PFT’s one and only 2018 mock draft

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[Editor’s note: I’ve had very little to do with this mock draft. So don’t blame me if you hate it. If you like it, I’ll take the credit. The mock draft was largely with input from people who have experience drafting players, including one person whose name would be instantly recognizable and would prompt you to say, “Maybe this isn’t a bunch of BS, after all.” Regardless, here it is.]

1. Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma.

2. Browns (from Giants): Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State.

3. Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, USC.

4. Giants (from Browns): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State.

5. Broncos: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame.

6. Bill (from Colts): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming.

7. Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State.

8. Bears: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State.

9. 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia.

10. Raiders: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame.

11. Dolphins: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA.

12. Colts (from Bills): Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech.

13. Washington: Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive back, Alabama.

14. Packers: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland.

15. Cardinals: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville.

16. Ravens: James Daniels, C, Iowa.

17. Chargers: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville.

18. Seahawks: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama.

19. Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington.

20. Lions: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA.

21. Bengals: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA.

22. Colts (from Bills): Taven Bryan, DT, Florida.

23. Patriots: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama.

24. Panthers: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida.

25. Titans: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama.

26. Falcons: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina.

27. Saints: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State.

28. Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State.

29. Jaguars: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama.

30. Vikings: Isiah Oliver, CB, Colorado.

31. Patriots: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State.

32. Eagles: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia.

NFL concludes Derrius Guice case with no finding of impropriety

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On multiple past occasions, NFL teams have asked grossly inappropriate questions to incoming players. In the most recent example of the phenomenon, the NFL concluded it didn’t happen.

The NFL has now officially concluded the investigation launched after former LSU running back Derrius Guice said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview that he was asked during Scouting Combine interviews whether he likes men.

The league has issued the following statement: “Following reports concerning the interviews of Derrius Guice at the Scouting Combine, the League conducted a thorough investigation which included a formal review and report from every club that interviewed Mr. Guice during the Combine, as well as discussions with Mr. Guice, his agent and others.  The investigation did not confirm that any club made the reported inquiries.  Nonetheless, we used this opportunity to reaffirm our workplace standards and emphasize the importance of fully complying with all requirements of federal and state law.  The NFL and each of its member clubs remain fully committed to fair and non-discriminatory employment practices.”

PFT reported on April 6 that the NFL was expected to reach this conclusion. The league, we explained at the time, had found inconsistencies in Guice’s version of the events, and the league had been unable to corroborate his claims or to identify the team(s) that asked the questions.

The NFL also was concerned about publicly branding Guice a liar, which explains the ultra-vanilla language of the key portion of the release: “The investigation did not confirm that any club made the reported inquiries.”

Last week, Guice confirmed that he had multiple conversations with NFL Security regarding the situation.

Mike Maccagnan expects to expand Jets’ use of analytics

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After the unabashedly pro-analytics Eagles won the Super Bowl, other teams are talking up the usefulness of statistical analysis. One of those teams may be taking a look at analytics in determining which quarterback prospect in this year’s draft is the best.

Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan said the Jets are already using analytics and expect do do more

“Analytics, I think, is something that every team has used. We’re no different,” Maccagnan said, via ESPN. “We’ve done quite a bit. We’ve used it both on the pro and the college side. As this expands a little bit, there may be other ways, whether it’s coaching or scouting, to make ourselves more efficient or more effective at what we do. We’re like every other team out there. We have an analytics staff and department, and I would think, as things move forward, we’d probably expand and grow that.”

If the Jets are relying on analytics to help them determine a quarterback to select with the third overall pick tomorrow night, Baker Mayfield is the outlier whose stats are outstanding, while Josh Allen is the outlier in the other direction, whose stats stink. We don’t know if the Jets are going to end up with Mayfield tomorrow night, but if they do, it’s safe to say the analytics department will approve.

Falcons exercise Vic Beasley’s fifth-year option

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It was back in February when Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said that the team intended to exercise its option on Vic Beasley‘s contract for the 2019 season and the team got around to making it official on Wednesday.

The move comes ahead of the May 3 deadline for teams to pick up their options, guaranteed for injury only, on the first-round picks from the 2015 draft. Beasley was the eighth overall pick by the Falcons that year.

Beasley had four sacks as a rookie and then busted out with 15.5 in 2016 as the Falcons made a run to the Super Bowl. The team shifted his responsibilities to more of a traditional linebacker during the 2017 season and he dropped back to five sacks, which likely helped convince the team to switch gears and have Beasley focused on coming after quarterbacks again this season.

Should that result in a return to 2016 form, Beasley will be well-positioned for a lucrative second NFL contract in the near future.

2012 quarterback class a cautionary tale for 2018

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At least four quarterbacks will go in the first round of the NFL draft tomorrow night, making this year’s a particularly strong quarterback class. But the last draft class with four first-round quarterbacks serves as a cautionary tale.

That was in 2012, a draft class that was strong at the quarterback position — just not strong where the NFL personnel people and media “experts” thought it would be.

Three quarterbacks went in the Top 10 in 2012, with Andrew Luck going first to Indianapolis, Robert Griffin III going second to Washington, and Ryan Tannehill going eighth to Miami. Luck got off to a very good start but has been derailed recently by injuries. Griffin also got off to a good start but was derailed even more quickly by injuries and was out of the league altogether last year. And Tannehill has shown promise at times but missed all of last year with a knee injury, and the end of the previous year with a knee injury as well.

The next two quarterbacks taken were selected by two men with a great deal of quarterback expertise: Browns President Mike Holmgren, a quarterback guru credited with helping develop Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brett Favre, chose Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall pick. And Broncos G.M. John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback himself, chose Brock Osweiler with the 57th overall pick.

Who else was available when Holmgren chose Weeden and Elway chose Osweiler? Oh, just Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who went to Seattle at 75, Super Bowl-winning quarterback Nick Foles, who went to Philadelphia at 88, and Kirk Cousins, who went to Washington at 102 and just got the biggest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history from the Vikings.

So while the 2012 quarterback class did have some big-time NFL talent, it didn’t go in the order it should have gone in — and even the talent evaluators who should have been the most equipped to recognize top quarterback talent whiffed badly.

That should serve as a warning for 2018. Whether four, five or six quarterbacks go in the first round on Thursday night, you can bet some quarterback who’s drafted on Friday or Saturday will end up having a better career than some quarterback who hears his name called on Thursday. The NFL draft is far too inexact a science for any player to be labeled a sure thing.

New York Times publishes more secretly-recorded quotes from last year’s anthem meeting

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The secret recording made during last year’s meeting between owners, league executives, and players regarding the anthem protests extend well beyond Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie calling the current presidency “f–king disastrous.”

The New York Times has published more quotes from the meeting, and they are at times revealing and at other times inflammatory.

As to the issue of kneeling during the national anthem, Patriots owner Robert Kraft delivered a strong assessment of the Commander-in-Chief’s strategy.

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Kraft has been a strong supporter and close friend of President Trump. Previously, Kraft publicly expressed dismay at the tone of President Trump’s comment when he said as to any player who fails to stand during the anthem, “Get that son of a bitch off the field.”

Also during the meeting, Texans owner Bob McNair urged players to stop kneeling.

“You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you,” McNair said.

The article provides a glimpse into the way the sausage gets made. And the message, as characterized by the Times, is that everyone was focused on making their own sausage recipe.

For the players, Colin Kaepernick‘s status was mentioned multiple times.

“If he was on a roster right now, all this negativeness and divisiveness could be turned into a positive,” Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long said during the meeting, regarding Kaepernick.

Then-49ers safety Eric Reid (who has recently had a hard time finding a job), complained about Kaepernick’s inability to land a roster spot.

“I feel like he was hung out to dry,” Reid said at the meeting. “Everyone in here is talking about how much they support us. Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.”

Not mentioned at all in the story is the fact that someone breached the broader trust of the circumstances by secretly recording the discussion and by leaking it to the Times, during the NFL’s biggest week of the offseason for TV audience, brand messaging, and overall glass-90-percent-full positivity. As the league gets ready for the annual draft, some within positions of power and influence have to be wondering who made the recording and disseminated it.

And they’re probably not happy about it.

