2011 NFL Draft

Could the 49ers trade up to No. 1 for Gabbert?

Jim Harbaugh was brought in to fix the San Francisco 49ers. And it’s no coincidence that they brought in a former quarterback who helped develop Josh Johnson and Andrew Luck at the college ranks.

Make no mistake about it, Harbaugh’s job is to find the 49ers a franchise quarterback and turn him into a star. So could they really afford to go through this draft, which is relatively deep with signal callers even if it’s lacks an elite player, without taking one?

Harbaugh and Baalke have the picks to move up to No. 1

Cam Newton doesn’t appear to be a Harbaugh kind of quarterback, but Blaine Gabbert would fit the mold.

To the best of my knowledge the 49ers have not brought Gabbert in for a workout, however, Harbaugh was present at Missouri’s pro day. It’s unlikely that he’ll fall to No. 7, so could the 49ers trade up?

We haven’t see a pre-draft trade involving the No. 1 pick since the Falcons moved up for Michael Vick, but it could happen this year. The Panthers would presumably love to trade down, since there is not a clear-cut top prospect in the draft and there are a number of teams out there desperate for a quarterback.

Due to the lockout no players or future picks may be traded on draft day. This means that the 49ers, who own a league-high 12 picks have the most ammunition to make move up.

According to the trade value chart the No.1 pick is worth 3,000 points. It’s unrealistic to expect the 49ers to match that point total, but if the Panthers are willing to lower the asking price they could get a nice package in return.

The Niners could offer the 7th, 45th, 108th and 115th picks (still leaving them with their 3rd-round selection) which equals 2,102 points on the trade chart. That trade would give the Panthers a 2nd round pick (which they currently lack after trading it for Armanti Edwards in one of the worst draft-day deals of all time) and a total of eight picks in the first four rounds.

It’s a long shot, and 49ers have not given any strong indication that they want Gabbert, but don’t be shocked if they swoop in a the last minute and climb up to No. 1.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Panthers 4 Comments

5 teams most likely to trade down on draft day

5. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings need a quarterback, but the 12th pick is too early to reach for Locker or Mallett. To make matters worse, the 43rd pick may be too late to land either of those two, and possibly too late for Ponder as well. They may try to trade down to the late 1st-round in order to land a quarterback in a reasonable draft slot.

4. Carolina Panthers
There isn’t an obvious choice at No. 1 this year and the Panthers could get a similar player at a cheaper price if they trade down. If they can convince a team like the Bills or Bengals to trade up for a quarterback, the Panthers would gladly move down.

3. New England Patriots
The Patriots are a candidate here because, well, they always trade down. A great defensive lineman is likely to be on the board at No. 17 and the Patriots can probably find a trading partner. They may be able to pick up an additional 1st-round pick in the 2012 draft, continuing the cycle which Bill Belichick has mastered.

2. St. Louis Rams
If A.J. Green and Julio Jones are off the board the Rams will immediately begin shopping the 14th pick. There isn’t another receiver worthy of a top-15 pick and there isn’t anyone else that fills a glaring hole. The smart move would be to move down and possibly consider Jonathan Baldwin later in the round.

1. Detroit Lions
The Lions want a cornerback or a linebacker and there may not be anyone worthy of the 13th pick on the board at either position.  Unless Prince Amukamara or Von Miller somehow falls, the Lions will try hard to trade back. When they do, Akeem Ayers and Jimmy Smith could become targets.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Lions, Panthers, Patriots, Rams, Vikings Comments Off

Blaine Gabbert new No. 1 in mock draft

In my latest mock draft I have the Carolina Panthers selecting Blaine Gabbert with the No. 1 overall selection.

Gabbert going No. 1?

It was a tough decision, as I’ve had either Da’Quan Bowers or Nick Fairley in the top spot for the past two months. However, I now believe the Panthers are leaning heavily toward a quarterback.

GM Marty Hurney reportedly still supports Jimmy Clausen, whom he selected in the 2nd round in 2010, but the new coaching staff wants to move on and put their mark on the franchise. More often than not, the coaching staff wins these battles.

There has been some speculation that the Panthers are interested in Cam Newton. It’s certainly possible, but I just don’t envision Ron Rivera – a tough, old school defensive-minded guy who played under Mike Ditka – rolling the dice a rookie quarterback with an ego the size of Newton’s.

With that in mind, the logical choice is Gabbert. He isn’t the best player in this year’s class but he is a player to build around, which is what Rivera and his staff is hoping to find.

Of course, all of these rumors could simply be a smokescreen. If everyone else thinks the Panthers want a quarterback, it raises the asking price of the No. 1 pick in a trade…

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

Jimmy Clausen may not have been as bad as you think

I strongly believe that Jimmy Clausen deserves more time to prove himself in Carolina. The fact that his rookie year stats compare favorably to John Elway should be proof of that. You simply can’t draw conclusions based on a player’s first year.

But not only was Clausen struggling because he’s a rookie, but he was a rookie on a terrible football team. It just isn’t fair to jump to conclusions based on his performance in 10 starts in that environment.

Some great research by J.J. Cooper of AOL Fanhouse sheds some light on just how much Clausen was suffering from the play around him.

Cooper looked at each sack in the NFL this past season and timed how long the quarterback held onto the football. The average sack occurred at 2.7 seconds, so he classified any sack which came after the three-second mark as being on the quarterback rather than the offensive line. Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Panthers Comments Off

Draft Needs: Carolina Panthers

Over the next 32 days, Matt Peterson will track the offseason needs of every team in the league. First up, the Carolina Panthers.

Season Recap – 2010 was a season to forget for Carolina fans. Finishing 2-14, the Panthers earned the first pick in the draft, only to see the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning return to school. Poor quarterback play along with a very young defense contributed to the last place finish, and new head coach Ron Rivera has some work to do this offseason if he hopes to contend for the NFC South in 2011.

