Aaron Hernandez

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

NFL Rookie Rankings – Through Week 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 4

OFFENSE
1.
Sam Bradford, Rams
Bradford continues to improve and now has the Rams in 1st place. He’s completed over 56 pct of his passes in all four games this year.

2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez had another five catches on Monday night against the Dolphins. He leads all rookies in receiving yards.

3. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best was effective against the Packers, but didn’t break off any game-changing plays. He also lost a costly fumble.

4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant and the Cowboys were off this week. He’s averaging over 50 receiving yards per game.

5. Mike Iupati, 49ers
Not much has gone right for the 49ers, but Iupati has emerged as one of the league’s best run-blocking interior linemen.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi had another big game against the Patriots on Monday night. He recorded his second sack of the season and two quarterback pressures.

2. Nate Allen, Eagles
Allen has been one of the best all-around safeties in the game this year. He excels in coverage, in run support and even as a pass rusher.

3. Tyson Alualu, Jaguars
Alualu was mostly held in check against the Colts last week, but his overall body of work keeps him in the top three.

4. Devin McCourty, Patriots
McCourty looked very good on Monday night, allowing just two catches for four yards. He’s been consistent all season despite being a frequent target.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham is arguably the best rookie pass rusher, which is enough to land him a spot on the list, but he is one dimensional. His lack of skills against the run will hold him back from moving much further up the list.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, Patriots 2 Comments

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 3

OFFENSE
1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best was injured in the Lions Week 3 loss to Minnesota, but he has still be easily the most productive rookie on the offensive side of the ball. However, his status is up in the air for Week 4, which could allow someone to sneak up and steal the top spot.

2. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez has emerged as a favorite target of Tom Brady, running many of the same routes that Wes Welker runs. He leads all rookies in receiving yards and has looked like one of the top receiving tight ends in the game through three weeks.

3. Sam Bradford, Rams
Bradford picked up the first win of his career last week against the Redskins. It was easily the most productive game of his short career as he completed over 60 percent of his passes for 235 yards.

4. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant isn’t threatening Miles Austin as the Cowboys top receiver, but he has topped the 50-yard mark in all three games so far this season. That, coupled with his production on special teams, has made him one of the most productive rookies.

5. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley falls from 2nd to 5th this week after catching just three passes against the Panthers.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi remains the most productive defensive rookie for the third straight week. He has become the most productive all-around linebacker in Miami, making him a perfect compliment to the pass rushing skills of Cameron Wake.

2. Tyson Alualu, Jaguars
Alualu picked up his second sack of the season and added two more quarterback hits. His production against the run needs work, but he has looked dominant at times as an interior pass rusher.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan has been coming off the bench, but it may only be a matter of time before he’s starting. He has impressed as a pass rusher and against the run.

4. Nate Allen, Eagles
Allen has changed the Eagles secondary, which struggled at times last season, and filled the void at free safety. He even picked up a sack this past week against the Jaguars.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham is arguably the best rookie pass rusher, which is enough to land him a spot on the list, but he is one dimensional. His lack of skills against the run will hold him back from moving much further up the list.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Jaguars, Lions, Patriots, Rams, Titans Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 2

OFFENSE
1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best is the runaway leader among offensive rookies after two weeks. He ranks second among rookies in rushing yards and leads all rookies in receiving yards. He has given the Lions offense a new look and is emerging as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley caught five passes again this past week, giving him 10 for 124 yards on the season. He has emerged as legitimate a third option behind Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco and has given the Bengals perhaps the best trio of receivers in the league.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant caught just two passes this week, but both were big 26-yard plays. He also returned a put 62 yards for a touchdown and is averaging 19.3 yards per return on the season.

4. Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams scaled back the workload for Bradford in Week 2, as he attempted just 25 passes. He is completing 57.5 percent of his passes and averaging 5.3 yards per attempt – both mediocre numbers, but impressive for a rookie on a team like the Rams.

5. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez is emerging as one of the Patriots most explosive weapons this season. He ranks second among rookies this season with 146 receiving yards on just seven catches.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi played a key role in stopping the Vikings last week, and is emerging as a leader on the Dolphins defense. He is the most well-balanced rookie linebacker in terms of ability as a pass rusher and run stuffer.

2. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain anchored the Raiders defense in their win over the Rams last week. He already looks like one of the best middle linebackers against the run and the Raiders defense has improved as a result.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan recorded a sack for the second straight week but that’s not the only reason he’s ranked. He has done an excellent job holding up at the point of attack and the Titans run defense has improved as a result.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Ward has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns this season. He has been like an extra linebacker for the Browns run defense… which they have definitely needed.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham picked up his first career sack last week, and looks like the best pure rookie pass rusher in the league. However, he’s being used in a rotation almost exclusively as a pass rusher which is why he isn’t ranked higher.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Titans Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Patriots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Players Who Should Put on a Show at the Combine

10. Taylor Mays S USCCFB: Notre Dame vs USC NOV 29 Mays will put on a show, we know that for certain, but will anyone care? We know he’s fast. We know he’s strong. We know he can jump out of the gym. Expectations for Mays’ performance are so high that will be almost impossible to live up to the hype. Even if he does, there are enough skeptics out there that it may not help his stock. Unless Al Davis grabs him in the top 10 that is…

9. Jared Odrick DT Penn State For an interior lineman, Odrick is a chiseled athlete. Unlike most tackles, Odrick isn’t carrying around too much excess weight; he’s 300 pounds of muscle. He should be one of the faster interior linemen in Indy and should also show off some impressive strength. His blend of strength and athleticism make him a perfect fit at defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.

8. Everson Griffen DE USC Griffen is overshadowed by the elite athletes at the defensive end position (Pierre-Paul, Dunlap, Morgan, etc) but he’s no stiff. At 6’3″ and roughly 280 pounds, Griffen could open some eyes if he runs in the 4.6 range in the 40. It’s tough to call anyone from USC “underrated” but Griffen may be just that. He’s more athletic that he gets credit for, and should prove that at the combine.

7. Mike Iupati OG Idaho Iupati may not be the most athletic player in Indy, but his brute strength is sure to catch the eye of scouts. He’s already solidified his place in the 1st round, but his performance on the bench press may further improve his stock. Teams that are looking for a power run blocker will keep a close eye on him all week.

Ole Misss Dexter McCluster in the AT&T Cotton Bowl6. Dexter McCluster RB/WR Mississippi
All eyes will be on McCluster when he lines up for the 40-yard dash. He’s expected to run in the 4.3 range, and it could crack the 4.2 barrier. He’ll likely do some drills as a receiver and a running back, giving him ample opportunities to impress teams with his versatility.

5. Aaron Hernandez TE Florida
Hernandez doesn’t have the height of an elite tight end (he’s only 6’2″) but he may be the most athletic player at the position to enter the draft since Vernon Davis. He has the skills of an over-sized receiver and should be one of the standouts at Indy – especially if Jermaine Gresham and Rob Gronkowski are unable to work out.

4. Austen Lane DE Murray State
A little-known defensive end from Murray State could be the star of the combine. At 6’6″, 267 pounds he clearly has the size to take his game to the next level. What scouts want to see, however, is how he stacks up athletically with the premiere prospects. With an impressive performance, he could skyrocket up the draft boards.

3. Chad Jones S LSU
In any other year we’d be talking about Jones as the premiere athlete at the safety position. He’s overshadowed by Taylor Mays, but don’t sleep on Jones. He is every bit as physically gifted as Mays and many believe he may be a better all-round football player. If he matches Mays’ workout numbers, Jones could make a run at being the second safety off the board.

2. Jared Veldheer OT Hillsdale
Teams are always looking for a sleeper to step up and show he has the athleticism to play left tackle in the pros. This year Jared Veldheer could be the beneficiary of the NFL’s obsession with left tackles. Much like Sebastian Vollmer climbed from unknown to 2nd-round pick in 2009, Veldheer could do the same with an impressive workout this week.

1. Jason Pierre-Paul DE South Florida
Last year at this time Pierre-Paul hadn’t even set foot on a D-I football field. Now he’s a potential top-10 pick. He’s as raw as the come, but has the pure athleticism to make scouts drool. He should easily rank among the top defensive linemen in every drill at the combine.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft 4 Comments