Ryan McCrystal

Corey Chavous is an embarrassment to all draftniks

If you watched andy of the Senior Bowl coverage on the NFL Network you may be familiar with Corey Chavous’ site DraftNasty.com. I checked out the site when I first learned of it and quickly dismissed it as a feeble attempt of a former NFL player to become a draftnik. The site is poorly put together and ridiculous rankings such as Joe Haden as the 4th-ranked cornerback and Jermaine Gresham as the 7th-rated tight end cause him to lose all credibility.

But just in case you actually thought he had some shred of credibility based on the fact that he played in the NFL, I present to you his mock draft.

A few of the highlights:
1. Neither Jimmy Clausen, nor Sam Bradford are in the 1st round

2. Ryan Mathews goes 7th overall to the Browns

3. Amari Spievey is the 2nd cornerback selected, behind Patrick Robinson

I hate to drive traffic to his site by even providing the links. But mock drafts like these, especially by those such as Corey Chavous who have the ability to reach a significant audience, infuriate me. Its insulting to the fans and it hurts the credibility of everyone in the business. Those who see these clearly impossible mock drafts quickly become cynical towards all draftniks. I hear it all the time: how can you predict the draft months in advance? True, its difficult, but not nearly as hard some make it appear.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 6 Comments

Bears Lining up Workouts Already

We usually don’t hear about teams bringing players in for workouts until after the combine, but the Bears are already setting their schedules.

The Bears have already lined up a workout with TCU OT Nic Richmond and South Dakota State DE Danny Batten. Both players appeared in the Texas vs The Nation all-star game and neither were invited to the combine.

Batten is the more highly regarded of the two and could come off the board as high as the 5th round. He’s an odd choice for the Bears, however. He doesn’t quite have the athleticism to play outside linebacker in their 4-3 defense, but is undersized for a down lineman.

As for Richmond, he has elite size (6’7″, 307) but lacks athleticism will be limited to right tackle in the pros which is the kiss of death for an offensive lineman’s draft stock. The least-coveted prospects are offensive lineman that are only capable of playing one position. It would be moderately surprising to hear his name called in April’s draft.

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

Demaryius Thomas Will Miss Combine

Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will miss the combine after suffering a broken foot while training on Wednesday. His agent, Todd France, told SI.com:

There are no longterm effects from the injury and Demaryius will be 100 percent by the time OTA’s begin. If surgery hastens the healing process, that is something we will consider.

Virginia Tech v Georgia TechIt could prove to be a devestating blow to Thomas’ draft stock. Having played in Paul Johnson’s triple-option the past two seasons, no one really knows how Thomas will fair in a pro-style offense. Getting a chance to step out onto the field and run routes in front of scouts could have eased much of the concern surrounding his ability to transition to the NFL.

Additionally, teams won’t have the ability to see Thomas run before the draft. As a big receiver (6’2″, 230 lbs) his 40-yard dash would have been one of the more anticipated events of the combine. Thomas likely would have run somewhere between 4.55 and 4.65, but on the off chance that he ran in the 4.4 range, his stock would have skyrocketed.

Its now tough to imagine Thomas coming off the board in the 1st round, as some expected he may. He could fall to the late 2nd round, at which point he could end up being one of the great steals of this year’s draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Marc Bulger Done in St. Louis?

ramsMarc Bulger has reportedly cleaned out his locker in St. Louis and doesn’t expect to return. For what its worth, the Rams are downplaying the reports.

Its tough to sort through rumors like this, but I’m inclined to believe the initial reports that Bulger is done in St. Louis. The Rams have no reason to tip their hand on their plans for Bulger, because its entirely possibly that they are involved in trade talks regarding their former franchise quarterback. As soon as teams believe Bulger will be released, the Rams leverage is thrown out the window.

Tennessee Titans v St. Louis RamsThe rumors pushed me to update my mock draft today and insert Sam Bradford into the No. 1 slot. I’ve thought all along that the Rams would prefer to add a franchise quarterback. However, I was unsure as to whether the Rams were comfortable enough with Bradford or Jimmy Clausen to make one of them the No. 1 overall selection. With Bulger apparently out of the picture, it clears up their draft intentions.

There is one wild card out there that could lead the Rams back to Ndamukong Suh.

The Rams have reportedly discussed the possibility of signing Michael Vick. This is pure speculation, but its possible the Rams feel they are close to acquiring Vick, but would prefer to move Bulger first. That said, I believe Vick in St. Louis is a long shot. This team is rebuilding from the bottom on up and 30-year-old quarterback with major character concerns just doesn’t seem like a prudent move.

As of now, all signs point to Bradford or Clausen going No. 1 overall.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Rams 3 Comments

The Future of the NFL: What Will An Uncapped Year Look Like?

When the clock strikes midnight on March 5, the NFL will enter a new era. As most fans are aware, the 2010 season will be “uncapped” if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached between the owners and the players association. By all accounts, the hope that an agreement could be reached in time has long passed. So what does this mean for the NFL?

Its a complicated scenario, but we’ll do our best to break it down into a few simple points:

1. There will be no salary cap
The most simple result of not having a new CBA in place is the termination of the NFL’s salary cap. This past season the cap was $128M. The fact that a cap has been in place has held the elite player’s salaries in check, unlike in baseball which essentially uses an uncapped system. The cap has also contributed to parity within the league, allowing teams like the Packers to compete on a level playing field with the Giants and Jets. Without a cap, owners with deep pockets such as Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder could, in theory, simply buy a Super Bowl contender.

An underrated aspect of the uncapped year, however, is the fact that the salary floor will also be eliminated. The current floor ($112.1M) ensures that every team is at least trying to put a quality product on the field. In an uncapped year, especially given the state of the economy, teams that are struggling financially can cut costs without any consequences. In essence, we run the risk of seeing certain teams become the Royals and Pirates of the NFL.

This won’t just hurt the fans, however. The players will won’t necessarily see a dramatic increase in salaries because there won’t be a competitive market for their services. As teams cut costs, they’ll begin to drop out of the free agent market, limiting the number teams each player can reasonably negotiate with. The elite players can force one or two teams to get into a bidding war, but it won’t impact your average players.

2. Players must wait until they have 6 years of experience to become unrestricted free agents
Under the current CBA, players only need three years of service before they are eligible to become unrestricted free agents. Take Braylon Edwards for example. His contract expires this season and he would have become an unrestricted free agent since he has been in the league for five seasons. However, if no agreement is reached Edwards will only be a restricted free agent. This will essentially force him to sign a one-year contract with the Jets before hitting the open market in 2011. In 2009, not a single restricted free agent signed with a new team – so don’t expect much turnover this offseason.

3. The “Final Eight” Plan
This is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the uncapped year. For a full explanation, flip to page 77 in the NFL’s CBA.

Essentially this means the final eight teams (those that advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs) can’t sign any free agents. They are allowed to replace departed players, but only at a comparable rate at which they were playing the departed player. There are numerous other complicated requirements which must also be met, but the result is that it will be extremely difficult for any of the “final eight” teams to improve through free agency this offseason.

4. Rookies will hold out at a record rate
The new CBA will include a rookie wage scale – something that both the owners and veteran players are pushing for. This means that the players in this year’s draft will be the last rookies to receiver ridiculous contracts. As a result, the teams owning high picks won’t want to shell out big money. They’ll take the approach of “be happy with what we’re offering ’cause you wouldn’t see half this next year.” Players, meanwhile, will be negotiating off of last year’s 1st-round contracts as they have for years.

Obviously teams want their players in camp early, but the power ultimately lies with the teams in this situation. Even if players hold out, they’ll eventually sign for less money because the alternative would be to sit out the entire season and re-enter the draft in 2011 when a wage scale will only further reduce their salary. Knowing this, teams will feel as though they have the ability to force players into contracts that don’t match up with last year’s values. It could create a messy situation and multiple Michael Crabtree-like holdouts.

5. Enjoy the 2010 season, because their may not be one in 2011
Despite the mess that may be the 2010 NFL season, you better enjoy it while it lasts. There remains a high likelihood of a lockout in March 2010. That said, no one wants to miss out on an entire season -  the owners or the players.

The power here lies with the owners. They have the ability to drastically cut costs in the uncapped year due to the lack of a salary floor, essentially saving up for the potential lockout. The majority of NFL players don’t have that luxury. Sure, they’re earning millions of dollars, but the average player is out of football before they turn 30. They have a precious few years to earn their money and missing out on a full season would be devastating.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Free Agency 3 Comments

Five Things the Patriots Must to do Rebound in 2010

patriotsBill Belichick has always been quick to jettison aging veterans. Perhaps his most high-profile move was the mid-season release of fan-favorite Bernie Kosar during his time with the Browns. This past season he was up to his old tricks again trading Mike Vrable and Richard Seymour.

In theory, parting ways with players at the first sign that they’re slowing down is a shrewd business move. In practice, it only works when an adequate replacement is waiting in the wings.

Instead of getting younger and more athletic, the Patriots just got worse. The problem was Belichick didn’t have young players ready to step into starting roles. Instead, they had slightly younger and less talented veterans to fill in.

So where do the Patriots go from here? From our point of view, here are five things the Patriots need to do this offseason to return to glory in 2010:

patriotsFA1. Re-sign Vince Wilfork
Just slapping Wilfork (in the face) with the franchise tag isn’t good enough. He’ll be disgruntled and potentially hold out for a significant amount of time. The Patriots can’t afford to enter 2010 without a motivated Wilfork anchoring the defense at nose tackle. 2009 2nd-round pick Ron Brace was a non-factor in limited playing time this past season and isn’t ready to take over for Wilfork. The only reasonable replacement for Wilfork out there is the Steelers Casey Hampton. He too is an unrestricted free agent but is expected to also receive the franchise tag.

2. Upgrade the pass-rush
Patriots outside linebackers managed just 10 sacks in 2009, with seven of them coming from UFA Tully Banta-Cain who isn’t expected to be re-signed. The dominant Patriots defenses of the early-to-mid 2000s were anchored by elite pass-rushing linebackers such as Willie McGinest and Vrabel. Adalius Thomas was a huge disappointment this season and is expected to be a cap casualty. If Thomas and Banta-Cain depart, that could potentially leave Rob Ninkovich and Pierre Woods as the most accomplished outside linebackers on the roster. This could be a position addressed in the 1st round with a player such as Michigan’s Brandon Graham.

New York Jets v New England Patriots3. Upgrade the secondary
Re-signing Leigh Bodden has to be a top priority. He isn’t an elite cornerback, but he was easily the best the Patriots had in 2009 and there aren’t many better options on the free agent market. Keeping him around could be key to their 2010 success. But it doesn’t end there. The Patriots need to find an adequate free safety. Former Bears backup Brandon McGowan opened the season as the starter but eventually lost the job to James Sanders, who was only a marginal upgrade.

4. Find a starting running back
Running back by committee doesn’t work in this league unless you have defined roles for each running back to match their skill set. The Patriots don’t seem to know when the best time to use their running backs are, they just throw Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor out there in any order and hope for good things to happen. Due to the lack of options in free agency, this may be something that needs to be addressed in the 1st or 2nd round of the draft. A powerful downhill runner such as Jonathan Dwyer or Ryan Mathews would be the ideal choice.

5. Find a replacement for Richard Seymour
Jarvis Green was an above average backup, but he isn’t starter material. Additionally, moving him into the starting lineup weakened their depth at the position. Upgrading the defensive end position will, in turn, improve the pass rushing capability of the linebackers.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Patriots Comments Off

Franchise Tags Start Today

Starting today teams can place franchise tags on players up until February 25. Any player receiving the franchise tag must be paid the average of the five highest-paid players at his position, or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary (whichever is greater). Any player given the franchise tag may not negotiate with any other team.

As an alternative to the franchise tag, teams may use a transition tag. The transition tag carries the value of the average of the top 10 salaries at his position, but it allows the player to negotiate with other teams. If a transition player agrees to a contract with another team his original team has the right match he offer.

Given the incredibly small pool of unrestricted free agents due to the lack of a renewal of the collective bargaining agreement, there likely won’t be many franchise tags handed out. But here’s a few of our best guesses as to who may receive the tag:

2010franchisetagsJulius Peppers, Panthers – Peppers is already among the highest paid at his position, so the 120% increase applies in his situation. He would earn somewhere in the range $20 next season if the Panthers placed the franchise tag on him. A possible scenario would be for the Panthers to place the tag on Peppers and then trade him to a team where Peppers would then sign a long-term deal.

Vince Wilfork, Patriots - Wilfork won’t be happy if the Patriots place the franchise tag on him, but it may be coming anyway. Their defense took a significant step backwards this past season, and losing Wilfork would set them back even further. If they do place the tag on Wilfork, don’t be shocked if it sparks a lengthy holdout.

Karlos Dansby, Cardinals – The Cards have placed the franchise tag on Dansby for two straight years and would owe him roughly $12M should they place the tag on him again. Its a large figure, but the state of the Cardinals defense may necessitate the spending.

Casey Hampton, Steelers – Hampton is the unheralded anchor of the Steelers defense and they’re not about to let him get away. They’d love to negotiate a long-term deal, but they’ll hand him the franchise tag if necessary.

Aubrayo Franklin, 49ers – Franklin was one of the biggest breakout stars of the past two seasons, emerging as a dominant nose tackle in the 49ers 3-4 defense. He is a key reason for the success of inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes and the Niners cannot let him get away. He’s got a lot of money coming his way one way or another this offseason.

Ryan Pickett, Packers – Pickett had a very solid season at nose tackle in the Packers new 3-4 defense. The decision to franchise Pickett may hinge on whether or not they see 2009 1st-round pick B.J. Raji as a defensive end or nose tackle. If Raji can take over, it would make Pickett expendable.

Gary Brackett, Colts – While Dwight Freeney gets all the attention in Indy, Brackett is arguably the true leader of the Colts defense. President Bill Polian has stated that re-signing Brackett is a priority. That may mean placing the franchise tag on him, and then negotiating a long-term deal if Brackett feels inclined to do so.

Richard Seymour, Raiders – It would be difficult to imagine Seymour re-signing with the Raiders willingly, so if they want him back the franchise tag may be their only option. Seymour could also be a prime candidate to be tagged and then traded.

Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders - In all likelihood Janikowski will re-sign for a long-term deal. But if they can’t come to an agreement, Al Davis isn’t about to let one of the game’s best kickers just walk away.

Shayne Graham, Bengals – The Bengals placed the franchise tag on Graham a year ago and may decide to do so again.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Cardinals, Colts, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Steelers Comments Off

Texans Need a Power Running Back

Between now and the NFL Draft, we will run a series of articles analyzing each team’s needs using stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com

texansSteve Slaton burst onto the scene late in 2008, rushing for 737 yards over the final seven games of the season. As a result the Texans, and numerous fantasy owners who drafted him in the 1st round, entered 2009 with lofty expectations.

The results were underwhelming. In 11 games prior to a season-ending neck injury, Slaton rushed for just 437 yards at a dismal rate of 3.3 yards per carry.

New Orleans Saints v Houston TexansThe reason behind the decline is fairly simple. Slaton just doesn’t have the body of an NFL running back. Year after year we see impressive late-season statistics posted by backups plugged into starting roles. Last year it was Slaton, this year it was Jerome Harrison Harrison and Jamal Charles. Occasionally these backups prove to be the real deal. But more often than not they simply capitalizing on being fresh from having not been worn down as the workhorse for the majority of the season and are playing with extra motivation to win the starting job for the following season.

In Slaton’s case, both factors could have played a role in his 2008 heroics. There’s no denying his ability as a big-play running back, but like others such as Reggie Bush and Leon Washinngton, he doesn’t have the strength to carry the load.

To demonstrate his inability to be a feature back, consider the stat “yards after contact” which is tracked by the guys at ProFootballFocus. Among running backs with at least 100 attempts, Slaton averaged the 4th-fewest yards after contact per attempt this season at just 2.12.

yardsaftercontact

From the view of an opposing defensive coordinator, these are the ideal running backs to face. Yes, Slaton could hurt you by breaking off a big run, but you don’t feel the need to stack the box in order to slow him down. As a result, Slaton’s inability to force defenses to game-plan for him allows defenses to focus their attention on Andre Johnson and their potent passing attack.

Down the stretch the Texans used the more physically imposing Arian Foster (6’1″, 217 lbs) as the feature back. He did an adequate job, but the Texas likely won’t feel comfortable handing him the starting job for 2010.

Given the limited number of running backs available in free agency, this is likely a position the Texans will need to address in the draft. In the 1st round Jonathan Dwyer and Ryan Mathews are both options, but would it would be considered a reach by many to select either one in the top 20. The safer route may be to select a player such as Anthony Dixon or Montario Hardesty in the 2nd or 3rd round to share the load with Slaton in 2010.

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

Bill Polian: Offensive Line was “Outplayed”

coltsOn his weekly radio show on Tuesday, Colts president Bill Polian talked about the Super Bowl loss. Most of the conversation was nondescript, but he did bring up one interesting point that may tip his hand on his offseason plans.

Speaking about the Colts offensive line Polian said: “by our standards, [they] did not have a good game. They were outplayed by the Saints’ defensive line, I thought, pretty decisively.”

Super Bowl XLIVThose are some fairly harsh words for a soft-spoken man such as Polian, but its tough to disagree. ProFootballFocus gave negative pass-blocking grades to three of the Colts linemen: Charlie Johnson, Ryan Lilja and Jeff Saturday. And only right tackle Ryan Diem received a significantly positive overall grade for the game.

Given that Peyton Manning has a sixth sense for the pocket around him, the Colts offensive line managed to allowed just 13 sacks in the regular season and just two in the playoffs. But that doesn’t change the fact that they have one of the worst units in the game. Despite allowing the fewest sacks in the league, the Colts ranked just 14th on ProFootballFocus in pass blocking.

So what does this mean for the Colts offseason plans?

Manning could certainly survive another season behind the patchwork offensive line. However, Polian’s frustrations with their Super Bowl performance may indicate that he’s looking to make a change.

Polian does have a history of putting an emphasis on the offensive line in the draft. Following the retirement of Tarik Glenn in 2007, the Colts traded up to acquire Tony Ugoh in the early 2nd round. Ugoh was benched this season in favor of Charlie Johnson.

Assuming Charlie Johnson isn’t the long-term answer at left tackle, the Colts could be in position to select one in the late 1st-round. Once Russell Okung is off the board, its anyone’s guess as to the order that the next three or four linemen will come of the board. Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis, Trent Williams and Bruce Campbell all generate a wide range of grades, anywhere from the top-10 to the 3rd round. Should any one of them be on the board when the Colts are on the clock at No. 31, they should give strong consideration to bringing one in to compete for the starting job at left tackle.

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

10 Teams that Need a Quarterback

It isn’t always the deepest position in the draft. And it doesn’t always have the top prospects. But regardless of the current class, the one position that always gets the most attention is quarterback. Aside from the teams selecting in the top 10, its too early to really gauge who’s interested in who. But what we can do is analyze which teams actually need a quarterback the most.

Below are the 10 teams we’ve identified as having the greatest need for a new franchise signal caller:

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders1. Oakland Raiders - We’re now three years into the JaMarcus Russell era and he’s shown absolutely no improvement. For some quarterbacks it takes longer to develop, but at this point in time Russell isn’t anywhere close to being an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. It’s just about time to mark him down as one of the biggest busts of all time. That said, I’m not sure Al Davis feels the same way. I’d be fairly surprised to see the Raiders bring in another quarterback within the first three rounds in this year’s draft.

2. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger will likely return for 2010 and, if healthy, could lead the Rams back to respectability. But he clearly isn’t the long-term answer and the Rams will strongly consider drafting Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford with the 1st-overall selection.

3. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick all started for the Bills this season and all three were equally mediocre. The Bills could trudge through 2010 with one of them as the starter, but they are clearly in the market for a new franchise quarterback.

4. Washington Redskins - As I’ve stated before, I don’t actually think Redskins need a new quarterback. Jason Campbell is capable of being a starter in this league. That said, his career in Washington certainly appears to be over. Given that they don’t have an adequate replacement on the current roster, all signs point to the Redskins selecting Clausen or Bradford the 1st round.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck will be back for at least another year, but the Seahawks are already looking for his replacement. Clausen and Bradford are both options in the 1st round. However, Carroll doesn’t appear to be taking a rebuilding approach this offseason. He may prefer to select an impact player in the 1st round and grab someone like Sean Canfield in the 3rd or 4th round to develop behind Hasselbeck.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars - David Garrard made the Pro Bowl this year, but Jack Del Rio doesn’t exactly sound like he’s sold on Garrard’s long-term future with the team.

7. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton was great for half the season, but stumbled down the stretch. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Broncos may have no choice but to keep him around if they want to compete in 2010. That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s a long-term solution.

8. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore played well in relief of Jake Delhomme late in the year, but he’s a restricted free agent. The Panthers have a big decision on their hands: do they pay Moore and cut ties with Delhomme or give their former Super Bowl quarterback another shot?

9. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith didn’t exactly look like a former No. 1 overall pick this season, but he didn’t look like the complete bust that we saw through the first four seasons of his career either. He’ll be back in 2010, but the Niners should consider taking a flier on someone in the 3rd or 4th round.

10. Cleveland Browns – The Browns are proof that having two quarterbacks causes nothing but problems. Neither Anderson nor Quinn has been able to stay on the field more than a few games at a time over the last two seasons, leaving the Browns with no real clear idea as to what they have at the position. Quinn deserves another shot, but the Browns will certainly entertain the idea of trading both and starting over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Jaguars, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks 29 Comments