Ryan McCrystal

Rolando McClain has Crohn’s Disease, pulled hamstring

Rarely does significant new information come out regarding a prospect at this time of year. The folks at the combine generally do a good job poking and prodding until every stone has been overturned. But Rolando McClain revealed some surprising information at Alabama’s pro day.

McClain announced that he has been suffering from Crohn’s Disease since he was a freshman in high school, a disease that causes inflation of the intestines and can result in a variety of symptoms. The disease is treatable and it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock, but its a key piece of information for teams to be made aware of before handing him millions of dollars.

McClain also revealed that he suffered a torn hamstring during Alabama’s game on October 24 against Tennessee. He apparently kept the injury from his teammates and played through the pain.

Hamstring injuries usually hurt player’s draft stock, but this may be a rare situation where it actually helps. Some scouts had questioned McClain’s efforts down the stretch last season, sighting plays on which he was clearly not running at full speed after the ball carrier. The hamstring injury gives McClain a logical excuse, so long as it can be verified by Alabama’s medical staff.

Along with giving him a reasonable excuse for what was perceived as a lack of effort, it demonstrates his willingness and ability to play through pain at a high level.

Other notes from Alabama’s pro day:
- DT Terrence Cody weighed in at 349 pounds. That’s down from 370 at the Senior Bowl and 354 at the combine. While teams would love to see him lose even more weight, they have to be encouraged by the effort he’s put in so far. His stock is certainly on the rise as a result and he could sneak into the late 1st round.

- CB Javier Arenas was unable to work out due to the pulled hamstring he suffered at the combine.

- OG Mike Johnson took some snaps at center and reportedly looked good. The ability to play multiple positions is key for linemen who aren’t viewed as locks to earn starting roles in the NFL.

- All 32 teams were represented. Glad to see the Raiders decided to show up after they inexplicably decided to skip Oklahoma’s pro day earlier this week.

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

Where will Brady Quinn land?

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs

Is Quinn done in Cleveland?

The Browns are reportedly shopping Brady Quinn. And while I personally think its ludicrous to trade a former 1st-round pick after just 12 career starts, its looks like he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2010.

Any team acquiring a 25-year-old quarterback with just 12 starts under his belt would be doing so with the intention of making him the starter and developing him as the franchise quarterback. Quinn has sat on the bench long enough, its time to give him a chance to play.

Unfortunately for the Browns, the list of teams capable of committing to a new starting quarterback is fairly small. And his trade value is further hurt by the fact that the teams that may be interested in a 25-year-old quarterback are also in position to potentially land Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen in the draft.

Let’s take a look at the teams that may show an interest in Quinn:

St. Louis Rams
The Rams are obviously in the market for a new franchise quarterback. Marc Bulger is likely to be released, creating an opening for someone to step in and start from day one. This would be an ideal scenario for Quinn, but the Rams also own the No. 1 overall pick and appear to be leaning towards selecting Bradford.

Washington Redskins
Jason Campbell was tendered at a 1st-round value, meaning he’ll likely be back in Washington unless the ‘Skins can find a trading partner. If he’s traded, they would certainly become a potential landing spot for Quinn, but a lot has to happen first. They would also have to decide to pass on Clausen and/or Bradford in the draft, as at least one of the two should be on the board at No. 4.

Buffalo Bills
The Bills may be the most likely suitor for Quinn. They’re in the market for a new franchise quarterback, but aren’t in position to guarantee themselves a shot at Bradford or Clausen in the draft. That uncertainty may lead them to address the need via trade. There have been whispers that they may be interested in Jason Campbell, but Quinn is younger and certainly has more upside at this stage in his career.

Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars don’t need a new quarterback for 2010. But Jack Del Rio hasn’t exactly expressed confidence in David Garrard this offseason. If they could get Quinn at a discounted price due to a lack of interest from others (3rd or 4th round pick perhaps) they may be willing to bring him aboard.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Browns, Free Agency, Jaguars, Rams, Redskins Comments Off

Could the Browns trade up for Sam Bradford?

Now that Seneca Wallace is on board, Mike Holmgren has decided its time to part ways with his incumbent quarterbacks. Derek Anderson was released yesterday and now Brady Quinn is aggressively being shopped around the league.

