2010 NFL Draft

Patriots searching for the next Tom Brady

Given Tom Brady’s age (33 in August) and recent knee injury, one would think it’d be a good idea to bring in a veteran backup. Yet Bill Belichick insists on filling the need for a backup signal caller through the draft. Since 2007, the Patriots backups have been almost exclusively home grown – Matt Cassel, Matt Guttierrez, Kevin O’Connell and Brian Hoyer.

Despite still having Hoyer on the roster, who spent the 2009 as Brady’s backup, Belichick appears to be planning on drafting yet another quarterback in the mid-rounds of the draft. Thus far, the Patriots have visited or have scheduled visits with Tony Pike, Zac Robinson and Tim Tebow.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Could Pike be groomed as Tom Brady's replacement?

Pike and Tebow are likely to be off the board by the 4th round at the latest, indicating that the Patriots are willing to spend a fairly high pick on a quarterback this year. Robinson figures to still be available in the 6th or 7th round.

So why the obsession with quarterbacks?

The most likely is that Belichick views himself as a quarterback genius. After all, he has groomed a 6th and 7th round pick into starting quarterbacks during his time in New England. Knowing that Brady will the 33 before the start of the 2010 season has to make Belichick somewhat worried about his future with the team and he knows that now is the time to groom his replacement.

His interest in quarterbacks in this year’s class likely indicates that he doesn’t view Hoyer as the solution. However, in 2008 the Patriots selected Kevin O’Connell in the 3rd round, presumably to take over the backup job from Matt Cassel. We all know how that turned out.

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

5 players with an outside shot at the top 10

Every year there are one or two players that sneak into the top 10 on draft day despite rarely showing up that high in mock drafts. Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey, in ’08 it was Derrick Harvey, in ’07 it was Ted Ginn Jr., in ’06 it was Donte Whitner… the list goes on.

So who are the candidates this? Here are a few names to keep in mind that could come off board higher than expected on April 22:

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
McClain has occasionally shown up in mock drafts at No. 5 to the Chiefs (including ours) but Scott Pioli has shown little interest in him thus far. It could just be a smoke screen, but he appears genuine in his interest in the offensive tackles in this year’s class. If they pass on McClain, his odds go down, but Buffalo could be another option. In Buffalo he would be an ideal fit at inside linebacker next to Paul Posluszny, replacing the aging Kawika Mitchell.

4. Earl Thomas, Texas
Thomas’ top-10 hopes depend on where Eric Berry is selected. If Berry goes in the top five (Bucs? Chiefs?), then Thomas becomes an option for the Browns at No. 7. They’re looking for a replacement for Brodney Pool at free safety, and Thomas would be a perfect fit. Another option could be Jacksonville. The Jaguars may be ready to give up on 2007 1st-round pick Reggie Nelson at free safety.

3. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Spiller is absent from the top 10 in every mock draft I’ve seen, primarily because no one in the top 10 has a need for a running back. However, numerous teams in the 10-20 range (Dolphins, Seahawks, 49ers, Steelers) could be interested. Its possible that someone will decide to trade up for Spiller – the Browns would be a likely trade partner – in an effort to jump all the teams that could snatch him up in the middle of the 1st round.

2. Charles Brown, USC
Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis and even Bruce Campbell are frequently talked about as potential top-10 picks. So why is Brown, who’s viewed as a potential 1st-rounder, left out of the discussion? Brown’s top-1o chances hinge on where the others prospects fall. But if there’s a run on tackles in the top 10, as expected, its possible that someone trades up into the top 10 to ensure they land one of the top prospects. The 49ers would be a likely candidate to do so, thanks to their two 1st-round picks.

