Final Mock Draft

April 21, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor 4/21/10

Here is my final mock for the year.  I left out trades because that just makes things too crazy.  There could be a lot of deals this year.

This mock is a combination of what I think will happen and what I think should happen.  I mixed in some odd picks because every year that is what NFL teams do.  They leave us scratching our heads.  We like to pick on the Raiders, but all 32 teams have made a pick or two that just seemed odd.  Some work, some don’t.

ROUND ONE

01 – St. Louis…………….QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
02 – Detroit……………….DT Ndamakung Suh, Nebraska
03 – Tampa Bay………….DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
04 – Washington…………OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma
05 – Kansas City…………OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
06 – Seattle……………….OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
07 – Cleveland…………….S Eric Berry, Tennessee
08 – Oakland……………..OG Mike Iupati, Idaho
09 – Buffalo……………….RB CJ Spiller, Clemson
10 – Jacksonville………….ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama
11 – Denver……………….OC Maurkice Pouncey, Florica
12 – Miami………………….DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
13 – San Francisco……….DB Earl Thomas, Texas
14 – Seattle (from DEN)…WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
15 – N.Y. Giants…………..DT Dan Williams, Tennessee
16 – Tennessee…………..DE Sergio Kindle, Texas
17 – SF (from CAR)……..OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers
18 – Pittsburgh…………..CB Joe Haden, Florida
19 – Atlanta………………DE Brandon Graham, Michigan
20 – Houston…………….RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State
21 – Cincinnati……………QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
22 – New England………..LB Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida
23 – Green Bay…………..LB Jerry Hughes, TCU
24 – Philadelphia…………CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
25 – Baltimore…………..WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
26 – Arizona……………..ILB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
27 – Dallas……………….DE Jared Odrick, Penn State
28 – San Diego………….CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama
29 – N.Y. Jets……………FS Taylor Mays, USC
30 – Minnesota………….QB Colt McCoy, Texas
31 – Indianapolis………..DT Brian Price, UCLA
32 – New Orleans……….TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

ROUND TWO

33 – St. Louis ………..WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame
34 – Detroit……………OT Charles Brown, USC
35 – Tampa……………WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
36 – Kansas City……..FS Nate Allen, USF
37 – Philadelphia………DE Everson Griffen, USC
38 – Cleveland…………DE Tyson Alualu, Cal
39 – Oakland…………..OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland
40 – San Diego………..RB Jahvid Best, Cal
41 – Buffalo……………OT Rodger Saffold, Indiana
42 – Tampa……………CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers
43 – Denver…………..QB Tim Tebow, Florida
44 – New England…….TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
45 – Denver……………WR Damian Williams, USC
46 – NY Giants………..MLB Sean Lee, Penn State
47 – New England…….DE Cory Wootton, Northwestern
48 – Carolina………….WR Taylor Price, Ohio
49 – San Francisco…..CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State
50 – Kansas City……..NT Terrence Cody, Alabama
51 – Houston…………CB Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest
52 – Pittsburgh………WR Carlton Mitchell, USF
53 – New England……RB/RS Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss
54 – Cincinnati……….TE Anthony McCoy, USC
55 – Philadelphia…….FS Morgan Burnett, Ga Tech
56 – Green Bay……..OT Vlad Ducasse, UMass
57 – Baltimore………CB Jerome Murphy, USF
58 – Arizona…………LB Ricky Sapp, Clemson
59 – Dallas……………FS Chad Jones, LSU
60 – Seattle………….RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford
61 – NY Jets…………LB Koa Misi, Utah
62 – Minnesota………DT Linval Joseph, ECU
63 – Indianapolis…….TE Tony Moeaki, Iowa
64 – New Orleans…….LB Daryl Washington, TCU

We have a Top 100 list and Value Board posted at the main site.

The Jimmy Clausen Mystery

April 20, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor , http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com

Let’s talk about Jimmy Clausen.  He is the most confusing prospect of the 1st round.  Jimmy is a good football player.  There is a lot to like about him.  There are also some legitimate questions to ask.  For some reason he’s become a real divisive subject.  I guess people got tired of arguing about Tim Tebow and shifted the focus to Clausen.  You’re either an “apologist” for him or “a hater”.  I don’t really have an agenda as far as Jimmy goes.  I’m just curious as to where he’ll land.   Top 10 pick or a guy who will slide into the 20s?

Jimmy might be the most NFL ready of the QB class.  He played in a pro style offense for an NFL guy (Charlie Weis).  There was no spread attack or Run ‘n’ Shoot.  He didn’t play in the WAC or MWC.  Jimmy came from a very conventional setting.  Jimmy has pretty good mechanics.  He is a drop-back passer and understands reading progressions.  Jimmy started for 3 years and has plenty of experience.  He has the physical tools to play in the NFL.  He has good size.  He has an above average arm.  Jimmy is okay athletically, but won’t wow anyone.

