Justin Herbert

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Wilkinson, Raiders

The COVID-19 pandemic will make rookies’ transitions more difficult, and quarterbacks will face a tough learning curve. As a result, Tyrod Taylor is expected to open the season as the Chargers‘ starting quarterback, Daniel Popper of The Athletic writes (subscription required). That arrangement may continue for a while. No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert will likely sit at least eight games, Popper predicts, noting that the Bolts are preaching patience with their first Round 1 quarterback pick in 16 years. Anthony Lynn said in early April that Taylor was the Bolts’ starter “for now.” Taylor is undoubtedly a bridge quarterback again, but this bridge may be longer than the one the Browns used to get to Baker Mayfield two years ago.

Let’s look at the latest from the Chiefs’ three challengers in the AFC West:

  • Defensive lineman Damion Square and the Chargers have expressed mutual interest about another contract, Popper notes. The Bolts originally picked up Square in 2014 and re-signed him in 2017 and ’19. The former UDFA would provide a veteran presence on a defensive line housing Pro Bowlers Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Linval Joseph up front but little experience behind them. Square, now 31, has seen time at defensive tackle and D-end with the Bolts. He started 11 games for the 2018 Chargers, registering three sacks that season.
  • The Broncos did not add a left tackle in the draft or free agency, planning instead to hold a Garett Bolles-vs.-Elijah Wilkinson competition for the job. The latter will be coming off surgery. Wilkinson underwent an ankle procedure in May, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes. Wilkinson, who filled in for Ja’Wuan James as Denver’s starting right tackle for almost all of last season, suffered a high ankle sprain in December. The ailment did not heal properly, postponing the fourth-year player’s recovery. Wilkinson, who signed his second-round RFA tender in April, still hopes to be ready for training camp.
  • Despite the coronavirus altering the construction of the Raiders‘ Allegiant Stadium, the team is eyeing July 31 as a completion date for the Las Vegas-based domed stadium’s “substantial construction,” Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes. At least 16 workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and Akers adds the near-$2 billion project moved from two shifts to three to allow for social distancing.

Chargers Liked Tua Tagovailoa At No. 6

With the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft, the Chargers found their new quarterback in Oregon product Justin Herbert. But, even if wasn’t there, GM Tom Telesco says he would have taken a QB, no matter what. 

We felt great about all three quarterbacks who went in the Top 6,” Telesco told Pat McAfee of Barstool Sports (Twitter link), referring to No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and Dolphins choice Tua Tagovailoa. “Hopefully we won’t pick at No. 6 very often…if I do, I won’t be making very many picks hereIf you’re going to pick this high and there’s a potential franchise quarterback, you have to take him.”

Burrow to the Bengals was long considered a sure thing and Tagovailoa was connected to the Dolphins for months. As the draft drew closer, whispers of the Dolphins’ interest in Herbert grew louder and louder. And, days before the draft, there was talk of the Dolphins trading up to the No. 3 pick to select an offensive lineman, rather than a quarterback. That’s one rumor that Telesco didn’t bite on.

Every rumor I heard, I went through my head of, ‘How would we handle this if this happened?’,” Telesco told Pat McAfee. “Now, the whole, Miami taking a tackle at 3, maybe they really were, I just didn’t believe that one. You make plans, you talk with your head coach…you talk about trading up or down in certain situations. When you’re on the clock making the pick, you’re not discussing what you want to do, you’ve already decided.

The opinions on Herbert are pretty mixed in the football world. Those that are high on him believe that his elite arm strength will allow him to succeed as a starter. Others are concerned about his pension for holding on to the ball for too long in the pocket. At the same time, Tagovailoa’s health remains a major question mark moving forward and Telesco says he would have been happy with either QB as the heir to Philip Rivers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Lions, 49ers, Giants

The Lions (No. 3) and 49ers (Nos. 13 and 31) appear to be the most aggressive teams when it comes to trading down, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports hears (via Twitter). He also hears that the Lions aren’t getting much in the way of enticing offers, whereas the Niners could have possibilities for both picks.

We know that the Dolphins want Detroit’s No. 3, but they’re trying to pry it loose without sacrificing their No. 5 pick. That could mean a package including their two other first-round picks, plus more from their significant stockpile. The Lions, understandably, are not jumping at any offers that take them out of the Top 5.

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ pick at No. 13 could fetch a big haul, especially if they hold until this evening and wait for one of this year’s stud wide receivers to fall.

Here’s more from Robinson, with all links going to Twitter:

  • There’s talk of the Dolphins eyeing an offensive tackle with their No. 5 pick, but the teams surrounding them in the draft order don’t believe that’s the case (link). Most of Robinson’s sources seem to think that pick is destined for Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. No matter what happens at #5, you can expect Miami to target tackles early on, especially since free agent pickup Ereck Flowers has been slotted for the interior.
  • Robinson isn’t sure what the Dolphins are going to do (same goes for everyone outside of their front office), but he senses that the Chargers are higher on Herbert than Tagovailoa (link). Robinson hears they like his makeup – Herbert has a cannon for an arm – and they’re skittish about Tagovailoa’s surgically-repaired hip. For what it’s worth, the Dolphins passed the Alabama star on his physical at the combine in February.
  • Assuming the Giants stay at No. 4, Robinson believes the conversation is down to Jedrick Wills Jr. and Tristan Wirfs (link). Some evaluators think Wirfs is better suited for guard, but the Giants believe that can be a strong tackle at the pro level.
  • With the draft drawing near, the Jaguars still aren’t getting any good bites on running back Leonard Fournette or defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (link). The Jags have been shopping Fournette for more than a month now; they might have scale back their asking price if they want to get a deal done. The Ngakoue market also seems pretty weak, though that has more to do with his contract demands. The Raiders touched base with the Jags on the franchise-tagged defensive end this week, but nothing’s brewing at the moment.

Latest On Dolphins’ Draft Plans

We heard earlier this morning that the Dolphins and Lions are expecting to execute a trade that will allow Miami to jump up to the No. 3 overall selection while shipping the No. 5 pick to Detroit. The ‘Fins had hoped to keep their No. 5 pick and trade from their other draft assets, but Lions GM Bob Quinn isn’t biting on that.

So if the trade is consummated, it’s unclear what other draft picks will be heading to Motown. Though recent buzz has suggested that the Dolphins will take Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa with their No.5 selection if they don’t engineer a trade-up, the team will likely grab a left tackle if it lands the No. 3 pick. After all, the Giants, who hold the No. 4 overall selection, are also in the LT market, and a move to No. 3 would allow the Dolphins to select the player of their choice at that position.

But that would leave the club with a notable vacancy at QB. Per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, there are still execs and scouts within the Dolphins’ front office that like Oregon passer Justin Herbert, so if Miami stays put at No. 5, Herbert can’t be ruled out. And if he is still on the board when the Dolphins are on the clock with the No. 18 overall pick — and if they haven’t picked a different QB by then — Herbert obviously becomes even more of a possibility.

In addition to QB and LT, the Dolphins have plenty of other needs to fill. And while WR is not necessarily the most pressing of those needs, a young receiving talent can’t be ruled out in the bottom of the first round. Baylor wideout Denzel Mims could still be available when the team makes its No. 26 overall selection — assuming, of course, it hasn’t been traded — and a Baylor football official tells Jackson that the Dolphins “really like” the raw but talented prospect.

Per Jackson, Miami has also shown interest in UVA wide receiver Hasise Dubois, Auburn safety Daniel Thomas, and Florida edge defender Jonathan Greenard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: What Will Giants Do At No. 4?

While the variance in this draft’s top three picks may be low, the Giants could go in a number of directions at No. 4 overall. They have been connected to several different strategies.

Picking in the top six for the third straight year (after never landing there from 2005-17), Big Blue has needs at a few places. The Giants could use help on the offensive line and at outside linebacker and safety. Based on the organization’s history and Dave Gettleman‘s impossible-sounding track record featuring zero trade-down maneuvers in seven drafts as either the Panthers or Giants GM, the Giants would be expected to hold their pick at No. 4. But noise about the team moving down has emerged.

Gettleman said this week he is seriously entertaining the prospect of moving down — something he did not strongly consider the past two years when the Giants took Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones. The Giants may be going as far as planting a seed about Justin Herbert interest. Gettleman was believed to be higher on Herbert than Jones last year. But with only two teams in the past 38 drafts using back-to-back first-round picks on quarterbacks — the 1982-83 Baltimore Colts and the Cardinals in the past two years — teams do not appear to be buying this.

With Chase Young a lock to be off the board by No. 4 and the Giants not expected to take a cornerback that high, they may be down to tackle or Clemson do-everything defender Isaiah Simmons. The Giants have not gotten what they paid for in Nate Solder and signed stopgap right tackle Cameron Fleming. The latter, however, could be used as a swing man — as he was in New England and Dallas — to open the door for a rookie to start at right tackle.

Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs has been linked to the Giants for several weeks. However, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, massive Louisville blocker Mekhi Becton and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills loom as possibilities as well.

The Giants are evaluating Simmons’ fit. He played everywhere from off-ball linebacker to safety to edge rusher to slot cornerback at Clemson. That kind of rare versatility prompted ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold to label him the draft’s top prospect.

While Simmons could help the Giants in multiple areas, Gettleman has preached offensive line development since arriving in December 2017. They also would be in a better position to address their edge rusher need with more picks, hence the greater interest in trading down.

So where what will the Giants end up doing at No. 4 overall? Vote in PFR’s latest poll (link for app users) and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Hill, Saints, Giants, Herbert, Long, Falcons, Reiff, Vikings

The Saints used a first-round RFA tender on Taysom Hill. However, the gadget player/backup quarterback is not expected to sign it in the near future, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Hill will, however, participate in New Orleans’ virtual offseason program, per Florio. RFAs have until June 15 to sign their tenders or teams can rescind them and pay 120% of their 2019 salaries. No noise on a potential Hill offer sheet surfaced this offseason, but Drew Brees‘ backup did say he was open to leaving New Orleans if he felt the Saints would not give him an opportunity to start. Despite coming into the league in 2017, the BYU alum will turn 30 this year. It’s been widely reported that the Saints intend to have Hill take over whenever Brees hangs up his cleats. Hill stands to make $4.7MM this year on the first-round tender.

  • An NFL exec called the Giants‘ belated (and somewhat bizarre) Justin Herbert interest “a smokescreen that isn’t working,” Matt Lombardo of NJ.com notes. A report surfaced Monday indicating the Giants had done a lot of work on the Oregon product, but another pointed to the obvious: the team will not use its No. 4 overall pick on a quarterback. Only twice in the past 38 years has a team drafted QBs in back-to-back first rounds — the 1982-83 Baltimore Colts and the 2018-19 Cardinals. Instead, the Giants are believed to want to trade down, per the anonymous exec, but are not finding enough interest.
  • Had Chris Long not signed with the Patriots in 2016, the Falcons would have been his choice, the recently retired defensive end said during an appearance on FS1’s First Things First (via NBC Sports Boston). Chris Long visited the Falcons during an offseason that saw other teams pursue him as well. However, Long’s father, Hall of Famer Howie Long, advised him to choose the Patriots because of their winning pedigree. The Patriots ended up beating the Falcons in overtime in Super Bowl LI. Chris had spent his first eight seasons with the Rams and never been to the playoffs. With the Patriots in 2016 and Eagles in 2017, Long ended up winning two Super Bowls.
  • Rumored as a potential cap casualty, Riley Reiff remains on the Vikings. However, the team could look to find another left tackle early in this draft, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes. Former Vikings coach Mike Tice does not think much of Reiff at left tackle, his primary NFL position. Reiff did, however, play guard at Iowa before moving outside during his Hawkeyes tenure. The Vikings have an opening at right guard, having released Josh Kline earlier this offseason. Minnesota holds two first-round picks — Nos. 22 and 25 — but without a trade-up will not be in range to land a top-tier left tackle. The team also features bigger needs at cornerback and wide receiver.

NFL Draft Rumors: Giants, Herbert, Tua

Will the Giants actually consider quarterback Justin Herbert with the No. 4 overall pick, even though they already have Daniel Jones under center? The answer is no, according to Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network, though GM Dave Gettleman has been eyeing him for quite some time. Had Herbert entered last year, he would have been Gettleman’s top choice, Pauline hears.

Here’s a look at the latest draft rumblings from around the NFL:

  • In private conversations, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has indicated that Herbert is not actually in consideration for the No. 5 pick, a source close to Ross tells Pauline. That same source says the pick will either be used on Tua Tagovailoa or a position player, with Jordan Love being selected sometime later. If it’s a non-QB at No. 5, Pauline hears that tackle Andrew Thomas is the most likely choice.
  • Multiple NFL execs tell ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler that the Vikings are looking to move back. The Vikings own Nos. 22 and 25, but they could fill their needs at cornerback and wide receiver later on. In the second round, they should be able to land one of this year’s second-tier corners such as Utah’s Jaylon Johnson, LSU’s Kristian Fulton, or Alabama’s Trevon Diggs – the brother of former Vikes receiver Stefon Diggs.
  • Based on what we’ve heard, Washington’s Jacob Eason profiles as a Day 2 pick for QB-needy teams like the Patriots. He could also be a fit for teams looking to groom their next signal caller. One AFC exec pondered the possibility of Eason going to the Buccaneers, where the pure passer serve as the heir to Tom Brady. The Bucs own the No. 45 overall pick in the second round and Eason could be there for them, provided that teams like the Colts (No. 34) don’t pounce first.

Giants High On QB Justin Herbert?

The Giants have spent lots of time researching and talking to Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Needless to say, it would be an absolute stunner if the Giants targeted Herbert, but RapSheet says it’s a note to file away this week.

[RELATED: Justin Herbert’s NFL Draft Profile]

Herbert has had lots of FaceTime conversations with head coach Joe Judge, but that could just be a part of their “exhaustive” draft prep for their top pick. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine any scenario where the Giants would draft Herbert with Daniel Jones already in place. NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter) speculates that the Giants could be playing the long game, using this opportunity to do their homework on him in case he becomes available at some point down the road.

The Giants probably won’t be in the mix for Herbert, but other QB-needy teams are taking a hard look at him. That list, of course, includes the Dolphins at No. 5 overall. For months, they’ve been heavily connected to Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa, but more and more insiders are hearing that they’re actually obsessed with Herbert. That may also explain the Giants’ deep dive on Herbert – an attempt to sweat the ‘Fins into trading up.

The Chargers are also a possibility for Herbert, but it doesn’t sound like they’re willing to trade up from No. 6 to get him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft QB Rumors: Bolts, Raiders, Pats

Let’s round up some of the recent QB-related rumors that are swirling in advance of Thursday’s draft:

  • The Chargers hold the No. 6 overall pick and are not inclined to trade up from that spot, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. The Bolts are fans of both Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa, and it seems almost certain that at least one of those passers will be available when Los Angeles is on the clock. The team could still go in a non-QB direction with the No. 6 pick, but it would be difficult to pass up a franchise-altering talent at the most important position in sports, especially since the Chargers will probably not be picking nearly as high in 2021.
  • Although the Raiders have Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota on the roster, La Canfora hears that the club could make a play for a QB with one of their two first-round picks. Las Vegas holds the No. 12 and No. 19 overall selections, and JLC believes the team could target a CB with the No. 12 pick and go after a QB like Tagovailoa — if he falls that far — or Jordan Love with the No. 19 pick. While the Raiders need a receiver and don’t have a second-round selection, this year’s draft is deep enough at WR that Las Vegas could still find an impact player with one of its three third-round choices.
  • The Patriots are in the market for a collegiate signal-caller, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says it’s a question of “when,” not “if”, New England drafts a QB this week. We recently heard that the Pats would find a passer in either the first round or middle rounds, and if a player like Herbert or Tagovailoa should start to slide, it would not be surprising to see them pull the trigger. Coincidentally, new personnel consultant Eliot Wolf was a Packers staffer in 2005, when Green Bay was the beneficiary of Aaron Rodgers‘ famous draft-day slide.
  • ESPN’s Matt Bowen wrote before last year’s draft that Jarrett Stidham was the QB that represented the best fit for the Patriots, and the Pats ultimately selected Stidham with a fourth-round pick. Bowen believes the rookie signal-caller that makes the most sense for New England this year is Washington’s Jacob Eason (subscription required). Eason profiles as a Day 2 pick, so he would not be the Pats’ target with their No. 23 overall choice, but he may be off the board by the time New England is on the clock again at No. 87.
  • Colts GM Chris Ballard will not force a QB pick in this year’s draft, though Indy has been linked to rookie passers. The team could select a signal-caller like Eason with one of its second-round choices, though the Colts remain high on Jacoby Brissett. It may seem unlikely, but Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star says the team continues to insist that it could forgo a quarterback in the 2020 draft and look to bring Brissett back in 2021.

Draft Rumors: Dolphins, Herbert, Edwards-Helaire, Aiyuk, Shenault

The Dolphins held a predraft video meeting with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, who reports no NFL team has done as much work on Herbert as the Dolphins. Herbert is fully expected to come off the board in Round 1 of next week’s draft, but it’s unclear if Miami will be comfortable taking him with the fifth overall selection. Per Jackson, the Dolphins’ questions about Herbert are twofold: he’s more of an introvert than an extrovert, and he is occasionally inaccurate.

Miami also conducted a video conference with LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, per Jackson, who indicates the Dolphins could consider Edwards-Helaire with pick Nos. 39 or 56 in the second round. While the Dolphins already signed veteran Jordan Howard this offseaon, Edwards-Helaire, who caught 55 passes in 2019, would add another dimension to Miami’s backfield.

Here’s more on the upcoming draft, which is now only one week away:

  • Speaking of the Dolphins, former NFL executive Gil Brandt says it would not not be a surprise for Miami to take a non-quarterback with the fifth overall pick (Twitter link via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). While the Dolphins have seemingly spent the past year-plus acquiring draft capital in order to land a quarterback, it’s possible that they could go in a different direction. If Miami opts for another position at No. 5, offensive tackle could speculatively be a target area.
  • A number of prospects– including Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk, Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault, and Cal safety Ashtyn Davis — recently underwent core muscle surgery but have medically cleared, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). All three should be ready for the start of the 2020 regular season. Meanwhile, Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall (ankle) has also been medically cleared, while South Carolina receiver Bryan Edwards (fifth metatarsal) and Utah safety Julian Blackmon (ACL) should be cleared by May and July, respectively.
  • While NFL teams aren’t all that concerned about the upcoming remote draft format, they are potentially worried about the undrafted free agent process, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (video link). The UDFA signing period is often a frenzy as is, and clubs think the virtual nature of the process could make it even more difficult.