2011 NFL Draft

Ravens show interest in Casey Matthews

The Ravens have reportedly met with Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews at the scouting combine, following up on a meeting they had at the Senior Bowl.

Inside linebacker isn’t necessarily a top priority for the Ravens but it is a need and Matthews could fill that hole in the 2nd or 3rd round. Jameel McClain and Tavares Gooden are both free agents. If they leave the need increases.

Another reason why drafting Matthews makes sense, would be to give him an opportunity to learn behind Ray Lewis. Having Lewis’ eventual replacement learn behind the future Hall of Famer could ease the transition which is inevitably coming in the next year or two.

The Ravens are also scheduled to meet with Brandon Harris, who could be a 1st-round target.

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

Rahim Moore could be one of most coveted prospects in 2011 Draft

UCLA junior safety Rahim Moore has announced that he will enter the draft.

The casual football fan has probably never heard of him, as UCLA hasn’t exactly grabbed national headlines over the past few seasons, but Moore may be the one of the most highly sought after prospects in this year’s draft.

Moore could come off the board as high as No. 11 to the Texans

In a typical year Moore would probably be a late 1st round to mid 2nd-round pick. Due to a lack of talent at safety in this year’s draft class, however, Moore could come off the board in the top 15.

The Texans, who own the 11th pick in the draft, may be his best-case scenario. He likely won’t be the 11th-best player on anyone’s draft board, but he fills a huge need in Houston and there is a significant gap between him and the next best option.

Moore is an ideal fit at free safety, and could supplant Eugene Wilson as the starter in Houston. If they see him as a strong safety, he could replace free agent Bernard Pollard.

Other teams such as the Ravens (looking for Ed Reed’s eventual replacement) and the Colts (insurance behind Bob Sanders) could also target Moore.

Should he slide past Houston, it is possible that one of these teams with a late 1st-round pick will trade up in an effort to land Moore, who may be the only safety with a consensus 1st-round grade.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Colts, Ravens, Texans Comments Off

32 reasons why no one in the NFL should want Moss

Cardinals – Need a lot more than one aging receiver to fix their quarterback situation.

Falcons – Why mess up a good thing between Matt Ryan and Roddy White?

Ravens – No room with Boldin, Mason and Housh. Moss would pout, ruin chemistry.

Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pleasantly surprising. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Panthers – Think Moss will be a good soldier on a team competing for the No. 1 pick?

Bears – Lovie and Martz have their hands full already with Jay Cutler in the locker room.

Bengals – T.O.  and Moss in the same locker room? No thanks.

Browns – If Mangini can’t get along with Braylon Edwards, how would Moss fit in?

Cowboys – The last thing they need is another distraction.

Broncos – Do you really think McDaniels will get along with Moss better than Marshall?

Lions – Can you picture Moss accepting role as a No. 2 receiver on a 2-5 team?

Packers – Chemistry on offense seems to be great. Don’t mess it up.

Texans – See above.

Colts – Manning prefers his no-name receivers. And it works just fine for him.

Jaguars – Last place Jags aren’t going anywhere. Don’t waste the money.

Chiefs – Already hold a big lead in a weak division. Why mess with what’s working?

Dolphins – Marshall and Moss is too much ego for any coaching staff to handle.

Vikings – Been there. Done that.

Patriots – Been there. Done that.

Saints – Brees seems to be doing o.k. for himself without an elite receiver.

Giants – Can you picture Moss backing up Nicks and Smith?

Jets – I think they’ve learned their lesson with Braylon Edwards.

Raiders – Been there. Done that.

Eagles – Been there. Done that.

Steelers – After trading Holmes, adding Moss would be a step backwards.

Chargers – Vincent Jackson is back.

49ers – Can you picture Moss being happy in last place in the worst division?

Seahawks – The last thing Mike Williams needs right now is a bad influence.

Rams – Last thing this young, overachieving team needs is a bad influence like Moss.

Bucs – See above.

Titans – Kenny Britt has enough issues to overcome without Moss influencing him.

Redskins – McNabb and T.O. didn’t work. Why would it work with Moss?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, Vikings 1 Comment

10 Most Underrated NFL Players

10. Shaun O’Hara
Since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2000, O’Hara has developed into one of the games best interior offensive linemen. Now entering his 11th season in the league, O’Hara continues to get better with age. He finally made the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons and likely has more to come.

