2010 NFL Draft

5 players with an outside shot at the top 10

Every year there are one or two players that sneak into the top 10 on draft day despite rarely showing up that high in mock drafts. Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey, in ’08 it was Derrick Harvey, in ’07 it was Ted Ginn Jr., in ’06 it was Donte Whitner… the list goes on.

So who are the candidates this? Here are a few names to keep in mind that could come off board higher than expected on April 22:

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
McClain has occasionally shown up in mock drafts at No. 5 to the Chiefs (including ours) but Scott Pioli has shown little interest in him thus far. It could just be a smoke screen, but he appears genuine in his interest in the offensive tackles in this year’s class. If they pass on McClain, his odds go down, but Buffalo could be another option. In Buffalo he would be an ideal fit at inside linebacker next to Paul Posluszny, replacing the aging Kawika Mitchell.

4. Earl Thomas, Texas
Thomas’ top-10 hopes depend on where Eric Berry is selected. If Berry goes in the top five (Bucs? Chiefs?), then Thomas becomes an option for the Browns at No. 7. They’re looking for a replacement for Brodney Pool at free safety, and Thomas would be a perfect fit. Another option could be Jacksonville. The Jaguars may be ready to give up on 2007 1st-round pick Reggie Nelson at free safety.

3. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Spiller is absent from the top 10 in every mock draft I’ve seen, primarily because no one in the top 10 has a need for a running back. However, numerous teams in the 10-20 range (Dolphins, Seahawks, 49ers, Steelers) could be interested. Its possible that someone will decide to trade up for Spiller – the Browns would be a likely trade partner – in an effort to jump all the teams that could snatch him up in the middle of the 1st round.

2. Charles Brown, USC
Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis and even Bruce Campbell are frequently talked about as potential top-10 picks. So why is Brown, who’s viewed as a potential 1st-rounder, left out of the discussion? Brown’s top-1o chances hinge on where the others prospects fall. But if there’s a run on tackles in the top 10, as expected, its possible that someone trades up into the top 10 to ensure they land one of the top prospects. The 49ers would be a likely candidate to do so, thanks to their two 1st-round picks.

1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
Williams isn’t showing up in the top 10 in many mock drafts, but he’s one of the most popular prospects out there. He’s viewed as a potentially elite 3-4 nose tackle who also has the ability to play in a 4-3 scheme. The earliest he could come off the board would be at No. 6 to the Seahawks. He would be a significant upgrade over Colin Cole as the space eater on their defensive line. The Browns and Bills, who both runs 3-4 schemes, are perhaps the most likely options. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers has been rumored in multiple trade discussions. If he’s shipped out on draft day, it could be to make room for Williams. As for Buffalo, they’re transitioning to a 3-4 defense this year and don’t have a true nose tackle on their current roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks Comments Off

Clausen sweepstakes narrowed to 5 teams

Notre Dame v Stanford

Does anyone want this guy?

This offseason has been filled with nothing but bad news for Jimmy Clausen.

Its tough to say his stock is actually falling, because he hasn’t done anything wrong. But the teams potentially interested in him are falling off fast. First the Seahawks traded for Charlie Whitehurst, then the Browns said they flat-out weren’t interested.

I have yet to hear about a single team who has requested a private workout with Clausen. And to the best of our knowledge, he only met privately with two teams at the combine, the Bills and Redskins.

Its not uncommon for players not to meet with teams prior to their pro day. Teams often want to see a player workout once before using up one of their 30 pre-draft visits. However, quarterbacks are a different beast. The Rams have already met with Bradford and have set up a date for him to visit in April, despite the fact that he won’t workout until March 29. Since Clausen won’t workout until April 9, it seems odd that no one (to our knowledge) has scheduled him for a private workout yet. Presumably there are multiple teams that will have an interest in him in the 1st round, regardless of how he looks on April 9. Or maybe we’re just way off base in our assumption that he’s viewed as a premier prospect. [update: Clausen has visit scheduled with Bills; date is unknown]

Whatever the case may be, there now appears to be only five teams in the Clausen sweepstakes:

4. Redskins
The ‘Skins placed a 1st-round tender on restricted free agent Jason Campbell, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still interested in Clausen. They spoke to Clausen at the combine, indicating some interest. However, is sounds as though Mike Shanahan in genuine in his plans to bring Campbell back and giving him a legitimate shot to turn things around. If that’s the case it would make more sense to select a left tackle with the 4th pick to give Campbell the best opportunity to succeed.

