The Daily Briefing Wednesday, May 30, 2018

AROUND THE NFL 

The Senior Bowl has a new executive director per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com:

The Reese’s Senior Bowl has hired Jim Nagy as its new executive director.

Nagy comes from the Seattle Seahawks, where he served for five years as the club’s scout for the Southeast region. He replaces Phil Savage, who was the Senior Bowl’s executive director for six years.

“Jim is a proven and respected 18-year NFL scouting veteran with long-standing relationships across the league, among college coaches nationwide, and with certified player agents,” stated Mobile Arts and Sports Association chairman Angus Cooper in an announcement posted to the Senior Bowl website. “His positive leadership skills acquired under legendary coaches like Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll will be a huge asset to the Reese’s Senior Bowl.”

Savage, the former Cleveland Browns general manager, parted ways with the Senior Bowl two weeks ago. Nagy will be joined by former Mississippi State head coach and longtime NFL assistant Sylvester Croom, who will serve as the game’s senior vice president of operations.

“I am extremely humbled to be the new Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl,” Nagy stated in the announcement. “I view this position as a stewardship to the City of Mobile, my family’s home the past 11 years, and the National Football League and I will bring great passion to both roles.”

– – –

DE CHRIS LONG has some fun comparing hockey to basketball.  Dan McManus of ESPN.com:

There’s no sarcasm font on Twitter, many have lamented after a post gone horribly wrong.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, there’s no troll font, either.

Long, a fan of mixing it up with his followers on social media, decided to make a ripple by sending out the following while two huge matchups — Game 7 of the NBA Western Conference finals between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets, and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals — were ongoing Monday night.

@JOEL9ONE

 I see some ppl saying “turn on the Stanley Cup.” Guys take too many breaks in hockey. Shift changes constantly. For instance, last night,, Lebron played the entire game. I’d rather watch the grinders.

What he got instead was a wave of backlash from hockey faithful who didn’t get that the comment was written in jest. The countershots continue to roll in. As of early Wednesday morning, there were more than 600 comments on that tweet, and most weren’t pretty.

“It actually was too many. I’m like, cringing now,” Long said of the number of people he fooled.

His post even got picked up by conservative news outlet The Daily Caller, which dubbed it “one of the dumbest tweets you’ll ever see about hockey.”

“The problem is, I’m going to be like walking through Canada at some point and just get jumped,” Long joked at his locker following Tuesday’s practice. “And I’m going to be laying on the ground and I’m going to be like, ‘It was a joke.’”

Long concedes that he’s gotten duped online before, so he gets it. But he’s setting the record straight about his feelings toward hockey players.

“They’re the toughest,” he said. “They’re the toughest.”

NFC NORTH

DETROIT

The DB is of a mind that the signing of RB LeGARRETTE BLOUNT could be a sneaky good move for the Lions.  Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:

The Lions are spending another offseason trying to find a backfield mix that will give their offense the kind of balance it’s been missing for much of Matthew Stafford‘s run as the team’s quarterback.

Part of this year’s plan was signing LeGarrette Blount as a free agent after Blount’s bruising running style helped the Eagles win Super Bowl LII. That title came a year after Blount was part of a Patriots championship team and the Lions would certainly like to make a run like that this season.

No one’s going to pin all hopes on that front on Blount, but the chances of anything close to that happening would improve if he does well on the field. Running backs coach David Walker made it clear how he sees Blount doing that.

“Hopefully, he’ll give us a little bit more than we had last year,” Walker said, via the Detroit Free Press. “It’s one thing with 200-pounds of Ameer [Abdullah] or Theo [Riddick] running through the hole that you have to tackle. And it’s a totally different animal trying to tackle a 240-pound LeGarrette Blount. So we understand that hopefully will put a little bit more stress on the defense.”

Adding a competent run game to an often potent passing attack would certainly stress out defenses, but May optimism about better days on the ground has gone unrealized often enough that Detroit will remain in wait and see mode a while longer.

NFC EAST

DALLAS

The Cowboys are not reporting any progress in a new contract for G ZACH MARTIN.  Clarence Hill, Jr. in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram:

Dallas Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said no progress has been made with holdout Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin, who has stayed away from OTA workouts in a contract dispute.

Jones said there is no timetable and no deadline but there is also no determination on when Martin, who is under contract, will return to work with his teammates.

Jones said he hasn’t spoken with Martin’s agent Tom Condon in more than a week.

 “Really not any updates as of late. Tom and I visited, I guess, a week ago, maybe 10 days ago,” Jones said. “He came into town and we had some good discussions but we just aren’t there yet. We’ll continue to roll up our sleeves and go to work on it. We understand this is the hard part of our business.

