2010 NFL Draft

What to expect from Freddie Barnes

At 6’0″, 212 pounds Freddie Barnes doesn’t have the size to be a possession receiver. Since he wasn’t invited to the combine, his Pro Day on Wednesday was his big chance to prove that he has the speed to make up for his lack of size.

Unfortunately, Barnes disappointed. He was clocked in the 4.6 range in the 40 which, combined with his lack of size, raises serious doubts about his ability to play at the next level.

I still think Barnes is an intriguing prospect. Anyone who’s that productive in college deserves a serious look from the NFL. However, there are certain benchmark numbers in terms of size and speed that players need to post to generate consideration in the first three rounds. At this point its tough to imagine Barnes not falling into the 4th round or lower.

I’ve been trying to come up with a reasonable NFL comparison for Barnes and I can’t think of anyone. There just aren’t many NFL receivers of Barnes’ stature without impressive speed.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Does the Whitehurst deal reshape the Seahawks draft plans?

The Seahawks trade for Charlie Whitehurst has left many fans scratching their heads. How could the Seahawks spend that much for a 4-year veteran who has yet to attempt a pass in the NFL?

Its been some time since I, or anyone for that matter, has seen Whitehurst play but when he was coming out of college I was very high on his NFL future. He was overshadowed by Vince Young, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler in the 2006 draft, but I had Whitehurst rated as the 4th best quarterback in that class with a early 2nd-round grade.

Digging deep into the DraftAce archives, here’s what we said about Whitehurst in ’06:

Strengths: Ideal height for NFL quarterback. Great arm strength. Good mechanics. Good athlete with above average mobility. Impressive accuracy, especially on shorter passes.

Weaknesses: Never really lived up to full potential at Clemson. Makes poor decisions; tends to lock onto a receiver and force his throws. Major fumbling concerns (24 career fumbles).

Some have tried to read into the Chargers’ handling of Whitehurst to determine if he’s starter material, but personally I think that’s a waste of time. On one hand, the Chargers liked him enough to keep him on board for four years and tender him at a 3rd-round value. On the other hand, he wasn’t able to beat out Billy Volek for the backup job.

Regardless of whether or not the move works out, the signing of Whitehurst to a two-year $8M deal could reshape the  Seahawks draft plans. With Whitehurst earning borderline starter’s money, it would be difficult to bring Jimmy Clausen aboard. Clausen has the skills to start right away and its tough to envision the Seahawks putting their 1st-round pick or their newly acquired quarterback on the bench for 2 years.

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

An in-depth look at Brandon Spikes’ draft stock

Typically I don’t put much stock in Pro Day 40 times. Schools make sure their running conditions are optimal, often producing faster times than in Indianapolis. But for that reason, when a player runs significantly slower than expected it raises some concerns.

Florida v South Carolina

Spikes was unoffically clocked at 5.02 and 5.08 on Wednesday

We all knew that Brandon Spikes wasn’t going to impress in the 40-yard dash. But all scouts were looking for was a respectable time. Something around 4.8 would have been acceptable; slow, but acceptable. He was a tremendously productive college player with the instincts to overcome a lack of speed in the NFL. But there is such thing as too slow.

For those that think Spikes’ instincts will make up for a lack of speed, let’s take a little history lesson.

Using the always-helpful archives on NFLDraftScout.com I went back and found the slowest inside linebackers in recent years. Based on their records, I had to go back to 2007 to find even a mediocre prospect who ran below a 4.9, Wake Forest’s Jon Abbate.

Like Spikes, Abbate was a tremendously productive collegiate linebacker. He was a key piece of the Demon Deacon’s memorable 2006 season. Abbate entered the draft a year early in 2007, expecting to be a mid-round pick. After running a 5.00 at the combine his stock plummeted and he went undrafted. The Texans signed him after the draft but he failed to make the team. He’s currently playing fullback for the California Redwoods of the UFL.

Going back a year further, we find Kai Parham of Virginia. He had a breakout junior season in 2005 and entered the draft early in ’06 with higher expectations than Abbate. Virginia was still a relevant program at the time and had recently sent highly-touted prospected Darryl Blackstock and Ahmad Brooks to the NFL. After running a 4.98 at the combine and 4.93 at his Pro Day, Parham went undrafted. He signed with the Cowboys but failed to make the squad.

That same year N.C. State’s Oliver Hoyte found himself in a similar situation after running a 4.93 at the combine. He too was brought aboard by the Cowboys and was eventually switch to fullback. He played briefly with the Cowboys, but was out of the league two years later.

To find the next relevant prospect with a sub 4.9 40 I had to go back to 2002 to LSU’s Trev Faulk. This is the pre-DraftAce days so I have to defer to NFLDraftScout for a scouting report, who had Faulk rated as the 3rd-best inside linebacker in the draft class. However, he ran a 4.90 and went undrafted. He caught on with Rams a few years later in ’04 and ’05, starting  a few games, but was out of the league shortly.

We could go on, but I feel the point has been made.

Now I will say this, Spikes was a more productive college player than any of the aforementioned linebackers. But it should also be noted that he was surrounded by elite talent at Florida. The Gators defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, allowing their linebackers to make plays. It raises the question: if Spikes had played at, say, Kentucky would we even be bothering to have this discussion?

Despite his lack of speed I had been a Spikes supporter to this point in time, giving him a solid 2nd-round grade. However, his Pro Day workout does give me reason to doubt my original grade. Its easy to dismiss what players do in shorts and a t-shirt, but there’s a reason the NFL runs them through these drills. There are basic numbers that players at each position should achieve. Comparing players to those benchmarks takes some of the guesswork out of the draft. That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions to every rule, but like I mentioned earlier, there is such a thing as “too slow”.

