2011 NFL Draft

Blaine Gabbert could be headed to San Francisco

In each of my first two postseason mock drafts I’ve had Blaine Gabbert headed to the 49ers with the 7th overall selection. I’m not the only one, however, as its becoming a popular prediction in mock drafts popping up all over the internet.

As the Gabbert-to-San Fransisco speculation heats up, I thought I’d take some time to further explain my reasoning.

First, the Bills and Cardinals – who both need quarterbacks – would have to pass over Gabbert. Buffalo is the wild card here, because Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey were anything but predictable in their first draft together. Despite quarterback being their primary need, I just can’t see them reaching for Gabbert; especially considering how well Ryan Fitzpatrick performed this season.

As for the Cardinals, Ken Whisenhunt knows he is on a short leash and is likely to push hard for the team to sign or trade for a veteran (McNabb? Kolb?). He doesn’t have the final say, but they may be willing to appease him after GM Rod Graves’ hand-picked quarterback (Derek Anderson) was a monumental bust in 2010.

So if Gabbert is on the board, why would the 49ers take him?

One complaint I’ve heard (here’s an example from David Fucillo of Niners Nation) is that Gabbert is too much like Alex Smith, so why go down that road again?

While neither one played in a true pro-style offense in college, I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two. Urban Meyer’s system at Utah was sort of a spread-option scheme, and even more gimmicky than his system at Florida in an effort to make up for a lack of overall talent. Smith’s athleticism made him a great fit, but it also stunted his growth as a true drop-back passer.

Gary Pinkel’s offense at Missouri is more of a true spread offense. While he does take most of his snaps from the shotgun, he primarily stays in the pocket. These days, experience in the shotgun is less of a concern than ever before as more and more NFL offense include a high percentage of plays from the shotgun. There will be an adjustment for Gabbert, but he has a great reputation as a smart kid and a hard worker and I have no doubt that he can make this transition.

Another reason San Francisco can feel good about the possibility of taking Gabbert is the coaching staff. In his short coaching career Jim Harbaugh has done nothing if not help quarterbacks reach their highest potential. At San Diego he developed Josh Johnson into an elite FCS quarterback, which landed him in Tampa Bay where he started a few games prior to the start of the Josh Freeman era. And we’re all aware of what he did with Andrew Luck at Stanford.

Alex Smith never had the benefit of working with an offensive-minded head coach. Additionally, he was forced to transition through multiple offensive schemes due to the revolving door at offensive coordinator, including Jim Hostler, Norv Turner and Mike Martz. Looking back on it, Smith never really had a chance in San Francisco.

All things considered, I think San Francisco is the ideal landing place for Gabbert. The team needs a quarterback (desperately), they have the coaching staff in place to develop him and he has a strong reputation as a kid who is willing to put in the long hours necessary to become an elite quarterback.

I certainly understand the hesitation of fans. Gabbert isn’t Sam Bradford or Andrew Luck and no one expects him to come in and light it up from day one. But I think there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Gabbert’s future, especially if he lands in San Francisco.


Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers 1 Comment

10 teams looking for a new starting quarterback

Nearly one-third of the league could have new starting quarterbacks by September. Due to a greater demand than supply, it’s likely that not all of these teams find themselves a new signal caller, but here are the top 10 teams we’ve identified as most likely to have a new quarterback in 2011.

10. Broncos
It sounds as though Josh McDaniels was the lone Tebow support in Denver, and with him gone it seems likely that the Broncos will consider other options. John Fox has indicated that he likes Tim Tebow, but he also isn’t ready to commit to a starting quarterback. They’re unlikely to address this need in the draft, but signing a veteran is a strong possibility.

9. Raiders
Jason Campbell is still under contract but their other four quarterbacks (seriously, they have four other quarterbacks on the roster) are free agents. Keeping Campbell is a definite possibility, but you just never know what Al Davis as in mind. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them trading up into the 1st-round (they already traded their own 1st-round pick) in an effort to land Cam Newton or Jake Locker.

8. Seahawks
Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent and may return, but he doesn’t have much left in the tank. They would certainly love to have Hasselbeck around to groom a young quarterback, but I don’t expect the Seahawks to commit to him as the starter. If he wants a guarantee that he’ll be a starter for the next year or two, he may need to go elsewhere.

7. Dolphins
Owner Stephen Ross has stated that he wants a creative, hurry-up offense in 2011, and that won’t be happening with Chad Henne under center. The Dolphins have grown tired of his slow development and seem ready to move on. Drafting a quarterback (possibly Newton) is a possibility, but they may prefer to bring in a veteran in an effort to turn things around quickly.

6. Bills
With the 3rd pick in the draft the Bills could have their pick of the quarterbacks, and Blaine Gabbert is a definite possibility. But the reason I don’t rank them higher is because I think they’ll strongly consider bringing Ryan Fitzpatrick back for another season. He was one of the biggest surprises of the 2010 season. The Bills may even draft Gabbert, or someone in the 2nd or 3rd round, and let them sit for a year behind Fitzpatrick.

5. Titans
Vince Young is as good as gone, and Kerry Collins is a free agent. However, I wouldn’t rule out Collins’ return. The Titans are in position to draft a quarterback (Gabbert, Newton or Mallett) and I suspect Jeff Fisher will prefer to keep Collins around to help groom their future franchise quarterback.

4. Redskins
After getting benched in favor of Rex Grossman, it’s hard to imagine Donovan McNabb returning to Washington. It’s equally difficult to image the Redskins sticking with Grossman for 2011. With the 10th pick in the draft Mike Shanahan is in position to select his quarterback of the future. Ryan Mallett and Newton are both strong possibilities.

3. Vikings
We know Favre won’t be back (and I actually believe him this time) and Tarvaris Jackson is a free agent. Joe Webb performed far better than anyone could have expected of a guy who was drafted as a wide receiver, but I can’t imagine Leslie Frazier sticking with him for 2011. The Vikings will either draft a quarterback (Newton or Mallett) or bring in a veteran (possibly Kevin Kolb).

2. Cardinals
Ken Whisenhunt wasn’t happy with the Cardinals quarterback situation entering last season and I’m guessing he’s even less pleased after seeing how it played out.  Drafting Blaine Gabbert is a possibility, but I suspect Whisenhunt would prefer to bring a veteran aboard, as he did last offseason. Either way, their opening day starter is definitely not on the current roster.

1. 49ers
Alex Smith and Troy Smith are both free agent and I would be very surprised if either returned.  I currently have them selecting Gabbert in my mock draft, but trading for Kevin Kolb is also possibility. Another option is signing a veteran, such as Matt Hasselbeck or Seneca Wallace, to keep the seat warm for whoever Jim Harbaugh choses to groom for the position.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Raiders, Redskins, Seahawks, Titans, Vikings Comments Off

Who will start at QB for the 49ers in 2011?

The only quarterback under contract in San Francisco right now is David Carr.

I think it’s safe to say Carr won’t be Jim Harbaugh’s opening day starter, so how do they plan to address this situation?

If you thought Alex Smith or Troy Smith had a chance to return for 2011, new GM Trent Baalke already shot down that possibility. When asked if the quarterback of the future was already on the roster, Baalke responded by saying “I think it’s obvious that he isn’t at this point.”

The ideal scenario would be to draft someone in the 1st round. But who?

Jim Harbaugh intends to install the west coast offsense, which makes me believe Cam Newton and Jake Locker aren’t options. Their athleticism is certainly intriguing, but neither has demonstrated the consistent accuracy to be a good fit.

Ryan Mallett isn’t a great fit either. He has a rocket arm and struggles with his touch on the shorter passes required in the west coast offense.

That would leave Blaine Gabbert as the only option among the 1st-round quarterbacks. The only probably with that strategy is the fact that Gabbert is the consensus top available quarterback. Both Buffalo and Arizona would need to pass on Gabbert before the 49ers would have a shot at drafting him.

If they determine this isn’t the year to draft a quarterback – at least not in the 1st round – they may turn their attention to the free agent market. Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace are both free agents with experience in the west coast system. Either one would be an upgrade and could keep the seat warm for whoever Harbaugh tabs as the quarterback of the future.

And if they can’t find a free agent to their liking, perhaps the may be interested in Kevin Kolb. Michael Vick is a free agent, but the Eagles are likely to work out a long-term deal. If that happens, Kolb has already stated that he would like to either be the starter in Philly or be sent elsewhere. With just one year left on his contract, San Francisco may be an excellent place for Kolb to prove himself before hitting the open market in 2012.

The 49ers certainly don’t have a shortage of options. This will be an interesting search to keep tabs on throughout the offseason. Harbaugh – a former quarterback himself – will be heavily involved in the process of finding the 49ers next franchise QB, and there is no doubt he would like to find one sooner rather than later.


