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NFL draft do-overs – Let’s re-pick and fix mistakes for all 32 teams

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The NFL draft annually brings back memories, and many of those memories aren’t exactly pleasant. With every draft bust comes the question, “What if we took [fill-in-the-blank Pro Bowler who’s on another team] instead?” On that note, what if you could go back and get a do-over on those draft picks that your team whiffed on?

That’s the premise of this exercise, as we asked our 32 NFL Nation reporters to go back over the past five drafts (2014-18) and correct their team’s biggest draft mistake during that time. We gave them the keys to the DeLorean and waived all speed laws.

The ground rules:

  1. The re-drafted player has to be at a position of reasonable need in that particular draft (no Todd Gurley allowed for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015).

  2. The re-drafted player has to be available at the pick in question (no using the 30th pick in 2017 to draft Patrick Mahomes).

  3. You cannot trade the pick you’re looking to re-draft, but you can choose not to trade a pick the team traded (see the Buffalo Bills‘ entry).

With those rules in place, it’s time to rewrite history in the way each reporter sees fit. Click on the links below to go to each team:

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Marrone, Ramsey finally speak, share ‘little laugh’

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone might need to update his contact list.

Marrone said Monday that he finally spoke to star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who is skipping voluntary workouts to stay closer to home, and seemingly cleared the air. Marrone said last week that he reached out to Ramsey and didn’t get a response.

As it turned out, Marrone had the wrong number for the two-time Pro Bowl defender.

It was the latest twist in a weeklong saga that included public shots from Tom Coughlin, Ramsey’s agent and the NFL Players Association.

“Had a great talk,” Marrone said. “He’s training with his brother. He’s in Nashville. He’s spending time with his family. He said he’s going to come back in the best shape he’s ever been in and he’s all fired up. That was pretty much the conversation. It was a good conversation. I was concerned, obviously, because I was texting a number I thought was his and he wasn’t getting back to me.

“I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so we kind of had a little laugh about it. Now I have the right number. He’s always had my number, so it’s good.”

Marrone said he and retired NFL tight end Marcus Pollard, the team’s director of player development, both had the wrong number for Ramsey and didn’t realize it until after Coughlin ripped Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith for their absences. Marrone also said Ramsey had been in contact with his position coach, Tim Walton.

Coughlin, the team’s executive vice president of football operations, criticized Ramsey and Smith during the team’s state of the franchise presentation Thursday. He said “championship teams are dominated by selfless individuals who recognize that the welfare of the team must always be paramount to any other consideration.

“Success in the NFL demands struggle,” Coughlin added. “Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish and insensitive to the real values of team. The hard work that many try to avoid is the major building block for the development of an outstanding football team.

“It’s not about rights and privileges. It’s about obligations and responsibility. And the question is, can we count on you? Doing things the right way all the time, we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an act, but a habit.”

NFLPA president Eric Winston reacted by saying the collective bargaining agreement’s definition of voluntary “is the same as the actual definition of voluntary and prohibits anyone from threatening players to participate in voluntary workouts.”

Ramsey and his agent, David Mulugheta, responded on social media the following day.

Coughlin backed down a bit Monday.

“There’s really no need to speak any further on that one,” he said. “That was an open statement about my beliefs about what the offseason programs are about. That’s enough. You’re not going to get me to answer anymore on that one.”

Ramsey and Smith are the team’s only players who didn’t show up for the start of the team’s offseason program. Marrone said Monday that he still hasn’t heard back from Smith, adding “he’s probably busy.”

Marrone made it clear that he views the workouts as voluntary.

“I try to keep reminding myself that, and we appreciate the players that are here,” Marrone said. “That’s what you have to do. If you treat them like they should be here, then that gets tough. The NFLPA collectively bargained that it’s a volunteer period, and those players have an option. And the ones that are here we appreciate and we’re working with them, trying to get them better.”

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McNabb clarifies take on Wentz after criticism

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Donovan McNabb on Monday clarified his recent comments on Carson Wentz after Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson criticized the former Eagles quarterback for questioning the long-term future in Philadelphia for the team’s current signal caller.

On Saturday, in an appearance with CBS Sports Radio, McNabb said the Eagles should consider drafting another quarterback if Wentz can’t lead the Eagles past the second round of the playoffs in the next two seasons.

“I think in the next two, three years — two years or so — he has to find a way to get out of the second round of the playoffs,” McNabb said. “What Nick Foles was able to do, take them to a Super Bowl and then possibly take them back to the NFC Championship Game, proves that, hey, some people can get into that offense and be very successful. (Wentz) hasn’t been healthy. He hasn’t really proven, to me, besides the year before he got hurt in the year he was, really, an MVP candidate. He needs to get back to that moment.”

That drew a response Sunday from Johnson on Twitter.

The Eagles right tackle then followed up his social media post by expanding on his thoughts on 94WIP radio on Sunday night, calling out McNabb and other former Eagles players for criticizing current players on the team.

“This is what I meant — every training camp we have all of these ex-players come and shake our hands, wish us good luck. Then, they just go out and just talk hate,” Johnson said. “I feel there is a lot of envy, jealously, and I see a lot of fakery. It isn’t just me — a lot of other teammates see it too. You would think the best quarterback in franchise history would try to build up a young man that looks up to him instead of always criticizing him, critiquing him and wishing he would fail so he could be the missing link and feel better himself.”

The retired McNabb is the Eagles’ all-time passing leader with 32,873 yards and also leads the franchise with 216 touchdown passes. He led the Eagles to seven playoff appearances and a trip to Super Bowl XXXIX after the 2004 season but was traded by Philadelphia to the Washington Redskins in 2010.



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Khalil Mack or 20 new players? Maybe Gruden knew something after all – Oakland Raiders Blog

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — Looking for the catalyst of the Oakland Raiders‘ massive haul this offseason, a spree in which they landed 20 new players and re-signed 12 of their own while doling out almost $110 million in guaranteed money to four players?

Coach Jon Gruden has an inkling, even if, as he says, it pains him and Khalil Mack fans to say it. Yes, the trade of the All-Pro edge rusher on Sept. 1 in the middle of Mack’s holdout netted not only a gaggle of draft picks and salary-cap space, but also some intriguing hardware.

“I’m not going to sit here and say that I didn’t cry for three days,” Gruden said at last month’s NFL owners meetings. “I wanted to coach Mack. And Mack knows it. Wish him the best, but we have a lot of work to do with this football team, and that trade allowed these acquisitions that we’re talking about today to even happen.”

Yes, and no.

Derided by fans and media alike — even as Raiders owner Mark Davis later said Mack had broken off communication with the team during the holdout and did not want to return to Oakland despite the team twice offering him a contract that would have made him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL — the trade also caught the attention of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT. And last month, the group feted the Raiders with the “Best Transaction” award, referring to the Mack trade as the “best move any franchise made in 2018 in any sport” while being lauded by Richard Thaler, the 2017 Nobel Prize winner for economics.

Call the whole thing funny math, because Mack did eventually get the massive contract he wanted from the Chicago Bears, a $141 million deal with $90 million guaranteed — a record for a defensive player.

Gruden grimaced.

“I think it was the only award we got last year,” he spit out, referencing the Raiders’ 4-12 teardown season two years after they went 12-4 and played in the postseason.

“But forget about all that. I don’t really have time to worry about who thinks it’s right or wrong. We didn’t really have much of a choice. If we did come up with the money to make the contract happen last year, we wouldn’t have any of these men we’re talking about right now.”

Gruden then rattled four names: receiver Antonio Brown, acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers and given $30.125 million guaranteed for the remaining three years of his contract; offensive tackle Trent Brown, signed to the richest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history at $66 million over four years with $36.25 million in guarantees; safety Lamarcus Joyner, who reminds Gruden of Ronde Barber and got a four-year, $42 million deal with $21.3 million guaranteed; and receiver Tyrell Williams, who got a $44 million contract over four years and $22 million guaranteed.

“And we wouldn’t have the three first-rounders that we’re talking about,” Gruden added, talking about their own selection at No. 4 overall, the No. 24 pick thanks to the Mack trade with the Bears, and the No. 27 pick courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys, who sent it to Oakland for receiver Amari Cooper.

“So, you have to consider all of it, like the Nobel Prize winner did, and digest it for yourself.”

A look of satisfaction crossed Gruden’s face. No way was he done. The Raiders still had to add a player or eight after the meetings. Or did you miss them adding the likes of running back Isaiah Crowell, linebacker Brandon Marshall, tight end Luke Willson, receiver Ryan Grant, safety Jordan Richards and defensive end Benson Mayowa?

Draft capital? Oakland has eight picks, with four of them coming in the first 35 selections.

“We needed the draft capital to get younger,” Gruden said, “to get young, emerging players … because we felt we had a lot of needs, and we’re doing the best we can to address as many as possible.”

The Mack trade netted the Raiders the Bears’ first-round picks this year and in 2020, as well as a sixth-round pick this year and a third-rounder in 2020. The Bears acquired Mack, a 2020 second-rounder and a conditional fifth-round pick next year. And after sending a third-rounder and a fifth-rounder to the Steelers for Brown, the Raiders got a fifth-rounder back for sending left guard Kelechi Osemele to the New York Jets last month.

New Raiders general manager Mike Mayock was not yet in the building when the Mack trade went down, so he had to catch up quickly to the whirlwind of Gruden’s Raiders rebuild.

“We kind of feel like we made a difference, at several key positions,” Mayock said. “And we think it’s going to help us in the draft.”

And when it comes to Gruden?

“Coach Gruden is a freaking genius, and it’s really fun working with him because … his energy level just drives me to different energy levels,” Mayock said. “And he’s exhausting because he’s so smart, and he’s always ahead of you, and you’ve got to kind of try to catch up. I come home every night just mentally exhausted, and it’s a good thing.”

Mayock said the “atypical” security afforded Gruden with a 10-year contract also helps with the rebuild and the message.

“I think it gives us an advantage, I really do, and I think Jon and I can sit there and say, ‘OK, what is the best move for the future of this franchise?’ without the pressure of a coach worried about getting fired,” Mayock said. “And I think that means something.”

The 20 new Raiders account for $115.445 million in guaranteed money and combine for more than $68.677 million in cap space for 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information research (see chart).

Mayock said most agents prefer their clients’ money be deferred until after the team moves to Nevada, where there is no state income tax. The Raiders still have more than $26.7 million in cap space and need $13 million to $15 million of that for the draft class.

As Gruden said, none of this part of the rebuild would have been possible without trading Mack. And Cooper. And Osemele. Or cutting Pro Bowl offensive tackle Donald Penn, backup quarterback AJ McCarron and receiver Jordy Nelson, who was actually given a $3.6 million roster bonus in December for this season.

Gruden called the process a “double-edged sword” for the Raiders, saying if they had re-signed Mack and Cooper, who is due a new contact next year, they would not have been able to pull off this offseason’s haul.

“We made some trades a lot of people didn’t like last year, but it was all part of the assembly process,” Gruden said.

“It was hard to say goodbye to Cooper and Mack. We picked up some draft picks. We also picked up some space to allow us to sign players, so that was the plan. Whether it’s right or wrong, we’ll find out.”

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