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O-lines paving way to BCS championship game

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O-lines paving way to BCS championship game

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Offensive linemen are usually the unsung heroes, the guys who only get talked about when they screw up.

Not at Alabama, where the second-ranked Crimson Tide's road to the BCS championship game has been paved by five talented 300-pounders, including two-time All-American and four-year starter Barrett Jones.

``This has a chance to be the best offensive line I've ever played on, and we've had some good ones over the past few years,'' Jones said.

No. 1 Notre Dame's offensive line doesn't have quite the star power or balance. The Fighting Irish don't hide the fact that they lean left - at least when it comes to running the football. Notre Dame has made a living running behind tackle Zack Martin and guard Chris Watt.

``We certainly use the left side of our offensive line I'd say at a ridiculous rate,'' Irish offensive coordinator Chuck Martin said. ``I'm not giving away any secrets. They're not very good at what they do if they don't know some of the tendencies we have running the football. We typically like to go left. It's not by accident.''

When the Irish and Crimson Tide meet Monday night in Miami, the BCS championship could very well be on the lines - the offensive lines to be specific.

That the smart and personable Jones has become the face of the Crimson Tide seems rather apropos. Alabama has reached the BCS championship game for the third time in four seasons with a power running game as its foundation. No spread offenses, read-options and up-tempo in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Jones, from Germantown, Tenn., played guard in 2009 when he was opening holes for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Last year he was Alabama's left tackle, helping Trent Richardson become a Heisman finalist. This season Jones moved to center and has been as good as ever. According to Alabama, he has missed only six assignments, playing 731 snaps. And Alabama has two 1,000-yard rushers in T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy.

``He's just a smart player,'' Notre Dame guard Louis Nix III said. ``He knows what he has to do. He's strong at the point of attack. Just an overall great player.''

As good as Jones is, he's not even the best NFL prospect on Alabama's line.

Left guard Chance Warmack holds that distinction. Guards tend not to get picked in the first round, but Warmack is projected to be one of those rare commodities. Right tackle D.J. Fluker might jump to the NFL as a junior after the BCS title game. Sophomore left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a rising star who could develop into Alabama's next great tackle, joining the likes of Andre Smith and Chris Samuel. Steady right guard Anthony Steen is a two-year starter.

``We don't play running back but we got skills, too,'' Fluker said.

Those skills were never more on display than in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Georgia. The Tide fell behind 21-10 in the third quarter and went to the running game to shift the momentum. Alabama finished with 350 yards on 51 carries and all that running set up AJ McCarron's 45-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass to Amari Cooper off play action.

Against Notre Dame, Alabama will face possibly its toughest test of the season. The Fighting Irish front seven, led by All-American linebacker Manti Te'o and stud defensive linemen Nix and Stephon Tuitt, has allowed only two rushing touchdowns this season.

``Great O-line,'' Nix said. ``Arguably, the best O-line in the country.''

If you ask Notre Dame coaches, they will tell you they have the best offensive lineman in the country in Martin. The two-year starter from Indianapolis has been a rock for the first Notre Dame offense to average 5 yards per rush since 1996.

``Ridiculous,'' Chuck Martin said of his left tackle. ``He should have two scholarships. He's been so good every week. So consistent every play. He rarely misses his block. He's been such a dominant, dominant force for us.''

Watt, a senior, is Zack Martin's right-hand man.

``I would say we certainly don't use it 50-50 right and left,'' Chuck Martin said. ``(Zack Martin) and Watt get the lion share of tough blocks.''

The Irish also have a center who ranks among the best in the country in Braxston Cave, a third-team All-American. On the right side, Mike Golic Jr. holds the guard spot and Christian Lombard is the other tackle. It's a group that has started every game and allowed only 18 sacks while protecting a first-year starting quarterback in Everett Golson.

Chuck Martin gives plenty of credit to line coach Harry Hiestand, who is in his 30th season in coaching and first at Notre Dame. Martin said Hiestand has taught toughness and technique and Notre Dame will need both to run the ball against an Alabama defense that allows only 2.5 yards per rush, anchored by powerful nose guard Jesse Williams.

``Technically, he's as good as anybody in the world at teaching guys how to move people,'' Martin said of Hiestand. ``If you play with great technique you've got a chance. If you don't play with great technique, you've got no chance. That's what we're up against with Alabama. We have to play with great technique every snap up front or we'll have zero chance to ever get a yard rushing. If you do (play with great technique), it'll still be hit or miss, but hopefully you cover up enough people, you'll get a little bit of movement.''

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2019 NFL Draft Big Board: Quinnen Williams, defensive prospects dominate the final top 100

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USA TODAY SPORTS

2019 NFL Draft Big Board: Quinnen Williams, defensive prospects dominate the final top 100

It’s the final countdown.

Here is the final NBC Sports Washington NFL Big Board for 2019. This ranking of the top 100 prospects in the NFL Draft comes from a combination of homework and NFL sources.

Before diving in, some notes…

*The Redskins met with Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr. Tuesday, sources told yours truly and JP Finlay. Savage is one of the true risers in this class with a 20-40 draft projection. Teams eyeing the free safety include the Colts, Patriots, Chargers and Redskins, per sources.

Of those teams interested in Savage, only the Redskins’ current picks are outside of that 20-40 range. The key word there might be current.

Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams told reporters Monday that there’s a “great possibility” of a trade down from 15 depending on which players remain on the board. The interest in Savage isn’t with the current pick, but if they move down.

*For all the quarterback talk, where the offensive line run begins could drive the first round.

While the Jaguars might select Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor seventh overall, the span to watch is 9-12. Offensive line ranks among needs for these four teams (Bills, Broncos, Bengals, Packers) and several prospects, including Alabama’ Jonah Williams and Oklahoma’s Cody Ford are worthy of consideration in this range.

However, OL isn’t the top priority for any of the four. My latest mock draft had all going with another position. The final debate will come down, in part, to whether the teams think they can address their line needs on Day 2.

The butterfly effect comes with teams selecting 15-23. The Redskins and Panthers (16) would surely focus elsewhere. The Vikings would still have a viable option in NC State center Garrett Bradbury, but the Seahawks (21), Ravens (22) and Texans (23) would probably move in other directions. This scenario also improves the chances that Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy go in the first.

Ford is considered the top guard prospect, making him an obvious option for the Redskins.

* Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat remains a top 10 prospect on this list, but that’s without a true understanding of his enlarged heart condition. According to a source familiar with the situation, some teams are comfortable with his situation while others removed the athletic freak from their draft board.

Not sure if we can infer there’s a potential slide coming with Sweat declining his invitation to attend the draft. My expectation is he remains in my final mock draft with the Panthers at 16 and Seahawks at 21 as the floor.

*If you missed it, I recently shared league thoughts on the passers. Not to get all indecisive, but at this point, I could see four selected by 17 or two sliding deep into round one. From a draft range perspective, Drew Lock’s feels the largest, stretching from 10 to 32.

*Using some Vegas prop bet lines for the first round, I’d go under on one running back and 2 1/2 wide receivers. Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown is the only receiver I feel good slotting into round one, but D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and N’Keal Harry won’t wait for long on Day 2.

*Make sure to check out the updated two-round NFL mock draft and our look at different 7-round, Redskins-only mock drafts. Paths onetwo and three are just a click away.

