Tagged in: draft

Jacksonville Jaguars select former Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence with No. 1 overall pick in NFL draft

The wait is over. Trevor Lawrence is finally the Jacksonville Jaguars’ quarterback, as the club selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.

The pick ended a process that started last December when the New York Jets’ Week 16 upset of the Cleveland Browns gave the top selection to Jacksonville.

“Pretty surreal,” Lawrence told ESPN’s Marty Smith on the draft telecast from Seneca, South Carolina, shortly after being picked. “Obviously this has been the dream for the past few years. And like I’ve said, I didn’t even dream this as a kid, so [it’s] really special and just having all the people that I care about here watching, it’s really hard to explain.

“I was super nervous before and just am so excited to be a part of the Jacksonville community. … I’m super excited to be coming to Jacksonville and play for you guys and can’t wait to go to work.”

Make no mistake: There’s a ton of work to do. The Jaguars were 1-15 last campaign, have lost 10 or more matches in nine of the last 10 seasons, and made the playoffs just once since 2007.

The offense has been one of the worst in the NFL in the last decade: They’ve ranked 30th or worse in points scored, yards per game, red zone efficiency, third-down conversion percentage, completion percentage and passer rating over that 10-year stretch.

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has no doubt Lawrence can handle it the pressure of turning the franchise around.

Lawrence was the No. 1 recruit in the nation, followed Deshaun Watson at Clemson, and won a national title as a freshman. He’s also lost just four games as a starting quarterback since he entered high school.

“This’ll be a very easy transition,” Swinney said. “He’s well prepared. What he’s stepping into, the expectations, all those things, that’s his normal and it has been for a long time. He’s built the right way. … He is the epitome of consistency and if you know anything about Urban Meyer he values consistency and toughness.”

Lawrence was 34-2 as a starter for the Tigers — the fifth-best winning percentage by a quarterback with at least 30 starts in FBS history. He never lost a regular-season game and threw for 10,098 yards and 90 touchdowns with only 17 interceptions, and he ran for 231 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Owner Shad Khan hired head coach Urban Meyer, who won national championships at Florida and Ohio State, in January to fix the mess. The hope is that the selection of Lawrence, along with Meyer’s hiring, will end the franchise’s prolonged struggles and culminate with the Jaguars’ first Super Bowl appearance.

The Jaguars have drafted three previous quarterbacks in the first round: Byron Leftwich (seventh overall in 2003), Blaine Gabbert (No. 10, 2011) and Blake Bortles (No. 3, 2014), the only one of those three to win a playoff game.

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Cleveland Browns exercise Baker Mayfield’s fifth-year option

The Cleveland Browns have exercised the fifth-year option on the contract of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team stated Friday.

The move extends Mayfield’s contract in Cleveland through 2022, when he’ll make $18.86 million.

The team also exercised the fifth-year option on cornerback Denzel Ward, the No. 4 overall pick three years ago.

“Both of those players have really done a nice job for us over the first three years,” general manager Andrew Berry said Friday. “We view both of those guys as young players who continue to ascend.”

Last campaign, Mayfield — the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL draft — quarterbacked the Browns to their first playoff triumph in 26 years. In that 48-37 victory over the Steelers, Mayfield passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns as the Browns snapped a 17-game losing streak in Pittsburgh during their first playoff appearance since 2002.

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Mayfield concluded last season ranked 10th in the league in QBR, with 26 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions.

From Week 7 to Week 15, he was actually third in QBR, trailing only last season’s MVP (Aaron Rodgers) and the 2019 MVP (Patrick Mahomes).

Coming off a season in which he broke an NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes, Mayfield struggled at times in 2019, as the Browns finished a disappointing 6-10. But playing for a fourth head coach in his third season, Mayfield thrived under first-time head coach Kevin Stefanski last year.

“I hope it is significantly better,” Stefanski said this week, when asked about Mayfield improving with another season in his scheme. “He has heard these plays over and over again.

We have streamlined concepts, and we have tried to adjust what we do based on his strengths and our players’ strengths. I would hope he is much more comfortable from that perspective. That is what time allows you to do — time together.”

