Deshaun Watson

AFC Notes: A. Smith, Orr, Watson, Landry

It was former Chiefs GM John Dorsey who ultimately pulled the trigger on the team’s draft-day trade that allowed Kansas City to climb all the way up to the No. 10 overall spot and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But now that Dorsey is out and Brett Veach is in, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says it is fair to question what the new hire means for incumbent signal-caller Alex Smith.

But according to Miller, not much will change with respect to the team’s approach to Smith. After all, Veach has been with the Chiefs for the past four years, so it’s not as if he’s coming to Kansas City with a fresh take on the situation. Plus, Miller’s league sources all said effectively the same thing: “nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach.” As such, you can still expect the team to move on from Smith after the 2017 season — and save $17MM in the process — as long as Mahomes appears ready to assume control.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says all is quiet on the Colts/Zach Orr front, and at this point, the team has had plenty of time to sift through Orr’s medicals. Therefore, Bowen does not believe Indianapolis will pursue Orr in an attempt to bolster its linebacker corps.
  • Although Texans GM Rick Smith was not as definitive as head coach Bill O’Brien in declaring Tom Savage the team’s Week 1 starter, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirms that Savage will be under center when the regular season gets underway. Rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is content to remain patient and wait for his opportunity. Watson said, “It’s best for the team. Coach [O’Brien] knows a lot of football. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL history in Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be.”
  • Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant recently said he took issue with the way Ben Roethlisberger spoke about him to the media earlier this summer, when Big Ben said Bryant would need to “win back everybody’s trust.” That might sound pretty rich for a player who managed to get himself suspended for the entire 2016 campaign, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com nonetheless believes that it is important for Bryant and Roethlisberger to have the sit-down that Bryant proposed. Although such meetings are often unbeneficial formalities, Fowler says Bryant, whose position in the league is fairly tenuous at this point, needs to feel like the catalyst he can be and not become a source of criticism.
  • The Dolphins‘ best bet may be to simply let Jarvis Landry play out the 2017 season, his contract year, and put the franchise tag on him in 2018, as Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders opines. After all, Landry is set to make less than $1MM this year, so even the projected $17MM tag in 2018 would allow Miami to keep Landry for at least two more seasons at about $8.5MM per year, which is well below the $14MM per year he would likely get with a new contract. Although that approach could create some discord between player and team, it does make short-term financial sense.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com makes a series of predictions for the Jets, with the most interesting being that he expects Christian Hackenberg to become the team’s starting quarterback no later than Week 12 (New York has a Week 11 bye), and that he expects Todd Bowles to be retained for 2018.

Poll: Highest-Impact Rookie Quarterback?

Of the 15 quarterbacks selected in last year’s draft, seven ended up starting at least one regular-season game in 2016. The Rams’ Jared Goff and the Eagles’ Carson Wentz comprised the top two picks of the draft, but it was Cowboys fourth-round signal-caller Dak Prescott, the 135th overall choice, who ultimately emerged as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and the face of a 13-3 team.

When the Cowboys drafted Prescott, there was little expectation he’d garner significant playing time right away, let alone thrive from the get-go, with Tony Romo on the roster. But debilitating summer injuries to Romo and backup Kellen Moore opened the door for Prescott, who’s now firmly entrenched under center in Dallas. Romo, realizing he wasn’t going to start again for the Cowboys, is now working for CBS.

Deshaun Watson Texans (vertical)

While it’s hard to imagine any rookie quarterback from this year’s 10-man class bursting on the scene in Prescott-like fashion, it stands to reason at least some will get opportunities to do so. Like last year, three passers went in the first round of the 2017 draft, though immediate playing time isn’t a guarantee for any. For now, Mitch Trubisky (No. 2 overall, Bears), Patrick Mahomes (No. 10, Chiefs) and Deshaun Watson (No. 12, Texans) are in understudy roles.

Trubisky, a one-year starter at North Carolina for whom Chicago somewhat controversially traded up a spot to select, reportedly won’t see the field as a rookie unless free agent investment Mike Glennon flops. Considering Glennon previously held a starting job in Tampa Bay but didn’t do enough to keep it, he very well could struggle enough for Trubisky to grab the reins in 2017.

Watson might also take the helm sooner than later, as the ex-Clemson national championship winner whom the Texans traded up 13 spots to draft is behind a veteran, Tom Savage, who’s almost completely untested. Given that the Texans have sullied quality rosters with subpar quarterbacks in recent seasons, it could behoove them to plug in Watson if Savage, he of two career starts and zero touchdown passes, looks like another Brock Osweiler this year.

