2011 NFL Draft

Some quick thoughts on Friday’s games

- Cam Newton secured himself the Heisman today, but he was exposed by Alabama’s defense. In the first half they forced him to throw and he struggled. There’s no denying his talent, but he has a lot of work to do before he’s ready to be an effective NFL quarterback. His fundamentals are solid when he takes the time to set his feet, but too often he rushes to get the pass off and it results in diminished accuracy. Passes that miss by a 6-12 inches don’t hurt him often in college, but they will at the next level. And if he’s struggling with Alabama’s defense, these issues will only be magnified in the NFL.

- I’ve soured on Mark Ingram. I think he’s the next Ron Dayne. He can be a very effective running back in the right role, but I don’t think he can carry the load. He simply doesn’t have the athleticism to make people miss and I don’t think he is as powerful as someone like Jamal Lewis, who made a living running people over. I could justify taking him in the 2nd round, but I think he would be a reach in the 1st.

LAS VEGAS - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick  of the Nevada Reno Wolf Pack runs for a touchdown against the UNLV Rebels in the first quarter of their game at Sam Boyd Stadium October 2, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nevada Reno won 44-26. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Colin Kaepernick may have a future at wide receiver

- Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick reminds me of Seneca Wallace. Physically, the differences are obvious (Kaepernick is about seven inches taller) but they play a very similar style of football. Both are elusive, but don’t have the bulk to be effective runners in the NFL – at least over the long haul. Like Wallace did in Seattle, Kaepernick may get a look at receiver, but I think he could develop into a decent backup – also like Wallace.

- Boise State WR Titus Young reminds me of Percy Harvin. He isn’t as fast as Harvin and isn’t as elusive, mostly because he’s slightly larger. But they can play similar roles in a NFL offense. He should be a 3rd or 4th-round selection, and could make an immediate contribution if he lands in the right system.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could the Panthers give up on Clausen after one year?

Thanks to the Bills win over the Bengals on Sunday, the Panthers are now in sole possession of the worst record in the league.

Let’s assume they finish in that position. What direction will the go with the 1st-overall selection?

The answer to that question depends on who is calling the shots in Carolina. Head coach John Fox’s contract expires at the end of the year and it’s unlikely he’ll be invited back, and GM Marty Hurney is on the hot seat as well.

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen  of the Carolina Panthers looks to hand the ball off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Jimmy Clausen era may be a short one in Carolina.

So while it’s too early give a definitive answer, it’s not hard to speculate that Clausen’s tenure as the starter could be short lived. Remember, 30 of the 32 NFL teams passed on Clausen – some more than once – in last year’s draft. So whoever the Panthers hire likely had the opportunity to select Clausen, but chose to go in a different direction.

But, regardless of who is in Carolina’s front office, Andrew Luck may actually hold the keys to Clausen’s future.

Given the choice between Clausen and Jake Locker or Cam Newton, it may be safer to stick with Clausen (and his significantly smaller contract) and address another area of need with the 1st pick. But if Luck is on the board, it will be hard to make that choice.

Andrew Luck will be the best quarterback to enter the draft since I started this website in 2004. And those with more experience than me say that he may be the best since Peyton Manning.

So while it’s hard to justify giving up on Clausen after just one season, Luck may simply be too talented to pass over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Panthers 1 Comment

Threat of lockout will influence A.J. Green’s NFL Draft decision

The consensus No. 1 wide receiver in this year’s class may not be in this year’s class after all.

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13: A.J. Green  of the Georgia Bulldogs fails to pull in this reception against Richard Samuel  of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Green entering the draft may not be a sure thing

A.J. Green – who many draftniks (myself included) have compared to Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald – seemed like an obvious early entry. But the threat of a lockout could force him to stay in school.

Earlier this week Green stated:

If they’re talking about a lockout, there’s no point in me leaving because they aren’t going to play for a whole season or a half of season, so that’s going to play a big factor.”

Green raises an interesting question, and it’s sure to impact the decisions of multiple underclassmen.

My guess is that the looming lockout won’t end up forcing players like Andrew Luck and Green to stay in school. They are guaranteed to be 1st-round picks and have nothing to gain by returning to school. However, it could factor in the decisions of players who receive 2nd and 3rd round grades.

If I’m a 1st-round pick, my thinking is this: I’m going to get paid eventually. Even if it doesn’t come until the 2012 season. Why risk an injury by returning to school?

But if I’m a 2nd or 3rd-round prospect my thinking is this: Why should I sit on the sidelines for a full year when I’ve only got a relatively small contract coming my way after the lockout ends? I’m better off staying in school, staying sharp in the field, and trying to improve my stock for 2012.

It definitely will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 4 Comments

SEC won’t suspend Fairley, but NFL will take notice

Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley took at least one blatant cheap shot at Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray on Saturday, and made multiple other questionable hits.

The SEC said yesterday that they will not suspend Fairley for Auburn’s next game, despite Georgia’s best efforts to communicate their displeasure to the league office.

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 06: Defensive tackle Nick Fairley  of the Auburn Tigers watches play against the Chattanooga Mocs November 6, 2010 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Fairley won't be smiling once the NFL gets a hold of his paychecks

While Fairley won’t be suspended, it’s safe to say that his performance has caught the eye of the NFL – and not in a good way this time.

The NFL is clearly handing out stiffer penalties to repeat offenders, so you have to wonder if Fairley’s college days will influence his standing with league office at the next level. It’s very possible that the league will hit him with a more severe penalty than a typical first-time offender to send the message: “you got away with this in college, but it’s not going to fly here.”

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 2 Comments

Ras-I Dowling out for the year

Ras-I Dowling, who has been injured off-and-on all season, will miss the remainder of the year with a fractured ankle.

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 09: Ras-I Dowling  of the Virginia Cavaliers against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The oft-injured Dowling is done for the year

I’ve been saying all season that Ras-I Dowling is the most overrated draft prospect, and this now solidifies my prediction that he won’t be selected before the 3rd round (albeit for reasons I could not have foreseen).

Dowling is a paper tiger of a draft prospect. He’s a decent player, but his inflated draft stock was buoyed by his size (he’s listed at 6’2″, 200 lbs).

6’2″ cornerbacks don’t come around often, which made him stand out. However, his play on the field rarely lived up to expectations – despite playing in a conference devoid of many NFL-caliber receivers. He doesn’t have the speed or quickness necessary to play corner in the NFL, and I believe he will eventually be moved to safety.

Now I don’t mean imply that Dowling will be a bust in the NFL. He may develop into a quality defensive back, I just don’t believe – regardless of the injury – that he’s done anything to deserve 1st or 2nd round consideration.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Greg Romeus done for year

This just isn’t Greg Romeus‘ year.

Had Romeus entered the 2010 draft he likely would have been a 2nd or 3rd round pick (the grade given to him by the NFL Draft advisory committee) and possibly could have slipped into the late 1st round.

But Romeus decided to return for his senior year in hopes of solidifying himself as a 1st-round pick.

After undergoing back surgery earlier this season, his stock plummeted. But he made a speedy recovery and was back on the field by early November.

EAST HARTFORD, CT - DECEMBER 06:  Jordan Todman #23 of the Connecticut Huskies carries the ball as Greg Romeus #91 of the Pittsburgh Panthers defends on December 6, 2008 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Romeus can't catch a break

This past weekend, however, Romeus tore his ACL. Ending his senior year.

At this point, Romeus has little to no chance of coming off the board before the 4th round. And, assuming he’s unable to workout before April’s draft, it’s possible he won’t be drafted at all. His availability for the 2011 NFL season is very much in doubt, making it hard to justify drafting a player that you know may spend the year on the IR.

It will be interesting to see where Romeus ends up, because someone will take a chance on him, even if only as an undrafted free agent.

It’s safe to say everyone will be rooting for him to fully recovery and eventually make his way onto a NFL roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Some quick thoughts on the McNabb deal

- The length of the contract is shocking. But since there are no guaranteed deals, it doesn’t really mean anything. What’s more shocking is the $40M guaranteed. Let’s say he plays three years in Washington (probably a more realistic length than five years), that means he gets a minimum average of $13.3M per year (which will actually end up being higher, but we won’t know how much until more details of the contract are released).

ASHURN, VA - APRIL 6: Mike Shanahan, head coach of the Washington Redskins presents Donovan McNabb with his new jersey during a press conference on April 6, 2010 at Redskin Park in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Can McNabb and Shanahan coexist? Or will Shanahan be one-and-done in Washington?

- While I was updating my mock draft this weekend (update coming tomorrow morning) I strongly considered giving Ryan Mallett to the Redskins. Mike Shanahan seemed displeased with McNabb, and I thought he would consider getting “his guy” in the draft. Mallett is a true pocket passer with a strong arm – much like Jay Cutler, who Shanahan drafted while in Denver.