When he took over, Mayfield became Cleveland’s 30th starting quarterback since the franchise returned to the league in 1999. Mayfield is also eligible for an extension, which the team could engage him on later this offseason.

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Jets trade QB Sam Darnold to Panthers for package of NFL draft picks

The New York Jets seem to have cleared the way for the franchise to draft a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick and turn the keys over to him on Day 1.

The Jets have traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second-round and fourth-round picks, the Panthers announced on Twitter.

The Jets traded up in 2018 to use the No. 3 pick on Darnold. But the USC product had anything but a smooth transition to the NFL, and much of it had to do with the constant state of turmoil that the Jets have found themselves in. Already, he has played for two head coaches in three campaigns. 

In 2019, the Jets replaced Mike Maccagnan, who drafted Darnold, with current general manager Joe Douglas. “I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets,” Douglas stated Monday in a statement. “He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet.

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While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him.

We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”

The Jets fired Todd Bowles following Darnold’s rookie year and this offseason dismissed Adam Gase after two turbulent seasons. Robert Saleh was hired as head coach, and Darnold faced an unclear future with the organization holding the second overall pick and positioned to take one of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft.

Jets brass, including Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, attended BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s impressive pro day two weeks ago.

It’s expected that the Panthers will exercise the fifth-year option on Darnold’s contract, giving him two seasons to work to reboot his career with Carolina.

Offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who is considered one of the NFL’s bright, young minds, will be tasked with helping Darnold, who ranked 35th in the league in 2020 with a passer rating of 72.7, live up to the potential that he boasted coming out of college.

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Green Bay Packers bring back Kevin King despite struggles in NFC title game

The Green Bay Packers are bringing back cornerback Kevin King on a one-year deal worth up to $6 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

King, the Packers’ top pick in the 2017 draft, had been much maligned throughout his career for injuries and inconsistent play. He concluded his season by allowing Tom Brady’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Scott Miller with one second left in the first half of the NFC Championship Game, then was flagged for pass interference on the drive that permitted the Buccaneers to run out the clock.

King has never stayed healthy for an entire season. He missed five matches last season because of a quad injury. He has missed 23 of a possible 64 regular-season games over his four-year career. He missed more games (17) than he played in (15) during his first two NFL seasons.

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Former Packers general manager Ted Thompson traded back from No. 29 overall in the 2017 draft, passing on T.J. Watt, among others, and picked King at No. 33 overall.

King has six career interceptions, five of those coming in the 2019 season, when he played a career-high 15 matches.

His signing keeps intact the starting secondary from last season, including second-team All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander along with safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.

The Packers have a new defensive coordinator, Joe Barry. Former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s contract was not renewed following last season.

The Packers lost All-Pro center Corey Linsley, who joined the Los Angeles Chargers on a five-year deal worth an average of $12.5 million per season.

The move reunites him with offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, who left the Packers for the Chargers via free agency a year ago.

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Philadelphia Eagles trade QB Carson Wentz to Indianapolis Colts for two draft picks

The Philadelphia Eagles have agreed to trade quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2021 third-round draft pick and a conditional 2022 second-round pick that could turn into a first-rounder, league sources told ESPN.

The Eagles will get the 85th overall pick in this year’s draft, and the conditional second-rounder can become a first-round pick based on Wentz’s playing time, according to sources.

Wentz needs to play at least 75% of the Colts’ offensive snaps for the 2022 conditional pick to convey to a first-rounder, according to sources. The pick also could become a first-rounder if Wentz plays at least 70% of the snaps and the Colts reach the playoffs. But the worst the 2022 pick can be is a second-rounder, meaning the Eagles are assured of netting two value picks for Wentz.

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The Eagles and Colts spent much of the past two weeks trying to conclude the trade, which cannot be officially processed until the new NFL year starts March 17.

Despite being speculated as a potential suitor for Wentz in trade talks, the Chicago Bears did not wind up making an offer to the Eagles, according to a source.