(polls)

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers 7 Comments

How Kevin Kolb could impact the draft

Every year the NFL draft projections change as free agents sign and players get traded, but nothing changes the landscape of the draft – and the league, for that matter – more than a starting quarterback finding a new home.

This year the man on the move is Kevin Kolb.

Everyone expects the Eagles to either re-sign or franchise Michael Vick, and when that happens Kevin Kolb is likely to demand a trade. Where he winds up could have a ripple effect on the draft.

Here’s a look at a few possibilities:

The Bills own the 3rd pick, but it is entirely possible that they would prefer to avoid taking a quarterback. There are a number of 1st-round options, but no one jumps out as an obvious franchise quarterback. They may be content to trade for Kolb and use that pick on A.J. Green – a move which may actually have a more immediate impact on their rebuilding process. If that happened, it would mean the first quarterback wouldn’t come off the board until the 5th pick at the earliest.

The Cardinals, who own the 5th pick, are another option. I believe Ken Whisenhunt would prefer to fix their quarterback situation with a veteran, rather than with a draft pick. He knows he’s on a short leash, and drafting a quarterback would lead to a full rebuilding process which he likely wouldn’t survive. Adding Kolb would immediately put them back in the playoff picture in the NFC West.

The 49ers are in a good position to land a quarterback in the draft, but there’s no guarantee – especially if they have their heart set on someone in particular. In order to avoid the drama, they may prefer to trade for Kolb. That could cause for someone to fall to the Titans and/or Redskins.

The Titans are in a similar position to the Cardinals. They need a new quarterback, but their coach may not be around to see him develop. As a result, Jeff Fisher may push for the franchise to trade for Kolb or someone else who can help them win immediately. That could allow for someone to fall to the Redskins.

The Redskins don’t seem interested in extending the Donovan McNabb era, but they also aren’t in a position to feel comfortable about landing a quarterback in the draft. Trading for Kolb may be a smart move (if the Eagles could justify another trade within the division). If they trade for Kolb, it would increase the chances that a top quarterback falls out of the top 10, which the Vikings and Dolphins would be absolutely thrilled about.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Eagles, Redskins, Titans 6 Comments

Could the Panthers trade the No. 1 pick?

If Andrew Luck enters the draft as expected, Panthers GM Marty Hurney has an incredible easy job… or so we think.

Obviously no one would fault the Panthers for taking Luck. He is the consensus top available player and arguably the best quarterback prospect to come along since Peyton Manning.

But what if they don’t want Luck?

Passing over Luck isn’t an option – it would be a public relations nightmare which could haunt them for years and ultimately could cost Hurney his job. Trading the pick, however, is a very real possibility.

The Panthers are starving for NFL talent, and aren’t going to get much from this draft. Remember, they inexplicably traded their 2011 2nd-round pick for a 3rd-round pick in last year’s draft which they used on Armanti Edwards. Hurney needs to find a way to add more picks in this year’s draft, and trading the top selection would net him a nice package.

Any trade for Luck would have to look a lot like the Eli Manning trade in 2004. In that deal the Giants gave up their 2004 and 2005 1st round picks (Phillip Rivers and Shawne Merriman) as well as their 2004 3rd-round pick (Nate Kaeding) and 2005 5th-round pick (traded to Tampa Bay).

Considering the fact that the Panthers wouldn’t be getting a franchise quarterback in return such as Rivers, I would expect the price tag for Luck to be even higher. The Bills have the best chance to work out a deal, which I expect would require their 2011 and 2012 1st-round picks, as well as 3rd round pick this year and possibly a 3rd in next year’s draft as well.

Additionally, the Panthers benefit from the fact that multiple teams will be in the bidding to trade up for Luck. The Bills are an obvious option, as well as the Cardinals, 49ers, Titans and Redskins. Anyone outside the top-10 probably doesn’t have the ability to move up, unless they throw in a proven NFL starter as well.

Don’t be fooled by the recent statements that the Panthers intend to draft Luck. All that does is help ensure that Luck enters the draft. In no way does it mean they have actually settled on him. They simply know that they want the option to either take him or trade him – either way, with Luck in the draft the Panthers are big winners.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Panthers, Redskins, Titans Comments Off

A quick “what if Luck stays in school” mock draft

It seems like every day a new reporter finds “sources” to tell him that Andrew Luck is leaning toward staying in school. I’m inclined to call “BS” on anyone who says Luck is leaning towards staying at Stanford, especially since it sounds as though Jim Harbaugh is as good as gone. But I’ll humor those who think he’s staying for a moment and throw together a quick mock draft based on the scenario that he stays. Here’s the top 10 of the “what if Luck stays” mock draft…

1. Panthers – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
The Panthers don’t need a quarterback, so they won’t take one unless Luck is there. Their pass rush was abysmal this season, and they missed Julius Peppers even more than anyone could have anticipated. Bowers is coming off a monster year and should be an instant-impact pass rusher at the next level.

2. Broncos – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
With Josh McDaniels gone, the Broncos may be ready to give up on Tim Tebow after just three games. However, I don’t think they’ll reach for someone like Newton or Mallett with the second pick. The safe bet is to take Peterson, the best available player. Champ Bailiey may not return, and even if he does he’s on the downswing of his career.

3. Bengals – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
One of the biggest decisions any team has to make this offseason is the Bengals’ looming decision about Carson Palmer. They could cut him loose and draft a new franchise quarterback here. I don’t think they’re willing to give up yet, however. A.J. Green is an elite talent and could be the young receiver Palmer needs to get the offense back on track.

4. Bills – Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
The Bills need a quarterback to build around and should be able to get one in this year’s draft. But who will it be? Mallett, Locker and Newton are all worth considering. It’s pure speculation at this point, but I think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix will lean toward the strong-armed Mallett.

5. Cardinals – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
The Cardinals are another team in need of a quarterback, but I expect Ken Whisenhunt to push for them to bring in a veteran.  As a result, they’ll turn their attention to the defense in the draft, landing either Amukamara, Cameron Jordan or Nick Fairley here.

6. 49ers – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
Until a GM and a coach are in place it’s tough to predict how the 49ers will handle the draft. But one thing is certain: they need a quarterback. If they need to make a decision between Newton and Locker, expect Newton to be their guy.

7. Cowboys – Cameron Jordan – DE – California
Jordan isn’t nearly the most well-known of the top 3-4 defensive ends, but I believe he is the best of the bunch. The Cowboys will be looking to improve the defense, making Jordan a strong possibility here.

8. Texans – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
The Texans need to address their secondary, but with Peterson and Amukamara off the board they must turn their attention to the defensive line. Fairley is an elite pass-rushing interior lineman who reminds me of Ndamukong Suh.

9. Lions – Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
The Lions offense is progressing, but the defense still has some holes. Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn’t worked out and the Lions will likely look to upgrade their pass rush this offseason. Quinn may be the best pass-rushing end available in this draft class.

10. Browns – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
The Browns are now committed to Colt McCoy, but now they need to supply him with some weapons. Jones, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Jon Baldwin and Torrey Smith could all be options depending on who leaves early for the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Panthers, Texans 1 Comment

Evaluating 49ers GM candidates

I firmly believe that the success of an NFL franchise over a long period of time hinges on the stability of the front office and their ability to build through the draft. For that reason, I have a more interest in how a team handles its search for a new GM than for a new head coach.

This offseason the most high profile search for a new GM appears to be going on in San Francisco. They’ve been a floundering franchise for longer than most of their fans would care to admit and this has a chance to be the turning point.

Here’s a quick look at their candidates and my assessment of how they would fit in.

Trent Baalke - 49ers VP of Player Personnel
Baalke essentially became the 49ers GM last offseason when Scot McCloughan stepped down/was fired/whatever happened to him. Prior to his most recent promotion he was the Director of Pro Personnel for one season. Given his short time in high-level front office positions, it’s difficult to evaluate his draft style and success.

The 49ers draft didn’t yield much in 2009, but it’s difficult to say what role Baalke had on draft day. The jury is still out on Michael Crabtree, but it appears that he is the only thing that draft class will yield.

In 2010 they reached for Anthony Davis and then added Mike Iupati later in the 1st round. Davis was nothing short of a disaster at right tackle, having yielded 11 sacks already this season. If this draft is an insight into how Baalke will run a draft, he seems like the type to favor need over best available players. I disagree with this strategy, but as I said, that assumption is only based on one draft.

Michael Lombardi - NFL Network Analyst
Lombardi has been out of the NFL since 2007, and hasn’t played a meaningful role in front office decisions since the late 90s. He was Al Davis’ right hand man from 1999-2007, serving as the “Senior Personnel Executive” (whatever that means). Essentially his role was to oversee the scouting process, from both the pro and college side, but as we all know Al Davis always called the shots in Oakland. For this reason, it’s tough to judge Lombardi’s talent evaluations, but I would be wary of hiring someone who served as Al Davis’ assistant. The Raiders are a mess and Lombardi at least played some role is sending them spiraling downhill.

