With the 2018 scouting combine kicking off this week, NFL Nation reporters take a closer look at the positions of need for all 32 teams and which players will be closely evaluated.
Click the link after each team to view the full post.
There were signs Ryan Tannehill could be on the rise when Miami extended him in 2015, but last season’s knee injury cast doubt on his long-term future with the Dolphins. It would be wise for the Dolphins to explore their options in the draft to potentially upgrade from Tannehill over the long haul. Read more.
The Patriots need a strong off-the-line linebacker. On offense, there will be some intrigue as to whether the team can find “the next Jimmy Garoppolo” at quarterback, that is a high-upside developmental prospect. Read more.
Let’s make it easy and list the positions that don’t need to be addressed: free safety and strong safety (Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams, respectively). The Jets are open for business everywhere else, which tells you why they won only five games last season. Read more.
Baltimore has to upgrade the supporting cast for quarterback Joe Flacco and improve the NFL’s No. 27 offense. The Ravens desperately need to draft a wide receiver because their top two (Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin) could be gone and Breshad Perriman has been a bust. Read more.
The Bengals must make their offensive line their first priority after allowing 80 sacks in two seasons. The Bengals don’t have much stability at that position with center Russell Bodine potentially becoming a free agent and their two tackles remaining big question marks. Read more.
The Browns will focus on quarterbacks, obviously, but they also need to be sure about two other players they will consider drafting: running back Saquon Barkley and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. This draft is too important to miss on any opportunity. Read more.
This process starts with inside linebacker, where the Steelers were depleted last season after a severe spinal injury to Ryan Shazier and a shoulder injury to backup Tyler Matakevich. The Steelers will have options here and should capitalize on them. Read more.
The Texans’ biggest offseason need right now is to upgrade their offensive line. The group gave up 252 total pressures, the second-most allowed by a team in any of the previous 12 seasons. Read more.
Pass-rusher or running back first? Will the Colts surprise everybody and go with an offensive lineman in the first round? That’s just the start for the Colts, who also need to add depth at receiver behind T.Y. Hilton because Donte Moncrief and Kamar Aiken are headed to free agency. Read more.
Interior offensive line and tight end should be the Jaguars’ top two priorities at the combine. The Jaguars finished the regular season as the NFL’s top rushing team (141.4 yards per game), but their production dropped off significantly over the final six games. Read more.
The Titans’ pass-rush pipeline is barren as 2016 second-round pick Kevin Dodd is looking like a bust and 32-year-old Erik Walden is a pending free agent. Depending on what happens with pending free agent Avery Williamson, inside linebacker could be a big need, too. Read more.
After a 5-11 finish, it’s clear the Broncos need plenty of things, but a solution at quarterback certainly leads the way. Read more.
With one of the league’s worst run defenses last season, the Chargers need to add more athletic bodies who can make an impact defensively in the run game. That means players who can create havoc up front and rangy athletes at the second level of the defense who can cover and tackle. Read more.
The Cowboys need linebacker, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, safety and tight end help either in major or minor ways. It is always worth remembering a draft is not just about the current year but the future. Read more.
New general manager Dave Gettleman has made it a priority to rebuild the offensive line — his “hog mollies” as he likes to say. The Giants can use guards and tackles. Maybe even a center. They won’t discriminate. If you’re an offensive lineman, you’re in play. Read more.
The Eagles need to bolster their linebacker corps. Besides lacking depth, there are question marks around each of the 2017 starters: Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and has had difficulty staying healthy, Nigel Bradham is a pending free agent, and Mychal Kendricks has requested to be traded in the past. Read more.
The Bears’ top offensive need is at wide receiver, as the team had only one receiver crack the 50-catch mark in 2017 — Kendall Wright (59), who is an unrestricted free agent. The Bears are still holding out hope that former first-round pick Kevin White will pan out, but White has played in only five regular-season games since the Bears drafted him No. 7 overall in 2015. Read more.
The Lions are set at some positions, including receiver and quarterback. But don’t be surprised if this draft ends up heavy on linemen. Read more.
When Dom Capers took over in 2009, then-GM Ted Thompson finagled his way into a pair of first-round picks and turned them into nose tackle B.J. Raji and linebacker Clay Matthews. They became cornerstones of a defense that won the Super Bowl. Mike Pettine needs that kind of talent influx as he implements his defensive system. Read more.
Aside from figuring out who the quarterback will be in 2018, the Vikings’ other biggest need this offseason is to add pieces to the offensive line. The unit struggled to protect Case Keenum in the playoffs and has a number of question marks. Read more.
The Falcons likely will prioritize the offensive and defensive lines because coach Dan Quinn always emphasizes winning the line of scrimmage first. Read more.
The easy choice is wide receiver. The Panthers traded No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo last season and promoted Devin Funchess into that role. Funchess, who was dealing with a shoulder injury late in the season, never proved worthy of the promotion. Read more.
The biggest needs are defensive end (since last year’s standout starter, Alex Okafor, is a free agent and coming back from a torn Achilles), a pass-catching tight end and an athletic outside linebacker. Read more.
Look for the Buccaneers to make upgrades on defense, with both their pass rush and their back end. Read more.
The Cardinals don’t have a projected starter at quarterback on the roster and might address the position in free agency, but the draft might be where Arizona finds a long-term answer. Read more.
The Rams did a fine job fixing the offense last offseason, and now it’s time to focus on the defense. Cornerback stands out as their most glaring need. Read more.
Top needs are edge-rusher, cornerback and interior offensive line. The Niners also could use a game-breaker at receiver or running back, but with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in place, those positions aren’t as pressing. Read more.
The Seahawks have varying degrees of need or potential need at as many position groups as they have areas that are currently solidified. Such is life for a team with 16 unrestricted free agents and uncertainty with several other starters. Read more.
Buffalo Bills GM — ‘No rush’ on extension for QB Josh Allen despite mutual interest
Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Beane said he had spoken with the NFL’s MVP runner-up from a season ago about extending his contract, which is entering the fourth year of Allen’s rookie deal. However, Beane said he doesn’t expect a deal to get done until at least after next week’s draft, and perhaps well into the spring or summer.
“There’s no rush, we’ll have some kind of conversation,” Beane said. “Listen, we would love to get Josh extended. No doubt. It has to be a number that works for him and works for us. That’s been my conversation with them and they know the same. We’re all on the same page. Josh wants to be here.”
Allen emerged as one of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks last season, passing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns in 2020, adding eight rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown while leading the Bills to an AFC championship game appearance.
The Wyoming product has made it clear that he wants to play out his career in Buffalo and didn’t seem deterred by
“When it happens, it happens,” Allen told NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt earlier this month. “They will iron out the details and if we can get to something soon, I’d obviously love to be locked down in Buffalo for a very long time. It’s a place that I call home, I love being there.”
Allen would represent Beane’s largest extension of his tenure with the Bills, after successfully extending left tackle Dion Dawkins and cornerback Tre’Davious White last offseason. The former Carolina Panthers assistant GM likened his current situation to the one he faced in Carolina with then-quarterback Cam Newton.
“We tried in Carolina to get Cam Newton done at this time and it didn’t work,” Beane said. “We just weren’t on the same page with his agent on where the value is to where we saw it. So we said, ‘Hey, no hard feelings, we’re all on the same page here.’ We pushed pause. He played that season and then after that season we got it done pretty quick that next offseason.
“We were all on the same page. I guess what I’m saying is you can’t force it. It happens when it happens.”
Beane previously said Allen’s extension will likely follow the same timeline as White, who was extended in early September 2020. Either way, it appears Allen’s next contract is not a matter of “if” but rather “when.”
“If it happens this year, great,” Beane said. “If it doesn’t, I’ll be very positive that we’ll get it done next year.”
Jury finds Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd murder
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter by a jury Tuesday for his role in the murder of George Floyd last May outside of a local convenience store.
Floyd’s death, and the video which showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, became a catalyst for the sports world’s racial and social justice movement last summer.
A jury of six white, four Black and two multi-racial jurors deliberated nine hours over two days — five hours on Monday; four hours Tuesday — before rendering a verdict. ABCNews.com has full coverage of the decision.
Chauvin faces a 40-year maximum sentence for the second-degree murder conviction, a 25-year sentence for third-degree murder and a 10-year sentence for second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s death led to nationwide protests and prompted athletes throughout the sports world to speak out on social and racial injustice. Former NBA player Stephen Jackson traveled to Minnesota the week Floyd died and said “I’m hurt, I’m angry, but I ain’t scared” in an emotional speech alongside fellow NBA players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie. Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics drove 15 hours to march at a protest in Atlanta.
NBA and WNBA players spoke out frequently, and both leagues resumed their seasons with “Black Lives Matter” painted on the court. “Through peaceful protest, we must demand strong leadership at all levels that is equally committed to achieving true social justice,” the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said in a statement the week of Floyd’s death.
