Shutdown Corner - NFL

  • Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone had a cancerous mole removed from his skin but said he's fine, ABC affiliate WKBW first reported.

    For a short time Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills website had a story with the headline, "Coach Marrone announces he has cancer," referring to head coach Doug Marrone. Then the story, which was obviously unfinished and left space for the writer to add a quote from Marrone and the specific cancer, was deleted. That led to a lot of speculation.

    WKBW sports director Jeff Russo had the news.

    Here's the full statement from Marrone, via the Bills public relations staff:

    "During a recent doctor's visit, it was discovered that I had a cancerous mole on my skin, which has since been removed. The only follow up required is to have my moles checked every 3 months and that basically is the end of the story. The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward."

    Hopefully, as Marrone said, this is the end of the story and he has no further issues with his health going forward.

    - - - - - - -

    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The Seattle Seahawks defense ate Peyton Manning alive, so he's building up his confidence with a secondary he can beat: elementary school kids.

    Nice work by his receiver to clear out some space with a double-juke, then explode into the open field for the catch. Good presence of mind to keep both feet in bounds, too. As for the defender? Richard Sherman is making his way to that school right now to teach these kids the art of being a — say it with us — shutdown corner.

    So, yes, great performance by the young receiver. Unfortunately, Mel Kiper Jr. is projecting the kid as a lock to go to the Raiders. But at least he'll get to see his buddy Peyton twice a year.

    As for Manning: he's seriously mellowed out since the last time we saw him throwing to kids. Either that, or he's going to crush Junior at the first dropped pass:

    ____
    Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

  • New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning plans to be back for training camp. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on Manning’s performance this season.

    Manning had arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle earlier in April, but told reporters on Tuesday he planned to be ready when training camp begins in August.

    A healthy Manning is one thing, but productivity is something else.

    Manning led the NFL with 27 interceptions during New York’s 7-9 season in 2013. He finished with 3,818 passing yards and 18 touchdowns, but Manning’s passer rating was 69.4 (second lowest total of his career).

    Manning led New York to a Super Bowl win during the 2011 season. However, Manning has led his team to the playoffs once during the past five years. In addition, he has thrown at least 25 interceptions twice over the past four seasons.

    New York signed Josh Freeman to backup Manning this season. Freeman is not expected to compete against Manning, but is a solid option if Manning is not healthy once training camp begins. Freeman can help New York’s receivers obtain quality preseason minutes if the Giants are cautious with Manning before the regular season.

    - - - - - - -

    Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

    RECEIVER/TIGHT END

    Carolina Panthers: Assuming Carolina does not plan to run a wing-T offense this season, the Panthers will need to draft more than one receiver. Carolina released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith, who signed with Baltimore. Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon each signed with other teams during free agency. Carolina replaced those receivers with Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh), Jason Avant (Philadelphia) and Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay) ... not necessarily the second coming of Washington’s “Fun Bunch.”

    Carolina could use its first-round pick on USC receiver Marqise Lee, who won the 2012 Biletnikoff Award with a breakout season (1,721 yards, 14 TDs) before nagging leg injuries led to 791 yards and four TDs last season. He would be an instant upgrade to Carolina’s roster, but the same could be said about Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, who is similar to Smith. Carolina could justify selecting receivers in the first two rounds. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

    Oakland Raiders: With all due respect to James Jones and Rod Streater, there is not a game-changer on this roster. Jones signed a three-year deal with Oakland this offseason. He played through nagging injuries last season, but still had a career-high 817 receiving yards. He led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions in 2012, but Aaron Rodgers was his quarterback, not Matt Schaub. Oakland could add Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and have a threat in the passing game. Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is a top-10 talent too, and he would be an instant upgrade as well. NEED LEVEL: Medium high

    Tennessee Titans: Nate Washington, Dexter McCluster and Kendall Wright are a good group of receivers, but Jake Locker still does not have a reliable No.1 option. Tennessee was hopeful Kenny Britt would emerge into a standout, but he made more noise for his off-the-field antics. Tennessee may not need a receiver in the first-round, but LSU’s Odell Beckham can stretch the field and would give the Titans more options. NEED LEVEL: Medium high

    St. Louis Rams: Most teams try to build around their franchise quarterback, but St. Louis has failed to give Sam Bradford some much-needed help. Tavon Austin excelled as a rookie last season, but Chris Givens took a step backward, while Stedman Bailey is still developing. St. Louis should address pressing needs in the first-round, but Penn State receiver Allen Robinson, LSU’s Jarvis Landry or Beckham could make Bradford feel better about his options. NEED LEVEL: Medium

    Dallas Cowboys: After Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, things gets really shaky. Former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin remains unsigned because of his annual hamstring difficulties, and considering Tony Romo is 34 and recovering from back surgery, Dallas’ window of opportunity is closing. Of course some might say the window has been closed for years, and that is a fair assessment, too. Dallas needs help defensively, but players such as Clemson’s Martavis Bryant, Fresno State’s Davante Adams, BYU’s Cody Hoffman, and UCLA’s Shaq Evans are realistic possibilities for Dallas after the first-round. Adding a tight end, such as Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, is another solid option for Dallas. NEED LEVEL: Medium

    Other teams in need: N.Y. Jets, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco

    NFL Draft Needs series
    April 18: Linebacker
    April 19: Defensive line
    April 20: Offensive line
    April 21: Running back
    April 22: Receiver/tight end
    April 23: Quarterback
    April 24: Defensive back
    April 25: Running back

    - - - - - - -

    Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • If you were armed with the knowledge that an NFL player suffered a stroke on the field because of a hit, you'd figure it would be apparent what happened when you saw the replay. MMQB.com reported that Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen suffered a stroke on the field and is retiring as a result, and the frightening part is the hit in question looks like any other NFL play.

    If a hit caused a dead spot on an NFL player's brain, as it did with Allen, it should be clear, right? The kind of hit that looked like it resulted in a bad concussion but turned out to be much worse.

    That's not the case with Allen. He never even paused to go down to a knee or had any reaction really.

    MMQB's excellent story by Robert Klemko outlined the series in which Allen apparently took the hit that gave him a stroke. In the first play from scrimmage after halftime in Week 15 against Buffalo, Allen hit center Eric Wood, who was trying to block him. Although Allen said he felt "something flash" after hitting Wood, he didn't lose consciousness and went back to the huddle. If you look at the replay of the game, there's nothing about that play that stands out as unusual. A center and a linebacker meeting on a run play. No big deal. Allen shows no reaction. But apparently that was the hit that caused the injury.

    Allen stayed in. On second and third downs, Allen drops into coverage. On second down he congratulated cornerback Alan Ball for a tackle. On third he made a tackle. And again, even after studying Allen through those plays, nothing seems unusual.

    That's the scariest part of Allen's story. It wasn't one big hit. Even after multiple viewings, it seems like a normal play.

    Allen said he started seeing double on the sideline in the second half, but went back in and finished the game. When headaches persisted on Monday, he informed the team what happened. An MRI showed that he had a stroke, MMQB wrote. A small part of his cerebellum was inactive. Three neurosurgeons confirmed the injury, the type of stroke that has never happened to a pro football player before, as far as they knew. It was the kind of injury seen in a small percentage of high-speed automobile accidents, MMQB wrote.

    And here's the quote from Allen that continues to haunt the NFL, as it rides the fine line of promoting concussion safety and awareness while also contradicting that with actions like not guaranteeing player contracts:

    “If I could go back in time I would do it differently,” Allen says. “Being in it and knowing how I felt in that moment, the game feels so serious. You’re thinking, I can’t come out, because what if someone else comes in and takes my job? Or they need me out there, and I can’t come out because I really want to win. But you can’t do that, and I learned that the hard way.”

    The NFL doesn't want players to lie about head injuries, but this type of attitude will be hard to eliminate.

    Allen, 27, is done with football. He was released last Thursday by the Jaguars because of a "failed physical." It's a sad and scary story, and hopefully Allen has a normal life as a father and husband. About the only good news is the injury wasn't worse.

    - - - - - - -

    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • It was 10 years ago that Pat Tillman, who had given up everything he had worked for in the NFL to serve for his country, was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

    Hopefully, no one has forgotten his contributions to our nation. He was a truly selfless man whose memory should live on strongly for decades.

    What about the NFL? The league has done plenty to honor his memory, and it likely will continue to do so. Check out the video above — a touching interview between NFL Network's Jeff Darlington and Tillman's widow, Marie. She has helped carry on Pat's spirit and enlighten people about the incredible sacrifices he made for himself, his family and his country.

    And if you ask NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, he believes  after reading this ESPN piece  that Tillman has done enough to be considered for entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    It's a fascinating debate. As a player, he appeared in only 60 games for the Arizona Cardinals and tallied three interceptions, 2.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries in his career. Tillman was a good, hard-nosed player who was just entering his prime after four NFL seasons following the 2001 campaign when he gave up everything and reported for duty to join the fight of hunting down Osama bin Laden.

    As a player, Tillman's credentials fall short. There are only 24 defensive backs in Canton, and even if Tillman played 10-12 years in the league, it's not likely he would have joined that group.

