News

What they are saying … While there doesn’t appear to be a lot of real hard news out there this morning with the draft now just 11 days away, there is a lot of talk about what is going to happen on the 30th and beyond. The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, for example, has an overview of where we stand with this year’s draft class; the Tennessean in Nashville has an analysis of what it will cost in various scenarios to trade up with Tennessee to acquire the second pick overall; the Buffalo News has an overview of the top offensive linemen in this year’s draft; while the Florida Times-Union has a nice breakdown of what NFL teams are looking for when they draft a safety early these days.

Top RB checks out at med re-check … According to a report by NFL.com, Georgia RB Todd Gurley, expected to be one of the first 1-2 backs off the board at this month’s draft, ‘checked out fine’ at the medical follow-up tests in Indianapolis yesterday and today. Gurley had been thought of as a possible top 5-10 pick this year, but tore an ACL in mid-November that required surgery and needless to say ended his season. However, according to reports from Indianapolis today, Gurley is progressing well and could actually be ready for training camp. The next question  for Gurley, who remaisn one of this year’s biggest draft wild cards, is how high does he ultimately go. Meanwhile, other players who were in Indianapolis this week for medical re-checks included Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi, who also tore an ACL last fall, Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong, who will reportedly need surgery on a wrist, and Indiana RB Tevin Coleman who was not able to participate in the combine or his pro day because of a foot injury.

Game of musical chairs continues … The intrigue may very well continue right up until the clock starts ticking on the actual picks on April 30th, but this morning’s edition of the Draft Buzz file looks at the latest undercurrents regarding the top QB prospects at this year’s draft, plus other stuff.

Star Big XII KR heading to MAC … Former Oklahoma State WR/KR Tyreek Hill has transferred to Akron. Hill, who has near world class speed, was being touted as a possible second day pick at the 2015 draft, but ended up being kicked off the Cowboys’ squad late in the season after he was charged with domestic violence. It would appear, though, that he likely will have to sit out the upcoming season.

Two more for the price of one! Team-by-team mocks: Tampa Bay and Oakland … Over the course of the final two weeks until the 2015 draft, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be taking a slightly different tack on the concept of the mock draft by essentially doing one for as many teams as possible including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, which have the 1st and 4th picks respectively this year and are featured in this edition. Doing it this way rather than the more traditional pick-by-pick method provides the opportunity o go into a little more detail on the options that the respective team has in different rounds.

Winston sued by alleged sex assault victim … Former Florida State QB Jameis Winston, the presumptive #1 pick at the 2015 draft, had thought he had put the allegations of sexual assault behind him, but it doesn’t look like that focus is going to be going away anytime soon as Erica Kinsman, the young women who raised the original complaint back in 2012, has filed a lawsuit against Winston claiming sexual battery, assault, false imprisonment and “intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of forcible rape.” Winston was never charged over the incident and was recently cleared of any violations of the school’s code of student ethics by an independent arbriter, however, the alleged victim has never backed down from her story. And what complicates the story for Winston and the NFL is that the suit also alleges there was a second victim that has also come forward with an allegation against Winston. Needless to say the suit comes at an awkward time for Winston and the league, very likely not by happenstance, with the draft now just two weeks away. For now, Tampa Bay, which has the #1 pick and appears primed to take Winston, is saying that the suit will have no effect on their draft plans. However, if anyone on the team’s management team, especially anyone in the ownership group, was having any doubts about Winston becoming the face of the franchise then the latest news is hardly going to calm their nerves. Stay tuned!

Parameters in Bucs, Lions Johnson swap set … The trade details in the agreement between Tampa Bay and Detroit to swap draft picks in order to resolve a dispute between the two teams over an offer sheet restricted free agent DE George Johnson signed with the Buccaneers has been announced. Detroit will get a 5th round pick from Tampa Bay, the 168h overall originally acquired from New England, while the Buccaneers will get a 7th rounder,  the 231st overall originally acquired from Miami. Tampa Bay had signed Johnson to a 3-year, $9M offer sheet, however, Detroit had disputed the terms because the package included a de-escalator clause that could have reduced the deal by up to $2 million and the Lions wanted to match the lower amount to keep Johnson. With the deal, the 2015 draft selection order has been updated along with the picks by team file. Meanwhile, Green Bay has reportedly matched the 1-year, $2.6M offer sheet safety Sean Richardson signed with Oakland last week, meaning they will retain his services in 2015.

Wrist surgery could shelve top WR prospect … NFL.com is reporting that Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong will require surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist. No word on how long he will be sidelined. Also no word on whether this will impact Strong’s final draft position as he ha been considered to be  amid-to-late first round candidate.

GBN on the air …  ‘The’ Great Blue North ‘Blog Radio’ Draft Report Show will be back in its regular slot at 8 PM ET later tonight on blog radio; however, with the draft now just 15 days away the show will be extended to 90 minutes. Join host Eric Lamb and GBN analysts Colin Lindsay and  Pigskin Paul Guillemette, along with special guests Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Frank Coyle of the very excellent Draft Insiders, which has just released its annual Draft Yearbook, arguably the best draft guide pout there, as we talk about the latest drafted related buzz on Blog Talk Radio. Fans can also call the show with questions or comments at 1-347-826-7213.

Have arm, will travel … One almost needs a program these days to keep track of all the private workouts and on-site visits that QBs Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, the top-rated QBs for the 2015 draft are currently going through. If nothing, its possible that the two will have almost as many frequent flyer miles as their first pro contracts. For the record, Winston will be in Chicago later today to meet with Bears’ front-office people. In fact, we believe that Winston was actually supposed to be in New York today to meet with the Jets, but those two sides are having some trouble getting together on a schedule, although they have apparently agreed on some kind of meeting prior to the draft. The Jets and Bears, both of whom have major issues at QB, have the 6th and 7th picks, respectively, this year, but would likely have to move up to have a shot at either Winston or Mariota. Winston, of course, has long been the presumptive favorite to be the first pick overall this year by Tampa Bay, but there are rumblings around the league that the Buccaneers may have cooled toward the former Florida State and may be willing to move the pick for the right package. Meanwhile, Mariota has been the center of trade rumblings literally since the start of the draft process. Meanwhile, a day after working out Mariota in Eugene, San Diego officials will be in Los Angeles today to work out Brett Hundley of UCLA. There have been rumors that the Chargers might try and trade star veteran QB Philip Rivers and move up to get Mariota with Rivers threatening to test free agency next year if the Chargers relocate to L.A. And if they do end up moving north, the Chargers will want a marquee QB and Hundley, who obviously played in L.A. might make a decent second-choice option if the Chargers weren’t able to land a Mariota. For the record, the Chargers have also worked out Bryce Petty of Baylor and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson in recent weeks, although like UCLA’s Hundley neither is expected to be taken in this year’s opening round.

NFL announces 26 players to attend draft … The NFL has announced that 26 players have accepted invitations to attend this year’s draft including Southern California DE Leonard Williams, Florida OLB Dante Fowler, West Virginia WR Kevin White, Clemson OLB Vic Beasley, Iowa G/T Brandon Scherff, Washington NT Danny Shelton, Nebraska OLB Randy Gregory, Louisville WR Devante Parker, Michigan State CB Trae Waynes, LSU G/T La’el Collins, Kentucky OLB Bud Dupree, Stanford OT Andrus Peat, Missouri OLB Shane Ray, Alabama FS Landon Collins, Georgia RB Todd Gurley, Wisconsin RB Mel Gordon, Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman, Oregon DT Arik Armstead, Florida State C/T Cameron Erving, Florida OT D.J. Humphries, Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson, UConn CB Byron Jones, LB Benardrick McKinney, Ohio State WR Devin Smith, Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong, and Duke OG Laken Tomlinson. However, neither of this year’s top rated QBs – Jameis Winston of Florida State and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota – who are projected to be the first two players selected will be in Chicago later this month. Winston has said he would probably stay home on draft weekend to be with his family, while Mariota intends to celebrate with family in Hawaii. Meanwhile, Alabama WR Amari Cooper, a third potential top 5 pick this year, is also not on the list.

Raiders sign vet WR Crabtree … Oakland appears to have finally found a top veteran target for 2nd year QB Derek Carr as the Raiders have reportedly come to terms with former San Francisco WR Michael Crabtree. since being selected in the opening round of the 2009 by the 49ers Crabtree has been a solid enough receiver with his best season coming in 2012 when he had 85 receptions for over 1,100 yards. However, Crabtree missed much of the following season with a torn Achilles and ended up with 68 catches last year. Whether Crabtree’s acquisition will change the Raiders’ draft plans remains to be seen. The Raiders have been thought to be targeting WRs Amari Cooper of Alabama and/or West Virginia’s Kevin white with the 4th pick overall, although Crabtree isn’t necessarily the downfield threat the offense is looking for. However, the acquisition of Crabtree would appear to give the Raiders some options, if say, USC DE Leonard Williams, arguably the top non-QB prospect in this year’s draft, were still on the board when Oakland gets on the clock.

Chargers head north to work out top QB … On-campus private workouts come in all shapes and sizes. One of the strangest this year takes place later today when San Diego officials put Oregon QB Marcus Mariota through his paces in Eugene. The Chargers’ brass, including head coach Mike McCoy, offensive coordinator Frank Reich, and QB-coach Nick Sirianni flew to Oregon on Monday where they had dinner with Mariota last night. Of course, teams work out players all the time, but this one has raised more than a few eyebrows around the league as Mariota is projected to be taken as early as the first or second pick in this year’s opening round, whereas the Chargers don’t pick until the second half of the round at #17. All this has set of plenty of speculation that the Chargers just might be willing to offer up longtime starting QB Philip Rivers as part of a package to move up to get Mariota. Rivers is already 33, is under contract only one more year and has hinted he will play out his current deal and test free agency next year if the Chargers end up relocating to Los Angeles.  At the same time, Tennessee head coach Ken Whisenhunt is familiar with Riveres in that he was the Chargers’ offensive coordinator in 2013, while Nashville also is close to home for Rivers who grew up in Alabama and played collegiately at North Carolina State.

‘Other’ SC gets top future DB … Former Kansas SS Isaiah Johnson announced on twitter over the weekend that he is transferring to South Carolina. Johnson, a leading candidate at the position for the 2016 draft left Kansas with a year of eligibility remaining for what have been described as personal reasons. And because Johnson will coming to South Carolina as a graduate transfer in a program not offered at Kansas he will be eligible to play immediately in 2015. The 6-0, 210-pound Johnson, who started all 24 games in his two years at Kansas, led the Jayhawks with 75 tackles in 2014 when he also had an interception after making 5 the previous year.

Another week; the plot thickens ... With the clocking ticking on the 2015 draft – its just 17 days away as we speak – the waters surrounding this year’s early picks just seem to be getting murkier. This week, St. Louis, which has the 10th pick overall, will hold private workouts with both Jameis Winston of Florida State and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, the top-rated QBs in this year’s top rated QB prospects, at their respective campuses. Winston, of course, has long been the favorite to be the #1 later pick later this month by Tampa Bay, but whispers continue to swirl that the Buccaneers still aren’t quite sold on the former FSU star and could be tempted to deal the pick. Meanwhile, Mariota appears to be very much in the mix for the 2nd pick currently held by Tennessee, but there have been rumblings for weeks that there were as many as a half dozen teams that were interested in moving up to get him. The fact that the Rams have apparently jumped into the QB game at this late juncture after having acquired veteran Nick Foles from Philadelphia earlier this year may indicate that the very top of the board is indeed in a state of flux at this time. Meanwhile, the New York Jets will also be hosting Winston at their team facilities later this week. The Jets had actually planned on also having a private workout with Winston, but canceled it after he threw over 100 passes at his pro day. The Jets, who have the 6th pick in this year’s opening round, have indicated that they would consider moving up in the draft, but until now speculation focused on the Jets moving to the #2 pick to get Mariota. Stay tuned!

Charges against UM DE Clark lowered in plea deal … Former Michigan DE Frank Clark won’t have to face any more jail time after he accepted a plea bargain in which he plead guilty to a charge of persistent disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, while first-degree misdemeanor charges for domestic violence and assault were dismissed. Clark was fined $250 along with court costs of $100 and an undisclosed probation fee, but will not have to serve any additional jail time. The charges stemmed from an incident in November when Clark allegedly roughed up his live-in girlfriend while spending a bye weekend with her family. The 6-3, 271-pound Clark was subsequently kicked off the Michigan team, but got back on the draft radar with a strong combine and pro day as he is one of the better true 4-3 DEs available in this year’s draft, although he is still most likely a 3rd day pick.

More intrigue at top of draft …  The 2015 may not have quite the overall talent as other recent drafts, but it has never lacked for intrigue. In fact, about the only thing that one could take to the bank with some certainty regarding this year’s draft is that Tampa Bay was going to take Florida State QB Jameis Winston with the first pick. It turns out, however, that that branch wasn’t necessarily open for business. And while it hardly rises to even the level of buzz right now, there is quiet undercurrent around the league that just maybe Tampa Bay still isn’t quite sold on Winaton. The Buccaneers certainly have yet to make any kind of commitment to Winston himself and, in fact, are still in the process of evaluating prospects. Senior Tampa Bay personnel execs, for example, were at back-to-back private workouts for Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and Winston earlier this week, although it should be noted that they only had Winston throw 25 passes at his workout suggesting they had seen enough in the past. The Buccaneers are even still checking ont non-QB prospects and had Florida OLB Dante Fowler in for a visit on Friday, although we have seen an unconfirmed report that Fowler was quoted as saying he left town believing that Tampa Bay was going with a QB with the first pick. At the same time, earlier in the week, there were reports that some in the Buccaneers’ ownership group still weren’t sure about Winston becoming the face of the franchise. Then earlier today, Winston’s own attorney, who represented him against that sexual assault allegation, reportedly said that Winston may be ready to be an NFL player, but was not necessarily ready for the NFL off the field. The attorney, though, did walk those comments back later saying that he didn’t think anyone is ever really ready for what they meet when they go from college to the pros. If it was up to the Bucs’ fans, though, it appears that Winston is very much their man. According to reports from a conference call involving Bucs’ club seat holders earlier this week, support for Winston was pretty much unanimous. Perhaps the most telling comment from that conference call, though, came from Tampa Bay G.M. Jason Licht who replied “we’ll leave that door open” when asked about the possibility of the Buccaneers trading first overall pick. Indeed, it is possible that with as many as a half dozen teams supposedly thinking seriously about trying to move to the second pick currently held by Tennessee in order to acquire Mariota, that Licht and the Buccaneers have started to think “hey, what about us.” In the end, the odds are still stacked that the Buccaneers end up keeping the first pick and taking Winston, but their actual preference may be to trade the top pick for a package of picks. Stay tuned!

RB wear and tear … One of the intriguing questions related to the 2015 draft is whether a RB or two will be taken in the first round for the first time in three years. Time will tell, but there is no question that the position has been significantly devalued in the draft over the course of the past couple of decades. One concern of NFL teams is that because of the cumulative effect of all the hits that RBs absorb over their careers, they tend to have a relatively short life in the pros. With that in mind, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has done a little research and broken down this year’s top RBs by how many touches they had in their college careers with some surprising results.

More Mariota trade talk, plus other draft buzz … Another day and more rumblings of teams interested in moving up to grab Oregon QB Mariota somewhere early in the first-round of this month’s draft. For starters, an older rumor that Chicago, which has the 7th pick, could be in play for Mariota and would be willing – make that happy, thrilled overjoyed – to include incumbent starting QB Jay Cutler as part of the package. Tennessee, which has the 2nd pick, might be tempted as Cutler played collegiately at Vanderbilt in Nashville, but might actually ask the Bears for compensation for taking Cutler off their hands. At the same time, Mike Flori of Pro Football Talk is reporting this day, that according to ‘multiple league sources” Cleveland is prepared to offer up both its first round picks – the 12th and 19th – to move up to get Mariota. Whether those two first rounders would be enough to get the Browns up to the #2 remains to be seen, but that could be a tempting offer to the Titans who are talking about building a team around strong-armed second year pro Zach Mettenberger and could use all the picks they can get if that’s the way they want to proceed. Interesting that one team Mariota will not visit is Washington, which has leaked some interest in taking him with the 5th pick, after the player and team couldn’t work out a suitable date. Really! One wonders if Mariota’s team felt that Washington really wasn’t all that interested in the player, but wanted to throw some smoke to drum up trade interest in the pick … While most of the draft trade buzz in recent days has focused on Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and the 2nd pick overall currently held by Tennessee, there is some potential for other trade runs later in the opening round. Rob Rang of CBS Sports is reporting, for example, that Miami, which has the 14th pick overall, is seriously considering trying to make a move up into the top 10 to get either of WRs Amari Cooper of Alabama or west Virginia’s Kevin White. In fact, Miami may just be one of several teams with picks in the teens who may try and move up to get a receiver with Louisville’s Devante Parker also possibly being in the mix. Indeed, along with Miami, St. Louis at 310, Cleveland at #12, Houston at #16, and Kansas City at #1 all have major needs at WR and may be tempted to get one of the top three wideouts as there is a drop off among the next level of receivers. For the record, Rang has also just updated his Big Board ranking of the top 64 prospects for the 2015 draft in which he has Nebraska OLB Randy Gregory and Florida State DT Eddie Goldman slipping somewhat; Gregory in the wake of that positive test for marijuana at the combine and Goldman after what was reportedly a less than stellar pro day workout last week. On the other hand, Rang has Miami OT Ereck Flowers moving up – to 14th overall – and that confirms with what we have been hearing. Flowers has prototype size and length for a pro OT on either side and while he isn’t necessarily all that light on his feet, he has some of the best game tape of any prospect in this year’s draft. Play in and play out, the guy in front of Flowers just doesn’t make many plays such that no one should be shocked if a team like the Giants, St., Louis or Minnesota, who pick 9th thru #11 take him ahead of some of the offensive lineman who have generally carried higher grades through the draft process … Meanwhile, back to West Virginia WR Kevin White for just a moment, folks can stop feeling sorry for him after it was reported earlier in the week that despite the fact that he was a potential top 5 pick this year, the former Moyntaineers’ star had received only one paltry invitation to visit an NFL team HQ for a pre-draft visit. In fact, it seems that White’s dance card has filled up a bit since with visits now lined up with Chicago and St. Louis, as well as the two New York teams. For the record, that is the teams with the 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th picks this year, just about where one would figure White would go IF he isn’t selected by Oakland with the 4th selection.

Three weeks to go until the draft … Hang in there guys!!

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