Mark Ingram is no stranger to sharing the New Orleans Saints' backfield, after he split touches for years with the likes of Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory, Khiry Robinson and Tim Hightower.
In fact, Ingram said he has followed Peterson since his freshman year at Oklahoma, and the opportunity to play with him will be “special.”
“I’m a big fan of his. I admire his running style. I admire everything he’s been through, the adversity he’s overcome in knee injuries, having some 1,000-yard seasons, being a perennial leading rusher,” Ingram said on a conference call with the New Orleans media. “The résumé, the name speaks for itself. And just having the opportunity to be in the same running back room with that guy, pick his brain, learn from him is only gonna make me better.”
Of course, Ingram hasn’t always loved sharing the ball, as he has demonstrated with a couple of emotional, competitive outbursts over the years. But he has been lauded by coaches and teammates for having a great attitude throughout his frustrating early years and his successful later years, and he has grown into a well-respected team leader.
Ingram said nobody from the Saints called him to discuss the Peterson move, but he was prepared for another running back to come in after the team let Hightower leave for the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.
“Listen, man. It’s nothing new. I’ve been sharing the ball with one or two or maybe even three guys since I got here,” Ingram said. “I figured we was gonna draft somebody or get somebody in free agency. We still might. So it’s not surprising.
“I don’t care who comes in, where I’m at, who I’m playing with. I’m always gonna compete. I’m always gonna do the best I can do. That’s just me. That’s how I’m built. I’m always competing. I’m never gonna shy away from competition -- and that’s just the bottom line.”
Saints coach Sean Payton said he thinks both running backs will handle the timeshare well.
“This sounds a little cliché, but it’s hard to be the guy that’s just getting every handoff -- not only in [Peterson’s] case but in Mark’s case,” Payton told reporters while participating in the Zurich Classic pro-am on Tuesday. “And we were fortunate for a few years to have a guy like Tim Hightower. I’m not by any way saying that his role will be the same as Tim’s. But I think it’s important in our game to have a number at that position that can handle the length of the season.”
Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in an interview with New Orleans’ WWL Radio that he also is excited about the move.
“Yeah, that was big news today with Adrian Peterson becoming a Saint,” Brees said. “Obviously, I’ve had a ton of respect for this guy for a long time, as has just about everybody in our league and our locker room.
“I know he’s going to come in with a chip on his shoulder, ready to show what he can do. And I’m sure he’ll embrace the opportunity.”
Brees, who has famously overcome a major injury and some early struggles in his career, said he absolutely believes in the idea of the “chip” that Peterson has as a 32-year-old running back who was released by the Minnesota Vikings after he missed most of the previous season because of a knee injury.
“Listen, it’s a must,” Brees said. “It really is a must, and I just think certain guys are just wired that way. I play this game because I’ve been blessed to play this game, and I want to be the best that I can at it while I have this opportunity. Throughout my career, there have been plenty of moments where I was told that it was not going to happen for whatever reason. Too small, too short, too this, too that. And there is a little bit of satisfaction proving people wrong, but I want to be great because I’m just wired that way. …
“Well, Adrian Peterson, look at his career. He has an ACL injury, and he comes back and rushes for 2,000 yards. I mean, what that guy has accomplished in the face of a lot of adversity has been tremendous.”
Longtime New Orleans Saints fans will see the Adrian Peterson signing and immediately think back to Earl Campbell and Jim Taylor -- two Hall of Fame running backs who finished their careers in New Orleans.
Campbell spent a year-and-a-half with the Saints after being traded from the Houston Oilers; the deal reunited him with coach Bum Phillips during Campbell's seventh season, 1984. He finished with 833 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards and one touchdown in 24 total games -- including one turn-back-the-clock 160-yard rushing outburst in his final season.
Taylor, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and played at LSU, came home for his final season to join the expansion Saints in their inaugural season. He had just 390 rushing yards, 251 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 14 games. But his jersey was retired by the Saints, along with that of Hall of Fame defensive end Doug Atkins, who also finished his career with the expansion team.
The expectations for Peterson should be a little higher, even though he is 32 years old.
Sure, that's practically ancient for the running back position -- especially for a guy coming off of two significant knee injuries in recent years. But history actually offers a few reasons for optimism.
As I wrote Monday, the Saints don't need a vintage Peterson for him to make an impact as a No. 1-A back alongside Mark Ingram. They would happily take a repeat of Marcus Allen's 1993 season with the Kansas City Chiefs, LaDainian Tomlinson's 2010 season with the New York Jets, Emmitt Smith's 2004 season with the Arizona Cardinals, among a couple others.
I think ESPN fantasy analyst Mike Clay's projection -- 1,140 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns for Ingram; 912 and seven for Peterson -- is very realistic.
ESPN Stats and Information put together a list of some of the notable Hall of Fame running backs who finished their careers with other teams (some of which you may have forgotten). As you might expect, it's a mixed bag of some impressive performances, some forgettable ones and some in between:
LaDainian Tomlinson (New York Jets, age 31-32 in 2010-11). Tomlinson still had plenty of life left in New York, with a total of 1,194 rushing yards, 817 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 29 games. He had six games with 100-plus yards from scrimmage in his first 10 games in 2010 and a 100-yard receiving game in 2011.
Emmitt Smith (Arizona Cardinals, age 34-35 in 2003-04). Smith didn't do much in 2003 but finished strong in 2004 with 937 rushing yards, 105 receiving yards, nine touchdowns and two 100-yard rushing games.
Marcus Allen (Kansas City Chiefs, age 33-37 in 1993-97). Allen remarkably found new life in Kansas City after his career had grown stale with the Los Angeles Raiders. He racked up another 3,698 rushing yards, 1,153 receiving yards and 47 touchdowns in five years with the Chiefs.
Eric Dickerson (Los Angeles Raiders, age 32 in 1992; Atlanta Falcons, age 33 in 1993). Dickerson had some strong performances with the Raiders, including two 100-yard rushing games and a total of 729 rushing yards, 85 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 16 games. He only played four games with Atlanta, with 91 rushing yards, 58 receiving yards and no touchdowns.
