Last year, the Baltimore Ravens took their left tackle of the future with Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley, and now they are looking for a bookend to go with Stanley after losing starting right tackle Ricky Wagner in free agency to the Detroit Lions. Losing Wanger left a big hole on the right side of their offensive line, and Baltimore hasn't filled it in free agency. In speaking with sources, the Ravens have Alabama's Cam Robinson as their top-rated offensive tackle, and he is one of the players they are considering drafting with their first-round pick.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has a reputation for loving Alabama players, and Robinson fills a big need. Sources say the team graded Robinson ahead of the other top two offensive tackles in Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk and Utah's Garett Bolles. There has been some debate about Robinson's future NFL position and how high he should go in the draft. With the Ravens, Robinson would be the long-term right tackle to go with Stanley.
Baltimore has other positions they could consider like cornerback, running back, and wide receiver. All three of those positions are much deeper, and the Ravens could land quality players at those spots on the second day of the draft. Offensive tackle, on the other hand, is one of the weaker positions in the draft, so if the Ravens don't take one in the first round, they could have a hard time finding a player that can step in as a replacement for Wagner. Sources say the Ravens are high on Robinson, and he is a definite contender to be their first-round pick. I currently hve Baltimore selecting Robinson in my updated mock draft.
Every year at the NFL Scouting Combine, some prospects harm their draft stock by interviewing poorly. Sources have said that two players who did that this year are Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell and Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley. Both players could see their standing drop on team boards as a result. Sources add that Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor had mixed interviews while in Indianapolis.
Prior to the combine, teams had concerns about McDowell's work ethic and motor. When presented with questions on those topics, he didn't give good answers, and those issues will continue to be a weight on where he ends up on team's boards. Meanwhile, sources say that Brantley comes across as very immature. Teams had heard he had progressed in 2016 over previous seasons from the Gators' staff, but he still is lacking maturity for the NFL.
Tabor was a mixed interview. He didn't do as well when asked about off-the-field issues, but teams said he came alive when discussing football. He was impressive talking about the game, and sources say he's a bright person. They were much more optimistic and positive about Tabor's transition to the NFL than McDowell or Brantley.
Some teams might be wary of Tabor, but sources feel that he is a real talent, and they think Tabor will probably be a first-round pick. They think that McDowell and Brantley are first-round talents, but could easily slip to the second day. Brantley and McDowell are second and third, respectively, in our 2017 NFL Draft Defensive Tackle Prospect Rankings.
The New York Jets have one of the open starting quarterback jobs in the NFL, and there were reports in early January that they were infatuated with North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. At the January all-star games, Jets sources told WalterFootball.com that wasn't true, as the team hadn't done serious work on Trubisky yet. Many teams focus on seniors during the fall, and then go back to do reports on early-entry players. After speaking with Jets sources at the NFL Scouting Combine, New York is unlikely to draft a quarterback in the early rounds, as the Jets aren't impressed with this class of quarterbacks overall.
Last year, the Jets selected Christian Hackenberg in the second round and sources told WalterFootball.com that he developed well behind the scenes. New York didn't want to hurt Hackenberg's development by rushing him onto the field, and they are taking a long-term view regarding the former Penn State quarterback. In the 2015 NFL Draft, New York took Bryce Petty on the third day of the draft. Thus, they have two young quarterbacks with quality skill sets that they have spent time developing and don't need a third when there isn't a clear-cut elite quarterback prospect who could interest the Jets with the sixth-overall pick.
With none of the 2017 class impressing them enough - check out our 2017 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospect Rankings - the Jets are more likely to acquire a veteran in free agency. That veteran could compete with their young signal-callers and could be a bridge quarterback. Sources with the Jets just don't like any of the early-round 2017 quarterback prospects, so one can expect them to pass on the position on the first two days of the draft, and New York may not draft a quarterback at all in 2017.
There is a lot of debate about the 2017 quarterback prospects. After their workout on Saturday, WalterFootball.com sampled teams across the league to find out who impressed them the most in Indianapolis, and the results were mixed. We did hear from multiple teams about a sleeper quarterback who has impressed them, and that is Texas A&M's Trevor Knight. After playing at Oklahoma, Knight transferred to the Aggies for his senior year and showed athleticism with toughness. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Knight did not elevate himself into the discussion with the early-round signal callers, but a number of teams said they really like him as a late pick or priority undrafted free agent.
