NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

Media outlets wishing to interview Colin Lindsay or Pigskin Paul Guillemette about the draft or other football topics should email the editor or call 613-692-1088

East-West Shrine roster additions … The East-West all-star game announced the addition of 28 more players who have accepted invitations to play in the Shrine game on January 20th in St. Petersburg. Heading the list on new Shrine game participants are QBs Riley Ferguson of Memphis and South Florida’s Quinton Flowers and All-America Washington State OG Cody O’Connell. The other additions include QB Jeremiah Briscoe of Sam Houston State; Fordham RB Chase Edmonds; WRs DaeSean Hamilton of Penn State; UNLV’s Devonte Boyd; Steven Dunbar of Houston; Virginia Tech’s Cam Phillips and Daurice Fountain of Northern Iowa; Weber State TE Andrew Vollert of Weber State; Wagner OT Greg Senat; Oklahoma State C Brad Lundblade ; DEs Conor Sheehy and Alec James of Wisconsin and Marcell Frazier of Missouri; UCLA Kenny Young; CBs Dee Delaney of Miami, Penn State’s Grant Haley and Avonte Maddox of Pittsburgh; safeties Godwin Igwebuike of Northwestern, UConn’s Jamar Summers, Tracy Walker of Louisiana-Lafayette and Natrell Jamerson of Wisconsin; Nebraska PK Drew Brown; Ps Joe Davidson of Bowling Green and Shane Tripucka of Texas A&M; and LS Drew Scott of Kansas State. The addition of these players brings the number who have accepted invitations to the Shrine game to 87.

Browns close in on top pick … Cleveland’s magic number to clinch the #1 pick at the 2018 draft is down to one after the Browns fell 27-10 at home to Baltimore to drop to 0-14. Bottom line is that if the Browns lose either of their two remaining games – both on the road at Chicago and Pittsburgh or the Giants win one of their final two outings – at Arizona or home to Washington – the Browns will get the first pick overall for the second straight year. In fact, even that might be academic as the Browns may have already locked up the first pick as they now have a somewhat weaker strength of schedule than the Giants, the only team they could catch by winning their final two games, and that gap would actually get wider if Cleveland was to win their final two games. In fact, the first three picks in the proverbial ‘if the draft were held today’ selection order for the upcoming draft remain unchanged as the Giants stayed at #2 after a tough loss to divisional rival Philadelphia, while #3 Indianapolis lost to Denver on Thursday. On the other hand, with San Francisco and Denver, which had been sitting on the 4th and 5th picks respectively, both winning this week, Cleveland, with Houston’s pick, currently would also have the 4th pick, while the 49ers would drop to #5 with Chicago at #6. As usual, the full first round selection order were the 2018 draft held this week will be updated after tomorrow night’s Monday nighter.

Pitt OT enters draft … Pittsburgh junior OT Brian O’Neill has announced that he will be foregoing his final year of eligibility and entering the 2018 draft. O’Neill is the 3rd Pitt junior to declare for the upcoming draft, joining wide receiver Quadree Henderson and safety Jordan Whitehead. O’Neill is an interesting prospect who is currently considered to be an early second day prospect, but he has the athleticism to move up. In deed, he is currently the 4th ranked OT on the GBN positional ranking for the position and 32nd overall. O’Neill is listed at 6-6, 305, but he actually was a WR in high school and originally came to Pitt as a TE before bulking up and moving to OT. He started 37 straight games for the Panthers including all 12 the past season at LT; in fact, he’s athletic enough that Pitt actually designed a few plays on which he actually carried the ball.

Bowling for dollars; Part One … It seems like the college football season just ended – it actually did just end – but the bowl season is alraedy upon with a spate of preliminary games scheduled for tomorrow. And while they are just the preliminaries, there will still be a number of really interesting prospects on the field tomorrow. Here’s a quick preview of the top prospects to watch in tomorrow’s bowl games.

One RB in; one out … Oregon has announced that senior RB Royce Freeman will not play in Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl matchup against Boise State as a precaution against injury. Instead, he plans to begin preparation for the 2018 draft where he is considered to be a second-day prospect. Freeman, who ran for over 1,400 yards this season, is the 6th leading career FBS rusher with over 5,600 yards. Meanwhile, prosecutors in Oklahoma have decided not to press charges against the Sooners’ redshirt sophomore RB Rodney Anderson who was accused of sexual assault by a female student. That should clear Anderson, an emerging pro prospect, to play in the Sooners’ CFP game against Georgia on New Year’s Day.

‘Neers win one; lose one … West Virginia won’t have to break in a new QB next fall as junior Will Grier has announced that he will be returning for his senior season next fall. At the same time, the Mountaineers will have to make do in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on December 26th against Utah without two-time 1,000-yard rusher Justin Crawford who has opted to begin draft preparations today.

Thursday nighter draft implications … The NFL probably doesn’t want to hear it, but the only implications for this week’s Thursday night game in which Indianapolis hosts Denver relate to the draft. Indeed, were the draft held this week, the 3-10 Colts would have the third pick, while the 4-9 Broncos would pick 5th. A win for Indianapolis and the Colts would drop down to the 4th pick behind San Francisco at least for the time being. On the other hand, a win by Denver could conceivably drop the Broncos several spots lower in the top 10 and perhaps move them farther away from getting one of this year’s leading QB prospects. For the record, the other teams currently sitting on this year’s top picks are all home this week. Winless Cleveland, which would have the first pick overall were the draft held today, will be hosting Baltimore on Sunday, while the Giants, at #2, will entertain conference-leading Philadelphia, although without injured starting QB Carson Wentz who is out for the year after tearing an ACL last weekend, and #3 San Francisco will greet Tennessee.

Injured Badger LB Cichy to enter draft … Wisconsin LB Jack Cichy announced earlier today that he will be entering the 2018 draft rather than apply for a 6th year of eligibility. Cichy did not play at all this year after tearing an ACL in fall practice; he also missed the latter half of the 2016 season with a torn pectoral muscle. When healthy though the 6-2, 235-pound Cichy is a typical Wisconsin; he may not be the most physically gifted guy out there – in fact he didn’t get any DI offers out of high school and walked at UW – but he’s smart, tough and tenacious.

Latest Senior Bowl roster additions announced … The Senior Bowl has announced the addition of 16 more players who have accepted invitations to participate in this year’s game in Mobile. The latest group includes Oklahoma State WR James Washington, UTEP OG Will Hernandez, Western Michigan OT Chuk Okorafor, Arkansas C Frank Ragnow, Ohio State DE Jalyn Holmes, Florida State DT Derrick Nnadi, and Virginia FS Quinn Blanding. With the addition of today’s group brings the total number of players who have accepted invitations to this year’s game to 79.

Updated first round selection order posted … With another week in the book, the opening round selection order for the 2018 draft were it to be held this week has been updated.

Three more juniors enter draft; other college notes … A trio of juniors have reportedly confirmed in one way or another over the past few days that they will be entering the draft. They are Florida DT Taven Bryan, Pitt S/CB Jordan Whitehead and Maryland CB J.C. Jackson. Bryan is the highest rated of the three; he’s a 6-4, 295-pounder who had a breakout year in 2017 when he posted 40 tackles and 4 sacks and could get some second-day consideration next April. The Terps’ Jackson could also get some late second-day consideration; he was a highly touted recruit at Florida where he was arrested in connection with an armed robbery in April 2015, although he was ultimately found not guilty of any felony charges. Jackson has nice length at 6-1, 195 and decent recovery speed; he received All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention this year after picking off three passes. Whitehead was also a highly regarded recruit at Pitt, but was never able to build on a terrific freshman season in which he had 109 and was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year. Whitehead started the 2017 season on a three-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules that he will undoubtably have to explain at pre-draft testing. When he did return, the 5-11, 195-pound Whitehead had 60 tackles and a pick in 9 games. A good athlete, Whitehead also played as a RB at Pitt where he had almost 400 career rushing yards in addition to his defensive duties. On the other hand, Georgia junior DT Trenton Thompson has apparently indicated that he will be returning to school. Among other college football notes of note, star sophomore QB Shea Patterson has transferred from Ole Miss to Michigan. Over at Texas A&M senior DT Zaycoven Henderson, who had been considered to be a decent late-round prospect for the upcoming draft, is out on bail after he was charged over the weekend with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with evidence and possession of less than two ounces of marijuana. Henderson was suspended indefinitely by the team, but that appears the least of his problems. What isn’t clear what set Henderson off just hours after the Aggies’ annual banquet. Lastly, emerging Oklahoma redshirt sophomore RB Rodney Anderson, who was accused by a female student of raping her in November, reportedly passed a polygraph administered by a retired FBI polygrapher according to his lawyer.

Colts move up to 3rd pick; 49ers to 4th … As a result of San Francisco’s win over Houston earlier this afternoon, Indianapolis has moved up into the 3rd slot in the weekly selection order for the opening round of the 2018 draft. Meanwhile, the 49ers will slip down to the 4th pick, while Denver will hold the 5th selection, Cleveland, with the pick acquired from Houston, will be 6th, followed by Chicago at #7 and Tampa Bay at #8. The full, updated opening round selection order will be posted after tomorrow night’s Monday nighter.

Browns magic # down to 2 for top pick … Cleveland came oh so close to getting off the schneid earlier this afternoon, but when the dust had settled the Browns lost in OT to Green Bay – after the Packers tied the game with less than 20 seconds on the clock in regulation – to drop to 0-13. After the Giants also lost, the Browns magic number to clinch the #1 pick at the 2018 draft is down to any combination of 2 Browns losses and Giants wins. Meanwhile, the Giants will hold onto the #2 pick for at least another week; however, the rest of the top 10 picks won’t be decided until after the 4 PM games are decided after San Francisco, which had been sitting on the 3rd pick, won for a second straight week and will move up at least a spot.

