Darron Cummings/Associated Press
The NFL Scouting Combine is as much a reunion and job fair for scouts, coaches, agents and media members as it is a workout for prospects who are trying to get into the league.
From these late nights of Tito’s and Coors Light comes a lot of information that can be used to piece together the puzzle that is the NFL offseason.
This week, in lieu of a lede item and a following rumor section, we’re getting right to the rumors with a team-by-team look at the information that came out of Indianapolis. Gathered from the most plugged-in NFL insiders and employees, here’s what I’m hearing about every team as the March 13 opening of free agency nears.
Arizona Cardinals: The Kyler Murray buzz will not die down. For two months, the heat on Murray as the No. 1 pick has intensified. Every agent, scout, media member or evaluator I spoke to at the combine believes Murray will be the pick if new head coach Kliff Kingsbury is allowed to make the selection he wants.
San Francisco 49ers: Could Nick Bosa really fall to the 49ers? Based on several conversations with franchise employees and other evaluators plugged into the organization, that’s the team’s hope. If Bosa is the pick at No. 2 overall, look for a wide receiver to come into play in the second round.
New York Jets: The Jets are the ultimate wait-and-see participant in this year’s draft. If a team gets quarterback fever and wants to trade up, general manager Mike Maccagnan’s phone will be the one to call. There was a belief that defensive tackle Leonard Williams might be available for trade, but one rival executive said that talk has died down.
Oakland Raiders: New general manager Mike Mayock has never held a job in the NFL before, so the jury’s out on what he’ll do.
Jon Gruden and the Raiders wield a lot of power in this draft.Butch Dill/Associated Press
One area scout outside the organization who has worked with Jon Gruden before told me the plan is to be aggressive, which could mean trading one or both of the team’s late first-round picks (Nos. 24 and 27 overall).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Running back is expected to be a priority, but not at No. 5, per multiple conversations with coaches and scouts at the combine. The Buccaneers view this as a can’t-miss edge-rusher class, one of the team’s scouts said, and will likely wait for the best available player there (Rashan Gary or Montez Sweat).
New York Giants: The expectation is Dave Gettleman will look for his quarterback of the future in the first round. Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State wowed the team in meetings, per a source who previously worked in the team’s front office and is still close to those in the building.
Jacksonville Jaguars: It’s Nick Foles or bust for the Jaguars. Rival executives expect them to go after a pass-catcher such as D.K. Metcalf or T.J. Hockenson with pick No. 7.
Detroit Lions: It’s no secret that this team needs pass-rushers. Expect Detroit to take an outside rusher in the first round, but one team source said a tight end or safety is where the Lions expect to go in Round 2.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills are expected to take an offensive tackle in the first round, but one scout with a close relationship to general manager Brandon Beane said a tight end wouldn’t surprise him.
Denver Broncos: For two months, every mock draft has projected Drew Lock to Denver, but following the agreed-upon trade for Joe Flacco, one team contact told me the Broncos aren’t forcing their hand at quarterback. Instead, they will truly go with a best-player-available approach to try to improve the overall talent on the roster.
Cincinnati Bengals: Speed on defense is the thinking here, according to one team scout, but don’t be surprised if the temptation to load up on offensive weapons for new head coach Zac Taylor gets to them.
Green Bay Packers: I expect the Packers to attack needs at linebacker, edge-rusher and safety with their pair of first-round selections.
Florida State’s Brian Burns could be the type of pass-rusher the Packers are looking for in Round 1.Nick Lisi/Associated Press/Associated Press
The top-ranked players at those positions who remain on the board at Nos. 12 and 30 should be the picks.
Miami Dolphins: Quarterback is the obvious need, but one scout with the team said outside pass-rushers are just as needed. A signal-caller could wait until 2020 when the crop is expected to be better.
Atlanta Falcons: Strong safety and guard were listed as the biggest pre-free-agency needs by a team source, but he added a playmaking wide receiver could be hard to pass on at No. 14 if available.
Washington Redskins: Quarterback. Quarterback. Quarterback. Washington is said by league sources to be all-in on passers in this class and could look to trade up to get one.
Carolina Panthers: There isn’t a consensus around the league about Carolina, but sources across the NFC rank offensive line and defensive end as the biggest expected targets for the Panthers.
Cleveland Browns: A trade for a marquee playmaker at wide receiver wouldn’t shock those around the league I spoke with last week, but if the Browns keep pick No. 17, an interior defensive lineman or wide receiver makes the most sense.
Minnesota Vikings: Offensive line help is the main need on the mind of decision-makers in Minnesota. Every conversation with said decision-makers in the last month has centered around getting help for the offensive line.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans had love for Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons before he tore his ACL. And their first-round direction could still be toward the defensive line. Personnel people mentioned tight end as another need.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Even after Pittsburgh used a first-rounder on safety Terrell Edmunds in last year’s class, defensive back is a need, according to those familiar with the Steelers’ offseason plans.
LSU’s Greedy Williams could be a defensive playmaker the Steelers are rumored to be looking for this offseason.Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Middle linebacker is another obvious hole and could be a first-round target.
Seattle Seahawks: A speedy wide receiver who can stretch the field comes up first as a need for the Seahawks. With Frank Clark franchised, an interior defensive tackle who can rush the passer is a primary requirement.
Baltimore Ravens: Running back, edge-rusher and middle linebacker are the three needs listed by a rival personnel man for the Ravens. Many league insiders were shocked to see C.J. Mosley come free without a franchise tag and expect him to have a hot market to leave Baltimore.
Houston Texans: The offensive line is the key need for Houston. Expect to see a tackle added (probably on the right side), and maybe a guard, too.
Chicago Bears: With no pick in the first two rounds, the Bears have to be thrifty, but the areas they’d like to most address are a running back to pair with Tarik Cohen and a strong safety, according to team sources.
Philadelphia Eagles: The rumor that made the rounds Saturday night during the combine is that the Eagles will shop Nelson Agholor and look to add a wide receiver early in the 2019 draft. Speed would seem to be the priority.
Indianapolis Colts: Interior defensive line play is a huge need for the Colts, according to sources within the team’s scouting staff.
Could DL Christian Wilkins slide to the Colts in this draft?Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Look for a pass-rushing defensive tackle early and a complementary running back to be added at some point in the middle rounds. Safety was also noted as an area that could be addressed in either free agency or at the draft.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys don’t have a first-round pick, but in Round 2 they could go after an interior defensive lineman or safety, according to sources within the team’s scouting staff. They have also been making calls about running backs, including free agent Tevin Coleman.
Los Angeles Chargers: Is this the year the Chargers finally address the offensive line? One former Chargers scout I spoke with hoped so, but he also mentioned that if a quarterback were to fall, they’d be tempted to draft Philip Rivers’ eventual successor—a notion based on plans the scout heard from contacts in the scouting department.
Kansas City Chiefs: Brett Veach is one of the league’s most aggressive GMs, which led one rival executive to bet the Chiefs won’t keep pick No. 29 (either moving up or down in the round). The big needs here are obvious—cornerback and safety—but running back, center and tight end are seen internally as big areas to improve.
New Orleans Saints: No first-round pick makes this a tough team to nail down, but the word in Indianapolis was another wide receiver, a power back to complement Alvin Kamara and a cornerback as early Saints requirements.
Los Angeles Rams: The Rams are waiting to see who goes and stays in free agency, but one team scout did say L.A. loves Delaware safety Nasir Adderley as a potential replacement for Lamarcus Joyner in the nickel role.
New England Patriots: It’s unlikely we’ll see the Patriots draft a quarterback early, according to one rival executive.
Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. could be a successor to Rob Gronkowski at tight end for the Patriots.John Bazemore/Associated Press/Associated Press
Instead, tight end, safety and cornerback are likely their biggest needs—depending on which edge-rushers move around in free agency.
Coming out of the NFL Scouting Combine, here is an updated look at my top 32 players.
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
2. Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
3. Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
4. Devin White, LB, LSU
5. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
6. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
7. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
8. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
9. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
10. Montez Sweat, EDGE, Miss. State
11. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
12. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
13. Brian Burns, EDGE, FSU
14. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
15. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington
16. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
17. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
18. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Miss. State
19. Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State
20. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
21. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
22. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
23. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
24. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
25. Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
26. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
27. Johnathan Abram, S, Miss. State
28. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
29. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
30. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
31. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
32. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
6. Preston Williams’ Pro Day
Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about a talented player out of Colorado State with an arrest in his past who was giving teams pause. Since then, wide receiver Preston Williams had his pro day. And it did not go well.
According to scouts in attendance, Williams measured in at 6’4″ and 211 pounds and managed to run an average time of 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Worse for Williams, he only jumped 31.5 inches on the vertical. Most wide receivers get close to mid-30s and ideally get closer to 40 inches.
Worse yet, his broad jump of 116 inches is a full four inches shorter than ideal for the position.
Williams was already fighting an uphill battle because of off-field issues. A bad test at his pro day after he didn’t get a combine invite could kick him off many team’s boards.
5. Stock Up
Get on the Sean Bunting train while you can. I’m driving.
Central Michigan CB Sean Bunting is one on the biggest winners from the Combine.Michael Conroy/Associated Press
The Central Michigan cornerback has moved up to No. 37 on my big board (previously at No. 50) after a great combine showing and more film study. His 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash and 40.5-inch vertical at 6’0″ and 195 pounds is ideal. So is his ability to match and mirror in coverage.
In a year without a consensus No. 1 cornerback and not a ton of depth, Bunting could shoot into the latter part of Round 1 or at least the early portion of Round 2 on draft weekend.
4. Stock Down
Elijah Holyfield was ranked No. 5 on my running back board before the NFL Scouting Combine, but after running times that would make him a quick offensive tackle, he has to move down.
Holyfield’s tape might show balance, power and vision, but there is a minimum for how fast you must be to play running back in the NFL. The Georgia junior didn’t meet that threshold with times in the high 4.7-range from NFL scouts.
He will have a chance to redeem himself at Georgia’s pro day, but a good amount of damage has been done.
3. Sleeper of the Week
TCU’s defense was expected to have a top-50 draft pick this season, but over the summer, that player looked like edge-rusher Ben Banogu. Now, 10 months later, it’s defensive lineman L.J. Collier who has caught the eye of NFL evaluators.
Jim Cowsert/Associated Press
A ‘tweener prospect at 6’2″ and 283 pounds, Collier tested exceptionally well with a 4.91 in the 40-yard dash and clean work in positional drills. His ability to play outside as an end or inside to rush through gaps has teams very excited for his potential in the early part of Round 2.
2. If you love Stick to Football and want to meet the crew, you have three chances in March to hang out with us. We’re using a ticketing system for each, but it’s free to sign up (and you get some free swag if you show us your ticket).
1. Stick to Football has three new episodes this week. On Monday, we broke down the best of the NFL combine from the defensive side and ran through our latest rumors. Wednesday’s show featured a heavy free-agency preview and Draft on Draft questions.
Friday brought us the fastest player at the combine, Ole Miss safety Zedrick Woods. Check out the podcast and subscribe if you haven’t already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.