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.
Before the next wave of TV deals will be negotiated, the NFL will surely be doing its biggest deal yet in the environment where much of what used to be viewed on TV is now being consumed.
Via NBCNews.com, the NFL could move its out-of-market streaming rights to Amazon or Disney. Amazon already streams Thursday Night Football, and Disney would surely love to boost the offerings of its in-house streaming service, ESPN+.
Recent tensions have emerged between the NFL and AT&T, which has purchased DirecTV. Meanwhile, ESPN has worked hard to rebuild bridges to 345 Park Avenue, and Amazon has become a behemoth in the streaming/sales space. Its value comes from the merger of viewing preferences and purchase habits, enabling Amazon to tailor commercials to viewers, who can make a purchase with the click of a button while otherwise watching a game.
Per the report, the NFL also has considered Google and Netflix for a streaming deal. The former has been “on and off”; the latter has never shown interest.
AT&T abruptly dropped NFL Network from Uverse and DirecTV now this week, while keeping NFLN in the DirecTV lineup. This development surely doesn’t make it more likely that DirecTV and the NFL will renew its longstanding arrangement, which began in 1994.
It’s possible that, in the end, DirecTV will keep the satellite rights while another company assumes the streaming of the games, allowing people in rural areas that lack high-speed Internet access to continue to watch all Sunday afternoon games and giving the NFL a potent double-dip with big fees both from DirecTV and a new streaming partner.
Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman made the decisions to trade wide receiver Odell Beckham and not hold onto safety Landon Collins this offseason.
He’s heard the criticism of those moves and he’s heard doubts about his overall plan to build the team since he was hired in late 2017. It’s fair to say that Gettleman doesn’t think much of voices on the “outside looking in.”
Gettleman said he’s never seen a team win the Super Bowl with “a culture problem” and said that the Giants no longer have one as they head into the 2019 season. He said he’s been “intentional” with every move he’s made and pointed to his history as reason to believe he knows what he’s doing.
“I’ve been to seven Super Bowls,” Gettleman said to Steve Politi of NJ.com. “I feel very strongly that I know what it should look like, what it should smell like, what it should taste like. And, so, you can look at me and say, well, I either know what I’m doing or I’m a big fat rabbit’s foot. Neither one’s bad, right? I like my resume so far.”
Gettleman’s resume bought him the chance to do things his way with the Giants. The result of those efforts will either be his to crow about or reason for the Giants to find someone else to build their team in the years to come.
As the draft approaches, there’s been quite a bit of chatter that the Giants will take their quarterback of the future in the first round — but not with their own pick, No. 6 overall. Instead, the idea is that the Giants think one of the quarterbacks they like — Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock or Daniel Jones — will drop to the 17th overall pick that they received in the Odell Beckham trade.
So will the Giants pass on a quarterback at 6 and take one at 17?
That would be an odd approach: If the Giants like one of those quarterbacks well enough that they think he’s the successor to Eli Manning, they should take him with the sixth overall pick, so as not to risk some other team taking him with Picks 7-16. And if the Giants don’t like a quarterback enough to take him sixth overall, then he’s not good enough to justify going 17th, either.
The latter point has been demonstrated by the Browns three times in recent years: In 2007, 2012 and 2014, the Browns had two first-round draft picks and took a quarterback all three times. Those quarterbacks — Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel — did not pan out. The lesson from the Browns is that if you’re not confident enough in a quarterback to take him high in the first round, there’s probably a reason for that.
Quarterback is, by far, the most important position in the NFL. If the Giants’ future franchise quarterback is available at Pick No. 6, they shouldn’t risk losing him by waiting for Pick No. 17.
We noted last weekend that there’s been talk around the NFL of the Seahawks trading defensive end Frank Clark. That talk seems to be getting louder as the draft approaches.
Multiple reports in recent days have said a Clark trade is possible. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Bills and Jets are interested in acquiring Clark. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Seahawks will demand “at least a first0round pick.”
Getting a first-round pick would be a tall order. Clark is probably looking for something in the neighborhood of the five-year, $90 million contract defensive end Trey Flowers got from the Lions. A team giving up a first-round pick and paying Clark that kind of money would have to absolutely love him as a player.
Seahawks G.M. John Schneider has spoken recently about how he likes making draft trades. The Seahawks have just four picks in this year’s draft, and the right package of picks might be enough to make them part ways with Clark.
Longtime NFL tight end Benjamin Watson might not be retiring after all.
Watson, who indicated at the end of last season that it would be his last, is thinking he might play this year after all, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
A free agent who spent last season with the Saints, Watson would apparently play if he gets the right offer from the right team.
Watson, who has also played for the Patriots, Browns and Ravens, is 38 years old and was mostly a backup last year, but he’s one of the NFL’s most respected players and there are likely teams that think he’s the kind of veteran presence they’d like in their locker rooms.
Despite initially committing to attend the draft, Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat will not be there.
Sweat told ESPN he will stay home and celebrate the occasion with his family.