A top NFC scout broke down Knight for WalterFootball.com and why they view him as a sleeper who could be a nice value. Here is what the scout said:
"My sleeper is Trevor Knight. Outstanding athlete, he made a lot of big plays this fall when healthy. They had deficiencies up front and in pass protection. Their scheme is very simplistic, but they had good receivers. When given time, he found guys and you could tell he sees the field well. Big-time threat with his legs breaking containment. Very good at ad lib. He's a bigger and stronger-armed Jeff Garcia. Some accuracy woes because of load phase inconsistency in his delivery, but Knight was accurate when able to set his feet (which was rare behind that line). Some might think he could transition to safety because he's big enough, athletic enough, and tough as crap. He got walloped a bunch and kept getting up and competing. He had the best leadership traits of any quarterback at the combine. Front-of-the-line guy, and the other players gravitated to him. He was named a team captain after only two months at A&M.
At 6-foot-1, 219 pounds, he doesn't have the bone structure to be more than like 225. He's fine where he is and the good quarterback evaluators will probably look past the accuracy stats and into the why. They'll see him having to make hero plays way too often and the high percentage of deep shots they took in that scheme inhibits his completion percentage (as deep throws historically do). In West Coast concepts, he was actually fairly accurate working the underneath/mid range game because he's got a good enough arm and coverage ID to beat defenses with his mind to offset longer delivery. That's from talking to quarterback coaches during the drills. Watching the guys live and feeling the throws. Knight spins it well also.
Knight probably won't get drafted, but I'm betting some team has its eye on developing him as a backup-caliber guy."
One of the most intriguing prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft is Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes II. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder is a talented athlete with a rocket arm and an ability to improvise into big play. Mahomes comes from a college spread offense and will have a big transition to the NFL. Thus, he is a highly debated prospect with some teams that love him and other teams that skeptics.
Sources from multiple teams have raved about Mahomes' personal makeup. They have said he's a great kid and they like his work ethic with leadership potential. He shined in the team interviews. Here is the list of teams that Mahomes met with in Indianapolis: Bills, Texans, Bears, Browns, Vikings, Chiefs, Saints, Giants, Jets, Steelers, Chargers, 49ers, and Redskins (check out the NFL Combine Meetings Tracker.)
Mahomes' transition to the NFL is still a hotly debated topic. WalterFootball.com spoke with a top scout on a NFC team picking in the top 20 that could take a quarterback in the early rounds. The scout had some interesting things to say, which illustrate why Mahomes is such a difficult evaluation.
"Mahomes is probably the most physically gifted. Far from polished, and has a lot of mechanical flaws that simply require repetitive work until muscle memory kicks in, but regarding pure arm/grip string and raw talent, he's the tops of the class. Footwork, body mechanics all looked foreign to him. Again, that's just this exposure because I love his game. He's better highlighted when the stage is live.
The other quarterbacks were much more mechanically sound and I personally expected them to shine better in drill work like this. That being said, if he wants to maximize his pure ability he's going to have to clean that up, so there's some functionality with it. There's some "Jay Cutler" vibe with Mahomes as a talent. Mahomes is much better in the football character department thus far.
That lack of winning pedigree is an issue, not a high percentage there. You can argue both sides on that. At the end of the day, for a top-tier guy the percent has typically been winning pedigrees carry over that position, being able to dominate situational football at the position. His case is a bit unique, but plenty of quarterbacks from that style of offensive have won and not amounted to anything.
His talent is high end, as is his character, but he isn't instant grits just yet. It wouldn't shock me to see him having some early success because his game is actually played closer to what is thriving in the league right now in terms of chaotic pocket."
Thus, you can see that Mahomes is a very challenging evaluation for NFL teams with a lot of mixed emotions and thoughts about him translating as a pro.
Entering the combine, the consensus top three wide receivers for the 2017 NFL Draft were Clemson's Mike Williams, Washington's John Ross, and Western Michigan's Corey Davis (more in our 2017 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Prospect Rankings.) Williams was impressive during the field drills on Saturday, but Ross was the talk of the combine, as he set the record for the fastest 40-yard dash time, breaking Chris Johnson's mark. WalterFootball.com first reported that Davis wouldn't workout at the combine, and injuries will keep him from running at his pro day as well. Those are lost opportunities for Davis, as a number of teams have told WalterFootball.com that Williams and Ross had been graded higher entering the combine.
