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To QB or not to QB … With apologies to Will Shakespeare, we are in the midst of the silly season in the NFL between the Super Bowl and scouting combine which gets underway next week in Indianapolis. In fact, there are rumors of at least a couple of pretty big deals regarding QBs old and young buzzing around the league. There are also a couple of developments among this year’s draft QB class. Read more
49ers personnel guy exits … San Francisco has announced that longtime personnel executive Tom Gamble is leaving the team. Gamble was the 49ers’ assistant G.M. last year after acting as the team’s director of pro personnel from 2005-10 and director of player personnel in 2011-12. Gamble then spent two year as vice president of player personnel with Philadelphia for two years before returning to the 49ers. Gamble’s exit wasn’t all that unexpected after new G.M. John Lynch hired former Denver director of college scouting Adam Peters as vice president of player personnel and former Lions general manager Martin Mayhew as a senior personnel executive.
‘Phins DO get TE Thomas from Jags, but for late pick; Albert deal still waiting … In the end, Miami has acquired veteran TE Julius Thomas from Jacksonville, just not for OT Brandon Albert. The Jags reportedly have agreed to send Thomas to Miami in exchange for what is believed to be a 7th round pick this coming April. With Miami, Thomas will be reunited with Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gase who was the offensive co-ordinator in Denver when Thomas had back-to-back 12-touchdown seasons. The acquisition of Thomas could impact the Dolphins’ draft as there had been speculation that Miami, which has the 22nd pick in the opening round of the 2017 draft, could look at one of this year’s top TE talents such as Alabama’s O.J. Howard or David Njoku of Miami. Needless to say, that will likely change with Thomas on board possibly freeing up Miami to look at another position such as CB. Meanwhile, there isn’t much new to report on the other Dolphins-jags deal involving OT Branden Albert. As reported earlier, the two teams are close to a trade which would see Jacksonville acquire Albert in exchange for what is believed to be a late round pick in 2018. Indeed, Albert was in Jacksonville today for a medical check.
Baylor LT quits football … Baylor LT Dominic Desouza has reportedly decided to retire from football. The 6-6, 310 Desouza, who played one year at Baylor after transferring from a junior college, was considered to be a late round prospect for the 2018 draft.
Report: OT Albert to Jags for pick; not TE … Armando Salguero, the NFL beat writer for the Miami Herald is reporting that the Dolphins have agreed to a deal with Jacksonville that would send veteran LT Branden Albert to the Jags in exchange for a 2018 late-round draft pick, most likely a 7th round pick. As reported earlier today (below) Albert is in Jacksonville today where he will likely undergo a pre-trade physical and may also be talking a contract extension. Early reports had the Dolphins sending Albert to Jacksonville in exchange for veteran TE Julius Thomas, but that may be off the table.
Pigskin ponders 2017 other offensive positions … With the scouting combine set to get underway in Indianapolis in just over a week, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette follows up on his original post highlighting some thought-provoking thoughts on where the offensive skill positions for the 2017 draft currently stand with the latest as he sees it on the RBs and offensive linemen.
Dolphins LT Albert visiting Jags … That possible trade between Miami and Jacksonville involving veteran Dolphins’ LB Brandon Albert is back on the front burner with news that Albert will be visiting the Jaguars today. Teams are allowed to bring in players prior to a trade for medical exams before the deal is filed with the league office. It is also likely that the Jaguars will talk with Albert about a possible contract extension. Miami was on the verge of releasing Albert last week, but held off when Jacksonville, and possibly one or more other teams, called and asked about trade possibilities. The Jags found themselves in need of a solid LT when they did not pick up the option on incumbent starter Kevin Beachum who now becomes a free agent when the new NFL season gets underway on March 9th. It is still not clear what the compensation will be if Miami and Jacksonville on a deal for Albert, but it is believed that veteran TE Julius Thomas could be headed to the Dolphins where he would be reunited with Miami head coach Adam Gase with whom he had considerable success when they were both with Denver. It is also possible that there could be some draft picks involved in any Albert-Thomas trade.
Husky OLB quits football to focus on rugby … Washington OLB Psalm Wooching, who had been considered to be a possible late-round pick or free agent candidate for the 2017 draft, has reportedly decided to give up football and concentrate on rugby instead with the ultimate goal of making the U.S. national Olympic team. Wooching led the Huskies with 6.0 sacks in 2016 when he also forced two fumbles and one fumble recovery and ultimately was named an honorable-mention all-Pac-12 selection.
Tigers lose vet DT to grad transfer … Clemson has confirmed that DT Scott Pagano, who will be a 5th year senior next fall, is leaving the program as he intends to transfer to a school closer to his home in Hawaii. The 6-3, 295-pound Pagano, a part-time starter who had 31 tackles including a couple of sacks during this year’s run to the national championship, figures to be a late-round prospect for the 2018 draft. As he has already graduated, Pagano will be eligible to play next fall.