9. Matt Roth
The Dolphins waived Roth midway through the 2009 season and the Browns capitalized on Bill Parcells’ mistake. Roth was dominant down the stretch in Rob Ryan’s defense, excelling against both the pass and the run. He’s one of the most well-rounded 3-4 outside linebackers in the league and still has his best years ahead of him.

8. Kelly Gregg
While Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and others get all the credit for the Ravens’ defensive success, Gregg is the glue that holds it all together. He doesn’t generate the stats to get attention or make highlight-worthy plays, but he is one of the most consistent nose tackles in the game.

7. Antoine Winfield
Winfield has been regarded as a solid cornerback for over a decade now, but I don’t think he’s ever gotten the attention he deserves. He’s solid in coverage, but really excels against the run. Perhaps only Charles Woodson is more well-round in terms of ability to defend both the pass and the run at an elite level.

6. Vincent Jackson
As Jackson fights for a new contract in San Diego most fans are wondering how a player like Jackson could demand so much money. While I can’t defend his actions and his willingness to sit out the season, I will argue that he belongs among the highest-paid receivers in the game. As far as complete receivers go, only Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are better. Jackson has it all – the speed to stretch the field, great hands, and is arguably the best blocking receiver in the game.

5. Keith Brooking
Brooking flew under the radar for years in Atlanta and finally stepped into the spotlight in Dallas last season. The 5-time Pro Bowler has never been viewed as one of the game’s truly elite linebackers, yet at age 35 he remains among the best at his position. He lacks the stats – sacks and interceptions – to get noticed, but he’s one of those players that is simply all over the field. When the Cowboys defense makes a key stop, chances are Brooking was in the middle of it.

4. Jared Gaither
The Ravens tried to bait another team into signing Gaither as a restricted free agent this season. Rumors have circled the league that they’re unhappy with his work ethic. But whatever it is about him that the Ravens aren’t high on, it certainly didn’t slow him down in 2009. He was one of the game’s most dominant left tackles, protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side. He allowed just four sacks and two hits all season – ranking among the game’s most efficient left tackles.

3. Pierre Thomas
Thomas is often overshadowed by Reggie Bush, but he is the true star of the Saints backfield. He is one of the most well-rounded running backs in the game, and is perhaps most valuable as a receiver. According to ProFootballFocus.com the Saints targeted Thomas 42 times last season, he caught 39 of them and didn’t drop a single catchable pass.

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 06:  Robert Meachem #17 of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown against the Washington Redskins on December 6, 2009 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Meachem may be on the verge of stardom

2. Shaun Rogers
Shaun Rogers got a bad reputation in Detroit as being lazy and overweight. Since coming over to Cleveland, Rogers has reestablished himself as one of the game’s premier nose tackles. In terms of clogging holes and stuffing the run, he’s on the same level as Albert Haynesworth and Kevin Williams.

1. Robert Meachem
Meachem finally overcame a long string of injuries and played a key role in the Saints Super Bowl run in 2009. He started seven games for the Saints and proved to be a valuable deep threat, averaging over 16 yards per catch. What really makes him stand out, however, is the little things he does. He is an above-average blocker and has arguably the most consistent hands in the game. In 2009 he was one of just three receivers with over 40 catches and zero drops.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Browns, Chargers, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens, Saints, Vikings 9 Comments

Training Camp Preview: Ravens

Baltimore Ravens rookie tackle Jared Gaither walks off the practice field after the first full day of training camp Photo via Newscom

Will Gaither still be in Baltimore in August?

Biggest Question Mark: Jared Gaither
Will he be a Raven when the season starts? Will he be happy if he is? There are plenty of questions surrounding Gaither and seeming no answers in sight. The Ravens practically tried to give him away, begging a team to sign the restricted free agent and then trying to trade him. But they couldn’t find any takers, which is baffling considering his impressive 2009 season. Assuming he remains in Baltimore, he’ll be moved over to right tackle where he should continue to dominate.

Position Battle to Watch: Wide Receiver
Anquan Boldin will be Joe Flacco’s go-to guy, but who will step up as his second and third options? Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason have experience in Baltimore’s system, but Donte’ Stallworth will have a chip on his shoulder after sitting out the 2009 season.

Impact Rookie: Terrence Cody
Cody likely won’t start in Baltimore, but he gives them unmatched depth on the defensive line. They’ll likely use him in a rotation with Haloti Ngata and Kevin Gregg at nose tackle which will keep all three players fresh. If Cody can perform at an elite level for 25-30 plays per game, he’ll give the Ravens a truly dominant defensive line.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Ravens Comments Off

Bills want Jared Gaither

In one of the worst non-moves of the draft, the Bills failed to land a left tackle. Now they may be taking steps toward rectifying that.

The Ravens have been practically trying give Jared Gaither away, and now the Bills may finally be stepping up as a suitor.

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp 2007

Is Gaither headed to Buffalo?

Gaither has been on the trade market this entire offseason since the Ravens placed only a 1st-round tender on the restricted free agent. Now, despite a dominant 2009 season at left tackle, the Ravens have been using Gaither on the right side. Its more clear than ever that they don’t envision him as a key part of the team in 2010.

I’ve been begging for someone to sign Gaither this entire offseason. He’s simply one of the best young left tackles in the game. However, the Ravens’ willingness to part with him has scared teams off. Rumors about his lack of work ethic have swirled and his stock has plummeted.

Seemingly, he would be a perfect fit in Buffalo. They can’t afford to enter 2010 with Demetrius Bell as their starting left tackle. Gaither would help stabilize their offensive line and perhaps give the Bills a chance at mediocrity in 2010.

However, the Bills should be cautious about giving up too much. As good as Gaither was in 2009, he isn’t worth the Bills 2011 1st-round pick, which will likely be in the top 10. The Bills still need a franchise quarterback and they can’t pass up a shot at Jake Locker, Andrew Luck or Ryan Mallett for a left tackle with work ethic concerns.

But if the Bills can land Gaither for a 2nd-round pick or less, it’s a steal and perhaps one of the best moves of the offseason.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Ravens Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Ravens

The Ravens did a great job trading out of the 1st round and still managing to land a 1st-round talent in the 2nd round.

Sergio Kindle is a perfect fit at outside linebacker in Baltimore. While their defense is still based off the 3-4 scheme, they have been running more 4-3 sets lately and Kindle is a much better fit at outside linebacker in those formations than Jarrett Johnson. He’ll likely backup Johnson this upcoming season, but he should see significant playing time as part of the rotation.

Terrence Cody was a great pick in the late 2nd-round. He obviously doesn’t fill an immediate need, but he can be used in a rotation at nose tackle with 33-year-old Kelly Gregg. That combination will suit both players well and should improve what was already one of the best defensive lines in football.

I’m not crazy about the selection of Ed Dickson. He can contribute immediately as a receiver, but his blocking needs a lot of work. He just isn’t the complete package that the Ravens like at tight end. However, I think they got great value for Dennis Pitta in the 4th round. He’s much closer to a Todd Heap-type tight end and I like his chances of eventually replacing Heap better than Dickson’s. That said, I don’t like the fact that they grabbed two tight ends in spots where other contributors could have been added.

David Reed is an intriguing prospect, but I felt the reached a little bit in the 5th round. Fortunately he won’t be relied on this upcoming season. For the short term, the Ravens are set a receiver, allowing them to develop Reed without throwing him into the fire.

Arthur Jones was a great late 5th-round pick. Entering the 2009 season he was viewed as a potential 1st-round pick. However, he has a long history of knee injuries which scared off most teams. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be an instant contributor at defensive end for the Ravens. He’s a very nice addition to their rotation on the defensive line and well worth the risk in the 5th round.

Ramone Harewood is a developmental prospect and landed in the perfect place in Baltimore. He fits the mold of a typical Ravens tackle (6’7″, 360 pounds) and they’ll try to groom him for a starting job two to three years down the road. He may spend the 2010 season on the practice squad, but in the 6th round they could afford to grab a developmental prospect that won’t bring any immediate returns.

Overall, this was a very solid draft for the Ravens. For the most part, they got excellent value at each slot and a few players that can contribute immediately. The only downside is that they didn’t land any immediate difference makers. They have every reason to believe that they can be a Super Bowl contender in 2010, so it was surprising to see them fail to address more needs early one. They have a number of injury concerns at cornerback (Lardarius Webb, Dominique Foxworth) and adding some insurance at that position would have made sense.

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

There could be a run on cornerbacks in the 1st round

Just about every year there is a run on players from a certain position. This year we know a good number of offensive tackles and defensive linemen will go in the 1st round. Joining them, could be a number of cornerbacks.

Back in my first post-regular season mock draft in January I had only one cornerback in the 1st round – Joe Haden. Since then, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Robinson and Kareem Jackson have all entered the conversation. While I don’t believe all five deserve to be 1st-round selections, its not out of the question that they could all sneak into the top 32 picks.

Runs on a specific position happen when teams need to fill a position and are worried that they’ll be left with a significantly worse player by the time they’re on the clock again. For example, if the Eagles want a cornerback in the 1st round they may reach for Kareem Jackson rather than settle for Perrish Cox in the second round.

Just a few weeks ago it seemed reasonable to assume that only two cornerbacks would come off the board in the 1st round. So lets run through a scenario in which all five could come off the board.

10. Jaguars – Joe Haden
The Jaguars are definitely in the mix to land Haden. They need someone opposite Rashean Mathis, who turns 30 in August.

17. 49ers – Devin McCourty
There are reportedly a number of teams in the top 20 that have an interest in McCoury, and the 49ers are likely one of them. Nate Clements has been a huge disappointment, and was benched at one point in 2009. McCourty could allow them to part ways with him and enormous contract.

24. Eagles – Kyle Wilson
The Eagles traded arguably their best cornerback, Sheldon Brown, to the Browns in an effort to get younger on defense. However, it depleted their depth at cornerback in the process and left them with with Ellis Hobbs as their best option to start opposite Asante Samuel.

25. Ravens – Kareem Jackson
Both Lardarius Webb and Dominique Foxworth are coming off ACL injuries and may not be ready for the start of the season. Having two key injuries in their secondary has the Ravens worried, and they’ve done their homework on the majority of the top cornerbacks in this year’s class.

31. Vikings – Patrick Robinson
Robinson is the long shot of the group, but if the top four cornerbacks are off the board by No. 31 the Vikings may take chance on him. Depth at the position was a weakness of the Vikings in 2009 and to make matters worse Cedric Griffin’s season ended with a serious knee injury which could cause him to miss the start of the 2010 season. They’re desperate for help in the secondary and may not have  a choice but to add someone in the 1st round.

This is just one of multiple scenarios in which five corners could come off the board. Other teams such as the Titans, Steelers and Packers are also interested in cornerbacks early in the draft.

If a scenario such as this plays out, the real winners will be the teams drafting early in the 2nd round. A number of 1st-round talents will fall if teams start to reach for guys at a specific position. It could cause multiple big names to still be on the board on Friday.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Packers, Ravens, Vikings Comments Off

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

Will someone please sign Jared Gaither

I’ve asked this before, but he remains unsigned, so I’ll ask it again: Why doesn’t anyone want Jared Gaither?

WI: Baltimore Ravens v Green Bay PackersIn his third year in the league in ’09, Gaither blossomed into a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle, more than adequately filling the shoes of his predecessor Jonathan Ogden. He ultimately wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl, primarily due to the fact that he missed five games last season, but the honor is surely in his future.

If you don’t know much about Gaither its probably due to the fact that he skipped the April draft process, entering the 2007 Supplemental Draft instead. In July ’07 Gaither was ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, which prompted the decision. As a result, the Ravens landed themselves a 1st-round talent with a 5th-round selection.

After backing up Ogden in ’07, Gaither took over in 2008. He was impressive as a sophomore, but reached elite status in 2009. Despite his performance, the Ravens only tendered him at the 1st-round level, leaving them susceptible to Gaither signing elsewhere.

Personally, I would rather spend my 1st-round pick on a proven 24-year-old than take a chance on anyone in the draft, even this year’s top prospect, Russell Okung.

ProFootballFocus grades Gaither very favorably, ranking him 6th overall among offensive tackles. However, their ratings are accumulated throughout the season, favoring the players who appeared in all 16 games. Given the fact that he only played 11 games in 2009 I decided to take their ratings and adjust them based on number of snaps played to see where Gaither would rank. Taking the overall rating and dividing by snaps played you get this list “per snap” rating list:

It should be noted that Gaither’s injuries are part of the equation as to why teams may not be interested, but if you simply look at his production on the field there’s no denying his status as an elite left tackle.

Applying this to the draft, how could any team targeting an offensive tackle not give serious consideration to Gaither?

Teams like the Redskins, Seahawks, Raiders, Bills, 49ers, Cardinals and Cowboys are all in the market for an upgrade at left tackle. Would they honestly rather take a risk on Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams or Anthony Davis instead of Gaither?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Cowboys, Free Agency, Raiders, Ravens, Redskins, Seahawks 2 Comments