1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
Williams isn’t showing up in the top 10 in many mock drafts, but he’s one of the most popular prospects out there. He’s viewed as a potentially elite 3-4 nose tackle who also has the ability to play in a 4-3 scheme. The earliest he could come off the board would be at No. 6 to the Seahawks. He would be a significant upgrade over Colin Cole as the space eater on their defensive line. The Browns and Bills, who both runs 3-4 schemes, are perhaps the most likely options. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers has been rumored in multiple trade discussions. If he’s shipped out on draft day, it could be to make room for Williams. As for Buffalo, they’re transitioning to a 3-4 defense this year and don’t have a true nose tackle on their current roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks Comments Off

Dolphins showing strong interest in free safeties

Last week I suggested that the Dolphins could target Taylor Mays in the 1st round. At the time it was pure speculation based on Bill Parcells’ draft history and their need for a free safety. But now there appears to be some validity to my prediction.

2010 NFL Combine - Day Four

Could the Dolphins target Earl Thomas in the 1st round?

The Dolphins are showing a strong interest in this year’s class of free safeties and appear likely to land one in the 1st or 2nd round. In addition to Mays, the Dolphins either already have or soon will workout Earl Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Reshad Jones and Myron Lewis. Thomas and Mays would be 1st-round targets. Burnett and Jones would likely be options in the 2nd round. Lewis will likely be available in the 3rd round or later.

As I outlined in my previous post on Mays, he fits the Parcells profile best due to his size and athleticism. However, that doesn’t mean Parcells is married to that specific skill set.

This is a very deep class for safeties, with as many as seven potentially coming off the board in the first two rounds. Given that depth, it would be mildly surprising to see the Dolphins spend the 12th pick on Mays or Thomas. There’s simply better value in taking a safety in the 2nd round. That said, they’re obviously doing their homework and strongly considering that option.

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

All-Overrated Draft Prospects Team

QB – Tim Tebow, Florida
Someone’s going to take him in the 1st or 2nd round, and they’re going to have to wait at least 2 years before he’s ready to start at quarterback (if he’s ever ready).

RB – C.J. Spiller, Clemson
He’s not the next Chris Johnson. The next Leon Washington is more likely. He’s simply not an every-down running back.

RB – Jahvid Best, California
Same criticism of Spiller applies here. He’s a change-of-pace back, a better version of Ahmad Bradshaw.

WR – Damian Williams, USC
He’s too skinny to be an elite receiver. He’ll get pushed around by more physical defensive backs, and he lacks the speed to break away.

WR – Mike Williams, Syracuse
I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. Off-field issues make him undraftable in my book. Not even worth a 7th round pick.

TE – Anthony McCoy, USC
He’s a serviceable tight end due to his blocking ability, but he won’t contribute as a receiver. The next Christian Fauria.

OT – Bruce Campbell, Maryland
How anyone can watch him on film and give him a grade higher than the 3rd round baffles me. Athleticism only takes you so far.

OT – Trent Williams, Oklahoma
Definitely has upside, but his lack of production in his only year at left tackle is very concerning.

OG – Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts
Size and athleticism are making scouts drool, but he is very raw. He could be the next Larry Allen, he could be the next Qasim Mitchell.

OG – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
I’m reaching here because no one else jumps out. Render impressed early in his career, but never showed improvement.

C – Eric Olsen, Notre Dame
Was never overly impressive at Notre Dame, and he struggled in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl.

DE – Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
Claims about his elite athleticism are overstated. Derrick Morgan is of similar size and build and performed equally, if not better, in every drill at the combine.

DE – George Selvie, South Florida
After a standout sophomore year, Selvie was non-factor for two full seasons. Yet he still generates interest from those that remember his 2007 campaign.

DT – Terrence Cody, Alabama
Weight is still a serious concern. He’ll never be able to stay on the field consistently.

DT – Arthur Jones, Syracuse
High expectations for his senior year never panned out. Injury concerns and lack of production limit his upsite.

OLB – Ricky Sapp, Clemson
Only one year of experience at linebacker after transitioning from end. Lack of elite production and ACL tear in 2008 raise red flags.

OLB – Navorro Bowman, Penn State
Doesn’t have the elite on-field production to make up for his serious character concerns.

ILB – Brandon Spikes, Florida
Spikes’ recent 40 times raise serious red flags. He may simply lack the speed to play in the NFL.

CB – Joe Haden, Florida
He’s a legitimate 1st-round prospect, but doesn’t deserve a top-10 grade. The gap between him and the next-best corners has raised his stock above where it realistically should be.

CB – Patrick Robinson, Florida State
Robinson has elite speed, but he’s one of the least physical corners I’ve seen in recent years. Off-field concerns further hurt his stock.

S – Taylor Mays, USC
Mays is so universally viewed as overrated that I considered leaving him off the list. But his production just hasn’t matched his physical ability.

S – T.J. Ward, Oregon
The potential is there, but he can’t stay healthy. Multiple ankle and knee injuries raise serious doubts about his ability to stay on the field.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could Raiders target Jason Pierre-Paul?

We all know all Davis loves freak athletes. Many have assumed that fact, combined with a dire need for a left tackle, would lead him to Bruce Campbell.

I had initially speculated after the combine that Jason Pierre-Paul could be an option. However, after they traded for Kamerion Wimbley, I backed off that prediction. At 6’4″, 255 pounds Wimbley has the size to play defensive end in the Raiders 4-3 scheme, the same position he played in college at Florida State before moving to outside linebacker in Cleveland.

On Tuesday, however, coach Tom Cable stated that Wimbley will remain at strong-side linebacker in Oakland.

That now leaves a gaping hole at defensive end where only Matt Shaughnessy, Greyson Gunheim and Jay Richardson are currently under contract. Richard Seymour will likely return to the mix as well, since the Raiders have placed the franchise tag on him, but there have been reports that he may move to tackle next season.

The Raiders were a strong pass-rushing team in 2009. But Greg Ellis, who tied for the team lead with seven sacks, has since been cut loose.

If Al Davis determines that defensive end is a need Jason Pierre-Paul would have to be near the top of his draft board. JPP is a freak athlete who has been compared by some to Jevon Kearse. There’s no question that it would be a reach to take a player with just one year of D-I experience in the top 10, but ill logic has never stopped Al Davis before.

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

Clausen sweepstakes narrowed to 5 teams

Notre Dame v Stanford

Does anyone want this guy?

This offseason has been filled with nothing but bad news for Jimmy Clausen.

Its tough to say his stock is actually falling, because he hasn’t done anything wrong. But the teams potentially interested in him are falling off fast. First the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst, then the Browns said they flat-out weren’t interested.

I have yet to hear about a single team who has requested a private workout with Clausen. And to the best of our knowledge, he only met privately with two teams at the combine, the Bills and Redskins.

Its not uncommon for players not to meet with teams prior to their pro day. Teams often want to see a player workout once before using up one of their 30 pre-draft visits. However, quarterbacks are a different beast. The Rams have already met with Bradford and have set up a date for him to visit in April, despite the fact that he won’t workout until March 29. Since Clausen won’t workout until April 9, it seems odd that no one (to our knowledge) has scheduled him for a private workout yet. Presumably there are multiple teams that will have an interest in him in the 1st round, regardless of how he looks on April 9. Or maybe we’re just way off base in our assumption that he’s viewed as a premier prospect. [update: Clausen has visit scheduled with Bills; date is unknown]

Whatever the case may be, there now appears to be only five teams in the Clausen sweepstakes:

4. Redskins
The ‘Skins placed a 1st-round tender on restricted free agent Jason Campbell, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still interested in Clausen. They spoke to Clausen at the combine, indicating some interest. However, is sounds as though Mike Shanahan in genuine in his plans to bring Campbell back and giving him a legitimate shot to turn things around. If that’s the case it would make more sense to select a left tackle with the 4th pick to give Campbell the best opportunity to succeed.

9. Bills
The Bills also showed an initial interest in Clausen. And unlike the Redskins, they don’t have a viable option on their roster if they don’t land a quarterback in the draft. They could survive the next season with Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm, but they’d much rather find their quarterback of the future in this draft. The Bills are probably the most likely landing spot, however, they have also showed a strong interest in Tim Tebow. Its possible that the Bills would either trade this pick to move back in the 1st round, or trade their next year’s 1st-round back pick to move back into the 1st round in an effort to land Tebow there.

