About a half-hour before the NFL draft was set to start back up on Friday night, Giants GM Dave Gettleman found the excerpt he’d saved from the April 1 edition of USA Today on his desk. Columnist Dan Wolken was the author. Duke and Kentucky had just been ousted from the NCAA Tournament.
“I got it right here,” Gettleman said. “I want you to listen to this, the final paragraph in this article, he’s talking about Duke and Kentucky, great coaches, two great coaches, two great programs. But since this one-and-done thing, they’ve only won one championship each.”
He read it.
As long as [Mike] Krzyzewski and [John] Calipari are coaching, they’re going to get more than their share of the best recruits every single year because of the pathway they’ve established to the NBA. But both programs have discovered in the tournament that elite recruiting and good roster construction don’t mean the same thing.
It had been less than 22 hours since Gettleman had set a new course for the next decade or two of Giants football, by selecting Duke quarterback Daniel Jones sixth overall. In the aftermath Gettleman had a point to make.
“I don’t know how to say this, but it’s because of the current culture we have,” Gettleman said, “where ‘Albert Breer’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and if the Giants don’t pick Albert Breer they’ve got brain damage.’ That’s the culture we’re living in right now. That’s about talent procurement, the gathering of talent. It’s not about that. That’s part of it. But it’s about roster construction.
“Listen, I’ve been to seven Super Bowls, kiddo. And I’ve seen what it smells like, looks like and tastes like. And that’s what those teams had. They were well-constructed rosters, and the culture was there, and obviously the talent level was there. It’s gotta be a match of both. So Daniel for us was the guy, plain and simple.”
Among the four quarterbacks projected into the first round of the 2019 draft—only three wound up being taken on Thursday night—Jones was the most polarizing (in a crop of polarizing prospects). Some evaluators felt he had the most upside of all the 2019 QBs. Others believed he was a third- or fourth-round talent, destined to become a backup, whose stock was blown up in a year when supply didn’t meet the NFL’s constant demand for passers.
Either way, for Gettleman, this wasn’t going to be about how the rest of the league saw Jones, good or bad.
It was about—and only about—how he fit the Giants.
The draft is now, finally, in the rear-view mirror. And we’ve got you covered from all angles (including a couple pointed toward 2020). Including:
• How Miami deftly swiped Josh Rosen from the Cardinals in plain sight.
• What I know now about the draft class that’ll be in Vegas next April.
• My take on the Chiefs’ handling of the Tyreek Hill situation.
• How the Bengals, Panthers and Broncos had the quarterbacks ranked.
• Why the Raiders valued Clelin Ferrell at the level they did.
And much more. But we’re starting with the flagship NFL franchise that made the biggest waves with a move that was expected in one way, and totally unexpected in another.
That New York took Jones—given the ties linking Duke coach David Cutcliffe to Eli Manning (who played for Cutcliffe when he coached at Ole Miss) and the Giants—was no surprise. That it went down with the sixth pick, and not the 17th, was a big one.
So how did that happen? For Gettleman, it started with the best advice he got from ex-Giants GM Ernie Accorsi, after Accorsi’s vetting of Manning in 2004, and back when the current GM was the team’s pro scouting director: Make sure you get live game exposure to any high-end quarterback you’re considering drafting.
Gettleman couldn’t do that ahead of the ’18 draft, because the college season ended before he was hired. So ’19 was different. He was at the Big 10 title game in Indy to see Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. He’d been in Morgantown, W.Va., the week earlier to see West Virginia’s Will Grier and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. Two weeks before that, he saw Oregon’s Justin Herbert (who ended up staying in school) play Utah in Eugene.
And for the first time in his 32-year scouting career, he extended his January stay in Mobile, Ala. During Senior Bowl week, most scouts get in on Sunday and leave after Wednesday’s practices. This year Gettleman stayed for the game on Saturday, because that would give him a shot to see eight more quarterbacks live.
Jones was one of them, and made it worth the three extra nights in a hotel.
“The thing that convinced me about him as a player was the Senior Bowl,” Gettleman says. “I watched [Jones’] three series. The first series, he was three-and-out. Series 2 and Series 3, he takes them right down the field for touchdowns. And he just looked like what a professional quarterback should look like.”
