Ryan McCrystal

All-Underrated Draft Prospects Team

QB – Sean Canfield, Oregon State
Possesses legitimate NFL size and can make all the throws. Only a full-time starter for one year, but he has plenty of upside.

RB – James Starks, Buffalo
Missed the entire 2009 season with a shoulder injury, but could prove to be a steal if he’s fully recovered.

RB – Lonyae Miller, Fresno State
Played in the shadow Ryan Mathews. A Big, physical downhill runner. Prototypical size and athleticism for a workhorse running back.

WR – Eric Decker, Minnesota
Flying under the radar due to a foot injury. He’ll fall because of durability issues, but could be a steal.

WR – Kerry Meier, Kansas
Converted quarterback became an elite possession receiver over the past two seasons. Limited upside, but has the skills to find a role in an NFL offense.

TE – Colin Peek, Alabama
One of the better blocking tight ends in this year’s class. Nothing special as a receiver, but will make plays from time to time.

OT – Charles Brown, USC
Nearly as athletic as Bruce Campbell, yet for more productive. Could be a steal if the falls to the 2nd round.

OT – Kyle Calloway, Iowa
Doesn’t wow you in anything that he does, but is as solid as they come. Projects as a quality right tackle.

OG – John Jerry, Mississippi
Has Larry Allen-like size and surprising athleticism to go with it. Could potential play right tackle as well.

OG – Zane Beadles, Utah
Versatile enough to play all five positions. May never be a star, but will be a valued backup at the worst.

C – Matt Tennant, Boston College
Maurkice Pouncey is getting all the attention, but Tennant isn’t far behind in terms of talent.

DE – Corey Wootton, Northwestern
Lack of athleticism means he doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Could anchor a 3-4 team at defensive end.

DE – Lindsey Witten, Connecticut
Impressive athlete who could be an instant-impact pass rusher.

DT – Cam Thomas, North Carolina
Perfect fit at nose tackle; rated higher than Terrence Cody in my book.

DT – Tyson Alualu, California
Would be a 1st-round pick in most other years. A three-technique tackle with similar skills to Gerald McCoy.

OLB – Larry Hart, Central Arkansas
Late-round sleeper with huge upside. Lacks ideal height, but has impressive athleticism.

OLB – Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
Collegiate defensive end replaced Vernon Gholston at Ohio State. Comparisons inevitably hurt his stock.

ILB – Donald Butler, Washington
Impressive athlete didn’t get the attention he deserved on a talent-starved unit in Washington.

CB – Walter Thurmond, Oregon
Athletically gifted corner coming back off an injury. Can make an instant-impact on special teams.

CB – David Pender, Purdue
Workout numbers are off the charts. Undersized, but has the speed and leaping ability to make up for it.

S – Chad Jones, LSU
The differences between him and Taylor Mays are minimal. Better ball skills than Mays.

S – Morgan Burnett , Georgia Tech
Has the size and athleticism to play either safety position.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Does Roethlisberger’s situation alter Steelers draft plans?

Ben Roethlisberger is 28 years old and already owns two Super Bowl rings. The Steelers shouldn’t be in the market for a new quarterback. But are they?

Its far too early to tell whether or not Roethlisberger will spend time in jail, get suspended or if the Steelers have just grown tired of his off-field antics. But there are enough question marks out there to make us wonder if the Steelers may start to generate a backup plan.

Roethlisberger’s defenders will say that there’s no proof that he’s done anything wrong, and they’re 100 percent correct. However, there’s also no denying that he’s an idiot for even putting himself into these situations. Essentially its become a Pacman Jones situation on a somewhat lesser scale. Like Pacman, Roethlisberger now has a target on his back. The public’s perception of him will influence how he’s treated and how his actions will be viewed from this point forward. For or unfair, that’s the life of a high-profile athlete.

As for how this impacts his future in Pittsburgh, its tough to say. The Rooney family likes to win, but they also run an organization that holds their employees to a higher standard than many others (cough, Bengals, cough). Its within the realm of possibility that they’ll look to move Roethlisberger in the near future depending on how his legal troubles play out.

As of today, the only other quarterback on the Steelers roster is 2008 5th-round pick Dennis Dixon. He’s started just one game in his career (2009 at Baltimore) so its tough to judge his future, but he was less than impressive in that outing. I think its fairly safe to assume that the Steelers don’t envision him as a potential replacement for Big Ben.

Texas v Texas A&M

Could McCoy be headed to Pittsburgh?

With a solid group of quarterbacks in the 2010 draft class, the Steelers would be wise to bring one aboard. It would be shocking to see them take one in the 1st or 2nd round, but by the time the 3rd round rolls around they may consider selecting someone to be groomed as Roethlisberger’s potential replacement.

In our latest mock draft, we have the Steelers selecting Colt McCoy in the 3rd round. It looks like an ideal pairing for both parties. The Steelers need someone who’s capable of starting as a rookie if Roethlisberger misses any time, for legal or injury reasons. McCoy is polished enough to handle playing as a rookie. However, he would benefit from spending the majority of his time on the bench early in his career learning from a veteran such as Roethlisberger.