As news of Floyd’s death spread, LeBron James posted a Twitter message with a photo of Floyd alongside an image of Colin Kaepernick and wrote “Do you understand NOW!!??!!??” Magic Johnson tweeted “How many times do we have to see Black men killed on national television?” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr tweeted “This is murder. Disgusting. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with US????”
A group of NFL players, including Patrick Mahomes, appeared in a Twitter video that started with “It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered. How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players? What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality?” and asking “What if I was George Floyd?”
When the NFL season opened in September, the Minnesota Vikings honored Floyd’s family at their opener with a moment of silence and silencing the team’s signature Gjallarhorn in his honor. The league had every team play “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” often called the Black national anthem, before season openers, and players wore the name of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black men and women killed by police on the back of their helmets.
Tennis player Naomi Osaka wore the names of seven Black people killed by police on her mask at every US Open match. When a reporter asked her what message she wanted to send, she said: “Well, what was the message that you got was more the question. I feel like the point is to make people start talking.”
Floyd was killed on May 25 after Minneapolis police officers responded to a call shortly after 8 p.m. about a possible forgery at a corner grocery. Floyd, saying he was claustrophobic as officers tried to put him in a squad car, ended up handcuffed and face-down in the street.
Chauvin used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck as bystanders shouted at him to stop. Bystander video shows Floyd crying “I can’t breathe” multiple times before going limp. He was pronounced dead at a hospital at age 46.
Police initially issued a statement saying Floyd died of a “medical incident.” Bystander video was posted online the next day, and in the face of growing protests in Minneapolis and nationwide, police said the FBI would investigate. Chauvin and three other officers were eventually fired as Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for criminal charges against Chauvin.
Chauvin, age 45 and a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force, was arrested on May 29 and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charges were later upgraded to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
As protests in Minneapolis and around the country grew, the county medical examiner ruled on June 1 that Floyd’s heart stopped as police restrained him and compressed his neck, noting Floyd had underlying health issue and listing fentanyl and methamphetamine use as “other significant conditions.”
At trial, prosecutors argued that Chauvin was responsible for Floyd’s death by keeping a knee on his neck. The defense argued he died because of drugs in his system and pre-existing health conditions.
Three other officers were also arrested and will stand trial together this summer.
NFL, Players Association approve first position-specific helmet design for OL, DL
The NFL and NFL Players Association have approved a position-specific helmet design for the first time since they began regulating equipment for players, representatives for both groups confirmed Tuesday.
The helmet, known as the VICIS ZERO2-R TRENCH, was built for offensive and defensive linemen and is ranked No. 2 on the league’s 2021 safety rankings. The helmets are equipped with bumpers on their front and upper sides, where NFL engineering studies showed are a common point of contact for linemen who absorb concussion-causing contact, according to Dr. Ann Good, a senior engineer at BioCore and a consultant to the NFL.
The league and union have been ranking helmets based on proprietary safety data since 2015, using lab tests designed by BioCore, and began banning the lowest-performing helmets in 2019. The primary goal was to drive down reported concussion totals among players, which peaked at 281 during the 2017 season. The 2021 ratings, distributed to teams Tuesday, added three models to the prohibited list and six to a category called “not recommended.”
Approximately 18% of players finished the 2020 season using one of those nine helmet models. But Dr. Kristy Arbogast, an engineering consultant for the NFLPA, said her expectation is that almost all of them will move to a better-performing helmet in 2021. In each of the past two seasons, 99% of NFL players have used a helmet recommended by the NFL/NFLPA ratings.
The NFL hasn’t publicized its complete concussion data from last season. But Jennifer Langton, the league’s senior vice president of health and safety innovation, said that reported concussion rates over the past three seasons (2018-20) are 25% lower than in the previous three seasons (2015-17).
“With these results,” Arbogast said, “we were able to demonstrate [to players] that the use of a lab test in ranking helmets and prohibiting helmets were relevant to [players’] game experience. We showed that by moving up the [ranking], players could really take an active role in their safety.”
It remains to be seen how many linemen will switch to the model built for them this season, but it is the first step in the NFL’s goal of spurring manufacturers to produce models for each position group. Dr. Jeff Crandall, the chair of the NFL engineering committee and the co-founder of BioCore, said there has been some “baseline testing” of models designed for quarterbacks. A model is likely to be finalized for future seasons, possibly in 2022, once an analysis is done of new technology the NFL is adopting for coach-to-quarterback communications.
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