The Eagles will take a $33.8 million dead-cap hit — the largest dead-cap hit that any team ever has taken for a player — while the Colts will assume the balance of Wentz’s $128 million extension, including the $10 million guaranteed roster bonus due March 19.

Each team walks away from the deal with what it wanted across all fronts: Wentz will be reunited with Colts head coach Frank Reich, his former offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, and help fill the void left by Philip Rivers’ retirement, while the Eagles are likely to turn to Jalen Hurts, though they also intend to bring in competition for him.

The Eagles’ starting job is not expected to automatically go to Hurts.

Trading Wentz marks the end of an unexpected chapter and year with the Eagles. Wentz went from a former MVP candidate to backing up Hurts — a rookie second-round pick in 2020 — while his relationship with former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson disintegrated.

Wentz wanted out of Philadelphia even though the Eagles hired former Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their new head coach.

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Pistons acquire Trevor Ariza, No. 16 pick in NBA draft in trade with Rockets

The Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons have settled to a trade ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft. Houston will send Trevor Ariza and the No. 16 overall pick in this year’s draft to Detroit in exchange for a future first-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

That future pick from the Pistons will be heavily protected, however, according to The Athletic’s James Edwards III, and it’s likely it will eventually turn into multiple second-round picks.

In addition, the Rockets will obtain the Pistons’ 2021 second-round pick — via the Los Angeles Lakers — for $4.6 million.  Earlier this week, the Rockets acquired Ariza and two first-round picks — one of which was No. 16 overall — from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Robert Covington.

With their own first-round pick already owed to the Denver Nuggets, the Rockets now do not have a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

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This was, first and foremost, a cost-cutting move by the Rockets, which isn’t surprising given their ownership situation.

It will also give them a bit of cap flexibility by allowing them to use their mid-level exception now that Ariza is off the books. Whether they’ll do so, however, remains to be seen.

There are obviously bigger issues at hand for the Rockets, with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook agitating to move elsewhere.  As for the Pistons, this was a savvy bit of business to take advantage of the Rockets’ financial desperation.

Barring the unlikely scenario that the pick they owe the Rockets conveys, they essentially got a free first-rounder for taking Ariza off the Rockets’ hands. And they’ll probably be able to move Ariza elsewhere for even more future assets.

Even though this isn’t the best draft class of all time, the Pistons need all the young talent they can get, and another shot at the draft surely doesn’t hurt. 

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LaMelo Ball holds first private workout with Minnesota Timberwolves

Projected No. 1 pick LaMelo Ball conducted an individual workout with the Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the top selection in the upcoming NBA draft, on Wednesday in Southern California, sources told ESPN.

It was the first private workout Ball granted an NBA team. He previously met and interviewed with the Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls, who hold picks 1-4, correspondingly.

The NBA relaxed restrictions on in-player evaluations and interviews in mid-October, according to a memo obtained by ESPN, opening the way for teams to meet with prospects in advance of next Wednesday’s draft.

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The Timberwolves sent president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas, coach Ryan Saunders and executive vice president of basketball operations Sachin Gupta to evaluate Ball, putting him through an array of shooting drills and other activities to test his ballhandling and conditioning. A source stated Ball shot the ball well and had no issues getting through the workout.

Ball is one of three candidates the Timberwolves are expected to select from on draft night.

The others are former Memphis center James Wiseman and Georgia guard Anthony Edwards.

The Timberwolves previously met with and worked out Edwards but have not been able to get much traction with Wiseman. A source told ESPN that Wiseman appears to view situations with the Warriors and Hornets as more favorable to his long-term growth.

Despite that, and the presence of All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, Wiseman remains a candidate for the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves also are expected to conduct trade dialogues with a number of teams interested in acquiring the top pick.

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Bengals release Andy Dalton after drafting Joe Burrow

The Cincinnati Bengals reportedly released quarterback Andy Dalton on Thursday, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Cincy drafted LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft last week.

Dalton threw for 3,494 yards, 16 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2019. As the season wore on, the writing was on the wall regarding his future in Cincinnati.

The Bengals benched Dalton for their Week 10 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, which proved to be a 49-13 loss. They were 0-8 by that point, so it made sense to give Ryan Finley, the team’s fourth-round pick last year, a few starts to see if he might be Dalton’s long-term successor under center.

Following three consecutive defeats, Cincinnati turned back to Dalton for the rest of the year.

The 32-year-old spoke of how his demotion made him approach the game a little differently.

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“It feels good,” he told reporters in November. “Just as a player who has started basically every chance I’ve been able to without being hurt, it gives you a different perspective being on the other side. I’m glad to be back out playing. I feel I can help us win, so I’m excited to be going these last five games.”

The Bengals’ 33-23 victory versus Cleveland Browns in Week 17 had an air of finality. Fans cheered Dalton off the field as he walked back to the locker room, and he said after the home match he knew it might have been his last game with the team.

Cincinnati is in need of a reboot after going 2-14 in 2019. The team’s selection of Burrow was forecast for months beforehand, and now the path is clear for him to take over the starting job as a rookie.

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UCLA Chris Smith enter NBA draft

UCLA junior Chris Smith is entering the 2020 NBA draft, he told ESPN on Tuesday.

“I’m 100% committed to the process and am excited to see what the future holds,” Smith stated.

Smith, the No. 72 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, is coming off a breakout season, earning Pac-12 Most Improved Player and All-Pac-12 first-team honors.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per match for the Bruins, helping his team recover from a poor start to finish the campaign 12-6 in the Pac-12. UCLA was the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament prior to it being canceled.

Smith enrolled at UCLA as a 17-year-old and is the youngest junior in the ESPN 100; he is younger than most sophomores and even some freshman projected to be drafted, having only turned 20 in late December.

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He is intriguing to NBA teams not only due to his age, but also his versatility.

He has perimeter skill, making 35% of his 3-pointers this campaign and 85% of his free throws. Defensively, he was regularly tasked with defending opposing guards, doing a better job of buying into using his tools more regularly as the season moved on under Mick Cronin, one of the reasons UCLA won nine of its last 11 games.

The NBA draft is programmed for June 25, but following worldwide suspensions of basketball activities during the coronavirus pandemic, NBA front-office executives and others in the industry told ESPN they are bracing for the potential impact of a delayed 2020 draft with a heavily reduced pre-draft process.

A player like Smith would be highly sought for private workouts and interviews, as teams would surely like to get a better handle on the likelihood of him reaching his untapped potential.

The NBA informed teams on Monday that organizations are prohibited from conducting in-person workouts or interviews with draft-eligible players until further notice.

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NFL confirms virtual draft with team personnel at their homes

The NFL draft will be performed in a virtual format, with team personnel working from their homes.

In a memo sent to the 32 teams Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell outlined procedures for the April 23-25 draft. The guidelines contained no group gatherings.

“We have reviewed this matter in the past few days with both the competition committee and CEC (a group of league executives),” Goodell wrote, “and this will confirm that clubs will conduct their draft operations remotely, with club personnel separately located in their homes.”

All team facilities were closed on March 26 and Goodell has ordered them to stay shut indefinitely.

“We will reopen facilities when it is safe to do so based on medical and public health advice, and in compliance with government mandates,” he wrote.

The draft initially was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, but the NFL canceled all public events last month as a safeguard against the coronavirus.

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On Monday, Goodell instructed the teams on how they should plan to make their selections.

“We have made this decision for several reasons,” he wrote. “All clubs will not have access to their facilities, which is contrary to the fundamental equity principle that all clubs operate in a consistent and fair way.

“Moreover, we want all NFL personnel to comply with government directives and to model safe and appropriate health practices. Our staff will carry out its responsibilities in the same way, operating in separate locations outside of our offices. And after consulting with medical advisers, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face.”

Several team general managers had sought a delay in the draft, basically citing an unfair playing field.

But the owners pushed for the draft, the NFL’s biggest offseason event, to take place as scheduled.

It is up to each team to ensure not only safe and healthy conditions, but to offset any perceived competitive imbalance under the directions set forth by Goodell.

“We are operating in an environment unlike anything we have experienced before,” Goodell added, “one that requires flexibility, patience, and cooperation.”

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