NFL Nation: Justin Gilbert

The Cleveland Browns will not have the last unsigned rookie in the league.

Cornerback Justin Gilbert, the eighth overall pick, agreed to terms Wednesday and should be on the field for practice when training camp opens to the public Saturday.

Gilbert
ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported the contract. Spotrac.com reported the deal is for four years and $12.8 million, with a $7.65 million signing bonus.

Gilbert's presence completes the cornerback group, a postion "where we upgraded the most," Browns coach Mike Pettine said.

Given the additions elsewhere, that's an interesting statement.

Joe Haden will be one starter. Gilbert and Buster Skrine will compete for the other spot.

Isaiah Trufant and Aaron Berry will be in the mix. Pettine sounded intrigued with both -- especially Berry, a veteran who had off-field issues but is trying to resurrect his career.

"You'll enjoy watching him in camp," Pettine said. "If you don't see him, you'll at least hear him. He's got a lot of swagger to him. He'll definitely energize practice for us."

Pettine simply smiled when asked about Trufant and said he's a "good player." His body language and expressions were so positive it seems possible Trufant could be the nickel corner. He is a pure slot cornerback though, so he would compete at that spot.

The Browns have stressed competition, and Pettine is a huge believer that players who push each other make each other better. That's why Pettine is so happy to have Gilbert, and have him signed. Not only does the scheme demand aggressive cover corners, it adds depth and competition.

Skrine and Gilbert will push each other, with Trufant pushing both, and Berry evidently forcing his way into the mix.
Part of the reason the Detroit Lions essentially ignored addressing the secondary in the 2014 draft was because of the faith general manager Martin Mayhew had in the potential of his young cornerbacks.

That trust is sure to be tested now.

The Lions have released their top cornerback, Chris Houston, after an inconsistent 2013 and offseason surgery for a toe that just wouldn't heal. Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis would now likely be the team's opening day starters at cornerback and the move increases the pressure on an untested group of players.

Houston
Houston
Bill Bentley has experience in the slot and is probably best suited there instead of on the outside. Jonte Green started games the past two seasons when players went down to injury, but has not been consistent. Chris Greenwood can't stay healthy and has minimal experience. Cassius Vaughn had a good spring, but was used to primarily used to provide depth at cornerback in Indianapolis.

The one pick the Lions did use on the secondary, corner Nevin Lawson in the fourth round, should have been more of a developmental selection.

At least one of those players will need to be counted on this fall. The early guess would be Vaughn, who has some experience and had moments where he looked extremely sharp in the spring. He likely won't be a starter, but he at least feels like part of the reason the team could have felt comfortable releasing Houston without even seeing him in training camp.

Now, unless the Lions sign a cornerback before camp, they will have to use this group to forge a cornerback corps. It is a unit with some talent, but short on experience. In a division with receivers like Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, that is not the type of situation you want to have.

Yet this is where Detroit is in the middle of June.

Something like this -- and Detroit had to have an inkling of concern here considering Houston did not play well in 2013 and had surgery -- was part of why it was so confusing how the Lions handled the secondary in the draft. Yes, Justin Gilbert was off the board when Detroit picked, but the team wasted little time before drafting tight end Eric Ebron, who the team opened up money to sign by cutting Houston.

They didn't seem to consider either selecting or trying to trade down to nab cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard or even Jason Verrett from TCU or Bradley Roby from Ohio State. Or the team could have drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama or Calvin Pryor from Louisville at safety and moved Don Carey, the team's third safety, to cornerback -- a position he previously played.

After Ebron, the team went with an interior lineman, Travis Swanson, in the third round and traded their fourth round pick to move up for Kyle Van Noy. The move possibly cost them one of the litany of defensive backs who went off the board before the team took Lawson with a supplemental pick in the fourth round.

Any of those first three picks could have been used on a secondary player that could have helped.

Of course all of this is hindsight now. Yet the Lions knew this possibility existed because of Houston's past few months. And that possibility became reality Friday -- even if it was somewhat predictable after Houston was excused from mandatory minicamp.

It leaves Detroit either hunting on the free agent wire or sticking with what they have – a group of young cornerbacks that could end up deciding Mayhew's future.

This is a sequence -- between the draft strategy, how's Houston's injury and eventual release was handled -- that should be used to judge Mayhew if Detroit struggles this season.

Mayhew put his faith with a group of young cornerbacks early. With Houston gone, Mayhew will now need them to prove he was right all along.
PITTSBURGH -- Would the Steelers have taken a cornerback in the first round of the NFL draft had either Justin Gilbert or Kyle Fuller -- or both -- been available at No. 15?

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert isn’t saying.

“Sure, there were guys that went ahead of Ryan that were really good players,” Colbert said Monday on TribLive radio. “We were extremely excited [Shazier] was there but there were other players that we would have entertained and maybe didn’t have an opportunity to pick them. But that doesn’t diminish our excitement for Shazier.”

The Steelers really liked tight end Eric Ebron, and the North Carolina product certainly would have been prominent in the discussion that preceded the Steelers' first-round pick had he still been available.

But the Steelers were more than happy to select Shazier, who provides speed, athleticism and versatility to their defense.

The Steelers only took one cornerback in the draft but Colbert echoed comments made by defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau that the position is not as lacking as has been widely perceived.

"Cortez Allen we think has a real bright future and he should only get better," Colbert said. "When you’ve got a guy like William Gay and Brice McCain and Antwon Blake and we feel nice about what they’re going to be able to contribute. Blake did a great job coming in [last season] and playing mainly on special teams because he was a late addition for us but he’s going to have a whole offseason to grow as a corner.”

Despite taking only one cornerback -- and waiting until the fifth round to select Arizona’s Shaquille Richardson -- the Steelers have generally gotten good reviews for their draft.

ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Steelers an A-minus for their draft. ESPN analyst Todd McShay also liked what the Steelers accomplished during the three-day draft.

"I was really impressed. I thought they had one of the better drafts of all the teams in the league," McShay said Monday during a post-draft conference call. "I really thought beginning to end that Pittsburgh did a really good job of finding players that fit their system and do multiple things.”
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

BEREA, Ohio -- A wrap-up of the Cleveland Browns draft. Click here for a full list of Browns draftees.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIThe Browns didn't just opt for Johnny Manziel but the sideshow that comes with him.
Best move: The entire manipulation of the first day. The Browns had Johnny Manziel on their board as an option at 4, but finagled their way to an extra pick that resulted in the team drafting their highest-rated cornerback (Justin Gilbert) and their highest-rated quarterback -- while gaining an extra first-round pick next year. That is a series of events that is hard to top.

Riskiest move: Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones called Manziel an atypical backup who is "a celebrity" and "Elvis Presley." The Browns brought all that goes with Manziel -- the TMZ reports, the celebrity status, the incredible attention -- to a team that might not need that kind of scrutiny. And they brought it right to Brian Hoyer, who has done everything right since he joined the Browns. If Manziel can play, it would be worth it. If not, well then the circus that affected the Jets with Tim Tebow will be repeated in Cleveland.

Most surprising move: It makes no sense at all that a deep receiver class sends no receivers to Cleveland, which in the vernacular is "really in trouble" at the position -- assuming Josh Gordon is indeed banned for a year. Ray Farmer has to have something up his sleeve, because the group the Browns would field right now is hardly scary.

File it away: Farmer's description of running back Terrance West made him sound like an intriguing player. Farmer said West has the physique of a Maurice Jones-Drew but the quick feet of a Jerome Bettis. That's an interesting combination of skills that could make West worth following once training camp arrives.

Live: Browns introduce Gilbert, Manziel

May, 9, 2014
May 9
1:35
PM ET
Cleveland Browns' top pick Justin Gilbert will meet the media Friday at 2 p.m. ET at the team's facility. He'll be joined by the second first-round pick. Some guy named Manziel. ... Wait ... Johnny Football? ... Join us live here for a comment-by-comment breakdown of Johnny Manziel's introductory news conference with the Browns. We'll provide live commentary, quotes and insight as Gilbert and Manziel begin their tenure in Cleveland.

More Browns' draft coverage:
Kevin Seifert: Jimmy Haslam's homeless fan
Pat McManamon: Browns get a good player in Gilbert
Ashley Fox: Manziel will benefit from slide
McManamon: Manziel brings jolt of excitement, scrutiny
News: Ray Farmer talks about Browns' trade, Gilbert
Darren Rovell: Financial impact of Browns drafting Manziel

 
Darkness blanketed the evening as reporters straggled out of the Cleveland Browns' facility following the first day of the 2014 NFL draft.

Security lights dotted the building, but there was little activity at 1:35 in the morning.

