The Daily Briefing Wednesday, April 26, 2017
AROUND THE NFL
The NFL passed out a pair of conditional reinstatements on Tuesday. WR MARTAVIS BRYANT and LB DARYL WASHINGTON. First, Bryant from Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Press-Gazette:
The Steelers might not have to worry about taking a wide receiver in the early rounds of the NFL draft now that Martavis Bryant has been conditionally reinstated by the league after serving a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
But because Bryant faces a long road back to rebuild trust with his teammates and coaches, they are not likely to change their strategy about seeking a wide receiver in the three-day draft that begins Thursday. If anything, it just might reduce the urgency to find one. Maybe.
One thing is certain: Should he continue to comply with the league’s drug-testing policy and stay clean, Bryant will be a big boost for an offense that clearly lacked another receiver to take some of the coverage away from All-Pro Antonio Brown.
“We appreciate that he has taken the necessary steps in an effort to get his personal life in order,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement. “We also understand this is just the beginning as he works to return to the team and meet all of the conditions of his reinstatement.”
Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers (5) is considered one of the top safety prospects available in the 2017 NFL draft. Many analysts have the Steelers making him their first round selection in mock drafts.
Under terms of his conditional reinstatement, Bryant is allowed to participate in team meetings and offseason workouts, effective immediately. He will also be allowed to participate in training camp and preseason games provided he continues drug treatment in Pittsburgh.
If he complies with his treatment, the league will review his progress at the end of the preseason and fully reinstate him for the start of the regular season.
And this from ESPN:
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington has been reinstated on a conditional basis by the NFL following his suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Washington plans to play in 2017, but the Cardinals said in a statement: “It would be premature today to discuss a potential return to the team.”
Washington has been suspended without pay since May 2014, for violating the substance-abuse policy, a second substance-abuse violation that caused him to miss the entire 2014 season.
The league said Tuesday that Washington may work out at the team training facility and participate in meetings. He will not be cleared for all preseason activities, including practices and games, until the league has confirmed arrangements have been made for Washington regarding “clinical resources” in Phoenix.
– – –
Alabama LB REUBEN FOSTER is not welcome at the NFL Draft according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com:
Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster was not invited to attend the 2017 NFL draft because of an incident at the scouting combine in March, according to a league source.
The NFL declined to comment Tuesday.
Foster is a potential top-10 pick in the draft, which will begin Thursday at 8 p.m. ET in Philadelphia.
Foster was sent home from the combine after getting into an argument with a hospital worker during medical checks. The NFL would only say Foster was sent home for “personal reasons.” Foster later sent a letter to all 32 teams apologizing for the incident.
He also tested positive at the NFL combine for a diluted urine sample, which he said was a result of excessive water intake while he was trying to get over an illness.
Brad Biggs in the Chicago Tribune on how the Bears could trade down:
If the Bears can trade down out of the No. 3 pick Thursday night there’s a good chance that scenario will be centered on North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
The challenge for general manager Ryan Pace, as another NFC personnel man sees it, is at least half of the teams in the top 10 are interested in trading down to add depth to a draft some believe offers similar value from about the 20th pick to the 50th, meaning Round 2 is fertile ground.
Every club’s draft board is different but the idea that this draft offers excellent depth into Round 2 (and much further at cornerback, running back and tight end) is a common belief. It’s also a poor draft if you’re in need of an offensive tackle, particularly one on the left side, and the crop of linebackers is mighty thin.
The 49ers would love to trade down from No. 2 and add to the collection of 10 picks they hold in the first draft for the new GM-coach combination of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. The Titans would like to move down from No. 5. They also own the 18th pick in the first round but lack a Round 2 selection and are willing to deal. The 49ers and Titans are not alone in seeking to move down so the Bears will have real competition if they want do so to add more picks.
The obvious team to make a dash up the board is the one with ample draft capital and a screaming need for a franchise quarterback — the Browns. Besides the No. 1 pick, they also own the No. 12 selection and have five of the top 65 selections. It will be a stunner if the Browns do something other than take Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the first pick. What they do next is where the intrigue begins.
Floating around the last few weeks has been the idea the 49ers could go for a quarterback at No. 2. The only quarterbacks they have under contract are former Bears Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. But Lynch and Shanahan each received six-year contracts and quarterback talk with this pick might be more smoke than anything else. Scuttlebutt in league circles Monday night was the 49ers could make LSU’s Leonard Fournette the highest-drafted running back since the Saints selected Reggie Bush No. 2 in 2006.
Other chatter in the top five indicates the Jaguars, three years removed from selecting Blake Bortles third overall, could go with a quarterback at No. 4. Whether it’s legitimate or a ploy designed to attract a trade partner is anyone’s best guess but unconnected sources emphasized they are in play for a passer and they are known to have brought Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in for pre-draft visits.
That means if the Browns want to have first crack at a quarterback and want to select Trubisky, Mr. Ohio Football in 2012 from the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, they would need the Bears’ No 3 pick. But if they don’t believe the Bears will pull the trigger on Trubisky, the Browns could try shopping with the Jaguars or Titans at No. 5. Keep in mind the Browns have been linked to Trubisky for weeks.
The Browns have picks that would be a pretty good match for the Bears on the various draft pick value charts. Their No. 12 pick, No. 33 (first of second round) and No. 52 (20th of second round originally from Titans) are close to equal value for No. 3. Going to No. 2 with the 49ers would be considerably more expensive than dealing with the Bears. Of course, trading with No. 4 or No. 5 would be cheaper.
If Pace could pull off this trade, and remember it’s a long shot, the Bears would own 12, 33, 36 (their current second rounder) and 52. They would be in position to consider Watson or Mahomes if either or both were still available at No. 12, thought they might not be. The Bills are believed to be in the market for a quarterback at No. 10 despite re-doing Tyrod Taylor’s contract earlier this offseason and the Cardinals at No. 13 might be lurking to jump up and trade for Mahomes, sources say. The Jets have acute need for a quarterback at No. 6 but everyone I spoke to is convinced they’re going with a defender.
As I wrote last month, the team with the No. 3 pick hasn’t been able to move down very often. It has happened only three times since 2000. The rumor in league circles is the Bears are pondering Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, LSU safety Jamal Adams and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore if they stay at No. 3. That’s what I heard late Monday and again Tuesday morning.
But I just can’t see how the Bears fail to take a shot at a quarterback in Round 1, a position they have mismanaged serially. It could be a trade down puts them in a spot to get better value with a quarterback while bulking up their second round.
The smoke will clear Thursday night.
Master Testastion of the Washington Post is not buying that QB KIRK COUSINS will just play a second tagged season with the Redskins:
The NFL draft is just two days away, meaning the speculation on where Kirk Cousins will play in 2017 could finally come to an end this weekend. The Washington Redskins have expressed a desire to keep Cousins this season, a stance that hasn’t changed all offseason. But trade rumors have persisted ever since the team placed the exclusive franchise tag on Cousins before free agency.
Should the team retain Cousins on the franchise tag, he’ll earn $23.9 million with Washington this season, though the team continues to pursue a long-term deal before the July 15 deadline. The absence of a long-term deal, coupled with the significant demand for starting quarterbacks of Cousins’s caliber, lackluster free agent options and what’s seen as an unexciting draft class of quarterbacks has fueled rumors Cousins could be heading elsewhere. Two of Cousins’s former offensive coordinators in Washington, Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, are now both head coaches for teams without an entrenched quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams, respectively, adding to speculation.
A trade isn’t expected to happen at this point, but all it takes is one phone call to change Washington’s mind. It could pick up a nice return in draft picks from a willing partner because of a quarterback market that favors sellers, but Cousins remains the best option for the franchise this season. It’s a complicated situation that hasn’t gained much clarity over the last few months as to a correct course of action. Regardless of the situation, the Redskins intend to approach the quarterback position like every other in this draft.
