NFL Nation: Trent Richardson

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth 2014 NFL mock draftInsider is out and instead of wondering who the Colts would have taken if they kept the No. 26 pick, which is now Cleveland's property courtesy of the trade for running back Trent Richardson, Kiper has a mock through the first three rounds based on team need.


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IRVING, Texas -- While we have discussed the long-term futures of Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, one player we have not touched on much is DeMarco Murray.

Murray is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. He was named to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns, and catching 53 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown. When Murray has played well and been given a chance to carry the ball, the Cowboys have won.

Murray
But running backs’ values have dropped dramatically in the past few years. If they aren’t Adrian Peterson, they don’t get paid the mega deals. And the guys that have been paid in recent years, like Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew, have taken a downturn.

In 2008, the Cowboys signed Marion Barber to a seven-year deal worth $45 million that included $16 million in guarantees.

Those days are long gone.

The best free-agent deals for running backs so far have been to Donald Brown and Toby Gerhart, who received three-year, $10.5 million deals from the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. Brown has never rushed for more than 645 yards in a season. Gerhart has never rushed for more than 531 yards, though he was playing behind Peterson.

Knowshon Moreno is joining the Miami Dolphins on a one-year, $3 million deal after rushing for 1,038 yards in 2013 for the Denver Broncos. Rashad Jennings received a three-year, $10 million deal from the New York Giants after rushing for 733 yards last season with the Oakland Raiders.

Murray had his best season in 2013, but he missed two games and has yet to play a full season. But his advisors have to see how the market is going for running backs. There wasn’t a running back taken in the first round last year. The top running back chosen in 2012, Trent Richardson (No. 3 overall), was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last season.

Murray will make $1.406 million in 2014 as part of his rookie deal.

The Cowboys could lock him in for another three seasons at a good number and still have plenty in reserve for Smith and Bryant.

Film review: Brandon Weeden

March, 18, 2014
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The Dallas Cowboys signed quarterback Brandon Weeden on Monday, a man in need of a fresh start. After playing minor league baseball, Weeden came out of Oklahoma State a lot older than most draft picks playing at his position and he’s now 30 entering his third NFL season.

We’ve reviewed five NFL starts of Weeden, three his rookie season and two during his final season with the Cleveland Browns.

Here are some observations:

1. First NFL start is against the Philadelphia Eagles at home and you can tell the Browns have a plan for Weeden under first-year coach Pat Shurmur. The Browns have asked Weeden to throw slants on three-step drops, use play-action passes and utilize rookie running back Trent Richardson. The Eagles shut Richardson down in this game, forcing Weeden to do more than he’s capable of given his inexperience at the NFL level. It’s a close game with nine turnovers, but a game the Eagles win, 17-16.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Ron Schwane/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Brandon Weeden had a tough stint in Cleveland, but will have a better supporting cast should Dallas need him to play.
2. Weeden gets knocked down a lot his rookie season and that’s surprising with joe Thomas at left tackle and highly regarded Alex Mack at center. With so much pressure in the pocket, Weeden gets several passes tipped at the line of scrimmage his rookie season. Some of it has to do with the offensive line’s failure to give him a clean pocket, and he doesn’t move around the pocket or fix his arm angles when defenders are in his face. The first interception of Weeden’s career is the result of a tipped pass when receiver Greg Little can’t hold a pass. At one point during the season, the Browns had 15 tipped passes from the line of scrimmage.

3. Weeden displayed improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. He was picked off twice in the Week 1 game against the Eagles, both by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on deep balls thrown short of the receiver. Weeden needed to throw these passes with more air under them to allow the receiver to make a play. In the next game, against Cincinnati, Weeden was incomplete on a deep ball to Mohamed Massaquoi, but instead of the ball getting tipped by the defender because it was short, the pass was on the outside shoulder of the receiver, giving him a chance.

