Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These Bills, Dolphins, Jets and Patriots moves are noted below.
Here are Wednesday’s AFC East transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.
As Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic points out, cutting Lewis came as a bit of a surprise considering the Bills’ lack of depth at cornerback. However, the reporter believes that today’s move is an indication that the team isn’t concerned about injuries to Levi Wallace, Dane Jackson and Taron Johnson. Lewis, a 2019 undrafted free agent, finished last season with seven tackles in five games (two starts). If he passes through waivers, he’ll likely end up on Buffalo’s practice squad.
On Friday, the Bills agreed to terms with three of their picks from the 2020 NFL Draft. Second-round edge rusher A.J. Epenesa, fourth-round receiver Gabriel Davis, and fifth-round quarterback Jake Fromm are all under contract, per a club announcement.
Epenesa was viewed as a first-round prospect, up until a shaky showing at the combine. There, the Iowa product ran a slower-than-expected 5.04-second 40-yard dash and lacked athleticism at 275 pounds. Still, he’s coming off of double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons and also profiles as a solid defender against the run.
Fromm also saw his stock slip. At one point in time, evaluators said he’d be the No. 1 overall pick. Then, last year happened – the Georgia QB completed just 60.8% of his passes and most scouts now see him as a solid backup type. That’ll be his role in Buffalo, where he’ll sit behind Josh Allen.
With this trio officially in the fold, the Bills’ only remaining straggler is third-round running back Zack Moss. Here’s the full rundown of their draft class, via PFR’s team-by-team tracker:
2-54: AJ Epenesa, DE (Iowa): Signed
3-86: Zack Moss, RB (Utah)
4-128: Gabriel Davis, WR (UCF): Signed
5-167: Jake Fromm, QB (Georgia): Signed
6-188: Tyler Bass, K (Georgia Southern): Signed
6-207: Isaiah Hodgins, WR (Oregon State): Signed
7-239: Dane Jackson, CB (Pittsburgh): Signed
The wait is over for Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. He’ll join the Bills, who have selected him with the No. 167 overall pick, a fifth round choice.
Fromm was once viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick, but he took himself out of the running with an iffy 2019. Last year, Fromm completed just 60.8% of his throws, the lowest rate of his collegiate career. Still, the Bills see potential in Fromm, who led the Bulldogs to the National Championship Game as a true frosh in 2017.
Over time, Fromm lost his footing to Joe Burrow (LSU), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jordan Love (Utah State), Jacob Eason (Washington), and other signal callers. In the not too distant past, Fromm was viewed as a potential NFL starter. Now, the feeling is that he’s a quality QB2 in the making.
Fromm will work to improve his arm strength in Buffalo as he slots behind former first-round pick Josh Allen in Buffalo. The Georgia native might not be a world-beater, but his football smarts should allow him to find a home in WNY.
At this stage, it’s hard to peg where this year’s top quarterbacks will land in the draft. Right now, Utah State’s Jordan Love is one of the draft’s biggest wildcards at the position, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The feeling is that Love could go anywhere between No. 5 (where the Dolphins pick) and No. 25, per RapSheet.
At least six teams have done extensive research on Love and his seamless throwing mechanics, including the Packers and Patriots. That might mean that Love could land in the Top 15, though the latest word from NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo threw cold water on that idea. Ultimately, because there’s so much information and, potentially, misinformation, flying around about Love, no one’s exactly sure where he’ll go.
There’s been increasing chatter about the Dolphins taking Justin Herbert over Tua Tagovailoa at No. 5, but little discussion about Love being the pick. If the Dolphins do see Love as their QB of the future, they’d probably be able to trade down, add to their already substantial stockpile, and still land him.
Meanwhile, Georgia signal caller Jake Fromm is “buzzing” thanks to strong interviews and praise from NFL quarterback coaches, Rapoport reports. Fromm was once viewed as a potential No. 1 overall pick, but he took himself out of the running with an iffy 2019. Last year, Fromm completed just 60.8% of his throws, the lowest rate of his collegiate career. Still, many evaluators see the potential in Fromm, who led the Bulldogs to the National Championship Game as a true frosh in 2017.
A long list of teams have question marks at the quarterback position heading into the offseason. Well, one executive believes many of the organizations will solve their predicament via the draft. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller talked to a personnel executive who believes five quarterbacks will be selected in the top-15 of this year’s draft.
