2011 NFL Draft

Chicago Bears looking for backup QB in draft

You can’t read too much into pre-draft visits. Just because a team meets with a player doesn’t mean they’re actually interested in that guy – after all, there’s no guarantee that they like what they see up close.

However, when a team invests a large number of visits into players at certain position it is a strong indication if their intentions.

Such is the case with the Chicago Bears, who have either already worked out or set up visits with three quarterbacks.

North Carolina’s T.J. Yates, Idaho’s Nathan Enderle and TCU’s Andy Dalton – all potential mid-round selections – have scheduled workouts with the Bears.

The best of the group is Dalton, who I believe could come off the board as early as the late 2nd round. As a result, he’s probably a long shot to land in Chicago. Both Yates and Enderle, however, should still be on the board in the 4th round or later making them reasonable options.

Last year the Bears drafted Dan LeFevour out of Central Michigan in the 6th round (and later cut him). Since that didn’t work out, it’s possible that they’ll try to land a quarterback earlier in the draft to increase their chances of finding someone who can stick on the roster.

Other possibilities in the 4th or 5th round include Greg McElroy and Ricky Stanzi.

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

Pat Devlin’s stock falling fast

In early January I gave Pat Devlin a preliminary 2nd-round grade, based mostly upon some footage I had seen from his 2009 season. After struggling in the East-West Shrine Game I dropped his grade to the 3rd round.

Devlin's offseason has not gone as planned

The concern with Devlin is his arm strength. At the Shrine Game he struggled to put enough on his passes and frequently his throws came out wobbly.

At his Pro Day on Tuesday Devlin reportedly showed off more of the same shaky arm strength and inconsistency with his accuracy.

According to Josh Buchanan of JBScouting.com Devlin “overthrew or underthrew so many passes causing his coaches and teammates to express concern…  He had too much air on flag routes and Devlin himself even expressed disappointment.”

Devlin’s poor workouts are a great example of why it’s so difficult to evaluate prospects from the FCS and other lower levels of the college game. Devlin was one of the elite quarterbacks at the FCS level, and his accuracy appears to be a strength on tape. As a senior he threw just three interceptions in 384 attempts.

Now that scouts have gotten to see him up close, it appears as though he may not have an NFL future all.

I’ve seen enough good qualities from his game footage that I still wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the middle rounds of the draft, but his struggles on the practice field have eliminated any chance of him coming off the board in the first three rounds.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment

Blaine Gabbert new No. 1 in mock draft

In my latest mock draft I have the Carolina Panthers selecting Blaine Gabbert with the No. 1 overall selection.

Gabbert going No. 1?

It was a tough decision, as I’ve had either Da’Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley in the top spot for the past two months. However, I now believe the Panthers are leaning heavily toward a quarterback.

GM Marty Hurney reportedly still supports Jimmy Clausen, whom he selected in the 2nd round in 2010, but the new coaching staff wants to move on and put their mark on the franchise. More often than not, the coaching staff wins these battles.

There has been some speculation that the Panthers are interested in Cam Newton. It’s certainly possible, but I just don’t envision Ron Rivera – a tough, old school defensive-minded guy who played under Mike Ditka – rolling the dice a rookie quarterback with an ego the size of Newton’s.

With that in mind, the logical choice is Gabbert. He isn’t the best player in this year’s class but he is a player to build around, which is what Rivera and his staff is hoping to find.

Of course, all of these rumors could simply be a smokescreen. If everyone else thinks the Panthers want a quarterback, it raises the asking price of the No. 1 pick in a trade…

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

Mike Band’s Mock Draft (2nd Edition)

Updated Mar. 6, 2011

1. Carolina- Blaine Gabbert QB, Missouri*

Since 2001, eight quarterbacks, one defensive end, and one offensive tackle have been drafted 1st overall.  Likewise, if there is a quarterback concern on the NFL team that holds the 1st pick, that team should/will/must select a quarterback if they feel the top QB could be their franchise signal-caller.  New head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney face a tough decision regarding the future of former second round pick Jimmy Clausen and I believe they’ll trade him once a new CBA is reached.  Gabbert has very few weaknesses to his game; he’s big, accurate, athletic, and smart.  He’s the only ideal signal-caller who could potentially start from day one.

Other Possibilities: Cam Newton QB, Auburn* & Nick Fairley DT, Auburn*

2. Denver- Nick Fairley DT, Auburn*

The Broncos are in the process of converting from a 3-4 to 4-3 front, and the team is in dire need of new personnel in the front seven.  New head coach John Fox will likely convert linebackers Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers to 4-3 end, while addressing the defensive tackle position at #2.  Fairley is a dominating force who works best as a three-technique tackle in a 4-3 defense.  He has the length, strength, and speed to make an impact on all three downs at the next level.