NBC Sports Washington’s final 2019 NFL Draft Big Board

1. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama                                          

2. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State                                      

3. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston                                           

4. Devin White, LB, LSU                               

5. Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky         

6. Montez Sweat, DE, Miss. St.                                                                                                 

7. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa                                       

8. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma                                 

9. Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan                                      

10. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson        

11. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida                                  

12. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama                                            

13. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson                          

14. Cody Ford, G/T, Oklahoma                                  

15. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Miss. State                       

16. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State                                       

17. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson                                                  

18. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington                                        

19. Brian Burns, DE, Florida State                                            

20. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU                                    

21. DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia                                              

22. Andre Dillard, OT, Wash. State                                          

23. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma                                      

24. Johnathan Abram, S, Miss. St.                                            

25. Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame                              

26. Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State                                        

27. Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State                                            

28. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State  

29. Chris Lindstrom, G, BC                                          

30. Darnell Savage, S, Maryland                                                            

31. A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi                                 

32. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa                              

33. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi                                            

34. Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M                                  

35. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama                                  

36. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke                                      

37. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri                                          

38. Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple                                      

39. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington    

40. Irv Smith, TE, Alabama                                         

41. Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington                                        

42. Nassir Adderley, FS, Delaware                                           

43. Chase Winovich, LB, Michigan                                           

44. Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State                                       

45. Jaylon Ferguson, DE, La. Tech                                           

46. L.J Collier, DE, TCU                                 

47. Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia                                     

48. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama                                  

49. Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State                                        

50. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida                                           

51. Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State                                           

52. Oshane Ximines, DE, ODU                                   

53. Dre'Mont Jones, DE/DT, Ohio State                                 

54. Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State                                       

55. Connor McGovern, G, Penn State                                     

56. Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia                                    

57. Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame                              

58. Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State                                   

59. Gerald Willis, DT, Miami                                       

60. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama                                        

61. Ryan Finley, QB, NC State      

62. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson                                            

63. David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State                                 

64. Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis                                      

65. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford                                

66. Zach Allen, DE, Boston College                                          

67. Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky                                      

68. D'Andre Walker, LB, Georgia                                                      

69. Jachai Polite, LB, Florida                                      

70. Chuma Edoga, T, USC                                           

71. David Long, CB, Michigan                                    

72. Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State                                        

73. Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State                                     

74. Joe Jackson, DE, Miami                                        

75. Amani Hooker, S, Iowa                                         

76. Yodny Cajuste, T, West Virginia                                         

77. Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State                                

78. Chuma Edoga, T, USC                                           

79. David Long, CB, Michigan                                    

80. Greg Little, T, Mississippi                                     

81. Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M                                  

82. Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas                                

83. Damian Harris, RB, Alabama       

84. Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State                                           

85. Dawson Knox, TE, Mississippi                                            

86. David Edwards, T, Wisconsin                              

87. Andy Isabella, WR, Umass                                   

88. Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma                                      

89. Christian Miller, LB, Alabama                              

90. Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic                               

91. Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan                                                            

92. Nate Davis, G, Charlotte                                      

93. Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia                                        

94. Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford                              

95. Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin                              

96. Ben Powers, G, Oklahoma                                   

97. Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri                                   

98. Marvell Tell, S, USC                                

99. Dionte Johnson, WR, Toledo         

100. Terrill Hanks, ILB, New Mexico State      

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The Browns called the Redskins 15 years ago hoping to trade up for Sean Taylor, but the Redskins said 'no'

The Browns called the Redskins 15 years ago hoping to trade up for Sean Taylor, but the Redskins said 'no'

Thanks to his illustrious career at Miami, Sean Taylor caught the eyes of Joe Gibbs and the Redskins heading into the 2004 NFL Draft.

Not surprisingly, though, Washington wasn't the only franchise interested in adding a do-it-all, safety-in-a-linebacker's-body prospect to their defense.

In a terrific look-back at that draft from Sports Illustrated — a draft in which a record six Miami products went in the first 21 picks — you'll find this excerpt:

But at the last minute, the Browns, owners of the No. 7 pick, called asking to trade up. Butch Davis, Cleveland’s coach and EVP, had previously been the head coach at Miami and had recruited all six of these Hurricane prospects out of high school...

[Vinny] Cerrato says the Browns were coming for Taylor. Davis is more diplomatic about it: “It was probably about 60-40 that we would’ve taken Sean [over Winslow],” he says. He wanted to know what it’d cost to get Taylor. But Washington wasn’t budging. “There was no interest whatsoever,” Cerrato says. “We wanted Sean Taylor.”

Cleveland also reportedly contacted the Giants about their fourth overall selection so they could skip the 'Skins entirely, but New York ended up orchestrating their own deal to land Eli Manning.

Fortunately, the Burgundy and Gold stayed in place and got Taylor despite the calls. Often times, trading back in the draft is an attractive option. This time around, however, that option paled in comparison to the opportunity to acquire Taylor.

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