Offensive lineman Richie Incognito retired from the NFL after 13 seasons.
Why It Matters: The Bills have now lost or traded three of their five starting offensive linemen from 2017, and arguably their three best. AJ McCarron will likely open the year as their starting quarterback and the team has one proven wide receiver on the roster. LeSean McCoy is going to have an uphill battle to remain among the league’s top rushers.
Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network reports “people familiar with the Browns thinking” expect them to take Wyoming QB Josh Allen with the first pick.
Why It Matters: USC’s Sam Darnold had been the consensus choice for the Browns until recently, but Allen was always mentioned as the other possibility. Some draft analysts are reporting that the Browns are putting this information out there, which could be because no one can stop them from taking who they want, but it also could be an effort to induce a team to trade up to the Giants pick at #2 with the belief that Darnold will be there. We should know the identity of their pick before the draft.
The Browns signed WR Jarvis Landry to a five-year, 75.5 million dollar deal with 47 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: It might seem like a lot for a slot receiver who does most of his work within ten yards of the line of scrimmage, but Landry also bring tone-setting leadership and physical intensity to a Browns offense that lost future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas to retirement this offseason. He’s unlikely to put up the numbers that made him a PPR WR1/WR2 in Miami during his rookie contract, but Landry should be the top pass catcher for the Browns, albeit with a small passing pie to split up with Tyrod Taylor or a rookie at the helm.
QB Andrew Luck revealed that he’s yet to throw a regulation-sized NFL football in his recovery.
Why It Matters: The news out of the Colts camp had been mostly positive regarding Luck’s recovery, but this should cause pause. At least Luck is talking to the media and he emphasized that he is staying on the schedule after possibly rushing his progress last year and ending up missing the season. Luck’s return and projecting his teammates as if he’ll play 16 games and be most of his old self remains a “we’ll believe it when we see it” situation
According to Denver 7’s Troy Renck, the Dolphins backed out of a Ja’Wuan James for C.J. Anderson deal at the last second.
Why It Matters: The Dolphins want to get a between the tackles back to take some of the work off of Kenyan Drake’s plate, and Anderson has a fan in the building in head coach Adam Gase. There was some speculation that the Broncos would release Anderson or ask him to take a pay cut, but so far that hasn’t happened yet. If Saquon Barkley falls to the #5, we could see him available to the Dolphins for free after the draft.
The Patriots signed WR Jordan Matthews (Buffalo) to a one-year deal for one million dollars with 170,000 guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Matthews could make something out of the opportunity opened up in the Patriots wide receiver corps by the Brandin Cooks trade, although he’ll operate mainly out of the slot - if he makes the team. His low pay indicates that he will be in battle for a spot with Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, and Cordarrelle Patterson. He could have fantasy relevance if he makes the team and one of Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman or Chris Hogan misses time, but he’s not worth a pick in early drafts.
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report reports that the Patriots are the team most interested in Louisville QB Lamar Jackson.
Why It Matters: We will be on Tom Brady future replacement watch during the draft, and Jackson would be intriguing indeed. His fantasy ceiling is higher than any quarterback in this draft because of his running ability, and if Josh McDaniels gets to mold an offense around Jackson, he’ll maximize his potential as a passer too. Jackson might not be available by the time the Patriots first first-round pick is on the clock at #23, but they have the picks on the first and second day to move up if they have determined they want Jackson to be their future starting quarterback.
New York Jets
Why It Matters: Johnson had a chance to earn a role with the Panthers last year, but ended up on injured reserve. He had the measureables and hype to generate some fantasy value earlier in his career, although he’s a longshot to make the Jets roster as one of 17 options to make the team at this moment.
The Jets have scheduled a visit with USC QB Sam Darnold.
Why It Matters: The Jets reportedly did not think Darnold would be the board when they select at #3, but now perhaps they have information that changed their belief. That could be linked to the Browns reported interest in Wyoming QB Josh Allen. Perhaps they are just covering all of their bases at this late point in the draft process, but teams don’t use precious resources and time unless they see some possibility of taking a player or otherwise gaining something from the visit. It is possible that the Jets are simply gathering information on a player they could face in the future.
Raiders EDGE Khalil Mack did not report for the open of the team’s offseason program.
Why It Matters: Mack is far and away the best player on the Raiders defense, which has deficiencies at multiple positions. He is reportedly seeking 65 million dollars guaranteed, and with the scarcity of edge rushers and his caliber of play, Mack has earned it. The Raiders need to handle this correctly, as they can’t afford to enter Week 1 with Mack holding out and still expect to be effective at all when they are defending the pass.
According to Tony Pauline, the Titans canceled a draft visit with Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch.
Why It Matters: The Titans pick 25th, so pencil Vander Esch in your top 24 picks of mock drafts. There has been speculation that he could go as high as #13 to Washington, and Detroit at #20 is also possible. Vander Esch is physically gifted and he grew a lot as a player in 2017 after coming up as an eight-man football star in Idaho. He can handle coverage responsibilities and be a stout linebacker vs the run. The Titans could turn to Alabama’s Rashaan Evans if they are looking for an off-ball linebacker in the first round.
EDGE Markus Golden could move to defensive end this season, as head coach Steve Wilks confirmed that they will move to a 4-3 defensive scheme this season.