To QB or not to QB … We will still have to wait until April 26th to find out for sure, but the it appears that the chances that Cleveland stays with its first pick at the 2018 draft and selects a QB. At their press conference late last week introducing new G.M. John Dorsey, Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam said he gave Dorsey his marching orders almost from the day they first met six weeks ago and that was to find a QB according to a report by Mary Kay Cabot at Cleveland.com. According to the report Haslam indicated that finding a QB “will be John’s No. 1 priority; the Cleveland Browns are not going to be successful until we get a quarterback. We’re going to do whatever it takes to find a quarterback we need to be successful.” At 0-12, the Browns certainly appear to be on track to end up with the #1 pick overall this coming April which would put them in a position to take the top-rated QB out of the likes of Josh Rosen of UCLA, Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold, Josh Allen of Wyoming and Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma. “It’s not a bad class,” said Dorsey, who has reportedly been studying the QBs since being fired by Kansas City in June. On the other hand, listening to San Francisco G.M. John Lynch it’s not hard to get the sense that the 49ers are enamored with Jimmy Garoppolo whom they acquired from New England earlier this fall. After Garoppolo led the 49ers to their 2nd win of the season last weekend against Chicago, Lynch was quoted as saying that he “could have had five rings if I had a guy like that” when he was played in Tampa. While Lynch’s commenst were said somewhat in cheek, it is hard to imagine the 49ers, who currently sit on the 3rd pick overall, would take another QB after trading their second rounder to the Patriots for Garoppolo, although San Francisco still has to get him resigned as he’ll be a free agent this winter.

Shrine game announces roster additions … Late last week, the East-West Shrine all-star game announced the names of a second batch of players who have accepted invitations to this year’s game in St. Petersburg. That brings the number of players who have accepted invitations to the Shrine game to 66. Heading the list of players who have accepted Shrine game invitations are several solid second tier prospects for the upcoming draft including LBs Tegray Scales of Indiana, Arkansas State’s Javon Rolland-Jones, and Iowa State’s Joel Lanning, RBs Justin Jackson of Northwestern, Ralph Webb of Vanderbilt and Troy’s Jordan Chunn, and Virginia Tech CB Brandon Facyson. The latest list of Shrine invitations also includes the two Canadians who will be heading to St. Petersburg next month. They are Alberta OT Mark Korte and Montreal WR Regis Cibasu. Here is the full list of players who have accepted invitations to the Shrine game to date. The Shrine game will be played January 20th and we’ll be there as GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be on the ground in St. Petersburg all week.

Who caught Pigskin’s eye in college football’s championship weekend … A little later than usual, here are the players that caught GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette eye in college football’s conference championship weekend last week with an eye toward the 2018 draft.

Gator WR Callaway headed to draft … Neil Stratton of Inside The League is reporting that embattled Florida junior WR Antonio Callaway has signed with an agent and will be entering the 2018 draft. Callaway was one of Florida players involved in a credit card fraud scheme this past year that ultimately resulted in felony charges against each of the nine players. However, 7 of the 9, including Callaway, accepted pre-trial intervention agreements that would see the charges dismissed if they meet all the requirements of the agreement. This also wasn’t Callaway’s only brush with off-field trouble. He was the subject of a Title IX investigation for an alleged sexual assault in 2015 for which he was cleared of any wrongdoing but admitted to an investigator that he was “too high” to have sex with the accuser. Then this past spring, Callaway was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession along with a 41-year-old man with a very lengthy rap sheet. Callaway plead no contest to a lesser charge of possession of drug paraphrenalia in that case in July. Between the white lines, Callaway was an effective possession type receiver for Florida who had 89 catches for 1,400 yards (thta’s almost 16 years per) and 7 TDs over the course of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He was also a dynamic return man who had a couple of TDs as a punt returner.

That didn’t take long: Browns nab Dorsey as new G.M. … Just hours after firing former G.M. Sashi Brown, Cleveland has hired former Kansas City GM John Dorsey as their new GM. Dorsey is a 26-year veteran of the NFL personnel wars with two Super Bowls on his record. Dorsey was dismissed by Kansas City earlier this year after four years with the team.

First-round projection updated … With the NFL at the 3/4 pole and college football headed toward the bowls, the GBN projection for the opening round of the 2018 draft has been updated. And as we note with every update, truth is we don’t have a clue what is going to happen on april 26th. What he hope to do however is given some idea where the different players might go based on current intel.

Browns fire G.M.; other personnel department changes to follow … Cleveland has fired executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown, who headed their personnel department for the past two years. Under Sashi’s leadership the Browns led the league in acquiring draft picks, but had just a 1-27 record. Other changes to the personnel department are also expected to occur, but head coach Hue Jackson will remain on the job and will return for the 2018 season. This is potentially a big deal for the 2018 draft where the Browns again look to be almost a lock to have the first pick. With Brown and his cohort of analytics staff, there was a pretty good chance that the Browns would have traded out of the first pick again to a team looking to move up to get the top-rated QB. However, with Brown gone and Jackson, a noted QB-guru, still in place, the odds now are that the Browns stay where they are and finally take that QB themselves. Stay tuned!

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