Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints had nothing to work with, but I’ll grade them strictly based on the picks which they did have to use. Unfortunately, the Saints took a bad situation and made it worse by consistently reaching and not coming away with any immediate help.

Akiem Hicks has the size to play the nose tackle role, which the Saints hoped Shaun Rogers could fill last year. However, Hicks is extremely raw and will likely only play a minor role in 2012.

Nick Toon had some value in the 4th round, but I don’t think he’s a great fit for the Saints. His lack of athleticism limits his upside and he’ll have to fight just to earn a spot as the 4th or 5th receiver in New Orleans.

Corey White is another developmental prospect who can play corner or safety. He’ll provide some much needed depth in the secondary.

Andrew Tiller and Marcel Jones may be handed backup jobs by default. The Saints are severely lacking depth on the offensive line, which should allow both prospects to make the final roster. However, neither has much upside and are unlikely to ever develop beyond the backup role.

Even taking the lack of picks into account, it’s tough to give the Saints high marks for this class. It’s unlikely that any of these selections will be playing a meaningful role in New Orleans three years from now and they offer almost no immediate value.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Saints Comments Off

Draft Needs: New Orleans Saints

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the New Orleans Saints [full archive here].

Season Recap: After a somewhat slow start to the season, the New Orleans Saints exploded in the second-half, finishing the year with eight straight wins. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s record of passing yards in a season, and many people anointed the Saints as early Super Bowl favorites. The Saints easily took care of the Lions in the Wild Card round, but failed to beat the 49ers on the road. With Head Coach Sean Payton suspended for the 2012 season, the New Orleans Saints have a lot to overcome if they hope to be contenders in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Outside Linebacker: The Saints signed MLB Curtis Lofton to take over for Jonathon Vilma, who will likely be suspended for his role in the Bounty program, but questions still remain on the outside. Former Ram Chris Chamberlain was signed, but ideally as a depth player. The Saints don’t have a pick until the third round, so a player such as Zach Brown, Keenan Robinson, Sean Spence, or Nigel Bradham would be ideal fits.

2. Defensive End: New Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves having a rotation of ends to stay fresh throughout the game, enabling 100% effort every snap. Under “Spags”, you can never have enough D-lineman. The Saints need to add another body to the mix. Cam Johnson and Chandler Jones are names that are possibilities in the third round.

3. Defensive Tackle: Again, you can never have too many D-lineman under Spagnuolo. The Saints made a good signing in run-stuffer Brodrick Bunkley to start alongside Sedrick Ellis, but more depth is needed. With few high draft picks, it will be hard to get production from the rookies in 2012, but if a player such as Brandon Thompson or Kendall Reyes falls in the second round, the Saints could make a move up to grab them.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Saints 1 Comment

2011 Draft Grades: New Orleans Saints

I love when teams like the New Orleans Saints take a value-based approach to the draft. Elite teams can reach to fill needs to improve their immediate Super Bowl hopes, but the franchises that sustain success do so by continually grabbing the best available talent in the draft – regardless of their needs.

Almost anyone you ask will tell you the selection of Cameron Jordan was among the best of the 1st round, but I love it even more than most. Jordan landed at No. 4 on my final big board and I am thrilled to see him land in a 4-3 defense where I believe he’s best suited to make an immediate impact. The Saints didn’t have a glaring hole at defensive end, but Jordan is as NFL ready as they come and could win a starting job over Alex Brown as a rookie.

I’m not a big Mark Ingram fan (I gave him a late 2nd-round grade) but I am willing to admit that New Orleans is a great fit for him. The Saints use a true running-back-by-committee approach, which is exactly the system Ingram needs to succeed. He doesn’t have the tools to be effective when carrying the ball 15-20 per game on a regular basis, but if given the ball 10-12 times in strategic situations he could have an immediate impact.

I love the selection of Martez Wilson in the 3rd round. He is a bit of a developmental prospect, which caused his fall despite his obvious raw skills, but I have faith that defensive coordinator Greg Williams will get the most out of him. He could backup Jonathan Vilma on the inside, but I think he may actually be a better fit at strong-side linebacker in New Orleans.

Johnny Patrick is a character risk and doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Saints. They have at least four cornerbacks under contract who will clearly sit ahead of Patrick on the depth chart. There were plenty of good players available in the 3rd round that would have been better fits in New Orleans.

In the 7th round Greg Romeus is well worth the risk. Injuries may prevent him from making an impact at the next level, but if he is able to fully recover he’ll be a steal. A full recovery may be a long shot, but it’s a no-risk/potentially high reward pick for the Saints.

