2010 NFL Draft

Who will replace L.T. in San Diego?

The Chargers officially cut ties with LaDainian Tomlinson today, arguably the greatest player in team history. From a personal standpoint, it must have been a difficult decision for the Chargers to make. From a football standpoint, it couldn’t have been easier. At this point in his career L.T. wasn’t going to be anything more than an overpaid backup in San Diego.

So where do the Chargers go from here?

Washington Redskins v San Diego Chargers

Sproles is a blur on the field, but can he handle a starting role?

Restricted free agent Darren Sproles would be the in-house solution. He’s an electrifying back and a fan favorite. He shows flashes of greatness, but he’s also only 5’6″. No matter how talented he is, he has physical limitations which will prevent him from being effective over the course of the season. Even with just 93 carries in 2009, Sproles was held to 3.7 yards per attempt – not exactly a number that should have the Chargers excited about his prospects should the workload be doubled in 2010.

Another option would be to address the need in free agency. The top unrestricted free agents are Willie Parker and Chester Taylor, but they’re 29 and 30 respectively. It would seem like an odd move to cut ties with Tomlinson only to bring in another veteran on the decline.

That could leave the Chargers with the draft as their only option to fill their hole at running back. We’ve had C.J. Spiller headed to San Diego in our mock draft for a while now, but there are numerous other options. Spiller makes the most sense because of his versatility. The Chargers used Tomlinson extensively as a receiver, a role which Spiller could immediately fill. The downside is that he has a similar skill set to Sproles. With Spiller as the starter, it would undermine Sproles’ ability to be effective as a change-of-pace back.

Another option would be Jonathan Dwyer. He’s the top-rated running back on our board, but also could be gone by the time the Chargers are on the clock. As a strong, downhill runner Dwyer would make an excellent compliment to  Sproles. The downside, however,  is his lack of experience as a receiver. He comes from Paul Johnson’s triple-option at Georgia Tech and would need to learn an NFL offense. That may slow his ability to make an immediate impact and fill Tomlinson’s shoes in the passing game.

Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews is also an option. He has a similar skill set to Dwyer, which brings about the same positives and negatives. He may be a slight reach in the late 1st-round, but is the safest bet to still be on the board. The lack of quality unrestricted free agents puts the Chargers in a difficult position.

Its rare that a playoff team needs to fill such a key role in the draft, but that could be the position the Chargers are in this April. It will be very interesting to see how it unfolds. GM A.J. Smith must be kicking himself for letting Michael Turner walk two years ago…

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

Should the Bucs trade up for Suh?

Rumors are swirling that the Rams and Bucs have discussed a trade that would involve a swap of their 1st-round picks, potentially with Josh Johnson heading to St. Louis.

For what its worth, the Rams have denied the rumors.

From the Rams standpoint, this would be a brilliant trade. The top two players on most draft boards are Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, but the Rams don’t really need a defensive tackle. 2007 1st and 5th round picks Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan have been a nice duo at tackle over the past few years. They aren’t Pro Bowlers, but its arguably the strongest position on the Rams defense.

Trading down would allow them to stockpile picks (which they desperately need) and potentially land their quarterback of the future, be it Johnson, Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen. Should they pass on a quarterback with the 3rd pick, Eric Berry would be an excellent addition to their secondary. Even Derrick Morgan would potentially make sense as a replacement for Leonard Little who is likely to sign elsewhere.

Big 12 Championship - Nebraska v TexasBut does it make sense for the Bucs?

Its true, they need a defensive tackle. However, there is a decent chance that either McCoy or Suh will fall to them anyway. The Rams are likely to  consider selecting a quarterback 1st overall, meaning one of the top two tackles could be on the board at No. 3.

Considering the overwhelming lack of talent on the Bucs roster, its hard to understand why they would part with extra picks just to land Suh. The Bucs would likely have to part with their 2nd-round pick as well, if not more, to move up. For a team starving for talent, a draft that potentially brings in Eric Berry and Brandon LaFell would seem to be a much faster route to turning things around than only landing Suh.

