2010 NFL Draft

Broncos offseason moves reshaping draft plans

Within the past 24 hours the Broncos have released two key members of their defense.

Yesterday they released defensive end Kenny Peterson. The move didn’t come as much surprise considering Peterson struggled in 2009 and the Broncos have signed three new defensive linemen this offseason. However, Peterson did start 14 games for the Broncos and could have been valuable in a reserve role this upcoming season.

This afternoon the Broncos released Andra Davis, who started 13 games at inside linebacker and was arguably the most productive member of the Broncos front seven, particularly in run support. After a slow start to his career in Cleveland, Davis has excelled at inside linebacker since the Browns made the transition under Romeo Crennel. He was signed by the Broncos prior to the 2009 season.

Davis immediately becomes one of the more intriguing names on the free agent market.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are left without an obvious choice at the strong-side middle linebacker position. Davis took nearly every snap at the position in 2009 and they don’t currently have a strong option on the roster to fill his slot.

The moves, likely financially motivated, could change their draft plans. There is a strong possibility that the consensus No. 1 inside linebacker Rolando McClain will be on the board when the Broncos are on the clock at No. 11. McClain is a big, physical linebacker with great instincts – all the same qualities that made Davis so productive for the Broncos this past season. He is perfectly suited for the Broncos 3-4 system and the selection would seem like a no-brainer if they’re unable to fill the void through free agency.

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

Could the Seahawks land Marshall for less than the 6th pick?

Current rules regarding restricted free agents state that if a team signs a player to an offer sheet and the offer is not matched by the team, then they must surrender their original pick in the round at which the player was tendered. For the Seahawks to sign Brandon Marshall, that means giving up the the 6th pick in the draft, rather than the 14th pick which they acquired from the Broncos in a draft-day trade last year.

But the folks at ProFootballTalk may have found a loophole:

[the Seahawks] should offer the 14th overall pick to any team that is able to finagle Marshall for a selection in the bottom half of round one.

More specifically, the Seahawks should offer the opportunity to the Chargers, who hold the 28th pick in the first round.

The steps are simple.  San Diego would sign Marshall to an offer sheet containing terms to which the Seahawks know Marshall will agree…

The offer sheet would include a provision that defers for five days or after the deal becomes effective the payment of any money, so that the Chargers never have to actually cut a check to Marshall.

Then, after the offer sheet isn’t matched and Marshall becomes a Charger and the 28th overall pick flows from San Diego to Denver, the Chargers would send Marshall to Seattle for the 14th overall pick.

Its a potentially brilliant idea. The Seahawks get Marshall, keep the 6th overall selection and the Chargers could move up to N0. 14 where they would likely target C.J. Spiller or perhaps Dan Williams.

It almost makes too much sense not to happen (assuming the Seahawks even want Marshall, that is).

Denver Broncos v San Diego ChargersBut while its a great idea on paper, we have to wonder if it’s even legal. It would seem as though this would qualify as collusion. However, most steps taken to prevent collusion do so to prevent owners from conspiring against players. In this case, Marshall benefits as much as anyone. Its actually owners colluding against other owners – a rare scenario which may have slipped through the cracks of any agreement currently in place to prevent similar actions.

ProFootballTalk has stated that they are inquiring about the legality of the move.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Broncos, Chargers, Free Agency, Seahawks 1 Comment

Making sense of the Giants draft plans

The hardest teams to figure out each offseason are the teams that underachieved the previous year. This year the Giants certainly fall into that category.

Coughlin announced as Giants head coach

Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese are in a tough position in this year's draft

As GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin try to sort out which players are permanently on the decline and which players are due for a bounce-back season in 2010, we’re left with nothing but pure guesses as to their draft strategy.

The one obvious need for the Giants is at inside linebacker. The release of Antonio Pierce opened up a gaping hole. If its filled from within, 2008 5th-round pick Jonathan Goff would be the one. However, Goff has been unimpressive in limited playing time so far. He started the final three games of 2009 for the injured Pierce which just so happened to coincide with the worst display of defense in recent Giants history.

