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.
5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Biggest Question Mark: Laurence Maroney
He’s shown flashes of ability, but has struggled to consistently perform. At this point most Patriot fans are ready to slap him with the bust label. However, he enters 2010 with an excellent chance to win the starting job. But then again, he could also get cut.
Position Battle to Watch: Wide Receiver
Randy Moss is the only sure thing in the Patriots receiving corps. With Wes Welker on the PUP list, Julian Edleman, Torry Holt, Taylor Price and Brandon Tate will battle for playing time. Despite Edleman’s success in Welker absence, the fact that they added Holt and Price indicates they weren’t satisfied with their depth at receiver.
Impact Rookie: Devin McCourty
The Patriots secondary was a weakness in 2009 and a lack of depth was a major contributing factor. Even if McCourty doesn’t win a starting job, he’ll be an impact player in a reserve role and on special teams.
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.
Just about every year there is a run on players from a certain position. This year we know a good number of offensive tackles and defensive linemen will go in the 1st round. Joining them, could be a number of cornerbacks.
Back in my first post-regular season mock draft in January I had only one cornerback in the 1st round – Joe Haden. Since then, Devin McCourty, Kyle Wilson, Patrick Robinson and Kareem Jackson have all entered the conversation. While I don’t believe all five deserve to be 1st-round selections, its not out of the question that they could all sneak into the top 32 picks.
Runs on a specific position happen when teams need to fill a position and are worried that they’ll be left with a significantly worse player by the time they’re on the clock again. For example, if the Eagles want a cornerback in the 1st round they may reach for Kareem Jackson rather than settle for Perrish Cox in the second round.
Just a few weeks ago it seemed reasonable to assume that only two cornerbacks would come off the board in the 1st round. So lets run through a scenario in which all five could come off the board.
10. Jaguars – Joe Haden
The Jaguars are definitely in the mix to land Haden. They need someone opposite Rashean Mathis, who turns 30 in August.
17. 49ers – Devin McCourty
There are reportedly a number of teams in the top 20 that have an interest in McCoury, and the 49ers are likely one of them. Nate Clements has been a huge disappointment, and was benched at one point in 2009. McCourty could allow them to part ways with him and enormous contract.
24. Eagles – Kyle Wilson
The Eagles traded arguably their best cornerback, Sheldon Brown, to the Browns in an effort to get younger on defense. However, it depleted their depth at cornerback in the process and left them with with Ellis Hobbs as their best option to start opposite Asante Samuel.
25. Ravens – Kareem Jackson
Both Lardarius Webb and Dominique Foxworth are coming off ACL injuries and may not be ready for the start of the season. Having two key injuries in their secondary has the Ravens worried, and they’ve done their homework on the majority of the top cornerbacks in this year’s class.
31. Vikings – Patrick Robinson
Robinson is the long shot of the group, but if the top four cornerbacks are off the board by No. 31 the Vikings may take chance on him. Depth at the position was a weakness of the Vikings in 2009 and to make matters worse Cedric Griffin’s season ended with a serious knee injury which could cause him to miss the start of the 2010 season. They’re desperate for help in the secondary and may not have a choice but to add someone in the 1st round.
This is just one of multiple scenarios in which five corners could come off the board. Other teams such as the Titans, Steelers and Packers are also interested in cornerbacks early in the draft.
If a scenario such as this plays out, the real winners will be the teams drafting early in the 2nd round. A number of 1st-round talents will fall if teams start to reach for guys at a specific position. It could cause multiple big names to still be on the board on Friday.
It was an eventful day at the Senior Bowl. A number of players made statements – both good and bad – about their draft stock.
What stood out most to me were the struggles of two small school offensive linemen. Both Mike Iupati and Vladimir Ducasse struggled throughout the day.
Iupati look fairly good when lined up at guard, dominating Purdue DT Mike Neal and Louisiana Tech DT D’Anthony Smith in one-on-one drills. But when he moved out to tackle he really struggled. At one point Cal DT Tyson Alualu bull rushed Iupati and knocked him on his back. Then later in the day in a battle of small-school prospects Arkansas State DE Alex Carrington tossed Iupati to the ground effortlessly. Iupati remains the top guard on my draft board, but he no longer looks like a 1st-round pick in my mind.
Ducasse also struggled and did far more damage to his stock than Iupati. Ducasse didn’t enter with the same hype, but there were those that felt he had a chance to sneak into the 1st round with a strong performance. He certainly has the size for the position, but he’s got a lot of work to do to catch up to the guys who have been playing in the FBS. Ducasse lined up at both guard and tackle and struggled in both positions. His footwork was poor at both positions and he played too upright. Michigan DE Brandon Graham took advantage and breezed past him with minimal effort. After today’s performance he’ll have to work hard to earn even an early 3rd-round grade.
Speaking of Brandon Graham… wow. He looked very impressive today. I don’t think I saw a single lineman get the better of him. There were times when they fought to a stalemate, but Graham was never the loser. He looked great against Ducasse but really stood out against Utah OT Zane Beadles. On consecutive reps he used a simple speed rush and then a spin move to easily get past Beadles. He made a strong case to receive a 1st-round grade.
Alex Carrington was another lineman that looked very good. I already mentioned that he dominated Mike Iupati, but he looked good throughout the day. He’s tall and very athletic and appears to have excellent upper body strength. Its still early – we’ve really only seen him excel in pass rush drills – but he could earn a 2nd-round grade.
A few other quick notes:
- Rutgers CB Devin McCourty struggled when in press coverage today. He just doesn’t seem to have the quick feet or the strength to play near the line of scrimmage. Though he does have the speed to make up mistakes. He also got his hands on a number of passes, showing good leaping ability.
- Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard looked very good. In possibly the best matchup of North squad receivers and corners he burned Cal CB Syd’Quan Thompson.
- Speaking of Thompson, he looked good throughout the day. I am very impressed with his physical play. His physical nature will help ease team’s concerns about his lack of size.
- I was impressed with Clemson WR Jacoby Ford throughout the season, but he didn’t stand out at all today. I really expected him to burn some of these cornerbacks with his sprinter’s speed but it just didn’t happen. Although I will say he has very good hands and adjusts to the ball well. He made a great catch on a pass that was tipped by Devin McCourty.
- Ohio State S Kurt Coleman struggled in pass coverage. His stock definitely has taken a blow this week.
- Virginia S/CB Chris Cook has great size and plays very physical when lined up at cornerback, but I was concerned he wouldn’t have the speed for the position. So far, however, it hasn’t been an issue.
- Notre Dame C Eric Olsen had a terrible day. I felt bad for him watching him get pushed around time after time. He simply couldn’t stop anyone’s bull rush. He weighed in at 310 pounds, so he isn’t undersized. He just doesn’t have the strength to compete.
- Fresno State RB Lonyae Miller looked very poor in blocking drills. He’s a big, physical running back and someone with his size needs to be able to block to earn a roster spot at the next level.
- Oregon RB LeGarrett Blount also had issues blocking. Although from watching his feeble attempts it looked as though he hadn’t even been taught how before. When someone looks that bad, sometimes its not such a bad thing cause it gives you hope that it can easily be fixed with some simple coaching.
- Unfortunately I didn’t catch the South squad practice so no Tebow updates today. I’ll have full reports on both squads tomorrow.