Key players to watch at NFL trade deadline

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A few notes on why the trade deadline matters this year, and why I think teams will pursue deals hard:

First, a little history. The NFL trade deadline was a snoozer a few years ago, even after it was pushed back two weeks (in 2012, from Week 6 to Week 8) to encourage movement. Trades by season within two weeks of the deadline, with impact players dealt in parentheses:

2012: 2 (none)
2013: 2 (none)
2014: 4 (none)
2015: 1 (none)
2016: 5 (Kyle Van NoyJamie Collins)
2017: 7 (Jimmy Garoppolo, Duane Brown)
2018: 9 (Amari Cooper)
2019: 12 (Jalen RamseyMarcus Peters)

COVID has accelerated the trade deadline from Nov. 3 to this Thursday, for many teams. When Yannick Ngakoue went from Minnesota to Baltimore for a third-round pick and a conditional fifth, Baltimore insisted on the deal getting done so Ngakoue would be in Maryland by last Thursday night. Why was this so important? Because under the current COVID rules, a player needs to test negative five straight days and be bubbled in his new city before he can take part fully in team activities. The Ravens, who were on their bye over the weekend, wanted Ngakoue to have a full week of participation and practice before they faced division rival Pittsburgh for the AFC North lead next Sunday. So the deal got done Thursday, Ngakoue flew to Baltimore that night, and he had his first COVID test Friday. Test four is today, test five Tuesday, and if he passes all tests, he could walk into the Ravens facility for the first time Wednesday morning and be part of the game plan for the big Steeler game next Sunday.

As for how this affects the other 31 teams: The trade deadline is Nov. 3. But if a team wants a player to get in a full week of work and be available to play in Week 9, the deadline is really Oct. 29—this Thursday. That would give a hustling team time to get the player his five consecutive daily COVID tests and be with the new team for a full practice week before the game in Week 9.

The 2021 salary cap will play a part in deals. Let’s use Ngakoue as an example for how a team improves its cap situation in what could be a dire year for the cap in 2021. The cap has been increasing about $10 million a year for the past several seasons, and teams have had built-in expectations to plan future salaries. This year’s cap is $198.2 million. But the league and players association agreed this year, because league revenues will be down significantly in the COVID economy, that the cap could drop to $175 million for 2021. That, of course, would be a shock to lots of teams’ bottom lines. The Saints and Eagles, per the Over The Cap, are on the books each for about $260 million in 2021 cap spending; major surgery on their caps was already on the agenda after this season, and now it’ll be tougher for them.

Back to the Ngakoue deal. As of last Monday, Ngakoue was due $5.2 million in salary for the rest of the 2020 season. By offloading that $5.2 million to the Ravens, the Vikings can add that to their 2021 cap, thus giving them $5.2 million more to spend. A word of caution: It’s not certain the league will have a $175-million cap in 2021, or whether it will change if, say, the league decides that a $23-million collapse of the cap will be too much of a hardship for teams, or if there’s a sudden windfall of cash the league might not have seen coming. Whatever, the Vikings will have $5 million more to work with in 2021 because of this deal. “That’s why I think you could see a lot of trades,” one GM told me the other day. “If you can find a team to take salary, that becomes much more of a motivator than in a normal year.”

Julio Jones very likely won’t be moved. Source close to the situation told me, “Forget it.” Though his next 3.5 years have manageable salaries ($6.58 million to finish this year, then $15.3 million, $11.5 million, $11.5 million), dealing Jones would sink the 2021 cap. According to Over The Cap, dealing Jones would cause $23.3 million in dead money to hit the 2021 cap—offset slightly by the $6.6 million they’d save in 2020 salary by dealing him. All a moot point.

Who will be? In calls around the league, the toughest commodity to buy this trading season is tackle. The position is so important, with so few playing at a high level who might  be available. The best one: Minnesota’s Riley Reiff, who would cost an acquiring team $3.5 million for the rest of this season with one more year left on his contract at a reasonable $11.7 million in 2021

• Guards can be had for a price: Kevin Zeitler of the Giants would cost $5.9 million for the rest of 2020.

• Tight ends (David NjokuEvan Engram) at reasonable prices are out there.

• Best player/best value who I’d pursue if I were the pass-rush-needy Seahawks or Niners or Patriots: Washington outside ’backer Ryan Kerrigan, due $6.8 million for the last 10 weeks of his contract, averages 9.9 sacks a year in his career, always available (four games missed due to injury in 10 seasons), great team guy. A perfect stretch-run add for a contender.

• As for Saints wideout Michael Thomas, I’d watch that situation. Doesn’t seem he took his one-game ban for punching a teammate well, and now he’s got a hamstring issue. Problem is, even if the Saints would listen, the cost would be at least a first-round pick. But four years at $62 million for a player of his caliber? Reasonable.

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft CB Rankings: Devon Witherspoon highlights loaded draft class


The 2023 NFL Draft is growing nearer, with just weeks remaining until teams make selections that could alter the future of their franchise forever.

A solid secondary is crucial to any team’s defensive prowess, and for the teams looking to tighten up in coverage, this year’s draft is the one to do so.

