The penultimate week of the 2013 NFL Draft has arrived. As with almost every year, we expect draft impacting news to break almost every day from here on out. Here’s the latest from the draft community. 4/19: Dee Milliner all over boards…
- There’s a disparity amongst the top teams as to the grading of Dee Milliner/CB/Alabama. I’ve been told a number of teams grade the cornerback as a top ten choice (Cleveland Browns, New York Jets) while others think there’s little disparity between Milliner and the eight cornerback on their board. Some franchises feel the better strategy is selecting a cornerback at the top of round two rather than using an early first on Milliner. Should get interesting on Thursday.
- DJ Hayden of Houston is the wildcard at the cornerback spot. I am told several teams grade him on the level of Stephen Gilmore, selected with the 10th pick of last years draft by the Buffalo Bills. How will Hayden’s freak injury factor into the final analysis? Depends on the team. Though most teams I know of have not red-flagged Hayden, the injury has other franchises concerned. As a result they will not consider him in round one.
- I’m told that Jamar Taylor/CB/Boise State continues to build a buzz in war rooms around the league. His football skills notwithstanding, I’ve been told Taylor is the cleanest of the top cornerback prospects when it comes to injury, character and/or off the field concerns.
- This may not come as a surprise to all but sources tell me several of the position coaches for the Kansas City Chiefs prefer tackle Eric Fisher of Central Michigan over Luke Joeckel.
- Latest from the Jacksonville Jaguars? The team is looking at either Dion Jordan or one of the offensive tackles with the second pick. No surprise there. If they trade down I am told the player they like is Ezekiel Ansah.
- Several teams now have Vance McDonald/Rice as the number two rated tight end.
- Since last week I’ve been told by several sources Lane Johnson/T/Oklahoma is quickly moving up draft boards and could end up as a top 5 selection. A number of former NFL offensive linemen still affiliated with the league tell me Johnson could develop into the best tackle from this draft class. His combination of length, athleticism, and upside are uncanny. Factor in the short amount of time Johnson has spent at the tackle spot, especially the left tackle position, and one understands the validity of this opinion.
- This afternoon I was informed by separate sources the Arizona Cardinals will consider DJ Fluker/T/Alabama with the 7th pick of the draft. At face value it seems a bit early for Fluker but his body type, power and football ability has NFL decision makers excited. Fluker is also considered a quality person, which only adds to his value. Right now I can’t see Fluker getting out of the top half of round one as Arizona at 7, Miami at 12 and Tampa Bay at 13 are all zeroing in on the big tackle. In the case of the Dolphins, much depends on whether they acquire Branden Albert from Kansas City.
- As teams have their draft boards set and scouts leave there meetings, I’m told more players than usual have been red-flagged with injury, character and off the field issues. Its not just the top 100 prospects but an overall perspective of draftable players.
- I am told round two will be dominated by cornerbacks, wide receivers, safeties and running backs. There’s a very good chance no ball carrier ends up in the first round but as many as six could be drafted in the second frame. Besides the expected suspects, (Eddie Lacy/Alabama, Johnathan Franklin/UCLA, Giovani Bernard/North Carolina and Montee Ball/Wisconsin) I’m told Mike Gillislee/Florida and either Christine Michael/Texas A&M or Le’Veon Bell/Michigan State round out the six names. Gillislee is a bit of a surprise in my opinion, but a lot of teams like his versatility.
- The two fastest rising linebackers in the draft? Arthur Brown of Kansas State and Sio Moore of UConn. Several people on the inside continue to tell me Brown is a definite first round pick, which like means Kevin Minter or Manti Te’o are likely out. I’m told teams love Moore not only for his measurables but also because he’s scheme diverse. Right now I’m told top 50 is a possibility and evidently the New York Jets are very high on Moore.
Larry Warford of Kentucky is listed as our #3 guard and graded as a second round choice. Personally I see Warford off the board by pick 45. For the most part his list of official visits suggests the same as the teams expending an official visit on Warfrod include the Tennessee Titans, St Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals.