“Nobody wants to have Zack signed more than we do. I truly think he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the league. Certainly, we think the best offensive guard in the league (and) should be paid accordingly. It’s just a matter of structures and by how much and that type of thing. No one respect what Zack has done for this team, how good a player he is more than we do.”

Martin is making $9.3 million in 2018 in what is option year of his rookie contract.

After making the Pro Bowl four times in his four seasons in the league and being named first team All-Pro twice, he wants to be the highest paid guard in the league.

The two baseline deals of comparison are the five-year, $65 million deal guard Andrew Norwell signed with Jacksonville this offseason and five-year, $60 deal Kevin Zeitler signed with Cleveland last season. Norwell’s deal averages $13.3 million with $30 million in guaranteed money. Zeitler’s deal averages $12 million with a guarantee of $31 million.

Martin has shown no interest in taking below market deals as tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick have done in recent years.

Jones said he has no problem with Martin missing OTAs. And if anybody can miss a few days, it’s him.

But he said the Cowboys have to think about the entire team when they do deals, especially with quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott coming up for extensions in the next year or so.

“You know every player is different,” Jones said. “Obviously, they are represented by different agents who advise differently so every situation is different. We respect our players. We respect how hard they play. One of the great problems we have here is that we drafted well. When you start talking about Tyron and Travis and the parameters that we did when we did their contracts, we try to be consistent. I’m sure they would all like a lot more money than they got, but unfortunately we’ve got to try to keep everybody and throw La’el Collins into that mix, both Dak and Zeke are coming up and you got Sean Lee on the other side and DeMarcus Lawrence and young players over there, so they understand. They want to be surrounded by good players, great players too. So it’s a balancing act. It’s not perfect. At the same time, we respect where he is and we’re going to do everything we can to get something done.”

– – –

Jones resists chortling when he is asked why WR DEZ BRYANT remains unsigned.  More from Clarence Hill, Jr.:

Per Vice President Stephen Jones, NFL teams have inquired with him and the Dallas Cowboys coaches about the status of receiver Dez Bryant.

But he is not sure why the team’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions remains unemployed more than six weeks after being released by the Cowboys on April 13.

“I am sure Dez is being thoughtful,” Jones said on Tuesday. ”I don’t know the details as to why he hasn’t picked a home. I am sure he is being very thoughtful about it. I am sure he has good people talking to him too. I am sure at the end of the day he is being thoughtful about what his next steps should be. I am sure he is working hard. No one is rooting for Dez more than we are.”

Jones said teams have inquired about Bryant, who turned down an offer from the Baltimore Ravens shortly after being released but has seen no real interest since.

Bryant did reveal on Instagram over the weekend that he would like to sign with the San Francisco 49ers.

Jones said it is making for a more motivated and driven Bryant and would benefit whichever team he finally signs with.

“You know at the (NFL owners) meetings I have had different conversations about him,” Jones said. “At the competition committee meeting, some of the coaches there speak to it. I’m sure other coaches have called our coaches and wanted input on him. The greatest thing about Dez is he is a fierce competitor. I think he is now more driven and more competitive than he has ever been. We wish him nothing but the best.”

NEW YORK GIANTS

A positive medical report for WR ODELL BECKHAM, Jr.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

Odell Beckham Jr. was not among the players at New York Giants voluntary organized team activities Tuesday, but the star receiver could be back soon.

Coach Pat Shurmur said after practice that OBJ’s absence was expected, but added the wideout was “pretty close” to being fully medically cleared to participate.

Beckham broke his ankle in early October. The 25-year-old reported for voluntary minicamp in April and was at Giants OTAs last week before missing Tuesday’s session.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Beckham has been in and out of the offseason program, and he’s limited when in the building as he goes through rehab.

Last week Shurmur noted that Beckham was “champing at the bit” to fully return to the practice field. The Giants, however, have taken it slow with their most vital player. However, it sounds like Beckham could be cleared to fully run routes for Eli Manning in the near future.

Getting Beckham full-go on the field as soon as possible would be a boon for Manning and the Giants’ new offense so a proper rapport can be built before the start of the season.

The Giants continue OTAs next week before holding mandatory minicamp June 12-14. If Shurmur was being honest about Beckham being “pretty close” to being fully cleared, we could theoretically expect him to be ready for minicamp.

PHILADELPHIA

The Eagles released LB MYCHAL KENDRICKS last week.  He has lined up visits with the Raiders, Vikings and Browns.

– – –

QB NICK FOLES is denying that he was involved when the Eagles allegedly contemplated trading him to the Browns.  Zach Berman of Philly.com:

Nick Foles denied an NFL Network report that the Eagles turned down a trade that would have sent Foles to the Cleveland Browns after consulting with Foles first.