The added bonus for passing on this trade would be the potential to trade down on draft day. If the Rams pass on Bradford and Clausen, the Bucs will be on the clock at No. 3 one slot ahead of Washington, who is likely to select a quarterback. If a team like the Bills or Seahawks have their heart set on one of the top two quarterbacks, the 3rd pick will be the ideal slot to trade into. This would allow the Bucs to land a player such as Joe Haden and acquire additional picks.

No matter what angle I look at this trade it seems like a losing situation for the Bucs. Suh is an elite talent, but a defensive tackle doesn’t turn around a franchise on his own. The Bucs have too many holes to fill to risk their entire draft on one player.

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

10 Players Who Should Put on a Show at the Combine

10. Taylor Mays S USCCFB: Notre Dame vs USC NOV 29 Mays will put on a show, we know that for certain, but will anyone care? We know he’s fast. We know he’s strong. We know he can jump out of the gym. Expectations for Mays’ performance are so high that will be almost impossible to live up to the hype. Even if he does, there are enough skeptics out there that it may not help his stock. Unless Al Davis grabs him in the top 10 that is…

9. Jared Odrick DT Penn State For an interior lineman, Odrick is a chiseled athlete. Unlike most tackles, Odrick isn’t carrying around too much excess weight; he’s 300 pounds of muscle. He should be one of the faster interior linemen in Indy and should also show off some impressive strength. His blend of strength and athleticism make him a perfect fit at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.

8. Everson Griffen DE USC Griffen is overshadowed by the elite athletes at the defensive end position (Pierre-Paul, Dunlap, Morgan, etc) but he’s no stiff. At 6’3″ and roughly 280 pounds, Griffen could open some eyes if he runs in the 4.6 range in the 40. It’s tough to call anyone from USC “underrated” but Griffen may be just that. He’s more athletic that he gets credit for, and should prove that at the combine.

7. Mike Iupati OG Idaho Iupati may not be the most athletic player in Indy, but his brute strength is sure to catch the eye of scouts. He’s already solidified his place in the 1st round, but his performance on the bench press may further improve his stock. Teams that are looking for a power run blocker will keep a close eye on him all week.

Ole Misss Dexter McCluster in the AT&T Cotton Bowl6. Dexter McCluster RB/WR Mississippi
All eyes will be on McCluster when he lines up for the 40-yard dash. He’s expected to run in the 4.3 range, and it could crack the 4.2 barrier. He’ll likely do some drills as a receiver and a running back, giving him ample opportunities to impress teams with his versatility.

5. Aaron Hernandez TE Florida
Hernandez doesn’t have the height of an elite tight end (he’s only 6’2″) but he may be the most athletic player at the position to enter the draft since Vernon Davis. He has the skills of an over-sized receiver and should be one of the standouts at Indy – especially if Jermaine Gresham and Rob Gronkowski are unable to work out.

4. Austen Lane DE Murray State
A little-known defensive end from Murray State could be the star of the combine. At 6’6″, 267 pounds he clearly has the size to take his game to the next level. What scouts want to see, however, is how he stacks up athletically with the premiere prospects. With an impressive performance, he could skyrocket up the draft boards.

3. Chad Jones S LSU
In any other year we’d be talking about Jones as the premiere athlete at the safety position. He’s overshadowed by Taylor Mays, but don’t sleep on Jones. He is every bit as physically gifted as Mays and many believe he may be a better all-round football player. If he matches Mays’ workout numbers, Jones could make a run at being the second safety off the board.

2. Jared Veldheer OT Hillsdale
Teams are always looking for a sleeper to step up and show he has the athleticism to play left tackle in the pros. This year Jared Veldheer could be the beneficiary of the NFL’s obsession with left tackles. Much like Sebastian Vollmer climbed from unknown to 2nd-round pick in 2009, Veldheer could do the same with an impressive workout this week.