A formal interview in Mobile, plus that game exposure, were the first but hardly the last points of contact between Gettleman and Jones. Along the way, Gettleman:
• Interviewed Jones at the combine.
• Made a trip to Durham, separate from pro day, to sit down with Jones.
• Assigned coordinator Mike Shula and college scouting director Chris Pettit to go with Senior VP of player personnel Chris Mara to Jones’s pro day, which Gettleman couldn’t attend because it conflicted with the owners meetings.
• Had Jones up to New Jersey for a “30” visit this month.
And as those boxes got checked, a thread became obvious. “He was always the same guy,” Gettleman said. “We spoke with him at the Senior Bowl, I spoke to him in Indy. We had him here for a 30 visit. I went down to Durham to visit him, not work him out, just visit with him. He was the same guy every time. The same mature kid.”
What did mean to the Giants in the end? Here’s what it meant.
Jones would be fine playing in a pressure-cooker. As Gettleman said, not every situation is the same, and “being a quarterback in New York’s not easy.” Add that to the fact that whoever the next quarterback was going to be—and the Giants vetted Haskins, Murray and Drew Lock (Jones’ fellow Senior Bowl quarterback) this way—would eventually replace a franchise icon, and makeup was always going to be significant.
“That’s just part of picking a quarterback—being able to handle his surroundings,” coach Pat Shurmur told me. “That’s what’s going to come with playing here. But again, you stay in the moment. Here’s your locker, here’s your helmet, here’s the iPad, here’s the playbook, here are your coaches, let’s get to work. Just stay in that realm, don’t worry about the other stuff, and be very genuine about your approach.
“That’s something we really saw in Daniel.”
He could handle bumps. The Giants liked the fact that Jones, like Baker Mayfield last year, was going from college walk-on to NFL first-round pick. “He had to fight for everything at Duke,” Gettleman said. “Nobody handed him anything.” And even after he became entrenched as the starter, there were a lot of Saturdays where he found himself in situations that would be untenable for most quarterbacks.
“It’s Duke playing Clemson, and the Clemson guys are banging him around, and he showed toughness, a stick-to-itiveness,” Gettleman said. Shurmur added, “The nice thing about Dan is he’s had to deal with some adversity. When you do that, you develop a mechanism for when you face it later on, how you’re going to handle things.”
The team would set itself up for a smooth transition. When I asked Shurmur how Cutcliffe described Jones, he answered, “Some of it’s private, but just how competitive he is, and don’t mistake his calm demeanor for not being able to get after it. I think that’s a good thing.” I told Shurmur that sounded like Eli. “In some ways, yeah,” he responded. “In a lot of ways, actually.”
The end’s usually not pretty with franchise quarterbacks, particularly when there’s an appointed successor on the roster. And therein lies what Shurmur and Gettleman see as a bonus to the fact that Jones and Manning have a pre-existing relationship— there’s a pretty good shot the Giants’ avoid Rodgers/Favre-style awkwardness.
“It’s because of the two people that we’re talking about,” Shurmur said. “Number one, I think Eli does an outstanding job of staying in the moment and worrying about the task at hand. Right now he’s worrying about getting himself ready for the 2019 season. That’ll be his focus. And then I expect Daniel’s going to come in and try to learn as much as he can as quickly as he can, and try to prepare himself to play.
“Along the way, because there’s a healthy respect for one another, they’ll both be able to do their jobs. Like I told Eli, it’s not Eli’s job to train Daniel Jones. It’s Eli’s job to do what he has to do to get himself ready for the season and help us win games.”
Or as Gettleman said, as the Giants were on the clock, “I was on the phone with Eli. I told him, ‘You’re our quarterback, let’s go. And by the way, we’re drafting the Jones kid, and your job is to be the best quarterback you can be and help us win. It’s his responsibility to crawl up your fanny and learn.’”
For all the talk about fit, the Giants do believe in Jones’s talent, by the way. Both Gettleman and Shurmur raised his 4.65 speed to me. And I’m told that he was the No. 1 quarterback on the team’s board, ahead of Murray and (as was made obvious on draft night) everyone else. Bottom line—he doesn’t get there unless the evaluators in house think he’s got a chance to be really, really good.
