Let's face it: The 2013 draft wasn't the sexiest quarterback pool from a talent standpoint. (From a looks standpoint, who knows? Ladies?) But 2014 has a chance to be a fascinating pool at the position. We have heard plenty about Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, the way-too-early odds-on favorite for the first pick, and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, the highly debated bad boy who might or might not make himself available. And we'll have plenty of time to debate where exactly Mr. Football should be drafted, if and when he declares. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is open for business ] That said, the remainder of the class holds quite a bit of intrigue and ability, too.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Panthers safety Robert Lester said he isn't angry at the teams that passed him over in the NFL draft.
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney hasn't looked like Superman his first couple games. And Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has. Clowney's so-so start forced folks who desperately want to be heard to claim he was overrated based on one highlight hit. All that shows is that they saw exactly one play of Clowney, an amazing talent, during last season. [Play fantasy football on the go: Live/mock drafts, real-time scoring and more on iPhone, iPad and Android ] Opposing teams are staying far away from Clowney, making sure they avoid his side. He was in and out of the lineup in South Carolina's first game and he looked tired, but there were reports he was battling an illness. Part of the problem with judging Clowney solely on stats like sacks is it doesn't take into account that teams can game plan to avoid a defensive end. If you paid attention to Clowney before he blew up Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl, you know he's a legitimately fearsome defensive end. NFL teams understand what he brings to the table. However, that's not to say Bridgewater wouldn't also be a smart choice for whatever NFL team gets the first pick.
When the San Francisco 49ers lost, in overtime, to the New York Giants in the 2011 NFC championship game, one area of the roster that the team desperately needed to improve was the wide receiver position. In that 20-17 loss, 49ers wide receivers were targeted just nine times, with Michael Crabtree accounting for the only reception. That catch gained three yards on a 3rd-and-5 play from the Giants' 10-yard line with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, forcing the 49ers to kick a game-tying field goal instead of having another crack at a potential go-ahead touchdown. The 49ers were aggressive in upgrading the receiver position last offseason. Mario Manningham and Randy Moss were signed in free agency and the team used their first round pick in the 2012 NFL draft on Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who may need general manager Trent Baalke's help to get a roster spot in 2013, writes Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News.
Another day around NFL training camps, two more season-ending injuries to wide receivers. • The Philadelphia Eagles announced that wide receiver Arrelious Benn suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during a special teams drill in practice. Benn was acquired in March from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who picked Benn in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft. Benn's rookie season was ended with a torn ACL in the same left knee. Benn is the second Eagles receiver to go down for the season. Earlier in camp, they lost starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, also to a torn ACL. Losing Maclin and Benn leave the Eagles with DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant and the Riley Cooper as the only experienced receivers on the roster. • San Diego Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander suffered a torn right ACL during Tuesday's practice. Alexander went undrafted out of Missouri in 2010 largely due to concerns about his knees, which had undergone multiple surgeries in college and a few months before the draft. In 2012, his first season with the Chargers, Alexander caught 37 passes for 658 yards and seven touchdowns and ranked 16th in Football Outsiders' receiving DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) metric. Alexander, 25, was scheduled to earn $1.323 million in non-guaranteed base salary as a restricted free agent this season. Alexander was projected to start opposite Malcom Floyd, a role that will now go to either Vincent Brown, Keenan Allen or possibly Robert Meachem, a free agent bust in 2012 whose $5 million base salary this season is fully guaranteed. • The Eagles held a joint practice with the New England Patriots on Tuesday, a practice that also featured a scuffle between Eagles cornerback Cary Williams and Patriots second-round wide receiver Aaron Dobson. Bill Belichick and Chip Kelly had lengthy discussions in the days leading up to these practices and one of the rules was if you fight, you sit, regardless of who started it. "Someone got in extracurriculars they were going to be done for the day," said Kelly. "It was one way we made sure that didn't continue. So I don't know exactly name-wise who it was for them, but he sat and our guys sat. That was one thing we agreed upon. We didn't want this to turn into a wrestling match. Both of our squads knew before it happened. If you're going to get in a skirmish, you're going to sit." • New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will return from his June back surgery when he's ready , not when the team's front office says he should, writes Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. With Pierre-Paul nearing the end of his rookie contract, the Giants may have no choice but to treat lightly in their dealings with the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end. • On