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

Ten guys who should be looking over their shoulder

10. Greg Olsen
Mike Martz says he’s committed to Olsen, but he shouldn’t get too comfortable. Martz traditionally doesn’t utilize the tight end and prefers to rely on them as blockers. Olsen is an adequate blocker but he’s no Brandon Manumaleuna, who’s waiting in the wings to take snaps away.

9. Matt Leinart
The Cardinals will be patient with Leinart, but if they’re in contention and he’s not getting the job done, Derek Anderson will be called upon. Leinart has all the skills necessary to be an elite quarterback, but the work ethic just hasn’t been there. Maybe this is the year it all clicks.

8. Nate Clements
Clements was benched briefly last season, less than three years into his monster contract in San Francisco. He’s firmly on the hot seat once again, but luckily for him the 49ers secondary is extremely thin. Given the size of his contract though, the 49ers may be quick to cut ties with him if he fails to perform up to expectations.

7. James Harrison
Two years removed from Defensive Player of the Year honors, the clock is ticking loudly for the 32 year old Harrison. His starting position may not be in jeopardy yet but he’ll likely start to lose snaps to rookie Jason Worilds, who is being groomed as his replacement.

6. Chad Clifton
The 34-year-old Clifton returns for another season in Green Bay, but 1st-round pick Byran Bulaga is breathing down his neck. The starting job belongs to Clifton for now, but at the first sign of struggles Bulaga could get the call.

5. Albert Haynesworth
Haynesworth and Mike Shanahan haven’t exactly gotten off on the right foot, making him an obvious addition to the list. The only reason he isn’t higher is the fact that an adequate replacement isn’t readily available. The decline in talent from Haynesworth to Jeremy Jarmon, Ma’ake Kemoeatu or Darrion Scott is significant.

4. Jake Delhomme
Since returning to the NFL in 1999, only one Browns quarterback has started 16 games (Tim Couch, 2001) and Delhomme isn’t likely to join the list. Browns fans will be calling for Seneca Wallace (or even Colt McCoy) after every interception.

3. Darren Sharper
For much of the offseason it looked as though the Saints weren’t even interested in bringing Sharper back for another season. It now looks as though he’ll be playing in New Orleans, but his job may not be safe. 2009 1st-round pick Malcolm Jenkins has switched over to free safety and should see significant playing time, even if it is in a reserve role.

Nov 1, 2009; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman (56) celebrates after a tackle in the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Raiders 24-16. Photo via Newscom

If he doesn't return to form, it could be "lights out" for Merriman in San Diego

2. Brandon Jacobs
The Giants have become frustrated with Jacobs, who seems to have worn down faster than the average running back. He’s 28 years old and is coming off a disappointing season in which he averaged just 3.7 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw, who has averaged 5.2 yards per carry for his career, could steal away a significant chuck of his carries this season.

1. Shawne Merriman
Health issues and a steroid suspension have derailed Merriman’s once promising career. After missing nearly the entire 2008 season, Merriman totaled just four sacks in 14 games in 2009. The Chargers expect to compete for a Super Bowl title this season, so they’ll waste no time turning over Merriman’s duties to 2009 1st-round pick Larry English if necessary.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Giants, Packers, Redskins, Saints, Steelers Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Giants

I have an enormous amount of respect for Giants GM Jerry Reese and once again he put together a very deep draft class.

As much as I like Reese though, I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking taking Jason Pierre-Paul over Derrick Morgan. I think he clearly identified the right position to address in the 1st round based on their needs and the talent available, but Pierre-Paul just isn’t as good as Morgan. He may have more upside, but that’s a huge risk to take with the 15th pick.

I love the selection of Linval Joseph in the 2nd round. One of the more underrated issues with the Giants defense last season was their interior defensive line. Joseph has the size to be an elite space-eater an should improve their run defense immediately. Don’t be shocked if he wins a starting job as a rookie.

I also love the selection of Chad Jones in the 3rd round. He doesn’t fill a need, but he was arguably the best available player. He can play both safety positions and contribute on special teams. I like Kenny Phillips, but don’t be surprised if Jones beats him out for the starting strong safety job by 2011.

