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  • 2017 NFL Draft: Bold predictions for Day 2
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft produced plenty of surprises, including eight of the first 12 picks being spent on skill-position players -- more than in any year since the turn of the century.

    • Predicting that would occur entering the first round would have been bold, indeed, given that the class of 2017 has been universally lauded as loaded with top prospects on defense, not offense.

      What big storylines should you anticipate on Friday? Here are five bold predictions:

      5. Buckeyes' Curtis Samuel next receiver off the board

      Perhaps the biggest surprise of the first day was the fact that three receivers -- each coming off significant injuries -- were among the first nine players drafted. The Buckeyes' 5-foot-11, 196-pound Samuel is as dynamic an athlete as any of them and is not likely to be unclaimed for long. The knock on Samuel -- much like arch-nemesis Jabrill Peppers from Michigan (and now a member of the Cleveland Browns) -- was that he might be a player without a true position in the NFL, as he bounced back and forth between wide receiver and running back with the Buckeyes. While not as polished as East Carolina's Zay Jones, as big as Southern California's JuJu Smith-Schuster or as polished as Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp, Samuel possesses agility and mercurial speed (4.31 at the Indianapolis Combine) that make him a mismatch nightmare.

      4. First-round talents left on the board won't last long

      Off-field or medical questions pushed running backs Dalvin Cook (Florida State) and Joe Mixon (Oklahoma), defensive tackle Malik McDowell (Michigan State), offensive tackle Cam Robinson (Alabama) and quarterback DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) down the board, but each is among the prospects still available who clearly have first-round talent. Do not expect these players to last long on Friday. Either back would appear to be an intriguing fit in Green Bay's green and gold, especially given that the Packers allowed former second-round runner Eddie Lacy to leave in free agency. The Packers currently have the rights to the first pick, 33rd overall, on Friday.

      3. Seahawks will be busy

      Seattle entered the draft with four Day 2 picks, and they acquired two more Thursday after a pair of trade-downs took them out of the first round. Their six selections are double that of any other team, providing general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll an awful lot of flexibility to address a notoriously problematic offensive line and aging secondary while also having the luxury of gambling on potential difference-makers at other positions, should they choose to do so. Seattle's first pick is currently second overall on Friday, and they have their original second-round selection, No. 58 overall. The Seahawks have four picks in the third round (Nos. 90, 95, 102 and 106).

      2. Kizer to the Cardinals?

      Both Arizona general manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians spoke during the offseason about their interest in adding a young quarterback to groom behind veteran Carson Palmer. The strong-armed Kizer would seem like the perfect protege. With an immediate impact defender in former Temple star Haason Reddick already in fold after the first round, the Cardinals may feel that they can afford to gamble on a "luxury" pick at No. 45 overall.

      1. PSA: A run on defensive backs is in the forecast

      With all due respect to edge rushers and tight ends, many believe the most talented position in the 2017 draft is defensive back. That certainly is reflected on's best available, which currently lists six defensive backs among the 15 best available prospects, leading off with Washington's duo of cornerback Kevin King and safety Budda Baker (with injured Huskies cornerback Sidney Jones not far behind). Florida's talented trio -- Quincy Wilson, Marcus Maye and Teez Tabor -- also is expected to come off the board in Rounds 2 and 3.

      --Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for, distributed in partnership with The Sports Xchange and

  • Texans covet QB Watson's intangibles
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    HOUSTON -- Deshaun Watson has maintained a firm grip on the crucial moment for years, mastering the art of dead-eyed poise and concentration no matter what chaos unfolded around him at the line of scrimmage.

    • Watson has always wanted the football in his hands at pivotal times, displaying rare leadership and intangibles to go along with his skills and athleticism.

      Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney likened Watson's clutch nature and talents to NBA legend Michael Jordan.

      "I feel like I'm a confident player," Watson said after joining the Houston Texans with the 12th overall pick. "I feel like I can do things that a lot of people can't do. I have that leadership and confidence to spread throughout the team. I can get the job done whenever it's needed, especially in those pressure situations."

      The Texans coveted Watson's attributes enough that they mortgaged a lot to land the Clemson star quarterback in the first round, pulling off a blockbuster trade with the Cleveland Browns as they swapped their 25th overall pick and next year's first-round selection.

      Watson is coming back to Houston, a few weeks after his official visit with the defending AFC South champions.

      "It was surreal, man," Watson said during a conference call. "I just started crying and bawling out. It was amazing."

      Watson will undoubtedly be supremely motivated. Despite his accomplishments at the collegiate level -- defeating Alabama for the Tigers' first national championship in three decades, winning the Johnny Unitas and Manning awards while piling up 9,201 career passing yards, 83 touchdowns and just 29 interceptions with 1,744 rushing yards and 21 scores -- he was the third quarterback drafted overall.

      Watson was far more decorated than the quarterbacks who preceded him Thursday night: Chicago Bears second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky, a one-year starter for North Carolina, and Kansas City Chiefs 10th overall selection Patrick Mahomes, who played in a spread offense at Texas Tech. If Watson was fazed by going after Trubisky and Mahomes, he didn't let it show.

      "My emotions were good," Watson said. "I was having fun with the family, laughing and giggling."

      Now, Watson has the opportunity to prove whether his game will translate adeptly to the NFL and head coach Bill O'Brien's system. Watson will sign a fully guaranteed four-year, $13.9 million rookie contract that will include an $8.26 million signing bonus and a standard fifth-year team option.

      Watson's visit with the Texans went extremely well, drawing praise from O'Brien and general manager Rick Smith for his leadership skills and ability to quickly absorb information about a complex playbook.

      "I thought it was a big possibility," Watson said. "I knew they were very interested; but, with the draft having so much uncertainty, I didn't know what they were doing, if they were going offensive tackle or defense or quarterback."

      Watson engineered a dramatic national championship victory over the Crimson Tide, connecting with wide receiver Hunter Renfrow with a quick, decisive spiral for the winning touchdown pass in the final moments.

      Watson rose to the occasion once again, passing for 420 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for an additional 43 yards and one score against Alabama. In consecutive national title games against Alabama, Watson combined for 825 passing yards, seven touchdowns and one interception.

      "He's got that winning gene," Smith said. "That leadership, it's infectious."

      However, Watson will have some adjustments to make at the NFL level.

      He operated primarily out of the shotgun formation at Clemson. He wasn't in a classic pro-style attack and had several predetermined reads and the advantages of a lot of talent around him, including big wide receiver Mike Williams.

      Watson threw 17 interceptions last season, frequently failing to recognize shifts in defensive schemes designed specifically to confuse him.

      "Just watch the film," Watson said of any doubters. "The film doesn't lie. The arm strength -- that speaks for itself. The Texans know the type of player and quarterback that I am."

      Tom Savage is the projected starter and Watson will be groomed behind him. The Texans also have veteran Brandon Weeden as a backup.

      "All I need to do is put my head down, don't say anything, learn from all the veterans, learn from Tom Savage, learn from Brandon Weeden and just play my role," Watson said. "Whatever my role is help the team win."

  • Run on offense helps Lions land Davis
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn watched anxiously as one offensive player after another went off the board in the first 10 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

    • Mitchell Trubisky. Leonard Fournette. Corey Davis.

      The Lions hoped to find defensive help at the top of the draft; and, as the offensive selections started piling up, Quinn knew he would be able to do just that.

      The Lions took Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis with the 21st pick, filling arguably their biggest need on the roster.

      "Linebacker is a position that you normally don't have a large number of them on your draftable board just because in college football a lot of linebackers are undersized," Quinn said. "They're playing at 215, 220 pounds. So to get NFL-size linebackers with the speed and athleticism and all the stuff that goes into evaluating linebackers, he stood out."

      Davis should compete for a starting job immediately on a Lions defense that ranked 18th in the NFL last year and struggled to force turnovers with any regularity.

      He can play weak-side or middle linebacker and should eventually take over as play caller on a unit that also includes Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow and Antwione Williams.

      The Lions took Davis over Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster in part because of leadership and other intangible traits they liked.

      At Florida, Davis was a two-year starter who amassed 158 tackles the last two seasons despite missing four games because of a high ankle sprain.

      That injury kept him out of the combine, but he ran a 40-yard dash in the 4.60-second range and jumped 38.5 inches on his vertical at his March pro day. Had Davis taken part in the combine, his vertical jump would have ranked first among linebackers.

      Quinn said he was attracted to "the whole package" of Davis as a football player and said Davis' high football character helped to "kind of minimize risk" that's inherently part of the NFL draft.

      "He's a passionate football player," Quinn said. "He's got very good playing speed, very good tackler. Good blitzer. Good coverage player. This guy's a really well-rounded linebacker. As a freshman, he was the special teams player of the year for Florida when he was a backup linebacker, so he's got four-down value. I think he's a really well-rounded guy that has position versatility."

  • Redskins stunned to land local product Allen
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The distance between Stone Bridge High School and Redskins Park is only four miles, but for Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen the journey to bridge that gap seemed endless.

    • The Washington Redskins watched dumbfounded Thursday night as Allen dropped down the draft board -- first out of the top five and then the top 10 and finally inching closer to them at pick No. 17. A run on quarterbacks and wide receivers and a sketchy medical evaluation of his surgically repaired shoulders pushed Allen much further down than anyone expected.

      The Redskins happily scooped the local product from Ashburn, Va., when their turn came to pick. Hundreds of people from Stone Bridge, including Allen's coach, are expected to welcome him home at FedEx Field on Saturday afternoon during a team draft party.

      "Really, never in a million years did we think (Allen) would be there at 17, but we're happy as heck he was," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "There was not a lot of debate in there. We put the card in and took a heck of a football player and a great person."

      Allen, who is 6-foot-3 and 286 pounds, returned to Alabama for his senior season despite 12 sacks as a junior. He wasn't happy that scouts saw him as a second- or third-round pick, and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said he thought Allen could become a better run defender.

      That happened after a senior year in which Allen had 10.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He was unblockable at times, even against SEC opponents.

      The Redskins believe he can play 3-technique, 5-technique and even nose tackle -- versatility that gives them plenty of options. He improved his run-stopping ability at Alabama, but he is a big body who can get to the quarterback, too. Those players aren't easy to find, and Washington certainly doesn't have one on the roster right now.

      Allen insists his shoulders are fine. He has had surgery on both and doctors have told him arthritis will be an issue later in life. But on the football field, for now, Allen says he isn't hampered at all. The surgeries went well. Dr. James Andrews even gave his blessing. In the end, that's what allowed Allen to go home.

      "It's only something you read about in books," Allen said. "It doesn't even seem real. For me to be going back home to Washington, it's honestly just the biggest blessing I could have ever received."

  • 2017 NFL Draft: 10 takeaways from first round
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    If the first round is any indication, there will be plenty of surprises in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here are NFLDraftScout's top 10 takeaways from the first 32 selections.

    • 10. Who needs defense or linemen?

      The skill position players dominated the first half of the draft. Perhaps sparked by the Chicago Bears' aggressive trade up one pick to land top-rated quarterback Mitchell Trubisky from North Carolina, eight of the top 12 picks were spent on quarterbacks (three), wide receivers (three) or running backs (two). Before Thursday, the most skill-position players chosen among top 12 since 2000 was seven back in 2005. No QBs, wide receivers or running backs were selected over the final 20 picks of this year's first round.

      9. Speaking of those Bears and Trubisky ...

      The Bears paid a ransom to San Francisco to secure the rights to Trubisky, giving up selections third- and fourth-round picks this year as well as a third-rounder in the 2018 draft to select the gifted but inexperienced quarterback, especially given that the Bears signed veteran Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million deal just a couple of months ago. While Glennon's deal does have an opt-out after just one year, his contract includes $18.5 guaranteed. Between the guaranteed dollars and the draft capital given up, general manager Ryan Pace is essentially all in (or may be all out) based on how well Trubisky performs over the next year or two on a club with few weapons.

      8. Chiefs, Texans give up two first-round picks apiece for young QBs

      It did not take long for Kansas City and Houston to follow Chicago's lead and boldly trade up for Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, respectively. The Chiefs had to give up two first-round picks (No. 27 overall this year and their top pick in 2018), as well as this year's third-round selection to move up 17 picks and land the strong-armed Mahomes. The Texas Tech product is a true gunslinger with a dramatically different style than incumbent starter Alex Smith. Meanwhile, the Texans surrendered their top pick this year (No. 25) and next year's first-round selection to move up 13 spots for Watson. The Clemson quarterback's dual-threat talents and knack for performing at his best under the brightest lights obviously appealed to Houston, a franchise with track record at quarterback that is spotty, at best.

      7. Three receivers in top nine?

      With all due respect to the quarterbacks, it was the three receivers getting selected among the first nine picks that was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night. Many anticipated that the Tennessee Titans would add a pass-catcher with one of their two first-round selections, but selecting Corey Davis at No. 5 overall was a shocker, especially given that he had not been able to complete a full workout prior to the draft after undergoing postseason ankle surgery. Mike Williams has the body control and huge catch radius to quickly become a favorite for Philip Rivers, but No. 7 overall to the Los Angeles Chargers also seems rich. Finally, there were a number of teams contacted prior to the draft who felt that John Ross would slip out of the first round entirely, so his pick at No. 9 overall by Cincinnati caught many off guard, even if he is an ideal big-play complement to A.J. Green on offense and immediately improves the Bengals' return game.

      6. Special teams no longer an afterthought

      Everyone knows that many rookies will have to make their marks on special teams just to make an NFL roster, but that could be where several first-round picks succeed in 2017. Ross adds instant juice to Cincinnati's return game. Christian McCaffrey (No. 8 overall to the Carolina Panthers) and Adoree Jackson (the Titans' second selection of the first round at No. 18 overall) also figure to see action as return men.

      5. Raiders take another risk at cornerback with Gareon Conley

      Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie certainly does not lack for guts, especially when it comes to drafting cornerbacks. Four years after using the first pick of his tenure on DJ Hayden -- a talented cornerback with spooky medical concerns -- McKenzie used the No. 24 overall pick on Conley, who just a few days ago appeared destined for a dramatic draft day (and possible legal ramifications) due to disturbing sexual-assault allegations. It should be noted that Conley has not been charged with anything at this point, and he was voted a team captain as a junior at Ohio State. However, for a club already in danger of losing fans due to its plans to relocate to Las Vegas, adding Conley was a risky public relations move, even if he is quite talented.

      4. Alabama absent over top 15

      The Crimson Tide was on ebb throughout nearly the entire first half of the first round with cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Baltimore Ravens, No. 16 overall) surprisingly being selected over more highly touted former teammates Jonathan Allen (Washington Redskins, No. 17), O.J. Howard (Tampa Bay, No. 19) and Reuben Foster (San Francisco, No. 31). Durability concerns likely played a significant role in Allen and Foster slipping. Some clubs believe that Foster may need a second surgery on his right shoulder.

      3. Browns look like big winners ... at least on paper

      No one was more active (or potentially successful) on Day 1 than the Cleveland Browns, selecting consensus top-rated prospect Myles Garrett of Texas A&M as expected at No. 1 overall, former Michigan standout Jabrill Peppers at No. 25 and even jumping back into the first round to nab speedy tight end David Njoku of Miami (Fla.) at No. 29. The trio certainly looks impressive on paper, with Garrett expected to be an instant superstar off the edge in Gregg Williams highly aggressive defense, Peppers well-suited as the rover linebacker/safety so en vogue against today's diverse offensive alignments (think Deone Bucannon and Mark Barron), and Njoku offering a legitimate seam threat. Of course, if the Browns still need to address the quarterback position ...

      2. Quarter of the first round spent on pass rushers

      Quarterbacks, of course, play the most important position in football, but the rushers capable of striking fear into opposing passers rank a close second, a fact that was clearly demonstrated with a full 25 percent of the 32 picks invested Thursday going to rushers. Garrett is undeniably the most gifted of the bunch, but Charles Harris (Miami Dolphins, No. 22 overall), Takkarist McKinley (Atlanta Falcons, No. 26), Taco Charlton (Dallas Cowboys, No. 28) and T.J. Watt (Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 30) are each good fits, as well. They are very athletic, and they join clubs with enough talent already in place to allow the rookies to be complementary players initially as they grow into starring roles.

      1. Plenty of talent still on the board

      Scouts equate first-round picks with baseball sluggers swinging away for home runs; there are going to be some mammoth moonshots, and there are going to be ugly strikeouts as clubs gamble on elite athletes. Day 2 is where the draft really gets interesting as clubs like to fill needs with the many good players who perhaps lack elite traits but are perhaps more consistent. Expect the deepest positions in the draft -- edge rusher, defensive back (both cornerback and safety), tight end and running back -- to be well represented on Friday.

