NFL football analysis

Hub Arkush: Why, after two drafts, Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace knows what he's doing

Hub Arkush: Why, after two drafts, Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace knows what he's doing

Wow, 253 picks in 47 hours spread over three days and the 2016 NFL Draft as well as the Draft Town experience in Chicago are history.

We’ll get to how “The Beloved” did in a minute but first there is some business I have to take care of.

Just over 5 hours in, last Thursday night at the end of the first round, I had this epiphany that I had figured Ryan Pace out, and I wrote it and broadcast it on both radio and TV.

I now know I was only about 20 percent right.

Although it isn’t really this simple, in general terms there are three categories of “Draftmeisters” in the NFL: those who chase best player available regardless of position, a group that pursues best athlete available regardless of position, and those who approach each pick looking to fill a specific need.

That final group almost always fails over time, the best athlete guys end up with a mixed bag of wins and losses and the best player guys usually have the best chances of success.

When Pace followed his 2015 first round pick of Kevin White with a trade up to take Leonard Floyd I cut loose with a Eureka, I’ve got it!

Pace is a best athlete guy, woe is me.

I was wrong and what is really interesting is I think Pace may be creating a new category that may be all his own.

There are two things you can find in every Super Bowl champion and every great team that has managed to earn playoff games year after year for an extended period of time.

Each has at least a few flat-out studs, playmakers who can change a game in a heartbeat and they do it on a consistent basis.

But those guys can he hard to find and sometimes you have to take a few chances, swing and miss on occasion and eventually hit a few home runs.

The second thing about those teams is they never have any bad football players. There are no soft spots, and they have a bunch of guys who would be the best players on the team with almost any other club.

I think that’s what Ryan Pace is trying to build here in Chicago.

His two first-round picks in Chicago were down and dirty best athletes available who were not the best players available coming out of college, where he drafted them at seven and nine in the first round.

But both have almost limitless ceilings, and if John Fox and company can get out of them all they have to give, the Bears will have two playmaking difference makers.

The rest of Pace’s 2015 picks were all arguably best players available with the exception of Tayo Fabuluje. And all of them, Eddie Goldman, Hroniss Grasu, Jeremy Langford and Adrian Amos started as rookies.

I’ve got my butt planted firmly on the fence on the Floyd pick. I could have simply filled this column with what I don’t like about him or I could have filled it with what I love.

He’s a swing for the fences and we’ll see if he goes out of the park.

But like last year, the next eight players Pace took in this draft all had significantly higher grades on them on most draft boards than those that would fit where they were drafted.

For example, the Bears had no real need for another guard or inside linebacker, but Cody Whitehair and Nick Kwiatkoski were classic attempts at best players available.

The draft is as inexact a science as you will find, and teams that can bat .500 or better can become champions.

We’ll see how Pace and his Bears have done in a couple years.

But as we put this draft to bed, I find myself feeling exactly the same way about Pace as I did going in.

I think this guy knows exactly what he’s doing. Now, for Bears’ fans sake, I sure hope these kids can play.

Chicago Bears trade up in fourth round, draft LB Nick Kwiatkoski

Published: Updated:
Chicago Bears trade up in fourth round, draft LB Nick Kwiatkoski

The Bears just couldn't sit still during the 2016 NFL Draft, trading again — this time, up to the 113th pick — to select West Virginia linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski.

"We had a lot of conviction in him," Ryan Pace said. "It’s a guy we liked, he’s a three-year starter, a team captain, very instinctive, a tough-nosed player, plays downhill and very productive. So, a guy we valued to go up and get him and a guy we are real excited to have.”

The 6-foot-2, 243-pounder had 86 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three sacks and three interceptions as a senior for the Mountaineers, at a position he started playing his sophomore year.

“I came to West Virginia as a safety weighing about 205 pounds,” he said. “After my redshirt freshman year we got a new defensive coordinator. As soon as he came in, he pulled me into his office and said, ‘You’re moving to linebacker.’ I was open to the idea. I didn’t really know much at the time but after that first year at linebacker, it was a smooth transition.”

In his career in Morgantown, Kwiatkoski played in 48 games with 24 starts. He had 103 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss as a junior to go along with four pass breakups. Kwiatkoski had three picks and two sacks in 2013.

Pace highlighted Kwiatkoski's instincts as a reason he'll be able to translate well to the NFL game.

"He just reacts so quick and he attacks downhill, so he’s making tackles behind the line of scrimmage and I think indicates transfer to whatever level you’re playing at," he said. "That’s what I like about him."

Kwiatkoski will add depth to the inside linebacker position for the Bears behind Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman.

“The Bears have a long line of great linebackers. That’s something that makes me really happy to be a part of,” Kwiatkoski said. “They’re a hard-nosed defense. I haven’t really talked to anyone about where I’m going to be in the defense yet, but I feel like I bring versatility and just linebacker instincts. I feel like I’ve played multiple positions and I’m just happy to work.”

Kwiatkoski has the skill set to be an asset on special teams, too, and is yet another addition to the Bears’ coverage teams this offseason, something he’s looking forward to joining.

“I played special teams my freshman and sophomore years, kickoff and punt and kickoff return. I love special teams,” he said. “I love kickoffs. I was actually injured my sophomore year but I love running down the field and am excited about being part of Bears special teams.”

