THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — So much is different about the Los Angeles Rams these days. They’re coming off their first playoff appearance in 13 years, with a star-studded roster that now rivals any in the NFL, and the expectations are greater than they have been in more than a decade. The city is buzzing, the players are excited.
But one key similarity remains: Aaron Donald is absent.
Donald didn’t attend the start of the Rams’ offseason program on Monday, as was the case last spring. The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year is still looking for a new contract, one that would make him one of the game’s highest-paid players. Now Donald is headed into the final year of his rookie contract, with no interest in showing up without a more lucrative deal.
“What I think we feel good about is the dialogue that has existed,” Rams coach Sean McVay said after his team’s workout. “We totally understand some of the other things that are going on with regards to wanting to get that deal. With respect to Aaron, we feel really good about where we’re at with that dialogue. This is a voluntary offseason program. You know he’s a guy that’s going to work hard on his off time, and that’s kind of where we’re at. We feel good about everything that’s going on with that.”
Donald, who remains in Pittsburgh, is set to make $6.89 million in what constitutes the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. The Rams can then keep him for up to three additional years with the franchise tag, but they have expressed a desire to sign Donald long term dating back to last year’s scouting combine.
At this year’s combine, Rams general manager Les Snead said he and Donald’s CAA-based representatives “came up with a nice timeline” for negotiations, a process that might pick up after the draft. The Rams have since taken up almost all of their cap space by adding cornerback Aqib Talib, interior lineman Ndamukong Suh and wide receiver Brandin Cooks. But Snead recently said that “none of it affects Aaron.”
Signing Donald to a long-term deal might actually give the Rams more space under this year’s salary cap, because the signing bonus is prorated for the life of the contract and would allow them to lower his 2018 base salary.
The Rams and Donald might be at a better place now, which might be evidenced by their exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to Donald’s hometown for their “Behind The Grind” documentary series. Donald likes playing for McVay and is excited about the direction of the team. The Rams, meanwhile, would be more willing to pay Donald now because he’s closer to free agency.
“I think the best thing that you have going is now there’s been a year of working together,” McVay said. “There’s a rapport; there’s a relationship that’s been established, and we’re in constant dialogue and communication. When this happened last year, we weren’t really involved in much communication between myself and Aaron. I think you feel good about at least knowing where he’s at.”
Locking Donald up may require at least $80 million guaranteed and an average yearly salary of more than $20 million.
Donald, Cooks and safety Lamarcus Joyner, who signed his franchise tag prior to Monday’s workout, can all be unrestricted free agents next offseason. The Rams would ideally sign all of them to long-term deals, though they face a July 16 deadline with Joyner.
Next year, their star running back, Todd Gurley, will be on the last year of his rookie contract, and the Rams might have to seriously consider a long-term deal for him, too. Gurley, represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, is now in the same situation Donald was in last year. But he didn’t give much thought to staying away from the team.
Asked if he would like to start contract negotiations now, Gurley smiled wide.
“I think anyone would love to talk about contract situations.”
Offseason workouts are voluntary under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players can only be fined for skipping the mandatory veteran minicamp, which for the Rams takes place June 12 to 14. Donald showed up to last year’s minicamp, but didn’t participate in any of the team activities. He then skipped all of training camp and the preseason schedule, staying away from the team until the day before the season opener.
Donald now has a much better feel for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, but his absence keeps the team from figuring out how Donald, Suh and Michael Brockers will work together on the same defensive line.
“I mean, we’ve dealt with it before, and we also know that it’s a business,” Brockers said. “You have the best defensive tackle in the league right now going through contract situations. I’ll kind of just leave it at that. I don’t really want to talk about if he’s here, if he’s not here. We obviously know that he’s putting in the work to get back in shape.”
New York Jets Super Bowl III rings turn 50
They’ve been lost, found, stolen, dropped, sold, imprisoned, bequeathed and refrigerated. They’ve been to the bottom of the ocean and the bottom of a toilet bowl. They’ve been photographed, duplicated and damaged.
They’ve traveled the world, made grown men cry and united strangers. They’ve inspired.
