Brandon Graham

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

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 1

OFFENSE
1.
Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams asked Bradford to carry the team in his first professional game and he did just that. Bradford 32 of 55 passes for 253 yards in a near upset of the Cardinals. He did throw three interceptions (one on a hail mary) but it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley led all rookie receivers with 82 yards on five catches Sunday. All five of his receptions went for first downs, including a 51-yard reception. After seeing Shipley’s performance, its easy to see why the Bengals didn’t feel the need to keep Antonio Bryant around.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The Cowboys fed it to Bryant early and often as he caught eight balls for 56 yards. He was primarily used on short passes, as the Cowboys looked to him to make plays after the catch. Four of his receptions went for first downs, with a long of 15 yards.

4. Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
Pouncey gave the Steelers an immediate upgrade at center, replacing Jeff Hartings. The Steelers were back to the power-running game that they’re known for, with Rashard Mendenhall averaging over five yards per carry.

5. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews didn’t set the world on fire, but he was solid in his debut against Kansas City. He racked up 75 yards on 19 carries, a modest 3.9 yards per attempt.  He also lost a fumble which led to a Chiefs touchdown.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi stepped into the Dolphins starting lineup and was all over the field against the Bills. He recorded one sack, and was consistently getting pressure on Trent Edwards. With production like this, the ‘Phins won’t miss Jason Taylor or Joey Porter.

2. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham made an immediate impact for the Eagles pass rush, consistently getting into the backfield and pressuring Aaron Rodgers. He didn’t record a sack, but his efforts did not go unnoticed.

3. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain fully lived up to expectations in his first game with the Raiders. He looked like a veteran, showing the impressive instincts that made him a star at Alabama. With McClain in the middle, the Raiders should be much improved.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Not much went right for the Browns on Sunday, but Ward already looks like an upgrade at strong safety over last year’s primary starter Abe Elam. He did a nice job in coverage against Kellen Winslow, and was consistently stepping up to help out against the run.

5. Eric Berry, Chiefs
Berry was quietly effective against the Chargers, helping the Chiefs pull off the upset. He didn’t come up with any big plays but was consistently in the right position, providing support for the Chiefs corners. It’s only a matter of time before he comes up with some game-changing interceptions.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders, Rams, Steelers Comments Off

Early NFL Rookie of the Year Predictions

It may only be May, but it’s never too early to look ahead. By glancing through some projected depth charts we’ve come up with an early rookie of the year prediction. We’ll track each player’s progress and update our rankings on a weekly basis throughout the season.

OFFENSE
1. Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Offensive Rookie of the Year typically goes to a running back, and often to a player on a good team. Mathews may not be the most talented of this year’s rookies, but he is in the best position to succeed. He’s the feature back in San Diego and should cruise to 1,200 yards and 10+ touchdowns.

2. Ben Tate, Texans
Tate will have to beat out Steve Slaton for the starting job, but he certainly will enter training camp with an excellent shot to be the Texans’ feature back. Unlike Slaton, Tate has the size to carry the load and put up impressive numbers throughout the year.

3. Golden Tate, Seahawks
Tate will likely be used as an all-purpose receiver in Seattle much like Percy Harvin was used in Minnesota last year. He isn’t their No. 1 target, but they’ll find ways to get him the ball.

4. C.J. Spiller, Bills
While Spiller was the top-rated running back on most draft boards, he didn’t land in a great situation in terms of finding immediate playing time. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson still deserve to get their fair share of the carries (assuming they’re still around) which will limit Spillers ability to put up ROY-type numbers.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers
If Clausen beats out Matt Moore he’ll be in an excellent position to succeed as a rookie. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will carry the load on offense, limiting the amount of work Clausen needs to do.

DEFENSE
1. Eric Berry, Chiefs
The Chiefs defense won’t be very good, meaning plenty of chances for Berry to show off his skills. He’ll clearly stand out as the best player in their secondary from day one, and should be the DROY favorite.

2. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan will start from day one on an already respectable defense in Tennessee. He’s surrounded with enough talent that should allow him to rack up 7+ sacks this year.

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas will start immediately for the Seahawks and should be an instant-impact player. He’s a ball hawk, which means he should have no problem putting up the gaudy interception numbers that will catch the eye of ROY voters.

4. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham likely won’t start in Philadelphia, but he’ll be used as a situational pass rusher. He’s one dimensional, but he’ll put up the numbers necessary to get noticed as a rookie.

5. Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons
Weatherspoon is one of the few defensive rookies who has been handed a starting job. He likely won’t put up the numbers to in the award, but he’ll be in the discussion simply based on having the most opportunities to show off his talents.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Texans, Titans 2 Comments

2010 Draft Grades: Eagles

With so many picks, its hard to earn a bad grade in the draft. The Eagles have so many young players on their roster, its hard to imagine them putting it all together right away. However, a few years down the road this offseason could be looked at as the start of a dynasty.

I love the selection of Brandon Graham in the 1st round. I think he’s better suited as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme than as a linebacker in the 3-4, so I was glad to see him land in Philly. He isn’t a complete player yet, but he’ll make an immediate impact as a pass rusher. A double-digit sack season as a rookie is well within reason.

Nate Allen was the ideal 2nd-round pick for the Eagles. He’ll compete with Marlin Jackson for the starting job at free safety and I expect him to win that competition. He’s a ball-hawking safety who should make an immediate impact.

They reached for Daniel Te’o-Nesheim in the 3rd round. He’s similar to Brandon Graham but not as explosive. He’s a hard worker and the type of player coaches love, but I don’t see him as a future starter. He’ll be buried on the depth chart early in his career.

The Eagles definitely needed a cornerback, but I don’t like the fact that Trevard Lindley was their only selection at the position. He’s undersized and is coming off a disappointing senior year at Kentucky. He’s probably nothing more than a nickel corner in the NFL.

They also reached for Keenan Clayton, but I can see why they like him. He’s a perfect fit at weak-side linebacker in their system. However, he has very limited upside and will be nothing more than a backup in the NFL. In fact, he may struggle to make their crowded roster out of camp.

I like Mike Kafka but I was surprised the Eagles selected a quarterback so early in the draft. He’ll be their third quarterback this season and eventually take over as the backup once they part ways with Vick, likely next season.

I think Clay Harbor is one of the best small-school sleepers in this year’s draft class, but I’m not sure he’s a great fit in Philly. He’s a prototypical half-back and should be used in a similar way the Redskins use Chris Cooley. His success in the NFL could depend on the Eagles willingness to carve out a niche for him in their offense.

Ricky Sapp is a potential steal in the 5th round, but he didn’t land in a great place in Philadelphia. He’s a defensive end/linebacker ‘tweener and is probably better suited as a linebacker in a 4-3 defense. I like his potential, but I don’t see how he’ll be able to get onto the field early in his career with the Eagles.

I can’t possibly say enough good things about their selection of Riley Cooper. I truly believe Cooper will be one of the gems of his draft class. Playing in Urban Meyer’s offense at Florida he never really had the opportunity to showcase his skills, but he can be a great possession receiver in the NFL. There are concerns about his speed, but he’s a smart player with great hands and I think he’ll emerge as a favorite target of Kevin Kolb early in his career.

Charles Scott can be an effective short-yardage running back and will be given the opportunity to compete with Dwayne Wright for the backup job.

I was shocked that Jamar Chaney fell to the 7th round, and I still don’t know why. He’s a good athlete with decent size and was productive on a bad defense at Mississippi State. The Eagles are stacked at linebacker though, which means he’ll have to fight for a spot on the roster.

Jeff Owens will provide some depth at defensive tackle, competing with Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws for playing time as a backup.

Kurt Coleman was one of the best 7th-round picks this year. He can play both safety positions and excels on special teams.

Overall, I really can’t complain about anything the Eagles did in this draft. The addressed nearly every position of need and landed a number of players, even in the late rounds, that will compete for playing time early in their careers. Three years from now we could look at the Eagles roster and see three or four starters from their 2010 draft class.

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

Could Dolphins target Taylor Mays?

I’ve had the Dolphins paired up with Dan Williams in my mock draft for about a month now. He would fill their need for a nose tackle, which is greater than ever now that Jason Ferguson is suspended for the first half of the 2010 season. But what if he’s not on the board?

The Bills are transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense and are lacking a true nose tackle. They’d much prefer to take a quarterback (most likely Jimmy Clausen) but if he’s off the board their attention could turn to Williams.