Schneider’s comments reveal what a crapshoot the draft really is

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Despite all of the measuring and studying and interviewing and researching and testing and everything else that gets reviewed and dissected and examined and considered and reconsidered in advance of the process of drafting players, the process largely remains a crapshoot.

Nothing illustrates that point better than recent comments from Seahawks G.M. John Schneider about a draft from 13 years ago.

In explaining the team’s effort to scout the incoming class of quarterbacks despite the presence on the roster of one of the best quarterbacks in football, Schneider pointed out his experience with the Packers prior to the 2005 draft.

Aaron Rodgers was supposed to be the first pick in the draft, and we weren’t necessarily as prepared as we should have been for him to fall,” Schneider said. “So be prepared. And so, quite frankly, when we acquired Aaron that day we had to make some more calls during [the] draft, which you never really want to do, right? ‘OK, why is he falling?’”

Fall he did, past the 49ers at No. 1, the Dolphins at No. 2 (they took Ronnie Brown), the Browns at No. 3 (Braylon Edwards), the Bears at No. 4 (Cedric Benson), the Bucs at No. 5 (Cadillac Williams), the Titans at No. 6 (Pacman Jones), the Vikings at No. 7 (Troy Williamson), the Cardinals at No. 8 (Antrel Rolle), Washington at No. 9 (Carlos Rogers), the Lions at No. 10 (Mike Williams), the Cowboys at No. 11 (DeMarcus Ware), the Chargers at No. 12 (Shawne Merriman), the Saints at No. 13 (Jammal Brown), the Panthers at No. 14 (Thomas Davis), the Chiefs at No. 15 (Derrick Johnson), the Texans at No. 16 (Travis Johnson), the Bengals at No. 17 (David Pollack), the Vikings at No. 18 (Erasmus James), the Rams at No. 19 (Alex Barron), the Cowboys at No. 20 (Marcus Spears), the Jaguars at No. 21 (Matt Jones), the Ravens at No. 22 (Mark Clayton), and the Raiders at No. 23 (Fabian Washington).

Look at all the busts. Rodgers was better than all of them (even the non-busts), and he’s still going strong and performing at a high level, all because the Packers were able to slap together a seat-of-the-pants evaluation.

But for the fact that Brett Favre was a few years into his annual retirement musings, maybe the Packers wouldn’t have taken Rodgers at all. Regardless, they rolled the dice. And it paid off.

The message is this: The draft really is a crapshoot. And to get a player who will truly transform the franchise, it needs to be a franchise quarterback. And if a team wants to transform the franchise, a team needs to be willing to roll the dice.

Report: Browns have cooled on Sam Darnold

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We’re a little more than 24 hours away from finding out who will be the first overall pick of the NFL draft and a report from Cleveland indicates that the Browns are looking at quarterbacks other than Sam Darnold.

Darnold has been a popular prediction to be the first player off the board on Thursday night even before the Browns were set for the No. 1 spot in the order, but Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that the Browns “have cooled” on the former USC starter in recent days. Per Cabot, the sense is that the choice is “narrowing” to Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen.

It’s not the first time that we’ve heard talk about either of those quarterbacks going first overall, although any talk at this point in the process has to be looked at with the thought of drumming up interest in a trade with a team that’s targeted either player for their own offense. If that’s the case, it apparently hasn’t worked thus far.

Browns General Manager John Dorsey told Steve Wyche of NFL Media that the team has yet to field any “legit trade offers” at this point. There’s time for that to change and the identity of the top pick may remain shrouded until things get going on Thursday night.

Josh Rosen is an “alpha” and “that dude”

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Quarterback Josh Rosen has prompted a ton of scrutiny in advance of the draft. Not for what he does on the field, but for the things he says.

During a recent visit to PFT Live/#PFTPM, Rosen said some interesting things about what he believes his No. 1 attribute to be.

“I think I’m an alpha personality,” Rosen said. “I think I’m that dude. I think I’m gonna go into a locker room. I’m obviously gonna know my place. I’m gonna work my butt off. I’m gonna earn the respect of my teammates first. But as time moves on and I turn more into that leadership role I think I will hold guys accountable. I will hold myself accountable. I’m gonna be that dude that at the end of the season when the game’s on the line and you look your teammates in the eye you can promise them and assure them that you are gonna go down the field and score a touchdown.”

