Ryan McCrystal

Why the Rams won’t negotiate with Bradford before draft

Usually the team owning the No. 1 pick makes every effort to have that player signed prior to the draft.

The reason for this is that prior to draft, the team holds all the power. The player wants to be the No. 1 pick, and to ensure that happens he needs to sign a contract. Once the player is selected, however, the power shifts. The team risks embarrassing itself if they don’t get the player under contract quickly, so its the team that feels the pressure to cave to the player’s demands.

This year, however, the tide has turned. This is likely to be the final year in which we don’t have a rookie wage scale in place. Meaning the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 will earn significantly less than Sam Bradford will be paid this year.

Because of this, the Rams hold ALL the power in these negotiations. If Bradford doesn’t sign a contract and re-enters the draft in 2011 he’ll lose millions of dollars. While the Rams would look foolish if Bradford actually took that option they’re confident that he won’t, and for good reason.

Given Bradford’s character, coupled with the financial hit he would take, there’s simply no doubt in anyone’s mind that he’ll eventually sign with the Rams. Even if it means settling for less money than the No. 1 pick would typically receive.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Rams Comments Off

There could be a run on cornerbacks in the 1st round

Just about every year there is a run on players from a certain position. This year we know a good number of offensive tackles and defensive linemen will go in the 1st round. Joining them, could be a number of cornerbacks.

Back in my first post-regular season mock draft in January I had only one cornerback in the 1st round – Joe Haden. Since then, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Robinson and Kareem Jackson have all entered the conversation. While I don’t believe all five deserve to be 1st-round selections, its not out of the question that they could all sneak into the top 32 picks.

Runs on a specific position happen when teams need to fill a position and are worried that they’ll be left with a significantly worse player by the time they’re on the clock again. For example, if the Eagles want a cornerback in the 1st round they may reach for Kareem Jackson rather than settle for Perrish Cox in the second round.

Just a few weeks ago it seemed reasonable to assume that only two cornerbacks would come off the board in the 1st round. So lets run through a scenario in which all five could come off the board.

10. Jaguars – Joe Haden
The Jaguars are definitely in the mix to land Haden. They need someone opposite Rashean Mathis, who turns 30 in August.

17. 49ers – Devin McCourty
There are reportedly a number of teams in the top 20 that have an interest in McCoury, and the 49ers are likely one of them. Nate Clements has been a huge disappointment, and was benched at one point in 2009. McCourty could allow them to part ways with him and enormous contract.

24. Eagles – Kyle Wilson
The Eagles traded arguably their best cornerback, Sheldon Brown, to the Browns in an effort to get younger on defense. However, it depleted their depth at cornerback in the process and left them with with Ellis Hobbs as their best option to start opposite Asante Samuel.

25. Ravens – Kareem Jackson
Both Lardarius Webb and Dominique Foxworth are coming off ACL injuries and may not be ready for the start of the season. Having two key injuries in their secondary has the Ravens worried, and they’ve done their homework on the majority of the top cornerbacks in this year’s class.

31. Vikings – Patrick Robinson
Robinson is the long shot of the group, but if the top four cornerbacks are off the board by No. 31 the Vikings may take chance on him. Depth at the position was a weakness of the Vikings in 2009 and to make matters worse Cedric Griffin’s season ended with a serious knee injury which could cause him to miss the start of the 2010 season. They’re desperate for help in the secondary and may not haveĀ  a choice but to add someone in the 1st round.

This is just one of multiple scenarios in which five corners could come off the board. Other teams such as the Titans, Steelers and Packers are also interested in cornerbacks early in the draft.

If a scenario such as this plays out, the real winners will be the teams drafting early in the 2nd round. A number of 1st-round talents will fall if teams start to reach for guys at a specific position. It could cause multiple big names to still be on the board on Friday.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Packers, Ravens, Vikings Comments Off

A look at why Dez Bryant’s stock has fallen

We’ve been hearing all winter and spring about how Dez Bryant‘s character concerns are going cause him to fall on draft day.

In fact, the rumors have become so rampant that some are saying it has been blown out of proportion by teams lower in the draft trying to cause him to fall. Bryant’s defenders point to the fact that he’s never been in trouble with the law, and that his issues are far smaller than those of players who enter the draft with criminal backgrounds.