Manziel
Across the street from the building stood one solitary man. He wore a Trent Richardson jersey and held a sign, barely visible in the darkness. It read: "Thank you Browns." The gentleman, later identified by NFL Network as Randall Ravis, said nothing as reporters walked by. Ravis spoke for the vast majority of fans energized by the team's drafting of Johnny Manziel.

At this point the Browns might want to extend a thank you as well. From midnight until early morning, the Browns sold 1,500 season tickets.

And, according to coach Mike Pettine, Manziel still has to win a job.

The excitement over this selection will rage for some time. "Here’s Johnny" blared the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s front page. ESPN Cleveland signed off Friday by saying "this is ESPN Johnny Cleveland." Cleveland.com came up with five events Manziel might enjoy in Cleveland (the Rib Cook-Off was first, Cleveland Auto Show third ... yes those were the events). And the ticket line phones kept ringing.

Manziel and forgotten first-round pick Justin Gilbert -- who was, after all, taken ahead of Manziel -- will meet the media today. They will take the field for the first time at a rookie minicamp next weekend. The Browns have closed the minicamp to the media, aside from the first 15 minutes of stretching. Managing the madness will become part of Pettine’s job while Brian Hoyer -- who has done so much right since he joined the Browns -- will try to fight whatever he's feeling about this body blow to his hopes to lead his hometown team.

In the short term, though, Cleveland wants to celebrate, to gush. Johnny Football will play in Cleveland.

It's a city that deserves to smile, that has earned a smile.

Even if it means being that one guy standing outside the Browns' facility at 2 in the morning.
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BEREA, Ohio -- Clearly the Cleveland Browns targeted cornerback Justin Gilbert with their first pick in the draft.

They went through all sort of machinations to get him, trading down five spots and then trading up one. In the end, they gave up a fifth-round pick this year -- “It didn't cost us much,” GM Ray Farmer said -- to acquire a first-round pick and fourth-round pick from Buffalo in 2015.

Farmer said the end result was the Browns drafted the player “we thought we wanted.”

Gilbert
There is risk. There always is risk. In this draft, the Browns bypassed two playmakers on offense in wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans.

Watkins has been my preferred choice since January, but it's tough to argue bypassing him when the Browns acquired a first-round pick in '15 to move down just five spots. Clearly the Browns were not as high on Watkins as the Bills, who made the bold statement that Watkins makes Buffalo a playoff team.

There are teams that annually manipulate the draft to get extra players and maintain a level of talent. The Browns now have another first-round choice and they have an improved secondary, a necessity in the Mike Pettine defense. That system requires aggressive, pressing corners. In Joe Haden and Gilbert, the Browns have two like that -- assuming Gilbert is the real deal. Buster Skrine moves to nickelback to cover the slot.

“We're excited about having corners that we think can go out, play press, get after people and give us a chance to turn the ball over,” Farmer said. “We've improved our defense. We're going to do some other things to make our overall team better, but we definitely like the corner combination that we're going to have. Hopefully, we keep those guys together for a long time.”

Farmer has made a lot of logical moves this offseason in free agency. He still needs another wide receiver and a quarterback, but the second pick in the first round and the second round awaits. Clearly the Browns do not feel the depth of players at cornerback is as good as it is at receiver. The Browns took the guy they wanted.

Farmer took a risk bypassing the offensive players, but he did something logical by filling a need. It might not be the most exciting move, but it's tough to argue it.

And it will look even better when the first round of next year's draft rolls around.
Here is what general manager Ray Farmer had to say about the Cleveland Browns' moves with the fourth pick, the trade down and trade back up to get cornerback Justin Gilbert. The quotes were distributed by the team:

On the thought process for the first-round trades:

“The thought process was simple. We had an opportunity to move back, pick up some future considerations. We knew where we were in the draft and we felt like it was a good opportunity to continue to improve our team with the number of picks we could get so we made a deal to move back to Buffalo (No. 9). Second trade was another opportunity to get the player we thought we wanted. It didn’t cost us much to move back into position when he was on the board. We took that opportunity, and we took the pick with (Oklahoma State CB) Justin Gilbert.”

