Josh Allen (QB)

Draft Rumors: Darnold, Browns, Nelson, Jackson, Allen

While Josh Rosen made headlines with his comments about a preference to land with a better team that held a lower pick rather than a bad one holding a high draft choice, Sam Darnold took the more diplomatic route. The USC quarterback — who has not yet made a decision about forgoing his final two years of eligibility to enter the 2018 draft — said Wednesday (via ESPN) he’d be “honored to play for any team.” This could be key regarding the top of the draft, where both Darnold and Rosen are expected to come off the board if they declare. A report that emerged Sunday revealed Rosen is higher on the Giants than the Browns, who will hold the No. 1 pick, and may reconsider staying in school if the Browns are to pick him. Of course, a similar report surfaced about Darnold last month. Darnold denied that rumor today, however. This interesting leverage game remains in a holding pattern with both passers having yet to announce they’re going to enter the draft.

Here’s more 2018 draft buzz.

  • Lamar Jackson is not expected to threaten Rosen or Darnold’s spots atop the draft, and the former Heisman Trophy winner may be put through an interesting process by some interested teams if/when he declares. Various scouts told ESPN.com’s Mel Kiper Jr. they believe some teams will ask the Louisville phenom to work out as both a quarterback and wide receiver, with the goal being to see if Jackson could transition if he didn’t work as a passer. This is not the first time this has come up regarding Jackson, who has rushed for a staggering 3,974 yards and 49 touchdowns in three Cardinals seasons, nor is it the first time a run-heavy quarterback has been mentioned as a wideout at the next level.
  • Quenton Nelson‘s stock appears to be rising, and SI.com’s Albert Breer spoke with an NFL exec who said the Notre Dame guard is a better prospect than Zack Martin was when he came out of South Bend three years ago. Breer tabs Nelson as a top-three overall prospect. Martin went 16th to the Cowboys in 2014 and became the first rookie offensive lineman to land on the top All-Pro team in 57 years. No pure guard has gone in the top 10 since Jonathan Cooper in 2013, but the Redskins moved 2015’s No. 5 overall pick (Brandon Scherff) to guard immediately.
  • The sense in the scouting community is Josh Allen will fall toward the middle of the first round while the two Pac-12 passers go off the board at the draft’s outset, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes. Allen remains viewed as a less pro-ready prospect than the other two despite possessing possibly greater physical upside. However, smaller-program passers have done well for themselves in recent drafts. Carson Wentz rocketed up the 2016 board to No. 2, and Blake Bortles (Central Florida) went No. 3 in 2014. The Jets have done extensive homework on Allen, and the Broncos are getting to work on the Wyoming talent as well.

 

East Notes: Giants, Collins, Cutler, Jets

A day after referring to Eli Apple as “a cancer,” Landon Collins has attempted to walk that back. While that might be difficult, the All-Pro Giants safety issued an apology (on Twitter) today and confirmed he did so in person in a meeting with Apple and Steve Spagnuolo. The interim HC confirmed the meeting, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (on Twitter).

I met with Coach Spags and Eli this morning and I apologized for the things I said yesterday,” Collins said. “I never stop supporting my brother/teammate Eli and the rest of my teammates as we move forward. Just want him to know I’m always here for him.”

On Tuesday during a radio interview, Collins said Apple “needs to grow up.” Wednesday’s apology marks the latest chapter in a weeks-long saga involving the two defensive backs. Earlier this month, Collins said he’d talked to Apple — who has taken a step back this season — and told media the cornerback’s issues were mental and that he was dealing with “significant” personal struggles. Apple then denied Collins spoke with him, and the third-year safety — according to NJ.com — had to be restrained by teammates as he attempted to confront the second-year corner. Apple has not been suspended like Janoris Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were, but he’s been benched and reportedly nearly left the Giants’ facility because of a harsh film-room session earlier this season.

Here’s the latest out of the Eastern divisions.

  • Josh McDaniels remains linked to Patriots exec Nick Caserio regarding GM/HC arrangements, but Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports the New England OC could also be interested in pairing up with Louis Riddick as a GM. Riddick interviewed for the Giants’ GM job last week, although Dave Gettleman is viewed as the favorite. McDaniels and Caserio were a sought-after tandem last year, with the 49ers having shown interest in bringing them to the Bay Area.
  • Adam Gase said Wednesday he has not spoken to Jay Cutler about him returning to the Dolphins in 2018, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Jackson adds the Dolphins remain committed to having Ryan Tannehill return as their starter next season, but he reported last week the Fins would be open to Cutler coming back as the backup. Cutler will start this weekend’s regular-season finale against the Bills.
  • Davis Webb will rise to the Giants‘ No. 2 quarterback role and take Geno Smith‘s place as Eli Manning‘s backup, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It will be the first time Webb suits up as an NFLer. Smith will be inactive Sunday, and Webb could see time off the bench in the game under the format Ben McAdoo broached with Manning upon benching him earlier this year. Spagnuolo, however, said (via Schwartz, on Twitter) there are “no guarantees” the third-round rookie makes his NFL debut against the Redskins.
  • The Jets are likely to land a pick in the lower part of the top 10, and Brian Costello of the New York Post ranked the most- to least-likely scenarios involving offseason quarterback plans. Most likely is a setup where the Jets draft Josh Allen with their first pick and re-sign Josh McCown to continue his better-than-expected stopgap work. Costello notes the Jets’ top competition for the Wyoming passer could be the BroncosJohn Elway trekked to the Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, last week to observe Allen in person. The Jets, though, have put in the most work on Allen to this point. Gang Green’s No. 2 scenario? Kirk Cousins, whom Costello recalls the team showing interest in after Smith was sucker-punched in 2015.

Draft Notes: Mayfield, Rosen, Cards, Nelson

The expected recipient of this season’s Heisman Trophy, Baker Mayfield figures to generate plenty of opinions during the pre-draft process. Some of the immediate responses from NFL evaluators have been positive following the Oklahoma senior’s dominant regular season. Albert Breer of SI.com surmises from the several-dozen scouts he’s spoken to throughout the season that Mayfield should wind up as a first-round pick, his baggage notwithstanding.

He’s extremely talented,” an AFC college scouting director told Breer. “Guys want to play for him, players believe in him, the staff believes in him. I’ve heard the comparisons to (Drew) Brees, (Johnny) Manziel, (Russell) Wilson, and there’s a little bit of all of them in his game. And he’s not Manziel in terms of the off-field stuff — he studies his ass off; he goes through his progressions; he’s not a typical spread QB. He has first-round ability.”

Mayfield’s height, around 6-foot, could be an issue for some teams. And his Big 12 background may as well. But Breer expects a first-round investment to occur.

Here’s more on Mayfield and other key prospects.

  • Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com polled five NFL execs regarding Mayfield’s best destination and didn’t get one definitive answer. While some quarterback-needy teams came up, two decision-makers mentioned the Saints and Chargers as Mayfield fits. Both suggest multiyear apprenticeships behind Brees and Philip Rivers. However, a source told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report Rivers’ resurgence has “basically shut down” the prospect of the Bolts making a quarterback-of-the-future pick in the upcoming first round. Rivers turned 36 on Friday.
  • Josh Rosen is the likeliest of the likely first-round quarterbacks to start from Day 1, a group of seven executives polled by Yahoo Sports concluded. The UCLA passer’s throwing motion is “as elite as it gets for a prospect,” Charles Robinson of Yahoo writes. That septet of execs rated Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Mayfield as the Nos. 2-4 prospects and likely first-rounders. Darnold’s elongated throwing motion and tendency to bail on plays, in the mind of some evaluators, could cost him the No. 1 spot. Allen received the “project” label in this piece, but the Wyoming product’s size/speed/arm strength combination could be enticing — especially come workout time.
  • On Allen, Miller notes the Cardinals are connected to the current junior signal-caller. Miller writes the Cardinals abandoned their first-round quarterback crusade after Patrick Mahomes went to the Chiefs at No. 10, with the team declaring it was going to delay its Carson Palmer succession strategy a year. Allen may be the next guy the Cards are eyeing, viewing his athleticism and potential — and presumably the likelihood he won’t be a top-two pick like the Pac-12 passers — as Mahomes-esque. That might not mean much at the moment, with Mahomes having yet to play, but Miller expects Allen to be a top-10 pick. That’s more than could have been said for Mahomes at this point in last year’s process. The Jets remain the team that’s done the most work on Allen, however.
  • In a post connecting teams with prospects, Miller notes the Bears are “all about” Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. However, the draft analyst notes the Bears are expected to land a top-10 pick. Ridley, in his mind, does not qualify for such an investment.
  • Notre Dame’s offensive line figures to produce two first-round talents in tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson. While McGlinchy’s name has hovered on draft radars longer, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com notes Nelson is viewed as the better prospect among scouts. One scout declared Nelson was the best prospect he’d seen this season “by far.” Miller notes the Broncos have Nelson rated as the top offensive lineman on their early board.
  • Cowboys coaching and scouting sources told Miller the team doesn’t expect to be holding mid-first-round picks much in the near future, and he writes the team will pursue a higher-end pass rusher “while it can.” That’s bold thinking for a team that is 6-6 and has missed the playoffs in five seasons this decade, but the Cowboys did earn home-field advantage last season. And the need for an impact end remains.

AFC East Notes: Patriots, Gronk, Jets, Allen

Does Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski have a shot at maxing out his 2017 incentives? Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston checked in on Gronk’s deal to see if he can earn as much as $10.75MM this season through bonuses.

Gronk is currently on pace for 72 catches for 1,093 yards and nine touchdowns while playing in 81% of the Patriots’ snaps. Those numbers would put him in line to earn $8.75MM, the second-highest incentive tier. In order to reach the $10.75MM max, he would have to play in 90% of the Pats’ offensive snaps or record 80 catches or 1,200 receiving yards or earn All-Pro recognition. Of course, Gronk’s name recognition could help his All-Pro case, even if he doesn’t satisfy the other triggers for the top incentives package.

Here’s more from the AFC East:

  • The Jets love Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, a league source tells Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (on Twitter). Meanwhile, a Wyoming source tells Miller that the Jets have done more work on him than any other team. The Jets have gotten quality play out of Josh McCown so far this year, but they’ll almost certainly look to the free agent market and/or the draft for younger solutions since McCown will turn 39 in 2018. So far this year, Allen has thrown for 1,658 yards this season with 13 touchdowns against six picks. He has also rushed for 207 yards and five touchdowns off of 84 attempts.
  • Jesse Davis has been doing a decent job at right tackle and that could alter Ja’Wuan James‘ future with the Dolphins, Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald (Twitter link) opines. If there’s no discernible difference between the two players, their salaries could be the tiebreaker. James, a 2014 first-round pick, is due $9.341MM through the fifth-year option, but the Dolphins can bail on that obligation before the start of the 2018 league year. It’s possible that James’ injury could be a season-ender, so he may have already played his final game for Miami.

Draft Rumors: Allen, Clemson, Landry

The 2018 draft being nine months away won’t deter some NFL teams’ fanbases from advanced research. One of those franchises figures to be the Jets, who unloaded numerous veterans this offseason and are without a long-term answer at quarterback. Christian Hackenberg figures to receive a shot this season, at some point, despite Josh McCown‘s $6MM-plus-incentives agreement. But the Jets may be in a position to select a quarterback from a much-hyped contingent.

One of those prospective passers is not a lock to come out, with recent Sam Darnold rumors centering on the high-end USC prospect possibly staying in school for at least one more year. This would remind Jets fans of Peyton Manning‘s decision to do the same in 1997, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. The Jets ended up trading the pick — one that became Orlando Pace — after Manning returned to Tennessee. Other passers with similar pedigrees join Darnold entering the 2017 college football season, and Cimini recently spoke to an AFC scout who views Wyoming’s Josh Allen as having better long-term potential than Darnold, who will be beginning his redshirt-sophomore season with the Trojans.

Allen joins UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the quarterbacks who right now are viewed as possible top-five picks come April. The 6-foot-5 Wyoming signal-caller will be a junior this season. Cimini also doubts Darnold would be able to pass up on a $30MM fully guaranteed contract if he’s in position to be chosen near the top of next year’s draft.

Here’s more coming out of the prospective 2018 draft pool.

  • Clemson has generated a legion of first-round talent in recent years. Vic Beasley, DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Deshaun Watson are among several Tigers to go early in recent drafts. The next prodigy coming out of the South Carolina program could be defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. Several scouts told DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline the interior defender is a top-three NFL prospect. The 6-foot-4 junior was a first-team All-American during the Tigers’ national championship season, and Pauline writes Clemson had him playing out of position at defensive end. After being shifted inside to tackle, Wilkins could be a top-15 pick in 2018, Pauline notes.
  • Pauline, though, views Wilkins’ line mate, edge defender Clelin Ferrell, as the better bet to be a top-10 pick. The 20-year-old defender will be a redshirt sophomore this season; he racked up 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2016. The 6-foot-5 talent’s athleticism and growth potential lead Pauline to rate him as the slightly superior Tigers draft prospect. CBSSports.com’s Jared Dubin rates Wilkins as a top-eight pick but doesn’t have Ferrell going in Round 1.
  • Pauline adds many scouts’ lists of the top senior prospects in the country start with Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry. Landry registered a Boston College-record 16.5 sacks last season despite standing roughly 6-2. This blend of stature and production prompts Pauline to compare Landry to Dwight Freeney, who did quite well for himself coming out of Syracuse as a smaller pass rusher. Pauline, who expected Landry to declare for this past draft, writes Landry could play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.

East Notes: McDonald, Giants, Eagles, Jets

Signing T.J. McDonald to a one-year deal despite an eight-game suspension looming, the Dolphins will prepare throughout the offseason as though the safety is part of the plan. McDonald signed a one-year, $1.344MM deal that will only guarantee the Dolphins eight regular-season games of service. But he makes for an interesting complement to Reshad Jones, and the Fins’ offseason and preseason could display those looks, even if their September and October slate won’t.

We’re just going to practice him,” Adam Gase said today, via Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post. “We’re going to give him the reps that he needs. We’ve got to go through our process with him. I’ve played against him, but I haven’t seen him practice and go through a daily routine and all those type of things, so we need to get used to him as he needs to get used to us.

It’s a good signing for us because we feel like that position is something that we didn’t do as well as we needed to. Last year, we got a little thin and some guys had to really step up and play and try to fill into some roles and they were playing multiple roles.”

Nate Allen leads a cast of safeties expected to vie for the Fins’ back-line job alongside Jones while McDonald is out.

Here’s more from the Eastern divisions.

  • The Giants did not allocate many resources to bolstering a middling offensive line, pointing to the incumbents being given another chance. Although the team added guard/tackle D.J. Fluker on a lower-level deal, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post believes Bobby Hart will still be given every chance to keep the right tackle job. This arrangement could potentially pit Fluker against recently re-signed right guard John Jerry, whom Pro Football Focus assessed as enjoying a bounce-back season in 2016. The 22-year-old Hart being a priority over putting Fluker and Jerry in the lineup together would be interesting given his history as a former seventh-round pick and a player whom PFF graded as the No. 67 full-time tackle last season.
  • Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook fascinated the Eagles, but the price to move up in Rounds 1-2 to be in range to select them was too steep, Jeff McLane of Philly.com notes. The Eagles evidently believed the gap between McCaffrey and Cook was wide enough they didn’t want to use their No. 14 overall pick on a Florida State runner who plummeted into the second round. Cook went to the Vikings at 41, two spots before the Eagles went with Sidney Jones. Philly signed LeGarrette Blount earlier this week and is expected to cut Ryan Mathews once he’s healthy.
  • Former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan saw current Washington third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld as a player who could be a starter after a few development seasons, J.P. Finlay of CSNMidAtlantic.com writes. This will be Year 2 for the 2016 sixth-round pick, who sits behind Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on the depth chart.
  • The Jets are focused on seeing if Christian Hackenberg can pan out rather than eyeing the as-of-now highly acclaimed 2018 quarterback class, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com writes. Cimini, though, does note that scouts are particularly intrigued by Wyoming’s Josh Allen, whom he adds could end up being taken No. 1 overall next year despite large-school competition from Sam Darnold (USC) and Josh Rosen (UCLA). The Jets appear to be in rebuilding mode, and in signing Josh McCown for one year, would possibly have a route to one of the aforementioned passing prospects — if Hackenberg stock falls this season.

North Notes: Steelers, Browns, McCarron

It’s already been a busy day for the North divisions, with the Ravens re-signing Lardarius Webb and Marvin Lewis weighing in on the potentially legitimate possibility he becomes a lame-duck coach in 2017. Let’s check out the latest from the Norths.

  • The Steelers have not been shy about selecting linebackers in recent first rounds, but they hosted Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis on a visit, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports. Already housing Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams on the inside, the Steelers would continue their second-level-stocking ways by adding the former Gators ‘backer. Pittsburgh, though, did lose Lawrence Timmons — a 2007 first-rounder — to the Dolphins. The Steelers have selected a linebacker in the first round in three of the past four drafts, with the now-departed Jarvis Jones (2013) preceding Shazier (2014) and Bud Dupree (’15).
  • The Browns remain interested in A.J. McCarron, a former charge of Hue Jackson while in Cincinnati, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes. Familiarity with Jackson and a knowledge of his system endear the Browns to McCarron, with Cabot categorizing the quarterback as a bridge player while the franchise develops the rookie passer it’s expected to select. McCarron has two years remaining on his rookie contract. Cabot adds the fourth-year backup wants to be traded.
  • Cabot connects the Browns Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, believing they will draft one of this trio later this month. But sources informed the longtime Cleveland reporter the 2018 crop of passers outflanks this one. In particular, Wyoming’s Josh Allen is a “once-in-every-10-years talent,” one evaluator told Cabot.
  • Anquan Boldin continues to insist he will play in 2017 but plans to wait until close to training camp to make a decision, per CBS Sports’ Jamey Eisenberg, who added the Ravens and Lions remain interested suitors. This gibes with what we’ve heard from the 14-year veteran throughout the offseason. Boldin’s teammate in both places, Haloti Ngata plans to help recruit the veteran wide receiver back to Detroit, per Eisenberg.
  • DeAndre Levy also underwent surgery recently and is not happy with how the Lions handled his injuries over the past two seasons.

Breer On GM Search, Harbaugh, Draft

When it comes to being a GM, is it more about who you know than what you know? In his latest column, Albert Breer of The MMQB spoke with one league official who suggested that the NFL’s career development advisory panel has something of a fraternity-vibe.

It’s all full of nepotism. It’s a joke. And it starts with Charley Casserly,” the personnel man said.

Casserly rejected the idea that he, Ron Wolf, Bill Polian, Ernie Accorsi, John Madden, Tony Dungy and Carl Peterson are aiming to line up their friends with jobs, but he did acknowledge that connections help.

It’s so different than it is with coaches,” Casserly said. “Coaches are so clearly defined. You know who calls the plays, you see them on TV, coordinators have press conferences. It’s just not like that in scouting. Are they pro? College? None of them are making big decisions. What you need is networking. It’s not politicking.”

Casserly was directly involved with the Jets’ coach and GM search process in 2015. Gang Green wound up hiring Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan – two former co-workers of Casserly’s.

Here’s more from Breer:

  • Breer identified the following executives as people who could immediately jump into a GM job somewhere: Chiefs VP of player personnel Chris BallardPatriots VP of player personnel Nick Caserio, Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCostaSeahawks co-director of player personnel Scott FittererTexans director of player personnel Brian GainePackers director of player personnel Brian GutekunstSeahawks co-director of player personnel Trent KirchnerCowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay, Cardinals VP of player personnel Terry McDonoughVikings assistant GM George PatonFalcons assistant GM Scott PioliBengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin, Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf.
  • The widespread feeling in NFL circles is that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will be back in pro football eventually, even if it’s not happening right now. For his part, Harbaugh says that he is incredibly happy as the Wolverines’ coach.
  • Is Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen the next under-the-radar quarterback prospect a la Carson Wentz? It was Craig Bohl who recruited Carson Wentz to North Dakota State and he is now Allen’s coach at Wyoming. It’s hard to say whether the 6’5″, 222-pound signal caller has the same kind of talent, but his stock is rising. “He’s a big ol’ kid with a big arm, and he’s pretty athletic too,” said one AFC exec. “We gotta learn more about him, but the tools are there.” Allen, a redshirt sophomore, has plenty of time to develop.
  • Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck recently predicted that Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush will be an “incredibly high draft pick” this year. Apparently, talent evaluators do not agree. “He may get drafted late because of the [lack of] quality at the position,” said one area scout assigned to CMU. “He’s an accurate thrower with deceptive athletic ability to extend plays with his feet. Not a dynamic or explosive athlete, but good enough to avoid the rush and create at times. Average arm at best, but he’s got solid touch on intermediate and deep balls. He just lacks elite velocity.”