NFL Draft 2018: Tom Brady's successor and the Cleveland Browns' quarterback carousel are top storylines

Chris Bailey 25/04/2018
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If baseball is America’s pastime then, at this time of year, the NFL Draft is its day job.

Draft time isn’t just for the professionals. Amateur ‘scouts’ from across the country spend hundreds of hours poring over college games, combine results – the NFL’s version of a meat market – and even interviews in order to put a number or a grade on a kid a fresh out of college.

Draftniks get into virtual fisticuffs on social media over whether such and such has the ‘measurables’, the ‘tape’ or if they simply love the game of football enough to put it all together in the big league.

Bearing in mind these are young men barely out of their teenage years – it can get downright creepy at times.

This is not just an exercise for the nerdiest corners of the web, though. More Americans watch – and boo – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell read out 32 names on a podium over the course of four hours than tune in for the last round of the Masters.

So if you want to know what all the fuss is about, and find yourself at a loose end at approximately 04:00 GST on Friday morning, this year’s first round is shaping up to be more compelling than most.

All eyes on Cleveland

The Cleveland Browns’ record over the last two years reads an atrocious one win, 31 defeats. They hold picks No1 and No4 in a quarterback-stacked draft. And John Dorsey, the Browns’ general manager, is known for keeping his cards superglued to his chest. Desperation and deviousness are a potent mix.

Unlike recent years, when the top pick of the draft was known to everyone and their mother before the curtains were raised, it’s been hard to cut through the chatter coming out of Cleveland.

Some like them taking Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who sorely lacks for accuracy but is easy to fall in love with thanks to his mortar of an arm. Others like ‘high-ceiling’ USC signal-caller Sam Darnold. Then there’s analytics company Pro Football Focus’ darling Baker Mayfield from Texas Tech, and arguably the most talented of the lot, UCLA’s Josh Rosen – but who some claim has a personality defect.

Pick your favourite flavour. But quarterbacks are gold dust, not ice cream, and many QB-starved teams will trade the farm and the clothes they are wearing if they fall in love with just one of them.

What does this mean? Expect at least two big trades on the night.

One reason why the Browns have kept everyone guessing is that some team may hand over that farm if they believe they will take the quarterback they are besotted with at No1. And if they don’t go for a passer first up then the New York Giants’ phones, at No2, will be ringing off the hook.

Throw in the Jets and Denver too and a quarterback could be in play in the first five picks. Watch for Miami, Buffalo and Arizona to muscle their way in. Either way, Dorsey’s going to have some fun.

The QB who would be king

If you’re falling asleep – or waking up – in time for the bottom half of the draft, what the New England Patriots decide to do may give you a timely slap around the chops.

It feels wrong to question the Super Bowl factory at Foxborough but the relationship between owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and a guy called Tom Brady is not what you’d call happy families.

There have been reports that Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, is increasingly not welcome in New England and that TB12 himself is sick of taking less money than the superstar amount he deserves.

Belichick, it is claimed, is still raw over being forced to trade Brady’s heir apparent Jimmy Garoppolo by Kraft.

It means a disgruntled Brady, at 41, has no would-be successor on the roster. That’s all about to change over the course of the weekend.

What makes the situation all the more intriguing is that the Patriots hold pick No23, after trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams, as well as No31.

That they’ll package both picks and make a massive jump seems unlikely given the many gaping non-QB holes they have to fill. But if the right QB falls, they could well go and get the man who will be Brady’s replacement.

The name to look out for? Louisville’s Heisman Trophy winning signal caller Lamar Jackson in what would represent a future seismic shift for the Pats’ offence.

His ability in the pocket is under question though underappreciated by some. He is without doubt, however, an electrifying runner with shades of Michael Vick, the most unique quarterback of his generation.

From Brady and Belichick to Jackson and Bill’s protege Josh McDaniels? Set that alarm …

Future Patriot? Lamar Jackson.

Future Patriot? Lamar Jackson.

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Why Washington and these other landing spots makes sense for Dez Bryant

Jay Asser 15/04/2018
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Dez Bryant could stay in the NFC East by joining one of Dallas' rivals.

Dez Bryant may not be the dynamic wide receiver he once was, but he remains a weapon that could help an offence, particularly inside the red zone.

After being released by the Dallas Cowboys, where he was a franchise cornerstone for so long, Bryant will be a sought-after playmaker in the open market.

Here are four teams Bryant could sign with for next season.

Washington

Any conversation on where Bryant will land has to start in the NFC East. That’s not baseless speculation either, that’s based on words straight from the man’s own mouth as Bryant reportedly said “I’ll see you guys twice this year” on his way out of Dallas’ building.

Looking at the Cowboys’ three divisional foes, it becomes clear that Washington would make the most sense for Bryant, considering their cap space far exceeds what the New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles have to offer.

The Giants are especially out of the race because they’ll likely have to hand Odell Beckham Jr a monster contract, which would make Bryant not just a luxury, but one they would be priced out of.

Philadelphia could certainly use Bryant after losing Torrey Smith and Trey Burton, and they could offer the wideout a chance to stick it to Dallas by contending for a Super Bowl. But the Eagles rank second-to-last in the league in cap space, according to Over the Cap, which would make this a difficult fit, money-wise.

Washington already possess a number of receiving weapons in Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson, as well as the newly-signed Paul Richardson, but they could choose to bolster the group and give Alex Smith more to work with, especially near the end zone.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have been committed to overhauling their receiving corps after giving Joe Flacco a relatively weak unit to work with last season.

They already signed Michael Crabtree away from Oakland and added former Arizona speedster John Brown. The addition of Bryant would fit nicely with Crabtree on the opposite sideline and give Baltimore a pair of receivers who can go up and fight for the ball.

As far as cap space, Baltimore have $10.7m to work with, which should be enough to work out a contract.

San Francisco 49ers

After a promising finish to last season with Jimmy Garoppolo under centre, the 49ers appear to building great things for the long-haul. It may not be a win-now situation for Bryant, but it’s certainly an up-and-coming team that could contend sooner than expected.

San Francisco have oodles of cap space to play around with ($47m) and need a receiver of Bryant’s ilk, size and ability to be a red zone threat for Garoppolo.

Pierre Garcon is still a sure-handed possession receiver and Marquise Goodwin has his strengths as a downfield threat, but no one on the 49ers roster right now can put as much pressure on opposing secondaries as Bryant is capable of.

Seattle Seahawks

They’ve been moving on from players left and right to save money, so turning around and handing a decent chunk to an aging veteran like Bryant may not make the most sense, even with $9.3m available in cap space.

However, the Seahawks are in need of some size in the receiving corps after losing Jimmy Graham and Richardson, and Bryant would slide in well as a primary target for Russell Wilson alongside Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.

Plus, Pete Carroll has never been hesitant to add star names or big personalities to his locker room, trusting the culture he has established.

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San Francisco linebacker Reuben Foster facing up to 11 years in prison on domestic violence charges

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Foster is facing three charges following his arrest for domestic violence.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster is facing three charges stemming from his arrest for domestic violence in February, prosecutors said Thursday.

The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office said Foster had been charged with domestic violence, attempting to prevent the victim from reporting a crime and possessing an assault weapon.

If convicted on all counts, Foster could face as much as 11 years in prison.

The statement said Foster, 24, left his 28-year-old victim with a ruptured ear drum after physically assaulting her at their home in northern California in February.

Reports have said Foster dragged his victim by the hair before punching her eight to 10 times in the head.

“Our focus is on holding accountable those who hurt their intimate partners,” Santa Clara prosecutor Kevin Smith said in a statement.

“Our office handles between four and five thousand domestic violence cases each year. We only hope that this case illuminates the tragic regularity of the rest.”

The National Football League has cracked down on domestic violence cases in recent years.

Any player involved in a domestic violence case can be banned for up to six games in the first instance. A second incident can lead to a lifetime ban.

“We continue to monitor all developments in this matter which is under review of the personal conduct policy,” the NFL said in a statement on Thursday.

The 49ers said the details of Foster’s charges were “disturbing.”

“We will continue to follow this serious matter,” the team said. “Reuben is aware that his place in our organization is under great scrutiny and will depend on what is learned through the legal process.”

Provided by AFP

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