4. One of the problems for Weeden during his rookie season was the number of dropped passes his team endured. During a Week 6 game against the Bengals, fullback Owen Marecic dropped two passes in the flat. The Browns, in Weeden’s rookie season, employed 15 rookies, second-most in the league, which led to overall inconsistency. The Browns were 0-5 to start the season, and there were 13 dropped passes by their receivers.

5. The first touchdown pass of Weeden’s career was the result of Richardson eluding four defenders into the end zone. The first touchdown pass to a receiver came on a nice throw to a wide open Little as Weeden stepped up in the pocket with confidence.

6. In season openers, Weeden has thrown seven interceptions, with some coming on tipped passes. In Weeden’s second season opener, tight end Jordan Cameron failed to snag a pass on a throw behind him that led to an interception by Miami’s Dimitri Patterson.

7. In the loss to the Dolphins, in Season 2, Weeden does a nice job finding Cameron on on a corner route into the end zone as cornerback Brent Grimes closes in to help on the coverage. Weeden does have a strong arm, but makes too many high throws and has to learn to put some touch on his passes.

8. With Shurmur out as coach, Weeden worked with Rob Chudzinski as the head coach in Year 2. Norv Turner was the offensive play-caller and used the timing-based offense the Cowboys use, where tight ends and the vertical passing game are emphasized. Turner doesn’t have Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper. So, he makes do with Devone Bess and Josh Cribbs, Little and Massaquoi.

9. Weeden continued to make bad throws, but as the 2013 season progressed he seemed more confident. But a thumb injury caused him to miss several games, and with the Browns' season going nowhere there was hope the Browns had put some pieces together for Weeden. It wasn’t the case. Not even close.

10. Weeden’s brief time with the Browns was summed up last season by a poor sequence of events against Jacksonville in Week 12. Weeden was intercepted by rookie safety Jonathan Cyprien on a throw behind Cameron. The turnover resulted in the Jags tying the game at 14. On the next possession, Weeden was picked off by another rookie, Dwayne Gratz. Weeden’s throw to Little was bad because the receiver wasn’t open. The turnover led to the Jags taking the lead and eventually winning the game. Weeden can benefit by playing with veteran tight end Jason Witten and receiver Dez Bryant. He won’t be on the field much with the first-team, but he can learn by watching how Tony Romo does things.

Free-agency review: Colts

March, 18, 2014
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Most significant signing: The Colts needed a legitimate cornerback to deal with quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the AFC. They had one on the roster last season and they just couldn’t let him go once free agency started. Indianapolis re-signed cornerback Vontae Davis to a four-year, $39 million contract that includes $20 million guaranteed. Now Davis has to live up to the contract and avoid the lapses he had at times last season.

Bethea
Most significant loss: Safety Antoine Bethea was the backbone of the secondary. He started every game he played during his eight years with the Colts. But Bethea knew there was a good chance he would be playing with another team next season. He signed a four-year deal with San Francisco hours into free agency on March 11.

Biggest surprise: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was the Colts’ most effective running back last season. His days with the team appeared to be numbered after a neck injury ended his season after Week 3 -- not because the Colts didn’t think he could be effective, but because they already had Trent Richardson and Vick Ballard on the roster. Bradshaw signed a one-year deal to return and hopefully give the Colts three effective running backs next season.

What’s next? The Colts need to find somebody to replace Bethea and start alongside LaRon Landry in the secondary. They also need to finish addressing the interior part of the offensive line. A possible guard isn’t out of the question, and they need to determine whether Cleveland center Alex Mack is worth throwing a lot of money at since the Browns used the transition tag on him, and considering Indianapolis signed center Phil Costa last week.
INDIANAPOLIS -- You can look at the Indianapolis Colts re-signing running back Ahmad Bradshaw to a one-year contract in a number of different ways.
  • The Colts are determined to have the power running game offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton wanted last season.
  • Bradshaw
    The Colts need assurance in case Trent Richardson struggles again next season.
  • The Colts need assurance just in case Vick Ballard doesn't regain his form after tearing his ACL early last season.
  • The Colts simply want to have a lot of competition for carries in the backfield next season.
  • Former first-round pick Donald Brown won't be back.

I'm going with all five.

You would like to think Richardson will look like the running back the Colts envisioned when they acquired him Cleveland last September. You would like to think that Ballard will get back to being the player that rushed for 814 yards during his rookie season in 2012. You would like to think Bradshaw can stay injury free.

If, and I mean a big if at this moment, all three players are effective, the Colts will have a nice trio in the backfield. Competition for playing time will also be intriguing. Only time will tell if those things will happen.

“It's the best players play,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said last month at the scouting combine. “Iron sharpens iron. We're still going to beat the drum on that. You guys will get tired of hearing that, but that's just how we roll and how our head coach rolls. We're going to try to have the most competition at each position group and whoever wins that spot is going to be the starter and it's who is going to get us to that next level, which is Super Bowl XLIX and that's the mindset. You're either all in or all out.”

Bradshaw seemed to be a longshot to return to the Colts at the end of last season. But the two sides started having conversations in recent weeks leading up to the start of free agency.

Bradshaw was limited to only three games last season because of a neck injury that caused him to have surgery. It only took those three games for him to be the Colts' most effective running back. His 95 yards against San Francisco in Week 3 were the most yards by a Colts' running back in a game last season.

I talked to Bradshaw in the locker room late in the season and he said he felt good enough to play. That obviously wasn't possible at the time because he was already on the injured reserve list.

Now he's back and ready to compete for carries in the backfield.

Colts GM unsure on starting RB in 2014

February, 25, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Will the Indianapolis Colts' 2014 starting running back be Trent Richardson? Will it be Vick Ballard? What about re-signing Donald Brown and making him the starter?

That question has been asked almost as much as who will the Colts target in the draft and free agency.

The answer?

There is no answer at the moment, and there may not be one until training camp or even up until Week 1.

It's not that the Colts are keeping it a secret. They don't have an answer, either, because the two running backs under contract -- Richardson and Ballard -- are both dealing with injuries.

Ballard tore his ACL in practice early last season, and Richardson had a shoulder procedure after the season ended. Richardson isn't expected to miss any of the offseason workouts, and the goal is to make sure Ballard is ready for training camp at the end of July.

Ballard rushed for 814 yards during his rookie season in 2012. The main reason the Colts acquired Richardson is because Ballard suffered the knee injury prior to the Week 2 game against the Miami Dolphins. Richardson ran for a disappointing 458 yards last season.

“At any point in time you'll know how we do things with the Colts, it's the best players play,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. “Iron sharp as iron. We're going to try to have the most competition at each position group and whoever wins that spot is going to be the starter and it's who is going to get us to that next level, which is Super Bowl XLIX and that's the mindset. You're either all in or all out."

Who starts won't mean much if offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has his way. He wants to have a two-headed attack in the backfield. There are few teams in the NFL -- Minnesota is one of them -- that can rely on just one running back to carry the load.

Richardson had a team-high 157 carries last season and Brown had 102 attempts.
Mike Wells: General manager Ryan Grigson said, “Don’t rule out anything,” when asked about that possibility last week. But I’m not sure they do it because of the depth in this year’s draft.

"I think just good scouting 101, draft common sense, you would assume there are going to be players in those mid-rounds that’s going to be heavy with talent that maybe in other drafts you wouldn’t have been able to get,” Grigson said. “You’d have to take them a couple rounds higher. I’m excited and I think a lot of other general managers and coaches are excited as well, because I think this is going to be a deep draft class.”

The Colts have picks in the second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds in the May draft.

