Still working through my notes from the last few days …
I do not know how big a part of the equation this will play in Packers’ decision making, but I can say that I am not convinced, based on a few things I have heard, Packers think Jordan Love is ready to be at the wheel of a championship team. Remember, for all this noise, Green Bay was a better fourth quarter away from the Super Bowl in January, and I think when you have a team like that, if you’re a GM like Brian Gutekunst or a coach like Matt LaFleur, it is your responsibility to protect the team’s ability to compete for a title. And right now I do not have the feeling that throwing love out there would do it.
• I think it’s fair to say now that the player class that was most affected by this year’s funky predraft process was the player who had medical issues. Tennessee G Trey Smith’s problem with blood clots from a few years ago, which almost ended his football career, was settled as a difficult problem for the team doctors to sign clearing – so a guy with a great football character and a lot of production on site that may have been a day 2-choice otherwise, slipped all the way to the sixth round. (One problem was that his play slipped a bit, which may have been in part because the medication he was taking for blood clots limited how much he could practice during the week.) Alabama LB Dylan Moses is another example. Now the once-loudly proclaimed Moses game played flat after a promising New Year, so that was a factor too. But just as great was the fact that he needed to get his knee shot up before each game just to be able to play last year. He liquidated without being pulled out and signed with the Jaguars as a college-free agent. If there had been “30” visits this year where players can meet with team doctors, would it have made a difference? It is difficult to know for sure in individual cases. But what we can say is the lack of opportunity to take on these tours that certainly did not help guys like Smith and Moses.
• For what it’s worth – and we talked earlier in the offseason about the Patriots’ more cooperative approach – the circle remained very small on the quarterback decision (the decision itself, not the process). And in the end, Bill Belichick was, as one might expect, the man with the finger on the trigger. To that end, although I think New England liked Ohio State’s Justin Fields, only Belichick really knows if he would have taken Fields with the 15th pick if the circumstances of the election were different (and either both Fields and Jones were available, or only fields were available). But what about the rest of the draft? A veteran expert pointed out to me how, for the first time in a long time, New England did not throw any wild basket balls in rounds 2 to 7, which was an indicator to him that Belichick might be listening more to those around him.
• An interesting thing that appealed to the bears about Justin Fields was pretty much exactly what appealed to the Jaguars about Trevor Lawrence: He’s used to the kind of hurtful spotlight that comes with being a first player because he really lived under one since he was a teenager. “One of the things I like to look for and I know Ryan [Pace] also do you look for this with quarterback, how do they rise up when everyone is watching when that moment is just huge? Said Nagy. “Justin has been doing this all his life. You go back to high school and all those Elite 11 camps he’s been to, and he’s just always had a camera following him. And that’s probably one of the things, when we were able to get him here after we pulled him the next day, you could really feel like nothing’s too big for this kid. And everything Ryan and I saw on tape, you could see in person. Every minute that passed when he was in our building in, you could just feel his presence. You could just feel his quiet confidence. You can feel a small chip on his shoulder that I love. But you can also feel his humility, and you can feel that this kid is so eager to learn to grow and how to become a great NFL quarterback. “And everything that will be important in a market like Chicago.
• While we’re there getting the Rodgers news, and the role last year’s Jordan Love bomb played in it, I think it’s interesting how communicative teams are with their veteran quarterbacks in who they may or may not acquire. The Patriots’ take on Mac Jones came as no surprise to Cam Newton, and Bill Belichick emphasized afterwards: “Cam is our quarterback.” The Jets, meanwhile, handled Sam Darnold carefully as they investigated Zach Wilson and others before sending Darnold off to the Panthers. And the Niners were ahead of Jimmy Garoppolo, giving him a head up before making the trade for the third election. Likewise, Nagy made sure nothing came as a surprise to Andy Dalton on Thursday. “I spoke to him earlier in the day on Thursday and we were about to catch up,” Nagy said. And at the same time I said, ‘Hi, listen man, I have no idea which way this thing can go, you never know, but all positions are open and we can do a lot of different things, including at quarterback. So I just want you to understand it and be aware of it. But I can not predict anything right now. It’s just too hard. ‘You know Andy, he’s a pro and he understands. That’s just the way it was. Once that happened and we got Justin, the rest of the night went on, the rest of the draft went on, and then I called Andy and I talked to him. I explained to him that this is where we are and again without getting into our personal conversation, which is only fair to Andy and myself, he handled it like an absolute pro. He understands. “And I’m sure it helped that the bears at least told him where they were ahead of time.
