Mekhi Becton

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Tua, Fitz, Jets

Ryan Fitzpatrick is “really excited” to have Tua Tagovailoa in the Dolphins‘ locker room, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. He gushed about the Alabama product in a chat with former Bills teammate Eric Woods, though he’s not quite ready to pass the torch as the team’s starting quarterback.

I also want to be out there playing,” Fitzpatrick said. “I also want to be on the field. And that’s why I’m still doing it, because I still enjoy playing the gameHopefully some of the lessons I’m able to teach him are from him watching me play. But if it’s the other way around, I’m going to do my best to help him succeed in the best way he can.”

Ultimately, the Dolphins will do what’s best for business, but Fitzpatrick may have a leg up on the rookie, thanks to his relationship with new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

Chan and I have worked together for three years … He’s the guy who has given me the longest leash in my career in terms of being able to do things,” Fitzpatrick said. “And I trust him completely, and he has ultimate trust in me as well. This will be a little bit different in that if I’m out there playing there’s going to be a little bit longer leash because of the history we have together.”

Here’s more from the AFC East:

Buccaneers Eyeing Mekhi Becton?

The Buccaneers have their sights set on Mekhi Becton as Tom Brady‘s new protector, Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network hears. If they don’t get the Louisville product, Pauline hears that they’ll look to trade out of the No. 14 pick.

Becton – who stands at 6’7″ and 364 pounds – has scouts all over the league buzzing. With the size of Trent Brown and a 5.1-second 40-yard dash, he’s a virtual lock for the first round and a strong consideration for teams in the Top 10. Georgia’s Andrew Thomas may represent a “safer” option among this year’s top-flight offensive linemen, but Becton is viewed as the highest-ceiling tackle.

Last week, we learned that Becton popped positive at the NFL Combine, but that shouldn’t impact his stock all that much as the draft closes in. Becton is coming off of a breakout season in which he registered 60 knockdown blocks, and he’s a rare talent at a paper-thin position in the league. The Bucs, at No. 14, could very well represent his floor in tonight’s draft.

In any scenario, the Bucs figure to exit the first round with a top tackle. Earlier this year, they explored a deal for veteran Trent Williams that would have sent tight end O.J. Howard to the Redskins, but those talks have not been rekindled.

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.

Rapoport’s Latest: Becton, Murray, RBs

Here is the latest on the upcoming virtual draft, courtesy of NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport:

  • D’Andre Swift profiles as many teams’ top-graded running back, and some are viewing the No. 26-32 range as the sector where he could land or even multiple running backs could go (Twitter link). Holding the No. 26 pick, the Dolphins are perhaps the most notable running back-seeking team in that range. They have been the team most closely connected to backs thus far. The Seahawks, Ravens, Titans, Packers, 49ers and Chiefs pick behind them.
  • Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray may be one of the highest-floor players in the draft, with Rapoport noting (via Twitter) no team has come through with a black mark against him. This represents obvious good news after Murray suffered a hamstring injury at the Combine. Before the NFL nixed pre-draft workouts and visits, Murray was scheduled to meet with 15 teams. It’s likely he spoke to many via video chat. Scouts Inc. grades Murray as the draft’s No. 25 prospect.
  • On that note, mammoth tackle Mekhi Becton has generated the most excitement from scouts, per RapSheet. The Louisville blocker goes 6-foot-7, 364 pounds. While his frame reminds of Raiders right tackle Trent Brown, the latter was a fifth-round selection. Becton, who somehow ran a 5.1-second 40-yard dash at that size, may well land in the top 10 and probably has the highest ceiling of all the tackle prospects.
  • A less exciting player, but one that might be a safer pick: Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas. Teams are calling the ex-Bulldogs blocker the most overlooked player who will go the highest, per Rapoport. Thomas could wind up in the top five, with Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline noting he is the favorite to be the Dolphins’ pick if they surprise most by not going quarterback at No. 5.
  • After the top four tackles go off the board, there figures to be a gap until the next one is picked. Houston tackle Josh Jones may be the player with the highest variance, with teams viewing him anywhere from a first- to a third-round choice, Rapoport adds. Jones grades as Scouts Inc.’s No. 50 overall prospect and seventh-ranked tackle — also behind Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland and USC’s Austin Jackson.
  • Going into what’s viewed as a deep draft at wide receiver, at least one GM views it as a historically deep all-around class. Said GM placed first-round grades on more than 32 prospects for the first time in his tenure, RapSheet notes.

Louisville OL Mekhi Becton Had “Flagged” Drug Test

Louisville offensive tackle and projected first-round pick Mekhi Becton had his drug test flagged at the NFL Combine, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). Becton was one of “multiple players” to get flagged, and teams had previously been made aware of this infraction.

As Rapoport notes, the lineman will now enter Stage 1 of the new CBA’s Intervention Program for no more than 60 days. If Becton isn’t flagged again, “he will thereafter assume the same status as Players who have never been referred to the Intervention Program.” As Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller observes on Twitter, “failed drug tests” clearly don’t matter as much under the new CBA.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com also observes how the NFL “continues to periodically violate” their own confidentiality provision. The league’s substance abuse policy has a “clear” confidentiality provision, but NFL.com, an entity owned by the league, has reported on Becton’s flagged drug test. As the writer notes, “no one should know about any failed or flagged drug tests until a player is suspended.” Following the changes to the drug policy in the new CBA, it wouldn’t be shocking if the players push back at the NFL’s “nonchalance.”

