Category Archives: DRAFT BUZZ

Ranking DEFENSIVE Position Groups 2017 DRAFT Part 2

Now it’s time to finish up my group rankings as we prepare for the NFL COMBINE this coming week.

ILB Group There is always a bit of disagreement within the scouting community on ILB vs OLB, but not too many would dispute that the best pure LB prospect may be REUBEN FOSTER?alabama. FOSTER reminds me a lot of former ‘Bama ILB MOSLEY, now wit the RAVENS. FOSTER shows the ability to defend effectively against the run and pass, which means he’s more likely to remain on the field for all three downs. FOSTER should be in the first half of Round 1. RAEKWON McMILLAN/Ohio State, who also shows versatility born of his athleticism is the other probable 1st Rounder in this group, tho he will be later in the Round.
I project another 3 ILB to be taken in the Top 100 selections in April. The average number of ILB taken per Draft is 10, with 12 being taken in 2106. I think somewhere in that 10-12 is a realistic range this year.
A perplexing prospect has emerged this year within this position group by the name of ALEX ANZALONE/Florida. ALEX is a nice sized, very athletic defender, who covers the field with speed and a nose for the ball. He shows some pass rush ability as a blitzer and is adequate in mid-field coverage duty. His best spot might be Inside in a 3-4 scheme, at 6’3/240, with a 76 1/4″ wingspan. He was invited to the Senior Bowl and was a standout all week. But he has missed more games in his college career than he has actually started. In the contact sport of football it is very hard to ignore his preponderance of injuries. Who rolls the ice on him, and how high in the Draft may end up becoming an ongoing saga come April.
Group Grade: B

CB Group This should be an exceptional year for teams needing some CB help on their roster. And the variety to choose from is part of the reason. There are big press-cover guys and quick twitch slot cover guys. There are zone defenders who will run step for step with speed receivers. Most of these Corners are willing participants in run support. The cherry on the cupcake is that as a bonus there are numerous CB who are excellent Return Specialists as well.
I expect a half-dozen guys to be taken in Round 1: MARSHON LATTIMORE/Ohio St, SIDNEY JONES/Washington, QUINCY WILSON/Florida, TRA’DAVIOUS WHITE/LSU, MARLON HUMPHREY/Alabama & ADOREE’ JACKSON/USC. HUMPHREY might be taken as a S. I also see as many as 15 CB in the Top 100.
The average number of CB taken in a Draft is 33, with 35 taken last year. I look for the same number this year.
As we head to the Combine I strongly recommend that you keep your eyes and ears open whenever you hear the name of FABIAN MOREAU/UCLA mentioned. He’s a full sized guy @ 6’/204. He bounced back very nicely last season from a nasty knee injury the year prior. He looked excellent in his play in the Shrine venue, and had many wondering why he was not in Mobile as well.Based on pure talent and size he’s very close to being a first rounder. His medical evaluation will be critical, and if that knee checks out OK his speed and quickness numbers will be scrutinized closely. Many think that a healthy MOREAU could run a sub-4.4/40. If he does, put his name down in late Round 1 for a team like the PACKERS.
Group GRADE: A-

S Group This could be the deepest and most talented S group in some time. In this era of pass-happy offensive attacks the S slots have re-emerged in importance for teams looking to stop big plays, down the deep middle of the field. It is also fashionable again to have a S or two who can be effective and impactful for blitzing situations.
I have 4 Safeties slotted for Round 1, which is a high number compared to most years. Right now my four are JAMAL ADMAS/LSU, MALIK HOOKER/Ohio State, OBI MELIFONWU/UConn & JABRILL PEPPERS/Michigan. ADAMS & HOOKER could be Top 12-15 if they post the expected numbers at the Combine. Overall I project about 10 S going in the Top 100.
In a normal year the League drafts 18 S, with 17 going last year. Play the over if your in Vegas in April, as I could see about 20 being drafted this year.
A sure-thing to fall in the Top 100 should be one of the best CB in college football the past 2 seasons in DESMOND KING/Iowa. KING is a real ball hawk as well as a great tackler. Unless he proves otherwise in Indy, the expectation is that he will be a bit slow, and a tad tight in the hips to be considered an elite CB for the pro game. But he could become the next BOB SANDERS/Iowa, who folks in Indy remember fondly for his All-Pro play as a crunching S. IF you like the play of MICAH HYDE for the PACKERS, expect KING to be just a step above in overall ability.
Group GRADE: B+

THat’s a wrap heading into the Combine. There is no doubt that we will see the prospect meter shift a bit based on some players who exceed expectations in Indy, and some who disappoint a bit. It’s always fun if you are tracking the detail of prospect evaluations.

This group of prospects is a bit light on proven skill position stars, but is long on potential and very deep in talent in general. I’d be glad to swap my first rounder for extra picks in Rounds 2-3-4. There may be little to separate prospect 50 from 100, which will make it critical for teams to identify the players who really fit the schemes of their current coaching staffs. It could also precipitate a rash of trades late in Round 1. And remember this is the first year that teams are allowed to trade Compensatory Picks, which were just announced. One more bit of spice to stir into your Draft gumbo.

Cheers

PIGSKIN

by Grumpy Lindsay, GBN Editor

Where’s the buzz … The 2016 draft gets underway a month today and remains still relatively quiet around the NFL with little real buzz about trades and the like, although there is still some percolating just below the surface. This week, for example, Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey, one of the leading candidates to be the top pick overall had his pro day where by all accounts he looked all the part. However, if one wasn’t paying attention, one might not have known that Ramsey worked out this week. Indeed, the only comments came from Ramsey himself who proclaimed himself worthy of the #1 pick. Tennessee, which actually has the #1 pick and had been thought to be wavering just a tad over the possibility of taking Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil with the #1 pick, was well represented at the FSU pro day with general manager Jon Robinson, coach Mike Mularkey and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau all in attendance, but there was no gushing from the Titans afterward as they done with Tunsil the day before at the latter’s pro day.

