49ers

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

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 3

OFFENSE
1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best was injured in the Lions Week 3 loss to Minnesota, but he has still be easily the most productive rookie on the offensive side of the ball. However, his status is up in the air for Week 4, which could allow someone to sneak up and steal the top spot.

2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez has emerged as a favorite target of Tom Brady, running many of the same routes that Wes Welker runs. He leads all rookies in receiving yards and has looked like one of the top receiving tight ends in the game through three weeks.

3. Sam Bradford, Rams
Bradford picked up the first win of his career last week against the Redskins. It was easily the most productive game of his short career as he completed over 60 percent of his passes for 235 yards.

4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant isn’t threatening Miles Austin as the Cowboys top receiver, but he has topped the 50-yard mark in all three games so far this season. That, coupled with his production on special teams, has made him one of the most productive rookies.

5. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley falls from 2nd to 5th this week after catching just three passes against the Panthers.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi remains the most productive defensive rookie for the third straight week. He has become the most productive all-around linebacker in Miami, making him a perfect compliment to the pass rushing skills of Cameron Wake.

2. Tyson Alualu, Jaguars
Alualu picked up his second sack of the season and added two more quarterback hits. His production against the run needs work, but he has looked dominant at times as an interior pass rusher.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan has been coming off the bench, but it may only be a matter of time before he’s starting. He has impressed as a pass rusher and against the run.

4. Nate Allen, Eagles
Allen has changed the Eagles secondary, which struggled at times last season, and filled the void at free safety. He even picked up a sack this past week against the Jaguars.

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 Bengals, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, Patriots, Rams, Titans Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 2

OFFENSE
1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best is the runaway leader among offensive rookies after two weeks. He ranks second among rookies in rushing yards and leads all rookies in receiving yards. He has given the Lions offense a new look and is emerging as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley caught five passes again this past week, giving him 10 for 124 yards on the season. He has emerged as legitimate a third option behind Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco and has given the Bengals perhaps the best trio of receivers in the league.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant caught just two passes this week, but both were big 26-yard plays. He also returned a put 62 yards for a touchdown and is averaging 19.3 yards per return on the season.

4. Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams scaled back the workload for Bradford in Week 2, as he attempted just 25 passes. He is completing 57.5 percent of his passes and averaging 5.3 yards per attempt – both mediocre numbers, but impressive for a rookie on a team like the Rams.

5. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez is emerging as one of the Patriots most explosive weapons this season. He ranks second among rookies this season with 146 receiving yards on just seven catches.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi played a key role in stopping the Vikings last week, and is emerging as a leader on the Dolphins defense. He is the most well-balanced rookie linebacker in terms of ability as a pass rusher and run stuffer.

2. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain anchored the Raiders defense in their win over the Rams last week. He already looks like one of the best middle linebackers against the run and the Raiders defense has improved as a result.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan recorded a sack for the second straight week but that’s not the only reason he’s ranked. He has done an excellent job holding up at the point of attack and the Titans run defense has improved as a result.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Ward has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns this season. He has been like an extra linebacker for the Browns run defense… which they have definitely needed.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham picked up his first career sack last week, and looks like the best pure rookie pass rusher in the league. However, he’s being used in a rotation almost exclusively as a pass rusher which is why he isn’t ranked higher.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Titans Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 1

OFFENSE
1.
Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams asked Bradford to carry the team in his first professional game and he did just that. Bradford 32 of 55 passes for 253 yards in a near upset of the Cardinals. He did throw three interceptions (one on a hail mary) but it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley led all rookie receivers with 82 yards on five catches Sunday. All five of his receptions went for first downs, including a 51-yard reception. After seeing Shipley’s performance, its easy to see why the Bengals didn’t feel the need to keep Antonio Bryant around.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The Cowboys fed it to Bryant early and often as he caught eight balls for 56 yards. He was primarily used on short passes, as the Cowboys looked to him to make plays after the catch. Four of his receptions went for first downs, with a long of 15 yards.

4. Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
Pouncey gave the Steelers an immediate upgrade at center, replacing Jeff Hartings. The Steelers were back to the power-running game that they’re known for, with Rashard Mendenhall averaging over five yards per carry.

5. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews didn’t set the world on fire, but he was solid in his debut against Kansas City. He racked up 75 yards on 19 carries, a modest 3.9 yards per attempt.  He also lost a fumble which led to a Chiefs touchdown.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi stepped into the Dolphins starting lineup and was all over the field against the Bills. He recorded one sack, and was consistently getting pressure on Trent Edwards. With production like this, the ‘Phins won’t miss Jason Taylor or Joey Porter.

2. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham made an immediate impact for the Eagles pass rush, consistently getting into the backfield and pressuring Aaron Rodgers. He didn’t record a sack, but his efforts did not go unnoticed.

3. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain fully lived up to expectations in his first game with the Raiders. He looked like a veteran, showing the impressive instincts that made him a star at Alabama. With McClain in the middle, the Raiders should be much improved.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Not much went right for the Browns on Sunday, but Ward already looks like an upgrade at strong safety over last year’s primary starter Abe Elam. He did a nice job in coverage against Kellen Winslow, and was consistently stepping up to help out against the run.

5. Eric Berry, Chiefs
Berry was quietly effective against the Chargers, helping the Chiefs pull off the upset. He didn’t come up with any big plays but was consistently in the right position, providing support for the Chiefs corners. It’s only a matter of time before he comes up with some game-changing interceptions.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders, Rams, Steelers Comments Off

10 Observations From Week 1

1. Arian Foster is the answer to all of the Texans problems. They’ve been looking for a feature back since entering the league. Jonathan Wells, Domanick Davis Williams, Ahman Green, Steve Slaton and many others have tried and failed to fill that hole. Now Foster looks like the real deal.

2. I missed the end of the Cowboys-Redskins game, but when I heard the game ended on a holding penalty the name Alex Barron immediately popped into my head. Sure enough, it was Barron who blew the game for the Cowboys. He may be the least disciplined player in the game – regardless of position. He’ll lose his starting job, and maybe his job altogether, as soon as Marc Colombo is healthy.

3. But I shouldn’t put all the blame on Barron. Tony Romo and Tashard Choice, what were you thinking at the end of the first half?! A shovel pass is possibly the last thing that should have happened on that play. Throw a hail mary, throw it out of bounds, or just take a sack! Anything is better than a shovel pass. That was destined to fail.

4. The Steelers are in serious trouble if Max Starks doesn’t get healthy soon. Jonathan Scott replaced Starks on Sunday and, according to ProFootballFocus.com, allowed three quarterback pressures on the 10 pass plays in which he was on the field. Tony Hillis is also an option to replace Starks at left tackle. And if they get really desperate, rookie Kyle Jolly is on the practice squad.

New York Jets Braylon Edwards is called for running into the kicker on Baltimore Ravens Billy Cundiff in the second quarter on Monday Night Football in week 1 of the NFL season at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on September 13, 2010.    UPI /John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

Braylon Edwards commits one of the Jets 14 penalties, running into Billy Cundiff on a FG attempt.

5. The Jets might be the least disciplined team in football, and I’m not at all surprised. What do you expect when you put that many egos one roster, led by a coach that has little control over his players. Rex Ryan is a hell of coach, but he isn’t real big on discipline and it shows on the field. The Jets committed 14 penalties for 125 yards, 10 of which came in the 1st half. For a team that isn’t expecting much out of its offense, that’s simply unacceptable.

6. What happened to the Dolphins offense? Surely the Bills defense, in their first game running a 3-4 system, didn’t improve dramatically from a season ago. The Dolphins didn’t turn the ball over, controlled the clock for over 36 minutes and yet only put 13 points on the board (the other two points came on a safety). Here’s one idea to jump start the offense: get more than two receivers involved. Brandon Marshall and Davon Bess were the only wide receivers with a catch on Sunday. They need to find away to get Brian Hartline involved. He’s their Wes Welker.

7. The Bucs and Browns may be the two worst teams in football. The Bills were in the discussion, but they actually looked better than expected on Sunday, at least on defense. The Rams were also in the mix, but nearly pulled off a win over the Cardinals. But the Browns and Bucs played a nearly unwatchable game this weekend. That game very well may have decided the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Jake Locker, pack your bags for Cleveland.

8. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Peyton Manning dropped back to pass 59 times on Sunday and was sacked, hit or pressured on 25 of those plays. That’s a remarkable 42.5 percent of his pass plays. That’s bad news for the Colts offensive line, but it also calls attention to just how freaking amazing Manning is at playing this sport. Despite all that pressure he didn’t throw an interception and completed over 70 percent of his passes.

9. The Falcons offense couldn’t have been more predictable. Hand off to Michael Turner, pass to Roddy White, hand off to Michael Turner… and so on. They need to get others involved in the offense if they’re going to improve upon Sunday’s pitiful showing. The Steelers defense is good, but not that good. Offensive coordinator Mike Mularky played right into the Steelers hands with a terribly uncreative game plan.

10. And finally, I’m not even sure what to say about Calvin Johnson’s touchdown that wasn’t. Clearly he caught the ball. The NFL needs to do away with these nonsense rules that throw common sense out the window.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Jets, Lions, Steelers, Texans 1 Comment

Training Camp Preview: Dolphins

Biggest Question Mark: Chad Henne
Entering his first training camp as the stater, is Henne ready to step up as the leader of the offense? Henne was a mixed bag of results in 2009. After an impressive start, he stumbled a bit down the stretch, throwing 10 interceptions in his final six games. The Dolphins need consistency, if nothing else, from Henne in 2010.

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 4:  Defensive tackle Paul Soliai #96 of the Miami Dolphins sets for play against the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL Wildcard Playoff Game at Dolphins Stadium on January 4, 2009 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Soliai will get the first shot at replacing Ferguson at nose tackle

Position Battle to Watch: Nose Tackle
With the unexpected retirement of Jason Ferguson, the Dolphins now have to find a full-time replacement at nose tackle. Paul Soliai saw the bulk of the playing time last season when Ferguson wasn’t on the field, but Randy Starks will be given a chance to compete for the job as well.

Impact Rookie: Jared Odrick
The loss of Ferguson will have a noticeable impact on the Dolphins defensive line, but Odrick should be a significant upgrade at defensive end. His ability to be disruptive on the outside could help mask the decline in play from the nose tackle position.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Dolphins 1 Comment

2010 Draft Grades: Dolphins

This was a typical Bill Parcells draft. Very few risks, and heavy on the defensive front seven.

I love the selection of Jared Odrick in the 1st round. 3-4 defensive ends don’t get much love in the NFL, but they’re a key piece to that defensive scheme. Odrick, who played tackle at Penn State, is a perfect fit. He’ll be able to fill the role that Chris Canty and Marcus Spears played for Parcells in Dallas. He should start immediately, likely bumping Phillip Merling from the starting lineup.

Koa Misi, a defensive end at Utah, will make the transition to linebacker in Miami. He’ll be given every opportunity to win a starting job opposite Cameron Wake from day one. He may have come off the board a little early, but I can’t object to the position which was addressed. It was a very serious need for Miami entering the draft.

John Jerry is another very solid 3rd round selection. He has the size to be a dominant run-blocking interior lineman. My only concern is that his lack of athleticism may hurt Miami’s ability to run the Wildcat to his side of the field. Their Wildcat packages recquires linemen to be able to move and Jerry’s size simply limited his mobility.

A.J. Edds is another typical Parcells selection. There’s absolutely nothing special about him, but he’s a hard worker and will be an excellent special teams player. He doesn’t have a very high ceiling, but the Dolphins will find a place for him to contribute.

When they first selected Nolan Carroll I wondered if they may move him to free safety. Their depth at cornerback is more than adequate and both starters are 2009 draft picks. However, the selection of Reshad Jones may have thrown that theory out the window. I was in the minority in my opinion of Jones, but I had him rated as an early 2nd-round pick. He’s a steal in the 5th round and Miami is a perfect fit. He could easily win the starting free safety job of Tyron Culver.

Chris McCoy and Austin Spitler are very similar players. Both have limited upside but will contribute immediately on special teams. I like both selections, but I do wonder if the Dolphins may have overloaded on linebackers. It will be difficult to keep them all on the roster.

Overall this was a very solid draft. They grabbed a number of players who can contribute immediate and nearly every pick filled a need. My only concern is that they failed to grab a true impact player. While all their picks should have a role, none of them looks like a true difference maker. This very much looks like the draft of  a team that feels they’re one or two pieces away from competing for a Super Bowl title. They put needs ahead of talent on their draft board. It could prove to be a smart move, but if they missed on two or three of their early-round selections, then this draft will come back to haunt them within the next few years.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Dolphins, Draft Grades - 2010 1 Comment

Top 10 most likely players to be traded on draft day

10. Michael Vick, Eagles
With McNabb out of the picture the Eagles aren’t shopping Vick around, but that doesn’t mean they won’t trade him. His value to the Eagles is minimal, since it appears that Kevin Kolb is being handed the starting job. If another team (Bills? Rams? Raiders?) comes along and offers up a trade the Eagles can’t refuse, they’ll pull the trigger.

9. Ronnie Brown, Dolphins
The Dolphins seem to have soured on Ronnie Brown. They only placed a 1st-round tender on him (rather than a 1st and 3rd) making it possible for someone to fairly easily sign him if they wished to do so. By no means are they pushing him out the door, but they’re definitely willing to part with the injury-prone 28-year-old before he loses his value altogether.

8. David Garrard, Jaguars
The Jaguars seem to be moving forward with Garrard as their starting quarterback, but that could change on draft day. Jack Del Rio has publicly criticized Garrard this offseason, stating that he doesn’t view him as a quarterback that can lead a team to the Super Bowl. That certainly doesn’t sound promising for Garrard’s future. If the Jaguars land a quarterback early in the draft (Tebow?) then Garrard could be sent packing.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

Has Roy Williams played his last game in Dallas?

7. Roy Williams, Cowboys
The Cowboys have given mixed signals about their commitment to Williams. They haven’t tried to trade him yet, to our knowledge, but they haven’t exactly given him a vote of confidence either. They may not be shopping him around, but Jerry Jones isn’t shy about making moves. If the right offer comes along on draft day, he’ll certainly listen.

6. Bryant McKinnie, Vikings
McKinnie is just 30 years old and has plenty of good football left, but the Vikings have reportedly grown tired of some of McKinnie’s off-field actions. He’s another veteran that isn’t being pushed out the door, but could be dealt if the right deal comes along. More and more we’re seeing teams try to move players while they still have value to other clubs in an effort to get something in return. McKinnie could fall into that category.

5. Marshawn Lynch, Bills
Lynch, who turns 24 on draft day, may be the most intriguing player on the trade block right now. With the emergence of Fred Jackson, its possible that the Bills will be willing to move Lynch, who has been nothing but a headache for the organization since they drafted him in 2007. He’s among the most talented running backs in the game, but he’s a handful to control off the field. Despite some character concerns, there will be more than a few teams willing to take Lynch off the Bills hands if they’re interested in moving him. He could be a key piece to the puzzle if they wish to trade into the late 1st round for a shot at Tim Tebow or Colt McCoy.

4. Shaun Rogers, Browns
Mike Holmgren has already overhauled the roster, but he isn’t done yet. Rogers is a difficult player to figure out. When he wants to be, he’s arguably the game’s most dominant nose tackle. But the problem is, no one can seem to figure out how to motivate him. He enjoyed playing for Romeo Crennel in 2008, so a reunion in Kansas City is certainly a possibility of the Chiefs are willing to part with a 2nd or 3rd-round pick.

3. Greg Olsen, Bears
I’m actually shocked that Olsen hasn’t been traded yet. He’s strictly a pass-catching tight end and new Bears offensive coordinator simply doesn’t have room for those players in his offense. Its possible he’ll change things up to accommodate Olsen, but don’t count on it. It seems unlikely that he’ll be wearing a Bears uniform by the end of April.

2. Jared Gaither, Ravens

The Ravens are practically begging someone to take Gaither off their hands and eventually someone will oblige. The Ravens are reportedly not interested in putting up with his lack of effort and poor work ethic, but if he suffers from those issues you’d never know it by his play on the field. He is on the cusp of becoming an elite left tackle and someone could get an absolute steal on draft day.

1. Jason Campbell, Redskins
Shortly after the Redskins traded for McNabb, Jason Campbell stated that he would sign his tender. Not because he’s excited to back up McNabb, but because he needed to sign in order to allow the Redskins to trade him. He won’t be in Washington next season, and its very likely he’ll be gone before the draft is over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Bills, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Ravens, Redskins, Vikings 3 Comments

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

Dolphins showing strong interest in free safeties

Last week I suggested that the Dolphins could target Taylor Mays in the 1st round. At the time it was pure speculation based on Bill Parcells’ draft history and their need for a free safety. But now there appears to be some validity to my prediction.

2010 NFL Combine - Day Four

Could the Dolphins target Earl Thomas in the 1st round?

The Dolphins are showing a strong interest in this year’s class of free safeties and appear likely to land one in the 1st or 2nd round. In addition to Mays, the Dolphins either already have or soon will workout Earl Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Reshad Jones and Myron Lewis. Thomas and Mays would be 1st-round targets. Burnett and Jones would likely be options in the 2nd round. Lewis will likely be available in the 3rd round or later.

As I outlined in my previous post on Mays, he fits the Parcells profile best due to his size and athleticism. However, that doesn’t mean Parcells is married to that specific skill set.

This is a very deep class for safeties, with as many as seven potentially coming off the board in the first two rounds. Given that depth, it would be mildly surprising to see the Dolphins spend the 12th pick on Mays or Thomas. There’s simply better value in taking a safety in the 2nd round. That said, they’re obviously doing their homework and strongly considering that option.

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