Trading Quinn seems like an odd decision. Holmgren is clearly comfortably with Seneca Wallace, but he’s apparently the only one. The Browns only gave up a 2011 7th-round pick to land him, which is a shockingly low price tag for a guy who appears to be entering 2010 as a starting quarterback.

The move begs the question: what the hell does Mike Holmgren have planned?

Surely he can’t envision Seneca Wallace as his starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. Wallace has been an adequate backup to Matt Hasselbeck for a number of years, but in years past no one has even gone sniffing around Seattle to inquire about trading for Wallace to fill a starting role elsewhere.

Could this mean Holmgren has more moves planned?

2010 NFL Combine - Day Two

Could Bradford land in Cleveland?

There has been speculation this offseason that the Browns may show interest in Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford in the draft. However, it appears unlikely the either will fall to them with the 7th pick. The Rams, Redskins and Seahawks all have shown an interest in landing a new franchise quarterback and own picks ahead of the Browns.

The only way to land a quarterback in the 1st round may be to trade up. The best case scenario for the Browns would be for the Rams to select Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. That would leave the 2nd and 3rd picks (owned by the Lions and Bucs, respectively) as potential slots to trade into as neither team is in the market for a quarterback.

The Browns currently own 11 picks in this year’s draft and could offer an intriguing package to either the Lions or Bucs who are both in a full-fledged rebuilding mode and could use the extra selections.

Another option would be to package some picks and defensive tackle Shaun Rogers who has been rumored to be on the trading block. Both the Lions and Bucs are expected to target defensive tackles Suh and McCoy in the 1st round. Thus, the option of landing a proven Pro Bowl tackle plus plus some extra picks would seem like an intriguing offer for either team.

Should the Browns pull off one of these trades and land Bradford or Clausen, then the trade for Wallace would start to make sense. Wallace, who has started a handful of games in his career, could keep the seat warm as the Browns groom their new franchise quarterback.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Buccaneers, Lions 26 Comments

10 Best Offseason Moves (So Far)

10. Giants sign Antrel Rolle
Yes, the Giants overpaid for Rolle. The thought of him being the highest-paid safety in the league is comical. But the fact remains that he’s a significant upgrade over Michael Johnson and will give the Giants a very solid duo at safety between him and fellow Hurricane Kenny Phillips. The Giants are taking a “win now” approach and you have to give them credit for addressing a need with the best player on the market.

9. Falcons sign Dunta Robinson
The Falcons may have overpaid for a player who’s effort comes as goes throughout the season, but there’s no denying that Robinson has the talent to be an elite cornerback. Robinson will give you headaches, but ultimately when it matters most he’ll step up his game. He was playing at an elite level down the stretch this past season as Houston climbed back into the wild card race and he’ll do the same in Atlanta as they figure to be in the playoff hunt once again.

8. Patriots re-sign Vince Wilfork
Its not a sexy pick to have a player re-signing on this list, I know, but this is one of the most important moves nonetheless. Wilfork is the anchor of the Patriots defense. They’re in a mini rebuilding mode on that side of the ball this offseason and losing Wilfork would have set them back even further.

7. Chiefs sign Thomas Jones
If the Chiefs were expected to be a contender in 2010 this move would have ranked even higher. Jones isn’t capable of carrying the load throughout the season, but he can still be effective in spurts. Jones and Jamaal Charles give the Chiefs an impressive duo at running back which should allow them to control the ball and help open things up in the passing game for Matt Cassel.

6. Broncos sign Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green
None of these three players alone would have made the list, but collectively they’ve reshaped the Broncos defense. Williams will likely start at nose tackle with Green starting at one of the defensive end spots. Bannan can play nose tackle or end and may rotate between the two.

5. Cardinals trade for Kerry Rhodes
Rhodes fell out of favor with Rex Ryan in New York, but he is still a top-flight safety in this league. He’s just 27 and has plenty of good years ahead of him. Antrel Rolle was a fine starting free safety, but Rhodes is an upgrade and he comes at a cheaper price tag. It was a great trade any way you look at it from the Cardinals point of view.

4. Lions sign Kyle Vanden Bosch; trade for Corey Williams
Last offseason Jim Schwartz pledged to make the Lions bigger and stronger on defense. That’s proven to be easier said than done as the previous regime believed “smaller and faster” was the way to go. They struggled through the 2009 season, but Vanden Bosch and Williams gives their line two proven defenders who will likely team up with Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.

