NFL owners reportedly feared Trump's wrath over kneeling protests during national anthem – CNBC


Members of the Detroit Lions take a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

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Members of the Detroit Lions take a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to the start of the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field on September 24, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

NFL owners, in a secret meeting last fall, expressed fears that President Donald Trump would continue pounding the league over players’ protests during the national anthem, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The concerns were aired during a confidential October meeting between players and owners while the controversy over the protests raged in the thick of the NFL season.

“Let’s make sure that we keep this confidential,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at the start of the session, the Times reported.

The pregame demonstrations, sparked by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protesting police brutality, turned off some right-leaning football fans while the league contended with a decline in ratings.

Trump targeted the protests on several occasions. In a September tweet, the president called on fans to stop going to games as long as the protests continued. He also urged the NFL to “fire or suspend” players who were protesting. During a rally in late September, Trump said the league’s business would “go to hell” if it did not change its approach to the protests.

According to the Times, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Trump friend, was chief among the owners expressing worries about Trump’s attacks on the league during the October meeting.

“The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” Kraft said, referring to players’ kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” according to the Times. “It’s divisive and it’s horrible.”

Kraft is known as a long-time Democrat but has spoken openly about his close friendship with the Republican president. He visited the real estate magnate at Trump Tower in Manhattan days after Trump won the presidential election.

Representatives for the White House, the NFL and the Patriots did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Read the full New York Times report here.



2018 NFL Draft: All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and Red Stars in this class – NFL.com



The Year of the Quarterback.

That label was affixed to this draft class a year ago, with a bevy of highly regarded signal-callers dotting the college football landscape. Did every QB live up to the sky-high expectations that accompanied this group at the outset of 2017? Not exactly. But the position is still poised to define the 2018 NFL Draft, with several quarterbacks expected to come off the board within the first 10 selections on Thursday night. That’s just the nature of the beast in a QB-infatuated league. We can debate the merits of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen as top-tier draft prospects, but there’s no denying that several teams are clamoring for their services. It appears this quartet will be selected quite early, simply due to the vast array of organizations desperate to find a QB1 to build around.


To me, this is crazy. Not to disparage this QB class — I think it offers an assortment of intriguing prospects with diverse skill sets and definite upside. But when I’m thinking about making a selection in the first half of the first round, I want more of a sure thing. And as I touched on in my notebook a month ago, there’s more enticing high-end talent at other positions.

While this draft class will almost certainly be judged by the success — or lack thereof — of the highly drafted quarterbacks, that neglects most of the talent in the group. Don’t let the “Year of the Quarterback” label fool you — there’s intrigue across the board, in the first round and beyond …

At running back, the 2018 class is absolutely loaded with talented playmakers boasting versatile skills. Saquon Barkley is the obvious headliner, as a dynamic combo back with exceptional all-around abilities. The Penn State star is the best overall prospect in this draft — his position’s somewhat-limited value is the only reason why he’s not considered the consensus choice at No. 1. With LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Sony Michel, USC’s Ronald Jones II and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny also considered fine talents, teams looking for running backs can uncover a gem beyond Round 1.

This year’s collection of pass catchers lacks a marquee WR1, but it’s loaded with playmakers at tight end. South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst, South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert and Penn State’s Mike Gesicki could create problems on the outside as hybrid playmakers. While I believe Alabama’s Calvin Ridley is a potential WR1 in the NFL, there are several evaluators with higher grades on pass catchers like Maryland’s D.J. Moore and SMU’s Courtland Sutton.

The 2018 O-line class is full of question marks at offensive tackle, but it provides plenty of rock-solid interior options. Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson is viewed as a transcendent star at guard, with a nasty game that’s earned him universal praise as a dominant road grader. Iowa C James Daniels, Georgia OG Isaiah Wynn, UTEP OG Will Hernandez and Ohio State C Billy Price are Day 1 starters.


On the defensive side of the ball, this class lacks depth at pass rusher, but teams are excited about the prospects of N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb growing into a monster off the edge. UTSA’s Marcus Davenport and Boston College’s Harold Landry show promise off the edge, but they need a little more seasoning before they can evolve into dominant playmakers. On the inside, Washington’s Vita Vea is a 6-foot-4, 347-pound freak who projects as an ideal 3-4 nose tackle. Meanwhile, Michigan’s Maurice Hurst, Florida’s Taven Bryan and Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne offer disruptive capability as interior pass rushers.

The linebacker crew is packed with dynamic playmakers. Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds are top-10 talents with the combination of speed, quickness and instincts that defensive coordinators covet in second-level players. Not to mention, they are also capable of harassing quarterbacks as explosive blitzers. Alabama’s Rashaan Evans frequently gets lost in the shuffle, but teams looking for a mean-mugging traffic cop love his playmaking potential between the tackles.

The 2018 class of defensive backs features a number of explosive athletes with high football IQs and versatile skills. The safety group offers multi-positional playmakers like Florida State’s Derwin James and Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick — both capable of thriving in various roles in the back end. At cornerback, the playmaking potential of Ohio State’s Denzel Ward, UCF’s Mike Hughes, Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Iowa’s Josh Jackson — all ballhawks with solid cover skills — has defensive coordinators around the league excited about the possibility of adding a young impact player on the perimeter.

Long story short: This draft provides intrigue all over the field. Yes, the quarterbacks receive the bulk of the headlines — that’s always the case — but don’t give the other spots short shrift.

In fact, today I’d like to spotlight 26 particular prospects — six elite talents, 15 difference makers and five wild cards with high upside — and of the 26, only three play quarterback. Let’s get into it:

ALL-PROS

These are the elite prospects in the class. They should rank among the top five players at their respective positions in two to three years. I’ve ordered them according to how they grade out in my book.


1) Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
2) Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
3) Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
4) Derwin James, S, Florida State
5) Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
6) Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

PRO BOWLERS

These prospects are regarded as difference makers based on their raw talent. They should make immediate contributions as rookies and rank among the top 10 at their position within two to three years. I’ve ordered them according to how they grade out in my book.

1) Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
2) Sam Darnold, QB, USC
3) Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
4) Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
5) Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
6) Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
7) Vita Vea, DT, Washington
8) Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
9) Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
10) James Daniels, C, Iowa
11) Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
12) Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
13) Billy Price, C, Ohio State
14) Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
15) Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA

RED STAR PLAYERS

On the “Move the Sticks” podcast, Daniel Jeremiah and I routinely discuss how scouts will stand on the table for guys they believe will outperform their draft slot. In the scouting world, these players are called “red star” guys because they are destined to make their mark in the league despite not being the most ballyhooed prospects. After surveying the 2018 class for players with the right skills and intangibles to surpass most expectations, here are my five red-star prospects to watch.


Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner hasn’t been celebrated as one of the top quarterbacks in the class, but it’s hard to ignore a dynamic athlete with A+ arm talent and playmaking ability. Jackson eclipsed 3,500 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards in back-to-back seasons, improving his completion rate and overall efficiency in the process. Despite being erroneously perceived by many as a typical spread-option quarterback, Jackson’s experience in a pro-style offense under the tutelage of a hard-nosed coach (Bobby Petrino) should help him assimilate to the pro game quicker than most expect. If he lands with the right team led by a creative coach, the Louisville standout could evolve into a more polished version of Michael Vick. Just ask Vick himself.

Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State: The former high school lacrosse player is an explosive hybrid with the athleticism and movement skills to make an impact off the edge. Whether acting as a disruptive pass rusher racing around the corner or a Swiss Army Knife stand-up player in a 3-4, Hubbard’s unique skills could make him a star on Sundays. With teams looking for solid options on the edges, Hubbard is a safe bet to at least carve out a nice career.

Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford: Dominant defenses always employ at least a few blue-collar guys. That’s why I’m willing to bet on Phillips being a productive starter for a team as an interior defender. The Cardinal standout is a rock-solid defender at the point of attack, exhibiting exceptional strength, power and leverage against single- and double-teams. As a former wrestler with a no-nonsense attitude, Phillips is the kind of “hard hat and lunch pail” player who logs 10-plus years in the league.

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M: Despite being generally pegged as a slot, Kirk might end up being the best receiver in the draft, with the potential to blossom into a WR1 on the outside. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound pass catcher is a polished route runner with sticky hands and electric running skills. Kirk can deliver splash plays on vertical routes or catch-and-run concepts that allow him to shine as a Steve Smith-like playmaker on the perimeter. Although he doesn’t fit the typical profile of a No. 1 receiver, I wouldn’t rule out Kirk becoming just that, based on his athleticism, skill set and blue-collar mentality.


Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State: The 6-1, 228-pound playmaker is rarely discussed as one of the top running backs in the class, but teams looking for a big back with skills as a runner and receiver might uncover a gem in this ASU product. Ballage has the potential to emerge as a Le’Veon Bell-like threat, with the size and speed to hurt defenses as a runner and the explosiveness to torch linebackers as a receiver. Although he needs to add some more grit to his game, Ballage’s talents as a multi-purpose back could make him an unexpected star in the league.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



Why Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is the most intriguing player in the NFL Draft – USA TODAY


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SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz looks at the top five quarterbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft and the teams that would be the best fit for each.
USA TODAY Sports

Let’s flip this Lamar Jackson script to better grasp the potential.

For all of the reality-check projections of how the former Louisville quarterback will inspire his next team to create a specially designed offense that features his blazing speed as a complement to the rocket arm, Jackson is a nightmare waiting to happen for NFL defensive coordinators.

Where’s the extra defender?

“If everybody does their job, somebody still has to tackle him,” a veteran NFL defensive coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told USA TODAY Sports as he pondered Jackson’s draft stock. The coach did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak about draft prospects.

“Say that you have a fast defensive end who runs a 4.8 (in the 40-yard dash) in position to contain him. Well, Jackson runs a 4.3. Now what?

“In the NFL, it’s usually a safety … but that just opens up the middle of the field.”

And therein lies a practical scenario that leads me to think that despite the four quarterbacks widely touted as top-10 picks — Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield — Jackson looms as the most intriguing player in the entire NFL draft.

Sure, in a passing league where people still slobber over traditional dropback throwers and where we’ve already witnessed various versions of the “mobile quarterback,” the team that selects Jackson will have to go all-in to employ another degree of out-the-box thinking. Kind of like Houston coach Bill O’Brien did last year in overhauling his offense on the fly around Deshaun Watson. Jackson fuels hope that he, too, will be a torch-bearer for another new wave of prolific playmaking because he can sling it while he happens to be the fastest player on the field.

“He’s a dynamic playmaker,” Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis, with his rich defensive background, told USA TODAY Sports. “You can’t discount that.”

Which teams need to draft a QB?: Ranking NFL teams’ need from 1-32

USC’s finest: Could Darnold be USC’s best NFL QB? Ex-Trojans are optimistic

Mock draft: Allen, Mayfield could be biggest QB dominoes

Lewis knows. In Week 2 last season, his Bengals were victimized in Watson’s breakout game — which included a 49-yard TD run on a busted play as he sparked an  upset in his first NFL start.

Jackson, with a Heisman Trophy on his resume, is even faster than Watson. Like Michael Vick fast. Although Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian ignited debate in February with the absurd assertion that Jackson would be better served by switching to receiver (to which Jackson seemingly responded by refusing to run the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine or at Louisville’s Pro Day), it’s been striking during the pre-draft process to note the teams showing interest.

Lewis, with the 21st pick in the first round, said the Bengals have invested a lot of time on Jackson, who is roughly the same size (6-2 ½, 216) as Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton. Baltimore, Jacksonville and New Orleans  – which all could conceivably groom long-term options to succeed Joe Flacco, Blake Bortles and the great Drew Brees, respectively – have talked up Jackson.

Of course, this is the time of year for smokescreens. But you never know.

Word has also leaked that  New England and crafty Bill Belichick had Jackson in Foxborough, Mass., as one of the 30 visits teams can conduct with out-of-town draft prospects … which prompted a thumb’s up on Instagram from Tom Brady, who concluded, “He’s a beast!”

Bucky Brooks, the former NFL scout turned expert analyst for NFL Media, thinks the interest from Belichick (who once took a flyer on Tim Tebow) is legit. Noted Brooks: “I believe after watching Deshaun Watson tear up his defense, he said, ‘I want a player like Lamar Jackson.’ “

Watson, by the way, produced his first NFL 300-yard passing game, plus 41 rushing yards, during a near-upset at Foxborough in Week 3.

“One of the things that I think we as coaches, we all understand this: There’s not going to be another Drew Brees clone that we draft,” Saints coach Sean Payton, with the 27th pick in the first round, told USA TODAY Sports. “One of our jobs is to look closely at the things that player does best.

“With Lamar, you feel it in the room. You can tell that he can lead. So if he’s your quarterback, you start looking closely at the things he did well at Louisville and you build that way.”

Scrutiny of Jackson includes questions about his 59.1% completion rate last season and his mechanics as a passer. Yet that came with a depleted receiving corps and too many dropped passes. Jackson has drawn praise from draft experts for his decision-making, ability to throw on the run and  his deep passes. And then, of course, there’s that threat to run.

It also matters that Jackson was groomed in a pro-style offense traced to the scheme that Tom Coughlin employed during his first stint in Jacksonville, when current Louisville coach Bobby Petrino was an assistant.

“To be able to play quarterback for Bobby, that’s a positive that Lamar has had,” Lewis said.

It’s fair to wonder about the risk of running too much, even as the use of RPOs (run-pass options) gains steam in the NFL, as exemplified by Super Bowl champion Philadelphia with Carson Wentz and Nick Foles, and the way Kansas City coach Andy Reid deployed the since-departed Alex Smith.

Watson’s phenomenal rookie year was cut short by injury, and Robert Griffin III’s NFL career has been marked by injury setbacks, among other factors. Those cases provide a warning, and may scare teams inclined to build with a dropback passer. But Cam Newton and Russell Wilson have thrived, providing weekly warnings for opposing defenses.

Jackson’s success could hinge on how much and in what situations, he’s called on to run. According to The Undefeated, 73% of Jackson’s runs at Louisville were designed runs – a rate that won’t cut it in the NFL. Improvisational speed is the ticket.

“I don’t think I’d design runs for him,” former Arizona coach Bruce Arians told The Arizona Republic. “I would just let him, ala Russell Wilson, take what’s there and whoosh, take off running.”

Which is surely the script that makes Jackson such a hot commodity.

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Maybe NFL Teams Can Learn Something From Jeter's Marlins – Sports Illustrated


Tanking runs rampant in the NBA and Major League Baseball, but it hasn’t caught on in football just yet. As the draft approaches, there are surely a couple NFL teams who now regret winning in Week 17

Because draft week is finally upon us—and because Derek Jeter called Bryant Gumbel “mentally weak” over (true) accusations of tanking—let us look at how NFL teams could stand to be better when it comes to tanking.

Jeter’s Miami Marlins, as we all know, won’t be competitive this year or in coming years after trading away all their decent-to-great players and loading up on cheap prospects. Baseball and basketball teams have this tanking thing down. The NFL…not so much.

Going into Week 17 last season, three NFL teams guaranteed to have top-10 picks had the chance to improve their draft standing simply by losing. All three teams won. The 2-13 Giants beat 7-8 Washington when a loss would have guaranteed the No. 2 pick. The 3-13 Colts would have had a shot at the No. 2 pick then had they lost to the 4-11 Texans, but Indy sent Chuck Pagano out with a 22-13 win. (The Giants and Colts still ended up 2 and 3). And a loss to the playoff-bound Saints would have assured the 4-11 Buccaneers of a top-five pick. Instead, Tampa Bay put together an 18-point fourth quarter to finish with a win, and will now pick No. 7 in the first round on Thursday.

Of course, players play and coaches coach to win the game. That’s why tanking must come from higher up. Front offices should demand to play the young guys. Sit a couple stars in the final meaningless game. Tanking exists in the NFL, but it’s not nearly as perfected as it is across other sports.


HOT READS

NOW ON THE MMQB: Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, complete with his mock draft, is hot off the presses … Tim Rohan’s excellent oral history of mock drafts, everyone’s favorite … Andy Benoit looks at what Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski staying at home means for The Patriot Way … and more.

WHAT YOU MAY HAVE MISSED: Jonathan Jones (oh, hello) on why the Browns need to take two quarterbacks, just to be sure … Conor Orr on how useless most of these pre-draft pressers with GMs are … and more.


PRESS COVERAGE

Deone Bucanon

1. USA Today’s Lorenzo Reyes had a smart look at how and why so many failed NFL quarterbacks become “gurus” for the draft prospects of today and tomorrow.

2. B/R’s Master Tesfatsion hosted a roundtable of NBA and NFL players to share their stories of smoking weed in honor of last week’s 4/20 “holiday.”

3. Former NFL offensive lineman Evan Mathis auctioned off his 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card for $2.88 million. Mathis told the AP he sold it to free up some cash to buy a new house.

4. Deone Bucannon, who is somehow the second longest-tenured Cardinal defender at 25 years old, is about to get a role change. First-year head coach Steve Wilks said Bucannon could play a Luke Kuechly or Thomas Davis-like role, depending on the call.

5. The Buffalo Bills have 15 1 p.m. games in the 2018 slate. NFL players will tell you they would always prefer to play at 1 p.m. Sunday.

6. Seahawks GM John Schneider and wife Traci hosted a celebrity waiter event over the weekend that raised $630,000 for their non-profit, Ben’s Fund, that gives money to families impacted by autism.

Howard v Maryland

7. SB Nation’s Stephen White broke down Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore, a very interesting prospect in what seems to be another down year for receivers in the draft.

8. Former NFL defensive end Greg Hardy will get his first shot at UFC in June, according to a report. Hardy was last seen playing indoor football earlier in the month, as the 2015 Cowboys were the last NFL team with the bad sense to sign him.

9. Florida great Emmitt Smith spent his weekend at Georgia’s spring game, rocking a Georgia hat with Dawgs head coach Kirby Smart. I don’t think he’ll get a pass on this.

10. Amnesty International awarded out-of-work quarterback Colin Kaepernick with its Ambassador of Conscience Award on Saturday in Amsterdam. Kaepernick lamented the “lawful lynching of black and brown people by police” in his acceptance speech.

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let us know here.


THE KICKER

Fourteen years ago on Sunday, we lost Pat Tillman. The great Gary Smith on the great Pat Tillman’s life.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com



NFL draft? Myles Gaskin only looking ahead to senior season with Huskies – Seattle Times


Myles Gaskin opted to forego the NFL draft to play his senior year at UW, with a chance to stamp himself as the greatest Husky running back ever. His only regret? That he didn’t get to play at all during the live scrimmage that ended the afternoon.

If he had made a different choice, Myles Gaskin would be getting intense butterflies right now, knowing the NFL draft was just a few days away. His professional future would be hanging in the balance as he waited to see who picked him, and how high.

But instead, Gaskin was on the field Saturday at Husky Stadium, his football home for three glorious seasons, with one more to come. That became ensured in January when Gaskin opted to forego the NFL draft to play his senior year at UW, with a chance to stamp himself as the greatest Husky running back ever.

It was a tough decision, but not one that Gaskin has dwelled on during Washington’s spring football, which culminated Saturday with its showcase event — really, just a glorified practice that was viewed by a small crowd at Husky Stadium.

Oh, Gaskin did express some regret — that he didn’t get to play at all during the hotly competed live scrimmage that ended the afternoon. It makes sense for the Huskies to minimize the hits on Gaskin, who has already carried the ball 686 times — more than any returning college back in the nation. And as running-backs coach Keith Bhonapha said, “We want to get some of these younger guys work. I’m pretty sure a lot of people already know what Myles can do, especially us.”

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But that didn’t keep Gaskin from pleading with coaches to let him in, especially when the battle for a steak dinner between the offense and defense went down to the wire (the defense ultimately prevailing).

“Yeah, I was trying to get in,’’ Gaskin said with a laugh. “I was trying to get in in the beginning, middle and end. It was cool, though.”

But when it comes to wondering if he made the right decision to forego the draft and return to college football, Gaskin doesn’t go there. Not even with the draft looming on Thursday.

“I’m just excited about the guys in there from UW, and the ones I know from just playing football and stuff,’’ he said. “But I’m not too much looking at, oh, what could have been or nothing like that. It’s push forward. You can’t be living life second-guessing.”

Gaskin said he sat down with friends and family shortly after the Huskies’ loss to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl and “put all the things on the table.”

He decided he wanted to graduate, with a degree forthcoming in American Ethnic Studies. He decided that he didn’t want to leave college off such a disappointing game for the Huskies, whom he believes can break through on a national level this season. And he believes he can raise his NFL stock after being given a fourth-round grade by evaluators.

“I made the decision and didn’t look back,” Gaskin said. “I haven’t looked back since.”

When the Huskies look ahead, they see a future greatly enhanced by the return of Gaskin, who is just 51 yards shy of Napoleon Kaufman’s school rushing record (with the touchdown record, both rushing and overall, already in hand). No returning back in the country has gained more yards than Gaskin’s 4,055.

Bhonapha has seen a major step up in the leadership department from Gaskin this spring. Chris Petersen expresses a coach’s appreciation for Gaskin’s willingness — even eagerness — to do “the grunt work” that many stars avoid.

“I tell ya, I love football guys,’’ Petersen said. “Myles is a football guy. A lot of guys think they’re football guys and they’re not. They like the pageantry and all this, and it’s all fun. Myles likes to go out there at practice and do that grunt work. And that’s what makes him special.”

Further, Petersen believes Gaskin “is on a mission,” both on behalf of the Huskies and himself. The beauty is that those two elements should work in concert, because a thriving Gaskin bodes well for the success of the team.

“Myles thinks he has more to do for the program, but also for himself,’’ Petersen said.

The comfort level and experience that comes from three seasons as a starter allow Gaskin to have next-level awareness that he tries to pass on to younger players.

“At this point, I’d like to say I’ve been put in every situation on the field,’’ he said.

That goes as well for the Husky quarterback, Jake Browning, with whom Gaskin has forged a deep bond. The synergy, and affection, between those two is a Husky secret weapon in 2018.

“We’re like brothers,’’ Gaskin said. “We get mad at each other, and we hype each other up.”

You can tell a relationship is strong when each feels the freedom to tell the other they’ve messed up. That’s the level of familiarity Gaskin said he’s reached with Browning — and vice versa.

“I just love that dude,’’ Gaskin said. “I look to him as a leader. He’s just a brother to me now.”

And Browning savors the comfort that comes with knowing that when a pass call doesn’t feel right, he can always check down to a Gaskin run, and chances are it will succeed.

“We both know our strengths and weakness, and we both want to win,’’ Browning said. “He’s someone I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.”

Bhonapha said the Huskies hope to showcase Gaskin’s versatility next season to show scouts that he can excel both running and catching the ball as well as in pass protection. Petersen marvels at how underrated he continues to be, despite the three straight years of 1,000-yard production.

“I think he’s as good as anything that’s out there, I really do,’’ Petersen said. “So we just need more people to pay attention to this guy. I think he’ll do some really great things this year.”

And because Gaskin won’t be on the clock this weekend, he’ll get a chance to do just that for the Huskies.



Detroit Lions' 2018 NFL draft fits: 5 players to watch at No. 20 – Detroit Free Press


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The Detroit Lions have the 20th pick in the first round of Thursday’s NFL draft. Here are five players Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett believes the Lions will consider with its choice:

DE Harold Landry

College: Boston College

Vitals: 6-foot-2, 252 pounds.

Scouting report: In what’s clearly a down year for defensive ends, Landry is one of two pass rushers expected to go in the middle of the first round. Some teams think he’s a right defensive end, and some view him as 3-4 outside linebacker. In Detroit, his versatility would play up in a new defense that will shift frequently between odd- and even-man looks. Landry had 16.5 sacks in his breakout season of 2016, and he stunned some by returning to school for his senior season. He wasn’t nearly as productive in 2017, in part because he suffered a high ankle sprain midway through the year. Landry doesn’t have the size the Lions are used to at defensive end, but he’s a polished pass rusher who’s quick off the ball and is able to dip and rip around the edge.

He said it: “I think that nobody in this class has a first step like mine, the bend like mine and the burst to the quarterback like me. … Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect. There’s plenty of things I can improve on in my game, but in this draft class I do believe I’m the best pass rusher.” — Harold Landry

More: In deep RB draft, Detroit Lions’ best bet might be waiting

Jan 27, 2018; Mobile, AL, USA; Marcus Davenport sacks Baker Mayfield during the Senior Bowl. (Photo: Glenn Andrews, USA TODAY Sports)

DE Marcus Davenport

College: Texas-San Antonio

Vitals: 6-6, 264.

Scouting report: Davenport looks the part of an NFL defensive end. He’s bigger, faster and a touch more explosive than Landry, but he’s nowhere near as refined a pass rusher, and some scouts fear his future is as a left end. A high school receiver, Davenport was more comfortable playing in a two-point stance in college, but his home in the NFL is likely with his hand on the ground. He had 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his final season at UTSA, where he played for new Lions defensive line coach Bo Davis. A bit of an introvert, the Lions should know as well as anyone if Davenport has the mean streak in him that defensive ends need to succeed in the NFL.

He said it: “There were teams in the league telling me before the Senior Bowl he could be a top-10 pick if he had a good Senior Bowl week and he didn’t. Davenport tested great. Ran 4.58 at 264 pounds. He’s a big kid, he’s got great length. Runs well. Athletic. His interviews, he’s a humble kid, he’s a little naive, but he didn’t wow people over, but that’s why he could be there at 20. If he had done all those things you’d have been talking about a top-10 guy. … (He’s) right up there with (Bradley) Chubb as the best athlete of all the defensive ends.” — Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN analyst

DT Taven Bryan

College: Florida

Vitals: 6-5, 291 pounds

Scouting report: While the top defensive tackles in this year’s draft are primarily run-stuffers, Bryan offers something different as a potentially dynamic interior pass rusher. He started just one season at Florida, so his limited production (5.5 career sacks) and feel for the game are concerns. But Bryan is one of the most athletic defensive tackles in the draft, and his upside is such that he should only get better with pro coaching. The Lions took Florida defensive players with their first two picks last season (Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor), and they could go back to the well again for a lineman who has experience as a wide edge player but should eventually excel as a three technique.

He said it: “He has some plays, some individual plays, where quite honestly he almost makes you think of a J.J. Watt. He’s not quite there, obviously, on a down-to-down basis, but I’ll be fascinated to see where someone like Taven Bryan goes because I think he’s a kid that his best football will be ahead of him, assuming he’s a good kid. I know he’s the son of a Navy SEAL so I imagine he’s grown up with some discipline. But to me, he’s a real wildcard in this draft because I think he could develop into a really, really good pro player.” — Greg Cosell, NFL Films analyst

OG Will Hernandez

College: UTEP

Vitals: 6-2, 327.

Scouting report: After Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson, Hernandez is the best interior lineman in what’s considered a deep draft class. He’s a four-year starter at left guard with a mean streak as a blocker and the demeanor to impact an offensive line room. Hernandez doesn’t have great size, but his toughness and competitiveness is unmatched. He shed about 15 pounds after a strong performance at the Senior Bowl and ran better than scouts expected (5.15-second 40-yard dash) at the NFL combine. He’s big enough and strong enough to keep the best interior pass rushers at bay, and he’d probably be a Day 1 starter for the Lions. About the only knock is he doesn’t have the immediate position flexibility as a potential center.

He said it: “We always talk about two-gap defensive tackles, he’s a two-gap offensive lineman. He’s truly a wide body on the interior of the line. He can set the bottom of the pocket, which is so important now as these defensive coordinators try to scheme up and get into the laps of these quarterbacks like Matthew Stafford. So he can do that. He’s a road grader as a run blocker and for where Detroit’s picking, I think there’d probably be good value there for Hernandez and that matchup to Detroit.” — Phil Savage, Senior Bowl executive director and former Cleveland Browns GM

RB Derrius Guice

College: LSU

Vitals: 5-10, 212.

Scouting report: Guice went to LSU to learn from and compete with Leonard Fournette, and he ended up stealing some the spotlight during a breakout sophomore season. Guice led the SEC with 1,387 yards rushing in 2016, and he followed that with another 1,251 yards last year while battling a slew of injuries. A throwback runner, Guice has some Fournette to his game. He’s a power back who runs violently and isn’t afraid of contact, and his 4.49-second speed at the combine was better than advertised. While Guice has never been much of a receiving threat, some scouts feel he’ll be adequate in that area in time. He won’t be the first running back off the board — that spot is reserved for Saquon Barkley — but he’s a good enough player that he should go in the first round.

He said it: “Derrius Guice, first-round talent. I don’t think anybody questions his running style, which is north-south, tough, quick feet. Ran better than people thought. He’s a first-round talent. Reminds me a little bit just style-wise of Frank Gore. Get a lot of carries, tough. His issues more are just, I don’t know what the right word is, maybe it’s some immaturity off the field. What’s his work ethic going to be like? Will he be a true pro? Will he show up to go to work every day? Some of those concerns could push him into the second round, but make no mistake about it, he’s a talented kid.” — Mike Mayock, NFL Network analyst

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