2012 NFL Draft

NFL Draft Risers and Fallers through Senior Bowl

It’s still very early in the draft process, but the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl are the first test for the top prospects. With those two all-star games behind us, we can begin to evaluate whose stock is on the rise, and whose stock is starting to fall, before we head to the Combine in late Februrary.

Josh Norman – CB – Coastal Carolina
Norman concluded the season as a relative unknown, having not been tested against top competition, and was expected to be a late-round prospect. However, he shined at the Shrine Game and impressed scouts so much that he earned a late invite to the Senior Bowl. He now looks like a top-100 lock, and could climb as high as the 2nd round.

Alfonzo Dennard – CB – Nebraska
For those that watched Dennard closely this season, his stock probably didn’t change much. But the Senior Bowl served notice to everyone that he just doesn’t have the athleticism or the technique to be considered an elite prospect. There has even been some talk of him moving to free safety in the pros. He rode the momentum of his junior year – when he played opposite Prince Amukamara – as long as he could, but we’ve now seen the real Dennard.

Bobby Wagner – OLB – Utah State
Wagner was already a solid 3rd or 4th-round prospect heading into the Senior Bowl, but may have risen into the early 2nd round with his performance. Aside from his relatively short stature, he’s the complete package. Wagner also benefits from this being a relatively weak class of linebackers. Scouts were impressed with his athleticism, and also with his play on special teams.

Dwight Jones – WR – North Carolina
The knock on Jones, which has become a theme for the Butch Davis-era Tar Heel prospects, is that he lacks effort and concentration. He drops too many balls, and isn’t always a crisp route runner. These issues are magnified due to his relative lack of speed.

Vinny Curry – DE/LB – Marshall
The all-star games are always most important for the small-school prospects, and Curry took advantage of his opportunity to play with the big boys. His best moment came in the one-on-one drills when he had little issue beating Mike Adams off the edge with his speed rush. He definitely displayed the athleticism necessary to play standing up in a 3-4 defense.

Kellen Moore – QB – Boise State
Moore was hoping to establish himself as the next Colt McCoy this offseason, as an undersized but accurate signal caller. Unfortunately, Moore simply doesn’t have an NFL arm. There were even reports of CFL scouts saying they weren’t interested in Moore because they need quarterbacks who can whip the ball through the windy conditions they sometimes face.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft 2 Comments

How Colts defensive switch impacts draft

The Indianapolis Colts are one of the few teams that haven’t at least tinkered with the 3-4 defense in recent years. But that’s about to change.

The hiring of Chuck Pagano from the Ravens means the Colts defensive philosophy will change, as Pagano has already stated he is bringing Baltimore’s hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense with him.

While this does mean changes will be coming, it might not be as drastic a change as you may assume. For starters, over the past few years the Ravens have actually lined up in a base 4-3 defense more often than their 3-4. Assuming Pagano sticks with this strategy, Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis (assuming he’s re-signed) won’t need to make significant adjustments.

What the Colts do need, however, is a true nose tackle for those instances where they line up in a standard 3-4. Antonio Johnson could probably fill that role if absolutely necessary, but he isn’t a true space-eater like Pagano had in Baltimore with Terrence Cody

Obviously the Colts won’t be addressing this need in the 1st round, but there are a few options for them in round two or three:

1. Dontai Poe, Memphis – As the consensus top-rated nose tackle, there’s a decent chance Poe comes off the board in the 1st round. If he does slide to the 2nd round, however, he should be high on the Colts draft board.

2. Josh Chapman, Alabama – Chapman would be a slight reach at the top of round two, but would be a nice fit in Indianapolis. He has experience in the 3-4 defense at Alabama, which would make his transition to the NFL fairly easy.

3. Alameda Ta’amu, Washington – Ta’amu is more likely to be an option for the Colts in the 3rd round. He’s limited athletically, and more of a true space-eater who won’t be a three-down lineman at the next level.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Colts Comments Off

Quarterback search: Cleveland Browns

I’ll start by saying this: Colt McCoy got a raw deal in Cleveland.

McCoy is perfect for the West Coast offense, and should have excelled with the Browns, but wasn’t surrounded with that talent he deserves. That said, after two disappointing and injury-plagued seasons, it’s time for the Browns to strongly consider moving on.

The issue with the Browns offense – in part due to McCoy’s very average arm strength, in part due to their pitiful receiving corps – was their inability to pick up large chucks of yardage. As a team, they completed just 19 passes of 25 yards or more, the league’s fourth-lowest total.

Another issue with the Browns offense was McCoy’s tendency to check down on nearly every play – again, in part due to his receivers’ inability to get open down the field. According to ProFootballFocus, McCoy’s competions traveled only an average of 5.83 yards through the air – the 6th-lowest average this season.

