Obi Melifonwu

Draft Rumors: Lamp, Ross, Bengals, Hawks

The Dolphins have been looking for guard assistance for quite some time, and now that Laremy Tunsil will take over at left tackle, the team has an even bigger issue inside. This has put the Dolphins in the market for high-round help at guard, and Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com notes the team is “locked in” on Western Kentucky product Forrest Lamp with its first-round pick. The Dolphins did add Ted Larsen from the Bears, but guard remains the only offensive line position the team doesn’t have a long-term starter. Miami holds the draft’s No. 22 pick, and Pauline notes that defensive end resides as the other critical area the franchise wants to enhance. If a quality edge defender is on the board at 22, the Dolphins may pass and set their sights on a Day 2 guard, Pauline writes.

As for Lamp, Pauline hears the lowest he will drop will be the Falcons at No. 31. Atlanta lost Chris Chester to retirement to open a spot opposite Andy Levitre up front.

Here’s the latest coming from the 2017 draft prospect pool.

  • John Ross‘ medical history is causing some teams to drop him on their boards or remove the former Washington Huskies wideout from draftable lists entirely, Mike Mayock of NFL.com reports. Ross is currently recovering from shoulder surgery and underwent operations on both knees in 2015. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report listed the speedster as a possible Day 2 pick in light of these concerns.
  • However, the Bengals are hovering as a Ross suitor, Pauline reports. They have given Ross a clean bill of health, which looks to be the only issue between the receiver and a first-round selection. The Bengals, who pick at No. 9 (generally before Ross is being projected in mock drafts), took a wideout in the first round last year in Tyler Boyd. Boyd figures to have a bigger role in Cincinnati’s offense this season. The team also re-signed Brandon LaFell, crowding the receiver depth chart even before the draft.
  • East Carolina wideout Zay Jones is on the Seahawks‘ radar, per Pauline. They are expected to be prepared to take Jones in the second round, should the ex-Pirates pass-catcher fall to them at No. 58 overall. Todd McShay of ESPN.com (Insider link) places Jones as his fourth-best wide receiver prospect, and with three receivers potentially set to go in Round 1, that could be a stretch for Jones to make it to Seattle that late in Round 2. The Seahawks have taken two wideouts in the second round during this decade — Golden Tate and Paul Richardson.
  • Obi Melifonwu met with or auditioned for 14 teams, and just one — the Titans — viewed the Connecticut defensive back as a corner, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. The UConn safety talent blazed to a 4.40-second 40-yard dash clocking, making him an intriguing get either in the late first or early second round. In addition to the workout circuit, Wilson notes Melifonwu has attracted steady interest from the Ravens, Raiders, Colts and Jaguars. The Bengals attempted to schedule a workout with Melifonwu, but the popular commodity’s schedule didn’t have room.
  • An NFL personnel man and a scout believe the Packers‘ No. 29 pick will be coveted among teams antsy to snag one a quarterback. “I think there’s going to be some action there at the end of the first round,” the scout said, via Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “With these quarterbacks, they need a five-year contract because they’re not ready. I think there will be a lot of movement coming up [into the first round]. With the depth of this draft at defensive end and safety and corner and tight end, I would be looking to trade down.” The personnel man added that the quarterbacks are going to “drive this draft.” With players like Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes expected to go before the Packers pick at 29, it’s conceivable talents like Davis Webb or DeShone Kizer could be coveted at the end of the round.

AFC Notes: Bills, Browns, Patriots

The Bills will send representatives to Clemson to meet with quarterback Deshaun Watson on Friday, reports Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Bills general manager Doug Whaley is supposedly “in love” with Watson, but there’s a belief that the team’s highest-graded QB prospect is North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com said Thursday on NFL Network (via Conor Orr of NFL.com). The problem for Buffalo, if it looks to draft a first-round passer, is that Trubisky might not be on the board when it’s on the clock at No. 10. Cleveland, which owns the 12th pick, may be angling to move ahead of the Bills to ensure it grabs Trubisky.

