Rolando McClain

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 2

OFFENSE
1. Jahvid Best, Lions
Best is the runaway leader among offensive rookies after two weeks. He ranks second among rookies in rushing yards and leads all rookies in receiving yards. He has given the Lions offense a new look and is emerging as one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley caught five passes again this past week, giving him 10 for 124 yards on the season. He has emerged as legitimate a third option behind Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco and has given the Bengals perhaps the best trio of receivers in the league.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
Bryant caught just two passes this week, but both were big 26-yard plays. He also returned a put 62 yards for a touchdown and is averaging 19.3 yards per return on the season.

4. Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams scaled back the workload for Bradford in Week 2, as he attempted just 25 passes. He is completing 57.5 percent of his passes and averaging 5.3 yards per attempt – both mediocre numbers, but impressive for a rookie on a team like the Rams.

5. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
Hernandez is emerging as one of the Patriots most explosive weapons this season. He ranks second among rookies this season with 146 receiving yards on just seven catches.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi played a key role in stopping the Vikings last week, and is emerging as a leader on the Dolphins defense. He is the most well-balanced rookie linebacker in terms of ability as a pass rusher and run stuffer.

2. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain anchored the Raiders defense in their win over the Rams last week. He already looks like one of the best middle linebackers against the run and the Raiders defense has improved as a result.

3. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan recorded a sack for the second straight week but that’s not the only reason he’s ranked. He has done an excellent job holding up at the point of attack and the Titans run defense has improved as a result.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Ward has been one of the few bright spots for the Browns this season. He has been like an extra linebacker for the Browns run defense… which they have definitely needed.

5. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham picked up his first career sack last week, and looks like the best pure rookie pass rusher in the league. However, he’s being used in a rotation almost exclusively as a pass rusher which is why he isn’t ranked higher.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Lions, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Titans Comments Off

NFL Rookie Rankings – Week 1

OFFENSE
1.
Sam Bradford, Rams
The Rams asked Bradford to carry the team in his first professional game and he did just that. Bradford 32 of 55 passes for 253 yards in a near upset of the Cardinals. He did throw three interceptions (one on a hail mary) but it was an impressive debut nonetheless.

2. Jordan Shipley, Bengals
Shipley led all rookie receivers with 82 yards on five catches Sunday. All five of his receptions went for first downs, including a 51-yard reception. After seeing Shipley’s performance, its easy to see why the Bengals didn’t feel the need to keep Antonio Bryant around.

3. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The Cowboys fed it to Bryant early and often as he caught eight balls for 56 yards. He was primarily used on short passes, as the Cowboys looked to him to make plays after the catch. Four of his receptions went for first downs, with a long of 15 yards.

4. Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers
Pouncey gave the Steelers an immediate upgrade at center, replacing Jeff Hartings. The Steelers were back to the power-running game that they’re known for, with Rashard Mendenhall averaging over five yards per carry.

5. Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews didn’t set the world on fire, but he was solid in his debut against Kansas City. He racked up 75 yards on 19 carries, a modest 3.9 yards per attempt.  He also lost a fumble which led to a Chiefs touchdown.

DEFENSE
1. Koa Misi, Dolphins
Misi stepped into the Dolphins starting lineup and was all over the field against the Bills. He recorded one sack, and was consistently getting pressure on Trent Edwards. With production like this, the ‘Phins won’t miss Jason Taylor or Joey Porter.

2. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham made an immediate impact for the Eagles pass rush, consistently getting into the backfield and pressuring Aaron Rodgers. He didn’t record a sack, but his efforts did not go unnoticed.

3. Rolando McClain, Raiders
McClain fully lived up to expectations in his first game with the Raiders. He looked like a veteran, showing the impressive instincts that made him a star at Alabama. With McClain in the middle, the Raiders should be much improved.

4. T.J. Ward, Browns
Not much went right for the Browns on Sunday, but Ward already looks like an upgrade at strong safety over last year’s primary starter Abe Elam. He did a nice job in coverage against Kellen Winslow, and was consistently stepping up to help out against the run.

5. Eric Berry, Chiefs
Berry was quietly effective against the Chargers, helping the Chiefs pull off the upset. He didn’t come up with any big plays but was consistently in the right position, providing support for the Chiefs corners. It’s only a matter of time before he comes up with some game-changing interceptions.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bengals, Browns, Chargers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders, Rams, Steelers Comments Off

2010 Draft Grades: Raiders

The only explanation I have for the Raiders draft is that no one told Al Davis it started on Thursday this year.

