David Njoku

Browns Rumors: Taylor, Njoku, Janis, Cribbs

Throughout the offseason, Hue Jackson has insisted there is no quarterback competition in Cleveland. Even before the Browns’ No. 1 overall pick became known, the third-year head coach said Tyrod Taylor will be his starter. And Jackson wants that to be the case for the duration of this season. As for why the Browns were steadfast with Taylor as their starter despite the team going 0-16 last season: the franchise wants to make this year about winning games rather than developing a rookie quarterback at any cost, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Mayfield’s progressing quickly, in Cabot’s view, and showing the kind of arm talent that had Browns execs and then-consultant Scot McCloughan convinced going into the draft he could turn the franchise around. Another argument could be made that the Browns’ status as a non-contender, talent added this offseason notwithstanding, should prompt them to get Mayfield some reps early this season. Cabot does believe the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner will play this year, but for now, it doesn’t look like the Oklahoma product will be fast-tracked into the lineup like 2017 first-rounders Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson were with their respective teams.

Here’s the latest from northeast Ohio:

  • One of the players Taylor will be targeting has enjoyed a strong offseason. Jackson expects David Njoku to make a major leap in his second season. “I expect to see a huge jump,” Jackson said, via Patrick Maks of ClevelandBrowns.com. “He’s very athletic. He can catch and run. He’s going to be one of our playmakers.” Njoku caught 32 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns last season, despite the Browns having probably the worst quarterback situation in the league. The Browns noticed significant improvement from the Miami alum this offseason, and QBs coach Greg Seamon said the 6-foot-4 pass-catcher should be a “dominant receiver in the red zone.”
  • Though the Browns brought in Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley in this year’s draft, and added Jarvis Landry via trade, there could be a spot for Jeff Janis on the 53-man roster. Cabot notes Janis has some fans in Cleveland’s new-look front office, given that he was a Packers draft pick when Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith were part of Green Bay’s operation, and believes that will help his case. Janis may well be competing against Sashi Brown-era draftees Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis. Cabot notes Higgins has probably had the better offseason of the two. Former first-rounder Corey Coleman is not a lock to be part of this year’s team, either, so Janis — a former seventh-round pick with 17 career catches who is at the same time well known well because of his heroics against the Cardinals in a divisional playoff game — could have an avenue to sneak onto the roster.
  • Josh Cribbs is serving as a Browns intern coach this summer, and Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer reports the former star return man interviewed to be the team’s assistant special teams coach this offseason. That job, however, went to Sam Shade. This will be Shade’s first season as an NFL assistant. However, after the Browns chose Shade over Cribbs, new special teams coordinator Amos Jones was impressed enough with Cribbs to bring him on board as an intern, per Pluto.

Browns Sign David Njoku

The Browns have announced the signing of first-round tight end David Njoku, the 29th pick in this year’s draft. His four-year deal is worth approximately $9.53MM, including a $5.07MM signing bonus.

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Njoku was the third tight end to come off the board this spring, going after the Buccaneers’ O.J. Howard and the Giants’ Evan Engram, and is coming off a breakout year at Miami. The 6-foot-4, 246-pounder hauled in 43 receptions for 698 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016 as a member of the Hurricanes, with whom he only played two seasons. The Greg Olsen comparable should step into the starting lineup right away for Cleveland, which immediately released veteran tight end Gary Barnidge after it drafted Njoku.

With Njoku under contract, the only unsigned player remaining in the Browns’ 10-player draft class is another of their first-rounders, safety Jabrill Peppers – the 25th pick. Cleveland had three No. 1s, including top overall selection Myles Garrett.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns Acquire No. 29 Pick From Packers

The Browns have acquired the No. 29 pick from the Packers. The Packers will receive pick Nos. 33 and 108. With the pick, the Browns are taking tight end David NjokuDavid Njoku (Vertical)

Tonight, the Browns dialed the Redskins to ask about Kirk Cousins and they missed multiple opportunities to take some of this year’s best signal callers. They could have used this pick to nab a quarterback like DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame, but they opted for Njoku instead.

Heading into the draft, many pegged Njoku as the second best tight end in this year’s class. It turns out that he’s the third tight end to come off of the board after O.J. Howard went to the Buccaneers and the Giants selected Evan Engram.

The No. 29 pick will be the Browns’ third first round selection of the evening. Already, they have taken Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett and Michigan utility man Jabrill Peppers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

David Njoku, Forrest Lamp To Slide?

For weeks, Miami tight end David Njoku and Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp have often been projected as middle first round picks. It appears both players could fall further than expected based on what Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com is hearing. David Njoku (vertical)

The Dolphins have been connected to Lamp for some time, but as Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald reported on Wednesday, Miami has cooled on the idea of taking him at No. 22. Instead, they’re expected to target defensive help. If the right guy isn’t there, Pauline hears that they may trade down if the opportunity arises. They’ll instead focus on guards in round two and their target there could be Utah’s Isaac Asiata, Pauline hears. At 6’3″ and 323 lbs, teams like his potential on the interior line.

Njoku could be a target of the Lions at No. 21, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com hinted earlier today, and it sounds like he’ll be available based on the word Pauline is getting.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Peppers, Redskins, Webb

A Redskins contingent including leading exec Bruce Allen worked out and had dinner with Jabrill Peppers in Ann Arbor last weekend, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), meanwhile, hears that the Redskins have explored trading into the late first round. The versatile Michigan product could be a target for them there as they seek secondary help. Some teams, meanwhile, might be shying away from Peppers after his diluted sample at the combine.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

  • Rapoport (Twitter link) wouldn’t be surprised to see a team trade back into round one for Cal’s Davis Webb. One national scout said, “He has Dak [Prescott]-like intangibles.” Some executives seem to think that four quarterbacks could be taken in the first round and it’s possible that five QBs could go inside of the first 32 picks. Webb, by and large, is considered to one of the five best QBs in this class.
  • The Bills taking a defensive player at No. 10 overall seems to be the consensus right now, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweets. Previously, we heard some buzz about Buffalo taking a quarterback with its top pick.
  • One connection to watch very closely is Miami tight end David Njoku and old coach Al Golden who now serves as the Lions‘ tight ends coach, Rapoport tweets. Some projections have Njoku coming off the board in the teens, so he might be gone before Detroit gets a chance to take him.

PFR’s 2017 Live NFL Mock Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft begins on Thursday night, and Pro Football Rumors is back with its second mock draft of the year. While our initial mock attempted to project what will happen in Round 1, we’ve taken a different approach for mock draft 2.0.

PFR editor Zach Links and I conducted this live mock draft on Tuesday morning, rotating picks and breaking down what we would do were we in charge of these selections. We posted each pick on Twitter, followed by a short explanation of our thought process on this page.

Here’s the complete mock:

1. Cleveland Browns (Zach) – Myles Garrett, LB, Texas A&M

I suspect this is the easiest pick either one of us will make all day. Garrett is the best pure talent in this year’s draft and the Browns would be foolish to go in any other direction at the top of the draft.

2. San Francisco 49ers (Dallas) – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Reports that the 49ers are considering a quarterback with the second overall selection stand out as a potential smokescreen, and instead San Francisco uses the No. 2 pick to bolster its defense. Hooker, who recently earned a full medical clearance following combine rechecks, has been commonly linked to the Chargers as a perfect fit for Los Angeles defensive coordinator Gus Bradley‘s scheme. But the 49ers are running the same defensive look as the Chargers under new DC Robert Saleh, and Hooker would give the team a centerfielder with the upside of an Earl Thomas. San Francisco’s plan to convert nickel cornerback Jimmie Ward to safety won’t stop it from adding Hooker, who is possibly the draft’s No. 2 overall prospect.

3. Chicago Bears (Zach) – Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford 

Dallas’ bold pick left my Bears with a golden opportunity. The Bears could go safety or cornerback in this scenario, but the talent of Thomas is too good to pass up. Thomas can be used on both the inside and outside of the Bears’ defensive line and I see him as one of the safest talents on the board.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars (Dallas) – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

No, we didn’t forget the Jaguars used a top-five pick on Jalen Ramsey in 2016 and then handed a $67.5MM contract to A.J. Bouye in free agency last month. But one of Ramsey’s key selling points last year was his versatility: while he’s a shutdown corner at his best, Ramsey can man the slot, cover tight ends, and dabble at safety. As such, adding Conley doesn’t mean Jacksonville is facing cornerback overload, especially given that NFL clubs are in the nickel more than two-thirds of the time. Conley is viewed as a safer prospect than his Ohio State teammate Marshon Lattimore, and he’d give the Jaguars a Broncos-like secondary.

5. Tennessee Titans (Zach) – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Titans, arguably, get the best cornerback available in the draft even though they are the second team to address the position. No, we don’t have a ton of film to go on for Lattimore, but his combine numbers indicate that he could be a megastar. Few teams in the NFL would have a young cornerback duo like the Titans if they can pair Logan Ryan with Lattimore.Mitch Trubisky Instagram

6. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Jets) (Dallas) – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

In need of a franchise quarterback, the Browns send the No. 12 and No. 52 pick to the Jets in exchange for No. 6 with the intention of drafting Trubisky. It’s a slight overpay for Cleveland (at least, based on Chase Stuart of Football Perspective‘s draft value chart, which is likely what the Browns front offices uses), but it does the deal anyway to land a long-term option under center. Given that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is reportedly pressing the club to select a quarterback early — and the fact the Cleveland may still be considering Trubisky with the first overall selection — landing the UNC signal-caller at No. 5 for the cost of a mid-second-round pick is a move the Browns can’t pass up.

7. Los Angeles Chargers (Zach) – Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

In this scenario, it seems like Allen’s subpar workouts have led to a bit of a drop. His size (6’3″) is a bit of a concern, but he has the ability to be an effective defensive end while spending some time on the inside as well. Allen would look great lining up on the opposite end of Joey Bosa.

8. Carolina Panthers (Dallas) – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Sitting at pick No. 8, the Panthers certainly have options. General manager Dave Gettleman & Co. could go after a running back like Leonard Fournette or Christian McCaffrey, bring in a young edge rusher to play alongside veterans like Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers, or even reach for an offensive tackle given Michael Oher‘s health questions. With Ted Ginn Jr. and Corey Brown having defected via free agency, the Panthers need another wideout to pair with Kelvin Benjamin. Enter Davis, who topped 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (Zach) – Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Foster’s stock, by all accounts, is slipping after he turned in a diluted urine sample and got into an argument with a hospital worker at the combine. However, with other teams in the market for an inside linebacker (like the Jets at No. 12, for example), it would be somewhat risky to trade down into the teens and expect Foster to still be there. The Bengals have been willing to overlook character concerns in the past, so I see no reason why they can’t do the same here and land the Alabama star.

10. Buffalo Bills (Dallas) – Jamal Adams, S, LSU

While the Bills gave Jordan Poyer a four-year deal with $6MM in guarantees earlier this offseason, I’m still not convinced Buffalo views him as a definite starter. Those questions come to the forefront with Adams still on the board, and the Bills don’t hesitate to take the LSU defensive back. With ex-Packer Micah Hyde also in the fold, Buffalo can field one of the more diverse and flexible safety tandems in the league. Adams is viewed as a leader in the locker room, and has been favorably compared to former Cowboys All Pro Darren Woodson by Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.

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Latest On Giants’ Round 1 Draft Plans

The Giants are “wide open” when it comes to who they’ll pick with the No. 23 pick on Thursday night, a source tells Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. Still, Big Blue does have some idea on what they plan to do during Round 1.Cam Robinson (vertical)

New York is widely expected to target offensive line help early in the draft, but it may not come on Day 1, per Vacchiano, as the Giants aren’t high on the top prospects at tackle. Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Utah’s Garett Bolles, and Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk all have issues in the eyes of New York, and the club doesn’t necessarily believe any of the three would represent marked improvement over incumbent left tackle Ereck Flowers.

If offensive line isn’t in the works for the Giants in Round 1, tight end could be, although the Giants don’t expect Alabama TE O.J. Howard to reach them. David Njoku (Miami) could be an option, although Vacchiano reports “mixed signals” from New York on the idea of drafting Njoku. Linebacker, too, could be a consideration, although the Giants famously haven’t selected a first-round ‘backer since 1984.