Other options could include Jarrett Brown, Tony Pike and Dan LeFevour – all of whom should be on the board for the Steelers to chose from in the 3rd round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Steelers 13 Comments

Never too early to look ahead: 2011 NFL Draft Board

Its never too early to look ahead to next year. So with that in mind, lets unveil DraftAce’s first 2011 draft board. We’ve ranked the top 32 draft-eligible players (seniors, juniors and redshirt sophomores) and have compared them to a current NFL player. Obviously they won’t all live up to these expectations, but think of it as a “best case scenario” comparison.

1. Ryan Mallett – JR – QB – Arkansas
Mallett certainly looks the part (6’6″) and has a rocket arm. He was inconsistent at times in 2009, but it was his first year leading the Razorbacks’ offense after transferring from Michigan. Expect big things from him in 2010. NFL Comparison: Joe Flacco

2. Cameron Heyward – SR – DE – Ohio State
The son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward was a 1st-round lock, potentially as the top defensive end selected, had he entered this year’s draft. He returned to Ohio State, however, where he’ll continue to dominate as a defensive end/tackle ‘tweener. He has the size to play in a 3-4 scheme, but also has the athleticism to be a compete pass rusher/run stuffer in a 4-3. NFL Comparison: Mario Williams

3. Robert Quinn – JR – DE North Carolina
Quinn could be the premier pass rusher in next year’s draft. He terrorized ACC quarterbacks as a sophomore in 2009 and with defensive line mate Marvin Austin back for the 2010 season he should continue to improve. NFL Comparison: Tamba Hali

4. A.J. Green – JR – WR – Georgia
Green burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2008 and continued to dominate the SEC in ’09. At 6’4″, 208 pounds he has the size to be a true No. 4 receiver. NFL Comparison: Randy Moss

5. Gabe Carimi – SR – OT – Wisconsin
Carimi took over for Joe Thomas as a freshman in 2007 and lived up to expectations from day one. The similarities to Thomas eerie. They have a similar build and a remarkably similar skill set. Both have the athleticism to excel as pass blockers but also play with a mean streak that allows them to dominate in the running game. NFL Comparison: Joe Thomas

6. Patrick Peterson – JR – CB – LSU
Peterson has the size of a free safety (6’1″, 211 pounds) but the athleticism to a shutdown corner. If he fulfills expectations as a junior, he could be one of the highest-rated corners to enter the draft in a number of years. NFL Comparison: Charles Woodson

7. Blaine Gabbert – JR – QB – Missouri
With just one year under his belt as a starter, we still have a lot to learn about Gabbert. As a sophomore, he looked like a future star. He has an NFL body with a strong arm and more than adequately filled the shoes of Missouri legend Chase Daniel. NFL Comparison: Phillip Rivers

8. Marvin Austin – SR – DT – North Carolina
Austin turned down a guaranteed stop in the 2010 1st-round because he wanted to return to school to have an Ndamukong Suh-like senior year. Its a lofty goal, you have to admire his dedication. If he comes close to fulfilling his own expectations he’ll find himself in the early half of the 1st round.
NFL Comparison: Kyle Williams

9. Greg Romeus – SR – DE – Pittsburgh
Romeus is yet another player who had a chance to come off the board in the 1st round in 2009, but elected to return to school. Romeus isn’t strong as Heyward or as quick as Quinn, but he’s a complete play who can excel against the run and the pass.
NFL Comparison: Justin Tuck

10. Jared Crick – JR – DT – Nebraska
Ndamukong Suh wasn’t the only force to be reckoned with on the Cornhuskers defensive line in 2009. Crick obviously has a ways to go before he can be compared to Suh, but he has a similar skill set and may actually be better against the run than his former teammate.
NFL Comparison: Darnell Dockett

11. Andrew Luck – SO – QB – Stanford
With Toby Gerhart out of the picture in Stanford, the Cardinal offense will no focus on Luck. He had flashes of greatness as a redshirt-freshman in 2009 and should take major strides this season now that the offense will be built around his arm.
NFL Comparison: Aaron Rodgers

12. Allen Bailey – SR – DT – Miami FL
After a surprising two-year drought, Miami could return to the 1st round in 2011. Bailey is an athletic three-technique tackle who excels at busting up plays in the backfield. He led the Hurricanes with 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2009.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Williams

13. Michael Floyd – JR – WR – Notre Dame
Golden Tate received much of the attention this past season, but Floyd is the better pro prospect. He has elite size and strength for a receiver and enough speed to stretch the field. He’ll make his presence felt immediately as a red zone target.
NFL Comparison: Andre Johnson

14. Ryan Williams – SO – RB – Virginia Tech
As a redshirt freshman in 2009 Williams was arguably the nation’s best running back, yet flew under the radar due to Virginia Tech’s somewhat disappointing season. He posted five 150-yard games and dominated and finished 5th in the nation in rushing. If he builds upon that success he’ll find himself in the Heisman race and in the mix to be the top available running back in the 2011 draft.
NFL Comparison: DeAngelo Williams

15. Von Miller – SR – LB – Texas A&M
Miller burst onto the scene in 2009 playing a hybrid DE/OLB position for the Aggies, essentially acting as a pass-rush specialist. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks and ranked among the leaders in tackles for loss as well.
NFL Comparison: Shaun Phillips

16. Rahim Moore – JR – S – UCLA
Had Moore been eligible to enter the 2010 draft it would be him, not Earl Thomas, pushing Eric Berry for spot atop the draft boards at safety. Like Thomas, Moore is a ball-hawking free safety but has the size to help out against the run as well.
NFL Comparison: Kerry Rhodes

17. Bruce Carter – SR – LB – North Carolina
Carter will be a tough prospect to judge next season because he’s undersized. At only 225 pounds certain teams will scratch him off their list from the start. However, you can’t deny the fact that he’s a playmaker. He’ll fit nicely into someone’s 4-3 scheme at weakside linebacker.
NFL Comparison: Thomas Davis

18. Julio Jones – JR – WR – Alabama
Jones has the size and athleticism needed to excel at the next level. However, after a dominant freshman season he regressed in 2009. He caught just four touchdown passes in 2009 and had just one 100-yard game. He’ll need to bounce back in a big way in order to hang on to this slot in the top 32.
NFL Comparison: Randy Moss

19. Greg Jones – SR – LB – Michigan State
Jones is another player that cracks the top 32 based on potential rather than production. He’s already an effective against the run, but as an inside linebacker he needs to develop his skills in coverage. He has the athleticism of a top-10 pick, but he needs to become more disciplined to live up to his full potential.
NFL Comparison: DeMeco Ryans

20. Jake Locker – SR – QB – Washington
Numerous draftniks have Locker as the top-rated quarterback, but I’m not sold just yet. He’s a potential 1st-round pick based on potential, but he’s been just an average collegiate quarterback to this point in his career. His athleticism is unmatched by anyone else in this draft class, but that’s a small piece of the puzzle. He’s reckless with the football (11 interceptions) and has completed just 53 percent of his career pass attempts.
NFL Comparison: Donovan McNabb

21. Deunta Williams – SR – S – North Carolina
Williams is a ball-hawking free safety but also has the size to play strong safety in the pros. That versatility will help his draft stock next season and makes him the top senior prospect at safety.
NFL Comparison: Darren Sharper

22. Nate Solder – SR – OT – Colorado
Solder came to Boulder as tight end but switched to tackle as a sophomore in 2008. He’s still developing as a left tackle, but his upside is unlimited. At 6’9″ he has the size and athleticism to dominate the position for years to come. With an impressive senior year he could easily climb into the top five.
NFL Comparison: D’Brickashaw Ferguson

23. Chris Galippo – JR – LB – USC
Galippo may be the next great linebacker to come from Southern Cal. Like the rest of his teammates, he didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2009, but the bulk of the Trojans’ defense return for 2010 and big things are expected from the unit which is led by Galippo. He’s an instinctive linebacker who will only continue to get better with experience.
NFL Comparison: James Laurinaitis

24. Jamie Harper -JR – RB – Clemson
Harper is a bit of wildcard at this point, having only played in a backup role to this point in his career. He was brilliant as C.J. Spiller’s backup in 2009 and will become the focal point of the Tigers’ offense this season. He’s a powerful downhill runner (5’11″, 230 pounds) who has the strength to carry the load at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Michael Turner

25. Nate Potter – JR – OT – Boise State
Like Ryan Clady in 2008, it will be tough to judge Potter until the offseason workouts. He has dominated Boise State’s WAC opponents, but its a weak conference and he simply isn’t facing the talent which he will see in the NFL. He certainly appears to have the athleticism to take his game to the next level though, and his stock could skyrocket over of the course of the next year.
NFL Comparison: Michael Oher

26. Kyle Rudolph – JR – TE – Notre Dame
Notre Dame hasn’t exactly churned out elite skill position players in recent years, but that could change in 2011 as both Michael Floyd and Rudolph could come off the board in the 1st round. Rudolph has the size and athleticism to develop into a well-rounded tight end who can dominate as both a blocker and receiver in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Jason Witten

27. DeAndre McDaniel – SR – S – Clemson
2011 figures to bring us another deep class of safeties. McDaniels toyed with the idea of entering this year’s draft class, but wisely stayed in school and could find himself in the 1st round in 2011. He has the size to play strong safety, but has the ball skills of a free safety – a combination which will help his value immensely.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Meriweather

