The 2019 Dirty Dozen

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During the season, we post weekly power rankings. In the offseason, we pretty much do whatever.

This year, we’ve decided to dispense with ranking all 32 teams and to focus on the teams currently at the bottom of the stack. And even in this time of EVERY TEAM CAN MAKE THE PLAYOFFS! propaganda, the reality in a 32-team, zero-sum league is that some teams will be good, and just as many will be bad.

This following list is far from scientific. It’s a qualitative assessment of where the franchises currently are, and where they’ve been, both recently and in some cases historically.

The list isn’t a prediction as to where these teams will finish in 2019. Several of them could make the playoffs. And maybe one will make it to the Super Bowl. Still, for now, when considering the league’s teams from top to bottom, there necessarily has to be teams from 21 through 32.

And here they are, from 32 to 21.

1. Cardinals: Not long ago, they were one of the best eight or so franchises in the NFL. But a free fall in recent years has depleted the roster, with millions wasted in an effort to replace Carson Palmer, an embarrassing “extreme DUI” arrest and jail time for the franchise’s top executive, a trade up one year ago to get Josh Rosen followed by a trade of Rosen for a low second-round pick because the coach who replaced a one-and-done misfire coveted someone else at quarterback, and (most recently) news that G.M. Steve Keim has never bothered to call Rosen during or after three months of dangling and a few days of rollercoastering along with the six-game suspension of the team’s most recognizable defensive player for taking a PED, taking a masking agent to hide the PED, and getting busted on both counts. They’ll need Kyler Murray to have a Mahomes-Mayfield-style impact to avoid becoming the chronic No. 32 team in a season they quite possibly will begin as the underdog in every single game.

2. Jets: The decision to fire coach Todd Bowles in January and to keep G.M. Mike Maccagnan and to overpay Le'Veon Bell at a time when no one else was pursuing him in that range and to fire Maccagnan after the draft and to make new coach Adam Gase the interim G.M. has made plenty of fans long for the days of Woody Johnson and Rex Ryan. Woody’s kid brother Christopher, whose arrival actually had some rivals concerned that the Jets would turn things around, is learning as he goes, and in his trial-and-error effort to figure out how to run a football franchise it’s been more error than success. That said, the decision to trade up and take quarterback Sam Darnold could eventually eradicate the fumes of Christian Hackenberg from the building, and the Jets actually could be in position to surprise everyone in 2019.

3. Giants: The plan is there is no plan, and the more they try to convince everyone they have a plan, the less obvious it is that they don’t. Everyone except those making decisions for the franchise realizes that it’s keeping former franchise quarterback Eli Manning around because of what he’s done, not because of what he’s expected to do. But even as they cling to Eli, they overdrafted (in the opinion of everyone except those making decisions for the franchise) Daniel Jones to eventually replace Manning, whether in one year or three years or whenever the plan-is-there-is-no-plan spinning wheel lands on Jones. Meanwhile, there’s reason to believe that Jones could be the Week One starter, if he’s as good as the Giants believe and if they remove the helmet-catch-colored glasses when evaluating the training camp and preseason performances of Jones and Manning. The fact that they traded receiver Odell Beckham Jr. after paying him $20 million for 12 games serves merely as the acrid icing on a rancid cake. But, hey, at least the Jets are still the Jets.

4. Dolphins: Although being in the same division as the Patriots hasn’t helped, the Dolphins have done little to help themselves. The slide began when Dan Marino retired, and it accelerated when doctors told Nick Saban to send a second-round pick for Daunte Culpepper and his wrecked knee in lieu of signing Drew Brees and his wrecked shoulder. The Dolphins continue to grope for an answer at quarterback, and the absence of one has been the biggest impediment to sustained success. Giving up too quickly on coach Adam Gase didn’t help matters, and now owner Stephen Ross can only hope that new coach Brian Flores will bring a New England vibe to South Florida. Quickly. The fact that this franchise was once so relevant makes it even more glaring that, over the past two decades, it has plunged into the role of perennial afterthought, with periodic but fleeting exceptions.

5. Bengals: Malaise has been the operative word for the Bengals in recent years. Five straight playoff runs ended with five straight wild-card losses, extending a string of playoff futility that traces back to January 1991. The organization never seems like it makes winning a priority, unless (as it seems) the organization defined “winning” as making money not competing for championships. There’s a certain pragmatism to accepting the fact that only one of 32 teams will be satisfied every year, if that’s accepted as the widespread standard for NFL success. Maybe the secret of Cincinnati’s success has been to accept that it’s far easier to turn a profit than it is to turn up in February. Regardless, this team chronically feels like it could use a new everything, from top to bottom.

6. Raiders: Reason exists for guarded optimism when it comes to the Raiders, thanks to the pilfering of receiver Antonio Brown from the Steelers and a draft headlined by three first-round draft picks. But the organization continues to be mired in the funk of mostly 17 years of struggles unbecoming to what once was one of the greatest brands in football. The looming move to Las Vegas carries a vague sense of promise, but to make that happen the marriage between Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock must bear fruit in the form of great football players, sooner than later. It won’t be easy in a division headlined by a perennial contender in Kansas City and an underrated powerhouse in L.A. The current placement in the middle of the worst-franchise pack is deserved, and some would say the Raiders should be even higher (as in lower). The fact that they aren’t primarily flows from the notion that the inevitable return to glory is coming sooner than later. Even if, in reality, “later” continues to be the operative term.

