HOUSTON: Texans pick TCU DT Ross Blacklock, Florida LB Greenard
HOUSTON - Ross Blacklock is extremely proud of his father, Jimmy, and the impact he made playing for the Harlem Globetrotters for more than a decade before becoming their coach.
It's just that the younger Blacklock knew early on basketball would not be his path.
“My dad, he’s a pioneer," Ross said. “He’s a walking legend. Basketball just wasn’t my first love. Football was my first love. I thought basketball was just too soft for me. I always used to foul out when I played AAU and stuff like that."
Ross made it a goal to make a name for his family in football. He took another big step in that journey Friday night when the TCU defensive tackle was taken in the second round of the NFL draft by the Houston Texans.
“My dad created a legacy in basketball for our family, so I think I was meant to do it for football," he said. “I’ll be the first person in my family to be in the NFL. So it’s a pretty good start for me."
The Texans really liked Blacklock entering the draft, but coach/general manager Bill O'Brien was worried he might get snatched up in the first round before Houston had a chance to pick.
“When we went to bed last night we were happy because this is a guy who came in to visit us ... he was in front of the whole coaching staff and that's hard," O'Brien said. “He answered all the questions, is a very impressive guy ... so we were thrilled to be able to draft him."
The Texans stayed with defense in the third round, selecting Florida linebacker Jonathan Greenard with the 90th pick. Greenard had 50 tackles and led the Southeastern Conference with 10 sacks and 16 tackles for losses last season after transferring from Louisville. He played three seasons at Louisville before missing the 2018 season with a wrist injury.
Greenard came to Florida as a graduate student and said he's just 18 hours shy of earning his MBA. He believes his year with the Gators was perhaps the most valuable of his career.
“I just learned how to play at a faster pace, playing in the best conference — the SEC — just playing with top-notch guys day in and day out ... and I couldn't have asked for a better situation for my last year of football," he said.
Blacklock, who was drafted at No. 40, was the Texans' first pick this year after they traded their first round slot to Miami in August as part of the deal for left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills.
“Jonathan falls into that category of dependable, tough and smart and I think Ross falls into that category, too," O'Brien said. “ So I think we've got two guys that are going to walk into the locker room and put their heads down and get to work."
Blacklock had 40 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks last season in his return after missing the 2018 season with an Achilles injury suffered in a preseason practice.
He believes his time away from the field with his injury ended up being good for him. Unable to walk for quite some time, the only thing he could do was study the game.
“I was just learning and being more of a football player ... I spent more time on film," he said. “Even though I couldn’t be there most of the time because of my injury, I was always watching film as if I was still playing. Missing that season helped me mentally."
Houston was in need of depth on the defensive line after nose tackle D.J. Reader signed with the Bengals this offseason. They got it with the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Blacklock, who is from the Houston suburb of Missouri City, Texas.
He was a bit disappointed that he wasn't drafted in the first round, but going to a team just minutes from the home where he grew up made things easier.
“I’m beyond excited to be able to come back home and play for my hometown and be able to do good things for this city and play great football," he said.
The Texans have five picks when the draft wraps up on Saturday, starting with No. 111 in the fourth round.
-- By Kristie Rieken, AP
TENNESSEE: Titans select CB Fulton, RB Evans on Day 2 of NFL draft
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans used two of their first three selections in the NFL draft to help bolster one of the NFL's most productive offenses with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback.
After selecting offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson at No. 29 overall, the Titans wrapped up Friday night by taking Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans in the third round as a backup for the NFL's rushing leader Derrick Henry. They started Friday night by picking cornerback Kristian Fulton of LSU at No. 61 overall in the second.
General manager Jon Robinson said the Titans were tempted to trade up Friday night but wound up with players they liked in positions they wanted.
“We were fortunate to get Isaiah last night, and then to get these two guys tonight with the gap that we had from beginning to end of each round, we were just super-stoked about where we’re sitting right now," Robinson said.
Fulton sat out the 2017 season and served about 18 months of an NCAA suspension for tampering with a drug-test by allegedly substituting someone else’s urine sample for his own. He returned for the 2018 season, and the 6-foot cornerback started all 15 games and broke up a team-high 14 passes as LSU won the national championship this season.
The Titans met with Fulton at the NFL combine and are very familiar with what LSU asked of the cornerback. They wound up patiently waiting for a player considered a potential first-round pick. He was among the prospects the NFL sent equipment to their homes to be featured during draft coverage.
That made the wait Thursday and most of the second round extremely tough on Fulton.