The Bears traded their 117th pick along with their 206th pick to move up to take Kwiatkoski.

Chicago Bears conclude NFL Draft with selection of WR Daniel Braverman

Published: Updated:

The Bears wrapped up their 2016 NFL Draft class with wide receiver Daniel Braverman, taking the Western Michigan product with the 230rd overall pick.

"This is a guy our scouts liked a lot. Real nifty, sudden slot receiver," Ryan Pace said. "Real instinctive in that area; finds holes in zones, a productive player and we’re excited to have him."

A 5-10, 177-pound receiver, Braverman was incredibly productive last season with 1,357 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns for the Broncos in 2015. At his Pro Day, Braverman ran a 4.47 40-yard dash.

“I think I have quick reaction skills and I’m very shifty within the route and with the ball in my hands and hopefully that will translate to the NFL game," Braverman told reporters. "Being from south Florida, you kind of get used to playing in big games, so Michigan State and Ohio State was just another way to be able to prove myself. I go out every game with a chip on my shoulder to try to prove that I belong and that I’m one of the best players on the field, so I take that with me.”

Braverman had 10 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State.

The Bears are set with their top receivers — Alshon Jeffery, Kevin White and Eddie Royal — but they’re thin in terms of slot receivers. Braverman will have a shot to make the roster if he can make a dent on special teams, and Braverman is comfortable returning punts.

“I’ve been punt returning ever since little league and kick returning ever since little league," he said. "I’ve been scoring touchdowns on special teams my whole life and I just take pride in being a football player and whatever I’m asked to do I’ll do it to the best of my ability. I believe I’m a playmaker, so if the Chicago Bears need me to do a couple punt returns, I’m here to do it.”

Chicago Bears address secondary by drafting Miami's Deon Bush

Published: Updated:
Chicago Bears address secondary by drafting Miami's Deon Bush

With their second pick in the fourth round, the Bears took Miami defensive back Deon Bush with the 124th overall pick.

"Good athlete, also a very physical player," Ryan Pace said. "I like the fact that he throws his body around just plays with toughness, plays with instincts and plays fast on the field. So, another guy we were fired up about to get.”

Bush is the first DB for the Bears this draft. A 6-0, 199-pound safety, he had four interceptions and 13 pass breakups in his career at Miami, where he modeled his game after Antrel Rolle and also worked out with the veteran Bears safety this offseason.

"I grew up watching Antrel Rolle and while he was down here in Miami I was working out with him, so he's kind of like a mentor to me," Bush said. "He's been in the league for a long time and I want to be in the league for a long time, so there's a lot to learn from him. It's just great having another player from 'The U' be like a family, like a brotherhood and it'll be great playing with him."

Bush was the first of three defensive backs the Bears drafted on Saturday, joining a safety group that includes Rolle, Adrian Amos, Omar Bolden, Chris Prosinski and Harold Jones-Quartey. Bush's strength? His hitting ability.

"I take big pride in being a big hitter, that's how I grew up playing the game," he said. "I've been trying to be the best hitter on my team ... I just take pride. That's how I like to play the game of football. I like to play tough, I like to put fear in my opponent and that's a big thing in my game."

Another DB for the Chicago Bears: Northern Iowa's Deiondre' Hall

Published: Updated:
Another DB for the Chicago Bears: Northern Iowa's Deiondre' Hall

The Bears went back-to-back in the secondary in the fourth round when they took Northern Iowa defensive back Deiondre’ Hall, the first small school pick in Ryan Pace’s time as Bears GM.

"Extremely versatile player. He can play corner, he can play safety. He has rare length for the position when you look at it and I think that’s important for that position as well," Pace said. "Also very tough and competitive when you watch him on tape. Again, I like his versatility; corner, nickel, safety. Really good ball skills. Had six interceptions this year, so just a versatile player.”

Hall has great length — 6-foot-2 with 34 3/8” arms — and he had 11 interceptions in his final two seasons for Northern Iowa.

“For me, my length at corner position that helps me out at the point of attack … getting a hand on the receiver those first five yards,” he said. “Down the field, even at the safety position, even if (the ball’s) in a difficult spot the arms are so long it allows me to make plays.”

There are some concerns about Hall’s straight-line speed after he ran a 4.68 40 at the Combine, but he has the size, physicality (82 tackles as a senior) and instincts to potentially play safety.

“My competitiveness. And my willingness to keep working,” Hall said of his strengths. “I think those are two huge things for me, especially going to the next level. And my length, that’s another huge thing. As much as it’s said every other day, that the length is so important, but I think it really does pull a lot of weight.”

At the cornerback position, Hall said he’s modeled his game after former Bear Charles Tillman.

“I’ve always kind of tried to model my game after him. Like I said, just being a ballhawk and getting that ball out,” he said.

As for safety, Hall likes the game of Tyrann Mathieu, the ‘Honey Badger’ in the Cardinals’ secondary.

“Being able to play a little corner, coming down in the slot and guarding those quicker guys and being able to stay up top and cover ground,” he said. “That’s huge in the game these days.”

Coming from an FCS school, Hall made a strong impression against top prospects at the Senior Bowl.