Rolando McClain doesn’t fill a glaring need, but he was arguably the best available player on the draft board. He’s a significant upgrade over Kirk Morrison, who was traded to Jacksonville before the draft was over. Given the other options available – most likely an offensive tackle – was clearly the right choice in my mind. McClain will have an instant impact and be an anchor on their defense for years to come.

Lamarr Houston was another uncharacteristically smart 2nd-round selection. He’ll likely be plugged into a starting role from day one. Another reason why I love the selection of Houston is because he’s a versatile lineman. Should the Raiders switch to a 3-4 in the near future, which many have speculated they will, Houston can easily shift outside to defensive end.

I have very mixed feeling about the selection of Jared Veldheer. Purely based on value I think it was a good selection. However, they’re desperate for a new left tackle and there will certainly be pressure to play Veldheer if he outperforms Mario Henderson in training camp (which won’t be hard to do).

And now we’re on the Al Davis portion of the draft…

After presumably showing up in the Raiders war room two days late, Al promptly selects the most athletic offensive lineman (Bruce Campbell) and the fast wide receiver from the combine (Jacoby Ford).

While it is a typical Al Davis pick, I really can’t criticize the selection of Campbell too much. He does have a ton of upside and he definitely had value in the 4th round. There will be no pressure to play him early on (unless Davis insists) and he can sit and learn and take the time to reach his full potential.

The Jacoby Ford selection, however, makes no sense. With the exception of Chaz Schilens, all the Raiders have are receivers who can stretch the field. Ford will just blend into the pack. Fortunately Davis didn’t force them to reach for him in the 2nd round.

Walter McFadden was a solid 5th-round pick. They really should have tried to land a cornerback earlier in the draft though, because McFadden will be forced to play early and often in the Raiders thin secondary. He’ll definitely be in the mix to win a starting job opposite Nnamdi Asomugha. Not because he deserves to though, just by default.

Travis Goethel doesn’t appear to fit in Oakland. They’re fairly deep at linebacker and he’ll struggle to make the squad unless he really stands out on special teams in training camp.

Jeremy Ware will be added to the rest of the dreck at cornerback in Oakland. Aside from Asomugha they don’t have a NFL-caliber cornerback, so if he impresses early on he could earn some playing time.

Stevie Brown was a nice 7th-round pick, but he’ll struggle to make the roster. The Raiders 2008 4th-round pick Tyvon Branch and 2009 2nd-round pick Mike Mitchell and strong safety. Both played reasonably well in 2009, making it unlikely that Brown will steal away any playing time.

Overall this was the best draft the Raiders have had in a few years. I’d love to know explanation behind their first few picks and why the typical Al Davis selections started popping up again in the 4th round. But whatever the reason, it worked. They landed a number of players who can make an immediate impact and a few other nice developmental prospects. The only major strike against them is their inability to find a left tackle or cornerback who can play immediately. McClain and Houston were safe picks – especially by the standard set by recent Raiders draft – but neither filled a significant area of need.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Raiders 3 Comments

A look at the Chiefs Draft Board

We’re all but certain as to how the first three picks will play out, and I’ve detailed my thoughts on the Redskins decision earlier today. So here’s my best guess at what the Chiefs draft board looks like. Since they’re picking 5th, I’ll only include five players.

1. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
He’s the best tackle in the draft and he’ll fit perfectly in Kansas City, supplanting Branden Albert at left tackle.

2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
The Chiefs don’t need a defensive lineman, but I also can’t see them passing up Suh if he were to fall and Okung were gone. He won’t fall though, so its a non-issue.

3. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Bulaga won’t be this high on every draft board, but he fits the profile of linemen Scott Pioli likes: physical, tough and smart. I can’t envision any scenario in which he isn’t still on the board at No. 5.

4. Trent Williams, Oklahoma
In the unlikely scenario in which Okung and Bulaga both went in the top five (to Detroit and Washington, I guess?) the Chiefs would likely settle for Williams. He isn’t exactly what they’re looking for, but they’re desperate to improve the protection for Matt Cassel.

