49ers

10 Most Overrated NFL Players

10. A.J. Hawk
Hawk will someday enter college football’s Hall of Fame as one of the greatest linebackers of his generation. But his production simply hasn’t translated to the NFL. He’s a solid starter on a good defense in Green Bay, but far from the star that some Packers fans believe him to be.

9. Nate Clements
Since cashing in on a monster contract from the 49ers its been all downhill for Clements. He was benched at one point last season before suffering a season-ending injury. The 49ers inexplicably decided to bring him back – fat contract and all – in hopes that he returns to form.

8. Eric Steinbach
On an offensive line which featured Rex Hadnot, John St. Clair and Pork Chop Womack, it was Steinbach who was the weak link. He’s an acceptable pass blocker, but struggles to open up holes in the running game. The Browns spent big money to bring him north from Cincinnati a few years ago, and he’s been a consistent disappointment. He easily earns the title of most overrated offensive lineman.

7. Dunta Robinson
When he wants to be, Robinson can be great. But he rarely cares enough to put in the effort. Knowing a contract was on the line he stepped up his game down the stretch last season and got a nice deal from the Falcons. He may start out the year looking like a star, excited by the change of scenery, but as soon as the Falcons are out of the playoff picture, Robinson will do his disappearing act.

6. Shawne Merriman
Based on last year’s performance, Merriman should probably be No. 1 on this list, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt due to the fact that he was coming off an injury. Since being suspended for steroid use, we haven’t really seen much out of Merriman and this year could be the end of the road for him in San Diego with Larry English waiting in the wings.

5. Reggie Bush
The “explosive” Reggie Bush returned 27 punts last season, for an average of 4.8 yards. Of the 38 players with at least 12 punt returns only Arnaz Battle had a worse average. Ouch. He can be a nice little weapon and break off a big play from time to time. But so can Jerome Harrison, Justin Forsett, Steve Slaton… you get the point.

4. Brandon Jacobs
Jacobs was a bulldozer when the Giants first handed him the starting job, but part of that success was due to the depth around him. He takes more abuse than any running back in the league and the human body just simply isn’t built for it. He isn’t capable of being a feature back, as the Giants learned last season. His carries will be reduced this year in hopes that his production improves.

3. DeSean Jackson
He’s explosive and fun to watch, sure, but he’s also terribly inconsistent. He had as many games with fewer than 35 receiving yards last season as he did games over 100 yards. His route running is, well, basically limited to going deep. And he is too small and completely unwilling to set a block. He’s a great weapon to have, but not a true No. 1 receiver.

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Jamaal Anderson  of the Atlanta Falcons sacks quarterback Matt Cassel  of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on August 13, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Cassel hasn't lived up to the hype in Kansas City

2. Vernon Davis
Davis is the offensive version of Dunta Robinson. When he wants to be, he can be dominant. But the effort just isn’t always there. He developed into a legitimate fantasy football star last season, but in real life he’s still a liability. His blocking, if you can even call it that, is atrocious. And his hands are as inconsistent as anyone in the game. He dropped 13 balls last season, a whopping four more than any other tight end in the game.

1. Matt Cassel
What exactly has Cassel done in his career? Sure he was decent in 2008 with the Patriots. But considering it was one of the greatest offenses of all time in 2007, couldn’t most backup quarterbacks have thrown 21 TD and 11 interceptions on that team? In 2009 he came back down to earth and looked pretty much like Tyler Thigpen, Brodie Croyle or any other average quarterback would have looked in Kansas City.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Packers, Saints 32 Comments

Training Camp Preview: Falcons

Biggest Question Mark: Michael Turner
Burner Turner is a superstar, but only when healthy. He had just one rushing attempt after Week 12 last season (a seven-yard run against the Jets). Even early in the season Turner appeared to be playing below his typical dominant level. Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood are capable backups, but the Falcons would obviously much rather have their star running back at full strength.

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 29:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons   lay on the field after being injured against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  at  Georgia Dome on November 29, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by  Kevin  C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Falcons need Turner to stay upright in 2010

Position Battle to Watch: Defensive End
Jamaal Anderson is barely fighting off the bust label as he enters his fourth season in the league. In an effort to maximize his contributions he’s bulked up and is expected to play a Justin Tuck-like role, rotating between tackle and end. That leaves a hole opposite John Abraham at defensive end when Anderson isn’t lined up in that position. The candidates – Kroy Biermann, Chauncey David and Lawrence Sidbury – aren’t exactly exciting, but they’ll need someone to step up as a pass rusher.

Impact Rookie: Sean Weatherspoon
Weatherspoon is likely the only rookie who will see significant playing time in Atlanta. The starting strong-side linebacker position is his from day one, and the Falcons will be expecting immediate production. It shouldn’t be hard for him to out-perform former start Stephen Nicholas. The most noticeable upgrade will be in his coverage ability, where Nicholas was clearly lacking.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Falcons Comments Off

Early NFL Rookie of the Year Predictions

It may only be May, but it’s never too early to look ahead. By glancing through some projected depth charts we’ve come up with an early rookie of the year prediction. We’ll track each player’s progress and update our rankings on a weekly basis throughout the season.