Tony Dorsett (Denver Broncos, age 34 in 1988). Dorsett had a decent finale with 703 rushing yards, 122 receiving yards, five touchdowns and two 100-yard rushing games in 16 games.
Earl Campbell (New Orleans Saints, age 29-30 in 1984-85). Campbell had just 833 rushing yards, 88 receiving yards and one touchdown in 24 games after the midseason trade -- but he left one lasting impression with his 160 yards and a TD against the Minnesota Vikings in 1985.
Franco Harris (Seattle Seahawks, age 34 in 1984). Harris' final year was forgettable: eight games, 170 rushing yards, 3 receiving yards and zero TDs.
O.J. Simpson (San Francisco 49ers, age 31-32 in 1978-79). O.J. still had a little bit of juice, with a total of 1,053 rushing yards, 218 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 23 games -- including one 100-yard rushing game and five games with 90-plus yards from scrimmage in 1978.
Jim Taylor (New Orleans Saints, age 32 in 1967). After nine years with the Green Bay Packers, Taylor came home to Louisiana to help get the Saints franchise off the ground. He had just 390 rushing yards, 251 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 14 games but had his jersey retired for the significance of his arrival.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- I’ve got a pocket watch and a couch. I’ve taken an online hypnosis class.
Now all I need is a subject.
If I could lure general manager Jon Robinson into my office and pull my “you are getting sleepy" shtick, I’d try to find out the Tennessee Titans’ draft plans. But I don’t think he’d break.
So I’d turn to the roster he already has and ask him these questions:
What do you guys really think about DaQuan Jones?
I know your team likes the defensive end, and he earned his way into the nickel packages some last season. He’s a sturdy 6-foot-4, 322 pounds and certainly made a contribution to the NFL’s No. 2 run defense.
But how much do you like him? Enough that he would influence your desire for Jonathan Allen or Solomon Thomas (who’s Kevin Dodd-sized) in the draft? The Titans’ defensive line is a strength, but while we are on the subject, how about a review of a couple other recent draft picks in Angelo Blackson, Austin Johnson.
Is Kevin Byard now your center-field safety?
The four-man rotation last season was odd, but Byard clearly emerged as a solid force in the secondary. He played a lot more in or near the box than most of us expected, however. Does the addition of Johnathan Cyprien, who’s clearly a box safety, mean Byard will move into the center-fielder role, where we could see more of the ball skills that led to his 19 picks at Middle Tennessee State?
Do you believe you can cover opposing tight ends with your current inside linebacker group?
Do you believe you’re equipped, as the roster stands, to address that?
The offensive line finally turned back into a strength in 2016. Mike Mularkey said 2016 sixth-round pick Sebastian Tretola should compete for a spot in the lineup. Between those three and veteran addition Tim Lelito, do you have enough options to feel good about your guards?
Why do you have your PR department list the Titans as a base two-back offense?
Sure, Jalston Fowler is a good fullback. And you’re not responsible for the sins of Ruston Webster, who drafted a guy with a very small role in the fourth round in 2015.
But why does the team pretend, in its unofficial depth chart, that it is a two-back offense?
Fowler played 182 snaps in 2016. You ran 443 snaps with two tight ends or more.
What’s the story behind pretending to be two-back?
You are still very sleepy, in a deep, deep sleep.
Is there any doubt in your mind about Marcus Mariota not being the same player as a result of the plate in his right leg?
Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis acknowledges that the pre-draft process has been a bit frustrating.
Davis underwent ankle surgery earlier this offseason and did not participate in the scouting combine in February. That leaves a question mark over his speed that he won't be able to totally erase before the start of the 2017 NFL draft on Thursday night.
"I feel like the game speed is really what matters. Just put a lot of hype into this combine and everything. I know it's a big part of the puzzle but game speed is really what matters and I feel like I would have ran 4.4, low 4.4s," he told ESPN.
Davis says he is at 85 percent health and expects to be full-go at some point over the next few weeks. He posted a video recently to show the progress he's made.
— Corey Davis (@c_davis_81) April 21, 2017
The NCAA's all-time leader in receiving yards (5,285), Davis caught 97 passes for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns this past season. He has the size (6-foot-3, 209 pounds), the athleticism and the route-running precision that has him projected to be a first-round pick, with or without a 40-time. To help solidify that stock, he's met with teams to demonstrate his ability from a mental perspective. He went on five official visits overall, Davis told ESPN's Jenna Laine, including to the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It was one of my first visits. It went really well. I like the coaches, like the team. It was just a good time, I loved it," he said. "They were just one of the first teams to get a hold of my agent and we went from there, ended up meeting with them first."
Davis added that he's watched quarterback Carson Wentz over the past year and "I like the way he plays, I like what he's done. He's a guy that has come from a small school as well and made the most of it."
ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has Davis going ninth overall to the Cincinnati Bengals, while Mel Kiper has him slotted 18th to the Tennessee Titans. There's a wide-range of opinions of exactly where he'll end up, but most believe his name will be called before Thursday night is out in Philadelphia.
"Whatever [the team that drafts me] needs me to do, I'll be happy to do it," he said.
Adrian Peterson is joining the New Orleans Saints as a power runner who will jump into one of the most prolific passing offenses of this generation. On this occasion, it's worth revisiting where Peterson's skills stand at age 32 and why an honest assessment of his limitations helped lead to nearly two months on the free-agent market.
Peterson could one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but any team evaluating his potential for 2017 would no doubt have considered the following:
1. Use him on obvious passing downs at your own risk. Peterson was a willing but largely incapable pass-blocker during his career with the Minnesota Vikings. If he didn't figure it out in his first 10 NFL seasons, it's fair to wonder if he will now.
2. Relying on Peterson as a first- and second-down workhorse could backfire. (Fortunately for the Saints, they have Mark Ingram on their roster.) Peterson has missed at least 13 games in two of the past three seasons -- in 2016 because of a knee injury and in 2014 for NFL discipline -- and has played a 16-game season only once since 2012. Knee injuries have cost him games in at least three seasons. Though one might not be connected to the other, a big-picture look at his career arc clearly shows a decrease in availability over time.
