KANSAS CITY: Super Bowl champion Chiefs pick LSU RB Edwards-Helaire
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs used the final selection in the first round of the NFL draft to add another threat to their offense.
As if they didn't have enough already.
After the phones went silent in their attempt to trade out of the first round, the Chiefs used the No. 32 pick Thursday night on LSU standout Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He was the only running back taken in the first round, and he joins an offense led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce that helped to deliver the Chiefs their first Super Bowl championship in five decades.
“This guy we view as an extraordinary running back and a rare talent with the things he can do,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “We had a pocket of guys — some were offensive linemen, some were corners, some were linebackers. The way it worked out and where we picked and what was left, he was the best player and it made sense for us.”
The Chiefs return lead running back Damien Williams and signed former Raiders running back DeAndre Washington in free agency. But given the way the Chiefs churned through running backs last year, losing several to season-ending injuries, it made sense to add a versatile pass-catching threat out of the backfield.
“This guy can consistently make plays when there's really nothing there to be made,” Veach said. “Throwing him in there with Tyreek and Sammy and Travis, I think it could be really exciting.”
Edwards-Helaire also comes to the Chiefs with very little wear and tear on his body.
The 5-foot-7 junior ran just 215 times for 1,414 yards and 16 touchdowns while catching an astounding 55 passes for 453 yards and another score for the national champions last season. Edwards-Helaire showed up when it mattered most, too, running 16 times for 110 yards in LSU's victory over Clemson in the title game.
“I just feel like this is the perfect fit,” Edwards-Helaire said. “Just how versatile the offense is, and you know, they were big on being able to get their running back out in space, and I felt like that's where I absolutely thrived.”
The Chiefs came into the draft in the most enviable of positions: They were able to retain most of their own free agents, including cornerback Bashaud Breeland and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, ensuring 20 of 22 starters from their title team would be back for a season that could begin after an abbreviated off-season.
The few holes the Chiefs did have were plugged by value signings in free agency.
Veteran offensive lineman Mike Remmers was brought in to replace the departed Cam Erving at swing tackle, and cornerback Antonio Hamilton was signed to replaced Kendall Fuller, who signed a big-money deal with Washington. The Chiefs also brought in Ricky Seals-Jones to back up star tight end Travis Kelce, and they managed to grab DeAndre Washington from the AFC West rival Raiders to provide some depth at running back.
That gave the Chiefs plenty of latitude at No. 32.
It was the first time in three years that Veach was due to pick on the opening night of the draft. His first draft came after the Chiefs sent their first-round pick in 2018 to Buffalo as part of the deal that allow them to move up and select Patrick Mahomes the previous season. Then last year, Veach sent their first-round pick to Seattle in the days before the draft to get pass rusher Frank Clark, who turned in a Pro Bowl season in helping Kansas City to the championship.
Trading out of the first round again remained a distinct possibility, though. The Chiefs had a league-low five picks — one each of the first five rounds — and were keen to pick up a couple more selections later in the draft. But when the Packers traded up to select quarterback Jordan Love, the phones suddenly went silent in Kansas City.
That was just fine with the Chiefs, who had a pocket of players on which they still had first-round grades. They ultimately decided to go with undersized and often-overlooked Edwards-Helaire, choosing him over more high-profile running backs such as Georgia's D'Andre Swift and record-setting Wisconsin standout Jonathan Taylor.
“Our priority going into the draft was really add talent," Veach said, “and you know, certainly every team has philosophies and that's no different for us. But I mean, never lose sight in this process, you're just collecting really good players. There's value placed on certain positions and we do the same thing, but when you have a guy you think is a Pro Bowl running back, that's a high value too. We think this guy can be great.”
-- By Dave Skretta, AP
DENVER: Broncos get Lock some help with Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy
Jerry Jeudy found a way to celebrate with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell even though the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled the league’s plans to hold the draft in Las Vegas.
The former Alabama standout receiver was selected 15th overall by the Denver Broncos on Thursday night. He and Goodell marked the occasion with a TikTok.
Filming from their respective homes, Jeudy and Goodell danced to Drake’s “Toosie Slide” on the social media app in one of the lighter moments on a night the league kicked off a simultaneous Draft-A-Thon to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts.
Jeudy gave the virtual celebration a thumbs-up.
“I feel I did a little bit better than him," Jeudy cracked. "Don’t tell him I told you that, but we did pretty good.”
John Elway is eager to see many more slick moves from Jeudy after finally picking a player from Alabama in his 10th draft for the Broncos.
Elway backed up his talk about building around second-year QB Drew Lock by selecting the Crimson Tide wide receiver three spots after the Las Vegas Raiders selected his teammate Henry Ruggs III.
In Jeudy's eyes, he's the cream of the crop among the deep class of wide receivers that featured six first-rounders.
