The Daily Briefing Wednesday, April 4, 2018
AROUND THE NFL
Arthur Blank is confident that QB MATT RYAN will get his extension. Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
It’s natural that concern is growing over protracted contract negotiations between the Falcons and quarterback Matt Ryan, but the owner of the team said there is nothing to worry about it.
Arthur Blank said Tuesday via email that there is no timetable for getting a deal done with Ryan, who is entering the final year of his contact.
“The most direct and honest answer is: no need to worry, good conversations are happening, they are positive and there’s no timetable for this,” the Falcons’ owner wrote.
Ryan is scheduled to earn $19.250 million in base salary this season. The Falcons missed their window to close a deal for an extension that might have lowered Ryan’s salary-cap figure before the start of free agency. The fact that a contract has not been finalized yet does not mean a deal won’t get done, but it could make things problematic down the road.
— An extension is negotiated before the NFL draft (April 26-28) or shortly thereafter: This would give the Falcons an idea of their budget before having to sign their draft picks and for the remainder of free agency.
— A deal is signed during training camp or into the season: This would at least give the Falcons some sense of salary-cap ramifications moving forward, as they begin project negotiations with Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett, Tevin Coleman, Ricardo Allen and others who can become unrestricted free agents in 2019.
— A deal isn’t signed before the 2019 season: The Falcons theoretically could still put the franchise tag on Ryan for the 2019 and even the 2020 seasons. But that would lead to more salary-cap problems and potentially could create friction between the two sides.
The Falcons never were going to be major free-agent shoppers this offseason. So while it’s not good that a deal hasn’t been done yet, Blank is correct in saying it’s not a major issue yet.
RB DAVID JOHNSON is back working out with the team after missing the final 15 games last season with a wrist injury. Adam Wells of Bleacher Report:
NFL Network’s Omar Ruiz shared a video of Johnson working out after reporting he has been fully cleared for football activities:
Johnson injured his left wrist in the third quarter of Arizona’s first game last season against the Detroit Lions. He was diagnosed with a dislocated wrist and underwent surgery on Sept. 17.
Then-head coach Bruce Arians announced in November that Johnson wouldn’t return to the field due to a lack of progress in his rehab from surgery.
A third-round pick by the Cardinals in 2015, Johnson emerged as their starting running back two years ago. He led the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage and 20 total touchdowns during the 2016 season.
Coming off an 8-8 record last season, the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to take over as their starting quarterback after Carson Palmer retired. Johnson’s return will provide a safety net for the offense because of his ability to run out of the backfield or line up at wide receiver.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
WR BRANDIN COOKS is one and done in New England – and he’s headed to Los Angeles.
The New England Patriots have traded receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams for the 23rd overall pick in this year’s draft.
As part of the deal, which was officially announced by the Rams on Tuesday night, New England also sent a fourth-round pick (No. 136 overall) to Los Angeles and received a sixth-round pick (No. 198 overall) from the Rams.
The deal helps both teams in different ways.
The Rams — who had explored a trade for Odell Beckham Jr. but liked the Cooks option better — were seeking a vertical threat for second-year coach Sean McVay’s dynamic offense after Sammy Watkins joined the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.
The speedy Cooks, who totaled 65 receptions for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns for the Patriots last season, fills that void alongside Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Cooks had 16 receptions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield last season, tied with DeAndre Hopkins for most in the NFL.
Cooks had made a strong impression on many in New England after the team acquired him last offseason from the New Orleans Saints for a package that included the Patriots’ first-round pick (No. 32 overall), but he was entering the final year of his contract (due to earn $8.459 million) at a time when salaries for top pass-catchers have skyrocketed.
The Patriots attempted to re-sign Cooks before talks broke off, and the Rams now will continue those talks with the intent to sign Cooks to a long-term deal, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
By trading Cooks, the Patriots accumulated assets at a time when quarterback Tom Brady turns 41 in August and tight end Rob Gronkowski appears to be on a year-to-year plan in terms of how much longer he will play.
The Patriots, who hope to sustain success as some of their star players enter the final stages of their careers, now have two first-round picks (No. 23, 31) and two second-rounders (No. 43, 63), along with a third-rounder (95), two sixth-rounders and a seventh-rounder this year.
As for their wide receiver depth chart, it is still well stocked with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron and Cody Hollister, although the club will miss Cooks’ blazing speed and durability, as he played 92.7 percent of the offensive snaps in the regular season and coach Bill Belichick said he never missed a practice.
Cooks had 10 catches for 155 yards in the postseason before being knocked out of the team’s Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles with a concussion in the second quarter.
Analysis of the deal from the Rams point of view from Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com:
Les Snead, in his seventh year as the Los Angeles Rams’ general manager, had spent the entire offseason wheeling and dealing for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, parting with Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn, trading for Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, signing Ndamukong Suh.
Apparently he didn’t want Sean McVay, his head coach and offensive playcaller, to feel left out.
On Tuesday afternoon, Snead acquired a new No. 1 wide receiver at a heavy price. He sent his upcoming first-round pick, No. 23 overall, to the New England Patriots in exchange for the speedy Brandin Cooks, who will replace the departed Sammy Watkins as the new “X” receiver and highly coveted vertical threat. The Rams also received a fourth-round pick, giving them three in this year’s draft, and sent away a sixth-round pick for the third time this offseason.
They don’t have a pick in the first two rounds of this year’s draft, they don’t have any real wiggle room underneath the salary cap, and they don’t have much certainty at three of their four linebacker spots. But here’s what they do have: A menacing defensive line, with Suh — scheduled to be introduced on Wednesday morning — joining Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. A standout secondary, with Talib and Peters joining the trio of Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson III and Nickell Robey-Coleman. And, now, an elite wide-receiver group for an offense that came alive under McVay last season.
Cooks will play a similar role to Watkins, stretching the field vertically to free up the likes of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley. But he’s faster, younger and more productive than Watkins. He isn’t as dynamic as Odell Beckham Jr., the mercurial New York Giants star the Rams were recently linked to, but he also doesn’t bring any of the baggage.
Cooks represents the third player at the end of his rookie contract that the Rams have traded for in a span of eight months, after Watkins and Peters. In those deals, the Rams gave up this year’s first- and second-round pick and next year’s second-round pick, their intentions crystal clear: They’ll try to build a dominant team now and worry about the rest later.
Cooks, 24, is represented by Ryan Tollner of Rep1 Sports, the same agent as the Rams’ franchise quarterback, Jared Goff. The connection gives the Rams confidence that they can sign Cooks long term, but it’s Goff’s timeline that even makes this possible.
The Rams are a contending team getting great value at the most important position, which frees up their ability to be so aggressive elsewhere.
Goff will cost about $16.5 million toward the salary cap over the next two seasons, then will be on his fifth-year option in 2020. Before then, the Rams will look to extend Donald and Cooks, and potentially Gurley and Peters. It’ll make for some tricky salary-cap maneuvering. But the Rams are currently projected to have roughly $250 million in salary-cap space going into the next two offseasons, more so than any other team.
Cooks, now traded for a first-round pick twice in less than 13 months, has totaled 227 receptions for 3,393 yards and 24 touchdowns with the Patriots and the New Orleans Saints over the past three years, ranking 15th in the NFL in yards per catch during that time. He is one of four players to record at least three seasons of 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns before his 25th birthday, joining Randy Moss, John Jefferson and Beckham. The only other player with at least 1,000 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in each of the last three seasons is Pittsburgh Steelers superstar Antonio Brown, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Cooks fills what McVay always considered a major need in the Rams’ offense, one the team could only hope to piece together beforehand. He cost a lot, but he is the final piece to an offense that now looks about as menacing and elite as the Rams’ defense and special teams.
