Ten days to go…
1. I’ll say this about the potential that Arizona passes on Kyler Murray with the first overall pick (which I still don’t think will happen)—I wouldn’t rule out Alabama DT Quinnen Williams as a possibility for the Cardinals if they turn elsewhere. Clearly, they’ve kicked the tires on Ohio State edge rusher Nick Bosa. But the first time a team guy brought up the possibility that the Cardinals go with someone other than Murray at No. 1 to me, which was about a week ago, it was Williams’s name that came up first. And the idea that Williams could be their guy also supports the notion that they may be trying to bait the Niners into dealing up a spot for Bosa (which I also believe is pretty unlikely to happen).
2. If the Cardinals were to pass on Murray, they’d have a lot of cleanup work to do with last year’s rookie starter Josh Rosen, who is trying to be a good soldier now but, I’m told, isn’t trusting those around him much.
3. Panthers GM Marty Hurney has been at a bunch of pro days for the top offensive linemen, and so Carolina is one team sitting there right in the middle of the first round (pick No. 16) that could either end a run on tackles (with, maybe, Alabama’s Jonah Williams) or start one on interior linemen (with, maybe, NC State’s Garrett Bradbury). Whatever they do, Hurney’s presence in evaluating these guys has been noted.
4. I’ve been told by a bunch of people to keep an eye on Vanderbilt’s Joejuan Williams as a potential fit in New England, and maybe not necessarily strictly as a corner—with the idea being he could fit into a hybrid role like Patrick Chung’s (playing tight ends, supporting against the run, etc.). One scout I spoke with Sunday even pointed to a comment Bill Belichick made at his pre-draft presser to back up the idea: “This is another year where there’s a lot of big receivers—6'4", 225, 230, whatever they are—I mean, somebody’s going to have to cover those guys one of these days.” So file that one away.
5. I expect the heart issue detected in Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat at the combine will lead to a few teams taking him off their draft boards ahead of next Thursday. This is one of those situations where team doctors will give the football decision-makers a yes or no. And some teams are conservative with heart issues. So it’s at the very least a factor for the uber-talented Sweat.
6. We mentioned in The MMQB column the concept that Russell Wilson could pull down a percentage of the salary cap as part of his new deal. But the idea of that is not without risk. Where’s that risk? Consider what happened in the last CBA negotiation. The cap in 2009 was set at $123 million, with 2010 uncapped. And then, under the new math, the league and union agreed to tie a big chunk of players’ financial percentage to broadcast money that was a couple years away from exploding. So the cap dropped to $120.6 million in 2011, stayed there in ’12, and went back to $123 million in ’13, before starting to ascend about $10 million per year when the new broadcast contracts kicked in before the 2014 season. It’d make sense for the players to tie themselves to money from the media deals again in the next CBA. That money won’t kick in until 2023, which would be the third year of that CBA. And on paper, that would be the fourth new year of a Wilson deal, by which point the guarantees almost certainly will have run their course.
7. We’ve been bullish on the stock of LSU’s Devin White and Michigan’s Devin Bush over the last few weeks (check out the MMQB’s latest mock draft), and one reason why is because there’s not a lot of depth in the off-ball linebackers behind them. Alabama’s Mack Wilson is probably the next guy, and he’s more of a two-down linebacker. And after that, there’s another dropoff. So teams that need one, like Oakland, Tampa, Denver and Cincinnati, can make sense of the idea of taking White or Bush at a higher point than guys at those positions usually go.
8. One thing I didn’t think about much until I caught up with new Packer coach Matt LaFleur the other day—this is his fourth Year 1 in five years. He was part Dan Quinn’s first staff in Atlanta in 2015, Sean McVay’s first staff in L.A. in 2017 and Mike Vrabel’s first staff in Nashville last year. So what’s he learned? Building the scheme’s important in the spring. But, he said, “What’s even more important, is laying the foundation, again, of what you’re all about. How you build that team chemistry, that team camaraderie throughout these phases, and come together as a football team, helps you get through the tough times. This is the National Football League, there’s gonna be adversity. There’s not one team that doesn’t go through adversity at some point during the season, whether it’s in a game or not, there’s always adversity everywhere you look. It’s how you react in those tough times, and you gotta lean back not only on each other but the foundation that you’ve built.”
9. I’m not stunned, by the way, that the Packers are doing a little tire-kicking on the quarterbacks in this year’s class. (Yahoo’s Terez Paylor reported they’re having Drew Lock in for a visit.) Brett Favre was 35 years, 6 months old when Green Bay drafted Aaron Rodgers to be his heir in 2005. Aaron Rodgers is 35 years, 4 months old now.
10. Another AAF post-mortem to wrap here, and a more positive one—I heard back from one team executive the other day who was proud of the job the guys in the league did of laying groundwork for players to grow. He said that, because of hours constraints in both college and the pros, teaching of fundamentals has suffered, leaving some guys who need work hopelessly behind. So, he continued, with so many experienced coaches in the AAF, the league gave guys a chance to get right in areas they might not otherwise. I thought it was an interesting point that underscores where football may suffer not having a true minor-league system.
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