7. Washington: Mired in at-best mediocrity for most of Daniel Snyder’s tenure as owner, the franchise has hovered in the general vicinity of “maybe” when it comes to potential contention, but hasn’t delivered. This year’s first-round haul of Dwayne Haskins and Montez Sweat has boom-or-bust potential for Washington, which is 28 years removed from its last championship. A run of health could fuel a rebound, but the upper reaches of the operation seem to be destined to keep the team from being as good as it can be — and it’s still not quite clear how good the team can be, with or without the upper reaches of the organization holding it back.

8. Buccaneers: But for the arrival of Bruce Arians, who unretired in a Hail Mary effort to salvage Jameis Winston, the Bucs would be among the worst teams in the league. They’ve struggled to sell tickets, and for good reason. In the 17 years since winning a championship, the team has languished more often than not, unable to consistently compete with the other teams in the NFC South. Ownership moves too quickly to move on from coaches, preventing the kind of continuity that characterizes the franchises that manage to make it to the postseason at least once every few years. For the Buccaneers, it’s been an extended dry spell, and but for the fading memories of a run that could have/should have yielded more than one Lombardi Trophy, the Bucs would still be spinning their wheels among the very worst organizations in all of sports. They continue to slide back in that direction, and only a major jolt from Arians will keep that from happening.

9. Lions: Bobby Layne’s 50-year curse has lasted a decade longer than expected, and the Lions now must hope that the efforts of Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia to change the culture will take root before they’re gradually swallowed by the internal and, among much of the media covering the team, external acceptance of also-ran status that has kept the team from winning a playoff game for 28 years and counting. Periodic promise has yielded playoff berths but no postseason success, and the career of franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford has largely been squandered. The only question at this point is whether the team will step up before the current power structure decides to tell Stafford to step off. The answer depends on whether the Lions can incorporate sufficient Patriot DNA to spark change before ownership decides to press the restart button prior to the effort to embrace a shot at greatness taking root.

10. Broncos: Yes, they’ve won three Super Bowls, including their most recent trophy only three years ago. But a sustained run of relevance has been replaced by a sharp plunge to the bottom made even more conspicuous by the fact that, for the first time since the early 1970s, the Broncos have had a losing record for consecutive seasons. While a decorated history spared Denver from being closer to the top of the list, three years of post-Peyton flopping in the boat have earned them a spot in the bottom 12. Whether they remain there depends on whether Vic Fangio is the answer at coach (he very well may be), whether Joe Flacco is the answer at quarterback (he very well may not be), and whether the linger intra-family Willie Wonka competition for control of the team is ever resolved (at times it feels like it never will be).

11. 49ers: Those five Super Bowl trophies are getting lonelier and lonelier. Things simply haven’t been working for the 49ers since the “mutual parting” with Jim Harbaugh. Last year, expectations were too high, and injuries derailed a season that may not have resulted in a playoff berth anyway, given the presence of the Rams and Seahawks in the division. This year, expectations are high once again, which will make another failure for a team in perpetual turmoil even more noticeable. The 49ers would be wise to stay the course with Kyle Shanahan, who has four more years remaining on his contract, but another sub-.500 season should provoke serious soul-searching regarding the best way to dig out of a protracted funk.

12. Browns: Speaking of protracted funks, the Browns would have been the clear-cut No. 1 team on this list a year ago, with an 0-16 season in 2017 preceded by 1-15 in 2016. A surprising turnaround in 2018 has them on the brink of escaping — but as their coach would say they haven’t won anything yet, including a path out of the bottom dozen franchises in the league. While all indications are that the Browns have the players to turn things around (starting with Baker Mayfield, who may end up with a full mantle of MVP trophies), an unproven coach was hired in January, and ownership that has proven to be far too meddlesome remains. So before penciling the Browns in for a division title or a Super Bowl berth, the first step is to have the kind of season that will get them to be considered to be in the upper half of a 32-team league. Here’s hoping they do.

FMIA: Smart NFL People Share 25 Ways To Make Pro Football Better

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The NFL is in a good place, but it certainly could be better. In his Football Morning in America column, Peter King polls 25 smart NFL people—from media to players to coaches and beyond—for their ideas on how to improve the game. Also in the column:

• Chris Long opens up about why he’s retiring after 11 seasons, and the lessons he learned along the way.

• The one factor that gives New England the ultimate advantage over its perennially flailing counterparts in the AFC East.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on Mike Maccagnan’s firing and the Jets mess;.the reason Dallas might slip in 2019; what Scott Pioli will be remembered for in Atlanta.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness and an opportunity for a reader to guest-write a column while Peter King’s away on summer vacation. [more]

Proposed “tweak” of replay review for pass interference is more like an amputation

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The NFL went too far one way in March. It may now go too far the other way in May.

Only two weeks after Competition Committee member Stephen Jones expressed during an appearance on #PFTPM a high degree of confidence that the new rule that makes offensive and defensive pass interference subject to the full replay review system would not be tweaked in May, someone else from the Competition Committee has leaked to the league’s media conglomerate that the league may revise the rule.

