Quenton Nelson

Draft Notes: 2019 QBs, Browns, Jackson

A possible dearth of quarterback talent in the 2019 draft class may have contributed the first-round aggressiveness of teams in recent years. The Bears, Chiefs, Texans, Jets, Bills and Cardinals traded up to land their hopeful quarterbacks of the future the past two drafts, and Albert Breer of SI.com notes some of the impetus behind these moves may be coming from issues teams have with the crop of passers likely set to populate 2019 big boards.

Not right now, there isn’t one (that would go in the first round as it stands),” an AFC college scouting director told Breer. “The kids at Auburn (Jarrett Stidham), Missouri (Drew Lock) and N.C. State (Ryan Finley), by the end of it, could work their way into the conversation. But on the surface, based on current performance, it’d be a no. Now, if they ascend, which they should, those three guys have a chance to get there.”

Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN.com (Insider link) has both Lock (No. 16) and Oregon’s Justin Herbert (No. 18) in his early top 25 for 2019. Issues with Lock’s completion percentage (57.8 percent is the senior-to-be’s career high) and Herbert’s toughness, per Breer, are early concerns for respective first-round hopefuls. While events of recent years show it’s a good bet a quarterback will be taken in the 2019 first round, Breer compares this crop — at this early juncture — to the 2013 group that saw only E.J. Manuel chosen in Round 1 instead of other recent classes that saw the likes of Jared Goff, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston emerge as obvious down-the-line high draft choices in advance of their final college campaigns.

Here’s more on this year’s draft, courtesy of Breer:

  • Breer reports the Browns “loved both” of the Denzel Ward/Bradley Chubb duo, but the team felt the Ohio State cornerback possessed upside potential the N.C. State defensive end didn’t. Ward started just for one season but sat behind Buckeyes cornerbacks that are now in the NFL. Cleveland brass also didn’t view Chubb as a Myles Garrett– or Jadeveon Clowney-like athletic specimen. Plus, Gregg Williams said the team’s need at corner was greater than the one opposite Garrett. Also noting Ward, who went to Nordonia High School in the Cleveland area, pitched his local ties and desire to help a Browns resurgence, Breer writes the Browns did their homework on this difficult decision and did not make an impulse call on draft night.
  • If the Eagles did not trade their first-round pick to the Ravens, they were going to consider eventual Broncos wideout Courtland Sutton at No. 32, per Breer. Sutton visited the Eagles in early April. Philly has Alshon Jeffery, a player to whom Sutton’s been compared, signed long-term and has Nelson Agholor controlled through 2019. However, the defending Super Bowl champions still signed Mike Wallace and Markus Wheaton, the latter a post-draft addition.
  • Ravens brass needed to hear from John Harbaugh the coaching staff was confident the team could win with Lamar Jackson before trading up to take him, and Breer reports Harbaugh, OC Marty Morhinweg, senior offensive assistant Greg Roman and QBs coach James Urban all developed a plan for the rookie before Ozzie Newsome made the trade with the Eagles. Both Mornhinweg and Urban were in their same positions under Andy Reid on the 2010 Eagles, when Michael Vick resurfaced as a top-flight weapon after previously working intermittently in certain packages. Roman’s work adjusting the 2012 49ers’ offense for Colin Kaepernick also played a role here, Breer writes. The Ravens look to be preparing Jackson sets already.
  • The first four rookies to sign their deals all had offset language built into the contracts, Breer tweets. Da’Ron Payne, Josh Rosen, Marcus Davenport and Quenton Nelson saw their teams include offsets in their deals. Offset language provided one of the sticky points in Joey Bosa‘s 2016 holdout, and the Chargers won out. So far, teams are doing the same with their 2018 top picks.

Colts Sign First-Round Pick Quenton Nelson

The Colts have officially signed the bulk of their draft class. On Friday, the team announced deals with the following picks: 

The Colts wound up with an oversized draft class of eleven players, but they have only two rookies left to sign. Once second round linebacker Darius Leonard and second round guard Braden Smith put pen to paper, they’ll be done.

Nelson was widely regarded as one of the best overall talents in this year’s draft, but the early run on quarterbacks helped guide him to the Colts at No. 6. Frankly, that worked out great for the Colts as they desperately need to protect quarterback Andrew Luck this season. The QB fever allowed Chris Ballard to land this year’s top rated offensive lineman in the draft while adding two 2018 second-round picks and a 2019 second-round choice from the Jets as he moved down from No. 3 to No. 6. It’s too early to grade any team’s draft, but everyone can agree that the Colts did well for themselves in terms of value.

Nelson, a 6’5″, 235-pound lineman, boasts tremendous power and the ability to act as a double team blocker. Many feel that Nelson is one of the best bets to succeed out of this year’s top 10.

He’s so unique because he’s big, but he’s not fat. He’s one of the best run blockers I’ve ever evaluated, but he’s not a liability in pass protection like Mike Iupati is,” one NFC team personnel executive told NFL.com before the draft. “He’s also an alpha who can bring and ass-kicking mindset into your position room.”

AFC Draft Fallout: Browns, Jackson, Colts

The Browns listened to offers for their No. 4 overall pick, but the talks for that spot did not escalate too far. Four teams contacted John Dorsey about potentially moving into that position, Peter King of SI.com reports, noting just one offered a package including a 2019 first-rounder. King estimates the Cardinals were that team. However, Dorsey said the franchise interested in moving up to No. 4 was interested in a quarterback that the Browns GM knew going to be available.

I’m coming up for one player and one player only, and that’s Baker Mayfield.” the anonymous exec told Dorsey, who relayed this to King. “I knew all along it wasn’t going to happen.”

Mayfield visited the Cardinals before the draft, and while it’s uncertain if they were the team that offered a 2019 first-rounder, their No. 15 draft position being the lowest of the QB-needy teams would make such a proposal logical. Arizona ended up with Josh Rosen, moving up five spots without having to sacrifice a first- or second-round pick to do so.

Here’s more from Cleveland and the rest of the latest draft fallout.

  • New Browns vice president of football operations Alonzo Highsmith said for months he had Sam Darnold rated ahead of Baker Mayfield in a succession that went Darnold, Mayfield, Rosen, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen. But Mayfield’s visit changed the new Cleveland exec’s tune. “From the start of this college football season to the end of the season, I had Darnold No. 1 and Baker No. 2On our way through everything, you couldn’t tell me Darnold wasn’t the best,” Highsmith said (via Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository). “Then comes the part where you meet them off the field. You watch their workouts. You watch everything. And Baker blew me away. Highly, highly intelligent. Highly competitive. And he had a trait that some of the good ones have. I call it efficacy. That includes the power to effect other people. I thought that of all the quarterbacks I watched, he stood out far and above the other guys. When he walked into a room, you knew he was there.”
  • Lamar Jackson‘s pre-draft process did not go smoothly, with CBS Sports’ Joel Corry reporting teams had trouble scheduling workouts and meetings with him. The quarterback also experienced difficulties breaking down plays on teams’ whiteboards at the Combine. Corry notes Jackson’s decision to not hire an agent could have cost him some money on his rookie contract, with the Ravens being able to get him at No. 32 after a contingent in their draft room lobbied for him at 16.
  • Chris Ballard said, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, the Colts‘ decision to make Quenton Nelson this year’s No. 6 overall pick was the easiest draft decision he’d made in 19 years (Twitter link). However, if Bradley Chubb would have remained on the board, Ballard admitted (via Holder, on Twitter) it would have been a much tougher call. Had the Broncos and Bills been able to swing a deal, the Colts would have been faced with that decision. But when the Bills contacted the Colts about a trade for No. 6, Ballard appeared to intimate he was fixated on Nelson.
  • Fort Hays State defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd will be stationed at defensive end in the Jets‘ 3-4 scheme, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News notes. Despite weighing 315 pounds, Shepherd will be in line to potentially take Muhammad Wilkerson‘s spot opposite Leonard Williams come training camp.

NFL Draft Rumors: Bills, Broncos, Chubb

Day 1 of the NFL Draft is in the books, but there are plenty of big-name players left on the board. As Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link) notes, quarterback Mason Rudolph, running back Derrius Guice, tight end Dallas Goedert, offensive lineman Connor Williams, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, wide receivers Anthony Miller, D.J. Chark, and Courtland Sutton, defensive ends Harold Landry and Sam Hubbard, and cornerbacks Josh Jackson and Isaiah Oliver are all available as we get set for the second round.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft news:

