A.J. Green

A.J. Green enters draft; is he worth a top-10 pick?

Wide receivers are a tricky group of guys to judge.

The raw talent between the elite receivers in a draft class and the next group of players may be greater than any other position. However, raw talent rarely translates into immediate NFL success.

Over the previous 10 drafts there have been 14 receivers selected within the first 10 picks. Of those 14, only five of rank among the top three receivers taken in their draft class [according to the stat "Career Approximate Value" on Pro-Football-Reference.com].

So what makes a receiver actually worth a top-10 pick?

To answer that question, you need to go beyond the stats and look at the player as an individual. The three receivers who ranked at the top of their draft class all have one thing in common – they are three of the most well-respected people in the NFL.

Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson don’t make the highlight reel for their touchdown celebrations or their contract demands. They simply go out and play football. They are among the hardest working players on their team and none have the “diva” attitude that plagues so many elite receivers.

A.J. Green - who officially declared for the draft on Sunday - is the consensus top available receiver, and will likely be a top-10 pick.

So is he worth it?

At this point, I honestly don’t know but the initial indications aren’t good. Green was suspended four games this past year for selling a jersey to an agent. I’m not willing to condemn his draft stock for this alone, but it raises concerns which NFL teams will ask numerous questions about at the combine and in his private workouts.

Talent-wise, Green is on par with any of the elite receiver in the NFL. He will be a 1st-round pick, but how he handles these interviews and how he presents himself as a person – as well as how his Georgia coaches portray him to NFL scouts, coaches and GMs – will determine just how high he is selected.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 2 Comments

Huge draft implications in Jets/Colts game… for the Chargers

The Chargers are huge Jets fans this weekend.

According to a report by ESPNNewYork reporter Rich Cirimi (via ProFootballTalk) the conditions of the Antonio Cromartie trade state that if the Jets advance past the Wild Card round of the playoffs the Chargers get a 2nd-round pick instead of a 3rd round pick.

That one-round jump is nothing to sneeze at.

With a 1st-round pick and two 2nd-round picks the Chargers would have the ability to be major players on draft day. Their biggest hole is right tackle, and they could easily land a starter with one of those three selections. They could also move up to select the guy the want if they were worried that someone such as Derek Sherrod may not be on the board at No. 18.

Another interesting development could come when a decision is made about Vincent Jackson. The Chargers are not likely to let him walk without getting something in return. So a sign and trade could very well net them yet another 2nd round pick. That may give them the ammunition to move into the top 10 if they wished to make a move for A.J. Green or possibly Julio Jones.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Chargers, Jets 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A.J. Green, Justin Houston meet with Falcons

A.J. Green, who has previously said that the potential NFL lockout would influence his decision to enter the draft, had an opportunity to get some answers to his questions.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Green, Justin Houston and other Georgia underclassmen met with Falcons president Rich McCay to discuss making the jump to the NFL. The potential lockout was reportedly the main topic of discussion.AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13: A.J. Green  of the Georgia Bulldogs pulls in this touchdown reception against Demond Washington  of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As I’ve stated before, I fully expect Green to enter the draft. He is a top-15 lock, and could go as high as the top five. The looming lockout should have no impact on his decision.

Justin Houston, however, could be swayed by the potential lockout. He is a potential 1st-round pick, but definitely not a lock. By returning to school he could reasonably expect to boost his stock without running the risk of having to sit out the season in the NFL.

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

Threat of lockout will influence A.J. Green’s NFL Draft decision

The consensus No. 1 wide receiver in this year’s class may not be in this year’s class after all.

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13: A.J. Green  of the Georgia Bulldogs fails to pull in this reception against Richard Samuel  of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Green entering the draft may not be a sure thing

A.J. Green – who many draftniks (myself included) have compared to Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald – seemed like an obvious early entry. But the threat of a lockout could force him to stay in school.

Earlier this week Green stated:

If they’re talking about a lockout, there’s no point in me leaving because they aren’t going to play for a whole season or a half of season, so that’s going to play a big factor.”

Green raises an interesting question, and it’s sure to impact the decisions of multiple underclassmen.

My guess is that the looming lockout won’t end up forcing players like Andrew Luck and Green to stay in school. They are guaranteed to be 1st-round picks and have nothing to gain by returning to school. However, it could factor in the decisions of players who receive 2nd and 3rd round grades.

If I’m a 1st-round pick, my thinking is this: I’m going to get paid eventually. Even if it doesn’t come until the 2012 season. Why risk an injury by returning to school?

