Tony Pike

2010 Draft Grades: Panthers

Considering they didn’t own a 1st-round pick, you simply couldn’t have asked for anything more from the Panthers in this draft.

Jimmy Clausen is a a top-10 talent. There’s simply no denying that fact. However, there are concerns about his mental makeup. And apparently NFL teams were even more concerned about that aspect of his game than many anticipated. Despite those concerns, he was absolutely worth a gamble in the 2nd round. Perhaps his draft-day fall will serve as a wake-up call and motivate him to live up to his potential.

While I love the pick of Clausen, I will say this: I hope they didn’t take him just because they didn’t know any better. 30 other teams passed over Clausen, and some (even some that desperately needed a quarterback) did so more than once. That makes you wonder just how bad he was during the interview process. Unfortunately the Panthers probably never did their homework on him they way they would have if they owned a top-10 pick. It seemed highly unlikely that he would fall to No. 48 entering the draft, meaning they likely never considered the possibility that they would have the opportunity to draft him.

I love the selection of Brandon LaFell in the 3rd round. He had a disappointing senior year, but I believe he has 1st-round talent. He may not have the speed to be a truly elite N0. 1 receiver, but he can become an excellent possession receiver in the mold of Hines Ward. He had great value in the 3rd round.

As much as I like the selections of LaFell and Clausen, I hate the selection of Armanti Edwards. He was a huge reach in the 3rd round and to make matters worse, they gave up next year’s 2nd-round pick to get him. With guys like Taylor Price and Mardy Gilyard still on the board, it just wasn’t a smart selection.

I was very surprised that Eric Norwood fell the 4th round and I think he’s a great fit in Carolina. He may take some time to develop, since he primarily played defensive end in college, but he could develop into a starter. Strong-side linebacker is a position of weakness for the Panthers, so if he comes along quickly he could see playing time sooner rather than later.

Greg Hardy is a tough player to judge, but he’s worth the risk in the 6th round. When healthy, he’s looked like a 1st-round talent. He’s an elite pass rusher who can impact the game immediately if he can stay on the field. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay healthy.

David Gettis is a big, athletic receiver who has a ton of upside. He’ll need some time to develop, but he’s a nice developmental prospect. He has the potential to emerge as the best receiver of the Panthers three draft picks, but he’s the least likely to make an immediate impact.

Jordan Pugh will add depth to the Panthers secondary and likely contribute on special teams. He’s played both cornerback and safety in his career, but will likely play safety in the NFL.

The Panthers obviously didn’t need to take another quarterback, but in the 6th round Tony Pike was too good to pass up. Its a great situation for Pike, who really needs to sit for two or three years to bulk up and develop as a quarterback. He has the tools to potentially start someday, but he’s a few years away from entering into a real quarterback competition.

R.J. Stanford and Robert McClain will both add to the Panthers depth at cornerback. Neither has a ton of upside, but the Panthers needed to improve their depth. They’re both safe 7th round picks who have a good chance to make the roster.

The Panthers took a lot of chances in this draft, but I think they picked their spots perfectly. They landed three players with 1st-round talent (Clausen, LaFell and Hardy), each of whom fell in the draft for various reasons. Just based on the odds of success in the NFL, at least one of them will likely be a complete bust, but they were all well worth the pick the Panthers spent to acquire them. When we look at the Panthers roster three years from now, I expect to see three starters from this draft class and that’s all you can ask for – especially considering they didn’t use a 1st-round pick.

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

10 Bold Predictions for the NFL Draft

10. The Raiders will be criticized for their 1st-round pick
Ok, so maybe this isn’t quite a bold prediction. No one has any idea who the Raiders are going to draft, but I can all but guarantee it will be a reach.

9. C.J. Spiller will be a top-10 pick
And he can thank Chris Johnson for paving the way. The NFL is a copycat league and now everyone wants to the next Johnson. Spiller is an option for the Browns, Raiders and Jaguars. Someone such as the 49ers may also try to trade up for him.

