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NFL Mock Draft 9.0: The final countdown


NFL Mock Draft 9.0: The final countdown

By midnight Wednesday it will be officially time for all mock drafters that participate in the main industry contest to put down their pens and submit their final versions. Round one of the NFL Draft takes place Thursday night in Chicago. If half the trade rumors prove true and the draft mirrors the start of this year's free agency, expect a wild, wild night.


At this point seemingly every angle with the draft has been examined and pondered, especially with the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens on CSNwashington.com and CSNbaltimore.com. Since this is my last chance for final thoughts...

  • Redskins GM Scot McCloughan stating this week that he wanted 10 or so picks shouldn't have come as a shock. Perfect world, he finds a way to trade down from the No. 5 overall selection. That shouldn't be a problem if Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams are available. Don't hold your breath for Mariota, but Williams remains in play if the Jaguars take Florida pass rusher Dante Fowler and the Raiders follow most projections by selecting a wide receiver fourth overall.
  • As for potential trade down partners, the Falcons (8th) make plenty of sense because the drop isn't much and still puts the Redskins ahead of the Giants and Rams, two teams that are thought to be in the market for offensive linemen. Based on McCloughan's talk of wanting "Big, tough nasty strong guys," decent chance that's the direction he goes should the Redskins make a deal first.
  • If the Ravens are truly in the receiver or corner mindset that most projections suggest, the best player available from those two spots is likely a pass defender rather than a pass catcher. There could be four wide outs selected in the first 12-16 picks, but the second corner probably doesn't go off the board until the second half of the draft.
  • We all know better than to believe anything anybody says about the draft this week, but I'm buying into the idea of the Browns trying to move up. Between Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon, not to mention most off the last four decades, the impressions of the organization is hardly ideal. Making a splashy move won't 100 percent change that, but the Browns certainly need to change the narrative, not to mention find a quarterback. Cleveland might want the fifth pick if Alabama wide receiver Amari Copper is available.
  • Trickiest teams to project and therefore the ones who could truly shake up the first round: New York Jets, St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints.
  • Trickiest players to project: Randy Gregory, La'el Collins, Shane Ray, Andrus Peat, Dorial Green-Beckham, Jaelen Strong



  • The extreme, trade-heavy mock. This was a fun exercise looking at a scenario where all the trades plus prospect risers and fallers happen at once, but within reason.

MORE NFL DRAFT: Redskins pre-draft depth chart, offense

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

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After breakout 2017 season, Ravens running back Alex Collins isn't getting too comfortable

This time last year, running back Alex Collins wasn't a part of the Baltimore Ravens.

After being released by the Seattle Seahawks at the end of the 2017 preseason, the Ravens placed the 23-year-old on their practice squad, and by Week 2, Collins was already making plays.

As the season progressed, Collins found himself as the Ravens' top running back. He finished 2017 as the team's leading rusher with 973 yards while Javorius "Buck" Allen followed behind him with 591 yards.

If the 2018 NFL season began today, Collins would likely be the Ravens' starter, which is quite ironic considering the fate of his 2017 preseason.

"I always go back to where I started and where I am now, and I use that as my motivation," Collins said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"No matter the day, no matter how tired I am, I think to myself, at this time last year, I didn’t know my position, where I was, where I’d end up. So just having that security behind it is definitely my motivation to keep it this way and keep pushing forward and keep trying to get better instead of being complacent.”

Over the course of 15 games, Collins proved he had the strength and speed to make an impact on the team after Danny Woodhead suffered a hamstring injury on the first drive of the Ravens' Week 1 game and Kenneth Dixon sat out the entire season with a torn meniscus. 

While job security is something we all strive for, Collins isn't getting too comfortable with the hierarchy. 

“I don’t want to say necessarily ‘comfortable,’ because when I use that word, it makes me feel like I’m too relaxed and lackadaisical," Collins said.

"I’m more focused. I don’t want to get comfortable. I don’t want the team or our group to get comfortable, because we just want to get better every day. So, in the position I am, it’s a great feeling, but I’m always pushing myself to be better.”

While Collins has set personal goals for himself – like a 1,000-yard season – he is equally as focused on making the Ravens backfield one of the best groups in the National Football League. 

“I expect that," Collins said on being the Ravens' starter.

"I would hope that all the other running backs expect [to be the starter] as well, and that’s what kind of drives our group – when we all know that we have that capability to be the No. 1 guy, and we’re out competing and push each other and try to be the best. No matter who’s out there during the game, you’ll see a productive play out of that person. So, I have that mindset. I want to be the guy. I have that fire in me, and I hope [that is] as well as the other running backs, as I encouraged them as well.”

Collins noted that he's coming into training camp a bit heavier. He added five pounds to his 200-pound frame "just to see how that feels," but is still maintaining the stamina and strength he's always had. 

Collins – who was one of several veterans released from practice early as the team begins to adjust their way into the extended preseason – finished his media availability with a friendly warning to fantasy football owners: "Draft me now before it’s too late, guys."


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Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice


Joe Flacco receives high praise from teammates after first training camp practice

Ravens football is back and so is Joe Cool.

The team’s first training camp practice took place Thursday afternoon, and Joe Flacco’s teammates – from offensive to defensive players – mentioned how laser focused the 10-year veteran is.

"Joe always has a lot of personality,” running back Alex Collins said via SB Nation’s Baltimore Beatdown.

“He is a good guy. He’s a real funny guy, but definitely coming into this year, he has a lot of fire behind him. And it does a lot motivating us especially early when we first reported back. Just seeing him work hard and just seeing him get better every day. He’s definitely got a lot of fire behind him this year.”

Flacco is entering the final year of his contract with a lot on the line following a disappointing start to the 2017 season. But a huge factor that is different for the 33-year old coming into this preseason opposed to last is his health.

“Most definitely,” Collins said on whether he can tell if Flacco is healthier this year. “He’s a lot faster as well, by the way, guys.”

And when it comes to the “Is Joe Flacco elite” debate, linebacker C.J. Mosley knows the consensus within the Under Armour Performance Center.

“I think every year [Joe Flacco] comes in with his mindset that he wants to be great,” Mosley said.

“Mainly because everybody outside of this building does not think he is elite and inside the building, everybody does think that way. Since Joe has been here, you know he is one of those players that never gets rattled. You never see his emotions too high, too low. He’s been our quarterback that kinda stays in the middle to make sure everything goes smooth. That’s kinda how he has been this offseason too. He’s come in looking strong, body looking good.”

Flacco’s health is up to speed as well as his mentality. Flacco organized private workouts with his wide receivers and tight ends at a local park across from the Ravens’ facility last week. This is the first time he has done so since 2011. When asked if he initiated the session, Michael Crabtree gave all the credit to his new quarterback.

“No, that’s all Flac [Flacco], man,” Crabtree said. “That’s the leader. We’re just the wideouts. [We] do whatever he says. If we’ve got something we bring to the table, then we make it work.”