“The first time I’ve heard about it was when I got text messages asking if it was true, and that was the first time I had heard about it, so it never got to a discussion with me,” Foles said. “And at the end of it, I’m just a player. I don’t decide anything, if it was true or not.”

Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman said in February that the Eagles would discuss any potential move with Foles. The Eagles told Foles this, too. However, no discussion ever took place, according to Foles. And that meant going to the Browns or any other teams.

“There wasn’t any discussions on the trades,” Foles said. “Howie said what he wanted for me. And I just said if it ever comes to a point where you want to have a discussion, if there was something he was interested in, we would sit down and talk about it. But that never came to be. And I’m here and I’m excited to be here.”

Foles reiterated that he did not turn down anything and did not discuss anything with the Eagles about a trade, and that even if he was consulted, it wouldn’t ultimately be his decision.

“At the end of the day, I’m not the GM of the team,” Foles said. “I have a great relationship with Howie to where if something did happen, we could have a discussion. But at the end of the day, he gets to decide. I’m just a player. But I’m a grateful player for being here.”

While Berman is throwing shade at Mike Silver’s report, he is conflating two things – Silver’s report that a trade was discussed and the Pederson/Roseman comments in February that Foles would be involved in his trade.  As Mike Garafolo explains, Foles is only denying that he was consulted.

@MikeGarafolo

Just so we’re clear: Nick Foles didn’t kill a trade to the Browns. That’s not what @MikeSilver reported. There was interest from Cleveland. But there were many moving parts, which is why it never got close.

Ah, but in the earlier Silver report:

“Before rejecting the deal, two sources said, the Eagles ran the scenario by Foles, who said he preferred to remain in Philadelphia.”

FWIW, Foles said today he was never told of the trade offer.

The debate wasn’t whether he killed it. It was whether he was even told.

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA

The Falcons are moving VIC BEASLEY back to DE from LB.

The Atlanta Falcons again tinkered with Vic Beasley’s position this offseason, moving the pass rusher back to defensive end full time after using him as a linebacker. Both the coaches and Beasley are excited about the position reversal.

“It frees him up to play more first- or second-down nickel and be available in that way and be fresher during the course of the game,” defensive line coach Bryant Young said last week, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Not that he couldn’t handle it because I thought he did a good job of handling the [strongside] and playing defensive end. Just having him available to play more reps at defensive end will be good for us.”

Playing more linebacker in 2017, Beasley’s sack numbers dipped from a league-high 15.5 in 2016 to five last year.

“I wasn’t rushing as much as I normally would,” Beasley said. “There were less opportunities, but it was for the betterment of the team and what the team needed most at that moment. I was fine with that.”

The Falcons’ best pass rusher playing any significant amount in coverage seemed like a faulty plan last season. The move back to defensive end full time should allow the Falcons to keep their best quarterback menace on the field more.

According to NextGen Stats, Beasley played more than seven fewer snaps per game in 2017 than his sack-filled 2016 campaign. Most of those snaps came in obvious run situations; Beasley played on fewer than 10 run plays in the Falcons’ final six games of the season, including two postseason tilts.

Young dismissed the notion Beasley’s move back to defensive end could weaken the Falcons’ run defense.

“He’s about 240 and 245,” Young said. “He plays with good strength. He plays with good power. People don’t realize how strong that Vic is. So, I think he’ll be OK holding his own.”

NFC WEST

SEATTLE

WR BRANDON MARSHALL has to be close to reaching the end of the line, but he gets a one-year deal with the Seahawks.  It will be worth “up to” $2 million if he reaches incentives per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

AFC WEST

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

With TE HUNTER HENRY done for the year, the Chargers may be contemplating re-signing TE ANTONIO GATES.  Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:

The moment the Chargers lost tight end Hunter Henry for the season was the moment speculation began that the team might elect to bring back Antonio Gates for one more year.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is all for the move.

“Well, shoot, I’d always be excited if he walked back in the door obviously,” Rivers said, via video released by the team. “That’s something that Tom [Telesco] and John [Spanos] and coach [Anthony Lynn] and those guys I’m sure will discuss and see about bringing anybody in for that matter, but certainly [Gates’ return] would get my vote.”

Gates, 37, remains a free agent, and the Chargers already had announced they were moving on before Henry tore his ACL last week. Rivers and Gates have talked since Henry’s injury.

“You hate it for Hunter,” Rivers said. “If something were to happen down the road [with Gates returning], he wouldn’t have wanted to come that way, with Hunter’s absence. That was really more of our conversation.

