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My advice to all of those professional and fan forecasters of the 2018 NFL draft in the hours leading up to the first round on Thursday: Be careful with the absolute statements. Three of the first four picks are controlled by two men (Cleveland GM John Dorsey at one and four, GM Dave Gettleman of the Giants at two) who could work for the CIA. There’s an inordinate number of teams very high that I believe will want to trade down, and perhaps for only moderate value because of the strength of the second and third rounds and the thinness of the first round.

“This year it seems like there’s no normal,” San Francisco GM John Lynch said on Saturday. The Niners pick ninth in the first round. “I’m having our analytics guys go over every scenario we could face at nine, and there could be 50 of ’em.”

And so this year’s mock first round is a dart-throw if there ever was one. Wish me luck. Trades (and wild guesses) included.

1. Cleveland—Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Though half the free world has Josh Allen to the Browns, it’d still be a risk because he didn’t dominate mid-level competition. Dorsey is a measurables guy, and Allen is THE measurable quarterback here (6'5", 237 pounds, 4.79 in the 40). But a couple of factors influenced my call here. One is Mike Mayock. The NFL Network conscience has a way of cutting through the gorgonzola and stating reality. He said the Browns have made too many mistakes on quarterbacks, and they can’t go risky here. It made a lot of sense—and Mayock is a guy who loves the long-term Josh Allen. And we’re all prisoners of the people we know in this league. And someone I trust, who is very often right and is very well-connected, told me Sunday it’s not Allen. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Science of the Mock. Darnold is safe, with strong potential, and most NFL folks think he can turn around the turnover bug (37 career turnovers in 26 USC games). Darnold’s a jock who wants to be a great football player. And at 8:46 p.m. Sunday, that’s where I am. All I can say is, good luck to anyone who bets on the first pick in the draft based on my waffling logic.

2. New York Giants—Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Just seems logical. No inside dope here—though I did hear Sunday that Darnold is the Giants’ guy if they choose a quarterback. Gettleman did draft Christian McCaffrey eighth overall last year for the runner-needy Panthers. The Giants haven’t had a great back in 12 years, since Tiki Barber retired. The consistency of Barkley—three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons at a high level of competition, rushing averages of 5.9, 5.5 and 5.9 yards per rush—has to attract the Giants, as would the thought of Barkley, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and left tackle Nate Solder to take the pressure off 37-year-old Eli Manning.

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3. New York Jets—Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA 

Could be Baker Mayfield, easily. And there have been times in this process when I was sure it would be Mayfield. But I give the Jets the surest QB thing in this draft, as long as you can live with the specter of his two documented concussions and all the noise (which I consider total bullcrap) about Rosen’s life of other interests. The Jets need a player who can be suave, sophisticated and ready for Broadway, and this quarterback is as ready as any since Namath.

4. Cleveland—Bradley Chubb, Edge, N.C. State 

I spent most of Saturday trying to figure a way to give the Browns the heir to Joe Thomas in tackle Mike McGlinchey, and just couldn’t make it work with a trade-down. Nice consolation prize here. Chubb’s had two straight years of 10 sacks and 20 tackles-for-loss, and is easily the best front-seven disrupter in a weak class of them. But Dorsey will have multiple options here if he wants to move.

5. Arizona (from Denver)—Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Call this hunch the Won’t Get Fooled Again Pick. I’ve always thought a segment of the Cardinals had regrets over the 2017 draft when, with a 37-year-old quarterback (Carson Palmer) possibly in his last year, they were leap-frogged by teams that took Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson one and three picks ahead of them. Plus, the Cardinals don’t like Baker Mayfield. They love him. That’s a good thing, because John Elway likes him a lot too. Interesting strange-bedfellows scene at the Broncos’ cafeteria during Mayfield’s on-campus visit. Elway sat alone at one table with Mayfield, conversing. Walking through the salad bar at the time: Case Keenum.

6. Buffalo (from Indianapolis)—Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

While we’re hung up on finding a landing spot for all the quarterbacks, I’d remind you of four things at this pick: A) I don’t know if Buffalo loves Allen; B) but I hear they love his ability to throw it through the lake effect winds and snow; C) Allen is a garrulous, genial version of Jim Kelly, a rifle-armed work in progress the fans in western New York will love; and D) I think this trade fits both teams because I’m not sure the Colts would demand both Bills’ first-round picks in return. In fact, because of the strength of the second round, I could see Colts GM Chris Ballard valuing the 53rd and 56th picks collectively higher than the 22nd pick in this draft. So, 12, 53, 56 and, say, 96 for six? Could be equitable. It would leave the Bills with their second of two first-rounders.

7. Tampa Bay—Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama 

No end to the love for the versatile Fitzpatrick, who can play either safety, either corner, the slot, or, in a pinch, as an in-the-box linebacker. And he’s done it for three full seasons at the highest level of college football, which NFL people love. Denzel Ward could go here too, but my bet’s on the valued Fitzpatrick. Late note: One or two teams who are sniffing around this area of the draft love Fitzpatrick.

8. Chicago—Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame 

If this doesn’t happen, every mock drafter in America will be proven to be the frauds we all are. I mean, usually there’s some universal agreement on something at the top of the draft. This year, it’s universal agreement on the man Notre Dame line-coach-turned-new-Bears line coach Harry Hiestand coached in his college career, Nelson. And it fits what new coach Matt Nagy wants—a mauler who will help Nagy build the run game and protective front wall to give Mitchell Trubisky the space and time he needs in up-the-middle protection. Smart pick.

9. San Francisco—Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

As a sideline-to-sideline playmaker in this draft, Smith has no peer. I gave McGlinchey and cornerback Denzel Ward serious consideration here too—as are the Niners. But I passed on McGlinchey because of the Niners’ belief that Joe Staley, who will be 34 in August, can play two more seasons at a good level. And the need for Smith, particularly with the uncertain future of linebacker Reuben Foster, could be great in defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s scheme, where athletic playmakers are a must at linebacker.

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10. Oakland—Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame 

The Raiders have multiple needs, and Denzel Ward and Derwin James fit perfectly here too, with a scotch-taped secondary (only Gareon Conley is solid at corner; free safety Reggie Nelson turns 35 in September) in place for new coordinator Paul Guenther. But left tackle Donald Penn (35 on Friday) has maybe a year or two left, and a franchise quarterback stays a franchise quarterback in part because of how he’s protected. Derek Carr would vote for this pick.

11. Miami—Vita Vea, DT, Washington 

The New Suh. This pick is notable more for what the Dolphins aren’t doing. Like everyone else, I was pretty sure Miami would be among the cadre of teams looking to trade up for a quarterback. The splash move has been an MO of club architect Mike Tannenbaum over his career. And maybe it happens. But more recently I’ve started to think, through what I’ve heard in the pre-draft process, that Miami is more likely to stick with Ryan Tannehill (who has missed the last 19 games with injury) and continue the progress he was making with Adam Gase in the 2016 season. We’ll see. One word of caution with Vea: He’s got to manage his weight if he wants to be more than a two-down player.

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12. Indy (from Buffalo)—Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech

A note about what the Colts have done, if I’m right here (and I have my doubts) about Indy dealing the sixth pick to Buffalo for a first, two mid-seconds, and a low-third-round pick. In January, Colts GM Chris Ballard owned picks in rounds one, two and three—3, 36 and 67 overall. With this second trade-down of the first-rounder, the Colts would have 12, 36, 37, 49, 53, 56, 67 and 96 this year … plus the Jets’ second-round pick in 2019. With all the holes Ballard has to fill, Edmunds is a very good start. Raw but fast (4.54 in the 40) and physical. Big need for the Colts’ D.

13. Washington—Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

He’s got the speed and the hands to anchor a needy Washington secondary for years, and he’d go higher if he had a bigger body. One other knock is that he had only two interceptions in two-plus seasons for the Buckeyes, but Jalen Ramsey hadn’t been a productive picker either when Jacksonville got him in 2016. Washington needs edge help too, so I can see Marcus Davenport in play here.

14. Green Bay—Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa 

For a team that’s spent so much draft capital on the secondary recently (five defensive backs picked in the top two rounds in the last four drafts), the Packers sure need a cornerback for new coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme. Tramon Williams, at 35, could start at corner for Green Bay this fall. The big knock on Jackson is his 4.54 speed in the 40, and that’s a legitimate worry. But his eight picks last year in the Big Ten caught scouts’ eyes, and some think he could be Richard Sherman. He’s tall (6'1"), instinctive, a former wideout like Sherman, and, like Sherman, has a frame that can add some strength. Marcus Peters doesn’t have the great speed either, but he’s proven that smarts and instincts win in the NFL too.

