NFL

NFL AM: League Announces Draft Attendees

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For the first time since 1964 the NFL Draft will be held outside the New York metropolitan area, in Chicago, and the two biggest names — perhaps the top two picks in the draft — won’t be in attendance.

The NFL announced 26 players who will attend Day 1 of the Draft on Thursday night April 30th at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, and quarterbacks Jameis Winston (Florida State) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon) were not among them.

Most of the top ranked players who will be in attendance are defensive players like Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams, Florida defensive end Dante Fowler and Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. On the offensive side, Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White and Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker will all be in attendance. Also conspicuous by his absence was Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.

The absence of several top prospects is notable as the NFL begins the process of mobilizing the draft after 50 consecutive years in New York. The brightest future stars were drawn in by the marketing opportunities associated with attending the draft, and the week of festivities leading up to it in New York. There aren’t many other cities that hold the same appeal.

Both Winston and Mariota made it clear in the past several weeks that they weren’t likely to attend. Winston noted at his pro day that his grandmother, who has type 2 diabetes can’t travel and so he will be watching from home with his family. Mariota similarly cited family as the reason for his absence, noting that he wanted to remain in his native Hawaii to uphold a family tradition. Cooper’s absence is a little more puzzling as there was no indication prior to the league’s announcement that the top wide receiver prospect would not attend.

The rest of the players attending are as follows: Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead, Louisiana State tackle La’el Collins, Alabama safety Landon Collins, Kentucky linebacker Bud Dupree, Florida State tackle Cameron Erving, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, Florida tackle D.J. Humphries, Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson, Connecticut cornerback Byron Jones, Mississippi State linebacker Bernardrick McKinney, Stanford tackle, Andrus Peat, UCF wide receiver Breshad Perriman, Missouri defensive end Shane Ray, Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton, Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith, Arizona State wide receiver Jaelen Strong and Duke guard Laken Tomlinson.

The dearth of top talent, particularly at quarterback, the league’s glamour position, can’t sit well with NFL officials. At face value, it may not seem like a big deal. Winston and Mariota’s faces will still be plastered all over the event on TV and there will likely be cameras at the homes of both players.

But behind the scenes, not having the draft’s two biggest names in town for media obligations, community events and marketing appearances is a hit to the NFL’s brand. We’ll see how the NFL reacts when the location of the 2016 Draft is announced. Don’t be surprised if the league heads back to New York and reassess their initial plans to take the draft on the road annually.

IKE TAYLOR CALLS IT A CAREER

Another member of the Steelers secondary that guided the team to two championships in the last decade has decided to hang up his cleats.

Long-time Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor followed in the footsteps of teammate Troy Polamalu and announced his retirement on Tuesday after 12 NFL seasons. Polamalu and Taylor were members of the same 2003 draft class, Polamalu as a first round pick, Taylor as a fourth rounder.

“We came in together, we were going out together,” Taylor told the Steelers website. “That is how we rock. We came in, we are leaving together. That is my loyalty to that man. I said once Troy does his, I will decide. That is what I owe to Troy.”

Though Polamalu was the star of the Pittsburgh defense over the last 12 years, Taylor was also a key piece of the Steelers secondary, the backend of a defensive unit that was the backbone of Pittsburgh’s success since 2003. That run included seven playoff appearances, three Super Bowl appearances and two titles.

Taylor played in 174 regular season games and 14 playoff games over his 12 seasons with the Steelers. He finishes his career with 14 interceptions, 133 passes defensed and 648 tackles. His most important contributions came early in his career when he had interceptions in back-to-back playoff games, the 2006 AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XL to help the Steelers win their first championship in 26 years. It was the first of two rings won by Taylor in his career.

The 34-year-old said he took great pride in not only wearing the black and gold but being able to say that he spent his whole career in those colors.

“Other than having my son, playing for the Steelers has been the best experience in my entire lifetime,” he said. “It is rare, in this day of free agency that is super rare to play for one team. For me to have this opportunity says a lot about how they felt about me, what I gave back to the organization. I wasn’t cut, I wasn’t released. It was just my contract was up and it was time to retire. If you want to have pride, well that is the kind of pride I have, being able to play my contract out.”

PETERSON REINSTATEMENT LOOMS

As of this morning, Adrian Peterson is officially eligible for reinstatement to the National Football League.

Peterson has been on the commissioner’s exempt list for much of the last eight months. After playing in the first game of the 2014 season, Peterson was placed on the rarely used list when he was indicted on felony child abuse charges last September.

He remained on the list for most of the season while the case played out. But when he eventually pled down the charges from felony to misdemeanor to avoid jail time, and entered a plea of no contest on a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell moved quickly to suspend him indefinitely.

That suspension held until January, when a federal judge voided an arbitrator’s decision to uphold the suspension. Peterson was then moved back to the commissioner’s exempt list and told he could apply for reinstatement April 15 should he meet a list of guidelines set forth by the league, including meeting with a league-assigned psychiatrist.

Peterson met those guidelines and last week he met with Goodell for the first time since his indictment last September, likely a precursor to his reinstatement. Whether that reinstatement comes today or several days down the line, it is coming and it will only heat up the talks surrounding Peterson, who despite being signed for the next three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings has made it clear through his agent that he wants to play elsewhere.

The Vikings have stated publicly they plan to keep Peterson but that is seen as simply a bargaining facade. Once Peterson is reinstated, they can begin earnest efforts to accommodate that request and move on from the Peterson saga themselves. The NFL Draft, now just two weeks away, represents a likely deadline for something to get done as Minnesota will be seeking compensation in the form of a draft pick or picks.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys