Andre Smith Jersey

For the 16th consecutive year, the NFL Draft will include at least one player with Alabama football roots in the first round.

NFL teams will select 32 players in the first round of the league’s 84th draft, which starts at 7 p.m. CDT Thursday in Nashville, Tenn. ABC, ESPN and NFL Network will televise the first round.

Among those players will be defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. The former Wenonah High School and Alabama standout is projected to be one of the first five selections in the 2019 draft.

If Williams is the No. 1 pick, he’d become the eighth player from an Alabama high school or college to be the first selection in an NFL Draft.

Draft prognosticators are unanimous in forecasting that Williams and Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams will be first-round selections on Thursday. Crimson Tide running back Josh Jacobs also has been widely predicted to come off the board in the first round.

The most recent draft without a state player in the first round came in 2003. That year, the first player from Alabama drafted was Tuskegee defensive back Drayton Florence at No. 46.

Since the NFL Draft started in 1936, 104 players with Alabama football roots have been selected in the first round. Another 33 have been picked in positions that would be in the first round now, but weren’t when the player was selected. The first NFL draft had nine first-round picks — 23 fewer than will be made on Thursday night.

The most players drafted from the state in a single first round is seven in 2011.

The fourth and sixth selections have been the most prolific for state players. The Oakland Raiders and the New York Giants, respectively, hold those picks in this year’s draft.

The eight Pick Six players have been Robert Brazile, Eric Curry, Julio Jones, Walter Jones, Lee Roy Jordan, Barry Krauss, Andre Smith and Richard Todd.

Brazile and Walter Jones are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Two of the eight No. 4 picks with Alabama roots also are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – John Hannah and Derrick Thomas.

The other state players taken with the fourth pick have been Amari Cooper, Brent Fullwood, Jon Hand, Keith McCants, Philip Rivers and Lowell Tew.

Pat Tillman Jersey

A year ago, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That won’t be the case next week in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ben Burr-Kirven and Vita Vea, products of Sacred Heart Prep and Milpitas, respectively, left the Bay Area to play college football at Washington.

A prototypical NFL prospect, Vea is a 6-foot-4, 347-pound defensive lineman that went 12th overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018.

Burr-Kirven is 6-0, 230-pound inside linebacker that led the nation in tackles this past season but isn’t quite the physical specimen scouts drool over.

“I don’t see any reason to be upset about that,” Burr-Kirven said last week. “I mean, Vita was a once-in-a-kind-of-generational guy. I know I’m undersized and all that stuff, so I’m not surprised at not being in first-round mock drafts. It doesn’t really bother me that much. Just getting a chance to get drafted and hopefully play is more than enough for me.”

Burr-Kirven more closely mirrors a seventh-round pick out of Arizona State that claimed the 1997 Pac-10 defensive player of the year trophy as an undersized linebacker at 5-11, 202 pounds.

That would be Pat Tillman, a Leland graduate that left the NFL in 2002 to enlist in the U.S. Army and was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April of 2014.

“Pat Tillman is one of the best stories to come out of this Bay Area,” Burr-Kirven said. “Obviously sad story losing his life, but I think in terms of the football side of it, definitely he’s kind of on the same boat in between safety and linebacker.”

He added: “There’s definitely similarities in terms of the play style.”

Tre Boston Jersey

Alright let’s get this out of the way now. Yes, Eric Berry is a great player, has had a good career so far, is one of the best when healthy, blah blah blah. Nobody saw cancer coming, can’t count that against the poor guy.

Honestly, if Berry doesn’t miss the last two years between cancer and injury then he isn’t a free agent. Eric Berry is a very good player, but if you’re going to bring one of these two men to Cleveland, it needs to be Tre Boston.

Boston produced almost identical numbers compared to Berry in his last healthy year. Mention the fact that Boston knows and has played for Steve Wilks, the current Browns defensive coordinator.

Berry also hasn’t had a quarterback hit since 2014. Yes, the man has talent, but this team should look to go younger, more familiar. and potentially more talented on this defense that is being assembled.

“Steve, Eric Berry fought injuries and cancer AND still came back and had a good year.” You know what Joe Schmo, he sure did. You also know what? His year after his cancer diagnosis, he had right around the same kind of year that Boston gave last year. So, do you take a younger, coming into his prime player who has experience with the current defensive coordinator, or do you take a player who has played only three regular season games in the last two years and is injury prone?

Go younger, potentially cheaper, close to the same skill set, and one who has that bond with their future defensive coordinator.

Ricky Seals-Jones Jersey

Over one month ago John Buckley wrote about what the Arizona cardinals should do with each and every one of their 27 in house free agents heading into the offseason.

John understood something quite clear at the time and his early prognostications have shown to be correct, the Arizona Cardinals needed to turn over their roster.