- This is pure speculation, but consider this scenario… what if GM Bruce Allen inked this deal without Mike Shanahan’s blessing? Could it create bad blood between Shanahan and the front office? Could it lead to Shanahan getting out of his contract? And could it then lead to him coaching the Cowboys next season? As I said, it’s 100% pure speculation, but given Shanahan’s recent comments about McNabb’s conditioning/ability to run the offense, it would certainly seem plausible.

- [UPDATE] Apparently the original report from ESPN’s Michael Smith was incorrect. McNabb is not guaranteed $40M. In fact, he’s only guaranteed $3.5M. Oops… so basically we’re right back where we started. McNabb is under contract, but the Redskins have next to nothing invested in him. He could still easily be gone at the end of the season.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Broncos Comments Off

Christian Ponder’s elbow still bothering him

Christian Ponder injured his elbow in early October and the injury seems has taken a turn for the worse. After experiencing swelling in the elbow, Ponder reportedly visited a doctor on Monday afternoon.

This is devastating news for Ponder, who is a fringe 1st-round prospect.

RALEIGH, NC - OCTOBER 28: Christian Ponder  of the Florida State Seminoles reacts to a play against the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on October 28, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It's been a frustrating season for Christian Ponder

This year’s quarterback class could be deeper than usual. Andrew Luck is a 1st-round lock if he chooses to enter the draft. Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett are also potential 1st-round picks. And even Cam Newton is now in the mix. That’s at least four quarterbacks that Ponder could be competing with for a spot in the 1st round.

Coupled with his disappointing season, this lingering injury could give teams enough reason to drop him on their draft boards. The last thing a team wants to do is draft a quarterback in the 1st round with injury concerns, especially when there are other healthy options on the board.

It’s too early to speculate as to how much this could hurt his stock – in part because we don’t know the severity of the injury; and partly because we don’t know who will enter the draft – but is certain to be a hot topic at the combine. Injuries that seem to linger on with no resolution often cause more concern than a one-time set back such as a broken bone or torn ligament.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Ross Homan close to returning for Ohio State

Ohio State outside linebacker Ross Homan could return in time for the Buckeyes game against Penn State on Nov. 13. The Buckeyes are off this week, giving Homan an extra week to recover after missing the past two games with a foot injury.

CHAMPAIGN, IL - OCTOBER 02: Ross Homan  of the Ohio State Buckeyes awaits the start of play against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on October 2, 2010 in Champaign, Illinois. Ohio State defeated Illinois 24-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Ross Homan has been battling a foot injury since early October

It’s good timing for Homan, who could use an impressive stretch run to boost his draft stock.

Homan is a relatively unspectacular athlete, but he’s a candidate to come off the draft board earlier than his skill set may indicate. For one, he plays at Ohio State and NFL coaches and GMs have a tremendous amount of respect for Jim Tressel’s program – especially their defense.

Secondly, he has experience at both outside and inside linebacker. He’s been starting on the weak side this year, but could play all three positions in a 4-3 scheme.

Homan isn’t going to come off the board before the 3rd round, but he could be a highly sought-after prospect if he falls to the 3rd day of the draft. His versatility and experience in an NFL-style defense makes him an ideal target for a team looking to land a rookie who can contribute in a backup role immediately.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Can Josh Nesbitt play in the NFL?

Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt suffered a broken forearm (his throwing arm) in the Yellow Jackets’ loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday night. He will miss the remainder of the regular season and possibly their bowl game as well.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 05: Quarterback Josh Nesbitt #9 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets looks to pass against the Iowa Hawkeyes during the FedEx Orange Bowl at Land Shark Stadium on January 5, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It's time for Josh Nesbitt to start thinking about the NFL

Running Paul Johnson’s triple-option doesn’t exactly prepare a quarterback for the NFL, so Nesbitt may have taken his last snaps from center. But his football career isn’t over.

Nesbitt is an impressive athlete and has the size (6’1″, 220 lbs) to play either running back or receiver at the next level.

Personally, I like him as a running back. He reminds me of Michael Robinson, who played quarterback at Penn State and has played running back for the 49ers and Seahawks in the NFL.

One thing Nesbitt probably won’t be able to do in the NFL is run the Wild Cat. Despite his success in the triple option, he just isn’t quite athletic enough to truly be a weapon in the Wild Cat at the next level. He is significantly slower and not nearly as elusive as others such as Ronnie Brown or Josh Cribbs.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment