Navorro Bowman

2010 Draft Grades: 49ers

The 49ers had a chance to make a splash with their two 1st round picks, but I’m not sure they accomplished that.

They reached for Anthony Davis. He just isn’t polished enough to have been selected 11th overall. There’s no denying his potential, but he has yet to show that he can be consistent. That said, San Francisco just might be a perfect place for him. He’s best suited at right tackle, at least early in his career, and that’s likely where he’ll play with the 49ers.

I love the selection of Mike Iupati. He’ll be a starter from day one and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He’s the best interior lineman to enter the draft since I started scouting in 2004.

The issue I have with their two 1st round picks, however, is the fact that they’re showing an awful lot of confidence in Alex Smith by selecting two offensive linemen. Essentially they’re saying: you’ve got your star receiver, you’ve got your star running back, you’ve got your offensive line, now go lead us to the playoffs. If he doesn’t make major strides this year the 49ers will be back to the drawing board sooner rather than later.

The 49ers may have landed one of the top steals of the draft by snagging Taylor Mays in the 2nd round. At some point in the past year Mays became so overrated that I think he’s now actually underrated (if that makes any sense). Yes, he struggles in coverage, but he does a lot of other things very well. He’s a force against the run and he has the athleticism necessary to improve his coverage skills.

Navorro Bowman is a big risk due to his character concerns, but the 49ers look like a good place for players like him to land. Mike Singletary isn’t afraid to put players in their place, and in the 3rd round there’s very little risk involved.

I love the selection of Anthony Dixon in the 6th round. I honestly have no clue why he fell that far. He has impressive size and adequate speed. He actually reminds me of Frank Gore to an extent. He should be given an opportunity to compete with Glen Coffee for the backup job.

Nate Byham was also a great pick. They needed a blocking tight end and Byham can fill that role perfectly.

Kyle Williams, the son of White Sox GM Kenny Williams, is a decent late-round pick. He can potentially help out as a return specialist, but I don’t see him being much of an asset as a receiver.

The one thing missing from this draft was a cornerback, which they didn’t land until the 7th round with Phillip Adams. He’s a decent athlete but he doesn’t look like anything special. He’ll compete for a backup job, but the 49ers really needed to do more to address this need.

I was very surprised at the way the 49ers draft shaped up. They’ve spent the past two drafts building an offense that should be able to compete immediately, but if Alex Smith doesn’t make major strides this season it may be all for nothing. It would be devastating to have spent this much effort rebuilding an offense only to be forced to start over again at quarterback in next year’s draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Draft Grades - 2010 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

Saints should target linebacker in draft

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

Considering they’re the defending Super Bowl champs, the Saints have a surprising number of holes to fill. The one I’d like to focus on, however, is their need for a linebacker.

Unfortunately for the Saints, they could use not one, but two, new starting outside linebackers. The deficiencies of starters Scott Shanle (weak-side) and Scott Fujita (strong-side) were masked by the stellar play of the Saints defense line, but both are below-average NFL starters.

The first issue the Saints need to address at linebacker is their coverage. Due to the nature of their 4-3 defense, weak-side linebacker Scott Shanle is the one primarily dropping into zone coverage or manning up against tight ends. Unfortunately for the Saints, there are few linebackers in the league who more more ill-suited for this role than Shanle.

Given the fact that they’re typically covering much shorter routes, linebackers allow a fairly high percentage of catches when they drop into coverage. Shanle’s numbers, however, are well above average. Among linebackers who were targeted at least 20 times, Shanle’s 82.2 catch percentage allowed ranked as the 6th highest in the league. In a division which features Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow, he is a major liability.

As for the Saints pass rush, it doesn’t get much better. Among their linebackers, Fujita is the one relied upon most in this area. Fujita was on the field for 309 pass plays in 2009 (playoffs included) and was used as a pass rusher roughly half the time (153 plays).

Of those 153 plays, Fujita recorded just one sack. He did, however, hit the quarterback seven times and record a nine pressures. In total, that’s 17 impact plays out of 153 pass rush situations – a rate of 11.1 percent. Among the 51 linebackers with at least 100 pass rush attempts, Fujita’s 11.1 “impact percentage” ranked right in the middle of the pack at 26th.

While Fujita, who is an unrestricted free agent, was the Saints primary pass rusher at linebacker in terms of percentage of plays, Shanle was actually used more often. Shanle rushed the quarterback 173 times out of the 690 pass plays in which he was on the field. In those 173 plays Shanle recorded zero sacks, zero hits and just eight pressures – that’s an astoundingly low 4.6 “impact percentage” which ranked him dead last among linebackers with 100 attempts.

Super Bowl XLIV

Shanle (58) tries to bring down Dallas Clark in the Super Bowl

Its a wonder the Saints even made the playoffs with a performance from their outside linebackers such as this. In the tables provided, Shanle and Jarret Johnson (Ravens) are the only ones from playoff teams.

Its widely assumed that the Saints will target a linebacker with the 32nd pick in the 1st round. Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon would be the ideal fit for their 4-3 defense. Penn State’s Navorro Bowman is another option.

Both Bowman and Weatherspoon would be good fits at weak-side linebacker as a replacement for Shanle. However, if Scott Fujita does not re-sign, the strong-side position could actually be the greater need. Journeyman Troy Evans is Fujita’s backup and is not suited for a starting role.

Obviously the Saints have proven they can win with a below-average corps of linebackers. But if they’re going to repeat, they would be well served to upgrade the unit.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Saints 4 Comments