Kaden Elliss Jersey

Usually, the NFL gets it right when it brings 300 or so of the best prospects every year to Indianapolis for the scouting combine. Most will end up names you know as Sunday’s stars.

But there are always those who are overlooked who wind up making some team very happy and leave the other 31 kicking themselves for not doing their homework.

One of those unheralded players in this year’s draft could very well be Idaho linebacker Kaden Elliss.

Not extended a combine invite, Elliss got the NFL’s attention with some excellent pro day showings and is now a likely pick in the NFL Draft, which runs Thursday to Saturday.

“It was disappointing not being able to go to the combine, but God has a plan for everything,” Elliss said. “After I knew I wasn’t going to Indianapolis, I had to figure out a strategy to get their attention, and I’m happy with how it’s worked so far.”

Elliss, who attended high school in Salt Lake City, is the son of former Utah defensive lineman Luther Elliss, who played 10 NFL seasons for the Lions and Broncos and now coaches the Vandals’ defensive line. He was given the chance to take part in Utah’s pro day on March 28, and then Idaho’s six days later.

A funny thing happened in Utah — Elliss (6-foot-2, 229 pounds) was as impressive as any of the Utes. His three-cone drill time (6.63 seconds) was particularly strong, as was an 11.1-second 60-yard shuttle. Both would have been No. 1 or No. 2 at the combine. He ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash at Idaho’s pro day.

“That pro day at Utah was basically my version of the NFL combine, because I knew there would be a lot of teams there,” Elliss said. “I knew any times I didn’t love I could try again at Idaho’s. It was really rewarding being able to show well, because in a way, your whole playing career has led to that opportunity.”

Sure, some savvy teams knew about the 278 tackles (47 for loss) and 17 sacks Elliss had at Idaho, but the testing numbers made sure plenty of linebacker-needy teams took notice. Elliss said he visited eight NFL teams in recent weeks for pre-draft interviews.

A high school quarterback, Elliss played every linebacker spot at Idaho and even dabbled at tight end, hauling in 10 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns as a junior and senior.

“Teams picked my brain a lot, really wanted to know all they could about me since I didn’t meet them at the combine,” Elliss said. “Some said they wished they could have seen me at one spot, what I could do there, but most have really liked the versatility, that I can play wherever I might fit best.”

A month ago, he was a likely undrafted free agent, but Elliss has earned a lot of recent attention from draftniks. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah tweeted April 14: “Looking for an intriguing day 3 LB? Meet Idaho LB Kaden Elliss. Good mix of instincts, versatilty & strength.” The Athletic’s Dane Brugler replied by saying “love the competitive energy he put on tape.” He grades Elliss as a sixth-round pick.

Longtime draft expert Rob Rang compiled his recent list of “diamonds in the rough,” and Elliss was his top linebacker. Perhaps like Adam Thielen, Phillip Lindsay and Antonio Gates, he may be the latest big find not to be in Indianapolis.

“Elliss won’t be the first player on this list to get drafted but make no mistake, he will be drafted,” Rang wrote on NFLDraftScout.com. “In fact, I believe he will be the first player selected this year who was not invited to the combine.”

Even if he is drafted, likely during Saturday’s final day (rounds 4-7), Elliss knows he will again be in a position where he must compete to get noticed. But as the eldest in a family with 12 children, that won’t be anything new.

Elliss also could be the first Vandal drafted since Korey Toomer was taken in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by the Seahawks, potentially ending the school’s longest such drought since the draft began in 1936.

“It would be an honor,” Elliss said. “I came to Idaho with the expectation to play in the NFL and play my best at all times. I wanted to raise the program up, and if I can do that by having my name called this week, I’d be very happy.”

The Baltimore Ravens are gearing up for the 2019 NFL draft by bringing in prospects for visits. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Ravens are one of several teams hosting Idaho linebacker Kaden Elliss.

Elliss wasn’t invited to the NFL scouting combine but made sure teams got a show at Idaho’s pro day. Elliss posted a 34.5-inch vertical jump, 4.58-second 40-yard dash and a 6.49-second 3-cone drill. But perhaps his most impressive feat was tossing a blocking sled like it was a lawn chair,

Elliss seems likely to be a Day 2 or Day 3 prospect given his small-school background. Elliss certainly looks the part of an NFL linebacker, however. Listed at 6 feet 3 and 240 pounds, Elliss was productive at Idaho. Over 11 games in 2018, Elliss combined for 60 tackles and seven sacks.

