Seventy-two hours to go…
• The big mystery continues to be the fate of Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. I can’t find anyone who thinks Miami is taking him. With the Chargers, it depends more on who you talk to—and like I said in this morning’s column, GM Tom Telesco’s pretty good at concealing his intentions. If Tagovailoa slides past No. 6, it certainly opens up the question of when/if the Chargers will add another quarterback, and whether it’ll be in the draft or with a veteran. And it, of course, leads to Tagovailoa sliding, because from there it’s hard to find a home for him. We’ve seen this in the past. Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn and Johnny Manziel are among those in the fairly recent past who most people figured would go top 10, and wound up slipping into the 20s. There’s some expectation that Tagovailoa could tempt the Raiders with one of their picks. And there’s speculation that Patriots coach Bill Belichick could take a swing if Tagovailoa falls far enough, given that Nick Saban has given the quarterback glowing reviews, both publicly and privately, and the two coaches are so close.
• It’s no secret that both the Giants and Lions would love to move their picks, and it seems like their ability to do it might ride on whether they’re willing to take a little less than they may have hoped for. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, Detroit is comfortable with Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah and Auburn DT Derrick Brown, but likes those guys more at No. 5 or 6 than No. 3 (which I believe very well could be the case). And then, they look at the Giants likely to take an offensive tackle at No. 4, and it becomes a near-certainty they’ll get one of them at No. 5 or 6. How much would you really need to go down? Would a single second-rounder do it? It’s an interesting position that both Bob Quinn and Dave Gettleman are in.
• So how did that mock draft go on Monday? I texted with a half-dozen head coaches and GMs, and it seems like the consensus was that, after a shaky start, things got straightened out. The problem at the top, with the first pick, actually had to do with muting and un-muting a line. And there were some bumps to work out while the league and teams did dry runs on the trades early on. “It was all process-related,” said one team official on the call. Once everyone got the hang of it, it went better. And in the aftermath, the biggest question I could find, and this one came from a head coach, was how often the clock will have to be stopped to complete trades. But it was clear to everyone on there that there will be a lot of moving parts to organize Thursday, which is why this was done—to get everyone comfortable with a pretty unusual circumstance.
• Give NFL commissioner Roger Goodell credit for this one:
It shows he’s not taking himself too seriously. And while this is a little thing to help a very big cause, I’m not sure a couple years ago that the hyper-image-conscious league would’ve signed off on something like this.
• Niners GM John Lynch saying on Monday that he’s expecting left tackle Joe Staley back for a 14th season is a very big deal. As I understand it, San Francisco sees Mike McGlinchey staying on the right side long-term, which means they’ll have a big hole at some point over the next few years at a spot that traditionally demands a massive investment to fill. That it’s not an immediate need gives the team some flexibility. But I still think if a left tackle they like falls into their lap at No. 13, or even 31, they won’t hesitate to get ahead of this looming issue.
• So I should expound on my point on Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue from this morning, since it came up. One interesting idea that was floated to me was that Ngakoue could actually be a part of Jacksonville trading down to acquire a future asset. For argument’s sake—and this is a complete hypothetical—let’s say Tampa Bay wants to come up and get a tackle from No. 14. And the Bucs think they’ll be pretty good this year, and are in win-now mode, which may devalue their 2021 first-round pick a little (at least in their eyes). Could, then, the Jaguars package the ninth pick and Ngakoue for the 14th pick and the Bucs’ first-rounder next year? Something like that could make sense (and, again, I’m just pulling this one as a hypothetical).
• Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is correct in saying what he’s saying here—NFL teams would be foolish to believe that results from “virtual” pro days aren’t cooked to favor players. That said, if you cut the silly stuff out, there are things that can be helpful to teams, and most of it has to do with movement. Some tape that’s gone out to clubs, with prospects going through position drills, has been helpful in that regard.
• And we’ll wrap with a couple leftovers from my talk with likely Bengal-to-be Joe Burrow. One of the more interesting things he said to me that I left out of the MMQB? I asked if his doubt that this could happen—where he’d be set to go to first overall—was a form of PTSD, from being overlooked in the past. He laughed. “100%, PTSD,” he answered. “You could call it that from Ohio State and from being recruited.” His scholarship offer list in 2015, after being named Mr. Football in Ohio: Boston College, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, East Carolina, Fresno State, Iowa State, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, N.C. State, Ohio University, Toledo, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and West Virginia. As we said this morning, Nebraska, where his dad and brothers played, was notably absent. And that made Ohio State, far and away, the No. 1 program to offer him.
• As for the other piece of what Burrow said on PTSD, relating to what happened a couple years after he got to Columbus, here’s more on the battle he wound up losing to Dwayne Haskins: “So we had some really fun battles in practice. And we were playing so well that spring. I would make an insane throw, he would come out and make an even more insane throw, and it was just kind of a back-and-forth in that spring ball. It was a lot of fun. We knew how good the team was gonna be, and whoever got the starting job, how well that guy was gonna play. And then watching, I knew my junior season wasn’t going to be what it would’ve been if I’d stayed at Ohio State, just because I’m getting there so much later, learning who these guys are, and learning a bunch of the offense. I knew I wasn’t going to play at the level I expected of myself. And I was still going to work really, really hard to get there, but it’s just not realistic to play that well, or as well as I could have, in that short a time period, as well as still trying to win the job. I went into it with that mindset, that I knew I might struggle in the beginning.” And that’s pretty much how it went. Late in 2018, things started to click for Burrow, and we know what happened in 2019.
• I also asked Burrow at the end of our conversation if there was some satisfaction in showing those who passed on him what he was capable of. His answer was interesting. “Yeah, absolutely, there’s a little bit of that,” he said. “But it’s all in the past. I talked about it quite a bit with people that asked me at all these awards ceremonies, you have them all in February and March, and there was even one in April. That season is over. It’s time to move on. And I think it’s gonna be the same with the draft. If I’m the No. 1 pick, great. Let’s move on, let’s get into the playbook, let’s start practicing, let’s get really, really good at what we do, and I’ll start learning my guys. It’s nice, and yeah, I showed a lot of people. But I’ve still got a lot to prove.”
• And finally, here’s what he said when asked what going first overall would mean to him. “I’m not sure,” Burrow said. “It’s nice. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Ten years down the road, nobody’s gonna say, ‘Oh, you were the No. 1 pick, great job!’ They’re gonna talk about how I did. So that’s really all that I’m worried about. I could go 1, I could go 30, I could go 50, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m worried about being the best player that I can be for a long time in the league.” And the focus on that’s already begun, with another (however minor it might be) slight, based on what he’s heard is a shortcoming of his. “Everyone says the arm strength, but that’s been the knock on me since I was 16 years old,” Burrow said. “So I’ve learned how to overcome that with timing and anticipation and preparation. A lot of the great quarterbacks didn’t have cannon arms. But I’m still gonna work hard to improve my arm strength, that’s always something you can get better at, whether it’s with your body sequencing, your mechanics, or just straight up getting stronger.”
• I will say this: It’s not hard to see, talking to Burrow, how this kid from rural Ohio was able to become the alpha at an SEC blue blood. The Bengals are getting a baller.
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