With the NFL draft set to kick off next week, the top picks in the first round have yet to take shape.

What has become clear: Quarterbacks should fly off the board quickly, with demand once again seemingly outweighing supply. How exactly the dominoes fall at that position could set the rest of the first round into motion.

1. Browns — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: Taking the strong-armed Allen seemed almost unfathomable even just a few weeks ago. Now buzz continues to build that Cleveland is make a considerable gamble on the quarterback who might have the highest upside of any thrower.

3. Jets (from Colts) — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Passing up Josh Rosen could be a difficult proposition for GM Mike Maccagnan given how well-aligned the draft’s most pro-ready quarterback appears to be with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ philosophy. But Mayfield generates a unique spark for an offense in need of someone who can create on the fly. If his brashness and signature flare translate to the Jets, Broadway Baker will be a phenomenon.

Most importantly, he allows any team to recalibrate its offense and ease the burden on the rest of the unit, which would be a welcome development for a Cleveland attack that could still be finding its footing with a young passer and new left tackle after Joe Thomas’ retirement.

Broncos — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Maybe John Elway really is satisfied with Case Keenum and prepared to bypass a top quarterback should one fall to him. Yet it’s difficult to imagine Elway being satiated with a short-term solution when he’s staring at a potential franchise passer that has proven so elusive so far. Rosen’s refined skill set would be an even more welcome addition should Keenum prove to be a one-year wonder.

Colts (from Jets) — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State: A run on quarterbacks would be a welcome development for Indianapolis, which would have its pick of most of the top non-skill position players after trading back to this spot. Solidifying the offensive front for Andrew Luck with someone like Quenton Nelson could be a strong consideration. But it’s hard to overstate the value that Chubb, the draft’s pre-eminent pass rusher, would bring to a defense that ranked second to last in sacks last season.
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2018 NFL win totals: Oddsmakers expect 49ers, Packers to take step forward

Jones, 25, was selected by the Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has started every game the last two seasons, recording 130 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Jones has been rather rock-solid in the playoffs, but he doesn’t exactly get the notice for it. He has a .931 save percentage in his past 34 playoff appearances to go along with a 1.95 GAA. Jones stopped 128 of 132 shots in sweeping the Anaheim Ducks in Round 1.

“This time of the season, that goes such a long ways,” captain Joe Pavelski told the AP. “You know you’re going to face a little adversity, you know you’re going to maybe have it in your own end at times and you need some saves and he’s always been there. Nothing’s really fazed him. As a team playing in front of a goalie like that, it gives you a lot of confidence.”

Crosby is going for a Conn Smythe three-peat (even if Phil Kessel deserved the first one Crosby captured) as the Penguins attempt to win their third straight Cup. He’s off to a strong start with six goals and seven assists in six games, including a four-point effort in Game 3. He gained extra attention for passing Mario Lemieux as the Penguins’ leading playoff scorer.

The Lightning winger has five goals and five assists in five games, while showing an all-around game in their first-round win over the New Jersey Devils. Consider that critical Game 4 win: Two goals, an assist and a crushing — and controversial — hit on the Devils’ Sami Vatanen.

By the way, the exercise in draft analysis was enough that Bryant had to take a half-hour break as the first round neared its end. “On my way to the steam room,” he tweeted.

Bruce’s sinking line drive got by left fielder Marcell Ozuna in the second for an RBI triple. It was Bruce’s first triple in 174 games with the Mets.

Weaver lasted 4 2/3 innings. He gave up four runs and walked a career-high six as St. Louis had its three-game winning streak snapped.

Tommy Pham drove Wheeler’s 95 mph fastball 420 feet to center for a home run that gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the first inning.

Kolten Wong doubled in a run and scored on Weaver’s single in the fourth to make it 4-1. Weaver’s single was the first time the Mets allowed an opposing pitcher to reach safely in 42 plate appearances this season.

“Anytime you have a three-run lead and you can’t hold onto it, that’s always going to hurt,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “The guys fight back into it and then give it up again, those are tough ones to recover from. You’ve just got to move on.”
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The Giants have said all along that no one is untouchable, every player has a price.

The Giants have asked for at least two first-round picks in return for the superstar wide receiver, ESPN reported Wednesday, which does not mean the Giants will trade him, but does provide insight into what a theoretical trade would look like.

“He’s very organized,” Thomson said. “He’s a preparer. And he’s a good communicator, so he’s way ahead of the game for a guy who’s been managing [15] games in the big leagues. I think the world of him. He cares so much about these players, and he talks to the coaches and takes their information and really listens and goes through it and comes up with a decision. And he’s not afraid.”

The Phillies don’t have to look far to see the value of patience with on-field leadership. Brett Brown, who entered this season with a 75-253 record as 76ers coach and could have been a goner on multiple occasions, led the team to 52 wins and a playoff berth this season. Doug Pederson, who was perceived by some as a disaster-in-waiting when the Eagles hired him in 2016, led the team to its first Super Bowl victory and was wildly cheered upon his throwing out the first pitch at the Phillies’ home opener.

Suh, 31, became available after the Dolphins released him on March 14. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound tackle has earned five Pro Bowl selections since making his NFL debut with the Lions in 2010.

Adding Suh gives the Rams an even more formidable defensive line, with 26-year-old Aaron Donald coming off his second season with 11 sacks. Now the Rams’ high-powered offense, which ranked first last year in averaging 29.9 points per game, could have a defense that matches its explosiveness.

Horford was more beastly than usual in Game 1. I like when he gets a little mean. But I’m not convinced a steady diet of Horford-on-Giannis post violence constitutes a real danger — beyond the possibility of luring Antetokounmpo into foul trouble. (He might pick up ticky-tack fouls just as easily jostling to front Horford.) I’d brave a few Horford jump hooks one-on-one before fronting or sending any help.

Boston doesn’t have the superstar shot creator to generate easy looks for everyone else. Its motion offense can open up little slivers of space, but no wide paths. All three of Boston’s core young perimeter guys left standing — Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown — bullied their way through those slivers, and they produced just enough points to win.jets_133

Chargers met with Lamar Jackson after pro day

The Chargers have a perfectly good starting quarterback, but he is 36.

So it never hurts taking a look at potential and eventual replacements.

“You’re going to have guys instead of hitting guys up top, in the shoulder pads, upper body, you’re going to have guys going super low, hitting guys’ knees, going for ankles just so they don’t get fined,” said Church, who was flagged and fined for delivering a concussion to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in the AFC Championship. “[T]hat’s going to cause more injuries. It’s going to cause career-enders — not that concussions and all that stuff isn’t career-ending — but, I mean, you’re going after guys’ legs eventually, and that’s going to make the sport extremely dangerous.”

He’s right, but the NFL worries much more about heads than knees and ankles, because it’s concussions, not lower-extremity injuries, that are causing parents to keep kids from playing youth football, potentially choking off the supply of future professional football players. If careers of professional players end prematurely due to leg injuries, they can easily be replaced. If kids stop playing football altogether, there will be no replacements. And no need for them.

So here’s the assessment from Simms of the biggest areas of concern regarding Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, and Sam Darnold — which is the precise order in which Simms has ranked the top five quarterbacks.

Feel free to give Simms your own brand of specific feedback either as to his ranking of the top five quarterbacks in the comments.

February 2016: Agent Erik Burkhart drops Manziel as a client, an unusual move that Burkhart says he made because “it has become painfully obvious that his future rests solely in his own hands.” (Manziel re-signs with Burkhart in March 2017.)

March 11, 2016: Browns release Manziel, knowing at the time they would still be responsible for his guaranteed base salaries of $1.169 million in 2016 and $1.004 million in 2017.

July 2016: Manziel posts photos and videos to his own Instagram account, with Hawaii tagged as the location, of his notably gaunt appearance.buccaneers_047

Let’s assume he plays this 2018 season. Let’s assume he plays the entire 2018 season.

You think we’re about to see the best Andrew Luck, or even a terribly good — for him — Andrew Luck Not me. He has been through too much physically and mentally with that shoulder surgery and rehabilitation, missed a full NFL season plus one entire offseason, and surely some of this summer as well.