      --Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for, distributed in partnership with The Sports Xchange and

  • Taco bell: Cowboys ring up Charlton
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The Dallas Cowboys got the pass rusher they desired.

    • The question remains whether they got the difference maker they so badly needed when they took Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton 28th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday.

      "From my perspective, he has real athleticism," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "He has the length we are trying to get at the right defensive end -- arm length. He gives you a real good player who can play the left side and play inside as well. You've got a lot of flex here. His size is one of his greatest attributes. He looks like a defensive player and defensive end in the NFL."

      Charlton had 9.5 sacks as a senior during a breakout final season. But there was not consistent production throughout his college career and he disappointed a lot of people when he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds.

      But Charlton is a versatile defender who can play left or right end.

      The Cowboys need him to come and have an immediate impact on a defense that struggled to rush the passer a year ago without blitzing.

      Charlton is the first defensive end the Cowboys have selected in the first round since they took DeMarcus Ware in 2005. Of course, the Cowboys haven't had a major pass rusher since they released Ware before the 2014 season.

      They drafted DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory in the second round in 2014 and 2016, but neither has developed into a difference-making rusher.

      The Cowboys are hoping Charlton finally fills that need and continues to develop and build on an impressive senior season at Michigan.

      The Cowboys had only three defensive ends with first-round grades. None were available when they picked.

      They did have a cornerback with a first-round grade, but they believe they can get one in the second round. This was their last opportunity to get a pass rusher, and Dallas refused to let Charlton get away.

      "We had a cornerback in the mix, but we felt Taco was the right pick for us if he was sitting there," Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We felt we could get a good corner at the bottom of the second. If we didn't get a pressure player with this pick, we might not see one for a while. That had a big-time effect."

  • Raiders gamble on CB Conley
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    That the Oakland Raiders drafted for defense Thursday came as no surprise, although it was a gamble of sorts to take Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley.

    • Conley, selected at No. 24 in the first round, is considered a first-round talent but had his reputation sullied by a recent sexual assault allegation in a Cleveland hotel room.

      General manager Reggie McKenzie said the Raiders did their due diligence and are confident that Conley will soon be free and clear of any legal issues.

      "We trust our research, reports, everything we have on Mr. Conley," McKenzie said. "We feel real good about picking Gareon Conley and having him join the Raider team and having him be a great teammate for our players."

      As is often the case with the Raiders, their interest was stealth. Conley wasn't aware of their interest until he got the phone call telling him he'd been selected.

      "Just to know they have faith in me, not just as a football player but a person, speaks highly of them, and I really appreciate it," Conley said. "It's an honor to be part of the Raider organization."

      Conley said he will speak with police Monday and is confident he will be exonerated. He conceded he could have used better judgment.

      "I didn't know what I was getting myself in to," Conley said.

      Assuming that hurdle has been cleared, the Raiders added a cornerback who McKenzie said was "hands down the best player left on our board."

      At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Conley played mostly outside but with the Raiders will likely step in as a slot corner, with Sean Smith and David Amerson manning the outside.

      Coach Jack Del Rio liked Conley's versatility and focus.

      "He's a really talented corner that is capable of playing man or zone," Del Rio said. "He's a football junkie. He loves to compete. He's been well-respected with the people that I've spoken to personally about him. He's a guy that loves to compete, a good teammate and a quality kid.

      "It's one of those really clean players we were fortunate to get our hands on here late in the first round."

  • Packers sit out first round after trade with Browns
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    Rather than make a pick late Thursday night, general manager Ted Thompson has the Packers positioned to get the second day of the NFL Draft started Friday night.

    • Thompson traded out of the first round for only the second time in his 13 years of leading the Green Bay draft room, orchestrating a swap with the Cleveland Browns that came with little drop-off and an additional pick.

      "The board held up pretty strong, so, yeah, we felt pretty good about it," Thompson said.

      The Packers moved out of the No. 29 spot, four picks from the bottom of the opening round, to allow the Browns to jump back up and take a third player on the night.

      Green Bay merely had to move back to No. 33, which will be the first pick of the second round when the draft resumes Friday night. The Packers also picked up the Browns' fourth-round spot at No. 108, which incidentally will be the first selection of the draft Saturday.

      "The reason we were doing something like trading was we felt like the board was strong enough to absorb it, and I think it did, and we're looking forward to picking tomorrow," Thompson said.

      Though the Packers are on the clock going into Day 2, the notoriously ambiguous Thompson wouldn't lead on as to whom the team is considering with its first pick of this year's draft.

      "I don't think it's just one name that we would consider," he said.

      The Packers have obvious needs at cornerback, linebacker and running back that could be addressed in short order Friday. They now have a pair of second-round picks, the other coming at No. 61, and are to close their night with a third-round choice at No. 93.

      However, Thompson acknowledged a few times after making the trade late Thursday that he's willing to discuss trading back some more, given the attractiveness of having the leadoff spot in the second round.

      "You bet, we're taking calls," Thompson said.

      The only other time the Packers dropped out of the first round on Thompson's watch came in 2008. They moved back six spots from No. 30 and selected wide receiver Jordy Nelson early in the second round in a trade with the New York Jets.

      "I think it's very good strategy wise," Thompson said about moving into a coveted position at the outset of Round 2 this year. "We know where we're at and what we're going to do. There's a couple of different ways of looking at it, in terms of being helpful to us.

      "It could be that we highlight a player that we know we can get and (other teams) can't take him away from us, so we sit there and pick him. It could be that a team sees an opportunity to maybe trade up and get a player they didn't think they could get, and maybe it's again a trade that works well for us."

  • Versatile LB Reddick could replace Washington for Cardinals
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    Daryl Washington's conditional return from a three-year NFL suspension made huge headlines in Arizona a few days ago. The Cardinals, in effect, kicked him to the back pages on Thursday when they used the 13th overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Temple linebacker Haason Reddick.

    • Like Washington, Reddick is an inside linebacker with speed, versatility and a knack for getting to the quarterback from various spots on the field.

      But Reddick, 22, is younger, faster and a lot more trustworthy than Washington, who turns 31 in the fall and might end up getting released by the Cardinals before too long.

      Making his first public comments about Washington since news that the player's indefinite suspension had been lifted, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said, "For the last 72 hours I've done nothing but stare at college tape and that draft board. At the appropriate time we'll address that; but, I'll be honest with you, I haven't put a lot of time into it."

      All Keim and coach Bruce Arians wanted to talk about was the selection of Reddick, who finished his senior season at Temple with 65 tackles -- 22 1/2 for loss -- 10.5 sacks, an interception, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

      The Cardinals envision him as every-down player they can use right away.

      "He's one of the guys we focused on from the beginning," Keim said. "What we try to do with our defense is build hybrid players who fit in different spots. This guy can play inside; he can play outside.

      "We'll find a place for him, whether it's early as a rusher or if it's as a stack 'backer. He's got enough skills to be a difference-maker for us."

      Arians loves what Reddick brings from a versatility standpoint, citing his speed and ability to wreak havoc no matter where they decide to put him.

      "When we get a guy who can play two positions equally great, that's huge for us," Arians said. "He will have a huge impact in a lot of different positions. He gives us a lot of flexibility."

      Reddick was a walk-on at Temple who didn't receive a scholarship until after his junior season. His stock soared at the Senior Bowl and during the combine, when he impressed almost everybody who took the time to get close enough to him.

      Arians said he sees a lot of the Denver Broncos' Von Miller in Reddick, which could be scary good for the Cardinals.

      "I don't like comparing him like that," Arians said, "but that's the one guy I can think of."

  • Broncos hit target with LT Bolles
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The Denver Broncos never seemed sold on any of their pre-draft left tackle possibilities.

    • New coach Vance Joseph mentioned backup Donald Stephenson and free-agent pickup Menelik Watson, but both struggled in their previous work on the left side. General manager John Elway cited the possibility of using Ty Sambrailo, who started at left tackle in the first three games of the 2015 season but has dealt with labrum and elbow injuries since then.

      None seemed palatable. Garett Bolles, on the other hand, did.

      When he was available with the No. 20 pick, the Broncos pounced, making the Utah product the first offensive lineman taken Thursday and marking the latest point in the common-draft era at which the initial offensive lineman was taken.

      "He was our target," Elway said.

      It was no surprise that it took so long for one to be selected. This year's line class is perhaps the thinnest in quality and depth in recent memory. Only one other offensive lineman was selected in the first round -- Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk to the New Orleans Saints with the No. 32 pick.