8. Two TCU players will be drafted in the 1st round
Jerry Hughes is all but locked into the 1st round, but his teammate Daryl Washington could join him. He’s a perfect fit for the Colts and Saints and could sneak into the late 1st round. It would be the first time since 1939 that two Horned Frogs went in the 1st round.

7. Bruce Campbell will fall to the 2nd round
Al Davis will consider him with the 8th pick, but he’ll pass. And so will everyone else. Someone will eventually scoop up the most overrated draft prospect to come along in years in the early-to-mid 2nd round.

6. Pete Carroll will reach for someone from USC
Taylor Mays? Everson Griffen? Both could be options for the Seahawks in the 1st round. He may even be tempted to reach for someone like Jeff Byers later on. College coaches are always blinded by familiarity when they move to the NFL game.

5. The Cowboys will draft a WR in the 1st or 2nd round
Motivated by the Redskins acquisition of Donovan McNabb, Jerry Jones will feel the need to bolster his offense. The NFC East could feature a number of shootouts in 2010 and Jones wants to stay ahead of the curve.

4. A  Pro Bowler will be traded
Ronnie Brown? McKinnie? Umenyiora? Roethlisberger?

3. The Steelers will draft a quarterback
Not necessary in the first two rounds, but they’ll grab a signal caller at some point. Maybe Dan LeFevour in the 3rd round? Tony Pike in the 4th? John Skelton in the 5th?

2. There will be at least 5 trades in the 1st round
This could be one of the busiest 1st rounds in recent memory. With so much talent in this year’s class, teams will be motivated to move in two directions. On one hand, some great players will fall and teams will want to move up to grab them. On the other hand, as those great players fall, more good players will be available in the late 1st and early 2nd round.

1. At least 3 quarterbacks will be selected in the 1st round
We know Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen will be 1st round picks. But don’t be shocked when a third comes off the board in the late 1st. The Vikings could take Tim Tebow. The Bills or Browns may also trade up for Colt McCoy.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bills, Browns, Colts, Cowboys, Jaguars, Raiders, Saints, Steelers, Vikings 95 Comments

Patriots searching for the next Tom Brady

Given Tom Brady’s age (33 in August) and recent knee injury, one would think it’d be a good idea to bring in a veteran backup. Yet Bill Belichick insists on filling the need for a backup signal caller through the draft. Since 2007, the Patriots backups have been almost exclusively home grown – Matt Cassel, Matt Guttierrez, Kevin O’Connell and Brian Hoyer.

Despite still having Hoyer on the roster, who spent the 2009 as Brady’s backup, Belichick appears to be planning on drafting yet another quarterback in the mid-rounds of the draft. Thus far, the Patriots have visited or have scheduled visits with Tony Pike, Zac Robinson and Tim Tebow.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Could Pike be groomed as Tom Brady's replacement?

Pike and Tebow are likely to be off the board by the 4th round at the latest, indicating that the Patriots are willing to spend a fairly high pick on a quarterback this year. Robinson figures to still be available in the 6th or 7th round.

So why the obsession with quarterbacks?

The most likely is that Belichick views himself as a quarterback genius. After all, he has groomed a 6th and 7th round pick into starting quarterbacks during his time in New England. Knowing that Brady will the 33 before the start of the 2010 season has to make Belichick somewhat worried about his future with the team and he knows that now is the time to groom his replacement.

His interest in quarterbacks in this year’s class likely indicates that he doesn’t view Hoyer as the solution. However, in 2008 the Patriots selected Kevin O’Connell in the 3rd round, presumably to take over the backup job from Matt Cassel. We all know how that turned out.

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

Does Roethlisberger’s situation alter Steelers draft plans?

Ben Roethlisberger is 28 years old and already owns two Super Bowl rings. The Steelers shouldn’t be in the market for a new quarterback. But are they?