Draft Needs:
1. Quarterback – Whether it’s Jimmy Clausen, Matt Moore, a veteran free agent, or a draft pick, the Panthers need to solve their problem at QB. Carolina’s offense was abysmal; finishing 32nd in passing yards per game, and only managed nine touchdowns through the air. Ron Rivera needs to find his guy and although there is no clear-cut number one draft prospect, Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert could emerge come April.
Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2011, Panthers Comments Off

Panthers GM giving up on Clausen?

Marty Hurney, the guy who drafted Jimmy Clausen 48th overall in the 2010 draft, is apparently already declaring him a bust.

Despite being just one year removed from spending the team’s first pick in the draft on Clausen, Hurney stated that quarterback is the team’s “No. 1 need” this offseason.

This admission gives some credibility to a theory I tossed out there following the Panthers selection of Clausen. After every team with the exception of the Panthers and Bears passed on Clausen, I wondered if his character concerns were even greater than anyone in the media imagined. Clearly he has NFL talent, so there had to be some reason why no one took him in the first 47 picks.

Additionally, the Panthers likely had no reason to believe that he would be available with the 48th pick. As a result, perhaps they didn’t do enough homework on his mental makeup. When suddenly he was available, they jumped at the chance to fill their need at quarterback. Hurney thought he got the steal of the draft, without stopping to question why Clausen was still on the board.

As I said, it’s just a theory, but it’s something to think about – especially after the reports that he apparently struggled to fit into the locker room in Carolina.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Panthers 2 Comments

Money could determine who Panthers take No. 1

Typically by the time the college season wraps up we have a pretty good idea of who the No. 1 pick will be. If not, it’s usually at least narrowed down to two names. This year I believe there are four legitimate options for the Panthers, and I don’t expect them to make a decision until just days before the draft.

I expect the consensus to be that the Panthers should take Da’Quan Bowers. The current poll on our site has Bowers favored with 43 percent of the vote [as of 11am on Jan. 12].

Bowers makes a lot of sense. Charles Johnson stepped up as an effective pass rusher in the absence of Julius Peppers, but Johnson is one dimensional. Bowers is a much more complete lineman, who can be effective on all three downs.

Even if the Panthers want Bowers, however, that doesn’t mean he’ll be the pick.

The Panthers have turned into a cheap organization. They limited their coaching search this offseason to first-timers for that very reason. They’re loyal to their players – perhaps to a fault – but they rarely reach into their pockets to sign big-name free agents.

As a result, the Panthers may be inclined to essentially create a bidding war for the No. 1 pick.

Here’s how it could work. The Panthers may indicate that they’re favoring Bowers, but reach out to Nick Fairley, A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson as well. There’s no guarantee that any of them will come off the board within the top five, so they may be willing to bring down their asking price in order to guarantee themselves a significant contract.

Look at it from Peterson’s perspective: a cornerback has never been chosen higher than 3rd overall – he may be driven to take less money simply to hold that distinction. On top of that, he could easily fall into the second half of the top-10 if he doesn’t go No. 1 overall. He is an elite prospect, but cornerbacks are rarely high on the wish list of teams selecting in the top five. As a result, he may be willing to take money closer to that of the No. 2 or No. 3 pick, simply to guarantee himself a big pay day.

The same can be said for A.J. Green. If the Panthers pass on him he won’t be selected until No. 3 at the earliest (the Broncos don’t need another receiver at No. 2) and could fall to No. 6 to the Browns. By accepting less money than a typical No. 1 pick, he could still guarantee himself more money than if he had fallen to Cleveland.

What makes all of this even more likely is the labor situation. If the NFL is in the midst of a lockout (yes, the draft will still occur in the even of a lockout) the Panthers may be even more motivated to favor a smaller contract over the guy who is truly No. 1 on their draft board. Likewise, the players may be more eager to guarantee themselves as much money as possible knowing that they may not be collecting a paycheck until 2012.

This strategy will take some time to develop, and likely won’t begin to take shape until about 10 days before the draft. It could create for a very interesting week leading up to the draft and could make some Panthers fans very unhappy. Settling for a player simply because he will sign for less won’t be a popular decision, but it may be the right one considering the current state of the NFL.

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

Could the Panthers trade the No. 1 pick?

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

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

But what if they don’t want Luck?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could the Panthers give up on Clausen after one year?

Thanks to the Bills win over the Bengals on Sunday, the Panthers are now in sole possession of the worst record in the league.

Let’s assume they finish in that position. What direction will the go with the 1st-overall selection?

The answer to that question depends on who is calling the shots in Carolina. Head coach John Fox’s contract expires at the end of the year and it’s unlikely he’ll be invited back, and GM Marty Hurney is on the hot seat as well.

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen  of the Carolina Panthers looks to hand the ball off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Jimmy Clausen era may be a short one in Carolina.

So while it’s too early give a definitive answer, it’s not hard to speculate that Clausen’s tenure as the starter could be short lived. Remember, 30 of the 32 NFL teams passed on Clausen – some more than once – in last year’s draft. So whoever the Panthers hire likely had the opportunity to select Clausen, but chose to go in a different direction.

But, regardless of who is in Carolina’s front office, Andrew Luck may actually hold the keys to Clausen’s future.

Given the choice between Clausen and Jake Locker or Cam Newton, it may be safer to stick with Clausen (and his significantly smaller contract) and address another area of need with the 1st pick. But if Luck is on the board, it will be hard to make that choice.

Andrew Luck will be the best quarterback to enter the draft since I started this website in 2004. And those with more experience than me say that he may be the best since Peyton Manning.

So while it’s hard to justify giving up on Clausen after just one season, Luck may simply be too talented to pass over.

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