NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

Media outlets wishing to interview Colin Lindsay or Pigskin Paul Guillemette about the draft or other football topics should email the editor or call 613-692-1088

Young stud OT look to be staying in school … According to a tweet from former Sooners’ OT, and family friend, Jammal Brown, Oklahoma redshirt sophomore LT Orlando Brown will be returning to school for the 2017 college campaign. The 6-8, 340-pound Brown has the potential to be a top 10-type prospect for the 2018 draft. At the same time, Notre Dame redshirt sophomore OG Quenton Nelson

More NFLPA star game additions … The NFLPA college all-star game has announced the addition of 5 more players including Louisiana Tech QB Ryan Higgins, South Dakota PK Miles Bergner, Nevada P Alex Boy, and safeties Xavier Woods of Louisiana Tech and Lorenzo Jerome of St. Francis (PA). The NFLPA game is scheduled for January 21st in Carson, California.

Pitt RB Conner enters draft … Pittsburgh junior RB James Conner has announced that he will be entering the 2017 draft. Conner was regarded as a potential top prospect after he ran for almost 1,800 yards and 26 TDs as a sophomore in 2014, but then missed the 2015 season while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Conner, who reportedly never missed an off-field workout while undergoing his treatment which included chemotherapy, returned to action this fall when he ran for another 1,060 yards and 16 TDs. While he is still a pretty good prospect, where Conner is ultimately drafted, if he is drafted at all, will be determined to a large degree how pro teams view his long-term health prognosis. Conner is the 4th top junior RB to have already declared for this year’s draft along with LSU’s Len Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and D’Onta Foreman of Texas.

UNC DT enters draft … North Carolina junior DT Nazair Jones has announced that he will forego his final season of eligibility and enter the 2017 draft. The 6-5, 295-pound Jones was a productive enough player at North Carolina where he started 21 of 34 career games and had 62 tackles, including 1.5 sacks and 6 other tackles for loss this past season after which he was named a third-team all-conference performer for the second consecutive season. However, there is more to Jones’ back story as he literally couldn’t walk as recently as 5 years ago because of a rare illness that he has battled back from. Jones is also a character kid who is very active helping other sick children.

RGIII back as Browns’ starter … Cleveland has confirmed that Robert Griffin will be the starter at QB when the 0-12 Browns host Cincinnati on Sunday. Griffin entered the season as the Browns’ starter, but fractured a bone in his shoulder in the team’s season-opener and has not played since. The Browns are hoping, of course, that Griffin will give them something of a spark as they try to avoid a winless season. Its also a tryout of sorts for both Griffin and the Browns as the team is still reportedly optimistic that Griffin can be a legitimate starting QB in the NFL. Indeed, if Griffin can show them something over the final month of the season, it could take the pressure off the Browns’ to force a pick at QB with their #1 selection this coming April. Barring a trade, it seems a given that the Browns will have either the first or second picks overall this year.

More NFLPA star game roster additions … The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl all-star game scheduled for January 21st in Carson, California has announced that 5 more players have accepted invites including Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner; OTs Storm Norton of Toledo and Minnesota’s Jonah Pirsig; LSU DT Christian LaCouture; and Idaho P/PK Austin Rehkow. Other notes from the NFLPA game include the fact that Utah RB Joe Williams, who was previously on both rosters for the NFLPA and East-West Shrine game, has committed to the latter game and has been removed from tehe NFLPA roster. The NFLPA has also removed the names of Middle Tennessee RB I’Tavius, Michigan State TE Jamal Lyles and LSU OG Josh Boutte. The assumption here is that they have de-committed from the NFLPA game to play in either the Shrine game or Senior Bowl and just haven’t been announced by those games yet. Stay tuned.

Updated first-round projection posted … With the NFL regular season now at the 3/4 pole, the GBN projection for the opening round of the 2017 draft has been updated based on the latest intel. And some astute readers will note that some of the picks in this particular projection don’t always necessarily jive with the latest GBN Big Board ranking of the top 100 prospects. Not to worry, the big board is in the process of being updated and the mock includes some of the updates that will be included in the revised top 100 that should be published early next week.

Pigskin’s championship week prospects review … GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette weighs in on which prospects caught his eye in last weekend’s conference championship games and other key college football games.

Cardinal RB confirms draft entry …  Turns yesterday’s unconfirmed media reports that Stanford junior RB Christian McCaffrey has decided to enter the 2017 draft were true as the star RB confirmed his decision to pass on his final year of eligibility and enter the upcoming draft where he projects to be a mid-to-late first round pick. McCaffrey led the nation this fall in all-purpose yards and finished 4th in rushing with over 1,600 yards despite being banged up part of the year; he also a very good receiver who had 37 catches this fall and a dynamic return man. McCaffrey becomes the unofficial 10th underclassmen to be added to the list of underclassmen who have declared in some fashion or other for this year’s draft.

Top 5 safeties … GBN regular guest contributor Steve Callahan ranks the top 5 safeties for the 2017 draft.

NFLPA game announces 4 more players … maybe … The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl college all-star game has announced 4 more players who have accepted invitations to their Carson, California game on January 21st. They include Grambling WR Chad Williams, Illinois State OG Cameron Lee, and OLB Jayon Brown and CB Fabian Moreau from UCLA.  However, it should be noted that the two UCLA players were announced yesterday as participants in the East-West Shrine game which is on the same day as the PA so they will be de-committing from one of those games.

Spartans’ DT enters draft … Michigan State junior DT Malik McDowell has announced that he will forego his final year of eligibility and enter the 2017 draft. McDowell had been considered to be a potential top 5 pick this year throughout much of the season, although his grade appears to have slipped several spots following a somewhat inconsistent season in which he was hampered by an undisclosed ankle injury.

Current first-round selection order posted … With the Monday night game pretty much decided, the selection order for the opening round of the 2017 draft, if the draft were to be held this week has been updated. And after a month in which there was almost no change in the first 6-7 picks, there was some shuffling this week as a result of Chicago’s win over San Francisco on Sunday. The Bears, which came into the week sitting on the third pick overall, would flip with the Jets for the 4th and 5th picks while Jacksonville moves up from 4th to 3rd. At the same time, there was no change at the top of the first-round selection order as still winless Cleveland keeps the 31 pick for at least another week after their bye, while San Francisco still sits at #2.

Star game invites … Both the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine all-star games announced their latest batches of players who have accepted invites to the respective events. Read full story

Ole Miss WR enters draft … Mississippihas announced that junior WR Damore’ea Stringfellow will skip his senior season and enter the 2017 draft. The 6-2, 220-pound Stringfellow caught 46 passes for over 700 yards and 6 TDs this fall. He actually started his college career at Washington, but left the Huskies after one season after pleading guilty to two counts of assault and one count of mischief in 2014. Stringfellow is considered to be a third-day prospect, but does have the size to intrigue NFL teams.

Heisman finalists named … The Heisman trust announced earlier this evening that the 5 finalists for this year’s award are Louisville sophomore QB Lamar Jackson, Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers, Clemson QB DeShaun Watson, and QB Baker Mayfield and WR DeDe Westbrook of Oklahoma. This year’s award will be presented on Saturday.

LSU RB Fournette, 2 others entering draft … LSU junior RB Len Fournette confirmed one of football’s worst-kept secrets when he announced earlier this afternoon that he will indeed be entering the 2017 draft where he is projected to be a top 10-20 pick. Meanwhile, it kind of slipped under the radar but Akron junior WR Jerome Lane announced via Twitter late last week that he will also be entering the upcoming draft. Lane is the son of the former Pitt basketball star of the same name who also played in the NBA. The 6-2, 220-pound Lane caught 101 passes for 1,800 yards and 14 scores over the past two seasons and is projected to be a later round pick this spring. At the same time, Penn State ILB Nyeem Wartman-White has announced that he will enter the 2017 draft rather than seek a 6th year of eligibility from the NCAA. Wartman-White tore ACLs in the season opener in 2015 and the Lions third game of the 2016 campaign.

49ers-Bears dual for #2 pick hilites Sunday sched … With Cleveland on its bye week, the still winless Browns will hold onto the #1 pick in the proverbial “if the draft were held this week” first-round selection order for the 2017 draft. However, there will be some shuffling of the remainder of the top 5 as San Francisco, which has had the second pick overall the past several weeks, will play at #3 Chicago in a 1 PM ET game. At the same time, Jacksonville, which currently its on the 4th pick, will be home to 9-2 Denver, while #6 Cincinnati will be hosting Philadelphia. Meanwhile, the NY Jets, who would pick 5th were the draft held this week, will host Indianapolis in the Monday night game. As usual, the full, first-roujd selection order will be updated after the Monday game.

NFLPA star game releases more roster additions … The NFLPA college all-star has announced the addition of another ten players to the roster including East Carolina QB Philip Nelson; WRs Robert Davis of Georgia State, Stanford’s Michael Rector, R.J. Shelton of Michigan State, UConn’s Noel Thomas; Jamir Tillman of Navy, and Robert Wheelwright of Wisconsin; UCLA DT Eli Ankou; Temple OLB Avery Williams; and Utah CB Reggie Porter. The 2017 NFLPA game is scheduled for January 21st in Carson, California.

Sooners QB to return … Oklahoma junior QB Baker Mayfield announced after the Sooners’ 38-20 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday that gave OU the Big XII conference title, that he will be returning to school for the 2017 season ostensibly to “play for a national championship.” Mayfield is classified as a redshirt junior after the conference voted for a rule that will allow walk-ons to transfer within the conference without losing a season of eligibility. After something of a slow start, Mayfield threw for almost 3,700 yards and 38 TDs this fall and is considered to be a possible invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony next week.

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