27 free agent decisions later, the biggest name returning to the Cardinals was signed today in Rodney Gunter, outside of Larry Fitzgerald but there was never a question if he was leaving, just if he was retiring.

No, John was astute last month when he put out his list, but his reasoning for keeping Gunter also made sense at the right price:
From people I trust, Gunter thought he would get a deal at worst similar to what the Cardinals gave Darius Philon.

That didn’t manifest, so the Cardinals correctly grabbed Gunter back and have him in the fold.

Yet, outside of some smaller deals, Gunter and Ricky Seals-Jones are the only names back.

It makes sense to me, this was the core of a team who struggled over the last three seasons, so rebuilding it makes sense.

However, the Cardinals offseason riches were overstated when you factored in the sheer volume of players needing replaced.

Now, with Gunter back in the fold, the Cardinals have a starting defense, they have a starting offense, they just need to find the right pieces to fill in and or replace where possible.

It is good to see Gunter back though.

Gabe Holmes Jersey

Petry, a redshirt sophomore defensive back from Missouri City, Texas, played in eight games last season, mostly at the beginning of the year, but was passed on the depth chart as the season progressed. At the start of spring practice he was second at cornerback behind DeMarkus Acy, a senior and one of the Tigers’ best and most experienced defensive players.

Missouri had a four-man depth rotation at cornerback spots, and in-game reps were going to be hard to come by unless Acy or Christian Holmes were injured, especially as Adam Sparks works his way back from a leg injury that kept him out the second half last season.

Tahane, a sophomore forward from Bondy, France, was a role player off the bench and a defensive spark for coach Robin Pingeton’s team. She played in all 35 games, starting just the season opener at Western Illinois, and averaged 13.4 minutes, 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.

Tahane was a key factor in Missouri’s 77-76 overtime win against Drake in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, playing 30 minutes off the bench. She took just one shot and scored two points, but had seven rebounds and three steals, and was able to effectively guard former Eldon Lady Mustang Sara Rhine and Monica Burich while Cierra Porter was in foul trouble and eventually fouled out before the end of regulation.

Tahane or Hannah Scuchts likely would have been the front-court starters for Missouri next season, unless some combination of Brittany Garner, who redshirted with a shoulder injury, and incoming freshman Hayley Frank made themselves the favorites during the summer.

If Tahane were to leave, she would join Kelsey Winfrey, who has already decided to transfer to Drury, as well as Sophie Cunningham, Porter and Lauren Aldridge, who graduated, in leaving the program this spring.

If it takes Akira Levy until the winter to fully recover from her ACL tear, the Tigers would start the season with eight returning players, and just one — Schuchts — with experience at forward.

Justin Pugh Jersey

The Arizona Cardinals went out in free agency and signed a pair of guards and re-signed another. Guard has been a major issue over the last couple of seasons, mostly because of injuries.

However, with the moves they have made, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury is at least temporarily satisfied with the state of the offensive line.
“Coach Kugler and I have had discussions and we feel like now we really have some depth, particularly inside and so there’ll be some good competition for those guards and center spots,” Kingsbury said when he spoke to reporters at the annual league meeting in Phoenix in March.

They already had Justin Pugh, who signed a five-year deal last year. They added J.R. Sweezy and Max Garcia in free agency. They re-signed Jeremy Vujnovich. Mason Cole returns at center and A.Q. Shipley is coming off a torn ACL. Colby Gossett, who was the starter at the end of the year at left guard, and Will House, who spent part of last season on the practice squad, also returns.
Cole and Shipley presumably will battle for the job at center. Pugh and Sweezy are expected to start at both guard positions. Garcia and Vujnovich have multiple years of experience as starters. Gossett showed some promise late last season.

They might still add to the mix in the draft as well.

Obviously, health and durability must be considered, but the offensive line definitely looks better than it has in years past.

Pharoh Cooper Jersey

It wasn’t the kind of year Pharoh Cooper hoped for last season.

Coming off a Pro Bowl selection with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, Cooper battled injuries and was eventually released by the NFC champions in December. But he didn’t wait long as he was picked up by the Arizona Cardinals where he finished the season and hopes for bounce back season in 2019.

“I’m healthy and ready to roll this year,” Cooper said recently at DJ Swearinger Celebrity Basketball game. “Sat out too long last year. Ankle feels good, shoulder feels good.”

Cooper had no bad feelings toward the Rams and understands it’s part of the business. He injured his ankle in the season opener last season against Oakland and didn’t return until November.

The 2016 fourth-round pick averaged 21 yards on 12 returns for the Rams. In two games with the Cardinals, he returned six punts.

“Every year, you got to prove yourself, it is a cut throat league,” Cooper said. “You got to stay healthy, put your head down and grind. I’m looking forward to a bounce back year. I missed most of the season last year. But I’m fully healthy and ready to show new coaching staff what I’m about.