OFFENSE
1. Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Offensive Rookie of the Year typically goes to a running back, and often to a player on a good team. Mathews may not be the most talented of this year’s rookies, but he is in the best position to succeed. He’s the feature back in San Diego and should cruise to 1,200 yards and 10+ touchdowns.

2. Ben Tate, Texans
Tate will have to beat out Steve Slaton for the starting job, but he certainly will enter training camp with an excellent shot to be the Texans’ feature back. Unlike Slaton, Tate has the size to carry the load and put up impressive numbers throughout the year.

3. Golden Tate, Seahawks
Tate will likely be used as an all-purpose receiver in Seattle much like Percy Harvin was used in Minnesota last year. He isn’t their No. 1 target, but they’ll find ways to get him the ball.

4. C.J. Spiller, Bills
While Spiller was the top-rated running back on most draft boards, he didn’t land in a great situation in terms of finding immediate playing time. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson still deserve to get their fair share of the carries (assuming they’re still around) which will limit Spillers ability to put up ROY-type numbers.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers
If Clausen beats out Matt Moore he’ll be in an excellent position to succeed as a rookie. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will carry the load on offense, limiting the amount of work Clausen needs to do.

DEFENSE
1. Eric Berry, Chiefs
The Chiefs defense won’t be very good, meaning plenty of chances for Berry to show off his skills. He’ll clearly stand out as the best player in their secondary from day one, and should be the DROY favorite.

2. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan will start from day one on an already respectable defense in Tennessee. He’s surrounded with enough talent that should allow him to rack up 7+ sacks this year.

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas will start immediately for the Seahawks and should be an instant-impact player. He’s a ball hawk, which means he should have no problem putting up the gaudy interception numbers that will catch the eye of ROY voters.

4. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham likely won’t start in Philadelphia, but he’ll be used as a situational pass rusher. He’s one dimensional, but he’ll put up the numbers necessary to get noticed as a rookie.

5. Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons
Weatherspoon is one of the few defensive rookies who has been handed a starting job. He likely won’t put up the numbers to in the award, but he’ll be in the discussion simply based on having the most opportunities to show off his talents.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Texans, Titans 2 Comments

2010 Draft Grades: Falcons

This was a very solid but unspectacular draft for the Falcons.

I like the selection of Sean Weatherspoon a lot. He fills a need and should start immediately at strong-side linebacker. He’s a perfect fit in Atlanta and should enter the season as an early candidate for defensive rookie of the year.

Personally, I think Corey Peters is overrated. But I know many people felt differently, so I can’t criticize the selection too much. However, I really don’t see defensive tackle as a need for the Falcons. 2009 1st-round pick Peria Jerry is back and healthy and Jonathan Babineaux has developed into one of the more underrated interior linemen in the league.

I like the selections of Mike Johnson and Joe Hawley. Their interior offensive line was a weakness in 2010 and both players should be given an opportunity to win a starting job. Even if they don’t win a job, they’ll still provide some much needed depth at the position.

Dominique Franks fell much further than I expected. Although the Falcons signed Dunta Robinson, cornerback was still a need and Franks will have an opportunity to win some immediate playing time. He’s a long shot for the starting job, but don’t count him out.

I really like Kerry Meier. He’s a possession receiver with reliable hands and was tremendously productive at Kansas this past season. He’s still learning the position after switching over from quarterback and he has the potential to be a steal.

Shann Schillinger is a developmental prospect. He’ll probably compete with Matt Giordano for the backup job at free safety.

I like the Falcons draft, but they only got one immediate impact player. Additionally, their mid and late round picks were primarily spent on players with limited upside. Most of their picks can fill backup roles, but few have the potential to develop into future starters. This wasn’t a poor draft, but they definitely could have done more with the picks they had.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Falcons 2 Comments

10 Best Offseason Moves (So Far)

10. Giants sign Antrel Rolle
Yes, the Giants overpaid for Rolle. The thought of him being the highest-paid safety in the league is comical. But the fact remains that he’s a significant upgrade over Michael Johnson and will give the Giants a very solid duo at safety between him and fellow Hurricane Kenny Phillips. The Giants are taking a “win now” approach and you have to give them credit for addressing a need with the best player on the market.

9. Falcons sign Dunta Robinson
The Falcons may have overpaid for a player who’s effort comes as goes throughout the season, but there’s no denying that Robinson has the talent to be an elite cornerback. Robinson will give you headaches, but ultimately when it matters most he’ll step up his game. He was playing at an elite level down the stretch this past season as Houston climbed back into the wild card race and he’ll do the same in Atlanta as they figure to be in the playoff hunt once again.