9. Bills
The Bills also showed an initial interest in Clausen. And unlike the Redskins, they don’t have a viable option on their roster if they don’t land a quarterback in the draft. They could survive the next season with Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Brohm, but they’d much rather find their quarterback of the future in this draft. The Bills are probably the most likely landing spot, however, they have also showed a strong interest in Tim Tebow. Its possible that the Bills would either trade this pick to move back in the 1st round, or trade their next year’s 1st-round back pick to move back into the 1st round in an effort to land Tebow there.

13/17. 49ers
If the 49ers want Clausen, they can have him. Their two 1st-round picks would be enough to move into the top 10 to select him if he’s their guy. However, they’ve given no indication that they’re interested in making such a move. That said, if he falls down the board and he’s sitting there are No. 13 or 17, he may be too good to pass up. They want to give Alex Smith another shot, but they aren’t expecting him to turn into a future star at this point. Clausen’s upside is far greater than Smith’s at this point in their careers.

14. Seahawks
The trade for Whitehurst likely takes the Seahawks out of the running for Clausen with the 6th pick. However, they may reconsider their stance if he’s still on the board with the 14th selection. The dropoff in money from No. 6 to No. 14 is significant, which may make them more comfortable with the selection. It’s probably a long shot, but it can’t be ruled out.

30. Vikings
If Clausen gets past the Seahawks and 49ers the most likely scenario is that someone who already passed on him (Bills? Redskins?) trades back into the 1st round to select him. It would be a similar scenario to what the Browns did to acquire Brady Quinn in 2007. But assuming everyone stays put, his next most likely landing spot would be Minnesota. It certainly sounds like Brett Favre will be back in 2010, but he obviously can’t be counted on beyond this season. If Clausen is on the board at No. 30 it would be very difficult to pass him up. He could sit and learn behind one of the all-time greats for a season while learning the offense before taking over in 2011.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Redskins, Seahawks, Vikings 1 Comment

Will someone please sign Jared Gaither

I’ve asked this before, but he remains unsigned, so I’ll ask it again: Why doesn’t anyone want Jared Gaither?

WI: Baltimore Ravens v Green Bay PackersIn his third year in the league in ’09, Gaither blossomed into a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle, more than adequately filling the shoes of his predecessor Jonathan Ogden. He ultimately wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl, primarily due to the fact that he missed five games last season, but the honor is surely in his future.

If you don’t know much about Gaither its probably due to the fact that he skipped the April draft process, entering the 2007 Supplemental Draft instead. In July ’07 Gaither was ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, which prompted the decision. As a result, the Ravens landed themselves a 1st-round talent with a 5th-round selection.

After backing up Ogden in ’07, Gaither took over in 2008. He was impressive as a sophomore, but reached elite status in 2009. Despite his performance, the Ravens only tendered him at the 1st-round level, leaving them susceptible to Gaither signing elsewhere.

Personally, I would rather spend my 1st-round pick on a proven 24-year-old than take a chance on anyone in the draft, even this year’s top prospect, Russell Okung.

ProFootballFocus grades Gaither very favorably, ranking him 6th overall among offensive tackles. However, their ratings are accumulated throughout the season, favoring the players who appeared in all 16 games. Given the fact that he only played 11 games in 2009 I decided to take their ratings and adjust them based on number of snaps played to see where Gaither would rank. Taking the overall rating and dividing by snaps played you get this list “per snap” rating list:

It should be noted that Gaither’s injuries are part of the equation as to why teams may not be interested, but if you simply look at his production on the field there’s no denying his status as an elite left tackle.

Applying this to the draft, how could any team targeting an offensive tackle not give serious consideration to Gaither?

Teams like the Redskins, Seahawks, Raiders, Bills, 49ers, Cardinals and Cowboys are all in the market for an upgrade at left tackle. Would they honestly rather take a risk on Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis instead of Gaither?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Raiders, Ravens, Redskins, Seahawks 2 Comments

Where will Brady Quinn land?

Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs

Is Quinn done in Cleveland?

The Browns are reportedly shopping Brady Quinn. And while I personally think its ludicrous to trade a former 1st-round pick after just 12 career starts, its looks like he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2010.

