News

Second top QB prospect to skip draft … The NFL’s plans to market the heck out the move of the draft outside New York took another hit when Oregon QB Marcus Mariota revealed that he will not be attending this year’s draft in Chicago, but instead will spend the day with his family in Hawai’i. Meanwhile, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, the prospective #1 pick this year, has pretty much confirmed that he will be watching the draft at home with his grandmother who raised him because she is ill and could not make the trip to Chicago.

No April Fool’s; GBN mock updated … With the draft now just over 4 weeks away, the GBN 3-round projection has been updated based on the latest intel. And after Florida State QB Jameis Winston’s reasonably successful pro day work out yestrerday, we are pretty comfortable with the first pick in this mock; after that maybe not so much!

Mixed reviews on Winston workout; still #1 though … As noted earlier, Florida State QB Jameis Winston’s pro day didn’t quite go off without any hitches earlier today as he appeared inaccurate at times, especially early in the workout when he was asked to throw on the move with people waving brooms in his face. And that has elicited some mixed reviews from NFL analysts. The bottom line, though, is that it doesn’t not appear that Winston did anything to damage his status as the prospective #1 pick at this year’s draft. Indeed, Tampa Bay G.M. Jason Licht, whose Buccaneers have the first overall pick this year, described Winston’s work out as ‘outstanding.” And, of course, in the end that’s the only opinion that will matter whether Winston is ultimately the first player taken on April 30th. for good measure, Buccaneers’ QB coach Mike Bajakian added that Winston had cleaned up some of his mechanics and that his throwing motion and footwork were more consistent than in the past, which in fact was what Winston and his advisers were apparently trying to show with some of the more complicated aspects of his work out.

UConn CB runs well at pro day … While most of the focus on today’s pro day schedule is on Florida State and QB Jameis Winston, the prospective #1 pick at the upcoming draft, there are a couple of other intriguing workouts on the docket today. That includes UConn where CB Byron Jones reportedly ran well earlier this morning. Indeed, the school reported Jones’ unofficial 40 time was under 4.4 seconds. Jones, who blew the competition away at the competition where he had a 45-inch vertical, as well as an all-sport world record standing long jump, did not run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis because of his recovery from a shoulder surgery. Right now Jones is considered to be a mid-second round prospect, but if that time checks out could move up closer to the opening round. Meanwhile, back in Tallahasse its been something of a rocky start to Winston’s scripted passing workout. Winston has a planned 102-pass workout session going, and while he has completed most a lot of throws have been high or behind receivers who have had to adjust. In fact, Winston is looking a tad frustrated with the whole business and may be pressing just a little bit. Update: Winston appears to have gotten more comfortable as the workout evolved as he showed improved accuracy over the second half of his workout; one of the thing that stands out is that his release is very smooth and he appears to throw a very catchable pass.

Winston, ‘Noles take pro day center stage …  Expect the biggest crowd of the entire pro day schedule to be on hand in Tallahasse later this morning when Florida State holds its annual on-campus workout tomorrow which is expected to draw just about everyone who is anyone in NFL personnel circles. Most of the focus, of course, will be on QB Jameis Winston, the prospective #1 pick at this year’s draft. Needless to say, Tampa Bay which holds the first-pick this year will be out in force at the FSU pro day. Interestingly, Tennessee and the Jets are also expected to have pretty much their entire staff of senior personnel executives on hand even though Winston appears to be pretty much a lock to go to the Buccaneers, barring an unforseen off-field screw-up between now and the draft. At the same time, while Winston will be making the headlines, the Seminoles in fact have as many top 100 prospects as any team in the country, including several other first-round candidates such as DT Eddie Goldman, C/T Cameron Erving and CB P.J. Williams. For the record, the NFL Network will be providing live television coverage of the event starting at Noon ET; indeed, that’s when Winston, who is likely only to throw, is expected to join the proceedings.

Falcons lose future pick; Browns dodge bullet as NFL lays down the law … Atlanta will forfeit a 5th round pick at the 2016 draft as punishment for illegally pumping noise into the stadium during games over the past couple of seasons. In addition, the falcons were fined $350,000 and G.M. Rich McKay was suspended from the league’s competition committee for at least 3 months. Meanwhile, Cleveland G.M. Ray Farmer bore the brunt of league’s wrath for illegally texting his coaches during games last season. Farmer will be suspended the first 4 games of the upcoming season and the team will pay a $250,000 fine but will not lose any draft picks.

Thinking out loud … GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has some more opinions on veteran free agents signings to date as well as perspective on how some teams stand on picks for the draft right now.

Jets go Duck hunting … The New York Jets will hold a private work out with Oregon QB Marcus Mariota in Eugene later today. And the Jets don’t appear to have spared any expense in checking out the former Ducks’ star as the team will have 6 senior personnel execs on site including G.M Mike Maccagnan, head coach Todd Bowles, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, QB coach Kevin Patullo, director of college scouting Rex Hogan, and director of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger. The Jets have the 6th pick in this year’s draft and have proclaimed they would take Mariota if he were in fact the proverbial ‘best player available’ at that point in the draft. Of course, for the Jets to take Mariota with the 6th pick – and the Jets would appear to have to do something at QB as they can sign all the free agent CBs they want, they aren’t going to compete against Bill Belichek, Tom Brady and the hated Patriots with Geno Smith and/or Ryan Fitzpatrick under center – he’d have to make it to the 6th pick and with as many as a half dozen other teams purportedly interested in him the chances of that happening are on the wrong side of 50-50 for the Jets, which would mean the Jets may very well have to move up from the 6th pick to have any chance of landing Mariota. Meanwhile, Washington will reportedly have Mariota in for a visit at their team facilities next week as will Tampa Bay and Tennessee which have the top two picks respectively at this year’s draft, while Cleveland and San Diego have workouts scheduled with him later in April.

 

Pigskin updates top 5 by position … With all kinds of new intelligence out there, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has updated his ranking of the top 5-6 prospects for each position for the 2015 draft.

Falcons, Browns bracing for sanctions … The NFL is expected to announce the sanctions against Atlanta and Cleveland early next week and both teams have already been told by the league that they will be ‘severe’. Indeed, both teams are now reportedly expecting to lose a draft pick this year. Cleveland, for example, has reportedly been working in its draft prep on the premise that they will probably lose one of their two 4th round picks this year. Cleveland is under the gun because G.M. Ray Farmer was illegally texting messages to his coaching staff during games. Farmer is also expected to be suspended for as many as four games next year. Meanwhile, Atlanta was found to be pumping noise into its stadium during games which is also a no-no. On the other hand, there still does not seem to be any timeline for resolving any sanctions against New England for the deflated football issue during the playoffs.

Combine north underway in Toronto … The CFL’s annual scouting combine for Canadian born players is underway in Toronto as we speak and runs through Sunday. The CFL’s combine lacks the glamor of its NFL counterpart, but the 45 players who have been invited to participate go through essentially the same drills as do NFL prospects in Indianapolis. This year’s CFL draft is scheduled for May 12th, although as noted in the past that while CFL rosters are evenly divided between Canadian born players and American imports, the CFL draft is actually only for non-import players born in Canada, although they may have played the college football in the US. Indeed, the top prospect for the CFL draft is generally thought to be UNLV OT Brett Boyko who was at the NFL combine last month. So was Yale RB Tyler Varga, another top 5 prospect for the CFL draft, and neither will participate in this weekend’s event in Toronto. Meanwhile, the top-rated players who will be at this weekend’s CFL combine are Western Ontario DT Daryl Waud, who played in the year’s East-West Shrine All-star game in January and Manitoba WR Nic Demski. Here is the full list of CFL combine participants along with the league’s combine results tracker, which will be updated through the weekend.

So close, but just not far away … GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette takes a look at a dozen or prospects for the 2015 draft who just missed the cut in making the GBN Big Board ranking of the top 256 prospects for this year’s draft

GBN on the air …  Due to a scheduling conflict, ‘The’ Great Blue North ‘Blog Radio’ Draft Report Show has been moved back to tonight at 8 PM ET on blog radio. Join host Eric Lamb and GBN analysts Colin Lindsay and  Pigskin Paul Guillemette as we walk through the first dozen or so picks for the 2015 draft and look at the various potential options for each with just 5 weeks to go until the draft on Blog Talk Radio. Fans can also call the show with questions or comments at 1-347-826-7213.

Huskers DE reveals failed weed test at combine … Nebraska DE/OLB Randy Gregory, a top ten prospect for the upcoming draft, has revealed in an interview with NFL.com that he tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine in February. In order to also not fail the ‘really stupid’ test Gregory said he actually hadn’t used the stuff since December, but it must have remained in his system. Gregory, though, did accept responsibility saying that he ‘blamed himself.’ However, its also not the first time that Gregory has had weed issues as he previously failed a couple of drug tests at Nebraska and faced a suspension if he was caught a third time. And there’s the rub for NFL teams with early picks at this year’s draft. Nobody in the league much worries about a soft drug like marijuana impacting a player’s ability on the field; however, get caught up in the league’s substance abuse regime and the player could be suspended and Gregory is now already on the list. For now, though, it certainly doesn’t appear as if any teams have taken Gregory off their boards. Indeed, he has a number of visits and or private workouts scheduled in the upcoming weeks – remember NFL teams will have had this information for a couple of months now – including private workouts with Oakland, Washington and Atlanta which have the 4th, 5th and 8th picks respectively in this year’s opening round.

Crashing the party … With the 2015 draft still some 5 weeks away there appears to be considerable movement of players up and down draft boards around the league. And today’s edition of the Draft Buzz files looks at a number of players who may not have been much more than third-day prospects when the draft process started, but have moved well up since and may actually have begun to get just a hint of late first-round consideration by some teams.

Lovie ‘comfortable’ with ‘Noles QB … Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith may have walked back his suggestion over the weekend that the Buccaneers might ‘surprise’ some people with the #1 pick at this year’s draft, presumably rather than taking Florida State QB Jameis Winston the presumptive favorite. Facing what was described as a ‘barrage’ of questions about Winston at the coaches breakfast at the owners meetings in Phoenix earlier this morning,  Smith said that after doing “unprecedented’’ research on Winston, the organization was comfortable that he would not repeat the lapses in judgment that got him in trouble on more than one occasion at Florida State. Smith, though, wouldn’t go so far as to anoint Winston as Tampa Bay’s choice with the first overall pick this year as the Buccaneers are still doing their homework. Indeed, the Buccaneers will have a full contingent of staff at Winston’s pro day next Tuesday and then will reportedly conduct their own private workout with him sometime in early April. For good measure, Smith also had some positive things to say about Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, the other top QB prospect in this year’s draft class. Meanwhile, at the same breakfast, St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher pretty much confirmed that Cleveland offered the Rams at least the 19th pick at this year’s draft for QB Sam Bradford before the latter was dealt to Philadelphia for a package that included veteran QB Nick Foles. And while speculation continues that Philadelphia’s real target remains Mariota, Eagles’ head coach/G.M. Chip Kelly once again downplayed the possibility that the Eagles might move up to acquire Mariota as he didn’t want to gut the team’s talent base, he also didn’t rule something out. In fact, the ‘other’ scenario that no one has talked much about would see the Browns move up to actually select Mariota somewhere in the top 5 and then trade him to the Eagles for a package including Bradford and the 20th pick this year. Just speculation on our part at this point, but stranger things have happened.

Selection order updated … The NFL followed up yesterday’s announcement of this year’s compensatory picks, the league has also released the current full 7-round selection order for the upcoming draft. And after being one of three teams awarded 4 compensatory picks at this year’s draft, Seattle currently has 11 selections, the most of any team in the league. What the Seahawks don’t have, of course, is a first-round pick in their haul after they traded the 31st selection to New Orleans for star TE Jimmy Graham, however, Seattle still has 5 picks within the first four rounds. Meanwhile, Cleveland, which has two first rounders – the 12th and 19th picks – along with Baltimore, Kansas City, Houston and Denver have 10 picks each, while Cincinnati, Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England and New Orleans have 9 apiece. In fact, every team in the league currently has at least 6 picks heading into the draft. Here’s the updated list of picks by team as we have them, although we’ll have to wait for the NFL to announce the full, final draft order to know all the exact picks in the final four rounds because of some multiple trade picks.

Talk is cheap … The NFL’s annual owners spring meeting has generally been considered to be the unofficial start to the ‘smoke and mirrors’ phase of the draft process as just about every owner, G.M. and head coach in the league gets some face time with members of the media. And while most of what is said at the owners meetings is pretty circumspect, as Yogi used to say ‘you can hear a lot just by listening’ or something like that and one can sometimes pick up a clue or two by reading through the tea leaves. For the record, here’s a sampling of some of the noteworthy draft-related comments at this week’s meetings in Phoenix. Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht, for example, was a little more conservative that Bucs’ head coach Lovie Smith was over the weekend when he was quoted as saying the Bucs ‘might surprise’ with the #1 pick this year. Licht indicated the Bucs are still doing their homework on the top QBs and plan to a full contingent at Jameis Winston’s pro day at Florida State next Tuesday. Unlike Smith, though, Licht gave no hint that the Bucs would consider trading down from the #1 pick; indeed, what he did hint at was that maybe Tampa Bay might trade up from their second pick, the 34th overall, especially if a quality offensive lineman was available … No surprise here, but Jacksonville GM Dave Caldwell did nothing to mask the fact that the Jaguars would like to move down from the #3 pick after sitting tight at the same spot last year in order to secure QB Blake Bortles. Said Caldwell at his presser: “For sure, this year more than any it would be better to have an extra second or third round pick. If we can get an extra starter in the second or third round, which is where you generally find your starters, this draft would be great.” Of course, the Jags would be in a great spot to move down if Tennessee passes on Oregon QB Marcus Mariota with the 2nd pick. Certainly, one team that has been widely mentioned as a possible landing spot for Mariota are the New York Jets, although there have been conflicting reports of late on how highly the team rates Mariota. Jets’ owner Woody Johnson rasied some eyebrows at the owners meetings when he said that current Jets’ starter Geno Smith is ‘way ahead’ of Mariota at this time, although Johnson did add that the Jets are still gathering information and are keeping all their options open. At the same time, new Jets’ head coach Todd Bowles was less forthcoming in his praise of Smith than Johnson saying that he was the teams’ starter ‘for now’. And Bowles left the door wide-open to taking a QB ‘if he were the best player on the board.’ In fact, the Jets who were well represented at Mariota’s pro day earlier this month, will return for a private workout with him next Tuesday at Oregon … One of the other teams mentioned in connection with Mariota is Cleveland. Browns’ G.M. And Ray Farmer wouldn’t rule out the Browns doing something regarding Mariota including the possibility of packaging the 12th and 19th picks in order to move up to get the former Ducks’ star. “Everything’s on the table” said Farmer who stressed that he’ll continue to explore every possible way to upgrade every position on the team, including quarterback. Farmer did say that he no longer considers Philadelphia QB Sam Bradford an option for in Cleveland in the wake of rumors that the Browns were hot after Bradford both before and after he was dealt from St. Louis to the Eagles. However, Farmer did leave the door slightly ajar – well maybe wide open – when he added that the only way that he’d consider Bradford to be an option for the Browns would be if ‘somebody’ (presumably named Chip) called and said ”Look, we’re trying to move him.” For the record, Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine had some very nice words about how Mariota has turned his supposed weakness of having been a system QB at Oregon into a positive by aggressively working on it this off-season, a lot of it under the tutelage of Browns’ QB coach Kevin O’Connell.

Comp picks announced … The NFL has announced that 32 compensatory picks at the 2015 draft have been awarded to 14 teams. Kansas City, Denver and Seattle lead the way with 4 comp picks each, while Baltimore and Houston will receive three each. At the same time, New England, Carolina, Cincinnati, Green Bay and San Francisco each get a couple of extra picks, while St. Louis, Arizona, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh each get one comp pick. New England, though, gets the highest comp, the 97th overall, while Kansas City (#98) and Cincinnati (#99) also got extra picks at the end of the 3rd round. Meanwhile, the 49ers (#132), Denver (#133), Seattle (#134), Cincinnati (#135) and Baltimore (#136) get extra 4th rounders, while Carolina (#169), Seattle (#170), Baltimore (#s 171 and 175), Kansas City (#s 172 and 173) and Houston (#174) were awarded 5th rounders. Here is the full list of comp picks which were awarded based on net losses of veteran free agents last spring.

 

Who’s saying what … Normally with the draft less than 40 days one would expect the smoke and mirrors type information and disinformation to start to fly with some regularity, however, so far its been very quiet this year. Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith did cause some head-scratching when he was quoted over the weekend as telling the NFL Network the Buccaneers might surprise people with this year’s #1 pick. Said Smith, whose Buccaneers have been thought to have been locked in on Florida State QB Jameis Winston with this year’s first pick for some time now: “I can see why people would assume we’re gonna take a quarterback. There are two excellent quarterbacks that are available at the top and when you get a chance to draft someone like that, most of the time, people do. But there are other good players in the draft also. I think it’s a deep draft for defensive line. Like last year, there are a lot of great receivers that are coming out. I think, just overall, the amount of athletes coming into each incoming class, it’s pretty deep for players that can make an immediate impact.” That had some analysts wondering if Tampa Bay was perhaps wavering on their supposed commitment to Winston – and by all accounts they have yet to tell the player that he will be the pick – or that Smith was signalling to other teams that the top pick still could be had in a trade for the right price. Of course, Smith could also be blowing a little smoke Winston’s way as the Buccaneers can open negotiations with any of the top prospects before the draft. Meanwhile, New Orleans G.M. Mickey Loomis told USA today on Monday that star QB Drew Brees wasn’t going anywhere. There has been some speculation that the 36-year-old Brees might be on the block after the salary-cap stretched Saints dealt star TE Jimmy Graham to Seattle earlier this month. The corollary to the rumor was that the Saints would then package some of their growing haul of picks – New Orleans has 5 of the first 78 picks in this year’s draft including the 13th and 31st picks in the opening round – in order to move up and grab Oregon QB Marcus Mariota to replace Brees. The more realistic buzz for the Saints, though, is that while they are unlikely to deal Brees and go after Mariota, they could be tempted to move up int the top 10 in order to select Alabama WR Amari Cooper. Stay tuned.

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