3. Though Peterson has proved to be a unique physical talent, most recently in 2012 when he ran for a career-high 2,097 yards a year after tearing his ACL, history is not on his side. He turned 32 in March, and in 47 seasons since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been only 10 instances of a runner that old producing a 1,000-yard season.
4. Most NFL teams are phasing out Peterson's favored formations. Nearly 95 percent of his career carries have come when the quarterback was under center. He has only 132 attempts when the quarterback is in the shotgun, a formation most teams prefer now. Meanwhile, he has a notably better average per carry (4.91 yards) when running behind a lead blocker than he does when he was the single back in a formation (4.61 yards). (Research courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information's John McTigue.) Fortunately, the Saints use the shotgun and pistol less often than some teams; they ran 507 plays last season when the quarterback began under center, the fifth most in the league.
Consider this nothing more than a sober reminder about the limitations of an aging running back who has a history of knee injuries along with on-field imperfections that have grown increasingly relevant. They are issues, aside and apart of any concerns about his 2014 guilty plea to reckless assault involving his son, that any self-aware team needed to consider before signing him.
Make no mistake. Peterson has been one of the NFL's best offensive players over the past decade. When he was drafted in the first round in 2007, he was a breakaway runner in a bruiser's body. From 2007 through 2013, he produced a league-high 62 rushes of at least 25 yards, 15 more than the next-best player over that span (Chris Johnson).
Since the start of the 2014 season, however, Peterson has only seven such runs. Part of that dip can be attributed to the games he has missed. Game mortality must also be considered. Peterson is not nearly the long-distance threat he once was.
With all that said, Peterson could still make a difference for the right team in the right situation. As we all learned after his ACL injury, his drive to surpass expectations might be unequaled in the NFL. But no team is going to trust a player to elevate upon all reasonable projections. No one should, at least. I doubt the Saints are. You would think that pursuing Peterson as a free agent would have been a no-brainer, but clearly it was more complicated than that.
For Minnesota Vikings fans of a certain age -- especially those under the age of 30 -- there has been no game in Minneapolis more electric than the night Brett Favre beat his old team.
Favre threw three touchdown passes on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 5, 2009, before a giddy crowd of 63,846 at the Metrodome. The game, which came 24 hours after the Minnesota Twins won an AL Central title with a Game 163 victory in the same building, drew the largest audience in cable TV history. It put the Vikings two games ahead of the Packers in the NFC North and catapulted them on a ride to the NFC title game.
With all respect to the Vikings' playoff-clinching win over the Packers in Week 17 of the 2012 season, their January 2016 wild-card playoff against the Seattle Seahawks and their victory over the Packers to open U.S. Bank Stadium last year, there has been no game in Minneapolis with the same charged atmosphere since Favre's triumph that Monday night. That could change in 139 days.
When the Vikings open the 2017 season on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints, Adrian Peterson will be on the visitors' sideline. He might not enter the season as the Saints' starting running back -- and on a team that spent only 45 percent of the time with its quarterback under center last season, Peterson's role remains to be seen. But anyone who knows Peterson knows he'll come into 2017 intent on proving a point. And the 32-year-old running back's first opportunity to do it will come against his old team.
(For the record, we here at the Worldwide Leader in Sports are intrigued about this matchup, but no more so than we would be about any other Monday night season opener. Our strong suggestion you tune in for the TV broadcast of this particular game is offered with objective journalistic insight only.)
There was nothing particularly acrimonious about Peterson's split from the Vikings this spring; general manager Rick Spielman offered platitudes about the running back's place in team history, and Peterson had kind words for the Vikings after spending a decade in Minnesota. He will have his No. 28 retired once his career ends and he will stand as one of the greatest players in the team's 56-season history.
But the day after the Vikings announced they would not pick up his $18 million option for 2017, Peterson tweeted a video of him doing two 20-repetition sets of 225 pounds on the bench press. He repeated the process with several other workout videos during his eight weeks on the open market, noting on March 31 he was the only player in his training group older than 24 and challenging "haters" to "do whatcha do best."
Peterson relishes the opportunity to prove people wrong, as he did when ran for 2,097 yards and won league MVP honors in 2012 after returning in nine months from a torn ACL. He bristled at the notion he couldn't be effective after returning from a torn meniscus in three months last season, and has offered reactions ranging from amused to annoyed when his age (32) is used to suggest he might not be able to produce the way he has in the past. He undoubtedly will be intent on making a statement in 2017, and his first chance to do it will be against the team that drafted him, employed him for 10 years, brought him back after his 2015 suspension, but ultimately let him go when it decided to get younger.
The matchup is just the Saints' second trip to Minneapolis since the epic 2010 NFC Championship Game, and memories of that game already figured to stoke the emotions of Vikings fans. Seeing Peterson -- who fumbled three times in that title game -- in a Saints uniform only figures to provide an additional spark.
Perhaps he won't play much, and perhaps he won't have the kind of night Favre did against the Packers. But Peterson's return in a Saints uniform, with Vikings fans still figuring out how to process his final few years in Minnesota, means the 2017 Vikings season will arrive with a spark. It's only 4 1/2 months away. Get ready.
On the Tuesday before the 2016 NFL Draft, I stood at a podium inside ESPN’s newest building and pronounced to the world that the Dallas Cowboys would take Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey with the fourth overall pick.
Bill Polian immediately mocked my mock selection of Ramsey and said I should have selected Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Polian turned out to be correct, although in fairness the "pick" was made before our appearance and I had subsequently had to fall on the sword and stick with Ramsey.
Elliott was a terrific pick for the Cowboys, leading the NFL in rushing with 1,631 yards. He became the heartbeat of the Cowboys' offense the way DeMarco Murray was the heartbeat in 2014 when he led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards.
But as the Cowboys get ready for this year's draft, the question of what they did and did not do in the first round of last year's draft needs to be asked again: Elliott or Ramsey?
A strong case can be made, again, for Ramsey, the Florida State cornerback who went to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the fifth overall pick.
Part of my reasoning last year for taking Ramsey in the NFL Nation mock draft was not just what was best for 2016 but what was best for 2017, 2018 and beyond.
The Cowboys went into last year knowing Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were going into the final years of their contracts. They knew there was a very real possibility they would not re-sign any of them before, during or after the 2016 season, leaving them with a hole on their roster in 2017.
Ramsey was the best defensive back in the draft. Some saw him as a future safety because of his range. Others saw him as a lock-down cornerback.
He was consistently tested by other teams and answered the questions more often than not. He started every game and had 65 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. He played 445 snaps at left cornerback and 359 snaps at right cornerback. He played some in the slot.
He has the look of a future Pro Bowl cornerback for years to come.
They enter this week's draft needing defensive back help, even with the signing of veteran cornerback Nolan Carroll II. At safety they believe Jeff Heath is ready to step into a starting role next to Byron Jones.
The Cowboys had 12 cornerbacks and four safeties among their non-local visitors to The Star leading up to this year's draft. Marlon Humphrey, Gareon Conley, Kevin King, Adoree' Jackson and Tre'Davious White are cornerbacks that could be worth picking at No. 28 who visited the Cowboys. The four safeties -- Obi Melifonwu, Tedric Thompson, Marcus Williams and Xavier Woods -- are considered second-, third-, or fourth-round selections.
Will any of those cornerbacks or safeties be as good as Ramsey?
Perhaps, but the odds say the fourth pick in the draft will be better than the 28th pick. It's not a fool-proof notion, obviously, but you would go with the high-first rounder over the low-first rounder more often than not.
Part of the reason why the Cowboys chose Elliott was the effect he would have on their defense. The better he was, the better the Cowboys would hold on to the ball and the less the defense would be on the field. In 2016, it was a strategy that worked very well.
Elliott has the look of a transcendent player. He changed the Cowboys' modus operandi last season. He made the big plays. He picked up the dirty yards. He helped make everyone's job, from Dak Prescott, to the line and, yes, to the defense, easier.
The Cowboys did the right thing in selecting Elliott last year, but had they picked Ramsey a year ago it wouldn't have been the wrong thing.
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard grew up in Texas City, Texas, a town of about 46,000 that's roughly 55 miles south of downtown Houston.
It was there that Ballard's stepfather ran a service station in what Ballard referred to as the "rougher part of town."
Ballard saw the mistakes that people made in the area. He also realized that mistakes are part of life. He carried that mindframe with him when coaching at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and during his 16-year NFL front office career, which is why he doesn’t rush to judgment when a potential draft prospect has dealt with off-the-field issues.
Ballard has a philosophy when it comes to that situation: Do your own homework on the player and then make a decision on you believe is best suited for the organization.
"Guys are immature," Ballard said. "Guys make bad decisions. Just from my background of taking guys that have made bad mistakes and having success -- have I always been right? No, I've made my share of mistakes on taking those players. For the most part, I've made pretty good decisions doing it.
"You've got to look inside and ask yourself: Does the kid have a good soul? Does he have a humbleness about why he made the mistake? That always makes me feel a lot more comfortable. If the guy is blaming everybody else, then my antennas go up."
Fast forward to today.
There are two players in this year's draft that not only fit an area of need for the Colts, but also have issues surrounding them. Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster recently tested positive for a diluted urine sample at the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indianapolis in February.
Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon has first-round talent but punched a female student in the face in 2014. He was suspended for the 2014 season and initially faced a misdemeanor assault charge but ended up accepting a plea deal with a year of probation, counseling and 100 hours of community service.
Ballard was asked specifically if Mixon, who rushed for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, if was a player they had done their research on during his pre-draft press conference last week.
"Much like any player, we exhaust them all," he said. "No stone unturned. All of them. All of them we go A to Z."
Ballard was the one the Kansas City Chiefs put in charge to do some background work on former Washington cornerback Marcus Peters prior to the 2015 draft. Ballard flew to Oakland, California, to talk to Peters, his family and others close to him after he was kicked off the Huskies football team for having issues with the coaching staff during his junior season.
The Chiefs liked what Ballard found out about Peters, who was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year after Kansas City selected him at No. 18 overall in the draft that year.
Ballard believes the organization has to have a plan in place to help the player not only develop on the football field, but also mature off of it if they select someone that has dealt with issues in the past.
"Make our opinions internally. Do our work internally. And make sure we exhaust it with the player to know what we're getting with him when he enters the building and then how he's going to be in the community also," Ballard said. "It's a case-by-case basis…These are young guys. They make mistakes. Are we comfortable with it? Is the organization comfortable with it? Are we comfortable with how he's going to be in the community? Those are all questions that we ask with every guy case-by-case. We don't just loop them and say, 'Okay, here’s this group of players and here are the problem guys.'
"No, if we're not comfortable at the end of the day, they won't be on the board. We will not make that and that decision will not be made on draft [day] -- we're not having discussions on draft day. Those discussions have been had before the draft. And if I know, hey, this guy doesn't fit the Colts criteria, we don't believe that he can be successful here in Indy, then we'll take him off the board."
There's no confusion over who will make the Washington Redskins' draft pick. It won't be one person making the final call at the last minute -- and any strong debate would have taken place before the selection.
If there's a trade? Then it's up to one person: president Bruce Allen.
With general manager Scot McCloughan fired early last month, the question has been: Who's in charge of the Redskins' draft? Scott Campbell, their director of college scouting, has been the point man since McCloughan's firing. But coach Jay Gruden has long enjoyed evaluating players and Allen, obviously, will be involved as well.
Campbell told reporters Monday what the team has long said: They receive input from many, place a grade on a player and let that be their guide. It's similar to how they ran the 2014 draft, with all the parties still in their current positions.
"The goal is to not have panic on draft day," Campbell said. "You don't want to have a brand-new argument break out right there before you're picking. That's ridiculous. I've never seen that happen in any team I've been with. It's all been worked out, hashed out. The argument's already been had, because really by then it's too late. You've got to go with how they are."
But if the Redskins want to make a trade, then a final call must be made by one person -- and that's Allen. Eric Schaffer, their chief negotiator, and Alex Santos, their director of pro personnel, will work the phones -- calling those ahead of them or fielding calls from those behind them.
"A lot of times per Bruce's instructions, he'll say, 'Hey, you take these five teams. You take the next five teams. Start making calls.' And then we're receiving calls too at the same time," Campbell said.
At that point, they'll tell the group what they can receive if they trade back -- or what it would cost to move up.
"It would be me and Bruce and Jay saying 'No, no, we've got enough guys there' or say 'I like these guys,' or like, 'Hey, there's guys there,'" Campbell said. "So it's kind of a discussion amongst the people, and most times it's Bruce saying, 'Just tell them we're not interested,' or he says, 'Get the league on the phone. We're going to make that trade.'"
One aspect the Redskins do agree on: It's a good draft for defensive players.
"It's one of the strongest, deepest classes on the defensive side of the ball that I've seen," said Campbell, entering his 31st season in the NFL. "I know there's going to be a guy sitting there at 17 or if we want to move back, there's enough thickness of the group. Across the board on defense, I'm really excited about the class and the guys we're going to bring in are going to help us. So if I have to identify any kind of trend or something I see in the board itself, I think the defensive side of the ball is pretty good."
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The confidence is there in Taco Charlton's mannerisms, in how he speaks about his place in the draft and his future in the NFL. The confidence he shows is almost as strong as anything he did on the field at Michigan.
Hours earlier, he re-ran the 40-yard dash at Michigan’s pro day. With a group of reporters surrounding him -- Michigan closed its pro day to most media -- Charlton beamed. He ran a 40-yard dash in the 4.7/4.8-second range inside Glick Field House, cutting between one- and two-tenths of a second from his NFL combine time of 4.92 seconds.
For an edge rusher like Charlton in a crowded 2017 defensive end class, that could be the difference between being selected in the teens Thursday night versus the late 20s or possibly waiting until Friday.
Need to hear the confidence? Just listen to Charlton.
“I think I’m definitely a top-15 guy,” Charlton said. “I watch film all the time. I’m the hardest critic on myself -- things I should have done, could have done this, could have done that. I feel like I’m only going to get better.
“The more football I play, I’m only going to improve. And you watch film, especially my last games on the field where I’m at my best and more healthy, I’m one of the better edge guys out there.”
He has received no guarantees, of course. This is just his own belief. His own projection. His confidence coming through. Charlton always had the first-round measurements. At 6-foot-6, 277 pounds with 34 1/4-inch arms, his physical attributes were never questioned. Neither was his athleticism. He played high school basketball with Brooklyn Nets guard Caris LeVert at Pickerington Central and even joked at one point about trying to play for Michigan’s basketball team, on which LeVert played for four seasons.
That he ran well only accentuated everything else about him from a physical standpoint. And there’s that confidence again. His expectations are high for this week. He visited with Dallas, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Washington, Miami and Detroit. At his pro day, he met with others, including Pittsburgh.
So when he discusses his expectations, there is no question. He knows they are high. He prefers it that way.
“I definitely feel like I’m a first-rounder,” Charlton said. “I feel like I’m one of the better pass-rushers in this draft. There’s a lot of stuff I can do on the edge. I’m one of the most complete pass-rushers and most complete edge guys that they’ve got out there. I’ve proven to stop the run. I’ve played inside and stopped the run. Played outside. Played a lot of different positions.
“Had 10 sacks in 10 games, and that’s on one foot. What I could do when I’m healthy and all the different things I can do, I feel like I could be a great player in the league.”
His health is an important consideration. He spent much of the 2016 season playing with a high ankle sprain. Those injuries linger and can affect performance even after a player returns to the field. Sometimes it’ll take a full season to get healthy.
It was at the end of the season when his potential showed. He had 23 tackles over the final four games, including games against Ohio State and Florida State. In each of those games, he had at least one tackle for loss, including three against the Buckeyes. He had a sack in every one of those games, too, including 2.5 against Ohio State. It was part of a 10-sack season for Charlton -- more than doubling the sack number for the first three years of his career.
Mel Kiper Jr. said Charlton is the type of 4-3 defensive end who can “handle the responsibilities” of the position, and that’s something that could help him stand out in a deep group with Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Missouri’s Charles Harris and UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley.
Charlton could land in a number of spots, including Detroit, a team with which he has developed some relationships. Charlton said he has spoken “a lot” with Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and that he has “a close connection” with him. The Lions need pass-rushers, and the team's facility is a 40-minute drive east on Interstate 94 from Ann Arbor.
Kocurek is the type of defensive line coach who has proven to get a lot out of long, rangy defensive ends with high athleticism and raw potential. George Johnson had the best season of his career under Kocurek.
Kocurek helped turn Ezekiel Ansah into a star. Yes, Charlton has more experience in football than Ansah did when the Lions drafted him in the first round in 2013. But both are long. Both are lean. Both have good athleticism and a strong basketball background. Charlton noticed. He pegged Ansah as someone he wanted to watch and study.
“I watch Ziggy a lot,” Charlton said. “He’s a guy I kind of study film on and watch pass rushes, because he’s a relentless pass-rusher and gets after the quarterback.”
Whatever team drafts Charlton will have to be confident he can turn into a guy who can play like Ansah.
New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese wouldn't say last week how many draftable players the Giants have but did provide insight into how they planned to approach the draft when it came to balancing need and the best available player.
"We do it a lot," Reese said. "Sometimes it falls that way as this is the best player available and also ties into value and need as well.
"We try to tie them both together, but we are not going to reach for guys just because we think it is a need position for us."
The Giants pick 23rd overall in the first round. They don't have any eye-popping needs but can use an upgrade at linebacker, offensive line, running back, tight end, defensive tackle, cornerback depth and a quarterback of the future. They can also likely survive if they don't add any specific position. They can always fill out their roster with another veteran free agent and be OK at pretty much any position.
It doesn't mean the Giants don't want to leave this draft with at least one or two new offensive linemen. That would be preferable, especially since they're admittedly going to "experiment" on the line this spring. The plan is to throw as many competent offensive linemen into the mix, try them at different positions and see what the best combination is.
It's not ideal but it's how the Giants -- as currently composed -- are set to move forward. They're not going to get antsy and force a pick at any particular position come Thursday.
"We feel like we can use help anywhere, at any position," Reese said. "We just want to create a lot of competition at every position going into the training camp, so we are going to try and upgrade at every position like we always do and offensive line is definitely a spot that we would like to upgrade as well."
After a rocky upbringing, he's going to be 25 years old this season. But age isn't something that will affect the Giants' approach.
"That is not a big issue for us," Reese said. "If a guy is 24 or 25, that is still super young."
Reese's first draft pick after taking over as general manager was cornerback Aaron Ross. He also turned 25 during his rookie season.
Whoever they take, the Giants have been working for this week for almost a year. Their scouts did the legwork throughout the college football season and over the past few months, with the Senior Bowl, NFL scouting combine, Pro Days and workouts validating much of what they already knew.
Reese said the Giants don't get too caught up with the Olympic testing. It's part of the equation, but not a game-changer. In fact, it seems to be secondary when they arrange the final puzzle that is their draft board. The Giants appear to have more of an old-school, eye-test approach.
"We try to put it all together. We look at what the players do on the field. We grade the players on the field. The gymnastics stuff that they do during the combine is part of the equation, but we look at these guys as football players first and we just go on our experience as scouts and try to look at the player more than what the gymnastic numbers say," Reese said. "But that is part of the equation as well."
Football ability plays the biggest part in helping create their draft board, which is arranged in rows of 32 players per round. The Giants have 32 prospects in their first-round row, but that doesn't mean all 32 have first-round grades.
Most years they have fewer than 32 players with first-round marks. There might be more this year because of the depth of this draft. This draft is considered especially deep, especially at cornerback and tight end.
That would seem to limit the possibility of the Giants moving up in the draft. Why panic if there are first-round players still on the board?
Reese has seven selections (one in each round) in this year's draft, and his track record doesn't show a proclivity for a lot of movement. The Giants have never traded in the first round and have never moved down in any round since Reese took over as general manager in 2007. They have moved up a couple times (for Landon Collins and Ryan Nassib) in the past.
Reese says the Giants will keep their options open, but you can see why he might be hesitant to pull the trigger unless an unexpected opportunity (tight end O.J. Howard available in the late teens?) presents itself. A move like that would be costly -- perhaps too costly.
"If we have an opportunity to trade in the first round, we will do that. But right now, we will just kind of let the board fall like it does and if we feel like we want to move up to get somebody, then we will move. It costs to move up, though," Reese said. "If you are going to move up, then you are going to give up a lot of draft picks to move up. Even if you move up just a couple of spots, you have to give up some draft picks to do that and we like taking our picks, but if there is somebody up there that we love and we think we can move up to get, then we will keep those options open."
That's the Giants' approach to the draft.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There are opposing philosophies when it comes to running backs.
Take one in the first round if you believe he’s going to be an elite player.
Wait longer because you can find very good – and even elite – backs in the middle and later rounds.
This may be a problem the Jacksonville Jaguars' management is facing as the 2017 NFL draft draws closer. They have the fourth pick and based on the litany of mock drafts that have been published, Leonard Fournette is a player the Jaguars could select.
It would mark the second consecutive year in which a running back would be drafted in the top five after that happened just twice in the previous eight drafts. In fact, the last time running backs were drafted in the top five in consecutive years came in 1998 (Curtis Enis fifth overall to Chicago) and 1999 (Edgerrin James fourth overall to Indianapolis). Another back went fifth overall in 1999, too: New Orleans drafted Rickey Williams.
There at least seems to be agreement among draft analysts that Fournette and Christian McCaffery will be taken in the first round. There are analysts, and probably some general managers, who believe using a first-round pick on either would be a waste. This is reportedly a deep draft for running backs and there will be quality players available later who could turn out to be just as good, or even better, than Fournette or McCaffery.
That would not be unusual. Some of the best running backs of the past 25 years were not first-round picks. Clinton Portis (9,923 yards) and Corey Dillon (11,241 yards) were second-round picks. Frank Gore (13,065 yards) and Curtis Martin (14,101 yards) were third-round picks. Tiki Barber (10,449 yards) was a sixth-round pick.
However, one thing became clear after looking at the history of the NFL draft: It’s really hard to find elite backs outside of the first round – and it’s not easy finding very good ones, either. Saying teams can find quality backs by waiting a bit later in the draft is a bit misleading. It does happen, but the success rate drops dramatically.
There have been 483 running backs selected since the draft was shortened to seven rounds in 1994. Here’s how it breaks down by round:
- Backs drafted: 61
- Backs with at least one 1,000-yard season: 41 (67.2 percent)
- Backs with at least three 1,000-yard seasons: 17 (27.9 percent)
- Backs with five or more 1,000-yard seasons: 14 (23 percent)
Comment: Steven Jackson (eight) and LaDanian Tomlinson (eight) had the most 1,000-yard seasons. Jamal Lewis, Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Eddie George and Marshall Faulk each had seven 1,000-yard seasons. Faulk and Tomlinson are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Backs drafted: 60
- Backs with at least one 1,000-yard season: 17 (28.3 percent)
- Backs with at least three 1,000-yard seasons: 6 (10 percent)
- Backs with five or more 1,000-yard seasons: 4 (6.7 percent)
Comment: Corey Dillon had seven 1,000-yard seasons, went to four Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with New England. Clinton Portis had six 1,000-yard seasons.
- Backs drafted: 73
- Backs with at least one 1,000-yard season: 17 (23.3 percent)
- Backs with at least three 1,000-yard seasons: 6 (8.2 percent)
- Backs with five or more 1,000-yard seasons: 3 (4.1 percent)
Comment: Curtis Martin is fourth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list and a Hall of Famer after rushing for at 1,000 yards in 10 of his 11 seasons (10 in a row). Frank Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards in nine of the past 11 seasons.
- Backs drafted: 78
- Backs with at least one 1,000-yard season: 7 (9 percent)
- Backs with at least three 1,000-yard seasons: 2 (2.6 percent)
- Backs with five or more 1,000-yard seasons: 0
Comment: The best back in this round since 1994 is Stephen Davis, who had four 1,000-yard seasons from 1999-2003.