NCAA Football: Pacific Life Holiday Bowl DEC 30In a sense, they’re right. There’s no reason to believe that Bryant will do anything to get himself suspended in the NFL. He’s never been in legal trouble and there have been no indications that he’s even the type of person who puts himself in situations where bad things tend to happen (i.e. at a night club at 3am).

However, Bryant’s character flaws may actually be more concerning than anyone with a checkered past.

Teams are concerned with Bryant’s work ethic. In college he had a tendency to show up late for everything – meetings, practice and even games. That alone raises a huge red flag.

In the NFL players with off-field character concerns typically get second, third and fourth chances because it rarely impacts their play on the field. Take Terrell Owens for example. He presents a significant off-field risk to any team he plays for, however, his work ethic is so impressive that teams are willing to take a chance. No matter what he does or says away from the field, teams can count on him to be in top physical condition in order to perform on game day.

That cannot be said for a player like Bryant. Teams are genuinely worried that he will have a difficult learning curve in the NFL because of his lack of work ethic. Wide receivers rarely make a significant impact in the NFL before their 3rd year in the league. Its perhaps the slowest developing position in the game. Factor in Bryant’s work ethic and you could be looking at an even longer time frame before he develops into the elite receiver that he has the potential to become.

The NFL has a “win-now” attitude. Most coaches and general managers don’t have the job security to look three years down the road. For this reason, fewer receivers are being selected high in the draft.

This mind set could cause Bryant to fall on draft day. It could also lead to him being selected by one of the few organizations that does provide job security to its decision makers such as the Steelers or Patriots.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Patriots, Steelers Comments Off

A look at the Chiefs Draft Board

We’re all but certain as to how the first three picks will play out, and I’ve detailed my thoughts on the Redskins decision earlier today. So here’s my best guess at what the Chiefs draft board looks like. Since they’re picking 5th, I’ll only include five players.

1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
He’s the best tackle in the draft and he’ll fit perfectly in Kansas City, supplanting Branden Albert at left tackle.

2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
The Chiefs don’t need a defensive lineman, but I also can’t see them passing up Suh if he were to fall and Okung were gone. He won’t fall though, so its a non-issue.

3. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Bulaga won’t be this high on every draft board, but he fits the profile of linemen Scott Pioli likes: physical, tough and smart. I can’t envision any scenario in which he isn’t still on the board at No. 5.

4. Trent Williams, Oklahoma
In the unlikely scenario in which Okung and Bulaga both went in the top five (to Detroit and Washington, I guess?) the Chiefs would likely settle for Williams. He isn’t exactly what they’re looking for, but they’re desperate to improve the protection for Matt Cassel.

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
This is the longest shot of them all, but in the crazy scenario in which Okung, Suh, Bulaga and Williams went in the top four I believe the Chiefs would turn to McClain. He is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense and fills an immediate need at inside linebacker.

No Eric Berry?
Yes, I left off Eric Berry. I realize that many mock drafts have the Chiefs taking Berry, however I don’t believe Scott Pioli has any interest in taking a safety in the top five. Pioli strongly believes that linemen and linebackers are the safest prospects and therefore should almost always be your selections in the top 10. A poor decision with the 5th pick in the draft can set a franchise back for years and Pioli isn’t interested in taking a gamble.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Chiefs Comments Off

Redskins could throw a wrench into the top five

Once the Redskins acquired Donovan McNabb we assumed the top four picks were set in stone – Bradford, Suh, McCoy, Okung. But what if the Redskins went in a different direction?

Mike Shanahan is expected to implement a zone blocking scheme which he and Alex Gibbs (now the Seahawks offensive line coach) successfully ran for years in Denver. The system featured undersized, athletic linemen who paved the way for nobodys such as Olandis Gary and Reuben Droughns to rush for well over 1,000 yards.

The key to system is finding the right players. A lineman such as Larry Allen, as great as he was, would never have fit into Shanahan’s blocking scheme. His system requires linemen to be quick on their feet, rather than just bulldozers on the line of scrimmage.

CFB: Kansas vs Oklahoma OCT 18

Is Williams headed to Washington?

So how does this apply to the Redskins daft plans?

It could mean that Trent Williams is actually the No. 1 lineman on the Redskins draft board. While not considered the consensus top available offensive tackle, Williams is a superior athlete to Russell Okung.

Okung has adequate athleticism for a left tackle, but he falls well short of Williams’ speed and quickness. The best part of Okung’s game is his strength. He’s strong enough to hold up against the bull rushers and to push around the smaller speed rushers.

I have little doubt that Okung could play in Washington. His athleticism is on par with the majority of left tackles in the league. But there are at least a handful of teams who reportedly have Trent Williams as their top-rated tackle. It’s certainly within reason to believe that the Redskins are one of them, and could make him the 4th-overall selection in the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Redskins 1 Comment

Titans eyeing a cornerback in the 1st round?

Nearly every mock draft out there has the Titans selecting a defensive lineman with the 16th pick in the draft. Jason Pierre-Paul and Derrick Morgan seem to be the popular choices, but do the Titans have something else in mind?

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - TCU v Boise State

Is Wilson a 1st-round target of the Titans?

The Titans have used up numerous draft visits this spring on defensive backs including Joe Haden, Kyle Wilson and Earl Thomas who are all expected to be 1st-round selections.

You can’t read into draft visits too much but when a team pays this much attention to a specific position, its more than just a smoke screen. Based on the offseason acquisition of Tye Hill, the Titans clearly view cornerback as a position of need. Hill will compete for the starting job opposite Courtland Finnegan, but it won’t be handed to him. Jason McCourty and Rod Hood figure to be in the mix as well.

While Finnegan ranks among the game’s elite, the rest of the Titans secondary isn’t striking fear into opponents. In a division which features the high-powered offenses of the Colts and Texans, the Titans may view cornerback as a bigger weakness than the defensive line because of their competition.

Both positions seem to be high on the Titans wish list, but don’t be shocked if they make cornerback their 1st-round selection and address the defensive line later in the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Titans Comments Off

How does the Holmes trade shake up the draft?

With Santonio Holmes on his way out of Pittsburgh, suddenly the draft intentions of the Steelers and Jets are becoming a little more clear.

Prior to the trade most mock drafts had the Jets taking either Golden Tate or Demaryius Thomas. Both of those options now seem like longshots. With Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards and Holmes, the Jets have enough players fighting for the ball already.

With receiver off their list of needs, the Jets likely turn their attention to the defensive side of the ball. Given the depth of hybrid defensive end/linebackers in this year’s draft, its likely that someone falls to the the Jets. Jason Pierre-Paul, Brandon Graham, Sergio Kindle and Jerry Hughes could all be options.

Clemson v Georgia Tech

Could Thomas now be a target of the Steelers?

Its also possible that they’ll consider Terrence Cody. Both Kris Jenkins (30) and Sione Pouha (31) are getting up there in age, and the Jets may want to build for the future at nose tackle.

As for the Steelers, wide receiver now becomes an option in the 1st round. I previously had them selecting Dez Bryant in earlier versions of my mock draft, but stated that it was simply a luxury pick. Now, it would become more of a need-based selection. Three of the Steelers top four receivers – Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El and Arnez Battle are over 30. Three of them are also 6’0″ or shorter.

The need for a big receiver has never been greater, and Roethlisberger has been calling for one for years. Limas Sweed has failed to pan out, and it may be time for the Steelers to try again. Bryant and Demaryius Thomas are both options in the 1st round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Jets, Steelers 1 Comment

Top 10 most likely players to be traded on draft day

10. Michael Vick, Eagles
With McNabb out of the picture the Eagles aren’t shopping Vick around, but that doesn’t mean they won’t trade him. His value to the Eagles is minimal, since it appears that Kevin Kolb is being handed the starting job. If another team (Bills? Rams? Raiders?) comes along and offers up a trade the Eagles can’t refuse, they’ll pull the trigger.

9. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
The Dolphins seem to have soured on Ronnie Brown. They only placed a 1st-round tender on him (rather than a 1st and 3rd) making it possible for someone to fairly easily sign him if they wished to do so. By no means are they pushing him out the door, but they’re definitely willing to part with the injury-prone 28-year-old before he loses his value altogether.