Spikes may prove us all wrong, but his 40 time is slow enough that teams should play it safe and drop him down their draft boards.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

5 popular mock draft predictions unlikely to happen

Every year draftniks fall in love with certain predictions which, on paper, make sense. But creating a mock draft isn’t always about matching up the team’s needs with the best available player at that position. You have to understand each team’s draft tendencies and try to think like their GM (or whoever it may be that’s calling the shots).

With that in mind, I’ve set out to discredit a few common mock draft predictions which likely won’t hold true on April 22.

5. Jermaine Gresham to the Bengals
The Bengals have, hands down, the worst pass-catching tight ends in the league. So in theory, adding Gresham would make a lot of sense. However, Marvin Lewis and Bob Bratkowski just don’t seem to care. They have never incorporated the tight end into the offense and I don’t see any reason why they’ll change now. Selecting Gresham would require the Bengals to abandon an offensive philosophy which has worked fairly well in recent years.

4. Russell Okung to the Lions
Adding a young offensive tackle in the 2nd or 3rd round would be a wise decision for the Lions, but its unlikely to happen with the 2nd pick. Jim Schwartz has praised Jeff Backus, and even endorsed him as a Pro Bowl candidate this past season. With all the needs the Lions have on both sides of the ball, why would Martin Mayhew and Schwartz upgrade a position that they already view as a strength?

3. Joe Haden to the Browns
Haden is the top available player at a position at which the Browns are devoid of talent. However, a rebuilding process does not start with a cornerback. The trades of Corey Williams and Kamerion Wimbley have opened up gaping holes in the Browns front seven, which is always a higher priority on draft day than the secondary. Eric Berry, due to his elite draft grade, may still be an option, but not Haden.

2. Dez Bryant to the Dolphins
Signing Karlos Dansby left the Dolphins with just one glaring area of need: receiver. Or more specifically, a big receiver. Dez Bryant is exactly what the Dophins want, but there is no way that Bill Parcells ok’s the selection of a receiver in the 1st round. He hasn’t selected one since Terry Glenn in 1996, and that selection was actually made by Robert Kraft and was a key reason why Parcells bolted after the season. Throw in Bryant’s off-field concerns and he has little chance of wearing a Dolphins uniform in 2010.

1. Bruce Campbell to the Raiders
Al Davis has made plenty of bad decisions, but this would top them all. The thought process behind this selection is that the Raiders need a left tackle and Campbell put on a performance at the Combine that is sure to catch the attention of Davis. That said, there are enough other players with legitimate 1st-round grades that Davis can probably be talked into. Jason Pierre-Paul, Taylor Mays, Trent Williams and Anthony Davis are all much closer to receiving top-10 grades and would still fit the Al Davis profile.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bengals, Browns, Dolphins, Lions, Raiders 1 Comment

A Mid-Offseason Grade for Mike Holmgren

On one hand, you have to give Mike Holmgren credit for putting his stamp on this team. On the other, you have to wonder: were this many changes necessary?

We’re still a month away from the draft and Holmgren has made an entire offseason’s worth of moves. With the recent flurry of transaction now complete, I think its time to breakdown the Browns moves and give Holmgren his mid-offseason grade.

Jan. 7 – Browns decide to keep Mangini
Mangini’s first season in Cleveland was nothing short of a complete disaster. True, he turned things around down the stretch, but any progress he made in those final weeks has now been undone by Holmgren’s dismantling of the franchise. You have to wonder if Holmgren isn’t keeping Mangini around just to keep the seat warm for himself.
Grade: D

Feb. 18 – Browns release Jamal Lewis
Everyone could see this move coming a mile away. Lewis wasn’t performing, and he wasn’t happy. He was due to earn $3.9M in 2010 and he just isn’t worth it anymore. It created a gaping hole at running back, which the undersized Jerome Harrison can’t fill on his own, but it was a necessary decision.
Grade: A

March 4Browns don’t offer tender to Brodney Pool; becomes free agent
Not bringing back an injury-prone safety who’s coming off a concussion walk can’t be viewed as a terrible decision, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt to offer him his 2nd-round tender and then attempt to pull off a trade. When healthy, Pool is a quality starting free safety and it looks as though he’ll get an opportunity to prove himself with the Jets.
Grade: C

March 4Browns trade Corey Williams to Lions for 5th-round pick
Aside from Shaun Rogers, Williams was easily the Browns next most productive defensive lineman over the past two seasons. He adjusted nicely to playing defensive end in their 3-4 scheme and was an anchor on the defensive line. ProFootbalFocus’ grading system rated him the 3rd best 3-4 defensive end in 2009. And all they could get in return was a 5th-round choice? Assuming that really was all that was being offered for Williams, the smart move would have been to keep him around. The Browns aren’t exactly bursting at the seams with talented defensive players, so why dump one for a 5th-round pick?
Grade: F

March 9 – Browns release Derek Anderson
This was an unfortunate, but necessary, move. It’s not easy to release a 26-year-old former Pro Bowl quarterback, but Anderson simply hasn’t lived up to expectations the past two seasons. He was due a $2M roster bonus on March 19, and it didn’t look like anyone was going to be interested in pulling the trigger on a trade for an overpriced backup.
Grade: A-

March 14 – Browns trade Brady Quinn to Broncos
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You cannot judge a quarterback based on 12 starts. And you certainly can’t judge him based on 12 starts during which he was surrounded by absolutely no talent. I’m not saying Quinn will become the next John Elway in Denver, but he deserved another shot with the Browns. In return the Browns received Peyton Hillis (a backup FB/RB), a 2011 6th-round draft pick and a conditional pick in 2012.
Grade: F

March 14 – Browns trade Kamerion Wimbley to Raiders for 3rd-round pick
While trading your best pass-rusher is rarely a good idea, this won’t be a crippling move for the Browns defense. Matt Roth and David Bowens are capable starting linebackers and the coaching staff is also high on Marcus Benard. The addition of the 3rd-round pick give the Browns five in the top 100, which will help them retool a roster which is depleted of talent.
Grade: B

Clearly Holmgren’s strategy here is to make the Browns “his” team. If owner Randy Lerner is willing to be patient it could work out in the end, afterall Holmgren has been to three Super Bowls. However, he went to those Super Bowls as a coach. As a GM in Seattle he struggled and was eventually demoted. At this point he’s committed himself to a 3-year rebuilding project, if not longer. Its too early to give him a failing grade across the board, but its certainly possible that he’ll leave the Browns worse off than when he took over. As the roster stands today on March 15, its hard to imagine the Browns winning more than one or two games, with the distinct possibility that they go 0-16.