The Super Bowl III championship rings, which just turned 50, have enjoyed a wonderful life on the fingers and in the jewelry boxes of the mighty men who earned them Jan. 12, 1969 — the New York Jets.
These historic rings were the reward for a 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts, one of the biggest upsets in sports history. They’re elegant, but understated by today’s standards — 14-karat gold with approximately 2 carats in diamonds. And they almost never happened.
Frugal coach Weeb Ewbank preferred watches over rings, but he was talked out of it by a players committee led by quarterback Joe Namath. Feelings were chafed, but the passage of time has turned tension into joy.
It weighs only 1.5 ounces, but it carries so much history. It’s the first Super Bowl ring to actually use the words “Super Bowl.” It has the score of the game and the score of the AFL Championship Game (27-23 over the Oakland Raiders). It has Ewbank’s mantra: “Poise and Execution.”
Each ring also includes the player’s name and number. Remember that, because it’ll come in handy on the amazing journey you’re about to take.
Former Jets center John Schmitt lost his Super Bowl III ring and he tells the remarkable story about how he got it back 40 years later.
John Schmitt: Miracle at Waikiki
After the 1971 season, John Schmitt took his wife on a vacation to Hawai’i, where he spent a few hours surfing with legendary Hawai’ian entertainer Don Ho. Life was good for Schmitt. He was 29, a self-made player who worked his way up from anonymous free agent to Super Bowl champion. He was Namath’s center, and damn proud of it.
But that day on the shores of Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Schmitt sobbed in the sand.
As he dragged his board back to the surf shack, he noticed his Super Bowl ring was missing from his right hand. He searched the beach. Nothing. He rented a snorkel and fins, and swam in the choppy waters until his thick arms ached. Nothing. It was hopeless. He went from hang 10 to hangdog. The mighty Pacific had swallowed his prized possession.
“I want to tell you, I was in tears,” he said. “I was crying. I nearly drowned, trying to find it.”
Schmitt returned to his home in Long Island, New York, became a wealthy businessman after his playing career and replaced the ring with a duplicate. In the fall of 2011, he received a call from a Jets executive named Bob Parente, who began the conversation this way:
“Schmitty, are you sitting down?”
Through an implausible series of events, Schmitt’s ring was found in a small wooden box, which fell out of a shoe, which was tossed out of a closet, which housed the ring for 38 years.
Are you ready for this?
In 1973, a lifeguard named John Ernstberg found the ring while snorkeling in 25 feet of water at Waikiki; his eyes were attracted to a shiny object on the bottom of the sea. He didn’t know it was a famous ring, so he stashed it.
When the old lifeguard died in 2011, his great-niece went to his apartment to sort out his belongings. While rummaging through a closet, Cindy Saffery found the ring by happenstance. She threw out a bunch of shoes, one of which spit out the box. When she opened it, there it was — buried treasure.
Saffery took it to her aunt’s jewelry store in Honolulu, where they verified the authenticity of the diamonds. Still, they didn’t know what to make of its historical significance. They asked a friend from the local ESPN radio station to take a look. He saw “Schmitt” and “Jets,” and connected the dots.
There was a call to the NFL offices, followed by a call to the Jets, followed by the call to Schmitt, who was indeed sitting down.
“You talk about miracles,” he said, smiling. “If you ask any football people, that the Jets won the Super Bowl and got this ring, that’s one miracle. … We got it back, half a world away, 40 years later. That’s two miracles. Not many people get lucky enough to have two miracles.”
Wait, there’s more.
Schmitt met Cindy, her husband and two kids when they flew to New York on Oprah Winfrey’s dime. Winfrey’s company produced a reality TV show called “Lost and Found,” which jumped at the chance to tell the story of the former Super Bowl champ and the miracle ring.
“If you ask any football people, that the Jets won the Super Bowl and got this ring, that’s one miracle. … We got it back, half a world away, 40 years later. That’s two miracles. Not many people get lucky enough to have two miracles.”
