Dan Williams

Training Camp Preview: Cardinals

Biggest Question Mark: Matt Leinart
Leinart has all the talent to be an elite quarterback. Since DraftAce launched in 2004, he remains the highest-rated quarterback I’ve scouted and I stand by everything I said about him at the time. But what I, nor anyone else, expected was his lack of work ethic. In hindsight it makes sense, he partied it up at USC and continued in Arizona. With Kurt Warner gone, it’s time for Leinart to grow up and finally live up to his potential.

TEMPE, AZ - MAY 2 :  Cody Brown #52 of the Arizona Cardinals participates in a drill during a team minicamp at the team training facility on May 2, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Jonathan Willey/Getty Images)

Cody Brown could crack the Cards' starting lineup

Position Battle to Watch: Outside Linebacker
With Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry gone, the Cardinals defense will have a different look. Joey Porter and Clark Haggans enter training camp as the favorites, but 2009 2nd-round pick Cody Brown will be fighting for a job. He suffered a broken wrist in training camp last season and missed the entire year. If he can stay healthy, he’ll push Haggans for the starting role.

Impact Rookie: Dan Williams
Williams won’t win rookie of the year because nose tackles don’t generate much attention, but he may prove to be the most valuable rookie this season. He’ll be expected to start from day one. If he lives up to expectations, the Cardinals will have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the game with Williams, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Cardinals 2 Comments

2010 Draft Grades: Cardinals

In terms of value, Dan Williams was one of my favorite picks in the 1st round. Considering the emphasis that teams running 3-4 defenses have placed on nose tackles, I expected him to come off the board early. When he started to fall, I even thought someone that didn’t really need a nose tackle (the Steelers, for example) would take him because he was simply the best available player.

In Arizona, Williams will team with Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell to give the Cardinals one of the most impressive defensive lines in the game. If he lives up to his potential early on, their defense could be much better than expected in 2010.

I like Daryl Washington, but I don’t necessary like how he fits into Arizona’s defense. He’s slightly undersized and for that reason I think he’s better suited for a 4-3 defense.

Andre Roberts is a decent 3rd round pick, but I was surprised they didn’t go after a more NFL-ready receiver. They really needed to find someone who would help Matt Leinart (or Derek Anderson) right away and I don’t know that Roberts will be able to do that.

I don’t like the selection of O’Brien Schofield for two reasons. One, he is undersized, much like Washington. He just doesn’t look like a great fit for a 3-4 defense unless he bulks up significantly. Two, he’s coming of an injury. The Cardinals want to win now and they needed a linebacker who could play immediately. It’s uncertain whether or not Schofield will be ready for the season.

John Skelton is a great fit for the Cardinals. They obviously have concerns about Matt Leinart, but they didn’t want to push the panic button just yet and take someone in the early rounds. Instead, they rolled the dice on Skelton in the 5th. They can bring him along slowly and develop him over the course of a year or two with Leinart as the starter. That should be enough time to determine if Skelton can be a starter of if they need to start over.

Jorrick Calvin will add depth at cornerback and help replace Bryant McFadden. I would have liked to see them add a cornerback earlier than the 6th round, though.

Tight end was another position that the Cardinals should have addressed earlier. Jim Dray has limited upside and will struggle to beat out Anthony Becht, Ben Patrick or Stephen Spach for a spot on the roster.

Overall, this was a solid but unspectacular draft for the Cardinals. They hit a home run with Dan Williams in the 1st round, but I’m not confident that anyone else from this draft class will develop into a starter. I like the draft, but I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I have been in years past. The Cardinals have developed a reputation under Rod Graves and Steve Keim as being one of the top teams in the draft, and this year’s class didn’t quite live up to expectations.

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

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

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

Top Nose Tackles

Following up on today’s earlier post on Terrence Cody’s rising stock, here’s a look at the top nose tackles in this year’s class.

Tennessee v Kentucky1. Dan Williams, Tennessee
At 6’2″, 327 pounds there’s no question that Williams has the size to play nose tackle. What makes him the top prospect at the position, though, is his athleticism. Most nose tackles earn their living just by eating up space, but a select few have the ability to get into the backfield and make plays. Shaun Rogers may be the best example among active nose tackles, and Williams could certainly have a similar impact at the next level.

2. Terrence Cody, Alabama
Cody’s stock is on the rise and the more weight he loses the higher his stock will climb. He isn’t the type that will make plays in the backfield with consistency, but he can take on two or three blockers at a time. He lacks the athleticism to be a truly elite nose tackle but he can make an instant impact anchoring a defensive line.

3. Cam Thomas, North Carolina
Thomas was overshadowed by Marvin Austin at North Carolina, but he’s starting to get the attention he deserves. At 6’4″, 331 pounds he has the size to fit right at nose tackle in the NFL. He struggled to make an impact at times in UNC’s traditional 4-3 defense due to his lack of athleticism, but he should flourish in a 3-4 scheme at the next level.

4. Linval Joseph, East Carolina
There’s a significant dropoff in talent after Thomas. Joseph has the size (6’5″, 328 pounds) and strength but he wasn’t always productive even against lesser competition at East Carolina. He’s an intriguing mid-round prospect but he isn’t a sure thing.

5. Jeff Owens, Georgia
Not all teams will view Owens as a nose tackle due to his relative lack of size (6’1″, 304) but he is a short, stout and extremely strong interior lineman. If he added some weight Owens could easily handle the duties of a nose tackle.

6. Aleric Mullins, North Carolina
Mullins was never a full-time starter at North Carolina, stuck behind Cam Thomas and Marvin Austin.  He’s an intriguing prospect who has the size and strength to play nose tackle and potentially the athleticism to play defensive end in the 3-4 defense as well. He could be one of those player’s who just needs to land in the right system to reach his full potential.

7. Brandon Deaderick, Alabama
Deaderick was overshadowed by Cody at Alabama, but he too was a key member of Tide’s defense. His production was nothing impressive, but his size and strength are intriguing. He’s a developmental prospect who could be a late-round pick.

8. Travis Ivey, Maryland
Ivey battled injuries throughout his career and wasn’t a full-time starter until his senior year. His tape isn’t impressive but there’s only so many guys out there who are 6’4″, 341 pounds. He’ll draw interest in the late rounds or as a free agent.

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

Making sense of the Giants draft plans

The hardest teams to figure out each offseason are the teams that underachieved the previous year. This year the Giants certainly fall into that category.

Coughlin announced as Giants head coach

Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese are in a tough position in this year's draft

As GM Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin try to sort out which players are permanently on the decline and which players are due for a bounce-back season in 2010, we’re left with nothing but pure guesses as to their draft strategy.

The one obvious need for the Giants is at inside linebacker. The release of Antonio Pierce opened up a gaping hole. If its filled from within, 2008 5th-round pick Jonathan Goff would be the one. However, Goff has been unimpressive in limited playing time so far. He started the final three games of 2009 for the injured Pierce which just so happened to coincide with the worst display of defense in recent Giants history.

In a perfect world Rolando McClain would fall to the Giants at No. 15. Its a scenario that looks more likely now that the Dolphins have signed Karlos Dansby, but the Chiefs, Browns and 49ers all remain potential landing spots for McClain before the Giants are on the clock.

Assuming he’s gone, they’ll be left with a difficult decision.

If they’re dead set on filling the hole at linebacker Sean Weatherspoon would be an option, but it would be a reach. He seems to have a consensus late-1st-round grade, but does have the ability to play inside in the 4-3 defense.

The alternative strategy would be to address another lesser area of need. Safety was an option (Earl Thomas, Taylor Mays) until they signed Antrel Rolle, which leaves strong-side linebacker as the only reasonable hole to attempt to fill. 2009 2nd-round pick Clint Sintim and 2008 4th-round pick Bryan Kehl are set to compete for the starting job as of now. But someone such as Sergio Kindle could be an option.

The final, and perhaps the most likely, option is to simply take the best available player. Given the strengths of this year’s draft class and Coughlin’s love for stockpiling players at the position, a defensive lineman would seem like a safe bet. Players such as Derrick Morgan, Dan Williams, Brian Price and Carlos Dunlap all look like reasonable options.

None of them would be guaranteed a starting job from day one, but the defensive line was filled with underachievers in 2009. Mathias Kiwanuka, Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty were all major disappointments and bounced in and out of the starting lineup throughout the season. Coughlin and Reese may view a selection of a young defensive lineman as a good way to push their current lineman to live up to expectations and provide insurance if they continue to falter.

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

Making sense of the Broncos draft plans

Once we hit mid-March most team’s draft plans start to clear up. Certain needs are addressed through free agency which limits the number of options for each team in the draft. However, occasionally a team will bring in so many new free agents that it only clutters up the roster and makes their draft plans difficult to determine.

This year that team is the Broncos.

By no means am I insulting their offseason moves. Quite the opposite, actually. They’ve overhauled their defensive line with Jarvis Green, Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams, all of whom could start for them in 2010.

Cowboys Jenkins Breaks Up Pass for Broncos Marshall in DenverOn the offensive side, the Brandon Marshall situation is still looming over their heads, but its becoming increasingly unlikely that he’ll sign elsewhere. The rumors of him signing with the Seahawks have been overstated. Seattle would have to surrender the 6th overall pick, which simply isn’t going to happen. The only alternative may be for Marshall to re-sign with Denver and then be traded to Seattle for the 14th selection.

The Bengals have also been rumored to have interest, but appear to have turned their attention to Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant, both of whom come at a much cheaper price tag.

So which direction do the Broncos go in the draft?

I was all set to predict Dan Williams to the Broncos in my latest mock draft… and then they signed Justin Bannan… and then Jarvis Green… and then Jamal Williams. Clearly defensive line has been crossed off the list of needs.

Dez Bryant has been a common name linked to the Broncos in mock drafts, but it hinges on the trade of Marshall. Until he’s gone, I don’t think we can feel confident that the Broncos are leaning that direction. Even if Marshall is gone, it may not be a sure thing. Bryant’s stock is falling for his off-field concerns, and the Broncos may be hesitant to bring aboard another diva.

The secondary is another area that could be addressed. Last season the Broncos were so desperate for cornerbacks that they brought aboard the seemingly ageless Ty Law. If Joe Haden is on the board he would certainly be an option.

However, in my latest mock draft Haden comes off the board at No. 10 to the Jaguars, leaving the Broncos with a difficult decision. Since I’ve decided to hold off on the Dez Bryant prediction until Marshall is traded, I was left without an option that jumped out as an obvious choice.

I elected to go with Sergio Kindle who has the size and athleticism to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker in the Broncos 3-4 system. It isn’t a slam dunk by any means, but it fills a need at a decent value. Marrio Haggan started opposite Elvis Dumervil in 2009 and could certainly be upgraded. Kindle would represent a significant upgrade over Haggan as a pass rusher and should at least be able to match his production against the run.

The downside to selecting Kindle is that they already have a good amount of money tied up in linebackers in Dumervil, D.J. Williams and 2009 1st-round pick Robert Ayers.

As we get closer to the draft its possible that the Broncos draft plans clear up, but as of now they’re clear as mud. If things remain as they are now, the Broncos could be a prime candidate to make one of the more surprising selection of draft.

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