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Saints out of CB Butler talks … for now … New Orleans head coach Sean Payton confirmed this morning that the Saints will not extend an offer to New England restricted free agent CB Malcolm Butler. The Saints had what was reported to be a productive meeting with Butler earlier this month, Payton said the organization is unwilling to give up the 11th pick in next month’s draft for his services. According to league rules, if the Saints had signed Butler to an offer sheet and the Patriots did not match, New Orleans would owe New England a first-round pick as compensation. And it would be the Saints highest pick, the 11th. The Saints had hoped to work out some kind of sign and trade deal with New England in which the Patriots would get the 32nd overall from the Saints rather than the 11th. Ironically, the Saints originally acquired the 32nd pick from New England in the deal for WR Brandin Cooks earlier this month, but the Patriots are reportedly holding out for the 11th pick. However, there is still plenty of time to get something done before the draft and it appears to be in both teams interest to do so. New Orleans desperately needs a quality cover corner, while the Patriots likely can’t afford to keep Butler after spending big bucks to sign CB Stephon Gilmore away from Buffalo. Stay tuned.
CB ranking tweaked … You won’t get much argument from very many NFL personnel people that CB is the most talented, deepest position in the 2017 draft class. Indeed, it’s very possible that as many as 20 corners could go in the first three rounds of next month’s draft. However, there is still some fluidity in how the NFL is grading the CB group. One of the things we are hearing is that those speed issues may have finally started to impact the grade of Teez Tabor of Florida, especially after he couldn’t crack the 4.7 mark at his pro day earlier this week. Tabor had been the consensus #3 CB behind Marshon Lattimore of Ohio State and Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey with a late first, early second round grade, but it appears that Tabor may be slipping deeper into the second day At the same time, though, there isn’t a clear consensus on which corner moves up to #3 with Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, Chidobe Awuzie of Colorado and Washington’s Kevin King each with their supporters. Meanwhile, the CB wild cards are injured Pac-12 stars Sidney Jones of Washington and UCLA’s Fabian Moreau, neither of whom may be available until after the start of training camps in July-August with a torn Achilles and torn pec muscle respectively; ironically both were injured at their pro days. Jones had been considered to be a top 20 prospect prior to his injury, while Moreau had been shooting up draft boards around the league after a sterling combine. How far they drop is anybody’s guess right now, but figure a round for each. Meawnhile, it could even be worse for Jourdan Lewis of Michigan who had been considered to be a late second day candidate, but could be in something of a free fall after he was charged with domestic abuse earlier this month. For now, here is the updated GBN CB ranking as well as the updated Big Board reflecting those changes.
Browns, 49ers heads talk QB, other draft stuff … One of the best things about the annual NFL league meetings which are currently underway in Phoenix, are the interviews with the various coaches and general managers who don’t usually give away much directly, but there’s often a nugget or two in the tea leaves. Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson, for example, did rule out the possibility that the Browns would trade the #1 pick overall for a QB, but indicated that the team is still looking to trade for a veteran QB. Jackson didn’t name names in that regard, in fact, he couldn’t because that would be tampering, but hinted the Browns still have some irons in the fire. Jackson also indicated that he did not think that any of the QBs in this year’s draft class have ‘separated’ themselves from the pack. Translated that may mean he’s not all that impressed. At the same time, Jackson wouldn’t totally rule out the possibility that the Browns could still trade the #1 pick for a package of picks. According to Jackson he “would not like to trade, but if there’s an opportunity to make our team better, I’m sure we’ll discuss anything and everything.” The consensus around the league, though, is that the Browns have pretty well settled on Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett with the top pick, but could be talked in to parting with the 12th pick for that veteran QB. Meanwhile, on the far coast, new San Francisco G.M. John Lynch has been talking up this year’s QB class which he claims is “getting a bad rap.” That has led to some speculation that the 49ers have still not ruled out taking a Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky with the 2nd pick overall and Lynch is just trying to build them up in case San Francisco ends up selecting one. Stay tuned.
Pigskin’s top prospects overall ranking posted … One of the great things about this time of year is comparing how different analysts rank the different prospects for the upcoming draft. In that vein, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has posted his top 35 prospects for the 2017 draft (with more to come). Note that Paul’s ranking is based on his own grading scale and may differ from the overall GBN Big Board which are based primarily on how we hear NFL teams are ranking players.
