Christian Wilkins

AFC East Notes: Fitzpatrick, Jets, Bills

Ryan Fitzpatrick is well on his way to starting for a third AFC East franchise. The 15th-year veteran continues to hold off Josh Rosen for the Dolphins‘ starting quarterback job. “It’s pretty clear to me that Ryan Fitzpatrick is leading the way,” Brian Flores said Tuesday (via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter). Rosen was viewed as the clear underdog for the Week 1 role coming into camp. Fitzpatrick has not been a regular starter since his two-year Jets tenure concluded after the 2016 season, while Rosen started 13 games for an overmatched Cardinals team last year.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • The Jets entered camp thin at cornerback, but their top offseason investment at this spot has not impressed coaches thus far. Former Falcons slot corner Brian Poole reported to Jets camp in less-than-ideal shape, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Adam Gase did not single the fifth-year player out as one of the veterans on which the Jets will rely, with the new HC only mentioning Trumaine Johnson and Darryl Roberts in that regard. Gang Green does not have much depth behind its top three. The Jets signed Poole to a one-year, $3MM deal ($2MM guaranteed).
  • Now two former NFL starting wide receivers are giving Jets wideouts guidance. In addition to full-time receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, the Jets brought in Hines Ward as a coaching intern, per Cimini. Ward, who began working with the Jets on Monday, served in this role with the Steelers two summers ago and was part of the one-and-done Alliance of American Football. It appears Ward’s primary pupil will be Robby Anderson, Cimini adds.
  • Bills third-round pick Devin Singletary is stationed behind one of the most veteran-heavy backfield duos in NFL history, with the Bills adding Frank Gore to their LeSean McCoy-led group. But Singletary is receiving plenty of opportunities in camp. The former Florida Atlantic star has worked with Buffalo’s starters “a ton” during camp, Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). While Louis-Jacques adds that this is partially to conserve McCoy and Gore, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk adds more fuel to the speculation Singletary could induce a McCoy pay-cut request or push him off the roster. McCoy (career-low 3.2 yards per carry in 2018) being a departure candidate has been floated at multiple junctures this offseason. Singletary rushed for 66 touchdowns in three college seasons.
  • Dolphins first-round pick Christian Wilkins may have an interesting side job in his first NFL season. The 315-pound defensive tackle has worked on offense as well to start camp, Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post notes. This would presumably mean a role as a fullback, but OC Chad O’Shea did not specify.

Dolphins Sign Christian Wilkins, Two Other Draft Picks

The Dolphins have signed first-round defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, fifth-round linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, and sixth-round offensive tackle Isaiah Prince, the club announced today.

Entering a rebuild phase, Miami could have gone in any number of directions with the 13th overall pick. Some observers had the Dolphins pegged as landing spot for a first-round quarterback, but the club passed on Dwayne Haskins in order to land Wilkins. A high-effort player from Clemson’s fearsome defensive line, Wilkins brings excellent character to a Dolphins locker room that’s attempting to modify its culture.

Wilkins should see ample playing time during his rookie campaign, and Prince might, as well. The Dolphins’ offensive line performed like one of the worst units in the league last season, and their right tackle spot is currently manned by Zach Sterup. Prince should a decent chance at beating him put for the starting role.

Third-round guard Michael Deiter is now the only Miami draft pick left unsigned.

Trade Rumors: Cardinals, Armstead, Haskins

The Seahawks and Chiefs agreed to a blockbuster trade earlier today that will send Frank Clark to Kansas City. And as Albert Breer of SI.com writes, the veteran trade market is expected to remain hot this week. Breer says that rival clubs are “keeping an eye” on Cardinals‘ DL Robert Nkemdiche, and given that Nkemdiche suffered a torn ACL in December, it’s possible that he could be had for minimal compensation. He has battled injuries throughout his career and has not really lived up to his potential when on the field, but as a former first-round pick who won’t turn 25 until the regular season starts, it makes sense that he would draw some interest. He did post 4.5 sacks in 10 games (six starts) last year.