The 2023 NFL Draft cornerback class is an incredibly deep one, but which corner will be first off the board? Chris Simms unveiled his 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback rankings this week on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast, posting Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon at the top of his list of corners in this year’s crop.

But trailing Witherspoon very closely are four other potential NFL superstars, with Simms ranking Michigan’s DJ Turner at No. 2, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez at No. 3, Maryland’s Deonte Banks at No. 4 and Georgia’s Kelee Ringo at No. 5.

The 2023 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 27, and end on Saturday, April 29. The first round will take place on Thursday with rounds two and three airing on Friday and rounds four through seven on Saturday. Click here for Simms’ quarterback rankings,and here for his list of top wide receivers.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms’ Top Five CB prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft

Tier One

1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

2. DJ Turner, Michigan

3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

Tier Two

4. Deonte Banks, Maryland

Tier Three

5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

RELATED: 2023 NFL Draft order: Complete list of every pick from Round 1 through Round 7

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft CB Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ CB draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1: Devon Witherspoon, Illinois

What Simms said: “This guy is must-see TV. He’s up there with one of the most twitchy, sudden people I’ve ever seen in my life to the point where when he takes off, you’re like, ‘Wait, is that real? Did he really get to full speed in half a step?’ … Bump or off, both are phenomenol —  it’s rare to have that. He’s got very good play strength for a guy that’s 5’11” and a half at 181 lbs. He doesn’t know that, he thinks he’s 220 … It’s efficient and easy. He’s sudden and can see the ability to accelerate whether it’s downhill or sticking the foot in the ground and changing direction. As compared to my No. 2 and No. 3 guy, he might be a hair tighter in his hips, but his twitchiness and explosion and acceleration … you just start to go, ‘What does this guy not have, besides the fact that he’s not 6’2” or over 200 lbs.’ He’s phenomenol.”

No. 2: DJ Turner, Michigan

What Simms said: “To me, (DJ Turner is) the most technically sound corner in the draft. There’s nobody better at technique. Like Witherspoon, the ability to mirror receivers at the line of scrimmage, the quick feet, it’s phenomenol. His hips are better than Witherspoon … His ability to flip those hips, turn and break on the ball, it’s right up there. It’s actually more smooth hip-wise than it is for Devon Witherspoon … What more can you say about the guy? Start-stop ability, amazing. Make-up speed, amazing. Other than Witherspoon, I think he’s put in the second-most tough spots out of anybody I’ve watched in this. He plays man-to-man, in your face a ton against big-time receivers. He’s awesome defending double moves. He could be the best nickel or outside guy, and he’s also the fastest guy in the draft. He’s got it all.”

No. 3: Christian Gonzalez, Oregon

What Simms said: “There’s not much to pick apart here … He’s got a little more size and meat on his bones. The Tee Higgins of the world, the bigger receivers of the world, they’re gonna have a harder time pushing him around and doing that stuff. He’s got incredible ball skills … He looks prototype. He looks Darrelle Revis, Champ Bailey-ish in his uniform …  He just wasn’t as edgy as the other guys … He’s gonna match up better with DeAndre Hopkins than the other two. But I don’t know if he’ll match up better with Jaylen Waddle or Ja’Marr Chase than the other two … But his technique is real. He’s a top-20 pick. You talk size, technique and straight speed, of course this guy is one of the top corners in the draft.” 

No. 4: Deonte Banks, Maryland

What Simms said: “He has more measurables like Gonzalez. 6 foot, 197 lbs., there’s a thickness to him and a power and strength element that certainly jumps out. Let alone, speed is Real Deal Holyfield … man-to-man, great legs, runs easy … He’s comfortable in his speed. He’s never panicked. He’s comfortable in going, ‘You have a step on me? That’s fine, I’m good,’ … But he’s also incredible, like Witherspoon and Turner, at getting on top of people when they try to run a go-route. No one can ever really get around him for the most part … He’s sticky as hell, he’s got very good feet, but he doesn’t know how to use his hands at all yet. So he’s not really that great at jamming people at the line of scrimmage, but he’s never not there … I thought his ability to play the ball and create PBUs in those 50/50 situations where the quarterback tries to throw the ball back shoulder and all that, he’s got a great feel and vision to be able to cover and see the throw at the same time that I was very impressed with.”

No. 5: Kelee Ringo, Georgia

What Simms said: “When you turn on the film, you go, ‘What? This guy’s a corner, he’s not a safety?’ Because he has a prototype safety vibe … Against the bigger, straight-liner guys, nobody’s gonna push this dude around. That’s certainly not going to be an issue, that along with the straight speed. Hey, the change of direction stuff is not beautiful. He’s a little heavy-footed because he’s a bigger guy … but it’s not bad … When he opens up, he can really go; obviously with a 4.36 second 40 time … He’s very smooth as far as an athlete overall.” 

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms 2023 NFL Draft Cornerback Rankings

  1. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois
  2. DJ Turner, Michigan
  3. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
  4. Deonte Banks, Maryland
  5. Kelee Ringo, Georgia

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!