- Also, Adam Gase on Sam Darnold, Freddie Kitchens on John Harbaugh’s comments that Cleveland has the AFC North’s most talented roster, at what football position would certain NFL personnel start Duke hoops star Zion Williamson and more.
Kicking off April from the home office …
1. Nick Bosa’s dance card is filling up with the NFL draft quickly approaching this month. He’ll be at the Giants’ and Cardinals’ facilities this week, and I’m told that next week, he’ll travel to the Bay Area and to visit with the Raiders and 49ers. Much of the NFL scouting community is expecting Bosa to be drafted second overall to San Francisco, if Arizona takes Kyler Murray first overall.
2. The NFL is higher on LSU linebacker Devin White than you might think. He’s considered as good or better than Bears’ Roquan Smith was last year (better measurables, perhaps a tick behind on instincts), and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Raiders took him with the fourth pick or if the Buccaneers drafted him fifth. The last off ball linebacker to go in the top five? Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry, taken fourth overall by Seattle in 2009. And the two before that were AJ Hawk (fifth, 2006) and LaVar Arrington (second, 2000).
3. And White going that high would help Michigan LB Devin Bush, who’s got a good shot at being drafted in the top 15, despite being a smallish prospect for his position.
4. I’m usually skeptical about what we hear in an introductory press conference, but what you saw Monday between Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry was real. (And if you haven’t seen the Nike commercial starring the two Browns teammates, you should watch it.) To give you context on what it means football-wise, here’s what an AFC scout had to say about why Beckham seemed to suffer from issues in the NFL that he didn’t have while at LSU—from my column that I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the trade:
“He wasn’t like this [at LSU]. He was a typical receiver—he liked attention and he wanted the ball. He dressed flashy, liked to be at the club, liked having people around him. But when it came to football, he wasn’t like this. This has developed. It’s interesting, he had Jarvis Landry with him and Jarvis was the ultimate alpha dog. Odell was the uber-talented athlete, Jarvis was the dog. And I think having that guy in the receiver room, in the same class as him, it kept him hungry and knowing when to draw that line, because he knew if he didn’t, he might not be the best receiver on his own team.”
5. One leftover from my conversation with Browns coach Freddie Kitchens—he raised comments from Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who said Cleveland had the division’s most talented roster. “There’s a coach in the league that mentioned something, said we have the best talent in the division,” Kitchens said, laughing. “Hell, that’s just trying to set you up for failure. We understand the games that are played. We understand that people want to put you up so they can knock you down. It’s a hell of a lot more fun seeing somebody fall when the expectations are high. Everybody knows that. I’m from Alabama and I know that.” Ravens-Browns should be fun, and we’ll get it twice in the fall.
6. Another MMQB leftover—I asked Jets coach Adam Gase for his initial feelings on his new quarterback, Sam Darnold: “I think it’s his ability to make something happen when things break down. And I think his decision-making, it keeps getting better. When he was injured and then came back, I think that was good for him, because he was able to take a step back and process what happened at the beginning of the year. And then when he came back in, you could see a guy that understood it a little better, which was probably the best thing that happened to him.” Interesting note here: Darnold’s TD-INT ratio in two games against Gase’s Dolphins last year was 1–6, which would indicate the new coach probably has some good intel to pass on to his new quarterback.
7. For fun, I asked some personnel people last week at the annual meeting what they’d do if Zion Williamson suddenly decided to become a football player. One actually said he’d try and make him a pass-rusher, because of his explosiveness and power. The rest all said they’d put him at tight end. Obviously we’ve seen that with basketball players before, which makes sense, since the ball skills can transfer right over.
8. The more I dive into the fine details of the Ryan Tannehill trade, the more I like the creativity the teams worked with on it. The Dolphins gave him a $5 million signing bonus, which in essence bought them a fourth-round pick (while dealing a sixth-round pick for a seventh-rounder) for a player they were going to cut. And the Titans use that 4 to get a backup quarterback with 88 career starts for $2 million, plus $5.35 million in incentives that only kick in if he plays. So Miami uses cap space to get a pick, and Tennessee uses a pick to preserve space in what the cost of a backup quarterback would be.
9. The Eagles took a flyer on Bears castoff RB Jordan Howard last week—sending a sixth-roud pick to Chicago that can become a fifth-round—which provides at least some commentary on what Philadelphia thinks about this draft’s running back group. It’s known that the group coming out this year isn’t nearly as good as the crop in 2017 or ’18.
10. How does the rare player-for-player trade happen in the NFL? Things have to match up pretty perfectly—and they did for the Chiefs and Browns on Monday as the teams swapped DE Emmanuel Ogbah and CB Eric Murray. Kansas City traded away OLB Dee Ford and acquired S Tyrann Mathieu last month, just as Cleveland dealt for DE Olivier Vernon and deal away S Jabrill Peppers. So needs and surpluses matched up for teams that have a natural connection (Browns GM John Dorsey, obviously) anyway. And the money (Murray will make $2.0 million, Ogbah is due $1.4 million) was close enough for a pair of guys in contract years.
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