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PFT’s Week 17 picks

Charles Tillman, Eddie Lacy AP

After a pathetic, season-worst 6-10 showing by yours truly and a four-game sweep by MDS, I was tempted to try to guess which team he’d pick for each of the 16 games to end the regular season, and then hope for the best.

But the spirit of this game is to try to get as many games right as possible, even if my outcome from last week would suggest that the better approach for me would be to select a winner — and then to do the opposite.

This week, we disagree on three games, which means MDS will win the regular-season competition by at least nine games.

For the year, MDS has generated a record of 157-83.  I’m 145-95.

The only good news is that it all resets to 0-0 for the postseason picks competition.

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: Give the Falcons credit for playing competitive football against good teams, as they did on Monday night against the 49ers. This Atlanta team hasn’t quit. But the Panthers’ defense should shut down the Falcons’ offense as the Panthers clinch the NFC South.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Falcons 10.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers need a win to nail down the No. 2 seed.  An immature, undisciplined team would stumble in this spot.  If nothing else, the 2013 Panthers have proven that they are both mature and disciplined.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 27, Falcons 20.

Packers at Bears

MDS’s take: As of the time I’m making this pick I don’t know if Aaron Rodgers is playing, so this is a tough one. But I’ll go with the Bears to clinch the NFC North in a high-scoring affair.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Packers 27.

Florio’s take:  If Aaron Rodgers can play, the Packers have a chance to peak in January.  If they can get to January.  If Rodgers plays on Sunday, the Packers will get to January.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Bears 30.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Ravens suffered a huge letdown last week against the Patriots, and I see the defending champions’ season ending on Sunday in Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals need a win and some help in order to secure the No. 2 seed.  The Ravens need a win and some help to extend their streak of playoff appearances to six.  While the Bengals are unbeaten at home, the Ravens have the greater incentive and enough talent to capitalize.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Bengals 17.

Jaguars at Colts

MDS’s take: The Jaguars aren’t going down without a fight, but the Colts showed last week against the Chiefs that they’re real contenders. Indianapolis will win this one and head into the playoffs with a full head of steam for a likely rematch with Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Colts 34, Jaguars 20.

Florio’s take:  Indy is building some momentum in the hopes of advancing beyond the wild-card round.  The Jaguars have shown enough progress to create plausible hope for 2014 — if they can find a decent quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 30, Jaguars 20.

Jets at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Last week the Dolphins laid an egg, while the Jets kept fighting despite having no shot at the playoffs. This week, however, I think the Dolphins’ pass rush will get to Geno Smith and Miami will win a low-scoring game and the right to play in the first round of the playoffs, probably at Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  After his first season as Jets coach, Rex Ryan gave the finger to a Miami MMA crowd.  On Sunday, in perhaps his final act as Jets coach, he can give a figurative finger to Fins fans by knocking the home team out of the playoffs.  Rex will pull out all the stops, and the Dolphins will follow two wins in games they should have lost with two losses in games they should have won.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 23, Dolphins 20.

Lions at Vikings

MDS’s take: After appearing to be in control of the NFC North for much of the season, the Lions have gone into free fall. The fall will continue in Minnesota.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The final game at the Metrodome coincides with what likely will be the final game of Jim Schwartz’s tenure and Lions coach.  Adrian Peterson won’t let his team exit its 31-year home with anything other than a victory to cap a lost season.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 31, Lions 23.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: Buffalo isn’t going anywhere, but the Bills’ defense is a lot better than most people realize, as the Dolphins found out the hard way last week. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Bills pull off the upset, but I expect the Patriots’ defense to shut down the Bills’ offense to win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 14, Bills 10.

Florio’s take:  The Pats still have a shot at securing the No. 1 seed — and also at having to play in the wild-card round.  Either way, a home loss wouldn’t be the best way to embark on a playoff run in a wide-open AFC.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Bills 20.

Buccaneers at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints are a bad road team but a good home team. That’s a bad thing to be if you’re going to the playoffs as a wild card, but in New Orleans on Sunday, the Saints will clinch a playoff berth.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Saints could end the day as the No. 2 seed.  The Saints also could end the day out of the playoffs.  If Carolina wins earlier, forcing the Saints to leave the Superdome in the wild-card round, they may be tempted to not delay the inevitable.  Coach Sean Payton won’t let that happen.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 27, Buccaneers 13.

Redskins at Giants

MDS’s take: Both of these teams stink, but Washington is a much lower level of stink. This game will be ugly, and the Giants will win.

MDS’s pick: Giants 23, Redskins 16.

Florio’s take:  The Giants hoped to finish their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in February.  They’ll have to settle for finishing their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in late December.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 28, Redskins 17.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers dug a deep hole for themselves with their lousy start to the season, but they’re playing good football now. They probably won’t get all the help they need to make the playoffs, but the Steelers will take care of business against the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  If the Steelers get to the playoffs, they’ll be tough to beat.  But not as tough as they’ll be to beat in the game that can help get them to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 34, Browns 17.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Texans will clinch the first overall pick in the draft by losing to the Titans. And draft order is the only reason to pay any attention to this game.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Texans 13.

Florio’s take:  New Houston meets old Houston at a time when both Houstons have a problem too big for one meaningless game to fix.  If Mike Munchak is leaving after more than 30 years with the Oilers/Titans franchise, he’s going out with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 24, Texans 17.

49ers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals have had an impressive season, and there’s a good team being assembled in Arizona. I think the Cardinals will make a big statement by defeating the playoff-bound 49ers, although Arizona won’t get the help it needs to make the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  Arizona finishes laying the foundation for a run at the top of the division in 2014.  The 49ers will be happy to get out of Arizona healthy enough to function the following weekend.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Broncos at Raiders

MDS’s take: With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, Denver will cruise to an easy win in Oakland.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 38, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  With 265 yards passing on Sunday, Peyton Manning emerges from the 2013 season with the record for passing touchdowns and passing yards.  With more points than the Raiders on Sunday, the Broncos emerge from the 2013 season with the No. 1 seed, again.  What they do with it remains to be seen.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 41, Raiders 20.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC and are therefore the only playoff team with nothing to play for. As a result, I think they’ll take it easy on Sunday and the Chargers will cruise to a win.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 30, Chiefs 20.

Florio’s take:  By the time this one starts, the Chargers will know whether a win gets them in the playoffs.  Chances are they’ll be done.  But with the Chiefs likely resting starters, the Chargers will finish on the right side of .500.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 31, Chiefs 21.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Rams are playing competitively and this won’t be easy for the Seahawks, but Seattle will be highly motivated to win this one and clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, Rams 20.

Florio’s take:  Last Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals gave the Seahawks a much-needed wake-up call.  They’ll answer the bell by roughing up the Rams and locking up the No. 1 seed.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, Rams 10.

Eagles at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Even with Tony Romo I’d lean toward the Eagles to take this one, but with Romo’s back injury this looks to me like a game the Eagles take to clinch the NFC East.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 17.

Florio’s take:  With or without Tony Romo, the Cowboys don’t have the defense to once again hold Philly to three points — especially without Sean Lee available.  Another year, another 8-8 finish, another loss in the de facto NFC East championship game.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Cowboys 23.

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Marcell Dareus on contract: We’ll wait and see what Bills do

Marcell Dareus AP

Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said Wednesday that he is happy to be able to move forward after the announcement of his one-game suspension because he can prepare for the season without something that was “hanging over my head for a while.”

Dareus’s attention won’t be limited to on-field matters, however. He’s entering the final year of his contract and admitted that thoughts about his future in Buffalo or elsewhere are on his mind as a result.

“We’ll wait and see what the Bills do,” Dareus said, via the team’s website. “It weighs on me heavily. Heavily. I’ve got to go out there and really perform and do what I have to do, which I always do — really have fun with it. Whatever the outcome is, is the outcome. However they want to play it is how they play it. I’m excited. I’m excited for the upcoming year.”

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley has said that an extension for Dareus is the team’s top priority at this point in the offseason and he told the Associated Press that he planned to speak with senior vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf on Wednesday about talks with Dareus’ camp.

That should give Dareus a better idea of what the Bills will do, but he thinks the team already knows what it needs to know about him. He said his play “speaks for itself” and the message it’s sent in the last couple of years suggests that someone will be giving Dareus a lot of money at some point in the near future.

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Alex Mack mum on whether he plans to stay in Cleveland

Mack Getty Images

Last year, the Browns applied the transition tag to center Alex Mack, allowing the team to match any offer sheet signed with a new team. The Jaguars signed Mack to an offer sheet that gives Mack the right to void the contract after two years. Which means that Mack can get out of Cleveland after the 2015 season.