More on Buffalo and two other AFC clubs:

  • Shortly after Cleveland acquired Brock Osweiler from Houston last month, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported the Browns were willing to eat around half of the quarterback’s $16MM base salary for 2017 in order to trade him. It turns out the exact number is $10MM, tweets La Canfora. It seems likely that the Browns will eventually cut Osweiler if they’re unable to trade him, but given that he’s still on the roster, both executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown and head coach Hue Jackson have said that they expect him to compete for the team’s starting QB job. Of course, the Browns will probably add another signal-caller in the draft (be it Trubisky or someone else), perhaps lessening Osweiler’s chances of making the club.
  • The Patriots ventured to the University of Connecticut on Thursday for a meeting with safety Obi Melifonwu, according to Ryan Hannable of WEEI. New England’s not slated to pick until the third round, No. 72 overall, and Melifonwu should be long gone by then. However, trading cornerback Malcolm Butler to the Saints for the 32nd pick could put the Patriots in position to select Melifonwu.
  • Austin Knoblauch of NFL.com offers more details on a bizarre incident involving Bills offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio this week. Police in Elma, N.Y., responded to a 9:22 a.m. call on Wednesday regarding a suspicious man in a field, which turned out to be a partially undressed Kouandjio. Firefighters then had to administer first aid to Kouandjio for an undisclosed condition. And though Kouandjio screamed “Shoot me!,” he was cooperative with deputies and was not arrested. Kouandjio did go to Erie County Medical Center for further evaluation, however.

Extra Points: Lions, Packers, Draft, Bucs

UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley visited the Lions this week, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). As a result of the shoulder surgery he underwent in March, McKinley could be on the shelf until at least July. Nevertheless, he still has a realistic chance to end up a first-round pick after breaking out last season with 10 sacks. The Lions finished with a paltry 26 – the fewest in the NFC and the second-worst mark in the NFL.

  • After several years of superb drafting, Packers general manager Ted Thompson has slumped recently, writes Ryan Wood of USA Today. For instance, of the 21 players Thompson selected from 2011-13, only five are still Green Bay’s roster. Moreover, Thompson has found just three Pro Bowlers over the past seven years – a far cry from the seven he discovered during his first half-decade on the job.
  • UConn safety Obi Melifonwu, Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis, Iowa quarterback CJ Beathard and Ashland tight end Adam Sheehan are four draft prospects who could hear their names called quicker than expected, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Melifonwu and Davis are already potential first-rounders, so it’ll be particularly interesting to see how high they go.
  • Buccaneers receiver Josh Huff‘s arrest last November on an unlawful possession of a weapon charge won’t lead to jail time, per Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Huff, who accepted a conditional plea, will instead get six months’ probation. The Eagles released Huff after his arrest, which occurred in New Jersey, and he quickly signed with the Bucs. Huff ended up appearing in three of their games and catching three passes for 41 yards.

Draft Rumors: Mixon, Lattimore, Peppers

It was reportedly likely as of two weeks ago that Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon wouldn’t last beyond the third round of the draft, but now there’s “palpable buzz” that his stock is dropping, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Interestingly, one league source informed Florio that Mixon will go undrafted, which runs counter to the notion that many teams Mixon has met with are willing to forgive him for his sordid past. Mixon was caught on camera punching a woman in the face in 2014, and while he has since expressed remorse, his future NFL employer will undoubtedly face a public relations backlash upon adding him.

More on the upcoming draft:

  • Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore visited the Jets on Tuesday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). New York holds the sixth overall pick, with which it could theoretically take Lattimore, but it’s possible concerns over his health will cause him to slide out of the top 10. Should that happen, the Jets may still end up a candidate to draft Lattimore if they succeed in trading down.
  • The Ravens hosted Michigan defender Jabrill Peppers on Tuesday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Peppers expects to serve as a safety in the pros, as do most teams with which he has spoken, but one sees the likely first- or second-rounder as a linebacker and another believes he’s capable of lining up on offense.
  • The Cowboys are in need of pass-rush help, which could come in the form of Missouri defensive end Charles Harris. The club’s attraction to Harris is no secret, reports Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram, though she notes that he might be off the board by the time Dallas is on the clock at No. 28 overall.
  • A couple of NFC West teams are eyeing Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, per Wilson (Twitter link). Melifonwu met with the 49ers on Tuesday and will visit the Seahawks on Wednesday. Speculatively, the 6-foot-4, 224-pounder could be a fit for the 49ers early in Round 2 (No. 34 overall) or the Seahawks late in the first (No. 26).