As for his performance, he got better each season, capped by a great year in 2009.  He finished 3rd in the nation in Passing Efficiency.  He completed 68 % of his passes.  He threw for 3,722 yards.  He had 28 TDs and an amazing 4 INTs.  Wow.  While ND doesn’t run the spread, they did mix in screens to RBs, WR, and TEs.  This wasn’t all deep outs and skinny posts.  Still, those are very impressive numbers.

Jimmy is at his best on short and intermediate routes.  He is accurate.  He puts good touch on his throws.  He knew he had gifted receivers and always put the ball in a spot where they could go get it.  He would throw into coverage at times, but that was done in order to give his guys a chance to make a play.  He generally makes good reads and smart decisions.  Jimmy has pretty good pocket presence.  He’s able to feel the rush and move around.  He does have a key weakness in this area.  He holds the ball too long.  Jimmy believes he can find the open guy if he just holds the ball one more second.  That leads to unnecessary sacks.  He has one awful habit.  Jimmy has run out of bounds for a sack more than any QB I’ve ever seen.  I understood this in 2007 when he was a Freshman with mediocre blocking.  I don’t understand why he’s still doing it now.  Throw the ball away.  Save the yardage.  His deep passes are deceiving.  ND had success with the vertical passing game, but most of that credit goes to Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.  They adjusted to off target throws.  They made tough catches.  They also caught the ball well in traffic and pulled off some minor miracles for Jimmy.

I am not a fan of Junior QBs.  Only 2 of the 12 playoff teams had QBs who left college early.  Only 4 of the top 20 rated passers were guys who came out as Juniors.  The odds are stacked against you.  QB is a position where every game you start is a help.  It builds experience and trains you for the NFL.  I think NFL teams have to be real careful about Junior QBs.  Take a guy if he’s special in some way.  Matt Stafford was physically gifted and was an accomplished SEC player.  Mark Sanchez was part of a great program.  He had limited starts, but did lead USC to a Rose Bowl win.  He also had a special personality.  I remember hearing Kirk Herbstreit talk about the way the team loved him.  I thought that was just an announcer waxing poetic, but last year with the Jets you could see the same thing.  Sanchez is just one of those guys that teammates love.  He’s their guy.

What do we make of Jimmy Clausen in these areas?  We’ll start with winning.  Jimmy was only 16-19 in his career at ND.  He went to one bowl game and won it.  They could have gone to a bowl this year, but it would have been a lesser game due to the team’s 6-6 record.  Jimmy only won 3 road games in 3 years.  Let’s look at the games ND won with Clausen starting:

2009
Nevada (8-5)
Michigan State (6-7)
Purdue (5-7)
Washington (5-7)
Boston College (8-5)
Washington State (1-11)

2008
San Diego State (2-10)
Michigan (3-9)
Purdue (4-8)
Stanford (5-7)
Washington (0-12)
Navy (8-5)
Hawaii (7-7)

2007
UCLA (6-7)
Duke (1-11)
Stanford (4-8)

Clearly you don’t blame Jimmy for the losses. My point is to try and get a feel for the kind of teams he was able to beat. In college a truly great player can often carry his team to do special things. This can give you a false read sometimes. After all, Ryan Leaf carried Washington State to the Rose Bowl while Peyton Manning couldn’t get UT over the hump against Florida or to the National Title game.

This is not an impressive collection of W’s.  His best wins in college were over Michigan State, Purdue, and Washington, all from this year.  All 3 games went down to the wire.  Jimmy showed the ability to lead his team from behind and score late in the game.  That’s important.  All NFL QBs get in a pickle and have to do that at some point.  Some guys thrive in pressure situations.  Jimmy did very well.  The only downside is that these weren’t great defenses.  Purdue had the 37th ranked pass defense, which is solid.  Washington was 93rd and Michigan State 112th.

The thing I’m trying to figure out isn’t whether Clausen has talent or is any good.  Put on the game tape and you can see he’s talented.  The question is whether he’s a franchise QB that you “must” go get or whether he’s simply a solid QB prospect.  Does he go Top 10 or in the early 20s?  Is he a special player?  Does he do special things?  The only elite defense that he faced was USC.  In 2 games (he missed the ’07 meeting) against the Trojans Jimmy was:

2009 – 24-43-260…2 TDs, no INTs…he did run for a TD
2008 – 11-22-41…. 0 TDs, 2 INTs

What the heck do you make of Clausen?  He didn’t win big games in college.  At the same time, he didn’t have a great O-line or running game to help him out.  Jimmy put up big numbers, but they came largely against mediocre defenses.  And he did have good skill players to work with.

He is a tough guy.  He played through a toe injury in 2009 and gritted it out.  Some people have questioned the relationship between him and his teammates, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there were any major issues.  He doesn’t give off the Sanchez vibe where his teammates love him.  I never sensed that.

I do get the feeling that Jimmy is a hard worker that will pay the price to be as good as he can.  He just needs the right pieces around him.  I would not spend a Top 10 pick on him because I don’t see him making a bad NFL team substantially better.  I don’t think Clausen is the kind of QB that can take pedestrian skill players and raise their level of play.  I do think he can be a solid starter on the right team.  His best case scenario is to get with someone in the 20-30 range that already has a strong core of players.  I believe this is one case where going early might be the worst thing that could happen to the prospect.  It won’t surprise me for a team to take him early on.  After all, this is a weak QB class.  And someone may see special potential in Jimmy.  I don’t, but that’s what makes the draft so interesting.  We all see things somewhat differently.

The Marshall Plan?

April 7, 2010

by Matt Alkire,  http://www.ScoutsNotebook.com

Many Eagles fans are asking about trades that the team could make between now and the draft. One player that I think could come into play is Carolina Panther cornerback Richard Marshall.

Marshall is a 5-foot-11, 189-pound corner that is only 25 years old and has only been a full-time starter  one year for the Panthers, however in four seasons he has 34 pass break-ups and 11 interceptions. In this first year as a starter in ’09 he posted 88 tackles, nine pass break-ups and four picks.  Check out his bio here.

The Panthers put a 2nd round tender on him, so they’re obviously not married to him and they also have two restricted free agents at defensive tackle and just lost both Ma’ake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis in one season.

Trevor Laws or Antonio Dixon and a 4th rounder may be enough for the Eagles to bring Marshall to Philadelphia or a 3rd rounder on its own could do the job.

That would give the Eagles two starters at cornerback on opening day and while it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t draft a corner high, it would certainly give them even more freedom to take the best player available, perhaps trade up in the first round or get creative early in the draft.

Again, just something to keep an eye on as draft day gets closer.

The Real McNabb

April 7, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor ,  http://www.scoutsnotebook.com

Washington recently acquired Pro Bowl QB Donovan McNabb from the Eagles.  If you listen to some in the media, Washington got a great player and the Eagles are in real trouble.  If you listen to others, Washington added a declining QB that benefited greatly from a good coach and strong supporting cast.  What is the truth?  Having watched every game of McNabb’s career I decided to write a scouting report.  This is based on reality, not prior accomplishments, perception, or just highlights.

McNABB — Had serious injury issues in the past, but has been fairly durable in recent years.  Started 14 games in 2007, 16 in 2008, and 14 in 2009.  Tough player.  He will take a beating and get up smiling most of the time.  Natural leader, but not in a fiery, aggressive way.  McNabb is one of those guys that other players gravitate toward.  He has a positive demeanor and likes to joke around.  Sometimes he does that too much and it undermines him with other players.  Smart, veteran QB.  He uses audibles more than people realize.  McNabb makes good pre-snap reads.  He lacks ideal field vision.  This has frustrated multiple receivers over the years.  McNabb will lock onto targets and force the ball to them.   He really developed this habit when Terrell Owens was with the team in 2004 and half of 2005.  McNabb has greatly changed the way he plays QB over the years.  He came into the league as a runner and small-ball passer.  He has cut down on his running in a major way.  He only does it in select situations.  He always keeps his eyes downfield.  McNabb is hard to sack.  He has excellent escapability.  He is very elusive, even in tight spaces.  He is very strong and will shrug off some tackle attempts.  He’s developed into more of an intermediate and deep passer in recent years. Accuracy remains a major problem.  McNabb’s completion percentage has gotten better, but he doesn’t consistently hit receivers where he should.  He needs players that can adjust to passes low and high, as well as thrown behind them.  The main culprit is sloppy footwork and delivery.  There are times when McNabb will make perfect throws.  He will then turn around and short-hop a wide open receiver.  This can be maddening at times.  He is very good on screen and swing passes.  He puts good touch on the ball.  He will still throw some short passes too hard and make his receivers fight the ball.  McNabb is erratic with his deep passes.  He throws a very catchable ball.  He has a habit of holding the ball too long and then under-throwing his target.  Go watch DeSean Jackson highlights.  There were at least 5 long completions where Jackson had to slow down and wait for the ball.  McNabb still has a very strong arm.  He can make all the throws.  He doesn’t stride into his deep balls and that takes away some distance on them.  McNabb is very good on deep fade throws.  He puts good touch on those passes and seems to time the routes well.  McNabb is outstanding in drives before halftime.  He does a great job of working the sidelines against soft coverage and moving the team down the field.  The Eagles were amongst league leaders in both ’08 and ’09 in points in the final 2 minutes of the half.  McNabb is inconsistent late in games.  Early in his career he was great, partially due to his willingness to run and make something out of nothing.  He really struggled in 2007 and 2008, but showed good improvement in 2009.   McNabb is not a good Red Zone passer.  He does not anticipate throws.  He likes to see an open receiver.  This has limited his interceptions over the years.  He is one of the least picked off QBs in NFL history.  He is hurt in the Red Zone because of his failue to anticipate.  McNabb has a tendency to throw to players in the flat or on shallow crosses and then hope they can run in.  He was never given a chance to consistently throw fade passes in the end zone during his time as an Eagle.  McNabb is a very streaky passer.  When he’s hot, he can be near impossible to defend.  When he’s cold, expect major struggles.  Because McNabb limited mistakes in Philly and was able to make some plays he won most of the time.  He only had one losing season as the starting QB.  That came in 2005 when TO went TO on the Eagles.  McNabb is great off the field.  He won’t get in trouble.  He represents the organization with class and generally deals well with the press.  Occasionally he will put his foot in his mouth (“I didn’t know there were ties in the NFL”).

Summary - Good player, but one who will get over-praised by the media and football analysts due to his past accomplishments.   When he is focused and throwing the ball well, McNabb still looks like a star QB.  Other times he looks indecisive and confused.  His decisions will frustrate you and his throws will be off target.  The good still very much out-weighs the bad.  The problem is that an 11-year veteran should not make some of his mistakes.  Donovan has a playmaker’s mentality.  That leads to big plays, but also  inconsistent stretches filled with 3 and outs.  A veteran passer should be more efficient and consistent.  The huge x-factor to all of this is that McNabb played in a pass-happy attack in Philly that kept all the pressure on him.  That shouldn’t be the case under Mike Shanahan.  He could thrive in a more balanced offense that cuts his pass attempts from 40 to 30.  If Shanahan can convince him to run more that could be a significant help.  McNabb is wasting a valuable tool by forcing himself to be a pure pocket passer.  McNabb should be a good starting QB for at least 2 more years.  He will turn 34 in November and age will become a factor at some point.

Notes on Sheldon Brown, Chris Gocong

April 2, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor, http://www.scoutsnotebook.com/

Cleveland Browns fans just picked up a couple of football players from the Philadelphia Eagles via trade.  Here’s scouting reports on both players.

BROWN — 7-year starter at RCB.  Lacks ideal size or speed, but has good man cover skills.  Crafty veteran who knows every trick in the book and will use them.  That will lead to some penalties, but he gets away with far more than he’s called for.  Aggressive player, against the run and pass.  Likes to anticipate routes and break on the ball.  Will bite on fakes.  Dallas has burned him a few times in the last couple of years.  Sheldon makes his share of plays.  Had a career high 5 INTs in 2009.  Broke up 17 passes, the 2nd highest total of his career.  Can press and be physical or play off.  Effective in trail coverage, although he lacks the ideal burst for that.  Outstanding hitter and tackler.  Has some real pop.  Has landed big shots on Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson in the last few years.  Versatile defender can line up in the slot and even slide to FS in some sets.  Good blitzer.  Does everything on the field at full speed.  Great effort.  Tough guy.  High character veteran player and a good leader.  He did just turn 31.

GOCONG — Started at SAM linebacker the last 3 years.  Played DE in college and was a very productive pass rusher at Cal-Poly.  The move to LB has been mixed.  Made excellent progress in his first couple of years there, but flat-lined in 2009.  Very good run defender.  Can be stout at the point of attack.  Able to take on lead blockers and stuff them or hold his ground.  Good tackler.  Does a solid job of working through trash to get to the football.  Pretty good athlete.  You see that a lot more on run plays where he’s just reacting to the offense and going for the ball.  Coverage has been an issue.  Isn’t natural in space.  He looks mechanical at times.  You can tell he’s thinking about things instead of just playing.  Much more effective when he’s attacking upfield.  Very good motor.  Runs pretty well.  Has shown some signs of pass rush potential.  Most impressive moment was when he used a good spin move to get off a block and sack Tom Brady in 2007.  Didn’t prove to be a natural fit for SAM in the 4-3.  He was an effective starter, but that was his ceiling in the 4-3.  Could be a quality player in the 3-4.  Needs to be more of a pass rusher and attacking, edge LB.  Smart guy and a high character player.

Mel, Mel, Mel …

March 19, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

I just happened to catch a couple of minutes of SportsCenter.  They did their “On the Clock” segment on the Cowboys.  Trent Dilfer said that Dallas is the best team in the NFL.  That’s ridiculous hyperbole, but we deal with that stuff all the time.  The discussion moved over to Kiper who mentioned that Dallas could go for a WR with their 1st round pick … Jordan Shipley of Texas.

Huh???

Mel says that Shipley is rising.  My response…no, he’s not.  Shipley had a great year for Texas.  Scouts and teams studied that guy all Fall.  He’s done nothing in the postseason to “rise”.  Mel might be getting feedback from some assistant coaches who didn’t watch Shipley during the season, but scouts knew about him and I’m sure loved him.  He might be rising on Mel’s Big Board.

As for the notion of Shipley in the 1st…big mistake.  He is a good slot receiver, but you don’t take those guys that high.  Kiper compared him to Wes Welker.  Let’s talk about that.  In the last 2 years Welker has 234 catches.  He has 7 TDs.  7.  Wes is great for moving the chains, but he isn’t a big time playmaker.  Do you really want to spend a 1st round pick on a guy who moves the chains like that?  And don’t discount how important Randy Moss is to the production of Welker.