Specifically, ownership possibly will authorize the Competition Committee to revise the rule as needed after the Competition Committee completes its meetings with teams. And the word “tweak” makes it all sound more innocuous than it really is.

The currently proposed change, if made, means that automatic review would not be available for calls and non-calls of pass interference after scoring plays, after turnovers, in the final two minutes of either half, or during overtime. Which means that the horrendous call at the end of regulation in the Rams-Saints NFC title game — the horrendous call that sparked the change in the first place — would have been subject to replay review only if Saints coach Sean Payton happened to have at least one red challenge flag remaining, and at least one timeout to lose in the event the challenge was denied.

It’s hardly a “tweak.” It’s more like an amputation. And the reason given for it by the Competition Committee to NFL Media (it will lead to “greater consistency” by not having “two different standards of review”) makes, with all due respect, absolutely no sense.

It’s still no surprise that this is happening. The Competition Committee didn’t want to change the rule in the first place, hiding behind the “unintended consequences” boogeyman for as long as possible, until the moment coaches and owners converged to demand action at the league meetings in Arizona. The Competition Committee’s attempt to do nothing resulted in the league not being properly prepared to do anything, which resulted in something being cobbled together on an emergency basis at the end of the meetings, without anyone properly thinking things through.

In the aftermath of the expansion of replay to include replay review, we identified several potential complications that may have been glossed over in the rush to throw a rule together. By including offensive pass interference, pick plays now become a potential basis for wiping out completed passes and touchdowns, if any eligible receivers threw a block more than one yard from the line of scrimmage before the ball was thrown. Also, by adding pass interference to the current load of reviewable plays, the people responsible for initiating and conducting replay review may not be able to handle the increased demands efficiently and effectively.

The proposed “tweak” leaked on Thursday to league-owned media likely flows from a potential complication that hadn’t been previously addressed. Given the trigger for conducting an automatic replay review, it won’t take much to slow down a game while the league office rules out pass interference.

The standard for sparking an automatic replay review mirrors the standard for overturning a ruling on the field. There must be clear and obvious evidence to scrap an on-field officiating mistake, and there must be clear and obvious evidence that the ruling on the field was correct to prevent an automatic review.

When it comes to pass interference, plenty of rulings (both calls and non-calls) will not be clearly and obviously correct. Which will require a closer look via the full-blown replay review function. Which will slow down the game in those specific situations where an automatic replay review is available.

That’s what the league (or whoever leaked the information to league-owned media) was getting at when referring to striving for “greater consistency” by not having “two different standards of review.” The standard for overturning the call won’t change; the standard for initiating a review goes from the question of whether the ruling was clearly and obviously correct to whether the coach is willing to play the chess-checkers-chicken-cornhole game of when to throw that miniature red beanbag, knowing that only so many can be thrown in a given game.

This “tweak” would seriously complicate the challenge that is the coach’s challenge. Will a coach tolerate a bad call in the first half in order to have the ability to challenge a worse call in the second half? And will a coach ever risk losing a red flag except when it’s abundantly clear that the challenge will prevail?

And therein lies the twisted wisdom of the potential change. Coaches will be very careful about when to challenge pass interference, especially in the early stages of a game. Coaches also will become even more careful about challenging anything, because the worst-case scenario would be to have a Rams-Saints call and no way to fix it.

This proposed “tweak,” if it happens, should spark others. For example, coaches should have three challenges regardless of whether their first two are successful. Also, if a coach has no time outs, he should still be able to use a challenge with the price being 15 yards of field position, if the ruling isn’t overturned.

Whatever the outcome of this effort to “tweak” the rule, the fact that it’s even an issue underscores the failure of the Competition Committee to realize that change was coming, and to adequately plan for it. This issue should have been handled in March; it wasn’t because the Competition Committee believed it would be able to shout down any and all advocates for changing the rules.

Meanwhile, it would be a hell of a lot easier to just have an extra official who monitors the TV broadcast and fixes all blatant errors in real time, with the benefit of the viewpoint that the rest of us have at home.

FMIA: The 2019 NFL Power Rankings, Taking Stock of Offseason Movement

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The hay is almost in the barn on the NFL offseason, with the draft over and most meaningful free agents in new homes. In his Football Morning in America column, Peter King takes the opportunity to restore order as we head into summer, ranking the teams 1 through 32. Also in the column:

• A surprise team in the Top 3, and why a free-agent pass rusher could be the most impactful player in the AFC South next fall.

• An even bigger surprise in the Top 7, and why a quarterback with just 10 career starts could determine the front-office fates for so many.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the Dak Prescott contract extension talks in Dallas; a logical guess on the Hard Knocks team; how Tom Brady stacks up against older Hall of Famers; the definition of a good deed in Indy and Chicago.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, winenerdness, a travel note and an opportunity to corner Peter King and tell him exactly how you feel about his rankings. [more]

FMIA: New Team, Same Chuckstrong

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Jettisoned from Indianapolis, Chuck Pagano landed in Chicago, and still has love for Chuckstrong. That’s where Peter King begins his Football Morning in America column, with a look at how the Bears defensive coordinator is still fighting to raise money for cancer research. Also in the column:

• Dan Patrick opens up about his ongoing battle with a joint disease that led to depression, memory loss and more.

• How the results of the NFL draft impacted the 2019 schedule, and why it could lead to more changes on when the schedule gets released.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the team that controls the 2020 NFL Draft; the controversial Kentucky Derby ending; the last word on Dave Gettleman; Kirk Cousins’ commencement speech at Michigan State.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, beernerdness, a travel note and how American can band together and free the world of way-too-early mock drafts. [more]

FMIA: 2019 Draft Scenes—Agony In Jersey, Making [Stuff] Up In Arizona and High Drama In The Raiders Room

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Where do you start after three news-packed days of the 2019 NFL Draft? Peter King begins his Football Morning in America column in Oakland … and Phoenix … and Denver … and New Jersey … and, well, let’s just get to the bullet points:

• Tension in the Raiders draft room! A look at the moment that made Mike Mayock briefly panic and Jon Gruden nearly lose it, before all the dots connected.

• In Giant-land … the agonizing decision that Dave Gettleman made, and why he made it, as explained by the general manager aka public enemy No. 1 among Giants fans.

• In Arizona … Kliff Kingsbury comes clean about the done deal quote—”People just make sh– up,” he says—and Steve Keim explains why his visualizations led him to risk his career to pick Kyler Murray.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on why Elway picked a quarterback; the similarities between Eli Manning and Daniel Jones; Marshawn Lynch’s HOF chances; why Tyreek Hill must go, now.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, teanerdness, beernerdness and the jolting request by my airplane seat neighbor en route to Denver. [more]

It’s time for the NFL to take draft picks from teams whose players get in trouble

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In addressing the Tyreek Hill situation on Saturday, Chiefs owner Clark Hunt explained in very pragmatic terms the reality that any player acquisition entails “some element of risk.” When it comes to players like 2016 fifth-round draft pick Tyreek Hill, it’s time for the NFL to raise the stakes.

The only way for NFL to encourage teams to more prudently use current draft picks when considering players with off-field red flags will be to implement a system for seizing future draft picks, if that red flag becomes a full-blown storm.

More than four years ago, the league considered the possibility of taking draft picks from teams whose players violate the Personal Conduct Policy.

What level of accountability should be expected of clubs?” Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to the league’s owners in October 2014. “Is the current Salary Remittance Program sufficient, or should additional measures be considered?”

The Salary Remittance Program entails a system of fines for teams who have multiple players suspended in a given year. And the Salary Remittance Program doesn’t work, since it’s like a traffic ticket. Taking draft picks would be more like seizing the car.

“Nothing else will work, because there always will be an owner, a G.M., or a coach who won’t be able to resist the upside,” we wrote in 2013, after Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder. “Make the downside more significant, and teams will start doing a much better job of avoiding troubled players — and of keeping all of their players out of trouble.”

When the Chiefs drafted Tyreek Hill in round five three years ago, they did their due diligence (it apparently wasn’t good enough), and they ultimately engaged in a risk-reward analysis. Even if he never plays for them again, they got extensive value over three seasons for the investment made in 2016.

But what if the Chiefs knew when taking Hill that future trouble would cause them to lose one or more future picks? Would they have done a better job of studying him? Would they have been willing to roll the dice with a third-day pick? Would they have had an even greater incentive to ensure he gets whatever counseling, treatment, etc. that he needed in order to better manage anger?

If/when the NFL crosses this bridge, the challenge becomes setting the right penalty. The greater the penalty, the less likely teams will be to give players who have engaged in misconduct “second chances” instead of nurturing the first chances of the many players who do not get in trouble.

Of course, this could lead to an unintended consequence of making the Personal Conduct Policy even more political, given that competitive reasons beyond the unavailability of the player would infect the process. Regardless, it’s fair to expect NFL executives generating seven-figure salaries to balance all interests, to ensure that all procedures are properly followed, and ultimately to give teams a clear incentive to help players avoid making bad decisions, and a clear disincentive to assume the otherwise acceptable risk of investing a low-round pick on a high-round talent.

PFT’s second-round mock draft

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Round 1 of the 2019 NFL draft ended with plenty of talent still available, including five players still in the green room. Now we have some thoughts on the names you’ll hear during Round 2 on Friday night,

Here’s our best guess at what Round 2 will look like:

33. Cardinals: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida.
34. Colts: A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi.
35. Raiders: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri.
36. 49ers: Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma.
37. Seahawks: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU.
38. Jaguars: Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech.
39. Buccaneers: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington.
40. Bills: Erik McCoy, OG, Texas A&M.
41. Broncos: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi.
42. Bengals: Irv Smith, TE, Alabama.
43. Lions: Greg Little, OT, Mississippi.
44. Packers: Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina.
45. Rams: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida.
46. Colts: Lonnie Johnson, CB, Kentucky.
47. Panthers: Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State.
48. Dolphins: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama.
49. Browns: Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware.
50. Vikings: Rock Ya Sin, CB, Temple.
51. Titans: Dalton Risner, G, Kansas State.
52. Broncos: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia.
53. Eagles: Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida.
54. Texans: Elgton Jenkins, OL, Mississippi State.
55. Texans: Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt.
56. Patriots: Germaine Pratt, LB, North Carolina State
57. Eagles: Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston.
58. Cowboys: Damien Harris, RB, Alabama.
59. Colts: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame.
60. Chargers: Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson.
61. Chiefs: Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan.
62. Saints: Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M.
63. Chiefs: Taylor Rapp, S, Washington.
64. Patriots: Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson.

Round one, 2019 NFL Draft

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1. Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma.

The Cardinals roll the dice on the player who could be the NFL’s next big thing. The next question is when/if they’ll trade QB Josh Rosen, the 10th overall pick a year ago.

2. 49ers: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State.

Bosa joins his big brother in California, albeit in difference conferences and at the other end of the state. If he plays like Joey, the 49ers could have a great defensive line.

3. Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama.

Never mind the pre-draft chatter that if they can’t trade down they’d take Ed Oliver. They couldn’t trade down, but they opted for perhaps the best player in the draft, at any position.

4. Raiders: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson.

The first surprise of the night comes from a team that wants to make people forget about Khalil Mack. Ferrell plays the same position, and he will be relentlessly compared to Mack, for better or worse.

5. Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU.

A no-brainer pick for a team that needed to replace Kwon Alexander.

6. Giants: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke.

They were smart to not risk that he’d be there at No. 17. They were dumb to make it so clear that they wanted him, or they could have waited.

7. Jaguars: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky.

For the second straight year, the seventh overall pick has the same name. Josh Allen the pass rusher falls to the Jaguars, who didn’t hesitate to pounce.

8. Lions: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa.

A year after the Lions tried to trade for Gronk, they potentially get a Gronk of their own.

9. Bills: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston.

Oliver slides right into the awaiting arms of a Bills team that will benefit significantly from his presence, especially with Kyle Williams now retired.

10. Steelers (from Broncos): Devin Bush, LB, Michigan.

The Steelers didn’t draft for need; they traded up for need.

11. Bengals: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama.

The Bengals get a belated replacement for Andrew Whitworth.

12. Packers: Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan.

Injury concerns fuel a slide, and the Packers beef up their pass rush.

13. Dolphins: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson.

They pass on a quarterback and opt for a guy who could be a key piece of the defensive puzzle in Miami.

14. Falcons: Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College.

The Falcons work on the trenches, in an effort to get more out of their offense.

15. Washington: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State.

The guy who would have been in the mix for the top pick but for Kyler Murray, Haskins’ arrival almost certainly means that Alex Smith won’t be back.

16. Panthers: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State.

With Julius Peppers retiring, the Panthers fill a need on their defensive line.

17. Giants (from Browns): Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson.

The Giants beef up their defensive line, a clear area of need.

18. Vikings: Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State.

One less excuse for Kirk Cousins, and one more guy to buy him time in the pocket.

19. Titans: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State.

A boom-or-bust prospect, the Titans get a guy who if healthy and effective could be a beast.

20. Broncos (from Steelers): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa.

They pass on a passer and pick a guy who can catch passes.

21. Packers (from Seahawks): Darnell Savage, S, Maryland.

Chronically overlooked by the draft experts, Savage slips past the top 20, and the Packers move up to grab him.

22. Eagles (from Ravens): Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State.

The Eagles jump three spots to get a guy who may replace Jason Peters, eventually if not sooner.

23. Texans: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State.

Houston throws everyone a curveball, but they address an area of true need.

24. Raiders (from Cowboys): Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama.

The first running back exits the board; Jacobs will replace Marshawn Lynch.

25. Ravens (from Eagles): Marquis Brown, WR, Oklahoma.

Antonio Brown‘s cousin will now play for his old team’s biggest rival. But the younger Brown may not see the ball very much in Baltimore’s run-based offense.

26. Washington (from Colts): Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississipi State.

One team that took Sweat off the board regarded him as the best pass rusher in the draft. Washington moves up to roll the dice on a guy who may or may not have a heart condition.

27. Raiders (from Bears): Johnathan Abram, DB, Missippi State.

Despite all the chatter about the Raiders trading up or down or whatever, they use all three picks in the original spot, and they add a guy who will help Oakland/Vegas deal with Patrick Mahomes.

28. Chargers: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame.

He won’t have very far to go from his draft destination of Hawaii, and the Chargers ignore concerns that Tillery doesn’t “love” football.

29. Seahawks (from Chiefs): L.J. Collier, DE, TCU.

The Seahawks get their Frank Clark replacement, and they’ll pay him a lot less than they would have had to pay Clark.

30. Giants (from Saints through Packers through Seahawks): Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia.

The first true corner off the board joins a secondary that has more holes than one guy can fill.

31. Falcons (from Rams): Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington.

Atlanta trades up, adding another blocker for Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and company.

32. Patriots: N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State.

Harry didn’t think he’d be picked below No. 33, and he was right — thanks to the Patriots taking a receiver in the first round for the first time since 1996.

Chiefs should cut Tyreek Hill, NFL should ban him for life

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The franchise that can take pride in the memory of Joe Delaney now faces plenty of shame. And it will only get worse for the Chiefs if they don’t immediately cut receiver Tyreek Hill.

They were just down this road five months ago, dumping running back Kareem Hunt — who led the league in rushing a year earlier — after it became clear that he’d lied to the team about an incident that happened last February in Cleveland. Whether Hill lied to the team or anyone else (based on the audio released tonight, it appears he did) regarding the circumstances that led to his three-year-old son suffering a broken arm, the Chiefs have only one option: Sever ties with Tyreek Hill, now.

Given that someone (maybe the Browns) will give Hill a “second chance”, it’s not enough for the Chiefs to cut him. The NFL needs to banish him. Permanently.

Yes, Hill has rights. But the audio is credible. The audio is troubling. The audio confirms every suspicion that Wednesday’s press conference from Johnson County, Kansas district attorney Stephen Howe invited, and it should result in Hill immediately being placed on the Commissioner Exempt list. Barring compelling evidence that the tape was doctored or falsified, Hill should never play again in the NFL.

Not playing in the NFL could be the least of Hill’s problems. Given his statement from earlier in the day, which indicated that he cooperated with authorities, he apparently lied to authorities, creating a separate legal problem over and above the injury inflicted on his son. Coupled with Hill’s history of stunning and disturbing domestic violence, for which he escaped NFL punishment because it happened before he entered the NFL, Hill has forfeited the privilege of playing in the NFL.

Sorry, but that’s the truth. With only 53 jobs and 32 teams, Tyreek Hill is holding a roster spot that should go instead to someone who hasn’t broken the law, or his child’s arm. He should never take one of those roster spots ever again. And the sooner the Chiefs and the league act, the better.

PFT’s 2019 mock draft

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Once upon a time, we published multiple versions of a mock draft.

Postseason. Pre-Combine. Post-Combine. Pre-free agency. Post-free agency. Pre-Pro Day workouts. Post-Pro Day workouts. Pre-Easter. Post-Easter. Pre-Draft. Post-Draft (that one is usually features my highest accuracy rate).

We now do one, and only one. Sure, mock drafts rack up easy page views. But it’s all meaningless until the draft comes into focus. Even then, it’s still meaningless. But, you know, when in Rome.

This mock draft is the product of the efforts of multiple sources and contract who are in far better position than most to know what will happen. Even though no one really knows what will happen.

So take this for what it’s worth, call it the worst mock you’ve ever seen, point out that we’ve included no potential trades. Whatever. And then wait for Thursday night to see what happens in the actual draft, remembering only the rare occasions when we closed our eyes, threw a dart, and somehow hit the board.

1. Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma.

The NFL wants to keep Arizona’s plans a secret until the TV audience gathers for the draft. If Murray finds out that he’s not the first pick, however, the secret will be out. And Murray will know, since his agent also represents Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury.

The Murray pick makes sense despite the presence of Josh Rosen. Given the rookie wage scale, it’s much better to take a chance on a potentially great quarterback who fails than to pass on a guy who could be the NFL’s next big thing. And Murray could be just that.

2. 49ers: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State.

A pivot to Quinnen Williams wouldn’t be a surprise. A trade down also could happen, especially if Murray slips through the cracks. For now, though, the smart play is the brother of a guy who quickly became one of the best pass rushers in pro football three years ago.

3. Jets: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston.

They want to trade down, which helps explain why the Raiders are nervous about a potential trade partner guessing correctly as to Oakland’s plans. There’s no reason to doubt the reporting that defensive coordinator Gregg Williams wants Oliver, even if the next guy of the board could be the better performer.

4. Raiders: Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama.

With Patrick Mahomes in the division, a guy who can flush him out of the pocket prematurely will be critical to any effort to outscore Kansas City. (One defensive upgrade isn’t nearly enough for the Raiders to compete with the Chiefs, however.) The surprise move in this spot would be to take quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who’d be getting a lot more media hype but for the presence of Kyler Murray in the draft pool.

5. Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU.

This is a no-brainer confluence of best available player and need, given that Kwon Alexander left via free agency. A trade down also is possible, if a team like Washington wants to cut the line before the Giants can take Dwayne Haskins (even though we don’t have the Giants taking Dwayne Haskins).

6. Giants: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky.

With Olivier Vernon gone, the Giants need a pass rusher more than they need a quarterback. And need drives these decisions, even if guys like G.M. Dave Gettleman try to say it doesn’t.

7. Jaguars: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida.

Nick Foles thrived in Philly due in large part to an offensive line that bought him just enough time. Now that the Jaguars have bought Foles’ football rights, they need to ensure that he’ll be able to thrive.

8. Lions: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa.

Gronk is gone; long live Gronk. Hockenson could become sort-of the guy in Detroit that Rob Gronkowski was in New England — a year after the Lions tried to trade for Gronkowski.

9. Bills: Brian Burns, EDGE, FSU.

Here’s a move that could be followed by a trade of Jerry Hughes and his $6.35 million salary to a team that fails to get a pass rusher it covets in round one.

10. Broncos: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri.

The slow-moving Willie Wonka competition for control of the franchise could give John Elway plenty of cover as he tries to rebuild a team that has fallen apart in recent years. Joe Flacco may not like this one, but Elway may see one very important trait in Lock: A great quarterback who was bogged down by a bad college team.

11. Bengals: Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma.

This is higher than many would peg Ford. But the Bengals don’t like to play the trade-down game. They settle on a guy, and they take him. If Ford’s their guy, he goes here.

12. Packers: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama.

Given with Khalil Mack and other great defensive linemen in the division, Aaron Rodgers needs all the help he can get as he enters the twilight years of his NFL career.