‘Horns RB Foreman flies at UT pro day … The focus of today’s pro day schedule was supposed to be on the state of Florida where Florida State and Florida had workouts scheduled. In fact, there were some notable performances at the two Florida schools, but in the end the story of the day may have been Texas RB D’Onta Foreman. Foreman led the nation in rushing yards per game – in fact by almost 30 yards per game – in 2016, but wasn’t getting much traction from pro scouts because of concerns about his long speed. Foreman put those concerns to rest, though, today with a strong performance at the Longhorns pro day. Read more
Pro day focus shifts to Florida … The pro day schedule focus shifts to the state of Florida today as both Florida State and Florida hold their on-campus workouts this morning. Figure they’ll both be well attended with particular attention paid to FSU RB Dalvin Cook, one of this year’s top 1-2 prospects at the position who will be trying to improve on a somewhat pedestrian combine where he didn’t look particularly quick or explosive, which is supposed to be his game. For the record, Texas will also hold its pro day today. Meanwhile, a couple of highlights from yesterday’s pro days in the Houston area. The Cougars’ CB Brandon Wilson, who kind of played second-fiddle at the position for Houston behind Howard Wilson, put on a really athletic show as he ran under 4.4 in the 40, had a 41-inch vertival, an 11-1 long jump and 24 reps in the bench press, all of which would have been among the leaders at the position in Indianapolis. That should at least get him some second looks from pro scouts as he was a versatile player who also took snaps at RB and WR as well as returned kicks for the Cougars. Meanwhile, former UH QB Greg Ward who is being looked as at either a WR or RB ran a 4.58 in the 40. Across town, a number of NFL teams sent scouts to the Rice workout to see Texas Southern WR Derrick Griffin, a basketball convert who was working out with the Owls. The consensus was they might have stayed in bed as Griffin had a really disappointing workout. He weighed in at 248, as much as 15 pounds more than expected and looked more like a TE, managed only a 31-inch vertical – almost shocking for a high-flying hoops star – and didn’t run the 40 at all because of a strained quad. Griffin will reportedly work out again when Houston has its local prospects, but he clearly has some work to do. Stay tuned!
How much tread wear on top RB prospects … One reason why RB has almost become an afterthought early in the draft is that its a position where productive players tend to have short shelf lives. And it doesn’t help if they are already pretty beaten up when they get to the NFL. Every year, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette assesses just how much tread wear the top prospects at the position have experienced prior to the draft. Full story.
Final full week of pro days gets underway … Time is moving on! The final full week on this year’s pro day schedule gets underway later today with workouts at Houston and Rice as well as at Villanova. Tomorrow, everything shifts to the state of Florida where both Florida State and Florida will have their pro days, while Miami, along with the Texas A&M, including consensus #1 prospect Myles Garrett, go on Wednesday. Then on Thursday its Louisville and Boise State, while Tennessee, West Virginia, Indiana and Western Kentucky are the Friday headliners.
Combine lite underway up north … Not much going on regarding the NFL draft this weekend, but it is combine weekend for the Canadian league. The event is underway in Toronto, although several top name Canadian prospects including Mississippi State OT Justin Senior, Laval TE Antony Auclair and Manitoba G/T Geoff Gray are not participating. Meanwhile, Simon Fraser LB Jordan Herdman, who participated in this year’s Senior Bowl has struggled, posting a 40-time of 5.16 as well as some very pedestrian clockings in the agility drills. Same for 6-9 Idaho OT Mason Woods, whose getting some props as a potential top pick in the CFL, after he posted a 5.54 clocking. In fact, most of the times at the CFL combine were rather pedestrian. One guy who did make some noise though was Waterloo DB Jordan Hoover, who clocked 4.60 in the 40 and had some very respectable times in the agility drills. Here are the updated results from the CFL combine. The CFL draft for Canadian-born players is scheduled for May 7th.