13/17. 49ers
If the 49ers want Clausen, they can have him. Their two 1st-round picks would be enough to move into the top 10 to select him if he’s their guy. However, they’ve given no indication that they’re interested in making such a move. That said, if he falls down the board and he’s sitting there are No. 13 or 17, he may be too good to pass up. They want to give Alex Smith another shot, but they aren’t expecting him to turn into a future star at this point. Clausen’s upside is far greater than Smith’s at this point in their careers.

14. Seahawks
The trade for Whitehurst likely takes the Seahawks out of the running for Clausen with the 6th pick. However, they may reconsider their stance if he’s still on the board with the 14th selection. The dropoff in money from No. 6 to No. 14 is significant, which may make them more comfortable with the selection. It’s probably a long shot, but it can’t be ruled out.

30. Vikings
If Clausen gets past the Seahawks and 49ers the most likely scenario is that someone who already passed on him (Bills? Redskins?) trades back into the 1st round to select him. It would be a similar scenario to what the Browns did to acquire Brady Quinn in 2007. But assuming everyone stays put, his next most likely landing spot would be Minnesota. It certainly sounds like Brett Favre will be back in 2010, but he obviously can’t be counted on beyond this season. If Clausen is on the board at No. 30 it would be very difficult to pass him up. He could sit and learn behind one of the all-time greats for a season while learning the offense before taking over in 2011.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Redskins, Seahawks, Vikings 1 Comment

Could Dolphins target Taylor Mays?

I’ve had the Dolphins paired up with Dan Williams in my mock draft for about a month now. He would fill their need for a nose tackle, which is greater than ever now that Jason Ferguson is suspended for the first half of the 2010 season. But what if he’s not on the board?

The Bills are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and are lacking a true nose tackle. They’d much prefer to take a quarterback (most likely Jimmy Clausen) but if he’s off the board their attention could turn to Williams.

That would leave presumably leave he Dolphins with three options:

1. Take Dez Bryant
Wide receiver is their most glaring need, especially a big target like Bryant. However, Parcells loathes the idea of taking receivers early in the draft. Throw in the fact that Bryant is perceived as lazy and a bit of a prima donna, and it just doesn’t seem like a plausible option.

2. Take the best available pass rusher
The Dolphins need to replace Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Cameron Wake has one starting outside linebacker job wrapped up, but the other is wide open. Jason Pierre-Paul and Brandon Graham would appear to be great fits. However, its a deep class for hybrid pass rushers, and a quality player could be found later in the draft.

3. Take a free safety
CFB: USC vs UCLA DEC 6The Dolphins parted ways with free safety Gibril Wilson after the season, opening up a hole in the secondary. Earl Thomas is likely to be the highest rated safety on most boards, but he doesn’t quite fit the profile of what Parcells looks for in a defensive back. Parcells has a tendency to become enamored with big, athletic safeties. The best recent example is Pat Watkins, whom he selected in the 5th round in 2006. Watkins never quite panned out, but Parcells thrust him into the starting lineup as a rookie. I remember reading during the season quotes from Parcells marveling at the athleticism of a man his size (6’4″, 220). If he was wowed by Watkins, what must he think of Taylor Mays?

Obviously a lot has to play out in order for the Dolphins to even consider Mays. I have little doubt that Parcells would prefer Dan Williams, but there remains a very realistic possibility that he’s gone by the time Dolphins are on the clock. Mays to the ‘Phins may be a long shot, but don’t be shocked to hear his name called at No. 12 on April 22.

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

All-Underrated Draft Prospects Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Does Roethlisberger’s situation alter Steelers draft plans?

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

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

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

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

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

Texas v Texas A&M

Could McCoy be headed to Pittsburgh?

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

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

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

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

Will someone please sign Jared Gaither

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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