Month: July 2018

Extra Points: Tate, Foles, Bills, Falcons

Andrew Brandt and Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com published a pair of interesting articles today on the devaluation of the running back position. Brandt’s piece attempts to explain why the value of running backs is in decline, while Klemko spoke to recent Browns signee Ben Tate about the trend. Asked if he’d have chosen a different path if he’d been able to foresee the drop-off in contract value for rushers, Tate admitted he likely would have.

“I would’ve been something else, for sure. I’d have been a safety,” Tate said. “I had the opportunity to play it in college, but I wanted to be the guy to get the ball. I had no idea the position would be devalued, but hopefully I can break that trend.”

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NFL:

  • Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who still has two years remaining on his rookie contract, isn’t thinking about a new deal after his breakout 2013 season, as Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News details (via Sulia). “I enjoy playing this game, whatever my contract is, or not,” Foles said. “I don’t even know how much I make this next year — I just love playing this game with my teammates.”
  • New York governor Andrew Cuomo has hired a law firm to help keep the Bills in the state, writes Tom Precious of the Albany Bureau. That firm will help Cuomo & Co. help convince the team’s new owners to keep the Bills in Western New York rather than move them to Toronto or another destination. 
  • Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff told reporters today, including D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that he still doesn’t regret trading away five picks for wide receiver Julio Jones in the 2011 draft. Earlier today we asked Pro Football Rumors readers what they think Atlanta will do in the 2014 draft and most of you said the team would trade up.
  • Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson couldn’t be happier to be a member of the Colts, writes Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. Jackson inked a four-year, $22MM deal with the Colts in March and says that he’s happy to get as far away from “the Cleveland situation” as possible. 
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press looks at possible quarterback targets for the Lions. Of course, with Matthew Stafford under center and Dan Orlovsky on a one-year deal to back him up, Detroit doesn’t have a huge QB need, but they could draft someone in the later rounds to give Kellen Moore a run for his money.
  • Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com surveys the Raiders‘ defensive line possibilities in next month’s draft, including Pittsburgh tackle Aaron Donald. Even though he’s undersized at 6’1″, he has a high motor, great speed, and agility for the defensive tackle position.
  • This year’s deep draft can yield some serious gems for the Ravens, writes Bo Smolka of CSNBaltimore.com. At the Ravens’ pre-draft news conference earlier today, assistant GM Eric DeCosta said the Ravens have identified about 180 players they view as draftable, up from 140 or 150 in past years.

Rob DiRe contributed to this post.

NFC North Notes: Pryor, Rodgers, Lions

The Bears have a tremendous need at safety, and Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune looks at some of the top prospects at the position. According to Campbell, the Bears’ top choice would be Calvin Pryor of Louisville, but he also lists a number of “intriguing options”, some that could be available after the first round of the draft. Here are some other notes from around the NFC North..

  • Surrounding Aaron Rodgers with as many playmakers as possible will always be a goal for the Packers‘ front office, and Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel looks at a few lesser-known prospects that could be added to the mix in later rounds. As part of his draft series, McGinn offers a historical comparison and the words of an unnamed NFL personnel man to round out his preview.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press looks at possible quarterback targets for the Lions. Of course, with Matthew Stafford under center and Dan Orlovsky on a one-year deal to back him up, Detroit doesn’t have a huge QB need, but the club could draft someone in the later rounds to give Kellen Moore a run for his money.
  • ESPN’s Todd McShay says the Vikings should take UCF star Blake Bortles, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. McShay views Bortles as the best quarterback in the draft and feels that Minnesota should pull the trigger if he falls to No. 8.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Prospect Profile: Calvin Pryor

If Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton Dix is not the top safety in this draft, then Louisville’s Calvin Pryor is. While nominally these two players inhabit the same position on the field, the two free safeties have very different styles of play. While we already examined the playmaking ability in the center field that Dix could bring to the table, Pryor counters with the big-hitting, in-your-face style of play of safeties past.Calvin Pryor

Pryor’s biggest strength on the football field is violence. He struck fear in the hearts of any receiver running a crossing route in front of him. His highlight clips on YouTube are among the most fun watches of any prospect, filled with big plays that look as if they were scripted to elicit groans from all who watch. He throws his body into every play with full force and no hesitation. His dedication to those highlight hits makes him a weapon as a run defender. For an insight into his physical dominance, he had a stretch in which he knocked an opponent out of a game in three consecutive games, according to NFL.com.