In a perfect world Rolando McClain would fall to the Giants at No. 15. Its a scenario that looks more likely now that the Dolphins have signed Karlos Dansby, but the Chiefs, Browns and 49ers all remain potential landing spots for McClain before the Giants are on the clock.

Assuming he’s gone, they’ll be left with a difficult decision.

If they’re dead set on filling the hole at linebacker Sean Weatherspoon would be an option, but it would be a reach. He seems to have a consensus late-1st-round grade, but does have the ability to play inside in the 4-3 defense.

The alternative strategy would be to address another lesser area of need. Safety was an option (Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays) until they signed Antrel Rolle, which leaves strong-side linebacker as the only reasonable hole to attempt to fill. 2009 2nd-round pick Clint Sintim and 2008 4th-round pick Bryan Kehl are set to compete for the starting job as of now. But someone such as Sergio Kindle could be an option.

The final, and perhaps the most likely, option is to simply take the best available player. Given the strengths of this year’s draft class and Coughlin’s love for stockpiling players at the position, a defensive lineman would seem like a safe bet. Players such as Derrick Morgan, Dan Williams, Brian Price and Carlos Dunlap all look like reasonable options.

None of them would be guaranteed a starting job from day one, but the defensive line was filled with underachievers in 2009. Mathias Kiwanuka, Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty were all major disappointments and bounced in and out of the starting lineup throughout the season. Coughlin and Reese may view a selection of a young defensive lineman as a good way to push their current lineman to live up to expectations and provide insurance if they continue to falter.

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

Rolando McClain has Crohn’s Disease, pulled hamstring

Rarely does significant new information come out regarding a prospect at this time of year. The folks at the combine generally do a good job poking and prodding until every stone has been overturned. But Rolando McClain revealed some surprising information at Alabama’s pro day.

McClain announced that he has been suffering from Crohn’s Disease since he was a freshman in high school, a disease that causes inflation of the intestines and can result in a variety of symptoms. The disease is treatable and it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock, but its a key piece of information for teams to be made aware of before handing him millions of dollars.

McClain also revealed that he suffered a torn hamstring during Alabama’s game on October 24 against Tennessee. He apparently kept the injury from his teammates and played through the pain.

Hamstring injuries usually hurt player’s draft stock, but this may be a rare situation where it actually helps. Some scouts had questioned McClain’s efforts down the stretch last season, sighting plays on which he was clearly not running at full speed after the ball carrier. The hamstring injury gives McClain a logical excuse, so long as it can be verified by Alabama’s medical staff.

Along with giving him a reasonable excuse for what was perceived as a lack of effort, it demonstrates his willingness and ability to play through pain at a high level.

Other notes from Alabama’s pro day:
- DT Terrence Cody weighed in at 349 pounds. That’s down from 370 at the Senior Bowl and 354 at the combine. While teams would love to see him lose even more weight, they have to be encouraged by the effort he’s put in so far. His stock is certainly on the rise as a result and he could sneak into the late 1st round.

- CB Javier Arenas was unable to work out due to the pulled hamstring he suffered at the combine.

- OG Mike Johnson took some snaps at center and reportedly looked good. The ability to play multiple positions is key for linemen who aren’t viewed as locks to earn starting roles in the NFL.

- All 32 teams were represented. Glad to see the Raiders decided to show up after they inexplicably decided to skip Oklahoma’s pro day earlier this week.

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

Making sense of the Broncos draft plans

Once we hit mid-March most team’s draft plans start to clear up. Certain needs are addressed through free agency which limits the number of options for each team in the draft. However, occasionally a team will bring in so many new free agents that it only clutters up the roster and makes their draft plans difficult to determine.

This year that team is the Broncos.

By no means am I insulting their offseason moves. Quite the opposite, actually. They’ve overhauled their defensive line with Jarvis Green, Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams, all of whom could start for them in 2010.

Cowboys Jenkins Breaks Up Pass for Broncos Marshall in DenverOn the offensive side, the Brandon Marshall situation is still looming over their heads, but its becoming increasingly unlikely that he’ll sign elsewhere. The rumors of him signing with the Seahawks have been overstated. Seattle would have to surrender the 6th overall pick, which simply isn’t going to happen. The only alternative may be for Marshall to re-sign with Denver and then be traded to Seattle for the 14th selection.

The Bengals have also been rumored to have interest, but appear to have turned their attention to Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant, both of whom come at a much cheaper price tag.

So which direction do the Broncos go in the draft?

I was all set to predict Dan Williams to the Broncos in my latest mock draft… and then they signed Justin Bannan… and then Jarvis Green… and then Jamal Williams. Clearly defensive line has been crossed off the list of needs.

Dez Bryant has been a common name linked to the Broncos in mock drafts, but it hinges on the trade of Marshall. Until he’s gone, I don’t think we can feel confident that the Broncos are leaning that direction. Even if Marshall is gone, it may not be a sure thing. Bryant’s stock is falling for his off-field concerns, and the Broncos may be hesitant to bring aboard another diva.

The secondary is another area that could be addressed. Last season the Broncos were so desperate for cornerbacks that they brought aboard the seemingly ageless Ty Law. If Joe Haden is on the board he would certainly be an option.

However, in my latest mock draft Haden comes off the board at No. 10 to the Jaguars, leaving the Broncos with a difficult decision. Since I’ve decided to hold off on the Dez Bryant prediction until Marshall is traded, I was left without an option that jumped out as an obvious choice.

I elected to go with Sergio Kindle who has the size and athleticism to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker in the Broncos 3-4 system. It isn’t a slam dunk by any means, but it fills a need at a decent value. Marrio Haggan started opposite Elvis Dumervil in 2009 and could certainly be upgraded. Kindle would represent a significant upgrade over Haggan as a pass rusher and should at least be able to match his production against the run.

The downside to selecting Kindle is that they already have a good amount of money tied up in linebackers in Dumervil, D.J. Williams and 2009 1st-round pick Robert Ayers.

As we get closer to the draft its possible that the Broncos draft plans clear up, but as of now they’re clear as mud. If things remain as they are now, the Broncos could be a prime candidate to make one of the more surprising selection of draft.

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

Offseason moves shouldn’t change Lions draft plans

The Lions have been one of the more active teams so far this offseason, and are starting to look like they may be one of the most improved teams for 2010.

The signing of Kyle Vanden Bosch and the trade for Corey Williams have given their defensive line a significant upgrade already, and its called into question whether they will still target Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy with the 2nd pick.

Numerous mock drafts have started popping up with Russell Okung in the No. 2 slot, but I think its premature to assume that Jim Schwartz is content with his defensive line. Williams is certainly a quality starting defensive tackle. But is he really the type of player that makes you pass on the consensus top two available prospects in the draft?

Detroit Lions Minicamp

Hill stretches before a practice during his rookie year

Perhaps this is the better question, since Williams already has one starting spot locked up: is Sammie Lee Hill the type of player that makes you pass on the consensus top two available prospects in the draft?

Hill, a 2009 4th-round pick, started all but one game in which he played last season. He’s an intriguing player due to his massive size (6’4, 329) but he wasn’t exactly productive as rookie. ProFootballFocus rated him 83rd out of 87 qualifying defensive tackles in ’09. To be fair, he was a rookie from Stillman College trying to compete in the NFL, but the fact remains that he has a long way to go.

The other issue with them selecting Okung is the fact that there may not be room for him in the starting lineup from day one. Schwartz has been extremely supportive of Jeff Backus (perhaps too supportive) and even endorsed him as a Pro Bowl candidate in 2009. At right tackle, 2008 1st-round pick Gosder Cherilus is starting to look like a bust but it would be prudent to give him a third year in a starting role before throwing in the towel.

To accommodate Okung the Lions would need to move either Backus or Cherilus (more likely Cherilus) to guard. In theory it actually sounds like a smart move, but you have to factor in how much money would then be invested in a mediocre offensive line featuring three former 1st-round selections. A rebuilding team like the Lions would be wise not to invest too much money in any one unit.

While the Lions are sure to explore the option of selecting Okung, ultimately I can’t envision them passing on Suh or McCoy. Jim Schwartz had pledged to build a bigger, stronger, more physical defense in the Detroit – a complete 180 from the previous regime’s defensive philosophy – and a change like that doesn’t happen with just one or two moves. Plugging in a player like Suh or McCoy would instantly give the Lions a defensive front seven that could compete within the NFC North.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Free Agency, Lions 1 Comment

Analyzing the Bears free agency moves

No matter what happens this season, you have to give the Bears credit for trying. Last season they went out and acquired what they believed to be a franchise quarterback. This season they grabbed the biggest name on the free agent market.

Carolina Panthers v San Diego ChargersThe Julius Peppers signing came as no surprise, and is clearly a smart move. The Bears pass rush has been good but not great in recent seasons and Peppers should put their defensive line over the top and make them one of the better units in the league.

With Peppers and Alex Brown teaming up the Bears now have an impressive combination at defensive end. Peppers excels as a pass rusher, while Brown rates as one of the games best run stoppers. Its a nice combination in a division that will require a balanced defense to compete with the Packers and Vikings.

I actually really like the signings of Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor. Neither one figures to make a significant impact, but they each fill specific needs which the Bears may not have been able to fill in the draft since they don’t own a draft pick until 3rd round.

The signing of Manumaleuna may spell the end of the road for Greg Olsen. Mike Martz refuses to use tight ends in the passing game, which essentially renders Olsen useless. He’ll more than likely be traded, which hopefully lands the Bears a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Chester Taylor will backup Matt Forte, who struggled to carry the load in 2009. The only questionable part of the signing is that Taylor is most effective as a receiver, which also is a strong-suit of Forte’s game. Taylor’s impact figures to be less than it was in Minnesota, but nonetheless he’s a significant upgrade over Kevin Jones as Forte’s backup.

As far as the draft is concerned, these moves can allow the Bears to relax on draft day. Aside from receiver, they really don’t have a glaring need that needs to be addressed. They won’t be on the clock until the 75th pick, so Bears fans shouldn’t expect much, but they can now select the best available player without feeling the pressure to find an impact player at a spot where it can be difficult to find one.

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

Does the signing of Kampman change the Jaguars draft plans?

On Sunday the Jaguars signed former Packers DE/LB Aaron Kampman to address their need for a pass rusher. But is it enough?

Philadelphia Eagles v Green Bay PackersThe Jaguars managed just 14 sacks in 2010, easily the lowest total in the league. 2008 1st and 2nd round picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves struggled mightily in pass-rush situations and the Jaguars are clearly entertaining the idea of moving on.

It had been widely assumed that the Jaguars would consider Derrick Morgan with the 10th overall selection but the signing of Kampman puts that into doubt. Jack Del Rio has expressed hope that Derrick Harvey can still develop into a quality starter, which may mean the defensive line is set for 2010.

On paper, the Kampman signing looks like it may be enough. While Harvey has been considered a bust by some, he’s actually been well above average against the run. Adding a pass rusher like Kampman on the other side could actually give the Jaguars a very formidable pair of ends.

The other issue at play is how much money the Jaguars are willing to commit to their defensive line. If they drafted Morgan and kept Harvey they’d have two 1st-round picks and Kampman – that’s a lot of money tied up in one position.

Ultimately I don’t think the Jaguars can afford to draft Morgan. At this point another defensive end would qualify as a luxury pick and the Jaguars have too many holes to go that route. Players such as Dez Bryant and Joe Haden may be available and would fill positions of need.

As much as a like Morgan, taking him 10th overall would be an irresponsible move by GM Gene Smith.

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

With the 8th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft the Raiders select…

The scouting combine is now complete, which means one thing: Al Davis has his pick ready to go.

Or at least he will whenever he gets around to reading the 40 times.

Its comical that an organization worth over three-quarters of a billion dollars could be run by such an incompetent individual. Yet every year Al Davis amazes us with his draft blunders.