On Tuesday, Mack declined to say whether he’ll exercise his right to hit the open market.

I’m going to defer,” Mack said, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. “I’ll talk about that at the end of the season.”

But Mack was willing to say he hasn’t made up his mind.

“No, absolutely not,” Mack said. “Let’s play the games, let’s see how the season goes. I’m really not interested in talking about that until after the season.”

When he does, whether and to what extent the Browns can win games apparently will be a factor in the final analysis.

“I definitely want to win games,” Mack said. “It’s very important to me. No one likes losing. Across any job, anything, at all times. It’s tough, without a doubt. . . . What you always do, you just want to come out here, play games, play well and win games. That’s what every person in this building’s goal is.”

The Browns acquired some protection against Mack leaving by using a first-round pick on offensive lineman Cameron Erving, who played some center at Florida State.  If Erving lives up to his potential, however, the far better outcome would be to keep both guys on the team.

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Blake Sims joining Toronto Argonauts

Blake Sims AP

Alabama’s starting quarterback in 2014 is said to be heading to the Canadian Football League.

Blake Sims, who went undrafted in May, has signed with the Toronto Argonauts, Everett Sports Marketing said on Wednesday. (A nod to 247Sports.com for first pointing out the announcement.) Al.com also reported Sims’ contract with Toronto.

As a senior, Sims (5-11, 218) connected on 252-of-391 passes for 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for the Crimson Tide. He will reportedly play quarterback in Toronto.

After the draft, Sims had tryouts with Washington and Green Bay, but he did not sign a contract with either club. In Washington, Sims worked at running back.

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Matt Cassel says Tom Brady’s ball preparation not unusual

cassel brady Getty Images

If Matt Cassel knows The Deflator, he’s not saying.

The Bills quarterback, who spent four years with the Patriots, three of them as Tom Brady’s backup, said he was just deferring to the league on its #DeflateGate punishment.

I’m really not going to get into that,” Cassel said, via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. “Obviously that was a league decision and it’s something that the league came down with a ruling and we’re going to go out there and play against whoever’s going to be out there on the field.”

Asked about Brady’s role in preparing game balls, Cassel chose his words carefully.

“I think it’s the same everywhere,” he said. “I think we all have a say in what balls we want and all that stuff and that’s about the extent that I’ll go into that.”

Of course, Cassel and Brady are still pals, hanging out at the Kentucky Derby despite the fact they’re division rivals now.

But as most players and coaches have, Cassel tried to hold his breath and get through this one without anybody noticing.

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Texans will debut on Hard Knocks on August 11

Bill O'Brien AP

All the signs were pointing toward the Texans being this year’s Hard Knocks participant and it became official on Wednesday.

The Texans, NFL and HBO announced that the team will be featured on the long-running series that puts NFL Films cameras all over training camp to capture everything that goes into getting ready for the season. It’s the first time that the Texans have appeared on the show, which will debut on Tuesday, August 11 at 10 p.m. ET.

“This is an opportunity to provide a behind-the-scenes look at our team as we prepare for the 2015 season,” Texans General Manager Rick Smith said in a statement. “Fans will get a chance to see the great competition that takes place day-in and day-out on the practice field, as well as get to know all the unique personalities on our roster.”

At a press conference Wednesday, owner Bob McNair said he saw the show as an opportunity to introduce the team to more people around the country. He also vowed that the show wouldn’t be a distraction to the team, particularly coach Bill O’Brien.

“We discussed it. We’re not going to give anyone a competitive advantage,” McNair said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

After working for Bill Belichick in New England, O’Brien may not be thrilled about life as a reality star but, as is always the case when the boss makes up his mind, he’ll need to make his peace with it.

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LeSean McCoy limited by neck injury

LeSean McCoy,John Conner AP

The Bills got to take a look at some of their backup running backs with the first team during team drills on Wednesday because running back LeSean McCoy was limited during practice.

A neck injury was the reason for McCoy’s abbreviated schedule during the workout. Coach Rex Ryan said after practice that the injury wasn’t anything the team was worried about, but that they decided to take it easy with a player they plan to be leaning on heavily come the fall.

“He’s got a little thing like in his neck or something like that, but it’s not serious but it’s one of those things where we don’t need him out there,” Ryan said, via ESPN.com. “I don’t even think he had a helmet — he might have had a helmet out there but I’m not sure.”

