Denver Broncos

Ten non-QBs in spotlight for NFL preseason Week 2 games

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    The NFL’s preseason is more than just a stage for quarterback competitions.

After highlighting the notable passers with something to prove, we also took a look at players in other positions who will be closely monitored in the second set of exhibition games.

Here are 10 non-quarterback players in the spotlight this week:

Jaylon Smith, LB, Dallas Cowboys

The former second-round pick’s year-plus wait appears to be over after a knee injury in his final game at Notre Dame left him with nerve damage and significant questions about his future. Smith is set to make his NFL debut Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts, though Dallas executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team will have him on a “pitch count.” This is the start of what could be an extended process as Smith re-establishes his on-field instincts, but he could be an important asset on a Cowboys defense with a dearth of play makers.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Just eight days after a stunning trade by the Buffalo Bills sent the fourth-year wideout across the country, Watkins will get his first in-game run with his new Rams teammates Saturday against the Oakland Raiders. The former No. 4 overall pick gives Los Angeles the outside threat it sorely needed, but Watkins has a lot of ground to make up before the regular season. Beyond learning new coach Sean McVay’s offense, he’ll have to establish timing and trust with quarterback Jared Goff, who relied heavily on checkdowns last year.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The most important offseason addition for Philadelphia’s offense was sidelined by a shoulder injury for the preseason opener, but he should see limited action Thursday against the Buffalo Bills. It might be difficult to judge Jeffery’s impact during the preseason, but he brings a downfield threat to an attack that cratered without one down the stretch last season. Cornerback Ronald Darby also could square off against his former team after being traded last Friday.

UPDATE: Jeffery had two catches for 23 yards on Thursday.

Roberto Aguayo, K, Chicago Bears

It’s rare for a kicker to elicit the attention of the entire league, but few can match the early career trajectory of Aguayo. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived their second-round pick just one year after drafting him, and now he’ll get a fresh start after being claimed by the Bears. If he is to beat out Connor Barth, who was released by the Buccaneers in 2016 after they drafted Aguayo, a solid performance Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals could be an important first step.

T.J. Watt, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Although he was a first-round pick this April, the younger brother of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt once looked slated to max out as a rotational contributor as a rookie. But after recording two sacks, a hit and a pass deflection in his preseason debut, Watt is now on track for a starting job opposite Bud Dupree, with Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter saying James Harrison would likely take on a “relief pitcher” role. Superseding one of the most popular players in recent franchise history will spike expectations for Watt, and fans will be hungry for more when he takes on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

Training camp hype translated to preseason production for the touted third-round rookie, who hauled in two touchdowns in the opener against the Colts. Ahead of Saturday’s showdown with the New York Jets, Golladay worked with the first-team offense as Golden Tate slid to the slot. Targets could be difficult to come by in Detroit’s offense, but Golladay offers such value in the red zones and on jump balls that he may be difficult to keep sidelined.

Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

It remains unclear when first-round pick John Ross will see his first action, but Mixon is the clear focus of Cincinnati’s rookie class. The second-round pick looked fluid and comfortable last week in picking up 42 total yards against the Buccaneers. If he continues to look comfortable Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, he should be on track for a significant role within Cincinnati’s offense to start the regular season.

Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys

A 30-year-old running back not on the roster bubble seldom finds his every move tracked closely in the preseason, but that’s where McFadden finds himself amid the uncertainty regarding Ezekiel Elliott’s six-game suspension. Though quarterback Dak Prescott and others will be counted on to pick up the slack if Elliott misses time, McFadden will be the central figure in keeping the running game on track. He finished fourth in the NFL in rushing in 2015 with 1,089 yards despite shaky quarterback play, but many will be watching him Saturday against the Colts to see if he’s capable of handling a starting workload again.

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Dirk Koetter demanded last year’s No. 11 overall pick be more aggressive after a rookie season in which the cornerback recorded only one interception. The message appears to have been received, as Hargreaves had an impressive break on a goal line pick of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton last week. Generating turnovers was a critical point in last season’s success for the Bucs, who finished tied for fourth with 17 interceptions, and the team will be counting on Hargreaves to continue making plays on the ball in Thursday’s contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

UPDATE: Hargreaves had two tackles on Thursday.

Jabrill Peppers, S, Cleveland Browns

No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett has earned the early plaudits out of Cleveland for so far measuring up to expectations. But he may not be the lone rookie to be an early contributor on defense. Peppers has impressed while filling in for injured safety Ibraheim Campbell, and coach Hue Jackson has said he’s “growing and getting better every day.” Viewed as something of a square peg when making his transition to the NFL, Peppers can bolster his case Monday against the New York Giants that the league might have focused too much on his positional fit and not enough on his overall ability.


Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz

FANTASY FOOTBALL: Waiting on QB still best if you’re starting 1

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —  One key to drafting a winning fantasy football team is to construct a roster with as much depth as possible at almost every position.

To accomplish this goal, you need to have a firm grasp of the talent at each position relative to the other positions across the entire player pool. People new to fantasy football often think that because there are so few elite quarterbacks, and they are among the highest scoring players in the fantasy game, that they need to pick a top quarterback early in their draft to build a strong foundation for the rest of the team.

Experienced fantasy owners know that you can wait until later in the draft to pick a quarterback. Most leagues require just one starting quarterback, and the majority award just 4 points for a touchdown pass. Meanwhile, you typically start two or three running backs and an equal number of wide receivers — and those positions are awarded 6 points for each touchdown reception or run. Therefore, wide receivers and running backs are chosen earlier, the pool of available players shrinks much faster at those positions and there are enough viable starting quarterbacks available even if you wait until later into the draft to choose one.

Quarterbacks will dominate the overall scoring one way or another, but it really isn’t about getting the most points out of the position. This approach changes slightly in leagues that award 6 points for a touchdown pass. You’ll need to adjust your draft strategy to take quarterbacks just a bit earlier. However, in leagues that require two starting quarterbacks, you must change your approach to draft your quarterbacks much earlier, ideally to have both safely squared away by the end of the fourth round. You’ll need to do that because the demand for talent will be that much higher with the available pool being much smaller.

Some fantasy owners like the security that comes with owning a bona fide veteran quarterback with an extensive track record of elite production. If you still want to target Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, or Drew Brees, widely thought of as the elite tier of the current QB pool, you should be prepared to draft them within the first three or four rounds. An aggressive move like that will also require you to be prepared to find hidden talent deeper in the player pool at wide receiver and running back. Just remember that every draft is different, so you’ll need to be flexible and adjust on the fly depending on how things unfold.

The next tier of quarterback talent can be found a bit later in the single-digit draft rounds. Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson could yield near-elite production but the players aren’t quite as secure as the elite for one reason or another. For instance, Ryan is coming off a career year, something he may have difficulty repeating. Wilson still has a porous offensive line that allowed too many sacks. Andrew Luck had some incredibly poor pass pass-blocking that left him scrambling and diving for cover. Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins and Cam Newton also fit in just after these players in average draft positions (ADP) on most sites.

Other talents that can be found in the double-digit rounds include Derek Carr, a top 10 QB available in approximately the 10th round. Then there’s Marcus Mariota, whose new weapons could help him step forward in his development this year. A little closer to Rounds 11 and 12 are Matthew Stafford or Jameis Winston. Philip Rivers has a current ADP in the 14th round. Drafting him there could leave you the collateral to take some very talented receivers who would love to snag one of his 33 TD strikes.

There is still some very talented QB depth to be found in the mid-teen rounds. Tyrod Taylor beats defenses with his feet as well as his arm, running for 580 yards last season. And don’t forget Eli Manning, who could be in line for a bounce-back season, and Carson Wentz, who has an improved receiving group. Carson Palmer still has excellent receivers and he appears primed to go out with a bang in what could be his final season.



NFL Roundup: Cutler debuts, but Ravens roll past Dolphins 31-7

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-    MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Jay Cutler ran onto the field with the Miami Dolphins for the first time, and the fans greeted their new quarterback with a loud ovation.

They didn’t have much else to cheer about over the next three hours.

Ryan Mallett threw for 113 yards and a touchdown, Josh Woodrum ran for two more scores and the Baltimore Ravens beat the Dolphins 31-7 on Thursday night in the second preseason game for both teams.

Cutler played the first two series for the Dolphins, his debut as injured starter Ryan Tannehill’s replacement in Miami. He was 3 of 6 for 24 yards, some of it in a no-huddle tempo, and his highlight play was one that didn’t count. Facing a third-and-16, Cutler stepped up and found DeVante Parker for what would have been a 31-yard gain — one erased by a holding flag.

“He was good. We kind of got the tempo going and got comfortable,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He had a couple really nice moves in the pocket, pushing up and making a couple guys miss. We had penalties on the play, so it was negated, but he felt good.”

Cutler took a big hit on his last snap, courtesy of the Ravens’ Za’Darius Smith. He got up without any problem, then switched his helmet for a baseball cap and headset.

“He’s having fun,” Gase said.

Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco isn’t expected to play until Week 1 of the regular season because of back woes, and Mallett played the entire first half.

Mallett completed 13 of 22 passes, getting intercepted twice — both on passes intended for Quincy Adeboyejo. The first pick was by Xavier Howard on a ball lofted down the left sideline and overthrow, the other coming when Cordrea Tankersley ripped the ball out of Adeboyejo’s hands after he had to reach back to make a catch on a quick slant.

Woodrum completed eight of 10 passes for 110 yards.

The Dolphins’ storyline coming into Thursday was all about Cutler, and his first game action with Miami. For as much hubbub as there was for that, there likely was as much concern about special teams when the night ended.

Senorise Perry had an 11-yard touchdown run for Miami, but he also fumbled away a kickoff return — one of many Miami special-teams miscues. The Dolphins also had a punt blocked in the second quarter, setting up Mallett’s 1-yard touchdown toss to Larry Donnell, and later had a hold on a kickoff return.

Gase said Miami had 10 men on the field for the blocked punt.

“It’s one of those unforced errors we can’t have happen,” Gase said.



PHILADELPHIA— Of all the high-profile players making debuts in a new uniform, Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby was most impressive.

Darby intercepted former teammate Tyrod Taylor’s pass and returned it 48 yards and also broke up two passes in his first game since Philadelphia acquired him from Buffalo last week, and the Eagles beat the Bills 20-16 on Thursday night.

Alshon Jeffery, a former Pro Bowl wide receiver signed by the Eagles in the offseason, caught his first pass from Carson Wentz and finished with two receptions for 23 yards.

Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines also had an interception in his first game since coming from the Rams in a trade last week. Gaines picked third-string quarterback Matt McGloin, who has struggled in two preseason games.

Wideout Anquan Boldin, a three-time Pro Bowl pick recently signed by the Bills, caught one pass for 5 yards.



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jameis Winston continued his solid preseason, completing 21 of 29 passes for 196 yards and helping the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat woeful Jacksonville 12-8 on Thursday night.

Winston had two passes dropped, including what would have been a 43-yard touchdown strike to Mike Evans in the first quarter.

The Buccaneers (1-1) scored on their first three possessions, getting a short touchdown run from Doug Martin and two field goals from Nick Folk. Tampa Bay dominated Jacksonville in two quarters that featured mostly starters, outgaining the Jags 240-59 and looking like the much better team.

Folk, who won the kicking job last week after the Bucs waived former second-round draft pick Roberto Aguayo, had an extra point blocked by Calais Campbell. He also missed a 47-yarder wide right in the fourth quarter.

Evans finished with five catches for 57 yards, but missed a chance for a huge gain when he let Winston’s perfectly thrown deep ball slip through his fingers. It was about the only thing that went right for the Jaguars (1-1).

Jacksonville’s night went so awry that coach Doug Marrone now seemingly has open competitions at quarterback and place-kicker.

Backup quarterback Chad Henne got some work with the first-team offense, fueling speculation that Blake Bortles has lost his grasp on the starting job.

Eight quarterbacks with something to prove in NFL preseason Week 2

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    With starters typically sidelined or given limited run in the first set of preseason games, Week 2 can be an important stage for coaches to assess their quarterbacks.

Some teams are already adjusting their depth charts, and several competitions remain open, however they could begin to narrow soon as the regular season draws near.

Though their performances this week might not dictate their standing for September, these eight quarterbacks will all be looking to show something in their teams’ second preseason games:

Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins

Given his eleventh-hour decision to step out of retirement and back into the NFL to replace injured Ryan Tannehill, Cutler will be subject to hyperbole no matter the outcome of his anticipated debut Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens. Establishing timing with a new set of teammates will be tricky, but onlookers will be eager to see his command of an Adam Gase offense that helped him to one of his best statistical seasons with the Chicago Bears in 2015. The concerns surrounding Cutler and the Dolphins won’t be alleviated in one night, but many will rest easier if the 34-year-old shows little rust in his return.

Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos

First-year coach Vance Joseph has been reticent to render judgment on either Lynch or Trevor Siemian so far in Denver’s quarterback competition. But this is a race against time for Lynch, Denver’s first-round pick last year. Penalties and an overall lack of rhythm kept both passers from giving Joseph much to assess last week. Taking the reins as starter Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers, Lynch has to show he can sustain drives and avoid mistakes in order to unseat Siemian.

More: Colts continue adjusting to life without Luck

More: NFL, union escalate clash over Elliott suspension

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Despite an impressive first outing, in which he showed an ability to extend plays and capitalize on downfield opportunities, Watson remains firmly seated as Tom Savage’s backup. Coach Bill O’Brien praised the rookie’s poise, but also said the No. 12 overall pick was “50-50” on what he got right within Houston’s scheme. That number has to tick much higher for Watson to warrant serious consideration for the No. 1 job, and Saturday’s game against the New England Patriots could be an important proving ground in that area.

DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns

A game-winning 45-yard touchdown pass last week served as a reminder of the enticing talent Kizer offers in one of the NFL’s most jumbled quarterback competitions. Physical ability is not the impediment, however, as Browns quarterbacks coach David Lee said there is still so “doggone much” for the second-round rookie to learn as he tries to challenge Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Left tackle Joe Thomas said he believes Osweiler is being groomed as the starter, but Kizer could make a strong case to be deployed at some point in 2017 if he shows a robust comprehension of Cleveland’s attack, including on Monday when he takes on the New York Giants.

Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets

He didn’t play a single snap as a rookie, yet the Jets continue to shield the former second-round pick while easing him into action. Hackenberg’s opening performance (18-of-25 for 127 yards) demanded little beyond short throws, but offensive coordinator John Morton said he was impressed. With Josh McCown appearing to be the starter by default, Hackenberg has to show Saturday against the Detroit Lions he can handle the more demanding aspects of the job after Morton said he was “basically” a rookie.

Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears

A pick-six and 2-of-8 passing performance in the preseason opener would spark grumbles for any newly signed quarterback, let alone one who signed a three-year, $45 million contract after serving as a backup like Glennon did. But it was the combination of his struggles last Thursday against the Denver Broncos and No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky’s shining performance the same night that made some wonder if the Bears should have held an open competition this summer. Coach John Fox quelled any notion that Trubisky should be in the conversation as a starter, but Glennon is seeking to establish a smoother connection with his new teammates in his second go-around.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

With Alex Smith entrenched as the starter, Mahomes’ challenge is more centered on manifesting his development. As his fellow rookies snared attention with stellar debuts, the No. 10 overall pick out of Texas Tech had a quietly efficient first outing by throwing for 49 yards on 7-of-9 passing. Mahomes was promoted to No. 2 on the depth chart this week, and Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals could be a good opportunity for him to go through his progressions rather than relying on quick throws as he mostly did in the opener.

Ryan Mallett, Baltimore Ravens

Mallett may not have as much to gain as the other quarterbacks on this list, but the stakes could be very real for the seventh-year veteran. A 9-of-18 passing performance for 58 yards against the Washington Redskins last Thursday was Mallett’s latest instance of erratic passing this summer, though coach John Harbaugh said he played “winning football.” With a more even-keeled performance against the Dolphins on Thursday, Mallett could help re-establish himself as a backup Baltimore can trust again behind Joe Flacco, who is still recovering from a back ailment.


Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

Fantasy Football 2017: Full Position-by-Position Rankings, Creative Team Names

(PhatzRadio Sports / BR)     —-     Summer has flown by, and now the NFL season will kick off in just three weeks when the Kansas City Chiefs face the New England Patriots on September 7.

This means fantasy football drafts are in full swing, so here are some rankings and team names to get you going.

For the rankings, we’ll list the top 36 wide receivers, the top 24 running backs and the top 12 quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers and defense/special teams units (with one bonus pick for each).

Those numbers aren’t random: Since the standard fantasy football roster has three wide receivers, two running backs and one of each for the other positions, all of these players below are deemed starting-caliber in a standard 12-team league.

Then, we’ll finish with the top 15 fantasy football names after reviewing picks from Sporting NewsAthlon Sports and USA Today.


1. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay)

2. Tom Brady (New England)

3. Cam Newton (Carolina)

4. Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh)

5. Drew Brees (New Orleans)

6. Kirk Cousins (Washington)

7. Derek Carr (Oakland)

8. Russell Wilson (Seattle)

9. Marcus Mariota (Tennessee)

10. Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay)

11. Philip Rivers (Los Angeles Chargers)

12. Carson Wentz (Philadelphia)

Bonus: Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo)

Expect Cam Newton to have a resurgent year mainly because the Panthers’ schedule isn’t particularly challenging. In fact, only five of their opponents made the 2016 playoffs.

Newton won the MVP just two seasons ago and now has a Swiss army knife-type on his team (rookie running back Christian McCaffrey). Expect big things from Carolina this year.

Other players on the rise include the Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, who will benefit from having new wideouts Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the mix, and the Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr, who orchestrates an offense with fantastic potential with the additions of running back Marshawn Lynch and tight end Jared Cook.

Running Back

1A. David Johnson (Arizona)

1B. Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh)

3. LeSean McCoy (Buffalo)

4. Jordan Howard (Chicago)

5. Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville)

6. Devonta Freeman (Atlanta)

7. Christian McCaffrey (Carolina)

8. DeMarco Murray (Tennessee)

9. Lamar Miller (Houston)

10. Melvin Gordon (Los Angeles Chargers)

11. Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams)

12. Jay Ajayi (Miami)

13. Dalvin Cook (Minnesota)

14. Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas)

15. Mike Gillislee (New England)

16. Bilal Powell (New York Jets)

17. Frank Gore (Indianapolis)

18. Joe Mixon (Cincinnati)

19. Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland)

20. Ty Montgomery (Green Bay)

21. Thomas Rawls (Seattle)

22. Marshawn Lynch (Oakland)

23. Carlos Hyde (San Francisco)

24. Spencer Ware (Kansas City)

Bonus: Ameer Abdullah (Detroit)

The New York Jets’ Bilal Powell could end up being the steal of a draft, especially in point-per-reception leagues.

In the Jets’ last four games of the 2016 season, Powell averaged 5.0 yards per carry while catching 21 passes for 141 yards. He also found the end zone three times.

While Matt Forte is the current starter in the backfield, Powell should see plenty of time on the field given his skill set.

At the top, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are more 1A and 1B than one and two. They should both get plenty of touches, but Johnson should see more scoring opportunities since the touchdown wealth will be split in Pittsburgh between superstar wideout Antonio Brown and deep threat Martavis Bryant.

Wide Receiver

1. Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh)

2. Odell Beckham Jr. (New York Giants)

3. Julio Jones (Atlanta)

4. Mike Evans (Tampa Bay)

5. T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis)

6. Michael Thomas (New Orleans)

7. Jordy Nelson (Green Bay)

8. A.J. Green (Cincinnati)

9. DeAndre Hopkins (Houston)

10. Terrelle Pryor (Washington)

11. Alshon Jeffery (Philadelphia)

12. Allen Robinson (Jacksonville)

13. Doug Baldwin (Seattle)

14. Amari Cooper (Oakland)

15. Demaryius Thomas (Denver)

16. Davante Adams (Green Bay)

17. Emmanuel Sanders (Denver)

18. Cameron Meredith (Chicago)

19. Dez Bryant (Dallas)

20. Stefon Diggs (Minnesota)

21. Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers)

22. Donte Moncrief (Indianapolis)

23. Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona)

24. Kenny Britt (Cleveland)

25. Randall Cobb (Green Bay)

26. Tyrell Williams (Los Angeles Chargers)

27. Corey Davis (Tennessee)

28. Brandin Cooks (New England)

29. Jameson Crowder (Washington)

30. Davante Parker (Miami)

31. Michael Crabtree (Oakland)

32. Rishard Matthews (Tennessee)

33. Jeremy Maclin (Baltimore)

34. Sammy Watkins (Los Angeles Chargers)

35. Sterling Shepard (New York Giants)

36. Zay Jones (Buffalo)

37. Tyreek Hill (Kansas City)

Michael Thomas is the man now in New Orleans as Brandin Cooks was traded to the New England Patriots in the offseason, and one has to wonder if he’s capable of producing a breakout campaign that will put him in the top-four wideout conversation along with Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones.

Thomas is just that good. In his rookie year, he caught 92 passes for 1,137 yards and nine scores in 15 games. If he had not missed the Week 14 loss to Tampa Bay due to a foot injury, it’s possible that he could have eclipsed the 100-reception and 10-touchdown marks in his first year, which is remarkable.

Tight End

1. Rob Gronkowski (New England)

2. Travis Kelce (Kansas City)

3. Greg Olsen (Carolina)

4. Jordan Reed (Washington)

5. Jimmy Graham (Seattle)

6. Martellus Bennett (Green Bay)

7. Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati)

8. Delanie Walker (Tennessee)

9. Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota)

10. Zach Ertz (Philadelphia)

11. Jack Doyle (Indianapolis)

12. Hunter Henry (Los Angeles Chargers)

T-13. Cameron Brate (Tampa Bay)

T-13. Jared Cook (Oakland)

If you’re in a point-per-reception league, keep an eye on Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz.

Rudolph was first among all tight ends in targets last year with 132, catching 83 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. He should be quarterback Sam Bradford‘s security blanket yet again.

Ertz caught 73.6 percent of passes thrown his way last year, which ranked sixth among qualifying tight ends. Overall, he snagged 78 passes for 816 yards and four scores. With the Eagles on the rise on offense, Ertz could have an even better year.


1. Justin Tucker (Baltimore)

2. Stephen Gostkowski (New England)

3. Matt Bryant (Atlanta)

4. Dan Bailey (Dallas)

5. Mason Crosby (Green Bay)

6. Matt Prater (Detroit)

7. Chris Boswell (Pittsburgh)

8. Steven Hauschka (Buffalo)

9. Brandon McManus (Denver)

10. Caleb Sturgis (Philadelphia)

11. Nick Novak (Houston)

12. Adam Vinatieri (Indianapolis)

13. Cairo Santos (Kansas City)

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has a bionic leg and will once again kick field goals of 50 yards or more with relative ease. He’s far and away the best kicker pick this year.

Stay partial to any kickers that (a) are fantastic, (b) kick indoors or (c) are on teams who will have plenty of scoring opportunities this year. The first seven kickers on this list fit one (or all) of those criteria.

Defense/Special Teams

1. Kansas City

2. Denver

3. Carolina

4. Minnesota

5. Houston

6. Seattle

7. Arizona

8. New England

9. New York Giants

10. Pittsburgh

11. Buffalo

12. Philadelphia

13. Baltimore

The Panthers defense should vastly improve this year as long as the unit stays relatively healthy. Julius Peppers should provide a boost to the pass rush, and veteran Captain Munnerlyn is an excellent addition to a young secondary that showed promise at the end of last season.

The best linebacking corps in the game is still intact, as Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson form an excellent three-man unit.

The Steelers defense should dominate early, which will be beneficial to any fantasy team that has them this year.

Creative Team Names

1. Hilton Rewards (Sporting News)

2. More Than A. Thielen (Sporting News)

3. Bilal the Way Up (Sporting News)

4. Dez Dispensers (Sporting News)

5. Kelce Lately (Sporting News)

6. Baby Got Dak (Athlon Sports)

7. Deshaun of the Dead (Athlon Sports)

8. Le’Veon on a Prayer (Athlon Sports)

9. Highway to Bell (Athlon Sports)

10. Abdullah Oblongata (Athlon Sports)

11. Little Red Fournette (USA Today)

12. Game of Jones (USA Today)

13. Hooked on a Thielen (USA Today)

14. All You Snead is Love (USA Today)

15. Doyle Rules (USA Today)

If you are lucky enough to land Le’Veon Bell or if you grab Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen in the later rounds, you have plenty of options for team names if you’re stuck this year.

Otherwise, any Adam Sandler fans will love the “Billy Madison” reference (Doyle Rules), and Prince fans will undoubtedly be impartial to Little Red Fournette.

NFL Roundup: Cowboys QB Moore healthy, now behind Prescott

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OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Kellen Moore is the backup quarterback the Dallas Cowboys hope won’t have to take a meaningful snap in 2017, just as he was a year ago before an injury at training camp ended his season.

The radical difference since Moore broke his right ankle early last August is the incumbent in front of him: Dak Prescott, whose sensational rookie season kept 10-year starter Tony Romo on the bench when he was ready to return from a back injury and ultimately led the club’s career passing leader to retire and go into broadcasting.

The changing face of the franchise didn’t alter Moore’s outlook much. He’s always known his job role either way.

“He’s just back here healthy, irregardless of whom the starter was a year ago or who it is now,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He knows he’s got a significant role for us. I don’t think he’s approaching it any different.”

Linehan is the constant through the unexpected transition, and the reason Moore is going into his third season with the Cowboys. Undersized by QB standards (listed generously at 6-foot), the undrafted Moore made a connection with Linehan in Detroit out of Boise State in 2012.

Both are from eastern Washington, and Linehan likes to joke about his family’s issues with his close relationship with a hated rival since Linehan went to Idaho. Kidding aside, Linehan simply thinks there isn’t a quarterback smarter than Moore, or better-suited to carry out his game plan.

“For me it’s coming up on five of my six years,” the 28-year-old Moore said of his link to Linehan. “You kind of understand the way he thinks of football, his process and his way of thinking and his terminology. All of that stuff kind of adds up when you speak the same language. It’s important.”

Moore didn’t take a regular-season snap all three years he was with the Lions, and only got into games with the Cowboys at the end of a lost 2015 season when Romo was hurt most of the season and backups Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel failed badly.

The 28-year-old Moore lost the final two games as a starter in a 4-12 season, throwing six interceptions in three games overall.

But he did have a 400-yard passing game in the finale and four touchdowns total. And the Cowboys obviously have faith in him, because they signed him as a free agent coming off the ankle injury.

Last season, Moore was one of the voices in an interesting quarterback room for the suddenly blooming Prescott. Romo, whose back injury in a preseason game completed Prescott’s ascension , was in his 14th season; Moore had several years in Linehan’s system; and backup Mark Sanchez had experience as a rookie starter.

Instead of sitting in the background with Romo in control, Moore had a much more active role as a voice for Prescott.

“Kellen does such a good job just contributing,” said coach Jason Garrett, who was the backup to Troy Aikman when the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls in the 1990s.

“And he can contribute a lot of different ways as a backup quarterback, just in that room, making that room feel like it is a good place for the guy that’s starting and everything he goes through and then just having a positive impact on everybody on offense and throughout the team.”

It’s easy to forget that Moore’s injury gave Prescott significantly more playing time in the first two preseason games last year. And the former Mississippi State standout impressed enough for the Cowboys to give him the job when Romo went down.

Moore isn’t really the type to wonder what might have been without his ankle injury. Mostly he’s just glad to be back in camp, where he has a better appreciation of the gritty daily details after so much idle time last August.

“It was your first August where you sat on the couch and watched ‘Fixer Upper’ all day and didn’t really watch football,” Moore said. “It was kind of a weird deal and you had to deal with that. Obviously you’re enjoying it this year.”

Even if a backup is all anyone wants him to be.

NOTES: The Cowboys waived/injured TE Connor Hamlett (broken fibula) and waived OL Ruben Carter, WR Javontee Herndon and LB Lucas Wacha. … Dallas signed CB Dejaun Butler, CB John Green, TE M.J. McFarland and WR Corey Washington. … WR/KR Ryan Switzer, a rookie fourth-round pick, had a setback with a hamstring injury. … LT Tyron Smith (back) returned to practice Monday. He’s missed several camp practices.


NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Marshawn Lynch isn’t shedding anymore light on his decision to sit during the national anthem before the Oakland Raiders’ first exhibition game.

Lynch declined to comment on why he chose to sit down Saturday night while the rest of his teammates stood during the anthem before a game in Arizona against the Cardinals.

That left his teammates to answer for him on Tuesday after the team returned for its first practice since that game.

“I’m proud of him,” tight end Jared Cook said. “I think it’s awesome. Everybody has points of discussion after what happened in Charlottesville just the night before. I think it’s important for men in our position to step up and speak on unnecessary situations we find ourselves in as minorities in this country. That’s why I’m proud of him.”

Cook said he hadn’t talked to Lynch about his stance and didn’t know what specifically he was protesting. Other players who have declined to stand for the anthem have been much more open about their reasons, starting with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose protest last year over police brutality and racial oppression made it a major issue in the NFL.

“We didn’t talk to him,” Cook said. “I don’t know his intentions. I don’t know what he wanted to do by it. But I know that guys like Colin Kaepernick have become my favorite football players for doing it.”

Kaepernick is not on a team this season but the issue remains with Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett and Lynch both sitting for the anthem last weekend.

Bennett has been vocal about his reasons why, citing social injustice. He said his decision was solidified by the violence last weekend surrounding a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that included the death of a young woman who was struck by a car deliberately driven into a group of counter-protesters.

Cook said he has considered an anthem protest in the past and does not rule out doing one this season.

“As far as the future goes, I don’t know. I don’t know,” he said. “I know I feel uneasy about the situation going on in this country and have been for a while.”

Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said last season that players should protest on their own time instead of when they are representing the organization. Del Rio said after the game that Lynch told him he had not stood for the anthem for his entire career and it was a “non-issue” for the coach.

“I pretty much made the statement I care to make on it,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t have anything to add.”

NOTES: WR Amari Cooper returned to practice for the first time since Aug. 3 and DL Khalil Mack was back after missing time last week. … Del Rio said S Keith McGill (foot) and OL Denver Kirkland (knee) will miss some time.


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NFL preseason: As usual, quarterbacks take spotlight

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —    The first week of the 2017 NFL preseason is in the books. Many rookies have now taken their first professional snaps, position battles are underway, and roster cuts are creeping closer.

Here’s a breakdown of the biggest story lines so far and how they might affect the rest of the year.

Players continued to protest during national anthem

Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch was the first to generate attention for sitting during the pre-game playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. His former Seattle Seahawks teammate, defensive end Michael Bennett, later did the same. Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins continued to raise his fist during the national anthem, as he did last season.

Colin Kaepernick sparked a wave of social activism in the NFL last year. Many believe he cannot find a job in the league now because of it. The most interesting thing to watch moving forward is how front offices and the public react. Because if it’s true that activism is what’s keeping Kaepernick unemployed, then protesting players may face even more outside pressures to end their stances.

Mitchell Trubisky had a strong debut

New Chicago Bears starting quarterback Mike Glennon posted a 0.0 passer rating in limited time with the first string Thursday. So naturally, the calls for Trubisky to get starter’s reps grew louder. Trubisky completed 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards and one touchdown. He needs to show, however, that he can do it against starting-caliber talent before Glennon’s job becomes tenuous.

But it could still happen.

Remember when Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll signed quarterback Matt Flynn to be the team’s starter in 2012? Well, a rookie named Russell Wilson consistently outperformed Flynn and eventually took the job.

More: What’s next if Elliott appeals suspension?

More: Dolphins ‘trending’ toward playing Cutler

More: Long brothers condemn violence in hometown of Charlottesvilla, Va.

Deshaun Watson looked good, too

The quarterback whom the Houston Texans dealt up to draft in the first round played well, completing 15 of 25 throws for 179 yards and adding three carries for 24 yards and a rushing score. Incumbent Tom Savage led a scoring drive himself and will remain the starter, but Watson’s debut was impressive.

But was it impressive enough to cast any doubt about Savage? As of right now, probably not. Still, Watson clearly showed he has enough poise and natural ability to eventually become the franchise’s long-awaited answer at quarterback. All this does is put more pressure on Savage not to slip up.

Too slow?

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette carried the ball nine times for 31 yards and scored a touchdown against the New England Patriots. Not exactly setting the box score on fire, but it did prompt him to comment to about the pace of play: “It’s a lot slower than I really thought … I think, to me, it was really easy.”

Well, Fournette is now dealing with a foot injury that will likely force him to miss this week’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rookie lesson No. 1: Keep your name out of headlines that don’t involve your play.

Jimmy Garoppolo put on a show

Tom Brady’s fourth-year backup completed 22 of 28 throws for 235 yards and two touchdowns against the Jags. If Garoppolo continues to dazzle, his value only ascends even further.

The byproduct is that it continues to make New England’s decision at the end of the season that much more difficult. If Garoppolo is truly capable of being a franchise quarterback, how much longer can he sit? And how much will they have to pay to keep him?

Christian Hackenberg showed improvement

The second-year New York Jets quarterback, who never saw the field during his rookie season, completed 18 of 25 passes for 127 yards. They were mostly short throws, but Hackenberg avoided mistakes. Veteran Josh McCown also played well in his short time on the field, completing three of four passes for 72 yards and a score.

Hackenberg has been getting more and more first-team reps in practices, so this could signal a shift in New York’s plan. The Jets are rebuilding and, sooner or later, they have to see if Hackenberg is part of the long-term plan.

Notable injuries

— Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman is in the concussion protocol after he exited Sunday’s practice. Head coach Dan Quinn hinted Freeman could sit out the rest of preseason. He is a huge part of a high-powered offense, and Atlanta should be cautious with one of its best players.

— Detroit Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder reportedly tore his Achilles in Sunday’s win over the Indianapolis Colts, leaving Detroit without a promising young player for 2017.

— Miami Dolphins second-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament Thursday against Atlanta. The Dolphins are dealt yet another blow to a position that was already one of their weakest.

— Washington Redskins safety Su’a Cravens left Thursday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens with a knee injury that is expected to keep him out two to three weeks. Linebacker Trent Murphy suffered a torn ACL and medial collateral ligament, ending his season.


Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes

Top 200 fantasy football rankings for 2017: How far does Ezekiel Elliott slide?

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    Here are the top 200 players in fantasy football for the 2017 season, according to our official rankings partner, Fantasy Football Rankings. The rankings reflect overall fantasy value in a standard 12-team, point-per-reception (PPR) league. These rankings have been updated to reflect the 6-game suspension handed down to Cowboys’ running back.

For more in-depth position rankings, as well as strategy columns, player capsules, stats and projections, check out the special fantasy football issue of USA TODAY Sports Weekly, on sale now or go over to Fantasy Football Rankings. Check out all the updates, articles and stats.


NFL Roundup: Seahawks win 48-17 in Chargers’ Los Angeles debut

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CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Philip Rivers threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates on the opening drive of the Los Angeles Chargers’ first preseason game since relocation, but the Seahawks’ backups dominated the rest of the preseason opener in Seattle’s 48-17 victory Sunday night.

Rivers and his first-team offense were excellent, marching 75 yards in 13 plays to begin the Chargers’ three-year residency at 27,000-seat StubHub Center. The Chargers moved 111 miles north from San Diego into a stadium built for soccer, but providing an undeniably intimate NFL experience for fans.

The LA Chargers’ first touchdown was a San Diego classic: Rivers threw over the middle to Gates for a 5-yard score, making the next big play in the veteran stars’ 12-year partnership.

The Chargers’ revamped defense clearly has work to do under new coordinator Gus Bradley after giving up 459 yards to the Seahawks, whose reserves mostly got off to a stellar start.

Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a field goal in his only drive with Seattle’s first-team offense despite consistent pressure from Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers’ dynamic pass-rushing duo.

The rest of Seattle’s 34-point first half was a showcase for its backup defense, which forced three turnovers, and a solid second-team offense led by Trevone Boykin, who passed for 189 yards.

Terence Garvin returned a tipped interception 37 yards for a Seattle TD, and Chris Carson cashed in a 1-yard TD run after LA’s Kellen Clemens fumbled a handoff with Andre Williams.

Clemens threw a 74-yard TD strike to speedy Travis Benjamin, but Rivers’ backup also had two interceptions on deflected passes.



INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jake Rudock showed the Detroit Lions he could fill in for Matthew Stafford — if needed.

The Indianapolis Colts, meanwhile, are still looking for an answer behind Andrew Luck.

Rudock took advantage of the injury-depleted Colts by throwing two touchdown passes to Kenny Golladay, driving the Lions to a short field goal and leading them to a 24-10 victory in the preseason opener on Sunday.

“You can see the difference between last year and this year at this time,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He has a better grasp of things around him. He’s in command.”

The second-year quarterback played most of the first 2½ quarters and wound up 13 of 21 for 142 yards. Stafford played one series, going 2 of 3 for 36 yards and left after throwing an interception.

All the Lions needed against the injury-depleted Colts was Rudock’s 23-yard TD strike to Golladay in the first quarter.

But Rudock also threw a 15-yarder to Golladay in the second and set up Matt Prater for a 28-yard field goal to make it 17-3 at the half. Detroit closed out its scoring with a 15-yard TD pass from Brad Kaaya to Dontez Ford.

With Luck still on the physically unable to perform list following offseason surgery on a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder, the Colts sputtered.

Indy finished with 230 total yards — 90 on its final drive — and 14 first downs. Their only points came from Adam Vinatieri’s 42-yard field goal in the first half and a 1-yard TD plunge from Troymaine Pope as time ran out.

NFL Preseason Roundup: Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes solid before 49ers rally past Chiefs, 27-17

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —-    Alex Smith led the Chiefs to a quick touchdown and first-round pick Patrick Mahomes II had an impressive debut, before the San Francisco backups led the 49ers to a 27-17 victory over Kansas City in their preseason opener Friday night in Kansas City, Missouri.

Smith hit speedster Tyreek Hill for a 32-yard gain on the first play of the game, and Spencer Ware capped a 75-yard march with a short TD run to give the Chiefs a 7-0 lead.

It was the only series for Smith, who finished 4 of 6 for 48 yards.

Mahomes checked in for the first time late in the second quarter, drawing perhaps the biggest roar of the night. The 10th overall draft pick had a long completion wiped out by a penalty on his first play, but later capitalized on a blocked punt with a short touchdown throw to fellow rookie Marcus Kemp.

Mahomes was 7 of 9 for 49 yards as he duels with Tyler Bray for the No. 2 job.

San Francisco rookie C.J. Beathard hit Kendrick Bourne for a 46-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, then found him for a tying two-point conversion. The Chiefs promptly fumbled the ball back and Beathard added a short TD pass to Tyler McCloskey with 10:41 left to give the 49ers the lead for good.

Beathard, a third-round pick, outplayed both quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart.

Brian Hoyer did little to make new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan feel good about giving the longtime NFL journeyman the starting job at the onset of training camp. He was 1 of 4 for three yards in two offensive series, going three-and-out on both of them.

Barkley was first off the bench and led San Francisco to a pair of field goals, playing roughly two quarters. He was 10 of 17 for 168 yards without any major mistakes.

Bray was first off the bench for Kansas City. He had an 83-yard TD pass to Chris Conley wiped out by offensive pass interference, then had an errant throw picked off. The fifth-year quarterback, who has yet to appear in a regular-season game, finished 5 of 8 for 63 yards.

Steelers 20, Giants 12: Rookie quarterback Josh Dobbs threw a 28-yard touchdown pass and Chris Boswell kicked a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter to give Pittsburgh the lead for good in a preseason win over New York in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The Steelers capitalized on two major Giants’ turnovers in the preseason opener for both teams.

Terrell Watson added a 15-yard touchdown run in a game that had little offense with Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers and Eli Manning of the Giants being given the night off.

Pittsburgh also was without injured backup Landry Jones, but that didn’t matter because the Giants didn’t get much from either Josh Johnson or Geno Smith, and New York was generous with the football.

Dobbs, a fourth-round draft pick out of Tennessee, hit Cobi Hamilton on his touchdown pass on the first play after Donte Deayon fumbled a punt inside his own 30 and Mike Hilton recovered.

Seven seconds later, Hamilton beat Valentino Blake for a touchdown and a 10-9 lead with 33 seconds left in the half.

A 45-yard field goal by Mike Nugent on the opening series of the second half put New York ahead 12-10, but Arthur Moats intercepted Smith later in the quarter and returned the ball to the New York 14, setting up Boswell’s go-ahead kick.

Watson capped a nine-play, 53-yard drive that Bart Houston guided in his first series after taking over for Dobbs, who was 8 of 15 for 100 yards and two interceptions.

Both picks led to scores. Blake’s interception and 11-yard return to the Steelers 39 set up a 27-yard field goal by rookie Aldrick Rosas, who added a 52-yarder late in the second quarter for a 9-3 lead.

An interception by lineman Devon Taylor led to a 30-yard field goal by Nugent and a 6-0 lead.

A 44-yard pass from Dobbs to Hamilton set up Boswell’s first field goal, a 48-yarder.

Bengals 23, Buccaneers 12: Ryan Fitzpatrick made a good initial impression with Tampa Bay, completing his first series with a 6-yard touchdown run, before host Cincinnati pulled away to a victory over the Buccaneers.

The 34-year-old quarterback signed a one-year deal for a chance to back up Jameis Winston. Fitzpatrick had mixed results after his TD, going 6 of 13 overall with an interception. He also scrambled twice for 15 yards. Fitzpatrick lost the ball while trying to throw, but recovered his fumble.

Ryan Griffin – Tampa Bay’s third-string quarterback the past two seasons – left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury and didn’t return, forcing Fitzpatrick back into the game.

Tampa Bay opened the game with a 14-play, 92-yard drive, but had to settle for a field goal after Adam “Pacman” Jones broke up a pair of Winston’s passes in the end zone. Jones is suspended by the NFL for the season opener because of his offseason arrest.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was on the sideline after missing a practice last week because of a knee problem.

Andy Dalton had his full complement of receivers – A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert have returned from significant injuries last season – and moved the offense smoothly on Cincinnati’s opening drive before making a bad decision. Vernon Hargreaves III anticipated Dalton’s sideline throw and picked off a pass at the 1-yard line.

Dalton had plenty of time to throw behind Cincinnati’s reconfigured line.

“I just wish I could have that last play back,” said Dalton, who was 4 of 5 for 38 yards on his only drive.

Green, who missed the last half of last season with a hamstring injury, had a pair of catches for 21 yards.

Both teams have kicker competitions that were in the spotlight in their preseason opener.

Roberto Aguayo made a 20-yard field goal on Tampa Bay’s opening possession, but he was wide right on a 47-yard try and hit the right upright on the extra-point attempt. Nick Folk was good from 45 yards on his only chance.

The Bengals’ kickers were perfect. Randy Bullock made field goals of 54 and 49 yards and his extra-point try. Jake Elliott, who was drafted in the fifth round, connected from 45 yards and also made an extra point.

NFL Pre-season Roundup: No Tom Brady, no defense, Patriots fall to Jaguars 31-24 in opener

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-    Chad Henne hit Keelan Cole on a 97-yard touchdown pass, Corey Grant scored on a 79-yard run and the Jacksonville Jaguars feasted on a Patriots lineup without Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski – or much defense at all – to beat the defending NFL champions 31-24 on Thursday night in their exhibition opener in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

With the reigning Super Bowl MVP sitting out, Jimmy Garoppolo completed a Brady-like 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. The Patriots’ heir apparent completed 13 straight passes at one point, finding Austin Carr on a 3-yard touchdown pass at the end of the first half and then K.J. Maye from 5 yards out to start the second and make it 17-17.

But the New England defense followed by giving up another one-play scoring drive – this one Grant’s run down the left sideline to make it 24-17. Third-string QB Brandon Allen hit Dede Westbrook from 42 yards out – victimizing Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones for another big play – to make it a two-touchdown game.

Grant ran for 120 yards on eight carries, and No. 4 overall draft pick Leonard Fournette ran nine times for 31 yards and a 1-yard touchdown for the Jaguars, who were playing their first game under new coach Doug Marrone after firing Gus Bradley following a 3-13 record.

NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

Minnesota 17, Buffalo 10: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater need not rush back from injury after Case Keenum showed glimpses of being a capable backup in the Vikings’ preseason-opening win over the Bills in Orchard Park, New York.

Taking over for starter Sam Bradford, Keenum went 11 of 16 for 121 yards. The sixth-year player engineered a pair of scoring drives – both set up by passes to rookie receiver Stacy Coley.

Keenum hit Cooley in stride over the middle on a crossing pattern for a 38-yard catch to set up Kai Forbath’s 36-yard field goal to tie the game at 3-3 late in the second quarter.

On the opening drive of the second half, Keenum rolled to his right and hit Coley, a seventh-round pick out of Miami, who made a sliding catch at the Bills 2.

Fullback C.J. Ham scored on the next play to put Minnesota ahead 10-3.

Buffalo starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor played three series and hit 5 of 8 attempts for 46 yards.

Minnesota’s trainers carried running back Bishop Sankey off the field in the third quarter after the former Gonzaga Prep star appeared to have injured his leg at the end of a 14-yard run. There was no immediate report on his condition.

Miami 23, Atlanta 20: The NFL’s highest-paid running back, Devonta Freeman looked the part in a brief appearance, scoring on a 15-yard reception from Matt Ryan as the Falcons lost to the Dolphins in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Freeman, who agreed to terms Wednesday on a $41.25 million, five-year contract extension, scored to cap the Falcons’ first preseason possession. New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkasian’s unit drove 36 yards for the touchdown after a 39-yard punt return by newcomer Andre Roberts.

The Dolphins’ exhibition season began badly. Second-round draft pick Raekwon McMillan, the front-runner to start at middle linebacker, hurt his right knee on Roberts’ punt return and walked to the locker room accompanied by trainers.

Miami backup safety Walt Aikens also left the game in the first quarter with a back injury.

Undrafted rookie Damore’ea Stringfellow caught a 99-yard touchdown pass from David Fales in the fourth quarter. Neither is likely to make the team.

The Falcons, who blew a 28-3 advantage against New England in last season’s Super Bowl, this time let a 20-10 fourth-quarter lead get away.

NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

Denver 24, Chicago 17: Mitch Trubisky threw for 166 yards and led three scoring drives after Mike Glennon struggled for Chicago, before the Broncos scored two long touchdowns in the closing minutes to beat the Bears in the preseason opener in Chicago.

Though the Bears have insisted Glennon is their starter, Trubisky just might have created a quarterback controversy.

Denver’s Trevor Siemian did nothing to hurt his standing as the leader for the starting quarterback job, while Paxton Lynch did little to close any ground.

Third-stringer Kyle Sloter threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah McKenzie with about six minutes left in the game, and De’Angelo Henderson ran for a 41-yard score with just under two minutes remaining to put the Broncos on top 24-17.

But the biggest development in this game was Trubisky showing exactly why general manager Ryan Pace traded up a spot with San Francisco to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick.

The North Carolina product completed 18 of 25 passes in his first pro appearance after making just 13 college starts.

Trubisky replaced veteran Mark Sanchez late in the second quarter and completed his first 10 passes while leading Chicago to touchdowns on his first two possessions and a field goal on the next one. That gave the Bears a 17-10 lead.

Green Bay 24, Phialdelphia 9: Quarterback Carson Wentz went 4 for 4 for 56 yards and a score on his first series, eluding a potential sack and burning the Packers on third and fourth downs in Philadelphia’s 24-9 loss in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

He did his best impression of elusive Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was a healthy scratch for the first preseason game of the year.

The Eagles got off to a nice start against Green Bay’s first-string defense, though they did turn the ball over three times in the second quarter with backup quarterback Matt McGloin behind center. Philadelphia is looking to improve a pass offense that ranked 24th in the NFL last season.

Free agent addition Alshon Jeffery didn’t play on Thursday. Nelson Agholor, who is having a good camp, didn’t have a catch. But Wentz found rookie Mack Hollins, the team’s fourth-draft pick, for a 38-yard touchdown pass on third-and-13 with 6:33 left in the first quarter after the quarterback eluded rushing linebacker Clay Matthews’ grasp.

NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

Baltimore 23, Washington 3: Ryan Mallett struggled in place of injured quarterback Joe Flacco, throwing for only 58 yards while playing the entire first half, and the Ravens beat the Redskins in a sloppy preseason opener in Baltimore.

The Ravens scored 13 points while Mallett was in the game, including a 2-yard touchdown run by Terrance West following two costly penalties by the Redskins: pass interference for 23 yards on a third-and-8 and an illegal formation on a field goal try that hit the left upright.

Flacco has yet to take a snap this summer because of a bad back. That left Mallett to run the first-team offense; he went 9 for 18 and was sacked once.

In his defense, Mallett was operating behind a makeshift line and without his top three receivers.

But he didn’t give the Ravens any reason to lose interest in adding free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The Redskins, similarly, had very little success moving the ball. Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins went three-and-out on his two possessions, completing 1 of 2 passes, and Washington managed only 47 yards on 27 plays while falling behind 13-0 at halftime.

Though Baltimore’s offense sputtered, its upgraded defense proved to be as good as advertised. Free agent defensive backs Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr teamed with Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle to seal the back end.

The biggest play of the first half was the last one: Justin Tucker kicked a 59-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead.

Cleveland 20, New Orleans 14: Myles Garrett showed flashes of dominance in his NFL exhibition debut, and Cleveland rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer threw a late touchdown pass and the Browns beat the Saints in Cleveland while Saints stars Drew Brees and Adrian Peterson watched.

The No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, Garrett had a tackle for loss and blazed off the edge to pressure Saints backup QB Garrett Grayson in the first half.

The Browns haven’t solved their endless QB dilemma, but Garrett appears to be a long-term answer at defensive end.

Garrett vowed to “send a message” in his first preseason game as a pro, and he did just that in limited time. On one play, Garrett timed the snap perfectly and pushed past third-string tackle Khalif Barnes to hit Grayson.

Kizer completed a 45-yard TD pass to Jordan Payton with 1:52 left as the Browns rallied for their first preseason win in two seasons under coach Hue Jackson.

The Saints lost their 10th straight preseason game.

NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

17 things to watch in 2017 NFL season

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(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —-    It’s been six months since the New England Patriots’ unforgettable Super Bowl LI comeback. If you’ve been in football hibernation since then, here’s your primer for the upcoming NFL campaign — 17 subplots to monitor for the ’17 season:

1. What can the Patriots do for an encore?

Little more to prove for the franchise that takes “no days off.” New England has reached a record nine Super Bowls, seven during the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era. One more Lombardi Trophy would give the Pats six, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers for most , while making Brady — he already has a record four Super Bowl MVPs — the first player with six rings. Check out our “Fantasy Football Rankings” for their position also.

And the Patriots seem uniquely armed, even by their singular standards, to potentially mount a new title march with rare flair. Brady has finally escaped the pall of Deflategate and will enter the season with several new weapons (WR Brandin Cooks, TE Dwayne Allen, RBs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead among them) and presumably will have TE Rob Gronkowski back at full strength. CB Stephon Gilmore and DE Kony Ealy are among the defensive newcomers, while MLB Dont’a Hightower returned after free agent flirtations elsewhere.

Bottom line, despite parting with proven players like TE Martellus Bennett and RB LeGarrette Blount, this roster looks fully loaded and may be good enough — perhaps — to pull off a perfect season 10 years after coming up just short in the wake of the league’s lone 16-0 regular season.

2. Can anyone in the AFC realistically challenge New England?

The Patriots might be vulnerable … if Brady gets suspended … or tears another knee ligament … or if Belichick decides to coach the Naval Academy lacrosse team. But barring that?

Aside from 2008, when Brady’s ACL snapped on opening day, the Patriots haven’t failed to win the AFC East since 2002. The Miami Dolphins made great strides under coach Adam Gase last year, but the Fins still aren’t ready to swim with the Pats even through WR Jarvis Landry has promised a 2017 sweep of New England. (LOL.)

The Pittsburgh Steelers appear improved, but will the return of WR Martavis Bryant and a healthy Le’Veon Bell — along with some apparent defensive upgrades — vault a team that was thoroughly outclassed in last season’s AFC Championship Game?

The X-factor may be the Oakland Raiders. If QB Derek Carr reaches postseason in one piece, RB Marshawn Lynch can still tap that Beast Mode button, and the defense takes a step up in class, the Silver & Black just might have a chance.

3. How do the Atlanta Falcons respond?

The Carolina Panthers suffered a massive Super Bowl hangover in 2016, a season after going 15-1. Now the Falcons appear in need of a greasy breakfast and cold shower after watching a 25-point third-quarter lead evaporate as the Patriots’ blitzkrieg prevented Atlanta from finally winning the Super Bowl. Check out our “Fantasy Football Rankings” for their position also.

From a roster perspective, the Falcons return virtually intact and even picked up some nice pieces for a promising defense that crumbled when it counted. But this team won’t sneak up on anyone in a conference far more balanced than the AFC. And the biggest question will be whether Steve Sarkisian, whose only season of NFL experience came as a quarterbacks coach more than a dozen years ago, can sustain one of the most productive offenses in NFL history now that previous coordinator Kyle Shanahan is in San Francisco.

And history isn’t on the Falcons’ side: no team has lost the Super Bowl and returned the following season since the 1990s Buffalo Bills did it three times.

4. MVP! MVP!

Brady, Manning and Aaron Rodgers had passed the MVP hardware around for years until Cam Newton emerged as a surprise winner in 2015. Then Falcons QB Matt Ryan stunned the NFL in 2016 with a record-setting campaign, suddenly morphing into superstardom in his ninth season. So who’s got next?

Maybe the award remains in the loaded NFC South — awash with new weapons, Jameis Winston might be primed for his own star turn, or perhaps stat machine Drew Brees will finally win it in his 17th year. Two-time winners Brady and Rodgers will surely be in the running; the Steelers have a troika of candidates (Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger) capable of huge individual seasons; perhaps an elite pass rusher like Von Miller or Khalil Mack might break offensive players’ three-decade stranglehold on the award; Jerry Rice (1987) is the only receiver to win MVP, but Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham are all capable in a league that now features the position so heavily; and any number of youngsters — Carr, Ezekiel Elliott, David Johnson, Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson — could be ready to elevate themselves.

5. Sophomore slump? Or surge?

Elliott and Prescott were almost inarguably the greatest rookie tandem in NFL history, launching the Dallas Cowboys back to relevance. So now what? No one will be sleeping on Prescott, the 2016 offensive rookie of the year, and the NFC East champs’ reliance on him and Elliott is bound to increase amid the club’s defensive shake-up. The Cowboys are almost sure to face a tougher challenge from the Philadelphia Eagles and QB Carson Wentz, who has been armed with playmakers he lacked in an up-and-down freshman season.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Rams will be looking for a quantum leap from 2016 No. 1 pick Jared Goff, while the Denver Broncos are allowing QB Paxton Lynch, their first rounder a year ago, to compete for the starting job. Bears RB Jordan Howard will look to overtake Elliott after finishing second to him for the rushing title in 2016; Michael Thomas takes over as the No. 1 receiver for the New Orleans Saints; and defensive stars like Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd and Deion Jones seek to make even larger footprints.

6. Young Guns

Some of the greatest quarterbacks the league has seen — Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers — are approaching 40. But it appears there are maturing youngsters worthy of eventually succeeding them.

After being the draft’s top two picks, respectively, in 2015, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Winston and Tennessee Titans’ Mariota seem to have their teams on the cusp of contention. The Raiders’ revival can largely be credited to Carr. Prescott and Wentz seem primed to lead for years, but it’s time for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Blake Bortles to finally prove he can do the same.

This year’s highly billed rookie quarterbacks — Mitchell Trubisky (Bears), Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Deshaun Watson (Texans) and DeShone Kizer (Browns) — aren’t expected to play extensively, if at all, in 2017. But as Bortles, Prescott and Wentz can attest, such plans tend to change quickly.

7. Rookie coaches

Five teams will deploy head coaches who have no experience beyond the coordinator level. Sean McVay — he was 30 at the time of his hiring, making him the youngest head man in modern NFL history — must get Goff on the right track while keeping the Rams relevant in the fickle L.A. market, especially since Anthony Lynn inherits a more talented Chargers roster on the other side of the town.

Vance Joseph takes over the Broncos, who come with significant expectations just one season removed from winning the Super Bowl. The Buffalo Bills’ Sean McDermott and San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan, armed with a six-year deal, should enjoy more patience after quickly beginning the process of reshaping their teams in accordance with their respective philosophies.

8. Hot seat

All it takes is a poor September before mobs start massing with pitchforks in some cities. With rare exceptions like Belichick and Pete Caroll, almost every NFL coach is susceptible to the pink slip with just one disastrous season.

Grace periods could be over for the Chicago Bears’ John Fox, who apparently doesn’t see eye to eye with GM Ryan Pace anyway, and Todd Bowles after a year of turmoil and regression with the New York Jets. After narrowly avoiding a winless season in 2016, Hue Jackson needs to get the Cleveland Browns moving forward, while Jim Caldwell may have to prove he can get the Detroit Lions further than one-and-done status in the playoffs.

And keep an eye on some more established figures, too.

Chuck Pagano is working for a new general manager and hasn’t taken the Indianapolis Colts to postseason since 2014. John Harbaugh is almost an institution in Baltimore, but the Ravens haven’t won a playoff game since their Super Bowl victory more than four years ago. And the Cincinnati Bengals’ Marvin Lewis and New Orleans’ Saints Sean Payton have been in their posts for more than a decade.

9. Change of venue

Two NFL teams will be in new stadiums. As the Chargers migrate from San Diego to Los Angeles, they’ll move into suburban Carson’s StubHub Center for the next two seasons. It’s a facility designed for soccer, and though capacity will be expanded from 27,000 to 30,000 for NFL games, that’s still less than half of what most of the league’s buildings hold. Maybe the Bolts will enjoy an intimate and potentially raucous setting … or maybe it will feel like they’re playing in front of a high school crowd.

The situation is drastically different in Atlanta, where the Falcons will defend their NFC crown in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with its innovative oculus roof, halo video board and 100-yard bar.

10. Contract year

The NFL’s financial landscape is in constant flux. But as things stand now, Kirk Cousins could be the prize of free agency next year — assuming the Washington Redskins don’t franchise him for a third straight year at what would be a financially insane $34-plus million. Jimmy Garoppolo is scheduled to go free, though the Patriots could use the same tag-and-trade approach they utilized with Matt Cassel in 2009. Several other quarterbacks are heading into the final year of their current contracts (Brees, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford).

Other players who might be looking for new deals include Devonta Freeman, Jarvis Landry, Alshon Jeffery, Jimmy Graham and Le’Veon Bell.

11. Comeback trail

Several high-profile running backs could vie for comeback player of the year honors. Adrian Peterson (Saints) and Jamaal Charles (Broncos) hope to prove they can still be effective while learning the ropes for their new teams. The same goes for Marshawn Lynch, though early reports out of Oakland suggest he looks spry after enjoying a year of retirement.

In Tampa Bay, Doug Martin must prove he was worthy of last year’s millions while beginning this season with a three-game suspension. The Rams’ spotty play at quarterback and on the offensive line hurt Todd Gurley last season, but the 2015 offensive rookie of the year also must bear some responsibility for a poor 2016 campaign. Elsewhere, Bell and David Johnson should be ready to roll after being banged up at the end of last season.

On the quarterback front, Luck and Newton will be handled with kid gloves this summer as they recover from shoulder surgeries. Carr and Ryan Tannehill are expected to be fully functional in training camp after late-season injuries left each of their team’s playoff hopes dead on arrival. Mariota is also virtually recovered from a broken leg. The big question is Teddy Bridgewater, whose career remains in limbo after last summer’s devastating knee injury.

Other players to monitor include Gronk (back), J.J. Watt (back), Luke Kuechly (concussion), Keenan Allen (knee) and Martavis Bryant (suspended in 2016).

12. Newcomers

Perhaps no team got a better infusion of talent this offseason than the Jaguars, who lured DL Calais Campbell and CB A.J. Bouye in free agency before drafting Fournette and OL Cam Robinson. WRs DeSean Jackson (Bucs), Terrelle Pryor (Redskins), Brandon Marshall (Giants), Jeffery (Eagles), S Tony Jefferson (Ravens), RB Eddie Lacy (Seahawks), Gilmore (Patriots) and Bennett (Packers) could all be impact free agent finds. Other rookies who seems likely to make early splashes are RBs Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) and Dalvin Cook (Vikings), TEs O.J. Howard (Bucs) and Evan Engram (Giants), WRs Corey Davis (Titans), Mike Williams (Chargers) and John Ross (Bengals), LBs Haason Reddick (Cardinals) and Jarrad Davis (Lions), safeties Jamal Adams (Jets), Malik Hooker (Colts) and Jabrill Peppers (Browns) and pass rushers Myles Garrett (Browns), Solomon Thomas (49ers), Jonathan Allen (Redskins), Charles Harris (Dolphins), T.J. Watt (Steelers), Taco Charlton (Cowboys) and McKinley (Falcons).

13. It’s analytics, baby

Cleveland continues the league’s most fascinating rebuild with an analytics-based approach that’s arguably produced as many dividends as questions thus far.

One year after passing on the chance to take Wentz, the Browns also chose not to pick Deshaun Watson in the first round to shore up their perennial quarterback dilemma, though Kizer’s value with selection No. 52 this year was apparently too good to ignore.

Executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown definitely seemed to obtain prime talent in this year’s first round, picking Garrett, Peppers and TE David Njoku. He’s also wheeled and dealed his way into five selections in the first two rounds next year, though he sacrificed $16 million of precious (we thought) salary cap space in order to eat QB Brock Osweiler’s contract and obtain the Houston Texans’ 2018 second rounder (this after letting Pryor walk).

Stay tuned as the plan continues to unfold … assuming ownership doesn’t run out of patience first.

14. Red flags not a stop sign?

It’s been three years since Ray Rice was thrown out of the NFL for slugging his fiancee in an Atlantic City elevator. However at least five players accused of violence against women just got drafted. The jury — figurative for now — remains out on Raiders first rounder Gareon Conley, accused of rape days before the draft, something he’s denied. The bone-breaking punch Bengals second rounder Joe Mixon threw at a woman in 2014 was captured on video. Jaguars fourth rounder Dede Westbrook and Browns sixth rounder Caleb Brantley have arrests on their records, while Cowboys third rounder Jourdan Lewis is scheduled to go on trial in July for one misdemeanor count of domestic violence. A troubling trend and group of players who bear close watching.

15. Broken records?

Every year, somebody gets the statheads excited.

Before finishing with 1,631 rushing yards (in 15 games), Elliott seemed to have a shot at 2,000 yards as a rookie. That should remain the case going forward — if he’s available all season — as he operates behind the league’s best line for an offense that will likely have to pile up yards and points as it compensates for what’s expected to be a shaky defense.

Brees has surpassed 5,000 passing yards five times — no other quarterback has done it twice — and is always a threat to reclaim his single-season record from Peyton Manning (5,477). (Brees would need an unprecedented 5,830 yards to overtake Manning’s career mark for passing yards — 71,940 — this season.) And keep an eye on Brady, given his bolstered fleet of pass catchers and a relatively unproven group of running backs which could make the team more reliant than ever on its signature short passing game.

Brown, Jones and Beckham seem like the best candidates to become the first 2,000-yard receiver, a once unthinkable plateau which now seems inevitable. If J.J. Watt reclaims his superpowers, might he have a third 20-sack season in the tank — no other player has done that twice — and potentially break his tie with Lawrence Taylor by becoming the first four-time defensive player of the year?

16. Sam Darnold sweepstakes

None of the quarterbacks picked this year was considered a can’t-miss prospect or even necessarily ready to play in 2017. But that probably won’t be the case in the 2018 draft, where the buzz around Southern California’s Sam Darnold is already growing. Fans don’t want to endure a season that “earns” their team the No. 1 overall pick. But supporters of the Jets, Browns and 49ers might wind up rooting for defeats to pile up if Darnold is the consolation prize — assuming the redshirt sophomore doesn’t pull a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck by returning to school for an additional year.

17. TV

The spotlight always shines brightest on quarterbacks, and that will remain the case — literally — for Tony Romo and Jay Cutler as they transition from the field to the broadcast booth. Without an iota of experience, will Romo prove worthy of supplanting longtime CBS lead analyst Phil Simms? And after having his body language and personality parsed for years, will Cutler prove a fit in a three-man booth — not always a smooth set-up by definition — for FOX? Will either be lured back to a locker room despite vows that they’ll never strap on a helmet again? Buckle up, fellas. If there’s anything fans have less patience with than an ineffective quarterback, it may be an ineffective analyst.


Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

2017 NFL record projections: Patriots headed for perfect 16-0 season?

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —-    With NFL training camps opening, all 32 teams have largely taken form for 2017. So before injuries, benchings, firings and (more) suspensions start shaping the season, here’s USA TODAY Sports’ annual prediction of how the season will unfold with record projections for each team based on picking all 256 games, plus a bonus playoff forecast. NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

Dallas Cowboys (11-5): The league should be ready for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott — assuming he isn’t suspended — this time around; that celebrated O-line is breaking in two new starters; and the defense could be a hot mess. Still, there’s no denying this club’s offensive firepower. The Cowboys play four of their five November games at home, a good point to make a move in the standings.
New York Giants (10-6): They open with four of six on the road. Survive that stretch and maybe establish some semblance of a ground game to complement their aerial weapons, and the Giants could contend for the division.
Philadelphia Eagles (9-7): The offensive line is intact, and Carson Wentz has some fancy new weapons. But the defensive front seven better dominate, or else that shaky secondary could be fatally exposed. Back-to-back West Coast games in December hurt.
Washington Redskins (5-11):The questions about Kirk Cousins’ future will be on constant loop. And he may not enjoy the present all that much after losing two 1,000-yard receivers.

Green Bay Packers (12-4): They open against Seattle and at Atlanta and only play at Lambeau twice after Thanksgiving. Still, they should once again be the class of this division.
Minnesota Vikings (9-7): They don’t look significantly different from last year’s edition. The defense should again be special and Sam Bradford steady. Despite some free agent additions, the O-line could still be a weakness, though newcomers Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook should ensure Vikes don’t again own league’s worst rushing attack. Playing five of their first seven at U.S. Bank Stadium should set the tone.
Chicago Bears (5-11): None of their first six opponents finished below .500 in 2016 — quite a stern test for a club coming off a franchise record-tying 13 losses and breaking in at least one new quarterback.
Detroit Lions (5-11): It just feels like they lived on the edge way too often in 2016, and smoke and mirrors may not be enough against this year’s lineup. However if DE Ziggy Ansah rebounds, and RB Ameer Abdullah finally gets going, cynicism could turn to optimism.

Atlanta Falcons (12-4): They may have the most loaded roster in the league and should get a boost opening their new stadium. The big questions about the NFC champs are the dreaded Super Bowl hangover — and the Falcons went on an unprecedented bender — the loss of OC Kyle Shanahan and a midseason stretch of four road games in five weeks that includes trips to New England and Seattle.

NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6): They seem poised to make their first playoff appearance in a decade after diversifying a lopsided offense with WR DeSean Jackson and rookie TE O.J. Howard. RB Doug Martin is apparently recharged, too, though he remains suspended for three games. They’ll see Falcons twice and Packers once during Weeks 12-15.
New Orleans Saints (8-8): Same old Saints? Adding Adrian Peterson to the backfield provides great intrigue, yet this team still looks like it will be in a shootout every week. And will it survive the first month? The Saints open with three of four on the road, including a game in London, and their only Superdome game in that stretch is a visit from former WR Brandin Cooks and the Patriots.
Carolina Panthers (7-9): Cam Newton has a surgically rebuilt arm and must settle into a surgically rebuilt offense that could be a real departure from what typically made Carolina successful before last year’s disaster. October looks rough with just one of five games in Charlotte, and that’s a tough Thursday nighter against Philly.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5): They’re still the divisional front runners, especially with Russell Wilson and Earl Thomas healthy again. But a tough non-divisional road schedule (Packers, Titans, Giants, Cowboys) — and even a 1 p.m. ET start in Jacksonville — could make it awfully tough to earn an extended stay at CenturyLink Field in January.
Arizona Cardinals (10-6): They’ve got a special, special player in David Johnson. But will Carson Palmer and Tyrann Mathieu max out their abilities again? And how long can Larry Fitzgerald (league-high 107 catches), who will be 34 next month, handle such a heavy workload? (NOTE: In our projection, the Cardinals failed to earn a wild card based on a worse conference record than the Giants or Buccaneers.)
Los Angeles Rams (4-12): They’re a young team undergoing significant resets on both sides of the ball. And after opening with two winnable games (Colts, Redskins) at home, the Rams play five of the next six away from the L.A. Coliseum, including a “home” game in London bracketed by East Coast games in Jacksonville and New York.
San Francisco 49ers (2-14): Even if the records match, they should be a better team than Chip Kelly’s 2-14 club from 2016. But the talent base is largely deficient and so is the players’ familiarity with what new coaches want them to do on either side of the ball.

New England Patriots (16-0): Is it bold? Sure. Kinda. But it’s not like Tom Brady hasn’t gone 16-0 before … (and, really, wouldn’t he and Bill Belichick secretly love to add 19-0 to their otherwise incomparable resumes?). And from the FWIW department, Brady went 14-1 last season and appears to be surrounded by an even better cast now, especially if Rob Gronkowski is, in fact, back to 100%. The division should be a cakewalk, and even one of New England’s toughest road games — against the Raiders — will be at a neutral site (Mexico City). The most difficult stretch comes from Weeks 13-15, when the Pats play at Buffalo, at Miami (where they typically struggle) and at Pittsburgh coming off a short week Dec. 17.

NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

Miami Dolphins (7-9): Coming off a playoff campaign in coach Adam Gase’s rookie season, much obviously rides on the health and continued development of Ryan Tannehill. The schedule isn’t all that friendly, with trips to the West Coast, London, a road date with Baltimore on a Thursday and December trips to Buffalo and Kansas City.
Buffalo Bills (4-12): New regime. New schemes. Tough schedule against the NFC South and AFC West.
New York Jets (1-15): Some Jets fans would tell you this is a glass half-full assessment. The first two games are on the road and so are three of the last four.

Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): With the exception of an October foray to Kansas City, which concludes an opening stretch of four of six on the road, Pittsburgh’s most challenging non-divisional games will occur at Heinz Field.
Baltimore Ravens (9-7): Maybe a little heat on John Harbaugh after missing postseason three of the past four years. Tough break hosting the Steelers on Oct. 1 just seven days after playing in London. (NOTE: In our projection, the Ravens were seeded ahead of the Chargers due to a superior record in common games played.)
Cincinnati Bengals (5-11): The offensive line’s outlook is troubling, to say the least, especially with three consecutive road games against stout defensive teams (Jacksonville, Tennesee, Denver) in November. And will Marvin Lewis’ lame duck status only ratchet up the pressure on a team that tends to underachieve when it counts most?
Cleveland Browns (4-12): Even if they only improve by three games in the win column — not insignificant — expect this outfit to be far more competitive as its nucleus of talent continues to coalesce.

Tennessee Titans (12-4): Only a tiebreaker (for a woeful 2-4 division record) kept this rising club out of postseason last year. As long as Marcus Mariota remains on the field, the Titans might not only turn the corner but roar around it. They will hit a rough patch from Weeks 11-15, with a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh and consecutive games on the West Coast as part of a stretch when they play four of five away from Nashville.
Houston Texans (8-8): We know, Bill O’Brien has never failed to go 9-7 in any of his three seasons. But when your team’s top two quarterbacks have two combined NFL starts, it’s easy to foresee a season that serves as one step back before two steps forward occur in 2018.
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8): Everything looks to be in place — a potentially dominant defense, upgraded O-line and (most exciting for Jags fans) rookie RB Leonard Fournette — to restore this franchise to relevance … if Blake Bortles can get back on track. The team will make its annual pilgrimage for a London “home” date in Week 3, immediately followed by two more road trips. If the Jags weather that, maybe they can make a run in December, which begins with three straight at EverBank Field.
Indianapolis Colts (5-11): How healthy, really, is Andrew Luck coming off major shoulder surgery? How much protection can he realistically expect from what’s been a suspect line, not to mention a running back (Frank Gore) who just turned 34? And that defense … oy vey. Making two West Coast trips in the first month to face rude defenses (Rams, Seahawks) could be telling.

Oakland Raiders (11-5): They open the season with three of four on the road and play their final two games away from Oakland, including the season’s final Monday night affair on the East Coast (Philadelphia). In between, they’ll play three consecutive homes games on two separate occasions, but one of those will occur against the Patriots in Mexico City — not exactly The Black Hole.
Los Angeles Chargers (9-7): Plenty to overcome, most notably adaptation to a new city and the smallest venue in the league (the StubHub Center will host its first NFL games in Weeks 2-4). Then there are personnel changes coming to the offensive line and a major schematic overhaul defensively. Still, the Bolts have done a nice job restocking their talent pool, especially on defense, and have the juice to be L.A.’s first playoff club since the 1993 Raiders.
Kansas City Chiefs (8-8): Of their five non-divisional road opponents, four were playoff teams last year (Patriots, Texans, Cowboys, Giants) … as if their AFC West battles didn’t present challenge enough. But if the Chiefs can hold it together until December, playing at Arrowhead from Weeks 14-16 could give them a decisive edge.
Denver Broncos (7-9): They’ve got major questions at quarterback … and running back … and on both lines. Also, a schedule frontloaded with home games and a Week 5 bye means the Broncos won’t be in Denver for seven of the final 11 weeks.

NFL betting odds for the 2017 season

AFC playoffs
Wild card:
(6) Chargers def. (3) Titans; (4) Raiders def. (5) Ravens

Divisional: (4) Raiders def. (2) Steelers; (1) Patriots def. (6) Chargers

AFC Championship Game: (1) Patriots def. (4) Raiders

NFC playoffs
Wild card:
(6) Giants def. (3) Cowboys; (4) Seahawks def. (5) Buccaneers

Divisional: (2) Packers def. (4) Seahawks; (1) Falcons def. (6) Giants

NFC Championship Game: (2) Packers def. (1) Falcons

Super Bowl LII: Patriots def. Packers


Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

Report: NFL requests collaboration with players’ union to study marijuana in pain treatment

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(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)    —-   The NFL wrote the NFL Players Association a letter requesting collaboration in studying marijuana use for players’ pain management, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Marijuana, in any capacity, is banned from the league. NFL players currently are tested for the drug and face potential discipline, including suspensions, for positive tests. The league and union both agreed in 2014 to modifications that softened the drug policy regarding marijuana.

The NFL’s letter to the NFLPA outlined key areas for potential research, including pain management for both acute and chronic conditions. The NFLPA has previously indicated that it’s already conducting its own research and has not yet responded to the league’s offer.

“We look forward to working with the Players Association on all issues involving the health and safety of our players,” Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, told The Post in a statement.

The union separately formed a pain management committee to study marijuana as a pain management tool for players, among other things. The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and union runs through 2020, meaning the union could be working on a less punitive marijuana proposal as part of negotiations for the next CBA.


SEATTLE (AP) — For more than a decade, the Pro Football Hall of Fame wasn’t a consideration for Kenny Easley.

He was interested in anything regarding football.

“I didn’t watch an NFL football game, college football game, high school football game, for 15 years basically,” Easley said. “I didn’t watch a football game until the night that I was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor. (That) was the first football game I had watched in 15 years.”

The day that Easley reconciled with the Seahawks happened in 2002 and began another lengthy quest that finally landed the hard-hitting All-Pro safety a spot in the Hall of Fame. Easley will be the fourth Seattle Seahawks player inducted, going into Canton on Saturday as this year’s senior candidate after never being in serious consideration during his time as a modern-day contender. Easley will join Steve Largent, Walter Jones and Cortez Kennedy.

Thirty years after Easley walked away from football due to health issues that were the source of his disillusionment with the game, he is embracing the recognition he is finally receiving. He even dreamt of the induction the night before he found out he was bound for Canton.

“The dream was so vivid that it was almost like I was already in the Hall of Fame and it was just a formality for the knock to come at the door. … It’s a great honor and that dream just sort of made it feel like it was meant to be,” Easley recalled.

Easley’s disenchantment from football has many parts. He had an ugly divorce from the Seahawks after the 1987 season, in part because of a kidney ailment that shortened his NFL career. He was traded to the Cardinals and failed his physical. He would never play another down and believes the large doses of painkillers he took as a player led to his kidney issues. Easley believed the Seahawks knew of the kidney condition and didn’t disclose it to him.

He also believed his involvement in the players’ strike in 1987 helped lead to his departure.

It wasn’t until 2002, then with Paul Allen as the owner in Seattle, that Easley began to soften his stance toward the Seahawks and was open to being welcomed back by the franchise. About the time Easley reconciled with the team, a case was starting to be made that Easley deserved consideration for the Hall of Fame. It was pointed out to Easley that he was the only defensive player on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980s not inducted into Canton. He was the 1984 Defensive Player of the Year and an All-Pro three times. He picked up strong support from influential voices, perhaps none stronger than Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.

“Ronnie Lott has been talking about Kenny Easley going into the Hall of Fame since the day I retired,” Easley said. “He kept the drum beat going, and the remarkable thing about that is he didn’t have to. He was in the Hall of Fame, had a brilliant career and he didn’t have to say anything about Kenny Easley. Every time somebody would ask him or he had an opportunity to say it, he would say that Kenny Easley needed to be in the Hall of Fame. Ronnie Lott is one of the most remarkable human beings that I’ve ever associated with.”

It was a relationship based out of respect and admiration. Lott and Easley rarely played against each other in the NFL; Easley was retired by the time Lott joined the Raiders and became a twice-yearly opponent of the Seahawks, then in the AFC West. But they had a mutual appreciation for the way each played dating back to college when Lott was a star at USC and Easley was a standout across Los Angeles at UCLA.

“Going back to my freshman year, whether it was on TV in college or whether it was on TV in pros, I loved watching Kenny play,” Lott said. “I just loved the way he played the game. I loved his enthusiasm for the game. I loved his character of when he made a mistake. … It was more than watching Kenny just make hits. It was more than just watching him go out and making a tackle. What I’ve watched was the emotion and the behaviors of Kenny and the intellect of Kenny.”

Along with the kidney problems that shortened his NFL career, Easley had heart surgery last year just before finding out he was the senior committee nominee. That latest health scare made receiving the news in Houston at the Super Bowl that he was entering the Hall of Fame even more special .

“I have a lot of admiration for his pursuit of life and his resolve of not surrendering to anything,” Lott said. “I know that he’s gone through a lot to be able to stand on that stage. A lot. Way more than I ever thought about going through. And so yeah, I can’t wait.”


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NFL: Chiefs owner Clark Hunt says he’d have ‘no hesitation’ in signing Colin Kaepernick

(PhatzRadio Sports / AP)   —-   Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said he would have “no hesitation” in signing embattled quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has yet to sign with a team following a season in which he kneeled during national anthems to advocate against police brutality and racial injustice.

Ironically, Chiefs starter Alex Smith had his job taken away by Kaepernick while in San Francisco. Hunt was asked during an NBC Sports radio interview if he’d have an issue signing the former 49ers QB.

“You know, I really wouldn’t,” Hunt said of signing Kaepernick — albeit without an actual roster opening. “Obviously, we have an interesting dynamic in regards to Colin in that we have Alex Smith as our starter. Because of that, I wouldn’t anticipate that Andy (Reid) would come to me with that.

“But, generally, I’m not going to tell our head coach or our GM not to bring in a player if they think that player can bring us some success on the field and make us better. Now there are certain circumstances where guys get in trouble off the field, and that is something as an organization and as a family we care about.

“We’re not going to bring those types of players in. In terms of a player like Colin, I would have no hesitation bringing him into the organization.”

New York Giants owner John Mara previously said that Giants fans had written him letters asking the organization not to sign the free-agent quarterback.



COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have acquired quarterback Cardale Jones from the Buffalo Bills in exchange for an undisclosed conditional draft pick.

The clubs announced the trade Wednesday, four days before the Chargers’ first full practice of training camp.

The 6-foot-5 Jones led Ohio State to a national title during the 2014 season. After one more year with the Buckeyes, he was a fourth-round pick by Buffalo in 2016.

Jones was a project for the Bills, where Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn spent last season as running backs coach before his promotion to offensive coordinator. Jones was inactive for 15 games in Buffalo before throwing 11 passes in the fourth quarter of the season finale.

His future in Buffalo was in question after the Bills drafted Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman in the fifth round last April.

The Chargers are looking for a mobile, athletic third-string quarterback behind Philip Rivers and Kellen Clemens, who has been Rivers’ backup for three seasons. Undrafted quarterbacks Mike Bercovici and Eli Jenkins also are on the roster.

Robert Griffin III worked out for the Chargers on Tuesday, but wasn’t signed.

Rivers is a six-time Pro Bowler who has started 185 consecutive games.


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets claimed wide receiver-kick returner Lucky Whitehead on Wednesday, two days after the Cowboys cut him following a shoplifting charge in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.

A man used Whitehead’s identity to steal $40 worth of food and drink from a Virginia convenience store in June. Dallas released him Monday after reports that Whitehead was arrested and subsequently cited for missing a court hearing.

The Jets, desperate for help at receiver, claimed the three-year veteran and waived receiver Devin Street.

Whitehead appeared in 30 games the past two seasons with the Cowboys. He averaged 25.6 yards on 33 kick returns and 6.9 yards on 44 punt returns, and had nine receptions as a reserve receiver.

When the charges against Whitehead were announced, his agent, Dave Rich, contended that his client wasn’t in Virginia at the time of the reported arrest. Police subsequently said they are seeking the person who used the identity of Rodney Darnell Whitehead Jr., the receiver’s given name.

Whitehead could file a grievance with the players’ union about his release.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett said Whitehead’s release was an accumulation of events, although Garrett acknowledged Monday that the decision came after the club did more work gathering information.

During his second season in 2016, Whitehead was left at home for a December game at the New York Giants after missing a Saturday walkthrough. He also was involved in a car accident that Garrett found out about through media reports.


NFL Power Rankings: Who’s solid when camps open?

1 New England
0-0 It’s hard to recall another defending champion in recent history that did more to distance itself from the competition. More than ever, this season might be the Patriots vs. the world.
2 Atlanta
0-0 The knives will be out for new coordinator Steve Sarkisian if the offense stumbles. But it’s hard to find a vulnerability, especially if the young defense continues to rise.
3 Pittsburgh
0-0 Le’Veon Bell didn’t reach a long-term deal before the deadline, leaving his training camp status uncertain. As long as he’s healthy in the fall and winter, Pittsburgh’s attack remains one of the league’s most dangerous.
4 Green Bay
0-0 Aaron Rodgers delivered on his “run the table” remark, but expecting a repeat is unreasonable. The two-time MVP needs help, especially from an unreliable running game and consistently subpar secondary.
5 Seattle
0-0 Another year, another gamble along the underdeveloped offense line. Russell Wilson will have to work his magic, while Eddie Lacy must find his footing in the rushing attack.
6 Dallas
0-0 It’s been a bumpy summer in Dallas, as a potential suspension for Ezekiel Elliott still hangs over the team. Even if Dak Prescott’s ascension continues, multiple unknowns on defense are cause for concern.
7 Oakland
0-0 Derek Carr landed the five-year extension that, at least for the time, makes him the NFL’s highest-paid player. Once the season starts, however, Marshawn Lynch may seize the spotlight in Oakland.
8 Tennessee
0-0 Tennessee won’t sneak up on anyone in 2017. With an improved receiving corps and Marcus Mariota back in action, the Titans have all the pieces in place to seize the AFC South crown.
9 Kansas City
0-0 Expecting Tyreek Hill to hold down the No. 1 WR job might be a leap after he averaged just 9.7 yards per catch as a rookie. Watch out for third-round rookie RB Kareem Hunt, who could jolt the running game.
10 New York
0-0 Will Ben McAdoo’s offense take hold this year? Deficiencies at running back and along the offensive line could derail the attack again, but Eli Manning’s receiving corps might afford him ample leeway.
11 Miami
0-0 Miami’s coaching staff has raved about many of its young offensive talents, including WR DeVante Parker and RB Jay Ajayi. Success in this division, however, will be measured by the ability to challenge the Patriots.
12 Tampa Bay
0-0 Between encouraging additions to their receiving corps and their impending showcase on “Hard Knocks,” the Bucs look ready for their star turn. A steady output from the defense will be needed to meet heightened expectations.
13 Denver
0-0 Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch clash for the training camp QB battle with the highest stakes. Offensive improvement will need to be multi-layered, though, as the line and running game still have to make great strides.
14 Arizona
0-0 Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are back for another go-around, but it’s clear the Cardinals’ core is racing against time. David Johnson will have to do much of the heavy lifting to keep Arizona in contention.
15 Baltimore
0-0 Jeremy Maclin’s eleventh-hour arrival invigorates a previously languid receiving corps. Offseason investments indicate that the defense will be expected to set the tone.
16 Houston
0-0 The Deshaun Watson-as-starter question appears to be a matter of when rather than if. Duplicating the top-ranked defense, which returns J.J. Watt, will be paramount to holding onto the AFC South.
17 Carolina
0-0 Firing Dave Gettleman as GM eight days before training camp makes for a rough transition into a new season. Yet the season may hinge on an all-too-familiar theme: protecting Cam Newton.
18 Minnesota
0-0 Injuries washed out the early promise Minnesota showed in 2016, but the Vikings now looks to be on solid ground. Establishing a post-Adrian Peterson formula could still take time, but the defense remains imposing.
19 Washington
0-0 Few other teams could liven up an otherwise quiet July the way Washington did with its approach to Kirk Cousins, who enters the season on his second consecutive franchise tag. Regardless of how this year pans out, 2018 will hang over the entire campaign.
20 Los Angeles
0-0 This year’s top worst-to-first candidate? Tough sledding in the AFC West, but a healthy offense could provide fireworks for Year 1 in Los Angeles.
21 Detroit
0-0 No playoff team from 2016 faces as much doubt as Detroit, which rode into the postseason on a magical run of fourth-quarter comebacks. Losing OT Taylor Decker for the early part of the season could be a stumbling block for the offense.
22 Philadelphia
0-0 Carson Wentz was playing with house money as a rookie, but he won’t be afforded as many excuses this year given his upgraded receiving corps and added experience. He’ll have to take a significant step forward for Philadelphia to keep pace in the NFC East.
23 New Orleans
0-0 Drew Brees appears ready to ride into the last year of his contract with little certainty. The burden remains the same, however, as Sean Payton’s group will have to win its share of shootouts to avoid its fourth straight losing season.
24 Indianapolis
0-0 Anxiety in Indianapolis might be running high given that Andrew Luck is starting training camp on the PUP list. With a supporting cast still under construction, the Colts remain one of the league’s most QB-reliant outfits.
25 Jacksonville
0-0 Jacksonville checked a few boxes this offseason by bolstering its already stout defense and adding RB Leonard Fournette as a potential centerpiece. Those moves may be for naught, though, if Blake Bortles can’t find his equilibrium.
26 Cincinnati
0-0 Marvin Lewis enters the final year of his contract with little certainty after Cincinnati’s disappointing 6-9-1 campaign. Significant losses along the offensive line could prove daunting for Andy Dalton.
27 Buffalo
0-0 Pairing coach Sean McDermott with his old Carolina cohort in new GM Brandon Beane gives Buffalo a unified approach for its rebuild. There may be some growing pains in Year 1 of the regime change.
28 Los Angeles
0-0 All eyes will be on Jared Goff’s development as Sean McVay, the NFL’s youngest head coach ever, takes over. But Wade Phillips’ impact on the defense and DT Aaron Donald also bears watching.
29 Chicago
0-0 Mike Glennon has the reins for now, but No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky looms as the future at QB. Will John Fox still be Chicago’s coach when the transition takes place?
30 Cleveland
0-0 A formidable offensive line should help Hue Jackson move on from last year’s 1-15 debacle. Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer all offer different paths in the QB competition.
31 San Francisco
0-0 Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch bring some long-term certainty to a franchise that has been a revolving door in recent years. Their vision, however, likely won’t truly begin to take shape until next offseason.
32 New York
0-0 It’s always a troubling sign when tanking talk emerges before training camp has commenced. The quarterback battle might be the lone reason to watch Gang Green until the 2018 NFL draft order begins to take shape.


Ranking NFL rosters by team: Why the Patriots didn’t finish No. 1

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    NFL rosters are essentially set until training camps open later this month. In the meantime, USA TODAY Sports has analyzed each team’s depth chart and has rated units throughout the league. Based on those results, here’s an assessment of the overall strength of all 32 clubs from the talent perspective of their 53-man rosters. (Number in parentheses indicates average based on rankings of special teams, secondaries, linebackers, defensive/offensive lines, pass catchers, running backs and quarterbacks):

1. Atlanta Falcons (6.8): They faltered in the Super Bowl by the slimmest of margins but prevail here by a narrow edge. One of the most explosive offenses in NFL history returns virtually intact, complete with MVP Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones, maybe the most physically dominant player in the game. A youthful, improving defense that cracked in the second half of the Super Bowl gets CB Desmond Trufant and DE Adrian Clayborn back from injury, added DL Dontari Poe and Jack Crawford in free agency and landed pass rusher Takk McKinley in the first round. Sure seems more formidable than the group that lasted into overtime of Super Bowl LI.

2. New England Patriots (8.1): No, Patriots fans, we’re not saying the champs are worse than Atlanta. This roster evaluation doesn’t factor in the brilliance of coach Bill Belichick and his staff, nor does it give added weight to the quarterback position, where Tom Brady is the ultimate trump card. But when comparing New England’s depth chart to the Falcons’, most areas are reasonably close with one glaring exception — running back, where the NFC champs are considerably stronger with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman than the Pats, who let workhourse LeGarrette Blount walk and will now rely on a less proven committee.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (10.1): They continue to feature the best offensive triple threat (QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown) in the business, augmented by a nice line and WR Martavis Bryant, back from suspension. A defense that needs more from its young players remains the big unknown.

4. Seattle Seahawks (10.9): Fully healthy, they’ve still got the best D on the planet, and it’s probably not all that close. But settling on Blair Walsh at kicker — Fore! — and hoping what may again be the NFL’s worst O-line could be Seattle’s undoing.

5. Tennessee Titans (11.3): This probably seems high. But this club is young, talented and lurking below the surface. It boasts perhaps the game’s best group of blockers, ascendant QB Marcus Mariota, a very good run game and solid defense. Their only weakness may be inexperience.

6. Oakland Raiders (11.6): They might be a juggernaut … if they didn’t have to play defense. Oakland has enough talent to be the prohibitive favorite in the AFC West, but DE Khalil Mack is going to need help, especially up the middle, to keep this club out of constant shootouts.

7. Dallas Cowboys (12.9): The NFC’s version of the Raiders. QB Dak Prescott must also show he isn’t susceptible to a sophomore slump as expectations of him expand along with the catalog of game film opponents have to study.

8. Los Angeles Chargers (13.8): An O-line in transition and special teams loom as stumbling blocks. But if you hadn’t noticed, veteran QB Philip Rivers is surrounded with excellent young talent on both sides of the ball. Especially noteworthy is a loaded D-line featuring Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edges.

9. Green Packers (14.0): This is largely the same team that reached the NFC title game last season, and new TE Martellus Bennett could make the passing game even more deadly. But it remains to be seen if the defense can stop anyone, or if Ty Montgomery and Co. are ready to mount a consistent presence on the ground.

10. Carolina Panthers (14.4): If QB Cam Newton and MLB Luke Kuechly revert to the players they were in 2015, this team can again challenge for a Lombardi Trophy. But a resurgence from Newton will require better protection and a relatively seamless integration of rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel into what promises to be a heavily revised playbook.

11. Kansas City Chiefs (14.5): The defending AFC West champs could keep their crown if OLB Justin Houston stays healthy and dynamic Tyreek Hill proves he can handle the primary role for a wideout corps that is otherwise limited. Depth could also be an issue in the secondary behind S Eric Berry and CB Marcus Peters.

12. Philadelphia Eagles (15.1): The skill players around second-year QB Carson Wentz appear significantly upgraded, even if the group is probably fairly average from an overall perspective. A decent group of linebackers plays behind an awesome line and in front of a woeful group of DBs, S Malcolm Jenkins notwithstanding.

13. Arizona Cardinals (15.5): RB David Johnson and an exciting group of linebackers represent the strong points. QB Carson Palmer, WR John Brown and DB Tyrann Mathieu are among players trying to recapture the magic of 2015.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (15.8): Seems a little high for a team coming off a 3-13 season? Perhaps. But don’t forget, the defense ranked sixth last year, added DL Calais Campbell, CB A.J. Bouye and S Barry Church and should get more from second-year MLB Myles Jack. Talented rookie RB Leonard Fournette is expected to reboot the offense.

15. New Orleans Saints (16.0): Pretty much what we’ve come to expect since Sean Payton and Drew Brees came to The Big Easy in 2006 — a main line offense and a defense that looks like it lost a battle with Bourbon Street.

16. New York Giants (16.1): This team could be a microcosm of QB Eli Manning — wildly uneven. The secondary, D-line and receivers are all elite or at least borderline. But the linebackers, special teams and running back situations leave this team looking quite lopsided.

17. Miami Dolphins (16.3): They’re probably the best bet to challenge New England in the AFC East, but a lot rides on QB Ryan Tannehill’s continued growth and an offense that could have significant upside in Year 2 under coach Adam Gase.

18. Minnesota Vikings (16.9): Ultimately, they’re probably going to largely resemble the 2016 edition — meaning a potentially suffocating defense still may not be able to carry an offense that’s likely going to struggle to get adequate line play.

19. Los Angeles Rams (17.1): The playbook will be new under coach Sean McVay. But the reliance on RB Todd Gurley, a capable defense and perhaps the league’s best special teams remains.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17.4): There’s talk of the Bucs ending a decade-long playoff absence. It could happen, but the Jameis Winston-led passing game may have to assume an inordinate burden to achieve team success.

T21. Houston Texans (17.6): Yes, DE J.J. Watt is back. But he and last year’s No. 1 defense may again find themselves leading a charge way in front of the offense — unless QBs Tom Savage and/or Deshaun Watson perform better than most outsiders anticipate.

T21. Washington Redskins (17.6): Can the defense keep up with a poor line, and can QB Kirk Cousins keep the offense rolling even after losing a pair of 1,000-yard receivers?

T23. Baltimore Ravens (17.8): Maybe the signings of WR Jeremy Maclin, RB Danny Woodhead and S Tony Jefferson will bolster a team that was too dependent on K Justin Tucker. Then again, maybe not.

T23. Denver Broncos (17.8): They’ve got exceptional defensive backs and linebackers and a pair of stud wideouts. But plenty is up in the air for a club 18 months removed from a championship.

25. Detroit Lions (18.8): Eight of their nine wins in 2017 had a margin of a touchdown or fewer. That’s not much wiggle room for a team that relied so heavily on QB Matthew Stafford to pull victories out of the fire.

26. Cincinnati Bengals (19.6): They’ve got some nice players on both sides of the ball. But health of some key ones, lack of depth in some areas and an offensive line that could be a dominant red flag may be too much to overcome.

27. Buffalo Bills (20.8): They’re in the midst of organizational and schematic overhauls and also watched their depth at the offensive skill positions raided in free agency along with No. 1 CB Stephon Gilmore.

28. Chicago Bears (21.5): After matching a franchise low with 13 defeats in 2016, this squad could be on the road back. The Jordan Howard-led run game will probably have to carry the offense whether Mike Glennon or rookie Mitchell Trubisky is under center.

29. Indianapolis Colts (22.4): The defense is in the midst of a near-total rebuild. And the offense may be in no position to cover for it if Frank Gore suddenly begins to play like a 34-year-old running back and/or if QB Andrew Luck’s surgically repaired shoulder doesn’t hold up behind a sometimes spotty line.

30. Cleveland Browns (23.8): They were fortunate to avoid an 0-16 record last season. That shouldn’t be a concern any longer as the core talent continues to improve —especially on the offensive line, where LT Joe Thomas will now be working with some quality veteran help.

31. New York Jets (27.5): These guys could be a legitimate threat to go winless, especially after jettisoning more veteran talent this spring. The offense could be particularly futile unless RBs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell produce valiantly.

32. San Francisco 49ers (28.6): New front office, new coaches preaching far different philosophies than their predecessors and quite a few new players trying to make sense of it all. The defensive front could be special if it quickly takes to the club’s new scheme.


Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

Ranking NFL quarterbacks by team: Patriots reign, but not just because of Tom Brady

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NFL rosters are essentially set until training camps open later this month. In the meantime, USA TODAY Sports has analyzed each team’s depth chart and is ranking units throughout the league before providing an overall hierarchy of talent.

Today’s positional group: Quarterbacks

1. New England Patriots: Go ahead — ding Tom Brady for his unspectacular arm strength, subpar athleticism or say he’s profited from unprecedented coaching continuity and brilliance. But does a tenable argument that he’s not the best in the business right now — and forevermore — honestly remain? Don’t kid yourself. And after he played meaningful snaps effectively in 2016, Jimmy Garoppolo’s presence makes any notion that another team has a better QB situation virtually indefensible.

2. Green Bay Packers: When it comes to pure arm talent, atomic clock accuracy, the ability to leverage mobility in or out of the pocket and execute at crunch time, is anyone better than two-time MVP and Hail Mary maestro Aaron Rodgers? He probably needs more rings to cement himself on the quarterbacking Mount Rushmore, but it can be argued no more physically talented passer has played the position. Watch Brett Hundley in preseason — he might be the kind talent the Packers can spin off for a high draft pick down the road.

3. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan was dialed in from start to finish in 2016 — at least until the fourth quarter of that last game anyway. Still, the league MVP had one of the finest individual seasons of any quarterback in league history, taking a meteoric jump in his ninth year. The question now, was it an aberration, or can he keep it up?

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: Everything appears to be in place for Ben Roethlisberger to put together an MVP season … assuming he doesn’t miss four games with … something. Landry Jones is the backup, but rookie Josh Dobbs could push him.

5. Seattle Seahawks: Statistically, 2016 was Russell Wilson’s worst year, largely because he was fighting knee and ankle issues that limited his mobility behind a line that got him sacked 41 times. Still, for a guy who wasn’t highly regarded entering the NFL five years ago, he’s blossomed into one of its best passers. Wilson has a great arm, uses surreal escapability to sidestep rushers and extend plays rather than bail out of them, always keeps his eyes downfield and rarely makes a killer mistake.

6. Oakland Raiders: Derek Carr’s steady, incremental improvement culminated last year with an MVP-caliber season highlighted by 28 TD passes against just six INTs. Now that he’s averaging $25 million annually, that upward arc needs to continue.

7. New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees has thrown for 5,000 yards five times. The rest of the world has done it four times, and no one else has managed it twice. And even at 38, he shows little sign of slowing. Sure, the offense and playing indoors have helped him pile up huge numbers. But don’t discredit Brees’ body of work — it doesn’t exist without his moxie, brilliance and precision, all despite a steady churn of players around him.

8. Indianapolis Colts: You’ve got to love Andrew Luck’s ability to play through pain and willingness to only blame himself when things don’t go well. He sure played awfully well in 2016 despite a lackluster supporting cast and his sub-optimal shoulder situation.

9. Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford’s finest showing unexpectedly coincided with Calvin Johnson’s retirement. Now he’s added the ability to consistently come through for his team in the clutch, putting that rocket arm and all of those unbelievable off-platform throws to good use.

10. Los Angeles Chargers: Yes, it’d be nice if Philip Rivers would cut down on the picks. But how often have poor defense, an inability to run or shoddy blocking forced him into the unenviable position of trying to single-handedly snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? But the team seems improved, so maybe Rivers’ window to win an elusive championship will be open a few years more.

11. Carolina Panthers: Maybe Cam Newton won’t approach his magical 2015 MVP season again. But he’s not remotely as ineffective as he was a year ago. A retooled offense could prolong his career if he adapts to more short passing plays and doesn’t have to endure so many long-developing varieties or expose himself as much on read options.

12. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota is cool, collected, athletic and efficient. Consider that he has 94 career passes in the red zone and has produced 33 TDs and zero INTs.

13. Dallas Cowboys: Comparing Dak Prescott, who set rookie records for completion percentage (67.8%) and QB rating (104.9), to Russell Wilson seems fair on a number of levels given his talent, temperament and expectations he faces. But there’s a major difference: Prescott doesn’t have the backing of a suffocating defense. That means he’ll probably need to exert even more influence over the offense if the Cowboys are really going to challenge for a crown.

14. New York Giants: If not for his family lineage and those two titles, Eli Manning would probably reside in the Joe Flacco bucket — good, not great.

15. Washington Redskins: It makes no sense why the Redskins have almost certainly forced themselves into imminently replacing Kirk Cousins, who’s on the cusp of entering his prime after two stellar seasons as a starter.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston must curtail the mistakes (33 INTs in two seasons). But the tools, passion and fearlessness should have Bucs fans very excited about the (immediate) future.

17. Kansas City Chiefs: They don’t come more even-keeled than Alex Smith. But as admirable and efficient as he is, he’s 2-4 in the playoffs. He may only have this job for as long as it takes freakish first rounder Patrick Mahomes to grasp his NFL playbook.

18. Arizona Cardinals: After a career year in 2015, Carson Palmer regressed to the mean. He’ll turn 38 this year, and his best hope is probably that RB David Johnson becomes the offensive engine with the passing game taking a back seat.

19. Miami Dolphins: Before injuring his knee late last season, Ryan Tannehill was on the way to his best year — which is what typically happens for passers coached by Adam Gase. Matt Moore is one of the league’s top backups.

20. Philadelphia Eagles: The franchise remains smitten with Carson Wentz, whose mostly encouraging rookie season probably deserves more acclaim given the issues on the offensive line and lack of play makers he had at his disposal.

21. Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco will never be elite. But he’s tough, can’t be rattled and is undeniably capable of taking a team all the way.

22. Cincinnati Bengals: Pick Andy Dalton apart if you want. Far better chance the offensive line or defense submarines this team than the usually reliable “Red Rifle.” Don’t be surprised if someone pays a significant amount to make AJ McCarron their starter in 2018.

23. Minnesota Vikings: Sam Bradford was under siege last year, so he can be forgiven for dinking and dunking his way to a record 71.6% completion rate. He deserves more credit than he gets. If Teddy Bridgewater can get back onto the field, the Vikes will have a valuable commodity to shop.

24. Buffalo Bills: Tyrod Taylor throws a nice deep ball, doesn’t turn it over and is excellent outside the pocket. Still, the Bills want to see a little more before committing fully and have two fairly intriguing prospects (Nathan Peterman, Cardale Jones) in the bullpen.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Blake Bortles seemed to take two steps back after tossing 35 TDs in 2015. He’s worked on his throwing motion, while the Jags have surrounded him with better linemen plus first-round RB Leonard Fournette. Bortles almost certainly won’t be a Jag in 2018 if he flops again.

26. Denver Broncos: Each making the first starts of their pro careers in 2016, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch both predictably flashed good and bad. The job remains up for grabs, and it sounds as if the new offense might better suit Lynch.

27. Chicago Bears: Whether they go with Mike Glennon or fan-not-so-favorite rookie Mitchell Trubisky, there’s a reasonable chance for decent results if the pass protection doesn’t get those guys killed like it did Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Connor Shaw in 2016.

28. Houston Texans: They’re standing firm behind nominal starter Tom Savage. But when you trade up to get a guy in the first round — especially one as promising as Deshaun Watson — it’s only a matter of time before Savage goes back to the bench.

29. Los Angeles Rams: Several metrics would suggest Jared Goff was the league’s worst quarterback in 2016 — not what the Rams were hoping for after paying a king’s ransom to draft him No. 1 overall. But let’s let Sean McVay, part of Kirk Cousins’ development in Washington, get his hands on Goff, 22, before we bury the kid. But if he falters, Sean Mannion might step in and surprise.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Yes, Brian Hoyer has his limitations. And, yes, he’s almost certainly no more than a placeholder. But over the last two seasons, Hoyer has 25 TDs vs. seven INTs. In 2014, he was 7-6 in Cleveland. Props. He’ll have a job in this league for another dozen years. Matt Barkley also showed he can do more than hold a clipboard last year.

31. Cleveland Browns: Cody Kessler showed as a rookie he might be more than backup material. Maybe. Brock Osweiler is trying to prove he can revive his career. Maybe. DeShone Kizer could display he was worthy of being a first-round pick after all. Maybe. And — maybe — the Browns will be picking yet another passer in next year’s first round.

32. New York Jets: USC’s Sam Darnold isn’t officially a Jet … yet. But the most likely ways for the Trojans star to steer clear of this seeming inevitability are 1) Pull a Peyton Manning, whose return to school prevented him from joining the NYJ in 1997 or 2) Hope Christian Hackenberg fools everyone and performs far better than expected once he makes his belated pro debut.


NFL training camp reporting dates for rookies and veterans:


Baltimore Ravens: Under Armour Performance Center, Owings Mills, Md. (rookies: July 19; veterans: July 26)

Buffalo Bills: St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, N.Y. (both July 26)

Cincinnati Bengals: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati (July 25; July 27)

Cleveland Browns: Browns Training Complex, Berea, Ohio (July 23; July 26)

Denver Broncos: UCHealth Training Center, Englewood, Colo. (July 23; July 26)

Houston Texans: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. (both July 25)

Indianapolis Colts: Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Indianapolis (July 24; July 29)

Jacksonville Jaguars: Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields, Jacksonville (July 19; July 26)

Kansas City Chiefs: Missouri Western State, St. Joseph, Mo. (July 24, July 27)

Los Angeles Chargers: Jack Hammett Sports Complex, Costa Mesa, Calif. (both July 29)

Miami Dolphins: Baptist Health Training Facility, Davie, Fla. (July 20; July 26)

New England Patriots: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. (July 24, July 26)

New York Jets: Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Florham Park, N.J. (both July 28)

Oakland Raiders: Napa Valley Marriott, Napa, Calif. (July 24; July 28)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa. (both July 27)

Tennessee Titans: St. Thomas Sports Park, Nashville (both July 28)


Arizona Cardinals: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. (both July 21)

Atlanta Falcons: Falcons Training Facility, Flowery Branch, Ga. (both July 26)

Carolina Panthers: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C. (both July 25)

Chicago Bears: Olivet Nazarene, Bourbonnais, Ill. (July 19; July 26)

Dallas Cowboys: Marriott Residence Inn, Oxnard, Calif. (July 19; July 22)

Detroit Lions: Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, Mich. (July 24, July 29)

Green Bay Packers: St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wis. (both July 26)

Los Angeles Rams: UC Irvine, Irvine, Calif. (July 26, July 28)

Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minn. (July 23; July 26)

New Orleans Saints: New Orleans Saints Training Facility, Metairie, La. (July 19, July 26)

New York Giants: Quest Diagnostics Training Center, East Rutherford, N.J. (both July 27)

Philadelphia Eagles: NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia (July 23, July 26)

San Francisco 49ers: SAP Performance Facility, Santa Clara, Calif. (both July 27)

Seattle Seahawks: Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Renton, Wash. (both July 29)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa (July 25, July 27)

Washington Redskins: Bon Secours Training Center, Richmond, Va. (both July 26)

Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

NFL: Saints’ Fairley ruled out for 2017 because of heart symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley is coming off one of his best NFL seasons and it might have been his last.

At the very least, he won’t be playing for New Orleans in 2017.

General manager Mickey Loomis said Monday that Fairley has been placed on the team’s reserve list with a non-football illness designation, meaning the 2016 starter is out for this season.

The 6-foot-4, 308-pound Fairley had a career-best 6½ sacks for the Saints last season, after which he signed a four-year extension worth up to $28 million.

However, symptoms related to an enlarged heart caused Fairley to miss offseason practices and minicamp while he saw specialists to determine whether playing football would be an undue health risk.

Saints coach Sean Payton has said at least one specialist recommended that the 29-year-old Fairley — a former Auburn star and 2011 first-round draft pick by Detroit — give up football. Payton also had mentioned that he wanted to be sure Fairley wouldn’t return unless he was confident enough in his health to play to his full potential.

“The most important thing right now in our mind is his well-being,” Payton said earlier this month, when Fairley’s status for this season was still in doubt.

“To play this game, there’s a little bit of mental toughness involved, obviously. I want to make sure, if in fact he’s playing it, again that he’s playing with full confidence that he’s healthy to play and that nothing severe would come of him playing.”

Fairley’s absence is the second recent blow to a Saints squad trying to break out of a rut of mediocrity that has produced three straight, 7-9, non-playoff seasons. Little more than a week ago, the Saints learned that their highest-paid offensive lineman, left tackle Terron Armstead, needed shoulder surgery that would sideline him four to six months, or at least about half of the regular season.

New Orleans’ top remaining interior defensive linemen include Sheldon Rankins, Tyeler Davison and David Onyemata. Rankins was New Orleans’ top draft choice in 2016, and Onyemata was selected later in that same draft. Davison was a fifth-rounder in 2015.

During minicamp this month, the Saints also added veteran defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, who started 10 games for Seattle in 2016.

The Saints’ move on Monday sidelines Fairley only for 2017. His future beyond that remains unclear. He has been playing his whole NFL career with an enlarged heart, which can be caused by health problems of varying severity.

In addition to his career-high sacks last season, Fairley was credited with nine tackles for losses and 22 quarterback hits.

That was more like the production that was expected of him when he turned pro after helping Auburn’s 2010 squad win a national title.

Fairley sometimes struggled to meet expectations during his first five pro seasons. The Lions let him go after four seasons, and he lasted only one season with the Rams, with whom he played in St. Louis in 2015.

In his career, Fairley has played in 77 regular-season games, making 170 solo or assisted tackles — including one safety — and 20½ sacks. He has also defended three passes.


More AP NFL: and

NFL: Patriots’ Tom Brady voted No. 1 on NFL Network’s ‘Top 100’ list for second time

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-   Tom Brady has won an unprecedented four Super Bowl MVP awards. He’s a two-time NFL MVP. No other quarterback owns five Super Bowl rings.

And now the New England Patriots star is the first player to be twice voted No. 1 by his peers on NFL Network’s annual Top 100 list.

Monday night, Brady was revealed atop The Top 100 Players of 2017, a list solely calculated from the votes of active players and seeking to project who will be the best performers of the upcoming season while honoring players’ past accomplishments.

The honorific comes after a season that Brady began with a four-game suspension for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal but ended with him leading the Patriots back from a 25-point second-half deficit in Super Bowl LI to become the first team to win the game in overtime.

Brady also topped the inaugural Top 100 list in 2011 and has never ranked outside the top five.

Two other quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and reigning league MVP Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, cracked this year’s top 10. The full top 10 is below, and NFL Network’s entire Top 100 list for this year can be found here:

1. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
2. Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos
3. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
4. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders
6. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys
8. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants
9. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
10. Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons


Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis

2017 NFL training camp reporting dates

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(PhaztRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)    —-    NFL training camp reporting dates for rookies and veterans:


Baltimore Ravens: Under Armour Performance Center, Owings Mills, Md. (rookies: July 19; veterans: July 26)

Buffalo Bills: St. John Fisher College, Pittsford, N.Y. (both July 26)

Cincinnati Bengals: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati (July 25; July 27)

Cleveland Browns: Browns Training Complex, Berea, Ohio (July 23; July 26)

Denver Broncos: UCHealth Training Center, Englewood, Colo. (July 23; July 26)

Houston Texans: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. (both July 25)

Indianapolis Colts: Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, Indianapolis (July 24; July 29)

Jacksonville Jaguars: Florida Blue Health & Wellness Practice Fields, Jacksonville (July 19; July 26)

Kansas City Chiefs: Missouri Western State, St. Joseph, Mo. (July 24, July 27)

Los Angeles Chargers: Jack Hammett Sports Complex, Costa Mesa, Calif. (both July 29)

Miami Dolphins: Baptist Health Training Facility, Davie, Fla. (July 20; July 26)

New England Patriots: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. (July 24, July 26)

New York Jets: Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, Florham Park, N.J. (both July 28)

Oakland Raiders: Napa Valley Marriott, Napa, Calif. (July 24; July 28)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pa. (both July 27)

Tennessee Titans: St. Thomas Sports Park, Nashville (both July 28)


Arizona Cardinals: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. (both July 21)

Atlanta Falcons: Falcons Training Facility, Flowery Branch, Ga. (both July 26)

Carolina Panthers: Wofford College, Spartanburg, S.C. (both July 25)

Chicago Bears: Olivet Nazarene, Bourbonnais, Ill. (July 19; July 26)

Dallas Cowboys: Marriott Residence Inn, Oxnard, Calif. (July 19; July 22)

Detroit Lions: Lions Training Facility, Allen Park, Mich. (July 24, July 29)

Green Bay Packers: St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wis. (both July 26)

Los Angeles Rams: UC Irvine, Irvine, Calif. (July 26, July 28)

Minnesota Vikings: Minnesota State University, Mankato, Minn. (July 23; July 26)

New Orleans Saints: New Orleans Saints Training Facility, Metairie, La. (July 19, July 26)

New York Giants: Quest Diagnostics Training Center, East Rutherford, N.J. (both July 27)

Philadelphia Eagles: NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia (July 23, July 26)

San Francisco 49ers: SAP Performance Facility, Santa Clara, Calif. (both July 27)

Seattle Seahawks: Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Renton, Wash. (both July 29)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: One Buccaneer Place, Tampa (July 25, July 27)

Washington Redskins: Bon Secours Training Center, Richmond, Va. (both July 26)


Life after football hits some NFL players harder than others.

Michael Vick, Steve Smith and Justin Forsett are adjusting to their post-NFL careers in different ways.

Vick, the dynamic four-time Pro Bowl quarterback who was honored with a retirement ceremony by the Atlanta Falcons last week, isn’t hanging up the cleats just yet. He signed with the American Flag Football League as both a player and adviser for the 7-on-7 organization that debuts in 2018. He’s planning to play in a demonstration game Tuesday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California.

“I think it’s great being a retired NFL player (and having) another outlet, to have a chance to go play football and be competitive,” Vick told The Associated Press. “It’s flag. I don’t have to worry about getting hit. I don’t have to worry about serious injuries. I can just throw the football. I don’t have to really run around. You can just sit back (in the pocket), make reads, and have fun throwing touchdowns. That’s the way we played in the backyard, growing up.”

The AFFL’s plan is to field eight league-owned teams in 2018.

“The league eliminates the traditional physical limitations of tackle football, creating a platform for players who have elite athletic ability and speed, regardless of their size,” said AFFL founder Jeffrey Lewis.

Vick, who turns 37 next month, last played in the NFL with Pittsburgh in 2015. He led the Steelers to a 2-1 record in three starts filling in for Ben Roethlisberger.

“I’m satisfied with my career and what I’ve been able to do,” Vick said. “I was hurt the last couple years of my career, but I never told anybody. I just went about my business as a professional and took care of (ankle surgery) once my career ended. I can still play, no doubt about it. If I dedicated myself to four months of training with the health of my ankle now, then I would be able to play. Probably still at a high level.”

But if a team loses its starting quarterback in training camp, Vick probably wouldn’t have his agent make a call.

“Given an opportunity to go through the proper regimen, that’s OTAs and offseason strength and conditioning, that’s when you get acclimated,” he said. “If that was to happen, or could happen, maybe I would consider, but without those circumstances and those caveats, I wouldn’t do it.”

Forsett is three years removed from his best season. He ran for 1,266 yards with the Ravens in 2014 and went to the Pro Bowl, but he bounced around and finished up with Detroit and Denver last season.

The 31-year-old began preparing for retirement long ago.

Forsett and two of his college teammates, Wale Forrester and Wendell Hunter, developed a brand called ShowerPill. The company’s main product is The Athletic Body Wipe, a disposable washcloth that can be used when taking a shower isn’t possible.

“It’s a hygiene product for athletes on the go,” Forsett said. “It’s basically a shower inside a wipe.”

The product is backed by a group of investors that includes Smith, Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart, 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and former Saints and Bills defensive back Jabari Greer.

“It all started with relationships and friendships,” Forsett said. “You share what you’re passionate about, they see results and get on board. They believed in me as a person and a businessman and they wanted to get behind.”

Smith and Forsett developed a friendship when they played together for the Ravens. That relationship led to a business partnership.

“I love to look people in the eye, learn about them, learn their mannerisms and see if we line up morally,” Smith said. “I’ve passed on investments that were home runs because I just didn’t see something in the meeting that I felt good about. With Justin, he’s a lifetime friend. He’s a guy you meet playing football, but you maintain a friendship throughout your life.”

While Vick prepares for more (safer) football and Forsett pursues business opportunities, Smith is getting ready to spend his first season off the field talking about the game. A five-time Pro Bowl receiver with the Panthers and Ravens, Smith joined NFL Network as an analyst.

He’s also planning to do a lot of traveling with his family because he prepared wisely for retirement.

“My financial philosophy: What you say ‘yes’ to today makes you say ‘no’ to many tomorrows,” Smith said.


AP NFL website: and


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2017 NFL draft class team-by-team breakdown

Here’s a look at all 32 teams’ classes for the 2017 NFL draft.

Arizona Cardinals

1 (13) Haason Reddick, lb, Temple

2 (36) Budda Baker, s, Washington

3 (98) Chad Williams, wr, Grambling State

4 (115) Dorian Johnson, g, Pittsburgh

5 (157) Will Holden, ot, Vanderbilt

5 (179) T.J. Logan, rb, North Carolina

6 (208) Rudy Ford, s, Auburn

Atlanta Falcons

1 (26) Takkarist McKinley, de/olb, UCLA

3 (75) Duke Riley, lb, LSU

4 (136) Sean Harlow, g, Oregon State

5 (149) Damontae Kazee, cb, San Diego State

5 (156) Brian Hill, rb, Wyoming

5 (174) Eric Saubert, te, Drake

Baltimore Ravens

1 (16) Marlon Humphrey, cb, Alabama

2 (47) Tyus Bowser, lb, Houston

3 (74) Chris Wormley, de, Michigan

3 (78) Tim Williams, lb, Alabama

4 (122) Nico Siragusa, g, San Diego State

5 (159) Jermaine Eluemunor, g, Texas A&M

6 (186) Chuck Clark, db, Virginia Tech

Buffalo Bills

1 (27) Tre’Davious White, db, LSU

2 (37) Zay Jones, wr, East Carolina

2 (63) Dion Dawkins, g, Temple

5 (163) Matt Milano, lb, Boston College

5 (171) Nathan Peterman, qb, Pittsburgh

6 (195) Tanner Vallejo, lb, Boise State

Carolina Panthers

1 (8) Christian McCaffrey, rb, Stanford

2 (40) Curtis Samuel, wr/rb, Ohio State

2 (64) Taylor Moton, g, Western Michigan

3 (77) Daeshon Hall, de, Texas A&M

5 (152) Corn Elder, cb, Miami

6 (192) Alexander Armah, de, West Georgia

7 (233) Harrison Butker, k, Georgia Tech

Chicago Bears

1 (2) Mitchell Trubisky, qb, North Carolina

2 (45) Adam Shaheen, te, Ashland

4 (112) Eddie Jackson, s, Alabama

4 (119) Tarik Cohen, rb, NC A&T

5 (147) Jordan Morgan, g, Kutztown

Cincinnati Bengals

1 (9) John Ross, wr, Washington

2 (48) Joe Mixon, rb, Oklahoma

3 (73) Jordan Willis, de, Kansas State

4 (116) Carl Lawson, de, Auburn

4 (128) Josh Malone, wr, Tennessee

4 (138) Ryan Glasgow, dt, Michigan

5 (153) Jake Elliott, k, Memphis

5 (176) J.J. Dielman, c, Utah

6 (193) Jordan Evans, lb, Oklahoma

6 (207) Brandon Wilson, rb, Houston

7 (251) Mason Schreck, te, Buffalo

Cleveland Browns

1 (1) Myles Garrett, de, Texas A&M

1 (25) Jabrill Peppers, s, Michigan

1 (29) David Njoku, te, Miami

2 (52) DeShone Kizer, qb, Notre Dame

3 (65) Larry Ogunjobi, dt, Charlotte

4 (126) Howard Wilson, db, Houston

5 (160) Rod Johnson, ot, Florida State

6 (185) Caleb Brantley, dt, Florida

7 (224) Zane Gonzalez, k, Arizona State

7 (252) Matthew Dayes, rb, NC State

Dallas Cowboys

1 (28) Taco Charlton, de, Michigan

2 (60) Chidobe Awuzie, cb, Colorado

3 (92) Jourdan Lewis, cb, Michigan

4 (133) Ryan Switzer, wr, North Carolina

6 (191) Xavier Woods, s, Louisiana Tech

6 (216) Marquez White, cb, Florida State

7 (228) Joey Ivie, dt, Florida

7 (239) Noah Brown, wr, Ohio State

7 (246) Jordan Carrell, dt, Colorado

Denver Broncos

1 (20) Garett Bolles, ot, Utah

2 (51) DeMarcus Walker, de, Florida State

3 (82) Carlos Henderson, wr, Louisiana Tech

3 (101) Brendan Langley, cb, Lamar

5 (145) Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

5 (172) Isaiah McKenzie, wr, Georgia

6 (203) De’Angelo Henderson, rb, Coastal Carolina

7 (253) Chad Kelly, qb, Mississippi

Detroit Lions

1 (21) Jarrad Davis, lb, Florida

2 (53) Jalen Tabor, cb, Florida

3 (96) Kenny Golladay, wr, Northern Illinois

4 (124) Jaylen Reeves-Maybin, lb, Tennessee

4 (127) Michael Roberts, te, Toledo

5 (165) Jamal Agnew, cb, San Diego

6 (205) Jeremiah Ledbetter, de, Arkansas

6 (215) Brad Kaaya, qb, Miami

7 (250) Pat O’Connor, de, Eastern Michigan

Green Bay Packers

2 (33) Kenny King, db, Washington

2 (61) Josh Jones, s, NC State

3 (93) Montravius Adams, dt, Auburn

4 (108) Vince Biegel, lb, Wisconsin

4 (134) Jamaal Williams, rb, BYU

5 (175) Deangelo Yancey, wr, Purdue

5 (182) Aaron Jones, rb, UTEP

6 (212) Kofi Amichia, ot, South Florida

7 (238) Devonte Mays, rb, Utah State

7 (247) Malachi Dupre, wr, LSU

Houston Texans

1 (12) Deshaun Watson, qb, Clemson

2 (57) Zach Cunningham, lb, Vanderbilt

3 (89) D’Onta Foreman, rb, Texas

4 (130) Julie’n Davenport, ot, Bucknell

4 (142) Carlos Watkins, dt, Clemson

5 (169) Treston Decoud, cb, Oregon State

7 (243) Kyle Fuller, c, Baylor

Indianapolis Colts

1 (15) Malik Hooker, s, Ohio State

2 (46) Quincy Wilson, cb, Florida

3 (80) Tarell Basham, de, Ohio

4 (137) Zach Banner, ot, Southern Cal

4 (143) Marlon Mack, rb, South Florida

4 (144) Grover Stewart, dt, Albany (Ga.)

5 (158) Nate Hairston, cb, Temple

5 (161) Anthony Walker, lb, Northwestern

Jacksonville Jaguars

1 (4) Leonard Fournette, rb, LSU

2 (34) Cam Robinson, ot, Alabama

3 (68) Dawuane Smoot, de, Illinois

4 (110) Dede Westbrook, wr, Oklahoma

5 (148) Blair Brown, lb, Ohio

7 (222) Jalen Myrick, cb, Minnesota

7 (240) Marquez Williams, fb, Miami

Kansas City Chiefs

1 (10) Patrick Mahomes, qb, Texas Tech

2 (59) Tanoh Kpassagnon, de, Villanova

3 (86) Kareem Hunt, rb, Toledo

4 (139) Jehu Chesson, wr, Michigan

5 (183) Ukeme Eligwe, lb, Georgia Southern

6 (218) Leon McQuay III, s, Southern Cal

Los Angeles Chargers

1 (7) Mike Williams, wr, Clemson

2 (38) Forrest Lamp, g, Western Kentucky

3 (71) Dan Feeney, g, Indiana

4 (113) Rayshawn Jenkins, s, Miami

5 (151) Desmond King, s, Iowa

6 (190) Sam Tevi, ot, Utah

7 (225) Isaac Rochell, de, Notre Dame

Los Angeles Rams

2 (44) Gerald Everett, te, South Alabama

3 (69) Cooper Kupp, wr, Eastern Washington

3 (91) John Johnson, s, Boston College

4 (117) Josh Reynolds, wr, Texas A&M

4 (125) Samson Ebukan, lb, Eastern Washington

6 (189) Tanzel Smart, dt, Tulane

6 (206) Sam Rogers, fb, Virginia Tech

7 (234) Ejuan Price, lb, Pittsburgh

Miami Dolphins

1 (22) Charles Harris, de, Missouri

2 (54) Raekwon McMillan, lb, Ohio State

3 (97) Cordrea Tankersley, cb, Clemson

5 (164) Isaac Ariata, g, Utah

5 (178) Davon Godchaux, dt, LSU

6 (194) Vincent Taylor, dt, Oklahoma State

7 (237) Isaiah Ford, wr, Virginia Tech

Minnesota Vikings

2 (41) Dalvin Cook, rb, Florida State

3 (70) Pat Elflein, c, Ohio State

4 (109) Jaleel Johnson, de, Iowa

4 (120) Ben Gedeon, lb, Michigan

5 (170) Rodney Adams, wr, South Florida

5 (180) Danny Isidora, g, Miami

6 (201) Bucky Hodges, te, Virginia Tech

7 (219) Stacy Coley, wr, Miami

7 (220) Ifeadi Odenigbo, dl, Northwestern

7 (232) Elijah Lee, lb, Kansas State

7 (245) Jack Tocho, cb, NC State

New England Patriots

3 (83) Derek Rivers, de, Youngstown State

3 (85) Antonio Garcia, ot, Troy

4 (131) Deatrich Wise, de, Arkansas

6 (211) Conor McDermott, ot, UCLA

New Orleans Saints

1 (11) Marshon Lattimore, db, Ohio State

1 (32) Ryan Ramczyk, ot, Wisconsin

2 (42) Marcus Williams, s, Utah

3 (67) Alvin Kamara, rb, Tennessee

3 (76) Alex Anzalone, lb, Florida

3 (103) Trey Hendrickson, lb, FAU

6 (196) Al-Quadin Muhammad, de, Miami

New York Giants

1 (23) Evan Engram, te, Mississippi

2 (55) Dalvin Tomlinson, dt, Alabama

3 (87) Davis Webb, qb, California

4 (140) Wayne Gallman, rb, Clemson

5 (167) Avery Moss, de, Youngstown State

6 (200) Adam Bisnowaty, ot, Pittsburgh

New York Jets

1 (6) Jamal Adams, db, LSU

2 (39) Marcus Maye, s, Florida

3 (79) ArDarius Stewart, wr, Alabama

4 (141) Chad Hansen, wr, California

5 (150) Jordan Leggett, te, Clemson

5 (181) Dylan Donahue, de, West Georgia

6 (188) Elijah McGuire, rb, Louisiana-Lafayette

6 (197) Jeremy Clark, cb, Michigan

6 (204) Derrick Jones, cb, Mississippi

Oakland Raiders

1 (24) Gareon Conley, cb, Ohio State

2 (56) Obi Melifonwu, s, UConn

3 (88) Eddie Vanderdoes, dt, UCLA

4 (129) David Sharpe, ol, Florida

5 (168) Marquel Lee, lb, Wake Forest

7 (221) Shalom Luani, s, Washington State

7 (231) Jylan Ware, ot, Alabama State

7 (242) Elijah Hood, rb, North Carolina

7 (244) Treyvon Hester, dt, Toledo

Philadelphia Eagles

1 (14) Derek Barnett, de, Tennessee

2 (43) Sidney Jones, cb, Washington

3 (99) Rasul Douglas, cb, West Virginia

4 (118) Mack Hollins, wr, North Carolina

4 (132) Donnel Pumphrey, rb, San Diego State

5 (166) Shelton Gibson, wr, West Virginia

5 (184) Nate Gerry, s, Nebraska

6 (214) Elijah Qualls, dt, Washington

Pittsburgh Steelers

1 (30) T.J. Watt, lb, Wisconsin

2 (62) JuJu Smith-Schuster, wr, Southern Cal

3 (94) Cameron Sutton, cb, Tennesee

3 (105) James Conner, rb, Pittsburgh

4 (135) Joshua Dobbs, qb, Tennessee

5 (173) Brian Allen, cb, Utah

6 (213) Colin Holba, ls, Louisville

7 (248) Keion Adams, de, Western Michigan

San Francisco 49ers

1 (3) Solomon Thomas, de, Stanford

1 (31) Reuben Foster, lb, UCLA

3 (66) Ahkello Witherspoon, cb, Colorado

3 (104) C.J. Beathard, qb, Iowa

4 (121) Joe Williams, rb, Utah

5 (146) George Kittle, te, Iowa

5 (177) Trent Taylor, wr, Louisiana Tech

6 (198) D.J. Jones, dt, Mississippi

6 (202) Pita Taumoepenu, de, Utah

7 (229) Adrian Colbert, s, Miami.