3. Bears sign Julius Peppers
Peppers was the biggest name to change teams but I can’t put him at number one because I don’t know that he’s a significant upgrade in Chicago. The Bears had other needs (mainly receiver) which they could have spent the money on, but they do deserve credit for landing the biggest name on the market.

2. Dolphins sign Karlos Dansby
Dansby has quietly been one of the most productive linebackers in the league during his time in Arizona, despite not being surrounded by much talent. In Miami he could develop into a star. He’s an ideal fit for their defensive scheme which is similar to Arizona’s. He’ll be a difference maker from day one for the Dolphins.

1. Ravens trade for Anquan Boldin
The Ravens have needed to make a move like this for years. Boldin is an elite possession receiver and will instantly become Joe Flacco’s favorite weapon. If he can stay healthy, a 100-catch season isn’t an unreachable goal for 2010. The acquisition of Boldin makes the Ravens the team to beat in the AFC North for 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Free Agency, Giants, Lions, Patriots 16 Comments

Making sense of the Broncos draft plans

Once we hit mid-March most team’s draft plans start to clear up. Certain needs are addressed through free agency which limits the number of options for each team in the draft. However, occasionally a team will bring in so many new free agents that it only clutters up the roster and makes their draft plans difficult to determine.

This year that team is the Broncos.

By no means am I insulting their offseason moves. Quite the opposite, actually. They’ve overhauled their defensive line with Jarvis Green, Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams, all of whom could start for them in 2010.

Cowboys Jenkins Breaks Up Pass for Broncos Marshall in DenverOn the offensive side, the Brandon Marshall situation is still looming over their heads, but its becoming increasingly unlikely that he’ll sign elsewhere. The rumors of him signing with the Seahawks have been overstated. Seattle would have to surrender the 6th overall pick, which simply isn’t going to happen. The only alternative may be for Marshall to re-sign with Denver and then be traded to Seattle for the 14th selection.

The Bengals have also been rumored to have interest, but appear to have turned their attention to Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant, both of whom come at a much cheaper price tag.

So which direction do the Broncos go in the draft?

I was all set to predict Dan Williams to the Broncos in my latest mock draft… and then they signed Justin Bannan… and then Jarvis Green… and then Jamal Williams. Clearly defensive line has been crossed off the list of needs.

Dez Bryant has been a common name linked to the Broncos in mock drafts, but it hinges on the trade of Marshall. Until he’s gone, I don’t think we can feel confident that the Broncos are leaning that direction. Even if Marshall is gone, it may not be a sure thing. Bryant’s stock is falling for his off-field concerns, and the Broncos may be hesitant to bring aboard another diva.

The secondary is another area that could be addressed. Last season the Broncos were so desperate for cornerbacks that they brought aboard the seemingly ageless Ty Law. If Joe Haden is on the board he would certainly be an option.

However, in my latest mock draft Haden comes off the board at No. 10 to the Jaguars, leaving the Broncos with a difficult decision. Since I’ve decided to hold off on the Dez Bryant prediction until Marshall is traded, I was left without an option that jumped out as an obvious choice.

I elected to go with Sergio Kindle who has the size and athleticism to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker in the Broncos 3-4 system. It isn’t a slam dunk by any means, but it fills a need at a decent value. Marrio Haggan started opposite Elvis Dumervil in 2009 and could certainly be upgraded. Kindle would represent a significant upgrade over Haggan as a pass rusher and should at least be able to match his production against the run.

The downside to selecting Kindle is that they already have a good amount of money tied up in linebackers in Dumervil, D.J. Williams and 2009 1st-round pick Robert Ayers.

As we get closer to the draft its possible that the Broncos draft plans clear up, but as of now they’re clear as mud. If things remain as they are now, the Broncos could be a prime candidate to make one of the more surprising selection of draft.

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

Browns release Derek Anderson

Its not everyday that 26-year old former Pro Bowl quarterbacks get released.Then again, its also not every day that 26-year old former Pro Bowl quarterbacks complete just under 45 percent of their passes.

Green Bay Packers v Cleveland BrownsDerek Anderson went from the biggest surprise of 2007 to the biggest disappointment of 2008 and 2009 and now finds himself without a job. It won’t be for long though, as a number of teams figure to give him the opportunity to compete for a starting job. Arizona would make the most sense, but Oakland, Buffalo and Carolina could also be interested.