That’s what set Gettleman up to pull the one big surprise in all this: taking Jones with the sixth pick rather than the 17th (which he got from Cleveland in the Odell Beckham trade). Part of that was information the Giants had that two other teams (Washington was one, I believe) could take Jones. Another was that they just felt too strongly about Jones to risk it.
So in essence they traded Josh Allen, who would have been their pick at 6 (he went at 7 to Jacksonville), for Dexter Lawrence, whom New York got at 17, for the assurance they’d get their guy.
“People can speculate all day long, ‘Oh, nobody would’ve taken him.’ You don’t know that,” Gettleman said. “There are no guarantees. So the bottom line is, if you believe this kid can get you to the promised land, why wait? You have to have confidence in what you’re doing. You’re drafting players. The team will be better.
“Now, what happens next year? What if you don’t take him this year, and next year you’re picking 22? You’re going to have to move heaven and earth. This is the closest we’re going to get. It made the most sense.”
For his part, the GM knows a lot of people don’t agree with that, nor do they think the team will be much better than it was in 2018. But Gettleman’s strength when he was GM in Carolina was his willingness to do what might not have been popular—it’s how he cleaned up a dumpster fire of a salary-cap situation there—and he clearly hasn’t shrunk to all the heat that goes with doing similar things in the New York market.
Do I think he could’ve landed Allen and Jones with minimal maneuvering? I think it’s possible he could have. But I know the reality of this situation as well as he does.
That is to say, if Jones hits, the 11-pick price for making sure Gettleman got his man won’t look prohibitive at all. And if Jones doesn’t, everyone will be gone anyway.
INSIDE THE CARDINALS-DOLPHINS JOSH ROSEN DEAL
The Dolphins had background on Josh Rosen, having evaluated the quarterback ahead of last year’s draft. But as it’s been explained to me, they went deeper into Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen because it seemed at the time that those two were more likely to make it to 11, where they scheduled to pick in 2018, than Rosen or Sam Darnold.
That’s one reason why the way Friday unfolded was pretty great for Miami GM Chris Grier, with unsolicited call after unsolicited call coming in on the 2018 Cardinals QB.
“It was all day Friday,” Grier said late on Saturday night. “It was just weird. It was people we know, and then even after the trade was done, they were like, ‘Really good guy, smart, you’ll love being around him.’ They talked about how he’s had change in his life, as far as all the different coordinators he’s played for. People spoke very highly of him, and recommended him to us.”
So Grier and the Dolphins wound up taking the swing on Rosen that was anticipated for the previous 24 hours or so. And that’s just what it was—a swing—which we’ll explain in a minute. First, from Grier’s point of view, here’s how this all came to be:
• Miami started work on Rosen around the combine, and it wasn’t because they had some inside track on what the Cardinals would do. It was more just hearing what the rest of us did. “People were saying it after Murray weighed in— ‘Oh, he’s taller than I thought’—and you kept hearing the rumors,” Grier said. “We just said, Hey, we’ll take a look at him on our end, in-house. We watched film and studied, and then whenever Arizona was going to open up the option to talk people, we would do that.” Grier and Cardinals GM Steve Keim did briefly talk in Indy, but Keim didn’t raise Rosen’s name. In general terms, Grier asked Keim to keep him apprised of any player who might come available.
• Grier saw a report about 20 minutes into the draft, after Murray was taken, but well before the Dolphins picked Christian Wilkins at 13. He called Keim and asked about Rosen specifically this time. They’d talk again later in the night, but both sides were entrenched in their position. Keim and Grier agreed to keep lines of communication open.
• And then, as Grier recalls, “We really didn’t hear from each other until sometime late afternoon, when all the stories started breaking saying that we had a deal for 48 [Miami’s second-rounder]. We were laughing because we never talked to each other. I’m sure Steve was doing the same. But we were in the building going, ‘Where this coming from? Forty-eight? We haven’t even talked today.’”
The teams re-engaged early in the second round. Both stood their ground, and Miami went forward with another plan for the 48th pick. “We’d fielded some calls from some people asking if we were willing to move down in the second round,” Grier said. “Our goal before the draft was, if we’re able to pick up a first or a second in 2020, that was something we’d consider. But we were more than willing to take a player at 48. There was a player we really liked. And we had a couple calls.” In the end, the Saints gave Miami the 2020 second-rounder they wanted, plus a six this year, to flop second-round picks. New Orleans got the 48th; the Dolphins would have 62.