On DB Justin Gilbert as a player:

“Justin Gilbert the player -- He’s long. He’s fast. He’s explosive. He’s a playmaker. He plays like a Brown. Number one thing we talk about when we talk about corners is they’ve got to cover like Browns. He’s got great arm length. He’s got the speed. He’s got the ball skills. I know some people have questioned his tackling. We cover like Browns, tackling was good, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be great. We understand exactly who he is, what he is. We think he can make plays for us. He’s going to play relentless. He’s going to play at the line of scrimmage and press people. He’s able to do things we need him to do.”

On Gilbert and Browns CB Joe Haden playing together:

“Joe Haden, Justin Gilbert, (Browns S) Donte Whitner – I’m getting excited. I probably shouldn’t go there. We’re excited about having corners that we think can go out, play press, get after people and give us a chance to turn the ball over. We’ve improved our defense. We’re going to do some other things to make our overall team better, but we definitely like the corner combination that we’re going to have. Hopefully, we keep those guys together for a long time.”
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BEREA, Ohio -- The pick: Cornerback Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State.

My take: It won't be the most popular pick, because the Browns gave up a chance to draft two playmakers in Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. But it's a sound pick -- and by making two trades, the Browns wound up with the guy they clearly wanted, along with an extra first- and fourth-round pick in 2015. That's a good haul from the fourth pick, especially if the team believed Gilbert was the guy it wanted. As draft day approached, more and more murmurs started to filter out that the Browns liked Gilbert. Wednesday, ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported he had heard from sources about a trade back and the drafting of Gilbert. Clearly, the Browns feel they need a strong press, man-to-man cover corner. Gilbert is considered one. So the Browns got two extra picks in 2015 to swap spots, traded back and still wound up with the cornerback they wanted. There is nothing to dislike about this pick -- or about the way the Browns got it done.

The deal: The Browns keep showing that things have changed in their front office. For Ray Farmer to acquire a first-round pick from Buffalo in 2015, plus swap picks this year and move down to the only ninth spot is an excellent move. In 2011, the Browns moved from the sixth pick to 26 so Atlanta could get Julio Jones. That deal netted the Browns two first-rounders, a two and a five. Farmer got the same extra first-rounder to move down just five spots. It's tough not to like that deal.

What’s next: The Browns will have another first-round pick, the 26th overall. That pick was acquired last season in the deal that sent Trent Richardson to Indianapolis.
Totally spit-balling here, like just about every other draft prognosticater out there, but if the Dallas Cowboys are as hot and heavy for Johnny Manziel as Twitter would have you believe, the Oakland Raiders might be sitting in prime position.

So long as two scenarios play out.

Manziel
The first, obviously, is that Manziel is still on the board when it comes time for the Raiders’ choice at No. 5 overall.

The second, is that both Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins are already gone, because if either of those guys are still available, that has to be Oakland’s pick, at least, in this corner.

In that combined development, though, the Raiders could reach out to Jerry Jones and offer up that No. 5 selection for a boatload of picks. Using the Trade Value Chart, the No. 5 pick is worth 1,700 points. The No. 16 pick, which is where the Cowboys currently sit, is worth 1,000 points.

So, for the swap to work, the Cowboys would have to come up with 700 more points in draft picks, or a player. Dallas’ second-rounder this year (No. 47 overall) is worth 430 points and its third-rounder (No. 78) is worth 200 points, while its fourth-rounder (No. 119) is worth 56 points. That gives the Raiders two seconds, two thirds and two fourths, but still nothing in the fifth or sixth rounds to go with three seventh-rounders. It also still leaves the Cowboys needing 14 points to make up the difference.

Of course, the Trade Value Chart is more of a guideline for teams than a hard fast rule, and the Cowboys would have to stomach gutting the middle of their draft, though they could conceivably involve future picks in such a deal.

Plus, from the Raiders’ perspective, going from No. 5 to No. 16 is a pretty big drop (last year, they went from No. 3 to No. 12). Because as has been mentioned in this corner, Oakland needs an impact player with its first pick, rather than a developmental one like in general manager Reggie McKenzie’s first two seasons in Tony Bergstrom and D.J. Hayden.

So who could potentially be there at No. 16? Think UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, or Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, or Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III, or USC receiver Marqise Lee, or even Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.

Or should the Raiders simply stay put at No. 5 and take the best player available?
PITTSBURGH -- Following up on a post about the 14 players I don’t think will be available when the Pittsburgh Steelers select, here are five targets who might be available to them in the first round. I do expect the Steelers to look into moving down in the first round and collecting an extra pick or two.

I ranked these five in descending order based on the likelihood that the Steelers draft them.

5. LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama: Three-down linebacker would make for a nice pairing with Lawrence Timmons, and he could be an immediate starter, as loathe as the Steelers are to play rookies extensively. Mosley had some injury issues in college, so the Steelers would have to be comfortable with him medically to take the 2013 consensus All-American this high. I think the Steelers wait to address this position later in the draft, but Mosley would shore up an area where they could use help if he has checked out medically.

Ebron
4. TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina: The best tight end in the draft has drawn comparisons to the 49ers’ Vernon Davis because of his size and athleticism and ability to stretch the field. Ebron would give Ben Roethlisberger a tall, athletic target as well as a complement -- and future successor -- to Heath Miller. The biggest question with Ebron is how much of a blocker he will develop into at the next level. The Steelers will be tempted if he is still on the board at No. 15, and they could try to trade down if Ebron is there and another team wants to move up to take him.

3. CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: There is a ton to like about Gilbert, who has decent size and ran a sub 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. He intercepted seven passes last season, returning one for a touchdown, and he also excelled as a kick returner. The knock on Gilbert is that he is not the best tackler nor is he particularly strong in run support. Tackling the catch, as the Steelers call it, is essential in Dick LeBeau’s defense, which is why they might shy away from Gilbert.

Dennard
2. CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: The 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner has Steelers written all over him. He is tough, physical and is exactly the kind of player the Steelers need to start building around at cornerback. The biggest question about Dennard is whether he will still be available when the Steelers make their first pick tonight. A handful of teams picking ahead of the Steelers, including the Lions and Titans, could take a cornerback. If Dennard is on the board when the Steelers pick at No. 15, it might be a coin flip between him and…

1. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech: He is similar to Dennard in that he is physical and is good in run support as well as in coverage. Fuller is a little bigger and might have better ball skills than Dennard, something that might appeal to a team that has intercepted just 20 passes in the past two seasons combined. Fuller doesn’t have any flaws in his game, is a high-character guy and would be a really good fit with the Steelers.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- We've finally arrived at draft day and the next few hours will provide our final chances at speculating on what could happen instead of evaluating what has happened.

With that in mind, let's make the most of that time and go through five scenarios that could play out for the St. Louis Rams with the No. 13 pick when they come on the clock tonight. Since there are many more possibilities at 13, we'll do our best to narrow them down.

It's been awfully difficult to sift through the smoke in this pre-draft process, but these are the five things I believe the Rams will consider for the 13th pick in order of how I think the team will prioritize them.

1. Trade down

Manziel
Once again, this is general manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher we're talking about here. They have traded every first-round pick they have had since arriving in 2012. There is no reason to think they wouldn't do so again.

It's harder to project who teams could target in a move up here, but if one of the top players falls, there are plenty of teams that could look to move up. A top quarterback such as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Central Florida's Blake Bortles might draw some attention, as could a top offensive lineman like Notre Dame's Zack Martin or Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

If they make a trade, the Rams could still likely have their pick of a top cornerback, safety, linebacker or another position of need.

2. Draft a top player who surprisingly falls

Donald
Much has been made of the potential for the Rams to draft Manziel. While it's likely he'll be gone by this point, if he does fall, don't be surprised if the Rams pull the trigger on him with this pick (though a trade could also materialize). There are other top players who seem destined to go in the 12, but could slide to St. Louis and become intriguing options.

In our NFL Nation mock draft, Donald slipped to 13 and I chose him for the Rams. I think they would do the same if he somehow made it to them but again, that is not expected because three-technique tackles capable of rushing the passer are so hard to find.

3. Draft the best player available

Mosley
This isn't much different than the above category with this exception: in this instance, I'm not accounting for a player who would be regarded as a surprise should he fall to this spot. Heading up the list of players worth watching at this spot is Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. He hasn't been linked to the Rams much in the pre-draft process (though our Todd McShay has mocked him to St. Louis a couple of times) but I've been told the Rams think highly of him and believe he could be the perfect final piece to round out their linebacking corps.

Martin is another player who fits this mold and could be an easy pick for the Rams here, especially if they don't take a tackle with their earlier pick.

4. Draft a top cornerback

Dennard
It is not often that needs meet value perfectly, but this is one spot in the draft where that could happen. The Rams seem content with Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson as starters but they have also spent plenty of time vetting the top cornerbacks in this year's draft. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller are among the names that paid pre-draft visits to Rams Park, and it's possible all could be available at this point.

If that's the case, the Rams could have a decision to make if they choose to go this direction. Although Dennard is believed to be the best scheme fit, I believe the Rams might view Gilbert as the better player. Adding a top corner here would certainly help a secondary in need but it seems other top players at positions of lesser need would have to be gone first. A first-round corner feels more likely in a trade down scenario but the Rams could go that direction here if there isn't a better value here.

5. Draft a safety

Clinton-Dix
Most signs indicate that the Rams aren't sold enough on either of the top two safeties -- Louisville's Calvin Pryor or Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix -- to draft one at No. 13 considering the other options that figure to be available. Again, this seems like an alternative possibility should the Rams find a trade-down partner with this pick. For what it's worth, I believe the Rams actually prefer Pryor to Clinton-Dix, but most indications are that they are more likely to wait until the second or third round to pick this position.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After months and months of mock drafts and revised mock drafts and re-revised mock drafts, there is no more time to waffle.

Mosley
Shazier
So what does that mean for the Green Bay Packers if they stay at No. 21 in the first round of the NFL draft?

Let's take a look at what several local and national NFL writers and analysts see for the Packers (with links to their full first-round mock drafts):

Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com
  • Player: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
  • My take: With Eric Ebron, C.J. Mosley, Ryan Shazier, Odell Beckham Jr. and the top-two safeties off the board in our NFL Nation mock draft, a move back was intriguing. Even though the Packers re-signed Sam Shields, cornerback will be a need down the road with Tramon Williams getting up there in age, and Gilbert is too highly rated to pass up.
  • Note: With all due respect to my NFL Nation colleagues, I'm not sure I see the first 20 picks playing out the way it did in our draft, which was unveiled on Tuesday. I find it highly unlikely that all of those players I mentioned will be gone by the time the Packers pick. Given the opportunity to do the entire first round on my own, I believe there is a good chance at least one of those previously drafted players will be available. In that scenario, I think it would come down to Mosley or Shazier. On the contrary, I do not believe Gilbert will be available to the Packers at No. 21 as he was in our mock.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN Insider
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • Kiper Jr.'s take: I've had Mosley in this spot before, and it makes a lot of sense both as a value -- he's a top-15 player for me -- and also from the standpoint that he fills an obvious talent void at linebacker. He can line up next to A.J. Hawk and not only help the run defense, but also give the Packers a very good cover linebacker. The question for Mosley has been whether he can stay healthy, but he has stayed on the field and could be a pretty big steal at this point.
Todd McShay, ESPN Insider
  • Player: Marqise Lee, WR, USC
  • McShay's take: I would never put Lee here, as I think safety is a much bigger need (and the No. 1 safety on our board, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is still available in this scenario) and there are probably four or five other positions that are bigger need areas for them than wide receiver. But I've heard that Lee won't get past the No. 21 pick, and he does make some sense in that they could get QB Aaron Rodgers another weapon -- and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb's contracts are both up after this season. Clinton-Dix is probably the more logical choice, but we'll roll the dice on Lee based on what we're hearing.
Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • McGinn's take: The Packers need a safety but can't pass on Mosley, who would make it this far only if teams have reservations about his injury history. GM Ted Thompson seeks a safety (does he trade up?) a bit later.
Pete Dougherty, Green Bay Press-Gazette
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Dougherty's take: Packers need dynamic every-down player for heart of ‘D’.
Bill Huber, Packer Report
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Huber's take: Is he an inside linebacker? An outside linebacker? Why, yes, he is. If he's available, Ohio State's Ryan Shazier figures to be the Packers' selection as a potential three-down, game-changing weapon. However, will Shazier be available when Green Bay is on the clock at No. 21?
Paul Imig, FoxSportsWisconsin.com
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Imig's take: There is more depth in this draft at safety than there is at inside linebacker, giving the Packers an opportunity to perhaps land a quality safety such as Jimmie Ward or Deone Bucannon with their second-round pick. If Green Bay somehow walks away with Shazier and either Ward or Bucannon in the first two rounds, it will be a draft-weekend victory for Thompson.
Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • Banks' take: This time around we don't foresee the Packers getting the safety they covet, because the highly regarded Clinton-Dix and Pryor went in the upper half of the round. But Mosley is a talented and productive three-down linebacker that Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers could make good use of. With Mosley and Julius Peppers both joining forces with Clay Matthews, the Packers' linebacking unit would look significantly improved in 2014.
Peter King, TheMMQB
  • Player: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
  • King's take: I wanted to put Ryan Shazier here, and that could well be Ted Thompson's pick. But the Packers have to like Mosley’s nose for the ball, and Green Bay's need at inside linebacker is big. This is a logical pick, and Thompson's a logical man.
Pat Kirwin, CBS Sports
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Kirwin's take: Shazier can do it all. He's fast, can drop in coverage, he can rush the passer and his 258 tackles in 39 games speaks for itself. Nine forced fumbles is just another indicator he's around the ball.
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Prisco's take: They have to get faster and he plays faster than C.J. Mosley.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
  • Player: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
  • Jeremiah's take: Seferian-Jenkins would provide Aaron Rodgers with an enormous red-zone target.
Mike Mayock, NFL.com
  • Player: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
  • Mayock's take: Shazier is a linebacker made for today's NFL. He has 4.38 speed at 237 pounds and can play inside in the base and all over the place in sub-packages. He'll be an immediate playmaker.
Ourlands’ Scouting Service
  • Player: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
  • Ourlads' take: Darqueze is a plugin and play man-to-man defender. He is a physical corner in coverage and on run support. Reroutes receivers and keeps position on them. Has a closing burst when called on to blitz. An aggressive wrap tackler who is smart and instinctive.
If the extra two weeks of waiting made you anxious, imagine how the New York Jets feel. They've been waiting 16 months.