We’ll find out if not having a first-round pick (sent to Cleveland for running back Trent Richardson) will hurt the Colts at some point, but they do have an extra pick in the 2015 draft. Grigson was able to trade linebacker Caesar Rayford, the 27-year-old rookie and former Canadian Football League standout, to Dallas for a seventh-round pick last September.

Rayford had a team-high five sacks to go with two forced fumbles in the preseason last season.
INDIANAPOLIS -- With no first-round pick in May’s draft, the Indianapolis Colts are focusing on their first pick -- No. 59 overall -- in the second round while also keeping tabs on what the other teams in the AFC South are going to do in the first round.

Clowney
Manziel
The Houston Texans have the No. 1 overall pick and the Jacksonville Jaguars have the No. 3 pick.

The goal for those teams? To draft a player who can help close the gap between them and the Colts, who won the division last season with an 11-5 record.

“I’d be lying to say I’m not intrigued,” Colts GM Ryan Grigson said. “They’re in my division and I want to know who’s getting who so we can figure out how to approach those games and game plan for those opponents, because they’re going to get stellar players at one and three. It’ll be interesting, because in that top tier of this draft, there are some seriously talented players.”

The Texans, 2-14 last season, have the option to take a quarterback like Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel or a pass-rusher like South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney. The Jaguars, like the Texans, could go with a quarterback or a pass-rusher.

Grigson didn’t sound too concerned about not having a first-round pick. He said they got their first-round pick when they acquired running back Trent Richardson, the No. 3 pick in the 2012 draft, last September, and that this year’s draft is deep enough that there will be quality players available when they select.

“We’re happy with the amount of depth,” Grigson said. “Our draft meetings concluded last week, and our board is pretty heavy with talent. We feel like with all the quality juniors that came out, that if there’s a year not to have a [first-round pick], we’re happy that this is the year because there are some quality football players that will be there for us at [Round 2] and the rounds after.”
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano will address the media at the scouting combine on Friday afternoon.

Here are some of the topics that will likely be discussed:
  • Cornerback Vontae Davis' free-agency status
  • What Rob Chudzinski's role as special assistant to Pagano will be.
  • How Chudzinski's hire will impact offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton.
  • Running back Trent Richardson's shoulder surgery.
  • Pagano's defense, especially after Seattle's defense dominated Peyton Manning & Co. in the Super Bowl.
  • Grigson's free-agency approach since the Colts will have about $37 million in salary-cap space but no first-round pick.

Combine schedule: Place-kickers and special-teamers will work out for NFL personnel. They will join offensive linemen and tight ends for the bench press, psychological testing and team interviews.

Quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs are measured, take medical exams, participate in team interviews and meet the media.

Defensive linemen and linebackers arrive in town for a medical pre-exam and X-rays, plus an orientation and team interviews.

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel, potentially the No. 1 overall pick, will be the center of attention during the media session. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and UCF's Blake Bortles are the other top quarterbacks in the draft. Sammy Watkins from Clemson, Marqise Lee from USC and Manziel's teammate at Texas A&M, Mike Evans, are considered the top receivers.
INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson had what’s being described as a “minor” procedure done on his shoulder after the season ended.

Richardson
The procedure isn’t expected to impact his offseason.

There’s no other player on the Colts’ roster who needs a complete offseason more than Richardson.

Not receiver Da’Rick Rogers. Not even offensive lineman Khaled Holmes.

Richardson – and the Colts – need a strong offseason to prove the he’s worth the first-round pick they gave the Cleveland Browns for him last September because the trade doesn't favor Indianapolis at the moment.

Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, never found a rhythm last season. He was hesitant, instead of running with force and speed. That’s part of the reason why he only rushed for 458 yards on 157 carries and eventually lost his starting job to Donald Brown.

“Learn the system, not just memorizing it,” Richardson said about his offseason plans at the end of the season. “Learning the whole concept of the system. There's a difference between having it memorized and feeling comfortable with the system. I’m going to talk to a lot of veteran players, talk to Adrian [Peterson], talk to [LaDainian Tomlinson], talk to Emmitt Smith to make sure I’m the best I need to be next year.”

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano will address the media during the scouting combine on Friday.
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts didn't have to search for a coach to add to their staff. All of coach Chuck Pagano’s assistants are expected to be back after offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton pulled his name out of the running for a Vanderbilt job that was going to be offered to him last month.

What Pagano did, though, was add more coaching experience to a team that’s in the position to take another step in an AFC when former Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski was named special assistant Saturday. Chudzinski’s role with the Colts is uncertain right now.

It’s as though the Colts were shopping at the Goodwill store and got a product that should be priced higher, but they managed to get it on the cheap. Chudzinski is still getting paid by the Browns, who fired him in December after a 4-12 season.

Some may look at adding Chudzinski as a way to put pressure on Hamilton, or because he has a brief history with running back Trent Richardson from their time together in Cleveland.

That is partially true.

But in the big picture of things, it’s a matter of Pagano adding somebody he’s familiar with to his staff, and based off what I've heard from others, Chudzinski is like Pagano in the fact that players enjoy playing for him. Richardson was a fan of his in Cleveland and was surprised that the Browns fired him after only one year.

Pagano and Chudzinski were together at the University of Miami from 1995-2000 and again with the Browns in 2004.

As far as Hamilton goes, hiring Chudzinski will help him, especially with Pagano being a defensive coach. What can’t be forgotten is last season was the first time that Hamilton was an offensive coordinator in the NFL. It was an adjustment for Hamilton going from college to the NFL. Chudzinski spent two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers and two seasons with the Browns.

This is a winning situation for the Colts.

Kiper/McShay mock draft reax: Colts

February, 6, 2014
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Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay unveiled their updated mock drafts on Thursday. The Indianapolis Colts, as it’s been known since last September, do not have a first-round pick after trading it for running back Trent Richardson.

The Browns will have the Colts' 26th pick in the first round due to the trade. The Colts definitely could use the pick because of the number of holes they need to fill this offseason.

McShay has the Browns selecting Fresno State receiver Davante Adams at No. 26.

Here’s some breakdown on Adams.

“Adams is a good-sized WR who had exceptional college production. While he can improve his route-running efficiency, he shows good burst out of his cuts to separate and effectively uses his bigger frame to shield defenders. I also have yet to see him drop a pass in five games I've studied on tape.”

NFL Insider Matt Williamson said receiver is one of the positions the Colts need to address when I spoke to him earlier this week. The Colts may not have taken a receiver in the first round if they had a pick because it’s not as much of an issue as other areas, like the offensive line.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson is known for always looking to make moves. Don't be surprised if he tries to make a trade for a first-round pick.

Richardson going back to school

February, 5, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson will spend the offseason with the mind frame that he’s in school.

Learn, learn and learn the playbook some more. That will be his mentality as he knows the critics are still there and he knows the excuse of not knowing the Colts’ offensive system can no longer be used.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsColts running back Trent Richardson will spend his offseason trying to regain his form from 2012.
Richardson spent too much time thinking when he took the handoff than running with the type of speed and force that made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft.

“Learn the system, not just memorizing it,” Richardson said. “Learning the whole concept of the system. There's a difference between having it memorized and feeling comfortable with the system. I’m going talk to a lot of veteran players, talk to Adrian (Peterson), talk to (LaDainian Tomlinson) , talk to Emmitt Smith to make sure I’m the best I need to be next year.”

The Colts went from pulling off the biggest trade of last season when they acquired Richardson from the Cleveland Browns for a first-round pick to currently having the move favor the Browns after Richardson only averaged 2.9 yards a carry. The thought of the dynamic duo of Richardson and quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to come together. Richardson ended up losing the starting running back position to Donald Brown on Dec. 1, 2013.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson defended the trade during his season-ending press conference last month. It is too soon to call Richardson a bust because he got acquired during the middle of the season. He needs a full offseason of OTA’s, minicamp and training camp before a better evaluation can be given on him.

“This is more a problem of not being in the system long enough for me,” ESPN NFL analyst Herm Edwards said as part of the top 50 offseason questions. “He's clearly got talent. But getting traded in the middle of the season is tough for any player, and his offensive line in Indianapolis wasn't very good this season. Indianapolis also needs to mix up the game plan with Richardson more when he's in the game. Too often, he would come into the game and it would be obvious the Colts were handing him the ball. He'd get hit behind the line.”

Richardson will split his offseason between Indianapolis and his hometown of Pensacola, Fla. He won’t be on the pretty beaches of Florida building sandcastles with his kids. He’ll be on the beach running sand hills and training with his old school coach.

“I’ve got a big motivation for next season,” Richardson said. “My big thing, I want to contribute to the team. As far as putting on a big show every weekend for the team, the city, the fans, I’m going to do whatever it takes. That’s a lot of motivation for me.”

Indianapolis Colts season wrap-up

January, 15, 2014
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 8
Preseason Power Ranking: 10

Biggest surprise: The questions were valid. Was linebacker Robert Mathis' production a product of having sack-machine Dwight Freeney playing on the other side? Could Mathis still be an impact player without Freeney? Mathis silenced the naysayers when he led the league in sacks with 19.5, including seven strip sacks. Mathis didn't hide the fact that he wanted to quiet the doubters. What made his season even more special is that he did it without much help elsewhere, as the Colts had only 42 sacks as a team. Mathis is one of the front-runners to be the league's defensive player of the year.

Biggest disappointment: Safety LaRon Landry was supposed to have the same kind of impact Bob Sanders had when he played for the Colts. That's why general manager Ryan Grigson signed him to four-year, $24 million contract. Landry was good when he was able to come up with the big hits or touchdown-saving tackles, but it was too often that he ended up whiffing on a play. The plays on which he missed running back Jamaal Charles on a touchdown run in the regular-season game against Kansas City and New England's LeGarrette Blount on his touchdown run last weekend are two examples that quickly come to mind. It also doesn't help that Landry missed four games because of injury this season.

Biggest need: Help on both lines -- offensive and defensive -- should be at the top of Grigson's list during the offseason. The Colts are set at offensive tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus. Donald Thomas will be back to take one of the guard spots after he missed most of the season with a quad injury, but the other guard spot and center could use upgrades. The Colts need a defensive tackle who can clog the middle of the line.

Team MVP: This is a no-brainer. Quarterback Andrew Luck was mentioned as a league MVP candidate at one point in the season. The second-year quarterback overcame injuries to five key offensive starters -- including future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne -- to cut his interceptions in half, increase his completion percentage and throw the same number of touchdown passes despite 52 fewer attempts. Take Luck out of the lineup and the Colts would have won maybe six games this season.

 

Richardson trade nets 26th pick

January, 13, 2014
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The end result of the Trent Richardson trade for the Cleveland Browns: the 26th pick in the NFL draft.

That’s the final result after the Colts loss to the Patriots in the playoffs.

The trade has to be considered a success -- even if Richardson recovers from whatever it is that caused his production to plummet in his second season.

As a rookie for the Browns, Richardson scored 11 touchdowns and ran for 950 yards and averaged 3.6 yards per carry. With the Colts, Richardson ran for 458 yards with three touchdowns and averaged 2.9 yards per carry.

What have teams done with the 26th pick in the past several years?

The most prominent player taken at that spot was linebacker Clay Matthews, Jr., by Green Bay and cornerback Lito Sheppard by Philadelphia.

The 26th selections in the last five years are defensive end Datone Jones (Green Bay), defensive end Whitney Mercilus (Houston), wide receiver Jon Baldwin (Kansas City), defensive tackle Dan Williams (St. Louis) and Matthews.

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