National Football Authority
The Cincinnati Bengals are one of three teams sitting in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft with not one, but two picks.

The second pick was courtesy of the Oakland Raiders in the trade that sent quarterback Carson Palmer to the Bay Area last season.

After speaking to a team executive on Monday, National Football Authority senior writer Bear Heiser has learned the Bengals are eager to move up in the first round to secure themselves the top running back in this draft class—Alabama Crimson Tide’s Trent Richardson.

Along with this information, the source also provided info as to who the Bengals have been talking with in the first round and it was none other than the Arizona Cardinals—who are itching to move down in the first round along with acquiring more drafts picks in the deal.

The finer details of the actual trade terms were not disclosed but it would be assumed since the Bengals would like to move up, they would probably be offering a swap with their No. 17 pick for the Cards’ No. 13 pick, as well as another pick (or two) post-first round.

This team executive was adamant in making aware how much the Bengals really like Richardson and would really like to add him to their West Coast offense, which would be a great fit for the Heisman candidate’s versatile style of play.

It is apparent current starting RB Cedric Benson is ready to leave via free agency, so bringing Richardson in would be the ideal scenario if it were to pan out at the end of April.

February 29th, 2012

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The Cleveland Browns figure to spend a great deal of focus in NFL free agency on shoring up the offensive side of the ball. And yes, that’s the right move.

Indeed, the Browns have a bunch of different holes to fill, including on the defensive side of things. And sure, they have more recognizable names on the offensive end, chief among them being Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.

Still, concerns persist.

Cleveland ranked just 22nd in points scored per game last season and struggled to get any sort of top-end traction through both the air and on the ground. Though they ranked fourth in rushing yards per attempt, that standing didn’t hold once they entered the end zone.

Everything starts with the offensive line, where the Browns need to do a better job of protecting Mayfield and buying him time while also opening holes for their running backs. Many expect them to draft offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs out of Iowa in the first round to help plug up this gap. That’s a start. It isn’t everything.

Free agency will be a valuable tool through which the Browns retool. And bear in mind, this isn’t 2012. They won’t be interested in middling names, like when quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the apple of their eye. Nor will they look to pilfer suboptimal options from one team, like when poaching former Philadelphia Eagles was randomly a thing.

No, the Browns have the timeline and urgency to go big-game hunting. Think along the lines of offensive guard Brandon Scherff from the Washington Redskins or offensive tackle Jack Conklin from the Tennessee Titans.

If they’re looking to split defensive focus, they could target another pass-catcher to simplify the lives of Beckham and Landry. Tight end Austin Hooper from the Atlanta Falcons would do the trick. They could even triple-down on their big-name-receiver setup and go after wideout A.J. Green from the Cincinnati Bengals, one of the most coveted players on the open market.

All of the aforementioned names will be expensive. The Browns can’t afford to care. They bet big on their present one summer ago by getting OBJ and Landry at all. Their obligation now is to go for it—to angle for a return to the playoffs. And they’re not getting there without being ultra-aggressive in free agency.

February 24th, 2012

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Initially billed as a potential Super Bowl contender ahead of the 2019 NFL season, the Los Angeles Rams, formerly the St. Louis Rams, quickly became one of the league’s biggest disappointments. For that to change in 2020 and the years to come, they need to shake up the roster.

But where do they start? Can they pull off a trade? And what’s their primary issue?

Chief among the Rams’ greatest roadblocks right now is the limitations of their passing offense. They rely too heavily on running back Todd Gurley to get them by, and it often shows.

Installing another quarterback is out of the question. They just handed one of the richest extensions in NFL history to Jason Goff. They’re locked into him for at least the next couple of years.

Beefing up the offensive line doesn’t really need to be on the agenda, either. This is somewhat related to their low passing volume, but the Rams’ offensive line allowed fewer sacks in 2019 than any other team.

