Saints axe WR Morgan; Sean Payton calls 10 players into office
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Saints head coach Sean Payton is starting to audit the underachieving roster following a 41-10 home loss to the Carolina Panthers that dropped the Saints to 5-8.
Morgan is a big-play threat, but he is also a threat to the team's delicate chemistry. He has had repeated run-ins with the team, including a suspension earlier this season. The Saints apparently felt one threat outweighed another.
Any team can put in a waiver claim for Morgan, who had a 67-yard run and a 62-yard reception in Week 12 and has shown flashes of ability in his three-year span with the team. Perhaps a receiver-needy contender (New England?) might put up with Morgan's distractions for the home stretch in exchange for a few explosive plays.
2014 NFL Draft: McCarron unable to shed 'game manager' label
Instead, the Tide finally turned.
Auburn's Chris Davis returned a field goal attempt an improbable 100+ yards for the game-winning touchdown to shock the college football world, ending any chance at Alabama's return to the BCS championship and McCarron winning the Heisman.
Lost in insanity following the game was another solid, if somewhat unspectacular performance from McCarron, among the more polarizing NFL prospects in the country.
McCarron's stat-line against the Tigers was impressive. He completed 17 of 29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns without turning the ball over. Further, though he's not known for his athleticism, he twisted and spun his way to critical first downs on scrambles as the Tide's offense struggled with consistency throughout this game.
And yet, while McCarron's production looks good on paper, NFL scouts likely noted that several of the senior quarterback's passes were late and inaccurate in this game.
On the 99-yard bomb to Amari Cooper, for example, McCarron lofted the pass deep up the right sideline, giving his sophomore receiver an opportunity to make a play on the ball. The pass was thrown into double coverage and Cooper had to slow down and leap to make the play. His ability to make the grab and run through an arm-tackle by the Auburn defender was more impressive, frankly, than McCarron's pass.
It was one of a handful of vertical throws attempted by McCarron in which Alabama receivers had to wait on the ball.
McCarron had an opportunity to hit senior wideout Kevin Norwood on a quick post for a touchdown in the fourth quarter but waited too long and his far riskier attempt to drill the ball with the defender near fell incomplete.
This isn't to suggest that McCarron, NFLDraftScout.com's No. 4 rated senior quarterback prospect, didn't make NFL-caliber throws in this contest. His second touchdown, a beautifully lofted pass over the middle to senior wideout Kevin Norwood, for example demonstrated great poise, touch and accuracy. Further, McCarron also showed enough arm strength to rifle a deep out down the left sideline in the fourth quarter to put the Tide in position for a field goal attempt that would have given them a commanding 10 point with just a few minutes remaining.
Further, whereas many of his teammates seemed rattled by the pressure of this game, McCarron played with composure, traits that every NFL team values at the quarterback position.
With Davis running away with McCarron's opportunity to play the hero role, however, the quarterback was robbed of the chance to answer his critics with another game-winning (rather than game-managing) performance.
2013 NFL Draft rumor mill: Lane Johnson, Tyler Eifert create buzz
Where this draft has volume, it lacks luxury. Where it has "good," it's short on "great."
That explains why the vast majority of teams picking in the top 10 are looking to bail. It's also why the selection process that starts Thursday night figures to be as unpredictable as you can imagine.
How do we know for sure? Because the clubs themselves are so divergent in their thinking as to how it'll all play out.
One general manager said on Monday, "Right now, you're talking and it's a little harder bargain. But I think on draft day, it'll get cheaper than normal to move up, because teams want to move back. So you'll have movement."
Another GM, later in the day, disagreed: "If you're a team with a lot of different holes and needs, you're fine without having to trade up. There may be less than usual. Most years, starting with the end of the first round, maybe 25-40, those guys are all very similar. That group (of similarly rated players) is larger this year."
So with that in mind, and after spending the last two days talking to GMs, executives, college scouting directors and area scouts, let's kick off a draft-rumor bonanza, highlighting trends, players and teams to watch the next few days ... right ... now ...
2) Cleveland Browns (No. 6): It's no secret that the Browns are looking to make up for the second-rounder they lost when they nabbed Josh Gordon in last year's supplemental draft. If Lane Johnson somehow makes it to No. 6, there's a chance someone tries to jump Arizona to get him. If the tackles are gone, someone could come calling to get a pass rusher like Barkevious Mingo.
3) New Orleans Saints (No. 15): For the horde of high-drafting teams looking to deal down, New Orleans could be lurking as a potential partner. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan still needs edge rushers for his 3-4, and this isn't a draft rich in those types. The problem is, the Saints, thanks in part to the bounty scandal, have just five picks. But in the past, they've been willing to deal selections from future drafts.
4) St. Louis Rams (Nos. 16 and 22): It's not out of the question that the Rams could move up for a player like Tavon Austin. It's also well within reason that they could deal way down. Some clubs view St. Louis' spot at 22 as a potential landing place for those wanting to move up out of the second round and grab a quarterback.
5) Minnesota Vikings (Nos. 23 and 25): Ditto. The Vikings, with two picks in the 20s, could be in prime position to accommodate a quarterback-needy team looking to move up. Buffalo is considered the "cliff" for the quarterbacks; that is to say, if they all get past the Bills at No. 8, they could fall into this range.
Five players to trade up for
1) Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel and/or 2) Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher: They can't both go first. If Fisher's the pick, Jacksonville is likely to consider Joeckel at No. 2. If the Jags go with a defensive player there, then Oakland will be in prime position to move its pick. And that's because some teams view the drop-off from these two to Lane Johnson as being a considerable one.
3) Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson: Teams that view this as a three-tackle draft rather than a two-tackle draft would then be motivated to move up and try to get Johnson. He'd be an exceptional fit for Chip Kelly's supersonic pace on offense; that might mean a tough call for Philly when it comes to deciding whether to sell its pick or bet on a player who isn't a finished product yet.
4) LSU OLB Barkevious Mingo: As with the tackles, the drop-off after the top pass rushers will drive the trade market at that position. Once Dion Jordan and Ezekiel Ansah are gone, clubs that run a 3-4 defense could pull the trigger on a deal to move up and get this freakish LSU product -- especially those that have concerns about Jarvis Jones' athleticism.
5) Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert: A very clean prospect who will likely benefit from the following circumstances: a) the value of tight ends has never been higher; and b) there aren't a lot of them in this year's draft. There seems to be far more of a league-wide positive consensus when it comes to Eifert than there is regarding Stanford's Zach Ertz; a team could thus get antsy and make a move for the Irish All-American.
Five things to watch
1) Where do the quarterbacks go?: One AFC exec made it simple: "There's no quarterback worth a top-10 or even a top-15 pick, so if you take one there, you're only drafting them there for need." An AFC college director was stronger: "I don't like any of them in the first round." Few seem to have the order nailed down. Fewer know when they'll go. And as you'll see in my mock below, my sense is that Geno Smith is no lock to be the first one taken. Still, there could be a run on them at the start of the second round.
2) There's always next year: The star power in 2014 -- with potential names like Jadeveon Clowney, Taylor Lewan, Cyrus Kouandjio, Jake Matthews, Marqise Lee and Sammy Watkins -- is expected to far exceed that of this year's class. How will that impact things? Teams like the San Francisco 49ers -- loaded with draft picks but not roster spots -- could deal into next spring.
3) The real risers: Truth is, "draft stock" can be a media creation that is generated as all of us learn more about what teams really think. With that in mind, here are two names that could go higher than some perceive: Tavon Austin (because there's a scarcity of playmakers in this class) and Sheldon Richardson (because there's a feeling he's still improving, and that type of 3-technique isn't easy to find).
4) Depth matters: Because of the level field, players at positions that are deeper could take a hit because clubs will look at the first two rounds as a package. Another AFC college scouting director said, "It's a deep safety draft, it's a deep linebacker draft, so people are gonna be saying, 'We'll be able to get one
later.' " This draft class also has depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
5) The Alabama effect: There's no question that Nick Saban has built a juggernaut in Tuscaloosa, and the annual handful of first-round picks is evidence of the respect the pros have for that. There's also a growing perception in the NFL that 'Bama's best are so well-coached that they're closer to maxing out than those from other programs. As one scout put it, "When those guys leave Alabama, they're as good as they'll ever be, so you better like them on film." It's a weird dynamic, to be sure, but one to keep an eye on.
Five teams that could be on the move
1) Oakland Raiders (No. 3 pick): Without a second-round pick -- thanks to the Carson Palmer deal -- the Raiders are taking their best shot at dealing down, like many others in the top 10. Unlike some, though, they offer suitors a clear shot at one of the top three offensive tackles. And don't get this part mixed up: The tackles will dictate the highest level of the trade market.
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