“I think I proved that I can definitely play the cornerback position and I can play a little nickel position as well,” Hall said of the experience in Mobile. “And that my competitiveness definitely shows through. It started out at the Senior Bowl, Day One, a little rough. And then Day Two, I got back to my own game. And then Day Three, I had my full swag. That’s huge for me.”

Chicago Bears get a running back in fifth round with Jordan Howard

Published: Updated:
Chicago Bears get a running back in fifth round with Jordan Howard

In the fifth round, the Bears selected Indiana running back Jordan Howard, their first skill position player of the 2016 draft with the 150th overall pick.

In 2015, Howard averaged 134.8 rushing yards per game, rushing at 6.2 yards a pop. The 6-0, 230-pounder is a bruising back who went off for 238 yards against Michigan and 174 against Iowa last season, his first in the Big Ten after transferring from UAB.

"I mean this guy is a downhill, physical, north/south runner," said GM Ryan Pace. "I just like the style and physicality that he plays with as well. I think he complements our other backs very well. Type of running back that can just wear down the defense, just a very physical nature.”

That size is something that allowed Howard to thrive last season and is something he prides himself on.

“I feel like my size will benefit me well because a lot of time guys they won’t want to tackle me a lot of times, especially after long games when we’ve just been pounding,” Howard said. “They then start diving and then I can avoid them. I think it works very well for me.”

Howard said he doesn’t have experience on special teams but will certainly have to be involved when he comes to the NFL, where he said his running style fits better than the collegiate game.

“I feel like I’m a grinder,” he said. “I can get those tough yards and in the NFL, you don’t really see those long, explosive runs like you see in college. There are a few, but not many, so I feel my game suits the NFL more than it does college.”

The Bears needed bodies at running back after not re-signing Matt Forte. Howard is obviously a bigger back, which complements Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey well in the Bears’ backfield.

"Jordan Howard is that physical pounder and we just love that style of play from him so it was good," Pace said. "You kind of want to mix those guys together, he brought a little bit of a different dimension that I think will fit very well into that room. He's a highly-productive player and I think with these running backs they better have good vision and he has really good vision and he runs really hard and that's a pretty good combination."

Safety DeAndre Houston-Carson goes to Chicago Bears in sixth round

Published: Updated:
Safety DeAndre Houston-Carson goes to Chicago Bears in sixth round

Ryan Pace selected another small school defensive back when the Bears took William and Mary safety DeAndre Houston-Carson with the 185th overall pick, the 10th pick of the sixth round.

Houston-Carson figures to find a role on the Bears' special teams units with his nine career blocked kicks.

"The main thing is just preparation and the film study. And then just my position coach putting us in position to make those plays," he said. "..Special teams, it’s huge for me, personally. I take a lot of pride in that. Early on, just being able to make plays in all aspects of the game."

Houston-Carson measured in at 6-1, 201 pounds at the Combine. His 4.54 40-yard dash was fifth-best among defensive backs at the Combine. His arms are short, though, at 30 1/8”. Like Deiondre' Hall, Houston-Carson brings positional versatility to the Bears.

"Another versatile player. He can play corner, he can play safety," Ryan Pace said. "We see him as a safety right now. Very physical player, hits with explosiveness, very good special teams player as well. This is a guy Jeff Rodgers is fired up about, He blocked 9 kicks in his career so a guy we're excited to have that can help in a lot in that area."

At William and Mary last year, Houston-Carson had 109 tackles last year and was the CAA co-Defensive Player of the Year with two blocked kicks and four interceptions, returning one 94 yards for a touchdown. He also scored on a 65-yard blocked field goal return and a 70-yard blocked extra point return, and blocked a punt that resulted in a safety.

Chicago Bears sign Brian Hoyer to one-year deal

Published: Updated:
Chicago Bears sign Brian Hoyer to one-year deal

The Bears didn't select a quarterback on the final day of the draft, but they did sign one in former Texans and Browns starter Brian Hoyer.

Chicago and Hoyer have agreed to a one-year deal worth a reported $2 million. The deal will make Hoyer the primary backup to Jay Cutler for the 2016 season.

"I’ve watched him play over the years," said Bears GM Ryan Pace. "A very intelligent player. I know he’s got a strong work ethic because we’ve got coaches that have been with him. I think he’s a really good piece to add to the mix."

Hoyer, 30, has reportedly had a deal on the table from the Bears for more than a week but had been in negotiations with the Broncos and Jets, who both entered this weekend's draft in need of a new starter. After Denver took Memphis' Paxton Lynch in the first round and New York selected Penn State's Christian Hackenberg in the second, his options to sign a deal for a potential starting job had largely dried up.

He did have six teams interested in signing him as of Saturday, per Caplan, but he decided to sign with Chicago.

Pace cited Hoyer's experience with Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains while the two were in Cleveland.

"I love it when we have familiarity with these guys from coaches," he said. "I feel like it reduces some of the risk and some of the questions we may have. Dowell was passionate about this player and then watching the tape, I was, too. I’m glad we got him in the mix."

In 11 games with the Texans last season, Hoyer threw 19 touchdowns to seven interceptions and posted a 5-4 record en route to an AFC South title last year in his first season with the team. But after a disastrous playoff start in which he threw four interceptions and Houston lost 30-0 to Kansas City, the Texans paid up for former Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler in the offseason and didn't bring back the free agent Hoyer.