He’s enamored by the biggest, strongest and fastest players with little regard for their actually ability on the football field. As a result, the scouting combine has essentially become a glorified tryout for the Raiders. The players who rate at the top of their position instantly shoot up Davis’ draft board. Which means that on March 3 we can already narrow down the Raiders potential targets in the 1st round to three names…

2010 NFL Combine - Day Three

Jason Pierre-Paul works out at the combine

3. Bruce Campbell
Watch Campbell at the combine, and he looks like a top-10 pick. Watch him on film, and he looks like a 4th-rounder. That can only mean one thing: Al Davis will love him. Its hard to imagine anyone selecting Campbell in the top seven, meaning he’s all but guaranteed to be on the board for Davis at No. 8. Couple Campbell’s combine performance with the fact that the Raiders are desperate for an upgrade over Mario Henderson at left tackle, and you have the perfect scenario for another Raiders draft debacle.

2. Jason Pierre-Paul
Unlike Campbell, I don’t think this pick would be an unmitigated disaster. The Raiders have done a nice job developing defensive talent in recent years, and Pierre-Paul may have the highest ceiling of any defensive lineman in this year’s draft. His size/speed combination is unmatched by any other defensive linemen in this year’s draft class and he would be an excellent compliment to Richard Seymour on Oakland’s defensive line. The downside to selecting JPP is that he is as raw as they come, with just one year of experience at the D-I level. But when has that ever stopped Al Davis?

1. Taylor Mays
I first matched Mays up with the Raiders in my first 2010 mock draft back in August. Knowing that the Raiders would be selecting in the top 10 and that Mays was sure to impress at the combine it seemed like a match made in heaven. The only thing that may discourage Davis from selecting Mays is the fact that he selected a similar player (in terms of raw physical ability) in the 2nd round last year in Michael Mitchell.

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

Losers from the Scouting Combine

2010 NFL Combine - Day Two

McCluster runs the 40-yard dash

Dexter McCluster – RB – Mississippi
Undersized running backs and receivers need to impress in the 40-yard dash to boost their draft stock and McCluster fell well below expectations. His 4.58 was roughly two tenths of a second slower than expected and certainly raises some concerns. A big part of his draft stock is his ability to contribute in the return game, which requires more straight-line speed than any other aspect of the game.

Dan LeFevour – QB – Central Michigan
LeFevour’s ego is no secret to those who have followed his college career, but it far exceeded expectations this weekend. Despite having a 2nd/3rd round grade at best, LeFevour opted not to throw in Indy, which angered more than a few scouts. It could be argued that he had the most to prove, as he would have been the most highly-touted prospect throwing at the combine. He blew an opportunity to move up the draft boards, and may have actually fallen down some boards without even picking up a football.

Dez Bryant – WR – Oklahoma State
Often times players hurt themselves more during the interview process at the combine than during the actual drills. Bryant would certainly fall into that category. He reportedly hasn’t impressed teams with his explanation for his suspension and has come across as very immature and not very intelligent. It doesn’t take a whole lot of brains to play wide receiver, so it shouldn’t end up impacting his stock drastically, but it could cause a couple teams to think twice.

Brandon Spikes – ILB – Florida
Spikes decided not to run in Indy, which didn’t come as a surprise considering he’s viewed as one of the slower linebackers in this year’s draft class. Even though it was expected, you hate to see a player back out for those reasons. It won’t kill his draft stock, but the decision certainly rubbed some teams the wrong way.

Rolando McClain – ILB – Alabama
McClain also elected not to work out in Indy, but his late scratch came as a surprise. His agent announced that McClain has been nursing a hamstring injury since the national championship game. The only problem with that excuse is that its the first time he’s mentioned it to anyone. Just recently he had stated that he was training in Florida, but made no mention of any injury. Whenever players make a last-minute decision to skip the combine it raises some concerns about their competitiveness. Sometimes its more the agent’s fault than the player’s, but the true competitors will get onto the field no matter what. Like Spikes, this won’t destroy his stock but it could certainly cause a few teams to knock him down a few spots on their draft board.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off