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Scout: Jimmy Garoppolo’s fade passes could be “the best I’ve ever seen”

Jimmy Garoppolo AP

For draftniks who like wonky things, we’ve got something for you.

In Bob McGinn’s breakdown of the 2014 quarterback class in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, an unnamed scout gave Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo high praise for his passing inside the 20.

Garoppolo, the scout told McGinn, was “(maybe) the best I’ve ever seen throwing fades,” calling Garoppolo “lethal in the red zone.”

Passing near the goal line is only but a small part of a quarterback’s job. However, with bigger receivers in vogue around the NFL, an ability to give pass catchers optimal opportunities to go up and get the ball is a good skill to have.

Regarded as a prospect with a chance to be taken in the first two days of the draft, Garoppolo will get a chance to show that his best red zone work in the Ohio Valley Conference translates to football’s major leagues.

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Is quarterback a draft need for the Bengals?

Andy Dalton AP

The Bengals haven’t drafted a quarterback since taking Andy Dalton in Round Two three years ago, and they probably could get by without drafting one this year. The club has a durable starter in Dalton, an experienced backup in Jason Campbell and two viable candidates for the third quarterback role in Josh Johnson and Zac Robinson.

However, there’s a case for Cincinnati to add a passer, as we noted in our look at the club’s draft needs. Dalton can test the market after this season if he so chooses. The club has reportedly talked contract with Dalton, but owner Mike Brown has indicated striking a deal for a quarterback has its challenges.

So now, the floor is yours. Should the Bengals draft a quarterback next week, or are they set at the position for now? Let us know via the poll and in the comments.

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Draft needs: Cincinnati Bengals

Leon Hall AP

The Bengals have one pick in each round in next week’s draft, plus compensatory selections in the final two rounds. The Bengals have mostly stayed put in recent drafts, exercising their picks and not moving around the board. In the last 10 years, they have made just two deals during the draft, moving back in Round One in 2004 and again in 2012.

Here’s a look at the Bengals’ top areas of need entering the 2014 draft:

Cornerback: The Bengals need reinforcements here. Their top corner, Leon Hall, is coming back from his second ruptured left Achilles tendon in the last three seasons. Also, key corners Terence Newman (36 in September) and Adam Jones (31 in September) are closer to the end than the beginning of their pro careers. Ideally, the Bengals will draft at least one cornerback capable of contributing in “sub” packages in 2014 and pushing for a bigger role in years to come.

Offensive line: The Bengals could go in a number of directions at this position. With starting left guard Clint Boling in the final year of his contract and recovering from a December ACL tear, bolstering the depth chart at guard could be in the cards. On the other hand, if the Bengals drafted a left tackle capable of starting right off the bat, they could conceivably move Andrew Whitworth inside. Also, the Bengals will need a new starting center after releasing Kyle Cook.

Defensive end: Michael Johnson’s departure leaves the Bengals to replace a key member of their defensive line. In addition to being one of the club’s top pass rushers, Johnson was dependable and durable, missing just one game in five seasons. Robert Geathers, who missed most of last season with an elbow injury, will return to pick up some of the slack, but the club could use one more pass rusher in their defensive line rotation.

Quarterback: Starter Andy Dalton has yet to miss a game in three NFL seasons and has thrown 80 touchdowns compared to 49 interceptions. However, he has struggled in all three of his playoff starts, all Cincinnati defeats. Also, he enters the final year of his contract. The Bengals’ new top backup, Jason Campbell, has familiarity with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s scheme and can get a team through a few games, but he’s not going to push Dalton. If the Bengals want to give Dalton some competition, it’s going to come via the draft.

Wide receiver: Is this a pressing need? No. However, with wide receiver one of the stronger positions in the 2014 draft, it would not be illogical for the Bengals to add a young pass catcher. When clubs can take away top receiver A.J. Green, the Bengals’ passing game can be vulnerable.

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Should Chiefs address offense or defense with their first pick?

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

In our exploration of the Chiefs’ draft needs, we noted the club has only two picks in the first three rounds. The second-rounder, as you probably recall, was dealt to San Francisco for quarterback Alex Smith.

Considering Smith’s 2013 play and the value of his position, it’s hard to have many qualms with giving up an early second-day pick for a starting quarterback in his prime. Nevertheless, the Chiefs enter the 2014 NFL Draft with a 64-selection gap from when they pick in Round One (No. 23) to when they are slated to be on the clock in Round Three (No. 87).

It’s quite possible the Chiefs could look to add picks; this seems a tailor-made situation for such an approach, frankly. For now, though, let’s assume they stand pat at No. 23 and No. 87. In that case — with all that time between Rounds One and Three — should they draft an offensive or defensive player first? Cast your vote and share your thoughts in the comments.

