A.J. Green

NFL Comparisons for Draft Prospects

There really isn’t a perfect comparison for Patrick Peterson because the NFL has never seen a player with his size and athleticism. But in his era, Rod Woodson was the equivalent - a man with cornerback skills and safety size. Woodson went on to a Hall of Fame career, as both a cornerback and safety, and Peterson could follow a similar career path in the pros. Read more
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

The Redskins Draft Strategy

Over the offseason, I’ve been attempting to figure out my best guess for what Mike Shanahan and company will do in their first real offseason. Shanahan and Allen have had their staff for a full year now, and are now familiar with all the players. Shanahan knew the players only by film last offseason, but now knows what he truly has. It will take a couple seasons before Shanahan is fully comfortable, but he is on his way. In all of the mock drafts, most people have the Redskins selecting from a pool of players consisting of Julio Jones, AJ Green, or Jake Locker- often stating WR and QB as the biggest needs. But, this is my take on the Redskins approach, come April 28th. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in 2011 NFL Draft, Redskins 1 Comment

5 early bold predictions for the NFL Draft

5. A trade occurs within the first five picks
The Panthers would love to trade down. The Broncos probably feel the same way. With two quarterbacks possibly coming off the board within the first five picks, someone is going to trade up to ensure they get their guy. My money’s on the Cardinals moving up for Gabbert, possibly to No. 1.

4. The Patriots actually use both 1st-round picks
No one loves trading picks more than Bill Belichick, but this year the Patriots actually need their picks. There is enough talent at positions of need (defensive line, offensive line) that the Patriots will stay put and fill some holes. In the 2nd round is where we’ll see the Pats start making moves. 

The best player in the draft isn't falling as far as you may think

3. Patrick Peterson is off the board within the first six picks
Nearly every mock draft has Peterson falling to the 49ers.  Sorry to ruin your fun 49ers fans, but the best player in the draft isn’t getting past six different teams. If he falls to No. 6 the Browns will gladly end his fall, even if he doesn’t fill a glaring hole.

2. A.J. Green falls to the Washington Redskins
There are multiple scenarios in which this could happen, and I truly believe one of them will come true. In my most recent mock draft I have the Bengals selecting Julio Jones, which allows Green to fall to No. 10.

1. At least three quarterbacks will go in the 1st round
Newton and Gabbert are 1st-round locks. After that, it’s anyone’s guess as to who many come off the board next. However, I am confident that someone will reach for another quarterback in the 1st round. Maybe the Dolphins reach for Mallett or Locker. Maybe the Seahawks do the same. Maybe someone falls in love with Dalton or Ponder. Whatever happens, one of those guys is going in the 1st round, and possibly more.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Browns, Dolphins, Patriots, Redskins, Seahawks Comments Off

Are SEC wide receivers overrated?

The SEC is the best conference in college football, I’m not here to dispute that. However, college success doesn’t always translate to the NFL.

In this year’s draft class the top two receivers are both from the SEC – A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

They appear in the top 10-15 picks in nearly every mock draft and are among the top 10 on most draft boards around the internet. As much as draftniks love to disagree, almost no one disputes the fact that Green and Jones are elite talents with bright futures.

But maybe we should be more skeptical.

Since 1998 there have been 10 SEC wide receivers selected in the 1st round and collectively they have made only one Pro Bowl appearance (Dwayne Bowe, this past season). Additionally, they’ve had just three 1,000-yard seasons (two by Bowe, one by Michael Clayton – both former LSU Tigers).

Once upon a time Travis Taylor was a top-10 pick

In general SEC receivers haven’t just fallen short of expectations, they’ve completely flopped in the NFL.

Just how bad has it been?

According to Pro-Football-Reference’s career approximate value (basically the NFL’s version of WAR), the best SEC receiver drafted in the past 10 years has been Donte’ Stallworth, followed by Jabar Gaffney. Yikes.

Now I’m not about to adjust my grades on Green or Jones because past SEC receivers have failed. However, I do believe the lack of success something to consider. If this trend continues, I think we need to start wondering if there is something about the style of football in the SEC that hinders the development of receivers, at least from the standpoint of their future NFL success.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could A.J. Green fall to the Redskins?

As I was thinking over some different scenarios while updating the mock draft this weekend I realized A.J. Green – the top overall prospect according to some – could fall to the Washington Redskins.