- Backs drafted: 59
- Backs with at least one 1,000-yard season: 4 (6.8 percent)
- Backs with at least three 1,000-yard seasons: 1 (1.7 percent)
- Backs with five or more 1,000-yard seasons: 0
Comment: Michael Turner and Dorsey Levens are the only backs drafted in this round with multiple 1,000-yard seasons.
- Backs drafted: 74
- Backs with at least one 1,000-yard season: 6 (8.1 percent)
- Backs with at least three 1,000-yard seasons: 3 (4.1 percent)
- Backs with five or more 1,000-yard seasons: 1 (1.4 percent)
Comment: Tiki Barber (six), Terrell Davis (four) and Alfred Morris (three) are the best of the group. Davis (7,607 yards) will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July.
- Backs drafted: 78
- Backs with at least one 1,000-yard season: 5 (6.4 percent)
- Backs with at least three 1,000-yard seasons: 1 (1.3 percent)
- Backs with five or more 1,000-yard seasons: 0
Comment: Jamal Anderson had four 1,000-yard seasons.
Running backs used to be the marquee position in the NFL, when players such as O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton and Earl Campbell were the league’s biggest stars. That’s no longer the case and teams don’t need an elite running back or prolific running game to win championships.
However, the Jaguars have a young quarterback in Blake Bortles who is still struggling to find consistency, become more accurate, and cut down on turnovers. That’s in addition to fixing some major mechanical flaws. Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations, said the players around Bortles need to play better and the Jaguars must run the ball better – they’re last in rushing yards per game (92.1) since the 2012 season began.
The 6-foot, 228-pound Fournette, who ran for 3,840 yards and 40 touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry in three seasons at LSU, would be a perfect fit.
The Jaguars did a lot of work in free agency to help the defense – adding end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, and safety Barry Church – and that has set them up to address holes on offense, particularly in the running game. That could make Fournette the pick.
If it is, they’ll be playing the odds.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has seen the effects a good quarterback can have on a franchise.
In 2008, former two-time MVP Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance. Then in 2013, Carson Palmer began a run of three straight double digit-win seasons, which included two playoff berths and an appearance in the NFC Championship Game.
Keim has also seen the flip side, what not having talent, quality and stability at the position can do to a team. From the time Warner retired following the 2009 season until Palmer was traded for in 2013, Arizona went through six quarterbacks and never won more than eight games. It cost a coach and a general manager their jobs, which, subsequently made room for the franchise’s current regime of Keim and coach Bruce Arians.
With Palmer turning 38 in December, Keim has already seen the future if they don’t find a suitable replacement at quarterback. That’s why, yet again, he’s on the lookout for the Cardinals’ next starting quarterback. As recent history has proven, though, to find one is harder than it seems, and it’s something that weighs on Keim on a daily basis.
“I would like to keep my job for a while,” Keim said. “I do have four small kids. It is certainly going to be beneficial to doing, but Coach can answer it better. If you don’t have a quarterback, you are not going anywhere.”
And Arians did.
“I can’t think of, in the last three years, any playoff teams that did not have a good one,” Arians said. “Just to get to the playoffs, let alone win, you don’t have a chance. If you have the greatest defense in the world, you still have to have a hell of a quarterback to score points.”
But, as Keim has said throughout the lead-up to this week’s draft, picking a quarterback is tricky.
If he chooses the wrong one in the first round, whether he sits or not next season, it could set the franchise back a year or two. He and Arians have to balance the immediate needs of the Cardinals that could potentially help them make a playoff run against the long-term viability of the organization. Arians has already said he wants to retire with the long-term quarterback in place, a gift of sorts to the franchise.
And it’s not like the Cardinals haven’t tried before.
Arians said the team has twice had a quarterback’s name on its draft card only to see him taken a few picks ahead. One was current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. The only quarterback Arizona has actually drafted was Logan Thomas in the fourth round in 2014. He didn’t pan out and is now a tight end in Buffalo.
Trying to find a quarterback has been an annual ritual for the current Cardinals’ brain trust. History can be a brutal lesson, and neither Arians nor Keim wants to be one who causes another run of losing seasons in the post-Palmer era. The need for a quarterback can play with a general manager and coach’s emotions, but Keim has put in safeguards through the team’s top 120 draft board to prevent the Cardinals from letting their heart draft a quarterback when their head tells them not to.
“We already had those tough conversations,” Keim said. “We have talked about the difference between the ninth and the 10th player, and why we would take the ninth player. Again, it takes the emotion out of it and it really creates a calm and easy feeling in the draft room.”
The Cardinals also prevent themselves from reaching for a quarterback, something Arians has seen other teams do more of in the past five years.
“People start taking quarterbacks just because they have to have one,” Arians said. “They will take a guy that they must have had on their board in the first round and you had in the third or fourth round but he was the next best quarterback, so they took the position over the player.”
If the Cardinals reach for a fourth round-graded quarterback in the third round, that’s when the Cards’ draft board starts to unravel, Arians said. And that’s what leads to a player failing.
Even though Keim said next year’s draft won’t factor into how the Cardinals approach selecting a quarterback this year, Arians said no one knows what next year’s class will be like.
“That’s why I say don’t reach,” Arians said. “If you reach, you’re probably going to get a bust because your expectations are out of whack. You’re looking at a position now, you have a year or two to develop him so you’re looking for that type of guy. If you are a team that needs one now today, you have to trade up to get one. That’s your deal.”
That’s not the Cardinals’ deal. They don’t need one this year, so if the right quarterback isn’t available, they’ll trust their board. But the Cardinals also know there’s more of a demand for a top-tier quarterback than there’s a supply.
“We are not going to force it,” Keim said.
Seven years ago, Mike Maccagnan and his wife lived across the street from a woman -- a friend -- who was murdered by her husband on the night he was supposed to sign their divorce papers. It happened on a quiet street in Houston, where Maccagnan worked as one of the Texans' top scouts. The tragedy had such a profound effect on Betty Maccagnan that she got involved in an organization that raises awareness about domestic violence.
