And now, it begins. Thursday night 8 p.m. in Philadelphia. All the projections, mock drafts, debate, etc. will be replaced by actual teams picking actual players. It’s the NFL Draft 2017.
This will start (allegedly) with the Browns at #1, and then conclude around 3 1/2 hours later when the Saints (who got New England’s pick in the Brandin Cooks trade) will take the last player of the first round.
With all of this in mind, here are the four story-lines that intrigue us the most:
What do the Jaguars do at #4?
As we wrote earlier this week, Jacksonville not only has a new regime’ but they hold serious leverage with this early pick for themselves or potentially someone else.
Will it be LSU stud RB Leonard Fournette? Will it be a QB (Deshaun Watson?) or might the Jags deal out of this spot because the names Fournette, Mitchell Trubisky, Watson, and others are there, and are not something they feel they have to have?
Does Dalvin Cook last until the Buccaneers pick at #19?
Again, we have written a bunch about this possible marriage, but there are two essential scenarios:
Someone grabs Cook well before the Bucs can, or he starts to fall right into a position, where it seems to be a natural fit (Tampa Bay).
Many believe that both Fournette and Christian McCaffery will go before Cook in the opening round. That remains to be seen. It is also very likely that if both are gone, let’s say by the 10th pick, that several teams will be interested in picking or trading up to pick, Cook before #19.
Now, if he’s there for the Buccaneers, many believe GM Jason Licht will pull the trigger and take him. We will obviously find out very quickly whether Cook’s truly a priority (they take him). Or if the Bucs believe that they can trade down, they’ll take the risk of Cook being there later or just taking someone else later on, instead.
No matter what, it’s one of the big story lines, not only in our state, but around the entire NFL.
If it’s not Dalvin Cook, who’s the first state player taken in the first round?
This is a great debate. Is that name David Njoku, tight end from The U? Is it Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis? As our Jamil King suggests, is it maybe Noles DE Demarcus Robertson sneaking into the first round?
The Noles have had a player taken in round one in six of the last seven drafts, and it’s likely Cook will continue that trend. Then again, he may not. So we’re watching with you on who’s name from “the Sunshine State” comes up instead.
Finally, the Dolphins have to wait the longest of the three Florida NFL teams. Is it a defensive end?
It seems Miami has one main priority: pass rush. And there are a bevy of them in this draft, but who will still be there at #22? Derek Barnett of Tennessee? Charles Harris of Mizzou? Taco Charlton of Michigan? Or, do they covet another name?
Or if one or more of those guys are available and they pass on that position, what do they value more? Offensive line help? Secondary?
Miami was a playoff team in 2016 and has a lot of pieces in places. What do they add? We’re about to find that and a lot more out coming up tonight.
Latest on Friday injuries for Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars
As we head into the weekend and all three Florida NFL teams get ready to host opponents in Sunday early action, there are some significant injuries to once again go over.
Here’s the latest with what we know officially and otherwise:
As Jacksonville welcomes division-rival Houston to TIAA Bank Field, they have already ruled out running back Leonard Fournette for this matchup. This will be the fifth time in six games that for that is inactive and Coach Doug Marrone briefly told the media Friday that he has no idea now, when Fournette will return. We continue to stand by our source that told us nine days ago that he will rest through the bye week.
Also significant for the Jaguars is Calais Campbell being listed as questionable with ankle and hip injuries. Campbell (above) is one of the unquestioned leaders for the Jacksonville squad. He is expected to try to play. The Jags did take TJ Yeldon off of their injured list with his ankle problem and he will be active for the game Sunday.
Tampa Bay will be down two defensive lineman, including Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy. McCoy, who injured his calf in the second half of the loss to Atlanta last week, was unable to practice all week. So, it’s not surprising that he’s out. Defensive end Vinny Curry also suffered an ankle injury in the Atlanta game and is likewise out for Sunday. Bucs rookie defensive back Carlton Davis has been hampered by a back injury but was able to practice on Friday and is listed as questionable. Also quarterback Jameis Winston is on the injury report with a hip injury but will play on Sunday against Cleveland.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had already been ruled out for this game with his injured shoulder. So for the second straight week, Brock Osweiler will be the starting quarterback in Miami. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball defensive end Cam Wake, who missed last week’s game with an injured knee, is officially listed as questionable for the match up with the Lions.
Likewise, defensive back Bobby McCain, who missed the game with Chicago last Sunday, is also listed as questionable with an injured knee.
The Dolphins went ahead and ruled out last year’s number one pick, defensive end Charles Harris again, for this week with an injured calf. It’s not surprising because here is had not been able to practice all week due to the injury.
Silliness of coaches withholding info for “competitive advantage”
There is no disputing that coaches love to play games. Games with their opponents. Games with the public/media and even, games with themselves and their own staffs.
One of the biggest games that coaches like to play is withholding who might be starting for them at a key position all the way up until the last second. This is especially true with quarterback disputes or controversies. And, it’s in the name of “Competitive Advantage,” that they like to withhold information or updates.
And there has been no shortage of it in our state both at the pro and college level this season.
The most famous examples were once again this past weekend, when the Buccaneers had franchise quarterback Jameis Winston back off suspension and eligible to start the game with Chicago Sunday. Yet veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick had been playing “lights out” during most of his three previous starts.
Likewise, the Jaguars were dealing with Leonard Fournette’s hamstring injury and his status for Sunday’s game with the Jets was once again a competitive advantage mystery.
