Sergio Kindle

2010 Draft Grades: Ravens

The Ravens did a great job trading out of the 1st round and still managing to land a 1st-round talent in the 2nd round.

Sergio Kindle is a perfect fit at outside linebacker in Baltimore. While their defense is still based off the 3-4 scheme, they have been running more 4-3 sets lately and Kindle is a much better fit at outside linebacker in those formations than Jarrett Johnson. He’ll likely backup Johnson this upcoming season, but he should see significant playing time as part of the rotation.

Terrence Cody was a great pick in the late 2nd-round. He obviously doesn’t fill an immediate need, but he can be used in a rotation at nose tackle with 33-year-old Kelly Gregg. That combination will suit both players well and should improve what was already one of the best defensive lines in football.

I’m not crazy about the selection of Ed Dickson. He can contribute immediately as a receiver, but his blocking needs a lot of work. He just isn’t the complete package that the Ravens like at tight end. However, I think they got great value for Dennis Pitta in the 4th round. He’s much closer to a Todd Heap-type tight end and I like his chances of eventually replacing Heap better than Dickson’s. That said, I don’t like the fact that they grabbed two tight ends in spots where other contributors could have been added.

David Reed is an intriguing prospect, but I felt the reached a little bit in the 5th round. Fortunately he won’t be relied on this upcoming season. For the short term, the Ravens are set a receiver, allowing them to develop Reed without throwing him into the fire.

Arthur Jones was a great late 5th-round pick. Entering the 2009 season he was viewed as a potential 1st-round pick. However, he has a long history of knee injuries which scared off most teams. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be an instant contributor at defensive end for the Ravens. He’s a very nice addition to their rotation on the defensive line and well worth the risk in the 5th round.

Ramone Harewood is a developmental prospect and landed in the perfect place in Baltimore. He fits the mold of a typical Ravens tackle (6’7″, 360 pounds) and they’ll try to groom him for a starting job two to three years down the road. He may spend the 2010 season on the practice squad, but in the 6th round they could afford to grab a developmental prospect that won’t bring any immediate returns.

Overall, this was a very solid draft for the Ravens. For the most part, they got excellent value at each slot and a few players that can contribute immediately. The only downside is that they didn’t land any immediate difference makers. They have every reason to believe that they can be a Super Bowl contender in 2010, so it was surprising to see them fail to address more needs early one. They have a number of injury concerns at cornerback (Lardarius Webb, Dominique Foxworth) and adding some insurance at that position would have made sense.

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

Rising Stock: Thaddeus Gibson

Some of the most sought after players on draft day are 3-4 outside linebackers. Teams routinely reach for players who project well in that scheme due to the fact that there are only so many athletes out there with the size/speed combination to excel at a high level in the NFL.

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl Texas vs Ohio State JAN 5Players such as Larry English (Chargers ’09), Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys ’06) and Jason Babin (Texans ’04) are often drafted in the 1st round based purely on potential, despite limited experience at the position. As a result, the players frequently fail to live up to their 1st-round status.

This year, however, the draft is filled with ‘tweeners and teams may still find great value at the position later in the draft. One player which could draw significant attention in the 2nd or 3rd round is Ohio State’s Thaddeus Gibson.

Gibson, who played defensive end with the Buckeyes, was impressive at the combine and further helped his stock on Ohio State’s Pro Day on Friday.

He was timed somewhere in the 4.5 range in the 40-yard dash, but take that with a grain of salt – OSU’s turf is notorious for churning out some ridiculous times. Even so, his 4.72 at the combine was more than enough to convince teams that he has the athleticism to play standing up at the next level.

Regardless of the legitimacy of the time, a 4.5 from a man who weighs in at 243 pounds is sure to catch the eye of NFL decision makers.

Among those decision makers watching Gibson in person were Steelers’ GM Kevin Colbert and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. The Steelers are known for addressing needs before they develop, and may be in the market for an outside linebacker to backup and eventually replace 31-year-old James Harrison.

As previously mentioned, its a deep class, so its hard to imagine Gibson coming off the board any earlier than the mid 2nd round. However, he’s certainly made an impression and should have solidified his place within the top 75 picks today.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Steelers 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

Making sense of the Broncos draft plans

Once we hit mid-March most team’s draft plans start to clear up. Certain needs are addressed through free agency which limits the number of options for each team in the draft. However, occasionally a team will bring in so many new free agents that it only clutters up the roster and makes their draft plans difficult to determine.

This year that team is the Broncos.

By no means am I insulting their offseason moves. Quite the opposite, actually. They’ve overhauled their defensive line with Jarvis Green, Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams, all of whom could start for them in 2010.

Cowboys Jenkins Breaks Up Pass for Broncos Marshall in DenverOn the offensive side, the Brandon Marshall situation is still looming over their heads, but its becoming increasingly unlikely that he’ll sign elsewhere. The rumors of him signing with the Seahawks have been overstated. Seattle would have to surrender the 6th overall pick, which simply isn’t going to happen. The only alternative may be for Marshall to re-sign with Denver and then be traded to Seattle for the 14th selection.

The Bengals have also been rumored to have interest, but appear to have turned their attention to Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant, both of whom come at a much cheaper price tag.

So which direction do the Broncos go in the draft?

I was all set to predict Dan Williams to the Broncos in my latest mock draft… and then they signed Justin Bannan… and then Jarvis Green… and then Jamal Williams. Clearly defensive line has been crossed off the list of needs.

Dez Bryant has been a common name linked to the Broncos in mock drafts, but it hinges on the trade of Marshall. Until he’s gone, I don’t think we can feel confident that the Broncos are leaning that direction. Even if Marshall is gone, it may not be a sure thing. Bryant’s stock is falling for his off-field concerns, and the Broncos may be hesitant to bring aboard another diva.

The secondary is another area that could be addressed. Last season the Broncos were so desperate for cornerbacks that they brought aboard the seemingly ageless Ty Law. If Joe Haden is on the board he would certainly be an option.

However, in my latest mock draft Haden comes off the board at No. 10 to the Jaguars, leaving the Broncos with a difficult decision. Since I’ve decided to hold off on the Dez Bryant prediction until Marshall is traded, I was left without an option that jumped out as an obvious choice.

I elected to go with Sergio Kindle who has the size and athleticism to make the transition from defensive end to linebacker in the Broncos 3-4 system. It isn’t a slam dunk by any means, but it fills a need at a decent value. Marrio Haggan started opposite Elvis Dumervil in 2009 and could certainly be upgraded. Kindle would represent a significant upgrade over Haggan as a pass rusher and should at least be able to match his production against the run.

The downside to selecting Kindle is that they already have a good amount of money tied up in linebackers in Dumervil, D.J. Williams and 2009 1st-round pick Robert Ayers.

As we get closer to the draft its possible that the Broncos draft plans clear up, but as of now they’re clear as mud. If things remain as they are now, the Broncos could be a prime candidate to make one of the more surprising selection of draft.

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