DeShone Kizer

An early path to playing time appears less clear for Mahomes, even though Kansas City paid a high price to go up 17 places to secure him. At the moment, the ex-Texas Tech gunslinger looks like a good bet to red shirt 2017 behind Alex Smith as the Chiefs take at least one more kick at the Super Bowl can with the steady (albeit non-elite) veteran at the helm.

Perhaps more than any other QB in this year’s class, Browns second-rounder DeShone Kizer stands out as someone who looks destined to amass playing time as a rookie. The 52nd pick and former Notre Dame dual threat has impressed in the very early going in Cleveland. Moreover, his main competitors for the Browns’ open starting job, Osweiler and Cody Kessler, aren’t exactly Otto Graham and Bernie Kosar.

As Prescott and 2012 third-rounder Russell Wilson have shown in the past half-decade, a quarterback doesn’t necessarily have to come off the board at the top of the draft to star right away. That’s surely heartening to the Giants’ Davis Webb (third round, No. 87), the 49ers’ C.J. Beathard (third round, No. 104), the Steelers’ Joshua Dobbs (fourth round, No. 135), the Bills’ Nathan Peterman (fifth round, No. 171), the Lions’ Brad Kaaya (sixth round, No. 215) and the Broncos’ Chad Kelly (seventh round, No. 253). Barring injuries, though, Webb, Dobbs and Kaaya have virtually no chance to earn starting roles at any point in 2017, as each is behind an established veteran. On the other hand, there’s no Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger or Matthew Stafford on any of the rosters of the 49ers, Bills and Broncos, which could give Beathard, Peterman and Kelly a glimmer of hope. Still, for various reasons, all three look like major long shots to break out as rookies. Then again, the same could’ve been said about Prescott 12 months ago.

Photos via USA Today Sports Images and Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/17

The Texans announced the signing of Deshaun Watson and five other draft picks today. The former Clemson quarterback will make $13.85MM with an $8.25MM signing bonus, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The Lions also signed first-rounder Jarrad Davis, along with seven other draft choices.

Here are the rest of Friday’s draft signings.

  • The Broncos and second-round defensive end Demarcus Walker arrived at an agreement, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post reports (on Twitter). It’s a four-year worth upwards of $5.1MM for the Florida State defensive end, per Jhabvala, who adds he will receive a $1.8MM signing bonus. Walker is expected to compete with Jared Crick and Zach Kerr for the Broncos’ right defensive end position opposite Derek Wolfe. Walker is the second defensive end Denver’s drafted in the past two years, following Adam Gotsis, who did not play much last season.
  • Both of the Jaguars‘ seventh-round selections are now signed. The Jags inked cornerback Jalen Myrick and fullback Marquez Williams. A Minnesota product, Myrick is a notable seventh-round choice because the ex-Golden Gopher defender blazed to the fastest 40-yard dash (4.28 seconds) a Big Ten player has clocked since the Combine began measuring these times. Williams spent three seasons at Division II Mars Hill (North Carolina) before transferring to Miami for his senior season. The Jags still have five unsigned picks.
  • Four late-round draft picks agreed to terms with the Titans, the team announced. Sixth-round guard/center Corey Levin is signed. So are seventh-rounders Josh Carraway, a linebacker, Brad Seaton, a tackle, and running back Khalfani Muhammad.
  • The 49ers signed third-round pick Ahkello Witherspoon, a cornerback out of Colorado, the team announced. Witherspoon was the second Buffaloes corner to come off the board in last month’s draft, following Cowboys second-rounder Chidobe Awuzie. Witherspoon led Division I in pass deflections last season with 22, a number that tied an 18-year-old Colorado school record.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Texans Sign Deshaun Watson

The Texans have signed the bulk of their 2017 draft class. Only third round running back D’Onta Foreman remains unsigned. Here’s the full list of every Houston draft pick who is now under contract: "<strong

The Texans were said to be targeting Watson for several weeks and we learned on draft night that it wasn’t just a smokescreen. Houston traded this year’s No. 25 overall pick and its 2018 first round choice to get the No. 12 selection from the Browns in order to take the Clemson QB. Watson was universally regarded as one of the top QBs in this year’s class and some might argue that the athletic signal caller has more upside than any of his peers. Now, the rookie might have a chance at wrestling the starting job away from Tom Savage.

Cunningham was projected by some as a first round pick and he almost went No. 23 overall when the Giants were on the clock. Luckily for Houston, the Giants wound up taking Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram at No. 23 and passed on him again at No. 55, allowing them to grab the Vanderbilt product all the way down at No. 57.

Photo via Pro Football Rumors on Instagram.

