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"With the 252nd pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Marques Colston, wide receiver, Hofstra," and one of the biggest NFL Draft steals of all time was born. He was a seventh-round pick with a 4.55 40 time from a very small school.
In the 2008 NFL Draft, teams sought out for the next small-school wideout stud. The Bengals took Coastal Carolina product Jerome Simpson in the second round. Tampa Bay snagged the speedy Dexter Jackson out of Appalachian State in the second. Richmond receiver Arman Schields was taken by the Raiders in the fourth.
When I evaluate a player, games are 95 percent of my evaluation. Anyone who talks about 40 times a lot and changes up their big board five or six times during the Combine/Pro Day season doesn't put much emphasis on the actual games. You'd think that's the way to go, but in today's world, a lot of momentum is built up after the actual season. It's why four of the top five picks didn't attend the Senior Bowl, for fear of falling down draft boards with one bad week.
That's pretty much what happened with my sleeper.
Michigan State product Devin Thomas was said to be the No. 1 receiver in the draft if you polled the majority of draftniks. He had 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns in 2007. In 2006, he had 90 yards and one score. He only had one good season.
And by now, you're sick of reading this article without knowing who my No. 1 sleeper in the 2008 NFL Draft. Well, it's none other than Kentucky wideout Steve Johnson.
Johnson is dubbed an unathletic, one-year wonder as the reason why he fell to pick No. 224 in the 2008 Draft.
Why is he unathletic? People point to 40 times of 4.59 and 4.63 at the combine. Remember what I said about people who rave about 40s; they cannot evaluate game speed, so they have to rely on measurements.
"One-year wonder" is the label Johnson is dubbed as. He had 1,052 yards and 13 touchdowns in the toughest conference in the country. In 2006, he had 159 yards and one score. If you're going to blame Johnson for falling to the seventh because he was a "one-year wonder," then please also say Thomas should have been a fifth-round pick.
Johnson is a big receiver at 6-2, 210, with good muscle definition. He has very underrated speed from the game film I taped of him. He truly made some plays that just shocked me, and you will those in a second.
Johnson was Andre Woodson's No. 1 target last year after Keenan Burton went down with an injury, and he sure did deliver. He caught the game-winning pass against Louisville. He put up 111 yards on seven catches in a road game versus Arkansas. He made a few very critical plays on third down. He got better as the season went along. Versus No. 1 LSU, he put up 134 yards and the game-winning touchdown on just seven catches. Next week, he dominated Florida for 128 yards. In the final four games of the season, he accumulated 386 yards and five touchdowns. He finished his career very strong, he improved his route running, and he gained a ton of confidence.
On to the aforementioned game tape:
Play No. 1: This play displays how Johnson maximizes the yardage in the open field, which is the staple of the West Coast offense. (No. 13 at top of screen at flanker) Dig route: Notice after the catch, the amazing juke, then the automatic acceleration up the field. He avoided tackles and maximized the play.
Play No. 2: To get 13 touchdowns, you have to be a pretty good red-zone receiver. Fade route; notice how Johnson catches the ball away from his body at the highest point possible, secures the ball, gets a foot inbounds, and displays those excellent ball skills. This play takes a lot of talent to make. Johnson uses his 6-2 frame to his advantage over the defensive back, and makes it look easy.
Play No. 3: Again, another play displaying his great ball skills. He gains a lot of separation on the smash route, and notice once again he makes the catch away from his body. He gained a solid eight yards after the catch, maximizing the play.
Play No. 4: Same game versus LSU, but this is the game-winner. Goal line, sluggo route (slant n' go), double move. He leaves the corner stumbling in his jock as he hauls in the decisive grab. I love how Johnson sells the slant, then makes a hard cut. It's simply beautiful work and he reaps the reward with the touchdown. Again, notice the soft hands and catch made away from his body. This is great route running and clutch-play ability.
Play #5: This was one of the most explosive plays I saw any receiver make out of the 2008 NFL Draft class. Bubble screen; watch Johnson make the catch then explode past the entire Florida State defense. Just an amazing play to say the least. Forty time? Take the 4.63 seconds. I love this play. In the open field, Johnson maximizes the yardage of the play once again at 5:39, setting up Myron Rolle for a very big touchdown. This is a game-breaking play, and it's why I love Johnson's fit in a West Coast offense.
If you think it's all about a 40 time, then during every game next season, get out a stopwatch. Time every player on the field, forget about breaking tackles, making the catch, or running routes being a part of the game... just time everyone. I'd like to see how far you get with that. I watch game tape, and on game tapel Steve Johnson was a player I gave a second-round draft grade. He is a very complete receiver who has great ball skills, clutch-catch ability and improving route running. He's a good redzone target who maximizes the yardage of the play.
I'm not expecting Steve Johnson to put up 900-1,000 yards next year, yet I also wouldn't be shocked if he beat out James Hardy for the No. 2 job by season's end. He will make an immediate contribution for the Bills somehow. About 450-600 yards is what I'm guessing. Nothing spectacular, but over time we are going to look back and think how a player as talented as Johnson fell to pick 224.
Once again, this is the NFL Draft. It's never going to be perfect. We are going to have busts in the top 10 and steals on Day 2. But for me, the Bills made highway robbery grabbing Steve Johnson in the seventh round.
First-round picks aren't locks to become franchise players. It's easy to talk about which players are going to make instant impacts, but that's not what I'm doing in this article. Don't get me wrong; I'm not expecting instant success with most of these, but down the road they're the most likely to produce and have the talent to be consistent starters (or stars) in the NFL.
Dre Moore, DT, Buccaneers
Not many defensive tackles are 6-3, 305, and run a sub 4.9. Many said that Moore was lazy during games, but from what I watched, Moore was a consistent force. He was very productive, accumulating 62 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and six sacks. Glenn Dorsey had 69 tackles last season and seven sacks, yet it is interesting Moore is criticized as "lazy."
Tampa moved up in the fourth round to draft him to be the future three-technique, the position made famous by future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp. Moore has the measurables of Sapp, but can he play up to them? Surrounded by a wealth of young talent on the Bucs defense, if Moore can work hard off the field, he will be an extremely productive player.
Carl Nicks, OL, Saints
I was shocked Nicks fell this far in the draft, but when you listened to Charlie Casserly's comments on the NFL Network regarding Nicks, I guess we should have listened a little harder. He mentioned how Nicks has had serious character issues, which is why he dropped to the fifth round. That said, he was a first-round talent and should be an instant impact player on the Saints offensive line at guard or tackle. He can play nearly every position, as he absolutely dominated in his 2007 season and made the Senior Bowl look easy.
Again, he's got some attitude issues, but I have to go with the high upside if I'm picking a sleeper.
Ahtyba Rubin, NT, Browns
I was able to watch Iowa State only twice last year, but Ahtyba Rubin stood out to me dominating in the running game. He's not agile, and he's a bad "chase tackler," but he is a perfect fit as a zero-technique in the 3-4 (also known as nose tackle). He is going to be an anchor for Cleveland and command double teams. Rubin was very impressive at the Senior Bowl and showed more flexibility than I had anticipated. With the nose tackle position being a critical part of the 3-4, Cleveland got a steal late in the draft.
Andre Woodson, QB, Giants
Andre Woodson was the 13th player on my big board - and not for quarterbacks. He was my 13th best player in the draft and No. 2 quarterback. I don't care if he fell to the sixth round. I simply point my finger at Mel Kiper and the hype machine that got everyone down on Woodson for really no particular reason other than his release. I've never seen one player fall in the draft so far for one technical flaw. It's ridiculous.
Woodson has an extremely strong arm, great deep-ball accuracy, outstanding footwork, and good understanding of pass protection schemes and audibles, but most importantly, he has elite poise. He will stand in the pocket, take a big hit and get the throw off (see game-winning touchdown vs. LSU). When the game is on the line, time and time again Woodson looks like the calmest player on the field. He set the NCAA record for pass attempts without an interception at 325. He is a great decision-maker and was highly productive at Kentucky despite a pourous offensive line. Chad Henne, on the other hand was 1-3 in bowl games, never beat Ohio State, and had Jake Long as his left tackle for four years - yet somehow he gets drafted in the second round.
I had Woodson as my No. 2 quarterback, and Walt had him as his No. 1 quarterback. Woodson definitely has the WalterFootball.com stamp of approval.
Get back to me when the Giants deal Woodson for a first-rounder in 3-4 years in a Matt Schuab-like trade.
Peyton Hillis, FB, Broncos
Normally you don't see fullbacks on "sleeper" lists, but I loved this draft pick in the seventh round. Peyton Hillis is a great receiver out of the backfield and an extremely solid blocker. He's versatile and can make plays on third down. Great pick by Denver; I feel like they got a 12-year starter at the fullback position.
Kory Lichtensteiger, C, Broncos
Another solid second-day pick by the Broncos. Kory Lichtensteiger is tough, smart and strong. He should excel in the zone-blocking scheme. Centers don't look pretty, but they get the job done.
Jonathan Goff, ILB, Giants
One of the most fun players I broke down on film last year was Jonathan Goff. He was simply the leader on Vanderbilt's defense. He's fast and strong, and graded very high in my area for chase tackles, which is particularly important for inside linebackers to get to the edge and make plays. I like his athleticism in the middle of the defense, and in time he should take over for Antonio Pierce.
Picks like these are just one of the reasons why Jerry Reese has already cemented himself as one of the five best general managers in the NFL.
Jacob Tamme, Colts
It was pretty obvious to me, months before the draft, what the ideal destination for Jacob Tamme was: Playing in the slot with Peyton Manning. It's a match made in heaven. Tamme isn't explosive, but he did consistently time in the 4.5s. No doubt in my mind, between tight ends and receivers, Tamme had the best hands of any player in the 2008 NFL Draft. He's great when the ball is in the air and he regularly makes circus catches. He will very quickly become a favorite of Manning's. I'm not saying he is better than Dallas Clark, but he certainly has that kind of potential and he will live up to it.
Tomorrow I will break down my undoubtably No. 1 2008 NFL Draft sleeper, complete with YouTube video analysis highlights.
The Dolphins' Future Bleak With Tuna's Track Record:
The most talked about team during the draft, and rightfully so, is the one with the No. 1 overall pick. This year it belonged to the Miami Dolphins, to let those of you know who haven't watched SportsCenter in the past five months.
The consensus is Miami made the right pick at No. 1 with Jake Long to solidify the offensive line. The consensus is Miami needed a quarterback judging by John Beck's ineptitude last season, after many thought Brady Quinn shouldn't have been passed up on in the 2007 Draft. The consensus is Bill Parcells' track record of talent is great and he is sure to make Miami a true contender in a few seasons.
I don't care what the consensus is. There are three points that are consensus in my book:
1. Miami is an extremely bad football team and it will take at least 3-4 seasons for them to get back to the playoffs.
2. You don't draft an average athlete with the first-overall pick (other than a quarterback), and that's exactly what Miami did with Jake Long.
3. Bill Parcells is extremely overrated when it comes to his eye for talent. He is simply just above average in this area. I don't go by opinion, but by his track record (I will get to that later).
Yeah, I was 99.99 percent sure Chris Long would be the No. 1 pick, and if I had to do my evaluation all over again prior to the Jake Long signing, I'd still have Chris as my No. 1 selection.
I heard many talk about the need for a left tackle. The need for leadership. The need for a great offense.
I know that the greatest passing attack (and possibly offense) in NFL history, just lost the Super Bowl. I know that you simply don't get better leadership than Chris Long, so Jake doesn't have an edge here. I know that Vernon Carey is a solid run blocker.
I think it's appropriate to call Miami possibly the worst defense in the NFL on paper, and we all should know by now that defense does win championships. Quentin Moses isn't going to do anything for this team down the road. Are we seriously talking about the same player who was cut by elite powerhouses in his rookie season like the Raiders and Cardinals?
So will Jake Long help the running game and offense as a whole improve? Yeah he will, but I also know that because of Tony Mandarich it's important to be a great athlete at left tackle, and Long is far from a great athlete with sluggish hips and feet. Don't be impressed when they showed highlights of him blocking the likes of James Lauriniaitis, SirDarean Adams, and a no-name from Northwestern on ESPN.
