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

Pack to pick 29th; Pitt 30th … As a result of losses in today’s conference championship games, Green Bay will have the 29th pick overall in the opening round of the 2017 draft selection order, while Pittsburgh will have the 30th pick. Meanwhile, the final two selections, the 31st and 32nd will go Atlanta and New England, the Super Bowl finalists.

Colts fire G.M. … Indianapolis has fired general manager Ryan Grigson. Grigson had been in the job for five years and was under contract for three more years as is head coach Chuck Pagano. The move immediately set off speculation that former Colts’ HOF QB Peyton Manning could be the Colts’ target going forward, although Manning denied any interest.

Final underclassmen list released … The NFL released the list of underclassmen eligible for the 2017 earlier this evening with a total of 103 juniors and redshirt sophs who have been granted entry to this year’s draft. This final tally includes 8 players who have eligibility remaining, but have already graduated. This year’s tally of 103 early entrants is actually slightly less than last year’s record of 107 underclassmen who entered the 2016 draft. Underclassmen who had applied to the NFL without making a formal announcement included Towson junior RB Darius Victor, WRs Keevan Lucas of Tulsa and North Park’s Devin Childress, DE Khari Waithe-Alexander of Southern Illinois, Garden City CC redshirt sophomore DT Jeremy Faulk, and safeties Titus Howard of Slippery Rock and Aaron Peak of Butler CC. Of that group, only Tulsa’s Lucas is considered to be more than fringe prospects. Here is the full list of underclassmen eligible for the upcoming draft.

Pigskin picks Shrine all-star team … Today is an off-day for the East-West Shrine squads so our Pigskin Paul Guillemette, who has been on the ground all week in St. Petersburg, took the opportunity to pick his all-star team from the Shrine practices. And a little more from Pigskin on the Shrine week as he guests on Cheeseheadtv.com, a Packers’ fansite.

Top edge rusher facing shoulder surgery … According to an unconfirmed report, UCLA OLB Takkarist McKinley, one of the hottest prospects in the 2017 draft field, is considering shoulder surgery to repair a torn right labrum that has bothered him the past couple of seasons. However, if McKinley is to have the surgery it likely won’t be until after the combine in the latter part of February, although McKinley did reportedly withdraw from next week’s Senior Bowl because of the injury. McKinley, a one-time running back who claims he’ll run in the 4,4 range at the combine, is considered to be the top edge rushing OLB in this year’s draft as a top 20-25 prospect overall. However, if the shoulder checks out and McKinley indeed blows up the combine, he is one of several players with the athletic skills to move into the top 10. Stay tuned.

 

Underclassman withdrawal window closes with no takers … Juniors and redshirt sophomores who applied to the NFL for inclusion in the 2017 draft before last Monday’s deadline had until late yesterday afternoon to withdraw their applications if they had not signed with an agent or received any improper benefits. As of this morning it does not appear any of the 95 or so underclassmen who had applied to enter the draft had a change of heart. With the withdrawal window closing, expect the NFL to release the final list of underclassmen in the 2017 draft class within the next day or so.

GBN Big Board retweaked … This is an interesting time in the draft process. With the college football season done and the underclassmen now on board for the 2017 draft, draft boards around the league are slowly starting to take shape and there are some changes from the consensus board of even just a few weeks ago. One of the things we are also hearing is that teams just aren’t all that impressed with the quality of the crop at the very top of their boards. Indeed, one gets the sense that there is more than one team out there that doesn’t feel that there is anyone on the board this year really worth a top 5 pick. At the same time, there doesn’t seem to be much debate that Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett isn’t the top prospect this year, although there are some questions about his motor. Meanwhile Alabama DE Jonathan Allen isn’t that far behind, but after that, though, it appears to be a whole lot murkier. Right now the consensus, such as it appears to be that a couple of redshirt sophomores – DE Solomon Thomas of Stanford and Ohio State FS Malik Hooker – along with LSU junior FS Jamal Adams would likely round out the top 5 if the draft were held today. At the same time, it also appears pretty clear that several players who had been thought to be top 5-10 prospects – have indeed seen their stock dip including Michigan SS/OLB Jabrill Peppers and Alabama redshirt soph CB Marlon Humphry, along with possibly even Washington junior WR John Ross. For now, the GBN Big Board has been updated to reflect some of these recent developments, although obviously there is still a ton of sorting out to be done between now and April 27th.  Stay tuned.

Defections hit Senior Bowl final roster … The Senior Bowl announced their final rosters for next week’s game in Mobile late yesterday and unfortunately three of the higher ranked players who NFL people really wanted to see have apparently dropped out of the game. WRs Corey Davis of Western Michigan and Oklahoma’s DeDe Westbrook and UCLA edge-rusher Takkarist McKinley had reportedly accepted their invitations earlier this year, but were not on the final list yesterday. Davis, a potential top 15-20 pick this coming April, in fact, was likely going to be the highest rated player in Mobile next week, while McKinley was a rising star who also figures to be an opening round pick this spring. For his part, Westbrook is also a guy who has seen his stock rise of late, although he is still carries a second round grade.

Day Three Shrine report … The players at this year’s East-West Shrine all-star game went through their second day of of full pad practices yesterday in St. Petersburg and our Pigskin Paul Guillemette files this report on who made their case today and maybe who still needs some work. Today is more of a walk-through practice for the players as they gear up for Staurday’s actual game.

Top QB prospect for 2018 has shoulder surgery … Washington has confirmed that star redshirt sophomore QB Jake Browning, one of the leading prospects at the position for the 2018 draft, has had surgery on his throwing shoulder. The exact nature of the injury has not been disclosed, but the recovery time is expected to be about six weeks. Browning originally injured the shoulder during the Huskies’ game with Arizona State in mid-November, but he played through it including the Pac-12 conference championship game and the Huskies’ loss to Alabama in the CFP playoffs.

Clemson QB Watson passes on Senior Bowl invite … Clemson QB DeShaun Watson has confirmed that he will not participate in next week’s Senior Bowl in Mobile. While he is a junior, Watson would have been eligible for the Senior Bowl because he is a 4th year player who has already graduated. Watson cited the grind of the long college season as the reason he is passing on the opportunity to play in Mobile where he likely would have worked with the coaching staff from Cleveland which has the #1 pick in the 2017 draft. Following his outstanding play in the Tigers’ national championship win over heavily favored Alabama and its vaunted defense, Watson is again getting top 5 consideration for the upcoming draft, although there are lingering questions about his arm strength and pocket presence. Stay tuned!

Shrine weigh-in report … For some reason, and unlike next week’s Senior Bowl, Monday’s weigh-in session at the East-West Shrine game currently underway in St. Petersburg is not open to the media. Of course, the numbers always eventually leak out – here courtesy of the Sporting News is this year’s data – but there really doesn’t seem to be any reason for the secrecy. While in the end players don’t play the game in shorts, most NFL teams have basic parameters in terms of an athlete’s size and other physical characteristics that that they work into their final draft grades, both positively and negatively. Here is a rundown of some of the players who stood out at the Monday’s weigh-in session as well as some who didn’t.

Irish RB enters draft … There has been no official announcement per se, but word out of Notre Dame is that junior RB Tarean Folston has applied to the NFL for entry to the 2017 draft. The 5-9, 215-pound Folston is coming of a disappointing injury when he battled injuries and finished with less than 400 rushing yards; he was also facing a future in South Bend where his touches likely weren’t going to increase in any appreciable way. There had been some expectation that Folston might transfer to a lower level program, but in the end it appears he is going to give the pros a shot sooner rather than later. Folston is projected to be a late-round pick this coming April.

Day two Shrine report … They hit the field for the first of two days of full pad practices at the East-West Shrine game in St. Petersburg and our Pigskin Paul Guillemette files this report on who made their case today and maybe who still needs some work..

McNeese DT added to underclass list … McNeese State junior DT Isaiah Golden, a former Texas A&M transfer, has applied to the NFL for entry to the 2017 draft according to team sources. The 6-2, 325-pound Golden is a run-stuffing NT had a big year in 2015 and made several pre-season FCS All-America teams this year, but barely caused a ripple this fall as he dealt with double teams all season. The bigger issue for Golden, though, is an off-field legal issue in which did jail time this summer for a robbery back in 2013 that got his kicked out of Texas A&M.

Dispatches from St. Pete; day 1 … The real action doesn’t really get started until tomorrow, but GBN Associate Editor is already up with his analysis of what happened at the first day of East-West Shrine all-star game practices in St. Petersburg.

Bakers 1/2 dozen added to Senior Bowl … The Senior Bowl announced the addition of 7 more players today including three from this month’s national championship game between Clemson and Alabama. DT Carlos Watkins and WR Artavis Scott from Clemson will be in Mbile next week, along with star Alabama TE O.J. Howard, arguably the top-rated prospect at the position for this year’s draft. In fact, Howard could conceivably be the highest-rated prospect over at this year’s Senior Bowl as so many of this year’s top-rated players are underclassmen. Meanwhile, the other players added today include UCLA DT Eddie Vanderdoes, Oklahoma State safety Jordan Stearns and TEs Jonnu Smith of Florida International and Mike Roberts of Toledo. The additions bring the number of players scheduled to be at the Senior Bowl to 108 leaving two more spots to be filled. One of those could conceivably go to Clemson junior QB DeShaun Watson, who has been invited, but has yet to say one way or the other whether he will attend.

USC CB Jackson enters draft … With the deadline for underclassmen to apply to the NFL for eligibility to the 2017 draft, Southern California redshirt sophomore CB Adoree Jackson has announced that he will be entering this year’s draft. Jackson, a late first round prospect, was the only legitimate opening round prospect who had yet to be heard from.

Irish get another top OL back … Notre Dame redshirt sophomore OG Quenton Nelson, who would have been one of the top prospects at the position had he entered the 2017 draft, has announced that he will be returning to school. The Irish’s star LT Mike McGlinchey indicated at the end of the season that he would also be back and has given no indication to date that he was thinking of changing his mind. Underclassmen have until 4 PM ET later this afternoon to file paperwork with the NFL in order to eligible for the upcoming draft.

Star game sched gets underway … The key part of the post-season college all-star game schedule gets underway this week with both the East-West Shrine and NFLPA games set to start practices on Monday. The Shrine week goes in St. Petersburg with the game scheduled for Saturday the 21st  at 3 PM ET on the NFL Network. Meanwhile, the NFLPA game is scheduled for Carson, California with that game set for Saturday at 4:15 PM ET with coverage by FS1. Of course, both games are preliminaries of sort to next week’s Senior Bowl which returns to Mobile. And while the Senior Bowl has the best prospects for the upcoming draft, there are some quality players in both Shrine and NFLPA games, especially the former. Heading the list of players to watch in St. Petersburg include QBs Cooper Rush of Central Michigan, Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel, Zach Terrell of Western Michigan and small-school star Alek Torgenson of Penn of the Ivies. Other players to watch at the Shrine game include RBs De’veon Smith of Michigan, Utah’s Joe Williams and Elijah McQuire of Louisiana-Lafayette; WRs Gabe Marks of Washington State and Billy Brown of FCS Shepherd; OTs Dan Skipper of Arkansas and Texas A&M’s Avery Gennesy; DEs Bryan Cox of Florida, Deatrich Wise of Arkansas, Pitt’s Ejuan Price, Utah’s Hunter Dimick and Darius English of South Carolina; LBs Hardy Nickerson of Illinois and Colorado edge-rusher Jimmie Gilbert; and UCLA CB Fabian Moreau. In addition, as always, the Shrine game has a couple of Canadian players on the roster and this year Laval TE Antony Auclair and 6-6 Manitoba G/T Geoff Clark are the pair that gets to spend a free week in the sun!Here is the full roster for the Shrine East and West teams. And, as usual, the GBN will be on the ground in St. Pete as GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be journeying south to report on the week’s activities. Meanwhile, the NFLPA includes more late round or free agent type prospects, but still has players pro scouts would ;like to see in these kinds of settings. Included in players in Carson worth an extra look or two are QBs Bready Gustafson of Montana, Ryan Higgins of Louisiana Tech, Mitch Leidner of Minnesota, and Houston All-american Greg Ward; WRs Dareus Rogers of USC and Dontre Wilson of Ohio State; the LSU trio of OG Josh Boutte, DE Lewis Neal and OLB Tashawn Bower; Rutgers DT Darius Hamilton; Michigan State ILB Riley Bullough; CBs Des Lawrence of North Carolina; and Oklahoma S Ahmad Thomas. For some reason, the NFLPA do not appear to have published a full roster, however, our Larry Parker has compiled a list of players who reportedly accepted invites to the NFLPA game (and did not subsequently decommit) here.

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