“For the integrity of the board, you have to grade all the positions,” Redskins Director of College Scouting Scott Campbell said on Monday. “I mentioned the left tackle, we can’t just say, ‘We got Trent Williams, we can’t evaluate the left tackles.’ You have got to evaluate all the quarterbacks, all the other positions just like all the others, for the integrity of the board to kind of keep the balance and understand what’s going on there and decide what direction you’re going to go once you do that. So in my mind, when you enter it, all positions are open, everything is open and then you decide as you move along and the board starts to flow.”
On one hand, why would the Redskins trade Cousins? He was the best quarterback available this offseason before the Redskins used the franchise tag, and many talent evaluators believe there is not a quarterback worth taking in the first round of this year’s draft. All the top prospects at the position — Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer — aren’t polished enough to warrant such a lofty selection. There’s too many risks involved, and there’s much better talent at other positions in the first round.
Cousins is coming off a Pro Bowl season where he threw for nearly 5,000 yards. While plenty of pieces have changed offensively, Washington still has enough weapons to produce a good offense – and it could add more talent in the draft. Cousins has his flaws, but there isn’t a better option available this offseason. Plus, Washington already has 10 draft picks, giving them more than enough flexibility this weekend. If the Redskins want to win now, Cousins gives them their best shot to do that.
On the other hand, there’s no such thing as too many draft picks — especially in this draft. Cousins’s future remains uncertain beyond 2017, and it’s likely that the July 15 deadline will pass without a long term deal for the second straight season. The Redskins can only afford to place the transition tag on Cousins next offseason, meaning they have the right to match any offer sheet Cousins signs but they won’t receive any compensation if they don’t match. If Cousins leaves next offseason and the Redskins receive nothing in return, it would be a disaster.
Washington has a chance to sell high on Cousins right now and use Colt McCoy as the bridge starting quarterback until it finds its franchise quarterback in the next year or two. The Redskins did a solid job filling most of their needs during free agency, but they lack depth at several positions — both short and long term. The extra picks would give them an opportunity to build on a young core in a deep draft this year, and the Redskins could also pile up some picks in 2018 in an attempt to find a quarterback. There are some appealing names in next year’s class, such as USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
It’s a difficult choice to make, and there is a solid case for both options. Ultimately it will likely depend on how close the Redskins feel they are to being NFC contenders. If the Redskins think they’re close, which some of their free agency moves would suggest, then it makes sense to keep Cousins. But if the Redskins are looking at another 9-7 season where they narrowly miss the playoffs or exit in the first round, as they have the last two seasons with Cousins, then it might be wise to trade him.
Are the Buccaneers going to bail out of the first round? This tweet from Adam Schefter:
Buccaneers are talking with at least three teams about moving back in 1st round, and maybe even out of first round altogether, per source.
Is QB DeSHAUN WATSON going to be able to dress the way he wants to next fall? Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
For free agents and incoming draft picks, the Madden game provides a way to get a look at how the player will look in a variety of NFL uniforms. For quarterback Deshaun Watson, he particularly liked how he looked in one specific uniform.
Appearing on PFT Live, Watson said he likes how he looks in Cardinals attire, specifically with the black jerseys. (The photo accompanying this post is an image of virtual Larry Fitzgerald wearing the 2016 Color Rush uniforms.)
The Cardinals are in the market for a successor to Carson Palmer, and Palmer has embraced the possibility of mentoring a youngster. Watson likewise said he’d welcome the chance to learn from a veteran, even if it means sitting for a year or two. He’s also fine with being drafted later than earlier, if it means landing in the right spot.
Watson visited thr Cardinals, Browns, Jaguars, 49ers, Texans, and Chiefs in the weeks preceding the draft. The 2017 PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever has Watson going to the Cardinals at No. 13.
And this about S DEONE BUCHANAN’s fifth-year option:
Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon has been a starter in all three of his NFL seasons, so it’s no surprise that Arizona wants to keep him around.
The Cardinals officially picked up Bucannon’s fifth-year option today. That means Bucannon gets an $8.7 million salary for 2018, and that salary is guaranteed for injury, although the Cardinals could still choose to release him if he’s healthy.
Bucannon’s 2016 season was cut short by an ankle injury, but he started the first 13 games. He started all 16 games in 2015.
The Cardinals took Bucannon with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
Adam Schefter of ESPN.com is among those who are reporting that RB MARSHAWN LYNCH will be joining the Raiders today. This came from Mike Garafolo
If all goes according to plan, Marshawn Lynch officially will be a member of the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday.
Lynch’s representatives and the Raiders have agreed to terms on a contract, and the team has hashed out the details of a trade for Lynch’s rights with the Seahawks, multiple sources informed of the negotiations on both sides of the deal said.
The draft compensation will be a swap of late-round picks in 2018.
The only thing standing in the way of the five-time Pro Bowl running back’s return is for him to take a physical with the Raiders. Two sources said the team expects Lynch to take the physical Wednesday after he returns to the Bay Area from his trip to Haiti, where he and his former Seahawks teammates Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett have been touring the country to help build schools and houses.
Lynch was slated to be back in the country on Tuesday but didn’t catch his flight.
As is nearly always the case with Lynch, nothing is done until it’s done. All parties involved were wary of celebrating a deal until Lynch sets foot on the mainland and meets with those necessary to complete a deal. But at this point, sources directly involved in the situation are confident it’ll get done.
The Raiders and Lynch have, in recent days, agreed to terms on a contract for the 2017 season. After weeks of negotiation, Oakland agreed to pay Lynch a $3 million base, with a chance to make $2 million more if he gains 1,000 yards.
The max value of the contract is $8.5 million.
Why a swap of late-round picks in the future? A source said both teams didn’t want any uncertainty surrounding this year’s picks so close to the start of the draft.
Lynch is also required — eventually, but not immediately — to file papers to unretire.
As soon as Lynch completes the physical, it will cap off months of speculation about his return. He met with the Raiders on April 5 and expressed his desire to play for them. He told them he only wants to play for his hometown team in what amounted to a recruiting visit.
“I think it would be awesome just to have him around,” quarterback Derek Carr told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche two weeks ago. “He’s a great teammate from everyone that I’ve talked to from the couple of Seahawks that we’ve had on our team. They love him.â€
If all goes according to plan today, Carr will find out.
The Browns are prepared to move up for the one-two punch of DE MYLES GARRETT and QB MITCH TRUPINSKY. Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com on a report by Michael Silver of NFL.com, an intimate pal of Browns coach Hue Jackson:
Two days out from the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns are starting to make some moves.
Owners of the first and 12th overall draft picks, and in need of a franchise quarterback, it was long suggested that Cleveland might use its bounty of early-round selections to package picks and move up to hand-select its quarterback of the future. Numerous reports out of Cleveland suggest that man is North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Now there is tangible proof of those efforts.
NFL Network’s Michael Silver reported that the Browns have spoken with at least four teams in the top eight about trading up.
“The Browns have been doing their due diligence and investigating the possibility,” Silver said on Tuesday’s edition of Up to the Minute Live. “I’ve learned that at least three teams in the top eight have been contacted by the Browns and discussions have taken place about the prospect of moving up. Now this is something that would likely happen in real time when these teams were on the clock because obviously if the target is Mitchell Trubisky and he goes earlier than expected, then those discussions would be moot.
“The Browns could still take Trubisky at No. 1. They could still trade down and try to take him a little lower than one. The more likely scenario right now would be trying to use that 12th pick and get up a little higher to get the quarterback of the future.”
Silver added Wednesday that the Browns have reached out to a fourth team in the first eight spots.
After the Browns pick first overall — a selection that will most likely be Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett — the 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, Titans, Jets, Chargers and Panthers are slated to pick in that order. Excluding the Titans and Panthers, all of those teams are either QB-needy or QB-desperate; Los Angeles brass has suggested it will look into drafting its QB of the future to succeed Philip Rivers.
