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Browns have last-minute meeting with Chris Conley

Conley AP

Cleveland’s last-minute meal-related visit with Central Florida receiver Breshad Perriman was followed by another last-minute meal-related visit in the same geographic area.

Per a league source, a Browns contingent led by G.M. Ray Farmer had lunch on Monday with Georgia receiver Chris Conley.

Conley ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds at the Scouting Combine, the third fastest time for all receivers in Indy.  His 45-inch vertical was the best ever for a wideout, and one inch short of the Combine record.  He also recorded a broad jump of 11 feet, seven inches.

And then there’s this:  Conley wrote and directed a 26-minute Star Wars fan film entitled Retribution, which currently has nearly 490,000 views on YouTube.  (Rolling Stone has interviewed Conley about his film making debut.)

Whatever happens with Conley, he’s a fascinating prospect, and the Browns were sufficiently fascinated to spend some time with him only three days before the draft begins.

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Kevin Colbert calls pre-draft leaks “horrible”

Colbert AP

The explosion of media covering the NFL has led to the creation of a key rule of thumb regarding the draft:  Teams that love a player will leak negative information in the hopes the player fall to them, and teams that hate a player will tout him in the hopes that someone higher on the board will take him.

Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert isn’t a fan of the practice.

I think it’s horrible,” Colbert said during his annual pre-draft press conference, via Scott Brown of ESPN.com.  “I think it’s really bad for our profession when people use whatever means they use to get information out to try to influence the draft and they talk about a kid’s test score, a kid’s injury, a kid’s character.  I think that’s awful.  It’s disrespectful to our profession, it’s disrespectful to the game, it’s disrespectful to the kid.”

But it’s a realistic and understandable practice in the Machiavellian world of getting the best players via a system of picking one after another from the pool of eligible former college players.  The only way to stop if from happening would be to get rid of the draft and allow teams to compete for the rookies in the same way they compete for free agents.

Colbert’s sentiments are honorable, but he grossly underestimates the potential impact of the leaked information.

“[W]e really don’t pay attention to it,” Colbert said of the leaked information.   “We don’t believe in mock drafts and what people are saying about other teams because so much of it is misinformation.  You’d just lose your mind trying to figure out what everyone’s going to do.  We’re going to be true to what we do and feel good about it and live with it.”

While he and other scouts may not listen to the noise, owners and non-scouts in positions of influence do.  And in some cities owners and other non-scouts in positions of influence have great influence over the process.

If people didn’t think the process of leaking information to manipulate the draft works, they wouldn’t waste their time doing it.  And regardless of whether it works, enough people think that it does to result in enough people continuing to do it.

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NFL tweaks the rules to speed up the draft

2012 NFL Draft - First Round Getty Images

This year’s NFL draft should wrap up a little faster.

The NFL has quietly tweaked the rules to reduce the amount of time between picks, allowing only four minutes between selections in the seventh round, as well as four minutes between selections for all compensatory picks. The league informed PFT today that the speeding up of the draft was discussed at the competition committee meetings and communicated to the teams at the league meeting in March. The change was made at the league office level and did not necessitate a vote of the 32 teams.

The new rule makes a lot of sense: The seventh round is when the draft begins to feel like it has dragged on interminably, and even Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock are running out of things to say. And compensatory picks can’t be traded, so teams need less time to make those picks.

The time between picks will remain the same for other rounds: Ten minutes between picks for the first round, seven minutes for the second round and five minutes for the third through sixth rounds, other than compensatory picks.

For the NFL, the draft is the signature event of the offseason, and it has become increasingly important to the league to make it a made-for-TV extravaganza. Sometimes the late rounds of the draft go from “extravaganza” to “excruciatingly dull,” so it’s no surprise that the league has decided to speed things up.

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Rivers trade looks to be dead, assuming it ever was alive

philiprivers AP

With three days to go until the 2015 NFL draft commences, it’s probably time to end speculation about the Chargers trading Philip Rivers.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com explains that he doesn’t believe a trade will happen, calling it a “gut feeling” based on spending “lots of time calling around” the league.  King nevertheless believes the Titans and Chargers will talk, but he doesn’t see a match.

King thinks the Titans would want more than Rivers in exchange for the second overall pick in the draft.  And that’s likely enough to kill the deal on its own, given that the Chargers should want more than the second overall pick in the draft for a proven franchise quarterback — especially if that proven franchise quarterback will also be extending his contract as part of the trade.

So the possibility of a trade seems to be dead, assuming it was ever alive in the first place.  It’s possible, if not likely, that the issue arose from the looming expiration of the quarterback’s contract.  Indeed, Rivers first addressed the situation only four days after fellow 2004 first-round pick Ben Roethlisberger signed a gigantic new contract.  And Rivers has never said he won’t do a new deal with the Chargers; he has said only that he’s not inclined to until after the season.

Which makes sense, since the Chargers will need him more than ever if/when (when) they head to Los Angeles.  If they don’t have Rivers, they need another franchise quarterback.  And the only one they have a shot at getting is Marucs Mariota via a trade with the Titans.

If a trade is going to happen, the wheels need to be put in motion quickly, given that the Titans surely will want to conduct a physical and negotiate a new contract.  As to the latter, discretion will be easier to achieve because Jimmy Sexton represents Rivers, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, and Titans G.M. Ruston Webster.

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Bills waive Jonte Green

Cleveland Browns v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Bills signed former Lions cornerback Jonte Green in January, but they’ve apparently already seen enough to know that he wasn’t going to be part of the team come September.

The team announced that they have waived Green, a 2012 sixth-round pick, on Monday. With Green’s departure, Buffalo’s roster stands at 70 players with the draft starting on Thursday.

Green last played in a regular season game in 2013 and appeared in 24 games for the Lions during his first two NFL seasons. He had 38 tackles and an interception in those appearances.

Green’s departure opens up a spot on the depth chart at corner for a rookie, but it’s probably not a top priority for the Bills heading into the draft. With Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham, Nickell Robey, Ron Brooks and 2014 fourth-round pick Ross Cockrell on the roster, the Bills have depth at the position and more immediate needs elsewhere on the roster.

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Giants waive RB Michael Cox

Michael Cox AP

The Giants have parted ways with one of their reserve running backs.

New York has waived third-year pro Michael Cox, the club said Monday.

A seventh-round pick of the Giants in 2013, the 26-year-old Cox appeared in 18 games for the Giants over the last two seasons, rushing for 76 yards on 26 carries. His 2014 campaign ended after he suffered a broken leg in a loss to Seattle in November.

Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen and Andre Williams are the Giants’ top three backs. The club has five tailbacks on the roster.

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Washington hasn’t received any trade proposals for Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins AP

At various points in his three-year NFL career, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins’s name has come up in trade chatter.

However, to hear it from Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan, it’s all quiet on that front for the time being.

At a pre-draft press conference Monday, McCloughan indicated Washington had not been approached with offers for Cousins, who has started nine regular season games for the club, including five in 2014.

Cousins is in the final year of his contract, and Washington would certainly have to listen on offers involving draft compensation for the former Michigan State quarterback. However, starting quarterback Robert Griffin III and backup passer Colt McCoy both dealt with injuries a season ago, so Cousins’ value might be greatest to Washington as it is.

Finally, Cousins has been up-and-down as a starter, especially a season ago, when third-stringer McCoy eventually relieved him as Washington waited for Griffin to return to the lineup.

In short, it’s not a real surprise Cousins hasn’t apparently generated significant interest this offseason.

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Packers confirm Brett Favre will be honored on Thanksgiving

File photo of Brett Favre in New Orleans Reuters

Just before the NFL schedule was unveiled last week, reports out of Green Bay indicated that the Packers would host the Bears on Thanksgiving and that they would retire former quarterback Brett Favre’s jersey at a ceremony during that contest.

The release of the schedule confirmed that the Packers and Bears would be spending the holiday together and the team confirmed the rest of the news on Monday. Favre, who faced the Bears 32 times during his playing career, will be the sixth player in Packers history to be honored in that fashion.

“It will be an incredible honor to be in Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night with Packers fans and have my name and number placed among the greatest players in Packers history,” Favre said in a release from the team. “With the great history and tradition of the Packers-Bears rivalry, and remembering the great matchups we had during my career, it seems only fitting to have Chicago as the opponent.”