Prior to last year, the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder started 16 games for the Browns the previous two seasons, going 10-6 as a starter with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. It was his first legitimate time on the field in the regular season after serving as a backup in 2012 with the Cardinals and three seasons before that with the Patriots, who signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State.

In Chicago, Hoyer will have a solidified No. 2 spot behind the 33-year-old Cutler, who enters his eighth year as the Bears starter. Third-year David Fales, who was the primary backup down the stretch last season but did not see game action, will drop down into the No. 3 spot.

After missing on QBs early, Dallas Cowboys have perfect answer in Dak Prescott

After missing on QBs early, Dallas Cowboys have perfect answer in Dak Prescott

Before landing Dak Prescott in the compensatory picks of the fourth round, Jerry Jones' plan to sneak up and find a quarterback to groom blew up in his face over and over again on draft weekend.

He and the Cowboys might have made out better for it in the end.

The 6-foot-2, 226-pound quarterback out of Mississippi State brings an intriguing skill set to develop behind often-injured 36-year-old Tony Romo. He's a raw Ben Roethlisberger type, large and mobile with a big arm, making him a danger when plays break down.

He's not as talented as Paxton Lynch, whom the Cowboys were beaten to the punch on by the Broncos. He's not as pro-ready as Connor Cook, whom Dallas seemed like a strong possibility to take early in the fourth before the Raiders leap-frogged them.

But he's a great balance between those extremes of potential and readiness. That makes him a great player to serve as Romo's primary backup and eventual heir to the throne. His leadership skills and experience pulling together an offense that didn't have many tools at Mississippi State aren't bad prep for some of the fire-drill situations Dallas has turned over to names like Colt McCoy, Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden the past two years. And yet his track record of improving every single year will also play well for as long as Romo can continue being a second-tier quarterback.

Prescott was probably a third-round selection before his March arrest on a charge of driving under the influence. As talented and hard-working as he is, he still needs plenty of work on his intermediate passing game.

But he's the right kind of pick for this situation, given that Dallas ultimately couldn't sit at No. 4 and grab Carson Wentz or Jared Goff and didn't invest enough to grab Lynch or Cook. The Cowboys have had a bit of an odd draft, spending a high second-rounder on a player who won't contribute in 2016 (Notre Dame ILB Jaylon Smith) while ignoring their anemic pass rush, but it's hard to not feel like they made out with the most cost-effective quarterback for exactly what they need him to be.

Cleveland Browns draft 5 wideouts, the most since 1976 Rams

Published: Updated:
Cleveland Browns draft 5 wideouts, the most since 1976 Rams

A lot of NFL teams keep just five wide receivers on their 53-man roster.

The Browns aren't like a lot of NFL teams, as evidenced yet again during draft weekend, when they selected five wideouts, the most by any club since the 1976 Rams.

Cleveland spent the 15th overall pick on former Baylor speed mercant Corey Coleman, but it was just getting started on overhauling the pass-catching corps for Robert Griffin III.

In Round Four, the Browns nabbed Ricardo Louis and then WR/TE Seth Devalve later in the same round. Round Five saw two more receivers head to Cleveland in Jordan Payton of UCLA at No. 154 and Rashard Higgins from Colorado State at 172.

"We always go by our board," executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown told ESPN … "We’re not afraid of competition in that room. That was one position where we felt like we needed to address and the players, frankly, were just too good, whether it’s Rashard or Jordan late. We’re happy to have all the guys that we’re able to bring to the Browns."

In fairness to Brown, he has the picks after a pair of moves down the draft board increased the team's total to a whopping 14, and he's added some intriguing players in addition to top prize, Coleman. Additionally, Cleveland has addresssed a few other key areas, particularly the front seven with Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib.

But it seems unlikely all five receivers crack the final roster, which won't stop outsiders from questioning the club's voluminous approach.

Suffice to say, it was an uncomfortable Saturday for Andrew Hawkins and Brian Hartline. It better have been an eye-opening one for suspended Josh Gordon.

New York Giants GM Jerry Reese opens draft oddly but finishes strong

Published: Updated:
New York Giants GM Jerry Reese opens draft oddly but finishes strong

If Jerry Reese's defense doesn't improve after its lavish offseason additions, it likely won't matter, but he appears to have found some signifcant value on offense on the final day of the draft.

It's a good thing, too, as Reese made one of Round One's biggest reaches for former Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple at No. 10, after the Titans and Bears leaped in front of him to seemingly poach Big Blue's intended targets, Jack Conklin and Leonard Floyd, at 8 and 9, respectively.

Since then, Reese has recovered in a big way, landing dynamic slot receiver Sterling Shepard in Round Two and ball-hawking free safety Darian Thompson in Round Three, likely Day One starters and impact players at areas of considerable need.

But Reese's Saturday was about bargain shopping in Rounds Five and Six, where he selected former UCLA RB Paul Perkins with the 149th pick before plucking South Carolina tight end Jerell Adams 35 selections later.

Perkins instantly becomes the backfield's most explosive threat for the NFL's 18th-ranked rushing attack, helping Reese move on from former second-round plodder Andre Williams and prepare for the demise of 31-year-old starter, brittle Rashad Jennings. Perkins brings the kind of creativity and elusiveness to the ground that Odell Beckham and Shepard will offer in the passing game.