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• A story that caught some steam over the course of the draft was Trey Lance, who worked with John Beck, a former NFL quarterback who now coaches quarterbacks with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on 3DQB and played for Kyle Shanahan in Washington. Rumors swirled in April that Lance had gone to Beck at the urging of the Niners, but after I turned the stone on it, I got more context. Because he had an early pro day, Lance spent some sort of professional development week near LA in March, and his former NDSU teammate Easton Stick brought him out to work with Beck. About a week later, the deal happened, Lance pushed to set up another pro day for the Niners, and it only made sense for him to return to Beck (he had done his early pre-work work with QB coach Quincy Avery) , since Beck could tell him exactly what Shanahan would look for. And when I asked 49ers GM John Lynch bluntly Saturday about the team that instructed Lance to throw there, he replied, “Yes, that was not the case. So there are some things there. I went to high school with Tom House’s daughter. Kyle got to know Tom well through Matt Ryan because Matt saw him and Kyle took the time to go out there as a coach and he met John Beck. But it’s not our job to tell people, ‘Hey, go here.’ And I know it was a great story. Sometimes people will say, ‘Hey, what does he want to do?’ and we will say that we have had good success here. But I can tell you, John’s opinion means a lot to us, and so did Quincy. I talked to Quincy and he was a huge resource – he’s been around Trey a lot. So I appreciate them both. ”
• After the draft weekend, the Chiefs’ offensive line makeover is complete, and there is a very real scenario that may be the ideal scenario where there is not a single starter who was on the Kansas City list in 2020:
LT: Orlando Brown
LG: Joe Thuney
C: Creed Humphrey
RG: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
RT: Kyle Long
Austin Blythe is another rookie who will be in the mix (in the center), just like Trey Smith (mentioned above), while Mike Remmers really is the only team over from last year. Credit Andy Reid, Brett Veach and the staff there. They certainly did not sit on their hands after watching Patrick Mahomes take it in his teeth in Tampa on February 7th.
• With 21 fifth-year options picked up on the first round of 2018 and Raiders OT Kolton Miller signing an extension to prevent the option, 22 of 32 guys have been taken care of. And it’s bucking what had been the expectation – that because of the expectation that the cap will not increase much in 2022, and because these opportunities are guaranteed for the first time during the CBA, teams would be wiser to exercise them. They really have not been. In fact, the number of opportunities collected plus expanded players is the second highest of eight draft cycles when the rookie pay scale went into effect during the 2011 CBA.
Class 2018: 22
Class 2017: 18
Class 2016: 17
Class 2015: 20
Class of 2014: 23
Class of 2013: 18
Class 2012: 20
Class of 2011: 21
So what gives? Two things. The first round was pretty strong in 2018. And teams took the logistics of the damage guarantees (rather than full guarantees) seriously to begin with. “Probably only reflective of the draft for drafts and the fact that the warranty element of damage / non-damage is the only change,” texted an executive. “Yes, you can get out of these deals, but you lost the comp pick if you did, so it was a big deterrent. I think people mainly look at the price for the fifth year more than the guarantee, and it’s still favorable compared to the franchise tag, ”
• JC Tretter made it clear at an NFLPA conference call Monday afternoon that the union’s goal was to change the offseason for good – and remove much, if not all, of the spring’s work that has been a pretty big part of the rhythm of the NFL calendar. I think the league will struggle with this one. Why? Well, some coaches, like John Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, have been vocal with the league about the importance of getting the job done in the spring. But there is also this: the NFL strives to be a year-round sport, and May and June would be almost completely dead in pro football without OTAs and mini-games. Which I think Park Avenue would see as counterproductive for their cause for obvious reasons.
• I really like what Washington behind its re-creation, the Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney-led scout department, did in the draft, mainly because the football team let the draft come to it. Linebacker and left tackle were big needs, probably the team’s two primary needs that came in, and WFT scored big with two senior guys in Kentucky LB Jamin Davis and Texas OT Sam Cosmi, who are both raw, gifted athletes with a lot of room to evolve. I do not know if one of them will beat – I’m not a scout – but I know how the league felt for these two and that they were chosen just where most teams expected them to be, which for me is always a good indication that a team is getting the most out of its situation.
More NFL coverage:
Breeder: Inside the biggest stories on draft night
• Orr: Is Urban Meyer ready for Trevor Lawrence?
• Orr: The elaboration of Trey Lance will define Kyle Shanahan’s legacy
• Vrentas: The Patriots’ post-Brady era is now beginning