In surveying six teams, four of them had a late first-round/early second-round grade on Davis, while two teams thought he could go in the top 20. Every team likes Davis as a player and off the field, but some teams just feel that his talent level is indicative of a late first- or second-round pick. One team picking early in the second round has Davis as one of its targets for early in Friday night. However, the three other teams think that Davis is more likely to get picked late in the first round, and that team won't get a shot at Davis on Friday night.
Two teams felt that Davis is deserving of going in the top 20. WalterFootball.com reported Saturday that Davis was in the pool of possibilities for Tampa Bay with the 19th-overall pick. Team sources have said that Davis has interviewed well while in Indianapolis, so the combine was beneficial for him in that regard.
It is unclear how much working out Davis will be able to do before the draft, but team sources say they don't anticipate changing their grade on Davis. His years of good tape and production speak for themselves.
What a difference a year makes. A year ago at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Cowboys had the fourth-overall pick with a number of issues to address for the future of the franchise. Dallas' front office hit a home run in the 2016 NFL Draft by landing young franchise quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round after taking star running back Ezekiel Elliott in the opening frame. Playing behind the best offensive line in the NFL, Dallas' young duo led them to the top-seeded team in the NFC before falling in an epic playoff game against the Packers. In speaking with members of the Cowboys scouting staff, Dallas is inclined to have more of a defensive draft in 2017.
The Cowboys could look to upgrade a few places on their defense. Last year, Dallas was close to drafting cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and corner remains a position that they look to address. Sources have said they have Adoree' Jackson graded in the first round, and he could be in play for Dallas. There were concerns about Jackson's height, but he measured in at 5-foot-10, 186 pounds, and those numbers are similar to former Chargers first-round pick Jason Verrett. Dallas likes Jackson's cover skills and ability to prevent separation. Jackson is fifth in our NFL Draft Cornerback Prospect Rankings.
Dallas also wants to upgrade its pass rush, and there are a number of edge rushers who could interest them in the first round. As Jerry Jones stated, the Cowboys need a "war daddy" to lead their pass rush, so they could easily go with a defensive end.
Updated March 4, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.
After the quarterbacks worked out at the NFL Scouting Combine, WalterFootball.com reached out to teams to survey them on which signal-callers they thought had the best workout. Like so much of this draft season's evaluation of the quarterbacks, there were a lot of mixed opinions. Here are the results below from five teams that voted:
Pat Mahomes: 2 Deshaun Watson: 2 Davis Webb: 1 Mitch Trubisky: 0 DeShone Kizer: 0
All of the teams said that Trubisky worked out well even though he didn't impress them the most. Watson also got praise across the board, even from the three teams that picked other signal-callers. The team that rated Webb the highest said that Mahomes was the most gifted physically in terms of arm talent, and was the most charismatic with the other players gravitating toward him. However, they think that Mahomes has major mechanical issues that could affect accuracy. That, along with the massive change in offense, had them rate Mahomes behind Webb and Watson. Surprisingly, no team gave praise toward Kizer, though at the same time, none of them spoke critically of him.
Aside from those five signal-callers, C.J. Beathard and Trevor Knight also received praise from team sources.
In many recent years, the Rams were a power player in the NFL Draft, as they had a boat load of picks from their 2012 trade with the Redskins. Last year, the Rams went the opposite direction, giving up a huge haul to move from 15th to first overall in order to select quarterback Jared Goff. The 2016 season was ugly as Goff played horribly behind a weak offensive line and a receiving corps that lacked talent. Los Angeles changed out its coaching staff, but the roster weaknesses remain. Los Angeles is without its first-round pick, and one of its third-round choices went to the Titans, so the Rams are lacking resources to improve. In speaking with sources with the Rams, upgrading the offensive line and wide receivers are the goals for the offseason and 2017 NFL Draft.
