Dolphins

NFL Rookie Rankings – Through Week 5

OFFENSE
1.
Jahvid Best, Lions
Best remains the most effective player in the Lions offense. He’s averaging just 3.5 yards per rush, but is also averaging over 10 yards per reception.

2. Sam Bradford, Rams
Every rookie is bound to have a game like Bradford’s against the Lions at least once. It’s a minor setback, but he’ll learn from it.

3. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez ranks second to Best in receiving yards by rookies.

4. Mike Williams, Bucs
Williams has improved throughout the season and has his biggest game yet with seven catches for 99 yards against the Bengals.

5. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
Gronkowski has just six catches (two for touchdowns) but he has been as good as advertized in terms of being an elite blocking tight end.

DEFENSE
1. Nate Allen, Eagles
Allen isn’t just the best rookie safety, he looks like one of the best free safeties in football this season.

2. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi and Dolphins are coming off a bye week. He’s still tied for 2nd among rookies with two sacks.

3. Tyson Alualu, Jaguars
Alualu has been impressive both against the run and as a pass rusher. He has two sacks, two hits and seven QB pressures.

4. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas looks like an elite safety in coverage. Teams are avoiding throwing his direction, and he’s made them pay with three picks when they do.

5. Ndamukong Suh, Lions
Suh is a nightmare for interior offensive linemen to block in passing situations (leads rookies with three sacks) but he is still developing against the run. He’s been a liability at times when teams run directly at him.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, Patriots, Rams, Seahawks Comments Off

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

Training Camp Preview: Patriots

Biggest Question Mark: Laurence Maroney
He’s shown flashes of ability, but has struggled to consistently perform. At this point most Patriot fans are ready to slap him with the bust label. However, he enters 2010 with an excellent chance to win the starting job. But then again, he could also get cut.

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots runs for yards after the catch against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Ravens won 33-14. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

How much will Edelman factor into the Patriots plans in 2010?

Position Battle to Watch: Wide Receiver
Randy Moss is the only sure thing in the Patriots receiving corps. With Wes Welker on the PUP list, Julian Edleman, Torry Holt, Taylor Price and Brandon Tate will battle for playing time. Despite Edleman’s success in Welker absence, the fact that they added Holt and Price indicates they weren’t satisfied with their depth at receiver.

Impact Rookie: Devin McCourty
The Patriots secondary was a weakness in 2009 and a lack of depth was a major contributing factor. Even if McCourty doesn’t win a starting job, he’ll be an impact player in a reserve role and on special teams.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Patriots Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Patriots

The Patriots had a rough stretch of drafts, which has contributed to their lack of current depth, but have bounced back the past two years.

I was mildly surprised by the selection of Devin McCourty. Given their lack of depth in the defensive front seven, I expected Belichick to address that area first. Jerry Hughes and Sergio Kindle were both guys that could have stepped into the hole at outside linebacker.

That said, I do like McCourty. Leigh Bodden has one starting job locked up but the other is up for grabs. Shawn Springs will likely begin the season as the starter but McCourty and 2008 2nd-round pick Darius Butler will compete for the job. I expect McCourty to be starting before the season’s over.

I felt the same way about their 2nd-round selection of Rob Gronkowski. He’s a perfect fit in New England, but outside linebacker was a much bigger hole. If healthy, Gronkowski has an excellent chance to start right away over Alge Crumpler. Had it not been for some serious injuries concerns, Gronkowski would have been a guaranteed 1st-round pick, and the top tight end on many draft boards.

They finally addressed their need for an outside linebacker with Jermaine Cunningham in the 2nd round. He’ll likely be given every opportunity to start opposite Tully Banta-Cain, but it was a reach. I had him graded as a 4th-round pick.

I also think Brandon Spikes was a reach. Despite his tremendous production in college, he lacks the speed and athleticism to excel in the NFL game. At Florida he was surrounded by 10 other defensive players who will all be playing in the NFL one day. It essence, Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was able to mask Spikes’ deficiencies. But in the NFL, there just aren’t many linebackers that run a 5.00 40-yard dash. There are exceptions to every rule, so Spikes may work out, but they took a gamble a little too early.

