NFL Draft Notes - April 24

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

There are forty-eight hours until the much-anticipated 2018 NFL Draft kicks off, and there’s still a lot of speculation who the first player off the board will be. Here’s the latest from what I’m hearing.

* The Baltimore Ravens hold a pivotal selection with the 16th pick. We have them choosing Calvin Ridley in our recent mock draft, although sources tell me defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne is also in the conversation for that pick. As is usually the case for the Ravens, both are Alabama products.

* I’m told the Ravens are not as desperate to come out of the draft with a tight end as many are making it seem. They would draft a tight end if a highly rated prospect falls into their laps, but there is also a belief the team could soon sign receiver Eric Decker.

* In that recent mock, I have the San Francisco 49ers trading down with the Buffalo Bills and selecting Leighton Vander Esch. This won’t be the case if Tremaine Edmunds is available when the Niners are called to the clock, as he is the player the team covets.

* Sources tell me the order of the three players the Dallas Cowboys are targeting with the 19th pick is Vita Vea, Leighton Vander Esch and D.J. Moore. A report from Rotoworld yesterday stated that the Cowboys organization compared Vander Esch to Brian Urlacher.

* We’ve been driving the Jullian Taylor bandwagon during the lead-up to the draft. Sources tell me that if Taylor had worked out in front of the whole league at the combine, which he was not invited to, he would’ve ended up as a second-day pick. Since the beginning of March, the Temple product has visited or worked out for half the teams in the league.   Teams point to his exceptional pro day as proof Taylor’s numbers stand up against some of the better performers at the combine.  The Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles were last-minute adds to Taylor’s schedule.

* More than a decade ago, I reported on the New York Jets flying out to an airport in Pittsburgh to get a last-minute face-to-face meeting with a player -- it was Darrelle Revis. These days teams don’t need to go to those extremes. I’m told teams who have been unable to bring desired prospects to their facilities for official visits are turning to FaceTime to interview players “face-to-face.” I know of at least a dozen teams who bypassed the official visit route to FaceTime players they could select over the seven rounds of the draft.