Between the offensive line and wide receivers, it sounds like the line is the priority in the second round. The Rams selected left tackle Greg Robinson with the second-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Robinson has been a massive disappointment. He is approaching bust category and could be moved to guard or right tackle if the Rams are able to land an upgrade at left tackle. Utah tackle Garett Bolles could be an option if he slips to the second round. Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp is another blocker who could land in Los Angeles. The offensive line prospects are less talented than the wide receivers - check out our 2017 NFL Draft Offensive Tackle Rankings - and the Rams could land a quality wide receiver in the third round.
The Rams put a ton of resources into Goff, so the organization hierarchy of Les Snead and Kevin Demoff needs Goff to show significant improvement in 2016. Giving him better blocking and more receiving talent could improve the chances of Goff making a big jump in year two.
Jonathan Allen is one of the top consensus draft prospects in this class, ranking No. 4 on our NFL Draft Big Board. In this writer's opinion, the Alabama defensive lineman was the best player in college football last year, as he dominated his opponents on a weekly basis. While the Heisman Trophy almost never goes to a defensive player, Allen was deserving of the award as the best player in the nation. Everyone expects Allen to go high in the first round, and teams in the top five are showing interest. Sources tell WalterFootball.com that the San Francisco 49ers (No. 2 overall) and Chicago Bears (No. 3 overall) have shown serious interest in getting to know Allen, but the Cleveland Browns have not.
Some have thought that Allen could be a dark horse to go first overall instead of Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garret. The reason for that is this Browns regime drafted Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib last year while inheriting another young edge rusher in Nate Orchard. Cleveland also is switching to a 4-3 defense and could use an interior disruptive defensive tackle to pair with nose tackle Danny Shelton. Thus, some thought that Allen could end up going first overall.
However, at this point, the Browns have been awfully quiet with Allen. Sources say that Allen is still in the running. Perhaps Cleveland will show more interest in the months to come to do their due diligence on Allen, but to this point, Cleveland has not been expressing interest to set up meetings.
Conversely, the Bears and 49ers have been involved with checking on Allen while setting times to meet, according to sources. While the Browns may not be heavily interested in Allen atop the draft, it sounds unlikely that both the Bears and 49ers would pass on him.
Since general manager Jason Licht took over Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers have attacked the same side of the ball in the first and second round. In 2014, the Bucs took a wide receiver and tight end with their first two picks. A year later, they selected a quarterback and offensive tackle in the top 35. This past April, they went with a cornerback and pass-rusher. In speaking with Bucs sources, it sounds like the offensive side of the ball is the priority in the first round at least.
There is a group of first-round offensive weapons who are in play for Tampa Bay. Sources say that Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis are all possibilities. Sources say that Miami tight end David Njoku could also creep into that conversation as his workouts are expected to be tremendous.
Many Buccaneer fans would love the team to land Florida State star running back Dalvin Cook, but the Buccaneers don't see Cook sliding to them. One team source said that is "wishful thinking." Even if the Buccaneers pass on McCaffrey, they see other running backs they could land on Day 2 as having quick starting potential. Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara and Texas' D'onta Foreman probably won't make it to their second-round pick, but there are other second-day backs that they like. Those players are Boise State's Jeremy McNichols, Wyoming's Brian Hill, Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, Toledo's Kareem Hunt, and South Florida's Marlon Mack (see where they rank in our 2017 NFL Draft Running Back Prospect Rankings.) The Buccaneers think all of those backs are good enough to start quickly in their NFL career. There also are a huge group of receiver prospects for the second day and middle rounds that Tampa Bay can draw on.
What Tampa Bay is able to do in free agency obviously could impact its draft direction, but at this time, upgrading the weapons for Jameis Winston seems to be the priority on Thursday night of the draft. A safety and pass rusher could also factor into the early rounds, but an offensive skill position player seems to be the focus in the first round.
A couple of days ago, WalterFootball.com heard from teams that Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson interviewed well at the NFL Scouting Combine. Robinson is in the running to be the first tackle selected, and the other two candidates who could challenge for that designation are Utah's Garett Bolles and Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk; they are all in the top three of our 2017 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings.
In reaching out to multiple team sources who interviewed them, both players received positive feedback overall. Surprisingly, Ramczyk was maybe the least impressive of the trio according to teams.
Sources said that Ramczyk seems like a good kid and they don't have any off-the-field concerns about him. They don't worry at all that he could get into any trouble or fail tests. However, Ramczyk only played one season of big-time Division I football, and they said that his football knowledge reflected that lack of experience. He is behind Robinson in that regard after Robinson started three seasons at Alabama.