I will be shocked if Shipley is picked in the 1st round.  I cannot see that happening.  I don’t think he’s worth a 2nd, but going in that round isn’t out of the question.

Is Kiper losing it?  Is he doing this so that people will talk about his ridiculous predictions?  Does he just have really bad sources?  I think the hair gel is starting to leak into his brain.  We’ll know for sure when he tells us that Brandon Spikes had a good Pro Day.

Pre-Combine Mock Draft

February 27, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

I posted this on ScoutsNotebook on Thursday.

01 – St. Louis — DT Ndamakung Suh, Nebraska

Not much to say about this selection. The Rams need help and Suh is the best prospect. QB is a thought, but there just isn’t one worthy of this pick. Coach Steve Spagnuolo used a great D-line to help the Giants win the Super Bowl in 2007. He’s got some pieces with Chris Long, Adam Carriker, and Cliff Ryan. Suh could be the kind of great presence that would help the other guys to become better players.

02 – Detroit — DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma

I’m not sure that McCoy is an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s system, but he might be too good to pass on. The Lions defense has struggled for a long time. Adding a disruptive presence to the middle of the line could be a big help.

03 – Tampa Bay — S Eric Berry, Tennessee

Is this too high for a Safety? Maybe. Eric is an unusual prospect. He’s the best S prospect that I’ve ever seen. Tampa could use him. Sabby Piscitelli hasn’t developed into anything more than an adequate starter. Berry could take over for him and give the Bucs a pretty good secondary (also Aqib Talib and Tanard Jackson).

04 – Washington — QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

In the last mock I had the QBs slide. This time I decided to have them go early to see how that would change things. Bradford is the top QB and has excellent potential. He’s athletic enough to fit Mike Shanahan’s system. Washington has been looking for a franchise QB for a long time. Maybe Sam is the answer.

05 – Kansas City — ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama

I know many people think the Chiefs will go for an OT. I think they’ll look for an impact player on defense. McClain has the potential to be a great ILB. He can be the heart of that defense for the next decade. I may be higher on McClain than most, but I think guys with his size, athleticism, and skill set are really hard to find.

06 – Seattle — OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa

Walter Jones is back and forth on whether to retire, but I think he’s done. Seattle could leave Sean Locklear at LT, but he’s not ideal for that spot. Adding a pass blocker like Bulaga allows Locklear to play at another spot and strengthens the overall line. Seattle doesn’t have great skill players, but better blocking would really help that offense.

07 – Cleveland — CB Joe Haden, Florida

Joe is the top CB in the draft. The Browns could use a top flight corner. I’m sure they’ll consider some offensive players at this spot, but there isn’t great value for them. Take the CB and work on the offense later.

08 – Oakland — OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

The Raiders have shuffled various guys in and out at LT since Barry Sims left. They need a good young player to plug in at that spot. Okung is a good fit for them. His strength is run blocking, which should fit well with Oakland’s stable of runners. I considered putting Jason Pierre-Paul at this spot. We know that Al Davis loves his athletic projects.

09 – Buffalo — OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma

I’m sure the Bills would love a QB, but I don’t see a slam dunk choice. The smart move then is to get a LT to help whoever does end up under Center. Williams is an outstanding OL and veteran player who can help the Bills immediately. Give him a shot at LT. If he doesn’t work, Trent should be able to slide to the right side and be a good starter over there. Buffalo has a good interior, but could use help on the outside.

10 – Denver — QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame

I’m not sure what Josh McDaniels really wants to do at QB. Kyle Orton is okay, but hardly seems like the long term answer. Clausen isn’t an elite prospect, but he played in a similar offensive system in his time at Notre Dame and should be a pretty good fit for McDaniels.

11 – Jacksonville — DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

All the talk out of Jacksonville is that they want another pass rusher. Morgan is the top DE available in the draft. He is big enough for the left side or athletic enough for the right side. He has a very good motor and those type of players have done well for the Jags.

12 – Miami — LB Jason Pierre-Paul, USF

I’m still convinced that Tuna will be in love with JPP. Jason played DE for the Bulls and would be huge for LB, but he’s got the athletic ability to make the transition. He’s got a tremendous wingspan. JPP played standing up at times this year and looked okay. He is raw, but that’s why god invented assistant coaches.

13 – San Francisco — OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers

The Niners have the makings of a solid OL, but they still need a good OT to mix in. Davis is a good run blocker and would be an ideal fit for the SF offense. The Niners have a playoff-caliber defense. The offense has to catch up to that level. Improved blocking would help.

14 – Seattle (from DEN) — WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

Bryant is the kind of impact receiver that Seattle desperately needs. Houshmandzadeh moves the chains, but just isn’t a big play guy. Bryant is deadly in the Red Zone and has the athletic ability to turn short throws into big gains. He also offers help on PRs. Seattle’s long PR last year was only 29 yards.

15 – N.Y. Giants — DB Earl Thomas, Texas

Earl jumps way up. I have concerns about his tackling, but he is such a force in coverage that a desperate team like the Giants should love him this high. Think how often receivers ran free through the NY secondary last year. Earl has the speed and range to stop some of those plays or at least chase down guys who do get loose.

16 – San Francisco (from CAR) — RB/RS CJ Spiller, Clemson

Why take a RB with Frank Gore already in place? Because Spiller is a lot more than just a RB. He has WR skills when it comes to catching the ball. He’s the best RS in the whole draft. He also is a dynamic playmaker. The Niners offense struggled to score points. Spiller can help put the offense in good position with a long return. He can move the chains with a big play. He can also score TDs himself. Spiller had at least one TD in each game this year for Clemson.

17 – Tennessee — DT Dan Williams, Tennessee

Dan would give the Titans a real presence in the middle of their defense. They have some solid guys, but no one that really has to be accounted for. Big Al left a big void when he got elected and headed to D.C. Dan is 330 pounds and can push the pocket as well as play the run. He looked great in the Senior Bowl.

18 – Pittsburgh — OG Mike Iupati, Idaho

Iupati is a great run blocker and the Steelers need to get back to being more physical on offense. He can play either G spot or RT. I don’t know about LT. Mike would give them a dominant type of blocker. They had that with Alan Faneca and he was great for the Steelers.

19 – Atlanta — DE Brandon Graham, Michigan

The Falcons need to get better at rushing the passer and covering receivers. Graham is the best value on the board. He might be smaller than Mike Smith would ideally like, but you can’t argue with his motor or his production. Graham is the kind of relentless worker that should fit in well on the Falcons roster.

20 – Houston — WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois

The Texans could still probably use some help on defense, but Benn is just too good to pass on. He is a big WR with great RAC skills. That is ideal for Houston’s offense. He also provides them good insurance in case anything happens to Andre Johnson. Guys like Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are good complementary players, but have their limits.

21 – Cincinnati — WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame

Was the Cincy offense painful in the playoffs or what? Chad Johnson is still a gifted receiver, but the passing game needs a boost. They need a playmaker. I considered giving them Jermaine Gresham, but went with Tate because he offers versatility. Tate can play Wildcat QB. He can run the ball. He is a gifted receiver. He’s also a gifted RS. The Bengals need an offensive weapon, either in free agency or the draft.

22 – New England — LB Sergio Kindle, Texas

The Patriots need a boost to their pass rush. Kindle is the kind of versatile guy that Bill Belichick should love. Sergio can play DE or LB. He’s physical against the run, but also athletic enough to get after the QB. Sergio has Top 20 talent, but there are a couple of character concerns that may drop him a few spots.

23 – Green Bay — OT Charles Brown, USC

Aaron Rodgers got sacked 8 to the 4th power times in the first half of the season. Get out your abacus and do the precise figuring. The Packers need help at OT. Brown is an experienced blocker who played in a pro style offense. Adjusting to the NFL should be easier for him. He is better at run blocking than pass pro, but has the potential to be a quality LT. He seems like a good fit for the Packers system.

24 – Philadelphia — CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State

The Eagles are expected to make a strong push for a DE in free agency. That means that CB is the biggest need on the team. Luckily for them there are some good choices in this part of the first round. Wilson is a terrific fit. He can cover, tackle, blitz, hit and play on STs. I think Kyle is talented enough and experienced enough to contribute as a rookie.

25 – Baltimore — CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State

The Ravens need a cover corner. Robinson has terrific potential, but had a down Senior year. I think the Ravens overlook the struggles because of the way he played at the Senior Bowl. Playing on a bad defense in a dysfunctional situation brought out the worst in Robinson. Playing with guys like Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed, and Ray Lewis could bring out the best in him. Robinson has the man-to-man skills to be a perfect fit if he can play at a consistent level.

26 – Arizona — OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland

Bruce has good size, long arms, and excellent athletic ability. That’s pretty much what you want in a LT. The only downside to him is lack of experience. He’s only got about 20 starts in college. Honestly, that lack of experience is one of the reasons that he is still available at pick 26.

27 – Dallas — OT Vlad Ducasse, UMass

We know that the Cowboys want someone to groom behind Flozell Adams. Ducasse would be good value at this point. He can spend a year learning the system and adjusting to the NFL. Ducasse has good size at 6’5, 330. He’s athletic enough to be a good LT. He could also slide into G if needed.

28 – San Diego — RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State

L.T. is gone. Norv Turner’s offense is predicated on a gifted RB (Emmitt Smith, Stephen Davis, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson). Darren Sproles isn’t meant to be “the guy”. The Chargers need a talented workhorse RB. Mathews has the size and speed to thrive in their system. Reminds me a bit of Donald Brown.

29 – N.Y. Jets — DE/LB Jerry Hughes, TCU

Tough, productive, and versatile. Knows how to get to the QB. That sounds like a Rex Ryan kind of player. Hughes can play DE or OLB. The Jets can move him around and do a variety of things. As good as the Jets defense was, they didn’t have that many sacks. Hughes could help them be even better in 2010.

30 – Minnesota — DT Jared Odrick, Penn State

Pat Williams isn’t getting any younger. Jimmy Kennedy has developed into a good backup, but the time is right for adding a high quality prospect at DT. Odrick would give the Vikings a young player to pair with Kevin Williams once Pat does decide to retire.

31 – Indianapolis — TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

The Colts love skill players. Dallas Clark will be 31 this summer. They could use a talented TE to develop as his replacement. They’ve added various guys the last few years, but no one has stood out. Gresham is much bigger than Clark, but Jermaine is a gifted receiver and Red Zone target. He’d give Manning another weapon to use.

32 – New Orleans — DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida

Too good to pass up at this point. Gregg Williams has done well with bigger D-linemen in his career. Adding a guy with Dunlap’s potential would have to be exciting. The Saints won the Super Bowl, but their defense needs a lot of work. Dunlap has the potential to be a major force off the edge. He’s also versatile. He can line up anywhere on the line and be effective.

Some Free Agent Notes

February 24, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

I watched some game tape of potential FA prospects.  I focused on defensive players.

Karlos Dansby – LB – 6’4, 250 – will turn 29 in the upcoming season

Dansby is an unusual guy.  He plays ILB in the 3-4 looks the Cardinals use and OLB in the 4-3.  He actually lined up at DT in one alignment in the Dime defense.  He has ideal size, but isn’t a rugged, physical type of player.  Karlos has excellent agility and athleticism for his size.  He covers a lot of ground, both in pursuit of the run and when in pass coverage.  Good tackler.  Effective blitzer.  Led the Cardinals in tackles this year.  Playmaker.  Has at least 1 sack, FF, and INT in 5 of his 6 NFL years.  I think he would be best suited to playing ILB in the 3-4.  I would actually project him to WLB in the 4-3.  Karlos is too gifted to have him taking on blockers at the POA.  You’d rather have him off the ball where he can use his speed and agility to make plays in pursuit.

Antrel Rolle – FS – 6’0, 208 – will turn 28 late in the upcoming season

Former CB has found a home at FS.  He’s under contract, but is reportedly going to get cut because he’s due a big bonus.  Rolle will be the top UFA Safety if he hits the market.  Arizona likes to keep him back off the ball.  He’s a true centerfielder much of the time.  Has good speed and range.  He’s not a natural Safety, but gets the job done.  Good hitter.  Doesn’t go for killshots, but they may be an advantage with the new rules.  Generally a good tackler.  Effective when he does play in the box.  Willing to get his nose dirty against the run.  His best FS days are ahead of him.  He’s only played there for a couple of years.  He now should have a good feel for the position while still having enough speed and athleticism to be a good player.  Posted solid numbers in 2009:  71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 INTs, 1 FF.

Antonio Pierce – MLB – 6’1, 238 – will turn 32 in the upcoming season

Released by the Giants following the season.  In watching their games I had noticed that Pierce was not the same player in the last couple of seasons.  Upon checking the tape more carefully that is definitely the case.  He is an adequate player, but nothing more.  Pierce had 2 TDs scored in his area in one game that I watched.  He had a chance to make plays on both scores, but simply lacks the ability to get to the ball suddenly.  One time he could have shot the gap and nailed the runner for a loss, but was slow.  The other play was a short pass where he got stuck on a block and couldn’t get to the ball carrier.  I don’t think any team should pursue him as a starter.  Pierce is still a good leader and quality locker room presence, but his best days are behind him.

OJ Atogwe – FS – 5’11, 205 – will turn 29 this spring

Restricted Free Agent.  Could be trade material.  Outstanding Safety.  Complete player.  Can cover man or zone.  Good hitter and tackler.  Will miss on occasion, but is generally good.  Has some pop.  Good in the box or playing back off the ball.  Willing to take on pulling blockers on run plays.  Plays smart.  Sees things before they happen.  Came into the league at a late age.  Only has 5 years in, but is about to turn 29.  There should be enough “tread on the tire” that he can continue to play at a high level for another 3 years.  Has posted some huge numbers in the past.  In 2007 he picked off 8 passes.  In 2008 he picked off 5 and had 6 FFs.  His numbers dropped a bit in 2009.  He still had a sack, 3 FFs, and 2 INTs.   Good player.

Darren Sharper – FS – 6’2, 210 – will turn 35 in the upcoming season

Caveat emptor.  The highs are high, but the lows are low.  Darren has great instincts and elite ball skills.  Picked off 9 passes this year and ran back 3 for TDs.  Loves to bait QBs.  That works great against young guys.  Look at his INTs from this year:

Matt Stafford – DET – 2 … rookie playing first ever game

Kevin Kolb – PHI – 1 … young QB making first ever start

Mark Sanchez – NYJ – 2 … rookie QB in his 4th start

Chad Henne – MIA – 1 … young QB making 4th ever start

Matt Ryan – ATL – 1 … 2nd year starter

Tom Brady – NE – 1 … can you say anomaly?