      Joseph said it was "very close" between Bolles and Ramczyk, but the difference between the two was clear in their estimation.

      "The ceiling was much higher on Garett," Elway said. "We really liked that ability and the explosiveness that he has -- and also the mentality that he's going to bring. I think he brings a great mentality to that offensive line that needed a jolt."

      Joseph also said he sees Bolles as better in pass protection, which is a higher priority for an overhauled offense that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders describes as "pass-happy."

      "They're both very solid players, but both different," Joseph said. "Bolles is more of a leaner, more athletic tackle. Ramczyk is more of a powerful run blocker first and, in my opinion, a pass protector second."

      The last time the Broncos selected an offensive tackle in the first round, they hit on Ryan Clady, who became an All-Pro before injuries caught up to him following eight mostly stellar seasons. They hope they found the same kind of quality tackle in Bolles.

      "If Garett turns out to be what we think he is, he solves a big problem for us for a long time -- and that's that left tackle," Elway said. "We really feel like we were fortunate that he was there."

      Bolles' addition also completes the massive offseason renovation of the Broncos' offensive line. If he starts at left tackle, the Broncos are expected to have three new starters up front. Watson and fellow free-agent pickup Ronald Leary are expected to work at right tackle and left guard.

      "(Bolles) is a perfect fit for what we've done in free agency and what we've brought in," Elway said.

  • Saints take CB Lattimore to defend big WRs
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    METAIRE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints couldn't have scripted the first 10 picks of the NFL draft better than the way things unfolded Thursday night.

    • An unexpected, surprising run on offensive talent -- three wide receivers, two quarterbacks and two running backs -- in the first 10 selections pushed down some of the top defenders right into the Saints' laps at No. 11.

      When it came time for the Saints to make the first of their two picks in the first round, they had the option of going for one of the elite defensive players still on the board at defensive end, linebacker or cornerback.

      Knowing they have to face three of the bigger wide receivers in the league twice a year in Atlanta's Julio Jones, Carolina's Kelvin Benjamin and Tampa Bay's Mike Evans, the Saints decided to shore up the secondary with Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore at No. 11.

      The 6-foot, 193-pound Lattimore, who played only two seasons at Ohio State after redshirting his freshman year, is a physical defender who excelled in the press coverage Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen likes to use.

      Lattimore also has the speed and leaping ability to go with the physicality, running the 40 in 4.36 seconds and recording a 36 1/2-inch vertical.

      Lattimore was seen by most draft experts as the top cornerback available (No. 5 overall by this year and was expected to go off the board in the first five or six picks. But he slid to the Saints, who desperately need help on that side of the ball after three 7-9 seasons in a row.

      The need for a cover corner to play opposite Delvin Breaux, who was hampered by injuries a year ago, won out over the likes of Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett, Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.

      Allen and Foster were both rated as top-10 prospects, while some had Barnett, who could have beefed up the Saints' anemic pass rush, in that category as well.

      Most draft experts had them going defense-defense in the opening round, but the Saints used their selection at No. 32 -- acquired from the New England Patriots in the trade for wide receiver Brandin Cooks -- for Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

      The 6-6, 311-pound Ramczyk, who played left tackle for the Badgers, is likely the heir apparent at right tackle for 12-year veteran Zach Strief.

      The Saints thought they had that player two years ago when they selected former Stanford standout Andrus Peat in the first round, but Peat settled in at left guard last season and could remain there if Ramczyk can hold things down on the right side, opposite veteran left tackle Terron Armstead.

      In a weak draft for tackles, Ramczyk was rated by as the top prospect at his position and the 16th overall player even though he's coming off a hip injury.

  • 49ers double down on Thomas and Foster
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- They couldn't stop anyone. In the NFL, in football at any level, that's a guarantee of failure, no matter how effective the offense, and in the 2016 season, when they won only two games, the San Francisco 49ers' offense wasn't at all effective, second poorest in the league.

    • But the defense, hardly worthy of that label, was the worst. Dead last, 32nd of 32 teams. The axiom is you win on defense. Or when you finish 2-14, lose on lack of defense.

      So despite the early talk that the Niners, with Colin Kaepernick leaving, with only Brian Hoyer as their probable starter, would go after a quarterback, a Mitchell Trubisky, a DeShaun Watson, always a questionable pick when drafting that high -- the Niners were No. 2 in the draft and swapped with No. 3 Chicago, which did take Trubisky -- San Francisco grabbed Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

      As someone said on one TV draft shows, first you need a quarterback, then you need someone to hit the quarterback. That someone after the third straight draft the Niners went after at defensive lineman as their first-round selection, is the 6-foot-3, 273-pound Thomas.

      He is added to a wall that already included Arik Armstead (2015) and DeForest Buckner (2016), both in the 6-foot-7, 300-pound category. The Niners under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, brought in by new head coach Kyle Shanahan, will use a 4-3 defense, as opposed to the 3-4 last season.

      That requires bulk and mobility and an ability to both jam up the line and harass and/or pummel the man who takes the snap. As we know from those old NFL films, the late Al Davis believed in a singular creed: "The quarterback must go down and do down hard."

      With the addition of Thomas and Reuben Foster, the Alabama linebacker acquired by trading the 34th pick and the 111th pick to Seattle for the 31st, the 49ers hope to return to the place in the standings and history they held both in the 1980s and not so very long ago.

      Foster was sent home from the combine after an altercation with a hospital worker during a long wait for an examination. Before that he had been considered a top-10 pick. It was also reported in the last week that he had a dilute sample at his Combine drug test, which is considered a positive drug test in the NFL testing program. There were also concerns at his medical recheck about a shoulder issue.

      Asked about the Combine incident and the drug test, Foster said, "People were concerned about the diluted sample. People were concerned about me just getting kicked out of the Combine. But, they gave me a chance. They gave me a chance and I really appreciate the 49ers. I'm just ready to go hard and work hard and just prove that I'm worthy of that spot and they're not going to regret it."

      As for the shoulder, he said, "It's 90 percent. I'll be ready for training camp."

      Thomas is the first first-round pick by 49ers general manager John Lynch, who not only played at Stanford, as did Thomas, but a couple of years ago, returning to Stanford to complete requirements for his degree, had a class with Thomas.

      "I remember I was star-struck the first day of class," said Thomas. "What, John Lynch is in our class? So I tried to cling to him and learn from him. Very mature man."

      Foster spoke almost reverently about Lynch when asked about meeting the general manager during his visit.

      "He's a great guy. Real. Real," Foster said. "He gives it to you straight. He's a defensive guy, so we've got to bond together. So, we've got an automatic bond. He's a defensive guy. That itself means a lot, because he's so loved. He's like a family. He's loved. He's humble. I could tell he was interested in me when he saw me on the visit by myself."

      Now in effect, Lynch and Shanahan, hired together in February, will cling to Thomas and Foster, along with Buckner, Armstead and what is left of Bowman.

      Stanford head coach David Shaw, working with the NFL Network on the draft, was ecstatic when Thomas was picked after Myles Garrett, by Cleveland, and Trubisky.

      "He's just an extraordinary young man and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do at the next level," Shaw said. "This is a leader. He's exciting. He's fun to be around. But make no mistake he's a competitor."

      Thomas registered 101 tackles in three seasons for Stanford. He can play inside or outside. In the Sun Bowl he faced Trubisky. In the 49ers' 2017 NFL opener, he will face his former Stanford teammate Christian McCaffrey, taken No. 8 overall by the Carolina Panthers.

      The mock drafts had Thomas among the top three, and through social media he was very aware. "I saw myself going to the 49ers," he said of a prediction that was accurate. "I thought, 'I love that.'"

      The 49ers' practice facility is about seven miles from the Stanford campus. "I kept my mind open," he said. "You can't believe that stuff. I didn't want my heart broken. I had to come in here and be happy for any team that drafted me."

      "But the best team for me drafted me. So I'm excited."

      So, of course, are the 49ers.

  • Panthers hope McCaffrey can do it all
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    When Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis announced the Panthers' first-round pick, he called Christian McCaffrey a wide receiver and running back.

    • While that may have been a slip of the tongue -- McCaffrey is officially listed as a running back -- he'll likely play plenty in the slot. And jump in on punt returns.

      "I'm a football player," McCaffrey said Thursday night when asked which position he tells people he plays. "I'll go where they need me."