That would leave presumably leave he Dolphins with three options:

1. Take Dez Bryant
Wide receiver is their most glaring need, especially a big target like Bryant. However, Parcells loathes the idea of taking receivers early in the draft. Throw in the fact that Bryant is perceived as lazy and a bit of a prima donna, and it just doesn’t seem like a plausible option.

2. Take the best available pass rusher
The Dolphins need to replace Joey Porter and Jason Taylor. Cameron Wake has one starting outside linebacker job wrapped up, but the other is wide open. Jason Pierre-Paul and Brandon Graham would appear to be great fits. However, its a deep class for hybrid pass rushers, and a quality player could be found later in the draft.

3. Take a free safety
CFB: USC vs UCLA DEC 6The Dolphins parted ways with free safety Gibril Wilson after the season, opening up a hole in the secondary. Earl Thomas is likely to be the highest rated safety on most boards, but he doesn’t quite fit the profile of what Parcells looks for in a defensive back. Parcells has a tendency to become enamored with big, athletic safeties. The best recent example is Pat Watkins, whom he selected in the 5th round in 2006. Watkins never quite panned out, but Parcells thrust him into the starting lineup as a rookie. I remember reading during the season quotes from Parcells marveling at the athleticism of a man his size (6’4″, 220). If he was wowed by Watkins, what must he think of Taylor Mays?

Obviously a lot has to play out in order for the Dolphins to even consider Mays. I have little doubt that Parcells would prefer Dan Williams, but there remains a very realistic possibility that he’s gone by the time Dolphins are on the clock. Mays to the ‘Phins may be a long shot, but don’t be shocked to hear his name called at No. 12 on April 22.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Dolphins 1 Comment

Rising Stock: Thaddeus Gibson

Some of the most sought after players on draft day are 3-4 outside linebackers. Teams routinely reach for players who project well in that scheme due to the fact that there are only so many athletes out there with the size/speed combination to excel at a high level in the NFL.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl Texas vs Ohio State JAN 5Players such as Larry English (Chargers ’09), Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys ’06) and Jason Babin (Texans ’04) are often drafted in the 1st round based purely on potential, despite limited experience at the position. As a result, the players frequently fail to live up to their 1st-round status.

This year, however, the draft is filled with ‘tweeners and teams may still find great value at the position later in the draft. One player which could draw significant attention in the 2nd or 3rd round is Ohio State’s Thaddeus Gibson.

Gibson, who played defensive end with the Buckeyes, was impressive at the combine and further helped his stock on Ohio State’s Pro Day on Friday.

He was timed somewhere in the 4.5 range in the 40-yard dash, but take that with a grain of salt – OSU’s turf is notorious for churning out some ridiculous times. Even so, his 4.72 at the combine was more than enough to convince teams that he has the athleticism to play standing up at the next level.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the time, a 4.5 from a man who weighs in at 243 pounds is sure to catch the eye of NFL decision makers.

Among those decision makers watching Gibson in person were Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Steelers are known for addressing needs before they develop, and may be in the market for an outside linebacker to backup and eventually replace 31-year-old James Harrison.

As previously mentioned, its a deep class, so its hard to imagine Gibson coming off the board any earlier than the mid 2nd round. However, he’s certainly made an impression and should have solidified his place within the top 75 picks today.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Steelers Comments Off

Brandon Graham is not the next LaMarr Woodley

I’m a big fan of Michigan’s Brandon Graham but I’ve heard too many people compare him to LaMarr Woodley, and its just not a fair comparison. Just because they both played defensive end at Michigan, doesn’t mean they’ll have similar NFL careers.

Apparently I’m not alone. The man who drafted Woodley, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert, weighed in on the subject today at the combine:

LaMarr had a little linebacker in his background. As a junior at Michigan some of their defensive sets had him playing on his feet. It was not so much of a stretch as it was for guys that played down exclusively.

Colbert hits the nail on the head. Woodley was already prepared to play linebacker in a 3-4 system because he already had experience in those defensive sets. Woodley was at Michigan at the same time as Alan Branch, who Ron English and Lloyd Carr used frequently as a nose tackle, allowing them to essentially run a 3-4 defense on occasion.

Western Michigan v MichiganGraham, however, has never lined up without his hand on the ground. He is strictly a pass-rushing defensive end which means he’ll have a lot to learn if he’s drafted by a team such as Miami, San Francisco or New England.

The other difference is their athleticism. Woodley was an elite athlete coming out of college. His 38 inch vertical leap and 4.74 forty-yard dash at his pro day demonstrated his explosive athleticism, which further made teams comfortable viewing him as a 3-4 linebacker. We’ll see how Graham tests, but I don’t anticipate him demonstrating the same type of athleticm.

Now I have to admit I missed the boat on Woodley. I gave him a 3rd-round grade, behind Jarvis Moss, among others, who entered the draft with a similar skill set.

I am likely going to give Graham a 1st-round grade when I hand out my first round of grades after the combine. But that does not mean I anticipate Graham reaching Woodley’s level of success, at least not immediately. Graham enters the draft with a more physical style of play than Woodley and a more polished pass rush repertoire, but he lacks the athleticism and awareness to impact the game the way Woodley does for the Steelers. That may come with time, but the comparisons of the two as prospects are off base.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Senior Bowl Practice Notes: Thursday

Senior Bowl Practice Notes

Things were starting to wind down at the Senior Bowl today, so not a ton of action. Players were just in shorts and there’s only so much you can learn from a practice without pads. So here’s a few notes on the day:

- Ohio WR Taylor Price is plummeting down by draft board. He dropped two easy passes today and a third one that was more difficult but catchable.

- Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon has been auditioning for the role of the next Ray Lewis. He’s easily the most vocal player on the field. Coaches love vocal leaders, but I’m not sure the Senior Bowl is really the place for trash talking. Teams would much rather see a quite player taking in all the coaching. I’m not sure it will have any impact on his stock, but its worth taking note of for any teams interesting in bringing him aboard in the late 1st or early 2nd round.

- Pittsburgh TE/FB/WR Dorin Dickerson lined up at receiver today and looked surprisingly good. As I mentioned in my notes yesterday I have him listed as a fullback (really more of an H-back), but it seems like teams are more interested in spreading him out wide and using him as a receiver. The only drawback to that is he really doesn’t have the height to be red zone target as most tight ends are used these days. I could see him being used in a way similar to how the Colts use Dallas Clark.

- Utah OL Zane Beadles has taken snaps at tackle, guard and center. He hasn’t blown me away but the fact that he’s being moved around will increase his stock. Versatility is key for any lineman who isn’t viewed as a potential franchise left tackle.

- A lot of scouts have been impressed with Boise State CB Kyle Wilson this week. I’m not quite as excited though. I certainly don’t think he’s done anything to hurt his stock, but I just don’t think he’s physical enough to earn a spot in the 1st round as some have suggested. He did a nice job covering Mardy Gilyard on a number of plays today, but that’s a favorable matchup. I want to see him matched up with someone like Riley Cooper in the game on Saturday and see how he does.

- I continue to be unimpressed with UMass OL Vladimir Ducasse. His size is intriguing but he has a ton of work to do. He plays too upright, and I can’t help but think he looks disinterested. I just haven’t seen a mean streak in him which is necessary to excel in the NFL.

- In one 7-on-7 drill Michigan DE Brandon Graham blew past Ducasse. It was clear that Ducasse simply didn’t have the quick first step out of his stance necessary to slow down an elite speed rusher like Graham. As for Graham, he is starting to look like a 1st-round lock. I love his potential as an elite pass rusher. He could have a Brian Orakpo-like rookie year if he lands in the right defensive scheme.

- Oklahoma CB Perrish Cox continues to have a huge week. He picked of a couple passes yesterday and nearly had another today in 11-on-11 drills off of former teammate Zac Robinson. He has the speed to stick with receivers and the quickness and awareness to make plays on the ball.

- On the flip side, Alabama CB Javier Arenas continues to be unimpressive. I don’t see him as anything more than a nickel corner in the NFL. He’s really struggled when lined up on the outside against bigger receivers, namely Riley Cooper.

- Zac Robinson further improved his stock today. He looked very crisp in 11-on-11 drills. He looks very comfortable standing in the pocket and going through his reads. I was initially surprised he got invited, but he’s exceed expectations this week.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off