1. Jason Pierre-Paul DE South Florida
Last year at this time Pierre-Paul hadn’t even set foot on a D-I football field. Now he’s a potential top-10 pick. He’s as raw as the come, but has the pure athleticism to make scouts drool. He should easily rank among the top defensive linemen in every drill at the combine.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 4 Comments

Corey Chavous is an embarrassment to all draftniks

If you watched andy of the Senior Bowl coverage on the NFL Network you may be familiar with Corey Chavous’ site DraftNasty.com. I checked out the site when I first learned of it and quickly dismissed it as a feeble attempt of a former NFL player to become a draftnik. The site is poorly put together and ridiculous rankings such as Joe Haden as the 4th-ranked cornerback and Jermaine Gresham as the 7th-rated tight end cause him to lose all credibility.

But just in case you actually thought he had some shred of credibility based on the fact that he played in the NFL, I present to you his mock draft.

A few of the highlights:
1. Neither Jimmy Clausen, nor Sam Bradford are in the 1st round

2. Ryan Mathews goes 7th overall to the Browns

3. Amari Spievey is the 2nd cornerback selected, behind Patrick Robinson

I hate to drive traffic to his site by even providing the links. But mock drafts like these, especially by those such as Corey Chavous who have the ability to reach a significant audience, infuriate me. Its insulting to the fans and it hurts the credibility of everyone in the business. Those who see these clearly impossible mock drafts quickly become cynical towards all draftniks. I hear it all the time: how can you predict the draft months in advance? True, its difficult, but not nearly as hard some make it appear.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 6 Comments

Bears Lining up Workouts Already

We usually don’t hear about teams bringing players in for workouts until after the combine, but the Bears are already setting their schedules.

The Bears have already lined up a workout with TCU OT Nic Richmond and South Dakota State DE Danny Batten. Both players appeared in the Texas vs The Nation all-star game and neither were invited to the combine.

Batten is the more highly regarded of the two and could come off the board as high as the 5th round. He’s an odd choice for the Bears, however. He doesn’t quite have the athleticism to play outside linebacker in their 4-3 defense, but is undersized for a down lineman.

As for Richmond, he has elite size (6’7″, 307) but lacks athleticism will be limited to right tackle in the pros which is the kiss of death for an offensive lineman’s draft stock. The least-coveted prospects are offensive lineman that are only capable of playing one position. It would be moderately surprising to hear his name called in April’s draft.

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

Demaryius Thomas Will Miss Combine

Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas will miss the combine after suffering a broken foot while training on Wednesday. His agent, Todd France, told SI.com:

There are no longterm effects from the injury and Demaryius will be 100 percent by the time OTA’s begin. If surgery hastens the healing process, that is something we will consider.

Virginia Tech v Georgia TechIt could prove to be a devestating blow to Thomas’ draft stock. Having played in Paul Johnson’s triple-option the past two seasons, no one really knows how Thomas will fair in a pro-style offense. Getting a chance to step out onto the field and run routes in front of scouts could have eased much of the concern surrounding his ability to transition to the NFL.

Additionally, teams won’t have the ability to see Thomas run before the draft. As a big receiver (6’2″, 230 lbs) his 40-yard dash would have been one of the more anticipated events of the combine. Thomas likely would have run somewhere between 4.55 and 4.65, but on the off chance that he ran in the 4.4 range, his stock would have skyrocketed.

Its now tough to imagine Thomas coming off the board in the 1st round, as some expected he may. He could fall to the late 2nd round, at which point he could end up being one of the great steals of this year’s draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Marc Bulger Done in St. Louis?

ramsMarc Bulger has reportedly cleaned out his locker in St. Louis and doesn’t expect to return. For what its worth, the Rams are downplaying the reports.

Its tough to sort through rumors like this, but I’m inclined to believe the initial reports that Bulger is done in St. Louis. The Rams have no reason to tip their hand on their plans for Bulger, because its entirely possibly that they are involved in trade talks regarding their former franchise quarterback. As soon as teams believe Bulger will be released, the Rams leverage is thrown out the window.

