Christian McCaffrey

NFC South Notes: Brees, McCaffrey, Winston

Let’s check out a few notes from the NFC South:

  • Drew Brees could be back from his thumb injury as soon as week 8 against the Cardinals, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Brees is in close contact with a hand specialist as he works to get back to full strength and has impressed the Saints with the strides he has made thus far. His initial timeframe from his surgery puts a return in two weeks not out of the question and there has been nothing in the process so far to have altered that schedule. If Brees can practice fully that week and show an ability to play fully and normally, then a return against the Cardinals is quite possible.
  • If the Panthers don’t extend Christian McCaffrey‘s contract during the offseason, a holdout wouldn’t be surprising, according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports. McCaffrey, who has been an all around force for the Panthers this season, has the same representation as Khalil Mack and Chris Johnson. Johnson held out in 2011 with two years left on his rookie deal and eventually became one of the top paid running backs in the NFL.
  • If Jameis Winston re-signs with the Buccaneers after this season, it would not be for much more than his salary this season, the average of what an average, experienced quarterback makes, speculates Buccaneers insider Roy Cummings. Despite this, as of today’s writing, Winston has been off to an above average season thus far, throwing for 1,371 yards and 11 touchdowns through five games.

Stanford RB Bryce Love Tore ACL In Final Game

Though it was not reported at the time, Stanford running back and NFL draft hopeful Bryce Love tore his ACL during his final regular season game, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel writes

Thamel reports the star back underwent surgery to repair the injury on Dec. 18 with Dr. James Andrews and is expected to make a full recovery. He will be at the NFL Draft Combine in February, but will obviously be extremely limited. He is also too early in the rehab process to have a return date set.

“I’m very grateful to Dr. Andrews and his team for making the surgery a seamless process,” Love said in a statement to Yahoo Sports. “Obviously, there’s no such thing as an ideal injury, but I’m on the path to recovery, and my goal remains the same — getting drafted by an NFL team and being the ultimate professional. I’ll be back better than I’ve ever been.”

Love burst on the scene as a junior, taking over for the departed Christian McCaffrey in Stanford’s backfield and rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2017. The breakout season helped him finish second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, behind only Baker Mayfield. His senior campaign was not as impressive, however, as Love logged just 739 yards on 166 carries in 10 games.

According to WalterFootball.com, Love is tabbed as the No. 5 running back prospect in the upcoming draft, with a projected draft spot coming in Round 2 or 3. That is likely to take a plunge following the news of the serious knee injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: McDonald, Giants, Eagles, Jets

Signing T.J. McDonald to a one-year deal despite an eight-game suspension looming, the Dolphins will prepare throughout the offseason as though the safety is part of the plan. McDonald signed a one-year, $1.344MM deal that will only guarantee the Dolphins eight regular-season games of service. But he makes for an interesting complement to Reshad Jones, and the Fins’ offseason and preseason could display those looks, even if their September and October slate won’t.

We’re just going to practice him,” Adam Gase said today, via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. “We’re going to give him the reps that he needs. We’ve got to go through our process with him. I’ve played against him, but I haven’t seen him practice and go through a daily routine and all those type of things, so we need to get used to him as he needs to get used to us.

It’s a good signing for us because we feel like that position is something that we didn’t do as well as we needed to. Last year, we got a little thin and some guys had to really step up and play and try to fill into some roles and they were playing multiple roles.”

Nate Allen leads a cast of safeties expected to vie for the Fins’ back-line job alongside Jones while McDonald is out.

Here’s more from the Eastern divisions.

  • The Giants did not allocate many resources to bolstering a middling offensive line, pointing to the incumbents being given another chance. Although the team added guard/tackle D.J. Fluker on a lower-level deal, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post believes Bobby Hart will still be given every chance to keep the right tackle job. This arrangement could potentially pit Fluker against recently re-signed right guard John Jerry, whom Pro Football Focus assessed as enjoying a bounce-back season in 2016. The 22-year-old Hart being a priority over putting Fluker and Jerry in the lineup together would be interesting given his history as a former seventh-round pick and a player whom PFF graded as the No. 67 full-time tackle last season.
  • Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook fascinated the Eagles, but the price to move up in Rounds 1-2 to be in range to select them was too steep, Jeff McLane of Philly.com notes. The Eagles evidently believed the gap between McCaffrey and Cook was wide enough they didn’t want to use their No. 14 overall pick on a Florida State runner who plummeted into the second round. Cook went to the Vikings at 41, two spots before the Eagles went with Sidney Jones. Philly signed LeGarrette Blount earlier this week and is expected to cut Ryan Mathews once he’s healthy.
  • Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan saw current Washington third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld as a player who could be a starter after a few development seasons, J.P. Finlay of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes. This will be Year 2 for the 2016 sixth-round pick, who sits behind Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on the depth chart.
  • The Jets are focused on seeing if Christian Hackenberg can pan out rather than eyeing the as-of-now highly acclaimed 2018 quarterback class, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Cimini, though, does note that scouts are particularly intrigued by Wyoming’s Josh Allen, whom he adds could end up being taken No. 1 overall next year despite large-school competition from Sam Darnold (USC) and Josh Rosen (UCLA). The Jets appear to be in rebuilding mode, and in signing Josh McCown for one year, would possibly have a route to one of the aforementioned passing prospects — if Hackenberg stock falls this season.