As well, it was San Diego, which has the third pick, which actually put Ramsey through his workout. In fact, if as expected Tennessee sticks with Tunsil with the top pick and Cleveland takes a QB – most likely North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz – at #2, then the draft really starts with the Chargers at #3. And the Chargers indeed have a really pivotal choice. In addition to Ramsey, who would replace Eric Weddle at FS, the Chargers were reportedly all over Ohio State DE Joey Bosa at the Buckeyes’ pro day earlier this month, while they also had Oregon 5T DE DeForest Buckner in for a visit earlier this week … For the record, Dallas with the 4th pick will be looking at the guys San Diego passes on. Indeed, rumblings are that the Cowboys have Ramsey at the top – way at the top – of their wish list. The Cowboys though have also worked out Bosa. In fact, in an unusual step, the Cowboys had a private workout at Ohio State for all the Buckeyes’ prospects including Bosa and RB Zeke Elliott. At the same time, it doesn’t look like the Cowboys will use their top pick on a QB, but would like to add one soon after and have had private workouts with Paxton Lynch of Memphis, Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State among others …

Speaking of checking out the QB prospects, nobody appears to be more thorough than Philadelphia which had a full contingent of front office people including G.M. Howie Roseman, head coach Doug Pederson AND owner Jeffrey Lurie criss-crossing the country holding private workouts with both Wentz and Goff, along with Lynch and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. And that has league observers scratching their heads just a little bit. The Eagles recently extended incumbent starting QB Sam Bradford and signed free agent back-up Chase Daniel. They also say they would like to add a developmental young 3rd QB in the draft. So doing a little due diligence makes sense, but for them to send out their whole front office with the owner in tow they either have to have something up their sleeve or it appears to be a massive waste of time and resources.

Comings and goings … It appears that Baylor power forward turned TE Rico Gathers will be entering the 2016 draft. The Baylor coaches had tried to convince the 6-7, 275-pound Gathers, who has not played any serious football in years, to use his final year of eligibility to play for the Bears next fall. However, after Baylor’s abrupt first-round exit from the NCAA basketball tournament, Gathers reportedly headed for an NFL prep academy. On the hand – with thanks to intrepid GBN investigative college reporter Larry Parker for the heads, several other players who in one way or another appeared to be heading to the 2016 draft, including UCLA CB Fabian Moreau and South Carolina LB Skai Moore, now appear to headed for the 2017 draft. Meanwhile, poor old Iowa DE Drew Ott remains in football limbo as he waits for the NCAA to rule on appeal for a 5th year of eligibility following elbow and knee surgeries that shortened his 2015 season. Ott, who wants to play for the Hawkeyes next fall, has missed the combine and the Iowa pro day and is running out of time to work out for NFL teams if his final appeal is denied … With the pro day schedule is winding down, teams are now in the process of conducting private workouts with prospects or having them to their facilities for interviews and final medical tests. However, USC LB/SS Su’a Cravens has taken the unusual step of refusing to take do private workouts fearing an injury. Because he’s a tweener who has played both positions, teams would like to work out Cravens, especially those that are thinking of taking him as a safety. At the same time, teams are allowed to bring up to 30 players from out of town schools to their team facilities. And while the number isn’t official it appears that the early leader in most visits is Ole Miss DT Robert Nkemdiche who reportedly has visits scheduled with as many as 14-15 teams. Of course, the Nkemdiche story is well known; he’s a top ten physical talent, but was being called ‘weird’ and ‘strange’ by scouts even before he jumped out of hotel window earlier this year.

Top ten dilemma

Top ten draft??? … Earlier today, old-new Philadelphia G.M. Howie Roseman created a few headlines around the NFL media when he suggested that one of the reasons the Eagles traded veteran CB Byron Maxwell and LB Kiki Alonso to Miami and the 13th pick in this year’s draft for the 8th pick overall was that the Eagles feel “there is a big dropoff after 10 players” this year. Of course, Roseman could just be rationalizing a tad to justify the trade, however, it does seem to confirm some of the rumblings we are hearing from around the league about the upcoming draft

In particular, it appears there is an emerging sense around the league that that QBs Carson Wentz of North Dakota State and Cal’s Jared Goff, Ohio State RB Zeke Elliott, Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil, Ohio State DE Joey Bosa, Oregon 5T-DE DeForest Buckner, UCLA LB Myles Jack and Florida State DB Jalen Ramsey are consensus top ten prospects for this year’s draft. It also appears that there are a couple of other guys in Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves and Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley who get top ten grades from most teams. That’s ten.
Of course, there are teams out there that have other players ranked in the top ten on their value boards. One hears, for example, that some teams have

Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins that high. Same for Alabama DT A’Shawn Robinson and Ole Miss WR Laquan Treadwell. For the most part, though, get by those first ten guys and it looks like something of a mish-mash. Indeed, one could make the case that in addition to DTs Rankins and Robinson, DTs Jarran Reed of Alabama and Baylor’s Andrew Billings could get some top 15 consideration. Same for Clemson DE Sahq Lawson, LBs Darron Lee of Ohio State and Reggie Ragland of Alabama, not to mention injured Notre Dame star Jaylon Smith, any of risimg CBs Eli Apple of Ohio State, Mackensie Alexanader of Clemson and Will Jackson of Houston, Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, Big Ten OTs Jack Conklin of Michigan State and rangy Taylor Decker of Ohio State and WR Corey Coleman of Baylor, especially if he runs really well at his pro day later this week. At the same time, though, there’s no real guarantee that any of the above are locks to be taken even in the first 20-25 picks. Should be an intriguing next 45 days or so. Stay Tuned!

First impressions

Sometimes it is better just to be lucky … NFL teams put in literally thousands of man hours in evaluating college football players across the country in preparing for the draft so we are always very reluctant to criticize what they do on draft day because they just have that much more information  than we do. It also takes time to see how the players actually turn out. Still, its not hard to have some preliminary guy reactions (of course always based on the evidence) to yesterday’s first round of the 2015 draft. For example, it wasn’t hard to be impressed by the fact that the New York Jets were able to land USC DE Leonard Williams, who many considered to be the best player in the draft, with the 6th pick. In fact, there were some rumblings early in the day yesterday that the Jets might be in the mix to trade up to the #2 pick, not to acquire Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, but Williams who is the prototype 3-4 DE with the strength of a DT, but the quickness of a much smaller DE. Also really liked St. Louis’ selection of Georgia RB Todd Gurley with the 10th pick. What we liked about the pick, though, was that the Rams, who have been chasing the pack in the NFC, the league’s toughest division, for what seems like forever, went for the gusto. Sure, an offensive lineman might have been the safer pick and filled the bigger need, but the Rams need impact players to start closing the gap on the Seahawks and 49ers and Gurley has a chance be the best player in this draft once he is fully recovered from that torn ACL. And in one of those ‘the rich get richer’ moments, defensing super Bowl champion New England may have gotten a real steal in Texas DT Malcom Brown, who fell into their laps with the final pick in the opening. Indeed, heading into the draft, the Patriots probably figured the only way they’d get a talent like Brown was to trade up. Same story for Miami which likely thought the only way they’d end with a potential impact receiver like DeVante Parker was to trade up into the top 10. Also not hard to feel that Cleveland got two really solid players in Washington NT Danny Shelton and Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving with the 12th and 19th picks, but there is still that huge question mark hanging over the Browns at QB.

On the other hand, yesterday’s opening round had its share of head scratcher picks. For example, Cincinnati has appeared to have been been on the cusp of being a real contender the past several years and just needed that one guy to get them over the top. And while former Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi may eventually turn out to be a solid player in the pros, it would have been hard to making him hims the 21st pick overall before he tore an ACL. If there was one player taken in yesterday’s opening round that you could make the case that he’d still be available in the second round it was Ogbuehi. Meanwhile, if I’m a New Orleans Saints fan I didn’t sleep at all well last night. The Saints started the year off by trading away star TE Jimmy Graham for what may eventually go down as peanuts, ostensibly to rebuild a staggering defense; however, while OT Andrus Peat and MLB Stephone Anthony may turn out to be dependable contributors, just how is the Saints defense really any better today than it was yesterday as the pass rush looks like it will still be anemic, while the coverage units are still lousy! One could also make something of a similar case in Houston, which has one of the better defenses in the league, but struggles to score points and its hard to see how they got better adding a corner in the top half of the round who was a marginal opening round pick heading into the draft. There is something of a similar story in Kansas City, another offensively challenged team, which really took a chance on enigmatic former Washington CB Marcus Peters, who managed to get himself kicked off his college team last year, with the 18th pick. And while LB Shaq Thompson could be an impact player at the next level for Carolina, we have always felt that using an opening round pick to replace an aging veteran you couldn’t win with to begin is always going to be something a keep losing proposition, unless of course one plays in the NFC South. Finally, Washington got a quality prospect in Iowa G/T Brandon Scherff, but its hard to make the case he was the 5th best player in this year, especially with Leonard Williams still on the board.

Draft day buzz

They’re back !!! … With just 10 hours or so to go before the actual picking starts at the 2015 draft there are still conflicting reports as to what will happen with the second pick overall. The one story that simply will not go away is that Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles are still very much in on the Marcus Mariota sweepstakes. And the only real scenario for the Eagles to get to the #2 pick overall, as we have been suggesting for several weeks now, would be to work a three-way deal with Cleveland with the Eagles sending QB Sam Bradford to the Browns for the 12th pick and then packaging that selection with the 20th, and very possibly their #1 pick next year, to the Titans for the 2nd pick. And in the end every body gets pretty much they wanted. The Titans get a package of picks – 4 first rounders over two years – to build a team around Zach Mettnberger, the Browns get their veteran QB, while the Eagles get the QB Kelly figures can be the transformative leader of that offense without really mortgaging the team’s future, although they may be tempted to give up some of their present. Indeed, along with QB Bradford, the Eagles are reportedly looking to deal several veterans including MLB Mychal Kendricks and CB Brandon Boykin, while star DT Fletcher Cox has also been mentioned as possibly being involved. However, that’s a lot of moving parts and in the end nothing could get done or the Browns could make a deal with the Titans for Mariota themselves. Whatever, if anything is to happen it likely won’t shake out until the Titans actually get on the clock around 8:10 PM ET later this evening … Several teams are thought to be plotting to try and move up from the mid-teens in order to acquire Louisville WR DeVante Parker once Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White come off the board somewhere in the top 6-7 picks. Miami, in particular, is believed to be really interested in moving up from the 14th pick. There are also rumblings that Kansas City, which has 10 picks including two in each of the 3rd, 5th and 6th rounds, is also looking to move up; same with New Orleans, which has two first rounders and 5 picks overall in the first three rounds and would really like to get one of this year’s elite defenders in USC DE Leonard Williams and OLBs Dante Fowler of Florida and Clemson’s Vic Beasley … One team that likely won’t be in the Mariota sweepstakes are the New York Jets after team owner Woody Johnson was quoted gushing positive things about the development of Geno Smith, whom the Jets selected in the second round of the 2013 draft. Johnson went on to add that what he thinks the Jets really need to try and do this weekend is add another target for Smith to throw to. The Jets, of course, look to be in prime position to come out of the draft with either of top-rated receivers Cooper and Kevin White with the 6th pick … Dallas owner/GM Jerry Jones again downplayed the Cowboys’ perceived need to add a RB in Thursday’s draft saying they could live with what they have at the position after signing Darren McFadden to replace DeMarco Murray. However, when asked ‘What is a must?’ for the Cowboys that they ‘need to help the defense as a must, by hook or crook.’ Jones also did not rule out the possibility that the Cowboys might try and move up in the opening round from the 27th if it did not look like any of the guys they were targeting would fall that far … There are always surprise picks in the opening and names that one keeps hearing as possible first-rounders – and not neceassrily buried at the end of the opening round include WRs Nelson Agholor of USC and Miami’s Phillip Dorsett, along with Oregon OT Jake Fisher, Clemson MLB Stephone Anthony and even Duke OG Laken Tomlinson. On the other hand, guys who could drop because of health concerns include Boise State RB Jay Ajayi, OGs Tre Jackson of Florida State and Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio, and UCLA MLB Eric Kendricks.

Draft day eve update

For those living in the Tampa area who thought they caught a glimpse of Florida State QB Jameis Winston in town on Monday, don’t get glasses adjusted. Winston was in fact there to play in a charity golf tournament hosted by former Bucs’ star LB Derrick Brooks. However, while Winston’s agent was also along for the golf, there was apparently no contact between the team and player despite the fact that he he is projected to be the first player selected by the Buccaneers on Thursday … #3 tries harder: Most of the pre-draft buzz this spring has focused on QBs Winston and Marcus Mariota of Oregon and the possibility of deals involving the first and second picks overall, but the third pick could ultimately be just as interesting. Most if the speculation on who Jacksonville will take at the third spot has focused on USC DE Leonard Williams and Florida OLB Dante Fowler. However, in recent days there has been a palpable buzz that Alabama WR  Amari Cooper could be a third option for the Jags; indeed, heading into the draft, the Jaguars primary goal appears to have been to find some weapons for 2nd year QB Blake Bortles. In that context, no one will be surprised if the Jaguars ultimately trade the pick. In fact, the ‘oddsmakers’ have the 3rd pick as the second most likely to be traded after the #2 selection currently held by Tennessee. Stay tuned … At the same time, there is a sense around the league that the two teams most likely to try and move up are Atlanta, New Orleans and Cleveland (even if they aren’t able to swing a deal to move up to get Mariota at the top of the board.) Atlanta, for example, would like to come out of the draft with one of the elite playmakers on defense, but sitting at #8 are the Falcons are likely to miss out on the likes of USC’s Williams and edge rushers Fowler and Vic Beasley of Clemson. And of course the Falcons have not been shy about moving up in the past to get an impact player, most notably in 2011 when they surrendered 5 picks, including a couple of first rounders to Cleveland to move up 21 spots in the draft to get WR Julio Jones. Needless to say they won’t have to go quite that far this year. And while there has been some speculation that Atlanta is targeting Jacksonville’s #3 pick, both Washington at #5 and the Jets at #6 have indicated a willingness to move down. Same story for New Orleans, which has two first round picks this year -#s 13 and 31 – and apparently would like to get one of those elite defenders, but won’t sitting in the middle of the opening round Meanwhile, there is some speculation that even if they were not able to acquire Mariota, Cleveland could still try and move up from the 12th pick to get either of WRs Cooper or Kevin White of West Virginia in the middle of the top 10. If nothing else, the Browns have reportedly talked possible trade parameters with just about every team picking ahead of them …  On the other hand, Minnesota  appears to be a team that would really like to try and trade down from the 11th pick overall. The Vikings also remain adamant that they will not trade veteran RB Adrian Peterson, although that may simply be playing hard ball to drive up the price for Peterson, who was re-instated to the league earlier this month after being serving a lengthy suspension for some over-the-top discipline of one of his children. Meanwhile, Dallas says they have no interest in acquiring Peterson, although the latter has expressed a desire to play for his hometown team. Again, though the Cowboys may not want to tip their hand. In fact, the fact the Cowboys are also saying they may not draft a RB all that earlier this week despite the fact that former star RB DeMarco Murray is now in Philadelphia … The fact that Miami OLB Dion Jordan, whom the Dolphins traded all the way up to the #3 pick overall to get just two years ago, has been suspended for the entire 2015 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy provides a cautionary tale for teams thinking of drafting either of OLBs Randy Gregory of Nebraska or Missouri’s Shane Ray , both of whom have had pot issues this off-season. Gregory, of course, tested positive for grass at the combine after reportedly failing several drug tests in college, while Ray was charged with pot possession just this week after he too reportedly had at least one positive test in college. Both will fall in the ‘wild card’ category at this week’s draft with Ray, in particular, attracting some interesting comments. Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn, whose Falcons were once thought to be looking at Ray as a possible candidate for the 8th pick, said unequivocally at his pre-draft presser that Ray was ‘still on their board’, although he didn’t say where on their board. Meanwhile, St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher, while apparently not referring to Ray, who played locally at Missouri, said that such off-field issues, especially in the days leading up to the NFL draft will be factored in evaluations. What Fisher indicated though was that the Rams would not be moving Ray around their board, but would attach a ‘cautionary sticker’ next to his name … One guy we hear as very likely making a late move up boards around the NFL is Missouri C/G Mitch Morse, who now looks like he could be a second day pick. Morse played OT in college, but figures to kick inside at the next level where he could be a tough, physical run blocker with some decent pass blocking skills.