13. Dolphins: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson.

Although it’s not retired, Ferrell likely would need Jason Taylor’s blessing to wear preferred number 99. (Especially since Ferrell wears it not for Taylor but for Aldon Smith.) Ferrell could be as good as Smith, who at one point averaged nearly one sack per game, without the baggage. Or they could decide not to Tank for Tua and take Dwayne Haskins.

14. Falcons: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson.

If Wilkins is gone, they may opt for teammate Dexter Lawrence, as Peter King suggested in his mock draft.

15. Washington: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State.

The Alex Smith injury makes this a clear area of need. The question would become whether Haskins starts right away, or whether Case Keenum/Colt McCoy get the nod to start 2019. Either way, drafting Haskins would mean Smith likely won’t be back, ever.

16. Panthers: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State.

Cam Newton‘s career won’t last as long as it could or should without competent protection. Dillard is the kind of guy who could help Carolina achieve that goal.

17. Giants (from Browns): Daniel Jones, QB, Duke.

They’ll be taking a risk by not picking Jones at No. 6, inviting someone to trade up in front of No. 17 and nab Jones. If not, the Giants get a guy who reminds Gil Brandt of Peyton Manning to eventually replace Eli Manning.

18. Vikings: Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington.

He has said his life is “basically a country song,” which makes him a good fit for a franchise whose existence is also a tale of chronic despair and disappointment. The Vikings need bodies to protect Kirk Cousins, who lacks the mobility to escape a collapsed pocket.

19. Titans: Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan.

Shoulder concerns make him available at No. 19, and the Titans get a key piece to a defense that continues to be the quiet strength of the team.

20. Steelers: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa.

With JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington on the outside, a guy like Fant can draw attention to the middle of the field, opening things up for his teammates.

21. Seahawks: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State.

Frank Clark is gone, and the Seahawks (if they don’t trade down) may be willing to roll the dice on a guy with a heart condition that will scare some teams away. They also could, in theory, trade down and still get Sweat.

22. Ravens: A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi.

With free agents not flocking to an offense that won’t be mimicking the Run ‘N’ Shoot, the Ravens need to reel in a wideout in round one. Brown would be a surprise choice over teammate D.K. Metcalf, but injury issues and production concerns may cause Metcalf to slide. Brown, who lacks the superhero physique, has nevertheless more been durable and productive in the same offense.

23. Texans: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU.

Offensive line is a clear area of need, but it will be hard to pass up a speedy corner — especially for a team that plays in a division that has Andrew Luck and Nick Foles, and in a conference that has Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Baker Mayfield, and Ben Roethlisberger.

24. Raiders (from Bears): Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech.

The Khalil Mack trade has made pass rusher a clear area of need. Taking one at No. 24 and not No. 4 will reduce comparisons to the No. 5 overall pick from five years ago.

25. Eagles: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State.

They know the value of a strong rotation along the defensive line. Simmons would have been near the top of the board but for a torn ACL suffered during predraft workouts. And the Eagles weren’t bashful about throwing a lifeline to cornerback Sidney Jones, who tore an Achilles at his Pro Day workout two years ago.

26. Colts: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson.

Best player available and also an area of need. No-brainer for G.M. Chris Ballard.

27. Raiders (from Cowboys): Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama.

With Marshawn Lynch not returning, the Raiders need a running back. Jacobs is the best of this year’s bunch.

28. Chargers: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan.

Sneaky great defense gets greater, if Bush somehow slips through the cracks and is available at this spot.

29. Seahawks (from Chiefs): Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma.

To justify the investment in Russell Wilson, he needs to throw the ball. So they need someone to catch the ball, especially with Doug Baldwin banged up.

30. Packers (from Saints): Byron Murphy, CB, Washington.

The defense gets a building block as the Packers try to build back toward contention.

31. Rams: Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State.

John Sullivan is gone, and the interior offensive line becomes a position of specific concern — especially as the 49ers’ defensive line slides toward “dominant.” Bradbury helps to shore things up in front of Jared Goff.

32. Patriots: Erik McCoy, OG, Texas A&M.

A trade out of round one to a team that wants a quarterback is possible, as is the Patriots taking a quarterback themselves. McCoy would help keep the front of the pocket clean, so that Tom Brady can continue to step and slide away from outside pressure without having to worry about needing a walker.

FMIA Mock Draft: Four Trades, Four QBs and the 2019 No. 1 Pick Will Be…

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With the first pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals select … . That’s where Peter King begins his Football Morning in America column, with his first—and only—mock draft of the year. He also covers:

• Four first-round trades are projected in the mock draft, including one involving a Seattle veteran going to an AFC contender.

• The future for Josh Rosen, and what teams should take a chance on the QB-in-limbo if the Cardinals end up drafting Kyler Murray.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the NFL’s release of the 2019 schedule; Bill Belichick’s standing among all-time coaches; Oakland’s draft room strategy; the next big QB contract.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, travel note and the perks of getting a draft invite to Nashville.
[more]

Keeping tabs on the fifth-year options for 2016 first-round draft picks

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Twenty-nine players who were first-round draft picks in 2016 have fifth-year options for the 2020 season, and their teams must decide by May 3 whether to pick up those options. We’ll list each first-round pick here and the status of that option year.

The Patriots forfeited their first-round pick in 2016 because of DeflateGate, and two first-round picks from 2016 have already been released from their rookie contracts and therefore have no fifth-year option to pick up. Here’s how the fifth-year options look for the rest of that draft class:

1. Jared Goff, QB, Rams: The Rams announced they have picked up his option.

2. Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia: The Eagles announced they exercised his fifth-year option.

3. Joey Bosa, DE, Chargers: The Chargers picked up Bosa’s option for 2020.

4. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas: The Cowboys picked up the option.

5. Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville: The Jaguars picked up Ramsey’s option.

6. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Baltimore: The Ravens picked up his option.

7. DeForest Buckner, DE, San Francisco: The 49ers picked up his option.

8. Jack Conklin, OT, Tennessee: The Titans declined to exercise Conklin’s option.

9. Leonard Floyd, LB, Chicago: The Bears picked up his option.

10. Eli Apple, CB, New Orleans: The Saints will not pick up Apple’s option..

11. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay: The Buccaneers picked up his option.

12. Sheldon Rankins, DT, New Orleans: Will have his fifth-year option picked up.

13. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Miami: The Dolphins have announced that they will pick up the option.

14. Karl Joseph, S, Oakland: Despite Jon Gruden initially saying the Raiders would pick up the option, the Raiders changed their minds.

15. Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland: Has no option to pick up because he was released. He’s currently under contract to the Giants.

16. Taylor Decker, OT, Detroit: Lions picked up his option.

17. Keanu Neal, S, Atlanta: The Falcons have confirmed that they will pick up the option.

18. Ryan Kelly, C, Indianapolis: Colts General Manager Chris Ballard announced the Colts will pick up Kelly’s fifth-year option.

19. Shaq Lawson, DE, Buffalo: The Bills will not pick up Lawson’s option.

20. Darron Lee, LB, Jets: The Jets will not pick up Lee’s option.

21. Will Fuller, WR, Houston: The Texans picked up Fuller’s option.

22. Josh Doctson, WR, Washington: The team will not pick up Doctson’s option.

23. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota: The Vikings announced they will not pick up Treadwell’s option.

24. William Jackson, CB, Cincinnati: The Bengals picked up his option.

25. Artie Burns, CB, Pittsburgh: The Steelers are expected to decline Burns’ option.

26. Paxton Lynch, QB, Denver: Has no option to pick up because he was released. He’s currently a backup in Seattle.

27. Kenny Clark, DT, Green Bay: The Packers will exercise Clark’s option.

28. Joshua Garnett, G, San Francisco: Garnett will not have his option picked up.

29. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Arizona: The Cardinals will not exercise Nkemdiche’s option.

30. Vernon Butler, DT, Carolina: The Panthers declined to exercise Butler’s option.

31. Germain Ifedi, OT Seattle: The Seahawks will not exercise Ifedi’s option.

FMIA: What If Arizona Doesn’t Draft Kyler Murray With The No. 1 Pick?

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What if the Cardinals don’t draft Kyler Murray with the No. 1 pick in 10 days? That’s where Peter King begins his Football Morning in America column: looking at some scenarios—Trade? Another player?—where Arizona doesn’t do what everyone believes will happen. Plus:

• Big day in Seattle. The Russell Wilson contract deadline looms for the Seahawks, and King has a very thoroughly reported breakdown of what the future might hold for Seattle’s franchise quarterback.

• Revisiting the infamous Ricky Williams trade, which happened 20 years ago this week.

• More thoughts, notes and opinions on the death of Forrest Gregg; the 29-person coaching staff in Arizona; the looming NFL schedule release; the latest draft buzz.

• Plus 10 things, factoids, coffeenerdness, winenerdness and the draft prospect who called Belichick “Billy.” [more]

Demario Davis, Doug Baldwin push for a ban on corporal punishment in schools

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Here’s something I didn’t know 15 minutes ago: Corporal punishment in schools remains legal in 19 states.

Here’s something else I didn’t know: Kentucky had more than 400 incidents of corporal punishment during the most recent school year, up from the prior school year.

I now know these things thanks to the efforts of Saints linebacker Demario Davis (pictured) and Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who have on behalf of the Players Coalition written a column for TheHill.com calling on the 19 states that still allow corporal punishment in schools to get rid of it.

“For states that allow corporal punishment, a minor offense or mistake can lead to lasting mental, emotional and physical effects for students,” Davis and Baldwin write.

Amen to that. In 1972, as a six-year-old first-grader, I made the mistake of accidentally bumping into the teacher while returning to the classroom from recess. She grabbed me by the upper arm and dug her nails deep into the flesh, leaving an ugly bruise with a red perimeter where the skin had broken. I don’t remember much from 47 years ago, but I definitely remember this.

I’d just assumed that teachers no longer impose corporal punishment on students. Plenty of you probably thought the same thing. If you, like me, are horrified to think that teachers still have license in 19 states to strike children who behave at times like (wait for it) children, let your elected representatives know that this nonsense must end, now.

And let Davis and Baldwin know in the comments that you appreciate their efforts to ensure that all kids growing up in today’s America — who already have more than enough crap to worry about in school and elsewhere — won’t have to also worry about being beaten by their teachers.