- To revisit the Murphy Holloway story from yesterday, I am told while Holloway would like to give football a try many in his camp are pulling him towards basketball. The thinking is even if Holloway does not make an NBA roster he could earn $400K-to-$500K playing basketball overseas. Holloway has since tweeted the largest overseas offer he’s received to date is $150K. This is in contrast to the NFL, where he will likely spend the season on a practice squad and make a fraction of that amount. I’m told Holloway would prefer not to go overseas- something I’m sure to get a tweet about. The NFL is still interested and sources have told me the Tampa Bay Bucs are hoping to workout Holloway prior to the draft.
- Sources confided in me yesterday the Cleveland Browns have Dee Milliner/CB/Alabama as their round one target with the sixth pick. Otherwise they will look to trade down with the hopes of selecting Barkevious Mingo/OLB/LSU. Both scenarios would be tough for the Browns in my opinion.
- As posted earlier, the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts have contacted players via letters and text messages; players they have an interest in signing as UDFA’s. This is nothing new from teams and assumes the player contacted is not selected during any point of the draft’s seven rounds. To further show what an inexact science scouting is, last year the Colts sent a similar letter to Oregon State defensive back Brandon Hardin. The Colts never got the opportunity to sign Hardin after the draft as he was selected in the third round by the Chicago Bears.
- The battle at the receiver position should get interesting in round two. Amongst the teams Quinton Patton/Louisiana Tech has visited are the St Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans. This makes perfect sense as it’s assumed Patton will be off the board somewhere in the middle of the second frame. Besides being a terrific receiver Patton is spoken about as a hard working, high character prospect by NFL scouts. Then there’s fast rising Ryan Swope/Texas A&M, who’s moving into the middle part of the round. His recent visit list includes the Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers. Swope is applauded for his dependability and the way he does the little things correctly. His speed at the combine (fastest official hand time of 4.28s from Indianapolis) caught a lot of people by surprise and most feel Swope, like Patton, can line-up as a second receiver in the NFL. Sandwiched in that area is Markus Wheaton/Oregon State, a receiver who was rated higher than Keenan Allen on a few boards around the league as far back as January. Wheaton does not possess the size of Patton or Swope yet his playing speed is slightly better. Wheaton has been on visits to the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys in the lead up to next weeks draft.
- The never ending search for the next Tony Gonzalez continues as NFL teams are looking to Oxford, Mississippi in the hopes of mining gold. The apple of their eye is all-SEC basketball player Murphy Holloway, who was a four year starter for the ‘Ole Miss hoops team. The high school receiver recently spent a few days at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and NFL teams have been trying to gauge his commitment to football. The P.I.T. is sort of the Senior Bowl of college basketball as 64 seniors are invited to practice and play in front of NBA teams. I was told over the weekend Holloway mentioned to people he is ready to move forward on the NFL front.
- In our most recent defensive rankings, to be unveiled tomorrow, Florida linebacker Jonathan Bostic is graded as a third round choice. In recent conversations I’ve been told its a distinct possibility he could slip into the late part of the second frame. Teams like the fact Bostic is a three down defender and offers the potential of being a day one starter. He ran much better than expected in pre-draft workouts and teams like his ability in space. I was informed Bostic has visited the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.
- Another player who could come off the board much earlier than predicted is Cornelius Washington of Georgia, graded as a third round pick at the outside linebacker position in our most recent rankings. On paper Washington had an up-and-down college career but Georgia coaches are telling NFL teams a different story. Anyone who studied Washington on film during his sophomore campaign of 2010 saw glimpses of the “wow” factor before his production slipped off. What gives? Georgia coaches have been telling teams Washington was taken out of the playmaking role and was required to play more disciplined, assignment football. Seems reasonable considering the arrival and production of Jarvis Jones. The Bulldog coaches have passed along their opinion that Washington should make the seamless transition to NFL starter at outside linebacker in a 3-4 or a John Abraham type of defender in a 4-3. The word is Washington could sneak into the late part of round two.
- Latavius Murray/RB/Central Florida presently grades as a 7th rounder on our running back board and I am told that’s the latest he will be drafted. At 228-pounds, Murray posted a 4.32s/40 during pro-day last month and looked extremely natural catching the ball. The versatility to line-up in several schemes is key for Murray. I’m told he offers the ability to be used as a running back at his present weight or could easily play 240-pounds then line-up as a West Coast fullback. The fact he’s also looked upon as an “A+ person” just adds to Murray’s value. His schedule of official visits includes the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals.