NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

Falcons lose pick, Eagles cleared in tampering cases … The NFL has finally ruled on the tampering cases involving Atlanta and Philadelphia and as a result the Falcons will forfeit their 5th-round pick in the 2025 draft and fined $250,000, while the Eagles were cleared of any wrongdoing. The allegations involving the Falcons with QB Kirk Cousins, WR Darnell Mooney and TE Charlie Woerner prior to this year official unrestricted free agency period. For their part, the Eagles were alleged to have had personal contact with former Giants’ RB Saquon Barkley prior to the start of free agency.

ESPN previews top 2025 QBs … For those that haven’t seen it, ESPN has an article up today overviewing the top QB prospects for the 2025 draft. No surprise that they have Georgia’s Carson Beck, Shedeur Sanders of Colorado and Texas’ Quinn Ewers at 1-2-3. It might be s urprise to some, though that the guys at ESPN have slid Jaxson Dart up in the next spot. However, that isn’t necessarily a surprise to NFL insiders as there has been something of a buzz growing over the past several weeks about Dart and his prospects for the upcoming draft. Dart is one of those guys who seems to have been around forever, but he’s actually still just a 4th year. In fact he was a big-time recruit who was the national player of the year coming out of high school and signed originally at Southern Cal, but transferred to Ole Miss after just one year at USC. And what stands out about his two years with the Rebels is just how much he’s improved each year. Last year, for example, he threw for 3,400 yards and 23 scores against just 5 picks while running for another 600+ yards. Dart likely lacks the super arm strength of some of the top elite prospects at the position, but he’s got a quick release, reads the field well and can make plays on the move.

2025 RB preview/preliminary ranking … It still waits to be seen whether any RBs are selected in the opening round of the upcoming, but on first blush it certainly appears that 2025 could in fact be a very good year at the position with at least several backs with first-round grades at this time. That group is headed by Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon, an instinctive slasher who led the country in rushing last fall with over 1,700 yards and 21 TDs, despite not playing much the first month of the season. Gordon, though, is hardly a lock to be the top-rated RB this year as Quinshon Judkins, now at Ohio State after transferring north from Mississippi, wasn’t quite as productive working in an offence that also threw the ball very well, but may be the more explosive prospect. In fact, the Buckeyes may have the very best RB room in the country as Judkins will pair with veteran Treveyon Henderson, who surprisingly returned to school for another year at Columbus and has some first-round props of his own. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s Omarion Hampton, who ran over 1,500 yards last fall, could ultimately be the best of the bunch.

And those four are just the tip of the iceberg of what looks to be a very deep RB class for 2025 which also includes Michigan’s Donovan Edwards, Tajh Brooks of Texas Tech, California’s underrated Jadyn Ott, Devin Neal of Kansas, Rocket Sanders of South Carolina, Boise State’s Ashton Jeanty, Trevor Etienne of Georgia and the Penn State duo of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. In fact, we could go on and also include the names of Kyle Monagai of Rutgers, Jarquez Hunter of Auburn, Woody Marks of Southern Cal and 245-pound Peny Boone of UCF, all of which should have NFL teams looking at some pretty good options at the position next April including well into the third day. Here is our preliminary ranking of the top RBs for the upcoming draft.

Sleepers and keepers … One of the interesting elements of the 2024 draft was that while there were obviously changes, the top of the board remained remarkably constant pretty much through the whole process. And the sense we have as we begin the process of a pre-season Top 50 or so for the upcoming draft, given the quality of the prospects currently ranked in the 10-15 range, is that there’s good chance we’ll see something of the same continuity this year. That said, at the same time, several players with the upside to bust into that top group have already jumped out at us. In fact, we weren’t planning to actually write about them quite yet, but a piece over at ESPN this weekend listing 15 players they classified as sleepers for 2025 piqued our interest, in large part because 0ne of the players on their list was one of the guys we had id’ed as having high ceilings. He’s Arizona CB Tacori Davis, who in fact at this time isn’t really a sleeper any more every team around the league knows who he is. Davis is a rising 3rd year cover corner who wasn’t highly recruited, but has emerged as a legitimate mid-to-late first round prospect after leading the PAC-12 with 15 pass break-ups last fall. At 6-4, he’s  tall, angular player with long arms who is very physical jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupting their routes. He’s also an instinctive corner who anticipates routes and breaks well and as a former HS receiver has good ball skills. He’s also a very good tackler who is not shy about coming up to support the run defence. He’s also a decent athlete who can flip his hips with ease and turn and run with most receivers. However, he’s also more quick than fast with a projected 40 clocking in the low 4.5 range. And Arizona practices should be almost as entertaining as their games this fall when Davis go head-to-head against star Wildcat WR Tetairoa McMillan who is already a top 5-10 prospect.

The other two guys we wanted to mention are defensive linemen including massive 345-pound Kentucky DT Deone Walker and Texas A&M DE Nic Scourton. Originally from Detroit, he spurned offers from SEC powers Alabama and Georgia to sign with Kentucky where he was a freshman All-American in 2022 and made multiple AA teams last year when he posted 7.5 sacks and 5 other tackles for loss. He’s an imposing physical specimen at 6-6 and almost 350 pounds with commensurate power and strength who is very difficult to move off the line of scrimmage. He’s also something of a dancing bear type who has outstanding quickness, lateral agility and closing speed including a 40-clocking close to the 5.0 flat range. He is also a high character player with an outstanding motor and work ethic who was a full-time team captain as a true sophomore last fall. Scourton is also a 3rd year DL who played his first two years at Purdue where he had 10 sacks last fall, but transferred to A&M for the upcoming campaign. Scourton actually looks a little more like a DT at 6-4, 280, but he moves more like an OLB with a projected 40 time in the 4.7 range, along with unique lateral agility for a player that size. Indeed, he actually played OLB last fall for the Boilermakers. Also, like Davis and Walker, he’s a highly competitive player with a great work ethic. 

CFL season kicks off … The 2024 CFL regular season gets underway Thursday night with a replay of last year’s Grey cup game as defending Canadian league champion Montreal plays in Winnipeg with KO set for 8:30 PM ET. The CFL’s opening weekend continues with Hamilton playing at Calgary at 9 PM ET on Friday, while Saskatchewan travels to Edmonton on Saturday afternoon (4 PM ET) and BC and Toronto finish off this week’s slate on Sunday evening at 7 PM ET. Meanwhile, Ottawa, the CFL’s other team get a bye this weekend and open their 2024 campaign next Thursday when they host Winnipeg next Thursday night in the nation’s capital. Here is the full CFL schedule which culminates with the 111th playing of the Grey Cup game in Vancouver on Sunday, November 17th. There tends to be a lot of personal changes from year-to-year, but the early projections are that Winnipeg, which is led by former Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros, will again be the class of the West Division, although the Blue Bombers should get a challenge from the B.C. Lions who’d like nothing more than to host this year’s Grey Cup game. Meanwhile, it looks like the East could come down to a battle between Toronto and Montreal, especially with Argos QB Chad Kelly, the nephew of former star Buffalo QB Jim Kelly who was last year’s CFL MVP, suspended for the first half of the season for violating the league’s gender violence policy. As usual, all CFL games will be carried on TSN and RDS in Canada, while the CBS Sports Network will carry 34 games in the US including Thursday’s season opener. The remaining games will be available on the CFL’s free streaming feed.

Browns extend coach, GM … Cleveland has signed both GM Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski to contract extensions, although the actual length of the extensions have not been disclosed. The duo has been running the franchise since 2020, a run that includes a couple of playoff appearances.

Previewing the 2025 QB class … Over the course of the next couple of week’s we’ll be previewing the various positional groupings for the 2025 draft. Of course, the upcoming draft is almost a year away and there are bound to be numerous changes, but a preliminary look at next year’s QB class suggests that it likely won’t be quite as good as this year’s group, but it also won’t necessarily be that far behind. Indeed, both Carson Beck of Georgia and Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders, who was talked about as being very much in the mix to be one of the first three QBs off this year before he announced he was returning to school, are currently considered to be top 5 prospects for the upcoming draft. At the same time, Quinn Ewers of Texas also figures to be very much in the first-round discussion for 2025, especially if he can build on last year’s solid campaign, while several other QBs including Jalen Milroe of Alabama and Cam Ward, now at Miami, could get at least some later-first round consideration. In fact, there’s a relatively large contingent of proven veteran college QBs also has tons to physical talent and just needs to polish up some of the technical elements of his game. Then there’s the small army of solid veteran college QBs that have the potential to make the kind of move Jayden Daniels did last year at LSU when he went from a mid-to-late round prospect to the #2 pick overall including, in no particular order, Jaxson Dart of Mississippi, Utah’s Cam Rising, Riley Leonard of Notre Dame, Will Howard of Ohio State, Tyler Van Dyke of Wisconsin, DJ Uiagalelei of Florida State, Will Rogers at Washington, UCF’s KJ Jefferson, and Grayson McCall of NC State. Here’s our very preliminary ranking of the QBs for 2025, again with the proviso much will change between now and then.

Tips for betting on the NFL, Part Deux … As we mentioned in an earlier post, we don’t normally advocate that folks bet on the NFL or any other sporting event for that matter. However, we do realize that many do and for those that do, whether a seasoned bettor or a relative newcomer to the sports betting scene the attached post includes some ideas on how to sharpen one’s skill and basic betting strategy,especially as it relates to prop betting on individual players or plays. Read more.

Pats, Cats favored to get top picks at 2025 draft … For those that haven’t seen it yet, ESPN has an article up this week forecasting the odds teams across the NFL have to acquire the #1 pick at the 2025 draft. Its probably no great surprise that New England and Carolina currently have the best odds of coming away with the first overall pick next April, with Denver, Tennessee and Washington rounding out the top 5. And with the start of the upcoming NFL season now less than 100 days and the 2025 draft less than 330 days away – and not much else going on around the league – we thought we’d have a little fun and project the first round of next  April’s draft based on ESPN’s forecast. Although please remember that with these very early projections we are not trying really to predict which particular player might go to which particular ream, but just give some idea where players might be selected next April based on the current intelligence. Here you go!