While most fans will probably remember him for his ability to put ball carriers on the ground, Pryor never proved to be a weakness covering the middle of the field. It was rare to find him in man coverage, but he was able to cover deep in the middle of the field, exhibiting good range. His athleticism is not dissimilar to that of Clinton-Dix, as Pryor weighed in at 207 pounds and posted an identical time of 4.58 in the 40-yard dash. Pryor did measure in at 5’11”, a full two inches shorter than Clinton-Dix.

Pryor’s aggressiveness can be his greatest weakness on tape, as expected for a player always going for the big hit. He has the tendency to overrun plays, leaving himself susceptible to the cutback. He might take some bad angles, and a big hitter always risk the chance of missing on a tackle, especially as he meets bigger and stronger runners in the NFL.

Still, for a safety not known as a ballhawk, Pryor managed to get his hands on seven passes in his three years at Louisville, with a few highlight catches among those. He also forced nine devastating fumbles for his career, solidifying himself as one of the biggest hitters in college football regardless of position. Pryor was named Second Team All-Big East as a sophomore, and after a conference change, achieved First Team All-ACC as a junior before declaring for the NFL Draft. Like his counterpart from Alabama, Pryor was suspended for violating a team rule, forcing him to miss a game during his final collegiate season.

Early in the draft process, a common thought was that Pryor could be too physical for the NFL game. Pundits worried that he was almost a guarantee for fines and suspensions, a potential magnet for defenseless receiver calls. For the most part, that thinking corrected itself, and coincided with Pryor’s rise up draft boards. While most still have him as the second best safety in this class, he has closed the gap between himself and Clinton-Dix. Both ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay have Pryor falling to the Cowboys (No. 16) (subscription required), while two out of the four mock drafts posted by CBS Sports have him up at No. 13, to the Rams. The Louisville hammer also has some traction among the Bears (No. 14) and Ravens (No.17).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Rams, Mosley, Baldwin

The 49ers are expected to be aggressive in this draft, looking to trade up in the first round in order to secure a top prospect. In order to do so, they need a trade partner, and Bill Williamson of ESPN.com explored a few options. If their target is a top wideout such as Sammy Watkins of Clemson or Mike Evans of Texas A&M, they have the ammunition to move up to No. 5 by trading with their rivals across the Bay. If they are not so zealous, they could look to make a deal with the Steelers (No. 15), the Chiefs (No. 23), or the Browns (No. 26).

Here are some other notes from around the NFC West:

  • The Rams have been bringing a lot of prospects in for visits leading up to the draft, but it may be a smokescreen to keep secret the prospects they truly covet, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. He believes they did this the last two years, especially finding it useful to hide their interest in receivers Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey by leaking their interest in a few much more high profile pass catchers. Unless the Rams changed philosophies, this could mean we could be surprised with their choices at the draft next week.
  • The Cardinals will be looking to replace inside linebacker Karlos Dansby this offseason, and Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com believes they could find a great player in the first round. Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley has the burst to compete for that spot as a rookie, replicating Dansby’s athleticism. The team still has Kevin Minter, and if they can justify carrying both, they could put together a deep linebacking group.
  • Doug Baldwin has still not signed his second-round tender with the Seahawks, but Stephen Cohen of SeattlePI.com believes that the team still holds all the cards in keeping him. Baldwin has until Friday to negotiate with other teams, but the Seahawks have the right to match any offer or accept a second-round pick in return for letting Baldwin go.

Prospect Profile: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Earl Thomas signed a huge extension on Monday, making him the highest paid safety in the NFL. The reason Thomas got that money is due to the rarity of true to form center field type safety in today’s game. The versatility that a speedy defensive back that can play in the middle of the defense, providing coverage skills as well as strength bringing down the ball carrier makes a defensive coordinator’s job much easier. If not easier, then definitely more fun.Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

There is only one safety in the mold of Thomas projected to be picked in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, and that is Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Dix played three seasons with the Crimson Tide, and was a part of two national championship teams. His five interceptions as a sophomore led a highly regarded Alabama defense. Clinton-Dix was suspended for two games during the 2013 season, due to “unspecified team rules violations.” Despite missing two games, he was named First Team All-SEC after his junior season, and was a Consensus All-American safety.

Clinton-Dix measured out well at the NFL combine, standing tall at 6’1″ and 208 pounds. He ran a respectable 4.58 40-yard dash. It does not put him in the category of elite athletes, but it is a combination of size and speed that is desirable in a prospect. Under Nick Saban, he learned how to play the position efficiently. According to NFL.com, he is quick to read and react to plays, and makes up for his average speed by taking great angles to the football, where he becomes a nightmare due to his good ball skills and ability to turn defense into offense.

Like many Saban coached defensive backs, Clinton-Dix shined in college coming up to stop the run. Not one to shy from contact, he gets into the alley and is a strong open field tackler. While he does not have the top speed to run with the fastest receivers in the NFL, nor the bulk to be considered a true in the box safety, he does provide versatility in his ability to switch from a run stopper to a pass defender from play to play.

Safety is a tough position to gauge in regards to this draft. Clinton-Dix is not the clear cut top option, as Louisville’s Calvin Pryor has been making headway. The two are very different players as well, as Clinton-Dix has the reputation for staying in the middle of the field and making plays on the ball, whereas Pryor is known as the big hitter. Style will play a huge role in which player comes off the board first.

Clinton-Dix starts to gain a lot of traction among mock drafts starting with the Lions (No. 10). If the Lions pass on him, he begins to make a lot of sense for the Rams (No. 13) and the Bears (No. 14). ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. agrees that the Rams could jump on him, and Todd McShay has him landing in St. Louis as well (subscription required). The Vikings (No. 8) seem like the highest he could possibly go, and if the Steelers (No. 15) do pass, the Cowboys (No. 16), Ravens (No. 17), and Jets (No. 18) all have significant need at safety.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Won’t Exercise 2015 Option On Locker

The Titans won’t pick up the fifth-year option on Jake Locker‘s contract, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. The news isn’t unexpected given Locker’s injury troubles and the cost of the fifth-year option. As a quarterback taken in the top ten of the 2011 draft, picking up Locker’s 2015 option would have cost Tennessee $14.666MM as shown in PFR’s Fifth-Year Option Tracker.

Locker, who is coming off of foot surgery in November, has a lot to prove in 2014. The 25-year-old (26 in July) missed 14 of a possible 32 starts over the past two seasons because of injuries. His record as a starter is 8-10 with 15 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

Locker won’t be the only top ten QB from the 2011 class who won’t have his option exercised. Missouri product Blaine Gabbert, now with the 49ers, will not be retained for $14.666MM. Top selection Cam Newton, on the other hand, has had his option exercised by the Panthers.

Draft Notes: Rams, Texans, Easley, Fleming

The Rams, armed with the second and 13th overall picks in the draft, will head to College Station to work out top Texas A&M prospects Johnny Manziel, Mike Evans, and Jake Matthews, reports Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (via Twitter). ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan notes (via Twitter) that the workouts should happen on Friday, which will also give GM Les Snead, coach Jeff Fisher and company the opportunity to stop tomorrow in Alabama to work out quarterback A.J. McCarron, as Albert Breer of the NFL Network tweets. Let’s round up a few more draft notes, including another one on the Rams….

  • Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Ohio State are also expected to be among the Rams‘ stops before May 8 as they work out a number of top draft prospects, tweets Mortensen.
  • John McClain of the Houston Chronicle believes that if the Texans don’t trade down from No. 1, the team’s choice will come down to Manziel vs. Jadeveon Clowney. If Houston moves down and those players are off the board, Blake Bortles and Khalil Mack might be the club’s top two choices, says McClain.
  • Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link) has heard from two top scouts who believe Florida’s Dominique Easley will be selected in the first round despite the fact that the defensive lineman is recovering from a torn ACL.
  • Adam Caplan (Twitter link) adds the Titans to the list of teams visited by Stanford tackle Cameron Fleming, and the Bengals to the list of clubs that worked him out. As Caplan tweets, Fleming, who had one of the highest Wonderlic scores among this year’s offensive linemen, is projected to come off the board on the second day of the draft.
  • Ohio State wideout Corey Brown visited the Browns and worked out for the Patriots and Panthers, tweets Caplan.
  • More from Caplan: He tweets that South Dakota edge defender Tyler Starr visited the Patriots and had a private workout with the Colts, and reports (via Twitter) that San Diego State safety Eric Pinkins visited the Dolphins and Seahawks.

