C.J. Spiller

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

10 Bold Predictions for the NFL Draft

10. The Raiders will be criticized for their 1st-round pick
Ok, so maybe this isn’t quite a bold prediction. No one has any idea who the Raiders are going to draft, but I can all but guarantee it will be a reach.

9. C.J. Spiller will be a top-10 pick
And he can thank Chris Johnson for paving the way. The NFL is a copycat league and now everyone wants to the next Johnson. Spiller is an option for the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars. Someone such as the 49ers may also try to trade up for him.

8. Two TCU players will be drafted in the 1st round
Jerry Hughes is all but locked into the 1st round, but his teammate Daryl Washington could join him. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts and Saints and could sneak into the late 1st round. It would be the first time since 1939 that two Horned Frogs went in the 1st round.

7. Bruce Campbell will fall to the 2nd round
Al Davis will consider him with the 8th pick, but he’ll pass. And so will everyone else. Someone will eventually scoop up the most overrated draft prospect to come along in years in the early-to-mid 2nd round.

6. Pete Carroll will reach for someone from USC
Taylor Mays? Everson Griffen? Both could be options for the Seahawks in the 1st round. He may even be tempted to reach for someone like Jeff Byers later on. College coaches are always blinded by familiarity when they move to the NFL game.

5. The Cowboys will draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd round
Motivated by the Redskins acquisition of Donovan McNabb, Jerry Jones will feel the need to bolster his offense. The NFC East could feature a number of shootouts in 2010 and Jones wants to stay ahead of the curve.

4. A  Pro Bowler will be traded
Ronnie Brown? McKinnie? Umenyiora? Roethlisberger?

3. The Steelers will draft a quarterback
Not necessary in the first two rounds, but they’ll grab a signal caller at some point. Maybe Dan LeFevour in the 3rd round? Tony Pike in the 4th? John Skelton in the 5th?

2. There will be at least 5 trades in the 1st round
This could be one of the busiest 1st rounds in recent memory. With so much talent in this year’s class, teams will be motivated to move in two directions. On one hand, some great players will fall and teams will want to move up to grab them. On the other hand, as those great players fall, more good players will be available in the late 1st and early 2nd round.

1. At least 3 quarterbacks will be selected in the 1st round
We know Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will be 1st round picks. But don’t be shocked when a third comes off the board in the late 1st. The Vikings could take Tim Tebow. The Bills or Browns may also trade up for Colt McCoy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Colts, Cowboys, Jaguars, Raiders, Saints, Steelers, Vikings 95 Comments

5 players with an outside shot at the top 10

Every year there are one or two players that sneak into the top 10 on draft day despite rarely showing up that high in mock drafts. Last year it was Darrius Heyward-Bey, in ’08 it was Derrick Harvey, in ’07 it was Ted Ginn Jr., in ’06 it was Donte Whitner… the list goes on.

So who are the candidates this? Here are a few names to keep in mind that could come off board higher than expected on April 22:

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
McClain has occasionally shown up in mock drafts at No. 5 to the Chiefs (including ours) but Scott Pioli has shown little interest in him thus far. It could just be a smoke screen, but he appears genuine in his interest in the offensive tackles in this year’s class. If they pass on McClain, his odds go down, but Buffalo could be another option. In Buffalo he would be an ideal fit at inside linebacker next to Paul Posluszny, replacing the aging Kawika Mitchell.

4. Earl Thomas, Texas
Thomas’ top-10 hopes depend on where Eric Berry is selected. If Berry goes in the top five (Bucs? Chiefs?), then Thomas becomes an option for the Browns at No. 7. They’re looking for a replacement for Brodney Pool at free safety, and Thomas would be a perfect fit. Another option could be Jacksonville. The Jaguars may be ready to give up on 2007 1st-round pick Reggie Nelson at free safety.

3. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Spiller is absent from the top 10 in every mock draft I’ve seen, primarily because no one in the top 10 has a need for a running back. However, numerous teams in the 10-20 range (Dolphins, Seahawks, 49ers, Steelers) could be interested. Its possible that someone will decide to trade up for Spiller – the Browns would be a likely trade partner – in an effort to jump all the teams that could snatch him up in the middle of the 1st round.

2. Charles Brown, USC
Russell Okung, Bryan Bulaga, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis and even Bruce Campbell are frequently talked about as potential top-10 picks. So why is Brown, who’s viewed as a potential 1st-rounder, left out of the discussion? Brown’s top-1o chances hinge on where the others prospects fall. But if there’s a run on tackles in the top 10, as expected, its possible that someone trades up into the top 10 to ensure they land one of the top prospects. The 49ers would be a likely candidate to do so, thanks to their two 1st-round picks.

1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
Williams isn’t showing up in the top 10 in many mock drafts, but he’s one of the most popular prospects out there. He’s viewed as a potentially elite 3-4 nose tackle who also has the ability to play in a 4-3 scheme. The earliest he could come off the board would be at No. 6 to the Seahawks. He would be a significant upgrade over Colin Cole as the space eater on their defensive line. The Browns and Bills, who both runs 3-4 schemes, are perhaps the most likely options. Browns nose tackle Shaun Rogers has been rumored in multiple trade discussions. If he’s shipped out on draft day, it could be to make room for Williams. As for Buffalo, they’re transitioning to a 3-4 defense this year and don’t have a true nose tackle on their current roster.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jaguars, Seahawks Comments Off

All-Overrated Draft Prospects Team

QB – Tim Tebow, Florida
Someone’s going to take him in the 1st or 2nd round, and they’re going to have to wait at least 2 years before he’s ready to start at quarterback (if he’s ever ready).

RB – C.J. Spiller, Clemson
He’s not the next Chris Johnson. The next Leon Washington is more likely. He’s simply not an every-down running back.

RB – Jahvid Best, California
Same criticism of Spiller applies here. He’s a change-of-pace back, a better version of Ahmad Bradshaw.

WR – Damian Williams, USC
He’s too skinny to be an elite receiver. He’ll get pushed around by more physical defensive backs, and he lacks the speed to break away.

WR – Mike Williams, Syracuse
I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. Off-field issues make him undraftable in my book. Not even worth a 7th round pick.

TE – Anthony McCoy, USC
He’s a serviceable tight end due to his blocking ability, but he won’t contribute as a receiver. The next Christian Fauria.

OT – Bruce Campbell, Maryland
How anyone can watch him on film and give him a grade higher than the 3rd round baffles me. Athleticism only takes you so far.

OT – Trent Williams, Oklahoma
Definitely has upside, but his lack of production in his only year at left tackle is very concerning.

OG – Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts
Size and athleticism are making scouts drool, but he is very raw. He could be the next Larry Allen, he could be the next Qasim Mitchell.

OG – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
I’m reaching here because no one else jumps out. Render impressed early in his career, but never showed improvement.

C – Eric Olsen, Notre Dame
Was never overly impressive at Notre Dame, and he struggled in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl.

DE – Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
Claims about his elite athleticism are overstated. Derrick Morgan is of similar size and build and performed equally, if not better, in every drill at the combine.

DE – George Selvie, South Florida
After a standout sophomore year, Selvie was non-factor for two full seasons. Yet he still generates interest from those that remember his 2007 campaign.

DT – Terrence Cody, Alabama
Weight is still a serious concern. He’ll never be able to stay on the field consistently.

DT – Arthur Jones, Syracuse
High expectations for his senior year never panned out. Injury concerns and lack of production limit his upsite.

OLB – Ricky Sapp, Clemson
Only one year of experience at linebacker after transitioning from end. Lack of elite production and ACL tear in 2008 raise red flags.

OLB – Navorro Bowman, Penn State
Doesn’t have the elite on-field production to make up for his serious character concerns.

ILB – Brandon Spikes, Florida
Spikes’ recent 40 times raise serious red flags. He may simply lack the speed to play in the NFL.

CB – Joe Haden, Florida
He’s a legitimate 1st-round prospect, but doesn’t deserve a top-10 grade. The gap between him and the next-best corners has raised his stock above where it realistically should be.

CB – Patrick Robinson, Florida State
Robinson has elite speed, but he’s one of the least physical corners I’ve seen in recent years. Off-field concerns further hurt his stock.

S – Taylor Mays, USC
Mays is so universally viewed as overrated that I considered leaving him off the list. But his production just hasn’t matched his physical ability.

S – T.J. Ward, Oregon
The potential is there, but he can’t stay healthy. Multiple ankle and knee injuries raise serious doubts about his ability to stay on the field.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could the Seahawks land Marshall for less than the 6th pick?

Current rules regarding restricted free agents state that if a team signs a player to an offer sheet and the offer is not matched by the team, then they must surrender their original pick in the round at which the player was tendered. For the Seahawks to sign Brandon Marshall, that means giving up the the 6th pick in the draft, rather than the 14th pick which they acquired from the Broncos in a draft-day trade last year.

But the folks at ProFootballTalk may have found a loophole:

[the Seahawks] should offer the 14th overall pick to any team that is able to finagle Marshall for a selection in the bottom half of round one.

More specifically, the Seahawks should offer the opportunity to the Chargers, who hold the 28th pick in the first round.

The steps are simple.  San Diego would sign Marshall to an offer sheet containing terms to which the Seahawks know Marshall will agree…

The offer sheet would include a provision that defers for five days or after the deal becomes effective the payment of any money, so that the Chargers never have to actually cut a check to Marshall.

Then, after the offer sheet isn’t matched and Marshall becomes a Charger and the 28th overall pick flows from San Diego to Denver, the Chargers would send Marshall to Seattle for the 14th overall pick.

Its a potentially brilliant idea. The Seahawks get Marshall, keep the 6th overall selection and the Chargers could move up to N0. 14 where they would likely target C.J. Spiller or perhaps Dan Williams.

It almost makes too much sense not to happen (assuming the Seahawks even want Marshall, that is).

Denver Broncos v San Diego ChargersBut while its a great idea on paper, we have to wonder if it’s even legal. It would seem as though this would qualify as collusion. However, most steps taken to prevent collusion do so to prevent owners from conspiring against players. In this case, Marshall benefits as much as anyone. Its actually owners colluding against other owners – a rare scenario which may have slipped through the cracks of any agreement currently in place to prevent similar actions.

ProFootballTalk has stated that they are inquiring about the legality of the move.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Broncos, Chargers, Free Agency, Seahawks 1 Comment

Addressing the Seahawks RB situation

In March 2008 the Seahawks signed former Cowboys running back Julius Jones to a a four-year $11.8M contract. It seemed like an excessive contract for a running back who’s production had fallen steadily since an impressive rookie year in 2004.

Now two years later the Seahawks are left with a tough decision, but it doesn’t involve Jones. Despite Jim Mora’s inexplicable allegiance to Jones last season, when he finally went down with an injury Justin Forsett stepped up in a big way.

Seattle Seahawks v St. Louis RamsForsett is undersized (5’9″, 190 lbs) but is as explosive as any running back in the league. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season, which ranked him 4th in the league among players with at least 100 carries.

But he isn’t just a change-of-pace back. Forsett averaged 3.2 yards after contact per attempt. Compare that to a similar running back in terms of stature, Reggie Bush, who averaged just 2.1. He may be small, but he’s well built and could handle an increased workload in 2010. The combo of Forsett and Jones (with the roles reversed from last year) could prove to be a formidable duo.

The Seahawks new regime is playing their cards close to the vest so far this offseason, but its possible they aren’t sold on either Forsett or Jones. Many mock drafts have predicted they may target C.J. Spiller in the 1st round, but he doesn’t look like a good fit in Seattle.

Assuming the Seahawks don’t plan on trading Forsett, its tough to imagine Spiller and Forsett in the same backfield. They have a similar skill set and are both undersized. It would leave the Seahawks with two home run threats, but no one to pick up the tough yards.

If the Seahawks are set on taking a running back in the 1st round Jonathan Dwyer should be the pick. Unlike Spiller he’s a powerful downhill runner – the perfect compliment to Forsett.

Considering the Seahawks other glaring needs (offensive tackle, safety, receiver, etc), the smart move may actually be to wait for the 2nd or 3rd round. Ryan Mathews could be available in the 2nd round, while Toby Gerhart or Montario Hardesy could be options in the 3rd. All three have the ability to serve as the “thunder” to Forsett’s “lightening” without forcing the Seahawks to reach on a running back who will be forced to split carries with Forsett and possibly Jones as well.

(polls)

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Seahawks Comments Off

Who will replace L.T. in San Diego?

The Chargers officially cut ties with LaDainian Tomlinson today, arguably the greatest player in team history. From a personal standpoint, it must have been a difficult decision for the Chargers to make. From a football standpoint, it couldn’t have been easier. At this point in his career L.T. wasn’t going to be anything more than an overpaid backup in San Diego.

So where do the Chargers go from here?

Washington Redskins v San Diego Chargers

Sproles is a blur on the field, but can he handle a starting role?

Restricted free agent Darren Sproles would be the in-house solution. He’s an electrifying back and a fan favorite. He shows flashes of greatness, but he’s also only 5’6″. No matter how talented he is, he has physical limitations which will prevent him from being effective over the course of the season. Even with just 93 carries in 2009, Sproles was held to 3.7 yards per attempt – not exactly a number that should have the Chargers excited about his prospects should the workload be doubled in 2010.

Another option would be to address the need in free agency. The top unrestricted free agents are Willie Parker and Chester Taylor, but they’re 29 and 30 respectively. It would seem like an odd move to cut ties with Tomlinson only to bring in another veteran on the decline.

That could leave the Chargers with the draft as their only option to fill their hole at running back. We’ve had C.J. Spiller headed to San Diego in our mock draft for a while now, but there are numerous other options. Spiller makes the most sense because of his versatility. The Chargers used Tomlinson extensively as a receiver, a role which Spiller could immediately fill. The downside is that he has a similar skill set to Sproles. With Spiller as the starter, it would undermine Sproles’ ability to be effective as a change-of-pace back.

Another option would be Jonathan Dwyer. He’s the top-rated running back on our board, but also could be gone by the time the Chargers are on the clock. As a strong, downhill runner Dwyer would make an excellent compliment to  Sproles. The downside, however,  is his lack of experience as a receiver. He comes from Paul Johnson’s triple-option at Georgia Tech and would need to learn an NFL offense. That may slow his ability to make an immediate impact and fill Tomlinson’s shoes in the passing game.

Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews is also an option. He has a similar skill set to Dwyer, which brings about the same positives and negatives. He may be a slight reach in the late 1st-round, but is the safest bet to still be on the board. The lack of quality unrestricted free agents puts the Chargers in a difficult position.

Its rare that a playoff team needs to fill such a key role in the draft, but that could be the position the Chargers are in this April. It will be very interesting to see how it unfolds. GM A.J. Smith must be kicking himself for letting Michael Turner walk two years ago…

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Chargers, Free Agency Comments Off