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Rumors, Realities and Ruminations on Draft Eve

Items on: why second-round picks and later are at a premium; the landing spots for Baker Mayfield; a timeline wrinkle for the Browns QB; plus reader mail

How did Saquon Barkley transform into the perfect prospect? SI goes Under the Cover with his coaches, teammates and family to learn more about the draft’s most buzzed about player. You can now watch anytime, anywhere on SI TV. Learn more at SI.TV​.

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This could help your enjoyment and understanding of the draft this weekend. I asked a team in the top half of the draft—a team that wants action on its pick when its 10-minute period begins Thursday night—how it views the depth of the top half of the draft. This is what my source said:

• His team has 15 players with first-round grades.
• His team has 30 to 35 players with second-round grades.
• His team has about 45 players with third-round grades.
• His team has “starter” or “potential starter” grade on “about 90” players.

And so, let’s envision teams in the top half of the first round with potentially hugely valuable picks: Cleveland (with the number four pick), Denver (five), Indianapolis (six). There’s a reason why in my mock draft I had Denver and Indianapolis trading down—because the value of quarterbacks is immense, and because the premium on second- and third-round picks in this draft is similarly big. That’s why if I’m the Broncos or the Colts (or the Bucs or Bears or Niners, if Josh Rosen falls down the first round more than we think), I’m asking for two or three lower picks rather than two higher ones.

Example: If the Bills, at 12, want Denver’s pick at five, and I’m Broncos GM John Elway, I don’t want the 12th and 22nd picks in return. I want 12, 53, 56 and maybe 96, and I’d flip a lower pick back to Buffalo. That would get the Bills what they want, a quarterback. That would get Denver the kind of depth a deep second and third round could provide—unless, of course, it’s Baker Mayfield sitting there for Elway at five, and he can’t resist the temptation.

That’s the kind of question I can’t wait to see answered Thursday night around 9 p.m. ET.

So, Are Any of These Quarterbacks Going to Be Good?

Other issues developing as we get to T-minus one day and counting:

Mayfield’s in play everywhere. Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that Mayfield is in play for the first pick, to Cleveland. I think that’s true, and Albert Breer, with better sources than I have at the top of the draft, believes that’s possible too. So I could see Mayfield go one to Cleveland (though it would be a surprise), three to the Jets (not a surprise) or five to Denver (definitely not a surprise) or five or six to Buffalo, Miami or Arizona.

Gronk’s a Patriot. Interesting timing on this admission. Why does Rob Gronkowski come out and profess his desire to play the 2018 season for the Patriots, after flirting with not playing, or semi-taunting the Patriots? I have a theory. It’s just a theory. What if Gronkowski found out the Patriots weren’t going to fall all over themselves to beg him to come back for one more year, and what if they told him they needed to know his intentions about playing before this draft, or they could not guarantee what they would do with him in 2018? Look at Bill Belichick’s history. If he could get a 2018 or 2019 second-round pick for a player who has a year or two left, he’s shown he’s not above dealing anyone. I don’t know what was behind the rapprochement, but Belichick has shown he can kick Lawyer Milloy to the curb, and send Richard Seymour and Logan Mankins and Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins packing. It’s an interesting story, and I don’t know that we’ll ever know all of it.

Excellent point by Phil Savage, the former Browns GM, on what he might do if he were the current Browns GM. Good conversation with Savage, now the director of the Senior Bowl and well plugged in to the draft scene, from Dallas on Tuesday night. With the Browns now employing Tyrod Taylor to play at least the 2018 season at quarterback, presumably, Savage believes it gives Cleveland the chance to take a quarterback number one overall (as Cincinnati did in 2003 with Carson Palmer) and give him a true redshirt year. “The fair evaluation of one of these quarterbacks—who are not finished products—is what you think he is going to be 18 months from now,” said Savage, who ran the Browns from 2005 to 2008. “To me, Josh Allen has the most upside and most potential of all the quarterbacks. If he could develop this year, and then compete next summer for the starting job, I think he’d have the best chance to succeed under those circumstances.”

Monday Morning Mock Draft: Darts, Deals & Wild Guesses

Where to follow the draft at The MMQB and SIand elsewhere. Lots happening in the coming days … I’ve got a draft-filled podcast dropping this morning with Adam Schefter, Albert Breer, Greg Cosell and Mike Garafolo bringing you up-to-the-moment rumors and reports. Strongly recommended as a last listen before Thursday’s first round … Schefter is in Dallas for ESPN’s draft coverage, with reports all day today and the draft itself kicking off Thursday evening and stretching through Saturday night … Garafolo will be stationed at the Jets’ complex in New Jersey to report the quarterback news as part of NFL Network’s coverage today through Friday, and NFL Network, FOX and ESPN will be totally overwhelming us through Saturday night … Watch for our NFL draft special at, with Breer, Jonathan Jones, Andy Staples and the Pro Football Focusguys on Thursday night, with all sorts of insight from round one. We’ve become a two-screen world, so I won’t mind if you’ve got one screen on the draft on TV and another on us. Here are a few features by our SI.TV draft team that are well worth your time:

Leighton Vander EschSaquon Barkley | Baker Mayfield

Enjoy the draft, everyone. Now for your email...

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I wonder after reading your story about the schedule, if the NFL would ever consider giving 16 teams a bye in Week 8 and the other 16 teams a bye in Week 9. It levels the playing field on rest. So only eight games in each of those two weeks. In Week 8, allow CBS and FOX networks to both have triple headers (that’s 2 games overseas at 9:30 EST, 2 games at 1 and 4 EST), eliminate the Thursday game those weeks, and you have two games left for Sunday night and Monday night. In Week 9 still remove the Thursday night game, then go three games on the networks of CBS/Fox 1/4/7:30 and two on Monday night 7/10 (ESPN gets one and NBC gets the other). I think you could market it as every team has its own guaranteed window. It’s an extravaganza of NFL for two straight weekends.
—Keith W.

The problems I see:

• With two 9:30 a.m. ET games each week, you’re asking two England games to be played simultaneously in back-to-back weeks. Why would you do that? Playing two games at the same time in London in consecutive weeks would obviously hurt the product. You’d be making four special and unique games half as special—and asking 150,000 people in a foreign country to buy tickets each week to games competing against each other. The NFL sells about 40,000 season tickets to the four games now. So you’d be eliminating the season ticket concept, and forcing the NFL to sell all four games separately. Not a smart business idea.

• FOX is paying $60 million per Thursday for each football game it shows. The NFL would frown on taking $120 million, total, out of the total TV package.

• It seems like a plummet off the cliff for the NFL to play a 16-game schedule in 15 game weeks, and an eight-game schedule in two game weeks. You’d be asking FOX and CBS to adjust from playing 13 games in the traditional early- and late-afternoon Sunday daytime windows to four games. Not saying it can’t be done. I just don’t know why it would be better to do it the way you’re suggesting.

• Approximately 1 million fans per week tune into NFL Red Zone to see between nine and 13 daytime games on Sundays. You’d be sending them away if you had only two games in each Sunday window.

NFL Schedule Release: Inside the Process That Gave Us the 2018 256-Game Slate

If the NFL thought it could make more money or put out a better product, it would. I don’t think it’s pragmatic.

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I was interested to see you give the Raiders tackle Mike McGlinchey at 10. Obviously Donald Penn isn’t getting any younger, but from most of what I’ve read McGlinchey is a late first-rounder and falls into the category of players who probably won’t be much better than those chosen in the second round. I just wondered whether Denzel Ward might be the more likely pick here; he’s widely considered to be the best corner in the draft, and Oakland has a definite need. With the roster only a year removed from going 12-4, would it not make more sense to address a glaring need there with someone widely considered to be a top-10 talent guy and to start thinking about left tackle when Penn retires?​
—Tom M., Swansea, Wales

Good call, Tom. Ward would be a great pick if he’s there, and certainly a more valuable pick for today. My thought was simply that McGlinchey’s the best left tackle candidate in this crop by far, and the Raiders have to be concerned with that position with a franchise quarterback they have to protect.

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I sincerely appreciate you bringing the article about the opioid crisis, from NPR’s Yuki Noguchi, to the attention of your readers. But to go one step further, let’s bring to their attention that the opioid crisis isn’t just in remote areas of “fly over” states. The crisis is quite literally a stone’s throw away and is spreading fast. I challenge you the next time you are in Indianapolis for the combine or your Sun King Brewery get together, take the 60-minute drive to Muncie. See what a city looks like that is collapsing because of the opioid crisis. Somewhere out there, a brighter mind than you or me hopefully has an answer to this problem, but as of right now, I fear we may be a little too late.​
—Erin M.

Erin, thanks a lot. I have been to Muncie a couple of times. I went to Ohio University, and Ball State, in Muncie, is in this city in crisis. I just hope people spent seven minutes to get slapped in the face by the great story from Noguchi. We need to understand how serious a crisis this is, for all Americans.

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My son, Jeff Allison, was the top high school baseball player in the country in 2003. For someone from Massachusetts that is a rare thing. He was a first-round draft choice of the Marlins. He became addicted to opioids, first Oxycontin and then heroin, and overdosed twice. Because of his baseball acclaim on a national level, this became a highly publicized situation for him and our family. As of today, Jeff has been clean for more than 11 years. He is married and a new father of a three-month old son. He runs a baseball facility and coaches two AAU teams. Additionally, and most importantly, he now speaks to students in high schools and middle schools about his journey. He leaves nothing out. He wants them to hear what he went through, the pitfalls and the homelessness and hopelessness he felt. For most, it is impossible to understand this situation until you have been through it. The more attention that is brought to this crisis, the better.
—Bob A.

Bob, I can’t thank you enough for your candor. God bless your family. I am so happy for you that Jeff is living such a productive life now.

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I am wondering why I have not heard anybody talk about the Browns taking Saquon Barkley at number one and a QB at four. That way they wouldn’t have to worry about the Giants taking him at number two and they still get a great potential starting QB. This would fill two huge needs and instantly make Browns games watchable. Maybe you can explain why it seems most people think the Browns need to choose a QB first?
—Ross S. 

I think it’s pretty simple, Ross. The Browns have been looking for a starting quarterback since they resumed the franchise operation in 1999. Quarterbacks are harder to find than running backs. If you’ve got the first choice among quarterbacks in what is probably the deepest (though flawed) draft for quarterbacks since 2004, and you have a deep conviction on one of them, you have to take that guy. Let’s say the Browns graded three quarterbacks very closely. Then I could see them passing on a quarterback at one and not taking one until the fourth pick. But I doubt that’s how GM John Dorsey is thinking.

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I couldn’t agree with you more about the fact that the draft is way too late.  As a long-suffering Browns fan, I’ve had to turn off the local sports talk some days because its simply “Groundhog Day.” Not much changes and “experts” are brought in to spice up the local coverage. I really wish this ended a month ago.
—David W., Bay Village, Ohio

Too much vanilla ice cream is too much. I’ve grown to hate the hype.

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Your story about the old 17-round NFL draft reminded me of Dave Winfield. In 1973, after his time at the University of Minnesota, the Vikings drafted Winfield as a tight end in the 17th round. He was also drafted by the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA. Of course, the San Diego Padres also drafted Winfield after he was named All-America and MVP of the College World Series, as a pitcher! Winfield could have become Antonio Gates. Or, he could have been Shohei Ohtani. I expect that no one would argue with Winfield’s choice of a career as an outfielder, though.
—Dave K.

Hard to argue with making the Hall of Fame in the sport of your choice. Who knows how great he’d have been in another game?

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Well, that 'Factoid' definitely interested me. I’ve been reading your column as long as you’ve been writing it, and that was one of the best/most interesting/funniest ‘Factoids’ ever, and not just because I'm a Bills fan. Great way to ‘cap’ off another weekly column! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

I found myself wondering if Cap Capi was captain of his high school or college teams, or if he wears a baseball cap very often, or, if when he wears said cap, if he wears the baseball cap with the bill forward or backward, or if he ever played the state capitals quiz game in the car on long trips, or if he got captured in war games in the neighborhood as a kid.  

1. Coffeenerdness: Does Cap Capi drink cappuccino? 2. What does Cap Capi think of Colin Kaepernick? 3. Do you suppose Cap Capi ever heard of Gino or John Cappelletti?​
—Andy C., Morristown, N.J.

That certainly is a fine capper to my football mailbag.

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