Seattle Seahawks

2 (35) Malik McDowell, dt, Michigan State

2 (58) Ethan Pocic, c, LSU

3 (90) Shaquill Griffin, db, UCF

3 (95) Delano Hill, s, Michigan

3 (102) Nazir Jones, dt, North Carolina

3 (106) Amara Darboh, wr, Michigan

4 (111) Tedric Thompson, s, Colorado

6 (187) Mike Tyson, s, Cincinnati

6 (210) Justin Senior, ot, Mississippi State

7 (226) David Moore, wr, East Central

7 (249) Christopher Carson, rb, Oklahoma State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1 (19) O.J. Howard, te, Alabama

2 (50) Justin Evans, s, Texas A&M

3 (84) Chris Godwin, wr, Penn State

3 (107) Kendell Beckwith, lb, LSU

5 (162) Jeremy McNichols, rb, Boise State

7 (223) Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, dt, Southern Cal

Tennessee Titans

1 (5) Corey Davis, wr, Western Michigan

1 (18) Adoree’ Jackson, db, Southern Cal

3 (72) Taywan Taylor, wr, Western Kentucky

3 (100) Jonnu Smith, te, FIU

5 (155) Jayon Brown, lb, UCLA

6 (217) Corey Levin, g, Chattanooga

7 (227) Josh Carraway, lb, TCU

7 (236) Brad Seaton, ot, Villanova

7 (241) Khalfani Muhammad, rb, California

Washington Redskins

1 (17) Jonathan Allen, de, Alabama

2 (49) Ryan Anderson, lb, Alabama

3 (81) Fabian Noreau, cb, UCLA

4 (114) Samaje Perine, rb, Oklahoma

4 (123) Montae Nicholson, s, Michigan State

5 (154) Jeremy Sprinkle, te, Arkansas

6 (199) Chase Roullier, c, Wyoming

6 (209) Robert Davis, wr, Georgia Southern

7 (230) Josh Harvey-Clemons, s, Louisville

7 (235) Josh Holsey, db, Auburn

NFL draft tracker 2017: Recapping every pick from all seven rounds

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)     —–    The 2017 NFL draft is all wrapped up. Take a look back at all 253 picks, as well as our analysis on the top players.

We also provided a look at all 32 teams’ draft classes.


1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: After robust rumors and heavy smoke regarding an apparent infatuation with UNC QB Mitchell Trubisky in recent weeks, Cleveland’s brain trust puts it in the fairway by taking this year’s best player with the opening selection. A 6-4, 272-pounder, Garrett averaged more than 10 sacks per season during his three years in the SEC and produced in 2016 despite playing a good chunk of the campaign with a high ankle sprain. Only the Raiders had fewer sacks than Cleveland’s 26 a year ago, and the Browns have never had a player record more than 14 since it became an official statistic in 1982. As much as the Browns do need a quarterback — stay tuned — the pass rush was nearly as big a priority in a division where the other three teams feature established passers. Slam dunk pick for Cleveland’s ongoing rebuild.

2. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers) — Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: The Bears wanted him so badly, they were compelled to deal up one slot at the cost of three picks … likely throwing Cleveland’s plans into disarray. Trubisky showed excellent accuracy (68%), mobility, ability to cycle through progressions, decision making (30 TDs vs. 6 INTs) and consistently kept his eyes downfield as the Tar Heels’ starter in 2016. The problem is, that’s the extent of his body of work — 13 starts. Now he essentially replaces departed Jay Cutler as Chicago’s new man under center, though he’ll presumably sit behind newly signed Mike Glennon at the outset of the regular season. The Bears can easily extricate themselves from Glennon’s three-year, $45 million deal after the 2017 season.

3. 49ers (from Bears) — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: The Niners take a defensive lineman in the first round for the third consecutive year, all of them Pac-12 products. But Thomas should be a more disruptive player than Arik Armstead or DeForest Buckner. Expect Thomas to immediately shore up San Francisco’s league-worst run defense as an interior player on base packages, then effectively hunt quarterbacks from the edge on passing downs. The 49ers’ new regime under GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan appears to be off to a good start with a blue-chip acquisition and a slew of extra picks (two in this draft and one next year).

4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: A very sensible pick. Fournette, widely regarded as the draft’s best back and one who has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson, immediately bolsters an offense that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011. Fournette should take some pressure off Blake Bortles and give him a better chance to prove whether he is the team’s long-term answer under center in his fourth year. But even if Bortles flounders again, Fournette and an underrated defense could be enough to vault this team back to relevance.

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams) — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: Ankle surgery prevented him from performing at the combine and most of this spring. The Titans love Davis nevertheless, obviously willing to make him third-year QB Marcus Mariota’s new No. 1 target. A smooth route runner with plenty of speed, Davis will present a tough decision for defenses geared to cut down on the running lanes for Mariota and RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. There will be some questions about the level of competition Davis faced in the MAC, but his FBS record 5,278 career receiving yards cannot be discounted.

6. New York Jets — Jamal Adams, S, LSU: A logical and safe pick for a secondary that disintegrated in 2016. Adams seems most effective playing in the box and consistently blows up plays at or behind the line of scrimmage with a vengeance. But he also flashed sub-4.4 speed at his pro day and has put plenty of proof on film that he can cover effectively over the middle or in the deep half of the field. His reputation as a strong leader will also be a welcome bonus for a team that’s essentially hit the reboot button this offseason.

7. Los Angeles Chargers — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: L.A.’s newest team scores arguably this draft’s best wideout. Williams is the type of huge receiver Philip Rivers has leveraged so well in the past (think Vincent Jackson or Malcom Floyd). And assuming WR Keenan Allen can recover from last year’s knee injury, Rivers suddenly has a scary receiving corps that also includes TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. And RB Melvin Gordon will also reap the benefits of so many effective pass catchers stressing secondaries.Williams’ 6-4, 218-pound frame makes him an instant red-zone threat, too.

8. Carolina Panthers — Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: The best way to reduce pressure on QB Cam Newton, who’s recovering from shoulder surgery, is apparently providing him a backfield mate who doubles as a dangerous short-area receiver while complementing aging RB Jonathan Stewart. McCaffrey is an underrated runner between the tackles and should get 20 touches a game between carries, catches and returns if he assumes departed Ted Ginn’s special teams duties. McCaffrey set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015 when he rushed for 2,019 yards and has 4,577 yards from scrimmage over the past two seasons. Could he be the next 1,000-1,000 back in the NFL?

9. Cincinnati Bengals — John Ross, WR, Washington: His record 4.22 40 time at the scouting combine boosts him into the top 10 despite a concerning history of injuries (knee, shoulder). Still, Ross is more than just a track star. He’s an excellent route runner and a deadly kick returner. Even without the ball in his hands on offense, he’ll opening up space for RBs Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard and could benefit greatly himself since defenses are unlikely to start single-covering all-world WR A.J. Green.

10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills) — Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: How enamored were Andy Reid and Co.? K.C. surrendered the 27th and 91st overall picks this year and 2018’s first rounder to get Mahomes. (The trade also suggests Buffalo’s interest in replacing QB Tyrod Taylor was at least somewhat overblown.) Current Kansas City QB Alex Smith remains a highly effective player who’s under contract for two more seasons. But rifle-armed Mahomes clearly has far more upside, and the Chiefs are obviously banking on that given Smith hasn’t been able to take an excellent regular-season team on a deep playoff run. Mahomes will almost certainly redshirt in 2017 as he transitions from the Red Raiders’ spread attack to a pro offense. But if he develops quickly, Kansas City could opt out of Smith’s deal next March.

11. New Orleans Saints — Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: Perhaps a perfect scenario for the Saints, who had the NFL’s least-effective pass defense in 2016. Lattimore is widely considered the premier talent in what is a deep group of corners in this draft. He only started one year for the Buckeyes but picked off four passes last year. He’ll immediately be tested in a division that features Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston slinging the ball and will also have to prove a history of hamstring issues is behind him.

12. Houston Texans (from Philadelphia Eagles via Browns) — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Cleveland moves out of this spot for a package that includes Houston’s 2018 first rounder (the Browns also have the Texans’ Round 2 choice next year after taking on QB Brock Osweiler’s contract in a deal last month). The Texans, meanwhile, take another crack at solving their perpetual quarterback issues by obtaining Watson, the club’s first Round 1 passer since David Carr was the franchise’s first-ever pick in 2002. Watson’s intangibles are off the charts. The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist led Clemson to consecutive national championship appearances, including the school’s first title since 1981 with the Tigers’ win over Alabama in January. That’s great news for Houston, which has gone 9-7 in all three of coach Bill O’Brien’s seasons but has yet to be a real factor come playoff time. Watson must improve his downfield accuracy and decision making — and adapt to O’Brien’s demanding playbook — in order to unseat veteran Tom Savage. But like Dak Prescott a year ago, he’s joining a team that provides a top-shelf supporting cast.

13. Arizona Cardinals — Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: If the Cards were ever seriously interested in taking QB Carson Palmer’s successor in Round 1, Houston’s trade probably forced a change of direction. But Reddick is a rather nice fallback for a club that has lost five defensive starters this offseason. A 6-1, 237-pound defensive end for the Owls who made a living in enemy backfields, Reddick will probably join OLB Chandler Jones as a pass rusher in sub packages. But he also showed in sterling Senior Bowl and combine performances that he can cover players in space and might be able to play inside in base packages. A walk-on at Temple, perhaps no player has had a more meteoric rise than Reddick.

14. Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings) — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: DT Fletcher Cox paced Philadelphia with just 6½ sacks in 2016, and Connor Barwin is now with the Rams. Barnett won’t make anyone in Philly forget Reggie White, even if he did break the Minister of Defense’s sack record with 33 in Knoxville. Barnett is a very productive, relentless player who could take this pass rush up a notch or two while limiting the exposure to what’s surely going to be a suspect group of corners. He didn’t test well at the combine in terms of athletic measurables, but his intensity and motor will surely play well for a city that loves high-effort defenders.

15. Indianapolis Colts — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State: An elite ball hawk, he had seven interceptions last year (the Colts had eight collectively) and returned three for scores. Shoulder and hernia surgeries sidelined Hooker the last few months, likely depressing his stock a bit. But considering his name has been mentioned with Ed Reed’s as a comparison, new Indy GM Chris Ballard is surely more than happy to snatch Hooker for a defense that needs extensive work at every level, including a pass defense that finished 27th a year ago.

16. Baltimore Ravens — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: GM Ozzie Newsome, a ‘Bama alum, lands one of his precious Tide stars. Humphrey’s appeal has probably benefited from the problems that have torpedoed fellow corners Sidney Jones and Gareon Conley, and he’ll have to improve his ability to track the ball, especially ones that challenge him deep. But the son of former Alabama and NFL tailback Bobby Humphrey is an excellent athlete with ideal corner size (6-0, 197). And given John Ross’ arrival in  Cincinnati, the Ravens suddenly need more corners in a division that already featured the pass-happy Steelers. Humphrey gets to ease in with a little less pressure, too, behind vets Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr.

17. Washington Redskins — Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama: It would seem shoulder issues knocked him down a bit, but this could be a heist for the ‘Skins. Allen is an every-down lineman who had 28 sacks in four seasons despite often playing on the interior. He’ll plug beautifully into Washington’s three-man front and should be an instant factor for a defense that struggled in every area in 2016 and won’t have suspended pass rusher Trent Murphy at the outset.

18. Titans — Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Southern California: The winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the country’s top defensive back in 2016, he will still need some time to refine his coverage skills — which is just fine in Nashville after the free agent arrival of CB Logan Ryan. But Jackson will be an instant game changer on special teams after posting eight return TDs during his three years with the Trojans. A truly exceptional athlete.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: Perhaps a clear case of best player on the board given the superb season Bucs TE Cameron Brate had in 2016. But Howard, who starred in the past two national championship games even though he wasn’t widely used by the Tide typically, is a definite upgrade who will help in the run game with solid blocking and, far more importantly, will give QB Jameis Winston a seam-splitting option who should reduce the load on overtaxed WR Mike Evans.

20. Denver Broncos — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah: He’s a late bloomer (Bolles will be 25 next month) but also one of the few tackles coming out this year likely to make a splash. Denver needs to replace departed LT Russell Okung and get more juice out of its running game. Bolles could allow the team to check both boxes. His nifty feet and nasty streak on the field should make him a nice bodyguard for Trevor Siemian and/or Paxton Lynch and ideal zone blocker. Bolles has blossomed after a rough childhood.

21. Detroit Lions — Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: An every-down player, Davis’ range and leadership make him an optimal fit to a linebacking corps that recently parted with DeAndre Levy. A Lions defense that ranked 18th in 2016 certainly needed the help.

22. Miami Dolphins — Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: A new edge presence in Miami, Harris should be able to exploit the attention commanded by DT Ndamukong Suh and DE Cameron Wake. Nicknamed “Black Ice” because you don’t see him until it’s too late, Harris had 16 sacks over the past two seasons as the latest talent to emerage from Mizzou’s pass rushing pipeline.

23. New York Giants — Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi: The Giants’ first Round 1 tight end since Jeremy Shockey in 2002, Engram just made a scary receiving corps terrifying. Whether you classify Engram as a small tight end or a huge slot receiver, he’ll be a mismatch nightmare at 6-3 and 234 pounds with 4.4 40 speed. And who’s going to double him at the expense of leaving WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall in single coverage? Engram won’t be a great blocker, but that’s not what will pay his bills. Move QB Eli Manning up your fantasy draft board.

24. Oakland Raiders — Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State: After a rape accusation against him surfaced earlier this week — Conley has staunchly denied it — it didn’t seem as if he would remain a viable first-round pick. But the Raiders obviously feel comfortable assuming the off-field risk given the relative value he represents as a player at this point in Round 1. From a football perspective, he’s a needed asset for a defense that ranked 26th despite the presence of DE Khalil Mack, the NFL defensive player of the year.

25. Browns (from Texans) — Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan: He’s taken some hits during the pre-draft process. What’s his best position (safety, slot corner, running back)? Is he a difference maker after picking off one pass in his college career? What about the diluted sample at the combine that counts as a failed drug test? All of that aside, Peppers is a special athlete who provides great versatility when viewed through the optimistic prism. And give him credit for a team-first attitude after playing linebacker in 2016 because it was in the best interest of the Wolverines defense. He does a great job running down offensive players.

26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks) — Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA: A sensible choice for the NFC champs given their inability to close out Tom Brady and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. McKinley will be a nice fastball opposite NFL sack champion Vic Beasley, whose 15½ takedowns were nearly half of Atlanta’s total (34) in 2016. McKinley is on the comeback from shoulder surgery, but he’s a high-motor player who further burnishes a promising young defense on the rise under Dan Quinn.

27. Bills (from City Chiefs) — Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU: He should be a Day 1 starter and projects as a very solid contributor for a team that just lost CB Stephon Gilmore to New England in free agency. New coach Sean McDermott, who specializes in defense, begins putting his imprint on a team that actually ranked a highly respectable sixth against the pass in 2016.

28. Dallas Cowboys — Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan: He had 10 sacks and 13½ tackles for loss in a standout senior season for the Wolverines. The combine exposed a lack of eye-popping athletic traits for the 6-6, 277-pounder, but he’ll nevertheless be an asset for a Dallas D that needs edge presence and must generate more pressure in front of a secondary undergoing a near-complete overhaul. Charlton’s height should also allow him to bat down a fair share of passes when he can’t get to a quarterback.

29. Browns (from Green Bay Packers) — David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.): With a third choice this evening, Cleveland continues to eschew quarterbacks and takes very promising Njoku, 20, after shipping some picks to the Pack, including the top selection in Round 2. At 6-4, 246 pounds, Njoku could be next in a long line of great ‘Canes tight ends. A high school high jump champ, he may have more intriguing upside than even O.J. Howard. Njoku makes splash plays all over the field and will outrun most linebackers and plenty of safeties.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers — T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin: After their defense fell apart in the AFC Championship Game, Pittsburgh needed another difference maker on its defense. J.J. Watt’s little brother now becomes part of a special lineage of linebackers, and the Steelers will count on him to be more effective off the edge than 2013 first-round bust Jarvis Jones. Watt, who’s rather new to the position but had 11½ sacks last year for the Badgers, and Bud Dupree could form a nice tandem for the foreseeable future.

31. 49ers (from Falcons via Seahawks) —Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama: The Niners creep back into the first round as GM John Lynch swings a deal with NFC West rival Seattle. Foster joins Solomon Thomas as a new cornerstone of a revamped defense and might finally ease the surprising retirement of Patrick Willis two years ago. Foster brings thunderous hits and sideline-to-sideline range to the table and can give San Francisco a nasty identity. But after a diluted drug sample and temper tantrum at the combine — not to mention a flagged shoulder issue, per NFL Network — he’s got some things to clean up off the field.

32. Saints (from New England Patriots) — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: He’s short on experience but enhances the protection in front of aging QB Drew Brees, 38. Ramczyk’s arrival does raise some questions. Will he play inside, or might he allow incumbent RT Zach Strief, who sometimes struggles on the edge, to kick inside. Either way, a good pick-up for the long and short run.


33. Green Bay Packers (from Cleveland Browns) — Kevin King, CB, Washington: A big (6-3, 200), athletic defender, King would help remedy the secondary woes that sunk the Pack in the NFC Championship Game. He looks like an ideal Seattle corner, too, but comes off the board right before the Seahawks were originally scheduled to pick.

34. Jacksonville Jaguars (from San Francisco 49ers via Seattle Seahawks) — Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama: The Jags enlisted support for QB Blake Bortles in Round 1 by taking RB Leonard Fournette. Now they move up one slot to get additional help for both players by reinforcing the offensive line with Robinson, a left tackle in college who seems likely to start his pro career at guard. But if Robinson proves he can handle NFL edge rushers, maybe he takes over for new LT Branden Albert in the not-too-distant future.

35. Seahawks (from Jaguars) — Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State: Interesting choice here. There’s no denying McDowell’s talent improves the effectiveness and depth of Seattle’s D-line as he’s arguably the best defensive tackle in the whole draft. However there have been questions about his motor and football desire, so he’ll have to quickly answer the naysayers amid a team culture based on competitive spirit.

36. Arizona Cardinals (from Chicago Bears) — Budda Baker, DB, Washington: He and Tyrann Mathieu will help form what’s becoming a very kinetic secondary. Baker plays with a ferocity atypical of a 5-10, 195-pound defensive back. He will fly into any area of the field to make a play in run support or coverage. He’ll probably need to pack on some more weight to survive as an NFL safety. Thankfully, his skill set should also allow him to thrive as a nickelback in the interim.

37. Buffalo Bills (from Los Angeles Rams) — Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina: Their wideout room was raided of depth this offseason, and holdover Sammy Watkins hasn’t exactly proven reliable from a durability perspective. Jones certainly did in college, where he became the all-time FBS leader for receptions (399), including a mind-boggling single-season record 158 (13.2 per game) in 2016. His speed and hands should make him a starter Day 1. His father, Robert Jones, and uncle, Jeff Blake, both played in the NFL for at least a decade.

38. Los Angeles Chargers — Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky: An excellent college tackle likely to man an interior position as a pro, Lamp is another asset obtained for QB Philip Rivers after WR Mike Williams went in Round 1. Lamp could immediately replace departed D.J. Fluker at guard.

39. New York Jets — Marcus Maye, S, Florida: The Jets suddenly have a new safety tandem, with Maye teamed with first rounder Jamal Adams. Maye was a versatile piece to the Gators’ standout secondary and seems to always be around the ball. His acquisition further fuels rumors the Jets are looking to deal former first rounder Calvin Pryor.

40. Carolina Panthers — Curtis Samuel, WR, Ohio State: Think Percy Harvin. Samuel can play in the slot or backfield. His 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine was overshadowed by John Ross but nevertheless is indicative of big-play ability. Samuel and first rounder Christian McCaffrey form quite a versatile duo with a certain amount of interchangeability, not to mention insurance neither is overused.

41. Minnesota Vikings (from Cincinnati Bengals) — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: It seems pretty clear questions about wear and tear on his body and potential off-field red flags got him barred from the first round. But Cook, the Seminoles’ all-time leading rusher, is a do-it-all back now part of a potent committee with newly signed Latavius Murray. Good news for the Vikes, who ranked dead last in rushing offense in 2016. A great home-run threat for QB Sam Bradford, who threw a ton of checkdowns last year.

42. New Orleans Saints — Marcus Williams, S, Utah: They continue revamping the pass defense, which was the NFL’s worst in 2016. An explosive player, Williams joins first rounder Marcus Lattimore as New Orleans hopes to stem the bleeding in a pass-heavy division.

43. Philadelphia Eagles — Sidney Jones, CB, Washington: He might have been the No. 2 corner in this draft had he not been waylaid by an Achilles tear during his pro day. Still, he might be ready to play in the latter half of the upcoming season and seems like a pretty good value for a team that desperately needs corners.

44. Rams (from Bills) — Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama: A highly athletic player who would surely have been a mismatch even if he wasn’t playing against Sun Belt competition. Everett could be a nice intermediate target for QB Jared Goff amid a corps of receivers that lacks a standout. A former hoopster, Everett could be a star if he puts it all together.

45. Bears (from Cardinals) — Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland: This 6-6, 278-pounder could not be contained on the Division II stage, where he overmatched the competition on his way to accumulating 26 TDs over the last two seasons. Shaheen also has a basketball background and should post up quite a few linebackers with his huge body before escaping some with surprising 4.79 speed. Must navigate a large learning curve in the NFL, but maybe he and new QB Mitchell Trubisky will jell into a deadly combo in the Windy City.

46. Indianapolis Colts — Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida: New GM Chris Ballard continues overhauling a secondary that picked off just seven passes in 2016 and ranked 27th in pass defense. Wilson should start opposite Vontae Davis with first-round S Malik Hooker backing them up.

47. Baltimore Ravens — Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston: They had to get younger on the edge after releasing Elvis Dumervil and with Terrell Suggs now 34. Bowser is explosive but inconsistent but will get the opportunity to learn from quite a mentor in Suggs.

48. Bengals (from Vikings) — Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma: Maybe not a stunner since the Bengals have a longstanding reputation for taking in players with checkered histories. Mixon’s heinous assault of a woman in 2014 (caught on video) is infamous, and Cincinnati should prepared for a PR hit. From a football standpoint, he might be the best back in the draft, a dual threat (1,274 yards rushing last year, 538 receiving) who could immediately supplant Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard atop the depth chart.

49. Washington Redskins — Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama: They needed another pass rusher given the secondary’s struggles, not to mention Trent Murphy’s four-game suspension to start the 2017 season. Anderson had 8½ sacks for the Tide in 2016.

50. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M: At 6-0, 199 pounds, he’s not the biggest guy in the bunch yet is athletic, aggressive and fearless. Probably not someone suited to playing in the box very extensively at the NFL level, but the Bucs may not ask him to, either.

