PHILADELPHIA: Eagles pull off a stunner, draft Jalen Hurts in second round
PHILADELPHIA - After giving Carson Wentz a playmaker, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted his backup.
The Eagles selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night, a stunning move for a team with more pressing needs.
Then they took Davion Taylor, a hybrid safety-linebacker from Colorado, in the third round with the 103rd overall pick.
Philadelphia hoped it filled a big void in the first round, taking TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor with the 21st pick. But the team passed on other receivers and defensive players to add Hurts at No. 53.
“Quarterback is the most important position in sports,” Eagles executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman said. “We have shown how we feel about Carson by our actions, by the amount of picks we put into him, and we showed it by the contract extension. We believe this is the guy to lead us to our next Super Bowl championship. But for better or worse, we are quarterback developers. We want to be a quarterback factory.”
Hurts transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma and became a Heisman Trophy finalist last year when he threw for 3,851 yards and 32 touchdowns.
“The opportunity to go there, be part of the organization, it’s surreal,” Hurts said about playing in Philadelphia. “It’s an opportunity to grow, learn and be best quarterback I can be. I’m ready to go to work. I’ve always been about the grind.”
Hurts will provide insurance for Wentz, who started 16 games last season and led the Eagles to the NFC East title but was knocked out of a wild-card playoff loss to Seattle with a concussion.
Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick in 2016, helped Philadelphia secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed in his sophomore season but tore two knee ligaments and watched Nick Foles lead the Eagles to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title. Wentz injured his back in 2018 and Foles stepped in again and led the team to a playoff win.
Roseman said he spoke with Wentz about picking Hurts earlier in the day. Wentz, who finished third in NFL MVP voting in 2017, signed a $137 million contract extension last season.
“We think Carson is a phenomenal player and nobody is going to be looking at a rookie quarterback taking over for a Pro Bowl quarterback who was on the cusp of being an MVP,” Roseman said.
Hurts, 6-foot-1 and 218 pounds, led two elite programs to the College Football Playoffs and put up big numbers both passing and rushing. His passing accuracy and consistency were the biggest questions entering the draft.
Hurts went was 38-4 as a starter, including 26-2 for the Crimson Tide and was the Southeastern Conference player of the year as a freshman. Then he was benched at halftime of the national championship game against Georgia, with Tua Tagovailoa leading the comeback victory and ultimately winning the starting job for the 2018 season.
“He has uncanny toughness, poise and competitiveness,” said Andy Weidl, the team’s vice president of player personnel. “He’s a natural leader. His starting record speaks for itself.”
Hurts is Oklahoma’s third quarterback drafted in three years. Oklahoma is the only program to ever produce quarterback selections in the first two rounds of the draft in three consecutive years — Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray went No. 1 overall each of the last two years. No school had ever produced quarterback picks in the first five rounds of the draft in three straight seasons.
Hurts had 9,477 yards passing and 80 TDs with a 65.1 completion percentage in his four-year career at Alabama and Oklahoma. He also rushed 614 times for 3,274 yards and 43 TDs.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said the team would explore ways to use him with Wentz and mentioned the way New Orleans features Taysom Hill.
“He’s a great runner. He can throw on the run. He has a unique set of skills that we’re going to look at it,” Pederson said.
Hurts wouldn’t get into any specifics about his conversations with the Eagles.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Hurts said. “I don’t put a ceiling on myself or my game.”
Taylor, 6-foot and 228 pounds, had an unusual path to the NFL. He only played in two games in high school because his family observed the Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath on Friday nights.
Taylor had two 60-tackle seasons at Colorado and starred in track and field, where he posted a 10.51 time in the 100-meter dash at the PAC-12 championships.
He was impressive at the Senior Bowl and the NFL scouting combine and again at CU’s pro timing day, where he trimmed a tenth of a second off his 4.49 time from Indianapolis in the 40-yard dash.
The 5-foot-10, 206-pound Reagor averaged 14.2 yards on 43 receptions and had five touchdowns last season. He also returned two punts for scores. Reagor had 148 catches for 2,248 yards and 22 TDs in 39 college games.
Philadelphia has six remaining picks, including three choices in Saturday's fourth round.
-- By Rob Maaddi, AP
DALLAS: Cowboys target defense on Day 2 with CB Diggs, DT Gallimore
DALLAS - The Dallas Cowboys decided they could wait to address their defense in the NFL draft when a receiver they didn't expect to be available was there for the taking in the first round.
Those greater needs were the focus on Day 2.
The Cowboys took Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs with the 51st overall choice in the second round and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore of Oklahoma at No. 82 in the third round Friday night.
The Cowboys had pivoted away from defense a night earlier because Gallimore's teammate, receiver CeeDee Lamb, was surprisingly available with the 17th overall pick. Dallas had Lamb pegged at No. 6.
Executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said the Cowboys actually had a tough call between Diggs and Gallimore in the second round, so they were thrilled that Gallimore was still there 32 picks later.
“It really played out in our favor,” Jones said. “If you do stay patient, you do stay true to your board, I do think things work out for you.”
Dallas lost its best cornerback in free agency when Byron Jones signed with Miami. Diggs, the younger brother of Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs, had three interceptions and tied for Alabama's team lead with eight pass breakups.
The younger Diggs went 95 picks earlier than his brother five years ago. Stefon Diggs was drafted by Minnesota in the fifth round but ended up getting traded to the Bills for several picks, including a first-rounder this year.
“I relied on him a lot because he went through everything,” Trevon Diggs said. “He's my father figure, so it's a blessing to have him, to ask him questions. I'm going to share this moment with him.”
The Cowboys tied for last in the NFL in interceptions last year and have been among the worst in the league in that category the past five seasons. They have young cornerbacks they like in Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis, but the position was still one of need.
“That’s something that I try to work on in practices; catching the ball, getting interceptions, creating turnovers,” Diggs said. “That’s something they valued a lot at Alabama, so I made that important for me.”
Diggs will have a good chance to start, most likely alongside Awuzie, a second-round pick three years ago. Brown and Lewis have shown promise, and the Cowboys signed four-year veteran Maurice Canady in free agency. Among those players, Brown is the oldest at 26.
The interior of the defensive line wasn't considered as much of a need as pass-rushing ends because of the addition of Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe in free agency.
The Cowboys still settled on the the 6-foot-2, 304-pound Gallimore, who had four sacks and 7 1/2 tackles for loss as the Sooners reached the College Football Playoff semifinals last season.
Not long after he was picked, Gallimore exchanged texts with McCoy, a former Oklahoma standout who was the third overall pick by Tampa Bay 10 years ago. McCoy made six Pro Bowls in nine seasons with the Buccaneers before spending last season with Carolina.
“Being a fan of his game, I knew very quickly if I wanted that opportunity to play at the next level, he was one of the guys that I'd have to really just look at and see how his approach was and everything,” said Gallimore, now one of two natives of Canada on the Dallas defensive line along with Tyrone Crawford, who also went in the third round eight years ago.
The Cowboys also hope to boost a pass rush led by DeMarcus Lawrence with the reinstatement of suspended defensive ends Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory. Both are sidelined by violations of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
The Cowboys hired an offensive mind in Mike McCarthy to replace Jason Garrett, whose contract wasn't renewed after a season of high expectations ended with an 8-8 record and no trip to the playoffs.
Dallas gave McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers and developed several star receivers in Green Bay, another weapon in Lamb. The breakaway threat joins Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott, two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott and receiver Amari Cooper, who signed a $100 million contract last month.
The Cowboys also have two perennial Pro Bowlers in the offensive line in left tackle Tyron Smith and right guard Zack Martin, so the question now is now a retooled defense can complement what is shaping up to be a high-powered offense.
Dallas has four picks left going into the final day of the draft: a fourth round choice, two fifths and a seventh.
“To be halfway through the draft and to be here with these three players feels great,” McCarthy said. “Trevon is someone that we spent a lot of time on. I think he’s going to be a great fit for how we want to play on defense.”
-- By Schuyler Dixon, AP
NEW YORK: Giants take Alabama S Xavier McKinney with 36th pick
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Alabama safety Xavier McKinney didn't expect to be around in the second round of the NFL draft, and the New York Giants didn't expect it either.
It turned out to be a perfect match.
The Giants on Friday added a versatile defensive back to their secondary, taking McKinney with the fourth pick of the second round.
“We had first-round value on him,” said Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who added that the team started the round with the idea it would draft McKinney if he was available or possibly make a trade down.
“We are absolutely thrilled to get him. He is a great kid, smart. He plays hard. He lines up the back end for us.”
McKinney led Alabama with 95 tackles. He can blitz, cover tight ends and is a good tackler. The pick also allows new coach Joe Judge to return to his Alabama roots. He mentored under Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
Judge first saw McKinney a couple of years ago at an Alabama spring practice.
“I was scouting a couple of other guys prior to the draft and had the opportunity to pass through one of their practices and he just stuck out as a guy on the field who flies around and put in a lot of passion,” Judge said.
“He also has that ability to be a quarterback on the back end, a signal caller for the defense. He fits the mold of a smart, tough, fundamentally sound guy we are looking to build with.”
The Giants, who went 4-12 last season and fired coach Pat Shurmur, moved to fix their weak offensive line on Thursday by taking Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth pick overall.
They added a second offensive lineman late in the third round Friday when they took UConn lineman Matt Peart.
McKinney seemed to take being selected in the second round in stride.
“Of course I thought I would be drafted yesterday,” McKinney said on a conference call. “You know, it is what it is. I'm happy to be a Giant and that's all that matters now.”
There was some speculation that McKinney fell to the second round because he did not have a good time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He downplayed it, saying he plays faster than his time. He added he had cramps the day he ran.
“I consider myself a DB," McKinney said. “A DB is someone who can play safety, free safety, corner, slot, nickel, anywhere. I am a versatile DB. That's how I consider myself.”
After releasing Antoine Bethea, the Giants had only two safeties returning who saw a lot of playing time last season, Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love.
Gettleman said it was important for the Giants to get a safety who could play the deep part of the field, which is something Bethea did last season.
He also said it was important to add depth to the secondary because defenses are playing in sub packages almost 65% of the time in the NFL these days.
Peart started on the Huskies' line in all 48 games over his four-year career.
The New York Jets had the Giants' original third-rounder because of a trade for defensive tackle Leonard Williams.
The Giants will have seven picks in the final four rounds on Saturday. They probably still need an edge rusher, a receiver and a center.
-- By Tom Canavan, AP
WASHINGTON: Redskins draft Memphis playmaker Gibson with 66th pick
WASHINGTON — Ron Rivera hopes third-round pick Antonio Gibson can fill the Christian McCaffrey role with the Redskins.
Washington selected the multipositional Memphis playmaker Friday night with the 66th pick in the NFL draft. Gibson can do a little bit of everything from lining up in the backfield to splitting out wide and returning punts and kickoffs, and Rivera would love to see him replicate the efforts of the Carolina Panthers star he coached the past few years.
“He’s a little bit bigger than Christian, but he’s got a skill-set like Christian,” Rivera said. “He’s shown some position flexibility playing in the slot. He’s shown some flexibility of playing in the backfield. I think they even ran some Wildcat with him with him being the center taking direct snaps. So this is a very versatile young football player that we really think is going to be a guy that can get on the field for us early and contribute.”
Vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith called him a “Swiss Army knife” who the front office is very excited about. And the 6-foot, 228-pound Gibson isn't shying away from the lofty McCaffrey comparisons.
“That’s exactly what I want to do,” said Gibson, who was the 2019 American Athletic Conference special teams player of the year and earned all-conference honors as a receiver. “If the Redskins want me at running back, I’m going to do it. If they want me at receiver, I’m going to do it. If they want me on special teams, I’m going to do it.”
Gibson should give new offensive coordinator Scott Turner a dynamic weapon to pair with running backs Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice and receiver Terry McLaurin. Rivera said special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor was intrigued by what Gibson could bring to a return game that has lacked difference-makers in recent years.
“I view myself as a weapon,” Gibson said. “I feel like I can dominate wherever they put me.”
Much like second overall pick Chase Young, who makes Washington's pass rush better, Gibson adds talent but doesn't fill a pressing need. Washington still has big holes at tight end and cornerback and five picks Saturday — two in the fourth round, one in the fifth and two in the seventh — to fill them.
There remains a big question mark at left tackle because the Redskins have so far been unable to trade disgruntled longtime starter Trent Williams, whose dispute with the front office is almost a year old.
Williams took issue with the medical staff’s handling of a growth on his head, which turned out to be a cancer scare. After starting for nine seasons and getting picked for seven Pro Bowls, Williams did not report to training camp last year and missed the entire season.
Even the firing of president Bruce Allen and head athletic trainer Larry Hess and hiring of Rivera apparently couldn’t salvage the relationship. Williams’ representatives recently reiterated his desire to be traded or released, opening another hole on the offensive line.
“There’s no rush," Rivera said. “There's no hurry. We have opportunities, and we’ll just continue to keep working on it."
Several potential trading partners filled offensive tackle needs in the draft either Thursday or Friday night. Smith said he was hard to say if or when a Williams trade would come together, and Rivera didn't want to commit to the possibility of going into training camp with the soon-to-be 32-year-old on the roster.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “I’m not going to speculate on something that’s an ongoing process right now.”
-- By Stephen Whyno, AP