Now the Rams have to justify it all with a Super Bowl.
More from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
The good news is, the Rams are in great salary cap shape for 2019: According to Spotrac.com, the Rams have $81 million in 2019 cap space, the second-most of any team in the NFL.
The bad news is, the Rams are going to need every penny of that cap space in 2019 to keep their top players in Los Angeles.
The top priority will be defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is heading into the final season of his contract. He’ll want a new deal that makes him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, and he’s certain to have a big cap hit in 2019.
Cooks is also going into the final year of his contract. You don’t trade a first-round draft pick for a player just to let him walk away after one year, so the Rams will surely work on getting Cooks done, with a pricey deal that will chip away at that 2019 cap space.
Suh is on a one-year deal. With all the Rams’ cap space, perhaps they can afford to sign him to another deal next year, but that cap space will dry up once they start getting deals done with Donald, Cooks and other players. There’s a good chance Suh will head elsewhere in a year.
Talib still has two more years on his contract, but he’s 32 years old and may no longer be worth his $11 million base salary. There’s a reason the Broncos made it known they were looking to trade Talib and could only get a fifth-round draft pick for him in return: He’s old and expensive. He’s a player you acquire to win now, but not a player you build around.
Peters, as the Chiefs’ 2015 first-round draft pick, has an affordable salary of $1.7 million this year. But that salary will skyrocket to $9.5 million when the Rams pick up his fifth-year option for 2019. Ditto for the Rams’ own 2015 first-round pick, Todd Gurley, who whose salary likewise skyrockets from $2.3 million this year to $9.6 million next year.
Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner is on the franchise tag this year, which means he’s not under contract in 2019, which means the Rams are either going to lose him or pay him a whole lot of money a year from now.
And one other position the Rams need to be thinking about is left tackle, where last year’s acquisition of Andrew Whitworth was a great move in the short term but not a solution in the long term. Whitworth will turn 37 this year and realistically won’t be around much longer. Left tackles are expensive, and the Rams will need to go shopping for a new one to protect Jared Goff sooner rather than later.
All of these old and/or expensive players can’t be replaced easily in the draft because the Rams have traded away so many picks: They sent their first-round pick to New England for Cooks, their second-round pick to Buffalo for Sammy Watkins, their fourth-round pick this year and second-round pick next year to Kansas City for Peters, their fifth-round pick to Denver for Talib and their seventh-round pick to Washington for Derek Carrier. The Rams have added some draft picks in trades as well, but those are late in the draft: The Rams’ first draft pick is 87th overall, and that’s their only pick in the Top 130.
So it’s fun to watch the Rams go all-in for 2018. But this whole thing could go south quickly. Adding players in the last years of their contracts and trading away high draft picks is a good way to fall off a cliff in 2019.
DE ROBERT QUINN was shocked at being traded by the Rams. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
As the Rams shake things up in L.A., adding big-name pieces as they pursue big-time results (on the field and at the cash register), they’ll be forced to make tough decisions about some of the players who were perceived to be key components of the team. This year, defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Alec Ogletree — supposed cornerstones of the team’s defense — was abruptly and unceremoniously traded.
Quinn isn’t happy about it. And yet he is.
“It’s like this, this is the first time I’ve been traded,” Quinn told reporters on Wednesday, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “You commit yourself to someone and you have your family turn their back on you.”
Quinn added that he was shocked by the news of the deal, even though he seems to welcome the move to Miami.
Per Salguero, Quinn called the move “a breath of fresh air,” adding that he was “suffocating” with the Rams.
“I’m not a West Coast guy, put it that way,” Quinn said.
He’s now an East Coast guy. And, perhaps more importantly, a no-state-income-tax guy. That alone will let him keep 13.3 cents from every dollar he earns.
With the trade of WR BRANDIN COOKS (see LOS ANGELES RAMS), the Patriots are expected to keep TE ROB GRONKOWSKI by the “experts.”
Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Patriots provided Tuesday’s biggest news when they traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams, but it doesn’t look like there’s another big deal brewing with another one of their receiving threats.
There’s been chatter about the possibility of a trade involving tight end Rob Gronkowski in various corners since the Super Bowl, but no smoke indicating that a deal is close to happening. According to a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, there’s good reason for that.
Rapoport reports that the Patriots have had no trade talks involving Gronkowski this offseason. As a result, they expect to have him on the roster for the 2018 season.
That is contingent on Gronkowski playing, of course. The most recent report on that front is that the tight end is likely to keep playing despite frustrations with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, although nothing’s come from Gronkowski since saying he’d take some time to think about his future after the Super Bowl loss to the Eagles.
Have the Patriots loaded up to go after a quarterback? Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com:
Three teams in the AFC East could now be angling for top-shelf quarterbacks in the draft.
The Jets already sit in prime position after moving from No. 6 to No. 3 last month. The Bills, with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and two third-round picks, have the ammo to make the climb as high as No. 2, maybe No. 1.
And now the Patriots, who have added the 23rd overall pick to go with the 31st pick and two second-rounders, can try to make a move up the board to get one of the best quarterbacks in the incoming class.
It’s no secret that the Patriots are once again looking for a potential successor to Tom Brady, given the trade that sent Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers in exchanges for a second-rounder. And if coach Bill Belichick is truly considering a trade that would send tight end Rob Gronkowski to a new team (a proposition that becomes less plausible with receiver Brandin Cooks gone), Gronk could yield another high pick to be added to the pile — or he could be the player who, coupled with the two first-round picks, gets the deal done.
However it plays out, Belichick may have one or more tricks up his cut-off sleeves. Watching it play out over the next three weeks will be one of the most compelling aspects of the offseason.
And this about QB TOM BRADY being okay this time the Patriots shipped out one of his receivers:
In 2017, Brandin Cooks led New England Patriots wide receivers in snaps, targets, receptions, yards, yards per catch and touchdowns.
Apparently, Tom Brady won’t miss that production.
The Patriots didn’t see Cooks as a true No. 1 receiver prior to his trade to the Los Angeles Rams, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. In addition, Tom Brady wasn’t against the decision to part ways with him, Rapoport reported.
The Brady-Cooks deep connection lacked efficiency, but the speedster did help stretch the field for the rest of the offense.
According to Rapoport, despite Cook’s numbers, he wasn’t a great fit in the Patriots’ offense. Cooks is a great talent who wasn’t as precise as the Patriots needed and didn’t mesh with their idea of spacing, per Rapoport.
The Patriots moved on after Bill Belichick decided he wasn’t going to pay Cooks No. 1 receiver money. New England also believe wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who missed the entire 2017 season because of a knee injury, will be a productive receiver for the team this season, per Rapoport.
Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com looks at the Patriots maneuvering and what it foretells for the future:
What’s fascinating now, of course, is what the Patriots are suddenly positioned to do. New England now has two first-rounders (Nos. 23 and 31) and two second-rounders (Nos. 43 and 63) to play with in this year’s draft, which is an awful lot of draft capital for Belichick to work with. Belichick has made a career out of trading down and taking advantage of other GM’s overconfidence on draft day, but I think it’s unlikely that the Pats are going to turn these four picks into seven or eight selections.
The Patriots have occasionally traded up on draft day, with Rob Gronkowski serving as an example of one such player. If Belichick sees a quarterback he thinks could serve as the long-term replacement for Tom Brady, would he package some or all of those picks to move up and grab somebody? The Patriots couldn’t afford to hold onto Garoppolo given that the now-49ers starter was going to be a free agent after the 2017 season, but whichever quarterback they draft would be making what amounts to a backup passer’s salary and have plenty of time to develop behind Brady.
By the traditional Jimmy Johnson chart, picks 23, 31 and 43 would be enough to push the Pats past the Broncos and into the fourth overall pick. It would be strange to see the Pats trade up for what would possibly be the fourth quarterback of this year’s draft, but they also don’t appear to have the resources to move up to the second overall pick unless they deal away their 2019 first-rounder or another player off of their roster. Could Trey Flowers, himself a free agent after this season, be enough to convince the Giants to move down from the second pick for that package?
The other tantalizing possibility involves a player on the Giants’ roster. General manager Dave Gettleman has reportedly been looking for two first-round picks from teams looking to acquire star wideout Odell Beckham Jr., and the Patriots suddenly have two first-round picks in this year’s draft to work with. Beckham is under contract for one more year at $8.5 million, and while Cooks wasn’t necessarily a great fit for the Patriots offense, Beckham’s ability to accelerate after the catch and turn routine slants and crossing routes into touchdowns would make him a terrifying matchup with Brady in the fold.
Would the Pats pay a wide receiver as much as Beckham is likely to want from a team in free agency? Probably not. New England’s mostly shopped in the bargain bin with wide receivers and gotten excellent production from players like Edelman and Wes Welker for a fraction of their actual value. (Welker did get one franchise tag after his initial five-year deal expired.) From outside the organization, they’ve targeted restricted free agents like Welker, Hogan and Emmanuel Sanders, and made modest short-term commitments to Brandon LaFell and Brandon Lloyd. They’ve let players like Deion Branch, David Givens and now Cooks leave in lieu of paying them market-value deals, picking up first-rounders for Branch and Cooks in the process.
The one notable exception, of course, is Randy Moss. The Patriots traded for Moss on the cheap, sending a fourth-rounder to the Raiders while convincing Moss to sign a one-year, $2.5 million deal to play with Brady. Moss promptly delivered one of the best seasons by a wide receiver in league history.
After the year, the Pats signed Moss to a three-year, $27 million deal with $15 million in guarantees. That was in a league where the salary cap was at $116 million — under the current cap, that deal would look more like a three-year, $41 million pact. Moss unquestionably took less money than he could have found on the free market to stay with the Patriots, and Beckham would surely be looking to top the $17 million per year Antonio Brown got on his most recent extension, but it’s not impossible to imagine a world in which Belichick pays a premium for a truly transcendent wide receiver.
More than anything, what this deal affords the Pats is flexibility to fill one or more holes on their roster. They have a major need at offensive tackle after losing Nate Solder, and could use pieces along the defensive line and at cornerback. Another wide receiver wouldn’t hurt, either. Belichick has the assets to move up, down and around the board to target the guys he wants, and he has a track record of winning those trades more often than not. Belichick’s trade history isn’t enough alone to call this one a win for the Patriots, but given that he managed to rent a star wide receiver for a year at the cost of a sixth-round pick when other teams are paying premiums to bring in backups, it’s pretty clear that the greatest coach in league history is on another level altogether.
THIS AND THAT
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com tries to figure out what Jim Mora thinks of his former quarterback JOSH ROSEN:
In days and weeks preceding the draft, a prospect’s college coach is expected to be over-the-top in his praise of the player. Typically, it’s all taken with a grain of salt, because that’s what the coach is supposed to say.
An assessment from a coach becomes noteworthy, then, when it’s anything but over the top. Enter the multiple statements made in recent days by former UCLA coach Jim Mora. They were far from over the top.
Mora said that former USC quarterback Sam Darnold is a better fit than Rosen for the Browns. Mora told Peter King of SI.com that Rosen “needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored,” that “[h]e’s a millennial,” that “[h]e wants to know why,” that “Josh has a lot of interests in life,” and that “[i]f you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire.” Mora said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that “[i]f Josh manages his life off the football field and commits to being a great football player not just when he’s at the facility, but when he’s away from the facility, he is going to be amazingly successful.”
Mora appeared on Tuesday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show to further elaborate on Rosen. This time around, Mora was far closer to being over-the-top in his praise. Mora also insisted that he’s been “really clear” and “really consistent” in his message about Rosen, and that his views should be regarded as “very, very complimentary” and “very, very positive.”
“Things can be misrepresented at times when people decide to edit it a certain way,” Mora said.
Mora went on to say that Rosen does indeed need to be challenged intellectually, but Mora said that’s not a bad thing. He compared Rosen to other cerebral quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, pointing out that former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison recently told Mora that Manning’s inquisitive nature routinely kept meetings going longer than they otherwise would have gone.
“Josh loves football,” Mora said. “There’s been a question, ‘Does Josh love football?’ He loves football. He’s on record as saying, ‘If I didn’t love football, I wouldn’t play football.”
Mora also said that Rosen has never indicated that he doesn’t want to play for the Browns, explaining that Rosen is a “competitor” who wants to be the first pick.
“You want to be recognized as the best,” Mora said.
Still, people will look at the full body of Mora’s comments and wonder whether the guy who coached him at UCLA truly does.
– – –
How about this – not one, but two dueling Mock Drafts from ESPN’s dynamic duo of Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay (although there really isn’t that much diversity of thought). They go on and do a 2nd round. We have the 1st round below, see the 2nd round here:
1. Cleveland Browns
Kiper: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen, my top-ranked quarterback, can sit behind Tyrod Taylor in 2018 and take the Week 1 snaps in 2019.
McShay: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
I’ve had Darnold here in all three of my mocks. Nothing he has done at the combine or pro day has changed my thoughts on this pick.
2. New York Giants
Kiper: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold won’t have to play early, giving him time refine his mechanics and footwork. Unless the G-Men get a trade offer they can’t refuse.
2. Buffalo Bills (from Giants via Bengals)*
McShay: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
A trade! I know, I am flouting Kiper’s rules. Here’s what I’m projecting:
Bills get: Pick No. 2
Giants get: Pick Nos. 12, 22 and 53
I’m hearing a lot of buzz that a deal could happen between Buffalo and the Giants at No. 2. The strong-armed Allen fits the AFC East, and the Bills can be patient with him as AJ McCarron can start in 2018. Allen has the highest upside of the quarterbacks in this class, but he also might need the most polish.
3. New York Jets (from Colts)
Kiper: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
General manager Mike Maccagnan didn’t trade up to not take a quarterback. And starter Josh McCown will be 39 when Week 1 begins.
McShay: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
This pick seems as if it probably will come down to Rosen or Baker Mayfield. Rosen is more polished, and if Maccagnan is OK with the character issues, Rosen is the pick here.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Texans)
Kiper: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Cleveland gets its quarterback at No. 1 and some help for its quarterback at No. 4. Barkley is my top-ranked prospect overall.
McShay: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
A dream scenario for GM John Dorsey, who gets his QB at No. 1 and the best player in the draft at 4.
5. Denver Broncos
Kiper: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Case Keenum got only a two-year deal in free agency. Mayfield could take his job at some point … and be the Broncos’ starter for the next 12 years.
McShay: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
I’m told Mayfield is a legit possibility here, but I think they pass if Chubb is still on the board.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from Jets)
Kiper: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Easy choice here. Indy needs pass-rushers, and Chubb is the best in the class.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Colts via Jets)*
McShay: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Miami gets: Pick No. 6
Indianapolis gets: Pick Nos. 11, 42
If Denver passes on Mayfield, I think Miami pounces and moves up to get him. Moving up wouldn’t bankrupt Miami from a draft capital standpoint. The Dolphins like Ryan Tannehill when he’s healthy, but they can’t trust him to stay on the field.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kiper: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Easy choice here, too. The Bucs’ pass defense was woeful in 2017, and Ward is the best true corner in this class.
McShay: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
I’m with Mel here. Tampa Bay still needs help in the secondary, so the Bucs take the best man-to-man corner on the board.
8. Chicago Bears
Kiper: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
I thought about a linebacker here, but Nelson fills a big hole and should help Mitchell Trubisky.
McShay: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Josh Sitton is gone and Nelson would represent a big upgrade. This continues a promising offseason trend of Chicago giving Trubisky what he needs to succeed.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Kiper: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick could start at corner — opposite Richard Sherman — or safety for the 49ers, who have a young, talented front seven but need to fill out the secondary.
McShay: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
San Francisco would love if Nelson fell here, but CB is still a need. John Lynch will go for the best player available and Fitzpatrick is the best player on the board.
10. Oakland Raiders
Kiper: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
As the first pick in the (new) Jon Gruden era, Smith could become one of the faces of the Raiders.
McShay: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
Raiders have choice between the high-motor sideline-to-sideline Smith and the less-polished but freakishly-gifted Edmunds. A tough call, but I’ll go Smith here.
11. Miami Dolphins
Kiper: Derwin James, S, Florida State
There’s a chance James could be off the board here. Miami gets a safety in the mold of Kam Chancellor.
11. Indianapolis Colts (from Dolphins)*
McShay: Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Colts pick up more picks to move back and add a really solid, versatile playmaker to line up next to Malik Hooker in the secondary.
12. Buffalo Bills (from Bengals)
Kiper: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Edmunds might be the best athlete in this draft — and he could play inside or outside linebacker in Buffalo.
12. New York Giants (from Bills via Bengals)*
McShay: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
With their first pick in the draft after the trade with Buffalo, the Giants get a versatile player who can play any linebacker spot in their new 3-4 defense. New York hasn’t taken a first-round LB since Carl Banks in 1984, but Edmunds breaks the streak.
13. Washington Redskins
Kiper: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Vea fills a critical need in the middle of the Washington defense.
McShay: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Vea is a perfect fit for a defense that needs to get stout versus the run (last in league in run defense last season). James would be a possibility if still on the board, especially with Su’a Cravens gone to Denver.
14. Green Bay Packers
Kiper: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas San Antonio
As I noted in my Mock Draft 3.0, pass-rusher Clay Matthews will be 32 in May. Green Bay needs to find (and develop) his replacement.
McShay: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Marcus Davenport is still a possibility here, but I think the Packers go with a tall, long CB in Jackson, who is a good fit in new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Kiper: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
This is a change from my last 1-32 projection, when I went with quarterback Lamar Jackson. Now I’m going with his former teammate, who fills a big hole on the other side of Patrick Peterson.
McShay: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Arizona needs a QB, but in this scenario the Cardinals can’t get any of the top four guys. Alexander is a fast riser, according to people in the league, and could immediately compete for the No. 2 CB spot.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Kiper: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Snagging a new right tackle in Round 1 gives Baltimore an upgraded offensive line — and helps quarterback Joe Flacco, too.
McShay: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Ravens need another playmaking pass-catcher and Hurst fits the bill. I have Dallas Goedert ranked ahead of Hurst, but I think I’m in the minority.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Kiper: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Chargers have a stellar edge rushing duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but they need better players on the interior.
McShay: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Los Angeles could go offensive tackle here, but Brandon Mebane is 33 and the Chargers need to improve the interior of their defensive line. Payne is an immediate upgrade.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Kiper: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Jackson and 2017 third-round pick Shaquill Griffin can help Seattle transition into the next phase of the Legion of Boom.
McShay: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas San Antonio
Without Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson, pass rush is all of a sudden a big need for Seattle. Davenport is raw but loaded with talent and would fit the scheme.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Kiper: Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
Evans could replace Anthony Hitchens at middle linebacker and help rush the passer on third downs.
McShay: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
An interior pass-rusher with his best football ahead of him, Bryan has elite first-step quickness. He’d fit well in a D-line rotation in Dallas.
20. Detroit Lions
Kiper: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
New coach Matt Patricia gets a highly talented piece to coach up. The Lions could also take the second running back off the board.
McShay: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
A lot of buzz surrounding Michel right now. He’d be a great addition to the backfield with Matthew Stafford.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Bills)
Kiper: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The versatile Vander Esch is surging. The Bengals added middle linebacker Preston Brown in free agency, but it’s a one-year deal.
McShay: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Evans is a stud. The Vontaze Burfict suspension makes LB more of a need for Cincy.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Chiefs)
Kiper: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
With two picks on Day 1, Buffalo could trade up again. In this scenario, Sean McDermott & Co. get their quarterback of the future.
22. New York Giants (from Bills via Chiefs)*
McShay: James Daniels, OC/OG, Iowa
New York signed Nate Solder to be its left tackle and now solidifies the interior of the offensive line with Daniels, who could start at center or guard.
23. New England Patriots (from Rams)
Kiper: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The Patriots added this pick in the Brandin Cooks deal. Miller has a high ceiling — he was an under-the-radar prospect heading into the season. At 6-8, 309 pounds, Miller could play left or right tackle.
McShay: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
This deal gets New England in the position to take a left tackle. McGlinchey’s NFL comp is Solder, so he’d make sense here.
24. Carolina Panthers
Kiper: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
I expect Reid to make my All-Rookie Team in 2018, wherever he ends up. He did it all for the Cardinal in 2017. Carolina could also target a defensive end.
McShay: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Carolina still needs pass-catchers on the outside, and Ridley is a good value here.
25. Tennessee Titans
Kiper: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College
Is Landry more like the dominant edge rusher he was in 2016 (16.5 sacks), or is he like the player who underperformed in 2017? He put up great numbers at the combine.
McShay: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College
Landry has a ton of talent but didn’t put it together last season. This might be a little bit of a reach, but Landry has explosive traits.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Kiper: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
Hernandez, a road-grading blocker, could be an immediate starter on a top-to-bottom roster that is one of the league’s most talented.
McShay: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
The Falcons have a strong roster already but add a speedy wideout here as another option for Matt Ryan.
27. New Orleans Saints
Kiper: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Coby Fleener hasn’t done much in two years, and Hurst would be a clear upgrade. The NFC is loaded in 2018, and the Saints should be in the thick of it again.
McShay: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
My top-ranked tight end is a good value here and gives Drew Brees another playmaker.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Kiper: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Pittsburgh has JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant (and Antonio Brown, of course), but Bryant is a free agent in 2019. This position isn’t set long term, and teams need multiple pass-catchers. The Steelers could also look closely at a linebacker.
McShay: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Pittsburgh could use help in the secondary. Hughes might slip because he ran just a decent 40 time in Indy, but he’s a ballhawk with good man-to-man cover skills.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Kiper: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Moore could be the top receiver picked on Day 1. And he’ll help in the return game.
McShay: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Jackson could provide competition for Blake Bortles, who is on a cap-friendly deal.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Kiper: James Daniels, C/G, Iowa
Minnesota could look at guards or tackles with this pick. Daniels could move to guard for the Vikings.
McShay: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
Not a lot of holes on this roster, so Minnesota probably will look at the offensive or defensive line here. Hernandez will help shore up the O-line to protect the investment the Vikings made in Kirk Cousins.
31. New England Patriots
Kiper: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
Hughes could be Malcolm Butler’s replacement and the punt and kick returner on Day 1.
McShay: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
A versatile defensive back, Harrison could be an eventual Patrick Chung replacement.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Kiper: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
Zach Ertz and Goedert would form one of the best tight end duos in the league. Philadelphia could also try to beef up its defensive line here.
McShay: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The Eagles have the luxury of drafting for value. This would be a great landing spot for Vander Esch, as Philadelphia could utilize his versatility.