    But clearly, Tillman's contributions go way beyond interceptions. The Hall of Fame voters, as it says on the official website, are charged with inducting "the finest the game has produced" into Canton, and Collinsworth's point is that Tillman certainly qualifies in that regard.
    There are 19 "contributors" who have been elected to the Hall of Fame over the years, with the majority of them former commissioners, team owners, scouts, historians and the like. Could Tillman perhaps fit into that category?
    After all, he has been out of the game now 10 years and, per one Hall of Fame voter who has been on the committee for several years, has never come up seriously in conversation.
    And here's the natural follow-up: Would Pat even have wanted to be mentioned for the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Likely not. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame, and for good reason: his standout career at Arizona State. It's a nice way of honoring him. But as this excellent 2011 feature by ESPN's Johnette Howard points out, via Tillman's closest friends, it's not likely that Tillman would have wanted to be honored in that way.
    Collinsworth's tweets bring up the talk of Tillman on the anniversary of his death in the line of duty, and we're grateful that his name remains one that resonates with people to this day. It should. But there might be other ways to honor his memory than by forcing his induction into the Hall of Fame.

    - - - - - - -

    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • The closer we get to the NFL Draft, the more analysis, speculation, contemplation, and outright bull we're going to hear. Your challenge as a fan is to figure out whether the stories you're hearing about your team's preferred players are rooted in truth or manure. (Spoiler: nobody knows anything.)

    Jadeveon Clowney has the talents to be a potential No. 1 pick in the draft. (That's right where our Eric Edholm projects him.) He also has attributes that, viewed through a certain lens, concern former players such as Warren Sapp, who held court on NFL Total Access on Monday. The topic at hand: Clowney's work ethic, or perceived lack thereof.

    “My grandfather taught me something a long time ago," Sapp said. "He said ‘You will never get more money by doing less work. I look at Jadeveon Clowney’s tape and I don’t see a guy that is playing the game with his hair on fire, making plays, running up and down the field sideline to sideline, doing all of the things.”

    No disrespect to Sapp's grandfather, but here's another, more recent cliche: work smarter, not harder. Clowney does have plenty to prove, but running around like one's hair is on fire — which, with Clowney, would be a heck of a sight — doesn't guarantee anything other than that the player's going to be gassed by the fourth quarter. Knowing when to pick one's spots is a critical skill as well.

    The focal point for Sapp's rage was Clowney's decision not to hold on-field workouts prior to the draft. "What else is he doing, not waking up?" Sapp said. "The next job you have is rushing the quarterback, young man, getting ready for the NFL. If you wake up every morning and you're not prepared to go out and do the things you have to be either be an outside linebacker or pass rushing specialist, what else is there? You can blow your knee out walking your doggy. So why would you not work out for a team that has twenty million-plus dollars for you?"

    Well, for one reason, that twenty-million-plus dollars would vanish faster than an opposing QB's heartbeat if Clowney were to injure himself the way Clemson's Brandon Thomas did during his team workout. Clowney's done more than enough, on tape, in games, to satisfy any reasonable draft analyst; when you're already projected as a potential No. 1 pick, there's only one direction that more information can send you.

    Sapp is falling into the traditional media trap of growing frustrated with players who don't make things easier on the media. This isn't about "looking out" for Clowney, this is about Sapp using his platform to tee off on Clowney. Sapp, of course, knows a thing or two about media reports harming one's draft stock, but then things always look a little different from the other side of the fence. 

    ____
    Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

  • The NFL playoffs are coming to cable television.

    That's not such a huge deal now, but when ESPN got "Sunday Night Football" back in the stone ages of 1987, it was big news that the league was putting regular-season games on cable. Kids, cable television wasn't as widespread as it is today. We were a little more than a couple decades from getting just about any sporting event you want on your phone, mostly because the few cell phones in circulation were the size of shoeboxes. The idea of a playoff game on cable back then? Nonsense.

    Well, it took a while but it will happen. ESPN will broadcast a wild-card playoff game in January of 2015, a first for the network even though it has been showing NFL games for more than 25 years. As part of the NFL's "Monday Night Football" agreement with ESPN it had the option to put a playoff game on the network, and it exercised that option for this season. But why?

    It's possible we'll understand that answer better when the NFL regular-season schedule is announced. And the additional news that the NFL added a divisional playoff game to NBC's package probably is related to the ESPN news.

    ESPN's "Monday Night Football" schedule has been famously average or worse through most of its run, with the top game going to NBC and "Sunday Night Football" most weeks. CBS is joining the "Thursday Night Football" game this season. The NFL Network had a Thursday night schedule that was notoriously bad, much worse than ESPN. There was no way the NFL was going to give CBS a half-season of Thursday night games and stick them with ratings killers like Buffalo vs. Jacksonville. CBS was definitely going to get some good games to showcase, and that cuts out another piece of the pie before ESPN got to the table. It also means that NBC's schedule is likely taking a hit too, which explains why the league gave NBC a divisional playoff game for the first time since it bought the rights to "Sunday Night Football" in 2006. NBC will get a divisional playoff game each season through 2022. NBC will also broadcast a wild-card playoff game this season, as usual. The NFL has to keep all of its television partners happy.