The biggest criticism I have of the Giants draft is that they didn’t address their need for a linebacker until the 4th round. Even if Phillip Dillard is able to beat out Jonathan Goff and Gerris Wilkinson for the starting job at middle linebacker, he’ll only be a minor upgrade.

Mitch Petrus is a perfect fit in New York and could be a steal in the 5th round. He’ll play a backup role early in his career but could step into the starting lineup someday. He adds some much needed depth and will be a valuable asset immediately.

Adrian Tracy is a developmental prospect who will be making the transition to linebacker from defensive end. He likely won’t play much early on, but he was well worth taking a risk on in the 6th round.

I’m not crazy about ever drafting punters, but the Giants had an unexpected need to fill when Jeff Feagles told them a week before the draft that he was learning towards retirement. Matt Dodge was the highest rated punter on my draft board and will be given the opportunity to compete for the starting job.

Overall this was a typical Jerry Reese draft with the exception of his 1st-round pick. I think they landed a number of players who can contribute immediately and fill some holes. The only things holding them back from a higher grade is the fact that they took a big risk on a developmental prospect in the 1st round (Pierre-Paul) and failed to fill their most glaring weakness (middle linebacker). The selection of Pierre-Paul was out of character, and I wonder if they’ll eventually regret the move.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Giants Comments Off

How high could Mike Iupati go?

We haven’t seen an offensive guard go in the top 20 picks since the Seahawks selected Steve Hutchinson 17th overall in 2001. That could change this year with Mike Iupati.

2010 NFL Combine - Day OneIupati’s size (6’5″, 331 lbs) makes him look like a prototypical mauler. He’s big, physical and plays with a nasty demeanor. He has all the attributes to be a truly dominant run blocker. But what makes him stand out, much like Hutchinson, is his surprising athleticism for an interior lineman.

Many highly-touted guards in recent years, Vince Manuwai and Deuce Lutui for example, end up falling on draft day and failing to play at an elite level in the NFL due to their lack of athleticism. While both Manuwai and Lutui flash the ability to dominate as run blockers, they’re aren’t the complete package.

On the flip side, others such as Ben Grubbs, excel as pass blockers but struggle in the running game. They have the quick feet and strong lower body to hold up against faster pass rushers and bull rushers. However, they lack the brute strength to knock guys backwards on the line of scrimmage.

Every so often a player like Steve Hutchinson or Mike Iupati comes along who appears to be able to put it all together.

At this point, the latest I could envision Iupati going would be at No. 23 to the Packers. They’ve re-signed Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, but still need to upgrade the interior line. Iupati would provide a drastic upgrade over Daryn Colledge/Jason Spitz/T.J. Lang at left guard.

The Bengals are another strong possibility. They’ve let their best lineman from 2009, Bobbie Williams, test the free agent waters. This has opened up a gaping hole on the line, which would currently be filled by Nate Livings, who has bounced on and off the practice squad for much of his career.

Perhaps the most likely land spot is Pittsburgh, which needs an upgrade over Trai Essex. The Steelers are transitioning back into more of a power-running team with Rashard Mendenhall as the starter now, and a powerful run blocker like Iupati is needed.

Here’s a few other options:

13/17. 49ers – Guard isn’t a glaring need, but he would certainly be an upgrade over David Baas.

15. Giants – Their offensive line is getting up their in age and Jerry Reese strongly believes it taking the best available player.

14. Seahawks – Rob Sims may be traded, which would open up an immediate starting spot for Iupati.

11. Broncos – They have other needs, but if they view Iupati as the best available player he would provide their offensive line some much needed stability.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bengals, Broncos, Giants, Packers, Seahawks, Steelers 1 Comment

Making sense of the Giants draft plans

The hardest teams to figure out each offseason are the teams that underachieved the previous year. This year the Giants certainly fall into that category.

Coughlin announced as Giants head coach

Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese are in a tough position in this year's draft

As GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin try to sort out which players are permanently on the decline and which players are due for a bounce-back season in 2010, we’re left with nothing but pure guesses as to their draft strategy.

The one obvious need for the Giants is at inside linebacker. The release of Antonio Pierce opened up a gaping hole. If its filled from within, 2008 5th-round pick Jonathan Goff would be the one. However, Goff has been unimpressive in limited playing time so far. He started the final three games of 2009 for the injured Pierce which just so happened to coincide with the worst display of defense in recent Giants history.

In a perfect world Rolando McClain would fall to the Giants at No. 15. Its a scenario that looks more likely now that the Dolphins have signed Karlos Dansby, but the Chiefs, Browns and 49ers all remain potential landing spots for McClain before the Giants are on the clock.

Assuming he’s gone, they’ll be left with a difficult decision.

If they’re dead set on filling the hole at linebacker Sean Weatherspoon would be an option, but it would be a reach. He seems to have a consensus late-1st-round grade, but does have the ability to play inside in the 4-3 defense.

The alternative strategy would be to address another lesser area of need. Safety was an option (Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays) until they signed Antrel Rolle, which leaves strong-side linebacker as the only reasonable hole to attempt to fill. 2009 2nd-round pick Clint Sintim and 2008 4th-round pick Bryan Kehl are set to compete for the starting job as of now. But someone such as Sergio Kindle could be an option.

The final, and perhaps the most likely, option is to simply take the best available player. Given the strengths of this year’s draft class and Coughlin’s love for stockpiling players at the position, a defensive lineman would seem like a safe bet. Players such as Derrick Morgan, Dan Williams, Brian Price and Carlos Dunlap all look like reasonable options.

None of them would be guaranteed a starting job from day one, but the defensive line was filled with underachievers in 2009. Mathias Kiwanuka, Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty were all major disappointments and bounced in and out of the starting lineup throughout the season. Coughlin and Reese may view a selection of a young defensive lineman as a good way to push their current lineman to live up to expectations and provide insurance if they continue to falter.

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

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

Who will start at ILB for the Giants in 2010?

There’s no question what the Giants biggest need is this offseason. By parting ways with Antonio Pierce, the Giants opened up a gaping hole at inside linebacker.

New York Giants v Washington Redskins

Will Jonathan Goff be starting for the Giants in 2010?

The in-house option as Pierce’s replacement would be 2008 5th-round pick Jonathan Goff. After Pierce went down with a season ending neck injury this past season, the Giants moved Goff into the starting lineup and shortly thereafter the defense went down the drain.

Now I’m not blaming Goff for the 85 points the Giants gave up in the final two weeks of the season, but he certainly didn’t help matters. He’s an adequate run defender, but really struggles in coverage. Unfortunately, the Giants rely heavily on their inside linebackers in coverage, rarely using them as pass rushers.

Assuming Tom Coughlin isn’t satisfied moving forward with Goff as the starter, who could the Giants bring in as a replacement? Here’s a few ideas:

5. DeMeco Ryans
Ryans is a restricted free agent, so he’s a long shot, but he’s worth mentioning. Some may argue he’s the top available linebacker in this year’s free agent class. Odds are the Texans will tender him the rate which would require a 1st and 3rd round draft pick should he sign elsewhere, a price which would be too steep for the Giants.

4. Rolando McClain
If he falls in the draft the Giants would waste no time snatching him up. However, that’s never going to happen. If the Giants want him they’ll have to trade up. Should he fall past the Chiefs at the 5th pick, the Giants should get on the phone and see what it would take to trade up.

3. Sean Weatherspoon
If the Giants choose not to trade up for McClain, Weatherspoon would be the only reasonable option with the 15th pick. It would be a reach, but he’s capable of playing in the Giants defensive scheme. Weatherspoon excels in coverage, making him an excellent fit for the Giants.

2. Brandon Spikes/Daryl Washington/Pat Angerer/Sean Lee
If the Giants don’t land a linebacker in the 1st round, they’ll have to strongly consider landing one in the 2nd or 3rd. There are a number of options, but the Giants would certainly be disappointed if it came to this. None of these options would immediately jump Goff on the depth chart, but would be given the opportunity to compete for a job.

1. Karlos Dansby
Dansby will be one of the most sought after free agents on the market this year now that the Cardinals have chosen not to place the franchise tag on him. He is an elite coverage linebacker, making him the perfect fit for the Giants. They’ll have to out-bid a number of teams for his services, including the Dolphins and multiple others, but he would be worth the hefty price tag.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Free Agency, Giants Comments Off