With cameras rolling, the family, which refused to accept his $3,000 reward offer, returned the ring to Schmitt. Once again, he was in tears, just like that day on the beach in 1971. They hit it off and enjoyed a whirlwind weekend in New York.
They traveled by limo to a Jets game — 50-yard line seats — and watched his old team rally from an 11-point deficit to beat the San Diego Chargers. Afterward, they went for dinner in New York City.
“Before they leave, Samuel, the father — he’s about 6-foot-6, deep voice — he says, ‘You know, John, in Hawai’i, we’re now family and families speak every week, so I expect to speak with you every week,'” Schmitt said.
And so they do. There’s a phone call every Thursday night, and they’ve been doing it for seven years.
“We’ve become a big family,” said Schmitt, who has vacationed at their home in Hawai’i.
Make it three miracles.
Joe Namath: Broadway Joe’s 34th fumble
Namath was the star of the team, the star of professional football and a star in any room. He was so popular after the Super Bowl that Elvis Presley invited him backstage after a show in Las Vegas. Namath loved the glitz, but he wasn’t into the bling — well, at least not jewelry.
Other than an ID bracelet in junior high school — a present from his mother — Namath didn’t wear flashy rings or necklaces during his playing days. (Fur coats, different story.) Even now, at age 75, he keeps it simple — a St. Jude medal around his neck.
Until it’s time to be Broadway Joe.
“Our ring tells a story. And I think our story is pretty incredible.”
When he goes out to a function or a sporting event, he will reach into “my humble little vault” and pull out his senior football ring from Alabama, a gift from legendary coach Bear Bryant, or his Super Bowl ring, which might be the most photographed piece of jewelry this side of the crown jewels in England.
“I share it with people,” Namath said. “I let them see it. I take it off now and then and let a youngster, let a Jets fan wear it. Every time I take it off to give to a little guy or little girl, big guy or a big girl, I’m careful with it. Very, very careful with it, and I put it in their hand.”
The NFL record book says Namath fumbled 33 times in his career. He’s haunted by the 34th.
“I can remember the one time I dropped the ring and — man. Oh, my God, my stomach jumped,” he said. “It hit the ground and bounced. Oh, man. I picked it up to see if anything had come loose or was broken. And it survived. When I take it off and give it to somebody, I tell them to hold on to it because I dropped it once and, man, I don’t want to get it dropped again.
“Of all the times I’ve shared that ring with a Jets fan, I was the only one to fumble — the only one,” he said with a laugh. “The handoffs have all been good, except the one time I didn’t complete it properly.”
Namath still has his original ring, which he cherishes more than ever. He acknowledged how the Jets’ model has been dwarfed by the monstrous rings of recent vintage, but he’s cool with that.
“Our ring tells a story,” he said. “And I think our story is pretty incredible.”
Emerson Boozer: Frisky the cat
As a running back, Emerson Boozer was known for his catlike quickness. He was the master of the spin move, capable of embarrassing defenders.
About 10 years after winning the Super Bowl, he was on the receiving end of a stealthy move by a real feline.
One day at his Long Island home, Boozer noticed his ring was missing. He searched frantically for hours, room to room. It just disappeared, and it crushed him.
“He was upset because he always took special care and special precautions,” said Enez, his wife of 50 years.
A month later, Enez found the ring while cleaning behind the furnace in the laundry room. It didn’t take a lot of detective work to figure out how it got there. Their pet, Frisky, moved it from the bedroom.
A true cat burglar, that Frisky.
“He doesn’t wear it that often, but he treasures that ring,” Enez said of her husband, 75, who is battling health issues. “It’s a magnificent ring.”
Randy Rasmussen: Unplayable lie
“You haven’t heard my story?” Randy Rasmussen asked. “I’ve got the best one of all.”
It happened at a golf course in Norwalk, Connecticut, on an October day about 20 years ago. It started with a wardrobe dilemma.
When he got to the locker room, Rasmussen decided it was warm enough to wear shorts. He went to his car to get the golf shorts and, on the way back to the clubhouse, he discovered his ring was missing. His initial thought was that he didn’t take it to the course, so he and his golfing buddies searched the grounds only briefly.