So where do the Browns go from here?

Assuming that trading up for Andrew Luck is not an option, they could settle for the next best thing: Robert Griffin III. But is he a good fit for their offense?

The Browns will continue to run a West Coast offense under new coordinator Brad Childress in 2012, which means we shouldn’t expect them to suddenly start tossing the ball all over the field. For this reason, one could argue that Griffin isn’t a great fit.

At Baylor, Griffin played in Art Briles wide open spread attack, primarily taking snaps from the shotgun. With weapons like Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams, a strong offense line, and the aid of standing in the shotgun, Griffin had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and wait for a receiver to break free. He won’t have that luxury in the NFL – especially not in the West Coast system.

But that doesn’t mean Griffin can’t excel in Cleveland.

The Browns are desperate for a playmaker and Griffin’s big arm and elite athleticism will add a new dimension to their offense. He may not have the ideal skill set for the West Coast system, but a good coaching staff will always find ways to adjust to the players around them. Brad Childress worked with Donovan McNabb for the first seven years of McNabb’s career, and while McNabb never had Griffin’s athleticism, his mobility was a big part of the Eagles offense early in his career.

Griffin can change the Browns offense and, in time, could develop into more of a prototypical West Coast quarterback.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

NFL Draft Trade Scenarios: Minnesota Vikings

There’s been a lot of early focus on the St. Louis Rams potentially parting with the No. 2 overall pick, but perhaps the rumors should be focused on the Minnesota Vikings.

For starters, the Rams and Vikings are likely interested in the same players (Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon) and if the Rams trade down to No. 4 or No. 6, there’s no guarantee they’ll get the guy they covet. The Rams most glaring hole is at left tackle, and Kalil is the only true franchise left tackle available in this draft class. If the Rams were to drop to No. 4, and especially if they fell to No. 6, Kalil would likely be off the board.

On the flip side, there’s also no guarantee that the guy the Vikings want at No. 3 will be there if the Rams stay put. If the Rams select Kalil second overall, the Vikings may feel No. 3 is too early for a cornerback or receiver, and would be willing to trade down.

The Vikings also have more holes to fill overall than the Rams, who are just one year removed from nearly making the playoffs. One could argue that the Vikings simply need the extra picks more than the Rams.

Here are some potential trade scenarios:

Browns get: No. 3 pick
Vikings get: No. 4 pick, Browns 2nd-round pick

Redskins get: No. 3 pick
Vikings get: No. 6, Redskins 1st-round pick in 2013

Dolphins get: No. 3 pick
Vikings get: No. 9 pick, Dolphins 2nd-round pick, Dolphins 1st-round pick in 2013, Dolphins 3rd-round pick in 2013

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns, Dolphins, Rams, Redskins, Vikings Comments Off

How Dolphins defensive switch impacts draft

The Miami Dolphins announced today that they will be switching from the 3-4 defense which Bill Parcells’ staff instituted, back to a 4-3 system.

It’s a surprising move considering GM Jeff Ireland has spent a significant portion of his career working under Parcells, and has been with a team running a 3-4 base defense since he and Parcells first teamed up in Dallas in 2003.

The switch indicates that the Dolphins are prepared to enter into full rebuilding mode, a process which could take up to three years. Transitioning from one defensive scheme to another is a difficult process, and it takes time to acquire the right personnel.

The one asset the Dolphins do have is depth in the front seven. They’ll need to reshuffle the lineup, but should be able to piece together a decent defensive line. The issue will be at linebacker. Karlos Dansby will return (at inside linebacker most likely), and Kevin Burnett may land in the starting lineup again by default (probably strong-side linebacker). However, the Dolphins will need to add another starter, preferably someone who is strong in coverage.

Depending on their confidence in Cameron Wake and Koa Misi’s ability to transition to defensive end, the Dolphins could target a pass rusher with their 1st-round pick. Nick Perry and Quinton Coples would be the most likely targets.

There is also an outside shot that the Dolphins could target Luke Kuechly with the 9th pick. The move would necessitate moving Dansby to outside linebacker, where he played early in his career with the Cardinals.

Ultimately it’s too early to tell which direction the Dolphins will go, but this shift in schemes could definitely shake up the draft. It will be worth keeping an eye on their transactions in the coming months to get a better idea of who has a future with the team, and who is being phased out.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Dolphins 3 Comments

Does Russell Wilson’s height matter?

Wilson could come off the board anywhere from the 3rd to 7th round

Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson was measured at 5’10 5/8″ today at the Senior Bowl. This isn’t a surprise, he was listed at 5’11″ by Wisconsin, but it is disappointing news for Wilson.

Since 1980, only two quarterbacks under 6-feet have started at least 10 games in season  - Doug Flutie (listed at 5’10″) and Pat Haden (listed a 5’11″).

