2017 NFL Draft

Extra Points: Bouye, Texans, Tannehill, Kelly

The Texans are unlikely to place the ~$14.297MM franchise tag on pending free agent A.J. Bouye, which the cornerback understands. “Like my agent told me, it’s about the market value. If you’re not set to make that amount in the franchise tag, then the Texans have to do what they have to do,” Bouye told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “We made some moves last offseason and spent some money. We have guys, other corners, No. 25 [Kareem Jackson], No. 24 [Johnathan Joseph] and No. 30 [Kevin Johnson]. On top of trying to bring me back, they also have to take care of Hopkins, take care of Clowney when his deal is up.” If the Texans don’t tag Bouye, the 25-year-old could price himself off the team on a long-term deal once he reaches the open market. Even though he only has 19 starts to his name, Bouye’s “going to get paid a lot of money” because “everybody in the league knows how good he is,” an NFL personnel department executive informed Wilson.

More from around football (and a relevant baseball note):

  • As expected, the knee injury that sidelined Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill for the tail end of last season, including the team’s wild-card round loss to the Steelers, won’t be a problem going forward. Tannehill is now fully healed from his partially torn ACL/Grade 2 MCL sprain and will be able to participate in the Dolphins’ entire offseason program, reports Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.
  • Because he pleaded guilty to a non-criminal charge of disorderly conduct in January 2015, former Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly isn’t allowed to participate in next week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis. However, Kelly’s agent, Vance McAlister, is still working to land an invitation for his client, details Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today. If that doesn’t happen, Kelly and McAlister might travel to Indy anyway. “We are talking with all the teams that have already expressed interest to see what their thoughts are to make a decision,” said McAlister, who believes Kelly deserves an opportunity to meet with each team and let the clubs decide if he’s worth drafting. “I’ll be the first to tell you, Chad has had to grow up and has made some mistakes because of his immaturity. No question about that,” continued McAlister. “But for me, it’s up to the 32 teams to decide whether he has learned from his mistakes or grown. Nobody would be writing a story or talking about this if Chad didn’t have the talent. And by no means are we trying to justify any of his behavior of what he has done in the past. But that’s for teams to talk to him, ask him the questions and decide.”
  • Onetime NFL defensive back Sanders Commings will attempt to break into Major League Baseball as an outfielder, having agreed to join the Atlanta Braves on a minor league contract, writes Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors. The soon-to-be 27-year-old could have taken a shot at a baseball career much earlier, as the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him in the 37th round of the 2008 MLB draft, but he instead chose to play football at Georgia. After his time with the Bulldogs ended, Commings went to Kansas City in the fifth round of the NFL draft in 2013. Commings appeared in the only two games of his pro football career that year with the Chiefs, who waived him in December 2015.
  • Jaguars offensive tackle Josh Wellsnew deal is a two-year, $1.52MM pact featuring $75K in guarantees, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.

Mitch Trubisky Will Throw At Combine

North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky could be the first quarterback off the board and possibly the first player drafted in April. Sometimes, elite QB prospects like him forego drills at the combine, but he’ll be throwing for scouts in Indianapolis, his father tells Mark Podolski of the News Herald. Mitch Trubisky (Vertical)

Trubisky will participate in most of the drills offered at the combine, including the 40-yard dash. However, he will not do the bench press. Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II has a similar gameplan and will not attempt to bench 225 pounds as many times as possible (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson told The Associated Press that he plans to do “everything” when it comes to combine drills (link via The Associated Press). Ditto for Cal’s Davis Webb (via Dalton Johnson of CSNBayArea.com). Overall, it sounds like most of this year’s top quarterbacks will be full or near full participants in the Underwear Olympics.

Trubisky’s biggest test might not be in the drills, but in the measurements portion of the combine. His high school coach told the News Herald that he is a legit 6’2″, but there are rumors that he is actually under 6’1″. That may not sound like a big deal, but only two QBs at 6’1″ and under (Johnny Manziel and Rex Grossman) have been selected in the first round in the last 15 years.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Guards, Foreman, Griffin

Here’s a look at some interesting NFL Draft buzz, via DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline:

  • The general belief is that this year’s offensive line crop is weak, and that will lead to some of the better prospects in this year’s class to be overdrafted. Right now, it seems like as many as three guards could be taken in the first round. Dorian Johnson of Pittsburgh is generally regarded as this year’s best guard with Indiana’s Dan Feeney behind him. If a third guard sneaks into the first round, it’ll be Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky, multiple insiders tell Pauline. Lamp played left tackle for the Hilltoppers but he is commonly projected to guard or possibly center.
  • Texas running back D’Onta Foreman of Texas has been running in the low-to-mid 4.5s in the 40-yard-dash, a solid time for a 235-pound RB. Pauline believes that he is an underrated pass-catcher and can offer more than just his powerful downhill running skills.
  • Central Florida cornerback Shaquill Griffin is ready to run “an elite time,” trainers tell Pauline, which means clocking in under 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard-dash. At 6’1″, Griffin also has the height to succeed as an NFL cornerback.
  • In other draft news, Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II has received a second-round grade from the league’s advisory committee. This comes on the heels of talk that he could be in the mix as a top three overall pick.
  • Last week, we learned that Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly will not be among the players invited to the combine.

Patrick Mahomes Gets Second-Round Grade

Patrick Mahomes II’s stock appears to be on the rise. Today, the Texas Tech quarterback said that he received a second-round grade from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee (via Mike Florio of PFT). Patrick Mahomes II (vertical)

[RELATED: 2018 QB Draft Class Also Has Question Marks]

For a while, the consensus seemed to be that UNC’s Mitch Trubisky would be the first QB off the board in this year’s draft with Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer following afterwards. Now, it seems like Mahomes could crack the top three at the position and, according to one report, possibly go inside of the first three overall picks. The Browns, 49ers, and Bears hold the first three picks and they could all be in search of a QB come draft time. If Mahomes doesn’t hear his name called that early, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com says that the Texans at No. 25 likely represent his floor.

The scouting combine in Indianapolis should give us a better idea of where Mahomes might go in April. In a draft class that has no slam dunks at the quarterback position, we could see lots of board shuffling between now and the spring.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Garoppolo, Belichick, Williams

Three executives tell Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report that they believe several teams will be making blockbuster offers for Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Ultimately, they think that will result in an offer the Pats cannot refuse.

Freeman also hears from Patriots sources that Bill Belichick likely plans to stay on as coach for at least five more years. Those same sources believe that Belichick wants to continue coaching after Brady retires to show that he can win without the best quarterback of all time.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • Arrelious Benn‘s new contract with the Jaguars is a two-year, $1.765MM deal that contains $100K guaranteed, tweets Adam Caplan of ESPN.com. Although he didn’t contribute much to the Jacksonville offense (just five receptions for 116 yards), Benn was a regular on special teams duty, as he saw action on 63% of the Jaguars’ ST plays.
  • Cornerback K’Waun Williams‘ grievance against the Browns will be heard on May 16, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Williams, who played for Cleveland from 2014-15, contends the Browns waived him while he was still dealing with an injured ankle. As such, Williams is seeking the entirety of his 2016 base salary ($600K), plus the cost of his surgery.
  • Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara has fired VaynerSports and hired Damarius Bilbo of Revolution Sports Group as his new representation , according to Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal (Twitter links). Kamara, a committee back with the Volunteers, managed less than 1,300 yards rushing during two years in Tennessee, but also averaged more than six yards per carry during that time. Largely viewed as a Day 2 prospect, recent buzz has indicated Kamara could sneak into Round 1.

Dallas Robinson contributed to this post.

Extra Points: 2018 QBs, Watt, Gronk, Garrett

With the 2017 class of rookie quarterbacks carrying potentially significant risk, a strategy to eye the 2018 class may enter the mind of some decision-makers as the draft nears. But a college scouting director told TheMMQB.com’s Albert Breer the ’18 crop won’t be without risk, either, so hoping an Andrew Luck-type player emerges will be a gamble.

I’d say no on [UCLA’s Josh] Rosen,” said a college scouting director, via Breer, regarding the class of 2018’s potential to produce a franchise quarterback, with Breer adding “off-field issues” and a nerve injury may be presently holding Rosen back. “[USC’s Sam] Darnold, I like a lot, but needs to repeat that this year. He wasn’t good enough to start the season at USC — Why? And Josh [Allen, of Wyoming] needs to make a lot of strides to be considered a top guy. He’s talented, but not accurate.”

Rosen will be draft-eligible in 2018. Darnold will be a redshirt sophomore in 2017, and Allen a junior. An AFC scouting director told Breer a strategy of waiting for this group instead of gambling on the current one would need a committed owner, but the method may fall short due to it simply being too far away to predict these younger passers’ futures.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • A trade of J.J. Watt would be one of the more earth-shattering scenarios the NFL could produce, but Joel Corry of CBSSports.com discussed this hypothetical gargantuan Texans deal with executives who didn’t think it was laughably unrealistic. Houston’s defense improved statistically without Watt, finishing first in total defense, and the team needs help offensively. One exec said it would take two first-round picks for the Texans to consider it, likening a Watt return package similar to that of a franchise quarterback. Another hypothetical deal involved the Texans including Brock Osweiler‘s contract in a trade and accepting less compensation in return. Corry adds that Jadeveon Clowney will likely receive a contract extension in 2018 for an amount eclipsing Watt’s six-year, $100MM deal. Corry projects that would induce a new Watt contract since it wouldn’t be realistic to have a three-time defensive player of the year be the second-highest-paid defender on his own team.
  • Taking said Internet-breaking premise further: Corry discussed with execs a Watt-for-Rob Gronkowski exchange, with the Patriots — in the mind of a league exec — needing to include more than just their No. 32 overall pick in addition to Gronk to make the Texans consider that deal. Another exec couldn’t picture the teams doing this trade due to Gronkowski’s extensive injury history.
  • Myles Garrett‘s lack of consistency has drawn questions from some NFL personnel, per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com (video link). The Texas A&M edge-rushing maven piling up statistics against inferior competition — 16 of his 31 career sacks came against Texas-San Antonio, Rice, Louisiana-Monroe, Lamar and Nevada — and disappearing for times in bigger spots, makes some curious about his reliability. Cabot is not certain Garrett will be the first player taken despite the Browns’ reported “astronomical grade” on the ex-Aggie. This runs counter to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller noting Garrett beginning to distance himself from the pack. This draft’s quarterback scrutiny could tilt the scales in Garrett’s favor.
  • Cameron Wake‘s two-year, $19MM extension will not have a factor on Lorenzo Alexander‘s potential UFA deal, Corry tweets, noting the disparity between the two aging players’ careers. Wake, 35, has four double-digit sack seasons and has been the Dolphins’ premier sack artist this decade while Alexander, 33, emerged from nowhere to lead the Bills with 12.5 last year.

Draft Rumors: Garrett, Williams, McKinley

Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett is beginning to “pull away” from the rest of the 2017 draft class, an unnamed NFL general manager tells Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, adding Garrett is becoming just as clear a No. 1 pick as quarterback Andrew Luck was in 2012. The Browns hold that first overall selection and reportedly have an “astronomical grade” on Garrett, so Cleveland likely agrees with one director of player personnel who believes using the No. 1 pick on someone other than Garrett would be a mistake. “Passing on Garrett is like passing on a young Bruce Smith,” the executive told Miller. “You don’t pass on a kid like that.”

Here’s more from the 2017 draft:

  • Alabama edge rusher Tim Williams could end up slipping to the second round, as one NFL scout tells Miller. “We’re worried about [his] weight and love of the game,” said the evaluator. “His combine weigh-in will be really huge.” Citing questions about “character and decision-making,” Miller writes Williams could fall to Day 2 even though he flashes top-20 ability. Williams, who was arrested on a gun charge in September, posted 18.5 sacks over the past two years in Tuscaloosa, but doesn’t rate among Miller’s top 50 prospects (though other analysts, such as Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com, rank Williams as the draft’s second-best outside linebacker).
  • The 2017 quarterback class is widely considered the worst since at least 2013, and one area scout indicated to Miller that he wouldn’t feel comfortable with any of Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, or a host of others leading his franchise. “All the quarterbacks … [are] terrible,” said the scout. “I wouldn’t want to put my job on the line for any quarterback in this class. And to think about taking one in the first round? No way. I’m sure someone will do it, but it’s mind-blowing.”
  • UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley could require shoulder surgery following the combine, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, who adds no “definitive determination” has been made in regards to McKinley’s health status. McKinley, a two-year starter for the Bruins, racked up 10 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles in 2016. A projected first-round pick, McKinley ranks as the best available outside linebacker in the 2017 class, per Todd McShay of ESPN.com.
  • NFL teams are frustrated that red-flag players such as Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon were not invited to the combine, according to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News (Twitter link) and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “Any of these guys with question marks need to be vetted,” one source told Florio. Kelly, for what it’s worth, may still travel to Indianapolis, perhaps with the hope of meeting with clubs outside of the combine structure, as Mike Rodak of ESPN.com writes.

Chad Kelly Not Invited To Draft Combine

The NFL invited upwards of 300 players to this year’s draft combine in Indianapolis, but Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon were not among those on the list. Kelly was not invited to the NFL combine based on off-field issues, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweets. The same presumably goes for Mixon after video surfaced of him striking a woman.

In accordance with rules passed by the NFL last year, players with felony or misdemeanor convictions are not permitted to attend the combine. All players who wish to participate must submit to a background check. If a player’s background check unearths any conviction involving violence, he is turned away.Chad Kelly (vertical)

After suffering a a torn ACL and lateral meniscus in the fall, it’s not certain that Kelly would have been able to participate in combine drills even if he was invited. If Kelly is healthy enough to work out between now and late April, it’s a good bet that he’ll be able to get interested teams to watch him up close. That will go a long way towards dictating where Kelly might go in the draft. Recently, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller wrote that Kelly is “still an intriguing quarterback prospect in a bad overall class.” Meanwhile, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report heard back in November that the Ole Miss product was being viewed by evaluators as a Day 3 prospect.

We also have conflicting reports on Mixon. One area scout assigned to the Sooners told Albert Breer of The MMQB recently that he’s confident some team will weather the PR storm and draft him. Hours later, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted that Mixon is still undraftable in the eyes of many teams.

Other notable prospects left without invites include Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee, Ole Miss wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, Michigan offensive linemen Erik Magnuson and Kyle Kalis, Baylor receiver Ishmael Zamora, and Houston linebacker Steven Taylor.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Invites 330 Players To Draft Combine

The NFL has released its complete list of combine participants. This year, 330 players have been invited to show their stuff in Indianapolis from February 28 – March 6.

Of course, getting an invite to the combine doesn’t guarantee anything for prospects. As Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) notes, 35.2% of last year’s invitees went undrafted. Meanwhile, 15% of last year’s draft picks did not participate in the combine.

Click “read more” to read the complete list of combine invites, sorted by alphabetical order:

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Extra Points: Cruz, Bengals, Eagles

The Giants are releasing wide receiver Victor Cruz, which will save them $7.5MM in 2017. Theoretically, they could attempt to bring back the 30-year-old at a lower cap charge next season, but there’s “no indication” they have any interest in doing that, writes Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com. Cruz spoke in the past tense about his six-year run with the Giants on Monday, saying: “I did some great things there. There are so many experiences, times and moments that I shared in that building with that team in that jersey. Those can’t be replaced or forgotten. I’m happy I have those moments to look back on.”

Cruz will ceremonially retire as a Giant someday and later end up in their Ring of Honor, opines Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. His next step, though, will be to head to the open market, where he could find a fit with the Panthers, suggests Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. There’s already a connection between Carolina and Cruz: Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was the Giants’ director of pro personnel when Big Blue signed the wideout as an undrafted free agent in 2011.

The Broncos, meanwhile, got virtually no production last season from receivers not named Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders, but they haven’t had any discussions about pursuing Cruz, reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post (Twitter link).

More from around the NFL:

  • Despite having over $43MM in cap space, the Bengals are unlikely to make any significant splashes in free agency, per Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com. Odds are greater that Cincinnati will focus on its own soon-to-be free agents – including left tackle Andrew Whitworth, guard Kevin Zeitler, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and receiver Brandon LaFell – writes Terrell, who notes that the club is also expecting to pick up plenty of help via the draft. On top of the picks the Bengals already have, the league could award them three or four compensatory selections this year as a result of the losses they incurred in free agency last offseason.
  • The Eagles are reportedly open to trading linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and it’s a “safe bet” they’ll move him if they’re able to acquire help at receiver, running back or cornerback in return, relays Tim McManus of ESPN.com.
  • Jabrill Peppers is unlikely to be a first-round pick, Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press opines. Peppers’ versatility is an asset, but he doesn’t clearly fit any one position either. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has called the Michigan star “a polarizing prospect” and a “tweener,” although he still has him going in the first round in his mock draft. Falling out of the first round could be good for Peppers, Monarrez argues, because it would put less pressure on him as he works to figure out his best role in the NFL.
  • Falcons defensive pass game coordinator Jerome Henderson was under consideration to become the 49ers’ defensive coordinator before they tabbed Robert Saleh for the role on Monday. Now that he’s not going to San Francisco, Henderson will stay in the same position in Atlanta, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com.
  • The Seahawks are parting with assistant linebackers coach Lofa Tatupu, who spent the previous two years on Pete Carroll‘s staff, tweets Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Tatupu is better known for his on-field work in Seattle, where he played from 2005-10 and earned three Pro Bowl nods.

Zach Links contributed to this post.