Overall Mid-Offseason Grade: C-

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

Intersite Mock Draft

1. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford – QB – Oklahoma
Denis Krusos: Pro Football Draft Network http://www.profootballdraftnetwork.com
St. Louis is basically an expansion team at this point (6 wins in 3 years). The safe choice would be to select the widely regarded best player in the draft, Ndamukong Suh. The Nebraska defensive tackle would help the Rams run defense (opponents averaged 4.4 yards per carry and rushed for 2,201 yards last season) and provide a push up the middle.
However, this year’s draft is exceptionally deep at defensive tackle. St. Louis will be able to find help at DT in the 2nd and 3rd round. No position can energize and turnaround a franchise faster than quarterback. The Rams were an absolute disaster on offense last year (a league low 175 points scored and only 16 offensive touchdowns). St. Louis is not going to win many games until they start scoring points and that begins with the right triggerman. Kyle Boller should be a backup and the Marc Bulger era is over. The Rams will make Sam Bradford the top pick in the draft and begin the resurrection of their offense. The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner’s draft stock will climb when he demonstrates during March and April workouts that his surgically repaired throwing shoulder is 100% healthy.

2. Detroit Lions – Ndamukong Suh – DT – Nebraska
Will Spencer: Draft Breakdown http://www.draftbreakdown.com The Lions draft room erupts with cheering after they hear that St. Louis has passed up the best player in the draft. This pick is a no-brainer for Detroit as Suh fills a huge need for the team. Detroit allowed 126.6 yards a game on the ground last season and having a guy like Suh anchoring their defensive line will certainly improve that number. To make matters worse, Detroit recorded only 26 sacks all season, which was 29th in the NFL. Head coach Jim Schwartz made a name for himself in Tennessee as a defensive coordinator with Albert Haynesworth, a premier defensive tackle who was consistently able to rush the passer and collapse the pocket. Suh will bring the same skill set to the table for the Lions with his disruptive play and ability to dominate an offensive line (see: Big-12 Championship against Texas).

3. Tampa Bay Bucs – Gerald McCoy – DT – Oklahoma
Matt McGuire: WalterFootball.com http://www.walterfootball.com Easiest pick in the Draft. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are absolutely desperate for defensive line help and they are thrilled at the chance to draft Ndamukong Suh or McCoy. Towards the latter half of last season when head coach Raheem Morris took over play calling duties, Tampa went back to their traditional Tampa-2 zone defense which requires a highly athletic three-technique to push the pocket, rush the quarterback, and disrupt in the backfield. Gerald McCoy is the prototypical three-technique and the Bucs defense is in need of elite playmakers. Many say Dez Bryant should be the pick here to help Josh Freeman out offensively, but the bottom line is this is a very good receiver draft and you can find a talented player in the second round. This pick was simply a no-brainer.

4. Washington Redskins – Russell Okung – OT – Oklahoma State
Bill Viola – Saturdays 2 Sundays – http://www.saturdays2sundays.com
The Redskins could look in two different directions with this selection. They could either select a franchise quarterback in either Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen, or they could try to shore up the offensive line by taking a tackle. With Bradford off the board, in my view, this pick becomes easy. At six-foot-five, Okung will prove to be a valuable piece to the puzzle in Washington’s developing offense. Remember, even the best of quarterbacks can’t perform when there is constant pressure. Eric Berry will also be an option here, but the offensive mastermind, Mike Shananhan, will put offense before defense. Where the Redskins find their franchise quarterback is a different story. The team stockpiled at the quarterback position, the Philadelphia Eagles, are in the Redskins division and probably unlikely to flip one of their quarterbacks to a rival.

5. Kansas City Chiefs – Eric Berry – S – Tennessee
Mike Bozarth: NFL Draft Bible – http://www.nfldraftbible.com
Berry has the talent and hype to get the Kansas City Chiefs fans excited about the new direction of the 3-4 defense and the front office. (Scott Pioli, Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weis). The Chiefs have several needs. There is no question the offensive line could use some upgrades. The group did allow Jamal Charles to rush for 968 yards in the final 8 games, but struggled to give Matt Cassel time to throw. The Chiefs have the money to over pay in free agency and have two 2nd round picks. They will be able to address the line without the 5th overall pick. With Berry the Chiefs have a playmaker that is capable of stuffing the run and creating turnovers. His versatility and ball skills are what separate him from a stacked safety class. His presence will help the Chiefs young corners, including Brandon Flowers, who is on the verge of becoming a Pro-Bowler. The Chiefs get a young playmaker that is intelligent enough to take control of the defense. With Berry the Chiefs would immediately have one of the best young secondary groups in the NFL.   

6. Seattle Seahawks – Anthony Davis – OT – Rutgers
Joe Arpasi: College Football Geek – http://www.collegefootballgeek.com
The biggest reason for the Seahawks’ downturn over the last two seasons is the deterioration of the offensive line. This will be the first piece of the puzzle for Pete Carroll to address. Anthony Davis brings the type of talent to Seattle that will help shore up the offensive line, and more importantly provide the quarterback with more time in the passing game. The offensive line issues must be addressed before the Hawks can return to the divisional championship discussion.  

7. Cleveland Browns – Rolando McClain – LB – Alabama
Aaron Aloysius: Pro Draft Party – http://www.prodraftparty.com
The Browns are in a tough position here: Eric Berry’s already off the board, and likely target Joe Haden flummoxed everyone in Indy with a slow 40 time, making him a tough projection for this pick. They could go with Jimmy Clausen, but recent reports indicate the Browns are looking to trade for their new starting QB. And while Dez Bryant would make sense from a talent perspective, he may not meet the team’s high character standards. Instead, the Browns make a bit of a surprise pick and go with Rolando McClain, who would add size, smarts, and instincts to the middle of Cleveland’s 3-4 defense. Though some may consider him a reach here, McClain is the type of intelligent, high character player Eric Mangini covets. And with D’Qwell Jackson making noise about his contract situation, the new front office may decide to let another team pay D’Qwell, bringing in McClain to man his spot instead.

8. Oakland Raiders – Bruce Campbell – OT – Maryland
Mike Harman: Draft Zoo – http://www.draftzoo.com
Everyone knows the Al Davis M.O. Speed, athleticism, nice in tights, handy with a needle when the track suit catches a snag. And after the combine, there’s no doubt that Campbell fits at least three of those requirements. A 4.85 at his size probably had Al running for a fresh girdle. But even if he reaches within a position, he usually does a nice job of addressing the Raiders’ biggest needs. Again, Campbell is a fit. It’s just hard to imagine this going down another way when someone has to block for Jamarcus Russell and an absolute freak is sitting there at eight. Maybe Campbell’s the one holding onto Darrius Heyward Bey’s mojo. Seems like something Maryland players pass down to each other come Combine time every year.

9. Buffalo Bills - Jimmy Clausen – QB – Notre Dame
Scott Wright: Draft Countdown – http://www.draftcountdown.com
This couldn’t have worked out better for Buffalo as they are able to land the quarterback that they so desperately need. In 2009 the Bills passing offense ranked 30th in the league and it became abundantly clear that they didn’t have a long-term solution under center on their roster. In Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen the Bills are getting a polished signal caller with three years of starting experience in a pro-style offense who has been tutored by one of the best quarterback coaches in all of football. Buffalo would have just been spinning their wheels until they adequately addressed the quarterback situation but the addition of Clausen finally gives the franchise some legitimate hope for the future. Plan “B” for the Bills would have been a left tackle but with Clausen still on the board this was an easy decision.

10. Jax Jaguars – Derrick Morgan – DE – Georgia Tech
Sigmund Bloom: Draft Guys – http://www.draftguys.com
More than anything, the Jaguars need a pass rush and Morgan is the best suited player in the 2010 class to provide it. His long arms, brute strength, wide array of pass rush moves, explosiveness off the snap, and heady play would give the Jags a bookend for 2008 first round pick Derrick Harvey, who should blossom now that the Jags have ended their dabbling in the 3-4 defense. Morgan is durable, intelligent, and a leader on and off the field – all things that make him a safe and worthy top 10 pick and first defensive end off the board in the 2010 draft.

11. Denver Broncos – Joe Haden – CB – Florida
Hunter Ansley: Draft Zoo – http://www.draftzoo.com
I have to believe that the Broncos want to shore up this awful run defense, but with McClain off the board, there aren’t many options. And I think this is too high for Dan Williams. And although everyone likes to stick Dez Bryant here, I don’t see anyway Josh McDaniels trades one diva receiver for a guy some believe is the same type of person. I’m not as down on Bryant as some, but if there’s even a hint of that attitude there, Denver will pass. That leaves Haden. No, the secondary doesn’t need a new corner right this second, but Champ Bailey is getting up there and won’t be around forever and Andre Goodman is, well, Andre Goodman. Haden’s taking some heat because in one weekend of working out he didn’t run 40 yards in a straight line fast enough. If he slips to 11, he’s an absolute steal in my mind. He’s still the top corner in this class and was pretty much a top 7 lock in most minds before people overreacted to his 40 time. Denver gets great value here and a definite starter for a long time.

12. Miami Dolphins – Jason Pierre-Paul – DE – South Florida
Walter Cherepinsky: Walter Football – http://www.walterfootball.com
Bill Parcells has spent six first-round selections on linebackers. Make it seven. Jason Pierre-Paul is a raw, one-year wonder with a high bust probability, but he also has a ridiculous upside. That, along with his impressive size (6-5, 270) and Combine workout (4.64 40) will coax Parcells into drafting the South Florida product. The bottom line is that the Dolphins need to improve their pass rush. Joey Porter was cut, while Jason Taylor turns 36 on Sept. 1. Someone besides Cameron Wake needs to get to the quarterback. With inside linebacker no longer a need in the wake of the Karlos Dansby signing, Parcells will be targeting Pierre-Paul at No. 12.

13. San Fran 49ers – Bryan Bulaga – OT – Iowa
Dan Wernery: NFL Draft 101 – http://www.nfldraft101.com
Entering the draft the biggest needs for the Niners are OT, ILB, and DB. With two first round picks, San Francisco must read the draft properly. The players San Francisco would target in this situation are OT Brian Bulaga, OT Trent Williams and S Earl Thomas. In a perfect world without trades San Francisco would draft Thomas and get their tackle at #17. However,if the Niners remember the last two drafts they will not pass on the offensive tackle at #13. The last two drafts several teams traded up into round 1 to take offensive tackles. San Francisco cannot leave this draft without an offensive tackle. You can find adequate linebacker and secondary help in free agency, but not offensive tackles.
Right tackle has been a trouble spot for several years in San Francisco. Luckily for them Joe Staley can play both tackle spots. Bulaga is a better fit at left tackle but can both sides. Trent Williams was a dominant right tackle through 2008, but after moving to the left side in 2009 he struggled. Staley is a better fit at right tackle and that is why they would take Bulaga in this situation.

14. Seattle Seahawks – CJ Spiller – RB – Clemson
Colin Lindsay: Great Blue North Draft Report – http://www.gbnreport.com
The Seahawks replaced LT Walter Jones with the pick of Anthony Davis at #6, however, from a purely strategic perspective it might have made as much sense for the Seahawks to have taken QB Jimmy Clausen at that spot and addressed the OT need from a deep class at position #14. Obviously, the Seahawks are going to have wait until the later rounds this year, or next year, to find Matt Hasselbeck’s ultimate replacement, however, Pete Carroll and company will still have some interesting options with the 14th pick. Along with OT Davis, enigmatic Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant might help take a year or two off Hasselebeck’s football age, but for now the Seahawks appear to be the front runner to land enigmatic free agent WR Brandon Marshall from Denver. Carroll might also be tempted to take one of his guys from his USC days as both FS Taylor Mays and DE Everson Griffin would address major needs, although both also represent something of a reach at this point. Carroll, though, likes to run the ball with speed and Clemson RB C.J. Spiller would give the Seahawks offense an immediate big-play threat.

15. New York Giants – Brian Price – DT – UCLA
Ian Kenyon – Sideline Scouting – http://www.sidelinescouting.net
Fred Robbins just signed with the Rams and the New York defense struggled getting any interior pass rush last season. Price has an extremely quick first step and is a great fit as a three technique in the Giants system. The Giants have continually taken players early to bolster their front seven and 2010 is no different. They would have been incredibly tempted by Earl Thomas here had they not just made Antrel Rolle the highest paid safety in NFL history. Another player I considered here was Dan Williams,
the defensive tackle out of Tennessee. But in the end, Price fits the Giant’s system much better and is the type of pass rusher that they covet.

16. Tennessee Titans – Carlos Dunlap – DE – Florida
Justin Onslow – Sideline Scouting – http://www.sidelinescouting.net
The Titans are in rebuilding mode up front and will be looking to address the defensive end position in the draft. After losing Albert Haynesworth last year and Kyle Vanden Bosch this year, Tennessee’s prominent defense of years past has diminished significantly. Dunlap is a multi-talented end who can be a consistent pass rusher in the NFL. He also possesses a great mix of size and speed, and will be a valuable asset used to stop the run outside the tackles. Tennessee’s pass defense will get considerably better by adding a pass-rushing force like Dunlap up front. The Titans could also consider Dez Bryant with this pick, but Tennessee’s identity in recent years has been tied to moving the chains on the ground and stopping the run. Vince Young will need help at receiver, but that can be addressed in later rounds. For now, Dunlap is the best value for a Titans team looking to rediscover its fearsome defensive identity.  

17. San Fran 49ers – Earl Thomas – S – Texas
Ryan McCrystal: DraftAce – http://www.draftace.com
If the 49ers address the offensive line with the 13th pick, then the secondary should be their focus with this selection. Dashon Goldson saw the majority of the playing time at free safety last season, and was exposed as a liability in coverage. No such claim will ever be made against Thomas, who some believe has the coverage skills necessary to transition to cornerback. Should the vastly overpaid Nate Clements continue to struggle (he was benched briefly in 2009), the 49ers just may decide to give Thomas a shot at corner.  

18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Trent Williams – OT – Oklahoma
Kevin Hatfield: NFL Draft Bible – http://www.nfldraftbible.com
Ben Roethlisberger has become one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league, and it starts with the poor play of tackles Max Starks and Willie Colon. Though they are young players, they have struggled in pass protection and do not look to have a much higher ceiling. Trent Williams would solve this problem. He is a franchise left tackle, who can step in right away and start. Williams started for almost three years at Oklahoma and has the ability to play both left and right tackle. He also proved to be quite the athlete at the NFL Combine by running the second fastest 40 time for an offensive linemen, and he was also a force in the Broad Jump and Vertical Jump. Offensive line is what the Steelers need most, and the balanced game Trent Williams would be a steal at #18 overall (considered a top-ten pick by many).

19. Atlanta Falcons – Sean Weatherspoon – LB – Missouri Shane Hallam: Draft Countdown, Baraccuda Sports, Draft Breakdown – http://www.bloggingthedraft.com
The Atlanta Falcons Front 7 can use upgrading with holes at DE, OLB, and youth at DT.  They were 28th against the pass and though the team hopes the signing of Dunta Robinson will help, but adding a linebacker that can add a pass rush as well as pass coverage would be another huge upgrade.  Sean Weatherspoon fits the bill.  He looks excellent on film, is passionate, and would be an instant leader on the Falcons defense.  Showcasing himself at the combine, Weatherspoon may have become a Top 20 pick.  If the Falcons were impressed with him in interviews, he will be near the top of their draft board in terms of need.  With John Abraham, Peria Jerry, Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton, and Dunta Robinson, the Falcons defense would have a resurgence.  If the Falcons do decide to go another way, another DE to pair with John Abraham like Brandon Graham.

20. Houston Texans – Ryan Mathews – RB – Fresno State Mike Band: Draft Ace – http://www.draftace.com
Conventional wisdom would say that the Texans would pass on a running back in the first round because it doesn’t fit the “M.O” of head coach Gary Kubiak.  Expect that trend to change this April.  The team fully believes that they are only a few pieces away from legitimate contention.  The main focus will be finding a full-time #1 back. Steve Slaton and Arian Foster have failed to show that they can be 20+ carry guys.  Meanwhile, Mathews fits this selection maybe too perfectly.  At 218 lbs, Mathews ran a 4.45 official time at last week’s combine.  He’s a tough, downhill runner who could excel in Houston’s zone-blocking scheme.  His production at Fresno State is matched by few and his play certainly warrants first round consideration.  Mathews is also coming out as junior meaning he has taken less of a beating on his body than most senior backs in this year’s class.  His stock ranges from picks #18-25 heading into his pro day, which fits perfectly for Houston?s #20 selection.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Mike Iupati – OG – Idaho
Chris Maier: NFL Draft 101 – http://www.nfldraft101.com After the signing of Antonio Bryant in free agency the Bengals focus shifts to tight end (Jermaine Gresham), guard (Mike Iupati) and safety (Taylor Mays) in round one. Mays will get strong consideration as the team has taken a Trojan in round one or two in each of the past two drafts but the offense will likely get more attention early on draft day. While on the surface one would think a tight end would make the greatest impact, the team has not featured the position under coordinator Bob Bratkowski and there are likely to be good values at the position in rounds two and three. Lastly, one of the biggest reasons the Bengals took the air out of the ball last season was concerns about the lines ability to protect Carson Palmer (the Bengals started three former practice squad players on the line for much of 2009). Iupati is an exceptional talent with pro bowl potential who would immediately improve the pass protection while combining with
Andrew Whitworth to give them a pair of maulers to open holes for Cedric Benson in the ground game.
22. New England Patriots – Dez Bryant – WR – Oklahoma State
Paul Swanson: The Draft Matters – http://www.thedraftmatters.com Even though I don’t see Dez Bryant slipping this far, the Patriots would have to take him if given the opportunity.  Wide receiver is definitely a need with the injured Welker and aging Moss, and Bryant is too much talent to pass on.  Belichick has never drafted a wide receiver in round one and would be reluctant to do so here.  This class of defensive tackles is deep, and maybe the Patriots can land a 3-4 DE with one of their three round two picks.  Pass rusher is the Patriot’s biggest need, but will easily grab one in round two as well.  Simply put, you cant pass up on top 10 talent with pick 22.

23. Green Bay Packers – Kyle Wilson – CB – Boise State
Cecil Lammey: Draft Guys – http://www.draftguys.com The pick would have been Mike Iupati because of the Packers need on the offensive line, but because he was selected just two picks before (Bengals) it means Green Bay has to go to Plan B. Both Charles Woodson and Al Harris are no spring chickens, so age is a big concern in the Packers secondary.  Harris went down last year with a season ending knee injury in November, and the team looked especially poor defending the pass in shootouts against the Steelers and the Cardinals (in the playoffs).  In those two contests (combined) the Packers gave up 882 yards passing, 8 passing touchdowns, and zero interceptions!  Tramon Williams is best suited as a nickel cornerback, so the Packers are thrilled to add a player like Kyle Wilson in the first-round. Wilson is an instinctive player who stands out on the field because of his tenacity and fire for the game.  He looks natural in coverage, and has an outstanding work ethic.  Wilson is very disciplined when playing zone coverage and does not regularly bite on double moves.  His toughness stands out when he comes up to support the run.  Three career touchdowns as a punt returner just adds to his value in the NFL.

24. Philadelphia Eagles – Taylor Mays – S – USC
Todd DeVries: College Football Geek – http://www.collegefootballgeek.com By selecting Taylor Mays, the Eagles fill a hole at the safety position that has been a problem since they dumped Brian Dawkins last spring.  The combination of converted cornerback Macho Harris, Sean Jones, and Quintin Demps proved to be a failed experiment.  The recent signing of Marlin Jackson raises eyebrows due to his two recent ACL injuries.  With the 6’3 230 pound Mays, the Eagles would be getting one of the more intriguing athletes in this draft.  For his size, he displays great range and plays with high intensity. He has the measurables and the upside, but has lacked in the big play department with only 4 interceptions on his resume.  Whether Earl Thomas falls in their lap or they roll with Mays, look for the Eagles to make their first significant draft day investment in the secondary since the 2002 haul of Lito Sheppard, Michael Lewis and Sheldon Brown.

25. Baltimore Ravens – Jermaine Gresham – TE – Oklahoma
Rob Engle: Draft Breakdown – http://www.draftbreakdown.com If the draft shaped up this way, the Ravens would be ecstatic.  It’s no secret that Brandon Graham is one of their favorite players, and other players at need positions are still available (Devin McCourty, Jared Odrick).  It’s hard for me to not pick Brandon Graham for the Ravens here because I know how hard it would be for them to pass on him, but Gresham would help provide Quarterback Joe Flacco with another big target for the middle of the field.  Plus, the Ravens don’t have much behind Todd Heap because it’s likely that LJ Smith won’t be back for a second season with the team.  There is a chance, however, that the Ravens aren’t comfortable spending a first round pick on a player who missed an entire season with a knee injury.

26. Arizona Cardinals – Dan Williams – DT – Tennessee
Jon Dove: Mocking the Draft – http://www.mockingthedraft.com This pick is perfect for the Cardinals.  Williams is the best player available and at a position of need.  The Cardinals need a big run stuffing defensive tackle capable of playing the nose tackle position.  Bryant Robinson, Alan Branch, and Gabe Watson are not the long term solution at the position.  Some other players I considered were Brandon Graham and Jerry Hughes but I think the Cardinals will be able to sign Joey Porter and Larry Foote.  They can use later round picks to provide depth at the linebacker position.

27. Dallas Cowboys – Maurkice Pouncey – OG/C – Florida
Robert Bryant: NFL Draft Dog – http://www.nfldraftdog.com Pouncey is an excellent value here and fits a huge need. Since 1991 the Cowboys have drafted 11 offensive guards and have only gotten two starters to show for it: Larry Allen and Andre Gurode. Allen is long gone and Gurode is now their starting center. Pouncey (6′ 5″ 314 lbs) has versatility because can play center or guard and will compete for the starting left guard spot against Kyle Kosier. Did I mention the Cowboys only back up guard, Cory Proctor, probably couldn’t make the roster of any other team in the NFL.

28. San Diego Chargers – Terrence Cody – DT – Alabama
Vinny Brandonisio: The Draft Matters – http://www.thedraftmatters.com The Chargers’ two biggest holes are at NT and RB due to the departures of Jamal Williams and LaDainian Tomlinson.  Jahvid Best is the top RB available but I can’t see the Chargers using their first round pick on a player with a history of injury and sub-par blocking skills.  Terrence Cody may be a second round talent due to his conditioning,  but with so many teams making the switch to the 3-4 a true NT will be a tough commodity to come by in the NFL.  Cody has the size and strength to be a dominating presence on the interior of the Chargers’ defense. He also showed he’s dedicated to getting in shape by dropping from 370 pounds at the senior bowl to 348 pounds at Alabama’s pro day.  If Cody is available this late in the first round, I don’t think the Chargers will be able to pass up on him.

29. New York Jets – Brandon Graham – DE/OLB – Michigan
Matt Bitonti: Draft Daddy – http://www.draftdaddy.com Historically, the New York Jets front office values the defensive end who can pass rush. The defense was excellent overall in 2009 but only middle of the pack last year in sacks, 18th overall. They blitz well, but better quarterbacks (like Brady and Manning) can see the rush coming and can get rid of it. The defense isn’t getting enough sacks in straight up 3 or 4-man fronts.   Calvin Pace is decent, Bryan Thomas is underrated but both turn 30 soon, if they haven’t already. Vernon Gholston is in a make or break situation this year, and certainly hasn’t done enough to allow the Jets to pass on Graham. With needs still at defensive line and wide receiver, they aren’t necessarily going into this draft looking for Brandon Graham but if he falls in their laps they can’t pass him up. He was deservedly the defensive MVP of the Senior Bowl game and was awesome in practices. Graham has top notch speed, functional strength and an arsenal of pass rush moves, many reportedly learned from current Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Lamarr Woodley.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Devin McCourty – CB – Rutgers
Kenny Franek: NFL Draft Bible – http://www.nfldraftbible.com The Vikings could have gone with a safety with this pick, but since Mays was selected earlier their pick was chosen for them.  With Cedric Griffin unlikely to be ready within the first few weeks of the season, Antoine Winfield coming off a broken foot and aging, and Benny Sapp playing inconsistent for much of last season, the Vikings get much needed depth and one of the best corners in the draft.  Not the biggest of corners, man coverage poses problems for McCourty if his opponent is bigger and/or faster, but he does poses great ball skills and leaping ability so he isn’t as easily outmatched as you think.  Luckily for him he landed in a perfect defensive scheme, the cover-2, as he played in at Rutgers.  That means help over the top for him, so he can use his great instincts and playmaking ability to take some chances.   With many teams using three receiver sets, McCourty will likely see the field a lot in his rookie campaign.   Not to mention he adds depth on special teams, mainly as a punt returner.

31. Indianapolis Colts – Jared Odrick – DT – Penn State
Doug Lancy: NFL Draft 101 – http://www.nfldraft101.com Indianapolis needs to address the lines on both offense and defense. The left tackle situation is questionable and would be good to address, but they’d have to reach at this pick for someone like Charles Brown. On the defensive side, they have the choice of adding a defense end like Jerry Hughes who would still be behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis this year. Although good and provides some needed depth, Hughes would not be an immediate starter. The other option is to take a defensive tackle who could immediately compete for a starting spot against Daniel Muir and Antonio Johnson. Jared Odrick is a smart tackle with some great skills. He provides an excellent inside pass rush which will help the rest of the pass rushers be more effective. Odrick also has the ability to learn and develop into a solid run stuffer, something the Colts defense could use also.

32. New Orleans Saints – Everson Griffen – DE – USC
Steven Lourie: Football Fan Spot – http://www.footballfanspot.com The Saints just cut Charles Grant, his large contract, and his larger gut. While it was the right move, it leaves them even thinner on the left side of their defensive line. They already needed an upgrade at left defensive tackle opposite Sedrick Ellis and now they need an upgrade at end opposite Will Smith. I would be very surprised if two of their first 3 picks weren’t focused on getting an upgrade at left defensive tackle and at left defensive end. Here they take left defensive end because of the nature of the draft board and take Griffen. Griffen has major upside, but also major downside, but the Saints can afford to take a risk after winning the Super Bowl and defensive genius coordinator Gary Williams will probably think he can bring the most out of him (and he’d probably be right).

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Top Nose Tackles

Following up on today’s earlier post on Terrence Cody’s rising stock, here’s a look at the top nose tackles in this year’s class.

Tennessee v Kentucky1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
At 6’2″, 327 pounds there’s no question that Williams has the size to play nose tackle. What makes him the top prospect at the position, though, is his athleticism. Most nose tackles earn their living just by eating up space, but a select few have the ability to get into the backfield and make plays. Shaun Rogers may be the best example among active nose tackles, and Williams could certainly have a similar impact at the next level.

2. Terrence Cody, Alabama
Cody’s stock is on the rise and the more weight he loses the higher his stock will climb. He isn’t the type that will make plays in the backfield with consistency, but he can take on two or three blockers at a time. He lacks the athleticism to be a truly elite nose tackle but he can make an instant impact anchoring a defensive line.

3. Cam Thomas, North Carolina
Thomas was overshadowed by Marvin Austin at North Carolina, but he’s starting to get the attention he deserves. At 6’4″, 331 pounds he has the size to fit right at nose tackle in the NFL. He struggled to make an impact at times in UNC’s traditional 4-3 defense due to his lack of athleticism, but he should flourish in a 3-4 scheme at the next level.

