- However, the Bengals are hovering as a Ross suitor, Pauline reports. They have given Ross a clean bill of health, which looks to be the only issue between the receiver and a first-round selection. The Bengals, who pick at No. 9 (generally before Ross is being projected in mock drafts), took a wideout in the first round last year in Tyler Boyd. Boyd figures to have a bigger role in Cincinnati’s offense this season. The team also re-signed Brandon LaFell, crowding the receiver depth chart even before the draft.
- Obi Melifonwu met with or auditioned for 14 teams, and just one — the Titans — viewed the Connecticut defensive back as a corner, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The UConn safety talent blazed to a 4.40-second 40-yard dash clocking, making him an intriguing get either in the late first or early second round. In addition to the workout circuit, Wilson notes Melifonwu has attracted steady interest from the Ravens, Raiders, Colts and Jaguars. The Bengals attempted to schedule a workout with Melifonwu, but the popular commodity’s schedule didn’t have room.
The Browns don’t envision trading for a veteran quarterback, general manager Sashi Brown told reporters, including Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com (Twitter link), today. Depending of Brown’s definition of the word “veteran,” that could rule out pursuits of the Patriots’ Jimmy Garoppolo and the Bengals’ A.J. McCarron.
New England reportedly isn’t willing to deal Garoppolo, but that hasn’t stopped the Browns from inquiring. The Patriots’ price for Garoppolo has varied, but Cleveland’s No. 12 pick isn’t going to get a deal done. The Browns aren’t willing to trade the No. 1 overall pick in exchange for a quarterback, so they may simply not match up with the Patriots on a swap.
The Bengals, meanwhile, aren’t actively shopping McCarron, but are willing to trade him (and would even be comfortable shipping him within the AFC North). Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com recently hinted Cincinnati would be open to sending McCarron and the ninth overall pick to Cleveland for pick Nos. 12 and 33. Using Chase Stuart of Football Perspective‘s draft value chart, that deal would imply McCarron is worth the 44th overall selection on his own.
At present, the Browns’ depth chart at quarterback includes Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and Brock Osweiler. Although Osweiler had been expected to be traded or released, Brown said today the ex-Texan will have a chance to compete for the starting QB role, tweets Marc Sessler of NFL.com. Of course, that sentiment could simply be lip service until Cleveland decides how to proceed with Osweiler.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Offensive tackle Cam Robinson, who was teammates with Foster at Alabama, is drawing significant interest from the Texans. Houston worked out Robinson earlier this month, and he’s now in town for a two-day visit that will include another workout, according to Rapoport (Twitter link). The tackle-needy Texans are in line to pick 25th overall, but Robinson could be gone by then. The Bengals, owners of the ninth overall selection, met with Robinson over the weekend, Rapoport adds. In the event Robinson falls to the end of the first round, the Falcons (No. 31) will be a team to keep an eye on, writes Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com.
- The Panthers, Browns, Eagles, Bengals, Lions, Titans, Saints and Jets are among the teams with the most interest in Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, writes Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Conley should go somewhere between ninth and 18th overall, per La Canfora, whom one NFL decision-maker told: “Conley has always been a first-round corner, and I understand why he is the top guy on some boards. He may not be as flashy as some of the other corners, and maybe the upside isn’t quite as high, but neither is the risk. This is a clean player who started for two years and who made big plays in big games. There is a lot to like.”
- Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles is currently visiting the Bengals, relays Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link). Cincinnati lost starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth to free agency, potentially creating a major need, but it’s only two years removed from using first- and second-round picks on OTs Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. Bolles would require yet another sizable investment via the draft in the position. The Bengals are set to pick ninth overall, in the neighborhood of where Bolles could slide off the board.
