Kevin White jumps Amari Cooper in Todd McShay’s Mock Draft 3.0

One key milestone in the draft evaluation process was checked off earlier this week with the end of the NFL Combine, and another was completed on Thursday when ESPN’s Todd McShay released the third version of his mock draft. After sorting through the results from the measurements, positional drills and athletic testing of the top prospects, McShay made several updates to his big board and shuffled a couple of defensive ends and wide receivers around.

McShay acknowledged that while either Mariota or Winston are possibilities here for the quarterback-needy Bucs, he sees Winston as having the edge based on his superior on-field performance. He believes the former Florida State quarterback is the most complete and pro-ready signal caller in the draft, and that he has separated himself from Mariota at this point.

While the uniform will not be shown off for another six weeks, it appears the main crux of the uniform will stay the same. Brownie the Elf will also remain a part of the team as a secondary logo, and will get the color update, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar released his most recent mock draft on Monday following the Combine, and he see things very differently than McShay after the Buccaneers take Winston at No. 1. He has the Titans scooping up Mariota with the next pick, thinking that Tennessee is not sold on the future of Mettenberger, and then Jacksonville taking Williams third.

Kadar also still has Cooper has the top wide receiver and slots him at No. 4 to the Raiders. He moved Fowler up his board and thinks the Jets will snap him with the sixth pick, while the Bears opt for an edge rusher in Kentucky’s Bud Dupree at No. 7.

Next he sees the Falcons filling their pass-rushing needs with Clemson’s Vic Beasley, who also improved his stock with an impressive Combine performance. Kadar agrees with McShay in that the Giants will select an offensive lineman with the ninth pick, but he believes it will be LSU’s La’el Collins. Rounding out the top 10, Kadar has the Rams upgrading their offensive line by taking Scherff.

The Vikings were sixth in DVOA heading into the Lions game

This year, the Vikings’ defense has improved dramatically. The Vikings were sixth in DVOA heading into the Lions game, which is still below their second-place rank in points allowed per game, but the gap is much smaller. They’ve chipped in with three defensive touchdowns, while their return units have added three scores on punt and kick returns. Minnesota’s returners have been worth 17.1 points of field position this year through Week 11, second in the league behind the efforts of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Of course, their special teams haven’t been perfect, mostly owing to a bad start for Blair Walsh, and while their running game was effective last season with Peterson, the performance with Peterson injured and an offensive line riddled with injuries has been historically awful.

How bad? They narrowly avoid being called the worst rushing attack through 11 games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The Vikings have run the ball 275 times for 782 yards this season, an average of 2.84 yards per carry. The worst post-merger rushing attack through 11 games, that of the 1971 Houston Oilers, averaged 2.82 yards per rush.

The Vikings’ running game has been practically nonexistent this season.

The offensive line woes are obviously also influencing the ways in which the Vikings use Bradford. Even if they wanted to ask him to throw the ball downfield to Diggs and Cordarrelle Patterson, there’s no way the offensive line would be able to hold up long enough to give Bradford the time to make those throws.

Carolina Panthers at Oakland Raiders

Carolina is a game team and will give this its best shot, but it doesn’t seem like it’s the Panthers’ year. The Panthers are running out of straws to grasp, and having Luke Kuechly (and Ryan Kalil) out for this one will really hurt. The Raiders are a first-place team and are starting to play like it. They pull another one out late at home.

Score: Raiders 27, Panthers 21

Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos

Last week was certainly a head-scratcher against Tampa Bay, as Kansas City doesn’t usually lose at home to under-.500 teams. The Chiefs need to play their best overall game of the year to win in Denver. They won there last year, so they won’t be scared of the situation. Denver hasn’t found its running game without C.J. Anderson, and I think the defense will be up to the task against Trevor Siemian. Justin Houston plays more of a role in this one and Kansas City wins on the road.

Score: Chiefs 20, Broncos 19

Saints expected to sign CB Brandon Browner, according to report

The New Orleans Saints have reached a deal on a three-year agreement with free agent cornerback Brandon Browner. The news was first reported by Pro Football Talk, and Mike Garafolo reported the deal is for three years.

The cornerback position bedeviled the Saints last season. New Orleans’ secondary gave up more than 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, putting it comfortably among the bottom third of all NFL teams in both categories. Browner would give the Saints a physical man coverage corner.

Philadelphia still has a need at wide receiver after letting Jeremy Maclin sign with the Kansas City Chiefs. It may also try to stock up on draft picks, or make a move up the draft board to snag quarterback Marcus Mariota. Rumored trade partners include the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, all of who are picking No. 10 or worse in the draft order.

The Eagles would save a fair bit of cap space by getting rid of Mathis — $6.5 million in 2015 and $7 million in 2016. They would also be losing the highest rated offensive guard since 2011, according to Pro Football Focus.

Kelly and the Eagles are having the most fascinating offseason of any team in the NFL. We can only guess at the outcome, so in the meantime let’s all gawk at the process.

The 49ers offseason rolls on, uncomfortably
I’ve enjoyed watching Trent Baalke’s uncomfortable press conferences this year. You can sense the 49ers’ inner turmoil in each one of his statements. He was on the defensive at the Combine, testily parrying questions about the breakup with Jim Harbaugh and repeating a practiced mantra about being focused on the future. This week, he was denying just about everything related to free agency and the buzz around it.

The most sensible thing he’s said or done so far this spring is promise that Ahmad Brooks isn’t going anywhere, despite being seen by the media as a potential cap casualty.

Adrian Peterson could return for Vikings in December

The Vikings have fielded one of the NFL’s weakest running attacks thanks to a league-low 70 rushing yards per game. Fortunately for Minnesota, help may soon be on the way.

Former MVP Adrian Peterson is targeting a mid-December return from the knee injury that’s kept him out of the lineup since Week 2, according to a report from ESPN’s Ben Goessling. He could return for the final two games of a regular season that’s been equal parts inspiring and frustrating for the Vikings.

The team placed Peterson on injured reserve in September after successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The move allowed Minnesota to add another player to their 53-man active roster while their star running back recuperated from the injury. They signed former Broncos tailback Ronnie Hillman to split carries with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon.

Following the game, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said this to reporters: “I don’t know when he can come back, but he has a hamstring injury.”

On Monday, Lewis said it’s a strain and that he’ll definitely miss the team’s Week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens, but could still come back before the end of the season.

The loss of Green is bad news for the Bengals, who are fighting for a playoff spot in a tough AFC North division, but it looked like it could’ve been much worse news. With its top playmaker expected to miss time, Cincinnati will have to depend on its rushing attack and other players to step up.

This season, Green has 66 catches for 964 yards and four touchdowns.

That was the first time the word retirement had ever crept into my head.

Cleveland has had six different quarterbacks under center this season because of injuries, including Pryor, a former college quarterback. Browns quarterbacks are being hit too often to offer consistent play, and having to rotate in other players at quarterback because of injuries deprives the offense of the continuity it needs to win games.

Kirk Cousins cashes in, leads Redskins to big win over Packers

The Washington Redskins keep wanting to see more from quarterback Kirk Cousins before they give him a lot more money. They’re trying to build a roster, which is smart. They’re trying to be prudent with their money, which is also smart.

Cousins keeps giving them more. He did so once again Sunday night, in a 42-24 win over the Green Bay Packers. All Cousins did was connect on several deep throws; all he did was throw for 375 yards and three touchdowns. As he headed to the locker room after the victory, he passed Washington general manager Scot McCloughan and playfully (we think) yelled, “How do you like me now?!”

“It’s more funny than it is anything,” Baldwin said. “[Bevell] knows that when we get in the red zone, I want the ball thrown to me. I want to score touchdowns. And so, it’s like in that situation, him flipping the bird to me because now he’s got me throwing the ball to somebody else.”

Asked what Bevell’s reaction was when he got to the sideline, Baldwin said, “He just looked at me and laughed. Nothing could be said. It worked out perfectly, right?”

The Seahawks had the play called in the huddle but were going to go to it only if they got the right look. Wilson said the Seahawks have been trying to call the play for the last four or five years. Oftentimes, they got the wrong look and switched out of it.

“I was talking to him, saying we can switch jobs if he wants,” Wilson said. “It may not be pretty, but we can switch jobs. Obviously it was a great job by him, great throw. He got some heat over there on the right side, and he still made a great throw. And a good call by coach Bevell. We executed it well there.”

Joked Baldwin, “They doubted my arm ability. They doubted that I could make the throw, so I’m glad I could prove them wrong.”

Mathews left Sunday’s game in the first half with a knee injury, while Sproles injured his ribs on a punt return. Both were ruled out for the rest of the game. ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported that the initial word on Mathews is that he has a sprained MCL. Mathews was seen wearing a brace on his knee in the locker room after the game.