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Toby Gerhart will attend some of Vikings minicamp

The NFL rule barring rookies from taking part in offseason activities until the school year is out has cost Vikings running back Toby Gerhart most of his chance to get acclimated with the team before training camp.

He’ll start changing that this weekend. Gerhart took his last final exam at Stanford on Tuesday night and caught a flight to the Twin Cities where he will participate in some of this weekend’s minicamp before flying back to Palo Alto to take part in commencement exercises. Then it is back to Minnesota for the final week of the offseason program.

In an interview with the team’s website, Gerhart said he is working with running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to catch up as much as possible before hitting the field this weekend. He should have ample chances to show off what he’s learned while Adrian Peterson takes off from camp to be the guest of honor at Adrian Peterson Day in East Palestine, Texas.

It’s far too soon to know what Gerhart will bring to the table for the Vikings but they’ve got to be glad to finally get a chance to see what they selected with the 51st overall pick in April’s draft. Given Peterson’s hard-charging style and his difficulty holding onto the football, they surely hope Gerhart shows them enough that they can count on him to carry a heavy load if the need arises during the 2010 season.
 

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Final cost of Brock Osweiler mistake: two first-round picks, second-round pick, $21 million

AP

The Houston Texans made a huge mistake last year by signing quarterback Brock Osweiler to a four-year, $72 million contract. The final cost of that blunder can now be calculated.

In addition to the $21 million that was paid to Osweiler last year, the Texans previously gave up a second-round pick in 2018 (along with a sixth-round pick in 2017 in exchange for a 2017 fourth-round pick) to get Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed salary for 2017 off the books. They’ve now secured Osweiler’s replacement in exchange for a pair of first-round draft picks.

And, yes, at a time when few teams will consider giving up two first-round draft picks for a veteran player, the Texans gave up two first-round picks — the 25th overall selection in 2017 and next year’s first-rounder — to get Deshaun Watson. That’s no different than trading two first-round picks for Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garoppolo, or any other available (and proven) signal-caller.

It’s a huge price to pay, and a definite risk to take, for screwing the pooch on Osweiler, an outcome that possibly was cemented by the inability of the Texans to bring Osweiler in for an extended visit before signing him. And it’s a lesson to any team considering the addition of a quarterback on the first day of free agency; if you’re considering a proverbial pig in a poke, you’re possibly going to be spending a lot on the lipstick that eventually will be applied to a sweaty, nasty, stinky swine.

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Report: DeShone Kizer in play for Packers at No. 33

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Packers General Manager Ted Thompson traded out of the first round last night, landing the No. 33 pick in a deal with the Browns and then let the football world he was open to trading back again to kick off the second round.

According to a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, that’s not the only option the Packers are considering. Rapoport reports that Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer is in play to be picked by Green Bay when the draft resumes on Friday night.

There would seem to be a link between that report and Thompson’s comments. If you were trying to build a trade market for a pick, there are worse ways to do it than trying to get people to believe that you’re going to take one of the highest-rated quarterbacks still available.

Getting teams to believe you’re serious is another issue and that’s one that might be tough for a Packers team that has more immediate concerns than developing a quarterback who may well be out of contract before Aaron Rodgers is thinking about moving on. It’s not unheard of — see Jimmy Garoppolo — but a team moving up to secure Kizer would likely be doing it to jump ahead of teams other than the Packers.

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Hue Jackson: We’ll find a role on offense for Jabrill Peppers

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In the final weeks before the draft, there was some speculation that Jabrill Peppers would fall out of the first round because of concerns about a diluted urine sample at the Scouting Combine and uncertainty about what position he’ll play in the NFL.

The Browns weren’t concerned enough to pass up Peppers at No. 25 and they made it clear that they see Peppers’ versatility as an asset when discussing the pick. While they plan to play him primarily at strong safety, coach Hue Jackson also said he sees Peppers playing a role in the return game and that they plan to figure out a way for him to contribute on offense as well.

“He is a football player, a very dynamic player,” Jackson said, via the Detroit Free Press. “Obviously, he’s going to play defense for us, but we’ll find a role for him over there on offense. No question. … Again, when you have guys that have ability to make plays, you do anything and everything you can to put them in an environment so they can showcase their talent and ability. We will do that, but first we are bringing him in here to play defense and play special teams.”

