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Players are taking the Pro Bowl bait

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has huffed and puffed and threatened to pull the plug on the Pro Bowl.

The players apparently are now willing to take the risk of blowing their own bodies down.

At a time when it has become accepted as true that another game of full-padded touch football will result in the end of the Pro Bowl as we know it (and I feel fine), the players apparently plan to play hard.

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who doesn’t have to worry about losing $40 million guaranteed over the next two years thanks to a full-speed blitzing linebacker because no blitzing is allowed, reportedly has implored the players to provide full effort in order to keep Goodell from canceling the game.

This presumes that Goodell would really do it.  We don’t think he will.  Because regardless of the warts, people watch it, more than any other major-league all-star game.  And more will watch it this year, because people will want to see just how bad it really is.

Regardless, the idea that a player who really doesn’t have to worry about getting injured in the game would goad the men who are risking their bones and tendons and ligaments is a tough one to swallow.  These players have made it through a full regular season (and, for some, one or more postseason games) healthy enough to suit up and play one more game.  Why risk an injury that would require them to recover from surgery and engage in rehab activities when they otherwise would be enjoying time away from the game?

For pending free agents, like Dolphins defensive lineman Randy Starks and Bills safety Jairus Byrd and Giants receiver Victor Cruz (restricted), suffering a torn ACL or a ruptured Achilles tendon will result in plenty of money being lost as well.

So there’s no good reason for players to treat the game like a real game.  And anyone who suggests otherwise is willing to gamble with someone else’s livelihood.

If that means there should be no Pro Bowl, so be it.  But as long as we watch it, it’s not going anywhere.

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Report: Scot McCloughan has advised teams on draft since being fired

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Earlier this offseason, Scot McCloughan was relieved of his duties as the General Manager of the Redskins in a move that came after the team had already started work on this year’s draft board.

Director of college scouting Scott Campbell confirmed this week that McCloughan’s influence could be seen on that draft board although he added that there have been adjustments made to any work that McCloughan was familiar with before his departure. They might not be the only team to have McCloughan’s influence on their pre-draft work.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that McCloughan has returned to run the scouting service he operated between jobs with the 49ers and Redskins and has worked as an advisor with other teams on this year’s draft since being fired. Per Garafolo, McCloughan is “not giving up” Washington’s information although it seems likely that some of the thoughts he shared with other teams will be similar to what he did before being let go.

There’s no reason to think that his former team has stuck with what McCloughan gave them before he was ousted, but if they remain high on any players McCloughan was pushing they should likely be prepared for other teams to have strong recommendations about some of the same names.

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How many quarterbacks will go in round one?

Every year, it’s one of the biggest questions entering the first night of the draft. And every year we seem to be surprised in some way by the outcome.

This year, it’s still unclear how many quarterbacks will go in round one. Three is the safest guess. Four accounts for a team like the Chiefs or Steelers taking Davis Webb, or some other team trading back in to the first round to get him. Five is even possible, if someone decides to grab DeShone Kizer before teams at the top of round two get a crack at him.

And then there’s Nathan Peterman, who most likely won’t have a shot at going in round one, but who could end up being a second-day bargain — a guy who develops more quietly and without the expectations that come from being a first-round pick.

This year, I’ve interviewed each of the top six quarterbacks, some more than once: Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes, Webb, Kizer, and Peterman. They each came off as smart and engaging, as guys who could capably lead an NFL offense.

Trubisky has a demeanor that seems confident, humble, and even-keeled. Watson has a quiet fire that he seems to know how to harness — and how to unleash on the biggest stages. Mahomes exudes a more youthful vibe, and he seems to be unfazed by the prospect of taking his game to the next level.

Webb comes off as earnest but sincere, a kid who loves football and can’t get enough of it, with a clear plan to coach once his playing career ends. Kizer seems like anything but a diva; he’s fully self-aware and eager to embrace the challenge of playing pro football. And Peterman has a relaxed demeanor that will allow a player to get the most out of his skills.

