While college football and the NFL may be over, draft season is just beginning. It's a wonderful time where rumors fly, potential stars are judged on every imaginable attribute, and nearly every draft day scenario is covered in the numerous mock drafts. To best understand how the draft will actually play out, make sure to pay attention to those in tune with the league and each teams player needs. A great place to start is by checking out Thor Nystrom’s first Mock Draft and Hayden Winks’ 2019 NFL Draft WR Stats Report.
*** There were several big draft developments this week, and unfortunately, some of the bigger stories weren't positive ones. But, the biggest one was; at least for teams looking for a quarterback. Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray sent a tweet saying that he would be "focusing on football" after months of speculation on whether the Heisman Trophy winner would report to spring training for the Oakland Athletics. He'll have to pay back a prorated part of his bonus -- assuming he does, in fact stick with football -- and the A's will retain his rights when he's placed on the restricted list.
This is certainly big news, but it can't possibly be surprising. The moment that Murray had the monster season he did and looked the way he did doing it, football was going to be Murray's sport. If Murray doesn't pan out as a quarterback prospect, baseball will be there, and as long as he shows a semblance of the athleticism he did on the diamond for the Sooners last spring, he has a chance to succeed there. At this point, Murray seems like a lock to go in the first two rounds, and assuming he shows out at the combine like many (we) expect, it's going to be Day 1.
*** On the other side of the spectrum, the news about Jeffery Simmons is far less positive. On Tuesday, it was announced that Simmons had suffered a serious knee injury, and shortly after that, it was revealed that the former Mississippi State star had torn his ACL. Barring something unforeseen, it means that Simmons will miss the 2019 season.
Simply put, this is crushing for Simmons' draft stock. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein polled four NFL executives, and all four believed that the defensive tackle was now out of the first round. There's no question about the defender's talent, but not only does he now have this significant injury, he also has a serious off-field incident that caused him to not be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. As talented as he is, that's an awfully tough sell, and quite honestly, justifiably so. A team could be getting a steal if/when He falls into Day 2, but that team is going to have to explain to their fanbase why they just took a player who is not only going to miss the season, but also someone who assaulted a woman.
*** Simmons wasn't going to be able to attend the combine because of his assault before the injury, and word came in on Wednesday that another top defender in this class won't be participating. Word came down Wednesday that Louisiana defensive end Jaylon Ferguson's invite to the combine was rescinded after a background check showed that Ferguson was convicted of simple battery. The incident occured during his freshman year after he was in an altercation at a McDonald's.
This isn't the devastating news that Simmons received, but it's not great, for a couple of reasons. First, it's a red-flag that teams will need to investigate, and considering how loaded this defensive line class is, teams that view Ferguson a particular group are likely going to look elsewhere. On top of that, the combine was going to be a chance for the NCAA all-time sack leader to show how his athleticism translates. The tape he put forth over the season and also at the Senior Bowl helps answer those questions -- for better or for worth -- but a strong showing at the event could have helped possibly secure him as a first-round prospect. His Pro Day is going to be very, very important for his draft stock.
College Football News
*** A warrant for the arrest of Nebraska RB Maurice Washington was signed by a California judge in regards to possessing and distributing a video of a former girlfriend being sexually assaulted by two other people in 2016, when she was 15. Washington plans to surrender himself in California and appear in court while posting bail to avoid being arrested, according to Washington's attorney. He's suspected of storing the video on his cellphone, and sending it to the victim in March. Washington is being charged with a felony count of possessing a video of a person under 18 engaging in sexual content, and a misdemeanor count of posting a video of a person "engaging in or simulating sexual conduct without consent." There's no word yet on hsi status with Nebraska for the season, but he ran for 455 yards as a freshman last year, and was expected to be a big part of the rushing attack in 2019.
*** Oregon and defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt agreed to mutually part ways. Leavitt, 62, spent two seasons with the Ducks, and helped Oregon improve significantly after he left Colorado for Eugene. He was also a defensive coordinator for Kansas State, and prior to that, he was a head coach for 13 seasons for South Florida. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg reports that the relationship with Leavitt and head coach Mario Cristobal had become "strained," but it's surprising to see Leavitt leave at this point. Oregon is expected to promote Keith Heyward to be the defensive coordinator in 2019. Don't be surprised if Leavitt finds another high-profile job, although because of the timing of the move it wouldn't be a surprise if he worked as an analyst before taking a DC position in 2020.
*** Jim Leavitt is leaving Eugene, but one of the better transferring wideouts is on his way there in the form of Juwan Johnson. Johnson is heading to the Ducks by way of Penn State, and 6-foot-4, 231-pound wide receiver posted a 25-352-1 line for the Nittany Lions in 2018. The previous year, however, Johnson had 701 yards as a sophomore, and looked like a budding star. The Ducks lost their top pass-catching option in Dillon Mitchell to the NFL Draft. At the very least, Johnson should give quarterback Justin Herbert a reliable target as a possession receiver.
Washington signed 2019 four-star WR Puca Nacua on Tuesday. Nacua had been committed to USC, but the wideout chose the Huskies over the Trojans and several other high-profile schools ... 247 Sports Josh Newberg reports that transferring Texas A&M QB Nick Starkel will make his college choice after visiting Arkansas and Florida State. Starkel also is apparently considering Duke, SMU, Arizona and Ohio State ... Brett McMurphy of Stadium reports that former Texas State HC Everett Withers will be the new defensive coordinator at Florida International. Withers was fired with one game left in the 2018 season and finished his time with the Bobcats with a record of 7-28 over three seasons ... South Carolina sophomore DT Josh Belk has decided to medically retire from football due to a fractured vertebrae. Belk was a five-star recruit in 2018 for Clemson who transferred a few months later to the Gamecocks ... Kentucky DC Matt House is leaving the Wildcats to become the new LB coach with the Kansas City Chiefs. Wildcats HC Mark Stoops told reporters that he would consider his brother, former Oklahoma DC Mike Stoops, for the position ... Redshirt senior T Elliot Baker is not listed on the Alabama 2019 roster. Baker (6'7/307) was one of three players who was suspended by Alabama for a violation of team rules before the start of the college football playoffs ... Vanderbilt hired former Auburn RB coach Tim Horton to serve in the same capacity. Horton was "demoted" to an off-field role after the 2018 season for Auburn, and rather than take that position, he's headed to work on-field with the Commodores ... Transferring Virginia Tech senior WR Eric Kumah revealed his top six schools on Twitter. Those six schools: Penn State, Notre Dame, Louisville, Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Old Dominion.