Adding depth to the wide receiver rotation will be a little tough. Brandin Cooks has severely underachieved, but they also have Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. It doesn’t make sense to trade or pay anybody to be their No. 1 or No. 2.

Targeting an upgrade at tight end makes a ton of sense. They need an infusion of playmaking at that spot—someone who cannot only block, but be relied upon to run effective routes and catch a high percentage of his passes.

Poaching one in free agency will be difficult. There aren’t a ton of big names available. They could look at Vance McDonald from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Eric Ebron from the Indianapolis Colts or Austin Hooper from the Atlanta Falcons, but none of those options are really high end or on the verge of entering their prime. They could take a flier on Tyler Eifert from the Cincinnati Bengals, but he’s approaching 30 and injury prone.

Working the trade market might be the more effective route. This is where the Washington Redskins come in. Their timeline is a little fuzzy after handing the keys of the offense to quarterback Dwayne Haskins. They might not have an inclination to trade any of their younger, high-upside guys.

At the same time, they’ve looked at bringing in veteran tight end Greg Olsen from the Carolina Panthers. That could signal a willingness to move the 25-year-old Jeremy Sprinkles. He caught more than 65 percent of his targets in 2019 while averaging more than 15 yards per reception. He’s not the best run blocker, but at 6’5” and 255 pounds, he has the ability to get better.

The Rams need to be thinking along these lines. They may need to give up an earlier draft pick to land someone like Sprinkles from the Redskins, but for what their offense needs moving forward, that price tag would be well worth the gamble.

February 18th, 2012

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The Tennessee Titans are not known for being an especially strong NFL draft team. They’ve found performers in past years, make no mistake, but they’ve struggled to unearth long-term keepers.

To wit: Just 10 players they drafted between 2012 and 2016 were still on the roster in the 2019 NFL season. There has been a lot of turnover in the past decade. Tennessee finds itself relying a lot on newly inbound players each year.

The Titans will try to remedy their mediocre draft record in 2020. Though there are no assurances they’ll accomplish the feat, they can increase their chances by addressing the following roster holes and questions before prioritizing any other positions.

Cornerback

While the Titans weren’t the NFL’s worst team in the secondary last season, they didn’t do much to inspire big-picture confidence. They ranked 24th in total passing yards given up as well as 17th in touchdowns allowed through the air.

Those rankings need to improve. The Titans play an aggressive style of defense, in which they’re actively chasing interceptions. But they don’t have the mobility right now in their backfield to get the job done. Acquiring some needs to be priority numero uno in the draft.

Edge Rusher

Sticking with the defense, the Titans have-to-have-to-have-to get someone who can put actual pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They allowed scores on 32.1 percent of their defensive possessions in 2019—the sixth-worst mark in the entire league.

Drafting someone who allows them to run more effective blitzes and gets rival QBs scrambling is a must. Selecting an edge rusher early on is always a bit of a risk, but the 2020 prospect pageant has a couple of first- and second-round candidates—mostly notably Yetur Gross-Metos out of Penn State.

Offensive Lineman

Pretty much every aspect of the Titans’ offensive line could use a little bit of help. Only the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers allowed more sacks in 2019, and Tennessee ranked in the bottom 10 of QB hits, surrendering nearly 100.

It’s no wonder Marcus Mariota was eventually stripped of his under-center duties. Mobile quarterbacks can be at an even bigger disadvantage than pocket passers behind a crummy offensive line.

The Titans need a couple of extra bodies to protect their most important player—whether that’s Mariota, Ryan Tannehill or a new face taking reps under center in 2020 and the years to come.

February 18th, 2012

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Football fans have no doubt seen the highlights before. Every year, without fail, there’s a ton of them: clips of players running and jumping, being measured and timed, even lifting weights. 

These videos are, as you may have guessed, from the NFL Combine. This day-long event is held every year, usually towards the end of February into early March, and plays host to a slew of college prospects looking to improve their standing ahead of the NFL’s draft in April.

A lot people find themselves wondering whether the Combine really matters. They see all this footage, all this hype, and ask if it’s all really necessary? What can predominantly no-contact drills exactly do to help evaluate a player?

It turns out a whole lot.

The NFL draft spans seven rounds, each including 32 picks apiece. That’s 224 prospects. No matter how many tape scouts watch throughout the year, they can never fully know the utility of everyone entering the draft pool. There are, after all, only so many opportunities they have to watch college players in person.

Attending the combine serves as a scouting substitute in some cases—or at the very least a chance to confirm pre-existing findings and pass verdicts on players who might not be as well-known.

Standouts at the Combine matter. The league usually has a good feel for who will go with the top picks, but the draft gets more wide open as you get to later rounds. It’s even a bit more open by the end of the first round.

Performing well at the Combine is a legitimate chance for players to enhance their stock. It could be the difference between getting drafted in the third round and the first round. It could even be the difference between getting drafted and not getting drafted at all.

Players at the Combine are gauged in a number of different areas, both mentally and physically. The top activities include the 40-yard dash; the bench press; the vertical jump, the broad jump; the 20-yard shuttle; the three-cone drill; the 60-yard shuffle; position-specific drills; interviews with teams in 15-minute intervals; physical measurements; injury evaluation; drug screen; the Cybex Test; and the Wonderlic Test.

So the next time you see combine results flash across your screen or hear it being talked about, don’t be so quick to write it off as a minimally valuable meetup where coaches, scouts, team personnel and executives shoot the breeze. The NFL Combine matters, and while results aren’t everything, they do have an impact on where a player is taken in the draft.

February 13th, 2012

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The Missouri Tigers are no strangers to sending players to the NFL draft. They aren’t on the same level as LSU or Alabama, but they routinely churn out a ton of talent on a consistent basis.

Some of Missouri’s prospects need strong showings at the NFL combine to ensure their draft position, and they tend to have fewer first-round possibilities on a year-by-year basis than other collegiate powerhouses. That doesn’t take anything away from them.

It is a bigger testament to their developmental program that players get to the NFL and then stick once they arrive. Missouri has done that more than most. Twenty former Tigers are currently in the NFL, a respectable total—and one that’s bound to grow, even if only by a little, next season.

Though Missouri doesn’t tout any superstar prospects ahead of the upcoming draft, three players have a viable shot at getting called up to the podium. Two of these players have a strong chance to go in the top 100.

Defensive lineman Jacob Elliott is their highest rated prospect at the moment. He transferred to Missouri after spending a year at Texas and sitting out the 2017 season entirely. Through his two go-rounds with the Tigers, he racked up a total of 76 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 18 hits for a loss of yardage. A team like the Denver Broncos could use him to shore up their pass rush and run defenses.

Tight end Albert Okwuegbunam is another Missouri player on the radar of NFL teams. He spent three seasons with the Tigers, through which he totaled 23 touchdowns and nearly 1,200 receptions—rock solid numbers for someone who wasn’t considered a primary offensive option. Teams at the pro level will value him for his 6’5”, 255-pound frame and what he can do for them as a run-blocker and situational pass-catcher.

Inside offensive lineman Trystan Colon-Castillo is the final Missouri player expected to get called off the NFL draft board. He is 6’4” and 315 pounds and sports striking nimbleness for his size. Teams in need of more protection for their quarterback and blockers for their running backs would do well to take a flier on him in or around the fourth or fifth rounds.

Missouri has had more productive years in terms of sending players to the NFL. They’ve also had worse. They’ll invariably ship some undrafted guys to the pros, and more importantly, the three prospects expected to hear their name called all have the potential to chisel out lengthy careers.

February 6th, 2012

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Peyton Hillis continues to be one of the NFL’s great mysteries. He went from the cover of Madden to out of the NFL entirely in less than a half-decade without suffering any career-threatening injuries. That never happens.

What exactly is at the root of his demise remains unclear. He was never the same after he failed to negotiate a contract extension with the Cleveland Browns in 2011. Was he merely a flash in the pan when he rose to stardom or did that season, in essence, ruin him, because of how both he and the Browns approached his situation?

We will never know the answer for sure. We will also never even know whether Hillis actually could have salvaged his career in the right situation. He flamed out of the NFL after the 2014 season, which suggests that he regressed beyond repair, but some questions still remain.

The most notable: Could he have rebounded with the Kansas City Chiefs?

Hillis signed with them after leaving Cleveland in 2012. At the time, playing for the Chiefs meant being Jamaal Charles’ backup, which isn’t a bad gig. Charles was never the poster board for durability, and Kansas City’s offensive line was set up to protect him both as a runner and pass-catcher. It seemed like the perfect landing spot for someone who needed to reboot their career out of the backfield.

The problem? Playing backup to a healthy Charles also meant sacrificing volume. Hillis churned through just 85 rushes for 309 yards in 13 appearances, including two starts. His yards per attempt weren’t particularly special (3.6), but he wasn’t ineffective enough that he could be entirely written off. Plus, he also proved to be a worthy option in the passing game on the few possessions in which he was used as a receiver.

Still, the Chiefs elected not to bring him back in 2013. Hillis instead went on to the New York Giants, in what turned out to be his final stop. And yet, Kansas City also returned to relevance that next season.

Alex Smith was placed under center, Charles remained healthy, and they hummed. Had Hillis been put on that team, rather than the one piloted by Brady Quinn under center in 2012, there’s a chance he would’ve been set up for more success, even as a backup.

Who knows what could’ve happened from there. Maybe the Chiefs are then convinced to bring him back, and then maybe he’s given the high-volume chance that was eventually bestowed upon Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware when Charles was injured a couple of seasons later.

As is the theme with Hillis’ career in general, we’ll never actually know.

February 2nd, 2012

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The Oregon Ducks are one of the nation’s premier football programs. Look no further than their Bowl Game track record for proof. They’ve made a championship round, in some form, in 14 of the past 15 years.

As such, sending players on to the NFL is nothing new for them. They’ve churned out professional-level talent for decades now. Their imprint will always be made on the draft.

Some years, however, are lighter than others. There will be drafts in which Oregon sends a ton of players to the NFL, including multiple first-round picks. In other instances, only a few role player-types will matriculate into the next level.

What kind of year should we expect from this season’s Oregon draft glass? The answer is hardly obvious.

Everything starts with quarterback Justin Herbert. After a few productive years with the Ducks, a span that included a stellar completion percentage and growth as a distance passer, he isn’t expected to fall outside the top seven of the first round. Most would be shocked if he gets past the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 6.

Things get weird after Herbert. The Ducks do not have another consensus top 100 prospects. Someone like linebacker Troy Dye could go in the middle of Round 3 or at the beginning of Round 4, but his ceiling tops out around there.

Beyond that, the Dunks don’t have much higher-end prospects on the board.

Wide receiver Juwan Johnson, tight end Jacob Breeland, inside offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton and offensive lineman Jake Hanson all have the chance to get called during the NFL draft, but not before Round 5. It will be a minor surprise if anyone else from Oregon ends up landing on a team without doing so as an undrafted rookie.

The dearth of talent the Ducks are sending on the defensive end is to blame. That side of the ball is populated largely by underclassmen who won’t declare or older prospects who just don’t project to stick in the NFL. Their crop of offensive linemen is their biggest draw after Herbert.

Which isn’t to say this will necessarily be a lean year for the Ducks. Herbert alone has franchise-cornerstone talent. Those prospects don’t grow on trees. So in lieu of sending a bunch of players to the NFL this year, they’ll at least be sending one of the best, most promising options in the country.

February 2nd, 2012

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