Ryan McCrystal

How high could Mike Iupati go?

We haven’t seen an offensive guard go in the top 20 picks since the Seahawks selected Steve Hutchinson 17th overall in 2001. That could change this year with Mike Iupati.

2010 NFL Combine - Day OneIupati’s size (6’5″, 331 lbs) makes him look like a prototypical mauler. He’s big, physical and plays with a nasty demeanor. He has all the attributes to be a truly dominant run blocker. But what makes him stand out, much like Hutchinson, is his surprising athleticism for an interior lineman.

Many highly-touted guards in recent years, Vince Manuwai and Deuce Lutui for example, end up falling on draft day and failing to play at an elite level in the NFL due to their lack of athleticism. While both Manuwai and Lutui flash the ability to dominate as run blockers, they’re aren’t the complete package.

On the flip side, others such as Ben Grubbs, excel as pass blockers but struggle in the running game. They have the quick feet and strong lower body to hold up against faster pass rushers and bull rushers. However, they lack the brute strength to knock guys backwards on the line of scrimmage.

Every so often a player like Steve Hutchinson or Mike Iupati comes along who appears to be able to put it all together.

At this point, the latest I could envision Iupati going would be at No. 23 to the Packers. They’ve re-signed Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, but still need to upgrade the interior line. Iupati would provide a drastic upgrade over Daryn Colledge/Jason Spitz/T.J. Lang at left guard.

The Bengals are another strong possibility. They’ve let their best lineman from 2009, Bobbie Williams, test the free agent waters. This has opened up a gaping hole on the line, which would currently be filled by Nate Livings, who has bounced on and off the practice squad for much of his career.

Perhaps the most likely land spot is Pittsburgh, which needs an upgrade over Trai Essex. The Steelers are transitioning back into more of a power-running team with Rashard Mendenhall as the starter now, and a powerful run blocker like Iupati is needed.

Here’s a few other options:

13/17. 49ers – Guard isn’t a glaring need, but he would certainly be an upgrade over David Baas.

15. Giants – Their offensive line is getting up their in age and Jerry Reese strongly believes it taking the best available player.

14. Seahawks – Rob Sims may be traded, which would open up an immediate starting spot for Iupati.

11. Broncos – They have other needs, but if they view Iupati as the best available player he would provide their offensive line some much needed stability.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bengals, Broncos, Giants, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers 1 Comment

How the Donovan McNabb trade could impact the draft

We’ve heard all sorts of crazy rumors about Donovan McNabb over the past two weeks. Based on the number of trade rumors out there, it would certainly seem as though he’s headed out of Philly sooner rather than later. But rather than break down where he may end up, lets take a look at how the draft will change based on where he could land…

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys - Wild Card Round

McNabb doesn't want to leave, but if he does it will shake up the 1st round

If McNabb lands in St. Louis…
The most obvious repercussion of this scenario is that Sam Bradford is no longer projected as the top pick. Ndamukong Suh would likely go No. 1 overall and Gerald McCoy No. 2. Suddenly the Bucs would be on the clock with no need for a quarterback, but with a highly sought after prospect on the board. The Redskins would be holding their breath hoping no one trades up, while the Browns, Bills and possibly others would be on the phone with Tampa trying move up for Bradford. Assuming he fell to Washington, Jimmy Clausen would then fall to the Bills at No. 9. The real winner could be Eric Berry who suddenly becomes an option at No. 3 for Bucs.

If McNabb lands in Oakland…
Not much should change in this scenario, but you just never know with Al Davis. In an effort to keep McNabb happy, and around for longer than one season, Davis may decide to draft Dez Bryant. It sounds ridiculous at first thought, but it may not be such a bad idea. Heyward-Bey was a terrible selection last year, and he showed no signs of being a meaningful contributor anytime soon. Bryant has the potential to be an immediate impact receiver. Or, since Davis tends to shy away from receivers who run in the 4.5 or 4.6 range, maybe he goes way off the board for someone else. Jermaine Gresham? Golden Tate? Crazier things have happened.

If McNabb lands in Buffalo…
This may be the best scenario for McNabb, but its the worst scenario for Clausen. Assuming Bradford goes No. 1 and the Redskins take Russell Okung, Clausen could fall far. The Browns and Seahawks don’t appear to have an interest. The 49ers may be an option, but wouldn’t be a guarantee. If he slides past them at No. 17, there isn’t an obvious landing spot until the Vikings at No. 30. Its likely that someone would need to trade back into the 1st round to stop Clausen’s free fall.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Eagles, Raiders, Redskins, Vikings Comments Off

Could the Seahawks or 49ers make a move for Bradford?

Sam Bradford was impressive at his workout on Monday.  But personally, I’m not concerned with how Bradford looked. The fact that he showed up and completed the workout without showing any significant lingering issues with his shoulder was enough.

What I do find interesting about his workout, however, is who showed up. As expected the Rams and Redskins were well represented.

Among the others in attendance were the Browns (Homgren and Mangini), Seahawks (Carroll and and GM John Schneider) and 49ers (Singletary and Dir. of Player Personnel Trent Baalke). The odds of Bradford falling to any of these teams is very small, however, they may be interested in trading up.

The Seahawks and 49ers are the most interesting teams that were in attendance due to the fact that, with two 1st-round picks, the have the ability to trade up for Bradford. In fact, trading for the No. 1 overall selection isn’t out of the question, especially for Seahawks.

If the Seahawks wanted to trade up for Bradford, it may only take their two 1st-round picks. According to the trade value chart, the Seahawks picks hold a value of 2,700 points. The No. 1 pick is worth 3,000 points. It isn’t an exact match, but these trades rarely work out perfectly. When you factor in the money the Rams would save by not having to pay the top pick in the draft, they may be willing to make the swap.

It would be nearly impossible for the 49ers to trade up to No. 1 without also sacrificing a 2011 pick, but if the Rams pass on Bradford they could try to jump the Redskins and move up to No. 3. The 3rd pick, owned by the Bucs, is worth 2,200 points in the trade value chart. The 49ers 1st-round picks add up to 2,100 points – essentially an even value.

Obviously both of these scenario’s hinge on the Rams losing interest in Bradford. He appears to be the heavy favorite to go be the top pick in the draft, but each team needs to be prepared for every scenario. In the event that the Rams do sour and Bradford, both the 49ers and Seahawks could be ready to make their move.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Browns, Rams, Seahawks Comments Off

Patriots searching for the next Tom Brady

Given Tom Brady’s age (33 in August) and recent knee injury, one would think it’d be a good idea to bring in a veteran backup. Yet Bill Belichick insists on filling the need for a backup signal caller through the draft. Since 2007, the Patriots backups have been almost exclusively home grown – Matt Cassel, Matt Guttierrez, Kevin O’Connell and Brian Hoyer.

Despite still having Hoyer on the roster, who spent the 2009 as Brady’s backup, Belichick appears to be planning on drafting yet another quarterback in the mid-rounds of the draft. Thus far, the Patriots have visited or have scheduled visits with Tony Pike, Zac Robinson and Tim Tebow.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Could Pike be groomed as Tom Brady's replacement?

Pike and Tebow are likely to be off the board by the 4th round at the latest, indicating that the Patriots are willing to spend a fairly high pick on a quarterback this year. Robinson figures to still be available in the 6th or 7th round.

So why the obsession with quarterbacks?

The most likely is that Belichick views himself as a quarterback genius. After all, he has groomed a 6th and 7th round pick into starting quarterbacks during his time in New England. Knowing that Brady will the 33 before the start of the 2010 season has to make Belichick somewhat worried about his future with the team and he knows that now is the time to groom his replacement.

His interest in quarterbacks in this year’s class likely indicates that he doesn’t view Hoyer as the solution. However, in 2008 the Patriots selected Kevin O’Connell in the 3rd round, presumably to take over the backup job from Matt Cassel. We all know how that turned out.

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

5 players with an outside shot at the top 10

Every year there are one or two players that sneak into the top 10 on draft day despite rarely showing up that high in mock drafts. Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey, in ’08 it was Derrick Harvey, in ’07 it was Ted Ginn Jr., in ’06 it was Donte Whitner… the list goes on.

So who are the candidates this? Here are a few names to keep in mind that could come off board higher than expected on April 22:

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
McClain has occasionally shown up in mock drafts at No. 5 to the Chiefs (including ours) but Scott Pioli has shown little interest in him thus far. It could just be a smoke screen, but he appears genuine in his interest in the offensive tackles in this year’s class. If they pass on McClain, his odds go down, but Buffalo could be another option. In Buffalo he would be an ideal fit at inside linebacker next to Paul Posluszny, replacing the aging Kawika Mitchell.

4. Earl Thomas, Texas
Thomas’ top-10 hopes depend on where Eric Berry is selected. If Berry goes in the top five (Bucs? Chiefs?), then Thomas becomes an option for the Browns at No. 7. They’re looking for a replacement for Brodney Pool at free safety, and Thomas would be a perfect fit. Another option could be Jacksonville. The Jaguars may be ready to give up on 2007 1st-round pick Reggie Nelson at free safety.

3. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Spiller is absent from the top 10 in every mock draft I’ve seen, primarily because no one in the top 10 has a need for a running back. However, numerous teams in the 10-20 range (Dolphins, Seahawks, 49ers, Steelers) could be interested. Its possible that someone will decide to trade up for Spiller – the Browns would be a likely trade partner – in an effort to jump all the teams that could snatch him up in the middle of the 1st round.

2. Charles Brown, USC
Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis and even Bruce Campbell are frequently talked about as potential top-10 picks. So why is Brown, who’s viewed as a potential 1st-rounder, left out of the discussion? Brown’s top-1o chances hinge on where the others prospects fall. But if there’s a run on tackles in the top 10, as expected, its possible that someone trades up into the top 10 to ensure they land one of the top prospects. The 49ers would be a likely candidate to do so, thanks to their two 1st-round picks.

1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
Williams isn’t showing up in the top 10 in many mock drafts, but he’s one of the most popular prospects out there. He’s viewed as a potentially elite 3-4 nose tackle who also has the ability to play in a 4-3 scheme. The earliest he could come off the board would be at No. 6 to the Seahawks. He would be a significant upgrade over Colin Cole as the space eater on their defensive line. The Browns and Bills, who both runs 3-4 schemes, are perhaps the most likely options. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers has been rumored in multiple trade discussions. If he’s shipped out on draft day, it could be to make room for Williams. As for Buffalo, they’re transitioning to a 3-4 defense this year and don’t have a true nose tackle on their current roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks Comments Off

Dolphins showing strong interest in free safeties

Last week I suggested that the Dolphins could target Taylor Mays in the 1st round. At the time it was pure speculation based on Bill Parcells’ draft history and their need for a free safety. But now there appears to be some validity to my prediction.

2010 NFL Combine - Day Four

Could the Dolphins target Earl Thomas in the 1st round?

The Dolphins are showing a strong interest in this year’s class of free safeties and appear likely to land one in the 1st or 2nd round. In addition to Mays, the Dolphins either already have or soon will workout Earl Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Reshad Jones and Myron Lewis. Thomas and Mays would be 1st-round targets. Burnett and Jones would likely be options in the 2nd round. Lewis will likely be available in the 3rd round or later.

As I outlined in my previous post on Mays, he fits the Parcells profile best due to his size and athleticism. However, that doesn’t mean Parcells is married to that specific skill set.

This is a very deep class for safeties, with as many as seven potentially coming off the board in the first two rounds. Given that depth, it would be mildly surprising to see the Dolphins spend the 12th pick on Mays or Thomas. There’s simply better value in taking a safety in the 2nd round. That said, they’re obviously doing their homework and strongly considering that option.

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

All-Overrated Draft Prospects Team

QB – Tim Tebow, Florida
Someone’s going to take him in the 1st or 2nd round, and they’re going to have to wait at least 2 years before he’s ready to start at quarterback (if he’s ever ready).

RB – C.J. Spiller, Clemson
He’s not the next Chris Johnson. The next Leon Washington is more likely. He’s simply not an every-down running back.

RB – Jahvid Best, California
Same criticism of Spiller applies here. He’s a change-of-pace back, a better version of Ahmad Bradshaw.

WR – Damian Williams, USC
He’s too skinny to be an elite receiver. He’ll get pushed around by more physical defensive backs, and he lacks the speed to break away.

WR – Mike Williams, Syracuse
I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. Off-field issues make him undraftable in my book. Not even worth a 7th round pick.

TE – Anthony McCoy, USC
He’s a serviceable tight end due to his blocking ability, but he won’t contribute as a receiver. The next Christian Fauria.

OT – Bruce Campbell, Maryland
How anyone can watch him on film and give him a grade higher than the 3rd round baffles me. Athleticism only takes you so far.

OT – Trent Williams, Oklahoma
Definitely has upside, but his lack of production in his only year at left tackle is very concerning.

OG – Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts
Size and athleticism are making scouts drool, but he is very raw. He could be the next Larry Allen, he could be the next Qasim Mitchell.

OG – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
I’m reaching here because no one else jumps out. Render impressed early in his career, but never showed improvement.

C – Eric Olsen, Notre Dame
Was never overly impressive at Notre Dame, and he struggled in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl.

DE – Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
Claims about his elite athleticism are overstated. Derrick Morgan is of similar size and build and performed equally, if not better, in every drill at the combine.

DE – George Selvie, South Florida
After a standout sophomore year, Selvie was non-factor for two full seasons. Yet he still generates interest from those that remember his 2007 campaign.

DT – Terrence Cody, Alabama
Weight is still a serious concern. He’ll never be able to stay on the field consistently.

DT – Arthur Jones, Syracuse
High expectations for his senior year never panned out. Injury concerns and lack of production limit his upsite.

OLB – Ricky Sapp, Clemson
Only one year of experience at linebacker after transitioning from end. Lack of elite production and ACL tear in 2008 raise red flags.

OLB – Navorro Bowman, Penn State
Doesn’t have the elite on-field production to make up for his serious character concerns.

ILB – Brandon Spikes, Florida
Spikes’ recent 40 times raise serious red flags. He may simply lack the speed to play in the NFL.

CB – Joe Haden, Florida
He’s a legitimate 1st-round prospect, but doesn’t deserve a top-10 grade. The gap between him and the next-best corners has raised his stock above where it realistically should be.

CB – Patrick Robinson, Florida State
Robinson has elite speed, but he’s one of the least physical corners I’ve seen in recent years. Off-field concerns further hurt his stock.

S – Taylor Mays, USC
Mays is so universally viewed as overrated that I considered leaving him off the list. But his production just hasn’t matched his physical ability.

S – T.J. Ward, Oregon
The potential is there, but he can’t stay healthy. Multiple ankle and knee injuries raise serious doubts about his ability to stay on the field.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could Raiders target Jason Pierre-Paul?

We all know all Davis loves freak athletes. Many have assumed that fact, combined with a dire need for a left tackle, would lead him to Bruce Campbell.

I had initially speculated after the combine that Jason Pierre-Paul could be an option. However, after they traded for Kamerion Wimbley, I backed off that prediction. At 6’4″, 255 pounds Wimbley has the size to play defensive end in the Raiders 4-3 scheme, the same position he played in college at Florida State before moving to outside linebacker in Cleveland.

On Tuesday, however, coach Tom Cable stated that Wimbley will remain at strong-side linebacker in Oakland.

That now leaves a gaping hole at defensive end where only Matt Shaughnessy, Greyson Gunheim and Jay Richardson are currently under contract. Richard Seymour will likely return to the mix as well, since the Raiders have placed the franchise tag on him, but there have been reports that he may move to tackle next season.

The Raiders were a strong pass-rushing team in 2009. But Greg Ellis, who tied for the team lead with seven sacks, has since been cut loose.

If Al Davis determines that defensive end is a need Jason Pierre-Paul would have to be near the top of his draft board. JPP is a freak athlete who has been compared by some to Jevon Kearse. There’s no question that it would be a reach to take a player with just one year of D-I experience in the top 10, but ill logic has never stopped Al Davis before.

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

Clausen sweepstakes narrowed to 5 teams

Notre Dame v Stanford

Does anyone want this guy?

This offseason has been filled with nothing but bad news for Jimmy Clausen.

Its tough to say his stock is actually falling, because he hasn’t done anything wrong. But the teams potentially interested in him are falling off fast. First the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst, then the Browns said they flat-out weren’t interested.

I have yet to hear about a single team who has requested a private workout with Clausen. And to the best of our knowledge, he only met privately with two teams at the combine, the Bills and Redskins.

Its not uncommon for players not to meet with teams prior to their pro day. Teams often want to see a player workout once before using up one of their 30 pre-draft visits. However, quarterbacks are a different beast. The Rams have already met with Bradford and have set up a date for him to visit in April, despite the fact that he won’t workout until March 29. Since Clausen won’t workout until April 9, it seems odd that no one (to our knowledge) has scheduled him for a private workout yet. Presumably there are multiple teams that will have an interest in him in the 1st round, regardless of how he looks on April 9. Or maybe we’re just way off base in our assumption that he’s viewed as a premier prospect. [update: Clausen has visit scheduled with Bills; date is unknown]

Whatever the case may be, there now appears to be only five teams in the Clausen sweepstakes:

4. Redskins
The ‘Skins placed a 1st-round tender on restricted free agent Jason Campbell, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still interested in Clausen. They spoke to Clausen at the combine, indicating some interest. However, is sounds as though Mike Shanahan in genuine in his plans to bring Campbell back and giving him a legitimate shot to turn things around. If that’s the case it would make more sense to select a left tackle with the 4th pick to give Campbell the best opportunity to succeed.

9. Bills
The Bills also showed an initial interest in Clausen. And unlike the Redskins, they don’t have a viable option on their roster if they don’t land a quarterback in the draft. They could survive the next season with Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm, but they’d much rather find their quarterback of the future in this draft. The Bills are probably the most likely landing spot, however, they have also showed a strong interest in Tim Tebow. Its possible that the Bills would either trade this pick to move back in the 1st round, or trade their next year’s 1st-round back pick to move back into the 1st round in an effort to land Tebow there.

13/17. 49ers
If the 49ers want Clausen, they can have him. Their two 1st-round picks would be enough to move into the top 10 to select him if he’s their guy. However, they’ve given no indication that they’re interested in making such a move. That said, if he falls down the board and he’s sitting there are No. 13 or 17, he may be too good to pass up. They want to give Alex Smith another shot, but they aren’t expecting him to turn into a future star at this point. Clausen’s upside is far greater than Smith’s at this point in their careers.

14. Seahawks
The trade for Whitehurst likely takes the Seahawks out of the running for Clausen with the 6th pick. However, they may reconsider their stance if he’s still on the board with the 14th selection. The dropoff in money from No. 6 to No. 14 is significant, which may make them more comfortable with the selection. It’s probably a long shot, but it can’t be ruled out.

30. Vikings
If Clausen gets past the Seahawks and 49ers the most likely scenario is that someone who already passed on him (Bills? Redskins?) trades back into the 1st round to select him. It would be a similar scenario to what the Browns did to acquire Brady Quinn in 2007. But assuming everyone stays put, his next most likely landing spot would be Minnesota. It certainly sounds like Brett Favre will be back in 2010, but he obviously can’t be counted on beyond this season. If Clausen is on the board at No. 30 it would be very difficult to pass him up. He could sit and learn behind one of the all-time greats for a season while learning the offense before taking over in 2011.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Redskins, Seahawks, Vikings 1 Comment

Could Dolphins target Taylor Mays?

I’ve had the Dolphins paired up with Dan Williams in my mock draft for about a month now. He would fill their need for a nose tackle, which is greater than ever now that Jason Ferguson is suspended for the first half of the 2010 season. But what if he’s not on the board?

The Bills are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and are lacking a true nose tackle. They’d much prefer to take a quarterback (most likely Jimmy Clausen) but if he’s off the board their attention could turn to Williams.

That would leave presumably leave he Dolphins with three options:

1. Take Dez Bryant
Wide receiver is their most glaring need, especially a big target like Bryant. However, Parcells loathes the idea of taking receivers early in the draft. Throw in the fact that Bryant is perceived as lazy and a bit of a prima donna, and it just doesn’t seem like a plausible option.

2. Take the best available pass rusher
The Dolphins need to replace Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Cameron Wake has one starting outside linebacker job wrapped up, but the other is wide open. Jason Pierre-Paul and Brandon Graham would appear to be great fits. However, its a deep class for hybrid pass rushers, and a quality player could be found later in the draft.

3. Take a free safety
CFB: USC vs UCLA DEC 6The Dolphins parted ways with free safety Gibril Wilson after the season, opening up a hole in the secondary. Earl Thomas is likely to be the highest rated safety on most boards, but he doesn’t quite fit the profile of what Parcells looks for in a defensive back. Parcells has a tendency to become enamored with big, athletic safeties. The best recent example is Pat Watkins, whom he selected in the 5th round in 2006. Watkins never quite panned out, but Parcells thrust him into the starting lineup as a rookie. I remember reading during the season quotes from Parcells marveling at the athleticism of a man his size (6’4″, 220). If he was wowed by Watkins, what must he think of Taylor Mays?

Obviously a lot has to play out in order for the Dolphins to even consider Mays. I have little doubt that Parcells would prefer Dan Williams, but there remains a very realistic possibility that he’s gone by the time Dolphins are on the clock. Mays to the ‘Phins may be a long shot, but don’t be shocked to hear his name called at No. 12 on April 22.

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