51. Denver Broncos — DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State: He had 25 sacks over his final two years with the Seminoles and could be a real factor in sub packages as learns the professional ropes. At 6-4, 280 pounds, it’s probably a stretch to think he can be an every-down linebacker and could be too light to be a base end. Nevertheless, he should earn an important role as a rookie.

52. Browns (from Tennessee Titans) — DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame: Apparently the value was too good to pass up here after the Browns steered clear of Carson Wentz last year and Deshaun Watson last night. Kizer, an Ohio native, has all the talent in the world and has even been mentioned in comparison to Cam Newton. However he was far less effective in 2016 after losing the best parts of his supporting cast (Ronnie Stanley, Will Fuller, C.J. Prosise) in last year’s draft. But if Kizer can put it all together under Hue Jackson’s tutelage, especially his accuracy and decision making, it’s certainly plausible that Cleveland may have finally solved its long-standing problem.

53. Detroit Lions — Teez Tabor, CB, Florida: He didn’t run well at the combine and was even worse at his pro day, and those performances may have dropped him from first-round consideration. But Tabor is a two-time all-SEC performer who promises to be much better in a football uniform than spandex for a defense that gave up 33 passing TDs in 2016.

54. Miami Dolphins — Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State: A decent athlete and good player who solidifies a pedestrian linebacking corps. McMillan could challenge Koa Misi to start on the strong side of a defense that finished 30th against the run last year.

55. New York Giants — Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama: New York always favors deep talent on its defensive line, and Tomlinson certainly checks that box. The Giants also had a need after Johnathan Hankins’ recent defection to the Colts.

56. Oakland Raiders — Obi Melifonwu, DB, Connecticut: He’s got freakish athleticism (4.4 40-yard dash, 44-inch vertical leap, 11 feet-9 inch broad jump — the latter two figures combine bests in 2017), especially given his 6-4, 224-pound build. A four-year starter at UConn, Melifonwu is willing to play outside corner, slot or safety. Raiders DC Ken Norton will surely find an ideal home for him in a secondary that needs help. Melifonwu’s ability to quickly diagnose plays and react will have to improve while he’s taking a huge step up in competition level.

57. Houston Texans — Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt: At 6-3, 234 pounds, he isn’t exactly a thumper, but Brian Cushing and Benardrick McKinney have that covered in Houston. But Cunningham is very good athlete who racked up tackles for the Commodores. He might start out playing mostly on passing downs.

58. Seahawks — Ethan Pocic, OL, LSU: A center for the Tigers, he could assume that role in Seattle and allow Justin Britt to go revert to tackle or guard. Blocking had to be a priority for the Seahawks after the abuse QB Russell Wilson absorbed last year as well as the running game’s unusual ineffectiveness.

59. Kansas City Chiefs — Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova: A sculpted athlete at 6-7 and 289 pounds who could develop into a special base end for K.C.’s three-man front. Of African descent, he told USA TODAY Sports’ Tom Pelissero, “I wasn’t the greatest player ever when I started. I just liked playing. It was my way of making friends here. It was really good for me all around. I just stuck with it and I’m here today.”

60. Dallas Cowboys — Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado: After losing four key defensive backs during free agency, including both starting corners, this is a gift for Dallas. Awuzie is excellent in the slot, though Orlando Scandrick effectively usually plays inside. Regardless, Awuzie is a talent who will doubtless step into the starting lineup somewhere.

61. Packers — Josh Jones, S, North Carolina State: He put on a show at the combine (4.41 40-yard dash, 37½-inch vertical). At 6-1, 220 pounds, Jones is an enforcer but no liability in coverage, which is key as Green Bay continues upgrading its shaky secondary.

62. Pittsburgh Steelers — JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Southern California: A very tough player whose name is typically linked to Anquan Boldin’s as a comparison. Smith-Schuster’s production dropped in 2016, yet he gleefully noted USC’s resurgence as a program and was only too happy to be part of a winner. He can make chain-moving catches for Ben Roethlisberger when coverages have rolled toward Antonio Brown and/or Le’Veon Bell. A good insurance policy, too, as Martavis Bryant works his way back from suspension.

63. Bills (from Atlanta Falcons) — Dion Dawkins, OL, Temple: Buffalo jumps back into Round 2, apparently with the intent of plugging Dawkins into its right tackle spot. At 6-4, 314 pounds, he’s an impressive specimen who should also create wider rush lanes for Shady McCoy.

64. Panthers (from New England Patriots) — Taylor Moton, OL, Western Michigan: After surrounding QB Cam Newton and his surgically repaired wing with two multi-dimensional backs, GM Dave Gettleman gets to work bolstering the blocking. Moton could get a shot at right tackle now that Mike Remmers has moved on.


65. Browns — Larry Ogunjobi, DL, North Carolina-Charlotte: A 6-3, 305-pounder who can play inside along Danny Shelton in Cleveland’s new four-man front.

66. 49ers — Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado: Could compete for a starting spot opposite Jimmie Ward in a so-so secondary.

67. Saints (from Bears via 49ers) — Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee: His talents as a runner, receiver and returner don’t put him all that far behind Christian McCaffrey. The biggest question with Kamara is his ability to handle an NFL workload after being used judiciously by the Vols, who never gave more than 18 carries in a game. Stated another way, his tires are nice and fresh. But playing behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson, Kamara may still have to be content with 10 or so touches per game at the outset of his career.

68. Jaguars — Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois: Probably a rotational player to start his career for a defense that appears loaded in 2017.

69. Rams — Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington: Could instantly compete for starting role in L.A. The standard bearer for the Football Championship Subdivision level with career marks for catches (428), receiving yards (6,464) and TDs (73). He went out with a bang as a senior in 2016, compiling 117 receptions for 1,700 yards, and 17 scores. Kupp (6-2, 204) makes every catch from the routine to the circus variety. He’s got nice size and just enough speed (4.62 in the 40) to keep defenses honest. He can also return punts.

70. Vikings (from Jets) — Pat Elflein, OL, Ohio State: Whether at guard or center, he’s a more-than-reliable performer who should help steady an offensive line that was decimated by injuries in 2016.

71. Chargers — Dan Feeney, G, Indiana: The Bolts suddenly much stronger up the middle with Feeney being added to the mix along with second rounder Forrest Lamp. It’s possible years are being added to QB Philip Rivers’ career.

72. Titans (from Panthers via Patriots) — Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky: Another new toy for Marcus Mariota. Taylor racked up more than 3,200 receiving yards over the past two years.

73. Bengals — Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State: He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 after efforting his way to 11½ sacks and 17½ tackles for loss. At 6-4, 255 pounds, he’ll nicely fit Cincinnati’s preference for long edge players with a little more time in the weight room.

74. Ravens (from Eagles) —  Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan: Should immediately challenge for a starting job on Baltimore’s three-man front. Had 22 tackles for loss over past two seasons. Goes from Jim Harbaugh to John Harbaugh.

75. Falcons (from Bills) — Duke Riley, LB, LSU: He’s just 6-feet, 232 pounds but his athleticism should fit in nicely with Atlanta’s speedy, somewhat undersized group.

76. Saints — Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida: At 6-3, 241 pounds with 4.6 speed, he’s got a lot of enviable traits for a defense that needs them. If Anzalone, who has durability issues, can stay on the field, this should be an excellent choice.

77. Panthers (from Cardinals) — Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M: Myles Garrett’s Aggies wingman, Hall joins a D with aging pass rushers Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson. A good opportunity for him to learn and establish himself in time.

78. Ravens — Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama: There’s no questioning the talent, but concerns about Williams’ character dropped him down the board. But GM Ozzie Newsome tends to see extra value in players from his alma mater and will hope Williams can put his issues behind him. With 27½ sacks since 2015, he’s got the ability to help revitalize the Baltimore pass rush.

79. Jets (from Vikings) — ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama: Produced consistently even in the Tide’s pedestrian passing offense. Stewart averaged 59 grabs for 782 yards over the last two years. He can also contribute on special teams. But Stewart might challenge for major offensive snaps given Brandon Marshall’s departure and the general lack of play-making ability on New York’s roster.

80. Colts — Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio: Indianapolis needs playmakers in its front seven, and Basham (27 sacks in college) will have ample opportunity to play on a defense in transition.

81. Redskins — Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA: Washington made a great value pick in Round 1 by landing DL Jonathan Allen, who has worrisome shoulders. They probably did it again in the third round. If not for the pectoral tear he suffered at the Bruins’ pro day, Moreau would have been long gone. He’ll probably be ready to play at some point this season and would be a nice upgrade opposite Josh Norman.

82. Broncos — Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisana Tech: Could compete for No. 3 job behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Henderson rolled up 1,535 receiving yards in 2016.

83. Patriots (from Titans) — Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State: They finally get to pick a player in this draft, and it’s one who could help them get to quarterbacks on passing downs. Rivers had 14 sacks a year ago.

84. Buccaneers — Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State: Bucs QB Jameis Winston is loving this draft. Godwin was a solid producer for the Nittany Lions and thrived while battling for the ball and yards in traffic. Capped his career with a 187-yard, two-touchdown day in the Rose Bowl. He had a strong combine, too, shining in the weight room, during on-field drills and posted a 4.42 40 time.

85. Patriots (from Lions) — Antonio Garcia, T, Troy: At 6-6, 302 pounds, he’s long and a standout athlete for the position. Maybe New England’s left tackle of the future?

86. Chiefs (from Dolphins via Vikings) — Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo: A very productive runner who also developed his pass-catching ability as a senior, Hunt joins a relatively crowded Kansas City backfield.

87. Giants — Davis Webb, QB, California: A dogged worker whose numbers (4,295 yards, 37 TD passes) at Cal last year were just a tick below Jared Goff’s production a season earlier. Like most of his peers, Webb needs some acclimation time from the spread offense to the NFL, but he’d get plenty of that apprenticing under Eli Manning. Webb might also have a coaching future.

88. Raiders — Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA: Some Oakland players have willingly noted the lack of impact they got from their defensive interior last season. If healthy, Vanderdoes could change that.

89. Texans — D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas: Last year’s Doak Walker Award winner racked up more than 2,000 yards on the ground. Could form a nice thunder-and-lightning combo with Lamar Miller.

90. Seahawks — Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida: Posted 4.38 40 time at combine. At 6-0, 194 pounds, he fits the prototype of Seattle corners. Willing tackler.

91. Rams (from Chiefs via Bills) — John Johnson, S, Boston College: His experience at corner and defending the slot are assets. But he’ll probably need to shore up his tackling to be a reliable three-down player. Picked off three passes each of past two seasons, mostly while playing at deep safety, but split time between strong safety and cornerback in 2015. Could challenge for a starting role on back end for L.A.

92. Cowboys — Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan: Dallas continues reloading its secondary with a tenacious player. Lewis might have gone higher if not for the misdemeanor charge of domestic violence he faces. He’s scheduled to go on trial in July.

93. Packers — Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn: Could challenge for Pack’s nose tackle post if he harnesses his ability.

94. Steelers — Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee: Pittsburgh wanted to add depth to its secondary, and Sutton is good in man coverage.

95. Seahawks (from Falcons) — Delano Hill, S, Michigan: Could make an impact on sub packages or special teams and provide nice depth as the miles add up on Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.

96. Lions (from Patriots) — Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois: Averaged 80 receptions and more than 1,100 yards over last two seasons. A 6-4, 218-pound build will distinguish him among Detroit receivers.

97. Dolphins (compensatory) — Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson: Has NFL build (6-1, 199) but plenty of flaws in his game. Still, nice piece of clay for Miami to potentially mold.

98. Cardinals (compensatory from Panthers) — Chad Williams, WR, Grambling: Will have to claw his way to find snaps on this roster. May have  to make early mark on special teams.

99. Eagles (compensatory from Ravens) — Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia: Massive (6-2, 209) productive DB, who swiped eight passes as a senior in 2016. Has a chance to start right away in Philly, perhaps drawing assignments against larger wideouts like Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant.

100. Titans (compensatory from Rams) — Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International: At 6-3, 248 pounds, he’s got 78 grabs since 2015. Depth behind Delanie Walker for now.

101. Broncos (compensatory) — Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar: Good size (6 feet, 201) and speed (4.43 40 time), but he’ll have to bide his time for a team that may have the best trio of corners in the league.

102. Seahawks (compensatory) — Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina: Seattle held exceptional D-line depth during its 2013 championship year and seems to be attempting to recreate that now after taking Malik McDowell earlier tonight.

103. Saints (compensatory from Patriots via Browns) — Trey Hendrickson, LB, Florida Atlantic: He posted 15 tackles for loss each of the last two seasons and totaled 23 sacks. New Orleans would love half that production for its woeful pass defense.

104. 49ers (compensatory from Chiefs via Vikings) — C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa: Upside seems limited but could crack a depth chart that currently only has Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.

105. Steelers (compensatory) — James Conner, RB, Pitt: Nice story as the Panthers star who beat cancer gets to remain in the same football facility, which is shared with Pittsburgh. Before he became sick, Conner was the ACC offensive player of the year in 2014 after amassing 1,765 rushing yards and 26 TDs. Physical runner who will give Le’Veon Bell needed breathers.

106. Seahawks (compensatory) — Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan: He doesn’t look particularly gifted in any specific area, nor is he really lacking in any aspect. He’s fast if not quick but does a nice job getting behind defenders. Could develop into a steady No. 2 receiver.

107. Buccaneers (compensatory from Jets) — Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU: Throwback linebacker at 6-2, 243 pounds and not necessarily great in coverage. Also coming off major knee injury. Physicality should be welcome in base packages.


108. Packers (from Browns) — Vince Biegel, OLB, Wisconsin

109. Vikings (from 49ers) — Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa

110. Jaguars — Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma

111. Seahawks (from 49ers through Bears) — Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado

112. Bears (from Rams)  — Eddie Jackson, DB, Alabama

113. Chargers — Rayshawn Jenkins, S, Miami (Fla.)

114. Redskins (from Jets) — Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma

115. Cardinals (from Panthers) — Dorian Johnson, G, Pitt

116. Bengals — Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

117. Rams (from Bears through Bills) — Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M

118. Eagles — Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina

119. Bears (from Cardinals) — Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T

120. Vikings — Ben Gedeon, LB, Michigan

121. 49ers (from Colts) — Joe Williams, RB, Utah

122. Ravens — Nico Siragusa, G, San Diego State

123. Redskins — Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State

124. Lions (from Patriots through Titans) — Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee

125. Rams (from Jets through Buccaneers) — Samson Ebukam, LB, Eastern Washington

126. Browns (from Broncos) — Howard Wilson, CB, Houston

127. Lions — Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo

128. Bengals (from Vikings through Dolphins) — Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee

129. Raiders — David Sharpe, OT, Florida

130. Texans — Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell

131. Patriots (from Seahawks) — Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas

132. Eagles (from Vikings through Chiefs) — Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State

133. Cowboys — Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina

134. Packers — Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU

135. Steelers — Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee

136. Falcons — Sean Harlow, G, Oregon State

137. Colts (from Patriots) — Zach Banner, OT, USC

138. Bengals — Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan

139. Chiefs (from Vikings through Eagles and Browns) — Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan

140. Giants — Wayne Gallman, RB, Giants

141. Jets (from Rams) — Chad Hansen, WR, California

142. Texans (from Browns)  — Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

143. Colts (from 49ers) — Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida

144. Colts — Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State


145. Broncos (from) Browns — Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

146. 49ers — George Kittle, TE, Iowa

147. Bears — Jordan Morgan, OT, Kutztown (Pa.)

148. Jaguars — Blair Brown, LB, Ohio

149. Falcons (from Bills through Rams) — Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State

150. Jets — Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson

151. Chargers — Desmond King, CB, Iowa

152. Panthers — Corn Elder, CB, Miami (Fla.)

153. Bengals — Jake Elliott, K, Memphis

154. Redskins (from Saints) — Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas

155. Titans (from Eagles) — Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA

156. Falcons (from Bills) — Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming

157. Cardinals — Will Holden, OT, Vanderbilt

158. Colts — Nate Hairston, CB, Temple

159. Ravens — Jermaine Eluemunor, G/OT, Texas A&M

160. Browns (from Jets through Vikings) — Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State

161. Colts (from 49ers through Redskins) — Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern

162. Buccaneers — Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State

163. Bills (from Patriots through Broncos) — Matt Milano, LB, Boston College

164. Dolphins (from Eagles through Titans) — Isaac Asiata, G, Utah

165. Lions — Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego

166. Eagles (from Dolphins) — Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia

167. Giants — Avery Moss, DE, Youngstown State

168. Raiders — Marquel Lee, LB, Wake Forest

169. Texans — Treston Decoud, CB, Oregon State

170. Vikings (from Chiefs) — Rodney Adams, WR, South Florida

171. Bills (from Cowboys) — Nathan Peterman, QB, Pitt

172. Broncos (from Packers) — Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia

173. Steelers — Brian Allen, CB, Utah

174. Falcons — Eric Saubert, TE, Drake

175. Packers (from Broncos through Browns and Patriots) — DeAngelo Yancey, WR, Purdue

176. Bengals — J.J. Dielman, C, Utah

177. 49ers (from Broncos) — Trent Taylor, WR, Louisiana Tech

178. Dolphins — Davon Godchaux, DT, LSU

179. Cardinals — T.J. Logan, RB, North Carolina

180. Vikings (from Chiefs) — Danny Isidora, G, Miami (Fla.)

181. Jets (from Browns) — Dylan Donahue, DE, West Georgia

182. Packers — Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP

183. Chiefs (from Patriots) — Ukeme Eligwe, LB, Georgia Southern

184. Eagles (from Dolphins) — Nathan Gerry, S/LB, Nebraska


185. Browns — Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida

186. Ravens (from 49ers) — Chuck Clark, S, Virginia Tech

187. Seahawks (from Jaguars) — Mike Tyson, S, Cincinnati

188. Jets (from Browns through Texans and Bears) — Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisana Lafayette

189. Rams — Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane

190. Chargers — Sam Tevi, OT, Utah

191. Cowboys (from Jets) — Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech

192. Panthers — Alex Armah, DE, West Georgia

193. Bengals — Jordan Evans, LB, Oklahoma

194. Dolphins (from Eagles) — Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State

195. Bills — Tanner Valejo, S/LB, Boise State

196. Saints — Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami (Fla.)

197. Jets (from Rams through Bears and Cardinals) — Jeremy Clark, CB, Michigan

198. 49ers (from Ravens) — D.T. Jones, DT, Ole Miss

199. Redskins (from Vikings) — Chase Roullier, C, Wyoming

200. Giants (from Titans through Patriots and Colts) — Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pitt

201. Vikings (from Redskins) — Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech

202. 49ers (from Broncos) — Pita Taumoepena, OLB, Utah

203. Broncos (from Titans) — De’Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina

204. Jets (from Buccaneers) — Derrick Jones, CB, Mississippi

205. Lions — Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE, Arkansas

206. Rams (from Dolphins) — Sam Rogers, FB, Virginia Tech

207. Bengals (from Titans through Giants) — Brandon Wilson, RB, Houston

208. Cardinals (from Raiders) — Johnathan “Rudy” Ford, S, Auburn

209. Redskins (from Texans) — Robert Davis, WR, Georgia State

210. Seahawks — Justin Senior, OT, Mississippi State

211. Patriots (from Cowboys) — Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA

212. Packers — Kofi Amichia, OT, South Florida

213. Steelers — Colin Holba, LS, Louisville

214. Eagles (from Titans through Falcons) — Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington

215. Lions (from Patriots) — Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (Fla.)

216. Cowboys (from Patriots through Chiefs) — Marques White, CB, Florida State

217. Titans (from Bengals) — Corey Levin, G, Chattanooga

218. Chiefs — Leon McQuay, S, USC


219. Vikings (from 49ers through Browns) — Stacy Coley, Miami (Fla.)

220. Vikings (from Redskins through 49ers) — Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern

221. Raiders (from Cardinals through Bears) — Shalom Luani, S, Washington State

222. Jaguars — Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota

223. Buccaneers (from Dolphins through Rams) — Steve Tu’ikolovatu, DT, USC

224. Browns (from Jets) — Zane Gonzalez, K, Arizona State

225. Chargers — Isaac Rochell, DE, Notre Dame

226. Seahawks (from Panthers) — David Moore, WR, East Central (Oklahoma)

227. Titans (from Bengals) — Josh Carraway, LB, TCU

228. Cowboys (from Bills) — Joey Ivie, DT, Florida

229. 49ers (from Saints) — Adrian Colbert, CB, Miami (Fla.)

230. Redskins (from Vikings through Eagles) — Josh Harvey-Clemons, S, Louisville

231. Raiders (from Cardinals) — Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State

232. Vikings — Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State

233. Panthers (from Colts through Browns) — Harrison Butker, K, Georgia Tech

234. Rams (from Ravens) — Ejuan Price, DE, Pitt

235. Redskins — Joshua Holsey, CB, Auburn

236. Titans — Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova

237. Dolphins (from Buccaneers) — Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech

238. Packers (from Broncos) — Devonte Mays, RB, Utah State

239. Cowboys (from Patriots through Lions) — Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State

240. Jaguars (from Dolphins) — Marquez Williams, FB, Miami (OH)

241. Titans (from Giants) — Khalfani Muhammad, RB, California

242. Raiders — Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina

243. Texans — Kyle Fuller, C, Baylor

244. Raiders (from Seahawks) — Treyvon Hester, DT, Toledo

245. Vikings (from Chiefs) — Jack Tocho, CB, North Carolina State

246. Cowboys — Jordan Carrell, DE/DT, Colorado

247. Packers — Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

248. Steelers — Keion Adams, DE/OLB, Western Michigan

249. Seahawks (from Falcons) — Christopher Carson, RB, Oklahoma State

250. Lions (from Patriots) — Pat O’Connor, DE, Eastern Michigan

251. Bengals — Mason Schreck, TE, Buffalo

252. Browns (from Broncos) — Matthew Dayes, RB, North Carolina State

253. Broncos — Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi

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