“I wasn’t heartbroken right away because I said, ‘I’ll bet I left it at home,'” said the former offensive guard, who played more games (207) than any non-kicker in Jets history. “When I got home, I searched every chair, every corner, five times. Then you feel like an idiot because how can you lose something that valuable? But I did.”
The years passed: One … two … three. Nearly four years to the day of his infamous round, Rasmussen received a call from a stranger who had the ring.
It was a fellow golfer who had spotted a gleaming object in the dirt at the intersection of two sidewalks outside the clubhouse. It was caked in so much mud that it took two days of soaking in water before the inscription was legible. He saw Rasmussen’s name, and tracked him down.
“Think about this: The lawn mower had been going over and over it and over it,” Rasmussen said. “It could’ve chopped it up, but it came back in great condition. It’s incredible, to tell you the truth. Shocking.”
Rasmussen, figuring the ring was worth about $25,000 at the time, was blown away by the man’s kindness. He offered a cash reward, but the gentleman declined, preferring a husbands-and-wives dinner at a popular restaurant in nearby Greenwich. Rasmussen obliged, happily.
Now 73, Rasmussen is eternally grateful to have the ring in his possession. He called it a constant reminder of what they accomplished a half-century ago.
“I know we won,” he said, “because I’ve got the ring.”
Don Maynard: Chilled ice
Don Maynard was one of the best wide receivers of his generation — and maybe the most eccentric. Born in a dusty corner of Texas, he came to New York in the late 1950s (first as a member of the Giants) with long sideburns, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat.
He was different, so it should come as no surprise he stores his Super Bowl ring in a most unusual place.
“If the house caught on fire or something, ain’t nothing in the refrigerator will get burned,” Maynard said in his thick Texas drawl, explaining his odd storage choice.
The way he figures it, it’s safe from home invaders, too.
“Nobody ever looks in the refrigerator unless somebody is hungry,” he said, not trying to be funny.
Open Maynard’s fridge, and you’ll find milk, eggs and glittering diamonds.
Maynard, 83, lives a simple life in El Paso, Texas. The Pro Football Hall of Famer always keeps work gloves in his hip pockets, looking to do chores around the house. He doesn’t wear his ring that often because he works with his hands outside, shoveling, hammering or raking. During his playing days, he worked as a plumber during the offseason.
Just because he doesn’t wear the ring doesn’t mean he doesn’t cherish it.
“It means everything,” his wife, Anna, said. “He’s very careful with it and very proud of it. Nobody gets that ring unless you take a finger with it.”
Buddy Ryan: Rex wins the draw
The late Buddy Ryan won two Super Bowl rings during his illustrious coaching career. The second came as the defensive coordinator of the celebrated 1985 Chicago Bears. The first came with the Jets, when he was a 37-year-old assistant in his first NFL gig.
This presented a problem when he sat down to make out his last will and testament. With two sons coaching football, Ryan decided to make them draw straws for first dibs. Rex won and, without hesitation, took the Jets. His twin brother, Rob, got the Bears.
“That’s the team our family will always identify with,” Rex said of the Jets, whom he coached from 2009 to 2014. “My father loved that team. The fans obviously identify him with the Bears more than they do with the Jets, but I think he knew the importance of that game. Weeb told him, ‘You have to make a difference here.’ And I guess he did.”
Buddy Ryan, a tough SOB who fought in the Korean War, died in 2016. A big part of his legacy now lives on Rex’s ring finger.
Ewbank, a Hall of Fame coach who died in 1998, bequeathed his Super Bowl ring to a grandson, Tom Spenceley, who hung around training camp as a teenager in the 1960s. Ewbank’s defensive coordinator was Walt Michaels, 89, who still has his ring sans the original diamonds. They were reset a long time ago in a gift to his wife, Betty.
“I guess he decided she’d wear the diamonds better than he would,” said Walt Michaels Jr., who owns a duplicate, as do his three siblings.
Mark Smolinski: Do the math
Mark Smolinski went out on top. After Super Bowl III, he retired from football and became a high school math teacher in his hometown of Petoskey, Michigan, a small lakeside town. He was a celebrity in the school, dazzling the students with his bling. It was too dazzling.
“I’d be at the blackboard and the kids were more interested in the ring than the class,” said Smolinski, 79, the Jets’ special-teams captain. “After a year, I just took the ring off. Whatever I was teaching, they were paying more attention to the ring. I didn’t need that. I needed more attention on mathematics.”
Smolinski still wears the ring on special occasions, but he retired it to a place where it won’t cause any distractions.
His sock drawer.
Earl Christy: Super sale
Earl Christy returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl III, but never touched the ball again — ever. He was released the following summer, marking the end of his football career at age 26. It stung the team because Christy, with his infectious personality, was popular in the locker room.
In 2013, Christy sold his Super Bowl ring for $53,775, according to Heritage Auctions. Why? He said he’s not bitter. He loves that team and still attends the reunions. So why part with such a treasured piece of memorabilia?
“I had a history of losing it,” he said.
Christy’s young daughter once dropped it in the toilet and flushed. Luckily, it was too heavy to go down the drain. Another time, it came off his finger in the snow. Not wanting to chance it, he ordered a duplicate and placed the original in a safe box. Then he got to thinking: If it’s just sitting in a box, why not get money for it?
At least one other player sold his ring — former defensive end Verlon Biggs, who died of leukemia at the age of 51. His widow sold it to a New Orleans jewelry store, which sold it to Heritage Auctions in 2016 for an undisclosed amount.
Christy said he doesn’t regret his decision.
“I wouldn’t have sold it if I couldn’t make a duplicate,” he said. “I’m not a materialistic person. The ring is great, but it’s more about the fellowship, the memories and the joy of winning.”
Gerry Philbin: Super sale that wasn’t
Gerry Philbin wears it every day, which explains the worn lettering, so you can imagine his shock when he received a phone call nearly 20 years ago from a concerned friend wondering why he had sold his beloved ring.
A New York newspaper reported that Philbin, one of the Jets’ defensive stars, sold it for $12,000 via an auction house in Manhattan. Philbin, living in Florida, quickly figured out what had happened.
Years earlier, he took his ring to a Manhattan jeweler to have it resized. It was out of his sight for two or three days, during which time he suspects a copy was made and later sold after his jeweler friend had died.
Furious, Philbin contacted a New York attorney with the hope of suing the auction house, but the suit never materialized. To this day, it still bothers him. Sell his ring? Not a chance. He recalled a post-Super Bowl conversation with then-commissioner Pete Rozelle, who told Philbin he’d appreciate the intrinsic value of the ring long after his Super Bowl winnings were spent.
“It’s something that has no price tag,” said Philbin, who always shuns memorabilia dealers. “It’s priceless.”
Larry Grantham: Freedom’s ring
Larry Grantham enjoyed a storybook football career, from his legendary days at Ole Miss to defensive captain of the Jets, but his life away from the game was hard. He was an alcoholic who once spent a night in jail after being part of a five-car crash when he was drunk.
“My Super Bowl ring got me in the front door with clients,” he told Jerry Izenberg of NJ.com. “My drinking sent me staggering out the back door. I verbally abused my kids.”
Later in life, Grantham battled throat cancer and underwent hernia surgery, resulting in medical bills he couldn’t pay. Desperate, he put his Super Bowl ring up for sale with an online auction house in 2009.
“The ring meant everything to him, so I’m sure that was a tough decision that he struggled with,” said his son, Jamie Grantham. “The Super Bowl ring never left his hand. He wore it all the time. He was very proud of it and willing to share it.”
Struggles notwithstanding, Larry Grantham’s heart was filled with goodness, and that goodness resulted in the return of his ring.
Freedom House, a New Jersey drug-and-alcohol treatment center he had supported for more than a decade, found out about the online auction and immediately raised $18,000 in an effort to buy back the ring for Grantham. When the president of the auction house heard the backstory, he took down the ring from its website and overnighted it to Grantham. The $18,000 went toward his medical bills.
