Preston Williams

East Notes: Jets, Bills, Eagles, Dolphins

The Jets inked former Broncos starter Trevor Siemian to a one-year, $2MM this offseason with the plan to use him as a backup to quarterback Sam Darnold. But as Connor Hughes of The Athletic writes, fellow signal-caller Davis Webb was more impressive during the spring. Webb, a Giants 2017 third-round pick that the Jets claimed off waivers last year, doesn’t have any NFL experience under his belt, while Siemian has started 24 pro games. Gang Green could potentially release Siemian, but they’d be saddled with $1MM in dead money. An alternative, per Hughes, could involve trading Webb for a mid-round pick, although it’s unclear if another club would sacrifice any real draft capital in exchange for an unproven quarterback.

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

  • The Bills have added a number of running backs to complement LeSean McCoy, and the veteran was especially pleased about Buffalo’s signing of Frank Gore, per Nate Mendelson of BuffaloBills.com. “I actually was begging him to come,” McCoy said. “Two years ago we were trying to get Frank and coach (Sean McDermott) asked if I’d like to play with him and I said ‘yeah.’” Buffalo signed not only Gore, but fellow free agent T.J. Yeldon, and selected Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary in the third round. Still, the team has been adamant that McCoy remains the starter, although that’s only invited more speculation that he could be traded at some point before the regular season begins.
  • Derek Barnett missed the final 10 games of the 2018 campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery, but the Eagles are still excited about the former first-round defensive end as he enters his third NFL season, according to Dave Spadaro of PhiladelphiaEagles.com. “I’d say every time he’s on the field, he’s rewarding our investment in him,” general manager Howie Roseman said. “We have a lot of confidence in him as a player and he’s a huge part of our football team. He’s shown that this isn’t a guy that’s going into his third year and we haven’t seen what he’s done. We’ve seen what he’s done in big games. We saw what he was doing last year before he got hurt. We expect him to come in and be a huge part of our team.” Now entering his age-23 campaign, Barnett has posted 7.5 sacks and 49 pressures over two years in Philadelphia.
  • Undrafted receiver Preston Williams made a name for himself during the Dolphins‘ offseason program, writes Barry Jackson the Miami Herald. Williams was especially valuable in red zone drills, per Jackson, who also notes Williams is now working with longtime NFL pass-catcher Brandon Marshall (thanks to a connection through now-Miami quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick). Williams, who posted 96 receptions for 1,345 and 14 touchdowns during his final year at Colorado State, is behind DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, and others on the Dolphins’ receiver depth chart.

Dolphins Sign 18 UDFAs

We’ll wrap up the 2019 undrated free agent process with the Dolphins, who have announced the signing of the following 18 UDFAs:

Most evaluators pegged Miami’s six-draft class as mediocre, but the Dolphins may have hit it out of the park with their undrafted free agents, as Thor Nystrom of Rotoworld ranked the Dolphins’ UDFAs as the second-best crop in the NFL (behind only the Saints). Calhoun is particularly interesting, as the poor state of Miami’s interior offensive line could give him a real chance at a roster spot. Williams, who was barred from testing at the scouting combine due to a 2017 altercation with a woman, is another Dolphins UDFA with a shot to make the 53-man roster, as Brad Kelly of The Draft Network writes.

NFL Allows Banned Prospects To Interview

The NFL will allow Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, and Colorado State wide receiver Preston Williams to participate in “limited interviews” at the NFL Draft Combine, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Those three players are still barred from participating in drills, but they will be allowed to speak with teams and undergo medical testing

However, the news doesn’t do much for Simmons, a projected first round pick. Simmons will not be able to attend the combine because of to his ACL, so clubs will have to wait before speaking with him (Twitter link).

For Ferguson and Williams, this is potentially good news. All three players were barred from doing drills at the combine due to red flags, but they’ll have an opportunity to clear the air with interested clubs.

Simmons, who stands 6’4″, 300 pounds, appeared in 37 total games in his three-year career with the Bulldogs, managing 159 tackles (30.5 for loss), six sacks, and five forced fumbles during that time. He was named first-team All-SEC in both 2017 and 2018, and this season won the Conerly Trophy as the top college football player in the state of Mississippi. He had buzz as a top-15 selection, but the ACL tear he suffered in training could lower his ceiling.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL To Let Players Banned From Combine To Attend Some Parts

The NFL is softening its stance toward the college players they initially barred from the combine. “The NFL sent a memo to GMs and coaches informing them LA Tech DE Jaylon Ferguson, MSU DT Jeffery Simmons, and CSU WR Preston Williams will be permitted to travel to Indy to undergo the same comprehensive medical evaluations given to invited prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine”, tweeted Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Rapoport noted in a followup tweet that “These players will get transportation to Indy, along with meals and a hotel if they are required to stay overnight. These prospects will not be permitted to participate in any other Combine evals or events.” The players had previously been banned from attending the combine at all. They’ll be evaluated by doctors in Indianapolis so that teams can have full confidence in their medicals, but they won’t be participating in the televised on-field drills.

All the players will do most of the drills they would’ve done at the combine at their pro days anyway, so it likely won’t have too much of an impact on their draft stock. Simmons’ draft stock already tanked earlier this week when he tore his ACL while training for the draft. He had been projected to go in the top-half of the first round, but will now likely fall out of the first day entirely.

Simmons and Williams had their bans announced weeks ago, but Ferguson’s was a much more recent development. Just two days ago, he surprisingly had his invitation rescinded. All three players were being disciplined under the league’s recently instituted policy that any player found to have been convicted of a felony, or of a misdemeanor that involved violence, wouldn’t be admitted to the combine. Ferguson’s incident is viewed to have been minor, and Rapoport tweeted at the time that teams see it as “certainly not disqualifying.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Jeffery Simmons Barred From Combine

The NFL Draft scouting combine is weeks away, but one of this year’s top prospects will not be taking part in the event. Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, a potential top 10 pick, will not be invited because he does not meet the criteria for the NFL’s policy regarding past issues involving violence, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hears (Twitter link). The same goes for Colorado State wide receiver Preston Williams

Simmons was arrested for simple assault in 2016 after repeatedly striking a woman. For his part, Simmons says he was attempting to stop said woman from assaulting his sister. The incident occurred just before Simmons began his collegiate career and he was allowed to enter MSU while completing counseling programs. Williams, meanwhile, was arrested in 2017 for an altercation involving a woman.

So far, these are the only two known players to be barred from the combine for this year, sources tell Pelissero. However, invitations have been pulled in past after failed background checks.

Simmons, who stands 6’4″, 300 pounds, appeared in 37 total games in his three-year career with the Bulldogs, managing 159 tackles (30.5 for loss), six sacks, and five forced fumbles during that time. He was named first-team All-SEC in both 2017 and 2018, and this season won the Conerly Trophy as the top college football player in the state of Mississippi.

Despite the red flags, Simmons is widely expected to be an early first-round selection. CBSSports.com ranks him as the draft’s No. 7 overall prospect.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.