The Bengals were interested in defensive end Chris Smith for more than a year before acquiring him from the Jaguars this week, tweets Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Jacksonville’s new front office structure, which now includes Tom Coughlin, helped the trade come to fruition, per Owczarski. The Bengals forked over a conditional 2018 seventh-round pick for Smith, who has appeared in 19 games over the past three seasons. Smith, 25, will slide into a Cincinnati edge rushing group that also includes Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Will Clarke, and Wallace Gilberry. The Bengals are likely to add a pass rusher early in the draft this month, so Smith isn’t a lock to make the roster, especially given that he hasn’t been active on special teams.
- Washington wide receiver John Ross will meet with the Bengals over the weekend, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Ross was thought to have completed his predraft visits, but Cincinnati scheduled a visit “at the last minute,” according to Rapoport. The Bengals re-signed veteran pass-catcher Brandon LaFell last month, and have 2016 draft picks Tyler Boyd and Cody Core on the roster, but are still looking for another weapon to play opposite A.J. Green. Ross could conceivably be in play for Cincinnati at No. 9 (especially after posting a 4.22 40-yard dash at the combine), but would more likely be in consideration if the Bengals trade down in the first round.
- Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is “absolutely in play” for the Vikings in Round 2 (No. 48 overall), Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller told Matt Vensel, Andrew Krammer and Michael Rand of the Star Tribune. Along with Minnesota, the Saints, Bengals and Raiders have shown the most interest in Mixon, per Miller. The Raiders seem like a curious fit, though, given Mixon’s past and owner Mark Davis’ zero tolerance policy regarding domestic violence.
- Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has set up a busy predraft schedule, as he’s scheduled to meet with the Colts, Bengals, Lions, Titans, and Ravens, according to Josh Norris of Rotoworld (Twitter link). Foster has already met with a number of clubs, and his packed itinerary is unsurprising given that he’s considered the top off-ball linebacker in the 2017 draft. He will combine medical re-checks this week following shoulder surgery, but has already shown full range of motion, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
There seems to be a difference of opinions on the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft. When asked about the 2017 crop, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said, “I wouldn’t take any of these guys in the first round,” (Twitter link).
Early on, UNC QB Mitch Trubisky was regarded as a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick. Now, it seems much more likely that the Browns will select Myles Garrett and it’s not a given that Trubisky will even be the first QB to come off of the board. Deshaun Watson could instead be the first signal caller drafted and DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes seem to be strong candidates for round one.
Of course, the draft isn’t a meritocracy – it’s about team needs and, often, team desperation. Several teams, including the Jets at No. 6, have a clear need for a young QB and there is no realistic scenario in which there isn’t a QB taken in the first round.
Here’s the latest draft news:
- Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams is with the Titans today on a top 30 visit, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Rapoport adds that the Titans have done extensive work on Williams, which makes sense given their clear WR need. Our mock draft has Williams going to Tennessee at No. 18 overall.
- Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen visited with the Titans and has the Chargers and 49ers on deck, Rapoport tweets.
- Former LSU running back Leonard Fournette will visit the Bengals today (Tuesday), according to Kat Terrell of ESPN (on Twitter). The Bengals have hosted multiple running backs on visits this year and that could be tied to Jeremy Hill‘s contractual status. Hill is eligible for free agency following the 2017 season.
- The Dolphins are hosting Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor and Miami tight end David Njoku on visits this week, Rapoport tweets.
- Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett did a personal workout for the Falcons, a source tells Rapoport (on Twitter).
Smith has appeared in 19 games for the Jaguars since being drafted in the fifth round in 2014. Over the last three seasons, he has a combined 4.5 sacks and 19 tackles. Most of those sacks came during Smith’s rookie campaign.
At 6’1″, Smith doesn’t fit the typical mold of an NFL defensive end, but that doesn’t necessarily bother the Bengals.
“If that guy is 5’11” and he can get there, I don’t care,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said of smaller bookends earlier this offseason (via Paul Dehner Jr. of The Enquirer).
The Bengals now have five defensive ends under contract in Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Will Clarke, Wallace Gilberry, and Smith. There already has been some D-Line shakeup this offseason with Margus Hunt and Domata Peko leaving via free agency and the draft could bring further changes.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.