Cooper has met with new coach Kliff Kingsbury and is looking forward to playing for him. The Cardinals have the No. 1 pick in the draft and many mock drafts have them taking Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and Cooper didn’t want to speculate of if he wanted the team to draft the former two-sport standout.

With Arizona is reunited with former South Carolina players D.J. Swearinger and Damiere Byrd, who both signed with the club in the offseason.

“Get old college teammates back and have that connection. Have fun with the guys and grind like we did in the old days,” Cooper said.

D.J. Swearinger Jersey

D.J. Swearinger wasn’t going to forget the Gamecocks and his home-state ties after he stopped playing for the South Carolina football program.

Swearinger still follows the program closely and is bringing his celebrity charity basketball game back to Columbia this week. The game is 6 p.m. Saturday at the Carolina Volleyball Center at the University of South Carolina.

The game will help raise money for The Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands.

“When we were playing at USC, we wondered why NFL guys and some others wouldn’t come around and we always said we would change that,” Swearinger said. “We want to help change the culture, give back and come interact with the players. I think it is very important to continue to be part of the program.”

This will be the first time the game will be played in conjunction with the Gamecocks’ spring game, which is set for noon Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. Last year’s game was held at Benedict College in the summer. Swearinger and USC coach Will Muschamp talked about moving the basketball game up to be on same weekend of the spring football game.

Some of the players in the celebrity event will be introduced during halftime of the spring game.

The basketball game will match former Gamecocks against current NFL or former players. Among the former USC players in the game will be Los Angeles Chargers’ Melvin Ingram, Baltimore Ravens’ Hayden Hurst, New England Patriots’ Stephen Gilmore, Chicago Bears’ Mike Davis, Indianapolis Colts’ Skai Moore and Arizona Cardinals’ Pharoh Cooper.

Marcus Gilbert Jersey

The Arizona Cardinals have made a number of moves in the 2019 offseason to try and avoid a repeat of their 2018 season.

They have hired a new coaching staff, have reinvented their offensive line, changed the defensive scheme and made a play on a number of free agents at critical positions.

Maybe the highlight of the offseason though, is the trade for Marcus Gilbert.

Gilbert has consistently been one of the best pass blocking right tackles in the NFL, something the Arizona Cardinals desperately need.

In their review of every NFL teams offseason moves, Pro Football Focus thought the trade of a lone sixth round pick for Gilbert stood out the most:
Gilbert’s acquisition is not a long term answer to a problem that has been an every offseason question mark… Yet, that is okay.

The Cardinals didn’t have a lot of money to work with this offseason, much because of their own doing, but did have an astronomical amount of holes to fill.

So now, the Cardinals sent a low pick in the 2019 NFL Draft for a guaranteed starter in 2019. Something they should have been doing with more consistency over the years.

It is one of the best moves of the offseason, even if it does not work out for more than a season.

Terrell Suggs Jersey

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It was 16 years ago when Terrell Suggs ran the 40 at his pro day in a hugely disappointing 4.9 seconds, causing his draft stock to drop and the Baltimore Ravens hopes to increase.

Phil Savage, then the director of scouting for the Ravens, quickly phoned Ozzie Newsome to tell him that Baltimore had a shot at the draft’s top pass-rusher. He was right as the Ravens selected Suggs with the No. 10 overall pick, landing the steal of that draft.

Asked if the Ravens should be alarmed by Suggs’ slow times, coach Brian Billick said, “If quarterbacks started taking 40-yard drops, then I’d be a little concerned.”

With Suggs departing this offseason as the franchise’s all-time sacks leader, the Ravens could fill his spot with someone who has followed a similar path.

Florida’s Jachai Polite established himself as one of college’s top pass-rushers, recording 11 sacks in 13 games. But Polite has experienced this year’s biggest free-fall after he ran his pro day 40-yard dash in just 4.96 seconds — even worse than his 4.84-second effort at the combine (the second slowest among edge players).

The Ravens need an impact pass-rusher after Suggs and Za’Darius Smith left in free agency. Their 15.5 sacks last season represented over one-third of Baltimores’s production.

With the growing expectation that the Ravens will trade out of the first round, could Polite be on Baltimore’s radar if the team falls back into the second round? Ravens officials didn’t sound too scared off by Polite’s troubling workouts.

“I think ultimately it comes down to the film, and then, the testing results are just that,” Ravens director of college scouting Joe Hortiz said when asked about Polite. “They’re testing results on that day.”

This is more than lip service by Baltimore. In last year’s draft, the Ravens benefited from Orlando Brown Jr.’s nightmarish NFL combine.

Brown went from being a first-round pick to slipping to the third round, where Baltimore selected him. In 10 starts, Brown helped the Ravens become the league’s second-best rushing attack and didn’t allow a sack.