Adams is a deceptive athlete who brings a different dimension to New York's tight-end room that includes red-zone warrior Larry Donnell and "move" tight end and Stonybrook product Will Tye. Adams has a lot of size but also the movement skills to threaten the seam and toughness and temperament to battle defenders as a blocker.

The Giants surprisngly didn't draft an offensive lineman — Conklin or Stanley at one point seemed a lock — and unsurprisingly extended Reese's draft streak to 72 picks without a single trade down. But without the exoritant assets he used to build the defense in free agency, Reese has given Eli Manning some nice new pieces to ensure the offense remains formidable while the 'D' acclimates to wholesale change.

Nate Atkins: In Cardale Jones, Buffalo Bills show rival Jets how to smartly take a project QB

Nate Atkins: In Cardale Jones, Buffalo Bills show rival Jets how to smartly take a project QB

Up until now, Cardale Jones and Christian Hackenberg have been intrinsically linked as two big-armed Big Ten quaterbacks with skills to drool over and tape to light on fire.

So, naturally, they're headed to play in the same division for two rivals connected by the ire of Rex Ryan. But only one of these teams approached the project correctly, and that was the team still employing the coach.

One day after the Jets took Hackenberg in the second round, the Bills took a flier on Jones with the last pick in the fourth. Like New York, Buffalo took a developmental quarterback, but the difference is it actually seems to understand him that way.

Before taking the former Ohio State quarterback at No. 139 overall, the Bills passed on several better quarterbacks such as Paxton Lynch, Connor Cook and Dak Prescott. Instead, by using early picks to address an underachieving defense, Buffalo made a commitment of at least one more season to Tyrod Taylor. It'll be his contract year following a 20-touchdown, six-interception season that fit the Bills' run-first, mistake-free approach but didn't exactly scream franchise quarterback.

In the meantime, they can go to work on Jones without much pressure to play him next year. They can play him exclusively in practice to rework the wacked mechanics that got him benched last season, like only recently discovering how to throw the ball with fingers on the laces.

In theory, he could some day be a great fit for a run-first offense like he was for three games with Ohio State and Ezekiel Elliott en route to the 2014 national championship. The strongest arm in the draft can back off safeties, and at 6 feet 5 and 253 pounds, he can offer some of his own tough running in short-yardage situations.

It'll take plenty of work, of course. So will Hackenberg, who has similarly great arm strength and size at 6 feet 4 and 223 pounds, but also dreadful accuracy and questionable decision-making.

The difference is that the Jets don't have that kind of develpmental role to plug him into. They might start him over Geno Smith or at least push him in a competition to do so. In a city built on pressure, that's the wrong job description to give a rookie who needs his entire approach to football sat down and recalibrated.

Drafting a quarterback was a very smart idea for the Jets, who have a strong defense, a deep running back stable led by Matt Forte and one of the league's best wideout tandems in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. They have almost everything but a quarterback.

But taking the prospect who is least ready to play in the entire draft and doing it in the second round is asinine when much more capable options like Kevin Hogan and Connor Cook were available multiple rounds later.

Drafting a potential Year One starter at quarterback who also has upside would have been a brlliant pick because it would have identified a guy of the future in addition to providing leverage in the negotiations with Ryan Fitzpatrick. But nothing about picking a total project will alter the stance of Fitzpatrick, a 33-year-old journeyman using his Harvard mentality to reap the financial rewards that come with throwing the most single-season touchdown passes in the history of a franchise.

Mike Maccagnan has stood firm in his belief that the Jets won't have to pay lots of money to replace Fitzpatrick's 33 passing scores given the talent he's placed around the quarterback. He might now have to test that theory with either a repeated failure in Geno Smith or with a project in Hackenberg who could barely complete 50 percent of his passes in his third year starting in college, soon to be thrown into the fire of the highest level of football in the world.

There's a proper way to take a flier on a high-upside player who currently isn't very good. It's a scary day when in a battle of Rex Ryan and his former employer, it's Ryan who looks like the smart guy in the room.

Washington LB Su'a Cravens was convinced he was going in first round, until he didn't

Published: Updated:
Washington LB Su'a Cravens was convinced he was going in first round, until he didn't

Convinced he was destined to hear his name called during the first round on Thursday night, Washington's second-round dime linebacker Su'a Cravens didn't shy away from hiding his disappointment when that expectation didn't materialize – at least for a night.

Meeting the Washington media Saturday, Cravens confirmed a reporter's question about escaping to a gym to work out after the first round concluded.

"As a competitor, of course I'm going to be disappointed if I feel I put in the work, or feel like I deserved to go in a certain round," Cravens said. "I looked at it as I wasn't good enough to go on the first day, so let me get in the gym tonight and let me prove I'm good enough to go in the second day to myself. I'm all about work, and if I feel I'm not working hard enough, I'll get back to it."

But Cravens understands the likelihood for most of not playing in the league at all, so he calls it a "blessing" to arrive in Washington as the 53rd overall pick. It probably doesn't hurt to have San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te'o and Miami Dolphins tight end Jordan Cameron, who Cravens confirmed are cousins, now furthering the family bloodline in the league.

Perhaps Washington and Cravens can thank the Arizona Cardinals for generally being regarded as starting the hybrid linebacker-safety dimension to NFL defenses by selecting former Washington State "tweener" Deone Bucannon a few years ago. Cravens – the newest dime linebacker on the league's 28th-ranked defense a season ago — models his game after Bucannon.