“Had to keep reminding myself that the right team, the perfect fit will come for me ...,” Fulton said. “I didn't want to go to a team that wasn't 100% confident in me. It was definitely worth the wait when I got this call. I'm excited to be a Tennessee Titan."
The Titans have four more picks on Saturday, though none in the fourth or sixth rounds. They still need more depth at cornerback along with wide receiver, quarterback and kicker.
Fulton will have a chance to replace cornerback Logan Ryan, who started every game he played the past three seasons and led the NFL in tackles this postseason. He became a free agent in March and has yet to sign with anyone.
Fulton was timed at 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and he also had one interception for the national champs as a senior. He has allowed quarterbacks to complete about 40% of passes against him since 2018.
“When you’re in match coverage, PBUs are not letting your guy catch the ball is pretty important in Jon and I’s book,” coach Mike Vrabel said.
Evans was the Sun Belt Conference's offensive player of the year for 2019 averaging 5.8 yards per carry after rushing for 1,480 yards and 18 touchdowns. Evans also is a kick returner, having averaged 25.7 yards per return in three seasons scoring a touchdown in each season.
The Florida native watched Henry play in high school at Yulee, Florida, and in college at Alabama and now in the NFL.
“He does a lot of great things, and I can't wait to learn and talk to him and pick his brain and just try and compete and do the best that we can for the Titans,” Evans said of Henry.
The Titans needed a backup for Henry after releasing veteran Dion Lewis before free agency opened. The offense ranked third in points (30.4) and yards (406.2) per game over the final 10 games after Tennessee benched Marcus Mariota in favor of Tannehill.
Coming off the 35-24 loss in the AFC championship game, Robinson already made sure to keep the core of the offense together of a team that made a postseason run on the road through New England and Baltimore to Kansas City.
He signed Tannehill, the AP NFL comeback player of the year and last season’s passer rating leader, to a four-year deal before free agency started. Robinson also tagged Henry as the Titans’ franchise player coming off his history-making run as the first running back to run for at least 180 yards in three straight games in that postseason run.
-- By Teresa M. Walker, AP
INDIANAPOLIS: Colts grab USC WR Pittman, Wisconsin RB Taylor in 2nd round
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts used the first part of this offseason investing in their defense.
On Friday, they started working on the offense.
General manager Chris Ballard wasted no time snatching Southern California receiver Michael Pittman Jr. with the Colts' first draft pick, was so eager about Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor he moved up three spots to get him and then closed out the second day by taking safety Julian Blackmon from Utah.
“When we sat down after the season, there were a couple things we really identified that we needed," Ballard said. “Defensively, we knew we needed a dominant three technique and when DeForest (Buckner) popped up I thought it was a no-brainer. Offensively, we knew we needed to add some explosive play-makers and that’s where Pittman and Taylor come into the equation."
Pittman could turn out to be a steal at No. 34 overall.
Some thought the 6-foot-4, 223-pound son of a former NFL player might go late in the first round after catching 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns last season when he was one of three finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. With his big body, a propensity for winning jump balls and a 4.52-second clocking in the 40-yard dash, the Colts were sold.
Pittman will likely line up opposite of Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, playing with new starting quarterback Philip Rivers and trying to equal his father's Super Bowl ring total.
“When I was young, I just always thought that I was going to be an NFL player because that’s what my dad did," he said. "My dad was drafted the year I was born so all I knew was NFL football. I was like, ‘My dad does it, I can do it too.’ Back then, I didn’t realize how hard it was and the struggle it is, but looking back now I’m right where I thought I would be.”
Taylor seems right at home in Indy, too, returning to the same stadium where he played for two Big Ten championships.
At 5-10, 226 pounds, the Badgers star still posted a 4.39-second 40 at the combine. He is the first player in FBS history to rush for more than 6,000 yards in three seasons and closed out his college career with back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons while winning back-to-back Doak Walker Awards.
He impressed scouts with a 4.39-second 40 at the combine, though he also lost 15 fumbles in college and had an heavy workload with 926 carries. Still, Ballard thought so highly of Taylor he gave away a fifth-round pick to swap second-round slots.
“I feel like I’m just seamlessly transitioning from one culture to the next but it’s the same exact culture (as Wisconsin)," Taylor said. “Getting a chance to play with a legendary quarterback like Philip Rivers, I’m definitely willing to learn a plethora of routes, a plethora of protections, to make sure if and when Mr. Rivers needs me I'm ready to go.”
After trading back to No. 85 overall, picking an extra fifth-round selection and swapping places in the sixth, Ballard closed out the night by taking Blackmon, who is fighting his way back from ACL surgery in January.
The Colts have been busy over the past month.
Since trading their first-round pick to San Francisco for Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to fill one glaring need and signing free agent quarterback Philip Rivers, Ballard has signed four more free agents including tight end Trey Burton, best known for throwing the touchdown pass to Nick Folesin the Eagles' Super Bowl victory two years ago.
“They love pass-catching tight ends and that’s what I am," Burton said Friday. “I’m undersized, I know that, but blocking is more a mentality so I think I’ve grown tremendously over the last four years at this position."
Indy has four picks left Saturday and could go any direction.
None of the three quarterbacks on Indy's depth chart — Rivers, Jacoby Brissett or Chad Kelly — is under contract beyond this season. Another receiver remains a possibility or, perhaps, Ballard will look to add depth to the offensive line after longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo in January before returning on a two-year deal.
-- By Michael Marot, AP
JACKSONVILLE: Jaguars draft Colorado WR Shenault, NT Hamilton on Day 2
JACKSONVILLE - Colorado receiver Laviska Shenault compares himself to NFL stars Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones and Jarvis Landry.
He believes he has Fitzgerald's business-like approach, Jones' do-everything ability and Landry’s on-field attitude. The Jacksonville Jaguars love his confidence and feel like it could serve him well at the next level.
Jacksonville gave quarterback Gardner Minshew another target by selecting Shenault in the second round of the NFL draft Friday. The Jaguars took Shenault with the 42nd overall choice in hopes that he will emerge as a passing threat opposite Pro Bowl receiver DJ Chark.
The Jaguars released Marqise Lee earlier this week, leaving them with three wideouts — Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole — entering the final year of their contracts.
“If this kid would have been draft-eligible last year and come out, he probably would have been a top-10, top-15 pick," said Mark Ellenz, the team's director of college scouting. “In person, he looks like a linebacker. He’s really good with his RAC, his run after catch, not only with burst and explosive speed, but he’s a strong kid and can break tackles.
"He blends a lot of things together.”
Jacksonville added its third defender of the draft by selecting Ohio State nose tackle DaVon Hamilton in the third round, pick No. 73.
The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Hamilton waited for his chance to start as a senior and notched 28 tackles, including 10 1/2 for loss and six sacks in 14 starts in 2019. He will replace Marcell Dareus, whose contract option was not picked up last month. Jacksonville also signed journeyman Al Woods to a one-year deal in free agency.
Shenault also will face some competition for playing time.
The 6-foot-1, 227-pound Shenault had core muscle surgery following a lackluster performance in the NFL combine. But he could fit nicely in Jacksonville, which is moving to a west coast offense under new coordinator Jay Gruden and wants quicker passes intended to allow receivers to make plays after the catch.
Shenault led the Football Bowl Subdivision with 9.6 catches a game as a sophomore in 2018 and ranked fourth in the nation with 112.3 receiving yards a game. He caught 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns that season for Colorado. He also scored on five of 17 carries, making him the only player in the country to have five rushing and receiving touchdowns.
“You can put him in the backfield. He can play wildcat. You can put him as (a slot) tight end. You can do a lot of things with him," coach Doug Marrone said. "I said, ’Look, we can do all those things. But the whole key is going to be how well you grasp it, how well you pick it up.' If he can, make no mistake about it, we want to be able to do those things.”
He was slowed a bit last season, first playing through a shoulder injury and then the core injury.
He finished his college career with 149 catches for 1,943 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also ran 42 times for 280 yards and seven scores.
“I can move around everywhere and do anything and dominate in different places and do what everyone loves," Shenault said.
Shenault wears dreadlocks to honor his late father. Laviska Shenault Sr. died in July 2009 from injuries suffered after being hit by a car on the side of a highway after he had exited his vehicle to switch from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat. His mother, Annie, survived West Nile Virus.
Shenault Jr. wrote a letter to NFL general managers that was published in The Players Tribune in which he promised to “represent your organization with the same pride and respect that represent the values taught to me by my late father.”
Character is becoming a trend in Jacksonville, which has struggled the last two years while dealing with a fractured locker room. First-round picks CJ Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson are considered clean character guys.
“It's just another door opened," Shenault said. "It's another level, and there's more levels, too. I'm not stopping right now. I'm going to keep on leveling up.”
The Jaguars have three picks in the fourth round Saturday and eight more total.
General manager Dave Caldwell took a big swing in the opening round at rebuilding a defense that was considered one of the best in the league just a few years ago. He chose speedy Florida cornerback Henderson ninth overall and added versatile pass-rusher Chaisson at No. 20.
-- By Mark Long, AP