As the draft moved into 50s, the Cardinals and Dolphins started talking again. Having gotten real value out of 48 with that future second-rounder, Miami was open to moving 62 for Rosen. But obviously, the 62nd pick is different from the 48th pick. So this new negotiation went to the buzzer. “We were ready to pick at 62,” Grier said. “And I’m telling you, Steve was pushing hard for what he wanted, and so were we. So we were to a point there where I wasn’t sure if it was going to get done or not.”
In the end, throwing a fifth-round pick in with the 62 was enough to push the deal over the goal line—and get the Dolphins a quarterback who is just 82 days older than Dwayne Haskins and 178 days older than Kyler Murray, and is exactly three months younger than Lock.
Even better, Rosen, the 10th pick last year, comes at a price that won’t preclude Miami from drafting Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert next year, or Trevor Lawrence the year after that. As we said earlier, it’s a swing. You might remember that Seattle found Russell Wilson by taking swings (Charlie Whitehurst, Matt Flynn).
“Every team in the league is looking for that guy that’s going to lead them to championships,” Grier said. “And so for us, we’re in a position where we’re trying to find that guy, like a lot of teams in the league. So yeah, it was an easy decision. And it doesn’t stop us from doing anything in the future. Who knows? If things go well and we feel he’s the guy, who knows? But it doesn’t stop us from doing anything.”
As it stands, if you add this move to the Ryan Tannehill trade (which Miami smartly anchored by taking on some of Tannehill’s 2018 money), Miami comes out of this offseason with this net result:
GAVE UP: QB Ryan Tannehill, 2019 second-round pick (48), 2019 sixth-round pick (188), 2020 fifth-round pick.
GOT: QB Josh Rosen, OT Isaiah Price (pick 202), FB Chandler Cox (pick 233), 2020 second-round pick, 2020 fourth-round pick.
So they move into 2020 with two second- , fourth- , sixth- and seventh-round picks, and compensation likely coming for Ja’Wuan James and Cam Wake. On the field, Grier says, “Josh is going to have to come in and compete. Nothing’s going to be handed to him.”
If he crushes it, Miami can build around him with all that capital. If he doesn’t, the Dolphins can use it to position themselves for next April. Not a bad spot to be in.
THE CHIEFS AND TYREEK HILL
With all the draft news, we don’t want to ignore the horrible Tyreek Hill audio that KCTV5 published just before the draft began on Thursday night.
In case you missed it, authorities held a press conference Wednesday to announce that while they believed a crime occurred earlier this year (when police were called twice to Hill’s house, and his three-year-old son’s arm was broken), they lacked sufficient evidence to charge a perpetrator. The audio that went public the next day appears to include Hill's fiancée, Crystal Espinal, asking him why their son said, “Daddy did it.”
In the audio, Hill denies breaking the boy's arm; when Espinal points out that their son is terrified of him, Hill replies, “You need to be terrified of me, too, b----.” The Chiefs have since barred Hill from their facility as the criminal case was re-opened.
The safety of Hill’s fiancée and son are the first concern here. Regarding football, the big issue is consistency.
You might not know who Trumaine Brock is, but he’s a relevant example. On April 7, 2017, the then-49er corner was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence, in an incident that left the alleged victim, his girlfriend, with no visible injuries. The Niners cut Brock the following afternoon, and welcomed praise for it.
You might remember the Chiefs being similarly lauded in November for acting just as quickly when video surfaced of Kareem Hunt striking a woman in a Cleveland hotel the previous February. While Hunt wasn’t arrested (because police could not determine if a crime was committed), the video proved that lied to the team about the incident. And it was good to see Kansas City taking the matter seriously and taking action.
So why haven’t they reacted as quickly in Hill’s case? Easy. He’s too good a player to just let go. That’s the reality of it. You can bet if this wasn’t one of the very best playmakers in the league, the Chiefs would quickly be walking away from a player who already has an ugly history of domestic violence—he was thrown out of Oklahoma State for choking and punching Espinal while she was pregnant.
Due process? Hunt’s didn’t last long in a situation that was cut-and-dried.