“[Gates] is doing good. I think this time of year for him, even in this last few years of his career, I don’t know that he’s doing a ton different then he was. He stayed ready. He wasn’t here a ton this time of year. He was always getting himself ready with him family, with his children. I’m sure he’s in shape and will be ready if called on and that’s something he’s interested in.”

Teleso, the team’s General Manager, said the Chargers would “look at all the options that are out there.”

Virgil Green, Braedon Bowman and Sean Culkin are among the tight ends already on the roster.

AFC NORTH

CLEVELAND

As of Tuesday night, Browns S DAMARIOUS RANDALL has 500,000 plus people retweeting one of his social media posts.

@RandallTime

 If the Cleveland Cavaliers win the 2018 NBA finals I’ll buy everyone who retweet’s this a jersey…

If the jerseys go for $100 a pop, he’s potentially on the line for north of $50 million…

Update from Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com on Wednesday morning:

Browns safety Damarious Randall has just set an NFL record.

Randall now has the most retweeted tweet of any NFL player, ever, as his tweet saying that if the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA Finals he’ll buy a jersey for anyone who retweets him has now been retweeted 643,000 times.

The previous record for the most-retweeted tweet (yes, people keep track of that) by an NFL player belonged to Lions punter Sam Martin, who said he would donate six pounds of dog food to Hurricane Harvey victims for every retweet he got. That tweet was retweeted 621,000 times, which would have meant Martin was on the hook for more than 3.6 million pounds of dog food, but Martin added in a video with the tweet that there was a cap of $10,000 on how much he would donate.

Randall said nothing about any cap on his jersey purchases. However, he’s obviously not actually going to buy a jersey for 643,000 people and counting. He’s probably going to root for the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, but if the Cavaliers do win, he’ll need to use his newfound social media fame to find a clever way to get out of his guarantee.

PITTSBURGH

Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com on the recovery of LB RYAN SHAZIER:

Ryan Shazier continues to work his way back from a severe spinal injury that left him temporarily paralyzed last December. According to his father, Vernon, the Steelers linebacker remains “submerged” in rehab.

Details from ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler:

Many days, Shazier gets up early, heads to the facility for workouts and meetings, followed by therapy and treatment. The work is tough but keeps Shazier connected. Shazier is able to drive a car when necessary but often opts for a ride to focus on his rehab.

Last month Shazier walked across the stage at the 2018 NFL Draft to announce the Steelers’ first-round pick, Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds. It was a moving, powerful moment.

Shazier intensely practiced for his draft-day walk, which Vernon called a “gripping moment” reminding how far he’s come, even if the walk was a bit longer than the family expected.

Shazier’s father continues to pray that the Steelers star will soon be able to walk without assistance, and eventually make a full recovery.

“(God’s) big enough that that’s not too big of a task,” Vernon told Fowler.

Shazier was injured in the Steelers’ Week 13 game against the Bengals. The injury ended his season and leaving serious doubts about his football future. But the 2014 first-round pick and 2017 Pro Bowl selection remained adamant that he would play again, telling teammate Roosevelt Nix in February that not only does he plan to return to the field but his goal of making it into Canton hasn’t changed either.

“I’ve gotta get back, bro,” Shazier said during an appearance on Nix’s podcast. “Every day, bro. Every day I’m like — right now, I’m reading a book and it’s basically saying trust the process, bro. I’m really trusting the process and I know the end goal. I’m taking it every step of the way but I’m like, I’m giving it like my football effort, like 1,000, everything I’ve got.”

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has confirmed that Shazier won’t play in 2018 but says the linebacker will remain involved with the team while he works toward his long-term goal of playing football again. For now, that involvement includes mentoring and coaching Pittsburgh’s linebackers.

“He’s always around,” tight end Jesse James said. “He’s in meetings, I see him working in the training room, working in the weight room. Just taking it one day at a time, doing his thing, helping the team as much as he can.”

AFC EAST

NEW YORK JETS

Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com on the fine current state of Jets quarterbacking.

The Jets moved into their second week of OTAs on Tuesday and first-round pick Sam Darnold got some time quarterbacking the first team during the practice.

Head coach Todd Bowles said after the session that “it is nothing to read into” because Darnold, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater are all getting the same amount of reps as the team goes through the offseason program. He did add Darnold has already grown “more comfortable” and that Bridgewater is “progressing and getting better” in his early work.

All of that adds up to Bowles feeling like the team has “three good quarterbacks that we can play with” and that those three quarterbacks can make each other better over the next few months.

“They all see different things,” Bowles said in comments distributed by the team. “And if they all can give each other advice on the field about what they saw on certain plays and they all understand the plays that are going on, if they can feed off of each other and take each other’s advice, I think it can’t help but catapult the chemistry to a better level and help those guys play better.”

The Jets and the NFL have a pretty good idea about what McCown brings to the table, but Bridgewater’s long injury layoff and Darnold’s rookie status mean there’s more mystery elsewhere on the depth chart. Similar mysteries haven’t come to satisfying conclusions for the Jets in the past, but that’s not getting in the way of optimism at the position for the first time in some time for the AFC East club.

THIS AND THAT

ANTHEM

Giants LB MARK HERZLICH wants Donald Trump to come to the Giants locker room to see that conventional flag-loving Americans can work side-by-side in harmony with Social Justice Warriors.  Dan Wetzel of YahooSports.com:

Mark Herzlich overcame bone cancer to become a football star at Boston College. He overcame going undrafted to play six seasons, and counting, as a linebacker for the New York Giants.

Beating long odds is his thing. But these odds may be too big even for him.

Herzlich wants President Donald Trump to come to the Giants’ locker room sometime, so he can observe unity in a diverse workplace before discussing tolerance, respect and the reason why some NFL players have chosen to protest inequality during the playing of the pregame national anthem.

“You go in the locker room and guys from every single race, every single demographic, every single religious background, and we all are just a team,” Herzlich told the New York Daily News. “And so I think we see that, what’s possible. And I would love Trump to come down here and hang out in our locker room and see what locker room talk’s really about, and talking about our night nurses and our babies — this is what we talk about, it’s a family.”

Never say never to Mark Herzlich, except here it is: That’s never going to happen.

Donald Trump isn’t walking into a NFL locker room, certainly not after using player protests as a political piñata he can whack at will and then bask in the candy it produces.

It really isn’t Trump’s position to go to the players. He’s the president. They should try to go to him, not that it matters.

The issue of protests during the anthem could use a lot more listening and a lot less talking on all sides. This is especially true since the NFL continues to allow players to protest (they can stay in the locker room during the 2018 season), even as many employers restrict such acts while on the clock.

Trump is famous for not being too keen on listening, though. He does the talking. As loud as he wants, truth or feelings be damned.

Herzlich has a fair point here, but some 20 months after Colin Kaepernick first sat during the anthem in the 2016 preseason, and with the NFL still allowing players to protest (they can stay in the locker room without penalty this season), Herzlich’s suggestion points to one of the larger problems here.

The messaging battle was lost long before Trump even cared about the issue. While players have said, repeatedly, that the protests were about myriad issues and not against the flag, the anthem or the military specifically, millions of Americans saw it differently and aren’t open to changing their mind anytime soon.

The flag is too personal to too many. The anthem is too much of a touchstone to mess with. If the goal was to create a reaction, it worked. If it was to create a meaningful conversation with the so-called other side, it was a failure.

It was perfect for a political opportunist such as Trump. It so riles up his base that every time the issue is about to die, he does what he can to keep in the news. (Bumbling NFL owners usually help him on that.) This thing is gold for Trump.

Herzlich is correct about this much: Discussions about the anthem protests are fascinating inside NFL locker rooms. These are diverse places. People from all backgrounds, all parts of the country, all perspectives. It’s why there are some players who are willing to take a knee. There are others that would never do it. They’ve all tried to convince the other to listen. It’s usually pretty thoughtful.”

The one thing that has rung out is that when challenged by the president, most notably prior to Week 4 of the 2017 season, the league rallies and supports each other’s opinions. About the only thing they all agree on is the right to disagree.

– – –

Herzlich is operating in a bygone era. It’d be nice if it returned but this isn’t the era of nice.

The linebacker wants everyone to listen, especially the president. He thinks there’s a chance, all these months later, common ground and new perspectives can be found on an issue that the players never have been successful in defining.

He just needs Trump to walk into the Giants’ locker room.

Maybe it would help, but not even Mark Herzlich is pulling that one off.

BROADCAST NEWS

Shortly after Disney announced that they were terminating the current top-rated show in television, “Roseanne”, we saw this tweet, perhaps related, from FOX exec Michael Mulvihill.

@mulvihill79

It’s now more likely than ever that TNF will be TV’s #1 weeknight show this Fall, and that FOX NFL will account for both the #1 show on Sundays (4:25 games) and the #1 show not on Sundays.

TARGETTING

Scott Barrett of ProFootballFocus.com looks at which receivers throw to the different positions the most:

TARGETING RUNNING BACKS

Within our sample, here are the five quarterbacks who have targeted running backs the most frequently:

rew Brees has targeted running backs more frequently than any other quarterback, and that comes as no surprise to me. Over the past six seasons the Saints have ranked first, first, fifth, second, first, first, and first in team running back targets. Over this stretch they’ve also ranked first, first, second, first, second, first, and first in team PPR fantasy points per game. Not only have Brees’ running backs seen tremendous volume in the pass game, but they’ve been hyper-efficient as well. This is a legitimate counterpoint to all of the fantasy analysts (myself included) warning of a looming regression for Alvin Kamara.

Philip Rivers and Joe Flacco were slight surprises, but both have benefited from some terrific pass-catching running backs throughout their respective careers (LaDanian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, Ray Rice, and they’ve both had Danny Woodhead). Melvin Gordon ranked seventh among running backs in targets last year (76) and should again see heavy target totals this year – and especially now with Hunter Henry out of the picture. Woodhead saw only 37 total targets from Flacco and Rice hasn’t played in the NFL since 2013. Even without a strong stable of pass-catching running backs, Baltimore ranks second in running back targets over the past three years. Although Alex Collins was terrific as a runner last season, he wasn’t extensively used as a pass-catcher. Perhaps the team includes him more in that role next season, or, more likely, Javorius Allen resumes that role next year or cedes more passing snaps to Kenneth Dixon.

Tyrod Taylor’s ranking here bodes well for Duke Johnson Jr. for as long as he’s the starter. Same too for Josh McCown and New York’s running backs.

TARGETING SLOT RECEIVERS

Within our sample, here are the five quarterbacks who have targeted slot wide receivers the most frequently:

Sam Bradford’s ranking here, despite mostly mediocre slot talents throughout his career, should bode well for Larry Fitzgerald, who ran 60 percent of his routes from the slot last season. For perspective, Carson Palmer targeted slot wide receivers only 21.1 percent of the time over this stretch.

The other names on this chart are a little more obvious given surrounding talent (Doug Baldwin for Russell Wilson, Randall Cobb for Aaron Rodgers, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman for Tom Brady, and T.Y. Hilton for Andrew Luck). I’ll only note that Indianapolis moved Hilton to outside wide receiver last season (63.2 percent of his routes) and Chester Rogers still isn’t someone to get excited about for fantasy. Also, Cobb is a strong ADP value for reasons outlined in our last article.

TARGETING OUTSIDE RECEIVERS

Within our sample, here are the five quarterbacks who have targeted outside wide receivers the most frequently:

Ben Roethlisberger’s ranking here is certainly a factor of surrounding talent, but he did have Hines Ward working out of the slot and Heath Miller at tight end for a significant portion of his career. In 2018, Antonio Brown will likely start outside opposite rookie James Washington with JuJu Smith-Schuster, reprising his role in the slot (in three-receiver sets). Washington totaled 2,318 yards on deep passes in college, the most of any wide receiver in the PFF College era. I suspect he’ll be the team’s primary deep threat next year and could make an immediate fantasy impact. We’ve seen rookie wide receivers immediately step into a productive role in Pittsburgh before (Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant) and Bryant leaves behind a healthy 81 targets in his departure.

Eli Manning’s ranking here is a slight surprise given his second-most-targeted receiver has been Victor Cruz, who operated predominantly out of the slot. There’s been some chatter this offseason that Sterling Shepard will be playing outside more often this year. Maybe this means more targets for him, but a concern for me is Shepard’s inexperience at that position. Since entering the league, 90 percent of his yards and targets have come from the slot. This hasn’t been an issue for some wide receivers, but it certainly was for Nelson Agholor, who ranked as our worst-graded wide receiver in each of his first two seasons before moving back to the slot last year.

The other quarterbacks were far less surprising given the outside wide receiver talent they’ve had throughout their career (Mike Evans, A.J. Green, and Roddy White/Julio Jones), though this may bode well for John Ross in Cincinnati or Calvin Ridley in Atlanta.

TARGETING TIGHT ENDS

Within our sample, here were the five quarterbacks who targeted tight ends the most frequently.

This chart is a little more straightforward. Carson Wentz and Marcus Mariota rank first and second by a good margin. Mariota’s most targeted wide receivers throughout his career have been (in order) Rishard Matthews, Kendall Wright, Eric Decker, Tajae Sharpe, and Harry Douglas. So, of course, it makes sense Delanie Walker led the team in targets in each of the past four years. Corey Davis may supplant him next year, but Walker still feels like a strong fantasy value at TE8, having finished top-seven or better in each of these seasons. Wentz also dealt with an extremely poor wide receiving corps in 2016, though Zach Ertz still led the team in targets per game in 2017 despite better wide receiver play.

Alex Smith, Cam Newton, and Kirk Cousins have all had near-elite tight end options throughout the majority of their careers (Vernon Davis/Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen, and Jordan Reed). I suppose the good news for Reed is, if he stays healthy, we shouldn’t expect a volume falloff from him this year.