15. Denver (from Arizona)—Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida

Hughes has some personal concerns that could push him down the board, so this is as fungible a pick as I could make; it’s a need pick for the Broncos, who I believe will deal down with a few positions of great need and go for the corner. Watch for interior lineman James Daniels of Iowa here too. Broncos have need in both spots. And, of course, Elway will be torn about staying and picking Baker Mayfield in this scenario. Tough call for him, but he doesn’t want to throw away Paxton Lynch just yet. What sold Elway on this theoretical trade was Arizona’s No. 1 in 2019, which could be a top-10 pick if the Cards are the worst team in the NFC West.

16. Baltimore—Derwin James, S, Florida State 

Ravens love his instincts, his love of football and his position versatility. He might end up as a Will linebacker and a sideline-to-sideline chaser and hitter. Watch for defensive end Marcus Davenport here if James is gone. Lamar Jackson’s a possibility, but I see Baltimore filling a bigger need and giving Joe Flacco this season to solidify his future in Baltimore long-term.

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17. Los Angeles Chargers—Kolton Miller, T, UCLA

Boom or bust guy for a lot of people in this draft. Need pick for the Chargers. Strange that with such a good back, Melvin Gordon, the Chargers struggled so much on the ground last year; they were 32nd in the league in rushing. More importantly, the Chargers need some long-term answers on what’s been a patchwork unit for a few years. They may have to be patient with this one-year starter.

18. Seattle—Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio

You know how we always say, This team never thought Player X would be there? This is the first example of that in the first round. Davenport could go 10 to Oakland, and in a few spots between. I believe GM John Schneider thought it smart at this point to deal this pick down, and he very well would have if a good falling player was not available. Good for the Seahawks—who have had some rotten luck in recent drafts (particularly with Malik McDowell)—to be able stay put and get a guy who looks like the second-best edge-rush prospect in this draft.

19. Dallas—D.J. Moore, WR-KR, Maryland

What, no Calvin Ridley? The Alabama wideout seemed so natural here, as did Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans, at a position (sideline-to-sideline linebacker) of major need for Dallas. But Moore, a fast riser with return ability, could solve two issues for Dallas, and the Cowboys want to find a long-term receiver to be what Dez Bryant failed to be since signing a huge deal in 2015. It's a risky venture, though, based on the recent performance of so many failed number one picks.   

20. Detroit—Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

This is an Albert Breer special. I stole it from him, and I’m not ashamed to say it. Payne is the kind of versatile, big-bodied interior lineman who will be a Matt Patricia staple in the next three years as he builds a stout front. Payne is 311 pounds, a bit of a Malcom Brown type, and he’s just 20, with lots of time to be sculpted into a classic two and three-down player to disrupt the interior in the NFC North.

21. Cincinnati—Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Brown family has a shake-it-up history at quarterback dating back to Boomer Esiason in round two of 1984, and this would certainly shake up the locker room and the draft. So many reliable draftniks (Mayock, McShay, etc.) think Jackson has the potential to be the most exciting and productive quarterback in this crop—but you’ll have to cater your offense to him. Isn’t that what good coaches do? Get very good players and cater their schemes to fit the players? I like this pick for the Bengals, even if it could push Andy Dalton (five of seven starting seasons with a sub-90 passer rating) out of town in 2019.

22. Buffalo—James Daniels, G-C, Iowa

Need pick. Smart of the Bills to insist in their dealings and offers to various teams that they’d have to keep this pick to buttress a part of their team buffeted by a wild offseason. Gone: center Eric Wood and guard Richie Incognito (retired) and tackle Cordy Glenn (traded). If you’d told anyone in the Bills front office that they’d exit day one of the draft with a quarterback of the future and the second-best interior lineman in the draft with lots of experience playing pro-style football, they’d have been very happy.

23. New England—Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama 

The Patriots are the chameleon of the first round. As of this morning, I cannot see them trading into the top of the draft for a quarterback. But I can see them doing something else big—I just don’t know what it is. Trading next year’s one? Dealing Gronk? Packaging a lot of picks to go after a beloved played like Bradley Chubb? Mostly, I think the Patriots will stock up on the long-term future. With Evans playing in tandem (at least early) with fellow Tide alum Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots would have a force at linebacker in the next couple years.

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24. Carolina—Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

There aren’t many national championship-caliber wideouts in an era of plummeting production of first-round receivers in the draft that show the potential of Ridley. Alabama’s not a bombs-away offense, and in his three seasons there, Ridley caught 89, 72 and 63 balls. But he’s not a great deep threat, which is why he’s still hanging around here at 24. Still, the Panthers’ need at the position is huge, and Ridley’s slide past mid-round is a gift for Cam Newton.

25. Tennessee—Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College

The Titans would match need with good fortune if Landry is still on the board after 75 percent of the first round. A year ago, after Landry’s 16.5-sack season in 2016, he decided to return to BC, and he was projected in some preseason mocks as the first pick of 2018. But an ankle injury stunted his production, and now some team will be taking him on the come. The Titans desperately need Landry’s help on the edge, and new coach Mike Vrabel will make sure he gets enough chances to show his burst around end.

26. Atlanta—Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

Some scouts think Bryan, at 291 pounds with a sub-5.0 40 time, will be a better pro than collegian. He had only 16 tackles behind the line in three NCAA seasons, and playing next to Grady Jarrett, he should do better than that. Atlanta needs depth along the defensive front, and even if Bryan is only a 35-snaps-per-game player, it’s a need that cries out to be addressed.

27. New Orleans—Frank Ragnow, C-G, Arkansas

My surprise of the first round. The Saints could use a center with some position versatility. Max Unger is 32. The Saints are in an interesting position. They for once have no crying need entering the draft and can afford to draft, say, a sixth offensive lineman who could start in 2019 or 2020 at guard or center. Ragnow has had time in the strong SEC at both center and guard, and the Saints think he’s the kind of brute-force player (with some athleticism) who could start for them for a few years.

28. Pittsburgh—Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Oh, how wonderful it would have been if the draft fell just right to the Steelers and they could take an all-field playmaker to replace the fallen Ryan Shazier. That playmaker, Leighton Vander Esch, could be available at 28 … but he’s got a cervical issue that is causing some to steer clear of him this week. In Alexander, the Steelers could get a 4.38 cover guy who’s shown eagerness to tackle and be a physical player in run support. He’d be a good fit for Mike Tomlin.

29. Jacksonville—Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

The Jags can’t love any of the wideouts left, but they’ve got a need, and Kirk was hugely productive as a college player if not particularly explosive. He had 80, 83 and 71 catches, with 26 total touchdowns, in his three collegiate seasons, and the Jaguars need a producer right now after the offseason losses of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Things turn over quickly in Jacksonville, and Kirk will have to produce right away.

30. Minnesota—Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

The Vikings can plug holes here rather than seek the best available player, regardless of position. The guard group for Minnesota is its biggest weakness (possible starters: Nick Easton, Tom Compton), and Hernandez, many scouts think, is a plug-and-play day one starter with the kind of mean streak in the running game that will make him an immediate favorite of the pugnacious Mike Zimmer. I love this pick for them.

31. New England—Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

I realize the Patriots need long-term players, and Vander Esch has worried some teams in the league with cervical issues at Boise, and he has but one very good season on his résumé. Cool story. He played eight-man football in high school in Idaho, and just recently emerged as a strong bottom-of-the-first-round candidate. Some teams have marked him down because of his neck issues, and there’s a strong chance the Patriots will be too worried about it to pick him here. We’ll see.

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32. Philadelphia—Connor Williams, G-T, Texas

But I think the Eagles are much more likely to deal this pick; I just don’t know to whom. They’re seeking a trade—that I can tell you. Philadelphia has no pick in rounds two or three, and the Eagles don’t pick until the end of round four. So as of now, they go from 33 to 129 without a pick. That’s why they’ll be trying to deal all night Thursday. If they stick … The Eagles have a 35-year-old left tackle, Jason Peters, coming off major injury, and starting guards (Stefan Wisniewski and Brandon Brooks) who will be 29 this season. Connor’s the perfect pick for them, in the unlikely event they stick.

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Draft marginalia

A few more draft-related notes:

• Denzel Ward has earned my respect. The Ohio State cornerback had a tweaked ankle at the combine and left without doing some of the traditional athletic drills, including the 20-yard short shuttle. One team wanted that short shuttle. This team told Ward it needed the shuttle to complete its evaluation. A rep of the team told Ward he could even just find a friend to take a cellphone video of Ward doing the shuttle, and send it to the team. The team heard nothing back. Finally, on Saturday, the coach for this team got a ping on his smart phone. It was from Ward, with a slightly shaky video of him doing the short shuttle on an empty field somewhere. I doubt this team picks him, but it says something about Ward completing this task that’s impressive.

• The final word on the quarterbacks. I asked one longtime and well-connected scout about what he’s hearing regarding the order of top quarterbacks in this draft. In other words, if teams with a quarterback need could show their boards, what order would they go in? “Allen one, very slightly ahead of Darnold. Then Mayfield. But the people who like Mayfield love Mayfield.” Watch for Arizona trading up on Mayfield if he gets past the Jets and Broncos.

• There will be some trades in this draft that might seem one-sided. Several team officials told me in the past few days that they value Day 2 picks (rounds two and three) so highly that they’d be willing to take slightly less in compensation to move down. Where could this come into play? Cleveland (four), Indianapolis (six), Baltimore (16), Seattle (18), New England (23, 31), New Orleans (27), Philadelphia (32). “This is not your typical draft,” said one veteran club official Sunday. “The second, third and even fourth rounds are gold. You can take less than the trade-value chart says and still make a very good trade if you get multiple picks in those rounds.”

• The draft was more fun then. In the 17th and final round of the 1972 draft, GM Joe Thomas of the Baltimore Colts turned to 32-year-old PR guy Ernie Accorsi and said: “I am exhausted. You make the pick.” The 17th-round picks, in those days, were training-camp bodies, with long odds to ever make an NFL roster. The draft wasn’t televised in 1972, and the later rounds were a just-get-it-done affair. Accorsi gave him this name: Tim Berra, wide receiver/kick returner, UMass. How cool. Yogi Berra’s son, drafted into the NFL. “And he made the team!” Accorsi said. “He returned a kick for a touchdown for us in an exhibition game, and he made our roster for the ’74 season.”

• Hall of Fame Factoid I Have Used Before But Never Gets Old. In 1964, these were consecutive picks:

Round 7, 88th Overall, to Dallas: Bob Hayes, WR, Florida A&M
Round 7, 89th Overall, to Detroit: Bill Parcells, OT, Wichita State

Parcells was picked 21 spots ahead of Leroy Kelly and 40 ahead of Roger Staubach.

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Calling all schedule nerds!

If you’re bored by the process of making the NFL schedule, please skip this section. It’s straight from Schedule Nerdland. But I like it, and it’s a cool example of how the sausage gets made.

Sometimes in the process of gathering information for my annual how-the-NFL-made-this-year’s-schedule story, I hear interesting stories about things pertaining to the schedule, often from people around the league, sometimes from people inside the Val Pinchbeck Room, where over four months of digital trial-and-error, four NFL employees get the 256 regular-season games arranged.


This year the story is about the Rams-Chiefs game in Mexico City. Do you see the photo above? It’s a stack of “dead schedules,” those that looked very promising and passed muster enough to get hard looks from the master of the schedule, Howard Katz. After I left the Pinchbeck Room on Thursday evening, I made a few calls to see how the schedule was playing out in the league (favorably in most precincts, I heard). And a couple people were talking about Rams-Chiefs, and how that become one of the really attractive games in the league this year. They wondered how ESPN got it—and whether CBS or FOX (for a Thursday nighter) or NBC (Sunday night) was in the mix.

The answer, as it turns out, is they all were.

Think of the game: Two division champs, each likely to be very good in 2018, exporting the game to a place sure to draw 100,000, in what is likely to be a frenzied atmosphere. There was the added zest of the Chiefs trading one of the best young corners, Marcus Peters, to the Rams this year, and Peters wanted to exact revenge on the Chiefs.

The league pegged the game for Week 11. Apparently the schedule-makers, Katz and Mike North particularly, originally preferred the game to be on Thursday night. Rams COO Kevin Demoff told me yes, this was the case, and the urging to make this a showcase game began at the Super Bowl. For two reasons: The league wanted to reward FOX for rescuing it by bidding up the Thursday night rights fees—now $660 million for the 11-game package, an increase of 30 percent from 2017—and simply for a potential huge rating for a package of games that needed the boost based on falling 2017 Thursday viewership. Plus, it was likely to be a really fun game, and the bigger the audience, the better for the NFL.

A couple of problems. The league couldn’t bring two teams to Mexico City on a short week unless they had their byes the week before. And no team wants a Thursday night game coming off the bye, because that likely would mean the team would have to return to work on the Saturday before the game, cutting a couple of days from the players’ time off. For players, that’s a taboo. In addition, there was problem for the Rams: Customs at Los Angeles International Airport closes at 12:30 a.m. daily. The Rams likely would have to stay overnight in Mexico City and leave the next day to account for that. Teams hate staying on the road after road games.

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It was the Rams giving up the home game to make the Mexico game a reality, so the league had to make it right for them. Demoff said North worked on him during Super Bowl week about playing on Thursday night in Mexico. “But we were adamant that it could not happen,” Demoff said. “Especially on a Thursday, with the bye issue. And for any prime-time games, we’d have the Customs issue at LAX. We thought this game should be a Sunday afternoon doubleheader game.”

Early Sunday was out, because the Rams would push back against a 10:05 a.m. PT game; West Coast teams hate the early-body-clock games. The Sunday doubleheader was interesting … but what would happen if the scheduled Sunday night game ended up having to be flexed out, and the league wanted to put Chiefs-Rams in there? Tough to flex to a game in Mexico, and say to NBC: You’ve got to do an international game in 13 days. Similarly, if the league made it a Sunday night game, what if the Chiefs or Rams stunk and the league had to flex out of the game? Tough to tell CBS to get a crew into Mexico that fast.

As for Monday night, the Customs issue was real for the Rams. What, the schedulers thought, could happen if we gave the Chiefs and Rams their bye in Week 12—Thanksgiving Week? That week traditionally doesn’t have byes, because it’s tough to build a good Sunday schedule when three Thursday games are removed for Thanksgiving and there’s both a Sunday and Monday nighter. Giving two teams byes would mean a thin 10-game daylight slate for Sunday.

But the NFL saw it could build a decent schedule and still give the Chiefs and Rams byes. Pats-Jets plus a Jags-Bills playoff rematch in the early CBS window; Giants-Eagles and Russell Wilson-Cam Newton in the early FOX window; Steelers-Broncos as the CBS doubleheader game; the Packers-Vikings rivalry on Sunday night; Deshaun Watson-Marcus Mariota on Monday night. Not the best Sunday of the season, but not bad either.

And so it happened. The bye is late, but for two teams hoping to make the playoffs, look at it this way: Two teams (Washington and Carolina) have byes in Week 4, which means they’ll play three games, have a bye, then play 13 straight weeks. Now two teams have the bye in Week 12, which mean they’ll play 11 straight weeks to start the season, have a bye, then play five games at a time of the year when the bye is likely needed more than Washington and Carolina needed in Week 4.

That’s where this photo of the pile of schedules comes in. I’m told some of them died because of the Rams-Chiefs kerfuffle. But it got solved, without much attention. And now you know how problems get worked out with the schedule, and why, in part, it takes four people four months to do.

Some perspective, from North: “The incredible thing is not even that we get through half a million schedule possibilities now … The miracle is Val Pinchbeck used to build this thing by hand. One game at a time. Not even being able to consider things like rest disparity, travel, stadium blocks, not even being able to think about, oh, so-and-so caught a three-game road trip last year so it shouldn’t happen to him again. We can be really discerning now.”

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In the end, the NFL considered 59,031 schedules, including some of the dead schedules that had Rams-Chiefs in all different windows. That’s something, very likely, Pinchbeck’s schedule could never have contemplated.

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Quotes of the Week


“I really believe—and this is Mike Mayock talking, not [Cleveland GM] John Dorsey, I have no inside knowledge—my gut tells me that, if you're choosing between the two, Josh Allen might have the higher ceiling, but you've swung and missed so many times in Cleveland at quarterback, can you afford another one with your first pick? Your first pick has got to set the tone, and I think at the end of the day it will be Sam Darnold, and he's got a little Brett Favre in him, which I think John likes. John likes a little swagger. [Darnold will] make some mistakes and turn the ball over, but at the end of the day, that's what my gut tells me.”

—NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, on his annual pre-draft media call Friday.

I am skeptical of virtually all mocks these days—including my own. But I will be watching Mayock’s on Wednesday night (NFL Network, 8 p.m. ET) and divining his picks—and his clues.


“Eric introducing me for this prestigious award brings me great joy. But I am also pained by the fact that his taking a knee, and demonstrating courage to protect the rights of black and brown people in America, has also led to his ostracization from the NFL.”

—The similarly ostracized Colin Kaepernick, on unemployed safety Eric Reid, in remarks quote by The New York Times, as Kaepernick received a prestigious award Saturday night from Amnesty International.


“We all know that the elements in Cleveland play a role. I think hand size is important. With that being said, hand size in November and December in the elements when it is snowing, when it is raining, it is muddy, the hand size … That is what you were talking about in terms of the fumbles of [Sam] Darnold. You are worried about that sometimes. So, hand size.”

—Cleveland GM John Dorsey, in discussing the quarterback-preference factors at his draft news conference last Thursday.