Any team acquiring a 25-year-old quarterback with just 12 starts under his belt would be doing so with the intention of making him the starter and developing him as the franchise quarterback. Quinn has sat on the bench long enough, its time to give him a chance to play.

Unfortunately for the Browns, the list of teams capable of committing to a new starting quarterback is fairly small. And his trade value is further hurt by the fact that the teams that may be interested in a 25-year-old quarterback are also in position to potentially land Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen in the draft.

Let’s take a look at the teams that may show an interest in Quinn:

St. Louis Rams
The Rams are obviously in the market for a new franchise quarterback. Marc Bulger is likely to be released, creating an opening for someone to step in and start from day one. This would be an ideal scenario for Quinn, but the Rams also own the No. 1 overall pick and appear to be leaning towards selecting Bradford.

Washington Redskins
Jason Campbell was tendered at a 1st-round value, meaning he’ll likely be back in Washington unless the ‘Skins can find a trading partner. If he’s traded, they would certainly become a potential landing spot for Quinn, but a lot has to happen first. They would also have to decide to pass on Clausen and/or Bradford in the draft, as at least one of the two should be on the board at No. 4.

Buffalo Bills
The Bills may be the most likely suitor for Quinn. They’re in the market for a new franchise quarterback, but aren’t in position to guarantee themselves a shot at Bradford or Clausen in the draft. That uncertainty may lead them to address the need via trade. There have been whispers that they may be interested in Jason Campbell, but Quinn is younger and certainly has more upside at this stage in his career.

Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars don’t need a new quarterback for 2010. But Jack Del Rio hasn’t exactly expressed confidence in David Garrard this offseason. If they could get Quinn at a discounted price due to a lack of interest from others (3rd or 4th round pick perhaps) they may be willing to bring him aboard.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Browns, Free Agency, Jaguars, Rams, Redskins Comments Off

10 Teams that Need a Quarterback

It isn’t always the deepest position in the draft. And it doesn’t always have the top prospects. But regardless of the current class, the one position that always gets the most attention is quarterback. Aside from the teams selecting in the top 10, its too early to really gauge who’s interested in who. But what we can do is analyze which teams actually need a quarterback the most.

Below are the 10 teams we’ve identified as having the greatest need for a new franchise signal caller:

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders1. Oakland Raiders - We’re now three years into the JaMarcus Russell era and he’s shown absolutely no improvement. For some quarterbacks it takes longer to develop, but at this point in time Russell isn’t anywhere close to being an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. It’s just about time to mark him down as one of the biggest busts of all time. That said, I’m not sure Al Davis feels the same way. I’d be fairly surprised to see the Raiders bring in another quarterback within the first three rounds in this year’s draft.

2. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger will likely return for 2010 and, if healthy, could lead the Rams back to respectability. But he clearly isn’t the long-term answer and the Rams will strongly consider drafting Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford with the 1st-overall selection.

3. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm and Ryan Fitzpatrick all started for the Bills this season and all three were equally mediocre. The Bills could trudge through 2010 with one of them as the starter, but they are clearly in the market for a new franchise quarterback.

4. Washington Redskins - As I’ve stated before, I don’t actually think Redskins need a new quarterback. Jason Campbell is capable of being a starter in this league. That said, his career in Washington certainly appears to be over. Given that they don’t have an adequate replacement on the current roster, all signs point to the Redskins selecting Clausen or Bradford the 1st round.

5. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck will be back for at least another year, but the Seahawks are already looking for his replacement. Clausen and Bradford are both options in the 1st round. However, Carroll doesn’t appear to be taking a rebuilding approach this offseason. He may prefer to select an impact player in the 1st round and grab someone like Sean Canfield in the 3rd or 4th round to develop behind Hasselbeck.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars - David Garrard made the Pro Bowl this year, but Jack Del Rio doesn’t exactly sound like he’s sold on Garrard’s long-term future with the team.

7. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton was great for half the season, but stumbled down the stretch. He’s an unrestricted free agent and the Broncos may have no choice but to keep him around if they want to compete in 2010. That doesn’t mean, however, that he’s a long-term solution.

8. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore played well in relief of Jake Delhomme late in the year, but he’s a restricted free agent. The Panthers have a big decision on their hands: do they pay Moore and cut ties with Delhomme or give their former Super Bowl quarterback another shot?

9. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith didn’t exactly look like a former No. 1 overall pick this season, but he didn’t look like the complete bust that we saw through the first four seasons of his career either. He’ll be back in 2010, but the Niners should consider taking a flier on someone in the 3rd or 4th round.

10. Cleveland Browns – The Browns are proof that having two quarterbacks causes nothing but problems. Neither Anderson nor Quinn has been able to stay on the field more than a few games at a time over the last two seasons, leaving the Browns with no real clear idea as to what they have at the position. Quinn deserves another shot, but the Browns will certainly entertain the idea of trading both and starting over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Jaguars, Panthers, Raiders, Rams, Redskins, Seahawks 29 Comments

State of the Franchise: Buffalo Bills

The Bills hired former Cowboys head coach Chan Gailey today in one of the least inspiring coaching hires of the past decade. Gailey was widely considered a failure in his two years Dallas, and has only been back in the NFL for two seasons (as the Chiefs offensive coordinator) since spending six years at Georgia Tech.

While its a confusing hire, the Bills appeared to simply run out of options. Aside from the Raiders, there may not be another franchise with more question marks than the Bills. Its going to be a busy offseason for new GM Buddy Nix if he expects his team to improve upon a 6-10 record this past season.

Lets take a look at the roster and what decisions lie ahead this offseason:

Quarterback
While they Bills have some young arms, the quarterback of the future likely isn’t on the current roster. Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm all saw action in 2009, but none of them stepped up and made a strong case to return as the starter in 2010. Edwards and Brohm are young enough to bring back and give another look. Fitzpatrick is a serviceable backup, but he’s already with his third organization and there simply isn’t much hope for him suddenly developing into a quality starter.

Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen are both options for the Bills in the 1st round. If either of them are on the board, I would expect the Bills to pull the trigger. However, given the fact that they could be gone, don’t be shocked if the Bills go after a veteran free agent such as Jason Campbell or try to pull of a trade for someone like Derek Anderson.

Running Back
The Bills don’t exactly have a stellar backfield, but the position is one of their stronger areas. Fred Jackson stepped up while Marshawn Lynch was suspended and ended up as the team’s primary option throughout the season. Both Jackson and Lynch are under contract for another three years, but don’t be surprised if the Bills part ways with the much maligned Lynch. He was suspended for three games to start the season after getting arrested on a misdemeanor gun charge and upon returning his effort was noticeably lacking.

Wide Receiver
The T.O. experiment wasn’t a complete disaster, but I wouldn’t expect him back in Buffalo. The money he’ll demand simply won’t match his output or his impact on a team destined for another 6-10 season.

If Owens is gone the Bills need to bring in a replacement, preferably a big receiver to compliment Lee Evans. James Hardy has the size, but just hasn’t panned out in his first two years. Its probably too early to give up on him, but the new regime has no allegiances to Hardy and his future with the team could be in doubt.

Josh Reed is also a free agent and likely won’t return. Unless the Bills are excited about the trio of Evans, Hardy and Roscoe Parrish, I would expect to see them bring in at least one new face at the position. If they’re looking to make a splash, Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin would both be excellent fits.

Tight End
2009 4th-round pick Shawn Nelson will be given every opportunity to prove himself. He’s an elite athlete that could certainly become a security blanket for a new young quarterback should the Bills go that route. All signs point to him as the starter with Derek Fine and/or Derek Schouman likely returning as his backups.

Offensive Line
This is the area that needs the most work. Demetrius Bell and Jonathan Scott split time at left tackle and neither found much success. Bell is still a work in progress, and may yet end up being a quality starter, but he’s was in over his head this year. ProFootballFocus.com graded him as the 74th most effective offensive tackle in the game out of a total of 77 qualifying players. Russell Okung could be an option in the 1st round and would be an instant upgrade at left tackle.

At right tackle Kirk Chambers, a career backup, was given his first chance to start. He’s an adequate backup, but just lacks the strength to hold up over the course of an entire game. A new right tackle should be high on the Bills wish list this offseason.

At guard the Bills started two rookies, Eric Wood and Andy Levitre. Both struggled at times, but showed some promise. They should both be back in starting roles in 2010 and the position could certainly grow into an area of strength.

Geoff Hangartner, in his first year with the Bills, started all 16 games at center. He’s a very solid run blocker, but is better suited for a backup role because he simply lacks the ability to hold up in pass protection over the course of a game. Eric Wood, who played center at Louisville, could be moved back to his collegiate position.

