Posted April 16, 2014

2014 NFL draft position rankings: Calvin Pryor, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix lead deep safety class

NFL Draft, NFL draft 2014
2014 NFL draft position rankings: Calvin Pryor leads deep safety class

Calvin Pryor has the potential to be an amazing NFL safety. (Garry Jones/AP)

Remember when the safety position used to be an afterthought? When it was primarily composed of guys running downhill and tackling like rabid hyenas, leaving the true coverage to the cornerbacks? Well, those days are clearly gone, as the NFL moves to more diverse defenses than ever before to counter offenses that run everything from three-tight end sets to five-wide formations in the blink of an eye. The die cast by Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu a decade ago has been forwarded by amazing athletes like Earl Thomas, Eric Berry, Eric Weddle, and Jairus Byrd. And the six-year, $54 million contract given to Byrd by the New Orleans Saints in March (with $26.3 million guaranteed) indicates that no NFL team worth its draft picks undervalues the position anymore.

In the 2014 draft class, there are two safeties with the skills to be every bit as good as the names listed above, and a sub-group with unique and special attributes. It’s a deep and under-the-radar bunch, especially in the projected middle rounds, where hybrid defenders will be available at a bargain price. Continue Reading

Posted April 16, 2014

The SI 64, Nos. 19-17: Ra’Shede Hageman, Taylor Lewan and Marqise Lee

NFL Draft, NFL draft 2014, The SI 64
2014 NFL draft top prospects: Nos. 19-17: Marqise Lee, more

Marqise Lee disappointed in 2013, but he still has the talent to be a top-flight NFL wide receiver. (Peter Read Miller/SI)

With the 2014 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time for all 32 NFL teams to start getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that, as well. And to that end, Doug Farrar and Chris Burke have assembled their own definitive Big Board, consisting of the players they feel deserve to be selected in the first two rounds.

The SI 64 – which recently covered prospects 24-20 and can be found in its entirety here – uses tape study to define the best prospects in this class and why they’re slotted as such. Starting Thursday, our top 16 players in the 2014 class each will be highlighted in an individual post. Here, we cover prospects 19-17, a trio of players bordering on the upper-echelon of this draft.
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Posted April 16, 2014

Chris Johnson signs deal with Jets

AFC East, New York Jets, NFL Free Agency
Chris Johnson signs deal with New York Jets

Chris Johnson (left) has rushed for at least 1,000 yards in every one of his six NFL seasons. (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

The New York Jets have a new home-run threat in the backfield.

After lingering on the free agent market, Chris Johnson has signed a two-year deal with the Jets. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report the news. Per multiple reports, his deal is worth $8 million with another $1 million in incentives.

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Posted April 16, 2014

Josh Freeman, Giants agree to deal

New York Giants, NFC East, NFL Free Agency
Josh Freeman agrees to deal with New York Giants

Josh Freeman misfired on 33 of his 53 passes in his lone Vikings start, a 23-7 loss to New York. (Elsa/Getty Images)

In his lone 2013 NFL start for the Minnesota Vikings, Josh Freeman, the former first-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, played about as badly as he could in a 23-17 loss to the New York Giants on Oct. 21. Freeman had signed a one-year, $3 million contract soon after the Bucs released him, and he was thrown into the fire very quickly, making his first start a couple weeks after his signing. Freeman was horrid, completing 20-of-53 passes for 190 yards no touchdowns and an interception. He frequently overthrew receivers and looked completely out of place, and he never took another snap for the Vikings through the whole season. Continue Reading

Posted April 16, 2014

Any Given Draft Day: Comparing 2014 NFL draft prospects to fictional quarterbacks

NFL Draft, NFL draft 2014
Comparing 2014 NFL draft prospects to fictional quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel wonder: “Wait … you’re comparing us to WHO?” (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In a pre-draft process that has become more and more vile and nefarious for its blindside hits from anonymous NFL scouts, coaches and executives, this was the comedic capper. And knowing Matt as I do, I have no doubt that there is actually a coach in the AFC North who compared Teddy Bridgewater — a player who may be the top quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class — to the fictional quarterback in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday. Besides, with anonymity comes impunity, and with impunity comes stupidity, so … there you go.

But this got us thinking: What other 2014 draftable quarterbacks could we compare to fictional quarterbacks? After all, if we’re just going to throw legitimate scouting observations out the window in our dealings with the media, why the heck not? So, for your edification, here are six more possible comps. We encourage you to watch and re-watch the movies featuring the fictional quarterbacks involved. Because apparently, it sure beats watching tape and talking about it!

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Posted April 15, 2014

2014 NFL draft Round 1 trade scenarios: Players, positions each team should target

NFL Draft, NFL draft 2014
(Damian Strohmeyer/SI)

Safety doesn’t offer a luxury of depth, which could convince teams to trade up for someone like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. (Damian Strohmeyer/SI)

With an additional two weeks before the NFL draft this offseason, the rumor mill is spinning like never before. Could a surprise team make a move for one of the top quarterbacks? Will Houston or St. Louis dangle Jadeveon Clowney as trade bait? Is Detroit really considering a run at Sammy Watkins?

Much of what we hear in the weeks before the draft turns out to be noise — either teams attempting to lay a smokescreen on their actual plans or scouts doing what they can to diminish a player’s value, thus making it easier to land that prospect with a later pick.

No matter what is true or false right now, the 2014 draft sets up as one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. Several teams could be in the trade market come May 8. Here’s a look at which player or position each franchise should be thinking about trading up for in Round 1:

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Posted April 16, 2014

Report: 49ers put LaMichael James on trading block

NFL rumors, San Francisco 49ers
LaMichael James has endured a frustrating first three seasons with the 49ers. (Tony Avelar/AP)

LaMichael James has endured a frustrating first two seasons with the 49ers. (Tony Avelar/AP)

The San Francisco 49ers are actively looking to trade running back LaMichael James, reports Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.

James was the team’s second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and the Niners have a log jam at the position, with starter Frank Gore, and backup Kendall Hunter.  The team also has Marcus Lattimore, who is recovering from knee surgery on his ACL.

James, 25, was the team’s primary punt returner last season, averaging 11 yards per return. He only saw 12 rushing attempts as a back last season and also caught two passes.

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Posted April 16, 2014

Report: Seahawks sign Sidney Rice to one-year deal

NFL Free Agency, Seattle Seahawks
Sidney Rice spurned other offers so he could return to play for Seattle. (Joshua Weisberg/Icon SMI)

Sidney Rice spurned interest from other teams so he could return to play for Seattle. (Joshua Weisberg/Icon SMI)

Free agent wide receiver Sidney Rice has agreed to terms with the Seattle Seahawks on a one-year deal, according to Pro Football Talk.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Rice was cut by the Seahawks in February, saving the team $7.3 million under the salary cap.

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Posted April 16, 2014

Haloti Ngata reportedly rejected ‘long-term’ offer from Baltimore Ravens

AFC North, Baltimore Ravens
Haloti Ngata rejected 'long-term' deal from Baltimore Ravens

Haloti Ngata has played in at least 14 games every season of his eight-year career. (Damian Strohmeyer/SI)

After the Baltimore Ravens restructured the contract of Terrell Suggs, the team sought to tighten up their defense even more and offered defensive tackle Haloti Ngata a new long-term contract as well.

Ngata will carry a $16 million cap hit in the upcoming season, and the Ravens had hoped long-term money would be enough to convince Ngata to restructure his albatross of a deal, but that won’t be the case. At least not right now.

According to Albert Breer of NFL Network, Ngata rejected the Ravens “lucrative” offer.

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