Monday update

More quiet trade rumblings … With the draft now just over 75 hours away, there’s barely a pulse on the NFL draft buzz meter. However, new Washington G.M. Scot McCloughan offered up an interesting observation at his pre-draft presser earlier today. McCloughan suggested that it was likely that the Redskins’ phone might be ringing off the wall in the unlikely event that USC DE/DT Leonard Williams sas still on the board when Washington go on the clock for the 5th selection overall on Thursday. Here’s what’s interesting and that is if teams were willing to trade up for Williams, who most analysts consider to be the top non-QB prospect in this year’s draft, if he were on the board at #5, why wouldn’t they also consider calling Jacksonville in the more likely scenario that he is still on the board at #3, or Oakland at #4. Indeed, both the Jaguars and Raiders have already indicated that they would be more than happy to trade down and get more picks if the right deal came along. In fact, the NFL has been so consumed by speculation surrounding potential moves involving QBs Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota at the first and second picks, no one has talked much about the real potential for other movement in the  top 10 picks later this week. In fact, one could make a pretty good case that there may also be teams out there that will be more than willing to consider trades up in order to acquire elite top 5 talents like OLB Dante Fowler and WR Amari Cooper. Indeed, there some rumblings out there that Atlanta, which has not been shy about making a bold move on draft day in the recent past, is reportedly interested in trading up to acquire Fowler. And Jacksonville might be willing to drop down to the 8th pick where an offensive lineman, the team’s #1 need, would make more sense than at # There may also be teams looking for either a WR or edge rushing LB who start to think about moving up to get WR Kevin White or OLB Vic Beasley once Cooper and/or Fowler are off the board, if they think there is a significant drop-off to the next level at those positions. There have been some rumors, for example, that New Orleans which has the 13th and 31st picks in Thursday’s opening round could consider moving up to get Beasley. Meanwhile, in a somewhat unusual move, a contingent of Cleveland officials, including G.M. Ray Farmer reportedly flew to Orlando on Sunday, after the deadline to bring players for on-site visits had passed, to have dinner with UCF WR Breshad Perriman. As noted, for the Browns to spend that kind of time and money so close to the draft is a clear sign that they’re seriously considering Perriman with either the 12th or 19th picks. And whether the Browns actually select Perriman or not, it also seems to confirm at least to a degree that Perriman, perhaps the fastest player in the 2015 draft who has reportedly visited over half the teams in the league in recent weeks, is indeed in play in the middle of the opening round.

No love for Jags; Raiders getting calls …

With all the focus on top-rated QBs Jameis Winston of Florida State and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and the first two picks in next week’s draft, one sometimes loses sight of the fact that there are actually 32 picks in the opening round. There are also some very good prospects on the board other than the two QBs. So it was a little surprising to hear Jacksonville G.M. Dave Caldwell say at his pre-draft media availability session that the Jaguars have yet to receive any calls asking about the availability of the third pick overall. Maybe he should send his number to the Jets who have the 6th pick and  whose new general manager Mike Maccagnan said were going to reach out to every team ahead of them to find out what they’d looking for in compensation for their pick. Caldwell indicated though that the Jaguars are pretty happy with the options they would have themselves at #3 and suggested that he’d “rather get one really good player instead of two good players” and that “the price would have to be substantial” for Jacksonville to consider moving down. It is also interesting to note that while the Jaguars’ decision as to who to select with the 3rd pick would come down to a choice between USC DT Leonard Williams and Florida OLB Dante Fowler, there is a growing sense that Alabama WR Amari Cooper may also be increasingly part of the discussion … On the other hand, Oakland G.M. Reggie McKenzie, whose Raiders have the next pick after Jacksonville, was pretty open about the fact he has received calls from other teams regarding the 4th pick and that their “line was always open.” Interesting to note that while the consensus pick for the Raiders in most mock drafts these is Alabama’s Cooper, however, the Raiders are one of only two teams picking in the top 12 this year who did not bring Cooper in for an on-site site … For the record, Friday was the last day for teams to bring players to their facilities for on-site visits. However, teams can still work out players either at their college or in their hometown. One such late session that reportedly has been set for Monday has Washington working Kentucky OLB Bud Dupree whom we keep hearing has been moved up into the top 10 on a number of boards around the league … As noted, almost mercifully, there doesn’t appear to be much new this morning about any possible trades involving the first 2 picks in this year’s draft. However, there is a nice article in the Philadelphia papers on the Eagles draft process.

Game of QB musical chairs continues

Of course, there may always be another shoe to drop sometime between now and April 30th when the 2015 draft kicks off, but sources around the league seem pretty confident that the civil lawsuit filed against Florida State QB Jameis Winston by the female student that had accused him of sexual assault back in 2012 will not impact Tampa Bay’s plans to select the former Seminoles’ star with the #1 pick this year. The ‘other’ shoe that could be a game changer is the inclusion of a paragraph in the suit with alleges that there is a second accuse, however, the believe is that Tampa Bay has been aware of that possibility for sometime and that the Buccaneers, who have reportedly investigated Winston more than any player in draft history, have already checked out that aspect of the issue. If the new legal issues for Winston have any impact its that the likelihood that any other team might be considering trading up for him may have gone from slim to none.

There is a growing sense around the league that after introducing their new uniforms earlier this week, that Cleveland may be prepared ‘to do whatever it takes’ to move up in the draft to acquire Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. That means the Browns likely would be prepared to include their two #1 picks this year – the 12th and 19th picks – plus other considerations in a package to get Mariota. Interestingly, the Browns still have not had a private workout with Mariota, although they have indicated that they likely will set something up. However, the Browns may not really need to workout Mariota one more time as they likely have all the information they need as Kevin O’Connell, the team’s new QB coach, worked extensively with the former Oregon star this off-season prior to joining the Browns’ organization; in fact, it was O’Connell that orchestrated Mariota’s pro day work out last month.

If the Browns get any serious competition in their desire to move to draft Mariota, it is looking more and more likely that it may come from San Diego. There appears to be a growing sense around the league that the Chargers may in fact have real concerns about losing incumbent starting QB Philip Rivers to free agency if the team relocates to Los Angeles within the next couple of year and may be prepared to cut their losses now and include him in a deal to move up to get Mariota. Of course, San Diego could always just franchise Rivers if it came to that, but he would be a very unhappy camper and the Chargers would have to be concerned that Rivers, who doesn’t want his family to have live in Los Angeles, might just threaten to walk away from the game. Not everyone agrees, though, that the Chargers could be shopping Rivers. Adam Schein of NFL.com, for example, has a persuasive report in which a number of NFL G.M.s essentially throw cold water on the whole concept. However, the fact that in addition to working out Mariota, the Chargers have also held private workouts in recent days with second-tier QBs Brett Hundley of UCLA, Baylor’s Garrett Grayson and Bryce Petty of Baylor, whom they probably wouldn’t have given the time of day to if the Rivers’ situation wasn’t unsettled, indicates a concern level in San Diego about the future of the position.