Impressive against Derrick Harvey? Absolutely, but they didn't go against each other much. Impressive against Vernon Gholston? Hardly - he got beat many times off the edge other than that one sack, and Gholston had a good game against the run.
The jury will be out on Long for a while. I don't like the pick, and Miami will regret passing up on Chris Long for many years. You simply win games getting pressure on the quarterback.
On to the even more questionable pick of Chad Henne in the second round: I'm not Dolphin-hating here; as you know I've never been a Henne fan.
He is called a great leader, but why? He had the best offense around him at Michigan for a few years (and arguably the best over a 4-year career), so who did he beat that was so great? Florida had an average defense last year, and he still threw two interceptions in that game still displaying questionable decision-making.
I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for the Ohio State game since he was injured, but let's go back to his sophomore and junior season with all that talent around him. Solid game against Ohio State, but he never defeated the Buckeyes in his career. If you're dubbed a "great leader" shouldn't you be able to win a big game or two in your career? If Henne had all this talent around him, why didn't he ever beat his hated rival once? He was 1-3 in bowl games.
If you're looking at Henne's career objectively, please show me one big win. I don't see it... oh yeah, the last game of his college career? It took that long? Are we seriously talking about a second-round draft pick?
Now, who is making these draft picks? Well if it isn't Bill Parcells himself. People are in awe of his career, and rightly so. He is one of the more well respected coaches in NFL history, but he's also respected as having an elite eye for talent.
That same eye for talent who passed up on the most legit left tacke prospect in the history of the Draft in Orlando Pace with the No. 1 pick in 1997, trading the pick to the Rams for third-, fourth-, and seventh-round draft picks. Who did he take when he traded down? James Farrior, who was a bust with the Jets, but was solid for the Steelers later in his career.
Who did Parcells take with those mid-round picks he acquired in that genius trade? Wideout Dedric Ward and running back Leon Johnson. Nice move, Bill.
Not only did he pass up on Pace, but he traded the No. 6 pick to Seattle, passing up on Walter Jones, another future Hall of Famer. This guy really knows his left tackles.
OK, so the argument here is that the Jets still had Jumbo Elliot, but Elliot was 32. He made the Pro Bowl just once in his career.
Pace was an elite talent. No... Pace wasn't elite; he was an out-of-this-world prospect. The argument can be made he is the best left tackle prospect ever. Dick Vermeil made off with grand larceny in that trade, and eventually won a Super Bowl with Pace blocking the blind side.
It was the worst trade the in the history of the Draft. Mike Ditka might have given up his entire draft for Ricky Williams, but passing up on Pace was an even bigger mistake. What would the Jets' future had been if they had taken Pace No. 1?
Let's look at Parcells' track record in his stint in Dallas from 2003-2006.
2003: Terence Newman is an elite cornerback in this league. Great pick at No. 5. Center Al Johnson has been an average player his whole career, so that second-round pick investment isn't impressive. Jason Witten was a great third-round selection. Brady James has been a nice surprise and was a fourth-round choice.
By far his best draft in Dallas.
2004: He traded up for Julius Jones. Yuck. Jacob Rogers in the second round was a complete bust. The two best picks of this draft were Patrick Crayton and Jacques Reeves as seventh-rounders.
2005: DeMarcus Ware was a very solid first-round pick, but Marcus Spears hasn't been very impressive in his career. Kevin Burnett hasn't ever done much and he was a second-rounder. Marion Barber and Chris Canty turned out to be great selections considering their value in the fourth round.
2006: Bobby Carpenter: Bust so far. Anthony Fasano: Bust so far, but we'll see if he does anything now that Parcells traded for him in Miami. Dallas got absolutely nothing out of this draft.
So, when you really break it down, Parcells has just a slightly above average eye for talent, and certainly nothing special on the level of an Ozzie Newsome, A.J. Smith, Scott Pioli or Bill Polian. You can even make the argument that Jerry Reese has every idea what he is doing as well though with limited experience.
I'm just not sold on Miami's draft or their future. Don't buy into the consensus that they drastically improved their offense with this draft. Don't buy into the consensus that Parcells is going to work his magic - or that any magic is actually there.
There are a lot of factors no one is talking about that can really shake up the draft, but it has nothing to do with the players actually in the draft. Here are my 2008 NFL Draft X-Factors, which opens the door to much unforgotten variables into this first round equation:
1. Derrick Burgess, DE, Oakland
The Raiders need speed off the edge? Anyone forgetting about this player? He isn't that old and will be 30 years of age, so there are a few more miles on this engine before Derrick is going to call it quits. He had eight sacks in 14 games last year for Oakland (on a defense without DeAngelo Hall and Tommy Kelly).
Is Burgess an elite right defensive end? No, but he does fill a need on the right side and he is too small to play on the left.
Why is Burgess an X-Factor? If the Rams take Chris Long at No. 2 as projected, then Vernon Gholston will fall to the Raiders. He is a better fit on the right side because of his speed, but as I've already mentioned, Burgess is at this position.
It certainly sets up for the Raiders to take Darren McFadden, filling a need as a home run threat at running back, not that I'd draft him over Sedrick Ellis.
2. Cam Cameron, Offensive Coordinator, Baltimore
"With the ninth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select Ted Ginn..." and every jaw dropped of every football fan in the world.
So why did Cam Cameron pass on Quinn? He didn't like his inconsistent accuracy and he didn't have the snappy release he preferred. John Beck was extremely accurate and had a very quick release. So Cameron showed the world what he loved in a quarterback for his offense.
What makes Cameron an X-Factor? The Ravens need a quarterback in case you weren't aware. Will the Ravens pass up on Matt Ryan? He only threw for 60.5 percent of his passes in his senior year and displayed inconsistent accuracy his entire career.
Is he the front runner at No. 8? Without a doubt, but I think Brian Brohm and John David Booty could potentially get attention from Cameron because they would remind him of John Beck. Efficient, precision passers who rely on timing and accuracy describe these two quarterbacks.
If Leodis McKelvin, Mike Jenkins, or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's name is called instead of Ryan's at No. 8, you will know exactly why.
Question is, how much will Ozzie Newsome listen to Cameron? What about John Harabaugh? I'm sure it will be a collaborative effort, but Cameron should have some amount of say in this matter.
3. Will Kansas City draft Sedrick Ellis?
Hypotethically, let's say Ellis isn't drafted by the Chiefs at 5. We have three 3-4 defenses in a row in the New York Jets, New England, and Baltimore (and they all have their nose tackle need filled) Neither of those three teams will seriously consider Ellis.
Why is KC-Ellis an X-Factor? The Cincinnati Bengals could really use Ellis, and it creates an absolute trading war between the Saints and Bengals to move up to get this talent. The Patriots are looking to move down from No. 7; view my Draft Day Trade Projections for what I think will happen if Ellis slips past Kansas City.
5. Usama Young, Cornerback, New Orleans
He was drafted at No. 66 in the third round by the Saints last year, and I just don't think that Jim Haslett will all of a sudden forget a valuable investment like this into a high third-round pick.
Young played really well at nickel last year for Orleans, registering 24 solo tackles, and he was productive on special teams as well.
Keep in mind, this draft is also very deep in terms of cover corners, and the Saints could address a bigger need at No. 10 including three technique (Kentwan Balmer), linebacker (Keith Rivers), or safety (Kenny Phillips).
6. Ryan Harris, Tackle, Denver
Many had Ryan Harris rated as a top-five tackle in last year's draft. Denver invested a third-rounder into Harris, and they did it because he was a great fit for their zone-blocking scheme.
Yet, all of a sudeen they are likely to draft another left tackle in Chris Williams or Ryan Clady? It makes no sense. Harris hasn't had a chance to prove himself. He was injured at the start of the season, and it's tough for a rookie to just come into this zone-blocking system and beat out a veteran like Matt Lepsis.
I don't think the Denver Broncos will draft a tackle here (other than Albert for his versatility), and my reason is Harris' potential.
When you talk about the NFL, I think 90 percent of the conversations entail offensive skill positions, namely quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. They are fun to watch and talk about obviously. They are the reason why fantasy football is so popular. They put up the stats. They get the highlights.
I know exactly what you are thinking, "Yeah, so what McGuire? What are you talking about?"
I am talking about the evolution of the NFL Draft. I'm going to be honest. The offensive skill positions have very quickly gone into very low demand in the NFL. When a position loses demand, it loses value.
So, what facts can I base this on? Well the first point is the West Coast or West Coast-spread hybrid offenses in the NFL. Teams can find players to fit these schemes like college recruiters look for mobile quarterbacks for read-option offenses. NFL front offices have changed their entire draft philosophy from: "best consensus player at a position of need" to "best player available at a position of need that has a great fit in our scheme."
What enables these teams to find perfect fits in their offensive (and defensive) schemes is that they are investing much more money into their scouting departments than ever before. The third round was a big shocker for me when names such as James Jones, Mike Walker, and Laurent Robinson came off the board. These players were taken this high (I consider the third round very high for these prospects) was a tribute to the teams doing their homework. Teams look more for diamonds in the rough and they hire more scouts to find these prospects.
Another reason why I believe there is much less demand for offensive skill positions is because there is more talent in the NFL and teams are more "set" than in the past. This is because teams have invested more money in their scouting department, so now they are more accurate with their drafts. More teams are set at quarterback, receiver, tight end, and running back, therefore, if you don't need those positions then there is no reason to invest a high pick and waste it.
Teams are getting more set at these positions also because of the influx in talent. The drafts are starting to get deeper (very slowly) with each passing season. Teams accept the fact that they are just looking for a No. 2 or 3 receiver, and it's much easier to find that niche than a No. 1 every single year.
Now, will offensive skill positions ever be taken in the draft high again? Absolutely, but I think we are going to see far less running backs and receivers selected in the top ten. Quarterbacks are starting to find their niche, like I said, in offensive schemes rather than going for pure value there.
I think the 2009 Draft looks like one of the most talented drafts in the first round that I have seen, maybe ever. When I put out my star grades, I just might give 20-25 players a top 8 grade (4.5 stars) because I feel like they have enough value to be selected that high. Knowshon Moreno and Chris Wells, as offensive skill players, are potentially elite talents in the 2009 Draft. But I see them falling out of the top five because of a much less demand at that position, rather than in 2005 when three of the top five teams needed a running back. The same will go for Michael Crabtree. I think he will be lucky to be chosen in the top 10, simply because teams are going to start being more objective with the talent in the draft rather than overrate it. I'm not saying Crabtree is overrated, but when there isn't a big demand in the NFL for receivers, it certainly diminishes his value. When value diminishes, the nitpicking starts for the more typical "star" prospects.
So what positions do I think are going to be of the highest value in the draft? In order of most value: left tackle, right defensive end, defensive tackle, and cornerback.
Left tackles and defensive linemen are in huge demand in the NFL. Don't believe me? Read "The Blind Side" by Michael Lewis. Included in that is a bio of my only five-star elite prospect for 2009: Michael Oher, an offensive tackle from Ole Miss. Getting after the quarterback is huge, so this means having a speedy right end or highly balanced, huge left tackle is so imperative.
It's why I've emphasized defensive ends and tackles so much in my 2009 NFL Mock Draft. Now, I didn't do it just to put ends and left tackles that high; I did it because of that and I feel like those players have that kind of upside.
Look around on the teams' depth charts in this league and you will see there just isn't a lot of future demand at the offensive skill positions. Will there always be a demand? Definitely. I'm just saying it's much less than what you probably think, and I am predicting a huge change in 2009 - potentially as early as the upcoming draft in 35 days.
Posted March 19, 2008
Lots of things I think I should be grateful about lately - I mean it is the draft season, and yes, the "most wonderful time of the year." This is a draftniks Christmas season. This isn't a one-subject blog entry; just want to put some of my thoughts out there on random stuff:
Thank you to Hardee's for bringing back the Jalapeno Thickburger last month! I eat fast food very rarely because it makes me sick, but this is one of the best burgers I have ever had, period. It's very spicy with jalapenos (obviously) and a chipotle-like sauce. I love the quality of the ingredients on Hardee's thickburgers; sometimes I wonder why McDonald's is even in business.