Finally, the Giants aren’t expected to use their first-round pick on an Eli Manning successor, although the team could add a quarterback in the second round, per Vacchiano. Although New York is open to drafting a signal-caller this year, the club “isn’t sold” on the draft’s top passers, reports Vacchiano, so it may look to Day 2 to find a long-term option under center.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Bills, Kizer, Howard, Davis

The Bills may not like their current position in this draft. A day after we heard the franchise is looking to move down from its No. 10 overall perch, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report notes (via Twitter) the team is also gauging what it would take to move up further into the top 10.

Buffalo looms as one of the more intriguing spots because of its tenuous relationship with Tyrod Taylor, whom the team retained but on a similar prove-it basis. The Bills are thought to be high on Deshaun Watson, while another report pegged the team as being higher on Mitch Trubisky. The latter has gained steam on going No. 1 overall, but Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted he was unlikely to get past the Jets at No. 6 in the event the Browns didn’t use their top pick on him. The Jaguars are now also a threat to take a first-round quarterback, further complicating the Bills’ possible ambitions regarding this position.

Moving up, as the Bills did three years ago to acquire Sammy Watkins, would strengthen their ability to land Trubisky or Watson. But if both of them go early, moving down would obviously allow the team to collect assets and regroup.

Here’s more from the draft, continuing with some quarterback buzz.

  • DeShone Kizer has not been shy about expressing belief in his abilities, but league execs are increasingly skeptical of the former Notre Dame quarterback’s NFL potential. “He’s not as good as he should be because he’s not committed to the game,” an AFC executive told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He’s committed to building a brand. He wants all the things that come with being a starting quarterback but doesn’t want to put in the work.” An AFC exec referred to the 6-foot-4 passer as a “prima donna,” while another NFC exec was concerned about the Fighting Irish benching him at one point and that his second year as a starter generated a 4-8 record. Nine of the 16 NFL staffers the Journal Sentinel surveyed rated Kizer as the most likely bust in this class of QBs.
  • While at least three wide receivers are likely set to go in the first round, an NFC executive told McGinn this is the “It’s the worst wide receiver draft at the top I’ve seen in a long time.” Of the throng of personnel people polled, more of them preferred Corey Davis as the No. 1 wideout prospect. Behind the top three — Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross — personnel staffers and scouts placed East Carolina’s Zay Jones at No. 4. The Seahawks are reportedly doing work on Jones as a possible second-round pick.
  • However, this group is bullish on the tight end class. One AFC personnel man called O.J. Howard and David Njoku future NFL difference-makers because of their ability to block and do the expected work in the passing game. That exec added that as many as 10 tight ends could go in the first four rounds. Only five went in Rounds 1-4 last year, with 11 being selected in total. Howard earned praise as the runaway winner of the Journal Sentinel poll on tight ends, with an AFC exec saying the Alabama product is “as good as Greg Olsen.”

East Rumors: Giants, Jets, Njoku, Redskins

The Jets have been entangled in some confusing visit scheduling today. Now, they’re going to be meeting Monday with a player previously slated to visit the Giants on that date. Gang Green will host tight end David Njoku on a visit, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Njoku’s Giants visit, which he first spoke about nearly two weeks ago, has been cancelled, per Raanan. This comes hours after some rescheduling moved Gareon Conley‘s Jets summit to Tuesday back from Monday. The Jets have a need at tight end after seeing some of the sparsest production in modern NFL history from that position over the past two years. Of course, new OC John Morton figures to use that spot a bit more than predecessor Chan Gailey, whose offense did not feature tight ends much in his passing game.

Here’s the latest coming out of the Eastern divisions as teams continue to make their final draft preparations.