his way towards earning a starting job last summer, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson played a lot in the 2012 preseason. As the starter, Wilson likely won't play as much in this year's preseason as he did last year, but Wilson acknowledged how important staying in the game from a mental perspective is to his continued development. "You know last season, obviously I played a lot. But this preseason, I’m still going to be in on every play even if I’m not in the game," said Wilson. "I want to play a lot, but obviously coach is going to make that decision. In terms of being in the game, whether I’m on the sideline or in the game, I’m going to be paying attention and making sure that I understand what’s going on so that I can get that many more plays. If there’s 75 plays in the game I want to get every single one of the snaps, every one of them. I think that’s the focus that I have to have on a daily basis." • Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is not writing left tackle Bryan Bulaga (torn ACL) off for the season, but the team apparently has a very capable option in fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. • Potentially bad news for the Atlanta Falcons: Right tackle Mike Johnson was carted off the field with a very serious left leg injury, reports D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Like the Packers, the Falcons have a talented replacement in 2012 third-round pick Lamar Holmes, who did not play much as a rookie. • The Cleveland Browns announced that they have signed long-snapper Christian Yount to a four-year contract extension. Yount has appeared in 28 games over the last two seasons, including 21 games for the Browns, who signed the former undrafted free agent out of UCLA as a street agent late in the 2011 season. Yount had been scheduled to earn $555,000 in non-guaranteed base salary this season and is now signed through the 2017 season.
The NFL season is approaching and Shutdown Corner is previewing all 32 teams, counting down our power rankings with one team a day until No. 1 is unveiled on Aug. 4, when the preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. Go to our Facebook page after you read the preview for all airing of grievances; we’ll have a daily discussion there to go with each preview. In 2011, the San Francisco 49ers defied expectations by winning 13 games and advancing to the NFC championship game, which they lost, in overtime, to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The 49ers' turnaround in Jim Harbaugh's first season was due to his conservative, mistake-free approach on offense and a Vic Fangio-coordinated defense that was impossible to run against, created turnovers and wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. More of the same was expected in 2012 as the 49ers doubled down on Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 NFL draft who had overcome injuries and repeated benchings to, with the help of the 2011 lockout that wiped out that offseason, win the starting job and be the game manager Harbaugh needed him to be for the 49ers to have success in his first season on the job. The 49ers were humming along in 2012, as well, entering their Week 9 bye with a 6-2 record. In Week 10, Smith sustained a concussion in a 24-24 tie to the St. Louis Rams and he was replaced by Colin Kaepernick, a 2011 second-round pick out of Nevada. The rest is history. With Kaepernick under center, or in the Pistol formation, the 49ers became a much harder team for opposing defenses to prepare for. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Kaepernick's threat as a runner gave the 49ers a dangerous option attack. Kaepernick himself ran for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in the final seven-plus games as the 49ers' top quarterback. In the divisional round of playoffs, Kaepernick embarrassed the Green Bay Packers with 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 45-31 win. In the NFC championship against the Atlanta Falcons, Kaepernick was the focus of the defense, which allowed Frank Gore and rookie LaMichael James to combine for 124 yards and three touchdowns, including two by Gore that erased a 10-point deficit in the second half and propelled the 49ers into Super Bowl XLVII and a meeting with the John Harbaugh-coached Baltimore Ravens. The 49ers would come out on the losing of the "Harbaugh Bowl", but if it were not for Kaepernick, the score would not have been as close as it was. Trailing 28-6 early in the third quarter, Kaepernick was excellent in the second half, passing for 163 yards and a touchdown, rushing for 46 yards and a 15-yard touchdown that pulled the 49ers to within two points of the Ravens with 10 minutes to play. That would be as close as the 49ers would get as their final offensive possession would end with three straight incomplete pass attempts to Michael Crabtree and the confetti would rain down on the Ravens and the older of the Harbaugh brothers. As disappointing as the first Super Bowl loss in franchise history was, the 49ers have every reason to expect to be in position to win it all this season. They have a great young quarterback in Kaepernick. Versatile offensive weapons in Gore, James, Vernon Davis and Crabtree, if he can return from a torn Achilles. The 49ers have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, an active defensive front featuring the best four starting linebackers in the league and Harbaugh leads an outstanding coaching staff that includes Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, both of whom could receive head coaching opportunities next offseason. It won't be easy — they will face stiff competition from the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West — but the 49ers have every right to enter the 2013 season as the favorites to win not only the NFC West, but the entire NFC and could very well open up Levi's Stadium by unveiling a Super Bowl XLVIII champions banner.
The Green Bay Packers were tired of their inconsistent running game over the last few seasons, so they looked to do something about it with authority in the 2013 NFL draft. General manager Ted Thompson and his staff selected Alabama running back Eddie Lacy in the second round, and went back to the well in the fourth by picking UCLA speedster Johnathan Franklin. Lacy was known to be a power back more than anything for the Crimson Tide – while he did have some second-level speed, his primary attribute was his ability to bull through at the line and gain those tough yards. Judging from his first preseason in the NFL, and a picture making the rounds on the Internet (Lacy was trending on Twitter on Monday evening as a result), it looked like Lacy had been bulling through some of his teammates at the training table.
The "Shutdown Countdown" is chugging along. In addition to previewing each team, Shutdown Corner will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Houston Texans. 2013 Adjusted Cap Number : $125.046 million (21st in the NFL in 2013) 2013 Cap Room Remaining : $1.447 million (30th in the NFL, as of July 26) Best Bargain : J.J. Watt is the best defensive player in the league and is coming off a season where he led the NFL in sacks (20.5), posting 39 tackles for a loss, 43 quarterback hits, forced four fumbles and had 16 passes defensed. As the No. 11 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the year that compensation for incoming rookies was sacrificed in the new collective bargaining agreement, Watt has earned $7.938 million over the first two seasons of a four-year, $11,237,498 contract. Watt earned less than $900,000 during his outstanding 2012 season and will earn just $1,396,590 in base salary in 2013, which ranks 49th among current defensive end contracts. The player chosen with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Anthony Davis, signed a five-year deal worth up to $26.5 million and earned $14.129 million in the first two seasons of his contract. Potential Camp Cap Casualty : There are a couple of expensive veterans over 30 who meet the criteria, but are safe as the Texans look to take the next step and advance deep into the playoffs in 2013. Left guard Wade Smith made the Pro Bowl last season, but Duane Brown and Chris Myers had a lot to do with that. Smith turned 32 in the offseason and if the Texans had someone who could legitimately push him for a starting job, the $3 million in non-guaranteed base salary he's scheduled to earn this season would have him on the chopping block. Veterans Andre Johnson, Johnathan Joseph, Antonio Smith, Owen Daniels and Danieal Manning will combine to earn $32 million in cash this season as each has a base salary over $4 million. The Texans could restructure a few of those contracts to create cap space, but with all but Joseph over 30, they may not want to create further cap issues down the road by renegotiating those deals. If the Texans want a little more space, quarterback Matt Schaub could provide some relief. Schaub's $7.25 million base salary is fully guaranteed, so the team could reduce his salary to the league minimum ($840,000), convert the remaining $6.41 million to a signing bonus that is prorated over the remaining four years of his contract and create $4.8075 million in cap space. The downside to that is that Schaub's cap numbers would rise to over $16 million in 2014, over $18 million in 2015 and over $20 million in 2016.
The "Shutdown Countdown" is chugging along. In addition to previewing each team, "Shutdown Corner" will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Washington Redskins. 2013 Adjusted Cap Number : $107.969 million (lowest in the NFL in 2013) 2013 Cap Room Remaining : $1.413 million (2nd-lowest amount of available cap space, as of July 25) Best Bargain : The Redskins drafted Alfred Morris with the third pick in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft, a draft slot that came with a $123,100 signing bonus, the only guaranteed portion of a four-year, $2.2231 million contract. Morris earned $390,000 in base salary in a rookie season where he ran for 1,613 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns (both marks were second in the NFL) while playing in over 70 percent of the team's offensive snaps. Due to his playing-time percentage, and low cap number, Morris received $211,431 in "performance-based pay" earlier this year. Morris is expected to play a big role in the Redskins' offense this season, which means he'll likely earn another big bonus check in 2014 as he will earn the league minimum base salary ($480,000) with a $510,775 cap number that ranks 102nd among current running back contracts. To put those numbers into context, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the only player who had more rushing yards than Morris last season, will earn $661,765 per week in 2013. Peterson earned $470,588 per week last year. Potential Camp Cap Casualty : Last March, the Redskins signed wide receiver Josh Morgan to a two-year, $11.5 million contract. Morgan earned $7.5 million in the first year of the deal and had a team-high 48 receptions for 510 yards and two touchdowns. Injuries limited Morgan's effectiveness down the stretch, which saw him catch just one pass (for zero yards) on 11 targets in the regular season finale and the wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Morgan underwent three surgeries (right ankle, both hands) this offseason and is set to earn $3.8 million in currently non-guaranteed base salary this season. Two other possibilities are Santana Moss and cornerback Josh Wilson, who both took pay cuts at the start of the 2013 league year. Moss is due $2 million in salary and has $450,000 in "per game active" roster bonuses and up to $2 million in incentives in his reworked deal. Wilson slashed his pay down to $2 million and has $500,000 in incentives. Of the $4.45 million in cash in the Moss and Wilson's deals, zero is guaranteed.
RENTON, Wash. -- When the Seattle Seahawks traded their 2013 first-round pick and two other picks to the Minnesota Vikings for the services of receiver Percy Harvin, and then signed Harvin to a six-year, $67 million contract with $25 million guaranteed in March, it was thought that the Florida alum would add a matchup nightmare from multiple positions that few defenses could deal with. Given Seattle's stocked status in the running game, at the quarterback position, and in their receiver corps, the move didn't make sense unless you understood that Harvin can line up all over the formation, presenting pass coverages with options that would always be wrong. Harvin was playing at an MVP level early in the 2012 season for the Vikings, but he suffered a ligament tear in his ankle, and missed the second half of Minnesota's campaign. Harvin has played all 16 games in a regular season just once since the Vikings selected him with the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, and that issue may have come home to roost for Harvin's new team. On the first day of training camp, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had to explain that Harvin may have a labrum tear in his hip, and the team is still determining whether Harvin would require surgery. Carroll said that Harvin suffered the injury recently, which would jibe with his performances during the Seahawks' OTAs, when Harvin looked faster than anyone else on the field. On Thursday, Harvin was once again on the field, but not the way the coaches would like to see him -- he was limited to talking with teammates instead of impressing them with his agility and ability. In Harvin's place, the guy who managed to do that was third-year receiver Golden Tate, who's in his contract year with Seattle, and would seem to benefit greatly from any Harvin absence. Carroll and general manager John Schneider took Tate out of Notre Dame in the second round of the 2010 draft, they saw him as a bit of a Harvin clone -- a guy who could attack a defense in multiple ways. Carroll had loved Harvin's athletic potential since he tried to recruit him to USC, and Tate was potentially the answer to Carroll's "Well, Percy Harvin's already in the NFL" problem. Tate struggled through his first two seasons, but the light came on in 2012. He proved to be a very valuable receiver outside, but a pure dynamo in the slot. So much so that when I asked Carroll on Thursday about Tate's true value to the team (Harvin's injury or not), the coach didn't hesitate to talk Tate up. "He's a tremendous football player. It did take him a while to catch on to the expectations of what's going on around here, but it wasn't ever because he wasn't talented or a good athlete. A year ago, he started fitting in when we made a decision to make him make the plays, give him the ball, and make him be a factor. It really made him a difference. Now, we have no hesitation about featuring him and doing all kinds of things with him. He's a very, very good player, and it's all ahead of him. He's just now getting started in that sense." So, the obvious follow-up question was, if the need arises, is Tate ready to take Harvin's place as that multi-position weapon?

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