Darius Robinson

Draft OL Rumors: Fashanu, Latham, Fautanu, Buccaneers

Some teams in the NFL are known for drafting the best player on the board in their draft slot regardless of position. Others have made a reputation for drafting players at a position of need regardless of value. The Saints are a team that could end up in the best of both worlds later this month, according to Jason La Canfora of The Washington Post.

At 14th overall, the Saints could be in position to take a player at a huge position of need. La Canfora informs us that multiple general managers in the league have the sense that New Orleans is “all about finding players to fill immediate starting needs.” With offensive line as a big position of need at the moment, Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu has been repeatedly linked to the Saints.

Drafting Fashanu at No. 14 overall would hardly be considered a reach. Fashanu projects as a prototypical left tackle and, in most rankings, ranks as the draft’s second-best tackle prospect behind Notre Dame’s Joe Alt. Getting the OT2 on the board at 14th would be a huge win for the Saints, especially if Alt goes to the Chargers at No. 5, as many suspect. If someone between the Chargers and Saints selects Fashanu, look to Alabama tackle JC Latham as another potential target in New Orleans.

Here are a few other rumors concerning the offensive line class of the 2024 NFL Draft:

  • While we mentioned that most rankings see Fashanu as the OT2 in this year’s draft, some have pegged Latham in that draft slot. According to Peter Schrager of NFL Network, some teams like Latham so much that he could be taken as the second offensive tackle off the board. Alabama hasn’t had the best recent history producing offensive tackles under Nick Saban. Evan Neal, Alex Leatherwood, Jedrick Wills, and Jonah Williams all serve as recent examples who have failed to live up to their draft stock. Some see Latham projecting best as a guard at the next level, as he’ll need to continue improving to play tackle in the NFL. If those teams that see him as the second-best tackle in the draft are right, though, Latham could break recent trends for the Crimson Tide.
  • Washington offensive line prospect Troy Fautanu is another player that splits teams on where he will play at the next level. While many see him projecting as an interior lineman in the NFL (the best interior lineman in this year’s draft according to some), Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post tells us that some scouts are starting to believe he can play tackle as a pro, like he did for the Huskies. He has the talent and potential to play any position on NFL offensive lines. As we’ve reported, so far, he has visited the Bengals, Ravens, Jaguars, Steelers Eagles, and Jets.
  • One team who has been labeled as a squad looking to add to the trenches is the Buccaneers. According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay is looking to upgrade at guard, center, and outside linebacker. With the 26th pick in the draft, the Buccaneers can expect to see players like Arizona’s Jordan Morgan and Kansas State’s Cooper Beebe available at guard and, perhaps, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson at center. The top tier of pass rushers should be long gone, but players like UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, Penn State’s Chop Robinson, Western Michigan’s Marshawn Kneeland, and Missouri’s Darius Robinson could be available late in the first round.

Teams Viewing Steelers As Most Likely To Trade For WR?

Known more for drafting and developing wide receivers — often from Day 2 — than trading for them, the Steelers have produced an impressive track record on this front. Over the past 15 years, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens have enjoyed varying levels of success with the team despite coming off the board after Round 1.

It is arguable no team has strung together a run of homegrown WR talent like this in the modern game, but rumblings continue to emerge about the Steelers being ready to pull the trigger on a trade. A report earlier this week indicated the team had inquired about Brandon Aiyuk and was interested in trading for a wideout, and the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora submits another offering in this direction.

Rival execs view the Steelers as the team potentially the most motivated to acquire a receiver via trade. While a Tee Higgins move will not happen — unlikely to be moved, Higgins definitely would not be dealt within the division — teams certainly are monitoring the 49ers regarding an Aiyuk swap.

Although Sean Payton and Broncos GM George Paton said (via the Denver Gazette’s Chris Tomasson) he has spoken with Courtland Sutton recently, the 6-foot-4 wideout showed by far the most chemistry with Russell Wilson last season. The team currently employing Wilson may be interested in reuniting the two, as Sutton is staying away from Broncos workouts in hopes of a new contract.

The Broncos nearly traded Sutton to the Ravens last year, and after their Jerry Jeudy asking price dropped drastically (from a first-rounder to accepting fifth- and sixth-rounders from the Browns), Sutton probably will not cost a second-round pick — Denver’s hope in 2023 — entering his age-29 season. Aiyuk will be more difficult to acquire, and it is worth wondering if the Steelers would pull the trigger, given the fifth-year wideout’s extension price and the AFC North franchise’s success finding receivers in the draft.

This draft is set to produce yet another deep receiver crop, which stands to lower prices in trades. But the Steelers may need more than one starter. Dealing Johnson to Carolina in a deal that brought back cornerback Donte Jackson, Pittsburgh has little surrounding Pickens presently. A slot player and a second boundary option would stand to be in play for the Steelers. The 6-foot-4 Sutton (signed through 2025 on a $15MM-per-year deal) made some of last season’s best catches, working as a deep threat and red zone target (10 2023 TDs) for Wilson. The 6-foot Aiyuk, who is tied to a fifth-year option worth $14.1MM, has displayed a bit more versatility in Kyle Shanahan‘s system.

If the Steelers are to execute a trade, they could devote more draft resources to other positions. Pittsburgh is targeting help at center and tackle, with The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly indicating a right tackle addition is on the team’s radar (subscription required). They hosted 11 O-linemen on “30” visits, including Georgia’s Amarius Mims, Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton, Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga along with interior O-lineman Graham Barton (Duke), Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon) and Zach Frazier (West Virginia), Kaboly adds. They also met with Washington O-lineman Troy Fautanu. Daniel Jeremiah’s big board lists each of these players as top-30 talents; the Steelers pick at No. 20.

The Steelers, who cut two-year center starter Mason Cole, look to be considering moving 2023 first-rounder Broderick Jones — their primary right tackle to close the season — to the left side, where he primarily played in college. That would leave three-year LT starter Dan Moore Jr. in limbo. Pro Football Focus has not been a Moore fan, but the former fourth-round pick — who is going into a contract year — has started 49 career games. After the team drafted Jones to step in for Chukwuma Okorafor, the latter is now with the Patriots. A tackle move — one that may be definitively in the Steelers’ Round 1 plans, as this is a deep class — would stand to give Jones a long-term bookend.

Pittsburgh’s Jackson trade aside, a cornerback will also be targeted — just likely not in Round 1 — according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac. Jackson is in a contract year, while the team cut Patrick Peterson. Mike Tomlin said a Peterson reunion will be considered, but the likely Hall of Famer is going into his age-34 season.

Dulac adds the Steelers also like Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson, whom the Tigers used across the formation. Ranked 39th on Jeremiah’s big board, the 285-pound defender might not be available for Pittsburgh without a second-round trade-up. The Steelers hold the No. 51 overall pick. In fact, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Caplan notes Robinson is expected to be off the board at some point late in the first round. The Steelers have Cameron Heyward under contract for one more season, his age-35 campaign.

NFL Draft Rumors: Cowboys, McCarthy, Robinson

The Cowboys hosted a number of 2024 NFL Draft prospects for “top 30” visits this week. The visiting group included potential first-round targets like Taliese Fuaga, Graham Barton, and Darius Robinson as well as projected Day 2 selection Junior Colson.

Fuaga, an offensive tackle out of Oregon State, and Barton, a projected interior offensive lineman out of Duke, make sense considering the Cowboys’ losses on offensive line this offseason of Tyron Smith and Tyler Biadasz. If Fuaga is able to start, this would allow Dallas to keep Tyler Smith at guard, where he earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2023. In order to land Fuaga, though, the Cowboys would likely have to trade up earlier into the first round. Barton played left tackle for the Blue Devils for the last couple of years, but his early college film at center shows the versatility that he could bring at the NFL level.

Robinson, a defensive end out of Missouri, feels like the typical Cowboys pass rusher selection and adds depth to a position that saw Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler follow former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to Washington. A bigger defensive end, Robinson could provide some versatility across the defensive line and may be available long enough for the Cowboys to trade back to collect some extra picks and still select him. Colson, a linebacker out of Michigan, would be a nice addition to a position that could use some attention with Micah Parsons spending more time at end. While he’s likely a second- or third-round pick, he’s worth note as he’s expected to be the first linebacker off the board.

Here are a couple of other rumors making the rounds in the weeks leading up to this month’s draft:

  • We have seen the draft stock of Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy soaring over the last few weeks. Once considered a tier-two quarterback behind Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels, the polarizing McCarthy has somehow found himself in consideration for the No. 2 overall draft selection. While his stock continues to inflate, Pro Football Network’s Adam Caplan pointed out some of the red flags that have some scouts feeling less than confident about the former Wolverine. McCarthy has been compared to former Steelers’ first-round pick Kenny Pickett “due to his inability to drive the ball down the field.” His strong sense of timing made up for a lack of arm strength in college, but some worry that it will prevent him from being able to make some throws at the NFL level. While he’s almost guaranteed to be a first-round pick due to the top-heavy nature of the position this year, many don’t have a first-round grade on McCarthy.
  • Chop Robinson is set to be the next pass rusher out of Penn State to be selected in the first round. The projected Day 1 edge rusher had already taken visits with the Eagles, Ravens, and Saints, but Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz informs us that visits with the Giants and Jets were scheduled for this past week, as well. Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2 adds that the Texans have Robinson firmly on their radar after meeting with him at the NFL scouting combine.

Draft Notes: Barton, ’30’ Visits, Wilson

The 2024 tackle class has drawn rave reviews in the lead-in to this month’s draft, but Graham Barton is among those expected to play on the inside upon entering the NFL. The Duke product has nevertheless helped his draft stock recently.

Barton was already gaining steam as a rising prospect before his Pro Day, as noted by ESPN’s Jordan Reid. He battled injuries during the 2023 season and was forced to miss the Senior Bowl as a result, but the two-time All-American managed to take part in the Blue Devils’ Pro Day last week. Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda reports Barton’s performance was highly impressive, and it secured his status as a Day 1 prospect.

Following up on the strong workout, Reid notes Barton could now work his way into the top 15 come draft night. Many NFL teams view the first-team All-ACC selection as a center, but he could also see time at guard at the pro level. Wherever he lines up as a rookie, Barton will face high expectations and no doubt draw the attention of many teams near the top of the order in need of reinforcements up front.

Here are some other draft-related notes from around the NFL:

  • Missouri’s Darius Robinson has also seen his stock rise in the wake of the Senior Bowl, and NFL teams are keeping an eye on him. The Steelers recently hosted him on a ’30’ visit, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. He adds Robinson has 20 meetings with teams on the books, making him one of several potential first-rounders who will remain busy as the draft approaches. O-lineman Taliese Fuaga is among the prospects who also met with the Steelers, as noted by Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Staying in Pennsylvania, the Eagles hosted Laiatu Latu on a ’30’ visit, Geoff Mosher of Inside the Birds reports. The UCLA product is one of the best edge rushers in the 2024 class, having earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2023. His college resume includes a medical retirement, however, so there will be risk involved in selecting him. Philadelphia and all other prospective suitors will no doubt have a vested interest in Latu’s medical examinations. The Eagles traded Haason Reddick to the Jets, creating the need for a new investment along the edge.
  • The inside linebacker class is not believed to have a Day 1 prospect, but Edgerrin Cooper is among the top options teams will have to choose from. The Texas A&M product had a strong Pro Day showing, and he has a number of ’30’ visits lined up. Per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson, the list of interested teams includes the Texans, Eagles, Cowboys, Panthers, Chargers and Buccaneers. Cooper was a consensus All-American in 2023 after racking up 84 tackles (including 17 for loss), eight sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
  • Pittsburgh, Dallas, Carolina and Tampa Bay are among the teams also set to host Western Kentucky wideout Malachi Corley, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo notes. Garafolo adds the Browns, Ravens, Seahawks and 49ers have also booked a visit with the small school standout. Corley is a member of a very deep receiver class, but his 180 catches, 2,279 yards and 22 touchdowns over the past two seasons along with a strong pre-draft process has put him firmly on the draft radar.
  • Marshawn Kneeland has also drawn considerable pre-draft attention. The Western Michigan defensive end has either already met with (or plans to visit) the Eagles along with the Chiefs, Saints, Jaguars, Jets, Vikings, Colts and Commanders, per Pauline. Kneeland spent four years with the MAC program, totaling 12.5 sacks and 28 tackles for loss while establishing himself as a power rusher and strong run defender.
  • While a number of prospects have helped their stock recently, the opposite is of course true of others. Michigan receiver Roman Wilson appears to have fallen into the latter category, per ESPN’s Matt Miller. He notes Wilson is in danger of falling to the late second round or early in the third, something which could become increasingly possible if a run on the draft’s other pass-catchers takes place. Wilson averaged 16.4 yards per catch and scored 12 touchdowns on a run-heavy Wolverines offense last season, but his size (6-0, 180) and mediocre statistics from his three other campaigns could make him less appealing than other WR options.

AFC Notes: Tebow, Watt, Jaguars, Ware, Bills

Tim Tebow, who has been frequently linked to the Jaguars over the years, purchased a $1.4MM home in Jacksonville, according to Andrew Thurlow of the Jacksonville Business Journal. Of course, the Jaguars have their quarterback of the future in Blake Bortles and there is zero indication that they’d be interested in bringing Tebow aboard, who last played in the NFL in 2012. But, if they ever want to audition a backup, the former Florida QB will be a hop, skip, and a jump away. Here’s more out of the AFC..

  • With speculation that a new deal for Texans defensive end J.J. Watt could get a contract extension in the ballpark of $23MM per year, Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap takes a stab at what kind of contract the disruptive DE could fetch. Ultimately, Fitzgerald concludes that a four year contract worth $57.6MM could make sense for both sides. As the Texans are going through a remake of their roster, it could make both football sense and PR sense to hammer out a new deal with Watt this year.
  • Jaguars coach Gus Bradley expects the club’s offense to be more balanced this year. Ryan O’Halloran of The Florida Times-Union says that new RB Toby Gerhart will be a huge key towards making that happen.
  • Thanks in part to cupping therapy, new Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware says that he’s feeling great, writes Mike Klis of the Denver Post. “I feel better than I did the last two years going into the season,” Ware said. “Stronger, faster. I feel flexible.”
  • The Bills have waived wide receiver Cordell Robinson and cornerback Darius Robinson, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
  • The Patriots re-signed wide receiver Derrick Johnson, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (on Twitter).

Bills Sign 10 Undrafted Free Agents

THURSDAY, 3:30pm: The Bills have added Minnesota defensive back Michael Carter to their undrafted free agent class, tweets Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550AM.

TUESDAY, 12:23pm: The Bills have signed nine undrafted free agents, the team announced today on its website. All nine of the newest Bills are defensive players. Here’s the full list:

  • Derek Brim, S, Buffalo
  • Deon Broomfield, S, Iowa State
  • James Gaines, LB, Miami (FL)
  • Damien Jacobs, DT, Florida
  • Bryan Johnson, LB, West Texas A&M
  • Darrin Kitchens, LB, Florida
  • Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt
  • Darius Robinson, CB, Clemson
  • Colby Way, DL, Buffalo