Jonathan Dwyer

2010 Draft Grades: Steelers

Its been assumed for months that the Steelers would address their interior line with their 1st-round pick, and that decision was made easier by the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger. Without their franchise quarterback, the Steelers will become more of a power running team and Maurkice Pouncey will be a key piece of the equation to make that work. He should start from day one at right guard and eventually move to center to replace Justin Hartwig.

I thought they reached a little for Jason Worilds. They needed to add depth at outside linebacker, but there were better players on the board in the 2nd round.

I also felt that Emmanuel Sanders was a reach. I’m wary of any receiver that comes from a June Jones offense. He’s undersized and just seems a little too similar to Mike Wallace. If the Steelers were going to add a receiver in this draft I would have liked to see them add a bigger possession receiver. Limas Sweed has been a huge disappointment and its time for the to move on and find someone else to fill that role.

I love the pick of Thaddeus Gibson in the 4th round. I gave him a 2nd-round grade and him rated ahead of Worilds. He’s more raw than Worilds but has a more upside, especially as a pass rusher. He likely won’t see much immediate playing time, but I love his chances of turning out to be the gem of this draft class for the Steelers.

Chris Scott is an unspectacular pick in the 5th round, but adds some necessary depth. He isn’t a future starter, but he can play guard and tackle and should have a long career as a backup for that reason.

Crezdon Butler fills an obvious need, but I was surprised that the Steelers didn’t grab a cornerback until the 5th round. They did trade for Bryant McFadden on draft day, but he isn’t the answer to their problems either.

Stevenson Sylvester was a tremendously productive college linebacker who will likely play inside in the Steelers 3-4 scheme. However, I don’t see him as anything more than a special teams contributor in the NFL. There were better players on the board at that spot.

I want to love the selection of Jonathan Dwyer, but I have reservations about declaring it a slam dunk pick. I graded Dwyer as a 2nd-round selection. I knew at the time that most had him graded lower that that, but I never envisioned a situation in which a player with his size and speed would fall to the 6th round. When a player with that much talent falls that far without an obvious explanation, I start to wonder if there’s something that only the teams who interviewed him are aware of.

I really like the selection of Antonio Brown. In fact, I had him rated a few spots higher than Emmanuel Sanders. They’re similar players, but Brown had much more value in the 6th round than Sanders in the 3rd.

Doug Worthington could also turn out to be a late-round steal for the Steelers. He’s a prototypical 3-4 defensive end. He has the size for the position and the athleticism to make some plays as well.

This was a solid draft for the Steelers, but they only landed one player who will contribute immediately (Pouncey). Their other picks are more developmental prospects who will be brought along slowly. Worilds and Gibson could be come cornerstones of their defense in a few years, but the Steelers really needed to land some players who can contribute now.

The biggest thing missing from this draft was an impact cornerback. There were plenty of guys on the board in the 2nd and 3rd round who could have added immediate depth to the position. Overall, this draft was filled with a few too many reaches and not enough players who projects as potential starters.

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

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

Texans Need a Power Running Back

Between now and the NFL Draft, we will run a series of articles analyzing each team’s needs using stats provided by ProFootballFocus.com

texansSteve Slaton burst onto the scene late in 2008, rushing for 737 yards over the final seven games of the season. As a result the Texans, and numerous fantasy owners who drafted him in the 1st round, entered 2009 with lofty expectations.

The results were underwhelming. In 11 games prior to a season-ending neck injury, Slaton rushed for just 437 yards at a dismal rate of 3.3 yards per carry.

New Orleans Saints v Houston TexansThe reason behind the decline is fairly simple. Slaton just doesn’t have the body of an NFL running back. Year after year we see impressive late-season statistics posted by backups plugged into starting roles. Last year it was Slaton, this year it was Jerome Harrison Harrison and Jamal Charles. Occasionally these backups prove to be the real deal. But more often than not they simply capitalizing on being fresh from having not been worn down as the workhorse for the majority of the season and are playing with extra motivation to win the starting job for the following season.

In Slaton’s case, both factors could have played a role in his 2008 heroics. There’s no denying his ability as a big-play running back, but like others such as Reggie Bush and Leon Washinngton, he doesn’t have the strength to carry the load.

To demonstrate his inability to be a feature back, consider the stat “yards after contact” which is tracked by the guys at ProFootballFocus. Among running backs with at least 100 attempts, Slaton averaged the 4th-fewest yards after contact per attempt this season at just 2.12.

yardsaftercontact

From the view of an opposing defensive coordinator, these are the ideal running backs to face. Yes, Slaton could hurt you by breaking off a big run, but you don’t feel the need to stack the box in order to slow him down. As a result, Slaton’s inability to force defenses to game-plan for him allows defenses to focus their attention on Andre Johnson and their potent passing attack.

Down the stretch the Texans used the more physically imposing Arian Foster (6’1″, 217 lbs) as the feature back. He did an adequate job, but the Texas likely won’t feel comfortable handing him the starting job for 2010.

Given the limited number of running backs available in free agency, this is likely a position the Texans will need to address in the draft. In the 1st round Jonathan Dwyer and Ryan Mathews are both options, but would it would be considered a reach by many to select either one in the top 20. The safer route may be to select a player such as Anthony Dixon or Montario Hardesty in the 2nd or 3rd round to share the load with Slaton in 2010.

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

Clinton Portis Returning to Washington?

redskinsIn an interview on ESPN’s First Take this morning Clinton Portis opened up about his “rough” 2009 season, and seemed to indicate that he expects to return to Washington in 2010. (see transcript here)

Given his injury-plagued and generally unproductive season, it would seem unlikely that Portis’ prophecy comes true. Oh, and then there’s the $6.34M he’s owed in 2010.

In reality, Mike Shanahan just isn’t going to keep the washed up running back who’s work ethic he has criticized and who he once traded away while in Denver. The more likely scenario will be for Shanahan to add a running back somewhere between the 2nd and 4th rounds of the draft.

ACC Championship  - Clemson v Georgia TechIn our latest mock draft we have the ‘Skins selecting Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer in the 2nd round.

Dwyer’s the type of downhill runner that Shanahan covets. His style is similar to former Broncos running backs Terrell Davis, Reuben Droughns, Selvin Young and even comparable to Portis. Other options in the 2nd or 3rd round may be Tennessee’s Montario Hardesty, Auburn’s Ben Tate, Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon or Stanford’s Toby Gerhart.

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