Dolphins reportedly talking trade for OT Albert … Everyone pretty much expected Miami to include veteran LT Brandon Albert in their first round of salary cap cuts earlier this week when they did release DE Mario Williams. However, the Dolphins hung onto Albert’s rights reportedly when at least one other NFL team came calling about the possibility of a trade. Initially, there was some speculation that it could be either of both Denver or the Giants, the latter of which might be offering up CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but Miami beat writer Armando Salguero is reporting this morning that Jacksonville is the likely suitor. Jacksonville suddenly entered the LT market earlier this week when they declined to exercise their contract option on Kevin Beachum, who started 15 games at the position last fall for the Jags, but was often ineffective because of several nagging injuries. Jacksonville technically can still negotiate a new deal with Beachum, but he is far more likely to hit the free agent market when the new season stars on March 9th. In fact, if a deal between the Dolphins and Jags is to be consumated for Albert, it won’t come before the NFL trading period begins on that date. Its also not clear what the compensation would be although a mid-to-late round pick in either 2017 or 2018 would make sense, although Salguero also tossed out the possibility that jags’ TE Julius Thomas could be a factor as he had a lot of success with Dolphins’ head coach Adam Gase when both were with Denver a few year back. Stay tuned.
Pigskin ponders 2017 offensive skill positions … With the scouting combine set to get underway in Indianapolis in just over 10 days, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has some thought-provoking thoughts on where the offensive skill positions for the 2017 draft, including the QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs, currently stand.
Top 2018 prospect takes leave of absence … LSU has announced that star redshirt sophomore DE/OLB Arden Key, a potential top 5 pick at the 2018 draft, is “taking some time away” from football for undisclosed personal reasons, but remains on the team. According to his father, Key is ‘fine’. Of note, Key was suspended from the Tigers’ regular season finale last fall for undisclosed reasons, but returned for the team’s bowl. He is also known to have had academic problems in the past. The 6-6, 240-pound Key with freakish athleticism set a LSU record with 12 sacks this past season when he had a total of 56 tackles and forced three fumbles.
Combine roster position notes … A couple or three interesting observations from the list of players who will be at the combine which gets underway the last day of the month. (We also note that the combine roster has only been released on NFL.com and has yet to be released on the actual Combine website and they may not totally jive). What the NFL.com site shows, though, is that Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett, the consensus top prospect for the upcoming draft, is actually listed as an OLB. Interesting to note because Cleveland, which has the #1 pick overall and are believed to be leaning heavily toward taking Garrett, use a base 3-4 defense in which Garrett would likely line up as an edge-rushing OLB. Meanwhile, Jabrill Peppers of Michigan, who played LB this past season at barely 205 pounds, is listed as a SS, the position he is best physically suited to play at the next level. Along the offensive line, collegiate OTs Dion Dawkins of Temple and Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton are listed as OGs. Same for Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, one of the hottest guys in this year’s draft class. At the same time, Alabama’s Cam Robinson is still listed as an OT. NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock, one of the best connected draft analysts on the business, raised some eyebrows yesterday when he listed Robinson as an OG in his initial positional rankings. At the same time, Southern California OT Chad Wheeler is listed at C. Lastly, All-America Houston QB cam Ward is listed at WR. There had been some speculation that he might get some looks at RB.
Combine invitees list released … The list of over 300 prospects invited to this year’s scouting combine has been released. The combine gets underway on February 28th and runs through March 6th. Who gets invited to the combine is important because the list reflects to a large degree which players NFL teams want to see in Indianapolis based on their boards. Every year a number of top prospects don’t get invited. This year’s list of prominent players not invited include QBs Chad Kelly of Ole Miss, Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell, Brady Gustafson of Montana and Antionio Pipkin of Tiffin; RBs Joe Mixon of Oklahoma, Tauren Foster of Notre Dame and Shock Linwood of Baylor; Ole Miss WR Damorea Stringfellow; Oklahoma State TE Blake Jarwin; OTs Erik Magnuson of Michigana nd Dieugot Joseph of Florida International; C/G Greg Pyke of Georgia and Kyle Kalis of Michigan; Utah DE Hunter Dimick of Utah; DT DeAngelo Brown of Louisville; OLBs Elijah Lee of Kansas State; ILB Steven Brown of Houston; CBs Aarion Penton of Missouri, Jeremy Cutrer of Middle Tennessee and Ole Miss’ Tony Connor; and Kansas safety Fish Smithson. Of note, RB Mixon and WR Stringfellow were not invited to the combine because of past legal problems as was WR Ishmael Zamora. We’ll be back momentarily with some other observations from the combine list.
Tide LB Foster latest to miss combine workouts … According to a report by Adam Caplan of ESPN, star Alabama MLB Reuben Foster, a top 5-10 prospect for the 2017 draft, recently underwent rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder and will not be available to participate in on-field workouts at next month’s scouting combine, although he will be in Indianapolis for medical checks and interviews. The recovery period for the issue is about 4 months meaning that Foster in fact likely won’t be able to work out at all prior to the draft, but should be ready for the start of training camps. Foster is currently the top-rated MLB on the GBN positional ranking and the 7th rated prospect overall on the GBN Big Board, although the injury likely will drop him at least several spots. Foster is just one of several top prospects who will not work out at the combine because of injury including Ohio State safety Malik Hooper who recently underwent hip surgery, Michigan OT Ryan Ramczyk (shoulder), and Western Michigan WR Corey Davis and Florida LB Jarrad Davis, both of whom are currently sidelined with ankle injuries.
Pigskin posits Top 100 … With the Senior Bowl in the rear view mirror, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has posted his pre-combine Top 100 ranking of prospects overall for the 2017 draft.
CFL announces combine-lite invite list … With the NFL scouting combine set to get underway in just over two weeks, we are still waiting for the official list of players to be in Indianapolis at the end of the month to be released. This year’s combine runs from February 28th to March 6th. Meanwhile, the CFL, which holds its combine for Canadian-born players March 23-25 in Regina, announced its invite list earlier this week. The CFL combine list includes 38 players scheduled to be in Regina. The CFL also holds three regional combines prior to the main event. The Eastern Combine will be held in Montreal on March 10th, while Toronto will hold the Ontario combine on March 17th. The CFL’s Western combine will be held on March 23rd in Regina in conjunction with the full combine. Last year, 17 players earned full CFL combine invitations from one of the regional testing sessions. Interestingly, three of the players on the CFL combine list were at this year’s Senior Bowl in Mobile including Mississippi State OT Justin Senior, Laval TE Antony Auclair, and Simon Fraser LB Jordan Herdman. In fact, Senior and Auclair are currently the two top rated players on the CFL’s latest prospect rankings.
Potential #1 pick steps in it just a bit … In a video posted Friday by ESPN, Garrett, an Arlington native who is projected to be #1 pick overall at the 2017 draft, pleaded with Dallas owner Jerry Jones to trade up to the top spot to draft him. Garrett later added that he hoped the the Cowboys would trade QB Tony Romo to the Browns in order to move up to the top pick. In his own words Garrett said “I’m speaking to you, Jerry … Dak Prescott leads our team right now. I need you to take Tony Romo, take a couple picks, and give them to Cleveland so you can pick me up. Please, I’d love to play in Dallas, just make it happen.” Garrett later walked his comments back saying he was just joking and that he would be happy to play with anybody in the NFL including presumably the sad-sack Browns. Garrett also indicated in another unrelated comments that he did not plan to attend the draft; rather he was going to watch it at home with his family. While Garrett’s words aren’t like to dissuade Cleveland from selecting him with the #1 pick, they are going to take a bit of an edge off the selection from a public relations if the Browns do ultimately take Garrett. Stay tuned.
New 49ers coach and G.M. to meet with QB Kaepernick; roles clarified … Updating that story earlier this evening on San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick walking back published reports that he would be opting out of contract early next month, new 49ers’ G.M. John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed at a joint presser earlier today that they would indeed be talking with Kaepernick in the next few weeks and that they have made no decisions yet on the position. Interestingly, there are also some whispers that if Kaepernick were to leave then Shanahan might consider bringing in Matt Schaub as a veteran QB to help mentor a draftee if, as expected, the 49ers use an early pick to select a QB this coming April. Schaub was the back-up QB with Atlanta this season where Shanahan was offensive co-ordintor. At their presser, Shanahan and Lynch also confirmed how they will split the roster building duties on the 49ers with Shanahan controlling the active, 53-man roster, while Lynch will have control of free agency and the draft, although both sets of decisions will come with a requirement of the approval of the other.
Washington, SF lead draft in picks … We have published the first – and still very unofficial – list of picks for each team for the 2017 draft. These include the first three rounds which are now set save for a coin flip for the 14/15 picks, as well as any compensatory picks at the end of the third round. On the other hand, the exact picks for the final 4 rounds won’t be known until the compensatory are added in; for the record, the comp picks will be released later in March. As well, several picks still have to be confirmed; in addition, we based our list on known, published trades involving 2017 draft picks so if anyone out there is aware of any updates or corrections, please let us know. As of now – and again very unofficially – Washington currently leads the league with 10 picks overall, while San Francisco has 9, followed by Chicago, Cleveland, Minnesota and Philadelphia each has 8.