Josh Freeman – TB – 1 … rookie QB

Darren loves to jump routes.  Veteran QBs know to be careful when facing him, but young guys think they see an open receiver.  Out of nowhere comes Sharper to make the pick.  He is a playmaker in the passing game.  The downside of Sharper is his tackling.  He is flat out bad.  He misses tackles.  He doesn’t always look real interested in taking on runners.  There are times when he doesn’t even get in good enough position to miss closely.  Darren can’t be counted on to clean up mistakes by the front seven or CBs.  The Saints did not finished 20th or worse in points and yards allowed.  Any team interested in bringing in Sharper as a FA better have a high powered offense.  Not my cup of tea.

L.T. is Free

February 23, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

The Chargers have released LaDainian Tomlinson. Several years ago this would have been unthinkable. LT was the heart and soul of the team. He was on the way to breaking Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record. LT was a workhorse runner with big play ability. He was a true franchise RB.

But something funny happened on the way to the forum. Father time paid a visit to LT ahead of schedule and the elite runner became a mere mortal. And then some. In the last 2 years LT has averaged 3.8 ypc and 3.3 ypc. He has 515 carries in that span, but only 9 runs of more than 20 yards.

Thomas Jones is also an older workhorse RB. He does play behind one of the best O-lines in the league, but Jones still is a good point of comparison. Jones has 621 carries in the last 2 years. He’s had 14 runs of 20 or more yards. Jones averaged 4.5 and 4.2 ypc in those seasons. These numbers are a bit surprising when you consider that Tomlinson plays on a dynamic offense that can throw the ball and really stretch the defense while Jones spent this year with a rookie QB and limited passing attack. Jones saw a ton of 8-man fronts.

LT still has something in the tank, but I hope no one thinks of him as a starting RB anymore. He is now at the point in his career when you look at him as a role player. He did score 23 TDs over the last couple of years. I think a team looking for a goal line runner and veteran backup should be interested.

The question I have is whether LT can accept a role like this. Over the last 2 years Tomlinson still seemed to think of himself as “the guy”. Any team he joins from this point on will be bringing him in as a pinch hitter and not the star slugger. LT has to acknowledge and accept that fact or he’ll be miserable wherever he goes.

The second issue is how many teams will have interest? No one will pay him big money. Teams looking at him as a role player will have concerns. They can’t use him on STs. What about durability? LT has only missed 2 games in the last few years, but he has hardly been healthy. Is that likely to improve now that he’s another year older?

I think someone will give LT a chance in 2010, but it won’t shock me if that is his final season in the NFL. We saw Emmitt Smith, Eddie George, and Shaun Alexander each fade quickly. I hope LT isn’t on the same path, but I’m not optimistic at this point.

Jevan Snead is an Idiot

February 19, 2010

by Tommy Lawlor

I’ve been watching tape of Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson.  He had a down year.  You remember that he was without stud TE Brandon Pettigrew (graduation), stud WR Dez Bryant (suspension), and stud RB Kendall Hunter (injury).  You see Zac running the OSU offense, but the skill players around him not getting the job done.  Dropped passes.  Sloppy routes that turn into INTs.  And so on.

Zac goes to the Senior Bowl and plays really well.  Suddenly we can forgive a lot of the struggles of 2009.  He showed that with the right people around him he can still be a very good player.

Jevan Snead had a down year.  Back in 2008 he threw for 2,762 yards with 26 TDs and 13 INTs.  Snead looked like a player on the rise and possible 1st round pick.  This year he threw for 2,632 yards with 20 TDs and 20 INTs.  He only finished 72nd in the nation in pass efficiency.

Jevan’s argument is that he was going pro because he would be graduating this spring and losing so many veterans around him.  He would lose 3 OL, a TE, his best WR, and Dexter McCluster.  That’s a lot of firepower.

Somebody figured out a couple of years ago that the formula for successful QB prospects in the NFL was completion percentage + starts.  A QB needed to complete 60% of his passes.  There was no specific number for starts, but the more the better.

Jevan sat down with an agent and figured out that the “smart” thing to do was come out early after a poor season, knowing he only has 2 years as a starter and has a lifetime completion percentage of 55.  Thinking like this would send up a major red flag for me.

I called him an idiot because his decision is short-sighted and dumb.  Does he not think NFL teams wouldn’t understand that he’d be without key players next year?  Just as importantly…he robs himself of a chance to play in the Senior Bowl.  Go back to Zac.  That was a key for him in getting back some momentum.  Zac really helped himself down in Mobile.  All Jevan can do is go workout at the Combine.  That won’t mean diddly poo (to borrow a quote from Jim Mora) compared to what the Senior Bowl could.

The first key to being a successful QB is good decision making.  Snead has shown NFL teams that he needs a lot of help in that area.


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