Cravens allows Washington flexibility in various defensive packages, likely a major attraction to defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who recruited Cravens while he was in high school.

"I like that you can be a playmaker," the 6-foot-1, 223-pound Cravens said Saturday about the defense he's entering. "You can be in open space. You can come fit down and get ready to protect against the run, and then also be in space and cover. It gives me the chance to use my instincts and just be in the right position to make plays."

Pro Football Weekly's draft guru Greg Gabriel had a first-round grade on the 20-year-old, citing his versatility to line up in man or zone coverages while showcasing great range.

While at USC, Cravens played as a 3-4 stongside linebacker covering the slot, which allowed great opportunity to amass 86 tackles, 5.5 sacks and two interceptions last year for the Trojans.

It's hard not to like what Washington is doing on defense this offseason in both free agency and the draft. Thanks to the Panthers refusal to give in to former cornerback Josh Norman's contractual demands, Washington sealed the deal with the All-Pro a few weeks ago. In addition to Cravens, Washington selected Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller in Round Three – he is the fourth Fuller brother to enter the NFL – to patrol the field behind talented edge players Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Gallette and Preston Brown.

"I like to rush off the edge or help in the run. Those are two of the things that I do best, things that I excel at. To be honest, I just can't wait to get on the field and showcase that," said Cravens.

Jacksonville Jaguars continue newfound BPA approach with Sheldon Day

Published: Updated:
Jacksonville Jaguars continue newfound BPA approach with Sheldon Day

For a second year in a row, it sure feels like the Jaguars are killing the draft. "Feels" is the operative word, of course, because we can't truly evaluate draft picks until a few years down the line.

After taking Dante Fowler Jr., T.J. Yeldon, A.J. Cann, Rashad Greene and Michael Bennett last year, they went out this year and grabbed Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and now Sheldon Day.

Day is an example of someone who is a much better football player than he is an athlete. He's just 6 feet 1, ran a 5.07 40-yard dash and didn't test high with his strength either, posting 21 bench-press reps.

It's not the player you see on film, the one-stepping quick as a cat to redirect and often stop running plays right when they start, as evidenced by the 15.5 tackles-for-loss he posted last year at Notre Dame. Mix that first step with a motor that never stops, and you have a player more than worth a flier in the fourth round.

It's a classic pick of taking the best player available and making him work, which is what has been most impressive about David Caldwell's selections over the past two seasons. Defensive line might be the most stacked position group on the team, with last year's top-five pick (Dante Fowler Jr.) and this year's big free-agent addition (Malik Jackson) in addition to the disruptive Sen'Derrick Marks and Bennett.

Building a team all around defensive linemen hasn't worked for the Rams or Lions in recent years, but kudos to Caldwell for taking the best player at one of the positions where you can never have enough bodies.

We'll see how these players pan out in a couple years, but in terms of matching value and not overthinking selections, it appears the days of reaching for Blaine Gabbert are long gone in Jacksonville.

Los Angeles Rams begin stocking Jared Goff cupboard with Higbee, Cooper

Published: Updated:
Los Angeles Rams begin stocking Jared Goff cupboard with Higbee, Cooper

Fans and skeptics of the Rams' move up to No. 1 for Jared Goff can agree on at least this much: The former California Bear can't be successful in the NFL throwing to air.

Before the third day of the draft began, Goff's receiving cupboard was bare, with just gadget player Tavon Austin, question mark Stedman Bailey and a pair of tantalizing physical prospects who mostly leave you wanting more in Brian Quick and Kenny Britt.

Thus, Les Snead and Jeff Fisher set out Saturday to begin providing Goff the support he'll need, spending their two fourth-rounders on Western Kentucky TE Tyler Higbee and South Carolina wideout Pharoh Cooper.

Higbee has an upcoming court date for alleged assault, which might have soured some teams on the big-bodied receiving tight end, whereas Cooper needs NFL seasoning but has the ability to spice up an offense quickly given his versatility and ability to produce chunk plays after the catch.

The ransom required to move up for Goff meant Los Angeles had to wait one day and 109 selections before making another pick, but they appear to have found two players with whom Goff can try and establish an early rapport.

It reminds us a little of Ryan Grigson backing up his first overall pick Andrew Luck with a pair of tight ends — Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen — plus T.Y. Hilton and Vick Ballard, all in the same draft class. We don't know if Higbee or Cooper have that type of upside, but they were solid values and addressed the Rams' greatest need.

After all, it doesn't make sense to spend money on a maserati and not have gasoline to fill it up. The Rams already have Todd Gurley to make everyone's lives easier, but they hope the additions of Higbee and Cooper mean when it is time to throw, Goff will be cooking with gas.

Report: Miami Dolphins believe Laremy Tunsil's former financial advisor leaked infamous bong video

Published: Updated:
Report: Miami Dolphins believe Laremy Tunsil's former financial advisor leaked infamous bong video

The Miami Dolphins think they know who allegedly released a video of first-round offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil smoking from a bong on Twitter, contributing to one of the draft's top prospects falling to No. 13 Thursday night.

Per a report from Andrew Abramson from the Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins think the former financial advisor for Tunsil is behind the video that surfaced on Twitter less than one hour before the first round commenced. Abramson reported on Twitter Tunsil fired said advisor before the leak.

Tunsil has had a very bizzaire entry into the league following his slide in the first round, considering he admitted to taking cash from a coach while playing at Ole Miss. Tunsil, after showing up late for his introductory press conference due to what the Dolphins claim was an allergic reaction, would not elaborate on those comments.

Oakland Raiders' McKenzie shows wisdom he learned from Ron Wolf with Connor Cook pick

Published: Updated:
Oakland Raiders' McKenzie shows wisdom he learned from Ron Wolf with Connor Cook pick

Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselbeck, Connor Cook?

Cook, the former Michigan State quarterback and newest member of the Raiders after Oakland surprisingly moved up to the second pick in Round Four to nab a potential first-round value, could see a similar career arc to the other two passers.

Reggie McKenzie uses a similar draft philosophy to Hall of Famer and former boss Ron Wolf, who drafted Brunell and Hasselbeck when he had Brett Favre in Green Bay, only to ship off the two in exchange for precious draft capital.

Wolf parlayed the Brunell exchange into a pair of Pro Bowlers for the Packers, William Henderson and Travis Jervey. That was his modus operandi: draft and develop as many players at the most important professional position in sports because they're so highly coveted.

Cook was somewhat surprisingly undercoveted this weekend after his successful career at Michigan State was apparently overlooked because he's not a leader at a position that demands that quality. It was apparently a big enough concern to offset his NFL-caliber size, athletic ability and knowledge in a Pro-style offense, as lesser-polished players without Cook's upside including Cody Kessler and Jacoby Brissett heard their names called Friday.

Cook will learn the ropes behind budding star Derek Carr for the surging Raiders. Carr obviously isn't a sure thing like Favre, either, so he's a nice insurance policy and might one day turn into a strong trade chip for McKenzie.

The Raiders' impressive offseason isn't limited to just winning now, baby. McKenzie is looking down the road, too, the kind of vital foresight any successful NFL decision-maker hoping to build sustainable success must have.

Kudos to the Raiders. This isn't ideal for Cook, but he joins a veteran coaching staff, elite offensive line and explosive, ascending offense. He was unlikely to get a starting opportunity the moment Denver opted for Paxton Lynch, so it's not a terrible landing spot either, all things considered.

Does the NY Jets drafting QB Christian Hackenberg mean no Ryan Fitzpatrick return?

Published: Updated:
Does the NY Jets drafting QB Christian Hackenberg mean no Ryan Fitzpatrick return?

It was somewhat of a passing of the torch so-to-speak of the New York Jets quarterback throne Friday night.

Announcing the pick was a signal caller coined 16 years ago as the Jets franchise quarterback at 18th overall that year despite veteran Vinny Testaverde in place at that time. Anyone remember Chad Pennington, who spent 11-years playing in the league – eight with the Jets – and finished his career with Miami in 2010?

Pennington, who threw 82 touchdowns to 55 interceptions with the Jets, came to the stage to announce the Jets latest attempt to solve it's perpetual quarterback carousel with free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick's status still undetermined: Penn State's Christian Hackenberg with the 51st selection in the second round.

Pro Football Weekly scout Greg Gabriel isn't necessairly high on the 6-foot-4, 223-pounder who was receiving some first-round status hype throughout the pre-draft process due to his size and arm strength. But completing 53 percent of his passes and limited mobility, just to name a few, cause some pause to what he'll amount to at the next level.

Hackenberg certainly poses as an interesting situation for the Jets. Remember, It's not just Fitzpatrick in the quarterback room. Don't forget about former second-round pick Geno Smith, the starter prior to breaking his jaw in August, and second-year Bryce Petty.

It's no secret the 33-year-old Fitzpatrick, who set the franchise record with 33 touchdown passes a season ago, is grappling with the Jets braintrust on his contract value. Reports vary but generally surround negotiations between $12-16 million a season. Fitzpatrick reportedly would rather not play than accept the Jets' current offer.

The likelihood on a multi-year contract becomes slightly murkier with Hackenberg's presence, although Hackenberg is widely considered a project quarterback more than a potential Year One starter. Coming off a 10-6 season and boasting skill players like Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Matt Forte, the Jets are a team that figures to compete this season, increasing the likelihood that they'll prefer a ready starter over a developmental one.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said last night Hackenberg doesn't change the club's plans for Fitzpatrick, and head coach Todd Bowles told the media Fitzpatrick would be the starter – provided he returns – but left the competiiton open for the crowded quarterback situation. For now, Smith will go into organized team activities as the first-team quarterback, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

"Obviously, Ryan earned it from last year, and it's going to be hard to take it from him," Bowles said, via "Everybody else falls in, and let the competition work itself out."

Tom Brady lawyers up, hiring famous appellate attorney Ted Olson for impending 'Deflategate' battle


Tom Brady and the NFLPA have hired Ted Olson, the famous appellate attorney who successfully argued in front of a Supreme Court in 2000 on behalf of then-Texas governor George W. Bush in the contested election between Bush and Al Gore.

Olson's arrival, of course, signals the next step for Brady and the PFWA in contesting the reinstatement of Brady's four-game 'Deflategate' suspension by the U.S. court of appeals for the second circuit court. According to Sports Illustrated's law expert Michael McCann, it also means Brady has just tabbed a lawyer who'd be a "perennial MVP" like Brady if he was an NFL player, one who boasts a .750 batting average in the 62 cases he's fought on in front of the Supreme Court.

Olson, the U.S. solicitor general between 2001-2001, has won other landmark cases besides Bush v Gore including repeling California's "Proposition 8" ban, but he was on the losing end of Brady and the NFLPA's battle during the 2011 lockout.

According to SI, retaining Olson foreshadows Brady will indeed petition the U.S. court of appeals for the second circuit court for an "en banc" hearing, which requires all 13 active judges of the court to review Brady's argument after the dissenting option two weeks ago of Chief Judge Robert Katzmann in the court's 2:1 majority opinion to overturn Judge Richard Berman's ruling in Brady's favor last year.

In addition to notifying the court of Olson's hiring, Brady on Friday took the necessary step for the "en banc" hearing by filing for a 14-day extension, during which time, the report indicates, Olson is likely to recalibrate Brady and Kessler's argument with his own legal insight and expertise.

If the "en banc" hearing is accepted, it might not occur until the fall, delaying a potential suspension for Brady once again. That's, of course, a win in and of itself, even if a victory through litigation remains a long shot.

If the "en banc" hearing is denied, look for Olson to petittion the U.S. Supreme Court, also a very slim chance but perhaps increased given Olson's clout and another opportunity to get a "stay" on Brady's behalf, likley until the case can be heard in 2017 if he successfully proves he's suffered "irreparable harm" from the suspension's reinstatement.

The way we see it

Not a ton of surprises here, but Brady's enlisting Olson's services leaves zero doubt that they and the NFLPA are preparing for a game of hardball. For Patriots fans, don't read too much into the third round selection of former North Carolina State QB Jacoby Brissett just yet. The winningest quarterback in franchise history is hardly down for the count.

Analyzing the Chicago Bears' 2016 NFL Draft class

Published: Updated:
Analyzing the Chicago Bears' 2016 NFL Draft class

The Bears added talent to their roster for the 2016 season and beyond through the NFL Draft. Here's our pick-by-pick analysis, with quotes from GM Ryan Pace, the draft pick and links to stories and scouting reports.

Round 1, Pick No. 9: Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd

How he fits: The Bears needed a speed upgrade on defense and they get that in one of the fastest linebackers in the draft. Floyd should help the pass rush off the edge, complementing the power that Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston offer when the Bears are in their nickel package.

From GM Ryan Pace: “We spent a lot of time with this guy. We brought him here on a top-30 visit. We do a lot of body analysis on those kinds of things. John [Fox] always says that we can make a guy stronger and get him bigger, but we can’t get him faster and more athletic. So he’s definitely fast and athletic. One thing I like what he does is that he’s got such great length that guys don’t get into his body. When you see him playing the run on the edge of the defense, he uses his hands really well and he plays with such great separation that it’s hard for guys to get into him. I think that helps him a lot even though he’s a little thinner framed.”

From Floyd: “I definitely wanted to be on the right team with the right scheme and obviously the Bears running the 3-4 is the perfect fit for me because I’ve been running 3-4 my whole college career. It was a great fit coming here.”

Hub Arkush: Floyd's speed gives him a high ceiling
Bears trade up to No. 9 to take Floyd
Floyd's high school coach describes a 'man possessed' on the field

Round 2, Pick No. 56: Kansas State OG Cody Whitehair

How he fits: Whitehair has the versatility to play tackle, but he is most comfortable at guard, where he’ll enter a stiff competition to start opposite Kyle Long. Newcomers Manny Ramirez and Ted Larsen already added to the battle, and as a second-round pick, Whitehair figures to have a good shot to start as a rookie, and Matt Slauson’s future is now in jeopardy.

From Pace: “He’s an aggressive player. He’s really good in space. He plays with great inside hand placement and he’s got strong hands. I love offensive lineman with strong inside hands. When they latched on you can’t get rid of him. He’s a very difficult player to shed once he gets his hands on your chest.”

From Whitehair: I’d probably say Zack Martin from the Dallas Cowboys. He’s kind of the guy I’ve watched the past couple of years and trie to model my game after him. Just a great player. Great technician player. And he gets the job done. That’s what I want to model my play after."

Hub Arkush's take on Whitehair
Bears trade down twice, take Whitehair, one of draft's top guards

Round 3, Pick No. 72: Florida DL Jonathan Bullard

How he fits: The Bears needed another starter on the D-line and Bullard should factor in the competition with Mitch Unrein, Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson, among others. His quickness off the ball and production at Florida should translate well to the NFL, where he’ll join Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks on the defensive line. Bullard can play the end in the Bears’ base and slide inside to play three-technique when they are in the nickel.

From Pace: “It’s his length and it’s his get-off and it’s his hand use. I think he needs to work on his pad level a little bit when he’s rushing the passer, and that can be coached. But some things that can’t be coached is just the twitch and the quickness he plays with, which will help him as a pass rusher.”

From Bullard: “My greatest strength would probably be my first step and my play recognition. I think I did a good job of reading the game and I could kind of see things before it happened.”

Hub Arkush's take on Bullard
Bears get their defensive lineman in Round 3 with Florida's Bullard