I love the selection of Taylor Price in the 3rd round. There’s a good number of guys ahead of him on the depth chart right now, but I like his chances to start the season as their 3rd or 4th option at receiver. Randy Moss and Torry Holt may not be around a year from now, at which point he could step into a starting role.

In the 4th round Aaron Hernandez was simply a value pick. They clearly didn’t need a tight at after taking Gronkowski, but he had great value at that point in the draft. I’m not entirely sure how he’ll fit into their offensive scheme, but I’m confident Belichick will find a way to make it work. Given his athleticism, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him frequently lining up in the slot.

They reached for Zoltan Mesko. I don’t believe in taking punters before the 7th round. Punters grow on trees and they’re hit-or-miss prospects in the draft. He’ll be their starter, but he could have been on the board there much later. If not, someone of comparable value would have.

Ted Larsen and Thomas Welch will help replenish the offensive line depth. Neither has a bright future, but the Patriots just needed to add some bodies on the offensive line.

I was shocked that they didn’t address the defensive line until the 7th round with Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston. Deaderick is a good fit at end in their 3-4 scheme, and could be part of the rotation this season. Weston is more of a developmental player. He was never a full-time starter in college but has impressive size and athleticism.

And Belichick’s obsession with late-round quarterbacks continued with the selection of Zac Robinson. Almost every year he either drafts or signs a developmental prospect at the position. It’s as though he’s constantly searching for the next Tom Brady. His obsession is humorous, but I do like the pick. Robinson has impressive athleticism for the position and made significant strides over the past two seasons as the starter at Oklahoma State.

Overall, I think the Patriots had a very solid draft. They got good value for most of their selections and addressed the majority of their needs. The only thing that seems to be missing from the draft is someone who can contribute immediately as a pass rusher. Cunningham could be that guy, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to win the starting job over Pierre Woods.

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

A look at why Dez Bryant’s stock has fallen

We’ve been hearing all winter and spring about how Dez Bryant‘s character concerns are going cause him to fall on draft day.

In fact, the rumors have become so rampant that some are saying it has been blown out of proportion by teams lower in the draft trying to cause him to fall. Bryant’s defenders point to the fact that he’s never been in trouble with the law, and that his issues are far smaller than those of players who enter the draft with criminal backgrounds.

NCAA Football: Pacific Life Holiday Bowl DEC 30In a sense, they’re right. There’s no reason to believe that Bryant will do anything to get himself suspended in the NFL. He’s never been in legal trouble and there have been no indications that he’s even the type of person who puts himself in situations where bad things tend to happen (i.e. at a night club at 3am).

However, Bryant’s character flaws may actually be more concerning than anyone with a checkered past.

Teams are concerned with Bryant’s work ethic. In college he had a tendency to show up late for everything – meetings, practice and even games. That alone raises a huge red flag.

In the NFL players with off-field character concerns typically get second, third and fourth chances because it rarely impacts their play on the field. Take Terrell Owens for example. He presents a significant off-field risk to any team he plays for, however, his work ethic is so impressive that teams are willing to take a chance. No matter what he does or says away from the field, teams can count on him to be in top physical condition in order to perform on game day.

That cannot be said for a player like Bryant. Teams are genuinely worried that he will have a difficult learning curve in the NFL because of his lack of work ethic. Wide receivers rarely make a significant impact in the NFL before their 3rd year in the league. Its perhaps the slowest developing position in the game. Factor in Bryant’s work ethic and you could be looking at an even longer time frame before he develops into the elite receiver that he has the potential to become.

The NFL has a “win-now” attitude. Most coaches and general managers don’t have the job security to look three years down the road. For this reason, fewer receivers are being selected high in the draft.

This mind set could cause Bryant to fall on draft day. It could also lead to him being selected by one of the few organizations that does provide job security to its decision makers such as the Steelers or Patriots.

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

The answers to all your Tebow questions

Unlikely most of the mainstream media, I’ve ignored Tim Tebow this offseason. Its not because I have anything against Tebow, I’m just not interested in treating him like an elite prospect. Just by writing this blog entry I’m giving him more attention that I’ve given to similar prospects such as Jonathan Crompton and Jevan Snead. But despite the fact that I normally wouldn’t spend this much time analyzing a 3rd-round quarterback prospect, I’ve been asked enough questions about Tebow via email and Twitter that I now feel the need to address his draft status.

So lets touch on the most popular questions:

Super Bowl XLIV

Who will call Tebow's name on draft day?

Who will draft Tebow?
To our knowledge, Tebow has visited or is scheduled to visit with the Bills, Seahawks, Browns, Patriots and Redskins. Draft visits typically don’t offer too much insight into what direction teams are leaning, but 1st and 2nd round quarterback prospects are the exception. At the very least, these are players that you’re hoping will become the face of your franchise. Coaches work one-on-one with the quarterback more than any other position, so a pre-draft sit-down is viewed as a necessity. This doesn’t mean someone else won’t draft him, but if Tebow is selected within the first two rounds, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t by one of those five teams (or someone else who visits with him in the next few weeks).

Will Tebow be a 1st-round pick?
Maybe. You can never underestimate the egos of NFL coaches and general managers. Drafting Tebow would shine a bright spotlight on their organization and if a coach is able to turn Tebow into a quality starting quarterback, the praise would be heaped upon him. Without a doubt, there are coaches and GMs out there who think they have the answers to all of Tebow’s mechanical issues. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. The fact that we’re asking the question though, means he shouldn’t be a 1st-round pick. That said, someone might take a chance.

The Patriots are a strong possibility. Tom Brady will be 33 in August and Bill Belichick is a close friend of Urban Meyer and admittedly a Tebow-admirer. The Bills could be another option, but they would need to trade back into the 1st round to make it happen.

Why do you hate Tebow?
I don’t hate Tim Tebow. I don’t wish failure upon him. I don’t think he’s destined to be a bust. I simply gave him a 3rd-round grade because his mechanics are a question mark, his accuracy is shaky on deep passes and he’ll need to learn an NFL playbook which looks nothing like what he’s used to at Florida. 1st-round quarterbacks should be considered nearly can’t-miss prospects, guys you expect to be starting by the start of their second year at the latest. 2nd-round quarterbacks come with similar expectations within the organization, but without the outside pressure to succeed due to the lesser contract value. 3rd-round quarterbacks are viewed as likely future starters, but are usually very raw and are expected to need two or three years of seasoning on the bench. Tebow fits into the third category. He could very well end up starting, but he needs a lot of work.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Bills, Browns, Patriots, Redskins, Seahawks 1 Comment

Patriots searching for the next Tom Brady

Given Tom Brady’s age (33 in August) and recent knee injury, one would think it’d be a good idea to bring in a veteran backup. Yet Bill Belichick insists on filling the need for a backup signal caller through the draft. Since 2007, the Patriots backups have been almost exclusively home grown – Matt Cassel, Matt Guttierrez, Kevin O’Connell and Brian Hoyer.

Despite still having Hoyer on the roster, who spent the 2009 as Brady’s backup, Belichick appears to be planning on drafting yet another quarterback in the mid-rounds of the draft. Thus far, the Patriots have visited or have scheduled visits with Tony Pike, Zac Robinson and Tim Tebow.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Could Pike be groomed as Tom Brady's replacement?

Pike and Tebow are likely to be off the board by the 4th round at the latest, indicating that the Patriots are willing to spend a fairly high pick on a quarterback this year. Robinson figures to still be available in the 6th or 7th round.

So why the obsession with quarterbacks?

The most likely is that Belichick views himself as a quarterback genius. After all, he has groomed a 6th and 7th round pick into starting quarterbacks during his time in New England. Knowing that Brady will the 33 before the start of the 2010 season has to make Belichick somewhat worried about his future with the team and he knows that now is the time to groom his replacement.

His interest in quarterbacks in this year’s class likely indicates that he doesn’t view Hoyer as the solution. However, in 2008 the Patriots selected Kevin O’Connell in the 3rd round, presumably to take over the backup job from Matt Cassel. We all know how that turned out.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Patriots 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