      In 2015, McCaffrey broke Barry Sanders' record for all-purpose yards in a season. And, in three seasons at Stanford, he had 21 rushing touchdowns while adding 10 scores as a receiver and two more as a returner. So it's no wonder the Panthers, who desperately need to surround quarterback Cam Newton with more weapons, were enamored with McCaffrey even before he turned heads at February's combine.

      Not since Cam Newton in 2011 have as many mock drafts nailed a Panthers pick like this one. Yet what had become pretty clear the past few weeks was still fuzzy for some as late as Thursday afternoon when a report labeled Carolina's interest in McCaffrey a smokescreen.

      But the Ron Rivera-Dave Gettleman regime doesn't really do smokescreens.

      "He's a guy we targeted and that we were hoping to get," Gettleman said, "and the Good Lord smiled down on us."

      When asked whether the Panthers considered trading back from No. 8, which would have opened the door for another team to grab Gettleman's target, he replied: "There's been a lot of action."

      Then, as a smile began to form, "But we said no."

  • Bucs shocked to get Howard at No. 19
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    TAMPA, Fla. -- Even if he were not 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard would have stood out to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    • They were shocked he was still available with the No. 19 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

      With about a half dozen teams ahead of them in the draft, coach Dirk Koetter didn't want to jinx the team's good fortune.

      "I actually had to go to the bathroom for the last six picks, but I was afraid to stand up," Koetter said. "I didn't want to jinx the mojo in there.

      "We said we needed more explosive players, and this is an explosive player. He just plays inside instead of outside and we've been fortunate to add speed on the outside with DeSean Jackson to pair up with Mike (Evans), and now we've got two tight ends to pair side by side in Cam (Brate) and O.J."

      It may be very hard to stop the Bucs' passing game and quarterback Jameis Winston next season.

      They already added Jackson and have a budding superstar in Evans. Brate led all tight ends with eight touchdown receptions last season.

      "That was the most excited I've seen the entire room since we picked Jameis," general manager Jason Licht said.

      You can imagine Koetter already is diagramming an offense to incorporate all four eligible receivers in the same formation.

      In fact, Licht said shortly after the pick, he received a message from Winston.

      "I got a text with about a million smiley faces," Licht said.

      With problematic Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, a presumptive favorite of Winston's, still available, the Bucs instead went with one of the cleanest players in the draft.

      Howard is a complete tight end who has improved as an in-line blocker and was under-utilized by Alabama in the passing game.

      But when the bright lights came on in two national title games against Clemson, Howard shined. Two years ago, he had five catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Last January, Howard caught four passes for 106 yards and one TD.

      Howard is the only tight end to be drafted by the Bucs in the first round. Considering the targets the Bucs have added, Winston can only be better for it.

      "Well, it looks pretty good on paper right now," Licht said. "So I know we've added some targets I know he's going to like. I would venture to say he got better."

      While tight end wasn't the biggest need entering the draft for the Bucs, they don't have a lot of depth at that position. Brandon Myers is a free agent. They return Luke Stocker, Alan Cross and Brate.

      "We always like to stick where player and need meet, and we felt we had a need at tight end," Licht said. "You can't get through a season with just a couple. We feel like he's going to develop into a good in-line blocker. He's a 4.5 guy who is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and can stretch the field."

      Things broke well for the Bucs. A run on quarterbacks helped push some good players down to them.

      Licht admitted Cook was a consideration and he was available. But in character and upside, Howard was too good to pass up.

      "We like Dalvin, but we're concentrating on O.J.," Licht said.

      According to Koetter, Howard represents what has become a dying breed in college and pro football -- an in-line tight end who can block but has the speed to stretch the field and become a receiving weapon.

      "First off, the true Y tight ends are a dying breed in college football," Koetter said. "There's not many teams left that utilize a player like O.J. I think in the NFL, that's the best weapon you can have. Here's a guy who can run down the seam and can block a defensive lineman at the line of scrimmage, and there's just not many of them around.

      "I think that position can thrive in most NFL offenses. I'm the first to admit that I like tight ends. But a lot of other guys do, too, in the league. I just think this guy is a throwback to what tight ends used to be. There used to be a lot more of them around the league and there just aren't as many."

      Howard did not attend the NFL draft ceremonies in Philadelphia Thursday, opting to remain home in Alabama with about 150 friends and family members. Howard was projected to be a top-10 or top-15 pick. But with three receivers, three quarterbacks and two running backs going early in the first round, Howard started falling.

      "Well, the way the draft started off, I could kind of see that happening," Howard said. "But my range was from six to 20. That's what my agent told me. And it was right before that, so it didn't shock me."

      Howard was used mainly as a blocker in Nick Saban's run-oriented Alabama offense. He managed to catch 45 passes for 595 yards and five touchdowns.

      "I have a lot of passion about it. I think that's what it takes to be a dominant tight end," Howard said. "You have to be able to block and make plays in the run game to allow the passing game to open up. So I really take pride in that.

      "I enjoy going to Bama because it made me more than just a pass catcher. I learned how to block. It made me be a better all-around football player in general. I'd rather do that than just go to a school and catch 100 balls a year."

      As an offensive coordinator in Atlanta and Jacksonville, Koetter had success at the tight end position with the Falcons' Tony Gonzalez and the Jags' Marcedes Lewis. Howard saved his best performance for the national championship games against Clemson the past two seasons. In those contests, he combined to catch nine passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns.

      "He definitely did that and that is one thing that jumped out, going back to two years ago," Koetter said. "They had a lot of stars on his team. But you never heard any whining from him. When he was called on, he came up big every time."

  • Elated Jets grab SS Adams at No. 6
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The New York Jets earned their first victory of 2017 at least four-plus months earlier than anyone expected.

    • The Jets once again benefited from the unpredictable nature of the top of the NFL draft on Thursday night, when they selected LSU strong safety Jamal Adams with the sixth pick.

      It was the second time in three years a consensus top-five player fell to the Jets at No. 6. New York picked defensive end Leonard Williams, considered by many the best talent in the 2015 draft, with the first pick of the Mike Maccagnan era.

      Maccagnan said Thursday he was more surprised by Adams remaining available than he was by Williams slipping to the sixth pick. Newsday reported that one Jets staffer told Adams during a pre-draft visit that they were wasting their time because there was no way he would last beyond the top five.

      "Late in the process (in 2015), we started to get a feel (Williams) may slide to us," Maccagnan said. "This one, to me, in a lot of our projections, we never really had him getting to us."

      But the Chicago Bears' stunning trade with the San Francisco 49ers -- the Bears traded four picks to the 49ers in order to move up one spot and select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky -- set off the domino effect that left Adams there for the taking for the secondary-starved Jets.

      "I definitely saw interest when I went on a visit," Adams said during a conference call Thursday night. "They were definitely saying that if I slip to six, there's no questions asked, they're coming to get me. And they kept their word. And they delivered."

      Adams, known for his hard-hitting skills in coverage, should provide an immediate upgrade on Calvin Pryor, the incumbent strong safety who has underperformed and is entering the final guaranteed year of his rookie deal.

      Adams also offers plenty of intangibles. He comes from a football family -- he is the son of George Adams, who was the New York Giants' first-round pick in 1985 -- and was viewed as one of LSU's leaders.

      "He checks all the boxes for us," Jets coach Todd Bowles said. "We think we got a real good football player."

      One who is happy to be headed to an area he and his family know very well.

      "I'm a city guy," Adams said. "My mom's from Yonkers, New York. My sister's from Jersey. My pops played (for) the Giants. So I think I have the right people surrounding me to help me get through my new life in the Big Apple. So I'm excited."

  • Dolphins get their man, grab LB Harris
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The Miami Dolphins did the expected by going for defense in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday, but they did a bit of the unexpected by selecting Missouri defensive end/outside linebacker Charles Harris with the 22nd pick.

    • Harris (6-foot-3, 253 pounds) was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection in 2015 and 2016 whose specialty is rushing the passer. The redshirt junior had nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss in 2016 after seven sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in 2015.

      "We loved the pass rush that he gives us," Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. "This guy loves football. It's very important to him."

      Harris didn't play football until his junior year of high school, preferring instead to play basketball. He said he played football only so people wouldn't think he was "weak or soft."

      Harris will likely be counted on to start opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Wake and/or be in the rotation along with William Hayes and Andre Branch.

      "I'm going to cause friction, without a doubt," he said.

      Grier said the Dolphins targeted two players before the draft.