8. Patriots re-sign Vince Wilfork
Its not a sexy pick to have a player re-signing on this list, I know, but this is one of the most important moves nonetheless. Wilfork is the anchor of the Patriots defense. They’re in a mini rebuilding mode on that side of the ball this offseason and losing Wilfork would have set them back even further.

7. Chiefs sign Thomas Jones
If the Chiefs were expected to be a contender in 2010 this move would have ranked even higher. Jones isn’t capable of carrying the load throughout the season, but he can still be effective in spurts. Jones and Jamaal Charles give the Chiefs an impressive duo at running back which should allow them to control the ball and help open things up in the passing game for Matt Cassel.

6. Broncos sign Jamal Williams, Justin Bannan, Jarvis Green
None of these three players alone would have made the list, but collectively they’ve reshaped the Broncos defense. Williams will likely start at nose tackle with Green starting at one of the defensive end spots. Bannan can play nose tackle or end and may rotate between the two.

5. Cardinals trade for Kerry Rhodes
Rhodes fell out of favor with Rex Ryan in New York, but he is still a top-flight safety in this league. He’s just 27 and has plenty of good years ahead of him. Antrel Rolle was a fine starting free safety, but Rhodes is an upgrade and he comes at a cheaper price tag. It was a great trade any way you look at it from the Cardinals point of view.

4. Lions sign Kyle Vanden Bosch; trade for Corey Williams
Last offseason Jim Schwartz pledged to make the Lions bigger and stronger on defense. That’s proven to be easier said than done as the previous regime believed “smaller and faster” was the way to go. They struggled through the 2009 season, but Vanden Bosch and Williams gives their line two proven defenders who will likely team up with Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy.

3. Bears sign Julius Peppers
Peppers was the biggest name to change teams but I can’t put him at number one because I don’t know that he’s a significant upgrade in Chicago. The Bears had other needs (mainly receiver) which they could have spent the money on, but they do deserve credit for landing the biggest name on the market.

2. Dolphins sign Karlos Dansby
Dansby has quietly been one of the most productive linebackers in the league during his time in Arizona, despite not being surrounded by much talent. In Miami he could develop into a star. He’s an ideal fit for their defensive scheme which is similar to Arizona’s. He’ll be a difference maker from day one for the Dolphins.

1. Ravens trade for Anquan Boldin
The Ravens have needed to make a move like this for years. Boldin is an elite possession receiver and will instantly become Joe Flacco’s favorite weapon. If he can stay healthy, a 100-catch season isn’t an unreachable goal for 2010. The acquisition of Boldin makes the Ravens the team to beat in the AFC North for 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Broncos, Cardinals, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Falcons, Free Agency, Giants, Lions, Patriots 16 Comments

Where will Julius Peppers play in 2010?

The Panthers have decided not to place the franchise tag on Julius Peppers, which likely means his time in Carolina is over.

Its an interesting decision for the Panthers. As a team they totaled just 31 sacks this past season, 10.5 of which came from Peppers. In an era where teams are paying big money for elite pass rushers such as Peppers and Jared Allen, it makes you wonder what they think of Peppers off the field. Rumors have swirled that his work ethic and desire to succeed are lacking, and this decision certainly gives teams reason to look further into those claims.

So with that in mind, where could Peppers land this offseason. Here are the top five most likely destinations:

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers5. Jaguars
The Jaguars have to make a tough decision this offseason regarding 2008 1st and 2nd round picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Both struggled immensely this past season and the Jags ranked dead last in the NFL with just 14 sacks. Popular opinion right now is that the Jaguars will target a defensive end in the draft, but adding a veteran like Peppers would be a much safer route to take.

4. Falcons
The Falcons may hesitate to add another aging lineman to pair with John Abraham, but their pass rush is in need of an upgrade. 2007 1st-round pick Jamaal Anderson has struggled to live up to expectations and the Falcons may be ready to move on. If the Falcons want to make a splash this offseason, stealing Peppers from a division rival would certainly be one way to make that happen.

3. Packers
If Peppers is prepared to make the transition to outside linebacker, Green Bay would be an ideal landing place. They’re likely parting ways with Aaron Kampman who struggled to transition from down-lineman to outside lineback in Dom Capers new 3-4 defense. Pepers may also have size to play defensive end in a 3-4 defense, but that would really be a waste of his pass-rush ability.

2. Patriots
The Patriots reportedly have a strong interest in Peppers. They desperately need to upgrade their pass rush, so the interest makes sense. However, I’m not sure he’s a great fit. Peppers appears to be a little oversized to stand up and play outside linebacker in the Patriots 3-4 scheme. I’m not sure he’s athletic enough to handle the coverage responsibilities that come with playing linebacker which he hasn’t encountered in Carolina.

1. Bears
This looks like the perfect match for both sides. The Bears have a veteran defense and they’re clearly taking a “win now” approach over the past few offseasons. Adewale Ogunleye is an unrestricted free agent and the Bears should jump at the chance replace him with Peppers.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Falcons, Free Agency, Jaguars, Packers, Panthers, Patriots 1 Comment