Now for more trade rumblings from around the league:

  • Assuming the Cardinals draft Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen expects the club to be patient with a Josh Rosen trade (Twitter link). If they cannot get fair value for Rosen prior to the draft, the Cards could wait until after a few signal-callers come off the board and QB-needy teams start to get a little anxious. We heard earlier today that Arizona is still undecided as to what it will do with the first pick in the draft, but if the Cardinals don’t nab Murray, it would be a major surprise.
  • Breer writes that 49ers‘ DE Arik Armstead is also expected to draw some trade interest, though he remains in San Francisco’s plans. Raiders‘ DT Justin Ellis is also said to be available, while Cowboys WR Allen Hurns is the best wideout that could be had via trade [SOURCE LINK].
  • In a separate piece, Breer writes that rival clubs are monitoring Jaguars LB Telvin Smith and Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. as potential trade targets, though neither player is on the trade block just yet.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports continues to hear that the Lions and Jets are interested in trading down from their current first-round slots, and he sees the Falcons as a potential partner for Detroit (Twitter link). Interestingly, Breer hears the same [SOURCE LINK]. Clemson DT Christian Wilkins could be the target if Atlanta wants to move up, though Breer says the team has been “nosing around” offensive linemen as well as defensive linemen.
  • As La Canfora writes in a separate piece, the Redskins could be the Jets‘ trade partner if Washington feels it needs to trade up to land Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins. One way or another, JLC believes the Redskins will come away from the draft with Haskins in tow. This is at least the second time La Canfora has written about a potential deal between Washington and New York.
  • The Chargers are open to trading down from the No. 28 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, per the team’s official website. But given that there is a lot of depth in this draft and not many obvious first-round talents, GM Tom Telesco could find it difficult to execute such a deal.

Clemson DL Christian Wilkins Staying In School

With so many NFL draft declarations over the past few weeks, one of college football’s premier defensive lineman has gone against the grain and has decided to stay for his senior season. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has opted to try for another College Football Playoff Championship, the team announced on Twitter.

Christian Wilkins (Vertical)

While the news is at least somewhat surprising considering that Wilkins was thought of by many as a sure bet to be selected in the first round, the motivation of getting beaten by Alabama has clearly fueled most of the team’s draft eligible players decisions to try and avenge that loss in 2018.

Wilkins was ranked as the number one defensive line prospect by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report before this decision became official. He also is coming off an outstanding junior season that saw the dominant defender rack up five sacks and help lead one of the defensive units in the country.

Wilkins’ decision to return to school pushes the likes of Michigan’s Maurice Hurst and Washington’s Vita Vea as the best interior defenders in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Rumors: Allen, Clemson, Landry

The 2018 draft being nine months away won’t deter some NFL teams’ fanbases from advanced research. One of those franchises figures to be the Jets, who unloaded numerous veterans this offseason and are without a long-term answer at quarterback. Christian Hackenberg figures to receive a shot this season, at some point, despite Josh McCown‘s $6MM-plus-incentives agreement. But the Jets may be in a position to select a quarterback from a much-hyped contingent.

One of those prospective passers is not a lock to come out, with recent Sam Darnold rumors centering on the high-end USC prospect possibly staying in school for at least one more year. This would remind Jets fans of Peyton Manning‘s decision to do the same in 1997, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. The Jets ended up trading the pick — one that became Orlando Pace — after Manning returned to Tennessee. Other passers with similar pedigrees join Darnold entering the 2017 college football season, and Cimini recently spoke to an AFC scout who views Wyoming’s Josh Allen as having better long-term potential than Darnold, who will be beginning his redshirt-sophomore season with the Trojans.

Allen joins UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the quarterbacks who right now are viewed as possible top-five picks come April. The 6-foot-5 Wyoming signal-caller will be a junior this season. Cimini also doubts Darnold would be able to pass up on a $30MM fully guaranteed contract if he’s in position to be chosen near the top of next year’s draft.

Here’s more coming out of the prospective 2018 draft pool.

  • Clemson has generated a legion of first-round talent in recent years. Vic Beasley, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Deshaun Watson are among several Tigers to go early in recent drafts. The next prodigy coming out of the South Carolina program could be defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. Several scouts told DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline the interior defender is a top-three NFL prospect. The 6-foot-4 junior was a first-team All-American during the Tigers’ national championship season, and Pauline writes Clemson had him playing out of position at defensive end. After being shifted inside to tackle, Wilkins could be a top-15 pick in 2018, Pauline notes.
  • Pauline, though, views Wilkins’ line mate, edge defender Clelin Ferrell, as the better bet to be a top-10 pick. The 20-year-old defender will be a redshirt sophomore this season; he racked up 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2016. The 6-foot-5 talent’s athleticism and growth potential lead Pauline to rate him as the slightly superior Tigers draft prospect. CBSSports.com’s Jared Dubin rates Wilkins as a top-eight pick but doesn’t have Ferrell going in Round 1.
  • Pauline adds many scouts’ lists of the top senior prospects in the country start with Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry. Landry registered a Boston College-record 16.5 sacks last season despite standing roughly 6-2. This blend of stature and production prompts Pauline to compare Landry to Dwight Freeney, who did quite well for himself coming out of Syracuse as a smaller pass rusher. Pauline, who expected Landry to declare for this past draft, writes Landry could play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.