      "We had two players targeted at 22, and he was one of the two," Grier said, declining to say whether that player was still available when Harris was selected.

      Grier, who has the final say on the draft for the Dolphins, said Miami had trade opportunities.

      "We had two calls for the pick," Grier said.

      But in the end, the Dolphins decided to select the player they'd targeted roughly a month ago.

      A number of quality players were on the board when the Dolphins picked, including tight end David Njoku (University of Miami), defensive end Taco Charlton (Michigan), guard Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky), linebackers Reuben Foster (Alabama), Tak McKinley (UCLA), T.J. Watt (Wisconsin) and safety/linebacker Jabrill Peppers (Michigan).

      In the end, the Dolphins chose to go for someone to help a defense that ranked 29th in the NFL and 30th against the run (140.4 yards per game) in 2016.

      They also chose to boost their pass rush.

      "I'm going to get to the quarterback, without a doubt," Harris said.

  • Giants like Engram's middle-of-the-field ability
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo believes the fastest way for an offense to reach the end zone is to do so via the middle of the field.

    • That's where their first-round draft pick, Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram, is going to play a major role.

      Engram, who last year finished with 926 yards on 65 receptions, gained 654 of those yards up the middle of the field, where he was regularly able to bust open the seam against smaller safeties and linebackers.

      Engram also was moved around to different positions in the Rebels' offense, including the slot and split out wide.

      All of that appealed to the Giants, who stayed at No. 23, even as their supposed top tight-end target, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, slid down the board.

      "We're just trying to help our offense and our team any way we can," general manager Jerry Reese said. "We think we got a good player."

      Engram said he's ready to come in and make an impact on an offense that last year finished 25th overall, 28th in scoring and 17th in passing.

      "I've been watching the Giants on the TV all the time," he said. "This year I analyzed certain offenses. The Giants have been missing a piece like me. I feel that I can be another dynamic piece at that role. I know my skill-set and how confident I am in my game and how hard I'll work, and just the weapons around me, I can't wait to come in and contribute."

      Engram's skill-set will afford McAdoo a lot of options regarding personnel looks, very similar to how Washington uses Jordan Reed.

      "He played multiple positions at Ole Miss," McAdoo said. "I think we can bring him up and move him around a bit. He needs to play special teams out of the gate, and then we'll move him into our offense and see what he can handle and push him that way."

      One task Engram might not be asked to handle, at least right away, is blocking -- a skill that's not believed to be a strength. However, McAdoo sees promise in Engram that even that skill can be developed.

      "I think he's willing, a striker; we need to refine his fundamentals," the coach said. "He does what he's asked to do in an offense and does it well and at a high level, but we have some things that we're going to need to work on with him."

  • Titans happy with 1-2 punch in first round
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On the first day, the Tennessee Titans' draft had a single theme: Find productive players at need positions with the two first-round selections.

    • The Titans used their first pick, No. 5 overall, to select Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis -- a move that was a bit of a surprise.

      Wide receiver has long been an Achilles' heel for the Titans, who went through numerous players from the first three rounds trying to find a true No. 1 receiver.

      With Jon Robinson now in charge of the front office, the Titans changed their emphasis on the position from one of potential and raw talent to production and precise route-running. Davis fits that profile; he is the leading receiver in FBS history, with 5,285 yards.

      Davis caught 97 passes for 1,500 yards as a senior, and the Titans are confident that his production will translate to the NFL even though Davis did not play in a power-five conference.

      While Davis going at No. 5 messed up a few mock drafts, it turned out to be a needed move, because it started a run on wide receivers. Mike Williams went seventh to the Los Angeles Chargers and John Ross ninth to the Cincinnati Bengals.

      "We talked the other day about making sure the guy was the right fit for our team, and we really liked Corey a lot on his visit," Robinson said. "Sometime hindsight is best when you look back and three of those guys are gone. We were excited to add him when we added him."

      With the No. 18 pick, the Titans addressed the other major need by taking USC cornerback/returner Adoree' Jackson.

      The versatile Jackson not only solves the Titans' need for another starting cornerback to pair with free-agent pickup Logan Ryan, but also has dynamic ability as a return man, something the Titans were lacking last year.

      "I think that's important for those guys to produce for their three or four years or however long they're in college," Robinson said. "That, for the most part, tends to carry over into the NFL."

      Jackson was productive in every aspect of his versatile game, scoring touchdowns as a defensive back, as a return man on punts and kickoffs and as a receiver.

      "We're going to start him off at corner, probably outside, and let him get comfortable there before we move him inside," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said, adding that Jackson could also eventually see snaps on offense.

      In filling those two positions, the Titans can now focus the remaining six picks on their draft board (barring trades) on taking the best players available. Other than a nickel linebacker, another receiver or cornerback and an on-the-line tight end, Tennessee has very few pressing needs.

  • Browns add elite defensive playmakers, TE
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The Cleveland Browns got significantly better defensively on the first night of the draft when they took defensive end Myles Garrett from Texas A&M with the first pick and safety Jabrill Peppers from Michigan with the 25th pick after trading the 12th pick to Houston.

    • The Browns got the Texans' 2018 first-round pick in the trade.

      Cleveland then traded the 33rd pick and 108th pick to Green Bay to select tight end David Njoku from Miami of Florida at No. 29.

      Garrett said he will use as motivation remarks Warren Sapp made last week in an interview with ESPN. Sapp blasted him, saying in an interview: "I watch the tape and he disappears. I watch the tape, and he absolutely disappears."

      Garrett, during a conference call with media covering the Browns, said he will be motivated to prove Sapp wrong.

      The knock by Sapp, who had a Hall of Fame career with Tampa Bay and Oakland, followed the criticism that Garrett takes plays off.

      "It adds more fuel to the fire; it's burning hot right now," Garrett said. "If anybody counts me out, that's not true for either of those statements. It doesn't matter what they say. It matters what the pads say, what the grind says. I just want to be the best from Day 1."

      The Browns finished 31st defensively in 2016, 30th in points allowed and 29th in sacks per pass play.

      Garrett, 6-foot-4, 272 pounds, had 32.5 sacks and 48.5 tackles for loss in three years at Texas A&M.

      "Myles is a tremendous teammate," Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said in a statement. "A great example of his perseverance and willingness to compete was after he was injured in our Arkansas game. He could have shut it down the rest of the season, but he worked hard to get back on the field. Even though he wasn't 100 percent, he gave everything he had the remainder of the season including the bowl game."

      Reports as late as Thursday afternoon said the Browns were torn between picking quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Garrett with the first pick. Garrett wasn't worried because head coach Hue Jackson told him he would be the first pick a couple weeks ago.

      "I believed him," Garrett said. "I don't have any reason to think that he would do me wrong. I just believed in what he was saying.

      "He said I was his guy after we had dinner and that he wasn't going to guarantee anything, but he said, 'If you do the right things, you have a great chance of being a Brown.' That's what I've been looking forward to, and I'm ready to go."

      Peppers played multiple positions at Michigan. He will be a safety with the Browns and return kicks.

      "They're going to get more than 200 percent effort out of me," Peppers said on a conference call. "I'm going to show these guys what I can do."

      Peppers tested for a diluted urine sample at the Combine. Browns EVP of Football Operations Sashi Brown said the Browns are satisfied with the background check they did on him.

      The Browns did not take a quarterback. Brown said that will be addressed in the future.

      "We wanted to make sure we got players we feel good about," Brown said. "We have a lot of holes to fill on this roster. For us, it's about making sure when we get the quarterback it's someone we all believe in and can get behind and move forward."

      The quarterbacks on the roster currently are Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler and Kevin Hogan.

  • Bears insist they got their man
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    LAKE FOREST, ILL. -- Apparently Phil Emery and Jerry Angelo were not the only Chicago Bears general managers willing to stake their futures on a quarterback gamble.

    • There can be no doubt current Bears general manager Ryan Pace followed in the footsteps of predecessors in this respect by dealing away third- and fourth-round picks this year and a third-rounder next year to move up Thursday and draft North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in Round 1.

      "I think if we want to be great you just can't sit on your hands," Pace said about his decision to move up one spot and pick second. "There's times when you've got to be aggressive. And when you have conviction on a guy you can't sit on your hands.

      "I just don't want to be average around here, I want to be great. And these are the moves you have to make."

      Pace said he was sure some team would have moved up, and possibly tried to select Trubisky ahead of the Bears at No. 3 if the trade hadn't been made.