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When the NFL Draft finally made it into the TV listings

New Orleans Saints v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

As with any other draft years removed, a look back at the 1980 NFL Draft is a trip through the memory bank.

And for draftniks of all ages, the 1980 draft, which kicked off 34 years ago Tuesday, is of particular historical importance, for it was the first draft televised, according to the league. ESPN, which had been on-air for less than a year, broadcast the event, as it does now.

The Lions began the 1980 draft by selecting Oklahoma running back Billy Sims, who made the Pro Bowl three times in his first four seasons before a knee injury in the midst of an outstanding 1984 season ended his career.

Two picks later, the first future Hall of Famer of the Class of 1980 was taken, with the Bengals selecting USC offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, an 11-time All-Pro. In the latter stages of the round, another Hall of Famer came off the board, as Syracuse wideout Art Monk landed with Washington at No. 18. Monk would go on to play for three Super Bowl-winning teams for Washington.

Then, in Round Two, the Dolphins selected one of the great centers of all-time, taking Alabama’s Dwight Stephenson 48 picks into the draft. Like Monk and Munoz, Stephenson is in Canton, and all three players made the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team.

It was, glancing now at the picks, a lot like other drafts — some standouts, some busts. But it was the first you could glance on TV, provided you had the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network.

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Bradley Roby gives his side of story in OVI incident

Bradley Roby, Nathan Scheelhaase AP

Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby gave his side of the story Friday regarding his April 20 citation on a charge of operating a vehicle under the influence in Columbus, Ohio.

A possible first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Roby posted a picture of a document that purportedly shows he registered just a .008 blood-alcohol reading in the alleged incident.

Roby’s agent, Michael Perrett, told ElevenWarriors.com that Roby’s blood-alcohol level was only .008, a reading below the legal limit.

Via the Cleveland Plain Dealer, online Franklin (Ohio) County Municipal Court records show that Roby will be arraigned in the OVI case on Tuesday, April 29.

In other tweets Friday, Roby noted that he “was not driving” and “did not get arrested” in the alleged incident. Roby also said that while he took “ownership” for what had happened, he was not happy with how it was portrayed by the media.

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Tre Mason disputes report he needs wrist surgery

Tre Mason AP

According to a published report, Auburn tailback Tre Mason will require wrist surgery that could keep him out until the preseason.

However, the running back himself took to Twitter on Friday to say he would not be having surgery.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Mason has been found to have a bone in his wrist that needs surgery to repair, with the discovery coming at the NFL Scouting Combine. According to Rapoport, Mason was one of the players who has gone through a medical recheck after the Combine. The medical recheck is common for players who are coming off of injuries or were found to have a potential issue at the Combine in February, where medical testing for all invited prospects occurs.

However, Mason responded to Rapoport’s report on Twitter — with Rapoport responding that NFL teams had been told of Mason’s injury:

Mason also tweeted the following regarding his health:

Mason rushed for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013 for Auburn, garnering 2013 SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors. According to NFL.com, he is projected as a second-round pick and is the second-highest graded back in the Class of 2014.

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Draft needs: Cleveland Browns

Josh Gordon AP

All things considered, the Browns’ draft record isn’t bad as some might expect from a club that hasn’t made the postseason since 2002. The Browns drafted five Pro Bowlers currently on their roster: left tackle Joe Thomas, center Alex Mack, wide receiver Josh Gordon, tight end Jordan Cameron and cornerback Joe Haden.

Nevertheless, there’s no sugar-coating the Browns’ 4-12 record from a season ago. The Browns lost 10 of their final 11 games, and the club’s poor play late in the season cost head coach Rob Chudzinski his job. Later, G.M. Mike Lombardi and CEO Joe Banner left the organization. In the end, the Browns will begin the 2014 draft with new faces at the key decision-making spots of G.M. (Ray Farmer) and coach (Mike Pettine).

The Browns currently hold 10 draft picks, with extra selections in Rounds One and Four (via Indianapolis) and Round Three (via Pittsburgh). All of their picks can be traded, as Cleveland did not receive any compensatory selections. In short, the Browns may have the supply of picks needed to trade up if they covet a prospect. What’s more, their collection of later-round picks could be valuable currency should they look to trade for veteran players in the latter stages of the draft.

Here’s a closer look at the Browns’ draft needs:

Quarterback: The Browns will almost certainly draft a quarterback who will compete to start right off the bat, a la Brandon Weeden two years ago. Brian Hoyer sparked the offense for a short time last season, but he’s coming off an October ACL tear, and his contract is up after the 2014 season. The Browns’ current top backup, Alex Tanney, is untested. The Browns also could add a veteran backup, with Rex Grossman a logical fit.

Cornerback: Drafting a cornerback capable of pushing for a starting spot would bolster the secondary depth. It could allow the Browns to move Buster Skrine inside to the slot, where he’s well-suited. Also, Skrine and star cornerback Haden are free agents after the 2014 season. While the Browns seem likely to keep Haden long term, having as many good options as possible at cornerback is a sensible approach.

Wide receiver: The Browns have added to this position in the offseason, signing Andrew Hawkins from Cincinnati to play the slot and ex-Lions wideout Nate Burleson to push for a starting job outside of Josh Gordon. Nevertheless, the Browns could still use a little more playmaking ability at receiver. Wideout Greg Little, a 41-game starter in the last three seasons, can reach unrestricted free agency after the 2014 season, and he has not been a standout in his time in Cleveland.

Running back: The Browns have struggled to address the RB position via draft since returning to NFL play in 1999. Still, they may have to dive back into the rookie ranks for tailback help this May. We can pencil in ex-Texans back Ben Tate as Cleveland’s starter, and he seems likely to get the majority of the carries. However, the depth behind Tate needs improvement. Ex-Eagles tailback Dion Lewis showed promise last summer but missed the 2013 campaign after breaking his leg. Chris Ogbonnaya is a good utility back — he catches the ball well, and he can play some fullback. However, the Browns lack is a second starter-caliber runner to pair with Tate, who’s had some injury issues in his NFL career.

Tight end: While Cameron had a breakout 2013 season, he is entering the final year of his contract. The Browns have the luxury of being able to draft and stash a project if needed; the club has decent depth behind Cameron, though no major pass catching threats.

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Warren Moon: Johnny Manziel has to adjust his game in the NFL

Johnny Manziel AP

Warren Moon is a fan of Johnny Manziel’s skill set.

However, Moon does have a few reservations about the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

In an interview with Alex Marvez and Zig Fracassi on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Moon said the 6-foot, 207-pound Manziel must avoid seeking contact as much as he did on the college level. Moreover, Manziel also must prove he can regularly operate from the pocket, according to the Hall of Fame quarterback.

“Well, he’s one of the most exciting players to play college football, no question about it,” Moon said of Manziel. “He’s a risk taker, and he gets away with a lot of those things.

“I just think in the NFL, some of those things, he’s going to have to take out of his game. He just won’t be able to get away with some of those things that he did in college football, especially taking on people, being as physical as he likes to play the game. I don’t think you can do that in the NFL or you won’t be available for your football team.

“So if he changes a lot of those things out of his game, those are the things that made him special. Now all of a sudden he becomes a pocket passer. Can he do that on a consistent basis? That’s something I’m really not comfortable with right now. I’d have to see him do a little bit more of that.

“But no question about it, he’s an exciting football player that brings some very exciting athleticism to the position.”

Moon praised Manziel’s approach to the predraft process, noting that the former Texas A&M star has focused upon his craft.

Nevertheless, Moon still isn’t sure if Manziel’s collegiate production will translate to the NFL.

“He’s doing all the things right to move himself up in the draft, but still, what makes Johnny Manziel ‘Johnny’ is those special, magical plays that he makes, and I just don’t know if there’s going to be as many of those when you’re playing against the talent that he’s playing against in the NFL,” Moon said.

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PFT’s 2014 NFL Draft visit/workout report is up and running

KHALIL MACK AP

As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches, we’re keeping tabs on prospect visits, workouts and meetings conducted by all 32 NFL teams. And to that end, we’ve compiled a working list of prospects linked to clubs that we’ll update until the draft begins on Thursday, May 8.

With every team talking to scores of draft-eligible players, it’s likely some workouts and/or visits haven’t made our original list. Moreover, a team won’t select many of the prospects with which it has contact before the draft.

Nevertheless, with the great interest in the draft, we offer the workout list as a resource for fans interested in how clubs are proceeding in the weeks leading up to the NFL’s annual selection meeting.

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Teddy Bridgewater visiting with Vikings after weekend workout

Teddy Bridgewater AP

While responding to a report from Chris Mortensen of ESPN about poor workouts by his client Teddy Bridgewater, agent Kennard McGuire said that the report was false because, in part, Bridgewater had only worked out for one team.

McGuire also said that would change on Saturday when Bridgewater worked out for another team. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network follows up on reports that the workout was for the Vikings with a note that Bridgewater is now visiting with the team in Minnesota.

The Vikings, who pick eighth, have met with several of the top quarterback prospects already as they look for someone who could upgrade the position over the Matt Cassel/Christian Ponder duo currently on hand. Bridgewater’s ability to do that has generated a wide range of opinions through draft season, with some feeling strongly about his chances of making it as an NFL starter and others predicting a tumble down the draft board for a player who was once thought to be a safe bet to be the first player off the board.

Whether or not Bridgewater is in play for that first-round pick is something only the Vikings can tell us and we’re not expecting to see any press releases to that effect when the visit comes to an end.

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Blake Bortles visited the Raiders on Monday

Blake Bortles AP

Coach Dennis Allen has already named Matt Schaub the Raiders’ starting quarterback for the 2014 season, but that’s not stopping them from taking a look at the quarterback options that will be available in next month’s draft.

Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage were in for visits with the team last week and Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group reports that Central Florida’s Blake Bortles visited with the team on Monday.

Bortles has been all over the league over the last few weeks as he’s met with teams considering quarterbacks in May, although his travels have coincided with reports from PFT and elsewhere that some of those teams have decided to fill other needs early in the draft. Bortles is still expected to be a first-round pick, but he may not go quite as early in the round as was expected a month ago.

The Raiders are one of the teams included in those reports, although it bears mentioning that the weeks leading up to the draft are filled with a lot of misinformation as teams jockey for position to get the players they really want and that knowing what Bortles and others bring to the table has value in trade talks whether or not they slip down the board.

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Anthony Barr sets up five visits over next two weeks

Anthony Barr AP

Anthony Barr hasn’t been playing linebacker very long, but his work at the position has still caught the eye of NFL scouts.

Barr’s abilities off the edge led to 41.5 tackles for loss and 24.5 sacks at UCLA over the last two seasons and many expect him to be a first-round pick in a league that prizes players who can get after quarterbacks. Barr will spend the next two weeks visiting with several teams that may be interested in taking him off the board on May 8.

Ross Jones of FOX Sports reports that Barr will meet with the Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Falcons and Eagles over the next two weeks. He’s already met with the Jaguars, Titans and Falcons, among others that are intrigued by what Barr could bring to their defense.

Barr isn’t the most polished prospect after his late shift to the defensive side of the ball, but his potential to wreak havoc in opposing backfields is the kind of thing that makes teams ignore such inexperience. Every team on that list could use a boost in that area, which makes it very likely that Barr’s name will be heard fairly early on May 8.

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Kyle Fuller, Eric Ebron visiting Lions on Monday

Eric Ebron, Jeff Luc AP

The Lions picked wide receiver Corey Fuller in the sixth round of last year’s draft and they’ll be seeing what his younger brother has to say for himself.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller will add the Lions to the list of teams he’s visiting with on Monday. Fuller is shooting to become a first-round pick, something neither Corey nor eldest brother Vincent were able to do when they entered the NFL, and his chances seem pretty good based on how many teams are interested in talking to him.

The Lions have worked out Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard as well and Birkett reports they have interest in Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby. They also have a visit scheduled with Maryland corner Dexter McDougle.

North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is also meeting with the Lions on Monday. Detroit re-signed tight end Brandon Pettigrew, but Ebron’s receiving skills have pushed him up to to the top of many draft boards and he’d give the Lions offense another wrinkle to use on the field next season.

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Tom Savage’s dance card is fully booked

Tom Savage AP

There are two more weeks to the pre-draft season this year than there have been in the past, but it still isn’t enough time for Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage to meet with every team that wants to have a conversation with him.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com reports that Savage has met or will meet with 24 or 25 teams before the April 27 deadline to schedule such visits. That packed dance card forced Savage’s agent Neil Schwartz to tell a couple of teams last week that his client won’t be able to meet them before the deadline.

“There are literally no days left on his calendar for him to go see any other teams,” Schwartz said.

The interest in Savage around the league is being reflected in at least one mock draft as Todd McShay of ESPN.com has projected he’ll come off the board to the Texans with the 33rd overall pick. That’s ahead of Fresno State’s Derek Carr, LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo and other prospects who have spent the last few months ranked ahead of Savage in the consensus opinion of draft pundits.

Such things can wind up meaning little, but there’s a good chance that someone will find something to love about Savage with three-quarters of the league giving him the once-over before the picks start being announced. It doesn’t hurt that, again per King, several teams are reportedly finding more to like about quarterbacks outside the first round. King mentions the Jaguars’ fondness for Garoppolo but it sounds like it won’t come as much of a shock if Savage is also part of a second round run on signal callers.

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