NFL looks at adding "booth umpire" and tech advisor for refs

Thu May 21 1:12pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer

In this Aug. 17, 2017, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a season ticket member fan forum before practice at the Cleveland Browns NFL football team's training camp facility in Berea, Ohio. Several NFL teams are reopening their training facilities Tuesday, May 19, 2020, while many are prohibited by government restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Roger Goodell gave the 32 clubs the go-ahead for limited reopenings as long as state and local municipalities allow them. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)


The NFL is considering adding a “booth umpire” and a senior technology advisor to the referee to assist the officiating crew.

The league also is looking at other rules changes, including an alternative to the onside kick.

NFL clubs received a list of potential rules changes on Thursday. Owners will vote on the proposals at the upcoming league meeting to be held by video conference on May 28.

The league’s competition committee told teams last month it supports studying ways to determine how officiating personnel who have access to a video feed could help on-field officials. A booth umpire would serve as an eighth game official.

If owners don’t approve adding a booth umpire and/or a senior technology adviser, the league could test a version of both rules in the preseason for possible future implementation.

The proposal that would give teams another option instead of an onside kick permits a team to maintain possession of the ball after a score by substituting one offensive play. The kicking team would attempt a fourth-and-15 from its 25-yard line. This could be done a maximum of two times per game.

Onside kicks have become infrequent - and hardly ever successful - since the NFL changed rules on alignments for kickoffs.

Other rules changes that’ll be discussed:

- Making permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful extra-point attempt.

- Providing the option to the defense for the game clock to start on the referee’s signal if the defense declines an offensive penalty that occurs late in either half. This would eliminate instances when an offense could benefit time-wise from committing a penalty.

- Expanding the defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent.

- Preventing teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.

The Eagles had proposed restoring preseason and regular-season overtime to 15 minutes and to implement rules to minimize the impact of the overtime coin toss. But they have withdrawn the idea.

Owners are expected to drop the use of video reviews on pass interference after a one-year trial that caused as many headaches as it solved issues. The competition committee has recommended not renewing the rule that was put in place for last season after an egregious missed call in the 2018 NFC title game affected the result.

Player Notes
Josh Allen May 31 9:53pm ET

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen has 17 rushing touchdowns in 27 career starts. Only free-agent QB Cam Newton (Panthers) has had more rushing touchdowns in his first 27 starts.

Fantasy Spin: Despite below average accuracy, Newton has been a high-end fantasy quarterback for much of his career because of his rushing stats. Allen may never reach Newton's level, but his running ability can keep him in the QB1 mix.

From TheHuddle

Robert Woods May 31 8:03pm ET

Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods registered 613 yards after the catch in 2019 - the third-highest total in the league.

From TheHuddle

John Ross May 31 8:03pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross averaged 7.3 yards after the catch in 2019 - tied for the fourth-highest average in the league among players who amassed 50 targets last season.

From TheHuddle

Le'Veon Bell May 31 7:13pm ET

New York Jets RB Le'Veon Bell has enjoyed a target share of between 17 and 18 percent in four of his last five seasons, with the only exception coming in 2015 (15 percent). His 17.3 percent share in 2019 was the second-highest mark of his career.

From TheHuddle

George Kittle May 31 7:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle has compiled two of the three best seasons for a tight end in terms of producing yards after the catch since at least 2015 over the last two years. His 871 receiving yards after the catch in 2018 are the most by any player over the last five seasons (and 208 more yards than second-place Travis Kelce compiled in 2016), while his 623 receiving yards after the catch in 2019 led all tight ends and trailed only Chris Godwin (629) among all players last season.

From TheHuddle

Kareem Hunt May 31 6:43pm ET

Cleveland Browns RB Kareem Hunt ranked sixth among running backs with 44 targets from Week 10 until the end of the 2019 regular season. Additionally, Hunt's 49 slot snaps also ranked sixth among running backs in the league for the year despite playing only eight games.

From TheHuddle

Calvin Ridley May 31 5:33pm ET

Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley was on track for 66 catches for 853 yards and nine touchdowns on 101 targets prior to the Falcons trading Mohamed Sanu to the New England Patriots following a Week 7 loss. Over his final six games and before succumbing to an abdomen injury that ended his season prior to Week 15, Ridley's 16-game pace over the final six contests was 91 receptions for 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns on 131 targets.

Fantasy Spin: Six games is a relatively small sample, but it provides a bit of rationale to those that believe Ridley could be this year's Chris Godwin. The third-year pro finds himself in a wonderful environment to make it happen, as Julio Jones will continue to command the most respect from defensive coordinators and Atlanta's defense may struggle at times yet again. As such, Ridley should be viewed as a high-end WR2 with WR1 upside.

From TheHuddle

Jake Butt May 31 3:53pm ET

Denver Broncos TEs Albert Okwuegbunam, Austin Fort and Jake Butt are expected to be competing for two roster spots during training camp. Okwuegbunam is considered a favorite for one of the spots.

From TheHuddle

Melvin Gordon May 31 3:10pm ET

Denver Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III had 6,000-plus scrimmage yards and two Pro Bowl selections in five seasons with the Chargers, but he thinks the Broncos running scheme is better suited to his strengths as an explosive, downhill runner. Gordon had 2,587 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns in his final year in college in a zone-based offense similar. He had his moments as a perimeter runner with the Bolts, but his straight-line running style is better suited in an offense with more downhill runs. Denver has a zone-based system that's expected to feature more downhill plays under offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Broncos plan on using Gordon as their lead back despite Phillip Lindsay's presence, and in an offense better suited to his strengths as a runner, Gordon could be more efficient and give fantasy owners RB1 upside at an RB2 cost.

From RotoBaller

Lamar Jackson May 31 3:03pm ET

Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson hopefully will try more downfield throws this upcoming season when the team faces one-on-one coverage, according to head coach John Harbaugh. 'Those corners are going to be one-on-one and those safeties are going to be one-on-one against receivers, especially on downfield throws, and we got to make them pay for it,' Harbaugh said. 'I really do believe that's the next step for this offense from an execution standpoint. I really do believe Lamar is going to take the next step and our receivers are going to take the next step.'

Fantasy Spin: Jackson is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and would be an even more valuable fantasy option if he is able to connect on more downfield throws. Hs should be one of the first quarterbacks selected in all drafts and is a must-start option in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Baker Mayfield May 31 2:50pm ET

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks thinks that Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is primed for the best season of his career in new head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense. Cleveland's 12-personnel packages featuring tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku, along with receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and running back Nick Chubb, will be hard to stop. Mayfield averaged 9.0 yards per attempt (third-most in the NFL) in 12-personnel setups last year, and that formation is Stefanski's preference. Mayfield was also much better on play-action passes last year, so the Browns should look to feature those types of plays to take the pressure off the third-year passer. Cleveland's rebuilt offensive line should also give Mayfield better protection in 2020. All of this should add up to Mayfield being much more productive under Stefanski, making him a fine QB2 target with QB1 upside after his disappointing 2019 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott May 31 2:10pm ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has not yet signed the franchise tender as he seeks a long-term deal from the team. History suggests the sides will come together before the July 15 deadline or Prescott may not be with Dallas beyond this season. Since the franchise tag was introduced in 1993, only eight quarterbacks have been tagged and all but two, Drew Brees in 2005 and Kirk Cousins in 2018, got extensions prior to the season. Prescott is coming off the best season of his four-year career throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns. He enters fantasy draft season as a top-three option at quarterback in fantasy.

From RotoBaller

Clay Matthews May 31 1:33pm ET

Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) is not receiving interest from the Cleveland Browns at this point.

From TheHuddle

Kareem Hunt May 31 1:13pm ET

Cleveland Browns RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt probably will be on the field at the same time on occasion this upcoming season, in the opinion of The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.

Fantasy Spin: Chubb will continue to receive most of the work at running back this upcoming season, but Hunt was a solid receiver out of the backfield in 2019. Chubb should be a No. 1 running back in fantasy leagues, while Hunt can be a flex option in most leagues and likely will be more valuable in point-per-reception leagues.

From TheHuddle

Jadeveon Clowney May 31 1:03pm ET

Free-agent DE Jadeveon Clowney (Seahawks) is still receiving interest from the Cleveland Browns even though he has not accepted their contract offer at this point.

From TheHuddle

Stefon Diggs May 31 12:53pm ET

Buffalo Bills WR Stefon Diggs has only worked with QB Josh Allen during drills at the recent workouts in Florida.

Fantasy Spin: The team has not been able to hold offseason workouts, but Allen and Diggs have found a way to work on building their chemistry. Diggs likely will be the top option in the passing game this upcoming season and should be considered a No. 2 wide receiver in most fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Olivier Vernon May 31 8:43am ET

The Cleveland Browns could release DE Olivier Vernon if the team signs free-agent DE Jadeveon Clowney, in the opinion of 710 ESPN Seattle's John Clayton. The Browns currently have Vernon and Myles Garrett at defensive end and also signed DE Adrian Clayborn earlier this offseason to a one-year, $3.75 million deal.

From TheHuddle

Willie Snead May 31 12:03am ET

Baltimore Ravens WR Devin Duvernay is expected to compete with WR Willie Snead for playing time in three-receiver sets.

From TheHuddle

Ezekiel Elliott May 30 11:43pm ET

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott had 355 touches in 2019, making him the first running back since Ladainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007 to have back-to-back seasons with at least 350 touches.

Fantasy Spin: Even with the Cowboys finishing with the second-most passing yards in the league, Elliott still handled a huge workload. The volume alone should keep him firmly in the RB1 mix in 2020.

From TheHuddle

Tyler Lockett May 30 9:23pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett's 11.23 yards per target and 18 receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons rank second in the NFL, and he has caught 77.2 percent of his targets in that stretch, the third-best mark.

From TheHuddle