What makes the San Diego situation somewhat unique is that if they did trade Rivers, most likely to Tennessee which holds the 2nd pick, the deal would be the Titans trading picks, including the second overall, to San Diego for the a proven, veteran QB, rather than San Diego sending a package a package, including Rivers to Tennessee for the 2nd pick. And that could leave Tennessee with an interesting dilemma. Do the Titans deal with a Cleveland and pick up a pile of extra picks with which to build the team around young Zach Mettenberger, or do they mortgage their future in acquiring a proven veteran who would bring immediate credibility to the team, but who has at 33 already, has a limited shelf-life. Should make for an interesting couple of weeks!

Movin’ on up … With less than to weeks to go until the draft, there still appears to considerable fluidity among the top echelons of the draft. The latest ‘hot’ guy appears to be Kentucky OLB Bud Dupree, who reportedly has moved into the top 10 of a lot of teams around the league and may now be the 2nd rated edge rushing LB on a lot of teams’ boards behind Florida’s Dante Fowler, especially those teams running 3-4 schemes. Teams still like guys like Vic Beasley and Randy Gregory, despite his issues with marijuana, as potential top ten candidates, but whereas neither of those guys is more than 245 pounds, Dupree is bigger at over 260, plus he’s just as athletic. Teams still question Dupree’s natural football instincts and he may never be real agile playing in reverse, but there is no denying his upside as a pure pass rusher coming off the edge. Most NFL people one talks to don’t believe that Louisville WR Devante Parker will get out of this year’s top ten. Parker is still not quite in the same level as fellow WRs Amari Cooper of Alabama and West Virginia’s Kevin White, who are expected to be taken within the first 6-7 picks, but with so many teams looking at WR as a primary need in this year’s draft, he’ll be a hot commodity as the next best guy at the position with a drop-off to the next level.

Meanwhile, it appears that Miami’s Ereck Flowers may have edged ahead of the pack as the top pure OT in this year’s draft class. Flowers has the kind of length many teams feel is essential in protecting the edge, and while he is still somewhat raw technically he has decent enough athletic skills, although there is still a question whether he has the elite agility to play LT at the next level. At the same time, Iowa G/T Brandon Scherff still appears to be the consensus top OL out there, but if one is looking for a candidate to possibly slide come April 30th it may be the former Hawkeyes’ LT who is a dominating run blocker with good athletic skills, but was never that consistent protecting the edge. One also wonders if the fact that NFL.com ace analyst Mike Mayock ranks Arizona State FS Damarious Randall head of Alabama’s Landon Collins in his latest top 5 positional rankings may also signal something of a slide for the latter, because Randall, who was a baseball player as recently as 3-4 years ago, is way too raw with inconsistent instincts o figure in the first round mix.

One other guy we keep hearing positive things about these is Southern Cal RB Buck Allen, who is likely still only a late second or even third day prospect, but has emerged as a prime target for teams looking for a solid upgrade at the position without wasting a premium pick on it; Allen has good size and decent speed, can catch and will block and doesn’t have all that many miles of tread on the tire.

Reading the tea leaves

Just maybe the most interesting information to come out of Tuesday’s pro day at Florida State was that both Tennessee and the New York Jets had a full complement of senior personnel executives, including their respective GMs, head coaches, offensive co-ordinators, QB coaches, plus other assorted coaches, at the event ostensibly to check out FSU QB Jameis Winston even though he now appears to be a virtual lock to be taken with by Tampa Bay with the first overall pick. And while one doesn’t want to read too much into these kind of tea leave details; Tennessee, for example, may have been just doing their due diligence just in case Tampa Bay were to get a last minute blockbuster offer for the top pick from somebody like Philadelphia that wanted Oregon QB Marcus Mariota instead that was just too good to pass up on and suddenly the Titans had an unexpected opportunity to select Winston for themselves with the second pick. However, what Tennessee’s heavy attendance at the FSU pro day may indicate is that the Titans, who have been rumored to be leaning toward taking DE Leonard Williams with the #2 pick, while giving some developmental time to 2014 6th rounder Zach Mettenberger at QB, may in fact still be seriously thinking about taking a QB – either Winston or Mariota – with the 2nd pick. And while sticking with Mettenberger, who clearly would have been selected higher last year had he not torn an ACL late in the 2013 season, for another year at QB, while building up the team around starting with the top non-QB prospect in the draft has considerable appeal, especially for a conservative organization like the Titans, the sad reality is that they are in a division in which they are chasing Andrew Luck and the improving Colts – indeed Indianapolis may be on the verge of emerging as the next dominant AFC team – and its just hard to see how Tennessee closes the gap with Mettenberger and Charlie Whitehurst as its options at QB. In fact, we had one former scout tell us that in his humble opinion the odds were actually greater that Mariota ultimately developed into a very good NFL QB  than Mettenberger emerged as functional journeyman type.

The New York Jets know how the Titans may feel as they have been in pretty much the same pickle for the past decade plus as they have been chasing the hated Patriots to little avail. And while the Jets made a couple of bold moves this off-season which just may have closed the gap on New England by signing star CB Darelle Revis away from the Patriots and acquiring WR Brandon Marshall in a trade with Chicago, like the Titans, the Jets are likely never going to catch Bill Belichek, Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots with Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the pocket. For most of the pre-draft process the Jets played their cards pretty close to their vests saying that they would take Mariota at #6 if he was ‘the highest guy on their board’, while sending out signals that they were actually more likely to move down than up in this year’s opening round. However, as it has appeared more likely in recent days that Mariota was unlikely to make it past the 2nd or 3rd picks, the signals out of the Jets’ camp are that they may indeed be willing to move up. G. M. Mike Maccagnan indicated as such on a teleconference call with season-ticket holders last week when he said that “sitting at six is a very good spot to be in; it does allow us the potential to move up in the draft because we’re not far from the first pick.” That likely translates to memo to Tennessee (and possibly also to Tampa Bay): Got any doubts about Mariota (or possibly Winston in the case of Tampa Bay ), give us a call! Of course, even if they were to get a call, it still could be tough for the Jets to move up without really mortgaging their future (although one could argue that without a better QB they have no future). As well, as GBN co-conspirator Pigskin Paul Guillemette noted on the last segment of our blog radio program, the Jets only have a league low 6 picks this year with two of those in the 7th round.

