(EDITORS NOTE: caption correction, player mis-spelled in original) Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Nevada quarterback Carson Strong (QB14) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles sign Carson Strong after Nevada QB slid out of draft

The Philadelphia Eagles signed undrafted free agent quarterback Carson Strong of Nevada on Sunday.

According to reports, Strong received $320,000 in guaranteed money, including a $20,000 signing bonus.

“Grateful for the opportunity,” Strong said in a tweet about his signing with the Eagles.

Strong was considered one of the top six quarterbacks available in the 2022 NFL Draft with estimates that he could be picked in the third-round. He ended up not being one of the nine quarterbacks selected during the seven-round draft.

Strong was reportedly considered a medical risk due to a serious right knee injury he sustained while playing high school basketball. He underwent surgery and missed the 2017 football season, his senior year of high school.

Strong underwent a second surgery on the knee in February of 2021. He said at the recent NFL combine that his recovery time was expected to be 12 months but he returned in six so he could play last season for Nevada.

“My doctor has me cleared to go, I know I’m ready to go, and so whatever team takes a chance on me, I’m going to be able to play ball at a high level,” Strong said at the time.

Strong didn’t appear hindered last season when he passed for 4,175 yards and 36 touchdowns against eight interceptions and was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. He threw for 9.368 yards, 74 scores and 19 interceptions in 32 games (31 starts) in three seasons for the Wolf Pack.

The Eagles’ top two quarterback are starter Jalen Hurts and backup Gardner Minshew.

–Field Level Media

Georgia running back James Cook (4) runs the ball during an SEC football homecoming game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Georgia Bulldogs in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

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Georgia sets 7-round era record with 15 draft picks

Georgia was the best team in college football last season and continued its domination into the NFL draft.

The national champions had 15 players selected in the three-day draft, setting a record for the seven-round era that began in 1994.

Ohio State (2004) and LSU (2020) shared the former mark of 14.

The Bulldogs began with a rush as five defensive players were picked in Thursday’s first round, with edge rusher Travon Walker going No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Joining Walker in the first round were defensive tackle Jordan Davis (No. 13) by the Philadelphia Eagles, linebacker Quay Walker (No. 22) and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (No. 28) both going to the Green Bay Packers, and safety Lewis Cine as the 32nd and final pick of the round by the Minnesota Vikings.

In the second round, receiver George Pickens was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers and running back James Cook was chosen by the Buffalo Bills.

Star linebacker Nakobe Dean was the sixth defensive player chosen when the Eagles took him in the third round. Linebacker Channing Tindall went to the Miami Dolphins later in the round.

The Las Vegas Raiders selected running back Zamir White and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose punter Jake Camarda in the fourth round.

Four Georgia players went in the sixth round to complete the haul: Guards Justin Shaffer (Atlanta Falcons) and Jamaree Salyer (Los Angeles Chargers), cornerback Derion Kendrick (Los Angeles Rams) and tight end John Fitzpatrick (Falcons).

–Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell (QB07) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders end Sam Howell’s long wait in draft’s fifth round

Odds were very slim that Sam Howell would hear his name called on the initial day of the NFL draft, but it seemed certain he would be selected on the second.

Instead, it took until Day Three and the first pick of the fifth round for the North Carolina quarterback to be picked. The Washington Commanders ended his long agonizing wait by choosing him with the 144th overall selection.

“I had no expectations coming into the draft,” Howell said. “Obviously everyone wants to be a first-round pick. I just want to get on a good team. I’m super blessed.”

The final four rounds of the draft were held Saturday in Las Vegas and Howell’s plunge was one of the biggest surprises of the festivities.

Most draft prognosticators pegged Howell as a second-round pick. Nobody was forecasting he’d last until the fifth round.

Pitt’s Kenny Pickett was the lone quarterback to go in Thursday’s first round as the No. 20 overall pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No quarterbacks were tabbed in the second round. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder went in the third round (No. 74 overall) to the Atlanta Falcons, Liberty’s Malik Willis was chosen 86th by the Tennessee Titans and Matt Corral of Ole Miss was No. 94 by the Carolina Panthers.

Howell wasn’t even the first quarterback drafted on Saturday: Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe went to the New England Patriots in the fourth round (No. 137 overall).

Meanwhile, Howell was in wait-and-see mode while watching the draft in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., with family and friends. Not an easy situation for someone who set North Carolina records of 10,283 career passing yards and 92 touchdown tosses.

“It was a little stressful, but at the same time I was trusting God,” Howell said. “I was waiting for a call, and I’m so glad it was Washington that called. This is a perfect spot for me. It’s a team I wanted to play for all along, so I’m fired up.”

Howell may not see the field much this season as the Commanders traded for Carson Wentz earlier this offseason.

The Patriots’ pick of Zappe was interesting as the club selected Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 draft.

Zappe spent four college seasons at Houston Baptist before transferring to Western Kentucky. He passed for 5,967 yards, 62 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his one season with the Hilltoppers. The yardage and touchdowns led the nation.

Zappe was Conference USA’s Most Valuable Player but the pinball-type season didn’t overwhelm many NFL scouts. Not that Zappe cares.

“I don’t really worry about the naysayers and the critics,” Zappe said. “The Patriots believe in me. … Those are the people that I’m going to try to prove right.”

It’s not often that a punter gets drafted lower than his reputation but that occurred Saturday when San Diego State’s Matt Araiza went with the first pick of the sixth round to the Buffalo Bills and was just the third punter selected.

Araiza set an NCAA record with a 51.19 average last season and earned the nickname “Punt God” for his booming efforts. He won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and had six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards.

Araiza was a unanimous first-team All-American. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in 1992 and 1993.

Penn State’s Jordan Stout was the first punter off the board. He went in the fourth round (No. 130 overall) to the Baltimore Ravens. Three picks later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chose Georgia’s Jake Camarda.

“I’ll have a lot of motivation to dominate this season,” Araiza told Buffalo reporters.

–Field Level Media

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Liberty quarterback Malik Willis (QB16) goes through a drill during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks nowhere to be found in 2nd round of NFL draft

On a night when many anticipated an early run on quarterbacks, NFL teams instead turned to virtually every other position.

Teams that seemingly needed a young quarterback such as the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons both passed twice on drafting a signal-caller in round two of the NFL draft Friday night.

That left QBs such as Liberty’s Malik Willis, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral and North Carolina’s Sam Howell all waiting to hear their name called as the Las Vegas event moved into round three.

One of the most popular positions once again was wide receiver, as seven were picked in the second round after six wideouts were chosen in Thursday’s first round.

Only one quarterback was chosen in the first round — Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, by the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began Round 2 by choosing Houston defensive end Logan Hall. The pick originally belonged to the Jacksonville Jaguars before they moved up six slots in a trade with Tampa Bay on Thursday evening, allowing Tampa Bay to kick off Thursday night’s action.

The Green Bay Packers then traded up to select Aaron Rodgers’ newest weapon, North Dakota State wideout Christian Watson. The Packers sent two second-round picks (Nos. 53 and 59) to the Minnesota Vikings to move up for Watson.

Two picks later, the New York Jets traded up with their crosstown rival Giants to choose Iowa State’s Breece Hall, the first running back off the board in the 2022 draft. Thursday marked the first time since 2014 that no running back was selected in the opening round.

Many expected Seattle to choose a quarterback with either the 40th or 41st pick with Russell Wilson now in Denver. However, the Seahawks opted to go with a pair of Big Ten standouts — Minnesota linebacker Boye Mafe and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III.

Meanwhile, Atlanta had a pair of second-round picks and chose two defensive players — Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie at No. 38 and Montana State linebacker Troy Andersen 20 picks later.

The New England Patriots (Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton at No. 50), Pittsburgh Steelers (Georgia’s George Pickens at No. 52) and Kansas City Chiefs (Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore at No. 54) chose wide receivers in Round 2.

–Field Level Media

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the eleventh overall pick to the New Orleans Saints during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Draft: First round is least-watched since 2017

The first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night brought in the fewest TV viewers since 2017, according to Sports Business Journal.

ABC, ESPN and NFL Network combined to draw 10.03 million viewers, roughly 2.5 million fewer than last year’s first round and the lowest mark since the network simulcast window was introduced in 2018.

The viewership number still cleared eight digits. The last time it was lower, a combined 9.23 million viewers tuned in for the 2017 first round on ESPN and NFL Network.

The first round, in particular the top 10, was dominated by defensive players and offensive linemen with few big names among the so-called skill players. The only quarterback drafted in the first round, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett, went No. 20 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The viewership number has tumbled since the record of 15.27 million was set in 2020, though that was boosted by more people staying indoors during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The draft continues Friday with the second and third round before concluding Saturday afternoon with rounds 4-7.

–Field Level Media

Michigan State Spartans running back Kenneth Walker III (9) runs past Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Jerron Cage (86) during the first quarter of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

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NFL Draft: Best available prospects entering Day 2

The 2022 NFL Draft is 32 picks old, but another 230 lie ahead across Friday and Saturday.

The draft resumes in Las Vegas on Friday at 7 p.m. ET with the start of the second round, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the 33rd overall pick after a trade Thursday with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here’s our overview of the best prospects who still remain on the board with Day 1 in the rearview mirror.

1. Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
One of the most well-rounded players left in the draft, Muma is a do-it-all defender who has the athleticism to play in space and the physicality to take on blockers.

2. Trey McBride, TE, Colorado State
The top tight end in the class, McBride’s lack of elite receiving upside kept him out of Day 1, but he should hear his name called early on Day 2.

3. Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
A gunslinger with all-world tools but an extreme lack of polish. Willis makes a lot of sense as a developmental pick in the early second.

4. Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
Workhorse backs don’t come around often, but Walker has the traits to be one. He is a savvy runner who can make defenders miss and create his own yardage.

5. Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
A blazing fast 4.44 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine matched the on-field showings from the uber-athletic Harris. His potential is sky high.

6. Drake Jackson, OLB, Southern California
Jackson is long and limber with the flexibility to slip past blocks. He could contribute immediately as a rookie pass-rusher.

7. Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Looming injury questions may be the root of Booth’s fall out of the first round. If he returns fully healthy, he could make teams regret passing on him.

8. Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
Gordon is a natural mover with great agility and body control for the position. His upside will likely draw a premium pick on Day 2.

9. Jaquan Brisker, SS, Penn State
Big, fast, and physical. Brisker isn’t an elite matchup piece, but he has the traits to be a long-term starter and mean run defender.

10. Logan Hall, DT, Houston
Tweeners who aren’t clear-cut defensive tackles scare some NFL teams, but Hall’s body control and refined pass-rush package are likely to get a bite.

11. Matt Corral, QB, Ole Miss
12. Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
13. Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
14. Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
15. Phidarian Mathis, DT, Alabama
16. Nick Cross, FS, Maryland
17. Troy Andersen, LB, Montana State
18. David Ojabo, OLB, Michigan
19. George Pickens, WR, Georgia
20. Arnold Ebiketie, DE, Penn State
21. Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
22. Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
23. Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
24. Greg Dulcich, TE, UCLA
25. DeMarvin Leal, DE, Texas A&M
26. Carson Strong, QB, Nevada
27. Brian Asamoah II, LB, Oklahoma
28. Jalen Pitre, SS, Baylor
29. Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
30. Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

–By Mark Jarvis, Field Level Media

Jan 22, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) leaves the field after a loss against the Cincinnati Bengals during a AFC Divisional playoff football game at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Titans trade WR A.J. Brown to Eagles for pair of draft picks

The Tennessee Titans traded disgruntled receiver A.J. Brown to the Philadelphia Eagles for two draft picks during Thursday night’s NFL draft in Las Vegas.

The Titans acquired a first-round selection (18th overall) and third-round pick (101st) for Brown, who had expressed unhappiness with his contract situation.

According to multiple reports, the Eagles agreed to a four-year, $100 million deal with Brown that includes $57 million in guaranteed money.

Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said trading Brown was “just another example of making tough decisions.”

“I’m confident we went to the extreme to try to keep A.J. here,” Vrabel said. “I was involved in the process the entire time. … I know that it probably doesn’t get received like that publicly, but this was a difficult process to get through, and I know what the gap we had to bridge was. This wasn’t easy.”

Tennessee wasted no time finding a potential replacement, using the No. 18 pick on promising Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks — the highest-selected Arkansas wide receiver since the common draft was instituted in 1967.

Burks said, “I am happy to be a part of the team now and play my role. I wouldn’t say I am (Brown’s) replacement, but I am thankful for the opportunity and that they believed in me to make that trade.”

Brown was entering the final season of his rookie contact, a four-year, $5.65 million deal. Since he was a second-round draft choice, there was no fifth-year option for the Titans to consider picking up.

Brown, who turns 25 in June, wasn’t partaking in Titans voluntary workouts and had hinted he expected to have a new lucrative deal before training camp.

Brown, a 2020 Pro Bowl selection, caught 185 passes for 2,995 yards and 24 touchdowns in 43 games (36 starts) over three seasons with Tennessee. He had 63 catches for 869 yards and five scores in 13 games last season and missed four games late in the season with a chest injury.

Burks caught 66 passes for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games for the Razorbacks last season. He set a school record with six 100-yard outings and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors.

Burks had 146 catches for 2,399 yards and 18 touchdowns in 32 career games (30 starts) over three college seasons.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Travon Walker (44) reacts with linebacker Nolan Smith (4) after a sack against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Jaguars select Georgia DE Travon Walker No. 1 overall in NFL draft

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Georgia defensive lineman Travon Walker with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday in Las Vegas.

Walker had six sacks last season while helping Georgia win the national championship. He had 9.5 sacks in 36 career games over three seasons.

Walker started all 15 games last season after not previously making a single start.

He is the first Georgia player to go No. 1 overall since the Detroit Lions selected quarterback Matthew Stafford in 2009.

Walker was clocked in 4.51 seconds over 40 yards.

It was the second straight year in which the Jaguars held the No. 1 overall pick. They chose quarterback Trevor Lawrence from Clemson last year.

–Field Level Media

Former NFL draft analyst Rob Rang is now a scout for the BC Lions.

For Rob Rang, football scouting is a chosen language

It’s not uncommon for professional football talent evaluators to make the jump into the media.

In at least one case, the pipeline can also flow the other way.

Former NFL draft analyst Rob Rang is now on the other side of the fence. A prominent presence around the draft with multiple outlets, Rang is digging into this week’s event from a different perspective.

After years of writing player profile reports and evaluations for websites and magazines, Rang was hired by the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League in January. He’ll serve as a regional scout focusing on the Pac-12, Big Sky and Mountain West Conferences.

“We didn’t hire him because he is a nice guy, even though he is a very nice guy,’” Lions director of U.S. college scouting Ryan Rigmaiden said. “We hired him because he’s excellent at his job.’”

Rang, 46, has been writing scouting reports since his college days at Central Washington. It started when he and other potential teachers were in an introductory computer class in which the students could write about whatever they chose.

“Most of them were doing stuff on English, history or math,” Rang said. “I said, ‘Why not write about draft stuff?’ The professor told me I should pursue that because it was drawing a lot of traffic.”

From there, two careers were born.

Rang stuck to his plan of becoming an English and social studies teacher. He currently teaches at Mount Tahoma (WA) High School, the same school he graduated from.

But, through the years, Rang has built a niche for himself as a talent evaluator in his spare time. He first did it professionally near the end of his college days.

“I was approached by College Football Talk, which was part of what has grown into the monster that Pro Football Talk has become,” Rang said. “They asked me to go to the Senior Bowl and cover it.

“(Former Seattle Seahawks coach) Mike Holmgren was coaching in the game. I introduced myself to him and told him I wanted to be a teacher, but also wanted to evaluate players. Holmgren is a former teacher and we kind of hit it off. He introduced me to some NFL people and told me some other people that I should talk to.”

As Rang got into the media side of the business, he crossed paths with Rigmaiden, who was pursuing a similar career. Although they were writing for competing websites, a friendship quickly formed.

“I guess the best way to put it was that there was a lot of mutual respect,” Rigmaiden said. “I always admired Rob’s attention to detail and the accuracy of his reports in comparison to some of the other bigger names in the media business.”

Rigmaiden made the crossover from writer to scout in 2012 when he joined the Lions. He stayed with them through 2018, then spent 2019 and 2020 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before returning to the Lions in 2021.

Rang stayed on the media side of things even though he said he had several offers through the years to work for NFL teams.

“I stayed with teaching because I love it,” Rang said. “I love working with students and helping them achieve their goals. I also like the stability of teaching. In football, you might be at a place for a year or two and the general manager gets fired and everybody that works for him gets fired. I never felt like I was ready to completely walk away from teaching.”

As it turned out, Rang didn’t have to give up teaching because Rigmaiden and the Lions came calling with a unique offer.

“We knew he was teaching and wasn’t about to give that up,” Rigmaiden said. “So we made concessions to make it work for him because we really wanted him on our team.”

The arrangement allows for Rang to stay in the classroom Monday through Friday. On Saturdays, he’ll be watching college football. On Sundays, he’ll watch NFL games to keep tabs on players that could end up in the CFL.

Rang also will tour NFL training camps during the summer.

“It’s the best of both worlds, really,” Rang said. “It’s something I had to do. If I didn’t take it, how could I tell my students to go for their dreams if I didn’t go for mine?”

In his new role, Rang will approach this year’s draft from a different perspective. Instead of devoting a lot of his focus to players that are expected to be taken in the early rounds, he’ll look in another direction.

“From a CFL perspective, we’ll be looking at guys from the fifth round and later and also potential undrafted free agents,” Rang said. “Some of those guys might not be available to the CFL for a couple of years, but we want to have scouting reports on them so we’re ready with information on them when the time comes.”

It will make for a busy weekend for Rang as he scrambles to present his bosses with evaluations on players that may be available. But, just like in his days as a media member, he’ll be writing on deadline.

“I’ll be back in the classroom first thing Monday morning,” Rang said.

–By Pat Yasinskas, Field Level Media