“My devoted grandparents and a host of other family members helped me to get to this point in my life and I wanted to celebrate this special day with my family so we all chose to do so where it all started for me, Stone Mountain, Georgia,” Sweat said.
It’s fair to wonder whether another reason Sweat isn’t attending the draft is that he’s concerned about how far his stock might fall. Some teams have reportedly taken Sweat off their boards because of fears that his heart condition could make it unsafe for him to play.
Sweat turned in an outstanding performance at the Scouting Combine, running the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded by a defensive lineman. He also had 22.5 sacks last season and was considered a sure high pick before recent speculation that the heart condition could hurt his draft stock.
If, as it appears, the Cardinals will take quarterback Kyler Murray with the first pick in the 2019 draft, the next mystery becomes what will the 49ers do at No. 2?
Many think it’s not a mystery. Many think that the 49ers will take Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa. However, some in league circles believe that the extent to which the 49ers are allowing that perception to exist unchallenged could mean, in reality, that the 49ers are planning to do something else.
It’s an intriguing thought, especially in light of the recent reactions to Bosa’s social-media habits, and regarding the perceived upside of Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. Chris Simms repeatedly has said that Williams is the best interior defensive line prospect Simms has ever studied, and Simms has studied prospects like Aaron Donald.
With the Rams enjoying the benefits of the disruption Donald causes even when he doesn’t land on the stat sheet (other than the Simms trademark-pending “F–kup The Play” metric), maybe the 49ers want an Aaron Donald of their own. Or maybe they want someone who loves Bosa to think that the only way to get Bosa will be to trade up to No. 2 with the 49ers — not to No. 3 with the Jets.
Two years ago, the 49ers picked up two extra third-round picks and an extra fourth-round pick by moving down just one spot in a trade with the Bears, still getting the guy they would have taken at No. 2. There’s a chance that the 49ers are holding out hope for a similar haul, which depending on how far they drop as a result of a trade could still allow them to emerge from the process with Quinnen Williams.
If an acceptable trade offer doesn’t arrive by Thursday night, it will be very interesting to see whether the 49ers go Bosa or Williams.
Good news, it’s 4/20. Bad news, it’s 4/20.
The International Day of Weed coincides, coincidentally or not, with the opening of the annual window for the once-per-year random drug test under the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Random PED testing can happen at any time, all year long. For recreational drugs, like marijuana, players not in the substance-abuse program get one test per year, and that’s it.
The key, given the possibility that it takes up to 30 days to clear evidence of marijuana use from the system, is to stop smoking by late March, and to refrain until the random substance-abuse test comes and goes.
For some players who use marijuana, that’s where the frustration will arise. The window remains open until early August, which means that the wait that begins on April 20 could last deep into the summer.
So be smart, NFL players who may be inclined to wake and bake or blaze and haze (I don’t know if that’s a thing, I just like the sound of it). If you’re not in the program, don’t inhale anything other than tobacco smoke until you expel urine into a cup for substance-abuse testing. Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of getting tested a lot more often than once per year.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that some team has Duke quarterback Daniel Jones ranked first at his position on their draft board.
Because a Hall of Fame evaluator has compared him to one of the top quarterbacks of all time.
Via Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com, veteran scout and SiriusXM NFL Radio analyst Gil Brandt gave Jones some of the highest praise possible.
“I. Love. Dan Jones,” Brandt said. “I have to say this carefully: When you watch him and you go back (20) years and watch Peyton Manning, you are watching the same guy. He’s athletic. He doesn’t have a rocket for an arm, but neither did Peyton. Very smart.”
Some comparisons are natural, because of their similar builds and coaching (Duke coach David Cutcliffe was an early Manning mentor and still works with Eli Manning in the offseasons). But Brandt said that Jones began to stand out on his own in an environment that wasn’t always conducive to passing success.
“He had an opportunity to have a full scholarship to Princeton,” Brandt said of Jones. “He said, ‘No, I’m better [at football] than that. I want to walk-on at Duke.’ He completed 60 percent of his passes but they didn’t have any great receivers there to catch the ball.
“He had an unbelievable workout a month or so ago. A lot of people have turned to like him.”
And while a comparison to a future Hall of Famer might not be fair to any player, it’s clear Jones will be a first-rounder, as someone will definitely take a chance on a guy with so many valuable traits.
One of the odd things about Jaguars front office boss Tom Coughlin complaining about Jalen Ramsey‘s absence from voluntary offseason workouts is that Ramsey also missed voluntary workouts, and the team seemed fine with it.
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said last year that Ramsey was working out with his dad, and defensive coordinator Todd Wash said the team had no concern about Ramsey returning in shape.
″One thing that you do not have to worry about is Jalen working,″ Wash said last year. ″I am not worried about him coming back not being in shape. That is the last thing from our mind. We know with Jalen, how he prepares, when he comes back he is going to be ready to go.”
If there were no concerns last year, but Coughlin felt the need to say something and Ramsey felt the need to respond this year, what has changed?
One difference is that a year ago, the Jaguars were coming off an AFC Championship Game appearance and Ramsey was coming off a great season. This year, the Jaguars are coming off a 5-11 season and Ramsey didn’t play as well.
Another difference may be contractual: Ramsey is eligible for an extension for the first time in his career, and he said late last year that he was ready for a new contract. Coughlin may think Ramsey is too focused on his contract and not focused enough on getting himself ready, while Ramsey may think that if the Jaguars aren’t going to show him the money, he has no reason to do voluntary work.
The Cardinals remain committed to keeping their intentions for the first overall pick quiet, possibly at the behest of the league office or possibly because they like being the center of attention, for a change. But the signs continue to point to the Cardinals taking quarterback Kyler Murray with that No. 1 overall selection.
The fact that current quarterback Josh Rosen genuinely seems to be in the dark regarding his status continues to be the most compelling evidence that Rosen will be supplanted by Murray. If Murray isn’t the pick, the damage being done to Rosen’s standing within the organization will be hard to undo. Other players will look at him differently, always wondering whether he’s the guy they should be unconditionally following or whether it’s just a matter of time before he’ll be benched or traded. And if players can’t fully embrace the player who is supposed to lead them, the players necessarily won’t have the leader they need.
Here’s another signal that, for now, indicates that Murray will be the guy: He has agreed to go to Nashville for the draft. If he didn’t believe he’d be the first overall pick at a time when so many expect it to be him, would he walk into the embarrassment that necessarily would flow from sitting there in the green room while someone else becomes the first person to make the walk across the stage for a bear hug with Roger Goodell?
Murray will know before the draft whether he’s the pick, thanks to the relationship between agent Erik Burkhardt and the Cardinals. Burkhardt represents Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Burkhardt helped Kingsbury navigate a contractual minefield out of USC and into the job he now has. Kingsbury will know what the Cardinals are going to do, Kingsbury will tell Burkhardt, and Burkhardt will tell Murray.
So if Murray follows through on his non-binding agreement to attend the draft, he’s the guy. If he cancels (in the same way he canceled his trip to D.C.), he’s not. With so few sure things entering this year’s draft, that may be the only one.
Falcons receiver Julio Jones is not present for the start of the team’s offseason program. He presumably wants a new contract.
It appears that could happen sooner than later.
Jeff Schultz of TheAthletic.com tweeted that the Falcons and Jones are “not far apart on a new contract and a deal could be finalized in the next few weeks.”
Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has said the sides are in talks but wouldn’t put a timeline on getting a deal done.
The team adjusted his deal last year before training camp after Jones skipped the offseason program. He signed a five-year, $71.3 million extension in 2015, putting him under contract through the 2020 season.
Jones recently said he doesn’t care about being the league’s highest-paid wideout, but his $14.25 million annual average currently ranks 11th at the position.
Jaguars executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin made some headlines this week when he said that every player on the team “should be” at the team’s voluntary offseason workouts.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith haven’t been in Jacksonville and Coughlin’s comments drew a response from the NFLPA that the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s “definition of voluntary is the same as the actual definition of voluntary.”
On Friday, Ramsey’s agent David Mulugheta offered up a response on Twitter that said Ramsey “is exactly where Jalen should be during his off season” and that the team was “fully aware” that he’d be absent ahead of time. Ramsey replied to that tweet with one of his own.
Contract issues can lead to offseason absences and Ramsey is eligible for an extension for the first time in his career, but didn’t take part in the team’s voluntary work last season to train at his father’s facility in Nashville. Barring word to the contrary, it seems he’s following the same script this time around.
The hay may not be fully in the barn, but the barn has been emptied of any livestock.
The Raiders have sent their scouts home until after the draft, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. Per the report, coach Jon Gruden and G.M. Mike Mayock “don’t know who to trust.”
(Well, for starters, they can’t trust whoever leaked that tidbit to Rapoport.)
It’s a bizarre report, for a variety of reasons. First, it suggests an unprecedented level of paranoia. Second, it reveals that Gruden and Mayock have no functional plan for securing the most sensitive information regarding their final draft board or strategy, without demoralizing the entire scouting staff. Third, acting on the lack of trust creates the impression that the Raiders are more dysfunctional than other teams, even if other teams have the same concerns.
And they do. Coaches and General Managers routinely take steps to keep their plans secret within the building, given the possibility that someone may intentionally or accidentally blab. While clearing the building may create complete protection against espionage, there has to be a way to do it that doesn’t entail telling the world, “Hey, look at us! We don’t know what we’re doing!”
It also underscores the immense pressure that Gruden and Mayock (mainly Gruden) are currently feeling to turn a trio of first-round picks into players who will make fans and critics forget about Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper.
Earlier this week, PFT Live included a draft of the draft rooms we’d most like to visit. Apparently, there will be plenty of empty seats in Oakland’s.