Other Possibilities: D’Quan Bowers DE, Clemson* & Patrick Peterson CB, LSU*

3. Buffalo- Patrick Peterson CB, LSU*

We learned in last year’s draft that head coach Chan Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix favor the best player available philosophy, more specifically athletes.  Either the Bills will address the quarterback position—though they may stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick over Cam Newton—or they’ll address the defensive unit.  Cornerback may not be the Bills’ most pressing need, but Peterson is as athletic as they come and is consistently rated as the #1 player on draft boards.  Peterson’s size, speed, and production appear fitting for the Bills new philosophy.

Other Possibilities: Cam Newton QB, Auburn* & Von Miller OLB, Texas A&M

4. Cincinnati- AJ Green WR, Georgia*

It’s almost certain that Carson Palmer will not be back with the Bengals whenever football resumes.  Head coach Marvin Lewis and owner Mike Brown could address the quarterback position at #4, meaning Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton are serious options; however, expect the Bengals to look for an immediate veteran who can compete for the playoffs right away.  Marvin Lewis knows he’s on the hot seat, and he doesn’t have the time to sit and wait for a quarterback to develop.  Meanwhile, the offensive skill position starters are aging and few can be said to be long-term building blocks.  Chad Ochocinco’s days in Cincy are numbered; the same with Terrell Owens.  AJ Green adds an immediate vertical threat who will strive in the red zone.  The Bengals cannot afford to downgrade at quarterback AND wide receiver.

Other Possibilities: Blaine Gabbert QB, Missouri* & Cam Newton QB, Auburn*

5. Arizona- Von Miller OLB, Texas A&M

The Cardinals draft more for need than most teams in the NFL and they’ll likely select an outside rush linebacker or quarterback at #5.  I anticipate that they’ll address the quarterback position with a veteran such as Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer, given that they’ll build the team around Larry Fitzgerald rather than an unproven rookie.  Unfortunately, if no CBA is signed by April 28th, the Cardinals could panic and select Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert if available given the uncertainty at the position.  If quarterback is not the option, then my bet is on Von Miller to play the WILL rush linebacker in their 3-4 defense.  Miller is a speed demon off the edge who dominated the Senior Bowl and last week’s combine.  He’ll be an immediate threat to rush passer off the edge.

Other Possibilities: Blaine Gabbert QB, Missouri* & Cam Newton QB, Auburn* Read more

Posted on by Mike Band in 2011 NFL Draft, Draft Links, Mock Draft Comments Off

Are SEC wide receivers overrated?

The SEC is the best conference in college football, I’m not here to dispute that. However, college success doesn’t always translate to the NFL.

In this year’s draft class the top two receivers are both from the SEC – A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

They appear in the top 10-15 picks in nearly every mock draft and are among the top 10 on most draft boards around the internet. As much as draftniks love to disagree, almost no one disputes the fact that Green and Jones are elite talents with bright futures.

But maybe we should be more skeptical.

Since 1998 there have been 10 SEC wide receivers selected in the 1st round and collectively they have made only one Pro Bowl appearance (Dwayne Bowe, this past season). Additionally, they’ve had just three 1,000-yard seasons (two by Bowe, one by Michael Clayton – both former LSU Tigers).

Once upon a time Travis Taylor was a top-10 pick

In general SEC receivers haven’t just fallen short of expectations, they’ve completely flopped in the NFL.

Just how bad has it been?

According to Pro-Football-Reference’s career approximate value (basically the NFL’s version of WAR), the best SEC receiver drafted in the past 10 years has been Donte’ Stallworth, followed by Jabar Gaffney. Yikes.

Now I’m not about to adjust my grades on Green or Jones because past SEC receivers have failed. However, I do believe the lack of success something to consider. If this trend continues, I think we need to start wondering if there is something about the style of football in the SEC that hinders the development of receivers, at least from the standpoint of their future NFL success.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could A.J. Green fall to the Redskins?

As I was thinking over some different scenarios while updating the mock draft this weekend I realized A.J. Green – the top overall prospect according to some – could fall to the Washington Redskins.

Since mid-January I’ve had Julio Jones linked to the ‘Skins, but I think it’s becoming increasingly likely that Green could fall.

The key to this scenario is having two quarterbacks – most likely Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert – come off the board in the top 10. I think Gabbert is a top-10 lock, so the wildcard is Newton.

I still have Newton at No. 15 to the Dolphins, but I’ll admit that it is a strong possibility that the Bills roll the dice on him at No. 3. If that happens it could set off a chain reaction that sends Green falling down the board.

So let’s talk through this scenario…

The Bills take Newton at No. 3. That leaves the Bengals to decide between Gabbert and Green and possibly Patrick Peterson. It looks increasingly likely that Carson Palmer is finished in Cincinnati, so they go with Gabbert.

Arizona then takes either Robert Quinn or Von Miller. That leaves Green on the board for the Browns, who would have to consider him. However, with Peterson also available I can’t see the Browns passing up an opportunity to land another premier cornerback.

Once Green gets past the Browns, there’s very little chance that the 49ers, Titans or Cowboys would settle for a receiver if they have the opportunity to address areas of need on defense.

The Niners take Miller, Titans jump at the chance to land Marcell Dareus and the Cowboys are more than happy to take Prince Amukamara.

And before you know it, the Redskins are on the board with A.J. Green staring them in the face. It would be a dream scenario for Mike Shanahan and company and an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

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

Julio Jones needs foot surgery

Just one day after answering questions about his speed with a 4.39 forty-yard dash, Julio Jones‘ stock took a hit as he will reportedly need foot surgery to repair a broken bone.

You might be thinking ‘how much could his stock be hurt if he can run a 4.39 on a broken foot?’

Jones injury increases the chances he falls to the St. Louis Rams at No. 14

That’s a fair point, but the injury is expected to take eight weeks to heal, eliminating his chance to work out for any teams privately.

Even though the speed question seemed to be answered at the combine, teams would have liked to see him run routes up close and on their terms. By going through their drills, teams could get a better feel for how fast he actually plays as opposed to how fast he is while running a straight line.

A lot has been made about Jones’ 40 time being .11 seconds faster than A.J. Green, but it’s worth mentioning that Green was faster in the 20-yard shuttle – which is probably a better indicator of meaningful speed and agility for a receiver.

Jones is still a 1st-round pick, but the injury may hurt his chances of climbing up into the top 10.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Ravens show interest in cornerbacks with size

It’s no secret that the Baltimore Ravens need a cornerback. Now they may be tipping their hand as to who exactly they’ll be interested.

When asked about the Ravens interest in cornerbacks director of player personnel Eric DeCosta stated: “Smaller corners typically will have a disadvantage going against bigger receivers. If you can get bigger, those guys can be a little more durable and physical. There aren’t many of those guys out there. If you do, you get a guy like Champ Bailey or Chris McAlister or Charles Woodson.”

If they’re targeting that position in the 1st round, that means they’re probably limiting themselves to Aaron Williams and Jimmy Smith. The only other corner widely regarded as a 1st-round pick would be Brandon Harris, who is significantly smaller and doesn’t play a physical brand of football.

One sleeper option could be New Mexico State’s Davon House. At 6’1″, 200 pounds he certainly fits the mold of what they’re looking for, but he’ll need to prove he has the speed and athleticism to make a significant leap from the WAC to the NFL.

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

Sanzenbacher and Maehl impress at combine

Two of my favorite mid-round prospects have shined in workouts and hopefully are climbing up draft boards across the country.

Maehl is one of the most underrated prospects in this year's class

Oregon’s Jeff Maehl and Ohio State’s Dane Sanzenbacher aren’t the biggest, fastest or strongest receivers in this year’s class, but they both have excellent hands and are perfectly suited to play a slot receiver role.

The NFL is a copycat league and more and more teams are searching for their version of Wes Welker.

Well, here’s your chance to get two potential stars at a very cheap price.

While neither has elite speed, they are two of the most explosive receivers in this year’s class as they’ve demonstrated at the combine. Maehl set an unofficial combine record in the short shuttle with a time of 6.42. Sanzenbacher came in second at 6.46.

Maehl and Sanzenbacher also finished first and second, respectively, in the 60-yard shuttle and second and third in the 20-yard shuttle.

Prior to the combine I gave both receivers 4th-round grades and I feel even more confident in my assessment after seeing their performance this weekend.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Putting Julio Jones 40 time into perspective

Julio Jones has been one of the most impressive players at the combine so far this year, posting a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash. The initial reaction by some will inevitably be to bump him up draft boards and possible move him ahead of A.J. Green.

Personally, I don’t really care about his time.

He’s certainly better off having a run a 4.39 than a 4.59, but his stock shouldn’t change as a result. The 40 shows off a player’s straight-line speed, which Jones obvious has, but he lacks the explosiveness that makes A.J. Green such a dangerous player.

Jones is more of a physical receiver. He’s slow to get off the line of scrimmage and not very quick in making his moves but he more than makes up for that with his ability to use his size and strength to his advantage.

Whoever drafts Jones will be doing so for his ability as a physical, possession receiver (think Keyshawn Johnson). No one is going to see his 4.39 and suddenly confuse him with Randy Moss, because on film he just doesn’t show that ability.

Jones is still a legitimate top-15 pick, but his 40 time likely won’t convince any teams to bump him up any higher than he already is on their draft board.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off