2011 NFL Draft

A.J. Green to the Browns? Not so fast…

Browns fans want A.J. Green. And after two years of Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, I don’t blame them.

There’s no denying the fact that the Browns need a wide receiver, and as a result many mock drafts currently have them selecting Green with the 6th overall selection.

I can’t say that Green isn’t a possibility for the Browns, but it’s less likely than you may think.

For starters, I think there is a very strong possibility that Green is off the board by No. 6. The Panthers, Bills and Bengals could all realistically take Green before the Browns even get a shot at him. [I currently have him going to Cincinnati.]

The real reason, however, that I don’t see Green winding up in Cleveland is that the Browns simply have far greater needs elsewhere. Everyone wants their team to get a shiny new toy to play with on offense, and Green certainly fits that description, but receivers don’t turn franchises around. Just ask Calvin Johnson and Lions or Andre Johnson and the Texans. Arguably the game’s two best receivers have a combined zero playoff appearances.

In order to rebuild the Browns, president Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert (it’s actually Heckert who controls most of the draft day decisions, although Holmgren has the power to overrule) first must fix the defense.

The hiring of Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator means the Browns are transitioning back to a 4-3 scheme. That alone means they need to focus on defense in the draft, but on top of that they recently cut ties with two of their most productive linemen, Shaun Rogers and Kenyon Coleman. Additionally, Robaire Smith, Matt Roth and Brian Schaefering are set to become free agents.

If the season started today, the Browns would probably be forced to start Derreck Robinson and Marcus Benard at defensive end with Ahtyba Rubin and Travis Ivey at tackle. Yikes.

If this were a normal year, the Browns could attempt to address the defensive line in March and early April by bringing in some veteran free agents. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear as though that will be an option. As a result, the Browns may be forced to fill that void in the draft.

Fortunately for the Browns, this is the year you want to need a defensive lineman. Between Da’Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt, someone is sure to impress Cleveland’s staff and I strongly suspect someone from that group will wind up wearing the orange and brown in 2011.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns 4 Comments

Cardinals trading 1st-round pick for Kolb?

On Tuesday morning on Mike and Mike, ESPN football analyst John Clayton suggested that the Eagles would expect at least a 1st-round pick in exchange for Kevin Kolb. He then went on to name the Cardinals as a team potentially willing to part with their 1st-round selection, the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft.

My initial reaction is to laugh this off, but there are only a handful of people out there that know as much about the NFL – specifically NFL transactions – as John Clayton, so I’ll at least entertain the possibility.

With Kolb, the Cardinals immediately become playoff contenders

The Kolb-Cardinals rumor is certainly nothing new. Ken Whisenhunt openly lobbied for a veteran quarterback last offseason (he was reportedly interested in Marc Bulger) and this offseason will be no different after the failed Derek Anderson experiment.

The rumors grew when Larry Fitzgerald endorsed him as a potential candidate to come to Arizona, and Kolb later said he would welcome a trade to the Cardinals.

But the 5th pick for an unproven quarterback who will turn 27 in August? It seems a little too steep.

That said, the Cardinals just might consider it. In the wide-open NFC West Kolb would make the Cardinals instant playoff contenders and help them re-sign Fitzgerald who is set to become a free agent following the 2011 season.

So while I wouldn’t normally endorse a trade such as this, I think this one is worth considering. If they enter 2011 without a viable long-term option at quarterback they stumble through another losing season and likely lose Fitzgerald to free agency. That series of events could send the Cardinals into a tailspin back into irrelevancy.

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

Surgery won’t impact Bowers stock

It was reported yesterday that Da’Quan Bowers underwent knee surgery this offseason, which may force him to skip the workouts at the Scouting Combine.

While this certainly isn’t good news, it should have no impact on his draft stock.

Bowers is already training in preparation of the combine, and he has yet to rule out participating in the drills. I’ll go out on a limb, however, and say I would be very surprised to see Bowers do any physical activity in Indianapolis.

For starters, most potential No. 1 overall selections chose to skip the combine and instead workout only at their pro day where they are more in control of the drills. Teams certainly would prefer to see everyone work out in a neutral environment in Indy, but they can’t force anyone to participate.

On top of that, the injury only increases the chances for Bowers to disappoint at the combine and potentially hurt his stock. So why risk it, even if he thinks he’s close to 100%?

More than likely we won’t see Bowers on the field until Clemson’s pro day, and as long as he is able to get out on the field and appears to be recovering from surgery, it shouldn’t prevent him from being a top five pick.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Leslie Frazier: Vikings need QB in draft

It’s no secret that the Vikings need a new quarterback. Brett Favre is retired. Tarvaris Jackson is a free agent. And Joe Webb, a guy who was drafted as a receiver, probably isn’t the long term answer.

However, many have speculated that the Vikings would prefer to address that need in free agency or through a trade. Just two years removed from the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings aren’t exactly in rebuilding mode. A veteran quarterback (McNabb? Kolb?) could easily lead them back to the playoffs.

In a recent interview with Pro Football Weekly, Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier hinted that the Vikings may actually be targeting a quarterback in the draft.

When asked about the important of acquiring a star quarterback Frazier responded:

It’ll probably be just like it will be here in Minnesota, in this draft, to get that star quarterback.

Frazier continued, discussing some of the qualities he and his staff will look for in the Vikings future franchise quarterback:

[I would] like to find a guy of high character who has leadership abilities, a strong leader in that regard. A guy who is very competitive, who has a strong desire to win. Of course, he has to have the talent to be accurate with the football. The leadership and the character, along with the competitive spirit — I mean those are the key characteristics that you look for.

These comments are interesting for two reasons:

1) We’ve assumed for awhile that the Vikings would consider a quarterback in the draft, but we now have that confirmed.

2) His comments regarding leadership and a competitive nature make me wonder if the Vikings are team that could fall for someone like Jake Locker, much like the Broncos fell in love with Tim Tebow last year. Locker lacks 1st-round talent, but has potential, work ethic and leadership abilities. On the flip side, would they rule out Ryan Mallett for those same reasons? He’s more polished than Locker, but the perception is that he may lack the desire to be great, along with some other character concerns.

I currently have the Vikings selecting Mallett in my most recent mock draft. Mike Band has them passing on Mallett and taking Gabe Carimi instead.

At this point, both options are still realistic. Until they sit down with Mallett, even the Vikings won’t have a concrete opinion about his character concerns and how he may fit into their locker room. I suspect we’ll get a better idea as to which quarterback prospects they’re interested in after the combine when teams really begin the process of narrowing down their draft board.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Vikings 3 Comments

A closer look at Nate Solder

Yesterday I posted my scouting report for Nate Solder, but as one of the most hyped-up players in this year’s class I thought I’d devote a little more time to him today.

Personally, I think Solder is one of the most overrated prospects in this year’s draft class. The attention he is receiving reminds me somewhat of the attention given to Bruce Campbell prior to last year’s draft.

Like Campbell, Solder is a physical freak. He’s 6’8″ and legitimately has the athleticism of a tight end. And that’s exactly why so many people have fallen in love with him.

However, also like Campbell, Solder doesn’t have the game tape to support his high marks from some scouts and draftniks.

Take this video of Solder vs California as a perfect example. Cameron Jordan abuses Solder on a number of occasions, but what is even more concerning is the way Solder appears helpless against the much smaller Jarrad Price (5’10″, 213 lbs). Around the 50-second mark Price uses a simple speed rush to easily get past Solder to force a fumble.

This video against Cal is concerning for two reasons:

1) Jordan is the closest thing to a NFL lineman Solder faced in college. His inability to slow him down indicates that he may have a hard time adjusting to the NFL. He could develop into a quality starter with time, but he won’t be a difference maker from day one.

2) Price’s success with the speed rush may shed light on a weakness that will plague Solder throughout his career due to his height. Solder has quick feet, but he just isn’t able to stay low and remain quick enough to get his hands on Price. NFL defensive coordinators who may see this same video will immediately test Solder with their smallest, faster edge rushers to see how he handles himself.

Ultimately I like Solder slightly more than I liked Bruce Campbell, but only because Campbell also came with question marks about his work ethic. Solder comes with no such concerns. In 2009 he was given Colorado’s John Wooten Award for his dedication and work ethic.

In time, Solder could develop into a Pro Bowl talent. However, he should be viewed strictly as a developmental prospect and shouldn’t be drafted before the early 3rd round. Any team needing a quick fix for the offensive line should look elsewhere at players such as Gabe Carimi and Anthony Castonzo. While they may not have Solder’s upside, they are better equipped to play immediately and less likely to be complete busts.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Weslye Saunders IS eligible for the draft

After originally being declared ineligible for the draft due to paperwork which his agent never filed with the NFL, former South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders is now eligible again.

Saunders has all the tools necessary to play tight end at the next level, but I would be surprised if his name comes off the board before the 6th round. He wasn’t very highly regarded by the South Carolina coaching staff and there are legitimate character concerns which will scare teams off.

On top of all that, he hasn’t even set foot on the field since 2009 after being kicked off the team by Steve Spurrier.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment

Adrian Clayborn’s eating habits hurting draft stock?

Alright, so this is sort of a joke. But unfortunately, there is some truth to it.