In a locker room full of alpha personalities, some may resist Rosen’s plan to come in and take over. So how will he deal with the guys who resist?

“The alpha guy doesn’t actually necessarily mean you’re talking,” Rosen said. “It just means you carry yourself like it. When people look at you they know what they’re getting. They know that you’re doing the right thing at all times. With regards to different personalities, I think that’s why leadership is a progression over time.

“People are asking me through the process like, ‘What’s your leadership style?’ You can’t just go out and say, ‘I’m gonna give motivational speeches before every game,’ because there’s not like one single brush stroke that you can just push over everything. It takes time and effort. You have to get to know your teammates. In college it took over three years to develop some of these relationships. They need to understand how invested you are so that once it comes down to those crucial moments in a season, when you say something it comes from a place of understanding and respect for how much I have put in the offseason. . . .

“You have to know how guys respond. Some guys might need a kick in the butt. Some guys might be super-self critical and they need some encouragement. Every relationship is unique. It’s messy. It takes time. There’s not an end-all-be-all trick you can do. There’s not some pretty answer you can throw out there for a team. It just takes time and effort. You have to get to know a person and you have to understand if that person is willing to put in that effort to become a leader. I can say with full conviction that I am that guy. When I say ‘A’ type personality that’s what I mean. The fact that I’m gonna be that gel in the room that relates guys on the team that have nothing to relate to because I’m gonna be doing the right things at all time.”

It all sounds very good. The challenge for Rosen will be to pull it off once he lands with an NFL team and finds himself inside a locker room, putting these concepts into action and making the connections necessary to truly lead a franchise as a franchise quarterback.

For the full 13-minute interview with Rosen, check out the video accompanying this blurb.

Jeff Garcia no longer listed as Buccaneers’ draft pick presenter

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A strange story emerged yesterday when longtime NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia said he would announce the Buccaneers’ third-round draft pick, then said he “could care less” about the draft. Now the story may get stranger, as the NFL has excluded Garcia’s name from a list of former players announcing draft picks.

This morning the NFL distributed a list of former NFL players who will announce Round 2 and Round 3 picks for their former teams. Every team has a player listed for its picks in both rounds, with the exception of the Buccaneers’ third-round pick, which Garcia said he was calling. Instead of naming Garcia, the NFL’s official list says “To Be Confirmed.”

Did Garcia withdraw because he felt bad about his harsh words about the draft? Did the NFL pull Garcia? We’ve reached out to the league for comment but we haven’t heard back.

For his part, Garcia is trying to do some damage control. After our post about the matter yesterday, Garcia reached out to us on Twitter and wrote, “Really man, I was honored to be invited by the NFL . All I was doing was relaying the message & then made out to look like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing because they don’t have a 3rd round pick. I played the game a long time, I don’t live it anymore.”

The Buccaneers are one of several teams that have traded away a second- or third-round draft pick. The NFL says players who were chosen to announce picks will be recognized at the draft for their past service to the league, regardless of whether they actually get to announce a pick or not. We’re just not sure if Garcia will be one of those honored players.

UPDATE 9:30 a.m. ET: The league office tells PFT of Garcia, “We are finalizing plans. We’d love to have him.”

Virginia Police reviewing traffic stop of Paul Richardson

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Washington wide receiver Paul Richardson was ticketed in Virginia yesterday, and now police say they’re reviewing the incident after Richardson said he was asked inappropriate questions by the state trooper who pulled him over.

Richardson wrote on Twitter that he didn’t appreciate the officer treating him like a criminal just because he was driving a new and expensive car shortly after signing a five-year, $40 million contract.

“Before asking my name he asked me if I was in a gang, then minutes later told me he thought I was a dealer (drugs),” Richardson wrote. “What a welcome to the east coast. Finished up with asking me how much car cost me. I’ve had this car 2 weeks and this amazing officer gave me a ticket for only having temporary registration. Mind you I have up to 2 months in Va before needing to register it AGAIN in Virginia.”

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said a review is underway over Richardson’s tweets.

“While no formal complaint has been filed, the Department is reviewing the matter, to include the trooper’s in-car camera footage of the traffic stop, to determine if the traffic stop was handled in accordance with state police policy,” Geller told ESPN.

Police say Richardson was cited for failing to have his new Mercedes SUV properly registered.

Did Gronk commit to returning to prevent a trade?

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After nearly three months of mystery regarding his intentions, capped by recent public comments suggesting he’s not nearly as all in for football as he needs to be, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suddenly has renewed his football vows. So what prompted it?

Peter King of SI.com has a very intriguing theory. The Patriots needed to know what Gronkowski plans to do before the draft, since they may have to draft his replacement if they don’t know what he’s doing. That part was fairly obvious; here’s where Peter goes next level (and I think directly to the heart of the matter): If Gronkowski hadn’t given a commitment to playing in 2018, coach Bill Belichick quite possibly would have traded Gronk before or during the draft.

Gronkowski still could be traded, in theory. And now that he has declared a commitment to playing in 2018, maybe it will be easier to pull it off.

Of course, Gronkowski may change his mind about playing if he suddenly ends up in a new city. Then again, if another team is willing to give him a raise over the $8 million he’s due to make in 2018, maybe he’ll be even more inclined to play, in 2018 and beyond.

Jason Witten: Hopefully Jason Garrett’s mom doesn’t watch All or Nothing

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Jason Garrett claims he hasn’t watched All or Nothing yet, but he surely knows his language in the eight-part documentary of the Cowboys has created a stir.

“I really haven’t seen it,” Garrett said Tuesday. “I saw bits and pieces of it along the way. So, I don’t really know that much about it to comment.”

Yet, the Cowboys coach turned several shades of red when owner Jerry Jones jokingly dropped the F-bomb, making fun of Garrett’s repeated R-rated language in the series.

“That’s an ender,” Garrett said.

The release of the behind-the-scenes shots of Garrett talking to his team has changed the coach’s public image. Many fans and media previously viewed him as robotic, which was an inaccurate portrayal.

“People probably enjoy seeing that because he is so controlled and poised in a lot of ways,” Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “I think it’ll be good for people to see that side of him. Hopefully his mom’s not watching it.”

Witten also gives an expletive-laced speech to his teammates after a 37-9 loss to Philadelphia dropped the Cowboys to 5-5 in November.

“I’ve only gotten to see bits and pieces of it,” Witten said. “It’s interesting because when you’re living it and they’re there, you sometimes forget that the cameras are there. The eye in the sky. But I think when you reflect back, they’re able to capture so many neat memories and situations. I’d be anxious to see it. I’m looking forward to watching it. Like anybody, I think some of it you wish you could protect. But that’s part of playing in the spotlight and having this opportunity. I think it’ll be good for fans to see perspective and what all lies behind the scenes.”

Report: Agent says diluted sample caused Antonio Callaway’s positive test

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Former Florida receiver Antonio Callaway tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine, via multiple tweets.

Callaway’s new agent, Malki Kawa, said a diluted sample caused the positive test.

“Callaway has told those close to him he was over-hydrated and will address the issue with teams,” Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports.

Callaway was expected to be a mid-round pick, though he had red flags already.

UF suspended Callaway for the 2017 season. His off-field problems included a citation for marijuana possession last May.

He made 54 catches for 721 yards and three touchdowns in 2016 and 89 receptions for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons at UF.

Rob Gronkowski: “I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats”

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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has removed any doubt: He’s playing this season.

Gronk, who said after the Super Bowl that he needed some time to consider whether he wanted to keep playing, wrote today on Instagram that he spoke with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and confirmed that he is playing this season.

“I met with coach today and informed him I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats. I have been working out, staying in shape and feel great. Looking forward to another championship run,” Gronkowski wrote.

Gronkowski did not say whether he received any assurance that he won’t be traded, but he specifically referred to playing “with the Pats,” which suggests that he believes he’s staying in New England.

When healthy, Gronkowski is the best tight end in the NFL. Although there have been reports that Gronkowski and Belichick don’t see eye to eye over Gronk training with Tom Brady‘s guru Alex Guerrero, Belichick has to be thrilled to have the best tight end in the game back.