Ryan McCrystal

Draft Needs: Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys made a bold move by trading into the top 10, but they got a great deal from the Rams and have now solidified their most glaring weakness on defense.

Normally I’m critical of teams that trade up as far as the Cowboys, but only because of the price tag associated with climbing into the top 10. The Cowboys, however, were able to hang on to their 2013 1st-round pick, the usual asking price for such a blockbuster trade.

The selection of Morris Claiborne immediately solidifies what was the Cowboys most glaring weakness entering the offseason. Claiborne should make an immediate impact, and should be considered an early candidate for defensive rookie of the year. Due to the free agent acquisition of Brandon Carr, Claiborne will be the No. 2 corner, which will put him in favorable matchups and allow him to develop, rather than being thrown into the fire as he would have in Tampa Bay or Minnesota.

Tyrone Crawford may have been a slight reach in the 3rd round, but the Cowboys needed to address the depth at defensive end. He’s a prototypical 3-4 end and should be given an opportunity to compete for playing time with Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman.

The selection of Kyle Wilber was definitely a reach and didn’t address an immediate are of concern.

Matt Johnson is a developmental prospect and a significant reach in the 4th round. He’ll primarily play on special teams early in his career and be groomed to play strong safety down the road. He clearly has the size/athleticism combination, but probably would have still been on the board in the 5th or 6th round.

I love the selection of Danny Coale in the 5th round. His upside is limited due to his lack of speed and overall athleticism, but he is a classic possession receiver who should be able to contribute as the 3rd or 4th option, even as a rookie.

James Hanna rose up draft boards with an impressive combine workout, but his lack of production in college raises some concern. A player with his raw skills should have been able to find a role at Oklahoma, an offense which has a role found roles for athletic tight ends like Jermaine Gresham in the  past. That said, the risk/reward is definitely in the Cowboys favor in the 6th round.

Caleb McSurdy has a decent chance to make the final roster cuts due to the Cowboys lack of depth at inside linebacker. There’s a chance he could beat out Bruce Carter if he impresses in training camp.

Overall, this draft was all about the addition of Claiborne. The Cowboys clearly view him as one of the missing pieces to their championship run. The trade was an aggressive move, but one that could prove to be well worth the risk if he lives up to expectations.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Cowboys, Draft Grades - 2012 Comments Off

Draft Grades: San Diego Chargers

A.J. Smith and Norv Turner’s jobs are on the line, so this was a critical draft for the San Diego Chargers. Entering the draft, there were rumors about the Chargers trading up, which made sense if Smith and Turner felt they needed to land an impact player to help save their jobs. But they stayed put on draft day, and it payed off.

It was difficult to imagine a scenario in which Melvin Ingram fell the Chargers, but when he did their front office wasted no time snatching him up. Ingram may not technically be a starter in 2012, with Shaun Phillips and Jarret Johnson favored to occupy that role, but he will make a significant impact. He played a hybrid end/linebacker role in South Carolina, so he should be able to make a smooth transition in San Diego.

Kendall Reyes had value in the 2nd round, so I can’t argue with the selection too much. However, it’s tough to see how he fits into their immediate plans. He’ll compete with Vaughn Martin and Luis Castillo for playing time. It’s also possible that he is used as a part of a rotation, coming into the game in passing situations with Martin playing on the majority of run downs.

Brandon Taylor was a reach in the 3rd round, but there was such little depth in this year’s class of safeties that the Chargers likely felt the need to go off the board to fill a need. He may be given an opportunity to compete with Atari Bigby for the starting job at strong safety.

I love the selection of Lararius Green. He’s very raw, but has the potential to be an elite pass-catching tight end. He is now the heir apparent to Antonio Gates at tight end, but could be used in some two tight end sets this upcoming season. He’s a matchup nightmare, and has the potential to be a steal in the 4th round.

Johnnie Troutman was a reach in the 5th round and, on top of that, he is expected to miss the entire 2012 season due to injury. Unless a player has elite upside, which Troutman does not, it’s best to stay away from injured players in the draft.

David Molk fell much further than I expected. He’s a smart, physical interior lineman who could be given an opportunity to take over for Nick Hardwick in a year or two.

Edwin Baker also fell on draft day. The Chargers have limited depth behind Ryan Matthews, which should allow Baker to earn a roster spot.

Overall, the Chargers drafted a nice mix of players who can help immediately and can be groomed for the future. It’s a well-balanced class which should help save the jobs of A.J. Smith and Norv Turner.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chargers, Draft Grades - 2012 1 Comment

Draft Grades: Oakland Raiders

It’s tough to grade a team with no draft picks, so to make it simple I’ll focus solely on how the Oakland Raiders used the picks they had and ignore the questionable trades that got them here.

With their first selection in the 3rd round the Raiders reached to fill a need. Tony Bergstrom will be given an opportunity to compete for a starting job, but he offers only a limited upgrade over their current interior linemen. The Raiders would have been better off settling for the best available player, even if it didn’t fill an immediate need.

Miles Burris will likely compete for the starting job at weak-side linebacker. However, his upside is limited and his role as a rookie may only come by default. His long-term value figures to be limited to special teams duty.

Jack Crawford is an intriguing prospect, but he’s never put it all together on the field. He has all the physical tools necessary to be an elite pass rusher, but he’s just never shown the ability to consistently play at a high level. He’s well worth a gamble in the 5th round, however, and could end up being a player who blossoms in the NFL.

What would Al Davis have to say about the Raiders drafting Juron Criner, who ran a 4.68 in the forty at the combine? The fact that the new Raiders regime would even consider Criner given his poor time shows a considerable shift in philosophy in Oakland. Speed issues aside, this may have been the Raiders best selection. Criner is built like a true No. 1 receiver and has shown that type of play-making ability in the past. He’s inconsistent, but is a nice developmental prospect to add in the 5th round.

Chris Bilukidi will add some much-needed depth to the interior defensive line. He’s needs to improve his overall strength, but has the raw measurables to offer some value as a developmental prospect.

Nathan Stupar projects as a special teams player but, given the lack of depth at linebacker in Oakland, he could see some fairly significant playing time and potentially compete for a starting job if no one else is brought in this offseason.

Considering what limited resources they had to work with, GM Reggie McKenzie and his staff did a nice job. It’s unreaslitic to expect any signficant contributors to come from this class, but the Raiders added enough players with some developmental value that they may find a gem or two.

 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Raiders 2 Comments

Draft Grades: Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs gambled early and often in this class, focusing on players with high upside despite minimal on-field production in college. It’s a bold strategy, and Scott Pioli is putting his job on the line. If these draft classes don’t pan out, he’ll be on the hot seat in a year or two.

Dontari Poe is a classic boom-or-bust prospect. It’s impossible to overlook his measurables, but it’s equally tough to ignore his lack of production at Memphis. The Chiefs could prove to be an ideal landing spot for him though. Romeo Crennel has a strong track record developing nose tackles, working with Vince Wilfork in New England and Shaun Rogers in Cleveland. He’s a true player’s coach, and should be able to keep Poe motivated.

Jeff Allen was considered a 2nd-round pick by many, but it feels like a reach to me. He primarily played tackle at Illinois, rotating between left and right tackle in every game. That type of versatility is intriguing, but his athleticism is limited and he’ll be limited to right tackle or guard at the next level. I’d be more comfortable with the selection of Allen if he filled a need, but the Chiefs don’t appear to have any immediate openings on the offensive.

Donald Stephenson has the measurables to play left tackle in the pros but he, like Poe, showed limited production in college. Given his upside, the Chiefs will likely groom him behind Branden Albert. He may take a year or two to reach his full potential, but he does have a chance to take over a starting job down the road.

Devon Wylie is an elite deep threat, who was a solid value in the 4th round. He’s as fast and explosive as any receiver in this class and has the potential to make an impact in a limited role immediately, and potentially on special teams as well. However, Wylie also has an extensive injury history and has struggled to stay on the field.

De’Quan Menzie played corner at Alabama but is a candidate to shift to free safety in the pros. He lacks the speed to be consistently effective in coverage, but does have the size and ability in run support to play safety. However, the Chiefs secondary is crowded. He’ll need to prove his worth on special teams in order to win a roster spot.

The selection of Cyrus Gray was questionable, even the 6th round. While there’s no denying he was worthy of a 6th-round pick, it’s tough to see how he fits into the Chiefs plan. Peyton Hillis, Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster are guaranteed roster spots, which makes Gray a long shot to make the final roster cut.

Jerome Long is a developmental prospect. He’ll likely be moved to to end in the Chiefs 3-4 defense but he’ll have to fight with Brandon Bair and others for a spot on the roster.

Junior Hemingway is a decent developmental prospect in the 7th round. He has the measurables and turned in some impressive workouts this offseason. He has limited experience in a pro-style offense, however, which limited his growth as a receiver. He’s definitely a candidate to be one of the steals from the 7th round.

Like their 1st-round pick, this was a boom-or-bust draft class for the Chiefs. Poe is the only prospect who will start immediately, and even he is developmental propsect who may struggle early on his career. While this draft class has the potential to produce three or four starters, there are no slam dunks. This could prove to be a critical draft class for Scott Piolo. Either he hits a home run and the Chiefs become serious contenders, or each of these prospects fails to live up their potential and Pioli finds himself on the hot seat.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Chiefs, Draft Grades - 2012 1 Comment

2012 Draft Grades

Are post-draft grades worthess? This time of year the cynics come out of the woodwork to say “you can’t grade a draft until three years  have gone by.” While there is definitely some truth to that statement, grading a draft class immediately after the fact is far from worthless. In fact the post-draft grades are crucial to the grading process down the line.

Consider this example, if Andrew Luck turns out to be the next Ryan Leaf, will the Colts receive a failing grade in three years? Those same cynics who criticize the post-draft grading may say yes, but it’s not that simple. Nearly every scout, coach and general manager in the league would have made the same selection and, as a result, the Colts post-draft grade of the selection receives high marks. No matter what happens down the road, this was the right decision. It would be difficult to ever give the Colts a failing grade for the selection of Luck, regardless of the outcome.

Consider another example, let’s say Mohamad Sanu (Bengals 3rd-round pick) and John Hughes (Browns 3rd-round pick) both turn into busts. Do the teams get the same grade in three years for these selections? If you only look at the draft from the perspective of what happened on the field, yes. But if you refer to the initial reaction of the selections, it’s not even close. Sanu was a consensus top 100 pick, and many teams had 3rd-round grades on him. If he fails, it doesn’t change the fact that it was a safe pick by the Bengals. A certain percentage of 3rd-round picks will turn into busts, even the highly-rated ones. John Hughes, on the other hand, received very few, if any, 3rd-round grades from other teams. The Browns reached to fill a need and if he fails to pan out, the Browns grade should be a reflection of their questionable decision.

So while these grades certainly will change in three years, they will also serve as a valuable tool for evaluating these draft classes in the future.

Click on a team’s logo for their draft grade.

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012 Comments Off

Draft Grades: Denver Broncos

By signing Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos gave themselves a three-year window in which they can make a serious run at the Super Bowl. But their selections in this draft class raise some questions about the direction this franchise is headed.

Derek Wolfe was a reach in the early 2nd round. John Fox was clearly looking for a penetrating three-technique tackle but, while Wolfe is a decent athlete for his size, he lacks the consistency to warrant such a high pick. He’ll be plugged into a starting role immediately, but I question his ability to be effective. There were better options, such as Kendall Reyes, on the board.

The Brock Osweiler selection baffles me. For starters, it’s a reach in the 2nd round. He is a purely developmental prospect who needs significant work on this motion and his decision making ability. But what really concerns me is that fact that the Broncos used an early pick on Manning’s replacement when they could have added a playmaker to help Manning in his pursuit of of Super Bowl title.

The selection of Ronnie Hillman has drawn criticism from some, but I’m on board with the pick. Yes, there were better running backs still on the board, but the Broncos weren’t looking for starter here. They’re comfortable with another season of Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, meaning Hillman will be relied upon as a change-of-pace back, and he’s more than capable of filling that role.

Omar Bolden is an injury risk, but I like the gamble in the 4th round. If healthy, he has an excellent chance to win the nickel corner job and could develop into a quality starter down the road.

Phillip Blake will be given an opportunity to compete with J.D. Walton for the starting job at center. And if Walton’s performance from 2011 continues, Blake will have an excellent chance to win the job. He could prove to be a steal in the 4th round.

Malik Jackson is another prospect who could prove to be a late-round steal. I only had him rated slightly lower than Derek Wolfe, and two prospects are similar in many ways. He primarily played both tackle and end at Tennessee, but is better suited to stay inside in Denver’s 4-3 defense.

Danny Trevathan was a playmaker at Kentucky and an extremely productive collegiate linebacker. However, he’s undersized and lacks the athleticism to make up for it. His upside is limited, but he has a decent chance to make the Broncos roster based on his potential to contribute on special teams.

Overall, this was a disappointing haul for the Broncos. They didn’t make too many extreme reaches, but they also failed to add immediate help for Manning. Even if Osweiler proves to be the heir apparent to Manning, if they won’t win during the Manning era, we’ll have to wonder if they missed an opportunity to upgrade the talent around him with that selection.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012 2 Comments

Way too early 2013 mock draft

1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Montgomery – DE – LSU
The top pick in the 2013 draft will probably be a quarterback, but the team that earns that selection will probably have already addressed that need in one of the previous two years. Montgomery enters the year as the early favorite to be the top defensive player off the board.

2. Indianapolis Colts – Chris Faulk – OT – LSU
The Colts failed to address the offensive line this  year, and will need to improve the protection for Andrew Luck in next year’s draft. There isn’t a clear-cut top rated tackle, but Faulk will be in the mix depending on his play in 2012.

3.  St. Louis Rams – Robert Woods – WR – USC
This may end up being too high for Woods to come off the board, but he’ll definitely be among the players the Rams consider. Sam Bradford is going to need more than just Brian Quick to reach his full potential.

4. Minnesota Vikings – David Amerson – CB – N.C. State
The  Vikings decided to pass on Morris Claiborne this year, but could be interested in the top defensive back in 2013. While the Honey Badger gets all the attention, Amerson is the early favorite to be the top cornerback in the 2013 class.

5. St. Louis Rams – D.J. Fluker – OT – Alabama
from Redskins – The Rams added some weapons for Sam Bradford this year, but failed to upgrade his protection. Fluker needs to improve, but if he makes the expected strides he’ll be a potential top-10 pick.  Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Mock Draft Comments Off

Draft Losers: Denver Broncos

When the Denver Broncos signed a 36-year-old future Hall of Famer to play quarterback, everyone assumed they were gearing up for a serious run at the Super Bowl. But this draft class tells a different story.

We'll be seeing a lot of this from Osweiler.

The Broncos only landed one  player, Derek Wolfe, who will compete for a starting job in 2012. They also only added one offensive weapon, Ronnie Hillman, who is nothing more than a 3rd-down back who will have to fight for carries with Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno.

But the most surprising selection was Brock Osweiler, who will be groomed as Manning’s eventually replacement. Osweiler is a nice developmental prospect, but in the late 2nd round the Broncos could have added another impact player who would actually help in their pursuit of a Super Bowl title during the Manning era.

It would be very interesting to hear Manning’s reaction to this draft class. He can’t be happy about the lack of support he’ll receive from the Broncos rookie class.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Broncos 1 Comment

Draft Losers: San Francisco 49ers

When you’re as close to a Super Bowl berth as the San Francisco 49ers were in 2011, you need to add some impact players in the draft to push you over the top. Unfortunately, the 49ers failed to add a single starter, instead settling for developmental prospects who will do little to help in 2012.

A.J. Jenkins was a reach in the late 1st-round and will take time to develop. His speed may be an asset in certain situations, but he’ll be competing with veterans Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr. just to get on the field.

LaMichael James was another luxury pick who will have to fight just to get on the field. He may be nothing more than a return specialist early in his career, an area which was not a need in San Francisco.

Overall, this was a disappointing draft class for a team that had an opportunity to solidify a few holes in an effort to make another deep playoff run in 2012.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, 49ers 5 Comments

Draft Losers: Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks made the reach of the draft by selecting Bruce Irvin in the 1st round, but that wasn’t the last of their poor decisions. And for the second straight year, Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider demonstrated a complete lack of understanding as to how to use the draft to effectively improve their roster.

Bruce Irvin

Irvin's workout numbers landed him in the 1st round

2nd-round pick Bobby Wagner is the Seahawks only draftee with a reasonable chance to start in 2012, and even he will be forced to compete with Barrett Ruud for the starting job at inside linebacker.

The selection of Russell Wilson, who projects as a career backup, raises further questions about the Seahawks draft strategy. It’s difficult to imagine how the Seahawks front office could justify a draft class filled with career backups when their current roster is filled with so many glaring holes.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Seahawks 11 Comments