Adrian Clayborn made the following tweet earlier today:

After the combine I’m goig to the store and I’m getting chips cooking donuts soda oatmeal pies frozen pizza and I’m going to shorts!!!Mon Feb 14 00:13:13 via Twitter for iPhone

This is probably just an innocent tweet and there’s nothing to be concerned about in regards to Clayborn. However, it is an issue that comes up every year.

Players workout for two months in preparation for the combine, only to crash back down to earth in the following weeks. For a player like Clayborn, this post-combine crash can be particularly concerning.

As a defensive end weighing in somewhere around 280 pounds, Clayborn doesn’t have much wiggle room with his weight. Binge eating after two months of workouts isn’t what he needs. He’ll still need to weigh in at Iowa’s pro day and then at each private workout he has with NFL teams. If he shows up even just 5-10 pounds heavier at those events than he did in Indianapolis, it could give someone reason to doubt him.

As I said, there’s no reason to worry about Clayborn specifically. Iowa’s coaches have praised his work ethic and he carries his weight well. I simply thought this was a good time to address the issue that many players are facing. They need to adjust to life in the NFL where there is no offseason, and sometimes it isn’t easy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 2 Comments

A.J. Green or Julio Jones?

The question was raised on our message boards – why is A.J. Green considered a better prospect than Julio Jones?

Both were elite recruits, both excelled immediately in the SEC and both are considered top-tier NFL prospects. So why is Green the consensus top receiver?

In my opinion the biggest difference is their consistency. Jones is talented, but he was taken out of a number of games. In the 2009 SEC Championship Game and the National Championship Game – while matched up against Joe Haden and Aaron Williams – Jones caught a combined total of just three passes for 51 yards.

Green, on the other hand, maintained his consistency throughout his career despite playing in a shaky era of Bulldog football. Each of his seasons at Georgia featured a different starting quarterback, but Green’s production never wavered.

Green's hands set him apart for all other receivers in this year's draft class

Another significant factor is Green’s ability to stretch the field. He has elite size, speed, hands and leaping ability which makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Leaving a cornerback in man coverage with Green is asking for trouble.

Jones, however, doesn’t pose the same threat. He’s a reliable route runner with great size, but he lacks the extra gear necessary to be a serious threat down the field. Additionally, his hands are somewhat inconsistent, especially compared to Green.

And finally, Jones comes with a lot of wear and tear, while Green has remained relatively healthy throughout his career. Jones is tough, and played through most of his injuries (such as a broken hand this past season) but it’s hard to overlook the fact that he continues to get banged up. You have to wonder, can he stay on the field for 16 (or 18) games?

I don’t mean this to sound like a Julio Jones bashing session, because I do think he is a legitimate 1st-round talent (currently 12th on my big board). Comparing Jones to Green is like comparing Hakeem Nicks to Calvin Johnson. You’d gladly take Nicks, a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but you’d prefer Johnson, the elite All-Pro talent.

Both should go on to successful careers, but given the choice between the two it’s an easy decision to go with Green.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment

Cam Newton to the Dolphins?

Recently Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net reported that the Dolphins have been showing an interest in Cam Newton.

This confirms my belief that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would continue to be over-involved with personnel decisions and push the team to consider Newton.

It’s really a very predictable formula. Owner gets frustrated with mediocrity, owner decides to step in, owner drafts athletic but ineffective quarterback. Just call it the Al Davis Guide to Running Your Franchise into the Ground. Or maybe it should be named after Bud Adams? Either one works.

For this very reason I’ve had Newton linked to the Dolphins in my mock draft for the past month or so.

Of course, first Newton needs to fall past the four or five other teams potentially interested in a quarterback, but I believe Newton’s character concerns will cause a number of teams to drop him down their draft board. Realistically, the Dolphins are one of only a small handful of teams that will seriously consider him.

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

ProFootballTalk takes unnecessary shot at Todd McShay

Evan Silva of ProFootballTalk posted a report which seemed to serve no purpose other than taking a shot at Todd McShay.

The report centered around McShay’s previous praise of Jake Locker and more specifically to his Senior Bowl performance. During Senior Bowl week, McShay was one of the few still supporting Locker. Yet on SportsCenter today McShay apparently mentioned Locker as one of the “losers” during the early draft process.

Silva calls out McShay for waffling and goes so far as to question whether he is “swiping other draft analysts’ ideas without assigning proper credit.”

This is nothing more than bitterness from someone who would trade places with McShay in a heartbeat.

McShay personally didn’t feel as though Locker underperformed at the Senior Bowl (I disagree, but that’s beside the point). However, McShay can still have that opinion and also accurately report that the consensus was that his stock slipped.

This is simply part of being a draft analyst.

McShay generates his own opinions, from a scouting standpoint, but he also predicts what will happen and reports news. The fact remains, no matter what McShay thought of Locker, the general consensus was he struggled in Mobile. And it’s his job to report that story.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment