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Jay Gruden on Mariota visit: We have a lot of options at No. 5

Marcus Mariota AP

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is setting up visits and workouts with the teams at the top of the draft, including a stop in Virginia next month.

Mariota will be at the Redskins’ headquarters in April, a little more than a month after General Manager Scot McCloughan took in the Heisman Trophy winner’s pro day workout. The Redskins already have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, of course, although the team isn’t going farther than saying that Robert Griffin III is the starter “right now.” That suggests an open mind about using the fifth pick on Mariota and coach Jay Gruden didn’t suggest otherwise when asked about the quarterback’s visit on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of people that will be available with the fifth pick,” Gruden said, via CSNWashington.com. “We’re gonna look at ’em all and make a good Redskins decision. Whoever that is will be a big help for us.”

Whether Washington is considering Mariota or not, it makes sense for them to make the rest of the league think he’s a consideration in order to keep open the possibility of a trade come draft day. As the Redskins well know, desire to land a quarterback in the first round can make teams offer handsome sums in trade compensation and they might be able to get on the receiving end this time around.

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Report: Multiple clubs displeased Mariota has downplayed meaning of being top pick

Marcus Mariota AP

In a recent interview with the Buccaneers’ website, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota said the prospect of being the No. 1 overall pick wasn’t a “huge thing” to him.

Apparently, this notion has not sat well with some folks around the NFL.

According to Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report, “more than a few teams” have frowned upon Mariota’s viewpoint regarding the potential of being the top selection.

It’s unclear why the clubs have an issue with Mariota’s comments.

Nevertheless, it’s important to view Mariota’s views in their proper context, to listen to what he was asked and how he responded.

Here is the question Mariota was asked by Buccaneers.com writer Scott Smith:

“The draft’s just a little bit ahead now. If the Buccaneers did make that pick, that would be the first pick in the draft, something only a few men every year have a shot at. Is that something that’s important to you?”

Here was Mariota’s response:

“You know, being the first pick, to me, it’s not a huge thing. You know, I’d love to play for the Bucs. But that being said, you know, I think if you find a team that wants you, that’s going to be the right team. I’m looking forward to kind of marketing myself and finding that team.”

The question was fair, and Mariota’s response was reasoned. Let us consider the line he must walk. What do teams want him to say — that he burns to be the No. 1 pick and only the top pick? What happens if he is not the first selection? Why risk offending other potential employers? And shouldn’t Mariota be concerned primarily with finding the best possible fit when it comes to getting his first NFL job?

Mariota’s rational response shouldn’t be held against him. If anything, it should be viewed as a positive. After all, the NFL does want logical sorts playing the game’s most important position, right?

Doesn’t it?

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Marcus Mariota: Going first overall not a big deal to me

Marcus Mariota AP

Quarterback Marcus Mariota paid a visit to the Buccaneers on Monday to meet with General Manager Jason Licht and watch film with the team’s coaches ahead of a workout scheduled with the team for next month.

With the first pick of the draft and no franchise quarterback, the Bucs are going to be taking a quarterback on April 30. Most focus has been on Florida State’s Jameis Winston, who said he wanted to go first overall at the scouting combine. In what may have been a nod to his presumed second place status in the quarterback pecking order, Mariota said it wasn’t a big deal for him to be the first name called.

“Being the first pick, to me it’s not a huge thing,” Mariota said, via the team’s website. “I’d love to play for the Bucs. With that being said, if you find the team that wants you, that’s going to be the right team. I look forward to marketing myself and finding that team.”

The Buccaneers may just be doing their due diligence on Mariota before moving on with Winston, but it behooves them to do at least that because it’s just as important for a team to wind up with the right guy. All signs point to the Buccaneers believing that Winston is that guy, but making such decisions requires full knowledge of the options.

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Lions meet with Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley AP

The Lions, who are in need of tailback depth, have met with one of the top prospects at the position in the upcoming draft.

Georgia running back Todd Gurley took a pre-draft visit to Lions facilities on Monday, the club’s website said.

Gurley (6-1, 222) was in the midst of a monster junior season in 2014 when he suffered an ACL tear in November. He averaged at least six yards per carry in each of his three collegiate seasons.

“I’m doing pretty good. I haven’t started running yet,” Gurley said Monday, according to the Lions’s website. “I’ve been squatting, jump ropes, ladder and I’m building strength and definitely feeling a lot stronger.”

The Lions hold the No. 23 overall pick in April. Whether a club rolls the dice on Gurley’s obvious talent late in Round One is one of the most intriguing storylines in the draft. Detroit released key tailback Reggie Bush in February, leaving Joique Bell, Theo Riddick and George Winn as the club’s top three backs.

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Marcus Mariota on pro day: I thought it was OK

Marcus Mariota AP

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has heard the questions about his ability to run the huddle and take snaps under center after a college career spent doing the opposite.

At his pro day in Oregon on Thursday, Mariota didn’t take any shotgun snaps and regularly brought his receivers into a huddle before each opportunity to show off his arm. When he did put the ball in the air, Mariota completed 58-of-65 throws.

“I thought it went OK,” Mariota said during an interview on NFL Network after the workout. ”There were some missed throws here and there but overall I thought I did well.”

Outside analysis was mixed. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network called the workout “underwhelming” and a step down from his combine performance and his colleague Mike Mayock said it was a solid workout “at best,” but others were less critical of the outing and felt it wasn’t going to have a big effect on Mariota’s prospects in either direction.

That’s much different than the universally disastrous reviews of Teddy Bridgewater’s pro day last year and Bridgewater’s actual play with the Vikings may have been a reminder that the years of tape tell a fuller story than one workout anyway.

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Vic Beasley: Playing for Falcons would be a dream come true

Clemson Pro Day AP

Clemson held its pro day on Thursday and flocks turned out to take a look at their crop of draft eligible players, with pass rusher Vic Beasley on the top of many wish lists.

Beasley turned in a strong combine performance to build on an outstanding collegiate career and is expected to go high in the first round of the draft on April 30. The Falcons have the eighth pick and Beasley, who grew up about 60 miles outside Atlanta, said on Thursday that it would be “a dream come true” to play for the team he grew up rooting for as a kid. The hometown ties are only part of the allure, however.

Beasley said he was impressed by his meeting with Falcons coach Dan Quinn at the combine and by the defense that Quinn put together in Seattle. He also said that Quinn told him he could be a good fit in that scheme.

“He just said that he had guys like Bruce Irvin and other similar guys to me that could play that Leo position,” Beasley said, via ESPN.com. “That’s kind of where we connected right there. I fit the Leo position because a guy like Bruce Irvin, we’re similar body types. And we have similar games. We’re both great edge-rushers.”

There are several other good pass rushing prospects in the draft and, as always, plenty of teams looking for pass rushing help, so there’s more than a possibility that the Falcons could look elsewhere or that Beasley could fail to make it to the eighth pick. If the stars align, though, it looks like there’s a real chance that Beasley could make a happy homecoming.

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Greg Cosell: Randy Gregory is a better athlete than Jadeveon Clowney

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory said before the combine that he thinks he’s worthy of being the first overall pick of this year’s draft.

With the Buccaneers in need of a quarterback in a year with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota available, that’s unlikely to happen but at least one draft analyst thinks Gregory is a better prospect than the guy who went first overall last season.

Greg Cosell of NFL Films has said in the past that he feels Gregory is a better prospect than Jadeveon Clowney, who was described by some as a once-in-a-blue-moon prospect heading into the draft last year. During an appearance on The Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Wednesday, Cosell said he “probably” still feels that way after watching Gregory during the combine.

“He’s a better athlete than Clowney. He’s more flexible. He’s more explosive in his movement,” Cosell said. “Clearly, not as strong. Clowney could get inside and push back, but Clowney did not have the loose hips that this guy does. Gregory’s a much more explosive mover, a much looser athlete.”

Gregory weighed 235 pounds at the combine and Cosell said the big question about his transition to the NFL is whether he’s going to have enough power and strength to win when engaged with bigger blockers. That’s balanced with having “the traits you would theoretically put down on a piece of paper” for a successful pass rusher, leaving teams high in the draft with an interesting decision to make in a draft with several pass rushing prospects.

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Landon Collins clocked at 4.53 seconds in 40-yard dash

Landon Collins AP

Widely regarded as the top safety in the 2015 NFL Draft, Alabama’s Landon Collins likely didn’t hurt his standing with his times in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine on Monday.

Collins (6-0, 228) was timed at 4.53 and 4.54 seconds in the 40 on the FieldTurf surface at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. His best time was on his second attempt.

Collins’ time is slightly better than that of former Crimson Tide standout safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who ran 4.58 at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Clinton Dix was the 21st overall pick of Green Bay last May.

Collins is the top safety in Rotoworld draft expert Josh Norris’ position rankings.

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Top edge rushers run well in Indianapolis

Dante Fowler AP

NFL teams are always looking for help rushing the passer, which should mean that we see several edge rushers come off the board early on April 30.

Some of those edge rushers had their turn in the spotlight at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Sunday. None of them hurt their stock during the 40-yard dash portion of the proceedings.

Florida’s Dante Fowler wore a gold watch during his sprint and was timed at 4.61, a good showing for a player who outweighs his peers at 261 pounds. Clemson’s Vic Beasley, whose 246 pounds are more than he carried during the season, was clocked at 4.53 seconds and Nebraska’s Randy Gregory came in at 4.57. Gregory is the lightest of the group from the combine at 235 pounds.

 

Straight ahead speed only means so much for players who have to show their ability to get around corners and through blockers without slowing down, but a bad showing wouldn’t be a positive in a competitive group that also includes Shane Ray of Missouri. Ray’s not working at the combine because of a foot injury.

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Report: Jameis Winston’s football knowledge impressing clubs

Jameis Winston AP

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston’s knowledge of the game reportedly caught the attention of numerous club officials who met with him this week at the NFL Scouting Combine.

In a story published Saturday, Bleacher Report‘s Mike Freeman quoted an unnamed evaluator who raved about Winston’s “[f]ootball IQ.”

Said the evaluator: “I think he’s probably the smartest player I’ve ever interviewed.”

Freeman also reports that Winston had been compared to Peyton Manning from a football intelligence standpoint “several times” in the reporter’s discussions with club officials.

With Winston likely to be a high draft pick who could be in contention to start as a rookie, the raves he’s drawing for his understanding of football concepts could augur well for him being handed the keys to an offense right off the bat.

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Mariota, Winston throw at Combine, come out of it OK

Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston AP

The top two quarterbacks in the Class of 2015 threw at the NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday.

And overall, Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota both appeared to fare well-enough in the on-field drills.

From NFL Network footage of the workouts, Winston’s arm strength and touch were on display on deep throws. And Mariota’s talent was also quite apparent as he went through his paces.

Afterwards, Mariota told NFLN he had been trying to refine his footwork.

“It’s still an ongoing process for me,” Mariota said of honing his craft.

Complemented about his shorter release in workouts Saturday, Winston said moonlighting as a baseball player in the football offseason had affected his mechanics.

“I’m always used to having a long release with baseball, because I never just worked football all year long. But I’m loving it, and as you can see, I’ve improved,” Winston told NFLN.

Winston also said his throwing shoulder, which had been re-tested at the Combine, was fine after Saturday’s workout.

Both Winston and Mariota aren’t expected to be waiting in the green room long when the draft starts on April 30 in Chicago. The Buccaneers, who select first, are in need of a quarterback. Should Winston or Mariota be taken right off the bat, it’s possible the maneuvering for the other quarterback will begin.

And no matter what happens, no one can pan Winston or Mariota for standing pat and waiting for late April to come — even though such decisions would have been perfectly logical, given their high standing on draft boards. Nevertheless, Winston and Mariota came to play on Saturday, and they appeared to come out of it a-OK.

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Melvin Gordon runs 4.52 in the 40-yard dash

Melvin Gordon, Johnathan Ford AP

As might be expected, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon was one of the faster running backs timed in the 40-yard dash at Saturday’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

However, Gordon wasn’t quite as swift on this day as another Big Ten back.

Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford (6-0, 208) paced all running backs in the 40-yard dash, running a pair of unofficial 4.43 times.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Gordon, meanwhile, was timed at 4.52 and 4.53 seconds in the 40. Per NFL.com, Gordon’s best time was fifth-best among all backs.

Rotoworld draft expert Josh Norris ranks Gordon second among draft-eligible running backs. Langford does not rank among Rotoworld’s top 10 backs.

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Dorial Green-Beckham timed at 4.49 seconds in 40-yard dash

2015 NFL Scouting Combine Getty Images

One of the 2015 NFL Draft’s most intriguing big receivers was able to shade 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash on Saturday.

Oklahoma wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was clocked at 4.49 and 4.50 seconds during today’s wide receiver workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Green-Beckham’s best 40-yard dash came on his second attempt.

The 6-foot-5, 237-pound Green-Beckham had a promising career at Missouri cut short because of off-field issues. He transferred to Oklahoma but declared for the draft without ever playing a down for the Sooners. Teams will be left to balance Green-Beckham’s upside against the issues that derailed a special collegiate career in the making.

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Amari Cooper timed at 4.42, 4.43 in 40-yard dash

Amari Cooper AP

One of the draft’s top receiving prospects came out and ran Saturday in a manner befitting a surefire first-round pick.

Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper was unofficially clocked at 4.42 and 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

West Virginia’s Kevin White, another candidate to be the top receiver taken, was clocked a little faster at 4.35 seconds.

Nevertheless, the 20-year-old Cooper still ranked among the quicker receivers timed on Saturday. Now, the focus turns to when he hears his name called when the NFL draft begins on April 30 in Chicago.

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Todd Gurley won’t have knee checked by doctors at combine

Todd Gurley, Cassonvona McKinzy, Justin Garrett AP

Todd Gurley’s draft stock took a blow during the 2014 season when he tore his ACL in November in his first game back from a four-game NCAA suspension for receiving compensation for signing autographs.

Gurley was one of the best backs in the country before his injury, but the ensuing surgery and long rehab will push him a bit further down in the order than he likely would have gone without any injury red flags. Gurley’s recovery hasn’t progressed enough for him to get checked out at the combine in Indianapolis this week.

Mike Silver of NFL Media reported that Gurley opted not to have a physical at the combine, something that Silver deemed “highly unusual if not unprecedented.” That may be the case, but it doesn’t seem to be a major red flag.

Silver adds that teams are “overwhelmingly high” on Gurley as a player and person and Bryan Broaddus, a longtime NFL personnel exec who now writes for the Cowboys website, adds that teams are comfortable with Gurley’s choice because “it is common not to pull or twist on a knee that was repaired 3 months ago.”

Gurley will return to Indianapolis for a medical recheck and teams should get a better idea of the outlook for his rookie season at that point.

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