The Packers also announced that they’ll be honoring the man who brought Favre to Green Bay. Wolf will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer and will be presented with his Hall of Fame ring at the team’s November 15 game against the Lions.

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Authorities won’t pursue DUI charges against P.J. Williams

University of Florida v Florida State Getty Images

Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams said recently that the teams he’s visited with have told him that his April 3 DUI arrest shouldn’t affect his draft status all that much.

On Monday, teams considering adding Williams to their roster later this week learned that there won’t be any charges for him to deal with during his rookie season. Williams’s attorney Jonathan Simon passed along word that authorities have decided not to pursue charges against Williams.

Williams admitted to having a few drinks at some point in the evening before he was arrested early on the morning of April 3, but he and his attorney disputed the version of events originally presented by police. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, paperwork filed in Florida about the decision not pursue charges indicated that video evidence in the case didn’t corroborate the charge.

Before the arrest, Williams was expected to be drafted late in the first round or early on the second day. Having the charges against him dropped probably won’t raise his draft stock, but the dismissal could keep him from sliding out of that expected range once the draft gets underway.

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ESPN, NFLN simply giving audience what it wants

Kid AP

Every year at this time, a debate has emerged regarding whether ESPN and NFL Network would tip draft picks before Commissioner Roger Goodell walks to the podium and announces the pick.

As explained by Richard Deitsch of SI.com, ESPN and NFL Network have agreed once again that they won’t report on draft picks before the picks are officially disclosed.

We want to keep the suspense of the draft,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman tells Deitsch.  “This is purely listening to the viewers and what they want.  It was overwhelming that our consumers, our viewers, our fans do not want us to spoil the draft experience.  I know some of our competitors will tweet picks, but they are not telecasting the draft.  I am sure there is a segment of the population that wants it as soon as possible, but our responsibility is to our viewers.  It’s not some big journalism discussion in my mind.  It’s ‘I don’t like angering our viewers.'”

Markman is right.  It’s not, as Deadspin has suggested, an effort by ESPN to shill for the NFL.  It’s an effort to give the audience what it wants.  And the audience, many of whom will be following the draft on Twitter, don’t want the suspense — real or fabricated — to be spoiled.

In 2013, the first year ESPN and NFL Network decided not to tip picks, a whopping 85.37 percent of those responding said they don’t want to know the picks in advance.

So we’ll put up another poll, and you can chime in again with what you want.  And if/when the needle moves the other way the NFL and ESPN can reassess their position in 2016.

Until then, the audience gets what it wants — including an oversized face mask on which to gnaw regardless of all of the filthy hands that have touched it.  Even when the audience isn’t being smart, smart media companies give the audience what it wants.

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Steelers like outside linebacker group in this year’s draft

Vic Beasley AP

The Steelers head into the draft with no shortage of needs on the defensive side of the ball with outside linebacker among the places they could attempt to address in the early rounds.

If they do go that way, it sounds like General Manager Kevin Colbert likes their chances of getting a good player. During a pre-draft meeting with the media on Monday, Colbert said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that this year’s crop of players at the position is as deep as he’s seen in the last 10-15 years.

Colbert called them “real impact-type players” and coach Mike Tomlin added that he thought an increase in the number of players playing the position in college schemes similar to the one the Steelers run is a positive for the team.

The issue for the Steelers in the first round may be the number of other teams looking at edge rushers. Dante Fowler, Vic Beasley, Bud Dupree, Shane Ray and Randy Gregory are all potential picks in the first half of the first round, which could leave the Steelers short on options at the spot with the 22nd pick.

Given Colbert’s feelings about the overall quality of the group and the team’s need for help at corner and elsewhere, that may not be a major problem for Pittsburgh as they try to improve their roster this week.

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Draft may have a dozen receivers good enough to go in the first round

amari-cooper-denzel-nkemdiche-c45874a4ca78fc7e AP

As college football becomes more and more of a pass-first game, more and more wide receivers are entering the NFL ready to contribute immediately. We saw that in the 2014 draft, which produced five first-round picks in Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin. And we may see that to an even greater extent in this year’s draft.

In fact, NBC’s Cris Collinsworth said on PFT Live that the wide receiver class this year features “up to 11 or 12, quality wise, who in any other year you would say, ‘That’s a first-round talent’.”

Collinsworth isn’t saying there will actually be 11 or 12 first-round wide receivers. There may not even be half of that. But Collinsworth thinks this year’s receiver class is so good that several first-round talents will be available on the second day.

“There will still be quality left in the second round,” Collinsworth said. “I think you’ll see some teams that really want one of these receivers, say, ‘I’m going to wait until the second round.’ But second-round receivers will be first-round players in this draft.”

Collinsworth has been scouting the draft in conjunction with Pro Football Focus and will give more of his thoughts on a PFF NFL Draft special today at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. PFF graded the top receivers from 2014 as Alabama’s Amari Cooper, Louisville’s DeVante Parker, West Virginia’s Kevin White, USC’s Nelson Agholoran and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong. PFF also sees promise in Washington State’s Vince Mayle, Miami’s Philip Dorsett, Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett, Michigan State’s Tony Lippett and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. (Dorial Green-Beckham wasn’t graded because PFF evaluated tape from the 2014 season only, and Green-Beckham didn’t play in 2014.)

A wealth of talent at wide receiver is heading to the NFL this year. Just like last year.

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PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5

Marcus Mariota AP

Leading up to Thursday’s NFL draft, we’ll put on our oddsmaking hats, Ace Rothstein glasses and Terry Benedict suits and set one proposition “bet” per day for PFT Planet to ponder. At the conclusion of the draft, we’ll see how PFT Planet did on the wagers, which are for entertainment purposes only.

PFT Draft Prop No. 3: Over-Under on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s draft position: 2.5.

As our draft props go, this is the most straight-forward of them all. It’s this simple: Do you see Mariota being taken No. 1 or No. 2 overall, or do you see him sliding beyond those first two picks?

The uncertainty of how the Titans will proceed with the second overall selection adds to the intrigue regarding Mariota. If the Titans want to move the pick to a club seeking a quarterback, they can surely trade down for an attractive package of picks and/or players.

So let’s get right to it. Let us know when you believe Mariota hears his name called via the poll and in the comments.

Previous draft props

PFT Draft Prop No. 1: Over-Under on first-round RBs: 2.5.

PFT Draft Prop No. 2: Amari Cooper’s draft position: 4.5.

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PFT Live: Cris Collinsworth, Peter King, Eagles talk with Tim McManus

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The draft is just three days away and PFT Live will be your daily spot for everything you need to know until the names start coming off the board.

On Monday’s show, Mike Florio will welcome Cris Collinsworth of Football Night in America to the show and find out what he thinks of this year’s draft class. We’ll do the same with Sunday night colleague Peter King. King will expand on some items from this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, including some talk about what the Titans will do with the second pick of the draft.

Tim McManus of PhillyMag.com and 97.5 The Fanatic will be on the show to give us an Eagles-centric look at how things might play out later this week while Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer will do the same from the Browns’ point of view. We’ll also welcome Bob Glauber of Newsday during a busy Monday.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. Email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour of the show by clicking right here.

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Trent Baalke: No pressure to take a wide receiver

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers have reshuffled their receiving corps this offseason.

Torrey Smith and Jerome Simpson have come onboard while Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd have moved along (Lloyd is unsigned, but there’s no indication the 49ers are interested in another year) after catching 117 passes for the team last season. With Simpson a flier after missing all of last season and the non-Anquan Boldin returnees accounting for little production, there’s been speculation that the 49ers will be bolstering the position this week at the draft.

General Manager Trent Baalke is predictably evasive about the possibility, choosing to point out that you can only play so many wideouts. Baalke also pointed to Simpson’s pre-2014 production and said that the team wants to give young players Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton more of an opportunity while explaining why he doesn’t feel like picking a wideout is a must.

“Now, is that to say we’re not going to make a pick, look for another wide receiver?” Baalke said, via ESPN.com. “I’m not saying that at all. But [I] don’t feel like we have to be pressured into making a decision like that.”

The 49ers have drafted at least one widout in every draft since 2003, so it’s a good bet that one of their nine picks will go in that direction. If they do opt for one in the first round, they’ll hope to do better than they did when they opened their 2012 draft by taking A.J. Jenkins.

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