On Monday, Mike Maccagnan alluded to the 2010 horror when asked about Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon, who assaulted a woman nearly three years ago in a sandwich shop near the OU campus. For competitive reasons, the New York Jets' general manager declined to say whether Mixon has been removed from their draft board, but he left no doubt about his feelings on violence.
"There are some things that are extremely egregious, which I personally have a very hard time condoning," Maccagnan said at his pre-draft news conference. "Violence, in particular, that is a very serious thing to me. For me and my wife, we had a personal experience with that."
Maccagnan said he wasn't referring specifically to Mixon's situation.
"I would say simply we don't take it lightly," he said. "I have no problem whatsoever taking players off the board from that standpoint. I'd rather we focus on players that are good players and ideally good people and good members of our society."
It's not hard to read between the lines: The Jets have no interest in drafting Mixon, a first-round talent who could be picked in the second round or later.
Mixon accepted a plea deal and was suspended from the team his freshman season with the Sooners. Surveillance video of the altercation, which showed Mixon throwing the punch that broke four bones in the woman's face, was released by Mixon's attorneys last December, more than two years after the incident. Last week, Mixon and the woman, Amelia Molitor, reached a civil settlement.
Maccagnan has signed character risks in the past, including current tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last September after a DUI arrest. He's still a member of the Jets even though he faces a two-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.
Some players get second chances, some don't. Every player with a character issue gets vetted by the team, according to the GM. Maccagnan often talks about the risk-reward factor when procuring talent. Sometimes, it's just not worth it.
"Part of this is you're investing in people," he said. "Part of investing in people is knowing these guys are going to be a good part of your team, locker room and, ideally, good members of the community. You want them to reflect positively on your team and organization in that aspect. Personal character is very important to me."
So much of the NFL draft is about differences -- about what separates one player from another -- as the choices get made.
The whole process is about breaking ties, picking one player over another. And then there’s Jacob and Cody Hollister, NFL hopefuls who hail from Bend, Oregon, who believe they are very much the same. That’s because they are believed to be the only set of twins in this year’s draft.
“We’ve always just been 'the twins,'" Cody Hollister said. “That’s what people called us, because were always together, on the same teams, playing the same sports. Jacob always had a little more hair going – I always had the buzz cut – but we have the same dream and the same belief we can do it."
Since the early 20th century a search through a variety of sources shows about a dozen sets of twins have played in the NFL with the Pounceys (Mike and Maurkice), McCourtys, (Devin and Jason) and Barbers (Tiki and Ronde) the most recent.
Jacob Hollister, a tight end from Wyoming who had 515 yards receiving at 16.1 yards per catch in 2016, is a slightly higher rated prospect than Cody, a wide receiver from Arkansas. Cody Hollister missed time this past season because of a fractured foot and then had surgery in early December to repair ligament damage in his big toe.
Jacob Hollister, at 6-foot-3 5/8-inches tall and 243 pounds, opened plenty of additional eyes at the Cowboys’ pro day with a 4.64 clocking in the 40-yard dash to go with a 36½-inch vertical jump. Cody Hollister went through a full workout on the Arkansas campus Monday in hopes of showing the scouts what he has to offer since being medically cleared.
“We’ve been working out, going through the whole process together [in Fayetteville, Ark.] so it’s been good to be back together," Jacob Hollister said. “We really have played all sports as long as I can remember. I don’t think since we were old enough to throw a ball that we’ve had a week where we weren’t playing a sport or working out to play a sport. So we just hope to keep that going.’’
— Cody Hollister (@C_hollister81) March 23, 2017
Technically, though plenty of folks have had a fair share of trouble telling them apart over the years, they are fraternal twins, born 90 minutes or so apart. Jacob was first in the order.
And for most of their lives they were together -- always. Running, jumping, throwing, living life, separated usually only when in different classrooms at school.
“We only tried to pretend we were the other one time, I think, I mean everyone always asked us if we ever did that when we were younger, so one time we finally just said, ‘We’ll do it,'" Cody said. “So we wore the same clothes and he went to my class and I went to his class. They were right next to each other and within 10 minutes they were taking roll, we just couldn’t even keep a straight face so we had to swap it back right away."
But after a short stint at Nevada, then at Arizona Western Junior College, the two made a decision to chase football dreams in different places.
Both had an opportunity to go to Wyoming, but only Jacob went to Laramie. Cody, with an opportunity to play in the Southeastern Conference, chose Arkansas. And then a little reality set in.
“It was really hard when I first transitioned here at Arkansas," Cody Hollister said. “I was legit struggling the first six months. It was like a part of you is missing. I just felt a little depressed, because I think the longest we had been apart to that point was a couple days. But every day we text, talk. I don’t think we have any days when we don’t communicate and I don’t think we consciously think about doing it until somebody asks us."
“When we ended up making the decision to split up, it was hard," Jacob Hollister said. “I started making the trip over to Wyoming it was the hardest day of my life, maybe. But now looking back it’s been important to make our own experiences, spread out, become our own people."
And here they are on the doorstep of what they hope will be an NFL chance for one, or both, of them. They still see themselves as “the twins," but know the league’s talent evaluators probably do not agree.
There is also a little matter of the measuring tape in the pre-draft process. And that’s because Jacob was measured at 6-3 5/8 and Cody at 6-3 1/8.
No small matter for two brothers who “have competed at everything, every day, no matter what," as Jacob Hollister put it, that half inch is up for debate.
“I think they cut me short on the height," Cody said with a laugh. “Maybe Jacob has a different-sized head now. He’s going to hold that against me for years now and we are the exact same height. I’m convinced of it."
“He does get pretty upset at that number," Jacob said. “I think we are the exact same height, though."
They hope to get a call in the draft’s third day. They could also be chosen as undrafted rookies who get scooped up just minutes after the draft’s final selection is made Saturday. And both agree it’s more difficult wanting it to happen for the other than it is to wonder how it will go for themselves.
“We set goals and expect it to happen," Cody said. “That’s how we’ve always been and it’s always worked out for the best. Together we think we can always accomplish things, but watching each other’s games the last couple year, I think now I understand what our parents have gone through watching our games. Because this is like that."
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