Wed Feb 28 2:56pm ET
Field Level Media
INDIANAPOLIS -- Circle DL 45 in your program before the start of defensive line workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday morning if you want to be ahead of the "riser" talk around Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson.
Robinson's blue-chip trait happens to be a lightning-fast first step, the golden gift for pass rushers, and he is widely projected to be selected in the top 20 of the 2024 NFL Draft in April.
Robinson had only four sacks as a junior in 2023 and played 10 games. He's undeniably raw but began working on consistency with his hand usage when the season ended and he declared for the draft.
"At my best, my bend, hands and ability to dip around the corner to the quarterback," Robinson said of his best traits. "I'm trying to jump 11 feet in the broad (jump)."
Brace for buzz around Robinson to be amplified by Thursday night if he delivers on what he said Wednesday were his best workout numbers in preparation for the event. He said he's targeting a 4.4-second 40 and a vertical of 38 to 40 inches based on benchmarks he already has hit.
Mind you, Demeioun Robinson -- nicknamed Porkchop as a 14-pound baby, shortened to Chop when he slimmed down -- is 6-foot-3, 254 pounds.
Media mentioned former Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, a two-time All-Pro with the Dallas Cowboys and the 12th overall pick in 2021, as a comparison to Robinson on Wednesday. For reference, Parsons measured 6-3, 245 before the 2021 draft but has no official combine workout numbers because the event was canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19.
--Bears head coach Matt Eberflus begins every formal meeting with draft prospects at the combine the same way: offering them the choice of playing putt-putt or darts in the team's hotel suite before the interview questions begin.
"I like putting. I'm pretty good at both," Eberflus said. "Then we'll just teach them something about the offense, an offensive play, and then we'll show their tape and have them talk about their tape. Kind of checking their FBI (football intelligence) out there and then recall at the end to give us back what they learned in the beginning. And it's the same process for all the players."
LSU defensive tackle Maason Smith met with Chicago on Tuesday night and said he grabbed the putter.
"I like golf more than darts," Smith said.
--Three prospects continuing their meteoric rise this week are Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy, Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson and Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell.
Expect to hear much more about McCarthy, who has three total losses between two high schools and three seasons at Michigan, acing interviews with NFL teams.
Robinson changed positions in his fifth season at Missouri last season and is being praised for that versatility in the trenches. He can line up at any spot on the defensive line.
Mitchell had 46 combined passes defensed the past two seasons and has all the skills to be the first defensive back drafted. If he runs the 40 time he expects -- 4.3 seconds -- at 200 pounds, that could be a reality.
--Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. huddled with his dad's former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and had a session with Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Trotter Jr. said his dad prepped him with practice interview questions and has been an integral part of his preparation for two decades.
"Being in the league growing up, being around the game basically my whole life, he's taught me a lot about playing the linebacker position," Trotter Jr. said. "He's definitely helped me get to this position here and I give a lot of credit to him."
--As the Tennessee Titans dig into draft prospect evaluations of offensive linemen, new head coach Brian Callahan is getting additional face time with his dad. That would be offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
"There's not many people that are going to tell him how to do his job," Brian Callahan said. "He's about as good at it as anybody. It's been really fun for me. It's been a dream come true to be able to sit and to have a cup of coffee with my dad in the morning and talk about what we got coming up that day and talk about pass protection and technique and watch him do his job, too. It's been awesome."
First Base Preview
The New England Patriots have met with North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, LSU QB Jayden Daniels, Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy and Oregon QB Bo Nix at the NFL scouting combine this week in Indianapolis, according to sources. They are also scheduled to meet with USC's Caleb Williams on Wednesday night. With the No. 3 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, the Patriots have a great chance to land a franchise signal-caller as they look to improve over the disappointing Mac Jones. Not only will the Patriots be led by someone other than Bill Belichick for the first time in the last 24 years in 2024, but New England is also going to have a new face under center for the start of the new season this fall, whether it be a rookie or a veteran.