Draft Rumors: Cook, Eagles, Conley, Panthers, Fins, Bengals, Texans

Florida State running back Dalvin Cook‘s stock is reportedly slipping as the draft approaches, but the Eagles seem undeterred. The club has “heavy interest” in Cook, the runner revealed Wednesday in an interview with Philadelphia-based radio station 94WIP (via Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com). The feeling is mutual, with Cook adding that he “loved the city” when he visited. “It’s a great organization, great people,” he continued. “I think the program is on the rise, just need a couple more guys to fill in and help the program. I like the organization overall and the people that’s in the building.” Should the Eagles pass on Cook at 14th overall, their next opportunity to take him would be at No. 43, though he could certainly be gone by then.

More of the latest on the draft:

  • The Panthers, Browns, Eagles, Bengals, Lions, Titans, Saints and Jets are among the teams with the most interest in Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, writes Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. Conley should go somewhere between ninth and 18th overall, per La Canfora, whom one NFL decision-maker told: “Conley has always been a first-round corner, and I understand why he is the top guy on some boards. He may not be as flashy as some of the other corners, and maybe the upside isn’t quite as high, but neither is the risk. This is a clean player who started for two years and who made big plays in big games. There is a lot to like.”
  • Though they’re interested in Conley, the Panthers hosted another cornerback – Florida’s Teez Tabor – on Thursday, and both Tennessee edge defender Derek Barnett and LSU corner Tre’Davious White are visiting Charlotte on Friday, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Barnett (13th) and White (18th) are each top 20 prospects, according to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, who places Tabor 48th.
  • Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles is currently visiting the Bengals, relays Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link). Cincinnati lost starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth to free agency, potentially creating a major need, but it’s only two years removed from using first- and second-round picks on OTs Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher. Bolles would require yet another sizable investment via the draft in the position. The Bengals are set to pick ninth overall, in the neighborhood of where Bolles could slide off the board.
  • The Dolphins are hosting Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu on Friday, tweets Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. This isn’t the first connection between Miami and Melifonwu – the two sides spent “significant” time together last week. Given their interest in Melifonwu, the defender might be a target for the Dolphins at No. 22 overall.
  • Texans offensive line coach Mike Devlin has met with Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, a source told Wilson. PFR’s Dallas Robinson currently has Houston selecting Ramczyk with the 25th pick in the draft, noting he’d give the team a much-needed upgrade at right tackle.

AFC Notes: Colts, Browns, Steelers, Fins

It took over a month for defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to land a contract in free agency, but the newest member of the Colts told reporters Friday that he “knew something good would eventually come through.” It did Thursday, in the form of a three-year, $30MM deal featuring $15.9MM in guarantees. While there’s a belief around the NFL that the former Giant is only a two-down player, he insists being “a three-down guy” hasn’t been a problem. The 25-year-old added that he’ll go forth as a nose tackle and 3-technique, which will give him an opportunity to rush the passer (Twitter links via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post and Mike Chappell of FOX59. Hankins posted a career-high seven sacks in 2014, but he has combined for just three since.

More from around the AFC:

  • Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams is currently visiting the Browns, reports Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (Twitter link). Williams won’t be in play for the No. 1 pick in the draft, but he could be available for the Browns’ second first-rounder, the 12th overall selection. The club did take a first-round receiver last year in Corey Coleman, though, and it signed Kenny Britt to a sizable contract in free agency a month ago.
  • Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu met with the Steelers on Thursday, according to Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Both Humphrey and Melifonwu are prospective first-rounders, and the Steelers are reportedly likely to take a defensive back with their top pick, No. 30 overall.
  • The Dolphins hosted Houston edge rusher Tyus Bowser on Thursday, writes Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Bowser figures to go somewhere in the first two rounds, making him a possibility for the Dolphins at either No. 22 or 54 overall. Miami would likely use Bowser as an outside linebacker in its 4-3 alignment, per Jackson. Kiko Alonso is entrenched in one of the club’s top two OLB spots, but it could stand to upgrade the other.
  • Another note on the Dolphins: They’ve hired longtime coach Joe Vitt as a consultant, per Alex Marvez of Sporting News. Vitt, the father-in-law of Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, most recently served as an assistant in New Orleans from 2006 until his firing in January.

NFC Notes: Sherman, Saints, 49ers, Falcons

No NFLer has come up in more trade rumors this month than Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, but it’s likely he’ll stay put, writes Tom Pelissero of USA Today. It would take something along the lines of a first- and third-round pick to acquire Sherman, and that price probably isn’t going to come down, Pelissero hears. Plus, even though Sherman requested a trade, the relationship between him and the Seahawks is hardly in shambles. Sherman is content to continue his career in Seattle, and the team would have no problem retaining the four-time Pro Bowler, per Pelissero.

More from the NFC:

  • Next season stands as the final year of Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro‘s rookie contract, meaning it could could be his last hurrah in New Orleans. However, he’d rather ink an extension with the Saints than test free agency next spring. “I want to play for the Saints. I love the team,” Vaccaro told Nick Underhill of The Advocate. “I love coach (Sean) Payton. Coach Payton is going to be here. We got a good young team. I think we’re a couple of pieces away from getting to back to where we were my rookie year. I don’t want to leave that. The grass isn’t always greener.” Vaccaro isn’t “pressing” for a deal, but he does expect the Saints to enter negotiations with him “after all the offseason stuff” is out of the way. The 27-year-old has been a strong contributor to the Saints’ defense since going 15th overall in the 2013 draft, though he is coming off a suspension-shortened season.
  • With Vaccaro’s future in New Orleans uncertain, the Saints had UConn safety Obi Melifonwu in for an official visit Monday, which Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball first reported (Twitter link). Melifonwu is the 45th-best prospect in this year’s draft class, opines Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com. The four-year starter “has a rare blend of size and speed for the position,” notes Jeremiah.
  • Cornerback Tramaine Brock was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence Thursday, and the 49ers released him Friday. Rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan addressed that decision Monday, saying (via Cam Inman of the Mercury News): “We spent the day trying to figure out all the information as much as you can. You never do get all of it, but there was enough there that we felt it was a decision we had to make and move on from (Brock).” The 49ers cut the eight-year veteran with a “failed physical” designation, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area (Twitter link).
  • Falcons corner Desmond Trufant will earn nearly half of the money in his five-year, $68.75MM extension by next March, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Trufant is due $33MM over the next 11 months, and he’ll average $14.75MM per annum during the first three years of the deal.

Draft Notes: Jets, Howard, Melifonwu, Texans

With the Jets having a number of holes to fill on both sides of the ball, would the organization really select a tight end with the sixth-overall pick? ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini believes the team has more pressing needs, but he could understand why Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is worthy of a top-10 pick.

Unlike former Jets second-rounder Jace Amaro, Howard can excel in both blocking and receiving situations, so he’d be an every-down player. In offensive coordinator John Morton‘s west-coast offense, the tight end would certainly be relied on to move the chains. Furthermore, his lack of injuries and “high floor” makes him a relatively safe pick.

Cimini has talked to several scouts who regard Howard as a “special talent,” with one evaluator saying that “Howard is the first legitimate tight-end prospect we’ve seen in two or three years.”

Lets check out some more draft notes from around the NFL…

  • After visiting with the Browns yesterday, Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu is set to meet with the Redskins today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Melifonwu, who finished last season with 73 tackles and four interceptions, was listed 46th on Daniel Jeremiah’s list of the top-50 prospects. The defensive back has garnered interest from a number of teams, including the Lions, PanthersSteelers, SeahawksSaints, Cowboys, and Dolphins.
  • Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson had a private workout with the Texans on Friday, tweets Wilson. Jeremiah listed Anderson as the 49th-best prospect in this year’s draft. The senior finished last season with 31 tackles and 8.5 sacks.
  • We learned yesterday that Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon will visit 15 teams prior to the NFL draft.

Draft Rumors: McCaffrey, Cook, Melifonwu

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey visited the Panthers last week, a source tells Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. NFL executives reportedly believe McCaffrey will be a top-10 selection, and Carolina picks at No. 8. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera recently said no spot is “too high” to draft a running back, and veteran Jonathan Stewart‘s recent one-year extension won’t stop Carolina from bringing in another runner. PFR’s first mock draft has McCaffrey falling a bit farther, however, as we sent him to Philadelphia at No. 14.

Here’s more on the NFL draft:

