Meet the biggest mystery prospect of the 2020 NFL Draft

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Mystery man. Those are the two words one NFL GM used this weekend when I brought up the name of Ashtyn Davis. Actually, this is what the GM said: “He’s the mystery man of the draft.” I’m writing about Davis because he’s the perfect case of the kind of intriguing player teams won’t know as well as they should on draft weekend because of the new rules. Here’s why:

Davis, more of a track prospect than football coming out of Santa Cruz (Calif.) High in 2015, walked on the track team at Cal, then tried out for the football team in the spring of his freshman year. He made it. That led to a long and winding road to football prominence as a smart, physical, 6-1, 202-pound safety with excellent speed. Mel Kiper rates him the third-best safety in this draft. But his 2019 season was marred by a year-long groin injury that ended with surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle near his groin last Dec. 18. Davis was invited to the combine and wanted to run the 40 (he didn’t have a recent 40 time for the NFL scouts, so this was a puzzle piece missing in his profile), but he wasn’t quite ready. He’d have to wait—so he thought—for Cal’s Pro Day three weeks after the combine. Of course that was scratched because of the NFL’s response to COVID-19.

He was able to impress teams mentally at the combine. “I was trying to make a team fall in love with me,” Davis said. The Seahawks turned the film off after three plays, when Davis—who studied teams so much before the combine he knew some of their defensive terminology—knew the terms “hammer” and “nail” in Pete Carroll’s scheme. Carroll laughingly asked Davis: “Ever thought about coaching?” Teams notice how good he was at punching balls out of receivers’ arms. Why? Because he studied NFL career forced-fumble leader Peanut Tillman’s punch. He had eight personal meetings set up at the Cal Pro Day. None happened. So far, he’s had six FaceTime sessions. But he won’t get to work out for any team, and no one knows a reliable 40 time on him. That’ll affect his draft stock. I asked one GM over the weekend where Davis might be picked. “Thirty-five? Seventy-five? I’m guessing,” he said.

“I’m antsy,” Davis said. “But this is obviously a tough time in the country. I get it, totally. I just wish I could train for the 40 and run the 40, and now I haven’t been able to do either. But whatever happens, I know I am going to give first-round talent to whoever picks me.”

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

Could Brandin Cooks be traded for fourth time in six-year career?

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“Free me,” Brandin Cooks Tweeted Friday night, spawning questions about his status with the Rams. Does he want to be traded? Or is “free me” referring to some sort of get-me-out-this-quarantined life?

After an earlier version of this note ran, I was told by two sources that Cooks is not on the block. If that changes, it would continue one of the oddest careers of a very good player ever. Cooks was drafted 20th overall by the Saints in 2014.

  • In 2016, at 23, catching passes from Drew Brees, Cooks was the Saints’ deep threat, averaging 15.0 yards a catch with eight touchdowns.
  • In 2017, he was traded to the Patriots for the 32nd pick in the first round. At 24, he caught passes from Tom Brady, and his 16.6-yard average resulted in Brady’s best and most consistent deep threat in years.
  • In 2018, he was traded to the Rams for the 23rd pick in the first round. At 25, he caught passes from Jared Goff, and his 1,204 yards were the most in his career. He was the key receiver on a Super Bowl team.

In 2020, Cooks has had concussion issues, and his production dipped to 3.0 catches per game last year, by far a career-low. An acquiring team would owe him $20 million the next two years, and then could cut him without a hurtful cap hit. For about 4 percent and then 5.5 percent of the salary cap over the next two seasons, Cooks could be the missing link to a contending team … but of course, that would mean the Rams would be willing to deal him. Which as of now they’re apparently not willing to do.

My best landing spots for Cooks, if the Rams would entertain a deal, would be Philadelphia, Green Bay, Las Vegas or Washington. Of course, the strength of the receiver group in this draft will affect any of those teams’ willingness to pursue Cooks.

Amazing, really, that one player, at 26, has already been worth the 20th, 32nd and 23rd picks in three different drafts.

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

 

Deadline extended indefinitely for Triple Crown nominations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The final deadline to nominate horses for the Triple Crown series is being extended indefinitely because of the coronavirus.

It was scheduled to be Monday.

The extension was agreed upon by officials at Churchill Downs, Maryland Jockey Club and New York Racing Association.

The Kentucky Derby has been pushed back from May 2 to Sept. 5.

Maryland and New York racing officials are continuing discussions to decide when the Preakness and Belmont stakes will be run. The Preakness is scheduled for May 16 and the Belmont for June 6.

When the Triple Crown dates are settled, a deadline for late nominations will be announced.

Any 3-year-olds not made eligible at a cost of $600 during the early nomination phase will be able to be nominated for $6,000.

A total of 347 horses were nominated during the early phase that closed Jan. 25.