Since mid-January I’ve had Julio Jones linked to the ‘Skins, but I think it’s becoming increasingly likely that Green could fall.

The key to this scenario is having two quarterbacks – most likely Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert – come off the board in the top 10. I think Gabbert is a top-10 lock, so the wildcard is Newton.

I still have Newton at No. 15 to the Dolphins, but I’ll admit that it is a strong possibility that the Bills roll the dice on him at No. 3. If that happens it could set off a chain reaction that sends Green falling down the board.

So let’s talk through this scenario…

The Bills take Newton at No. 3. That leaves the Bengals to decide between Gabbert and Green and possibly Patrick Peterson. It looks increasingly likely that Carson Palmer is finished in Cincinnati, so they go with Gabbert.

Arizona then takes either Robert Quinn or Von Miller. That leaves Green on the board for the Browns, who would have to consider him. However, with Peterson also available I can’t see the Browns passing up an opportunity to land another premier cornerback.

Once Green gets past the Browns, there’s very little chance that the 49ers, Titans or Cowboys would settle for a receiver if they have the opportunity to address areas of need on defense.

The Niners take Miller, Titans jump at the chance to land Marcell Dareus and the Cowboys are more than happy to take Prince Amukamara.

And before you know it, the Redskins are on the board with A.J. Green staring them in the face. It would be a dream scenario for Mike Shanahan and company and an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.

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

NFL Combine prop bets?

For the past few years Bodog.com has sent me a list of NFL Draft prop bets. I always just hit the delete button because I have better things to do in late April than waste my time trying to figure out if the Big East or ACC will have more top-50 picks or whatever other nonsense they come up with.

But this year they’re stepping up their game, and I’m intrigued.

I recently received an email with NFL Combine prop bets. This is possibly the most ridiculous thing you could bet on, because we’re talking about a difference of hundredths of a second, or quarters of an inch on some of these, but hey, it’s not like anything else interesting is going on in the sports world in late February.

So I’ll take the time to weigh in on a few…

Who will have the fastest 40 Yard Dash Time
Christian Ponder (QB FSU)                                 -120
Jake Locker (QB Washington)                           -120

This is a gimme. Locker should be faster than Ponder by a full 10th of a second (and that fact that .10 is considered a large margin is exactly why you’re a fool if you bet on any of these).

Who will have the fastest 40 Yard Dash Time
Mark Ingram (RB Alabama)                                 -120
Ryan Williams (RB Virginia Tech)                     -120

Supposedly Ingram is going to run in the 4.4s, but I’ll believe it when I see it. My money’s on Williams.

Who will have the fastest 40 Yard Dash Time
Julio Jones (WR Alabama)                                  Even
Jon Baldwin (WR Pittsburgh)                               -130

Baldwin’s camp has been hyping him up and he reportedly has been clocked in the 4.3 range. Not sure I believe that, but it won’t be difficult for him to post a better time than Jones. I’ll be mildly surprised if Jones cracks 4.5.

Who will the most bench press repetitions?
Nate Solder (OT Colorado)                                  -130
Gabe Carimi (OT Wisconsin)                               Even

Carimi is the easy choice here. Not only does he just appear more muscular than Solder, but Solder is 6’8″ – the taller you are, the harder it is to get large number of reps on the bench.

Who will have the highest vertical leap?
A.J. Green (WR Georgia)                                    -130
Patrick Peterson (CB LSU)                                 Even

This could be a close call, but my money’s on Peterson. It’s very rare for someone with Green’s height to compete with a guy like Peterson in the vertical.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment

A.J. Green to the Browns? Not so fast…

Browns fans want A.J. Green. And after two years of Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, I don’t blame them.

There’s no denying the fact that the Browns need a wide receiver, and as a result many mock drafts currently have them selecting Green with the 6th overall selection.

I can’t say that Green isn’t a possibility for the Browns, but it’s less likely than you may think.

For starters, I think there is a very strong possibility that Green is off the board by No. 6. The Panthers, Bills and Bengals could all realistically take Green before the Browns even get a shot at him. [I currently have him going to Cincinnati.]

The real reason, however, that I don’t see Green winding up in Cleveland is that the Browns simply have far greater needs elsewhere. Everyone wants their team to get a shiny new toy to play with on offense, and Green certainly fits that description, but receivers don’t turn franchises around. Just ask Calvin Johnson and Lions or Andre Johnson and the Texans. Arguably the game’s two best receivers have a combined zero playoff appearances.

In order to rebuild the Browns, president Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert (it’s actually Heckert who controls most of the draft day decisions, although Holmgren has the power to overrule) first must fix the defense.

The hiring of Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator means the Browns are transitioning back to a 4-3 scheme. That alone means they need to focus on defense in the draft, but on top of that they recently cut ties with two of their most productive linemen, Shaun Rogers and Kenyon Coleman. Additionally, Robaire Smith, Matt Roth and Brian Schaefering are set to become free agents.

If the season started today, the Browns would probably be forced to start Derreck Robinson and Marcus Benard at defensive end with Ahtyba Rubin and Travis Ivey at tackle. Yikes.

If this were a normal year, the Browns could attempt to address the defensive line in March and early April by bringing in some veteran free agents. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear as though that will be an option. As a result, the Browns may be forced to fill that void in the draft.

Fortunately for the Browns, this is the year you want to need a defensive lineman. Between Da’Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt, someone is sure to impress Cleveland’s staff and I strongly suspect someone from that group will wind up wearing the orange and brown in 2011.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns 4 Comments

A.J. Green scouting report

A.J. Green WR Georgia

Ht: 6’4″

Wt: 212

Strengths:
Prototypical size for a true No. 1 receiver. Best asset is his hands; makes all the easy catches and has a knack for coming down with the ball in traffic as well. Elite leaping ability; a nightmare matchup for cornerbacks in the red zone. More than enough speed to stretch the field.
Weaknesses:
Suspended for four games in 2010 for contact with an agent. Missed three games with a shoulder injury in 2009. Not very physical; doesn’t use his size to his advantage as often as he could.
Comments:
Green is a truly elite prospect with very few holes in his game. He is about as polished as a 21-year-old receiver could be and he should make an immediate impact in the pros. His game compares favorably to Randy Moss – both in the good and bad ways. Like Moss, he is a tall receiver who has the speed to stretch the field. However, also like Moss, he isn’t very physical which means some of the more experienced cornerbacks in the league could push him around early in his career. That said, he’s still a game changer and should be a top-10 pick. There just aren’t many cornerbacks around capable of holding their own in a one-on-one matchup with someone who possesses Green’s size and speed. As a result he’ll attract a lot of attention from defenses even as a rookie.
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2011 1 Comment

A.J. Green or Julio Jones?

The question was raised on our message boards – why is A.J. Green considered a better prospect than Julio Jones?

Both were elite recruits, both excelled immediately in the SEC and both are considered top-tier NFL prospects. So why is Green the consensus top receiver?

In my opinion the biggest difference is their consistency. Jones is talented, but he was taken out of a number of games. In the 2009 SEC Championship Game and the National Championship Game – while matched up against Joe Haden and Aaron Williams – Jones caught a combined total of just three passes for 51 yards.

Green, on the other hand, maintained his consistency throughout his career despite playing in a shaky era of Bulldog football. Each of his seasons at Georgia featured a different starting quarterback, but Green’s production never wavered.

Green's hands set him apart for all other receivers in this year's draft class

Another significant factor is Green’s ability to stretch the field. He has elite size, speed, hands and leaping ability which makes him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Leaving a cornerback in man coverage with Green is asking for trouble.

Jones, however, doesn’t pose the same threat. He’s a reliable route runner with great size, but he lacks the extra gear necessary to be a serious threat down the field. Additionally, his hands are somewhat inconsistent, especially compared to Green.

And finally, Jones comes with a lot of wear and tear, while Green has remained relatively healthy throughout his career. Jones is tough, and played through most of his injuries (such as a broken hand this past season) but it’s hard to overlook the fact that he continues to get banged up. You have to wonder, can he stay on the field for 16 (or 18) games?

I don’t mean this to sound like a Julio Jones bashing session, because I do think he is a legitimate 1st-round talent (currently 12th on my big board). Comparing Jones to Green is like comparing Hakeem Nicks to Calvin Johnson. You’d gladly take Nicks, a legitimate No. 1 receiver, but you’d prefer Johnson, the elite All-Pro talent.

Both should go on to successful careers, but given the choice between the two it’s an easy decision to go with Green.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 1 Comment

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