Zay Jones

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/18/17

The latest draft signings from around the NFL:

  • The Bills have signed second-round wide receiver Zay Jones, who’s the fourth of their six draft picks to ink his rookie deal. Jones caught an FBS-record 399 passes, including a ridiculous 158 last season, in four years at East Carolina. That production helped lead the Bills to trade up for Jones, who should be the wideout-needy club’s No. 2 WR after Sammy Watkins in 2017. Jones is now dealing with a knee injury, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, though it doesn’t seem particularly serious.
  • The Ravens have signed third-round linebacker Tim Williams (per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun), meaning they now have their entire seven-player draft class under contract. Williams, the 78th overall pick, is coming off back-to-back seasons with at least nine sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss at Alabama. The Ravens’ hope is that both Williams and second-rounder Tyus Bowser will beef up a pass rush that finished just 24th in the league in sacks last season.
  • The Cardinals have announced the signing of third-round receiver Chad Williams, a former Grambling State standout. The 6-foot-1, 204-pound Williams went 98th overall to Arizona, whose non-Larry Fitzgerald receivers didn’t offer much production in 2016. Moreover, the 2017 campaign could be Fitzgerald’s last, while John Brown will be a free agent next offseason. Therefore, it was imperative for the Cardinals to invest a relatively high pick in a wideout.
  • The Browns have inked third-round defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, per a team announcement. Ogunjobi, who went 65th overall after a strong career at UNC-Charlotte, might start immediately in Cleveland alongside fellow D-tackle Danny Shelton.
  • The Patriots have signed former Arkansas defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, a fourth-rounder who was the 131st overall selection. Wise underwhelmed as a senior with the Razorbacks last season, when he posted 3.5 sacks after totaling eight in 2015, notes Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. However, the 6-5, 274-pounder possesses “rare physical attributes,” Zierlein writes.
  • The Colts have announced the signing of fourth-round defensive tackle Grover Stewart. Formerly with Albany State, Stewart went to Indianapolis with pick No. 144. He has the makings of a developmental project, according to Zierlein.
  • Jets fifth-round tight end Jordan Leggett, the 150th selection, is now under contract. Leggett racked up a combined 86 catches and 15 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Clemson. Given both the Jets’ woeful tight end production last year and their lack of offseason upgrades at the position, Leggett could be in line to make an impact as a rookie.

Bills Acquire 37th Pick From Rams

The Bills have acquired the 37th and 149th picks from the Rams in exchange for Nos. 44 and 91, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Buffalo will select East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones. With the acquisition of pick 149, the Bills now have four fifth-rounders.

The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Jones could be a factor immediately for the Bills, who entered the draft sorely lacking at wideout after No. 1 man Sammy Watkins. Jones caught a whopping 399 passes during his four-year college career, including a ridiculous 158 last season. He also amassed 1,746 yards and hauled in eight scores in 2016.

Draft Notes: Bills, Kizer, Howard, Davis

The Bills may not like their current position in this draft. A day after we heard the franchise is looking to move down from its No. 10 overall perch, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report notes (via Twitter) the team is also gauging what it would take to move up further into the top 10.

Buffalo looms as one of the more intriguing spots because of its tenuous relationship with Tyrod Taylor, whom the team retained but on a similar prove-it basis. The Bills are thought to be high on Deshaun Watson, while another report pegged the team as being higher on Mitch Trubisky. The latter has gained steam on going No. 1 overall, but Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted he was unlikely to get past the Jets at No. 6 in the event the Browns didn’t use their top pick on him. The Jaguars are now also a threat to take a first-round quarterback, further complicating the Bills’ possible ambitions regarding this position.

Moving up, as the Bills did three years ago to acquire Sammy Watkins, would strengthen their ability to land Trubisky or Watson. But if both of them go early, moving down would obviously allow the team to collect assets and regroup.

Here’s more from the draft, continuing with some quarterback buzz.

  • DeShone Kizer has not been shy about expressing belief in his abilities, but league execs are increasingly skeptical of the former Notre Dame quarterback’s NFL potential. “He’s not as good as he should be because he’s not committed to the game,” an AFC executive told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He’s committed to building a brand. He wants all the things that come with being a starting quarterback but doesn’t want to put in the work.” An AFC exec referred to the 6-foot-4 passer as a “prima donna,” while another NFC exec was concerned about the Fighting Irish benching him at one point and that his second year as a starter generated a 4-8 record. Nine of the 16 NFL staffers the Journal Sentinel surveyed rated Kizer as the most likely bust in this class of QBs.
  • While at least three wide receivers are likely set to go in the first round, an NFC executive told McGinn this is the “It’s the worst wide receiver draft at the top I’ve seen in a long time.” Of the throng of personnel people polled, more of them preferred Corey Davis as the No. 1 wideout prospect. Behind the top three — Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross — personnel staffers and scouts placed East Carolina’s Zay Jones at No. 4. The Seahawks are reportedly doing work on Jones as a possible second-round pick.
  • However, this group is bullish on the tight end class. One AFC personnel man called O.J. Howard and David Njoku future NFL difference-makers because of their ability to block and do the expected work in the passing game. That exec added that as many as 10 tight ends could go in the first four rounds. Only five went in Rounds 1-4 last year, with 11 being selected in total. Howard earned praise as the runaway winner of the Journal Sentinel poll on tight ends, with an AFC exec saying the Alabama product is “as good as Greg Olsen.”

Draft Rumors: Lamp, Ross, Bengals, Hawks

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.

As for Lamp, Pauline hears the lowest he will drop will be the Falcons at No. 31. Atlanta lost Chris Chester to retirement to open a spot opposite Andy Levitre up front.

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.

South Notes: Colts, Hankins, Saints, Titans

Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins‘ three-year deal with the Colts has a maximum value of $30MM and contains $10MM fully guaranteed, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com. That guarantee comes in the form of Hankins’ 2017 base salary of $3MM, and a $7MM roster bonus (which has already been paid). Incentives tied to playing time, sacks, and Pro Bowls, plus $1MM in per-game roster bonuses, can push the deal to $30MM, per Graziano and Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Hankins’ $7MM annual average places him tied for 18th among interior defensive linemen, alongside Jurrell Casey and Tyrone Crawford.

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

  • The Saints recently put Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles through a workout, reports Herbie Teope of NOLA.com. New Orleans had also hoped to bring in Bolles for a predraft visit, but Bolles’ packed schedule didn’t allow him time to meet with the Saints. Bolles could be on the board when New Orleans picks at No.11, and as Josh Katzenstein of the Times-Picayune tweets, offensive tackle is an underrated need area for the club. Incumbent left tackle Terron Armstead has had trouble staying healthy, while right tackle Zach Strief is entering his age-33 season.
  • East Carolina receiver Zay Jones is meeting with the Titans today, per Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Jones, who put up an eye-popping 158 receptions, 1,746 yards, and eight touchdowns in 2016, is the draft’s No. 46 overall player in the estimation of Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, who lauds his “strong hands” and “clean, efficient” route running. Tennessee is in dire need of help at the wideout position, as their current depth chart is lead by Rishard Matthews, Tajae Sharpe, and Harry Douglas. Jones could be an option for the Titans with the 18th pick.
  • Saints edge rusher Hau’oli Kikaha took part in offseason workouts today, tweets Katzenstein, an excellent sign after Kikaha missed the entire 2016 campaign with a torn ACL. Kikaha, who also suffered two ACL injuries in college, appeared in 15 games and made 11 starts for New Orleans during his rookie season in 2015. In that time, the 24-year-old racked up four sacks, 50 total tackles, two passes defended, four forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. The Saints are desperate for another pass rusher to play opposite Cameron Jordan, and Kikaha could present that option.
  • Texans wide receiver Braxton Miller has hired Vayner Sports for representation, as the agency announced today (Twitter link). Miller, a 2016 draft pick, won’t become a free agent until 2020, and isn’t even eligible for an extension for two more years. In 10 games last season, Miller played primarily as a slot receiver, and managed 15 receptions for 99 yards and one touchdown. The 24-year-old also returned three kickoffs and one punt, and played 32 special teams snaps in total.