Tony Softli - NFL Analyst for various media outlets
I hate to be this cynical, but I find it hard to believe that Softli was interviewed for any reason other than the Rooney Rule. Softli was the Rams VP of Player Personnel from 2006 through this past May – the most embarrassing four years in franchise history. It isn’t fair to pin all of their troubles on Softli, but it was his job to oversee both the pro and college scouting departments.

During the first three drafts of the Softli era the Rams 1st round picks were Adam Carriker, Chris Long and Jason Smith – none of which have lived up to expectations. Long has been a quality starter, but certainly not what the Rams envisioned after taking him 2nd overall in 2008.

I have a hard time believing the 49ers would go this direction.

Ted Sundquist - Director of Player Personnel, Omaha Nighthawks
Sundquist is another guy that’s tough to evaluate. He was the Broncos GM from 2002-08, but by all accounts he was below Mike Shanahan in the chain of command.  Shanahan made the final decision on all personnel moves (many of which were bad decisions) so it’s tough to know which moves Sundquist agreed with and which ones he challenged Shanahan on.

It sounds as though Sundquist was really had little to do with personnel decisions in Denver. He was essentially in charge of contracts and balancing the salary cap. However, he was the Broncos director of college scouting from 1995 to 2002. That’s a nice background to have, but that was a long time ago in NFL years.

Sundquist is an interesting candidate based on his past experience, but probably not someone to get too excited about. Afterall, there has to be some reason why he hasn’t managed to resurface in the NFL since 2008 and has been banished to the UFL.

Final Thoughts
This isn’t a group of candidates to get excited about, by any means. It lacks anyone with a proven track record and each candidate comes with legitimate concerns. If I had to rank them, I’d go in this order:

1. Baalke – Pros: college scouting background, familiarity with organization – Cons: lack of experience
2. Sundquist – Pros: experience in GM role and college scouting – Cons: out of NFL since 2008
3. Softli – Pros: scouting/front office experience – Cons: poor track record in St. Louis
4. Lombardi – Pros: scouting/front office experience – Cons: questionable track record in Oakland, out of NFL since 2007

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers Comments Off

32 reasons why no one in the NFL should want Moss

Cardinals – Need a lot more than one aging receiver to fix their quarterback situation.

Falcons – Why mess up a good thing between Matt Ryan and Roddy White?

Ravens – No room with Boldin, Mason and Housh. Moss would pout, ruin chemistry.

Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pleasantly surprising. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Panthers – Think Moss will be a good soldier on a team competing for the No. 1 pick?

Bears – Lovie and Martz have their hands full already with Jay Cutler in the locker room.

Bengals – T.O.  and Moss in the same locker room? No thanks.

Browns – If Mangini can’t get along with Braylon Edwards, how would Moss fit in?

Cowboys – The last thing they need is another distraction.

Broncos – Do you really think McDaniels will get along with Moss better than Marshall?

Lions – Can you picture Moss accepting role as a No. 2 receiver on a 2-5 team?

Packers – Chemistry on offense seems to be great. Don’t mess it up.

Texans – See above.

Colts – Manning prefers his no-name receivers. And it works just fine for him.

Jaguars – Last place Jags aren’t going anywhere. Don’t waste the money.

Chiefs – Already hold a big lead in a weak division. Why mess with what’s working?

Dolphins – Marshall and Moss is too much ego for any coaching staff to handle.

Vikings – Been there. Done that.

Patriots – Been there. Done that.

Saints – Brees seems to be doing o.k. for himself without an elite receiver.

Giants – Can you picture Moss backing up Nicks and Smith?

Jets – I think they’ve learned their lesson with Braylon Edwards.

Raiders – Been there. Done that.

Eagles – Been there. Done that.

Steelers – After trading Holmes, adding Moss would be a step backwards.

Chargers – Vincent Jackson is back.

49ers – Can you picture Moss being happy in last place in the worst division?

Seahawks – The last thing Mike Williams needs right now is a bad influence.

Rams – Last thing this young, overachieving team needs is a bad influence like Moss.

Bucs – See above.

Titans – Kenny Britt has enough issues to overcome without Moss influencing him.

Redskins – McNabb and T.O. didn’t work. Why would it work with Moss?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, Vikings 1 Comment

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 4

OFFENSE
1.
Sam Bradford, Rams
Bradford continues to improve and now has the Rams in 1st place. He’s completed over 56 pct of his passes in all four games this year.

2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez had another five catches on Monday night against the Dolphins. He leads all rookies in receiving yards.

3. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best was effective against the Packers, but didn’t break off any game-changing plays. He also lost a costly fumble.

4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant and the Cowboys were off this week. He’s averaging over 50 receiving yards per game.

5. Mike Iupati, 49ers
Not much has gone right for the 49ers, but Iupati has emerged as one of the league’s best run-blocking interior linemen.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi had another big game against the Patriots on Monday night. He recorded his second sack of the season and two quarterback pressures.

2. Nate Allen, Eagles
Allen has been one of the best all-around safeties in the game this year. He excels in coverage, in run support and even as a pass rusher.

3. Tyson Alualu, Jaguars
Alualu was mostly held in check against the Colts last week, but his overall body of work keeps him in the top three.

4. Devin McCourty, Patriots
McCourty looked very good on Monday night, allowing just two catches for four yards. He’s been consistent all season despite being a frequent target.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham is arguably the best rookie pass rusher, which is enough to land him a spot on the list, but he is one dimensional. His lack of skills against the run will hold him back from moving much further up the list.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, Patriots 2 Comments

10 Biggest NFL Underachievers

10. Knowshon Moreno
Is it too early to call him a bust? In two games before getting hurt Moreno averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. His performance was so disappointing that the Broncos traded for Laurence Maroney (not too early to call him a bust). Moreno is expected to return to action this week.

9. DeAngelo Hall
According to Pro Football Focus, Hall has been targeted 24 times and has allowed 23 completions. Wow. Just by pure luck you’d think two or three of those passes would be dropped or slightly off target and fall incomplete. And he isn’t just being targeted on short easy routes – he’s allowed over 10 yards per completion.

8. Cadillac Williams
When are the Bucs finally going to give up on Williams? He’s averaging just 2.5 yards per attempt, easily the lowest among starting running backs. He’s been so bad that undrafted free agent LeGarrette Blount, who was cut by the Titans, is now splitting carries with Williams.

7. Ndamukong Suh
Suh was supposed to be an instant impact player. Many said he was one of the best defensive prospects to enter the draft in years. Sure, he’s been credited with three sacks, but is that really a good way to measure interior lineman? He has been exposed as a liability against the run and opponents are taking advantage of the hole he creates in the middle of their defensive line. The Lions are giving up 4.8 yards per attempt – 4th highest average in the league.

6. Brian Robiskie/Mohamed Massaquoi
Maybe Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson weren’t the problem in Cleveland last year. The Browns simply don’t have a receiver who can make a play. The two 2009 2nd-round picks have failed to show any improvements in their second season. According to Pro Football Focus they rank 97th and 96th in percent of targeted passes caught – out of 97 qualifying receivers.

5. Michael Crabtree
After a strong end to his rookie season, Crabtree was a major reason why the 49ers were picked by many to win the NFC West. Yes, Alex Smith hasn’t helped his cause but Crabtree hasn’t helped Smith’s either. He’s caught just 11 of 21 passes thrown his direction. A true No. 1 receiver makes plays even on poorly thrown balls.

4. Michael Turner
Here’s a scary thought: the Falcons are 3-1 with almost no help from Burner Turner. He’s averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt this year. His career low entering this season was 4.5. He just hasn’t looked like the big bruising back that terrorized the AFC South the past two seasons. But he’s 28 and has never shied away from contact, perhaps he’s simply nearing the end of the road.

3. Jared Allen
Where has the Vikings sack master been hiding this season? He has been credited with just one sack and has generally been a non-factor all season. His struggles have had a ripple effect throughout the Vikings defense. If he isn’t getting to the quarterback, the rest of the unit suffers.

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Brett Favre  of the Minnesota Vikings grabs his torso as he lies on the turf after taking a hard hit from Roman Harper  of the New Orleans Saints at Louisiana Superdome on September 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It's been an ugly start to the season for Favre and the Vikings

2. Chris Johnson
So much for all that talk about breaking Dickerson’s rushing record. Johnson is averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt this season – nearly two full yards less than last season. Maybe teams have figured out how to stop him. Or maybe he’s just worn out from his league-leading 358 carries last year.

1. Brett Favre
Maybe Favre should have hung up the cleats for good this time. He’s already thrown six interceptions, just one fewer than all of last season. He’s averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt, which would be a career low. And he’s completing just 61 percent of his passes – down seven percentage points from last season. Any way you slice it, Favre has been this year’s biggest underachiever.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Falcons, Lions, Redskins, Titans, Vikings Comments Off