Seventeen days until the draft, and the NFL insists on moving forward full steam ahead…
• The NFL sent out another memo on Monday, this time detailing the plans for a “fully virtual” draft on April 23, 24 and 25. And there’s plenty of dissenting opinion on this one, even if the league has done its best to suppress it. Maybe Roger Goodell hasn’t heard it? The commissioner hasn’t been the one on conference calls with the GM subcommittee over the last few weeks, delegating that to league execs Dave Gardi, Dawn Aponte and Troy Vincent. Sources say that at one point, on those calls, the subcommittee advocated for pushing the draft back a month, to better give teams a chance to adjust to new circumstances with hopes that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic would pass—and knowing that offseason programs were likely out the window anyway. And then a member of the subcommittee, Saints GM Mickey Loomis, went public with that position. Ultimately, Goodell chose to muzzle everyone and move forward with the draft as is. But it’s at least interest that he let his football ops people field the complaints, before making the decision.
• Most the discussion on hubs for the draft broadcast have centered on ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Conn. and Goodell’s residence in Bronxville, N.Y. So with one, the other or both in play, it should be a very unique weekend, one we won’t soon forget.
• The other thing the league has moved forward with is the schedule release, having publicly declared that’s coming no later than May 9. It’ll be interesting to see if the schedule has any modifications due to ongoing pandemic. In 2011, to account for the lockout potentially going into the season, the NFL backloaded the schedule with division games, to make it easier to shorten the slate if necessary. One easy way to cut the schedule down, if the league had to do that due to the pandemic, might be to eliminate interconference games. Each team plays four, so that’d be an easy way to get down to 12 games. And it’d create an interesting dynamic for a single year that might feel almost like baseball used to, when American League and National League teams wouldn’t play one another until the World Series.
• Panthers GM Marty Hurney addressed Christian McCaffery’s contract situation on Monday—and that highlights what should be an interesting few months for all the stud tailbacks from the 2017 draft class. Those guys are now eligible for new contracts for the first time, and the Todd Gurley story shows everyone both sides of the coin. For teams, it’s a cautionary tale on paying premium players at the position. For the players, it’s a reminder that running backs have to get paid while they can. And there are handful of stars who could draw a line in the sand as a result. Five of the top 12 backs in scrimmage yards in 2019 (McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Joe Mixon and Alvin Kamara) were 2017 draftees, and each has a case to ask for a big raise.
• This line stuck out from Tom Brady’s Players Tribune piece: “I’m ready to embrace fully a team that is confident in what I do—and what I bring—and is willing to go on this ride with me.” Unsaid is how some of the friction between Brady and Patriots staff over the last few years arose not just from his alternative training methods, but in how other players coming over to his ways caused some issues for New England’s strength staff. So I’m interested to see how Brady’s ways are incorporated into what the Bucs do.
• If pass interference review is out (which NFL Media’s Judy Battista reported is likely), and the sky judge is coming for 2020 (which, I can tell you, some members of the competition committee are in favor of), then the league’s head coaches will get what they wanted all along. Remember, when the 32 of them banded together last March, it was in pursuit of having a sky judge, and the pass interference review process was simply seen as a step on the way to getting there.
• I’m legitimately fascinated by the group of quarterbacks in the draft, mostly because Joe Burrow’s really the only one that doesn’t have a serious issue to address. And I’ve gotten a lot of pushback on the idea that Jordan Love belongs among the top group. “You got this Love in the first round, and I’d challenge people to look at all the busts to come out that looked better on their college tape than this guy,” said one college scouting director. “It’s supply and demand, and the idea there’s a certain number, minimum, that has to go in the first round. I think you’ve got three legit guys.” Those three being Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert.
• Following up on my point in the MMQB column about receivers, here are the first-round receivers from the last four years: Hollywood Brown, N’Keal Harry, D.J. Moore, Calvin Ridley, Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross, Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell. And the second-round receivers over the same period of time: Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, Mecole Hardman, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Parris Campbell, Andy Isabella, D.K. Metcalf, Courtland Sutton, Dante Pettis, Christian Kirk, Anthony Miller, James Washington, D.J. Chark, Zay Jones, Curtis Samuel, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Sterling Shepard, Michael Thomas and Tyler Boyd. Is there a marked difference from one group to the next? In my view, there is not.
• Antonio Brown hiring an agent (Ed Wasielewski) is a good step that he needed to take, based on his circumstances, to return to the NFL. And it’s an interesting hire, in that Wasielewski is a veteran of the business but a lower-profile type, which could help Brown as he tries to find a team and get the league to clear him.
• We’ll leave you with this link. Good on Bills GM Brandon Beane, and good on the team, for creating a unique way to pitch in during these trying times for everyone.
• Question or comment? Email us at email@example.com.