28. Marcell Dareus – JR – DE – Alabama
Dareus is a stout lineman who excels in run defense, but also contributes as a pass rusher. He led the Crimson Tide in sacks in 2009 and they’re expecting big things from him this upcoming season. He’s a versatile prospect who could play end in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme and may also be able to transition to tackle in the 4-3.
NFL Comparison: Ty Warren

29. DaQuan Bowers – JR – DE – Clemson
Bowers has as much potential as anyone eligible to enter the 2011 draft class. He’s started from day one since coming to Clemson as a highly touted recruit in 2008. Bowers has just 4 sacks through his first two seasons, but we’re expecting big things from him in 2009. NFL Comparison: Trent Cole

30. Jerrell Powe – DT – Mississippi
As more and more teams switch to the 3-4 defense, the value of nose tackles is starting to skyrocket. Players such as Powe figure to see their stock rise far higher than similar players in years past. He’s a physical presence on the interior line, capable of taking on multiple blockers and anchoring a defensive line.
NFL Comparison: Vince Wilfork

31. Austin Pettis – SR – WR – Boise State
Pettis could become the first skill-position player selected in the 1st round from Boise State. He has the size and speed to take his game to the next level, but like anyone from Boise, he’ll need to prove he can compete at the highest level. As a team, the Broncos have earned the respect of the nation, but there’s still a lack of talent in the WAC which doesn’t fully prepare players for the NFL the way a BCS conference does.
NFL Comparison: Sidney Rice

32. Casey Matthews – SR – LB – Oregon
One thing I learned from scouting Clay Matthews in 2009: never bet against the Matthews family. Like his other brother, Casey doesn’t have elite physical talents but he has become the leader of the Ducks defense and has the instincts to excel at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Paul Posluszny

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 3 Comments

Which positions hold the most value in the 1st round?

Over the next few weeks you’re bound to hear draft experts across the country claim that certain positions have more “value” than others. Some will claim that if a potential franchise quarterback is on the board you must take him if its a need. Other will say you should always wait until the 2nd round for a wide receiver. Everyone has their own theories.

Well, we set out to set the record straight and determine which positions really do have the most value in the 1st round.

In order to accomplish this task we needed to assign a value to each player selected. Fortunately, the folks at Pro-Football-Reference.com have already done this. PFR has developed a statistic which they call “approximate value.”  It assigns a number to each player based on his value in a given season. Add it all up and you get his “career approximate value.” The formula is complicated so I won’t bother to get into the details, but if you’re curious you can read about it here.

With the hard work out of the way, all we had to do was determine the average value for each position based on draft round. To do this we analyzed every 1st through 3rd round draft pick between 2003 and 2007. This was chosen as the data set for two reasons:

  1. We wanted to use a contemporary set of players. However we also wanted each player to have established himself in the league. Since three years is commonly referred to as the time needed to grade a draft class, we selected 2007 as the most recent year for the data.
  2. The first three years used to be referred to as “first day” draft picks, when all three rounds occurred on Saturday. Teams expect these “first day” picks to eventually develop into starters. Any “second day” draft pick doesn’t come with the same expectations and can’t fairly be compared players selected in the 1st round.

The 490 players in the data set were then broken down by position and the round in which they were selected – 1st, 2nd or 3rd. We then found the average career value for each position in each round.

Based on the data, there appears to be two different ways to analyze the data:

  1. Comparing the average value of the 1st-round picks to the average value of the 2nd round picks
  2. Comparing the average value of each round to the average value of all picks in rounds 1 through 3

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We’ll start with comparison No. 1 and count down the most valuable positions 10 through 1

.

10. Defensive Backs
1st Round Avg. Value: 24.9
2nd Round Avg. Value: 20.8
There is essentially no difference between 1st and 2nd round defensive backs. Their 24.9 1st-round value is among the lowest of all positions, yet their 2nd-round value is among the highest. If there’s another option on the board, it would appear to be a wise choice to wait until the 2nd round to upgrade your secondary.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Troy Polamalu (’03 Steelers)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Andre Woolfolk (’03 Titans)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Rashean Mathis (’03 Jaguars)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Ricardo Colclough (’04 Jaguars)

9. Defensive End
1st Round Avg. Value: 22.3
2nd Round Avg. Value: 17.9
Like defensive backs, defensive ends only suffer a slight decrease in value in the 2nd round. But not only is their a small difference, their 22.3 1st-round value is easily the lowest of all positions.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Ty Warren (’03 Patriots)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Jarvis Moss (’07 Broncos)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Osi Umenyiora (’03 Giants)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Dan Bazuin (’07 Bears)

8. Offensive Tackle
1st Round Avg. Value: 29.1
2nd Round Avg. Value: 23.8
Offensive tackles are actually a very safe pick in each round, but their low rating is a result of their incredible 2nd-round value. They’re easily the most valuable 2nd-round pick, which makes it unnecessary to reach for tackles in the 1st round.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Jordan Gross (’03 Panthers)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Joe Staley (’07 49ers)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Michael Roos (’05 Titans)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Jacob Rogers (’04 Cowboys)