But if I’m a 2nd or 3rd-round prospect my thinking is this: Why should I sit on the sidelines for a full year when I’ve only got a relatively small contract coming my way after the lockout ends? I’m better off staying in school, staying sharp in the field, and trying to improve my stock for 2012.

It definitely will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 4 Comments

NFL Draft Stock Watch

Janoris Jenkins – CB – Florida
Jenkins had one of his more difficult tasks this weekend when lined up against LSU’s Terrence Toliver. With a four to five inch height advantage, Toliver beat Jenkins easily on a number of plays. But perhaps the most telling moment of the game came on LSU’s final play when Florida had Jeremy Brown – not Jenkins – was lined up against Toliver, who scored the winning touchdown. I currently have Jenkins in the 1st round of my mock draft, but I’m starting to think he lacks the ability to match up against more physical receivers, making him a better 2nd or 3rd round pick.

Leonard Hankerson – WR – Miami FL
Hankerson has the size and speed to be an elite receiver, but he is far too inconsistent. He routinely drops very catchable balls, and did so a number of times against Florida State on Saturday. He reminds me of Braylon Edwards – he’ll make one spectacular play, and follow it up with a ball that bounces off his hands. At this level drops are caused by nothing more than a lack of focus, and if a player can’t focus in college I don’t trust his ability to focus when he’s earning million of dollars in the NFL.

DeMarcus Love – OT – Arkansas
I continue to waver on who I think is the top tackle in this year’s class, which is probably evidence that this is a very weak class. The more I watch Love, the more he reminds me of Alex Barron. He has elite athleticism and can block anyone when he’s focused. However, he’s caught out of position far too often and gets called for too many penalties. Over the past three games, Love has been called for four penalties (three false starts and one holding). The false start penalties are actually most concerning because they speak to his lack of football intelligence and his focus on the field.

ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 03: A.J. Green #8 of the Georgia Bulldogs pulls in this touchdown reception against Chris Hawkins #29 of the Louisiana State University Tigers at Sanford Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

It's safe to call Green a 1st-round lock

A.J. Green – WR – Florida
Green entered the season as my No. 1 wide receiver, but I thought it was a close call between him and Julio Jones. After watching Green’s performance this season, there is no longer any doubt. He is a truly elite prospect, on par with recent top picks such as Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson.

Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
Bowers came to Clemson as a highly touted recruit but failed to live up to expectations in his first two years. Now, as a junior, Bowers is starting to show why he was viewed as an elite talent in high school. He has already recorded six sacks, two more than his career total entering this season. He has established himself as a likely 1st-round pick if he chooses to leave school early.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Never too early to look ahead: 2011 NFL Draft Board

Its never too early to look ahead to next year. So with that in mind, lets unveil DraftAce’s first 2011 draft board. We’ve ranked the top 32 draft-eligible players (seniors, juniors and redshirt sophomores) and have compared them to a current NFL player. Obviously they won’t all live up to these expectations, but think of it as a “best case scenario” comparison.

1. Ryan Mallett – JR – QB – Arkansas
Mallett certainly looks the part (6’6″) and has a rocket arm. He was inconsistent at times in 2009, but it was his first year leading the Razorbacks’ offense after transferring from Michigan. Expect big things from him in 2010. NFL Comparison: Joe Flacco

2. Cameron Heyward – SR – DE – Ohio State
The son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward was a 1st-round lock, potentially as the top defensive end selected, had he entered this year’s draft. He returned to Ohio State, however, where he’ll continue to dominate as a defensive end/tackle ‘tweener. He has the size to play in a 3-4 scheme, but also has the athleticism to be a compete pass rusher/run stuffer in a 4-3. NFL Comparison: Mario Williams

3. Robert Quinn – JR – DE North Carolina
Quinn could be the premier pass rusher in next year’s draft. He terrorized ACC quarterbacks as a sophomore in 2009 and with defensive line mate Marvin Austin back for the 2010 season he should continue to improve. NFL Comparison: Tamba Hali

4. A.J. Green – JR – WR – Georgia
Green burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2008 and continued to dominate the SEC in ’09. At 6’4″, 208 pounds he has the size to be a true No. 4 receiver. NFL Comparison: Randy Moss

5. Gabe Carimi – SR – OT – Wisconsin
Carimi took over for Joe Thomas as a freshman in 2007 and lived up to expectations from day one. The similarities to Thomas eerie. They have a similar build and a remarkably similar skill set. Both have the athleticism to excel as pass blockers but also play with a mean streak that allows them to dominate in the running game. NFL Comparison: Joe Thomas

6. Patrick Peterson – JR – CB – LSU
Peterson has the size of a free safety (6’1″, 211 pounds) but the athleticism to a shutdown corner. If he fulfills expectations as a junior, he could be one of the highest-rated corners to enter the draft in a number of years. NFL Comparison: Charles Woodson

7. Blaine Gabbert – JR – QB – Missouri
With just one year under his belt as a starter, we still have a lot to learn about Gabbert. As a sophomore, he looked like a future star. He has an NFL body with a strong arm and more than adequately filled the shoes of Missouri legend Chase Daniel. NFL Comparison: Phillip Rivers

8. Marvin Austin – SR – DT – North Carolina
Austin turned down a guaranteed stop in the 2010 1st-round because he wanted to return to school to have an Ndamukong Suh-like senior year. Its a lofty goal, you have to admire his dedication. If he comes close to fulfilling his own expectations he’ll find himself in the early half of the 1st round.
NFL Comparison: Kyle Williams

9. Greg Romeus – SR – DE – Pittsburgh
Romeus is yet another player who had a chance to come off the board in the 1st round in 2009, but elected to return to school. Romeus isn’t strong as Heyward or as quick as Quinn, but he’s a complete play who can excel against the run and the pass.
NFL Comparison: Justin Tuck

10. Jared Crick – JR – DT – Nebraska
Ndamukong Suh wasn’t the only force to be reckoned with on the Cornhuskers defensive line in 2009. Crick obviously has a ways to go before he can be compared to Suh, but he has a similar skill set and may actually be better against the run than his former teammate.
NFL Comparison: Darnell Dockett

11. Andrew Luck – SO – QB – Stanford
With Toby Gerhart out of the picture in Stanford, the Cardinal offense will no focus on Luck. He had flashes of greatness as a redshirt-freshman in 2009 and should take major strides this season now that the offense will be built around his arm.
NFL Comparison: Aaron Rodgers

12. Allen Bailey – SR – DT – Miami FL
After a surprising two-year drought, Miami could return to the 1st round in 2011. Bailey is an athletic three-technique tackle who excels at busting up plays in the backfield. He led the Hurricanes with 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2009.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Williams

13. Michael Floyd – JR – WR – Notre Dame
Golden Tate received much of the attention this past season, but Floyd is the better pro prospect. He has elite size and strength for a receiver and enough speed to stretch the field. He’ll make his presence felt immediately as a red zone target.
NFL Comparison: Andre Johnson

14. Ryan Williams – SO – RB – Virginia Tech
As a redshirt freshman in 2009 Williams was arguably the nation’s best running back, yet flew under the radar due to Virginia Tech’s somewhat disappointing season. He posted five 150-yard games and dominated and finished 5th in the nation in rushing. If he builds upon that success he’ll find himself in the Heisman race and in the mix to be the top available running back in the 2011 draft.
NFL Comparison: DeAngelo Williams

15. Von Miller – SR – LB – Texas A&M
Miller burst onto the scene in 2009 playing a hybrid DE/OLB position for the Aggies, essentially acting as a pass-rush specialist. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks and ranked among the leaders in tackles for loss as well.
NFL Comparison: Shaun Phillips

16. Rahim Moore – JR – S – UCLA
Had Moore been eligible to enter the 2010 draft it would be him, not Earl Thomas, pushing Eric Berry for spot atop the draft boards at safety. Like Thomas, Moore is a ball-hawking free safety but has the size to help out against the run as well.
NFL Comparison: Kerry Rhodes

17. Bruce Carter – SR – LB – North Carolina
Carter will be a tough prospect to judge next season because he’s undersized. At only 225 pounds certain teams will scratch him off their list from the start. However, you can’t deny the fact that he’s a playmaker. He’ll fit nicely into someone’s 4-3 scheme at weakside linebacker.
NFL Comparison: Thomas Davis

18. Julio Jones – JR – WR – Alabama
Jones has the size and athleticism needed to excel at the next level. However, after a dominant freshman season he regressed in 2009. He caught just four touchdown passes in 2009 and had just one 100-yard game. He’ll need to bounce back in a big way in order to hang on to this slot in the top 32.
NFL Comparison: Randy Moss

19. Greg Jones – SR – LB – Michigan State
Jones is another player that cracks the top 32 based on potential rather than production. He’s already an effective against the run, but as an inside linebacker he needs to develop his skills in coverage. He has the athleticism of a top-10 pick, but he needs to become more disciplined to live up to his full potential.
NFL Comparison: DeMeco Ryans

20. Jake Locker – SR – QB – Washington
Numerous draftniks have Locker as the top-rated quarterback, but I’m not sold just yet. He’s a potential 1st-round pick based on potential, but he’s been just an average collegiate quarterback to this point in his career. His athleticism is unmatched by anyone else in this draft class, but that’s a small piece of the puzzle. He’s reckless with the football (11 interceptions) and has completed just 53 percent of his career pass attempts.
NFL Comparison: Donovan McNabb

21. Deunta Williams – SR – S – North Carolina
Williams is a ball-hawking free safety but also has the size to play strong safety in the pros. That versatility will help his draft stock next season and makes him the top senior prospect at safety.
NFL Comparison: Darren Sharper

22. Nate Solder – SR – OT – Colorado
Solder came to Boulder as tight end but switched to tackle as a sophomore in 2008. He’s still developing as a left tackle, but his upside is unlimited. At 6’9″ he has the size and athleticism to dominate the position for years to come. With an impressive senior year he could easily climb into the top five.
NFL Comparison: D’Brickashaw Ferguson

23. Chris Galippo – JR – LB – USC
Galippo may be the next great linebacker to come from Southern Cal. Like the rest of his teammates, he didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2009, but the bulk of the Trojans’ defense return for 2010 and big things are expected from the unit which is led by Galippo. He’s an instinctive linebacker who will only continue to get better with experience.
NFL Comparison: James Laurinaitis

24. Jamie Harper -JR – RB – Clemson
Harper is a bit of wildcard at this point, having only played in a backup role to this point in his career. He was brilliant as C.J. Spiller’s backup in 2009 and will become the focal point of the Tigers’ offense this season. He’s a powerful downhill runner (5’11″, 230 pounds) who has the strength to carry the load at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Michael Turner

25. Nate Potter – JR – OT – Boise State
Like Ryan Clady in 2008, it will be tough to judge Potter until the offseason workouts. He has dominated Boise State’s WAC opponents, but its a weak conference and he simply isn’t facing the talent which he will see in the NFL. He certainly appears to have the athleticism to take his game to the next level though, and his stock could skyrocket over of the course of the next year.
NFL Comparison: Michael Oher

26. Kyle Rudolph – JR – TE – Notre Dame
Notre Dame hasn’t exactly churned out elite skill position players in recent years, but that could change in 2011 as both Michael Floyd and Rudolph could come off the board in the 1st round. Rudolph has the size and athleticism to develop into a well-rounded tight end who can dominate as both a blocker and receiver in the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Jason Witten

27. DeAndre McDaniel – SR – S – Clemson
2011 figures to bring us another deep class of safeties. McDaniels toyed with the idea of entering this year’s draft class, but wisely stayed in school and could find himself in the 1st round in 2011. He has the size to play strong safety, but has the ball skills of a free safety – a combination which will help his value immensely.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Meriweather

28. Marcell Dareus – JR – DE – Alabama
Dareus is a stout lineman who excels in run defense, but also contributes as a pass rusher. He led the Crimson Tide in sacks in 2009 and they’re expecting big things from him this upcoming season. He’s a versatile prospect who could play end in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme and may also be able to transition to tackle in the 4-3.
NFL Comparison: Ty Warren

29. DaQuan Bowers – JR – DE – Clemson
Bowers has as much potential as anyone eligible to enter the 2011 draft class. He’s started from day one since coming to Clemson as a highly touted recruit in 2008. Bowers has just 4 sacks through his first two seasons, but we’re expecting big things from him in 2009. NFL Comparison: Trent Cole

30. Jerrell Powe – DT – Mississippi
As more and more teams switch to the 3-4 defense, the value of nose tackles is starting to skyrocket. Players such as Powe figure to see their stock rise far higher than similar players in years past. He’s a physical presence on the interior line, capable of taking on multiple blockers and anchoring a defensive line.
NFL Comparison: Vince Wilfork

31. Austin Pettis – SR – WR – Boise State
Pettis could become the first skill-position player selected in the 1st round from Boise State. He has the size and speed to take his game to the next level, but like anyone from Boise, he’ll need to prove he can compete at the highest level. As a team, the Broncos have earned the respect of the nation, but there’s still a lack of talent in the WAC which doesn’t fully prepare players for the NFL the way a BCS conference does.
NFL Comparison: Sidney Rice

32. Casey Matthews – SR – LB – Oregon
One thing I learned from scouting Clay Matthews in 2009: never bet against the Matthews family. Like his other brother, Casey doesn’t have elite physical talents but he has become the leader of the Ducks defense and has the instincts to excel at the next level.
NFL Comparison: Paul Posluszny

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft 3 Comments