Combine Notes: Day 1

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The first group of players arrived in Indianapolis for the 2018 NFL Combine, and teams have set up shop in the city with the hopes of finding future stars. But the combine is about more than players performing in shorts and t-shirts. It’s also about potential free-agent signings as possible trades. Here are the notes from Day 1.

Combine Notes

  • We reported rumblings that Connor Williams was slipping down draft boards as teams were considering moving him from the tackle board to the guard board back on February 14. We slotted Williams to the New York Giants in the second round of our recent two round mock draft. I’m told to keep an eye on Williams’ measurements this week, specifically his height and arm length, as that may seal a move to guard in the eyes of many teams.
  • I’m not big on Orlando Brown being selected in the first round, especially the middle of Round 1 to the Baltimore Ravens. But one league source told me Brown is the type of blocker the team likes as a big-bodied player with length.
  • Entering the combine, I’m told Sam Hubbard and Courtland Sutton need to have stellar workouts to stay in the first round. Hubbard comes off a disappointing season, looking stiff and slow last year. Sutton needs to show some athleticism and prove he’s more than just a big body who won out for contested passes against inferior competition.
  • We gushed over Brent Toth during Shrine Game and Senior Bowl practices as the offensive tackle from Army looked as good as any blocker on the field. We also mentioned that his pending service in the military will determine where Toth is selected in the draft. I’m told Toth is not and will not actively lobby for deferment of his military service and plans to stand by the commitment he made upon entering West Point.Any changes or lobbying within the Department of Defense for deferral of service would take place at higher echelons of the military and would be out of Toth’s hands. Regardless, I’m told Toth’s unwavering desire to play in the NFL was clear throughout his interviews with clubs during the All-Star weeks, although his first priority is fulfilling the agreement he made to USMA four years ago.

Free Agency Chatter

  • As I initially reported during the Senior Bowl, expect extensive talks between the New York Jets and Weston Richburg during the free agency period. The New York Giants are unlikely to keep their former starting center, and Richburg to the Jets is something both sides want to happen. The Jets need help at guard and an upgrade at center; Richburg can play both spots.
  • We also reported from the Senior Bowl that the Giants are expected to make a concerted effort to sign guard Andrew Norwell. If they can’t sign the pricey free agent, I’m told Ryan Jensen will be a less-expensive contingency plan.
  • D.J. Fluker is another offensive lineman who is unlikely to stay with the Giants. Potential destinations for Fluker include the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.
  • I’m told Trumaine Johnson is the No. 1 target for the Oakland Raiders in free agency and that the team will make a pointed effort to sign the cornerback. Johnson is expected to have numerous suitors once free agency opens, and Oakland views Johnson as a great pairing with Gareon Conley.

Keep This in the Back of Your Mind

  • There’s a lot of talk surrounding the Dolphins trading receiver Jarvis Landry, who was recently franchised. Several in the league tell me they believe a Landry trade won’t happen until draft day, as the receiver could be used as ammunition to move up and secure one of the top three quarterbacks should any of trio start to slip. Dolphins general manager Mike Tannenbaum made a similar move with the New York Jets when he traded up for Mark Sanchez in the 2009 draft. Though Sanchez did not have a stellar career in New York, he did lead the team to consecutive appearances in the AFC title game. People also point to the fact that Tannenbaum is close to Super Bowl-winning GM Howie Roseman of the Eagles and would like nothing more than to mimic Roseman’s success in making a bold move for a young quarterback and striking gold.  Speculation is Josh Rosen is the signal caller of choice.
  • I’m told there’s a good chance the Seattle Seahawks dangle either Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas in trade talks this week. Thomas is more marketable, as he’s in the final year of his contract and is due $10.4 million in 2018 -- $2.8 million less than Sherman, who watched his season end with a torn Achilles last November and will turn 30 in March.