Wilson’s college teammate Nate Bussey is an interesting 7th round pick. He’s vastly undersized and is purely a developmental prospect. Even on a roster lacking depth at linebacker he’ll struggle to make the cut, but could turn into something after spending a year or two on the practice squad.

For the most part, I like what the Saints did in this draft. However, I do think they gave up an awful lot to land Ingram, who will never be a workhorse running back for them. They added enough to fill some holes and get some good value at other spots in the draft, but the lack of picks certainly takes away from what they could have accomplished.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Saints Comments Off

Draft Needs: New Orleans Saints

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the New Orleans Saints [full archive here].

Season Recap – The defending Super Bowl champions failed to accomplish their goals as repeating champions, but still managed to finish with a solid 11-5 record. There were struggles early on in the season- the division-rival Atlanta Falcons overtook the division. It took until week 16 for the Saints to clinch a playoff berth after rallying from behind to beat the Falcons, but lost to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round. In 2011, New Orleans hopes to retake the lead in the division and make another run at the Lombardi Trophy.

Needs:
1. Outside Linebacker
- With Danny Clark, Kawika Mitchell, Scott Shanle, and Jo-Lonn Dunbar scheduled to become free agents the Saints desperately need to upgrade. Greg Williams has brought this defense to the top of league and undoubtedly would love a few more pieces to work with. The Saints can find an upgrade in the first two rounds. Martez Wilson, out of Illinois, would be a great addition. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2011, Saints 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

NFL Rookie Rankings – Through Week 6

OFFENSE
1.
Sam Bradford, Rams
Compared to other quarterbacks in the league Bradford’s numbers are mediocre at best. But for a rookie, he has more than lived up to expectations.

2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez was expected to take on a more prominent role in the passing game due to the departure of Moss and he stepped with with six receptions against the Ravens.

3. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best falls down the board as he continues to remain unproductive running the ball. He’s still a weapon as a receiver, but he hasn’t looked like a complete player lately.

4. Mike Williams, Bucs
Williams has clearly stepped up as the Bucs top receiver. He’s been targeted 40 times by Josh Freeman, 16 more than other other wide receiver on the team.

5. Chris Ivory, Saints
He’s only started two games, but it’s impossible to ignore Ivory’s 158-yard breakout performances against the Bucs.

DEFENSE
1.Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi regains the top spot after record a sack and two pressures for the second straight game. The Dolphins pass rush has noticeably improved since he joined the starting lineup in Week 3.

2. Nate Allen, Eagles
Allen losses his stop atop the rankings after a rough week against the Falcons in which he got burned for a touchdown.

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas played a key role in keeping the Bears passing attack in check. He isn’t as well rounded as Allen, but he’s is emerging as an elite safety in coverage.

4. Ndamukong Suh, Lions
Suh is a one-dimensional player at this point in his career, but he does that one thing very well. He’s arguably the most dominant pass-rushing interior lineman in the league, not just among rookies.

5. Lamarr Houston, Raiders
Houston doesn’t have the sack totals to get much attention, but he’s been quietly consistent and effective as a pass rusher all season.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Buccaneers, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Saints, Seahawks Comments Off

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

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

Training Camp Preview: Saints

Biggest Question Mark: Pierre Thomas
Despite rushing for over 100 yards just once, Thomas was arguable one of the most productive running backs in the game. But is he capable of taking on a bigger role? The loss of Mike Bell means Thomas will be asked to take on a more prominent role in the offense.

Jan. 16, 2010 - NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, UNITED STATES - epa01991482 New Orleans Saint Pierre Thomas (L) gets tackled by Arizona Cardinal Calais Campbell (R) in the second quarter of their playoff National Football League game at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA 16 January 2010. The Saint beat the Cardinals 45 to 14, advancing to the NFC Championship next week.

Is Thomas ready to take on a larger role in the Saints offense?

Position Battle to Watch: Strong-Side Linebacker
Scott Fujita was a mediocre linebacker for the Saints in 2009. He’s now in Cleveland and the Saints didn’t make any significant attempts to replace him. As a result, JoLonn Dunbar and Clint Ingram will battle for the starting job. In neither player steps up, the position could be a significant weakness for the Saints.

Impact Rookie: Jimmy Graham
Graham enters camp penciled in as the third-string tight end, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a significant impact on the field. Graham’s athleticism allows the Saints to draw up plays that neither Jeremy Shockey nor David Thomas are capable of running. If used in isolated situations, Graham could be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Saints Comments Off