    The NFL schedule should come out this week, although the league is once again being very secretive about the exact date. But given that the league hooked up ESPN and NBC with some valuable playoff inventory, the most interesting part of the schedule release will be seeing what those two networks and CBS are getting in the regular season.

    - - - - - - -

    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

    Ryan Shazier
    Linebacker
    Ohio State
    6-foot-1, 237 pounds
    2013 stats: 134 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
    40-yard dash: 4.36 seconds (unofficial time at pro day)

    The good: Shazier is explosive to the ball and violent when he gets there. It's impressive watching his film, because he's so fast through the line. You expect a top-flight linebacker to rack up solo tackles in college, as Shazier did. He had 208 in three years and was on pace to break the Ohio State record for tackles had he not entered the NFL draft a year early (and the Buckeyes have had a few great linebackers). But he also was on pace to break the school record for tackles for loss, and that's generally a stat dominated by pass rushers. Only 14 of his 44.5 career tackles for loss were sacks. He's a master at hitting running backs behind the line. If it wasn't obvious from his college film he was a great athlete, he had an outstanding combine. He had the best vertical jump among linebackers (42 inches), best broad jump (10-foot-10), and fifth-best three-cone drill time (6.91 seconds). Then he ran a 40-yard dash that was unofficially timed at 4.36 or 4.37 at his pro day. To put that in perspective, wide receiver pick Sammy Watkins, a potential top five pick, ran a 4.43 in the 40. Shazier is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft, and he's a heck of a football player too.

    The bad: Here's where we should be talking about his weight, because in college he said he played last season at 228, and appeared to be lighter earlier in his career. That's a little small for an NFL linebacker. But he showed up for the combine at 237 pounds, which is even more than C.J. Mosley, the top middle linebacker prospect. Shazier is not known for his coverage, and will have to learn how to play man schemes in the pros because he wasn't asked to do that a lot in college. But given his athletic ability, it doesn't seem like that will be too tough of a task. Heck, his dad is even the team chaplain for the Miami Dolphins and he spoke at the combine about how important his faith was to him, which would seem to be a positive if you're looking for a high-character player. There's not much "bad" to find with Shazier.

    The verdict: Most mock drafts have Shazier going late in the first, but that might be too conservative. What is there not to like? The athleticism and production are clearly evident, and he did it against top competition. He doesn't have an extensive injury history. He's best suited for weak-side linebacker, but at 237 pounds he's big enough to play in the middle. Luke Kuechly, the reigning defensive player of the year, was just five pounds more at the combine two years ago. You're telling me the NFL is going to let him slip down to the point where a playoff team like Green Bay or maybe even Denver gets a crack at him? I don't buy it. Someone is waiting to take him higher than anyone is projecting right now. And that team will be right.

    - - - - - - -

    Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

  • We’ve taken the next step here. Although our mock drafts this past year might outnumber our visits to the gym, this will be the first time we project trades. Are they going to happen just like we see them? Of course not. But it's fun to envision scenarios that are not immediately evident, and yet we know that trades are a huge part of the draft landscape.

    There were nine trades involving first- or second-round picks on the first two days of the 2013 NFL draft. In this scenario, we project a pedestrian three — enough to get our creative juices flowing and start the plate tectonics a bit, but not too many to cloud and skew the picture dramatically. But it's no coincidence that two of the three deals involve trades up for quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. That sort of thing tends to happen on the clock when teams get antsy.

    We’ll check in the night before the draft — 16 agonizing days from now — with our final first-round predictions from the Shutdown Corner contributors. But here’s how the first 64 picks look right now.

    1. Houston Texans — South Carolina DE-LB Jadeveon Clowney

    We’ve had him in this spot for months and haven’t wavered much from it. Clowney’s pro day performance displayed what we suspected: that he’d have no trouble going in reverse, if asked to. The Texans might be in their base defense only 30 percent of the time, so Clowney will be quite comfortable rushing the Andrew Lucks of the world from a right-end spot — or wherever else coordinator Romeo Crennel wants to play him. That said, a trade down wouldn't be out of the question — something we hadn't considered previously.

    Shaun King's take: Major question marks and concerns

    2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) — Auburn OT Greg Robinson

    The Rams’ offense must marry the power run game with the rhythm passing game, and Robinson can step in and help give it a boost. He’s already an NFL-caliber run blocker, and his athleticism and work ethic should allow him to be a plus pass blocker in time. Jeff Fisher’s ties to Jake Matthews aside, this is the right fit. Robinson should dominate as a second-level blocker on the turf.

    Shaun King's take: Best run blocker in a decade

    3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Buffalo LB-DE Khalil Mack

    Coach Gus Bradley now has the makings of a deep and skilled front seven that can make the Jags contenders. They face a slew of good quarterbacks, but they also face a handful of teams that could be starting rookies at the position, so the m.o. in Jacksonville will be to attack and force turnovers to give the offense as many chances as possible. Mack was a turnover machine in college and is the perfect fit as the “Leo” linebacker in this scheme.

    Shaun King's take: Best pound-for-pound player in the draft

    4. Cleveland Browns — Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews

    General manager Ray Farmer has been on the job a little over two months now, and he’s weighed his options at No. 4. Knowing he has two more picks coming in the subsequent 30 slots, Farmer likely will want to make as safe a selection as possible here and maybe not tie himself to a quarterback in this spot. If they need to — foreshadowing alert — the Browns can trade up for a QB later. Here, they take their starting right tackle for a decade.

    Shaun King's take: Most polished player

    5. Oakland Raiders — Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

    Watkins would be a huge upgrade over the inconsistent and unreliable Denarius Moore at the “X” receiver spot and give Matt Schaub a run-after-the-catch threat. The Raiders would be in decent hands with a top three receivers of Watkins, James Jones and Rod Streater. Ideally, they’d find their quarterback of the future here, but this is a good alternative assuming they do not.

    Shaun King's take: Unquestionably No. 1 receiver in draft

    6. Atlanta Falcons — Michigan OT Taylor Lewan

    Too soon? The Falcons were soft up front last season. Way too soft. Mike Tice is the new OL coach, and he likes players such as Lewan, who carry a nasty streak. The Falcons can keep Sam Baker at left tackle for now and put Lewan on the right side, but it would not be surprising to see Lewan slide over to the left at some point. He’s exactly the guy to add a little vinegar to their recipe up front.

    Shaun King's take: Has potential, but not refined

    7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Texas A&M WR Mike Evans

    Prior to the trade of Mike Williams, the Bucs had depth problems at receiver. Now they have a talent deficiency, too. Evans and Vincent Jackson have some overlapping skills, but that’s OK. So, too, do Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and new Bucs QB Josh McCown might feel like he’s back in Chicago when he sees these two physical freaks running patterns.

    Shaun King's take: Second-best receiver in the draft

    8. Minnesota Vikings — Central Florida QB Blake Bortles

    The Vikings can’t afford to mess around with their top quarterback option on the board. Yes, the Daunte Culpepper connections would arise with this pairing, but Bortles is a slightly different cat. But GM Rick Spielman watched Bortles light it up at his pro day, and you’d have to think that his skills would translate very well to a Norv Turner-called offense. The beauty, too, is that Matt Cassel can win the job, and Bortles can replace him whenever he’s good and ready.

    Shaun King's take: Highest ceiling QB in draft

    9. Buffalo Bills — UCLA LB-DE Anthony Barr

    The Bills don’t have a ton of pressing needs, and a pass-rushing linebacker/end might not be atop the list, but there is a lack of depth behind Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. Jim Schwartz runs the wide-9 scheme and needs his edge rushers to crash down hard, yet have the athleticism to stay balanced and flexible. That’s Barr, who could more seasoning. But his upside is undeniable.

    Shaun King's take: Not souring on Barr

    10. Detroit Lions — Alabama S Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix

    New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin knows that in order for his secondary to work, he must have good safety play. Nearly everywhere Austin has coached, he has helped cultivate talented safeties (Matt Elam in Baltimore and the University of Florida; Antrel Rolle with the Cardinals) and taught them to be ballhawks. Clinton-Dix comes from a pro-caliber college defense, and even with a slight downtick in his play in 2013, he shows the ability to be a Day 1 centerfielder in the back half of a defense. The Lions want to let their young corners develop, and having better safety play should help.

    Shaun King's take: Like an Earl Thomas

    11. Tennessee Titans — Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert

    Not willing to pull the trigger on a quarterback here, the Titans could still address a major need by drafting Gilbert, who could start Day 1 opposite Jason McCourty and take Leon Washington out of a job on kick returns. Gilbert has the long arms and press-coverage ability to check the Andre Johnsons of the world, and the alpha-dog persona to be a perfect fit for fiery new coordinator Ray Horton.

    Shaun King's take: Not aggressive enough

    12. New York Giants — Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald

    The Giants have some interesting names at defensive tackle, but none of them are guaranteed contributors this season. They need an inside penetrator to help check blocking schemes against them and open things up for Jason Pierre-Paul, and Donald appears to be that perfect fit. Giants DL coach Robert Nunn has had to be a big motivator for all the talented but inconsistent underachievers the Giants have had up front, but that won’t be a problem with Donald, whose motor always runs hot.

    13. St. Louis Rams — Louisville S Calvin Pryor

    Pryor isn’t Earl Thomas, but he has some Thomas-like aggression and pursuit ability, which is a perfect fit in the NFC West, one of the most aggressive divisions going. The Rams had trouble defending the deep pass last season, and Pryor can be for them what Michael Griffin was for Jeff Fisher’s Titans teams. If Pryor can learn to play with a little more control, he could be a leader for perhaps the best young defense in the NFL. Seriously. (Oh, and don’t think I haven’t heard the Johnny Manziel rumors. I just … couldn’t.)

    14. Chicago Bears — Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman

    Bit of a tough spot for the Bears, who in this scenario will have seen the top defensive tackle, top corner and top two safeties go off the board. Their consolation prize is a Phil Emery special — the freakishly gifted but inconsistent Ra’Shede Hageman, who could be a monster or a bust. He has Richard Seymour-like physical traits but must grow into being that type of player. The Bears don’t have many players who can anchor inside, so Hageman would fill the bill there and try to develop on the job.

    15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Ohio State CB Bradley Roby

    Roby might never be an elite player, but he reminds me a little of Deshea Townshend, and he might look the same to Dick Lebeau as well. Roby didn’t have his best final year in college but is a better player than, say, the Wisconsin game tape reveals. He can blitz, play man or zone, outside or slot. This would be an instant-impact addition.

    16. Dallas Cowboys — Notre Dame OG-OT Zack Martin

    It has to kill Jerry Jones not to be able to draft an impact defender or even pull the trigger on, say, Johnny Manziel. This is a draft loaded with intriguing upside players, and yet we’re projecting them a very safe, sound pick. Why? It’s a need, with Martin able to start Day 1 at guard and kick out to right tackle next year when the team has to consider cutting Doug Free.

    17. Baltimore Ravens — LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.

    Beckham can play all three receiver spots and return punts and kickoffs, making him a valuable piece on a team that lacked receiving weapons last season. A package of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside, Steve Smith and Beckham in the slot and Dennis Pitta would be an outstanding upgradge for Joe Flacco this season.

    Shaun King's take: Like Sammy Watkins without consistency

    18. New York Jets — North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

    The Jets don’t have a threat to stretch the seam, so this would be a perfect match of need and ability. Ebron might not be a plus blocker in the NFL right now, and the Jets probably wouldn’t ask him to be right away. But they have to have some big plays in the passing game to fit the skills of either Geno Smith or Michael Vick, and Ebron could help achieve this. Ebron’s bombastic personality also could be a big hit with Rex Ryan, too.

    Shaun King's take: As good as Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski

    19. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Miami Dolphins) — Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

    Two years ago, the Cowboys traded the 18th pick to the 49ers for the 31st and 74th overall selections. In this scenario, we think the Browns could deal the 26th and 83rd overall picks (ones they acquired in separate trades from the Colts and Steelers) to move up for Manziel, in what would be among the more talked-about moves in the draft. The Browns go safe at the No. 4 pick, and then they move all their chips to the middle with Johnny. It’s a great way to hedge with the Matthews pick — his college teammate, no less. The Browns have done their homework on Manziel, and then some. On the flip side, it would make sense for new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey to trade down here because there is no player in this scenario he has to have, and it allows him to add a valuable pick later in the draft.

    Shaun King's take: Johnny Football won't be successful in NFL

    20. Arizona Cardinals — Fresno State QB Derek Carr

    The Cardinals are in a strange place: They have one of the 4-5 best-looking rosters in the conference but they just happen to be the third-best team in their division. Still, there’s a strong argument to take the best non-QB available and hope he’s an instant-impact player. But short of one being here, the Cardinals might feel they have to pull the trigger on a quarterback with the positional run likely to start at this point of the draft. Bruce Arians loves confident, strong-arm passers (who doesn’t?), and Carr could be a perfect fit in this vertical scheme. He can come in to challenge Carson Palmer but can sit and marinate for a while until Palmer plays his way out of a job.

    Shaun King's take: Tough evaluation; long growth process

    21. Green Bay Packers — Alabama LB C.J. Mosley

    This is a dream pick for the Packers, who must upgrade over Brad Jones, and Mosley does that by giving Green Bay a player who contributes on all four downs — special teams, too. His injury history is concerning to some teams, but all things being equal, the Packers would be getting one of the top 10 best pure football players in this year’s class at exceptional value at a need position.

    22. Philadelphia Eagles — Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard

    We can’t quite pin the Eagles at 22, knowing that it could be receiver or perhaps an edge player. After all, cornerback isn’t a super-pressing need, but most of the key contributors are solid if not eminently replaceable. Dennard would give this unit some more confidence, athleticism and physicality.