5. Rolando McClain, Alabama
This is the longest shot of them all, but in the crazy scenario in which Okung, Suh, Bulaga and Williams went in the top four I believe the Chiefs would turn to McClain. He is a perfect fit for the 3-4 defense and fills an immediate need at inside linebacker.

No Eric Berry?
Yes, I left off Eric Berry. I realize that many mock drafts have the Chiefs taking Berry, however I don’t believe Scott Pioli has any interest in taking a safety in the top five. Pioli strongly believes that linemen and linebackers are the safest prospects and therefore should almost always be your selections in the top 10. A poor decision with the 5th pick in the draft can set a franchise back for years and Pioli isn’t interested in taking a gamble.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Chiefs 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

Broncos offseason moves reshaping draft plans

Within the past 24 hours the Broncos have released two key members of their defense.

Yesterday they released defensive end Kenny Peterson. The move didn’t come as much surprise considering Peterson struggled in 2009 and the Broncos have signed three new defensive linemen this offseason. However, Peterson did start 14 games for the Broncos and could have been valuable in a reserve role this upcoming season.

This afternoon the Broncos released Andra Davis, who started 13 games at inside linebacker and was arguably the most productive member of the Broncos front seven, particularly in run support. After a slow start to his career in Cleveland, Davis has excelled at inside linebacker since the Browns made the transition under Romeo Crennel. He was signed by the Broncos prior to the 2009 season.

Davis immediately becomes one of the more intriguing names on the free agent market.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are left without an obvious choice at the strong-side middle linebacker position. Davis took nearly every snap at the position in 2009 and they don’t currently have a strong option on the roster to fill his slot.

The moves, likely financially motivated, could change their draft plans. There is a strong possibility that the consensus No. 1 inside linebacker Rolando McClain will be on the board when the Broncos are on the clock at No. 11. McClain is a big, physical linebacker with great instincts – all the same qualities that made Davis so productive for the Broncos this past season. He is perfectly suited for the Broncos 3-4 system and the selection would seem like a no-brainer if they’re unable to fill the void through free agency.

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

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

Rolando McClain has Crohn’s Disease, pulled hamstring

Rarely does significant new information come out regarding a prospect at this time of year. The folks at the combine generally do a good job poking and prodding until every stone has been overturned. But Rolando McClain revealed some surprising information at Alabama’s pro day.

McClain announced that he has been suffering from Crohn’s Disease since he was a freshman in high school, a disease that causes inflation of the intestines and can result in a variety of symptoms. The disease is treatable and it shouldn’t hurt his draft stock, but its a key piece of information for teams to be made aware of before handing him millions of dollars.

McClain also revealed that he suffered a torn hamstring during Alabama’s game on October 24 against Tennessee. He apparently kept the injury from his teammates and played through the pain.

Hamstring injuries usually hurt player’s draft stock, but this may be a rare situation where it actually helps. Some scouts had questioned McClain’s efforts down the stretch last season, sighting plays on which he was clearly not running at full speed after the ball carrier. The hamstring injury gives McClain a logical excuse, so long as it can be verified by Alabama’s medical staff.

Along with giving him a reasonable excuse for what was perceived as a lack of effort, it demonstrates his willingness and ability to play through pain at a high level.

Other notes from Alabama’s pro day:
- DT Terrence Cody weighed in at 349 pounds. That’s down from 370 at the Senior Bowl and 354 at the combine. While teams would love to see him lose even more weight, they have to be encouraged by the effort he’s put in so far. His stock is certainly on the rise as a result and he could sneak into the late 1st round.

- CB Javier Arenas was unable to work out due to the pulled hamstring he suffered at the combine.

- OG Mike Johnson took some snaps at center and reportedly looked good. The ability to play multiple positions is key for linemen who aren’t viewed as locks to earn starting roles in the NFL.

- All 32 teams were represented. Glad to see the Raiders decided to show up after they inexplicably decided to skip Oklahoma’s pro day earlier this week.

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

Losers from the Scouting Combine

2010 NFL Combine - Day Two

McCluster runs the 40-yard dash

Dexter McCluster – RB – Mississippi
Undersized running backs and receivers need to impress in the 40-yard dash to boost their draft stock and McCluster fell well below expectations. His 4.58 was roughly two tenths of a second slower than expected and certainly raises some concerns. A big part of his draft stock is his ability to contribute in the return game, which requires more straight-line speed than any other aspect of the game.

