The Browns face a conundrum at the top of the draft, a sleeper to pay attention to and uncovering the real Josh Rosen. All that and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.
1. What will the Browns do at No. 1?
For the past two decades, there has been one overarching theme in the NFL. No, not that Joe Flacco is elite.
It’s that the position of quarterback holds the key to everything.
Quarterbacks rule the draft. They rule on NFL fields. They rule with fans. The highest-paid players in the sport are quarterbacks. Competent play at the position determines whether you can contend.
Maybe that’s why since 1998, there have been 20 No. 1 overall draft picks, and 14 of them have been quarterbacks.
But will that remain the case in the draft this year? Could we see Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or North Carolina State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb overtake the quarterbacks for that No. 1 spot?
It’s not totally unusual, of course, for a non-quarterback to go first. Just last season, the Browns took defensive end Myles Garrett, and in 2014, the Texans took Jadeveon Clowney. It happens.
Yet this year, at least before the scouting combine, it seemed almost a lock that a quarterback would be taken.
Now, teams believe there could be a massive shake-up near the top. A quarterback may not even go in the top three, several teams tell me.
B/R’s Matt Miller digs into just that scenario in his latest mock draft. I’d trust Miller with my life when it comes to anything NFL, and he captures a lot of the thinking some teams have when it comes to the top pick.
Both Barkley and Chubb were so incredible at the combine, so awe-inspiring, it’s possible they could help push the quarterbacks out of the top spot.
Still, it remains likely, several teams tell me, that the Browns stay traditional and take a thrower. (It’s also wise to remember that teams frequently lie this time of year. They will tell you that the Earth is flat.)
What I do know is that there are a few non-QBs viewed as so good, they have created confusion about what will—or should—happen at the top of the draft, and it may stay that way until draft day.
So get your popcorn ready.
2. Draft sleeper alert! Draft sleeper alert!
The best wide receiver you may not know is on the phone, and he’s laughing while telling a funny story.
Teo Redding, from Bowling Green, was asked about the oddest question he received from an NFL team at the combine. His answer was a doozy:
“If one of my friends killed someone, would I tell anyone?” Redding recalled.
“How do you even answer that?” he laughed.
So, how did he answer it?
“Of course, I would tell someone,” he said.
Silly questions aside, what you need to know about Redding is he may be one of the best sleepers in the draft.
Quarterbacks and other highly touted prospects may grab everyone’s ears at this time of year, but it’s the players drafted after Day 1 who make the NFL go. They don’t come into the league as stars but become them. Redding has a good chance to do just that.
Redding is training at the TEST Football Academy, located in Martinsville, New Jersey. The facility, run by owner and CEO Kevin Dunn and Director of Football Operations Geir Gudmundsen, has trained dozens of NFL players prior to the draft, including Patrick Peterson, Flacco, Duron Harmon, Jamaal Westerman, Stevan Ridley and Brian Hoyer, among others.
“The last wide receiver I’ve seen run these kind of smooth routes and one-handed catches was Odell Beckham Jr. at the LSU pro day,” Dunn said of Redding. “We’ve clocked him using our laser timing system with 4.3 speed, making him a faster version [of Beckham]. This kid is going to be the steal of the draft.”
Added Gudmundsen: “One of the most explosive athletes I’ve had the pleasure to work with. No doubt in my mind he was one of those kids that was snubbed for a combine invite. He will surprise scouts, general managers and head coaches with his explosiveness and athleticism.”
Last year at Bowling Green, Redding had 45 catches for 624 yards. His eight touchdowns led the team, and as he did throughout his time at the school, he punctuated his season with a series of acrobatic catches. His work even made it onto SportsCenter‘s top 10 plays several times, including an Odell Beckham-like one-handed grab.
“[Last] summer, I really worked at my game even harder than normal,” Redding said. “I lived in the weight room. I watched more film. I worked on my eating habits.”
The result is a player drawing attention from a host of NFL teams. Redding says he’s drawn the most interest from the Bears and Eagles.
No matter who drafts him, Redding is a name you should expect to hear more from—a lot more.
3. The truth about Josh Rose
Like others, I’ve heard the veiled (and not so veiled) criticisms of UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
He’s a rich kid, and rich kids aren’t hungry.
He’s too politically active.
In a season in which foolish ideas swirl heavily, the ones about Rosen are among the most absurd.
Several teams told B/R, however, that when they interviewed Rosen at the combine, he was smart, down to earth and clearly loved football. These teams, at least, had no concerns about him.
That won’t stop the silliness of this season, but at least, for some teams, a portrait of who Rosen really is and what he cares about is a lot clearer than a week ago.
4. A dynamic duo in San Francisco
If the Jaguars don’t work out a long-term deal with receiver Allen Robinson and he enters the free-agent market, one place that makes sense for him is San Francisco.
The 49ers are building a nice team and doing so pretty quickly now that they have secured their franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. A Robinson-Garoppolo combo would be a darn good tandem.
Robinson hasn’t left the Jaguars behind yet, but if he does, a trip west makes a lot of sense.
5. Kirk Cousins leaving his options open
The soon-to-be free-agent quarterback has ruled no teams out and has been willing to talk to anyone. The front-runner may be the Vikings, as Ralph Vacchiano of SNY reported, but I keep hearing he is keeping his options open.
The bottom line remains we still don’t have a clue where Cousins will sign. At least not yet.
6. Will the NFL ever get the player protest issue right?
There was an interesting paragraph in a column from the Houston Chronicle‘s Jerome Solomon about the Texans and player protests from this past season.
“I spoke with two NFL agents this week,” Solomon wrote, “who said word is the Texans aren’t interested in any players who participated in pregame kneeldowns in protest of police brutality.”
The Texans vehemently denied the report. (For what it’s worth, their head of public relations, Amy Palcic—who issued the team’s denial—is one of the most honest and decent people in the sport.)
Still, considering that Texans owner Bob McNair basically called players “inmates” (for which he later apologized) and player agents apparently feel the team wants players who won’t create waves, it’s apparent the league is still fumbling about with how to deal with the player protest issue.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told the New York Daily News that his players would stand during the anthem. Later, Ross said his comments were misconstrued, and he would not force players to stand for anthem.
So what is it the league wants from players? And why can’t it acknowledge the importance of why players are kneeling? The league clearly doesn’t have answers, and that’s a problem for an issue that isn’t fading away.
7. The true value of Le’Veon Bell
There are many reasons why Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell is so valuable, but the excellent Aditi Kinkhabwala from the NFL Network may have best summarized it with this piece of information:
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is for an offense to know a back can stay on the field almost nonstop. And not only stay on the field, but also scare defenses while he’s on it.
8. One disturbance too many for Aldon Smith
The Raiders announced Monday they were cutting linebacker Aldon Smith, a move people in the league believe will end his NFL career.
This week an arrest warrant was issued after he was accused of assault last weekend. These are just the latest troubling charges for the 2011 first-round draft choice. Smith hasn’t played since 2015 and is currently suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.
Smith’s talent kept him around football longer than he probably deserved given his off-field behavior.
That doesn’t look to be the case anymore.
9. Another week, another player concerned about head trauma
Add Beanie Wells’ name to the growing list of players wondering what football has done to their minds. Wells said on 97.1 The Fan’s Tim and Beanie Show in Columbus, Ohio, he had recently undergone an MRI after experiencing headaches and problems with his speech and memory.
“I’m still not out of the woods yet, but it’s coming,” Wells said, via ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg. “I’m hopeful.”
These types of stories used to happen a few times a year. Now they seem to pop up every few months.
On the positive side, it shows that players are continuing to educate themselves on how the sport impacts their mental wellness. They’re paying attention. That’s a good thing.
10. Jerry Glanville is back
Few coaches in NFL history were bigger showmen than former Falcons coach Jerry Glanville.
He left tickets for Elvis at will-call and dressed in all black. As coach of the Oilers from 1985-89, his teams made the playoffs three times. In Atlanta, Glanville made the 1991 divisional playoff round but went 6-10 the following two years and was gone.
Glanville’s time in the NFL was more talk and flash than actual winning, but hoooo doggy, could he be entertaining. Recently hired as the defensive coordinator of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian Football League, it’s clear Glanville can still make a memorable impression.
He told a story to Steve Milton from 3DownNation that had me spitting water. It was the 1970s, and Glanville drove a Harley-Davidson from Atlanta to Quebec City to stay at a high-class hotel. It was a trip of about 1,300 miles.
“I walked in wearing cowboy boots, overalls and no shirt,” he said. “And they said, ‘Are you sure you have a room here?'”
They’re going to like Glanville in Canada.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.