Draft buzz: Will McCaffrey overtake Fournette in draft?


The same dynamics that depressed Adrian Peterson's market in free agency are working in Christian McCaffrey's favor at draft time.

As a one-dimensional power back allergic to the ever-expanding shotgun formation, Peterson is viewed as a dinosaur nearing extinction.

When the seven-time Pro Bowler entered the league in 2007, no team had ever utilized the shotgun formation on more than half of its offensive plays. Last season, 80.4 percent of passing plays and 63.6 percent of all offensive plays started in shotgun, per NFL Research.

Enter McCaffrey, a playmaking hybrid tailback/slot receiver custom-made for the spread offenses and situational personnel packages of the modern NFL.

Prior to the NFL Scouting Combine in early March, mock drafters ticketed the Stanford standout for the fringes of the first round, perhaps even sliding into the second round.

In the days leading up to the draft, though, McCaffrey and Temple linebacker Haason Reddick are the hottest names on the board, according to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

At this point, Jeremiah wouldn't be surprised if McCaffrey is selected ahead of LSU stud Leonard Fournette -- the consensus top running back in the online draft community.

Around The NFL is tracking all of the latest buzz leading up to the April 27-29 draft in Philadelphia. Check back Thursday for more updated nuggets like the ones below:

1. While McCaffrey and Reddick are flying high, Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley is attempting to salvage his stock in the wake of an early April rape allegation. Conley released a statement Wednesday, adamantly refuting the accusation and insisting he "did not commit a crime."

Conley has not been charged or arrested in connection to the alleged incident. Appearing on Wednesday's edition of Up to the Minute, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted that teams will want to see proof of innocence -- such as video evidence alluded to in Conley's statement -- before signing off on the cornerback.

2. After speaking with executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported that the Browns have made their decision on the No. 1 selection. In fact, Brown told Silver that Cleveland's front office settled on the choice two weeks ago. Signs point to Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, which would leave the Browns in search of a quarterback with their other first-round pick.

To that end, Silver added, they have spoken with at least five teams about trading up from No. 12, ostensibly with North Carolina signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky as the target.

3. Texas Tech gunslinger Patrick Mahomes isn't the only quarterback receiving positive marks from Houston head coach Bill O'Brien. The visit from Clemson star Deshaun Watson was "overwhelmingly positive" for all parties, according to Rapoport. "He loved it, team did, too," Rapoport added.

Will Mahomes or Watson be available for the Texans at 25? If there's a run on quarterbacks, Jeremiah is hearing it is more likely to happen at the end of the first round as opposed to the top 15 picks.

4. While the rumor mill has churned out constant chatter for most of the teams at the top of the draft, the Bears have been a mystery throughout the past couple of months. General manager Ryan Pace stressed Wednesday that "everything's on the table." Pace also revealed that there are three names his scouting department likes at No. 3 overall. The Chicago Tribune suspects those names are Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, LSU safety Jamal Adams and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore.

Reporting from Bears headquarters, NFL Network's Stacey Dales told Up to the Minute that Adams is the name she hears most prominently.

5. One national scout told Rapoport that Cal quarterback Davis Webb has "Dak-like intangibles." There is increasing buzz that QB-needy organization could slide into the back of the first round, targeting Webb with a draft slot that comes with a fifth-year team option.

6. From talent to college production to character, Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is one of the draft's cleanest prospects. It gets even better: Howard has received an "A+ medical report," per Rapoport.

Watch the NFL Draft LIVE on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network