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

Clemson DE Foster retires … Veteran Clemson DE Justin Foster, who would have been a solid 3rd day prospect for the upcoming draft, has decided to give up football. Foster, who has congenital asthma and allergy issues, missed the 2020 season after contracting COVID-19 from which he still hasn’t fully recovered. Foster, though, has graduated and reportedly has a job outside football awaiting him.

Updated GBN mock posted … Most draft years tend to hard to mock, however, this year feels even harder than most. We have a pretty good idea that Jacksonville is going to take Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the first pick overall. After that, though, it really is a crap shoot, at least when it comes to trying to predict what individual teams are actually going to do when they get on the clock on April 29th. In particular, most of the teams with early picks this year have a myriad of needs literally each of which they literally address with one of this year’s top prospects. There is also the strong possibility that there will be a number of trades early in this year’s draft with so many teams apparently looking for a QB upgrade from a talented, albeit limited supply of prospects at the position. As such, one could put together a reasonably reasonable first-round projection and then do an entirely different one based on a separate set of assumptions that would be just as reasonably reasonable. That said, we have updated our first-round projection based largely on the ‘what-if’ assumption that there is an early run on QBs including trades. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination, though, to see that changing the assumption would very much influence the direction of the early picks. And, of course, that’s what NFL teams when they prepare for the draft. They don’t do just one mock, but rather they do multiple versions based on all the likely scenarios.

To QB or not to QB … With Jacksonville about as committed to taking former Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with the #1 pick in the 2021 draft – now just over two months away for those that keep track of these things – as is possible, the upcoming draft will really start with the NY Jets at the second pick. The early thinking had been that the Jets would also use the pick to select a QB, presumably either Zack Wilson of BYU or Ohio State’s Justin Fields to replace Sam Darnold, that is if they didn’t somehow swing a trade with Houston for DeShaun Watson. However, it appears that there may be an emerging consensus within the Jets’ organization that that the roster is so talent-thin that what they really need to do is build up the supporting cast before they make a big move at QB. What that means is that there is a growing likelihood that the Jets will opt to stick with Darnold for at least another year and instead look to trade the the second overall selection for a package of picks to go along with the two firsts they already heading into the draft. And if they opt to shop the #2 pick, the Jets should get plenty of interest with any number of teams likely to be interested in moving up to get a QB themselves with Philadelphia at #6 and Carolina at #8 likely to be the most interested.

The Jets are in fact on of three teams that the Texans’ Watson has reportedly indicated that he’d accept a trade to along with Miami and Carolina. And while almost trade involving Watson would shake up the draft, for now Houston is adamant that Watson is not available. Of course, they could change their mind if Watson ultimately holds out and the situation becomes unsustainable, but for now the Texans appear to be willing to let it ride hoping that Watson will have a change of heart because rising young QBs – he led the NFL in passing this season playing on a bad team – are just so hard to come by. Stay tuned!

Tag days get underway … Starting today, NFL teams can tag veteran free agents with either the franchise or transition dags. Teams have until March 9th to designate tagged players. The whole tag process is somewhat complicated by the fact that teams still don’t know exactly what the salary cap will be when the new NFL year begins on March 17th. The league and the players’ association have agreed that the cap will be at least $180M million, but it is not expected to be more than $185M. Either way it represents a big drop from the cap of $198 million last year. Players designated with a franchise tag are guaranteed the average of the top five salaries at their respective position over the past five years, while transition tag salaries are based on the average of the top 10 salaries at the position and offer players the chance to sign an offer sheet with other clubs. ESPN has a piece on the top candidates to be tagged including Dallas QB Dak Prescott, Detroit WR Kenny Golladay and Giants’ DE Leonard Williams.

Colts top nfl.com rook grades … Not sure if it can be considered to be a roll, but literally the same day that Indianapolis acquired veteran QB Carson Wentz in a trade with Philadelphia, a report by nfl.com gives the Colts’ 2020 rookie class the top grade among all teams’ first-year crops. Other teams rounding out the top 5 grades include Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Cleveland. Meanwhile, sticking with nfl.com fora moment, Bucky Brooks, one of the site’s lead draft analysts, posted his initial ranking of the top 5 prospects at each position.

Eagles land pair of picks from Colts for QB Wentz … We were going to post a brief update on some of the QB rumblings around the league these days which was going to include the note that Philadelphia was having trouble moving QB Carson Wentz as it appeared that the only team interested was Indianapolis. In fact, that’s where Wentz is headed as the Eagles and Colts have reportedly agreed on a deal in which the QB goes to Indy in exchange for a 3rd round pick this year – the 85th overall – along with a conditional 2nd rounder in 2022 that could escalate into a first-rounder if Wentz either plays at least 75% of the Colts’ offensive snaps next fall or plays at least 70% of the snaps and the Colts reach the playoffs. And with the departure of Wentz, Jalen Hurts becomes the de facto Eagles’ starting QB. However, he had something of an up-and-down rookie season last fall which may prompt Philadelphia to consider taking a QB with the 6th pick overall this coming April. Stay tuned!