8. David Garrard, Jaguars
The Jaguars seem to be moving forward with Garrard as their starting quarterback, but that could change on draft day. Jack Del Rio has publicly criticized Garrard this offseason, stating that he doesn’t view him as a quarterback that can lead a team to the Super Bowl. That certainly doesn’t sound promising for Garrard’s future. If the Jaguars land a quarterback early in the draft (Tebow?) then Garrard could be sent packing.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

Has Roy Williams played his last game in Dallas?

7. Roy Williams, Cowboys
The Cowboys have given mixed signals about their commitment to Williams. They haven’t tried to trade him yet, to our knowledge, but they haven’t exactly given him a vote of confidence either. They may not be shopping him around, but Jerry Jones isn’t shy about making moves. If the right offer comes along on draft day, he’ll certainly listen.

6. Bryant McKinnie, Vikings
McKinnie is just 30 years old and has plenty of good football left, but the Vikings have reportedly grown tired of some of McKinnie’s off-field actions. He’s another veteran that isn’t being pushed out the door, but could be dealt if the right deal comes along. More and more we’re seeing teams try to move players while they still have value to other clubs in an effort to get something in return. McKinnie could fall into that category.

5. Marshawn Lynch, Bills
Lynch, who turns 24 on draft day, may be the most intriguing player on the trade block right now. With the emergence of Fred Jackson, its possible that the Bills will be willing to move Lynch, who has been nothing but a headache for the organization since they drafted him in 2007. He’s among the most talented running backs in the game, but he’s a handful to control off the field. Despite some character concerns, there will be more than a few teams willing to take Lynch off the Bills hands if they’re interested in moving him. He could be a key piece to the puzzle if they wish to trade into the late 1st round for a shot at Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy.

4. Shaun Rogers, Browns
Mike Holmgren has already overhauled the roster, but he isn’t done yet. Rogers is a difficult player to figure out. When he wants to be, he’s arguably the game’s most dominant nose tackle. But the problem is, no one can seem to figure out how to motivate him. He enjoyed playing for Romeo Crennel in 2008, so a reunion in Kansas City is certainly a possibility of the Chiefs are willing to part with a 2nd or 3rd-round pick.

3. Greg Olsen, Bears
I’m actually shocked that Olsen hasn’t been traded yet. He’s strictly a pass-catching tight end and new Bears offensive coordinator simply doesn’t have room for those players in his offense. Its possible he’ll change things up to accommodate Olsen, but don’t count on it. It seems unlikely that he’ll be wearing a Bears uniform by the end of April.

2. Jared Gaither, Ravens

The Ravens are practically begging someone to take Gaither off their hands and eventually someone will oblige. The Ravens are reportedly not interested in putting up with his lack of effort and poor work ethic, but if he suffers from those issues you’d never know it by his play on the field. He is on the cusp of becoming an elite left tackle and someone could get an absolute steal on draft day.

1. Jason Campbell, Redskins
Shortly after the Redskins traded for McNabb, Jason Campbell stated that he would sign his tender. Not because he’s excited to back up McNabb, but because he needed to sign in order to allow the Redskins to trade him. He won’t be in Washington next season, and its very likely he’ll be gone before the draft is over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Bills, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Ravens, Redskins, Vikings 3 Comments

Have the Cowboys draft plans changed?

The Cowboys have parted ways with veterans Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, opening up two starting jobs which the Cowboys could fill in the draft.

The more glaring of the two holes is the one created by the departure of Adams at left tackle. He was a stalwart on their offensive line for over a decade. While his play certainly diminished over the past year, they don’t have an obvious replacement on their current roster.

Among their current linemen, Doug Free would likely get the first shot but its more likely that they’ll target a lineman in the draft. The question, of course, is who?

With the 27th pick in the draft the Cowboys can’t count on anyone being available. Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga and Trent Williams will likely be gone in the top 10. Anthony Davis could also go in the top 10 and will almost certainly be gone by No. 27. That leaves Charles Brown and Bruce Campbell as the only possible 1st-rounders available, but even they aren’t guaranteed to fall to the Cowboys. If Campbell goes to the Raiders, as many are predicting, it would seem unlikely that any of the top six tackles fall to No. 27.

That would leave the Cowboys with three options:

2010 NFL Combine - Day One

Could the Cowboys make Ducasse a 1st-round pick?

First, they could try to trade up. One of the top six is likely to fall into the 15-20 range which would be within reach for the Cowboys if they wish to move up.

The second option would be to reach for the next best available lineman. They could take a chance on Vladimir Ducasse if they view him as an offensive tackle. He has the size that the Cowboys like on their offensive line, but he’s a project. It would definitely be a risk, but they may view it as the best option.

And finally, they could decide to pass on the position altogether. They could hope that Ducasse or Jared Veldheer falls to the late 2nd round and turn their attention to safety in the 1st round.

If they decide to address their need for a free safety in the 1st round they will have no shortage of options. The top two prospects, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, will likely be off the board but there are at least two other options. Taylor Mays and Nate Allen would appear to be the most likely candidates. If it comes down to those two, Mays could be the favorite due to his impressive size/speed combination. Its a quality that we’ve seen in numerous Cowboys safeties over the years (Roy Williams, Darren Woodson) and Jerry Jones isn’t shy about speaking up and pushing his front office in the direction of a certain player on draft day.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Cowboys Comments Off

The answers to all your Tebow questions

Unlikely most of the mainstream media, I’ve ignored Tim Tebow this offseason. Its not because I have anything against Tebow, I’m just not interested in treating him like an elite prospect. Just by writing this blog entry I’m giving him more attention that I’ve given to similar prospects such as Jonathan Crompton and Jevan Snead. But despite the fact that I normally wouldn’t spend this much time analyzing a 3rd-round quarterback prospect, I’ve been asked enough questions about Tebow via email and Twitter that I now feel the need to address his draft status.

So lets touch on the most popular questions:

Super Bowl XLIV

Who will call Tebow's name on draft day?

Who will draft Tebow?
To our knowledge, Tebow has visited or is scheduled to visit with the Bills, Seahawks, Browns, Patriots and Redskins. Draft visits typically don’t offer too much insight into what direction teams are leaning, but 1st and 2nd round quarterback prospects are the exception. At the very least, these are players that you’re hoping will become the face of your franchise. Coaches work one-on-one with the quarterback more than any other position, so a pre-draft sit-down is viewed as a necessity. This doesn’t mean someone else won’t draft him, but if Tebow is selected within the first two rounds, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t by one of those five teams (or someone else who visits with him in the next few weeks).

Will Tebow be a 1st-round pick?
Maybe. You can never underestimate the egos of NFL coaches and general managers. Drafting Tebow would shine a bright spotlight on their organization and if a coach is able to turn Tebow into a quality starting quarterback, the praise would be heaped upon him. Without a doubt, there are coaches and GMs out there who think they have the answers to all of Tebow’s mechanical issues. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. The fact that we’re asking the question though, means he shouldn’t be a 1st-round pick. That said, someone might take a chance.

The Patriots are a strong possibility. Tom Brady will be 33 in August and Bill Belichick is a close friend of Urban Meyer and admittedly a Tebow-admirer. The Bills could be another option, but they would need to trade back into the 1st round to make it happen.

Why do you hate Tebow?
I don’t hate Tim Tebow. I don’t wish failure upon him. I don’t think he’s destined to be a bust. I simply gave him a 3rd-round grade because his mechanics are a question mark, his accuracy is shaky on deep passes and he’ll need to learn an NFL playbook which looks nothing like what he’s used to at Florida. 1st-round quarterbacks should be considered nearly can’t-miss prospects, guys you expect to be starting by the start of their second year at the latest. 2nd-round quarterbacks come with similar expectations within the organization, but without the outside pressure to succeed due to the lesser contract value. 3rd-round quarterbacks are viewed as likely future starters, but are usually very raw and are expected to need two or three years of seasoning on the bench. Tebow fits into the third category. He could very well end up starting, but he needs a lot of work.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bills, Browns, Patriots, Redskins, Seahawks 1 Comment