Giants are NFL Draft key, power rankings, Patriots’ motives and more

NFL


The NFL Draft has a chance to be the most explosive in years, and the New York Giants hold the key to all of the madness.

Come April 26, the Cleveland Browns will step to the forefront of the NFL world and make the first selection of the 2018 draft. Then, the New York Giants will go onto the clock, and bedlam will ensue.

Barring a stunning development, the Browns will take one of the top quarterbacks first-overall. This will leave New York with a bevy of intriguing options at No. 2, including a trade that would change the night’s entire landscape. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman hasn’t tipped his hand on whether he’s smitten with a quarterback, or if he’s going another direction.

If he opts for the former, expect three signal-callers to go off the board with the first trio of picks considering the New York Jets are up next. Under the scenario, it would be the first time that three quarterbacks led off the draft since 1999, when Tom Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith were selected.

Should Gettleman trade down, the Buffalo Bills are an obvious candidate. Buffalo holds the 12th and 22nd-overall selections, along with multiple picks in the second and third rounds. The Bills currently have AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman on the depth chart after trading Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland, making the need even more pressing.

Another option would be the Denver Broncos moving up three spots to secure their future. Denver signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal in March, but it’s tough to envision him as the long-term answer. If general manager John Elway can move up for someone he believes is another version of him, one would think he’ll aggressively pursue that option.

Of course, Gettleman also has a third choice in a ll of this. The Giants could decide to take Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb or Quentin Nelson, leaving the draft order as it stands, while allowing a potential slide for one of the quarterbacks.

If that happens, the Jets would still take one at the third spot, but then what? The Broncos could choose to pass on a quarterback and go with another position player, potentially one of Barkley, Nelson or Chubb. The Indianapolis Colts pick sixth, and they begin a run of five teams who won’t be taking any of the top arms in the draft.

All this would set up for either the Bills, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals or perhaps even the New England Patriots to make their move. Miami is smitten with Baker Mayfield, and if things falls right, could have him fall in their laps at No. 11. The Cardinals select 15th, and could either move up a few spots or hope to see a slide that benefits them. New England holds the 23rd and 31st-overall picks, and with a 41-year-old Tom Brady, perhaps the time is right to finally land his heir apparent.

Incredibly, all of this hinges on what the Giants decided to do. When New York finally makes that call, the draft will begin to fall into place. Until then, we wait and pontificate, uncertain of what is to come.

Power rankings

Top 10 what-could-have-been NFL careers

1. Greg Cook, QB, Cincinnati Bengals
2. Ernie Davis, RB, Cleveland Browns
3. Gale Sayers, RB, Chicago Bears
4. Joe Delaney, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
5. Sean Taylor, S, Washington Redskins
6. Jerome Brown, DE, Philadelphia Eagles
7. Bo Jackson, RB, Oakland Raiders
8. Sterling Sharpe, WR, Green Bay Packers
9. Billy Sims, RB, Detroit Lions
10. Terrell Davis, RB, Denver Broncos

Quotable

“He has a lot left in the tank. It’s what he gets out of it, that’s the thing,” Norman said. “I mean he can be whatever he wants to be.”

– Redskins cornerback Josh Norman on Dez Bryant’s future

Rumors have been swirling for months that Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys are going to part ways, but Norman believes that would be a mistake on the team’s part. Bryant, 29, hasn’t recorded an 1,000-yard season since 2014. At his current cap figure of $16.5 million, Dallas would be hard-pressed to justify keeping him.

Should the Cowboys release Bryant, look for Norman’s former team, the Carolina Panthers, to come calling. Carolina desperately needs a weapon for Cam Newton on the outside, making the fit obvious.

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Random stat

In 2017, the Chiefs became the second team in NFL history to have a 1,000-yard player at tight end (Travis Kelce), running back (Kareem Hunt) and receiver (Tyreek Hill).

The first team to turn that trick was also in the AFC West, the 1981 San Diego Chargers. Back then, it was Kellen Winslow, Chuck Muncie and Charlie Joiner getting it done, while Dan Fouts threw for a then-record 4,802 yards.

Info learned this week

1. Cooks trade means plenty for Patriots, Rams

The NFL world was turned on its early late last week when the New England Patriots sent wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams for the 23rd-overall pick in the upcoming draft. Cooks, 24, was one of 13 players to go over the 1,000-yard mark last season, and yet Bill Belichick dealt him instead of working out a contract extension.

Meanwhile, the Rams get their replacement for Sammy Watkins, who left in free agency on a three-year, $48 million deal with the Chiefs. Cooks isn’t the most refined route-runner alive, but he’s a superior deep threat and should fill a key role in the Rams offense under head coach Sean McVay.

So what does the trade signify for these clubs? New England now has multiple picks in the first and second rounds, giving it the opportunity to move up for a marquee name if it chooses. The Patriots could be thinking about the future beyond Tom Brady, or they could attempt to buoy his supporting cast with some win-now players.

Los Angeles’ motive is more obvious. With Jared Goff on his rookie deal for three more seasons, the Rams are trying to win immediately. After signing Ndamukong Suh and trading for both Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, general manager Les Snead is sending an unmistakable message. All of the aforementioned players are up for new contracts in the next two years, along with Aaron Donald, Lamarcus Joyner and Todd Gurley. Snead can’t keep them all, but he has no intention to.

For now, the Rams are going for broke, and they’ll worry about the future when they get there. One note of caution, though … Los Angeles doesn’t have a draft pick until the third round this season, didn’t have a first-rounder last year and is withing a second-round choice in 2019. It’s awfully hard to sustain success without any kind of meaningful draft capital.

2. Russell Wilson unhappy with Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks have a franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson. They also happen to be picking 19th-overall, hardy in the mix for a top signal-caller even if they were so inclined to shock the football world. Still, the team attended the pro day of Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and both Russell Wilson and his representatives aren’t pleased.

Wilson’s camp demanded an explanation of why the team was in Laramie for the showcase, which seems both petulant and significant. The Seahawks are doing their due diligence, like any team is supposed to do, but something is telling Wilson’s team that Seattle is flirting too much.

It would stand to reason that Seattle isn’t taking Wilson’s replacement anytime soon. The perennial Pro Bowler is 29 years old, and is signed through the 2019 season at almost $50 million. One would expect negotiations for an extension to ramp up in the next year, although perhaps this is a sign that muddy waters are ahead.

3. Thomas Davis gets popped for PEDs

The Panthers will be without one of their top players for the first four games of the 2018 season. On Friday, linebacker Thomas Davis was suspended for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy, a fate that Davis owned up to in an emotional video.

Davis claims that the positive test was triggered by a supplement that blocks estrogen, something he says he’s been talking for seven years. Whether that’s the case or not, Davis won’t be playing until mid-October, putting Carolina in a tough spot.

With the NFC being so tough, the Panthers might have opened the door a crack for some other teams to make a playoff run, including upstarts such as the San Francisco 49ers and Lions.

4. Titans uniforms miss the mark

Last week, the Tennessee Titans unveiled their new uniforms, the first overhaul of their design since becoming the Titans in 1998. The results, in one man’s opinion at least, were unfortunate.

Tennessee went from a white helmet to a dark blue shell, with the numers on the jerseys presenting a much more jagged look. Frankly, the Titans took a decent uniform and made it an ugly one by going futuristic instead of making some minor modifications.

Of course, minor modifications don’t sell. The Jacksonville Jaguars are also getting new duds this year, and the leaks of that look are promising.

On the plus side, the Titans did better than the recent redesigns of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. At least Tennessee has a solid color scheme.

5. Robert Griffin back in the NFL

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Ravens extended a career lifeline to Robert Griffin III, who signed a one-year deal with the club. Griffin, 28, didn’t play at all last season after flaming out with the Cleveland Browns in 2016. Throughout his five-year career in the NFL, the Heisman Trophy winner has racked up 8,983 yards and 42 touchdowns against 26 interceptions, completing 63 percent of his attempts.

Griffin has a good chance of making the roster in some capacity, currently slotting in as Joe Flacco’s primary backup, Considering the way Flacco has played in recent years, Griffin might have landed in the perfect spot, giving him a chance to knock off the rust while the starter flounders. It’s a longshot, but don’t be shocked if Griffin is making Flacco uncomfortable in the preseason.

History lesson

The Super Bowl has twice seen its first scoring play become a safety. The first was in Super Bowl IX, where Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Dwight White touched down Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the end zone. The most-recent was in Super Bowl XLVIII, when the Broncos snapped the ball over Peyton Manning’s head on the game’s first play from scrimmage.

To the shock of nobody, the teams getting a “free” two points both won.

Parting shot

The New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons entered the NFL one year apart, with Atlanta getting an expansion team in 1966 and New Orleans joining the following year. In the more than 50 years since, the two southern franchises have enjoyed a vigorous rivalry, even when times have been tough and the battle was to stay out of the basement.

This season, the rivalry ought to be at full blast. The Falcons and Saints both reached the playoffs last year and are good bets to be battling for the NFC South come December. New Orleans took the division a year ago, edging Carolina by a tiebreaker and Atlanta by a game.

Surveying the league, there will be a handful of down-to-the-wire battles, but perhaps none more hotly-contested than the NFC South. The two organizations have only met once in the playoffs, a 1991 Wild Card Game at the Superdome that went to Atlanta.

We might see a second meeting come January, maybe this time a few rounds later.

 



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