Becton, a 6-7, 369-pound lineman, had a breakout season in 2019. While Rotoworld.com previously described him as an incomplete technician, it lauded his measurables, strength, and toughness. Plus, as Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk observed, advanced metrics were high on Becton’s work, as he made over 60 knockdown blocks this past year. It’s worth noting that Becton didn’t fail a drug test during his time at Louisville.

The Giants and Jets are among the teams that have been connected to Becton.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jets Eyeing OL At No. 11?

It’s no secret that the Jets could use some help at wide receiver. And, with the No. 11 pick, they could have the opportunity to take CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, who stand as the cream of a rich WR crop. Meanwhile, they also need to protect quarterback Sam Darnold (and his spleen), so they could opt for offensive line help in the first round. As Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets, the Jets have done their homework on this year’s top big men. 

[RELATED: Jets Could Also Start The WR Run At No. 11]

Before the travel restrictions, the Jets had dinner and a private workout with Georgia’s Andrew Thomas and Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, per Pelissero. He also hears that they’ve hosted Louisville’s Mekhi Becton on a top 30 visit and Zoom-chatted with Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs. They’re the four best offensive lineman in this year’s class, so there’s no guarantee that any of them will slip to Gang Green. Thomas has also garnered interest from the Dolphins (No. 5), Pelissero hears.

Of that quintet, Wirfs is widely viewed as the most NFL-ready. He also offers serious athleticism for his size (6’5″, 320 pounds), plus versatility. At Iowa, he played primarily at left and right tackle. Pro scouts also believe that he has the ability to move inside and play guard.

The top 10 already has teams in need of line help and other teams are contemplating trades to land one of this year’s best OLs. The Bucs and Broncos have serious interest in moving up the board and they could leapfrog the Jets on Thursday.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Scherff, Cook, Winston, Giants

As of right now, Brandon Scherff is set to play next season under the franchise tag. However, the three-time Pro Bowler is confident he’ll sign an extension with the Redskins.

“It’s gone well,” Scherff said of the negotiations (via Kyle Stackpole of Redskins.com). “Just pretty much sat down and talked to my agent — that’s what he’s there for — and I want to sign a long-term deal with them, too. I love it there, and I’ve always said I wanted to be a Redskin for the rest of my career. So, hopefully we can work towards that.”

After becoming the first guard to receive the franchise tag since 2011, Scherff signed his franchise tender relatively quickly. He’s set to make $14.8MM in 2020 under the tag.

Since being selected with the fifth-overall pick in the 2015 draft, Scherff has started all 65 of his regular season appearances. However, he’s been limited to only 19 games over the past two years thanks to a pair of IR trips.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFC…

  • Running back Dalvin Cook and the Vikings are also in the midst of extension talks, and the 24-year-old has made it clear that he wants to stick in Minnesota. “I definitely love Minnesota,” Cook told Chris Tomasson of TwinCities.com. “I love everything the state has to bring. Being a kid, I was drafted (in 2017) from Miami (his hometown), so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I actually am happy where I’m at, and I would like to be in Minnesota long term.”  After compiling 1,135 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns last season, Cook is set to make a base salary of $1.33MM next season.
  • Jameis Winston isn’t a bust, says the GM who drafted him. While the Buccaneers were eager to replace the former first-overall pick with a soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback, Jason Licht is still optimistic about Winston’s future in the NFL. “We have a lot of respect for Jameis,” the executive told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “Jameis was still part of our plan if things went a different route. We’ve got a lot of respect for him. I thought he did a lot of great things, and anybody in our office or building would say the same thing. He did some spectacular things for us. I would never say that, personally — and I think I speak on behalf of the organization — that he’s a bust. I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him.” Last season, Winston led the league in passing yards (5,109) and interceptions (30).
  • The Giants “love” Iowa offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs, reports Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. While the front office has been infatuated with him since well before the combine, there are some who believe the Giants still won’t take him with the fourth-overall pick. In fact, some sources told Vacchiano that they believe the Giants will opt for another lineman in Alabama’s Jedrick Wills or Louisville’s Mekhi Becton.

Louisville OL Mekhi Becton To Enter Draft

Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton will be entering the 2020 NFL draft and will not be playing for the Cardinals in this month’s Music City Bowl against Mississippi State, as Becton himself said in a statement he released on Twitter.

Becton took his game to a new level in 2019 and now profiles as a potential first-round pick. He is a massive specimen at 6-7, 369 pounds, and while Rotoworld.com describes him as an incomplete technician, it lauds his measurables, strength, and toughness. Plus, as Charean Williams of Pro Footbal Talk observes, advanced metrics were high on Becton’s work, and he made over 60 knockdown blocks this year.

The Cardinals’ rushing offense has averaged 214.4 yards per game in 2019, thanks in large part to Becton’s efforts. He started 33 games over his three collegiate seasons and was named First Team All-ACC this year.

“Mekhi has had a tremendous year and deserves this outstanding recognition as one of the top blockers in the ACC,” Louisville HC Scott Satterfield said. “He has been a leader for our offensive line and our offense as a whole, and to be recognized for his accomplishments by members of this league is a great honor for Mekhi.”

The Redskins, Jets, and Dolphins are just a few of the clubs who could be interested in Becton’s services.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.