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Rivers on record pace thanks to pocket patience

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passes under pressure from Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher during their NFL football game in San Diego Reuters

With three starting offensive linemen inactive because of injuries and a fourth getting hurt during the game and replaced by a guy they signed Wednesday, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had every reason to run.

The fact he didn’t shows that Rivers is well on his way to becoming the Rivers of old.

The Chargers quarterback set a record in Sunday’s 30-21 win over the Cowboys,  completing 35-of-42 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns. That 83.3 percent rate was the highest in league history for a quarterback who threw for at least 400 yards. He also completed 83.3 percent last week (a mere 20-of-24).

The key for Rivers is standing in the face of the rush that is certainly coming, and delivering anyway.

“I ain’t allowing myself to leave the pocket,” Rivers said, via Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego. “I’m just not going to do it, because nothing good usually happens. I have to stay in there, . . . and whatever happens, happens. If they get you, they get you.”

On Sunday, he was the one doing the getting, picking apart the Cowboys when he went up-tempo, and throwing darts while under pressure.

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NFL draft shows again that the best players are in the SEC

toddgurley AP

More than one in five players selected in this year’s NFL draft played their college football in the Southeastern Conference.

As usual, the SEC led all conferences in total draft picks. This year 54 players from the SEC were drafted, meaning that more than 21 percent of all the picks in this year’s draft came from the SEC. This is the ninth year in a row that the SEC has had the most draft picks of any conference.

Although the SEC’s stranglehold on the college football national championship has been broken by Ohio State this year and Florida State last year, there’s little doubt that top to bottom, the best college football is played in the SEC. NFL teams know that.

The SEC was followed by the ACC (47 draft picks), Pac-12 (39), Big Ten (35), Big 12 (25), American Athletic Conference (11) and
Mountain West Conference (10).

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Cowboys weren’t kidding about lack of urgent need for running back

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When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said before the draft that running back wasn’t an urgent need for his team, it sounded like the kind of attempted smokescreen that teams are so fond of throwing up to cloud their intentions once the draft does get underway.

After all, the Cowboys didn’t re-sign DeMarco Murray and their top running back is the oft-injured Darren McFadden with Lance Dunbar, Joseph Randle and Ryan Williams behind him. Even with a great offensive line, there was an opening for the team to upgrade the talent on hand in the backfield with even a late-round addition.

After the draft wrapped up, Jones said that the team didn’t avoid a running back simply to back up his assertion about the team’s current running backs. Both he and son Stephen said it was simply a case of the best player available to them never being a running back.

“We tried not to push for a particular need,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We kind of let the draft come to us in a good way and were able to solve a lot of things, take care of a lot of things that we felt like we were short in. I think we really improved our football team. At the end of the day, maybe use the term we let the draft come to us. I think the right guys were there for us. Whenever we had a big question mark and started straying away a little bit, we always went back to who was the best player on the board.”

No one’s going to argue with using five of eight picks to stock the defensive side of the ball, but the Cowboys are going to have to be on the lookout for help at the position that may come as teams reset their rosters in the coming months. That way they won’t find themselves stuck without options should injuries or other calamities turn running back into an urgent need down the road.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Todd Gurley, Amarlo Herrera AP

The Bills said they were satisfied that drafting RB Karlos Williams and CB Ronald Darby isn’t an undue character risk.

RB Jay Ajayi is eager to impress his coaches with the Dolphins.

Versatility is a trait shared by the Patriots’ third day picks.

The Jets are talking about QB Bryce Petty as a long-range prospect.

Nick Boyle became the second tight end drafted by the Ravens this year when they nabbed him in the fifth round.

CB Josh Shaw’s twisty road to the NFL has led him to the Bengals.

The Browns took their first wide receiver since 2012 when they drafted Vince Mayle in the fourth round.

TE Jesse James gets to play for his hometown Steelers.

The Texans didn’t have to go far to find Rice DL Christian Covington in the sixth round.

Colts S Clayton Geathers has plenty of family members with NFL experience.

A rave review for what the Jaguars did over the three days of the draft.

David Climer of the Tennessean tackles what picking Marcus Mariota means for the Titans brain trust.

The Broncos added two new pieces to their offensive line.

Areas of need were addressed by the Chiefs over the last three days.

Trades increased the number of shots the Raiders got to take in the draft.

Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego thinks the Chargers had a “perfectly appropriate” draft.

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant isn’t taking part in workouts with the team, but stopped by the team’s headquarters to meet CB Byron Jones.

The Giants like the toughness displayed by members of their draft class.

Eric Rowe is the latest tall cornerback for the Eagles.

Said Redskins coach Jay Gruden of second-round LB Preston Smith, “He’s baby-faced but he’s got a big, long body. He’s what we thought. We got a chance to meet him also. Great kid, smart, picks up the game effortlessly, and he’s an exciting prospect.”

The Bears drafted players at several positions they also tried to address in 2014.

Riley Reiff will continue to play left tackle for the Lions.

Pete Prisco of wasn’t too fond of the Packers’ draft.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer got some defensive help in the draft.

The Falcons are trying to help new DT Grady Jarrett recover from a fire at his house.

Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman made moves to draft the players he wanted.

Wide receiver wasn’t an area the Saints addressed in the draft.

Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht added a fellow Cornhusker to the roster on Saturday when he drafted WR Kenny Bell.

The selection of TE Gerald Christian to end the draft meant the Cardinals wrapped up three days without adding an inside linebacker or cornerback.

Going back and forth over the Rams’ selection of RB Todd Gurley.

Offense was the main focus of Day Three for the 49ers.

A review of the Seahawks’ predictable unpredictability in the draft.

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Eagles sign 15 rookie free agents

CSU UTEP college football Getty Images

The Eagles moved quickly to announce a group of 15 undrafted rookies who will be joining the team as free agents.

Among the group is center Mike Coccia, who played his college ball at Chip Kelly’s old stomping grounds in New Hampshire, and UTEP tight end Eric Tomlinson. Tomlinson’s signing reunites him with second-round pick and high school teammate Eric Rowe, who will be working to carve out a role in the team’s secondary this season.

Coccia is one of several interior offensive linemen on the list. The Eagles also signed UNLV guard Brett Boyko, UCLA guard Malcom Bunche and Nebraska-Kearney guard Cole Manhart.

Delaware Valley wide receiver Rasheed Bailey, UNLV wide receiver Devante Davis, Duke linebacker Jordan Dewalt-Ondijo, Michigan State tight end Andrew Gleichert, Texas wide receiver John Harris, Purdue running back Raheem Mostert, San Jose State defensive end Travis Raciti, Coastal Carolina defensive back Denzel Rice, Oklahoma State punter Kip Smith and UCF tight end Justin Tukes round out the group.

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Seahawks “expect” to have Bruce Irvin for a long time

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seahawks may not be picking up the 2016 option on linebacker Bruce Irvin’s contract, but that doesn’t mean they are in a rush to have him off their team.

That was the message sent by coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider when they met the media after they wrapped up the draft on Saturday. Reports last week indicated that the team would pass on the $7.8 million option, something they wouldn’t confirm Saturday while saying that the plan is to hold onto him whether they use it or not.

“We met with Bruce yesterday before we got going, and it went very well,” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “We discussed what our plan is and what we are planning on doing, still knowing that maybe something could happen that could change the decision. It has nothing to do with the statement of how we feel about him in our program. We expect him to be here for a long time and we will work to get that done.”

Schneider compared the situation to the team’s decision not to exercise guard James Carpenter’s option last year, although those who would like to see Irvin remain in Seattle will likely note that the Seahawks failed to re-sign Carpenter before he left for the Jets.

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Steelers add 12 undrafted free agents

Tyler Murphy, Jeffrey Jay AP

The Steelers have reached contract agreements with 12 undrafted rookie free agents, the club said Saturday evening.

Among the 12 free agent additions is former Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, who is listed as a wide receiver and ostensibly will be changing positions. Murphy (6-2, 213) passed for 1,623 yards for the Eagles in 2014, but he added 1,184 yards rushing, and his mobility will be his ticket if he’s able to successfully transition to receiver with Pittsburgh. Murphy began his collegiate career with Florida before joining Boston College for one year.

The Steelers also announced agreements with Texas A&M tight end Cameron Clear, Saint Augustine’s defensive tackle Nigel Crawford-Kinney, Liberty defensive end Dominique Davis, Penn State offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach, Auburn offensive guard Reese Dismukes, Kansas State center B.J. Finney, Illinois State defensive end Brandon Pate, Indiana offensive guard Colin Rahrig, Louisville wide receiver Eli Rogers, Lafayette running back Ross Scheuerman and Utah State offensive tackle Kevin Whimpey.

With eight draft picks also joining the Steelers, the Steelers could be adding 20 rookies to a roster that was at 72 veterans entering the draft, so a couple roster moves could be coming.

