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NFL “very encouraged” by compliance with crown of helmet rule

Scott Green, Tom Stabile AP

Many fans dislike it and many players dislike it, but the NFL says the new rule restricting players from delivering blows with the crown of the helmet is working.

In a video distributed to the media, NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said the league believes players are doing a great job of avoiding contact with the tops of their helmets.

“We are very encouraged with the results so far,” Blandino said. “We have not seen a lot of examples of that through the first six weeks of the season.”

According to Blandino, the rule has been violated four times so far this season.

“Players are getting the message,” Blandino said. “They’re adjusting. We’ve only seen four clear-cut examples in thousands of plays, so obviously the coaches are teaching the technique out of the game and players are aware that this is something that is dangerous, and the rule is designed not only to protect the player getting hit but the player doing the hitting.”

Unfortunately, the rule is still causing some confusion for the league’s officials, who in some cases have called penalties when they shouldn’t have, and in other cases have failed to throw a flag when a player did violate the rule. The players are doing their part in complying with the new rule, and now the NFL needs to make sure the officials know when to call a penalty and when to let clean hits go.

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Bills sixth-rounder Kolby Listenbee calls himself NFL’s fastest man

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 3: Kolby Listenbee #7 of the TCU Horned Frogs carries the ball against the Minnesota Golden Gophers during the game on September 3, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Bills rookie Kolby Listenbee isn’t lacking for speed. Or confidence.

Listenbee, a wide receiver from TCU whom the Bills chose in the sixth round of the NFL draft, declared in his first talk with Buffalo media that he believes he’s the fastest player in the NFL.

That might be a bit of an overstatement. Listenbee ran well at the Combine, clocking a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, but that was tied for the eighth-fastest this year, certainly not the fastest time of any current NFL player.

Listenbee, however, says he was running at the Combine while recovering from a sports hernia. And he was a good runner on the TCU track team, so he certainly has the speed to back up his confidence.

As a senior last year, Listenbee caught 30 passes for 597 yards, an outstanding 19.9-yard average, and scored five touchdowns. He also saw occasional action as a kickoff returner. The Bills hope he’ll keep using that speed in the NFL.

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Lions draft first QB since taking Stafford first overall in 2009

during the college football game at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Getty Images

The Lions have drafted a quarterback for the first time since taking Matthew Stafford first overall in 2009 and they didn’t have to look far to find him.

Detroit ended the longest current drought without picking a quarterback by selecting Jake Rudock with the 191st pick in the draft. Rudock played a few miles down I-94 from the Lions in 2015 while quarterbacking Jim Harbaugh’s first Michigan team to a 9-3 regular season record and a 41-7 Citrus Bowl romp over Florida.

Rudock was mentioned as a possible target for the Lions in the pre-draft process when General Manager Bob Quinn talked about it being “good football business” to bring in a young quarterback. That’s a deviation from recent years in Detroit, where Dan Orlovsky is back for another year behind Stafford.

Rudock only spent one year in Ann Arbor, but gained a lot of experience in the Big 10 during two years as a starter at Iowa. He showed steady improvement during his year under Harbaugh and the Lions will hope that a dose of Jim Bob Cooter can keep the needle moving in the right direction.

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Browns drafting wide receivers (copy, paste, repeat)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  NFL head coach Hue Jackson attends the New Era Style Lounge at The Battery on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for New Era) Getty Images

The Browns drafted wide receiver Corey Coleman in the first round Thursday night.

Saturday, the Browns drafted a bunch more wide receivers. They started in the fourth round with Ricardo Louis of Auburn and continued in the fifth with Jordan Payton of UCLA and Rashard Higgins of Colorado State.

Also in the fourth, they selected Seth Devalve of Princeton, who’s listed by some as a wide receiver but is 245 pounds and is probably a tight end. This newest new Browns regime has a completely different strategy from past regimes, and it will make for a crowded receiver room when the rookies report for minicamp in two weeks.

Ray Farmer drafted one wide receiver in his two years as Browns general manager: Vince Mayle in the fourth round last year. Mayle was cut at the end of the preseason.

Prior to Mayle, the Browns had not selected a wide receiver in the regular draft since 2012. The Browns drafted currently suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft in 2012.

With Gordon suspended for all but five games over the past two seasons, the Browns haven’t had a No. 1 receiver. Travis Benjamin had a big year in 2015 but left for the Chargers in free agency. So, Coleman and Company will try to find snaps alongside veterans Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins, ongoing project Terrelle Pryor, holdover (for now) slot receiver Taylor Gabriel and Darius Jennings, who got some snaps late last season.

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Moritz Boehringer goes to Vikings in sixth round

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Moritz Boehringer got his first exposure to the NFL in Germany by watching a video of Adrian Peterson online when he was 17.

Now they’re going to be teammates with the Vikings.

Boehringer started playing the sport and became a wide receiver in the German league, impressed scouts and then landed on the draft radar with an impressive pro day workout at Florida Atlantic University earlier this year. The Vikings made Boehringer the first player drafted directly from Europe with the 181st pick.

The selection came shortly after Boehringer appeared on NFL Network and talked about the Vikings being his favorite team. Mike Mayock said that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer should call him so he could talk up Boehringer and Zimmer did give Mayock a buxz a short time later.

One imagines the Vikings were already considering Boehringer, who makes for a big target at 6’4″ and 225 pounds. He ran well at the pro day workout, so there’s a lot of raw material to work with. With four years of football experience in Europe, raw might not be a strong enough word so it’s up in the air where things will go from here.

That doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable on a Saturday afternoon.

[Photo credit: Vikings on Twitter]

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Ravens take Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 28:  Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen rushes the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the third quarter of their 44-28 win during the Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 28, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

After a great college career at Navy, Keenan Reynolds is getting his chance in the NFL. And he won’t even have to leave Maryland.

The Ravens chose Reynolds, the former Navy quarterback, in the sixth round at Pick 182. He was announced as a wide receiver, and that’s where he’s expected to play in the NFL.

It’s unclear at the moment whether Reynolds will be able to commit himself fully to football right away. His obligations to the Naval Academy mean he could be pressed into full-time military service for as long as five years, although last year the Pentagon allowed another football player, Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, to play a full NFL season while doing work for the Navy in the offseason.

Reynolds is the NCAA’s all-time record holder in touchdowns, so his college football pedigree is great. It’s unclear how well he’ll be able to transition from a run-first quarterback in Navy’s option offense into a slot receiver, punt returner or anything else the Ravens want him to do. But he has earned a chance in the NFL.

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Chiefs add Kevin Hogan, reportedly tried for Paxton Lynch in first round

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Kevin Hogan #8 of the Stanford Cardinal runs in an 8 yard touchdown in the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 102nd Rose Bowl Game on January 1, 2016 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Broncos traded up to take quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round of the draft, Lynch’s agent Leigh Steinberg said in an interview on 104.3 The Fan in Denver that the Chiefs joined the Cowboys as teams that tried to land his client.

The Chiefs had the 28th pick in the first round and traded out of that spot after the Broncos snagged Lynch at No. 26. General Manager John Dorsey didn’t say whether that was the case, but said, via ESPN.com, they made the deal because a couple of players they targeted were off the board.

Kansas City did get a quarterback in the fifth round of the draft when they selected Kevin Hogan of Stanford with the 162nd overall pick. Hogan was the starter for the Cardinal for most of the last four years and finished his college career with a 65.9 completion percentage and 75-29 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Hogan, who also ran for 15 touchdowns, doesn’t have the biggest arm and may have a ceiling as a game manager, but there are worse traits to build a career as an NFL backup around. Aaron Murray and Tyler Bray will likely battle to back up Alex Smith in 2016 with Hogan as the No. 3 to start his time as a professional.

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Jason Licht didn’t want to risk missing out on Roberto Aguayo

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Place kicker Roberto Aguayo #19 of the Florida State Seminoles kicks a field goal in the first quarter against the Oregon Ducks during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2015 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers made Roberto Aguayo the first kicker to get drafted in the second round since 2004 on Friday night when they traded the 74th and 106th, which was acquired when they dropped two spots in the first round, picks to the Chiefs for No. 59.

It’s unusual enough to see a kicker get picked in the second round that General Manager Jason Licht’s decision would be questioned even if he hadn’t traded up to do so. After he did, he explained why the team was so aggressive about bringing Aguayo into the fold.

“Taking Roberto — the importance of special teams is paramount,” Licht said, via Pewter Report. “When you get a chance to get the best kicker in the history of college football, I didn’t want to risk it. I wanted to take him. I have a lot of confidence in him; I like the way he’s wired. I like the body of work that he’s put out there, obviously. A great kicker can be the difference in several games. I’ve been around some great ones: Adam Vinatieri, [Stephen] Gostkowski. Those guys are invaluable. We obviously took him, we used a pick to go up and get him. So we feel very confident about it. We needed to be bold there and we were.”

Aguayo went 69-of-78 on field goals — he was perfect inside 40 yards — and never missed an extra point in three years at Florida State, so he has the kind of resume you’d like to see when drafting a kicker at any point. That won’t stop the Bucs from hearing criticism from bucking conventional wisdom about their move for Aguayo, but it makes it easier to understand why the team was so adamant about leaving Chicago with him in the fold.

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Ronnie Stanley takes issue with Schefter’s Tunsil report

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Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley, the sixth pick in the 2016 draft, has faced some criticism for the perception he won’t always roll up his sleeves and rumble. On Saturday afternoon, Stanley has done just that, albeit on Twitter.

In the wake of a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the Ravens would have taken Laremy Tunsil over Stanley but for the gas-mask-and-bong video that surfaced right before the draft began, Stanley said this: “Hey Adam, you’re wrong.”

Stanley obviously cares about the report because it creates the impression that he was viewed as a fallback to Tunsil, propelled to the sixth pick only by Tunsil’s bizarre misfortune. Which suggests that the Ravens have told Stanley that he was their guy, regardless of the video.

Even if Tunsil really would have been the pick.

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Broncos land Devontae Booker in fourth round

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 07:  Running back Devontae Booker #23 of the Utah Utes rushes against the Washington Huskies on November 7, 2015 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos brought back C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman in free agency, which means their top two running backs from last season will be back in 2016.

They added a new face to the mix in the fourth round on Saturday afternoon when they drafted Devontae Booker with the 136th overall pick.

Booker thrived as both a runner and receiver at Utah over the last two seasons and it wasn’t hard to find rankings that put him above several of the six backs that went ahead of him in the draft. Booker did tear his meniscus late last season and he’ll turn 24 next month, which might account for why he was still around late in the fourth round.

The Broncos are obviously comfortable with Anderson and Hillman, but a healthy Booker could work himself into the rotation by September if that versatility carries over to the professional ranks.

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Carl Nassib goes from walk-on to round three

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Three years ago, Ryan Nassib entered the NFL as one of the top quarterback prospects in the draft. He surprisingly slid to round four. At the same time, defensive end Carl Nassib was an unknown walk-on at Penn State.

On Friday, the younger Nassib ended up being drafted a round higher than his older brother.

The decision of the Browns to make Carl Nassib the 65th overall pick represents the culmination of an amazing journey from a kid who never gave up on his NFL dream. Perhaps no one is more amazed than his former college coach, Bill O’Brien.

“I can remember one story where he came and basically . . . I questioned how important football was to him,” O’Brien said last November, when Nassib was having a breakout season with the Nittany Lions. “He said to me, ‘Football is really important to me. I’m going to play pro football,’ and I said to him, ‘Are you kidding me?’ You need to be concerned about playing at Penn State. Forget about pro football.'”

Nassib reflected on O’Brien’s advice after being selected by Cleveland.

“I always had dreams of playing in the NFL since as long as I can remember,” Nassib said. “A lot of people did not agree with that and that never deterred me from my dream. Bill O’Brien told me what he thought so I just kept working my hardest and never let that phase me.”

As Nassib’s hard work has led to success, he has apparently worked even harder. Which means he could be working harder still now that he’s in the NFL.

“Earning a scholarship was incredible,” Nassib told reporters on Friday. “When I earned my scholarship, it really motivated me to let everybody that I was the real deal. It was a great experience at Penn State. I could not have asked for anything more from Penn State.”

The Browns will be asking for plenty from Nassib, a draft pick that the front office opted to use instead of trade.

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Cowboys draft QB Dak Prescott

STARKVILLE, MS - NOVEMBER 14:  Dak Prescott #15 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs looks to pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Davis Wade Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Starkville, Mississippi.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys selected Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott at No. 135 in the fourth round, a compensatory selection.

The Cowboys didn’t hide their interest in taking a quarterback during this draft and tried to trade back into the first round Thursday night to select Paxton Lynch. In Prescott, they get a 6-foot-2, 226-pound developmental prospect who was a two-time All-SEC pick but may have hurt his draft standing when he was arrested for DUI in March.

Prescott was MVP of the Senior Bowl in January while playing for the South team. The Cowboys coached Carson Wentz and Cody Kessler on the North team at the Senior Bowl.

Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo is 36, and when he was hurt last season the Cowboys discovered they had no viable backup option.

The Cowboys hadn’t drafted a quarterback since taking Stephen McGee in the fourth round in 2009.

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Bills end the fourth round with Cardale Jones

Playoff Championship Ohio St Oregon Football AP

The Bills finally have their rookie quarterback, and Cardale Jones has finally heard his name called.

Jones, who led Ohio State to the national championship after the 2014 season, was drafted by the Bills with the final pick in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft.

That Jones was selected at pick No. 139 represents a significant fall from where many thought he would have been drafted if he had turned pro a year ago. After the way he played in his three games as a starter — the Big Ten Championship Game and the two college football playoff games — some saw him as a potential first round pick in 2015. But Jones was benched in 2015 and showed off some of his flaws as a pocket passer, and NFL teams soured on him.

Now Jones heads to Buffalo, where this year he’ll likely be the third stringer behind Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel. Jones may get a chance to prove himself and become a starter in the future, however, and the Bills like him as a project with upside.

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Jets G.M. says they’re not trying to trade for a quarterback

Maccagnan Getty Images

The fascinating part of the Jets’ dance with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is that nothing seems to be happening to make the process move any faster.

And it doesn’t seem they’re in a hurry for resolution either.

When the Jets braintrust came out to talk about their fourth-round choice, they gave the latest update on the negotiation that will not die, by saying they weren’t interested in trading for one.

We’re not in discussions with any other teams with any of the QBs,” General Manager Mike Maccagnan said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “I can put that to bed.”

Coach Todd Bowles said he was in no rush either, telling reporters he wasn’t worried about getting Fitzpatrick back until it was “mandatory,” then clarifying that he meant training camp rather than minicamp.

“If he comes back, he comes back,” Bowles said. “When he comes back and he comes back, we’ll be happy to have him back.”

So it appears for the moment, they’ll just continue with Geno Smith and Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, and wait for what seems like Fitzpatrick’s inevitable return.

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Bears don’t rule out moving Kyle Long to left tackle

Zz1mMjM5MzIwNzg0YzhlZDJhYjM1NWY4YTBiODA5ODk2ZQ== AP

After the Bears signed right tackle Bobby Massie in free agency, many (including Kyle Long) thought that Kyle Long would be moving back to right guard. That move may be temporary.

Addressing the media after the second day of the 2016 draft, Bears G.M. Ryan Pace didn’t rule out flipping Long to the left side — and keeping him at tackle.

“He’s so athletic and you guys know he could play any position,” Pace said on whether Long could be moved to left tackle. “So I wouldn’t rule anything out for Kyle, but he can play anywhere.”

Playing left tackle could be good for Long when it comes to his second contract, since that position pays more than any other along the offensive line.

Wherever Long ends up for 2016, that could be where he stays. Said Pace in February: “The main thing with Kyle is we need to make this decision after the player acquisition period is over with and try to leave him at a certain spot. I think it’s easy for him to go back to guard. It would be harder if we put him at guard and then put him back out at tackle. We’ve just got to go through this player acquisition period and see how the chips fall and then put him in a spot and let him grow there.”

While left tackle traditionally is regarded as the most important position of the five, the concerted effort to find and develop pass rushers from every spot in the defensive front seven makes every piece of an offensive line critical. The challenge for every team is to find a way to get their best blockers on the field at the same time, and to parlay limited offseason and training-camp reps into getting the quintet to gel as a unit as early as possible in the regular season.

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Report: Ravens would have taken Laremy Tunsil, but for gas-mask video

Zz00ZGMxMTFiMzFkZDQ0MDAxMWQ2NzQ5ZTg2NjQ3OGMyMA== AP

A team that knows a thing or two about the problems that video can cause  reportedly decided that a video suddenly emerging before the draft was the deciding factor in choosing between a pair of tackles.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Ravens would have taken tackle Laremy Tunsil with the sixth overall pick, but for the video that surfaced of Tunsil smoking marijuana with a gas-mask-and-bong device.

The report isn’t that the Ravens may have or could have or might have picked Tunsil. The report is as clear as it can be. Without the video, the Ravens would have taken Tunsil. With the video, the Ravens took Ronnie Stanley instead.

Apart from the mild case of ESPN-on-ESPN crime that the report spawned, the disclosure could be entertaining for an entirely different reason. If/when the hacking of Tunsil’s account leads to criminal prosecution or civil litigation, Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome may be the key witness to show the harm suffered by Tunsil, since sliding from No. 6 to No. 13 cost Tunsil plenty of money.

How many moneys? Last year, the No. 6 pick (Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams) received a four-year, $18.6 million deal. The No. 13 selection (Saints tackle Andrus Peat) signed a four-year, $11.4 million contract. That’s a $7.2 million difference for four years. Given that Tunsil fell past No. 10, the gap will be even bigger under the fifth-year option.

An article from the team’s official website details the team’s real-time reaction to the Tunsil video, but doesn’t plainly state that Tunsil would have been the pick but for one of the strangest pre-draft developments that ever has occurred.

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