The other issue for Ramczyk that rubbed some teams the wrong direction is a lack of love for football. It didn't sit well with some team sources that Ramczyk quit playing football after high school. They got the impression that he returned to the field not necessarily out of love for the game, but because he could get special opportunities by playing the game. Those sources have real questions if Ramczyk really loves football, and if he will be fully committed to doing everything in his power to max out as a player.
Meanwhile, Bolles' off-the-field issues are well known around the league after having a rough upbringing. However, sources from multiple teams have said that Bolles has interviewed well. He's been honest and accountable. Sources have come away impressed.
Here were the comments of one team contact: "I'm sure he's got some edge knowing his back story. He was dealt a bad hand that wasn't his fault, so it's a credit to him as a man to have persevered to where he is. Some of your greatest warriors have that type of makeup, and that's why they are trustworthy when time comes to battle. I'm sure a lot of people misunderstand him and don't know how to talk or deal with a guy who comes from the life perspective that he does. He's been great this week; very compliant, lots of personality and the other offensive linemen really like the dude. I guess it depends on the coach and his personal preference because nobody who coaches or plays in this league has all their screws in place and if they say they do, they're a total BS'er."
While the 2017 tackle class isn't a deep group of talented players, at least the players with off-the-field concerns like Robinson and Bolles have used to combine to improve their image with NFL teams. That could help all three to be first-round picks.
Earlier in the offseason, Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim stated the team had to find the quarterback to follow veteran Carson Palmer. Palmer considered retirement before committing to another season in the desert, but he turns 38 during the 2017 season and has an extensive injury history. Obviously, Keim understands that the Cardinals need to find their quarterback of the future. Sources tell WalterFootball.com that the Cardinals are planning on doing an intensive quarterback evaluation in the lead up to the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Cardinals plan is to narrow down their list to the top five quarterbacks and spend a lot of time with each of them. They plan on holding private workouts with all five of the signal-callers with ownership possibly attending. Their top five quarterbacks aren't set as of yet. However, sources say North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, and Texas Tech's Pat Mahomes are expected to be in the final five. The other spot could go to Cal's Davis Webb, Miami's Brad Kaaya, or another signal-caller. Here are our 2017 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospect Rankings.
Arizona has other needs it will scout hard for early-round picks, but sources say the quarterback search is going to be very intensive and similar to the Eagles' process of digging on Carson Wentz last year. The Cardinals know that finding Palmer's successor is critical, and that is the focus of their 2017 NFL Draft.
Over the past few seasons, the Saints have been seeking to upgrade their defense so it can get back to championship form. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is still playing at a high level, and New Orleans has a real sense of urgency to make another Super Bowl run before Brees' Hall of Fame career comes to an end. At the Senior Bowl, WalterFootball.com heard from Saints sources that the inclination was to add an edge rusher in the first round with cornerback being another prime need. In following up with Saints' sources at the combine, the team continues to lean towards a pass-rusher with the 11th-overall pick.
The 2017 NFL Draft is very strong at the cornerback position and the Saints feel that they could land a good corner in the second round. There should be some pass-rushers available in Round 2, but the talent dropoff from the first-round pass rushers could be significantly greater than the difference at cornerback. In many years, there can be a run on pass-rushers, and the Saints think that is possible this year as well. Right now, it sounds like the Saints' preference is for Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton over Tennessee's Derek Barnett and Stanford's Solomon Thomas.
The Saints could end up with a second first-round pick if they trade wide receiver Brandin Cooks. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that New Orleans has had trade talks with the Titans and Eagles regarding Cooks. If the Saints land another first-round pick from one of those teams, they could come out of the top 20 with a defensive end and cornerback, or a wide receiver to replace Cooks.
With free agency fast approaching, time is running out for the Chicago Bears to trade veteran quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears let be known they were shopping Cutler, and throughout the league, no one thought Chicago would get anything for Cutler. Thus, Cutler is likely to be released and has a favorite spot for where he would like to play next. Multiple sources tell WalterFootball.com that Cutler wants to sign with the Houston Texans.
Cutler likes the situation in Houston with a No. 1 receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, a fast secondary receiver in Will Fuller, the eighth-ranked rushing offense led by Lamar Miller, and the No. 1 defense in the NFL. While Cutler has had issues with interceptions in his career, many around the league believe he would be an upgrade over Texans' 2016 starter Brock Osweiler, who struggled with interceptions and a lack of accuracy last year. Cutler would bring more accuracy and experience to the position with the arm to push the ball vertically to Hopkins and Fuller. Via safety K.J. Dillon, Houston's training staff also has experience working with players who are type-1 diabetics like Cutler.
The Texans are expected to make a run at Tony Romo, and if Romo signs elsewhere, Houston could consider Cutler. The big issue to getting a deal down could be money, as Houston would probably only be willing to pay Cutler backup money after being on the hook to pay Osweiler a large salary in 2017. It remains to be seen if Cutler is willing to play for backup-quarterback level of compensation. At this stage of Cutler's career with a less-than-stellar reputation around the league with a propensity to throw interceptions, backup quarterback money is all that Cutler will probably be offered in free agency.
The once-great Oakland Raiders franchise returned to relevance last year as the talented young Raiders made the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 campaign. The Raiders' season was derailed by the injury to starting quarterback Derek Carr, but Oakland's defense also wasn't in Super Bowl form as the 26th-ranked unit in the league. Sources with the Raiders told WalterFootball.com that upgrading the defense will be the priority for their 2017 draft class with early-round picks targeted to upgrade the middle of their defense.
Sources with the Raiders say the team badly needs an interior pass-rusher. Oakland was frustrated that double teams to Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were effective at negating their ability to get to the quarterback. Thus, an interior pass-rusher is one of the their top draft priorities for the early rounds.
Aside from a pass-rushing defensive tackle, Raiders sources say the linebacker position needs more talent. Oakland will look hard at finding an improvement for middle linebacker in their first few selections.
The team feels all of the early-round picks can be devoted to the defensive side of the ball. They might get some offensive depth and competition later on, including some developmental talent for the offensive line. The Raiders want to re-sign free agent right tackle Menelik Watson to a 1-year contract, and sources say Watson is interested in returning on a short deal. That would help decrease the need to address Carr's blocking.
While the Raiders might do some minor signings or late picks for their offense, the focus of their offseason will be on upgrading their defense including their early-round picks.
Many around the league thought that the Packers would move on from veteran running back Eddie Lacy this offseason. Lacy has had injury and weight issues that have held him back the past two seasons, while the 2017 NFL Draft is very strong at the running back position with good talent to extend from the early rounds into the third day of the draft (our 2017 NFL Draft Running Back Prospect Rankings.) As a result, many thought that Green Bay would chose to get younger and cheaper, letting Lacy leave in free agency. However, after speaking with sources at the Packers, the team definitely wants to re-sign Lacy to a contract extension.
League sources think that after the past two seasons, Lacy probably won't land a lucrative long-term extension. Rather, he is more likely to sign a short-term deal with the hope of cashing in on free agency after a bounce back 2017 season. Last offseason, Packers edge rusher Nick Perry followed that pattern by signing a 1-year deal and then having his best season as a pro. Perry increased his value significantly, and Lacy hopes to do that next year.
The Packers would probably be Lacy's best hope to have a bounce-back year. He already knows the offense and obviously sees better run fronts than most backs, given their passing attack led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. By re-signing Lacy, the Packers could address their defense in the early rounds of the draft and then find a backup running back in the mid-rounds. Green Bay wants Lacy back, but it remains to be seen if they are able to agree on a contract.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen broke the news Thursday that New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks was being discussed in trade talks with the Titans and Eagles. Mortensen also reported that the Titans appeared to be the most likely suitor for Cooks. It makes sense that Tennessee has interest, as the Titans could use more weapons for young franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota. In speaking with Titans sources, however, it sounds like their draft plan is to target a defensive back with their selection at fifth overall and an offensive player at No. 18 if they don't make a trade for Cooks.
The Titans like the defensive back talent in the 2017 NFL Draft, and Tennessee needs to improve the back end of their defense. The Titans like cornerbacks like Alabama's Marlon Humphrey and Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore. However, it sounds like they like safeties Jamal Adams from LSU and Malik Hooker from Ohio State more. With the fifth pick, it sounds like Tennessee's inclination is toward a safety over cornerback. The value is better at safety and on the defensive side of the ball. I currently have the Titans drafting Jamal Adams in my mock draft.