The more interesting question, however, is: where do the Browns go from here? They acquired Seneca Wallace on Monday, so they still have two quarterbacks with starting experience and not a whole lot of confidence in either one.

Well, I should say they shouldn’t have confidence in either one. But the fact that Mike Holmgren was willing to trade Wallace, whom he coached in Seattle, may mean he’s already decided who he’s going to force Eric Mangini to start in 2010.

For whatever its worth, I’d stick with Brady Quinn. He’s only made 12 career starts. Is that really enough time to evaluate a former 1st-round pick? Quinn has the basic tools to succeed in the NFL, but he’s struggled with his decision making. Just a guess here, but maybe that’s because Eric Mangini hasn’t allowed him to start more than six consecutive games.

Give Quinn the keys to the offense for 2010 and see how he does. If he fails, you’re no worse off than you are now, but at least you know what you have. Then take Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett in the 2011 draft and rebuild from there.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Free Agency 2 Comments

Offseason moves shouldn’t change Lions draft plans

The Lions have been one of the more active teams so far this offseason, and are starting to look like they may be one of the most improved teams for 2010.

The signing of Kyle Vanden Bosch and the trade for Corey Williams have given their defensive line a significant upgrade already, and its called into question whether they will still target Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy with the 2nd pick.

Numerous mock drafts have started popping up with Russell Okung in the No. 2 slot, but I think its premature to assume that Jim Schwartz is content with his defensive line. Williams is certainly a quality starting defensive tackle. But is he really the type of player that makes you pass on the consensus top two available prospects in the draft?

Detroit Lions Minicamp

Hill stretches before a practice during his rookie year

Perhaps this is the better question, since Williams already has one starting spot locked up: is Sammie Lee Hill the type of player that makes you pass on the consensus top two available prospects in the draft?

Hill, a 2009 4th-round pick, started all but one game in which he played last season. He’s an intriguing player due to his massive size (6’4, 329) but he wasn’t exactly productive as rookie. ProFootballFocus rated him 83rd out of 87 qualifying defensive tackles in ’09. To be fair, he was a rookie from Stillman College trying to compete in the NFL, but the fact remains that he has a long way to go.

The other issue with them selecting Okung is the fact that there may not be room for him in the starting lineup from day one. Schwartz has been extremely supportive of Jeff Backus (perhaps too supportive) and even endorsed him as a Pro Bowl candidate in 2009. At right tackle, 2008 1st-round pick Gosder Cherilus is starting to look like a bust but it would be prudent to give him a third year in a starting role before throwing in the towel.

To accommodate Okung the Lions would need to move either Backus or Cherilus (more likely Cherilus) to guard. In theory it actually sounds like a smart move, but you have to factor in how much money would then be invested in a mediocre offensive line featuring three former 1st-round selections. A rebuilding team like the Lions would be wise not to invest too much money in any one unit.

While the Lions are sure to explore the option of selecting Okung, ultimately I can’t envision them passing on Suh or McCoy. Jim Schwartz had pledged to build a bigger, stronger, more physical defense in the Detroit – a complete 180 from the previous regime’s defensive philosophy – and a change like that doesn’t happen with just one or two moves. Plugging in a player like Suh or McCoy would instantly give the Lions a defensive front seven that could compete within the NFC North.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Free Agency, Lions 1 Comment

Analyzing the Bears free agency moves

No matter what happens this season, you have to give the Bears credit for trying. Last season they went out and acquired what they believed to be a franchise quarterback. This season they grabbed the biggest name on the free agent market.

Carolina Panthers v San Diego ChargersThe Julius Peppers signing came as no surprise, and is clearly a smart move. The Bears pass rush has been good but not great in recent seasons and Peppers should put their defensive line over the top and make them one of the better units in the league.

With Peppers and Alex Brown teaming up the Bears now have an impressive combination at defensive end. Peppers excels as a pass rusher, while Brown rates as one of the games best run stoppers. Its a nice combination in a division that will require a balanced defense to compete with the Packers and Vikings.

I actually really like the signings of Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor. Neither one figures to make a significant impact, but they each fill specific needs which the Bears may not have been able to fill in the draft since they don’t own a draft pick until 3rd round.

The signing of Manumaleuna may spell the end of the road for Greg Olsen. Mike Martz refuses to use tight ends in the passing game, which essentially renders Olsen useless. He’ll more than likely be traded, which hopefully lands the Bears a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Chester Taylor will backup Matt Forte, who struggled to carry the load in 2009. The only questionable part of the signing is that Taylor is most effective as a receiver, which also is a strong-suit of Forte’s game. Taylor’s impact figures to be less than it was in Minnesota, but nonetheless he’s a significant upgrade over Kevin Jones as Forte’s backup.

As far as the draft is concerned, these moves can allow the Bears to relax on draft day. Aside from receiver, they really don’t have a glaring need that needs to be addressed. They won’t be on the clock until the 75th pick, so Bears fans shouldn’t expect much, but they can now select the best available player without feeling the pressure to find an impact player at a spot where it can be difficult to find one.

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

Does the signing of Kampman change the Jaguars draft plans?

On Sunday the Jaguars signed former Packers DE/LB Aaron Kampman to address their need for a pass rusher. But is it enough?

Philadelphia Eagles v Green Bay PackersThe Jaguars managed just 14 sacks in 2010, easily the lowest total in the league. 2008 1st and 2nd round picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves struggled mightily in pass-rush situations and the Jaguars are clearly entertaining the idea of moving on.

It had been widely assumed that the Jaguars would consider Derrick Morgan with the 10th overall selection but the signing of Kampman puts that into doubt. Jack Del Rio has expressed hope that Derrick Harvey can still develop into a quality starter, which may mean the defensive line is set for 2010.

On paper, the Kampman signing looks like it may be enough. While Harvey has been considered a bust by some, he’s actually been well above average against the run. Adding a pass rusher like Kampman on the other side could actually give the Jaguars a very formidable pair of ends.

The other issue at play is how much money the Jaguars are willing to commit to their defensive line. If they drafted Morgan and kept Harvey they’d have two 1st-round picks and Kampman – that’s a lot of money tied up in one position.

Ultimately I don’t think the Jaguars can afford to draft Morgan. At this point another defensive end would qualify as a luxury pick and the Jaguars have too many holes to go that route. Players such as Dez Bryant and Joe Haden may be available and would fill positions of need.

As much as a like Morgan, taking him 10th overall would be an irresponsible move by GM Gene Smith.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Free Agency, Jaguars 4 Comments

With the 8th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft the Raiders select…

The scouting combine is now complete, which means one thing: Al Davis has his pick ready to go.

Or at least he will whenever he gets around to reading the 40 times.

Its comical that an organization worth over three-quarters of a billion dollars could be run by such an incompetent individual. Yet every year Al Davis amazes us with his draft blunders.

He’s enamored by the biggest, strongest and fastest players with little regard for their actually ability on the football field. As a result, the scouting combine has essentially become a glorified tryout for the Raiders. The players who rate at the top of their position instantly shoot up Davis’ draft board. Which means that on March 3 we can already narrow down the Raiders potential targets in the 1st round to three names…

2010 NFL Combine - Day Three

Jason Pierre-Paul works out at the combine

3. Bruce Campbell
Watch Campbell at the combine, and he looks like a top-10 pick. Watch him on film, and he looks like a 4th-rounder. That can only mean one thing: Al Davis will love him. Its hard to imagine anyone selecting Campbell in the top seven, meaning he’s all but guaranteed to be on the board for Davis at No. 8. Couple Campbell’s combine performance with the fact that the Raiders are desperate for an upgrade over Mario Henderson at left tackle, and you have the perfect scenario for another Raiders draft debacle.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul
Unlike Campbell, I don’t think this pick would be an unmitigated disaster. The Raiders have done a nice job developing defensive talent in recent years, and Pierre-Paul may have the highest ceiling of any defensive lineman in this year’s draft. His size/speed combination is unmatched by any other defensive linemen in this year’s draft class and he would be an excellent compliment to Richard Seymour on Oakland’s defensive line. The downside to selecting JPP is that he is as raw as they come, with just one year of experience at the D-I level. But when has that ever stopped Al Davis?

1. Taylor Mays
I first matched Mays up with the Raiders in my first 2010 mock draft back in August. Knowing that the Raiders would be selecting in the top 10 and that Mays was sure to impress at the combine it seemed like a match made in heaven. The only thing that may discourage Davis from selecting Mays is the fact that he selected a similar player (in terms of raw physical ability) in the 2nd round last year in Michael Mitchell.

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