John Idzik's rebuilding plan, set in motion when he was hired in January 2013, is built largely around the draft -- this draft. He accumulated four compensatory picks and acquired a future pick from the Darrelle Revis trade, giving him a total of 12 selections -- tied with the St. Louis Rams for the most. Idzik was relatively conservative in free agency, using only about half the salary-cap space -- a tactic that raises the stakes even higher.

The fun starts Thursday night. The Jets own the 18th pick -- for now. What to watch for:

1. Biggest needs: The Jets need a lot of things, but cornerback should at the top of the list. Their pass defense was dreadful, allowing nearly 4,000 yards, and the only thing they did in free agency was replace a descending Antonio Cromartie with an injury-prone journeyman, Dimitri Patterson. Rex Ryan's defense is predicated on cornerback play, and his current secondary will get shredded against a "Missiles of October" schedule -- Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in a 12-day span. Idzik doled out $30 million in guarantees to sign outside free agents, with only $1 million going to the defense. As one longtime personnel executive said, "Feed the defense. The only way the Jets win is if they dominate on defense." Obviously, the other glaring need is wide receiver. If you need an explanation, you must have slept through last season.

2. Moving up: Yes, the Jets are interested in trading up, according to a league source. Presumably, their target is Odell Beckham Jr., a smooth, explosive and versatile wide receiver. If this is the plan, they'd better get ahead of the New York Giants (12), who also covet the former LSU star. Based on the draft value chart, they'd have to surrender a third-round pick and two fourth-rounders to switch places with the Tennessee Titans (11). You'd have to question the wisdom of such a move. It's a deep draft, and they could land a comparable player at 18. The Jets have eight tradable picks (compensatory selections can't be dealt), affording Idzik flexibility if he wants to step out of character and ... you know, be aggressive.

3. Names to watch: Wide receiver Brandin Cooks is a popular mock-draft choice for the Jets. Good prospect, solid character, but some scouts wonder if he can be more than a slot receiver because of his size (a shade under 5-foot-10). Wide receiver Marqise Lee also is in the conversation, but this would require a leap of faith, essentially betting he'd be the 2012 version and not the 2013 Lee. The top corners are Darqueze Dennard and Justin Gilbert, although it's quite possible one or both could be gone. Dennard is the better scheme fit, but Gilbert has more upside because of his elite ball skills.

4. Outsider's view: This is how a rival personnel director sees the Jets' situation at 18: "They have two specific team needs -- wide receiver and cornerback. It's a tough decision, but it would be a more difficult decision if there was no value at those position at that point in the first round. But that won't be the case. There will be value at those spots. I also wouldn't dismiss the tight end (Eric Ebron). They're also living with two safeties (Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen) that are borderline starting caliber, so I wouldn't be surprised if they go Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Calvin Pryor."

5. Perspective, please: As you're watching it unfold, remember this: The Jets aren't a couple of players away, or even one draft away, from being a legitimate championship contender. They finished a soft 8-8, and before you take issue with that description, consider this: They were outscored by 97 points, the largest negative point differential for a .500 or better team since the merger in 1970. This draft is just another step in the process, albeit a big step.
Calvin Pryor Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesSafety Calvin Pryor forced nine fumbles over his last three years at Louisville.
Draft day is here, and the Chicago Bears are hours away from being on the clock with the 14th overall pick in the first round (assuming they don't trade down). Who would our Bears writers take if they were running the war room at Halas Hall?

Michael C. Wright: Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville


A defensive tackle probably provides more value at No. 14, but more than likely, a player such as Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be gone once the Bears go on the clock. So the next best thing would be to address the club's glaring need at safety, which is why I'd take Louisville safety Calvin Pryor in the first round.

Of all the team's position needs headed into the draft, safety is the only one that's absolutely imperative for the Bears to address at some point this weekend.

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Cornerback makes sense as well in the first round, but let's remember the Bears already have a pair of starters (very good ones, too) in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.

At safety, the Bears signed Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray during free agency, and although this trio has started games in the NFL, is anyone absolutely confident any of these guys can get it done consistently for an entire regular season? I'm not, and that's not to say they can't. Maybe they can. But I certainly wouldn't leave it up to chance without doing everything in my power to strengthen the position.

As it stands now, both starting safety spots are up for grabs, according to general manager Phil Emery. So why not add a young, intimidating, physical presence such as Pryor to throw into the mix with the other players on the roster for a training camp competition to determine the starting two on the back end?

Compared side by side with Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who is considered the better pass defender, Pryor's numbers stack up favorably. Over his last three seasons in college, Pryor, like Clinton-Dix, picked off seven passes.

The difference in my opinion is Pryor has delivered more crushing, knockout blows on opponents; the type of hits that set the tone and energize an entire defense, while striking absolute fear in the opponent. Perhaps that's how Pryor forced nine fumbles over his last three years at Louisville, while Clinton-Dix forced only one in the same span at Alabama.

The Bears can't go wrong with either player at No. 14, because both would address an immediate need. But my preference is Pryor just because I like his style of play and believe it would transfer well in Chicago. He reminds me a lot of former Bears safety Mike Brown.


Jeff Dickerson: Pryor or trade down


The greatest unknown in tonight's opening round of the NFL draft centers around the quarterback position.

Exactly how many of the quarterbacks (Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, etc.) will be taken before the Bears are on the clock at No. 14? That is the key question of the draft for the Bears.

If two of the quarterbacks are selected prior to the 14th pick, the Bears likely will find a much better pool of players to choose from at No. 14, thereby diminishing the likelihood of a trade.

If available, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor makes sense for the Bears at No. 14 overall, especially if Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald is off the board.

Pryor would immediately add a physical and intimidating player to a defense that failed to scare anybody last season. Pryor isn't the best coverage safety in the draft (that distinction goes to Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix), but he dominates in run support. Remember, the Bears ranked a respectable 15th last season in passing defense, but 32nd (dead last) versus the run.

With the safety declared wide open by general manager Phil Emery, it's easy to envision Pryor stepping into the starting lineup from Day 1 and strengthening the middle of the Bears' defense.

Pryor also is an open book to the Bears. There are no secrets. One of his former college coaches at Louisville, Clint Hurtt, was added to the Bears' coaching staff in the offseason. The valuable inside information that Hurtt can provide on Pryor, and the rest of the college football landscape from his days as a recruiting coordinator for the Cardinals and University of Miami, cannot be overlooked.

Pryor, Donald, Clinton-Dix, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley and even UCLA OLB Anthony Barr seem logical candidates for the Bears to consider at No. 14, although Pryor appears to be the most feasible pick at this late juncture of the pre-draft process.

But what if the quarterbacks slide as many expect?

The Bears could be tempted to trade back in the first round to acquire more picks if a quarterback-hungry team presses the panic button and attempts to move up from Bortles or Manziel.

Maybe Emery can still grab Pryor a few picks later or in the 20s. If not, Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman are among the strong options that should be available beyond No. 14.

In a draft rich with offensive talent, teams need to strike quickly to scoop up the top defensive players. Expect the Bears to address defense in Round 1. That's about the most definitive statement a media member can make regarding Emery's draft plans.

But that's what makes the draft so much fun, isn't it?

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