If Tennessee doesn't deal the 18th pick for Cooks, the Titans sound inclined to help their offense with that pick. The players that sound like options there are Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, and Washington wide receiver John Ross. If the Titans trade down from pick 18, then Western Michigan's Corey Davis could be in play. Trading down could tempt Tennessee because they don't have a second-round pick. However, the Titans do have multiple third-round picks that they could use to move back into Round 2.
Last year, Titans general manager Jon Robinson did a masterful job of getting a king's ransom for the No. 1 overall pick and followed that up by adding some very good young talent to the roster. First-round pick Jack Conklin, second-round pick Derrick Henry, and third-round pick Kevin Byard all impressed as rookies, with other players in the draft class flashing talent as well.
During the lead up to the NFL Draft, there are always prospects that have a steady climb up draft boards and mock drafts. A player who could be a candidate for that this year is Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton. In speaking with five teams, they think that Charlton will probably go in the top half of the first round and definitely has a shot at being picked in the top 10.
There are numerous reasons why Charlton is viewed to have high first-round potential. One is the the skill set. Teams like Charlton's speed and athletic ability. He also has size with measurements around 6-foot-6, 270 pounds.
Here is how one scouting director broke him down: "Honestly, he may not make it out of top 10. He's got a LOOOT of people showing him love right now; 6-6, 270, athletic and pass rush production will do that. The way he's getting pushed up, I'm assuming folks are overlooking some of the instinctive shortcomings and banking on the good kid with huge upside. We have him graded higher than Derek Barnett and Solomon Thomas."
Charlton hasn't gotten a lot of hype, but that could change after his combine workout. Teams think that if he gets out of the top 10, he should go in the early teens. Charlton is currently third in our 2017 NFL Draft Defensive End Prospect Rankings.
A few weeks ago, WalterFootball.com surveyed teams around the league to see where they projected Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson. Half the teams saw Robinson going early in the first round, while the other half thought Robinson could slide to the back half of the opening frame. Thus, the combine is very important for Robinson to work out and represent himself well to evaluators during his team interviews. After the first night of interviews at the combine, team sources told WalterFootball.com that Robinson interviewed extremely well and helped himself.
Earlier in his collegiate career, Robinson had an off-the-field issue with a gun arrest where the charges were eventually dropped. When discussing that incident, Robinson showed accountability and was honest with teams. He also impressed teams with his football knowledge and mental development. Robinson entered the draft after his true junior season, but is very experienced after breaking into the starting lineup as a freshman. With three years of starting experience in the SEC, Robinson saw a lot of edge-rushing talent on a weekly basis.
Robinson could use a strong performance at the combine to help his chances of going in the top 20. While the field workouts matter, his team interviews were very important to lay to rest character concerns. After the first night, Robinson's combine is off to a good start.
Once again, the Houston Texans will have an interesting offseason. The Texans are interested in Tony Romo at the right price, while owner Bob McNair has suggested they will look to draft a quarterback in the early rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft. Those moves could prompt the team to jettison Brock Osweiler after one season.
While the quarterback position will be a big focus of the media and fans, sources tell WalterFootball.com that the team will work hard to sign star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins to a long-term extension this offseason. They also plan to pick up the fifth-year option on the contract of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with a view beyond that.
Hopkins is entering the final season of his rookie contract. The Texans took Hopkins with the 27th-overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. Hopkins has turned into one of the best players from that draft class with many busted picks going ahead of Houston's pro bowl wide receiver. Hopkins totaled 1,210 yards in 2014 and 1,521 yards in 2015 before Osweiler's struggles limited Hopkins to 954 yards last season. Because he was vastly underpaid compared to other top wideouts in the NFL, Hopkins had a brief holdout to start training camp in 2016 before returning to the team.
During the 2016 season, the New England Patriots tried to trade for Hopkins and Houston told them they weren't interested. Sources say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reached out to the Texans about trading for Hopkins during training camp. That also was quickly turned down by Houston. The Texans view Hopkins as a long-term building block and will seek to get him signed to a lucrative long-term contract.
After two seasons robbed by injuries, Clowney had a breakout 2016 season for Houston, leading its No. 1 ranked defense en route to a Pro Bowl season. The Texans will exercise their fifth-year option on Clowney's contract, but that may not be the only moves they make with their young star defensive end. After getting Hopkins re-signed, a long-term contract extension for Clowney will be under consideration even though Clowney has two more years under contract.
Texans general manager Rick Smith made a brilliant move to extend J.J. Watt in 2014 when Watt still had two years remaining on his contract. Before long lesser players like Mario Williams, Malik Jackson, and Olivier Vernon signed comparable deals to Watt's while other defenders like Von Miller, Ndamukong Suh, Muhammed Wilkerson, and Fletcher Cox had bigger contracts last season than Watt did. Even with Watt missing most of last season with a back injury, that contract has turned into a bargain with how Watt played as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Smith could echo that move by getting Clowney locked up long-term as he is entering his prime and becoming one of the top edge defenders in the NFL. Signing Clowney this offseason could save the Texans money in the long term compared to waiting until 2018 if Clowney builds off or even maintains the dominant level of play he showcased at the end of the 2016 season.
While the Texans will be looking to get better at quarterback, the team also is planning to lock up some long-term building blocks in Hopkins and Clowney.
Sources say that new Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph has looked at the two young quarterbacks on the Broncos roster and has decided the team needs a veteran signal caller for the immediate future. As a result, sources say Denver plans on pursuing Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo intently.
Joseph wants to win now and Romo could buy them more time to develop 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. Team sources say Broncos general manager John Elway is not pushing Lynch on Joseph, and is agreeable to making a run at Romo.
Denver has a lot to offer Romo in terms of a team ready to win now. After all, the Broncos were celebrating a Super Bowl victory just one year ago. They have an elite defense, and talented wide receivers to appeal to Romo for making another January run. Sources say if the Broncos are able to add Romo, they would move on from young veteran Trevor Siemian.
With the Texans also planning on being in pursuit of Romo - Walt has them landing Romo in his Predicted NFL Offseason Quarterback Destinations - it looks like Houston and Denver will be chasing the same quarterback in free agency for the second straight year.
One of the fastest rising prospects in mock drafts since the end of the 2016 season was Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas. WalterFootball.com was first to report that Thomas would leave the Cardinal early for the 2017 NFL Draft, and his huge bowl game against North Carolina jump started a lot of hype for Thomas that led to him being projected to go in the top 10 picks, with Thomas being as high as No. 4 overall in Walt's 2017 NFL Mock Draft. In speaking with sources from seven different teams, however, six of them thought that Thomas is more of a mid-to-late first-round pick.
A general manger of a NFC playoff team said Thomas should go in the top 24 picks, but they didn't have him as a high first-rounder. Another AFC playoff team graded him as a late first-round pick. The issue that is coming up the most with Thomas is that many teams feel he has tweener size with listed numbers of 6-foot-3, 273-pounds. Some 3-4 teams feel that he isn't a great fit in their defense and more of a 4-3 end. Sources from that AFC playoff team said that Thomas is more of a good left defensive end for a 4-3 team. They think he has good technique, hand use, awareness, and feel while also being a great person off the field. An NFC team picking in the top 20 said they thought Thomas would go in the 11-20 range.
There were a number of interesting comments about Thomas from league sources. One AFC director of college scouting picking in the top 20 had this to say about Thomas: "Late one is right for him. Not worthy of a top 10. Nice player, but not special; undersized defensive end."
One general manager of a team picking in the top 10 said, "Thomas of Stanford does seem a bit rich to go in the top 10, but I think he would go around mid-to-late first ... he is a good football player but may not be quite that 'sexy' to go in the top 10 … time will tell."
Another NFC national scout described Thomas like this: "Solomon is explosive, but at 276-280 pounds he's got some tweener. He's not a true defensive end but a hybrid, jack of all trades/master of none type."
WalterFootball.com did speak with a NFC general manager picking outside of the top 10 who did think Thomas was worthy of going that high and had a real shot of being chosen in that range. That general managers said, "Thomas is going higher, many view him as a poor man's Aaron Donald."
It is entirely possible that Thomas will have a great workout at the combine to help his draft stock. It only takes one team in the top 10 to fall in love and pull the trigger on Thomas that early, but in speaking with seven NFL teams, six of them thought Thomas was a mid to late first-round talent.