If Andrew Luck is ever again going to be Andrew Luck, and if he’s going to be the best Andrew Luck he has ever been, as he so optimistically keeps vowing will happen, that’ll be 2019 when he turns 30 and Jim Irsay’s clock will start loudly tick-tick-ticking.

The second scout likes another Seahawks’ free agent, Luke Willson, as a tight end who might cost only half as much as Graham. While not as talented, Willson is tougher and has surprising speed (reported 4.51 40 at his pro day in 2013). He reportedly was to visit Carolina and Detroit this weekend.

“(Willson) might be a little less athletic than Jimmy Graham,” the scout said, “but he dives for balls, gets dirty, runs good routes. I just like everything about his game. I’m surprised Seattle hasn’t tried to tie him up.”

Gutekunst has made his call. He went for the big-ticket tight end instead of the bigger-ticket receiver. Then he made his surprise gambit for Fuller.

A week into free agency, the Packers still need a starting cornerback in the worst way. The question is, what’s Gutekunst’s plan now that Fuller has fallen through

That’s a “wow” to me. But Payton said that, yes, more than one person of influence wanted Benson to fire him. Stat of the Week When I think of a career comp for Trevor Siemian, who was traded from Denver to Minnesota on Thursday, I think of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Siemian may not end up as experienced as Fitzpatrick, or with as long a career, but they remind me of each other—bright, humble, excellent students of football, good-enough arms, good teammates as backups.

So I did a little research on their similarities, and it turned out a bit … well, “eerie” is probably the best word to describe the comparison: Category Fitzpatrick Siemian Brainy College Attended Harvard Northwestern Draft Year 2005 2015 Draft Round 7 7 Overall Pick 250 250 Career Rating 79.9 79.9 Career Comp. %.597.593 Size 6-2, 220 6-2.5, 218 Factoids That May Interest Only Me I The Saints have a sleep room in their football facility in Metairie, La. patriots_091

Golf is a very common sport played out by a lot of folks worldwide.

The Patriots almost went four straight downs to lose the game after starting on their own 9-yard line but were saved by a Brady pass to Danny Amendola that went for 13 yards on fourth-and-10.

After a few more plays, the Patriots had just nine seconds to go and went for the Hail Mary. After seemingly being in the air forever, the ball finally hit the ground and the Eagles won their first Super Bowl in franchise history:

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go.

Should we expect Isaiah Thomas to be a significant part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ rotation during the final seven weeks of the season?

Ohm Youngmisuk: Yes, regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench. Thomas provides instant scoring, perimeter shooting and a significant upgrade at point guard coming off the bench.

Thomas wants to start, though, and is looking to rebuild his value in a contract year. So if he’s not happy with his role, that would be a potential issue.

Also, coach Luke Walton tends to play and finish with guys who play well and defend, so there could be a few games when Thomas doesn’t finish if he struggles defensively. Otherwise, the expectation is for Thomas to play a lot.

The smallest state in the United States in terms of area is also the second-most densely populated. Rhode Island was the first of the 13 colonies to cut the crap and renounce its allegiance to the British crown — though it was the 13th of the colonies to be given statehood.

There you have it, folks. New England! Don’t you feel smarter?

Joe Kaiser: Now is the time to be as sharp as you can with every move you make. It’s crunch time. You need to put a little bit more thought into every move you make, every player you stream, every person you decide to move on from and cut.
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The good news for Keenum is that Thielen and Diggs are better at separating than the Panthers’ receiving group.

Diggs’ touchdown reception to beat the Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs alone would be enough to warrant this ranking, but the third-year wide receiver has been doing it all season. He set a new career high with eight touchdown catches in 2017.

“You got to be very selective in what you call and make sure he understands what you’re doing. It’s not just the pass plays. It’s the snap count, the cadence, how to get out of the huddle, where the run plays are going, the ballhandling and all the little things that people take for granted that take a lot of time to work on. We’ve got in enough this week so that we know we can survive to a degree if he had to come in.”

Injuries have kept Watt off the NFL stage over the past two seasons, but that doesn’t diminish these facts: He’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who’s recorded 20-plus sacks in two separate seasons. He’s also just the fifth player ever to notch 50 sacks in his first four NFL seasons, joining Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, DeMarcus Ware and Dwight Freeney.

After a record-breaking regular season by Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the Saints running back duo disappeared during their win over the Panthers, combining for 44 rushing yards on 19 carries. Luckily, the Saints still have Drew Brees and he was good enough to lead them to victory. But on the road, against a better Vikings team, the Saints need to get their running game going, because it’s still the strength of their offense.

We already know Brees will play well. Their running game is the bigger unknown, namely because they’re going up against a top run defense. The Vikings allowed the second-fewest rushing yards per game (83.6) and the fifth-fewest rushing yards per attempt (3.7). The Vikings are most vulnerable on runs to the outside of the left tackle, an area where they’re allowing 4.8 yards per carry, according to PFF. For what it’s worth, the Saints have experienced much more success running right rather than left.
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“This game was about redemption,” Rodriguez said.

Freshman Lucas Havrisik, Arizona’s backup kicker, booted a 57-yarder as the first half ended to tie a school record. Washington State’s Erik Powell had a career-long 56-yarder.

Arizona gained a measure of revenge from its 69-7 loss last season in Pullman, the Wildcats’ most one-sided defeat since 1948.

New York Mets hitting coach Kevin Long and former Boston Red Sox skipper John Farrell were also candidates for the Nationals’ job.

“Lack of leadership, like Coach always says, everybody is doing their own thing pretty much. I feel like everybody is worried about everything else,” Pugh said. “A lot of players are probably worried about the draft or whatever else. It’s like nobody is really focused.

“It’s too late now [for someone to step up as a leader]. They should’ve did that in the beginning of the season. It’s too late to try to demand, because everybody is already set in their ways now.”

When asked what the difference was between 2014 — when the Seminoles reached the College Football Playoff — and now, Pugh said, “We’ve got good players now but we had older guys who demanded respect and to fight for one another. It ain’t like that now.”

Since winning 33 of 34 and a national championship from 2013 to the middle of 2015, the Seminoles have gone 16-10. They also are 9-9 during the same span in conference games.
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Cardinals coach: David Johnson ‘possibly’ back between Thanksgiving and Christmas

The two-to-three month projections for Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson to return from surgery to repair his dislocated wrist may have been a bit premature.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is hoping the All-Pro back “possibly” between Thanksgiving and Christmas – 11 to 15 weeks from now – he said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

“It’s a great opportunity for Kerwynn Williams and Andre,” Arians said. “We’ll get Chris Johnson back up to speed.”

Although Hill wasn’t penalized for the play, he can still be punished once the league looks over the game. For context as to how much the fine could be, let’s look at a case last year involving Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants receiver was fined $24,000 for a taunting penalty in which all he did was exchange words with a defender.

MORE: Why your team won’t win the Super Bowl

If Hill does end up getting fined, we’d likely have to hear it from him first. The league doesn’t announce fines, and we often have to find out through other mediums when players get punished.

The league has laxed up a bit on its celebration rules for 2017, but the first game in Week 1 could set a standard for other players regarding the taunting aspect.
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the attention now turns to the upcoming season.

Retirement, which he announced with that classic, simple tweet during Super Bowl 50 of a pair of cleats hung up over an electrical wire, offered him the chance to rest his body and plan new adventures. He rode a camel in Egypt, built homes in Haiti and hung out with the Cal football team in Australia, even strapping on the pads for a practice.

But folks close to him weren’t convinced retired life was going to agree with him for too long.

“When he retired, I knew he was going to get bored,” said Delton Edwards, Lynch’s coach at Oakland Tech High. “I think he did it because he was just losing the love for the game. But I think signing with the Raiders brought it back.”

With the rebrand reveal now complete, the attention now turns to the upcoming season. More than 40 players from across the United States and around the world will report this week for training camp with hopes of making the 23-man roster for this season. Among those players are 10 returners from last year’s team and nearly 30 NCAA Division I commits.

Mike Clay, NFL writer: Chargers over Broncos. The Chargers are my pick to shock the country and win the AFC West this season, so you know I expect them to get off on the right foot with a win in Denver. The Broncos have a terrific defense, but their quarterback woes will continue to hold them back. Expect a more balanced Chargers team to pull off the upset.raptors_002