Its far too early to tell whether or not Roethlisberger will spend time in jail, get suspended or if the Steelers have just grown tired of his off-field antics. But there are enough question marks out there to make us wonder if the Steelers may start to generate a backup plan.

Roethlisberger’s defenders will say that there’s no proof that he’s done anything wrong, and they’re 100 percent correct. However, there’s also no denying that he’s an idiot for even putting himself into these situations. Essentially its become a Pacman Jones situation on a somewhat lesser scale. Like Pacman, Roethlisberger now has a target on his back. The public’s perception of him will influence how he’s treated and how his actions will be viewed from this point forward. For or unfair, that’s the life of a high-profile athlete.

As for how this impacts his future in Pittsburgh, its tough to say. The Rooney family likes to win, but they also run an organization that holds their employees to a higher standard than many others (cough, Bengals, cough). Its within the realm of possibility that they’ll look to move Roethlisberger in the near future depending on how his legal troubles play out.

As of today, the only other quarterback on the Steelers roster is 2008 5th-round pick Dennis Dixon. He’s started just one game in his career (2009 at Baltimore) so its tough to judge his future, but he was less than impressive in that outing. I think its fairly safe to assume that the Steelers don’t envision him as a potential replacement for Big Ben.

Texas v Texas A&M

Could McCoy be headed to Pittsburgh?

With a solid group of quarterbacks in the 2010 draft class, the Steelers would be wise to bring one aboard. It would be shocking to see them take one in the 1st or 2nd round, but by the time the 3rd round rolls around they may consider selecting someone to be groomed as Roethlisberger’s potential replacement.

In our latest mock draft, we have the Steelers selecting Colt McCoy in the 3rd round. It looks like an ideal pairing for both parties. The Steelers need someone who’s capable of starting as a rookie if Roethlisberger misses any time, for legal or injury reasons. McCoy is polished enough to handle playing as a rookie. However, he would benefit from spending the majority of his time on the bench early in his career learning from a veteran such as Roethlisberger.

Other options could include Jarrett Brown, Tony Pike and Dan LeFevour – all of whom should be on the board for the Steelers to chose from in the 3rd round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Steelers 13 Comments

Jack Del Rio Questions David Garrard

jaguarsAnother day, another questionable comment from the Jaguars organization.

Yesterday on the Jim Rome show (brought to our attention by the folks as ProFootballTalk), Rome asked Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio if David Garrard is a “Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.” Del Rio responded:

Well that’s a, uh, good question.  I think I would say a quarterback like can be that with a great supporting cast.  You know, I don’t know.  When you look at teams that have won multiple championships, I think they’ve had elite quarterbacks.

That’s not exactly the ringing endorsement you want to hear from your coach when there are already rumors flying around that your franchise may want to bring in a new quarterback in the draft.

Not that contracts mean anything in this league, but Garrard is signed through 2014. How exactly does one go from signing your quarterback to a six-year, $60M contract in 2008, to potentially moving in a different direction in 2010?

Obviously Tim Tebow would be the popular choice to replace Garrard. Well, among those not named Uche, that is. But realistically, what are the Jaguars options?

The one option that may fall into their lap is Jimmy Clausen. While he’s widely considered to have top-10 talent, concerns about his maturity level could cause him to fall. If he’s on the board when the Jaguars are on the clock at No. 11, they should give him some serious consideration.

Another option would be wait to the 3rd round (the don’t own a 2nd-round pick) and grab one of the slew of quarterbacks that are graded in that range. Anyone from Colt McCoy to Tony Pike to Dan LeFevour could be an option there. With any of those guys, the ideal scenario would be let them sit for at least a year under Garrard before taking over.

One other name that may fit nicely in Jacksonville is West Virginia Jarrett Brown. He’ll likely still be on the board when they’re on the clock at No. 74, and he fits the mold of the type of quarterback Jacksonville has liked in the past. Like Garrard and Jaguars legend Mark Brunell, Brown is a mobile quarterback that can buy time with his feel and occasionally take off and pick some yards on his own.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Jaguars 7 Comments

Senior Bowl Practice Notes: Wednesday

Not surprisingly the third day of practice wasn’t all that eventful. As usual, we’ve got a pretty good idea as to what everyone is capable of at this point in time.

Perhaps the biggest winner of the day, in my mind, was Mike Iupati. Yesterday he split time between tackle and guard and he really disappointed at tackle. Today, playing mostly guard, he was dominant once again. At this point in time I’m willing to give him a solid 1st-round grade as a guard. Its disappointing that it doesn’t look like he can play tackle, but he should be an elite guard at the next level.

Another winner was Oregon State QB Sean Canfield. He’s a tough quarterback to judge, but I came away impressed overall. In drills, he looks very mediocre. His arm strength is average at best and he doesn’t always throw the prettiest ball. Once thrown into game situations, however, he steps it up another level. In 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills he looked very good, consistently hitting receivers in stride. He also looked very god throwing the ball on the run. He ran a number of bootlegs and hit Clemson WR Jacoby Ford a couple times.

Sticking with the quarterbacks, Dan LeFevour has made a strong case to be considered the top quarterback at the Senior Bowl. He’s exceeded my expectations and I’ll be adjusting my quarterback rankings soon as a result. At Central Michigan he rarely threw the ball downfield, which made me skeptical about his ability to play at the next level. You’d never know he played in a gimmick offense based on his performance this week though. He has a strong arm and made a number of great deep passes today including a beautiful pass which he dropped over the shoulder of Jacoby Ford.

Speaking of Ford, he had a terrific day. I really expected him to step up as an elite speed receiver this week but he’s been much more than that. In fact, his lack of speed has been a bit disappointing but he looks like the complete package. He runs great routes and I love the way he adjust to the ball while its in the air. He could end up coming off the board as high as the 2nd round.

Another player I was impressed with today was Pittsburgh TE Dorin Dickerson. I have him listed as a FB right now because I didn’t think he had the size to play tight end, but he’s proved me wrong this week. He is undersized, and it shows in his blocking, but he’s looked very good as a receiver. He even stretched the field a few times, hauling in a deep pass from Tony Pike at one point.

One of the players I was most excited to see this week was Miami TE Jimmy Graham. He went to Miami to play basketball but joined the football team this past season. He has elite size (6’8″) but is very, very raw. He’s looked good at times and definitely deserves a shot at the next level. At one point he tossed Florida State LB Dakota Watson to the ground and later hauled in a deep pass from Tim Tebow that was down near his knees.

A few other quick notes:
- Ohio WR Taylor Price looked shaky today, dropping a very easy pass from LeFevour at one point. I expected him to be one of the lesser-known prospects that stepped up but it hasn’t happened.

- Penn State DT Jared Odrick has been consistently getting into the backfield all week. Today he blew through the line of scrimmage and stuff a draw play in the backfield in 11-on-11 drills. He’s slightly undersized but incredibly athletic for an interior lineman. He would be a great fit for the Colts.

- Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson has been better than expected. He throws a very nice deep ball.

- South Carolina LB Eric Norwood has excelled as a pass rusher. He used a nice swim move to get into the backfield today.

- Kentucky CB Trevard Lindley had a rough day. Mississippi WR Shay Hodge blew past his press coverage in 1-on-1s and Lindley fell down trying to catch up. He’s got a lot of work to do to recover the rest of the week.

- I’m really starting to like Florida WR Riley Cooper. He never really got a chance to star in Florida’s offense because they value speed over size, but he’s looked great this week. He’s got great hands and he knows how to use his body to his advantage.

- Alabama CB Javier Arenas has been shaky. The worst part of his day came when Riley Cooper easily used his size to brush past Arenas and shield him from making a play on the ball. I really think Arenas’ lack of size will limit his ability to make an impact in the NFL.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off