The more applicable comparison here is to Brock. Four months after the Niners cut him, he was cleared by authorities. Six months after that, he was cleared by the league, right around the time the Niners’ 2017 first-round pick, Rueben Foster, was accused in a domestic violence case. Foster got the due process from the Niners that Brock didn’t, because Foster was a more valuable player than Brock was. To be fair, the Niners had reason to believe Foster. But he still got leeway that others wouldn’t.
Hill is getting that leeway now, and for very obvious reasons. Hunt didn’t get it either. And if you think this is just a Chiefs thing, think again.
Why didn’t Ray Rice ever get another chance after 2014 video of him hitting his fiancée became public? I’d argue it was more about his per-carry average (3.0 yards per in 2013) than the crime. He was no longer worth the bad publicity he’d bring with him to an owner. Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson, if you remember, were worth the bad publicity.
We’re getting to the point now, clearly, where Hill won’t be worth the trouble to the Chiefs much longer. But it’s messed up that we’re not already there.
A NEVER-TOO-EARLY LOOK AT THE 2020 DRAFT
Because I know you guys love the draft like I do, I figured I’d pass along five quick things I already know about how next year’s class is shaping up.
• The quarterbacks figure to be better. I had one executive tell me that Herbert, as a prospect, is good enough already to be graded in the area Mayfield and Darnold were last year. A handful of others have told me Herbert would have been the first quarterback off the board this year if he’d declared (and maybe if Kliff Kingsbury wasn’t holding the first pick). And you know about Tagovailoa, whom Alabama coaches have compared to Drew Brees for scouts coming through Tuscaloosa. Throw in Georgia’s Jake Fromm, plus potential surprises (remember, Haskins and Murray were one-year starters), and it looks like a good year ahead.
• The receiver crop should be as good as this year’s was shaky. Clemson’s Tee Higgins, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault and the Alabama trio of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Devonta Smith are all promising going into the 2019 season, and teams know it. Take what the Colts, with a receiver need, did this offseason as evidence: signing Devin Funchess to a one-year deal to Band-Aid the issue, knowing what could be coming.
• There are a few guys who should benefit from returning to school, like Allen did in going back to Kentucky for 2018. Herbert is one, although for developmental reasons more so than boosting his draft position. Alabama’s Raekwon Davis and Auburn’s Derrick Brown are two more.
• Ohio State has another freak defensive end on the way, on the heels of Nick Bosa going second overall. Chase Young, a true junior, has been pegged as a 2020 top-five pick by coaches since he arrived on campus in the summer of 2017, and will get another year to develop under D-line guru Larry Johnson.
• Another LSU defensive back could make up for the fall of Greedy Williams on draft day—safety Grant Delpit. The NFL has had its eyes on Delpit for a while now, and last fall he became just the ninth unanimous All-American in school history. He’s a blast to watch, and should go high in the 2020 draft.
1. The Cardinals’ handling of Rosen as an asset deserves the scrutiny it’s getting. The idea that teams that touched base early on (Dolphins, Redskins, Giants, Chargers) would be just as interested on Day 1 of the draft, with their months-long plans unfolding that night, is flat-out asinine. By Friday morning, Haskins was a Redskin, Jones was a Giant, and the Chargers’ tepid interest in Rosen was gone. That left Arizona with a single suitor for a player who was seen as a prodigy as a UCLA true freshman, and became a top-10 pick despite a host of questions ahead of the 2018 draft. I really like the match of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, and I think it’s got a shot to work in the NFL, which would make all of this just a sidebar to how the Cardinals got there. But to walk away from Rosen with Andy Isabella and a fifth-rounder next year is pretty nuts. (For more on this, be sure to check out Robert Klemko’s story on Rosen, with some pretty remarkable details, on The MMQB today.)
2. After seeing Joe Flacco’s early work in Denver’s offseason program, and considering the draft class against the team’s needs, Broncos GM John Elway resolved not to spend the 10th overall pick on a quarterback. Which, it seemed, would kill his longstanding connection to Drew Lock (who I’m told was absolutely the No. 1 quarterback on his board). Then things started happening. The Broncos likely would’ve taken Devin Bush at 10, if the Steelers hadn’t come with an aggressive offer—putting the 52nd overall pick and a 2020 third-rounder on the table to move up 10 spots. And with that capital, buzz built in the draft room that Elway, who incessantly raised Lock’s name in draft meetings, might move back into the first round later (after the team grabbed Noah Fant at 20) to get his guy. It didn’t happen, but those whispers, as it turned out, had weight. Taking the 52nd pick, and packaging fourth- and sixth-round picks, Denver was able to wrangle No. 42 from the Bengals, who rarely deal picks. And so with back-to-back picks (Elway was negotiating while he was on the clock at 41), the Broncos got Lock and a big man to protect him, in K-State’s Dalton Risner. There’s a good lesson here, too, for all of us. Elway was all over Lock during Senior Bowl week, before the draft hype machine revved up for 2019 and lying season kicked off. When it comes to the draft, sometimes, the oldest rumors are the most reliable rumors. And there’s an added benefit to the way the Broncos did this too. As with Miami using a second-rounder on Rosen, because Denver didn’t spend more than a second on Lock, there’s really no reason the Broncos couldn’t take another quarterback in 2020 if they really fall for one. And they have that extra third-rounder now as capital, if they need to move up to do it.
3. Speaking of long-held affections, the Panthers’ love for local kid Will Grier was well-documented. How much did they love him? I’m told he was the third-ranked quarterback on Carolina’s board, behind only Lock and Haskins. And that working out is also a good example of team’s playing their compensatory picks. The Panthers let promising guard Andrew Norwell walk last March and got the 100th pick back this March as compensation. That gave them the flexibility to move their slotted third-rounder to deal up in the second-round, from 47 to 37, and get Ole Miss LT Greg Little. And that meant they came away having addressed their top two needs (they got pass-rusher Brian Burns in the first round) at premium positions, while still getting the backup quarterback they’d eyed the whole time, knowing that Lock and Haskins were out of reach. Not bad.
4. Hope you all enjoyed the mocks and rumors columns last week, but I’ll fall on the sword for one miss from last Monday’s mock—I had the Bengals taking Haskins, and I think they’d decided by then not to take a quarterback with the 11th pick (though I do believe they liked the in-state prospect). My understanding is that the Bengals had their sights set on N.C. State’s Ryan Finley because they had a good feeling that he’d be there early on Day 3. The Bengals had him fifth on their board, behind the first four QBs to go, and with a grade comparable to Lock. My sense is that Andy Dalton’s made a good first impression on new coach Zac Taylor, which Cincy’s draft-day actions would back up.
5. Credit to the Jaguars for pivoting in the face of something unexpected happening on Thursday—Kentucky’s Josh Allen falling right in their laps. The two players Jacksonville was considering at 7, I’m told, were Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson and Alabama OT/G Jonah Williams, with the expectation that Allen would be gone. The sense I got is that Hockenson probably would’ve been the pick. But when a blue-chipper falls from the sky, you catch him. And that’s what Tom Coughlin, Dave Caldwell and Doug Marrone did. They wound up addressing the other two positions, by the way, in Rounds 2 (OT Jawaan Taylor) and 3 (San Jose State TE Josh Oliver).
6. For a month we linked Devin White to Oakland as a potential fourth overall pick. And the reason other teams gave me for GM Mike Mayock liking him related to something Mayock told me in February about setting a tone organizationally: “What are you looking for in an Oakland Raider? And I think the teams that consistently win are most consistent in that philosophy. Pick a team. You look at the way the Ravens have drafted over the years with Ozzie [Newsome], or Kevin Colbert and the Pittsburgh Steelers. You look at that, you go, ‘OK, those guys know what a Pittsburgh Steeler looks like and smells like. Doesn’t matter who the head coach is, the type of kid is very similar.’ And from draft to draft to draft, they get their kind of kid. And I think that’s what [Gruden] and I are striving for. He’s probably a little bit more aggressive and I’m probably more conservative. And I think we’re going to end up somewhere in the middle.” To me, that explains the Clelin Ferrell pick (and the Raiders’ other two first-rounders) perfectly. That was why I’d heard, and wrote in my Thursday draft rumors column, that Mayock wanted Ferrell. I didn’t think it’d be with the fourth pick, over White and Allen. But I’d applaud acting with conviction, like that.
7. Outside of the five elite defensive players, here are some first-round guys who, over dozens and dozens of calls to coaches and scouts, everyone seemed to really like (throwing out positional value and medicals): Bengals OT Jonah Williams, Vikings C Garrett Bradbury, Lions TE T.J. Hockenson, Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, and Ravens WR Hollywood Brown. And another guy I’d put in that group, or above it—Titans DT Jeffrey Simmons. Just about everyone I talked to considered him on the level of Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, White and Allen (and, for some, Ed Oliver) based off tape. As for the other issues surrounding Simmons, take a look at my Friday notes column to see why Tennessee felt good about drafting him where they did.
8. No one really knows how these draft classes are going to pan out, but Seahawks GM John Schneider going from four picks at the start of the week to 11 at the end of the draft is some Jedi sh--. And yeah, I know he had to trade Frank Clark to do it, but the Seahawks weren’t going to be paying him long-term (with Russell Wilson now signed, and Bobby Wagner on deck) anyway. Remember, too, it was this year’s second-round pick that was the centerpiece of the deal that brought Duane Brown to Seattle, which changed everything for that offensive line.
9. Why just one trade into the top 10? Teams were loathe to part with draft capital to get into that area this year, for one reason or another. Through all my calls last week, I didn’t hear of a single team willing to deal a 2020 first-round pick to get up into the top 10 this year. In lieu of that, I know of at least two teams that were offering star veterans on big contracts (both teams, by the way, were able to fill their needs without moving). Making a player trade is tough this time of year, because so much cap space is used up, and teams in the top 10 are looking at having players on contracts worth between $5 million and $8 million per for the next four years with those picks. As we said in this space the other day, maybe if the draft were before free agency, those sorts of moves would happen. But, for business reasons (the draft is great business for the league, and dragging it out is smart), that won’t be happening anytime soon.
10. I really like what the Redskins did this weekend, and not just because they picked two Buckeyes. But unbiased as I can be, I will say that I think, in 10 years, we’ll look back and see Terry McLaurin, the 71st overall pick, as one of this draft’s best values. He’s Matthew Slater as a special-teamer. He has real potential as a receiver. And as you could see in the video I tweeted out Saturday, he’s one of the best leaders in this draft class. Since that video elicited a big response from D.C., I figured I’d hit up Ohio State coach Brian Hartline about McLaurin in that regard. “After watching that video, and you can take this how you want, I think it’s important to say he’s not a huge vocal guy,” Hartline said. “But he always does it at the right time. That’s why everyone listens. And it just comes from such a genuine place—like with how excited he gets when someone else in his receiver room makes a play. That’s because he doesn’t lack confidence in himself, and he thinks cheering for his position group is good for everyone. He’s not threatened by anyone, because he has confidence in who he is and how he operates.” The other thing I asked Hartline about was how McLaurin continued to dominate on special teams as he improved as a receiver. “That’s because he cares,” Hartline said. “He cares to his core.” The Redskins are getting a stud.
… OF THE WEEK
"It will happen. I promise you it will. I have never felt so certain about something in my life."
Colts owner Jim Irsay on winning another Super Bowl in his lifetime. And I’d say Irsay has every reason to be optimistic. GM Chris Ballard drafted two First Team All-Pros (Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard) last April, has another potential star coming back to full strength in 2017 first-round pick Malik Hooker, and has a franchise quarterback finally healthy again. Coach Frank Reich orchestrated a six-win improvement in his first year. And after some maneuvering, the draft class Indy put together included three second-round picks, headed up by one (Temple CB Rock Ya-Sin) whom many figured could’ve gone in the top 20. The Colts could be good for a long-long time to come.
“I’d rather just wait to dive into that further until I receive further instructions.”
New Patriot DE Chase Winovich, when asked about his pre-draft contact with his new team. New England generally likes heady players. And this would qualify as a heady move by the ex-Michigan star.
How quickly I forgot that the AAF Championship was this weekend in Vegas. Did anyone else here catch it?
Ex-Cardinal Tyrann Mathieu sending good vibes to his fellow ex-Cardinal Josh Rosen, and it’s well-placed too in recognizing the message the quarterback was trying to get across—with an emphasis that there was nothing personal between him and Murray.
A half-million fans is crazy—even if Nashville does this pretty regularly. (My wife and I went there for our anniversary last June, and it happened to fall on the weekend of the CMAs there, and Broadway looked pretty much the same.)
Just an amazing tweet.
This was pretty good too, from my buddy Field Yates.
Final tally for the Raiders: Three Clemson Tigers (Ferrell, Trayvon Mullen, Hunter Renfrow) and one Bammer (Jacobs).
D.K. Metcalf was never the prospect he was made out to be, thanks to a viral-sent photo that made him look like Johnny Bravo and a starry combine performance that kicked the hype train into overdrive. And maybe that’s actually why he was so emotional here—he was made to believe he was going higher than he would (most teams I talked to didn’t think he was a first-rounder). But I don’t know how you could watch this and not have it hit you a certain way, especially when Metcalf said, “Why’d y’all wait so long?”
And there was a nice little side benefit to all this, in that we all got to hear the story of a shirtless Pete Carroll in Indy:
I’m one of two boys, and I’ve got two boys of my own now, so this one really got me too.
Yes. Yes, Quinnen Williams did.
Looks like Haskins wants to make the Giants pay. He’ll have the chance to, twice a year now.
That’s not nice, Will. But while we’re on the age thing … Kind of interesting that Josh Rosen is just three months older than Haskins and Jones, and six months older than Murray. And he’s actually younger than Lock.
Love it. Ed Oliver embracing his new home instantly.
Maybe most impressive was that N’Keal Harry kept his feet after the breaking the glass, to the point where he could do the cocky step-back in their faces.
S/O TO …
The Ravens, for doing this …
New GM Eric DeCosta looks like he’s genuinely emotional over it. (And in case you wanto see the actual draft card, it’s right here. Good work, Baltimore.)
SIX FROM THE SIDELINES
1. I know the tech at the end of the game is going to get all the attention, but man, was that step-back 3 from Steph Curry in the final minute of Warriors/Rockets a thing of beauty.
2. The Celtics are finally coming together … I think? Maybe?
3. Separate from whether college football players should be paid (and I think there are absolutely ways to do it that the NCAA ignores), I do think it’s silly to argue that the big-time coaches aren’t worth what they’re making, in the wake of Dabo Swinney’s 10-year, $93 million deal at Clemson. Blue-blood football programs change admissions standards, keep non-revenue sports afloat and can alter the perception of a university. That doesn’t mean there isn’t enough money to go around. There absolutely is. But those coaches are very, very valuable to the universities.
4. All the best to UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton in his recovery. Last summer, when I was looking ahead at this year’s quarterback class, I remember how Trent Dilfer couldn’t stop talking about Milton, whom he saw as an A-plus in every category but size.
5. And just to look ahead this year, when we were doing our draft show last week my esteemed colleagues Andy Staples and Dan Rubenstein told me to keep an eye on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love for the 2020 draft. So I’ll be keeping an eye on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.
6. Shoutout to our whole MMQB team for the draft coverage over the last couple months—I’m really proud of the work our site did. And Kalyn Kahler was fantastic captaining our coverage going back to the fall. I’m pumped we could bring you this kind of coverage all the way through.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
We don’t know much about the 2020 draft yet. Partly because the teams themselves don’t know much about the 2020 draft—most scouts you talk to will say that while they’ve watched and heard about next year’s prospects, they haven’t studied many them yet. And I’ll use my 2019 mock from last summer, which I ran by a bunch of evaluators, as proof.
I actually feel decent about it—three of my top 10 went in the top 10, and seven went in the first round. But Greg Little (who I mocked as the third pick) and Greedy Williams (ninth in my mock) wound up being second-rounders, and Jarrett Stidham (No. 7 in my mock) went in the fourth round. Stidham, by the way, was the only quarterback I had in the top 10 (Lock and Herbert were in the “players to watch” section).
Of course, at that point, Haskins and Quinnen Williams had yet to make their first career starts, and Murray hadn’t been officially named QB1 at Oklahoma (and was a first-round pick of the Oakland A’s). Josh Allen was returning to Kentucky because he probably would’ve gone in the third round if he’d declared, and most NFL types couldn’t pick Tytus Howard out of a lineup.
Point is, a lot of things change in 12 months. And that gives all of us a lot to look forward to.
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