Cooling those jets ... The state of Florida was the place to be for breaking pro days news last week as along with the celebrated Florida State workout, the league was abuzz about the 40 clockings turned in by WRs Breshad Perriman of Central Florida and Miami’s Phillip Dorsett. According to published reports, Perriman was timed in something in  the 4.28 area, while Dorsett was reportedly even faster. Great stories, and while both guys were no doubt very fast, one can probably also take those times with a grain of salt. Fact is that pro day 40-times are really not comparable with times from the scouting combine. The 40-clockings in Indianapolis, for example, are done electronically, while the pro day times are almost always hand timed clockings.  And hand-timed clockings are generally anywhere from 0.05 to 0.10 slower that electronic times. Indeed, we did a little factoring and concluded that once the difference in formats was factored in Dorsett probably ran around a 4.33, which it turns out is exactly what his official time was at the combine.  Still, those guys are fast and both are believed to have moved way draft boards around the league with reports that the 6-1, 215-pound Perriman is now rated among the top 5 wideouts on many boards with a grade somewhere in the second half of the opening round, while Dorsett may be inching closer to the opening round. Of course, it’s always important to note that all NFL teams keep their own times whether at the pro days or the combine so they are not going to be influenced by the times reported either by the schools themselves or in the media generally.

In fact, while we are on a roll with the pro day times, it was breathlessly reported a couple of weeks ago that TCU LB Paul Dawson had rehabilitated his somewhat sagging draft prospects by running an improved 40-time at his pro day after he clocked a very slow 4.93 time at the combine. Dawson, a second-day prospect for this year’s draft after a very productive couple of seasons at TCU, albeit with some character red flags, had reportedly run in the 4.78-4.82 range at his pro day. Again, however, factor in the difference between hand and electronic timing and there is a very good chance that in fact Dawson didn’t really run much better at his pro day than at the combine. Plus, even if Dawson had run a 4.78 40 at his pro day, that is still a very disappointing time for a 230-pound LB whose strength is supposedly his speed, quickness and range.

Movin’ on up or down … With less than a month to go until the draft, there still appears to be plenty of fluidity among those with top 100 grades. As noted above, WRs Breshad Perriman and Phillip Dorsett have both apparently given just what the 2015 draft needs and that’s a couple of more explosive, big-play wideout prospects; indeed, there’s a chance that as many as 7-8 receivers could be selected in this year’s opening round. The other really interesting position in this year’s early going could be the offensive line. On the one hand, there are no real locks on the OL to be a top 10 selection come April 30th, but there are just a lot of solid prospects among the Big Uglies. Its hard to find an NFL personnel person, for example, who doesn’t really like LSU’s La’el Collins, although nobody in the league appears to be quite sold on his potential viability as a LT in the pros. One also keeps hearing that one shouldn’t lose any sleep on Florida OT D.J. Humphries who just may be the best true LT prospect in this year’s draft. As such no one should be shocked if he is taken in the top half of the opening round. Same for Ereck Flowers of Miami, who isn’t as light on his feet as Humphries, but is bigger and stronger.

At the same time, its no secret that NFL teams are always on the lookout for those long, tall cover corners that can be disruptive downfield. And the latest hot name in that category is Utah’s Eric Rowe, who was kind of thought of as something of a tweener heading into the draft process, but has been moving up boards across the league since he showed that he was a better athlete than people generally thought at the combine. Rowe now looks like he has a chance to be selected in this year’s second round. Meanwhile, a safety who started to generate a little buzz in what is a relatively weak class is Ibraheim Campbell of Northwestern, a 4-year starter who isn’t necessarily the most instinctive guy out there, but has a nice size and speed combination and can do a lot of things well. Same story perhaps for Clemson DT Grady Jarrett, a quick interior defender who always has a chance to get a second-day call. On the other hand, a couple of DTs who may be seeing some slippage are Florida State’s Eddie Goldman, who had a very disappointing pro day workout where he was only able to run in the 5.3 range, and Oklahoma NT Jordan Phillips. One other quick note, Washington edge rusher Hau’oli Kikaha did not particularly well at all at the Huskies’ pro day on Thursday as he was only able to clock in the mid 4.9 range. Kikaha led the country in sacks in 2014 with 19, but the lack of elite explosion could give teams pause until later in the draft, especially given the fact he’s already come back from a couple of torn ACL’s.

 

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. The following are 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.

Clemson ILB Stephone Anthony: Thought of a productive, but somewhat limited athlete with mid-to-late round prospect for the upcoming draft, Anthony has been pushing the envelope right through the pre-draft process starting at the senior Bowl where he was all over dispelling the notion that he had primarily between the tackles range. Anthony then had an outstanding combine where he clocked a very fast time of 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash, the third-fastest time among all defensive front-seven players in Indianapolis this year. For good measure, Anthony also had an athletic 37-inch vertical, while his agility drill times were all among the top figures at the position. Finally, Anthony showed plenty more agility and fluidity in positional drills at both the combine and the Tigers’ pro day earlier this month. NFL teams still have some concerns about Anthony’s natral football instincts, particularly when dropping into coverage, however, because of his toughness when making the tackle and overall athletic skills, Anthony has gone from a possible 4th-5th round pick this year to a point where he is contending with the likes of Mississippi’s State Benardrick McKinney, Eric Kendricks of UCLA and Miami’s Denzel Perryman to be the first inside linebacker off the board. Indeed, there is a palpable buzz that a team like Green Bay could actually be looking at him as a possibility for their late first round pick.

Oregon OT Jake Fisher: We kind of joked early in the 2014 college season that Fisher should maybe get some Heisman consideration when the Ducks’ offense just took off after missing some time with an injury. Turns out Fisher may get the last laugh. Fisher is a former TE who has shown in pre-draft workouts that he he is a much more fluid, athletic offensive lineman than previously thought. At the combine, for example, Fisher had the second fastest 40 clocking among offensive linemen at 5.01 seconds, while he posted a 32.5-inch vertical, which also tied for second among OL, and then blew away the competition at the position in the agility drills. All that has NFL teams thinking of a Fisher as a guy who could come in and start at RT right away, but what has pushed his up boards across the league is the sense that he has the feet and work ethic to eventually play at LT at the next level, although he still needs to add some strength and clean up some technical issues, in particular his hand usage off the snap. However, at 6-6, Fisher has the frame to bulk up to the 320 pound range – he weighed 306 at the combine – and given the value team’s place on the LT position, is another player who now looks like a solid early-to-mid-second round candidate who no one would be totally shocked if some team ultimately pulls the string in the latter part of the opening round.

Central Florida WR Breshad Perriman: If UCF’s Perriman didn’t have teams thinking about him as a potential early pick prior to his pro day this week, then they almost certainly will after he reportedly ran the 40 in something in the 4.3 range. In fact, Perriman may be just what the 2015 draft needs and that’s yet another really good prospect at receiver as he has a rare combination of size (he’s 6-2, 212), track speed and leaping ability. He also plays fast with an explosive first step and the ability to make sudden cuts. Indeed, he emerged as one of college football’s most dangerous big-play receivers last fall when he averaged almost 21 yards per catch (on 50 total receptions) and scored a team-leading 9 TDs on a team that really didn’t throw the ball all that well. In the past, though, Perriman has gotten by on his pure speed and athleticism and will need to clean some things up when he gets to the pros. In particular, his routes are sloppy as he tends to round them off and his hands are average at best as he lets too many passes get into his pads. Still, you can’t teach speed and athleticism such that his physical traits and ability to hit the big play should warrant plenty of early round consideration this year. And yes for the record, he is the son of former Miami WR Brett Perriman, who had a solid 10 year NFL career.

Arizona State FS Damarious Randall: No player in the 2015 draft class has come further, faster than ASU’s Randall who wasn’t even playing football four years ago. Indeed, Randall played baseball at a community college in 2011 before transferring to Mesa Community College where he was a JC All-American in 2012 after picking off 9 passes that year. Randall then played the last two years at ASU where he evolved into one of the most productive safeties in the country as he led the team with 106 tackles last fall, including 9.5 for loss, while he picked off 3 passes and broke up 9  others. Randall isn’t all that big at just 5-11, 195, but he can really run and has great instincts and ball skills. Indeed, there are some teams that are reportedly looking at him as a possible corner, although he is probably a little stiff in the hips to hold up on an island against elite receivers. Still, Randall was only one of two safeties to run under 4.5 seconds at the combine (along with Eric Rowe of Utah), while he was in the top 2-3 prospects at the position in the other key physical tests including the agility drills. And in a year in which ball-hawking free safety types are about as rare as hen’s teeth, Randall is another guy with the potential to be off the board within the first 40 or so picks at this year’s draft.

Bonus buzz: In addition to the above players, there is something of a buzz that QBs Bryce Petty of Baylor and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson may have passed Brett Hundley of UCLA as the #3 prospect at the position this year behind Jameis Winston of Florida State and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Hundley is by far the best athlete of the three, but Petty and Grayson are just better passers out of the pocket. And given that there are simply more than two teams with major QB issues heading into the draft, the question around the NFL is just how early teams that don’t get Winston or Mariota will feel the pressure to get the next best thing at the position and that could mean reaching a tad in the second round. There has also been something of a buzz around the league of late that nobody should be surprised if Georgia RB Todd Gurley is selected a lot earlier than where he is being projected in most current mock drafts. Gurley, of course, was considered to be the best player in college football last season before he tore an ACL in October that sent his stock tumbling. However, Gurley’s rehab is reportedly going well such that he may not have to wait much past the first 10-12 or so picks before he starts to come into play, that is if somebody doesn’t pull the trigger in the top 10.

Draft buzz: March 9

While most of the focus on the NFL these days in on the start of the new football year tomorrow that signals the official start to free agency, there is actually a lot percolating just below the surface at the draft. It would seem, for example, that whether he is ulttimately rated the top player in this draft class or not, Florida State QB Jameis Winston will be the first player chosen come April 30th. There has never been much issue with Winston’s ability on the field or his football acumen and, barring any new revelations between now and the end of April, Winston has been doing and saying all the right things to at least push all those character red flags to the back burner. The latest positive step for Winston came last week when he was in Tampa for a pre-draft visit with the Buccaneers and reportedly charmed the city with his charisma.

At the same time, it appears that Florida OLB Dante Fowler may be seriously pushing Southern California DE Leonard Williams for the top grade among the other positions. Indeed, it shouldn’t be a surprise sat all if Fowler is selected before Williams simply because in the end he has far more potential upside as a pass rusher.

Among other developments larger and small:

  • There is a pretty good chance that West Virginia WR Kevin White has supplanted Alabama’s Amari Cooper as the top-rated prospect among receivers. White has always had the tools including prototype size and great hands and body control, but he may have closed the deal when he also showed sprinter speed and explosion when he ran a 4.35 40 at the combine. At the same time, it appears that Cooper, who isn’t all that big or physical and has been known to drop more than his share of easy passes may be in danger of possibly slipping out of the top ten. At the same time, it also appears that Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, like White a big strong physical receiver with a burst, may have moved into the top 20, especially with so many teams looking to add talent at receiver in the middle of the opening round. Same story for Devin Smith of Ohio State in the latter part of the 1st round.
  • It appears that Texas DT Malcom Brown has edged into the #3 slot at the position behind USC’s Leonard Williams and Washington’s Danny Shelton.
  • Florida junior D.J. Humphries is the hot name among offensive linemen after he showed up at the combine weighing close to 310 pounds after reportedly playing in the 280s in college.
  • With NFL teams still questioning character issues of Washington CB Marcus Peters, LSU’s Jalen Collins appears to have moved ahead into the #2 grade among corners, while Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest could also sneak in to the opening round if not higher.