Tennessee Titans v St. Louis RamsThe rumors pushed me to update my mock draft today and insert Sam Bradford into the No. 1 slot. I’ve thought all along that the Rams would prefer to add a franchise quarterback. However, I was unsure as to whether the Rams were comfortable enough with Bradford or Jimmy Clausen to make one of them the No. 1 overall selection. With Bulger apparently out of the picture, it clears up their draft intentions.

There is one wild card out there that could lead the Rams back to Ndamukong Suh.

The Rams have reportedly discussed the possibility of signing Michael Vick. This is pure speculation, but its possible the Rams feel they are close to acquiring Vick, but would prefer to move Bulger first. That said, I believe Vick in St. Louis is a long shot. This team is rebuilding from the bottom on up and 30-year-old quarterback with major character concerns just doesn’t seem like a prudent move.

As of now, all signs point to Bradford or Clausen going No. 1 overall.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Rams 3 Comments

Texans Need a Power Running Back

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

texansSteve Slaton burst onto the scene late in 2008, rushing for 737 yards over the final seven games of the season. As a result the Texans, and numerous fantasy owners who drafted him in the 1st round, entered 2009 with lofty expectations.

The results were underwhelming. In 11 games prior to a season-ending neck injury, Slaton rushed for just 437 yards at a dismal rate of 3.3 yards per carry.

New Orleans Saints v Houston TexansThe reason behind the decline is fairly simple. Slaton just doesn’t have the body of an NFL running back. Year after year we see impressive late-season statistics posted by backups plugged into starting roles. Last year it was Slaton, this year it was Jerome Harrison Harrison and Jamal Charles. Occasionally these backups prove to be the real deal. But more often than not they simply capitalizing on being fresh from having not been worn down as the workhorse for the majority of the season and are playing with extra motivation to win the starting job for the following season.

In Slaton’s case, both factors could have played a role in his 2008 heroics. There’s no denying his ability as a big-play running back, but like others such as Reggie Bush and Leon Washinngton, he doesn’t have the strength to carry the load.

To demonstrate his inability to be a feature back, consider the stat “yards after contact” which is tracked by the guys at ProFootballFocus. Among running backs with at least 100 attempts, Slaton averaged the 4th-fewest yards after contact per attempt this season at just 2.12.

yardsaftercontact

From the view of an opposing defensive coordinator, these are the ideal running backs to face. Yes, Slaton could hurt you by breaking off a big run, but you don’t feel the need to stack the box in order to slow him down. As a result, Slaton’s inability to force defenses to game-plan for him allows defenses to focus their attention on Andre Johnson and their potent passing attack.

Down the stretch the Texans used the more physically imposing Arian Foster (6’1″, 217 lbs) as the feature back. He did an adequate job, but the Texas likely won’t feel comfortable handing him the starting job for 2010.

Given the limited number of running backs available in free agency, this is likely a position the Texans will need to address in the draft. In the 1st round Jonathan Dwyer and Ryan Mathews are both options, but would it would be considered a reach by many to select either one in the top 20. The safer route may be to select a player such as Anthony Dixon or Montario Hardesty in the 2nd or 3rd round to share the load with Slaton in 2010.

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

Bill Polian: Offensive Line was “Outplayed”

coltsOn his weekly radio show on Tuesday, Colts president Bill Polian talked about the Super Bowl loss. Most of the conversation was nondescript, but he did bring up one interesting point that may tip his hand on his offseason plans.

Speaking about the Colts offensive line Polian said: “by our standards, [they] did not have a good game. They were outplayed by the Saints’ defensive line, I thought, pretty decisively.”

Super Bowl XLIVThose are some fairly harsh words for a soft-spoken man such as Polian, but its tough to disagree. ProFootballFocus gave negative pass-blocking grades to three of the Colts linemen: Charlie Johnson, Ryan Lilja and Jeff Saturday. And only right tackle Ryan Diem received a significantly positive overall grade for the game.

Given that Peyton Manning has a sixth sense for the pocket around him, the Colts offensive line managed to allowed just 13 sacks in the regular season and just two in the playoffs. But that doesn’t change the fact that they have one of the worst units in the game. Despite allowing the fewest sacks in the league, the Colts ranked just 14th on ProFootballFocus in pass blocking.