Why It Matters: Golden and Chandler Jones will gain value in IDP leagues with the move to defensive end, and Jones will be one of the most valuable IDPs if he can maintain his production. Jones and Golden have both played with their hands on the ground before, so the transition shouldn’t be too rough for either, although Golden is coming back from an ACL tear.
The NFL suspended LB Thomas Davis for four games under the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Why It Matters: The team was reportedly going to exercise their fifth-year option on Shaq Thompson this offseason, so Thompson could complete the changing of the guard at linebacker during Davis’s missed games. He’ll be an underrated player in IDP drafts.
The Bears declined to match New Orleans offer to WR Cam Meredith.
Why It Matters: The Bears signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel this offseason, but 2015 first-round bust Kevin White is probably the best candidate to line up outside opposite Robinson with Meredith gone. GM Ryan Pace’s decision to tender Meredith at the original round level and save one million dollars left Meredith unprotected and induced an offer sheet. The team has reportedly had concerns about the recovery of his knee since October and Meredith would not put a timetable on his return, so this might have been more about his physical condition than a lack of belief in his level of play. Meredith’s departure should free up targets for Tarik Cohen out of the backfield and the tight end duo of Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen unless the team makes another move or spends a draft pick at wide receiver.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reports that some Cowboys coaches think WR Dez Bryant’s physical gifts started slipping in 2015 and he hasn’t done enough to change his game, and while the inability to sign Sammy Watkins probably “saved Bryant’s place on the roster”, it is “not crazy” to think he could still be released. He and owner Jerry Jones will meet on Friday, April 13.
Why It Matters: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport believes the team will ask Bryant to take a pay cut, but that he will be with the team in 2018. This one has been up in the air all offseason, and it could remain uncertain even after this meeting if Bryant doesn’t take the pay cut and the team drafts a wide receiver like Alabama’s Calvin Ridley or Maryland’s DJ Moore in the first round. Bryant would certainly get signed and start elsewhere, but it is clear that he isn’t the player he was at his peak.
The Lions will give 2017 fourth-round TE Michael Roberts a larger role this season.
Why It Matters: The Lions don’t have a go-to receiver in the red zone and that was one of Roberts’ specialties at Toledo. He could creep onto the radar as a bye week/injury replacement, cheap DFS matchup option, or matchup play for tight end streamers if all goes well in his development.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press expects the Lions to use a running back by committee this season.
Why It Matters: This isn’t really a change from previous years, but the team does have an upgrade between the tackles and in short yardage in LeGarrette Blount, and they could force fewer touches to Ameer Abdullah this season. The Lions might take a running back in the first round if LSU’s Derrius Guice is there, and are strong candidates to take a running back on the second day and further complicate this situation.
The Saints signed RFA WR Cameron Meredith (Chicago) to a two-year, 9.6 million dollar contract with 5.4 million guaranteed.
Why It Matters: Meredith’s timetable to return is unknown by his own admission, so we shouldn’t get too excited about his prospects with the Saints just yet. 2019 might be the emphasis of this deal with 33-year-old Ted Ginn Jr as the #2 receiver this year. Meredith appeared to be a rising star before his preseason knee injury, and he could be very productive with Drew Brees once he’s back to full speed, as long as the team doesn’t take a tight end early that will develop into a primary downfield target. This is good for Meredith’s fantasy stock, but it does raise the possibility that he won’t be back to the level he was at before his ACL/MCL tear.
New York Giants
Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reports that a trade of WR Odell Beckham Jr Jr. is “highly unlikely”. Beckham reported to the team for the start of their offseason program on Monday, April 9.
Why It Matters: This offseason headline has come and gone without any earth-shattering developments. Beckham is still a top three fantasy receiver even with Eli Manning as his quarterback, although it would brighten his future outlook if the Giants take a quarterback at #2. The team could still decide to refrain from signing him to a long-term extension, and there were rumors that Beckham wouldn’t play this year unless he had an extension, so there could be another chapter to this drama yet, but for now the Beckham beat is quiet.
Eli Manning said he and the team have not discussed his status past 2018.
Why It Matters: This is consistent with the Giants taking a quarterback at #2. Manning replaced Kurt Warner mid-season in his rookie year, and it’s very possible Manning will be replaced mid-season by a rookie this year. He probably won’t have a last chapter nearly as bright as Warner’s, but if Manning isn’t starting for the Giants next year and still wants to play in the NFL, he’ll be starting somewhere.
Safety Landon Collins needs a second surgery on his broken forearm.
Why It Matters: Collins was one of the few bright spots on the defense last year. They traded away Jason Pierre-Paul, so the Giants need Collins’ playmaking ability even more. He’s still on schedule to be ready to play this season, but this recovery is already off track, so it merits more monitoring this spring and summer.
Linebacker Reuben Foster was charged with felony domestic violence on Thursday, April 12.
Why It Matters: He is facing up to 11 years in jail and other charges, so this could be curtains for Foster, and not just with the 49ers. The team has said his “place in the organization is under great scrutiny”, and it’s difficult to imagine him catching on with another team if he is found guilty of the felony charge. Foster’s play last year made him look like a steal at the end of the first, but it’s obvious now why he was still available.
The Seahawks signed CB Dontae Johnson (San Francisco).
Why It Matters: Johnson was a starter for the 49ers last year, but he was one of the worst starting cornerbacks in the league. He has the length and style of play the Seahawks value in the secondary, but the fact that it’s possible that Johnson will start for them shows just how far and quickly this secondary and defense has fallen.
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