While no quarterback in this year’s draft is projected to be a top-10 talent, according to NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, you never know how these teams with gaping holes at the game’s most important position will react on draft night. With regards to draft-day trades, anything is possible.
So let’s speculate. Three of the four teams to which Silver might be referring in his report are in the back half of the top eight: the Titans, Jets and Panthers.
» Tennessee needs secondary help — Jamal Adams, Marshon Lattimore and Malik Hooker are options — and could also be targeting Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. But if all or some of those prospects are off the board by No. 5, then the Titans would be the prime target for Cleveland. The Browns would benefit from jumping ahead of the unpredictable Jets, who are also in the market for a franchise quarterback.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson’s comments on Tuesday that his franchise is “50-50” to stick at Nos. 5 and 18 should also spur furious speculation that the Titans are open to trading down with Cleveland.
» Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has been saying for a month that the Jets are willing to trade their sixth overall pick. And who could blame them? The Jets’ roster is untested and shallow at nearly every position, and the franchise is entering a very obvious rebuilding year. If Gang Green isn’t in love with a quarterback or any of the remaining secondary prospects at No. 6, it doesn’t hurt to fall back six picks, steal a second-rounder and accumulate much-needed talent and depth.
However, trading with the Browns presents a potential doomsday P.R. scenario for the Jets. As Cleveland did with Philadelphia and Carson Wentz last season, trading away the opportunity to procure the sought-after franchise savior could sink the fan base’s hopes for years to come, especially if the McCown-Petty-Hackenberg troika flounders as most expect it to.
» Then, there are the Panthers, one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance and still plenty deep at multiple positions. Many draft analysts have Carolina targeting the running back position with their top-10 selection, eyeing either Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffrey. While Fournette could fly off the board early on, there’s a chance that McCaffrey might fall into the meat of the first round, or at least to Cleveland’s 12th pick, which makes their eighth selection expendable.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo confirmed this hypothesis, adding, “When Mike Silver says top eight, he says top eight for a reason. Keep an eye on the Panthers. There’s also some defensive players that they like that might not be up there at No. 8. Could be that slide-back option there. And then at that point opens up a couple options, one of them is John Ross by the way. They like his speed. They do want to add speed to the offense.”
Which team the Browns eventually target, if and when they do decide to eschew their 12th pick, acquired from the Eagles in the Wentz deal, and a second-rounder in favor a second top-10 selection, remains a mystery.
But what is clear now, with 48 hours remaining until Cleveland is officially on the clock, is that the Browns are deadly serious about trading up for their franchise quarterback.
Three primetime games for Houston…A three-game homestand in October…What is it about Houston that makes it a good town to host Christmas Day games?…The Steelers (and the Raiders to Baltimore) have tough duty, traveling on Christmas Day.
Sun Sep 10 Jacksonville 1:00pm CBS
Thu Sep 14 at Cincinnati 8:30pm NFLN
Sun Sep 24 at New England 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 1 Tennessee 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 8 Kansas City 8:30pm NBC
Sun Oct 15 Cleveland 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 22 BYE
Sun Oct 29 at Seattle 4:05pm CBS
Sun Nov 5 Indianapolis 1:00pm CBS
Sun Nov 12 at L.A. Rams 4:05pm CBS
Sun Nov 19 Arizona 1:00pm FOX
Mon Nov 27 at Baltimore 8:30pm ESPN
Sun Dec 3 at Tennessee 1:00pm CBS
Sun Dec 10 San Francisco 1:00pm FOX
Sun Dec 17 at Jacksonville 1:00pm CBS
Mon Dec 25 Pittsburgh 4:30pm NBC/NFLN
Sun Dec 31 at Indianapolis 1:00pm CBS
Three primetime games…We kind of like Colts at Titans on Monday, October 16…It all seems kind of blah, to be honest, but maybe that’s good.
Sun Sep 10 at L.A. Rams 4:05pm CBS
Sun Sep 17 Arizona 1:00pm FOX
Sun Sep 24 Cleveland 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 1 at Seattle 8:30pm NBC
Sun Oct 8 San Francisco 1:00pm FOX
Mon Oct 16 at Tennessee 8:30pm ESPN
Sun Oct 22 Jacksonville 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 29 at Cincinnati 1:00pm CBS
Sun Nov 5 at Houston 1:00pm CBS
Sun Nov 12 Pittsburgh 1:00pm CBS
Sun Nov 19 BYE
Sun Nov 26 Tennessee 1:00pm CBS
Sun Dec 3 at Jacksonville 1:00pm CBS
Sun Dec 10 at Buffalo 1:00pm CBS
Thu Dec 14 Denver 8:25pm NBC/NFLN
Sat Dec 23 at Baltimore 4:30pm NFLN
Sun Dec 31 Houston 1:00pm CBS
The 32nd schedule we’ve done…Like the Browns, the NFL stretches the definition of “primetime” to cover a game at 6:30 am Pacific time as the Jaguars’ home game with Baltimore in London counts as their NFL primetime obligation…Does this mean they won’t be wearing their Color Rush uniforms in 2017? We can hope…Exactly who will be carrying said “primetime” game is unknown…No funny flexes, the two FOX games are the traditional ones when an NFC team visits an AFC city…Both L.A. teams visit JAX…Three of the seven home games in Jacksonville come in December while only one comes in the first five weeks…
Sun Sep 10 at Houston 1:00pm CBS
Sun Sep 17 Tennessee 1:00pm CBS
Sun Sep 24 Baltimore (LON) 9:30am TV TBA
Sun Oct 1 at New York Jets 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 8 at Pittsburgh 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 15 L.A. Rams 4:05pm FOX
Sun Oct 22 at Indianapolis 1:00pm CBS
Sun Oct 29 BYE
Sun Nov 5 Cincinnati 1:00pm CBS
Sun Nov 12 L.A. Chargers 1:00pm CBS
Sun Nov 19 at Cleveland 1:00pm CBS
Sun Nov 26 at Arizona 4:25pm CBS
Sun Dec 3 Indianapolis 1:00pm CBS
Sun Dec 10 Seattle 1:00pm FOX
Sun Dec 17 Houston 1:00pm CBS
Sun Dec 24 at San Francisco 4:05pm CBS
Sun Dec 31 at Tennessee 1:00pm CBS
RB DERRICK HENRY is continuing his education, although some in the media wonder if he’s not all-in with the Titans in 2017. Jason Wolf of USA TODAY:
Titans running back Derrick Henry has not spoken to coach Mike Mularkey since declining to report for the team’s voluntary offseason workouts, which began April 17, the coach said Tuesday during a pre-draft press conference at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner is the only player on the team who hasn’t reported to the facility.
Henry is enrolled in classes at Alabama, the registrar’s office confirmed to The Tennessean. Finals run through the first week in May. Mularkey said he’d prefer to hear from Henry, but hasn’t picked up the phone himself since saying last week that he’d probably look into why the player wasn’t in Nashville.
“I didn’t reach out to Derrick,” Mularkey said. “All the players know our schedule, know what we’re doing daily, and I didn’t feel like I needed to follow up. He’s been informed, as everybody has.”
Henry rushed for 490 yards and five touchdowns on 110 carries last season, after being selected with the 45th overall pick in the second round of the draft.
Reserve cornerback Bennett Okotcha, who also did not report last week, is retiring from football, Titans general manager Jon Robinson said.
“He doesn’t have to (report for voluntary workouts),” Mularkey said about Henry. “None of them have to. Again, we’ve got a good group going on, working right now. From what I understand, he’s in school, and I don’t think there’s anything negative about that.”
THIS AND THAT
The Turk has been making his way through Bristol and ESPN’s satellite locations, claiming more than 100 employees. The list of cuts is trickling out and names familiar to the NFL include Ed Werder, Danny Kanell, Paul Kuharsky (Tennessee) and Jean-Jacques Taylor (Dallas). As we await more names, here is Clay Travis, who was way ahead of this explaining why it has come to this and why this is not the end.
For several years I have been writing on this site about the coming business implosion at ESPN. Today, with the announcement that over 100 on air talent at ESPN were being let go, many will finally come to realize what Outkick readers have read here for the past several years — ESPN’s business model is fundamentally broken and there is no saving it. The continuing collapse of ESPN is the biggest story in sports — the sub-prime mortgage crisis with bouncing balls.
I don’t say that to gloat over ESPN employees who lost their jobs today — many of them are outstanding people who regularly read this site or listen to our Outkick broadcasts, some of them are also good friends — and I know exactly how they feel today because I have been fired before in sports media too. Six years ago I, along with the entire staff, was fired from FanHouse. That firing is what led me to found Outkick. I decided on that day that I would never allow anyone else to control my success or failure in this business. I took a risk and started Outkick and it has been the best business decision I ever made. It’s a cliche, but when one door closes another door really does open. That goes for anyone who loses a job for any reason, it sucks, but it doesn’t define you.
The people being fired at ESPN today aren’t being fired because they are bad at their jobs, they’re being fired because ESPN’s business is collapsing. That collapse has been aided by ESPN’s absurd decision to turn into MSESPN, a left wing sports network, but that’s more a symptom of the collapse than it is a cause of the collapse. ESPN’s business is collapsing and the network is desperately trying to find a way to stay above water. You know how a drowning person flails in the water before slipping under? ESPN’s left wing shift is that flailing. They think going left wing will save them. The reality is the opposite, ESPN going left wing was like giving a drowning person a big rock to hold and thinking it would keep them from drowning. Instead, it just made them sink even faster.
That’s why ratings are down 16% this year compared to last year and viewers are abandoning the network in droves.
Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don’t want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football. ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.
ESPN has spent the past several years disputing all of my columns about their business imploding, sending one person after another, and one website after another in wave after wave to argue that I’m wrong, that my numbers are off, that their business remains sound. As recently as seven weeks ago the head of ESPN PR was Tweeting me about this Outkick article, “Your number is vastly inaccurate, click-chasing, and irresponsible.”
Chris LaPlaca @espn_chris
Your number is vastly inaccurate, click-chasing and irresponsible. https://twitter.com/ClayTravis/status/838791997251014656 …
5:32 PM – 6 Mar 2017
Today I fired back at him.
Clay Travis ✔ @ClayTravis
Care to retract your “vastly inaccurate, click-chasing and irresponsible” Tweet to me? https://twitter.com/espn_chris/status/838880015324430336 …
9:21 AM – 26 Apr 2017
If anything the only way I was “wildly inaccurate” was by underestimating how many people at ESPN were going to be fired.
As with most big stories Outkick has covered — conference expansion, the fake Missouri protests, the Peyton Manning mooning incident, Ryan Lochte’s peeing outside and being robbed — this site has been 100% right and the worldwide leader in sports has been 100% wrong. That’s why Outkick is growing like gangbusters and ESPN is firing people left and right.
The simple truth of the matter is this — ESPN spent way too much on sports rights just as its cable and satellite subscriptions began to collapse. On track for $8 billion in programming costs in 2017, ESPN will rack up its 15 millionth lost subscriber since 2011. Every single day so far in 2017 over 10,000 people have left ESPN. The numbers are astonishing and the collapse is rapid. All those lost subscribers add up to big money — that’s over $1.3 billion a year in money that comes off ESPN’s books every year. And ESPN is on the hook for billions and billions a year for all the years ahead. That’s guaranteed payments to leagues that ESPN can’t escape no matter how many employees it fires.
As I’ve written before, if the current subscriber loss trajectory keeps up ESPN will begin losing money by 2021. And if the subscriber losses accelerate it will happen even sooner than that.
The collapse of the cable bundle is a huge story that will impact every cable channel, but ESPN stands to lose more by itself than 100 other cable channels combined. That’s because ESPN standing alone costs more than 100 channels on many cable and satellite packages. ESPN by itself costs nearly five times the second most expensive channel on cable. ESPN’s in infinitely worse shape than any other cable network out there too because it makes more than any other channel off the current business model and because those channels don’t have the billions in fixed costs that ESPN does. If CNN makes less money on subscriber revenue, they can spend less on news gathering. If AMC makes less money in subscriber fees, they’ll pay for fewer shows, but ESPN’s entire business is predicated on the billions they owe for sports rights every year into the foreseeable future.
Moreover, the sports businesses of Fox, NBC, and CBS are more protected because the vast majority of their best games are all on network TV, which may well return to primacy when it comes to sports. Look at the roster of games that Fox, NBC, and CBS have — virtually all of the top draws air on the main broadcast networks. The NFL’s AFC and NFC packages, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the SEC game of the week, the best college football games in other conferences, Sunday Night Football, the big Olympic events, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the Masters, all air on “free” TV. ESPN — and Turner — are the only two networks that put their biggest sporting events on cable. (The college football playoff, Monday Night Football, and most of the NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs air on ESPN, which is how ESPN justifies its massive cable and satellite subscription fees. Turner carries the majority of the NCAA Tournament games on cable as well.)
In theory it would make more sense for ESPN to just rely on ABC and switch its biggest games to that network, but the problem is, it can’t. Not under the existing television contracts which promise cable and satellite companies exclusive big events on ESPN to justify the enormous cable and satellite fees. That’s why all this cost cutting is happening — because ESPN gambled that sports broadcast rights would ensure that Fox and NBC and CBS never dented the worldwide leader in sports. Instead, ESPN built a moat of programming rights to surround the ESPN castle and ensure that the worldwide leader would never be challenged. Unfortunately that moat has flooded its business. ESPN is dying as a business because it thought Mike Conley deserved $30 million a year to play basketball.
From 1979 to 2011 ESPN was part of the greatest business in the history of media. But from 2011 on we’re going to witness the biggest media collapse since AOL. It’s creative destruction writ large and ESPN is a dead company walking. Today sucks for many employees, but it was inevitable because the sports rights bubble has burst and the fallout is really just beginning.
We think Travis overstates the effect of ESPN’s left-wing slant, more like a small rock that has slightly speeded up the drowning.
Another factor, not explicitly political, is that ESPN’s editorial, especially on TV, seems to over emphasize the NBA (the league they paid the most money relative to value to), which also happens to be a league many Americans barely pay attention to.
Rather than watch SportsCenter, the DB is more likely to invest in the niche networks of the sports we care about – The Golf Channel, the NFL Network, the NHL Network, MLB.
This from Mike Florio at ProFootballTalk.com:
ESPN has launched its long-expected layoffs, with the biggest news so far being that long-time NFL reporter Ed Werder has been let go. While the moves will presumably affect all aspects of the network and the sports it covers, the timing is odd.
Roughly 100 employees are being laid off only one day before the draft, which is one of the biggest annual events for ESPN. The three-day affair will result in millions consuming ESPN television, radio, and online content. And it’s all happening one day after what will be the biggest one-day exodus of talent in the history of the network.
Regardless of the reasons for the departures (and in any business where revenue is dramatically shrinking, costs must be slashed), making the moves right now makes it a head-scratcher. Perhaps the thinking is that the moves will be noticed less than they would have been given the pendency of the draft, and that the intensity of the draft coverage will make the audience forget by Monday that the layoffs even happened.
The real question is whether the audience even cares. People in the media do because people in the media know many of the people who are being affected by these moves, and they can sympathize/empathize with the situation. At an operation like ESPN, however, people come and go all the time without the average consumer even noticing.
Despite the timing, it’s a sad day for many ESPN employees and their families. It’s also a reminder that every media entity is a for-profit operation. If not enough profit is being generated for those who hold the equity, reductions will have to be made.
FREE FALLIN’ DALVIN COOK
Two players whose draft stock is in peril – CB GAREON CONLEY and RB DALVIN COOK. Here is Dane Brugler at CBSSports.com on Conley:
Former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley is being investigated by police after a woman accused him of rape the morning of April 9 at a hotel in Cleveland. According to Cleveland Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia, Conley has not been arrested or charged.
A potential top-20 draft pick, Conley was expected to be one of the first cornerbacks drafted in the first round of Thursday’s NFL Draft. NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport reported that Conley has decided not to attend the NFL Draft festivities in Philadelphia.
According to the police report, the victim told police that she didn’t want to have sex with Conley, but he grabbed and raped her in the hotel room despite her verbal resistance. The police interviewed two men who were with Conley and the victim earlier. They said they didn’t see anything happen between Conley and the victim, who was later taken to the hospital for a rape kit and medical aid.
Kevin Spellacy, Conley’s attorney, told WOIO-TV in Cleveland that the allegations were “ludicrous and ridiculous.”
This situation is reminiscent in terms of how it could affect Conley’s draft stock of La’el Collins, who was a projected first-rounder in the 2015 class. In the weeks before the draft, his ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant, was murdered. He was eventually questioned by Louisiana State police regarding the shooting, but not until after the draft. Collins wasn’t considered a suspect, but because the NFL didn’t have enough information at the time, Collins went undrafted. He eventually signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent.
Conley is involved in a much different situation — Collins wasn’t a suspect, while the rape allegations are against Conley directly — but like Collins’ issues, there are few details known to the public. And as the target of an open rape investigation, it is highly unlikely a NFL team will draft Conley in any of the seven rounds — mostly due to the lack of information.
Hopefully, NFL teams will be given more clarification before the start of the draft, but that seems unlikely, leaving Conley’s draft stock in limbo.
It would’ve been nice to simply rest on the strength of 207 all-purpose yards in a 33-32 Orange Bowl victory over Michigan on New Year’s Eve, his magnum opus, but that’s not how the NFL works.
“Once you get into this whole process, you really figure out it’s a business,” Cook says with a quiet authority. “They trying to figure out the person you are, who you are, what you is, what tick you off, all that. More than anything else, it’s a business.”
Cook, the 21-year-old running back from Florida State and native of Miami-Dade, has been a challenging case for NFL scouts and executives tasked with reducing his life experience to a few pages in a scouting report. You’d need more than three months to parse through the stock characters peppering Chapter 1 of The Dalvin Cook Story. There are the fallen idols and incarcerated relatives and gun-toting companions. And, in the past few weeks, a new character has been introduced: the saboteur.
– – –
Unlike many expected first-rounders, Cook won’t be in Philadelphia when the next chapter of his life begins; he says he would rather be with his family and friends in Miami-Dade. It’s a fitting tribute to Betty Cook, the grandmother who fostered several children, including Dalvin, in her dim single-story home near Opa-Locka, a community as known as much for its violent crime as for its football talent.
In 2007 Cook moved permanently from his mom’s residence to his paternal grandmother’s yellow-painted house. Betty Cook, known to football coaches, players and neighbors as Miss Betty, raised her son, Anthony Jones, and Dalvin, along with any other boys who were friends with the pair and needed shelter or guidance. When the mother of Tavius Brown, Cook’s teammate at Miami Centra High, moved away, Miss Betty took him in. She did the same for another of Cook’s teammates, Da’Vante Phillips, after his mother was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2013.
“She raised us,” says Dalvin, who has Betty’s name and birthdate tattooed on his arm. “She was tough on us, and she loved football.”
– – –
Miss Betty says Dalvin never fully explained why he left his mother’s place. And she didn’t ask. Dalvin says he wanted to take some pressure off of her while she raised his younger siblings, and he wanted to live in Central’s school district. “All I know is he was here,” Betty says. “And he has been here ever since.”
The transition wasn’t easy. Shortly after moving in with Miss Betty, Dalvin began building the rap sheet that has given NFL teams pause. He was arrested and charged with robbery in 2009 (when he was 14); chargers were dropped. And he was arrested and charged with firing and possessing a weapon on school property when he was 15; charges were either dropped or abandoned. “He was doing wild, crazy things in middle school, but he straightened up at the high school,” Betty says.
When Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher got his turn on Betty’s couch, after Cook had established himself as the top running back in South Florida for the class of 2014, he knew of Cook’s prior run-ins with the law in his early teens, but he came away impressed. He didn’t talk much, but he listened. “If you’re going to dock every kid over something like that, we wouldn’t have half the athletes we have,” Fisher says. “Mistakes make you grow.”
And Cook had seemed to clean up his act when he joined the varsity program at Miami Central, where he met a coach determined to use the lessons of past mistakes to teach personal accountability.
– – –
Cook didn’t join the program until his sophomore year, figuring he had no chance to supplant senior running back Devonta Freeman, now of the Atlanta Falcons, who led Central to a Class 6A state title in 2010.
“He had just moved in with his grandma and he was getting acclimated there,” Lockette says of Cook, “so there were some issues, but we felt we got him on the right path at Miami Central.”
As junior starters on the football team, Cook and Yearby were inseparable. Both would become five-star prep running backs, leading Central to two state championships. On running downs, Yearby played wildcat quarterback and Cook was his running back. They split carries nearly down the middle. “They had this unique relationship where there was no competition between the two,” says Miami Central Principal Gregory Bethune. “They may not want me to tell this, but I would see them walk each other to class. One would be talking to a young lady and the other would be waiting for him to finish and they’d go on their way.”
In one game, Bethune recalls, Yearby was churning up yardage on the ground and coaches called for Cook to spell him. “And Dalvin said, No coach, let him keep running, he’s hot right now,” Bethune says. “People on the outside tried to make it a rivalry between them, but they wouldn’t have it. They rooted for each other harder than their parents rooted for their own sons.”
– – –
”For the majority of these guys, coming from a poverty-stricken area,” says Fisher, “it’s survival of the fittest. If you make a mistake, you end up dead or hurt.”
Cook, Florida’s Mr. Football in 2013, originally committed to Clemson, then flipped to Florida before changing his pledge one last time. Before he signed with Florida State in January 2014, he’d already taken the summer and night classes necessary to graduate high school early and enroll in the spring. Yearby did the same and wound up attending the University of Miami, where he rushed for more than 2,000 yards over three seasons before declaring early for the 2017 draft.
“Our whole environment, there’s an everyday temptation of somebody trying to pull you in and make you do bad things,” Yearby says. “We faced temptation mostly every day of our lives. We just happened to beat the odds.”
Fisher says Cook was “tremendously” hard-working from the beginning: “He came in and acted like he was the lowest guy on the totem pole and he ended up being one of the hardest workers we ever had on this team.” He rushed for over 1,000 yards on 170 carries as a freshman in 2014, pairing with eventual No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston to lead FSU to an undefeated regular season and a playoff berth.
But during his freshman year at FSU, Cook became known to Tallahassee law enforcement on three occasions. He was charged with criminal mischief after a June BB gun incident that resulted in broken car windows. Also that summer, police cited him for mistreating puppies when, according to a citation issued by Tallahassee Animal Services, a state animal control officer observed “three puppies… tethered directly around the neck by a heavy chain. The dogs were unable to move and the smaller puppies were choking. I had to remove them for their safety.” That July, according to an ESPN report, Cook was named as an “associate” in an assault case of two men the Tallahassee police investigated for allegedly brandishing a firearm at a neighbor; the incident took place at Cook’s apartment.
Scouts running down the list of Cook’s transgressions early at Florida State heard from assistant coaches close to Cook that they felt he’d turned a corner late in his career in terms of maturity. “Coach Vic at FSU would tell us that Dalvin finally grew up this year and was trying to get Miami thugs out of his life and stopped going home,” said one southeast area scout for an NFL team. “They would come to Tallahassee and Dalvin would text Coach Vic when they were at his house and [Vic would] tell them to leave and be the enforcer.”
Cook denied having that sort of arrangement with Vic: “I was always a guy that stayed on top of what I had to stay on top of. Coach Fisher let me lead the team cause I was always that guy [who was] responsible.”
The summer before his sophomore year, Cook was accused of punching a woman outside of a Tallahassee bar after a confrontation and was charged with assault, to which he pled not guilty. While suspended and awaiting trial, Cook waited each day for the football team to finish summer workouts on the practice field, then got the script and matched their workouts by himself. A jury found Cook not guilty in August, and he was able to return to the football team, bursting into the national spotlight with 1,691 rushing yards in 2015.
“You learn that ball can be taken away from you quick,” Cook says. “I’ve been playing football since I was four years old. I love the game. Love everything it brings. So, you know, always think before you put yourself in those situations.”
* * *
There’s the sabotage that Cook has done to himself. There’s the sabotage that is a result of the environment he grew up in. And then there’s the sabotage that has come from others.
Tony Villani is not the saboteur. He runs XPE Sports in Boca Raton, one of a handful of preferred South Florida training spots for NFL players and ex-collegians preparing for the combine. Cook arrived in January, committed to perfecting his burst from a three-point stance, something he never had occasion to improve over three years and 5,399 yards from scrimmage as a Seminole, breaking Warrick Dunn’s career rushing record in the process. Cook showed up on time, he listened, and he learned, Villani says.
“I see a kid from inner-city Miami-Dade tearing up the field, and you’re expecting this cocky kid to walk in,” Villani says, “but he’s almost too humble and quiet. I’m sitting here trying to show Dalvin Cook how to put his foot in the ground and cut and do all these things, and he’s all about it.
“I loved him. When the top guy works as hard as he does, he makes your whole group better.”
To Villani’s surprise, after the Senior Bowl he started getting calls from scouts and coaches suggesting the opposite. He was told that an agent had started a rumor at the all-star game: Cook was showing up to workouts late—if he came at all—that he’d arrived with alcohol on his breath on occasion, and with unsavory characters from the neighborhood in tow.
“I told these guys, You know me, you know I’m not going to lie to you… you’ve got it wrong,” Villani says. “It got to the point where I felt I had to go to Dalvin’s agent and tell him about what people were saying.”
The MMQB spoke with representatives from nine NFL teams on the topic of Cook, and two scouts independently cited the same man as the source of several unverified Cook rumors. This man isn’t a certified agent, but a “runner,” a sort of industry free agent who helps certified agents recruit players during the draft process.
Villani says he swore off engaging in any business dealings with this runner years ago when he stiffed XPE on a client’s bill. A scout familiar with the runner suggested he might have had an informal business relationship with Cook before the prospect settled on different representation, though when told the runner’s name, Cook said he’d never heard of him.
Says Villani: “Unfortunately, with so many people out to make a buck off these kids before the draft, it’s the wild, wild west.”
– – –
Taken individually, all of the incidents surrounding Cook can be explained away by allies painting him as a victim of circumstances. But several teams have judged Cook as a chronic off-field concern, and a player who isn’t worth the headache. Of the nine teams polled by The MMQB, three said they had no interest in Cook because of his off-field track record. Said one NFC general manager, “he’s not off our board, but there are many concerns.”
Cook says he didn’t prepare for combine interviews with a paid tutor, like many of his fellow prospects now do. One team was dissatisfied enough with Cook’s interview that they eliminated him from consideration for their first-round pick.
“I just felt like I went in there and I was honest as could be,” Cook says. “Just be yourself. That’s just going to take care of itself. I love ball. I know ball. So, you know, that part is well taken care of.”
Fisher says he would be genuinely surprised if Cook didn’t succeed in the NFL. He cited Cook’s maturity, and a unique understanding of and love for the game. He was also irked by the scout’s quote. “That’s why the guy’s a scout and not a coach,” Fisher says. “When you coach a guy you know a guy. He loves ball and he’s a good person.”
Where Cook goes in the draft is anyone’s guess. Miss Betty believes the Eagles are very interested—they were the only team to reach out to her personally. Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley called her to talk about Dalvin’s character. “He was just telling me how much he wants Dalvin,” the proud grandmother beams. “He said ‘But I don’t think he’ll be there with the 14th pick, Miss Betty.’”
Dalvin isn’t worried about where he lands. He’s concerned with the next chapter, making it out of Dade and earning life-changing money. He wants the kind of success that makes anonymous scouts glad they stayed anonymous.
“Everybody got their own opinion,” Cook says. “It ain’t nothing to me but entertainment. I just work hard, wake up everyday with the same mindset. At the end of the day, when you successful, everybody’s opinion gonna change.”
Some thoughts on Draft Eve from Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com:
Here are five bold predictions that will happen Thursday during the 2016 NFL Draft. All five could be correct or all five could be misses, but that’s what makes them bold.
1. Jaguars draft a quarterback
In less than a week, teams must make a final decision on whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option on first round players from the 2014 NFL Draft class. The Jaguars have yet to decide on Bortles, but it is extremely unlikely Jacksonville picks up his option, making the 2017 season the final year of his rookie deal. The Jaguars have a roster that is ready to take the next step, but the quarterback has held them back and an upgrade should be a priority, making quarterback a very possible target at No. 4 overall.
2. Two quarterbacks go in the top 10
This draft class lacks a true top-10 quarterback, but the “value” of the position always pushes players up the board. A quarterback has been drafted in the top 10 in 15 of the last 16 years and that trend should continue this year, except there might be two passers in the top 10 picks, not just one. The Browns are a strong candidate to draft a quarterback, whether at No. 1 or much more likely with a trade up from pick No. 12. And then the Bears, Jaguars, Jets or another trade-up option could grab the second passer.
3. Four offensive linemen go in the top 25
Offensive tackle is the weakest position in the 2017 draft class. But supply and demand is an economic concept that applies in the draft — all 32 teams could use more depth on the offensive line, which will push offensive linemen up the board. With limited quantities, if a team doesn’t get its offensive tackle early, it will likely be out of luck. Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk, Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, Utah’s Garett Bolles and Alabama’s Cam Robinson all have a chance to go in the top 25 picks.
4. Reddick will be first LB picked, not Foster
Based simply on talent, Temple linebacker Haason Reddick and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster are very close with Foster getting the slight edge in my opinion. However, when factoring in the medicals and everything else that has happened with Foster this pre-draft process, including a diluted drug test and being sent home from the NFL Combine, Reddick is a much cleaner prospect. He isn’t as experienced, but his athleticism is what NFL teams covet.
5. Dalvin Cook slides out of Round 1
He shouldn’t, but the Florida State running back slides out of the first round. Cook is the best running back in this draft class based simply on the tape as a ball carrier. However, he has fumbling issues and isn’t reliable in pass protection so there are on-field concerns. And then off the field, Cook has a sketchy background that worries teams and his medicals have been flagged in the past and create concern. At a position with plenty of depth in this draft class, teams will opt to pass on Cook and get the running back later.
– – –
The final Mock Drafts are coming out – here is Peter King:
The best way to think about the weirdness of this draft is this: There’s a gulf between the first player on the vast majority of NFL boards—Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett—and the second player on those boards. And there is no consensus on who that second player is. That’s why this mock draft will probably be like every other one in the mediasphere before Thursday night: wrong.
Giving it our best shot here, on the eve of the 2017 draft. Notes: I don’t have Dalvin Cook in the first round because teams are worried about him off the field, but he certainly could go between 15 and 32 … I really wanted to put Davis Webb late in the round, because there is buzz on the Cal quarterback for his play and his leadership, and he may go 32 to a team wanting the fifth-year option on a quarterback … Seattle (26) and New Orleans (32) would love to move down to pick up an extra third-round selection … Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis is gaining loads of steam in the last few days, and it’s pretty solid he’ll be a first-rounder now.
Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
Getting serious about picking the best player, and not just a Hail Mary QB, at No. 1.
2. SAN FRANCISCO
Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
Niners could go in four or five directions—Garrett if Browns pass. Would love to deal down.
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Bears also big Solomon Thomas fans but will be happy with generational safety.
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Jags’ needs (T, QB) do not match this draft. Watch for Deshaun Watson here too.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Titans will be in play to trade down. In fact, most every team in top 10 is too.
6. CLEVELAND (from N.Y. Jets)
Browns trade 12th, 33rd and 181st picks for No. 6 overall.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Could divide the building, but owner hired DePodesta to make ballsy calls like this.
7. L.A. CHARGERS
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
This pick scares me, because GM Tom Telesco would love more of a sure thing.
Christian McCaffrey, RB/Slot/Returner, Stanford
Five more completions a game, and easy ones at that, for the needy Cam Newton.
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
After Garrett, Reddick is the best athlete on the defensive front seven in this draft.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Day one pass-rusher more important than 2018 quarterback for Sean McDermott.
11. NEW ORLEANS
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Might be best to physically distance Foster from his past, but he’s too good at a Saints need spot.
12. N.Y. JETS (from Cleveland)
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Jets get sixth-pick value by trading down … and get a tremendous weapon too.
Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Cards want a day one starter, and they luck into the falling Allen here.
Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Watch for WR Mike Williams and McCaffrey here too, if they are around.
Takkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
New GM Chris Ballard desperate to find a pass-rusher. McKinley’s his best shot.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Ravens like Reddick and Conley too, but they’re content to get this big WR for Flacco.
17. HOUSTON (from Washington)
Texans trade 25th and 57th picks for No. 17 overall.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Probably right where Watson should go. Texans need to trade into the teens to get the QB they want.
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Titans wanted a starting CB and WR in the first round. In my mock, they get both.
19. TAMPA BAY
Cam Robinson, T, Alabama
Only day one LT in the draft, most scouts think, and here he is. Bucs thrilled.
Ryan Ramczyk, T, Wisconsin
Hip surgery soured some on this Division III transfer, but he dominated Big Ten in ’16.
David Njoku, TE, Miami
Lions might not sign former TE wunderkind Ebron to second contract. Thus Njoku.
Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Position of desperate need when you play Tom Brady eight quarters a year.
23. N.Y. GIANTS
Garrett Bolles, T, Utah
Three tackles have a chance to play as rookies. Giants really hope to get one of them.
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Eternal quest for next Willie Brown or Charles Woodson continues.
25. WASHINGTON (from Houston)
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
I hear Washington is divided on Dalvin Cook; Davis is the pick over Charles Harris here.
Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
GM John Schneider overlooks Lamp’s short arms because he thinks he can start day one.
27. KANSAS CITY
Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Not what Andy Reid planned, but the talent is too good to pass up. Alex Smith heir.
Charles Harris, LB, Missouri
Lots of interest in Harris late in round. Late bloomer has played football just five years.
29. GREEN BAY
T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin
Just too perfect, a Wisconsin kid with Clay Matthews motor helping Matthews on rush.
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
I’ll be honest here: I just want Peppers in the first round. The nickel/LB/PR is a star.
Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
Atlanta wants fastest, most productive pass-rusher/safety … and Willis is a 4.57 hustler.
32. ARIZONA (from New Orleans)
John Ross, WR, Washington
Arizona trades 45th and 77th picks for No. 32 overall.
Had to get Ross into the first round. Cards get the fastest guy in the draft, and a good WR.
Let’s also take a look at Rob Rang from CBSSports.com:
1. CLEVELAND BROWNS
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: The clear top need in Cleveland is at quarterback but frankly it would be a stunner if anyone other than Garrett was the first pick, as he is simply the best player in the draft. Garrett lived up to his hype at the Combine, dazzling with his combination of size (6-4, 272), power (33 repetitions of 225 pounds) and speed (4.64) and explosiveness (41-inch vertical).
2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: Head coach Kyle Shanahan was hired to help spark a listless offense that ranked 27th in the NFL in points scored and dead last in passing last season but ignoring better players just to draft a quarterback may only guarantee another poor season in 2017. Thomas is a natural disruptor who has drawn comparisons to LA Rams star Aaron Donald. He could be the perfect finishing touch for a defense line currently better prepared to stuff the run than bother rival quarterbacks.
3. CHICAGO BEARS
Jamal Adams, SS, LSU: Safety has long been a sore spot in Chicago with only one Bears safety (Mike Brown) earning an invitation to the Pro Bowl over the past 20 years. Adams has that kind of potential and is viewed by some as the safest prospect in the draft. He is a tone-setter with a rare combination of instincts, athleticism and intangibles to make an immediate impact on a defense that made strides a year ago but allowed 24.9 points per game, 24th in the NFL.
4. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Splashy signings in free agency suggest that the Jaguars are looking for an immediate difference-maker with this pick. The Cowboys went from last to first in the NFC during the regular season a year ago in large part because of the stellar play of 2016 No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott and the Jaguars could see a similar bounce with Fournette taking the pressure off of young Blake Bortles and the passing game. Fournette was not as impressive at the Combine as expected but he is a freakish talent, boasting the most exciting combination of size, speed and power since Adrian Peterson.
5. TENNESSEE TITANS (FROM LOS ANGELES)
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: The addition of veterans Logan Ryan and Jonathan Cyprien help but only the most optimistic of Titans fans believe that they can turn a secondary that ranked 31st a year ago against the pass into an elite unit. Now if a talent like Lattimore was added to the mix, on the other hand, optimism would be much higher. Lattimore struggled with hamstring injuries early in his career at Ohio State but he was dominant last season, showing the easy agility, acceleration and instincts to project as a future Pro Bowler.
6. NY JETS
Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State: Last season only two teams (Cleveland, Detroit) allowed a worse ratio of touchdown passes allowed to interception than the Jets’ user-friendly defense, which surrendered 30 scores and only picked off 10 passes. Given the aggressive nature of defensive-minded head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan’s trusted Best Player Available strategy, it is easy to envision the duo falling in love with Hooker, whose range and ball skills (seven interceptions in 2016) could have the Jets flying much higher in 2017.
7. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama: The Chargers won big a year ago with Joey Bosa and could be in a similar position this year should Allen fall into their lap. The 6-3, 286-pound Allen has the intangibles the Chargers have long prized and could remind new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley of former Seahawks pupil Michael Bennett with his positional versatility, initial burst and coordinated, powerful hand play.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: Though he is far from the only one to blame for Carolina’s woes on offense, the Panthers’ slip last season in running the ball puts the spotlight once again on Jonathan Stewart’s struggles with durability. The 13th overall pick of the 2008 draft has only played in 16 regular season games three times over his nine-year career and not since 2011. Pairing him with a dynamic runner, receiver and returner like McCaffrey could be the perfect fit – and one made easier with Carolina re-hiring assistant coach Lance Murphy, who spent the past three coaching McCaffrey at Stanford.
9. CINCINNATI BENGALS
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: Adding a young pass rusher to complement veterans Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap is expected to be among the Bengals’ top draft day priorities.
10. BUFFALO BILLS
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: Whether it be in the form of wide receivers or tight ends, the Bills need to bring in more weapons for re-signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After watching Greg Olsen become the Carolina Panthers’ most trusted pass catcher while serving as defensive coordinator, new Bills head coach Sean McDermott may see Howard as the better complement to an offense expected to remain centered around the running game.
11. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: The Saints ranked 27th in the NFL a year ago with just 30 sacks, a real concern given the quarterback talent in the NFC South. Help is on the way with former Arizona Cardinals’ edge rusher Alex Okafor but he signed only a one year deal. It took a while for the light to come on for Charlton at Michigan but he led the Big Ten in sacks a year ago in his first season as a full-time starter. Boasting a terrific combination of burst, bend and length, Charlton has Pro Bowl potential.
12. CLEVELAND BROWNS (FROM PHILADELPHIA)
Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: The splashy trade for Brock Osweiler is not likely to keep Cleveland from drafting another quarterback. Trubisky is obviously a roll of the dice given that he only started one year for the Tar Heels but he showed impressive accuracy, athleticism and pocket awareness in 2016. The Ohio native possesses the combination of upside and intangibles that Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson prioritized with their draft picks a year ago.
13. ARIZONA CARDINALS
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech: The Cardinals have publicly stated their intention to find a young quarterback to groom under Carson Palmer and teams are excited about Mahomes’ upside. After starring in Tech’s shotgun-heavy Air-Raid offense, Mahomes is undeniably a project but he possesses the gunslinger mentality and arm talent to excite Bruce Arians.
14. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (FROM MINNESOTA)
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: Last year’s starters Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll are gone and free agent addition Patrick Robinson was only signed to a one-year deal. Humphrey, the top-rated corner on some boards, is an NFL legacy with a rare combination of size (6-0, 197 pounds) and speed (4.41). At just 20-years old, Humphrey appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential.
15. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple: The Colts have needs all over the defense and could see the versatile and explosive Reddick as immediate help at a number of positions. Reddick recorded 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as an edge rusher for the Owls in 2016 before wowing first at the Senior Bowl as a more traditional linebacker at the Senior Bowl and then at the Combine, recording a ridiculous 4.52 second time in the 40-yard dash and 11-feet-1-inch broad jump at 6-1, 234 pounds.
16. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: The Ravens need help at edge rusher and offensive tackle, as well, but general manager Ozzie Newsome may have a hard time letting a prototypical split end like the 6-4, 218-pound Williams slip any further. His ability to box out defenders and win contested passes could make him a quick favorite for Joe Flacco, who lost similarly sure-handed receivers Steve Smith, Sr. and Kamar Aiken over the offseason.
17. WASHINGTON REDSKINS
(8-7-1) Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama: The Redskins surrendered an average of nearly 120 yards per game on the ground in 2016 and only three teams (the Chargers, Bills and 49ers) allowed more than their 19 rushing touchdowns. Foster is a top 10 talent but may suffer a slide on draft day after questions about his decision-making off the field and durability on it surfaced since the season ended. Possessing remarkable closing speed and the physicality to intimidate, he could prove a steal at this point in the draft.
18. TENNESSEE TITANS
(9-7) David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.): The Titans’ commitment to running the football already puts a lot of stress on opposing linebackers and safeties and adding a seam threat like the ultra-athletic Njoku would only make Tennessee that much more difficult to stop. Few know the value of a playmaking tight end more than Titans’ general manager Jon Robinson, who cut his teeth in New England.
19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: With Doug Martin facing a four game suspension for PED use and coming off of his third injury-shortened season, the Bucs understandably could be looking for help at running back. Reuniting Cook with former FSU teammate Jameis Winston could be the perfect solution. Cook has off-field and durability concerns of his own but he is an ideal fit in this offense as a slashing runner with terrific hands.
20. DENVER BRONCOS
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: On paper, the signings of former Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson and Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary make up for the decision to let starting left tackle Russell Okung walk in free agency but reality could prove different. Ramczyk has the feet to handle blindside duties and at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, possesses the girth to move people in the running game, as well.
21. DETROIT LIONS
T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin: Aggressive moves in free agency signal that Detroit has high expectations in 2017. A healthy Ziggy Ansah for the entire season would certainly go a long way towards boosting the pass rush but he could use some help. Watt is surprisingly polished given that he began his career at tight end, showing the instincts and refined hand play to make an immediate impact opposite Ansah, who led the NFC with 14.5 sacks when healthy in 2015.
22. MIAMI DOLPHINS
Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky: Trading away starting left tackle Branden Albert (to Jacksonville) says a lot about the Dolphins’ confidence in last year’s first round pick Laremy Tunsil. While Tunsil should have no problem re-acclimating to tackle after starring at left guard last season, his absence inside could be an issue. Lamp looks like a plug and play solution after a seamless transition inside to guard at the Senior Bowl.
23. NY GIANTS
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah: The Giants rushed for a miniscule 3.5 yards per carry in 2016 and scored a league-low six touchdowns on the ground and its tackles struggled with speed rushers. Adding former first round pick D.J. Fluker helps at guard but if an athletic left tackle like Bolles was still on the board, incumbent starting blindside blocker Ereck Flower could be moved to his more natural right side, potentially improving three positions immediately.
24. OAKLAND RAIDERS
Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida: The Raiders feature two of the better rush linebackers in the NFL in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. The inside, however, is a relative weak spot. Plugging the instinctive and passionate Davis into this defense could be exactly the type of immediate impact pick needed to re-energize a fan base smarting due to the club’s plans to relocate to Las Vegas.
25. HOUSTON TEXANS
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Getting rid of the colossal Osweiler contract was a relief in itself but unless a veteran replacement (Tony Romo?) is found, quarterback is now the top priority again in Houston. Watson’s ability to deliver in the clutch intrigues scouts but he also threw an FBS-worst 30 interceptions over the past two seasons, making him a polarizing player in the scouting community. At this point in the draft, however, GM Rick Smith might see him as simply too talented to pass up.
26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Obi Melifonwu, SS, Connecticut: While general manager John Schneider recently suggested that disgruntled All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman likely will be playing in Seattle next season, the depth behind him is a significant concern. Melifonwu checks a lot of the boxes that Seattle looks for in the secondary, including durability, versatility, length and sheer athleticism.
27. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Zach Cunningham, OLB, Vanderbilt: Linebacker is a clear need in Kansas City with veteran Derrick Johnson again rehabilitating a torn Achilles. Cunningham, the SEC’s leading tackler in 2016 and a two-time First Team all-conference selection, possesses the speed and instincts to help fill that hole.
28. DALLAS COWBOYS
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: The Cowboys’ gambles on recent character concerns at pass rusher have not paid off and adding a playmaker to this unit should be a top priority. Harris possesses the burst, bend and lethal spin move to wreak havoc off the edge and, after only joining the sport as a junior in high school, he possesses the upside for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to develop.
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: With clear needs at edge rusher, cornerback and running back, Ted Thompson has plenty of options with this pick with splashy athletes like UCLA’s Takk McKinley and even Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon possibly in the mix. Conley, however, is the cleaner prospect on and off the field and fills a clear need with the sticky cover skills to help immediate.
30. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Jabrill Peppers, SS, Michigan: Due in part to the flashy play of rookies Artie Burns and Sean Davis, the Steelers made strides in the secondary last season. More help is needed, however. Asked to play all over the field at Michigan, Peppers is a polarizing prospect in the scouting community but his instincts, aggression and terrific open-field tackling might remind GM Kevin Colbert of former Steelers’ great Troy Polamalu.
31. ATLANTA FALCONS
Budda Baker, FS, Washington: After surrendering a Super Bowl record 466 passing yards to Tom Brady, no one should be surprised if the Falcons opt to reinforce the secondary. At just 5-10, 195 pounds, Baker does not possess ideal size but Dan Quinn has previously been willing to overlook that at free safety with the 5-09, 185 Ricardo Allen currently starting in Atlanta and previously working with Earl Thomas (5-10, 202) in Seattle. Baker has more range and quickness than Allen, projecting as a traditional centerfielder who can drop down to help at nickel, as well.
32. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (FROM NEW ENGLAND)
John Ross, WR, Washington: Sure, the Saints have much bigger concerns on defense but general manager Mickey Loomis may see Ross as the perfect replacement for Brandin Cooks. Ross, who set an all-time NFL record at the Combine with a 4.22 second 40-yard dash, has the jets to blow by the bigger, bulkier cornerbacks in the NFC South. Durability concerns, however, could lead to a draft day tumble for the speedster.