Grantham, who died in 2017 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was sober for the final 33 years of his life. He raised $1.3 million for Freedom House, holding an annual golf tournament that drew many of his former teammates. He often spoke to the patients, telling old football stories and letting them hold his Super Bowl ring. Eight years ago, the center dedicated a wing to Grantham.
These days, his ring resides in a safe-deposit box in Alabama, not far from his son’s house. Those who know Grantham never will forget his reaction when it was returned after its brief stay in online limbo. The old linebacker, known for his gritty toughness, broke down and cried.
Winston Hill: The blind side
Winston Hill’s ring was stolen out of his car on a drive from New York to Colorado in 1970. He and his wife had stopped for a night at a motel, and they left the ring and her Super Bowl pendant — given to the players’ wives — in a suitcase in the trunk.
Shrugging it off, he replaced the ring and used it for the rest of his life as a tool to teach the values he treasured — effort and commitment. The team chaplain during his playing days, Hill enjoyed speaking to large groups and sharing his ring. His daughters, Hovlyn Hill May and Heather Hill, joked that strangers wore it more than he did.
“He used his fame from the Super Bowl win to connect with people and inspire them,” Hovlyn said.
Best known as Namath’s blindside protector, Hill was one of the most revered players on the team. He was deeply spiritual, unselfish and soft-spoken … until game day, when he morphed into one of the most dominant left tackles of his generation.
Hill wasn’t into individual accolades and he certainly wasn’t a fan of jewelry, but he knew the ring could help others. When he spoke to kids, he urged them to find their “inner ring.” In 2014, he spoke at Valley High School in tiny Gilcrest, Colorado, where Hovlyn teaches. A homecoming crowd saw the ring and heard his message.
In November 2015, a few months before he died, Hill was honored by his alma mater, Weldon High in Gladewater, Texas. As a young boy, he couldn’t play football because there was no team for blacks in the segregated town. That same school now has a wall mural of Hill, Super Bowl hero.
That night, he addressed a packed stadium, then gave his ring to one of the players, who passed it to the next player. It went through the entire Weldon team.
“It was always fun to see those little fingers in that giant ring,” Heather said.
Fittingly, Heather Hill, an accomplished soprano, sang the national anthem Oct. 14 at MetLife Stadium, where the Jets celebrated the 50th anniversary of their only Super Bowl team. On the field, she was surrounded by her father’s former teammates.
She wore her father’s old jersey, No. 75, beneath a green and white Jets jacket. Around her neck was a gold chain. Hanging from the chain, between the 7 and 5 …
Look closely …
His Super Bowl ring.
49ers have plenty to gain coaching at Senior Bowl – San Francisco 49ers Blog
Upon taking over as head coach and general manager of the San Francisco 49ers, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch made it clear that they intended to hold the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft only in that first year after succeeding Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke.
When: April 25-27
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
How to watch: ABC/ESPN/ESPN App
• Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0: Murray’s options »
• Draft order: Picks 1-28 set »
• Tracking underclassman declarations »
• McShay’s Mock Draft 1.0: Going 1-32 »
• Meet the 2019 quarterback class »
• Priorities for teams with top-10 picks »
• Kiper’s Big Board » | McShay’s Top 32 »
• More NFL draft coverage »
The hope, of course, was that the Niners would never again lose enough to find themselves in such lofty draft position. But here we are, just two years later, and the Niners again find themselves with the No. 2 overall pick. The bad news is that means the 49ers are coming off another dismal season, this time in the form of a 4-12 record.
The good news? San Francisco will get another crack at landing an elite player via the draft. What’s more, since Shanahan and Lynch are incumbents, they will have a bit of a head start on identifying that player. The Niners coach the South team in this week’s Senior Bowl.
For Shanahan, who has been on staffs that coached a Senior Bowl twice previously, that means an opportunity to dive deeper than the tape and get to know some of this year’s top prospects.
“It’s not about the athletes and stuff because you can see that on tape pretty well,” Shanahan said. “You can see that when we work them out. It’s about being around people. It’s hard in the interview process to fully get to know someone. It’s hard to get tricked when you’re with someone for seven straight days.”