  • The Bengals are hosting Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com. Cincinnati is fully expected to select a running back in this year’s draft, and will likely do so on Day 1 or 2. Incumbent back Giovani Bernard is coming off a torn ACL, while Jeremy Hill hasn’t been effective recently and is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Cook, for his part, topped 1,600 yards and posted 19 touchdowns in each of the last two years with the Seminoles.
  • Missouri defensive end Charles Harris is heading to New York for a visit with the Jets, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Harris, who put up 16 sacks over the past two seasons with the Tigers, probably won’t be in consideration for Gang Green at sixth overall, but he could be an option for the Jets if they trade back (or if he slips to the second round). So far, only the Titans are also known to have met with Harris.
  • The Panthers have visited with Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson, reports Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Carolina, of course, signed Matt Kalil to a hefty free agent contract to play left tackle, but the club may need help on the right side, as Michael Oher is still in the concussion protocol three months after the conclusion of the season. Robinson also has the capability to play guard, so the Panthers could draft him as insurance on internal options Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell, each of whom will hit free agency in 2018.
  • Washington safety Budda Baker recently met with the Steelers, as the club announced. Pittsburgh has spent a bevy of recent picks on defensive backs, as Senquez Golson, Artie Burns, and Sean Davis have all joined the team over the past two years. While the Steelers already boast a solid free safety in Mike Mitchell, he’s entering his age-30 campaign and will reach unrestricted free agency next spring.
  • The Dolphins have spent a “significant amount of time” with UConn safety Obi Melifonwu, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Melifonwu has drawn a good amount of interest from around the league during the predraft process, and one team — the Titans — may even view him as a cornerback. Miami recently extended Reshad Jones, but the club could use another safety now that Isa Abdul-Quddus has been cut following a back injury. T.J. McDonald is also in tow, but he’s suspended for the first half of the season.

Extra Points: Hayden, Titans, Patriots, Mauti

Despite joining many of his high-first-round peers from 2013 in not living up to their draft statuses, D.J. Hayden signed a one-year, $3.75MM deal from the Lions. He will be looking to bounce back after four inconsistent seasons with the Raiders. His former GM agrees that Hayden needed to go elsewhere.

I think he probably made a good decision by getting away from Oakland,” Reggie McKenzie told the Detroit Free Press at the NFL owners meetings last week. “Fresh start.”

McKenzie considered making a push to re-sign the former No. 12 overall pick, and per the Free Press’ Dave Birkett, that might have happened if Hayden came at more of a discount. But the sixth-year Raiders GM concluded that if Hayden was going to reach his potential as an NFL corner he would have to leave Oakland. The injuries that dogged Hayden “killed his confidence,” per McKenzie. Hayden played in 16 games just once in his four Raider years, in 2015, and missed the final five games last season. The Lions are expected to give Hayden a quality opportunity to win their slot corner job alongside Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson.

All he lacked, and it’s hard coming from a near-death situation and being thrown right in and had a couple relapses because of the illness, but he was always playing behind the 8-ball from a physical standpoint,” McKenzie said. “So if he gets that behind him, his confidence will grow. He never, I think in his whole time in Oakland, the confidence for him to really thrive was not where it needed to be.”

Here’s more from around league.

  • The Titans may have a different view of Connecticut safety prospect Obi Melifonwu than some other teams. They worked out the UConn product today as a cornerback, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). The organization reportedly likes the 6-foot-4, 224-pound player’s size and cover skills. Melifonwu also has a 4.40-second 40-yard dash clocking, which is good for a corner while being excellent for a safety. The ex-Huskies back-line defender being envisioned as a corner isn’t merely a Titans viewpoint, though, with around 40 percent of NFL teams categorizing the safety this way.
  • Adrian Peterson‘s Patriots visit strikes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk as a tactic aimed at getting LeGarrette Blount‘s attention. Noting New England’s secretive nature, this Monday summit being made public now and not after the fact leads Florio to believe this is a get-acquainted session at best. Florio writes this could be a method used at getting Blount to take what’s being offered instead of holding out for more money on the heels of an 18-touchdown season. Blount and the Patriots broke off talks last month.
  • Prior to actually participating in Wrestlemania 33, Rob Gronkowski said he would be ready to go by the time the Patriots’ offseason program begins later this month, In an interview with ESPN’s Jonathan Coachman (video link), Gronk said he feels good after his latest surgery and would be “ready to roll” when the team reconvenes on April 17. The soon-to-be 28-year-old tight end underwent back surgery in December.
  • Saints coach Sean Payton expects recovering linebacker Michael Mauti to be ready by the time training camp comes, Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com reports. Stricken with an intestinal disease, the 27-year-old linebacker did not play in eight Saints games last season because of it. He remains a UFA, but the Saints have interest in retaining the backup defender. Mauti contemplated having a surgery to fix this years-long problem last spring but opted against since he was going into a contract year. Energy and weight loss led to the Saints placing Mauti on their NFI list in November, and he underwent surgery in December. The team still paid him his full $675K salary last season. Mauti told Katzenstein he wants to continue his career with the Saints.