  • Mentioned as one of three teams to be pursuing Jared Odrick, the Giants might not have too much interest in the recently released defensive lineman, per Raanan. Big Blue’s focus may be more specified than just adding a talented defensive lineman. With three high-paid starters on that unit, the Giants are likely seeking a run-stuffing tackle to replace Johnathan Hankins, who spurned their reported four-year, $28MM offer to sign with the Colts. The Giants currently employ fourth-year man Jay Bromley and former waiver claim Robert Thomas. Both of those players’ skill sets are geared more toward getting into the backfield, Raanan writes, whereas the Giants want someone to complement Damon Harrison. A backup for most of his career, Bromley has one sack in three seasons. Thomas has registered one in two years.
  • Odrick will cost some money the Giants may not be willing to spend up front, and the defensive tackle is going to have some other interested parties, pointing James Kratch of NJ.com to not make it a given the former Dolphins and Jags lineman comes to New York. Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul are signed to high-value contracts, making another expenditure up front dicey. The Eagles and Seahawks are believed to be interested in Odrick as well.
  • Jay Gruden believed the Redskins needed extensive help up front that one player wasn’t going to provide. That was a debate among Washington’s evolving power structure this offseason, and John Keim of ESPN.com notes the results of that choice yielded the signings of Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain rather than the more expensive Bennie Logan. The Chiefs swooped in and added Logan after he’d visited the Redskins. Those two Washington signees will have a combined cap figure of $6.9MM in 2017, while Logan’s is set to come in at $7.953MM on Kansas City’s payroll. Washington will have a new-look defensive line in 2017 after the departures of Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francois.
  • Jets second-year wide receiver Robby Anderson parted ways with his agent, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports (on Twitter). Anderson will presumably look for new representation after moving on from Chris Wiestling of SIG Sports. Wiestling also represents Muhammad Wilkerson.

Draft Notes: Watson, Texans, Eagles, Bolles

Deshaun Watson‘s pre-draft tour will go through an interesting place early this week. The former Clemson star passer will make a trip to Houston and meet with the Texans, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter), who adds the visit will commence on Monday and Tuesday. This is the Texans’ first known summit with one of the high-profile quarterbacks expected to come off the board in Round 1.

The Texans may not have hosted such passers, but the team is expected to take a quarterback early, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. The reporter believes Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes won’t get past the Texans at No. 25. Watson has visited the 49ers, Browns, Jaguars and Cardinals thus far.

Houston hasn’t taken a quarterback in the first round of the draft since its first-ever draft pick (David Carr, 2002). Watson could require the Texans to trade up, being connected to the Browns at No. 12, but La Canfora noted recently the post-Mitch Trubisky tier of quarterbacks’ destinations are difficult to pin down. It’s not completely out of the question Watson is there at No. 25, but it would be unlikely.

Here’s more from the 2017 draft class.

  • Gareon Conley‘s early-week itinerary finally appears set. After some confusion, the Ohio State cornerback will be visiting the Jaguars on Monday then pack up for Floram Park, N.J., for a Jets powwow on Tuesday, Rapoport reports (on Twitter). Conley recently adjusted his travel schedule, per Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, after initially being scheduled to visit the Jets on Monday. Conley, interestingly, may be benefiting from doubts about his former Buckeyes teammate’s health. Perception about Marshon Lattimore‘s hamstring trouble could help elevate Conley’s stock, which looks to have risen into the top 10 and possibly the top five.
  • In more cornerback news, USC’s Adoree’ Jackson has a busy schedule lined up this week. The former Trojans standout will meet with three teams — the Eagles, Rams and Texans — in the coming days, per Rapoport (on Twitter). Jackson’s first stop this week will be in Philadelphia, where cornerback is a need area.
  • The Broncos‘ biggest need is probably at left tackle, and the team will meet with another expected first-round pick here in Garett Bolles. The Utah blocker will trek to Denver for a meeting this week, Mike Klis of 9News tweets. Denver met with Alabama’s Cam Robinson previously. Bolles will be 25 as a rookie, but the Broncos are believed to have “high interest” in him. Two of Pro Football Focus’ worst tackles in 2016, Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo, represent the Broncos’ current top options on the left side.
  • Previously connected to an April Giants meeting, David Njoku will travel to New Jersey on Monday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. The Giants are “very high” on the Miami tight end, and also being believed to have O.J. Howard at or near the top of their draft board, it’s safe to assume Big Blue is targeting tight ends. The team has not had a difference-maker at this position in many years. Adding one would stand to give Eli Manning yet another weapon after the Giants signed Brandon Marshall last month.