Of course, the biggest factors that will allow these quarterbacks to get the most out of their skills relate not to them but to their situations — coaches, systems, teammates, front offices, owners, etc. Also, the higher a guy goes, the greater the weight on his shoulders. (Conversely, the lower he goes the bigger the chip.)

Any of them could be successful, if they land in the right spot. The nature of the draft takes that completely out of their hands, putting each at the mercy of which teams pick them and whether those teams can make them successful. It’s one more reason why the players should be picking the teams and not vice-versa, but that unpopular, player-friendly view is never less popular than it will be today.

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Marshon Lattimore on inexperience concerns: I’m only going to get better

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Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore has been a staple in the top end of mock drafts over the last few months and he will be in Philadelphia on Thursday night with the expectation that his name will be among the first called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

If Lattimore does go any later than expected, two of the possible reasons why will likely be his injury history from college and resulting inexperience. Lattimore played in just 16 games, 13 of them last year, during his time in Columbus because of hamstring injuries.

Lattimore said Wednesday that his hamstrings are “fine” and that teams will regret passing on him for either reason over the long run.

“I’m only going to get better,” Lattimore said, via NJ.com. “I’m not even in my prime yet. I showed [last season] that I can play, and people saw that. But with the body of work, man, I feel like I did a lot to contribute to my team. If people want to drop me because of that, too, it’s fine with me.”

It doesn’t seem like too many teams have dropped Lattimore too far down their boards, but we’ll find out for sure sooner rather than later.

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18 players are sure-thing first-round picks, if mock drafts are right

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As we wade through the final mock drafts in the hours before the real draft allows us to throw the mocks away, there are 18 players who appear to be sure-thing first-round draft picks.

That’s based on this compilation of mock drafts from Tom Gower of Football Outsiders, which has 18 players who make every mock draft.

At the top is Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, who is either the first overall pick or the second overall pick in all 14 of the mock drafts included by Gower. In all the mock drafts where Garrett doesn’t go first overall, North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky goes first.

Other than Garrett, no one is a Top 5 pick in every mock draft. Only three other players are in the Top 10 in every mock: LSU safety Jamal Adams, who ranges from No. 2 to No. 6, Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who ranges from No. 2 to No. 9, and LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who ranges from No. 4 to No. 9.

Here’s the list of 18 players who appear in every first round mock draft, with the range of picks in which they go off the board.

Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett 1-2
North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky 1-12
LSU S Jamal Adams 2-6
Stanford DE Solomon Thomas 2-9
Ohio State CB Marshon Lattimore 3-12
LSU RB Leonard Fournette 4-9
Alabama DE Jonathan Allen 4-17
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson 4-32
Alabama TE O.J. Howard 5-12
Clemson WR Mike Williams 5-30
Ohio State S Malik Hooker 6-19
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey 7-14
Temple LB Haason Reddick 9-16
Alabama LB Reuben Foster 9-32
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey 11-28
Missouri DE Charles Harris 11-28
Western Kentucky G Forrest Lamp 16-29
Alabama OT Cam Robinson 16-31

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Forrest Lamp is lighting it up with endorsements already

Forrest Lamp might be a pretty good NFL guard. He’s definitely a marketing genius.

The Western Kentucky offensive lineman, who could be a first-round pick tonight, has signed an endorsement deal with Los Angeles-based lighting retailer Lamps Plus.

“The opportunity to partner with Lamps Plus before my rookie NFL season, especially with my last name, is the perfect scenario,” Lamp said in a press release. “I’m confident that my girlfriend Natosha and I will have the best-decorated and most well-lit rookie home in our new team city!”

But wait, there’s more.

“While his name is perfect to endorse our company, we really like Forrest’s work ethic and enthusiasm,” Lamps Plus CEO Dennis Swanson added. “He will shine at the professional level.”

Of course, he’s still waiting to see how long he has to wait to walk into the spotlight, and if he goes too soon, there will be the inevitable shade.

But it’s a good deal for him, and it got us to mention Lamps Plus when we ordinarily wouldn’t have.

More than anything, however, it makes us wonder what Michigan tight end Jake Butt has up his, ummm, . . . sleeve.

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Deshaun Watson is getting a late boost up the board

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Many have pegged quarterback Deshaun Watson as the second quarterback off the board on Thursday night, behind Mitchell Trubisky and likely just beyond the top 10. (This year’s PFT Worst Mock Draft Ever has Watson going to the Cardinals at No. 13.) But something is happening as the draft approaches. Unless it isn’t.

Chatter has emerged in recent days that could push Watson as high as No. 3 to the Bears. More recently, talk has emerged that the Jaguars could take Watson at No. 4.

While it’s possible that some are speculating accurately, it’s difficult to envision either team leaking their true intentions. The Bears have become notoriously secretive in recent years, and the Jaguars managed without Tom Coughlin running the show to keep quiet their interest three years ago in Blake Bortles.

Could Watson go that high? Sure. Some would say he should, given his dominance of the Alabama defense in back-to-back national championship games.

For the bad teams at the top of the draft, there’s a greater chance than ever that one or more of the good teams toward the bottom of the draft will squat on quarterbacks who otherwise would squirt through to round two, Derek Carr style. So if a team without a franchise quarterback hopes to find one in the draft, they’ll either have to jump at the top of round one or swoop back in at the bottom.

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Brian Hoyer won’t worry about 49ers drafting a quarterback

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The 49ers have the second pick in the draft and the team has done its best to convince the football world that they could use that pick on a quarterback.

That may turn out to be a smokescreen when they are on the clock Thursday night, but no one would be too surprised if the 49ers add a quarterback even though they signed Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as free agents. Hoyer was the first of those players to sign and said Wednesday that he views himself as the starter without worries about who else might be joining the team.

“Yeah for sure. I think that’s what I was brought in to do at this point,” Hoyer said on KNBR 680, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “And the thing that I’ve learned in this profession, and really in life, is not worry about things you can’t control. I can’t control who they draft with the second pick tomorrow and I’m not gonna live my life worrying about it.”

Hoyer has been around the league for almost a decade and he’s been in enough different situations to know that situations can change in a heartbeat in the NFL. That might not do much for job security, but it does teach you that there’s little reason to focus on things beyond your own play because those outside concerns aren’t going to do much to keep you in the lineup.

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Report: Myles Garrett still the “likely” No. 1 pick

AP

The clock is ticking toward the time for the Browns to go on the clock, and the three options for the first overall pick seem to be as follows: (1) take Myles Garrett; (2) take Mitchell Trubisky; or (3) trade down.

Amid increasing chatter that the Browns could go with Trubisky, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Garrett remains the “likely” No. 1 pick in Cleveland.

The Browns claim that they settled on the top pick two weeks ago. But Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel raises the one dynamic that could upset the (road) apple cart. Owner Jimmy Haslam could intervene at the last minute and insist (either directly or behalf of the homeless guy) on Trubisky.

But here’s the thing about taking Trubisky or any other unproven quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. The smarter move would be to offer that pick to Washington for Kirk Cousins, a proven commodity who would be running a similar offense. And it would be stupid for Washington, which is looking at one more year with Cousins, to say no to the ability to pay Garrett over four years only a few million more than what they’ll pay Cousins in 2017.

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DeShone Kizer explains his Tom Brady/Cam Newton comments

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Former Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer created a stir with recent comments that created the impression he views himself as a combination of Tom Brady’s mind and Cam Newton’s body. Kizer has owned the comments, but on PFT Live he shed a little more light on what he was trying to say.

Kizer said he doesn’t view himself currently as a Brady/Newton combination. Kizer aspires to become that, at some point. He knows he’s not there yet, and he realizes he may never be. But that’s the goal.

That message didn’t come through clearly enough in the USA Today interview that generated the quotes. Regardless of how that happened, Kizer said that he said what he said, and he has moved on. To his credit, he hasn’t pushed back as hard as perhaps he could have to demonstrate that he didn’t mean he’s currently a Brady/Newton hybrid.

One thing that became clear in talking to Kizer: He gets it. And given his physical talents and intelligence, he could indeed end up becoming the best quarterback in the class.

Possibly adding to his motivation is the prospect of spending all of Thursday night backstage at the draft without being picked. Most think that, indeed, he won’t hear his name called in round one. But all it takes is one team to conclude that he could eventually become a true franchise quarterback; if that happens, don’t be shocked if he ends up exiting the green room before the time comes to go home for the night.

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Eric Reid says awareness has been raised, anthem protests are over

AP

Colin Kaepernick has said he’d stand for future national anthems, and as soon as someone gives him a job he probably will.

But his former 49ers teammates say their days of kneeling for the anthem are over.

According to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, 49ers safety Eric Reid said he and linebacker Eli Harold achieved their goal by raising awareness of the racial inequality which Kaepernick began protesting last year.

“When we started doing that, our goal was to open up the floor to conversation. I believe we’ve achieved that goal,” Reid said. “So now we just want to move forward and just partner with people that’s trying to make a change.

“We accomplished that goal. People talked about it. I think we raised a lot of awareness about issues in this country. And now it’s time to move on to just affecting change.”

Kaepernick has continued his charitable efforts while looking for work, though it’s hard to imagine his high-profile stance last year is helping in that regard. Reid said he’s stayed in touch with Kaepernick, and is surprised his former teammate is still without a team, and he sees a direct correlation.

“It’s surprising. You see some of the other quarterbacks that have been signed around the league and why he hasn’t been, it’s just unfortunate, . . .” Reid said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s sad. People want to shy away from him because of media, PR reasons.

“You’re doing something to better the world. I mean, the guy got a plane sent to Somalia to help with the famine there. He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation without the anthem [protest], they’d be praising him and giving him awards for it.”

So far that hasn’t happened for Kaepernick, though tonight’s quarterback land rush will clear up a few jobs and trigger the market for the remaining free agents.

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Arik Armstead limited at 49ers minicamp after shoulder surgery

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The 49ers are holding their first minicamp under coach Kyle Shanahan this week and one member of the defensive line isn’t able to be a full participant.

Arik Armstead ended last season on injured reserve due to a torn labrum in his shoulder that he’d been dealing with for some time. Armstead had the injury addressed surgically a short time later and he’s been held out of team drills this week as part of the rehab process.

“There comes a time when you’re trying to play through an injury, but your shoulder keeps popping out in the middle of a game,” Armstead said, via the Sacramento Bee. “It’s like, ‘What are you going to do?’ You’ve got to fix it.”

Armstead is able to take part in walkthroughs as the 49ers install a new defense under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Armstead has been lining up most often as the “Leo” defensive end that is generally asked to rush the passer from the right side of the line. That would be a new role for Armstead, who some believe will be joined on the defensive front by Stanford’s Solomon Thomas when the 49ers make the second overall pick on Thursday night.

That would make three straight defensive linemen in the first round for the 49ers after taking DeForest Buckner in 2016 and Armstead in 2015, although there’s plenty of other ways for things to play out when the team is on the board.

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Mitchell Trubisky says he has more experience than 13 starts suggests

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North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was only a starter for one of his four years in college, but he doesn’t think that should be held against him.

Trubisky pointed out on PFT Live that he got a lot of playing time when he was a backup in 2014 and 2015, that he was in the quarterback meeting rooms for four years and that he’s a quick study.

“It’s pretty obvious I only started 13 games, but I played in 30,” Trubisky said. “I think there’s a lot of things you can look at besides playing experience. I do have a lot of experience around the game, being at North Carolina for four years. I guarantee I’ve watched as much tape if not more than all the other quarterbacks going through this process. I’ve seen a lot of ball. I’m a student of the game. I’m a quick learner. The experience thing does hold some weight but I’ve been around the game long enough, I know enough and I definitely know enough, and I’ve shown what I can do last year and I will be successful at the next level.”

With the notable exception of Cam Newton, who only started one year at Auburn, college quarterbacks who only spent one year as a starter have generally not had great NFL careers. Trubisky hopes to change that.

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Jamal Adams expects to go in the Top 5, pledges to be “outstanding”

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LSU safety Jamal Adams will be at the draft tonight, but he doesn’t expect to be in the green room for long.

Adams said on PFT Live that he expects to go somewhere between the second and fifth overall picks, although he hasn’t been given any assurances.

“I really don’t know what to expect. I’m just going to be outstanding wherever I land. I’m just going to wait on that call,” Adams said.

Adams said he visited two teams with Top 5 picks, the 49ers and Jaguars, as well as the Jets, Panthers and Bengals among teams not in the Top 5 that could hope he falls to them. Expect to hear his name called within the first hour of the draft tonight.

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Bridgewater “tolling” issue likely will be moot

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In response to the ESPN report that the Vikings likely won’t pick up quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s fifth-year option before the May 3 deadline, NFL Media reported that it won’t matter, if Bridgewater spends the full season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, that’s currently a very, very big if. Bridgewater is currently not expected to spend the entire season on the PUP list. Which means that his contract would definitely expire after the 2017 season, if the Vikings don’t pick up the option.

Even if Bridgewater doesn’t exit the PUP list in 2017, it’s still not entirely clear that Bridgewater’s four-year contract automatically would extend to five years. If it does, a disagreement could emerge between team and player as to whether Bridgewater should exit the PUP list during the midseason window that allows players first to practice and then, if healthy, to join the active roster.

Also, if the Vikings can indeed toll the contract by not activating Bridgewater from the PUP list in 2017, why not pick up the fifth-year option and extend the deal through 2019? If they think he’ll stay on PUP in 2017 and that he won’t be ready to play by 2019, that would be the most ominous news yet regarding his knee injury from nearly eight months ago.

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Thursday morning one-liners

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The Bills seem to be in the market for a QB. Again.

The Dolphins may have a chance to move back, if they want to.

Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo has no nerves today (though until it’s over, perhaps he should).

This could be an “all-in” draft for Jets G.M. Mike Maccagnan.

The Ravens haven’t drafted as well as we’re accustomed to lately.

Adding to the defensive line makes some sense for the Bengals.

Indians fans want the Browns to take DE Myles Garrett (which makes as much sense as asking the homeless guy).

The Steelers should be looking for CBs if the pass-rushers are gone.

The Texans will be watching Patrick Mahomes closely tonight.

The Colts should take the best player available, as long as he plays defense.

We’ll find out tonight how urgent new Jaguars boss Tom Coughlin is.

A look at five Titans options if they keep the fifth pick.

It’s time for former Broncos first-rounder Shane Ray to step up.

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson signed his RFA tender.

Are the Chargers prepared to surprise everyone again?

Yesterday’s acquisition of RB Marshawn Lynch was all about “town bizness” for the Raiders.

Tonight’s the night for the Cowboys to restock on defense.

If the Giants draft a QB, it comes with a risk.

Here’s something for Eagles fans to boo while they’re warming up tonight.

Washington’s Bruce Allen has been willing to look past red flags in the past.

The Bears could go either direction tonight.

The Lions can’t afford to just play it safe.

Washington CB Kevin King could be the answer for the Packers.

The Vikings history in years without a first-rounder hasn’t been good.

The Falcons could be looking to trade with some old friends.

The Panthers have some intriguing in-state options.

The Saints usually have 100-130 players on their draft board.

The Buccaneers have plenty of options at No. 19.

The Cardinals are staying quiet on reinstated LB Daryl Washington.

The Rams could stand to focus on fixing their offense.

49ers LB Navorro Bowman is back to full speed.

The Seahawks are shorter on picks than they’d like to be.

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