This might not sound all that shocking; among the teams with top-15 picks, only five of those organizations have used first-round capital at the position in the past two drafts. You could easily talk yourself into one of the other 10 teams selecting a quarterback, and a team outside the top-15 could easily trade up. However, it is notable that the executive was willing to speak so definitively.
As Miller explains, there’s a pretty clear pecking order atop the quarterback draft board: Joe Burrow (LSU), Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), some combo of Jordan Love (Utah State) and Justin Herbert (Oregon), Jacob Eason (Washington), and Jake Fromm (Georgia). Miller notes that the Chargers, who are selecting sixth-overall, are particularly interested in Love.
Miller himself believes six quarterbacks will be selected in the top-50, and he notes that part of the urgency to select a signal-caller could be attributed to the falloff after the top-six options. The next-best prospect, Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, struggled during Senior Bowl practice this week, and Hawaii’s Cole McDonald projects as more of a fifth- or sixth-rounder.
Given the overall strength of the class, which is not projected to be as talent-laden next year (despite the presumed appearance of Trevor Lawrence), Fromm’s decision is somewhat surprising. After all, he went into the 2019 season as a surefire first-round pick, and perhaps even the No. 1 overall selection, but he turned in a bit of a disappointing year and may tumble out of the first round altogether.
Fromm led the Bulldogs to the National Championship Game as a true freshman in 2017, and he did guide them to a Sugar Bowl win this season. But his 2019 completion percentage (60.8%) was the lowest of his collegiate career, and his TD numbers were down from his sterling sophomore campaign.
He remains capable of making all the throws that an NFL QB is expected to make, and he has played well on big stages. He also appears to have all the intangibles that pro teams are looking for in franchise signal-callers, and with a number of clubs potentially in the market for a rookie quarterback, maybe one will fall in love with him and nab him in the first round.
The Bengals are all but certain to select Burrow, but the Dolphins, Colts, Chargers, and even Patriots are among the teams who could take a look at Fromm.
Tua Tagovailoa is not expected to return to Alabama to rebuild his stock, but said stock has taken a hit thanks to the severe hip injury he suffered last weekend. The junior Crimson Tide star can be downgraded to the No. 3 quarterback in next year’s class, per ESPN.com’s Todd McShay, who has LSU’s Joe Burrow and Oregon’s Justin Herbert ranked ahead of Tagovailoa.
“If he could’ve finished healthy, I think he would’ve been the first to go, so I do think it affects things, because there’s not a safe one now,” an AFC college scouting director told SI.com’s Albert Breer. “He was the safe one—he’s gonna be smart, accurate; he’s won at a high level, been on the big stage. Now, there’s not a safe one.”
Both Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz were top-two overall selections despite significant injuries occurring in their final college seasons, but the nature of Tagovailoa’s setback likely stands to ding his stock a bit more.
Here is the latest surrounding the next crop of draft-eligible prospects:
While Tagovailoa and Herbert were viewed as the frontrunners to be the first quarterback taken in 2020, Burrow has now ascended to the favorite to land in that position, Breer hears. The second-year LSU starter is a Heisman Trophy candidate, having throw 38 touchdown passes as a senior. Though the former Ohio State backup was not previously on the first-round radar after an unremarkable junior season, his production has swayed NFL execs this year.
McShay rated Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm as a second-tier quarterback prospect, and Breer adds some scouts expect the third-year Bulldogs starter to return for his senior season. Fromm plays in a run-first system, and scouts view him as more of an intangibles-geared prospect than one that will dazzle evaluators with physical ability, per Breer.
Herbert, however, does possess those athletic traits, and Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller would be surprised if the Ducks senior falls out of the top five next year. The Dolphins were high on Herbert last year, and NFL GMs were trekking to some of his junior-season games. Tagovailoa’s injury stands to benefit the 6-foot-6 Herbert, Miller adds, as the former was previously on track to be taken ahead of the Pac-12 standout.
Good news for Iowa fans. First-round tackle and defensive end prospects Tristan Wirfs and defensive end A.J. Epenesa are as of now expected to return to school for their senior seasons, Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com notes. Wirfs is viewed as one of the top tackles in the nation, with the 6-6, 280-pound Epenesa having totaled 22.5 sacks in his Hawkeyes tenure.
The NFL recently discussed some changes to its ownership policy. With franchise values skyrocketing, the league’s rule requires prospective owners to put up at least 30% of the price. This has produced limited buyers, at least it did with during the Panthers sale. (Current franchise valuations would force bidders to put up at least $600MM.) Seeking input from a quartet of firms involved in franchise sales, NFL owners discussed several matters on the topic of acquiring teams but made only one change recently. Owners of non-NFL teams in NFL markets — such as Steve Ballmer, Mark Cuban, etc. — can now make bids to acquire NFL franchises, Scott Soshnick of Bloomburg.com reports.