Dan LeFevour – QB – Central Michigan
LeFevour’s ego is no secret to those who have followed his college career, but it far exceeded expectations this weekend. Despite having a 2nd/3rd round grade at best, LeFevour opted not to throw in Indy, which angered more than a few scouts. It could be argued that he had the most to prove, as he would have been the most highly-touted prospect throwing at the combine. He blew an opportunity to move up the draft boards, and may have actually fallen down some boards without even picking up a football.

Dez Bryant – WR – Oklahoma State
Often times players hurt themselves more during the interview process at the combine than during the actual drills. Bryant would certainly fall into that category. He reportedly hasn’t impressed teams with his explanation for his suspension and has come across as very immature and not very intelligent. It doesn’t take a whole lot of brains to play wide receiver, so it shouldn’t end up impacting his stock drastically, but it could cause a couple teams to think twice.

Brandon Spikes – ILB – Florida
Spikes decided not to run in Indy, which didn’t come as a surprise considering he’s viewed as one of the slower linebackers in this year’s draft class. Even though it was expected, you hate to see a player back out for those reasons. It won’t kill his draft stock, but the decision certainly rubbed some teams the wrong way.

Rolando McClain – ILB – Alabama
McClain also elected not to work out in Indy, but his late scratch came as a surprise. His agent announced that McClain has been nursing a hamstring injury since the national championship game. The only problem with that excuse is that its the first time he’s mentioned it to anyone. Just recently he had stated that he was training in Florida, but made no mention of any injury. Whenever players make a last-minute decision to skip the combine it raises some concerns about their competitiveness. Sometimes its more the agent’s fault than the player’s, but the true competitors will get onto the field no matter what. Like Spikes, this won’t destroy his stock but it could certainly cause a few teams to knock him down a few spots on their draft board.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off

Who will start at ILB for the Giants in 2010?

There’s no question what the Giants biggest need is this offseason. By parting ways with Antonio Pierce, the Giants opened up a gaping hole at inside linebacker.

New York Giants v Washington Redskins

Will Jonathan Goff be starting for the Giants in 2010?

The in-house option as Pierce’s replacement would be 2008 5th-round pick Jonathan Goff. After Pierce went down with a season ending neck injury this past season, the Giants moved Goff into the starting lineup and shortly thereafter the defense went down the drain.

Now I’m not blaming Goff for the 85 points the Giants gave up in the final two weeks of the season, but he certainly didn’t help matters. He’s an adequate run defender, but really struggles in coverage. Unfortunately, the Giants rely heavily on their inside linebackers in coverage, rarely using them as pass rushers.

Assuming Tom Coughlin isn’t satisfied moving forward with Goff as the starter, who could the Giants bring in as a replacement? Here’s a few ideas:

5. DeMeco Ryans
Ryans is a restricted free agent, so he’s a long shot, but he’s worth mentioning. Some may argue he’s the top available linebacker in this year’s free agent class. Odds are the Texans will tender him the rate which would require a 1st and 3rd round draft pick should he sign elsewhere, a price which would be too steep for the Giants.

4. Rolando McClain
If he falls in the draft the Giants would waste no time snatching him up. However, that’s never going to happen. If the Giants want him they’ll have to trade up. Should he fall past the Chiefs at the 5th pick, the Giants should get on the phone and see what it would take to trade up.

3. Sean Weatherspoon
If the Giants choose not to trade up for McClain, Weatherspoon would be the only reasonable option with the 15th pick. It would be a reach, but he’s capable of playing in the Giants defensive scheme. Weatherspoon excels in coverage, making him an excellent fit for the Giants.

2. Brandon Spikes/Daryl Washington/Pat Angerer/Sean Lee
If the Giants don’t land a linebacker in the 1st round, they’ll have to strongly consider landing one in the 2nd or 3rd. There are a number of options, but the Giants would certainly be disappointed if it came to this. None of these options would immediately jump Goff on the depth chart, but would be given the opportunity to compete for a job.

1. Karlos Dansby
Dansby will be one of the most sought after free agents on the market this year now that the Cardinals have chosen not to place the franchise tag on him. He is an elite coverage linebacker, making him the perfect fit for the Giants. They’ll have to out-bid a number of teams for his services, including the Dolphins and multiple others, but he would be worth the hefty price tag.

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