When the Raiders put Obi Melifonwu on injured reserve to start the year, they did so with the hope that he could return mid-season. His recovery went according to schedule, and the second-round safety has been designated to return from IR two weeks from now, as Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area writes.
Melifonwu, the 56th pick in this year’s draft, wowed Raiders scouts in workouts after a strong four-year stretch at UConn. On campus, he tallied eight career interceptions with four of those picks coming in his final season. Melifonwu also notched a personal-best 118 tackles as a senior. Before the draft, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared him to the George Iloka of the Bengals.
Bair writes that Melifonwu’s primary task will be to cover tight ends and running backs in sub packages. Down the line, the team is hoping that he can step into a starting role.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Raiders decided to place second-round pick Obi Melifonwu on IR earlier this week, but the team is not counting on the safety missing his entire rookie season. Melifonwu is expected to return after eight weeks and be one of Oakland’s two IR-DTR players, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. The UConn product is recovering from knee surgery and will use the season’s first two months to rehab. The Raiders have seen their top two draft picks struggle to see the field due to injuries thus far; Gareon Conley missed most of Oakland’s preseason work due to a shin malady. Both are eyed as contributors in a secondary that struggled throughout 2016.
Here’s the latest coming out of the West divisions before the defending AFC West champion Chiefs debut against the Super Bowl champion Patriots.
- For now, new Cardinals guard Alex Boone will serve as a backup. “He’s just learning,” coach Bruce Arians told reporters (Twitter link via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com). “We’ll see. Right now, it’d probably have to be an injury or someone really fail badly. … We’ll see. Right now, it’d probably have to be an injury or someone really fail badly.” Boone started for five straight seasons, lining up as a first-teamer for the 49ers and Vikings.
- Despite Patrick Mahomes‘ impressive preseason, the Chiefs‘ plan remains to shelve the rookie quarterback throughout the 2017 season, Rapoport notes (video link). Rapoport also said the possibility of Mahomes sitting to start next season remains in play, adding the team drafted the Texas Tech product knowing he’d be a one- or two-year project. Rapoport adds the Chiefs believed Mahomes was the draft’s best quarterback and they thought four teams would pull the trigger to select him had they not made the trade up to No. 10. Alex Smith‘s contract may also dictate the franchise’s decision. The Chiefs can save $17MM by moving on from their longtime starter after this season, but it’s clear they see a firm line between Smith and Mahomes’ present readiness levels.
- Chargers rookie Mike Williams is now off the PUP list but has yet to resume running routes full speed, Anthony Lynn said (via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk). Recovering from a back injury, Williams has resumed catching passes. Rapoport reported the first-round pick’s likely return date will be in October.
- If the Rams are going to sign Aaron Donald to an extension, the deal will have to make the defensive lineman the NFL’s highest-paid defender. Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com writes the team understands this. Von Miller‘s six-year, $114.6MM contract represents that standard presently, and Ndamukong Suh‘s six-year, $114MM Dolphins deal is the high-water mark for interior defenders. Los Angeles is not expected to have Donald this week as his holdout stretches into Month 3.
- Sebastian Janikowski‘s small pay cut — from $4MM to $3MM this season — induced Rapoport to suggest this adjustment would free up space for a potential Donald Penn payment (Twitter link). The Raiders left tackle recently returned to the team and is entering the final year of his contract, but it’s clear the 34-year-old blocker is not exactly a content employee.
Today’s minor moves:
- Released from IR: S Chris Prosinski
- Released from IR: DB Tramain Jacobs
Los Angeles Chargers
- Waived: LB Nick Dzubnar
Los Angeles Rams
- Released from IR: WR Nelson Spruce
New England Patriots
- Released from IR: DE Corey Vereen
New Orleans Saints
- Signed: T Bryce Harris
New York Giants
New York Jets
- Placed on IR: DE Alex McCalister, S Tre Sullivan
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Melifonwu, the 56th pick, went to the Raiders on the heels of a stellar four-year career at Connecticut, where he tallied eight interceptions. Four of those picks came last year for Melifonwu, who also notched a personal-best 118 tackles. There are some questions about Melifonwu’s instincts, but the 6-foot-4, 224-pounder should be effective around the line of scrimmage, per NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who likens him to the Bengals’ George Iloka.
With Melifonwu in the fold, every rookie from the second round down in the 2017 draft has now been signed to a contract. The only unsigned rookies left are 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas, Titans wide receiver Corey Davis, and one of Melifonwu’s soon-to-be Raiders teammates, cornerback Gareon Conley. The Raiders’ hope is that he and Melifonwu will immediately boost a defense that finished just 25th in DVOA against the pass last year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Some assorted draft notes from around the AFC…
- Half the league didn’t have embattled running back Joe Mixon on their draft board, tweets NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Meanwhile, other evaluators believe he was the best overall running back if they were only evaluating on-field skills. ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter adds that only four teams said they would consider drafting Mixon. We can assume that one of those four organizations was the Bengals, who selected the running back in the second round.
- The Raiders selected UConn safety Obi Melifonwu in the second round, although Rapoport tweets that the organization was close to selecting the defensive back in the first.
- The Dolphins ultimately selected defensive end Charles Harris with the 22nd pick on Thursday night. However, if the Missouri product hadn’t been available, the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero says (via Twitter) that the team would have selected Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
- The Broncos were rather committed to selecting Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker. In fact, general manager John Elway revealed that he was willing to trade up if he needed to. “We made a lot of attempts to get up in (second round) to trade for Walker,” Elway told Troy Renck of Denver7 (Twitter link). “Things worked out.” Walker was selected by the Broncos with the 51st overall pick.
- Good news out of Houston: Rapoport tweets that the Texans don’t believe running back D’Onta Foreman needs surgery on the stress fracture in his foot. The team found “no progressions in the injury at rechecks,” which apparently made them comfortable enough to select him in the third round.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).