Shout out to all the WalterFootball.com Forumites including 49ersfan, Adam Maciasz, vbsiena24, jimmyp, bulldog1023, giantsfanmike, Leo Fender and Blazedestin. They helped me out understand what I want in my laptop purchase; I decided to go with a Gateway T-1625. Not the sexiest computer in the world, but it's pretty cheap ($749) and I like the specs on it.
My Final Four prediction in the dance is: Louisville, Kansas, Purdue, and Memphis. I'll take Calipari over Pitino (in the 1996 Final Four coaching matchup in Kentucky vs. UMASS) to cut down the nets.
Anyone who says, "This player had a great Pro Day, his stock is rising" doesn't really know what they are talking about in my book. Pro Days aren't irrelevant; it just isn't a very good means of evaluating a prospect. Environment is too comfortable with shady vertical jumps and 40 times. Sometimes I think it's rigged. I don't pay attention to them; neither should you.
The spring is very much my favorite season of the year. Draft talk, spring football practice in college, baseball season starts, and March Madness of course! Like I said, it's the most wonderful time of the year, especially for sports nuts.
Every year Walter hits the nail on the head when it comes to projecting team needs. What I am going to do for you is get inside the mind of your favorite team's general manager and tell you how they are going to pursue the 2008 NFL Draft. Each team has different needs and each team has a certain prospective on the players they like in the draft.
The questions remain - what players fit their schemes, what rounds will they select certain players and positions, and what moves will they make in the draft in terms of trading up or down?
It all starts with a certain term I myself will start and it is called "range." The term obviously means the extent to which or the limits between which variation is possible. How does this pertain to the NFL Draft you ask?
There are two different draft ranges. The first is "player range". Jake Long has a narrow draft range. His range is from the No. 2 pick (Rams) to the No. 5 pick (Chiefs). On the other hand some players can have a wide draft range. Last year I felt Brady Quinn had an extremely wide draft range. He could have gone as high as the Browns at No. 3, and I had him in my last mock falling to the Jaguars at No. 17.
Because young quarterbacks are a dime a dozen in this league, nearly every quarterback in the 2008 Draft has a wide range. Some feel Matt Ryan could go as high as No. 3 to the Falcons (which I feel like doesn't have a chance of happening), and I think he could fall to as low as No. 20 to the Buccaneers if teams picking in the high teens would rather address other needs.
The other draft range in question is "team range" and this means what range of players a team has the potential to pick. Obviously the range gets larger as the draft goes on; I feel Chris Long to Miami is as close to a lock as possible, but Vernon Gholston is an extremely slim possibility. The Dolphins have a very narrow range of players I feel they will look at with the first pick.
Another team I think has a narrow draft range is the Buffalo Bills. There are only two positions which I will feel they will address if they end up keeping the No. 11 pick: defensive end (clear favorite in my eyes I would put it at 80 percent) or cornerback.
Teams with many needs have wider draft ranges (such as the Dolphins, Rams, Chiefs, Bears, Redskins) than teams with few fewer needs to address who have narrow draft ranges (like the Bills, Buccaneers, Packers, Cowboys).
I'd like to point out another example of team range. The Bears have needs at QB, RB, WR, and OT. Matt Ryan, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart, Malcolm Kelly, DeSean Jackson, Devin Thomas, Limas Sweed, and every tackle prospect on the board could be a possible selection for the Bears at No. 14. With such a wide selection of prospects to choose from considering the needs they must fill, I would say they have an extremely wide draft range.
I am going to discuss the draft strategies, like I said earlier, of all 32 teams in this league later on, but I needed to show you some in depth Draft theory so you could better understand where I am coming from when I talk about the ranges of teams and players in the Draft.
Since I coined the term "draft range" it should come as no surprise when Todd McFraud copies me on Sportscenter this weekend. Tomorrow I will reveal what the Dolphins will do in the Draft and the players they could potentially target.
Posted March 12, 2008
The free-agency period seems to be a time in every sport where you overpay for underachieving talents in hopes of filling a need. It's a seemingly easy fix for some teams like the Raiders, led by the psycho Al Davis. There are a lot of other teams, meanwhile, who just stand pat during this time of the year. It's these teams that know that you build through the draft.
Last week, I talked about some teams I felt like haven't gotten enough credit and got too much credit. It's easy to just look at the latest additions and say this team has improved their team the most, but I applaud those that haven't done that much in free agency.
The first team on my list is the Kansas City Chiefs. This is a team that needs a complete makeover on the offensive line, another receiver, and a few corner. Yet, they haven't made much of a splash. They tried to sign center Jeff Faine, but the Buccaneers (being $44M under the cap) made him the highest-paid center in the league. A center isn't exactly going to get the Chiefs in the playoffs, so it was a good move not to pay him more money than the Buccaneers were willing to give.
They recognized they don't have much of a chance of winning their division, and I respect a team who is honest with itself and is looking down the road three to four years from now rather than trying to make a playoff run in 2008. I'm rooting for the Chiefs to have a big draft and build on their foundation of exciting players, such as Dwayne Bowe, Larry Johnson, Jared Allen, Tamba Hali, Bernard Pollard, and Derrick Johnson.
Another team I truly applaud for not trying to do too much in the free-agency period is the Houston Texans. They only made one big-name signing thus far with Jacques Reeves, but I it was important to bring in a veteran corner who can get this defense to compete on a higher level. The Texans have accepted the fact they're in a brutal division. I hope that Matt Schuab and Andre Johnson can stay healthy next season ? Texans fans have gone through some tough times, but I think they realize this team is built for the long haul, and perhaps it can win the AFC South crown in a few years.
If we are going to bash the Raiders and other teams for their ludicrous free-agent signings, then I also think we should applaud front offices that don't make dumb decisions and compromise the future financial stability of their organization.
Posted March 10, 2008
The 2010 defensive end class just took a huge loss recently when Virginia's Jeffrey Fitzgerald decided to drop out of school; I am assuming because of academic issues but I cannot confirm that.
Fitzgerald was on track to be a sure-fire first-round pick in 2009 with the potential to go in the top 10. My latest 2009 mock draft (which I will update very soon) had him selected No. 4 overall, and I now feel like he is really missing out on a multi-million dollar career. He had great size at 6'3 275, and he was highly productive as a sophomore with 73 tackles (11.5 for losses) and 7.5 sacks.
With more maturity in his game and being a year stronger/faster, he could have put up some sick numbers in the upcoming season, but apparently that won't be the case. Some people think he has more pure athletic ability than Chris Long, who is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in April's draft. This was a hit to the 2009 draft class and to Al Groh's Virginia Cavaliers.
Probably terrified that Al Davis would draft him, Jeffrey Fitzgerald dropped out of school so a better team would take him later in Round 1.
I wish Fitzgerald well and hope he makes it to the league, but I'm really disappointed that he won't be returning for his junior season.
Posted March 6, 2008
**EDITOR'S NOTE: I find it important to note that Matt sent this blog update to me the evening of March 4, but I didn't see it in my e-mail inbox.
So with the retirement of Chuck Norris' brother Brett Favre comes the questions about Aaron Rodgers filling his shoes in Green Bay. This was inevitable and the Packers knew it when they selected him with the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. I think over time people just look at Rodgers as a player that was a late-first round pick, but this was hardly the case.
Lets get in the official WalterFootball.com De Lorean time machine and go back to the 2005 Draft.
The San Francisco 49ers had the first-overall pick and rumors in the days leading up to the draft were they fell in love with Alex Smith, the quarterback from Utah coming out of Urban Meyer's triple-read option. All I heard about was how smart he was academically. He had a lot of athletic ability, but was very raw as a pocket passer.
I never felt that Smith was the right pick for that franchise. I am not the biggest fan of drafting a running back No. 1 overall considering all of that guaranteed money going to a position that takes a lot of hits and doesn't present a lot of value in this league (as much as a left tackle, quarterback, or defensive linemen). That ruled out Auburn running backs Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams, who were two of the top five players on my draft board.
The top player on my board was Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards. Needless to say, this was an extremely weak draft and wasn't the greatest year to have the No. 1 pick.
I thought the best decision the 49ers could have made at the time (and still do) was take Aaron Rodgers with the first-overall choice. He was in my top five or six on my draft board, and I thought this was a team that could spend a selection on a wide out or running back later in the draft. It would have worked out considering all of the injuries that Edwards, Brown and Williams have endured so far in their careers.
Rodgers was a very good quarterback prospect. I'd say he was a better prospect than Matt Ryan is now. The question on Draft Day (and this remains) is if Rodgers was a product of Jeff Tedford's offensive scheme that produced NFL draft busts such as Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, and Kyle Boller. Trent Dilfer's career wasn't so hot either.
I loved Rodgers accuracy, mechanics, and precision passing. He had a good arm, but not a great arm. Some complained that his mechanics were too robotic, but they seem to have smoothened out with an NFL quarterbacks coach in Green Bay. That was a nitpicky concern, and overall, Rodgers' evaluation is forgotten mainly because he fell in the 2005 draft.
Why did he fall? Every team either possessed a quarterback or had other positions they had to address, and didn't need to spend a first-round pick on a signal caller. Same reason Brady Quinn fell last year to No. 22. Same reason why Matt Leinart didn't go in the top five as he originally hoped. It might happen this year with Matt Ryan or some other quarterback prospect that falls further than projected for one reason or another.
Fact of the matter is Rodgers was a talent that could very well have been taken No. 1 in the draft, and people wouldn't have criticized the pick - no one bashed San Francisco for taking Smith, so why would anyone criticize them for taking an even more polished pocket passer?
It just really bothers me when these "why are you getting paid" comments come out like John Clayton's last night on Sportscenter's Cold Hard Facts series:
"(Raves about how much he likes Rodgers, and how much smarter he is than everyone else) ... I think he is going to be a functional quarterback in this league. Hey listen: Is he going to take this team to 13 or 14 wins? I don't think so; good enough I think to be a 10-win quarterback."
Clayton also went onto say that he doubted the Packers would go to the playoffs without Brett Favre and with Aaron Rodgers.
Hey John: How many quarterbacks in this league win 13 or 14 games? I mean seriously, future Hall of Famer Brett Favre won 13 games only three times in his 17-year career. To even mention that a quarterback should have to win 13 games is such a dumb statement. Why put it out there?
I think Rodgers might be a better fit for what Mike McCarthy wants to do offensively anyway. In the Week 13 loss at Dallas, it was Favre who went 5-14 with two interceptions before getting injured. Rodgers came in and played admirably, getting Green Bay back into the ball game. He threw for 18-of-26, 201 yards and a touchdown. Very impressive numbers considering it was the Dallas defense on the road. Not an easy place to play, but he came in showed great poise and command of the West Coast offense.
Rodgers has been ready for the 2008 season for two years. I'm not doubting him. After all, he was very close to being the first pick in the 2005 Draft. Don't forget what a kind of talent he was when we evaluated him as a prospect.
Posted March 4, 2008
Lots of money is being thrown around lately in the free agent market, and every year it affects the last weekend in April (aka the NFL Draft). Evaluating the market and offering the right deals is a big part of being a general manager. So who is doing their job and who needs to be kicked to the curb based on what we have seen so far in the last week?
Russ Brandon ? VP of Business Operations ? Buffalo Bills
The Bills addressed their biggest need in being able to stop the run by trading away third- and fifth-round picks for Marcus Stroud. He was a beast in Jacksonville, and he is a perfect fit in the Bills defense in their one-gap Tampa-2 scheme. He won't have nearly as much responsibility as he did in Jacksonville schematically, so we could even see him have a career year next season.
I like the signing of Spencer Johnson. He will push John McCargo at under tackle. Kawika Mitchell was a smart pickup at weakside linebacker, but I wouldn't rule out Buffalo still looking for a versatile Tampa-2 linebacker in the Draft. Rumors are that Brandon reached a deal with former Arizona WR Bryant Johnson, but nothing is official yet.
All in all, Brandon has done a great job for his organization and I grade his job so far as the best in the free agency period.
James Harris ? VP of Player Personnel ? Jacksonville Jaguars
Harris got rid of injury-ridden Marcus Stroud for what I think was adequate value. Was it great value? No, but they did get an injury risk off of their roster. Could he have pushed Buffalo for a second-round pick? Maybe, but I doubt it. I really like the signing of Drayton Florence - I think his play was underrated last year in San Diego, and he will be a solid player on this defense. Trading a very expendable sixth-round pick for Troy Williamson might pay dividends if they can light a fire under him in this offense.
This is a team waiting to take that next step into winning the AFC South and these moves might be able to help them do it. The draft is big for Jacksonville, and Harris really needs to come through to help this team achieve a 12 or 13 win season.
Rob Brzezinski and Rick Spielman ? VPs of Football Operations and Player Personnel ? Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings really made a splash this offseason first by trading away the bust that is Troy Williamson, even if it was only for a sixth-round pick. Still, it's cutting the fat. They gave a big contract to Bernard Berrian (6 years, $42M), but it had to be done for an offense that needed more speed on the outside. Except for quarterback, tight end, and right tackle, this offense looks set.
I love the signing of Madieu Williams; I thought his play in Cincinnati really went undervalued thanks to his supporting cast. He should enjoy a nice career in Minnesota.
Brzezinski and Spielman did a great job, and made a lot of moves. I think quarterback still needs to be solidified in the draft, and if they don't do anything about this position, I'll downgrade the job they have done a lot because Tavaris Jackson is NOT the answer.
Phil Savage ? General Manager ? Cleveland Browns
When you pretty much trade away your entire draft, I have somewhat of a problem with that. This team's base was built on the draft; not free agency.
Corey Williams had a good year; not a great year, in Green Bay. He could have been a product of the great talent around him on the Packers defensive line. I'm not sold on him yet, and I have questions on how good he will be going one on one with an offensive tackle on every play.
Shaun Rogers was out of shape constantly last year and didn't always give full effort. Going from the Tampa-2 one-gap scheme to be a 3-4 nose tackle is a big difference that requires optimum focus and effort. I'm not sure he can do it, but he certainly has the ability to be an elite nose tackle in this league.
Were these moves warranted based on the talent the Browns had? Yes. Could they have found their answers in the draft with younger, cheaper players? Yes.
Time will tell on these moves Savage made. I think it's a horrible move if they don't trade away Derek Anderson, because you can get a first-round pick for him this year. I say take it and give Brady Quinn the nod.
Al Davis ? Owner ? Oakland Raiders
Tommy Kelly is a good player. He has some upside. He is a good pass rusher. This kind of player doesn't deserve $7 million a year. This kind of player doesn't even deserve $5 million a year. Yet, Al Davis signed Kelly to a 7-year, $50.5 million contract. I don't get it.
Gibril Wilson is a good player. He has some upside. He has a Super Bowl ring (coming). Does he deserve a 6-year, $29 million contract? I don't think so. Another time Al Davis overpaid instead of going after the free agent that would be worth their big contract (like Alan Faneca).
I think Roger Goodell needs to step in here and just get rid of Al Davis. This franchise is bad and they are going to continue to be terrible until they get new ownership. Al Davis is an idiot.
Posted Feb. 25, 2008
It was a big day at the NFL Scouting Combine as we finally get to see real speed that provided for a very entertaining afternoon for draftniks. Let's get right to it on my analysis.
Stocks that improved on Saturday:
The first things up on NFL Network today were some passing drills with quarterbacks and receivers. Two passes were all I needed to see from San Diego product Josh Johnson to see he has absolutely no arm strength. The throw was a 10-yard speed post on the near hash and he could barely do it. Jon Gruden seriously needs to reconsider if he wants to spend a third-round pick on him. I don't think he should go in the top five rounds now.
As you know, Jamaal Charles has been my No. 4 running back for quite a long time, and today reaffirmed my belief in his game-breaking speed by running a 4.36 40. Charles is an explosive player and could go as high as early in the second round. I was confident in his athletic ability to put him ahead of Razorback Felix Jones, and it looks like that projection was dead on, as Jones ran a 4.47 which was disappointing for a prospect with his skill set. Charles is a very versatile back, and I love his all-around game.
Mike Hart is going to be in that fourth or fifth tier of running backs now churning out forties of 4.67 and 4.69 when everyone projected high 4.5 times.
East Carolina tailback Chris Johsnon put out the fastest time today at 4.24; he made my list in the first Q&A as a guy whom I thought would be in the running to be the fastest man in Indy along with DeSean Jackson (4.31), Andre Caldwell (4.31), and Donnie Avery (4.4).
Mike Mayock has taken a lot of heat for saying Rashard Mendenhall is his No. 1 running back, and Darren McFadden blazed a trail today by running a 4.27 forty (the official time was 4.33 but I saw the 4.27 so that is what I'll go with). Fact of the matter is I don't think this boosts McFadden's stock much because no one questioned his elite athleticism or game-breaking speed (although no one thought he would be this impressive). This doesn't change the fact that he has frail legs and isn't comfortable pounding the rock between the tackles.
The question is who will the Raiders take at No. 4: Jake Long or Darren McFadden?
The most underrated combine performance of the day goes to Kentucky WR Keenan Burton. I have questioned his long speed in games (and still do) because he doesn't run away from anyone, but I came away impressed with his 4.43 time. Now how does this convert to the most underrated? This kid went Peter Pan with a 38.5-inch vertical and that is the best of the wide receiver class. Combine that and his amazing concentration and we could have an underrated vertical/red zone threat in this class.
I have been very high on Steve Johnson as a steal, but even I voted last week in the WF.com forums that Burton is the better player right now. Mel Kiper Jr. was on to Burton and believed for a long time (even through injury) that we was in the mix of the second tier of receivers.
Another underrated combine performance today was by Marcus Henry who had a very solid time of 4.5. Keep an eye on him, as he had a big senior year. I see a lot of Greg Jennings in him, and he could end up being a dependable No. 2 wide out.
John Carlson lived a nightmare yesterday performing poorly in the dash, but today it was Mario Manningham who ran in the 4.59-4.62 range. This was extremely disappointing for a player whom everyone labled as a vertical theat (see: Charles Davis and No. 11 overall) and with this very poor time he moves from the first tier of receivers to the third tier. Manningham lost A LOT of dollars on Sunday. His Pro Day becomes the biggest of all the players we have seen in Indy thus far.
Labeled as stereotypical possession receivers with good height, James Hardy and Limas Sweed turned out good times in the mid 4.45 range. With Manningham's debacle, I think both of these prospects are going in that first-round mix, and if they go in the second they won't fall very far. Hardy's biggest concern though is his character, and so his interviews were more important than his physical testing.
Very impressive day on the bench press for some defensive linemen including Vernon Gholston (37), Kentwan Balmer (33), Ahtyba Rubin (35), Sedrick Ellis (34), Quentin Groves (30), Derrick Harvey (31), Lawrence Jackson (31), Trevor Laws (35), and Dre Mooe (31).
Among those that disappointed me where nose tackle Red Bryant (20) and one of my favorites at the Combine in Pat Sims (20). Bryant stock goes down some because the 3-4 teams are looking at him as a zero technique, so his tape will be re-evaluated.
Posted Feb. 24, 2008
Tight ends and offensive linemen worked out today at the NFL Scouting Combine. Not only where they on display, but the defensive linemen and linebackers were measured. Not tons of buzz around the combine today, but lets get to a few of my thoughts on what happened:
Big debate on what Derrick Harvey's weight actually is. Initially the NFL Network said he checked in at 291 pounds, but Rivals and TFY said he checked in at 271, which is much more realistic. I hope his correct weight is 271 because that is extremely appropriate because first and foremost he is a pass rusher; not a run stuffer. This increase of weight is just the kind of thing that can vault him into the top ten (currently at 13 to Carolina in my mock).
There is a war going on right now for the No. 3 DE spot between Harvey and Phillip Merling. Whoever looks good in drills and more athletic could end up in Buffalo at No. 11. This team desperately needs someone that can come off the edge, and I believe they are most likely to take a defensive end with their first pick more than any other position.
Dustin Keller really got himself noticed with a 4.53 40 time and a 38-inch vertical. I'm blown away by his vertical, but his athletic ability and quickness were expected so I'm not shocked by anything.
Extremely disappointing day for John Carlson. I projected him to run a high 4.6 or low 4.7 in the 40, but he didn't even come close and so he now drops in my tight end rankings from No. 2 to 4 or 5. He's still a good all-around player, but this lack of athletic ability leaves me wanting more. You can find a solid Kevin Boss in the fifth round, but you are going to have to spend a more valuable pick to find a vertical threat with elite hands. Carlson now looks more likely to be a projected fourth-round pick rather than a high second.
Jacob Tamme keeps backing me up in saying he has the best hands of anyone in this draft - and not just tight ends. We knew he would run in the 4.55 range (4.57) and we knew he had an impressive vertical based on what we saw on film (31 inches). Didn't look as fast as Keller or Fred Davis running routes, but he made one catch that was amazing - again he has made these circus catches his entire career so it didn't knock my socks off.
The quarterback threw the ball behind Tamme and to the wrong shoulder - the Kentucky product had to turn his body around (to the back of the quarterback, not a turn facing him) 180 degrees and catch the ball over his right shoulder, which was a little behind him. Best catch of the day of all the tight ends. Tamme is going to be his quarterback's best friend very soon. The concern is his lack of bulk (6'3, 236) and blocking ability.
Jake Long made a lot of friends in the media as they wrote about how great he was in giving up only two sacks his entire career, and measuring in with the longest arms in the OL class, then throwing up 37 reps of 225. Long reaffirmed my 4.5-star grade but didn't display the same athletic ability we saw in Joe Thomas last year. He just doesn't have the same explosiveness to recover in pass protection like Thomas, thus he will never be an elite left tackle in this league. All this said, he will be a top-four pick in this draft.
The combine warrior on Saturday was Jerremy Zuttah, OL, Rutgers. He clocked in with a 4.99 40 time and 35 reps on the bench.
I thought it would be Oniel Cousins who would impress the most, but I couldn't pin it down on Zuttah. Impressive performance, and like Cousins, he is a zone-blocking lineman. Measuring in at 6'3 303, he has the versatility to play guard and maybe center in the NFL.
Posted Feb. 23, 2008
Every year at the combine there are studs and there are duds. So let's get quick to the point - here are mine for the 2008 Scouting Combine. I left out some of the most obvious ones to make it more interesting.
Jake Long already checked in with the longest arms and biggest hands of any offensive linemen in this draft. He even put up 37 reps of 225 on the bench with those long arms (extremely impressive - so hard to lift weight with long limbs). I left him off of this list because that would be cheating, but keep an eye on him today during the drills that test his agility and footwork. He does great with his feet and he just might earn my coveted extra half-star to put him up there with Chris Long and Glenn Dorsey as an elite five-star talent in this draft.
Allen Patrick, RB, Oklahoma
Great straight line speed and athleticism will surprise some people that didn't know of these hidden talents ... hidden because of his disappointing senior year in which he couldn't handle the load. 4.38 forty makes him the Chris Henry of this year's combine.
Oniel Cousins, OL, UTEP
Outstanding athleticism for a linemen on an average 6'4 305 frame. I expect him to look very good in the shuttle drill and run a sub 4.95 forty. ZBS teams (Green Bay, Houston, Denver, etc.) take notice and spend a third-round pick on his upside because he is a very raw football player.
Dre Moore, DT, Maryland
Great interior quickness and is best fit is a Tampa 2 under tackle ... lots of people think he is a nose tackle in the 3-4 (aka "zero" technique) but his speed off the snap lets him live in the backfield. I expect him to run in the 4.9 range and look like one of the quickest defensive tackles in Indy.
Steve Johnson, WR, Kentucky
Based on his game film I just loved him last year ... his athleticism after the catch really excites me for a 6'2 ? 6'3 wideout ... prototypical West Coast offense receiver. Can he run in the 4.4s to boost his stock? I think he is going to do it. If one team sees the potential I see he could be a second-round pick with an impressive combine resume.
Wesley Woodyard, OLB/SS, Kentucky
Possesses excellent athleticism, but on a very unimpressive, scrawny frame. Should run a 4.45 and look good in agility drills.
Pat Sims, DT, Auburn
Pat Sims could see his stock soar with a great combine ... excellent overall athlete but is just very raw, and doesn't have much starting experience at Auburn. His strength will really surprise some so I anticipate him to be one of the best DTs at the bench press.
Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Very unimpressive straight-ahead speed in games, I think he is going to run a very high 4.5. Could Mel Kiper's lockdown No. 1 cornerback fall like a rock out of his mock draft?
Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
Team docs had to examine Limas Sweed under a very heavy microscope. How do his past injuries measure up now? If he runs I anticipate a time in the mid 4.5s ... doesn't really help him but doesn't really hurt him that much either. A 4.6 would keep him out of Round 1 altogether.
Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
Needs to answer some serious questions about his mental toughness and leadership. Coaches will question his competitiveness after he faked (I think he did anyways) an injury to get out of the Senior Bowl like a total wuss.
Marcus Harrison, DT, Arkansas
I just don't see a lot of burst in his play ... just a run plugger in my opinion and doesn't have much versatility in what he can do. Probably will impress on the bench but he must answer the critics that say he should be drafted in the first three rounds.
Martin Rucker, TE, Missouri
If he can't show he is a stretch-the-field type of TE, then what does he do exactly that makes him stand out? Lots of great pass catchers in this crop of tight ends, I think he ends up at the back of the bus and becomes a late-round pick since his forte isn't blocking. Must run below a 4.75 to still a third-round pick.
Posted Feb. 22, 2008
One of the most fun weeks of the football offseason is the NFL Combine. People are going to be talking like, "Wow he ran a 4.35!" and "Only 22 reps on the bench press?"
I think the most valuable aspects of the Combine is information we don't have access to in the player interviews and medical evaluations, but I'm going to talk about the only things we have access to.
The general consensus is when a player runs a great time or has outstanding overall workouts that it automatically affects his draft stock.
In my opinion, I highly disagree with this. Sure, it gets you noticed and raises eyebrows, but I think this whole approach is so very wrong.
"OK, so where are you coming from, McGuire?"
In a nutshell, this is how my mindset is when evaluating these prospects workouts: "Did this particular player impress/disappoint me more than my initial projection based on game film?"
I'll use a few examples to outline this. Last year, Chris Henry from Arizona ran a very impressive 40 time and just had a great all-around combine, but in my opinion it didn't move my projection on him as a player at all. He was already a great athlete; his falloff was converting that to being a refined prospect.
Just because DeSean Jackson runs a 4.35-4.4 doesn't mean anything to me. The only way he will move my projection of him is if he runs a sub 4.3 or 4.5-plus. If he is much faster than what I projected, he might move up a bit. If he is slower than what I thought then his stock would go down a bit in my eyes.
So what I'm getting at is just because a player does great in drills doesn't mean anything. If this is what we expect of him, then his stock shouldn't go up.
If Kevin Smith (slow running back in games with no second gear) runs a 4.55 then I still think he is a fifth-round draft pick. If he runs in the 4.6s then his stock goes down. If he runs in the 4.4s then his stock goes up some.
When you watch the Combine, keep in mind what you project these players to run. A great 40 time doesn't mean anything if it's something you expected.
In the end, these teams put MUCH more into their evaluations of these guys based on game film playing the game; not running shuttles or doing long jumps. Are these measurements important? Of course they are, but you have to take in the big picture. It's just one slice of the pie; not five.
Posted Feb. 21, 2008
Every year, 300 or so players are invited to the Combine, and every year there are a few snubs that didn't get that sought-after invitiation in which players can show off their skills to all of the scouts, coaches, and general managers in the NFL.
Todd "McFraud" released his top 15 snubs (as far as I know this information was not plagiarized - this is under further investigation) and among them were Kansas FB Brandon McAnderson, UCLA G Shannon Tevaga, and all-universe QB Xavier Lee (why McShay would want this joke to work out is beyond me). Mike Mayock's top three snubs are Lambuth RB Allen Ervin, Augustine OLB Alex Hall, and UMASS TE Brad Listorti.
My top snub isn't on many lists, and it's none other than Georgia center Fernando Velasco. He is 6-4, 320, and he has the versatility teams love toward the end of the draft to play both center and guard. I watched three tapes on him (Tennessee, Florida, Hawaii) and I think he is much more athletic than given credit for.
He has very impressive strength and shows good balance, which is pretty rare for a center of his size. I have him as my third-best center in this Draft, and I was shocked he didn't get a combine invite. Out of all the linemen I evaluated this year, Velasco was one of the most fun to watch. Hopefully he gets his name called when it matters.
After all, for the prospects it doesn't matter what happens on Draft Day. It matters what you do after Draft Day.
Posted Feb. 16, 2008
ESPN and NFL Network producers have had to really fill space in their broadcasts lately. Like I addressed two days ago, ALL the trade talk is about Jerry Jones moving up to No. 1 overall to select Darren McFadden - and I outlined why that would be such a horrendous decision (and that has nothing to do with McFadden).
Look, this is premature analysis; I'm not going to lie. It's also very in-depth, so roll up your sleeves and let's break this down the way it is supposed to be broken down. Not: "Miami sucks. They need more good players. Dallas has many draft picks. Darren McFadden is awesomness - yeahhhhhh." That's basically what I am hearing on these television networks because they don't have the capacity to even remotely understand advanced NFL Draft theory.
OK - this breakdown is based on the rumors that Jerry Jones loves Darren McFadden and wants him wearing the blue star on the side of his helmet. I'm indifferent to this idea (whether it's a good or bad decision) because I want to analyze the possibilities of what Dallas could potentially do.
Also keep in mind the order isn't set yet, so it's hard to determine where McFadden could fall. It is also two and a half months away from the draft - so like I said this is very premature but my goal here is to introduce to you what Dallas might be thinking in their war room, and if they want to pursue McFadden, the best ways to go about doing so.
Yesterday, I discussed the importance of the Trade Value Chart (TVC) and why it would be in Dallas' best interests to not leapfrog St. Louis at No. 2 overall because with Steven Jackson there is a 0.2 percent chance they take McFadden at that pick. Closer to the draft we will all better understand whom exactly Atlanta and Oakland will be considering with their top 5 picks - whether McFadden or other prospects. Let's assume either Atlanta or Oakland takes Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis with the third-overall pick - because as of now, McFadden's stock seems to be slipping according to ESPN Draft expert extraordinaire Todd McShay (ironically a day after Mike Mayock said he wouldn't "touch" McFadden in the top twenty picks - weird)*
So for projection's sake, let's say Jerry Jones still has a hard-on for McFadden. He wants to make a move up to No. 4 overall where Atlanta/Oakland is picking. Both teams want to spend that selection on a cornerstone player, but they also wouldn't be opposed to trading down if they feel they are getting the better end of the deal - after all, they have all the leverage in this trade because Jones is adamant about getting McFadden.
The Cowboys have a lot of toys to play with to make this move. Bobby Carpenter, a former first-rounder, hasn't gotten any consistent playing time in Dallas. He will likely be on the trading block. Marcus Spears has been a little bit underwhelming, but still possesses enough upside to command a second-round draft pick - relatively 400-500 TVC points. I would put Carpenter's stock around 220-300 TVC points. If Jerry Jones is out of his mind, he'll put Marion Barber on the trading block to acquire McFadden. I'd say Barber would be worth 700-800 TVC points - he can be a huge fish in this trade but the Cowboys are absolutely gambling by giving him up for McFadden who isn't an elite prospect (at least I don't think he is elite).
OK, so the fourth pick in the draft is worth 1,800 points. Neither Oakland nor Atlanta would want Carpenter because he lacks the agility to play in their schemes. Oakland could use Marcus Spears, but Atlanta would rule him out. So for fun time,s let's say Oakland has the fourth selection.
The Cowboys' first three picks in this draft are: Nos. 22 (780 points), 28 (660), and 61 (292). The first two picks packaged together are worth 1,440 - they only need 360 more points to make a balanced trade according to the TVC. Marcus Spears fills this more than enough - actually goes over what I projected him to be valued at (400-500). But that doesn't matter because Jerry Jones is vulnerable here and Al Davis knows this.
Jones just went one-and-done to a hated divisonal rival. He lost nearly his entire coaching staff to Miami (and GM) except for Jason Garrett. I think Jerry might hit the panic button in the draft and go on Draft-tilt. Al wants to squeeze as much as he can out of Jerry - and he has the power to do that because he can still draft a damn good football player at No. 4 overall.
I think because of this situation, Oakland in addition to getting Nos. 22, 28, and Spears, they could also get a future draft pick, which I think would most likely be a 2009 second-rounder. Dallas's 2009 first is also a possibility, but Jerry doesn't want to get embarrassed that much in this deal - but I wouldn't put it past him. Wasn't the 29 year-old Shawn Marion just dealt for the (almost) 36 year-old Shaq with $40M left on his contract? Crazy things happen - we saw the ridiculous Eric Weddle trade last year by San Diego, and we saw Denver trade up four laughable spots to take all-universe Jarvis Moss.
Oakland may not like what Dallas is offering (a different deal than what I just outlined) and take their pick - let's say it isn't McFadden. Kansas City doesn't take D-Mac. The Jets sit at No. 6 - but with so much help needed on defense and offensive line I think they pass on McFadden as well with capable backs in Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. They aren't elite but they aren't horrible either.
New England has the seventh choice and could be looking to trade down according to who falls to them. Jones gives Bill Belicheck a call. Keep in mind, you can't put it past Baltimore to trade up one spot to potentially select McFadden (it only costs them 100 TVC points - roughly their fourth-round selection). A backfield with Willis McGahee and McFadden would be sick and Baltimore still keeps its second-round pick. Ozzie Newsome would have to at least consider it - I don't think it is a great idea when you have other needs but Baltimore doesn't have a lot of glaring needs and they can afford to make this deal.
So, Jerry Jones knows if he wants to get McFadden, now is probably the best time to make a deal. Belicheck would probably demand Nos. 22, 28, Bobby Carpenter for depth at linebacker, and a 2009 second-round draft pick. Jerry would probably pull the trigger on this trade and both sides get what they want, even though New England gets rich again by pulling off a one-sided trade.
What do I think on what Dallas should do on draft day? Their best option in my opinion, if they want McFadden, is to just relax and see where he goes in the draft. If he falls, great - Dallas saved themselves a future first-round draft choice.
I think they should consider trading up, but not for McFadden. Flozell Adams will be 33 next season, and coming off the Pro Bowl he will comman huge dollars. It's more cost efficient in my opinion to trade up into the high teens to pick Jeff Otah or Ryan Clady and solidify left tackle.
Either way, Dallas can still have a great draft by just standing pat and dealing Spears and Carpenter for picks/players. You don't have to move up to improve your team, obviously - I believe that standing pat in the Draft in the long term pays out huge dividends if you make solid picks and don't get too cute with the task at hand (which I think is what Jerry Jones could do and end up being a huge misstep for the franchise).
Tomorrow I am calling out the NFL Draft "Guru," the one and only Todd McShay of ESPN because in my book he is nothing more than Todd "McSteal."
Posted Feb. 14, 2008
It's like Wall Street this year when people talk about the No. 1 overall pick. BUY! BUY! BUY! SELL! SELL! SELL!
That's all I'm hearing about lately on ESPN and NFLN, and quite frankly I am getting sick of it. Why doesn't someone just have the cahones to come out and say, "This isn't going to happen."
Well that guy is going to be me. I'm not afraid to say it. Fact of the matter is Miami will (and should) demand equal value if they want a trading partner. They shouldn't take less just because they are trading down. They have the No. 1 pick and they have the leverage. I think all of these laughable experts think that having the No. 1 overall pick is a bad thing.
Yeah, Houston doesn't look like a team on the rise (Mario Williams). The Giants didn't win the Super Bowl with the first pick in 2004 (did someone forget?).
The Miami Dolphins are going to take Chris Long and they are going to get a player with elite intangibles. This means he doesn't quit on any play. This means he is going to be the leader on their defense. This means they will have a true building block. Don't get me wrong, I know you can find talent elsewhere in the first round, but let's just call it for what it is. Long is an elite prospect. Period.
Now, on to the Dallas Cowboys, whom many people say are going to pry the No. 1 pick from Miami to select Darren McFadden. It was all I heard about a few days ago on ESPN's NFL Live. They even mentioned Dallas sending Marion Barber to Miami (Ronnie Brown says hello).
I hear this and I just chuckle a little bit. It's just absolutely moronic, and if Jerry Jones does this he is a moron.
Why do I think this is such a bad idea? Because if you are planning to trade up to get McFadden, if Jones loves him so much, then why do you have to move past the St. Louis Rams at No. 2 overall in order to do so? I don't understand it.
Why are you going to cost yourself another talented veteran or draft pick to move that high? Would Jones rather pay No. 1 money than No. 2 money? I just don't get it. The difference in Trade Value points is 400 from the first pick (3,000) to the second pick (2,600). That's a mid-second round draft choice within itself!
One has to wonder how many Trade Value Points Jerry Jones' Botox is worth.
It is very early to say where McFadden will fall in the draft, mostly because picks 3-5 aren't set yet. Atlanta and Oakland might decide to take a pass on him. If they do then he will fall to the Jets at 6 - though they could still pass on him for Vernon Gholston. Then to the Patriots at 7. They have a lot of needs and might eschew McFadden if they love Leodis McKelvin.
Baltimore has the eighth pick, and with Jerry Jones being patient, he has saved his franchise 1,200 points on the Trade Value Chart (TVC) by not trading up to the second pick to get McFadden if he chooses to make business with the Ravens.
OK, so maybe you feel like I am going over your head when discussing the TVC points system. I hear a lot of people rip it for being overrated. That's the opinion of some, but fact of the matter is that every NFL team has it in their draft war room. Some trades are rip-offs and some are fair - it boils down to equality in the deals, and the smart GMs know how to not get ripped off (you just don't make unprofitable deals - duh).
Well, let's go back in NFL Draft history and let's compare it to a prevailing opinion that I'm hearing. Rewind to the 1997 NFL Draft. The New York Jets held the first-overall pick and this is Bill Parcells' first draft with the franchise. Orlando Pace is the projected top pick. Parcells has other plans. The Rams trade up from No. 6 overall to No. 1, just giving up their Nos. 6, 67, and 102 overall selections (also a seventh-rounder, but that doesn't matter since it is nearly worthless).
The Jets were ripped off by over 1,000 TVC points in this trade. Whom did they end up taking in this draft (as opposed to Orlando Pace or even Walter Jones after trading back down again to No. 8 overall)? James Farrior, Dedric Ward, Terry Day, and Leon Johnson comprised their first four picks in 1997.
So my point here is that it is important to not get taken advantage of in the Draft, and the Dolphins won't with Jeff Ireland being the GM. I mean, just because you acquire an extra first-round selection doesn't ensure your team will get that much better any quicker. It's going to take at least three years to get the Dolphins' franchise into playoff contention - so there is no rush even if that is not want Miami fans want to hear. You evaluate the talent and you make good, sound decisions; trading down from this selection if you don't have the better end of the deal isn't smart from a business perspective (and running an NFL football club is a business; not a pee-wee league).
Tune into tomorrow to my blog, as I go in extreme detail the Cowboys best chances and most likely trades if they truly have their sights set on Darren McFadden.
Posted Feb. 13, 2008
He's been called the next Michael Vick. Better than Vince Young at his age. His name is Terrelle Pryor and he is the next big-time quarterback prospect in the high school ranks. I loved what I saw from him at the U.S. Army All-American game. He is extremely athletic and has a gun for an arm. He is 6-6* and will develop a sturdy frame in a college weight room.
It's a tough decision to decide where you would want to spend the next 3-5 years of your life and quite possibly determine how high you are taken in the Draft if developed properly (which of course is parallel with $$$$$).
The teams Pryor has narrowed it down to are (leader) Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and Oregon. I think in the end he will choose Michigan because he gets immediate playing time and Rich Rodriguez's read option is similar to his skill set.
That's not what this blog update is about. If I were a 5-star quarterback blue chip, what would be the best possible school for me to attend? More importantly, what are Pryor's best options to maximize his draft status (which ultimately is what matters most)?
So what makes a great college program? Sure, tradition is a fun thing to talk about. It's great to have state-of-the-art facilities to train at in the offseason. It's fun to play in a classic college stadium.
I think the most important factors in deciding what is the best school to attend for a quarterback are an NFL-style offensive scheme and good coaching. Why don't I want to play in a read option (such as Florida, Oregon, or Michigan)? Because it really stunts the development of the quarterback. Those concepts aren't used in the NFL. You need to learn how to run an offense similar to what you will see in the pros to make for an easier transition. By going to an Oregon, it just really hurts your potential draft stock - I don't care how good you look. Get back to me on this when Tim Tebow falls to the second, maybe third round whenever he decides to come out for the draft.
So what are these schools? Here are my ten best offensive systems that best correlate to the NFL:
Texas A&M enters my top 10 with the addition of Mike Sherman, and UCLA with Rick Neuheisel.
So, by eliminating the teams that have this position wrapped up, we knock out USC (Mustain, Sanchez, Barkley) and Notre Dame (Claussen, Crist) - we do this because we are Pryor, right? We do want playing time eventually.
Our top five automatically becomes Ohio State, Boston College, Texas A&M, UCLA, and I would put Georgia ahead of Penn State because you are playing in the SEC, and we don't know what will happen with Joe Pa.
If I'm Pryor, it's a no-brainer. Ohio State is head and shoulders over the rest of the teams I mentioned. If he goes there, he's going to be immediately surrounded by a ton of talent with an elite coaching staff. Ohio State brings so much tradition to the table it's impossible to pass up this golden opportunity to turn yourself into a high first-round draft pick. Instead, he will likely end up in an option offense. It will be fun, and he will probably dominate the college game, but once he opens up an NFL playbook, he will regret committing to Oregon or Michigan.
In my next blog update I discuss why ESPN has no clue what they are talking about in discussing Jerry Jones potentially acquiring the No. 1 pick from Miami.
Posted Feb. 8, 2008
Ever since Roger Goodell was named commissioner of the NFL, he has made a big impact on the league. The NFL seems to be under more discipline than before, as he has cracked down on players such as Pac Man Jones, Tank Johnson, and Michael Vick. Other than destroying the video tapes, I felt like he gave the proper punishment to Bill Belichick and the Patriots for Spygate.
He wants the NFL to be globally renowned, and thus allowing Buffalo to play a game in Toronto and also putting a regular season game in London. Eventually, I think this will pay dividends from a financial standpoint for the league.
But let's get down to business (and that is what the NFL is all about). I think Goodell is doing a little too much tweaking, and I'm talking about totally changing the playoff structure so now divisions only become a matter of playing three other teams twice a year. No longer will each divisional champion be guaranteed a home game in the playoffs.
Goodell is actually looking into the home turf being decided by record rather than the divisional crown.
I think this is ridiculous. Each team should be rewarded for winning their respective division. Don't get me wrong - I understand where he is coming from in not wanting teams to tank toward the end of the season.
Sure it would be "better for the fans," but since when did the fans care about Week 17 more than the Super Bowl? When it's all said and done, the fans care about the postseason - and the NFL has a great playoff system. It's the epitome of perfection, and you don't mess with something that is perfect (unless you are the Giants).
Someone stop Roger Goodell before he has uninformed sports writers vote on which two teams play in the Super Bowl.
In my next blog I will examine Terrelle Pryor's decision on where he should go to college, and the best possible destinations for any five-star high school quarterback.
Posted Feb. 5, 2008
It's just a fact. At WalterFootball.com you are one step ahead of the game. Nowhere else are you going to find in depth analysis for the 2009 NFL Draft on the internet for free.
Well it translates to the NFL too - who exactly will win the Super Bowl next year? I'm jumping the gun a little early - after all could the Giants have won the Super Bowl with players like Aaron Ross, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, Jay Alford, and Ahmad Bradshaw? I don't think so.
Anyway, here are the teams I feel are legit contenders to make a Super Bowl run next year, ending with my prediction of who will be in the big game:
Jacksonville Jaguars: A dominant defense that should only get better if John Henderson and Marcus Stroud can stay healthy - they should upgrade the receiver position in the offseason.
New England Patriots: I mean, they have to be in the discussion, don't they? Will Randy Moss demand big time money, or take the common Patriot-pay-cut and stay in New England? The Pats aren't that far under the cap and will likely have to part with Asante Samuel. Still a very good team, and we knew before the Super Bowl loss they had major needs to fill.
Cleveland Browns: Shocker pick in here I know, but I love this offense and I even think Brady Quinn can lead them far into the playoffs if Derek Anderson is signed by another team, in which the Browns receive compensation with first- and third-round draft picks. This offense is lethal, and the defense is extremely young and getting more athletic with every season.
Indianapolis Colts: I mean as long as you have Peyton Manning you have a shot. If Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney can stay healthy for 16 games this is a very dangerous team - and they will likely be even better next season offensively. Sick.
Green Bay Packers: I love their running game - so much depth in the backfield. Ryan Grant looks like a stud, and they still have a young guy in Brandon Jackson that flashed a lot of talent last year. They're loaded at receiver and their defense is only going to get better as their young talent gains more experience.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OK, OK - homer pick, I know I get it - bring it on. But look what happened to Mario Williams in his second season, and consider that Gaines Adams was projected as the better pass rusher between the two as a prospect, and you got a guy with a load of upside going into his second season. The offensive line is very soon going to get recognized as one of the best in the game. Upgrades must be made at receiver and special teams. Can Caddy get to, and stay at, 100 percent health?
Dallas Cowboys: An extremely talented team with two first-round draft picks. I think they need to find more talent at wide receiver and another running back behind Marion Barber. The defense is solid, and I think most of the upgrades need to be on offense.
My Super Bowl XLIII matchup: San Diego Chargers vs. New York Giants
The Chargers' offense just came together beautifully with Philip Rivers in the offseason and that will continue next year. Same thing with the defense - Antonio Cromartie has so much potential and can take away one side of the field. I love this team.
Didn't the Giants just win a big game? Well, Peyton can give Tom Brady a Priceless Pep Talk - that's always awesome.
Posted Feb. 4, 2008
In case you haven't heard, the Giants won the Super Bowl. Not only did Eli make amazing play after amazing play, but he did it with such unseen athleticism: shaking off Patriot defenders - scrambling keeping plays alive - displaying a great amount of poise and confidence.
Anyway, it just supports John Elway's theory that it takes 5-6 years to learn the quarterback position in the NFL to its full potential. It takes that long to gain the confidence to play the position most of the time. I'm putting it out there because the expectations from fans and the media are absolutely ridiculous and they have no idea what they are talking about. I mean I'll admit, I said that Eli was going to be a solid quarterback, but he'd never be anything special (didn't have the physical ability) - I was wrong; everyone was wrong - but Eli showed us something we haven't seen since his college days at Ole Miss.
Eli Manning was able to escape Patriots defenders, as they were metaphorically tugging at his Wal-Mart smock instead of his jersey.
But I'm getting off topic here. I realized something that no one is really talking about - next season the NFC East could be the toughest division in the history of the game.
The Washington Redskins have a lot of talent returning. I'm a big fan of what is going on in Philadelphia. The Cowboys have two first-round draft picks and players on the trade market to improve their team even more. Eli is going to be in the discussions as an elite quarterback in this league, and the Giants are relatively young.
It's just amazing. Who is going to win the NFC East? Every team from this division was in the playoff hunt this year, and they likely will be there again in 2008.
Just something to think about - it's crazy. The Giants could win the Super Bowl this year and still not win the East because of how sickingly good it is now. It could be one of the best of all-time.
Now, the other division to challenge the NFC East as the strongest is the AFC South - but I'm not sold on Vince Young. Can Jacksonville get some receivers? Will Andre Johnson stay healthy for a full season? This division has more holes talent-wise than the East, and that's why I am raving about the NFC East right now.
Editor's Note: Matt will post his Super Bowl XLIII predictions tomorrow.
Posted Feb. 2, 2008
It's an easy thing to do. The quarterback throws an interception in a drill during an All-Star practice with about 100 coaches and scouts watching, and people start to nitpick. Team loses a few games at the end of the season, and all "buzz" is gone.
"He has a slow release," stated time and time again on various NFL Draft message boards.
Our mystery man is as Andre' Woodson. Now, he obviously did more to hurt himself at the Senior Bowl than throw a pick here and there in the drills (which everyone did, and every pro does in practice, you just don't see it because it doesn't matter). I'll be the first to say how disappointed I am with Woodson's accuracy this season. He was inconsistent and missed a lot of easy throws from time to time. That's my biggest concern. It isn't his famed "slow" release. This can be quickened a lot if his quarterbacks coach just gets rid of his hitch he has had since high school - and that's where we will begin the Andre' Woodson Football Story (as I will call it). It's important for me to tell you this, because you aren't going to hear it from ESPN "expert" Todd McShay. He looks at the surface of Woodson's game, but he doesn't look at anything below the surface.
Imagine this - you are the head football coach of a public high school with a decent amount of talent on it. You have arguably the biggest (unknown) arm in the country in Woodson. What offense would you run? You'd probably run some kind of shotgun passing attack to maximize the offense's potential. The spread is everywhere now in the high school game.
What did Joe Washington at North Hardin run with Woodson? The Wishbone. It made Woodson become the most intriguing prospect in the country. No one knew who he was until his mom signed him up to go to a Penn State summer camp where he wowed the scouts after his junior year at North. He was raw, sure, but they saw his big frame and rocket arm. Woodson was recruited by Guy Morriss of Kentucky since his sophomore season - he attended some passing camps at UK but still went unnoticed by everyone other than Morriss' staff.
To this day, I blame a lot of Woodson's faults as a quarterback on Washington. Woodson didn't learn anything in high school. His mechanics were poor, he had no football IQ coming out of that stupid Wishbone, and he was never taught how to be a quarterback.
After the 2002 football season, Kentucky and Morriss parted ways. The head coaching position was open and Rich Brooks, via Oregon and St. Louis, was hired. Woodson stayed with his commitment despite Ron Hudson coming on as the offensive coordinator with his horizontal option offense.
From Day One, Woodson and Hudson didn't like each other for some reason or another. I don't deny that Dre' probably had an immature attitude, but how could you blame him? How happy would Peyton Manning be if all of a sudden the Colts started running the option?
Woodson was redshirted in his freshman year because he needed to polish his game up. Let me also mention, there was no quarterbacks coach at Kentucky. Hudson didn't really care about the job of developing the quarterbacks, nor do I think he knew how to do it. So lets recap. Andre didn't have any coaching at North Hardin, and he didn't have any coaching in his first two years at UK. He played 6 years of his football career in offenses not designed for a passing quarterback.
In his RS freshman season, he was second string to the erratic Shane Boyd. Boyd was starting because Ron Hudson liked his mobility in the option attack. Woodson rode the bench until their fourth game of the 2004 season against Ohio. I remember his first series vividly. What I recall the most was the attitude of the offensive linemen. They were more confident coming out of the huddle. The receivers looked hungrier. Dre' brought the kind of charisma I have never seen immediately during the course of a game. He lead the team down the field but they were forced to punt - but that isn't the point. I knew this he was special because his teammates saw something in him that made them believe - and when it is all said and done, isn't that what playing quarterback is all about?
In his sophomore season, Joker Phillips was named offensive coordinator. I'll never forget the Louisville game. Kentucky was getting killed in the first half. I went to the concession stand thinking, "No way we win this game." I believe we were down by three touchdowns. Next thing I know, Andre' leads Kentucky back into the game - on a dumb decision (that all young quarterbacks make) he fumbled the ball on the 1-yard line when he could have easily scored a touchdown by going for the pylon, but instead tried to truck over a linebacker. The game was over, and he blew it. You can look at this negatively if you want, but he cried on the sidelines after the game. That showed me just how competitive he is. He hates to lose. The rest of the season, he didn't have a chance. He was under center for most of the year and got killed because he had no talent on the offensive line. SEC defenses teed off on him.
Things turned around for Andre' in his junior year. Phillips turned to a shotgun attack so Woodson could have time to get the ball off - otherwise he'd get sacked time and again. He came on strong toward the end of the season, beating Georgia at home and then Clemson in the Music City Bowl. People began to take notice. Senior year here we are -
People say he has a slow release. People say his stats are a product of Kentucky's system
. People say he has overrated arm strength.
Woodson only had a quarterbacks coach (and overall solid coaching) FOR THREE YEARS!!!! Most high school quarterbacks that go on to receive D-1 scholarships played in some kind of passing offense in high school where they learned the position. They get the best coaching money can buy from private instructors.
Now, do I think Woodson is a top-10 pick? Of course I don't. He doesn't deserve to be as inconsistent as he has been this season. But I certainly don't think he should drop out of the first round. His intangibles are unparalleled in this draft at the quarterback position. He might need 1-2 years to develop in the NFL - but what rookie doesn't? That's a dumb statement. How "NFL ready" was Matt Leinart two years ago? He couldn't beat out Kurt Warner in his rookie year.
When all is said and done, if you have the base for being a good pocket passer, like Woodson does, then evaluating prospects in my opinion is all about intangibles. You either have it or you don't. Woodson led Kentucky to beat the National Champion LSU Tigers. He didn't play horribly for the first 58 minutes, then turn the switch on with two to go like Matt Ryan did versus Virginia Tech.
Lets get back to the other quarterbacks whom most people have no problem nitpicking. Ryan was hardly Mr. Consistent this season. He had a completion percentage of 44 versus North Carolina State. Fifty-seven against Army. Forty-eight versus Virginia Tech in the comeback that never should have happened. Three interceptions versus a Florida State defense that Woodson threw four touchdowns and just one pick on. He was 59 percent against Maryland. Two picks in his second meeting against Virginia Tech in the ACC Champtionship. Forty-seven percent versus Michigan State.
I just don't understand why everyone thinks Ryan is so great. His accuracy has been just as up-and-down as Woodson's this year. Why does he never get any hate thrown his way by McShay and Mel Kiper? What makes Woodson such an easy target to fall in the first round of the draft? Are the experts studying the same game tape I am?
Look how far he has come. For Woodson to do what he did his last two years at Kentucky despite everything he has had to overcome is absolutely remarkable in my opinion. He had to do it the hard way, and he still does. He doesn't back down to competition like Ryan and Brian Brohm. He played in the Senior Bowl with a sprained wrist all week long (I saw him wince a few times during drills). He doesn't go to the sideline when he is hurt; he plays through the pain. If his receivers drop a ball in games he throws it right back to them on the next play. Why does he do this? Because he instills confidence in them. That's a rare quality.
It's OK. You can look at Woodson's awkward release. You can look at his less-than-spectacular Senior Bowl. But what you are going to miss, is his heart.
-Anyone who says Woodson is a product of the Kentucky offense has no clue what they are talking about; Woodson didn't play in the shotgun as much as publicized in his senior year. It is a multiple-formation offense, and he was under center quite a bit. Trust me - watch Kentucky's passing stats next year and tell me if he is a "product of the system." While you can say a lot of his passes where short routes on bubble screens and outs, I can say a lot of the time those are the only options against SEC defenses.
Posted Jan. 30, 2008
I don't think there is any denying how great Sedrick Ellis looked at the Senior Bowl this year. He made plays all week long and was, safe to say, unblockable. I've been getting quite a few emails lately, "Can he go ahead of Dorsey?"... "Will the Dolphins take Ellis No. 1 in the draft?"
This is the beauty of the NFL Draft "preseason." The prospects can choose whether to work out, or not work out at various all-star games, workouts, and which portions of the Combine they will make themselves seen (whether it be interviews, agility drills, 40, bench prees, vertical jump, etc.)
It is the risk that "elite" prospects such as Glenn Dorsey, Matt Ryan, Chris Long, and Jake Long took to not negatively affect their draft stock or risk injury. On the flip side, a potentially elite player such as Ellis took his one and only shot at being a very high draft pick and performed in Mobile, Ala. Clearly, it worked out for him.
So, there are two questions posed on the table in front of me.
Q1: Did Ellis' Senior Bowl week (potentially) leap frog him ahead of Dorsey?
Q2: Should Glenn Dorsey have worked out at the Senior Bowl?
A1: Let's get one thing very very very very very clear: The Dolphins are not on the clock until April 26 at 3:00 p.m. ET. There is a lot of time between now and the draft. Ellis' stock could raise further, or Dorsey could look like arguably a better pro prospect than Warren Sapp with great a great Pro Day and Combine.
It remains to be seen if the Dolphins will take he or Chris Long No. 1 overall (I'm leaning towards Long). I guarantee you one thing - they will not take Ellis No. 1. Despite him playing the nose somewhat at USC, he isn't a great fit in the zero technique at the NFL level. If you take a player in the first round, I don't care which pick, he must fit your system to maximize his potential. You don't draft press corners who can't play zone, and vice versa, in Round 1. I don't care how great of a prospect he is. The players must fit the system, and you don't draft a player unless he fits the system perfectly. Ellis does not fit the 3-4 perfectly, so why take a player like him No. 1 overall if he can't reach his full potential?
A2: No. He already battled injuries all season. While Ellis looked great in Mobile, Dorsey probably would have looked superior if he participated. He is bigger, stronger, and I think even quicker than Ellis. For me, it comes down to raw physical ability with these two polished tackles - and it is why I have Dorsey as the best player in this draft, while Ellis is No. 3.
Posted Jan. 26, 2008
This may come as a shock to you, but all the talk this week around the Senior Bowl has been about the quarterbacks. So much hype surrounding Chad Henne and Joe Flacco, and a "disappointing" performance by Andre' Woodson.
I have one question for all of these great football prognosticators: Did you ever watch these guys on film?
How can anyone go to the Senior Bowl practices and be overwhelmed by Henne's arm strength? Seriously, did you never see him play? What is all this buzz about?
The only player this week I feel any differently about in regard to his draft stock is Erik Ainge, who certainly performed poorly, displaying very spotty accuracy, poor touch, and an inability to learn the playbook quickly.
Henne is a great practice quarterback - period. I'm sure David Carr was also when he came out of Fresno State. Great arm, good accuracy on the deep ball, nice strong body. Check out the scouting report I did on Henne back in May.
I already knew he had a strong arm with good zip. I already knew he was accurate when given plenty of time in the pocket (and in practice, not a lot of pressure). I already knew he had good footwork and technique. So why is he given so much hype? Did you think he had a weak arm, bad touch, or a frail frame?
All of his weaknesses that I gave him in that report are results of being in a real football game. Nothing there was going to make him look bad in a practice environment with artificial pressure.
Henne is a solid quarterback, but I'm still giving him a late-second, early-third round draft grade.
Here is how I feel about the other top quarterbacks right now:
Erik Ainge: Already mentioned falling draft stock, but he could bounce back if he looks good in passing drills at the Combine and his Pro Day.
John David Booty: Showed good proficiency and command of the offense in practice. What you see is what you get from this kid. He will be a solid starter in the NFL, but probably nothing great - a lot like Matt Hasselbeck. Probably a third-round pick.
Colt Brennan: I was never high on this kid to begin with, and still would project him as a late-fourth, early-fifth round draft pick. He will likely go in the third round - I just think some team will fall in love with him.
Brian Brohm: Read blog entry from 1/22.
Joe Flacco: Displayed very good physical tools, but lacks a lot of polish as a pure passer/decision maker. His arm will probably get him selected in the second round.
Matt Ryan: Smart decision not to play in the Senior Bowl since it doesn't hurt his draft stock, though he really missed out on a chance to stand out from all the other QBs.
Andre' Woodson: It really ticks me off to read that Woodson didn't have a good week at the Senior Bowl - these people really don't understand what's going on. He had a very solid week. Practice isn't about throwing balls on the money every time. It's about preparation, leadership and poise, and I think Woodson did this about as well as anyone here. I think his arm is better than what he displays - he just doesn't put that much effort into his throws. Woodson is still my top quarterback based on what I see on film (where it counts) and I think he had a good week in Mobile. A very solid first-round pick.
Posted Jan. 24, 2008
Looked like another solid day at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. In general, not that many prospects were on fire, but there weren't many who were horrible either.
I'd like for us to take a step back from for a second, and I want to try to get across something that no one really talks about. Anyone can watch the practices and say, "Yeah great catch/tackle/block," but how does a real NFL scout or GM observe these quarterbacks during the practices?
Everyone is talking about how Chad Henne is looking great throwing the football; his ball comes out with a lot of touch, and he is throwing the deep ball accurately, while his intermediate routes have good velocity. What I'm looking for this week is how the quarterbacks learn a new offense and get different coaching. Do they absorb the plays quickly? You don't have to have a spectacular week throwing the ball to get a high grade in my book. I want to see a poised quarterback out there who had a solid week of football and is distinguished from a mental side of the game.
Those prospects this week so far have been John David Booty, Henne, and Andre' Woodson. These guys have shown me a good football IQ, making very few mistakes when asked to convert their knowledge from team meetings to between the hashes.
Lets get to my analsis of Day 3 at the Senior Bowl.
The most impressive receiver for me this week has been Lavelle Hawkins from California. I once had him going in the first round of my mock and you can see why this week. He has shown great ball skills and has been playing extremely consistently all week long catching the football. Hawkins has great fundamentals and runs good routes.
Another Cal Bear that I like is Justin Forsett. He has a lot of short-area quickness and he will likely go to some team that runs a zone-blocking scheme, such as Denver or Houston.
Kellen Davis made a few nice catches in skeletons, but we need to see if that translates to a game environment where he hasn't ever lived up to his potential.
One player whom I feel will become a first rounder when it is all said and done but isn't there quite yet is Carl Nicks. I think he will really stand out at the Combine, showcasing his underrated athletic ability on his 345 pound frame. He needs to polish up his technique, but he just looks like a boy amongst men out there.
No one overly impressed me defensively from the North squad,
Posted Jan. 23, 2008
Doesn't get any better than a full day of practice in pads at the Senior Bowl (on High Def). No one really stood out to me today for the South, but plenty of good impressions from the North team. Let's get right to it. At the end, I have added my MVPs for the day.
South Team Practice
Colt Brennan: Very poor arm strength, but shows consistent accuracy. Struggled making the deep read. Uncomfortable under center and needs to polish up the mechanics on his handoffs. Throws come out late.
Andre' Woodson: Inconsistent accuracy. Very good arm strength. Looks extremely comfortable learning a new offense. Good mechanics.
Erik Ainge: Just not really impressive. Good arm strength. Accuracy was not consistent. Trouble learning the playbook (blew up a few plays).
I love Kory Lichtensteiger's toughness and competitiveness. Has the frame to add some weight and strength. Good short area quickness.
Barry Richardson got beat by speed rushers a few times.
Kendall Langford: Great extentstion and hand placement. Very strong football player.
Mike Singletary seemed to really like Ali Highsmith. Who was the last linebacker he loved? Patrick Willis.
Dre Moore looked very quick. He's not a nose like some people think. I've always thought he was a three technique. Reportedly, his body was very "flabby" in the weigh-n.
Not impressed with Donnie Avery's route running, but made one really nice catch on a late ball from Brennan.
Chris Williams did well in pass protection, but he has short arms.
North Team Practice
Chad Rinehart: Looked really unathletic with slow feet.
Sam Baker: Athletic player, probably tougher than given credit for, but he measured in with small hands and arms and only 6-4. Probably not going to play tackle in the NFL and kick inside at guard, preferably in a zone-blocking scheme.
Carl Nicks absolutely threw Chris Ellis to the ground in 1v1 drills. Extremely strong and imposing frame.
Fred Davis is a GREAT route runner. very smooth and sells his fakes. He measured in 2 inches shorter than his listed height at USC (now 6-2), but that isn't a big concern to me.
Eddie Royal is extremely fast and quick.
DeJuan Tribble can't keep up with anyone in press coverage. Going to have to play the Tampa-2 in the NFL.
Roy Schuening has that blue-collar, "Joe Thomas" type attitude about him as a football player. I like that competitive, tough attitude, as it translates on the film that I have seen on him.
John Sullivan blocked Sedrick Ellis once, and other than that, Ellis had gotten by everyone, every time. Weighed in heavier than expected at 308, but I'd like to see him lose 6-10 pounds to gain more quickness.
Adarius Bowman has shown a major lack of focus, but on tape I like him, so this isn't a big concern to me unless he continues dropping balls and not playing like a polished receiver.
John David Booty, a player I feel like is the best "sleeper" QB in this draft, is doing great in his progressions and decision making. He read Cover 3 by safety Thomas DeCoud and immediately threw it to Chauncey Washington in the flat.
North Team Offensive MVP: Carl Nicks
North Team Defensive MVP: Sedrick Ellis
South Team Offensive MVP: Andre Caldwell
South Team Defensive MVP: Kendall Langford
Posted Jan. 22, 2008
First day of Senior Bowl practice (televised on NFL Network) and I certainly have a lot to write about. This is my favorite week of the NFL Draft "preseason," as I like to call it, and Mike Mayock is excited. What's not to love?
Anyways, a late scratch from the Senior Bowl was Louisville QB Brian Brohm because of a "leg injury." Now let me first say I am not buying this at all. He last played a game on November 29 and we haven't heard about any injury since. You'd think more than 1.5 months would be enough time.
This kid isn't hurt at all. He sees Matt Ryan isn't playing, so he feels like he is the golden boy of the football world and chooses not to play. This doesn't help his draft stock either way. If he is really injured (which I am positive that none of the scouts believe) then he has serious durability issues which have lingered his entire career. If he isn't hurt and he doesn't want to play, it shows that he lacks competitiveness.
He isn't an elite recruit like Glenn Dorsey, Jake Long, or Chris Long. Ryan isn't playing because the scouts are telling him and his agent he is the top QB in this class (but not by much). Brohm has a lot of question marks about his playing ability. He dominated in a weak conference his entire career with an extremely strong supporting cast. His freshmen to junior years, he was coached by the best offensive mind in college football, Bobby Petrino. Chris Redman, Dave Ragone, Stefan LeFors - he could be a product of the Louisville system.
I question Brohm's mental toughness. On the field, he is scared to stay in the pocket and take a hit. He has never led his team to a come-from-behind victory against anyone other than Rutgers in his last game in a Cardinal uniform. Now he thinks too highly of himself to perform in the Senior Bowl? Sounds like he might be a little scared that he might play poorly.
No doubt Bobby Petrino helped Brian Brohm out, though it should be noted that Petrino ditched him at practice a few times to look for better quarterbacks.
Here are my thoughts on the little bits of practice I was able to see on NFLN:
UNC DT Kentwan Balmer looked really good in drills (like I predicted) and he did a great job generating leverage and using his quickness. A player I was more impressed with was USC DT Sedrick Ellis, but I expected that because he is one of the top five players in this draft regardless of position.
Boston College T Gosder Cherilus looked good in pass pro 1v1 drills, but he was inconsistent and showed poor balance at times. On tape, I just am not impressed with his pass protection, but he will make a solid right tackle in the NFL.
USC DE Lawrence Jackson showed more athletic ability than what I projected him to have.
Can't wait to see both teams practice tomorrow. I'll have a bunch of analysis on tomorrow's blog update!
Posted Jan. 21, 2008
East-West Shrine Game: Senior Bowl Preview and Predictions
Everyone loves the combine. The 40 times, the bench presses, the agility drills - but the most important event in the NFL Draft "preseason" is the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL. It's a week of the best seniors in the country practicing, drilling, and putting their NFL Draft stock on the line. This isn't just any normal practice for them though; their entire careers they've been going up against second- and third-stringers. Now they're going up against the best in the country, and we get to see who can really hack it in the NFL. I know the Senior Bowl isn't everything, but it's very important.
Here are my predictions on who is going to have a good week of practices (since this is the most important part of the Senior Bowl evaluation by scouts).
Good Senior Bowl performances:
Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky: He has very good physical tools, and an underrated football IQ. His poise will really show through under intense pressure by the scouts.
Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina: Plays with really good technique and quickness...extremely well coached by the best defensive line teacher in the college game, John Blake.
Ali Highsmith, OLB, LSU: Shows great range and toughness... plays bigger than he is... might leapfrog Keith Rivers as the No. 1 4-3 outside linebacker.
John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame: He had nothing around him this year at Notre Dame. He should impress with good blocking ability and strength.
Tashard Choice, RB, Georgia Tech: Very quick and runs with good patience. He can catch. A jack of all trades, but a master of none.
Bad Senior Bowl performances:
Colt Brennan, QB, Hawaii: His arm is very weak and it will be exposed.
Frank Okam, DT, Texas: Gets by more on his size than technique, and doesn't always give a great effort.
Posted Jan. 17, 2008
Every year, juniors provide a jolt of talent into a draft class, but especially this year in which close to 50 juniors declared.
It can be a difficult decision. Millions of dollars stare you in the face if Roger Goodell calls your name on the fourth Saturday in April. Still, some juniors decided to leave school, and some went back for various reasons.
So, who made the best possible decisions? I am not going to analyze every player; prospects like Darren McFadden, Ryan Clady, Vernon Gholston, Kenny Phillips were no-brainers. Xavier Lee, James Banks, Bobby Reid, etc. are obviously on drugs.
Would anyone really be shocked if Bobby Reid's mom laced his chicken with crack?
Players Who Entered the Draft and Should Have:
Curtis Lofton and Jerod Mayo: Lofton and Mayo made a great decision to enter this draft. These guys could both end up being second-round picks. You aren't going to do much better than that as an inside linebacker.
Derrick Harvey, DE/OLB, Florida: If you are a projected first-round pick, and you had a great season, coming out is the right choice 90 percent of the time. The second tier of hybrid linebackers (after Chris Long and Vernon Gholston) just isn't impressive at all, and so Harvey has a good niche in this draft. His stock wasn't going to improve that much if he came back for his senior year.
Pat Sims, DT, Auburn: Here is a player that I would tell nearly every year to stay in school to polish his techinique and gain more experience, but in a very weak DT class, Sims will likely find himself as a mid-late first-round pick. If he came back for his senior year he might end up in the second round if he had an average season. Watch out for Sims on Draft Day; he is a wild card and the teams picking from 9-13 all need defensive tackles.
Reggie Smith, DB, Oklahoma: Smith has the versatility to play free safety, and in a very weak safety class, a lot of teams are going to work him out at that position.
Anthony Collins, T, Kansas: Collins might have gotten some advice from a scout telling him that the 2009 tackle class is loaded. Also, Collins joins a semi-weak second tier of offensive tackles.
Players Who Entered the Draft and Shouldn't Have:
Calais Campbell, DE, Miami: If Campbell had a great season as a senior, he could have been a top-five draft pick. I just don't understand coming out where his anemic play might drop him to the second round after coaches and scouts question his intangibles.
Justin King, CB, Penn State: My complaint about King's decision is a lot like Campbell's. Elite physical tools, but didn't play up to that upside in games. He could drop to the mid rounds or be a 2nd round pick based on his physical tools. Will any team take a gamble on this kid?
Players Who Didn't Enter the Draft and Made the Right Move:
Michael Oher, T, Ole Miss: Oher has the potential to be a top-five pick in 2009. He can shore up his technique and really get himself ready for the NFL. I think Houston Nutt can get him to play with more consistency. It comes down to coming out for the 2008 Draft is a very good decision, but staying for your senior year and legitimately having a chance to be a top-five selection is a great decision.
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU: Like Oher, Jackson could have been a mid-late first round pick. Next year, he has top-eight potential. I love this decision, as he will be able to showcase to scouts that he can still be a dominant player without Glenn Dorsey taking double teams. Like Oher, it would have been a good decision to enter the draft, but a great decision to return for his senior year.
Players Who Didn't Enter the Draft but Made the Wrong Move:
Rey Maualuga and James Laurinaitis: What are these guys thinking? It isn't going to get much better than winning a Rose Bowl or playing in the BCS Title game. Both of these guys were locks for the top of the first round, and both had the potential to be top-10 picks. I just don't get it. They might have their reasons, but when you look at how talented the 2009 Draft will be, one of these guys might take a huge dive in terms of guaranteed money. Darry Beckwith, Dave Philistin, and Brandon Spikes will be sure to cash in if Laurinaitis and/or Maualuga have disappointing senior years or get seriously injured.
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