausage recipe.

 

For the players, Colin Kaepernick‘s status was mentioned multiple times.

 

“If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive,” Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long said during the meeting, regarding Kaepernick.

 

Then-49ers safety Eric Reid (who has recently had a hard time finding a job), complained about Kaepernick’s inability to land a roster spot.

 

“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” Reid said at the meeting. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us. Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”

 

Not mentioned at all in the story is the fact that someone breached the broader trust of the circumstances by secretly recording the discussion and by leaking it to the Times, during the NFL’s biggest week of the offseason for TV audience, brand messaging, and overall glass-90-percent-full positivity. As the league gets ready for the annual draft, some within positions of power and influence have to be wondering who made the recording and disseminated it.

 

And they’re probably not happy about it.

 

 

2018 DRAFT

Information and disinformation.

 

This from Tom Pelissaro of USA TODAY with someone taking a shot at QB LAMAR JACKSON.

 

More and more, it sounds like Jackson will be one of the 32 players drafted in Round 1 on Thursday night — at his normal position. “Does he end up making the move [to receiver] someday? Maybe he does,” an AFC executive said. “But there’s enough throwing ability that I think a team is going to draft the guy as a quarterback.” Jackson has plenty of arm strength and a quick release. He’ll make some incredible passes. But inconsistent accuracy remains a central concern for those who still aren’t buying in. “He’s an awesome athlete. He will not be able to play (quarterback) in this league, mark my words,” an offensive coordinator said. “When he throws, he hopes.” As another OC pointed out, the challenge for whatever team lands Jackson will be striking the right balance for a rare runner whose 6-2, 200-pound frame isn’t one you want to expose to 30-some hits a game. I wrote before the combine that scouts saw a lot of one-read-and-go in Jackson’s game on tape, and the word out of the school was that Jackson was a little further away than some other QBs in terms of Xs and Os, so teams were certain to challenge him (like Darnold and Mason Rudolph, among others) on the board during interviews. NFL teams always want to figure out how much football a guy knows before anointing him at the most important position. “Lamar’s got good aptitude. He just wasn’t given that responsibility,” said the second OC, who has spent time with Jackson. “There’s a difference between a guy who can’t do it and a guy who never was asked to do it, but can learn. He can learn.” Said a quarterbacks coach who met with Jackson: “They had a progression-based offense. You can see it. But then, when you talk to him, he can’t verbalize it for you. If you’ve got him really honed in on a game plan, I think he’d be able to do whatever you need to do. He has experience with real route concepts and making reads. You see him make good decisions. He throws the ball fine. I think accuracy is more of an issue for Josh Allen than it is for Lamar. He’s a freak. He’s the best athlete on the field every game he plays.”

 

He had inside dish on all the other QBs here.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com didn’t like the quote – and he points out that Jackson is in a bad place to defend himself compared to a QB with a hired gun agent:

 

The easy reaction to this assessment is to take the anonymous opinion for what it’s worth: Nothing. But if it’s worth nothing, why is it being used? More importantly, why is it being used by the NFL, at a time when the NFL wants/needs guys like Jackson to willingly participate in its three-network draft extravaganza?

 

Making things worse for Jackson is that, because he doesn’t have an agent, he lacks the ability to have that agent call Pelissero or the NFL.com editor that gave the report the green light and raise hell about an opinion that is designed to influence the most impressionable of the decision-makers on draft night . . . the owners who will fall in and out of love with guys on the board in round one based in part on the things they see, hear, and read.

 

 

Meanwhile Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com offers this defense:

 

Underrating Jackson is the type of mistake draft analysts make again and again. Just last year, conventional pre-draft wisdom didn’t have Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes being selected within the first 24 picks. Not only did both get drafted much earlier (Mahomes at No. 10 overall by the Chiefs and Watson at No. 12 by the Texans) — they inspired teams to make franchise-altering trades to move up for them. Or consider 2011, when there was debate before the draft as to whether Christian Ponder and Jake Locker would go in the first round. They both went in the top 12.

 

Watson’s draft experience and rookie success are both instructive. After finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Jackson in 2016, Watson was another college superstar who was nitpicked during the pre-draft process by analysts getting hung up on short-sighted reasons to think his transition to the NFL wouldn’t work. Except teams like the Texans didn’t see him that way at all. They smartly focused on Watson’s positive traits and how those traits could fit into the changing dynamics of an increasingly shotgun-heavy, spread-loving league that rewards players who can create in space. Watson rewarded them with a stellar first half, putting himself in the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion before suffering a torn ACL in November. Not only did Jackson run a “pro-style” offense at Louisville, but the NFL is better built to take advantage of his skills than the Falcons were with Vick back in 2001. Teams like the Eagles with Carson Wentz, the Chiefs with Mahomes and the Rams with Jared Goff have shown what can happen when college concepts are integrated with the pro game, meeting QBs halfway.

 

Former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians gave a window into how some coaches view Jackson’s potential, joking to the Arizona Republic that he’d come out of retirement to coach Jackson. The vision and elusiveness Jackson shows as a runner is breathtaking, but Arians emphasized that Jackson’s not that raw as a passer. While his accuracy needs work, Jackson has already proven he can spin it down the field. Jackson completed multiple gems each game, often with a very Vick-like flick of the wrist.

 

A coach like Arians knows how maddening it would be to defend Jackson, the rare athlete at the highest levels of college football who routinely made his opponents look like weekend-warrior chumps. Critics contend he will have to adjust to the speed of NFL defenses, but NFL defenses will have to adjust to Jackson, because they haven’t seen him before. It’s not hyperbole to say his ceiling would be for him to join or surpass Vick as one of the great running quarterbacks of all time.

 

NFL players get drafted more on potential than production — just look at Josh Allen’s stock — but Jackson should rank near the top in both categories among quarterbacks. His ceiling is through the roof, and his otherworldly athleticism arguably makes him a safer pick than his competitors, because it’s so easy to see how it would translate at the next level. He’d benefit from learning from a veteran quarterback with a creative head coach, like Mahomes did last year under Alex Smith and Andy Reid in Kansas City, but that’s true for any quarterback.

 

So many mock drafts still assume the NFL remains a risk-averse league, with many burying Jackson late in the first round or kicking him out of the round entirely. But the Texans, Chiefs and Eagles all made bold trades for athletic and supposedly raw quarterbacks over the last two years, with delicious results. The NFL is a better, more entertaining league when there is room for different playing styles and teams that are willing to embrace them. Some team is going to embrace Jackson on Thursday night, and it will be as if all this pre-draft nonsense never happened at all.

 

– – –

With the draft approaching, we are getting to the time for “final” Mock Drafts.  Peter Schrager at NFL.com has a three-round draft here.  He sees the Bills moving up for JOSH ALLEN after the Jets take BAKER MAYFIELD.  Then the Cardinals go up for JOSH ROSEN and the Ravens signal the end of the JOE FLACCO Era by taking LAMAR JACKSON. The first round is below:

 

1 – CLEVELAND

Sam Darnold – QB, USC

John Dorsey, sitting in the catbird seat at No. 1, has no reason to keep this as quiet as he has. But trust me when I tell you, there’s been more leaks from Area 51 than Browns headquarters in Berea this month. The way I see it, Darnold’s the guy. He’ll learn from Tyrod Taylor in Year One, he’ll bring his obsession with football to Cleveland, and he’ll eventually be the guy to lead this franchise back from oblivion.

 

2 – NY GIANTS

Bradley Chubb – DE, N.C. State

Our first shocker of the NFL draft shouldn’t be a shocker at all, if you know GM Dave Gettleman’s draft history in both New York and Carolina. The defensive front seven is where Gettleman’s made his bones. Chubb is a home run. Teams are telling me he’s been blowing them away. Chubb broke Mario Williams’ all-time sack and tackle for loss records at North Carolina State. He has the size, the character, and the upside. He’s never been injured, and with Jason Pierre-Paul being shipped out for draft picks this off-season, this makes too much sense.

 

3 – NEW YORK JETS

Baker Mayfield – QB, Oklahoma

Whether it was Mike Maccagnan spending the first day of free agency in Norman, Okla., back in March, or the glowing reports I got from the dinner the team’s top brass had with him in Morristown, N.J., a few weeks ago — there’s been more than just smoke here. The Jets like Mayfield. A lot. And I see him — Karate Kid headband and all — being the first quarterback selected by Gang Green in the top 3 of the draft since Joe Namath in 1965.

 

4 – CLEVELAND

Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State

The Browns sit and hang tight, only to see the top player in the draft fall to them at No. 4. In an hour, the Browns get their franchise quarterback and running back. Here’s to hoping it works out better than Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden did a few years back.

 

5 – BUFFALO

Josh Allen – QB, Wyoming

PICK ACQUIRED IN PROJECTED TRADE WITH BRONCOS. The Bills trade picks 12, 22 and 65 for the fifth overall pick. They decide to make the big move when Allen slips out of the top four. Big-armed, built for the elements, and an alpha in the locker room — Allen comes to Buffalo as the latest quarterback savior for long-suffering Bills fans.

 

6 – INDIANAPOLIS

Quenton Nelson – OG, Notre Dame

Many respected NFL personnel men have told me Nelson has Hall of Fame potential. Not one, not two, but many guys I trust around the league say this is the surest pick in the entire draft. Andrew Luck desperately needs more help up front. Nelson’s a great fit.

 

7 – TAMPA BAY

Derwin James – S, Florida State

The Buccaneers would love Barkley, Chubb or Nelson to slip to them. James certainly is not a bad consolation prize. Though many see Tampa Bay trading back in this scenario, I don’t. There’s an expectation to win now in Tampa. That means taking a guy who can contribute right away. James is up to the task.

 

8 – CHICAGO

Denzel Ward – CB, Ohio State

Ward’s the top corner in this draft — that seems to be the consensus across the league. The Bears broke the bank open on offense in free agency; they get a Day One starter at corner with the eighth pick.

 

9 – SAN FRANCISCO

Mike McGlinchey – OT, Notre Dame

Seeing McGlinchey go this high might be a shocker to some, but the top tackle in the draft could go a lot sooner than he’s being slotted in other mock drafts. Well-coached at Notre Dame and capable of playing either tackle spot, this could be the man protecting Jimmy Garoppolo’s blind side for the next decade.

 

10 – ARIZONA

 

 Josh Rosen – QB, UCLA

PICK ACQUIRED IN PROJECTED TRADE WITH RAIDERS. Arizona trades the 15th and 47th overall picks to move up five spots for their quarterback of the future. From Day One of this process, Rosen has been viewed as the purest passer of the bunch. If he’s the fourth quarterback taken, he’ll use that to fuel him for the rest of his career.

 

11 – MIAMI

Minkah Fitzpatrick – S, Alabama

Adam Gase is a Nick Saban disciple. If one of Saban’s favorite, most versatile players slips to 11, look for Gase to scoop him up. Miami’s rumored to have interest in a few of the quarterbacks, too, but I have them hanging tight and going with Fitzpatrick.

 

12 – DENVER

Roquan Smith – LB, Georgia

PICK ACQUIRED IN PROJECTED TRADE WITH BILLS. The Broncos trade back seven spots and still land one of the most dynamic defensive players in the draft. Very often the best player on the field in games loaded with NFL talent, Smith heads to Denver where he joins Von Miller and Shane Ray in a strong front seven.

 

13 – WASHINGTON

Vita Vea – DT, Washington

I love the idea of Jim Tomsula and Greg Manusky coaching up the 340-pound run-stuffing Vea. He’s not Danny Shelton. He’s viewed as a better and more polished big-boy prospect coming out of Washington. He can also sack the quarterback. An absolute handful to deal with inside.

 

14 – GREEN BAY

Tremaine Edmunds – LB, Virginia Tech

Still only 19 years old, Edmunds is viewed as an athletic freak off the edge. A developing prospect, he’s not as raw a player as you’d expect for someone his age. Pass rush is a Mike Pettine specialty, and Edmunds could have the highest upside of any defensive prospect in this draft. If he slips to 14, that’s a steal.

 

15 – OAKLAND

Harold Landry – DE, Boston College

PICK ACQUIRED IN PROJECTED TRADE WITH CARDINALS. An ankle injury hampered Landry and he underwhelmed in 2017. But those 2015 and 2016 seasons were outstanding. Oakland trades back, collects an extra second-round pick, and still lands one of the draft’s top pass rushers. That’d be a win for an Oakland defense that is desperate for talent at all three levels.

 

16 – BALTIMORE

Lamar Jackson – QB, Louisville

This is Ozzie Newsome’s last draft as the GM of the Ravens, and I can see him going out with a giant splash. Has there ever been a franchise that needed a spark more than Baltimore right now? Alex Smith seemed like the future of the franchise in Kansas City … until the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes. Could we see the same deal in Baltimore with Joe Flacco and Jackson?

 

17 – LA CHARGERS

Kolton Miller – OT, UCLA

The Chargers add some talent to their offensive line in the form of Miller, the 6-foot-7 beast who protected Josh Rosen’s blind side at UCLA. He started 13 games at the left tackle spot last season, has had impressive workouts with teams, and can likely play left or right tackle at the next level.

 

18 – SEATTLE

Marcus Davenport – DE, UTSA

One of the best stories in the draft — the long, athletic UTSA product goes 18th overall to Seattle. Cliff Avril is signed through 2018, but we don’t know what the future holds for him, and Frank Clark needs a complement off the edge. Davenport’s a bit of a project, but he has improved leaps and bounds over the past two seasons. He stole the show at Reese’s Senior Bowl practices.

 

19 – DALLAS

Taven Bryan – DT, Florida

Don’t be shocked if the Cowboys take Bryan. All eyes will be on the wide receiver position here, but there’s a feeling out of Dallas that the Cowboys are going defense with the 19th selection. The “Wyoming Wild Man” made the rare trip from Casper, Wyoming, to Gainesville, Florida, (no direct flights) because he wanted to play for Will Muschamp. When Muschamp was relieved of his duties, Bryan stayed and excelled at Florida. The Cowboys are getting a gamer.

 

20 – DETROIT

Da’Ron Payne – DT, Alabama

In Matt Patricia’s first draft with Bob Quinn, I expect Detroit to go with another defensive player in the first round. The Lions’ offensive line was bruised and battered for most of last season, but when healthy, it can hold its own. So, Detroit goes defense here. Payne is an accomplished player who competed at the highest level in college, and he still has room to grow.

 

21 – CINCINNATI

James Daniels – C, Iowa

A versatile offensive lineman who played under Kirk Ferentz, Daniels projects to be a starting center or offensive guard for many years in the NFL. Safe, solid selection for a Cincinnati team that needs to hit in the first round this year.

 

22 – DENVER

D.J. Moore – WR, Maryland

PICK ACQUIRED IN PROJECTED TRADE WITH BILLS. If the Broncos do indeed make the trade I’m projecting here with Buffalo, they’ll get two stud players with the 12th and 22nd picks. Mike Mayock is not alone in his love for Moore, whom he has rated as his No. 1 WR. Most teams I speak to have him rated higher than Courtland Sutton and Calvin Ridley on their boards, as well. This is a great score for Denver, if he’s there, as the long-term futures of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are not set in stone.

 

23 – NEW ENGLAND

Rashaan Evans – LB, Alabama

It sure feels like the Patriots have a bigger move than this up their sleeve on Thursday, doesn’t it? Let’s say they keep the 23rd and 31st picks and hang tight. A linebacker out of Alabama — especially someone as accomplished as Evans — sure makes sense.

 

24 – CAROLINA

Will Hernandez – OG, UTEP

Mean, angry, tough. Hello, Ron Rivera. Hernandez won’t be Andrew Norwell right away, but he certainly would lessen the blow of losing the talented offensive guard to Jacksonville in free agency.

 

25 – TENNESSEE

Maurice Hurst – DT, Michigan

If teams believe Hurst’s medical scare at the NFL Scouting Combine was only a scare and not something more serious, he’s a first-round pick. You know what you’re getting with Hurst, the 6-3, 270-pound defensive tackle: Nifty footwork and a run stuffer who can also make plays in the backfield. Would Mike Vrabel, who played and coached at Ohio State, use his first-round pick on a Michigan Man? Let’s see.

 

26 – ATLANTA

Jaire Alexander – CB, Louisville

You can never have enough cornerbacks in this league. The Falcons go to Bobby Petrino’s team (of all places) for their next defensive back. The Charlotte native has the height, speed, and, most importantly, attitude to work well in Marquand Manuel’s defense.

 

27 – NEW ORLEANS

Calvin Ridley – WR, Alabama

The 23-year-old precise route runner out of Alabama falls to 27, where the Saints gladly scoop him up. Another talented performer to add to an already loaded Saints offense. Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger; the Saints get him another playmaker.

 

28 – PITTSBURGH

Josh Jackson – CB, Iowa

Pittsburgh gets a talented cornerback who saved his best efforts for the Hawkeyes’ biggest games of last season. Three interceptions against Ohio State and a dominant performance against Wisconsin are on tape. He can play right away in Pittsburgh, and they might need him to.

 

29 – JACKSONVILLE

Dallas Goedert – TE, South Dakota State

Goedert’s the first tight end off the board in this mock draft, and I think Jacksonville is the perfect spot for him. A superb athlete, he’s another weapon for Blake Bortles in the wake of losing Mercedes Lewis, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns this offseason.

 

30 – MINNESOTA

Leighton Vander Esch – LB, Boise State

The Vikings add another piece to a defense that ranked No. 1 in the league last season. Vander Esch doesn’t have a ton of tape beyond this past season, but it was an awfully impressive season in 2017. The Mountain West’s Defensive Player of the Year dominated his conference, and in the nationally televised Las Vegas Bowl, he recorded 12 tackles, including 3 for a loss (one sack) and a forced fumble.

 

31 – NEW ENGLAND

Frank Ragnow – C/OG, Arkansas

Again, I can see New England doing something special on Thursday night. If they keep the pick, Ragnow is a solid addition to an offensive line that could use some depth.

 

32 – PHILADELPHIA

Isaiah Oliver – CB, Colorado

Maybe my favorite defensive back prospect in this draft, Oliver is a 6-foot-tall big body with an insane 80-inch wingspan. Philadelphia already cut Daryl Worley this offseason. Oliver is a guy who can contribute right away.