Nyheim Hines

South Notes: Saints, Texans, Colts

Taysom Hill is expected to be “the guy” at quarterback for the Saints whenever Drew Brees decides to retire, as Jay Glazer of The Athletic writes. Brees has already signed a post-career deal with NBC Sports, and the 2020 season may or may not be his final year in the NFL, so Hill could be in line to become New Orleans’ starter as soon as next year. The drawbacks on Hill are apparent: he’ll be 31 years old when the 2021 campaign gets underway, and he’s only attempted 13 passes over the course of his career. But the Saints have nothing but shower with him praise in addition to extending him on a two-year pact that includes nearly $17.5MM in guaranteed money and a $16.1MM cap charge in 2021. Per Glazer, New Orleans isn’t attempting a “smokescreen” — the club is comfortable will Hill under center if Brees hangs up his cleats.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two South divisions:

Spring Practice Notes: Jets, Darby, Ebron

Now that mandatory minicamps have wrapped up around the league and players have returned home for a few weeks, the NFL will experience something of a lull until we get closer to the start of training camp in July. In the past couple of days, however, beat writers have shared some lessons learned during spring practices, offered some insight as to what OTAs and minicamp revealed about the upcoming season, and discussed some questions that remain unanswered. So let’s dive right in:

  • Terrelle Pryor‘s injury concerns have been well-documented, but as Darryl Slater of NJ.com observes, the Jets are also dealing with injuries to CB Morris Claiborne and OLB Jordan Jenkins. Both Claiborne and Jenkins are expected to be ready for the start of training camp, while the status of Pryor and starting free safety Marcus Maye is still up in the air. Slater also wonders who will start at OLB alongside Jenkins. David Bass and Josh Martin are candidates, as is Lorenzo Mauldin, though Slater suggests Mauldin is on the roster bubble.
  • Slater also indicates that Henry Anderson may have the leg up in the battle for the Jets‘ starting defensive end position opposite Leonard Williams — New York desperately needs someone to take double teams away from Williams — and that Andre Roberts appears to be leading the competition for Gang Green’s punt returner job. He adds that wideout Chad Hansen has impressed this spring after being a non-factor in his rookie campaign last year.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com also likes what he sees from Hansen, and he says TE Neal Sterling and RB Elijah McGuire are other under-the-radar players to impress for the Jets this spring. Sam Darnold, meanwhile, is very much on the radar, and Cimini says Darnold has done nothing to suggest he cannot be a quality starter in the NFL.
  • The most important lesson learned during the Eagles‘ spring practices, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, is that Carson Wentz is progressing in his recovery from an ACL tear and could be ready to go in Week 1. However, as Berman points out, the defending champs have plenty of injury concerns outside of Wentz, though no key players appear at risk of missing any regular season time at this point.
  • Berman also writes that Jay Ajayi is the Eagles’ unquestioned No. 1 running back — in stark contrast to the summer of 2017, when the team was emphasizing a committee approach to the offensive backfield — and he names De’vante Bausby, Nate Gerry, and Dallas Goedert as young talents who have stood out in the spring. Gerry, a 2017 fifth-rounder who converted from collegiate safety to professional linebacker, could compete for a starting LB job this year, Berman says.
  • Speaking of Bausby, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com is also impressed with the 25-year-old’s work this spring, which may be enough to allow the Eagles to trade Ronald Darby.
  • Seahawks‘ 2018 seventh-round pick Alex McGough stood out this spring and has a legitimate chance to be Russell Wilson‘s backup this year, per Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Condotta also notes that Seattle’s first-round choice, Rashaad Penny, has looked the part and has also shown improvement in his pass-blocking technique, which will help him see more of the field this year.
  • TE Eric Ebron has been perhaps the most impressive newcomer for the Colts this spring, per Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, who also says 2018 fourth-rounder Nyheim Hines was the most exciting rookie to watch. Hines, a running back from NC State, has the explosiveness and versatility to thrive in new head coach Frank Reich‘s scheme.
  • Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Harold Landry, the Titans‘ second-round draft choice this year, is living up to his draft pedigree and that, while he may have a hard time unseating veterans Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo as a starting OLB, he should see plenty of action as a situational pass rusher to begin his career. Wyatt also says Tennessee’s cornerbacks have been the most impressive position group of the spring.

Colts Sign First-Round Pick Quenton Nelson

The Colts have officially signed the bulk of their draft class. On Friday, the team announced deals with the following picks: 

The Colts wound up with an oversized draft class of eleven players, but they have only two rookies left to sign. Once second round linebacker Darius Leonard and second round guard Braden Smith put pen to paper, they’ll be done.

Nelson was widely regarded as one of the best overall talents in this year’s draft, but the early run on quarterbacks helped guide him to the Colts at No. 6. Frankly, that worked out great for the Colts as they desperately need to protect quarterback Andrew Luck this season. The QB fever allowed Chris Ballard to land this year’s top rated offensive lineman in the draft while adding two 2018 second-round picks and a 2019 second-round choice from the Jets as he moved down from No. 3 to No. 6. It’s too early to grade any team’s draft, but everyone can agree that the Colts did well for themselves in terms of value.

Nelson, a 6’5″, 235-pound lineman, boasts tremendous power and the ability to act as a double team blocker. Many feel that Nelson is one of the best bets to succeed out of this year’s top 10.

He’s so unique because he’s big, but he’s not fat. He’s one of the best run blockers I’ve ever evaluated, but he’s not a liability in pass protection like Mike Iupati is,” one NFC team personnel executive told NFL.com before the draft. “He’s also an alpha who can bring and ass-kicking mindset into your position room.”

Draft Notes: Panthers, Penny, Impact Rooks

With their first-round pick, the Panthers ended up selecting Maryland wideout D.J. Moore. However, General Manager Marty Hurney told SiriusXM’s Bruce Murray and Brady Quinn that his team was considering several players with the pick, including Alabama receiver Calvin Ridley.

“Basically what we did, coming into the draft, we had a group of about five guys that we would be very happy with at 24 and we got our pick and three of those guys were there and it was a hard decision between Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore,” Hurney said. “I think that the difference to us is, and we think they’re both excellent wide receivers, is just D.J. Moore gives us a little different skill set than we had.”

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

  • Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller touched on a number of topics during his post-draft review. Notably, the reporter noted that the most surprising first-round selection was San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny, who was taken by the Seahawks with the 27th pick. Miller notes that opposing teams didn’t value Penny as highly, and the reporter said the highest team grade (outside of Seattle) rated the running back as a second-rounder.
  • Miller reports that several players failed drug tests, causing them to fall in the draft or go undrafted. This grouping included cornerback Holton Hill, offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, and wideout Antonio Callaway.
  • ESPN’s Mel Kiper looked at several late-round rookies who could immediately make an impact with their new squad. Offensively, Kiper pointed to Patriots wideout Braxton Berrios, Colts running backs Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines, and Steelers “Swiss Army knife” Jaylen Samuels. Defensively, Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Eagles pass rusher Josh Sweat, Rams linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo led Kiper’s list.