So what does this mean for the Colts offseason plans?

Manning could certainly survive another season behind the patchwork offensive line. However, Polian’s frustrations with their Super Bowl performance may indicate that he’s looking to make a change.

Polian does have a history of putting an emphasis on the offensive line in the draft. Following the retirement of Tarik Glenn in 2007, the Colts traded up to acquire Tony Ugoh in the early 2nd round. Ugoh was benched this season in favor of Charlie Johnson.

Assuming Charlie Johnson isn’t the long-term answer at left tackle, the Colts could be in position to select one in the late 1st-round. Once Russell Okung is off the board, its anyone’s guess as to the order that the next three or four linemen will come of the board. Bryan Bulaga, Anthony Davis, Trent Williams and Bruce Campbell all generate a wide range of grades, anywhere from the top-10 to the 3rd round. Should any one of them be on the board when the Colts are on the clock at No. 31, they should give strong consideration to bringing one in to compete for the starting job at left tackle.

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

10 Teams that Need a Quarterback

It isn’t always the deepest position in the draft. And it doesn’t always have the top prospects. But regardless of the current class, the one position that always gets the most attention is quarterback. Aside from the teams selecting in the top 10, its too early to really gauge who’s interested in who. But what we can do is analyze which teams actually need a quarterback the most.

Below are the 10 teams we’ve identified as having the greatest need for a new franchise signal caller:

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders1. Oakland Raiders - We’re now three years into the JaMarcus Russell era and he’s shown absolutely no improvement. For some quarterbacks it takes longer to develop, but at this point in time Russell isn’t anywhere close to being an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. It’s just about time to mark him down as one of the biggest busts of all time. That said, I’m not sure Al Davis feels the same way. I’d be fairly surprised to see the Raiders bring in another quarterback within the first three rounds in this year’s draft.

2. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger will likely return for 2010 and, if healthy, could lead the Rams back to respectability. But he clearly isn’t the long-term answer and the Rams will strongly consider drafting Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford with the 1st-overall selection.

3. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick all started for the Bills this season and all three were equally mediocre. The Bills could trudge through 2010 with one of them as the starter, but they are clearly in the market for a new franchise quarterback.

4. Washington Redskins - As I’ve stated before, I don’t actually think Redskins need a new quarterback. Jason Campbell is capable of being a starter in this league. That said, his career in Washington certainly appears to be over. Given that they don’t have an adequate replacement on the current roster, all signs point to the Redskins selecting Clausen or Bradford the 1st round.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck will be back for at least another year, but the Seahawks are already looking for his replacement. Clausen and Bradford are both options in the 1st round. However, Carroll doesn’t appear to be taking a rebuilding approach this offseason. He may prefer to select an impact player in the 1st round and grab someone like Sean Canfield in the 3rd or 4th round to develop behind Hasselbeck.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars - David Garrard made the Pro Bowl this year, but Jack Del Rio doesn’t exactly sound like he’s sold on Garrard’s long-term future with the team.

7. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton was great for half the season, but stumbled down the stretch. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Broncos may have no choice but to keep him around if they want to compete in 2010. That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s a long-term solution.

8. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore played well in relief of Jake Delhomme late in the year, but he’s a restricted free agent. The Panthers have a big decision on their hands: do they pay Moore and cut ties with Delhomme or give their former Super Bowl quarterback another shot?

9. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith didn’t exactly look like a former No. 1 overall pick this season, but he didn’t look like the complete bust that we saw through the first four seasons of his career either. He’ll be back in 2010, but the Niners should consider taking a flier on someone in the 3rd or 4th round.

10. Cleveland Browns – The Browns are proof that having two quarterbacks causes nothing but problems. Neither Anderson nor Quinn has been able to stay on the field more than a few games at a time over the last two seasons, leaving the Browns with no real clear idea as to what they have at the position. Quinn deserves another shot, but the Browns will certainly entertain the idea of trading both and starting over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Jaguars, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks 29 Comments