QB Lawrence undergoes surgery … As planned, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, the presumptive #1 pick at the 2021 draft, underwent surgery on his non-throwing shoulder earlier today. According to sources close to the situation there were no complications and the doctors expect Lawrence to be ready for training camp this summer. It is expected that Jacksonville, which has the first pick this year, will get at least one more look at Lawrence’s situation as he is expected to be one of the players who will be asked to undergo a follow-up medical exam in early April.

Pro day sched grows … The number of schools releasing the dates of their pro days this year continues to grow, albeit slowly. Here is the full list as we aware of it as of today. Among the latest additions to the list are North Dakota State on March 12th where QB Trey Lance, a potential top 10 prospect who ended up playing in only one game this fall because of the pandemic, will be one of the players working out. Meanwhile, Georgia will hold its pro day on March 17th. Of course, if anyone is aware of others dates we’d appreciate hearing them. ed

Big Board tweaked … For those that haven’t noticed as yet the GBN Big Board ranking of the top 100 prospects for the 2021 draft has been updated here.

QB Lawrence works out for Jags, other teams … Former Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence had a pretty solid workout earlier this morning as the presumptive #1 pick at this year’s draft threw for reps from 17 NFL teams at a private pro day workout. Clemson’s actual pro day is scheduled for March 11th, but Lawrence is slated to have shoulder surgery later this month and would not have been available for the Tigers’ official pro day. Lawrence went through a scripted 55-pass program today that was good, but maybe wasn’t quite as impressive as the workouts as some of the other top-rated QB prospects in recent years. Normally in these kinds of workouts, for example, there will be 3-4 passes that hit the ground; however, Lawrence had as many as 9-10 incompletions, although at least 3-4 of those were outright drops. There were also 3-4 passes in the red zone portion of the workout where the receiver caught the ball, but was well out of bounds. We’ll leave the final call to analysts with a higher pay grade than ours, but the sense here was that while Lawrence has plenty of arm strength, it may be a tad below that of other recent QB prospects like Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert. What you did see from Lawrence, though, was a very easy throwing motion that produced darts that were consistently on the numbers as he threw what appeared to be a very catchable ball. He also threw the ball well on the run. In the end, it is hard to see a scenario in which today’s work out did anything to hurt Lawrence’s chances of being the first player selected on April 29th. If there was in fact anything to see figure that Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer, whose Jags have the top pick this year and are expected to take Lawrence, will have seen it. Meyer was never more than 7-10 yards away from Lawrence throughout the workout where he spent much of it standing next to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. In fact, according to some late reports, the idea of the whole early workout by Lawrence was at the request of Meyer and the Jaguars. For the record, Lawrence measured in at a tad taller than 6-5 and a 1/2 and 213 pounds; the latter figure, though, was a little lighter than expected, although Lawrence clearly has the frame to add as much as another 15-20 pounds.

Texans to release JJ Watt … There are several media reports at this hour that Houston is going to release star DE JJ Watt. Watt, the 11th player selected at the 2011 draft, was a dominant defender in his first 5 years earning NFL defensive player of the year awards, but he’s had only one really productive season since 2016 because of a series of injuries including a bad back, knee injury and torn pectoral muscle.

Pigskin projects the picks … Long-time GBN readers will know that Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette doesn’t really like to do mock drafts. But every once in a while he gets the bug and he did this weekend posting his first projection of the year. And it wouldn’t be a Pigskin projection without some really interesting picks. Enjoy!

That’s a wrap: Final two opening round slots settled in Bucs’ Super win … Congratulations to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after winning the 2020 Super Bowl in a shocking rout of defending champion Kansas City. As a result, the Chiefs will have the 31st regular pick in every round, while the Buccaneers will have the 32nd selection. Here is the updated selection order for the first three rounds.

It’s on to Indy … NOT … Every year at the end of Senior Bowl week the word around the NFL is that ‘it’s on to Indy!’ That’s in reference of course to the scouting combine, the next big event of the pre-draft calendar, which is held in Indianapolis at the end of February every year. Not this year, though, as the NFL decided to cancel the combine and focus the physical testing and positional workouts on the college pro days because of covid concerns. The NFL is still reportedly working on a set of guidelines to ensure some kind of comparability between schools. It also appears that the actual pro day schedule, which in the past usually began just a day or two after the end of the combine in early March, is also still something of a work in progress. So far, about 30 college programs have released their pro day dates including Ohio State which will work out on March 30th. However, that means the majority have yet to finalize a date as they work out the particulars of trying to host a pro day amid concerns about the pandemic. The latter list includes draft powers like Alabama and Clemson which have not yet announced pro day dates. Of course, one guy who won’t be at the Clemson pro day is starQB Trevor Lawrence who will hold a private workout next Friday before he undergoes shoulder surgery later in the month. As usual, we’ll be tracking as best we can the latest results from the various pro days around the country.

Is next QB domino about to fall … There is a buzz about the NFL this Super Bowl eve that Philadelphia is on the verge of unloading veteran QB Carson Wentz. There are few specifics connected with the story, but it believed that if Wentz is going anywhere it will be to Indianapolis where he would be reunited with Frank Reich, the Colts’ head coach who was his offensive coordinator with the Eagles for his first two years in the league. The Colts are also expected to hire Press Taylor, the Eagles’ former quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator who is reportedly close to Wentz. The Colts are in the market for a new starting QB after Philip Rivers announced his retirement after one successful season in Indianapolis and aren’t likely to land one with the 21st pick overall in this year’s draft. Wentz looked like one of the league’s rising stars at the position during his first three years in the NFL despite a series of injuries, but struggled mightily this past season when he was ultimately benched the final 4 weeks. The Eagles had been expected to stick with Wentz after hiring Nick Sirianni to replace former head coach Doug Pederson with whom he reportedly feuded, but Philadelphia may be figuring that they may be better off using the 6th pick this spring on the position rather than hope that Wentz does indeed make a comeback. Meanwhile, a couple of other teams mentioned as possibly interested in Wentz include New England and Chicago. Time will tell!

Covid violations put more Saints picks at risk … New Orleans has already been forced to forfeit its 7th round pick this year because of violations of the NFL’s covid protocals, but it could be more after star RB Alvin Kamara tested positive late this season. Kamara ultimately missed the Saints’ season finale after an interaction in the team’s facility with a person not employed by the club who turned out to be positive. In fact, this was the Saints’ 3rd violation of the league policy this year. They were previously were fined $250,000 and coach Sean Payton $100,000 for failing to wear proper face coverings early in the season and then were fined another $500K and lost a seventh-round pick for a maskless celebration following a victory later in the season. The buzz around the league is that the Saints could end up losing either multiple picks and/or a higher draft pick as well as an even larger fine for the latest transgression. Stay tuned!

Top prospect Lawrence to have surgery on non-throwing shoulder … The 2021 draft got thrown for a bit of a loop this after with the announcement that Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, the presumptive #1 pick overall at this year’s event, will require surgery to repair a labrum injury in his left shoulder. As a result, Lawrence will throw for NFL next Friday before undergoing the surgery rather than wait for Clemson’s Pro Day. Given that the injury is to Lawrence’s non-throwing shoulder it is unlikely that the injury should have a major impact on Lawrence’s final draft status, but it is still an injury. Stay tuned!

Giants Report: Senior bowl game review – the edge rushers … We mentioned in our special Giants Report Senior Bowl preview last week that while the overall strength of the 2021 draft is focused on the QBs, WRs and corners, the strength of the class in Mobile this year were the defensive ends/edge rushers. And in our review of the game that’s who we kind of focused on because that also appears to be an area the Giants will be looking at this off-season. Of course, one never wants to put too much stock in the results of just one game, but on the whole there were a number of DE/ERs who did stand out in the actual Senior Bowl game on Saturday. None are going to be candidates to be selected in the opening round, at least at #11, but it appears that the Giants could have some legit options in an area that is often hard to address in a meaningful way after the first round. Read more

QB Mond; LBs Britt, Browning headline Pigskin’s all-Senior Bowl game team … They are probably still picking up loose Reese’s chocolate wrappers in Mobile as we speak after a relatively successful – given the circumstances – Senior Bowl week. And while the rest of our staff is still chewing over the game tape, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has weighed in with his all-Senior Bowl game team. Here.

Selection order updated to third round … The regular comp picks still have to be added, but here is the unofficial updated selection order for the first three rounds of the 2021 draft. Note the minority hiring compensatory picks have been included, but remain unnumbered as they will be slotted after the free agent signing comp picks. In normal times, the comp picks are announced during the combine, but of course these aren’t normal times and this year’s scouting combine has already been cancelled. While there are still the final four rounds to be added, let’s face it, the heart and soul of the draft are the premium picks in the opening three rounds. And right now the teams best situated for the upcoming draft are Miami, Jacksonville and the NY Jets each of whom has 5 total picks in the first three rounds, including two each in the opening round. Meanwhile, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington currently all four premium picks. On the other hand, Seattle and Houston have just one pick each at this time, although the Texans will add to their haul if they do indeed trade QB DeShaun Watson before the draft. At the same time, New England, the LA Rams have just two picks to date. Here is the full list of picks by team through the first three rounds. Again, please note that this unofficial so kindly let us know if anything is out of order.

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