With that in mind, don’t be surprised if some teams remove Wilson from their draft board. While he certainly has the arm strength and athleticism, his accuracy is often erratic and his height only further limits the number of throws he can make.

However, that doesn’t mean everyone believes Wilson’s height will slow him down.

 

Mayock is definitely in the minority with his assessment of Wilson, but it’s proof that it only takes one. There are enough quarterback-needy teams out there that someone who misses out on a 1st or 2nd-round quarterback could take a flier on Wilson as early as the 3rd.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft Comments Off

All-Overrated “Team”

Here is my pre-Senior Bowl all-overrated “team.” It’s not exactly a full team because certain positions don’t have a truly overrated prospect… yet. Depending on the media’s reaction to the Senior Bowl and/or Combine, players could drop off the list, or earn their way onto the roster in the coming months.

QB Ryan Tannehill Texas A&M
Every year a quarterback or two see their stock inflated due to team needs. Tannehill is this year’s victim.
RB LaMichael James Oregon
James is an impressive athlete with speed to burn, but he isn’t an every-down back.
RB Chris Rainey Florida
Much like James, Rainey is heralded for his speed, but he will be limited to special teams duty in the NFL.
WR Alshon Jeffery South Carolina
There’s no denying Jeffery’s raw ability, but his inconsistency raises a big red flag.
WR Nick Toon Wisconsin
Toon was a productive college receiver who benefitted from Russell Wilson’s prescence in 2011. He’s a 3rd or 4th option in the NFL at best.
TE Coby Fleener Stanford
Fleener is my top rated tight end, but that’s exactly why he’s being overrated. He’s just the best of a mediocre class.
OT Jonathan Martin Stanford
Martin will be a fine pro, but not at left tackle. Anyone who falls for the hype will be moving him to the right side, or to guard, within three years.
OT Mike Adams Ohio State
Adams certainly looks the part, but he’s terribly soft and not especially quickon his feet.
DE Quinton Coples North Carolina
You can put together a highlight real that makes Coples look like a top-five pick… but you can’t find a single game where he shows it from start to finish.
DE Jack Crawford Penn State
Crawford never lived up to expectations at Penn State despite his impressive athleticism.
DT Alameda Ta’amu Washington
Ta’amu has the size to play nose tackle, which boosts his stock significantly, but he may not have the stamina to be a three-down lineman.
LB Zach Brown North Carolina
Brown is an athlete, but he’s undersized and will get pushed around by NFL linemen.
LB Bruce Irvin West Virginia
Irvin flashes elite athleticism at times, but he had to fight for playing time throughout his career due to inconsistent performances.
LB Vontaze Burfict Arizona State
Top-10 talent, undraftable character. Not worth the trouble.
CB Janoris Jenkins North Alabama
See above.
CB Alfonzo Dennard Nebraska
I have a hard time understanding where the 1st-round love for Dennard comes from. He’s a physical corner and his injury prone – a bad combo.
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft Comments Off

Does Brandon Weeden’s age matter?

Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden is coming off a record-setting season which put him in the Heisman conversation and elevated his NFL draft stock to surprising heights.

But there’s one problem. He’s 28 years old.

In a younger man’s body, Weeden’s talents may have earned him a late 1st-round grade from some scouts, but draft prospects – especially quarterbacks – are graded as much on their current ability, as their potential to improve. And just how much room for improvement is left in a 28 year old?

Where Weeden should be drafted will be an interesting debate to follow in the upcoming months. In 2011, 19 different quarterbacks younger than Weeden started at least five games in the NFL, many of whom could be acquired at a relatively cheap price this offseason. Alex Smith (unrestricted free agent) may be the most highly sought after, but will likely re-sign with San Francisco. Others, such as T.J. Yates, John Skelton or perhaps even Mark Sanchez could be available on the trade market.

Games Passing
Rk Player Age ▾ Tm GS Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Sk Y/A
2 Aaron Rodgers 28 GNB 15 343 502 68.3% 4643 45 6 122.5 36 9.25
3 Alex Smith 27 SFO 16 273 445 61.3% 3144 17 5 90.7 44 7.07
4 Matt Moore 27 MIA 12 210 347 60.5% 2497 16 9 87.1 36 7.20
5 Kevin Kolb 27 ARI 9 146 253 57.7% 1955 9 8 81.1 30 7.73
6 Joe Flacco 26 BAL 16 312 542 57.6% 3610 20 12 80.9 31 6.66
7 Matt Ryan 26 ATL 16 347 566 61.3% 4177 29 12 92.2 26 7.38
8 Curtis Painter 26 IND 8 132 243 54.3% 1541 6 9 66.6 16 6.34
9 Mark Sanchez 25 NYJ 16 308 543 56.7% 3474 26 18 78.2 39 6.40
10 Sam Bradford 24 STL 10 191 357 53.5% 2164 6 6 70.5 36 6.06
11 Tim Tebow 24 DEN 11 126 271 46.5% 1729 12 6 72.9 33 6.38
12 Colt McCoy 24 CLE 13 265 463 57.2% 2733 14 11 74.6 32 5.90
13 Andy Dalton 24 CIN 16 300 516 58.1% 3398 20 13 80.4 24 6.59
14 T.J. Yates 24 HOU 5 82 134 61.2% 949 3 3 80.7 15 7.08
15 Matthew Stafford 23 DET 16 421 663 63.5% 5038 41 16 97.2 36 7.60
16 Christian Ponder 23 MIN 10 158 291 54.3% 1853 13 13 70.1 30 6.37
17 Josh Freeman 23 TAM 15 346 551 62.8% 3592 16 22 74.6 29 6.52
18 John Skelton 23 ARI 7 151 275 54.9% 1913 11 14 68.9 23 6.96
19 Blaine Gabbert 22 JAX 14 210 413 50.8% 2214 12 11 65.4 40 5.36
20 Cam Newton 22 CAR 16 310 517 60.0% 4051 21 17 84.5 35 7.84

And this list doesn’t even include others such as Chad Henne and Matt Flynn, both unrestricted free agents, who could be given an opportunity as starters elsewhere in 2012.

So who would you rather have, an unproven Brandon Weeden or a player roughly the same age who is, to some extent, a proven commodity?

While some teams may prefer Weeden, unfortunately he has little value to anyone not interested in his services as a starter. As a 28-year-old rookie, his value as a developmental prospect is limited. If you don’t envision him helping your team within the next three years, why spend a pick on Weeden, when you could spend a similar pick on a prospect with more long-term upside such as Brock Osweiler or B.J. Coleman?

[polldaddy poll=5864121]
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft Comments Off

Weekly Draft Notes

- Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was arrested for possession of marijuana this week. It certainly won’t help his draft stock, but I highly doubt the arrest will have a significantly negative impact either. Front office personnel will have plenty of time to investigate Kirkpatrick by talking to his coaches at Alabama and by interviewing him at the combine. This is his only known run-in with the law, so teams should be willing to look past it.

- One of the biggest stars at the East/West Shrine Game this week has reportedly been Coastal Carolina cornerback Josh Norman. I have Norman ranked 16th at cornerback in my recently updated positional rankings, but some believe he could climb much higher. Earlier today, Russ Lande of The Sporting News stated he believed Norman could come off the board in the 2nd round.

- Another riser at the Shrine Game is Missouri Western kicker Greg Zuerline, who I have elevated to the No. 1 spot in the kicker rankings. Zuerline has the best leg of any kicker in this year’s draft, which has teams interested in his services on kickoffs as much as field goals.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft Comments Off

Breaking down Nick Perry vs Jonathan Martin

It’s not often that we get to see a true one-on-one matchup of potential top-10 picks, but that’s exactly what we had this year when Stanford took on USC.

Stanford left tackle Jonathan Martin and USC defensive end Nick Perry were matched up throughout most of the game, and since you were probably focused on other things at the time (such as that guy named Luck), I encourage anyone interested to go back and watch them battle.

Perry kept Luck on the run for much of the game

While one might expect a matchup of potential top-10 prospects to be fairly even, it was anything but. Perry dominated Martin from start (literally, check out the first play) to finish.

In this game Perry exposes Martin’s biggest flaw: his lack of quickness off the snap. On roughly 60-70% of the snaps in which Martin drops into pass protection, Perry is already turning the corner or, at worst, setting up his rip move by the time Martin is getting balanced in his stance. By the time this happens, roughly one second after the ball is snapped, Perry’s already won.

Martin is a tough, physical lineman, however. He was able to slow Perry down on occasion, preventing any serious damage (Perry didn’t register a sack) but much of the credit really goes to Luck. His incredible pocket presence and quick release allowed him to narrowly avoid a rapidly approaching Perry on numerous occasions. With just about any other college quarterback under center, Perry likely racks up at least two sacks in this game.

While Perry held an obvious advantage in this matchup, it’s worth noting that on the rare occasion that Martin was able to get in front of Perry and engage him, Martin won every time. Perry lacked the strength to push past Martin, and was essentially taken out of the play.

After viewing this game, it solidifies my opinion that Martin is better suited to play right tackle, or maybe even guard. Perry projects as a starter at the next level, and an above-average pass rusher, but he’s hardly an elite prospect. If Martin is struggling with Nick Perry, what will happen when he’s faced with Julius Peppers, Jason Pierre-Paul or DeMarcus Ware?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft Comments Off