  • The Bills and Broncos had agreed to a trade based on who was available; but Broncos decided not to pass up on Bradley Chubb at No. 5 overall, Schefter tweets. Things worked out just fine for the Bills, however, as they were able to move up to the No. 7 spot to select quarterback Josh Allen. The move to No. 7 cost the Bills the No. 12 pick and a pair of second-rounders (No. 53 and No. 56), but they did not have to part with the No. 22 pick, which they later used to move up to No. 16 for linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
  • The Bears surprisingly tried to trade up from the No. 8 pick, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. It’s not clear who they were targeting, but they were able to land Georgia’s Roquan Smith, who many feel has the potential to be a top-tier inside linebacker.
  • Colts GM Chris Ballard says he had an opportunity to trade back from No. 6, but the team would have had to move back too far for their comfort (Twitter link via Mike Chappell of CBS4). Ultimately, they stood pat and landed Quenton Nelson with the sixth pick.
  • The Colts had Smith and Nelson close on their board, but they ultimately favored Nelson because of the need to protect quarterback Andrew Luck, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets.
  • Browns GM John Dorsey says about half a dozen teams wanted to trade up to No. 4, but the value never was attractive enough for him to pull the trigger (Twitter link via Mike Jones of USA Today). The Browns arguably could have traded down and still landed Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward, but they apparently did not want to take that chance.

Latest On Giants’ No. 2 Pick

As Round 1 looms in six days, Saquon Barkley has surged to the center of the Giants’ radar screen. While that interest is real, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv, this shouldn’t be viewed as a surefire pick.

There are some at Giants headquarters who think passing on a possible franchise quarterback “would be nuts,” per Vacchiano, who adds Sam Darnold likely remains the quarterback Big Blue would target (if he’s available). The Giants do not appear to be interested in Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen, and Vacchiano adds the team doesn’t seem to be as sure about this quarterback class as the one 14 years ago that produced their current starter.

Josh Rosen‘s stock may have taken a slight hit compared to where he was at the end of his final UCLA season, but one source informed Vacchiano he should not be ruled out of a New York selection. He was believed by some to be the favorite here early in the pre-draft process. A report earlier this month indicated the Giants were down on Rosen, but we are in peak smokescreen time.

Barkley is likely the No. 1 player on the Giants’ board, Vacchiano notes, adding that the team appears to prefer him to Bradley Chubb and may just view the Penn State sensation as an too much of a talent to pass up, regardless of positional value. ESPN’s Todd McShay has heard immense Barkley praise coming out of New York lately, and PFR readers’ early consensus is Barkley will be Big Apple-bound.

While the Giants are high on Chubb and Quenton Nelson, Vacchiano writes these two are likelier fits if they trade down, pointing to the Notre Dame guard in particular in a trade-down scenario. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reported Nelson was a top-three player on New York’s board and a target if the team trades down. If the Giants were to move down and target Chubb, they probably wouldn’t be able to drop too far. Any trade-down move, though, may be less likely than the franchise just picking its preferred prospect.

Why would we (trade down) and pass on either the best quarterback or best player on our board?” one Giants source told Vacchiano.

This is the highest pick the Giants have held since 1981, when they landed Lawrence Taylor, and Dave Gettleman has repeatedly said he would like a “gold jacket” player with his first pick as GM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Fitzpatrick, Jackson

Is the stock of Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick slipping? That’s the sense Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com (on Twitter) gets. Mortensen, personally, feels that Fitzpatrick is one of the three or four best overall talents in this year’s draft and one “proven evaluator not picking in the top 10” tells Mort that Fitzpatrick, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, and Saquon Barkley made up this year’s top four.

Here’s the latest NFL Draft buzz:

  • Several NFL sources tell Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that they really like Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Raanan expects there to be five QBs off the board in the top 20. Jackson is one of the more fascinating players in this year’s draft as some evaluators have written him off as an NFL QB, despite his tremendous athleticism.
  • On Friday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reported that LSU stars Arden Key and Derrius Guice could slip in the draft due to off-field concerns. Within the same piece, Pelissero touches on UCF cornerback Mike Hughes and Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Hughes left the UNC football program two years ago when he was accused of sexual assault, but he maintains his innocence and teams believe his version of events, Pelissero hears. Callaway, meanwhile, has a host of red flags that figure to tank his stock. Callaway was cleared of a sexual assault allegation, but he argued in his Title IX hearing that he was too “stoned” to have intercourse, which is troubling considering a past citation for marijuana. He was also charged with two third-degree felonies for his role in a credit card scam. Callaway might be one of the the most talented WRs in this year’s class, but he could fall late in the draft due to all of his issues. It also doesn’t help that Callaway didn’t impress at his pro day.

Poll: Who Will Be First Non-QB Selected?

Quarterbacks are dominating this year’s draft discussion even more than the NFL’s marquee position’s prospects usually do. With the possibility of four signal-callers going in the top five, it opens the door for a wide variety of scenarios.

But with this many passers projected to go high, teams that either do not need a quarterback (this would include the Browns at No. 4, if they keep their pick) — or franchises on the fence about selecting one in the top five (see: Giants, Broncos) — could find themselves in position to land an impact talent that may not have been available to them in another year.

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about the top non-QB in this draft, either. Players like Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb and Quenton Nelson are high on draft boards. Denzel Ward may be as well, with Roquan Smith having visited teams holding top-10 picks. So, who goes first?

Chubb and Barkley have made the most noise here, with the latest coming out of the Big Apple aligning the Giants with the Penn State running back. Viewed as a superior talent when compared to recent No. 4 overall choices Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette, Barkley has been connected to the Giants at No. 2 and the Browns at No. 4. Although the Browns are not expected to bypass a quarterback at No. 1, Barkley’s name is the one mentioned as a possibility for Cleveland at No. 1 that isn’t a QB. And there may or may not be an issue with a Barkley-to-Cleveland scenario.

Viable running backs are obviously easier to obtain in later rounds than pass-rushing talent, and Chubb has visited the Giants and drawn praise from Hue Jackson as a possible No. 4 overall selection. James Bettcher doesn’t see a problem fitting the N.C. State defensive end into his 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker, and edge rushers are much more valuable commodities than running backs.

Nelson is reportedly a top-three player on the Giants’ board, and Dave Gettleman has not made it a secret he wants an offensive line metamorphosis to take place under his watch. Nelson’s been tabbed a prospect on the Zack Martin tier. Should a quarterback rush occur ahead of them, the Broncos are also in need of a guard. Buzz about a Broncos/Nelson union has emerged, with Ward — the latest high-end cornerback Ohio State has developed — on that level as of late as well.

The Notre Dame-trained blocker being the first non-passer selected would be a massive change of direction. This century, only one team — the 2015 Redskins — took a guard in the top five. And Brandon Scherff was viewed as a tackle prospect at the time. Ward would also represent a major upset as the first position player taken as well, but former Buckeyes teammate Joey Bosa didn’t receive a ton of buzz to go No. 3 to the Chargers two years ago. And this program has produced some high-caliber corners in recent years, as Bradley Roby and Marshon Lattimore have shown.

Who will even make this pick? The Giants have visited with each of the top quarterbacks and have been mentioned as Sam Darnold fans for a while, so it’s not certain they’ll be making this pick. If the Browns take Josh Allen at No. 1 and trade their No. 4 pick to the Bills, the Broncos could be thrust into this role at No. 5.

So, which one of these prospects will hear his name called first? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Giants At No. 2

With the Browns likely to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick of the upcoming draft, the Giants are generating a lot of discussion, as they could go in any number of directions with their No. 2 overall selection. According to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, the team is looking increasingly unlikely to take a signal-caller with that pick. 

Though the MMQB’s Albert Breer notes general manager Dave Gettleman likes Sam Darnold and the coaches like Josh Allen, Schwartz cites a national scout who pegs Saquon Barkley as the pick.

“I thought all along this is the guy Dave wants,” the scout said. “And he might get him, if Cleveland is dumb enough not to take him at No. 1.”

The Penn State back is considered by the Giants to be a better player than the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, who was the No. 4 overall pick in 2016. Schwartz says Barkley’s lack of off-the-field concerns and his ability to contribute in the passing game make him a solid selection at No. 2.

However, Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com says he has been hearing more and more whispers that the Giants could trade the No. 2 selection (Twitter link). The Bills are one team that other writers believe could be the Giants’ trading partner in that scenario, as Buffalo could grab its quarterback of the future and New York could add a significant amount of draft capital while still being in position to select a top-flight player in the first round. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, meanwhile, hears that all options are on the table for Big Blue’s top pick, including a trade, a QB, Barkley, Bradley Chubb, and even Quenton Nelson (Twitter link).

Schwartz does name Chubb as a potential candidate for the Giants’ No. 2 pick, and Gettleman’s history would lend credence to that theory, as the former Panthers GM took defensive linemen with his first two picks with that franchise.

But Schwartz, unlike Miller, does not believe Nelson will be in play if the Giants keep their pick. Though he is a top-three player on their board, Schwartz hears that Nelson will only be considered in a trade-down scenario.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Draft Notes: Broncos, Davenport, Giants

If the Broncos do not see the quarterback they prefer still on the board by the time their No. 5 pick rolls around, Albert Breer of SI.com hears the team is a prime candidate to trade down. Breer mentions Quenton Nelson or Denzel Ward as names connected to the Broncos. If Denver were to move down and target one of these players, however, they could be vulnerable to another team selecting either. The Bears, who hold the eighth pick, have met with both of these prospects. Nelson would slide in as the highest-ceiling O-line prospect the Broncos have had in many years, likely being a Day 1 starter at left guard, while Ward would be thrust into the pipeline behind Chris Harris and Bradley Roby. The Broncos signed Tramaine Brock in March, but the cornerback’s deal is only for one year.

Here’s more from Denver and the latest from the draft world:

  • As for the quarterback the Broncos may be eyeing, Mike Klis of 9News writes Case Keenum‘s honeymoon would be short-lived if Baker Mayfield were still on the board at No. 5. The Broncos brass “loved” Mayfield’s playmaking ability before they proceeded to spend extensive time with him in the pre-draft process. With a dinner and official visit set up for Monday and Tuesday of next week, the Broncos will have met with Mayfield four times this offseason — coaching him at the Senior Bowl, conducing a Combine interview and sending representatives to his pro day.
  • While a report earlier this offseason pegged Josh Rosen as the Broncos’ preferred quarterback prospect, Klis writes that if the UCLA talent is still there at No. 5, that may trigger a trade-down sequence. Rosen being viewed as a player who could start early in his rookie year may not line up with the Broncos’ timeline, with the team guaranteeing Keenum $25MM, per Klis.
  • The other team that’s possibly eyeing a quarterback but isn’t certain to select one with its top-five pick, the Giants may have a bit of a divide about which one they prefer. They’ve been connected to Sam Darnold for weeks, and Breer notes Dave Gettleman is indeed high on the 20-year-old USC product. But he adds Giants coaches have expressed support for Josh Allen. While running back might not be the best investment with a No. 2 overall choice, Breer notes the Giants’ coaching staff and front office contingents are sold on Saquon Barkley. The Penn State standout visited the Giants earlier this week.
  • Marcus Davenport worked out for the 49ers recently, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports. San Francisco is doing extensive work researching the defensive end prospects in this draft. While Bradley Chubb is not expected to be on the board by the time the 49ers pick at No. 9, they spent multiple days with Arden Key this week. They also worked out Florida State defensive end Josh Sweat, with Barrows writing the 49ers “would love” to add an outside rusher and are examining several prospects closely at this spot.
  • A source close to John Dorsey informed Breer that it is looking like a Darnold-or-Allen debate for the Browns at No. 1. Said source indicated Dorsey is high on Darnold but also is intrigued by Allen’s upside. And he has a history as an exec of taking potential over production.

NFL Draft Rumors: Bears, Nelson, 49ers, Key

Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson visited the Bears on Thursday, Josh Norris of NBC Sports tweets. Nelson would be a logical consideration for Chicago at No. 8. New Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand served in the same role at Notre Dame while Nelson was in school and Nelson has said that he would like to play for him again.

Here’s the latest batch of NFL Draft news:

  • The 49ers, who worked out LSU pass rusher Arden Key earlier this week, hosted him on a Top 30 visit on Friday, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Key’s stock may be falling in the eyes of NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, who pulled him from the latest edition of his Top 50 list, but Key still seems to be very much in the mix for the first or second round. As of this writing, The 49ers own the No. 9 pick in the first round and the No. 59 pick in the second round.
  • OSU defensive end Sam Hubbard will visit the Bengals on Friday, per Rapoport. For what it’s worth, Hubbard has also fallen out of Jeremiah’s top 50 after being ranked No. 41 in the previous edition.
  • The Bengals took former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey to dinner on Thursday night, Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com tweets. The Bengals already made one major tackle acquisition when they traded for left tackle Cordy Glenn, but McGlinchey could be in consideration as they look to fortify the other side of the line. The Bengals own the No. 21 pick in the draft, which could be the right range to select him.