2019 DRAFT

Mel Kiper, Jr. of ESPN.com acquaints us with some names to know as we start to look forward to the 2019 draft:

You have the Big Board, but this is a chance to go deeper position by position as we look way ahead to the 2019 NFL draft class.

Once we get to late in the college football season, you’ll see this list below as the best players at every position ranked regardless of class. Redshirt sophomores, juniors and seniors are all grouped together. But as I do every year in this early look, I break it out into underclassmen and seniors. The reason is simple: The seniors are at least guaranteed to be in the draft process based on eligibility, so I want to separate that group. The underclassmen could obviously choose to return and play more college football.

So here’s an early look. Again, I have a lot of work to do on this class this summer and beyond, so expect to see many changes next time around.

Note: Asterisk denotes a third-year sophomore.

Quarterbacks

Seniors

1. Drew Lock, Missouri

2. Will Grier, West Virginia

3. Ryan Finley, NC State

4. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

5. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

Underclassmen

1. Justin Herbert, Oregon

2. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

3. Shea Patterson, Michigan

4. Nathan Stanley, Iowa

5. Jake Bentley, South Carolina

Lock and Herbert are currently the two names here who would have first-round grades if they told us to hold the draft tomorrow. All of the seniors have at least first-round upside, and Stidham and Patterson will be particularly interesting to watch. Some evaluators think Stidham has a really high ceiling.

Running backs

Seniors

1. Bryce Love, Stanford

2. Damien Harris, Alabama

3. Ty Johnson, Maryland

4. LJ Scott, Michigan State

5. Myles Gaskin, Washington

Underclassmen

1. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

2. David Montgomery, Iowa State

3. Justice Hill, Oklahoma State

4. Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic

5. Alexander Mattison, Boise State

If Love is able to put together another monster season and stay healthy, the first-round potential is there. I also have Anderson as a potential first-round pick. Hill could be in line for a monster season in Stillwater.

Fullbacks

Seniors

1. Winston Dimel

2. Alec Ingold, Wisconsin

3. Kendrick Jackson, Arkansas

4. Johnathan Vickers, Florida State

5. George Aston, Pitt

Underclassmen

1. Cameron Green, Northwestern

2. Brady Ross, Iowa

3. Ray Marten, Boston College

4. Adam Prentice, Colorado State

5. Isaac Lessard, San Diego State

Dimel is currently without a team for the 2018 season, but he’ll make a transfer decision soon after leaving Kansas State.

Wide receivers

Seniors

1. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina

2. Parris Campbell, Ohio State

3. Anthony Johnson, Buffalo

4. Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska

5. David Sills V, West Virginia

Underclassmen

1. A.J. Brown, Mississippi

2. N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

3. Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

4. Collin Johnson, Texas

5. Tyrie Cleveland, Florida

A.J. Brown and Harry are both considered first-round picks on my early Big Board. Campbell is easily one of the most dangerous players in college football in 2018, as he can turn any touch into a big play with his elite speed.

Tight ends

Seniors

1. C.J. Conrad, Kentucky

2. Tyler Petite, Southern California

3. Tommy Sweeney, Boston College

4. Foster Moreau, LSU

5. Matt Sokol, Michigan State

Underclassmen

1. Noah Fant, Iowa

2. Kaden Smith, Stanford*

3. Caleb Wilson, UCLA

4. Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri*

5. Alize Mack, Notre Dame

Fant is on the early Big Board, but others from this group could emerge. Smith is one to watch as Stanford has churned out tight end prospects during the David Shaw era.

Offensive tackles

Seniors

1. Trey Adams, Washington

2. Dalton Risner, Kansas State

3. Chris Lindstrom, Boston College

4. Isaiah Prince, Ohio State

5. Max Scharping, Northern Illinois

Underclassmen

1. Greg Little, Mississippi

2. Jonah Williams, Alabama

3. David Edwards, Wisconsin

4. Bobby Evans, Oklahoma

5. Jawaan Taylor, Florida

The tackle class was a big question mark in April’s draft, but the 2019 group looks better. Where the depth will emerge behind Little, Williams, Edwards and Adams remains uncertain. Evans is one to watch as he takes on a bigger role.

Guards

Seniors

1. Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin

2. Alex Bars, Notre Dame

3. Michael Deiter, Wisconsin

4. Garrett Brumfield, LSU

5. Ben Powers, Oklahoma

Underclassmen

1. Michael Jordan, Ohio State

2. Nate Herbig, Stanford

3. Ben Bredeson, Michigan

4. Parker Braun, Georgia Tech

5. Marcus Keyes, Oklahoma State

There is no obvious first-rounder in this group, but someone is certain to emerge. Quenton Nelson went No. 6 overall as a true guard in the 2018 class.