NCAA settlement to allow schools to pay players … In a decision that is sure to further disrupt the college football landscape, the NCAA and the 5-power conferences have agreed to allow schools to pay players after agreeing to settle three pending anti-trust cases. The NCAA will pay almost $3B in damages to past and current athletes over the next decade and each school will be allowed to share up to roughly $20M per year with its athletes. all D1 athletes dating back to 2016 are eligible to receive a share as part of the settlement. In exchange, athletes cannot sue the NCAA for other potential antitrust violations and drop their complaints in the three open cases. The terms of the settlement must still be approved by the judge in the 3 open cases, a process that is expected to take several months. Schools would then be able to begin sharing revenue starting in fall 2025. hard to know at this point what impact might have on the NFL, but it may be further incentive for college players, especially those not guaranteed to be high draft picks, to stay in school as long as they can.

Pittsburgh to host 2026 draft … The NFL confirmed this morning that the 2026 draft will be held in Pittsburgh. The 2025 draft will be hosted by Green Bay April 24-26 next year.

Chiefs claim 8th round signings title … With all the teams around the NFL having officially announced their post-draft undrafted rookie free agent classes we did our annual scoring based on our unofficial list of the top undrafted free agents following last month’s draft. and in one of those ‘the rich get richer’ scenarios, the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs came out on top. The Chiefs, for example, ended up signing 7 of the top 100 or so undrafted free agents on our list including two – #5 LB Curtis Jacobs and and #9 OT Ethan Driskell – who had top grades on our list as well as #11 DT Fabien Lovett. The Chiefs edged out Seattle for the ‘title’ followed by Seattle, Carolina and the NY Jets. For the record, here are the top undrafted rookie free agents and their signing status.

49ers name new director of scouting … San Francisco has promoted veteran scout Josh Williams to the post of director of scouting and football operations. Williams, who has been with the 49ers since 2011, was a national scout the past two seasons.

Broncos sign QB Nix … Denver has signed QB Bo Nix, the 12th pick overall in last month’s draft, to a fully guaranteed, 4-year $18.7M contract that comes with a $10.4M signing bonus. Like all first-round picks, Nix’s contract has a team option for a fifth year. Nix is the first of the 6 QBs taken in the first dozen picks in this year’s draft.

WashComs 2nd rounder to have foot surgery … Washington figured it had something of a steal in the 2nd round of last month’s when the Commanders were able to nab Illinois DT Johnny Newton with the 36th pick overall after he slipped out of the first round because of a foot injury. Newton ultimately had to have surgery on the foot and as a result was not able to work out for teams until just a couple of weeks before the draft. Now the team has confirmed that Newton will require the same surgery on his other foot with no announced timeline for when he will be able to play again.

Pats promote de facto GM Wolf to de facto GM … New England has confirmed the team’s worst kept secret and promoted Eliot Wolf to Executive VP of Player Personnel. Wolf had been the Patriots’ director of scouting the past couple of years and ran the team’s 2024 draft preparations after the departure of former head coach Bill Belichik. In the new job in which he will be GM in everything but name Wolf will have overall direction of the personnel department, the management of the salary cap, and control of the 53-man roster.

That did not take long! Bears name #1 pick starting QB … Even before they stepped on the field for their rookie minicamp, Chicago named Caleb Williams, the first player selected at last month’s draft as the team’s starting QB heading toward the season.

Texans get vet Rams TE for late round pick swap … Houston has acquired veteran TE Ben Skowronek from the LA Rams. As compensation the teams will swap late round picks in 2026 with the Rams getting the Texans’ 6th rounder, while the Rams get the Texans’ 7th rounder to complete the deal.

Panthers 1st to sign 2024 draft class … Carolina has become the first team to sign their entire2024 draft class including WR Xavier Legette, their first round pick whom the Panthers traded up to acquire at the end of the opening round.

Jets, Chiefs lead early 8th round signings … Roughly half the teams around the NFL have officially announced their post-draft undrafted rookie free agent classes. And based on our unofficial list of the top undrafted free agents following last week’s draft, the NY Jets and Kansas City have done pretty well for themselves. The Jets in fact signed former Miami DT Leonard Taylor, the top undrafted player on our list, along with former UConn DE Eric Watts, who came in at #7. For their part, the Chiefs signed #5 LB Curtis Jacobs of Penn State, #9 OT Ethan Driskell of Marshall, #11 Florida State DT Fabien Lovett and #22 RB Emani Bailey of TCU. Here is the full list of top undrafted rookie signings as of today. Hopefully, more teams will be formally announcing their undrafted rookie signings in the next day or so, particularly those teams that completed their minicamps this past weekend.

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