James Daniels

NFC Rumors: Lions, Hawks, Giants, Daniels

While the Bears and Ravens are fully underway, due to their Hall of Fame Game matchup, this coming week marks the debuts for the rest of the league. Here’s what’s new in the NFC going into training camp week.

  • Matt Cassel represents competition for Jake Rudock‘s job as the Lions‘ backup quarterback, especially considering his history with the Patriots during the respective New England tenures of Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia. And Kyle Meinke of MLive.com expects the 36-year-old veteran to beat out Rudock for the top job behind Matthew Stafford. The Lions aren’t expected to keep three quarterbacks on their roster, per Meinke, which could make Rudock a trade candidate if it looks like Cassel will take his job. Rudock drew trade interest in the past, but the Lions did not have what they determined to be another viable backup prior to signing Cassel.
  • If the Seahawks do end up trading Earl Thomas, 2017 third-rounder Delano Hill would be the top incumbent to replace him. However, Seattle could consider Eric Reid or Tre Boston in the event Thomas is dealt, however, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times (Twitter links). Though, Condotta adds the team believes Hill and Bradley McDougald has the makings of a chance to be a solid safety tandem. The Seahawks’ Reid fit would be interesting, given how proceedings unfolded between the franchise and Colin Kaepernick the past two offseasons. However, neither Reid nor Boston would be expensive at this stage.
  • James Daniels could well occupy a Bears starting spot in Week 1, and it’s likely the second-round pick (on whom the Bears placed a first-round grade) will be a starter this season. But for now, the Iowa product is running with the second-string offense as a guard and the third-team group as a center, according to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, who adds fifth-year veteran Eric Kush represents Daniels’ primary competition at guard. These early placements are interesting, given Daniels primarily played center in college. But the Bears are believed to view him as more of a guard.
  • Fifth-round pick R.J. McIntosh signed his Giants contract and ended a months-long process. But the defensive lineman will begin camp on the active/non-football illness list. McIntosh was diagnosed with a thyroid condition at the Combine and underwent an undisclosed procedure in June.

Bears Rumors: Daniels, Robinson, Helfrich

Looking to sport at least two Day 1 starters from this 2018 draft class, the Bears also believe they acquired two first-round-caliber talents in April. Chicago brass placed a Round 1 grade on Iowa center James Daniels, whom the Bears selected at No. 39 overall.

We had him as a first-round player,” Bears director of player personnel Josh Lucas said during an episode of Meet the Rookies (via Bryan Perez of NBC Sports Chicago). “You never know. Every team’s going to have different flavors with interior linemen. It’s just one of those things that you hope he’s there. But based on our grades, based on where we saw the top 32 players in the draft, we definitely weren’t anticipating him being there.”

The Warren, Ohio, native served as the Hawkeyes’ starting center for the past two seasons before declaring for the draft after his junior year. However, the Bears plan to use him at left guard to replace Josh Sitton, per Perez. Cody Whitehair will make the transition back to center full-time. He served as Chicago’s snapper in 16 games as a rookie in 2016 but saw action at both center and guard in 2017.

Here’s the latest from the Windy City:

  • In recovering from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season and his time with the Jaguars, Allen Robinson did not take part in most of the Bears’ offseason work. However, the former Pro Bowl target is expected to be full go by the time the Bears convene for camp July 19, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com reports. Robinson will be playing on a $14MM-per-year contract and will be essential to Chicago’s passing attack from Day 1, provided he can shake off the knee injury.
  • On the subject of Bears receivers, Taylor Gabriel, not Robinson, will be slotted at the position that Tyreek Hill plays in this scheme, Perez notes. Although Robinson delivered dominant work on deep balls with Blake Bortles in a breakout 2015 season, Gabriel profiles as the player who more closely resembles Hill on this new-look receiving corps. He’s twice averaged more than 16 yards per reception in a four-year career.
  • Chicago’s new offense won’t just be an NFC version of Andy Reid‘s. While Chiefs viewers who find their way to Bears games on Sundays will see familiar concepts, Matt Nagy‘s attack will also contain elements from OC Mark Helfrich‘s former Oregon offenses, Mitch Trubisky said (via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, on Twitter). The 2017 No. 2 overall pick said the Bears’ new offense is more complex than he’s accustomed to, so it will be interesting to see how the North Carolina product looks with a mostly new cast of pass-catchers. With the Chiefs using plenty of college concepts in recent years, and the Bears hiring a former college HC, Trubisky could be piloting one of the more unique offenses in the NFL this season.

Bears Sign 6 Draft Picks

Many NFL staffers responsible for hammering out rookie contracts are having a busy day Thursday. Numerous rookies are signing deals, and the Bears took care of their non-Roquan Smith draft contingent. Here’s the rundown of Chicago’s signings:

Miller adds to what’s been one of the more interesting makeovers any team’s done at the wide receiver position in recent years. The Memphis slot target follows Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Bennie Fowler and others — including the Georgia-trained Wims — to the Windy City. With Kevin White also still in the picture, the Bears will have a unique position battle behind Robinson this summer.

Daniels could step in as a Day 1 starter and relocate Cody Whitehair to guard, where he would line up opposite Kyle Long and fill Josh Sitton‘s old spot. However, the Bears view the Iowa product as a versatile player himself. While Daniels spent most of his time with the Hawkeyes as their starting center, the second-rounder began his college career as a guard.

Smith is the only Bears pick not to have signed his rookie deal yet.

NFL Draft Rumors: Sweat, Giants, Patriots

FSU pass rusher Josh Sweat is a player to keep an eye on as the NFL Draft approaches. Sweat, a five-star, top-10 overall recruit nationally coming out of high school, impressed at the draft combine and drew the attention of evaluators across the league. However, his history of knee issues including ACL, MCL, PCL injuries have teams concerned, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Interestingly, his 2016 knee surgery was performed by Giants team doctor Russ Warren, and that leads Rapoport to wonder aloud if that could make New York a potential landing spot for him. Sweat has been widely projected as a third round possibility, but it sounds like he could find his way into the second round based on his potential.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

NFL Draft Rumors: Bengals, Ragnow, Browns

It increasingly sounds like Arkansas center/guard Frank Ragnow has a good chance to be drafted in Round 1, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hears. The Bengals got a last minute meeting in with Ragnow and it’s possible that they could consider him with the No. 21 overall pick. Pelissero wonders if we could be in for a run on interior linemen towards the back of the first round, with guys like Ragnow, Iowa center James Daniels, Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn and Ohio State center Billy Price (despite his partially torn pec) coming off of the board sooner than expected.

Those guys are just safe. They’re steady. The bust factor is very low on those guys,” an AFC executive said. “Maybe they’re not the sexiest picks, but worst-case scenario, you’re going to end up with a solid player who can step in and contribute pretty early.”

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

  • Most people believe the Browns are zeroed in on a quarterback, but GM John Dorsey isn’t publicly ruling out Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 1 overall (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Of course, draft season is full of smokescreens, so we shouldn’t necessarily take Dorsey’s comments at face value. In all likelihood, the Browns will be selecting their QB of the future with the top pick while considering other players at No. 4.
  • Draft visits are officially over, but the Seahawks are still doing their homework. On Thursday night, they’ll dine with Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, Rapoport tweets. The Seahawks pick at No. 18, so they may have to trade up if they want him. It will be interesting to see if they go in that direction since they have opted to trade down in recent drafts.

NFL Draft Rumors: Nelson, 49ers, Eagles

Good news for Wisconsin product Nick Nelson. The surgery to fix the cornerback’s torn meniscus was successful and he did not need a full repair, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Because it was not a full repair, he is expected to recover in six weeks rather than 3-4 months and should be ready for training camp. Nelson was projected to come off the board no later than the third round before the injury and he should be in consideration for rounds 2 and 3 once again after the operation.

Here’s a look at the latest NFL Draft news:

  • The 49ers met with Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith on Tuesday, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. Smith had 137 tackles and 6.5 sacks last season and could be a replacement for Reuben Foster, who is embroiled in serious legal trouble stemming from a domestic violence arrest.
  • Iowa center James Daniels, who is widely regarded as the top center in this year’s draft, visited with the Eagles this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. On Tuesday, he’ll meet with Bears before traveling to the 49ers on Wednesday. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com says that Daniels is one of the best center prospects he’s seen in the last five years and has him ranked as the 23rd best prospect overall in this year’s draft.
  • South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst, met with the Lions on Tuesday, Rapoport tweets. If the Lions select Hurst in the first round, that will make three first round tight ends for them in the last ten years, following Brandon Pettigrew (2009) and Eric Ebron (2014).
  • Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander visited the Eagles and Dolphins this week, Rapoport tweets. Alexander is widely projected to be a first round pick and may be the second CB to come off the board after Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.
  • Teams like Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, but the belief that he is a two-down defender and not an adept pass-rusher may keep him out of the Top 10, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com hears.
  • Speaking of Payne, he visited the Redskins on Monday, a source tells ESPN.com’s John Keim (on Twitter). Washington owns the No. 13 overall pick in the draft.

Cowboys Arrange Several Pre-Draft Visits

Most of the prospects the Cowboys are planning to make part of their pre-draft visit itinerary will come through Dallas this week, with Albert Breer of SI.com reporting (on Twitter) numerous names have emerged.

Wide receivers Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore are among those who will trek to Texas for pre-draft summits. Defensive linemen Vita Vea, Harold Landry, Da’Ron Payne and Florida’s Taven Bryan will join them, per Breer. Offensive linemen Kolton Miller (UCLA) and James Daniels (Iowa) are also on this list, as is Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans.

Teams are allotted 30 visits before drafts, and Dallas will examine plenty of incoming NFL talent in the coming days.

Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk is also on the Cowboys’ meeting list, although he is not expected to count against the 30-player maximum since he’s considered a local prospect. With Dez Bryant‘s future up in the air, the team is clearly interested in surveying what the 2018 crop looks like. Ridley, Kirk and Moore are the top three wide receivers on Daniel Jeremiah’s NFL.com draft board and the only wideouts to appear on this 50-prospect list.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.