Taliese Fuaga

Latest On Jets’ First-Round Draft Targets

With at least four quarterbacks expected to be drafted early in the first round of this week’s draft, the Jets are among the teams well-positioned to land a valuable prospect at another position. Set to select 10th overall, New York appears to have a shortlist of options.

[RELATED: Jets Aiming For Day 2 Or 3 QB Selection]

The Jets could stand to add a pass-catcher in the first round, and the team’s offensive tackle acquisitions (Tyron SmithMorgan Moses) are likely short-term solutions. As a result, tight end Brock Bowers and some of the top offensive linemen slated to be available at No. 10 will be of interest to New York. Should one of the three highest-rated receivers fall to New York, however, a selection (or even small trade up the order) could be in play.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini reports the Jets could select one of Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers or Rome Odunze in the event one of them were to still be available when the team is on the clock. That would represent a surprise, especially if the Bears (set to select first overall but also ninth) eschewed the opportunity to add a receiver. To that point, Cimini adds New York could attempt to trade with Atlanta for the eighth selection and in doing so maneuver ahead of Chicago.

Aside from the receiver spot, though, Bowers could very well be a realistic Jets target. New York hosted the first-team All-American, and during a pre-draft press conference last week general manager Joe Douglas stated a willingness to spend Day 1 capital on a tight end. The Jets are currently considered Bowers’ floor as a result, but his selection earlier in the top 10 would lead the team in another direction.

Cimini notes Douglas and Co. are “interested” in the top offensive tackles available, which comes as no surprise. He names Notre Dame’s Joe Alt, Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga and Washington’s Troy Fautanu as the top options on New York’s board. Alt – who for quite some time has been a very popular selection mocked to the Titans (No. 7) and is believed to be on the Chargers’ (No. 5) radar – is unlikely to be available when the Jets pick. As such, Fuaga and Fautanu will be names to watch closely as the team contemplates a potential selection between them and Bowers.

New York has frequently been linked to a tackle addition, and that position is seen as a strength of the 2024 class. A move down the board (which could help compensate for the team’s lack of a second-round pick) could also be in play, but having Bowers or a high-profile tackle on the board would likely make it difficult for Douglas to turn down the option of staying put. Regardless of which position the team lands on, the Jets’ offense is in position to receive a notable boost on Day 1.

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.

NFC South Rumors: Bucs, Saints, Wonnum

Moving on from Shaquil Barrett after four years, the Buccaneers do have some options following that release. They saw 2023 Day 3 pick YaYa Diaby lead the team in sacks, and they signed Randy Gregory to pair with the ascending rusher and 2021 first-rounder Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. Granted, the Bucs have not seen tremendous production from Tryon-Shoyinka. Three years after that pick, the team is looking into first-round-caliber edge rushers once again. Already hosting Jared Verse on a visit, the Bucs have done “a ton” of work on UCLA’s Laiatu Latu and Penn State’s Chop Robinson, ESPN.com’s Matt Miller notes. The team was active on the pro-day circuit as well, speaking to a host of edges. The Bucs, who saw only one front-seven player (Diaby) eclipse six sacks last season, hold the No. 26 pick in this year’s draft.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Regularly investing early-round resources in their O-line, the Saints are in a bind at tackle. All-Pro right tackle Ryan Ramczyk is no longer a lock to play in 2024, and 2022 first-round pick Trevor Penning has not proven the answer yet at left tackle. The player the Saints kicked outside to replace Penning last season, Andrus Peat, is unsigned. This uncertainty has brought Saints connections to Penn State’s Olu Fashanu and Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga, ESPN.com’s Jordan Reid offers. This is a good year to need a tackle, with several first-round-caliber options available. Daniel Jeremiah’s NFL.com big board, which slots Fuaga 10th and Fashanu 15th overall, includes seven tackles in the top 25.
  • Going into his 14th NFL season, Cameron Jordan recently underwent surgery to address a badly sprained ankle, according to NOLA.com’s Matthew Paras. The longtime Saints edge anchor suffered the injury in late November, and while he played through it, the malady limited him down the stretch. The Saints believe the ankle issue contributed heavily to Jordan’s disappointing two-sack season. Last season marked Jordan’s first with fewer than 7.5 sacks since his 2011 rookie year. Jordan, 34, joins Chase Young as Saints D-ends who will be on the mend heading into the team’s offseason program. Young, who signed a one-year deal with much of its value in per-game roster bonuses, underwent neck surgery shortly after signing with the Saints.
  • On the subject of pass rusher injuries in this division, the Panthers will not have one of their edge pickups to start the offseason. Wonnum will not be available for Carolina’s OTAs, The Athletic’s Joe Person tweets. The former Vikings contributor suffered a torn quad near the end of last season. The Panthers gave Wonnum a two-year, $12.5MM deal; of that amount, however, only $1.25MM came guaranteed at signing.
  • Antonio Hamilton‘s recent Falcons contract is worth $1.4MM, ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein tweets. Hamilton, who played for $1.5MM last season with the Cardinals, secured $985K guaranteed in his recent Atlanta agreement. Eddie Goldman, who has vacillated on retirement since his 2022 Bears release, did not see any guaranteed money on a vet-minimum deal. The Falcons, who have ex-Bears GM Ryan Pace in their front office, are giving Goldman a third chance. The veteran nose tackle has not played since 2021.

Draft Notes: Titans, Alt, Chargers, Jags, Hawks, Cardinals, Bucs, Pats, Latu, Rams

Cutting Andre Dillard and not replacing him to this point, the Titans have a clear left tackle need going into a draft loaded with high-end prospects at the position. The Titans are “definitely” interested in Joe Alt, ESPN.com’s Matt Miller writes, noting the team’s recent visit and Combine meeting with the two-time All-American. But the Chargers should be considered a team to watch for the Notre Dame alum. The Bolts, whose first-round slot (No. 5) is two in front of the Titans’, have a clear wide receiver need but have hired a coach (Jim Harbaugh) who has not emphasized that position.

Alt continues to come up in connection to the Chargers at 5, ESPN’s Jordan Reid adds, and SI.com’s Albert Breer is not sure the Titans will have a chance at the decorated blocker due to the Bolts staying drafting Alt at 5. Alt would replace Trey Pipkins at right tackle in this scenario. Alt was a left tackle for the Fighting Irish and would step in there immediately if he lasted until the Titans at 7. One avenue for Tennessee to have a shot here would be if the Bolts trade down — a move they have made it known they are willing to make. Other quality tackles like Alabama’s JC Latham and Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga could be options for the Bolts if they move down, Reid adds.

Here is the latest from the draft:

  • Personnel around the NFL are tying the Jaguars to a cornerback investment at No. 17, Reid adds in the above-referenced ESPN piece. Jacksonville has hosted both Alabama CBsTerrion Arnold, Kool-Aid McKinstry — and has a need at the position due to the Darious Williams cut. The Jags signed Ronald Darby, but the 30-year-old CB is signed to a two-year deal that can be shed easily in 2025. A young corner to pair with Tyson Campbell would make sense. With Josh Allen signed long term and Trevor Lawrence perhaps on deck this year, the Jags finding quality starters on rookie contracts will be paramount.
  • The Cardinals and Seahawks have hosted Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson on visits this week, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero notes. The ex-Nittany Lions sack artist has been busy during the draft run-up, having already met with the Eagles, Ravens, Saints, Giants and Jets. Robinson would come into play for the Cardinals if they moved down from No. 4, but Arizona — which certainly needs help on the edge — also holds the No. 27 choice courtesy of its Texans trade early in last year’s draft. The Seahawks hold the No. 16 selection. Mel Kiper Jr.’s ESPN.com mock draft sends Robinson to the Buccaneers at 26.
  • Speaking of the Bucs, they recently brought in Western Kentucky wide receiver Malachi Corley for a pre-draft meeting, Pelissero tweets. The Bucs have plenty of money allocated to the receiver position, with both Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on deals north of the $20MM-AAV mark. Corley profiles as a second-round option in a deep receiver draft, with teams who pass on filling a WR need in Round 1 likely paying attention to the ex-Hilltoppers standout’s status entering Day 2. The Browns, Ravens, Seahawks and 49ers have also scheduled Corley visits.
  • Moving to another Day 2-level wideout, Troy Franklin is believed to have scheduled a Patriots meeting, ProFootballNetwork.com’s Adam Caplan tweets. The Patriots not landing Calvin Ridley places them on the radar for a wideout in Round 2, assuming they fill their QB need at No. 3 overall. The Pats did sign K.J. Osborn and kept Kendrick Bourne off the market, but the team’s rookie QB will need more help.
  • Most teams to meet with UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu have cleared him medically, per Sportskeeda.com’s Tony Pauline, who indicates the Rams are one of them. A neck issue forced a Latu medical retirement in 2020, and the ex-Washington recruit missed the 2021 season. He re-emerged to post back-to-back double-digit sack seasons in L.A., and ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop notes edge rusher is a priority for the Rams. With Aaron Donald gone and the team not making any additions here in free agency, that adds up. The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year has already met with the Eagles, Bears, Broncos, Vikings and Cardinals.

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.

Bengals Host Washington OT Troy Fautanu, Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga

The Bengals got a long look at a pair of top offensive line prospects this week. According to Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz, the Bengals hosted Washington offensive tackle Troy Fautanu on a top-30 visit on Tuesday. The Bengals also have a top-3o visit scheduled with Oregon State offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga, per Bleacher Report’s Ryan Fowler.

After redshirting as a freshman and playing sparingly during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns, Fautanu emerged as a full-time starter in Washington between 2022 and 2023. This culminated in a 2023 campaign where he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors. That performance also propelled him up the draft boards, as Fautanu is expected to hear his name called at some point during the first round.

Fuaga is one of the offensive tackles competing with Fautanu to be selected in the first round. The Oregon State product was also a first-team All-Pac-12 honoree this past season. Scouts have lauded the prospect’s offensive line IQ, and there’s some belief he could play both tackle and guard in the NFL.

The Bengals brought in Trent Brown to play opposite Orlando Brown Jr., so the team doesn’t desperately need an OT. However, as Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic noted yesterday, the Bengals still need a swing tackle, and they’d love for a rookie to provide Brown with some competition at right tackle.

If the Bengals do opt for a first-round offensive tackle, Dehner can’t envision the coaching staff playing around with the rookie’s position. Alex Cappa is firmly entrenched in one guard spot, and the Bengals “really like the progress” of Cordell Volson, per Dehner.

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.

NFL Draft Rumors: Tackles, Senior Bowl, Rakestraw

The 2024 NFL Draft class may feel relatively light at certain positions like quarterback and running back, but there’s one position that has scouts and coaches excited. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, this year’s offensive tackles group has the potential to match 2020’s class, which saw six tackles selected in the first round.

Four names have been regarded as likely first-rounders for about a year now, so the projections of Notre Dame’s Joe Alt (ranks 6th overall in Dane Brugler of The Athletic’s top 100 prospects), Penn State’s Olu Fashanu (9th), Alabama’s JC Latham (13th), and Georgia’s Amarius Mims (17th) come as no surprise. After some impressive performances in Mobile, Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga (16th) and Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton (18th) have joined those four in the range of the first round.

The top-end depth doesn’t end there, either. There are several other prospects that sit just outside that first-round range in Brugler’s rankings that still find themselves in consideration to be Day 1 picks because of strong Senior Bowl performances and a general interest in the position. Arizona’s Jordan Morgan (32nd), Houston’s Patrick Paul (55th), and Texas’ Christian Jones (NR) all sit on that fringe, according to Fowler.

With these nine guys and still more others pushing for Day 1 money, we’re bound to see a change in recent trends of five or fewer tackles taken in the first round. Even if this year’s class fails to match 2020’s six first-round picks, which seems unlikely as of now, the depth in the first two rounds of this class have a lot of teams excited about what’s available.

Here are a couple of other draft rumors from around the country, starting with more updates out of Mobile:

  • In a mailbag Q&A this week, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer gave his take on some prospects who improved their standing after this year’s Senior Bowl. Breer sees Fuaga and Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell (11th in Brugler’s rankings) as big risers coming out of Mobile. While both players were already expected to be Day 1 picks, Breer believes that they’ve played their way into the top half of the first round. He also touts Michigan wide receiver Roman Wilson (45th) as a recent riser. While Wilson may not hear his name called in the first round, Breer thinks he may have pushed his way up to the second.
  • One player who wasn’t able to improve his stock at the Senior Bowl was Missouri cornerback Ennis Rakestraw (48th). Rakestraw had been dealing with a core muscle injury for much of his redshirt junior year before opting to undergo surgery at the close of the season in December, according to Matt Miller of ESPN. After missing out on the college all-star game due to the surgery, Rakestraw, who has been considered a fringe first-rounder, was unable to secure his potential Day 1 status. The young corner has shown a resiliency in coming back from an ACL tear his sophomore year, but his injury history may be enough to push him into the second round.