Panthers Sign Entire Draft Class

The Panthers have signed their entire 2017 draft class. One day after inking first-round selection Christian McCaffrey, all seven Carolina draft picks are now officially in the fold:

Elder and Butker were the last to agree, but they put pen to paper after Friday morning’s rookie camp session. As shown in PFR’s team-by-team draft breakdown, the Panthers are the first team to sign their entire draft class.

According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Samuel’s game is reminiscent of Oregon product Josh Huff. Opinions are split on how this well-rounded receiver’s game will translate as a pro.

It’s kind of like with Jalin Marshall last year,” a regional scout told Zierlein. “How do you use him? He’s not a running back and his routes and hands really aren’t that good. Marshall went undrafted. Samuel is a better athlete but they are about the same size and give you the same concerns with how to use them.”

According to Albert Breer of The MMQB (Twitter link), there is offset language in McCaffrey’s deal.

Panthers Sign Christian McCaffrey

The Panthers are now the first club to reach a deal with a 2017 first-round pick, as the club announced it has signed running back Christian McCaffrey. Carolina has also inked second-round offensive lineman Taylor Moton and sixth-round fullback Alex Armah.Christian McCaffrey (Vertical)

McCaffrey, the eighth overall pick in last week’s draft, should immediately factor into a Panthers offense that ranked 25th in DVOA last season. A running back by trade, McCaffrey may end up playing a good deal of receiver, especially with established veteran Jonathan Stewart still lurking in the backfield. McCaffrey should be in line for a four-year deal worth roughly $17.241MM (signing bonus of ~$10.679MM). Carolina will also hold a fifth-year option on McCaffrey for the 2021 campaign.

Moton, meanwhile, should compete for the Panthers’ starting right tackle job. Third-year pro Daryl Williams looks to be Moton’s primary competition, as Michael Oher is still dealing with concussion issues (and was recently cited for misdemeanor assault). Moton, a Western Michigan product, will earn $6.454MM over the life of his four-year contract.

In addition to signing three of their seven draft picks, the Panthers announced they’ve also agreed to terms with the following undrafted college free agents: linebacker Ben Boulware, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr., wide receiver Austin Duke, cornerback Cole Luke, and wide receiver Fred Ross.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Tried To Trade Up For Christian McCaffrey

The Broncos tried to make a legacy pick tonight. They explored moving up from No. 20 to land running back Christian McCaffrey, but they were ultimately unsuccessful, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The Broncos also inquired about Joe Thomas‘ availability, but they wound up staying at No. 20 and drafting Garett Bolles instead. Christian McCaffrey (Featured)

Thomas was a trade candidate as the deadline last year and many believed that he would be on the block this offseason. In December, coach Hue Jackson denied that Thomas would be shopped.

That is not happening, OK? — or I am going with him,” Jackson said. “OK? I guarantee you that. I am going with him.”

Thomas is due to make a non-guaranteed $10MM salary in both ’17 and ’18, so teams like the Broncos were not necessarily warded off by his contract. Last year, he graded out as the league’s No. 8 offensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. The Broncos would have loved to add him, but they could not pry him away.

Panthers Take RB Christian McCaffrey

It wasn’t a smokescreen. The Panthers have selected Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey with the No. 8 overall pick. Christian McCaffrey (Featured)

Recently, one NFL GM told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com that McCaffrey “had the best combine workout I’ve seen. Ever.” McCaffrey has been linked to the top-10 range for some time, and a number of clubs within that space made sense as a landing spot. The Eagles, sitting at No. 14, were reportedly “infatuated” with McCaffrey, but they’re one of many teams that will have to look elsewhere in the first round.

McCaffrey now figures to be the Panthers’ lead running back, ahead of Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker, and Cameron Artis-Payne.

This is the first time in a quarter-century that Stanford has had two players go in the top ten of the draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Rumors: Cowboys, Conley, McCaffrey

Let’s round up the latest NFL Draft rumors:

  • The Cowboys should not been overlooked as a possible destination when it comes to Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, Tom Pelissero of USA Today tweets. Dallas need cornerback help and, as Pelissero notes, they’re used to taking risks. Dallas had Conley in for a visit and also phoned him on Wednesday. Conley, of course, is dealing with allegations of rape, and could fall as far as the third round. If he’s cleared of all charges, Conley could represent an excellent value for the Cowboys at the end of Round 1.
  • Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) gets the sense that Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is likely to go in the top ten. One NFL GM told Schefter that McCaffrey “had the best combine workout I’ve seen. Ever.” McCaffrey has been linked to the top-10 range for some time, and a number of clubs within that space make sense as a landing spot. The Eagles, sitting at No. 14, are reportedly “infatuated” with McCaffrey, but understand they may have to trade ahead of Carolina.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) wouldn’t be shocked if the Chargers beat the Panthers to the punch on selecting McCaffrey. Los Angeles used a first-round pick on running back Melvin Gordon in 2015, and he broke out with 10 rushing touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. However, the Chargers did lose Danny Woodhead in free agency, and McCaffrey would presumably fill Woodhead’s passing down role with aplomb.
  • The Ravens‘ interest in Corey Davis is real, Peter Schrager of NFL Network tweets. Baltimore owns the No. 16 overall pick, and is certainly in the market for a wide receiver after losing Steve Smith to retirement. Former first-round pick Breshad Perriman has been injured during much of his NFL tenure, so the Ravens could use another pass-catcher to pair with Mike Wallace. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reported a strong link between Davis and the Ravens on Wednesday.
  • Both UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley and Washington wide receiver John Ross could slide due to their medical history, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Both players underwent surgery during the predraft process. While McKinley and Ross are certainly considered talented prospects, interested clubs will have to weigh injury risk against potential upside.

Pauline’s Latest: McCaffrey, Harris, Barnett

With the draft roughly four hours away, let’s take a look at the latest from Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com:

  • The Eagles are reportedly “infatuated” with Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, per Pauline. Philadelphia might have trouble selecting McCaffrey with the 14th overall pick, however, as the Panthers also are interested in the dynamic athlete at No. 8. As such, the Eagles may have to trade up if they want to land McCaffrey. Potentially, the Eagles could make a deal with the Jets, but Pauline wonders if Philadelphia has enough draft capital to make a move up given that they sacrificed a haul of picks in 2016.
  • Pass rushers Charles Harris (Missouri) and Derek Barnett (Tennessee) are both shooting up draft boards and could potentially be selected earlier than most observers currently believe, according to Pauline. The Dolphins, for one, are known to have interest in both players, but if Pauline’s report is correct, both might be gone by the time Miami picks at No. 22.
  • The most undervalued player in the draft may be Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie, says Pauline. Awuzie has been linked to a number of teams during the predraft process, including the Titans, Buccaneers, and Cowboys, whiles scouts like his size and level of experience.
  • While Awuzie may be underrated, fellow cornerback Marlon Humphrey is being overvalued, reports Pauline, who adds the Alabama alum could even potentially fall out of the first round. Most mock drafts have placed Humphrey in Day 1, but the plethora of defensive back options in this year’s class could conceivably push him down.

Schrager’s Latest: RBs, Trubisky, Howard

Two running backs, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, are likely to be among the top eight players selected in this year’s NFL draft, reports Peter Schrager of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The expectation is that Fournette will come off the board first, per Schrager. Speculatively, the 49ers (No. 2), Jaguars (No. 4), Jets (No. 6) and Panthers (No. 8) could be logical fits for either Fournette or McCaffrey. Of those four clubs, only San Francisco’s starting running back (Carlos Hyde) had a strong year in 2016, but the team’s new management reportedly wants to make a change in the backfield.

More from Schrager on the eve of the draft (all links via Twitter):

  • If the Browns don’t take North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky first overall, they could use their second first-rounder (No. 12) in a package to move up for him. Should that happen, Schrager lists the Jaguars and Titans (No. 5) as potential trade partners for Cleveland. Jacksonville is reportedly considering taking a QB at No. 4 to replace Blake Bortles, but that could be a smokescreen. Meanwhile, the Titans are set under center with Marcus Mariota, and they are indeed motivated to move down and collect more picks.
  • Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is poised to be the first pass catcher off the board, beating out wide receivers John Ross, Corey Davis and Mike Williams, according to Schrager. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported Wednesday (on Twitter) that Howard received an A-plus medical report, adding that he’s “a very clean, complete prospect.”
  • A pair of linebackers, Temple’s Haason Reddick and Florida’s Jarrad Davis, are entering the draft with soaring stock, relays Schrager. Reddick probably won’t last beyond the first 11 picks, while Davis should go anywhere from 15th to 25th. “Tremendous interviews” helped make Davis a first-round lock.