Centers

Seniors

1. Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama

2. Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame

3. Toa Lobendahn, Southern California

4. Jesse Burkett, Stanford

5. Alec Eberle, Florida State

Underclassmen

1. Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin*

2. Connor McGovern, Penn State

3. Adam Holtorf, Kansas State

4. Jordan Johnson, Central Florida

5. Jake Hanson, Oregon

All Biadasz did in 2017 was emerge from a redshirt season in 2016 to start 14 games and play at an All-American level. If he puts together a similar campaign in 2018, the first round isn’t out of the question.

Defensive ends

Seniors

1. Zach Allen, Boston College

2. Jalen Jelks, Oregon

3. Montez Sweat, Mississippi State

4. Austin Bryant, Clemson

5. Chase Winovich, Michigan

Underclassmen

1. Nick Bosa, Ohio State

2. Rashan Gary, Michigan

3. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

4. Raekwon Davis, Alabama

5. Joe Jackson, Miami (Fla.)

The junior class here is absolutely loaded. Bosa, Gary, Ferrell and Davis could all be early first-round picks if they build on 2017. Allen, Jelks and Sweat are also first-rounders if the draft were held tomorrow. This is a deep group.

Defensive tackles

Seniors

1. Christian Wilkins, Clemson

2. Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame

3. Olive Sagapolu, Wisconsin

4. Greg Gaines, Washington

5. Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri

Underclassmen

1. Ed Oliver, Houston

2. Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

3. Derrick Brown, Auburn

4. Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State

5. Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State

With defensive end Clelin Ferrell among the top 10 prospects in the class early on, Clemson could have a terrifying defensive line if everyone is healthy. Oliver has the potential to be the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 draft.

Insider linebackers

Seniors

1. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin

2. Cameron Smith, Southern California

3. Bobby Okereke, Stanford

4. Joe Dineen Jr., Kansas

5. Kendall Joseph, Clemson

Underclassmen

1. Devin Bush, Michigan

2. Shaquille Quarterman, Miami (Fla.)

3. Mack Wilson, Alabama

4. Joe Giles-Harris, Duke

5. Troy Dye, Oregon

This is a quietly deep group, but without a clear first-round lock. Bush doesn’t just clean up, but has the ability to consistently make plays at and behind the line of scrimmage.

Outside linebackers

Seniors

1. Josh Allen, Kentucky

2. Ben Banogu, TCU

3. Te’von Coney, Notre Dame

4. Porter Gustin Southern California

5. D’Andre Walker, Georgia

Underclassmen

1. Devin White, LSU

2. Anfernee Jennings, Alabama

3. Brian Burns, Florida State

4. Michael Pinckney, Miami (Fla.)

5. Terrell Lewis, Alabama

I currently have White and Jennings as likely first-round picks if they build on 2017 form. Allen didn’t get a lot of run in 2017, but he could also factor into the first-round mix.

Cornerbacks

Seniors

1. Deandre Baker, Georgia

2. Michael Jackson, Miami (Fla.)

3. Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

4. Nate Meadors, UCLA

5. Rashad Robinson, James Madison

Underclassmen

1. Andraez Williams, LSU

2. Mark Gilbert, Duke

3. Julian Love, Notre Dame

4. Lavert Hill, Michigan

5. Jamel Dean, Auburn

There are obvious first-round talents in both groups here. Baker was one of the true shutdown corners in college football in 2017, and Williams is a long, aggressive talent with ball skills that fit the “Greedy” nickname.

Safeties

Seniors

1. Jaquan Johnson, Miami (Fla.)

2. Lukas Denis, Boston College

3. Marvell Tell III, Southern California

4. Andrew Wingard, Wyoming

5. Juan Thornhill, Virginia

Underclassmen

1. Chauncey Gardner Jr., Florida

2. Khaleke Hudson, Michigan

3. J.R. Reed, Georgia

4. Jordan Fuller, Ohio State

5. Jalen Thompson, Washington State

This is another group where it’s a question who will emerge to become an obvious first-round pick. Nobody cracked my initial Big Board, but there is plenty of talent and multiyear starting experience among the underclassmen.

Kickers and punters

Seniors

1. Jake Bailey, Stanford (P)

2. Matt Gay, Utah (PK)

3. Corliss Waitman, South Alabama (P)

4. Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah (P)

5. Stefan Flintoft, UCLA (P)

Underclassmen

1. Drue Chrisman, Ohio State (P)

2. Quinn Nordin, Michigan (PK)*

3. Blake Gillikin, Penn State (P)

4. Sterling Hofrichter, Syracuse (P)

5. Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia (PK)