Elliss also has an NFL pedigree. His father, Luther, was a first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1995 and played 10 years in the league as a defensive tackle.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said the team was interested in the second tier of linebackers in this draft, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec. Elliss could very well fit into that grouping after such an impressive performance at Idaho’s pro day.

Alize Mack Jersey

Another talented former Notre Dame Fighting Irish player comes off the board on the last day of the NFL draft. With the 17th pick of the 7th round, going at 231 overall, the New Orleans Saints have chosen TE Alizé Mack. That’s the 6th Notre Dame Tight End to be drafted during the Brian Kelly era.

Mack is the first Notre Dame player to be drafted by the Saints in the Sean Payton era. Mack had an interesting but fruitful career at Notre Dame; he sustained a few injuries after coming in as a highly-touted recruit, and ended up flourishing as a vital part of Brian Kelly’s offense in his senior year: he had 36 catches for 360 yards and 3 touchdowns. Scouts note that he was incredibly versatile, as well:

Alizé is also the first Fighting Irish player to be selected by the New Orleans Saints since Courtney Watson, who heard his name called by the organization in the second round of the 2004 NFL draft. Mack joins a roster with veteran tight ends Jared Cook and Josh Hill, hoping to compete for a spot with new guys like Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffin.

That’s six TE’s to be drafted to the NFL from Notre Dame in the Brian Kelly era. We hope Alizé will be immensely successful when he arrives in New Orleans. Here’s what Alizé himself had to say about the news, as well as some insider info on the fruit of Alizé’s labor from OFD’s own Jude Seymour:

Congrats to Alizé, and go Saints!

Alizé Mack was holding back tears a few minutes after the New Orleans Saints drafted him on Saturday (April 27).

“Oh man, I can’t believe it,” he said during a video chat with New Orleans media. “It’s a dream come true.”

The Saints selected Mack, a Notre Dame tight end, with the 231st overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Mack met with the Saints at the combine and took an official pre-draft visit in New Orleans where he met with tight ends coach Dan Campbell and head coach Sean Payton, among others.

“It felt like home as soon as I came down there,” he said. “I’m going to take full responsibility and full advantage of this opportunity, and I can’t wait.”

Mack is 6-foot-4, 249 pounds and finished the 2018 season with 36 catches for 360 yards and three touchdowns, and he’s the first of two seventh-round picks for the Saints.

The Saints signed Jared Cook in free agency and have Josh Hill returning, so Mack will likely compete with Dan Arnold and Garrett Griffin for a backup role in 2019.

Mack thought he would be drafted higher, and he said the Saints “definitely” won’t regret picking him. When asked what he could add to the offense, he quickly replied, “A weapon.”

“You’re going to get a guy who can do it all, a guy who can line up in-line, a guy who can line up on the outside and be a mismatch problem vertically down the field, a guy who can be a huge red zone threat,” he said. “And more so than that, you’re going to get a dude that’s going to come to work every single day regardless of what’s going on, I’m going to come in every single day ready to go, ready to compete — no doubt.”

The Saints received pick No. 231 from the Browns last year when they traded defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence to Cleveland after the preseason. The Saints are also due to pick 244th later in the seventh round.

Notre Dame tight end Alize Mack, who went to Bishop Gorman High School, was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the seventh round of Saturday’s NFL draft.

Mack (6 feet 4 inches, 249 pounds) was the 17th choice of the final round.

He caught 36 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Julian Love knew a life-changing call was coming.

It was just a matter of when.

“I was ready, I was waiting for my name to be called to see where I’d be a good fit,” Love said in a phone interview Saturday. “When it finally came, I was very excited. I feel like I landed at the right spot.”

That spot is with the Giants, who selected the Notre Dame cornerback Saturday in the fourth round of the NFL draft. The Nazareth graduate, who grew up in Westchester, was the No. 108 pick.

He had family with him when the news came.

“They’ve been there my whole life supporting me,” Love said. “It was pretty special to be here with them.”

Love earned consensus…

STRENGTHS

—Highly targeted, highly productive tight end in 2018 who heads into the NFL with experience as a receiver and run-blocker.

—Good pass-blocker who excels in line when asked to keep defensive ends away from the quarterback; has a wide base and good hand placement.

—Great at picking up first downs, as he can find the sticks and run a clean route while making himself a good target for quarterbacks.

—Uses arm length (33¾”) to go get the ball away from his frame.

—Ran well at the combine (4.7-second 40) for his size (6’4″, 249 lbs) and vertical-jumped an impressive 36 inches.

WEAKNESSES

—Not very physical at the point of attack and doesn’t seem to like running over the middle; would rather play in space.

—Flexibility and burst are limited; doesn’t explode out of breaks or out of his stance.

—Hands are average; no standout drops, but there are focus issues at times, especially over the middle, that leave you wanting more consistency.

—Run blocking lacks power and pop; doesn’t look to give max effort when working to the second level.

—Offers limited run-after-catch ability.

OVERALL

Notre Dame is renowned as a tight end factory, and Alize Mack will have a chance to continue that legacy, but his tape has given rise to concerns about toughness and drops. That will hurt his stock and is why we’re rating him as a late-Day 3 player.

Saquan Hampton Jersey

The Saints selected Rutgers safety of Saquan Hampton with their sixth round pick in the NFL Draft.

Hampton recorded 64 tackles and three interceptions as a senior at Rutgers.

Hampton is the second safety the Saints drafted on Saturday. They chose Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the fourth round.

“I think it will be great competition, coming in and competing,” Hampton said. “It’s something I love to do, something I’ve done my whole life. It will be a great opportunity to bind with the class that’s coming in.”

He also can help the Saints on special teams.

“Special team is always emphasized at Rutgers,” Kampton said. “When the Saints came in (for my workout), it’s something they emphasized as well. It’s something I started on all four years at Rutgers, so it would be an honor to play on special teams. “

The Saints first pick in the draft was offensive lineman Erik McCoy of Texas A&M in the second round .

The Saints have two more draft picks in the seventh round.

Hampton has never visited New Orleans or Louisiana, but says he looks forward to the opportunity.

Like most collegiate football players, Saquan Hampton said he’s dreamed of playing in the NFL since he donning his first helmet.

That dream started on a Pop Warner field in Mercer County, continued at Nottingham High School and Rutgers University, and will come to fruition in New Orleans.

Hampton, a 6-1, 206-pound safety from Hamilton Township, was picked Saturday by the Saints in the 6th round of the NFL Draft.

Rutgers has now had 62 players selected in the NFL Draft dating back to 1940, including 13 selections in the NFL Draft over the last seven years.

“Ever since I started playing football I knew the NFL ultimately was the goal,’’ Hampton told NJ Advance Media in a recent interview. “It feels good to be in the position where it’s going to come true. It took a lot of hard work to get to this point, and there’s a lot more to go.’’

An honorable mention All-Big Ten pick who tied for the conference lead and ranked 11th nationally with 16 passes defended (13 breakups, 3 interceptions) last season, Hampton was the recipient of the Rutgers football team’s Homer Hazel Award, giving to the team MVP.

Hampton was invited to the NFL Combine, where he produced a time of 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash and earned a 5.29 grade

“In my opinion of the defensive backs I’ve been around, he’s an NFL player,’’ Rutgers coach Chris Ash said. “He’s got size. He’s got speed. He can play the game. He’s got football intelligence and he’s going to make some team happy. He worked extremely hard over the last three years. (He) had some set backs with injuries but had a great senior year and just kept working and grinding and believing in the process. I’m excited to see what his future holds.”

The New Orleans Saints finally stood pat and used one of their original selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, adding Rutgers safety Saquan Hampton. Hampton (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) broke out in his 2018 senior year with three interceptions and 13 pass deflections. He has 167 tackles (115 solo) in his career for the Scarlet Knights.

Hampton did not finish all of the athletic testing at the combine, but his time in the 40-yard dash (4.48 seconds) is impressive for someone of his size. Like earlier Saints draft pick Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, he is someone likely to make their mark on special teams.
It seems the Saints are looking to add more depth at safety; going into the draft, they only had four players rostered at the position between starters Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams, special teams ace Chris Banjo, and reserve J.T. Gray. The additions of Hampton and Gardner-Johnson should introduce some badly-needed competition once training camp rolls around.

STRENGTHS

—Ideal height, weight and speed for the NFL (6’1″, 206 pounds, 4.48-second 40-yard dash); checks every box from a size and speed standpoint.

—Team captain and excellent leader on and off the field.

—Was able to play single-high and box safety while also playing slot cornerback.

—Plays the ball at all opportunities with strips, pass breakups and interceptions.

WEAKNESSES

—Injuries to both shoulders in college are a major red flag for a tackler.

—Not a punishing tackler at the finish and looks timid at the point of attack.

—Gets thrown off pursuit angles and eaten up by simple stalk blocks.

OVERALL

A well-above-average 40 time had us going back to the tape, but we never saw his speed in coverage or when coming downhill to make a tackle. In fact, too many times Hampton let ball-carriers get into him first. His versatility in the secondary will give him the chance to find a role in the NFL and stick with it, though. Especially with his ability to find and make a play on the ball.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson Jersey

Heading into his junior season, Gardner-Johnson lengthened his last name from Gardner to honor Brian Johnson, or “Pops”, who has been with his family since Chauncey was young. He played quite well with the new name, starting 11 of 13 games played and making 71 stops, nine for loss, three sacks, a team-high four interceptions and two pass breakups. As a sophomore, Gardner-Johnson started all 11 games for the Gators, posting 58 stops, six for loss, two interceptions and seven pass breakups. In 2016, Gardner-Johnson started as a reserve defensive back and special teams contributor (team-high eight of his 32 tackles that year on coverage units), but eventually started three times in 13 games played. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions, two of which came in the Outback Bowl. He was the game’s MVP, becoming the first freshman to win that honor at Florida since Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. Gardner-Johnson was a USA Today All-Florida selection as a high school senior at Cocoa High before going to Gainesville.

Heading into his junior season, Gardner-Johnson lengthened his last name from Gardner to honor Brian Johnson, or “Pops”, who has been with his family since Chauncey was young. He played quite well with the new name, starting 11 of 13 games played and making 71 stops, nine for loss, three sacks, a team-high four interceptions and two pass breakups. As a sophomore, Gardner-Johnson started all 11 games for the Gators, posting 58 stops, six for loss, two interceptions and seven pass breakups. In 2016, Gardner-Johnson started as a reserve defensive back and special teams contributor (team-high eight of his 32 tackles that year on coverage units), but eventually started three times in 13 games played. He tied for the team lead with three interceptions, two of which came in the Outback Bowl. He was the game’s MVP, becoming the first freshman to win that honor at Florida since Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith. Gardner-Johnson was a USA Today All-Florida selection as a high school senior at Cocoa High before going to Gainesville.

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson thought he would have had his name called before Saturday.

Many projected him to go in the second or third round or Friday.

But once Saturday came around, the safety from Florida didn’t have to wait long.

The Saints moved up in the draft and picked Gardner-Johnson with the third pick of the fourth round.

“It’s been a long day, actually a long weekend,” Gardner-Johnson said from his home in Cocoa, Fla. “I didn’t think I was ever going to get the call. But now that I got the call, I just got to put my head down and work.”

The Saints traded up from the No. 14 spot of the round to select Gardner-Johnson, who was selected to the AP All Bowl team this past season.

He adds to a safety position that currently has Marcus Williams, Vonn Bell and Chris Banjo on the roster. Gardner-Johnson can play either close to the line of scrimmage or free safety.

“It’s the best all around team, top to bottom, on offense and defense,” Gardner-Johnson said. “I’m coming into a system where everything has an identity and standard. I have to come in to live up to that standard and identity so everybody on that team and in the front office upstairs can be proud of me and say this guy is a Saint.”

The Saints drafted Texas A&M offensive lineman Erik McCoy on Friday in the second round.

The New Orleans Saints traded up again in the 2019 NFL Draft, sending their fourth round pick (No. 116) and their fifth round pick (No. 168) to the New York Jets in exchange for No. 105. They then picked Florida Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

Gardner-Johnson will immediately make an impact on special teams, where he began his Gators career. But his ability to make plays all over the field while defending passes from the slot (intercepting nine passes in his three-year tenure) and mix it up near the line of scrimmage (dropping 15.5 tackles for loss of yards) could make it tough for the Saints to keep him off the field.

The choice to move up for a safety who may not start yet shows how the Saints value last year’s rookie receivers Tre’Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood, and expect big growth from them moving forward.

Erik McCoy Jersey

With the 48th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Saints selected center Erik McCoy from Texas A&M. In a trade with the Dolphins, the Saints also received Pick 116 and sent Pick 62, 202 and a Round 2 selection in 2020 to Miami.

Started and was a team captain all 13 games, helping the Aggies gain 6,131 total yards … paved the way for the SEC’s leading rusher in Trayveon Williams … led the Texas A&M offense in gaining 500-or-more yards of total offense in five games … given the Offensive Unselfish Leader Award at the team’s annual banquet … named the SEC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week following Texas A&M’s victory over No. 8 LSU … named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List and the Allstate AFCA Good Words Team Watch List … given the Offensive Leadership Award, Offensive MVP Award, Junior Academic Award and Strength and Conditioning Offensive Aggie Award at the team’s annual banquet.

Started every game, lining up at center for 11 of 13 games and guard in the other two games … helped the Aggies average 406.8 yards per game with 155.6 rushing and 251.2 passing … assisted the offense in gaining 350 or more yards of total offense in eight games … helped the Aggies gain a season-high 382 yards on the ground in the opener at UCLA.

Started all 13 games at center for the Aggies … named to the Freshman All-SEC team … earned SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors after a standout performance in his first career start against UCLA … helped clear the way for a balanced Aggie offense that gained 467.0 yards per game, with 211.8 rushing and 250.0 passing yards per game … offense rushed for more than 200 yards in seven games and had 350-plus yards vs. Arkansas and Tennessee.

Coached by Todd Quick at Lufkin High School … as a senior, McCoy graded out at 95 percent with an impressive 27 pancakes and 34 knockdowns … first-team all-district pick and earned second-team all-state honors … also a first-team all-district pick as a junior.

McCoy was not highly recruited despite earning second-team all-state honors at Lufkin High School in Texas. Aggies coaches saw enough to give him a scholarship, however, and he worked himself into a three-year starter. He redshirted in 2015 before earning the starting center spot for all 13 contests in 2016. McCoy started all 13 games for A&M in 2017, as well, 11 at center and two at guard. He was a team captain in 2018, again starting all 13 games in the middle of the offensive line called the ‘Maroon Goons.’

Since Sean Payton arrived in 2006 the Saints have had success with players drafted in the second round.

Those players include:

Roman Harper, Tracy Porter, Michael Thomas, Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams.

Texas A&M might have missed out on the first round for a second straight year, but Friday’s rounds two and three saw two Aggies go off the board.

Aggie center Erik McCoy was selected with the 16th pick of the second round by the New Orleans Saints on Friday after the Saints traded with the Miami Dolphins for the pick, which was 48th overall. Shortly after, former Aggie tight end Jace Sternberger became a Green Bay Packer as the 11th pick of the third round (75th overall).

“Center, guard, he could be a starter at either spot moving forward into the NFL,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on the network’s broadcast. “Love the way he plays the game. Love his improvement. I’m almost surprised he dropped down this far.”

Eleven offensive linemen were selected above McCoy in the first and second rounds. He was the third center selected behind North Carolina State’s Garrett Bradbury and Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins, both opponents of the Aggies last season.

McCoy is the third Aggie in the last three years to be taken in the second round following Justin Evans in 2017 and Christian Kirk in 2018. Aggie defensive end Myles Garrett was the program’s last first-rounder when he was selected No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2017.

Four Aggies hold positions on the New Orleans coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and assistant head coach and tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Aaron Glenn serves as secondary coach, while Michael Hodges is a defensive assistant.

McCoy said the Saints were one of the teams that met with him in College Station. Campbell also attended A&M’s pro day.

New Orleans gave Miami second-round picks in 2019 and 2020 to move up 14 spots for McCoy. The Saints also gave Miami a sixth-round pick for a fourth-round pick in the deal.

The 6-foot-4, 303-pound McCoy could fill the void left by the retirement of 2018 Pro Bowl center Max Unger but will compete for the starting job with recent free-agent signee Nick Easton from Minnesota.

McCoy said before the draft that he hoped he would be able to begin a new first-round streak for the Aggies.

“If I could sneak into the first round, that would be great,” McCoy said in the week leading up to the draft. “That’s everyone’s life-long dream is to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. Obviously, yeah, that would be a big deal to me.”

In three years with the Aggies, McCoy started all 39 games. He was a team captain his junior season, which saw the Aggies gain 6,131 total yards of offense. At the team’s annual banquet, McCoy earned awards for offensive leadership and offensive MVP as well as academic honors.

According to Pro Football Focus, McCoy allowed just one sack in 1,528 career pass-blocking snaps during his three years at A&M.

When McCoy declared for the draft in January, foregoing his senior season, he said he received a fourth- to sixth-round grade. At A&M’s pro day in late March, McCoy said his stock rose to a first- to early third-round grade.

“I feel like they went back after I declared, looked at the film again and really saw what I was capable of,” he said.