Interesting mock draft dropped Sunday morning in the Los Angeles Times. The paper’s redoubtable NFL beat man, Sam Farmer, had his annual sportswriter mock draft—he’s done it for 10 years—in which he asks longtime NFL writers he trusts in the franchise cities to make the pick of the team they cover. Kent Somers, now a sports columnist for the Arizona Republic, but a long-time Cards beat guy before that, knows the franchise very well.
This was Somers’ pick, and his explanation to Farmer:
“Arizona: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama. The Cardinals like Josh Rosen, and I don’t see them taking a quarterback in the first round two years in a row. They need help on the defensive line and Williams would immediately provide that. GM Steve Keim has made some mistakes in the first round by taking guys who weren’t that passionate about football (Jonathan Cooper, Robert Nkemdiche). So I can see them taking Williams.”
Interesting … and though I’m going to disagree with Somers in my projection, swept along with the Kyler Murray tidal wave, I do think there’s a good rationale for trading down or taking another player. Rosen can be 25 percent better in 2019 with Kliff Kingsbury coaching him than he was last year as a green rookie who was handed a new coordinator in mid-season. The Cardinals have done a good job in shutting up since it was reported at the combine seven weeks ago that Kingsbury let it slip that drafting Murray was a “done deal.” I’m sticking with my gut feeling.
Two other bits of light drama: I have four quarterbacks going, but lower than you think—at 1, 15, 23 and 31. And there is real competition to trade up for the only running back I hear will go in round one, Josh Jacobs of Alabama. Read on. And enjoy the draft, which will air on ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network. It’s probably better to say what channels the draft is not on.
1. Arizona: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
We live in a society (I sound like Costanza) that screams “Fake News!” when something seems just too obvious. We need to face reality, folks. When Cards GM Steve Keim walks into a meeting with club president Michael Bidwill today in Tempe to discuss the fate of the first overall pick, they could do a couple of things. They could decide to take Murray, the choice of head coach Kliff Kinsgbury. They could decide to take the best edge-rusher (Nick Bosa)—who I hear is the choice of many in the building—or the best player (Quinnen Williams) in the draft. I’ll be surprised, as will America, if the choice is anyone but Murray, particularly because the Raiders, at four, are not likely to want to trade up for what it would cost. I do want to give you one cautionary tale on Kyler Murray, assuming he is picked here. Over the last seven years of football—three years of varsity high school football, a short one-year stint at Texans A&M, sitting a year at Oklahoma after transferring, mostly sitting in 2017 behind Baker Mayfield, and starting last year at Oklahoma—Murray has started 60 games. He is 57-3. Who knows if he starts right away in the NFL? But in the NFL, he could lose more starts in a month than he lost in the previous seven years. It’ll be interesting to see how Murray adjusts to adversity. Not sure he’s ever had much of it, at least in football.
2. San Francisco: Nick Bosa, edge rusher, Ohio State
Niners have loved him since the Cotton Bowl in 2017, when Bosa’s 1.5 sacks led the marauding Ohio State defense in a 24-7 pummeling of USC’s Sam Darnold in the last game of the star QB’s college career. I hear the Cardinals think of Bosa as a “generational player,” which just speaks to their love of Murray if they’re willing to pass on Bosa and leave him to the Niners. Edge-rusher is the element San Francisco hasn’t gotten right. To fortify the defensive front, the 49ers chose Arik Armstead 17th in 2015, DeForest Buckner seventh in 2016, and Solomon Thomas third in 2017 … and still their biggest team need is pressuring the quarterback. Four picks in the top 20 in the span of five drafts along the defensive line—if Bosa doesn’t put the defensive front over the top, this is some bad drafting.
3. New York Jets: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Imagine Josh McDaniels, Chad O’Shea and Brian Daboll—the offensive brains of the AFC East—designing protections to keep Leonard Williams and Oliver from wrecking games over the next three or four years. I realize that with new coordinator Gregg Williams staying with a 3-4 defense that this isn’t the perfect fit for Oliver, but Williams once bragged about being able to play 42 different defenses with his scheme, and he’d figure out how to make Oliver work. For a long time, I’d penciled in Josh Allen here because of the Jets’ edge-rusher need, but when you do a mock, you go by your gut. And someone I trust told me the Jets don’t love Allen. So those are the kinds of scale-tippers that change the board—and, most often, make me look like a dope Thursday night about 8:45 ET. We shall see. Oh, and the Jets would like to trade down too, if they can get a ransom. I don’t see it.
4. Oakland: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
My guess after talking to multiple teams is that Williams is at the top of more boards than any player. One of the smartest guys in our business, ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, has Williams atop his Top 100 list that dropped Saturday. Since the Raiders have a crying need at tackle—their top-rated DT was not in the top 50 of the 2018 Pro Football Focus DT rankings—Jon Gruden, who has ultimate say in Oakland, will greenlight this pick, and GM Mike Mayock gladly will take Williams here as the first pick of his NFL GM career.
5. Tampa Bay: Devin White, LB, LSU
Lots of people love White, a tackling machine who, at 237, tackles with the force of a 260-pounder. I’m taking my best guess of what GM Jason Licht would do if he was staring at White and Josh Allen here … because the Bucs need a pass-rusher too. Jason Pierre-Paul is 30, and other than possibly the precocious Carl Nassib, I don’t think there’s an eight-sack guy on the roster. But White can step in for the departed Kwon Alexander and be the sideline-to-sideline presence coordinator Todd Bowles would love. Plus, White might be the best defensive leader in this draft.
6. New York Giants: Josh Allen, edge rusher, Kentucky
A veteran personnel man who knows Dave Gettleman said the other day, “Dave wants a pass-rusher in the worst way. He won’t reach for one, but he’ll get one with one his first three picks.” Giants pick 6-17-37, and if they have their heart set on one of the young quarterbacks—Gettleman, as usual, has been a good poker-player here, because even those who know him do not know which quarterback he likes—they should be able to get him at 17. Or, perhaps, if they play their cards right, to trade back up into the low first round with that fifth pick in the second round as bait. (The Rams would love to dump out of the 31st pick.) One other thing Gettleman would figure to love in Allen: No top-prospect rusher is more experienced: He played in 51 college games.
7. Jacksonville: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Daniel Jeremiah said the other day he thinks Hockenson could be the reincarnation of Jason Witten. He’s the best blocking/receiving tight end to come out in several years, and he’ll need to be good so the Jags don’t regret passing on a desperately needed long-term tackle like Jawaan Taylor. My feeling is the Tom Coughlin/Dave Caldwell decision comes down to Hockenson or Taylor, and they go with the best tight end to come out in years—to support their new quarterback, Nick Foles, who had a great tight end in Zach Ertz in Philadelphia.
8. Detroit: Jawaan Taylor, T, Florida
I will be surprised if the Lions pick Taylor here. The Lions want to trade out, and this is the area for the first offensive lineman—Taylor or Jonah Williams or, in what may be a stretch, Andre Dillard—to be picked. Could be Jacksonville, could be Buffalo, or it could be whoever picks at eight. (Man, I’m really selling Taylor to the Lions!) I just can’t figure out which team will jump up here. For a while I thought it was Atlanta, but the Falcons seem inclined to use all their picks, not trade a fairly high one to move from 14 to eight.
9. Buffalo: Jonah Williams, T-G, Alabama
Bills love Quinnen Williams, but I can’t see the Raiders parting with him if he’s there at four. Bills could also trade up for Josh Allen, or pick T.J. Hockenson if he falls to them. But if they stay, Jonah Williams could be an upgrade to Spencer Long at right guard or possibly, eventually, Ty Nsekhe, at right tackle. Lots of differing opinions in the scouting community on Williams. I would ask Bills Nation to look up “quixotic” in the dictionary. This is a good player, a better-than-Cordy Glenn player, but Williams is not Walter Jones. Having said that, it’s a smart choice by Bills GM Brandon Beane, who is trying to build a playoff team one solid player at a time.
10. Denver: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
There’s not a perfect player on the board for Vic Fangio’s defense, but so many teams need a rangy sideline-to-sideline linebacker (Pittsburgh would love for him to drop to 20, but I don’t see it), and many think Bush would be a great compliment to edge-rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Four or five teams between 10 and 20 would have serious interest in Bush if he falls past 10.
11. Cincinnati: Brian Burns, edge rusher, Florida State
In the last week, Burns has gotten very hot … because he runs in the low 4.5s and there aren’t enough edge-rushers for this voracious market. He has some weaknesses, like his size (he’ll probably play around 248), but I think he’ll be gone by pick 20. I think his floor is Tennessee at 19.
12. Green Bay: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
Scouts who went into Iowa City over the past few months told me the staff there raved about T.J. Hockenson and were nice but not Hockenson-like about Fant. Might be unfair, because Hockenson is so pro-ready. Over his last two seasons at Iowa, Fant average 14.7 yards per catch and had 18 receiving touchdowns. Contrast that to teammate Hockenson’s 14.8-yard average over the last two years, with nine touchdowns. Very interesting. And Fant runs better, in the 4.5-second 40- range. This is probably 10 picks too high for Fant, and it wouldn’t surprise me if GM Brian Gutekunst picks long-term offensive tackle Andre Dillard here instead. But in any case, I can’t see Fant making it out of the first round.
13. Miami: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Falcons, on deck here, cry. Wilkins slipping to 13 would be a gift for rookie Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who learned under Bill Belichick that quick 315-pound people-movers in the defensive interior are to be collected and valued. Dolphins have so many needs, and if an offensive tackle they like falls here, that could be the pick too. Regarding QB? No team in the league—from what I’ve heard—has spent more time researching Josh Rosen in recent weeks than Miami. Suppose my mock is correct, and Washington and the Giants use the draft to take young quarterbacks, and Miami and the Chargers are the only teams with even some interest in Rosen, and GM Chris Grier tells Arizona GM Steve Keim on draft night: “We’ll give you our third-round pick—78 overall—for Rosen. That’s it.” Tough call for Keim, but knowing Rosen would be an unhappy camper behind Kyler Murray, and figuring this is a good depth draft in the first three rounds … well, that’s a lot to think about right there.
14. Atlanta: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Four players from Clemson and ‘Bama in the first 14 picks … with more on the way. Atlanta needs size and power, and at 6-4 and 342, with a 5.05 40-yard time, Lawrence is exceedingly rare. He seems to have convinced NFL teams that he did not knowingly take a banned substance that caused a positive PED test, disqualifying him from Clemson’s two playoff games. This is another spot to watch the best-available offensive lineman fall too.
15. Washington: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Dan Snyder gets to pick the quarterback of the future from his backyard in Maryland. Haskins’ family moved to Maryland from New Jersey at the start of his high school years, and Snyder’s son and Haskins both went to high school at the Bullis School in Potomac, Md. Picking Haskins could give Snyder the local-guy-makes-good story the franchise obviously would love. I found this piece of footage from for NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky quite helpful and revealing about Haskins.
16. Carolina: Montez Sweat, edge rusher, Mississippi State
“Don’t put him in the first round,” one smart guy told me Sunday afternoon. “So many teams are afraid of him.” Some teams are worried about a heart condition discovered in Sweat after the season, and NFL Network reported Sweat has been taken off some teams’ draft boards. One GM told me Saturday: “We think it’s an issue, but we’ve been told if we keep a close eye on it, he can play. This is the kind of thing that different teams will have different opinions on.” Another GM told me he thought Sweat’s upside, if healthy, is better than Nick Bosa’s. With the retirement of Julius Peppers, Sweat would be a perfect addition to an edge-rush-needy team—if GM Marty Hurney can get past the worry over Sweat’s ticker.
17. Houston: Andre Dillard, T, Washington State
PROJECTED TRADE: Houston sends 23rd and 55th picks to Giants for this choice.
No team in the NFL needs a radical upgrade at tackle as much as the Texans. Per Pro Football Focus, the starting Houston tackles last year, Julie’n Davenport and Kendall Lamm, allowed 101 quarterback disruptions (sacks, hits, hurries) on Deshaun Watson, which is downright abominable considering Watson’s one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league. Think how many pressures he avoided just by being Deshaun Watson. Dillard’s the top tackle on Houston’s board, from what I hear, and teams think he’s got a chance to be a good left tackle.
18. Minnesota: Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State
Speaking of PFF, the lowest-rated NFL center in the league by far last year was Minnesota’s Pat Elflein. The Vikings pick at 18, 50 and 81, and the perception on the scouting trail is that two of those three picks will be offensive linemen. They’d better be. Bradbury’s a pugnacious guy, a Jason Kelce type, with more quickness than most centers in the league now. He could start day one. No, let me amend that. With Elflein still in-house, Bradbury had better start day one.
19. Tennessee: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
Here’s what funny about mock drafts. Sometimes, I hear from a smart GM who says something like: Drew Lock is way too low! Okay, I text back. Who should I give him to? Tennessee. No way, I text. You can’t draft Mariota’s successor yet. So I thought and thought and made one extra call, and some said, of all the players I had left on the board, “Rashan Gary is Mike Vrabel’s kind of player. Give them Gary.” See the science I use here?
20. Pittsburgh: Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
Imagine the first cornerback off the board being a guy who played one year at Temple after transferring from the Presbyterian (S.C.) College Blue Hose, and who will have one of the great names in the history of whatever team drafts him. Word on the scouting street is that Mike Tomlin loves Ya-Sin, and with White and Bush off the board at a position of great Steeler need (linebacker), Pittsburgh opts for a physical 5-11 3/4 corner who made tremendous plays in his one season of (fairly) big-time football.
21. Oakland: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
PROJECTED TRADE: Oakland sends 24th and 106th picks to Seattle for this choice.
So, the best running back in this draft will probably be picked somewhere in the twenties, and three teams—Philly at 25, Indy at 26 and Oakland at 24 and 27—are quite interested. The Raiders would have to move only three spots ahead to make it happen, and probably wouldn’t have to denude its mid-round picks to do so. I could see Seattle at 21 or Baltimore at 22 do this kind of deal, because Schneider and rookie Ravens GM Eric DeCosta love dealing. I met with Jacobs last week, by the way. Delightful fellow. Hungry to be a great NFL player, and he’s a versatile back too. Jon Gruden could turn him into a 1,700-total-yard back as a rookie.
22. Baltimore: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
New England hopes Ferrell falls 10 more spots, but he won’t. The Ravens also could trade—rookie GM Eric DeCosta would love to accumulate more picks. But Ferrell is an ideal building block on a defensive front that needs a new star. I won’t be shocked if Ferrell is gone if the Ravens take a 10-year center like Erik McCoy of Texas A&M; 38 career starts at a very high level, and the Ravens value the offensive line as much as any franchise in football.
23. New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
PROJECTED TRADE: New York gets this pick and No. 55 from Houston for No. 17 overall.
The Giants could just sit at 17 and pick Jones, or Drew Lock, too. In my scenario, the Giants get their QB for 2020 and beyond after trading down with Houston … and they pick up a late second-round pick to go after a long-term safety to pair with Jabrill Peppers, or maybe take a shot on the right tackle Gettleman knows he needs. As for Jones the player, there’s a wide disparity in opinion in the man who went 17-19 as a college starter. Very smart, but he doesn’t have the deep arm of the three other first-round candidates. In Bob McGinn’s annual deep dive into the top draft prospects, the veteran scribe quotes a NFL scout saying of Jones: “He reminds me of Ryan Tannehill. There’s just something missing with him.” Damning, but the four first-rounders seem to all have zits this year.
24. Seattle: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
PROJECTED TRADE: Seattle gets this pick and No. 106 from Oakland for No. 21 overall.
This is GM John Schneider’s 10th draft with Seattle, and he has traded his first-round pick seven straight years. No question he wants to again this year, and so I have him moving from 21 to 24 and getting an early day-three pick in return. At 24, he needs to pick a player who can be a tone-setter right away. Abram’s that kind of player. More about Frank Clark later, but the pressure will be on Schneider if he moves Clark to find another edge-rusher with the production of Clark. Look for the Seahawks to pick a rusher either low in the round here or with their third and fourth-round loot.
25. Philadelphia: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Some love him. Some think he’s too wispy at 166, and they’re worried that he enters the NFL nursing a foot injury, and he might be prone to injury in the big-boy league. But he is one big threat. Instinctive and fearless too. Could be that DeSean Jackson gives the Eagles one last season, and then Brown steps in as the deep threat Carson Wentz can grow with into middle-age. Two cautions: GM Howie Roseman struck out on the free-agent he wanted, running back Tevin Coleman, and he could steal his RB1, Josh Jacobs, from the Raiders and Colts in trade. And Roseman is not fearful of drafting a guy (Sidney Jones, round two, 2017) who has to sit most or all of his rookie year with an injury. So I’d watch Jeffery Simmons here too.
26. Indianapolis: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
He’s 6-2 and runs a 4.37 time in the 40-yard dash. What’s not to like? Tackling, perhaps. But the Colts need two things badly: an edge-rusher and a shutdown cornerback. Williams is better at corner than the remaining edge guys are at sacking the quarterback. However, keep one thing in mind with Colts GM Chris Ballard: He’s not going to change his board to fit his needs. If there’s a significantly higher-rated player here, Ballard will take him.
27. Oakland: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Touchdowns allowed in coverage over his last two college seasons: zero. He might drive defensive coordinator Paul Guenther crazy with his practice habits, but his game production, at least in college, made up for that. If the Raiders can come out of this first round with the best defensive tackle in the draft, the best running back in the draft, and a corner who should push for playing time immediately, it’s going to be a successful first draft for the rookie GM Mayock.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: Cody Ford, T, Oklahoma
Could be a strange change for Ford. He protected for the fleet Kyler Murray at Oklahoma last year, and, if this happens, he’d be protecting for the statue-esque Philip Rivers in L.A. The Chargers have to start planning for the future up front; Russell Okung enters his 10th season and turns 31 this year. Ford’s a good building block for GM Tom Telesco.
29. Seattle: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
PROJECTED TRADE: Seattle sends DE Frank Clark to Kansas City for this pick and the 63rd choice.
The run on corners continues. Murphy’s an interesting prospect. Very savvy, but he played just 20 college games, and his speed is in the barely acceptable range (4.55) for corners. The Seahawks continue the quest in this draft for Legion of Boom II. (More on Clark after the 32nd pick.)
30. Green Bay: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi
This would be very anti-Packer. Last wideout taken in the first round: 17 years ago, Javon Walker. They haven’t taken a receiver in the top 50 in 11 years (Jordy Nelson, 2008, 36th overall). I could see Andre Dillard here too, but Brian Gutekunst is trying to stock up for one last multi-year run with Aaron Rodgers, giving him the kind of weapons that will allow him to be Aaron Rodgers again. I might go Marquise Brown here if I were Green Bay, but I realize a 166-pound burner may not have the shelf life of a Sterling Sharpe-big-bodied player like Metcalf.
31. Denver: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
PROJECTED TRADE: Denver sends the 41st pick and a 2020 second-rounder to the Los Angeles Rams for this choice.
Feel bad about predicting this. Sometimes in mock drafts, you want to get a player in the first round because you think he’s going to be a first-round pick, and you wedge him in and make the logic fit after that. I do not think the Rams want to pick at 31, and feel they can use a trade-down to get a two or three back after dealing fourth and second-round picks to Kansas City in 2018 for cornerback Marcus Peters. Denver likes Lock, and might be able to snag him as a two-year learner behind Joe Flacco while retaining the ability to use the 71st pick this year on a potential starter at a need position, like Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger. A move like this wouldn’t surprise me, but I also think the way Denver GM John Elway’s talking, he could punt on a young quarterback until the richer QB draft of 2020.
32. New England: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
I don’t think this is the likely Patriots pick, but I don’t know who is, and I wanted to get this great player in the first round. The second-best best DT in the draft (behind Quinnen Williams) till tearing his ACL earlier this year won’t be available to play until 2020, and he’s also got some personal rehab to do after a past physical altercation with a woman. Simmons could have the kind of impact Jaylon Smith had for the Cowboys after a serious knee injury in his last college game—and the team that picks him will have to wait only one year for Simmons, not the two seasons Dallas afforded Smith to get physically right. Smith was the 34th pick overall in 2016. We’ll see if a team near the bottom of round one or top of round two takes a shot on Simmons.
In the end, I struggled mightily with the Frank Clark trade from Seattle to Kansas City. I had the trade in my first draft of the mock on Friday, then took it out for 48 hours, and just put it back in Sunday night. The waffling came before I sent Clark to the Chiefs because of the Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill incidents. And I will not be surprised at all if the Chiefs don’t do it. But I’m taking the gamble, because the Kansas City need for edge-rush is so pronounced. Hunt was cut by the Chiefs last year after video surfaced of him kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel last offseason. The league and local authorities are now investigating whether Hill may have been involved in a child abuse case with his three-year-old son. Clark was cited in police reports in 2014 for a domestic abuse case against his then-girlfriend. It could be the Chiefs (or Colts or Jets) have done a lot of due diligence and believe such accusations are in Clark’s past. But it was tough for me to predict that and it came down to a gut feeling Sunday night.