In the Bucs case, coach Dirk Koetter continued to stonewall the media and the public, all week, even after he admitted that he had told Fitzpatrick and Winston who was going to start against the Bears last Tuesday. In the name of competitive advantage, the coach went all the way through the weekend and up until game time before Fitzpatrick trotted out onto the field to start Sunday’s disastrous 48 – 10 loss.
Winston did start and play the entire second half, when the issue had long been decided. He threw two interceptions and a fourth-quarter touchdown in the loss. More on the Buccaneers QB situation in a second.
For last weekend’s game with the Titans, Fournette was limited in practice and listed as “questionable” and again in the name of competitive advantage, the second-year Jaguars coach would not say definitively whether fournette was going to play or not. This went on all the way up until the inactives were released 90 minutes before the the Tennessee game, when Fournette’s name appeared on that list, and then everyone knew he was not playing.
The same thing held true this past weekend, when Marrone repeatedly refused to definitively say whether Fournette was going to give it a try. That’s despite the fact that he had practiced fully on Friday, and once again, was listed as questionable.
Fournette did play in the first half of the game, carrying the ball 10 times but re-aggravated the hamstring injury in the second half and did not return.
Now, in that case, Marrone is left to explain why they tried it this past week as opposed to waiting one more week. And, now, there’s a real possibility that the rookie of the year last season could miss at least another game or two with the hammy.
But don’t count on getting any straight answers, in the name of competitive advantage.
Interestingly, Koetter completely contradicted the whole competitive advantage thing, when he came right out of his Monday news conference and announced that Winston will start after the Bucs bye week against the Atlanta Falcons.
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 1, 2018
While this conveniently relieves the Bucs third year coach of having to answer the questions for the next two weeks about who his quarterback will be, that also held true this past week and weekend. And yet, in the name of….. you got it, competitive advantage, he refused to say.
So, it’s worth pointing out: that the competitive advantage gained by not telling the Bears for sure that Fitzpatrick will be the quarterback was bigger than telling the Falcons, 13 days in advance, that Winston will be the quarterback.
And the Pro coaches are not alone, Hurricanes coach Mark Richt did the same thing with his quarterback switch for last Thursday night’s win over North Carolina. He repeatedly refused to announce to the media, fans or to the Tar Heels, whom his starter would be for the ACC showdown at Hard Rock stadium.
This again went all the way up until game time, when Richt told ESPN that Perry would be starting just before the kickoff of the game . As it turns out, senior Malik Rosier went to the bench and the red shirt freshman Perry played solidly, as the Hurricanes rolled to an easy victory.
And look, the preeminent college coach of this Century, Nick Saban did the same thing all offseason and all the way up until Alabama’s opening kickoff with Louisville in game one. That’s when Saban decided to start sophomore Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback over his previous starter from the last two seasons Jalen Hurts.
Again, no one can question Saban’s success, but still, it’s silly that Louisville and other opponents wouldn’t be preparing for both Tagovailoa and Hurts to play against them.
So, as this goes on, media members roll their eyes and continue to try to find out on their own, who’s going to play or not play.
The bottom line is other teams are prepared for anything too, and it’s just as easy for you to go ahead and say who’s going to play, or not, as it is to play competitive advantage games
Friday afternoon final injury reports for Bucs, Dolphins and Jaguars
As we head to the fourth weekend of the season, the injuries for the Bucs, the Dolphins, and the Jaguars are plentiful, and as usual it’s a mixed bag of good and bad news for all three teams.
First, and for the first time this season, Buccaneers rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea was able to practice fully and will possibly make his debut against the Bears Sunday. Vea, who Tampa Bay took in the first round, has been sidelined since the first week of the preseason with a calf strain. He is officially questionable on the report, but coach Dirk Koetter told the media “he has a chance to play” on Sunday.
The Bucs banged up secondary, which put veteran Chris Conte on IR mid week, has three more players injured and also listed as questionable. Rookies Carlton Davis (groin) and Jordan Whitehead (shoulder/hamstring) are being watched carefully and veteran DB Marcus Williams who was picked up off waivers two weeks ago, is also questionable with a hamstring injury.
As for the Dolphins, it is also a mixed bag on the official report as they get set to travel to New England. Defensive End Andre Branch, who has been unable to practice all week was ruled out with his injured knee. Meanwhile, safety Reshad Jones, who missed last week’s game with Oakland, was able to practice Friday and is listed as questionable. Miami did add defensive end Cam Wake to the injury report with an slight knee injury, but he has been a full participant in practice all week.
In Jacksonville, the most important hamstring in North Florida belongs to Leonard Fournette. As we wrote earlier this week, it’s a bad sign that he was not able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday and is likely to be inactive for a third straight game. There is some hope that the Jaguars listed him as a “full participant” in practice, but then, as questionable on the report.
It should be noted that the Jags and coach Doug Marrone did the same thing last Friday with Fournette’s status, and he didn’t play in the loss to the Titans. So, it will be another tenuous weekend for those own Fournette in their fantasy leagues.
Backup running back T.J. Yeldon is also listed as questionable with his ankle injury, but he was able to start last week against Tennessee and had a combined thirteen runs and receptions in the game.
Also, kicker Josh Lambo, who kicked two field goals in Sunday’s 9-6 loss, had not practiced Thursday with an injured hip. However, he did participate Friday fully and is now not on the injury report for the game at the Jets.
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