“I feel I’m the best receiver because I got the ability to separate,” said Jeudy, who added he is ready to play in the slot or outside for the Broncos opposite third-year star Courtland Sutton.
I’m a receiver," he said, "I know how to get open.”
Jeudy said at the NFL scouting combine that his route running was ready for the NFL thanks to working with Steve Sarkisian at Alabama. What he needed to do, he said, was get stronger.
He said Thursday night that he’s done just that during the shelter-in-place orders by lifting weights and “working real hard on my craft.”
Coach Vic Fangio said he looked at the deep wide receiver class from a defensive standpoint.
“And I think it’s a good lens to watch through when you’re evaluating a receiver,” Fangio said, “because there’s a lot of receivers out there but only about a third of them are so scary that you have to give them special attention.”
Earlier this week, Elway said it was just happenstance that he hadn’t selected an Alabama player. He praised Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and said previous drafts simply didn’t fall right for him to select an Alabama alum.
This time, the 'Bama star was their top target.
Another new landscape for Elway: for the first time in four years he didn’t spend his offseason analyzing college quarterbacks after going all-in on Lock, who won four of his five starts to end the 2019 season, his only loss coming in the snow at Kansas City.
“Now is the fun part of trying to fill around him,” said Elway, who began that task with the free agent signings of O-lineman Graham Glasgow, running back Melvin Gordon, tight end Nick Vannett and backup QB Jeff Driskel.
Elway was able to grab his top target Thursday without having to trade up, which he was prepared to do if there was a run on receivers.
“It's a big weight off my shoulders, off our shoulders,” Elway said. "That was a position of need for us. Not only did we need that position, we needed that to make Courtland better, too, because as we saw at the end of last year (defenses) were trying to take Courtland out of the game. We know what a great football player he is.
“It's nice being able to go to bed tonight knowing we got the receiver that we coveted and then we've got a big day tomorrow. We've got four picks tomorrow, so we're looking forward to that.”
Half of Elway's 10 picks are in the top-100 and O-line is his other area of dire need.
-- By Arnie Stapleton, AP
LAS VEGAS: Raiders draft WR Henry Ruggs 12th, Damon Arnette 19th
The first pick made by the Las Vegas Raiders would have made late owner Al Davis proud.
The Raiders selected the fastest player available when they took Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs 12th overall Thursday night in the NFL draft and followed that up by taking Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette 19th.
“We feel like the Las Vegas Raiders got faster, we got tougher and we go more competitive tonight,” general manager Mike Mayock said.
The move to take Ruggs gives the Raiders the dynamic receiver they had hoped they had acquired a year ago when they traded for Antonio Brown, only to cut him before he ever played a game for the team.
Coach Jon Gruden and Mayock had their choice of receivers and went for the fastest one instead of players who were more prolific in college, like Ruggs’ teammate at Alabama, Jerry Jeudy, or Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.
“When we took the fastest wideout in the draft, (owner Mark) Davis said his father was looking down and smiling,” Mayock said.
Ruggs is the type of speedster that Al Davis would have coveted as evidenced by his 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He drafted the fastest player at the combine in his final three drafts in 2009-11, according to ESPN.
But Ruggs is a much more refined receiver than Darrius Heyward-Bey, whom Davis took seventh overall in 2009 because of his speed but who never developed into a top wideout in the NFL.
Ruggs dropped only one pass last season at Alabama and averaged more than 10 yards after catch per reception, according to Pro Football Focus. But he only caught four deep passes and had 86 catches for 1,481 yards the past two seasons on a team that featured several standout receivers, including Jeudy, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
“It definitely kind of held me back,” Ruggs said. “Those guys have to make their plays, too. We have to share the ball and share the love. Everyone has the goods to make the plays. With that group of guys, it only makes you better.”
The Raiders had one of the NFL’s least productive receiver groups last season after releasing Brown two days before the opener after a summer full of public turmoil.
The team’s wideouts ranked 30th in the league in receptions (145) and 29th in yards receiving (1,858) with fifth-round rookie slot receiver Hunter Renfrow catching the most passes with 49.
Tyrell Williams is also back after struggling most of last season with injured feet, along with free agent acquisition Nelson Agholor. There are no other proven receivers on the roster, leaving a major void at the No. 1 receiver spot.
“When you’re in the division we’re in and you look at Kansas City and you look at what they have on offense and what their explosion looks like, we needed to get faster,” Mayock said. “We think that his addition opens up our entire offense.”
Picking a cornerback with the second first-round pick was expected but the player was a bit of a surprise as many analysts had Arnette going on the second day.
Arnette played four seasons at Ohio State, intercepting only five passes. But he excelled in coverage this past year, allowing completions on only 38% of his targets, according to SportsInfo Solutions.
“I consider myself one of the best players in the draft,” Arnette said. “I feel like the best players go in the first round. I wouldn't say I'm surprised.”
Mayock said he considered some offers to move down but didn't want to risk losing Arnette.
“He can play inside, he can play outside, he can play left, he can play right. We feel like this is one of the most competitive football players in the entire draft,” Mayock said. "We don’t feel at all like it was a reach.”
The Raiders spent much of free agency bolstering a defense that has been one of the NFL’s worst in recent years by adding linebackers Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski; safeties Damarious Randall and Jeff Heath; and defensive linemen Carl Nassib and Maliek Collins.
The Raiders didn’t address the cornerback spot as a deal with Eli Apple fell through after a failed physical, leading to the urgency to get Arnette in the draft.
The Raiders currently have eight cornerbacks on their roster, but only Nevin Lawson and Ken Crawley have started more than 10 games in the NFL and neither are proven options.
The Raiders are high on second-year player Trayvon Mullen, who showed some flashes in starting the final 10 games last season after being drafted in the second round. Isaiah Johnson and Keisean Nixon played only sparingly as rookies but also could contribute this year.
Arnette will team with Mullen to try to end the revolving door at the position over the past decade. The Raiders have started 33 cornerbacks over the past nine seasons with only T.J. Carrie (37 starts) and David Amerson (30) starting more than 25 games in that span.
The Raiders have three third-round picks Friday.
-- By Josh Dubow, AP
LOS ANGELES: Chargers take QB Justin Herbert 6th, LB Kenneth Murray 23rd
COSTA MESA, Calif. — Tom Telesco is hoping Justin Herbert can be just as good as the last quarterback the Chargers drafted out of Oregon.
Los Angeles selected Herbert with the No. 6 pick of the NFL draft Thursday night. He is the first Ducks QB taken by the Chargers since they took Dan Fouts in the third round in 1973. Fouts led the franchise to four playoff trips and three division titles in a 15-year Hall of Fame career.
“This is a special opportunity. Words can’t describe how excited and thrilled and fired up I am for this," Herbert said.
Telesco was not content with only one first-round pick, however. The general manager traded the team's second- and third-round picks to New England to move up to the 23rd spot to take Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. It is the first time since 2005 that the Chargers have had multiple first-round selections.
“We had talks with different teams in front of and behind us (when they were picking sixth),” Telesco said. “We got a player we really liked with Justin but also had some ammunition to move up and get Kenneth. All in all, it was a very rewarding day.”
The Chargers were in the market to take a quarterback in the first round for the fourth time since 1967 after they announced in early February that they would not re-sign Philip Rivers, who started 235 consecutive regular-season and playoff games over the past 14 seasons.
Herbert started 42 games at Oregon, compiling a 29-13 record with 10,541 passing yards and 108 total touchdowns. He led the Ducks to the Pac-12 championship last season and a win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, where he ran for three touchdowns and was named the offensive MVP. He thew for 32 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 14 games.
Herbert has shown the ability to excel in play action, but questions remain about his decision-making and accuracy. He boosted his stock at the Senior Bowl, completing 9 of 12 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Herbert said he has been trying to refine his mechanics leading up to the draft.
Telesco has had his eye on Herbert for a while. He was at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 2 when Herbert went 21 of 26 for 225 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-24 win over Southern California.
“He brings us a lot with his combination of physical skills and style of play is intriguing to us,” Telesco said. “He is a big, fast dual-threat quarterback with room to grow.”
There won't be any pressure for Herbert to come in and start immediately. Tyrod Taylor is likely to be the Chargers starter going into their first season at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, giving Herbert time to learn and develop.
Fouts said in a telephone interview that the Chargers made the right choice with Herbert.
“He’s smart, big and has a strong arm. He’s fearless. He’s got all the tools you can imagine," he said. “The way I look at it he’s still young and the sky’s the limit. He's going to a team with a lot of talent at receiver (Keenan Allen and Mike Williams) along with a good tight end and running game."
Herbert was the third quarterback taken in the first six selections Thursday. Cincinnati selected LSU's Joe Burrow with the first overall pick and Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa went fifth to Miami.
Murray was a three-year starter at Oklahoma and lined up in the middle. He played nearly 91% of the Sooners' defensive snaps the last three years and recorded 100 or more tackles the last two seasons. He also had 9.5 sacks and 37 tackles for loss during his career.
“He's someone who we had graded very high and can play all the linebacker spots,” Telesco said. “He is long, fast, physical and plays with a violent mentality.”
Murray does project more as an outside linebacker but gives the Chargers a run stopper they have been lacking the past couple seasons. He is the first Sooners linebacker since Jackie Shipp in 1984 to go in the first round of the regular draft.
The Chargers met with Murray during the combine, but he was still surprised they moved up to get him.
“I was recruited to be a pass rusher, but I have the versatility to play inside or outside,” he said. “I've improved in my coverage skills as well as being a better player in space all three years.”
The Chargers' next pick won't be until the fourth round on Saturday. Offensive line remains a glaring area of need, particularly at left tackle.
-- By Joe Reedy, AP