Peppers had 45 carries and 10 catches over the last two years at Michigan, but the vast majority of his work came on the defensive side of the ball. That should be the case in Cleveland and his play in the secondary will decide whether this pick goes down as a success or not.

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Sean McDermott tiptoes around question about scouting staff

AP

As the draft continues to unfold, a potentially bigger drama percolates in Buffalo: After the draft ends, who stays and who goes?

PFT reported recently that Bills scouts fear a mass termination next week. The team issued a statement to PFT that didn’t deny that notion. On Thursday night, coach Sean McDermott faced a similar question during a press conference. He likewise didn’t deny it.

Here’s the question: “Sean, as excited as you are about what you got today and what you got accomplished today, there seems to be a cloud hanging over part of this team with reports about your scouting staff, and possibly Doug Whaley’s job, being in jeopardy. Do you foresee changes happening next week, immediately after this draft?”

“I am absolutely, 110 percent focused on what is going on right now upstairs with the rest of the first round, and then the second and third round,” McDermott said. “That’s what’s in front of us right now. If we were focused on anything else, we’d be making a mistake. That’s where our focus is.”

For any team where sweeping changes definitely weren’t coming after the draft, the denials would be loud and sweeping. The absence of a denial in this case says all that anyone needs to know. More changes are coming for a team that hopes to make enough improvements to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

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Packers G.M. on tonight’s first pick: Come and get it

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Packers General Manager Ted Thompson bailed out of the first round last night, and he wants to make sure everyone knows the top pick of the second round is available.

Via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Thompson made it clear tonight’s first choice (the 33rd overall) is very much for sale.

“Oh yeah, you can put that down,” Thompson said. “That will save us a couple of phone calls. We’re taking calls.”

The Packers bypassed the chance to pick 29th last night when the Browns had to have tight end David Njoku. For their troubles, they got the 33rd and 108th picks, giving Thompson the first picks tonight and tomorrow (when the fourth round begins).

What he’s hoping for is a bidding war to develop today. Whether quarterback DeShone Kizer, running back Dalvin Cook, left tackle Cam Robinson or others could trigger one remains to be seen.

“I think it’s very good strategy-wise,” Thompson said. “We know where we’re at and what we’re going to do. There’s a couple of different ways of looking at it in terms of being helpful to us. It could be that we highlight a player that we know we can get, and they can’t take him away from us, so we sit there and pick him. It could be that a team sees an opportunity to maybe trade up and get a player they didn’t think they could get and maybe it’s again a trade that works well for us. There’s a couple of different ways to look at it. . . .

“We wanted to add a little meat to shoring up the roster.”

If they don’t trade it, they could still address their need at cornerback, with Sidney Jones, Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie, and others still available there.

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The Texans have sent the Browns a lot of stuff lately

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Houston has been a quarterback away from being a serious contender for about the last five years, since Matt Schaub lost his mojo. They’ve been able to maintain a level of success by having everything else in place.

Now they have their quarterback of the future by making a move for Deshaun Watson, but they don’t have much ability to add nice things for him to play with after all their deals with Cleveland.

Coupled with the salary dump of quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Texans have sent the Browns their 2017 first-rounder (25th overall) and their 2018 first- and second-rounders. They did get Cleveland’s fourth-round comp pick this year (142nd overall) as part of the Osweiler deal, but had to give up a sixth-rounder (188th) to balance the scales.

Getting out from under the awful Osweiler contract was the key, of course, and the financial flexibility in the future will help with some looming free agency purchases.

The next order of business will be doing an extension for wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, so his fellow Clemson man Watson will have someone to throw to. That’s going to cost them, as will an eventual deal for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, whose 2018 option they just picked up. Those are some big-ticket items on the horizon, and you’d ordinarily like to be able to balance the ledger with relatively cheap drafted players. But the Texans won’t pick until the third round next year, making it more difficult to reload with the kind of players who can make instant impacts.

If the Texans continue to be a playoff team this year (turning the Browns picks into late 20s and late 50s), and Watson develops into something more than the average-or-less guys they’ve been trotting out there, they will accept the risk.

But if they falter this year under the (presumed temporary) guidance of Tom Savage, they might have just gifted the Browns a pair of very high picks in 2018, which will make it harder for Watson to push them past their current good-not-great level.

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49ers kept Saints from getting Reuben Foster

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The 49ers sprang back into the first round to get a linebacker they regarded as one of the three best players in the draft. In so doing, the prevented the Saints from taking him.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, 49ers G.M. John Lynch told reporters that, when he called Reuben Foster to explain that the 49ers had traded up to select him, Foster said, “New Orleans is taking me.”

Said Lynch, “No, we’re taking you.”

Ed Werder, formerly of ESPN, tweeted Thursday that the Saints would have indeed taken Foster at No. 32. They instead told tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

Foster slid to 31 after being sent home from the Scouting Combine due to an altercation with a hospital worker. More recently, Foster disclosed that he failed a drug test at the Combine with a diluted sample.

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Bengals might have traded, if anyone had called

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There were deals made in the Bengals’ neighborhood, with two of the next three picks traded to teams eager to move up for a quarterback.

But Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis might have felt a little lonely, since no one called to ask about moving to the ninth overall.

Nobody was interested when we were on the clock,” Lewis said, via Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Kansas City and Houston traded into the 10th and 12th spots, respectively, for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. But because the Chiefs and Texans were including the 27th and 25th picks as part of their packages (both included next year’s one, and the Chiefs threw in this year’s third), it’s not certain the Bengals would have been interested anyway.

Lewis said they were so intrigued by the big-play potential of wide receiver John Ross that they didn’t want to risk moving too far down the order anyway.

“There are wow plays,” Lewis said. “When you watch tape you feel the guy. But we felt good about the nine guys we had up there. I made the comment to [owner] Mike [Brown] on Monday morning that where we ended up settling up there when you watch those guys play on tape you felt them.

“Sometimes when you watch guys on tape you get bored and those guys fall down further a little bit in my mind. The way it shook out for us, the nine guys that we thought fit us best when you watched them play you really felt them.”

While there were defensive players they could have taken a little later (bypassing their annual first-round cornerback in Marshon Lattimore), the Bengals didn’t want to drop past the mid-teens, and no one called anyway.

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Roger Goodell: Marijuana is addictive and unhealthy

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is willing to explore the possibility of allowing NFL players to use marijuana for medical reasons, but he’s not on board with the idea of taking it off the list of banned substances for recreational use.

Goodell said on Mike & Mike that he continues to believe marijuana is bad for players.

“I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use,” Goodell said. “Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players? Listen, you’re ingesting smoke, so that’s not usually a very positive thing that people would say. It does have addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term. All of those things have to be considered. And it’s not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players in that circumstance but I want to make sure that the negative consequences aren’t something that is something that we’ll be held accountable for some years down the road.”

Goodell did acknowledge, however, the growing body of evidence that marijuana can be used for medical reasons.

“We look at it from a medical standpoint,” Goodell said. “So if people feel that it has a medical benefit, the medical advisers have to tell you that. We have joint advisers, we also have independent advisers, both the NFLPA and the NFL, and we’ll sit down and talk about that. But we’ve been studying that through our advisers. To date, they haven’t said this is a change we think you should make that’s in the best interests of the health and safety of our players. If they do, we’re certainly going to consider that. But to date, they haven’t really said that.”

So even as an increasing number of states legalize marijuana, the NFL appears to be some time away from allowing players to use it for medical reasons, and dead-set opposed to allowing players to use it just because they want to use it.

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Report: Matt Jones being shopped for trade

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We saw two running backs get drafted on Thursday night and there are sure to be plenty of others coming off the board over the next six rounds of the draft.

The Redskins are reportedly hoping that there’s a team that prefers to make a trade for a runner rather than picking one from this year’s crop of prospects. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is shopping Matt Jones ahead of the start of the second round.

Jones was a third-round pick in 2015 and had some good moments over his first two seasons, but also fumbled eight times in 243 carries for Washington. The issues with holding onto the ball contributed to Jones getting sent to the bench midway through last season and he did not play the final nine games of the year as the Redskins went with Rob Kelley.

That doesn’t sound like the backstory of a player anyone will be clamoring to trade for in the next couple of days, which may mean Jones just gets cut if Washington adds a running back.

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Panthers compare McCaffrey to many backs, including a Hall of Famer

AP

Because Christian McCaffrey is a non-traditional running back (i.e. a white one, you might as well just say it), there is an irresistible compulsion to compare him to other backs when attempting to describe his versatility as a runner, receiver and return man.

Coach Ron Rivera threw a few names out there last night, mentioning Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles, and Brian Westbrook with a little LeSean McCoy mixed in.

But when it was General Manager Dave Gettleman’s turn, he put McCaffrey in the same answer with a Hall-of-Famer while vouching for McCaffrey’s abilities to be a bell-cow back.

“It doesn’t happen very often,” Gettleman said. “The best tackle-box runner I’ve ever seen is Curtis Martin out of Pitt. Christian is right there with him. Running in that tackle box takes unique vision and unique quickness, and he’s got it. Curtis Martin had it, and he had a great career – a Hall of Fame career – and this kid’s got those kind of skills.”

Martin ran for 14,101 yards in 11 seasons, fourth on the all-time list before heading to Canton.

That’s a high bar to set for a guy who doesn’t walk into an immediate starting job (the Panthers just gave veteran Jonathan Stewart a one-year contract extension this offseason). But they made it clear they see McCaffrey having an immediate impact for them this season.

“You saw him do everything – line up as the tailback, line up as the halfback, line up as the quarterback in the Wildcat, motion out and run a wheel route, return kicks,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “This is a guy who you can get the ball in his hands many different ways and quickly.”

Now how they’re able to do that is the next question. The Panthers would have preferred Leonard Fournette, primarily because he fits everything they already do as an offense. McCaffrey is, to put it simply, a finesse player dropped into the middle of a power and play-action offense. A Swiss-Army knife in a sledgehammer offense. Not only do they not have a similar player, they don’t have many of the plays with which to capitalize on McCaffrey’s skills.

Creating those plays, and installing them in an offense which won’t have its quarterback until training camp (while Cam Newton mends from shoulder surgery) is going to be a challenge for the coaching staff which has been talking about “evolving” all offseason.

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Friday morning one-liners

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Said CB Tre’Davious White of being picked by the Bills, “I knew that they needed a corner, but I didn’t know they were going to pick me. But I didn’t know they pretty much had that much interest in me at all.”

What sold the Dolphins on drafting DE Charles Harris?

Thursday night was a quiet one for the Patriots.

New Jets S Jamal Adams’ father played for the Giants.

T.J. Onwuanibe, the young man who announced the Ravens’ first-round pick, felt CB Marlon Humphrey’s addition was worthy of a fist pump.

The Bengals boosted their speed by drafting WR John Ross.

The Browns were the first team to make three first-round picks since 2013.

Will the Steelers be adding a defensive back next?

Texans fans were happy that the team moved up to take QB Deshaun Watson.

A look at how the dominoes fell in a way that left S Malik Hooker available for the Colts.

Leonard Fournette is the first running back the Jaguars have taken in the first round since Fred Taylor.

The Titans addressed both sides of the ball in the first round.

The Broncos feel they have solved their left tackle spot with Garrett Bolles.

Trading up for QB Patrick Mahomes is the kind of move that could shake up the Chiefs franchise.

Said Raiders coach Jack Del Rio of CB Gareon Conley, “We expect him to come in and compete. We think he’s a highly-skilled player and he’s got the potential to become one of our better corners.”

The Chargers helped make the top of the draft heavy on offensive players.

The Cowboys expect DE Taco Charlton to contribute immediately.

TE Evan Engram is the latest addition to the Giants’ offense.

DE Derek Barnett thinks he and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will get along well.

The Redskins said they aren’t concerned about DL Jonathan Allen’s shoulders.

The Bears went all in on QB Mitchell Trubisky.

Versatility was the buzzword about Lions LB Jarrad Davis on Thursday night.

Will the Packers trade down again on Friday?

The Vikings will get their chance to join the draft on Friday.

DE Takkarist McKinley was emotional about his late grandmother after being picked in the first round.

RB Christian McCaffrey hopes to do “special things” with Panthers QB Cam Newton.

CB Marshon Lattimore will be reunited with college teammates on the Saints.

The Buccaneers feel they got a big-game standout in TE O.J. Howard.

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was the head coach at Temple long before LB Haason Reddick played there and built a resume that made him a first-round pick in Arizona.

The Rams are ready to get into this year’s draft.

49ers G.M. John Lynch earned high marks for his work on Thursday night.

The Seahawks traded down twice and ended the night without making any picks.

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Saints considered trading up for Marshon Lattimore, which may end other trade talks

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The Saints have been contemplating making big moves at cornerback all offseason.

They almost did again Thursday night, but didn’t even have to, as the defensive upgrade they needed came passively.

Via Josh Katzenstein of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Saints coach Sean Payton said they discussed trading up, but sat tight through a run of skill-position talent and saw cornerback Marshon Lattimore fall into their laps with the 11th pick in the draft.

“Just through a lot of the different scenarios, he was one of the players that we felt would be difficult maybe to anticipate him being there, but things happen,” Payton said.

Really, once Lattimore cleared the sixth pick (when the Jets took LSU safety Jamal Adams) they were fine, as the next four teams in the order were locked in on running backs (Christian McCaffrey to the Panthers), wide receivers (Mike Williams to the Chargers and John Ross to the Bengals), and a quarterback (Patrick Mahomes to the Chiefs).

That was certainly OK with Payton, as he didn’t have to give up any more draft capital to get the guy they had a top-four grade on.

Their stroke of good fortune may also save them a pile of money, as having Lattimore fall unexpectedly might make them reconsider previous offers for Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who visited the Saints before re-signing his RFA tender with New England. They could still trade for him, and could still make a case for it since neither Lattimore nor cornerback Delvin Breaux have been what you’d call durable players.

But they entered the offseason looking for a big-ticket answer at the position, and now have one.

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Raiders did “miles and miles” of research on Gareon Conley

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Among the many storylines heading into Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft was the one involving sexual assault allegations made against former Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.

Conley strongly denied the accusation and reportedly passed a polygraph test, but there was some doubt that he’d remain a first-round pick with the cloud hanging overhead. Conley did wind up going before the night was out when the Raiders selected him at No. 24.

After the pick was made, General Manager Reggie McKenzie said he spoke to owner Mark Davis about picking Conley after doing work that convinced him that picking the corner wasn’t an undue risk.

“We did our due diligence throughout this whole process, and we trust our research, reports, everything we have on Mr. Conley,” McKenzie said, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We feel really good about having him join the Raiders, and having him be a great teammate. The research was done. It wasn’t just a gut [feeling]. It was based on research, and we are very confident in all the information we got. I don’t want to get into all the details about who we talked to. The bottom line is, we’ve done miles and miles of research to make sure we were totally comfortable with our decision, which we were. We feel really good about the pick and where it’s going.”

It’s a move that comes with obvious risks for McKenzie, Davis and the Raiders if things should play out differently than they expect on the legal front, but the team headed for Vegas obviously felt comfortable rolling the dice anyway.

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John Lynch says 49ers got two of top three players on their board

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The 49ers were involved in the first big twist of the 2017 draft when they were able to obtain two third-round picks and a fourth-round pick for moving down one spot from No. 2 to No. 3 in a trade with the Bears.

General Manager John Lynch earned a lot of praise for pulling off that move while running his first draft since taking the job and he remained busy. After taking defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who was the expected pick at No. 2, Lynch traded back into the first round by sending the newly acquired fourth-round pick and the No. 34 pick to Seattle to take linebacker Reuben Foster with the 31st overall selection.

That ended a major drop for Foster, who was generally expected to come off the board far earlier in the round, and gave the 49ers a player that Lynch said they rated right alongside Thomas on their board.

“I can tell you right off the bat that what we had on the board was just under 200 players, and in terms of how we rated them, we got two of our top three players,” Lynch said, via ESPN.com. “We were able to do that, and we’re thrilled. We’re ecstatic. We think these guys have a lot of traits of what we want to be about as a football organization.”

Both players should be playing early for the Niners and Lynch will be back at work trying to turn the team around on Friday night.

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