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm regularly appears in 2020 mock drafts as a first-round pic, but various NFL personnel are now not so sure he will be part of that class. Executives and scouts polled by Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller expect Fromm to return to school for what would be his senior season in 2020. Operating a run-first offense, Fromm has displayed improved accuracy since being handed the Bulldogs’ reins as a true freshman. However, he’s viewed as perhaps a cut below the likes of Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert on the 2020 prospect spectrum.
Were Fromm to postpone his NFL entrance, he would likely be joining one of the more hyped quarterbacks in modern draft history. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence has begun to generate more buzz than Tagovailoa or Herbert, leaving NFL brass to question the Dolphins’ strategy of using this season to tank for a possible franchise quarterback. “Next year, though? Oh, yeah. Let me get [Ohio State’s] Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence, and our fans won’t care how many games we lose,” an NFL GM told Miller.
Projected first-round tackle Walker Little, a junior at Stanford, underwent knee surgery and will miss the rest of the season, per Miller. The 6-foot-7 blocker will then have to determine whether or not to enter the NFL off a lost season or return to school to rebuild his stock.
Despite the Dolphins‘ run of moves to jettison higher-profile talent, they are not projected to possess the most cap space in 2020. As of now, that’s the Colts, who are in line to hold $138MM, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap tweets. Miami sits second at $113MM, with no other teams over $100MM. These figures are imprecise with the 2020 cap not yet set, but the Colts’ caution this year in free agency — despite holding more than $100MM in space — stands to again equip the franchise with plenty to spend come March.
Free agent wide receiver Cayleb Jones is serving a six-game suspension, according to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (on Twitter). The younger brother of Zay Jones, Cayleb Jones was charged with domestic assault as a member of the Vikings during the summer of 2018. He did not make Minnesota’s 53-man roster.
Early reviews of the projected 2019 quarterback class continue to paint a grim picture for the immediate future of sports’ marquee position. The four trades teams made to land first-round passers this year could be a reflection of what’s to come.
“That’s why you see so many teams giving up the farm to get a quarterback this year. You’d rather trade up for an Allen or Rosen than bet on one of these guys,” a scout told Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller about the players expected to comprise the 2019 draft-eligible quarterback group.
Every scout with whom Miller has discussed the ’19 class said each member of the Baker Mayfield/Sam Darnold/Josh Allen/Josh Rosen/Lamar Jackson 2018 first-round quintet would have entered next year’s draft as the top-rated passer. With Darnold, Allen, Rosen and Jackson declaring for the this year’s draft early, Miller notes that’s depleted next year’s talent pool.
In the past two years, the Bears, Chiefs, Texans, Jets, Bills, Cardinals and Ravens all sacrificed draft capital to move up and select their long-term hopeful solutions. Teams like the Patriots, Jaguars, Giants or Chargers and select others may be waiting for the 2020 draft, per Miller, who has previously discussed the interesting predicament QB-needy franchises could be in next year. That could be dicey for some teams. Save for 2013, every draft since 2002 has seen at least two signal-callers be chosen in the first round.
While recent drafts have produced late risers like Mayfield or Carson Wentz, this one’s immediate top tier — as of now consisting of players like Missouri’s Drew Lock, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham — has scouts “terrified”, per Miller.
“There’s maybe three — Herbert, Drew Lock and the Auburn kid —who look like dudes. But there are a lot — a lot — of issues here,” another scout told Miller. “I’m terrified of this class. I hope everyone got their guy last year.”
However, a silver lining may be coming via the 2020 class, with a scout mentioning Georgia’s former duo of Jake Fromm and since-transferred Jacob Eason (now at Washington) as much better bets. Fromm could enter the draft in 2020, while Eason could do so in 2019. But the 2016 Bulldogs’ starter is not eligible to play for his new program, Washington, until the 2019 season because of NCAA transfer rules. It’s fairly early to project that far ahead, but scouts were doing that with Rosen and Darnold back in 2016. And considering the stakes associated with Round 1 quarterback picks, it’s probably not too soon to assess possibilities.
“That kid at Georgia and the one that left are legit dudes,’ this scout said of Fromm and Eason. “They could go 1-2 and they were at the same school! Those are the ones to watch.”