Ryan McCrystal

Cardinals Could Target Jermaine Gresham

cardinalsIn his latest mock draft Cardinals beat writer Bob McManaman predicts Arizona will select Jermaine Gresham. His primary argument centers around the fact that “if Matt Leinart is going to have any immediate impact running this franchise, he is going to need a big target he can find quick.”

Its certainly a valid argument, and Arizona is one of the likely landing spots for Gresham in the 1st round. [I currently have him headed to Cincinnati with the 21st selection]. One of the other points that McManaman brings up is that all league’s top quarterbacks these days seem to be paired with an elite tight end – something the Cardinals are clearly lacking.

playoff_tightendsTaking McManaman’s point a step further, I looked at each of this year’s playoff teams and their use of the tight end. Interestingly enough, all but two playoff teams – the Bengals and Cardinals – had at least one tight end with 400+ receiving yards in 2009. The Bengals’ Daniel Coats and the Cardinals Ben Patrick were the two outliers who came in 45th and 46th in the league, respectively, in receiving yards by tight ends.

Now I wouldn’t look to this stat and immediately say the Cardinals must draft a tight end. For the past few year’s they’ve been fine without one because Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were each capable of filling the roll of a big, possession receiver for Kurt Warner. However, with Boldin likely out the door, potentially to be replaced by Steve Breaston and/or Early Doucet, it could create a noticeable hole in the Cards passing game.

Ultimately I think Boldin’s status will be the determining factor as to whether or not Gresham is high on the Cardinals draft board. If Boldin is traded, it would be far easier to replace him with a tight end than by trying to find a receiver of his caliber in the draft. Traditionally tight ends make a much smoother transition to the NFL than receivers, thus making Gresham a smarter pick for a team that is looking to win now.

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

Chad Henne Wants a Receiver

dolphinsBill Parcells, listen up.

Chad Henne wants a receiver. But not just any receiver; he has some specific requests. When asked by the Palm Beach Post what he would like this offseason he responded:

“A big receiver. Somebody who’s 6-3 and can run. I like our receivers, but we don’t have a power guy, We do a lot of finesse stuff… I didn’t say Braylon [Edwards] but somebody like him would be good.”

Its a reasonable request, and an obvious need, but Henne shouldn’t get his hopes up.

parcellsreceiversParcells is highly unlikely to address this early in the draft. The Dolphins football czar hasn’t selected a receiver in the 1st or 2nd round since taking Terry Glenn in the 1st round in 1996. And that pick was actually made by Robert Kraft and was a primary reason why Parcells packed up and head to New York the following offseason.

Dez Bryant wouldn certainly be tempting should he fall to No. 12, but the odds of Parcells pulling the trigger on that selection are extremely low. Even Arrelious Benn, Brandon LaFell or Demaryius Thomas in the 2nd round would probably satisfy Henne, but Parcells likely has other plans.

Carolina Panthers v Miami DolphinsInstead of the draft the Dolphins may have to fill that need in free agency or via a trade. Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin are the most likely big name receivers to be traded and both would satisfy Henne’s desire for a big receiver. But will the Dophins, who have other significant holes to fill, be willing to part with the draft picks necessary to land either?

Other restricted free agents included Braylon Edwards and Miles Austin, but it would be fairly surprising to see their current teams not match any reasonable offer to bring them back. And I certainly don’t envision the Dolphins breaking the bank on either of them.

The top unrestricted free agents are Antonio Bryant and Terrell… well, there’s no point in even bringing up that name, its never gonna happen.

Ultimately, it doesn’t look good for Henne getting his wish. There are certainly some options out there, but it would require Parcells either breaking his vow never to select a receiver in the 1st round or breaking the bank on a big name receiver.

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

Rams Should Target a WR in the 2nd Round

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

ramsThe Rams obviously have more than a few needs to address this offseason. I’m sure I and everyone else covering the NFL Draft will spend more than enough time analyzing their decision with the No. 1 overall selection, so for this feature I’d like to focus on their need for a No. 1 receiver.

In 2007 the Rams inexplicably made Donnie Avery the first wide receiver chosen in that year’s draft. It was a decision that ranks among the more underrated draft blunders of all time. Since it happened in the early 2nd round the baffling decision didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved. It wasn’t the greatest draft for receivers, but wouldn’t DeSean Jackson look good in a Rams uniform right about now?

Two years later the Rams are left with a depleted receiving corps and nothing resembling a No. 1 receiver. For all intents and purposes Avery was their go-to-guy, but at 5’11″, 186 pounds he just isn’t cut out for the role.

Among receivers that were targeted as least 90 times this season, only the Lions’ Calvin Johnson and the Raiders’ Louis Murphy caught a fewer percentage of balls thrown their way.

lowestcatchpct

On the surface, the one thing that these three receivers have in common is poor quarterback play. Its fair to say that each of these players would have an increased catch percentage had they played in Indianapolis or New England. In Avery’s case, however, much of the blame has to fall on his shoulders.

Arizona Cardinals v St. Louis RamsIts tough to grade Avery in games quarterbacked by Kyle Boller or Keith Null, but Avery wasn’t any better with Marc Bulger throwing him the football. In games started by Bulger, Avery caught just 27 of 51 balls thrown his direction (52.9 pct).

To be fair, Avery should never have been put in this position. As I mentioned, this was a hole the Rams dug for themselves. Each of their top three receivers – Avery, Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola – are 6’0″ or shorter. Rams quarterbacks need a big receiver that can go up and make plays. Smaller receivers rely on their speed and route running ability to get open and only the elite can be truly effective week-in and week-out with that skill set.

So how does this apply to the Rams draft?

In the second round there should be a number of receivers that would fit perfectly into the Rams offseason. In my current mock draft I have the Rams selecting Arrelious Benn. Benn is 6’2″ and has the speed to stretch the field. He was somewhat inconsistent at Illinois, but was often at the mercy of some truly terrible quarterback play by Juice Williams and others. Other options include Brandon LaFell, Demaryius Thomas and Damian Williams – all of whom are 6’1″ or taller and have the ability to make their presence felt immediately in St. Louis.

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

Browns Interested in Joe Haden

brownsBrowns beat writer Terry Pluto claims that Joe Haden is “very attractive” to the Browns, and could be their target with the 7th-overall selection in the draft. I can’t say this comes as a surprise to anyone, considering he’s the consensus pick for the Browns in most mock drafts, but I do feel the need to point out that Pluto doesn’t site any sources and it is extremely early for teams to be zeroing in on one or two prospects unless you’re the Rams or Lions.

Vanderbilt v FloridaRegardless of the credibility of Pluto’s report, Joe Haden would appear to be an option for the Browns. Eric Wright has one starting cornerback slots wrapped up, but the other side is wide open. Brandon McDonald has seen much of the playing time over the past two seasons but was benched this past year in favor of converted safety Mike Adams.

Considering that Eric Mangini selected Darrelle Revis in the 1st round in 2007, it would stand to reason that he may push for Haden. But it remains to be seen how much impact Mangini will have on the Browns offseason transactions.

Haden may be the cream of the crop among this year’s cornerbacks, but the fact remains he’s a risky selection in the top 10. Since 2000, only seven cornerbacks have been selected among the first 10 picks. And I have to wonder if any of their teams feel as though they got enough value out of that selection.

top10cornerbacks

The reason for the lack of success from teams draft cornerbacks in the top 10 is the fact that a cornerback is what I refer to as a “secondary position”. What I mean by this is that a cornerback can only be as good as the players around him. Take the greatest cornerback of all time and put him on a team without a pass rush and he’ll struggle because he can only stay with his man for so long. No matter how good the cornerback is, if those around him don’t do their jobs he will have a minimal impact on the game.

An example of a “primary position” would be an offensive tackle. An elite tackle is capable of having a perfect game regardless of the performance of those around him. He has a set assignment on each play and he is capable of completing that task independent of anyone else on the field. These are the players that are typically worth high draft picks because they can succeed in a loosing environment – unlike the “secondary” players who need others to perform their task first in order to be successful.

Applying this to the Browns situation, Joe Haden can only be so effective while playing behind a front seven that doesn’t generate a consistent pass rush. The Browns front seven improved dramatically throughout the season, but there are still holes to fill. The value might not be there for them at No. 7 but, if they can trade down, a 3-4 linebacker such as Brandon Graham or Jason Pierre-Paul may actually be a better fit for their needs and a safer pick for a team in need of a complete overhaul on defense.

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

Could Dez Bryant Land in Jacksonville?

jaguarsTo the surprise of no one the Jaguars are planning to release future Hall-of-Famer Torry Holt on Monday.

The loss of Holt creates a opening at receiver for the Jaguars – a position which, surprisingly, was a  strength in 2009. Holt and Mike Sims-Walker were one of the more effective duos on the league and helped the Jaguars make a brief push for the playoffs.

Mike Thomas, who started four games as a rookie in 2009, is a candidate to replace Holt in the starting lineup. However, Thomas is only 5’8″ and won’t be able to fully fill the shoes Holt leaves behind. Troy Williamson and Jarett Dillard, both of whom are coming off injuries, should also be in the mix.

While the Jaguars could fill the hole from within, its a position worth considering in the draft. There’s a strong possibility that Dez Bryant will be on the board at No. 11, which would pose an interesting dilemma for the Jags.NCAA Football: Pacific Life Holiday Bowl DEC 30

The consensus opinion right now is that the Jaguars need to address the defensive line in the draft. They ranked dead-last in the NFL in sacks this past season, and upgrading their pass rush is a must this offseason. However, starting defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves just completed their second year in the league. Is it too early to give up on them?

While adding a defensive lineman such as Derrick Morgan, Brandon Graham or Carlos Dunlap may make sense, its possible that the Jaguars would prefer to give Harvey and Groves another chance rather than spend another high pick on the position. At this point, their attention could simply turn to the best available player which could very well be Dez Bryant.

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

Mock Draft Explanation: Tyson Alualu to the Colts

coltsEvery year there are two or three players chosen in the 1st-round that don’t have a consensus 1st-round grade. Typically these players are selected by championship-caliber teams that have only one or two holes to fill and choose to do so through the draft.

This year, the Colts are one of those teams that could reach for a player to fill a specific need. Their most glaring needs are left tackle and defensive tackle. Given Peyton Manning’s sixth-sense for when to release the football, the Colts yielded a league-low 13 sacks that past season. For that reason, the Colts will likely try to get by with Charlie Johnson and/or Tony Ugoh at left tackle for another season and address the defensive line in the draft.

One of the keys to predicting who a team may reach for is understanding the personnel they need to run their defensive or offensive scheme. While the Colts have become a more physical defense this past year than in the Tony Dungy era, they still value athleticism over pure size. In other words, you likely won’t see Terrence Cody in Colts uniform in 2010.

In my latest mock draft I have the Colts selecting Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. While he likely won’t receive a 1st-round grade from many teams, he would be an excellent fit as a three-technique tackle in the Colts defense. What Alualu excels at is getting into the backfield and blowing up plays before they even develop.

CFB: UCLA vs CAL OCT 25From a pass-rushing perspective, Alualu would be a huge upgrade over the Colts current interior linemen. Alualu accumulated 7.5 sacks as a senior. The Colts interior linemen combined for just 5 sacks this past season.

Current Colts DT Daniel Muir operates primarily in the one-technique for the Colts. In other words, its his job to take on two blockers and open up lanes for the linebackers. Placing Alualu next to him could create a dangerous package, forcing opponents to decide who deserves more attention – Alualu or Dwight Freeney.

Its the ability to force teams into lose-lose situations like this that creates dominant defenses. Each player deserves the attention of more than one offensive lineman, and each player can consistently make plays in the backfield when faced with a one-on-one assignment.

Ultimately its too early to know if the Colts have an interest in Alualu, or anyone else for that matter. Their attention is likely focused elsewhere this week. But when the time comes, don’t be surprised to hear Alualu’s named linked the Colts in the pre-draft process.

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

Jack Del Rio Questions David Garrard

jaguarsAnother day, another questionable comment from the Jaguars organization.

Yesterday on the Jim Rome show (brought to our attention by the folks as ProFootballTalk), Rome asked Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio if David Garrard is a “Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.” Del Rio responded:

Well that’s a, uh, good question.  I think I would say a quarterback like can be that with a great supporting cast.  You know, I don’t know.  When you look at teams that have won multiple championships, I think they’ve had elite quarterbacks.

That’s not exactly the ringing endorsement you want to hear from your coach when there are already rumors flying around that your franchise may want to bring in a new quarterback in the draft.

Not that contracts mean anything in this league, but Garrard is signed through 2014. How exactly does one go from signing your quarterback to a six-year, $60M contract in 2008, to potentially moving in a different direction in 2010?

Obviously Tim Tebow would be the popular choice to replace Garrard. Well, among those not named Uche, that is. But realistically, what are the Jaguars options?

The one option that may fall into their lap is Jimmy Clausen. While he’s widely considered to have top-10 talent, concerns about his maturity level could cause him to fall. If he’s on the board when the Jaguars are on the clock at No. 11, they should give him some serious consideration.

Another option would be wait to the 3rd round (the don’t own a 2nd-round pick) and grab one of the slew of quarterbacks that are graded in that range. Anyone from Colt McCoy to Tony Pike to Dan LeFevour could be an option there. With any of those guys, the ideal scenario would be let them sit for at least a year under Garrard before taking over.

One other name that may fit nicely in Jacksonville is West Virginia Jarrett Brown. He’ll likely still be on the board when they’re on the clock at No. 74, and he fits the mold of the type of quarterback Jacksonville has liked in the past. Like Garrard and Jaguars legend Mark Brunell, Brown is a mobile quarterback that can buy time with his feel and occasionally take off and pick some yards on his own.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Jaguars 7 Comments

Tebow Not Wanted in Jacksonville?

jaguarsApparently not everyone in Jacksonville loves Tim Tebow.

According to ProFootballTalk, Jaguars offensive lineman Uche Nwaneri posted the following comments on the team’s message board:

“5. He cant throw. PERIOD.

4. He cant read any coverage other than probably cover 2 or man cov. PERIOD (the only cov. in college lol).

3. the QB wildcat WILL NOT WORK IN THIS LEAGUE. PERIOD.

2. He doesnt know how to take a snap from center, nor is he even comfortable enough to.

1. HE CANT THROW. and thats really something you either have or not, never seen a qb who couldnt ever throw, just all of a sudden be able to throw just because hes now in the NFL.”

Now I’m not the biggest Tebow fan out there, but I feel like I have to defend him to an extent. So lets go through Nwaneri’s points:

5. uche_nwaneriI completely disagree with this one. If there’s anything Tebow can do, its throw the ball. He has a great arm and I’m confident his accuracy can improve with the help of an NFL coaching staff. Much of his accuracy and timing issues come from his motion, which can certainly be fixed if he’s willing to work at it.

4. Can any college quarterbacks read multiple defensive coverages? Nwaneri himself said that its the only one used in college. In reality that’s not entirely true, but its fair to say the schemes will get much more difficult in the NFL. That said, how is Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford any better prepared to face a Rex Ryan defense than Tebow?

3. Uhh, Uche… there’s a team in your state that seems to have the wildcat working pretty well for them. Now maybe Tebow isn’t going to be a great wildcat quarterback, but to say that it wont work, period, isn’t a fair statement.

2. Plenty of college quarterbacks enter the league having taken the majority of their snaps from the shotgun. Sam Bradford, the No. 1 quarterback on many draft boards, played in a spread offense at Oklahoma. That alone isn’t a reason to downgrade a prospect. I have no question in Tebow’s ability to learn how to stick his hand under the center’s butt and take the ball.

1. Isn’t this the same as No. 5?

As I said, I don’t think Tebow will be a star. In fact, I have him as my 9th-rated quarterback just one slot ahead of Troy’s Levi Brown. But I also think its entirely unfair for Nwaneri to open up – on the team’s message board, no less – about his opinions on a college quarterback who could very well be his teammate in a couple months.

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

Mike Martz and his Impact on the Bears Draft

bearsCoordinators don’t often have a significant say on who their team drafts. But there are a select few that have the standing within their organization  to be heard on draft day. Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau are two that come to mind.

While there are certainly those that believe Mike Martz’s offensive genius is overrated, there is also little doubt that the Bears feel otherwise. He’s been hired to revive Jay Cutler’s career and, as a result, one would have to assume he’ll have a strong say in the offensive personnel decisions. And when it comes to the draft, that may be bad news for the Bears.

Here’s a look at Mike Martz’s offensive skill position draft selections since becoming the Rams offensive coordinator in 1999, when he presumably was high enough on the food chain to have the ear of Dick Vermeil, one of Martz’s most vocal supporters. Aside from the selections of Torry Holt, Steven Jackson and Calvin Johnson, the list reads like a who’s who of “who’s that?”

mike_martz_draftpicks

Martz certainly deserves credit for going 3 for 4 with the 1st-round picks. The Trung Canidate blunder is easily excused by the selection of Holt, Jackson and Johnson. However, the lack of contributors from the 2nd round and beyond is startling. His most productive non-1st-round pick has been Kevin Curtis, and that’s not saying much.

New England Patriots v St. Louis RamsI also included tight ends in this list of “skill position” players, to demonstrate a potential issue somewhat unrelated to the draft. Mike Martz prefers his tight ends to be an extension of the offensive line, which is bad news for Greg Olsen. Given the Bears current group of receivers, Martz would be foolish not to utilize his skill set, but his track record indicates that he won’t. It will be interesting to see how the Bears handle this. Trading Olsen (they could probably get a 2nd-round pick in return) would be a wise move if Martz isn’t interested in making him a focal point of the offense.

Ultimately the Bears may be just fine in the draft. GM Jerry Angelo still has the final say on all personnel decisions, and he has a strong track record in the draft. But I have to believe Angelo will lean towards siding with Martz on any decisions involving offensive skill positions. He brought in arguably the league’s most high-profile offensive coordinator for a reason and his opinion will be valued. For the sake of Bears fans, however, we urge Angelo to handle the draft on his own.

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

Clinton Portis Returning to Washington?

redskinsIn an interview on ESPN’s First Take this morning Clinton Portis opened up about his “rough” 2009 season, and seemed to indicate that he expects to return to Washington in 2010. (see transcript here)

Given his injury-plagued and generally unproductive season, it would seem unlikely that Portis’ prophecy comes true. Oh, and then there’s the $6.34M he’s owed in 2010.

In reality, Mike Shanahan just isn’t going to keep the washed up running back who’s work ethic he has criticized and who he once traded away while in Denver. The more likely scenario will be for Shanahan to add a running back somewhere between the 2nd and 4th rounds of the draft.

ACC Championship  - Clemson v Georgia TechIn our latest mock draft we have the ‘Skins selecting Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer in the 2nd round.

Dwyer’s the type of downhill runner that Shanahan covets. His style is similar to former Broncos running backs Terrell Davis, Reuben Droughns, Selvin Young and even comparable to Portis. Other options in the 2nd or 3rd round may be Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty, Auburn’s Ben Tate, Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon or Stanford’s Toby Gerhart.

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