Defensive Line
The Bills defensive line has been painfully mediocre for a number of years, but not bad enough to be overhauled. They were right near the middle of the pack with 32 sacks this season, 15 of which came from the combo of Aaron Schobel and Chris Kelsay.

The Bills did select Aaron Maybin in the 1st-round in 2009 but he failed to make an immediate impact. One can expect growing pains from a redshirt-sophomore making the jump to the NFL, but Maybin was a complete non-factor this season. Its far too early to throw in the towel, but there is definitely reason for concern.

At defensive tackle, Kyle Williams had a breakout season. He stepped up as a dominant run stuffer and even finished fourth on the team with four sacks. One of the starting jobs in 2010 certainly belongs to him, but the other is up for grabs. Marcus Stroud, who has been in decline since coming over from Jacksonville, took yet another step backward this season and his future with the team is in jeopardy. He still has three years remaining on a four-year, $28M contract and is a prime candidate to be a cap casualty this offseason.

Former 1st-round pick John McCargo has been a bust since day one. He isn’t going to step into Stroud’s starting role anytime soon. Spencer Johnson is a candidate to start, but he would be a short-term solution only.

Linebacker
At inside linebacker, Paul Posluszny has developed into one of the games top players at the position. His attitude and work ethic are a perfect fit for Buffalo and have endeared him to fans from day one. Along with Kyle Williams and Aaron Schobel, he is one of the three players from the Bills front-seven who should have a starting role guaranteed for 2010.

Since coming over from the Giants in 2008 Kawika Mitchell has struggled at strong-side linebacker. He is a great player to have around the locker room but he isn’t starter material. His coverage skills are above average, but he lacks the ability to step up and stuff the run, which is what the Bills really need from the strong-side linebacker position. 2009 1st-round pick Aaron Maybin, who played defensive end this year, could certainly be worth a look at linebacker.

On the weak side Keith Ellison once again struggled to live up to the expectations he set for himself as an overachieving backup in 2006 an 2007. Since taking over a full-time starting role in 2008 he has been exposed as a liability against the run. He’s a restricted free agent and the Bills could seek an upgrade at the position.

Even if the three starters return, the Bills need to add some depth at the position. This coudl certainly be an area addressed with multiple mid-round draft picks.

Cornerback
The Bills had one of the league’s worst units at cornerback this past season. However, 2008 1st-round pick Leodis McKelvin missed nearly the entire season with a fractured fibula. He’ll be back in 2010 and the Bills will look to him to take major strides to live up to his 1st-round status.

Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence (who replaced McKelvin in the starting lineup) also return. They should compete for the starting job opposite McKelvin along with Reggie Corner who started a handful of games this past season.

Despite their 2009 struggles, this unit should remain intact for the 2010 season. It isn’t a strong area for the Bills, but with so many other holes to fill the need for a cornerback will likely be ignored. Much of the issues with the secondary could be fixed by the return of McKelvin and an upgraded front-seven.

Safety
The Bills have some major decisions to make at safety for 2010. Jairus Byrd would have to figure prominently into their plans after an impressive rookie season. However, there’s a log jam at strong safety. Free agent Bryan Scott will likely not return, leaving Donte Whitner and George Wilson to compete for playing time. Whitner, a 2006 top-10 pick, has struggled to live up to expectations. Don’t be shocked if the Bills part ways with the underachiever this offseason opening the door for restricted free agent Wilson to step into a full-time starting role should he return.

Offseason Strategy
Given the uncertain state of the NFL, I wouldn’t expect the Bills to be major players this offseason. They’re far more likely to dump some expensive contracts (Stroud, Whitner, Lynch, etc) than bring in any more big names like T.O. They’re in the midst of a rebuilding process that should start with the offensive line and finding a franchise quarterback.

With their 1st-round pick the Bills need to target Russell Okung, Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen. Personally, I believe getting stuck with anyone outside of those three would be a failure. Some would argue that Anthony Davis and Bruce Campbell are worthy top-10 picks, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The Bills should also try to accumulate draft picks. This is a very deep draft class as a result of the slew of underclassmen that turned pro and rebuilding teams like the Bills need to use that to their advantage. If they can dump players like Lynch or Whitner for draft picks they should jump at the opportunity.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bills Comments Off