Thu Apr 22 2:31am ET
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance smiles as he is interviewed at the school's football NFL Pro Day in Fargo, N.D., in this Friday, March, 12, 2021, file photo. Lance will likely be one of the first two players drafted from non-Football Bowl Subdivision programs next week. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton- King, File)
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance throws at the school's football NFL Pro Day in Fargo, N.D., in this Friday, March, 12, 2021, file photo. Lance will likely be one of the first two players drafted from non-Football Bowl Subdivision programs next week. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King, File)
North Dakota State lineman Dillon Radunz does drills at the school's NFL Pro Day football event in Fargo, N.D., in this Friday, March, 12, 2021, file photo. Theres a common thread linking most of the Football Championship Subdivision players who expect to hear their name called in this months NFL draft. They didnt participate in their schools pandemic-delayed spring season. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton- King, File)
There's a common thread linking most of the Football Championship Subdivision players who expect to hear their name called in the NFL draft.
They didn't participate in their schools' pandemic-delayed spring season.
''Ultimately, it just comes down to athletes taking care of their bodies,'' North Dakota State offensive tackle Dillon Radunz said. ''You can go out and have fun and do that, and there's a certain purity to that, but next thing you know, some guy tears his ACL in the spring, and now he misses out on the spring season, and misses out on the fall season. Then he has to wait another whole year and a half just to play football again.''
When the NCAA announced that the FCS season wouldn't start until February, it left draft prospects from those schools facing a dilemma. Do they stick with their schools for the spring season or use that time to get ready for the draft?
Most decided to start preparing for their future.
North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance said playing a spring season wasn't feasible because of the way the schedule was designed. The FCS playoffs start Saturday, less than a week before the draft.
''I would have had to leave my team in the middle of the season (for the draft),'' Lance said. ''Here at North Dakota State, we play for national championships. That's the expectation every single year. So for me, if I was going to stay in school and play, I would have stayed and played the spring and the fall as well.''
Lance and Radunz will likely be the first two players drafted from non-Football Bowl Subdivision programs next week. Lance is projected as a top-10 overall pick. Radunz seems likely to get taken in the second round.
They helped North Dakota State win an FCS title in 2019, the Bison's eighth championship in nine seasons. Lance and Radunz ended their college careers by playing in North Dakota State's lone game last fall, a 39-20 victory over Central Arkansas.
Radunz noted that even if he had played a spring season and avoided injury, the move could have caused long-term drawbacks. He believed playing a full college schedule in the spring and an NFL season in the fall ultimately might have shortened his career.
''You're just playing that much football in a short period of time, and it's just not good for a body, especially at this high level of play,'' Radunz said.
Here's a breakdown of some other draft prospects from schools outside the FBS ranks.
OT SPENCER BROWN, NORTHERN IOWA
Brown gained nearly 100 pounds while at Northern Iowa to develop into a 6-foot-8, 311-pound prospect. Brown opted out after Northern Iowa decided to delay its football season to the spring, but he did participate in the Senior Bowl and had an impressive pro day performance.
WR CADE JOHNSON, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
Johnson was a 2019 finalist for the Walter Payton Award that goes annually to the top FCS player. Johnson entered the transfer portal when South Dakota State delayed its season, but he ultimately decided to enter the draft. He caught a combined 139 passes for 25 touchdowns over 2,500 yards in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
OL QUINN MEINERZ, WISCONSIN-WHITEWATER
Meinerz, the lone Division III player on this list, also didn't play this fall because the pandemic prevented Wisconsin-Whitewater from having a fall season. The 6-3, 320-pound Meinerz gained plenty of attention in Senior Bowl workouts despite breaking his hand that week. He's most likely to play center in the NFL.
CB BRYAN MILLS, NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL
Mills, who is 6-1, made five interceptions and had eight pass breakups in 2019. He got a Senior Bowl invitation even though North Carolina Central didn't have a fall season in 2020.
CB ROBERT ROCHELL, CENTRAL ARKANSAS
Rochell was the rare FCS draft prospect who played multiple games for his school over the last year. Central Arkansas played a nine-game schedule last fall, and Rochell appeared in seven of those games. He also got a Senior Bowl invitation. He intercepted four passes in 2018 and five in 2019.
DE ELERSON SMITH, NORTHERN IOWA
Smith had a huge season in 2019 with 14 sacks, 21 + tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups. He didn't play for Northern Iowa this spring after its fall season was pushed back. The 6-6, 252-pound Smith projects as an edge rusher in the NFL.
S CHRISTIAN UPHOFF, ILLINOIS STATE
Uphoff had 70 tackles, seven pass breakups and two interceptions for Illinois State in 2019 and earned a Senior Bowl invitation. Uphoff, who is 6-2 and 209 pounds, has NFL size and showed enough speed to return kicks at one point in his college career.
Former Miami Dolphins safety Bobby McCain is signing an undisclosed one-year deal with the Washington Football Team on Friday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. McCain was a starter and team captain over six seasons with the Dolphins before he was released this offseason, but he should immediately play a key role in Washington's secondary in 2021. His arrival could put Troy Apke's roster spot in jeopardy this summer, and McCain will give Kamren Curl some competition for the free safety spot. The 27-year-old was a fifth-round pick by Miami in 2015, and he spent the first six seasons of his NFL career with the Dolphins. McCain totaled 46 tackles (39 solo), one interception and five passes defensed in 16 games (15 starts) last year. He has seven career interceptions and 30 passes defensed.
Denver Broncos wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (knee) has suffered a torn ACL, according to sources. It was reported on Thursday that the Broncos were waiving Hamilton due to a surplus of depth at the position, but he hasn't officially been waived and the team had been trying to work out a trade. In light of this injury, the Broncos are unlikely to find any trade suitors for the 26-year-old now, so expect him to be officially waived in the near future. Waiving Hamilton will save the team $2.8 million in salary cap space. He'll become the odd man out of a loaded wideout corps that includes Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick. Hamilton had 23 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games for Denver last year.
Free-agent wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who hasn't played in the NFL since 2018, is trying out with the New York Giants during their rookie minicamp this weekend as a tight end. Benjamin was a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers back in 2014, when current Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was in charge. His best season came as a rookie, when he put up a 1,000-yard season with nine touchdowns in Carolina. He gained weight and fell out of favor, leading to a trade to Buffalo, where he played 18 games with minimal results. Benjamin played in three regular season games with the Chiefs in 2018, but hasn't seen the field since. The Giants already have Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph at the position, so it would be a long shot for Benjamin to resurface in the Big Apple as a tight end.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Joe Tryon (knee), who was the team's first-round selection in this year's draft, is not taking part in rookie minicamp this weekend and recently had a minor surgical procedure on his knee, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Tryon came off the board at No. 32 overall in the first round last month. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 but managed eight sacks in 2019 in his final college season. He will need to be developed at the next level, but he's an exciting pass-rushing prospect off the edge that should fit nicely with a much-improved defensive unit in Tampa.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur reiterated that the team wants quarterback Aaron Rodgers to return in 2021 and beyond. "We still obviously feel the same way. We want him back in the worst way. I know he knows that. We'll continue to work at it each and every day," LaFleur said. It was reported on draft day last month that Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay, and rumors have been swirling ever since. Green Bay has no plans to trade Rodgers, and several of his ex-teammates believe the situation is fixable. The Packers are apparently pleased with Jordan Love's development despite the fact that he didn't play at all in his rookie year after being a first-round pick. Rodgers, last year's MVP, continues to play at a high level despite nearing the end of his career. Wherever he's playing in 2021, he'll be a highly coveted high-end QB1, that's to be sure.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown is facing a civil lawsuit over allegations of assault and battery stemming from an altercation with a moving truck driver last year. Brown and his trainer, Glenn Holt, both face one count of battery and one count of assault in the lawsuit. Brown pleaded no contest to a felony burglary charge and misdemeanor charges of battery and criminal mischief in the same incident and received two years of probation. His attorneys are questioning the new lawsuit, which was filed more than a year after the incident. The wideout was suspended for the first eight games of last year for violations of the league's personal-conduct policy, but it's unknown if he might face another suspension for this new lawsuit. Brown had 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns last regular season.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who the team traded up for to select at No. 11 overall in this year's NFL draft, will be taking part in the team's virtual rookie minicamp this weekend. Head coach Matt Nagy, who was present in Kansas City when the team transitioned from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, would ideally like to see Fields sit behind Andy Dalton for a year before he took over the starting job. Don't forget, Nick Foles is also in this QB room. Fields was rated as high as No. 2 in this year's quarterback crop, although the Bears don't seem intent on rushing him with Dalton signed to a one-year contract. Fields is extremely athletic, but fantasy managers in single-year leagues shouldn't expect much from him in 2021.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said it's fair to assume that linebackers Isaiah Simmons (last year's first-round pick) and Zaven Collins (this year's first-rounder) will line up together as starters this season. It means that Jordan Hicks is the odd-man out, and it was reported this week that the organization has given Hicks permission to seek a trade. It doesn't mean that a trade will happen, but Hicks' role would be significantly downgraded if he were to remain with the Cardinals. Collins was taken 16th overall by Arizona in this year's draft and will give the team plenty of versatility as another defensive chess piece.
Former Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle signed his four-year, fully guaranteed rookie contract with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, according to a source. Waddle was the sixth overall pick in this year's NFL draft. He's expected to immediately line up in three-receiver sets alongside DeVante Parker and Will Fuller in his rookie season, and he'll be reunited with college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Based on how Tagovailoa performed in 2020, fantasy managers in single-year formats shouldn't be expecting too much from the rookie pass-catcher in his first year in the NFL, but he'll certainly be an exciting dynasty/keeper pickup. Expect Miami to use Waddle more in the slot, which could make him a favorite target of Tua.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (knee) plans to resume throwing next week after he said he had a 'pretty serious knee surgery' after the Super Bowl.
Fantasy Spin: Brady doesn't have a lot of upside as the fourth or fifth QB in fantasy, but you know what you'll get from him.
Free-agent QB Kyle Sloter (Raiders) will participate in the Chicago Bears upcoming rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.
The Washington Football Team signed all 10 of their 2021 NFL draft picks to their rookie contracts, including first-round linebacker Jamin Davis. Davis was taken at No. 19 overall out of Kentucky after a junior season in which he recorded 102 tackles and three interceptions in 10 games. He'll join an already nasty defense in D.C. after impressing during his school's Pro Day in the pre-draft process. Davis can play in the box but also excels in pass coverage. The 6-foot-3, 234-pounder has excellent athleticism all across the field and should earn the right to start right away in his rookie season. Davis may not be a beast right out of the gates in Washington, but he has extremely high long-term upside.
Free-agent WR Kelvin Benjamin (Chiefs) is expected to participate in the New York Giants rookie minicamp this weekend on a tryout basis, according to a source.
Minnesota Vikings CB Mike Hughes has been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, May 13, in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round draft choice. The Chiefs will also receive a 2022 seventh-round draft choice in the trade.
New York Giants DE Breeland Speaks was waived Thursday, May 13.
The Kansas City Chiefs acquired cornerback Mike Hughes and a 2022 seventh-round pick from the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick, according to a source. Minnesota declined their fifth-year option on the former first-round pick a week ago after the 24-year-old has dealt with serious injuries throughout his time with the Vikings. Hughes played in just four games last season and has 80 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions (one for a touchdown) in 24 games (seven starts) in his three seasons in the NFL with the Vikes. The writing was on the wall for Hughes in Minnesota when the team signed All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson in free agency. The Chiefs will take a low-risk flier on Hughes and cross their fingers that he can stay healthy to give them extra cornerback depth.
The Indianapolis Colts are signing free-agent kicker Eddy Pineiro to an undisclosed one-year deal on Thursday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Pineiro made 82.1 percent of his 28 field-goal attempts in 2019 with the Chicago Bears in his first NFL season, but he suffered an injury last season and never attempted a kick. The 25-year-old proved to be clutch in high-pressure situations and missed just two of his 29 extra-point tries in 2019 as well. He'll head to Indianapolis, where he'll represent valuable kicking depth behind Rodrigo Blankenship. Fantasy managers can avoid Pineiro in all leagues unless he takes over the kicking duties at some point next season.
Free-agent CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Cardinals) attended an in-person meeting Thursday, May 13, with the New England Patriots.
Former Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is visiting with the New England Patriots on Thursday, according to a source. The former Alabama first-round pick could resurface with head coach Bill Belichick. The 31-year-old was the 17th overall pick of the Bengals in the 2012 NFL draft and spent the first eight years of his career in Cincinnati before joining the Cardinals last year. In 14 games (11 starts) for Arizona in 2020, Kirkpatrick had 56 tackles (53 solo), a career-high-tying three interceptions and seven passes defensed. In his nine-year career, he has 358 combined tackles (307 solo), 13 interceptions (two for touchdowns), 72 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and three sacks in 113 games (78 starts).
The Denver Broncos are waiving wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton on Thursday, according to a source. The Broncos have a surplus of depth at the position and had trade talks involving the former fourth-round pick, but they couldn't finalize a deal. There's a strong possibility that Hamilton is claimed off waivers by another team. The 26-year-old caught 23 of his 44 targets last year for 293 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games (two starts). In his three seasons with the Broncos, Hamilton recorded 81 receptions for 833 yards and five touchdowns in 46 games (nine starts). With Courtland Sutton returning from injury this year, the Broncos will also have second-year wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick in the fold in four-receiver sets.