Although most of the top prospects in this year’s draft are underclassmen, there figures to be plenty of talent at this year’s Senior Bowl. With that in mind, here’s a look at what the 49ers have to gain and what they’ll be watching closely this week in Mobile, Alabama:
Sorting through a strong class of edge rushers
The news that Kentucky edge rusher Josh Allen dropped out was a disappointment for the Niners, especially since he would have been on the South roster and was the only player slated to be in Mobile who would be in consideration for the No. 2 overall pick. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be edge-rushing talent for the Niners to get to know this week.
Early projections for this class indicate that edge rusher is one of the strongest and deepest positions.
“I think it’s strong there,” Lynch said. “That’s clear. There’s good pass-rushers in this draft. I think that’s a strength of this draft. … Everyone is looking for those guys, so I think we’re excited.”
The question then becomes how the 49ers will sort through them. They’ll get an up-close look at two of the draft’s more intriguing outside rushers this week with Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson on the South roster. ESPN’s Todd McShay ranks Sweat as the No. 21 player in the 2019 draft class, with Ferguson checking in at No. 30. Sweat and Ferguson are just two of the eight players McShay ranks in his top 32.
Boston College’s Zach Allen, who appears on McShay’s list at No. 22, is on the North roster.
Between now and the draft, much will be made of this class of edge rushers. Opinions will vary. For the Niners, the chance to begin that process with a close look should only help in the evaluation.
More middle-round talent?
The Niners’ first two drafts under Shanahan brought mixed results at the top. Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster, first-round choices in 2017, have mostly been disappointing, though tackle Mike McGlinchey, the 2018 first-round choice, was quite good as a rookie.
While the jury remains out on those two draft classes as a whole, the Niners have had some success finding talent in the middle rounds. Tight end George Kittle looks like the steal of the 2017 draft after San Francisco scooped him up in the fifth round. Last year, the Niners found linebacker Fred Warner in the third round, and he immediately stepped in as a starter in the middle.
Warner played in last year’s Senior Bowl, while quarterback C.J. Beathard and receiver Trent Taylor took part in the 2017 edition. It’s reasonable to think that the additional exposure to prospects while serving as the coaching staff for the South could help uncover the 49ers’ next middle-round gem, especially considering that many of the top seniors might have to wait until Day 2 or 3 to come off the board.
Among the most interesting names on the South roster to watch: Buffalo receiver Anthony Johnson, South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel, Oklahoma guard Ben Powers, Alabama guard Ross Pierschbacher and Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram.
Keeping up with quarterbacks
No, the 49ers don’t need a quarterback, and they almost certainly won’t use a draft pick on one unless it comes very late and the value is too much to pass up. But that doesn’t mean they won’t have at least mild interest in what’s happening with the quarterbacks in Mobile.
Neither Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins nor Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray will be participating, but Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke’s Daniel Jones both will be, and they are considered potential first-round picks. The better they perform, the more valuable the Niners’ No. 2 pick becomes. It’s unlikely that Lock or Jones will garner consideration from a team offering a boatload of picks to the Niners in exchange for the No. 2 selection, but if the 49ers find a partner to trade down with, it would only benefit them to have multiple quarterbacks go in front of whatever spot they end up picking.
As a bonus, the ability of Shanahan and his staff to get the most from their quarterbacks, even in a short period of time, could help boost the stock of the signal-callers on the South team (West Virginia’s Will Grier, Washington State’s Gardner Minshew, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson). Again, the more quarterbacks who go in front of the Niners’ picks, the better the Niners’ chances of getting a player they covet.
Darren McFadden, former Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys RB, arrested in drive-thru
McFadden, 31, was taken into custody early Monday morning after employees at a McKinney, Texas, Whataburger reported a sleeping man inside a vehicle in the drive-thru lane.
McFadden is facing charges of driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest, search or transport.
Selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft by the Raiders, McFadden ran for 5,421 yards and 28 touchdowns over 10 seasons, with his final three coming as a member of the Cowboys.
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