Draft Notes: Bortles, Askew, Mauro, Ward

As we saw last month, a handful of the more successful and shrewder NFL franchises approach free agency with the draft in mind, writes Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. As La Canfora writes, many clubs are more inclined to pursue free agents like Darrelle Revis, DeMarcus Ware, Steve Smith, and Julius Peppers, who were released by their previous teams, since those players aren’t linked to compensatory draft picks.

This approach also explains why the Ravens, who signed Smith after he was cut by the Panthers, were willing to give up a fifth-round pick to acquire Jeremy Zuttah — given how many compensatory picks Baltimore typically lands (a league-high 41 since 1996), the team should easily replace that fifth-rounder after letting notable free agents like Arthur Jones and Michael Oher depart.

Here’s a little more from La Canfora’s piece, as well as a few other draft notes from around the league:

  • La Canfora makes a couple draft-related predictions, forecasting a cornerback run in the first round (sometime in the 20s), and suggesting that drafted players may sign contracts more quickly this year than usual, since teams will be eager to address that business after waiting an extra two weeks for the draft.
  • Peter King of TheMMQB.com doesn’t expect Blake Bortles to still be available when the Vikings pick at No. 8 next week, but he sees Bortles as an ideal fit for Minnesota and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. King identifies the Texans and Browns as a couple teams that could snatch up the UCF signal-caller before the Vikings are on the clock.
  • Speedy Texas A&M linebacker Nate Askew, a converted receiver, has drawn “steady interest from NFL teams,” according to Aaron Wilson of the National Post, who reports that Askew visited the Panthers and Buccaneers. Wilson adds that the linebacker, who recorded a 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash, also worked out privately for the Falcons, Eagles, and the Texans.
  • Wilson also provides an update on Stanford defensive lineman Josh Mauro, who visited the Giants and worked out privately for the Cowboys, Raiders, and Falcons.
  • We heard earlier in the month that Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward paid a pre-draft visit to the Ravens, but according to ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan (Twitter link), Baltimore was just one of 12 teams to host the safety. The Falcons, Panthers, and Cowboys were among the other teams Ward visited.
  • Arizona State defensive back Alden Darby has worked out for the Patriots, Falcons, and Chargers, and still has a workout with the Raiders on the docket, tweets Doug Haller of AZCentral.com.
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