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It's not often you see a bunch of NFL questions on the game show "Jeopardy!" (fine, it's answers, and you answer in the form of a question) but they recently popped up. 

You never know how sports questions will go over on the show, known for much more high-brow categories than guessing quarterbacks' names. The category of "Touchdowns" was going pretty well, until the contestants blanked on the easiest answer.

Of course, Tim Tebow was one of the answers. Of course. How could the history of the NFL be written without Tebow? The question (answer, whatever) in the $400 slot in the category, was "In overtime of a 2012 wild card game, this then-Bronco quarterback threw an 80-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas ... A miracle?" Well, who do you think it was going to be, Brian Griese?  

Joe Montana was another answer, asking who threw the game-winning touchdown to John Taylor to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. Regular readers of Shutdown Corner could have gotten that in their sleep, and added when Montana was drafted and with what pick (1979, 82nd overall).

A contestant named Brad was cruising in the category, and it seemed like he was going to run the table as the two other contestants looked on. Then there was this softball for $800:

"Ahmad Bradshaw fell butt-first into the end zone to give this team a Super Bowl-winning TD against New England in 2012."

Easy peasy. Except Brad didn't ring in. Nobody did. What the heck? IT'S THE GIANTS! This wasn't ancient history or some obscure question about who Joe Pisarcik was handing off to when the Giants lost the "Miracle at the Meadowlands" (Larry Czonka), this is who won the Super Bowl just a couple years ago!

Ah, hey, whatever. At least they got the Tebow question right.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 24, 2014, 8:31 pm

For months, we've wondered what the Houston Texans might do with the first pick — take a quarterback or draft Jadeveon Clowney.

So what's behind Door No. 3?

There appears to be some smoke now for a possible trade of the pick, ESPN's Ed Werder suggests.

Teams expect Texans to trade down, maybe to Falcons at 6. @SeniorBowlPhil says rookie pay scale makes taking Clowney, then trading tough.

— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) April 24, 2014

The Atlanta Falcons are no strangers to moving up in the draft. They've made bold moves up in the first round for Julio Jones and Desmond Trufant the past two seasons, and sliding up from the No. 6 pick to the top spot for Clowney would fit that same pattern.

The Falcons need pass-rush help, and even with talk of them transitioning to more 3-4 fronts under Mike Nolan, Clowney would be a great fit as a multiple-technique defender.

Would the Texans be making a mistake moving out of the top slot? They have to be certain that one of their preferred players will be available at that point, if that's what the deal involved. They'd be guaranteed to get one of the top six players in the draft, but what if their favorite 2-3 options are gone? Do they trade down again?

If they do stay at 6, the Texans' best bets could include taking either DE-OLB Khalil Mack, an offensive lineman such as Auburn's Greg Robinson or Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, or perhaps a quarterback such as UCF's Blake Bortles.

Hold those mock drafts for now. A trade could happen and blow them all up in short order.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 24, 2014, 8:07 pm

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

Defensive backs

New Orleans Saints: Despite signing future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey, the Saints still need a solid second option to compete for the other slot. Bailey signed a two-year deal, which indicates the Saints view him as a short-term solution. New Orleans signed standout safety Jairus Byrd in free agency to improve defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s impressive defense.

According to Yahoo’s Eric Edholm’s latest mock draft, New Orleans should select Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first round. Fuller was a second-team Walter Camp All-American selection and a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference player last year. During the NFL scouting combine, Fuller ran the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds, had a 38.5-inch vertical leap and bench pressed 225 pounds a dozen times. Considering New Orleans must face Julio Jones (Falcons), Roddy White (Falcons) and Vincent Jackson (Bucs) twice a year, the Saints must upgrade their cornerback position early in the draft. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

Chicago Bears: Yes, Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman were re-signed, but they are 30 and 33, respectively. Safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright struggled last season. Wright recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Chicago could use an upgrade at safety and cornerback. Alabama safety Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix or Louisville safety Calvin Pryor could be on the board at No. 14. If either player is available, Chicago should not waste any time pulling the trigger. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

St. Louis Rams: Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are the Rams’ top two corners, but this team could use some help, and Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard is the answer. Yes, the Rams desperately need a receiver, but the draft has plenty of quality pass-catchers. St. Louis released Cortland Finnegan earlier this year, and Dennard is a physical cornerback who could excel with the Rams. The Rams also need help at free safety, but it will be hard to let Dennard slip by. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

San Diego Chargers: San Diego re-signed cornerback Richard Marshall, but he is not exactly an upgrade at that position. Utah cornerback Keith McGill (6-foot-3, 211 pounds) stood out during Senior Bowl practices, and he has the body to hang with big receivers. Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson is a Day 2 option that could instantly improve a secondary that faces Peyton Manning twice a year. NEED LEVEL: High

Detroit Lions: If there is one position general manager Martin Mayhew loves, it is defensive backs. Mayhew enjoys hoarding them like candy. Detroit did not re-sign safety Louis Delmas, but signed safety James Ihedigbo, who is on his fourth team in the past five years. Clinton-Dix would be a smart selection for Detroit at No. 10, but it is hard to argue against adding a premier cornerback. The Lions should consider Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert if Clinton-Dix is gone. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Other teams in need: Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 24, 2014, 6:16 pm

Bernie Kosar was removed from the Cleveland Browns' preseason broadcast and he's hitting the NFL and Browns where it hurts most: Claiming the team did so because of his slurred speech caused by concussions.

Concussions and the treatment of former players with health issues are two of the most controversial issues the NFL deals with, and Kosar checked off both boxes with his claim.

Here was Kosar's statement, via the Akron Beacon-Journal:

“I was informed yesterday by the Cleveland Browns and WKYC that I have been replaced as a 2014 preseason game day color commentator. I believe that this decision stems from my slurred speech impairment, which is a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL. This is very unfortunate, as I believe my football acumen and ability to describe what is happening on the field, has been well received by Cleveland Browns fans. I love to put the personal touch, pride in the Browns, and pride in our Cleveland community into the broadcast. Being able to share these preseason games with my fellow Cleveland Browns fans is truly one of the remaining joys in my life. I would hope that WKYC would reconsider utilizing my in-game talents and overlook my concussion-induced impairment. I want everyone to know that I still bleed Brown and Orange.”

One of the most popular ex-Browns has put the team in a bad spot. The Browns already tried smoothing it over, with this statement from president Alec Scheiner on the team's site announcing that Solomon Wilcots will replace Kosar on the preseason game broadcasts:

"We welcome Solomon and are excited to look further into additional opportunities to continue to engage Bernie with our fans. We want Browns fans to look forward to seeing and hearing his continued contributions and analysis on not only our preseason telecasts, but also our radio network and ClevelandBrowns.com."

Even if the team wanted to reassign Kosar and use him in other ways, Kosar sees it as a demotion, and it is. The team wasn't happy with Kosar last year when he was critical of Rams backup quarterback Kellen Clemens during a preseason broadcast, and the team apologized to the Rams. Kosar has blamed the hits he took during his career for other things, like when he told police last year that he couldn't do sobriety tests because his offensive line couldn't block.

So what are the Browns to do? They don't want him in the booth for preseason games or they wouldn't have demoted him, no matter the reason. And Kosar put out a heavy guilt trip. And it's probably true that concussions have contributed to any slurred speech, although Kosar admits that it's just his belief that's why he was demoted, not that he was told that. It's always tough to see a former player struggling after his football career with injuries suffered while playing the game, and the Browns don't want to seem insensitive to that.

If it was Kosar's desire to put the Browns in the most uncomfortable position possible for taking him out of the preseason broadcast booth, he did a perfect job of it.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 24, 2014, 5:48 pm

One of the best all-around athletes ever to play in the NFL might be more than 16 years removed from his final NFL career, but Herschel Walker believes he still could play in the league right now.

Walker turned 52 years old in March.

“I can play in the NFL today,” Walker told USA Today. “I couldn’t take every snap. But running backs nowadays don’t play every down. Now they send in the choir section.

“Physically, I can still do it.”

We want what Herschel is having!

Walker's last game in the NFL was in the Dallas Cowboys' season-ending loss to the New York Giants in 1997. He returned two kickoffs that day for 36 yards and caught two passes for 16 more. Walker wasn't handed the ball.

Every few years, Walker makes some noise about coming back into the league, as he did in 2011 while promoting a UFC fight. He was a spry 48 at the time.

Perhaps more interest about the USA Today interview is that Walker says Donald Trump — for whom Walker played on the USFL's New Jersey Generals in 1984 and 1985 — would make a good owner of the Buffalo Bills.

“He would be a great owner, and a credible owner,” Walker said.

Walker noted that he had not spoken to Trump since the Bills' ownership opened up following the death of founder Ralph Wilson. But Walker threw his support behind a man he has known for 20 years.

“People can think what they want to think about Jerry Jones — he’s a terrible general manager, but he’s a great owner. He has done a tremendous job in marketing his team to keep it relevant. I think that’s the same thing Donald Trump would do with the Buffalo Bills.”

Walker, as his boasting about playing today would suggest, is a master of promotion. But Trump, he says, is even better at that.

“He may rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t argue with his success as a businessman,” Walker said. “You want an owner with some flair. He knows how to promote.”

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 24, 2014, 5:47 pm

Most of us don't think about the gymnastics that go into making the NFL schedule. We just complain that the league will never announce the exact date when it will be announced, then enjoy fantasizing about the matchups once it's released, while finding where our favorite team was slighted.

Peter King of MMQB.com had a great look at how complicated it is to put together the schedule, and it included a few very interesting tidbits, including King speculating that the league made Packers at Seahawks the Thursday night season opener because it was worried that Broncos-Seahawks would be a repeat of the 43-8 blowout in Super Bowl XLVIII.

"The league obviously thought a Denver-Seattle opener was risky—based on the outcome of the Super Bowl. Those are my words, not theirs," King wrote. 

It's an interesting thought, because most people assumed the season opener would be the Seahawks hosting their main rival, San Francisco, or the defending AFC champion Broncos. The Super Bowl champion starts the season on the Thursday of Week 1, a fantastic tradition the NFL started a few years back that is generally the most anticipated game on the schedule. So we knew the Seahawks would be included. And the Packers are a fine opponent, just a surprise.

In King's piece the NFL schedule makers explained that those three teams were the top candidates, and Dallas was briefly considered. They said San Francisco-Seattle was better suited for later in the year. But it wasn't explained why the Broncos weren't the choice.

“We thought there were three likely possibilities for the opener: San Francisco, Denver and Green Bay,” NFL senior vince president of broadcasting Howard Katz said. “I guess we could’ve played Dallas, but we really liked Dallas for the FOX doubleheader for Week 1. Dallas also had Texas Rangers conflicts the first month of the season. Putting them on the road in Week 1 might have doomed them for four or five road games in the first few weeks. I thought we had a better place to use the San Francisco-Seattle game, because it has become such an incredibly great rivalry game. It seemed to us that saving that game for later in the season on NBC was probably a smarter move. Green Bay felt right.”

King made it clear he was just guessing why the Broncos weren't the season-opening opponent for Seattle, and there might have been other reasons the Broncos weren't in that game. CBS ended up getting the Broncos-Seahawks game, in Week 3. It's a good bet that CBS fought to get that game, which will do great ratings. Every team and network makes requests that are considered. Even if the league was worried about 43-8 Part Deux, when has anyone willfully turned down the chance to put Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on in prime time? Still, it's an interesting theory from King.

The rest of King's story is a must-read because it gives any NFL fan a glimpse behind the curtain of making the schedule. And not everyone gets what they want. The schedule makers talked about how each of the schedules spit out by the computer generally had some flaw they wanted to avoid. As is, the Seahawks seem to have gotten slighted, with just one home prime-time game, something that's unheard of for a Super Bowl champion. And the one prime-time home game is the opener, which was a given. The Bears, who didn't make the playoffs in 2013, have the maximum five prime-time games. All of this won't make the people of Seattle happy.

But there's not much getting around that. When putting together a 256-piece puzzle like the NFL schedule, someone's going to end up being angry.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 24, 2014, 3:39 pm

Weston Richburg drove his old Chevy truck recently from Mesa, Arizona, where he was training, to the Arizona Cardinals facility for a visit with the team. Then he drove home, 10 hours straight to Bushland, Texas — population 130 — where he grew up. There isn’t too much in the way of frills when it comes to Richburg, the blue-collar Colorado State center who just might be the best at his position heading into the draft.

After playing well at the Senior Bowl and testing well at both the NFL combine and his pro day, Richburg has proven that he deserves a chance to play with the big boys. Not long ago, almost no one thought that was possible. He was a fringe college prospect who had to beg college teams to come look at him, and the Rams’ coaches took a leap of faith on a 240-pound offensive linemen who had missed two high school seasons with a torn ACL.

Their gamble was rewarded. After 50 college starts, Richburg has shown the requisite talent and toughness to be considered as early as the second round in May. He took some time to talk to Shutdown Corner about growing up on a farm, “Friday Night Lights,” breaking his snapping hand during a game, listening to metal and being a burrito aficionado.

SDC: Heard you played a little quarterback early in your HS career. Did you want to change positions or were you forced to give it up?

WR: I kind of had to give it up. I played it from the beginning of my football career, which was like second grade, until my freshman year of high school. I was a quarterback, tailback, I played linebacker r… and then my sophomore year in high school, I actually tore my ACL playing linebacker. That actually kept me out for my sophomore and junior years.

That affected my career a lot. I think I was probably 5-9, 180 pounds as a freshman, and coming back as a senior I was 6-3, 240 pounds. They moved me to left tackle. I really didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t upset over it. I was actually really excited just to get back on the field.

SDC: And why did you miss two years for the torn ACL? Were there complications?

WR: My growth plates [in my knee] hadn’t closed, so I had to wait a year to get surgery and then another six months post-surgery time after that.

SDC: Makes sense. You also competed in a lot of track and field, even your first year at CSU. What was your best event?

WR: Yes, I did. I [performed] shot put in the indoor season at CSU. I think shot put was always my best. I like it a lot.

SDC: So what is Bushland, Texas like? I admit, it sounds like a made-up name for a town.

WR: [laughs] Yeah, typical small town. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Friday Night Lights,” it’s very, very comparable to that. All the guys come out for  football and we really, really value our football and athletics here. Our stadium will be packed every Friday night. The stands are packed, and people are standing all around the field, too. We really treasure our athletics, especially football, and I think that’s where I gained my passion for football, just being [in Bushland]. I just had those values instilled in me early on.

SDC: So Friday night would be the time to rob the local Food King, eh?

W

R: Well, back then, there really were no businesses in town. My family owned the only gas station in town. I think maybe we kept it open [during games], but there wouldn’t be many people there. It’s right on the highway, so all the highway people would stop. But everyone else definitely would go to the game.

SDC: Did you grew up on a farm? What kind of farm was it?

WR: Yes, sir. We raised cows, and we still have cows. I showed pigs in middle school through high school. We grew some wheat. We’re mainly involved in cattle and pigs.

SDC: What was the worst chore of them all?

WR: Oh, there were a lot that were bad. I would probably say cleaning out some stalls. We had horses at one time, and those stalls would just … they were awful. I’d have to go in there and clean it up and the mess, it would be a foot thick. I didn’t like that at all. That was probably the worst thing.

SDC: But I would imagine that working on a farm on a daily basis growing up had to instill in you a pretty good work ethic.

WR: Oh yeah, definitely. That has been … being raised the way I was raised has — and the work ethic I got from it — it has been the reason I have gotten as far as I have in football. No question. You have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do, but in the end they are very rewarding.

SDC: You were born in Louisville and grew up in a small town in Texas. So naturally you went to Colorado State. How did that happen?

WR: I was born in Louisville and maybe lived there for two years. We made a quick stop in Kansas City but basically have been in Texas since I was 4 or 5. As for Colorado State, as I said, I was injured those two years and didn’t get to play. And my senior year, I played only one year and no one knew who I was. I mean, I tried. I sent out tapes and tried as hard as I could to get Texas teams to look at me. But my high school coach sent out some stuff to [Colorado State], and pretty much they were one of the only teams to show interest. I went in for a visit and ended up committing then and there.

SDC: Ever made that drive straight through from Bushland to Fort Collins, or vice versa?

WR: Oh, plenty of times. Stopped for gas, but otherwise yes. It’s actually only about seven hours, and it’s through the middle of nowhere so …

SDC: So you can maybe exceed the speed limit a little?

WR: [laughs] Maybe a little.

SDC: What kind of car do you drive?

WR: I just have a Chevy truck.

SDC: That would make sense. Well, let’s go back to start of your CSU career. You redshirted your first year and then started off initially playing guard before moving to center. How did that come about?

WR: I played guard for the first three games of my career, I believe, and the fourth game they moved me to center. From then on, I played primarily center, but there were a few times where we had to move some guys around. I was mostly a center that first season, but some guard, too.

SDC: Had you taken snaps at center before they put you there? That’s not a position it’s easy to just jump right into.

WR: I had done it a little bit. They knew they needed a replacement at center. My true freshman team they had me running center on scout team. I was learning the position and the duties of that. They knew I could do it, but it is a tough position, like you said, to just throw a guy in there. So I think that’s why they started me at guard at first.

SDC: You were tossed late in a game your freshman year against Idaho for fighting a guy, right?

WR: Yeah. It was a hands-to-the-face deal, and I just got into the facemask. We actually appealed it, and there were no suspensions or anything.

SDC: Tell me about the end of your sophomore year, breaking your right hand and playing a few other spots on the line.

WR: Yeah, a game my sophomore year we played San Diego State. I broke one of the fingers in my right hand. It was my snapping hand, so I couldn’t play center. The next two games they moved me to tackle. Then the last game of the season I moved back to center and snapped with my left hand.

SDC: That’s pretty impressive.

WR: Yeah, man. My hand was really, really hurting. It was to the point where I thought I might have to sit out. My dad and I talked about it and thought it would be a pretty good challenge for me to play with a club [on the hand], especially playing center and snapping with my left hand. I am pretty proud of that. 

SDC: And now you’re considered one of the best center prospects in the draft. Most guys I talk to say the NFL was their goal — but when did the league first become something realistic for you? When did you first think, OK, I think I can play at this level?

WR: I think I started to get the realization when I was a sophomore. After my freshman year, I was a Freshman All-American. Sophomore year, I think I played really, really well. That just really helped my confidence and gave me the realization that working hard had made me better and that I would have the chance to play at the next level.

SDC: I have only watched a few of your games, but the New Mexico Bowl game against Washington State — your final college game — seemed like a pretty strong game for you. I came away thinking you played with a defensive mentality.

WR: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s what makes me a unique center. I don’t see other guys going after people the way I do. That’s something we really prided ourselves on at Colorado State — we really put an emphasis on finishing. We really focus on knockdown blocks and getting after guys. If you out a guy on his back, he probably can’t make the play. I always wanted to go out and get after people. We had some pretty nasty guys up front, and I just wanted to match that. We enjoy contact.

SDC: How has working with former NFL center LeCharles Bentley been?

WR: Yeah, he has so much knowledge about the position. Some of the stuff we’ve worked on has been adapting to the faster speed of the [NFL] game, getting more efficient with my movement in pass sets. Defensive linemen’s get-offs are a lot faster, so efficiency and quickness are big ones. Getting myself acclimated to the tempo of the game is the biggest thing.

SDC: Who was your toughest matchup at the Senior Bowl?

WR: Aaron Donald.

SDC: No hesitation there in your answer.

WR: Yeah, he was … there were a lot of guys there that week and he was the guy. Just talking about speed and get-off, that’s his thing. It took some adjustment to get used to that, but I really had a lot of fun going against him. He was a challenge, and he made me better.

SDC: What was the Senior Bowl experience like for you? Most guys come away saying it was really valuable for them.

WR: My goal down there was to silence the critics of whether I could play with the big-time competition and not just play with them but play well against the big-time competition. I was really excited during that week because I think I did a good job.

But in addition to that, it was just really cool. I was in awe … well, maybe not in awe, but when we were meeting with teams there, sitting with Rex Ryan, sitting with Mike Tomlin and talking to him for a bit, that was one of the more special experiences I have had through this whole pre-draft time.

SDC: What’s your best playing weight, do you think? I know you have dipped under 300 before.

WR: I think my ideal weight is probably 310. I am 305 right now. I could drop 10 pounds in two days and gain it back in a day, so it’s just … in football, I feel like it fluctuates so much. After a tough practice you can lose [a lot of weight]. I think I’ll be about 310 when I report to camp, and I think that’s probably a good start.

SDC: Have you been asked much by NFL teams about playing guard at all? Or has it predominantly been center?

WR: It has been a little bit about guard. Most teams carry seven players [on the gameday roster] so they want to know how versatile you are. They’ve asked me about guard, and I tell them: That’s where I started. I am no stranger to it, and I am not opposed to it at all. I can play guard. I just want to play. Wherever they want me, I can do it.

SDC: What teams have you worked out for privately?

WR: Out of fairness to the teams, and their privacy, I’d rather not say. I’d kind of rather keep that between them and myself.

SDC: Wow, you’re already a seasoned pro.

WR: [laughs] It’s a giant poker game, and everyone wants to keep their hand concealed.

SDC: OK, have time for a few fun questions?

WR: No problem.

SDC: So I hear Big City Burrito is all the rage up in Fort Collins. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

WR: You know what? It is [all the rage], but I only have been there like one time. I didn’t think it was the best place ever.

SDC: So what is the best place ever?

WR: I think Café Mexicali is probably the best place there, in my opinion. It’s a burrito place as well.

SDC: You’ve now started a burrito holy war, no doubt.

WR: A huge one, I am sure. [laughs]

SDC: Besides the burrito joint, what’s the most fun thing to do in town? For me, it would be visiting the breweries.

WR: I’d probably tell them to go out to Horsetooth Reservoir during the summer and rent a boat, take it out on the lake and just enjoy life. We’ve done that a couple times during the summer and it is just really beautiful out there.

SDC: Your teammate, tight end Crockett Gillmore, seems like an interesting cat. What’s the story on this guy?

WR: [laughs] Yeah, we’re really similar in some ways. He can really get after guys as well. We’re from the same area of Texas. We are raised with the same values. We treat football the same way. If I could bring one guy with me anywhere in the NFL, it would be him.

SDC: I loved the guy from the minute he showed up to the Senior Bowl mid-week as an injury replacement player, he caught a touchdown and dunked the ball over the goalpost. Even if that’s illegal now in the NFL, he had me right there.

WR: That was awesome. That was so cool to see that. He’s always going to give it his all, no matter what it is. He makes waves. He’s going to be very physical and give it everything it takes to get the job done. A real tough player. And a really good dude, too.

SDC: Best movie you have seen recently?

WR: Probably “Lone Survivor.” It was just amazing to see that people actually go through that for our freedom. An amazing story.

SDC: Best music to lift weights to?

WR: I listen to all kinds of music, but if I am lifting weights and I have control [of it], I’ll put on some metal. Some really hard metal — stuff that you can’t even understand the words.

SDC: Do your teammates and lifting buddies agree?

WR: Definitely not. [laughs] I am a rare breed — us metal folks are a rare breed. Once you find a metal person, you really can appreciate their friendship and treasure that, because it’s rare.

SDC: Ever listen to Mastodon?

WR: I listened to that way back in the day. I am really into Lamb Of God. They’re probably one of the more popular ones. Any of the other ones, you probably have not heard of them.

SDC: Favorite activity when you’re not thinking about football?

WR: Oh, man. I really enjoy getting away in the weight room. I think it would be fun to body build after football, get some good curls in. Turn on the music, like we were talking about, and just kick back.

SDC: How much can you squat?

WR: I haven’t maxed in forever. I think the last time I squatted was maybe like 525.

SDC: Uh, yeah. I can barely break 200.

WR: Well, I have a little extra weight on me, which helps.

SDC: I am heavier than you think. Where will you be on draft weekend?

WR: I’ll be here in Bushland. I think I have about 4-5 teammates coming down, a lot of family coming in. It’ll be a big draft celebration with Crockett Gillmore’s family. 

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 24, 2014, 2:15 pm

The NFL has a lot of television network partners to keep happy, and that job got more difficult when CBS was given a package of Thursday night games this season.

The league for years used "Monday Night Football" to show its highlight game each week, but when NBC landed "Sunday Night Football" and ESPN went to Monday night, the league puts its best games on Sunday night. This year NFL needs to make sure CBS and FOX were happy with their regular Sunday schedules, give CBS some good games for Thursday night, and still make "Sunday Night Football" and "Monday Night Football" must-watch events.

That's not easy.

[Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

The NFL placated NBC and ESPN this week, a day before the schedule was released. ESPN was given a wild-card playoff game. A divisional playoff game was added to NBC's schedule through 2022. That move made it seem like the Monday and Sunday night schedule in 2014 might be watered down a bit. Shutdown Corner's Anwar Richardson and Frank Schwab will take a look at the Sunday and Monday night games, week by week, and see how entertaining the prime-time schedule will be this season:

WEEK 1
Sunday:
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Monday: N.Y. Giants at Detroit Lions; San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals

Frank’s take: Very nice Sunday night game. The Giants have improved and the Lions are entertaining. I wouldn't have thought this a year ago, but Chargers-Cardinals isn't bad at all for the second part of the doubleheader.

Anwar’s take: NFL fans have been craving football for months. It really does not matter what games are rolled out on in Week 1. We will watch every minute of each game.

Verdict: Stay up, call in sick on Monday ... and then again on Tuesday.

WEEK 2
Sunday:
Chicago Bears at San Francisco 49ers
Monday: Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts

Frank’s take: That Sunday game is interesting; pretty good test for Marc Trestman's Bears offense. And two up-and-coming teams on Monday night. Two thumbs up.

Anwar’s take: Nick Foles vs. Andrew Luck? First team to 50 points wins. Do not go to bed early.

Verdict: The boss may be getting upset, but it's time to call in sick on Monday and Tuesday again because you're staying up late for these games.

WEEK 3
Sunday:
Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers
Monday: Chicago Bears at N.J. Jets

Frank’s take: Always fun to watch Cam Newton. Not as fun to watch Geno Smith.

Anwar’s take: Make sure you soak up all of the offense in Week 2 because these matchups are all about defense. First team to 21 points wins.

Verdict: Catch up on your sleep, get to work early, assuming you still have that job.

WEEK 4
Sunday:
New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys
Monday: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Frank’s take: Guess this depends if you think the Chiefs are going to repeat 2013. Call me skeptical. Because we know Dallas is going to get run.

Anwar’s take: Most fans will tune in to see in Drew Brees lights up Dallas’ secondary. Kansas City has not done much to improve its roster in the offseason, and this could be the first lopsided primetime game.

Verdict: Better than raking the leaves.

WEEK 5
Sunday:
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Monday: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins

Frank’s take: I get that the NFC East draws ratings. But, I'm not too thrilled about seeing the best team in the NFL vs. the team that was 31st last year. At least Sunday night is solid.

Anwar’s take: Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman will take on Washington receiver DeSean Jackson. The trash-talk between both men should be very entertaining.

Verdict: One outta two ain't that bad, and the Sherman-DJax sideshow should keep you awake on Monday.

WEEK 6
Sunday:
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Monday: San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

Frank’s take: Yes! Another NFC East game! All hail the NFC East! Monday night might not be a shootout, but the Rams aren't bad. It might be a sneaky good game.

Anwar’s take: Is this the week Eli Manning throws three interceptions? History says it is bound to happen. It will be hard to get pumped up to watch St. Louis.

Verdict: Stay awake on Monday night at least, and if the 49ers go up by a couple scores, call it a night. And call the NFL and tell them you're sick of seeing every NFC East game in prime time.

WEEK 7
Sunday:
San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos
Monday: Houston Texas at Pittsburgh Steelers

Frank’s take: Oh man, here we go. Broncos-49ers will be fascinating. Great, A-plus game. And if you believe the Texans can return to 2011-2012 levels, Monday won't be bad either.

Anwar’s take: Peyton Manning struggled against an elite defense in the Super Bowl, making this game a really good barometer for his team. If Johnny Manziel is with the Texans, this will be a great contest.

Verdict: Don't even think about doing anything else on Sunday night. Or Monday night either, just in case.

WEEK 8
Sunday: Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Monday: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

Frank’s take: Two great quarterbacks on Sunday night. Fun game. And Monday night ... I'm not gonna even say it.

Anwar’s take: Watching Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees square off should be entertaining. The NFC East battle on Monday will be fun to watch, regardless of the records.

Verdict: Your fantasy team already demanded that you're not going anywhere for Saints-Packers, so not much more needs to be said.

WEEK 9
Sunday:
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Monday: Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants

Frank’s take: Ravens-Steelers isn't what it was a few years ago, but it's usually a close, hard-fought game. And Monday night ... really guys? At least we get to see Andrew Luck.

Anwar’s take: Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 for hindering the kickoff return of Baltimore Jacoby Jones last year. Let’s see if he stays out of play this year.

Verdict: Watch on Sunday, and then Monday is a good time to take the significant other to dinner. Earns points to cash in during a better prime-time slate.

WEEK 10
Sunday:
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
Monday: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles

Frank’s take: Can't go wrong with the best traditional rivalry in the NFL on a Sunday night. And both teams will be good too. Panthers-Eagles is a good contrast in styles. No complaints here.

Anwar’s take: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is usually good for a few meltdowns each year. This could be the one when he becomes a turnover machine. Meanwhile, Carolina’s defense must find a way to stop Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.

Verdict: Remember the brownie points from last week? Cash 'em in and find a spot on the couch, partner.

WEEK 11
Sunday:
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
Monday: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans

Frank’s take: I really like Patriots-Colts. Steelers-Titans? Well, I really like Patriots-Colts.

Anwar’s take: Patriots and Colts has “game of the year” written all over it. The next night has “worst game of the year” written all over it.

Verdict: One outta two ain't bad.

WEEK 12
Sunday:
Dallas Cowboys at N.Y. Giants
Monday: Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints

Frank’s take: Oh, hey, NFC East. Hadn't seen you in a while! I give up.

Anwar’s take: Time to watch the Cowboys implode. Now the holiday season can officially begin.

Verdict: Better than shoveling snow.

WEEK 13
Sunday:
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Monday: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets

Frank’s take: I still don't think the Chiefs have what it takes to beat the Broncos, but Arrowhead Stadium is a tough, tough place to play. And look, call me dumb (and I know you will, based on the comments in previous posts), but maybe Dolphins-Jets will be better than we think. The Ghost of Jumbo Elliott and all.

Anwar’s take: Denver should be fighting for playoff position. Miami and New York will be fighting for draft position.

Verdict: Each one has a good chance to put you to sleep early.

WEEK 14
Sunday:
New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers
Monday: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers

Frank’s take: Can see a lot of points in Patriots-Chargers, and hopefully no Patriots players dance on the logo at midfield if they win. ESPN must start praying now that the Falcons are better than last year. Do you realize ESPN paid $15 billion for these games? I guess $15 billion just doesn't buy the quality it used to.

Anwar’s take: If the Atlanta Falcons are a bad team again, this horrible stretch of Monday Night Football games will continue. Any chance the Falcons can re-sign Deion Sanders and make this game interesting?

Verdict: Take the kids to go see Santa at the mall.

WEEK 15
Sunday:
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Monday: New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears

Frank’s take: (banging head with a hammer) ... Wait, that Monday game is good.

Anwar’s take: Jerry Jones’ failure to assemble a winning team is on public display again. Dallas is only a few games away from another 8-8 season.

Verdict: Hey, we're getting down to the nitty gritty. Watch 'em. In a few weeks you'll miss these prime-time games. Even the NFC East ones.

WEEK 16
Sunday:
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Monday: Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals

Frank’s take: I'm not sure Arizona repeats what it did last year. That has flex written all over it. Wonder if we'll be on Peyton Manning record watch for the Monday nighter.

Anwar’s take: The NFL finishes strong with two compelling games. Arizona could dethrone Seattle and emerge as a surprise team this season.

Verdict: Who are we kidding? You're not missing any of these games.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 24, 2014, 3:04 am

Now that the games have been slotted into dates and the 2014 NFL schedule is set, it's time for superlatives.

What's the best game among the 256 regular-season games? What's the worst? What are the best and worst weeks of action? Who won schedule release day? Glad you asked. Here are the awards from the release of the NFL schedule on Wednesday night:

Best game: With all due respect to Seattle and San Francisco, we're not getting too many more Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning games, and there's one scheduled for Foxborough on Nov. 2. And it's not just the novelty of the two greatest quarterbacks of their generation facing off again; their teams might be the two best in the AFC. That was the case last season, and then the Broncos went on an offseason shopping spree and the Patriots added the best player to switch teams this offseason, cornerback Darrelle Revis. The regular-season game last year between the two teams was entertaining. This one should be too.

[Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

Best game, part two ... and three: Fine, we're not leaving off San Francisco vs. Seattle. The NFC West rivals are two of the best teams in football. The NFC championship game last season was a classic. And we'll see if we get some fisticuffs between Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree. The fact that the first meeting is on Thanksgiving almost got that one top billing over Brady-Manning. The teams meet again in Week 15, and if they're both as good as we think they are, there will be enormous playoff implications on the line.

Best ... whatever, we're just adding four and five to the list of top games: Denver, Seattle and San Francisco might be the three best teams in the NFL coming into the season (yeah, New England, we see you too). Because the AFC West matches up with the NFC West this year, we get to see the Broncos against the great defenses of Seattle and San Francisco.

Complain as you might that Denver can't compete with Seattle, the rematch on Sept. 21 should be better thank the Super Bowl. Keep in mind that Denver should have Ryan Clady, Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Aqib Talib, and none of them played in that Super Bowl. Then the Broncos host the 49ers on "Sunday Night Football" Oct. 19, and it'll be fun watching Manning against that defense too. 

Worst game: Cleveland at Buffalo, Nov. 30. Well, something has to rank 256th out of 256. However, this game moves up from the bottom spot if the Browns land quarterback Johnny Manziel in the draft because whatever team Manziel plays for will be must-watch football every week. 

Most anticlimactic reunion: Last year, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis to play the Colts was one of the biggest stories of the season. The two teams play again in Week 1, and the hoopla won't be the same.

The second game against a former team is never quite as exciting. Also, the game will be in Denver, and a major part of last year's Colts-Broncos game was how the fans would react to Manning. Still, it's a fun game between two AFC contenders and the reigning NFL MVP (Manning) against the most exciting young quarterback in the game (Andrew Luck).

Since this game is the "Sunday Night Football" showcase in Week 1 will give us a lot more time to hype Manning vs. Colts, but in truth it's less of a sideshow this year and just a good, entertaining football game.

Best last call: Tom Brady and the Patriots will be in Green Bay on Nov. 30, the first trip to Lambeau Field for New England since 2006, and one would assume by the next time New England visits Green Bay, Brady will be hanging out with his supermodel wife in retirement. If any market appreciates football history it's Green Bay, and the chance to see one of the all-time greats one more time will be fun. And, it should be a really entertaining game.

Worst guess: All offseason, everyone figured the Seahawks would start the season in the traditional Thursday night opener on Sept. 4 against one of two opponents: San Francisco or Denver. Both come to Seattle this season. The league threw a curveball by making Green Bay the opening night opponent. (Green Bay has to wonder why it can't have an easier opponent to start the season; the last two seasons the Packers played the 49ers in Week 1). It's a bit of a bummer. Nothing against Green Bay, but it was the third-best option for the opener. But Aaron Rodgers against Seattle's defense is still a darn good way to kick off the 2014 season.

Best addition: Saturday games are back! Years ago, once the college season was done, stray Saturday NFL games were a staple of December. They were eventually phased out, and there were no Saturday regular-season games last year. Well, we're getting a couple on Dec. 20. San Diego will play at San Francisco and Philadelphia will play at Washington. Make sure you don't schedule last-minute holiday shopping for that weekend, because the NFL is giving us something to watch on Saturdays again.

Best bet to be flexed Week 17: The league doesn't schedule a Sunday night game for Week 17 because the game with the most interesting playoff angle (or the one involving NFC East teams) gets flexed into prime time that week. It's disappointing the NFL didn't schedule 49ers-Seahawks for Week 17 because that would have probably been the one. Looking through the Week 17 games, the early guess is Cincinnati at Pittsburgh will end up closing the regular season. That game could end up determining the AFC North championship.

Best revelation: The NFL, for realizing that it could make a couple minor changes to maximize the entertainment value for fans. Extending flex scheduling by moving it up to Week 5, and allowing up to two flexed Sunday night games from Week 5 to 10, was simple and smart. Adding a couple Saturday games late in the season can't hurt. The decision to add a "cross-flex" option so games could move between CBS and Fox allowed CBS to show an all-NFC game on Thanksgiving. That allowed more options and the NFL came up with maybe the best Thanksgiving schedule in recent memory. And the league also put some effort into scheduling interesting Thursday night games, and even though that had more to do with making CBS happy, fans will benefit too. The league put a lot of thought into making the schedule the best it could be (and it's not easy, considering all 32 teams have requests and the television partners need to be satisfied too). Nice work, NFL.

Worst week: It's all relative, because a "bad" NFL week is still great, but if you need to plan a big event for a Sunday this fall, might as well make it Week 4. Two of the NFL's marquee teams, Seattle and Denver, have a bye. So do the Bengals, Cardinals, Browns and Rams.

Fine, we won't really miss the Browns. But the week starts with the Giants and Redskins on Thursday night (seriously, enough already with the NFC East prime-time games), and while Packers-Bears will be fun, the only game on Sunday between two 2013 season playoff teams is Eagles at 49ers. NBC must have grabbed Saints-Cowboys for Sunday night for the curiosity of seeing how bad New Orleans' offense could destroy Dallas (no kidding guys, we are tired of seeing mediocre NFC East teams in prime time).

New England at Kansas City on Monday night could be fun, but that doesn't save the week.

Best week: Week 7 wins it. We start the week with Jets at Patriots, which is always a solid rivalry game, and will be amped up a bit by Darrelle Revis going to New England.

The early set of games has some interesting contests: New Orleans at Detroit, Miami at Chicago, Carolina at Green Bay, Seattle at St. Louis and Cincinnati at Indianapolis. Kansas City at San Diego and Giants at Dallas anchor the late games, then there's a monster Sunday night game with San Francisco visiting Denver.

Houston at Pittsburgh isn’t the best Monday night game, but it’s not all that bad, and are you complaining after that Sunday slate?

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 24, 2014, 2:50 am

"Thursday Night Football" has traditionally been similar to holding out a cup of water for a marathon runner – they are desperate for anything to quench their thirst.

The NFL knows its fans are desperate for football, and mediocre primetime matchups were traditionally scheduled on Thursday night. It is usually the one time of year struggling teams like Jacksonville, Buffalo, Oakland and St. Louis can enjoy the national spotlight. The league must have figured it's football, and you're going to watch no matter who is playing.

[Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

However, that changed a bit this year after the NFL partnered with CBS to produce and televise seven games on Thursdays over the first half of the season. The NFL Network, which will simulcast the CBS Thursday games, will have seven late-season Thursday games all to itself. Also, two late-season games take place on Saturday, and this year’s schedule is banking on division rivalries to add more spice to the lineup.

Green Bay will kick off the season on the road against Seattle on Sept. 4 in Week 1. That game will be televised on NBC with the Seahawks opening defense of their Super Bowl title against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. While the Thursday opener has long featured the defending champion, the ensuing slate of Thursday games had been hit and miss. However, that slate has been upgraded.

Pittsburgh will play on the road against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11 in Week 2. Baltimore was forced to play its first game of last season on the road against Denver after a Super Bowl victory, but the Ravens were given two consecutive home games to start this season.

Most NFL coaches don't like playing a divisional game early in the season, but Pittsburgh and Baltimore will kick off its AFC North rivalry after one regular-season game.

Green Bay’s home game against the Vikings in Week 5 marks the first week a team from last year’s playoffs appears on CBS' Thursday night slate. The last matchup between Green Bay and Minnesota at Lambeau Field in Week 12 in 2013 ended in a tie (26-26).

New England will host the New York Jets in Week 7, which should feature a battle of Tom Brady against Geno Smith or Michael Vick. New York is expected to determine its starter during the preseason as coach Rex Ryan faces a do-or-die season. If Ryan’s team starts off slow, this game could determine his future in New York.

CBS’ final Thursday game is San Diego at Denver in Week 8, another division rivalry that's also a rematch of last year’s AFC playoff game. Every one of CBS' Thursday games is a divisional game.

The NFL Network takes over with New Orleans at Carolina in Week 9, followed by a slew of games with marginal interest. The most interesting game (right now) is Dallas visiting the Chicago Bears on Dec. 4. Dallas is notorious for its annual collapse in December, and if that occurs again, it could signal the end of coach Jason Garrett’s tenure with the Cowboys.

In the past few years, if fans have turned on "Thursday Night Football" it was generally just because any game was on, even though the matchup usually wasn't good. This year's Thursday schedule isn't great, but it's certainly better than it has been.

Here is the Thursday schedule:

Week 1, Sept. 4 (NBC): Green Bay at Seattle

Week 2, Sept. 11 (CBS, NFLN): Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Week 3, Sept. 18 (CBS, NFLN): Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Week 4, Sept. 25 (CBS, NFLN): N.Y. Giants at Washington

Week 5, Oct. 2 (CBS, NFLN): Minnesota at Green Bay

Week 6, Oct. 9 (CBS, NFLN): Indianapolis at Houston

Week 7, Oct. 16 (CBS, NFLN): N.Y. Jets at New England

Week 8, Oct. 23 (CBS, NFLN): San Diego at Denver

Week 9, Oct. 30 (NFLN): New Orleans at Carolina

Week 10, Nov. 6 (NFLN): Cleveland at Cincinnati

Week 11, Nov. 13 (NFLN): Buffalo at Miami

Week 12, Nov. 20 (NFLN): Kansas City at Oakland

Week 13, Nov. 27 (CBS): Bears at Lions; Eagles at Cowboys (Fox); Seahawks at 49ers (NBC)

Week 14, Dec. 4 (NFLN): Dallas at Chicago

Week 15, Dec. 11 (NFLN): Arizona at St. Louis

Week 16, Dec. 18 (NFLN): Tennessee at Jacksonville

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 24, 2014, 1:08 am

People get jacked for the release of the NFL schedule. So do we. And though lots will change — even before we get to training camp — there are some definite must-see games on the schedule.

Our challenge? Narrowing it down to one key one per week.

[Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

Here goes nothing:

Week 1

Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

C'mon. It's the season opener. Even with quality games elsewhere on the schedule — including Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos playing host to his former team, the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night — you can't go away from this one. Props to the NFL for pitting the Seahawks and Packers, combatants in one of the league's most controversial games in recent seasons, and not backing down from that talk. That's uncharacteristic of the league.

Week 2

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

The NFL wasn't going to give CBS, which paid a fortune for the Thursday night package, a dud game. Sure, maybe this hasn't been the epic rivalry it was, say, four to five years ago, but there is no love lost between these two hard-nosed clubs. There's no added or especial juice to the rivalry this time around, just your garden-variety hatred — and a solid contempt between two talented teams that should compete for the AFC North crown.

Week 3

Broncos at Seahawks 

Look, we easily could have picked DeSean Jackson and his new Washington Redskins team heading up to face his former club, the Philadelphia Eagles. But who moves the needle more than Manning and a Super Bowl rematch in Seattle? The question on everyone's minds: If it was 43-8 Seahawks on a neutral field, what will it be with the 12th Man in the house? What could make it more interesting are Denver's defensive additions, led by DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. The Broncos will be seeking whatever revenge can be gained from a regular-season game, and the Seahawks will seek to pummel them once again. Fun stuff.

Week 4

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

A rematch of the NFC North-deciding game in Week 17 at Soldier Field, but Bears-Packers always carries special weight. Both teams will be in the running for a division crown once more, and there's an interesting plot twist to the rivalry: Julius Peppers, once a plum free-agent signing of the Bears, now comes in as a visiting member of the Packers. But it's a loaded week, with a slate that includes Steve Smith's Ravens facing his former Carolina Panthers team in Baltimore, an excellent matchup fo the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles and several other quality matchups.

Week 5

Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers

In something of a blah week on paper, we think Alex Smith's return to San Francisco is an interesting story. With talk of the Chiefs wanting to extend Smith long-term, and Colin Kaepernick perhaps a year from hitting the market, it stirs talk of Jim Harbaugh's decision to trade Smith for a pair of draft picks, including a second-rounder in a few weeks. Smith flourished his first season in K.C., and Kaepernick almost led the 49ers to a second straight Super Bowl. Beyond that, this should be a solid game of teams that won 11 and 12 games, respectively, a year ago.

Week 6

Dallas Cowboys at Seahawks

Hmm, another week of games where nothing obvious pops up. Frankly, we're a little tired of the Tony Romo in Seattle storyline. Prior to his botched extra-point snap, few recall, Romo was playing his tail off. Besides that game was nearly eight years ago. It might feel like it happened yesterday, but that's probably because you were making fun of Romo yesterday. Ok, whatever, it's the Cowboys at the Super Bowl champs. And, hey, maybe Romo will get hurt and backup Cowboys quarterback Johnny Manziel will come to the rescue, beating the best defense in the league with three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Now that's more like it!

Week 7

New York Jets at New England Patriots

There very well might be a better-quality game three days later on Sunday Night Football between the Broncos and 49ers in Denver. But right now, the storylines are king. So we'll take Jets at Patriots — always a fun battle — with an added twist of the knife: Darrelle Revis facing his old team. Look, Revis played the Jets in Week 1 last season, with the Bucs. It's not the first time he's going against Rex Ryan. But this is the Patriots. This will reopen the wounds of the offseason when Ryan watched every cornerback he ever wanted land on different teams. And with Revis, it hurts extra badly.

Week 8

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints

Some decent games dot the week, including some good rivalry games (Redskins-Cowboys, Ravens-Bengals), a playoff rematch (Chargers at Broncos), a Super Bowl rematch of yore (Bears-Patriots) and a Show-Me State bragging-rights game (Rams at Chiefs). But we'll always side with quarterback greatness. It's Aaron Rodgers at Drew Brees in the Superdome on a Sunday night. The roof could blow off the place. We won't miss it. Nor should you.

Week 9

Denver Broncos at New England Patriots

Talib's return to Foxborough! We jest. If this indeed is the swan song for Manning, it's only fitting that for the 16th time in his career, he gets another crack at Tom Brady (and Bill Belichick). Last year's regular-season tilt in New England, the return of Wes Welker and Brad-Manning XIV, was ridiculous: a 34-31 overtime thriller won by the Patriots after they trailed 24-zlich in the third quarter. Of course, Manning, last season's MVP got the best of Brady and Co. in the AFC title game in Denver. Brady leads the all-time head-to-head matchup 10-5. Will Manning be able to get him perhaps one last time? You just know Belichick will find a way to give Manning something he hasn't seen before. Perhaps a 1-0-10 defensive alignment, with nobody heavier than 240 pounds on the field.

Week 10 

49ers at Saints

We've got another Bears-Packers game on Monday night and a London game — the Cowboys, America's Team, at the Jacksonville Jaguars (Britain's team?) — but we can't help but lean toward the intriguing battle of talented teams in New Orleans. Kaepernick came up just short in the power-outage game the last time he was in the Superdome, but he won't be facing the Ravens and it won't be the Super Bowl. Nope: Just a quality contest of two talented NFC teams.

Week 11

New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts

These teams met in Foxoborough in the playoffs, and the Patriots ran away with it (or LeGarrette Blount did, more aptly). Brady and the Patriots also spanked Andrew Luck and the Colts in the 2012 season, too. But the Colts can beat anyone at Lucas Oil Stadium, where they took down the champion Seahawks and came back from 28 down in the third quarter against the Chiefs in the playoffs. In the Patriots' favor: They will be coming off their bye week heading into this Sunday night classic. And who knows? Maybe Belichick, returning to the site of the "4th and 2" will do something bizarre.

Week 12

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears

It's the "Lovie Bowl" at Soldier Field. Lovie Smith, now captaining the Bucs, will lead his new good ship up north to face the team he coached for nine seasons. Smith was good for Chicago: He won 56 percent of his games, had only three losing seasons and brought his team to a Super Bowl. But was he ever beloved there? It's hard to say yes. Smith will be backed by Josh McCown, who also is making his return to face the team that gave him a second chance at NFL life. You can bet he'll want to go blow for blow against friendly rival and foil, Jay Cutler.

Week 13

Patriots at Packers

No Thanksgiving mention? We'll let Frank Schwab's post on the three NFC-only Thursday games that week stand on its own. Besides, we'll prefer the leftovers: an outstanding quarterback matchup of Rodgers vs. Brady and a — hey, stranger things have happened — possible Super Bowl preview at Lambeau Field. The last time Brady played here was a 35-0 Patriots whipping in 2006 in which Brett Favre was knocked out of the game by Tedy Bruschi and Rodgers, then a second-year player, completed 4-of-12 passes for 32 yards in relief. He would not start another game for two years. He's better now.

Week 14

Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles

It's not "what's your deal?" but it's pretty darned good. You've got the most dominant defense traveling to face the league's most cutting-edge offense, Pete Carroll vs. Chip Kelly. We're excited. By this point of the season the teams' identities should be pretty well cemented, and we have a hard time thinking this matchup of NFC powers and former Pac-12 coaches won't be pretty darned exciting. Wonder if the Philly fans and Richard Sherman might, you know, chat a little before and during this one. (Undercard: Colts at Cleveland Browns, the Trent Richardson Bowl!)

Week 15

49ers at Seahawks

It's only fitting in this week chock full of very good rivalry games, we are treated to the best of them all at the moment. A rematch of the NFC title game and a bad-blood special, 49ers at Seattle is about as good as it gets these days. You know the storylines. You know they met three times last season. It's a Sunday night mid-December, and the wind and noise will be howling at Century Link Field. Perhaps playing into the 49ers' favor is they play the Raiders in a "road" game up the road a few miles and the Seahawks have the aforementioned tough battle in Week 14.

Week 16

Eagles at Redskins

We'll go a little off the map here. Yes, it will be DeSean vs. Eagles, Part 2, but it also will be the return of Saturday regular-season football! We love it. Even bad football is good football on a Saturday close to the holidays. Why? No clue. But it is. Why the NFL scheduled both games at 4:30 p.m. ET we will never know, but there are two interesting contests going on with Chargers at 49ers on the other coast. Plus, who knows? Maybe the Redskins can find a way back to respectibility.

Week 17

Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Not sure how the NFL managed to do this, but we've got a full slate of games — all of them division rivalries — and none are gotta-watch affairs. Of course, it's May and we are saying this. Look: It's gonna chance. Of course it is. There could be four or five huge games with playoff implications. We're not that shallow-minded. But, seriously, look at it. Nothing shocking. We picked Bears-Vikings and the rather lame Jared Allen-return-to-Minnesota angle. For all we know, the Jaguars could be going to Houston with a chance to wrap up the AFC South title, or the Buccaneers could be going for their 10th straight win, at home against the Saints. But as things stand right now, it's Allen and the Bears in Minnesota. We know, it's lame. It's not even in the Metrodome!

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 24, 2014, 12:55 am

It's been a while since every Thanksgiving NFL game was a great matchup. There's always a dud.

Not this year. By making a tweak with the networks, the NFL guaranteed three tremendous matchups, and it will be all NFC teams. The day starts with Chicago at Detroit, followed by Philadelphia at Dallas and capped off by the big one, Seattle at San Francisco, a rematch of the NFC championship game and one of the top few games on the entire NFL regular-season schedule. That is the best Thanksgiving schedule, top to bottom, in many years.

[Click here to see the full 2014 NFL schedule]

Part of the problem in past years was network rules. Fox gets NFC games. CBS gets AFC games. If there is an NFC vs. AFC game, the network of the road team's conference got the game (for example, if it was an AFC team at an NFC team, CBS had the rights). Because traditional hosts Dallas and Detroit are both from the NFC, there needed to be an AFC team involved to meet those guidelines. Therefore, options were limited. Last year, the Raiders were one of two AFC teams to visit Dallas during the season, and because it was Dallas' turn to be on CBS (Detroit and Dallas alternate Thanksgiving games on CBS), that mediocre game ended up on Thanksgiving. This year the Lions' Thanksgiving game would have had to have been either Buffalo or Miami, and neither one is a knockout matchup. Instead, the NFL decided to bend those guidelines. They added a "cross-flex" option for the league to move games between CBS and FOX. CBS, the home of AFC games, will carry the Bears-Lions game. Fox will have the Cowboys' showdown with the NFC East champs, and NBC will handle the 49ers-Seahawks showdown.

Thanksgiving is a time to be spent with family. Usually you had a window during the "boring" game to get in that quality turkey and touch football time. Not this year. Start making plans to have an eye on the TV starting when the Lions and Bears kick off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time until the 49ers and Seahawks are through beating up on each other. This is going to be pretty good.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 24, 2014, 12:20 am

The NFL isn't messing around with its 2014 schedule.

The world champion Seattle Seahawks will kick off the season with a game not against their archrivals, the San Francisco 49ers, or the team they beat in the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos, but rather with a foe that created controversy two years ago.

Remember the replacement referee fiasco game — aka, The Fail Mary — in Seattle in 2012? Yep, the NFL powers-that-be have orchestrated a rematch in Week 1 on Thursday, Sept. 4 on NBC in prime time.

The league announced all 256 games for the regular season, and it features some interesting highlights:

• Three Thanksgiving games that feature all NFC teams for the first time.

• A new Thursday slate of games, split through the season by CBS and NFL Network, that kicks off in Week 2 with a rivalry game of the Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens.

• Flex scheduling that can begin as early as Week 5, which is a change from years past, when it typically began starting in Week 11.

• Other key prime-time Week 1 games — Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos (NBC) on Sunday, Sept. 7, and the Monday night doubleheader (both games on ESPN): New York Giants at Detroit Lions for the early game and San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals for the late game. 

• A Super Bowl rematch of those Seahawks hosting the Broncos in Week 3. Also in that week, the Redskins' DeSean Jackson returns to Philadelphia for the first time since he was cut.

• Three international games this year, up from two in 2013, all at London's Wembley Stadium. They are: Week 4, Sunday, Sept. 28, the Oakland Raiders vs. the Miami Dolphins (1 PM ET, CBS); Week 8, Sunday, Oct. 26, the Atlanta Falcons vs. the Lions at (9:30 AM ET, Fox — the first-ever nationally televised 9:30 AM kickoff); and Week 10, Sunday, Nov. 9, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the Dallas Cowboys (1 PM ET, Fox).

Now here's the entire schedule, week by week, for the 2014 NFL season.

- - - - - - -

Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 24, 2014, 12:18 am

Full coverage of 2014 NFL schedule release:
Campaign kicks off with Packers at Seahawks | Thanksgiving slate full of great games
Who has the toughest and easiest road to the postseason?

Byes: None

THU, SEPT 4

TIME (ET)

TV

Green Bay at Seattle

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

SUN, SEPT 7

 

 

New Orleans at Atlanta

1 p.m.

Fox

Minnesota at St. Louis

1 p.m.

Fox

Cleveland at Pittsburgh

1 p.m.

CBS

Jacksonville at Philadelphia

1 p.m.

CBS

Oakland at NY Jets

1 p.m.

CBS

Cincinnati at Baltimore

1 p.m.

CBS

Buffalo at Chicago

1 p.m.

Fox

Washington at Houston

1 p.m.

Fox

Tennessee at Kansas City

1 p.m.

CBS

New England at Miami

1 p.m.

CBS

Carolina at Tampa Bay

4:25 p.m.

Fox

San Francisco at Dallas

4:25 p.m.

Fox

Indianapolis at Denver

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, SEPT 8

 

 

NY Giants at Detroit

7:10 p.m.

ESPN

San Diego at Arizona

10:20 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: None

THU, SEPT 11

TIME (ET)

TV

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

8:25 PM

CBS

 

 

 

SUN, SEPT 14

 

 

Miami at Buffalo

1 PM

CBS

Jacksonville at Washington

1 PM

CBS

Dallas at Tennessee

1 PM

FOX

Arizona at NY Giants

1 PM

FOX

New England at Minnesota

1 PM

CBS

New Orleans at Cleveland

1 PM

FOX

Atlanta at Cincinnati

1 PM

FOX

Detroit at Carolina

1 PM

FOX

St. Louis at Tampa Bay

4:05 PM

FOX

Seattle at San Diego

4:05 PM

FOX

Houston at Oakland

4:25 PM

CBS

NY Jets at Green Bay

4:25 PM

CBS

Kansas City at Denver

4:25 PM

CBS

Chicago at San Francisco

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, SEPT 15

 

 

Philadelphia at Indianapolis

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: None

THU, SEPT 18

TIME (ET)

TV

Tampa Bay at Atlanta

8:25 PM

CBS

 

 

 

SUN, SEPT 21

 

 

San Diego at Buffalo

1 PM

CBS

Dallas at St. Louis

1 PM

FOX

Washington at Philadelphia

1 PM

FOX

Houston at NY Giants

1 PM

CBS

Minnesota at New Orleans

1 PM

FOX

Tennessee at Cincinnati

1 PM

CBS

Baltimore at Cleveland

1 PM

CBS

Green Bay at Detroit

1 PM

FOX

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

1 PM

CBS

Oakland at New England

1 PM

CBS

San Francisco at Arizona

4:05 PM

FOX

Denver at Seattle

4:25 PM

CBS

Kansas City at Miami

4:25 PM

CBS

Pittsburgh at Carolina

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, SEPT 22

 

 

Chicago at NY Jets

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: Arizona, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, St. Louis

THU, SEPT 25

TIME (ET)

TV

NY Giants at Washington

8:25 p.m.

CBS/NFLN

 

 

 

SUN, SEPT 28

 

 

Green Bay at Chicago

1 p.m.

Fox

Buffalo at Houston

1 p.m.

CBS

Tennessee at Indianapolis

1 p.m.

CBS

Carolina at Baltimore

1 p.m.

CBS

Detroit at NY Jets

1 p.m.

Fox

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh

1 p.m.

Fox

Miami at Oakland

4:05 p.m.

CBS

Jacksonville at San Diego

4:05 p.m.

CBS

Atlanta at Minnesota

4:25 p.m.

Fox

Philadelphia at San Francisco

4:25 p.m.

Fox

New Orleans at Dallas

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, SEPT 29

 

 

New England at Kansas City

8:30 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: Miami, Oakland

THU, OCT 2

TIME (ET)

TV

Minnesota at Green Bay

8:25 PM

CBS

 

 

 

SUN, OCT 5

 

 

Chicago at Carolina

1 PM

FOX

Cleveland at Tennessee

1 PM

CBS

St. Louis at Philadelphia

1 PM

FOX

Atlanta at NY Giants

1 PM

FOX

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

1 PM

FOX

Houston at Dallas

1 PM

CBS

Buffalo at Detroit

1 PM

FOX

Baltimore at Indianapolis

1 PM

CBS

Pittsburgh at Jacksonville

1 PM

CBS

Arizona at Denver

4:05 PM

FOX

Kansas City at San Francisco

4:25 PM

CBS

NY Jets at San Diego

4:25 PM

CBS

Cincinnati at New England

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, OCT 6

 

 

Seattle at Washington

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: Kansas City, New Orleans

THU, OCT 9

TIME (ET)

TV

Indianapolis at Houston

8:25 p.m.

CBS/NFLN

 

 

 

SUN, OCT 12

 

 

Chicago at Atlanta

1 p.m.

Fox

Jacksonville at Tennessee

1 p.m.

CBS

Baltimore at Tampa Bay

1 p.m.

CBS

Denver at NY Jets

1 p.m.

CBS

Detroit at Minnesota

1 p.m.

Fox

New England at Buffalo

1 p.m.

CBS

Carolina at Cincinnati

1 p.m.

Fox

Pittsburgh at Cleveland

1 p.m.

CBS

Green Bay at Miami

1 p.m.

Fox

San Diego at Oakland

4:05 p.m.

CBS

Dallas at Seattle

4:25 p.m.

Fox

Washington at Arizona

4:25 p.m.

Fox

NY Giants at Philadelphia

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, OCT 13

 

 

San Francisco at St. Louis

8:30 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: Philadelphia, Tampa Bay

THU, OCT 16

TIME (ET)

TV

NY Jets at New England

8:25 PM

CBS

 

 

 

SUN, OCT 19

 

 

Atlanta at Baltimore

1 PM

FOX

Tennessee at Washington

1 PM

CBS

Seattle at St. Louis

1 PM

FOX

Cleveland at Jacksonville

1 PM

CBS

Cincinnati at Indianapolis

1 PM

CBS

Minnesota at Buffalo

1 PM

FOX

Miami at Chicago

1 PM

CBS

New Orleans at Detroit

1 PM

FOX

Carolina at Green Bay

1 PM

FOX

Kansas City at San Diego

4:05 PM

CBS

Arizona at Oakland

4:25 PM

FOX

NY Giants at Dallas

4:25 PM

FOX

San Francisco at Denver

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, OCT 20

 

 

Houston at Pittsburgh

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: NY Giants, San Francisco

THU, OCT 23

TIME (ET)

TV

San Diego at Denver

8:25 p.m.

CBS/NFLN

 

 

 

SUN, OCT 26

 

 

Detroit at Atlanta

9:30 a.m.

Fox

St. Louis at Kansas City

1 p.m.

Fox

Houston at Tennessee

1 p.m.

CBS

Minnesota at Tampa Bay

1 p.m.

Fox

Seattle at Carolina

1 p.m.

Fox

Baltimore at Cincinnati

1 p.m.

CBS

Miami at Jacksonville

1 p.m.

CBS

Chicago at New England

1 p.m.

Fox

Buffalo at NY Jets

1 p.m.

CBS

Philadelphia at Arizona

4:05 p.m.

Fox

Oakland at Cleveland

4:25 p.m.

CBS

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh

4:25 p.m.

CBS

Green Bay at New Orleans

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, OCT 27

 

 

Washington at Dallas

8:30 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Tennessee

THU, OCT 30

TIME (ET)

TV

New Orleans at Carolina

8:25 PM

NFL

 

 

 

SUN, NOV 2

 

 

Tampa Bay at Cleveland

1 PM

FOX

Arizona at Dallas

1 PM

FOX

Philadelphia at Houston

1 PM

FOX

NY Jets at Kansas City

1 PM

CBS

Jacksonville at Cincinnati

1 PM

CBS

San Diego at Miami

1 PM

CBS

Washington at Minnesota

1 PM

FOX

St. Louis at San Francisco

4:05 PM

FOX

Denver at New England

4:25 PM

CBS

Oakland at Seattle

4:25 PM

CBS

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, NOV 3

 

 

Indianapolis at NY Giants

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: Houston, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, San Diego, Washington

THU, NOV 6

TIME (ET)

TV

Cleveland at Cincinnati

8:25 p.m.

NFLN

 

 

 

SUN, NOV 9

 

 

Kansas City at Buffalo

1 p.m.

CBS

Miami at Detroit

1 p.m.

CBS

Dallas at Jacksonville

1 p.m.

Fox

San Francisco at New Orleans

1 p.m.

Fox

Tennessee at Baltimore

1 p.m.

CBS

Pittsburgh at NY Jets

1 p.m.

CBS

Atlanta at Tampa Bay

1 p.m.

Fox

Denver at Oakland

4:05 p.m.

CBS

St. Louis at Arizona

4:25 p.m.

Fox

NY Giants at Seattle

4:25 p.m.

Fox

Chicago at Green Bay

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, NOV 10

 

 

Carolina at Philadelphia

8:30 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville, NY Jets

THU, NOV 13

TIME (ET)

TV

Buffalo at Miami

8:25 PM

NFL

 

 

 

SUN, NOV 16

 

 

Minnesota at Chicago

1 PM

FOX

Houston at Cleveland

1 PM

CBS

Philadelphia at Green Bay

1 PM

FOX

Seattle at Kansas City

1 PM

FOX

Atlanta at Carolina

1 PM

FOX

Cincinnati at New Orleans

1 PM

CBS

Tampa Bay at Washington

1 PM

FOX

Denver at St. Louis

1 PM

CBS

San Francisco at NY Giants

1 PM

FOX

Oakland at San Diego

4:05 PM

CBS

Detroit at Arizona

4:25 PM

FOX

New England at Indianapolis

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, NOV 17

 

 

Pittsburgh at Tennessee

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: Carolina, Pittsburgh

THU, NOV 20

TIME (ET)

TV

Kansas City at Oakland

8:25 p.m.

NFLN

 

 

 

SUN, NOV 23

 

 

Cleveland at Atlanta

1 p.m.

CBS

Tennessee at Philadelphia

1 p.m.

CBS

Detroit at New England

1 p.m.

Fox

Green Bay at Minnesota

1 p.m.

Fox

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

1 p.m.

CBS

Cincinnati at Houston

1 p.m.

CBS

NY Jets at Buffalo

1 p.m.

CBS

Tampa Bay at Chicago

1 p.m.

Fox

Arizona at Seattle

4:05 p.m.

Fox

St. Louis at San Diego

4:05 p.m.

Fox

Miami at Denver

4:25 p.m.

CBS

Washington at San Francisco

4:25 p.m.

CBS

Dallas at NY Giants

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, NOV 24

 

 

Baltimore at New Orleans

8:30 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: None

THU, NOV 27

TIME (ET)

TV

Chicago at Detroit

12:30 PM

CBS

Philadelphia at Dallas

4:30 PM

FOX

Seattle at San Francisco

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

SUN, NOV 30

 

 

Washington at Indianapolis

1 PM

FOX

Tennessee at Houston

1 PM

CBS

Cleveland at Buffalo

1 PM

CBS

San Diego at Baltimore

1 PM

CBS

NY Giants at Jacksonville

1 PM

FOX

Cincinnati at Tampa Bay

1 PM

CBS

Oakland at St. Louis

1 PM

CBS

New Orleans at Pittsburgh

1 PM

FOX

Carolina at Minnesota

1 PM

FOX

Arizona at Atlanta

4:05 PM

FOX

New England at Green Bay

4:25 PM

CBS

Denver at Kansas City

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, DEC 1

 

 

Miami at NY Jets

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: None

THU, DEC 4

TIME (ET)

TV

Dallas at Chicago

8:25 p.m.

NFLN

 

 

 

SUN, DEC 7

 

 

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

1 p.m.

CBS

St. Louis at Washington

1 p.m.

Fox

NY Giants at Tennessee

1 p.m.

Fox

Carolina at New Orleans

1 p.m.

Fox

NY Jets at Minnesota

1 p.m.

CBS

Baltimore at Miami

1 p.m.

CBS

Indianapolis at Cleveland

1 p.m.

CBS

Tampa Bay at Detroit

1 p.m.

Fox

Houston at Jacksonville

1 p.m.

CBS

Buffalo at Denver

4:05 p.m.

CBS

Kansas City at Arizona

4:05 p.m.

CBS

Seattle at Philadelphia

4:25 p.m.

Fox

San Francisco at Oakland

4:25 p.m.

Fox

New England at San Diego

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, DEC 8

 

 

Atlanta at Green Bay

8:30 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: None

THU, DEC 11

TIME (ET)

TV

Arizona at St. Louis

8:30 PM

NFL

 

 

 

SUN, DEC 14

 

 

Pittsburgh at Atlanta

1 PM

CBS

Washington at NY Giants

1 PM

FOX

Miami at New England

1 PM

CBS

Oakland at Kansas City

1 PM

CBS

Houston at Indianapolis

1 PM

CBS

Jacksonville at Baltimore

1 PM

CBS

Green Bay at Buffalo

1 PM

FOX

Tampa Bay at Carolina

1 PM

FOX

Cincinnati at Cleveland

1 PM

CBS

Minnesota at Detroit

1 PM

FOX

NY Jets at Tennessee

4:05 PM

CBS

Denver at San Diego

4:05 PM

CBS

San Francisco at Seattle

4:25 PM

FOX

Dallas at Philadelphia

8:30 PM

NBC

 

 

 

MON, DEC 15

 

 

New Orleans at Chicago

8:30 PM

ESPN

 

Byes: None

THU, DEC 18

TIME (ET)

TV

Tennessee at Jacksonville

8:25 p.m.

NFLN

 

 

 

SAT, DEC 20

 

 

San Diego at San Francisco

4:30 p.m.

CBS/NFLN

Philadelphia at Washington

4:30 p.m.

NFLN/CBS

 

 

 

SUN, DEC 21

 

 

Minnesota at Miami

1 p.m.

Fox

Baltimore at Houston

1 p.m.

CBS

Detroit at Chicago

1 p.m.

Fox

Cleveland at Carolina

1 p.m.

CBS

Atlanta at New Orleans

1 p.m.

Fox

Kansas City at Pittsburgh

1 p.m.

CBS

New England at NY Jets

1 p.m.

CBS

NY Giants at St. Louis

4:05 p.m.

Fox

Buffalo at Oakland

4:25 p.m.

CBS

Indianapolis at Dallas

4:25 p.m.

CBS

Seattle at Arizona

8:30 p.m.

NBC

 

 

 

MON, DEC 22

 

 

Denver at Cincinnati

8:30 p.m.

ESPN

 

Byes: None

SUN, DEC 28

TIME (ET)

TV

Carolina at Atlanta

1 p.m.

Fox

Cleveland at Baltimore

1 p.m.

CBS

Dallas at Washington

1 p.m.

Fox

Indianapolis at Tennessee

1 p.m.

CBS

Detroit at Green Bay

1 p.m.

Fox

Jacksonville at Houston

1 p.m.

CBS

San Diego at Kansas City

1 p.m.

CBS

NY Jets at Miami

1 p.m.

CBS

Chicago at Minnesota

1 p.m.

Fox

Buffalo at New England

1 p.m.

CBS

Philadelphia at NY Giants

1 p.m.

Fox

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

1 p.m.

CBS

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

1 p.m.

Fox

Oakland at Denver

4:25 p.m.

CBS

Arizona at San Francisco

4:25 p.m.

Fox

St. Louis at Seattle

4:25 p.m.

Fox

Author: Yahoo! Sports Staff
Posted: April 24, 2014, 12:14 am

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Not all schedules are equal. The NFL doesn’t play a round robin, so some teams benefit from the good fortune of having much easier opponents than fellow playoff contenders. 

The AFC West was the main beneficiary last year. The Chiefs rode the easiest schedule in the NFL to a wild-card spot (the only winning team the Chiefs beat all year was Philadelphia, and even that game was fortunate because Kansas City caught the Eagles before they made the quarterback change to Nick Foles). The Broncos had good fortune too. They got Football Outsiders’ 31st ranked schedule, rode it to a No. 1 seed and a Super Bowl berth. The AFC West played its non-conference games against the NFC East last year, but this year it gets the NFC West, clearly the best division in football. No more easy passes.

Meanwhile, other teams are going to find their path to the playoffs a lot easier. It’s impossible to predict which schedules will be toughest or weakest, because teams that drew Houston or Atlanta last year at this time were a bit nervous, more nervous than those who had to play Carolina, for example. We can’t be sure yet which games on each team’s schedule will be the hardest ones. But we can give it our best guess to try to figure out which teams look like they have a much tougher road in 2014, and which might ride a fortunate slate to the postseason.

PLAYOFF TEAM IN SOME DANGER BECAUSE OF A ROUGH SCHEDULE
Denver Broncos

The Broncos are a good team. And they added a lot of talent. But their schedule, the second-weakest in the NFL last year, is about as tough as it gets this season.

Denver’s road schedule includes five playoff teams (Kansas City, San Diego, New England, Seattle and Cincinnati), an 8-8 team that barely missed (N.Y. Jets), a 7-9 team that was better than its record (St. Louis) and an Oakland team that should be improved. Denver’s home schedule includes six teams that were at least .500 in 2014, including San Francisco and Arizona. That change from the NFC East to the NFC West is enormous.

The Broncos will be challenged right away. They start the season at home against Indianapolis, then host Kansas City, then travel to Seattle before the bye in Week 4. That's a combined 2013 record of 35-13 for Denver's first three opponents, including a road date against a Seahawks team that destroyed it in the Super Bowl.

The Broncos should win the AFC West, because they’re clearly the best team, and division rivals like San Diego and Kansas City are also going to get a much tougher schedule. But the goal in Denver is the Super Bowl, and it’s possible the Broncos could be a better team and not even get a first-round bye. Or, they might be a little beat up by January after facing a schedule that has 12 games against teams that went at least .500 in 2013.

PLAYOFF TEAM THAT HAS THE EASIEST ROAD TO RETURN
Indianapolis Colts

As StampedeBlue.com points out, the Colts have the easiest schedule based on 2013 winning percentages. The combined record of their 2014 opponents is .430, lowest in the NFL. That’s what happens when you’re in a division with the Titans, Jaguars and Texans.

Indianapolis also gets out of the NFC West vortex this year. It replaces the toughest division in football with the NFC East, which should be a little better this year but it won’t be great either. And the best team in that division, Philadelphia, comes to Indianapolis.

After playing New England on Nov. 16, the Colts' final six games are against Jacksonville, Washington, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas and Tennessee. The combined 2013 record of the first four games in that stretch was 13-51. Tennessee and Dallas were 7-9 and 8-8, respectively.

The Colts aren’t better on paper than the Broncos. But when you consider that one team has an impossibly tough schedule and the other has what looks like the easiest one in the NFL, don’t be too surprised if the Colts finish the season with a better seed in the playoffs.

NON-PLAYOFF TEAM THAT HAS A CHIEFS-LIKE PATH BACK TO PLAYOFFS
Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers’ schedule isn’t as friendly as Kansas City’s last year, because that was a perfect storm, but it’s certainly one that makes you feel like Pittsburgh could improve on last year’s 8-8 mark and get back to the postseason.

The Steelers’ toughest non-division opponents come to Pittsburgh: Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans and what should be an improved Tampa Bay team. The Steelers’ non-division road games are against the Jaguars, Titans, Jets, Falcons and Panthers. If the Panthers take a step back, as it looks like they might, there’s not a game in that group the Steelers can’t win.

The stretch in which Pittsburgh should be able to get on a roll starts on Oct. 5, in Week 5, and goes through its bye. The stretch is games at Jacksonville, at Cleveland, vs. Houston, vs. Indianapolis, vs. Baltimore, at N.Y. Jets and at Tennessee. The Steelers will need to be sitting pretty after that, because of those seven games they should be favored in at least five and maybe all seven.

If the Steelers can play well at home against the tough opponents and handle business on the road against the teams they should beat, don’t be surprised if the Steelers are back on top of the AFC North this year.

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NON-PLAYOFF TEAM THAT WILL BE WONDERING WHAT IT DID TO DESERVE THIS
Oakland Raiders

Statistically, the Raiders have the toughest schedule in the NFL this year, based on 2013 records. Again, that’s what happens when your non-conference partner switches from the NFC East to the NFC West.
The combined 2013 winning percentage of the Raiders’ opponents this season is .578. That’s not nice for a team that finished last season on a six-game losing streak.

The Raiders are the only team in football that has to play every divisional game against a 2013 playoff team. Then add on those games against the 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams. Oh, and here’s a road game at New England as a bonus.

How's this for a brutal stretch, starting on Nov. 2: at Seattle, vs. Denver, at San Diego, vs. Kansas City, at St. Louis, vs. San Francisco, at Kansas City. That's six 2013 playoff teams in seven weeks, and the one game against a non-playoff team is a trip to St. Louis.

The Raiders added a lot of mid-level free agents this offseason and should be better. They need to be better, because the schedule is much, much tougher than it was a year ago.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 23, 2014, 10:41 pm

The NFL guards its precious product like a Lord of the Rings-style dragon, eyeing every scrap of information lest it reach the public before the NFL deems it appropriate. But none other than WFAN's Mike Francesa might just have made off with a bit of gold: the Giants' 2014 schedule.

According to Francesa, who read the schedule on his radio show, this is the Giants' slate in 2014:

Week 1: Sept. 8, at Detroit
Week 2: Sept. 14, vs. Arizona
Week 3: Sept. 21, vs. Houston
Week 4: Sept. 25, at Washington
Week 5: Oct. 5, vs. Atlanta
Week 6: Oct. 12, at Philadelphia
Week 7: Oct. 19, at Dallas
Week 8: Bye
Week 9: Nov. 3, vs. Indianapolis
Week 10: Nov. 9, at Seattle
Week 11: Nov. 16, vs. San Francisco
Week 12: Nov. 23, vs. Dallas
Week 13: Nov. 30, at Jacksonville
Week 14: Dec. 7, at Tennessee
Week 15: Dec. 14, vs. Washington
Week 16: Dec. 21, at St. Louis
Week 17: Dec. 28, vs. Philadelphia

That's an unbelievably brutal midseason slate. But thanks to the Giants' woeful performance in 2013, the rest of the slate isn't as tough as it could be.

Assuming this is real, the rest of the NFL's schedule was scheduled to be released at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday night. Giants fans just got a little headstart on planning their schedules.

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 23, 2014, 9:56 pm

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his wife Ashton have filed for divorce. The two were married in January 2012.

The Seahawks released a statement from Wilson on the issue: “I have made the difficult decision to file for divorce. Clearly, decisions like these don’t come easy. Ashton and I respectfully ask for prayers, understanding and privacy during this difficult time. Moving forward, I will have no further comment on this personal matter.”

Wilson and the former Ashton Meem were married in Richmond, Virginia in January 2012, just a few months before Wilson was selected by the Seahawks in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

 

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 23, 2014, 9:39 pm

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

Quarterback

Cleveland Browns: Mike Pettine is a first-year coach who needs “his guy” at quarterback. Brandon Weeden was just a guy. Jason Campbell was just another guy. Cleveland allowed players to walk in free agency. Brian Hoyer played well before sustaining a season-ending ACL injury in 2013, but is not viewed as a franchise quarterback. That leaves Pettine in desperate need of a quarterback (or two) in the upcoming draft.

Cleveland has two first-round picks, and the latter could be used to select Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Browns signed running back Ben Tate in free agency, plus have receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Manziel can be plugged into a productive system and possibly have success as a rookie. In addition, Cleveland could select Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas after the first-round to add another quarterback with potential. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

Jacksonville Jaguars: There is no way Jaguars coach Gus Bradley went through the effort of convincing good players to sign during free agency to settle with Chad Henne. That is not a knock against Henne as a person, but he is not Jacksonville’s quarterback of the future. Yahoo’s Eric Edholm believes Jacksonville will draft Blake Bortles (University of Central Florida), and that move makes sense. Bortles is a solid quarterback with potential, but will need help. Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon cannot stay out of trouble, while Ace Sanders and Cecil Shorts III are good, but not great. If Jacksonville can add Bortles and a quality receiver in the draft, this team will have a lot of upside. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

Houston Texans: It is hard to imagine Houston will use the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback. Most NFL draft experts believe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney or Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack will go first, which would leave Houston searching for a quarterback in the second-round. Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage or LSU’s Zach Mettenberger should be available after the first-round. The quarterback Houston selects will compete against Ryan Fitzpatrick to start. Fitzpatrick might be a short-term solution until this year’s addition is ready to play, but do not be surprised if the Texans select two quarterbacks. NEED LEVEL: High

Oakland Raiders: Dennis Allen is about to enter his third year as Oakland’s coach. Oakland has finished 4-12 in the past two seasons. Allen cannot hinge his long-term future on quarterback Matt Schaub. If the Raiders select receiver Sammy Watkins in the first-round, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo, Georgia’s Aaron Murray or Mettenberger will become solid options for Allen. Each quarterback could sit for one season and compete for a starting job next year. NEED LEVEL: High

Minnesota Vikings: With Matt Cassel signed for another two years, and Christian Ponder still hanging around, the Vikings do not need a quarterback. However, Cassel and Ponder are average, and neither are franchise players. Minnesota is facing another losing season with either quarterback under center, and the long-term future is bleak without a quarterback of the future. The Vikings could select Bortles in the first-round, or hold out hope Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater slips to the second-round. If Minnesota cannot select Bortles, Bridgewater or Manziel, it might make sense for Minnesota to pick up a quarterback next year. NEED LEVEL: Medium

NFL Draft Needs series
April 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 23, 2014, 4:58 pm

It stinks when you go over your alloted amount of texts in a month. Those extra messages really add onto your bill.

And if you're the Buffalo Bills, the cost of those pesky extra text messages is about $3 million.

The problem started when the Bills started sending text alerts in 2012. It was an opt-in service that provided updates on the team. Jerry Wojcik, a Bills fan living in Florida, said the team violated the terms of the service by sending 13 texts in two weeks, when the Bills said they would send no more than five per week, the Buffalo News said. So he sued the team with a class-action lawsuit.

Does that seem like an outrageous lawsuit? Sure does. But the Bills are paying up. They're giving debit cards of either $57.50, $65 or $75 to be used at the team store in Orchard Park, N.Y. or at the online team store. The amount of the debit cards given to the class members is $2,487,745, the Buffalo News said. Another $562,000 went to Wojcik's lawyers and Wojcik got $5,000 in cash. 

Those are some expensive text messages. The lawsuit was ridiculous, but it worked.

“The Buffalo Bills have reached a settlement in this matter which we believe is in the best interest of our organization and our fans. The purpose of the Bills’ voluntary, opt-in text messaging program was to provide our fans with information they requested about the team. The organization maintains that our text messaging program was in compliance with the law,” Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said in a statement, according to the Buffalo News.

The Bills lawyers have been busy. They're also dealing with a lawsuit filed by the team's cheerleaders. At this point the team will be thrilled when the season starts and they can put this crazy offseason behind them. It's a good bet they won't be sending you any text messages to inform you of any good news that might happen in the meantime.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 23, 2014, 4:37 pm

It began, as all great world-shaking movements do, with a single tweet.

Back in March, Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR legend, decided to see about getting his buddy Robert Griffin III, quarterback of Earnhardt's beloved Redskins, involved with this weekend's NASCAR race in Richmond. Here's the sequence where Earnhardt persuaded Richmond International Raceway president Dennis Bickmeier to bring RGIII aboard:

@RIRInsider If y'all don't have a Grand Marshall for the upcoming race you should invite @RGIII. He needs to come check @NASCAR out! #HTTR

— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) March 24, 2014

Love to have him involved with something at the race. We have options! Think he can wheel the pace car @DaleJr @RIRInsider @RGIII @NASCAR

— Dennis Bickmeier (@RIRprez) March 24, 2014

@DaleJr: I'm sure the fans here can persuade him to make the trip. @RIRprez @RGIII @FOXSports @RIRInsider @NASCAR” I'm game brother

— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) March 24, 2014

 And on Wednesday, Richmond and Griffin made it official: Griffin will drive the pace car that leads 43 cars to start the race on Saturday night. Griffin will receive pace car training and visit with former Redskins coach and current NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs prior to the race itself.

This is all well and good; after a lackluster 2013 season, Griffin could stand for a little image-bolstering. And there's no better place than Richmond, which is definite Redskins territory and home of the Redskins' preseason training camp. But we have to wonder ... what would other quarterbacks do were they to take the wheel of a NASCAR pace car?

• Peyton Manning would look absolutely flawless all the way around the track and then put the car into the wall within 100 feet of the finish line.

• Tony Romo would be brilliant and speedy, since there are no NASCAR races in December or January.

• Matt Ryan would be handed the slickest, sleekest pace car you've ever seen and still not be able to get it out of second gear.

• Andy Dalton would run over his own foot.

• Aaron Rodgers would lead the field, injure his shoulder making a turn, pull over and take half a lap off, then still catch up to the front.

• Matt Schaub would get carjacked.

• Matthew Stafford would only drive the car if Calvin Johnson could ride with him.

• Philip Rivers would do a pace lap, celebrate like he'd won, and then realize that he was driving at about one-fifth the speed of the actual race.

• Brandon Weeden would show up on a horse.

• Eli Manning would accidentally back into the very cars he was supposed to be leading.

Your turn, friends.

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter. Follow @jaybusbee

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 23, 2014, 4:27 pm

This might come as a shock to some, but being an NFL cheerleader isn't quite the cushy gig it might first appear. Sure, there's the pompoms and the cheering and the adoring eyes of thousands of men. But according to a new lawsuit filed by five Buffalo Bills cheerleaders ... there's not much else.

The cheerleaders have filed the suit in state Supreme Court, charging that they worked hundreds of hours a year for free at events, and were subjected to groping and other violations of employment protections. Most notably, the cheerleaders had to undergo a "jiggle test," in which they performed jumping jacks prior to that week's games. The cheerleaders that, well, jiggled were told to cut the fat or hit the road.

The case hinges on whether the cheerleaders, known as the "Jills," are independent contractors. The plaintiffs charge that the Bills violate the state's $8 per hour minimum wage rule. The Jills are managed by Stejon Productions, and were formerly managed by Citadel Communications, not the Bills themselves. However, the suit charges that since the Bills had total control over the cheerleaders, right down to their hygiene, the Bills were de facto employers.

Cheerleaders are responsible for their own travel expenses, and must pay $650 for their uniforms. They pay a $50 fee to try out. They're also expected to attend two to three dozen charity events, most of which are unpaid, over the course of a season. The lawsuit charged that the cheerleaders totaled more than 800 hours a year of unpaid work. The plaintiffs' pay for the entire season ranged from a high of $806 to a low of $150. For the entire season.

The suit also charges that the Jills had to endure both verbal and physical harassment at various team-related functions. Here's the lawsuit's account of a charity golf tournament:

The Jills Annual Golf Tournament–Select Jills were required to wear a bikini, and then go into a dunk tank, where they were dunked in water by the golf tournament participants. Jills cheerleaders are also "auctioned off" like prizes at this event, and had to ride around with the winning bidder in his golf cart for the duration of the tournament. While serving as a "bought person" they were subjected to additional demeaning treatment, including degrading sexual comments and inappropriate touching. Oftentimes, the Jills were forced to sit on participants' laps because there was not enough seats in the golf carts. The golf tournament also featured a "Flip for Tips" component, wherein participants paid gratuities to watch select Jills do backflips and acrobatics for the gratification of the crowd. (The Jills did not receive any of the tip money).

The Bills declined to comment on the pending litigation.

This is the third such lawsuit filed this year over cheerleading; both the Raiders and Bengals have been the target of similar suits. Via Deadspin, read the complete complaint here.

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 23, 2014, 1:51 pm

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone had a cancerous mole removed from his skin but said he's fine, ABC affiliate WKBW first reported.

For a short time Tuesday, the Buffalo Bills website had a story with the headline, "Coach Marrone announces he has cancer," referring to head coach Doug Marrone. Then the story, which was obviously unfinished and left space for the writer to add a quote from Marrone and the specific cancer, was deleted. That led to a lot of speculation.

WKBW sports director Jeff Russo had the news.

#Bills HC Doug Marrone had a cancerous mole on his skin found during a recent doctors visit.

— Jeff Russo (@JeffRussoWKBW) April 23, 2014

 

Statement from Doug Marrone "The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward." #Bills

— Jeff Russo (@JeffRussoWKBW) April 23, 2014

Here's the full statement from Marrone, via the Bills public relations staff:

"During a recent doctor's visit, it was discovered that I had a cancerous mole on my skin, which has since been removed. The only follow up required is to have my moles checked every 3 months and that basically is the end of the story. The recent extraction procedure will have no effect on my ability to coach the team moving forward."

Hopefully, as Marrone said, this is the end of the story and he has no further issues with his health going forward.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 23, 2014, 2:46 am

 

The Seattle Seahawks defense ate Peyton Manning alive, so he's building up his confidence with a secondary he can beat: elementary school kids.

Nice work by his receiver to clear out some space with a double-juke, then explode into the open field for the catch. Good presence of mind to keep both feet in bounds, too. As for the defender? Richard Sherman is making his way to that school right now to teach these kids the art of being a — say it with us — shutdown corner.

So, yes, great performance by the young receiver. Unfortunately, Mel Kiper Jr. is projecting the kid as a lock to go to the Raiders. But at least he'll get to see his buddy Peyton twice a year.

As for Manning: he's seriously mellowed out since the last time we saw him throwing to kids. Either that, or he's going to crush Junior at the first dropped pass:

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 22, 2014, 8:25 pm

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning plans to be back for training camp. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on Manning’s performance this season.

Manning had arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle earlier in April, but told reporters on Tuesday he planned to be ready when training camp begins in August.

Eli Manning "I think I'd be safe to say I'd be 100 percent for the start of training camp. I would hope so."

— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) April 22, 2014

A healthy Manning is one thing, but productivity is something else.

Manning led the NFL with 27 interceptions during New York’s 7-9 season in 2013. He finished with 3,818 passing yards and 18 touchdowns, but Manning’s passer rating was 69.4 (second lowest total of his career).

Manning led New York to a Super Bowl win during the 2011 season. However, Manning has led his team to the playoffs once during the past five years. In addition, he has thrown at least 25 interceptions twice over the past four seasons.

New York signed Josh Freeman to backup Manning this season. Freeman is not expected to compete against Manning, but is a solid option if Manning is not healthy once training camp begins. Freeman can help New York’s receivers obtain quality preseason minutes if the Giants are cautious with Manning before the regular season.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 22, 2014, 6:34 pm

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

RECEIVER/TIGHT END

Carolina Panthers: Assuming Carolina does not plan to run a wing-T offense this season, the Panthers will need to draft more than one receiver. Carolina released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith, who signed with Baltimore. Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon each signed with other teams during free agency. Carolina replaced those receivers with Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh), Jason Avant (Philadelphia) and Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay) ... not necessarily the second coming of Washington’s “Fun Bunch.”

Carolina could use its first-round pick on USC receiver Marqise Lee, who won the 2012 Biletnikoff Award with a breakout season (1,721 yards, 14 TDs) before nagging leg injuries led to 791 yards and four TDs last season. He would be an instant upgrade to Carolina’s roster, but the same could be said about Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, who is similar to Smith. Carolina could justify selecting receivers in the first two rounds. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

Oakland Raiders: With all due respect to James Jones and Rod Streater, there is not a game-changer on this roster. Jones signed a three-year deal with Oakland this offseason. He played through nagging injuries last season, but still had a career-high 817 receiving yards. He led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions in 2012, but Aaron Rodgers was his quarterback, not Matt Schaub. Oakland could add Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins and have a threat in the passing game. Texas A&M’s Mike Evans is a top-10 talent too, and he would be an instant upgrade as well. NEED LEVEL: Medium high

Tennessee Titans: Nate Washington, Dexter McCluster and Kendall Wright are a good group of receivers, but Jake Locker still does not have a reliable No.1 option. Tennessee was hopeful Kenny Britt would emerge into a standout, but he made more noise for his off-the-field antics. Tennessee may not need a receiver in the first-round, but LSU’s Odell Beckham can stretch the field and would give the Titans more options. NEED LEVEL: Medium high

St. Louis Rams: Most teams try to build around their franchise quarterback, but St. Louis has failed to give Sam Bradford some much-needed help. Tavon Austin excelled as a rookie last season, but Chris Givens took a step backward, while Stedman Bailey is still developing. St. Louis should address pressing needs in the first-round, but Penn State receiver Allen Robinson, LSU’s Jarvis Landry or Beckham could make Bradford feel better about his options. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Dallas Cowboys: After Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, things gets really shaky. Former Cowboys receiver Miles Austin remains unsigned because of his annual hamstring difficulties, and considering Tony Romo is 34 and recovering from back surgery, Dallas’ window of opportunity is closing. Of course some might say the window has been closed for years, and that is a fair assessment, too. Dallas needs help defensively, but players such as Clemson’s Martavis Bryant, Fresno State’s Davante Adams, BYU’s Cody Hoffman, and UCLA’s Shaq Evans are realistic possibilities for Dallas after the first-round. Adding a tight end, such as Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, is another solid option for Dallas. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Other teams in need: N.Y. Jets, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco

NFL Draft Needs series
April 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 22, 2014, 6:00 pm

If you were armed with the knowledge that an NFL player suffered a stroke on the field because of a hit, you'd figure it would be apparent what happened when you saw the replay. MMQB.com reported that Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Russell Allen suffered a stroke on the field and is retiring as a result, and the frightening part is the hit in question looks like any other NFL play.

If a hit caused a dead spot on an NFL player's brain, as it did with Allen, it should be clear, right? The kind of hit that looked like it resulted in a bad concussion but turned out to be much worse.

That's not the case with Allen. He never even paused to go down to a knee or had any reaction really.

MMQB's excellent story by Robert Klemko outlined the series in which Allen apparently took the hit that gave him a stroke. In the first play from scrimmage after halftime in Week 15 against Buffalo, Allen hit center Eric Wood, who was trying to block him. Although Allen said he felt "something flash" after hitting Wood, he didn't lose consciousness and went back to the huddle. If you look at the replay of the game, there's nothing about that play that stands out as unusual. A center and a linebacker meeting on a run play. No big deal. Allen shows no reaction. But apparently that was the hit that caused the injury.

Allen stayed in. On second and third downs, Allen drops into coverage. On second down he congratulated cornerback Alan Ball for a tackle. On third he made a tackle. And again, even after studying Allen through those plays, nothing seems unusual.

That's the scariest part of Allen's story. It wasn't one big hit. Even after multiple viewings, it seems like a normal play.

Allen said he started seeing double on the sideline in the second half, but went back in and finished the game. When headaches persisted on Monday, he informed the team what happened. An MRI showed that he had a stroke, MMQB wrote. A small part of his cerebellum was inactive. Three neurosurgeons confirmed the injury, the type of stroke that has never happened to a pro football player before, as far as they knew. It was the kind of injury seen in a small percentage of high-speed automobile accidents, MMQB wrote.

And here's the quote from Allen that continues to haunt the NFL, as it rides the fine line of promoting concussion safety and awareness while also contradicting that with actions like not guaranteeing player contracts:

“If I could go back in time I would do it differently,” Allen says. “Being in it and knowing how I felt in that moment, the game feels so serious. You’re thinking, I can’t come out, because what if someone else comes in and takes my job? Or they need me out there, and I can’t come out because I really want to win. But you can’t do that, and I learned that the hard way.”

The NFL doesn't want players to lie about head injuries, but this type of attitude will be hard to eliminate.

My family & I want to thank everyone for the love & support. It's been a tough time but we serve a God who is bigger than our struggles.

— Russell Allen (@RussellAllen50) April 22, 2014

I told my story so athletes understand you can't ignore head injuries. If you're not sure you have one, then you do. Report it immediately.

— Russell Allen (@RussellAllen50) April 22, 2014

Allen, 27, is done with football. He was released last Thursday by the Jaguars because of a "failed physical." It's a sad and scary story, and hopefully Allen has a normal life as a father and husband. About the only good news is the injury wasn't worse.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 22, 2014, 5:24 pm

It was 10 years ago that Pat Tillman, who had given up everything he had worked for in the NFL to serve for his country, was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.

Hopefully, no one has forgotten his contributions to our nation. He was a truly selfless man whose memory should live on strongly for decades.

What about the NFL? The league has done plenty to honor his memory, and it likely will continue to do so. Check out the video above — a touching interview between NFL Network's Jeff Darlington and Tillman's widow, Marie. She has helped carry on Pat's spirit and enlighten people about the incredible sacrifices he made for himself, his family and his country.

And if you ask NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth, he believes  after reading this ESPN piece  that Tillman has done enough to be considered for entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

If I live to be a million years old, I will never understand why Pat Tillman is not in the NFL Hall of Fame. Thanks ESPN. Great reporting.

— Cris Collinsworth (@CollinsworthNBC) April 20, 2014

It's a fascinating debate. As a player, he appeared in only 60 games for the Arizona Cardinals and tallied three interceptions, 2.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries in his career. Tillman was a good, hard-nosed player who was just entering his prime after four NFL seasons following the 2001 campaign when he gave up everything and reported for duty to join the fight of hunting down Osama bin Laden.

As a player, Tillman's credentials fall short. There are only 24 defensive backs in Canton, and even if Tillman played 10-12 years in the league, it's not likely he would have joined that group.

But clearly, Tillman's contributions go way beyond interceptions. The Hall of Fame voters, as it says on the official website, are charged with inducting "the finest the game has produced" into Canton, and Collinsworth's point is that Tillman certainly qualifies in that regard.
There are 19 "contributors" who have been elected to the Hall of Fame over the years, with the majority of them former commissioners, team owners, scouts, historians and the like. Could Tillman perhaps fit into that category?
After all, he has been out of the game now 10 years and, per one Hall of Fame voter who has been on the committee for several years, has never come up seriously in conversation.
And here's the natural follow-up: Would Pat even have wanted to be mentioned for the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Likely not. He was named to the College Football Hall of Fame, and for good reason: his standout career at Arizona State. It's a nice way of honoring him. But as this excellent 2011 feature by ESPN's Johnette Howard points out, via Tillman's closest friends, it's not likely that Tillman would have wanted to be honored in that way.
Collinsworth's tweets bring up the talk of Tillman on the anniversary of his death in the line of duty, and we're grateful that his name remains one that resonates with people to this day. It should. But there might be other ways to honor his memory than by forcing his induction into the Hall of Fame.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 22, 2014, 5:21 pm

The closer we get to the NFL Draft, the more analysis, speculation, contemplation, and outright bull we're going to hear. Your challenge as a fan is to figure out whether the stories you're hearing about your team's preferred players are rooted in truth or manure. (Spoiler: nobody knows anything.)

Jadeveon Clowney has the talents to be a potential No. 1 pick in the draft. (That's right where our Eric Edholm projects him.) He also has attributes that, viewed through a certain lens, concern former players such as Warren Sapp, who held court on NFL Total Access on Monday. The topic at hand: Clowney's work ethic, or perceived lack thereof.

“My grandfather taught me something a long time ago," Sapp said. "He said ‘You will never get more money by doing less work. I look at Jadeveon Clowney’s tape and I don’t see a guy that is playing the game with his hair on fire, making plays, running up and down the field sideline to sideline, doing all of the things.”

No disrespect to Sapp's grandfather, but here's another, more recent cliche: work smarter, not harder. Clowney does have plenty to prove, but running around like one's hair is on fire — which, with Clowney, would be a heck of a sight — doesn't guarantee anything other than that the player's going to be gassed by the fourth quarter. Knowing when to pick one's spots is a critical skill as well.

The focal point for Sapp's rage was Clowney's decision not to hold on-field workouts prior to the draft. "What else is he doing, not waking up?" Sapp said. "The next job you have is rushing the quarterback, young man, getting ready for the NFL. If you wake up every morning and you're not prepared to go out and do the things you have to be either be an outside linebacker or pass rushing specialist, what else is there? You can blow your knee out walking your doggy. So why would you not work out for a team that has twenty million-plus dollars for you?"

Well, for one reason, that twenty-million-plus dollars would vanish faster than an opposing QB's heartbeat if Clowney were to injure himself the way Clemson's Brandon Thomas did during his team workout. Clowney's done more than enough, on tape, in games, to satisfy any reasonable draft analyst; when you're already projected as a potential No. 1 pick, there's only one direction that more information can send you.

Sapp is falling into the traditional media trap of growing frustrated with players who don't make things easier on the media. This isn't about "looking out" for Clowney, this is about Sapp using his platform to tee off on Clowney. Sapp, of course, knows a thing or two about media reports harming one's draft stock, but then things always look a little different from the other side of the fence. 

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 22, 2014, 4:43 pm

The NFL playoffs are coming to cable television.

That's not such a huge deal now, but when ESPN got "Sunday Night Football" back in the stone ages of 1987, it was big news that the league was putting regular-season games on cable. Kids, cable television wasn't as widespread as it is today. We were a little more than a couple decades from getting just about any sporting event you want on your phone, mostly because the few cell phones in circulation were the size of shoeboxes. The idea of a playoff game on cable back then? Nonsense.

Well, it took a while but it will happen. ESPN will broadcast a wild-card playoff game in January of 2015, a first for the network even though it has been showing NFL games for more than 25 years. As part of the NFL's "Monday Night Football" agreement with ESPN it had the option to put a playoff game on the network, and it exercised that option for this season. But why?

It's possible we'll understand that answer better when the NFL regular-season schedule is announced. And the additional news that the NFL added a divisional playoff game to NBC's package probably is related to the ESPN news.

ESPN's "Monday Night Football" schedule has been famously average or worse through most of its run, with the top game going to NBC and "Sunday Night Football" most weeks. CBS is joining the "Thursday Night Football" game this season. The NFL Network had a Thursday night schedule that was notoriously bad, much worse than ESPN. There was no way the NFL was going to give CBS a half-season of Thursday night games and stick them with ratings killers like Buffalo vs. Jacksonville. CBS was definitely going to get some good games to showcase, and that cuts out another piece of the pie before ESPN got to the table. It also means that NBC's schedule is likely taking a hit too, which explains why the league gave NBC a divisional playoff game for the first time since it bought the rights to "Sunday Night Football" in 2006. NBC will get a divisional playoff game each season through 2022. NBC will also broadcast a wild-card playoff game this season, as usual. The NFL has to keep all of its television partners happy.

The NFL schedule should come out this week, although the league is once again being very secretive about the exact date. But given that the league hooked up ESPN and NBC with some valuable playoff inventory, the most interesting part of the schedule release will be seeing what those two networks and CBS are getting in the regular season.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 22, 2014, 3:48 pm

Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

Ryan Shazier
Linebacker
Ohio State
6-foot-1, 237 pounds
2013 stats: 134 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles
40-yard dash: 4.36 seconds (unofficial time at pro day)

The good: Shazier is explosive to the ball and violent when he gets there. It's impressive watching his film, because he's so fast through the line. You expect a top-flight linebacker to rack up solo tackles in college, as Shazier did. He had 208 in three years and was on pace to break the Ohio State record for tackles had he not entered the NFL draft a year early (and the Buckeyes have had a few great linebackers). But he also was on pace to break the school record for tackles for loss, and that's generally a stat dominated by pass rushers. Only 14 of his 44.5 career tackles for loss were sacks. He's a master at hitting running backs behind the line. If it wasn't obvious from his college film he was a great athlete, he had an outstanding combine. He had the best vertical jump among linebackers (42 inches), best broad jump (10-foot-10), and fifth-best three-cone drill time (6.91 seconds). Then he ran a 40-yard dash that was unofficially timed at 4.36 or 4.37 at his pro day. To put that in perspective, wide receiver pick Sammy Watkins, a potential top five pick, ran a 4.43 in the 40. Shazier is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft, and he's a heck of a football player too.

The bad: Here's where we should be talking about his weight, because in college he said he played last season at 228, and appeared to be lighter earlier in his career. That's a little small for an NFL linebacker. But he showed up for the combine at 237 pounds, which is even more than C.J. Mosley, the top middle linebacker prospect. Shazier is not known for his coverage, and will have to learn how to play man schemes in the pros because he wasn't asked to do that a lot in college. But given his athletic ability, it doesn't seem like that will be too tough of a task. Heck, his dad is even the team chaplain for the Miami Dolphins and he spoke at the combine about how important his faith was to him, which would seem to be a positive if you're looking for a high-character player. There's not much "bad" to find with Shazier.

The verdict: Most mock drafts have Shazier going late in the first, but that might be too conservative. What is there not to like? The athleticism and production are clearly evident, and he did it against top competition. He doesn't have an extensive injury history. He's best suited for weak-side linebacker, but at 237 pounds he's big enough to play in the middle. Luke Kuechly, the reigning defensive player of the year, was just five pounds more at the combine two years ago. You're telling me the NFL is going to let him slip down to the point where a playoff team like Green Bay or maybe even Denver gets a crack at him? I don't buy it. Someone is waiting to take him higher than anyone is projecting right now. And that team will be right.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 22, 2014, 3:17 pm

We’ve taken the next step here. Although our mock drafts this past year might outnumber our visits to the gym, this will be the first time we project trades. Are they going to happen just like we see them? Of course not. But it's fun to envision scenarios that are not immediately evident, and yet we know that trades are a huge part of the draft landscape.

There were nine trades involving first- or second-round picks on the first two days of the 2013 NFL draft. In this scenario, we project a pedestrian three — enough to get our creative juices flowing and start the plate tectonics a bit, but not too many to cloud and skew the picture dramatically. But it's no coincidence that two of the three deals involve trades up for quarterbacks Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. That sort of thing tends to happen on the clock when teams get antsy.

We’ll check in the night before the draft — 16 agonizing days from now — with our final first-round predictions from the Shutdown Corner contributors. But here’s how the first 64 picks look right now.

1. Houston Texans — South Carolina DE-LB Jadeveon Clowney

We’ve had him in this spot for months and haven’t wavered much from it. Clowney’s pro day performance displayed what we suspected: that he’d have no trouble going in reverse, if asked to. The Texans might be in their base defense only 30 percent of the time, so Clowney will be quite comfortable rushing the Andrew Lucks of the world from a right-end spot — or wherever else coordinator Romeo Crennel wants to play him. That said, a trade down wouldn't be out of the question — something we hadn't considered previously.

Shaun King's take: Major question marks and concerns

2. St. Louis Rams (from Washington Redskins) — Auburn OT Greg Robinson

The Rams’ offense must marry the power run game with the rhythm passing game, and Robinson can step in and help give it a boost. He’s already an NFL-caliber run blocker, and his athleticism and work ethic should allow him to be a plus pass blocker in time. Jeff Fisher’s ties to Jake Matthews aside, this is the right fit. Robinson should dominate as a second-level blocker on the turf.

Shaun King's take: Best run blocker in a decade

3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Buffalo LB-DE Khalil Mack

Coach Gus Bradley now has the makings of a deep and skilled front seven that can make the Jags contenders. They face a slew of good quarterbacks, but they also face a handful of teams that could be starting rookies at the position, so the m.o. in Jacksonville will be to attack and force turnovers to give the offense as many chances as possible. Mack was a turnover machine in college and is the perfect fit as the “Leo” linebacker in this scheme.

Shaun King's take: Best pound-for-pound player in the draft

4. Cleveland Browns — Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews

General manager Ray Farmer has been on the job a little over two months now, and he’s weighed his options at No. 4. Knowing he has two more picks coming in the subsequent 30 slots, Farmer likely will want to make as safe a selection as possible here and maybe not tie himself to a quarterback in this spot. If they need to — foreshadowing alert — the Browns can trade up for a QB later. Here, they take their starting right tackle for a decade.

Shaun King's take: Most polished player

5. Oakland Raiders — Clemson WR Sammy Watkins

Watkins would be a huge upgrade over the inconsistent and unreliable Denarius Moore at the “X” receiver spot and give Matt Schaub a run-after-the-catch threat. The Raiders would be in decent hands with a top three receivers of Watkins, James Jones and Rod Streater. Ideally, they’d find their quarterback of the future here, but this is a good alternative assuming they do not.

Shaun King's take: Unquestionably No. 1 receiver in draft

6. Atlanta Falcons — Michigan OT Taylor Lewan

Too soon? The Falcons were soft up front last season. Way too soft. Mike Tice is the new OL coach, and he likes players such as Lewan, who carry a nasty streak. The Falcons can keep Sam Baker at left tackle for now and put Lewan on the right side, but it would not be surprising to see Lewan slide over to the left at some point. He’s exactly the guy to add a little vinegar to their recipe up front.

Shaun King's take: Has potential, but not refined

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Texas A&M WR Mike Evans

Prior to the trade of Mike Williams, the Bucs had depth problems at receiver. Now they have a talent deficiency, too. Evans and Vincent Jackson have some overlapping skills, but that’s OK. So, too, do Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and new Bucs QB Josh McCown might feel like he’s back in Chicago when he sees these two physical freaks running patterns.

Shaun King's take: Second-best receiver in the draft

8. Minnesota Vikings — Central Florida QB Blake Bortles

The Vikings can’t afford to mess around with their top quarterback option on the board. Yes, the Daunte Culpepper connections would arise with this pairing, but Bortles is a slightly different cat. But GM Rick Spielman watched Bortles light it up at his pro day, and you’d have to think that his skills would translate very well to a Norv Turner-called offense. The beauty, too, is that Matt Cassel can win the job, and Bortles can replace him whenever he’s good and ready.

Shaun King's take: Highest ceiling QB in draft

9. Buffalo Bills — UCLA LB-DE Anthony Barr

The Bills don’t have a ton of pressing needs, and a pass-rushing linebacker/end might not be atop the list, but there is a lack of depth behind Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes. Jim Schwartz runs the wide-9 scheme and needs his edge rushers to crash down hard, yet have the athleticism to stay balanced and flexible. That’s Barr, who could more seasoning. But his upside is undeniable.

Shaun King's take: Not souring on Barr

10. Detroit Lions — Alabama S Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix

New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin knows that in order for his secondary to work, he must have good safety play. Nearly everywhere Austin has coached, he has helped cultivate talented safeties (Matt Elam in Baltimore and the University of Florida; Antrel Rolle with the Cardinals) and taught them to be ballhawks. Clinton-Dix comes from a pro-caliber college defense, and even with a slight downtick in his play in 2013, he shows the ability to be a Day 1 centerfielder in the back half of a defense. The Lions want to let their young corners develop, and having better safety play should help.

Shaun King's take: Like an Earl Thomas

11. Tennessee Titans — Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert

Not willing to pull the trigger on a quarterback here, the Titans could still address a major need by drafting Gilbert, who could start Day 1 opposite Jason McCourty and take Leon Washington out of a job on kick returns. Gilbert has the long arms and press-coverage ability to check the Andre Johnsons of the world, and the alpha-dog persona to be a perfect fit for fiery new coordinator Ray Horton.

Shaun King's take: Not aggressive enough

12. New York Giants — Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald

The Giants have some interesting names at defensive tackle, but none of them are guaranteed contributors this season. They need an inside penetrator to help check blocking schemes against them and open things up for Jason Pierre-Paul, and Donald appears to be that perfect fit. Giants DL coach Robert Nunn has had to be a big motivator for all the talented but inconsistent underachievers the Giants have had up front, but that won’t be a problem with Donald, whose motor always runs hot.

13. St. Louis Rams — Louisville S Calvin Pryor

Pryor isn’t Earl Thomas, but he has some Thomas-like aggression and pursuit ability, which is a perfect fit in the NFC West, one of the most aggressive divisions going. The Rams had trouble defending the deep pass last season, and Pryor can be for them what Michael Griffin was for Jeff Fisher’s Titans teams. If Pryor can learn to play with a little more control, he could be a leader for perhaps the best young defense in the NFL. Seriously. (Oh, and don’t think I haven’t heard the Johnny Manziel rumors. I just … couldn’t.)

14. Chicago Bears — Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman

Bit of a tough spot for the Bears, who in this scenario will have seen the top defensive tackle, top corner and top two safeties go off the board. Their consolation prize is a Phil Emery special — the freakishly gifted but inconsistent Ra’Shede Hageman, who could be a monster or a bust. He has Richard Seymour-like physical traits but must grow into being that type of player. The Bears don’t have many players who can anchor inside, so Hageman would fill the bill there and try to develop on the job.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Ohio State CB Bradley Roby

Roby might never be an elite player, but he reminds me a little of Deshea Townshend, and he might look the same to Dick Lebeau as well. Roby didn’t have his best final year in college but is a better player than, say, the Wisconsin game tape reveals. He can blitz, play man or zone, outside or slot. This would be an instant-impact addition.

16. Dallas Cowboys — Notre Dame OG-OT Zack Martin

It has to kill Jerry Jones not to be able to draft an impact defender or even pull the trigger on, say, Johnny Manziel. This is a draft loaded with intriguing upside players, and yet we’re projecting them a very safe, sound pick. Why? It’s a need, with Martin able to start Day 1 at guard and kick out to right tackle next year when the team has to consider cutting Doug Free.

17. Baltimore Ravens — LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham can play all three receiver spots and return punts and kickoffs, making him a valuable piece on a team that lacked receiving weapons last season. A package of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside, Steve Smith and Beckham in the slot and Dennis Pitta would be an outstanding upgradge for Joe Flacco this season.

Shaun King's take: Like Sammy Watkins without consistency

18. New York Jets — North Carolina TE Eric Ebron

The Jets don’t have a threat to stretch the seam, so this would be a perfect match of need and ability. Ebron might not be a plus blocker in the NFL right now, and the Jets probably wouldn’t ask him to be right away. But they have to have some big plays in the passing game to fit the skills of either Geno Smith or Michael Vick, and Ebron could help achieve this. Ebron’s bombastic personality also could be a big hit with Rex Ryan, too.

Shaun King's take: As good as Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski

19. Cleveland Browns (projected trade with Miami Dolphins) — Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel

Two years ago, the Cowboys traded the 18th pick to the 49ers for the 31st and 74th overall selections. In this scenario, we think the Browns could deal the 26th and 83rd overall picks (ones they acquired in separate trades from the Colts and Steelers) to move up for Manziel, in what would be among the more talked-about moves in the draft. The Browns go safe at the No. 4 pick, and then they move all their chips to the middle with Johnny. It’s a great way to hedge with the Matthews pick — his college teammate, no less. The Browns have done their homework on Manziel, and then some. On the flip side, it would make sense for new Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey to trade down here because there is no player in this scenario he has to have, and it allows him to add a valuable pick later in the draft.

Shaun King's take: Johnny Football won't be successful in NFL

20. Arizona Cardinals — Fresno State QB Derek Carr

The Cardinals are in a strange place: They have one of the 4-5 best-looking rosters in the conference but they just happen to be the third-best team in their division. Still, there’s a strong argument to take the best non-QB available and hope he’s an instant-impact player. But short of one being here, the Cardinals might feel they have to pull the trigger on a quarterback with the positional run likely to start at this point of the draft. Bruce Arians loves confident, strong-arm passers (who doesn’t?), and Carr could be a perfect fit in this vertical scheme. He can come in to challenge Carson Palmer but can sit and marinate for a while until Palmer plays his way out of a job.

Shaun King's take: Tough evaluation; long growth process

21. Green Bay Packers — Alabama LB C.J. Mosley

This is a dream pick for the Packers, who must upgrade over Brad Jones, and Mosley does that by giving Green Bay a player who contributes on all four downs — special teams, too. His injury history is concerning to some teams, but all things being equal, the Packers would be getting one of the top 10 best pure football players in this year’s class at exceptional value at a need position.

22. Philadelphia Eagles — Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard

We can’t quite pin the Eagles at 22, knowing that it could be receiver or perhaps an edge player. After all, cornerback isn’t a super-pressing need, but most of the key contributors are solid if not eminently replaceable. Dennard would give this unit some more confidence, athleticism and physicality.

Shaun King's take: Day 1 starter in this league

23. Kansas City Chiefs — UCLA OG Xavier Su’a-Filo

Andy Reid’s love for smart, aggressive, intelligent offensive linemen shows through, and Su’A-Filo figures to be a Day 1 starter. He played left tackle but probably figures best inside. The Chiefs have a huge hole at right guard, and frankly left guard might be an issue, too, unless Jeff Allen plays better. Everyone is screaming for a receiver, but that can wait. The line needs an immediate upgrade.

24. Cincinnati Bengals — Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller

Fuller missed half his final season with a core muscle injury, but in his limited play, he did great work against a pair of 2015 NFL draft propspects — wideouts Amari Cooper and Justin Hardy — and showed at the combine that he’s back in great shape. The Bengals currently have some age and question marks at corner, and Fuller would give them the physical, long-armed corner they thought they were getting with Dre Kirkpatrick.

25. San Diego Chargers — TCU CB Jason Verrett

The Chargers’ two biggest needs on defense are at nose tackle and corner, and it’s likely they will address either one with this pick. We mocked them the competitive, feisty, ball-seeking Verrett, who bears some resemblance to Brent Grimes and Cortland Finnegan. The Chargers want to keep adding these types of playmakers in their secondary, especially with at least another year of facing Peyton Manning, whom they faced three times last season.

26. Miami Dolphins (projected trade with Cleveland Browns) — Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio

Moving down would allows the Dolphins to add a starting-caliber talent, albeit a player who must answer questions about his health and some poor performances last season. Still, this is a potential anchor at right tackle and part of a continuing rebuilding job up front for the Dolphins.

27. New Orleans Saints — Auburn OLB-DE Dee Ford

Having watched the top five cornerbacks go off the board quickly, the Saints turn to their other pressing defensive need. Ford can heat up the edges as a third-down rusher early in his career while he learns the nuances of playing OLB in a “30” front. Rob Ryan knows that if he can’t get a cover guy he must find some more pressure to help make up for it.

28. Carolina Panthers — USC WR Marqise Lee

With no ace left tackle prospect still on the board, the Panthers must fill another huge void. Lee has some Marvin Harrison-like qualities but must prove that his 2012 tailspin was an aberration. He’ll be the most talented receiver on the roster, but the pressure to help replace Steve Smith and Co. will be high.

Shaun King's take: Most polished receiver in draft

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (projected trade with New England Patriots) — Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater

The Jaguars are building some momentum, and their extra draft picks (two fourths, three fifths and two sixths) will allow them to feel comfortable moving up 10 spots to nab the freefalling Bridgewater. This would be a perfect marriage: Bridgewater’s dogged determination and all-around solid skills with Gus Bradley and the team’s West Coast scheme.

Shaun King's take: No. 1 QB in the draft

30. San Francisco 49ers — Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks

The speed merchant fills a void and gives the 49ers a more diverse passing game, one that in theory can attack most parts of the field now. You have Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree working the sticks, Vernon Davis threatening the seam and the edges, and Cooks as a deep threat. Cooks also has a little chip on his shoulder that will play well with the hard-edged Jim Harbaugh.

31. Denver Broncos — Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier

We can’t think of too many better fits. There’s a hole in the middle of an otherwise good Broncos defense, and the confident and supremely athletic Shazier would be an instant hit, never coming off the field. He can play inside or outside, base or nickel and makes this front seven even stronger as a Day 1 starter. The Broncos have hit all the right notes this offseason, and this would be another strong play.

32. Seattle Seahawks — Nevada OG-C-OT Joel Bitonio

Don’t put it past the Seahawks to go a little off the grid with this pick, as they often do with their first choice every year. Bitonio slowly has been rising through the ranks during the pre-draft process and is exactly the kind of athletic, versatile addition this team could use. He’s probably best at guard and could earn a starting spot out of the chute (as a clear upgrade over right guard JR Sweezy), but Bitonio also played left tackle last season and has been tried in workouts at center.

Round 2

33. Houston Texans — Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage

Look, we’re not sold on him, either. But the fast-rising Savage fits the mold of a smart, tough, strong-armed quarterback that Bill O’Brien will be seeking.

34. Washington Redskins — Northern Illinois S Jimmy Ward

They’re still able to nab a starter at a need position despite giving away their first-round pick.

35. Cleveland Browns — Indiana WR Cody Latimer

Physical wideout looked good in college despite subpar QB play. Imagine what he’ll do in Cleveland! (wink)

36. Oakland Raiders — LSU QB Zach Mettenberger

The ghost of Al Davis comes to life in the pick of this risky, high-upside, strong-armed passer.

37. Atlanta Falcons — Boise State DE-OLB Demarcus Lawrence

Perfect edge rusher to help them make the transition to a 3-4 defense, if that’s what they want to do.

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson

Massive but athletic guard would have en excellent chance to start as a rookie — at either guard spot.

39. New England Patriots (projected trade from Jacksonville Jaguars) — Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin

Remember the Patriots’ rumored interest in Larry Fitzgerald? This is their big-bodied consolation who can give Tom Brady another shot at a title.

Shaun King's take: Plays like Alshon Jeffery

40. Minnesota Vikings — Rice CB Phillip Gaines

The fast-rising (and fast-running) Gaines would be the speedier bookend to the physical Xavier Rhodes.

41. Buffalo Bills — Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief

With Stevie Johnson perhaps on the outs, Moncrief gives them an ideal replacement. Eric Moulds Jr.?

42. Tennessee Titans — Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III

The slide ends for Nix, who is a perfect addition to a team transitioning to a “30” front.

43. New York Giants — Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro

The Giants have needed to break out of the one-year, free-agent rental approach at tight end.

44. St. Louis Rams — Alabama QB A.J. McCarron

Brian Schottenheimer, who interviewed for the Bama offensive coordinator gig in 2012, finally gets to work with McCarron.

Shaun King's take: Back-up at best

45. Detroit Lions — Fresno State WR Davante Adams

A perfect complement to the explosive Calvin Johnson and the quick Golden Tate to give Matthew Stafford a strong three amigos.

46. Pittsburgh Steelers — Penn State WR Allen Robinson

The Steelers stay in-state to provide Ben Roethlisberger some much-needed size and skill among a smallish WR group.

47. Dallas Cowboys — Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan

This is a very good fit for a penetrating 1-technique in Rod Marinelli’s defense.

48. Baltimore Ravens — Virginia OT Morgan Moses

Long-armed project is worth the gamble and could find his way into the Week 1 right tackle mix.

49. New York Jets — Missouri OLB-DE Kony Ealy

In no way, we think, did Rex Ryan think he’d find this good an edge rusher this far down.

50. Miami Dolphins — Clemson WR Martavis Bryant

If the Dolphins are drafting him as Mike Wallace’s eventual replacement, they have a year to season Bryant.

51. Chicago Bears — Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde

Granted, defense is still a huge need. But Matt Forte has two years left on his deal, and undrafted speed back Michael Ford is the only other back on the roster.

Shaun King's take: Most complete back in draft

52. Arizona Cardinals — Washington State S Deone Bucannon

Super-athletic tone setter could help give Cardinals a terrific secondary to compete with the NFC West elite.

53. Green Bay Packers — Colorado State C Weston Richburg

Blue-collar center fits in with smarts and toughness and can work with Aaron Rodgers from the get-go.

54. Philadelphia Eagles — Stanford OLB Trent Murphy

Hard-nosed, high-motor edge player can get stronger while providing depth.

55. Cincinnati Bengals — Georgia Tech OLB Jerry Attaochu

The Bengals can follow a familiar pattern of drafting a talented DL project in Round 2 (e.g., Margus Hunt, Devon Still).

56. San Francisco 49ers — Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland

The 49ers love rangy corners, and even though he’s raw, Breeland fits the mold perfectly at a need position.

57. San Diego Chargers — Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews

GM Tom Telesco loves production, and Matthews did so with little around him, drawing top SEC corners.

58. New Orleans Saints — Florida State CB Lamarcus Joyner

If there’s ever a cornerback who could play for Rob Ryan, the feisty Joyner is it.

59. Indianapolis Colts — USC C-OG Marcus Martin

Martin would be a huge upgrade over Khaled Holmes (his former college teammate) or Hugh Thornton at either guard or center, and with the recent (and sudden) retirement of Phil Costa, the depth inside is painfully thin.

60. Carolina Panthers — Tennessee OT Antonio Richardson

Might be their Week 1 starting left tackle, and they can’t wait any longer to draft at this spot.

61. San Francisco 49ers — Florida DT Dominique Easley

Has played in both odd and even fronts, and the 49ers have the luxury of waiting for him to get fully healthy.

62. New England Patriots — Notre Dame DT Stephon Tuitt

Can work in at two need spots: as a base end on early downs or inside on passing downs.

63. Tennessee Titans (projected trade with Denver Broncos) — Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo

The Titans make a bold move, trading a 2015 pick (they have no third-rounder this year), to land competition for Jake Locker — ahead of the Buccaneers (who pick at No. 69 and who have met multiple times with Garoppolo).

64. Seattle Seahawks — Washington TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins

The former top lieutenant under Pete Carroll, Steve Sarkesian is sure to give a spot-on scouting report.

Third-round prospect

Auburn RB Tre Mason

Shaun King's take: Question marks for next level

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 22, 2014, 3:08 pm

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has revealed a shocking bit of news: Jim Harbaugh isn't the most emotional fellow.

John, honored this weekend with induction into Miami of Ohio's Coaches' Cradle, told a previously-unheard story of last year's Super Bowl, where his Ravens bested Jim's 49ers. After the game, the brothers met at midfield. You'd think: brothers, shared pain and triumph, time for a good hug and all that, right? Yeah, not so much. Watch Jim's reaction here:

Man. You can just feel the love there, can't you? Jim gives more love to the guy at Target who brings him fresh pleated khakis. Granted, Jim had just lost the biggest game of his career. But John was hoping for a little shared sympathy.

“I walk up across the field to shake his hand, and he’s a big, strapping guy,” John said. “I look at him and I’m going to give him a little man hug, a little bro hug to say congratulations." He then laughed and said that Jim's demeanor was that of a man saying, "There will be no hug!"

As a result of the Super Bowl win, Harbaugh joined Miami's Coaches' Cradle, which honors coaches with Miami ties who have gone on to national success. Also in the cradle: Earl "Red" Blaik, Paul Brown, Carm Cozza, Paul Dietzel, Weeb Ewbank, Ara Parseghian, John Pont, and Bo Schembechler.

"This cradle is the greatest honor in coaching, if you understand what it's all about," John said at the statue's unveiling. "It's like Bubba Watson said last week [after winning the Masters]. He was asked, 'You ever dream of something like this?' He said, 'Naw, my dreams never got this far.' That's exactly how I feel."

[Hat tip: Larry Brown Sports]

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 22, 2014, 2:59 pm

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Some moves make little sense on the surface, but when they're made by a good organization, you shrug and assume they know what they're doing.

That's the case with the Seahawks trading for quarterback Terrelle Pryor, a move first reported by Pro Football Talk. Multiple media reports, including ESPN and NFL Network, said the Seahawks traded a seventh-round pick to Oakland for Pryor.

Pryor, a phenomenal athlete who was one of the most highly touted high school recruits of this century, got a chance to be the Raiders starting quarterback, but eventually was replaced by undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. McGloin wasn't very good, and that's the point when it comes to Pryor. He had a great opportunity and did nothing with it.

Pryor was good in short stretches early in the season. He looked fantastic in a win against the Chargers, who would make the playoffs, in Week 5. But it went south in a hurry. Pryor had seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions, with a 69.1 rating, which was second worst among NFL quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify. The Raiders made the weird decision to go back to him in Week 17, and he threw for 207 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout loss. It was no secret in recent weeks the Raiders were going to trade or release him.

That is where the Seahawks came in. Seattle built a championship roster making mostly sharp moves. When they traded Matt Flynn to the Raiders, the Seahawks looked smart when Flynn failed miserably. Will they look smart again because they can salvage Pryor?

The Seahawks must see something in Pryor to trade a seventh-round pick even though it was clear the Raiders were going to release him at some point. Pryor will presumably get the chance to back up Russell Wilson, competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the job. Pryor will never be the passer Wilson is, but perhaps in a more stable environment he can improve enough in the passing game and excel with the read-option plays that Seattle uses at times.

Even though Pryor hasn't done much in his NFL career, Seattle thought enough of him to trade for him. It's probably best to trust that the Seahawks' front office has a plan.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 22, 2014, 12:40 am

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. There was a bit of a hulabaloo about how Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase might have broken a NFL rule by visiting Alabama together this month.

This is what gets attention when the NFL hits a slow time in the offseason. The Broncos' explanation is they were there separately and not working together, and even if something was amiss it's about as minor of a violation as you can get. Instead of getting caught up in that story, realize that coming off the greatest single season in NFL history, five-time MVP Manning flew across the country to pick Alabama coach Nick Saban's brain about how to get better.

"I certainly know the rules, but I know there’s no rule that says a player can’t get better—at least I haven’t read that one," Manning said, after explaining he and Gase didn't violate the rule that players and coaches can't work together during unauthorized times in the offseason.

It's no surprise that Manning said all the predictable things after the Broncos' first day of offseason conditioning about improving on his record-setting season ("I believe in this league you either get better or you get worse — you don’t stay the same," Manning said, repeating a well-used cliche), but he lives it.

When the Broncos came together on Monday, Manning and the offense didn't celebrate the 5,477 yards or 55 touchdowns he threw for last regular season, but studied the mistakes. He said they looked at the interceptions and the sacks, trying to figure out how to clean that up. Even on the highest-scoring offense in NFL history he was focused on fixing the errors, as few as there were.

"I think as soon as you say, ‘Well, hey, I don’t have to do that this year, I’ll just skip that part,’ that is cheating yourself, that is cheating the team and it means that you’re probably not going to be as good a quarterback as you need to be," Manning said. 

It's great that Manning wants to improve, and there's little doubt he'll try his best, but is that realistic?

(Here's a good time for you, Internet Manning Critic, to go to the comments and bring up last season's Super Bowl. We'll wait. .... Yeah, eight points vs. Seattle, forgot that ... Can't win in the big game, that's fresh ... Just puts up stats, not a winner, got it ... Done? Good. On with the regularly scheduled post.)

Regression is a tough opponent. To improve upon last season, Manning would have to start from scratch and put together the best season in NFL history. Realistically, that isn't going to happen. Manning had a great season in 2012, and he had only 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns. That might be a more realistic projection for 2014. The bar from 2013 is incredibly high and it's probably best to bet on Manning never reaching it again, or anyone else reaching it for a long time either. That was a nearly perfect regular season, offensively speaking. 

"You certainly realize that there were a lot of positive things that occurred last year.," Manning said. "A lot of guys that played really well, that played at a high, high level. It was a fun ride to be a part of.

"You’re trying to keep that edge and at the same time, there is no question there are a lot of positive things — how can we duplicate those and be even better if possible?"

The thing is, personnel wise, the Broncos shouldn't be any worse on offense. They might even be better.

Even if you think Emmanuel Sanders is a downgrade from Eric Decker (we'll see), and the offense will miss Knowshon Moreno (if Montee Ball has learned pass protection, they won't), don't forget that the Broncos are getting All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady back from a season-ending foot injury. He played in just two games last year. That's a major addition to the greatest offense in NFL history.

Breaking their own records isn't the goal anyway. Manning isn't putting in the time this offseason to throw for 56 touchdowns in the regular season. Denver has been the No. 1 seed in the AFC the last two years but hasn't won a Super Bowl. The Broncos memorably were destroyed by the Seahawks In the Super Bowl last season. 

Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware signed with the Broncos a little more than a month ago. He joked about getting lost coming into the facility on Monday. But he has already seen that Manning is not trying to replicate last season, but putting in the work to make sure this season ends with a different result.

"Sometimes it doesn’t matter about accolades, it doesn’t matter if you were MVP or not, it’s what can I do to really get better for next season?" Ware said. "Peyton’s one of those types of guys that puts in that effort, not just on the field but off the field, trying to figure out, ‘What can I do to get better?’ Because he has a bad taste in his mouth from the last season and he doesn’t want it to happen again."

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 21, 2014, 9:17 pm

Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ path to the NFL was created by Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham and Martellus Bennett. All of those athletes played college basketball before converting to tight end in the NFL. Each former hardwood player thrived on the football field.

Seferian-Jenkins is not the second coming of Graham, nor does he profess to be, but he played on Washington's basketball team, which was the Pac-12 regular-season champion in 2011-12. He came off the bench that season before eventually focusing on football.

Most NFL draft experts believe Seferian-Jenkins is a first- or second-round pick. Seferian-Jenkins had 36 receptions for 450 yards and eight scores in 2013. He compiled 146 catches for 1,840 yards and 21 touchdowns in three seasons, and reportedly visited the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. Seferian-Jenkins also spent time with Shutdown Corner during the pre-draft process:

Shutdown Corner: Has the draft process been everything you thought it would be?

Austin Seferian-Jenkins: It’s been really interesting. It’s really a process when they dig in deep and find out who you are, find out things about you. It’s really an interesting process because you get to fly around the country to multiple organizations and see what they’re about, and see if you fit with them. It’s really interesting because I’m all over the country all of the time. It’s really cool.

SDC: Are you building up the rewards points with an airline?

ASJ: You know what? I should have, but it’s never too late. I’ll do that on my next trip.

SDC: What are teams trying to determine from their conversations with you?

ASJ: The common theme is them just wanting to get to know me as a person. They want to see how it fits with the guys compared to their locker room. That’s the biggest thing with them.

SDC: What led to your decision to pursue college football instead of basketball?

ASJ: I really have a love and passion for football. I enjoy basketball, but it’s not something I love. You have to let things go that are not for you.

SDC: How were you able to play Division I basketball and not love it?

ASJ: I just like playing the game. I enjoyed playing it with my friends. It’s like a video game. I enjoy playing it, but I don’t love video games. I just like playing them.

SDC: How do you feel about comparisons to Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham?

ASJ: I appreciate them. They’re very flattering, but at the end of the day, I got to still play football. I got to do what I have to do. Hopefully at the end of the day people will understand that I’m my own player, and I’m going to bring things to the game that people are definitely going to be impressed with, and I got a lot of room to grow. We’ll see. I really don’t personally care. That’s just something to talk about right now because there isn’t really much going on.

SDC: As you see the tight end position evolving, how excited are you about playing in the NFL?

ASJ: At the same time, you got to understand that Jimmy Graham and Ron Gronkowski have put in lot of hard work and dedication to their craft, and they’ve succeeded time and time again. That’s why they go to them. They have trust in them. Those guys are athletically superior to a lot of tight ends. The game is changing.

SDC: What can you say led to your statistical decline from 2012 to 2013?

ASJ: I didn’t play as well. It’s a simple as that. You can look at the stats, and it’s clear I didn’t have as good of a year. I’m excited to get back and play this upcoming year and get my stats up. But at the end of the day, my team was more successful. We went 9-4, best record in 20 years, and that’s the most important thing.

SDC: You had stress fracture surgery in your foot after the season. Did that injury contribute to the decline?

ASJ: It had nothing to do with anything. I didn’t even know I had it. They found it at the combine. They were doing an MRI and found it. It’s pretty weird.

SDC: How have you been feeling since the surgery?

ASJ: I’m good. I’m already healed up. My fracture is gone. I’m excited to get out there and start doing stuff when my name is called.

SDC: You have been very open and honest about the DUI you received in college. Are you tired of answering the question or is it an area you believe is necessary to address prior to the draft?

ASJ: Quite frankly, people are going to ask me that whenever they want to ask me to make a story. That could go on forever. Personally, I really don’t care. I don’t have any problems answering the question because it’s from the heart. If they want to ask the question, I don’t have any problem answering it because I’m not afraid to tell people my story, the adversity I overcame, and the poor choices that I made so other people don’t make those same poor decisions. It really does not bother me.

SDC: If you do not mind sharing, what is your story?

ASJ: Obviously, the DUI and not being in a good place and making a poor decision. How it affected me. How it affected my teammates. How it affected my family. How bad it could have been, and how lucky I was. Anyone that ever wants to hear it, I’m more than willing to help them out and have them hear me.

SDC: What would it mean to you to be the first tight end taken in this year’s draft?

ASJ: It would mean a lot to me. I’m a competitive guy. I want to be the first tight end take in this draft in May, but I also know the most important thing is what you do on the football field. Once you get into the NFL, it doesn’t matter what draft pick you are, what round you are, if you’re undrafted or not. It’s football time again. The draft, all of that doesn’t matter anymore.

SDC: What was your major in college?

ASJ: It was American Ethnic Studies.

SDC: What was your goal with that major?

ASJ: It’s a study of all ethnicities in America. I plan on getting a business degree with that. We’ll see how I can corner all markets with that so I can understand all people. It should definitely help me out when I go into business … You just got to learn about all different types of people. There’s a lot of people in this world, and it’s important to learn about them. Granted, everybody is different, but I think it’s real important to know all the people that you are around, and how they operate their history, and things like that. You know where they are coming from a little bit, and you don’t insult them, or take something for granted.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 21, 2014, 6:24 pm

Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

Michael Sam
Defensive end-linebacker
Missouri
6-foot-2, 261 pounds
2013 stats: 48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery (returned for a touchdown)
40-yard dash: 4.91 seconds (official time at NFL scouting combine)

The good: Michael Sam was the 2013 co-Defensive player of the Year in the SEC along with Alabama's C.J. Mosley (profiled here), and recent winners of that award — Jarvis Jones, Jadeveon Clowney, Morris Claiborne, Nick Fairley, among them — have received serious NFL attention. Sam isn't the prospect that those players are, but he was very productive on a greatly improved Mizzou defense that won the SEC East, went 12-2 overall and finished No. 5 in the country. Sam put an exclamation point on the Tigers' season by capping the bowl victory over Oklahoma State with a strip sack in the final minute of the game to preserve the victory.

Along with Kony Ealy, who is projected to be a top-50 pick, and two underclassmen, Sam helped make up one of the better defensive lines in the country. His all-out effort is clearly something that stands out on tape, and he dramatically improved over the course of his four college seasons. He also has been regarded as one of the hardest workers in the Missouri weight room and has not missed extended time because of injuries over his career.

The bad: Sam is perhaps a below-average athlete as a defensive end, even with his weight-room prowess. He lacks explosion, which was evident in his tape and his combine workout — especially his stunningly bad vertical leap (25 1/2 inches, worst among all defensive ends by two inches) and his sub-par bench press total (17 reps, tied for second-fewest among ends). Sam is not a quick-twitch athlete, and often times he would overrun plays in college with an inability to react, switch gears and move laterally.

Nine of Sam's sacks in 2013 came against Arkansas State, Vanderbilt (vs. a freshman right tackle) and a Florida offense that was a complete mess when it came to Columbia. Sam was invisible against Auburn in the SEC title game and for the first 59 minutes against Oklahoma State. Sam also came off the field a lot for a starter, which, even on such a talented group, is a bit concerning. You could argue, when it's all said and done, that he was the fourth-best defensive end on the team behind Ealy and 2013 juniors Markus Golden and Shane Ray. There simply is no pass-rush diversity in Sam's game, with no evident burst, hip bend or countermoves. 

The verdict: Sam was a nice college player who had a big senior season but really didn't come into the mainstream spotlight until he announced his sexuality to the world. With that behind him, we and the NFL are focusing in strictly on his ability to make it in the pros.  

Sam thrived on wearing down his opponents, often collecting sacks in fourth quarters with his effort and base strength. He makes up for his lack of real burst with a nice first step and good instincts, too. The Mizzou coaches played him anywhere from a wide-9 technique on the strong side, all the way down to a 4i, and he answered the bell for them most times.

But Sam struggled mightily in linebacker drills at the Senior Bowl and doesn't appear to have the lateral ability to play anything but as a down rusher in the NFL. Chances are, he'll have to make it as a core special teamer and part-timer rusher, but don't assume that this tireless worker can't work his way onto a roster. It's just likely that he's not going to hear his name called until the third day of the draft, and perhaps not even at all.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 21, 2014, 6:13 pm

Rolando McClain has been through a lot for a 24-year-old. But the NFL apparently will not be a part of what he does in the future.

McClain told ESPN's Seth Wickersham, who has remained in close contact with McClain since writing a feature on his off-field troubles last year, that he is done playing football.

Filed to http://t.co/Gy6Qtw9cbB: @RMcClain205 is walking away from football, this time for good. "I'm done," he told me in a text.

— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) April 21, 2014

McClain was the former No. 8 overall pick in the draft of the Oakland Raiders. He struggled on the field with the team and got in trouble multiple times with the law, which we outlined in detail last week when it appeared McClain was making a comeback with the Baltimore Ravens.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has known McClain well since he was at Alabama and has tried to offer guidance and opportunities after burning out in Oakland. But McClain, who was out of the NFL in 2013 (on the Ravens' reserve/retired list), told Wickersham he was trying his best to overcome his demons and apparently doesn't feel that playing football will help him along that path.

McClain might be a former draft bust and a sad story to this point, but if staying away from the NFL can help him achieve the personal growth he desires, then the more power to him.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 21, 2014, 5:22 pm

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

RUNNING BACK

Tennessee Titans: If you go down the list of NFL teams, almost every one is pretty well set at running back. Sure, a couple teams will add some depth for their committee, but take a look around the league: Nobody is really hurting at the position. There are many reasons the draft stock of running backs as a whole has fallen off a cliff, and that's one of them. From 1963 to 2012, a running back was taken in the first round every year. Now we're looking at the possibility of a second straight year with no running backs being takent in the first round.

The Titans are one of the few teams whose need is relatively strong. Chris Johnson was cut, leaving Shonn Greene as the top back. Greene is solid but better as part of a committee. None of the other Titans backs are capable of being a lead back either. And even though the Titans need a running back more than probably any other team, they could still get one in the middle rounds that could pull a Zac Stacy and be a contributor as a rookie. NEED LEVEL: High

Atlanta Falcons: Did we see the beginning of the end of Steven Jackson last year? He was hurt most of the year, averaged just 3.5 yards per carry and will be 31 years old by opening day. There's not much else on the roster, although Jacquizz Rodgers is a decent role player. Even if the Falcons believe Jackson can bounce back, they need to start thinking about the future. NEED LEVEL: Medium high

Cleveland Browns: The Browns did show last year that you need someone at running back. Yes, teams have figured out you don't invest much in running backs unless they're Adrian Peterson or LeSean McCoy, but that doesn't mean any running back can be effective. Cleveland signed Ben Tate from Houston, but they can't stop there. Tate's biggest knock is his durability, and if Tate goes down the Browns are stuck with the same set of below-average backs they had last year. If they grab a player like Auburn's Tre Mason in the second round, all of a sudden they've turned a weakness into a strength in one offseason. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Arizona Cardinals: Andre Ellington has a lot of talent but the Cardinals seem dead set against giving him more than 15 carries a game. Rashard Mendenhall retired, so unless the Cardinals want to give Ellington more carries or they think 2013 rookie Stepfan Taylor is ready for a bigger workload, they'll need a second back who can split time with Ellington. Considering teams generally like when their top two backs have different styles, so taking someone like Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, who is 230 pounds, to go with the speedy Ellington would make sense. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Indianapolis Colts: As much as the Colts are publicly in support of Trent Richardson, they have to be quite nervous that he's just never going to take that next step. Ahmad Bradshaw is back, and that's fine, but he has dealt with a lot of injuries the past few years. Donald Brown is gone, having signed with San Diego, so maybe it's time to draft some depth. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Denver Broncos: Denver likes Montee Ball well enough that they let Knowshon Moreno walk in free agency. And they should like Ball, he's a talented second-round pick from last year who was a better runner than Moreno by the end of the season. But Ronnie Hillman is next in line, and he got deep in the doghouse last year and despite having some talent hasn't yet established himself as a good NFL back. If the Broncos don't trust Hillman, they could go fishing for another back for depth in the middle rounds. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Other teams in need: Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Oakland, Minnesota, Jacksonville

NFL Draft Needs series
April 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back

More NFL coverage:

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 21, 2014, 4:54 pm

Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

Kelvin Benjamin
Wide receiver
Florida State
6-foot-5, 240 pounds
2013 stats: 54 receptions, 1,011 receiving yards, 15 touchdowns
40-yard dash: 4.61 seconds (official time at combine)

The good: Benjamin followed up an intriguing but inconsistent redshirt freshman season with an explosive 2013 effort, scoring 14 touchdowns in the Seminoles' final 10 games (and 10 TDs in his final six games). He finished off FSU's title run with the signature play of the college season, a 2-yard touchdown catch from Jamies Winston with 13 seconds remaining to beat Auburn for the national title.

Benjamin's size, catching radius and ability to high-point the ball all are consistent with the crop of big-bodied, big-play receivers who populate the NFL's leading statistics each season. It seemed like every game this season, Winston lobbed up a pass — be it in the middle of the field, down the sideline or in the corner of the end zone — and Benjamin went up and got it over a DB's head. He has left-tackle length arms, good strength and also can deliver some big blocks. Benjamin can get deep, believe it or not, and appears to be coming into his own as a mismatch receiver.

The bad: Like many bigger receivers, Benjamin has to gear up to top speed, and he can get easily jammed off the line for a guy his size. He also needs to develop more nuance in his game — too often Benjamin relied on his physical attributes to win battles, and in the NFL, he'll need to be a more savvy route runner, not use so much contact at the top of his routes and become a better hands catcher.

Benjamin, who turns 24 a few days after the next Super Bowl, can run a bit hot and cold and go absent for stretches. He had only three games last season with more than 73 yards receiving. He's neither quick nor sudden and must find a weight where he can flourish. 

The verdict: If you watch the Florida game from this past season, it's all there — Benjamin as a prospect, both thrilling and maddening. If you look at the statistics alone, you can see what a monster he was that afternoon against an overwhelmed Gators team: nine catches, 212 yards and three touchdowns.

People say Benjamin isn't elite fast, but this game is proof that once he gets a head of steam, he can roast safeties and even corners in man coverage. But a closer look also reveals three egregious drops in the game and a few poorly run routes.

Benjamin isn't a finished product, and he's a bit older than your typical pro prospect, so he's going to need a patient positional coach and expectations of him being a Day 1 No. 1 receiver are unreal. However, he has rare skills and easily could transform into a Plaxico Burress-like performer. The Noles used Benjamin in a variety of roles, lining him up outside, in the slot, in motion, running every route in the tree and even asking him to crack-back block against defensive ends. A creative, patient NFL coordinator should be tickled to have a toy such as Benjamin, provided he work at his craft and fine-tune his shortcomings, most of which are correctable.

This is a future star if the finished product is realized and sculpted.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 21, 2014, 2:02 pm

The NFL draft is 17 days away, which means more than two weeks of pre-draft speculation. There will be another two weeks of inaccurate mock drafts/guessing games by NFL observers. Teams will “leak out” information to reporters as a smoke screen to disguise their real intentions.

Unfortunately, most of us will consume every morsel of the pre-draft speculation.

Houston Chronicle reporter John McClain recently reported the Texans were interested in selecting South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with their No.1 overall pick. Now Peter King of Monday Morning Quarterback reports the Texans are more interested in Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack than Clowney.

Houston, at No. 1, isn’t set on Jadeveon Clowney. In fact, one FORS (Friend of Rick Smith) told me the Texans general manager likes Khalil Mack over Clowney, and we still don’t know which quarterback Houston would choose if it chooses one first overall. I still think the Texans would go with a more sure thing with the first overall pick than a quarterback—and that sure thing could also be tackle Greg Robinson. But imagine Mack, the outside linebacker from the University of Buffalo, being the first pick in a stacked draft. Wouldn’t that be something—a second straight Mid-American Conference player (Eric Fisher, Central Michigan, by Kansas City) as the top pick in the NFL draft?

There is only one thing certain about Houston – the Texans will pick first. Outside of that, all bets are off.

The majority of NFL teams set their draft boards before the scouting combine. While draft experts speculate about the stock of a player rising or falling, that does not occur behind the scenes. The only way a team loses interest in a player this close to the draft is because of an injury or recent off-the-field incident. Other than that, each team has already ranked the available players.

However, it is way more fun to talk about Santa Claus than admit reality.

Houston currently knows if it will select Clowney, Mack, or even Johnny Manziel. The Texans will not show up on draft day without a game plan. Even though their selection might be news to NFL fans, those within the organization will not be surprised.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 21, 2014, 1:58 pm

Johnny Manziel might be the first pick in next month's NFL draft, or he might be out of a job and selling corn dogs at high school games, depending on the daily mood shifts of draft analysts. One thing we can all agree on, though: he's enjoying life, whether or not it benefits his draft prospects. Behold his jet-ski pass reception skills:

Check how he speeds up, circles under the pass, and makes a one-handed grab. Impressive. Yes, when the NFL allows receivers to use jet-skis, Manziel clearly will be able to shift easily into a new role.

NFL general managers were no doubt absolutely delighted by Manziel's antics. That's exactly the kind of freethinking, devil-may-care, independent spirits they want on their squads. Good on ya, Johnny.

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 21, 2014, 1:53 pm

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Atlanta Falcons: Signing free-agent guard Jon Asamoah was huge, because it upgraded the interior line. It still doesn't fix the tackle situation, which is not good. If the Falcons want to keep Matt Ryan healthy for many years to come, they can't continue to trot out one of the worst sets of tackles in the league. That's why their decision with the sixth pick is so interesting. The Falcons need a pass rusher just as badly as they need a standout left tackle. Let's say the first five picks include defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the three top quarterbacks and receiver Sammy Watkins. Atlanta could be choosing between Auburn left tackle Greg Robinson and Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack, two outstanding talents who fill a strong need. What a draft room debate that would be. NEED LEVEL: Very high

Miami Dolphins: Like the Falcons, the Dolphins made one big free-agency move on the line (signing Branden Albert from the Chiefs) but more needs to be done. This is a line that gave up 58 sacks last year, which makes quarterback Ryan Tannehill's progress in his second year that much more impressive. We all know the backstory behind why the offensive line was in shambles in 2013. With Albert as the anchor, the Dolphins can continue to build at guard or right tackle. In addition to signing Albert, Miami made a couple of solid signings in guard Shelley Smith and tackle Jason Fox, but there's a lot of work to be done in the draft, too. Perhaps a top talent like Michigan's Taylor Lewan will slip to them at No. 19. NEED LEVEL: Very high

Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are another team with a young, franchise quarterback and a mediocre line to protect him. Having left tackle Jordan Gross retire was a huge blow, and Carolina hasn't signed anyone to fill that gap. Not that they had the cap room to sign an elite left tackle, or that any remain on the market at this point. Carolina has confidence in Byron Bell to replace Gross, but then who plays right tackle? The problem is the Panthers will show up on a few of these lists, at receiver and corner, to name two. They're not filling all the holes they need to fill in this draft, though the line should be a priority. NEED LEVEL: High

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs followed up a very promising season by having perhaps the worst free-agency period of any NFL team. The biggest hit came on the offensive line. Three offensive linemen (Asamoah, Albert and guard Geoff Schwartz) were among the most coveted on the market and all of them left the team in the first few hours of free agency. Losing two top guards and a left tackle like Albert is not ideal. Eric Fisher, the top pick of last year's draft, moves from right tackle to the left side, but that just opens up a hole at right tackle. Donald Stephenson is the probable new starting right tackle. Still, the Chiefs need to draft some linemen, for depth purposes if nothing else. NEED LEVEL: High

Indianapolis Colts: The tackle duo of Gosder Cherilus and Anthony Castonzo is not the worst in the NFL, but still allows too much pressure when your quarterback is the best young player in the NFL. Building a strong line in front of Andrew Luck should be a top priority and who knows, it might even help Trent Richardson. A problem is that the Colts traded their first-round pick for Richardson, which to this point looks disastrous. Still, it's probably wise for the Colts to add to the line with their remaining picks. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Other teams in need: Green Bay, New Orleans, St. Louis, Cincinnati

NFL Draft Needs series
April 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back

More NFL coverage:

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 20, 2014, 6:05 pm

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Dallas Cowboys: Signing Henry Melton from Chicago helps, but he is coming off a season-ending injury last year and if he just replaces Jason Hatcher, who had an unbelievable year before going to the Redskins. And Dallas lost future Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware at end. Maybe the team brings back Anthony Spencer, who is still a free agent, but he's coming off major knee surgery and the fact that he's still unsigned tells you he's not going to fix everything. Dallas needs a lot of help, particularly on its horrible defense, and the line is a great place to start. A good inside presence is almost a must at pick No. 16, someone like Florida State's Timmy Jernigan or Pitt's Aaron Donald. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

Chicago Bears: The Bears loaded up at defensive end in free agency, and that was smart. That doesn't mean the line is set, because there are still holes inside. Henry Melton left to Dallas. Corey Wootton was miscast as a tackle out of necessity, but he's gone too, to Minnesota. The Bears didn't sign one natural defensive tackle, so there's a lot of work to do here. Being able to snag someone like Donald or Jernigan with the 14th pick, two spots before the tackle-needy Cowboys pick, would be a very smart move and accentuate everything they were able to accomplish in free agency. NEED LEVEL: Very high

New England Patriots: The Vince Wilfork issue has been taken care of, but it still showed how tenuous the Patriots' defensive line situation is. New England always seems to have good, versatile linemen but need an influx of young talent, especially inside, to go with depth guys like Chris Jones and Joe Vellano. It's probably a good bet they find someone that fits their scheme with the 29th pick, or sometime in the first few rounds. NEED LEVEL: High

New York Giants: The Giants have had a very good offseason, and the next step will be adding to the defensive line. The Giants don't have that dominant line we remember anymore, then lost end Justin Tuck and tackle Linval Joseph in free agency. Getting defensive end Robert Ayers wasn't bad, but he's never been a difference maker. Having the 12th pick should give them a good shot to improve on the defensive line, or perhaps they'll wait until the second or third round to grab a defensive lineman. But it would be a surprise if they don't address that position, considering their reputation of having waves of defensive line talent. NEED LEVEL: High

Oakland Raiders: The guys the Raiders added to the line, like Justin Tuck and Antonio Smith, are solid players but also older veterans. While it seems the Raiders will use the fifth pick to grab a difference maker on offense, they'll still have plenty of opportunities to get a tackle or end that can basically be the young up-and-coming star they had with departed Lamarr Houston. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks still have a fantastic defensive line, but they don't want that to slip. Losing Clinton McDonald, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons in the offseason hurts the depth on the front. There are other needs (offensive line, receiver) to address as well, but one of Seattle's biggest advantages is being very strong up front, and drafting someone to help on the line will help ensure it remains a strength. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Other teams in need: Tennessee, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Pittsburgh

NFL Draft Needs series
April 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back

More NFL coverage:

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 19, 2014, 8:01 pm

Jordan Zumwalt seemed destined to play football at Arizona State, considering his father was a scrappy, undersized pass rusher there and his mom also attended the school. Jordan, his parents and his brother and two sisters often would load up the family RV and roll down the highway from their Southern California home to Tempe to watch the Sun Devils play ever year.

But Zumwalt, a star player at Huntington Beach’s Edison High School, switched gears — he was going to play for the local team instead, Pac-12 rival UCLA. Although it took him a little while to get going, the fiery linebacker finished his career strong (with a few bumps along the way) and now has positioned himself as an intriguing middle-round linebacker and special-teams prospect.

Although he’s taking a huge class load this summer in order to earn his degree, the highly entertaining and loose-lipped Zumwalt was able to take a few minutes to chat with Shutdown Corner about watching his father play, getting recruited by Pete Carroll, getting hit by a car (on a scooter!), knocking out Logan Thomas and West Coast women.

SDC: Have you watched your dad’s old games with him?

JZ: I actually watched a video of him playing in high school, believe it or not. There’s one floating around on VHS. I watched him play in college a little bit, too. One game in college he forced the game-winning fumble, and I guess the offense took the ball and scored that next possession. That was pretty cool to watch.

SDC: Ever watched the 1987 Rose Bowl with your father?

JZ: I don’t think he has that tape. I would love to watch that one. These were all in the archives. They’re all stacked up in the garage.

SDC: It's on YouTube.

JZ: Really? I have to look for that one.

SDC: Your dad was basically a 215-, 220-pound rush end when he played, right? It wasn’t that long ago.

JZ: Yeah! He was 220, maybe 225. He was a skinny guy, but he was strong as [expletive], everyone said.

SDC: I heard your family used to pile in an RV and go to Arizona State games growing up. Tell me about those.

JZ: Those were awesome. I grew up an ASU fan. I liked the school, I liked their campus. Both my parents went there, so I couldn’t help but grow up liking them. Our family friends, they all went to ASU, their kids were my friends. So we’d head there every year, and I got to meet a lot of the old graduates, all the old players. They all stayed close friends.

But it’s funny, junior year they offered me. I went there and took an unofficial visit. After being out there — mind you, it was summertime — I thought, I don’t know if I am supposed to be out here.

SDC: 110 in the shade, you mean?

JZ: Yeah, it was insanely hot. It was the desert. I was like, ‘Guys, I am not from the desert. I am a beach kid. I can’t be out here.’

SDC: You had to feel a lot of pressure to go there, though.

JZ: No question. It was tough.

SDC: I heard Pete Carroll recruited you pretty hard to USC in high school.

JZ: Yes, very true. He and his assistants were always on my couch. Ken Norton Jr. — awesome guy. I really considered playing for them. That’s the only reason I considered [USC] was the coaches alone. They were some highly respected coaches, so I had to. But once they left, I said, ‘Screw SC! I am outta here.’

SDC: Do you almost feel like the whole NFL courting process is like going through recruiting all over again in a way?

JZ: Yeah, for sure, only in reverse. I am so busy with everything. I am taking 24 units right now. I am trying to graduate, so I am taking twice the load that everyone else is. One of my classes is a seminar, so I already have missed two days [of class] … I visited Pittsburgh and New England, and if you miss three you’re booted out of the class and I can’t graduate. There’s no point in me taking all these credits and classes if I am not going to get that degree.

SDC: So I heard you had to delay a visit with the Seahawks because of it.

JZ: Yeah, I just told them, ‘Hey, I am sorry.’ They just wanted to check up on my shoulder. I had a meeting already [scheduled] with the Colts, to check up on my shoulder also.

SDC: Going back to that first ASU game as a member of the Bruins … how hard was that on dad? Where was his allegiance?

JZ: The first one was funny. He said, ‘All right, Jordan. I want you to have a 100 million tackles and be MVP, but, you know, Go Devils!’ [laughs] After that, everyone just kind of jumped on the UCLA bandwagon, and he ended up having his midlife crisis and then built a UCLA motorhome. He’s diehard UCLA now.

SDC: That’s great. Is he still a police officer?

JZ: Yes, sir. Active police officer in Huntington Beach, where we grew up.

SDC: Could you ever have considered following in his footsteps, career-wise?

JZ: Um, yeah. I feel like I could be a pretty good cop. Personally, I’d like to try to make a ton of money before that. [laughs]

SDC: Tell me about getting hit by a car in 2012.

JZ: I was obliterated by a car.

SDC: What happened?

JZ: I was cruising on my scooter …

SDC: Wait — you drive a scooter?

JZ: Yeah, we’ve got a little Vespa gang going around. I started a trend, and my buddies and I all bought a bunch of Vespas. They’re really great. We cruise around on campus, and we don’t have to walk anywhere. UCLA is full of hills.

SDC: Ok, I think I get it.

JZ: You don’t have to walk around after practice. It’s great. So anyway, junior year it’s the fourth game of the season, and we had just lost to Oregon State. I go up to the football offices, meet with the coaches, we met for about an hour. I get on my scooter, and I am cruising home. It was a late night the night before, so I wanted to take a nap.

I am going to turn, and the lights are green. There’s a woman facing the opposite direction as me in the turn lane, waiting for me to clear. But there’s a woman behind her who doesn’t understand why the woman in front of her isn’t going, because I am in this little scooter and [the woman behind] probably can’t see me.

So as I am going through the intersection, she decides — I didn’t see her — so she goes. I didn’t have enough time to [react], so she goes, whack! Hits me going about 30-40 mph. I had 150 stiches in my forehead. The cut was about an inch and a half. It went straight to my head, man; my skull was showing. Knocked me silly.

I was just sitting on the ground with my legs out and just bleeding all over my body. I thought, ‘God, I am [messed] up.’

SDC: Did you think at that point your football career might be over or anything?

JZ: Yeah, it was going through my head. I remember I was pretty concussed. It was a significant, traumatic event. I apparently told the paramedics, ‘This woman just ruined my season or my career. If you leave her anywhere around me, I am going to break her teeth.’ I was pissed, but I don’t think I knew what I was saying.

But I didn’t let it ruin my season. I was back a week later. I probably should have taken more time off. My thinking at that point was … whatever. I was not going to let that ruin my season.

SDC: But man, 150 stiches … wow.

JZ: Yeah, I have a permanent scar on my face now. It bleeds every single time I make contact now. I have tried it all, man. Skullcaps, Band-Aids, Neosporin to make it slippery, Vaseline, gauze, extra tape around my forehead — the skin rips because it’s so thin. It didn’t get time to heal right. The first contact of every [expletive] game, it rips right open.

SDC: Well, on the bright side, you’re now guaranteed to get on TV every time you make a tackle now. Producers love blood.

JZ: Yep, every time I make a tackle I’ll be that bleeding guy! People think I am crazy. I am not crazy, there’s just nothing I can do.

SDC: Well, you finished strong in your career. Right after that accident, it seemed like you started playing your best football. Was there ever a worry before it that you might not be in a position to get that shot at the NFL?

JZ: I know what you mean. I have always wanted to make a splash. The NFL is what I always wanted to achieve. I do believe my junior year I was on the verge. I was big time, but I wasn’t. I came into my senior year, and I was like, well, this is it, man. There are no do-overs. You just have to go out and perform.

I put in a lot of extra time. A lot more than I thought I had to put in. A lot more than before, that’s for sure. I thought I was doing it right before, but I wasn’t getting what I needed out of it.

So I did it, man. I [expletive] did it. Last half of the [2013] season, I came out and just tore it up. For some reason, I had the games of my life when I had to.

SDC: That’s true. Three of your biggest games in your career were your bowl games.

JZ: Yes, sir, thank you. I am very appreciative of that.

SDC: I asked Xavier Su’a-Filo this at the combine, but I am curious to get your take, especially as a defensive player: What was the biggest change when Jim Mora took over before the 2012 season? Defensive coach, NFL experience, the whole thing.

JZ: The biggest change was that it was a night and day difference [from former head coach Rick Neuheisel]. He stood up there and it was … this is Jim Mora. He came in and had a two-page paper he read off of. He explained to all of us, ‘Look, I am not here to make friends. I am not here to make you these great kids. I am not here to make sure everybody gets straight A’s. I am here to win football games, and that’s what we’re going to do.’

I mean, we found out later, he was really high on making sure everyone stays in school and everything. But right off the bat, he wanted to make sure everybody know that we were going to win. He walked out of the room and it was quiet. [The players] all just looked at each other like, ‘all right, here we go! We got our coach!’

It was weird. Everybody just bought in. We were just waiting for that. The team was just sitting there and waiting for someone to come in and take over.

SDC: You’re a fireball on the field. You clearly don’t hold back in interviews. Where does that come from?

JZ: I would say both my parents. So my mom is a very outgoing person. Really outgoing. She’ll talk to anybody and everybody about anything. She has the gift of gab. She’s a chameleon and can blend into any environment. My dad is more like, ‘This is who I am. I am going to be me. You can’t tell me who to be.’

I am kind of a mix of the two where sometimes I can’t shut up. I feel like what I have to say is the most important thing to say! [laughs] Other times I am more like her.

SDC: You’ve played all three linebacker spots. You’ve played special teams. You’ve played some fullback. That versatility has to be something that has come up with NFL teams you’re talking to.

JZ: Well, no one is thinking about me playing fullback or whatever, but they know me as ‘that guy.’ I mean, if everyone said, ‘You suck at linebacker,’ I suppose I could try my hand at fullback or tight end.

But I would love to do a little of everything if a team wanted that. My versatility is also big on being able to play any ’backer spot. I am back up any linebacker on the field, and I am damned proud of that fact.

SDC: Are people still asking you about the hit on Logan Thomas?

JZ: Oh my gosh, especially right after the game. That was … for about a month, I was telling that story. I must have told it about a thousand times.

SDC: And he’s bigger than you.

JZ: He’s much bigger than me. He has about 20 pounds on me.

SDC: Some people think you’re a dirty player. ESPN wrote about it. How much have you heard people talk about that?

JZ: Yeah, there’s a video on Youtube, if you look it up … Jordan Zumwalt, dirty player or something like that. [The video has been taken down apparently.]

If you look at it, it is so stupid. He throws a punch? I was making a tackle, not throwing a punch. [laughs] I don’t think I am a dirty player at all. I like to play the game the way the game is meant to be played. It’s not a game where you go out and [play] paddy cake. You know what I mean?

It’s a violent game. They call us modern-day gladiators. I mean, of course we’re not going out there and trying to kill each other. But in the modern era, it’s as close as you’re going to get to that.

Yeah, I like to play the game, as I said, the way it’s meant to be played. And sometimes with the new rules, some things are illegal and maybe you’re not allowed to celebrate. But [stuff] happens, man. I am not trying to hurt anyone. I am not trying to go helmet to helmet. It just happens.

SDC: Ok, let’s go through some fun ones? Who is the more ridiculous athlete — Anthony Barr or Myles Jack?

JZ: Oh, man. That it difficult. Ok, Ok, Ok. Most ridiculous athlete … [long pause].

I would say Anthony Barr is a freak. Myles is a ridiculous athlete. Barr is a freak because he’s 260 pounds, 6-5, and what did he run a 4.4 40? He’s a freak, and strong as an ox, man. I have seen him just belittle linemen, man. He played some 4i [technique], as basically a tackle for us against Oregon. I mean … he played tackle against Oregon. He’s an outside backer/defensive end, and he’s like … the coaches just decide, let’s put him at tackle and let him do his thing. And he had a hell of a game.

JZ: But Myles is just ridiculous. I mean, you saw the Arizona game, right?

SDC: Oh yeah.

JZ: That just made no sense. They just gave him the rock and let him run.

SDC: Give me some dirt on Brett Hundley. He seems too good to be true.

JZ: [laughs] Oh, he’s a square. A total square. [laughs] I am kidding. Brett is my guy. We call him Done-ley. D-O-N-E. A joke we have is that if someone says something ridiculous, they’re just ‘done.’ But I love Brett. I could kick it with him all day, every day. He’s my quarterback, you know what I mean? I love the guy.

SDC: Who is the best offensive player you faced in your career?

JZ: I think [USC WR] Marqise Lee is one of the best college players I have ever seen. I mean, his sophomore year, he had the ability to go pro. I watched him embarrass nine guys on our defense on one play. It was ridiculous. He made six guys miss. I don’t know, it was just absurd. If he gets a good-ass quarterback, I think he has the ability to take over a game.

SDC: Worst Pac-12 city to visit?

JZ: The worst Pac-12 city to visit? Oh, man. [laughs] Washington State, wherever that city is. Screw that place. [laughs]

SDC: Which non-UCLA Pac-12 team has the best-looking co-eds?

JZ: I can’t say UCLA?

SDC: Too easy to pick your own school.

JZ: Oh, man … because we have some good-looking women here. Probably Arizona or Arizona State. Their acceptance GPA is like a 2.7. [laughs] I know some pretty girls who are not the most intelligent.

SDC: I am not commenting on that. Best movie you have seen recently?

JZ: ‘Captain America’ was awesome. He was really badass in that one. ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ was pretty epic, too.

SDC: Favorite class you took at UCLA?

JZ: I might say [this] Scandinavian class, because that was one of the easiest of all time. But my favorite was maybe Film & TV.

SDC: Where will you be on draft weekend?

JZ: I am going to do a huge gathering down in Huntington Beach. I am going to invite anyone and everyone that wants to come. I saw [UCLA linebacker] Eric Kendricks, I went and saw his brother get drafted [Mychal Kendricks, by the Philadelphia Eagles], being in that room and experiencing that with him was a really, really cool thing. It was weird — everybody in that room felt the same way he did. I would invite anyone who wants to feel that same emotional feeling to come.

SDC: Cool, I’ll be there.

JZ: You’re invited. Awesome. I’d like to open it up to anyone.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 18, 2014, 6:11 pm

Leading up to the NFL draft on May 8-10, Shutdown Corner will examine some of the most interesting prospects in the class, breaking down their strengths and weaknesses.

C.J. Mosley
Linebacker
Alabama
6-foot-2, 234 pounds
2013 stats: 108 tackles (61 solo), 9 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits
40-yard dash: 4.63 seconds (unofficial time, at pro day)

The good: Mosley, first and foremost, produced. In 2013, he had 108 tackles, 30 more than anyone else on the defense. The year before, on Alabama's national championship team, he had 107 tackles, 48 more than anyone else on the Crimson Tide. He gets to the ball. Repeatedly. He has good size, speed and quickness, fantastic instincts, was coached by a great staff in college and put up big tackle numbers in the best conference in the nation. He can blitz or drop in coverage, and should be an immediate three-down starter in the NFL. No team, with so much reliance on nickel defense, is going to invest a high pick in a linebacker that can't stay on the field in passing situations. On top of all that, Mosley has a reputation for his high character off the field. For all of those reasons, Mosley is going to be a first-round pick.

The bad: There is an injury history with Mosley that is a bit concerning. He dislocated an elbow and a hip while at Alabama. He also had minor surgery on his shoulder after the 2012 season. It's never a great sign when a player has injury issues in college, because life certainly doesn't get easier in the NFL. Definitely not when you're taking on blockers as an inside linebacker. The rest of the knocks on Mosley are nitpicking. He didn't have any sacks or interceptions and had just one forced fumble in 2013, and you'd like to see more big plays if you're drafting a linebacker that high. He also had trouble over-pursuing on read-option plays, especially against Auburn, but he won't see a ton of that in the NFL. Also, with any Alabama player, you have to think about how much he benefited from being on a ridiculously talented roster full of four- and five-star recruits. Aside from the injuries, there's just not much bad to say about Mosley. 

The verdict: Mosley might not be a dynamic Luke Kuechly/NaVorro Bowman type of inside linebacker, but if he is durable enough he's going to have a very good, productive career. Think Paul Posluszny: a college superstar who continues to pile up big tackle numbers in the pros as an reliable every-down linebacker who has a great nose for the ball. Mosley will be a first-round pick, likely start as a rookie, and it's hard to imagine his NFL team regretting the selection.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 18, 2014, 5:39 pm

Before the NFL draft on May 8-10, we'll be looking at all the key prospects and also breaking them down by position. In our "Draft Needs" series we will also examine which teams will be in the market at each position, looking to fill their remaining roster holes.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

Denver Broncos: John Elway's shopping spree improved the roster, but the GM did strike out and miss on finding a new inside linebacker. The Broncos kicked the tires on a few of the notable linebackers on the market but still haven't landed one, which puts them at the front of the line for a new inside linebacker in the draft. With a team that is built to win now, drafting for need makes sense, so it would be a surprise if the team didn't fix its patchwork middle linebacker issue early in the draft. The problem is they have the 31st pick. The Broncos might not have a chance to land C.J. Mosley, the top inside linebacker, but it's easy to see them ending up with a thumper like Wisconsin's Chris Borland. NEED LEVEL: Extremely high

Washington Redskins: Perry Riley is an underrated player, and it was wise for the Redskins to re-sign him this offseason. The other inside linebacker spot is a mystery after London Fletcher retired. Akeem Jordan, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, is an option. So is Keenan Robinson. But the Redskins will want to find a long-term solution. It wouldn't be a surprise to see them use a relatively high pick on the position, though there are a few needs on this team. NEED LEVEL: High

Pittsburgh Steelers: With Larry Foote gone, the Steelers have Lawrence Timmons and little else in the middle. Free-agent addition Arthur Moats is decent, and Sean Spence might be an option if he ever could stay healthy, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Steelers try to find a difference maker to go next to Timmons. It seems like they have other needs to fill at No. 15, but a Mosley-Timmons duo inside would be pretty wicked. NEED LEVEL: Medium

Other teams in need: Green Bay, New Orleans, New England

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Atlanta Falcons: Whether you want to classify their scheme as a 4-3 or a 3-4, the Falcons need a pass rusher for it. If they stay at No. 6, outside linebacker Khalil Mack makes a ton of sense for them, if he's there. If Mack is gone, maybe Anthony Barr of UCLA makes sense. Atlanta had 32 sacks last year, only one more than the Bears and Jaguars, who were tied for fewest in the NFL. Atlanta needs to come up with a top pass rusher in this draft. It would be a big surprise if they don't come up with one, using the sixth pick to fill that hole. NEED LEVEL: Very high

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles came into free agency needing a pass rusher, and weren't able to address that need. So it should be a top priority in the draft. The Eagles have Trent Cole, who led the team with eight sacks last year, but he's 31 and his cap number almost doubles to $11.625 million next year. Philadelphia is building a contender, but the lack of a young edge rusher is a major hole that needs to be filled. NEED LEVEL: Very high

San Francisco 49ers: The Aldon Smith situation has reached a level in which the 49ers have to be prepared in case he is suspended or the small chance he is not with San Francisco in 2014. And even if Smith is there in 2014, his status in 2015 and beyond is shaky at best. The problem is, it's incredibly hard to replace a player like Smith, and good luck doing it with the 30th pick of the draft. It's hard to see the 49ers being able to trade up far enough to get one of the elite rush linebackers like Barr, but maybe someone like BYU's Kyle Van Noy will be a possibility. NEED LEVEL: High

Other teams in need: Houston, New Orleans, Cincinnati, San Diego

NFL Draft Needs seriesApril 18: Linebacker
April 19: Defensive line
April 20: Offensive line
April 21: Running back
April 22: Receiver/tight end
April 23: Quarterback
April 24: Defensive back
April 25: Running back

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 18, 2014, 4:26 pm

Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell has been told what he cannot do for years, so excuse him if he no longer cares about what other people think.

Mitchell is expected to be selected in the upcoming NFL draft, but not as a high pick. In fact, Mitchell requested an evaluation by the NFL draft board, and even though he didn't receive a favorable evaluation, he decided to forgo his senior year anyway. Mitchell was doubted coming out of high school, had to earn playing time at Oregon, and entering the NFL is just another battle he intends to win.

Despite not having a lot of pre-draft hype, Mitchell spoke with Shutdown Corner about the challenges he has faced so far, and how he plans to overcome those obstacles in the NFL:

Shutdown Corner: How has your pre-draft preparation been going? 

Terrance Mitchell: The whole process has been cool, but it started off a little frustrating, starting with the combine. I didn’t run the time I wanted, but I did have the top 3-cone and top shuttle times of all the DBs in the country, so that was something to be proud of. Once I came back to my Pro Day to better my time, I messed up my hamstring running at my pro day. I had a 4.52, and I only ran one time. I knew I could do better. I had just worked out for the Colts and the Raiders last Saturday (workout at the high school he attended), and my best time was a 4.43.

SDC: How is your hamstring now?

TM: I’m feeling good. I’ve been getting good rehab at this place called “Results." They kind of pinpointed all the things I needed to work on to build it up. I’m feeling good.

SDC: How frustrating has your lack of pre-draft attention been?

TM: The thing that was frustrating, hearing and looking at where they have me placed as far as my ranking, I am just upset about that because I’m not quite sure what they were going off of. At DB, you don’t want to give up touchdowns, but last year I didn’t give up a touchdown. I figured I should be pretty high based off that. There’s a lot of political things that go into it that I’m aware of. That is one thing that that is frustrating, having to sit behind guys that I know I’m better than, but I’m going to have my opportunity to show that on the field once a team picks me up.

SDC: What about the pre-draft assessment? What did you think of that? 

TM: I don’t really want to speak on that too much.

SDC: Why did you come out early despite the assessment?

TM: The NFL has always been a dream of mine. Once I was draft eligible, I felt like I accomplished a lot in my three years playing, going to the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and finishing up at the Alamo Bowl. I dominated throughout my entire career, and I felt like it was time to go. I felt it was time to test the waters in the NFL.

SDC: Was there a part of you that thought your draft stock could increase if you stayed another year?

TM: The opportunity was there. I think in some cases it works. It depends on the relationship you have with the coaches at your school. It was just a better decision for me to go ahead and leave.

SDC: You recently at the opportunity to meet Ronnie Lott. What was it like working with a Hall of Famer?

TM: It was a great experience working with him. Just being in his presence, somebody you’ve seen a lot of highlights on. Being able to be right with him was kind of cool, and cool to get some pointers from him.

SDC: What was your biggest takeaway from working with him?

TM: Just being aggressive. The kind of a person he is, we talked a lot of football. At my position, if you’re not low, you’re going to lose. That was the real key. He definitely put me on the smart points of the game.

SDC: Did he show you his finger?

TM: Ha, ha, ha. I saw it, but I figured it was just regular. I didn’t even look.

SDC: How do you think the press coverage you played at Oregon translates to the NFL?

TM: In the NFL, there are a lot of great receivers, and being able to get your hands on them early can help your whole team and defensive line. Press coverage is something the NFL has been doing for a long time, going way back to changing their rules from bump-and-run. That’s something that has been around the game for a long time, and it fits in my game. College is a little like that. They’re trying to make the game softer where you can’t get your hands on em, but I think the NFL is a game where press coverage is played a lot.

SDC: You were overlooked coming out of high school, redshirted as a freshman, and now you are battling to get into the NFL. Does it seem like you are always being overlooked?

TM: Yes sir. That’s just how it’s always been for me, but I’m kind of used to it. God puts people through certain situations to make them stronger. I think it only makes me stronger, every obstacle. It’s just the story of my life. I’m real used to it now. The only thing I can control is myself and working hard to get better.

SDC: How do you deal with being constantly overlooked?

TM: I control my work, I get better myself, and I chop their hands off when I play against them. It’s just that simple. I keep working and kill them. Another thing that keeps me cool is every time things didn’t work out for me, God always worked it out. For example, I ran a 4.6 at the combine, but I came back last week and ran a 4.4. That kind of stuff keeps me on track. It’s working for me, and I got to keep working myself.

SDC: How do you feel about playing special teams or contributing as a nickel back?

TM: I’m willing to do whatever I got to do to get on the field. I heard special teams is a place where you have to put a little time in to get on the field in the NFL. I’m prepared for that. I like special teams. I feel like I could be a great returner.

SDC: You don’t want to be a gunner?

TM: I can do a gunner, but I just want to show teams what I could do with the ball in my hands. A couple of times I got a pick. I could really bring it back to high school.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 18, 2014, 3:50 pm

Anyone who has followed along here for a while knows I respect Peyton Manning. He's a great player. He's not a bad interview either. He's a pretty sharp, funny guy. He's also one of the league's good guys, as far as charity work goes.

All that said, would I pay him $105,000 to speak for an hour? ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS? Oh my goodness, no. Nobody would.

Wait, Oklahoma State University really did pay Manning that much? Sigh. Never mind.

Manning, the Broncos quarterback and reigning MVP, spoke to about 4,250 Oklahoma State students at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Wednesday night. He spoke for 30 minutes and had a 30-minute Q&A session afterward. According to the Tulsa World, Manning told the students things like, "This is your world. Own it" and "Enjoy the journey, not the destination,"

Yep ... $105,000. From a public university that Manning has no significant attachment to. At least there's not a problem with the ridiculous cost of higher education in this country or anything.

The Tulsa World wrote there was "a debate on campus" about how much the school was paying Manning, as there should have been. The chairman of the OSU Speakers Board, Patrick Alland, told the Tulsa World the money on Manning was well spent and he would do it again. Really though, what's he supposed to say, he wanted a refund? I guess if you're going to pay a football player six figures to speak, Manning probably is the right one.

He can teach lessons on preparation, dealing with adversity physically and mentally, and he's as good of a leader as there is in the NFL. You could certainly see Manning being a politician someday when he's finished playing, if he wanted. Or, obviously, he could get into public speaking, which brings in a lot of money. Forbes says the price of a "serious" speaker starts at $5,000, jumps to $40,000 for a New York Times bestselling author. Elite speakers such as former U.S. Presidents can get six figures. Bill Clinton averaged $189,000 per speech in the 11 years after his presidency, the Washington Post said. Manning is a bright person with a great deal of charm and charisma, so he could make it in that realm, and obviously OSU was willing to pay him like a former President. (It should be stated as well that Manning is as generous with his money as anyone in sports, having given more than $1 million to various charitable causes last year including $500,000 to the Pat Summit Foundation to help fight Alzheimer's disease.) And I have no doubt it was a tremendous speech and he was fantastic in the question-and-answer portion. Manning doesn't do anything half way; that's part of what makes him great.

But for that price? How about you just get them Brandon Weeden for a few bucks and let the students keep the change?

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 18, 2014, 12:03 am

The Baltimore Ravens are giving Rolando McClain another shot. We think.

Interesting: Ravens reinstate Rolando McClain from reserved/retired.

— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) April 17, 2014

McClain had retired from football and yet stated his intentions to come back this season, and the Ravens gave him a workout on Tuesday. But it didn't go well, per an NFL.com report, and all indications were that his career might be over when he showed up late, couldn't finish his conditioning test and didn't do everything that was asked of him.

Rolando McClain got his workout w the Ravens and I'm hearing it was NOT a roaring success. Didn't finish conditioning test, didn't do drills

— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) April 15, 2014

So why did the Ravens change his status? It could be a procedural affair, and the Ravens plan to waive him at some point. But right now, he's on their roster.

The former No. 8 pick in the 2010 draft started his career with the Oakland Raiders with promise, but things quickly derailed, which led to the team walking away from him. In a 17-month span between 2011 and 2013, he was arrested three times, including a year ago for disorderly conduct — just two weeks after he signed a contract with the Ravens, who opted to give him another shot.

Less than two weeks after that, McClain announced his retirement from the league. He was said to be addressing his issues, and the Ravens kept watch on him, as GM Ozzie Newsome — a fellow Alabama player — hoped to keep McClain in the Ravens' picture and get his life in order.

During last month's Alabama pro day, which McClain attended, he told the media that he felt he was making strides.

"I really focused on the things I need to get right, and football wasn't one of those things," he said. "I feel better as a person overall.”

So could McClain, still only 24 years old, get yet another chance? Even with this designation, it's not clear if he has a real future in the NFL, with Tuesday's workout an indication that he still has a lot of work to do. But it appears, as of this writing, that the Ravens hadn't completely closed the door on giving him that shot to do so. 

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 17, 2014, 10:47 pm

Chad Johnson is back in football.

It's not exactly what the one-time star receiver envisioned, probably, but it'll do. Johnson, who is mostly known for his time with the Bengals, signed with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes, the league announced on Thursday.

BREAKING: The @MTLAlouettes have signed @Ochocinco. Details to come. #CFL

— CFL Official Feed (@CFL) April 17, 2014

IT'S OFFICIAL: @ochocinco puts pen to paper with @PoppJim. Bienvenue à #HuitCinq chez les #Alouettes! #CFL #LCF pic.twitter.com/yKkRlBwU7y

— Montreal Alouettes (@MTLAlouettes) April 17, 2014

It's unlikely that this could lead to a NFL return. He's 36 and his last four seasons in the NFL weren't too productive. He was cut by the Dolphins before the 2012 season after he was arrested on simple battery/domestic violence charges. Johnson has let it be known, mostly through his Twitter feed, how much he regrets how his time in the NFL ended.

The CFL isn't the NFL, but that's fine with him.

"A dream of mine since I was 4 years old was taken from me, rightfully so, by my wrongdoings and I just want to get back to doing something that I love to do, regardless of where it is," Johnson said, according to the New York Daily News. "Montreal, flag football, back in the street the way I grew up. I just want to play football.”

Johnson is taking a rather unusual path. There aren't many established NFL stars who have gone to play in Canada after the NFL wouldn't give them a job. Running back Ricky Williams (who was suspended for a year by the NFL), defensive end Mark Gastineau, running back Lawrence Phillips and receiver Andre Rison are a few who have played in Canada after starring in the United States. Others, like Warren Moon, Doug Flutie or Cameron Wake have gone to the NFL after showing off their pro talent in Canada first. But reviving a once-successful NFL career by going to Canada first is very rare.

Johnson is, by all accounts, in great shape, and he's likely to be motivated after being out of football. Will a strong showing in Canada be enough to get even one NFL team interested in him? That's unlikely, but it sounds like the NFL isn't consuming his thoughts right now. He just wanted to be on a team again. If nothing else, the CFL should be even more entertaining because of him.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 17, 2014, 6:14 pm

It is hard being single and searching for the perfect companion. Your so-called friends try to set you up on dates with people who are only attractive to those with their eyes closed. Speed dating is the easiest way to condense a year of letdowns into an hour-long session. Online dating allows romantics to sort through incompatible prospects from the comfort of their home.

Imagine if someone invented a dating website based on the most important criteria – being a Packers fan. Then singles could find someone to wear a cheesehead with on Sunday.

Packers fans, it is time to take a selfie in the bathroom mirror.

GreenBayPackersLovers.com is a new dating website geared toward connecting Packers fan. Yes, everyone knows true love begins and ends with a dinner discussion around the pros and cons of Aaron Rodgers’ mustache.

Here is a description of the website:

Green Bay Packers fans are the most loyal fans around. Just look at Pack's die hard fans that tackle the brutally cold winters to storm outside and cheer on the Pack Attack. At our site you can find other Packers Bakers cheeseheads looking for love. Whether you're looking for true love, a long term relationship, are marriage minded, just looking for fun or maybe even just looking for friendship.

Of course, there are more men than women signed up, which should attract all the single ladies. Women can choose between dating a guy who paints his chest or the one who wears hunting gear on game day. Either way, he is a Packers fan. Who cares?

The “Lambeau Leap of Love” is only one click away.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 17, 2014, 4:59 pm

Two of the NFL’s top free agents signed contracts this offseason that would allow them, if they so chose, to put their money in a simple savings account and in theory be set for their lives.

And yet DeMarcus Ware and Zane Beadles, who signed deals that will combine to earn them more than $32 million guaranteed with their new teams, want more.

Not more money, necessarily. But more knowledge of how best to put it to use.

We all know that the NFL deals in funny money. To wit: A five-year, $50 million deal isn’t worth 50 mil proper — how much of that is guaranteed? And also, there’s the painful truth that the majority of the players in the league will have blown most of whatever they have earned, or perhaps all of it.

Ware and Beadles were two of 28 current and former NFL players who attended last week’s NFL Business Management & Entrepreneurial Program at the University of Notre Dame. The program was designed to help players of all strata — from the Wares of the world down to league-minimum players, and even those no longer earning a league paycheck — to help better manage their funds and perhaps even invest them properly.

In fact, most of the players who attended were not on Ware’s or even Beadles’ level of fame or talent. They either were fringe players, or currently out of the league.

The pro athlete is a potential victim for myriad pitfalls when signing big-money deals: poor management, friends and relatives seeking handouts or loans they never intend to pay back, or even bad investments. But players also can get caught up in a lifestyle that drains their accounts because of bad spending habits.

Patrick Kerney was not one of these players. The former Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks defensive end signed two big contracts in his NFL career but always was smart with his money and always keeping an eye not only on his own bank accounts, but also seeing how frivolous some of his teammates over 12 years in the league were. Kerney twice attended this program when he was still playing, and right after his career was over he earned his MBA in Finance from Columbia University.

“That’s what took me to Columbia: My desire to work with players,” he said. “Helping them understand the vernacular a little bit. Understanding what asset class is. But more than that, helping them not miss out on the right opportunities. I have seen too much of that over the years. It’s tough to watch.”

Kerney now serves as the NFL’s Vice President of Player Benefits and NFL Legends Operations, and his mission is to help open players’ eyes not only to the potential dangers of a large portfolio but also open their minds to the possibilities — the smarter ones — of what that money can mean for them and their families.

“The first thing is to understand appropriate risk,” Kerney said. “What kind of a cap you want to put on your investments, what your nest egg should look like. As [former NFL receiver] J.R. Tolver said as a speaker the other day, ‘Before you start this, come up with a number and how much you’re willing to lose on a venture. If you hit that number, you’ve got to walk away.’”

But for Kerney, this approach is not simply about money and investments. It’s also about securing quality of life and meaning.

“There’s the fact of, OK, you get to the end of a solid NFL career, and you’re 34,” he said. “You still need some meaning, some purpose, every day. The way I look at it is that there are multi-billionaires who still get up and go to work every day.”

That’s why for Kerney, this isn’t just a forum about how to turn a player’s $1 bill into $2. It’s about planning the next stages of their lives, and about the myriad challenges they’ll face — during and after their careers. And for him, it’s a no-brainer for any kind of player to attend the program and enrich their lives. In fact, he’d pitch every NFL player on it if he could.

“It doesn’t cost you a dime. It’s just about human capital, and the economic return you will get from that human capital is absurd,” Kerney said.

Ware said he thought about his place in football and life after it following a serious neck injury in 2009. Since then, he has been very proactive about planning out the stages of his post-football life, knowing that his time in the NFL can end in an instant.

If that reality wasn’t clear before, it was the minute the Dallas Cowboys — a team he thought he always would play for — cut him. Despite the fact he was signed by the Broncos very soon after, Ware hasn’t slowed down thinking about his next move after playing, and it could involve something in the safety field in relation to sports.

“Guys are suffering a lot of injuries these days, so I want to focus more on that at some point,” Ware said. “Not just football either. Sports in general. I am really passionate about that. I am trying to figure out what my niche might be in it.”

Ware said he hasn’t had any specific discussions about starting a business venture in that field yet, but he hopes one day to get involved in maybe forming his own line of protective sports gear.

“It’s something I have thought about a lot,” he said. “I’ve wanted to give back to the game. This is not just a money-making thing. It’s a way for me to take my personal experiences and put them to good use as well.”

Beadles still has several seasons left in his prime but imagines a post-career career that could involve assisting players with money.

“I could see myself working as a financial analyst or vetting out different investments for people,” Beadles said. “I have a passion for sports, obviously, and I enjoy the mental side of sports. I am trying to use my time in the NFL as a launching pad for my next career. I absolutely could see myself working with players on their portfolios one day.”

Beadles first heard about the program his rookie year but never had gotten involved until this year. A mechanical engineering major at Utah, Beadles certainly is smart enough to understand complex concepts, but he only really started getting a taste for business-related things the past few years. And yet he gets why the number of players attending the program is limited.

“I think it’s extremely intimidating,” Beadles said. “You’re coming in and trying to comprehend very complex things. I don’t think, even with formal training, you’re ever fully comfortable putting your money in other people’s hands and not feeling entirely comfortable. If you’re like me, you want to know where it is at all times.

“As you go on, it becomes less intimidating, but there is so much to it. But I feel a lot more enlightened [having gone through the program] now, and it’s giving me more ideas of the possibilities.”

Ware was a business information systems major at Troy, so some of the complex concepts were not entirely foreign to him coming in. But he very much knows he has a lot to learn when it comes to finance and business and understands why many players are intimidated by attending such a forum.

But both players say they also have looked around them and watched teammates waste their money or fail to come up with a post-football life plan, and it depresses them.

“You always hear the statistics, that like 75 percent of the guys are broke within five years of being out of the league,” Beadles said. “I don’t want to be a statistic. I don’t want to be that person.”

“More guys need to take advantage of this stuff,” Ware said. “It’s there for their benefit. There’s something for everyone to learn, whether it’s business or entrepreneurial or whatever. It can help players narrow their focus as far as what they want to do after their careers.”

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: April 17, 2014, 3:43 pm

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is likely the best defensive player in the NFL, and he also seems to be one of the league's better guys off the field.

Watt seems to spend his offseason looking for ways to do nice things, particularly with kids. He had a pretty good one this week.

Apparently a boy named Trey struck up a friendship with Watt, the former NFL defensive player of the year. Would you believe that story? The kids at his school apparently didn't either. So Watt posted a video to his Instagram account where he appears with Trey, introduces himself and Trey as friends, then has Trey throw him a touchdown.

"All those of you who don't believe Trey is my friend, believe this touchdown," Watt says in the video.

Nicely played, J.J. And nice throw, Trey. 

The NFL will always have some knuckleheads, but it's also great to know that there are players like Watt, Seahawks running back Christine Michael and many, many others out there using their fame to make many people happy.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 17, 2014, 3:40 pm

Michael Sam is not expected to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft. He may not be selected in the middle rounds. In fact, there is a chance Sam is not drafted at all.

However, there are plenty of NFL teams very interested in him.

The Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets are the teams most interested in Sam, according to The Baltimore Sun. Sam met with several teams, including Baltimore, at the NFL scouting combine.

Sam is poised to become the first openly gay NFL player.

However, Sam has struggled during the NFL evaluation process.

Sam turned in an unimpressive performance at the scouting combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds (tied for 18th); bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times (tied for 47th/second to last); had a vertical jump of 25.5 inches (tied for 39th) and his broad jump was 114 inches (tied for 14th).

During Missouri’s pro day, Sam ran the 40-yard dash in 4.72 seconds, plus finished with 19 reps of 225 pounds. Unfortunately, for Sam, he sustained a hamstring injury during the workout, and struggled to finish the drills.

One thing working on Sam’s behalf is most NFL teams are more concerned with what they see on film than evaluating predraft workouts. Sam was named the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year after leading the conference in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18.0) last season. Some scouts believe Sam is not athletic enough to play outside linebacker and not big enough to be a defensive end in a 3-4, which means he will have to make an NFL team as a special teams contributor.

And there are six NFL teams seemingly poised to give Sam a chance.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 17, 2014, 2:40 pm

There are few men on earth who can understand what it's like to be Tony Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Fewer still understand what Romo is going through from an injury perspective, and one of those is a bit concerned.

Troy Aikman, a Cowboys legend, retired after 12 years in the league in large part because of back difficulties. Speaking to the Cowboys' website, Aikman was frank about his perspective on Romo's prospects: "Two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned."

Make no mistake, Aikman is firmly in Romo's corner. But he's taking a pragmatic view of Romo's injury recovery. “I’m hopeful that he’s able to come back," Aikman said. "Everybody is. This team won’t be the same if he’s not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, ‘Hey, he’s ahead of schedule and everything’s going fine,’ I’m not sure how you can really measure that here in April.”

Romo and Aikman have plenty of parallels. Romo is also entering his 12th year, and he'll turn 34 this year, the age Aikman was at retirement. Aikman didn't hint that change was on the way, noting instead that Brandon Weeden and, presumably, Kyle Orton will be suitable backups.

"It doesn’t sound like they’ll be drafting [a quarterback]," Aikman said of the Cowboys. "But if they can find a free agent to come out and at some point down the road play like Tony has played, that’s a pretty good way to go.”

You know where this ought to head, though. Johnny Manziel to the Cowboys. Make it happen, Jerry.

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Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 17, 2014, 1:51 pm

Sidney Rice weighed his options, including a visit with the New York Jets, and decided it was best to come back to Seattle.

Rice, who missed out on the Seahawks' Super Bowl run because he tore his ACL during the season, announced after his visit with the Jets was done that he was going back to Seattle.

📢 Aaayyyyooo 12s.. SEA you in a few.. IM COMIN' HOME! #Seahawks #12thman #Round2 http://t.co/am8tOXAwmu

— Sidney Rice (@sidneyrice) April 16, 2014

Multiple media reports said Rice and the Seahawks agreed to a one-year deal.

The reunion makes sense. Rice is comfortable in the offense after three seasons. He had seven touchdowns for the Seahawks in 2012. And Seattle still needs difference makers at receiver. Most of their receivers are young, they lost Golden Tate during the offseason, and top option Percy Harvin can't be trusted to stay healthy for a full season.

Rice isn't a big star anymore, surely not like he was when he had his career year with 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009 for the Vikings. But if he can return from ACL surgery and stay healthy, he'll give the Seahawks another option in the passing game as they try to defend their Super Bowl title.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 17, 2014, 12:22 am

Future NFL wide receiver Brandin Cooks is known for his speed. He recently made a name for himself with his mouth for comparing his skills to DeSean Jackson's. Now Cooks is showing he has an incredible heart.

Cooks, a former Oregon State standout, will likely make a lot of money in the NFL. He is expected to be selected in the early rounds of this year’s draft. After running the fastest time at the NFL scouting combine (4.33 seconds), Cooks received a check for $100,000 from Adidas for clocking the quickest 40-yard dash time.

Instead of making a lavish purchase for himself, Cooks decided to reward his mom, Andrea Cooks, with a new Mercedes-Benz GLK 350.

Brandin was 6 years old when his father died of a heart attack. Andrea Cooks held the family, including two other sons, together after her husband’s death, and Brandin took care of his mom when he had the chance.

Here is the emotional video Cooks posted on YouTube:

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at NFLAnwar@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @AnwarRichardson

Author: Anwar S. Richardson
Posted: April 16, 2014, 8:36 pm

In a free-agent move that was entirely predictable from the moment Chris Johnson was cut, the former Tennessee Titans star running back agreed to a deal with the New York Jets.

The Jets were one of the few teams in the NFL that was still pretty unsettled at running back, aside from Chris Ivory, at least until Johnson was cut. Then it became clear who the Jets' main tailback in 2014 would be. Johnson visited the Jets this week, and the two sides came to an agreement on a two-year deal according to ESPN. Again, this should have surprised nobody.

We’ve signed @ChrisJohnson28. – http://t.co/bsZv0lOfPP%3c/a> Welcome CJ2K to #JetsNation! pic.twitter.com/rNlcNPrDO0

— New York Jets (@nyjets) April 16, 2014

Now Johnson gets to be the focal point of an offense that is still breaking in quarterback Geno Smith, who had his ups and downs last year. The Johnson that gained 2,006 yards in 2009 during one of the great single-season performances in NFL history isn't what the Jets are getting. That player isn't around anymore. But what Johnson can bring to the Jets is a good running back who still has big-play potential. Johnson gained at least 1,000 yards in each of his six NFL seasons and hasn't missed a game since his rookie year of 2008. He averaged at least 4 yards per carry each season until last year, when he just missed at 3.9.

Johnson complained about his role off and on with the Titans, but he shouldn't have many concerns with the Jets, although Ivory should get some touches too after a very promising 2013 season. Still, given Rex Ryan's style and Smith's inexperience at quarterback, Johnson should have all the carries he can handle. Another 1,000-yard season shouldn't be too tough for Johnson to get, although it's probably not wise to bet on him reaching 2,000 again.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 16, 2014, 7:54 pm

Pursuing a professional basketball career overseas no longer seemed appealing to Erik Swoope after the University of Miami forward had an end-of-the-year meeting with his head coach last month.

Almost unfathomably, he suddenly had a more enticing opportunity.

Miami basketball coach Jim Larranaga informed Swoope that someone from the Denver Broncos had left a voicemail asking whether the senior had interest in scheduling a workout before the NFL draft. Swoope had never played organized football at any level before, but the Broncos believed his 6-foot-5 frame, explosive athleticism and aptitude for learning gave him a chance to make the same transition from undersized power forward to NFL tight end that stars Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham once did.

"I was completely shocked," Swoope said. "That was about the last thing I expected Coach L to tell me. Once I figured out this was real and that he wasn't kidding, I was really excited. I took a week to think about it but then I decided I wanted to see what they had in mind."

In the four weeks since his unexpected discovery that he was on the NFL's radar, Swoope has taken a crash course to familiarize himself with a sport he'd only watched on TV before. He has lifted weights to add muscle to his already chiseled frame, done basic drills to improve his pass catching and route running skills and sought out advice from athletes who have made a similar jump from basketball to football.

Swoope's commitment has impressed NFL scouts enough that they've told him he has a good chance to make an NFL team's practice squad next season even if he is not selected in the later rounds of the draft next month. His workout with the Broncos last Thursday went well enough that officials from the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs have since called to express interest.

"I think he has a great chance of playing in the NFL," Larranaga said. "He's a phenomenal athlete, he's a hard worker and he'll pick up new concepts quickly because he's just very bright. One of the easiest ways for me to judge is that I was able to play Eric four positions. Most guys can only learn their position, but there were games I had Eric guard the point guard and games I had him guard the center. His athletic ability allowed him to be very versatile in basketball and his intelligence allowed him to learn every position."

The notion of an NFL career is sometimes still difficult for Swoope to fathom because of his lack of football experience. Whereas others who attempted the same transition at least dabbled in football in high school, the only football Swoope played prior to the last month were games of two-hand touch in the cul-de-sac outside his childhood home in Lake Elsinore, Calif.

In fifth and sixth grade, Swoope was already too heavy to meet the weight restrictions to play Pop Warner football with his friends. And throughout his four years at prestigious Harvard Westlake High School in North Hollywood, he resisted frequent recruiting pitches from football coaches because basketball was his top priority.

"Every week they'd tell me, 'Anytime you want to play, the field's right here,'" Swoope said chuckling. "It was difficult to resist because I had friends on the team and some of my friends on the basketball team were like, 'Man, we should just all go out for football and have a great senior year.' I thought about it every year, but I'd been playing basketball for so long and the scholarship opportunities I had were there for basketball."

Basketball certainly wasn't a bad alternative.

Swoope helped lead Harvard-Westlake to a section championship as a junior and averaged 21.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for a Warriors team that went 25-5 as a senior. His playing time was sometimes sporadic at Miami, but he finished with a flourish as a senior, starting his last 10 games this past season and scoring in double figures in six of his last seven.

It's unclear exactly how Swoope got on the NFL's radar since a Denver Broncos spokesman declined comment until after the draft. The idea Denver might scout college basketball in search of draft prospects is conceivable, however, considering its tight ends coach worked with Gates with the Chargers and has since molded ex-Portland State basketball player Julius Thomas into a Pro Bowler with the Broncos. 

If the Broncos indeed stumbled across Swoope watching ACC basketball, Larranaga has a good idea what intrigued them. From his penchant for catching alley-oop passes seemingly headed out of bounds, to his knack for out-muscling or out-leaping taller players for rebounds, to his love of contact and physicality, Swoope's style of play in basketball translates well to football.

"In Erik's case, he's best when there's contact," Larranaga said. "I don't think that's going to discourage him at all. I even told my coaches, I could see him being on special teams tracking guys down and throwing people away to get to the ball carrier."

Something that should inspire Swoope is that his transition isn't the most difficult one attempted by a member of his family. Older brother Devin competed in track and field, and basketball in high school before a junior college football coach spotted him during a basketball game and persuaded him to give a new sport a try. Devin began as a 315-pound nose tackle at Glendale College, moved to outside linebacker when he first arrived at Division II Northwood University and eventually shed enough weight to finish his career as a 215-pound wide receiver.

"All they're asking my brother to do is gain 10 pounds rather than lose 100," Devin joked. "His transition is easy compared to mine."   

Jokes aside, Devin is the ideal mentor for his younger brother since he has experience catching passes, running routes and learning a brand new position and sport. They've done many of the same drills the past few weeks at Miami that Devin did at Northwood as he was first learning the receiver position.

"I've made it as difficult as I possibly could for him just to see how he would react," Devin said. "I was rifling the football at him and he was catching everything. There's a tempo to running routes and he'll have to learn that, but even on grass he's still very fluid and very explosive. I definitely did not feel like I was working out with someone who had never played football, that's for sure."

Between drills with his brother and friends on the Miami football team, intense weight lifting sessions with his strength coach and chats with Graham and others who have been in his position, Swoope feels he is making swift progress.

Ideally, he'd love to wow the Broncos or another NFL team enough to be a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick in May. Realistically, he hopes to latch on as an undrafted free agent, continue to soak up as much new information as he can in training camp and earn a spot on a practice squad next season. 

"It will come down to the conversations I have with teams and my workouts," Swoope said. "In a perfect world, maybe I'd go in the seventh round. But no matter what this has all been extremely exciting. Just the fact I'm getting calls and that I'm considered a potential NFL player is so flattering and so enjoyable."

Highlights from Erik Swoope's final basketball game with Miami last month:

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @JeffEisenberg

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: April 16, 2014, 7:33 pm

Remember last year, when there was a bunch of mystery about why Rob Gronkowski hadn't returned to the New England Patriots lineup from injury, and the weekly questions about when the tight end would make his debut?

Well, here we go again.

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, quoting a source, says that Gronkowski's rehab "take his time and then take more time" in returning from a torn ACL and MCL suffered last season.

This makes sense. Gronkowski needs to make sure he's fully healthy, because his body hasn't always cooperated the past couple years. His concern shouldn't be getting back as soon as he can for the 2014 season, but making sure he isn't cutting his career short by rushing back. But that was the case last year, and it didn't stop a lot of grumbling about why he hadn't made it back to the lineup when it seemed like he was due to play. Let's go out on a limb and predict this won't be the last Shutdown Corner post in 2014 that has to do with Gronkowski's rehab and when he might return to the lineup.

Hopefully one of the league's most dynamic and entertaining players feels 100 percent sooner rather than later. Early indications are his rehab is going just fine. And we know that America's favorite bro is eating well this offseason, at least.

Double Fisting dem steaks! @david_vozzola pick up your game! #freddieFlintstoneGotNuttinOnMe pic.twitter.com/Kn8KcA33D7

— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) April 15, 2014

 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: April 16, 2014, 7:13 pm

Yahoo Sports - NFL News

Latest news and information about the NFL.

In this Nov. 17, 2013, photo, Buffalo Bills cheerleaders perform during the Bills' NFL football game against the New York Jets in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bills will be playing without the support of their official cheerleaders this year. Stephanie Mateczun, whose company manages the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad, said Thursday, April 24, 2014, she has suspended operations through at least the end of the season. The decision was made two days after five former Jills filed a lawsuit complaining they worked hundreds of hours for free, and were subjected to groping and sexual comments. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

Pack up the pom-poms in Buffalo, because the Bills will be playing without the support of their official cheerleaders this year. Stephanie Mateczun, whose company manages the Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad, said Thursday she has suspended operations through at least the end of the season. It names Mateczun's company, Stejon Productions Corp., the Bills, and the Jills' former manager, Citadel Communications Co., as defendants. Stejon took over managing the cheerleaders in 2011.


Posted: April 25, 2014, 2:47 am

FILE - In this Jan. 10, 2013 file photo, former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, left, speaks at a news conference with Dr. Rick Sponaugle, in Middleburg Heights, Ohio . Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Kosar believes he's been unfairly sacked as a TV broadcaster. Kosar contends he's been removed because of slurred speech he attributes to

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar believes he has been unfairly sacked as a TV broadcaster. Kosar has been removed as a color commentator for Cleveland's preseason games by the team. The Browns said Wednesday night he was being replaced by Solomon Wilcots, who will work with play-by-play announcer Jim Donovan. Kosar contends he's been removed because of slurred speech he attributes to ''a direct result of the many concussions I received while playing in the NFL.'' ''This is very unfortunate,'' he said in a statement, ''as I believe my football acumen and ability to describe what is happening on the field, has been well received by Cleveland Browns fans.'' WKYC-TV issued a statement disputing Kosar's assertions.


Posted: April 24, 2014, 11:07 pm
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills have hired Gerald Dixon as a pro scout.
Posted: April 24, 2014, 10:19 pm

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a news conference at the NFL football annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, March 26, 2014. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The NFL will discuss expanded playoffs at the owners' meetings next month in Atlanta. Commissioner Roger Goodell told a gathering of Associated Press Sports Editors on Thursday that a vote is uncertain on the proposal to add two teams to the postseason. ''We want to make sure we do it in the right way.'' The NFL also will experiment with snapping the ball from the 15-yard line on extra points in the first two weeks of the preseason to make them more challenging. Blandino added that veteran referees Scott Green and Ron Winter have retired, and will be replaced by Craig Wrolstad and Ronald Torbert.


Posted: April 24, 2014, 9:52 pm

Seattle Seahawks' Marcus Trufant, left, holds up a team jersey as he stands with his wife Jessica and brothers Isaiah, second right, and Desmond to start a news conference announcing his retirement from football after signing with the team a day earlier, Thursday, April 24, 2014, in Renton, Wash. Trufant started 125 games in a Seattle career that lasted from 2003 to 2012. The cornerback was a first-round pick in 2003 out of Washington State and immediately moved into the starting lineup, playing a key role on the 2005 team that advanced to the franchise's first Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

When it was clear Marcus Trufant's time with the Seattle Seahawks was over following the 2012 season, he was given a message by general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll on his way out. If it became apparent that Trufant was ready to retire from the NFL, they wanted him to do it as a member of the Seahawks. Trufant got that opportunity Thursday, officially retiring from football after signing a one-day contract with Seattle. ''It (the offer) says a lot about them, it says a lot about their character, it says a lot about the organization itself because they didn't have to do it,'' Trufant said.


Posted: April 24, 2014, 9:39 pm

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford runs through drills at the Lions training facility in Allen Park, Mich., Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Jim Caldwell has already made his mark as the new coach of the Detroit Lions. Caldwell seems cool, calm and collected. ''We want to make certain that we identify ourselves, who are we and our identity,'' Caldwell said Thursday as the Lions wrapped up a three-day voluntary minicamp. Quarterback Matthew Stafford described Caldwell as ''confident and level-headed.'' ''He has a lot of respect in that locker room already,'' Stafford said.


Posted: April 24, 2014, 8:20 pm
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- The Dallas Cowboys have added another quarterback with starting experience in Caleb Hanie.
Posted: April 24, 2014, 8:02 pm
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has referred the airport arrest of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith to the Los Angeles city attorney's office for misdemeanor consideration.
Posted: April 24, 2014, 7:18 pm

FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2013, file photo,k Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tries to get away from Green Bay Packers' C.J. Wilson during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Green Bay, Wis. As Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks get to kick off the NFL's regular season by hosting the Packers on Sept. 4. That Thursday game is the first of four prime-time games on opening weekend. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)

Mike McCarthy promises there won't be any bad memories plaguing his Green Bay Packers when they open the NFL season on Sept. 4 at Super Bowl champion Seattle. The last time Green Bay visited CenturyLink Field was in Week 3 of the 2012 season, a 14-12 Seahawks victory clinched on what now is often dubbed the ''Fail Mary.'' Russell Wilson's desperation pass on the final play was called a touchdown reception for Golden Tate by the replacement officials. ''It will be about the 2014 Green Bay Packers. It's the third straight season the Packers have traveled to face the defending Super Bowl champions.


Posted: April 24, 2014, 1:32 am

Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson holds the Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Seahawks won 43-8. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has announced that he and his wife Ashton are divorcing. Wilson made the announcement in a statement released by the Seahawks on Wednesday. He says decisions like this are not easy and respectfully asks for ''prayers and understanding and privacy during this difficult time.'' The pair married in January 2012 after he finished his college career at Wisconsin and before he was drafted by the Seahawks. The couple had been visible at Seahawks events for his first two seasons in the league.


Posted: April 24, 2014, 12:12 am