So I believe the Cardinals, should they—as I suspect—choose Kyler Murray number one overall, will be inclined to make the best deal they can for the quarterback they picked last year 10th overall, Josh Rosen. It’s easy to say Rosen’s a big boy and he’s going to have to get over the biggest snub job in recent NFL history. But he heard Kliff Kingsbury take the job and say on several occasions, Josh is our quarterback, or words to that effect. Now you draft a guy number one overall and asked Rosen to be a good soldier and carry the clipboard and help Kyler Murray win games for the team that misled him about being the quarterback under the new coach? Awkward.
I don’t know how the draft is going to fall, but if Miami or Washington or the Giants do not draft a quarterback high in the draft, what seems fair to me is offering a third-rounder (78th overall by Miami, 95th overall by the Giants, 96th overall by Washington) to Arizona for Rosen. And Arizona, I’m assuming, would strongly consider doing the best deal it could at that point.
I’d be really interested if I were Miami. Imagine trading the 78th pick and having a year to see if Rosen has a chance to be the long-term guy. If the Dolphins are unconvinced at the end of 2019, they could use a first-round pick (plus other draft capital if need be) to draft the quarterback of the long-term future in a year when the quarterback crop is better than this year.
There’s also this matter: In the last four-and-a-half years, Rosen has been coached by six offensive architects. At UCLA beginning in the fall of 2015, Rosen had Noel Mazzone, Kennedy Polamalu and Jedd Fisch, followed in Arizona by Mike McCoy and Byron Leftwich last year and Kingsbury this year. Imagine Rosen having the same system and coach for two or three years in a row. It hasn’t happened to him since high school. Seems worth a shot to me.
This is going to be a very interesting week in the history of the Arizona Cardinals, but also in the personal history of Josh Rosen.
Some notes about the 2019 schedule:
• Here is something that simply should not happen. The factoid that, upon further review, is a blight on the 2019 schedule:
Raider games in Oakland in the 48 days between Sept. 16 and Nov. 2: zero.
Raider games in Oakland in the 15 days between Nov. 3 and Nov. 17: three.
I could say almost the same thing for the Bucs, except Tampa Bay follows the road nightmare with only two home games. Kudos to NFL VP of broadcasting Michael North for admitting to USA Today, “I’d love a re-do on that one.” In six consecutive weeks, each franchise goes road-road-London game-bye-road-road. And judging by the feedback—from the two teams and from some in the public—you can be sure that the NFL will no longer schedule a team to be away from its home stadium, even with a London game added in, for six full weeks. The five-person NFL scheduling team combed through 64,713 possible schedules; the slate the league will play is by no means an abomination. But no team should go 48 days between games on its home field.
I’m going to try to interpret why the NFL did what it did to Oakland. First, the Raiders and the A’s are the only football and baseball teams sharing one stadium. The Raiders are not keen on playing many games on the field when it is set up for baseball, with the skin infield and pitcher’s mound. In this case, the NFL had the Raiders home for the first two weeks, then this happened:
Week 3: A’s at home on the last Sunday of the baseball regular season Sept. 22. Raiders had to be on the road, and the NFL put them at Minnesota.
Week 4: Most West Coast teams either prefer or accept playing on the road, somewhere east of the Mississippi, on the Sunday before going to London. That makes the trip to England shorter. So the NFL put the Raiders at Indianapolis on Sept. 29.
Week 5: All teams in temporary stadium situations—the Raiders move to Las Vegas next year—are eligible to be scheduled for a game in London or Mexico. The NFL scheduled the Raiders versus the Bears in London on Oct. 6.
Week 6: Most teams who play overseas want their bye on the week after the Europe game. There’s a bye here for Oakland.
Week 7: Here’s where the NFL should have directed its high-tech schedule process to put the Raiders back in Oakland. Though there’s a chance that game seven of the American League Championship Series could be played in Oakland on Sunday, Oct. 20, that is exceedingly unlikely. The NFL should have scheduled the Raiders home on this date instead of at Green Bay.
Week 8: World Series Game five is scheduled for Oct. 27. Again, how likely are the A’s to play in that game? Anyway, it’s Raiders at Houston here. As North said, lesson learned. The NFL won’t do this again. And it shouldn’t have happened this time.
Imagine if Al Davis saw this schedule. The Raiders play five straight games between Sept. 22 and Oct. 27, at mid-morning on their bodyclocks. Five games in a row, all at 10 a.m. PT.
• Groundhog Day. “What a shock!” Giants president John Mara said when he got word of the Giants-at-Cowboys opener. Let’s see how six of the last eight NFL seasons have opened for these teams:
2012: Dallas at New York
2013: New York at Dallas
2015: New York at Dallas
2016: New York at Dallas
2017: New York at Dallas
2019: New York at Dallas
• Bills Mafia will be screaming about respect. Bills fans are an insular lot, with the Bills Mafia as loyal a fan group as exists in the NFL. What must the Mafiosos have been thinking when Buffalo was the only team of 32 to get zero prime time games? The coaches must love 14 games with 1 p.m. ET starts, and five road trips of an hour or less in the air. But the fans feel only disrespect. The only nod to national attraction is Buffalo’s first Thanksgiving game in 25 years—the mid-afternoon CBS tilt at Dallas.
• The AFC East will be homebodies.The Jets play 16 games in the Eastern Time Zone, the Patriots and Dolphins 15, and the Bills 14. No AFC East team plays a game in Mountain or Pacific Time this year.
• I have a CBS broadcast idea, if the network I do not work for is listening. On the occasion of the 100th season of professional football, the schedule team put a game with historic significance on each week of the schedule. For instance: Week 1, Packers and Bears, the longest-standing rivalry in the game, meet for the 198th time to open the season … Week 2, Cleveland at the Jets on Monday night, a rematch of the first Monday night game ever 49 years ago. And in Week 4, a rematch of the one of the most memorable games in NFL history, from 38 years ago: Chargers 41, Dolphins 38, in the AFC playoffs, in overtime. Re the CBS assignment? I want Dan Fouts, the heroic Chargers quarterback in that heat-stroke of a game and now a CBS color guy, to do analysis for this game. It’s on CBS. It would be fairly perfect.
“As a kid, my whole dream was to win Super Bowls and play QB in the NFL. For me it was always football. But at the same time it wasn’t.”
—Kyler Murray, to Robert Klemko of The MMQB and Sports Illustrated in a magazine story this week.
Enlightening story. Murray’s been beyond quiet leading to the draft. Reminds me a little of Courtney Brown heading into the 2000 draft—he didn’t want to talk to anyone in the media, to the point almost of it being an issue with NFL teams.
His quote here is meaningful, because it says his father, who is his sporting adviser, has always urged him to have a fallback plan. And baseball, according to Klemko, remains that.
“They’ve become not just relevant. They’ve become prominent.”
—NFL scheduling czar Howard Katz, after scheduling the Browns for four prime-time games this season, the most since they were scheduled for five in 2008. Cleveland was 10-6 in 2007.
“Actually the owner is—he’s really a good guy. He’s been a supporter and he’s done a very good job. You have a good team.”
—President Donald Trump, to WMAL in Washington, referring to Washington owner Daniel Snyder.
In the last 13 seasons of Snyder’s ownership, Washington has not won a playoff game, and has won 10 games or more just one time.
“I want to get it fixed because I don’t want to coach for one more year. I want to coach for a lot more years.”
—Alabama coach Nick Saban, who said he needs a hip procedure that will put him out of action for six to eight weeks. He should be healthy by the time summer practice begins for his 13th season at Alabama. He is 146-21 at Alabama.
“Gronkowski’s parting gift.”
—Patriots defensive captain Devin McCourty.
Bill Belichick turned 67 the other day, which is about the time most normal human beings are seriously pondering retirement. There’s no indication Belichick is. With 56 more coaching victories (regular season and postseason), Belichick would become the NFL’s all-time winningest coach. Top three in wins now: Don Shula 347, George Halas 324, Belichick 292. Shula coached 33 seasons and Halas 40; Belichick has coached 24, and in fairness to the leaders, Shula coached half of his career in 14-game seasons, and the majority of Halas’ years were 12-game regular seasons.
What’s interesting to me is how few of the best coaches ever coached this late in their lives. In fact, 12 of the 15 winningest coaches have not coached, or did not coach, at age 67 or older. Belichick will make that 11 of 15 this fall.
Looking at the top 15, and how many seasons they coached after turning 67:
1. Don Shula: 0. Coached last game at 65.
2. George Halas: 6. Went 47-33-5 and won one NFL title after turning 67.
4. Tom Landry: 0. Coached last game at 64.
5. Curly Lambeau: 0. Coached last game at 55.
6. Chuck Noll: 0. Coached last game at 59.
7. Andy Reid: 0. He is 61.
8. Marty Schottenheimer: 0. Coached last game at 63.
9. Dan Reeves: 0. Coached last game at 59.
10. Chuck Knox: 0. Coached last game at 62.
11. Bill Parcells: 0. Coached last game at 65.
12. Tom Coughlin: 3. Went 19-29 after turning 67.
13. Mike Shanahan: 0. Coached last game at 61.
14. Jeff Fisher: 0. Coached last game at 58.
15. Paul Brown: 1. Went 11-4 after turning 67.
Belichick doesn’t talk about how long he’ll coach—surprise!—but those who know him say they think he’s not close to walking away from football. My take: Halas coached his last game at 72. I would not be shocked if Belichick matches that; nor would I be shocked if he coaches two or three more years and ends it. I never sensed the record mattered to him … but if it does, that means he’ll coach six more years. Seems like a stretch, but those who have been around him say he never shows the signs of stress even during big moments of big games that have made some great coaches walk away. Does he look or sound like a 67-year-old man? Not to me.
A perk of being one of the 23 top draft prospects invited to Nashville for the draft is that each player gets 10 round-trip airplane tickets, plus corresponding hotel rooms for three nights for the player and his travel party, gratis.
So, 230 plane tickets plus roughly 180 luxe hotel rooms (some family and/or friends will be couples, and will share a room) … the cost of doing business for putting on the glitzy show in Nashville.
Thanksgiving game one, 2018: Bears-Lions.
Thanksgiving game three, 2018: Saints-Falcons.
Thanksgiving game one, 2019: Bears-Lions.
Thanksgiving game three, 2019: Saints-Falcons.
No traveling in the last few days (that will change this week), but I delight in bringing you highlights from Friday’s 50 States section of USA Today.
Arizona (Phoenix): Dairy farmer Sine Kerr was thought to be the favorite in a state cow-milking contest, but her chances were hurt when a scorpion stung her just below her left thumb. “Her milking thumb,” the paper said.
Colorado (Cherry Hills Village): The city has voted to drop “Swastika Acres” from the name of a subdivision.
Indiana (Seymour): Workers installing sewer lines across a farm have unearthed the fossilized bones of a roughly nine-foot-tall mastodon.
And that’s the news of the day.
Send your questions or comments to me at email@example.com.
Lots of Steve Keim criticism. From Ravven L.: “I find it interesting that you say the Cards personnel people are at ‘the upper end among personnel people in belief in their ability to pick players’ but then you detail the incredible lack of talent on that team. How are these two statements compatible?”
My statement was about how confident GM Steve Keim and VP of player personnel Terry McDonough are about their personnel acumen—not about their recent performance in the draft and free agency, which has obviously been lacking. I have had issues with some of the Cardinals’ recent personnel decisions, such as giving Sam Bradford so much guaranteed money last year. And GM Steve Keim, obviously, doesn’t have a lot of job security after a three-win season and the hiring of a coach last year that lasted only one season.
But let’s be fair. Arizona won 50 games in Keim’s first five years as GM, got Carson Palmer very cheap in trade with Oakland, and hired Bruce Arians as one of his first decisions as GM (along with club president Michael Bidwill). In his drafts, Keim drafted Tyrann Mathieu with the 69th pick, John Brown with the 91st, and David Johnson with the 86th. He traded the 61st pick plus guard Jonathan Cooper to New England for Chandler Jones; Jones has recorded 41 sacks in his three Cardinals seasons. It’s okay to say Keim is in a personnel slump, but overall, his six years have been better than average.
A cool email about the Ben Roethlisberger pro day. From Frank Corsoe (former sports editor of the Dayton Daily News and Toledo Blade): “As sports editor of the Dayton Daily News, I went to Ben Roethlisberger’s pro day at Miami in 2004. I swear, I thought the Giants were most interested in Ben. They must have had seven people there from Tom Coughlin, [offensive coordinator] John Hufnagel, [GM] Ernie Accorsi, front-office types, etc. There were more than 100 NFL-connected people watching Roethlisberger perform under leaden skies. Following the workout as the NFL Bedouins were off to the next pro day, I see John Dorsey, then director of college scouting for the Packers [and a former top player at UConn] walking up a hill to his car. So I introduced myself to him. Hi, John, I’m Frank Corsoe, I worked at a Connecticut newspaper and enjoyed your career there. I need to ask you a few questions.
What do you see as Roethlisberger’s future in the NFL?
“Are you his PR guy or something?”
No we cover Miami football and he’s an Ohio kid.
“He’s gonna have a good career.”
If you were drafting quarterbacks this year, how do you rate them?
“If I had the first pick, and this is me, it would be taking Eli Manning. He makes all the throws, reads defenses, has a football IQ off the chart and plays in one of the toughest conferences.”
Is that because he’s a Manning?
“Wait a second. If you think of taking a player because his brother is in the league, you won’t be employed for long. I love my job more than anything and wouldn’t risk it for anything that stupid.”
So how do you rate the quarterbacks?
“They will be drafted in this order: Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger.”
Good to hear from you, Frank. Moral of the story, I guess, and updated in 2018: Dorsey knows quarterbacks.
1. I think there was a lot of buzz Friday when NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that the Raiders would send home their scouts for the weekend, and for the days leading up to the draft, preventing them from leaking any of the information on the team’s draft board. “The belief is they [Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock] don’t know who to trust and wanted to clear the room,” Rapoport reported. A few thoughts:
• Understand that when Mayock was hired by Gruden and Mark Davis, Mayock took a staff of scouts that had preceded him into the job. For these first few months on the job, Mayock, essentially, was told to trust the scouting reports and counsel of scouts who in many cases he didn’t know. These scouts understand the business. Mayock and Gruden are likely to populate the new scouting staff with scouts who will be loyal to them after the draft. Those on the staff now in many cases were brought in by Reggie McKenzie, dismissed in December.
• Although there is generally good camaraderie between GMs and scouts, some teams do not allow scouts to see the draft board. When Al Davis ran the Raiders draft, according to former Raider employee Mike Lombardi, he didn’t keep an ordered draft board; he kept his list of players in order in a notebook, to keep it away from anyone else. The Patriots, another Lombardi employer, do not open the draft room to scouts unless Bill Belichick wants to see one of them to talk about a player. Coaches and scouts are in the building, but not in the room. “If you’re not a decision-maker,” Lombardi said, “you’re not in the room. Scouts are nearby and coaches are in the building, but the only people in the draft room are the ones who have business in the room. It’s like what Bill says, ’Do your job.’ “ Scouts are not picking the players, so they don’t have to be in the room when the players are picked, in other words.
• But I’ve had access to or knowledge of the inner workings of other draft rooms—Dallas and San Francisco most recently—in which the GMs or owners allow a wide swath of team employees and certainly the scouts to be in the room. So it varies.
• Re Mayock: One of his friends in the league told me the other day he felt this was Mayock’s attempt to take control over a process that he’s running for the first time in his life. “Wouldn’t you think it’s fair for Mike, with three picks in the first round, to close the circle and keep it as tight as he can?” this friend said.
• Mayock’s daughter Leigh tweeted over the weekend that she went out to dinner with her dad recently and when he went to the bathroom, he took his draft notebook with him rather than leave it at the table, where only his daughter was. “Don’t take it personal scouties,” she said.
2. I think for all of you, particularly in Packer Nation, who wonder why in the world Green Bay has never played in England or Mexico, you may not have to wonder that much more. I think Green Bay’s time is coming, likely as soon as 2020, to finally go on the road to play a game in London. The reasons why Green Bay has never had to make the trip are predictable—the Packers don’t want to give up one of eight sold-out home games, and no team hosting the Packers wants to give up that gate because the Packers travel so well and fill the stadium and local hotels with fans. But I think the NFL is conscious of not giving a prized franchise special treatment.
3. I think now, after the Russell Wilson deal in Seattle, there’s only one quarterback contract I expect to see soon: Ben Roethlisberger’s in Pittsburgh. He’s entering the last year of his current deal, he’ll likely sign only one more NFL contract, he’s on record as wanting to play three more years, and the Steelers want him for as long as he wants to play. I expect him to retire playing nowhere but Pittsburgh.
4. I think this is the time of year it is: I had an NFL coach whose team needs a quarterback tell me last week he didn’t like Daniel Jones of Duke, because though he was a smart quarterback, he wasn’t as accurate or as advanced with his decision-making as he’d like. Then I heard Gil Brandt, prepping for his 61st draft, say about Jones: “When you watch him and you go back  years and watch Peyton Manning, you are watching the same guy.” So who’s right? The coach who wouldn’t draft Jones even in the second round? Or the draft guru of all draft gurus, who has been at this as long as I’ve been alive?
5. I think that’s why the draft is so compelling. So many people. So many opinions.
6. I think, however, I haven’t talked to many people in this pre-draft period who have compared Jones to Peyton Manning. Like, zero.
7. I think the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will not be the same without veteran Steeler beat man Ed Bouchette, who departed for The Athletic last week. I value what Bouchette does so much, and I wish him the best to him in his new job.
8. I think my favorite quote of the spring, and nothing is close for second place, is Giants GM Dave Gettleman responding to a question about the strengths of the 2019 draft by saying, in part, “The wides are thick.” Meaning there are a lot of wide receivers on the Giants board. I just love the way he said it.
9. I think this was an interesting point, from ESPN’s T.J. Quinn on the Robert Kraft case, during an appearance on “Mut and Callahan” on WEEI: “There are people around him who have said to me they can’t believe he doesn’t just take this plea agreement, this diversion agreement that they offered and say, ‘OK, fine, I did this. I am sorry.’ And then move on with it. They are pretty amazed that he’s going to continue to fight it like this.” Man, I could not agree more. This story continues to be in the headlines, and it could have disappeared four weeks ago, when Kraft apologized for the incident. Why apologize if you didn’t do it, and why keep fighting it for four weeks and keeping it in the public eye when you’ve already apologized? It’s baffling.
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. God help our country.
b. Important Columbine Story of the Week: Aaron Ontiveroz of the Denver Post, chronicling the voice of Columbine—the people and families who have been most impacted, with the more powerful messages.
c. The photos by Ontiveroz might more powerful than the words.
d. Profile of the Week: ESPN’s Baxter Holmes on the erudite Gregg Popovich, who might know more about wine than basketball, and that is saying something.
e. Story of the Week: The Rise and Fall of a New York Shock Jock, by Nick Paumgarten of the New Yorker. Great story about the downfall of Craig Carton, who teamed with Boomer Esiason on New York sports station WFAN’s morning show. Man, gambling is a one-way street to hell. Just read this piece. And an excellent job of taking us deep inside the story by Paumgarten.
f. “Are you Craig Carton?”
g. “Yes I am.”
h. “You’re under arrest.”
i. My wife and I watch “Jeopardy” most nights. We’ve been riveted in the last couple of weeks by James Holzhauer, the incredibly intelligent, lighning-fast-with-the-buzzer champion who already has the five most lucrative winning shows of all time. Holzhauer is a professional sports gambler, according to the show.
j. Joe Pinsker of The Atlantic with an interesting story about how Holzhauer, essentially, is so brilliant his games are not fair fights.
k. When the challengers get introduced at the start of the show, they’re lambs led to the slaughter. I’ve never seen anything like it.
l. Coffeenerdness: For some reason that is foreign to me, because it’s never happened in my 61 years on earth, I have been getting allergy attacks. And the only thing I want is orange tea packed with lemon and a dot of honey. Three times a day. Marvelous.
m. Good morning. It’s April 22, and Christian Yelich has 13 home runs on the 26th day of the season.
o. The Red Sox won Saturday night on a walkoff pickoff, catcher Christian Vasquez to first baseman Steve Pearce, nailing Tampa Bay’s Tommy Pham. Now there’s something you don’t see every day.
My mock draft stinks. Stinks!
Over/under on direct
hits: Four point five. Hmmmm.