      "For sure, 100 percent on that," he said.

      "I didn't want to sit on our hands and have some team jump us or (have) it not work out when we were this close, or within reach of a player we all valued," Pace added.

      In the third year of a rebuilding project, the Bears spent the second pick of the draft on a player who most likely will not play this season. They had already signed free-agent quarterback Mike Glennon for three years and $45 million.

      "Mike Glennon is our starting quarterback," Pace said. "There's no quarterback competition when Mitch gets here."

      Trubisky said he'd defer to the veteran and avoid complications in the quarterback room.

      "I'm going to come in and learn as much as I can from Mike," Trubisky said. "I'm always going to compete and do my thing.

      "I know he went to N.C. State, our rival school. So I'm sure we can talk about that a little bit. But I'm looking forward to working with Mike and the rest of my teammates in Chicago."

      Trubisky comes to the Bears after only starting one season at North Carolina.

      "I think I've had plenty of experience in playing in 13 games, starting 13 but playing 30," Trubisky said. "So, I've been around a lot of football. I went to North Carolina for four years and was continually progressing and I'm only scratching the surface."

      In 2009, Angelo gave up two first-round picks to get Jay Cutler and Emery doubled down on Cutler with a mega-bucks contract extension. Now Cutler is gone after one playoff season and a .500 career record with the Bears, and it's up to Pace's regime to pull Chicago out of a quagmire.

      The Bears haven't been in the playoffs since 2010 and have been 9-23 under head coach John Fox in two years.

      Despite the need for talent at many roster spots, the fact the Bears would draft a quarterback wasn't a complete shock. Dealing away three draft picks to move up and take Trubisky was a surprise to many, though - including Trubisky.

      "I didn't see that coming at all," Trubisky said. "I was surprised. I'm glad they came up and got me at No. 2. I think it shows that they believe in me.

      "And I believe in what Ryan Pace and coach Fox are doing in Chicago, and I can't wait to be a part of it."

      Trubisky talked to the Bears at the Combine and had one private workout for them.

      "And after that it was silent," Trubisky said. "It was all a complete mystery and a huge surprise."

      But not to Pace, who said he had targeted Trubisky from Day 1, and watched him personally in games several times.

      "His accuracy jumps out right away, his ability to process and see the whole field jumps out right away," Pace said. "He's very athletic. He can extend the play."

      There are other issues, one of which is the fact Trubisky played out of a shotgun and didn't take snaps under center like he'll have to do with the Bears.

      Pace isn't worried about it. He got his man, even at a cost.

      "When we're picking top five in a draft and there's a quarterback that we really like, that's the only chance that we're going to have to get a guy like that," Pace said.

  • Ravens bolster secondary, tab CB Humphrey in first round
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens found help for their secondary by taking hard-nosed Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

    • Humphrey provides another playmaker for a unit that has been hampered by injuries over the past three seasons. Humphrey, who left Alabama after his sophomore season, will have to fight for a starting spot with veterans Jimmy Smith, newly signed Brandon Carr and second-year player Tavon Young.

      "It was an opportunity for us to continue to put some strength into our secondary," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Now, we feel like we have four really good corners with Brandon, Jimmy, Tavon, along with Marlon. (Marlon) has great size. He has really long arms and he can run. I feel like we got better in the secondary."

      Humphrey has the pedigree to be a difference-maker. His father, Bobby Humphrey, also played at Alabama as a running back and was a first-round selection by the Denver Broncos in the 1989 NFL Supplemental Draft.

      The younger Humphrey started all 29 games of his short career at Alabama. He had two interceptions and three forced fumbles in 2016.

      Ravens coach John Harbaugh expects Humphrey to make an immediate impact. However, Harbaugh emphasized there is no pressure on the young cornerback because of the number of veterans Baltimore has in the secondary.

      "We've gone after a portion of our team in the back end with our secondary with a vengeance," Harbaugh said. "We've done a great job as an organization in terms of getting that done. We have some really good players back there and there is going to be competition. We're going to be darn tough to throw against."

      This is a deep draft and Newsome would like to take advantage of that talent pool. As a result, there could be a potential trade on the second day.

      The Ravens had several calls from teams looking to move up to No. 16, Newsome said. Baltimore also considered moving up higher in the teens, but Newsome could not find a desirable deal.

      Baltimore still needs an outside linebacker after cutting ties with Elvis Dumervil following the season. Several linebackers the team drafted over the past few years have not shown they can be effective pass rushers and the heir to Terrell Suggs, who turns 35 in October.

      Baltimore had targeted several wide receivers, but a bevy of talent was off the board before the No. 16 pick. Western Michigan's Corey Davis was taken at No. 5 by the Tennessee Titans. Clemson's Mike Williams was chosen by the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 7 and Washington's John Ross was selected two picks later by the Cincinnati Bengals.

      The Ravens will still likely target a wide receiver in the latter rounds.

      For now, Newsome and his staff were happy to grab Humphrey with the 16th pick. He was the highest player rated on their board at that spot.

      "He's a great fit for us," Harbaugh said. "He will really strengthen our defense."

  • Chiefs get their man in quarterback Mahomes
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    John Dorsey and Andy Reid spent time in their development as an NFL scout and coach, respectively, with the Green Bay Packers under the influence of Pro Football Hall of Fame personnel man Ron Wolf.

    • Thursday evening in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs' general manager and coach relied on the wisdom learned from Wolf, when they went for the big personnel bomb and traded first-round choices in 2017 and 2018 so they could select Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

      The Chiefs moved from No. 27 in the round to No. 10, making a deal with the Buffalo Bills that included the two first-rounders, plus a third-round slot (No. 91) in this year's draft.

      It was an expensive move for Dorsey and Reid, but the words of Wolf rang in their heads.

      "Ron Wolf told me a long time ago that if you have one of those guys you like, go get him, attack it," Reid said. "That's what Dorse did. ... That's how we felt about Patrick.

      "Everybody liked this guy; we couldn't find anybody that didn't like him. ... We couldn't find a lot of red flags on this kid. (Scout) Willie Davis did a good job of scouting him. We got to know the kid before we got to know the kid. Everybody fell in love with him and what he's all about; that doesn't happen every year. When that happens, you go get him."

      But there's no doubt in Reid's mind that Mahomes is not ready to play the position in the NFL and will benefit from working behind veteran quarterback Alex Smith.

      "Right now Patrick's not absolutely ready to play," Reid said. "He's got some work to do. He's got an opportunity to learn from Alex Smith, which will be a phenomenal experience for him, and learn the offense. He's not a finished product but has tremendous upside. We think he'll fit into this offense. It's a clean canvas and something we can really work on and work with.

      "Alex is the starting quarterback; nothing is going to change there. This kid is coming in to learn, and it's going to take some time. We understand that. Alex understands that; he's been around this game for a long time. He gets it. There's going to be a day when Alex isn't playing anymore, and somebody will have to step in and go. We feel this kid with some growth can step in and do that."

      Mahomes was the highest-rated quarterback on the Chiefs' draft board Thursday night. Once Chicago jumped one slot so they could select Mitchell Trubisky out of North Carolina with the second choice of the round, the Chiefs knew they had to improve their position in the round to have any shot for the man they wanted.

      They ending up making the expensive deal with the Bills, fighting off New Orleans and Arizona, who were trying to move up to No. 10 to grab a quarterback.

      "There were a couple other teams that were trying to get him. There was some tension in the room," Reid said. "It wasn't one of those deals where we had half the room liked him and half didn't. Everybody was in on this kid and everybody was fired up."

      The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Texas native left the Chiefs' hierarchy impressed throughout his 2016 season at Texas Tech, when he threw for 5,052 yards, with 41 touchdown passes and just 10 interceptions. That warm and fuzzy feeling continued through the run-up to the draft, including his visit to Kansas City during which Mahomes spent six hours being questioned by Reid and his offensive coaching staff.

      "We brought him in and grilled him," Reid said. "We had six quarterbacks in here and we go for six hours and try to bury them. ... We throw the kitchen sink at them and see what they can process and what they can spit out.

      "The things he does well: first, he's smart and that helps; then there's his ability to move in the pocket. Seldom do you have a perfect pocket that you are sitting in in the National Football League. You've got to be able to move and still throw with velocity, and we thought he did that well. Tremendous vision and tremendous upside. It's a real nice pick for us."

      Over his three seasons in Lubbock, Mahomes played in 32 games, with 29 starts, and threw for 11,252 yards, 93 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. That plus-64 difference definitely caught the Chiefs' attention, as did his career 63.5 completion percentage.

      Mahomes becomes the first quarterback selected by the Chiefs in the first round since 1983, when they picked Todd Blackledge at No. 7 as the second quarterback taken in that legendary draft with six first-round passers. Three went to the Hall of Fame: John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

  • Bengals get speedy WR Ross
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals didn't expect to have most of their top targets still available at the No. 9 pick in the NFL draft on Thursday.

    • They could have addressed a major need on the defensive line, added depth at linebacker or even tight end. Instead, the Bengals went with who they felt was the best player still on the board: University of Washington receiver John Ross.

      Ross made history in March when he ran a record-setting 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. One scout told USA Today that he clocked Ross at 4.16 seconds.

      "This guy's role kind of jumps out at you with his speed," offensive coordinator Ken Zampese told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "The thing that jumps out at you as well is that he's a technician. He takes great pride in his craft, getting in and out of breaks, not a lot of wasted motion. He transitions very well."

      While Ross could be construed as an out-of-the-box pick for the Bengals considering the players still available and the team's depth at receiver, he does fill a need. A.J. Green had 964 receiving yards and four touchdowns despite a late hamstring injury, and Brandon LaFell had a solid first season in Cincinnati, with 862 yards and six TDs. But, neither has the capability to consistently stretch a defense.

      The Bengals drafted speedy Cody Core in Round 6 last year and he showed improvement late in the season, but Ross could make each of them better with his ability to go over the top.

      Ross, a second-team All-American, had 81 catches, 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns, which tied for second nationally. The pick also carries some risk.

      Ross had surgery after the season to repair a torn labrum he managed to play through. He should recover fully.

      "I am right on schedule," Ross said. "I will be cleared in July and I will be ready for training camp."

      Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told local reporters it's more likely Ross will be ready by the start of the season.

      Ross also had multiple knee injuries during his college career, but Lewis said he passed the team's rigorous pre-draft medical evaluations with no issues. "If you can jump through the hoops and pass our medical, that's pretty good," Lewis said.

      There also are questions about Ross' height. At 5-foot-10, he's among the shortest wide receivers ever drafted by Cincinnati. According to, he's just the third Bengals receiver under 6-foot during Lewis' tenure. But, it's his play-making ability, both down the field and laterally in the red zone that has impressed the Bengals' staff.

      Cincinnati struggled in the red zone most of last season and Ross could help with that. He also will take pressure off both Green and tight end Tyler Eifert by drawing safety help up top. So, despite his injury history and smaller stature, Ross gives Andy Dalton and the Bengals' offense an added dimension and some explosiveness that has been lacking.

      "My head almost came off my shoulders," Ross told local reporters via conference call from the draft in Philadelphia. "I felt like I was a top-10 player, but I know there were concerns about my injuries."

  • Chargers add another offensive weapon, draft WR Williams
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    The Los Angeles Chargers were poised to fill one of their needs with the No. 7 overall pick in the NFL draft, looking for help in the secondary and on both sides of the line.

    • Instead they drafted Clemson's Mike Williams, a wide receiver.

      Not just any wide receiver, the Chargers are quick to add, and they're likely right. Williams, an All-ACC pick last year, caught 11 touchdown passes and had 1,361 receiving yards for the national champion Tigers.

      The muscular, 6-foot-4, 218-pound Williams will give Philip Rivers an inviting, physical target down field and in the red zone.

      The Chargers were seeking a sturdy, springy pass catcher in the mode of Malcom Floyd and, before him, Vincent Jackson. Williams could be the next in the line of long-armed receivers with some brawn.

      Like Floyd and Jackson, Williams has the speed to get defensive backs on their heels and the physique to wrestle away the 50-50 balls that Rivers often thrives on.

      "It's his playmaking ability," said coach Anthony Lynn, when asked what stood out about Williams. "He has great size, speed, hands, ball skills. And he is tough and he is competitive."

      Wide receiver wasn't an area that struck many as one to be addressed in the first round. Then again, maybe it's an indicator that the Chargers are being cautious with current No. 1 wideout Keenan Allen.

      The Pro Bowl receiver has missed considerable time the last two seasons with injuries. He's hopeful that he will be ready by training camp after last year's knee injury.

      After Allen went down in the 2015 opener, Tyrell Williams, a former undrafted rookie, stepped in and notched a 1,000-yard season. Another young player, Dontrelle Inman, had a solid year as well.

      There's also Travis Benjamin, who was brought in for his return skills, too. While those skills never materialized for the Chargers, he was a fairly reliable receiver.

      Plus, Antonio Gates is still around. And don't overlook Hunter Henry, a find at tight end in last year's draft.

      "When you put (Williams) out there, you give Philip another target," Lynn said.

      Of course, the Chargers also have running back Melvin Gordon.

      All of that made the drafting of Williams, at a position where the team has depth, a bit of a head-scratcher. That's not a knock of Williams as much as it illustrates the shortcomings of a roster that has won nine games in two years and is switching to a 4-3 alignment on defense.

      But those areas will be looked at later. The Chargers passed on beefing up the defense by declining Ohio State safety Malik Hooker and Alabama tackle Jonathan Allen.

      Instead it's all-in with an offense that has multiple weapons, with receivers and running backs with different styles.

      The Chargers are confident they added one more.

      "We feel like we got a really good player," Lynn said. "We just want him to come in, compete and have a role in this offense and help us win football games."

  • Colts' Hooker compared to Ed Reed
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, April 28, 2017

    INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts went into the 2017 NFL Draft looking for difference makers on defense.

    • With the selection of former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker with the 15th overall pick, the Colts were able to acquire some help for a much-maligned defensive secondary. More important, they were able to add a player who has a huge upside.

      "He was the highest guy we had (rated) on our draft board," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday night.

      Indianapolis officials didn't expect Hooker to be available when the team made its first-round pick. But an early run of offensive players allowed some of the draft's best defenders to slip farther down the round.

      A 6-foot-1, 206-pound free safety with outstanding sideline-to-sideline range, Hooker recorded seven interceptions last season at Ohio State and returned three for touchdowns.

      The New Castle, Pa., native was rated by some as one the top 10 players in the draft. Pagano was elated to get him with the 15th pick.

      "A very rare athlete," Pagano said. "He's a center fielder, a ballhawk. He comes from a great, great program. He's a special athlete with rare ball skills. We get another piece to add to the puzzle. It was an easy pick. There was zero hesitation."

      Greg Schiano was Hooker's defensive coordinator with the Buckeyes. Schiano and Pagano served on the same defensive coaching staff at the University of Miami, where they both worked with perennial Pro Bowler Ed Reed.

      "Greg said that Hooker was the closest thing he's seen to Ed Reed," Pagano said. "He's got that rare ability to go after the football. We were able to add a unique and special talent to our defensive backfield."

      Hooker underwent hip surgery in January and was limited in what he could do at the National Scouting Combine a month later. The Colts, though, aren't concerned with the injury.

      "He probably won't be ready (to practice) until training camp. But we had no hesitation (to draft him)," the Colts' coach said. "He's got swagger. This guy is genuine. He knows football."

      While general manager Chris Ballard wants to pump the brakes on any early comparisons to Reed, he feels fortunate that Hooker was available.

      "I really thought when we came in here that we needed to add defensive playmakers," Ballard said. "(Hooker) has unique ball skills. We're excited to get him. I thought that he was the best athlete in the draft.

      "Adding unique players who can make plays is what we needed for our ballclub. He's got a rare combination of size, speed and instincts. He's got a presence to him, an air of confidence. He's a high-ceiling player."

      Hooker was happy with his selection by Indianapolis. Although he is from the Pittsburgh area, he became a Colts fan at an early age. His favorite player was former Indianapolis running back Joseph Addai.

      "When I saw the Indianapolis area code pop up (on the phone), I got excited because the Colts used to be my favorite team growing up," the former Buckeye defensive back said.

      He added that making the transition from college to the NFL should be a bit easier due to the coaching and schemes while at Ohio State.

      "Some of the things that the Colts do are similar to what we did," Hooker said. "But I know that I have a lot of things that I still need to work on. I am my own worst critic."

      The Colts' general manager didn't know Hooker was an Indianapolis fan growing up. He added that Indianapolis had brought the defensive back to the team's headquarters for a late pre-draft meeting just in case Hooker slipped down to the 15th spot.

      "It was fate," Ballard laughed.