Jamari Lattimore Signs RFA Tender

Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore has officially signed his restricted free agent tender, according to the NFL’s transaction wire (Twitter link via Brian McIntyre). Green Bay had extended the low RFA tender to Lattimore, so he’ll be under contract for a $1.431MM salary in 2014.

Lattimore, 25, saw his first significant action for the Packers in 2013, playing 272 defensive snaps and recording a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. He also chipped in with six tackles on special teams. Assuming he plays out the 2014 season under his current one-year deal, he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency next winter.

As McIntyre tweets, Lattimore’s decision to accept and sign his RFA tender leaves just two restricted free agents on the market — Doug Baldwin of the Seahawks and Byron Bell of the Panthers. The deadline for players to sign offer sheets with rival suitors is this Friday, and I’d be surprised if either Baldwin or Bell inked an offer sheet. Both players received the $2.187MM tender from their respective teams, meaning a rival club would have to part with a second-round pick to sign them away.

Poll: What Will Falcons Do In Draft?

While recent reports have suggested the Bills are strongly considering a move up in the draft, and the Lions have also been frequently cited as a candidate to trade up, the Falcons are viewed as perhaps the most likely team to jump up into the top five. Atlanta has long been linked to South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, and look like a natural trade partner for the Texans, who hold the first overall pick and don’t appear to have made a decision on their pick yet.

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who is no stranger to blockbuster draft trades, spoke to reporters today about his club’s plans for that sixth overall pick, and dropped a few morsels of information. Dimitroff admitted he has talked trade with a few teams, and while he declined to identify those specific clubs, the GM said there have been some “interesting discussions” (Twitter links via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com).

Still, while Dimitroff certainly left the door open to the possibility of trading up, he didn’t give any signal that he’s leaning in that direction. The GM referred to this year’s top 10 prospects as “top-notch,” hinting that he’d be happy to end up with a player in the back half of that top 10 (Twitter link). He added that Atlanta has also explored the possibility of trading down from No. 6, and that the club “won’t sit on [its] hands” when it comes to landing the player it wants (Twitter links).

It’s a little tricky to separate the signal from the noise in Dimitroff’s comments, but it sounds like plenty of options are still in play for the Falcons. If the price is right, I could see the team moving up to snag Clowney, but landing an offensive tackle such as Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, or Taylor Lewan – either at No. 6 or lower – seems like a feasible option as well. For what it’s worth, Dimitroff said he doesn’t expect to complete a “massive deal” before the draft, though that doesn’t necessarily preclude a major trade on draft night (Twitter link).

So what do you think? Will the Falcons make another big splash on draft night, like they did three years ago when they moved up to land Julio Jones, or will the team take a quieter approach this time around?

Draft Updates: Browns, 49ers, Beckham, Visits

An ideal situation for new Browns head coach Mike Pettine would be to draft a quarterback later than the No. 4 pick, and not have to start that QB in his rookie season, as Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer details.

“That’s been a big part of the discussion in the draft room,” Pettine said. “That’s a position that we know we’re going to need to address, and you talk about where you’re going to do it and the impact that it’s going to have on the rest of the team. Certainly it’s an ideal situation if you can get that quarterback later in the draft and that way you’re drafting a position player at four.”

Here are a few more Wednesday draft-related tidbits:

  • The 49ers are “very interested” in LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a source tells Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link). Beckham may not be on the board when San Francisco’s No. 30 pick rolls around, but there was some speculation earlier today that the club may target the Ravens’ pick (17th overall) and consider moving up.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com identifies seven sleepers that may end up doing pretty well for themselves in this year’s draft. Among the players named by La Canfora: East Carolina tight end Justin Jones, Towson cornerback Jordan Love, and McGill offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.
  • Arizona State tight end Chris Coyle tells Tyler Lockman of Fox Sports Arizona (Twitter link) that he has heard from about 15 NFL teams, including the Cardinals, Chargers, and Eagles.
  • Jordan Raanan of NJ.com (Twitter link) adds the Buccaneers, Panthers, and Dolphins to the list of teams that hosted North Dakota offensive lineman Billy Turner for pre-draft visits.
  • Fresno State tight end Marcel Jensen has worked out for the Falcons and Colts and met with the Eagles and Patriots, according to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post, who says Jensen’s stock is on the rise.
  • The Titans, who are on the lookout for a new kicker after releasing Rob Bironas last month, recently worked out Washington’s Travis Coons, tweets Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.