4. Linval Joseph, East Carolina
There’s a significant dropoff in talent after Thomas. Joseph has the size (6’5″, 328 pounds) and strength but he wasn’t always productive even against lesser competition at East Carolina. He’s an intriguing mid-round prospect but he isn’t a sure thing.

5. Jeff Owens, Georgia
Not all teams will view Owens as a nose tackle due to his relative lack of size (6’1″, 304) but he is a short, stout and extremely strong interior lineman. If he added some weight Owens could easily handle the duties of a nose tackle.

6. Aleric Mullins, North Carolina
Mullins was never a full-time starter at North Carolina, stuck behind Cam Thomas and Marvin Austin.  He’s an intriguing prospect who has the size and strength to play nose tackle and potentially the athleticism to play defensive end in the 3-4 defense as well. He could be one of those player’s who just needs to land in the right system to reach his full potential.

7. Brandon Deaderick, Alabama
Deaderick was overshadowed by Cody at Alabama, but he too was a key member of Tide’s defense. His production was nothing impressive, but his size and strength are intriguing. He’s a developmental prospect who could be a late-round pick.

8. Travis Ivey, Maryland
Ivey battled injuries throughout his career and wasn’t a full-time starter until his senior year. His tape isn’t impressive but there’s only so many guys out there who are 6’4″, 341 pounds. He’ll draw interest in the late rounds or as a free agent.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Who’s going to sign Jared Gaither?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore RavensJared Gaither may be the most under-appreciated offensive lineman in the game, even by his own team.

Despite an impressive 2009 season the Ravens only placed a 1st-round tender on Gaither, making him an intriguing option for someone else to sign to an offer sheet.

The folks at ProFootballFocus have been pleading for someone to sign Gaither via Twitter, and I couldn’t agree more with their sentiments. Why waste time developing a draft pick when you can get a Pro Bowl-caliber 24-year-old for the same price?

Gaither wasn’t just good in 2009, he was among the game’s elite. He allowed just four sacks in in the 430 pass plays in which he was on the field for, an impressively low percentage. According to ProFootballFocus’ grading system Gaither ranked 3rd among left tackles who played at least 10 games last season, trailing only the two best young tackles in the game, Joe Thomas and Jake Long.

Numerous teams own mid-to-late 1st-round picks and are in the market for a left tackle. The 49ers, Cardinals, Cowboys and Packers are just a few of the teams that would benefit from bringing Gaither aboard rather than trying their luck with Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Packers, Ravens 2 Comments

Falling Stock: Anthony Davis

I can’t say that Anthony Davis‘ stock is really falling in my mind (it wasn’t high enough to begin with), but his consensus stock is certainly slipping after deciding not to work out at Rutgers’ Pro Day on Wednesday.

Apparently Davis was expected to be a full participant but pulled out after showing up for interviews on Wednesday morning. His agent stated that Davis wasn’t feeling well and was suffering from tweaked hamstring.

There’s no denying Davis’ potential. He’s a physically imposing figure and a projects as a left tackle in the pros. But scouts who were in attendance on Wednesday came away less than impressed with the way he handled the situation.

A scout speaking to the New Jersey Star-Ledger had this to say about Davis:

“He ticked off a lot of NFL people today. I don’t know what his agent was thinking. People came here specifically to see him and he wasn’t here. They didn’t even send out a memo telling us he wouldn’t be doing any drills. Apparently, they decided [Tuesday] night and that was it.

Ouch. Not exactly words you want to hear if you’re hoping to sneak into the top 10.

Its a very deep class for offensive tackles, with as many as six potentially receiving 1st-round grades. Davis is in the mix to be the second offensive lineman off the board, but his actions Wednesday may not knocked him down the rankings in the eyes of some teams.

Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Charles Brown and even Bruce Campbell have had nothing but positive buzz surrounding their offseason performances and Davis may have cost himself a large sum of money on Wednesday.

If his agent is doing his job, he’ll scramble to put together an individual workout for Davis later this month in an effort to swing momentum back in his favor.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Falling Stock: Dez Bryant

I’ve referenced Dez Bryant’s slipping draft stock in a few recent posts and decided I should take the time to address the issue on its own.

NCAA Football: Pacific Life Holiday Bowl DEC 30Bryant entered the offseason with some red flags attached to his name due to his suspension in 2009. However, most were willing to give Bryant the benefit of the doubt as it looked like he didn’t actually violate any rules. Had he been honest with the NCAA regarding his interactions with Deion Sanders it is likely that he would not have been suspended.

Teams showed up at the combine ready to hear his explanation and apology and put the story to bed. But it never happened.

By all accounts Bryant came across as immature and unwilling to take responsibility for his actions.

And then the stories of his work ethic began to leak out to the public. He reportedly has a long history of showing up late to meetings, practices and even games. In a story on Yahoo! Sports, Jason Cole quoted an unnamed source as saying, “I wouldn’t draft that kid unless I had someone to wake him up in the morning to get to meetings, someone to wake him up for practice and someone to wake him up for games.”

Cole quoted a second source on the subject who said “We’re not just talking about being a little late for warmups, but like being late for the actual game… When you start to hear some of the stories of there, you go, ‘He did what?’ ”

And yet a third source was quoted as saying “it does make you think, ‘If he’s like this in college, what’s it going to be like when he gets paid?’ ”

Bryant hasn’t exactly helped himself on the field either. He declined to workout at the combine, citing a pulled hamstring. He also elected not to work out at Oklahoma State’s Pro Day. Instead, he will hold a private workout in late March.

Physically, there’s no denying Bryant’s ability. He has the tools to be a truly elite receiver in the NFL. But whoever drafts him can expect him to be a handful.

What further hurts his stock is the fact that Brandon Marshall is sitting out there with nothing more than a 1st-round pick price tag on him. Teams are asking themselves: would I rather have an immature rookie or an immature Pro Bowler?

The answer to that one should be easy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off