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Cardinals select Louisville TE Gerald Christian with “Mr. Irrelevant” pick

Gerald Christian, Ryan Janvion AP

All things considered, “Mr. Irrelevant” didn’t get a bad draw this year.

With the final selection in the 2015 NFL Draft — long dubbed the Mr. Irrelevant pick — the Cardinals took Louisville tight end Gerald Christian 256th overall.

The 6-foot-3, 244-pound Christian appears to have a puncher’s chance to make the Cardinals’ roster. Arizona doesn’t have exceptional depth at tight end, and Christian might have a shot at winning the third spot on the depth chart behind Troy Niklas and John Carlson.

A four-star recruit, Christian began his college career at Florida before transferring to Louisville. In two seasons with the Cardinals, Christian hauled in 60 passes for 710 yards and nine touchdowns.

The final pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, safety Lonnie Ballentine, is currently on the Texans’ roster. He spent the 2014 season on injured reserve with Houston.

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Steelers address defense in draft

Doran Grant AP

When a defense allows the third-most yards per play in the previous regular season, the subsequent draft would figure to bring to reinforcements.

Such was the case for the Steelers, who selected six defensive players in eight picks in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Half of the defensive selections were defensive backs: Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson (Round Two), Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant (Round Four) and Louisville safety Gerod Holliman (Round Seven). Golson and Grant have a chance to vie for roles right off the bat, while Holliman has a chance to make the roster, what with safety not one of the Steelers’ deeper positions.

The Steelers began the draft selecting an edge-rusher, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree, in Round One. Other front seven picks were Miami (Fla.) outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Chickillo (Round Six) and Central Michigan defensive tackle Leterrius Walton (Round Six). Dupree, Walton and Chickillo all face a learning curve as they learn the Steelers’ defense, but if they can play, there are reps to be had.

Whether the Steelers’ defensive picks pan out remains to be seen. But leaning defense was the play in 2015, and it may have been the only one, given the depth chart.

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Collins plans to sign, once he’s cleared

LSU v Arkansas Getty Images

As expected, LSU tackle La’El Collins went undrafted on Saturday.  And it appears that’s exactly what he wanted.

Collins intends to meet with police on Monday for questioning in connection with a murder case that now involves two deaths — a 29-year-old woman and her infant child.  Collins is not a suspect in the case, but because he has not been cleared, no one could touch him in the draft.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Collins plans to sign with a team after he is cleared.

Making Collins less attractive in the draft was a vow to sit out the year and re-enter the draft in 2016, if he were drafted this year.  Ultimately, that may have been a ploy aimed at ensuring he wasn’t drafted at all.

Ultimately, Collins can salvage the early portion of his career by signing the standard three-year deal as an undrafted rookie.  While he’d be eligible for restricted free agency after three years, the numbers suggest that he’ll do fairly well, given the current amount and the historic growth of the restricted free agency tenders.

If the tenders continue to increase at a rate of five percent annually, Collins could make more than all drafted players except the top 41 picks, based on three years of minimum salaries and the first-round tender for 2018.  With the second-round tender, he’ll make more than all but 52 of the picks.  With the original-round tender, he’ll make more than all but 65 of the picks.

It’s a formula that demonstrates how little draft picks make beyond round one, relative to undrafted playera.  That said, the balloon payment in year four requires the undrafted player to earn one of the three RFA tenders.  But Collins already has a leg up on the guys who typically slide through seven rounds; he has skills that would have potentially made him a first-round pick but for the unusual circumstances that unfolded in the past few days.

The analysis has one important caveat.  Players taken in rounds three through seven are eligible for the proven performance escalators, which bumps their salary for the fourth year of their rookie deal into the range of $1.5 million.  Still, Collins can end up getting a decent four-year rate of pay even as an undrafted player — and he’ll be eligible for a new contract after only two seasons.  Drafted players have to wait for three.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, Collins gets to pick his NFL team.  No drafted player gets to do that.

For now, none of this matters until he’s cleared.  That process begins Monday.

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Seahawks sign 34-year-old Green Beret Nate Boyer

nateboyer AP

Moments after the NFL draft ended, the Seahawks signed an undrafted free agent whose story will be an inspiration to many.

Nate Boyer, a long snapper from Texas, is the newest member of the Seahawks. But Boyer is much more than that: He’s a 34-year-old who served with the Green Berets in Iraq and Afghanistan and had never played organized football at any level until he decided in his late 20s that he’d like to go to college and try playing football, and it occurred to him that learning to long snap could be a way to do that.

Boyer is a long shot to make an NFL regular-season roster, but he says he’s committed to putting in all the work it will take.

“I’m just thrilled to get an opportunity,” Boyer said on NFL Network. “This is the best athletes in the world, and just to get an opportunity and be able to compete, play for a great team in a great city, I couldn’t be more thrilled, just for the chance.”

It’s a chance Boyer has earned by following a long and winding path to the NFL.

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La’el Collins goes undrafted

Kentucky v LSU Getty Images

At the start of this week, La’El Collins looked like a sure-thing first-round draft pick. When the 2015 NFL draft concluded today, Collins was undrafted.

NFL teams decided that they simply couldn’t take a chance on Collins, who is scheduled to meet with police on Monday as they investigate the murder of his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Police have not identified Collins as a suspect, but he hasn’t been exonerated either, and until he is teams do not want anything to do with him.

Collins’s agents asked that he be allowed to enter the supplemental draft this summer, and also said that they’d rather he re-enter the 2016 draft than be a late-round pick this year. But neither of those things will happen. Collins is only eligible to join the NFL as an undrafted free agent, and teams are limited in how much they can pay undrafted free agents. His fall will cost him millions of dollars, even if it turns out that he’s completely innocent.

If Collins is not charged in connection with his ex-girlfriend’s death, he will be perhaps the most sought-after undrafted free agent in NFL history. But right now he has a far more important situation to deal with.

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Cable says Graham is committed to learning to block

Graham Getty Images

Who says Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham doesn’t block?  Well, Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable does.

OK, Cable didn’t say it.  But he strongly implied in Saturday comments to reporters.

Via Curtis Crabtree of KJR radio and PFT, Cable said that Graham is committed to learning to block.  Which means that he doesn’t really know how to block.  Which means he doesn’t really block.

Which means that guys like Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett were right when they said that Graham “doesn’t help in the blocking game.”

Graham is an incredible athlete and there’s no reason he can’t become a better blocker.  Surely, however, the Saints tried to make him one during his five years there.

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Browns end Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s slide in the seventh round

ekpreolomu AP

Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was viewed heading into last season as a first-round draft pick. A severe knee injury changed that significantly.

Ekpre-Olomu was finally taken in the seventh round, when the Browns selected him with the 241st overall pick.

When Ekpre-Olomu agreed to return for his senior season at Oregon instead of entering last year’s draft, Oregon agreed to buy him a $40,000 insurance policy, which may now result in a $3 million payout because Ekpre-Olomu lasted past the third round of the draft. That may be some consolation to Ekpre-Olomu.

But Ekpre-Olomu’s focus now will be on rehabbing his knee and proving that he belongs in the NFL and never should have slipped to the seventh round.

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Rams trade Zac Stacy to Jets for seventh-round pick

Zac Stacy AP

Running back Zac Stacy wanted to be traded out of St. Louis after the Rams spent their first-round draft pick on running back Todd Gurley. It didn’t take long for the Rams to oblige.

The Jets have acquired Stacy in a trade for a seventh-round draft pick. The Rams used that pick, No. 224 overall, on Baylor linebacker Bryce Hager.

Stacy showed a lot of promise as a rookie in 2013, starting 12 games and rushing for 973 yards and seven touchdowns. But in 2014 he was buried on the Rams’ depth chart and totaled only 293 yards all season. With Gurley on the roster, Stacy was only going to be further buried, so it’s no surprise the Rams got rid of him.

With the Jets, Stacy joins a backfield that also includes Chris Ivory, Stevan Ridley and Bilal Powell.

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Chip Kelly says no one has made an offer for Evan Mathis

Mathis Getty Images

The relationship between Evan Mathis and the Eagles hasn’t exactly been a smooth one, and coach Chip Kelly didn’t do anything Saturday to make it any better.

Kelly told reporters Saturday that the ball was in the veteran guard’s court in regards to returning to the team, as Mathis staying away from voluntary workouts.

“Evan Mathis has been available for trade for two years and there have been no offers,” Kelly said, via Dave Weinberg of the Atlantic City Press.

There were reports that Mathis’s name was floated as a possibility during the discussions about the Eagles obtaining Dion Jordan from the Dolphins before Jordan was suspended for the season. But apparently that doesn’t rise to the level of offer, in Kelly’s mind.

Mathis is due $5.5 million and $6 million in the final two years of his contract. And while he and Kelly might not agree to his monetary value, Mathis has continued to play at a high level, making it curious as to why Kelly is picking this particular fight.

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