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard said that impending free-agent wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. will be on the roster come Week 1 of the 2024 season this fall, either by an extension or the franchise tag, if necessary. The Colts aren't planning to let Pittman get away in free agency this offseason. The 26-year-old would make $21.8 million this year if he plays under the franchise tag, but both sides would prefer an extension. The former second-round pick in 2020 out of USC has blossomed into a WR1 in fantasy after four seasons in the league, two of which (including 2023) resulted in 1,000-yard seasons. Pittman had career-highs in catches (109), targets (156) and receiving yards (1,152) while scoring four times in 16 games last year. He could get even better with young quarterback Anthony Richardson returning from injury in 2024.
When asked about speculation as to whether the Miami Dolphins would consider trading wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, general manager Chris Grier laughed and said: "No thoughts of trading Jaylen Waddle. He'll be around here for a long time." The Dolphins have one of the best receiving duos in the league in Waddle and All-Pro Tyreek Hill, so it doesn't make any sense to split them up. Waddle took a slight step backward in his third season as a pro in 2023, but he still managed his third straight 1,000-yard season to begin his career on 1,014 yards, 72 catches and four touchdowns in 14 regular-season starts. The four missed games due to injuries were responsible for his career-lows across the board. With better health in 2024, the 25-year-old wideout should be a lock for another 1,000-yard season.
Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said he "absolutely" hopes to get a long-term contract extension done with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this offseason. Tagovailoa is currently set to play the 2024 season under his fifth-year option unless the two sides can agree on an extension this offseason. The 25-year-old led the NFL in passing yards with 4,624, although his lack of rushing prowess has held him back from being among the elite QBs in both real life and fantasy. But Miami's offense was among the most explosive in the league last year, and Tagovailoa should continue to have a stable floor as at least a low-end QB1 as long as receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are around. It would be a surprise if the Dolphins and Tua didn't agree on an extension this offseason.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith said earlier this month that he's not worried about a long-term contract extension this offseason. "It's all in God's hands," Smith said. "At the end of the day, extension or not, I'm going to have to come in and do what I have to do." The 25-year-old pass-catcher is now eligible for an extension after completing three seasons in the NFL. At the very least, the Eagles will pick up Smith's fifth-year option, which will take him through the 2025 season. The former 10th overall pick in 2021 out of Alabama has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last two years and has gone for 3,178 yards and 19 touchdowns in his three years in the league. Smith has been durable, too, and his fantasy arrow continues to point up heading into 2024.
The New York Jets have given quarterback Zach Wilson's agent permission to seek a trade, according to general manager Joe Douglas. The Jets are fully expected to trade Wilson this offseason after he struggled yet again in 2023 while being forced into starting duties when Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles early in the first quarter in Week 1. The 24-year-old Wilson was benched eventually and ended the year on Injured Reserve due to a concussion. The former second overall pick has been a massive bust in the NFL and is unlikely to be competing for a starting job with whichever team he lands with via trade. Rodgers will return in 2024 as New York's starting signal-caller, but the Jets are searching for a veteran backup that will be an improvement over Wilson.
New Orleans Saints right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (knee) had a minor procedure on his knee after the season, according to head coach Dennis Allen. However, Ramczyk is expected to be ready for the start of training camp this summer, if not before that. The 29-year-old offensive lineman missed the team's last three games in 2023 and finished the year on Injured Reserve due to his knee injury. The All-Pro tackle was replaced on the right side of the line by Landon Young down the stretch. The former first-round pick by the Saints in 2017 out of Wisconsin managed to play in only 12 games last year, but he should be ready to enter the 2024 regular season as New Orleans' starting right tackle in what will be his eighth NFL campaign.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr.'s 325 touches last year were third-most in the NFL for a RB, but head coach Doug Pederson said that Etienne as a workhorse back "is not the recipe" he prefers. Pederson mentioned that D'Ernest Johnson was injured in 2023, and Tank Bigsby was learning as a rookie. The head coach said he'd consider knocking some of Etienne's reps down next season in order to keep him healthy over the course of the year. All in all, the 25-year-old topped 1,000 rushing yards for the second time in his two NFL seasons, and he also improved as a pass-catcher with 58 catches for 476 yards. Etienne will remain the Jaguars' lead back and will be an RB1 target for fantasy managers, but you'll need to keep in mind that if the team has it their way, Etienne's total touches will be managed more.
The Kansas City Chiefs are releasing wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling ahead of free agency in a cap-saving move. According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, the team saves $12 million on the cap. The veteran speedster spent two seasons with the Chiefs, totaling 63 receptions for 1,002 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 33 games. He wasn't overly productive, but he did catch two touchdowns in the 2022 playoffs and caught a touchdown in the victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII. Valdes-Scantling is unlikely to sign a big-money deal this offseason, but his field-stretching skill set will be attractive to a few teams.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye is not going to throw at the NFL scouting combine this week in Indianapolis and is solely planning to do "just physicals and interviews," according to a source. The top-three quarterback prospects for this year's NFL draft -- USC's Caleb Williams, Maye, and LSU's Jayden Daniels -- will all skip throwing drills at the combine this week. The 21-year-old Maye will instead do his throwing for scouts at his school's pro day. In his final season with the Tar Heels in college, Maye threw for 3,608 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year after throwing for 4,321 yards, 38 TDs and seven interceptions in 2022. Williams is widely expected to be taken first overall by the Bears in this year's draft, but Maye could easily go No. 2 to the Commanders and start immediately in his rookie season.
New York Giants general manager Joe Schoen said that quarterback Daniel Jones (knee) started stationary throwing two weeks ago, and the team thinks he could do 7-on-7 work this spring. Jones is currently on track to be ready for the start of training camp this summer. "I have faith in Daniel (Jones) as our starting quarterback," Schoen said. Despite Jones tearing his ACL last year, the Giants continue to put their faith in him as their starter going into the 2024 season, although they won't hesitate to add a QB in the upcoming NFL draft if the situation presents itself. The 27-year-old signed a four-year, $160 million extension before the 2023 season looked pretty bad behind an atrocious offensive line last season before his injury. If Jones struggles again early in 2024, the Giants could be looking to move on from him sooner than later.
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said on Tuesday that the team would like to get a long-term contract extension done with impending free-agent defensive tackle Chris Jones this offseason. "Just like last year our goal and intent is hopefully to get something long term done," Veach said. Jones missed the season opener in 2023 while holding out for a new deal, and he eventually signed a one-year contract before helping the Chiefs win their second straight Super Bowl championship. It would be a surprise if the 29-year-old pass-rusher wasn't able to work something out with the club. The former second-round pick in 2016 out of Mississippi State has been a Pro Bowler each of the last five seasons and has accumulated 26 sacks in the last two years alone. He's the heartbeat of KC's defense up front.
Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider said on Tuesday that quarterback Geno Smith is the team's starter "until he's not," when asked whether Smith is the team's starter "right now." Smith is coming off an uneven 2023 season and has two years left on his three-year, $75 million deal he signed last March. His $12.7 million base salary for next season became fully guaranteed when the team kept him on their roster past Feb. 16. However, it's believed Seattle would still think about a possible trade. If they were to trade Smith, they'd assume $27 million in dead money, but a new team could acquire him for only $12.9 million next season. The 33-year-old won Comeback Player of the Year in 2022 but was merely average last season. If Smith isn't traded, he'll remain Seattle's starting QB entering the 2024 season and will be best viewed as a QB2 in fantasy.
Cincinnati Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin hinted that the team doesn't plan on trading impending free-agent wide receiver Tee Higgins, who was given the franchise tag. "Really simple. He's a good player. We want to keep him. We have resources to do that. We're a better team with Tee," Tobin said. While it's great news for the Bengals if they keep Higgins around for another season, it's also bad news for his fantasy value entering the 2024 campaign. The 25-year-old would make $21.8 million this year if he ends up playing on the franchise tag. He played in just 11 games in 2023 due to hamstring and rib injuries, finishing with a disappointing 42 receptions for 656 yards and five touchdowns on 76 targets. A bounce-back season in 2024 for Higgins should be expected if he's healthy, but the presence of Ja'Marr Chase will continue to affect Higgins' ceiling if he remains in Cincy.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said on Tuesday that the team would like to sign wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk to a long-term contract extension. "We've got a nice track record of extending guys and [Aiyuk] is a guy we'd like to keep around," Lynch said. The 25-year-old is entering the fifth and final year of his current deal in 2024 and is coming off a career-high 1,342 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 75 receptions in 16 regular-season games in 2023. Aiyuk has increased his yardage totals in each of his first four seasons in the NFL and has topped 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last two years while scoring a combined 15 touchdowns. He's racked up 3,931 yards and 25 TDs total in four years and will be a highly coveted wideout in fantasy this fall in his fifth year in San Francisco.
Las Vegas Raiders general manager Tom Telesco said the team is going to try and bring back impending free-agent running back Josh Jacobs this offseason. "We're going to explore pretty hard and see if we can bring him back," Telesco said. The news comes a day after it was reported that the Raiders are unlikely to use the franchise tag on the 26-year-old, which would cost them $14.15 million in 2024. After posting a league-high 1,653 rushing yards and a career-high-tying 12 rushing touchdowns in 2022, Jacobs played in just 13 games in 2023 due to injuries and finished with a career-low 805 rushing yards (3.5 yards per carry) and six rushing TDs on 233 attempts. Jacobs has cleared 1,000 yards rushing in three of his five NFL seasons and still has RB1 upside, but his fantasy stock is going to be down this fall, especially if he leaves Vegas and lands in a less favorable situation.
While it's unlikely that the Tennessee Titans re-sign impending free-agent running back Derrick Henry this offseason, they aren't completely closing the door on his return yet. A four-year, $50 million deal Henry signed with the Titans in 2020 is set to expire when the new league year opens on March 13. The 30-year-old isn't getting any younger, but he still managed 1,167 rushing yards (second in the NFL) in 2023 behind a subpar offensive line. Henry is chasing a Super Bowl ring at this point in his career, and he'll have a better chance at that somewhere besides Tennessee. In addition, under new head coach Brian Callahan, the Titans figure to be more of a passing offense. The four-time Pro Bowler and former Offensive Player of the Year in 2020 has lots of miles on his body and could begin to start breaking down as he enters his 30s. But in the right situation in 2024, he could still find RB1 appeal in fantasy.
Dynasty | The Falcons have released tight end Jonnu Smith. Dynasty Analysis: Free Jonnu! The Falcons already have Kyle Pitts and the signing of Smith prior to last season always seemed a little odd. Smith had some good moments while he posted a 50/582/3 season but this is a move any dynasty manager who has held on to him is going to love. While he's now 28 years old, it's quite possible Smith finds himself as a true starter again next season and could dig his way out of dynasty purgatory.
Dynasty | The Bengals have informed wide receiver Tee Higgins of their intention to use the franchise tag on him. Dynasty Analysis: The move will pay Higgins around $22 million this upcoming season. It's a hearty number to spend on a number two receiver but Higgins is hardly your typical second option and would be the top target for a number of teams in the league. He had a down season last year with just a 42/656/5 season but much of that can be attributed to injuries he suffered and the loss of Joe Burrow for part of the season. It's still disappointing to dynasty managers who were hoping to see him cash in on the open market. It's unlikely the Bengals can keep him long-term so this could also represent a one-year buy low window for our WR18.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (shoulder) is set to begin throwing again in March, according to general manager Andrew Berry. The 28-year-old was placed on season-ending injured reserve following the Week 10 game against the Baltimore Ravens and underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder. Despite Watson's struggles in 12 games over two years with the franchise (14 touchdowns and nine interceptions), it seems the Browns are committed to rolling into the 2024 campaign with him under center. "He's worked his tail off in terms of his rehab and recovery," Berry said. "He's in a really good place. We're excited for when the spring hits and we can get him back on the field. He's making really good progress and we're really excited to see that continue." Watson has limited fantasy upside based on what we've seen over the last few seasons, but his QB22 price tag in early FFPC best ball drafts makes him an intriguing dice roll.