2010 NFL Draft

There could be a run on cornerbacks in the 1st round

Just about every year there is a run on players from a certain position. This year we know a good number of offensive tackles and defensive linemen will go in the 1st round. Joining them, could be a number of cornerbacks.

Back in my first post-regular season mock draft in January I had only one cornerback in the 1st round – Joe Haden. Since then, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Robinson and Kareem Jackson have all entered the conversation. While I don’t believe all five deserve to be 1st-round selections, its not out of the question that they could all sneak into the top 32 picks.

Runs on a specific position happen when teams need to fill a position and are worried that they’ll be left with a significantly worse player by the time they’re on the clock again. For example, if the Eagles want a cornerback in the 1st round they may reach for Kareem Jackson rather than settle for Perrish Cox in the second round.

Just a few weeks ago it seemed reasonable to assume that only two cornerbacks would come off the board in the 1st round. So lets run through a scenario in which all five could come off the board.

10. Jaguars – Joe Haden
The Jaguars are definitely in the mix to land Haden. They need someone opposite Rashean Mathis, who turns 30 in August.

17. 49ers – Devin McCourty
There are reportedly a number of teams in the top 20 that have an interest in McCoury, and the 49ers are likely one of them. Nate Clements has been a huge disappointment, and was benched at one point in 2009. McCourty could allow them to part ways with him and enormous contract.

24. Eagles – Kyle Wilson
The Eagles traded arguably their best cornerback, Sheldon Brown, to the Browns in an effort to get younger on defense. However, it depleted their depth at cornerback in the process and left them with with Ellis Hobbs as their best option to start opposite Asante Samuel.

25. Ravens – Kareem Jackson
Both Lardarius Webb and Dominique Foxworth are coming off ACL injuries and may not be ready for the start of the season. Having two key injuries in their secondary has the Ravens worried, and they’ve done their homework on the majority of the top cornerbacks in this year’s class.

31. Vikings – Patrick Robinson
Robinson is the long shot of the group, but if the top four cornerbacks are off the board by No. 31 the Vikings may take chance on him. Depth at the position was a weakness of the Vikings in 2009 and to make matters worse Cedric Griffin’s season ended with a serious knee injury which could cause him to miss the start of the 2010 season. They’re desperate for help in the secondary and may not have¬† a choice but to add someone in the 1st round.

This is just one of multiple scenarios in which five corners could come off the board. Other teams such as the Titans, Steelers and Packers are also interested in cornerbacks early in the draft.

If a scenario such as this plays out, the real winners will be the teams drafting early in the 2nd round. A number of 1st-round talents will fall if teams start to reach for guys at a specific position. It could cause multiple big names to still be on the board on Friday.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Packers, Ravens, Vikings Comments Off

A look at why Dez Bryant’s stock has fallen

We’ve been hearing all winter and spring about how Dez Bryant‘s character concerns are going cause him to fall on draft day.

In fact, the rumors have become so rampant that some are saying it has been blown out of proportion by teams lower in the draft trying to cause him to fall. Bryant’s defenders point to the fact that he’s never been in trouble with the law, and that his issues are far smaller than those of players who enter the draft with criminal backgrounds.

NCAA Football: Pacific Life Holiday Bowl DEC 30In a sense, they’re right. There’s no reason to believe that Bryant will do anything to get himself suspended in the NFL. He’s never been in legal trouble and there have been no indications that he’s even the type of person who puts himself in situations where bad things tend to happen (i.e. at a night club at 3am).

However, Bryant’s character flaws may actually be more concerning than anyone with a checkered past.

Teams are concerned with Bryant’s work ethic. In college he had a tendency to show up late for everything – meetings, practice and even games. That alone raises a huge red flag.

In the NFL players with off-field character concerns typically get second, third and fourth chances because it rarely impacts their play on the field. Take Terrell Owens for example. He presents a significant off-field risk to any team he plays for, however, his work ethic is so impressive that teams are willing to take a chance. No matter what he does or says away from the field, teams can count on him to be in top physical condition in order to perform on game day.

That cannot be said for a player like Bryant. Teams are genuinely worried that he will have a difficult learning curve in the NFL because of his lack of work ethic. Wide receivers rarely make a significant impact in the NFL before their 3rd year in the league. Its perhaps the slowest developing position in the game. Factor in Bryant’s work ethic and you could be looking at an even longer time frame before he develops into the elite receiver that he has the potential to become.

The NFL has a “win-now” attitude. Most coaches and general managers don’t have the job security to look three years down the road. For this reason, fewer receivers are being selected high in the draft.

This mind set could cause Bryant to fall on draft day. It could also lead to him being selected by one of the few organizations that does provide job security to its decision makers such as the Steelers or Patriots.

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

A look at the Chiefs Draft Board

We’re all but certain as to how the first three picks will play out, and I’ve detailed my thoughts on the Redskins decision earlier today. So here’s my best guess at what the Chiefs draft board looks like. Since they’re picking 5th, I’ll only include five players.

1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
He’s the best tackle in the draft and he’ll fit perfectly in Kansas City, supplanting Branden Albert at left tackle.

2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
The Chiefs don’t need a defensive lineman, but I also can’t see them passing up Suh if he were to fall and Okung were gone. He won’t fall though, so its a non-issue.

3. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Bulaga won’t be this high on every draft board, but he fits the profile of linemen Scott Pioli likes: physical, tough and smart. I can’t envision any scenario in which he isn’t still on the board at No. 5.

4. Trent Williams, Oklahoma
In the unlikely scenario in which Okung and Bulaga both went in the top five (to Detroit and Washington, I guess?) the Chiefs would likely settle for Williams. He isn’t exactly what they’re looking for, but they’re desperate to improve the protection for Matt Cassel.

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
This is the longest shot of them all, but in the crazy scenario in which Okung, Suh, Bulaga and Williams went in the top four I believe the Chiefs would turn to McClain. He is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense and fills an immediate need at inside linebacker.

No Eric Berry?
Yes, I left off Eric Berry. I realize that many mock drafts have the Chiefs taking Berry, however I don’t believe Scott Pioli has any interest in taking a safety in the top five. Pioli strongly believes that linemen and linebackers are the safest prospects and therefore should almost always be your selections in the top 10. A poor decision with the 5th pick in the draft can set a franchise back for years and Pioli isn’t interested in taking a gamble.

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

Redskins could throw a wrench into the top five

Once the Redskins acquired Donovan McNabb we assumed the top four picks were set in stone – Bradford, Suh, McCoy, Okung. But what if the Redskins went in a different direction?

Mike Shanahan is expected to implement a zone blocking scheme which he and Alex Gibbs (now the Seahawks offensive line coach) successfully ran for years in Denver. The system featured undersized, athletic linemen who paved the way for nobodys such as Olandis Gary and Reuben Droughns to rush for well over 1,000 yards.

The key to system is finding the right players. A lineman such as Larry Allen, as great as he was, would never have fit into Shanahan’s blocking scheme. His system requires linemen to be quick on their feet, rather than just bulldozers on the line of scrimmage.

CFB: Kansas vs Oklahoma OCT 18

Is Williams headed to Washington?

So how does this apply to the Redskins daft plans?

It could mean that Trent Williams is actually the No. 1 lineman on the Redskins draft board. While not considered the consensus top available offensive tackle, Williams is a superior athlete to Russell Okung.

Okung has adequate athleticism for a left tackle, but he falls well short of Williams’ speed and quickness. The best part of Okung’s game is his strength. He’s strong enough to hold up against the bull rushers and to push around the smaller speed rushers.

I have little doubt that Okung could play in Washington. His athleticism is on par with the majority of left tackles in the league. But there are at least a handful of teams who reportedly have Trent Williams as their top-rated tackle. It’s certainly within reason to believe that the Redskins are one of them, and could make him the 4th-overall selection in the draft.

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

Titans eyeing a cornerback in the 1st round?

Nearly every mock draft out there has the Titans selecting a defensive lineman with the 16th pick in the draft. Jason Pierre-Paul and Derrick Morgan seem to be the popular choices, but do the Titans have something else in mind?

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - TCU v Boise State

Is Wilson a 1st-round target of the Titans?

The Titans have used up numerous draft visits this spring on defensive backs including Joe Haden, Kyle Wilson and Earl Thomas who are all expected to be 1st-round selections.

You can’t read into draft visits too much but when a team pays this much attention to a specific position, its more than just a smoke screen. Based on the offseason acquisition of Tye Hill, the Titans clearly view cornerback as a position of need. Hill will compete for the starting job opposite Courtland Finnegan, but it won’t be handed to him. Jason McCourty and Rod Hood figure to be in the mix as well.

While Finnegan ranks among the game’s elite, the rest of the Titans secondary isn’t striking fear into opponents. In a division which features the high-powered offenses of the Colts and Texans, the Titans may view cornerback as a bigger weakness than the defensive line because of their competition.

Both positions seem to be high on the Titans wish list, but don’t be shocked if they make cornerback their 1st-round selection and address the defensive line later in the draft.

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

Have the Cowboys draft plans changed?

The Cowboys have parted ways with veterans Flozell Adams and Ken Hamlin, opening up two starting jobs which the Cowboys could fill in the draft.

The more glaring of the two holes is the one created by the departure of Adams at left tackle. He was a stalwart on their offensive line for over a decade. While his play certainly diminished over the past year, they don’t have an obvious replacement on their current roster.

Among their current linemen, Doug Free would likely get the first shot but its more likely that they’ll target a lineman in the draft. The question, of course, is who?

With the 27th pick in the draft the Cowboys can’t count on anyone being available. Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga and Trent Williams will likely be gone in the top 10. Anthony Davis could also go in the top 10 and will almost certainly be gone by No. 27. That leaves Charles Brown and Bruce Campbell as the only possible 1st-rounders available, but even they aren’t guaranteed to fall to the Cowboys. If Campbell goes to the Raiders, as many are predicting, it would seem unlikely that any of the top six tackles fall to No. 27.

That would leave the Cowboys with three options:

2010 NFL Combine - Day One

Could the Cowboys make Ducasse a 1st-round pick?

First, they could try to trade up. One of the top six is likely to fall into the 15-20 range which would be within reach for the Cowboys if they wish to move up.

The second option would be to reach for the next best available lineman. They could take a chance on Vladimir Ducasse if they view him as an offensive tackle. He has the size that the Cowboys like on their offensive line, but he’s a project. It would definitely be a risk, but they may view it as the best option.

And finally, they could decide to pass on the position altogether. They could hope that Ducasse or Jared Veldheer falls to the late 2nd round and turn their attention to safety in the 1st round.

If they decide to address their need for a free safety in the 1st round they will have no shortage of options. The top two prospects, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas, will likely be off the board but there are at least two other options. Taylor Mays and Nate Allen would appear to be the most likely candidates. If it comes down to those two, Mays could be the favorite due to his impressive size/speed combination. Its a quality that we’ve seen in numerous Cowboys safeties over the years (Roy Williams, Darren Woodson) and Jerry Jones isn’t shy about speaking up and pushing his front office in the direction of a certain player on draft day.

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

The answers to all your Tebow questions

Unlikely most of the mainstream media, I’ve ignored Tim Tebow this offseason. Its not because I have anything against Tebow, I’m just not interested in treating him like an elite prospect. Just by writing this blog entry I’m giving him more attention that I’ve given to similar prospects such as Jonathan Crompton and Jevan Snead. But despite the fact that I normally wouldn’t spend this much time analyzing a 3rd-round quarterback prospect, I’ve been asked enough questions about Tebow via email and Twitter that I now feel the need to address his draft status.

So lets touch on the most popular questions:

Super Bowl XLIV

Who will call Tebow's name on draft day?

Who will draft Tebow?
To our knowledge, Tebow has visited or is scheduled to visit with the Bills, Seahawks, Browns, Patriots and Redskins. Draft visits typically don’t offer too much insight into what direction teams are leaning, but 1st and 2nd round quarterback prospects are the exception. At the very least, these are players that you’re hoping will become the face of your franchise. Coaches work one-on-one with the quarterback more than any other position, so a pre-draft sit-down is viewed as a necessity. This doesn’t mean someone else won’t draft him, but if Tebow is selected within the first two rounds, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t by one of those five teams (or someone else who visits with him in the next few weeks).

Will Tebow be a 1st-round pick?
Maybe. You can never underestimate the egos of NFL coaches and general managers. Drafting Tebow would shine a bright spotlight on their organization and if a coach is able to turn Tebow into a quality starting quarterback, the praise would be heaped upon him. Without a doubt, there are coaches and GMs out there who think they have the answers to all of Tebow’s mechanical issues. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. The fact that we’re asking the question though, means he shouldn’t be a 1st-round pick. That said, someone might take a chance.

The Patriots are a strong possibility. Tom Brady will be 33 in August and Bill Belichick is a close friend of Urban Meyer and admittedly a Tebow-admirer. The Bills could be another option, but they would need to trade back into the 1st round to make it happen.

Why do you hate Tebow?
I don’t hate Tim Tebow. I don’t wish failure upon him. I don’t think he’s destined to be a bust. I simply gave him a 3rd-round grade because his mechanics are a question mark, his accuracy is shaky on deep passes and he’ll need to learn an NFL playbook which looks nothing like what he’s used to at Florida. 1st-round quarterbacks should be considered nearly can’t-miss prospects, guys you expect to be starting by the start of their second year at the latest. 2nd-round quarterbacks come with similar expectations within the organization, but without the outside pressure to succeed due to the lesser contract value. 3rd-round quarterbacks are viewed as likely future starters, but are usually very raw and are expected to need two or three years of seasoning on the bench. Tebow fits into the third category. He could very well end up starting, but he needs a lot of work.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bills, Browns, Patriots, Redskins, Seahawks 1 Comment

How high could Mike Iupati go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a few other options:

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

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

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

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

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

How the Donovan McNabb trade could impact the draft

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

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys - Wild Card Round

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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