Anthony Dixon and Fred Jackson worked with the first team during the 11-on-11 portion of practice while Bryce Brown and rookie Karlos Williams got their reps with the backup units. With McCoy established as the No. 1 back, the competition between that quartet should provide the only intrigue in the backfield for Buffalo between now and September.

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Colts sign Phillip Dorsett

Phillip Dorsett AP

Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett is the latest first-round pick to sign his rookie contract.

The Colts announced Wednesday that Dorsett has agreed to the standard four-year deal with the team. As a first-round pick, Dorsett’s contract also comes with a team option for a fifth season at a salary equal to the 3rd-25th best-paid players at the position.

Dorsett’s selection raised some eyebrows since the Colts’ biggest needs were perceived to be on defense and the offensive line, but General Manager Ryan Grigson said the selection was made because the team wanted to take the best available player on their board. He has a good chance to contribute immediately as a returner in the kicking game and will compete with Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter for snaps behind T.Y. Hilton and Andre Johnson on offense.

With Dorsett signed, the Colts have now agreed to deals with six of their eight draft picks. Their two third-round picks — cornerback D’Joun Smith and defensive end Henry Anderson — remain unsigned.

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Cowboys filming practice with drones

images Getty Images

At some point, the term “drone” became inherently sinister. At some point, the term “drone” became attached to all remotely-controlled devices that fly.

Which has caused plenty of people to assume that any and all drones are evil and capable of mass mayhem. Which likely has delayed many reasonable innovations relating to the use of drones.

In the NFL, one team is embracing the use of drones. Via Todd Archer of ESPN.com, the Cowboys are using drones to film practice during OTAs.

“We pride ourselves on coaching and teaching our players as well as we can and film has been a big part of the game for a long time,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Typically you have an end zone shot and a sideline shot. We use a lot of hand-held cameras on the ground. . . . One of our coaches went down to SMU for their spring practices and saw they were using it. They liked the angle. We got a chance to see it, so we decided to take a look at it.”

Last year, NFL Media considered using drones as part of the Inside Training Camp series. It’s unclear why the technology wasn’t used. Maybe it’s just the stigma of equating an innocent RC helicopter to an anonymous death machine.

Then again, maybe they are.

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George McCaskey admits second-guessing signing of Ray McDonald

George McCaskey AP

Bears owner George McCaskey said the decision to sign Ray McDonald this offseason was his.

So when he says he’s second-guessing that decision, he means he’s second-guessing his own process.

Via Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, McCaskey told reporters that even though he initially said no and was talked into adding the troubled defensive lineman, that the decision to bring him aboard was “my decision, ultimately, alone.”

So it follows that he didn’t blame General Manager Ryan Pace for the embarrassing addition.

“Not at all. We have complete confidence in Ryan,” McCaskey said.

At the same time, he said he didn’t have any input on Monday’s decision to cut him when McDonald was again arrested for a domestic violence charge.

“I wasn’t involved because I didn’t need to be,” he said. “They knew what needed to be done and did it.”

McCaskey talked to McDonald prior to agreeing to sign him, warning him that his behavior had to improve. When it did not, McCaskey’s doubts crept in.

When asked why he didn’t talk to any of McDonald’s accusers prior to signing him, McCaskey said: “One of my concerns was the bias anybody has in that situation.”

Yet he didn’t consider that McDonald or his family might carry a bias themselves, which put him in the uncomfortable spot of answering questions today.

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Zimmer on Peterson: He can play for us or not play at all

Adrian Peterson, Rusty Hardin AP

If the Vikings are wavering from their plan to have Adrian Peterson in their backfield in 2015, they are doing a very good job of keeping it under wraps.

Peterson isn’t with the Vikings for their organized team activities this week, something that was expected as Peterson has yet to report for any work with the team since having his suspension lifted in April. Coach Mike Zimmer made it clear on Wednesday that his decision not to take part in practice hasn’t changed the team’s position, however.

“He’s got two choices. He can play for us or not play,” Zimmer said, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com.

Not playing would keep Peterson from earning the $12.75 million that the Vikings are set to pay him this season. There have been reports that Peterson still wants to be traded and suggestions from his camp that his willingness to rejoin the team might improve with some adjustments to the amount of guaranteed money in the remaining years of his contract, but the former appears to be off the table and the latter may be unless Peterson decides to come to work.

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Ravens re-sign rookie LB Andrew Bose

Ravens Helmet Getty Images

The Ravens re-signed undrafted rookie linebacker Andrew Bose on Wednesday, the team said on its website.

In a corresponding roster move, the club waived rookie linebacker Trey DePriest, who played collegiately at Alabama.

A Rhode Island product, the 6-foot-2, 232-pound Bose was credited with 125 tackles (48 solo) in his final collegiate season in 2014. He also recorded 4.5 sacks and one interception.

The 21-year-old Bose signed with Baltimore on May 8 before being waived six days later.

The Ravens have filled all 90 roster spots. The club is holding organized team practice activities this week.

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Matt Forte practicing with Bears on Wednesday

Jimmy Clausen, Matt Forte AP

Bears running back Matt Forte said last month that his desire for a new contract wouldn’t lead him to hold out of the team’s mandatory minicamp or training camp.

As it turns out, his absence won’t even extend to the end of voluntary work. According to multiple reports from media members covering the Bears, Forte was at Halas Hall on Wednesday and took part in practice with his teammates.

Forte is in the final year of the four-year contract he signed with the Bears in 2012 and he’ll turn 30 in December, so his desire to shore up his future is understandable. Given the history of runners on the wrong side of 30, it is just as understandable that the Bears might prefer to let things play out this season before making any calls about Forte.

For now, though, it look alike the Bears plan to keep Forte front and center in the offense. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase used running back committees in Denver, but said this month that Forte’s presence makes for an “unusual situation” since he can play all three downs.

While Forte is back in the fold, tight end Martellus Bennett continues to stay away from the team’s voluntary work.

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Geno Smith may have to compete for job after all

Geno Smith AP

Perhaps Chan Gailey spoke too soon.

Or just too honestly.

After his offensive coordinator said Geno Smith was pegged as the starter and there would be no competition for the quarterback job, Jets head coach Todd Bowles said that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Chan’s very matter-of-fact,” Bowles said, via Dom Cosentino of NJ.com. “Come camp time, there will be competition at the spot. . . . That doesn’t mean it’s going to stay like that.”

In jamming the toothpaste back in the tube, Bowles explained that Gailey’s reference was largely because Fitzpatrick is coming off a broken leg, and that means that today, there’s not necessarily a competition because there can’t be an even distribution of reps (though Fitzpatrick did some work in OTAs).

“You don’t start out having two or three games getting first-team reps,” Bowles said. “I view it as open competition. It’s [Smith’s] to lose.”

Based on his track record, there’s a decent chance he will.

Smith has 41 turnovers in two seasons, while Fitzpatrick has the benefit of background with Gailey in Buffalo and a resume of solid if unspectacular play.

If Smith continues to play as he has, the competition will likely fire up again.

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Rolando McClain out of OTAs after knee scope

Rolando McClain AP

The Cowboys re-signed Rolando McClain to be in the middle of a linebacking group they hope will be improved this season with the return of Sean Lee from a torn ACL that cost him all of last season, but they’ll have to wait a bit before seeing how the defense looks with both of those guys in the lineup.

Coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday that McClain is missing organized team activities while rehabbing from recent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. McClain has had knee problems in the past and will be working out in Alabama while the rest of the team continues the offseason program. Garrett didn’t express much concern about McClain’s long-term outlook.

“He just had his knee swell up a bit but we think he’s OK,” Garrett said, via Patrick Claybon of NFL Media.

McClain’s absence will have the Cowboys reshuffling their linebackers. Lee is expected to start on the weak side of the defense across from Anthony Hitchens and the team signed Jasper Brinkley, Andrew Gachkar and Keith Rivers as free agents to go with draft picks Damien Wilson and Mark Nzeocha.

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Jaguars sign second-round pick T.J. Yeldon

T.J. Yeldon AP

A rookie who could have a major role in the Jacksonville offense in Year One has signed with the club.

The Jaguars and second-round pick T.J. Yeldon have finalized a four-year deal, the team said Wednesday, posting a picture of the former Alabama star tailback signing his contract.

The No. 36 overall selection, Yeldon (6-1, 226) is likely to push for regular playing time in the Jaguars’ backfield, with Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart the primary veteran competitors for carries.

Yeldon had a sparkling three-season run for the Crimson Tide, racking up 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns on 576 carries. One of the few knocks on him is his straight-line speed; he was timed at 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

With Yeldon now under contract, the Jaguars’ lone unsigned pick is offensive guard A.J. Cann, a third-round selection from South Carolina.

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