Extra Points: Trubisky, Dolphins, 49ers, Bucs

The Bears played it close to the vest before making their Mitch Trubisky trade from No. 3 to No. 2, one that headlined the draft and one that may have the team’s power structure at odds. Chicago’s brass tried to throw teams off the scent early in the process by sending an armada of personnel to Deshaun Watson‘s pro day while orchestrating a secret dinner meeting with Trubisky, per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. The Bears also “begged” Trubisky’s camp not to leak news of that summit, and that part of the operation succeeded. Ryan Pace followed Dave Caldwell‘s secretive playbook when he made the Blake Bortles pick few expected.

Here’s more from around the league as rookie minicamp sessions are upon us.

  • Charles Harris experienced a similar type of draft misdirection. The Dolphins cancelled a pre-draft visit with the Missouri product without providing a reason for the change of plans. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s messed up,” Harris said, via James Walker of ESPN.com. Miami was linked to edge defenders coming into the draft despite re-signing Cameron Wake and Andre Branch, and Harris fell to the Fins at No. 22 to validate their pre-draft plot. The Dolphins met with Harris at the Combine but didn’t prompt him for a post-Combine workout before the cancellation tactic. “It’s just there are some players that we purposely try and stay away from once we are comfortable with the player, his character and what type of kid we are getting,” Dolphins GM Chris Grier said, via Walker. “We just do not feel the need to spend any more time with them.”
  • John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were split on one of the 49ers’ eventual draft picks, and the coach won out. Lynch had Utah running back Joe Williams off his draft board, but Shanahan convinced the new GM to give the go-ahead for a fourth-round selection, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Shanahan, who was tied to the 49ers midway through the GM hunt and thus received an opportunity for additional control, helped sway Lynch to trade a fifth-round pick to move up in the fourth round and select Williams. The Utes runner’s questionable off-the-field past had Lynch skeptical, but Shanahan saw some promise in the back who ran the Combine’s second-fastest 40 time at 4.41 seconds. With Carlos Hyde entering a contract year, Williams could be a key component of the 49ers’ future.
  • Both Kendell Beckwith and Buccaneers management expect the linebacker to be ready to return by training camp, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Beckwith tore his ACL late during his senior season at LSU last fall. Stroud expects Beckwith to be a possible early-season starter on the strong side, with the writer believing primary 2016 starter Daryl SmithPFR’s No. 4 UFA off-ball linebacker — is closing in on retirement rather than returning for a 14th NFL season.
  • Bucs running back Jeremy McNichols underwent surgery shortly after the Combine to repair a torn labrum, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Laine reports McNichols’ timeline hovers at around four months, noting the Boise State-developed back hopes to be ready for camp. McNichols arrived via fifth-round pick for a Bucs team that has questions about Doug Martin‘s future. The team still employs Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber on the roster. McNichols caught 103 passes at Boise State in three seasons, but Jason Licht views him as a possible three-down back as opposed to a passing-game specialist.

AFC Notes: Watson, Kizer, Jets, Broncos

After the Texans traded up in the first round of the draft to select ex-Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson 12th overall, head coach Bill O’Brien declared that veteran signal-caller Tom Savage would start Week 1. Like O’Brien, general manager Rick Smith regards Savage as the favorite to land the job, but the executive isn’t as ready to hand him the role. In an interview with ESPN Radio’s Stephen A. Smith on Thursday, Rick Smith indicated that Watson will have a chance to compete with Savage in the coming months, per Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com. “We want to provide a competitive environment across the board. So [Watson will] compete,” Smith said. “[But] like I said, we feel good about Tom and his abilities to manage the offense. But yeah, [Watson] will come in, and just like every other guy on the roster, he’ll have time to play.”

More from the AFC:

  • As is the case with Houston, the Browns are prepared to let their rookie signal-caller compete for a starting job. In Cleveland’s case, it’s second-rounder DeShone Kizer, who will be part of “an open competition” that could also feature Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, GM Sashi Brown said Thursday on ESPN’s Mike and Mike (via Nate Ulrich of Ohio.com). Meanwhile, speaking with Cleveland Browns Daily, head coach Hue Jackson lavished praise on Kizer, a former Notre Dame star who went 52nd in the draft. “He has the characteristics that we as an organization covet. He’s a big man,” Jackson said of the 6-foot-4, 233-pounder. “He has the AFC North stature that I love. He has a big arm. He’s very intelligent. He’s played in a real big-time football program. He understands the demands of playing the position. He understands the demands of being a quarterback and the face of the franchise.”
  • Free agent quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson will attend the Jets‘ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Bethel-Thompson, 28, is certainly familiar with the workout circuit, as he’s spent time with five NFL clubs and one team each in the Canadian Football League, Arena Football League, and United Football League. He also took part in the Spring League earlier this year. Bethel-Thompson’s last NFL stint came with the Eagles, with whom he earned two stints in 2016. For Gang Green, Bethel-Thompson likely only represents an offeason option, as the club already boasts signal-callers Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg.
  • The Broncos on Friday announced a restructuring of their front office under executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway. Director of pro personnel Tom Heckert has been promoted to senior personnel advisor, while A.J. Durso has been promoted to take Heckert’s previous post. Brian Stark, meanwhile, has been promoted from national scout to director of college scouting. Denver’s staff changes will help account for the loss of former scouting director Adam Peters, who left for a personnel role with the 49ers in January.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Extra Points: Hawks, Mahomes, Cowboys, Foster, Texans, Savage, Conley

Even though the Seahawks have one of the top starting quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson, they would have strongly considered drafting Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes if he were still on the board for their first-round pick, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Mahomes, who went 10th to Kansas City, was long gone by the time Seattle was on the clock at No. 26. The Seahawks ultimately traded out of the opening round.

More from Seattle and a few other NFL cities as Day 2 of the draft approaches:

  • Speaking of the Seahawks, the Cowboys had an opportunity to swap picks with them in the first round, per Dallas executive Stephen Jones (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). The Cowboys instead chose to stay at No. 28 because they liked the players remaining on the board, and ended up choosing Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
  • When the 49ers called Reuben Foster to inform him they were selecting him 31st overall, he was on the phone with the Saints at the time. New Orleans, which picked 32nd, was already welcoming Foster to the organization. But once Foster got word that he was going to San Francisco, he hung up on the Saints (Twitter links via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee).
  • The Texans sent a significant haul to Cleveland to move from No. 25 to No. 12 and select Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, but it appears he’ll begin his pro career as a backup. Head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters, including Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, that Tom Savage will be the Texans’ starting signal-caller next season (Twitter link).
  • The Raiders were not the team to request a polygraph test from Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley. Instead, it was the Ravens who ordered the test, as Peter King of The MMQB writes. Once the results came in, Conley’s camp forwarded them to teams around the league, but the Raiders would not say whether the results impacted their evaluation of what happened. Conley will meet with Cleveland police on Monday and he’s “very confident that it will be resolved” (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Journal Review). First, however, the 24th overall pick is headed to the Raiders’ facility on Friday to meet with team brass.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Texans Acquire No. 12, Take Deshaun Watson

The Texans have acquired the No. 12 overall pick from the Browns. The Browns will receive the Texans’ No. 25 overall pick plus their 2018 first round pick. With the pick, the Texans have selected Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.Deshaun Watson Texans (vertical)

The Texans, of course, have been on the lookout for a quarterback and Watson could be the player to supplant Tom Savage as the starter in 2017. Watson has been criticized for having less accuracy than other QB prospects in this year’s class, but he has two years of solid football under his belt and he is the most athletic of the bunch.

The Browns now own both the Texans’ first and second round picks in next year’s draft. The Browns previously acquired Houston’s second round pick in the Brock Osweiler trade.

Jaguars Considering Deshaun Watson At No. 4?

There is growing chatter about the Jaguars selecting Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson at No. 4, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. Watson has not really been linked to the Jaguars during the draft process, so this news some as a bit of a shock. Deshaun Watson

[RELATED: Browns To Take Mitch Trubisky No. 1?]

The Jaguars, of course, already have a former top five pick at quarterback in Blake Bortles. However, Bortles struggled mightily in 2016 and it’s not even clear whether Jacksonville will exercise his fifth-year option for 2018. The option, guaranteed for injury only, would give the QB an $18MM salary in that additional season.

So far, the athletic Watson has been widely projected as a late first round type. He might have the most upside of any quarterback in this year’s class, but concerns about his accuracy have him pegged below UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky on most draft boards. If the Jaguars follow through and take Watson at No. 4, the Texans at No. 25 are one team that could be severely disappointed, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. In Tuesday’s dueling live mock draft on PFR, I had Houston selecting Watson with their No. 25 overall pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Albert Breer On Foster, Trubisky, Watson

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz from Albert Breer of The MMQB. All links go to Twitter:

  • Teams were aware of some drug history for linebacker Reuben Foster at Alabama and that wasn’t considered a big deal until his watered down combine test (link). Now, however, that history has taken on a different context. Depending on who you ask, Foster could be in for a draft day slide similar to Myles Jack in 2016.
  • Breer envisions a run on offensive linemen Ryan Ramczyk, Cam Robinson, Forrest Lamp, and Garett Bolles, and that may trigger some teams to trade up into the late teens (link). This year’s draft is thin on OL help and those four players are considered to be the best available.
  • Though it’s not a likelihood, there’s a chance that quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes go in the Top 15 (link).
  • The NFL at large likes Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson more than the public realizes (link). To date, most prognostications have them going late in the first round or early in the second. In yesterday’s dueling mock draft, I took Humphrey at No. 13 overall on behalf of the Cardinals.