Friday pro day notes … SS/OLB/RB/KR/ETC Jabrill Peppers was the star attraction at the Michigan pro day today, but the guy who walked away as the big winner may have been DT Chris Wormley. According to the school, Wormley ran the 40 in unofficial times of 4.82 and 4.87 seconds. Note that several other former Wolverines who ran at the combine ran again today and were all roughly 0.05-0.10 seconds quicker at the pro day. Still, even adding a tenth to Wormley’s time puts him in the 4.9 range which is outstanding for a guy who goes 6-5, 298. On the other hand, several other Michigan prospects did not run as well. RB De’Veon Smith, who did not run at the combine, for example, ran a sundial time of 4.83, while offensive linemen Kyle Kalis (OG) and OT Erik Magnuson both had clockings of over 5.40. Meanwhile, at the BYU pro day, QB Taysom Hill ran in an adjusted time of around 4.5 seconds, while he added a 38-inch vertical jump. Problem for Hill is that nobody really doubted his athleticism, it’s his durability after a career marred by several serious injuries that ultimately ended 4 different seasons.
Browns confirm Garrett workout … No big surprise here but NFL sources have confirmed that Cleveland recently held a private workout with Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett. The Browns will also reportedly have Garrett into their facility for one of their 30 allowed on-site pre-draft visits. Unless something unexpectedly upsets the old apple cart in the next 5 weeks or so, the Browns are expected to select Garrett with the first pick overall at the upcoming draft.
Bears add vet QB Sanchez … In a move that has more than one observer around the NFL scratching their heads, Chicago has signed veteran QB Mark Sanchez. Presumably, Sanchez has been brought in to back-up Mike Glennon whom the Bears signed away from Tampa Bay earlier this month. The assumption is that the signing of Sanchez won’t impact what the Bears do at the position at the 2017 draft, although Chicago has generally gone with just 2 QBs the past few years. Whatever, the Bears, who hold the 3rd pick in this year’s draft, are still checking out the top QB prospects as they have private workouts scheduled with each of Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer. Stay tuned!
As the QB turns … After his generally solid pro day yesterday, Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer will be working out with San Diego later today to highlight a number of private workouts by top QB prospects for this year’s draft. That and other notes in the pro day results blog.
‘Other’ QB to work out pro day today … He doesn’t get the same kind of buzz as the top 3 QB prospects in this year’s draft, but talk to scouts around the NFL and many will quietly tell you that that the guy they’d draft if they had the chance is Davis Webb of California. Webb will be working out later today at the Cal pro day. Meanwhile, other pro days on a relatively light day to wrap up the week include those at Michigan, Arizona and BYU.
Big crowd at Ohio State pro day; Irish QB Kizer ‘crisp’ at his … Not sure what the record is, but Ohio State drew a monster crowd to its pro day today. Indeed, there were reportedly over 120 NFL personnel people in Columbus today, needless to say representing all 32 NFL teams. The crowd included 9 head coaches including Bill Belichick of the Super Bowl champion Patriots, Todd Bowles of the Jets, Detroit’s Jim Caldwell, John Harbaugh of Baltimore, Cleveland’s Hue Jackson, Marvin Lewis of Cincinnati, Mike Mularkey of Tennessee, Sean Payton of New Orleans and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. In addition, as many as 7 G.M.s were also at the Ohio State pro day, although we are still waiting on the names. Most of the top Buckeye prospects stood on their combine numbers, although WR Noah Brown, who did not run in Indianapolis, ran the 40 today and reportedly timed in the low 4.6 range, which was kind of what was expected of the 6-2, 222-pound Brown. Meanwhile, Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer reportedly had a solid workout at the Irish’s pro day in South Bend. Kizer, one of the top 3 QBs in the 2017 draft class, went through a scripted 60-pass workout during which he showed plenty of arm strength, but sometimes questionable touch. San Francisco G.M. was at the Notre Dame workout with a full contingent of 49ers’ execs in tow, However, San Francisco was the only team with a top 5-6 pick this year to attend Kizer’s workout. Chicago did send a couple of scouts, while Cleveland had one in South Bend, but their senior execs were elsewhere. However, it is believed that Cleveland and Chicago wil hold private workouts with Kizer as will the 49ers.
UCLA CB Moreau tweak needs surgery; out 3-6 months … The supposedly minor injury that forced UCLA CB Fabian Moreau out of the Bruins’ pro day earlier this week, turned out to be somewhat more serious. As a result, Moreau had surgery yesterday to repair a torn pectoral muscle. The recovery period for that type of injury is up to 6 months meaning that Moreau could conceivably miss the start of the upcoming season. Moreau had been considered one of the biggest risers in the 2017 class after an outstanding performance at the combine earlier this month. Indeed, there were growing whispers suggesting that Moreau could even sneak into the opening round. However, this shoulder issue will likely slow Moreau’s momentum, particularly with so many other good corners out there.
Pro day outings of note … While we wait for results from today’s super slate of pro day workouts, there were a couple of really solid performances earlier this week by small-school players not invited to the combine. Grambling WR Chad Williams, who did get an invite to the Senior Bowl, but not to the combine, for example, had a really strong workout. After measuring in at 6-0.5, 207, Williams reportedly ran the 40 in the 4.45 range, had a very good 38.5-inch vertical, along with good agility times of 4.15 seconds in the short shuttle and 7.06 in the three-cone; for good measure he also had 26 reps in the bench lifts. Meanwhile, Missouri State OLB Dylan Cole, who also was snubbed from the combine, also didn’t disappoint as he ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.55-4.60 range, had shuttle times of 4.08 in the short shuttle and 6.82 in the three-cone drill, along with a 39-inch vertical and 32 reps in the bench press, each of which would have ranked among the top scores for the linebackers at the combine. Both guys had been considered to be late round or even free agent prospects, but those workouts could move them higher on the third-day boards.
Monster day on pro day sched … Its another big day on the pro day schedule with workouts scheduled at Ohio State, Missouri, Utah, Stanford and San Diego State among others. And one of those others is Notre Dame where QB DeShone Kizer, one of the top 2-3 prospects at the position for the upcoming draft, will work out for what is expected to be a big crowd in South Bend.
Rising UCLA CB Moreau tweaks shoulder at pro day … UCLA CB Fabian Moreau’s pro day yesterday ended almost before it began when he tweaked his shoulder during the bench press and had to sit out the rest of the day. While the injury isn’t considered serious there may be some concerns among NFL teams about the shoulder as Moreau also did not lift at the combine because of soreness in the shoulder. The rest of Moreau’s combine, including a 4.35 clocking in the 40 has seen Moreau’s stock surge such that he has been considered to be one of the fastest risers in the 2017 draft class. At least, Moreau got to work out a bit as OLB Takk McKinley, a potential top 20-25 pick this year, started the day with his arm in a sling as a result of shoulder surgery he underwent immediately after the combine. However, McKinley will stay busy enough as he reportedly has visits lined up with Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Dallas, Cleveland and Detroit before the draft.
UNC Trubisky pro day ‘solid’ … All 32 teams were represented at the North Carolina pro day where star QB Mitch Trubisky, one of the top 2-3 prospects at the position for the upcoming draft, was front and center. Trubisky went through a 68-pass scripted workout that was generally described as ‘solid.’ Trubisky reportedly showed some real athleticism and escapability in the pocket, as well as a quick release and nice touch. At the same time, though, there were reportedly questions raised about his overall arm strength which may not necessarily be a whole lot more than average. For the record, three G.M.s were in Chapel Hill for today’s workout including Pittsburgh Kevin Colbert, who goes to most of the major pro day workouts; Jerry Reese of the Giants, who appears to have joined the frequent flyers club after folks like ourselves figured out that he usually only went to the workout of the player the Giants intended to draft – and got burned last year when Chicago jumped ahead of the Giants to select OLB Leonard Floyd, whom the Giants had targetted, and San Francisco’s John Lynch. In fact, the 49ers, who pick 2nd overall this year, were the only team to send a contingent of senior execs to the UNC pro day, although for some reason head coach Kyle Shanahan was not be part of the 49ers’ party. Indeed, somewhat interestingly, not one head coach was in attendance at the Tar Heels pro day today. Meanwhile, the New York Jets, who have the 6th pick, also sent a large delegation (6) to the UNC pro day including director of scouting Rex Hogan and QB-coach Jeremy Bates, while Chicago sent a party of three including national scouting director Mark Sadowski. In contrast, the Bears had sent a full delegation of senior execs to last week’s Clemson pro day to see Deshaun Watson. For its part, Cleveland, which has the 1st and 12th picks in this year’s opening round, sent a two-man delegation headed by director of college scouting Bobby Vega to see Trubisky today. However, the top decision makers for all these teams will eventually get up close and personal with Trubisky as Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and the Jets have all scheduled private workouts with him either later this month or early in Aprl, as have Arizona and Kansas City.