Earl Thomas

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

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: Seahawks

The Seahawks made off like bandits in the 1st round and completely revamped their roster throughout the draft. They’re definitely in the discussion as one of the biggest winners in this year’s draft.

Russell Okung just plopped into their lap in the 1st round and they wasted no time making the selection. He was the best available player and just happened to fill their biggest need. They’ll be thanking the Redskins for the next decade for passing him up in favor of Trent Williams.

The next most important position for the Seahawks to address was free safety, and sure enough, Earl Thomas fell to them at No. 14. It was simply a brilliant 1st round by Pete Carroll and company. They got two players to build around and who can make an immediate impact.

I was very surprised that Golden Tate fell to the late 2nd round. The Seahawks still need a true No. 1 receiver, but at that point in the draft Tate was easily the best available. He’s a perfect slot receiver who can make an impact from day one. If the Seahawks use him correctly, he could put up impressive numbers as a rookie.

Walter Thurmond is an electric return man and should fill that role immediately in Seattle. He’s also very underrated as a cornerback. He’s coming off an injury, however, which caused him to fall to the 4th round. He could end up being yet another steal for the Seahawks if he can stay healthy. He could win the job as their nickel corner.

The Seahawks needed a defensive end, but I’m not sure E.J. Wilson is the player I would have targeted in the 4th round. What they really need is a pass rusher, and with Ricky Sapp on the board I would have rather gone that direction. Wilson is more of a big body who excels against the run. He was a slight reach where they took him.

Kam Chancellor was a nice 5th-round pick. He’ll backup Jordan Babineaux at strong safety and potentially earn the starting job there in a year or two. He can also contribute on special teams immediately.

Anthony McCoy fell because of concerns about a failed drug test, but his college coach should know how to straighten him out. He’s nothing special as a receiver, but is a fairly complete tight end in terms of being able to catch the ball and block. He’s a great fit as a second option behind John Carlson.

The Seahawks finally grabbed a pass rusher in the 7th round with Dexter Davis. He’ll have chance to make the squad as a situational pass rusher, but I wouldn’t expect much from him. He’s slightly undersized I think he’ll struggle to make the roster.

Jameson Konz was a great pickup in the late 7th round. He doesn’t have a true position, but he’s an impressive natural athlete who’s workout numbers were off the charts. He could play fullback, tight end or receiver. Even though he doesn’t have a defined position, he’s well worth the risk in the 7th round. He may turn out to be just a workout warrior, but his upside in the 7th round was far too great to pass up.

This was simply a brilliant draft for the Seahawks. Okung and Thomas will start from day one. Tate, Thurmond, Chancellor and McCoy should also have fairly significant roles as rookies. This draft has transformed the Seahawks and they now have every reason to believe they can compete for the NFC West title in 2010.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Seahawks 1 Comment

Titans eyeing a cornerback in the 1st round?

Nearly every mock draft out there has the Titans selecting a defensive lineman with the 16th pick in the draft. Jason Pierre-Paul and Derrick Morgan seem to be the popular choices, but do the Titans have something else in mind?

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - TCU v Boise State

Is Wilson a 1st-round target of the Titans?

The Titans have used up numerous draft visits this spring on defensive backs including Joe Haden, Kyle Wilson and Earl Thomas who are all expected to be 1st-round selections.

You can’t read into draft visits too much but when a team pays this much attention to a specific position, its more than just a smoke screen. Based on the offseason acquisition of Tye Hill, the Titans clearly view cornerback as a position of need. Hill will compete for the starting job opposite Courtland Finnegan, but it won’t be handed to him. Jason McCourty and Rod Hood figure to be in the mix as well.

While Finnegan ranks among the game’s elite, the rest of the Titans secondary isn’t striking fear into opponents. In a division which features the high-powered offenses of the Colts and Texans, the Titans may view cornerback as a bigger weakness than the defensive line because of their competition.

Both positions seem to be high on the Titans wish list, but don’t be shocked if they make cornerback their 1st-round selection and address the defensive line later in the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Titans 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

Dolphins showing strong interest in free safeties

Last week I suggested that the Dolphins could target Taylor Mays in the 1st round. At the time it was pure speculation based on Bill Parcells’ draft history and their need for a free safety. But now there appears to be some validity to my prediction.

2010 NFL Combine - Day Four

Could the Dolphins target Earl Thomas in the 1st round?

The Dolphins are showing a strong interest in this year’s class of free safeties and appear likely to land one in the 1st or 2nd round. In addition to Mays, the Dolphins either already have or soon will workout Earl Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Reshad Jones and Myron Lewis. Thomas and Mays would be 1st-round targets. Burnett and Jones would likely be options in the 2nd round. Lewis will likely be available in the 3rd round or later.

As I outlined in my previous post on Mays, he fits the Parcells profile best due to his size and athleticism. However, that doesn’t mean Parcells is married to that specific skill set.

This is a very deep class for safeties, with as many as seven potentially coming off the board in the first two rounds. Given that depth, it would be mildly surprising to see the Dolphins spend the 12th pick on Mays or Thomas. There’s simply better value in taking a safety in the 2nd round. That said, they’re obviously doing their homework and strongly considering that option.

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