7. Wide Receiver
1st Round Avg. Value: 24.7
2nd Round Avg. Value: 15.6
Here’s where we start to see some separation. There is obviously more value in the 1st round at the receiver position, but their 24.7 1st-round value is the 3rd lowest. These numbers indicate that the receiver position is the most volatile. While 2nd-round picks rarely pan out, 1st-round picks are hit-or-miss as well.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Andre Johnson (’03 Texans)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Rashaun Woods (’04 49ers)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Anquan Boldin (’03 Cardinals)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Terrence Murphy (’05 Packers)

6. Offensive Guard
1st Round Avg. Value: 27.8
2nd Round Avg. Value: 18.2
Guards are a safe bet in either round, but their 27.8 1st-round value indicates that they’re borderline can’t-miss prospects early in the draft. However, their 2nd-round grade is also impressive, meaning there’s no need to reach for one in the 1st-round.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Logan Mankins (’05 Patriots)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Ben Grubbs (’07 Ravens)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Chris Snee (’04 Giants)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Bruce Nelson (’03 Panthers)

5. Linebacker
1st Round Avg. Value: 31.1
2nd Round Avg. Value: 20.0
Linebackers hold the highest 1st-round value among the defensive positions and come in second to defensive backs in the 2nd round. Starter-quality players can certainly be found in the 2nd round, but the 1st round frequently produces stars.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Terrell Suggs (’03 Ravens)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: David Pollack (’05 Bengals)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Lofa Tatupu (’05 Seahawks)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Terry Pierce (’03 Broncos)

4. Defensive Tackle
1st Round Avg. Value: 26.7
2nd Round Avg. Value: 12.1
While defensive tackles don’t hold as much 1st-round value as linebackers, their low 2nd-round grade indicates that the draft pool dries up quickly once the top players are off the board. If you want a starter at defensive tackle, you better get one early.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Kevin Williams (’03 Vikings)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Justin Harrell (’07 Packers)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Anthony Adams (’03 49ers)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Alan Branch (’07 Cardinals)

3. Tight End
1st Round Avg. Value: 31.0
2nd Round Avg. Value: 13.9
1st-round tight ends are can’t miss prospects. Even the least productive tight ends in this group (Greg Olsen Marcedes Lewis) have been starters since early in their careers. However, there is almost always a precipitous drop-off in talent once the top one or two tight ends are off the board.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Dallas Clark (’03 Colts)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Greg Olsen (’07 Bears)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: L.J. Smith (’03 Eagles)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Bennie Joppru (’03 Texans)

2. Running Back
1st Round Avg. Value: 32.4
2nd Round Avg. Value: 13.9
It should be noted that 1st-round running backs are almost always thrown into the fire from day one. Meaning even the ones that end up being busts are at least given the opportunity to play, which can’t be said for all positions. However, its clear that the top talent is almost always found in the 1st round.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Larry Johnson (’03 Chiefs)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Chris Perry (’04 Bengals)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Maurice Jones-Drew (’06 Jaguars)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Kenny Irons (’07 Bengals)

1. Quarterback
1st Round Avg. Value: 31.0
2nd Round Avg. Value: 3.8
There’s really no surprise here. 1st-round quarterbacks aren’t can’t miss prospects, but the percentage of non-1st-round picks that develop into starters is astronomically low. Essentially there’s no difference between a 2nd-rounder and a 7th-rounder. In our data set, 14 of the 16 1st-round quarterbacks are rated higher than the highest-rated 2nd-round pick. If you want to find a future star at the position you better find him in the 1st round or just run into some dumb luck later in the draft.
Highest rated 1st-round pick: Ben Roethlisberger (’04 Steelers)
Lowest rated 1st-round pick: Brady Quinn (’07 Browns)
Highest rated 2nd-round pick: Tarvaris Jackson (’06 Vikings)
Lowest rated 2nd-round pick: Drew Stanton (’07 Lions)

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While that list does a nice job of comparing the first two rounds of the draft, quality players can still be found in the 3rd round. When you add them to the equation the list changes slightly. Rather than run through each position again, take a look at the chart below:

The numbers below each position corresponded to that round’s average value above or below the combined value for all three rounds at that position (which is listed on the bottom line).

From this chart, we can see where the breaking point is for each position. Quarterback, for example, is clearly the most top-heavy position as their value falls over 20 points from the 1st to the 2nd and 3rd round. Defensive backs, however, still have a positive value in the 2nd round which coincides with our first list’s claim that they are the least-valuable 1st-round choice.

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The question now is: how can we apply this study to the draft?

The list certainly shouldn’t be taken as gospel, as the value within each draft changes from year to year based on available talent. But lets see how it could be used in a specific example:

Let’s say the Browns are on the clock at No. 7. Based on how the first six picks played out the top remaining players on their draft board are Joe Haden and Rolando McClain. Who do they pick?

Even if Haden is rated higher on their board, the smart choice would be McClain. History tells us that the Browns can still find an above average cornerback in the 2nd round (perhaps a guy like Patrick Robinson). However, there is going to be a significant drop-off in talent at inside linebacker once McClain is gone.

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If you have any questions related to this study, feel free to shoot us an email (webmaster[at]draftace.com) or send us a message on twitter (@draftace).

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Research 2 Comments

Will someone please sign Jared Gaither

I’ve asked this before, but he remains unsigned, so I’ll ask it again: Why doesn’t anyone want Jared Gaither?

WI: Baltimore Ravens v Green Bay PackersIn his third year in the league in ’09, Gaither blossomed into a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle, more than adequately filling the shoes of his predecessor Jonathan Ogden. He ultimately wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl, primarily due to the fact that he missed five games last season, but the honor is surely in his future.

If you don’t know much about Gaither its probably due to the fact that he skipped the April draft process, entering the 2007 Supplemental Draft instead. In July ’07 Gaither was ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, which prompted the decision. As a result, the Ravens landed themselves a 1st-round talent with a 5th-round selection.

After backing up Ogden in ’07, Gaither took over in 2008. He was impressive as a sophomore, but reached elite status in 2009. Despite his performance, the Ravens only tendered him at the 1st-round level, leaving them susceptible to Gaither signing elsewhere.

Personally, I would rather spend my 1st-round pick on a proven 24-year-old than take a chance on anyone in the draft, even this year’s top prospect, Russell Okung.

ProFootballFocus grades Gaither very favorably, ranking him 6th overall among offensive tackles. However, their ratings are accumulated throughout the season, favoring the players who appeared in all 16 games. Given the fact that he only played 11 games in 2009 I decided to take their ratings and adjust them based on number of snaps played to see where Gaither would rank. Taking the overall rating and dividing by snaps played you get this list “per snap” rating list:

It should be noted that Gaither’s injuries are part of the equation as to why teams may not be interested, but if you simply look at his production on the field there’s no denying his status as an elite left tackle.

Applying this to the draft, how could any team targeting an offensive tackle not give serious consideration to Gaither?

Teams like the Redskins, Seahawks, Raiders, Bills, 49ers, Cardinals and Cowboys are all in the market for an upgrade at left tackle. Would they honestly rather take a risk on Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis instead of Gaither?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Raiders, Ravens, Redskins, Seahawks 2 Comments

What to expect from Freddie Barnes

At 6’0″, 212 pounds Freddie Barnes doesn’t have the size to be a possession receiver. Since he wasn’t invited to the combine, his Pro Day on Wednesday was his big chance to prove that he has the speed to make up for his lack of size.

Unfortunately, Barnes disappointed. He was clocked in the 4.6 range in the 40 which, combined with his lack of size, raises serious doubts about his ability to play at the next level.

I still think Barnes is an intriguing prospect. Anyone who’s that productive in college deserves a serious look from the NFL. However, there are certain benchmark numbers in terms of size and speed that players need to post to generate consideration in the first three rounds. At this point its tough to imagine Barnes not falling into the 4th round or lower.

I’ve been trying to come up with a reasonable NFL comparison for Barnes and I can’t think of anyone. There just aren’t many NFL receivers of Barnes’ stature without impressive speed.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Does the Whitehurst deal reshape the Seahawks draft plans?

The Seahawks trade for Charlie Whitehurst has left many fans scratching their heads. How could the Seahawks spend that much for a 4-year veteran who has yet to attempt a pass in the NFL?

Its been some time since I, or anyone for that matter, has seen Whitehurst play but when he was coming out of college I was very high on his NFL future. He was overshadowed by Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler in the 2006 draft, but I had Whitehurst rated as the 4th best quarterback in that class with a early 2nd-round grade.

Digging deep into the DraftAce archives, here’s what we said about Whitehurst in ’06:

Strengths: Ideal height for NFL quarterback. Great arm strength. Good mechanics. Good athlete with above average mobility. Impressive accuracy, especially on shorter passes.

Weaknesses: Never really lived up to full potential at Clemson. Makes poor decisions; tends to lock onto a receiver and force his throws. Major fumbling concerns (24 career fumbles).

Some have tried to read into the Chargers’ handling of Whitehurst to determine if he’s starter material, but personally I think that’s a waste of time. On one hand, the Chargers liked him enough to keep him on board for four years and tender him at a 3rd-round value. On the other hand, he wasn’t able to beat out Billy Volek for the backup job.

Regardless of whether or not the move works out, the signing of Whitehurst to a two-year $8M deal could reshape the  Seahawks draft plans. With Whitehurst earning borderline starter’s money, it would be difficult to bring Jimmy Clausen aboard. Clausen has the skills to start right away and its tough to envision the Seahawks putting their 1st-round pick or their newly acquired quarterback on the bench for 2 years.

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

An in-depth look at Brandon Spikes’ draft stock

Typically I don’t put much stock in Pro Day 40 times. Schools make sure their running conditions are optimal, often producing faster times than in Indianapolis. But for that reason, when a player runs significantly slower than expected it raises some concerns.

Florida v South Carolina

Spikes was unoffically clocked at 5.02 and 5.08 on Wednesday

We all knew that Brandon Spikes wasn’t going to impress in the 40-yard dash. But all scouts were looking for was a respectable time. Something around 4.8 would have been acceptable; slow, but acceptable. He was a tremendously productive college player with the instincts to overcome a lack of speed in the NFL. But there is such thing as too slow.

For those that think Spikes’ instincts will make up for a lack of speed, let’s take a little history lesson.

Using the always-helpful archives on NFLDraftScout.com I went back and found the slowest inside linebackers in recent years. Based on their records, I had to go back to 2007 to find even a mediocre prospect who ran below a 4.9, Wake Forest’s Jon Abbate.

Like Spikes, Abbate was a tremendously productive collegiate linebacker. He was a key piece of the Demon Deacon’s memorable 2006 season. Abbate entered the draft a year early in 2007, expecting to be a mid-round pick. After running a 5.00 at the combine his stock plummeted and he went undrafted. The Texans signed him after the draft but he failed to make the team. He’s currently playing fullback for the California Redwoods of the UFL.

Going back a year further, we find Kai Parham of Virginia. He had a breakout junior season in 2005 and entered the draft early in ’06 with higher expectations than Abbate. Virginia was still a relevant program at the time and had recently sent highly-touted prospected Darryl Blackstock and Ahmad Brooks to the NFL. After running a 4.98 at the combine and 4.93 at his Pro Day, Parham went undrafted. He signed with the Cowboys but failed to make the squad.

That same year N.C. State’s Oliver Hoyte found himself in a similar situation after running a 4.93 at the combine. He too was brought aboard by the Cowboys and was eventually switch to fullback. He played briefly with the Cowboys, but was out of the league two years later.

To find the next relevant prospect with a sub 4.9 40 I had to go back to 2002 to LSU’s Trev Faulk. This is the pre-DraftAce days so I have to defer to NFLDraftScout for a scouting report, who had Faulk rated as the 3rd-best inside linebacker in the draft class. However, he ran a 4.90 and went undrafted. He caught on with Rams a few years later in ’04 and ’05, starting  a few games, but was out of the league shortly.

We could go on, but I feel the point has been made.

Now I will say this, Spikes was a more productive college player than any of the aforementioned linebackers. But it should also be noted that he was surrounded by elite talent at Florida. The Gators defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing their linebackers to make plays. It raises the question: if Spikes had played at, say, Kentucky would we even be bothering to have this discussion?

Despite his lack of speed I had been a Spikes supporter to this point in time, giving him a solid 2nd-round grade. However, his Pro Day workout does give me reason to doubt my original grade. Its easy to dismiss what players do in shorts and a t-shirt, but there’s a reason the NFL runs them through these drills. There are basic numbers that players at each position should achieve. Comparing players to those benchmarks takes some of the guesswork out of the draft. That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions to every rule, but like I mentioned earlier, there is such a thing as “too slow”.

Spikes may prove us all wrong, but his 40 time is slow enough that teams should play it safe and drop him down their draft boards.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

5 popular mock draft predictions unlikely to happen

Every year draftniks fall in love with certain predictions which, on paper, make sense. But creating a mock draft isn’t always about matching up the team’s needs with the best available player at that position. You have to understand each team’s draft tendencies and try to think like their GM (or whoever it may be that’s calling the shots).

With that in mind, I’ve set out to discredit a few common mock draft predictions which likely won’t hold true on April 22.

5. Jermaine Gresham to the Bengals
The Bengals have, hands down, the worst pass-catching tight ends in the league. So in theory, adding Gresham would make a lot of sense. However, Marvin Lewis and Bob Bratkowski just don’t seem to care. They have never incorporated the tight end into the offense and I don’t see any reason why they’ll change now. Selecting Gresham would require the Bengals to abandon an offensive philosophy which has worked fairly well in recent years.

4. Russell Okung to the Lions
Adding a young offensive tackle in the 2nd or 3rd round would be a wise decision for the Lions, but its unlikely to happen with the 2nd pick. Jim Schwartz has praised Jeff Backus, and even endorsed him as a Pro Bowl candidate this past season. With all the needs the Lions have on both sides of the ball, why would Martin Mayhew and Schwartz upgrade a position that they already view as a strength?

3. Joe Haden to the Browns
Haden is the top available player at a position at which the Browns are devoid of talent. However, a rebuilding process does not start with a cornerback. The trades of Corey Williams and Kamerion Wimbley have opened up gaping holes in the Browns front seven, which is always a higher priority on draft day than the secondary. Eric Berry, due to his elite draft grade, may still be an option, but not Haden.

2. Dez Bryant to the Dolphins
Signing Karlos Dansby left the Dolphins with just one glaring area of need: receiver. Or more specifically, a big receiver. Dez Bryant is exactly what the Dophins want, but there is no way that Bill Parcells ok’s the selection of a receiver in the 1st round. He hasn’t selected one since Terry Glenn in 1996, and that selection was actually made by Robert Kraft and was a key reason why Parcells bolted after the season. Throw in Bryant’s off-field concerns and he has little chance of wearing a Dolphins uniform in 2010.

1. Bruce Campbell to the Raiders
Al Davis has made plenty of bad decisions, but this would top them all. The thought process behind this selection is that the Raiders need a left tackle and Campbell put on a performance at the Combine that is sure to catch the attention of Davis. That said, there are enough other players with legitimate 1st-round grades that Davis can probably be talked into. Jason Pierre-Paul, Taylor Mays, Trent Williams and Anthony Davis are all much closer to receiving top-10 grades and would still fit the Al Davis profile.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bengals, Browns, Dolphins, Lions, Raiders 1 Comment

A Mid-Offseason Grade for Mike Holmgren

On one hand, you have to give Mike Holmgren credit for putting his stamp on this team. On the other, you have to wonder: were this many changes necessary?

We’re still a month away from the draft and Holmgren has made an entire offseason’s worth of moves. With the recent flurry of transaction now complete, I think its time to breakdown the Browns moves and give Holmgren his mid-offseason grade.

Jan. 7 – Browns decide to keep Mangini
Mangini’s first season in Cleveland was nothing short of a complete disaster. True, he turned things around down the stretch, but any progress he made in those final weeks has now been undone by Holmgren’s dismantling of the franchise. You have to wonder if Holmgren isn’t keeping Mangini around just to keep the seat warm for himself.
Grade: D

Feb. 18 – Browns release Jamal Lewis
Everyone could see this move coming a mile away. Lewis wasn’t performing, and he wasn’t happy. He was due to earn $3.9M in 2010 and he just isn’t worth it anymore. It created a gaping hole at running back, which the undersized Jerome Harrison can’t fill on his own, but it was a necessary decision.
Grade: A

March 4Browns don’t offer tender to Brodney Pool; becomes free agent
Not bringing back an injury-prone safety who’s coming off a concussion walk can’t be viewed as a terrible decision, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt to offer him his 2nd-round tender and then attempt to pull off a trade. When healthy, Pool is a quality starting free safety and it looks as though he’ll get an opportunity to prove himself with the Jets.
Grade: C

March 4Browns trade Corey Williams to Lions for 5th-round pick
Aside from Shaun Rogers, Williams was easily the Browns next most productive defensive lineman over the past two seasons. He adjusted nicely to playing defensive end in their 3-4 scheme and was an anchor on the defensive line. ProFootbalFocus’ grading system rated him the 3rd best 3-4 defensive end in 2009. And all they could get in return was a 5th-round choice? Assuming that really was all that was being offered for Williams, the smart move would have been to keep him around. The Browns aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with talented defensive players, so why dump one for a 5th-round pick?
Grade: F

March 9 – Browns release Derek Anderson
This was an unfortunate, but necessary, move. It’s not easy to release a 26-year-old former Pro Bowl quarterback, but Anderson simply hasn’t lived up to expectations the past two seasons. He was due a $2M roster bonus on March 19, and it didn’t look like anyone was going to be interested in pulling the trigger on a trade for an overpriced backup.
Grade: A-

March 14 – Browns trade Brady Quinn to Broncos
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You cannot judge a quarterback based on 12 starts. And you certainly can’t judge him based on 12 starts during which he was surrounded by absolutely no talent. I’m not saying Quinn will become the next John Elway in Denver, but he deserved another shot with the Browns. In return the Browns received Peyton Hillis (a backup FB/RB), a 2011 6th-round draft pick and a conditional pick in 2012.
Grade: F

March 14 – Browns trade Kamerion Wimbley to Raiders for 3rd-round pick
While trading your best pass-rusher is rarely a good idea, this won’t be a crippling move for the Browns defense. Matt Roth and David Bowens are capable starting linebackers and the coaching staff is also high on Marcus Benard. The addition of the 3rd-round pick give the Browns five in the top 100, which will help them retool a roster which is depleted of talent.
Grade: B

Clearly Holmgren’s strategy here is to make the Browns “his” team. If owner Randy Lerner is willing to be patient it could work out in the end, afterall Holmgren has been to three Super Bowls. However, he went to those Super Bowls as a coach. As a GM in Seattle he struggled and was eventually demoted. At this point he’s committed himself to a 3-year rebuilding project, if not longer. Its too early to give him a failing grade across the board, but its certainly possible that he’ll leave the Browns worse off than when he took over. As the roster stands today on March 15, its hard to imagine the Browns winning more than one or two games, with the distinct possibility that they go 0-16.

Overall Mid-Offseason Grade: C-

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Browns, Free Agency Comments Off