    Shaun King's take: Day 1 starter in this league

    23. Kansas City Chiefs — UCLA OG Xavier Su’a-Filo

    Andy Reid’s love for smart, aggressive, intelligent offensive linemen shows through, and Su’A-Filo figures to be a Day 1 starter. He played left tackle but probably figures best inside. The Chiefs have a huge hole at right guard, and frankly left guard might be an issue, too, unless Jeff Allen plays better. Everyone is screaming for a receiver, but that can wait. The line needs an immediate upgrade.

    24. Cincinnati Bengals — Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller

    Fuller missed half his final season with a core muscle injury, but in his limited play, he did great work against a pair of 2015 NFL draft propspects — wideouts Amari Cooper and Justin Hardy — and showed at the combine that he’s back in great shape. The Bengals currently have some age and question marks at corner, and Fuller would give them the physical, long-armed corner they thought they were getting with Dre Kirkpatrick.

    25. San Diego Chargers — TCU CB Jason Verrett

    The Chargers’ two biggest needs on defense are at nose tackle and corner, and it’s likely they will address either one with this pick. We mocked them the competitive, feisty, ball-seeking Verrett, who bears some resemblance to Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. The Chargers want to keep adding these types of playmakers in their secondary, especially with at least another year of facing Peyton Manning, whom they faced three times last season.

    26. Miami Dolphins (projected trade with Cleveland Browns) — Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio

    Moving down would allows the Dolphins to add a starting-caliber talent, albeit a player who must answer questions about his health and some poor performances last season. Still, this is a potential anchor at right tackle and part of a continuing rebuilding job up front for the Dolphins.

    27. New Orleans Saints — Auburn OLB-DE Dee Ford

    Having watched the top five cornerbacks go off the board quickly, the Saints turn to their other pressing defensive need. Ford can heat up the edges as a third-down rusher early in his career while he learns the nuances of playing OLB in a “30” front. Rob Ryan knows that if he can’t get a cover guy he must find some more pressure to help make up for it.

    28. Carolina Panthers — USC WR Marqise Lee

    With no ace left tackle prospect still on the board, the Panthers must fill another huge void. Lee has some Marvin Harrison-like qualities but must prove that his 2012 tailspin was an aberration. He’ll be the most talented receiver on the roster, but the pressure to help replace Steve Smith and Co. will be high.

    Shaun King's take: Most polished receiver in draft

    29. Jacksonville Jaguars (projected trade with New England Patriots) — Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater

    The Jaguars are building some momentum, and their extra draft picks (two fourths, three fifths and two sixths) will allow them to feel comfortable moving up 10 spots to nab the freefalling Bridgewater. This would be a perfect marriage: Bridgewater’s dogged determination and all-around solid skills with Gus Bradley and the team’s West Coast scheme.

    Shaun King's take: No. 1 QB in the draft

    30. San Francisco 49ers — Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks

    The speed merchant fills a void and gives the 49ers a more diverse passing game, one that in theory can attack most parts of the field now. You have Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree working the sticks, Vernon Davis threatening the seam and the edges, and Cooks as a deep threat. Cooks also has a little chip on his shoulder that will play well with the hard-edged Jim Harbaugh.

    31. Denver Broncos — Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

    We can’t think of too many better fits. There’s a hole in the middle of an otherwise good Broncos defense, and the confident and supremely athletic Shazier would be an instant hit, never coming off the field. He can play inside or outside, base or nickel and makes this front seven even stronger as a Day 1 starter. The Broncos have hit all the right notes this offseason, and this would be another strong play.

    32. Seattle Seahawks — Nevada OG-C-OT Joel Bitonio

    Don’t put it past the Seahawks to go a little off the grid with this pick, as they often do with their first choice every year. Bitonio slowly has been rising through the ranks during the pre-draft process and is exactly the kind of athletic, versatile addition this team could use. He’s probably best at guard and could earn a starting spot out of the chute (as a clear upgrade over right guard JR Sweezy), but Bitonio also played left tackle last season and has been tried in workouts at center.

    Round 2

    33. Houston Texans — Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage

    Look, we’re not sold on him, either. But the fast-rising Savage fits the mold of a smart, tough, strong-armed quarterback that Bill O’Brien will be seeking.

    34. Washington Redskins — Northern Illinois S Jimmy Ward

    They’re still able to nab a starter at a need position despite giving away their first-round pick.

    35. Cleveland Browns — Indiana WR Cody Latimer

    Physical wideout looked good in college despite subpar QB play. Imagine what he’ll do in Cleveland! (wink)

    36. Oakland Raiders — LSU QB Zach Mettenberger

    The ghost of Al Davis comes to life in the pick of this risky, high-upside, strong-armed passer.

    37. Atlanta Falcons — Boise State DE-OLB Demarcus Lawrence

    Perfect edge rusher to help them make the transition to a 3-4 defense, if that’s what they want to do.

    38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson

    Massive but athletic guard would have en excellent chance to start as a rookie — at either guard spot.

    39. New England Patriots (projected trade from Jacksonville Jaguars) — Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin

    Remember the Patriots’ rumored interest in Larry Fitzgerald? This is their big-bodied consolation who can give Tom Brady another shot at a title.

    Shaun King's take: Plays like Alshon Jeffery

    40. Minnesota Vikings — Rice CB Phillip Gaines

    The fast-rising (and fast-running) Gaines would be the speedier bookend to the physical Xavier Rhodes.

    41. Buffalo Bills — Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief

    With Stevie Johnson perhaps on the outs, Moncrief gives them an ideal replacement. Eric Moulds Jr.?

    42. Tennessee Titans — Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III

    The slide ends for Nix, who is a perfect addition to a team transitioning to a “30” front.

    43. New York Giants — Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro

    The Giants have needed to break out of the one-year, free-agent rental approach at tight end.

    44. St. Louis Rams — Alabama QB A.J. McCarron

    Brian Schottenheimer, who interviewed for the Bama offensive coordinator gig in 2012, finally gets to work with McCarron.

    Shaun King's take: Back-up at best

    45. Detroit Lions — Fresno State WR Davante Adams

    A perfect complement to the explosive Calvin Johnson and the quick Golden Tate to give Matthew Stafford a strong three amigos.

    46. Pittsburgh Steelers — Penn State WR Allen Robinson

    The Steelers stay in-state to provide Ben Roethlisberger some much-needed size and skill among a smallish WR group.

    47. Dallas Cowboys — Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan

    This is a very good fit for a penetrating 1-technique in Rod Marinelli’s defense.

    48. Baltimore Ravens — Virginia OT Morgan Moses

    Long-armed project is worth the gamble and could find his way into the Week 1 right tackle mix.

    49. New York Jets — Missouri OLB-DE Kony Ealy

    In no way, we think, did Rex Ryan think he’d find this good an edge rusher this far down.

    50. Miami Dolphins — Clemson WR Martavis Bryant

    If the Dolphins are drafting him as Mike Wallace’s eventual replacement, they have a year to season Bryant.

    51. Chicago Bears — Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde

    Granted, defense is still a huge need. But Matt Forte has two years left on his deal, and undrafted speed back Michael Ford is the only other back on the roster.

    Shaun King's take: Most complete back in draft

    52. Arizona Cardinals — Washington State S Deone Bucannon

    Super-athletic tone setter could help give Cardinals a terrific secondary to compete with the NFC West elite.

    53. Green Bay Packers — Colorado State C Weston Richburg

    Blue-collar center fits in with smarts and toughness and can work with Aaron Rodgers from the get-go.

    54. Philadelphia Eagles — Stanford OLB Trent Murphy

    Hard-nosed, high-motor edge player can get stronger while providing depth.

    55. Cincinnati Bengals — Georgia Tech OLB Jerry Attaochu

    The Bengals can follow a familiar pattern of drafting a talented DL project in Round 2 (e.g., Margus Hunt, Devon Still).

    56. San Francisco 49ers — Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland

    The 49ers love rangy corners, and even though he’s raw, Breeland fits the mold perfectly at a need position.

    57. San Diego Chargers — Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews

    GM Tom Telesco loves production, and Matthews did so with little around him, drawing top SEC corners.

    58. New Orleans Saints — Florida State CB Lamarcus Joyner

    If there’s ever a cornerback who could play for Rob Ryan, the feisty Joyner is it.

    59. Indianapolis Colts — USC C-OG Marcus Martin

    Martin would be a huge upgrade over Khaled Holmes (his former college teammate) or Hugh Thornton at either guard or center, and with the recent (and sudden) retirement of Phil Costa, the depth inside is painfully thin.

    60. Carolina Panthers — Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson

    Might be their Week 1 starting left tackle, and they can’t wait any longer to draft at this spot.

    61. San Francisco 49ers — Florida DT Dominique Easley

    Has played in both odd and even fronts, and the 49ers have the luxury of waiting for him to get fully healthy.

    62. New England Patriots — Notre Dame DT Stephon Tuitt

    Can work in at two need spots: as a base end on early downs or inside on passing downs.

    63. Tennessee Titans (projected trade with Denver Broncos) — Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo

    The Titans make a bold move, trading a 2015 pick (they have no third-rounder this year), to land competition for Jake Locker — ahead of the Buccaneers (who pick at No. 69 and who have met multiple times with Garoppolo).

    64. Seattle Seahawks — Washington TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins

    The former top lieutenant under Pete Carroll, Steve Sarkesian is sure to give a spot-on scouting report.

    Third-round prospect

    Auburn RB Tre Mason

    Shaun King's take: Question marks for next level

    - - - - - - -

    Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Shutdown Corner

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Related Photo Gallery

Y! Sports Blog